Ned Pepper's Outrages

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Contempt Citation--Paul Ryan (R, WI)

Ned's newest Contempt Citation goes to Wisconsin right wing "intellectual" and Gingrich protege Paul Ryan, who, along with two other nitwits, founded the so-called "Young Guns Program", just in time for the handgun massacre at Virginia Tech, the purpose of which was to elect anti-intellectual Republican members to the House.
Congrats to Ryan and his two gunslingin' pals. Ned will now saddle up ol' paint, and ride off into the sunset...

Our New (Collective) Halfbright Honoree

Ned and his nominating committee consisting of himself, Q A Wagstaff, OBE, FRS, and sundry persons who, fearing retribution, wish to remain anonymous, have nominated the Entire Majority Electorate of the State of Wisconsin as its newest Halfbright Fellow. This great honor is due to the following astounding electoral achievements:
* the election of Paul Ryan, Congressman of the 1st District. Ryan apparently worked in his daddy's business as a "management consultant" (Ned is not making this up) before being elected to office. In Congress, he was one of the "founding members" of the "Young Guns Program." He supports eliminating Teddy Roosevelt's Paris Hilton Tax (also known as the Inheritance Tax), privatizing Social Security, "fewer" regulations, "smaller" government, and eliminating taxes on dividends for the Sneering Plutocracy. His ideas and policies have been called "a scam" by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman.
* the election of Scott Walker as governor, who before he was even inaugurated began the demonization of public employees and called for the elimination of union representation, a right guaranteed by the Constitution and the NLRB Act of FDR.
* Last but not least, the election of anti-intellectual know-nothing, "Tea Partier" Ron Johnson as Senator, ousting perhaps the most principled and thoughtful person in the entire Senate, Russ Feingold. Among Johnson's "achievements" are his failure to graduate from college and his characterization of scientists whose research supports climate change as "crazy" and the science itself as "lunacy." Ned is given to understand that he married the daughter of a rich businessman, then used family money and connections to start a plastics business.
Ned doesn't know whether these voters were dropped on their heads when young, or driven mad by black flies and mosquitoes, or their brains have been freeze-dried by the subzero winters. In any case, these voters well deserve our newest Halfbright Fellowship!
UPDATE: Ned forgot to mention that Johnson spent more than $8 million of his "own" money (read: money flayed from the backs of employees and customers) in the election.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Free Trade Scam

Ned's followers know that he has been a sharp critic of twaddle and nonsense, and of conventional wisdom bereft of critical analysis. He will now discuss the scam of 'free trade.' Ned's friends may recall that in earlier posts, Ned described ocean-going vessels as among the most heavily subsidized means of transport on earth. He now calls his friends attention to another scam associated with so-called free trade, the uncompensated cost associated with invasive species. Most recently, Ned's associates in the agricultural community made him aware of a looming problem which threatens to decimate (please no snippy protests about the use of decimate here) the hazelnut/filbert crop in his home state of Oregon. A new pest is beginning to attack the trees, from China of course, imported along with a cargo load of schlock, dross and manufactured goods from that country. The pest is working its way south from Portland, has no natural enemies, and could result in either the death of trees, loss of fruit or the necessity of heavy pesticide application which would destroy the state's organic filbert industry. No one in China has stepped up to offer to compensate growers, and no one in our government is proposing requiring shippers to obtain liability insurance to pay for the damage their imported invasive species cost. These costs run into the tens of billions each year, according to the USDA and EPA, and our environment pays for them, along with state and federal taxpayers.
Now, back to those cargo vessels. They use the cheapest, most polluting fuel available, called Fuel Oil #6, or bunker fuel. This is also the fuel with by far the highest sulfur content, such that it is one of the largest remaining sources of acid rain and other air pollution affecting coastal communities around the world. And the owners and operators of these vessels have to pay none of the pollution costs. Moreover, by international agreement, this fuel is not taxed. All of these subsidies result in a transport cost of 1/3 to 1/2 that associated with truck or rail transport. This is why it may be "cheaper" to ship rice from China to Oregon than to ship rice from California's Central Valley.
Ned encourages his friends to be angry. Be very angry...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fraud in the Gulf

Ned's friends know that Ned has been tireless in his astute reporting on the mess in the GOM, and he doesn't mean just the spill and its aftermath. Now comes word through Huffpost that the Claims Commission has already determined that more than 7,500 claims are fraudulent or potentially so, such that the Commission has referred many to the Justice Department for investigation. Moreover, of the 400,0000 or so claims that have been filed, the Commission has denied half of those it has acted upon for lack of documentation (imagine requiring documentation to support a claim!) or ineligibility. So far, the Commission has paid out more than $3 billion from the slush fund, but it will run potentially as late as 2013 because claimants have until then to decide whether to sue. Ned predicts that most will decide to take the money and run, because the longer they wait the more likely their claim will be denied. Oh, and what happens if their claim is denied, or they don't get as much as they want? They get to appeal to the Coast Guard. So far, the Coast Guard has denied EVERY ONE of the appeals, leaving many unhappy campers.
Ned recalls the demonization of BP that resulted in the collapse of its stock price and the loss of billions to individual shareholders and pension funds here and in Europe, and now we see that the $20 billion extorted from BP will no doubt be three to four times more than was needed to pay all legitimate claims. Moreover, Ned believes that much of the economic damage was due to hysterical and blatantly inaccurate reporting on the part of the media, which was far more concerned with generating a sense of drama and panic than in getting to the true story. But he is likewise sure that the Obama administration and Gulf politicians will band together to ensure that the company is fined enough so that none of the $20 billion gets to go back to its rightful owners.
Ned's friends can trust him to continue to shine the xenon lamp of reason to stab through the lies, obfuscation and chicanery that has described the event and the claims process.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New From The Most Narcissistic Generation

Ned's friends will relish today's story in the NYT of a report on the self-assessed "emotional health" of incoming college freshmen. Seems some pointy-headed intellectuals take a survey every year asking these kids how good they feel about themselves. Since Ned's sense is that they are all chronic narcissists who have been told all their lives that they are exceptional, great, above average and all that rot, it comes as little surprise that they could be overwhelmed when they find that they might actually have to accomplish something on their own, and precious little at that, given rampant grade inflation at colleges across the country. But this to Ned is the best part, "The share of students who said on the survey that they had been frequently overwhelmed by all they had to do during their senior year of high school rose to 29 percent from 27 percent last year." Now, Ned's researches have shown that the performance of high-school kids has dropped steadily from the '50's to today, so to hear that these kids feel 'overwhelmed' by the trivial work that they are actually asked to accomplish speaks volumes. Moreover, the GPA of HS grads has been rising faster than their waistlines, such that a 4.0 is about equal to a 3.0 three or four decades ago. Combine this with numerous reports of HS students who basically take their senior years off to plan their proms, take extended spring breaks in Cancun, have their tummies tucked, tits and derrieres lifted, and drive their new BMWs back and forth to the nearest Nordstroms to buy whatever they want, it's no wonder they feel overwhelmed.
Ned feels a case could be made for an entire new government agency to look into this crisis and perhaps suggest new tax cuts for billionaires and Sneering Plutocrats to fix it.
And all those kids who never get to go to college or drop out of HS? Fuggeddaboudit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ned's Response to the SOTU

Ned finds it difficult to 'stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood' to respond to Obama's State Of The Union speech, but will make a game effort, in view of the requests pouring in from his many friends. Ned's immediate response was that somehow Harold Ford was impersonating the President, with the obvious consent of the Secret Service, and Ned immediately smelled a rat. But, his researches convinced him quickly that this was no hoax, but he was in fact viewing the real SOTU. Therefore, he responds that he was, on the whole, as disappointed with Obama as he has ever been of late, his expectations however not being high to begin with. Ned thinks on the whole that the entire Talkinghead-ocracy is wrong in its assessment that the 2012 election is Obama's to lose, since the entire Republican field consists of sad wannabe Mental Midgets, room temperature IQ'ers, Empty Suits, sanctimonious hypocrites and religious cultists, with one self-described 'fat redneck' thrown in for good measure. Ned solaces himself with the thought that any respectable Republican candidate could not get past the primaries, and no right-wing sanctimonious hypocrite could win the general election.
Then, Ned's blood began to run cold as he thought of George W Bush.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Return of Macaca!

Ned is usually rather blase if somewhat cynical about the comings and goings of political figures, but admits to having cherished one politician, whom, for pure entertainment value, Ned was somewhat sorry to see leave the scene like some "poor player, who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more." That individual is George Felix 'Macaca' Allen, former senator from Virginia, who was vanquished by one of Ned's heroes, Jim Webb. Imagine Ned's delight to find that Allen has announced that he will return to seek the Republican nomination to run against Webb in 2012! Now, Ned formed his views about Allen first through an agonizing four years as governor, then an undistinguished, to put it mildly, six years as senator, but also by observing him in person in Senate committee hearings during his tenure. Ned concluded that Allen was a consummate blowhard, a quintessential Empty Suit, and as fine an example of a jovial sanctimonious hypocrite as Ned ever saw. In other words, a candidate that any Banana Republic-an would love.
On the one hand, Ned looks forward to 2012 with renewed vigor and eager anticipation, and only hopes that Webb doesn't injure himself laughing at the prospect of his challenger. On the other hand, in Virginia there are enough closet racists, selfish narcissistic yuppies and ignorant know-nothings that it will probably be a spirited contest.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gun crazies: contemptible or beneath contempt?

The abundance of chatter about the Tucson massacre has consisted mainly of the predictable smug psychobabble that no matter how many innocent people are killed by sociopaths who obtained guns legally or illegally, there is no possibility of any sane attempts to curtail the murder and mayhem. Whether to curtail the sale of ammunition like the assault weapon clips, or to ban the sale of assault weapons themselves, or to keep a register of persons who have made a public career of engaging in antisocial if not sociopathic behavior, the response seems to be the same, "guns don't kill people, people kill people" or some such tripe. Ned is moved to wonder, along with one of his idols the NYT's Bob Herbert, what in hell is the matter with us?
Ned thinks of the 9 year old child murdered by the sociopath, but he also thinks of her family. Those people's lives will never be the same--something has been stolen from them and there is no way for them to get it back. Their lives may even be ruined, unless they can console themselves by some Christianist mumbo-jumbo. Then we must multiply that anguish, which to any parent is not measurable, by the tens of thousands of families each year whose lives are crushed by the gun madness. But nothing is ever done.
Ned therefore has decided to call a spade a spade: those people who oppose any rational gun control measures are so contemptible as to actually be beneath contempt, and Ned would consign them to the lowest levels of hell.

Friday, January 21, 2011

HP worst corporate board-the sequel!

Ned's friends recall that one of our most successful offerings was a post done in September entitled "HP Worst Corporate Board." Now the troubled company is back in the news after announcing a "reorganization" of its Board of Directors, composed naturally entirely of members of the Sneering Plutocracy. Four board members have been removed, er, "have decided not to seek re-appointment" apparently arising out of the debacle related to the departure of one of the titans of the Sneering Plutocracy, Mark Hurd. Ned will only point his readers to his earlier post to describe the outrage that resulted from the board's award of at least $12 million IN CASH to Hurd after finding 'irregularities" in his expenses. It will probably astound Ned's readers to learn that Hurd denied any impropriety.
Now the company has added four new board members, all members of the Sneering Plutocracy in good standing. Two perhaps stand out: Patricia Russo who, as chairperson of the telecom giant Alcatel-Lucent, presided over a 60% loss of share value in what can only be described as a disastrous tenure. Ned's friends need not send Russo sympathy cards, however, for she received an obscenely large golden parachute. The second worthy is Plutocrat Meg Whitman, former chair of eBay who wasted more than $150 million of her "own" money, read money flayed from the backs of employees and shareholders, in a disastrous run on the Republican ticket for governor of California, where she was trounced by Jerry Brown.
So these worthies now will dictate policy for HP. Ned advises shareholders to prepare for yet anther bath.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New (Kinder, Gentler) Contempt Citation

Today's kinder, gentler CC goes to the daughter of author Amy Chua, Sophia who said, responding to criticism of her mother's authoritarian parenting style, “If I died tomorrow, I would die feeling I’ve lived my whole life at 110 percent.” (h/t BYT)
Ned admonishes his friends not to use such silly phrases as "110 %" and advises them all to "have a nice day."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Q A Wagstaff (OBE, FRS) Makes A Modest Proposal

Prof Dr Q A Wagstaff (OBE, FRS) has communicated to Ned and has made, after giving the matter his mature reflection, a Modest Proposal: to reconstitute the Guardia Civil of Franco. It's task will be to make stupid, ignorant, tiresome, vulgar, obnoxious and annoying persons Go Away.
A review of the history of the Guardia shows that they carried out this responsibility honorably beginning around 1850. It is true that under Franco they carried out their duties with perhaps a bit too much enthusiasm and verve, but Wagstaff proposes a Commission (co-chaired by Ned and the Prof) to oversee the Guardia's behavior and see that it doesn't get involved in too much mischief.
Ned would begin by ordering the Guardia to issue a warning to all right-wing Republican politicians, putting them on notice that they were at risk of being Made To Go Away, but would provisionally allow them to stay as long as they stopped being sanctimonious hypocrites and mindless idiots.
Ned's friends in government are working as we speak on appropriate legislative language to make the Prof's dream a reality.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Guns Don't Kill People

The 'Crossroads Of The West' gun and ammo "show" was held a few days after the massacre in Tucson, and there were people lined up to get in well before the official opening. Needless to say, none of them saw anything wrong with having the event at all, much less even postponing it due to the massacre of six people by a probably demented person. Here were two of the quotes Ned found especially noteworthy: first, the old bromide 'guns don't kill people, people kill people.' To the moron who favored the reporter with this bit of wisdom Ned would reply by asking him whether he would rather be faced by a snarling, demented sociopath armed with a broom handle, or one armed with a semiautomatic Glock pistol?
The second quote was similarly edifying: "It's not about guns, it's about mental illness." Besides the obvious outrage that all right-thinking persons ought to direct at someone practicing medicine, in this case psychiatry, without a license, Ned wondered how a mentally ill person with the vilest intent on the planet could inflict such casualties on a large group of innocent persons without a gun and more specifically an assault weapon? The answer came to him in a flash: by means of a 'suicide bomb.' So perhaps we should be asking how can we change the restrictive laws in this country to make incendiary devices available to all? Surely if the Constitution gives every sociopath the right to buy as many guns as he or she wants, then it would be discriminatory not to extend the same right to buy and detonate chest packs of plastic explosives. Then we would begin to hear, 'plastic explosives don't kill people, people kill people.' Or, 'it isn't about plastic explosives, it's about mental illness.'
Ned wishes his sane and less-sane friends alike a pleasant Sunday.

Today's Grammar Exercise

For his student population, Ned offers this grammar exercise, culled from letters in the Nation's Paper of Record: "Just a few short years ago..."[Ned thought years had a more or less standard length.] "I truly believe..." [Very few persons are honest enough to state that they falsely believe.] "Up to twenty percent of students took out as much as thirty thousand dollars in student loans."[Essentially a content-free statement.]
Ned advises his friends to beware of and scorn such nonsense.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Happy Now, Barry?

Word comes to Ned through his usually reliable channels that maligned oil giant BP has taken a Russian partner, Rosneft, which is majority owned by the Russian government. The deal calls for BP to get 9.5% of Rosneft's stock and the Russian firm to get 5% of BP. Now, Ned's friends may recall that BP has a 47% stake in the Prudhoe Bay oil field, which produces about 17% of the US's domestic oil, so the deal will give the Russian government about 2.5% of Prudhoe Bay. But since George W. Bush said he looked into Putin's "soul" and found him a decent guy, maybe we shouldn't worry that an autocratic Russian government that has been playing footsie with the Iranians now has a say in the US's domestic oil market. It does seem to trouble one of those left-wingers in the House, however, Rep Markey of Mass (not Mr Merkey of South Park, to those who may not be paying attention), but Ned thought that all left-wingers were just commie lovers anyway, and Putin after all was high up in the USSR's KGB.
Ned said that Obama's demonization of BP would lead to tears and it has apparently pushed good ole boy and Mississippi native Bob Dudley, BP's new Sneering Plutocrat CEO, into bed with the Russians.
Are ya happy now, Barry?

New Shared Contempt Citation!

The CC will be shared by National Mascot Sarah Palin, who as everyone now knows because of relentless 'liberal media' coverage, opined that criticism of extremist right-wing incendiary rhetoric amounted to 'blood libel', which showed by its incorrect use of a phrase that is very symbolic to Jews, if indeed we needed further evidence, that she is too ignorant to be taken seriously or that she knew its use and was trying to appropriate it for her own use like The Mad Hatter and thereby illustrates her contempt for the intelligence of the average American.
And then, not to be undone, the Moonie Washington Times continues the insult to American Jews, and everyone else who has the proverbial IQ above room temperature, by having the affront to call the attacks on Palin an example of a 'national pogrom' against conservatives.
And Ned believes the ADL, or somebody, actually issued a half-hearted defense of Palin.

Ned's NYT Op-Ed Page Reader

Ned will save his friends valuable time by summarizing the NY Times op-ed page for Friday, January the whatever-it-is, 2011.
Ramesh Panunu, some sort of right-wing Talking Head, has written a content-free piece which spends the first half repeating stuff about entitlements that everybody including the deer eating Ned's plants knows, and the second half saying that the Republicans in the House ought to cut non-entitlement, non-"defense" spending, even though everybody including the crows in Ned's oak tree know it isn't enough to begin to fix the deficit 'problem.'
David Brooks, one of Ned's favorite right-wingers, opines that we need more modesty, and Ned heartily agrees. But Brooks says our self-destructive National Narcissism began around 40 years ago with hippies or some such, while Ned would hold that it basically began when Reagan and the Birchers started demonizing the feds, and culminated with 'Morning In America.'
Paul Krugman says there is a Great Divide in this country between the Room Temperature IQ Crowd (mainly extreme right wingers) who hate government and the declining minority of sane people.
And finally, some person who claims to be a 'writing instructor' at some college says she got free internet by piggybacking on her neighbors' internet service, so everybody ought to have it, too, what the logicians would call an example of The Fallacy of Composition. To which Ned would respond, Amen! Authors should provide free textbooks, and co-ops free food. Bars should provide free drinks and there should be Peppermint Trees everywhere.
Ned's response is as usual: where is the Guardia Civil when you really need it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Cordial Contact

The NYT is reporting, along with other sources, that a wildlife policeman "stopped Jared L. Loughner for running a red light several hours before authorities say he opened fire outside a Tucson supermarket Saturday," but "noticed nothing unusual about Mr. Loughner and had no probable cause to search the vehicle, Arizona authorities said Wednesday."
Moreover, the officer said the encounter was 'cordial.' and Loughner was let off with 'a warning.'
Ned wonders if the 'alleged' killer had been black or hispanic, would he have been treated with the same kid gloves?
Just askin'.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Surprise From The Pharmaceutical World!

Comes word that a small drug company has stopped trials of resveratrol, the "miracle" antioxidant concentrated in red wine, providing a few lame excuses, but one kernel of wisdom. Here's the quote from today's NYT: "Resveratrol has several features that make it unsuitable as a drug. These include the fact that it is hard to maintain a consistent level of resveratrol in the bloodstream and that it seems to have different effects at different doses."

Now, Ned asks his friends how many substances have "different effects at different doses." And, even though this company finds it difficult to maintain a "constant level' in the blood, the aspirin and ibuprofen makers don't seem to have that problem, nor do those who market timed-release Vitamin C.
No, the cynic in Ned prefers to accept the last excuse: "From a commercial point of view, resveratrol is a natural substance and not patentable." So they can't make enough money on it to pay their Sneering Plutocrat CEO tens of millions of dollars a year while gouging Medicare.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pathologica americana MMXI

Ned wonders what kind of a pathological societal association finds it logical to conduct body searches of 80-year-old frail travelers, lifted out of wheel chairs for that purpose on the specious pretext of "preventing terrorism," that places speed humps on little-travelled city byways to slow virtually non-existing traffic from 30 to 25 mph to "protect children," that prohibits fences around one's front yard more than two feet high to "protect children from drivers backing out of their driveways," but that happily allows psychopathic individuals to purchase semiautomatic weapons and then slaughter men, women and those same children in broad daylight at a shopping center in Tucson Arizona.
Just askin.'

Shootouts in the streets?

A radio talk show "host" has joined his right-wing comrades and indignantly denied that their incendiary rhetoric had ANYTHING to do with the killings in Tucson. He was absolutely shocked, shocked! at the very thought. Here's what he said, according to the NYT: “People have the image now that we’re a bunch of racist bigots and there are shootouts in the streets,” Garrett Lewis said. “[There is] absolutely no proof that any of this is true.”
Yet Ned, suppressing a wry, yet sad, chuckle, recalls that back in November he was in Tombstone, Arizona, and witnessed several "shootouts" featuring multiple murders, all glorified by onlookers. This country has been glorifying "wild west" shootouts for more than a hundred years.
Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Gun crazy

Ned's friends have, perhaps, been waiting for Ned's thunderbolt, like Zeus, on the subject of the latest firearm outrage, in this case a sociopathic cretin opening fire at a political gathering, killing a 9-year-old child in the process, among several others. Ned will have little to add to a post he did in October, when he decried the latest (then) gun-related outrage. Here's what he said:
"Ned cannot, for the life of him, understand the "mentality" of the gun crazy fraction of the adult population of this benighted country. We have crazies waving firearms at political rallies, where the President is portrayed as a Nazi and worse. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. The situation seems to Ned to have gotten worse, if that is imaginable, over the past twenty years, perhaps beginning with the demonization of Bill Clinton by the Republican slime machine, which of course was picked up by media outlets more interested in fomenting controversy than any real analysis of events. Then Fox "News" entered the picture and all the 24/7 Cable Channels, with their "all hysteria, all the time" mentality.
What worries Ned is that the average person in this country is not very smart, and to Ned's way of thinking, only slightly removed from a severe form of mental illness--paranoia, psychosis, or what-have-you. In fact, this is not as hyperbolic as it may seem, since "experts" attest that around 20% of adults have some sort of mental problem at some time in their lives.
Combine this nascent paranoia/psychosis with the hysterical presentation of events by cable along with the ready availability of guns and ammo, and you have a conflagration ready to happen. Ned only wonders why it hasn't happened sooner, and then he remembers Oklahoma City, Columbine, VPI, ad nauseam, and wonders how many more of those we will have to endure before we achieve some sort of gun sanity in the US.
He is not hopeful."
Now we have perhaps the most outrageous example of a society gone mad. But Ned doesn't wish to hear any tripe from gun apologists bleating to the extent that "guns don't kill people, people kill people."
Any idiot who uses this phrase should be invited, as calmly as possible, to crawl back into his/her slime-filled hole. For Ned wonders if there is anyone that wouldn't rather face a sociopath armed with a brick than one armed with a semiautomatic Glock, legally purchased in Arizona, a state that shall join a long and growing iist of shame.
Ned further hopes that he will not have to hear any more demented Yahoos spew any more drivel about 'the greatest country in the world.'

The Alaska Pipeline Shuts Down!

To judge from coverage in the NYT, a new and potentially devastating blow to the fortunes of BP is represented by the closure of the Alaska pipeline, in which BP has a 47% interest, and which is run by the Alyeska Consortium. But let's look at the real event: a leak developed in a pipe taking oil from a storage tank to the pipeline, and as much as ten barrels of oil leaked into a basement, where is was quickly collected. According to government regulations, the line must be shut until the leak has been "investigated" and repaired, which can take up to 6 days. Officials say it will have no effect on oil prices, nor on supplies of oil to refineries, since they have millions of barrels in storage. But here's how the NYT played it: "a new blow to the reputation and fortunes of the British oil giant BP." And of course, the article spent more time on the Gulf of Mexico blowout than it did on the pipeline.
Furthermore, the article pointed out, almost grudgingly, that there was "minimal or no" environmental damage nor was there likely to be any.
Now, let Ned shine some light on this situation: the pipeline opened in 1977 so it is more than 33 years old. It has dozens of pumping stations along its 720 miles. It needs a lot of maintenance. It operates under some of the most forbidding climatic conditions on earth, and it transports more than 600 thousand barrels a day of oil at around 150 degrees F, which can lead to a bit of corrosion from time to time. It's a complex operation, and just like a nuclear power plant, little things can go wrong which necessitate the closure of the system from time to time as a safety measure.
Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Move along.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Birthright citizenship

Ned noted the other day that the NYT ran a story with comments from readers on the growing controversy over the impact of the 14th Amendment's 'birthright' clause, which guarantees automatic US citizenship to any child born in this country. To Ned's amazement, a large number of serious commenters favored repeal. Ned understands the reason for the Amendment, arising out of attempts, regrettably successful until relatively recently, to deny basic citizenship rights to black Americans in the South. However, today the US is one of the only countries, if not the only country, that has this anachronism in its governing covenant. Ned has long supported ending birthright citizenship.
On the other hand, Ned has noted with growing concern the tendency to associate the negatives of birthright citizenship entirely to the hispanic community, and Ned finds this wrong, reprehensible, and even contemptible. Ned points out than many groups take advantage of this clause: he lists Irish Europeans, many residents of the Caribbean, Chinese nationals, and Pentecostal Russians to name a few.
Moreover, Ned can sympathize with the feelings of dread that many Mexican citizens must feel, immersed as they are in a war between drug 'lords' and what passes for the agents of 'law and order.'
Finally, many hispanic residents of Central America continue to deal with the murderous former policies of the American government, which for decades sought to undermine legally-elected governments on the preposterous pretext that they were 'supporting communism.' He can well understand why someone would want to get to this country any way they can.
So Ned would conclude that, while he supports elimination of the birthright clause, he sees no need to demonize hispanics in the process, and cautions his friends to be careful of the motives of many of those rabid supporters of repeal.

Halfbright Fellowships

Ned's many friends have repeatedly wondered why there have been no new Halfbright Fellows announced since the frenzy of activity last year. To this, Ned replies that the Nominating Committee, chaired as it is by Prof Dr Q A Wagstaff, OBE, FRS has been literally swamped with extremely qualified nominees, and this, coupled with Wagstaff's other duties as commenter on the Strange Bedfellow team of Cameron and Clegg in the UK, has meant that we have as yet not decided on any new Halfbrights. But be assured that new nominations are forthcoming that will astound and gratify Ned's many friends and followers. In the meantime, Ned calls upon his friends to honor our existing Halfbrights, including former Sneering Plutocrat Carly Fiorina, Tea Party darling Christine O'Donnell, and of course, former "president" George w Bush.

New Contempt Citation: Steve King (R, IA)!

Q A Wagstaff, OBE, FRS, has nominated Rep. Steve King (R, naturally, IA) for his latest Contempt Citation. He notes that King, an extremist right-winger even among extremists, made these sage remarks on the House floor (perhaps setting the stage for a truly memorable House session in 2011), "...the leader and the speaker have established their integrity and their MENDACITY for years in this Congress and I don't believe it can be effectively challenged..." The Speaker he was 'praising' as being mendacious was none other than his buddy, new Speaker, extremist right-winger John Boehner.

Oil Spill Report: BP no longer only skunk at the picnic

The government commission charged with the task of reporting on the Gulf spill has made parts of its report public, and it is a far cry from the media-fueled hysteria and demonizing that Ned heard during the spring and summer of last year. A MarketWatch 'take' on the report had this to say:
the report cites widespread “systemic” failure to explain the spill, which is a far cry from criminal negligence. Not only is BP no longer demonized, but Halliburton and Transocean are held to be culpable as well.
The report also decries the federal Minerals Management 'Service' for its deplorable oversight of the industry. In fact, "it pretty much points a finger at everyone mixed up in this disaster."
Now, Ned's friends will recall that he began to assail the hysterical media coverage of the event nearly as soon as it happened, as well as the hapless behavior of former Sneering Plutocrat CEO Tony 'I want my life back' Hayward, who is now overseeing some BP project, literally, in Siberia. And, he sadly noted the way that Obama assailed BP, extorting as much as $20 billion from the company's shareholders, a sum that Ken Feinberg,'czar' of the compensation fund, says may be too much by half.
But this hasn't stopped the media from trying to keep the pot boiling: a former Justice Dept official has been quoted as saying HIS 'reading' of the report holds BP liable for CRIMINAL prosecution, though even Ned's non-lawyer friends will be aware that if the government oversight body "signed off on(!)" the company's actions, there can be NO POSSIBILITY of criminal culpability--negligence, maybe.
But Ned's reading of the event all along has been that Transocean and Haliburton made gross errors as well.
And finally, a scientific study has reported surprise! that the light fractions of the oil, methane, ethane and propane were quickly gobbled 'up' by oil-eating microbes, much quicker than 'experts' had predicted.
Ned advises his friends to stay tuned, as the full report is due to be released next week. But he also notes that Credit Suisse has upgraded BP.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The "cost" of imports

One of Ned's tasks is to, once a week, act as volunteer sanitizer for his local food co-operative. Today, he had occasion to observe a fascinating plastic tub that had been left to be sanitized and reused. It had contained dried vegetable chips, which immediately piqued Ned's interest, which his friends will appreciate knowing Ned's penchant for healthy foods. Upon more careful observation, Ned observed that the chips were, as he suspected, imported, in this case from Taiwan and Vietnam. Now as a rule Ned has no objection to imported items as such, but in this case he began to muse on the question of why, as the "garden of the world," this country couldn't produce its own dried vegetable chips. Ned's explanation is as follows:
First, drying vegetables is energy intensive, so those countries that subsidize energy use or that do not require state of the art pollution controls on power plants will have an inherent advantage.
Second, obviously in the case of Vietnam the labor cost are very low, even given the swarms of illegal immigrants working for pittances in America's fields.
Third, shipping costs for dried vegetables would be very low, since the water has all been taken out. Moreover, some of Ned's friends will be aware that transocean shipping is heavily subsidized, in that countries are forbidden by international treaties from taxing cargo fuel.
And finally, that fuel, called "bunker fuel" or fuel oil number 6, is the cheapest fuel available, because virtually none of the sulfur has been removed in the refining process. As a result its pollution load on the ocean and on coastal communities is very high. In some coastal cities in Oregon and California, around a third of the air pollution is from offshore vessels.
In short, because of subsidies, it is probably cheaper to dry vegetables in Vietnam and transport them 6,000 miles or more by cargo ship to America than it is to ship the same vegetables by train or diesel truck, using taxed, refined and purified fuel, from California to Oregon, a distance of 600 miles or less.
But Ned continues to recommend dried vegetable chips, even imported ones, as a health food if one is not burdened by such concerns.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Demonizing public employees

Ned's many friends and dear sycophants will be aware that Ned has little sympathy for those few public employees, mainly public school teachers, who are always whining about their treatment, complaining about their pay and so forth. Having been such an intestinal parasite on the great long-suffering American Body Politic himself, Ned knows all too well that in most cases the job is easy to do (for those qualified of course) and the benefits and perks very satisfactory. However, when Ned hears persistent reports, confirmed by articles in the Nation's Paper of Record and elsewhere, of local and state governments planning concerted attacks on public sector workers in order to 'balance their budgets,' Ned must take up the great cudgel and beat back the Unwashed Hordes.
Ned agrees that there are pension abuses: the deals cut for firefighters and police smell to high heaven and must be remedied. But all these attacks on public employees are orchestrated with one intent in mind: to pit worker against worker and to draw the American public's attention away from the far greater threat to their well-being: the obscene and growing amassment of wealth by the Sneering Plutocracy. For it is clear to Ned that public sector working people represent just about the only middle class group left in America that actually still gets a decent day's pay for a day's work, that has some dignity left, that doesn't live in terror of being dumped like so much trash, that doesn't have to bow and scape to Massa for his or her job, and that can actually afford to pay its bills, take care of its families and pay taxes to support the economy. Moreover, unlike the Sneering Plutocrats and their rentboy lickspittles of the Republican Party they don't constantly whine about how unfair is their tax "burden".
So the next time, dear person, you hear another indignant Republican decrying the 'unfairness' accorded public sector workers, remember that this, if true, is only because PRIVATE sector workers have been economically sodomized by and large, over the past thirty years, coincidentally since it became "Morning In America."

Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Anathema:You Guy(s/es)

When English speakers stopped using the familiar tenses and pronouns, a great void opened in the Mother Tongue which has yet to be properly filled or bridged. Perhaps out of revulsion over the "Nonconformists" who sprang up in 17th century England like so many rank weeds, after the middle of that century, 'thee' 'thou' and 'thine' fell into disuse, except in parts of Yorkshire. And we suffer with it today. The Jerseyites and our Guido-inclined friends use 'youse' for 'you'. Our benighted friends in the South use 'y'all' and 'y'allses.' But even these, annoying as they are, are to be preferred to the terminally annoying "you guys," applied to male and female alike, and its even more annoying possessive, "you guyses," or most dreadful "your guyses," as in "How was your guyses Christmas?" Compounding the insult is the fact that the questioner could hve no interest in how the questionee(s) spent their holidays in the first place, since no one has ever replied, "it was terrible."
Ned most gravely counsels his friends never to use 'you guys' unless they refer specifically to a group of males, and never use these hideous possessive plurals under any circumstance under threat of anathema.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

First Contempt Citation of 2011!

Newly-honored Q A Wagstaff, now O.B.E. as well as FRS, suggests CongressThing Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota for the first Contempt Citation of 2011. She has apparently disclosed the reason she became a Republican was because of inflammatory and offensive language against the "Founding Fathers" in Gore Vidal's novel Burr (a novel Ned's friends will recall being a work of fiction).
Ned anticipates 2011 with barely disclosed glee and hopes the elitist and most selective concept of the Contempt Citation is not debased due to the abnormally high number of potentially qualified nominees.

The Latest From The Gulf!

Ned's friends will recall that he has been decrying the coverage of the GOM oil spill ever since it occurred, and has always said that the damages would turn out to be much less than the hysterics predicted, based on the characteristics of the Gulf of Mexico, and the presence of numerous natural oil seeps.
Now, and apparently overlooked by the hysteriasphere (otherwise known as the MSM and blogosphere), Ken Feinberg, BP "Compensation Fund" czar, has said in an interview with Bloomberg News that half of the 20 billion dollar fund may be enough to pay ALL economic claims arising out if the Gulf of Mexico spill. Now, Ned's friends will recall that BP sneering plutocrat execs "agreed" to put the $20 billion in escrow after being "persuaded" by President Barack "Bent Fingers" Obama, and his consiglieri, er, "attorney general" Eric "Two Bananas" Holder to set up the "compensation fund" in the summer, or else their property might suffer from "accidents." Now, maybe the long-suffering innocent BP shareholders and pension plans can recover some of their confiscated money, too.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolutions, Revised!

Ned joins the lemming-like masses who make New Year's Resolutions, but Ned suggests them for others.
Eat fruit, not juice, preferably organic, especially bananas.
Try to drink vegetable juice, especially without added salt. Excellent.
Sit less, stand more. Sitting bad, standing, walking good.
Try to exercise at least three times a week. Remember, walking is great, but walking alone will not take off those pounds and keep them off. [Here Ned notes that his colleague Prof Dr QA Wagstaff, FRS, has suggested on Ned's secure line that Ned replace "walking alone" with "walking by itself", and Ned enthusiastically agrees.]
Try to eat less meat, and avoid industrially produced ground beef, pork and fowl. If you enjoy meat, try lamb and buffalo.
Try to get more stuff locally. Many stores, like Wal-Mart, are making an effort to carry more locally-produced food.
Fish is great, but do a little research and avoid species that are threatened, and certainly avoid farm-raised salmon, unless you know it to be healthy. Most farm raised salmon is bad for you, bad for the fish, and bad for the environment.
Take Vitamin D unless you live below 33 degrees N Lat and get out a lot. Remember, slathering on sunscreen means you can't absorb any Vitamin D.
Find out about the ramifications of the new health care law.
Try to say nice things to people even those with whom you disagree. But if you don't mean it, don't say it.
Join with Ned and give Obama one more chance to fulfill our expectations of him.
Eat as many vegetables as you can, and try to cook them as little as possible.
For God's sake, and for yours, WATCH LESS TV.