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Showing posts from November, 2009

Cluster Fox Strikes Again

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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.

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

Debt vs GDP

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

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 ot…

Rewrite

In Cluster Fox World, they just make shit up.

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

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.

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 correspo…

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.…

Conservative Descent

Steve Chapman (Chicago Tribune) critiques Sarah Palin.

Chapman:
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 i…

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.

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%).

Whatever.

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.

Gravity

...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.

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.

InfoMania

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

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 asi…

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.

Oops

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.

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

Gotcha

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 los…

Red State Update

I managed to miss this one - glad I checked.

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

God Love The Onion

The Budget

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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.”

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…

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

Carbon

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