Wednesday, June 30, 2010

just for fun

Spy suspects had interests in science, finance
I note that this Russian espionage ring operated freely during W's tenure, and was exposed during Obama's.

Tell me again: which party has stronger "national defense" cred?

sure wish i could find a transcript!

Today's Senate Judiciary Committee questioning of Supreme Court nominee Kagan showed the conservative mind at work... but I can't find a transcript!

The gist:
Sen. Sessions (R-AL): "Why'd you restrict military recruiting at Harvard Law School?"

Kagan (the nominee): "I didn't. In fact, military recruiting went UP during my tenure as Dean."

Sessions: "That's not true. I know it's not true. ... and you citing the facts is impertinent!"

Okay - that bit about "you citing the facts" is not quite accurate... but it captures Sessions' reply: "I know better: no matter the facts, I'm sure that you restricted military recruiting!"
(Okay - that, too, is paraphrased... when I get a transcript I'll show you what was actually said... my paraphrases aren't all that inaccurate.)
Basically: Sessions denied Kagan's testimony, and took offense at her "tone" (whatever the hell that means - she was, in fact, very level-spoken throughout).

Yep - if you're a conservative, the facts really don't matter.
You simply KNOW the truth.

Stop the madness!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

South Carolina wins Men's College World Series!

2-0, vs UCLA.
2 game sweep.
2nd game won in bottom of the 11th on basehit by Merrifield.

... for what it's worth: there's a world of difference between MLB & college!
... BUT: college is still fun to watch!

Congrats to USC! - National Champions!

not depression, but exhaustion!

I'm back in house-cleaning mode, so 'tis not the depressing headlines but simple exhaustion that keeps me from posting.
(note: when you clean house once every 1.5 years, it's a BIG DEAL to clean house!)

just another gentle reminder...

During yesterday's grilling of Supreme Court nominee Kagan, the GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee went out of their way to make it perfectly clear that Thurgood Marshall was a BAD MAN... and an even worse Justice:
"She clerked for Judge Mikva and Justice Marshall, each a well-known liberal activist judge."
[- Jeff Sessions (R-AL)]

“Ms. Kagan identified Thurgood Marshall as another of her legal ‘heroes.’ Justice Marshall is a historic figure in many respects, and it is not surprising that, as one of his clerks, she held him in the highest regard. Justice Marshall’s judicial philosophy, however, was not what I would consider mainstream. ... "
[Jon Kyl (R-AZ)]
Just to remind folks: Thurgood Marshall argued Brown v Board of Education before the Supreme Court in 1954... and he was the first black (African-American) justice on the Court.
Trashing Thurgood Marshall does NOT seem like the best strategy for the GOP to pursue in opposing Kagan.
(... of course, the GOP thinks the unemployed are drug-addicted derelicts who deserve to starve!)

... and, oh yeah: the current Senate GOP leadership would just be tickled pink to be living back in the '50s of the last century, when Blacks weren't so uppity!
That whole Civil Rights thing? - a big mistake! - look what it led to: a BLACK MAN in the White House!... "Separate but Equal" was a CORRECT decision!

... any chance the DNC is listening???

Stop the madness!

Monday, June 28, 2010

"... and the people who believe these sadistic fantasies?..."

"... you would consider voting for them?"
- Countdown

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

[... this is a repost.]

Please: is DNC paying attention???
Yes - the reason the unemployed (6 applicants for every 1 job) are no longer spending any $$$ is 'cuz they DON'T HAVE any $$$!!!

A gentle reminder:
GDP = Consumption + Investment + government spending + (Exports − Imports).
Another gentle reminder:
Consumers are NOT spending (~70% of the U.S. economy!).
Businesses are NOT investing (banks aren't lending, either!).
... and the recent strength of the dollar mitigates AGAINST balance of trade!
So, where will GDP growth originate???
Now, not everyone at once!
That's right, Johnny: Government Spending!

Now is precisely the WRONG time to be worrying about deficits.
(Where were these deficit-hawk fiscal conservatives when W cut taxes & got us into TWO unfunded wars???)

This is not academic theory.
We have perfectly good RECENT examples of what happens when governments respond to economic downturns with austerity measures: Japan in the 1990s and Argentina in the early years of this decade.
The result of government austerity?
What Paul Krugman calls "the lost decade"!

A suggestion: if you're REALLY concerned about the deficit - RAISE revenue! - increase tax rates on those who can afford it - the wealthy.
We've seen NO EVIDENCE that increasing marginal tax rates on incomes over $1M discourage those earners from working... or that they're resolutely investing their excess $$$ in GDP-promoting economic activity.

As most of us on household budgets realize, increased spending can be offset with increased income.
RAISE MORE MONEY! - increase tax-rate on those who can afford it.

Who are the brilliant folks advocating POVERTY?
Who want to see Hoovervilles pop up across the country??

Now, not the same hands all at once!
Jane? - "The GOP"?
Very good, Jane - you get an "A".

Stop the madness!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

i was sorta hopin' for something different...

... ya know, when W was no longer with us.


Gitmo is still open (I guess we'll get around to closing it in 50 years or so, when all the detainees have died).
For reasons completely beyond my comprehension, suddenly our Senators are worried about the deficit - this after applauding W's tax cuts & exuberance launching two unfunded wars.
... (and Obama's economic team seems perfectly happy with this - at least, no one's taking an opposing message to the people.)
With Petraeus now "in charge" in Afghanistan it seems a good bet that we'll be there till Gitmo closes (see above).
The "loyal" opposition are more than happy to oppose ANY policy pursued by this administration... Hey - this could be used to advantage: maybe Obama should propose cutting taxes, going to war, increasing our defense budget, killing Social Security and rewarding the wizards of Wall Street for their abject failures!

... anyway - every day just brings more depressing headlines.
It's getting hard to find the energy to comment on even one or two stories... or to know which of the depressing stories might be worth the effort.

again: sigh.

South Carolina advances in College World Series

... faces UCLA for championship.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Canada is looking better by the day.

... they speak English... and I've heard no anti-sodomite xenophobic lectures from those quarters recently.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The perils of financial forecasting

The week of 2 June I suggested BP might be a good short-term investment, advising a 'buy' on 7 June.
So, if you followed my advice, how've you made out so far?

7 June: BP closes at $36.76.
Today: BP closes at $27.02.
More than a 26% loss.
What's more: at no time since 7 June has BP's stock closed above $36.76.

Free advice: don't follow my advice!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TCU advances

No - I'm not a big Horned Frogs fan... BUT: they were playing Florida State - whose football program I despise (one of the "too much $$$, too few graduates" schools I believe abuse their "student athletes").

Anyway - TCU won elimination game in College World Series: 11-7.
Go Frogs!

DeepWater Horizon: the gift that just keeps on giving

More oil gushing into Gulf after problem with cap
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press Writer
23 June 2010
NEW ORLEANS – Tens of thousands of gallons more oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after an undersea robot bumped a venting system, forcing BP to remove the cap that had been containing some of the crude.
Of course the GOP will insist that this proves Big Government is bad... EVEN THOUGH BP IS RUNNING THE SHOW!!!
What "big government"??? - Can any Republican point to even a single example of Federal intervention in this mess???

Stop the madness!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A toughie: who to cheer for?

ASU played South Carolina today in the College World Series.
An elimination game - loser goes home.

Who to cheer for: S. Carolina with that state's bizarre politics & politicians, or ASU with THAT state's bizarre politics & anti-immigrant craziness?

I went with S. Carolina... pretty much following my previous advice to cheer for whoever is playing the Arizona team.
ASU bounced: ASU 4, S. Carolina 11.

The curse of SB1070 continues!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Surpassing human understanding

McConnell fires back at Rahm
"Two months of delays and bureaucratic red tape have done nothing to solve this crisis - but they've done a lot to discredit the kind of big-government solutions that Democrats continue to promote."
- Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Forgive me: I just don't get it.
Lax government oversight of Big Oil, a Dept. of Interior RUN by Big Oil, a Minerals Management Services partying with Big Oil - THIS is a cause of the current BP disaster in the Gulf.
REPUBLICAN policies!!!
... in fact, a REPUBLICAN wet dream! - Let Big Oil regulate itself!

Now they're claiming this is a failure of Big Government???

Let us be perfectly clear:
- The GOP brought us de-regulation of the financial sector.
Result? The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
- The GOP brought us de facto deregulation of Big Oil.
Result? The worst MAN-MADE environmental disaster in our history.

The mess we find ourselves in today can be traced DIRECTLY to GOP policies over the past 20 years.
... oh, and by the way: every aspect of the mess can be traced DIRECTLY to the GOP's call for "small government", deregulation, and pure unbridled capitalism!!!

This message needs to be hammered home by EVERY Dem, all the time.

Stop the madness!!!

Our far-flung correspndents

Loyal reader & correspondent fpm submits this pretty cool video (lots of stuff you may not have known about Predator drone aircraft):

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Israel to allow more 'civilian' goods into Gaza: official
by Gavin Rabinowitz Gavin Rabinowitz – 2 hrs 18 mins ago
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel announced on Sunday it will allow all strictly "civilian" goods into Gaza while preventing certain weapons and dual-use items from entering the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
Note: Gaza is a "Hamas-run Palestinian enclave" because W insisted on elections a few years ago!

On the bright side: perhaps the Israel gov't is finally realizing that they can't win by attempting to starve the Palestinians into submission.

Stop the madness.

meanwhile, over there...

Series of suicide attacks kill 33 in Iraq
I thought our intervention was supposed to make the region more stable.

Again: thanks a lot, W!

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

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Oops! - i shoulda been paying attention

Welcoming new follower.
I think Steven is the new guy.

Welcome to the neighborhood! (and apologies if I mis-identified the new guy!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Sgt. Schultz defense: "I know NOTHING!"

BP chief says he wasn't in loop, enraging Congress
By CALVIN WOODWARD and FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writers
17 June 2010
WASHINGTON – Channeling the nation's anger, lawmakers pilloried BP's boss in a withering day of judgment Thursday for the oil company at the center of the Gulf calamity. Unflinching, BP chief executive Tony Hayward said he was out of the loop on decisions at the well and coolly asserted, "I'm not stonewalling."
For what it's worth: I don't doubt that Hayward was "out of the loop" - he's the CEO, having little to do with day-to-day operational decisions.
BUT: he claims a very large salary for BP's success.
Why can't he own up to BP's failures?

Yep - he's in the same privileged class as all other CEOs - BofA, Goldman-Sachs, Citi... they're more than happy to take the $$$ for success, but less than willing to pay the price for failure.
All of 'em.

They're just different from you and me.
They're rich.
We're "the small people".

Class warfare? Sure - why not? - we (the "We" in "We the People") are being screwed by our corporate masters... with the open support of OUR elected representatives!

Stop the madness!

... and still more free advice for DNC (... as before: worth every penny)

"... people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies..."
[Sharron Angle, quoted by Washington Post]
Yes - I know: Dems would prefer to keep Congressional elections focused on LOCAL issues.
BUT: what's the harm in running ads painting GOP as the party of "Second Amendment remedies"?
Make your local GOP opponent RESPOND to the charge that he's a revolutionary, intent on overthrowing the U.S. Government.

Back in the good old days, folks who espoused such views were described as "domestic terrorists".
Remember the Weathermen?
Nixon was elected in part to restore "law and order".
Is there a downside to using their own rhetoric against 'em?

... and still more free advice for DNC (worth every penny!)

At the same time they're running from the so-called "liberal" media ("If you can't handle Rachel, how are you going to handle al Qaeda?"), the GOP are falling over themselves to advocate for the untrammeled rights of multinational corporations to destroy our country.

It's a pretty picture: Republicans defending the rights of Big Biz against the SOCIALIST agenda of the Obama administration.
... This is an excellent opportunity to remind WE THE PEOPLE that our government was constituted in the name of WE THE PEOPLE... and NOT for the protection of the rapacious predations of unbridled capitalists!

I'm pretty sure there's a good sound-bite worthy message here!

Free advice for DNC (worth every penny!)

The GOP establishment - such as it is - seem to be at great pains to shelter their somewhat non-traditional candidates from the media.
Rand Paul has been described by this GOP establishment as "naive" for appearing on The Rachel Maddow Show... and has since, on the advice of his wise counselors, severely restricted his media access.
Sharron Angle - GOP Senate nominee in Nevada - has been deemed "not quite ready for primetime" by GOP establishment.

So - here's the ad campaign:
"If they can't handle Rachel Maddow, how are they going to handle al Qaeda?"
Free advice - worth every penny.

"The Rant" by Tom Degan: Chris Matthews Nails It

Note: I didn't watch Chris Matthews's special on "The Rise of the New Right"...
1. Matthews's strident tone off-puts me.
2. I really don't need to watch a program that tells me what I already know... in lurid detail.

That said, Tom Degan's commentary is worth a read:
"The Rant" by Tom Degan: Chris Matthews Nails It
... and I'm reminded of a sound-bite from the send-up of Glenn Beck (it helps if you're logged into FaceBook):
Jesus wrote the Constitution specifically to prevent people like this from taking over the country. Now look what's happening!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

just for fun

U.S.-Mexico border, as envisioned by the GOP:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

a gentle reminder: Laugh Out Loud! [update]

Exxon CEO: As an industry, ‘we are not well equipped’ to handle oil disasters.
Note: disasters - spills - are not "ifs", they are "whens".
RISK assessment: Yes, it's true that the probability that any particular operation - drilling, shipping, refining - will result in a disastrous outcome is very small.

BUT: RISK = probability x impact.
Even a very tiny probability can result in a HUGE RISK if the impact is sufficiently large.
[Yeah - it's unlikely that an asteroid hits the earth... BUT: if an asteroid WERE to hit the earth it would be a BAD THING!]

So... Do the Big Oil Wizards do anything to mitigate this risk?
Do they at least buy insurance?
From what we've seen with recent BP disaster the answer seems to be, "No".

The next time ANYONE cites the miracle of the self-regulating market: LAUGH OUT LOUD!

This is what government regulation is all about: protecting us - American citizens - from the ruthless predations of perfectly scrupulous private enterprise.
By law private corporations are answerable only to their share-holders: their job is to make $$$. That's it.

If making $$$ for their share-holders means putting ALL OF US at risk, so be it.
They're not evil: they're doing their job!

The ONLY way to protect us - American citizens - from the "unintended consequences" of their pecuniary pursuits is to enact and enforce strict regulations.

Does this make me a socialist? YES!!!

If the current BP disaster leads to better, saner energy policy - well, that'd be great.
BUT: it damn well better result in stricter regulation of industry!
The lesson we've been invited to learn from financial meltdown & current environmental disaster: Government regulation is a GOOD thing!

Stop the madness!!!

update: from HuffPost:
Gulf Oil Spill Testimony: Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil CEO, Admits Being Helpless At Handling Major Oil Spills (VIDEO)
... "When these things happen, we are not well equipped to deal with them," acknowledged Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon Mobil.
[emphasis added]
Note the adverb: "WHEN" these things happen... Yep - EVERYBODY knows these aren't "ifs", they're "whens"... but NO ONE even buys insurance!
[... re: Laugh out Loud.
Loyal readers may want to search for "Greenspan" to see similar instances of this less-than-wise hubris: Yeah, it could happen, but we don't care!]

another graph

... this one from Business Insider:
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Cliché, sure, but it's also more true than at any time since the Gilded Age.

The poor are getting poorer, wages are falling behind inflation, and social mobility is at an all-time low.

If you're in that top 1%, life is grand.

[emphasis added]
Yes, let's TALK about the redistribution of wealth!

[note: i'm not a big fan of pie-charts, but this one ain't too bad!]

Commentary from folks who write better than I

My sense is that this commentary is more inspirational than the speech, from my friend over at Mature Landscaping:
Mature Landscaping: On Big And Big; The President Speaks From The Oval Office

Is there a Vegas book on "final" estimate?

Scientists: Oil leaking up to 2.52M gallons daily
By RAY HENRY, Associated Press Writer
25 June 2010
NEW ORLEANS – Scientists provided a new estimate for the amount of oil gushing from the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday that indicates it could be leaking up to 2.52 million gallons of crude a day.
[emphasis added]
Is anyone making book on what the final, fer sure, real, actual, true rate-of-flow is?

So: did he talk tough?

... or, more to the point: did he give any indication that SOMETHING IS BEING DONE?

Nope - I didn't watch the speech.
(This in keeping with now long-standing personal tradition.)

New Mexico in the news

New Mexico candidate suggests securing border with landmines
Tue Jun 15, 12:01 pm ET
Tim Mullins, a New Mexico GOP congressional nominee, said in a radio interview last month that placing landmines on the border might be an effective way to secure the border.
On the bright side, Mullins is running in NM-3: a solidly Democratic district (... and it's NOT on the U.S.-Mexican border!).

But still...
Stop the madness!

how will the Rev Robertson interpret this?

6-story Jesus statue in Ohio struck by lightning

oh, good: Dems behaving badly

From HuffPost:
Bob Etheridge Attacks Student: North Carolina Congressman Gets Rough With Interviewer (VIDEO)
Seems folks in Congress are our betters, our lords, and entitled to assault us.

Once upon a time I suggested SOMEONE put together a seminar for Dem leadership: "Messaging & Marketing".
Maybe a much simpler "Civility" class is what's needed.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My DJIA bottom call

... based on almost nothing at all, I'm calling DJIA bottom at 8,500 +/- 250.

Now's a good time to get into bonds (if you believe my call!).

the other shoe

I'd decided not to comment on this NYT article, waiting for the other shoe to drop:
U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan
Turns out there IS another shoe!

As Rachel reveals tonight, this 'news' ain't exactly news: Afghanistan's mineral resources have been known for some time.
So - this story - from the Pentagon! - looks a lot like OUR GOVERNMENT controlling information to promote policy.
I shouldn't really be surprised!

... and, oh yeah: there's another 'shoe' buried in the story itself:
At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.
As in Iraq, China wants to be a major player in developing Afghan's natural resources!

... and I'm just more than a little leery of OUR "heavy investment" in Afghanistan.
INVESTMENT??? - NO!!!... we've poured tons of $$$ into Afghanistan, but I don't think "investment" is the right description of this waste!

Me? Let China come in!... Heck - I'd even be okay with bringing in the Chinese army to protect the mines!
Just so's Afghanistan's not OUR problem anymore!

Stop the madness!

It's been a while: Geithner must GO!

Just when I'd forgotten all about Geithner's disastrous tenure as SecTreas (from HuffPost):
Obama's Treasury Dept Working To Defeat Derivatives Proposal 'Of Utmost Importance' To Reforming Wall Street
Mr. Geithner is an incompetent ass. I don't believe he's evil, just in WAY over his head.

a false dichotomy

Pictures of Blagojevich: A crook or a fool?
This is yet another media example of a false dichotomy.
It is quite possible for Blagojevich to be BOTH a crook AND a fool!... and it may be that he is neither!

True dichotomies meet two simple criteria:
They are mutually exclusive.
("crook or fool" fails this test)

They are exhaustive - there are no other possibilities.
("crook or fool" fails this test, too!)
This has been today's logic lesson.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

... and now it begins

Authorities raid Sizzler restaurants in Phoenix
PHOENIX – Sheriff's deputies raided two Sizzler steak house restaurants in Phoenix on Saturday, arresting nine employees who are suspected of being illegal immigrants and using fraudulent documents to get jobs.
This could be fun: every workplace in AZ raided in next few months, seeking so-called illegal immigrants.

Just for fun: since passage & signing of SB1070 on 23 April:
PHX Suns lose to LA Lakers in NBA Western regional.

AZ Diamondbacks: 20-39
... and, oh yeah:
AU loses to UCLA in Women's Softball College World Series...
... including a blown Game 1: outfielders collide, let final out DROP!... UCLA wins the game!

UCLA routs AU 15-9 in Game 2!
Cause & effect? No, probably not.
... BUT: I've been cheering for whoever AZ plays ever since 23 April.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Just for fun

[note: if Tom Lehrer or Gilbert&Sullivan don't have anything to say about an issue, it's probably not worth my comment!]

... so why aren't the Marines kicking BP's butt?
(... "But not to Mississipoli" takes on a new meaning in the current environmental disaster!)

Curmudgeons' night out?

PM has proposed a "Curmudgeons' Night Out" at an Isotopes game.

Sounds good to me.

Here's link to schedule:
Isotopes Schedule
Any preferences?

OMG! - a graph!

C&L has posted a graph to convey effect of W's policies!
Boehner Lies About Bush Tax Cuts and Deficits
I continue to be baffled by the media's reluctance to present NUMERICAL information in graphical format!
Years of pedagogical experience convince me that ANYONE can correctly interpret a scatterplot & a line graph!
(... well, maybe just almost anyone: it could well be the case that the talking-head pundits don't show graphs because they don't understand 'em!)

[Just for fun: if you've a spare afternoon next fall, visit a 4th- or 5th-grade classroom - the walls will be adorned with VERY GOOD student-drawn graphs!
For what it's worth: doing "statistics" requires only 4th- and 5th-grade skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and drawing pictures!]

From friend in Takoma Park

Massive Flow Of Bullshit Continues To Gush From BP Headquarters
LONDON—As the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico entered its eighth week Wednesday, fears continued to grow that the massive flow of bullshit still gushing from the headquarters of oil giant BP could prove catastrophic if nothing is done to contain it.
The toxic bullshit, which began to spew from the mouths of BP executives shortly after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April, has completely devastated the Gulf region, delaying cleanup efforts, affecting thousands of jobs, and endangering the lives of all nearby wildlife.
Thanks, friend in Takoma Park!

Friday, June 11, 2010

BP's rules: here's a CNN vid from YouTube

The National Guard???

... and, oh, yeah: "BP has not enforced this provision..." is NOT the same as "BP WILL NOT enforce this provision..."
... so long as folks signed the contract, I'm pretty sure the law would be on BP's side if BP decided it would deny pay to any worker who was discovered to have talked... maybe in a month or so. "Sorry, Larry - you talked to CNN. The contract you signed made it clear this was not allowed. You violated the contract. Thanks for the free labor!"

BP's rules

BP's control of media access to affected areas, and the silencing-through-intimidation of their employees seems to be significantly under-reported.

Rachel continues to emphasize the disaster that all that oil in the water, on the beaches, and in the wetlands is and will continue to be for a very long time.
This is a good thing - she's focused not on the really cool videos of oil spewing out of the pipe (at a rate of... what's the current guess? 40,000 bbls/day???)... She's been diligently concentrating on the stuff that's already in the water, and on the beaches, and in the wetlands... that know one knows how to clean up.

But, no one seems to be talking too much about BP's complete control of media access to the affected areas - even when these areas are PUBLIC!

A few weeks ago I noted:
... When CBS tried to film a beach with heavy oil on the shore in South Pass, Louisiana, a boat of BP contractors, and two Coast Guard officers, told them to turn around, or be arrested.

"This is BP's rules, it's not ours," someone aboard the boat said.
"BP's rules"???

I don't know if the beach was public or private.
AND I acknowledge that govt has a right to keep folks away when imminent danger threatens.

BUT: keeping news crew off a beach because "these are BP's rules"???
What the fuck?!?

Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!
Since then there've been occasional stories of workers refusing to talk with media, citing "BP's rules".

Today my friend Woody over at Well-Armed Lamb writes:
Dr. Riki Ott: "BP Censoring Media, Destroying Evidence""... Even worse, as my latest week of adventures illustrate, BP is using federal agencies to shield itself from public accountability.

For example, while flying on a small plane from New Orleans to Orange Beach, the pilot suddenly exclaimed, "Look at that!" The thin red line marking the federal flight restrictions of 3,000 feet over the oiled Gulf region had just jumped to include the coastal barrier islands off Alabama.

"There's only one reason for that," the pilot said. "BP doesn't want the media taking pictures of oil on the beaches. ..."
Who controls access to airspace? FAA? - Whatever the agency, I KNOW it's part of MY Federal Government.
So, first the Coast Guard, now the FAA - conspiring with BP to deny media access.

Today C&L asks:
Why Are Media Blocked In The Gulf?
... a post that includes hints at what might otherwise sound like wild conspiracy theories... "might otherwise" IF we didn't have clear evidence of a Fed/BP collaboration to silence the media.

This particular post notes that even Anderson Cooper is getting ticked. Here's an excerpt of a CNN transcript:
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: ... but few here believe that BP has been transparent about much of anything.

Now, here is a letter that we obtained today, this is sent from BP's Chief Operating Officer, Doug Suttles to BP employees in the Gulf. It wasn't sent to us because we don't actually get direct communication with BP. He writes, "BP has not and will not prevent anyone working in the cleanup operation from sharing his or her own experiences or opinions with the media." He says he has not and will not.

Now, I can tell you the first part, has not, is simply not true. BP has hired security people who -- to keep journalists away from cleanup teams. They have workers -- workers over and over have told us, have told me over and over, that they can't talk because BP told them they would lose their jobs.

BP made fishing crews early on sign non-disclosure contracts until the fishermen's association took the company to court.

So BP is saying it has not tried to muzzle people, that's simply -- I mean that dog just won't hunt. Now, whether they will not, that remains to be seen and we'll be "Keeping Them Honest."

They promised transparency as you know numerous times in the past. But I mean, let's be real here. Let's remember, they didn't make video pictures of a leak available for weeks and even then it was a 30-second clip and not until forced to do that by Congress. They didn't make these high resolution HD pictures available to flow rate scientists, at least one of the scientists we've talked to -- until yesterday and only after lawmakers pressured them. We didn't even know these pictures existed.

They didn't tell the public or even
[Coast Guard Admiral] Thad Allen they'd suspended the "top kill" operation until 16 hours later. And for weeks we know, they have low-balled the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf. I mean they did this along with the Coast Guard, until the Coast Guard stopped doing joint briefings with them?
[emphasis added]
Maybe now that Anderson Cooper is getting riled, more MSM will start paying attention to the issue of BP's control of media access... and OUR GOVERNMENT's collusion in this restriction on media.

i'm back...

... PC repair took less than 3 hrs.
... and here I was, thinking I'd be computer-free till Monday!

off-line for a while

... taking machine in for repair...

Maybe our leaders should watch more movies...

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

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tell me again: why are we there???

Afghanistan Strategy Focuses on Civilian Effort
Disappointing Offensive in Marja Shapes Kandahar Plan
Published: June 8, 2010
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The prospect of a robust military push in Kandahar Province, which had been widely expected to begin this month, has evolved into a strategy that puts civilian reconstruction efforts first and relegates military action to a supportive role.

The strategy, Afghan, American and NATO civilian and military officials said in interviews, was adopted because of opposition to military action from an unsympathetic local population and Afghan officials here and in Kabul.

There are also concerns that a frontal military approach has not worked as well as hoped in a much smaller area in Marja, in neighboring Helmand Province.

The goal that American planners originally outlined — often in briefings in which reporters agreed not to quote officials by name — emphasized the importance of a military offensive devised to bring all of the populous and Taliban-dominated south under effective control by the end of this summer. That would leave another year to consolidate gains before President Obama’s July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing combat troops.
Mind you, I don't mind the shift to civilian projects... BUT: this shift is 180-degrees away from the strategy announced just 3 months ago!

Do we have a clue what we're doing?
Apparently not.

Taliban Aim at Officials in a Wave of Killings
... and...
Militants Attack NATO Goods in Pakistan
Are we any closer to a desired end state today than we were eight (8!!!) years ago???

Well, this is not encouraging:
General Forecasts Slower Pace in Afghan War
Published: June 10, 2010
BRUSSELS — The top United States and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, acknowledged Thursday that efforts in Kandahar to drive back Taliban insurgents were likely to take significantly longer than planned, raising new questions about what can be achieved in southern Afghanistan before the end of the year.
At what point will our political and military leaders decide to declare victory and get out of Afghanistan?
At what point will the American people DEMAND that we get out of Afghanistan?

I'm not big on Afghanistan/Vietnam comparisons (I think the better comparison is current NATO Afghan fiasco with Soviet Afghan fiasco!), but here are a few relevant observations from a review of Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam in the current New York Review of Books:
...President Kennedy had repeatedly asserted privately that a guerrilla war could not be won by foreign troops, even in large numbers. Eventually foreign troops go home, he said; the guerrillas stay. No lasting “victory” is possible for the foreigners. ...
... and the book's chapter headings provide a very nice outline to guide our thinking regarding the continuing Afghan fiasco:
1. Counselors Advise but Presidents Decide.

2. Never Trust the Bureaucracy to Get It Right.

3. Politics Is the Enemy of Strategy.

4. Conviction Without Rigor Is a Strategy for Disaster.

5. Never Deploy Military Means in Pursuit of Indeterminate Ends.

6. Intervention Is a Presidential Choice, Not an Inevitability.
Stop the madness!

A modest proposal...

Congress seems to be having a difficult time figuring out what to do about the synthetic securities market (i.e., "derivatives" - CDOs and other alphabet-soup "securities").

How 'bout something really simple?
Tax every transaction in synthetic securities at 50% (75%?).
Every time anyone buys one of these things, the sales price is taxed at 50% (75%?).
No - it won't make 'em go away, but it'll make 'em much less attractve as investments.

EVERYONE agrees that these financial products make NO contribution to the real economy - they just move $$$ around, without injecting those $$$ into any useful investments. They are ONLY "financial" instruments - designed to make $$$ without adding one cent to the real economy.
So - let's kill two birds with one stone: TAX 'EM!
Yep - you, Goldman-Sachs, can continue to underwrite these investments to your heart's content... BUT - every time you sell one of 'em, the proceeds get taxed! - at 50%... or (better yet) at 75%!
The U.S. Treasury takes in $$$, you continue business as usual.
It's a win-win solution!

... and it doesn't require our brilliant law-makers to do anything except change the tax-code! - They don't have to figure out how to 'regulate' anything!!!
If any given "security" isn't tied DIRECTLY to a tangible asset, it gets taxed at the increased rate. Bundled mortgages? - they're a BUNDLE, not tied to a specific tangible asset - tax it! Bundles of bundles? See above.
[Recall: during the initial TARP implementation, one of the issues was that NO ONE could assess (guess) the value of the "troubled assets" - this provides a convenient measuring stick: if you can't make an intelligent guess what an "asset" is really worth, it's pretty clear that it's NOT DIRECTLY TIED to anything tangible!... any and all transactions involving this "asset" WILL be taxed at the increased rate!]

Whaddaya think?

just for fun

Oil spills, global warming... how little has changed in 50 years!

aside: one of the very few things i remember from freshman chemistry (which i took as a sophomore!):
"See the halibuts and the sturgeons
Being wiped out by detergents."
The curse of unintended consequences: in the early/mid-60s of the last century, detergents were clogging America's waters... so the feds decreed that detergents must be bio-degradable. What does "bio-degradable" mean? It means that something is EATING the detergents! - Cool!... well, except that the stuff eating the detergents were algae, which quickly choked American waters!

Why is this even semi-relevant? The 'dispersal agents' currently being used on the BP DeepWater Horizon disaster work because they promote bio-degradation of the oil... meaning that SOMETHING is eating all that oil... meaning that - through the natural process of METABOLISM - the water is being depleted of oxygen. Yep - we can get rid of the oil! - BUT nothing else can live in the water thereafter!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Can BP go under? [Update!]... and a note

First: let's check on my investment advice from about a week ago:
... My bet is that BP continues to drop thru end of this week... then to rebound next week.

No - I wouldn't recommend BP as a secure long-term investment, but if you've got a few spare $$$, this may be an opportunity to cash in short-term.
The "next week" above has now arrived... what's happened to BP stock?

Yep - if you took my advice and bought BP on Monday of this week, so far you've lost about 22% of your investment!
[BUT: I am at least honest enough to check on my predictions/advice!
Jim Cramer isn't as honest as I!... in fact, I'm the only forecaster I know who routinely revisits his predictions to assess their accuracy.]

Okay - moving on: Can BP go under?
The following numbers are derived from NOAA Economic Statistics, published May 2002.
Contribution to U.S. Income,
Employment and Output
Fisheries Contributions
The economic value added to the national economy by the commercial fishing
industry was approximately $28 billion in 2000.

Total consumer expenditures for fisheries products are estimated at $54 billion
in 2000.

Approximately four million tons of fish are landed in the United States in
2000, representing an aggregate value of approximately $3.5 billion.

U.S. aquaculture sales total almost $1 billion per year, including both marine
and freshwater products.

More than 17 million Americans engage in marine fishing as a recreational
activity and spend approximately $20 billion per year on fishing related

U.S. exports of seafood products in 2000 were 2.2 billion pounds, valued at
$3 billion; the U.S. imported four billion pounds of seafood, valued at
$10.1 billion
Net contribution of Fisheries to U.S. economy: $109.5Bn.

Coastal Contributions:
Coastal and marine waters support 28.3 million jobs, generate $54 billion in
goods and services, contribute $30 billion to the U.S. economy through
recreational fishing, and provide a tourism destination for 89 million
Americans each year.

Travel and tourism is the Nation’s largest employer and second largest contributor
to the GDP, generating over $700 billion annually. Beaches are the
leading tourist destination, with coastal states earning 85 percent of all U.S.
tourism revenues. Approximately 89 million Americans visit U.S. coasts
each year.
Total Coastal contributions: $679Bn.
Total contribution to GDP: $788.5Bn.
Noting that the Gulf Coast is roughly 1/4 (25%) of the U.S. coastline (Gulf, Atlantic, Pacific, Alaska), let's estimate total contribution to GDP as 25% of the total: $197Bn.

Okay - the entire Gulf-related economy hasn't been doomed by BP's DeepWater Horizon disaster... but I'd be happy to say that for this year and next it's close to... maybe down by 30%... about $59Bn lost... THIS YEAR.
Everyone seems to agree the impact on the Gulf economy is a multi-year affair.
Let's assume next year's loss is half of this year's: $29.5Bn.
... and the year after that half again: $14.7Bn.
Okay - after that third year the Gulf is back to 90% of its pre-disaster $$$...
Making BP liable for $59Bn + $37Bn + $29.5Bn = $103.5Bn in losses.

BP's current market capitalization? $91.42Bn.
So - if BP is held financially responsible for the economic ruin it's caused - yep: BP is dead.

... and this would be a GOOD thing!
In an entirely different context:
"One of the great defects in our military establishment is the giving of weak sentences for military offenses. The purpose of military law is administrative rather than legal. As the French say, sentences are for the purpose of encouraging the others. I am convinced that, in justice to other men, soldiers who go to sleep on post, who go absent for a reasonable time during combat, or who shirk in battle should be executed..."
[General George S. Patton, Helpful Hints to Hopeful Heroes; emphasis added]
The purpose of harsh discipline in combat is NOT to correct the shirker, but to provide all others with an example!
BP's demise as a result of this human-caused catastrophe would perhaps inspire other oil companies to take somewhat more seriously safety, risk-assessment, and disaster-preparedness.
I believe the possibility that you - the oil company - might actually DIE provides much more, and much more effective, incentive to plan for disaster than any amount of government regulation - however well-enforced.
[Note: this is NOT the same as saying that government regulation is unnecessary!]

Update: BP stock crashes; oil giant trading below book value
Time for "Larry the Liquidator"!
(... a reference to Other People's Money, with Danny Devito as Lawrence Garfield, aka "Larry the Liquidator")

note: the analysis above is not quite right. The NOAA report, published in 2002, references 2000 numbers - I don't know if the $$$ are 2000 or 2002, but in either case they're worth MORE than 2010 $$$... so the analysis is conservative, in favor of BP. The true liability of BP, assuming 2002 dollars, would be closer to 1.21 x $103.5Bn = $125Bn
BP is very definitely BROKE!

... which makes the appearance of a "Larry the Liquidator" character all that more unlikely. Yes - the other Big Oil folks could pool their resources to buy BP (market capitalization less than assets)... but they'd be assuming a HUGE liability, exceeding 1.37 x price!... anybody want to buy this company???

Economics 101

Disclaimer: I took the equivalent of Economics 101 in college... pass/fail (I passed). What I know about economics can be written in big block letters on a postage stamp.
That said, I feel like a genius compared to our policy-makers!
Stimulus Talk Yields to Calls to Cut Deficits
Published: June 8, 2010
WASHINGTON — At a moment when many economists warn that the American economic recovery is likely to be imperiled by prolonged high unemployment and slow growth, President Obama is discovering that the tools available to him last year — a big economic stimulus and action by the Federal Reserve — are both now politically untenable.

The mood in both parties of Congress has turned decidedly anti-deficit, meaning that the job-creation programs once favored by the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress have been cut back, then cut again.

A gentle reminder to our esteemed Senators & members of Congress:
GDP = Consumption + Investment + government spending + (Exports − Imports)
Another gentle reminder:
Consumers are NOT spending (~70% of the U.S. economy!).
Businesses are NOT investing (banks aren't lending, either!).
... and the recent strength of the dollar mitigates AGAINST balance of trade!
So, where will GDP growth originate???
Now, not everyone at once!
That's right, Johnny: Government Spending!

Now is precisely the WRONG time to be worrying about deficits.
(Where were these deficit-hawk fiscal conservatives when W cut taxes & got us into TWO unfunded wars???)

This is not academic theory.
We have perfectly good RECENT examples of what happens when governments respond to economic downturns with austerity measures: Japan in the 1990s and Argentina in the early years of this decade.
The result of government austerity?
What Paul Krugman calls "the lost decade"!

A suggestion: if you're REALLY concerned about the deficit - RAISE revenue! - increase tax rates on those who can afford it - the wealthy.
We've seen NO EVIDENCE that increasing marginal tax rates on incomes over $1M discourage those earners from working... or that they're resolutely investing their excess $$$ in GDP-promoting economic activity.

As most of us on household budgets realize, increased spending can be offset with increased income.
RAISE MORE MONEY! - increase tax-rate on those who can afford it.

A related article, again from NYT:
Legacy for One Billionaire: Death, but No Taxes
Published: June 8, 2010
A Texas pipeline tycoon who died two months ago may become the first American billionaire allowed to pass his fortune to his children and grandchildren tax-free.
That's right: W's tax-policies are now creating an hereditary plutocracy in America!
... and the austerity measures being considered by our leaders will impact ONLY those of us who actually work for a living!... those that constitute ~70% of our economy! - thus ensuring a self-reinforcing downward spiral!

Not to put it too gently: GET YOUR HEAD OUT YOUR ASS!
... and, oh yeah:

Darn! [update]

Early signs of gloom for Orly Taitz in California
As of 12:02 a.m. (EDT), with 47.8% of precincts reporting, Orly Taitz is polling 26.1% of the total in CA's GOP SecState primary.

Coulda been a fun general with Taitz in the running.

update: oh, good - i'm not alone. Here's TPM's take on the Taitz loss:
Biggest Election Disappointment

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"stromuhr: S-T-R-O-M-U-H-R"

Main Entry: strom·uhr
Pronunciation: \ˈstrō-ˌmu̇(ə)r\
Function: noun
: a rheometer designed to measure the amount and speed of blood flow through an artery
[Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary]
Congratulations to Cleveland, OH eighth-grader
Anamika Veeramani for knowing how to spell this word, thereby winning the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Here's the article:
Teen breaks Cleveland drought, wins Spelling Bee

Thursday, June 3, 2010

on the bright side...

For the most of us not earning a living from professional baseball, baseball and life are NOT co-extensive!...
On the other hand...
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time..."
[Terence Mann in the 1989 film, Field of Dreams]


"A considerable amount of commotion was stirred up during the past year over the prospect of a Multi-Lateral Force, known to the headline writers as MLF. Much of this discussion took place during the baseball season so the Chronicle may not have covered it..."
[Tom Lehrer, That Was the Year that Was]
Identifying with Tom Lehrer's implied characterization of the San Francisco Chronicle, I, too, may ignore world-shaking events now that baseball season is in full swing!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

of perfect games & sportsmanship

Perfect games in baseball are rare events.
From 1900 to this season there have been 18 - perhaps the best known being Don Larsen's in game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

There've been 3 pitched so far this season.
Only 2 of 'em will count.
On what should have been the final out in a game between Detroit & Cleveland, the umpire called the runner - Cleveland’s Jason Donald - safe at first. He was, in fact, out... by a full step.
The pitcher, Detroit's Armando Galarraga, covered first base, and took the toss.
He stepped off the bag smiling, convinced he'd just pitched a perfect game.
Then he saw first base umpire Jim Joyce call the runner safe.
A bemused look crossed Galarraga's face... but he didn't throw a tantrum.
He didn't scream at the umpire.
He didn't argue the call.
He simply walked back to the mound to face the next batter.

Umpire Joyce apologized to Galarraga after the game, and has stated publicly, “It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it.”

In a post-game interview, Galarraga was gracious, acknowledging that as humans we all make mistakes from time to time.

It won't show up in the record books as a perfect game, but most everyone agrees it was.
... and more than that: it was a rare example of true sportsmanship in professional sports.
Maybe this could only happen in baseball.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President:
You’ve recently given several powerful speeches regarding the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, replete with references to accountability and responsibility.

I remind you that your predecessor also gave great speeches. In his case, it more often than not seemed that he believed that simply giving the speech – saying the words – was sufficient to change reality. Sadly, reality did not often comply.

I recall a delightful dueling-duet from The Andy Williams Show, circa 1968:
Andy Williams: "It's only words, and words all i have to take your heart away."
Cass Elliot: "Words of love, so soft and tender, won't win a girl's heart anymore."
(Here’s the YouTube:
Wonderful words are great.
Action is even better.

Suggestion: BEFORE giving a speech promising ‘accountability’ and ‘responsibility’ – on ANY issue – put in place the administrative machinery to ensure that these words have an operational meaning!

This free advice has been worth EVERY PENNY!


Why is para-sailin' always in the news?

full disclosure: this post is pretty much stolen from email correspondence dating from 2008 election.

Why is para-sailin' always in the news?
What's wrong with para-sailin'?
Who cares who's writing a book about para-sailin'?
Heck - I even attempted para-sailin' in my youth: it's an invigorating, if slightly scary, hobby!

I'm not surprised to learn that some journalist is writing a book about para-sailin' in Alaska: with all that water and a wonderfully long summer, with 20 hours of daylight, it seems like the perfect leisure-time activity!

Probably not a long-term investment... but maybe a chance to make $$$ in the short-term

British Petroleum shares plunge 15 percent as efforts to stop oil spill fail
My bet is that BP continues to drop thru end of this week... then to rebound next week.

No - I wouldn't recommend BP as a secure long-term investment, but if you've got a few spare $$$, this may be an opportunity to cash in short-term.

For what it's worth: no, I'm not the only one holding this opinion (tho' this guy seems to view BP as a long-term opportunity!):
British Petroleum Might Be a Good Buy (NYSE: BP)
Posted on 06/01/10 at 8:49am by Jacob Wolinsky
British Petroleum (NYSE: BP) is currently down 14% at $37 in the pre-market. BP's stock has been hit heavily due to the recent oil spill.

However, I think investors might be over-reacting. A quick look at BP shows the following. The stock is at 52 week low. BP traded as high as $62 per share only several months ago.

BP will surely have a huge legal fine for their role in the recent oil spill. However, their cash from operations in 2009 was $28 billion. Their balance sheetbalance sheet is not great, but decent. BP's forward P/Eforward P/E is less than 5, and the stock has a dividend yielddividend yield of over 8%.
Now, will I have the courage of my convictions???

NM primaries today...

I'll miss the GOP-eating-themselves attack ads!

Since I'm registered as a "Decline-to-state" political affiliation, I'm not allowed to vote in NM primary elections.
My wife - a registered Republican - did vote.

Am I anti-Semitic?... [update]

... because I disagree with the current Israeli government's policies???
Netanyahu defends aid ships raid, regrets loss of life
The Likud/Shas coalition includes folks who would happily disenfranchise Israeli Arabs, strip them of citizenship... and deport 'em.

It supports the "Settlement" movement, which is quickly denying West Bank Palestinians the right to live... anywhere.

In the name of "national security" it has completely ghetto-ized the Gaza Strip.

What, exactly, does this government hope to attain by these draconian measures?
Palestinians - faced with absolutely NO HOPE for a better tomorrow - are unlikely to decide, under such repression - to go to their graves smiling.

Israel's right-wing, and many in the traditional American Jewish political community (e.g., AIPAC), will construe my misgivings regarding the current Israeli government as a sure sign of anti-Semitism.
So be it.

update: From an article in The New York Review of Books:
The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment
by Peter Beinart
12 May 2010
Many of Israel’s founders believed that with statehood, Jews would rightly be judged on the way they treated the non-Jews living under their dominion. “For the first time we shall be the majority living with a minority,” Knesset member Pinchas Lavon declared in 1948, “and we shall be called upon to provide an example and prove how Jews live with a minority.”

[emphasis added]