Saturday, November 28, 2009

Your 5 Minute Physics Lesson For Today

Snopes tackles the physics of Santa Claus, in which the incineration of a quarter million reindeer is postulated.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Machine

There are millions of ex-manufacturing workers who used to make good livings making things here in the USA. The "New Economy" had and has no real place for them: the Old Economy is the only place that offered them a way to use their skills and gifts in a way that afforded them the basics of life plus a little fun.

Again: the economy offers people with less than a college degree precious few (and vanishing) ways to support a family in anything approaching comfort.

Here's the thing: there are millions of folks who are, to be blunt, not smart enough, or are temperamentally unsuited, (or increasingly, too poor) to go to college. Are they to be consigned to working at 7/11 and making 9 bucks an hour? Don't we as citizens have an obligation to see that they have work available to them that will allow them to support their families in a dignified manner, and maybe even allow them to put something away for college for the kids and even something for their golden years?

These questions have not been asked of Americans in any public and consistent way for years - decades even. The very clause, "we, as citizens, are obligated to..." is, in the libertarian, Hobbesian world of economic mercilessness we've allowed to flourish, a nonsensical phrase full of meaningless words. We are no longer "citizens" -- active participants in the building of our civilization -- but "consumers", defined by our economic worth; mere cogs in the soul-impoverishing machinery of "wealth creation" and economic oligarchy; passively doing our part to keep the whole corrupt machine humming, nothing demanded of us but to Consume.

I didn't quite realize it at the time, but the thing that most creeped me out about the movie The Matrix was the sense I had that it was not really about some future dystopia, but rather a piercing parable for the present world we live in; there is this sort of Machine that we all participate in, so immersive that we can't escape its greedy maw, can't but serve its needs rather than the needs of our brothers and sisters.

To break out of this losing game, we must realize - we must RESOLVE - that, to coin a phrase, the Economy is made by and for us, and not us for the economy.

Martin Luther King Jr. used to say "You can't ride a man's back unless it is already bent." It took decades for the ceaseless propaganda of the Machine to bend our backs; it only takes a moment, an instant, to decide to straighten your back and thus undo all its work.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sing a Song for Freedom

Oh Mary. You were a national treasure. Your heart was golden, you helped the Cause, and to top it all off, you were one fabulous babe. RIP, Mary Travers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If You're Management, Don't Call Yourself a Lefty

There is this conceit among the management class (particularly members of that class who style themselves as left-of-center) that if we just send former workers in the devastated production sector to college so they can become "knowledge workers" or something, then that will make up for destroying the industries that provided them a decent living. Former President Clinton used to harp on this a lot when he was president.

The blunt truth is, that plan isn't going to work, at least not in a place possessing the scale and complexity of the United States. The Swiss can be the world's bankers; The Arabs can be the world's oil company; the United States, if it is going to be a prosperous place, needs to be a place where the main engine of prosperity is taking raw materials, making something valuable out of them, and then selling those valuable things at a profit.

We can't be a first-tier economy by selling each other life insurance and software; we need to make things. Physical, need-machine-tools-to-make-them things - cars, boats, clothing, machine tools, electronics. The Democrats used to know this, and acted accordingly; now they are the members of the management class who want to send line workers to college so they can become computer programmers. My Democratic Party has become a sold-out, pathetic shell of its former glory. It's made itself absolutely ridiculous. It's become ineffective and delusional. Call the rest home and make the arrangements already: they're done.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Since when did being a lefty become about cultural stuff?

It seems to me at times that the political fights in this country are between rich people: economic libertarians on the right and social libertarians on the "left" duking it out over the legal status of fetuses and gay people, and gee, there's no time left after discussing those issues to talk about how working people are getting screwed over more and more and more.

The democrats have been all but useless on economic issues for 30 years; the "kitchen table issues" that Truman focused on are long forgotten. NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagal, EFCA, the abandonment of Progressive taxation and a million other cuts have bled the working class into economic ruin, and the Democratic Party has stood by (Yes, Clinton made some pious noise about sending all those former assembly line workers to college so they could be knowledge workers or something, which sounds nice but is actually kind of ridiculous.)

Here's the thing, Lefties: people are flocking to militias and birtherism and tea parties because the left stopped talking to them - or rather, the problem is the left offers words (but even those, rarely) but precious little else.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Granite Counter Tops and Stainless Steel Refrigerators.

Can we all agree that we will stop equipping kitchens with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances?

I mean, yeesh. 10 years ago it seemed sort of, I don't know, fresh and cutting edge. But now? It's been done to death and seems like just mindless conformity. If the next apartment I move to has a stainless steel refrigerator, I'm painting the damned thing.

Granite Counter tops and stainless steel appliances. Granite Counter Tops and stainless steel appliances.

Make. It. Stop.

The thing is, granite is hard to clean and dulls knives, and stainless steel, once it gets a scratch, is really hard to get looking good again; ditto with stains on granite.

What is it with stainless, anyway? It looks (to my eyes) sort of cold and clinical. I expect stainless refrigerators in a setting like, I don't know, the morgue? In my kitchen, I'd like a little warmth, thank you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

(Un)ethical Hunting

So on opening day of rifle season, Gov. Pawlenty of Minnesota wounded a deer, failed to track it down, and then went off to a fundraiser while his staff attempted to find the animal he shot.

As a hunter, this is one of those things that gets me steamed. To wound an animal and then neglect to track it down is one of the more egregious violations of hunting ethics, and is grossly irresponsible, especially if you are an authority figure. Once you put a bullet in a deer, you have a moral obligation to immediately track that animal down and finish it off - both to end its suffering, and to ensure that the meat isn't wasted. Pawlenty apparently found blood but no buck at the place he last saw the animal, but rather than immediately begin tracking the wounded animal he returned to camp to "ponder his next move?" No, Governor: you know (or should know) that your "next move" is to, right then, track down that animal and end its suffering. Sending your staff out to beat the brush after breakfast isn't nearly good enough. He's not only neglecting his own responsibilities; he's also setting a bad example for young hunters. If one of my hunting buddies did that, he would never be invited back.