spacebawl (the blog)

We thought about it. Now you have to read it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why you shouldn't believe headlines like

Democrats unveil massive spending bill, no matter how badly you might want to. ;-)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rightist D'Souza: They hate us for our freedom, and right in doing so.

Dinesh D'Souza calls out FDR for his complicity in the rise of Islamofascism.

If this joker knew his history, as all conservatives are supposed to, he'd know that Winston Churchill worked out the ratios of control in Eastern Europe on a cocktail napkin with Stalin himself. Further documentation here.

No criticism of Churchill intended. FDR was apparently enraged by the results of the Anglo-Soviet meeting, but his hands were tied by the necessities of the alliance, and to be fair, Churchill felt that his were, too.

What I do criticize is the right's tendency to idealize and idolize "their" heroes and demonize their counterparts, whom they style as enemies. The trouble with the American liberal is that he has very few intellectuals (most of them are purged as leftists and the remainder are all too often cryptocons). The trouble with the American conservative is that he has many intellectuals and none of them read a god-damned thing. This shit about giving away Eastern Europe has been a rightist line for sixty fucking years. You may have heard its more popular covers, giving away China and giving away Vietnam. And Churchill's explanation of the negotiations for the post-war world has been around for fifty years. I know we joke about rightists living in the 50s, but I think that may give them too much credit. I wish we still had Eisenhower Republicans.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Thoughts on the minimum wage increase

Being the bleeding heart dirty fucking hippy (BHDFH) I am, it should come as no surprise that I strongly support the long-overdue minimum wage increase passed by the House on Wednesday. The legislation now faces a tight Senate vote and a possible Presidential veto unless amendments are attached to lessen the added burden on small businesses, which tend to have larger percentages of low-wage employees. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already signalled he and the Senate Democrats would be amenable to such changes. (Note to Mitch McConnell: this is what bipartisan cooperation looks like.)

In addition to being a BHDFH, however, I'm also a realist and a pragmatist. I'm well aware that a minimum wage increase is not going to solve the country's problems as far as income disparity and poverty are concerned. In fact, it could create some unintended problems for the very people it's supposed to help, as shown in this fascinating WaPo article, Life at $7.25 an hour. But overall, the increase is a good start. The current MW of $5.15 an hour, adjusted for inflation, is at its lowest level since 1955. By way of comparison, if MW increases had risen by the same factor as executive salaries, it would be over $23 by now. A small, if good, start.

But what of the impact on small businesses that the Republicans are so concerned about? I happened to catch a panel of small business owners speaking on just that topic before a Congressional committee, arguing in favor of tax incentives to offset the wage increase. They discussed how the increase would require them to cut overall employee hours rather than raise prices on their products, because they already lose too much business to big corporate retailers who benefit from volume buying. Their share of employee taxes and health insurance would increase as well. They gave other reasons they felt they deserved tax breaks, such as the fact that small businesses usually lease the buildings they're in while the big retailers own theirs, putting the former at the mercy of the landlord who raises rent, won't make repairs and improvements, etc. (On a somewhat humorous note, one of the businessmen ran a store called "Bob's Soda and Pet City" or something like that. I'm quite curious as to their shelving and product placement. But I digress.)

While I'm sympathetic to these problems, it's important to understand that not all of them are really related to the minimum wage. Employee wage, tax, and insurance increases, sure. But if I correctly recall my tax studies and years of experience in corporate accounting, wages and insurance are deductible expenses, so they're removed before income tax is calculated. In addition, we have an even more compelling argument in favor of a single-payer national health plan - to take that burden off small and big business alike.

The other issues the panel brought up really don't have anything to do with employee salaries; rather, they're the unfortunate results of our corporate-influenced government favoring megacorporations over small scale entrepreneurs. To that end, I agree with incentives for small businesses in order to level the playing field and give consumers more choices than just a Wal-Mart at one end of town and a Target at the other. Ideally, such incentives should not be attached to a minimum wage bill, as the two issues don't relate to each other. But politics being what it is, one must sometimes make concessions to get what one really wants, and in my opinion the Democrats are wise to allow the small business concessions in order for the minimum wage to pass. The net effect is positive.

As far as cutting employee hours to avoid raising prices (and theoretically losing business because of it), I find that argument specious. All kinds of things affect the price of consumer goods, but we don't hear too much whining that the government should do something about the increasing cost of fuel, which in turn raises the price of grapes imported from Chile. Grocery stores just raise the price of grapes, and hardly anyone notices. Inflation in general causes prices to increase, and most retailers deal with it by small increases on various goods to compensate. On top of that, from the way some of these businessmen talked, you'd think that they were faced with the horrible disaster of drastically increasing the pay for every single employee they had. All I could think was, dude, if you have never given your employees wage increases and they are all currently making only $5.15 an hour, you are just one shitty mofo boss.

The sad fact remains, though, that human capital is typically the first to be threatened as the sacrificial lamb when businesses are faced with legislation that could impact their bottom line. It's just one of many swords of Damocles the powerful use to keep things going their way. I find this depressingly ironic, since I usually choose to patronize a small business where I know there are more staff people available to assist me and the building isn't so huge that I'd spend far more time finding the stuff I need than it took to get to the store and back, even if it means I pay a buck or two more for merchandise. I fear I'm in the minority, though, since I don't allow "always low prices" to be the sole arbiter of my purchasing decisions. There are some things worth paying extra for: the time I save by shopping at a small store and not waiting in long checkout lines; the gas I save by going to a place closer to home (especially when I can walk or bike); the expertise and assistance I can access by being easily able to find a salesperson. Rather than considering a small business "more expensive" because its prices have to reflect these things, I consider them essential benefits which are worth my money. It would behoove us all to consider our shopping habits in this light.

Dear Republican minority: STFU

A week ago Thursday, the opening day of the 110th Congress, I watched new Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking on C-Span. As is typical of opening session speeches, the new leaders and Congresspersons present an idealized vision of how they will behave in their respective posts, how they will serve the American people, what legislation they will try to pass or prevent from passing, and so on. We all know it never works out that way, but it's fun to pretend for a while. McConnell, for his part, said he will never support tax increases on the middle class or small businesses. Hey, kewl, because the Democrats don't want to raise taxes on the middle class or small business anyway, contrary to popular belief. He then went on to say that he and his GOP colleagues will engage in bipartisanship, cooperation, and civility, while never straying from their conservative principles. And I'm almost sure I detected a hint of a suppressed smile flicker across his face, as he knows as well as his colleagues do that there can be no bipartisanship, cooperation, or civility when the present-day GOP sticks to its "principles."

Friday, January 12, 2007

"A presidency of Cliff Notes"

Special Comment on the President's Address by Keith Olbermann.

Sir, you do Edward R. Murrow proud.

Iraqi Logic

We're not willing to colonize Iraq, sending vast portions of our population to dwell there permanently.

We're not willing to sack it completely or kill half the population.

And the President isn't willing to leave.

I hate to be brutal about it, but those are our options. You see why so many of us are "defeatists"? We're the same kind of defeatists that oversaw the evacuation of Dunkirk. No soldier wants to admit defeat, but if this is all part of a larger conflict, why break our army on a sideshow? I don't need to remind you what kinds of commanders have wasted strategic strength on symbolic victory.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


It may seem rude to dismiss a large group of people, but today I have seen undeniable proof that anyone who takes Sean Hannity seriously is insane.

Is this in jest? How could anyone put Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next to Barbra Streisand and Michael Moore?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Clumsy Historical Comparison

Today I indulge a bit of rightist association. Because no-one can be bad in their own right, let's assume that Saddam was actually a Hitler.

If this were true, how do you think a Kurd would feel right now? Or a swamp Arab, or an Iranian?

I suppose they'd feel just like a Jew, a Pole, or a Russian would feel if Hitler had been tried, convicted, and executed, not for the Holocaust or the Eastern Front prisons or the eugenics programs but for, say, the purge of the SA during the so-called Night of Long Knives.

Now, functionally, you'd have what you wanted, perhaps. But ask yourself if it wouldn't sting to see such a villain killed for lesser crimes and the more significant charges dropped.

Again, I don't make the comparison. I like to judge each mass-murderer in his or her own right without resorting to rhetorical associations. But I'm willing to take such statements to their logical conclusions.

Update-- Actually, it seems that the Iranians are quite pleased with the results, and feel that Maliki has proven himself quite willing and able to serve their interests. Well, I'm sure that this will strengthen ties between the Shiites and the occupying powers.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


And before this goes much farther, I need to introduce myself.

Believe it or not, this weblog has not been hijacked. I have been invited by my good friend Patty, the mistress of this site, to provide some of my own politically-themed gripes and bitches.

You will note that I am nowhere near as familiar with domestic and local politics as she is. That's fine--having distinct perspectives, we will step on each others' toes less often and the end result will be less repetitive and more entertaining.

Anything else? I can't think of much else that's necessary. I look forward to enjoying the freedom that using a friend's page promises.

Historical Entertainment

Band of Brothers is on today. I very sorely want to watch that series, but I can't today.

First, I'm sick. Second, it's got commercials, since it's on the History Channel. And third, every five minutes I want to scream "How can rightists think we're in this kind of war?!"

I'm not going to go into all the ways that World War Two can't be reduced into some kind of model for the "War on Terror." I'm just going to grumble because, as a history geek, I'm sick of people trying to make the past fit their modern assumptions. Of course, this is bad when we project feminism and civil rights consciousness into the past, but when VD Hanson and the armchair historians of half-remembered times want to make Ancient Greece or the Roman Empire or the greatest conflict of human history into nothing more than justifications for their failed policies, it's all fair, right?

Thursday, January 04, 2007


You don't have to be a partisan fanatic to worry about the level of political discourse in this country. I know a lot of people who can't stand mudflinging.

Mudflinging, sure, but if you object to constructive conflict and even obstruction of plans you think disastrous, then you need to stop paying attention to politics. Those who have no stomach for conversational conflict should not be allowed to decide on matters of governance, let alone war.

Already the President has dusted off bipartisanship (how convenient for him) and the Republicans have started to bemoan the coming Democratic purges. They've wanted to be the minority for so long that I'm happy the Democrats gave them the chance.

Me? I'm skeptical. I don't think the Dems have much spirit. But they ought to be a bunch of bastards, as long as they stay cold about it.

If America had wanted a Congress to approve every order coming out of the White House, they might have re-affirmed the party of the President. Let's not forget that.

Next time anyone talks about "decency" in this arena, or says that conservatism is still on the march, because only "centrist" Democrats got elected, remind them. If America thought we were on the right track, if America wanted more Congressional roll-overs, they would not have supported the opposition.

America's 60 Year Policy of Prolonging Civil War

Come on, guys. Provoking one civil war (okay, I'll be fair--triggering one civil war) isn't enough for you? Now the US Navy has imposed at least a partial blockade of the Somalian coast to prevent members of the Union of Islamic Courts faction from escaping.

Sean McCormack of the State Department had this to say:
"We would be concerned that no leaders who were members of the Islamic Courts which have ties to terrorist organisations including al-Qaeda are allowed to flee and leave Somalia."

Now there's a lot of ambiguity in that statement, actually, but I think it does show that we have almost completely adopted the Ethiopian line in this war. We won't actually declare war, but we will put Americans at risk in a conflict that we haven't voted to enter. Unofficial war is so thrilling, in any case.

I have no great love for the UIC, but I will say this--they united Somalia when few have been able to. As far as the terrorist line, I'll admit that there is a jihad going on, right now, in Somalia. Or one was going on, before the Ethiopians won. But jihad is not always terror and not all mujahideen are terrorists. When a Muslim country is invaded by a Christian one--and Ethiopia's secularism doesn't have the history of America's--a jihad will be declared, as sure as Christians would invoke and have invoked God in kicking invaders out of their own countries.

But I don't really care about rhetoric. Whatever gets the people to join the army, right?

The fact is that America's fucking up in Iraq, we couldn't help in Somalia without leveling the place, we've got trouble with Iran, an increasingly emboldened North Korea, and we've decided to take sides in a conflict that isn't our own and which doesn't much concern us. And anyone who sees this as containment embodies, more than they know, the teaching about generals preparing for the last war. Islamic fanaticism, like all terror today, can't be contained without spreading through civilian populations more quickly than before. And terrorism suffers when political stability is achieved--even under bad governments.

At this point, Somalia is lost to the UIC. Where would these people go? Perhaps back to the countries who funded and assisted them, where they may raise a little trouble. But nothing is really going to change, because the Islamist exiles won't go where there aren't likeminded elites with a lot of cash. And as far as Somalia, well, that's a country full of Muslims who have very little, or nothing, and the movement will start with or without the fighters and leaders of the UIC. So why is our navy out, again?

Oh yeah--probably to make a show to our pundits stateside and also to send another fuck-you to the conservative Islamic world with very little to show for it. We won't pay for it soon.

Oh, if only Sharif Ahmed was the leader of the Republic of China. Maybe we could set him up on a nice disputed island and arm him, but not enough to actually do any good. Has this ever been a functional strategy?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

God's prognostication skills leave something to be desired

I should have known better than to click on a link titled Pat Robertson: God told me of 'mass killing' in 2007 at 7:30 this morning. Nothing like seeing that squinty-eyed son of a bitch's face to make me throw up a little in my soul (h/t debutaunt for that highly useful phrase). Seems the ever-so-helpful Jehovah told Pat the War on Terrah would hit home again this year:
Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson said Tuesday that God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would cause a "mass killing" late in 2007.

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

So, like, didn't Pat bother asking God for maybe a couple hints as to where this attack will occur? How about a more specific date? Or maybe God did share this potentially life-saving info with Pat but he doesn't want to reveal it to the rest of us heathen rabble; he'll just round up his Left Behind buddies and his closet queer compatriots and hide out in his humanitarian diamond mine until the radiation falls to a safe level.

And another thing - if the Lord didn't specifically say it would be a nuclear attack, who does Pat think he is putting words in the Almighty's mouth? Isn't that just a wee bit arrogant? Last I heard, arrogance was sinful or something. At the very least, it reveals what a sphincter the guy is.

As is typical of people like Robertson, he just doesn't know when to STFU:
In 2005, Robertson predicted that Bush would have victory after victory in his second term. He said Social Security reform proposals would be approved and Bush would nominate conservative judges to federal courts.

Lawmakers confirmed Bush's 2005 nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. But the president's Social Security initiative was stalled.

"I have a relatively good track record," he said. "Sometimes I miss."

Hang on - I thought Pat said God told him all this stuff. So either Pat's entirely full of shit (likely), lying out his ass (also likely), batshit insane (inarguably), or the Almighty just ain't quite so infallible. Which is it, Pat? Will you protect the divine reputation of your Supreme Creator by admitting you're not quite on the level? That's gotta be a tough choice.
In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America's coastline in 2006.

Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring's heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.

That puts God's and/or Pat Robertson's prognostication skills on par with those of the Farmer's Almanac - "It will snow in the Northeast in January." Worse, actually, if one is willing to take the Almanac's claim of 80% accuracy in long-term weather forecasting at face value.

I could predict that this weekend, I'll be treated to a fancy dinner and a night of passionate lovemaking, but what will probably happen is I'll stay home, eat a DiGiornio's pizza, then masturbate until I fall asleep. But since either way I'll have a full belly and a sloppy crotch, the end result will be the same. Thus, I can say with as much confidence as Pat Robertson that my prediction was at least partly fulfilled.

Tony Snow wonders about the "concern about the last two minutes of Saddam Hussein's life..."

Poor Tony Snow. It's his job to spin away any worry on the domestic scene, and so he gives a curt dismissal of all that talk about Saddam's execution. Of course, those of us talking about the chanting of Moqtada al-Sadr's name leading up the execution of Saddam don't actually mourn the fallen Ba'athist.

I don't know about you, but turning the execution into a Shiite Arab victory may be seen as divisive. Nevermind that, even when uttered by a dictator, interruption of a prayer may seem impious to a former seat of the caliphate.

In other news, the Iraqi government has learned well--wrap your brain around this quote:

"Whoever leaked this video meant to harm national reconciliation and drive a wedge between Shi'ites and Sunnis."