Monday, April 21, 2014

Whole lotta shakn' goin' on

UPDATE: Another one, this one near Vancouver. Old world is falling apart.

Does it seem to you like there have been a lot of big earthquakes in the Pacific region this month? Another (magnitude 7.8) in Papua Saturday morning.

Shake, shake, shake

That makes 7 of Mag 7 or over, starting with the 8.2 in Inquique, Chile, on the first of the month.

A quick survey suggests this really is unusual. I blame global warming.

You mean there's another one besides Oklahoma?

British humanists are in a swivet because the Christian prime minister on Easter said the United Kingdom is a "Christian country."

Although the indignants include 2 Nobel Prize winners (in science) who presumably can count to 20 without taking their socks off, and polls show a landslide (60%) of residents admit to being Christians, and it has a state church (the Anglicans, who used to be Christians although it could be argued that since around 1930 they haven't been, really), and a freakin' monarch who is head of the church, and bishops (but no rabbis, imams or swamis) with seats in the House of Lords, the humanists are upset.
Pretty great, for a Christian

I don't think that being a Christian country is anything to brag about, but for pete's sakes, humanists, it is a Christian country. In the seventh century (true, a long time back), when the anti-Christians had just about exterminated Christianity everywhere west of Adrianople (and a large swath to the east, too), it was the English who kept copying the holy books and maintaining the rituals.

 Cameron didn't advocate anything as dumb as American Christians are always doing. He did not say, for example, that people who are not Christians cannot be moral. He is no Ronald Reagan.

He (Cameron) wouldn't even be accounted a Christian by most American rightwingers in 2014, inasmuch as his government's policy is to sanction homosexual marriage.

Quit underreaching, British humanists.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Glenn Beck and I agree

As has been widely reported, Beck last week said:

I feel like I'm wasting my life 

I think he is correct.

Hidden damage

According to the free-marketeers, financial panics are a good thing. Sure, they are destructive of so much, but it's "creative destruction," clearing away inefficient firms and obsolescent methods and making openings for the novel, efficient and expansive.

This is bogus, for many reasons, one of which is that the destroyed do not get to enjoy the benefits of the creative forces. Naturally enough, they object (when they figure it out) to being destroyed so that what Incurious George called the Haves can become the Havemores.

An increasing body of evidence shows that the supposed beneficiaries, despite their short-term gains (the only kind they recognize), are being set up for eventual destruction themselves.

An excellent Washington Post story says:

New research tracking people who have been out of work for six months or longer found that 23 percent landed a job within a few months of the study. But a year later, more than a third of that group was unemployed again or out of the labor force altogether.
 The findings are the latest in a bleak but growing body of literature suggesting long-term unemployment has become a trap that is difficult to escape.
 Economists say that means the long-term unemployed could become a permanent underclass . . .

We have already seen what happens to society when a permanent underclass is created. This was done in the Rust Belt when jobs were shipped overseas (for efficiency, we were told) but not replaced with better jobs (which we were told would be the creative part of that destruction).

This was part of the unstated but very obvious bias of Reaganomics in favor of the coasts as against the interior (or, to take Britain, which was the model, the South against the Midlands and North).

RtO has frequently mentioned the miserable incompetence of American business management, the highest-paid in the world but, in terms of return for pay, the worst-performing.

It is pretty obvious, except to American managers, that if a Bush Crash throws millions out of work but an Obama recovery rebuilds many fewer jobs, at least in the early years, then millions of people will be out of work for a longish period.

Republicans are certain this is because American workers are lazy, which is why they torpedoed long-term unemployment benefits, as a way to force workers to return to labor (on business's harshest terms). How's that working out so far? Not like they thought.

In any case, it turns out that even when workers pull up their socks and offer to work, managers won't hire them, because there must be something wrong with them (rather than with Reaganomics); or because their skills have deteriorated, although it us hard to see how a sales clerk's skills could deteriorate.

The idea, as a general notion, is as ridiculous as other rightwing economic myths:

Ghayad said this dynamic creates what he called “the jobless trap,” in which those who are unemployed are increasingly likely to remain that way. He places the blame solely on the businesses doing (or not doing) the hiring.
“There’s no occupation where you lose your skills in one month, between six and seven,” he said. “I wouldn’t blame the unemployed people for 1 percent of what’s happening.”
But according to Senator McConnell, the only thing holding back the "job creators" are taxes and regulations.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thrill killers

There’s a hot cat fight going on here on Maui. But ours is just the local edition of a cat fight that is making fur fly all across the country.

You may have been following the controversy about the Maui Humane Society, its departing executive director and the strident campaign of cat (but not bird) lovers to introduce a “no-kill” policy at the society, which gets most of its money through a county animal control contract. There’s more  here (though behind The Maui News paywall).
And still more here about the situation in New York City, just to show we are not alone.

In theory, cats can be controlled by having cat lovers capture and spay or neuter feral cats, then return them to their happy hunting grounds, feeding and watering them, until they die of old age. Problem solved.

This is not how it works in real life. There was a cat colony at Iao Valley State Park, and a few years ago if you went up there after dark and shined your headlights into the forest, you would see hundreds of cats’ eyes looking back at you. During the day, scores of cats patroled the parking lot.
You cannot go into the park after dark any more, so the spooky cat crowd is not on display; and the last time I was at the parking lot it was not overrun with cats. I don’t know if that means the cat colony has diminished, but I doubt it has.

Colonies of Jackson’s chameleons, nene and pueo do die out. Cat colonies and cattle egrets, hardly ever. Usually, it seems that people who are dropping off their unwanted cats (instead of drowning them, which was customary in bygone times) look for existing cat colonies, presumably so their cat will have company and three squares a day.

On Maui, there is the issue of ground-nesting birds, especially seabirds. Some of these are endangered. All of them are slaughtered by cats. Few seabirds even try to nest on the island, and when they do they are usually mauled.

Even well-fed cats will hunt and kill for pleasure.

The upside of this is that without our thousands of blood-crazed cats, there would be even more feral chickens everywhere.

A dissertation on suckling pig

Long-time readers of RtO may recall that the main purpose of this blog is to celebrate delectable, greasy pork. Not every day. That’s why the intervals are filled with politics, history and music. But today I have found a classic of pork porn.

It is from Irvin S. Cobb’s “Cobb’s Bill-of-Fare,” written a century ago:

“Perchance also the sucking pig of the good old days still prevails in certain sheltered vales and glades. He, too, used to have his vogue at holiday times. Because the gods did love him he died young -- died young and tender and unspoiled by the world -- and then everybody else did love him too. For he was barbered twice over and shampooed to a gracious pinkness by a skilled hand, and then, being basted, he was roasted whole with a smile on his lips and an apple in his mouth, and sometimes a bow of red ribbon on his tail, and his juices from within ran down his smooth flanks and burnished him to perfection. His interior was crammed with stuff and things and truck and articles of that general nature --I’m no cooking expert to go into further particulars, but whatever the stuffing was, it was appropriate and suitable, I know that, and there was onion in it and savory herbs, and it was exactly what a sucking pig needed to bring out all that was good and noble in him.

“You began operations by taking a man’s-size slice out of his midriff, bringing with it a couple of pinky little rib bones, and then you ate your way through him and along him in either direction or both directions until you came into the open and fell back satiated and filled with the sheer joy of living, and greased to the eyebrows. I should like to ask at this time if there is any section where this brand of sucking pig remains reasonably common and readily available? In these days of light housekeeping and kitchenettes and gas stoves and electric cookers, is there any oven big enough to contain him? Does he still linger on or is he now known in his true perfection only on the magazine covers and in the Christmas stories?

“As a further guide to those who in the goodness of their hearts may undertake a search  for him in his remaining haunts and refuges, it should be stated that he was no German wild boar, or English pork pie on the hoof, and that he was never cooked French style, or doctored up with anchovies, caviar, marrons de glaces, pickled capers out of a bottle  -- where many of the best capers of the pickled variety come from -- imported truffles, Mexican tamales or Hawaiian poi. He was -- and is, if he still exists -- just a plain little North American baby-shoat cooked whole. And don’t forget the red apple in his mouth. None genuine without this trademark.”

Newspapermen don’t write like that any more.

A Chinese suckling pig; the American kind is extinct

I have cooked a whole suckling pig once. He was delicious but hard to obtain and, as Cobb noted even in 1914, hard to fit into a modern oven. I had to bend him into a crescent.

It was worth the trouble.

Monday, April 14, 2014

$25,000 bicycles in Indonesia

Although their headline writers are the worst in any newsroom, I find Bloomberg News to be required reading for anyone interested in business. For example, here is their lede on the coming elections in Indonesia:
Tedi Kumaedi earns about $87 a month selling instant coffee from his rusty bicycle near Jakarta’s stock exchange. At nearby TechnoBike, they’ve sold out of $25,000 Lamborghini-branded bicycles. Narrowing the gulf between workers like Kumaedi, who toils for 14 hours a day outside a luxury hotel operated by Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., and TechnoBike’s increasingly affluent customers will be among the biggest challenges facing the winner of Indonesia’s presidential election in July.
I didn't know Lamborghini made bicycles, but maybe I will have to revise my opinion that there are not -- and never will be -- any Muslim countries that are democracies. I hope so.

Some other stuff in the news:

I am totally unsurprised that the racist and faux-Jesusian Phil Robertson endorsed a totally phony Jesusian congressperson who was caught on his own office's surveillance tape canoodling with the wife of one of his (supposedly) best friends.

At least McAllister hasn't claimed that God has forgiven him, the way Senator David Vitter did. I'd give a purty to be near the Throne of Judgment when God goes over Vitter's record and gets to the part about "how I forgave you." I imagine God looking over the top of his gold-rimmed spectacles:

"And how did you know that, David?"

I would also give another purty to be within earshot of St. Peter when he greets the Greens of Hobby Lobby for their preliminary screening at Heaven's Gate.

"What did y'all do on Earth?" asks Peter, riffling through a file folder of reports.

"We were in retail," say the Greens.

Peter looks concerned. "And did you sell shot glasses?"

"No, never," reply the Greens, slightly aggrieved."We were Bible-believing Christians."

St. Peter is visibly relieved. "Thank Goodness. You'll get your chance to do that personally shortly. And may I say it is a pleasure to meet such transparently moral people. We see so many of the other kind."

You know how Wayne LaPierre is always saying the only way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun? Crap, like everything that comes out of Wayne LaPierre.

After shooting three people he thought were Jews, Frazier Miller was not stopped by an armed citizen, even though it was in Missouri where gun-totin' extends even to the men's rooms of the state Capitol. Nor did he die in a thunder of police bullets in a suicide-by-cop finale.

In fact, firearms were not involved in stopping him at all. He stopped after, presumably, he had killed enough Jews. Police found him sitting in his car, holding a shotgun, but not using it.