August 17th, 2012

#3536: It's a perfect day for cutting the grass.

And boy does it need it.

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Some people cannot handle power. The Republican party's new status as "Democrat Lite" extends to the grassroots level in some places, including Fauquier County in Virginia.

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I wonder on what grounds she was suing, then. What? Oh:
The day after a judge upheld Pennsylvania's new voter identification law, the lead plaintiff in the suit seeking to block the law went to a PennDot office and was issued the photo ID card she needs to vote.

Nothing has changed since Viviette Applewhite, 93, testified in July. The law stands. She still doesn't have a driver's license or Social Security card. The name on her birth certificate is still different from the name on her other documents - all of which, under the law, should have barred her from getting her photo ID.

But at precisely 1:16 p.m. Thursday, she got it anyway.

"You just have to keep trying," said Applewhite, who uses an electric wheelchair. "Don't give up."
What a surprise! If you go to the office with a bunch of different proofs of your identity and residence you can usually convince the government agency that you are who you say you are.

Incidentally: never carry your social security card with you. Put it in a safe place, like a fireproof document box stashed somewhere in your house, that you can find when you need it. Because if someone has your SS card, they have half of what they need to steal your identity.

But the funny part of this is how this woman was able to get her ID--and she was the plaintiff in a case that the ACLU and other liberal organizations were using to try to get a voter ID law struck down.

I hope this completely eviscerates the appeal.

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Government corruption in action. There is no rule of law any more, so why worry? California is a bankrupt corpse and all these guys are doing is fighting over scraps of carrion.

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Vox Day versus John Scalzi. I just don't know what to say.

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Economic stuff:

GM is heading for the shitter again.

Reason 1: nothing was done about the causes of the first bankruptcy, which were primarily legacy costs due to decades of UAW thuggery.

Reason 2: GM has been refusing some warranty claims because those warranties were offered by "old GM" and they're "new GM". Word has gotten around that GM cars made before 2009 may not have good warranties even if papers say they do. Because of this, people are reluctant to buy new GM cars, because--well, hell, they're already not honoring one warranty, so what's going to make them honor another?

Reason 3: GM's cars are designed by committee, and as the government has a 26% stake in the company, guess what that means? The Chevy Volt exists entirely because of federal government pressure, and its ludicrous production figures--far in excess of demand--were also similarly inspired. But because GM is now "Government Motors" the company is building shit no one wants to buy.

I would not buy a new GM car. Even though I salivate when I see a new Camaro with a V8 and a 6-speed, I wouldn't buy one. I wouldn't even buy one with someone else's money. What if something major breaks? Will the warranty be good next year? Or the year after that? Sure I'll be able to find parts for it even if GM stops all production tomorrow, but who's going to pay for the work?

I'd be more inclined to buy a Chrysler than a GM, but in fact I'd probably end up in a Ford because Ford didn't take any government money and managed to remain afloat on its own.

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But I'll tell you, I'm not likely to be in the market for a new car any time soon. The economy is sucking ditch water and it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Now, I've seen long trains of empty cars being moved. Certain folks have argued here that moves of empties happen all the time and are nothing to be concerned about, and I can believe it even if I'd never seen them happen before about 2008. Usually those empty cars are being moved to places north of here, which at least has some plausible explanation: most of the heavy industry is to the north of the Fungal Vale, in Chicago and the steel belt around northern Indiana. There's a big Ford assembly plant to the north, and there's at least one major intermodal facility in the I-294 corridor, so it makes sense that auto racks and well cars could be empty going north.

Yesterday I saw a long unit train of empty auto racks heading south.

Denninger's point is that "rule of law" is defunct, which is strangling business--and I don't disagree with him. And part of that strangling involves the movement of freight.

Look: Ford's a big company. But auto dealerships are generally small businesses, privately owned. If the dealerships can't operate because the federal government has made a hostile business environment, Ford's not going to sell many cars to people. If the feds are strangling businesses, people lose their jobs, and people without jobs don't buy new cars.

And if people don't buy new cars, then Ford has a bunch of cars on its hands with no buyers, and you don't ship cars around willy-nilly since it costs money to do that. (Ford then has to lay off the people who assemble the cars.)

Now extend that across every single industry you can think of.

Things don't look good now because the last four years have been nothing but flimflammery. The economy has not improved because the root causes of the recession in 2009 (which continues to this day) have not been addressed; instead they've been swept under the rug.

Rule of law has been tossed out the window in favor of "too big to fail" and the result is a marketplace where the individual dares not invest, because his money has been deemed by the courts to belong to the big banksters.

Jon Corzine stole a billion dollars' worth of his investors' money...and the regulators shrugged it off: "Well, it just kinda disappeared, there...really this could have happened to anyone."

As Denninger points out, none of the Presidential candidates has any intention of fixing this. And the economy cannot recover until the corruption has been dealt with and the inviable assets have been allowed to fail and clear.

The revolving door between the financial industry and its regulators must be welded shut. The banks that are overextended must be allowed to fail. Bad loans must go into receivership. The high finance guys who played the system and were left holding the bag must lose their fat bonuses, and the ones who broke the law must go to jail.

But it's not going to happen without a major economic crash.

The hardest part of the issue is that there's going to be one, regardless. We still have the choice, even now; we can choose to let the red hot poker cauterize the wound...or we can lose the leg to gangrene. It's going to hurt a lot regardless, but the longer we put it off the more it's going to hurt.

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So, last night I watched District 9.

I'm really not all that big on the "callous man has moral awakening" thing, but as SF it worked really well. Also the whole "racism analog" thing was laid on rather thick, you know? Setting the story in South Africa just made the "apartheid" angle far too obvious.

Some aspects of the story were nonsensical. In the beginning of the story I figured the prawns were interstellar trash that had been dumped on Earth, which is why the starship just hovered there after arriving and the "command module" detached. We later find out what the writers were really doing, but then it turns into a serious "Huh?" moment when you get to the refrigerator after the movie.

Okay, so to fit the facts as given in the movie, then--the only thing I can conclude is that the ship suffered some kind of failure and the aliens flew to the first habitable planet they saw...and arrived starving.

But none of this is ever really explained. The Prawns have been on Earth for 20 years when the movie starts, so we ought to know something at the end of the thing--especially since the main character Wikus has been in close contact with a Prawn engineer or pilot for the latter third of the film, and comes to empathize with the creature. It would have taken a few seconds' worth of dialogue to explain WTF is going on--or at least give enough information that the viewer can figure it out on his own--and suspense could easily have been maintained regardless.

A sequel is unlikely, and a moment's thought during the production of the thing would have yielded that conclusion. You can't make a similar movie in the same universe with the same characters. Either "Christopher Johnson" comes back from Prawnhome to rescue his fellows marooned on Earth, or he doesn't; if he doesn't then there isn't much more story to tell about old Wikus, and you have to start over with new characters in the same setting.

If there's a major Prawn invasion of Earth, you have to tell a different kind of story from the first movie. If the Prawns send a diplomatic mission, you also have to tell a different story. These would be interesting stories to tell but they wouldn't be about these characters in situations.

So why not give us a little more information?

The aliens are pretty convincing, and the bureaucratic callousness Wikus displays at the beginning of the film is highly realistic. (Minus points for "evil big business" trope a la Robocop.) I also had to assign negative points for all the "splatter" effects they kept using whenever a Prawn weapon was employed against any target. Okay, we get that the Prawn weapons are bad for you; we don't need to see blood, ichor, goo, brains, or other body parts and fluids splatter across the camera lens every time someone gets hit by a Prawn weapon burst. You could make a drinking game out of it, but you'd be in the ER with alcohol poisoning by the end of the film.

But I did like the movie, despite its faults. If you ignore the not-so-subtle social commentary and focus on the characters and their situations, it's a fun watch. The good guys win, the bad guys get punished one way or another, and at least someone found a way to make Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" into an interesting story.

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To top it off, then, Ormusia ended up in a raid with some guildies last night. It was entertaining, even if my repair bill was about 20 GP when all was said and done. I got a lot of neat swag.

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Now it's 3 PM and the grass needs cutting. See ya!