Those Hovercrafts

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Archive for the ‘Asides’ Category

Wars: Always Bad

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the war in iraq

It has now been ten years since President George W. Bush committed the United States of America to military action in Iraq. That war was a mess in a lot of ways. But so is every other war, pretty much. Like remember these?

Barbary War
The first of many half-assed US incursions into Libyan territory.

War of 1812
Do you even know what happened in this war? There were some trade things and lingering bad feelings from the Revolutionary War, but what was solved? Nothing. Nothing changed. Nothing ever changes.

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March 19, 2013 at 10:34 am

No One Likes Coins

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this is a penny

Last week President Obama made full use of the 21st Century by chatting with supporters and political pundits through a Google+ Hangout, a sort of video extension of FDR’s fireside chats that brought attention to a company whose employees and affiliated entities had donated over $800,000 to his reelection campaign. He was asked about his proposal to raise the minimum wage, the limits of executive authority to order targeted killings and immigration reform.

He was also asked about the penny, a coin that costs twice as much to be produced as it is worth. Obama was open to ending the penny. “Anytime we’re spending more money on something that people don’t actually use, that’s an example of something that we should probably change,” he said. “We’re constantly trying to reduce these inefficiencies.” He noted, however, that eliminating the penny would take legislation from Congress, and that was not likely to be coming anytime soon.

Change you can believe in, indeed.

Similarly, this weekend I put a ten dollar bill in a vending machine and got dollar coins for my change. I, like most, hate dollar coins. They don’t fit in my wallet, but are too precious to be lumped in with the hoi palloi change in my pocket. I forget them, I lose them, and money is wasted. Mass transit in the D.C. region used to host an ad campaign advocating for the use of dollar coins (they last longer and, supporters claim, would save the government money in the long run), but they have fortunately never caught on. The coins sit on my desk now, waiting for the moment I can pawn them off on some unsuspecting shopkeeper.

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February 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Sundays From Here On Out

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Last Sunday was the Super Bowl, an event so big it gets its own trademark. Next Sunday is the Grammy’s, hosted delightfully by person-who-will-knock-you-out LL Cool JJ. Then two Sundays from then, February 24th, is the Oscars, America’s only real awards show with any semblance of critical legitimacy.

But in between, on February 17th, Sunday will be dark. There will be no football, for the first time in months. No pageants, no glamour. Just Sunday. As empty as any other. On television there will be Downtown Abbey, and Girls, if you get HBO. The next day is President’s Day, a holiday some get off, but not enough people for a full-blown three-day-weekend with the pals. You don’t even know if you get off that day, and neither does anyone else in the office. You won’t ask, because you wouldn’t want to get your hopes up. Probably you will be at the office, thinking of ways to allay the persistent boredom and anxiety of futility that greats you at the start of a day in which nothing is produced and nothing is accomplished. You will work, but not really. The day is just an excuse for the post office to close, while you rue your employer and weigh your options for lunch on another cold, grey Monday in February. Soon, maybe, it will be March, and eventually May and spring and temperatures glorious, the season of love and beach holidays and barbeques outside in tank tops with boom boxes. But not this Sunday. The Sunday two weeks from now nothing will happen.

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February 4, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Numbers May Occasionally Align

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Numbers, as increments of time, continue to advance. Sometimes, as today, the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year after a new millennium, they form funny, arbitrary combinations. Weird, huh?

Not everyone gets to experience the joy. In North Korea they use a different calendar, one based on the birth of founding leader Kim Il-sung. There, it’s year 101. In the Julian calendar, used commonly throughout Europe until the adoption of the Gregorian one in the 16th Century and still the date counter of choice for some Orthodox Christian churches, the date is 2456273.5

Numbers, however, are still just meaningless symbols attached to count the days in a vain effort to convince humans that our existence is anything but a hapless byproduct of physics on an out-of-the-way rock meandering through an infinite void. The haphazard arrangement of the numbers has no value other than novelty. They have no impact on when the world will end or whether you will win a million dollars in the lottery. Statistically, the world could just as easily end tomorrow and the ticket with 123456789 is as likely to win as anything else.

But live up the occasion. Buy a 12-pack of beer and a dozen eggs. Put ’em together, as the Wall Street Journal advises, and think of it as “a side of toast, in a glass.” Really, that is superb advice. And a good way to go out, just in case the world ends.

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December 12, 2012 at 11:28 am

Aung San Suu Kyi Keeps A Stuffed Animal Of Bo Obama In Her House

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Bo Obama, the United States of America’s first dog, is a central facet of the diplomatic engagement between the US and Burmese democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi. President Barack Obama and Suu Kyi talked about their dogs when they first spoke on the phone last November, and when Suu Kyi visited the White house earlier this year she got a chance to finally meet Bo in person.

Now Obama is in Southeast Asia, a trip that took him to Burma. He is the first American president to visit the country, long ruled by an autocratic regime but slowly opening to democracy and reforming away from authoritarian military rule. Obama went to help cement the reforms, and give a little diplomatic carrot to encourage more openness. He met with Aung San Suu Kyi at her house in Yangon (sometimes known as Rangoon), where she was held in house arrest for multiple years. While there, according to the White House’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, the president “was very pleased to see that the stuffed Bo that we gave her was displayed in the — where she was, in the room where the meeting was.”

Thus concludes our latest update on the relationship between Bo Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi. Tune in next time.

A Brief History Of Severe Weather In The 2012 Presidential Election

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August 27
The Republican National Committee effectively cancels the first day of its convention in Tampa, Fla., due to concerns about the impact of Hurricane Isaac and damage it may cause to delegates, attendees and infrastructure in the convention’s host city. The storm eventually heads to the west, coming ashore in southern Louisiana. At least nine are killed.

September 6
The Democratic National Committee changes the venue for the final night of its party convention in Charlotte, N.C., from the outdoor Bank of America Stadium to the indoor Time Warner Cable Arena out of a fear of thunderstorms. The arena was host to the first two nights of the convention, but organizers had planned to move events on the final night, including President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, to a much larger outdoor venue to increase the drama and majesty of the optics. The indoor speech held a smaller crowd. Obama’s speech is largely panned.

October 29
A week before the presidential election a “frankenstorm” of a hurricane meeting a northern front and picks up strength makes landfall on the eastern seaboard, around New Jersey. Power goes out across much of Manhattan and vast stretches of the coast. Cities and towns around the region are flooded. The destruction and panic in New York City is compared to September 11, 2001. Both candidates cancel political events and President Obama returns to Washington to monitor emergency relief efforts. At least 16 people are killed.

Throughout three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate the words “climate change” are not uttered once.

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October 30, 2012 at 11:09 am