Friday, March 29, 2013

Peace Be With You, My Friends


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dumb Bunny Bites Rubber Carrot

Poor Jennifer Rubin. You can almost hear her stamping her feet and holding her breath until she turns blue:

 

The Supreme Court argument on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act was rather predictable. So-called liberal justices can’t get their minds around recognizing heterosexual marriage as deserving of special status. At the other end of the spectrum, Justice Antonin Scalia can’t fathom anyone questioning a couple thousand years of social convention.

 

All she really needs here is “And your pretty dog, too!” and the picture really takes shape.

 

Apparently, she’s obtuse enough to miss the fact that she wrote “special status” in a nation that nominally believes in equal rights for all.

 

Strike one.

 

Strike two comes in her characterization of marriage as a “couple thousand [sic] years” old social convention.

 

So was slavery, dear Jen. So was the subjugation of women such that, right now, you ought to be sitting in a tent with your husband.

 

And his slaves. Whom he regularly impregnates. You, of all folks, a member of The Chosen People and one who is rightly proud of that heritage, ought to know this intimately, if you paid any attention in schul.  

 

But I digress…

 

Social conventions are just that: agreements within a society that this is how we will behave in order to keep a just and peaceful society. But when those customs and mores run smack dab into denying elements of that society the full rights and membership that they should rightly expect, then they simply must change. Getting all butthurt about it isn’t doing anyone any good, least of all yourself.

 

Now, to her credit, Rubin does take a stance against DoMA, which is an important step forward in her maturation process. Perhaps there’s hope for her to reach high school level debate before the decade is out, even if her writing is still rather atrocious.

 

By the way, dear Jen, you might want to fix this metaphor:

 

Here the administration is trying to have its cake (side with pro-gay marriage advocates) and get the court to declare gay marriage protected by the 14th Amendment.

 

It’s “have their cake and eat it too.”

Welcome to Our New Cold War

You probably heard on the news today about the war exercises in the Sea of Japan, including South Korea, this morning.

 

Two long-range B-2 bombers made the 6,500 mile flight from Missouri to South Korea, simulated a bombing run, then turned around and made it back to Missouri, possibly in time for breakfast. Wrap your head around that for a moment. Two stealth planes flew 13,000 miles non-stop to drop ordinance.

 

The conventional wisdom is this was a warning to North Korea and Kim Jong-Un, and it likely was, but my suspicion is there was a longer-term message being sent as well.

 

To China. Possibly Russia, as well, although there are more direct messages that can be sent to them.

 

A peace time demonstration of some of our military capabilities should be sufficient to give anyone with hegemonic ambitions pause, in addition to twisting the knickers of our petty adversaries. I’m not crazy about this development, but I can understand the logic behind it: you want China and North Korea to understand that a proxy war against one of our proxies can be answered in spades, and without proxies.

 

It does not necessarily put us on a war footing, any more than a Memorial Day parade flyover of F-16s would…ok, maybe a little more, but I digress. The point being, it’s a deliberate and calculated tell to warn warriors off.

 

Even as it builds its war machine, China has been loath to indulge in outwardly aggressive movements. They seem to prefer more muted efforts, mostly aimed at an economic chess game, which is one they can win from day one. This economic competition also gives China a little breathing room to further enlarge its military capabilities.

 

One hopes cooler heads prevail there and that China decides to build to a defensive standoff, rather than deciding it, too, can police the world.

 

A position I hope America would abandon in order to retool our economy for a world where we are no longer the dominant superpower on the planet.

 

And while No War is better than Cold War, at least we haven’t reached the point of Hot War waged via proxy, as we did in Vietnam and Korea. That would truly be tragic.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

You Learn Something New Everyday

Justice Clarence Thomas may not be the single stupidest man ever to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. That honor may fall to Samuel Alito:

 

“You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet?” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked. “We do not have the ability to see the future.”

 

Now, if his intent was simply to throw the case back to the lower courts, which would effectively end Proposition 8 in California and establish same-sex marriage there, then this is a ham-handed and clumsy way to go about it. Sonia Sotamayor said it far more elegantly:

 

“If the issue is letting the states experiment and letting the society have more time to figure out its direction, why is taking a case now the answer?” she asked.

 

I fail to see what’s new about marriage, the legal conjoining of two people for the purposes of forming a family unit. And I fail to see what’s new about establishing equal rights under the law for all people – to-wit, if I can marry as a straight man, why can’t two lesbians or gay men marry, too?

 

After all, I want them to be as miserable as I have been!

 

Based on the questions and comments the various justices put forth, I assume this case is going to be kicked out as a waste of the Court’s time, especially given the conservative “anti-activism” strain of Justice on the bench now.

 

But kicking the case back down the ladder does serious damage to people in other states who are waiting for the right to marriage and all the benefits that accrue therein. We all know stories of long-term cohabitating couples who, for example, were denied the right to an estate because of a lack of married status and the “spouse” dying intestate.

 

This sort of puts paid to the notion that this is a new issue, that people are being forced out of homes because their name isn’t on a lease where their partner has died, or unable to collect on a life insurance policy for lack of standing. This is clearly an eyesore on America’s legal landscape, and I would urge Justice Alito to grow a spine.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reince? May I Recommend....

…a Grand Army of the Republicans, Inc.?

 

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says his party needs to increase its numbers without changing its political platform in order to beat Democrats.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/Yx0a1L) that Priebus made the remarks during a speech Saturday in Albuquerque.

His remarks came less than a week after the NRC released a report recommending the party try to grow its ranks in part by supporting immigration overhaul efforts and offering more welcoming attitudes on gay rights.

And as my first act with this new authority, I will create a grand army of the Republic to counter the increasing threats of the Separatists.”

 

Because, frankly, I can’t see any other way besides manufacturing a clone army of old white hicks that they can expand their base without changing failed platforms and thirty five year old bromides that no longer work at attracting voters. If they ever really did.

 

Seriously! I mean, even the name – Reince Priebus – sounds like something George Lucas tossed down on paper in a drunken fit one night trying to write Episode Seven of Star Wars!

 

Ironically, Priebus said this at the same state Republican dinner that George P. Bush attended. You may remember him as one of the George H.W. Bush’s “little brown ones.” He is Jeb’s son, and his mother, the former Columba Gallo, was a Mexican immigrant. Her father was a migrant worker, so it’s not impossible he may have crossed the border a time or two himself.

 

You read that correctly: Reince Priebus called out a Bush. Moreover, he called out a Bush who will likely be a linchpin to any future Republican, Inc. party that somehow manages to survive the Sith lords that sit on top of it now like wheezing elephants.

 

And he called out a Bush who would be the perfect face for a shift in attitudes on the issue of immigration, better even than Senators Cruz or Rubio, who have either flip-flopped on the issue or taken such a stultified stance that to shift even a little would require the movement of tectonic plates.

 

So call me, Reince. I may have the cellphone number for the cloners of Kamino

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fighting the Power

Imagine, for a moment, you could go completely off the grid, in terms of energy usage. Would you do it?

 

You may get the chance. In fact, it may be easier than you thought:

NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), the biggest power provider to U.S. utilities, has become a renegade in the $370 billion energy-distribution industry by providing electricity directly to consumers.

Bypassing its utility clients, NRG is installing solar panels on rooftops of homes and businesses and in the future will offer natural gas-fired generators to customers to kick in when the sun goes down, Chief Executive Officer David Crane said in an interview.

Now, this is not exactly the image one has in mind when one thinks “off the grid,” to be sure. After all, you’re still dealing with someone who is most definitely on the grid and most definitely part of the energy cartels that partly control our society.

But it’s a start.

The one thing this could potentially undo is the monopoly your local utility continues to hold on you, despite the sham of deregulation which saw the delivery of electricity and gas decoupled from the supply. Much like cable television, you’re still forced to genuflect to one company in order to light your home, you just have choices on how to minimize the cost. You do not, however, have complete control except to forego electricity and natural gas full stop. Those monopolies still exist, the delivery monopolies.

Back when things were simple, the monopolies on utilities made a lot of sense (and to a degree, they still do). Utilities were forced to cap prices under supervision by a board overseen by a local government. However, they were permitted to make as much profit at that price point as they wanted (provided they continued more than adequate service to their customers, which fell under the domain of the oversight board.)

This is why utility stocks were owned by widows and orphans: they paid almost guaranteed dividends, and prices rarely fluctuated.

Now, while there’s still some price control in place, pretty much whatever the market bears is what gets sold to you, except you don’t even have the service guarantees you used to have. This is possibly the most unhealthy situation possible for consumers and the economy, which is now subject to the vagaries of energy policy and supply and demand.

And if you’ve ever tried to figure out your monthly utility bill, you know how hard it is to uncover just how much you are truly paying for power and energy.

In this new paradigm, you’d be in better control of your energy choices: you could essentially generate free electricity during the day and store as much as possible in batteries for the night time, or sell power back to the grid, switching over to gas-powered generators for night time use.

It’s far from perfect, starting with the problem of trusting one of the energy cartel to treat you fairly, but in turn they are not going to be trusted by their cronies, so you have a little comfort there.

Stay tuned to this story.