"...The Life's Blood Of Human Freedom..."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why, oh why, are these thoughts confined to blogospheric rants and a cable anchor who while derserving of the top spot on a major network is instead confined to a 24-hour cable news show?

I have my own theories. After all, who really owns the media? Were it the liberals, Olbermann would have Katie Couric's job.

As a million other blogs have done today, you must go to this post at Crooks and Liars, with video of Keith Olbermann's rebuttal against Rumsfeld's thoughtless and ridiculous comments against the detractors of the Administration's views. Really, this "aid and comfort to the enemy" crap is getting really, really old.

As a follow-up, just in case hearing it right from Olbermann isn't good enough, read the whole transcript here from Kung Fu Monkey, as well as KFM's cogent commentary.

This is a much more eloquent and well-researched version of the "dissent-is-patriotic" line. Olbermann's line "Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom..." is the point. Not of patriotism alone, but of human freedom.

I won't add anything more; it has already been said, but better. Just go look at the links.


A Year Ago Today...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Last night on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams had a decent interview with a Michael Dyson, author of Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. In it, both men seemed to make some really great points, but the key point made by Mr. Dyson is, to paraphrase, that America squandered a huge opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about race, class and poverty. In other words, we could have rebuilt New Orleans right. It could have become a model city for dealing with poverty and service delivery. We were handed a clean slate and an opportunity to address more than a devastated city and population, but also to address the causes of why things are the way they are in New Orleans.

Later last night, Brian Williams aired a special in which he reflected on his presence and role, and indeed the overall role and presence of "media" in general in New Orleans. It was surprisingly less self-centered than I expected and really became a piece that made some great points about how Katrina became and remained such a huge catastrophe. Again, he made some wonderful points that it was not the media's job to give food and water, which they did how they could. It was the media's job to ask where the heck the food and water...the relief...was, which they did, and which was never answered, except by a fumbling Brown ("the federal government just found out today about the Superdome...").

There was a point at which he aired a brief segment of an interview with Bush, who was angry (Hulk maaaaaaad) and generally indignant that people would call him and his administration racist. He insisted that he wasn't and "rejected" those claims.

My wife and I reflected on that statement and on the scenes that NBC quite effectively put together for their broadcast. It occurred to us that even if Bush and his people are not blatantly racist, what is racist is the catastrophe. The response is racist, and more than that, the fact that the huge black population in New Orleans, at least by media accounts, is predominantly poor is absolutely racist. This is our latent racism on display.

The response was slow. Blatantly racist? Probably not. More of a reflection of incompetence. Latently racist? Certainly. We have sequested our poor into areas that are actually more difficult for us to respond to.

Barbara Bush's comments; blatantly racist. Mmm...kinda, but ignorantly so. I like what Mr. Dyson, above, had to say about them:

But I'll tell you — when Barbara Bush said that, it reinforced the reputation of the Bushes as clueless patricians, No. 1. No. 2, inadvertently, let's be honest, she was right at a certain level.

Here's how she was right: That many of the people who were washed away were washed into better climates, better circumstances than they had before. That's a tragedy. You mean living in the Superdome, or living in the Astrodome, or living in a displaced geography that you had nothing to do with, you didn't grow up in, is better than where you were? For many people, yes. So even though she was right, she was right for the wrong reasons.
That's it; that's it exactly. That is the latent racism I am talking about, and the real catastrophe. That a "displaced geography" is better than your previous circumstances? Tragic. That we continue to let our biggest cities devolve into that circumstance, where it is more difficult to deliver services and aid and emergency displacement actually offers temporary comfort; that is the real tragedy. And that this tragedy focuses on, in a sense of majority, one or two specific minority groups: that's racist.

I love this post from LLPN (from Muckraker) because the "joke" that was played actually offers a real solution; a feasible solution actually applicable to every major urban center in America, but most immediately applicable to the real reconstruction of New Orleans. That the Bush Administration took it as an insult is not surprising. BUT...Mayor Nagan and Governor Blanco would do well to look at the joke's suggestions. They have as much a hand as putting together a real plan for reconstruction as Bush does. After all, Bush has shown that not only will his administration most likely screw it up if they tried, they're really not that interested in the first place.


I Can Barely Contain My Rage

Monday, August 28, 2006

Am I the only one to find this ironic: there exists a communications company wherein one Department is unable to communicate with the other, even though they all deal with the same services and apparently share a database.

There is such a company who provides me with the ability to post useless drunken ramblings on this blog and use many other internet-related forms of fun. This weekend, this communications company did some system maintenence which has caused an interruption in my service.

I called. After an hour and a half and approximately 7,000,000 little steps (including telling the computer voice my phone number, name, and problem, only top have to repeat it to the customer service rep...), we found the problem, which I stated above. Cool. So all we have to do now is transfer over to the sales deparetment to confirm my order. Of course, the tech support person can't do this, even though they plainly share the same information and are even looking at the same screen as one another at the same time (I know this from previous troubleshooting exercises). I am on hold. Then suddenly, I am told that the sales department is currently closed (it was SUnday...makes a little sense). Again, while looking at the same information as the sales "team," they cannot help me. They told me to call back today (Monday).

I called back. Of course, because it's a new day and a new person, regardless of all of the steps I already took yesterday, and regardless of all of those steps having been logged in their database in perfect sequence by the tech support person yesterday (again, I know they do this because of previous troubleshooting inquiries), I again have to repeat all the same steps. Apparently, the people they hire have no ability to apply the past to the present...

...say...that sounds a little familiar of someone or something else...hmm...

So we do all of this again. And now comes the moment: they will transfer me to sales to confirm my order. Yes! We're here.

Sales Rep: Can I confirm your name?
Me: (name)
SR: All I need now to look up your account to confirm it is your customer code on your bill.Me: M....my what?
SR: Your customer code.
Me: What's that?
SR: A new code we require people to give us, found on your bill statement, to modify your account.
Me: I'm at work. Why would I have my bill?
SR: Sorry, sir. We need that code to proceed.Me: So, after another hour on the phone, after nearly two hours yesterday, because of a problem you created, we can't proceed without this esoteric number?
SR: Sorry, we can't.
Me: How about my social security number? My cat's name? Anything else?
SR: Sorry. We can't do the social security numbers any more. It's on a totally different screen that is not connected to this one.
Me: So, we could conceivably go to this other "screen," I give you my social security number, you find this customer code, and copy it into the screen you're in now? Right?
SR: No sir, we can't.

So now, I will have to call back again when I get home and search my recycling bin for the old bill. And go through the same steps again.

This is the problem with massive corporations. We have allowed so many companies to combine into larger companies that I no longer get any customer service. So driven are they to streamline their internal services into separate highly-functional pieces that the customer is left out. And worse, they are under no compulsion to actually give me real customer service. They make so much money that when I threaten to leave and take my $19.95 a month, they will never miss it. $20 is nowhere on their radar screen, and honestly, neither am I. What recourse do I have but to take it in the ass? And worse, who can I leave to? Nobody. They've all been bought. So much for competition.

My only consolation is that after verifying who you are, they ask if they can call you by your first name. Maybe next time, I'll say no, call me Your Majesty.


Another Stupid Caption Contest

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

For all 6 of my readers: a caption contest! I found this gem of Bush receiving a gift from the Embassador from Ireland. Slainte!


I'd Never Leave the House...Friday Beer Blogging

Friday, August 18, 2006

Were this my kid, I would burst with pride. Had I this ability, I'd never leave the house.

Thoughts of beer, pictures of beer and beer for breakfast can only mean one thing: it's Friday, and time for Friday Beer Blogging.

Today's selection is Rogue Ale Brewery's Chocolate Stout.

The first time I had this beer, I didn't like it at all. But I had a Belgian Golden Ale before it, and ate an especially rich BBQ Pork calzone, so I wanted to give it another try. I bought some at my local Beer Cathedral of Peace and Suds, a.k.a. Oades Big 10 Party Store (with over 370 different beers).

The second try was...triumphant.

So, to lend it the same descriptions I'd use when I actually judge a beer (with inappropriate but necessary editorials in italics...they wouldn'r appear on a judging form, but I gotta say 'em to you):

Category: 13E, American Stout.

Appearance: Pitch black, opaque, with a coffee-colored head -- thick and creamy, great lacing, great head retention. Big, dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, people. 12/12

Aroma: Moderate roasted malt aroma underneath a huge chocolate aroma; a chocolate beyond that achieved by chocolate malts and into the realm of real chocolate. Hint of a burnt aroma, as appropriate. Hops nearly undetectable (low to modertate is acceptable), mostly covered by the delicious delicious delicious chocolate aroma. 3/3

Flavor: Big massive chocolate milk flavor from beginning to end. Burnt around the edges of the palate, ending on a big toasted malt not, like coffee beans. Chocolate in my Irish Coffee!!There is a touch of resiny hop bitterness that blends with some smoke characteristics from the malts. Simply loads of real chocolate flavor, which dominates throughout. Finished slightly dry. There is very little malt sweetness, but what is there is still chocolaty and slightly molasses-like. Sometimes, though, the burnt flavors clash with the heavy chocolate, slightly confusing the palate. I can't get enough. 18/20

Mouthfeel: Creamy, smooth and very full-bodied. It is honestly as close to chocolate milk via beer as you can get. Low carbonation, which is inappropriate to style. A nice alcohol warmth that isn't overpowering. 4/5

Overall Impression: Chocolate!! The only thing I can think of is chocolate. Sometimes, it seems, especially with the slightly smokey character, that it is like a strong Mexican chocolate. Excellent and classic example of an American Stout, with chocolate actually enhancing the overall beer, making it unique and notable. 10/10

47/50 (Outstanding, world-class example)

This beer is brewed with natural chocolate as well as chocolate malts, as is standard.

This is truly a stand-alone beer. I'd drink it with dessert or even alone as dessert.

So, it's Friday! Give me your beer. What do you like? What have you had recently?


Above the Law

Thursday, August 17, 2006

It's a good day: a federal judge in Detroit struck down the Bush Administration's domestic spying program.

This is what the Detroit Free Press had to say about it. Here's the Detroit New's version (strikingly similar, to those who understand the normal bias between the two papers).

In the judge's statement, she wrote:

"Implicit in the term national defense is the notion of defending those values and ideas which set this nation apart," Warren wrote. "It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of those liberties which makes the defense of the nation worthwhile."
Yes. Yes a million times. She points out the irony in the Administration's policy. But then, in my favorite quote from her ruling, she points out:
"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," she wrote. " . . . There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution."
Unsurprisingly, the Justice Department has appealed to the overwhelmingly-conservative Federal Appeals Court in Cinncinnati. One article mentions that legal experts opine that the appeals court will likely overturn this ruling, which of course send it to Alito and Friends.

The real mettle of our Constitution will be tested there. I am encouraged by the Federal District Court's ruling, but remain quite worried about where this will end up and how it will play out in the end.


What Really Worries Me About the Terrorists

Monday, August 14, 2006

I was reflecting over the weekend on Kung Fu Monkey's fantastic piece about the well-timed and wonderfully-executed nab of the 23 or so terrorists in Britain and Pakistan last Friday. There was one part of his blog that really struck me:

The fact that these wingnuts could have been rolled up, at will, at any time, seems to have competely escaped the media buzz.

This is terrorism's A-game? Sack up, people.
Actually, I think this is a small part of the terrorists A-game, and this is what worries me the most.

To begin: I am unaware of any comprehensive study of the economic "cost" each time we either foil or succumb to a terrorist plot. For example, what did last Friday cost America and the U.K. in terms of cancelled and delayed flights, business transactions thusly cancelled or delayed, extra dollars put towards increased human and mechanical resources at airports, and the like? And more importantly, what are the long-term costs and how long-term are they. As KFM points out, there is no measurable winning-point. Given that, how do we determine the economic cost of fewer air travellers (due either to fear or the increased hassle of flying), less flights, resultant layoffs, etc.

I am absolutely not saying that we are not responding properly. I don't really care if I have to keep taking my shoes off in security lines (which in and of itself presents a significant biological threat to those down-wind) or if I have to pack my shampoo instead of carry it on. No big deal. This question...my real worry...isn't about that.

Back to the quote from KFM above, and my thought process: This is the terrorists A-game? Sort of. I think the real war here is an economic war, not a war of attrition. If the terrorists do happen to take out a few hundred or a few thousand Brits or Yankees, I am sure that suits them just fine. But their real victory comes in the exploitation of our greatest strength, which in this case is our flexible and fluid economy.

By way of example, for as much of an amoral book as it is, it has good points, consider: the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. One of Robert Greene's laws is to attack your opponent's strengths. Nothing new to anyone who has read Sun Tzu or Karl Von Clausewitz. But on his blog today, he talked about Karl Rove's use of that particular law in the defeat of John Kerry. Nobody attacks someone's military service, least of all the Bush camp, who really didn't have a leg to stand on. It was a great strength of Kerry. But attack it they did...and how'd that election turn out?

So how are the terrorist going to beat such a foe as the U.S.? They certainly can't take it to us in a Western-style war. Eventually, given the fluidity of our military, even the insurgency in Iraq will be hard-pressed to keep going (once we stop treating them as a Western Heirarchical leadership framework - kill the head and the rest dies - which isn't working so well). Coming over here to kill our citizens adds fuel to our fire and really makes Hulk maaaaaaaad. But they can - and will - hamstring our economy.

This is why I want to see if there is a good study out there, not just some dreamt-up figures from the ABC News Senior Economic Correspondent, but a real, bona-fide study from a whole ton of nerds in a nerdery somewhere, on the real and estimated future impact of our responses to terrorist threats. This is because I think we have to start looking at our enemy as fighting our economy, and when we spend billions in a single day in response and lose billions over a short period of time from the business and government impact of our response (and the long-term ramifications that fear produces), I have to think that we are being nickled-and-dimed to death.

So 9/11 and last Friay's broken-up plot are not an end. They are means to an end. It wouldn't matter to the Al Queda leadership if either of those attacks were or were not successful. What matters is the damage to our "way of life" those attacks and attempts mean, where "way of life" means our ability to move our economy forward, rather than have it crumble to the point of wheelbarrows full of cash to pay for loaves of bread or day-long waits for basic amenities. Case in point: a knuckle-brained dimwit with an IQ of about 6 1/2 made us take our shoes off at airports and cost the travel industry probably millions over the course of a few weeks. So imagine hundreds of these attempts every year, but don't imagine them in terms of success = explosion. Think of them as success = a major dip in the stock market, a few thousand layoffs and a .1% increase in unemployment.

I think that if our security planners understand these attacks for what they actually are, it will allow us to devise and execute a strategy to counter the attacks and turn the tables, rather than spend upwards of 70 years (which is the time NBC Nightly News said last night it would take to put state-of-the-art bomb sniffers in all major U.S. airports) simply reacting to the attempts and attacks.

It is a very different form of warfare when your opponent sees killing you as a possible byproduct of their attack, but not its true intent. But if we understood how an attempt or an attack impacts our economy, how do we armor ourselves against that kind of outcome? While we respond with the obvious - fight - are we missing the real attack? I am afraid we are. So indeed, KFM, this is the terrorists' A-game. It's just not what we thought.


The Results Are In...

Friday, August 11, 2006

So after months of nail-biting waiting, my official results are back from the Beer Judge Certification Exam - and I passed! I no longer have to call myself an apprentice; I am officially at the "Recognized" level.

It comes with a nifty lapel pin that I have to wear at competitions, and an official card, listing my rank and official judge number.

From here, I accrue points by juding at competitions. I can also continue to re-take the test. I can move up in rank with a combination of points and how well I do on the test. The cool thing is, only my last highest score on the test counts, so if I bomb it once, it won't hurt me as a judge.

I also have to maintain a minimum amount of points accrued ever few years, just to stay current.

So there it is. I am a Recognized Beer Judge. For all the gamer dorks, that makes me a 2nd Level Beer Judge. It means my saving throw for Drunkeness is at +1, but any Willpower checks when around beer are at -1.

Oops. I revealed a bit too much about my little known habits...


You Win Some, You Lose Some...Open Forum on Michigan Primary Elections

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I am totally bummed that Joe Schwarz, a man whom I admire greatly, lost in his primary against a far-right Christian fundamentalist. It is not a complete surprise that he lost, given that his last victory was in a 5-way field, which narrows the margin you need to win. But I thought that being an incumbent would have given him an edge, on top of the fact that his messages resonate well with Michigan.

But Primary elections usually draw only the "true believers" who are so driven to vote. It is a drag, and Washington lost a great voice of reason, independence and responsibility.

But Joe Lieberman lost, so I guess all is not totally gone and sorrowful.

For other Michigan results, check out this site. A few other surprises, but for the most part, the November General Elections have just been decided.

Consider this, for all 5 of my viewers (I am up 3), an open forum on the Primary Election in Michigan. Whatchya got to say?


Deeper Into Insanity

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Today is the big Primary Election in Michigan for State House, State Senate, Congress, and Debbie Stabenow (our Guv candidates and Secretary of State candidates don't have primaries and the AG candidates are chosen by convention). Indeed there are a few contested Primaries meaning that there is a mixture of incumbents being legitmately threatened, or seats open because of term limits yielding 7-, 8- and even 9-way Priamries. Largely, (though not 100%) the results of today's elections will actually be the race, given the relative safety of most seats due to term limits. More on the contested General Election seats later...

The Primary to watch, which has also gained national attention, is the one between Freshman Congressman Joe Schwarz, a moderate McCain (pre-sellout) type Republican, and Tim Walberg, a former State Rep. Joe has been labeled one of the most effective Freshman Reps, served in the Vietnam War as a field surgeon in the Navy and in the CIA.

What's important in this race is the far-right fringe, who in this district's case may not be so much "fringe" as it is the "majority." Joe may lose this race based on his stance on gay marriage (stay out of the bedroom) and abortion (pro-choice). Walberg is strictly anti-abortion and is of the ultra-conservative religiously-driven type of candidate seen in such Washington leadership as Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft, and of course the Preznit.

I believe the question here is whether or not these message and this type of candidate (Walberg) is still a solid majority, or a dying breed. It will surely be tragic to lose a thoughtful, responsible Congressman like Joe Schwarz, even moreso if the messages carried by Walberg have enough sway all across Michigan. Or is his message one only dominant in a predominantly rural district with only a small urban area to balance it?

For now, we will await the close of the polls and hope for the best for Joe.


The Contest - "I'm Out!"

Friday, August 04, 2006

I love this episode of Seinfeld. You know the one, where Geroge admits he was "busted" by his mother doing a certain one-handed deed to the pictures in a Glamor magazine. This sparks a contest amongst the characters about who can go the longest, with Kramer losing almost immediately.

Well, this little contest in Jolly-Ol England just may be the icing on the cake to a lengthy lifetime career of laughing at sex humor. I'm talking about the Masturbate-a-thon.

Hopefully, Jerry Lewis will never incorporate this tactic into his current telethon.

Indeed, here at Around the Keg, I aim to be your one-stop shop of vice and low-brow humor. And I'll be purchasing 1 ticket to London...

Update: Check out the U.S. Registration Site here and the U.K. Site here. This is hilarious.



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