Friday, May 28, 2010


49 South Bend teachers getting pink slipped, says the South Bend Tribune.

Calculator time! Using the article's own estimate ($50k per teacher), the cuts save the school corp $2.45 million. Calculating by households (42,908 of them in the city of South Bend), it would cost $57 per household to keep all the teachers next year, or about four dollars and 75 cents per household per month. Two dollars and 37 cents off the primary breadwinner's semimonthly paycheck.

Even in a baby blue city like South Bend, there are only two possible options on the table: cutting teachers and cutting other stuff. Tax hikes don't even merit a mention in the paper. There is no discussion of it, as if it's so horrible a prospect as to be unthinkable. I might as well be suggesting that we cast every third child into Lake Michigan to reduce the need for teachers.

It's $2.37 a paycheck, people. $2.37 to keep 49 teachers in classrooms, 49 neighbors and friends from losing badly needed income in the middle of a recession. When did $2.37 become an unthinkably heavy burden?

What foolish, unserious leadership we have that the clear, obvious, and painless answer won't even be discussed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

the end of LOST

I thought it was beautiful. I was surprised to discover how emotionally invested I'd become in the characters, even the ones I don't like. Also, it was the most compelling, most moving portrayal of Heaven (happy Limbo?) I've ever seen.

Once it became clear that many of the mysteries would never be solved, LOST took on an airy, dreamlike quality that I think enhanced the show. It became a show filled with characters that are intensely familiar in a story that's always a little disorienting, where you never quite know for sure where you are or where you're headed. Bizarre, magical things happen, but this isn't a police procedural where every mystery has a discreet, rational answer. The marvels are just part of the show's landscape.

My only real substantive critique: in my ideal ending, the show's ultimate hero would have been Ben Linus rather than Jack. His story just seems like a better allegory for the everyman trying to figure out What It All Means and led astray by limited, human explanations. That he ended up being a bystander in the climax, after all he'd done to shape the story arc since Season 2 or whatever, bothers me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

exhausted with LOST exhaustion

Oh, give it a rest. I'm so sick of these faux-apathetic, world-weary reviews of LOST. If you don't like it, stop watching it. Don't keep writing articles about how it's so convoluted and lots of the puzzles and mysteries don't matter and how it's gone downhill.

The rest of us figured that out several seasons ago. You're a little late to the party.

Bonus turd points for a shitty review that also engages in what Ta-Nahisi Coates calls "tired on-the-other-handism." Accusing the Obama Administration of having "increasingly unfulfilled ambitions" the day after the Senate passed the most far-reaching financial regulation bill since the Roosevelt Administration wasn't the best timing. Plus, it's been widely publicized that Obama has already fulfilled over a fifth of his campaign promises. What a lazy reliance on cliche! The Washington Post really has turned into a shitty rag.


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Word. Rachel Maddow is unquestionably the finest interviewer on cable TV, and quite possibly on TV in general. Here she is above politely yet mercilessly exposing Rand Paul's nutty side, potentially opening up the KY Senate race in the process. She's done some great work in terms of straight journalism as well.

This is interesting, I think, because it illustrates how her skills far outstrip her job, and yet she's likely to be passed over for numerous promotions because she's a avowed liberal feminist, and therefore not as "serious" as others. MSNBC may be claiming a liberal news format (curious considering their longest show is headed by a conservative, former Republican congressman), but frankly FOX News is the only place in news television where you can get ahead without playing a faux centrist lickspittle.

And of course Coates is right, Palin knows better than to go within 200 feet of The Rachel Maddow Show, but Palin doesn't do any non-sympathetic interviews anymore. Still, what I wouldn't give for five minutes of Sarah Palin on Maddow!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

interactive budget simulator

Pretty cool little gizmo here. Very helpful in showing people what would have to be done to make real cuts in the deficit, which is nice, though I'm not happy with the lack of some options. You can gut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, for instance, but there is no option to take a chainsaw to the military budget.

I suppose in that way it reflects contemporary American politics.

Overall, it's actually pretty easy for a Nazi Socialist Trotskyite like me who thinks Americans are coddled when it comes to tax burden.


Right off the heels of my giving Peter Beinart rare kudos, he says:
I'm not asking Israel to be Utopian... I'm not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state.

Yeah, I mean let's not go all crazy, wild-eyed liberal on this thing, right? No one's saying Israel can't have a permanent ethnic underclass or systematic discrimination of religious minorities. I mean, look, sure we may be pro-civil rights, but we're not ideologues!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

what goes around comes around

This proposition has a very interesting dynamic to it that I think Leonhart missed. As we all know, the reason coke has decreased in price while good foods have more significantly more expensive over the last 30 years is because of the switch from sugar to high fructose corn syrup and the attendant massive federal corn subsidy. Coke is cheaper because it's steadily gotten cheaper to make.

Consider, too, that counties and municipalities have been getting shat on from a fiscal standpoint by the federal government (and state governments, as well) since the Bush years. They've been getting less help and more underfunded and unfunded mandates as irresponsible presidents, congressmen, and governors pass tax cuts and restrict funding, effectively pushing the tax burden down to municipalities.

A city government like DC taxing the f**k out of a product that benefits from heavy federal subsidies is a clever way to reclaim some of that lost tax revenue. On the other hand, it's unlikely that Coca Cola will eat that cost rather than just passing it on to the customer, so what really ends up happening is taxpayers continue to pay twice for the same product while no longer getting the benefit of lower prices that is the raison d'etre for the subsidy.

supposedly huge GOP wave year

and yet the Republicans keep losing. I'm honestly getting confused now. The narrative I've been assuming since '08 was that the GOP would have a big midterm as the non-incumbent party, mistake historical precedent for a silent far right majority, and then let the teabaggers drive their party straight into an electoral meat grinder in 2012, from which eventually will emerge a chastened, kinder, more centrist GOP a la the Tory model in Britain. I've never really been convinced that they would be flipping the House, but I was expecting pretty serious gains.

And yet special election after special election rolls around, several in seats currently held by the Dems but packed to the gills with blue collar, conservative voters, precisely the type of district that's supposed to deliver all these new Republican congressmen, and the GOP candidate widely expected to win flops. In this particular case, the final count was a bigger Democratic blowout than even the most optimistic polls.

There's been an excuse for most of the others. Doug Hoffman's vote got split. Tedisco got really close and Obama won that district, anyway. Florida's 19th was super Dem-leaning, as were CA-10 and CA-32.

How do you spin losing a special election in a district that John McCain won where the last incumbent congressman was notoriously corrupt, where President Obama's approval rating is 35%, where only 30% of voters approve of healthcare reform, where Nancy Pelosi is extremely unpopular, and the Republican candidate had a $308,000 to $73,000 cash advantage?

After all that, Critz won by almost 10 points.


Say goodnight, Arlen. The Washington incumbency racket takes one on the chin today. Arlen Specter was the worst kind of centrist, one whose position on any given bill was determined almost exclusively by political expediency, whose every move was calculated to appeal to as many voters as possible. Specter was easily cowed by Bush into voting consistently with the hard right, and cowed by primary voters into voting consistently Democratic (for a time). If his erratic voting patterns had been the product of compromise, I would understand and perhaps even applaud, but I remember all attempts to compromise with Specter during the Bush years, and they always concluded with a quick visit from the president and a sullen looking Specter voting the party line. He was utterly without principle and without backbone, not even a centrist so much as a cipher.

Good riddance.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the decay of liberal Zionism

A very good thesis here by Peter Beinart on the growing ideological gulf between American Jews of different generations, and between Orthodox/Israeli Jews and liberal Jews.

The article is also about a much bigger and scarier issue, however: the slow asphyxiation of democratic values in Israel. Major government figures in Israel believe that Israeli Arabs should have their citizenship revoked. Not for committing acts of terrorism, mind you; for simply being Arab. Huge percentages of Israelis believe Arab citizens should be barred from serving in the Knesset. And the youngest generation of Israelis is the most right wing and authoritarian of all.

love those Michiana conservatives

Mark Souder from the 3rd district (Elkhart to I think Fort Wayne), last seen introducing legislation to replace Franklin Roosevelt on the dime with Ronald Reagan, has been exposed having an affair...

wait for it...

with the woman he filmed pro-abstinence-education commercials with.

Yes, he is resigning, effective Friday. Yes, this is the same Mark Souder who just won his party's primary a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"will enable me to be re-elected"

The most damning political ad I've seen in a while. Amazing the things Specter chooses to be candid about, since he does it so rarely.

gettin' to be that time

Grilling season again! Finally. I've got a couple of things in particular that I want to try out this summer:

Atomic Buffalo Turds

*slides coke-bottle glasses up nose* As my anthropologist friend corrected me, properly speaking these would actually be Atomic Bison Turds. Glavin.

Anywho, I experimented with these once in the winter out of the oven, sans li'l smokies. My theory that they would still be delicious was correct. I also made a batch of ABT's sans bacon, as in vegetarian. My theory that they would still be tasty was also correct. Jalapenos take on such a rich, wonderful flavor when cooked. I can only imagine what these will be like exposed to smoke.

We're planting jalapenos again this year, so hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities to experiment with different recipes.

Speaking of bison...

Bison Steak

I made grassfed steak a couple of summers ago, which is similar, and was awesome. My connect disappeared from the Elkhart Farmers' Market, unfortunately, but the bison folks are still there, so I'm going to give this a shot. I've had bison brats already, and I was impressed, so I'm optimistic.

Brisket, Texas style

This is something I've been building up to for a long time. After careful consideration, I've decided that, the first time at least, I should let the oven do much of the work. I still plan to start and finish the brisket on the grill, though. I'm not a heretic.

If all goes well, brisket + tortilla + BBQ sauce, salsa, and/or pico de gallo = 2 minutes of carnivore euphoria.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why Libertarianism Doesn't Work

An interesting observation from Paul Krugman.

At its best, libertarianism fails to sufficiently appreciate the power producers hold over consumers (and, by extension, their government). At its worst, libertarianism is supportive of that power imbalance, and is nothing more than a philosophy of "might makes right," the cult of Ayn Rand.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

putting competent people in charge

And, as a corollary to that, putting people in charge who believe in their charge. NYT:
WASHINGTON — In a burst of rule-making, federal agencies have toughened or proposed new standards to protect Americans from tainted eggs, safeguard construction workers from crane accidents, prevent injuries from baby walkers and even protect polar bears from extinction.

Over the last year, the Obama administration has pressed forward on hundreds of new mandates, while also stepping up enforcement of rules by increasing the ranks of inspectors and imposing higher fines for violations.

A new age of regulation is well under way in Washington, a fact somewhat obscured by the high-profile debates over the health care overhaul and financial oversight system and by fresh calls for greater federal vigilance spurred by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the deaths of coal miners in West Virginia.

W. very famously let the foxes rule the henhouse for 8 years, putting people in charge of regulatory agencies who were either incompetent or who believed that government was incapable of protecting consumers without destroying the economy.

It is partly because of this extensive Bush Administration incompetence and neglect that movements like locavore-ism and homemade pet foods made headway in the aughts: people no longer felt like they could trust Kraft, Alpo, and even Earthbound Farms to provide safe products. As cool as local stuff sounds, I'm not sure I'd be buying locally made cat food, local, free range eggs and chicken, and organic, off-brand peanut butter if it weren't for e. coli and melamine.

Nice to have a president hiring people who do their jobs.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

poll craziness

There are primaries coming next week in 3 Senate races, and the incumbent stands to lose in several of them (possibly all 3!). The one people are really freaking out about, though, is Joe Sestak's sudden and consistent lead over Arlen Specter in PA.

Speaking specifically of this race, I'm surprised anyone else is surprised. Specter is a truly loathsome senator, the Platonic form of the gutless, "finger in the wind" politician whose only principle is being ardently pro-reelection. He's been a Democrat for all of a year, was cowed over and over again for 8 years by George W. Bush (when he wasn't ardently supporting him!), and the way he's stepped into the party and demanded that they give him all their support just because he's an incumbent has been embarrassing.

More broadly speaking, I'm also surprised that people continue to put so much stock in election polls so far out. Seemingly static election numbers regularly go wild 2 weeks from election day because people don't start paying attention until then. This is especially true with primaries for whatever reason. Remember, for instance, that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain had a prayer of winning a month before the Iowa Caucus. In '04, Howard Dean was cruising to a blowout win just a week and half out. You just don't know until a few days before Election Day.

Friday, May 07, 2010

National Day of Prayer

Unpossible! The intarwebs told me Saddam Hussein Obama canceled it!

What's funny is that today thousands of people are going to receive the chain email in question and forward it to their friends and family, livid at the audacity of their dirty muslim president. What a country.


With all but 9 seats in, the UK Parliament tally is 302 Tories to 256 Labour to 56 Lib Dems.

It takes 326 seats to form a majority, so the Tories can't do it by themselves, and Labour can't do it even with an (unlikely) Lib Dem coalition. Either Cameron and Clegg will form a Tory/Lib Dem coalition government, or the Tories will run a minority government.

In any case, the most obvious likely consequence of this election has indeed come to pass: the historically long tenure of Tony Blair's New Labour has come to an end. David Cameron will be the next Prime Minister.

Fun Fact: despite the huge increase in support, the Liberal Democrats will finish with fewer seats after this election.

UPDATE: I should clarify. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are not a natural match, and a joint government between them would be a rare sight indeed, from what I understand, much rarer than Labour/Lib Dems as those two parties are ideologically closer (and both are historic nemeses of the Tories). The Conservatives have a much more natural ally in the Irish DUP, the largest and most hardline unionist party in Ulster, but the DUP doesn't have enough seats to put the Tories over 325, either. Besides, imagine the damage that would be done to the peace process in Ireland if the DUP were allowed to form a government in the UK!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

UK elections today

Big day across the pond as Britain votes in a new Tory government, with David Cameron as Prime Minister. There's no question at this point that the Conservatives will finish with substantially more seats than Labour. It's less clear whether they'll be forced to run a minority government or will be able to pair up with the Liberal Democrats* or, if they get close enough to a majority, with the DUP of Northern Ireland (the main -- and most hardline -- unionist party).

*From what I can tell, the Lib Dems are "liberal" in a more classical sense than we think of, a center left party that's strong on civil liberties, pro-multilateralism and pro-peace, but its current leadership is squishy on the welfare state, preferring more free-market-y solutions than Labour. Still, their manifesto sounds pretty rockin' to me. Amazing how much ideological space there is between "centre left" and "center left."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

the Conedog speaks

F**k Jay.

Watch CBS News Videos Online


Been watching a couple of political ads in the British elections, including a pretty good one from Eddie Izzard. What I find interesting about them is that one party regularly references having "values." We Americans would generally assume it would be the Conservatives, but we would be wrong. It's Labour, the only major party in England that self-identifies as socialist.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

elsewhere in the South

Buried in the swamp of news coverage about the Gulf oil spill is the situation in Nashville, where they received 1/4 of their average annual rainfall over the weekend. 28 people have died so far.


I weep for my country.