Thursday, December 31, 2009

I did my celebrating early

A friend originally from Dublin is in the hospital.
I visited him at 5 p.m. local time = midnight in Dublin.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Me & The Whiners

... "We've got diverticulitis."

... which is partial explanation for light posting.
... but more pertinent reasons are
- too much college football
- too little patience with GOP whining

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fringe politics

The Tea Party crowd seem to be taking over the GOP... and generating much enthusiasm, which could well translate into electoral success in 2010.

How 'bout the left fringe of the Democratic Party - we so-called, and self-identified Progressives - try something similar? Stage rallies, get VOCAL... No - not with intent to take over the Dem Party (tho' this might not be a bad thing), but to give the so-called, self-identified "Independents" a choice, and maybe generate some enthusiasm for 2010 mid-terms.

As it stands there seems to be no Democratic consensus, on anything. We're all too rational, too cerebral to get excited. Obama's policies - even his rhetoric - do not inspire a repeat of 2008.
To counter the strident voices of the wing-nut Right requires a vocal alternative.
Many of us are trying... but we are too polite, and too disinterested. We've conceded, accepting that our voices are too quiet to matter.

My preference? Mimic the Tea Party crowd's very vocal insanity with our own! - Yes, we will seem unduly strident, but shrill stridency is required!

Please, loyal readers, lift up your voices!
- Sing a song!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Best of the Season to y'all...

... and here's hoping the New Year brings an abundance of happiness and good fortune!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Probably people-of-color the gov't forced lenders to service!

Anaheim mall defaults on $210 million debt
As I understand it, the conservative narrative regarding the foreclosure crisis is that it's all the government's fault for forcing lenders to give money to ne'er-do-wells who could never repay. Uppity poor white trash & people of color.
I'm curious to see how commercial foreclosures will be woven into this narrative.

Meanwhile, this is a fun contrast:
Banks Bundled Bad Debt, Bet Against It and Won
Published: December 23, 2009
In late October 2007, as the financial markets were starting to come unglued, a Goldman Sachs trader, Jonathan M. Egol, received very good news. At 37, he was named a managing director at the firm.

Mr. Egol, a Princeton graduate, had risen to prominence inside the bank by creating mortgage-related securities, named Abacus, that were at first intended to protect Goldman from investment losses if the housing market collapsed. As the market soured, Goldman created even more of these securities, enabling it to pocket huge profits.

Goldman’s own clients who bought them, however, were less fortunate.

Pension funds and insurance companies lost billions of dollars on securities that they believed were solid investments, according to former Goldman employees with direct knowledge of the deals
who asked not to be identified because they have confidentiality agreements with the firm.

[emphasis added]
"Heads I win, Tails you lose!"

Again - I think the Tea Party anti-biz message could be tweaked to reflect legitimate anger at Wall Street and its Government enablers. From there, little logic is needed to demand MORE regulation of financial markets...
I'll be sending a few emails this evening.

Common ground?

A few posts back I supported Well-armed Lamb's call for a nation-wide general strike.

Seems this may be an opportunity to find common ground with the Tea Party crowd (and take advantage of their organizational skills!).
From TPM:
Tea Partiers' Next Target: American Business?
... The Tea Party Patriots group is planning a "National Day of Strike" for Jan. 20, one year to the day after President Obama's inauguration. The goal of the strike, according to the website where it's being planned, is to "financially cripple" the companies across America the group says are "backing the leftist agenda" and "funding socialism."
Tho' I'm not sure just why the Tea Partiers want to bring down the U.S. economy, I nevertheless support the idea of a nation-wide "day of prayer and fasting" (i.e., a general strike). We can let them plan it, then co-opt the message! (Heck! To the extent that the Tea Partiers anti-biz message could be modified to highlight the failures of Obama's economic team, I'd even be okay with letting the Tea Partiers own at least part of the message!)

As The Well-Armed Lamb states:
"... let's organize a nation-wide general STRIKE. There is no other act available to a civic population to bring about the halt to objectionable State policies and practices."

Here we go again

From Think Progress, last week:
Kristol: Obama’s Nobel Speech ‘Lays The Predicate For The Legitimate Use Of Force’ Against Iran
From ThinkProgress, yesterday:
Bolton: Strike On Iran Is No Problem As Long As It’s Accompanied By A ‘Campaign Of Public Diplomacy’
From NYT Op-Ed today:
There’s Only One Way to Stop Iran
... Since peaceful carrots and sticks cannot work, and an invasion would be foolhardy, the United States faces a stark choice: military air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities or acquiescence to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.
As for knocking out its nuclear plants, admittedly, aerial bombing might not work.
But history suggests that military strikes could work.
The war-drums are beating.

With every opinion piece advocating military action against Iran, the idea becomes less abhorrent, more palatable.

What is it about the Right that makes 'em cherish war?

Mutual belligerence hasn't been working all that well, and the Right's continuing threats against Iran provide a very convenient justification to Iran for its own continued belligerence.
Maybe it's time to try something different.

I note that Kuperman's op-ed presents a nice example of a false dichotomy, as if 'acquiescence' or military action were the only two alternatives... and the use of the word 'acquiescence' is loaded with wimpy connotations! - sort of like 'appeasement'.
How 'bout an alternative along the lines of 'ignore Iran'... provide the Iranian regime with no plausible justification for belligerence towards the West. We neither offer carrots nor threaten sticks.

The war-mongers must be silenced now!

Back on the campaign trail!

Spent the better part of Wednesday updating a donor database - correcting addresses, merging duplicate records.

I note that none of my loyal readers was impacted... hmmm: come to think of it, I didn't check to see if any of my loyal readers were in the database!

Politics: sadly, it's all about $$$.

"Do you miss W?"

This question was recently asked of me by one of my more conservative friends.

Sadly, my answer was, "What's to miss? Obama's pursuing most all W's policies!"

I'm still waiting for the 'change'.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Not quite, but almost...

Christmas is not quite my least favorite holiday... but it's close!

Me? Believe it or not, I have theological objections.
Worship of the Baby Jesus seems inappropriate.
Were I a believer, I'd be a heretical "Adoptionist", accepting G-d's proclamation at the Baptism:
"You are my Son, today I have begotten you."
(Luke 3:22 - an original reading)

I'll go further: anyone who claims to understand the Doctrine of the Trinity is lying.

For me, Easter is THE Christian holiday - not Christmas.

The Christmas stories in the Gospels - only 2 of 'em - are easily explained as answers to questions early believers must have asked: when and where was Jesus born? Didn't anyone notice he was the Son of God at the time???

Somehow the notion of G-d sucking on Mary's tit just isn't appropriate.

That said, the secular version of Xmas that has evolved in the USA is not too hard to take: give & receive gifts, spend time with family & friends.

I'll still sing Xmas carols with my church choir on Xmas eve... but were it not for the purely secular connotations of the holiday, I'd have a hard time reconciling this performance with my conscience.

cooking advice: hard-boiled eggs

Yes, really.

First: you do NOT have to pre-heat the microwave!

Okay, here's the real advice:
I use 'cold water' method for boiling eggs: put eggs in cold water, bring to boil. Turn heat off. Let 'em sit in heated - but cooling - water for 20 mins.

Here's the real advice: cool eggs in fridge.
Do NOT put eggs in water to cool!!!
(... the aqueous environment makes 'em difficult to peel - the water somehow permeates the shell.)
Wait a while.
When eggs are cooled, peel shell from thick end
(no - I don't know why this works better, but it does).

Yes - only a guy needs directions on 'how to boil an egg'.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Checking the Buffoon's market advice

Where's the bottom???
Thursday, October 9, 2008
A very quick, back-of-the-envelope computation suggests that since the '70s, the largest percentage decline in DJIA has been just under 50% from previous peak.

Using this as a guideline, the bottom would seem to be around 6000.
We're at 8500 today.

The 50% bottom is the WORST since 1970.

The range seems to be 25% to 50%. (Again, these are very hasty, eye-balled figures!!!)
If you bet on 40%, that'd represent about 7000.
30%? About 8000.

This guidance has been provided FREE OF CHARGE... and is worth every penny!!!
So, where'd the current market cycle bottom-out?

$6440.08, in early March of this year.
I didn't do too badly!

If you'd decided to buy at $8K, you'd be up ~29% today (based on DJIA); if you'd waited for $7K, you'd be up 47%.
If you waited for my absolute bottom ($6K) - well, you're still waiting!

The Buffoon's forecasting failure!

Back in February I forecast 84 bank failures in 2009.
Whoops! - missed it.

Regulators shutter 2 big Calif. banks, 5 others
By MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer
Fri Dec 18
WASHINGTON – Regulators on Friday shut down two big California banks, as well as banks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Illinois, bringing to 140 the number of U.S. banks brought down this year by the weak economy and mounting loan defaults.
[emphasis added]
In my last paying job I was an economic forecaster - and I was the pessimistic one in my group!

aside: I am one of the few forecasters who will voluntarily let you know how I've performed. No - I do not have a sterling record about which to brag, but I am honest!
[I probably oughta revisit my stock market calls sometime soon...]

National day of prayer & fasting

Well-armed Lamb suggests a general strike:
If you wanna change things, we need to organize, and organize around a specific act. So let's organize a nation-wide general STRIKE. There is no other act available to a civic population to bring about the halt to objectionable State policies and practices.

That is, for 24 hours, nothing moves, except vital emergency/life-saving equipment. The disaffected populace then uses the ensuing chaos to leverage our/its democratic demands.
PrivateBuffoon hereby goes on record in support of this proposal.

So: any ideas how to promote this call-to-action?

aside: from the movie Gandhi:
GANDHI: The law is due to take effect from April sixth.
I want to call on the nation to make that a day of prayer and fasting.
JINNAH: You mean a general strike?

GANDHI: I mean a day of prayer and fasting.
But of course no work could be done - no buses, no trains, no factories, no administration. The country would stop.

Friday, December 18, 2009

personal: i'm having a good time!

i'm building my own xmas cards.
they feature Illustrations by John Leech from the first edition of Dickens's A Christmas Carol (Dec, 1843).

there are two (2) texts for "the message".
One is an "Ultra-Condensed" version of A Christmas Carol:
Ebenezer Scrooge: Bah, humbug. You'll work thirty-eight hours on Christmas Day, keep the heat at five degrees, and like it.

Ghost of Jacob Marley: Ebenezer Scrooge, three ghosts of Christmas will come and tell you you're mean.

Three Ghosts of Christmas: You're mean.

Ebenezer Scrooge: At last, I have seen the light. Let's dance in the streets.
Have some money.

[Ultra-Condensed "A Christmas Carol"]
The other text for "the message" is from Psalm 100:
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
MS Word's Papyrus font is very effective.

Who gets which text depends on my perception of their religious convictions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh, good - I'm not alone

Dear President Obama
Dear President Obama,

I just got an email from you asking me to contact my Senators to vote for your piece of crap health care “reform” bill.

The link to reply was –like your administration – defective and so here I am replying through your website and putting it up on my blog for the world to read if they care to....

I am just one of a vast number of disillusioned and furious progressives you have managed to alienate in less than a year. These people like me voted for you, donated to your campaign and worked for your election because we wanted real change. You have bitterly disappointed us.

[... the letter goes on...]
... but wait! - there's more:
Keith Olbermann eviscerates Obama, Reid & US Senate over health care reform fiasco
... and finally:
Katrina Vanden Heuvel: Dem base is "angry, infuriated, heartbroken - this is not the 'change' we voted for."
It's nice to not be alone.

my letter to Senator Tom Udall

Senator Tom Udall
110 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Udall:

As stated previously, your seniors in the Senate are failing you – and the country. Sen. Lieberman (I-CT) has proven time and again that he cannot be trusted, yet the Democratic Senate leadership continues to “deal” with him. Why?

Q: What has been the effect of Senator Reid’s caving to Senator Lieberman?
A: Others in your caucus - e.g., Sen. Nelson - feel free to march to a different drummer with no fear of repercussions!

The public - the folks who voted in a solidly Democratic Congress – are FOR a radical overhaul of the healthcare system – at least to the extent that a bona fide, robust 'public option' constitutes a 'radical overhaul'.

Please – take the lead! – organize your fellow freshmen Democratic Senators (including the class of ’06… and maybe the class of ’04). Present a united front demanding Senator Lieberman’s expulsion from your caucus, and his removal from positions of leadership within the Senate.
Make it clear that failure to support genuine reform will not be tolerated.

You may lose the battle – but if you stick to your guns, the war could be yours!

Why do I keep flagellating myself?

light posting: an apologia

apologia: a defense especially of one's opinions, position, or actions.
[Miriam-Webster online dictionary]
It's also convenient to use the word in the sense of "apology".

To maintain mental health, I've chosen to ignore the world for a few days. I'm happier not paying attention.
Posting - working myself up into verbose rage - would require energy I simply don't have at the moment.

My apologies to loyal readers.
Check back later.

p.s. I was really hoping my Terminator reference would find its way into the blogosphere.
Didn't happen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You're kidding, right?

"... the Senate is widely considered to be the greatest deliberative body in the world."
[Senate promo; emphasis added]
I don't think I want to look at the 2nd best!

The Terminator

"Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever..."

Monday, December 14, 2009

I am so sick of these headlines!

BREAKING: Harry Reid caves to Lieberman/White House, kill Medicare buy-in and public option

Ah, yes: Dems CAVE... again!

FYI: for the past hour I've been sending emails to Senate Dem "leadership" with my "deal" for Senator Lieberman (see below).
Seems I was too late.

time for more letters?

Huff Post: Second source confirms Rahm personally pressed Reid to cut deal with Lieberman

Seems WH has denied pressuing Reid to reach a deal with Lieberman, and that denial is looking shakier by the minute.

But: a deal with Lieberman???
The only deal I'd like to see would have terms something like...
Step 1:
- a) Lieberman stripped of his Committee Chairmanship immediately
- b) Lieberman kicked out of Dem caucus immediately
Step 2:
- a) Dems promise to consider re-admitting Joe IF he henceforth and forevermore supports any and all Dem proposals on healthcare... up to and including final vote on final bill
- b) IF Joe lives up to his end of the bargain, THEN Dems re-admit him to their caucus.
Step 3: Kiss that chairmanship good-bye, Joe... Unless and until you prove yourself a loyal Dem over the next 12 months - supporting, vocally and vociferously, any and all Dem initiatives.
Maybe when 112th Congress is seated your chairmanship will be reconsidered... Maybe... IF you behave yourself in the meantime.

If healthcare reform fails for lack of 60 votes, Reid, DSCC, and DNC make it their over-riding objective to let the country know that Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is the single person responsible for the failure.

Bye-bye, Joe.

Friday, December 11, 2009

How many are left?

AP source: Al-Qaida operative killed by US missile

This guy was just an 'operative', not a big-shot.

We've been killing bad guys for 8 years now.
Has anyone noticed: there are just as many bad guys now as when we started?

Stop the madness!

The first surgee?

This is from my USMC bud's first "Report from Afghanistan".

Health Insurance: a personal story

Recently I was compelled to seek health insurance on the open market. With cardiac disease, high cholesterol, & hypertension, this proved somewhat problematic for me.

Turns out, New Mexico has a health insurance "pool", New Mexico Health Insurance Alliance - sort of "public option, lite" - with choice of 3 carriers (Presbyterian, Lovelace, Blue Cross/Blue Shield). No health questions - they are required to accept everyone, with the single caveat that the individual must have been continuously covered for preceding 18 months (there's a 63-day grace period).

It's not cheap, but it IS available! - and the coverage ain't half bad. (... and for what it doesn't cover, or when/if the prescription benefit runs out - $5k/year - there's a second pool for which NMHIA members automatically qualify.)

For a fun, if more-than-slightly depressing, read on the history of "universal health coverage" in the U.S., see Pre-existing condition in 7 Dec 2009 edition of The New Yorker.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A fun read from"The Rant" by Tom Degan: Jammin' with the Dickster

"The Rant" by Tom Degan: Jammin' with the Dickster

[no, I have no shame - I'm more than happy to simply link to someone else's post, just so's I can claim I posted today! On the bright side: it IS a fun read!]

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

just for fun

My USMC reservist bud is a Marine E-7: Gunnery Sergeant.

The only two mental-models I have for Marine Gunnery Sergeants are these guys:
Clint Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway in the 1986 film Heartbreak Ridge
Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey, currently hosting the History Channel's Lock and Load
Neither of these helps me understand my friend!

From a trusted correspondent

My USMC reservist bud is now at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan. [31°7'N 64°12'E]
We commenced our snailmail communication while he was still in the States. He being one of the most conservative people I know, and I being one of the most liberal people he knows, our correspondence frequently touches on politics and policy. As you may have guessed, he's not a big fan of govt involvement in health insurance... but he's open-minded enough to make an argument:
"I think I would have more respect for the Dems if they could point to ONE country or state whose system they like. Aren't there >50 reasonably civilized countries that have largely government run plans (though vastly different in detail)? Can't we point to ONE that we like, or perhaps a few that we want to pick features from? My faith that, say, the Netherlands has improved and learned over the years is much greater than that, say, Chuck Shumer will invent something one Thursday night that is better than anything anyone else in the world has come up with in the past 50 years."
I have to agree with him.

Furthermore, this Dem failure to aggressively, adamantly adopt some existing alternative, and promote it to the hilt, seems a singular strategic blunder.
What we'll end up with is a horrid patchwork that will not solve the core problem - the core problem being that health insurance is priced out of range for a large number of our fellow citizens... and is getting more expensive by the minute!... Somehow the 'richest country in the world' is happy to let significant numbers of its citizens die rather than get timely, high-quality medical care.

I don't understand it.

Staying on message... NOT!

A week ago our President stated:
"First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban's momentum and increase Afghanistan's capacity over the next 18 months.
But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.

[emphasis added]
This timeline was widely interpreted as a "deadline" for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

What have we heard in the past week from our President's TEAM?
SecDef Gates:
"Quite frankly, I detest the phrase exit strategy," US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, promising "a narrow focus" on routing al-Qaeda with "observable progress on clear objectives."

"What is essential -- for our national security -- is that we have two long-term partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.

[Gates: no deadline for US pullout from Afghanistan, 3 Dec 2009]
SoS Clinton:
"I do not believe we have locked ourselves into leaving," said Clinton, who added the goal was "to signal very clearly to all audiences that the United States is not interested in occupying Afghanistan."
If memory serves, the Obama campaign was lauded as a model of consistent public communications - no leaks, everyone on message all the time.

What happened?

I'm all for spirited policy discussions, disagreements, alternative points of view... in White House policy meetings!
Once the President announces a policy, I sort of expect the Administration will promote it without hedging.
Back in the biz world this was called "disagree and commit".

If Obama can't control his Cabinet, he's doomed.

writin' letters...

... light posting recently - I've been writin' letters.
... to Obama (2), DNC (1), Sen McCain (1), Gen McChrystal (2), and my GySgt Marine bud.

... that and nothing jumps out at me from the headlines.

... well, maybe these upcoming SCOTUS cases:
Supreme Court takes up 'honest services,' or anti-corruption, law
Recall: I was an Enron junkie. Not knowing the law doesn't prevent me from getting excited about apparent corporate malfeasance.

Monday, December 7, 2009

7 Dec...

Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor (or Hawaii Operation, Operation Z, as it was called by the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters) was an unannounced military strike conducted by the Japanese navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941. It resulted in the United States entry into World War II. The attack was intended as a preventive action to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from influencing the war the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against Britain and the Netherlands, as well as the U.S. in the Philippines.
[Wikipedia entry]
Note: "The attack was intended as a preventive action to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from influencing the war the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia..."

Pre-emptive strikes don't seem to work all that well!
Would that we would learn this lesson.

Just for fun: my letter to Senator McCain

Senator John McCain
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator McCain:

Recall, during the second Presidential debate in 2008 you declared,
"I'll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I'll get him. I know how to get him. I'll get him no matter what and I know how to do it."
A recent AP headline reads, "White House still lacks solid intel on bin Laden".

Have you volunteered to help our intelligence community locate bin Laden?
If not, why not???

I note that some might construe your failure to share your certain knowledge with our intelligence community as tantamount to giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Again, if you have not shared your knowledge and wisdom regarding capturing bin Laden with our intelligence community, why not?

Feel free to copy/paste into your own letter to Senator McCain.

Back on the campaign trail!

On Saturday I worked on an Excel spreadsheet containing NM1 (Heinrich) donor records - cleaning it up a bit: eliminating duplicates, merging husband/wife records, correcting case (e.g., "john smith" -> "John Smith").

Next few weeks promise still more work along these lines, including some online database training.

Ah... it's good to feel useful again!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Have they asked John McCain?

White House still lacks solid intel on bin Laden
By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer
6 Dec 2009
WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden may be slipping back and forth from Pakistan to Afghanistan. Or the U.S. might not have a clue, more than eight years after the al-Qaida leader masterminded the terrorist attacks on America.
During the second Presidential Debate of 2008, Senator McCain declared:
"I'll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I'll get him. I know how to get him.

I'll get him no matter what and I know how to do it."

[emphasis added]
So - have our intel folks asked John McCain how to get bin Laden?
Has McCain called Obama to impart his wisdom?

Friday, December 4, 2009


Most recent polling & politics news suggests that...
- 1) TeaBaggers are ginned up for 2010
- 2) Dems aren't

I'm not particularly crazy about prospect of Republicans qua TeaBaggers taking over Congress in 2010.

Any ideas how to get run-of-the-mill Dems excited???
[fyi: if you answer, 'yes' - don't tell me! - tell DNC!!!]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

If you've got spare $$$...

... you might consider sending some to these folks:
Glenn Beck-Inspired Tea Party Candidates Step Up To Oust Veteran GOP Lawmakers
Glenn Beck, who has waged a conspiratorial, hateful campaign against liberals and his other political enemies all year, has been galvanizing his supporters to run for office. Today, conservative activist Eric Forcade announced that he is running in the Republican primary to unseat longtime Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL). In explaing his reason for running, Forcade said he was inspired by the “values that have been popularized by Glenn Beck.”
Phil Troyer, an attorney and former staffer to Republican Sens. Dan Coats (R-IN) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), is challenged incumbent Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). An avid tea party supporter, Troyer has attacked Souder as a “big spending liberal.” Rachel Grubb, who is involved with Beck’s 9/12 project, is also challenging Souder.

Matt Sakalosky, a businessman who is a member of Beck’s 9/12 project, is challenging Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE).
Liz Lauber, a former aide to tea party leader and corporate lobbyist Dick Armey, is challenging Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO).

[emphasis added]
There were more worthy challengers listed in the Think Progress post - all needing $$$ to succeed against RINO incumbents.
Let's help 'em!

Lessons learned from movies

You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia"...
[The Princess Bride (1987)]

an Xmas gift suggestion

Leatherbound Pocket-Size US Constitution

Carry it with you, keep it on your desk or bedside table, and be proud. Bound in soft black calfskin, pages edged in gold, this little book includes the complete US Constitution and other documents vital to our history, our democracy, and recent Supreme Court decisions: the Bill of Rights (and every constitutional amendment to the present day), Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and more. 192 pages, just 2 ¾" x 3 ¾".
... and, YES: I've got one!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two letters to General McChrystal

Letter #1:
To: General Stanley A. McChrystal
Kabul, Afghanistan
APO 09356

Subj: “Helpful Hints to Hopeful Heroes” : Training Afghan forces

To succeed in training Afghan forces you may want to consider three suggestions:

Suggestion #1: Don't focus solely on military training.
Drill, weapons training, strategy & tactics: all are necessary, but none is sufficient.

Rather, include a rather large dose of Afghan history.

My guess is that one objective of training Afghan forces is to provide a nucleus for an Afghan national identity. If this be true, then Afghan forces need to have some sense that the country they're being trained to defend is worth defending.

Feed them large doses of Afghan history, focusing on brave stands made by Afghan fighters against enemies, foreign and domestic. Give them at least a hint that Afghanistan has a proud history, and a proud military history - a tradition which they are fighting to preserve and extend.

Suggestion #2: Adapt the military training to their strengths. I suspect history suggests that Afghan military strength, both in the past and today, is in the area of guerilla warfare - not standard set-piece battles with complex battlefield evolution of forces.

I note that the U.S. military is NOT the best organization to train another in the effective use of non-standard tactics... BUT: if the training does not take into account this reality, I'm not hopeful for success.

How can non-standard guerilla tactics be employed by the state to defeat guerilla enemies? Elements of U.S. counter-insurgency doctrine certainly have a bearing on this question... but I'd bet we could also learn a LOT from our Afghan allies!

Suggestion #3: Engage Afghan officers in the design of ALL training. If we view ourselves as the sole 'experts', there only to impart our precious knowledge to the heathen, we will fail.

I note that in 1975 my Army Basic Training included at least a few days of classroom instruction on “The History of the U.S. Army.” I learned who Baron von Steuben was. I assume the intent was to instill in us – raw recruits – a sense that we were continuing a long-standing tradition of service to our country, and to convince us that our voluntary service was at heart patriotic.
This same goal ought be accommodated within whatever training the U.S. military delivers to our Afghan allies.

Finally, emphasize that the Taliban are, in fact, foreign enemies. During their rule of Afghanistan they were notably an instrument of the Saudis, even to the extent of adopting the particularly Saudi institution of “Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice”. The Taliban’s religious zeal and exclusivity are NOT based on any Afghan precedent, but have been imported by Saudi – Wahabbist – zealots.

I would be more than happy to provide an outline of the non-military curriculum outlined above.
Just ask!

My motivation? I would prefer to see my country succeed in Afghanistan.
Nothing more, nothing less.

Note: the subject, "Helpful hints to hopeful heroes", is taken from General George S. Patton's unpublished memoirs.

Letter #2:
To: General Stanley A. McChrystal
Kabul, Afghanistan
APO 09356

Subj: “Helpful Hints to Hopeful Heroes” : Afghanistan’s only cash crop

A previous note included three more-or-less non-controversial suggestions regarding the training of Afghan forces.
This note will be somewhat more controversial.

Afghanistan has exactly ONE (1) cash crop: opium.
Promote it! Tax it!!!

The status quo – in which we criminalize opium production – only serves our enemies. Both the Taliban and non-governmental warlords profit from the opium trade, at our expense.
It is a no-win situation.

Encourage opium production, and co-opt the warlords who now control the trade into the central government. Make it a condition of their trade that they actively support the Karzai government.
Appoint them as provincial leaders.
Effectively legalize the opium trade.

Again: opium is Afghanistan’s ONLY cash crop.
This could change in the future, but today we are dealing with today’s here-and-now.

Yes – this policy change could well kill your military career… BUT: it just might rescue Afghanistan from a descent into lawlessness that dwarfs that of the early 1990s.

As it stands, the opium trade benefits only our enemies.
Can you argue that pragmatism in this case trumps ideology?

Can pragmatism trump ideology? Probably not... but if we continue to adhere to the ideologically-driven eradication of the opium trade, we have no hope.

Okay - I'll accept the challenge

Though less than tickled with Obama's decision to send another 30K troops to Afghanistan, in part to train Afghan forces, well - I'll view it as a challenge.
How can training Afghan forces best be accomplished?

As you may have guessed, I have a couple of suggestions.

Suggestion #1: Don't focus solely on military training. Drill, weapons training, strategy & tactics: all are necessary, but not sufficient.
Rather, include a rather large dose of history. My guess is that one objective of training Afghan forces is to provide a nucleus for an Afghan national identity. If this be true, then Afghan forces need to have some sense that the country they're being trained to defend is worth defending. I'd feed 'em large doses of Afghan history, focusing on brave stands made by Afghan fighters against enemies, foreign and domestic. Give 'em at least a hint that Afghanistan has a proud history, and a proud military history - a tradition which they are fighting to preserve and extend.

Suggestion #2: Adapt the military training to their strengths. I suspect that both ancient and modern history will suggest that Afghan military strength, both in the past and today, is in the area of guerilla warfare - not standard set-piece battles with complex battlefield evolution of forces. I note that the U.S. military is NOT the best organization to train another in the effective use of non-standard tactics... BUT: if the training does not take into account this reality, I'm not hopeful for success. How can non-standard guerilla tactics be employed by the state to defeat guerilla enemies? Elements of U.S. counter-insurgency doctrine certainly have a bearing on this question... but I'd bet we could also learn a LOT from our Afghan allies!

Me? I'd recommend engaging Afghan officers in the design of ALL training. If we view ourselves as the sole 'experts', there only to impart our precious knowledge to the heathen, we will fail.

Okay - this is a better response...

... and closer to my gut... I just didn't have the guts to say it!
In response to tonight's Speech, Tom Degan over at "The Rant" by Tom Degan: The Lost Lessons of History comes a lot closer to the truth:
The irony underlying this entire mess is the fact that Obama had a tiny window of opportunity during his first week or so in office where he could have ended this thing with the stroke of a pen. Remember, this was not his war. The only reason we invaded Afghanistan to begin with (on the surface, at least) was to kill or capture Osama bin Ladin, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks - that was it. When every opportunity to do so had been badly blundered due to the incompetence of George W. Bush and company, they changed the nature of the mission for no other reason than to save their hideous faces. It had nothing to do with bin Ladin, they assured us. It was all about "nation building". Nation building!

And that is where we find ourselves at the miserable present. Before the sun sets this afternoon, another American kid (or more) will be sacrificed on the alter of stupidity for no other reason than to prop up a government which has been identified by the organization, Transparency International, as the second most corrupt in the world. Congratulations to Somalia for taking home the gold. Whoopee!
There's more... lots more! - I grabbed above from the middle of the post!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My first visit...

to fafblog.
Worth the trip:
Victory Science
Let us never forget just what's at stake in the war in Afghanistan: nothing less than the success of the war in Afghanistan. This war may be a mistake, a blood-soaked blunder, an unholy charnel house mindlessly consuming the bodies and souls of untold thousands, an open sore on the pockmarked face of history and an abomination before the sight of God and men, but it is first and foremost a war, and wars must be won. If the United States doesn't win this war, then will it not lose it? And if the United States loses this war, then won't the Unites States have lost it? And if the United States has lost this war, will that not then make the United States a kind of thing that loses wars? And then where would we be?
There's more - go visit!

What others have said...

... no, not about Obama's speech - but about what it might really take to "win" in Afghanistan, and about making courageous choices.

I'll start with courageous choices. This first bit quoted in The NY Reviw of Books review of The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War. Quoting George Kennan, during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding Vietnam:
"There is more respect to be won in the opinion of this world by resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than by the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant or unpromising objectives."
Wish Obama had taken the hint!

On current Afghanistan mess: From Talk of the Town section of recent New Yorker:
Would even forty thousand additional troops suffice for anything resembling the ambitious nation-building program that General Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan, has proposed? (Counterinsurgency theory suggests that it would take moe than ten times that many...)
[emphasis added]
Recall PM's contribution to this discussion: even 400K troops might not be sufficient!

So, tell me again, Mr. President... what are we accomplishing with 30,000 more troops???

... OOPS! - I almost forgot: from Politico:
Cheney was asked if he thinks the Bush administration bears any responsibility for the disintegration of Afghanistan because of the attention and resources that were diverted to Iraq. “I basically don’t,” he replied without elaborating.
[emphasis added]
I note that the article suggests the interviewer did NOT ATTEMPT to get the former Wyoming congressman to elaborate!

My USMC reservist bud is off to Afghanistan

Just about the same time Obama was addressing the crowd at West Point, my former colleague & USMC reservist bud was boarding a plane bound for Kuwait - the way-station on the way to Afghanistan, where he will be "liaison officer from the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned to Regimental Combat Team 7, the Marine Corps’ main ground combat element in Afghanistan." [for info, see 7th Marine Regiment (United States)]

A comment from his first weekly report:
Interestingly, the flight will be boarding during the president’s speech, so whatever his new policy is, I may be the first either to enforce or violate it.
I anticipate regular "updates from the front" from this fellow - if any contain gems of wisdom or military humor worth sharing, I'll post 'em here!

Obama's speech... (yes, I watched it)

Well... if you're going to try to make a case for committing more troops, I suppose you could do worse...

... that said, I can't truthfully say I'm jumping up and down with excitement at any continuing U.S. military role in the region.

I enjoyed the none-too-subtle jabs at the previous administration for leaving us with the the Afghan mess.
I enjoyed being reminded - explicitly - that when we first sent troops to Afghanistan in response to 9/11, we were a united country and had the world's support. Unsaid but implied: W squandered this unity and near-universal support.

Having listened to the speech, can I answer the question, "Why are we sending 30K more troops?" ?

On the bright side, there were no references to building a bright-beacon bastion of liberal democracy in south-central Asia!

Did Obama convince anyone?
I doubt it.
Did he at least manage to silence his right-wing critics?
Not sure... but this may have been the most successful part of the speech: anticipating the right-wing, war-mongering, chicken-hawk criticisms and addressing them, one 'option' at a time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Buy nothing day"

Nope - I don't participate in the "buy-nothing-day" celebration as protest against consumerism's "Black Friday."

BUT: today I bought almost nothing - three 2-liter bottles of 7-Up (on sale! $0.99/bottle) and two 12-can cartons of 7-Up.

I did NOT shop for xmas gifts.
I did NOT visit the mall.
I even avoided WalMart.

We were out of 7-Up. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Statistical illiteracy in action (over at Fox News)

From my friends at C&L:
Calling Fox News Quality Control: Pie Charts Are Supposed to Add Up to One Hundred
Let's see... 70% + 60% + 63% = 193%!

Trust me: I've taught undergraduate statistics, including "statistics for liberal arts" (aka statistics for dummies). I've taught graduate statistics. I've taught statistics for engineers in industry.
Most of the general public - the unwashed masses - can understand simple graphs.
... and almost all of 'em will spot the above-noted problem with Fox's pie-chart.

BUT: the folks at Fox News are pretty damn dumb!

p.s. it's also a bit weird that the "60%" wedge is bigger than either of the other two!

Good news!

From Think Progress:
Bachmann and Palin to unite for Tea Party convention.
Sarah Palin will star as the keynote speaker at next February’s First National Tea Party Convention, which will take place in Nashville, TN. Also attending: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). The right-wing Minnesota congresswoman has previously asserted that Democrats are trying to “sabotage” both her and Palin “to make sure that we don’t have a prominent national voice.”
Heck, I could almost support a Palin-Bachmann ticket... as a Progressive! - you know, the first Female/Female national ticket! - I'd gladly send 'em $$$.

more "Happy Thanksgiving" - oops, almost forgot

Previous Thanksgiving post mentioned family in town.
This omitted extended family in town: bro-in-law's two brothers (his sister didn't make it up from Ruidoso this year), and his Mom. My son's college friends - now a happily married couple. We've known these "kids" since my son's freshman year at NMT... in 1993. I'm pretty sure they've spent every Thanksgiving with us since then! (He's an environmental engineer; she, a hydrologist.)
[note: they keep making noises about hosting Thanksgiving... but haven't yet! My advice this year: announce in mid-October!... (tho' I believe my wife's sister in fact enjoys hosting!)]

Once upon a time we were the regular hosts. One year my wife decided that everyone would sit at one contiguous table! - Between the extended family and the kids' friends, we had upwards of 30 people attending that year, but we managed to get 'em all seated at one very long 'table' - actually many, many tables strung end-to-end from dining room through living room. I've never let her live this down! (But it was sort of fun... in a masochistic way.)

Sigh. It's past now.

Till next year!

... one more thing: for many, many years I always managed to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving. This was not intentional - it's just that I kept filling my plate with the non-meat offerings and then found myself too full to enjoy turkey. Last year & this I've been wiser: starting with turkey, then ladling on the the non-meat offerings. Either way, I leave no way for dessert!

One of the things about a semi-potluck Thanksgiving: everyone brings enough to feed everyone. This results in a surfeit of food!
No - I don't feel guilty.

Light posting next few days... see ya Monday

Other stuff going on.
I anticipate light posting next few days.
With any luck I'll write a few letters.
See you Monday.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Continuing what is now a 3-year-old tradition:
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
It's secular - religious overtones are secondary.
It's American - the rest of world goes on happily without us.

Most of all, for me the basic premise - giving thanks - is a good thing. Yes, I am thankful for my family, for my undeserved good-fortune in life, for friends.
As mentioned in previous years, most of my family is in town. None of us started out here - we all just ended up here. I've 3 sisters. 2 of 'em are in town, with their husbands. My mom is in town. My wife's folks are in town. Her sister & bro-in-law are in town. A sister's sister-in-law is in town. Our kids are in town. My daughter-in-law's folks are in town. We added a nephew this year.

Usually, some one family hosts a huge Thanksgiving spread.
This year, for reasons I don't know, two families are hosting: my sister & my wife's sister.
We'll be heading to wife's sister's... tho' we may drop by my sister's, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, with friends & family!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

They create their own reality

Perino: No Terrorist Attacks In America Under Bush (VIDEO)
Rachel Weiner,HuffPost
25 Nov 2009
Dana Perino, recently nominated by President Obama to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, made an odd claim Tuesday night.

On Fox News, the former press secretary suggested President Obama was playing politics by refusing to describe the massacre at Fort Hood as a terrorist attack. "We should call it what it is," she said.

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term," she told Sean Hannity. "I hope they're not looking at this politically. I do think that we owe it to the American people to call it what it is."

[emphasis added]
How do you argue with these people?

"If wishes were horses, Beggars would ride"
"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
[unnamed White House aide, quoted by Ron Suskind, NYT Magazine, 17 Oct 2004]
The context of that long-ago post was the magical thinking rampant in W's administration.
Apparently not much has changed for loyal Bushies.

[... others have noticed: whenever Cheney and the rest of W's cabal speak, they assume W's presidency began on 12 Sep 2001.]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Digby says it best

... but why is no one else saying this at all?
Or, more to the point: Why are House & Senate Dems not saying this - loudly, frequently?
Anyway - if they want a crib sheet, Digby has one:
Truth And Consequences
by Digby
This must-read report in the New England Journal Of Medicine lays out the facts about the cost to society in lost lives, productivity and money for failing to assure that everyone is covered by health insurance. And the costs of treating them late in preventable emergency situations is far, far higher than it would otherwise be. This should be obvious, but it's not.

The conservatives frame this problem in contradictory terms, arguing both that people ARE covered and that it will cost us too much to cover them. They further insist that people shouldn't be allowed to free ride on the system, that there should be no mandate to buy insurance and that any government administered health system is an infringement of their freedom. But these various ideas are just a smokescreen.

It's quite obvious that what they truly believe is that people who don't have insurance should not be allowed to get health care and that if they get sick they should be allowed to die unless they can find some charity or raise the money. There's no other way to reconcile their beliefs.

If conservatives believe this, they should say so instead of framing the issues in terms of whether or not we're going to "young and dynamic" vs "middle aged and secure" as David Brooks deceptively does in his column this morning. If you think that people who don't have health insurance (or the means to pay cash) should be barred from getting medical treatment, then you should be willing to make that argument up front. I would guess that there are more than few people in this country who believe just that. People who have insurance.
Seriously: Why don't the Dems take to the airwaves with these talking points??? ... pointing out the logical implications of the GOP's position? ... stressing the basic economics of health care?

... and it probably wouldn't hurt to mention the Preamble: if timely access to affordable, high-quality health care doesn't count as "the general welfare" of "we the people", what does???

How did the GOP end up in the driver's seat?

Oh, good - I'm not alone

From C&L:
Mr. President, Dump Your Economic Team and Fix This Unemployment Crisis.
My target has been Geithner, but I can see the wisdom of sacking Summers as well.

Stiglitz & Krugman would probably be too scary to get confirmed - Senate GOPers wouldn't let 'em come to a vote!
(Another reason we need just a few more Dems in the Senate... )

Just for fun

The DNC could use the RNC's ideological purity test in anti-GOP ads - just rephrased. Something along the lines of "What they say" versus "What they really mean" comes to mind:
1) We oppose economic relief for Main Street; we support huge bonuses for Wall Street;

2) We oppose Medicare and Medicaid; we support the profits of predatory health insurance companies;

3) We support global warming, the melting of the polar ice-caps, and the demise of the polar bear;

4) We oppose unionization and unions; we support big business's unfair labor practices;

5) We don't want any more Hispanics in our America;

6) We support never-ending, futile wars;

7) We support belligerence and saber-rattling; we disdain diplomacy;

8) We're anti-gay;

9) We're don't believe Supreme Court decisions are the law of the land; we support the health insurance industry's right to ration care;

10) We support unmitigated gang violence, the right of psychotics and felons to buy guns, and the drug cartels that have turned our inner cities into war zones.
You can probably paraphrase better than I. Try it. It's fun!

Will the DNC take advantage of this golden opportunity?
I'm not holding my breath!

Here's your chance!

You, too, can get $$$ from the RNC simply by supporting any 8 of the following 10:
(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion;

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.
... well, at least that's the proposal being discussed by the GOP:
Republicans considering ideological purity test for candidates
Tues, 24 Nov 2009
Ten members of the Republican National Committee are proposing a resolution demanding candidates embrace at least eight of 10 conservative principles if they hope to receive financial support and an official endorsement from the RNC.
It gets better.

The second sentence reads:
The "Proposed RNC Resolution on Reagan's Unity Principle for Support of Candidates," is designed to force candidates to prove that they support "conservative principles" while opposing "Obama's socialist agenda," according to The New York Times' Caucus blog.
[emphasis added]
Ah, yes - invoke St. Reagan - he who grew the National Debt from 33% of GDP to more than 50% of GDP!!!

A 1983 PBS series, Reilly: Ace of Spies, included the following outburst from Joseph Stalin, delivererd some years after Lenin's death, in response to a challenge from one of Lenin's loyal supporters to the effect that, "It's what Lenin wanted":
"How long will this country be run by a dead man?"
How long will St. Reagan run the GOP???

Me? I'm hoping for a very long time!
... oh, and I also think the "ideological purity test" (aka, "Resolution on Reagan's Unity Principle for Support of Candidates") is a GREAT idea!
Maybe I'll write a letter to RNC chair Steele expressing my whole-hearted endorsement of Reagan's Unity Principle as a litmus test for all GOP candidates.

do they know?

Do the Tea-Party crowd realize that they're being butt-fucked by their corporate masters?

Will anyone tell 'em?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our MBA president at work... sigh

U.S. Fears Iraqis Will Not Keep Up Rebuilt Projects
Published: November 20, 2009
BAGHDAD — In its largest reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan, the United States government has spent $53 billion for relief and reconstruction in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, building tens of thousands of hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools and bridges.

But there are growing concerns among American officials that Iraq will not be able to adequately maintain the facilities once the Americans have left, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and jeopardizing Iraq’s ability to provide basic services to its people.

The projects run the gamut — from a cutting-edge, $270 million water treatment plant in Nasiriya that works at a fraction of its intended capacity because it is too sophisticated for Iraqi workers to operate, to a farmers’ market that farmers cannot decide how to share, to a large American hospital closed immediately after it was handed over to Iraq because the government was unable to supply it with equipment, a medical staff or electricity.
Where to start?

Sadly, everywhere and nowhere.

This is what happens when ideology and ideological purity prevail.

Could someone please explain to me why the neocons still get airtime on primetime news - cable & network?

What would happen if we just walked away?
I don't know... but I'm willing to bet $$$ that whatever happens couldn't be any worse than maintaining the status quo.

... and then there's Afghanistan.
What would happen if we simply walked away?
Again - I don't know. (Well, I've got some guesses - none of them uplifting or attractive.)...
... BUT, again - I'm willing to bet $$$ that an honest, realistic cost-benefit analysis - the stuff the GOP presumably thrives on - would reveal that walking away is the best course of action.

Would peace and harmony suddenly break out in south-central Asia? Well, no - probably not.

Would we be more secure and more fiscally sound?

Stop the madness!

p.s. Somewhat surprisingly, I'm getting tired of posting bits entitled "Our MBA president at work"... I'd sincerely hoped that Obama would repudiate W's legacy - both abroad and at home. I've been sorely disappointed.

fun day in the emergency room... light posting

Wife to ER today.
Now home.
Light posting remainder of evening.
See ya tomorrow.

p.s. on the bright side, I had ample time to complete Saturday's NYT crossword puzzle!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

46 years ago

Nov. 22, 1963

I was in 6th grade.

Is it time to stock up on staples?

Thanks to Woody for calling this out:
15 Signs American Society Is Coming Apart at the Seams
You have a population of 50 million people who are in desperate need of money, they most likely have no health insurance and can’t afford to get health care or help of any kind.
While the richest 1 percent have never had it so good, a significant percentage of the U.S. population now has firsthand experience in this. Millions upon millions of Americans are poor, broke, struggling, starving, desperate… and armed.

We are sitting on a powder keg!
Could be fun!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Some fun numbers

The GOP are the fiscally responsible ones, right?
Here are some fun numbers:
When St. Reagan took office in 1981, the national debt was 32.6% of GDP.
When he left office, it was 53.1% of GDP!
[Yep - in Ronnie's 8 years, he increased the debt by more than 20%, as % of GDP.]

When Bush I took office, the national debt was 53.1% of GDP.
When he left office, it was 66.2% of GDP!
[Yep - that stalwart fiscal conservative Geo. H.W. Bush increased the debt by 13% during his 4 years.]

When Clinton took office, the national debt was 66.2% of GDP.
When he left office, it was 57.4% of GDP!
[Yep - Clinton - the free-spending Democrat - reduced the national debt as % of GDP!]

When W took office, the national debt was 57.4% of GDP.
When he left?... 75.5% of GDP!!!
Dems - INFORM the voters about the myth of GOP 'fiscal responsibility'.
Show 'em numbers and graphs - they'll get it!

note: in fact, as % of GDP the national debt decreased from Truman thru LBJ - Great Society & all!
It ticked up again under Nixon and Ford.
Carter brought it down a tad.
Then came Reagan.
From Truman to Clinton, NOT ONE Democratic administration has increased the national debt (as % of GDP).
The Republicans? - Only Eisenhower reduced the debt for duration of his administration! It went down in Nixon's first term, then ticked up again under Nixon/Ford.
- Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I, and W ALL increased the debt!!!

Staying on message

2010 is fast approaching.
The Republicans are confident they'll win back the House, maybe the Senate.

Sad thing is, they could be right!
How? - Simply by staying on message:
Obama's deficit
Obama's recession
Obama's wars
It's not that hard: blame Obama & the Dems for all the country's current ills.

The somewhat obvious solution - that I nevertheless feel compelled to mention just in case Dems might be paying attention:
The message???
W and the GOP are the illness.
Dems are the cure.
Don't be afraid to REMIND the voters that W & his GOP enablers inherited a $230Bn budget surplus from that profligate tax-and-spend liberal Clinton.
W left office leaving a $240Bn budget deficit.

Who got us into two "wars without end"?
- W and his GOP enablers.

It took eight (8) years to dig this hole - it's gonna take a while to climb out...
BUT - if we give the shovel back to the GOP, they'll keep digging.

Dems are the cure? Yes! Specifically,
Health care is a human right.
We're cleaning up after W
W's wars
W's recession
W's deficit (does anyone remember W's tax cuts???)
Do not - repeat, do NOT - respond to GOP talking points! - not EVER!!! Rather, stay on message. Yes, it's boring, and you sound like a broken-record... BUT IT WORKS!

Whatever currently ails the country is W's fault - W and his GOP enablers.
Never let the electorate forget this one simple fact.
... in addition, to the extent that the patient is recovering, it's due to Democratic intervention & treatment!!!

W and the GOP are the illness.
Dems are the cure.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Trade ya a Geithner for a Fisher!

Big Banks Should be Broken Up, Not 'Coddled': Fed's Fisher
Published: Friday, 20 Nov 2009
Banks that are considered too large to fail should be dismantled rather than "coddled," Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said on Thursday.
Fisher suggested the only way of ensuring that such financial giants do not pose recurrent problems is by making them smaller.

"This means finding ways not to live with 'em and getting on with developing the least disruptive way to have them divest those parts of the 'franchise,' such as proprietary trading, that place the deposit and lending function at risk and otherwise present conflicts of interest," Fisher said in prepared remarks to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.
How come Geithner isn't saying anything like this?

The suggestion that "too big to fail" = "too big to exist" is being heard more frequently of late, and from respectable people - not just nut-jobs like me.

I remind loyal readers that you just may have heard this suggestion here first!... back in February!!!

What if Dems acted more like the GOP?

From TPM:
Here It Comes
Straight from House Minority Leader John Boehner's office:
"Sen. Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee"
We Are All Jihadists!
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT): Republicans are about to launch a "holy war" to derail health care reform.
My question: what if Dems responded in kind?

Something along the lines of,
GOP aligns with terrorists, declares jihad on America
... maybe in a press-release issued by Majority Leader Reid.

Or they could just make stuff up - like Boehner does:
Republican healthcare plan mandates sterilization for immigrant teens!
But, no.

What the Dems will do instead is embark on pointless efforts to respond to GOP charges! - Basically this 'tactic' (such as it is) puts the GOP in the driver's seat. LBJ was a master of this:
[paraphrased]In one of his early Congressional campaigns, LBJ is said to have advised his campaign manager to accuse his opponent of having carnal knowledge of his pigs.

"You want me call him a pig-fucker?", the aide queried.

To which LBJ replied, "Make him deny it!"
If Dems insist on replying to every Republican calumny, they have effectively lost the debate.

Local note: in the 2006 NM-1 Congressional race, challenger (Dem) Patricia Madrid fell into this trap repeatedly, effectively putting incumbent (Rep) Heather Wilson in charge of Madrid's campaign. Every time Wilson took a swing at Madrid, Madrid stood up to it and took it on the jaw! It was then - and is now - a ridiculous and fruitless debating technique.

Again?... and so soon!

From AmericaBlog:
Fox News displays old campaign footage to claim Palin is getting ‘huge crowds’ at her book signings
Wasn't Sean Hannity called out by Jon Stewart just last week for using archival footage of the "9/12" event to suggest that the Reactionary Republican Rally on 5 Nov generated HUGE crowds?

What - Fox figured no one would pay attention this time?
... of course, I'm sure it was an "inadvertent" mistake.

Exactly what evidence can Fox News present to argue that they're a real news channel - not simply a PR branch of the GOP??? I know they claim to be a real news channel - but can they present any evidence to justify the claim?

Update: From TPM
Fox Apologizes -- Again -- For Using The Wrong Footage
"We mistakenly aired what's called file tape of Sarah Palin. We didn't mean to mislead anybody in that tease. It was a mistake, and for that we apologize," said a host of [Fox's]Happening Now.
Well, no - they didn't claim it was 'inadvertent' this time!

p.s. I'll repeat my free advice for Fox News: if in fact it was simply a mistake to merge year-old video with current, you might want to adopt a better filing system!

Oh, good - I'm not alone

From HuffPost:
Rep. DeFazio: Fire 'Timmy' Geithner

Sam Stein | HuffPost Reporting
19 Nov 2009
Rep. Peter DeFazio called for the firing of President Barack Obama's top two economic aides on Wednesday, accusing them of pursuing a recovery plan skewed too heavily in Wall Street's favor.
Asked specifically whether Geithner should stay in his job, DeFazio replied: "No.
DeFazio said that there is a growing consensus among the Congressional Progressive Caucus that Geithner needs to be removed. He added that some lawmakers were "considering questions regarding him and other economic advisers" -- though a petition calling for the Treasury Secretary's removal had not been drafted, he said.

"[Obama] is being failed by his economic team," DeFazio concluded. "We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs to get millions back for Americans."
I think I'll send DeFazio's re-election campaign some $$$.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Obama says talks under way on Iran sanctions

For what it's worth: Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty... and has more-or-less adhered to the provisions of the treaty.

India is NOT a signatory. We've GIVEN India nuclear technology.

Pakistan - our best bud in south-central Asia - is NOT a signatory... and there's evidence they've provided nuclear technology to other so-called "rogue" states. We've got sort-of-good relations with Pakistan.

Why are we so obsessed with Iran?
Our obsession makes 'em stronger!... specifically, our obsession makes Ahmadinejad and his ilk stronger.
Why don't we try something different?

A gentle reminder:
A popular definition of insanity:
Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.
[note: this has been attributed to Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, and a few others... If anyone knows the true source, I'd like to hear!]
I can't guarantee that ignoring Iran would make the Ayatollahs any more reasonable, but why not give it a try? - What we've doing for the past 30 years - sanctions coupled with acrimonious rhetoric - hasn't been working all that well!

Maybe it's time to try something different.

A bit of Dylan Thomas

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

What I really have in mind is
Rage, rage against the noisy babble of morons and Luddites
[Just for fun: Google the phrase, "morons and Luddites".]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paul Simon sings the Progressive's Plight

Don't it just seem like this... more than sometimes?
"You know the nearer your destination,
the more you slip sliding away."

Dog bites man!

Obama, Holder predict conviction in 9/11 case

Oh, good - I'm not alone

"The Rant" by Tom Degan: Sarah Palin: Going Rove
Tom Degan is also pulling for Palin:
If you will be kind enough to indulge me, I would like to propose a toast: Here's to Sarah Palin; may she never - EVER - go away.
I am going to go out on a limb here: No woman since Eleanor Roosevelt has done more to further the cause of progressive politics in the United States of America than has our Sarah.
Don'cha just love her? I sure do!

Please, please, please: to all my fervent GOP friends (that may be a null set) - PLEASE nominate Sarah in 2012! Cheney/Palin, Palin/Cheney, Beck/Palin, Palin/Beck... Romney/Palin, Palin/Romney... I'd be delighted with ANY of these tickets! Is Fred Thompson still around? How 'bout Palin/Thompson?

As a special favor: any chance you could get Sarah to either
a) campaign against incumbent Republicans and for REAL Republicans in 2010 GOP Congressional primaries
b) campaign for Conservative party candidates against Republican incumbents in the 2010 general election???
Please. Pretty please, with sugar on top!

Yes - I'm getting really tired of seeing all the coverage Going Rogue and Sarah are getting... BUT: if this is her ticket to the big-time and, with Beck's help, she can use this fame to secure the GOP nomination in 2012, I'll grit my teeth and bear it!

Please: let me know when she establishes a campaign committee.
I'll happily send $$$ her way.

Public service for GOP (I'm not sure they've read this before)

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Happy Birthday!

W. S. Gilbert
18 November 1836 – 29 May 1911
"Now give three cheers, I'll lead the way:
Hurrah, hurrah, hurray!"

War, sports metaphors, and Iraq

... from someone with direct knowledge!
Wings Over Iraq writes:
On Sports Analogies
When I first arrived in Iraq, we sat down to brief a general regarding our upcoming year-long mission. The general, after a few introductions, turned to the commanders in the unit we were replacing. He noted their accomplishments during their deployment, which took place during 2007-2008, just as the violence in Iraq began to drop off precipitously. The general claimed, "This team here has taken the ball to the twenty yard line. And I think you guys", he said, pointing to us, "are going to take this one all the way across the goal line to put this one into the 'W' column for the United States of America"

Some cheered when they heard this, but I remained skeptical. (Sorry, but the last time someone dramatically claimed that we won the war, he wasn't exactly right).

A year later, as we transferred control to another unit, I heard the following speech from yet another general:

"You guys have taken this one to the twenty yard line, and I think [your replacements] are going to take this one to the goal line as we depart Iraq and turn over responsibility to..."

[emphasis in original]
The forever receding goal line seems no closer now than then.

I assume newly arrived troops still hear that they replace folks who have "... taken this one to the twenty yard line", and their job is to score the TD.

How many FU's have we exhausted so far? - yes, "success" (whatever the hell that means) is still - and always - just around the corner.
Iraq, Afghanistan...

Thanks again, W!

... and, oh: Stop the madness!!!

My free (worth every penny!) advice to Keith Olbermann

Mr. Olbermann:
I don't watch or listen to Rush, BillO, or Glenn.
There's a reason for this.
I prefer your show... BUT: you force me to watch & listen to Rush, BillO, and Glenn.
Get over it!

My advice to you regarding these jokers (and Faux News in general) is the same advice I send my Congressional delegation regarding Iran: ignore them!
Iran is NOT an 'existential threat' to America. - by huffing & puffing against Iran, the neocons only inflate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
By obsessing about Faux News on Countdown, you only inflate these blow-hards.

There's a relevant Aesop's fable: The frog and the ox.
Let them puff themselves up till they burst.
They don't need your help - they'll do it all by themselves, just to show off!


p.s. my knowledge of this particular Aesop's Fable derives from Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore - the song, "Things are seldom what they seem" includes the lyric, "Bulls are but inflated frogs"
It's getting so's I can't bring myself to watch KO, knowing that he'll force me to watch Rush, BillO, and Glenn.

As stated, I choose NOT to watch or listen to these idiots for a reason.
And, yes - I believe what I say: just as the neocons' obsession with Iran only puffs up Ahmadinejad, KO's obsession with Faux News only contributes to its credibility.

A meme I encourage!

From C&L:
William Kristol Hates American Soldiers
Yes! - Republicans hate America and Americans.
A meme (pronounced to rhyme with "cream") is a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. (The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word μιμητισμός (pronounced /mɪmɪtɪsmos/) for "something imitated".)
What I would like to see imitated:
Republicans hate America and Americans
There are many, many examples... Republicans favor corporate profits over the welfare of ordinary Americans; Republicans favor endless war, however futile - so long as someone else's kids are dying; Republicans favor terrorism over law; Republicans believe America is a small, weak country - existentially threatened by the likes of Iran.

These messages - this single meme - ought be rehearsed repeatedly by all of us progressives... and even by the not-so-progressive Dem establishment: DNC, DCCC, DSCC.

Write a letter today!

C&L bounce

444 and counting.
Thanks Mike!

... so how come no one posts a comment?... except for the usual suspects, of course.

Digby says it best

"I don't care if Obama bows down to the powerless Japanese Emperor. I'd really like if he stopped bowing down to Wall Street titans however."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our 'liberal' media at work

A risky setting for NYC trial of 9/11 suspects
By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer
Sat Nov 14, 2009
WASHINGTON – In a move both politically and legally risky, the Obama administration plans to put on trial the professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and four alleged accomplices in a lower Manhattan courthouse.
Trying the men in civilian court will bar evidence obtained under duress and complicate a case where anything short of slam-dunk convictions will empower President Barack Obama's critics.
Well, at least it didn't say "anything short of slam-dunk convictions will empower the terrorists"!

Why is the setting "risky" - the very first word in the attention-grabbing headline?
Well, Mr. Barrett does try to make a case for the adjective:
"The venue for the biggest trial in the age of terrorism means prosecutors must balance difficult issues such as rough treatment of detainees and sensitive intelligence-gathering with the Justice Department's desire to prove that the federal courts are able to handle terrorism cases."
Okay - prosecutors have to overcome W's insistence on so-called "harsh interrogation" (aka, "torture"). Well, yeah - that might be tricky. But ANY legitimate legal proceeding - no matter where - would be faced with the same dilemma. Even SCOTUS has been skeptical regarding the legitimacy of the military tribunal system.

Just a question: what's a "slam-dunk" conviction, and how can it be distinguished from a regular, run-of-the-mill conviction?
The descriptor is meaningless, but suggests - with no supporting argument - that prosecutors will be under extra pressure... you know, beyond just prosecuting the terrorists allegedly responsible for 9/11.

But, seriously: the opinion that anything short of "slam-dunk convictions" will empower Obama's critics is just that - an opinion... held primarily by GOPers!
(If the author is suggesting that his opinion is a fact, it'd be nice if he could provide, you know, evidence... or at least a supporting argument - not simply make the assertion and walk away.)

And just how does trying the men in civilian court "complicate" the cases???
If anything, it should simplify them: well-established procedures in place, no questionable ad hoc procedural rulings, well-understood law... all these argue in favor of civilian courts and against the cobbled-together military tribunals.

Ah, yes: this is the Associate Press! - handmaiden of the GOP.
I forgot.

He speaks!

Geithner: US must not drop ball on financial fix
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer
Tue Nov 17, 2009
WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congress on Tuesday that efforts to strengthen the global financial system to prevent another deep crisis will falter if the United States drops the ball on overhauling regulation of its own banking system.
Of course, we already knew he could speak. Can he do anything else?

The article notes that, "The administration unveiled a financial overhaul package last spring."
I musta missed it.

my letter to Obama

Today, 17 Nov 2009:
Dear President Obama:

Treasury Secretary Geithner is not up to the job. Fire him.

From the recently released SIGTARP report:
"Confident that a private sector solution would be forthcoming, FRBNY did not develop a contingency plan..."
[emphasis added]
Does this sound familiar? It should: it characterizes the decision-making process under your predecessor in the Oval Office. No one had the imagination to foresee alternatives. From Condi’s, “no one could have imagined…” to Greenspan’s, “this crisis, however, has turned out to be much broader than anything I could have imagined…”, W’s tenure was characterized by an absence of imagination, and the consequent failure to plan effectively for foreseeable alternatives.

The SIGTARP report strongly suggests that TreasSec Geithner suffers this same disease.

In Congressional testimony last fall, former TreasSec Paulson stated,
“There is no playbook for responding to turmoil we have never faced.”
This was two (2) months after the shit had hit the fan. My advice to him at the time was that his #1 priority in these two months ought to have been drafting a playbook!

When TreasSec Geithner assumed the reins, I sent him similar advice: draft a playbook!
Put together a plan – no, a strategy, starting with a strategic objective. Show it to us. Convince us that you know how we get from where we are now to where we want to be.
(It would help to start by giving us a hint where you think we want to be!)
I’ve yet to see a comprehensive, self-consistent strategy from Treasury.
Is there one?

Treasury Secretary Geithner suffers from an absence of imagination, and has provided no evidence that he is up to the job.
Fire him. Today.

Yes - I do anticipate a reply, with a hand-written address!

p.s. in an email to President Obama covering much the same territory, I also suggested that a committee of seven (7) randomly chosen citizens could do a better job formulating policy than has TreasSec Geithner.

just for fun: my letter to SecTreas Geithner

... dated 24 May 2009:
Secretary Geithner:

You’ve been getting a lot of press recently:
Geithner Dismisses GOP Socialism Charge as 'Ridiculous'
Tim Geithner Chats with Newsweek's Jon Meacham
Geithner Vows to Cut U.S. Deficit on Rating Concern
“It’s very important that this Congress and this president put in place policies that will bring those deficits down to a sustainable level over the medium term,” Geithner said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday.

Some free advice (worth every penny): Shut up and get to work!

This headline from is not encouraging:
TARP Warrants Show Banks May Reap ‘Ruthless Bargain’

Please, Secretary Geithner, STOP "chatting".
STOP giving interviews.
STOP taking advantage of photo ops!

START (finally, at long last) to do your job!
Hint: Addressing GOP talking points is NOT your job!
You might start by getting the best deal possible for taxpayers, NOT the banks.

After that? Put together a plan – no, a strategy, starting with a strategic objective. Show it to us. Convince us that you know how we get from where we are now to where we want to be.
(It would help to start by giving us a hint where you think we want to be!)

News that the banks are screwing us - with your blessing - is not comforting.

If you're not up to the job, quit! – Maybe you should be a talk-show host.
(I received no reply.)

... and one more thing

Another tidbit from the "Conclusions" of the SIGTARP report:
"Second, the now familiar argument from Government officials about the dire consequences of basic transparency... once again simply does not withstand scrutiny.
Federal Reserve officials initially refused to disclose the identities of the counterparties or the details of the payments, warning that disclosure of the names would undermine AIG's stability... and the stability of the markets.
After public and Congressional pressure, AIG disclosed the identities.
Notwithstanding the Federal Reserve's warnings, the sky did not fall..."

[emphasis added]
I'd really love to see a similar analysis of the 'state-secrets' privilege as it is used to conceal from We the People what our Government is doing in our names!

But wait, I get ahead of myself. This bit from the "Conclusions" includes a powerful coda:
The lesson that should be learned - one that has been made apparent time after time in the Government's response to the financial crisis - is that the default position... should be that the public is entitled to know what is being done with Government funds."
[emphasis added]
Again - I'd really like to see this be the default position in all MY Government's dealings - whether financial, military, foreign policy, intelligence... ALL my Government's dealings:
The public is entitled to know what is being done with Government funds.
Is this too much to ask?

Does this sound familiar?

From the "Conclusions" of the TARP Watchdog's Report:
"Confident that a private sector solution would be forthcoming, FRBNY did not develop a contingency plan..."
[emphasis added]
Ah, yes - the W years! - no one EVER bothered with contingency plans!... for anything!!!

Mr. Obama: Fire this man!

Loyal reader fpm sends this:
"The smartest man in the room is not always right."
- Richard Holbrooke
Given recent disclosures about Geithner's role - as NY Fed President - in AIG bailout, I'm thinking the more appropriate quote runs something like...:
"The smartest man in the room isn't always that bright!"
There are a bunch of headlines from which to choose. I'll go with Financial Times - as a conservative mainstream source:
Geithner under fire over AIG payments
By Tom Braithwaite in Washington
Published: November 17 2009
The New York Federal Res­erve under Tim Geithner “severely limited its ability” to extract ­concessions from AIG’s counter­parties in talks that ended with $27.1bn (€18.18bn, £16.25bn) of public money transferred to the likes of Société Générale and Goldman Sachs, according to a government watchdog.
Neil Barofsky, special inspector-general for the troubled asset relief programme, said in the report that the New York Fed made “policy decisions” that weakened its hand in negotiations with AIG’s counterparties.
HuffPost is less circumspect:
How Can Geithner Survive This?
Geithner Singled Out In TARP Watchdog Neil Barofsky's Scathing Report On AIG Bailout
How, indeed?

Loyal readers may recall that a year ago (18 Nov 2008) I chastised then SecTreas Paulson for making this inane statement:
"There is no playbook for responding to turmoil we have never faced."
At the time I offered SecTreas Paulson this advice:
SecTreas Paulson, not that it's my place to tell you your job, but: isn't it a reasonable expectation that your top priority over the past 2 months ought to have been drafting a playbook???
As far as I can tell, SecTreas designate Geithner didn't worry too much about drafting a playbook, either... in fact, I've seen NO evidence that SecTreas Geithner has any clue what the hell he's doing!... This impression seems to be confirmed by the TARP Watchdog's report on Geithner's actions as NY Fed President: Geithner hadn't a clue then, either!

Mr. Obama: Fire this man!

p.s. here's link to the TARP Watchdog's Report