Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blago Steps Off High Board Into Swan Dive, Smiling

File:Blagojevich.jpgOn cue, as though in answer to a Blogcritics article suggesting that the reality show format might actually be the best way to choose our leaders, besieged Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is set to name the individual to assume President-elect Obama's vacated seat, as reported by CNN.com.  This will occur in spite of efforts by his state's legislature to impeach him, and urging from those within his own party to step down and refuse to make this crucial appointment.

To add to the circus-like atmosphere, Blagojevich is rumored to be naming former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, a 71-year old African-American man who will be the ripe-old age of 77 when his unelected term concludes.

There are options available to the Senate if they wish to challenge the appointment, but it seems unlikely that such a thing would happen.  Burris is probably the kind of person President-elect Obama would have wanted to take his seat even if he or his staff had "no inappropriate with the Governor or anyone from his office," as was indicated in the Craig Report.  (Because incoming White House Counsel Greg Craig's conclusions were reached, in large part, by interviewing the individuals on Obama's team that have been implicated in the scandal we can, of course, regard its findings as indisputable.)

I feel the air being let out of this balloon.  Blagojevich is certainly being offered up for bloody sacrifice while more sympathetic actors in the Greek drama unfolding - Axelrod and Emanuel topping my list - will almost certainly emerge unscathed.  If Burris proves to be a likable person, Blagojevich may also have triangulated the Senate into allowing his choice to be seated. 

This is going to present dicey politics for the Democrats.  Affirm the decisions of a vilified man or make an innocent man - Burris - a victim of the Beltway machine.  Popcorn, anyone?


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An Early Merry Christmas and Note of Thanks

File:Adoracao dos magos de Vicente Gil.jpgChristmas is a time best spent with loved ones, which is exactly what I will be doing during the next two days. 

So today I want everyone who has visited Unequal Time this year or read my work on Blogcritics or Crosscut.com to know how much their readership this year has meant to me.  I will always commit to publish work that respects your intelligence and your time.  Even HotAir.com got in the act and ran a snappy block quote of mine.  Thank you, Ed.

I must be doing something right because according to a gadget powered by Technorati this blog was worth $1,693.92 as of 4:00pm PT today.  (Of course, when I get my TARP package from Hank Paulson I will have to settle for 25 cents on the dollar.)

A special debt of gratitude goes to Lisa Albers - deputy editor of Crosscut - who was instrumental in my first non-blog publication.  Sometimes it takes a push from the right direction. 

But the greatest thanks I need to give are to my fiancee.  A writer's mate often serves as critic, proofreader and cheerleader, roles that are paradoxically rewarded with periods of loneliness.  Although I feel I can never repay her for the support she has given me while being my second set of eyes and sounding board, I do want her (and, I suppose, everyone reading this) to know that there is no limit to the value she has in my life and her praise buoys me even when the entire continent of Europe seems ready to take up arms against me as judged by comments to a piece I wrote describing why I thought President-elect Obama's foreign policy objectives in Europe would fail to be achieved.

After Christmas, make sure to come back as I have a number of exciting features planned, as well as getting back in a routine of posting smaller stories with commentary and links. (There may even be a redesign in the works to make navigation easier.  Blogger is great but has its limitations.)  2009 promises to be a very interesting year, potentially one that stands out as being pivotal in our nation's history.  I will work hard to make sure that Unequal Time is a source of information and analysis that will help you discuss and confront the challenges ahead. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!


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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some People Are Tossing More Than Loose Change in Those Little Red Pails

Aside from the probable assortment of trash, lint and other detritus that we all understand wind up at the bottom of the little red pails used by the Salvation Army to collect donations during the Christmas season, one small town mall in Vermont has been the scene of what seems to be extraordinary generosity.  According to the Rutland Herald:   

For the third year in a row, an anonymous donor left a rare coin in a kettle located outside Jo-Ann Fabrics in the Berlin Mall.

On Monday, a gold coin, minted in 1910, was left in the kettle outside the store — the same location a secret Santa used two years ago. In 1910, the coin was worth two and a half dollars; Salvation Army officials are not sure what the coin is worth today.

But this largesse has not been limited to Northeast.  As reported by VZW Today (Verizon Wireless' news service for mobile phone subscribers), Salvation Army pails this year have netted:

  • a 1911 Liberty Eagle gold coin worth about $1,000 (outside of a Fort Meyer, Florida grocery store)
  • a diamond ring worth around $2,000 (Uniontown, Pennsylvania)
  • a gold American buffalo coin valued at approximately $1,000 (northeastern Kansas)

The Salvation Army finds buyers for the deposited items and uses the proceeds to do their good work.  William Booth, the organization's founder, would be proud to know the kind of generosity the group inspires.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seattle Corners the Market on Homeless Hypocrisy

File:Homeless tent.jpgNo matter what a person's personal feelings may be on homelessness - its causes, its effects, what our public policies should be with regard to - at this time of year a sense of decency overcomes the coldest perspective.  Even those of us who see homelessness, in the big picture, as a social ill that inhabits the individual, not an individual for whom an ill society has failed, even our hearts thaw paradoxically when the temperatures drop below freezing.  The befuddling landscape of Seattle politics and activism provide us with a way to laugh and maintain our objectivity.

As city-run and privately-operated emergency shelters open to give warmth to as many of our city's homeless as possible, the homeless themselves are organizing a protect outside of City Hall.  From KOMO television's Bryan Johnson:

Emergency shelters at City Hall, the Seattle Center and the Frye Hotel will remain open to help the homeless, according to the Mayor's Office. So far 471 people have been helped, but the homeless say that's just not good enough.

The homeless have set up tents outside City Hall to protest the city sweeps through homeless camps. They want to deliver a message: there are thousands who need help.

Of course, the protest is just a continuation of what has been dubbed 'Nickelsville' by many, an nomadic 'tent-in' demonstration to protest what many homeless and homeless activists see as Mayor Greg Nickels' failure to cure Seattle's homeless problem.  The Seattle Times' illuminates:

Nobody is expected to be turned away from indoor shelter, said Maj. Myles Plummer, director of the Salvation Army's William Booth Center that houses homeless men.

The agency provided shelter Sunday night for some 300 of the homeless.

If more of the homeless arrive during the freezing weather, said Plummer, "you close the gaps. Where you might have a 6-inch gap between you and the next guy, now everybody gets closer."

At Nickelsville, residents said they liked the freer life, even if it means putting tents on top of wooden pallets so they don't sleep right on top of a cold, paved surface.

So, in Seattle, the community rallies to provide shelter when most needed but the homeless choose their path.  This has, and always will be, the reason that many of us will never jump on board spending large amounts of money on programs to benefit the homeless until those programs include money for psychological diagnosis and treatment.  There is nothing dignified about refusing help and placing yourself in peril.  When one has demonstrated that one's own survival is forfeit to preserving the delusion of independence, such a person has crossed the line into insanity and we must deal appropriately with that malady.

Dozens may die needlessly in this stretch of frigid weather.  If we would only get serious about dealing with this problem as what it is - the manifestation of mental illness, in many cases - many of those lives might be spared.


Monday, December 15, 2008

The Anti-Green Holiday Synchronized Light Display; Love It

This house must break into the gigawatt range for the season, but it is truly beautiful.  Please do not forward this to Al Gore unless you want to be buried in a verbal avalanche on the subject off carbon offset credits.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Change.gov or Ministry of Truth?

Winston Smith has entered the building.  Just as many had feared, in the response to the first real scandal in the history of the Office of the President-elect, the agents of Obama's Ministry of Truth have been activated.  Of  course, there is little precedent for comparison.  Our government never even had an Office of the President-elect before now.

In the wake of the Blagojevich arrest and subsequent political chaos, the web has been cleansed of some damaging material efficiently and effectively.  It shows us the fleeting nature of truth in a digital world.  It also presents the best case for bailing out our nation's failing newspapers.  Despite liberal tendencies, the relative permanence of paper information serves as an archive that can not be subjectively white-washed when expediency dictates necessity.

Most of us bloggers consider ourselves to be the town criers of the Digital Age.  Maybe - if we're really good - we can evoke reactions from our readers similar to those of Nellie Bly or Upton Sinclair, dragging nare-do-wells into the light of day for the public to exact justice.  Or, maybe, if we haven't achieved the critical mass of a mega-blog like HotAir.com or MichelleMalkin.com, what we write only lives until it crosses the line from opinion that someone doesn't like to become substance that could be damaging to someone. 

Servers can be compromised, systems hacked and archives deleted.  In this sense, most blogs are no more reliable for our society than the ancient oral tradition.  (No, former President Clinton, not your cue.) 

A culture of moral determinism is now poised to hold court now that the capital of our nation's political spirit has moved from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, Illinois.  Finding a way to give our political conversations permanence is not a pursuit that can be left to hobbyists; it is an imperative of survival.

The handing over of power to a Chicago cabal was an enormous mistake made by the American people who know not what they have done.  But it is a mistake that must be respected because it is, after all, our system.  So, too, must the cabal respect the laws they will soon be bound to uphold. 

Perhaps it is not voluntary as idealized by philosopher John Locke, but in the absence of the social contract he describes, in which we submit to the rule of law - not to be altered based on our temporary needs or wants - only anarchy exists.  The erosion of any sense that a record exists of someone's actions, or that common sense should guide our judgments about the actions taken by our elected representatives, intensifies the chaos currently in crescendo.

The blog community is the Fifth Estate, checking the Fourth Estate, which watches over the government for the protection of the people.  When the media steps out of line, it is the blogs that sound the alarm; the media, on occasion, return the favor.  In the coming years, bloggers will need to find more creative ways of preserving their communal record, arriving at some forms of consensus and establishing measures to gain credibility with the public.

Our country can survive anything, as long as the free flow of opinion and information exists.  This latest dark episode in our political history shows us that blogs serve a valuable role and they should ensure their ability to do so eternally, for the preservation of our free republic.


Movie Review: "Dragon Hunters" Will Dazzle Audiences Uninitiated in French Animated Artistry

[This review was first published December 12, 2008 on Blogcritics web site at http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/12/12/194914.php]

In the genre of computer-animated films, Japanese and American studios have previously maintained superiority in both technical skill and storytelling.  Dragon Hunters, the newest animated release from Futurikon Films, will delight audiences but also put Hollywood and Tokyo on notice that France is ready to compete as a peer instead of an aspiring student of the craft.

Dragon Hunters tells the story of four characters, three of whom will be familiar to anyone who has seen the animated television series that made a brief run on United States television via Cartoon Network.

Rob Paulsen is the voice of Gwizdo, an enterprising fellow, short on generosity but long on initiative.

Lian-Chu (voice provided by Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker) is a skilled slayer of dragons, built like a mountain, but possesses delicate sensibilities (not limited to a love of knitting) that cause him to question why he does Gwizdo’s unscrupulous bidding as they roam their world slaying dragons and shaking down local people for monetary reward. 

Hector, whose mish-mash language of grunts and growls is brought to life by Dave Wittenberg, rounds out their rag-tag band, a precociously ferocious blue-haired dog-like creature who is Lian-Chu’s partner-in-attack and provides the majority of the laughs that are dispersed throughout the 82-minute movie.

Fans of the television show will notice that a new female character joins the cast of regulars.  Zoe, whose terrifically cute and exuberant character is voiced by Mary Mouse, is a young girl whose life has been spent in the safety and seclusion of her uncle Lord Arnold’s fortress.  Her fantasies of knights and dragons – fueled by her uncle’s experience with such adventures – are made real when Lord Arnold begins to see signs that have foretold the coming of a great dragon known as the World Gobbler. 

Desperate, Zoe sneaks from the castle, lands herself in mortal danger, and is rescued from peril by Lian-Chu.  Now a group of four, they make their way back to Lord Arnold’s fortress where the original trio convinces Lord Arnold that they are, in fact, knights.  Afflicted by blindness, Lord Arnold believes them and offers a mission of great importance – to slay the World Gobbler – a task that Gwizdo is more than glad to accept, for a fee.  Zoe accompanies the trio on their journey to the ultimate destination – the end of the world.

Throughout the ensuing encounters with dragons and danger, Zoe’s belief in heroism (and Gwizdo’s denial of it) gives rise to the conflict within Lian-Chu about the path he has chosen.  This theme is a good one that could have been introduced sooner and drawn in bolder strokes within the script.  More films aimed at children with the message that doing good is a choice that each of us must make would have to be considered a good thing.

In many ways, the main character is the scenery.  The story takes places in a world that exists in the sky, where massive forms of earth and stone float like lily pads on a placid pond.  One of the great challenges to any animator – computer-aided or not – is to invent a setting that carries the story without leaving the audience scratching their head in disbelief.  Dragon Hunters’ creators achieved this admirable feat, creating - in some moments - a world of that surpasses the imagination of Japanese animation genius Hiyao Miyazake.  It accomplishes this even while it drawing from Miyazake’s visual catalog.  In spite of this apparent homage, the film will take audiences to places they have never been.

The world of Dragon Hunters is rich with its own personality, a place in which all man-made things are old and all organic things are exotic.  Everything seems in its place, despite the fact that nothing, except the basics of man-made architecture, is recognizable from the world in which we live and there is an incredible variety of landscapes, giving the world that these character live in a feeling of depth and realism.  The rendering and detailing of natural surfaces creates the experience of looking at a painting, not as jarring as the hyper realistic or cartoonish appearance of lesser productions.  Dragon Hunters represents more evidence that there is a French school of animated artistry.  If so, I would like to see more of it.

At times the scenes and their composition achieve such peaceful beauty as to suspend the need for dialogue.  In the greatest achievement for this genre, the animated characters, without speech, still deliver a performance.  Yet the faster-moving sequences are equally masterful in their choreography, and visual pop.  The scene in which we meet Lian-Chu, Gwizdo, and Hector – a carefully choreographed battle involving Hector, Lian-Chu, and a dragon called the Mamularus that resembles a large caterpillar - is the funniest, most energetic and well-composed action scene I have ever seen in an animated film.  Without so much as an utterance about hope and change, a tingle was felt up my leg.  The final battle scene will also serve as a wake-up call to American studios that their supremacy will henceforth be challenged.

Anyone making early guesses about how the story ends won’t be wrong, but the journey there is worth spending the time.  The superb score by composer Klaus Bedelt (composer, Pirates of the Carribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Constantine), pushes all of the right buttons, and the script moves the story along at a fast pace toward its inevitable conclusion.

In some ways, however, the film depends too much on its visual impact.  It seems to be infatuated with its own beauty and doesn’t afford enough time to the development of the characters that are so important in making a connection with a young audience.  There are places in which the action is difficult to follow, and American children will not understand that the filmmakers decided to use the term dragons to generically describe all beastly and dangerous creatures. 

Nevertheless, families with small children and fans of computer animation should definitely make a point of seeing the film.  It is currently showing at the Laemmle’s Grand 4 Plex, 345 S. Figueroa Street, in Los Angeles, California in order to be eligible for an Academy Award nomination in the categories of Best Score and Best Animated Film.


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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

BREAKING: President-elect Asking for Illinois Governor to Resign

As is now being reported by virtually every news service, President-elect Obama is calling for the immediate resignation of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

This was expected.  It is straight-forward political calculus.  Governor Blagojevich in office equals protracted public screeching and constant media attention.  The odds increase exponentially that, with hundreds of reporters (and thousands of bloggers) digging into the story over a period of months, someone will turn up a connection between someone close to Obama and Blagojevich.

What is equally predictable is that even Blagojevich's resignation will not throw a many journalists off the scent.  Covering scandals is a bipartisan affair, Mr. Obama.  Best gird your loins because I believe the honeymoon is over.


Connection Between Team Obama and Gov. Blagojevich?

According to ABC News' Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, who was nimble enough to transcribe a November 23, 2008 appearance by David Axelrod on Fox News Chicago before it "disappeared" from YouTube, Axelrod had the following to say about communication between President-elect Obama and Blagojevich:

While insisting that the President-elect had not expressed a favorite to replace him, and his inclination was to avoid being a "kingmaker," Axelrod said, "I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them."

Axelrod has since recanted those statements, as reported by our friends at Hot Air, but the cat's out of the bag. 

So, can we find a thread between Axelrod and Blagojevich? 

My research turned on up from an article published November 12, 2008 in Bond Buyer, a trade publication. (See full citation below.)  I'll skip the fluff - you can read the story yourself for the less relevant portions.  Here's the nut:

In early 2007, Blagojevich elevated Filan to a senior advisory position with the title of chief operating officer overseeing state agencies that manage capital planning, infrastructure, and economic development...

Some have speculated that Filan's ties to President-elect Barack Obama's chief political strategist, David Axelrod, may help land him a Washington job.

He didn't get that Washington job, he landed a position as the executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority.  The IFA is integral in the current scandal for its role in the financing of the construction of the new Wrigley Field ballpark.

So, it seems that John Filan may be the link between David Axelrod, top campaign advisor to Obama and slated to be a senior advisor to in the White House, and Blagojevich.

Although Reuters reported December 9 that Filan denied knowledge of the charges against Blagojevich, it is Filan's possible ties to Axelrod that should cause some to deny Obama's top advisor the right to wriggle off the hook so quickly.

I will be searching for confirmation of the relationship between Axelrod and Filan.  Perhaps someone in the credentialed media would like to ask Axelrod or Filan directly?  Something like this should be put on the record.


Source:  Yvette Shields. "Illinois Fiscal Chief Filan to Lead IFA. " Bond Buyer  [New York, N.Y.] 12  Nov. 2008,1. ABI/INFORM Trade & Industry. ProQuest.  King County Library System, Bothell, WA.  10 Dec. 2008.  Direct URL: http://0-proquest.umi.com.catalog.kcls.org/pqdweb?did=1597235831&sid=7&Fmt=3&clientId=13518&RQT=309&VName=PQD.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Illinois Governor's Arrest Gives Us Another Fine Example of CNN Balance

I don't even have a comment about the CNN.com story's content.  Any time a sitting governor is taken into federal custody on suspicion of bribery there is something serious going on.

What I want to know is, why did I have to go to other sources to confirm that Governor Rod Blagojevich is a Democrat?  Nowhere in the story is it stated that Blagojevich is, in fact, a Democrat.

Contrast with a story appearing on CNN.com following Ted Steven's conviction on corruption charges names him as a Republican in the second paragraph:

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens vowed to fight his Monday conviction on federal corruption charges, a verdict he attributed to "repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct."

"I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have," the 84-year-old Stevens, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, said in a written statement after the jury came back Monday afternoon. "I am innocent."

How much reporting do you think the Atlanta news giant will give to the relationship between Blagojevich and President-elect Obama considering this subtle attempt to de-politicize a criminally-charged Dem?

UPDATE: Another blogger noticed this omission, as well as the shocking omission among other news carriers, although I didn't know it at the time I was writing my post.


Dan Rather: Our Least Appreciated Constitutional Scholar

Speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program last Friday, Dan Rather volunteered to act as an unelected editor of the Constitution.  According to Rather, the nation would be better served by ignoring the Twentieth Amendment to allow President-elect Obama to take the office early.

Rather said (transcript carried by the Media Research Center web site):  

"What we need out of the President is focus on the job at hand. We can't afford to waste an hour, much less a day or a week or a month. ... I'd be in favor of moving [the inauguration] up to December 1st. Get the election over. Get a new president in December 1st."

"But, we're in possibly, possibly the biggest crisis we've been in since December 7, 1941 and maybe since the time of the Civil War. So, we can't afford to have this interregnum. The old order is gone. The new order is not yet in place."

Perhaps Rather did not study his U.S. history thoroughly.  The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution has established the inauguration thus:

Amendment XX.  Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Is Rather suggesting that we amend or suspend the supreme law of the land?  Someone should tap him on the shoulder and remind him that there has never been a national emergency - even those cited, World War II and the Civil War - in which the nation found any justification to alter the time table for the lawful succession of the office of President.

I'm certain that Rather is anxious to get President Bush off-stage as quickly as possible.  Maybe then his shame for the collapse of his professional ethics in the Air National Guard letter scandal can begin to dissipate.

The strength of our system comes, in part, from its yeoman-like dependability.  When we begin pulling, tweaking and skewing our laws to fit the circumstances of the moment they lose their meaning and cease the reflect a solid framework from which we can all determine how to behave in society.  A learned man like Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski, sitting near Rather on the Morning Joe panel, should leaned over and smacked Rather as a proxy for the nation.


Russian Navy Training Extends to Indian Ocean

Joint Indo-Russian Exercise to Train on Carrier-Destroying Tactics

The navy of the Russian Federation is once again sailing on all of the globe's major oceans, projecting power to all strategic regions.  According to our friend at Naval Open Source Intelligence:

Russia's most potent nuclear-powered heavy missile cruiser sets out on a voyage to India from here on Tuesday to participate in joint naval wargames with the Indian Navy in January next year.

"Pyotr Veliky" (Peter-the-Great), known as the 'Killer of Aircraft Carriers' will be in warmer waters of the Indian Ocean for large-scale exercises with the Navy, during which they will train on how to destruct aircraft carriers.

This announcements comes on the heels of the Russian Navy's joint exercises with Venezuela in the Carribbean and the round-trip of the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko through the Panama Canal, the first time such a voyage has occurred since World War II.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Common Sense Descends Upon Amsterdam

Image:Blowverbod.jpgIn a shockingly logical response to the prevalence of organized crime in the industries supporting gambling, prostitution and drug sales, the city of Amsterdam has introduced plans to close many of the establishments that presently peddle those wares.  The plans announced are a step even further than those already underway to close many of the city's world-famous brothels and cafes in an effort to confront Amsterdam's use as a haven for money-laundering operations used by criminal enterprises.

As quoted in a CNN.com article, Lodewijk Asscher, an Amsterdam city council member speaks to the goal of his city's program.

Asscher underlined that the city center will remain true to its freewheeling reputation.

"It'll be a place with 200 windows (for prostitutes) and 30 coffee shops, which you can't find anywhere else in the world -- very exciting, but also with cultural attractions," he said. "And you won't have to be embarrassed to say you came."

Under the plan announced Saturday, Amsterdam will spend €30 million to €40 million ($38 million to $51 million) to bring hotels, restaurants, art galleries and boutiques to the center. It will also build new underground parking areas.

It should be noted that marijuana possession or sales is not legal in the Netherlands.  The existence of marijuana cafes persists under a don't ask, don't tell attitude of local law enforcement as long as sales and use occur within the same walls.

The Netherlands' laws legalizing prostitution are not being repealed and the new plans will only affect 20% of Amsterdam's "coffee shops".

The recognition by an icon of the legalized vice trade that there will always be a blackness that infects those exchanges, no matter how much a society attempts to sanitize them through legalization and tolerance, will be seen by other places around the world.  Seattle, for example.


Friday, December 5, 2008

The Only Thing Swinging At (or Near) Seattle's Safeco Field Should Be Mariners' Bats

If the decision of Seattle city planner Andrew McKim stands, the city of Seattle could have its newest strip club placed within tobacco-spitting distance of the field used by the city's major league baseball franchise.  Read what the Seattle P-I had to say on December 3rd here.

The owner of the Pike Place-area Deja Vu club, Roger Forbes, applied for a permit to locate another one of his establishments at a location on First Avenue South that is only 400 feet away from Safeco Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners.

The permit can be challenged legally for a period of 21 days from issuance.  Since a suit would likely only succeed in tagging the baseball park as a community center, thereby providing it an 800 foot buffer zone in which no nude dance establishments can locate, let's just assume that a location one block further away from the field of play will be found and subsequently approved by the city.

I'm not even going to start on a rant about how this reflects on the cultural state of a city that continues to become less and less family-friendly.  I won't even take the perfunctory shot at Mayor Greg "Claudius" Nickels.  With precedent established on how cities may and may not deal with nude dancing clubs even the Pope would be reduced to quixotic measures.  Because of the costly legal challenge the city would most certainly have faced in either rejecting the permit application or creating zoning restrictions, the permit issuance was a fait accompli from the moment the ink on the application was dry.

My fiancee and I take my son to at least three or four games every season, and we attend another three or four on our own of with friends.  These are outings in which - strictly speaking - nudity is neither expected or welcome.  Our plans (pertaining to both frequency or attendance and our clothing required policy) will not change next season, nor will they be altered in whatever season the Deja Vu club opens its doors.

The point at which our plans will change, and the Mariners organization will lose out on close to $1,000 our little family spends at the field in an eight-game, will be when I hear discussions of what goes on behind the doors of the strip club while I am trying to enjoy an idyllic American pastime with my loved ones.  It is already disturbing to listen to loud conversations on topics that my mother would have scolded me for speaking about in public.

When does tolerance of differences cross the line of becoming intolerance of our fellow citizen's right to have public spaces that reliable preserve some semblance of decency?  Our society is based on democratic principles, that the people affected by something are the best fit to determine whether that something should proceed or be halted or be altered in some fashion of compromise.  This manifests in the institutions of trial by peers, in school boards, in city governments themselves and so many others mechanisms though which local people make decisions on issues that affect their environment. 

There are indigenous business and residents in these areas who will be affected, and they should not have to mount a legal argument to prevent this from happening.  The club owner is the interloper, and should have the burden of proving that they will not do harm to the social and economic environment they wish to enter.  They should make that case to the people, not to a bureaucrat who feels no direct impact from the decision they make.


BREAKING: O.J. Sentenced to Jail Time

Image:O.J. Simpson 1990 · DN-ST-91-03444 crop.JPEGJudge Jackie Glass, the presiding judge in O.J. Simpson's armed robbery case, has sentenced the former-NFL football star and notoriously acquitted murder suspect at least 15 years in prison.  Read the CNN report here.

I think the scales of Justice still have to be calibrated to account for the heavy imbalance of karma surrounding Simpson's life, but this is a very good start.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Russia and Iran Running Hand-in-Hand to the Finish Line

Image:Atomic women Iran.JPGHow bad does something right under our nose have to stink before we take notice?

Israel's DebkaFile is reporting that, according to Russian and Iranian sources, Atomstroiexport - a Russian firm that has previously been confirmed as the operator of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant - will be putting the plans for completion into high gear with a projected completion mid-2009.

From the DebkaFile article:

Sergei Kiriyenko, director of the Russian company, visited Tehran on Nov. 27 to tie up the final stage of the reactor's construction. Kiriyenko, former Russian prime minister and personal emissary of the incumbent prime minister Vladimir Putin, again assured the Iranians that the reactor would be ready to go within a few months.

The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, begun by the German firm Kratwerk-Union A.G. (a unit of Siemens A.G.)  in 1975, abandoned by the Germans in 1979, bombed by the Iraqis during the Iran-Iraq War (1985-1988), has never been online.  An agreement with the Russians in 1995 for supply of a light water reactor put a timeline back on the table for completion and now it would seem that there is some extra impetus to get the first reactor online sometime next year.

Since 1998, the United States has been opposing the nuclear program there on the grounds that it was unnecessary for the region's power needs and therefore was being used as cover for the development of other technologies.  Since then, it has been a focus of the world's concerns regarding the potential for Iran to develop weaponized plutonium.

My guess is that it will be finished just in time to be razed to the ground.  The site is on the shores the Persian Gulf, an tactically uncomplicated strike by sea-borne assault.

Is this a casus belli in the making?  An ambush?  Or does Bushehr represent a real threat?


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Speaker Pelosi's Regime, Combined with 'Kitchen Sink' Proposals, Will Extend Detroit's Decline


Maybe in all of the bluster and fluster surrounding the pleading - nay, begging - from the chief executives of America's automotive manufacturing firms the quid pro quo being proffered will seem reasonable. After all, the symbolism of discarding corporate jets and forgoing high salaries seems like a step in the right direction. But symbols are just that, and they masquerade as a panacea, obscuring the need for real organizational reform that must be undertaken to save America's automotive industry.

It would appear that Ford CEO Alan Mulally pulled the short straw for the role of Detroit's lead beggar. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi sits on her throne in this time when President Bush has no power and President-elect Obama has yet to be crowned, the rush of adrenaline must be sublime. Mulally, a man who actually does things, knows things, risks everything, comes to her Congress, begging for intercession. Her staff must have to conduct a morning wardrobe check and confiscate her tiara and ruffled collars before Madam Speaker enters the public sphere.

The kind of power-mad arrogance we have come to expect from Pelosi is trivial under ordinary circumstances. It provides a lot of wonderful material for political writers to show their comedic chops, but does not translate to having a real effect on public policy. Now, she is truly a gatekeeper and the politics of her party have shaped Ford's plan for revival in ways that will reduce the company's chances for survival.

In the interest of presenting a $9 billion loan request (the lion's share of the combined $34 billion requested by Chrysler, General Motors and Ford) that would get speedy Congressional approval, Mulally has proposed the following:

  • Mulally will work for $1 per year (methinks there is fine print therein)
  • Cancellation of all management bonuses for 2009
  • No merit increases for North American salaried employees in 2009
  • Ford will sell all five of its corporate aircraft
  • Acceleration of plans for plug-in electric and gas-electric vehicles

In the Democrat vortex that is now our federal government, the forces that govern a capitalist economic system - freedom of choice and the supply-demand curve - are going to begin clashing violently with the forces that govern the Democrat party - the Green cabal and the labor unions.

Capitalist markets operate organically, more like forces of nature than machines, and they do not make special accommodations for special interest politics. 'Green' economics is just another word for higher cost of production, resulting in higher prices. Research and development will eventually produce an affordably-priced vehicle fueled by some alternative source of energy, but mass-producing such technology is still expensive. All costs are passed along to the consumer in one form or another. 'Green' cars cost more, and unless the federal government is going to the next step of banning gasoline-powered automobiles, lower prices will tip the vast majority of buyers toward old-fashioned petro-cars

Given enough time, Detroit will get alternative-fueled cars to market, but it should not be a priority or condition at a time when simply surviving is the first priority.

Still, looking ahead to the probable realization of President-elect Obama's heavy-handed “New Energy for America” plan, Mulally has little choice but to play the hand he has been dealt, if only to buy a little more time. So, toss a promise to build 'green' cars in the plan even though following through will hinder the company's chances. In the current political climate, Ford really has little choice.

Most dangerous, though, are the concessions proposed by Mulally on the issue of employee compensation. Capitalism thrives on the concept of reward for merit, and Mulally intends to place a moratorium on pay increases given for good work? In a company with depressed morale, what will be the driving force to move ahead, to innovate? The effect of removing incentives is what occurs as a result of communism. Work hard, don't work hard; your value will always be the same as your co-worker. More to the point, who wants to stick their neck out and break a sweat if there will be no marginal reward?

In a company that suffers from a lack of innovation and low morale, incentives can provide a useful engine for the creation of new ideas. A company such as Ford should not be doing away with salary increases and bonuses, it should be finding ways to target them to enhance the effort of becoming relevant to consumers again.

But, white-collared workers voted too fervently for Republicans in the past few elections. So, throw them on the fire. Only a worth sacrifice will earn Ford the grace of Congress.

Perhaps more destructive than the salary concessions themselves is the decision to impose these restrictions only on white-collared, non-union jobs. Unions are not being encouraged (or coerced) by representatives of Pelosi's Congress to participate in the life-saving operation of employers of union labor. When labor unions ask their rank and file to strike, members understand the concept of shared sacrifice for the greater good, but not when the Man is the one with whom the burden is being shared.

For more than a decade, jobs have been lost overseas as a result of high labor costs at American auto plants. Union self-interest will eventually kill the host, thus depriving their membership of their livelihood. When that happens, there won't be enough fingers on the hands of union bosses for all the finger-pointing that will ensue.

In the meantime, Ford's white-collared sacrifices, unmatched by comparable offerings from the United Automobile Workers union (gathering today for an emergency meeting), are almost certain to create animosity and resentment between the working classes. Just what a failing company needs - more internal dissension and factional politics.

Even after the political tsunami in November, there are still a few conservatives and pro-business Republicans who either clung to the palms (congratulations to Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)) and fingers remain crossed for Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)) or stand safely on high ground. Now is the time to start performing the role of the opposition party that the Republicans will be for the next two years. Make the case that there are options, not a single way of resolving this, and thereby give Detroit a little political cover to avoid the groupthink that will doom their chances for survival.

Or don't. After all, the economy isn't going to be an issue with voters in the next election. Right?


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Will the Obama Birth Certificate Story Ever Die?

It seems that speculation about the authenticity of President-elect Obama's birth certificate will regain a little steam lost since Election Day.  This time, a new analysis of the document that the Obama campaign asserts if authentic claims evidence that the document is fake, at least in the opinion of someone working under the pseudonym of Dr. Ron Polarik, as reported by WorldNetDaily.  The video embedded in this post contains "Dr." Polarik's conclusion and analysis.  Take it with a shaker full of salt.

Eventually this 'mystery' will assume the massive mythical status to place it among other conspiracy theories.  One would hope it would simply die.  It is a major distraction, siphons energy away from tackling real issues and gives false hope to those who despise the thought of an Obama presidency.  They can continue to labor under the delusion that there may still be a magic one-shot legal 'pill' to prevent his inauguration.

While I do agree that all candidates seeking the office of President or Vice-president should be required to present his birth certificate and provide other proof as to its authenticity, the law does not require them to do so. 

Should Obama, in the interest of demonstrating a model for transparency that he has proposed, offer his birth certificate for complete inspection?  I think it would certainly put the subject to rest with many normally rational people, would be a good faith indication that he has nothing to hide, but would not silence the extreme fringe who are going to dispute any authentication of the document.  To believe in the birth certificate's authenticity would be an admission that he is going to be president, a reality that is far-too frightening for some to accept.  For that reason alone - the need for self-delusion - the story will continue to fester like a cancer in the blogosphere.

It is also just as reliable to predict that no action will emerge from the avalanche of blog postings or thinly-constructed legal challenges.  Obama has won the brass ring, short of a confession of fraud from the man himself, nothing is going to pry it from his hand.

If we can learn anything from this story it is that, in the interest of maintaining legitimacy, the office of President should require more transparency in how candidates prove qualification under Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution.  Is it a major imposition to require proof?  Is it actionable not to require proof?  No positive law exists to require affirmative documentation, but we can't honestly be expected to accept anecdotal hearsay as evidence that qualifications have been met.  For a nation of laws this controversy exposes a weakness that must be addressed.

As it stands, the candidate affirms - under penalty of perjury - that he or she has met the qualifications.  We already have evidence that perjury charges do not pose a serious behavioral incentive for sitting presidents, much less suitors to the office.

What I hear frequently is, 'What is the harm?'

'Why does it even matter?  If he was born abroad, but is, for all intents and purposes, an American, should we even care?' say the apathetic or pragmatic, conservative or liberal, take your pick.

'What could we even do about it if he did pass off a fake?' is another response to avoid dealing with a larger issue.

The harm is that, in a society in which people submit themselves to the rule of law, they expect that law to be respected and applied evenly and without prejudice.  There should be no reward for those breaking the law, and there should be safeguards - where possible - to protect our system from people who are unafraid to break laws.  When we start treating laws as optional, or applicable only when it is easy to comply, laws simply cease to exist.

There is a need for top to bottom reform of our elections process, and defending Article 2, Section 1 is a good place to start.  For now, this writer will assume that the document is real and continue challenging the man instead of attacking his paperwork.