Tuesday, November 29, 2011

American Cyber-Stazi CEO Mark Zuckerberg says:
"I think we have a good history of providing transparency and control over who can see your information."
Who could disagree with that?

Of interest, the settlement with the FTC over deceptive practices regarding privacy of users includes a hefty fine of $16,000 should Facebook violate provision of the deal. That'll keep them honest.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Thank you Barry Ritholtz:

He has this post over on his blog: No, Black Friday Sales Were Not Up 16% (not even 6%)

If its the Monday after Black Friday, then its national hype the fabricated data day!

Every year around this time, we get a series of loose reports coincident with Black Friday and the holiday weekend. Each year, they are wildly optimistic. And like clockwork, the media idiotically repeats these trade organizations spin like its gospel. When the data finally comes in, we learn that the early reports were pure hokum, put out by trade groups to create shopping hype. (Yes, the Media ALWAYS screws the pooch big time on this one, with the occasional exception).

Let’s start with this whopper from an utterly breathless press release from the National Retail Federation:
“U.S. retail sales during Thanksgiving weekend climbed 16 percent to a record as shoppers flocked to stores earlier and spent more, according to the National Retail Federation.

Sales totaled $52.4 billion, and the average shopper spent $398.62 during the holiday weekend, up from $365.34 a year earlier, the Washington-based trade group said in a statement today, citing a survey conducted by BIGresearch. More than a third of that — an average of $150.53 — was spent online.”
No, retail sales did not climb 16%. Surveys where people forecast their own future spending are, as we have seen repeatedly in the past, pretty much worthless.

We actually have no idea just yet as to whether, and exactly how much, sales climbed. The data simply is not in yet. The most you can accurately say is according to some foot traffic measurements, more people appeared to be in stores on Black Friday 2011 than in 2010.
There's more, including a jaundiced view of the 6.6% sales increase (that came from ShopperTrak).

I remember not too long ago there was a report from one of these outfits that retail sales were up 46% from the year ago. That was so transparently absurd that the major press didn't run with it.

I was in a discount retail store at 8:00 PM on Saturday, and it was completely empty of shoppers. That may have been an aberration, but my guess is that retail sales are up 3% from 2010 and not stellar, considering we still have 9% unemployment.


Senator Jon Kyle shows you how it's done:

Check out this exchange from yesterday's Fox News Sunday program:
WALLACE: ... economists say there's a real impact if you don't extend payroll tax cuts and employment insurance. And let's put it up on the screen.

They estimate and again both of these run out January 1st, that failure to extend the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits will cut GDP growth 1 percent to 2 percent next year, and cost more than half million jobs.

You say you question the stimulative affect. But according to these economists, there's a real danger if Congress doesn't extend both of those, put the country back into a recession?

KYL: Chris, I don't know who those economists are. I just read a piece by Art Laffer, who is a respected economist, who say that isn't true.
Laffer is the go-to guy if you need a "scholar" to support your peculiar economic policies. (John Lott does that for gun control. Lord Monckton for global warming.)


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Walmart 3, Macy's 1:

If you are keeping score:
A woman who allegedly fired pepper spray at other customers during a Black Friday sale has surrendered to authorities, Los Angeles police said Saturday. Police Sgt. Jose Valle said the woman who allegedly caused minor injuries to 20 shoppers at a Los Angeles-area Walmart turned herself in Friday night. ...

The incident was among those nationwide in which violence marred the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

In the most serious case, a robber shot a shopper who refused to give up his purchases outside a San Leandro, Calif., Walmart store, leaving the victim hospitalized in critical but stable condition. Police in San Leandro, about 15 miles east of San Francisco, said the victim and his family were walking to their car around 1:45 a.m. Friday when they were confronted by a group of men who demanded their shopping items. When the family refused, a fight broke out, and one of the robbers pulled a gun and shot the man, said Sgt. Mike Sobek.

Meanwhile, police in suburban Phoenix came under fire when a video was posted online showing a 54-year-old grandfather on the floor of a Walmart store with a bloody face, after police said he was subdued Thursday night trying to shoplift during a chaotic rush for discounted video games. ...

In Sacramento, Calif., a man was stabbed outside a mall Friday in an apparent gang-related incident as shoppers were hitting the stores. The victim was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said. The stabbing stemmed from a fight between two groups around 3 a.m. in front of a Macy's department store at the Arden Fair Mall.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

CNN's garbage reporting:

This is, unfortunately, standard practice:
That is how CNN reports the fact that Romney's campaign took Obama's quoting a McCain staffer and misleadingly presented it as Obama's view. Obama even said "and I quote". But the network is too timid to call foul. Instead, we get treated to the classic "Democrats say", which implies there is no objective judgement to be rendered. (See also Alex Pareene's commentary at Salon.)

Earlier, on the CBS Early Show, they had Jan Crawford report on the Romney ad. She said this:
"as far as conservtives go it's not so controversial, and Romney's courting that vote, and they think it's pretty brilliant"
There was the admission that Obama's words were taken out of context, but that's considered SOP these days, so what's the fuss?

2012 is looking to be a miserable campaign year.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shouldn't be out there:

One of the U.C. Davis policemen who pepper sprayed a passive, non-violent bunch of students was John Pike. He's reported to be 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 245 pounds.

That's a Body Mass Index of just over 35, which is Obese Class II (BMI between 35 and 40). Something like 5% of the male population are in that category.

In rare cases, like offensive linemen in football, that kind of BMI means not having the strength and agility to deal with any kind of physical confrontation. And that leads to the casual use of power-substitutes, which is what pepper spray is.

The man should have been behind a desk, not in front of a crowd of protesters. It's as simple as that.


David Frum has a lot of problems with the present-day Republican party:

Yes, it's David Frum, but he writes a long essay, When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?, with many data points. Over at the New York Magazine. Excerpt:
Conservatives have been driven to these fevered anxieties as much by their own trauma as by external events. In the aughts, Republicans held more power for longer than at any time since the twenties, yet the result was the weakest and least broadly shared economic expansion since World War II, followed by an economic crash and prolonged slump. Along the way, the GOP suffered two severe election defeats in 2006 and 2008. Imagine yourself a rank-and-file Republican in 2009: If you have not lost your job or your home, your savings have been sliced and your children cannot find work. Your retirement prospects have dimmed. Most of all, your neighbors blame you for all that has gone wrong in the country. There’s one thing you know for sure: None of this is your fault! And when the new president fails to deliver rapid recovery, he can be designated the target for everyone’s accumulated disappointment and rage. In the midst of economic wreckage, what relief to thrust all blame upon Barack Obama as the wrecker-in-chief.

The Bush years cannot be repudiated, but the memory of them can be discarded to make way for a new and more radical ideology, assembled from bits of the old GOP platform that were once sublimated by the party elites but now roam the land freely: ultralibertarianism, crank monetary theories, populist fury, and paranoid visions of a Democratic Party controlled by ACORN and the New Black Panthers.
"crank monetary theories" are definitely riding high at the moment.

And this:
Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel). As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. ....

But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. (...)

We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Best argument for the use of pepper spray against passive people:

A commenter to a Sacramento Bee story about the U.C. Davis event writes:
You have to remember the cops are armed and risk someone jumping on their back, being overpowered by a mob and someone getting their gun; now some one is going to get shot. The same folks who are crying foul about excessive force would be much more outraged if one of the scenarios I mentioned played out.
You see, because the police were armed, they had to use excessive force against unarmed people. Makes total sense.


Occupy success:

In the wake of the incredibly stupid pepper-spraying of U.C. Davis students, E.D.Kain writes:
I’d really started to grow a little cold on Occupy Wall Street lately. Protests only go so far. Tent cities eventually wear out their welcome. At some point you need to get up, get online, start trying to elect people. At some point, you have to also play the game in order to win.

But it’s hard not to be supportive of people exercising their democratic rights, their right to dissent, who end up suffering violence for it.
Totally agree with that.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Will Rick Perry get back the Tea Party love?

He sure is trying. Some recent statements he made on O'Reilly's show:
“This president’s traveled around the country making excuses for America, apologizing for America, saying that America is not an exemplary country, and then he gets on TV and talks about that Americans are lazy, that they’ve lost their ambition, that they’ve lost their imagination.”

“I think this is a man who really, if he believed that Americans were hardworking, that they were ready to ignite this economy, then we wouldn’t have the tax policy, wouldn’t have the regulatory policies in place that are killing jobs in this country.”

“I think Barack Obama is a socialist.”
Pretty insane stuff. Obama supports a particular tax policy because he thinks American's aren't hardworking. Right.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fox News poll:

It's the one where 30% of prospective Republican primary voters said they'd most trust Newt Gingrich with nuclear weapons. Further down the list there was this question (asked of all people):
Let's imagine the Constitution allowed presidents to serve a third term. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton?
Clinton 58%
Bush 34%
(Don’t know) 3%
(Would not vote) 5%
Here is the breakdown:


So much for Republicans' fidelity to states' rights:

House passes bill allowing those with concealed weapons permits to cross state lines
WASHINGTON — A state permit to carry a concealed firearm would be valid in almost every other state in the country under legislation the House passed Wednesday.

The first pro-gun bill the House has taken up this year and the first since Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was severely injured in a gun attack in January, it had the National Rifle Association’s backing and passed by a comfortable margin. The vote was 272-154, with only seven Republicans voting against it and 43 Democrats supporting it. ...

Under the House legislation, people with a concealed carry permit in one state could carry a concealed weapon in every other state that gives people the right to carry concealed weapons. While states have various standards for issuing such permits, currently only Illinois and the District of Columbia prohibit the concealed carrying of weapons.
In related Christian news:
Liberty University OKs concealed guns on campus

Liberty University enacted a policy allowing visitors, students and staff who have concealed weapons permits to carry guns on campus.

The policy, approved Friday by the Board of Trustees and announced to students Wednesday, replaces a complete ban of firearms on university grounds. ...

Liberty now has the most lenient firearms policy among local colleges and universities. Lynchburg College, Randolph College and Central Virginia Community College do not permit anyone except law enforcement to carry firearms.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Fail:

It brought the issue of economic misery back into the spotlight, but missed out on an opportunity to generate results. The Occupy movement should have had leadership that would (a) set goals, (b) be good spokespeople for those goals, (c) discipline those elements that threaten the movement's public image.

The goals needn't be specific policy items, like restricting drilling in the Gulf (although Matt Taibbi has a list of five to start with). The problem with our politics today are the result of us having a non-representative government (both R & D). To fix that, you have to get out and vote. The lesson of 2010 is that with a 30% falloff in voting, you get nutcases like Allen West into the House of Representatives.

Recently Matt Taibbi wrote of the Occupy movement:n (emp add)
... there were scads of progressive pundits like me who wrung our hands with worry that OWS was playing right into the hands of assholes like Krauthammer. Don't give them any ammunition! we counseled. Stay on message! Be specific! ...

... OWS is tired of all of this. They don't care what we think they're about, or should be about. They just want something different.

People don't know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.

People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something. It may not be a real model for anything, but it's at least a place where people are free to dream of some other way for human beings to get along, beyond auctioned "democracy," tyrannical commerce and the bottom line.

People want out of this fiendish system, rigged to inexorably circumvent every hope we have for a more balanced world. They want major changes. I think I understand now that this is what the Occupy movement is all about. It's about dropping out, if only for a moment, and trying something new, the same way that the civil rights movement of the 1960s strived to create a "beloved community" free of racial segregation. Eventually the Occupy movement will need to be specific about how it wants to change the world. But for right now, it just needs to grow. And if it wants to sleep on the streets for a while and not structure itself into a traditional campaign of grassroots organizing, it should. It doesn't need to tell the world what it wants. It is succeeding, for now, just by being something different.
That is not a formula for success in implementing change. You have to engage the governing elements, and the way to do that is to elect people who represent your interests. But we're not hearing anything like that now. Instead, it's getting darker and more chaotic:

On the eve of destruction - Before cops broke up Occupy Oakland, the debate over nonviolence was already unraveling the movement (Salon)

The uncertain future of Occupy Wall Street - Organizers debate how to focus their energies (Salon)

Occupy’s Asshole Problem: Flashbacks from An Old Hippie (Nicole Sandler)

The Occupy movement is drifting towards a resigned fatalism, much like the stoicism that kept the peasants from rising for almost 2,000 years. That is something we do not need, but Occupy is taking us there.


Saturday, November 12, 2011


This is the signal we've all been waiting for:
Cain says God persuaded him to run for president

ATLANTA (AP) — Republican Herman Cain said God convinced him to enter the race for president, comparing himself to Moses: "'You've got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?'"

The Georgia business executive played up his faith Saturday after battling sexual harassment allegations for two weeks, trying to shift the conversation to religion, an issue vital to conservative Republicans, especially in the South.

In a speech Saturday to a national meeting of young Republicans, Cain said the Lord persuaded him after much prayer.

"That's when I prayed and prayed and prayed. I'm a man of faith — I had to do a lot of praying for this one, more praying than I've ever done before in my life," Cain said. "And when I finally realized that it was God saying that this is what I needed to do, I was like Moses. 'You've got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?'"

Once he made the decision, Cain said, he did not look back.

Four women have now accused Cain of sexually harassing them when he ... [etc]
Odd that Cain only waited until today to tell us this explosive news.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Murdoch Mafia update:

James Murdoch went before Parliament today. Here is a primer from New York magazine.

The BBC reports.

  • The Sun newspaper may be shut down if a new allegation of hacking is true.
  • Admitted to spying on lawyers representing hacking victims (and one lawyer's 17 year old daughter).
    Mr Murdoch also said revelations that his company had used a private detective to spy on lawyers acting for phone hacking victims in 2010 was "appalling" and "unacceptable" and apologised to committee member Mr Watson, who had also been put under surveillance in the past.
  • Claimed not to know about various goings-on at the paper. (New York magazine)


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Perry in the GOP debate on Wednesday:

Reaganesque. Relaxed, avuncular, and forgetful.


Look what this guy is doing now:

Via Atrios, we learn that the right wing is in a tizzy over a Christmas tree tax. The story is being promoted by Drudge and the Fox Nation. Other bloggers are chiming in.

The story originated from the Heritage Foundation in a post written by David S. Addington. (Where it has picked up over 1,000 comments from outraged conservatives.)

Does that name sound familiar? It should. David Addington was chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Addington was described by U.S. News & World Report as "the most powerful man you've never heard of".

He was one of the biggest supporters of unbridled executive power:
Addington has consistently advocated that under the Constitution, the President has substantial and expansive powers as commander-in-chief during wartime, if need be. He is the legal force behind over 750 signing statements that President George W. Bush issued when signing bills passed by Congress, expanding the practice relative to other Presidents.
And there are various clams that Addington was a major force behind the authorization of torture.

Now he's blogging about Christmas trees.


Keeping an eye on the Murdoch empire:

Why there hasn't been more coverage of these stories is a mystery: (emp add)
A private investigator was hired by the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid to perform surveillance on two lawyers representing victims of the Murdoch company phone-hacking scandal. As if that's not grimy enough, the ex-cop investigator says he's snitching now because News International didn't pay him. Derek Webb claims he was hired to follow Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris, along with Lewis's ex-wife and teenage daughter, to uncover information that might stop them from taking on more phone-hacking cases.

"To follow my teenage daughter, my youngest daughter and video her is nothing short of sick," said Lewis. "On another level looking at me, that's not how you litigate, you play the ball you don't play the man … this is Mafia-like."

A spokesperson for the media company said, "News International's enquiries have led the company to believe that Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris were subject to surveillance. While surveillance is not illegal, it was clearly deeply inappropriate in these circumstances. This action was not condoned by any current executive at the company."

The spying is said to have occurred within the last year and a half, while James Murdoch was executive chairman. Murdoch is due in front of Parliament to discuss the phone-hacking matter on Thursday. The questions continue to mount.


Friday, November 04, 2011

One of the better Fox Nation headlines:
Pelosi Accused of Plastic Surgery


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

This doesn't make any sense:

From the NYTimes: (emp add)
Mr. Bowles, speaking for himself and Mr. Simpson, outlined a package that he said could reduce deficits by $2.6 trillion over 10 years. The package includes $800 billion of new revenue, $300 billion in savings from annual appropriations known as discretionary spending, $600 billion from health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, $300 billion from other entitlement programs and [savings of] $200 billion from use of a less generous formula to calculate cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security and other benefits.
Social Security is not part of the federal budget. It is not going to go into the red in the next 10 years. What's it doing in this package from Simpson and Bowles?


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

David Brooks wants you to focus on something else:

From his column:
The zooming wealth of the top 1 percent is a problem, but it’s not nearly as big a problem as the tens of millions of Americans who have dropped out of high school or college. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the 40 percent of children who are born out of wedlock. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the nation’s stagnant human capital, its stagnant social mobility and the disorganized social fabric for the bottom 50 percent.
He prefaces that with his own analysis which asserts that there are two types of inequality: big city Blue Inequality and small town Red Inequality. Of course, no numbers are provided in this analysis (except for a lonesome pair that do not make his case).

Dean Baker gets snarky: (emp add)
This is where Brooks lack of access to data is so important. The wage gap between college grads and non-college grads is really a 90s story and even more an 80s story. In the last decade, workers with only a college degree (i.e. no professional or advanced degree) did not share in the benefits of economic growth. The ratio of the wages of those with just college degrees to those without college degrees has not risen much since the early 90s.

Wages of non-college educated workers did suffer badly in the 80s due to policies such as the over-valuation of the dollar that made many U.S. manufactured goods uncompetitive internationally, the deliberate increase in unemployment during the Volcker years which threw millions of non-college educated workers out of work, and anti-union measures (e.g. the firing of the PATCO strikers and an anti-union National Labor Relations Board). However since the 90s, the wages of workers with high school degrees have not departed much from the wages of workers with just college degrees, the vast majority of the economy's gains have gone to the top 1 percent. It is too bad that David Brooks apparently does not have access to this data.
Brooks is becoming more and more transparently a hack. In his column, he tries to re-slice the pie from 1%/99% to a 30%/60% division by lumping college graduates in with the ultra rich. Nice try.

This comment at Baker's blog is apt:
... again and again in his twice-weekly NYT column, Brooks tosses together a pseudo-sociological mishmash straight from Applebee's non-existent salad bar in an attempt to coin phrases that somehow justify conservative selfishness and shortsightness. Thus "Bobos" of the corporate upper class are highly tolerant of others, "cluster liberals" favor maximum unity, "network liberals" favor coalitions, "creedal conservatives" favor transcendent order, and "dispositional conservatives"are Burkean, tempermental types who prize epistomological modesty. Today (gasp), he provides us with two different kinds of inequality: "blue inequality" between the top 1 per cent and the rest in certain big cities, and "red inequality" between those with and without college degrees in certain smaller cities.
And another:
Brooks supports all this Republican regressiveness. His job is to distract with data free false equivalence arguments that sometimes appear "reasonable" to someone who hasn't checked the facts.
CURIOUS POINT: If Brooks wants to go there - the change in inequality during the 1980's - will he denounce Ronald Reagan for enabling that shift? You know the answer to that.