Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cluster Fox Strikes Again

Maybe they're not all that stupid; and maybe they don't think we're all that stupid; maybe there're a few sane ones who know it's mostly bullshit, and they're trying to let us know they're there(?).  Dunno.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Old Men Talkin' And Young Men Dyin'

At Parris Island, Marine Corps recruits finish boot camp with an arduous multi-day field exercise on half rations, then do a long overnight march to a stadium to receive their Eagle, Globe & Anchor insignia and officially become Marines. They are promised a breakfast of steak and eggs. I marched in with them one year. We slogged in at dawn to find a band playing, flags waving and a stadium full of cheering parents and retired Marines and orating politicians. The fanfare wasn't for the young Marines, I realized, but rather it was for the benefit of the older generation who would send them to war.

Politics Daily

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Debt vs GDP

A snapshot.  For no particular reason - sometimes I just need a place to park this kind of stuff.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

10 Years Of Hell

For you brave souls who can actually endure it (and might understand it), read the Open Markets Committee minutes here.  I get about 15% of it on my own, so I rely heavily on Bill McBride at Calculated Risk.

Here's a snippet from the minutes:
Most participants now viewed the risks to their growth forecasts as being roughly balanced rather than tilted to the downside, but uncertainty surrounding these forecasts was still viewed as quite elevated. Downside risks to growth included the continued weakness in the labor market and its implications for income growth and consumer confidence, as well as the potential for credit availability to remain relatively tight for consumers and some businesses. In this regard, some participants noted the difficulty that smaller, bank-dependent firms were having in securing financing. The CRE sector was also considered a downside risk to the forecast and a possible source of increased pressure on banks. On the other hand, consumer spending on items other than autos had been stronger than expected, which might be signaling more underlying momentum in the recovery and some chance that the step-up in spending would be sustained going forward. In addition, growth abroad had exceeded expectations for some time, potentially providing more support to U.S. exports and domestic growth than anticipated.

I think the plan at this point is to keep pushing the stimulus bucks out the door (as of Oct 31, just a bit over 30% of the money had been delivered), and hope that the pent-up consumer demand is released over the holidays to a sufficient degree that it carries us thru the January Slump and gives us a little jump start come spring.  I guess the kicker is that we don't know what most people are going to use to finance their spending*, so it's likely we're not going to see big numbers.

*studies are coming out now that strongly suggest that the housing bubble enabled an awful lot of people simply to postpone their money problems - they were drawing out their home equity in order to pay their credit card bills, but got caught up in the belief that real estate never goes down, and so they could just inflate their problems away.  Sound familiar?

Anyway, we're stuck in the classic dilemma - we have to spend something, but it appears we have nothing to spend.


In Cluster Fox World, they just make shit up.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's Goin' On

Crock Of The Week

I've only seen this one once, so I don't quite get it. I'll have to watch it another time or two.

Like It Is

Old reliable, 60 minutes.
We have a ridiculously hard time even talking about issues of living and dying - especially when we allow politicians to freak us out with rhetoric aimed at making us afraid and distrustful. We are fast becoming a nation of whiny-butt pussies. Why do we continue to listen to anybody who deliberately misleads us in cynical attempts to manipulate our behavior?

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Lied

One more - but then I'll stop - for sure this time. (see Matt Taibbi's blog at True Slant)
(Palin) is the country’s first WWE politician — a cartoon combatant who inspires stadiums full of frustrated middle American followers who will cheer for her against whichever villain they trot out, be it Newsweek, Barack Obama, Katie Couric, Steve Schmidt, the Mad Russian, Randy Orton or whoever. Her followers will not know that she is the perfect patsy for our system, designed as it is to channel popular anger in any direction but a useful one, and to keep the public tied up endlessly in pointless media melees over meaningless nonsense (melees of the sort that develop organically around Palin everywhere she goes). Like George W. Bush, even Palin herself doesn’t know this, another reason she’s such a perfect political tool.

One More On Palin

And then I'll stop; really.

About Palin's book, Going Rogue:
... a book written by someone who can't write, intended for an audience that doesn't read, about the thoughts of a person who doesn't think.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Listing Palin's Lies

This is not the kind of parsing that Clinton was so good at; and it's not the conflation of Bush and Cheney.  It's a patern of telling lies. Lies that are straight up and verifiable.

Here's Sully's list:
Palin lied when she said the dismissal of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, had nothing to do with his refusal to fire state trooper Mike Wooten; in fact, the Branchflower Report concluded that she repeatedly abused her power when dealing with both men.

Palin lied when she repeatedly claimed to have said, "Thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere; in fact, she openly campaigned for the federal project when running for governor.

Palin lied when she denied that Wasilla's police chief and librarian had been fired; in fact, both were given letters of termination the previous day.

Palin lied when she wrote in the NYT that a comprehensive review by Alaska wildlife officials showed that polar bears were not endangered; in fact, email correspondence between those scientists showed the opposite.

Palin lied when she claimed in her convention speech that an oil gas pipeline "began" under her guidance; in fact, the pipeline was years from breaking ground, if at all.

Palin lied when she told Charlie Gibson that she does not pass judgment on gay people; in fact, she opposes all rights between gay spouses and belongs to a church that promotes conversion therapy.

Palin lied when she denied having said that humans do not contribute to climate change; in fact, she had previously proclaimed that human activity was not to blame.

Palin lied when she claimed that Alaska produces 20 percent of the country's domestic energy supply; in fact, the actual figures, based on any interpretation of her words, are much, much lower.

Palin lied when she told voters she improvised her convention speech when her teleprompter stopped working properly; in fact, all reports showed that the machine had functioned perfectly and that her speech had closely followed the script.

Palin lied when she recalled asking her daughters to vote on whether she should accept the VP offer; in fact, her story contradicts details given by her husband, the McCain campaign, and even Palin herself. (She later added another version.)

Palin lied when she claimed to have taken a voluntary pay cut as mayor; in fact, as councilmember she had voted against a raise for the mayor, but subsequent raises had taken effect by the time she was mayor.

Palin lied when she insisted that Wooten's divorce proceedings had caused his confidential records to become public; in fact, court officials confirmed they released no such records.

Palin lied when she suggested to Katie Couric that she was involved in trade missions with Russia; in fact, she has never even met with Russian officials.

Palin lied when she told Shimon Peres that the only flag in her office was the Israeli flag; in fact, she has several flags.

Palin lied when she claimed to have tried to divest government funds from Sudan; in fact, her administration openly opposed a bill that would have done just that.

Palin lied when she repeatedly claimed that troop levels in Iraq were back to pre-surge levels; in fact, even she acknowledged her "misstatements," though she refused to retract or apologize.

Palin lied when she insisted that the Branchflower Report "showed there was no unlawful or unethical activity on my part"; in fact, that report prominently stated, "Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act."

Palin lied when she claimed to have voiced concerns over Wooten fearing he would harm her family; in fact, she actually decreased her security detail during that period.

Palin lied when asked about the $150,000 worth of clothes provided by the RNC; in fact, solid reporting contradicted several parts of her statement.

Palin lied when she suggested that she had offered the media proof of her pregnancy with Trig to "correct the record"; in fact, no reports of her medical records were ever published; and the letter from her doctor testifying to her good health only emerged hours before polling ended on election day, even though there was nothing in it that couldn't have been released two months earlier.

Palin lied when she said that "reported" allegations of her banning Harry Potter as mayor was easily refutable because it had not even been written yet; in fact, the first book in that series was published in 1998 - two years into her first term - and such rumors were never reported by the media, only circulated as emails.

Palin lied when she denied having participated in a clothes audit with campaign laywers; in fact, the Washington Times later confirmed those details.

Palin lied when asked about Couric's question regarding her reading habits; in fact, Couric's words were not, "What do you read up there in Alaska?" or anything close to condescension.

Palin lied when she mischaracterized the "$1200 check" given to Alaskans as the permanent fund dividend check; in fact, that fund had yielded $2,069 per person, and she claimed otherwise to obscure the fact that Alaskans also received a $1200 rebate check from a windfall profits tax on oil companies - a tax widely criticized by Republicans.

Palin lied when she claimed to be unaware of a turkey being slaughtered behind her during a filmed interview; in fact, the cameraman said she had picked the spot herself, while the slaughter was underway.

Palin lied when she denied having rejected federal stimulus money; in fact, she continued to accept and reject the funds several times.

Palin lied when she claimed that legislative leaders had canceled a meeting with her to hold their own press conference; in fact, they only canceled it after being told she would not participate, and the purpose of the press conference was very different from the meeting's.

Palin lied when she announced on the news that she never holds closed-door meetings; in fact, she had just attended a closed-door meeting with the legislature earlier that day.

Palin lied when she said that former aide John Bitney's "amicable" departure was for "personal" reasons; in fact, Bitney said he was fired because of his relationship with the wife of Palin's friend, plus a Palin spokesperson later claimed "poor job performance" for his firing - without elaborating.

Palin lied when she said she kept her running injury a secret on the campaign trail; in fact, her bandaged hand was clearly visible in photographs and the story was widely talked about.

Palin lied when she claimed that Alaska has spent "millions of dollars" on litigation related to her ethics complaints; in fact, that figure is much, much lower, and she had initiated the most expensive inquiry.

Palin lied when she denied that the Alaska Independence Party supports secession and denied that her husband had been a member; in fact, even the McCain campaign noted that the party's very existence is based on secession and that Todd was a member for seven years.

Palin lied when she told Oprah that she desperately wanted to go on Saturday Night Live because it would be "fun" and could push back on the Tina Fey impression Palin says she hated but never actually listened to. Contemporaneous emails show that Palin resisted going on SNL and was therefore lying to Oprah.

Palin lied when she told Oprah Winfrey that she gaffed on the campaign trail in saying that the McCain campaign shouldn't quit Michigan. She said she had been unaware at the time that the decision to withdraw had already been taken. Contemporaneous emails show she was lying, and had already been told.

Palin lied in "Going Rogue: in accusing two journalists she recognized from a press conference as ambushing her daughter Piper on the street. One of those journalists had never attended the press conference cited by Palin, but Palin has never withdrawn the charge.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Reconstruction In Iraq

Y'know what we really need right about now?  We need some dumbass "conservative" to wag his finger at us and deliver a good stern lecture on fiscal responsibility.

From the NYT, a report on the failure parade in Iraq.
In its largest reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan, the United States government has spent $53 billion for relief and reconstruction in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, building tens of thousands of hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools and bridges.
But there are growing concerns among American officials that Iraq will not be able to adequately maintain the facilities once the Americans have left, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and jeopardizing Iraq’s ability to provide basic services to its people.
Despite the $53 billion spent by the United States, many Iraqis have criticized the rebuilding effort as wasteful. Ali Ghalib Baban, Iraq’s minister of planning, said it had not had a discernible impact. “Maybe they spent it,” he said, “but Iraq doesn’t feel it.”

Iraqis, for whom bombed-out buildings are an unremarkable part of urban existence, also say they have seen little evidence of rebuilding.
“Where is the reconstruction?” asked Sahar Kadhum, a resident of Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. “The city is sleeping on hills of garbage.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Conservative Descent

Steve Chapman (Chicago Tribune) critiques Sarah Palin.

The 19th century American writer Henry Adams said the descent of American presidents from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant was enough to discredit the theory of evolution. The same could be said of the pantheon of conservative political heroes, which in the last half-century has gone from Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan to Sarah Palin. That refutation may be agreeable to Palin, who doesn't put much stock in Darwin anyway.

And Sully despairs:
And I, of course, think of Thatcher, whose example helped make me a conservative, and her total grip of policy detail, and her fascination with ideas and history, and her degree in chemistry from Oxford and her training as a lawyer, and years in diligent opposition and government, and her willingness to take on and argue with anyone, and to never quit anything.
And I silently weep that the right has been reduced to this absurd fantasist know-nothing who believes her ignorance is her selling point. It is worse than a descent. It is an abyss.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

10 Years Of Hell

From Calculated Risk:
This morning several commentators suggested that housing starts were depressed in October because of the expiration of the tax credit (new home buyers had to close by Nov 30th to get the tax credit), and also because of the weather. Probably. But the key point is that housing starts will not increase rapidly because of the large overhang of existing vacant housing units. And that suggests that the economy will not recover quickly either.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Healthcare Reform

OK, so we have a bill out of the House that costs a trillion dollars and covers about 96% of us; we're getting a bill from the Senate that costs about $850 billion and covers 94% (even tho' Schumer says 98%).


I'm not crazy about spending a lot more money on much of anything right now, but I'm willing to do it if we can do something worthwhile like getting out from under the burden of bigger and bigger insurance premiums - but what strikes me as odd is that it seems like people are expecting me to jump up and down cheering for a plan that costs a lot, puts a big pile of tax dollars in the pockets of big insurance AND still  leaves somewhere between 6 and 15 million people without health insurance coverage.  I'm unimpressed, and I'm wondering just what the fuck is wrong with us.


...stay the hell away from me.

A Blockbuster Saga

Low probability that it's true - don't really care.  It's a fun story either way.
Sometimes it's just good to fantasize about pushing back against the 'authorities'.
Tip o' the hat to Doug Z.

The KSM Trial

Andrew Sullivan gets a little purple sometimes, but I think his take on why we should try KSM in NY is exactly right.
When you listen to the Fox News right speak about this, they reveal amazing levels of fear. They have been truly spooked by these men with long beards and chilling eyes. They are so scared of them they are willing to drop any and all legal principles that the West has historically used with respect to mass murderers. Their fear brought them to institute torture, and to engage in mass brutality against prisoners of war in every theater of combat in a manner that will tragically taint the honor of the US military for a very long time. It led them to establish Gitmo, to create for the world a reverse symbol of the Statue of Liberty, and imprint it on the minds and in the consciences of an entire generation of human beings, whose view of America will never be the same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

KSM Trial

Bill O'Reilley's show is like that jug of milk in the fridge that you know has gone bad, but you still can't resist smelling it just to be sure.
A couple of classic BillO Moments:
1) "I don't care about the Constitution."
2) "If the Bush administration had declared war on al-Qaeda..."
Not even a semi pocket dog like Napolitano would sit still for crap like that.
But here's the kicker: BillO opposes trying KSM et al in NY because he thinks it'll be a circus - a show trial - that it'll be about everything except the acts of terrorism it's supposed to be about. Even if that's a fair point, I still have to ask; what is he afraid will be revealed? Will we be reminded of Bush's epic failures before during and after 9-11? And will it all play out to the disadvantage of the Repubs during the next 2 election cycles? Is that what we're really worried about here, Billy?

We're #1

Security Theater

Along the lines of Political Theater - Bruce Schneier explains.

Terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think. It's rare because very few people want to commit acts of terrorism, and executing a terrorist plot is much harder than television makes it appear. The best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. However, our elected leaders don't think this way: they are far more likely to implement security theater against movie-plot threats.


Current TV popped up on my Dish Network box a couple of years ago(?). They do some interesting stuff.

Monday, November 16, 2009

KSM Trial

Politicians can usually be counted on to run away from their own comments &/or positions when they think they need to - Rudy G is certainly no exception. And of course, since the Repub Handbook clearly prohibits changing your mind even in light of changed circumstances, he just spins like a top to make it seem like he was in perfect agreement with the decision to try the 1993 bombers in the NY courts because "there were no alternatives ... now we have the alternative of military tribunals". He said then that he tho't it was a good idea because it would show the bad guys that the US is in fact "what we say we are - a nation of law". Now that we do have the alternative in the form of military tribunals, does it mean that we're no longer the nation of law that he was so proud of back then?

But uh oh; another little problematic detail pops up - military tribunals WERE available for the Moussaoui trial - and Jack Reed sticks Rudy with it.

Put all this aside for just a moment, and look at the naked politics. It seems like the same game the Repubs have been playing for 20+ years.
1) Pick a bad guy - make sure he's easy to spot. Either he has a foreign-sounding name, or his skin is a couple of shades darker than yours, or he has some kind of well known label that we can tag him with when we run his picture on TV (Democrat, Liberal, Imam, etc).
2) Imply (or say it straight out) that he doesn't believe in the same things you believe in; or even better, that he actively seeks to destroy the things we all hold dear. Best case: when he hates us AND he gets tax dollars to do his dirty work.
3) Guide the narrative in a way that never makes a direct call for violence, but be sure to invite lots of inference that we are being victimized. Best case: he gets a chance "to use our freedoms against us."

So watch out for Cluster Fox's favorite; letting the bad guys put the American system on trial. For my own self, I think the American system is a pretty good one (even tho' it can be frustrating and annoying to those who seem unwilling to make any real effort to understand it), and after 220 years of hard evidence, it appears to me that when we allow it to work as intended, the system stands up quite well under any scrutiny brought to bear.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Triangle

I'm thinking, somebody's gonna tell me this is why I shoulda paid more attention in Math Class.

Welcome Back, Mr Beckerman

Marty Beckerman explains his trek to, and then back from the dark side - which sounds a little like my own actually.
Just as morphing into an extremist took a couple years, un-becoming an extremist happened over time. One by one I saw the flaws in conservative orthodoxy: attempting to fight terrorism with torture, which only aided our enemies' propaganda efforts and thus created more terrorists; seeking to liberalize the Muslim world while curtailing rights for gay people at home; criticizing public schools for lackluster results and therefore cutting funds further; disdaining the weak while never analyzing why they are weak; always seeing the effect but never the cause, which on a mass scale perpetuates the effect.
Here it is.

Wall Street Leeches

From The Agonist
There are dozens and dozens of companies like Dollar General that were taken private by leveraged buy-out firms during the market frenzy that peaked in 2007. They were all bought with little cash and enormous amounts of debts, and they are sitting like time bombs on the balance sheets of the leveraged buy-out firms that misjudged the market. As the months go by and the buy-out firms watch their fees from their investors get eaten up by high interest costs, they are getting more and more desperate to dump these companies back on to the public markets and naïve individual investors.


The Republican National Committee’s health insurance plan covers elective abortion – a procedure the party’s own platform calls “a fundamental assault on innocent human life.”
Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC’s policy covers elective abortion.

But they're gonna fix it - now that it's been found out and brought to light.  Mike Steele is all over it and has told the bennies admin to drop coverage for abortion services.  Read all about it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gotcha - Followup

From Media Matters, Hannity issued an "apology" for airing some bogus video - which is just the most recent in a long line of such things:

A more complete listing of examples.

Today's Quote

"If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?" - Will Rogers

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The brilliance of Jon Stewart is indispensable.
I couldn't get the embed language to copy correctly, so just follow this link.

Cluster Fox

What's the message between the lines here? Why would Roger & Rupert single out this one small piece of BS for challenge?

The Costs Of War

Looking at War strictly as a business proposition is a little dicey because it reduces the thing to simplistic dimensions; but trying to look at War always and only as a totality, it gets way too complex and convoluted in a big hurry.  You have to break it done into bite-sized chunks. So here's a slice fer ya.  BTW: these numbers don't include things like Cost Of Opportunity, Cost Of Capital, Depreciation, etc.

These items are all relative to what we could provide for people here in Albemarle County if we had spent our share of the money on something other than wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
--  41,496 Homes with Renewable Electricity per Year
--       732 Elementary School Teachers per Year
--  14,077 People with Health Care per Year
--    1,042 Scholarships for University Students per Year

So let's see - with a population of about 116,000, we could have provided a nice green energy source for PRACTICALLY EVERY FUCKING BUILDING IN THE WHOLE FUCKING COUNTY.

Sorry. Kinda lost it there for a minute.  I'd just really like to start doing some smart things with our money for a change.

Try it for yourself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Worth Remembering

...though (probably) soon to be forgotten. I can easily see Mr Cao being challenged in a primary early next year. But for now, he's a hero; a guy who votes for something he thinks will HELP THE PEOPLE in his district, in spite of what his party wants. Nice knowin' ya, Mr Cao.

SNL vs Goldman Sachs

Saturday, November 7, 2009

God Love The Onion

Ford Unveils New Car For Cash-Strapped Buyers: The 1993 Taurus

The Budget

For the self-described Deficit Hawks / Budget Nannies / Fiscal Conservatives,  here's your chart:

It's hard to see clearly, but here's how it breaks down for the Top Seven:
1) Social Security
2) Medicare
3) Medicaid & SCHIP
4) Unemployment/Welfare & other mandated spending
5) Interest on National Debt
6) Defense Dept
7) Global War On Terror (does NOT include Iraq and Afghanistan)
These 7 items add up to 83.6% of the total budget.

So when you say you wanna cut federal spending, tell me where.  And be specific.  "Waste Fraud and Abuse" is not a qualifier unless you can point to real examples.

How It Works

Everybody's favorite Congress managed to get Unemployment Bennies extended after only an extra month of  doing whatever it is they do to make us think they aren't just jackin' each other off.
From John Cole at Balloon Juice:
You see- you aren’t allowed to just pass a bill extending unemployment benefits at the cost of $2.4 billion dollars, because that would be socialism. It takes another $21.6 billion to grease the palms of the people who own the “moderates” and the “fiscal conservatives,” and once you get the cost up to $24 billion, you have achieved “capitalism.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Off-Year Elections

Looking at the election results from Tuesday, lots of people keep asking "what does it mean?" 
Here's what it means: Republicans won a couple, Democrats won a couple, and you too can be Mayor of New York City for the low low price of just $100 Million.

People wanted change so they voted for Obama last year.  Guess what - they still want change so they're voting against incumbency.  But guess what else - sometimes change is a scary thing when you're in the middle of it, so there's a tendency to revert to the old familiar ways of doing things. 

Having sobered up a little after the Bush Blowout, some of us are beginning to remember that actually you can't get something for nothing.  If you want good schools and roads and safe food and secure borders and professional cops and clean water and healthcare and and and - then you have to figure out how to pay for it all.  If you don't want to pay for anything, then you don't get anything.  It's not a difficult concept, so it might just turn out that you have to spend some of your hard-earned money on something other than the shit you think you need in order to compensate for your latest feelings of inadequacy (courtesy of your favorite Giant Advertising Company).

It's been a nice party, but now it's time to clean up, and pay up.

Monday, November 2, 2009

War Dead

Another month goes by and we're still spending lives and big piles of money in places where nobody wants us to be, for reasons nobody believes in.

US Dead in Iraq = 4355
US Dead in Afghanistan = 909

Dollars spent for 2 wars since 2001: $928,000,000,000.00 (increases by approx $318 Million per day)

Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Proposals for Cap & Trade to reduce Carbon Emmissions get a lot of ink; and of course, they attract a lot of crap from "both sides" - tho' I can't quite firgure out what there is to be choosing sides about.  Traditionally, the thing is set up as Jobs vs Scenery - which is stupid.  Even if it's possible to separate the Economy from the Environment, it's really not a good idea to try.  The whole thing just doesn't work as a zero-sum game.  We have to have both in balance.  So we need to stop pretending we're smart enough to beat the system.

Cap and trade on SO2 emmissions here from EDF.

The projected cost of cap and trade on CO2 emmissions here from Stanford Univ.

When The Wall Came Down

WaPo ran a cool little recap today in the Outlook Section.

"But the real story of the wall coming down is a lot less tidy than it may appear in the rear-view mirror. The "decision" to open the border was not a conscious choice at all. Instead of a reassuring victory for the forces of freedom, it was a chaotic and potentially violent mess. One of the most momentous events of the past century was, in fact, an accident, a semicomical and bureaucratic mistake that owes as much to the Western media as to the tides of history."

Always good to take another look at memorable events.

Risk Management