Under The Bench

Photo Abstract: Phil Compton


I was going to get a whole lot done today but then I decided to just sit here and pout. It's cold, it's windy, it's gray, it's ugly, it's February. The weather department forecasts five snowy days and one icy day in the next two weeks, and only once do we get out of the 30's. Once we don't even get out of the 10's. Come on, you'd be grumpy too.

Want a safe bet?

Government Tries to Keep Secret What Many Consider a Fraud - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — For eight years, government officials turned to Dennis Montgomery, a California computer programmer, for eye-popping technology that he said could catch terrorists. Now, federal officials want nothing to do with him and are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his dealings with Washington stay secret.

Then bet this is not the only case of anti-terrorism money being poured down the drain.

Hey come on, maybe it's not weird in Arizona

Alleged shooter's reclusive father retreats more - Yahoo! News

TUCSON, Ariz. – Randy Loughner was always reclusive. But since his son's alleged shooting rampage last month, the father has shut himself behind what one neighbor calls "an elaborate cage."

Real Americans

US Ancestry: 2000 — Visualizing Economics

The map below displays the ancestry with the largest population in each county. However, they may not be a majority (>50%) of the population.

Connecting dots

Robert Reich (The Republican Strategy)

The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class – pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don’t believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.


OK, you can stop right there

Young Readers in Dystopia - NYTimes.com

Where grown-up dystopian novels — books like “Oryx and Crake,” by Margaret Atwood; “The Pesthouse,” by Jim Crace; and “The Road,” by Cormac McCarthy — lately seem to dwell on a vision of a bestial, plague-ridden world where civilization has collapsed, these new [young adult] books imagine something far worse: a world where civilization feels an awful lot like high school...

A photographer's lament

UNDERNEWS : Why I stopped travelling to the United States

I've been to Russia before the cold war ended. I've been all over the middle east. I've been to China. I've travelled all over Europe. I've been to Cuba and I've been to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Nicaragua.

What all of these places have in common is that going there was a far more pleasant experience than going to the US. Yes, you read correctly: going to the US is more unpleasant than going to Soviet era Russia or even Iran 10 years ago. Sure, you sometimes have to bribe people, but at least I've not had gear stolen off me during security checks or had people break my gear without at least compensating me.


Willie Sutton Wept - NYTimes.com

There are three things you need to know about the current budget debate. First, it’s essentially fraudulent. Second, most people posing as deficit hawks are faking it. Third, while President Obama hasn’t fully avoided the fraudulence, he’s less bad than his opponents — and he deserves much more credit for fiscal responsibility than he’s getting.

Well that explains it then

Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog: Insightful Analysis

Condi? Remember her? OK, so she wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post today, all about the Egypts! ...I read it for you, so I can report that Condi's hard-hitting analysis of the future of Egypt is this: I dunno. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

On first things first

Sacred Cows, Angry Birds - NYTimes.com

The House of Representatives has been cutting like crazy! Down with Planned Parenthood and PBS! We can’t afford to worry about mercury contamination! Safety nets are too expensive!

But keep your hands off the Defense Department’s budget to sponsor Nascar racers.


Wisconsin Dems in exile

The Plum Line - Wisconsin Dems in hiding to avoid law enforcement, Dem aide says

Adding to the bizarre sense of urgency, a Dem State Senate aide I just spoke to who is actually in the capitol told me that Dems who are on the scene don't know where the other Dem Senators are, because they appear to be in hiding from law enforcement.

So if they sneak across the border into Illinois, does that make them cheesebacks?

Whatever. I say good on them. And somebody ought to make them honorary Bears fans at least til it's safe for them to go back home.


Charlie from Wisconsin (On, Wisconsin!) reports the movie "12 Angry Men" has no kissing, so we are adding it to our Movies With No Kissing list. We're going with the original 1957 version of the movie which stars Henry Fonda, Ed Begley Sr., Jack Klugman, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, and Jack Warden and also, like "12 O'Clock High," scores 100% on the Tomatometer.  Are we on a roll here or what?

And here's an incredible work avoidance bonus! The movie was remade in 1997 with Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Courtney Vance, Mykelti Williamson, and Tony Danza — and it also scored 100% on the Tomatometer. Dude! Avoid more work! Watch it twice.

And did we mention On Wisconsin?


We're adding a new sidebar feature, Movies With No Kissing, to be found right under the Work Avoidance list. Nominations are welcome. Meanwhile, our inaugural entry is the 1949 WWII classic "12 O'Clock High," with Gregory Peck and a bunch of other guys but only one girl, who appears, fleetingly, as a nurse. A lot of people get bombed, shot, and otherwise destroyed in "12 O'Clock High," but nobody gets kissed. Which may or may not be one of the reasons this movie rates a rare 100% on the Tomatometer.

A little more Wisconsin stuff

UNDERNEWS : Some facts about Wisconsin's pensions

Naked Capitalism - According to David Cay Johnson of Tax.com, the average Wisconsin pension is $24,500 a year, which is hardly lavish. But what is stunning is that 15% of the money contributed to the fund each year is going to Wall Street in fees. Thus the blame for any shortfall should go in very large measure to  rank incompetence in the state’s dealing with the financial services industry and the impact of the financial crisis on state revenues.

(Emphasis in original.)

On the other hand, let me point out to some of the Leftie bloggers around: if the only way to make sense of Wisconsin is to compare Madison to Cairo, we've already lost.

Calling out the cheats

U.S. charges 111 in largest Medicare fraud crackdown - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Thursday charged 111 doctors, nurses and other defendants with Medicare crime schemes that exceeded $225 million in false billings, the largest health care fraud crackdown so far....


On Wisconsin

Democrats flee Wisconsin to protest union curbs - Yahoo! News

MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) – Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate fled the Midwestern U.S. state on Thursday to boycott action on a Republican measure to curtail union rights for public employees as part of a deficit-cutting plan.

Deja friggin' vu

The Thomas Issue - NYTimes.com

When the Supreme Court hears arguments next week, it will mark the fifth anniversary of Justice Clarence Thomas’s silence during oral argument...

NYTimes worries about Clarence Thomas's ethics. No kidding. It's like a bad dream.

PETA: Iditarod is mean to dogs

Alaska senators upset over TSA's Iditarod decision - Yahoo! News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Alaska's two U.S. senators said Thursday that they're upset over the Transportation Security Administration's decision to cancel plans — under pressure from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — to recruit potential employees with a publicity campaign at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

I knew a bona fide explorer once — there is a mountain range in Antarctica named for this guy — who said that on a famous expedition to the South Pole by dogsled the amount of dog food hauled along on the trip was kept to a minimum by planning to eat the dogs on the way back.  So I guess PETA, if there had been a PETA back then, would have been really upset about that.

Whatever happened to all that "Commander in Chief"?

Jim DeMint: Obama is not ‘the leader of our country’ | The Raw Story

WASHINGTON – Arch-conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said Thursday that President Barack Obama should not be considered the leader of the United States.

"This whole idea that the President is the leader of our country is a mistake," DeMint said...



Little Tucker just won't go away

Tucker Carlson: Michelle Obama will raise your kids 'at gunpoint' | Video Cafe



It's very near to 50 degrees today and it's supposed to be even nearer tomorrow. It won't last. But it's certainly encouraging. 

Go sun.

In the spirit of shared sacrifice...

Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail? | Rolling Stone Politics

Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail....

See I'm thinking...

FDA urged to ban soda ‘caramel’ | The Raw Story

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some chemically enhanced caramel food colorings used in widely consumed cola drinks could cause cancer and should be banned, a U.S. consumer advocacy group urged the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday.

...we could just make everybody exist on bread and water and be done with it except, you know, the water might be bad. Or, of course, the bread.

Uh huh

US government accidentally shuts down 84,000 websites during child porn raid | The Raw Story

And just how long has it been since Hillary lectured the rest of the world on the importance of a free and open internet? I don't have any brief for child porn, it's the accidentally part that makes me cringe.

How long until Christmas?

World's largest toy collection up for sale in NY - Yahoo! News

A collection like no other is going on sale: 35,000 vintage toys and trains assembled by an American collector over a period of 50 years. It's so large that 5,000 pieces alone fill the entire floor of Sotheby's auction house in New York, where they are on display until the end of the month.

A little data to start the day

Dataoid. Sort of. Anyway. According to Barnes & Noble, 8 gigabytes of storage space will hold 6,000 books. This is, of course, a pretty sloppy number; put in technical terms it means "gobs of stuff." But no matter. The point is, if you think you will ever, in your entire life, type enough to fill up an 8 gig flash drive, let alone that 250 gig hard drive you have, you are certified nuts. Or a very fast typist. Perhaps.

Help is on the way

Calling on RoboCop to Help Detroit - NYTimes.com

[In Detroit,] where some of the most prominent buildings have sat vacant for decades and booting a scandal-plagued mayor out of office took eight months, raising $50,000 to produce and install a 7-foot-tall iron replica of the crime-fighting cyborg was accomplished in a mere six days.

But not one minute more than a minute, because that will completely ruin your day

Mrs. Bush, Abstinence and Texas - NYTimes.com

Tortolero, who lectures around the country on effective ways to prevent teenage pregnancy, once testified before a committee in the Texas House that was considering a bill to require that sex education classes only provide information that was medically accurate.

The bill was controversial. I’ll let you ponder that for a minute.



On drama queens


I continue to be amazed that the Tea Partiers, who are allegedly willing to take up arms against the despotic socialsit government at the drop of a hat, are backing [Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker]. If anyone has even a shred of doubt left that these so-called libertarians are nothing more than sad, confused, ideological drama queens, this should eliminate it. After all, what we are seeing in Wisconsin is a "leader" who is stating that he will bring in the army to stop American citizens from exercising their rights. This is the very definition of the "men with guns" libertarian boogeyman.

Wait! A BMW cow?

(iPhone photo)


Clinton Demands Net Freedom Abroad as Domestic Restrictions Loom | Threat Level | Wired.com

“I urge countries everywhere to join the United States in our bet that an open internet will lead to stronger, more prosperous countries,” [Hillary Clinton] said at George Washington University....

Clinton’s speech came a day after the House voted to extend to December 8 three controversial domestic spy provisions of the Patriot Act. And Customs officials seized 18 more internet domains without giving the pirate website owners a chance to challenge the forfeiture.

And more. Go read it all. 

How screwed up are we here, exactly?

And how long did that take?

Tea Party Patriots Investigated: "They Use You and Abuse You" | Mother Jones

Lately, Tea Party Patriots (TPP) has started to resemble the Beltway lobbying operations its members have denounced. The group's leaders have cozied up to political insiders implicated in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and have paid themselves significant salaries. TPP accepted the use of a private jet and a large donation of anonymous cash right before a key election, and its top officials have refused to discuss how the money was spent. And recently, the group has hired several big-time fundraising and public relations firms that work for the who's who of the Republican political class, including some of the GOP's most secretive campaign operations.

Don't forget Winning the Future

Suburban Guerrilla » Blog Archive » Lowest common denominator

So as part of a new trade deal with the U.S., Canadians will be stripped of their own regulatory standards so they don’t “inhibit” U.S. manufacturers who have to meet Canada’s higher standards.

Progress! Jobs! Race to the bottom!



Ketchup will be our vegetable for this evening

Today was a certified real cold day, 21 or 22 degrees at the end of the afternoon and seemed colder than that. I had to go to a nearby town to work this afternoon. It takes three hours of bus riding and walking to do a two hour class there, which is why I noticed all that cold. Brrrr. I didn't have time to get to the grocery store this morning so I stopped by the convenience store on the way home and picked up some bread and some tube steaks. The ketchup I already had.

Tomorrow will be warmer. I see a whole lot more 30's on the forecast pane that 20's now, and now and then there's even a 40, so I'm thinking the worst of the winter is finally past us and the trend is up. An old timer I met at the bus stop said he figured it would take six weeks to get rid of the snow. He seemed pretty definite about that. He also said this was the worst winter he could remember since 1983. Or maybe '85, but what's the difference. I'm thinking at least we might hope for next year to be a little easier.

The best thing is, that trekking around on the bus is about helping show people how to use Windows, which means what I do just might help Bill Gates make more money. How incredibly awesome is that?


Difficult to believe, but...

...it was fifty friggin' two degrees here this afternoon, and sunny. Really. Snow melted. A little. We will need about another month of weather like that to get rid of all of it, but hey, a start is a start. Go sun.

Haggling about the price

Out of Sync | Talking Points Memo

Here's the key thing to keep in mind in this current round of budget politicking. President Obama has proposed some pretty substantial cuts to government spending. Sen. Sessions and other Republicans are saying it's not nearly enough.

There was a story going around, I don't know if it was true or not, about George Bernard Shaw, the playwright, who, attempting to make conversation with a particularly stuffy female dinner companion, asked the woman in question if she would have sex with him for five million dollars. Only he said pounds, of course, being English, and I really don't know how many pounds because the exchange rate, inflation, blah blah. But a lot.

The dame said yes.

Well then, Shaw said, how about for five bucks?

What do you think I am, the woman said, a prostitute?

Madame, said Shaw, we've already established that. Now we're just haggling about the price.

I just hope it happens on Monday night

Mailbag: AIG, Parking Meters and Being a Crappy Husband | Rolling Stone Politics | Taibblog | Matt Taibbi on Politics and the Economy

Hi Matt [Taibbi],
Who used Twitter more effectively, the Egyptian protesters or the Jay Cutler critics?

That’s a tough one, and I think it’s a good subject for people like the good folks at the Poynter Institute to investigate. Going by the objective data, Cutler is still the Bears quarterback, while Mubarak had to resign… I would love to see the two of them switch jobs, actually. How much would you pay to see Mubarak rolling out and trying to avoid taking a sack from Jared Allen?


How many times does he think he can run this through the grinder, I wonder

Obama budget ends tax cuts for wealthy - MarketWatch

Sent to Congress on Monday, Obama’s spending and tax blueprint for fiscal 2012 eliminates the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 annually. Late last year, Obama and congressional Republicans struck a deal to extend those cuts for two years, but Obama has now painted a target on the cuts again.

And what moron came up with the idea of excluding food and fuel from the cost of living index?

cryptogon.com » Produce Prices Skyrocket with Freeze in Mexico, Southwest

Get ready to pay double or even triple the price for fresh produce in the coming weeks after the worst freeze in 60 years damaged and wiped out entire crops in northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S.

On Obama, Obama's budget, and "shared sacrifice"


The main problem with all this, of course, is that [Obama] willingly signed a tax cut extension for the wealthiest people on the planet just two months ago even as they are making money hand over fist as it is, so any talk about "shared sacrifice" rings just a little bit hollow now. If he wants to be honest about this and admit that he's catering to spoiled plutocrats and Wall Street Demi-Gods because he truly believes that he needs to sacrifice ordinary Americans on the alter of their egos, that's one thing. But blowing smoke about how this hurts him just as much as the college kid who has to drop out in a terrible labor market --- but he's willing to make the sacrifice and so should we --- well, it is too cynically cheap for words.

(Emphasis in original.)

Saddle up, Sancho


This new Pew Poll showing that there isn't a majority for reducing spending on anything but foreign aid is the perfect illustration of just what a quixotic political enterprise the Democrats have embarked upon in trying to show how "tough" they are by cutting specific programs.

It's like the Democrats aren't even there

Wall Street’s Dead End - NYTimes.com

These days a healthy stock market doesn’t mean a healthy economy, as a glance at the high unemployment rate or the low labor-market participation rate will show. The Tea Party is right about one thing: What’s good for Wall Street isn’t necessarily good for Main Street.

(Emphasis mine.)


Reich: Fighting fire with gasoline

Robert Reich (Obama Shouldn't Allow Republicans to Frame the Debate as How Much Spending Should Be Cut)

Big American companies are sitting on almost $2 trillion of cash because there aren’t enough customers to buy additional goods and services. The only people with money are the richest 10 percent whose stock portfolios have been roaring back to life, but their spending isn’t enough to spur much additional hiring.

The Republican bromide – cut federal spending – is precisely the wrong response to this ongoing crisis....


On 'S.N.L.', a Law Firm With a 'Spider-Man' Specialty - NYTimes.com

Just when things couldn’t get any tougher for “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on a weekend when that musical was slapped with two safety violations by the New York State Department of Labor, Broadway’s favorite $65 million punch line was once again skewered by “Saturday Night Live.”

It ain't exactly Egypt, but still

Belgium’s Sex Strike - Truthdig

A Belgian senator and gynecologist has suggested that citizens of the country protest the current impasse in forming a new government by—we kid you not—abstaining from sexual activity until a new administration is installed.

Free at last

Egypt's military dissolves parliament, suspends constitution - CNN.com

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Egypt's military dissolved parliament and will run the country for six months or until elections are held, it said in a statement Sunday, two days after President Hosni Mubarak resigned....

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces can issue new laws during the transition period, according to the statement on state television.

Or then again, maybe not. But hey, they still have Facebook.


UNDERNEWS: Headlines real journalists should avoid

Headlines real journalists should avoid

Obama seeks to cut deficit by $1.1 trillion - Reuters
Actually Obama is only proposing to cut the deficit by roughly one tenth of that of that sum, but journalists have allowed politicians to turn one year budget figures into decade long projections even when, as in Obama's case, he only will be in office at most for another six years.

In The Spotlight

iPhone abstract: Phil Compton