Monday, February 22, 2010

Memo to Tea Baggers: Words Have Consequences

A friend of mine has presented the following question on his facebook page.

When did questioning government become unacceptable and calling people "teabaggers" become intellectual?

Here is my expanded response.

I disagree with your fundamental premises. There's nothing to suggest that questioning the government has become unacceptable or that calling teabaggers teabaggers is intellectual.

On the other hand when some senile old man gets up in public as he did at one of Grassley's Town virtual Obama lynchings and says "well, the only solution is to get a gun and go to Washington" I, and a lot of people like me, stop listening.

Certainly the teabaggers haven't stopped doing whatever they think they're doing and I don't feel real smart when I kick a teabagger in the shins.

It's not an intellectual exercise and as long as they keep trotting out the likes of Sarah Palin, tenthers, birthers, Ron Paul antisemites, states' righters, John Calhoun inspired irredentists, southern secessionists, know-nothings and so on, they're not entitled to any sort of high minded deference.

If they're going to wave the bloody shirt of revolution, well, they should dig up all those AK47s that they've got hidden in PVC pipe buried in the back yard that they've been threatening to use and put their money where their mouth is. Either that or shut up.

I suppose it is unfortunate that the teabaggers chose to pick a name for themselves that has such unfortunate associations but "them's the breaks".

Lest you think I'm unaware of the distinction, the only Tea Party I'm aware of that is worthy of the name is the one Lewis Carroll described in Alice in Wonderland-which seems curiously apropos these days.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Death of a Blue Water Sailor

We're informed that a blue water sailor has passed from this earth. I never met Phil Harris but shared some of his life and times vicariously as a lot of us did.
In my mind Phil was a person who was completely attuned to everything around him, and made no distinction between the human, the physical, the social and the mechanical. One season he had engine trouble and referred to the engines in the Cornelia Marie as the good girl and the bad girl.

I guess I feel a bond existed because my grandfather was a blue water sailor as well, and you always had the feeling that those eyes had seen things far away that the rest of us shorebound folks could only speculate about.

Through the wonders of television and the stamina of film crews we got to see just a little of what the life of a blue water sailor is about, and the joys and sorrows that accrue to 'the finest kind'.

In the end, it was the physical that let Phil down at an early age.

As was true for missing friends I offer the pen of A.E. Housman to this blue water sailor.

Home is the Sailor

Home is the sailor, home from sea:

Her far-borne canvas furled

The ship pours shining on the quay

The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill:

Fast in the boundless snare

All flesh lies taken at his will

And every fowl of air.

'Tis evening on the moorland free,

The starlit wave is still:

Home is the sailor from the sea,

The hunter from the hill.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Club Just Got Bigger By One

The exclusive superjumbo (I hate that word, don't you?) airliner club just got a little larger as Boeing's newest remix on a well matured but certainly not obsolete theme took to the skies a few days ago.

The B747-8F flight test aircraft-which is a re-winged, re-engined, re-systemed and stretched 747-took wing the other day and it marks an important milestone, not the least of which is that it exists at all.

Offering a viable-although slightly smaller- alternative to the A380 is something that's sure to cause some sleepless nights in Toulouse. The mere fact of its existence creates pressure on Airbus and the A380 program that wasn't there a few days ago.

This iteration on a theme is reminiscent of Kaiser Bill's 'fleet in being', which was the idea that as long as the German Navy had a credible battle fleet capable of inflicting serious damage, it would keep the Royal Navy parked in Scapa Flow waiting for the sorties that almost never came.

Did I mention it can carry cargo? Yes, friends, the -8F can carry freight-lots of lovely freight that never complains about airport security or delays, doesn't demand in flight movies and free refills on the drinks, and rarely needs a blanket or an extra pillow.

And freight doesn't carry explosive underpants either.

Photo courtesy of Wired News.
Photo of SMS Posen courtesy of U.S. Navy

A400M GretaGarboLiner Contract Remix

For this occasion I have chosen to include this image because the photoshopper who produced it died from an overdose of Propofol and is slated to be interred alongside the late, unlamented Michael Jackson, a/k/a the King of Pop. The only place you will see this flying is in some rilly good hallucinations.

Well nevermind. And I promise I'll shut up about this when some sort of decision's made.

As we've been pointing out, the A400M program has had some problems that have caused long delays and numerous efforts to remix the fixed price contract that everyone agreed to when the project launched. That agreement now seems to have been hopelessly optimistic, and Airbus is losing its shirt on the project, which is overdue and over budget in a significant way.

My own suspicion is that Team Airbus didn't appreciate the problems inherent in launching a new airframe and a new engine-particularly when that new engine was not a derivation of anything now in existence.

There's much finger pointing over who was responsible for the engine choice, now that it's turned out to be a turkey of epic proportions. And thereby hangs a tale, if you're a Canadian, a believer in conspiracy theories, and you don't like being played for a sucker.

The fellows at Bloomberg tell us that the buyers may offer 2 billion euros toward the cost overruns and another 1.5 billion in loans, but whether that is enough to make the deal is something we'll have to wait to see. It's far short of what Airbus is asking for, and there's very little chance that the A400M will ever make a dime for Airbus.

The original project cost was pegged at 20 billion euros in 2003, and the cost overruns are admittedly somewhat west of that figure. The pundits over at Reuters opine that the project is 11 bn euros over budget and deliveries cannot be expected until 2013.

I'm all about public works and good paying jobs, good liberal democrat that I am, but I would have a hard time selling this to the taxpayers-which was what happened with the cancellation of South Africa's order in 2009. I think that the south Africans got out while the getting was good.

Either way, the next month or so ought to be interesting-if one of the major buyers (Germany, France, Britain, Spain) bolts, the program will likely collapse. In view of the financial issues rocking the PIGS countries in the euro zone, pouring more cash down this dry hole may prove to be a very difficult sell.

That's particularly difficult because the A400M, if it ever gets delivered, will not end European mission dependence on the American fleet of C-17s and dodgy Il-76 operators from the old Combloc.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Tom Tancredo and Tea Party Sewage

We're reliably informed that the inartfully named "Tea Party" Party, or whatever it claims to be, is holding its Konvention in Nashville complete with Konstitooteyonal Skollers to explain what it all means.

Tom Tancredo-you know, that wild and crazy guy who wants to grab this wolf by the ears sooooooo bad-stated "People who could not even spell the word 'vote,' or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama."

I guess there's nothing that cuts like an old canard, no matter how discredited. In one sentence he managed to smear blacks, immigrants, muslims and the Prez-who knows, he probably got in a few jabs at the homos as well. A supersized bucketful of tea bagger sewage to be sure.

Tom, wouldja hit that "Hussein" thing about 30 more times just so the Skollers in the back of the room get the joke? Attaboy.

I'm quite sure Joe Vogler's ghost sat up and took notice-this was just his speed.

Interestingly enough, some of the attendees took this stuff at face value, saying that their movement/expression of angst is not about name calling and that Tancredo's rant did not further dialogue.

Maybe some folks in this national lower gastrointestinal tract movement want to have a serious discussion about policy but the chances for such a dialogue went down the crapper along with the town hall meetings last summer and Sara Palin's death panels, and the old fool around these parts who said the only solution was to get a gun and go to Washington.

The water's been polluted but good. It's damned dirty, and the tea party types own it. All of it.

After last summer and fall, expect no dialogue.

Well, nevermind. Health care reform is as dead as last month's coleslaw, and good riddance to what it was likely to become with the public option stripped out of it.

Whatever this exercise in national peristalsis turns out to be, mainline politicians should be very wary of grabbing hold of a party whose platform seems to be "Awwww fuggit-I don't like nuthin' or nobody."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Now, That's Moving You Forward!

What happened to the Toyota advertising slogan?