So what happened with that whole swine flu scare?

Well the last year was a good one financially for vaccine makers. Fear ran rampant (in the media), orders flowed in (for a vaccine not even proven to work), and then at some point a lot of people seemed to figure out this was a big waste of time and now the Walgreens on the corner advertises H1N1 shots on outdoor signs because they’re having a hard time selling them.
For a while the health authorities tried to create a rush for vaccination by saying only certain groups could get the shots and falsely claiming there was a shortage. Many of them still recommend submitting to the H1N1 vaccination, citing deaths from the disease. But since fewer people seem to be dying of H1N1 than normal seasonal flu, it’s hard to convince the non-stupid to waste their time with this scam.
I’m not a health expert, but last year’s flu panic certainly seems like it will be put up there with the great over-hyped stories of all time, stoked by a greedy medical establishment and a moronic mainstream media.

Republicans need to be taken seriously again

The era of big-time dominance by the Democratic Party is over with Scott Brown’s win last night in the race for Massachusetts senator.  And it had only gotten underway in 2008 (2006 at the earliest).
Scott Brown[shirt] is a total creep–even Glenn Beck took a shot at him for the shady stuff he said about his daughters. But that makes it even scarier–if he can win, who else from the Republican side can?
What happened? It’s hard to say. Partly Barack Obama failed to live up to the promises he made to his liberal base, partly the Tea Party rebellion on the right helped stoke near-universal Republican obstructionism, which undermined the new administration’s plans.
But whatever the reasons, the Republicans are a political force once again, and it now seems that the near future might be a closely fought battle on a much more even playing field than thought likely just a few weeks ago–they might be emerging from their post-Bush hangover sooner than expected.

Barack Obama has been a disappointment

Barack Obama might be crying about how he’s perceived–and of course right-wingers are always going to greet any Democrat in the White House with attacks and lies. But his liberal critics are the ones who matter–he pretended he was one of them on the campaign trail. It’s not a pleasant prospect for political idealism, but it is clearly, terribly true: Obama should be upset about how lousy of a job he has done in his first year in office.

I hung back, not saying much about Barack Obama last year for two reasons–first, he was newly in office and it was hard to know the true direction of his administration without at least a modicum of observation; and second, every time some conservative idiot like Glenn Beck or Jim Demint fanned the pointless right-wing rage against Obama, it reminded how much worse the world would be if some filthy Republican like John McCain were president.

But those ratinales have run their course–the first expiring due to the new year, and the second largely evaporating in the face of Obama’s collusion with the vile and moronic George W. Bush on Haiti relief (yes the Haitian tragedy is awful and asking for donations is good, but do you really want George Katrina Bush up there ranting about “shysters” when you’re trying to raise money for disater relief?). To the powerful, it is all a game and working “across party lines” over epic foreign tragedies is arbitrarily fine, while pulling together to pass a bigger stimulus bill to put more Americans back to work is argued about and filibustered endlessly–or not even considered. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt over their false distinctions.

And that goes for Mr. Obama. Elected on a wave of popular disenchantment with America’s crusty, broken, self-righteous and lobbyist-dominated political culture, Obama has turned into another monster to rebel against, and nothing better.

I will list five of the enormous failures of the Obama administration:

A crazy and downright evil Afghanistan policy.

The lack of follow-though on the campaign promise to repeal the pointless and morale-undermining “Don’t ask, don’t tell” anti-gay policy in the military.

An economic policy driven by greedy Wall Street thugs Tim Geithner and Lawrence Summers.

A corrupt, useless and inadequate attempt at health reform, including support for a deeply illiberal mandate for health insurance that Obama campaigned against.

Obama’s sneaky little attempt to sneak fascism in by the back door by asking for powers of “preventive detention.”

These aren’t the only things Obama has done wrong–there are many more–and in fairness he has actually done a few things right like passing the stimulus bill and slowing down the assault by mineral extracting industries on America’s national parks and forests. But his overall stance has been one hostile to the American people and their rights, and time for deference is over.

Barack Obama is better than Republicans, but still terribly vile.

President Obama is stepping in it with the Afghanistan escalation

Why would Barack Obama and his administration want to escalate the war in Afghanistan?

Well it is true that the president spoke of Afghanistan as a worthy campaign while running for office, and he is saying the same thing now after all. But that said, he is still making a grievous mistake.

The U.S., the cowering, shrinking NATO contingent (the Canadian and British military are both tragically underfunded farces, and the other countries sending troops can hardly be thought of as having true “armies” anymore at all), and the civilians that the president over-hyped in his recent speech will never get done whatever Obama claims he can accomplish in Afghanistan–something about fighting the Taliban (i.e. hassling and killing more civilians and offering body counts to the media) to clear the way for the Afghan central government (“undermined by corruption”  under Hamid Karzai), along with the largely illiterate Afghan security forces and police–and Karzai’s drug dealer CIA asset brother. There aren’t any oil fields of note in Afghanistan, and the pipline dreams of years past don’t make much sense anymore given the seeming parmanent instability in the area. But campaign promises must be kept, bribes must be paid, and General Stanley McChrystal (he of the Pat Tillman coverup) must have his surge.

So, it’s a stupid move by Barack Obama.  Afghanistan is not going to change, and this is just an enormous waste of lives, money and resources.  At the end of the day, there are no more gains to be made by America in Afghanistan–and very few to be defended (look at the still-awful plight of women in the country despite Laura Bush’s lies about the situation).

Just don’t bother trying to go to one of those protests, it’s just a bunch of meth-head anarchists out there anyway.

Rahm Emanuel needs to be fired

Barack Obama has not had a good month politically, by any measure–the industry-stoked screaming mobs at “town halls” (when did these antiquated, corny theaters of the absurd ever merit attention any time in the recent past?) and the opposition to health care reform by Republicans (of course!) and “Blue Dog” Democrats (i.e. those who wish to be taken down in a primary challenge in 2010).
So it’s time to start making excuses. And here’s one that most members of the Democratic party, at least on the liberal side of things, can agree on–fire the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
Obama can blame Emanuel for everything that went wrong in his health care reform attempt–looking weak and caving to Republicans at the earliest opportunity; pursuing grudges against the left instead of fighting against the far right; making tone deaf pronouncements that are seized on by the opposition–actually, that has been Emanuel’s exact modus operandi since at least his days in the House leadership anyway.

Techcrunch thinks regulating Google is a kind of free trade

The Techcrunch blog is so often teh stupid, I hardly ever read it.  But someone brought a recent post on the site to my attention, and after seeing it I’m reminded again why these days I largely avoid reading stuff like that anymore [2007 is over, by the way, people].

Some anonymous contributor offers an argument so stupid I’ll let it speak for itself:

“Returning to the continent metaphor, this ends up looking quite a bit like free trade. Various businesses (call them sellers), operating within this continent, wish to conduct business with the rest of the world (that is, the population of buyers). The border — which in this case is the search engine — thus has complete control of who can transact and how often.

[…]

If we lived in a world where Google didn’t hold sway over such a significant portion of consumer behavior, this kind of regulation wouldn’t be necessary. The market would be self-correcting, and we could trust the individual decisions of a healthy and competitive search industry. Regrettably, due to search dominance, the industry can’t be left to its own devices.”

Get that?  I know it’s fairly incoherent, and if you think I cropped it to look that way read the post for yourself and you’ll see that’s not the case.  Anyway, the view being advanced in the post is that search is like free trade, so that means Google needs to be regulated.

Not being a free-market ideologue or a Google fanboy, I still have to take the only intellectually palatable position here–that Google is a private business and people choose freely to use their product.  They should have a right to run their own business and not be covered by unnecesary, crippling regulations just so some anonymous sissy can get more traffic for his little site.

But back to the absurb metaphor–I guess in the Techcrunch mindset, the discredited ideology of  “free trade,” which has deindustrialized every corner of America and left huge numbers jobless, is to be taken as an unquestioned postive.  It’s just very strange to then see this obvious free-trade ideologue then call for regulation.  I guess that’s just the convenient position for his own interests.

As this anyonymous blogger bleats on, he starts trying to bolster his argument by giving credit to irrational behavior:

“I’ve seen companies choose to not work with Google’s competitors for fear that by building those relationships, they’re damaging the ability to be indexed properly on Google and are anxious that result sets will be compromised. Many likewise believe that by having a monetization relationship through Google, they will somehow achieve higher quality listings through organic search.”

We’ve all seen people who act according to superstition and assumption.  But most of us don’t try to enlist the types of fools he describes–people who are making business decisions based on reading entrails–to help make our points for us.

You couldn’t reason with this greedy, stupid whiner–whoever he is.  Techcrunch describes him as a “well known executive at one of the largest sites on the Internet.”  I highly doubt that.

Phil Bronstein–still a moron

Few have ever heard of Phil Bronstein, but I lived in San Francisco (basically a one newspaper town) for five years and for some of that time Mr. Bronstein was the editor of the Chronicle. He ran the paper into the ground and then blamed it on the business environment for newspapers, but then so did lots of other people during the newspaper crash of the last few years. The Chronicle led the witch hunt against Barry Bonds, but then many other news outlets (and very few fans, at the end of the day) worked themselves into hysterics over Bonds’s use of substances (which by all indications were perfectly legal and unbanned at the time he used them). And in another unremarkable occurrence, Bronstein failed upward and still works for Hearst Inc. All that is par for the course in America’s “journalism” industry.
But now this goateed douche is trying to do punditry. He’s writing about…well who cares, it’s garbage, if you really want to know you can read the Media Matters blog entry on it. Suffice to say that since Hearst Inc. also runs Oprah Magazine, the Chronicle will be able to burn cash (some $50 million a year) and allow its former editors to become columnists for some time before the old rag gets tossed into the dumpster where it belongs.

Barack Obama and secrecy

Barack Obama continues to embrace, in a menacing way, secrecy. He has reversed himself on releasing detainee abuse photos. A lawsuit may yet reverse Obama’s poor judgement, but this is certainly a dark chapter for the new administration. Would it be too far to suggest that Obama is starting to sound like a Republican? Consider this— “[Obama] did not take questions from reporters, but said disclosing the photos would have “a chilling effect” on future attempts to investigate detainee abuse.”

Nancy Pelosi is a red herring in the torture debate

Of course the right-wingers are going to try to distract from the crimes of the Bush administration with any red herring that they can find. But strangely, they have settled on Nancy Pelosi–a politician not widely liked in the first place, and certainly not unexpendable for the Democratic Party. If Attornery General Eric Holder determines that prosecutions (or a special prosecutor) are warranted over the torture (“enhanced interrogation techniques”) that took place under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, both in the military and the intelligence branches, then nothing should stop justice from being served. Even if Nancy Pelosi ends up in the dock along with John Yoo, David Addington, Dick Cheney, Jay Bybee and others.

Milwaukee Avenue

Milwaukee Avenue

Jessica and I took a break from our drive down to Greek Town in Chicago from Des Plaines to walk around on Milwaukee Avenue in the city on a warm spring afternoon.  We were glad to see a Brooklyn Industries store there, but mainly we just wandered around for a while as lots of people were out enjoying the weather.