Tuesday, December 30, 2008



n. pl. Ne·groes Often Offensive
1. A Black person. See Usage Note at black.
2. A member of the Negroid race. Not in scientific use.

Usage Note at black:

Usage Note: The Oxford English Dictionary contains evidence of the use of black with reference to African peoples as early as 1400, and certainly the word has been in wide use in racial and ethnic contexts ever since. However, it was not until the late 1960s that black (or Black) gained its present status as a self-chosen ethnonym with strong connotations of racial pride, replacing the then-current Negro among Blacks and non-Blacks alike with remarkable speed. Equally significant is the degree to which Negro became discredited in the process, reflecting the profound changes taking place in the Black community during the tumultuous years of the civil rights and Black Power movements.


New Microsoft patent!

It appears that Microsoft is looking for a continuing revenue stream similar to what cellphone companies get.

From Computerworld:
Microsoft specs out 'pay as you go' PC scheme
Files patent for metering hardware capabilities but admits overall cost 'may be higher'

Microsoft's plan would ... monitor the machine to track things such as disk storage space, processor cores and memory used, then bill the user for what was consumed during a set period.
Overall costs 'may be higher'. Hmm.

From Channelweb:
1. The Road Has Run Out On Microsoft's Traditional Software Licensing Business Model.

For years, big businesses have bought costly Microsoft software licenses that provided them a pathway to free upgrades. The problem is Microsoft either never delivered a viable upgrade or businesses underestimated the heavy cost of upgrading beyond the software license.
Not delivering a viable upgrade can be a problem.

Also, these bullet points from the ChannelWeb article:
2. The Pay As You Go Model Makes Microsoft The Sole Toll Taker.
3. Microsoft Wants Your Credit Card.
4. Google Is Eating Microsoft's Breakfast, Lunch And Dinner.
5. Microsoft Wants To Control The Horizontal And Vertical Of Your Internet Experience.
Lots of amusing comments at the Computerworld comment thread for this story.


Monday, December 29, 2008


Steve Benen, writing about the Bush administration and OSHA: (emp orig)
By all appearances, this administration barely wants OSHA to even exist, so I suppose it stands to reason that Bush political appointees would gut the agency and turn to lobbyists to help guide OSHA's decision making.
And adds:
Indeed, it's hard to count just how many regulatory agencies have, under this president, effectively been run by the business interests it was supposed to be regulating.
Isn't that exactly what happened with the financial business?


Ed Gillespie on Bush:

Over at RealClearPolitics, he writes: (emp add)
Myths & Facts About the Real Bush Record

Myth 1: The last eight years were awful for most Americans economically and President Bush's deregulatory policies caused the current financial crisis.


President Bush's time in office is ending as it began, with our economy under stress. The recession President Bush inherited as he entered office ran through the attacks of September 11, 2001, but during the recovery that followed, and due in no small part to the tax relief President Bush worked with Congress to provide, this country experienced its longest run of uninterrupted job growth - 52 straight months, with 8.3 million jobs created.

This reflected six consecutive years of economic growth from the Fourth Quarter of 2001 until the Fourth Quarter of 2007. From 2000 to 2007, real GDP grew by more than 17 percent, a remarkable gain of nearly 2.1 trillion dollars. This growth was driven in part by increased labor productivity gains that have averaged 2.5 percent annually since 2001, a rate that exceeds the averages of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. In the same period, real after-tax income per capita increased by more than 11 percent, and there was a 4.7 percent increase in the number of new businesses formed.
The gross numbers were good (GDP, labor productivity) but they were not shared. And per capita is an average, not a median figure.

Essentially, the rich got richer, but labor didn't get a slice of the productivity-gains pie.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

This pretty much settles it:

From (h/t Conservapedia):
Top Scholars Confirm Truth of Christianity

Thursday, December 25, 2008 7:22 PM

LOS ANGELES — A new survey recently showed that 70 percent of people in Great Britain doubted the biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ, but they are “gravely mistaken,” says Ted Baehr, a professional scholar and theologian.

Christianity is true as well as historical, factual and “intellectually sound,” said Baehr, who founded The Christian Film & Television Commission ministry in 1985.

“Top scholars, historians and experts have confirmed that the Bible is the most historically and intellectually reliable ancient text in the whole world, including the Bible’s account of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles and disciples who wrote the New Testament documents,” Baehr said.

He cited the work of numerous top scholars, historians and experts, such as C.S. Lewis, Gary Habermas, F.F. Bruce, William Lane Craig, John A.T. Robinson, John Warwick Montgomery, Bruce Metzger, Simon Greenleaf, Stuart C. Hackett, J. Gresham Machen, Ronald Nash, Edwin Yamauchi, Craig Blomberg, John Wenham, Lee Strobel, Paul Maier, and N.T. Wright.

“These people are wonderfully astute thinkers, investigators and writers,” Baehr said. “They have refuted all of the important lies, half-truths and silly comments against Jesus, His apostles, the Bible, and Christianity made by non-Christians and even by some allegedly former Christians.”

“Not only can you have complete faith in the New Testament documents and what they say about the virgin birth, divinity, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and teachings of Jesus Christ,” Baehr said, “but you can also rely on what they say about non-Christian places, people, and events, such as the names and titles of Roman government officials.

“Jesus is both God and man,” he said. “He was born of a virgin, never sinned in his life, died for our sins, and rose on the third day. Turn away from your sins and faults, believe in Jesus and his teachings, and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mail was delivered on Sundays:

Until 1912.

According to Gary Wills (in his book Head and Heart: American Christianities) Sunday mail delivery was stopped in 1912 as one of the final acts of the Third Great Awakening.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

A seven minute tutorial on Quantitative Easing:

Here. It might work if the economy is stable, but flat. It's not clear that it will work in an economy that hasn't yet accounted for all the losses from a bursting bubble (amplified by financial derivatives).


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rick Warren on sex and evolution:

From his December 2005 interview on Larry King: (emp add)
WARREN: Well, again, I would just say I think to me the issue is, is [being homosexual] natural? Is it the natural thing? I mean here's an interesting thing I have to ask. How can you believe in Darwin's theory of evolution and homosexuality at the same time? Now think about this.

If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn't reproduce and you would think that over thousands of years that homosexuality would work itself out of the gene pool.
That, of course, is invalid reasoning. There are lots of reasons why a species may contain the potential for homosexuality (or "non reproducibility") within the genes.

One possibility is that during periods of overpopulation and food scarcity, a number of non-reproducing offspring are born. In a generation, that would result in a greater food-to-animal ratio and increased survivability of the species. Studies of mice have been revealing. In situations where there is significant overpopulation, researchers discovered that there were noticing (often for the first time), male-on-male sex.

Or sometimes a fraction of the population is simply non-reproducing but helping the rest of the group with their offspring. This is often seen in bird species where all sorts of arrangements are found.

Ten years ago there was a documentary (The Life of Birds, especially episode 9, "The Problems of Parenthood") by David Attenborough that showed some remarkable situations: birds kidnapping a newborn, two males and one female (but only one male mates). Attenborough's point was that there can be many modes for survival and species success. One male and one female can work, and is the preferred arrangement for isolated, non-social animals. But where there a species exists in groups, many other situations can prevail.

Warren speaks of science like a tenth grader. Knows a little, but not enough.


Rick Warren on sex:

From the Beliefnet interview: (actually, clarifications offered a few days later by Warren)
God, who always acts out of love and does what is best for us, thought up sex. Sex was God’s idea, not ours. Like fire, and many other things God gave us, sex can be used for good, or abused in ways that harm. The Designer of sex has clearly and repeatedly said that he created sex exclusively for husbands and wives in marriage. Whenever God’s parameters are violated, it causes broken hearts, broken families, emotional hurt and shame, painful memories, and many other destructive consequences. There would be so STDs in our world if we all played by the rules.
The more you learn about Warren, the weider he gets.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Rick Warren: Don't bother trying to improve the world

From the Saddleback Church's What We Believe webpage: (emp add)

Salvation is a gift from God to man. Man can never make up for his sin by self-improvement or good works – only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s offer of forgiveness can man be saved from sin’s penalty. Eternal life begins the moment one receives Jesus Christ into his life by faith.

Because God gives man eternal life through Jesus Christ, the believer is secure in salvation for eternity. Salvation is maintained by the grace and power of God, not by the self-effort of the Christian.
Warren is in the tradition of Luther and other Protestants who believe in salvation through faith, not salvation through works. That doctrine is derived from St. Paul's writings (mostly Romans). Speaking of St. Paul, it's strange that he's taken seriously because none of his doctrine has been "validated" by God or Jesus. In the Bible most prophets have exchanges with angels or God, and that's where doctrine begins. But none of that happens with Paul except for a cryptic self-reported exchange with Jesus. Yet his epistles are seized upon by Protestants for doctrinal guidance.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rick Warren on Terri Schiavo:

From Hardball with Chris Matthews: (excerpts)
MATTHEWS: What do you do in that situation, after four or five years of sitting in a room with a person, in this case, 15 years of being in a room where he knows, when he goes in that room, there is not going to be another person in there? What do you do for hope?

WARREN: Well, my first question is, I wonder why [Michael Schiavo] is in a hurry to pull the feeding tube on her. In the first place...

MATTHEWS: Fifteen years is a hurry?


MATTHEWS: You say the husband has moved on, but he is still the guardian. Is this a case where we have the wrong guardian? What is it? Let‘s try to fix the system.

WARREN: Well—well, I‘ll just tell you, frankly, I doubt his veracity in the things that he said. I would question why he is in such a hurry.


MATTHEWS: So why is he doing this, do you think?

WARREN: I have no idea. Well, I don‘t know. There‘s 1,000 reasons could you speculate. What if she came back out of the—out of this state and had something to say that he didn‘t want said?


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama chose Rick Warren for the invocation ...

... because Jerry Falwell wasn't available.


Idiot to deliver the invocation at Presidential inauguration:

Forget, for a moment, Rick Warren's opposition to stem cell research, his support of California's Proposition 8, or his advocacy of invading foreign countries and assassinating foreign leaders. This should be enough to disqualify him for any role in guiding the nation:
WARREN: If you're asking me do I believe in evolution, the answer is no, I don't.
Denying evolution is a denial of all of science. Evolution is tied to chemistry, physics, geology, and biology. Evolution isn't some sort of isolated set-aside, purely textual theorizing, independent of the rest of science.

Amasingly, Warren doesn't know his Bible. For those who care, here is the exchange he had with Sean Hannity that got a lot of people talking:
“Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped,” the Southern California pastor responded before being cut off by another question.

“By force?” Hannity asked.

“Well, if necessary,” Warren replied.

“In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. Not good-doers. Evildoers,” Warren added, referring to Romans 13.
Warren takes Romans 13 to be supportive of a government (i.e. the United States) punishing "evildoers" that are not under the dominion of said government. But that a misreading of Romans. Here are the passages relevant to the discussion: (NRSV)
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.
Warren is looking at the second part of verse 4:
[The governing authority] is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.

Or put another way (NASB)
[Government, or a ruler] is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
Romans 13 is entirely about the relationship between people, including "evildoers", and their governing authority. "Evildoers" who are not subject to that governing authority, especially other governing authorities, are not at issue, at least in Romans 13.

Warren does what many a deceitful pastor does: Makes false claims by deliberately misreading the scriptures to a credulous congregation.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This is why the stock market surged today:

From the NYTimes: (emp add)
  • The Federal Reserve entered a new era on Tuesday, setting its benchmark interest rate so low that it will have to reach for new and untested tools in fighting both the recession and downward pressure on consumer prices.

  • ... the central bank said it had cut its target for the overnight federal funds rate to a range of zero to 0.25 percent, a record low, bringing the United States to the zero-rate policies that Japan used for six years ...

  • ... the Fed bluntly declared that it was ready to move to a new phase of monetary policy in which it prints vast amounts of money for a wide array of lending programs aimed at financial institutions, businesses and consumers.

  • The central bank acknowledged that recession is more severe than officials had thought at their last meeting in October.

    Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, has already outlined a range of unorthodox new tools that the central bank can use to keep stimulating the economy once the federal funds rate effectively reaches zero.

  • All of the new tools amount to printing money in vast new quantities, and the Fed has already started the process. Since September, the Fed’s balance sheet has ballooned from about $900 billion to more than $2 trillion as the central bank has created new money and lent it out through all its new programs. As soon as the Fed completes its plans to buy up mortgage-backed debt and consumer debt, the balance sheet will be up to about $3 trillion.
And there's this:
“At some point, and without knowing the timing, the Fed is going to have to destroy all that money it is creating,” said Alan Blinder, a professor of economics at Princeton and a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, said the central bank. “Right now, the crisis is created by the huge demand by banks for hoarding cash. The Fed is providing cash, and the banks want to hoard it. When things start returning to normal, the banks will want to start lending it out. If that much money is left in the monetary base, it would be extremely inflationary.”
So why are we giving the banks any money at all?


Reaction to today's Fed meeting:

At the blog But Then What:
Well you can kiss the Fed Funds rate goodbye as a tool of monetary policy. In case you haven’t heard, the Fed announced that its new target rate was 0% to 0.25%. Why they didn’t just say zero is beyond me but I’m sure there is an obscure reason.

So now clear the boards for quantitative easing or to put it another way the Great Experiment. Remember, we are in the realm of theory now. I’m sure this is very exciting to those who have been writing papers about all of this for the past 30 years but personally I’m a little worried. I hope they know what they’re doing but experiments rarely go well the first time.


The incompleteness of Reuel Marc Gerecht:

Gerecht, responding to criticism from Andrew Sullivan about his support for torture, writes:
... if you had been confronted on 7 September 2001 with a captured Khalid Shaykh Muhammad or Abu Zubaydah and you knew that a major, mass-casualty terrorist strike was about to go down in the United States, and you had plenipotentiary authority for the nation's security, you would not have used any physically coercive techniques against the gentleman?
Of course, as Kevin Drum notes:
... we've tortured a steady and sizeable stream of people who were either decidedly small fish or else just completely innocent.
That's because they are suspects. But Gerecht takes it beyond that baseline situation with his special knowledge that:
... you knew that a major, mass-casualty terrorist strike was about to go down
How convenient that he stops there. Notice that he didn't write:
You knew that a major, mass-casualty terrorist strike was about to go down involving hijacking commercial airlines.
You knew that a major, mass-casualty terrorist strike was about to go down involving hijacking commercial airlines and piloting them into buildings.
Because those scenarios diminish the "need" for torture (which doesn't work anyway) and are actually more likely to be encountered. If the intel is so vague that all it is that an unspecified major strike is about to go down by unspecified people, then everybody shold be tortured. Russians, Taliban dudes, Al Qaeda recruits, men on the Cairo street, the Green Bay Packers, Democrats, et al.

Right now, as you are reading this post, there are some people thinking about striking the United States. They're dreamers and misfits and losers, but hey, that's just about all you need for Gerecht to approve a full-scale torture program. For Gerecht, the less you know, the more he supports torture, as long as there is the minimalist requirement that something is being planned, which is always the case.


Shoe cartoons:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.9, 10, 11, 12


The failure of the press:

Regrettably, there hasn't been enough coverage of Rod Blagojevich or Caroline Kennedy this month. The press should remedy this situation by saturating the airwaves and the print media with heavy coverage of Blagojevich's hair and Kennedy's days growing up in Camelot.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hard to see the Senate Republicans seriously filibuster the auto bailout bill:

They will probably do something. Something to appeal to their base. But actually stopping the bill from passing carries too much risk. Republicans would then own whatever fallout that would ensue, which could see GM and Chrysler go down in flames. As it is, a half-hearted filibuster allows the Republicans to say, should the auto bailout not succeed in the months ahdad, "I told you so."

UPDATE: To my great surprise, it appears that the Republicans will kill the auto bailout bill.

UPDATE2: Looks like the bailout is dead. Not that the Republicans "killed it" via a filibuster (at least not yet), but more in the fashion of a failed compromise. The fallout from this could be huge.

Maybe I'm wrong, but this auto bailout - however you feel about it - strikes me as a really big story. Yet there hasn't been a whole lot of media or blog attention. This week has been all about that corrupt Illinois governor, which is not all that interesting, at least on a national policy level. If the big three (or two) stop for a while, we could see 15% unemployment.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Screw this, let AIG die:

At Calculated Risk:
AIG: A Black Hole?

American International Group Inc. owes Wall Street's biggest firms about $10 billion for speculative trades that have soured ...

The $10 billion in other IOUs stems from market wagers that weren't contracts to protect physical securities held by banks or other investors against default. Rather, they are from AIG's exposures to speculative investments unrelated to insurance, which were essentially bets on the performance of bundles of derivatives linked to subprime mortgages, commercial real-estate bonds and corporate bonds.
From the comment thread at CR, this, apparently from behind the WSJ paywall:
"The Federal Reserve, which lent AIG billions of dollars to stay afloat, has no immediate plans to help AIG pay off the speculative trades."
No immediate plans. That's a relief.


Crazy Ben:

From The Big Picture:
The Federal Reserve is considering issuing its own debt for the first time, a move that would give the central bank additional flexibility as it tries to stabilize rocky financial markets.

Government debt issuance is largely the province of the Treasury Department, and the Fed already can print as much money as it wants. But as the credit crisis drags on and the economy suffers from recession, Fed officials are looking broadly for new financial tools.
Ritholtz comments:
There are going to be screams about this.

The Fed’s balance sheet is a shambles, blasting from 900 billion to more than $2 trillion since August alone.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Should Obama reappoint Bernanke in 2010?"

Asks the Mortgage Insider. Of course not. One reason? This (from a New Yorker profile):
In 1999, the height of the tech stock bubble, Bernanke and a colleague gave a presentation at a conference, arguing that the Fed should “ignore bubbles and stick to its traditional policy of controlling inflation.
Bubbles cause huge misallocation of capital. It also creates winners and losers in a completely random fashion. Or worse, since the naïve investor is usually the loser when a bubble expands and then pops.


Where right-wing radio is headed:

On his show today, Sean Hannity was going after Deepak Chopra. This is excellent news. Maybe the high approval ratings for Obama (79%), means conservatives will look for enemies in obscure nooks and crannies.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Shorter Paul Blustein (some knucklehead writing in the Washington Post today):
We must stop moves towards protectionism because of the experience Smoot-Hawley has taught us:
Failure to freely trade with Europe and Asia in the 1930's meant that we had to wait until World War II to get out of the Depression, through expanded government spending and vigorous trade with countries like Germany and Japan.
Wait a minute, how much low-tariff trade was there during World War II? Hardly any. Oh well, may as well pretend that tariffs are bad since free trade continues to weaken labor, and that will get me printed in the Washington Post.


Shorter George Will:
I will scare you with tales of "reactionary liberals" wanting to reinstate the fairness doctrine, but without citing a single person or action taken towards that end. That's because fact-free conservative paranoia is an American tradition.


Listening to Detroit talk about the auto industry:

For an interesting perspective on the problems with the Big Three automakers, you could spend some time listening to Detroit's sports radio station WXYT. It's mostly sports, but recently callers to the station have also been discussing the potential bailout of GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Unlike a standard-issue talk radio show, which is likely to be conservative (or liberal), the demographics of a sports station is probably more representative of the city it serves.

The callers are pretty reality-based. And they are not just line workers. Callers have been dealers, suppliers, and salespeople. They criticize the corporate leadership. They see some problems with the current structure (e.g. too many product lines). But they think that Detroit is being unfairly treated - especially compared with the financial firms that got tons of money with hardly any oversight. They are also puzzled at the alacrity with which hundreds of billions was given (or pledged) to the banks but not to the automakers, since they see a collapse of the Big Three leading to a massive economic decline.

There's also a fair amount of pride in that city. You hear claims that the workers are doing a good job and that many cars have quality/reliability that is comprable to those manufactured by Toyota, Honda, et al.

There's a clear understanding that the companies will have to contract. That there will be pain, even with a bailout. And that it will take time to recover.

CODA: For those of you who follow the hapless Detroit Lions football team (currently 0-12), there is an interesting parallel. William Clay Ford Sr. owns the team and has done a terrible job. He's hired cronies and let them mess up for years, partly because he is insulated from the failures due to his secure financial situation and a don't-care attitude. Consider the record of GM Matt Millen:
Over seven seasons under Millen's leadership as team CEO, the Detroit Lions owned the NFL's worst winning percentage (31–81, .277), have never had a winning season, have never finished higher than third place in the NFC North, and have not played in any post-season games. Despite this record of total failure, Millen received a five-year contract extension at the start of the 2005 season
Lions fans have been screaming for most of this decade, demanding new management and coaching staff, but nobody at the top pays any attention. This year the team may end up with a winless 0 - 16 record, which would be unprecedented. Some fans actually think that that would finally wake up Ford Sr. to finally fire coach Rod Marinelli. As if 1 - 15 wouldn't be enough.

RESOURCES: A lively blog critical of the Lions is The Wayne Fontes Experience.


Friday, December 05, 2008

"Prove, prove, prove!"

That's how Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg once characterized the attitude of Holocaust Deniers. They (the deniers) demand that everything be proven, and don't accept standard assumptions about how the world works. For instance, even if Jews were rounded up in France and sent east on trains, do we really know that they ended up in Auschwitz? Maybe the train disappeared into a wormhole. Or entered a tunnel to the center of the earth. Etc.

That's pretty much the mindset of those who are challenging Obama's status as a naturally born U.S. citizen. They don't believe it when the state of Hawaii says his birth certificate is legitimate. Or that there is a confirming notice in the local newspaper. After all, how do we know that any so-called "evidence" isn't just a bunch of recently created forgeries? More proof is needed. And should more proof emerge, then that can be challenged in a similar manner. There is no exit for the doubters.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Amazing pictures of clouds over Greenland:



Michael Gerson's joke of the day:
... Obama's appointments reveal something important about current Bush policies. Though Obama's campaign savaged the administration as incompetent and radical, Obama's personnel decisions have effectively ratified Bush's defense and economic approaches during the past few years.

[The appointments indicate] that Bush has been pursuing centrist, bipartisan policies -- without getting much bipartisan support.


Pastor who helped get 'under God' in Pledge dies:

Died on Thanksgiving Day. He came from Scotland. Excerpts:
The Rev. George Docherty, credited with helping to push Congress to insert the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, has died at 97.

Docherty, then pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, just blocks from the White House, gave a sermon in 1952 saying the pledge should acknowledge God.

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was unfamiliar with the pledge until he heard it recited by his 7-year-old son, Garth.

"I didn't know that the Pledge of Allegiance was, and he recited it, 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,"' he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press in 2004. "I came from Scotland, where we said 'God save our gracious queen,' 'God save our gracious king.' Here was the Pledge of Allegiance, and God wasn't in it at all."

There was little effect from that initial sermon, but he delivered it again on Feb. 7, 1954, after learning that President Dwight Eisenhower would be at the church.

The next day, Rep. Charles G. Oakman, R-Mich., introduced a bill to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate. Eisenhower signed the law on Flag Day that year.
More at the Washington Post: (emp add)
Without mentioning a deity, Rev. Docherty said, the pledge could just as easily apply to the communist Soviet Union: "I could hear little Muscovites recite a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity."

Then as now, legal scholars questioned whether a reference to a deity in a patriotic pledge violated the First Amendment separation of church and state. In recent years, there have been several court challenges to the phrase.

But Rev. Docherty remained unmoved. The phrase "under God" could include "the great Jewish community and the people of the Muslim faith," in his view, but he drew the line at atheists.

"An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms," he said in his sermon. "If you deny the Christian ethic, you fall short of the American ideal of life."
Damn right. American atheists should be stripped of their citizenship.

A contrary view can be read here.

Of interest:
One reader [of the Post story] asked whether Rev. Docherty was a U.S. citizen when he urged the change to the Pledge of Allegiance that elicited such First Amendment controversy. No, he was not; he became a U.S. citizen in 1960.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The End is Nigh:

Over at NRO's The Corner, there is a post by Andrew Stuttaford that cites (positively) blog posts by Brad DeLong, Matthew Yglesias, and Kevin Drum.


Hank Greenberg rattles the tin cup:

In the WSJ, Greenberg, formerly the chairman and CEO of American International Group (AIG) writes: (excerpts, emp add)
AIG Needs a New Deal

To date, the government has shown everything but a consistent approach. It didn't give assistance to Lehman Brothers. But it did push for a much-publicized and now abandoned plan to purchase troubled assets. The government also pushed for a punitive program for American International Group (AIG) that benefits only the company's credit default swap counterparties.

The Citi deal makes sense in many respects. The government will inject $20 billion into the company and act as a guarantor of 90% of losses stemming from $306 billion in toxic assets. In return, the government will receive $27 billion of preferred shares paying an 8% dividend and warrants, giving the government a potential equity interest in Citi of up to about 8%. The Citi board should be congratulated for insisting on a deal that both preserves jobs and benefits taxpayers.

The government should instead apply the same principles it is applying to Citigroup to create a win-win situation for AIG and its stakeholders.

The role of government should not be to force a company out of business, but rather to help it stay in business so that it can continue to be a taxpayer and an employer. This requires revisiting the terms of the federal government's assistance to AIG to avoid that company's breakup and the devastating consequences that would follow.
The Citi rescue was widely criticized for being a sweetheart deal for shareholders and executives, and it was generally conceeded that the government could have done better (perhaps through an outright purchase). In any event, the Citi rescue is now being used by people like Greenberg to argue for similar shareholder bailouts of other troubled firms.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Shorter Ben Bernanke:
I will make the Yield Curve dance to my tune!
Good luck with that.


The Black Friday hype:

Which this blog commented on, has a fuller exposure at the New York Times: Media and Retailers Both Built Black Friday. Excerpt:
It’s convenient to point a crooked finger ... at some light coverage of some harmless family fun. Except the coverage is not so much trite as deeply cynical, an attempt to indoctrinate consumers into believing that they are what they buy and that they should be serious enough about it to leave the family at home.

Media and retail outfits are economic peas in a pod. Part of the reason that the Thanksgiving newspaper and local morning television show are stuffed with soft features about shopping frenzies is that they are stuffed in return with ads from retailers. Yes, Black Friday is a big day for retailers — stores did as much as 13 percent of their holiday business this last weekend — but it is also a huge day for newspapers and television.

In partnership with retail advertising clients, the news media have worked steadily and systematically to turn Black Friday into a broad cultural event. A decade ago, it was barely in the top 10 shopping days of the year. But once retailers hit on the formula of offering one or two very-low-priced items as loss leaders, media groups began to cover the post-Thanksgiving outing as a kind of consumer sporting event.
It ends with:
[Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for the NPD Group, a market research firm] said that in his 32 years interviewing consumers in malls during the holiday season, he had never heard what he did this year. “People really have no idea what they want,” he said.
What was the "hot item" for 2008? The hot toy? There didn't appear to be one this time. E.g. Tickle-me-Elmo.

A worker trampled to death when customers stormed a Wal-Mart for bargains on the day after Thanksgiving had no experience in crowd control and was placed at the entrance because of his hulking frame ...

... the worker, Jdimytai Damour, was 6 feet 5 and 270 pounds, making the trampling all the more stunning. He was killed when a crowd estimated at 2,000 strong broke down the electronic doors in frantic pursuit of bargains on big-screen TVs, clothing and other items.


Why is an unescorted cruise ship anywhere near Somalia?

In the news:
A luxury cruise ship carrying passengers between Rome and Singapore came under attack from Somali pirates as it sailed between Somalia and Yemen on Sunday.

The Nautica, an Oceania cruise ship, was carrying 690 American, British and Australian passengers and a 386-member crew when two small fishing boats tried to intercept it.

The ship's captain, Jurica Brajcic, began evasive maneuvres when the pirates were about 1,000 yards away from the ship and managed to avert the attack.
The ship was probably headed to, or from, the Suez Canal. But given the situation, it seems foolish to go unescorted in that area or not to hew close to Yemen.