Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More leaks of classified information

Great. I haven't even recruited enough straight boys into the gay lifestyle deathstyle to get a dollar off my next rental at Blockbuster, let alone the toaster, and now Chris Perardi goes and reveals the entire goddamn homosexual agenda over on his blog.

Ruin it for the rest of us. Thanks a lot.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Free money

No, really, I'm not kidding. I use my Discover credit card for pretty much everything. It's easier than writing a check, and safer than carrying cash. As long as you pay the bill off every month, and electronic bill paying has made that easier than ever, there's no down side. Plus, you get cash back. For Discover, it's 0.25% on your first $1,500 of purchases a year ($4), then 0.5% on your next $1,500 ($8), then 1% after that. Hmm, I actually thought it was more than that.

I just found a much better deal. Chase has Cash Plus Rewards Visa program that offers 1% back on all your purchases, but 5% back on all grocery, drugstore, and gas purchases. It's four times better than Discover right out of the starting gate.

Say you spend $50 a week at the grocery store. With Discover, that means that you're getting back about $9 per year. Not a huge amount, but that's a couple of free movie rentals. With the Chase card, you're getting back $130 a year, which is nothing to laugh at. That means gas is thirteen cents cheaper a gallon. I've heard of people driving across town to save five cents per gallon.

Mind you, you'd better have the financial self-discipline to pay off the bill on time, in full, every month. If not, don't bother. Use cash.

UPDATE 2006-07-31: That link doesn't seem to be working anymore. Try this one instead.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

You probably can't get these at Lenscrafters

These are some pretty cool glasses, if a bit on the freaky side.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Whence comes this xenophobia?

In the past few weeks, I've noticed a disturbing amount of what I can only call xenophobia in the press and in political chatter. I just don't understand where it's coming from, and why it's descending on our collective consciousness from all directions simultaneously.

For example, a few weeks ago, a mainstream conservative pundit referred to Muslims as "ragheads." The comment was greeted with wild applause. This wasn't on television on in a newspaper column. This was at one of those most significant conservative events of the year. I guess we'll be hearing "sand nigger" next.

Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, immigration has become a topic of immediate urgency. Not that it's something we need to rationally and reasonably deal with, but something that is suddenly so important, Bush it talking about mobilizing the National Guard and shipping them down to the border. (I guess after they return from Iraq, they don't have enough to do, like living their lives or returning to their jobs.) No one is talking about increasing the strength of the forces of the Border Patrol. The National Guard is to be federalized in times of national emergency, not political expediency. Where is this emergency? What's happening this month that wasn't happening last month, or every month for the previous few decades?

The influx of illegal immigrants to this country is increasingly becoming referred to as an "invasion" by those on the Right. Activating the National Guard is actually an appropriate response to an invasion. But I don't call people coming over to be hired by Americans to clean our toilets and pick our vegetables an actual invasion. Orcinus has an excellent analysis of this and how it's just a repetition of typical anti-immigrant hysteria, previously directed towards the Japanese and Chinese (i.e. the "Yellow Peril").

Don't think that this is about GWOT security, either. No one is talking about building a fence at our northern border. There are no Montana Minutemen. Remember that the Canadian border is the one that actual terrorists have actually crossed illegally.

Coincidentally (snort) Congress is voting on making English our national language. Not "official language," mind you, but "national language." Now, I think it's a good idea for immigrants to have a decent proficiency of English, but the resolution in front of Congress strikes me as mean-spirited, unnecessary, and ineffective.

I'll give you two guesses which language the use of which conservatives are objecting to. It ain't Sumerian. On FOX News a couple of weeks ago, John Gibson chided America, saying "we need to make more babies" so that the majority of the country isn't Hispanic in twenty-five years. "We" of course means "white people," not blondes with bad haircuts.

Rush Limbaugh recently said a letter written by Iran's president contained "liberal Hollywood Jewish people talking points." That's actually rather clever because it manages to conflate the current political bugaboo (Iran) and the traditional nemesis of the Republican party (the evil, liberal, baby-eating -- and now apparently Jewish -- Hollywood elites). Behead two birds with one stone, if you will.

None of this sort of behavior from the Right is new. It's been going on for quite some time. It just seems to be ratcheting up in intensity lately.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Private eyes are watching you

Now that we find out that the Bush administration has been building a database of every phone call made by every American, and possibly retaining the information in perpetuity, I can't help but wonder, what's next? Fortunately, Dubya says that in doing so, our privacy has been "fiercely protected." I'm sorry, but closely recording my communications is not "procecting my privacy" it's "invading my privacy."

So what is next? A lot of cars these days, and I think every car that GM makes from now on, has a GPS chip in it that can report the vehicle's location. A lot of cell phones have similar chips. Why not start tracking that, too? After all, now that the NSA program has been reported on by the treasonous liberal media, Al Queso is aware of the program, and will stop using the telephone. (At least that's the logic conservatives used when the warrantless surveillance program was revealed a few months ago.) They might stop using telephones all together, and start meeting in person. So we need to know where everyone in our country is at all times. You don't want the terrorists to win, do you?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Give me a valid reason

Gay marriage is in the air... Matt has had two recent blog entries about gay marriage and gay rights. It is interesting that the conservatives that showed up in the comments to oppose both these issues never really make a solid argument. There's a lot of vagueness, but never anything based in a solid, rational argument.

In this week's Advocate, there's an article about the scientific research studies going on about gay marriage now that it's been legalized in several countries, and in Massachusetts. From the article:

[Two researchers] found that legal recognition of same-sex marriage has an impact on public health. Countries the recognize same-sex couples have had lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. "When we asked couples how being married has affected their lives, a common answer was that it made them monogamous."

About another journal article, published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy, a peer-reviewed journal the Advocate article says:

It shows that in spite of their ability to create alternative family structures, gays and lesbians suffer hindered mental health and well-being as a result of being denied the right to marry.

So here we have actual evidence that denying gays their right to marry has actual and tangible harmful effect on their health and mental well-being. This is no longer an abstract argument about "values" and "lifestyles." This is about Republicans pushing policies that will actually harm people's health.

In light of this, the standard conservative anti-gay arguments are no longer adequate. I have never heard a Republican argument against gay rights that had a solid, logical, and rational basis. They're always vague and handwaving about "values" (thank you, but I'm a moral person in my own right) and "protecting marriage" (are we going to run out of it?).

So I'm asking for one. Tell me exactly what is so important that it is more important to deny gays the right to marry that is has to come at the expense of their physical well-being. No emotional arguments. No appeals to the Bible. No handwaving arguments. Spell it out for me, and use small words if you have to. Show me in specific and tangible ways that heterosexual marriage has actually been damaged in Massachusetts and Canada.

This is not just about gay marriage. Remember, that the Republican Party doesn't just want to restrict marriage rights to men and women (and only how they define the terms, mind you). The current state of affairs is only a temporary cease fire. Once they defeat gay marriage, they will start working to criminalize just being gay. Criminalizing sodomy was part of the Texas Republican party platform in 2004.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

For when valid intelligence is a nuisance

Porter Goss, the head of the CIA, resigned unexpectedly this week. Reasons haven't been given, but the Washington Post printed speculation that it was because he was incompetent. Because, you know, this administration has been a stickler for putting competent people in charge of federal agencies.

So, who does he get replaced with? Probably Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency. I knew that name was familiar, and now I remember why. I guess it's not important to put someone at the head of a spy agency that understand trivalities like the constitutionality of spying on Americans.

Reuters also has an article up today saying that Republicans, oddly enough, may object to his nomination because they think putting a military general in charge of a civilian spying agency is probably not a good idea.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Just my thoughts on immigration

I have no particular insight into the immigration issue, but some things have occurred to me over the past few weeks, especially after all the protests earlier this week.

When did "illegal immigrants" become "undocumented workers?" It makes it sound like someone just lost their paperwork or they didn't fill out form WBM-625/2 properly.

When did there become "jobs that Americans won't do"? I think that's just code for "jobs that Americans won't do for $4 an hour and no health insurance." So much for the free market for being the solution to things. I guess we're as addicted to cheap Hispanic labor as we are to oil.

Conservatives are lately all up in arms about the National Anthem being sung in Spanish. Dubya has even said it should be sung only in English. I guess things were different back when he was on the campaign trail and was trying to court the Hispanic vote.

Dubya is also convinced that we need a "guest worker" program. In fact last year, he gave a speech describing it:

I propose a new temporary worker program that will match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs... This program will offer legal status, as temporary workers, to the millions of undocumented men and women now employed in the United States... The legal status granted by this program will last three years and will be renewable -- but it will have an end.

So, in other words, he expects that illegal immigrants that have come to the country to work and live here permanently will up and register for a program that will make them leave after three years.

Except that we basically have that program already. It's the HB-1 visa. Dubya is just planning to extend it to unskilled labor and limit it to three years. Then, he claims, the immigrants that were happy to come here and live here illegally right now will just pack up and go home, rather than staying here and working here ... Illegally.

His program also expects American employers to look for American employees to do the job first, before going looking for immigrant labor. Yeah, because right now the reason that these businesses hire illegals is because they can't find Americans to do the work? I imagine that if Blockbuster paid what meat packing does, had the same hours and the same risk of injury, you'd see a lot more video clerks named Jose.

The notion of building a fence across the US-Mexico border also is getting a lot of play. Partly for illegal immigration reasons, partly for "security" reasons. I forget where, but one some other blog, the author pointed out that the number of immigrants that have entered over the Mexican border is zero. The number that have come here across the Canadian border is two.

One thing that does annoy me is people that go on about how this is a "nation of immigrants." That's bullshit. Yes, white people did immigrate to this country, and yes, our country is quite multi-cultural with all its creamy, melting-pot goodness. But I'm sorry, that doesn't mean we have a moral obligation to throw the borders open wide and say to anyone, "If you can get here, you can live here." At some point this became a sovereign nation, and we actually get to decide who lives here now. Unless, of course, this faction is suggesting we turn the entire country over to the American Indians.

This isn't to suggest I'm at all anti-immigrant. In fact, I think we should find some sort of legal status for people that immigrated here illegally, but have lived and worked here for years, put down roots in their community, and probably even have American children. I just think that all the proposals I'm hearing -- from both sides of the political spectrum -- are stupid.