Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shorter David Broder:
Arlen Specter's move to the Democrats makes my never-ending advocacy of bipartisanship look ridiculous, so I'll go ad hominem.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I totally support this conservative Republican:

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
"I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs."


What will you be doing in 2011?

If you are a Republican, you won't even exist. From
(h/t) Balloon Juice)


That long New York Times story about Geithner:

naked capitalism has a good summary and analysis. Key points:
Any reader of any remotely plugged in econoblog, or savvy enough to read between the lines of MSM reports will know that Geithner is a creature of the financial establishment. Probably the most important element in his pedigree is that he is a protege of Larry Summers and Bob Rubin. It also appears that he and Summers are working fist in glove (witness the marginalization of Paul Volcker).

At a minimum, Geithner crony capitalist policies are finally leading to a hard look at his loyalties. There is no reason to think Geithner is personally corrupt (well, there was his little tax problem) but rather that he is as die hard a believer of finance uber alles as Alan Greenspan, albeit without the libertarian zealotry. ...

And as much as this piece signals that Geithner may be starting to be perceived as a liability, it seems unlikely that he is in serious trouble yet. Sadly, the programs have to flounder first (although with the PPIP, that could happen sooner rather than later.....). ...

This story now makes official what only those who kept tabs on these matters knew, that Geithner is captured by the industry. It will now be much easier for Obama to cut Geithner loose should that prove necessary. But with Summers still in the mix, I'm dubious that even an outster of Geithner would produce much of a change in policy direction.


Monday, April 27, 2009

David Gregory's locution:

Here' is how NBC's David Gregory referred on Sunday's Meet the Press to those detainees captured and subsequently tortured:
MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to an issue that has really gripped this country this week, and that is the issue of how the United States government and its interrogators treated September 11th prisoners after those attacks.
Some of those interrogated were involved with Al Qaeda and 9/11, but many others were not. David Gregory refers to all of them as "September 11th prisoners".


Sunday, April 26, 2009

For Broder, it's not even about torture:

Missed this on first read. Here's the first sentence of his op-ed:
If ever there were a time for President Obama to trust his instincts and stick to his guns, that time is now, when he is being pressured to change his mind about closing the books on the "torture" policies of the past.
It's not torture we engaged in, but what some reprobates say is "torture".

Perhaps from now on we can refer to Broder as a "nonpartisan" "journalist".


Saturday, April 25, 2009

More on David "pro-torture" Broder:

Broder's column urging Obama not to go after anybody involved in the torture of detainees (operatives, legal staff, those issuing orders) seems to have re-ignited the moral case. In particular Andrew Sullivan sees torture as a distinct issue, and not as one of many other executive branch transgressions (like politicizing the justice department and scientific agencies). While not an exact parallel to Shepard Smith's "We do not fucking torture!", it's in the same territory. Here are some of Sullivan's comments:
If I had one belief in politics, it would be that the freedoms secured by the modern West are worth fighting for. Absolutely central to those freedoms is barring the executive branch from torturing people. No power is more fatal to freedom and the rule of law than torture.

Its power is banned because it is a solvent to the rule of law, the establishment of truth, and the limits of government.

The precedent of a torturing American president must be reversed. That means it cannot be allowed to stand.

There is no way the American experiment can continue while legal and historical precedent gives the president the inherent authority to torture. It is the undoing of the core idea of the founding - protection against arbitrary, lawless, cruel and despotic rule. And the impact on the entire world of America allowing this to stand would be profound.

We don't want vengeance. We want America back. And we are going to fight on and on until we get it back.
ALSO: A good post at neumann103. One key sentence:
Mr. Broder, those memos reveal a deliberate, craven attempt to shoehorn torture into a definition that makes it some form of spa treatment. It was not “well-debated” it was shockingly poorly debated, both in scope and intellectual honesty. A policy was made essentially based on the contrivance of four lawyers, whose work was kept secret for years.
See also the Osterly Times.


Broder has jumped something:

The shark? Well, not that exactly, but he's clearly decided to embrace the torture issue and basically ignore the law and frame the issue as one of petty emotions:
[Those calling for investigation and prosecution of torture] are looking for individual scalps -- or, at least, careers and reputations.

Their argument is that without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability -- and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations. It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance.

Obama should use all the influence of his office to stop the retroactive search for scapegoats.

[Performing investigations will lead to] endless political warfare.
Hilzoy has some apt observations. This column by Broder is going to be one that people will remember, and be critical of, for a long time.

RELATED: Taylor Marsh has a great blog post title: David Broder Joins Peggy Noonan’s Keep Walkin’ Campaign

ALSO: At no point in Broder's essay does he mention violation of the law.


William "Krazy" Kristol writes:
Of course, everyone’s first choice for president in 2012 is Dick Cheney. But Liz Cheney’s boffo performance yesterday in the lefties’ den, MSNBC, defending sensible interrogation policies in the war on terror, surely puts her in contention for the runner-up position.
Everyone's first choice? Democrats would like to see Dick Cheney as the candidate, but never the president. Republicans, on the other hand, might like to see Cheney as president, but know he'd be a miserable candidate.


"heterosexual people of faith"

From TMZ: (a cheesy gossip site)
Miss California Gets the Big O

Posted Apr 24th 2009 2:05PM by TMZ Staff

Surrounded entirely by heterosexual people of faith, Miss USA loser Carrie Prejean received a standing ovation at the Gospel Music
Dove Awards last night.
(h/t Fox Nation)


Friday, April 24, 2009

Okay, now I'm officially pissed off at both the right and the left:

Mark Thiessen wrote in the Washington Post:
Critics claim that enhanced techniques do not produce good intelligence because people will say anything to get the techniques to stop. But the memos note that, "as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, 'brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship." In other words, the terrorists are called by their faith to resist as far as they can -- and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know. This is because of their belief that "Islam will ultimately dominate the world and that this victory is inevitable." The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.
Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly responds:
Got that? When U.S. officials torture detainees, some of us may be inclined to think this is illegal and morally degrading. What we didn't realize is that the torturers are giving the detainees a hand.

As this argument goes, we're not torturing suspects, we're "helping" them.
Cliff May writes in the National Review (The Corner):
Remember that Abu Zubaydah said: “Brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardships.”

Any interrogator worth his salt would understand this means it is his job to bring his subject to the point at which cooperation is no longer betrayal but permitted according to his religious beliefs. Can that be achieved short of torture? Sure. Can it be achieved without coercive interrogation techniques? No, not with subjects who have the beliefs described above.
A. Serwer of TAPPED responds:
... May is arguing that torture is necessary due to the religious beliefs of the subject being interrogated.

... Abu Zubayda gave up all his useful information before being tortured, so it's useless to quote his assertion that radicals will only talk if brought to a state of spiritual epiphany through torture.
Why is everybody (right and left) taking the statement by one person, Zubaydah, as normative? Is it what Islam teaches? Is it what those being interrogated think? None of this has been established. Why are people on so many left blogs casually accepting Zubaydah's doctrine, especially since it's only been found in an OLC memo?

* Serwer argues on the grounds of efficacy as it pertains to only one person, but leaves the theological doctrine unchallenged.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


That word has been used a lot by conservatives (as has "liberty"). Bush Jr. deployed it frequently in his presidential speeches. Right now, the hard right (especially Hannity) speak of it all the time, claiming they are in favor of freedom, while Obama is not. But this "freedom" is never well defined. When used by the hard right, it has an almost mystical aura, unlike the more prosaic understanding of "no restrictions on everyone's action". Perhaps the best observation about the current use by conservatives of "freedom" can be found in a post over at Orcinus:
Those at the top of the heap enjoy the freedom that comes with never being held accountable by anyone. This exemption is implicit in conservative notions of "liberty," and is considered an inalienable (if not divine) right of fathers, bosses, religious leaders, politicians, and anyone else on the right who holds power over others. The privilege of controlling others' liberty, without enduring reciprocal constraints on your own, is at the heart of the true meaning of "freedom."


What the hell is going on?

Shepard Smith and Judith Miller are foursquare against torture.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's all out there in plain view:

Yglesias muses:
Back when New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz lumped Argentina in with Syria and Iran as among “our antagonists” I assumed he was just making a silly mistake. But here’s Newt Gingrich:
Gingrich said he was fascinated to watch a variety of “semi-dictators,” specifically, the leaders of Nicaragua and Argentina, who lecture the president on what the United States is “doing wrong.”
... I at least understand that conservatives don’t like Sandinistas. But what’s Argentina done? Pissed off some bond-holders? Conservative alternative reality is becoming mighty baroque.
Unscramble the letters in “Argentina” and you get …

Iran Agent

It’s so obvious. Gingrich is really on to something. Wake up America!


In defense of Marc A. Thiessen:

Thiessen has an op-ed in the (where else?) Washington Post that carries the title:
The CIA's Questioning Worked
By "questioning", Thiessen means "torture".

And it did work! It worked to the extent that it made people in the Bush administration feel better, especially after they failed to do squat to stop the 9/11 attacks.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Sean Hannity:

Anybody listening to his radio show, and believing his spiel, is a cretin.

Obama doesn't like his country. Obama doesn't like capitalism. Obama is a radical leftists. Obama accepted a book from Chavez of Venezuela (horrors!). Obams is dissing JFK (apparently because of some nice diplo-speak about Cuba, and we all know about the Bay of Pigs).

It's totally nutzo.

I can see vigorous rhetoric about taxes, spending plans, cap and trade, health coverage, and the like. But Hannity's attack on Obama for being, well, anti-American while abroad, all from a mundane regional summit, is completely insane.

CODA: We must never, ever, forget that Hannity, Beck, O'Reilly, and many of their cohorts are bankrolled by Rupert Murdoch.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Semi-regular George Will watch:

In Sunday's Washington Post, Will writes:
The Soviet Union was a Third World nation with First World missiles. It had, as Russia still has, an essentially hunter-gatherer economy, based on extraction industries -- oil, gas, minerals, furs. Other than vodka, for what manufactured good would you look to Russia? Caviar? It is extracted from the fish that manufacture it.
Funny, I don't recall Will saying that Sarah Palin was governor of, essentially, a Third World nation.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Hayden and Mukasey's argument:

From their WSJ op-ed:
... public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly ...
In that case, better not sign any treaties governing conduct in war.

And here's a strawman:
... it seems unlikely that the people who beheaded Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl, and have tortured and slain other American captives, are likely to be shamed into giving up violence by the news that the U.S. will no longer interrupt the sleep cycle of captured terrorists even to help elicit intelligence that could save the lives of its citizens.
Nobody is making that argument.


Thursday, April 16, 2009


A Newsmax story:
Towery: Gingrich Is Emerging As GOP's Leader

Syndicated columnist and author Matt Towery tells Newsmax that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has emerged as the leader of the GOP and is the “brightest mind in the modern Republican Party.”
Can't argue with that.



The following statement in the Bybee memo is false:
.. the constant presence of personell with medical training who have the authority to stop the interrogation should it appear it is medically necessary indicates that it is not your intent to cause severe physical pain.
The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering.
This stuff is amazingly easy to refute.


Less free trade! (and fewer immigrants)

Readers of this blog know that I'm not in favor of free trade or much immigration. I see both as erosive of labor's economic power in the United States and one of the reasons why labor hasn't shared in the productivity gains over the last 30 years.

Over at Crooked Timber, a generally pro-globalization post echoes the Brad DeLong point:
Trade, outward foreign investment (movement of plants and services abroad), and immigration very likely have contributed to the growth of U.S. earnings inequality over the past several decades. Reducing any or all of them might well help to boost wages among Americans in the lower half of the distribution.

But in my view this shouldn’t be even a minor part of a strategy for inequality reduction, much less its chief focus. Trade, investment abroad, and immigration tend to benefit citizens in and from poor countries, which includes the bulk of the world’s population. Most of these people are substantially poorer than even the poorest Americans.

Yes, globalization enriches some rapacious corporations and despotic rulers, and vulnerable workers are exploited. But access to the American market and to employment by U.S.-based transnational firms has helped improve the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians, and others in recent decades. And moving to the United States almost invariably enhances the living standards of immigrants from poor nations. It would be a bitter irony if American progressives succeeded in making a real dent in our inequality problem at the expense of the world’s poorest and most needy.
To which, a commenter wrote:
From a Left/Liberal point of view, you’ve got a tough time selling a policy that purely benefits people abroad, no matter how poor, at the cost of the local working class.

... when working class voters complained about their work being moved elsewhere, and their governments not defending them, you’d usually find someone on hand to explain that painful as it might be, Free Trade would really benefit them in the long term, citing good historical precedents.

But if the moral argument is wrong – if in fact it benefits the merchant classes and foreign workers, at the cost of domestic workers, then in fact they are entirely rational to oppose it. Given a choice of cheaper goods, or a well paying job for life, a significant number of people would actually choose the latter.
I agree with that. And I'd also say that for years the claim was made that free trade was good for everybody, but only now are we hearing what is perhaps the real reason: helping folks abroad. I always thought free trade helped foreign workers (and immigrants coming here) but opposed it because of the negative impact on domestic workers.

One reason why I really dislike Brad DeLong and others who share his view (like the Crooked Timber poster) is that they have been dishonest. By dishonest I mean that they didn't make the "helping others" theme the primary one. Sure, there was a footnote or something in the eighth paragraph mentioning it, but it was effectively hidden because they know it's political poison. They bring out this "better for those really poor abroad" only now, when the earlier arguments about prosperity for all are shown to be bogus. If they were dishonest in the debate back then, I suspect that they are dishonest now. What's to stop me from thinking that DeLong is nothing more than a stooge for the business class?

ALSO: The comment thread is somewhat wordy, but engages some interesting elements of the free-trade argument, including the notion that we should be helping workers overseas at the expense of domestic labor because:
the working class of the developed world is obscenely wealthy in comparison to the vast poor of the developing world and a portion of the resources upon which that wealth was built was stolen from the developing world in the past


Happy birthday to my old PC:

Ten years ago I purchased a Compaq Presario 5240 (400 MHz chip, 10 Gig disk, 64 Meg ram - since upgraded to 320 Meg). It's still doing useful work. Though not for browsing much anymore. I have to block Flash in Firefox and it's hopeless with some heavy webpages, but it's still where the mail client resides, Open Office apps are run, along with some other tools (PaintShopPro, very primitive FrontPage 2.0 for basic webpage development).

It can barely manage to play an mpeg, and there is no way it can edit anything but the smallest A/V files. But it's still a productive member of my office PCs (I have four other more capable units with up-to-date O/S and apps; no Macs though).

Interestingly, it was the first PC that I purchased. Being a programmer using more powerful units in the office, PCs in the 1990's were definitely inferior to those I had access to at work, so why bother? Why get a Windows 95 PC with a 25 MHz chip? Or 90 MHz chip? It wasn't until 400 MHz and other improvements - plenty of disk, USB, ethernet - were all in a box that it seemed worthwhile to get one. Hence, the wait until April 16, 1999.

For about four years, it was "the box" that did all the work. Then, gradually activity shifted to the faster units with more up-to-date applications. I probably could have migrated everything over to, for example, a better PC running Windows 2000 Pro. But there have been times when Old Faithful has been just what I needed when the other units were doing other stuff or down for one reason or another.

I guess this is a rambling post that is trying to address the notion of why it's rare in the computer world to have any functioning "classic" equipment. With cars, you can still drive something built 50 years ago. Some audio formats and equipment still work adequately (e.g. vinyl records). But with computers it's hard to see how anything but a stand-alone unit can survive. Whatever is connected to the Internet requires upgrades. The higher volume of data is one reason, but another is that many websites demand use of newer browsers, and lots of security software won't support a Windows 98 machine anymore.

So how much longer will this old unit be used? Who knows? At some point I might just as well pack it up and replace it with a netbook. It's not a good idea to stay with an old computer for reasons of nostalgia. But damn, it's still able to do a reasonable amount of work. So maybe it'll still be around five years from now.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Site notice:

Limited or no blogging today due to intense teabagging schedule.


Monday, April 13, 2009

The ultimate privatization scheme:

Privatize the lotteries? Way too small.
Privatize the highways? Nope.
Privatize Social Security? Hah!

Over at NRO's The Corner, we get this:
Want to Prevent Piracy? Privatize the Ocean

One suggestion that isn’t being considered, but should be, is to privatize the seas ...

... the absence of ownership of these waters means no one has had much incentive to prevent activities that destroy their value — activities such as piracy. The result is a kind of oceanic “tragedy of the commons” whereby, since no one has an incentive to devote the resources required to prevent piracy, piracy flourishes. In contrast, if these waters were privately owned, the owner would have a strong incentive to maximize the waters’ value since he would profit by doing so. That would mean suppressing and preventing pirates. ...

Establishing private property rights where they don’t currently exist is the solution to about 90 percent of world’s economic problems. Piracy is no exception.
Be careful what you wish for. If the seas are privatized, then whoever owns them will want a return on the investment and to cover the cost of policing. A sovereign wealth fund (e.g. representing China) might bid for, and win, the Pacific. Then what?

If seas are owned, then every country is effectively landlocked, which is a serious economic disadvantage.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Larry Summers, in his own words: (h/t AB)
What Causes Long-Term Unemployment?

To fully understand unemployment, we must consider the causes of recorded long-term unemployment. Empirical evidence shows that two causes are welfare payments and unemployment insurance. ...

First, government assistance increases the measure of unemployment by prompting people who are not working to claim that they are looking for work even when they are not. ...

The second way government assistance programs contribute to long-term unemployment is by providing an incentive, and the means, not to work. ...

Another cause of long-term unemployment is unionization. High union wages that exceed the competitive market rate are likely to cause job losses in the unionized sector of the economy. Also, those who lose high-wage union jobs are often reluctant to accept alternative low-wage employment. ...

There is no question that some long-term unemployment is caused by government intervention and unions that interfere with the supply of labor.
That was written sometime in the last four years (no publication date is evident, but inferred from dates mentioned in the essay).


Shorter David Broder:
I get my column ideas from reading former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson. Oh, and the Republican budget alternative was something to be taken seriously.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

What I learned from Glenn Beck:
First, Teddy Roosevelt captured the Republicans. Then Woodrow Wilson and FDR captured the Democrats. That allowed them to take the United States off the off the tracks that the founders had built and move the country towards fascism.
I seem to recall that Chester A. Arthur was a nefarious dude as well.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Tea Party list of places:

Here. And as FNC says:
"April fifteenth, as Tea Parties sweep the nation on tax day, we're there with total fair and balanced network coverage."
Of course they are. How could it be otherwise?


This is one strange entry in the list:
Los Angeles
Saturday, July 4
7 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Santa Monica Pier
None in Alaska, plenty in Texas. Other states as you'd expect.

RELATED: A Glenn Beck 9/12 party (commentary by John Cole).

LOOK HERE ----> Over at The Moderate Voice, a very good essay on the trajectory of Republicans and conservatives over the last 50 years.


Must-see cartoon:

Over at The Big Picture, a 1934 editorial cartoon in the (anti-FDR) Chicago Tribune. Some things never change.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

The conservative argument on health "insurance":

Ramesh Ponnuru writes in the NYTimes:
An alternative approach would be to make it easier for people to buy insurance that isn’t tied to their employment. The existing tax break for employer-provided insurance could be replaced with a tax credit that applies to insurance purchased either inside or outside the workplace. At the same time, state mandates that require insurers to cover certain conditions, which make it expensive to offer individual policies, could be removed.

These two reforms would address most people’s anxieties about the health care system. Insurance would be more affordable, especially for people who cannot get it through an employer, so the number of people with insurance would rise.
While the employment-based insurance has problems (i.e. when you lose your job, you lose your insurance), it does allow for increased bargaining power when facing insurance companies. But Ponnuru would ditch that, with the result that insurance companies could charge individuals more. His solution to higher insurance costs is to reduce coverage.

There's your conservative insurance plan: Whatever you can afford. In fact, you already have insurance of a sort. Only got ten dollars to spend? Well, your insurance is, effectively: aspirin, cough syrup, bandages, and maybe some vitamins. Congratulations, you're insured. As is everyone else on the planet.

It's the conservative solution: redefine "insurance".


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The National Review's logic:

From their editorial, The Future of Marriage: (emp add)
One still sometimes hears people make the allegedly “conservative” case for same-sex marriage that it will reduce promiscuity and encourage commitment among homosexuals. This prospect seems improbable, and in any case these do not strike us as important governmental goals.

[Heterosexual marriage] is a non-coercive way to channel (heterosexual) desire into civilized patterns of living. ...
The NR doesn't think channeling homosexual desire into civilized patters of living is an important government goal.

The NR does think channeling heterosexual desire into civilized patterns of living is an important governmental goal.

What's the difference between those two statements? Only one thing. The status of the protagonists. Andrew Sullivan calls it "homophobia". Hard to argue with that.

Also, reading the NR editorial, one gets the sense that it's influenced by Augustinian (or Pauline) thinking. Perhaps Sullivan, a Catholic, should ponder how much the church's doctrine is influencing the NR's point of view.


Right-wing radio futility:

Joan Walsh writes:
All weekend long, Fox's Sean Hannity and others were blaring "Obama Attacks America" and airing the truncated Obama quote. Karl Rove complained darkly: "There are ways to make the point he made without running down America." Hosting for Limbaugh, an overwrought Mark Steyn claimed the U.S. is "hanging upside down in the bondage dungeon being flogged and humiliated by the rest of the planet" in the wake of Obama's visit ...
What Hannity et al are claiming is this:
The President of the United States doesn't like the United States.
That message fails because the leader of an entity is assumed, absent compelling evidence, to be supportive of that entity. But the Hannity line-of-attack seems to be all the right wing radio has. It's like saying Santa Claus doesn't like children. The Pope doesn't like to take Mass. LeBron James doesn't like to shoot hoops. Etc.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Glenn Beck connection:

It was inevitable. From the ADL:
Richard Poplawski was a white supremacist arrested in Pittsburgh on April 4, 2009, for the murder of three Pittsburgh police officers responding to a domestic violence call. ...

Poplawski ... found expression for his hateful opinions on Stormfront, the world's largest white supremacist on-line discussion forum. ...

Following the Super Bowl victory of the Pittsburgh Steelers in early February 2009, Poplawski used the celebrations that occurred in Pittsburgh as an opportunity to "survey police procedure in an unrestful environment," and reported the results of his reconnaissance to fellow Stormfronters. "It was just creepy seeing busses [sic] put into action by authorities, as if they were ready to transport busloads of Steeler fans to 645 FEMA drive if necessary."

This last comment was a reference to popular right-wing conspiracy theories about Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-constructed prisons and concentration camps for U.S. citizens. ...

Poplawski bought into the ... conspiracy theories hook, line and sinker, even posting a link to Stormfront of a YouTube video featuring talk show host Glenn Beck talking about FEMA camps with Congressman Ron Paul.
Here is Glenn Beck on FEMA:
I have to tell you, I am doing a story tonight, that I wanted to debunk these FEMA camps. I'm tired of hearing about them -- you know about them? I'm tired of hearing about them. I wanted to debunk them.

We'll we've now for several days been doing research on them -- I can't debunk them! And we're going to carry the story tonight.
That was in Mid-March. After the murder of the police, he probably got a memo from Rupert Murdoch. Crooks and Liars reports:
... yesterday, Glenn Beck actually did a very good thing on his Fox News show: He completely eviscerated the conspiracy theories about supposed "FEMA concentration camps" that have been a favorite of the right-wing lunatic fringe for some time now.

It is in fact an impressive and thorough debunking of the rumors, led by Jim Meigs of Popular Mechanics, who's very good at this kind of work. Meigs, as it happens, concludes that these theories originated in the 1990s with the Patriot/militia movement.
Too late, Glenn.


Roland Hedley is still Twittering:

Even though it got exposure from the Doonesbury cartoon strip a month ago, ol' Roland continues to dispense his valuable thoughts.


No more "toxic assets":

The term "toxic assets" grates. Perhaps because within the word "toxic" is an implication that the toxicity can be reduced or eliminated, which, for the credit default swaps seems extremely unlikely. And the word "toxic" also implies some sort of tested-in-the-lab analysis (pace "poison" which is a concept that goes back thousands of years).

Far better is the terminology in this story:
Geithner Wrong, Crap Assets Correctly Priced, Say Harvard And Princeton Profs
Yeah, they really should be called "crap assets".


Shorter Richard Cohen:
The government-business revolving door is good for America. Also, I'm completely ignorant of Larry Summers' role facilitating massive deregulation of the financial markets.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Living on the (economic) edge:

Are you trying to manage your budget to get by in these tough times? Perhaps paid down debt (e.g. credit cards) and penny-pinching on everything else? Worried about your income, or lack thereof?

Ali Velshi of CNN has these thoughts:
I almost wonder whether people who live close to the edge, but don't carry a lot of debt are not as affected by this recession. They've sort of been living in that state for a while. There's not a lot of room they've had to fall.
If you've been living on the edge for a while, then you haven't been affected as much as, say, billionaire bankers. So enjoy your time on the edge. Just don't fall off.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Rod Dreher doesn't know his bible:

That's all there is to say.

Well, actually you could say a bit more: Rod Dreher is obsessed with homosexuality.

It's your call as to why.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

David Broder is a moron:

This Sunday, David "I see bipartisanship everywhere" Broder writes:
When Congress comes back from its two-week recess, members of both parties will be invited to the White House to celebrate what is, in today's context, almost a miracle: the signing of the Serve America Act of 2009.

Congress adjourned on Friday for the Easter break with the usual sounds of partisan struggle filling the air as the House and Senate rushed to pass the budget resolutions for next year. Nothing that one party proposed found favor with the other. Feelings were, once again, rubbed raw.

But eight days earlier, when the Senate approved a slightly modified version of the House-passed national service act by an overwhelming 79 to 19, the atmosphere was completely different. Democrats were congratulating Republicans and Republicans were praising Democrats. ...

Despite all the goodwill, 19 senators, all Republicans, including the party's two top leaders, voted against the law. The arguments were spurious.
Here is the Senate vote record.
Democrats: 100% present YEA (includes Sanders & Lieberman, Dorgan not voting)
Republicans: 53% present YEA (non absent)

And what about the House? The vote there was:
Democrats: 99% present YEA (1 NAY, 2 absent)
Republicans: 40% present YEA (104 NAY, 6 absent)

Bipartisanship is a majority from both parties supporting a bill. That did not happen in the House (and was barely met in the Senate by a mere 2 votes). But because some Republicans voted for a bill, and because Broder pays attention to the Senate and not the House, he declares a victory for bipartisanship.


They paid for a speech, and only for a speech:

Top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers received about $5.2 million over the past year in compensation from hedge fund D.E. Shaw, and also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from major financial institutions.

A financial disclosure form released by the White House Friday afternoon shows that Mr. Summers made frequent appearances before Wall Street firms including J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers. He also received significant income from Harvard University and from investments, the form shows.

In total, Mr. Summers made a total of about 40 speaking appearances to financial sector firms and other places, with fees totaling about $2.77 million. Fees ranged from $10,000 for a Yale University speech to $135,000 for an appearance paid for by Goldman Sachs & Co.
Over $100K from Goldman. For a speaking appearance and nothing more.


Friday, April 03, 2009

Looks like the recession is over:

From the WSJ:
DJIA Has Best 4-Week Streak Since 1933

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39.51 points, or 0.5%, to 8017.59, its highest close since Feb. 9, bringing its advance to 3.1% on the week. That was the fourth straight week of gains, and at 21%, the biggest advance for this kind of four-week streak since May 1933. The broad Standard & Poor's 500 index added 8.12, or 0.97%, to 842.5. For the week, the S&P 500 added 3.3%, and has cut its losses on 2009 to 6.7%. The Nasdaq Composite added 19.24, or 1.2%, to 1621.87, and is now up 2.8% for the year to date.
Today on ABC's Good Morning America, their financial-affairs advisor explained what was happening by using the analogy of a car race. The car that speeds ahead is the Market, followed by Spending, with Employment the last car racing to Recovery. So the conclusion is that the Market tells you where we stand.

While the advisor admitted that this could be a bear rally, her overall opinion was a positive one (citing small upticks in various economic reports).

I'm convinced. Are you?


Thursday, April 02, 2009


15 Feb 2009: George Will wrote in the Washington Post:
... according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade ...[i.e. since 1998]
21 March 2009: The Secretary General of the World Metereological Organization wrote in the Washington Post:
It is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record -- as was done in a recent Post column ["Dark Green Doomsayers," George F. Will, op-ed, Feb. 15] -- and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects.
2 April 2009: George Will wrote in the Washington Post:
[Global] warming ... is allegedly occurring even though, according to statistics published by the World Meteorological Organization, there has not been a warmer year on record than 1998.


Do ya feel lucky?

Long time readers of the Calculated Risk blog were probably surprised by the title of one of today's post:
Markets: Another Day at the Casino?
Mr. Calculated Risk is a sober type who only allows himself the occasional droll remark. As a rule, he keeps his opinion-level very low, and is always civil (even while the comment threads get raucous). This is the first time I've seen him characterize the stock market as a casino. He's referring to today's big up move, possibly related to the change in accounting that would allow banks to put their own value on their paper, which has the potential of actually reducing transparency (opinions vary).

If I had to guess, CR thinks that there is still some unwinding and fall-out from housing, manufacturing (autos), trade, and government activity (reduced at state and local level), and sees today's market action as not in accord with the 2009-2010 trend. He's up there in years (as am I) and no doubt recalls when real bottoms were in in 1974 and 1982, when everybody was totally disgusted (and disinterested) in stocks. Yes, there's been a lot of hurt in the last 18 months, but there are still strong pockets of "we're on the road to recovery" that indicate that greed hasn't been wrung out of Wall Street. Hence, the casino metaphor.


Waiting for Yglesias:

Once again, George Will has penned a global-warming-skeptic column in the Washington Post. Fave excerpt:
[Global] warming ... is allegedly occurring even though, according to statistics published by the World Meteorological Organization, there has not been a warmer year on record than 1998.
As Jon Chait observes:
... Will (again) cites the unusually hot year of 1998 to prove that the planet isn't warming. He fails to understand a very basic concept in data that you don't need any particular social science expertise to grasp, which is that trends don't always move in a perfectly straight line. The planet has been getting warmer, and there was an extreme spike in 1998. Both these things can be true.
But back to Will & Yglesias. Matt has been very critical of George and the Post for printing his "lies" (Matt's chacterization). And you know that sometime soon - hopefully today - Yglesias will write an entertaining post on this latest event.

This is one aspect of blogs that's lots of fun.

UPDATE: Yglesias delivers, but also says "I’m beyond caring what Will is thinking or doing here", which may mean less fireworks going forward.

Also, from the comments, a link to various slams on Will (h/t Hodge).


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How can Colbert compete against this?

It's impossible.


Paul Ryan's brilliant idea:

Yglesias has commented on it, but he failed to mention any specific numbers that Paul Ryan detailed in the "GOP's Alternative Budget". Ryan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, proposed that in addition to permanently restoring the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, that people have a choice between that system and another one. What's the other one?
If you are single and make over $50,000 ($100K for couples) the tax on income is 25%.
If you are making not $50 thousand, but $50 million, you can opt for system2 and instead of a marginal rate of 35%*, pay 25%, a savings of five million dollars. (And capital gains and dividends are taxed at 15%, so any taxes on those items is substantially reduced as well.)

We all know that a single person living in a metro area (like Los Angeles) making $50K has, after food, shelter, insurance, and transportation costs, about the same percentage of "spendable money" as the $50 millionaire. So it's logical that they both be taxed at the same marginal rate.

Brilliant. We need more thinkers like Ryan.

* 35% was the Bush top rate. 39% was the Clinton top rate which becomes effective if/when the Bush tax plan expires.