Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Happy New Year!

Unless something very strange happens, AQA is retiring.

W shows no signs of sticking around - I'm happy to give him & his minions a couple of weeks of respite from my brilliantly scathing commentary.

Thanks to all!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Channeling Tom Lehrer

"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize."
[Tom Lehrer]
That pretty much sums up my response to most recent headlines.

Self-parody quickly puts parodists out of work.
What can one say in response to headlines like these?
Bush orders emergency bailout of the auto industry
Judge toughens Madoff's home detention rules
Iraqi judge orders Baath party plot suspects freed
Mother of Palin daughter's boyfriend arrested
The news is absurd absent my commentary.

Stop the madness!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue."

I don't know why, but that line from the 1980 movie Airplane! somehow seems to fit.
Oil dropping below $40/bbl.

Price of everything dropping - more rapidly than anytime since 1933 ("... it was a very good year").

Chrysler & Ford to idle U.S. plants. (GM still hasn't a clue.)

W attacked by shoe-flinging journalist in Iraq.

Madoff admits running a $50Bn Ponzi scheme, in which, apparently, half the capitalist world invested.

W is musing publicly about his soul.
I'm left speechless, capable only of quoting a tasteless comedy gem:
"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!
Have a nice day.

p.s. ... and hell froze over:
Against The Odds, Snow Dumps On Las Vegas
7,000 Without Power In Vegas Area
Thursday, December 18, 2008 LAS VEGAS
What's happening in Las Vegas is staying in Las Vegas: snow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Don't let 'em do it!

A few folks on cable news/commentary have been noting that there's an official "Bush Legacy" project, led by Rove, aimed rehabilitating W's reputation. [See, e.g., Karl Rove launches 'Bush legacy project' with Iraq war claim.]

Exit interviews with the players have been fun.
Bush: "... One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take ..."

[ABC News' Martha] RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that's right. So what?
Rove suggesting that without the WMD intel, we wouldn't have invaded...

Then Cheney, today, saying we would've invaded even without the WMD intel, 'cuz Saddam still had the capability to produce WMD. [Short of executing every Ph.D. scientist & incinerating every chemical in the country, it's difficult to see what Saddam could have done to completely remove the "capability" to make WMD!]

But... this is not the point of this post!
The point is:
Don't let 'em do it!
Matt Ygelsias puts it well:
The harsh reality is that this [Iraq fiasco] was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it’s seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world — including but by no means limited to the Arab world. But it’s impolitic to point this out in the United States, and it’s clear that even a president-elect who had the wisdom not to be suckered in by the War Fever of 2002 has no intention of really acting to marginalize the bad actors. Which, I think, makes sense for his political objectives. But if Americans want to play a constructive role in world affairs, it’s vitally important for us to get in touch with the reality of what the past eight years of US foreign policy have been and how they’re seen and understood by people who aren’t stirred by the shibboleths of American patriotism.
[An Empire of Sentimentality]

Stop the madness!

I'm pretty sure zero (0) is a lower bound

Fed cuts target for key rate to record low
AP, 16 Dec 2008
WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve has cut its target for a key interest rate to the lowest level on record and pledged to use "all available tools" to combat a severe financial crisis and prolonged recession.

The central bank on Tuesday said it had reduced the federal funds rate, the interest that banks charge each other, to a range of zero to 0.25 percent. That is down from the 1 percent target rate in effect since the last meeting in October. Many analysts had expected the Fed to make a smaller cut to 0.5 percent.


I suppose it is possible to go negative - making borrowing money a money-making proposition!

Have a nice day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

They can't leave soon enough!

Rice: Bush approach best to achieve Mideast peace

For 35 more days we must tolerate these imbeciles!

Obama elected 44th U.S. President!

It's official: Barack Obama elected 44th president
AP, 15 Dec 2008
RICHMOND, Va. – Presidential electors have formally elected Barack Obama the nation's 44th president.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Management by-the-numbers: an eerily familiar ring

Previous post sent folks to NYT article, Report Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders.

Of the many... uh, questionable practices highligted in this article is the following:
"... In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ ”
This has a very familiar ring to it.

Back in the day, I was an Enron junkie. Here's a lengthy quotation from Kurt Eichenwald's Conspiracy of Fools:
"... Enron projected earnings per share of $1.80 for 2001. But the real delight was 2002 - $2.25 a share. Impressive. But how? There was nothing explaining what Enron was planning to do to achieve such stellar results.

During a negotiating session later that day, Tarpley decided to ask. He looked across the table at Dave Delainey.

"Dave," Tarpley said, "I'd really like to get a copy of Enron's business plan for 2002."

Couldn't happen Delainey said. "We don't have a business plan available," he said.

How then, Tarpley asked, did Enron get its 2002 projections if it didn't know what it was planning to do?

Delainey shrugged. "We just increased the prior year's results by 25 percent," he said simply.

Again, just exactly what are they teaching folks at the Harvard Business School?

I think that body-counts are a ridiculous metric for success in war, but I've seen nothing to suggest that this metric was systematically falsified during the Viet Nam conflict (I could be wrong!).
... and the low numbers of "al Qaeda leaders killed" in both Iraq & Afghanistan suggest that body-counts of bad guys aren't being inflated in today's pointless wars.

BUT - you have to have something to measure... or at least, some numbers to report.
And if you can't honestly measure what you claim, making up the numbers is as good a way as any to fabricate progress!

More recent - unrelated - news reports a gigantic ($50Bn) Ponzi scheme engineered by brilliant Wall Street money-manager, Bernard Madoff.

[aside: "Word of the day" - desultory
1. Moving or jumping from one thing to another; disconnected
[The Free Dictionary Online]
Yes - this is a desultory post!]

All of which leads me to ask - Why not turn over management of Citi, GM, and the Pentagon to just regular folks?
Folks who have managed a household budget for 20+ years?
Folks who will ask silly questions like, "How?"?

The "best & the brightest" don't seem to be doing such a great job.

Stop the madness!

Where to start?

Report Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders
Published: December 13, 2008
BAGHDAD — An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.
The article is worth a read!

Where to start?

First, why "unpublished"?
These are OUR tax dollars at work. This is OUR Government!
Why aren't we allowed to read the report?

Next... "Our MBA President" comes to mind.
What management geniuses are being turned out by Harvard Business School?

This is so wrong on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to begin.

In previous posts I've noted some of the high-profile rebuilding failures - Laura's state-of-the-art Children's Hospital in Basra comes to mind.
Others have done a much more thorough job investigating the massive contractual failures.

I don't envy President-elect Obama.

It'll take MY country years - perhaps decades - to recover from the W virus.

Can Iraq be put right?
Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall;
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses
And all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again!
I doubt it.

Stop the madness!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Loyal readers...

Those of you still with me will have noticed that postings have been extremely infrequent.

Two things:
thing1: I'm in a show - Scrooge - the Musical, with Musical Theatre Southwest.
Runs Dec 12 - 28 at the African-American Cultural Center - west side of the fairgrounds (San Pedro & Copper).
Info: here.

thing2: As predicted, with W leaving my outrage has been considerably diminished.
This blog was founded as a protest against W and his minions.
I've little to say that's unrelated to bashing W (... and his minions).

Come 20 Jan 2009 I expect to have nothing to compel me to write.

Have a nice day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dec 7

“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”: FDR Asks for a Declaration of War
President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese government also launched as attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. . .
(note: I probably wouldn't have remembered this anniversary if it weren't for TV today!)

Friday, December 5, 2008

self-delusion (mine): yes, W reads AQA!

A day or two ago I noted that words do matter, at least when they reflect a diagnosis, and that W's refusal to call the current economic mess a recession could have policy implications.

Well... yesterday, WH Press Secy Perino finally used the "R" word.
... and today, W himself did!
Bush: Jobless rate shows U.S. in recession
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. jobless rate shows the country is in a recession resulting from poor housing and the troubled financial markets, President George Bush said Friday.
Sitemeter reflects no activity from anything that looks like a WH server, but who knows? Maybe AQA is W's first read in the morning!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

AIG (old news)

AIG to pay retention bonuses to executives
By Greg Farrell in New York
Published: November 26 2008
Financial Times
One day after announcing strict limits on salaries and bonuses for its top tier of executives, AIG revealed that some of those executives will receive millions in “retention bonuses” next year.

[apologies for missing this when it was first reported...]

Am I missing something?
A couple of what seem to me obvious questions present themselves:
1. Why do you want to retain the team that got you into the mess you're in?

2. Where are these guys going to find other jobs?
I know it's a lousy analogy, but there are a number of "successful" college football coaches losing their jobs at the end of this season due to recent poor performance - it doesn't matter that they have an overall winning record - this year and maybe last were not up to expectations. Time to get new blood!

Why are financial geniuses different?

Why keep the same team? - Do corporate boards do anything???

Stop the madness!

Deja vu all over again?

Experts' Report Urges Changes in National Security System
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 4, 2008
A bipartisan panel of foreign policy experts, including some associated with the incoming Obama administration, has recommended changes in the White House national security apparatus that would provide the president and his staff with new tools to ensure interagency cooperation.

Forgive me for being dense, but wasn't ensuring interagency cooperation the whole idea behind the creation of Dept of Homeland Security and the position of Director of National Intelligence???

So... more than 7 years after 9/11, we still don't have our act together???... and yet another blue-ribbon panel is recommending better interagency cooperation???

W: the gift that keeps on giving!

Stop the madness!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fun with the Constitution

Article I, Section 6
... No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time...
SoS salary has increased during Sen. Clinton's current term. Can she serve as SoS?

This oughta be fun!

Nicholas Eymerich, revisited

Previous posts have introduced readers to
Nicholas Eymerich, inquisitor general of the Inquisition of the Crown of Aragon; 1357-1360, 1366(?)-1381(?):
He was the first inquisitor to get around the Church's prohibition against torturing a subject twice by interpreting directive very liberally, permitting a separate instance of torture for a separate charge of heresy.
[Wikipedia entry, Nicholas Eymerich]
After many years as Inquisitor General, he finally concluded that,
"Quaestiones sunt fallaces et inefficaces."
["Torture is deceptive and ineffectual."]
I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq
By Matthew Alexander
Sunday, November 30, 2008
WaPo op-ed
"... Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans."
Torture does NOT work.

A lesson learned by a Spanish Inquisitor in the 14th-century bears repeating today:
"Quaestiones sunt fallaces et inefficaces."
["Torture is deceptive and ineffectual."]

why words matter

Feeling under the weather, you visit your doctor.
Your doctor diagnoses "flu", and treats you accordingly.
In fact, you have bubonic plague.
You die.

Recall, Rummy explicitly refused to call the Iraq insurgency an "insurgency".
The result?
We mounted no effective counter-insurgency campaign.
The insurgents took over Iraq.

Today? From Think Progress:
White House Still Won’t Use The Word ‘Recession,’ Press Corps Doesn’t Seem To Notice
Does it matter that WH refuses to use the word "recession"?

As suggested by preceding comments, I believe it does.
If you do not correctly diagnose the illness, you are unlikely to prescribe an effective treatment.
[I note that the conservatives are still characterizing the current mess as a financial problem resulting in a credit freeze.
... and this continues to have policy implications: the Fed & Treasury continue to pursue treatment protocol that seems very heavily weighted towards injecting $$$ into financial sector.
So far it hasn't worked.]

Stop the madness.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Headline humor (?)

2 US soldiers probed for Afghan prisoner abuse


Does anyone else find this word choice both appropriate and... funny?

Other noted this first

I think Rachel Maddow is the person who first noted this:
Prez-elect Obama delivered an economy-related press conference Mon-Wed last week.

Each day the market shot up.
Meanwhile, whenever W or his minions addressed the economy, the market tanked.

The predictive value of this observation continued on Monday.
Paulson held a press conference, promising, "We are actively engaged in developing additional programs to strengthen our financial system so that lending flows into our economy."

As predicted, the market tanked!
Day-trading based on who's holding an economy-related press conference (W/minions vs Obama) could be profitable.

Sing a song.

Next time someone complains about U.S. "activist judges"...

Court ruling brings down Thai government
By AMBIKA AHUJA, Associated Press Writer
2 Dec 2008
BANGKOK, Thailand – A court dissolved Thailand's top three ruling parties for electoral fraud Tuesday and temporarily banned the prime minister from politics, bringing down a government that has faced months of strident protests seeking its ouster.


note: I'm not sanguine about Roberts, Alito, Scalia, et al., upholding convictions of W and his enablers.

Have a nice day.

Blast from the past

W's radio address, 29 Dec 2007:
"One of our greatest blessings as Americans is that we live in a country with a growing economy -- where people can pursue their dreams, turn ideas into enterprises, and provide for their families. It is a measure of our economy's resilience that even with high oil prices and softness in the housing market, we're still growing. In November, our economy added jobs for the 51st straight month, making this the longest period of uninterrupted job growth on record. Unemployment is a low 4.7 percent. Exports are up. And the fundamentals of our economy are strong."
[President's Radio Address]
And today?
US in recession since December 2007: official panel
by Rob Lever Rob Lever
Mon Dec 1, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US recession began in December 2007, a panel of economists charged with the official designation of business cycles said Monday.

Yep - W's on top of it!

Have a nice day.