Friday, September 30, 2011

Reason #35: Undesirable Discharge

Bureaucracy can be fascinating when it moves. One of the coolest ripple effects of the DADT repeal came when gay WWII veteran Melvin Dwork, who has the greatest name ever and the looks to match, had his 70-year-old discharge from the Navy reclassified from "undesirable" to "honorable".

On top of the symbolic benefits, this means that, at 89, he's now finally eligible for financial benefits as well.

Not that he's got very long to enjoy them, but hey - bureaucracy, am I right?

PS - regarding the post title - clearly the discharge itself is not today's reason, so to speak, but I couldn't resist making two poop  jokes in one week. You understand.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reason #34: Keeping the Lights On

Everybody can relax: after days of squabbling over how much disaster relief spending the federal government should be engaged in at the moment, and how much (if any) to offset with cuts to other areas, the Democrats and Republicans have come to a fairly respectable compromise and passed a bill that will continue to fund the government.

Until Tuesday.

Goodnight, everybody!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reason #33: Phallus Spackle

Here we see an insane person engineer literally rappelling down the Washington Monument to inspect damage from last month's earthquake. That looks both terrifying and crazy awesome.

They've found several cracks already, and the monument has been indefinitely closed since the quake and probably won't be reopening anytime soon.

Look, people, it's just a big stone phallus, and it's over 100 years old - can't we just knock it down and make a new one out of reinforced concrete? It's not like it's Mount Rushmore or something.

Ooh - and while we're at it, I want a new rust-proof Statue of Liberty. Like the one on Fringe.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reason #32: AIDS is Dumb

So apparently the AIDS virus has a specialized cholesterol membrane that enables it to exist in the body and still interact with (read: infect) a person's immune system. Scientists at Johns Hopkins have now determined that the virus loses this ability if it is deprived of said cholesterol; which apparently is possible.

It's all a little complicated for me--I always hated Biology--but there's something very tactically cool about this as I understand it; like conquering a castle by sabotaging the stone with which it builds its walls.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Reason #31: Gas Pains

Okay, bear with me here: Washington is hopelessly gridlocked, and can't pass a jobs program, so the economy is doing badly. Which means people are traveling less and shipping fewer goods, which means that there's less demand for oil.

So the price of oil goes down. Which means that people are spending less money on the gas they do buy, which means they have more money to spend at the mall.

More spending at the mall means the economy starts doing better.

Which means the price of oil goes back up.

Economics, ladies and gentlemen.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reason #29: Green Houses

With everyone bitching about the Solyndra scandal lately, I thought I'd point out a positive solar energy story - the Department of Energy's Solar Decathalon, in which teams of students from around the world compete to develop solar housing designs that are both efficient and affordable (they actually deduct points if the house costs too much).

My favorite is the one that collects all the residents' waste water and uses it to water a garden that pretty much covers the outside of the house.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reason #28: Dead Racists

Having commented on the death penalty once already on this blog, I feel that I should expound somewhat: Texas will soon be executing Lawrence Brewer, a white supremacist convicted of assisting in the death-by-dragging-behind-a-truck of a black man in 1998.

Assuming he's guilty, I have no problem with the notion of the government killing this dude.

Meanwhile, a black man, Troy Davis, is set to be executed tonight after being convicted of killing a cop. Al Sharpton has taken up his cause, to the point of holding a vigil outside of the prison this afternoon.

Assuming he's guilty, I have no problem with the government killing this dude, either.

The problem I do have, is that I have not met either of these gentlemen. I know nothing about their cases beside the broadest of strokes. But even if I'd sat on either of their juries, knew their cases inside and out, I would still not know beyond the shadow of a doubt whether they were guilty.

Yet after looking over both situations for a grand total of five minutes...I find myself far more certain that the white supremacist is guilty. I know how skewed the courts are against black men, especially when they're accused of killing a cop, and I also know that white supremacists are human garbage and that Texas doesn't exactly represent an enlightened state of race relations. So my gut tells me that the white guy's a guilty piece of shit, and the black guy is the victim of a biased system.

I am against the death penalty because juries are made up of people with guts. And I don't want anyone to die - anyone - for the sole reason that deep down, I just don't like them.

I wonder how Al Sharpton feels about Lawrence Brewer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reason #26: Bluffing

You would think that the newly-coined "Buffett Rule" would be a given - that millionaires should pay at least the same relative amount of taxes as the middle class - and the argument would be whether to make the millionaires' tax rate higher.

So I can appreciate Obama pushing that as a "guiding principle" for this new round of tax reform - even if it's not tied to any specific component of said reform, and even knowing that it would die a sad, lonely death if it was. Because even though I'm way, way past trusting him to really fix anything (the phrase "too little, too late" comes to mind), he seems to finally be embracing his greatest role, as director of the national conversation.

For example - in my gut, I always wanted Obama to be more aggressive in eliminating Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The analytical part of me will always give the credit to Harry Reid for that, because he's the one who actually saw the window of opportunity they had for it and brought it to the floor at that moment. But I can't ignore the sense I have - also in my gut - that Obama knew what he was doing there, and rather than unilaterally striking DADT down the second he had the chance, he did his part simply by pointing out how stupid it was, and letting things run their course legislatively.

So for him to start the tax conversation from the position that yes, millionaires should be paying more taxes - aside from the tactical advantage of not pre-compromising like he did with Health Care and the Debt Ceiling - means that at least we're talking about it now. I started this blog because no one in government seemed to be willing to even broach the subject of higher taxes, for anyone, ever. So it's kind of gratifying that now, less than six weeks in, Obama is taking at least the tiniest baby steps toward catching up with me.

Doesn't mean I'm voting for him again, though.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Reason #25: Racists

Funny that Rick Perry's 234 executions as governor of Texas have been in the news lately, because #235 just got a stay. Turns out that putting a psychologist on the stand who thinks that black people are atypically predisposed toward violence is not the best way to convict a black man of a violent crime.

Or, since the psychologist in question had actually been called by the defense, it may actually be a rather ingenious way to prevent a conviction (well, an execution, anyway).

Am I saying this guy is innocent? No idea. But it's not as if Texas doesn't have plenty of executions already, so if this particular case happens to languish in appeals until the end of time, I won't lose any sleep over it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reason #24: Ours Is Bigger

NASA's new Space Launch System - seen in the above still from Space Chimps 2 - is the most boringly-named government enterprise since, oh, the American Jobs Act, but it's also the first step on the road to a post-shuttle US space program. Its goal is to get us onto an asteroid by the 2020s and Mars by the 2030s, or to be defunded by President Rick Perry; whichever comes first.

And why wouldn't it be defunded, at a whopping $3 billion per year - also known as nine days in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reason #23: Muggings

In an effort to boost transparency, Rahm Emanuel's new mayoral administration in Chicago today unleashed an extensive online crime database, which lets citizens learn everything from which neighborhoods have the best most pot dealers to whose beat a given arrest took place on. Normally this information is dumped unceremoniously every 90 days, but the online database is updated every day and goes back a full ten years - in case you're feeling nostalgic and decide to look up that guy who carjacked you back in '03.

Weirdest part of this story - hearing people talk about "the Emanuel administration".

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reason #22: More For Me

I don't make that much money, personally, but it dawned on me recently that 2011 will be the first year of my adult life that I'm technically a member of the lower middle class - the Roseanne demo, if you will.

Which means that I'm officially bucking the national trend, as the Census Bureau is reporting that the US poverty rate is now up to 15.1%, the highest it's been since 1993. The poverty rate among children, meanwhile, is about 22%, meaning a disproportionate chunk of the non-poor are childless (or at least have fewer children). Which in my experience is probably a big part of why they're above the poverty line, but that's a different conversation.

Of course, the middle class figures kinda suck as well - median incomes are lower now than they were as far back as the seventies - but who cares? Glowing cats!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reason #21: Glowing Cats

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic, in order to test their procedure for gene implantation, have successfully inserted jellyfish genes into pre-fertilized cat eggs. The result? Bioluminescent cats.

The success of that test has led them to further experiments with gene engineering that may ultimately cure AIDS or something - but really, who gives a shit? Glowing cats!!

That's science for you - they just can't leave good enough alone.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Reason #20: Math

Say you went out tomorrow and bought a $50 microwave.

Then you went out again the next day and bought another $50 microwave.

Say you kept doing that every day until you ran out of your own money, then you got a credit card and kept putting your daily microwaves on said card until your debt had accumulated to about two-thirds of your total yearly income - meaning you'd have to work for eight months to pay it off even if you put every penny you made into it.

Then, finally, you wake up one day and look around your house. "Jesus fuck," you think to yourself, "that's a large amount of microwaves". And so you resolve then and only buy microwaves every other day.

That is the situation the American economy is in. And that is why my reaction to Obama's new American Jobs, No Really I Totally Mean It This Time Act was basically a big eye-roll. Not because of the spending - from the first day of this blog I made it clear that every dollar we put into infrastructure was (theoretically) a dollar well-spent. But because he's still pussing out on raising taxes to pay for it - even people who are generally supportive of the plan from a strategic standpoint (and really, it's not bad) are admitting that it's not very clear how we're paying for it.

He was perfectly happy to mention Warren Buffett's now-infamous demand that he pay more taxes (drawing chuckles from Republicans), but the closest he came to following up on that was the usual talk about closing loopholes - which won't really happen and wouldn't be enough if it did. I'm realistic about how hard it is for him to get anything through Congress right now, but the GOP is picking up enough of Americans' desire for compromise at this point that if he were to start the debate with raising actual taxes (the way the other side starts every debate with lowering taxes), Republicans might at least start looking at closing corporate loopholes as a more palatable alternative.

That's how this is supposed to work - your stated goal should be the dream scenario (one that your most idealistic supporters would be happy just to hear you supporting out loud), then you force the other guys work you down from there. He may very well get a little work done on unemployment, like how health care reform got a little work done on that front, and it might help him with independents next year, but continuing to disappoint his base like this only serves to create more independents next time around.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reason #19: Assholes

No, not mean people - literal assholes.

Anybody who knows me could tell you that I am the laaaaast person who'd complain about any kind of public nudity. I think it's awesome that San Fransisco is so relaxed about the human body that you can be naked pretty much anywhere without inciting a freakout. But anyone who complains about a city supervisor's new ordinance that mandates placing fabric of some kind between your bare ass and the McDonald's booth you're sitting in either has no sense of propriety whatsoever or is against it just to be against it.

Wave your butts around all you want, San Fransiscans. Just wipe that shit off when you're done.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reason #18: Turns Out We Have Enough Guns After All

The Pentagon is bitching about the $350 billion defense budget cut that's currently underway, with as much as $600 billion more looming on the horizon. But here's what drives me crazy: those are not hard numbers from a current set of expenses. Those dollar amounts are coming out of "previously projected spending".

Imagine I spend $100 a year on cable (I wish). All things remaining equal, it can be assumed that my cable expenses for the next five years will then be $500. Now imagine I cancel my cable, then go around saying I just cut $500 out of my cable budget - when my real cost at that moment is only $100, and anyway, I could restart my cable at any time, so it's not even a guarantee that I would eventually save $500.

The reality of the defense budget is that it is always climbing, and would be almost impossible to truly cut. In the post image (which for once is actually relevant), the rising blue lines on the far right are defense spending in the last ten years or so. The cuts they're talking about right now would not make those lines start going down; they'd just climb a little more slowly.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reason #17: Lots of Other People Do Too

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that, while people are generally annoyed with President Obama and think his presidency is in decline overall, they are actually at least as pro-taxation as he is, if not more so - 60% are cool with ending the Bush tax cuts in order to boost the deficit, 56% are open to the idea of increased taxes even beyond the pre-Bush levels, and only 37% deem it acceptable to pass a deficit-reduction plan with no tax increases.

So whatever else people may think about Obama right now, they are clearly not interested in handing over the reins to the Tea Party.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reason #16: Frivolous Lawsuits

The federal government has at long last filed suit against Bank of America and all the companies (I guess "financial institutions" is the correct term, but it's hard to adequately categorize a business that provides no apparent product or service) that contributed to the recent economic meltdown by selling Fannie and Freddie unsafe mortgage-backed securities (hereafter referred to as "thingies").

Even better, the suits name specific individuals at said institutions that are felt to have contributed significantly to the creation of said thingies, so even if the companies hold out, it could be the closest we ever get to punishing specific individuals for this mess.

Even better than that is the fact that the government waited until right after the closing bell on Friday afternoon to file the suits, so the stock market couldn't throw a fit about it, like it so loves doing these days.

Now, Tuesday - Tuesday will be interesting.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reason #15: Robots

Who doesn't love robots? They defuse bombs, deal with hazardous materials, and can even drag your unconscious form up a 45-degree incline.

Disclaimer: picture may not represent actual robot.

Disclaimer #2: but then, there's no picture with the article, so it could, couldn't it?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reason #14: Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting

What the fuck is photoelectrochemical water splitting, you ask? Why, it's a process that may one day be used to create cheap, renewable hydrogen fuel (you know, the kind whose only waste product is water). We know this thanks to a recent study funded by the US Department of Energy, whose details are largely above my head but sound very impressive, at least if you're the type to be impressed by phrases like "antimony-gallium nitride alloy".