Saturday, January 30, 2010

Big Government Republicans

This is a good article from Whiskey and Gunpowder about how Republicans have been using Democrats as straw men (to admittedly great effect, after that Senate election in MA last week) who initiate "big government" policies, while "forgetting" their recent past, in which they advocated very similar policies that also involved "big government". I am so tired of the bait-and-switches both of the major parties pull. The bottom line, our government is flat broke, cannot afford any of this shit (be it wars, the corporate swindle known as health care reform, or stimulus packages), and virtually everyone seems to have at least a faint understanding of that except for these assclowns in Washington.

Granted, Obama (or OBanker as I now call him) is at fault for his share. He was voted in, in my opinion, to fix the economy and try to find a way out of the wars that our forces are embroiled in. He has only further damaged our economy while giving Wall Street more money, and has escalated the wars, particularly Afghanistan. But the hypocrisy of the Repubs concerning small government is laughable.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Recommendation of Several Podcasts

I wanted to take a different tack today and recommend several podcasts that I listen to a lot. For the uninitiated, a podcast is basically a series of digital media files that you download and can listen to on the computer or your MP3 player. There are many different kinds of podcasts. I basically find many of them to be like radio shows, but only much more varied and eclectic. You can find podcasts dealing with just about anything. I never really knew how great they were until I got an iPod.

Anyway, there are several podcasts that I listen to, but a few really stand out. One is the Kunstlercast, which is a weekly program featuring James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Long Emergency" (which introduced me to peak oil, as I had just blogged yesterday and many other times). He and the host, Duncan Crary, talk every week about suburban sprawl and its many harmful effects on America, only one of which is the tremendous amounts of energy that are necessary to keep this system going. Some of the topics discussed can be dry (to me, anyway, like the history of urban design and architecture), but it's often very eye-opening. If you are going to listen to one program, make it "The Demise of Happy Motoring", which is only a month or so old.

Another guy, by the name of Dan Carlin, does two podcasts that I really enjoy: Common Sense and Hardcore History. The former is a talk show largely dealing with politics, but in a refreshingly independent format. It seems that so many of the talk shows in the mainstream media are fronted by what basically amount to cartoon characters, in that you have the "right guy" (like Hannity or Limbaugh) or the "left guy" (like Keith Olbermann) who do not deviate from the right or left position on any issue. Carlin points out these things in a brash but informed way, while subjecting all sides to pointed criticism, most of all the two-party system that dominates our politics. His other show (the more popular of the two) is Hardcore History, in which he takes a major historical event or a period of history that was monumental and discusses it in depth. It's very interesting though, it's like listening to a really informed and exciting college professor (actually, a few of them were the ones who made me interested in history to begin with). I really, really recommend a series of Hardcore History shows he recently produced called "Ghosts of the Ostfront", about the Eastern Front in World War II. Unlike most of the history shows and books out there that document the history of WWII from the U.S. Side, this was truly a battle of "evil vs. evil", as Carlin states on the show. It's in four parts (around 90 minutes each), so you should really listen to it while you're driving or on a rainy afternoon.

The message boards for these podcasts are very active, so I highly recommend those as well.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

An Uneasy Feeling

This is a very significant column from Bob Herbert of the New York Times. I have read things like this, countless times, but what I find noteworthy is the venue. For the first time I can remember in this current crisis, someone from the mainstream media is admitting that "this society is in deep, deep trouble". Herbert outlines that this past decade's economy was a "phantom economy" (my term), in which no new jobs were actually created. In fact, there has been no net job creation in ten years. Middle-class families also actually earned less than they did ten years ago.

I do concur with Herbert that some deep outside-the-box thinking is necessary to bring jobs back. I am just not sure what that outside-the-box thinking would consist of, and do disagree with Herbert on his thinking on where the next wave of jobs ought to come from. I do think the "green economy" is a lot of hot air (oh, jobs are being created, as promised by Obama, just not in America. A project to build a wind turbine farm in Texas has the wind turbines coming from China, with only temporary construction jobs for the local labor force), and we are a day late and a dollar short in pursuing an economy based on developing alternative fuels (due to global problems in oil production and a lack of capital to fund such projects). While Herbert concedes that it will be tough to "rebuild our manufacturing mojo", I find it a feat close to impossibility, as one of the fundamental mandates of business is to save on labor costs. As I've written in the past, it's my belief that only oil prices approaching the stratosphere can result in a resurgence in domestic manufacturing, and by then, the economy can well be on a collision course anyway.

Anyway, to continue with the review/summary, Herbert is dead on with the health care bill. So much time has been spent on this, and what has come out has amounted to a giveaway to the HMOs. Other than his thinking on where our jobs are coming from, I pretty much agree with him on everything. I'm just startled to see a column like this in "the paper of record". It's also a pretty effective indictment of the Obama administration, which continues to disappoint. I really am beginning to see him as the next Carter (although I don't see him staying on the scene, doing good works as Carter has), with a resurgence of the Right in 2012 (with a candidate like Palin, heaven help us).

Yet another set of predictions (last one, I promise)

Today, it is January 6, well past the start of the New Year. But I do have another set of predictions I'd been meaning to blog about, albeit briefly. Jim Kunstler comes out with an annual forecast of events he foresees happening this year. Kunstler was the one who introduced me to Peak Oil, via his book "The Long Emergency". I do think Kunstler's forecast would be better suited for the 2010 decade rather than just this coming year, but he could well be right. This is one passage I particularly enjoyed, and laughed at. This is about the reactions of the American people to a continuance of worsening economic conditions in America, as only Kunstler can write:

One wild card is how angry the American people might get. Unlike the 1930s, we are no longer a nation who call each other "Mister" and "Ma'am," where even the down-and-out wear neckties and speak a discernible variant of regular English, where hoboes say "thank you," and where, in short, there is something like a common culture of shared values. We're a nation of thugs and louts with flames tattooed on our necks, who call each other "motherfucker" and are skilled only in playing video games based on mass murder.

I actually don't much agree with Kunstler on this, but I found his wording hillarious. The only attribute I share with his generalization of Americans, is that I do play video games. That's probably the one thing I will enjoy doing until the grid crashes for good, or I die, whichever comes first. I feel that enough people have tattoos, to where I feel it's a small act of rebellion not to get one myself, and while I do curse occasionally, the situation would have to be very dire indeed before I'd even consider using the term "motherfucker".

But his set of predictions, like the last two I blogged about, is well worth reading.

(postscript: I am at a Starbucks where the wi-fi is pretty bad. My wireless notebook mouse is also not working, despite a functional battery, and I am forced to use the crappy built-in notebook mouse. So I did mutter a "motherfucker" this morning, sorry about that.