Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Morning Blog

An Inconvenient Truth: Wikileaks released its latest dump of classified US diplomatic cables the other day. I've been more or less ignoring the story because generally, it seems as though nothing particularly shocking was disclosed. I felt the need however, to read up on Iran's response to the released cables here.

Ho hum. It appears as though Wikileaks may be scraping the bottle of the barrel at this point. What do we learn from these top secret cables? Diplomats are a bit snarky. Also:
  • Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is "feckless and vain" (Shocka!)
  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy is thin-skinned (Whodathunkit?)
  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai is "extremely weak" (Stop the presses!)
  • Prince Andrew is rude (Who?)
No releases were made available concerning diplomats opinions concerning the "Dancing with the Stars" finale.

Aw, how sweet! The cynic in me wonders though, if things go south, how will he ask for a divorce?

"This Easter egg says you've met someone new?"

The Pentagon's report on the consequences of repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is set to be released today. It is expected to advocate the repeal of a profoundly silly ban on gays serving openly in the military. I have to say, I feel a bit bad for John McCain on this issue. He's an aged man and the contortions and back flips he's had to perform over this would exhaust someone of any generation. Having said that he would back repeal if a study supported it, my bet is that he's going to propose a lengthy study of the study. Any backers? He may also plug his ears and chant "I'M NOT LISTENING TO YOU! I'M NOT LISTENING TO YOU!" Until those scary homosexuals go away.

Intriguing: Pakistan is seeking life imprisonment for five Americans convicted of using the internet to plot terror attacks. The Americans range in age from late teens to mid-twenties. To be honest, it sort of feels like they're looking for a bargaining chip here. Besides that, I learned that life imprisonment in Pakistan is a 25 year sentence. I'm slightly shocked that people in Pakistan can expect to live that long.

Looks like Kim Kardashian's dreams of becoming a banking magnate have been crushed: The pre-paid debit card featuring her likeness will no longer be available. Personally, I'm perfectly happy with my pre-paid card. I only pay fees if I use ATMs out of their system (every single card holder on the planet does that), or if I fail to use it for 30 purchases or load less than $1000 onto it over a months period. Since I have it set up with my job for direct deposit and rarely if ever use an ATM, I honestly pay just about nothing to utilize it.

On a related note: A lot of the hand wringing over these sorts of cards seems like demonizing an entire industry based on a few players. Not surprisingly, it's an industry that serves poorer people. There seems to be an idea that poorer people can't possibly make their own economic decisions and are always being exploited. In that sense, it's similar to what you see with cash til payday loans. Cash til pay day loans are an American version of micro-financing. Something that's celebrated when done in states like India for example. Sometimes, you don't need a $1000 loan. You need one for $200. Or $100. Just enough to get you through a rough patch. Note that these are the sort of loan services that traditional banks simply don't provide anymore. Note also, that it isn't possible to get this sort of loan without proof of an ability to pay it back with the following paycheck.

The Senate has rejected banning earmarks. Which I suppose involves some brand of weird political courage...But anyways: Who cares? Earmarks account for .5% of the budget. It's foolish to waste time worrying about them when so much else remains unfunded.

The Economist discusses the DREAM Act, an immigration reform bill aimed at children who were brought to this country illegally, but have lived here for extended periods. I discuss it at length here but to re-iterate: I love this bill and think it needs to be passed. It would provide a path to citizenship for exceptional children that through no fault of their own are "illegal". To qualify, they would have to complete at least two years in college or two years in the military. Opponents complain that this would offer an incentive for illegal immigrants to use "anchor babies". So? Is there a good reason why we don't want babies that will grow up to serve in our armed forces or become educated members of society? Please! Bring those babies on!

Huh, maybe there's something to this Wikileaks dump after all: China has come out in support of a reunified Korean peninsula under Seoul's control. Interesting question for South Korea though: Unification with the North sounds lovely, but by any metric it also means that they'll be absorbing a MASSIVE humanitarian crises. It will make the challenges faced by Germany when they reunited with the East look like child's play. Do they really, really want that headache?

Sarah Bait: And the winner of this year's "Bad Sex in Literature Award" is....... Teaser: He won based on this single astonishingly awful sentence:

"Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her"


Please! Please give me $55,000!

That's it for the Morning Blog. It's cold and rainy and crappy here in Pittsburgh. Which means...Well, it's basically Pittsburgh.

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