Thursday, July 31, 2014

Today, I Am the Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth

No, I’m not dying…well, not yet. A series of events have conflued and I am able to take an extended sabbatical from all forms of wage-earning to pursue some things in my personal and artistic life. I anticipate at least a month off, but more likely, I will be off work until the end of the year.

It’s a beautiful opportunity to write, shoot photos, dive and vacation, and release some of the stress that working some 40 years (since sophomore year of college) has built into my body. Mostly, I get to clean up the rat hole I live in and ride my bike to boot.

I’m excited and terrified, at the same moment. This is now on me. I don’t have a boss to complain about – the Bag of Salted Rat Dicks was fired, altho his tenure will outlast mine, but only by dint of some legal wrangling on his part – and while I don’t have a routine, I have to put one into place until I’m comfortable being busy doin’ nothin’, as the old Beach Boys tune put it.

As events have unfolded over the past four months, it seems more and more likely that I picked the perfect opportunity to walk out, because my suspicion is I would eventually have been carried out on my shield.

I paid attention, and the world told me what to do, is the message.

I’ll still be blogging, perhaps even more frequently and at more places. One cannot tell these things in advance. My first adventure awaits in two weeks, and then the looking glass is entered upon my return.

Wish me luck, gang!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Russia Will Only Get Worse. Maybe.

Putin is on the horns of a dilemna. For the first time since the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Russia faces a severe economic crisis – after enjoying years of relative prosperity – and she has a warmongering chief executive. This is a nexus of events that will shape and define Russia for at least the next decade.

Today, it just got worse:

LONDON — An international tribunal in The Hague has awarded the shareholders of the now-defunct Yukos oil company about $50 billion, in ruling on claims that the Russian government illegally seized the company from one of the country’s most powerful oligarchs.

“We are thrilled with this decision, although we know it is not the end of the road,” said Tim Osborne, director of GML, the holding company created by the Yukos founder Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky.

[…] The verdict could increase pressure on Russia at a time when its economy is already under threat after the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on a selection of Russian individuals and companies over its support for separatists in Ukraine.

There could also be implications for Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian oil company that acquired the most important Yukos oil assets in 2007, and for the British oil giant BP, which owns close to 20 percent of Rosneft.

Now, of course, Putin is free to ignore The Hague ruling and it’s business as usual. Except Russia’s credit rating will be at risk. And it gives the West leverage over Putin and Russia at a time when he can afford neither.

You’ll notice that, while Putin pardoned Khodorovsky, there was no attempt made to restore the company to private control.

And Rosneft itself, while reporting higher earnings, has seen its oil production start to slip. There’s not $50 billion in cash reserves, I’m sure.

Politically, what does this mean? It could mean that Putin will turn his gimlet eye towards former Soviet states that produce oil and gas, and invasion and insurrections the kind that we’ve seen in Ukraine.

This would include, presumably, Uzbekistan (which has the 11th largest natural gas reserves in the world), Turkmenistan (the world’s second largest gas fields), and even Estonia, which while it doesn’t have significant energy reserves per se, does have large shale deposits, which could mean fracking, in which case, Estonia is fracked.

Conversely, if Putin is approached by cooler heads – you know, like the guy in the Oval Office – and delicately offered a way out of the problem, then the Ukraine situation itself might be resolved quietly and more important, quickly.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) How desperate is Vladimir Putin to draw attention away from his failed economy? This desperate.

2) Who would think Norway would be a terror target?

3) Conservatives suck. And are real fucking idiots.

4) Apparently, the mohel took a little too much off the top.

5) Huh huh. He said “assphage”. Huh huh.

6) We ducked a bullet, gang.

7) Oh, this is not going to play well with Climate Denialists…

8) Y’know, I almost feel for the NY state Republican party. Almost.

9) Attention to my readers who have Time Warner Cable: I highly recommend DISH Networks. But stay away from DirecTV. They’re owned by Murdoch too.

10) Finally, Jello? Maybe?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Compassion In Action

Read this story and tell me where the logical fallacies comes in.

Done? OK, let’s get to work:

Saying that Eric Garner was overweight at 350-400 pounds and battling asthma, many posters on the sites TheeRant and PoliceOne.com said the Staten Island father and husband brought his death last Thursday upon himself. They said his health contributed to his cardiac arrest, and that their interpretation of an eyewitness video of Garner's altercation with police last Thursday was that he resisted arrest.

Police said they suspected Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes when they approached him on a sidewalk. He told them he'd done nothing wrong. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

[…] On PoliceOne.com, one person wrote, "Mayor you killed our effectiveness on the street, when you killed Stop and Frisk. Because of a few bleeding heart liberals and a few ethnic groups who believe they are the only ones being stopped. You shut down the whole system. Because now all those baggy … pants you see walking around are probably locked and loaded."

Another referred to a video tape of Garner's altercation with police that went viral. On the tape, Garner is heard saying eight times "I can't breathe" as police press his head into the sidewalk.

"If you can talk you can breathe! A strong and deadly choke hold would not allow a person to talk," the poster wrote.

Here are the things I want to look at:

a) If he’s 350-400 pounds, then you have to assume a chokehold is a life-threatening event. Period. It’s a fairly safe assumption that the suspect has cardiovascular problems and cutting off his air, even partially could kill him. As a professional police officer, paid and trained to protect the public and to call for medical assistance when necessary, this should be ingrained into your thought process.

b) You can talk if you’re choking. If you are not getting enough air into your lungs, that’s not unlike, in fact, it’s almost exactly like, COPD: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Only not chronic. And the only disease is in the mind of the frikkin’ idiot who put the victim into a chokehold that is specifically outlawed by the NYPD code of conduct. But there are plenty of emphysema and asthma patients who can talk in short bursts as they inhale enough air to support speech. Basically, this victim was dying and in dying, you find a way to exert extraordinary effort to do things that normally are not likely to occur.

What the police officer did in this instance goes beyond shameful all the way to criminal.