Monday, May 31, 2010

"All the way down to zero." I'd like to get me a slice of that:

Owners Stop Paying Mortgages, and Stop Fretting

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For Alex Pemberton and Susan Reboyras, foreclosure is becoming a way of life — something they did not want but are in no hurry to get out of.

Foreclosure has allowed them to stabilize the family business. Go to Outback occasionally for a steak. Take their gas-guzzling airboat out for the weekend. Visit the Hard Rock Casino.

“Instead of the house dragging us down, it’s become a life raft,” said Mr. Pemberton, who stopped paying the mortgage on their house here last summer. “It’s really been a blessing.”

A growing number of the people whose homes are in foreclosure are refusing to slink away in shame. They are fashioning a sort of homemade mortgage modification, one that brings their payments all the way down to zero. They use the money they save to get back on their feet or just get by.

... for some borrowers in default, foreclosure is only a theoretical threat for a long time.

More than 650,000 households had not paid in 18 months, LPS calculated earlier this year. With 19 percent of those homes, the lender had not even begun to take action to repossess the property ...


Shorter Robert Samuelson of the liberal Washington Post:
In my dismissal of poverty statistics, I shall only cite the views of the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, so you know I'm being objective.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

What a teeny, tiny effort:

Senator wants disclosure on outsourced calls

In a bid to reduce outsourcing of U.S. jobs, a Democratic senator said on Sunday he will push legislation to make companies inform customers when their calls were being transferred outside the United States and charge companies for those transferred calls.

"This bill will not only serve to maintain call center jobs currently in the United States, but also provide a reason for companies that have already outsourced jobs to bring them back," Senator Charles Schumer said in statement.

Customers calling 800 numbers are often transferred overseas, and in such cases the bill would mandate that callers be told where their calls were rerouted. ...

Schumer said the most popular countries for outsourcing of U.S. call centers included India, Indonesia, Ireland, the Philippines and South Africa, places where workers generally receive lower wages and work longer hours than their U.S. counterparts.
That's only call centers. What about manufacturing and other services?

Schumer is only addressing visible outsourcing (in this case aural). But there are many, many jobs that have moved out of the country without people catching on. Radiology in India. Computer assembly in China. Light manufacturing in Mexico. Etc.


Two of our top, most respected op-ed writers!

Tom Friedman
Malia for President

It took almost the entire press conference at the White House on Thursday for President Obama to find his voice in responding to the oil disaster in the gulf — and it is probably no accident that it seemed like the only unrehearsed moment. The president was trying to convey why he takes this problem so seriously, when he noted:

“When I woke this morning and I’m shaving and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, ‘Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?’ ..."

And a child shall lead them. ...

... as the nation’s C.E.O., Mr. Obama has to oversee the cleanup, and he has been on top of that. His most important job, though, is one he has yet to take on: shaping the long-term public reaction to the spill so that we can use it to generate the political will to break our addiction to oil. In that job, the most important thing Mr. Obama can do is react to this spill as a child would ...

... he has to think like a kid. Kids get it.

David "The Dean" Broder
The president adds a personal note to oil spill crisis

It took almost a full hour of Barack Obama's news conference for the professor-president to come down from his lecture platform and show the human reaction to the gulf oil leak accident that people had been looking for.

... he gave the country something ... a brief glimpse into what the challenges of his job mean to him personally.

"When I woke up this morning and I'm shaving, and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, 'Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?' "

The next sentence leaps from the mundane to the universal. "I think everybody understands that when we are fouling the Earth like this, it has concrete implications not just for this generation but for future generations."

What he says next is so simple and personal that its authenticity cannot be doubted: "I grew up in Hawaii, where the ocean is sacred."
Apparently neither of these op-ed giants are familiar with the ridicule Jimmy Carter got for his performance in a presidential debate:
... it was President Carter's reference to his consultation with 12-year-old daughter Amy concerning nuclear weapons policy that became the focus of post-debate analysis and fodder for late-night television jokes. President Carter said he had asked Amy what the most important issue in that election was and she said, "the control of nuclear arms."
Which certainly met Friedman's "thinking like a kid" standard, and Broder's "personal" metric.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sounds like it’s time to play I Got the Top-Kill Blues by Muddy Waters:

Latest effort appears to have failed to improve the situation.


Check this out:


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Investigative journalist Joe McGinniss moves next door to Sarah Palin:

Jack Shafer is cool with it. But in reviewing the argument pro and con of the matter he also writes:
... McGinniss' stunt will outrage those who believe reporters should get close but not too close, who believe that there is something sacred about an individual's place of residence ...
That's my view, that a place of residence is off limits from the eyes of a reporter, at least in this case. It's not as if Palin is doing something of note at her home, like counterfeiting money or cooking up moonshine, that mandates a peek.

McGinniss is out of line.


Art Linkletter, TV Host, Dies at 97

I was on that show as one of those kids (but did not say the darndest thing). Linkletter was always conservative but later became a very hard-right Republican and was an advocate of privatizing Social Security, which made him an ass.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You don't read something like this very often:

North Korea statement:
The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, accordingly, formally declares that from now on it will put into force the resolute measures to totally freeze the inter-Korean relations, totally abrogate the agreement on non-aggression between the north and the south and completely halt the inter-Korean cooperation. In this connection, the following measures will be taken at the first phase:

1. All relations with the puppet authorities will be severed.
2. There will be neither dialogue nor contact between the authorities during (South Korean President) Lee Myung Bak's tenure of office.
3. The work of the Panmunjom Red Cross liaison representatives will be completely suspended.
4. All communication links between the north and the south will be cut off.
5. The Consultative Office for North-South Economic Cooperation in the Kaesong Industrial Zone will be frozen and dismantled and all the personnel concerned of the south side will be expelled without delay.
6. We will start all-out counterattack against the puppet group's 'psychological warfare against the north.'
7. The passage of south Korean ships and airliners through the territorial waters and air of our side will be totally banned.
8. All the issues arising in the inter-Korean relations will be handled under a wartime law.

There is no need to show any mercy or patience for such confrontation maniacs, sycophants and traitors and wicked warmongers as the (South Korean President) Lee Myung Bak group.


Fox News doctors the news:

Make no mistake about it, Fox zeroed out the audio of the cadets' applause.

UPDATE: Idiot at The Next Right falls for the manipulated video.


Monday, May 24, 2010

This was mentioned on the CBS Evening News as a positive indicator for the economy:

Ford to add 170 jobs

Here is some detail (not mentioned by CBS):
Two Ford Motor Co. factories near Detroit will see 170 additional blue-collar jobs in the next two years ...
That's an average of 7 jobs a month.


Where's Dick Cheney?

The former Haliburton oilman has been remarkably silent in recent weeks.

(Sort of related: Eric Massa should shut up.)


Self referential?

From Sara Palin's Facebook page:
For traditional media to rely on an accusation via some blog entry is almost laughable ...
More here.


"shape the way Americans think"

First of all, there is a very pessimistic essay in the Financial Times (21 May) by historian Simon Schama that looks at our current economic predicament:
On the brink of a new age of rage

Far be it for me to make a dicey situation dicier but you can’t smell the sulphur in the air right now and not think we might be on the threshold of an age of rage.

... in Europe and America there is a distinct possibility of a long hot summer of social umbrage. Historians will tell you there is often a time-lag between the onset of economic disaster and the accumulation of social fury. In act one, the shock of a crisis initially triggers fearful disorientation; the rush for political saviours; instinctive responses of self-protection, but not the organised mobilisation of outrage. ...

Act two is trickier. Objectively, economic conditions might be improving, but perceptions are everything and a breathing space gives room for a dangerously alienated public to take stock of the brutal interruption of their rising expectations. What happened to the march of income, the acquisition of property, the truism that the next generation will live better than the last? The full impact of the overthrow of these assumptions sinks in and engenders a sense of grievance that “Someone Else” must have engineered the common misfortune.

... the survival of a crisis demands ensuring that the fiscal pain is equitably distributed.

... any emergency budget needs to take stock of this raw sense of popular victimisation and deliver a convincing story about the sharing of burdens. To do otherwise is to guarantee that a bad situation gets very ugly, very fast.
Over at Naked Capitalism, Yves links to Shama and provides commentary (22 May), which included quoting James Lardner: (emp add)
As James Lardner pointed out in the New York Review of Books in June 2007, even before the wheels started coming off the economy, the social contract in the US was pretty frayed, but a concerted propaganda campaign PR effort promoted the fiction that it was the best of all possible worlds:
To gain their political ends, the robber barons and monopolists of the Gilded Age were content with corrupting officials and buying elections. Their modern counterparts have taken things a big step further, erecting a loose network of think tanks, corporate spokespeople, and friendly press commentators to shape the way Americans think about the economy…. the new communications apparatus wants us to believe that our economic wellbeing depends almost entirely on the so-called free market—a euphemism for letting the private sector set its own rules. The success of this great effort can be measured in the remarkable fact that, despite the corporate scandals and the social damage that these authors explore; despite three decades of deregulation and privatization and tax-and-benefit-slashing with, as the clearest single result, the relentless rise of economic inequality to levels so extreme that since 2001 “the economy” has racked up five straight years of impressive growth without producing any measurable income gains for most Americans—even now, discussions of solutions or alternatives can be stopped almost dead in their tracks by mention of the word government.
As if on cue, Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute gets published in the Washington Post (23 May) with an essay that Kevin Drum calls out as crankery. In it, Brooks mentions favorably "free market" or "free enterprise" twenty-five times, attacks redistributionist safety nets, and dismisses concerns about income inequality. Excerpts:
... by wide margins, Americans support free enterprise ...

Free enterprise brings happiness; redistribution does not. The reason is that only free enterprise brings earned success.

Money is not the same as earned success but is rather a symbol, important not for what it can buy but for what it says about how people are contributing and what kind of difference they are making. Money corresponds to happiness only through earned success.

Not surprisingly, unearned money -- while it may help alleviate suffering -- carries with it no personal satisfaction.

If unearned money does not bring happiness, redistributing money by force won't make for a happier America -- and the redistributionists' theory of a better society through income equality falls apart.

We know that income inequality by itself is not what makes people unhappy ...
Kudos to the Washington Post for helping "shape the way Americans think" by giving a platform for a free-market think tank spokesman.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Palin's peculiar locutions:

In her appearance today on Fox News Sunday: (excerpts, emp add)
... don't assume that you can engage in a hypothetical discussion about constitutional impacts with a reporter or a media personality who has an agenda ...

These oil companies have got to be held accountable when there is any kind of lax and preventive measures to result in a tragedy like we're seeing now in the Gulf.

I don't know why the question isn't asked by the mainstream media and by others if there is any connection with the contributions made to President Obama and his administration, and the support by the oil companies to the administration,
1) "constitutional impacts" would be the impact of the Constitution on government action. But that's not what's at issue here. The issue is the Civil Rights Act, which is a law that was not "impacted" (i.e. declared unconstitutional) at all.

2) A "lax" approach can lead to a tragedy, but "preventative measures" do not (or are not supposed to).

3) Is there a connection between "contributions" to a politician and "support" of that politician? Sure. What is usually the concern is the reverse, the politician helping a contributor in exchange for money.

Palin has, within each of her statements, an element that is an upside-down conceptualization of the general point she's trying to make.

While Palin appears calm in these friendly-forum interviews, what she says reads as if it's from someone flustered.

To commenter Rockie the Dog: This what you were referring to in the last post.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Meet the Press' shopworn roundtable:

You won't want to miss this:
A big week in politics and a full agenda for the Obama administration. What does the resignation of National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair mean for the nation's security and for the state of this country's intelligence gathering community? How do Tuesday's election results reflect on the President? And what does it all mean for the November elections? And as the uncontained oil spill in the Gulf continues to threaten the coastline and the region's health and welfare, how has Washington managed the response and cleanup effort and what will be the long-term ramification of this disaster? Our roundtable weighs in: The New York Times' Tom Friedman; The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot; NBC News' Andrea Mitchell; and The Washington Post's Bob Woodward.
It's hard to imagine those characters saying anything fresh or insightful. And they already have prominent media perches where they can be read or heard, so why are they on MTP instead of, say, a professor of political science who might have a different perspective?

UPDATE: I posted too soon. From ABC's This Week promo webpage:
... our classic roundtable. Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts and Donna Brazile are back together again with George Will to talk about all the week's politics ...
"Classic" roundtable, as in "a bunch of folks who used to be on the show 15 years ago".

I watched those programs back in the '90s. But since the rise of the Internet as a source of news and opinion, the Sunday shows look completely irrelevant, and nowadays I only check in once in a while out of curiosity. I'd love to know how much of their current audience is composed of people without Internet access in their homes.

UPDATE2: I updated too soon! This from the Fox News Sunday webpage:
Semi-Super Tuesday provided a glimpse at the electoral atmosphere facing both political parties: Rand Paul delivered a victory to the Tea Party movement in Kentucky, but another conservative favorite lost a special congressional election in Pennsylvania. Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin gives us her take in a 'Fox News Sunday' exclusive.
The upside here is that Andrew Sullivan will probably go a little more nuts over the Palin appearance, which is usually fun to watch.


There is a better way:

From Thirst for cash brings push to tax sweet drinks: (excerpts, emp add)
Thirsty for new sources of cash, health-conscious lawmakers in cities and states across the country are reaching for the refrigerator, proposing taxes on sports drinks, teas and soda.

Last year, federal lawmakers dropped a proposal to use a penny per ounce drink tax — an extra $1.44 for a 12-pack of soda — to help pay for health care reform legislation.

Lawmakers in California, New York and Rhode Island are also considering separate drink taxes, like the penny-per-ounce tax initially proposed in Washington, D.C.

According to one count by Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and a supporter of a tax for nearly two decades, 17 states and three cities have proposed drink tax legislation in 2009-2010.

"The economy being in such terrible shape has raised the need for revenue, and what better way to raise revenue?" said Brownell ...
How about increasing the marginal rate on high incomes, or a tax on wealth (e.g. property)?



It takes a bit of time before a consensus opinion emerges on new political groups. After a year or so, here are a couple of views on the Tea Party movement. Here's John Judis writing in The New Republic: (emp add)
The Tea Parties are the descendants of a number of conservative insurgencies from the past two generations: the anti-tax rebellion of the late ’70s, the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition of the ’80s and ’90s, and Pat Buchanan’s presidential runs. Like the Tea Partiers I saw in Washington—and the picture of the Tea Partiers put forward by the Winston and Quinnipiac polls—these movements have been almost entirely white, disproportionately middle-aged or older, and more male than female ...
And Joan Walsh in Salon:
I'm getting a little weary of people insisting journalists must pay homage to the Tea Party as a great infusion of political energy, and not call them racist, and examine their ideas with respect. As I've stated before, it is pretty clear from polling that the Tea Party is just another name for the traditional Republican base -- older, whiter, heavier on males and angrier than the rest of the country. Aside from their costumes and protests, I don't think they're that revolutionary or newsworthy.
Even if the Tea Party movement isn't novel, it sure got a lot of press attention, didn't it?


Friday, May 21, 2010

Thinking ahead:

I just checked my T*mobile cellphone account to see what minutes I have left and when those expire. In the Account Settings, there's a display of the general parameters:
Plan details
Rate plan name: Pay As You Go
Minutes included: 132
Messages included: 137
Plan expiration date: 12/31/9999 11:59:59 PM
Date/time of next plan charge: N/A
Balance available until: 5/26/2010 12:00:00 AM
Nice to know the plan is good until the year 9999. I was worried it might only be in force for a decade or two.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

I love stories like this:
5 masterpieces stolen in $123M Paris museum heist

PARIS – A broken alarm system made it as easy as 1-2-3: A masked intruder clipped a padlock, smashed a window and stole a Picasso, a Matisse and three other masterpieces from a Paris museum Thursday — a $123 million haul that is one of the world's biggest art heists.

Offloading the artwork may prove a tougher task, however, with Interpol and collectors worldwide now on high alert.

In what seemed like an art thief's fantasy, the alarm system had been broken since March in parts of the Paris Museum of Modern Art, according to the city's mayor, Bertrand Delanoe.

The museum, in a tony neighborhood across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower, reopened in 2006 after spending $18 million (euro15 million) and two years upgrading its security system. Spare parts had been ordered to fix the alarm but had not yet arrived, the mayor said in a statement.
Why have spare parts - or any redundancy for that matter - when it comes to securing items worth hundreds of millions of dollars?


Newt Gingrich's appearance on Fox News Sunday:

Was classic Newt. The transcript is now up. The guy throws out the following zingers about Obama and the Democrats:
  • clearly a machine.
  • a Chicago-style machine
  • socialist
  • pay czar in the White House
  • secular
  • gay agenda,
  • would have literally abolished the Catholic Church in Connecticut
  • a continuous, relentless anti-religious bias
  • if it weren't so serious it would be laughable
  • represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did
  • the secular- socialist left represents a fundamental replacement of America
  • a very serious threat to our way of life
  • a bureaucracy which is self- selected
  • a government agency of unelected people who decide they can literally rewrite the entire economy
  • anti-business
  • a value system that's very hard to deal with
  • an antimilitary Supreme Court justice


Monday, May 17, 2010

To hell with calculus!

The Texas Education Board is largely in the control of Christian evangelists, as you probably learned earlier this year. It's pretty depressing, but even worse than I originally surmised. This from a report on the changes they are implementing:
The board is to vote on a sweeping purge of alleged liberal bias in Texas school textbooks in favour of what [one member] says really matters: a belief in America as a nation chosen by God as a beacon to the world, and free enterprise as the cornerstone of liberty and democracy. (...)

Several changes include sidelining Thomas Jefferson, who favoured separation of church and state, while introducing a new focus on the "significant contributions" of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the civil war.

The new curriculum asserts that "the right to keep and bear arms" is an important element of a democratic society. Study of Sir Isaac Newton is dropped in favour of examining scientific advances through military technology. (...)

The education board has dropped references to the slave trade in favour of calling it the more innocuous "Atlantic triangular trade" ...
Yeah, no need to discuss Newton. All he did was further our understanding of gravity, optics, classical mechanics, along with the use of calculus, the binomial theorem, and infinite series.

The report about the Texas board focuses on:
Cynthia Dunbar ... [a] conservative Texas lawyer ... [who] two years ago ... published a book, One Nation Under God, in which she argued that the United States was ultimately governed by the scriptures.
As usual with books of this type, the Amazon Customer Reviews distribution is bimodal. In a phenomenon I've not seen before on Amazon with such a distribution, all the one-star reviews are considered "most helpful"; the four-star reviews are not.


In your face:

Over at the FOX Nation, there was this story, First Muslim Wins Miss USA.

FOX Nation encourages comments (that's it's whole reason for existing) and for that story, this was at the top of the thread:
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

As co-owner of News Corp with Rupert, I am proud to say that, I too, am a Muslim. Miss Michigan deserved to win. Praise Allah!

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 10:30 AM


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Greg Craig, establishment man:

In what was one of the most embarrassing performances by a DC insider on a Sunday show, Greg Craig - an Elena Kagan supporter - had this to say in an exchange with Glenn Greenwald: (emp add)
GREENWALD: ... let me just ask Mr. Craig, who's a defender of hers and says, well, she's one of the most qualified nominees ever, look at the great legal issues that have confronted the court, Roe v. Wade; the issue of gay rights, in terms of Bowers v. Hardwick; affirmative action; the president's authority in the war on terror; even the efforts by the administration now to reduce Miranda rights and other rights that American citizens have.

Can you point to anything that she has said or written in the past that would let Americans know what she believes about those issues, how she views past Supreme Court rulings on those questions?

CRAIG: What you're arguing for here is a judge and only judges should be on the Supreme court. And she's not a judge, so she doesn't have the 17 years of writing opinions that Sonia Sotomayor does.

GREENWALD: But lots of law professors have written numerous things about those questions. Has she?

CRAIG: She's written five or six law review articles. She taught classes...

GREENWALD: So what has she said that would enable people to know about those great issues that have confronted the country and the court, anything?

CRAIG: Yes. She's...

GREENWALD: Well, what is it? What are those things?

CRAIG: Every day, Elena Kagan has taught students, administered law professors.

GREENWALD: What has she said about those issues?

CRAIG: Well, she'll answer questions about that when she's...

GREENWALD: But you're defending her. Can you tell Americans what she thinks about those things?

CRAIG: She's -- she is largely a progressive in the mold of Obama himself, President Obama himself.
If you watched the exchange (here on Greenwald's blog; hilarity at the 2:45 mark) it was clear that Craig didn't try hard to do much of anything. It was as if he, Craig, was from the slightly-to-the-left establishment and hey, just go along with whatever we say.


"I never seen the dude!"

That's what you say when accused of complicity in a crime, right?
Vatican details US sex abuse defense

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican on Monday will make its most detailed defense yet against claims that it is liable for U.S. bishops who allowed priests to molest children, saying bishops are not its employees and that a 1962 Vatican document did not require them to keep quiet, The Associated Press has learned. )...)

The Holy See is trying to fend off the first U.S. case to reach the stage of determining whether victims actually have a claim against the Vatican itself for negligence for the failure of bishops to alert police or the public about Roman Catholic priests who molested children. (...)

The Vatican is expected to assert that bishops aren't its employees because they aren't paid by Rome, don't act on Rome's behalf and aren't controlled day-to-day by the pope — factors courts use to determine whether employers are liable for the actions of their employees ...


Friday, May 14, 2010

Outrageous (possible) Louisiana law:

From Louisiana House Passes 'Guns In Churches' Bill:
The Louisiana House passed a bill yesterday that will enable places of worship to allow congregants with permits to carry concealed guns, purportedly so they can protect other constituents in case of a shooting or other violent act.

State Rep. Henry Burns (R), who introduced the bill, told TPM that it gives "a gift of intervention" to churchgoers, and that "we do live in different times" where even a church is "really no safe haven."

House Bill 68 allows churches, mosques, and synagogues to choose to establish a "security plan" for their constituents, permitting members of the congregation with concealed weapons permits to carry guns during services.
What a lame thing to do. Concealed guns in church? C'mon, let's have them out and proud.

But what's truly outrageous is this: (emp add)
The bill passed the House 74-18 last night, thanks to several amendments that were added since the failed first vote. One of the amendments requires those who are part of the security plan to go through eight hours of tactical training, provided by local law enforcement. The other amendments require that the congregation be notified that the security force exists, and prohibits any guns from being used in places of worship on college campuses.
This is totally unfair. Guns should be allowed in places of worship on college campuses. Let's hope the Louisiana legislature fixes this mistake.


Bad optics:

In the news: Arizona gov. signs bill targeting ethnic studies

Basically it targets ethnic studies programs that promote "ethnic chauvinism". Now, I'm not much of fan of such studies, but it's silly to enact a law to meddle in such a small-potatoes aspect of education.

This comes off more as racial resentment. I don't approve of that sort of thing, but I'm not surprised. This is a natural outcome of a changing demographic which is happening too fast for many people. But that's the result of significantly high immigration numbers over the last four decades - which was a policy choice this nation agreed to.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Elena Kagan / Amazing Randi connection:

If you're a fan of the Amazing Randi, this story is of interest: (I think Kagan and Randi are in the wrong in this instance)
Sometimes, Kagan played a more prominent role, as in a dispute that pitted "The Amazing Randi" against Eldon Byrd.

Randi made his mark by attacking spoon-bender Uri Geller's claims of having psychic powers. In the late 1980s, Randi called Byrd, an ally of Geller's who'd been put on probation for distributing sexually explicit material, a child molester.

Byrd sued for libel, naming Randi and the publishers of his allegations.

Representing Montcalm Publishing, the publisher of The Twilight Zone magazine, Kagan drafted motions and argued before the Baltimore-based trial judge. She stressed broad First Amendment principles, such as when an individual's reputation already was tainted enough to be libel-proof.

However, the jury found in June 1993 that Randi had defamed Byrd, although it awarded no damages. By then, Kagan had moved to the University of Chicago Law School, where she was writing scholarly articles on the First Amendment.


The Facebook UI for privacy:

I always said it was overly complex. Here's an visual overview and a writeup.

THE FACEBOOK TROJAN HORSE: (from the New York Times graphic)
When I looked at my settings, virtually every item was checked (they are now all unchecked). If you leave them checked, all it takes is having one Friend and from there, pretty much everything about you on Facebook could be harvested.

That page (above) is under Applications and Websites, which isn't exactly something people are going to have a good understanding of.

The Times article also has this:
Even if a user changes all the settings on the privacy section of the site, certain pieces of information will still be shared across the site unless a user takes further action. For example, under the Account Settings option, in the Facebook Ads tab, two options are automatically turned on to share some information with advertising networks and friends. Anyone who wants to keep this information private must uncheck the boxes in that tab.
And here is part of what's on that page: (emp add)
Ads shown by third party applications

Facebook does not give third party applications or ad networks the right to use your name or picture in ads. If this is allowed in the future, this setting will govern the usage of your information.
My guess is that some brainiac thought that there would come a time when a Friend of yours is on Facebook and, lo and behold, there's an ad to the right with your picture in it. (Or maybe not just your Friends, but the whole Internet. How about that?)

I wouldn't be surprised people flee Facebook for a rival in the next couple of years.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Take it away, Ian Welsh:
It wasn’t just Goldman who made money trading every single day in the last quarter, it was four banks.

I cannot emphasize enough: this is the sign of a fixed market. It is impossible that this could happen in a free market. Impossible.

This means they are extracting money from the markets, aka: from everyone who isn’t a market mover. Small traders, pension funds, trading accounts of cities, etc… Even if those actors aren’t actually in decline, they are making less money than they should as the banks make sure that their buy orders are filled at the highest price possible, and their sell orders at the lowest level possible. And, in fact, many of them will be in outright decline as a result of these games.

At this point, if you are not a market mover, you can only make money in the market by anticipating the moves of the market movers. This is now about guessing what a few people will do, so you can ride the tiger. Just don’t fall off.
As the New York Times reported (link above):
Despite the running unease in world markets, four giants of American finance managed to make money from trading every single day during the first three months of the year.

... Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Company ... finished the period without losing money for even one day.

Their remarkable 61-day streak is one for the record books.
It sure is.

Ritholtz comments:
A super steep yield curve, ZIRP, and a rip roaring market make trading easier than usual . . .
At a minimum, you can say the Fed helped make this possible.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sexuality of Supreme Court justices:

There's been some whispering about who is what and I think it's time to set the record "straight" on this issue. Should the court have a gay justice? To answer this burning question, we need look no further than the village people.

The Village People consisted of a:
  • police officer
  • Native American
  • cowboy
  • biker
  • construction worker
  • GI
True, there was an admiral and sailor for "In the Navy" (more on that below), but never a justice in robes.

They sang a song, Y.M.C.A., but never S.C.O.T.U.S.

They also had a hit with "In the Navy", but they never sang "On the Bench" (although maybe they wanted to be).

These facts speak for themselves. I consider this matter closed.


Monday, May 10, 2010

The French CAC 40 is up 8% today:

It's all good.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Euro crisis averted at low cost:

EU Crafts $962 Billion Show of Force to Halt Euro Crisis

Just under one trillion dollars. They should to this sort of thing more often.

UPDATE: This from the Financial Times:
As part of a massive EU plan to shock the markets into believing eurozone finances were sound, the European Central Bank was also set to play a big role by buying eurozone government debt.
Do you believe eurozone finances are sound?

A review of the action at Naked Capitalism.


Keep an eye on today's election in North Rhine-Westphalia:
Just two days after the German parliament approved an unpopular three-year loan package for Athens worth billions of euros, some 13.5 million voters in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia elect a new legislature.

A reverse for Merkel could cost her the majority in the upper house of parliament ...
Which could affect what the EU does about Greece, which could affect the overall European economy, which could affect China, which could affect the United States.

You probably thought you didn't need to pay attention to events in North Rhine-Westphalia, but now you do.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Rupert Murdoch gets a scalp:

This is pretty big news:
Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah has lost his bid to serve a fourth term after failing to advance past the GOP state convention.

Attorney Mike Lee and businessman Tim Bridgewater are the remaining Republican candidates after Saturday's vote.

Bennett was a distant third in the voting among roughly 3,500 delegates. He garnered just under 27 percent of the vote. Bridgewater had 37 percent and Lee 35 percent.

Bennett is the first incumbent to lose his seat in Washington this year, the victim of a conservative movement angered by rising taxes and the growth of government.

Bennett was targeted by tea party activists and other groups for supporting a massive bailout of the financial industry, securing earmarks for his state and for co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill to mandate health insurance coverage.
Bennett is a very conservative guy, but not right-wing enough for the Fox-News-promoted Tea Party crowd.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Goes up to what?

You can watch a live feed of the BBC reporting the UK elections here.

Check out the volume control on the streaming video app. (screenshot below)


Barry Ritholtz:

Yesterday, pre-market: Market Changes Tone During Correction

Yesterday, post-market: Cash = 100% (in one specific "aggressive" account)

His timing couldn't be better.


Pretty amazing:

Via Sullivan (who has some sharp comments), this exchange over at the Washington Post:
Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, was online Wednesday, May 5, at 1 p.m. ET to address questions about the movement's platform, accusations of racism and the upcoming elections.

Judson Phillips: Hi I'm Judson Phillips from Tea Party Nation. I'm here to take your questions and I'm looking forward to talking with you.
Boston, Mass.: Thank you for taking our questions. Here is my question for the Tea Party. What are your solutions to today's problems? For example, I hear the word socialism used alot and government getting too big. But then what would you cut? Or what would the Tea Party members have done about the financial crisis from 2008? I assume that they would not vote to bailout the banks, but what would they do if the biggest banks in the world go under?

Judson Phillips: First, cut taxes to increase economic growth. That works everytime. Second, let's go through the entire federal budget and eliminate programs that are consumed by waste, fraud or abuse. Start eliminating them.
Solutions: "Second, let's go through the entire federal budget and eliminate programs that are consumed by waste, fraud or abuse."

Okay, so some examples of what these are? The Tea Party and its "Taxpayers' Rights" predecessors always say this, but one person's waste is another person's lifeline. So I would like to know some concrete ideas of what programs meet these criteria.

Judson Phillips:
Social security disability is the first one I would go through. Down in the south, many people refer to them as crazy checks. We have lawyers advertising right next to the personal injury lawyers, saying they will get you SSI disability. the program is rife with fraud.
Sullivan: (emphasis in original)
[Phillips argues] that social security disability checks are the source of the spending problem. Yep: seriously, that's his one actual specific recommendation, apart from cutting taxes further! Yes, this tea-partier is still drinking the Laffer curve Kool-Aid. What does he specifically propose for entitlement cuts that come close to the scale of the problem? Nada. And he doesn't even have the excuse of being a pathetic politician trying to get elected. He's not running for office; he's heading up a protest movement against government spending - and he yet he can't offer any serious specifics on what he'd cut that would solve the problem. In fact, he barely seems to have thought about the actual fiscal choices before us for a split second.
I was unaware that Social Security Disability was on the Tea Party's radar.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Is George Rekers, Christian Right Leader and one of America's most prominent anti-gay activists, a teabagger?

You decide.


Rush Limbaugh's good idea:

Rush added that nobody thinks Obama is up to the job of president. He even suggested that Obama call Sarah and Todd Palin for advice about the oil spill because, Rush claimed, they have "a gazillion" times more experience with oil spills than Obama does.
I would love to see that.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Is Obama a Socialist?

David Frum and Jonah Goldberg engage in a bloggingheads debate on that and other topics.

Frum comes off as much more capable.


Sunday, May 02, 2010


From the Minerals Management Service website:
The NewsRoom
Date: April 28, 2010

2010 Offshore Industry Safety Awards Postponed

WASHINGTON D.C. — The Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced today that the 2010 Annual Industry SAFE Awards Luncheon scheduled for May 3, 2010 at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas has been postponed.
Holding the awards luncheon tomorrow would have looked bad.


David Broder wrote this:
The grass-roots political force that logically should be spurring Congress and the president to tackle these ruinous deficits is the Tea Party movement.