Sunday, January 31, 2010

Working on G&S display & talk. Till later

I'm putting finishing touches on my display of Gilbert & Sullivan memorabilia - Albuqueruqe Public Library, Main...
... and just getting started on my "Lunch at the Library" talk.

If you don't hear from me for a couple of days, this is why.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Conflicting economic news (... but more bad than good)

Economy grows at 5.7 pct pace, fastest since 2003
29 Jan 2010
WASHINGTON – The economy's faster-than-expected growth at the end of last year, fueled by companies boosting output to keep stockpiles up, is likely to weaken as consumers keep a lid on spending.

The 5.7 percent annual growth rate in the fourth quarter was the fastest pace since 2003. It marked two straight quarters of growth after four quarters of decline. Growth exceeded expectations mainly because business spending on equipment and software jumped much more than forecast.

Wages and benefits rise weak 1.5 percent in 2009
– Fri Jan 29, 2010
WASHINGTON – Wages and benefits paid to U.S. workers posted a modest gain in the fourth quarter, ending a year in which recession-battered workers saw their compensation rise by the smallest amount on records going back more than a quarter-century.
Jobless Claims Drop Less Than Hoped; Durables Climb
AP, Thursday, 28 Jan 2010
A drop in new jobless claims came in short of expectations and factory orders rose only slightly, fresh evidence the economy is recovering at a slow, uneven pace.
I note that historically it's consumer spending that drives the U.S. economy (~ 70% of GDP), so the fact that the 5.7% 4th-quarter growth rate is attributed to biz spending isn't particularly good news. Coupled with anemic wage increases for 2009 and worse-than-expected unemployment numbers, overall not good news.

BUT - of course we need to rein in Government spending to get the deficit under control!

Crash course in macroeconomics 101:
Components of GDP by expenditure
GDP (Y) is a sum of Consumption (C), Investment (I), Government Spending (G) and Net Exports (X - M).
Y = C + I + G + (X − M)
Here is a description of each GDP component:
- C (consumption) is normally the largest GDP component, consisting of private household expenditures in the economy. These personal expenditures fall under one of the following categories: durable goods, non-durable goods, and services. Examples include food, rent, jewelry, gasoline, and medical expenses but does not include the purchase of new housing.

-I (investment) includes business investment in plant, equipment, inventory, and structures, and does not include exchanges of existing assets. Examples include construction of a new mine, purchase of [software], or purchase of machinery and equipment for a factory. Spending by households (not government) on new houses is also included in Investment. In contrast to its colloquial meaning, 'Investment' in GDP does not mean purchases of financial products. Buying financial products is classed as 'saving', as opposed to investment. This avoids double-counting: if one buys shares in a company, and the company uses the money received to buy plant, equipment, etc., the amount will be counted toward GDP when the company spends the money on those things; to also count it when one gives it to the company would be to count two times an amount that only corresponds to one group of products. Buying bonds or stocks is a swapping of deeds, a transfer of claims on future production, not directly an expenditure on products.

- G (government spending) is the sum of government expenditures on final goods and services. It includes salaries of public servants, purchase of weapons for the military, and any investment expenditure by a government. It does not include any transfer payments, such as social security or unemployment benefits.

-X (exports) represents gross exports. GDP captures the amount a country produces, including goods and services produced for other nations' consumption, therefore exports are added.

-M (imports) represents gross imports. Imports are subtracted since imported goods will be included in the terms G, I, or C, and must be deducted to avoid counting foreign supply as domestic.

[Wikipedia, Components of GDP by expenditure]
Good - businesses are investing! BUT: Consumers are broke - and they're the largest contributor to GDP.
What are our options? INCREASE Government spending!

... oh, no - that's not right.
Clearly it's time to CUT Government spending!
(I keep forgetting.)

Stop the madness!

Fun science news [update]

Biggest and Brightest Full Moon of 2010 Tonight
Robert Roy Britt
Editorial Director Robert
– Fri Jan 29, 2010
Tonight's full moon will be the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. It offers anyone with clear skies an opportunity to identify easy-to-see features on the moon.

Sadly, that bit about "anyone with clear skies" likely will prohibit viewing here in north-central New Mexico: we've got wide-area overcast.

Update: Clear skies prevail!

Shooting fish in a barrel

One of my correspondents notes that my purported success predicting GOP response to SOTU should have been qualified with some "degree of difficulty" rating, and suggests that this particular "prediction" had a degree of difficulty comparable to shooting fish in a barrel.
Can't say I can argue with him!


Face to face, Obama urges GOP to work with Dems

Ain't gonna happen, Mr. Presdident!

Now, if you're planning to use your direct, face-to-face appeal strategically, that's okay.
Something along the lines of:
- "Fact to face, Obama urges Dems to roll over obstructionist GOP"
... coupled with
- deliberate PR campaign stressing that you've given GOP every opportunity to cooperate, but they've consistently turned away from even a pretense of bipartisanship.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

& speaking of predictions...

A while back I predicted that former Wyoming Congressman Cheney's response to the release of the report Summary of the White House Review of the December 25, 2009 Attempted Terrorist Attack would be:
"Releasing this report puts America in danger."
Didn't happen.
For some unknown reason, former Wyoming Congressman Cheney decided to be silent on this occasion.

p.s. (a self-promotional plug)

Did any other blogger or media pundit publish a prediction regarding GOP response to SOTU address?
- none that I've seen!

PrivateBuffoon dares to PREDICT - not simply analyze post hoc.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How'd I do? - I'm giving myself about 70% (your opinion may vary)

Not long ago I wrote some explicit predictions regarding the GOP response to Obama's SOTU address.
As loyal readers know, I'm a masochist: I frequently compare my predictions with what actually happened.
I've got the transcript in front of me (from Fox News!).

Here goes.
First prediction:
"We can't afford more "stimulus" (in quotes).
We need to focus on reining in the deficit and cutting taxes."
"What government should not do is pile on more taxation, regulation and litigation that kill jobs and hurt the middle class."
Republicans in Congress have offered legislation to reform health care, without shifting Medicaid costs to the states, without cutting Medicare, and without raising your taxes.
Last year, we were told that massive new federal spending would create more jobs immediately and hold unemployment below 8 percent.

In the past year, more than 3 million people have lost their jobs, and yet the Democratic Congress continues deficit spending, adding to the bureaucracy, and increasing the national debt on our children and our grandchildren.

The amount of debt is on pace to double in five years and triple in ten. The federal debt is now over $100,000 per household. This is simply unsustainable.
Many Americans are concerned about this administration's effort to exert greater control over car companies, banks, energy, and health care, but over-regulating employers won't create more employment, overtaxing investors won't foster more investment."

[emphasis added]
Okay - no calls for more tax cuts, but a repeated emphasis on no NEW taxes.
I'm counting this as a 100% for what I said they'd say.

BUT: I missed at least one theme in the budget-related stuff: regulation.
I didn't predict the emphasis on regulation (or - as the GOP would have it - over-regulation). This pops up a few times. My miss.

Second prediction: "Obama has taken his eye off the terrorism ball.
We're in more danger from al Qaeda today than at any time since 1776."
"But we have serious concerns over the recent steps the administration has taken regarding suspected terrorists. Americans were shocked on Christmas Day to learn of the attempted bombing of a flight to Detroit. This foreign terror suspect was given the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen and immediately stopped providing critical intelligence.

As Senator-elect Scott Brown has said, we should be spending taxpayer dollars to defeat terrorists, not to protect them."
I'm taking this as 90% (even if Gov. McDonnell didn't quite approach my hyperbolic "... since 1776"). No mention of "dropping the ball", but I'll accept "spending taxpayer dollars to defeat terrorists, not to protect them" as pretty close.

Third prediction: "Even Congressional Democrats have concluded that reforming our A#1 healthcare system would be a tragic mistake.
Why can't the President get on board?"
"There is much common ground. All Americans agree that we need health -- health care system that is affordable, accessible, and high quality. But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government."
Okay - no reference to recent Dem temerity, but I'll accept "much common ground" as a placeholder. I think I nailed this one - my reference to "A#1 healthcare system" being echoed pretty darn closely by, "the best medical care system in the world".

Fourth prediction: "Socialism is evil". In addition to above quotation about "turning over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government, we have...
"Here at home, government must help foster a society in which all our people can use their God-given talents and liberty to pursue the great American dream. Republicans know that government cannot guarantee individual outcomes, but we strongly believe that it must guarantee equality of opportunity for all.

That opportunity exists best in a democracy which promotes free enterprise, economic growth, strong families, and individual achievement.

Many Americans are concerned about this administration's effort to exert greater control over car companies, banks, energy, and health care, but over-regulating employers won't create more employment, overtaxing investors won't foster more investment.

Top-down, one-size-fits-all decision-making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism. As our founders clearly stated, and we governors clearly understand, government closest to the people governs best."
I'll take this as a very long GOP paraphrase of "Socialism is evil."

What'd I miss?
In addition to the anti-regulation bit which I should have anticipated, here are what I believe are my most serious misses:
Energy policy (drill, baby, drill);

"We want cooperation, not partisanship."
- this, too, I should have anticipated.
I'd cite the emphasis on education as a miss, but here Gov. McDonnell seems to express only agreement with Obama, so I'm giving it a pass.

Again - overall I'm giving myself a 70%.
If you care to score me lower, I'll understand.
(I don't think I can be scored any higher.)

For what it's worth: I wrote my prediction at 5 p.m. Mountain Time.
I could as well have written it a week ago.

final note: 70% = "C" in school... but all-time batting-champion in baseball's Major Leagues!

Well - that didn't take long!

As loyal readers know, I'm a big fan of checking on predictions - mine & others.
About an hour ago I made my prediction regarding the Republican Response to Obama's SOTU address.
I didn't have to wait long to find out how I did:
Republicans say nation can't afford Dem policies
By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Writer
– 13 mins ago
WASHINGTON – The nation cannot afford the spending Democrats have enacted or the tax increases they propose, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Wednesday in the Republican response to the State of the Union address.

McDonnell, in excerpts of his speech released in advance, said Democratic policies are resulting in an unsustainable level of debt. He said Americans want affordable health care, but they don't want the government to run it.

"Top-down, one-size-fits-all decision-making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism," McDonnell said.

"All Americans agree, we need a health care system that is affordable, accessible, and high quality," McDonnell said. "But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government."
Republicans said they want Obama to change more than his rhetoric. They complain that a $787 billion economic stimulus package enacted last year did not do enough to increase employment. And they oppose Obama's plan to let income tax cuts expire next year for families making more than $250,000 a year.

[emphasis added]
Bear in mind, this summary is based on "excerpts of his [McDonnell's] speech released in advance".

I think I did pretty well.
I bolded the elements above that agree pretty darn well with my predictions.
So far only "terrorism" has been omitted.
(I'm counting the references to federal-govt run healthcare, "the personal choices of free people in a free market", and the reference to "our system of federalism" as the equivalent of my "Socialism is evil" prediction.)

I'll see how I do when I have a transcript of the final, full response.
All I need is a mention of terrorism - and no other major inclusions - to have batted 1.000!

just for fun... well, not really [update]

We just got a call from the pharmacy.
One of my wife's meds is delayed because the insurance company hasn't approved payment.

Boy, I'm sure glad there aren't any bean-counting bureaucrats (aka "death panels") standing between my wife & her oncologist!

update: turns out the insurance company WON'T cover this med!
Again: I'm sure glad there aren't any bean-counting bureaucrats standing between my wife & her oncologist!

Oh, good - I'm not alone

... Regarding Obama's proposed spending freeze, from two of the very few folks I trust anymore:
The Big Sell Out

A Fucking "Spending Freeze"? In A Deep Recession?? WTF Izzat Negro Thinking?
I might decide to believe in an afterlife, if only to help me get through this one day-to-day!

The Republican Response (a prediction!)

Written 5 p.m. - 2 hrs before Obama's SOTU address:
1. We can't afford more "stimulus" (in quotes).
We need to focus on reining in the deficit and cutting taxes.

2. Obama has taken his eye off the terrorism ball.
We're in more danger from al Qaeda today than at any time since 1776.

3. Even Congressional Democrats have concluded that reforming our A#1 healthcare system would be a tragic mistake.
Why can't the President get on board?

4. Socialism is evil.
That's my prediction, anyway... maybe not in quite that order.

my good fortune [update]

I'm happy to report that I'll - once again - miss the SOTU.
I've an acting class this evening.

updated 5 p.m.: I got Axelrod's email invitation to watch the address, then join in the "live chat" following at
Do I need to send my regrets?

Re-assessing Geithner

No, don't worry: I'm not now going to lavish praise on the guy...
... but a reading of his brief bio on Wikipedia suggests he's not evil, just incompetent and not well-qualified for his past couple of jobs.

His A.B. - from Dartmouth - is in Government and Asian Studies. He got a Master of Arts in International Economics & East Asian Studies from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The dual degree - International Economics and East Asian Studies sounds impressive... but what it really means is he got only a partial education in either. (His undergrad degree in Government & Asian Studies suggests the same... but at least the Asian Studies part supplements whatever courses he took for the Master's in East Asian Studies.)
He didn't pursue a Ph.D.
The rest of his education/training has been OJT (on-the-job).

There is a qualitative difference between masters classes and doctoral classes. (Trust me - I was a professional graduate student for 12 years, at three different universities! - a couple of 'em on par with Johns Hopkins.)
I'm wondering: did Geithner decide against a doctorate because he couldn't handle the heavy mathematical lifting associated with a Ph.D. in economics?

After finishing school he was first employed by Kissinger Associates - a firm that "assists its clients in identifying strategic partners and investment opportunities, and advises clients on government relations throughout the world." Okay, Geithner probably picked up some finance knowledge during this tour of duty, but I'm guessing his real contributions were in the field of foreign relations, a guess that is supported by his next job, with the International Affairs division of the U.S. Treasury.

When appointed as president of the NY Fed, Geithner had logged quite a few hours in international monetary policy and international relations... but doesn't seem to have had the opportunity to pick up any substantial knowledge of basic macroeconomics, banking, or finance.

My bet? As NY Fed president, he simply found himself overwhelmed, cowed and intimidated by the bankers and real economists with whom he had to deal. With his Treasury experience he probably knew how to "play the game" - at least administratively and politically... but never had any real grasp of the Fed's business.
And: whatever "expertise" he may have acquired OJT was - and is - wholly insufficient to guide our economic recovery as Treasury Secretary.

Conclusion: Geithner is a prime example of the Peter Principle:
"In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence."
He's not evil or ill-intentioned - he's just incompetent...
I almost feel sorry for the guy.

BUT: Mr. President - Geithner must go!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

kitchen demolition

NM Senator Tom Udall on Rachel Maddow!

Here's the link:
Senate filibuster rule faces growing opposition
What Rachel asks, and Sen. Udall doesn't answer, is how come, with only 55 Republican votes back in 2005, the Dems caved to Republicans who threatened the "nuclear option" with FEWER than a 60-vote supermajority?

Here's one explanation of the so-called "nuclear option":
In U.S. politics, the nuclear option is an attempt by a majority of the United States Senate to end a filibuster by invoking a point of order to essentially declare the filibuster unconstitutional which can be decided by a simple majority, rather than seeking formal cloture with a supermajority of 60 senators. Although it is not provided for in the formal rules of the Senate, the procedure is the subject of a 1957 parliamentary opinion and has been used on several occasions since. The term was coined by Senator Trent Lott (Republican of Mississippi) in 2005; prior to this it was known as the constitutional option.
[Wikipedia entry, Nuclear option]
So... how come no Dems are now threatening the "nuclear option"???

With 51 votes I bet the Senate could get something like the House healthcare bill passed.
I bet they could get something like a decent stimulus passed (thumbing their collective nose at Obama).

FYI: Senator Udall's proposal is to take seriously Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution:
Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.
Apparently the Senate rules now stipulate that the preceding Senate's rules automatically apply - which include 60-vote cloture and 67-vote change to Senate rules. Senator Udall's proposal is simple:
First order of business for 112th Senate is to set the rules.
... and here's a kicker!
[from the same Wikipedia source]... In 1957, Vice President Richard Nixon issued an advisory opinion stating that no Senate may constitutionally enact a rule that deprives a future Senate of the right to approve its own rules by the vote of a simple majority. Nixon's advisory opinion, along with similar opinions by Hubert Humphrey and Nelson Rockefeller, has been cited as precedent to support the view that the Senate may amend its rules at the beginning of the session with a simple majority vote.
This seems to be the argument to which Udall appeals.
Who knew I'd ever have reason to praise former Vice-President Nixon!

Would this work?
Who knows.
But... I'd rather not wait till January 2011 to find out!

Another headline that disgusts me

Dems lack workable plan and retreat on health care

Dems lack plan and retreat.
Boy, I'm sure glad they won in 2008!

A TPM reader has the best interpretation I've yet read:
All Part of the Plan
I think I get what Obama and the congressional Dems are up to.... Their plan is to become the minority in Congress again. That approach worked very well for them circa 2005.... they really found their stride. Then from that base they can regain the Congress and really implement some inspiring changes.
Does anyone else have a better explanation?

Is it too late?

I've got a few suggestions for a last-minute re-write of Obama's SOTU speech tomorrow.

... on second thought, I've not really the energy, and my re-writes are unlikely to make the final cut (... or even get invited to camp!)

"Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

Goldman Sachs Approached AIG To Scrap Contracts Months Before Being Paid In Full By NY Fed
Shahien Nasiripour
HuffPost Reporting
26 Jan 2010
Goldman Sachs approached AIG and expressed its willingness to cancel its insurance-like contracts with the troubled company three months before the Federal Reserve Bank of New York paid the bank in full, effectively funneling billions in taxpayer funds into Goldman's coffers, according to documents obtained by the Huffington Post.
Goldman Sachs, however, was willing to dump the swaps and simply keep those assets, rather than expecting to be paid in full via its insurance policies, according to slides from a Nov. 5, 2008, presentation for the New York Fed by asset manager BlackRock Inc.
But instead of bargaining with Goldman and AIG's other counterparties to resolve the billions of dollars in souring derivatives contracts, the regional Fed -- then led by current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner -- ended up paying 100 cents on the dollar for toxic assets -- "an amount far above their market value at the time," according to a scathing November 2009 report by the TARP watchdog, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).

[emphasis added]
Got that? Before Geithner's NY Fed stepped in, Goldman Sachs was willing to eat its Credit Default Swaps with AIG. Then Geithner rode to the rescue - and paid Goldman 100 cents on the dollar for the "assets".
Tim Geithner is now Secretary of the Treasury???
Makes you feel all warm & fuzzy, doesn't it!

Please, Mr. Obama - your economic team is a disaster.
Start anew!... you know, "Change we can believe in!"

Stop the madness!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Every DEM needs to vote against this! [update]

Obama To Propose Major Spending Freeze Saving $250 Billion

Just how is Obama different from so-called supply-side, deficit-hawk Republicans?

Update, 12:07 p.m., 26 Jan: Oh, good - I'm not alone!
A few responses to Obama's "Spending Freeze" proposal:
Obama Allies Struggle To Defend Spending Freeze
(... yeah - I bet they do!)

Obama Liquidates Himself
Paul Krugman NYT Op-Ed
26 Jan 2010
A spending freeze? That’s the brilliant response of the Obama team to their first serious political setback?

It’s appalling on every level.

[emphasis added]

Obama's Tiny Jobs Ideas for Main Street, A Big Spending Freeze for Wall Street
Robert Reich on HuffPost
26 Jan 2010
... A spending freeze will make it even harder to get jobs back because government is the last spender around. Consumers have pulled back, investors won't do much until they know consumers are out there, and exports are miniscule.

Obama's Spending Freeze: A Return To Infantilism
The quotation lifted from Reich pretty much summarizes the economic argument against a freeze.

Kitchen remodel commences...

... tomorrow.
... with demolition.
Teresa & I have been packing up the kitchen today.
Not yet finished.
See ya later.

Coulda fooled me!

From Think Progress:
Obama: I’d rather be ‘really good one-term president’ than ‘mediocre two-term president.’
Okay... and you think getting nothing done, in the name of "bipartisanship", is your ticket to being a "really good one-term president"???

Would someone please slap this man up the side of the head! - just to get his attention.

... oh, no! - I just read the original ABC story, which includes this gem:
"I can guarantee that the worst thing we could do would be to raise taxes when the economy is still this weak," he [Obama] replied.
Mr. President, you are now a card-carrying snake-oil salesman!

I'm shocked!

From HuffPost:
Geithner On Move Your Money: Not A Good Idea (VIDEO)
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner does not think that Move Your Money is a good idea.

Geithner addressed the campaign against too-big-to-fail banks during a recent interview with Politico. While Geithner said he understood the anger against bailed out banks and said that it was fair for bank customers to expect more, he did not explain why he thought that it was a bad idea.
Hmm... Geithner "did not explain why he thought that it was a bad idea." If he's got a reason other than, "'Cuz I love & am beholden to too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks", I for one would like to hear it!

For those prior-service folks among my loyal readers, here's a recommendation from one of your fellows:

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Oh... and he provides the following additional info:
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We are honored to serve you and thank you for your membership. If you have questions, please call a member service representative at 1-800-495-5957 or refer to Contact Us on
[emphasis added]

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Just in time!

Job Creation Will Be Administration's Main Focus In The Coming Months

Why am I less than hopeful?
Obama had a real shot at doing this LAST YEAR! - he punted.
Now that he's weakened - continually caving to Republicans in the interest of a non-existent "bipartisanship", having given up on meaningful healthcare reform, and continuing to tolerate an incompetent economic team - I'd say the odds are against him for any significant future stimulus.
(... and I note that even some Dems are starting to make noises about "fiscal responsibility" and deficit reduction!)

If memory serves, the last "but he's really a good person" president was Carter.
Not an encouraging model.

C&L bounce today... +other

966 visitors today, thanks to Mike's Blog Round Up.

... also: a nasty intestinal flu laid me low last night. I've been falling asleep watching NFL championship games today, and feeling far from 100%.
Maybe tomorrow.

p.s. "Rooting for the underdog", I'd hoped for - but didn't expect - a NYJ win. Colts victory was disappointing, but I'll live with it.
Again for 'sentimental' reasons - rooting for the 40-year-old QB - I'd hoped for a Minnesota win. In this case - given how the final minutes + OT played out - the Saints' victory was a bit of a let-down.
I'll be pulling for the Saints in the SuperBowl: it's their turn.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My note to Chris Matthews

You can do this too:
Subject: "You're pandering to the netroots right now."
Mr. Matthews:
To whom would you have Congressman Grayson (D-FL) pander?
To the professional political pundits - like yourself? Paid propagandists?

As I've written before, the so-called "netroots" care deeply about our country.
We are patriotic Americans who devote our time, energy, and money to making the United States of America the place it claims to be.
We are generally not paid for our efforts - unlike the well-paid political pundits you represent.
Rather, we impoverish ourselves out of genuine concern for our country.
We volunteer on political campaigns. We write letters. We blog (yes - that too!).
Many of us have served in our military. (Me? U.S. Army, 1975-1981; honorable discharge.)

Again: to whom would you prefer Congressman Grayson pander?

Once again, you disparage the so-called "netroots" without ever bothering to meet us.


p.s. You get paid to speak, daily - to the entire country. Perhaps you could learn standard English grammar.
"What can you do different?"
- "different" is an adjective.
Here are two suggestions:
"What can you do differently?"
"What can you do that's different?"
Either one of these would get you an A in high school English.
Okay, the postscript was just being nasty... but who the hell is Chris Matthews to continually disparage the so-called "netroots"???

another take on SCOTUS decision

The Day Democracy Died

"Retooled message"? NO! - Retooled POLICY!!!

Obama vows to fight for jobs in retooled message
Dear Mr. President:
We don't need a "retooled message".
We need retooled POLICIES!
Message sent via email.
I sure hope he listens!

Technical note

My economic analyses, such are they are, are frequently framed in terms of "household income".
There are two reasons for this.

First, using household income avoids the complications inherent in personal (per capita) income: full-time vs part-time employment, age of income-earner, etc. - go ahead, visit the Census Bureau's site! - It's not at all clear how best to use the data.

Second - possibly more relevant: for most of us our perceived standard of living is more closely connected to our household income. If single, we alone are the household - what we see is what we get. If married with both partners working, our standard of living reflects two paychecks; if only one of us earns, we see only one paycheck - but that one supports us both (and our kids), as a household. Kids in high school with part-time jobs? No problem - our overall perceived standard of living includes the kids' $$$, too.

For these two reasons - convenience and perceived standard of living - I will always opt for "household income" as the relevant metric.

Letter writing... and replies

Loyal readers know that I'm a letter writer - I frequently post my letters to Obama, my Congressman, my Senators on the blog.

For what it's worth: Letters to Obama are answered, in hand-addressed envelopes!
No - the replies aren't usually particularly pertinent, but still...

Cramer's "Brown bounce": day 3 (final results) [corrected]

Recall, I was willing to grant Jim Cramer's Mad Money prediction that a Brown win in the MA Senate race would spark a "gigantic rally" in the market if DJIA closed at or above 10,926 today - this being more than just "noise" relative to last Friday's close of 10,610.

Today's DJIA close? 10,172.98.
Last Friday's close: 10,609.65.
- Down 4.12%.
In fact, the Dow has declined every day since Brown's victory.

Other market indices?
Nasdaq: Last Friday - 2287.99. Today - 2205.29. Down 3.62%.
- again, Nasdaq has declined every day since Brown's victory.
S&P 500: Last Friday - 1136.03. Today - 1091.76. Down 3.90%.
- as with DJIA & Nasdaq, S&P 500 has declined every day since Brown's victory.

Cramer's studied 'intuition' regarding the market ain't too great!

[aside: Who knows - maybe 'the market' realizes just how disastrous Republicans are for the economy... a fact amply demonstrated by the preceding post.]

p.s. Thanks to commenter Steven Piasecki for pointing out my error in including $ signs with market indices.

Just for fun: W's economy

Selected household income percentiles (20%-ile, 40%-ile, 60%-ile, 80%-ile, 95%-ile) + GDP/household, 1969-2008.

A few observations: till 1989 (the start of Bush I's presidency), GDP/household (the dashed orange line) tracked the 80%-ile of household income pretty closely.
Under Bush I & W, GDP/household increased more than 80%-ile of household incomes.
We can quantify this:

Nixon/Ford: GDP/household up 0.22% annually; 80%-ile household up 0.73% annually; 95%-ile household up 0.89% annually.
- The upper 20% of households in fact did better than the overall economy.

Carter: GDP/household up 0.97% annually; 80%-ile household up 0.77% annually; 95%-ile household up 1.14% annually.
- This pattern seems "typical".

Reagan: GDP/household up 1.89% annually; 80%-ile household up 1.54% annually; 95%-ile household up 2.18% annually.

Bush I: GDP/household up 0.74% annually; 80%-ile household down 0.36% annually; 95%-ile household down 0.15% annually.
- The economy grew, but 95% of us LOST.
... so, who got the $$$? Fewer than 5% of households!
We'll see this pattern repeated under W.

Clinton: GDP/household up 2.48% annually; 80%-ile household up 2.01% annually; 95%-ile household up 2.51% annually.
- Under Clinton, at least some of us 'normal' folks again experienced "a rising tide lifts all boats".

W: GDP/household up 0.90% annually; 80%-ile household down 0.25% annually; 95%-ile household down 0.11% annually.
- Like father, like son. Again: GDP growth was not shared by 95% of households!
... Again: who got the benefit of this rising tide?
... Must be fewer than the wealthiest 5% of households!

Republican policies over W's term were good for some few, but disastrous for the rest of us!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Now, Mr. President, will you fire Tim Geithner?

From Salon:
Tim Geithner is a sore loser
Thursday, Jan 21, 2010
Andrew Leonard
The Treasury secretary has "reservations" about Obama's bank reform plan. Maybe he should think about a new job
The question of who is running the White House economic policy shop has been answered: It sure isn't Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary.

Citing anonymous sources, Reuters is reporting that Geithner has "reservations" about President Obama's "Wall Street crackdown."
Geithner is concerned that the proposed limits on big banks' trading and size could impact U.S. firms' global competitiveness, the sources said, speaking anonymously because Geithner has not spoken publicly about his reservations.

He also has concerns that the limits do not necessarily get at the heart of the problems and excesses that fueled the recent financial meltdown, the sources said.
So much for "disagree and commit."

Mr. President, you've been more than loyal to Mr. Geithner.
He seems to have no interest in returning that loyalty.

Please, fire Geithner.

SCOTUS rules

Supreme Court: Campaign-finance limits violate free speech
5-4 (guess which Justices are in the majority!)
Majority opinion written by Kennedy - not by one of the crazies.
“Government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker’s corporate identity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 57-page majority opinion. “No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.”
I'm not sure that I buy the bit about "no sufficient governmental interests".
And, I find it interesting that the majority are the self-proclaimed precedent-respecting, non-activist folks!
In a landmark 5-to-4 decision announced Thursday, the high court overturned a 1990 legal precedent and reversed a position it took in 2003, when a different lineup of justices upheld government restrictions on independent political expenditures by corporations during elections.
For what it's worth:
Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
... and I'm sad to say that I suspect if pressed I'd side with the free-speech argument. (Long ago, as a grad student, I found myself rather uncomfortable attempting to defend restrictions on political speech of just the sort the Justices were here considering.)

Why make any pretense.
Welcome to the Plutocracy of America!

Cramer's "Brown bounce": day 2

Recall, from Jim Cramer's Mad Money:
More importantly, though, investors should react positively to a red victory in a blue state because it would signal a more business-friendly attitude in Washington. In fact, Cramer said a Coakley loss could spark a “gigantic rally” as everything from the banks to the oils face a less hostile government.
[emphasis added]
How's that "gigantic rally" coming along?

DJIA closed last Friday at 10,609.65.
On Tuesday - election day in MA - it closed at 10,725.43. This was BEFORE the polls closed in MA.
Yesterday? - broad market down (see below).

Today? Again, down everywhere!
DJIA: down 2.01% from Wed close
Nasdaq: down 1.12% from Wed close
S&P 500: down 1.89% from Wed close

In fact, since Brown won the MA Senate race:
- Dow: down 3.13%
- Nasdaq: down 2.36%
- S&P 500: down 2.93%

Recall, my pseudo bet with Cramer was in terms of Fri, 22 Jan closing price versus Fri, 15 Jan closing price. If DJIA closes at or above 10,926 on Fri, 22 Jan, I'll grudgingly concede a Brown-victory market rally.
Since last Fri, 15 Jan:
- Dow: down 2.07%
- Nasdaq: down 0.97%
- S&P 500: down 1.72%

For Cramer to beat me, the Dow needs to shoot up 5.16% tomorrow.
I'm feeling pretty safe... well, with one little misgiving: today's SCOTUS decision could move the market in Mr. Cramer's direction... but 5.16%?

[note: any market movement after tomorrow I think Jim'll have a hard time explaining as a direct result of Brown's victory!]

A letter to Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)

Only one:
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.

In response to Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, some of your colleagues are waving a white flag, as if a still-solid majority is not sufficient to pass meaningful legislation supporting Democratic ideals.

Please: take the lead. Take as your standard-bearer Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell:
“If we're going to go down, let's go down fighting for something."
I do not pretend to understand the parliamentary chicanery surrounding the Senate’s filibuster rules, but if it be possible in fact to force the so-called loyal opposition to actually filibuster, make ‘em do it!
Let the citizens of New Mexico and the rest of We the People see to what lengths the loyal opposition will go to deny us basic human rights in the form of universal health care.
We are the ONLY economically advanced democracy in the world without some form of universal healthcare.
Make your esteemed Republican colleagues stand their ground against We the People.

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

Will he listen? I'm not holding my breath.

Letters to Obama

Letter 1:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

You are being ill-served by your advisors.

The esteemed Republican opposition has no interest in meaningful compromise – they’re not stubborn, they just want to have everything their way!
Bipartisanship is a tactic, not an objective.
When history is written only your achievements will be noted, not the means you used to achieve them.

Your economic team shows little interest in protecting the citizens who elected you, and every interest in cutting deals with Wall Street Wizards who have no claim to authority or respect. We the People are hurting while the Wizards are giving themselves bonuses with our money!... and asserting that the financial crisis they precipitated was an Act of God.

Listen to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.
“If we're going to go down, let's go down fighting for something."
Please – find your own voice.
Pick a few key objectives and advocate for them strongly, vehemently, passionately.
Be not afraid to offend the so-called loyal opposition – they want you to fail.

Letter 2:
Dear President Obama:

Get out of DC every once in a while.

Advice from General George S. Patton, from Helpful Hints to Hopeful Heroes:
Corps and army commanders must make it a point to be physically seen by as many individuals of their command as possible --- certainly by all combat soldiers. The best way to do this is to assemble the divisions, either as a whole or in separate pieces, and make a short talk.
I’d adapt this: give a speech in all 50 states during your tenure. Starting now, that’s about one speech every three weeks (counting time off for family & vacations).
Get out to see – and hear from – We the People! – just like the campaign.
We’ll be glad to see you!

My objective in publishing letters on PrivateBuffoon is based on the movie, Pay It Forward. If three of my loyal readers decide to follow my lead and write, and they inspire three of their loyal readers to follow suit, and so on... well, that process could generate a decent-sized grass-roots letter-writing campaign.

... of course, the few loyal readers that I know are a LOT more cynical than I - likely to view my pitiful letter-writing efforts as pointless.
Can't say I can argue with 'em!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Any chance this guy has Obama's ear?

Tonight on Rachel Maddow, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell proposed a response to Brown's MA victory:
"If we're going to go down, let's go down fighting for something."
He went on to propose either of two strategies for health care reform:
1) Piecemeal it - one little bill at time. Dare Republicans & conservative Dems to vote FOR denying coverage for pre-existing conditions & FOR allowing insurers to drop policy-holders who get sick.
[Gov. Rendell makes the case that Big Insurance will come begging for universal coverage if these little bills were to pass - getting everyone insured would be the only way they could survive financially!]
2) Go for the whole enchilada. Noting that it really does take only 51 votes to pass a bill, DARE the Republicans and conservative Dems to truly filibuster a real health care reform bill. "Go ahead - filibuster!" - and let the country watch 'em!

Here's the YouTube.

This guy seems to have a bit more political savvy than our President.
Any chance he's got our President's ear?

TPM publishes a note from an anonymous Senate staffer, which includes these words of wisdom:
I believe President Clinton provided some crucial insight when he said, "people would rather be with someone who is strong and wrong than weak and right." It's not that people are uninterested in who's right or wrong, it's that people will only follow leaders who seem to actually believe in what they are doing. Democrats have missed this essential fact.
Seems this guy & Gov. Rendell are on the same page.

... and no, I don't think the Dem's position is wrong! - I'm just wishing they'd stand up for it!
If - and I think it's a big IF - If Dems are to go down to spectacular, fiery defeat in 2010, let's at least go down fighting for something!

Checking on other market forecasters

Jim Cramer famously predicted,
"Brown in the Senate? That wrecks the 60-vote supermajority the Democrats have been counting on. It could spell the end for this almost year-long nightmare of a piece of healthcare legislation.

What does a Brown election mean larger than this? ...
More important, though, I think investors who are nervous about the dictatorship of the Pelosi proletariat will feel at ease, and we could have a gigantic rally off a Coakley loss and a Brown win.
First, I note that Mr. Cramer didn't provide a time frame...
BUT: today - the day after Brown's win over Coakley?
DJIA: down 1.14%
Nasdaq: down 1.26%
S&P 500: down 1.06%

So, if the market has a rally in June, does Mr. Cramer get to claim it's due to Brown's win?

... okay - I'll give him his call IF the market is up more than noise this Friday's close over last Friday's close.
Otherwise - I don't think so.

[Note: being generous to Mr. Cramer - if market closes Friday, 22 Jan, at or above 11,145, I'll grant him his rally. Being REALLY generous, I'd be inclined to grant him his rally if it closes at or above 10,926. Yes - there is some analysis behind these numbers. (Following my own advice: if DJIA closes at or above 11,145 this Friday, first thing Monday I'm calling my financial manager to GET OUT of stocks!)]

Gilbert & Sulllivan in popular political culture

They Come In Force With Stealthy Stride, Our Obvious Course Is Now To Hide

Atrios is quoting from G&S The Pirates of Penzance.

St. Reagan

The de-regulation of the financial sector may have started before St. Reagan's reign - Krugman suggests the late 1970s.
BUT - under St. Reagan de-regulation - of everything, not just high finance - gained momentum.
It is now codified as the core of the Republican agenda.

The market is perfect - always and in every respect.
St. Reagan said so.

The Savings & Loan meltdown?
An aberration.
The market is perfect - always and in every respect.
St. Reagan said so.

Airlines now charging for checked baggage, and stranding you on the tarmac for hours?
An aberration.
The market is perfect - always and in every respect.
St. Reagan said so.

Our current 10% unemployment rate, dried up 401Ks, and record foreclosures?
An aberration.
The market is perfect - always and in every respect.
St. Reagan said so.

In the past I've advocated that Dems run on W's record in 2010.
I still think this is a good idea.
BUT - I'm beginning to believe that running against St. Reagan may be an even better idea!
It helps that Republicans themselves continue to cite St. Reagan at every available opportunity.
Republican insistance that the market is perfect - always and in every respect - could be a powerful recruiting tool... for Dems! (Heck, it might even attract some of the Tea Party crowd!)

Once again: anytime anyone ever in any circumstance cites the miracle of the self-regulating market - LAUGH OUT LOUD!

Wall Street wizards

First: quote Krugman (extensively)
Next: mock the Wizards of Wall Street
Finally: show a couple of graphs

From Paul Krugman's Op-Ed (14 Jan 2010):
The official Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission ... began taking testimony on Wednesday. In its first panel, the commission grilled four major financial-industry honchos. What did we learn?
... But the bankers’ testimony showed a stunning failure, even now, to grasp the nature and extent of the current crisis. And that’s important: It tells us that as Congress and the administration try to reform the financial system, they should ignore advice coming from the supposed wise men of Wall Street, who have no wisdom to offer.
But the truth is that the United States managed to avoid major financial crises for half a century after ... Congress enacted major banking reforms. It was only after we forgot those lessons, and dismantled effective regulation, that our financial system went back to being dangerously unstable.

As an aside, it was also startling to hear Mr. Dimon admit that his bank never even considered the possibility of a large decline in home prices, despite widespread warnings that we were in the midst of a monstrous housing bubble.

Still, Mr. Dimon’s cluelessness paled beside that of Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein, who compared the financial crisis to a hurricane nobody could have predicted. Phil Angelides, the commission’s chairman, was not amused: The financial crisis, he declared, wasn’t an act of God; it resulted from “acts of men and women.”
But there was nothing accidental about the crisis. From the late 1970s on, the American financial system, freed by deregulation and a political climate in which greed was presumed to be good, spun ever further out of control. There were ever-greater rewards — bonuses beyond the dreams of avarice — for bankers who could generate big short-term profits. And the way to raise those profits was to pile up ever more debt, both by pushing loans on the public and by taking on ever-higher leverage within the financial industry.

Sooner or later, this runaway system was bound to crash. And if we don’t make fundamental changes, it will happen all over again.

[emphasis added]
No one could have predicted the coming crisis, the collapse of the housing market and its attendant - man-made - repercussions. (You know, all those Credit-Default-Swaps based on the belief that housing prices would just keep going up)!

No one could have predicted...
Hmmm... where have I heard this before.

And for it's worth: hurricanes and 100-year-storms ARE foreseeable!... so are earthquakes.
The prudent man plans for 'em - you know, by buying insurance, building storm- or earthquake-resistant buildings, building levees.
In the context of financial markets, this means creating financial instruments that will OFFSET - mediate, dampen - the effects of a meltdown.
What did the Wall Street Wizards do?
They created financial instruments that AMPLIFIED the effects of a real-estate meltdown - under-priced insurance policies ("Credit Default Swaps") and over-priced mortgage-backed securited ("Collateralized Debt Obligations")!

[aside: one of my summer jobs in college was coding FORTRAN for Amoco - the oil company. The group I worked for designed off-shore drilling rigs. Design criteria - which my FORTRAN code enabled - included designing for a 100-year storm... that's the way prudent businesses operate: they design for the 100-year storm!]

But I digress.
So... just what did the Wizards of Wall Street miss?... and how hard was it to see?
Here are a couple of graphs, one stolen from another source, one mine (but based on source's home-price data).

First, from Bubble Meter:
Okay, it's a bit tricky to see the bubble coming when the over-all trend is upwards - but by 2002 it sure looks like housing prices - either 'real' or 'nominal' are getting just a bit ahead of the historical curve.

To make this easier to see, here's another graph - this one displaying the ratio between median home prices and the 60th percentile of household incomes. The choice of the 60th percentile is arbitrary - my readily available data don't include median household incomes.
The horizontal lines (red) are standard control limits around a median of 2.62.
In 2002, this ratio went "out of control". In 2008 it came back "in control" (barely).

Note: Bubble Meter's data - which he makes available in Excel format - is quarterly. I used Q4 median home price as the numerator, with the Census Bureau's historical nominal household 60%-ile as the denominator for each year.

The moral: readily available standard statistical techniques would have highlighted the housing bubble, had anyone cared to look!

Thanks to Bubble Meter.
I've added him to my blog list!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Let's hear it for statistics!

From TPM:
Congrats to ... the Polls
Josh Marshall | January 19, 2010, 10:02PM
It's definitely small print. But it would be wrong to end the evening without noting that the polls were pretty close to the mark. We maintained trended averages of the two way and three ways polls of this race.

In the three way polls, the trended average was Brown 50.8%, Coakley 45.3%. Pretty close, with a touch more undecided breaking to Coakley. In the two ways, it was Brown 52%, Coakley 42.5%. That nailed Brown's result. And, interestingly, the undecided broke for Coakley.

Move aside, Joe, there's a new sheriff in town

GOP's Brown wins Mass. Senate seat in epic upset

So I'm wondering: now that he's superfluous, will Lieberman start behaving?

I fully endorse OneFly's sentiment!


Monday, January 18, 2010

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time we fought a World War on two fronts... and won in less than 5 years.
... and, once victorious, we were magnanimous to our defeated foes.

Once upon a time our young president challenged us to put a man on the moon within a decade... and we succeeded.

Why do Repubicans believe that our government is necessarily weak and ineffective?

MLK Day reflections

Re-posted from al Qaeda in Albuquerque, 21 Jan 2008:
When MLK was assassinated I was a 15-yr-old sophomore at Tulsa Central High School. Central was the only integrated HS in town. This was the result of prevailing “neighborhood school” districts, and the fact that Tulsa was one of the most segregated cities in the country: the blacks lived on the northside, in an enclave I first knew as “nigger town.” Washington HS was the ‘black’ school. The remaining seven were lily white.

The Friday following the assassination there was a noticeable iciness between white students & black. The integrated student body was never one big joyful love-fest, but relations were generally at least civil. Not that day. It was pretty clear that the black kids – even those I regarded as friends – saw me as one of King’s assassins.

This was the second event of the year that began to awaken my political consciousness. The first was the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

A third would follow shortly: the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Democratic candidate for President, running on an anti-war platform.

A fourth occurred in August, when Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush Dubcek’s “Prague Spring,” followed a week or so later by the anti-war demonstrations at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. [I wrote my first “Letter to the Editor” in response to the Soviet crackdown on Czechoslovakia – and it was published!]

Nixon with his “secret plan” to end the war was elected in November.
1968 was a great year to become aware of politics in all its glory!

In 1970, when I was a high school senior, Central was closed for several days due to race riots. I don’t recall the initiating incident. Somewhat ironically, the school paper staff – of which I was editor – was at a journalism workshop at Oklahoma State University that day, so missed having first-hand knowledge of the events. For the rest of that school year we all wore picture ID student badges, and for several weeks the school grounds were patrolled by police.

One member of the the school newspaper staff – who now happens to be a regular reader of this blog! – undertook a series of articles about the riots and their aftermath – interviewing key participants and student leaders from all factions. The ensuing discussions – among students & faculty – were measured and reasoned. Communication between blacks & whites improved. We spent more time in each others’ neighborhoods and at each others’ homes.

In my youthful optimistic naivete, I believed that my generation would be the last to face racial strife.
This was written before we elected Obama.

... I don't know if Tulsa is still one of the most segregated cities in the country, but if it is I'm betting little white kids aren't growing up calling the black enclave "nigger town".

Despite the apparent popularity of Limbaugh & Fox News, I remain hopeful that we'll someday discover & embrace our better natures.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Till later

A number of circumstances conspire to keep me from blogging.

At the top of the list: given the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, it seems sacrilegious to spout puerile complaints about the state of American politics.

... add to that the puerile state of American politics - which is severely depressing - and I've just not the energy to get ginned up enough to post.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind..."

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Red Cross

Yele Haiti

Mercy Corps

There are certainly other reputable relief agencies working in Haiti. These are simply ones with which I am familiar (Red Cross, Mercy Corps) or could find quickly.
Please feel free to recommend other worthy agencies in comments.

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

... Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) might be worthy of your largesse.
From C&L:
Grayson: And I realized that I was witnessing the birth of a new form of political discourse from the right wing in this country: The Exception. The Exceptional Exception -- the exception that proves the rule or disproves the rule, as the case may be.

So in the future I'm expecting that we'll hear from the right wing the claim that no cities drowned under the Bush administration -- except for New Orleans. And that there were no wars that were started by mistake under the Bush administration -- except for the war in Iraq. And that the Bush administration added nothing to the federal debt -- except for a half-trillion dollars, which works out to $15,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. And that they respected all of our constitutional rights as Americans -- except when they didn't.

I think we'll hear Republicans claim that the Bush administration managed the economy quite well -- except when they brought it to the brink of national bankruptcy. In fact, they'll claim that the Bush-Cheney administration was a complete success, except for the fact that it was an abject failure -- an abject failure.

In fact, what we learned in Washington for eight years is that the reason why Republicans hate government so much is because they're so bad at it.

[Rep. Alan Grayson Responds to Giuiliani on Republican Exceptionalism]
Here's his campaign page:
Alan Grayson for Congress

Sunday, January 10, 2010

apropos nothing in particular

Under what circumstances and to what extent can collaboration with evil be justified?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

the other plot to wreck America

The Other Plot to Wreck America
Frank Rich
9 Jan 2010
What we don’t know will hurt us, and quite possibly on a more devastating scale than any Qaeda attack. Americans must be told the full story of how Wall Street gamed and inflated the housing bubble, made out like bandits, and then left millions of households in ruin. Without that reckoning, there will be no public clamor for serious reform of a financial system that was as cunningly breached as airline security at the Amsterdam airport. And without reform, another massive attack on our economic security is guaranteed. Now that it can count on government bailouts, Wall Street has more incentive than ever to pump up its risks — secure that it can keep the bonanzas while we get stuck with the losses.
Why is no one listening?

Friday, January 8, 2010

just for fun

from loyal reader fpm:
La vie est une maladie mortelle transmissible sexuellement.

So much for global warming!

Cold grips nation as crash in snowy Ohio kills 4

I always knew all those damn pinko-commie fellow-travelin' scientists were just out to destroy our God-given Capitalist system!

note: I am being sarcastic.
BUT, when you hear the cable talking heads say this, remember: they're serious!!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Create a link"???

Help needed.
Many (most?... all?) of the folks on "My Blog List" have a nifty "create a link" gadget to make it easy to link to their posts.

Would any of you care to train me? How'd ya do this?

Good idea, but...

Arianna: Move Your Money And Make Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Smaller (VIDEO)

Unfortunately, I cannot follow this advice.
All our $$$ is already in local credit union (or credit union-managed accounts).

The Well-Armed Lamb: Elizabeth Warren: Our Economic Cassandra

The Well-Armed Lamb: Elizabeth Warren: Our Economic Cassandra

Yet another good post from "My Blog List". Hi-lite:
"Warren is far and away smarter, more critical, more lucid a thinker, and more humane a person than anyone in ANY position of authority in Prez. Shamwow's regime. She is the ONLY one with NO POWER."
That, and the comment that, after viewing the vid, you can never again believe anyone who says, "Nobody could have EVER seen that coming."

Aside: most days I have the distinct feeling that the only folks talking sense are those represented by "My Blog List"!... so how come nobody is listening to these folks?

A digression:
Cassandra is the Trojan seeress who uttered true prophecies, but lacking the power of persuasion, was never believed.

a 'fun' read (... if by 'fun' one means seemingly open & honest)

Summary of the White House Review of the December 25, 2009 Attempted Terrorist Attack

Only 2 comments:
comment 1: The title really does include the word "terrorist".
Please take note, Rep. Hoekstra.

comment 2: my prediction of former Wyoming Congressman Cheney's response:
"Releasing this report puts America in danger."

Tell me again...

... why Geithner is still TreasSec?
Geithner’s New York Fed Told AIG to Limit Swaps Disclosure
Hugh Son Hugh Son
7 Jan. 2010
(Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then led by Timothy Geithner, told American International Group Inc. to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurer’s payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis, e-mails between the company and its regulator show.
Whose interest does he serve? - Yours & mine, or Wall Street's???

I was really hoping that by 2010 I'd be feeling much more optimistic about the direction my country is taking. You know: W's cabal gone; Obama's "change we can believe in" manifesting itself.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

W as a boy

[The New Yorker, 2 Nov 2009]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cool science stuff

Hubble Reaches the "Undiscovered Country" of Primeval Galaxies
This is the deepest image of the universe ever taken in near-infrared light by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The faintest and reddest objects (left inset) in the image are galaxies that correspond to "look-back times" of approximately 12.9 billion years to 13.1 billion years ago. No galaxies have been seen before at such early epochs. These galaxies are much smaller than the Milky Way galaxy and have populations of stars that are intrinsically very blue. This may indicate the galaxies are so primordial that they are deficient in heavier elements, and as a result, are quite free of the dust that reddens light through scattering.

The image was taken with Hubble's newly installed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), which collects light from near-infrared wavelengths and therefore looks even deeper into the universe. The light from very distant galaxies is stretched out of the ultraviolet and visible regions of the spectrum into near-infrared wavelengths by the expansion of the universe.

Hubble's WFC3 took this image in late August 2009 during a total of four days of pointing for 173,000 seconds of exposure time. Infrared light is invisible and therefore does not have colors that can be perceived by the human eye. The colors in the image are assigned comparatively short, medium, and long near-infrared wavelengths (blue, 1.05 microns; green, 1.25 microns; and red, 1.6 microns). The representation is "natural" in that blue objects appear blue and red objects look red. The faintest objects are about one-billionth as bright as can be seen with the naked eye. The galaxy distances are estimated from the infrared colors of their light.

These Hubble observations are trailblazing a path for Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will look even farther into the universe than Hubble, at infrared wavelengths. The JWST is planned to be launched in 2014.

The image was created from Hubble data from proposal 11563: G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory and the University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (UCO/Lick Observatory and Leiden University),M. Carollo (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich), M. Franx (Leiden University), I. Labbe (Carnegie Institution of Washington), D.Magee (University of California, Santa Cruz), P. Oesch (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich), M. Stiavelli (STScI), M. Trenti (University of Colorado, Boulder), and P. van Dokkum (Yale University).

just asking

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President...
[U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 1; emphasis added]
So... in 2012 ought we ask of the candidates, "Were you delivered by Caesarean section?".
If so, the candidate is NOT "natural born".
"Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn
The power of man, for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth."
"Macduff was from his mother's womb untimely ripped."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Barbara Murray, 1929-2010

Barbara Murray as "Lorraine" in 70, Girls, 70, June 2009.

I met Barbara in 1995. She was the audition & rehearsal pianist for ACLOA's Pirates of Penzance - my very first show.
I last worked with her in Landmark Musicals' 70, Girls, 70, this past June. She was not only the musical director, but the character "Lorraine", who took her turn tap-dancing when she got sick & tired of being told over and over to, "Hit it, Lorraine!"

Well-known & well-loved by ABQ's theatrical community, she'll be missed.
"We have lost a delicate giant of talent."

News from Afghanistan

The moon rises over Camp Dwyer, 31 Dec 2009.

From my far-flung correspondent:
There are a LOT of Marines here who would currently fail the weight standard. We have essentially no gym, running is difficult, food is unlimited, work hours are long, and many people have ‘What are they going to do, shave my head and send me to Afghanistan?’ syndrome.

"... running is difficult":
At the close up level, the roads can be viewed as strips of wash-boarded terra cotta covered with talcum powder, then sprinkled with 1” granite tetrahedrons. In many places, loops of disused communication wire break the surface for distances of a few inches to a few feet. Then there are the broken up pallets, which usually – but not always – have been run over enough times that the nails have moved to a tire somewhere.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

When to sell

note: this financial advice is FREE OF CHARGE... and worth every penny!

Earlier I tried to call a bottom - and didn't do too badly.

Now I'm trying to call a peak.
My best bet?
- DJIA between 10.7K & 11.75K.
... splitting the difference ~11K.

Implication: hold on for just a bit longer.
[note: NO prediction regarding TIMING will be attempted.]

And now for something completely different...

Russian proverb:
When rubles fall from heaven, there is no sack.
When there is a sack, rubles don't fall.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Help needed

Long story made really short: I seek hi-res version of photo below (at least 2048 x 1536):
I've found this version on a number of hotel-booking websites - it's pretty clearly available commercially from someplace.

Any hints about how to find original photographer and/or vendor?

Another fun read from "The Rant" by Tom Degan

"The Rant" by Tom Degan: That Was the Decade that Wasn't

In fact, most of the folks on My Blog List have recently published entertaining posts.

Curmudgeons' meeting has been proposed...

... does anyone care to second the motion?

My preference: someone else handles the logistics!

FYI: I got an answer...

... I'd asked how 2009 went by so quickly.

I got an answer: "good shoes".

Friday, January 1, 2010

I think we knew this already... but still

Yesterday the NYT published an article previewing an upcoming U.S. Army report on missteps in Afghanistan which confirms what we knew already:
Rummy: Worst SecDef EVER!
Here are a few gems from the article (and the report):
In the fall of 2003, the new commander of American forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, decided on a new strategy. Known as counterinsurgency, the approach required coalition forces to work closely with Afghan leaders to stabilize entire regions, rather than simply attacking insurgent cells.

But there was a major drawback, a new unpublished Army history of the war concludes. Because the Pentagon insisted on maintaining a “small footprint” in Afghanistan and because Iraq was drawing away resources, General Barno commanded fewer than 20,000 troops.


That early and undermanned effort to use counterinsurgency is one of several examples of how American forces, hamstrung by inadequate resources, missed opportunities to stabilize Afghanistan during the early years of the war, according to the history, “A Different Kind of War.”


But as early as late 2003, the Army historians assert, “it should have become increasingly clear to officials at Centcom and D.O.D. that the coalition presence in Afghanistan did not provide enough resources” for proper counterinsurgency, the historians write, referring to the United States Central Command and the Department of Defense.


But, once the Taliban fell, the Pentagon often seemed ill-prepared and slow-footed in shifting from a purely military mission to a largely peacekeeping and nation-building one, fresh details in the history indicate.

“Even after the capture of Kabul and Kandahar,” the historians write, “there was no major planning initiated to create long-term political, social and economic stability in Afghanistan. In fact, the message from senior D.O.D officials in Washington was for the U.S. military to avoid such efforts.”


The lack of resources was also apparent in the training of Afghan security forces, the history shows.

Early in the war, the training program was hampered by poor equipment, low pay, high attrition and not enough trainers. Living conditions for the Afghan army were so poor that Maj. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry likened them to Valley Forge when he took command of the training operation in October 2002.

“The mandate was clear and it was a central task, but it is also fair to say that up until that time there had been few resources committed,” Mr. Eikenberry, now the ambassador to Afghanistan, told the historians, referring to the army training program.

The historians say resistance to providing more robust resources to Afghanistan had three sources in the White House and the Pentagon.

First, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had criticized using the military for peacekeeping and reconstruction in the Balkans during the 1990s. As a result, “nation building” carried a derogatory connotation for many senior military officials, even though American forces were being asked to fill gaping voids in the Afghan government after the Taliban’s fall.


Third, the invasion of Iraq was siphoning away resources. After the invasion started in March 2003, the history says, the United States clearly “had a very limited ability to increase its forces” in Afghanistan.

[Army History Finds Early Missteps in Afghanistan, NYT, 31 Dec 2009; emphasis added]
Note: Rummy's ideologically-driven "small footprint" ensured failure!
Also noteworthy: the report highlights a characteristic failure of W's administration: an inability to plan for foreseeable - even inevitable - contingencies.

Just for fun, recall W's braggadocio:
Thanks to the United States and our fine allies. Afghanistan is no longer a haven for terror. The Taliban is history. And the Afghan people are free!
[President Bush Addresses Troops at Miramar MCAS, California, August 14, 2003]
On the bright side, the report highlights the resourcefulness of commanders on the ground:
In one telling anecdote from 2004, the history describes how soldiers under General Barno had so little experience in counterinsurgency that one lieutenant colonel bought books about the strategy over the Internet and distributed them to his company commanders and platoon leaders.
Note: the report is not some goddam librul journalist's take on the Afghan mission, but, "represents the first installment of the Army’s official history of the conflict."

The Times has a provided a link to the full draft report on its website:
'A Different Kind of War'

just for fun

A loyal reader sent this:
Patriotic Christmas (history required)

Happy New Year!

My New Year's resolutions: none.

Wishing my loyal readers (and even my not-so-loyal readers!) a joyous and prosperous New Year.
Keep safe.
Keep healthy.

... oh, yeah: keep pointing out political absurdity!

[For the record: I'd be delighted to buy a beer for anyone who can tell me how the hell 2009 went so fast!]