“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, January 05, 2009

You won't see this very often.


  1. That is one big red boat.

    Looks like that ice is pretty thin, another sure sign of change?

  2. Rooski Transporterski

    Was trying to find a clip of 'truck driving on Canadian lakes' but couldn't find what I wanted. Wife was really impressed by these guys that drove supplies over the ice to some place or other. Dangerous, had to drive just the right speed etc.

  3. HONG KONG (AFP) - One in five Hong Kong residents is considering leaving the city because of its dire air quality, a survey released Monday has found, raising fears over the financial hub's competitiveness.

    The findings equate to 1.4 million residents thinking about moving away, including 500,000 who are "seriously considering or already planning to move," according to the survey by the think tank Civic Exchange.

    Those most seriously thinking about fleeing the city include top earners and highly educated workers, raising questions over the southern Chinese city's ability to attract and retain top talent, the report's authors found.

    "People from all sectors of society know that air pollution is making them sick," said Michael DeGolyer, a political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.

    "Many are concerned to the point they are considering leaving Hong Kong, including local professionals."

    DeGolyer added that the survey of more than 1,000 residents debunked the myth that concerns about air pollution were confined to the city's foreign residents, as only three percent of the respondents were expats.

    The research also found that concern about pollution had risen rapidly since 2001, and that managers and administrators were some of the most worried.

    I wonder what could be the cause of this.

  4. 10 out of 10 residents of Beijing wanted to leave there, the report continued, but were unable to obtain permission to do so.

  5. Part Of The New Obama Tax Cuts?

    I didn't read anything about Obama extending the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire, which is in effect a big tax increase. But I think it's good he's maybe proposing something, though much of it looked like fine tuning deductions and loses.

  6. Obama cannot extend the Bush tax cuts, bob. He is not King of America, just President of the United States, in two weeks or so.

    Only Ms Pelosi's House of Representitives can initiate the required law to extend those cuts.

    Pity, when GWBush had Republican majorities in Congress, that he did not get those tax cuts made permanent or at least extended. Ahh well, he had other things on his mind, than the economy of the United States.

    Democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, trumped all other issues, like the economy or border security.

    Good thing the Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq is partying with Abracadabra, now-a-days.
    He's our back door man, I guess.

  7. Strange things keep happening in Minnesota, where the disputed recount in the Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken may be nearing a dubious outcome. Thanks to the machinations of Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and a meek state Canvassing Board, Mr. Franken may emerge as an illegitimate victor.

    I'm Sick of This Shit

    Of course Obama could extend the tax cuts, Rat, with the political capital he's got at the moment, just having carried everybody to victory. All he's got to do is phone Mrs. Pelosi.

  8. They had their meeting, bob.

    We'll see what comes of it.

    As to MN, Franken is going to win, once all those illegally rejected absentee ballots are tallied.

    That was the decision of the MN Supremes, whomever they happen to be. Now, there in MN it was a leftist third Party fellow that siphoned off votes from Franken.

    His positions and those more radical could easily be attributed to the majority of the MN electorate. But not once have you derided those third Party voters for not taking one of the obvious binary coices.

    Now, myself, I figure that each voter voted for whom they preferred. If there was a run off provision, there'd be no dispute, but MN does not have that system. They recount and no majority is required to win.

    If Franken wins the recount, he is the Senator, if Coleman retains a plurality, he remains Senator. In either case both MN and IL will be short a Senator, for a while.

  9. They must run through a lot of red paint on the hull of that tanker.
    20. Don51:

    Let’s see, two former New Mexico Treasurers (NM-Name that Party) serving time in federal prison for kickback schemes. The former state Senate President (NM-Name that Party) convicted of ‘takes’ in federal construction work in Albuquerque. The transition team didn’t understand that while Illinois may have the ‘Chicago’ way, New Mexico has the ‘PRI’ way. PRI is the base corrupt party that ruled Mexico unchallenged for decades and made today’s Mexico what it is instead of what it could have achieved.

    I Tell Ya, I'm Sick Of This Shit

  10. It's just like Washington State 8 years ago, Rat.

  11. I can't find the political compostion of the Minnesota Supreme Court but my hunch is the majority is democratic. In Washington State, 8 years ago, in the governors race, the whole thing was a farce.

    The football player Alan Page is a member of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

  12. During a peak viewing time when most sets are on, such as the Super Bowl, TVs in the state collectively suck up the equivalent of 40% of the power generated by the San Onofre nuclear power station running at full capacity. Televisions account for about 10% of the average Californian's monthly household electricity bill.

    Dang, that's hard to believe.

    'Energy hog' flat-screen TVs may face price spikes; California mandates...
    Ford US auto sales drop 32 percent in Dec, 21 percent in 2008...

    So the day goes, from Drudge.

  13. like Washington state 4 years ago..

  14. Thanks for the Benjamin Button recommendation, bob, but even the promise of retro autos cannot drag me to a film that ends badly/ sadly for the protagonists. Won't do it. Once upon a time, I would've.

    Though my son and parents corralled me into seeing Valykrie - not bad, but a labor of love in the instance. I would sooner stick my head in the oven than again watch, say, Braveheart or (egad) Titanic. (A mixed conclusion, to be sure, but the more compelling leading character was left to die in icy waters.) No Country for Old Men - where was the Special Alternate Ending Theater for that one? (Llewelyn's wife?! Jee.Zus.Christ.)

    I'm all about the Disney Finish - and I'm not particularly picky about how one gets there. (If Hello Kitty has to intervene at the Alamo, so be it.) I dutifully sat through far too many Literature By and For the Invariably Morose classes, as well as walloping Award-winning tragedies, not to have earned a healthy stipend of Happily Into the Sunset.

  15. I didn't think it ended sadly. Everybody dies. Right at the end they connected. Far as I can see they're soul mates. Soul mates transcend time, space, I'm told. Maybe I'm reading it all wrong.

    The cops had whistles, Trish. Tweet, tweet, stop, stop!!
    And lanterns!

    There was a lot of neat stuff.

    But I'm with you, can't stand sad endings anymore. Which is why I like myth, it's always comedy.

    :) the smiley face

  16. Schwinn to Demonstrate Quickcharging Electric Bicycle at CES

    Schwinn makes its first appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show this year to show off its Tailwind bicycle, which uses new battery technology from Toshiba to enable faster charging and extended battery longevity.

    The Schwinn Tailwind can be recharged in 30 minutes as opposed to the four hours required by other so-called eBikes, which use an electric motor to assist the peddler when the going gets tough. In addition, Schwinn says, the Tailwind's battery's overall lifetime is twice that of the competition, with 2,000 recharge cycles.


  17. The one word cropping up again and again in reviews of Button is "melancholy."

    Ixnay on the elancholymay. That's just me.

    Alternatively, my daughter highly recommends Slumdog Millionaire, which I hope to catch this week.

    (In re myth: I can't remember what I was watching a few days ago, but a character on the phone, after receiving a laundry list of bad news from the other end, says, "Got anything else in the box there, Pandora?"}

  18. Farewell GWB

    A prankish fate put George W. Bush in the oval office to keep America stupid. The nation was far from ready to see where it was going in the 21st century, and he was just the figure to keep it that way, with his void of curiosity, his allergy to reading, and his panderings to wealth-worshipping, Ponzi-loving, science-hating Jesus cultists. He goes out of office broadly regarded as an object of horror and loathing while the nation, now facing wholesale bankruptcy, struggles to imagine a plausible future, like someone who has just awakened from a cheap red wine drunk into the grip of a vicious hangover.

    GWB was reputed to be an appealing personality off-camera, relaxed among his cohorts, full of fun, warmth, jokes, and nicknames. He was not quite as bad on-stage as his critics complained -- his natural obtuseness sometimes came off as candor -- but he was programmed by handlers with a range of poor locutions that eventually amounted to a world-view. For instance, the idiotic "war on terror," which served mainly to portray our adversaries as abstractions. His insistence on the term "victory" when speaking of our situation in Iraq actually fooled even his worst critics into thinking we were engaged in a "war," when for years it has been more accurately an awkward and lethal occupation.

    I never believed that GWB actually tricked the nation on the "weapons of mass destruction" rationale for invading Iraq. Rather, the nation fooled itself into thinking that the war, in the first place, was anything but an act of vengeance for the gross injury of 9/11. After a couple of years, the public adopted the stupid narrative that they were "lied to," rather than recognizing the difficult truth that 9/11 had to be answered with lethal force, that international hostilities are far from wholly rational, and that Saddam Hussein got whacked because he was the Arab head-of-state who was the best candidate for getting whacked. A nation in thrall to psychotherapy, and self-esteem building programs, and the "win-win" bullshit of business Babbitry, couldn't imagine a tragic dilemma when one was staring them in the face.

    GWB won reelection in 2004 -- running against the weak John Kerry, "a haircut in search of a brain," as Kevin Phillips put it so memorably, who was not smart enough to pander successfully (though he tried) to the dominant, Jesus-soaked Nascar fans who inhabit the Moron Crescent that runs from West Virginia south through Dixie and then west into Idaho. GWB was still riding pretty high when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the swamps and beaches east of Lake Ponchartrain, and the president failed to direct anybody to so much as air-drop bottled drinking water for survivors dying on rooftops and highway overpasses in New Orleans. The Left, once again, adopted an idiotic narrative to explain the event -- that Bush acted to punish African-Americans -- when plain incompetence combined with grandiose expectations for a televised happy ending to instead produce tragedy.

    The fiasco in New Orleans was matched by the apparent failure to police Iraq back to stability, making the whole project appear feckless and futile, and GWB began his long swoon into discredit. But two other conditions were intensifying in the background, one the consequence of the other: peak oil and peak credit. As the primary resource of industrial capitalism reached its all-time production peak in 2005, the managers of the US economy allowed borrowing-from-the-future to replace productive activity as the basis for everyday life.

    GWB barely acknowledged this compound problem. He asserted that America was addicted to oil, but he failed to take the idea a step further and say that our vaunted "way-of-life" could no longer be taken for granted. If anything, he endorsed the popular idea that a suburban lifestyle and WalMart consumerism was a Jesus-driven entitlement, and his circle in governance did everything possible to replace the industrial economy with an economy based on suburban land development and credit card spending -- which was enabled by fantastic experiments in finance that proved to be nothing more than an impenetrable web of swindles.

    Those swindles began to unwind in 2007 and they now threaten to sink the USA as a viable enterprise. Their exact extent and nature still remain obscure, like the algorithms used to engineer the "alphabet soup" of fraudulent securities and recondite derivatives. In this stupendous failure, GWB is joined by his cohorts and minions in Republican polity, whose flamboyant misfeasance continues to make the credit blow-up worse by the minute. He leaves his successor, Mr. Obama, a predicament so dismal that the secession crisis of 1860 begins to look like a mere procedural quarrel in comparison. And despite the temporary crash of oil prices, the peak oil problem still looms very large in the background and has barely begun to work its hoodoo on what's left of the US economy.

    The same prankish fate that elevated GWB may end up excusing or papering over his current ill-standing. Decades from now he might be remembered as the last national leader who presided over an orderly transition of power in a cohering federal system. The fickle public that longs for the last symbolic photo op, when Mr. Obama waves at the helicopter bearing GWB into the Texas gloaming, may soon turn on the new president for failing to return them to the Blue Light Special nirvana of days gone by.

    To me, GWB will remain the perfect representative of his time, place, and culture. During his years in Washington, America became a nation of clowns posturing in cowboy hats, bethinking ourselves righteous agents of Jesus in a Las Vegas of the spirit, where wishing was enough to get something for nothing, where "mistakes were made," but everybody was excused from the consequences of bad choices. The break from that mentality will be very severe, and we may look back in twelve months and wonder how we ever fell for the whole package. The answering of that question will occupy historians for ages to come.

    from Clusterfuck Nation
    by James Howard Kunstler

    I'm all for a happy ending.

  19. Toshiba Jumps Into Solar Power Biz

    The Japanese company, already in the power plant development sector, aims to develop large-scale solar power plants.

    by: Ucilia Wang
    January 5, 2009

    Toshiba Corp., known more for its DVD players and computers, wants a piece of the solar market, too.

    The Japanese company on Monday said it has formed a group to build solar power plants. The company already makes equipment for nuclear and hydroelectric power plants, as well as components for power transmission systems.

    Some of Toshiba's competitors in the consumer electronics business have been building factories to produce solar cells and assemble into panels (see Sanyo Builds New Factory, Enters Thin-Film Fray and Sharp Guns for U.S. Thin-Film Market). Panasonic is buying Sanyo partly to get into the solar business (see Panasonic to Buy Sanyo for $9B).

    But Toshiba's interest, at least for the time being, is to provide other types of equipment and services for developing large-scale power plants for utilities and business customers.

    The company has created a solar business unit within its Transmission Distribution and Industrial Systems Co. Aside from citing its experience in engineering and assembling equipment for power generation and transmission systems, Toshiba said its effort in developing a fast-charging lithium-ion battery has prepped it for the renewable energy business.

    The company is developing the super-charge ion battery (SCiB), made with lithium titanium, for laptop computers and bikes (see Green Light post). It also is eyeing the hybrid-electric car market, and recently announced a plan to spend 30 billion yen ($331 million) to build a SCiB factory.

    The company expects to generate 200 billion yen ($2.2 billion) in annual sales from its solar energy system business by the 2015 fiscal year ending March 2016.


  20. Dinah Shore, Trish, think Dinah Shore!
    Imagine you're Burt Reynolds and...
    Nah, I guess not.

  21. Coulter Banned:
    What Great Fascists our worthless pop culture and evil "education systems" have wrought.

    ...and the Girly-Men @ National Review were way ahead right after 9-11.

  22. Who banned her, this time, doug?

  23. "He goes out of office broadly regarded as an object of horror and loathing while the nation, now facing wholesale bankruptcy, struggles to imagine a plausible future, like someone who has just awakened from a cheap red wine drunk into the grip of a vicious hangover."
    Certainly doesn't help 'Rat's Case about the evils of drink:
    I'd give the pre-teetotalling Shrub a chance, if we had the opportunity to try that, or to relive this nightmare over again.

    Sweet Dreams for Rose-Colored Rufie, however!

    "Rosie the Rufer"

  24. Check out Drudge:
    NBC says

  25. Dinah Shore and the Swinger camara, boy, those were the days.

    So who had the nerve to ban Dinah Shore?

    And the Smothers Brothers, Uncensored, for just $19.95
    Just like the Swinger used to be.

    With Peter Fonda selling a rock and roll collection on late night tv. It's good to know that the outlaws went straight.

    Except for Willie, Waylon and Me.

  26. ""We are just not interested in anyone so highly critical of President-elect Obama, right now," a TODAY insider reveals. "It's such a downer. It's just not the time, and it's not what our audience wants, either."

    For the book, Coulter reportedly received the most-lucrative advance ever paid to a conservative author.

    The TODAY show eagerly invited the author months ago, for her first network interview on GUILTY.

    The exclusive was to air during the show's 7 AM hour. The cut came Monday afternoon.

    Executives at NBC TODAY replaced Coulter with showbiz reporter Perez Hilton, who recently offer $1,000 to anyone who would throw a pie at Ann Coulter. Hilton is also launching a new book this week, RED CARPET SUICIDE.
    Fantasy is so much more fun than Reality, even when it costs our shareholders.

  27. Reality?

    It's all a perception.

    GE only brings good things to life, doug.
    A United America is going to help soon to be President Obama succeed. It is the patriotic duty, of every resident, as that soon to be Senator from PA, Chris Matthews told US, all.

    We must do all we can, to help.

    The course that Obama sets US upon must be stayed! It would be unpatriotic, traitorous perhaps, to wish him and US ill.

    Ms Coulter needs to be fitted for her burka, supporting terror by besmirching America's duly elected and soon to be leader.

    The damage she does may just be irrepairable.

  28. OTOH,
    'Rat could be right:
    Maybe alcohol fried all them brain cells for good.
    ...must be bad for the Spine, too.

  29. Nothing good to be brought to life,
    by Ms Coulter

    GE knows.

  30. The two worst Presidents of my life, Jimmy Carter and GW Bush. Each operated in entirely different manners.

    Carter was a hands on micro-manager, I've been led to believe. And the job was way to grand to be dealt with, that way.

    Bush, on the other hand, was the great delegater. No problem was so great that the authority for it could not be jobbed out.

    Problem is, authority can be delegated,
    responsibility cannot.

    Or so they used to teach, in US Army NCO schools.

  31. Why were predictions so wrong? Researchers had expected the newer sea ice, which is thinner, to be less resilient and melt easier.

    Instead, the thinner ice had less snow cover to insulate it from the bitterly cold air, and therefore grew much faster than expected, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

    In May, concerns over disappearing sea ice led the U.S. to officially list the polar bear a threatened species, over objections from experts who claimed the animal's numbers were increasing.

    Same Level as '79

  32. "Problem is, authority can be delegated,
    responsibility cannot.
    In GWB's case, that reality was compounded by the fact that he is a Compulsive Crony Chooser.
    ...take Browny, for instance.
    or Harriet, or Gonzo, or...

  33. Sheer Fucking Madness for the True Belivers.

    Sheer Genius for the Tax and Spenders.

  34. Stars form within black hole's destructive reach

    Region thought inconducive to new stars because of gravitational tides
    By Andrea Thompson
    updated 12:51 p.m. ET, Mon., Jan. 5, 2009

    LONG BEACH, Calif. - Two embryonic stars discovered just a few light years away from the Milky Way's center show that stars can form in the potentially destructive reach of the powerful black hole at our galaxy's center.

    Astronomers have long known that young stars could be found near the center of the galaxy, but they had no idea how the stars got there.

    The region wasn't thought to be conducive to star formation because of the powerful gravitational tides stirred up by the 4 million solar-mass black hole at the galaxy's center. Scientists had figured that the tides would rip apart any gas clouds that could act as stellar nurseries.

    An alternative explanation, that the stars fell in toward the galaxy's center after forming elsewhere, was thought to be a rare event.

    But the new discovery, presented here today at the 213th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, shows that the stars did form in place.

    "We literally caught these stars in the act of forming," said Elizabeth Humphreys of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.

    Because the gas and dust between Earth and the galactic center blocks visible light from getting out, astronomers use infrared and radio wavelengths to peer into the region.

    Humphreys and her colleagues (at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany) used the Very Large Array of radio telescopes to search for water masers — radio signals that signal proto-stars still embedded in their birth cocoons.

    The team found the proto-stars at seven light-years and 10 light-years from the galactic center (a light-year is the distance light will travel in a year, about 6 trillion miles, or 10 trillion kilometers). Combined with one previously identified proto-star, the objects show that star formation is taking place near the Milky Way's center.

    The finding suggests that the molecular gas at the center of the Milky Way from which the stars form is denser than previously thought. The higher density gas makes it easier for the self-gravity of the condensing cloud to overcome the strong pull of the black hole and to collapse to form new stars.

    The discovery also supports recent supercomputer simulations that showed star formation within a few light years of the Milky Way's central black hole.

    "We don't understand the environment at the galactic center very well yet," Humphreys said. "By combining observational studies like ours with theoretical work, we hope to get a better handle on what's happening at our galaxy's core. Then, we can extrapolate to more distant galaxies."

    © 2009 All rights reserved. More from

  35. Escaped to three movies over New Years holiday. Recommend all three.

    1. Australia - Good fantasy with a happy ending but it will leave the younger generation thinking Darwin was decimated by the Japs on their way back from Pearl. (Loved the part about the jumping kangaroo.)
    2. Benjamin Buttons - entertaining but obviously Gumpish in formula. (It was written by the Gump author.) I share Trish's distaste for downer endings but this wasn't bad at all.
    3. Slumdog Millionaire. A great Bollywood production about a kid and his brother who are orphaned in the Bombay slums. The hero triumphs. The best of the three but all are worth watching.

    The Curious case of Benjamin Buttons can be seen later on DVD. Australia should be seen on the big screen. Slumdog is worth the extra movie to see it now.

  36. This comment has been removed by the author.


    I think it's a very good idea.

    But it needs to be taken much further. The Coal and Nuke industry (as well as the military) should be facing criminal prosecutions, for the poisonous disaster areas they leave behind. And those government officials that gave the Tar Sands Project the go ahead should be put in jail for the rest of their life.

  38. I heard 'Australia' was a piece of crap.

    Haven't seen it yet.

  39. The Greenwash Brigade brings you our favorite greenwashes of 2008. Some good, some bad, some just plain funny — and in no particular order:

    * Fiji Water’s new green campaign: Yes, shipping water in container ships from a pristine aquifer in paradise is somehow green.

    * Big Three CEOs Drive Hybrids to DC: Taking a more economical and less carbon-intensive mode of travel on the second trip was an obvious choice, after the roasting they got for taking private jets. However, anyone who has done serious carbon footprint analysis on their travel has learned one thing — there’s not much difference in CO2 per mile, unless you up your passengers per vehicle.

    * Clean Coal? - The ultimate oxymoron. Have a low-fat glazed donut with your clean coal. Burning coal is the leading source of global warming emissions.

    Greenwashes of the Year

  40. (In re myth: I can't remember what I was watching a few days ago, but a character on the phone, after receiving a laundry list of bad news from the other end, says, "Got anything else in the box there, Pandora?"}



    I thought 'Australia' was pretty much a piece of crap, but the wife loved it.

    Everybody's got a different idea.

    I didn't buy into the old abo, for instance. Should have left him out in the bush somewhere.

    Now then, a movie faithful to real life like "The Curious Case of Ben Buttons"....

  41. Amazing:

  42. I propose Severe Fines and Possible Incarceration for al-Bob's evil thoughts and words regarding Nukular Energy.
    ...and Mat for Energy Czar!

  43. I propose Severe Fines and Possible Incarceration for al-Bob's evil thoughts and words regarding Nukular Energy.
    ...and Mat for Energy Czar!

    There will be no criminal prosecution of alBob, as he has received special dispensation to be my evil twin (soul mate). The yin to my yang. :)

  44. It has been an entire generation since nuclear power was seriously considered as an energy option in
    the U.S. It seems to have been forgotten that the reason U.S. utilities stopped ordering nuclear power plants was their conclusion that nuclear power’s business risks and costs proved excessive.

    With global warming concerns now taking traditional coal plants off the table, U.S. utilities are
    risk averse to rely solely on natural gas for new generation. Many U.S. utilities are diversifying through a combination of aggressive load reduction incentives to customers, better grid
    management, and a mixture of renewable energy sources supplying zero-fuel-cost kWh’s, backed by
    the KW capacity of natural gas turbines where needed.

    Some U.S. utilities, primarily in the South, often have less aggressive load reduction programs, and view their region as deficient in renewable
    energy resources. These utilities are now exploring new nuclear power.

    Nuclear Power

  45. Incarceration wouldn't change my lifestyle much, but I can't handle any fines.

    You can go hang. I'm yang, you yin.

  46. Putin will lend you the money.