Saturday, October 31, 2009

Just for fun

One of the things Republicans do very well is branding:
- "Clean Air Act" for a law that eviscerates EPA
- "Patriot Act" for a law that eviscerates the Constitution.

For short-and-sweet labelling, the "Tea Party" movement did pretty well. Easy to remember, vaguely recalling famous moment in U.S. history.

What are we progressives to do?
I've a suggestion: "Real Americans drink coffee!"
... So, next time anyone asks your political affiliation, tell 'em you're a 'Coffee Drinker'.

[okay - this isn't that great an idea... but the heading promised only, "Just for fun"!]

NYY up 2-1

Yanks win convincingly in Philadelphia. 8-5.
sigh.

I think they need tighter criteria!

1,600 are suggested daily for FBI's list
Number of names on terrorist watch list at 400,000, agency says
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Newly released FBI data offer evidence of the broad scope and complexity of the nation's terrorist watch list, documenting a daily flood of names nominated for inclusion to the controversial list.
...
The ever-churning list is said to contain more than 400,000 unique names and over 1 million entries.


Karl F. Gauss - mathematician extraordinaire - had a personal motto:
"Pauca sed matura" - "Few but ripe". By this he explained the relative paucity of his publications.

I'd suggest the FBI adopt this motto: let's keep tabs on the folks who are truly likely to pose a threat... not on the hundreds of thousands who just look funny!

With 400,000 dots, it's pretty much impossible to see real patterns, and all too easy to see spurious patterns...
400,000 is a waste of resources.
Not the least of the dangers is lulling us into a false sense of security: gee, we must be doing a good job if we're "watching" 400,000 potential terrorists!
The opposite is more likely the case: we're devoting resources to adding to the list, to futilely trying to keep tabs on 400,000 individuals - most of whom in all likelihood pose no threat - and are therefore diluting resources needed to see the real bad guys!

Stop the madness!!!

Boo!

from loyal reader fpm:

guess nuthin' happened friday...

... i mean, why else would i have written nuthin?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A history lesson from loyal reader P.M.

Loyal reader P.M. commented on post below (a meaningless ratio).
I asked if he'd consider expanding on his comment, which I found fascinating.
Yes, he would.

In the meantime, here's what he has to say on his blog:
Lawrence's Algebra of Asymetrical War

I left a comment at Private Buffoon mentioning T. E. Lawrence's equation for revolt against an outside power. He's asked me to write a guest post for his site. Which I am honored to supply.
Russ has had a few posts explaining how great powers lose small wars. The term for this type of warfare is referred to as asymetrical, ie how did Hannibal lose the Second Punic War when he constantly defeated the Romans? How did England lose America? How did the U.S. lose in Vietnam?

T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) figured it out and wrote it down in his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Wonderfully available on the web free of charge. Public domain is soooo nice.

Here is his equation:
Then I figured out how many men they (Turks) would need to sit on all this ground, to save it from our attack-in-depth, sedition putting up er head in every unoccupied one off those hundred thousand square miles. I knew the Turkish Army exactly, and even allowing for their recent extension of faculty by aeroplanes and guns and armoured trains (which made the earth a smaller battlefield) still it seemed they would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and post could not be less than twenty men. If so they would need six hundred thousand men to meet the ill-wills of all the Arab peoples, combined with all the active hostility of a few zealots.
How many zealots could we have? At present we had fifty thousand, sufficient for the day. It seemed the assets in this element of war were ours... The Turks were stupid, the Germans behind them dogmatical. They would believe that rebellion was absolute like war, and deal with it on the analogy of war. Analogy in human things was fudge, anyhow; and war upon rebellion was messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.
He goes on to explain that to win the war they didn't need to kill Turks, only thier materials. Tear up the rail lines, make them have to constantly repair and replace what was destroyed and eventually the monetary cost would make them leave.

Golly Gee does that sound like what's happening to us in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Thanks, P.M.!!!

FYI: using the "20 men every 4 square miles" rule equates to a force in Afghanistan of about 1.25Mn!
Given modern communication systems, improved war-making technology, etc., suppose Lawrence's estimate could be halved: that's still more than 600K troops.
... and this seems close to the troop/area ratio Shinseki had in mind for Iraq when he proposed a force of "several hundred thousand" needed to pacify the country following the invasion (taking "several" to mean 3-5... middle = 400K).

So... when was the last time you heard anyone propose sending 500K additional troops to Afghanistan?
When do you think you WILL hear anyone propose sending 500K additional troops to Afghanistan?

... one more thing.
Buried in the Lawrence quotation is following gem:
The Turks were stupid, the Germans behind them dogmatical. They would believe that rebellion was absolute like war, and deal with it on the analogy of war.
Why does this sound so familiar?

Series tied, 1-1

... more excellent pitching.

a fun graph

I'm not a big fan of barcharts, but this one is fun:

Snow!

29 Oct 1929

Wall Street Crash of 1929
The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Great Crash or the Stock Market Crash of 1929, was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States, taking into consideration the full extent and duration of its fallout.

Four phrases—Black Thursday, Black Friday, then Black Monday, and Black Tuesday—are commonly used to describe this collapse of stock values. All four are appropriate, for the crash was not a one-day affair. The initial crash occurred on Thursday, October 24, 1929, but the catastrophic downturn of Monday, October 28, and Tuesday, October 29, precipitated widespread alarm and the onset of an unprecedented and long-lasting economic depression for the United States and the world. This stock market collapse continued for a month.

Gee, where'd we get that idea?

Public Believes Economic Policies Tilted Toward Elites, Poll Finds

Here's link.

Economic policies tilted toward elites?
Gee, who'd a thunk?

Tell me again how GWOT is going

Car bomb in crowded Pakistan market kills 105
28 Oct 2009

Recent major attacks in Afghanistan's capital
28 Oct 2009

UN workers scramble over roofs during Kabul attack
28 Oct 2009

Suicide bombings in Iraq kill 147
26 Oct 2009

Thanks a bunch, W!

Oh, yeah... by the way: Where's Mullah Omar? bin Laden???

Phillies take 1-0 lead!

If you missed game 1 of World Series you missed some spectacular pitching. Phillies's Cliff Lee shut down NYY... slammed 'em!

Phillies's offense also came through, getting runs off both starter Sabathia & NYY bullpen (tho' except for 2 homers by Utley, Sabathia pitched a darn good game - getting out of 2-out bases-loaded mess in the the first inning).

NYY's only run came on a throwing error... tho' with only 1 out, NYY may well have scored the run even without the error.

On the bright side: Phillies won WS opener at the new Yankee Stadium!
I have hope.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The faces of the Republican Party







a meaningless ratio

AP IMPACT: Troops already outnumber Taliban 12-1

So what?
Unless someone has brilliant ideas about coaxing the Taliban into a couple of big, set-piece battles, the ratio of U.S. troops to Taliban fighters is pretty much irrelevant.

I'd be more interested in knowing ratio of troops to overall Afghan population.
Do we have enough troops to adequately police the country? - Population control (counter-insurgency) is a police activity.
How many would it take?
My bet? - More than anyone is currently proposing. More than anyone would be willing to support.

A simple suggestion

Every once in a while news outlets - mostly well-known blogs, seldom 'legitimate' news orgs - feature powerful graphs.

Perhaps owing to my professional training (see bio at right) I'm a big believer in well-interpreted data - which means I like powerful graphs.

Why is this simple analytical tool not more used?

Suggestion: to cut through the bullshit of our political 'discourse', use graphs.

Come to think of it: it's time for me to update my 'household income' graphs!


[i'm guessing our professional pundits figure most Americans are too dumb to grasp the implications of graphs. Having taught statistics for the better part of my professional career, to all manner of students, I believe this assessment is a crock! Maybe the professional pundits are too dumb to grasp a graph, but most normal everyday Americans are not!]

Any chance Lieberman will be booted NOW?

Exactly what do Senate Dems gain by keeping Lieberman in their caucus?
Anyone - please, tell me!

in case you missed it...

However, in the course of my five months of service in Afghanistan, in both Regional Commands East and South, I have understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan. I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end. To put simply: I fail to see the value or the worth of continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year civil war.
[Matthew P. Hoh, Senior Civilian Representative, Zabul Province, Afghanistan]
"My resignation is not based upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

Yes, indeed: why and to what end?
... and no one seems to be answering this question in the political theater currently on display in our nation's capital.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I was gonna ignore this...

... then I noticed the dateline:
Hotel owner tells Hispanic workers to change names
By MELANIE DABOVICH, Associated Press
26 Oct 2006
TAOS, N.M. - Larry Whitten marched into this northern New Mexico town in late July on a mission: resurrect a failing hotel.

The tough-talking former Marine immediately laid down some new rules. Among them, he forbade the Hispanic workers at the run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him), and ordered some to Anglicize their names.
Yep - in Taos, NM this guy thinks being/sounding Hispanic is bad for business!

I'm betting he watches Lou Dobbs & voted for McCain.
What do you think?

i'm late to the party...

... RNC has taken this down from their FaceBook page.
BUT: it's a wonderful example of current Republicanism!
Ah, yes: "Miscegenation is a Crime"!!!

So how come?...

... Republicans - particularly the tea-party crowd - aren't firmly behind reform of drug laws?

These are the folks pushing vociferously for limited government and individual freedom.
You'd think they'd be going gang-busters to repeal anti-drug legislation!

Just for fun

December 17, 1914
Harrison Narcotics Tax Act: Congress passes the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, which makes it illegal for anyone other than a medical doctor to distribute drugs like heroin, opium, morphine and cocaine.

From 1787, when the U.S. Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention, till 1914, what are now illegal drugs weren't! Use of heroin, cocaine, and anything else was legal...
The Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) required only truth in labeling and banned adulterated food products and poisonous medicines.

1787-1914: 127 years. 57% of our country's current age.

It's less than clear to me that this version of Prohibition has been any more successful than the 18th Amendment was.
And this form of Prohibition is keeping organized crime alive - just like the 18th Amendment did!

I am reminded of this by our current Afghanistan mess. The only folks who are making money from the opium trade are our enemies. Our anti-opium policy precludes the nominally legitimate Afghan government from making money from the drug trade! (... and the opium trade is VERY lucrative! - our enemies can buy a LOT of weapons with their drug profits!)
Oh, yeah: opium is Afghanistan's ONLY cash crop.

For what it's worth: the violent Mexican drug cartels are also making a LOT of money from the drug trade... and using the $$$ to buy LOTS of weapons!

Has anyone published a more-or-less objective cost-benefit analysis of our anti-drug policy??? I have a hard time believing the benefits outweigh the costs. (I could be convinced by evidence, but I've not seen the study.)

'cuz private sector is inherently efficient, I guess...

Broun plan proposes privatizing Medicare
Vouchers would be applied to health costs
By BLAKE AUED, Athens Banner-Herald
26 Oct 2009
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun introduced his own health care reform bill last week that would, among other things, privatize the Medicare insurance program for seniors.

I think W tried going this direction with Social Security, using his tremendous political capital following '04 election.
If nothing else, you'd think Broun would want to distance himself from W.
Guess not.

On the bright side, the more tenaciously Republicans cling to Saint Reagan's legacy, the better off we'll be!
(If only DNC realizes the god-send that is today's Republican Party!)

Is this a serious question???

Human Evolution: Are Humans Still Evolving?

Previous post made an indirect plea for improving statistical literacy.

This headline suggests the need for even more basic scientific literacy!
Would any informed person answer, "No"?
[note: I automatically exclude all creationists/intelligent-design believers from the ranks of the informed!]

Statistics in the news!

AP IMPACT: Statisticians reject global cooling
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer
26 Oct 2009
WASHINGTON – Have you heard that the world is now cooling instead of warming? You may have seen some news reports on the Internet or heard about it from a provocative new book.

Only one problem: It's not true, according to several independent statisticians who analyzed temperature data for The Associated Press.
...
In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.


Gotta credit AP for creative methodology!
"Here's some numbers. Tell me what you find."

Reading the full article suggests that statistical analyses ought be left to the pros - AND that good citizenship requires being an intelligent & skeptical consumer of statistical arguments.

Want a book?
Statistics: Concepts and Controversies,
David S. Moore & William I. Notz
Aimed at liberal arts students, the book is intended to help the non-professional become a better, more intelligent consumer of statistical arguments.
(Full disclosure: current edition is the seventh; I taught from the first & second editions!)

Another relevant read:
Improving Performance Through Statistical Thinking
Britz, Emerling, Hare, Hoerl, Janis, Shade
Directed at managers, the book introduces notion of "statistical thinking" in context of management... but still helps the non-professional become a better, more intelligent consumer of statistics.

Neither of these books is 'technical' - few, if any, formulas, summation signs, Greek letters... Quite a few pictures.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

This country is our friend!

Female Journalist Sentenced To 60 Lashes For Sex Show On Saudi Arabia TV

Recall: 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.
(NONE were from Iraq!)

The infamous, much-ridiculed Afghanistan "Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" was modeled directly on the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

The U.S. continues to maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia.

Note: I'm not so much questioning our maintenance of good relations with the Saudis, as suggesting that our attitude towards other Muslim countries that exhibit exactly the same pathologies ought to be revisited.

RealPolitik is a nasty business - let's be honest: we choose our "friends" less for high-ground moral reasons than for economic benefit... the Saudis, after all, control a LOT of oil!
(... and T. Boone Pickens's recent testimony before Congress suggests that, well, yes - Iraq WAS a "war for oil".)

almost the right tone...

Vice President Biden Says About Cheney's Criticism -- 'Who Cares What–-' -- Then Stops Himself
ABC News
October 23, 2009
Asked what he thought about criticisms former Vice President Cheney had made about the Obama administration, Vice President Joe Biden told reporters “Who cares what – ” and then stopped himself.

Okay - I know Biden's been under pressure to restrain his foot-in-mouth syndrome... but why'd he choose this occasion to curb himself?

Yes: "Who cares what Cheney says?" is absolutely the right message, and almost the right tone.

Me? I'd prefer flat-out, explicit, deliberate ridicule. "Ooh! - Cheney chastises Obama! Wow - I'm really scared!!! This from the guy who got us into Afghanistan 8 years ago and DITHERED the whole time???"

Mr. Cheney - you had your moment of glory and your chance to shine.
You blew it.
Shut up!!!

I shoulda picked "increasing failure rate"!

Back in February:
We're just 75% of the way through February!
Small Oregon bank becomes 14th bank to fail in `09

Fourteen so far this year - and it's only February!
Last year's total? 25.
Note: last year's total of 25 was, "more than in the previous five years combined."

Three possibilities: decreasing failure rate, constant failure rate, or increasing failure rate.
Having no crystal ball, I'll assume constant failure rate... and I'll generously assume next week sees no more bank failures. That'll come to 7 bank failures per month, for a 2009 total of 84!!!

Remember: this is W's fault!!! - no one else's.
I thought the yearly total of 84 was impressively high!

Wrong!
Today's news:
Bank failures top 100, only part of industry woes
By DANIEL WAGNER, AP Business Writer
23 Oct 2009
WASHINGTON – The cascade of bank failures this year surpassed 100 on Friday, the most in nearly two decades.
100!... and it's still October!!!

Again: This is W's doing (with the demi-god Greenspan's able assistance!)

p.s. Most forecasters don't publicize their accuracy. Me - I think it's both fun & responsible to check my work! - In this case I didn't do so well!

Friday, October 23, 2009

What can we DO?

As loyal readers may have noticed, I'm a fan of DOING something - even if that means simply writing letters, sending emails, making phone calls.

Here's a more informed take on DOING:
15 Things Every American Can Do Right Now
Friends,

It's the #1 question I'm constantly asked after people see my movie: "OK -- so NOW what can I DO?!"

You want something to do? Well, you've come to the right place! 'Cause I got 15 things you and I can do right now to fight back and try to fix this very broken system.
...
Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
MichaelMoore.com
So... follow the link, read Moore's suggestions, and DO SOMETHING!...
Now! Today!!!

400 years ago

Paradigm shift: How Galileo's spy glass upended science
by Marlowe Hood
23 Oct 2009
PARIS (AFP) – Today it would hardly pass muster as a child's plaything, but the telescope Galileo used 400 years ago this week to peer into the heavens overturned the foundations of knowledge, changing our perception of the Universe and our place in it.

Suggested reading:
Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love, Dava Sobel

The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought, Thomas Kuhn

Thursday, October 22, 2009

LAA still alive!

Did Angel's closer just want to make it exciting?
- top o' the 9th. LAA have 1-run lead.
Bases loaded; 2 outs;... count 0-2.
... then 3-2!!!
Walk in a run?

Batter happily obliges & pops out.
Angels win.

Game 6 in NY.
Saturday.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another one...

Mass. man accused of plot to kill US politicians

Just out of curiosity, what ever happened to these guys?
ATF: Plot by skinheads to kill Obama is foiled
Google provides no immediate info.

Calvin Coolidge said it best:
"Any well-dressed man who is willing to die himself can kill the President of the United States."
We'll never be rid of 'terrorist' plots... at least, not and continue to live in something resembling a free country.
The sooner our leaders realize this, the safer we'll be!

"Safer?", you ask.
Yep! - Safer from misguided and dangerous over-reaches by our Government! (see, e.g., so-called "Patriot Act".)
The crazies will always be with us.
They may even succeed from time to time. (see, e.g., Timothy McVeigh.)

This is NOT a legitimate reason for our Government to erode our Constitutional liberties, and to turn the glorious USA into a police state!

AUGHHH!... no, No, NO!!!

Kerry becomes all-around adviser to Obama

I don't have the heart (or stomach) to read beyond the headline.
Kerry???
He who ran the most ineffective, incompetent campaign against a vulnerable opponent imaginable???

"Say it ain't so, Joe!"

Barack, we hardly knew ye!

[slim hope: maybe Kerry is a better adviser than candidate.]

new 'favorite' added

NM Politics

... not sure it's really a 'favorite', but it helps make this site seem more... serious.

Is DNC keeping tabs?

Yoo Hoo, Media! People Are Hurting And The GOP Still Blocks Unemployment Benefits.
By Susie Madrak Tuesday Oct 20, 2009
... Because of the actions of two Republican senators, every day this month 7,000 jobless workers have lost their unemployment insurance (UI) coverage. Each day these two Republicans continue to stand in the way of Senate passage of a UI extension, 7,000 more workers will run out of benefits.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has tried twice to bring the UI measure to a vote on the Senate floor. First Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), then Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) blocked action.


"Republicans hate America", "Republicans hate Americans", and "Republicans think America is a small, weak country" are recurring themes in recent policy "debates".
I can only hope that the folks at DNC are writing this stuff down - to use in national ad campaigns next year.
[I try to do my part - every once in a while I send DNC my own collection of these stories, with the suggestion that they use these stories as basis for 2010 ad campaign.]

Here's that chart

This version courtesy of ThinkProgress.

Why don't we see this stuff on major news outlets?
'Cuz major news outlets would rather cover 'boy in balloon' hoaxes and missing [white female] college students!
I suppose major news outlets - as wealthy beneficiaries of the status quo - have little incentive to let us know about news that might have any impact on our lives.

Not quite... but close!

A Group of Vultures Waiting for the Storm to "Blow Over" – "Let Us Prey."
The Tweed Ring depicted by Thomas Nast in a wood engraving published in Harper's Weekly, September 23, 1871.

Change the target from The Tweed Ring to the Wizards of Wall Street, and we've got a good start!... "The Storm" can quite easily be interpreted as current public outrage... with the vultures counting on Congress to let it "Blow Over".

Cool chart over at HuffPost

Wall Street Bonuses Vs. Normal Wages: A Disturbing Trend (CHART)

Go look at the picture!

Folks - really! - it's time to start depicting Capitalists as evil, blood-sucking parasites... again.
(Last time was late 1800s - it worked really well! Congress passed anti-trust legislation and everything!!!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If The Journal goes this way, maybe I'll re-enter the workforce!

Marijuana Critic Hired By Colorado Newspaper
KRISTEN WYATT | 10/20/09
... A Denver alternative newspaper recently posted an ad for what some consider the sweetest job in journalism – a reviewer of the state's marijuana dispensaries and their products.

Confession: As a youth, I honestly believed marijuana prohibition would end in my lifetime!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sounds like episode from old series, "V"

Scientist who worked for gov't accused of spying

I think one of the networks (on-air or cable) is resurrecting the 80s mini-series, V - aliens come to befriend us, but turn out to be evil reptilian creatures wanting to enslave us & eat us.
Anyway, one of the tactics used by the evil aliens was to arrest top scientists on trumped-up charges of espionage & subversion - to sow mistrust and fear of scientists.

No - I'm not saying that THIS scientist is really a good guy, I'm just commenting that his arrest for espionage reminds me of the TV series! (tho' I'll admit, the headline seems a little weird: identifying the guy as a 'scientist' seems gratuitous...)

A fun riposte...

I've not been paying too much attention to Liz Cheney's new group, Keep America Safe, but apparently it launched an ad suggesting that MSNBC and other "liberal" outlets are afraid to debate 'em "on the issues":
"What are they so afraid of?"
Anyway, HuffPost editor Roy Sekoff has a good answer to the question:
"I'm afraid because I remember the last 8 years. I remember how they alienated our allies, emboldened our enemies, and made the country and the world less safe."

Healthcare reform event in ABQ

I got a call tonight from some organization sponsoring a healthcare reform event Tues, 20 Oct, 6 p.m., across from Presbyterian Hospital. I don't recall the organization, but the person on the phone suggested it would be 'satirical'... featuring the following pledge:

I'll show up, if only to sign the pledge.

Full disclosure: I found the flyer image on a SWOP-related blog. I'm not a big fan of SWOP.
SWOP was NOT the organization that called!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Just added a new blog to 'my blog list'

... Wings Over Iraq.

Recommended by a loyal reader, the few posts I've read have been entertaining & informative.

Friday, October 16, 2009

You heard it here first!

Yesterday:
Greenspan Calls to Break Up Banks ‘Too Big to Fail’
October 15, 2009
NYT
Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said Thursday that banking regulators should consider breaking up large financial institutions considered “too big to fail.”
...
“If they’re too big to fail, they’re too big,” Mr. Greenspan said. “In 1911 we broke up Standard Oil — so what happened? The individual parts became more valuable than the whole. Maybe that’s what we need to do.”
Note Greenspan's reference to Standard Oil - busted by anti-trust legislation.

Recall what PrivateBuffoon had to say back in February:
Re-visiting anti-trust legislation: "too big to fail"
...
The original intent of anti-trust legislation was to "encourage competition in the marketplace".

Given the underpinnings of the current mess - with so many financial institutions deemed "too big to fail" - perhaps it's time to revisit anti-trust laws with an eye more towards practices "deemed to hurt" consumers. Among these I would today count practices that encourage entities to become "too big to fail".

I note that Citi is divesting itself of large chunks of its business - making itself smaller.
Now we learn than AIG may be headed in the same direction.

Perhaps if they'd not become so big in the first place, we'd now be spared the $750Bn bailouts.

I'm guessing that the original intent of the various mergers & acquisitions that created these super-entities was marketplace efficiency, and from a pure "efficiency" standpoint it's likely to be difficult to argue against such mergers and acquisitions.
BUT - when the resulting entities become such large players that their individual failures threaten our entire economic system, something is out of whack. (See, e.g., Lehmann Bros.)

Could rational legislation be crafted that would prohibit any corporate entity becoming "too big to fail" without seriously impairing market efficiency?

I don't know... but it seems worth considering.
I came to this conclusion 8 months before the demi-god Greenspan!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A very long plagiarized post

In Praise of the Harding Era
It has been much in style in the United States, since around 1939, to praise the democracies of the world and especially our own. Strong men have become tearful and their voices have broken with emotion as they reflected, aloud and often too loud, that we are a nation in which any man may become President, that we achieve our laws by discussion, and that the rights of our minorities are often respected. These ponderous and occasionally strident writers and radio orators have sounded as if they had only then discovered what a truly wonderful place is the United States of America; and I shoud like to reiterate what I have said elsewhere about this tub-thumping.

All of this shouting has left some of us rather calm and collected, and quite uninterested, for some of us have never since birth thought otherwise than that our country, for all its imperfections, was the finest place on earth. I have never been able to read far in any of the many books written by Americans these past few years which would tell me of the boons of American democracy, nor to finish any of the many magazine and newspaper articles that would tell me the same thing. I have as much need of inspirational reading, or listening, about American democracy as I have of a book that will tell me the Sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening.

These special pleaders for America, it seems to me, have merely been doing some second-guessing and are in a great sweat to put down on paper, or to charge the air waves with, statements of things that were obvious truths to many of us when we were ten years of age. We did not have to learn them, either, for we drank them in with the air we breathed, and have since never had cause to doubt them, not for a moment, not even during the administrations of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover.

I suspect that many of these suddenly patriotic pleaders for democracy must at some time have lost faith in the Republic, or had never understood it anyway; and, like repentant sinners at a revival, hurried down the sawdust path, to stand at the testimonial bench and give cry to their conversion and salvation. In no other way can I understand the vehemence, the authoritative manner, and the curious and to me pathetic naivete with which they stress the marvels and glories of democracy as practiced in the United States.

It seems to me that one need know only the trials through which our country has successfully passed to believe it so basically stout and secure that only the wear of centuries and the evolutionary forces of time can lay it low. A nation comes through its every trial either weaker or stronger for the experience. Up the present writing I believe the United States has emerged from every crisis with increased national intelligence and ability to operate a vast and complex nation in a fairly cometent manner. And if that is true, then it is enough.

That is why I believe the administration of Warren G. Harding to have been one of the most valuable to the Republic has ever had. It deomonstrated our strength as a nation, our lasting qualities, in a manner that left no doubt. If we American could live through that period, and those of Coolidge and Hoover, including the long horror of of Prohibition - if we could pass through those trials and find our system still workable, the he is a skeptic indeed who doubts that the United States continues to have a future.

[Lost Men of American History, Stewart H. Holbrook (free internet download!)]
This passage was written in 1948.
Today I would add the horrors of McCarthyism and the administration of George W. Bush as trials that our nation has weathered... tho' the case for weathering W has yet to be concluded!

Still - the stridency of O'Reilly, Beck, Limbaugh... all are well-characterized in this brief passage, as the rantings of second-guessers and repentant sinners who, in their heart of hearts, don't quite believe in America.

[Perhaps, twenty years hence - if I'm still around - I'll write a chapter, "In Praise of the W Administration" - yes, folks, we survived W - we can survive anything!]

I'm prescient!

What got me started on the race thing was Rush's thwarted attempt to become part-owner of an NFL team.

Seems I was prescient:
Interracial couple denied marriage license in La.
By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writer
15 Oct 2009
NEW ORLEANS – A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.
Ah, yes - for the children's sake!

Correct me if I'm wrong: I believe anti-miscegenation laws were found unconstitutional by SCOTUS back in 1967 (Loving v. Virginia).
I guess Louisiana wasn't included in the decision.

He's back!

Jeff Skilling is back in the news!
Supreme Court Will Hear Appeal of Enron's Skilling
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: October 13, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will take up former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling's appeal of his convictions for his role in the collapse of the energy giant, accepting another high-profile challenge to a favorite tool of prosecutors in white-collar and public corruption cases.
Quick reminder: my advice to regulators of financial markets and institutions:
Study the Enron collapse!
I believe most of our current ills were fore-shadowed by Enron's deals - dependence on less-than-transparent derivatives, deliberate avoidance of rational 'risk-assessment', shaky 'independent' 3rd-party transactions...
The geniuses of Wall Street apparently studied Enron very carefully, figuring out how to "do an Enron" without going bankrupt. It almost worked.

Enron's scale was tiny: less than $10Bn.
The basic mechanisms seem to pervade the financial sector to this day.

Study Enron!

An idiosyncratic brief history of racism

What follows is my own idiosyncratic history of racism in America, with hint of irony.

During the period of chattel slavery (~1600 - 1865) and continuing through the Jim Crow era, blacks were more-or-less universally regarded by whites as physically weak, mentally deficient, spiritually degraded, and morally bankrupt. Slavery could be justified as a benevolent institution:
The parsons also brought Christian dialectics into the business. They proved by the Bible that slavery had been ordained by God, and cited countless passages to show that slavery was the natural condition of the poor black man. At this point the planters picked up the idea and carried it along to aid in conjuring up the Big Heart of the South. This Big Heart, said the planters - and they believed it - was the only reason the planters held to slavery at all. In his natural state the black man had been a pagan, an outcast. Slavery made of him a Christian, much to God's happiness. Slavery would get him into heaven, much to his own happiness. It was only becasue of his sense of Christian duty and love for the Negro that the planter condoned slavery.
[Lost Men of American History]
One of the best and most popular histories of America, The Growth of the American Republic (Commager & Morison), first published in 1930, had this to say of the African slave:
As for “Sambo,” whose wrongs moved the abolitionists to wrath and tears, there is some reason to believe that he suffered less than any other class in the South for its “Peculiar Institution.” ... Although brought to America by force, the incurably optimistic Negro soon became attached to the country, and devoted to his white folks.
The authors finally removed the passage in the 1962 version (fifth edition) of their text book.
[full disclosure: I'm a fan of Samuel Eliot Morison; I own and have read - and re-read - all his books about Columbus and the European Discovery of America.]

With the integration of professional sports, the "physically weak" characterization became untenable - the Big Three American sports (baseball, football, basketball) are replete with African-American players of great physical ability.

That left "mentally deficient", "spiritually degraded" and "morally corrupt" for the white racist to hang onto.
In fact, the obvious mental deficiency of blacks was a clear reason there were no black quarterbacks or coaches in the NFL! - so said the white commentators. Then came Buck O'Neill (Chicago Cubs), Bill Russell (Boston Celtics), and Doug Williams (SuperBowl winning QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
... tho' Rush Limbaugh & his ilk still think the only reason Donovan McNabb is praised - and draws a hefty paycheck in a salary-capped league - is that he's black.
Add in Thurgood Marshall and, more recently, African-American CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and the "mentally deficient" characterization gets harder and harder to maintain.
(But, of course, all recent 'exceptions' are clearly attributable to "affirmative action" - there's just no way an African-American man or woman could succeed in the cut-throat worlds of business, or academia, or politics without it!)

So - what's left? "Spiritually degraded" and "morally bankrupt".
Sadly, these two are still with us.
From D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation till today, the image of The Black Man as the ravager of white womanhood, addicted to drugs, lying his way to the top: this image is still alive and well.
The "birthers" who question Obama's citizenship ("He's lied about his birth certificate!") are members of this crowd.
When Rush cites basketball as the preferred sport of gangs, he's advancing this stereotype.

But, my fellow white folks - let's be honest.
On the playing fields of MLB, the NFL, and the NBA, our African-American brothers have proven themselves to be the superior race. Maybe, just maybe, they're also our superiors in spirituality and moral rectitude!

Bell Curves notwithstanding, how 'bout we call a truce: if you think you can tell a person's intelligence, physical strength, standing-with-God, or moral code by looking at the color of his/her skin... well, you're mistaken!

[... last I looked, the idea of 'race' had no basis in our DNA!]

"... the shooting cannot be far off."

Almost everyone who has read history in a more than casual manner knows that when the great figure of God appears in a controversy, the shooting cannot be far off.
[Stewart H. Holbrook, Lost Men of American History; discussing the debate on slavery in the 1850s.]
I made a mistake: I started re-reading part of Mr. Holbrook's book, and now am compelled to share with you, my loyal readers, some of the passages I particularly enjoy.

The few pages I've just finished concern a book, The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It, by Hinton Rowan Helper of North Carolina - a member of the planter class. The book indicts slavery on purely economic grounds. Mr. Helper has no use for blacks at all:
To the end of his long life he loathed Negroes and would never, if he could help it, stay where they were employed.
Rather, he believes slavery to be destroying Southern culture and civilization, and advocates abolition... and sending the Blacks back to Africa. He later
... wrote three books on "the Negro Question" which were little more than unbalanced denunciation of the black race as a menace to the North and South. He said flatly that he wanted "to write the Negro out of America... out of existence."
The book is said to have gone through 140 printings. Southern legislatures passed laws against it.
In Arkansas, three men were hanged by mobs for owning copies of the book.
Among his other arguments, Helper notices the effects of slavery on the non-slaveholding Southern whites:
Their freedom, he says, is only nominal, and their "unparalleled illiteracy and degradation is purposely and fiendishly perpetuated" upon them by the oligarchism of the slaveholders. "How little the poor white trash, the great majority of the Southern people, know of real conditions of the country... it is sadly astonishing."
[emphasis added]
"Unparalleled illiteracy and degradation... purposely and fiendishly perpetuated upon them by the oligarchism of the slaveholders."
Change "slaveholders" to "Big Business" and you've got a pretty good description of today's tea-baggers!

The more things change...

"The parties of this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders - they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, jacobins on the one side, and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground - Christianity and atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity is at stake."
Does this sound familiar?
It's from a sermon delivered by Reverend J.H. Thornwell in 1850 - one year before he became president of the College of South Carolina - on the conflict between Northern abolitionists and Southern slaveholders.
The Reverend was on the side of the slaveholders, the latter being "the friends of order and regulated freedom".

The quotation is taken from a wonderful little book (out-of-print, but available):
Lost Men of American History
by Stewart H. Holbrook; 1948, The Macmillan Company
I was in fact surprised by how current this sounds! - The Reverend's oratory could have easily have been delivered last week as 160 years ago!... of course, updating the combatants from "abolitionsists and slaveholders" to Obama-ists and Real Americans.

These are becoming daily headlines

Gunmen, bombs hit 5 sites in Pakistan, 39 die

Hard to know if pace of violence is accelerating, or just that Western journalists are starting to notice.
But... stories like this are becoming much more frequent.

What to do?

Who knows? But I note that pre-9/11 laws would have been sufficient to thwart the 9/11 event... if they'd been enforced.
Carrying box-cutters onto planes was illegal before 9/11 - the airport security folks just didn't take it all that seriously.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for someone to demonstrate the feasibility of 2-component liquid explosive concocted in a garage laboratory.
Yeah, I know - the recently discovered plot master-minded by Najibullah Zazi is said to have involved 2-component liquid explosives...
... BUT: our Government has cried "Wolf!" just a few too many times for me to get all excited about this one.
Maybe as the evidence is presented it'll become crystal clear that this plot really was all the Government claims... but I'll wait to see the evidence.

Meanwhile - what to do in Afghanistan & Pakistan?
How 'bout... NOTHING!
Okay - Afghanistan will descend into Taliban hell, and Pakistan might well follow.
BUT: we'll not be there. - I think there's something to be said for that.

As it is, we continue to pursue a military solution to a problem that has been somewhat less-than-well articulated.

Stop the madness!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

a false TRIchotomy...

The false dichotomy is a well-known rhetorical device:
"You're either for us or against us."

How 'bout the false TRIchotomy:
Containing a Nuclear Iran
By Fareed Zakaria | NEWSWEEK
Published Oct 3, 2009
...
There are three basic options that the United States and its allies have regarding Iran's nuclear program. We can bomb Iran, engage it diplomatically, or contain and deter the threat it poses.
How 'bout option #4: ignore Iran. Do nothing.

Yeah, I know - when it's really important to be bellicose and patriotic, this isn't a readily adopted alternative... but why not?

As I've stated previously, Iran does NOT pose an "existential threat" to America. It is a small - if possibly belligerent - country. I assume it - which is to say, Iran's leaders - realize that launching a nuke strike against Israel or any other U.S. ally would result in Iran's annihilation.
Ignore 'em! Let 'em build all the nukes they want.
This is the "free market" at work: competition is good!

For what it's worth: Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty... & they've so far abided by it!

India is NOT a signatory to this treaty... but we've been more than delighted to share nuke technology with 'em! - even to sell 'em - our Government! - nuke technology!!!

Again: the only reason Iran's president Ahmadinejad commands headlines is that we acknowledge him.
There are a LOT of third-world would-be world-conquerors out there. Most of 'em we've never even heard of.
It's only our own paranoia that elevated Ahmadinejad's Iran to a place of honor.

Stop the madness!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

this ain't even half the battle...

Health bill clears hurdle with support from Snowe
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
13 Oct 2009
WASHINGTON – Historic legislation to expand U.S. health care and control costs won its first Republican supporter Tuesday and cleared a key Senate hurdle, a double-barreled triumph that propelled President Barack Obama's signature issue toward votes this fall in both houses of Congress.

Okay, a version of a healthcare-reform bill finally got out of the Senate Finance Committee.
It's a piece of crap.
The original House bill was a helluva lot better.

I'm not quite sure the next steps, but I'd guess:
1. Senate vote
2. reconciliation conference with House

A good number of House Dems have promised to reject a final bill without strong public option.
Let's hold 'em to it!

Make some noise, folks.
Otherwise the noisy babble of morons and Luddites will win!

Did I miss something?

My understanding of TARP was that it was supposed to bolster the banks to free up credit.

So why am I now seeing headlines like this?
Credit Tightens for Small Businesses
By PETER S. GOODMAN, NYT
Published: October 12, 2009
Many small and midsize American businesses are still struggling to secure bank loans, impeding their expansion plans and constraining overall economic growth, even as the country tentatively rises from its recessionary depths.
My vote? Next time we commit enormous piles of $$$ to financial institutions, we attach strong strings!

Meanwhile, we continue to see this crap:
U.S. Wants A.I.G. to Resist on Bonuses
By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH, NYT
Published: October 13, 2009
The federal pay czar is trying to force the American International Group to reduce $198 million in bonuses promised to employees of its trading unit, where problems posed a threat to the global financial system last year.
Let me get this straight: via TARP, We the People became significant (majority?) shareholders in major Wall Street institutions... but we DECLINED to make our control of these institutions commensurate to our ownership. Am I doing okay so far?

So - we gave the Wall Street geniuses tons of $$$ - 'cuz otherwise they'da sunk - BUT we let 'em do whatever the hell they want moving forward!

Brilliant.

I'm not an economist (caveat: what I know about economics can be written in big block letters on a postage stamp), BUT - even just an average Joe who keeps a household going can see that these deals are SCREWING ME - and the rest of WE THE PEOPLE!

Again: my understanding is that TARP and related progams were intended to grease the skids - to free up $$$ for loans to the drivers of the economy, namely, small businesses & consumers.

That intent seems not to be realized.

I'm betting that if some genius put together an even half-thought-out PR program, he could have the tea-baggers up in arms against the financial sector. Maybe that would help.

just a cool picture


Icebergs in the Antarctic area sometimes have stripes, formed by layers of snow that react to different conditions.

Blue stripes are often created when a crevice in the ice sheet fills up with meltwater and freezes so quickly that no bubbles form.

When an iceberg falls into the sea, a layer of salty seawater can freeze to the underside. If this is rich in algae, it can form a green stripe.

Brown, black and yellow lines are caused by sediment, picked up when the ice sheet grinds downhill towards the sea.

"... morons and Luddites"

I don't normally read NewsWeek. I've nothing against it, it's just that I don't read the few periodicals I get already - adding another seems pointless.
But, today I was at my Mom's - and she is a subscriber. I stole hers.

I just might start paying attention to this guy: Daniel Lyons. From his column, An SOS for Science:
Two weeks ago I spent time with some of the top scientists in the field of alternative energy, including John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, a.k.a. our national "science czar." We were attending a conference in Washington, D.C., that drew CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, as well as entrepreneurs and investors. I came away convinced that the United States, which for decades has been the world leader in science and technology, will soon be eclipsed by China and other countries. Alternative energy is the next tidal wave in tech innovation. If we miss it, we will not only weaken our economy and harm our national security—we will turn ourselves into a second-rate nation. And as I sat there listening to the experts speak, all I could think was, we're doomed.

It's not because our scientists aren't brilliant. They are. But look at what they're up against: a noisy babble of morons and Luddites, the "Drill, baby, drill" crowd, the birthers, and tea-party kooks who have done their best to derail health-care reform and will do the same to any kind of energy policy.

[emphasis added]
Morons and Luddites! - YES: that's right on all counts. An accurate description of the opposition, including just the right connotative ridicule!

Plus! - "a noisy babble": perfect!!!

This is the appropriate tone to adopt when "debating" the so-called loyal opposition: Informed snark!

Why aren't our esteemed Dems adopting this tone?
Beats the hell out of me.

Nerdy aside:
The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the early nineteenth century who protested—often by destroying mechanized looms—against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their entire way of life.
[Wikipedia entry, Luddite]
Luddites: folks who provocatively, pointlessly, and destructively rail against progress.
Does any of this sound familiar?

In the best of all possible worlds I'll remember to use the construction,
a noisy babble of morons and Luddites
as frequently as possible in all future rants.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Uh-oh: I think I'm in trouble!

I agree with Glenn Beck:
As for Beck, he announced that the White House is "more worried about the war on Fox than the actual war in Afghanistan."
[HuffPost; emphasis added]
If it were me, I'd ignore Fox News... then again, if it were me - I'd ignore Iran!

These people - Beck, O'Reilly, and Ahmadinejad - are gnats.
They only seem like eagles because we acknowledge their existence.

Repetitious... but YOU can do this too!

My email to Senators Jeff Bingaman & Tom Udall, Senate Majority Leader Reid, Congressman Heinrich, and House Speaker Pelosi:
From AP:
Dems scramble after warning from health insurers(http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_health_care_overhaul_insurers)
I cannot express the depth of my disgust with the Democratic Party and Democratic Congressional leadership when I read such headlines.

How 'bout, Dems ridicule AHIP "study"?
How 'bout, Dems indict AHIP for extortion?

Scramble? Like eggs???
Yes - that sounds like the Dems... always CAVING to corporate special interests!

Public Option NOW!

Sincerely,

p.s. the "study" in question was prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by AHIP.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP is one of the big accounting firms.
... and, not meaning to cast aspersions or anything, but just a gentle reminder: big accounting firms have proven themselves to be whores.
(see, e.g., Arthur A. Andersen LLP - Enron; KPMG LLP - Waste Management.)
"LLP" might as well stand for "Little Lying Pussies".
You, too, can send 'em a note expressing YOUR displeasure.
Contact info can be found on right-hand side of this page.

No! Not AGAIN!!!

Dems scramble after warning from health insurers

Dems scramble???
... like eggs???

It is difficult for me to express the totality of my revulsion regarding the Democratic Party when I see such headlines.

SCRAMBLE???

Why not: "Dems ridicule 'warning' from health insurers"?
... or, "Dems indict health insurers for extortion"?

Used to be, extortion was illegal!

Potential Impact of Health Reform on the Cost of Private Health Insurance Coverage
Key Findings
Health reform could have a significant impact on the cost of private health insurance coverage.

There are four provisions included in the Senate Finance Committee proposal that could increase private health insurance premiums above the levels projected under current law

The overall impact of these provisions will be to increase the cost of private insurance coverage for individuals, families, and businesses above what these costs would be in the absence of reform.

On average, the cost of private health insurance coverage will increase
[This document has been prepared pursuant to an engagement between PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and its Client.]
Oh, yeah: PWC's client = America's Health Insurance Plans.
["America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) is the national association representing nearly 1,300 member companies providing health insurance coverage to more than 200 million Americans. ... AHIP provides a unified voice for the community of health insurance plans." About AHIP]

Gee, what a surprise PWC found health reform would be a bad thing for We the People: the insurance industry paid for the study!!!

... and EVERY SINGLE KEY POINT listed in the executive summary drives home the point: if health reform passes, rates'll go up.
(We promise!)
[Note: these are the ONLY key points in the executive summary. I didn't even have to misleadingly pick & choose!]

This used to be called extortion.

p.s. PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP is one of the big accounting firms... and, not meaning to cast aspersions or anything, but just a gentle reminder: big accounting firms have proven themselves to be whores. (see, e.g., Arthur A. Andersen LLP - Enron; KPMG LLP - Waste Management. "LLP" might as well stand for "Little Lying Pussies".)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

W's legacy (continued)

The Lost Generation
The continuing job crisis is hitting young people especially hard—damaging both their future and the economy
Bright, eager—and unwanted. While unemployment is ravaging just about every part of the global workforce, the most enduring harm is being done to young people who can't grab onto the first rung of the career ladder.
...
In the U.S., the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds has climbed to more than 18%, from 13% a year ago.

[BusinessWeek, Cover Story, 9 Oct 2009]
Republican economic policy:
Cut taxes - particularly income taxes for the extreme upper brackets & corporations.

De-regulate the financial sector.

Cut domestic spending (BUT: fund never-ending wars).
It's not too hard to argue that these Republican policies - pursued with gusto under W - are directly to blame for the current mess.
(Note: I make no claim that such arguments are valid - only that they're really easy to make!)

I've got a suggestion for a demographic DNC might want to target: 18-to-24-year olds!!!

Again: run on W's record!!!
(... and it wouldn't hurt to ridicule Republican economic policies along the way.)

Thanks again, W!

MULLAH OMAR HAS STAGED 'ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE MILITARY COMEBACKS IN MODERN HISTORY':
A Dogged Taliban Chief Rebounds, Vexing U.S.
By SCOTT SHANE
Published: October 10, 2009
WASHINGTON — In late 2001, Mullah Muhammad Omar’s prospects seemed utterly bleak. The ill-educated, one-eyed leader of the Taliban had fled on a motorbike after his fighters were swiftly routed by the Americans invading Afghanistan.
...
Eight years later, Mullah Omar leads an insurgency that has gained steady ground in much of Afghanistan against much better equipped American and NATO forces. Far from a historical footnote, he represents a vexing security challenge for the Obama administration, one that has consumed the president’s advisers, divided Democrats and left many Americans frustrated.
Recall:
"THE PRESIDENT: They will try to hide, they will try to avoid the United States and our allies - but we're not going to let them. They run to the hills; they find holes to get in. And we will do whatever it takes to smoke them out and get them running, and we'll get them."
[President Urges Readiness and Patience, Remarks by the President, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft; Camp David; Thurmont, Maryland; 15 Sep 2001]
... and Mullah Omar's response:
[Mullah] Omar: I am considering two promises. One is the promise of God, the other is that of Bush. The promise of God is that my land is vast. If you start a journey on God's path, you can reside anywhere on this earth and will be protected... The promise of Bush is that there is no place on earth where you can hide that I cannot find you. We will see which one of these two promises is fulfilled."
[Mullah Omar - in his own words, The Guardian, Wednesday September 26 2001]
W: bluster and bravado.

Eight (8) years later: we're bogged down in Afghanistan.
The Taliban are resurgent.
We Rumsfelded the war.
Thanks a lot, W!

p.s. Free advice to all Dems in 2010 (DNC: are you writing this down?):
Run on W's record!

Friday, October 9, 2009

... not quite apropos

"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."
- Tom Lehrer

... but it's fun to quote Tom Lehrer!

Send this guy $$$!

Chief House Appropriator Urges Obama to Change Course on Afghanistan
By Spencer Ackerman 10/8/09
The Washington Independent
It’s not quite a call to end the Afghanistan war, but Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the crucial House Appropriations Committee and a participant in Tuesday’s congressional meeting with President Obama, has emailed out a very long statement saying that waging a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan is likely to be “futile.”
...
“The Congressional Budget Office has had four committees twisting themselves into knots in order to fit healthcare reform into that limit,” Obey said in the statement. “CBO is earnestly measuring the cost of each competing healthcare plan. Shouldn’t it be asked to do the same thing with respect to Afghanistan?”

[emphasis added]
His campaign website is under construction, but still has a working link:
David Obey for Congress.
If you've got a spare dime, ya might send it his way.

When it happens, who's to blame

GOP member shoots target with Fla. Dem's initials

At this point I'm thinking the 'event' is a 'when', not at an 'if': When a federal building is bombed, or a member of Congress is assassinated... well - the GOP will have to answer for it!
Obama = Hitler.
Military coup.

Free speech is a wonderful thing, but the speaker needs to be held accountable for the impact of his speech.

Setting the bar pretty low!

Surprised, humbled Obama awarded Nobel Peace Prize

I guess since he hasn't waged pre-emptive war on anyone, or deliberately tortured anyone, or locked up anyone without recourse - well, by comparison with W, Obama looks like an angel.
Yeah - compared to W, he's deserving... but that's setting the bar pretty low!

FYI: they pick up the phone!

I've been surprised when calling members of Congress - both Senators & Representatives: someone answers the phone... QUICKLY!
[This was true even at House Minority Leader Boehner's office!]

A mouse in the house [update, 9 Oct]

No - there's no metaphor here.
There's just a mouse in the house.
I've not seen the mouse, but I infer its existence from actions of the dog & one of the cats - sort of like Neptune was discoverd by folks noting pertubations in the orbit of Uranus.

In the best of all possible worlds the mouse will show itself, perhaps allowing 'catch and release'.

In a less perfect world, it will die behind or under a heavy piece of furniture, its corpse disclosed only when it decays - imbuing the surroundings with a truly horrid death-smell.
(Yes, I speak from experience!)

Time, alone, will tell.

Update, 9 Oct: the carcass was left on the threshold of our bedroom door. Our 'mouser' is a bit confused: he brings mice INTO the house, presumably to demonstrate his hunting skill. This was a far better outcome than some!

It's back: key so-called "Patriot Act" provisions set to expire

From Thursday's NYT:
Patriot Act Excesses
Editorial
Thurs, 8 Oct 2009
Three high-profile provisions of the USA Patriot Act are about to expire. That should be a chance for Congress to give serious consideration to curtailing some of the excessive powers it granted to the executive branch during the Bush years — without enough consideration in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and later.

Instead, Congress is headed toward renewing the provisions — including expanded authority to search financial records, conduct roving wiretaps and track “lone wolf” terrorist suspects — without adequate oversight or safeguards or touching other problematic areas of the new surveillance and intelligence framework.

[emphasis added]
What with Public Option NOW!, Afghanistan, Iraq (yeah, we're still there, too!), DADT, the latest economic GOOD news (only half-a-million jobs shed in September)... well, it's hard to keep up with W's full legacy.

I started this blog in part as a reaction to the so-called "Patriot" Act.
Seems it's time to start paying attention to basic Constitutional stuff again! - I'll go on a letter-writing spree tomorrow.

Me? I'm for taking wishful Republicans's advice (... you know, when they re-take the Congress): repeal, repeal, repeal!

Forget about renewing the expiring provisions.
Repeal the whole so-called "Patriot" Act today!
... it was and is an ill-considered, knee-jerk reaction based solely on fear.
The Constitution has done us well for 220+ years.
Let's return to our principles.

Renew? NO! Repeal? YES!!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Deep thought

No team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit in a best-of-five series.

Consistency???

As I understand the GOP take on the role of Government relative to the private sector, the GOP pretty much consistently favors the private sector based on the supposed inherent efficiency of market-driven private enterprise and the "well-known" inefficiency & waste of Government programs.
At least that was the rationale proposed by W & his enablers to farm out basic military functions to private contractors for the wars in Afghanistan & Iraq. You know, the private sector will just naturally do a better job because private enterprise is inherently efficient.

So, how come one of the GOP's arguments against a "public option" for health insurance is that...- wait for it! - private insurance won't be able to compete with the Government!!!???
You'd think the GOP would be clamoring for the public option, if only to prove, once & for all, how wasteful & inefficient Government programs really are!

... Come to think of it - this seems an EXCELLENT opportunity for ridicule! "Republicans think the private sector is more efficient than the Government... well, except when they don't!"

Oh, good: someone else has noticed!

American troops in Afghanistan losing heart, say army chaplains
From The Times October 8, 2009
Martin Fletcher at Forward Operating Base in Wardak province, Afghanistan
American soldiers serving in Afghanistan are depressed and deeply disillusioned, according to the chaplains of two US battalions that have spent nine months on the front line in the war against the Taleban.

Money quote:
Sergeant Christopher Hughes, 37, from Detroit, has lost six colleagues and survived two roadside bombs. Asked if the mission was worthwhile, he replied: “If I knew exactly what the mission was, probably so, but I don’t.”
[emphasis added]
At least he's not alone: does ANYONE know exactly what the mission is???

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cheaper than Iraq! [update]

Health bill would cost $829B, cover 94 percent
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
7 Oct 2009
WASHINGTON – Health care legislation drafted by a key Senate committee would expand coverage to 94 percent of all eligible Americans at a 10-year cost of $829 billion, congressional budget experts said Wednesday, a preliminary estimate trumpeted by the White House and likely to power the measure past a major hurdle within days.
[emphasis added]

Based on the "Cost of W's Iraq fiasco" tally on the top-right of this page, the 10-year cost of W's fiasco exceeds $1 trillion.
Health care reform: cheaper than Iraq war!!!

Update: it occurs to me that the Administration needs a lying shill like Wolfowitz to testify that, "America has sufficient resources to pay for this from premiums, with no impact on federal budget."... This along the lines of Wolfie's assertion that, "Iraq has sufficient resources to pay for its own recovery" - this being the lie that convinced folks the pre-war estimate of $50Bn for W's Iraq fiasco was even close to accurate!

MLB Division Series start today...

... and TBS is televising 'em.

See ya later!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Science news

NASA telescope discovers giant ring around Saturn

Okay - my first take on this: "Uh... didn't we know about Saturn's rings already?... in fact, didn't the ancient Greeks know about Saturn's rings?? We need a NASA telescope to tell us this???"

Figuring my first take must be wrong, I read the article.
Yep - my first take was wrong!
PASADENA, Calif. – The Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered the biggest but never-before-seen ring around the planet Saturn, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced late Tuesday.

The thin array of ice and dust particles lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system and its orbit is tilted 27 degrees from the planet's main ring plane, the laboratory said.
Here's the "artist's rendering":

While I was sleeping...

Unintended consequences - good news division:
Whoops: Anti-ACORN Bill Ropes In Defense Contractors, Others Charged With Fraud

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/22/whoops-anti-acorn-bill-ro_n_294949.html

... The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.
Me? I'm sort of hoping the bill gets passed as written. Defund ACORN? Okay - I'm betting ACORN would survive without govt $$$.
Defund defense contractors? - You bet! - I'm betting they would NOT survive without govt $$$!!!

Now we know!

Origin of Komodo Dragon Revealed
Charles Q. Choi
Special to LiveScience
livescience.com – Tue Oct 6, 2009
Dragons may come from the land Down Under.

Scientists now find that the world's largest living lizard species, the Komodo dragon, most likely evolved in Australia and dispersed westward to its current home in Indonesia.
I know I'll sleep better tonight with this knowledge!

Why?

... well, actually, a couple of "Why?"s...

Why do the likes of McCaughey continue to get airtime to spew right-wing drivel?
Why does anyone care what Greenspan says anymore?

Why does anyone want to engage in "debate" with Republicans?

Me? I'm for ridicule!
- They're all Limbaugh now: "Cheers erupt at WEEKLY STANDARD world headquarters"... this when they learned Rio got the Olympics - not Chicago! Yep: the GOP - the party that wants America to fail!!!

$$$ for pointless wars? - not a problem.
$$$ for tax cuts for the rich? - not a problem.
$$$ for Big Banks? - not a problem.
$$$ for healthcare coverage for We the People? - BIG PROBLEM!

I sure hope someone at DNC is writing this stuff down!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Does he feel any remorse or responsibility?

The demi-god speaks!
Greenspan says unemployment will top 10 percent
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press
4 Oct 2009
WASHINGTON – Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan predicted on Sunday that the jobless rate will pass 10 percent and stay there for a while, and a second stimulus plan is not needed now.
Why are we still listening to this guy?

Recall: this is the same genius who denied a housing bubble, and stated that even if there were a bubble its effects would be only local - nothing to worry about!
He just LOVED deregulating the financial industry.
... and, last but not least, professed nothing but praise for the self-correcting magic of the market!
(He later recanted that last bit - acknowledging he'd overestimated the rationality of market-based self-interest.)

So, again: Why do we care what demi-god Greenspan thinks???

a death in the family

Our oldest cat died last night.
Around 11 p.m., wife Teresa noticed that she was listless. Picking her up, she barely moved. Her eyes were dilated, her breathing labored. We held her, stroked her, put her on her favorite cushion and covered her with a shirt.
This morning she was dead.
I'm grateful Teresa noticed her lethargy - it gave us a chance to say goodbye.

Sasquatch was 17 years old. A small polydactyl tabby. Teresa brought her home in 1993, having picked her up on Kirtland Air Force base - a very distressed animal. She'd recently had kittens - which we never found. Oily, matted coat. A disaster of an animal.
Teresa promised to put her up for adoption - which she did.
(I learned that I need to be more specific in my requests: yes, we put Sasquatch up for adoption... but WE adopted her!)
With six toes on each foot, the only suitable name for her was 'Sasquatch'.

Sasquatch was everyone's favorite - even the dogs'.

We'll miss her.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Starting to see the light

... that is to say, I'm starting to see the light.

Not that long ago I questioned Rachel Maddow's decision to spotlight, e.g., Senator Ensign's (R-NV) affair & its concommitant sleazy financial adjuncts. Recently she's also hit Sen. Vitter (R-LA) - the 'family values' guy who solicited prostitution. I wondered about that, too.

Then a fleeting thought zipped thru my tiny brain: "Hey, if these pointless scandals contribute to defeat at the polls, that's a good thing! - Maybe these morality-challenged Republicans can be defeated by some good Democrats!"
So... okay: I'm with you Rachel. Keep spotlighting the high-profile moral lapses of Republican incumbents! - it may be just political soap opera, but it just might help elect a few Dems!!!

"Appeasement!!!"

Iran Agrees to Send Enriched Uranium to Russia
By STEVEN ERLANGER and MARK LANDLER, NYT
Published: October 1, 2009
GENEVA — Iran agreed on Thursday in talks with the United States and other major powers to open its newly revealed uranium enrichment plant near Qum to international inspection in the next two weeks and to send most of its openly declared enriched uranium outside Iran to be turned into fuel for a small reactor that produces medical isotopes, senior American and other Western officials said.

OOOH! - Obama sent U.S. diplomats to talk with Iran!!!
He's an appeaser! - just like Chamberlain!!!

... and the outcome? Iran responded at least semi-rationally!
We got what we wanted without having to give up anything.
At least, that's the apparent first-read of this development.

Iran lets inspectors in.
Iran agrees to send enriched uranium out of the country.

What did we give up???

W would never have appeased this member of the axis of evil!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What Boehner said

"I'm still trying to find the first American to talk to who's in favor of the public option, other than a member of Congress or the administration."
[House Republican Leader John Boehner, 1 Oct 2009]
The 'call to action' in previous posts is a direct response to Mr. Boehner's claim.

Let's let him hear from us - just regular folks who strongly support a robust public option!

That contact info again:
phone #: 202-225-4000
email (webform): http://republicanleader.house.gov/Contact/
[House Republican Leader]
fax: 202-225-5117
Give him a call, send him a fax, send him an email!
Let him know that, yes, there are just regular Americans who are in favor of the public option.

'cuz I know you're dyin' ta know...

... here's my note to Congressman Boehner:
House Republican Leader Boehner:

We the People of United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"We the People of the United States, in Order to... promote the general Welfare... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Article I: The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States...
Again that phrase: “the general welfare”.
I note in passing that Article I - the very first thing the Framers established - was the Congress. Not the Executive Branch, not the Judicial Branch, but the Legislative Branch of our government.

And in the very first sentence detailing Legislative powers, our Constitution states,
The Congress shall have the power to... provide for the... general welfare of the United States.
The general welfare: the welfare of "We the People". Not the welfare of big corporations, or the welfare of the bottom-line of insurance companies, but the general welfare.

And I ask: if timely access to affordable, high-quality healthcare doesn't count as "the general welfare" of "We the People", what does?

You stated that you had not heard from any just regular folks who supported the Public Option in the healthcare reform debate.

Now you have.

I’m a 57-year-old retired statistician, U.S. Army veteran, registered voter, husband, and father.
I strongly support a robust Public Option in any healthcare reform bill.
(Note: recent polls suggest that at least 60% of my fellow citizens agree with me on this!)

Sincerely,
I sent basically the same note to Senators McConnell, Baucus, Conrad, Lincoln, and McCaskill (she who twittered that her support of the public option was conditional on making "sure private market can compete.")

Yes, I know - phone calls, emails, faxes... they're futile! BUT: it makes me feel better knowing that I've at least tried!!!

That contact info again:
House Republican Leader Boehner (R-OH; who has heard from no just-regular-folks who support the Public Option):
phone #: 202-225-4000
email (webform): http://republicanleader.house.gov/Contact/
[House Republican Leader]
fax: 202-225-5117

[Please contact him to let him know that you, just a regular American citizen, favor a robust Public Option in the healthcare reform package now under debate.]
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT):
phone: (202) 224-2651
Fax: (202) 224-9412
email (webform): http://baucus.senate.gov/contact/emailForm.cfm?subj=issue
[Chair, Senate Finance Committee]
Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND; member, Senate Finance Committee):
Phone: (202) 224-2043
Fax: (202) 224-7776
Online: http://conrad.senate.gov/contact
E-mail (webform): https://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm
[Sen. Kent Conrad]
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR; member, Senate Finance Committee):
email (webform): http://lincoln.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm
[Sen. Blanche Lincoln]
[note: no phone or fax info provided on Senator's webpage!]
Again - yes, I know - calling, faxing, writing... all are futile... BUT: try it! You'll feel much better!!!

... and, while it's on my mind...

... it probably wouldn't hurt to let recalcitrant Dem members of Senate Finance Committee know how you feel.

Public Option NOW!!!

Senate Finance Committee phone: (202) 224-4515

Recalcitrant Dem members:
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)
phone: (202) 224-2651
Fax: (202) 224-9412
email (webform): http://baucus.senate.gov/contact/emailForm.cfm?subj=issue
Chair, Senate Finance Committee
Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Phone: (202) 224-2043
Fax: (202) 224-7776
Online: http://conrad.senate.gov/contact
E-mail (webform): https://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm
[Sen. Kent Conrad]
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
email (webform): http://lincoln.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm
Sen. Blanche Lincoln
[note: no phone or fax info provided on Senator's webpage!]
Yeah - I know: phoning, faxing, emailing... all are futile... but it contributes to mental health!

Maybe, just maybe... if enough folks took the time to say PUBLIC OPTION NOW!!!... well, maybe it would help.

... come to think of it...

... I'm betting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't heard from any just plain folks who favor a robust Public Option.

Here's his contact info:
Phone: (202) 224-2541
Fax: (202) 224-2499
email (webform): http://mcconnell.senate.gov/contact_form.cfm
[Sen. Minority Leader McConnell]

Give him a call, send him a fax, send him an email: let him know that you're just a regular American who strongly supports a robust Public Option.

more contact info for House Republican Leader Boehner

again, phone #: 202-225-4000

email (webform): http://republicanleader.house.gov/Contact/
[House Republican Leader]

fax: 202-225-5117

Again: Please contact him to let him know that you, just a regular American citizen, favor a robust Public Option in the healthcare reform package now under debate.

Something you can do...

Congressman John Boehner (R-OH), the House Republican Leader, today stated, on camera, that he has heard from no one who supports the so-called Public Option for healthcare reform except Democratic members of Congress.

Here's his office number: 202-225-4000.
(this is the number of the Office of the House Republican Leader - not his regular Congressional office. I'm betting his regular Congressional office doesn't take calls from out-of-district folks.)

Give him a call.
Tell him that you're a regular American citizen who wants a Public Option!

p.s. pass this suggestion on to your friends. Let Mr. Boehner hear from just regular folks who want a robust Public Option!

Oh, good: a 3-star speaks!

McChrystal Rejects Scaling Down Afghan Military Aims

As I understand how things are supposed to work:
1) civilian leadership - e.g., the President - determines war aims.
2) military leadership - the generals - figure out how to achieve the aims.

Now, I sympathize with Lt. Gen. McChrystal: he probably hasn't seen or heard ANYONE articulate our aims in Afghanistan... No one has. We have no well-articulated... oh, forget that - we have NO in-any-way-articulated strategic objectives.

In that vacuum, sure, the military leader will fashion a strategy that at least appears to avoid "losing" - whatever the hell "losing" might be.

BUT: the final call on overall mission, on strategic objectives - this belongs to our civilian leadership.
Sure wish somebody in the Administration would realize this!

Uh, folks... it's been 8 years already!

Petraeus: We Won't Repeat Russia's Mistakes In Afghanistan

Not that long ago (9 Aug), we had this:
Sen. Lindsey Graham Sunday warned that the U.S. must not ‘Rumsfeld’ the war there [in Afghanistan], a reference to former Bush Administration Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Uh, folks... it's been 8 years.

We've already Rumsfelded Afghanistan.
We've been there just over 8 years. The Soviets pulled out after 9.

Even Nixon had the decency to admit defeat in Viet Nam... or was it "declare victory & go home" - either way, he decommitted the U.S. military from further engagement.

Why can't we do the same in Afghanistan?

Once Humpty-Dumpty is broken, "all the kings horses and all the kings men..."
And this egg was broken as soon as Rummy determined that boots on the ground were obsolete.