Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, December 5, 2013 5:42 pm

If you want to lay money on how well Obamacare is going to work …

… then you might want to pay attention to where insurance companies are putting their money, as insurance executive Richard Mayhew points out:

I was at physical therapy this morning.   As I did my stretches and balancing exercises for my ankle, the local generic “alt” rock radio station was being piped through the speakers and Good Morning America was on the wall television.

On the rock station, I heard a Healthcare.gov “I got covered” ad, an ad from my company advertising its Exchange product.  I heard two other competitors advertise their on and off-Exchange products.  This radio station’s typical advertising rotation is a combination of bars, strip clubs, debt consolidation agencies, cash for gold and structured settlement companies.  The normal advertising mix assumes a fairly young, male and broke listening audience.  This is a prime demographic for the subsidized Exchanges.

On Good Morning America, I saw another Healthcare.gov ad, and three ads from two other insurance companies in the area.  One was the same company on the radio, and the other was the fourth private plan advertising.  The pitch for the last one was “You need to sign up by Dec. 23 for Jan.1 coverage and even if the government website is jacked up, we can help you at 1-800-555-5544″

[That] four  insurance companies are putting their money behind the relaunch with the advertising campaign is a tell that entities with real money to lose if they guess wrong are guessing that things are working right.

But Obamacare will never work. It can’t work!

Monday, October 28, 2013 7:33 pm

Why Healthcare.gov problems shouldn’t be a surprise

Clay Johnson of the Sunlight Foundation and co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Obama’s online 2008 campaign, on the rollout:

Well, government doesn’t have a lot of people to choose from when they’re looking for contractors to build this stuff. And I think part of the problem is that the same people that are building drones are building websites. When government is building a website like this, they have to use a system called procurement, which is about 1,800 pages’ worth of regulation that all but ensures that the people who are building this stuff are the people with the best lawyers, not the people with the best programmers. And so, you know, you have this sort of fundamental lack of talent amongst the contractor ecosystem that’s building this stuff, that it’s bound to be bad work—that, combined with the fact that in 1996 Congress lobotomized itself by getting rid of its technology think tank, called the Technology Assessment Office. So when they’re writing bills, they don’t understand the technology that they’re requiring in their laws. This is what you get when you have a Congress that is basically brainless on technology, and government who can only pick from a few old, stodgy contractors. You’re bound to have this result. And, in fact, the standings group came out earlier this week and pointed out that over—for all procurements over $10 million, 94 percent of them fail.

We can thank the Republicans for getting rid of the Technology Assessment Office, inasmuch as they controlled both houses of Congress at the time and facts are just so darned inconvenient.

Meanwhile, adding to the site’s problems, a data center built and run by Verizon went down Sunday, halting enrollment in all 50 states. I eagerly await Darrell Issa’s subpoena of Verizon’s CEO, and/or Issa’s call for the CEO to be fired.

Monday, April 15, 2013 5:57 pm

Quote of the day, James Madison just-because edition

This isn’t, as they say on Twitter, a subtweet. It’s not intended for anyone in particular. It’s not related directly to anything in the news (although it could relate to almost everything). I just read it at Charlie Pierce’s place — he concludes each day with a Madison quote, which is a nice and thoughtful way to conclude a day, and this one is from Friday — and I liked it and thought you’d like it, too:

In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them. He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person. He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them. In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.

– James Madison, Papers, March 29, 1792.

Friday, June 15, 2012 7:42 pm

Calling Wells Fargo out

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 7:42 pm
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I don’t think I’ve ever met George Hartzman in real life — and I apologize to him if I have and don’t remember. In the local blogosphere, he runs the Triad Watch blog, with a related Facebook group of which I am a member for reasons that date back to my social-media work at the News & Record. He also has a personal blog.

George has filed a complaint with the N.C. Securities Division against Wells Fargo, alleging violations of Sarbanes-Oxley. That would be the same Wells Fargo for which he currently works.

I’ll let you read it for yourself. But my gut reaction is that there are two and only two possible explanations for his doing so.

1) He is delusional.

2) He is, whether right or wrong, stone-cold certain he has caught his employer violating the law, has tried to work within the company to have the violations corrected and has failed to do so, and is pursuing the only avenue he sees left to protect his clients’ interests.

If the correct answer turns out to be No. 2, I’m not sure how he even gets in his car every morning, what with those big, brass balls clanking around and all.

(h/t: Ed)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 10:38 pm

Odds and ends, school break edition

I’m really enjoying not having to study, but I haven’t been hit by the inspiration for anything lengthy. So here’s what’s going on:

* * *

Pretty much everybody thinks Rupert Murdoch isn’t fit to run a media company. And, hell, we know that. But when Parliament thinks Rupert Murdoch isn’t fit to run a media company, well, that could have real-life, tangible, bottom-line consequences. Because the UK doesn’t let just any old thieving, lying, wiretapping raper of the hopes of the parents of kidnapped children own a media company the way the U.S. does. No, News Corp. could have to actually divest itself of its 40% share of BSkyB. Ouch.

* * *

So on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, Obama shows up in Afghanistan and commits this country to spend, at the current rate of $2 billion a week, one and a quarter trillion dollars over the next dozen years in that country. One and a quarter trillion dollars, I hasten to add, that the United States cannot spare. I mean no disrespect to the victims of 9/11, and a great deal of respect to the Americans who have had to fight the resulting military campaigns, when I ask: Tell me again who won the war on terror? and/or, Have you people never heard of Pyrrhus?

* * *

I see that not only do the Republicans want to wage war on women, they insist that only straight men can join the fight.

* * *

Finally, Fec reflects on MLK’s call for a national guaranteed minimum income, varieties of which have been endorsed by such wild-eyed liberals as Milton Friedman (who called it a “negative income tax”):

Consider, if you will, that the oligarchy, by virtue of access to the Fed’s ZIRP [zero interest rate policy -- free loans to banks], has already achieved the status of guaranteed income. Was MLK in reflection so terribly wrong? As we contemplate the end of unemployment benefits for 700k of our citizens, and underemployment for many more, do not the ravages of outsourcing and global corporatism render a circumstance where the least of us is just as entitled to at least a wage of existence as the bankster supping at the .25% discount window, especially as the proceeds are immediately fed into a gamed engine of guaranteed profit?

If we are bailing out the Europeans for their folly, is it nor more just to provide subsistence wages to our own whose only fault is absence of opportunity, particularly by design of the corporatists who enjoy the very same protections manifold?

Are we not finally at the point where Bernanke‘s famous helicopter drops cash upon the least of us, as it has surely rained bountifully upon our most fortunate?

I assure you that the poor have no wish for anarchy or the imposition of some stringent biblical reconstruction. They merely wish to enjoy those essential things we all aspire to: a full belly, a comfortable home and freedom from financial worry.

To those cretins who proclaim such an idea is socialism, I reply they are too late. Socialism is rife among the fortunate; it is merely those left out who have yet to commit this supposed sin. Is not the greatest act of fairness to now include everyone with income, given that the most criminal among us have already lined their pockets to the point of embarrassment?

If we are headed toward a great conflagration of currency devaluation and hyperinflation, is it not right that the poor finally be allowed to join the bacchanal before its end?

Actually, of this much I am sure: No matter exactly how this country goes down, it will go down never once having given any serious policy thought to the true needs of the least among us. That just isn’t how we roll.

(Also, although I am somewhat sympathetic to my friend’s view of the Occupy movement as it manifested itself today on what was supposed to be a big, national show of strength, I also am somewhat sympathetic to Charlie Pierce’s take: “From the start, I said that the best thing about the Occupy movement was that at least they were yelling at the right buildings. … What I do know is that, if it weren’t for the people in the streets last autumn, the Obama people would be running a very different campaign and Willard Romney wouldn’t look half as ridiculous as he does.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 8:11 pm

Just the facts, ma’am.

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:11 pm
Tags: ,

More Americans have died in weather events in the past 10 years than in terror attacks (including 9/11).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 8:00 pm

Earthquake

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:00 pm
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Everyone else has been blogging and twittering about the earthquake today, so I guess I will, too.

Not that there was much to it. I was in my office and felt a little rumble. A train goes by the spur line on the eastern edge of campus a couple of times a month, taking supplies to a concrete plant northwest of downtown, and I just figured that’s what it was. The pictures on my wall didn’t rattle, the lights didn’t blink, the floor didn’t sway.

The last such I can recall feeling was eight years ago. No big deal then, either.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 8:44 pm

Interesting hypothesis

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:44 pm

… offered by DougJ at Balloon Juice, although I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it elsewhere:

Never lose sight of the fact that conservatives are mostly motivated by the desire to piss off liberals. It explains almost everything they do.

Sweeping generalities alert:

Obviously, not all conservatives believe what they believe and do what they do specifically to piss off liberals, and vice versa. But I think it’s true of some conservatives (and liberals), and of proportionately more conservatives than liberals.

That’s only a guess. But I think it’s a fair one because, in general, liberals tend to worry about what’s fair and what works more than conservatives do.  That happens, I think, for a number of different reasons that stem from both theological (God of Law vs. God of Love) and secular roots and from the fact that conservatives tend to be more authoritarian in nature and more willing to accept authority (often favoring scriptural “authority” over, say, science) than liberals.

That notion of fairness also helps explain, I think, that to the extent sociopaths and the malicious have any political philosophy, they tend to show up more often among conservatives than among liberals. Liberals might not mind that achieving a policy objective pisses off conservatives, and some of them may even celebrate that fact. But they tend to see pissing conservatives off more as an incidental benefit than as a motivation, whereas conservatives really do sometimes seem to get into pissing liberals off. Maybe it has something to do with wanting to make the heathen rage because they think that if they do that, then God is smiling down from Heaven. Or maybe they’re just jackasses. Either way, it’s not real attractive.

It’s also wrong if anyone does it, but wrongness has levels and shadings. For someone with privilege and power to treat the less fortunate this way is orders of magnitude worse than the other way ’round, just as humor flows, and satire races, uphill.

Monday, August 15, 2011 8:19 pm

Fire on the left

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:19 pm
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There’s a bit of a dispute going on right now among Democratic bloggers. I’m drawing a very broad outline here so I’m probably overlooking some nuances, but in general, those involved divide into two groups: those who think it’s proper and effective to criticize President Obama from the left and those who think Obama has done as well as any Democrat could under the circumstances and that any fire should be concentrated on Republicans. The former group is led, or at least exemplified (“leading” Democratic bloggers is even more meaningless than herding cats), by Jane Hamsher, founder and principal blogger at FireDogLake. Prominent members of the other camp include John Cole, principal blogger at Balloon Juice, and the pseudonymous blogger/Twitterer Shoq.

Inasmuch as I think Obama, for better or (mostly) worse, is doing exactly what he has chosen to be doing on most policy issues, I’m not sure this dispute, whether either side wins, will have much effect on policy outcomes. And, just to complicate things, 1) I’m a Republican and 2) I’ve already called for Obama to be impeached for ordering the extrajudicial assassination of a U.S. citizen, even as I grant that a lot of good stuff has happened under him that would not have happened under John McCain, so it’s not like I’m the world’s most objective observer.

My best guess is that an excess of Obama criticism, without an accompanying, workable solution, will just lead to a lot of Democratic (or anti-Republican) voters staying home in 2012, as happened in 2010. And if that happens, given the GOP field, I see no way disaster does not befall the country.

But David Atkins, who blogs as “thereisnospoon” over at Digby’s place, cites a report by Dave Dayen at FDL to offer an intriguing suggestion of what the Obama critics on the Left might be able to accomplish … based on what they already have accomplished. You may have heard over the weekend that GOP hopeful Mitt Romney defended corporations by saying, “Corporations are people” — a claim that is legally accurate but, in this economy, incredibly tone-deaf. It was an unforced error, and while I doubt it will hurt Romney’s quest for the nomination (which already faces signficant obstacles), if he does get the nomination it could kill him in the general election campaign.

Turns out that the group that prompted that error was one of those that criticizes Obama from the left:

In fact, the exchange with Romney started when an Iowa CCI member asked why shouldn’t we lift the payroll tax cap to bring long-term balance to Social Security. “The only position we have is no cuts, scrap the cap,” said Goodner.

Goodner acknowledged that the Supreme Court takes an attitude on corporations being people that is very similar to Mitt Romney. Goodner referenced a tweet by Ezra Klein, which said that Romney was right in the eyes of the law. “I don’t think the average Iowan is going to be sympathetic to that view,” Goodner added, however. “It shows how out of touch Romney is. From what he said, he stands on the side of big money corporations on Wall Street against everyday people.” Similarly, George Goehl, the Director of National People’s Action, a leader in the New Bottom Line project, said in a statement, “The corporations Mr. Romney believes are filling people’s pockets are the ones who crashed our economy and hijacked our democracy.”

Goodner and his group were not pleased with Romney’s full answer, where he touted so-called “progressive price indexing” (which would have to cut benefits well into the middle class to generate any savings) and raising the retirement age. “He’s talking about benefit cuts that are going to hurt seniors, the elderly, the poor and the disabled,” said Goodner. “And ask for nothing from the wealthiest Americans, and the companies on Wall Street.”

This sounds similar to what President Obama has been saying recently in support of a balanced deficit solution. But Iowa CCI isn’t exactly enthralled with his performance of late either. “Our members are very upset and angry at Obama,” Goodner said. “He was the one who put Social Security and Medicare on the table. We delivered a letter to his campaign office in Des Moines, telling him to back off, to take this off the table.” As it turns out, Obama will be in Peosta, Iowa next week, as part of a Rural Economic Forum. Iowa CCI has members there, but it’s not a public town hall meeting, so they are still strategizing about how to reach the President with their message. In the meantime, they are speaking to their representatives in Iowa (all of whom, Democratic or Republican, voted against the debt limit bill), or any other Democratic representatives, telling them to deliver their message to the President. It turns out that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is at the Iowa State Fair today, so we’ll see if anything transpires.

And they are adamant on this point. “Anytime a candidate or the President comes to Iowa, we’re going to bird-dog them,” Goodner said. “We put principles above party. They’re all going to hear from us.”

Atkins asserts:

These are the sorts of activists who are persistent and get things done. They’re the sorts of activists who will be there on behalf of Democratic principles come rain or shine, come Republican or Democratic Administrations. All the Democratic Party needs to do is have their back, and they can make magic happen. Iowa CCI just did more for the Obama re-election campaign than $50 million of advertising dollars could ever hope to do, against the candidate whom all the polls show would likely be Obama’s most formidable opponent in the general election.

I question whether activists of this type get as much done as Atkins seems to be claiming in terms of policy outcomes, but he’s quite right that the party needs these folks for electoral success

The Coles and Shoqs of the blogosphere (both of whom I read and admire, I should point out) dismiss people like this as “Firebaggers” and PUMAs, which stands for Party Unity, My Ass. (The phrase arose during the epic combat between Obama and Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.) I don’t know who’s right, but I think their position might be a little simplistic: As long as you still turn out to support your party’s nominee, whoever it might be (given what’s likely going to be offered by the other side), why not pressure your party’s candidates, including the incumbent, during the primary season to hew to your view on the issues you care most about?

In fact, if not then, when? Once the nomination is sewed up, your ability to affect the framing of the issues is going to be diminished as long as candidates hew to the conventional wisdom that you win a general election by moving to the middle. (The merits of that conventional wisdom are questionable, given the current make-up of the electorate, but that’s a post for another time).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 8:52 pm

“It was like Salvador Dali had somehow snuck into Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving portrait”

This short documentary about Richard Blackwelder, an autistic man in Davidson, N.C., has been up on YouTube for 2 1/2 years, but I’ve only just discovered it. Both Richard and barber Ken Norton, one of the people interviewed in the film, were fixtures in town when I left Davidson almost 30 years ago (Norton cut my hair, and his father cut my dad’s hair in the early 1950s). I knew Richard by name because I often ran into him on Main Street, but a lot of my friends referred to him primarily as “the walking man” because we tended to see him walking up and down Main Street, often in something of a hurry and always looking as if he knew exactly where he was headed.

Richard tells his own story engagingly, but the comments of other Davidsonians also are interesting. Documentarian James Billy Hill has neatly captured a kind of community that tends to get discounted in the age of social media — and how easy it would be for a person like Richard to fall through the cracks, or worse.

Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:19 pm

What could possibly go wrong?

The Obama administration is accused of having suppressed scientific information on what the worst-case scenario might have been in the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill.

So how’s that “more open, more transparent government” thingie workin’ out for ya?

Truth is, there wasn’t much to suppress. Everyone knew the worst-case scenario was an Earth-extinction event. That’s because the worst-case scenario is always an Earth-extinction event, whether you’re talking about an oil spill, nuclear war, a rogue asteroid or the mysterious deaths of the honeybees that pollinate our crops. Duh.

Actually, that’s not quite precise. The worst worst-case scenario would be an Earth-extinction event preceded by a global shortage of beer.

Monday, October 4, 2010 8:01 pm

Intelligent life in the universe?

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:01 pm
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Friend: What’s that on your computer.

Me: It’s my screensaver.

Friend:

Me: It’s SETI@home. When I’m not doing anything on the computer, it analyzes data gathered on the 1.4GHz frequency by these giant radio telescopes in Puerto Rico  from stars a long way away. It looks for non-naturally-occurring patterns in the data that aren’t from Earth and therefore might be signs of intelligent life.

Friend: Find any yet?

Me: Nope.

Friend: I’m not surprised. I look in my e-mail every day for signs of intelligent life, and I don’t find any there, either.

Saturday, September 25, 2010 5:55 pm

Playing catch-up

As blogging goes, I have been slackeriffic of late, so let’s see what I can do to get caught up here.

Damn. Maybe I should just stop now.

Ah, well, like the man said, I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

  • But we’re not giving it up without a fight: Barack Obama believes he has the power to order American citizens executed without charge or trial. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights are fighting that.
  • Some of America’s greatest leaders? Would be considered terrorists today.
  • They’re everywhere: Government at multiple levels in this country is blurring the distinction between dissent and terrorism. In Pennsylvania, where activists are opposing new oil drilling (entirely understandable, if not ultimately a good idea, in the wake of Deepwater Horizon), opponents are being monitored by the state Department of Homeland Security, and when the governor was asked about it, he at first defended the program.
  • And it ain’t just government: Monsanto hired Blackwater to monitor activists who oppose genetically modified seeds, despite the risks they pose.
  • Double standard: When the Democrats nominate someone who’s insane for the U.S. Senate, they disown him. When the Republicans do it, they embrace her and give her lots of money.
  • But, no, we’re not racists: The National Federation of Republican Women has Sen. Glenn McConnell attend dressed in a Confederate Army uniform and pose with African Americans dressed as slaves. In 2010. For reals.
  • Enthusiasm gap: If Democrats and the White House wonder why their base is so much less motivated to turn out in November than the GOP base, they might consider issues such as this and conclude that warning against “the return of George W. Bush” is pretty pointless when you’re going Bush one better.
  • In deep: How could the Deepwater Horizon disaster happen? When Interior Department regulators are being bullied by the industry they oversee and undercut by their managers, I’d say anything is possible.
  • Risk assessment: Emptywheel poses a very good question: Is the greatest danger to our financial system really terrorism?
  • Well, at least he’s honest: U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R- Okla., tells the American people to, quite literally, eat shit.
  • Scheduling an election is not rocket science. So would it be too much to ask that states get ballots to troops overseas in time for those ballots to be cast? Sheesh. (h/t: Fred)
  • Questions of ownership: GMAC, one of the nation’s largest home-financing firms, tries to foreclose on a home whose mortgage has been resold only for a judge to conclude, quite reasonably, that, hell, no, it can’t foreclose on something it doesn’t own; further investigation suggests GMAC may be executing 10,000 fake documents a month related to mortgages. As a result, GMAC foreclosures are on hold in 23 states. But the real fun, not obvious at first glance, is that dealing with this issue is going to make it harder for a lot of insolvent banks to hide the fact that they’re insolvent.
  • Maybe somebody should have shot the deputy: Charlie Munger, populist billionaire Warren Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway, recently suggested that America’s unemployed and underemployed should “just suck it in” and added, “Thank God for bank bailouts.” Why would he say such a thing when BH took no bailout money? Uh, because companies in which BH is invested took $95 billion, maybe?
  • You will know him by his trail of dead: Howard Fineman, one of the most relentlessly conventional journalists in American history — and, therefore, a guy who has whiffed on most of the significant political stories of the past 15 or so years — is deserting the sinking ship at Newsweek to go work for the Huffington Post. Conservatives everywhere should be of good cheer; if he does there what he did at Newsweek, HuffPo will be dead inside of three years.
  • Who broke the Senate?: Something called “Gingrich senators.” That’s a very short way of describing what is actually a pretty well-documented phenomenon.
  • Apparently we need another war on poverty. Sigh.
  • Fight the police state: Reason magazine offers tips on how.
  • The Washington Post’s problems in just three words: It. Can’t. Think.
  • Funniest line ever posted at PowerLine, by Paul Mirengoff on Christine O’Donnell: “It’s great to hear that O’Donnell learned from her experiences dabbling in witchcraft. You wouldn’t want a U.S. Senator who dabbled in witchcraft and learned nothing from it.” Heh. Indeed.
  • Genetically, we’re not only close to apes, we’re pretty close to jackals: Nancy Nall on scrapping, physical and financial.
  • Corruption in Afghanistan: Not that big a deal after all, the administration decides.
  • When was the last economic recovery that WASN’T jobless?: Oh, about 20 years ago.
  • Question for everyone who still believes in “the liberal media”: What do you think would happen if DEMOCRATS had filibustered a defense appropriations bill? And, naturally, John McCain lied about the reasons for it.
  • He is the egg man: Austin “Jack” DeCoster, whose company was implicated in the recent problem with salmonella-tainted eggs, may have been the guy responsible for introducing salmonella into the U.S. egg supply in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
  • Larry Summers gone: The problem is, unless his replacement is named Warren, Krugman, Bakker Baker, Shiller or DeLong, we’re going to have the same problems we have now.
  • Fannie and Freddie weren’t the ones who broke the economy: So said Barry Ritholtz a while back; so says the FHFA now.
  • Alternatives to bank bailouts: Let me show u them. We did, in fact, have some, which is worth remembering two years on.
  • Chain of command: I’ve got little but contempt for Bob Woodward’s “reporting” these days, but if he has accurately reported that Gen. David Petraeus told colleagues that President Obama “is f—ing with the wrong guy,” then Obama should fire Petraeus and thank Woodward for bringing that insubordination to his attention.
  • The Tea Party isn’t just about deficits and taxes and spending: Whether it started out this way or not, it is rapidly being taken over, if it has not already been, by the Christian Taliban. (More here.) Despite already having called for Obama’s impeachment, I’m not under any illusions about what else is going to happen next year if the GOP regains control of Congress in November. Nobody else should be, either.
  • Kidding themselves: Even such normally sensible outlets as Zero Hedge are buying into this silly-assed notion that businesses aren’t hiring because of an “atmosphere of uncertainty.” No. There’s always uncertainty in the business world, not least every election year. The problem this time isn’t uncertainty, it’s that no one is buying anything because no one has any money because they’re in debt up to their eyeballs, unemployment/underemployment is at its highest level in three-quarters of a century and even the people who have jobs are afraid they’re going to lose them. Moreover, consumers are afraid, probably with good reason, that things will get worse before they get better.
  • Stop the presses!: The new version of the GOP Contract on America was written by a former lobbyist for Exxon and AIG.
  • Pre-emptive strike: Is a newly discovered super computer virus the means by which Iran’s nuclear threat will be nullified? And did the virus originate in Israel?
  • Apparently neither a joke nor an urban legend: Good news, ladies! Having unprotected sex, although it can put you at increased risk of sexually transmitted disease if you’re not really careful and picky and can, of course, get you pregnant, also can render you significantly less likely than your latex-dependent friends AND your chaste friends to suffer from depression. And there’s actually a chemical reason for this!
  • Even Napoleon thought the third time was enemy action: Glenn Fine, inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department, expects us to believe that three separate FBI investigative efforts of the Thomas Merton Center’s anti-war activities during the Bush administration were isolated, coincidental and in no way politically motivated. He also expects us to believe in unicorns, too, I guess.
  • On the road to recovery: Uh, not so much, says well-known liberal Paul Volcker.
  • Here’s the thing about Republican congresscritters and stimulus spending: The most offensive thing isn’t that they’re hypocrites for criticizing the program while still trying to land some of its money for their districts. It’s that they’re lying when they say it doesn’t work.
  • Good news, bad news, Internet edition: Radio spectrum being abandoned by TV as it moves to hi-def could be made available for next-generation WiFi at little cost to the public or, in the alternative, be auctioned off for that purpose at huge benefit to the Treasury. But that’s not going to happen.
  • I want to play Roy Blount in poker: The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri challenged Democratic opponent Robin Carnahan to six debates … and then backed out of four of them after she took him up on it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 9:44 pm

Not without a fight

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 9:44 pm
Tags: , ,

I don’t do predictions on politics, so I don’t know whether the Democrats can keep the House this fall or not. In 435 separate races, weird things can happen.

There’s a lot of talk about the “enthusiasm gap” between likely Republican voters and likely Democratic voters. That gap is real, although several different reasons, some conflicting, go into it. A lot of people are unhappy with Democrats because of health-care reform, for example, although some of those people are unhappy because it went too far and quite a few, myself included, are unhappy because it didn’t go nearly far enough.

As a group, House Dems face a tough fight this fall. But mistermix at Balloon Juice makes one very good point:

… the fact remains that John Boehner is not popular, that doing nothing in the middle of an almost-depression is not popular, that sneering at teachers, cops and firemen is not popular, and that tax cuts for those making $250K or more are not popular.

Exactly right. If Democrats lose the House, it won’t be because the House wasn’t winnable for them.

Sunday, August 22, 2010 11:35 pm

Catchin’ up on stuff; or, Odds and ends for Aug. 22

  • Questions more people need to be asking about the deficit, answered.
  • Why, if I lived near DC, I might be tempted to burn a Confederate flag at Glenn Beck’s upcoming rally.
  • I think the F-bomb has become a highly convenient excuse to keep adolescents from seeing a movie that shows how the American government screwed over an American hero and lied to his family.
  • Apparently it’s OK for American journalists to write highly inaccurate articles as long as they do so in the right (pun intended) way. Relatedly, these days, a DC journalist, given the choice between giving a deserved screwing to a colleague and giving an undeserved screwing to the American people in general, will screw the American people every time.
  • Governmental foot-dragging has its intended effect: Tom DeLay walks free. There are no consequences. There is no accountability. Rule of law? Ha.
  • The Internet will be the death of the music bidness as we’ve known it. Of course, no one who has known it will shed a tear, but that doesn’t mean the bidness is going down without a fight. Now they’re partnering with the National Association of Broadcasters, another powerful lobby, to try to get the government to mandate the inclusion of FM radio in future cell phones. Good luck with that. Oh, and die already.
  • The question isn’t why “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger “quit” her radio show after dropping about 11 N-bombs. The question is why any responsible broadcaster ever allowed someone with such obvious mental problems on the air dispensing advice in the first place.
  • Despite rising wheat prices caused by Russia’s drought-driven ban on exports, U.S. wheat farmers aren’t sure they should plant more wheat. Why? They’re pretty sure the wheat market is rigged, just as it was a few years ago. Now someone explain to me again what social utility investment bankers serve. Relatedly, Harper’s makes the case that they’re just playing games with the world’s food supply.
  • August: Stupid American Month.
  • If The New York Times or CNN had contributed $1 million to the Democratic Governors Association, do you think the country would have responded with such a yawn? Me, neither.
  • So will all the Wikileaks critics shut up now that the Pentagon’s own evidence shows Wikileaks tried to work with the Pentagon to redact sensitive information but was rebuffed? Yeah. I thought not.
  • The oil from BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster? Government reports to the contrary, it’s mostly still out there.
  • When it comes to protecting our rights and our privacy, those commies in Europe are eating The Land of the Free’s lunch.
  • You know how the government has always claimed Guantanamo detainees are “the worst of the worst”? In fact, the government lacks enough evidence to charge 3/4 of them with any crime at all.
  • The $75 billion Home Affordable Mortgage Protection Act is a bust … because Congress, after approving the money, did nothing to ensure that bankruptcy judges would use so-called “cramdown” provisions to make sure the money would do what it was supposed to do. What has happened instead has left a lot of homeowners even worse off than if the government had done nothing and has hampered the recovery of the housing market. And the administration hasn’t bothered to try to get Congress to do the right thing. Heckuva job all the way around.
  • Memo to Army Maj. Gen. Charles E. Chambers: Your punishing soldiers who opted not to attend a concert by an evangelical Christian rock band should carry punishment of its own: loss of your stars and your pension. You violated your oath to protect the Constitution, General, plain and simple.
  • Robert Frank has an interesting proposal that could help both government and consumers: The government should buy up consumer debt, on which consumers are paying 20% and up, and charge consumers 8%. This would put more disposable income in consumers’ hands and give the government a substantially better return on its investment than the 2.8% or so that 10-year bills currently are paying. It makes so much sense that there’s zero chance Congress will pass it because it would hurt deny banks their current flow of blood money.
  • Shorter Paul Volcker: Lending deregulation was bad because allowing higher interest payments on risky sub-prime loans encouraged banks to make more risky loans.
  • Barry Ritholtz: We’re good at saying “What if we had done nothing?” about the bailout, but an even better question is, “What if we had done the right thing?”
  • COOL (as it were): Scientists are working on a way to use carbon dixoide and certain kinds of bacteria to convert crude oil into cleaner-burning methane — while the oil is still in the ground. A separate effort is working on using solar power to convert CO2 to carbon, or carbon monoxide to, in turn, synthesize hydrocarbon fuels.
  • I have found my Official Anthem for the Summer of 2010. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too R-rated to link to, but I’ll give you a hint: It’s by Cee-Lo, from his forthcoming album.
  • Colombian Supreme Court to U.S. military: Don’t let the sun set on you in Bogota. Oops.
  • Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?, leaves the Wall Street Journal and tears U.S. news media several new orifices on the way out the door (whether he also grabbed a beer is not clear).
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has apologized for a blog post suggesting that the male-female wage gap and the glass ceiling aren’t real problems, which might actually mean something if it would apologize for everything else it has said and done in that same vein for the past several decades. But it won’t, so it doesn’t.
  • The American Family Association apparently believes our soldiers in Iraq died for nothing. Actually, so do I, inasmuch as that war was illegal from the git. But you know why the AFA believes it? Because Iraq is not a Christian nation.
  • Would someone who considers him/herself a deficit hawk and supports extending George Bush’s tax cuts for millionaires please explain to me how we can afford to do that but cannot afford to put people to work?
  • And, finally, this week’s tasteless joke, from D. Aristophanes at Sadly, No!:

A priest, a rabbi and an imam walk into an Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero. The bartender says, ‘What’re you drinking?’ and the imam orders him beheaded because sharia law dhimmitude Allahu Akbar alalalalalalalalala flabberty jabberty jabber etc. etc.*

You’ve been a great crowd! We’re here all week!

*Also the priest molests the bartender’s kids and the rabbi drinks their blood.

Sunday, June 27, 2010 6:42 pm

Hot

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 6:42 pm
Tags:

Working outside when it’s 95 is never pleasant, but it can be a lot less unpleasant with the right tool, the right blade for the right tool, and just a little shade.

Scraping paint off windowpanes. Ick.

Friday, June 18, 2010 8:29 pm

Climate/environment sustainability and theater

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:29 pm
Tags: , ,

G. Rendell, writing at Inside Higher Ed, notes that global-warming denialists and envirohaters like Cal Thomas equate sustainability advocates with weakness and cowardliness. But not only is Thomas’s argument weak and cowardly, Rendell writes, it’s just flat wrong:

Thomas, for all his faults, has a good grasp of popular American imagery. Sustainability, environmentalism, liberalism and intellectualism are all the territory of nerds. (You know that’s true, in the popular mindset.) And nerds are weaklings. And weaklings are cowards. And cowardice is un-American. You don’t need to do the math — the images are familiar and the result is pre-ordained.

But sustainability and environmentalism don’t have to be nerd territory. They could just as readily be associated with outdoorsmen, and outdoorsmen are (The Lumberjack Song aside), rugged and masculine. (Not sure how far I want to go with that “masculine” thing, of course. Still . . . ) Pioneers, cowboys, family farmers, hunters, fisherfolk, even lumberjacks and -jills. Daniel Boone. Davy Crockett. Lewis and Clark. Et al. (Lots of al.)

Thomas mentions George Washington (if only to ding Obama) in his column. George Washington heated Mount Vernon by burning biomass. If it was good enough for him . . .

And why are people who ride bikes less rugged than folks who drive cars (usually alone)? Which one’s the weakling in that comparison? (And, by Thomas’s own extension, the coward?) Even walking to the bus stop builds muscle mass better than backing out of your driveway.

Which reminds me, I need to lose some weight. Again. (sigh)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 6:03 am

A serious question

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 6:03 am

If capital can cross borders freely, why can’t labor?

Saturday, May 8, 2010 9:55 pm

Why Elena Kagan will be Obama’s Supreme Court pick

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 9:55 pm
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Because, as Glenn Greenwald points out, the liberals hate her:

(1) University of Colorado Law Professor Paul Campos, who previously expressed shock at the paucity of Kagan’s record and compared her to Harriet Miers, has a new piece in The New Republic entitled (appropriately): “Blank Slate.”

(2) Digby examines what a Kagan selection would reveal about Obama, and she particularly focuses on Kagan’s relationship to Goldman Sachs.  That relationship is relatively minor, but it is illustrative in several ways and will certainly be used by Republicans to advance their attacks on this administration as being inextricably linked with Wall Street.  The Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein has more on the Kagan/Goldman Sachs connection.

(3) Following up on the article published yesterday in Salon by four minority law professors — which condemned Kagan’s record on diversity issues as “shocking” and “indefensible for the 21st Century” — Law Professor Darren Hutchinson of American University School of Law today writes that Kagan’s record is “abysmal.”

Regardless of your particular views on these matters, that diversity is both vital and fair in the hiring process has long been a central plank in progressive thinking.  It takes little creativity to imagine what Democrats would say about a Republican Supreme Court nominee with a hiring record similar to Kagan’s.  The question is whether they will be as consistent as these law professors are in applying their claimed beliefs to their own side.  This is the issue that caused Linda Monk to rescind her endorsement of Kagan.  Will Kagan-defending progressives now suddenly say that diversity is irrelevant?  Will they try to claim that there were no qualified minorities for the Harvard Law School faculty?  How will they reconcile everything they’ve always said about diversity with Kagan’s record as Dean?

(4) This headline, from law.com, is a darkly amusing and quite revealing one to read about the Obama White House’s front-runner to replace John Paul Stevens:  “Supreme Court Watchers Wonder:  How Conservative Is Kagan?

(5) Law Professor Jonathan Adler persuasively argues why Diane Wood would be easier to confirm than Elena Kagan.

(6) The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage today explains that executive power is one key area where Obama’s choice could bring about major changes to the Court, given that his selection would replace Justice Stevens, who was so stalwart about imposing limits on such power.  As Savage writes, Kagan’s record (to the extent such a thing even exists) “suggests she might generally be more sympathetic toward the White House than Justice Stevens.”

(7) Perhaps most revealing of all: a new article in The Daily Caller reports on growing criticisms of Kagan among “liberal legal scholars and experts” (with a focus on the work I’ve been doing), and it quotes the progressive legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky as follows:  “The reality is that Democrats, including liberals, will accept and push whomever Obama picks.”

Now there are two dynamics at work here.

One is that it is conventional wisdom in Washington that to be Taken Seriously, you have to punch a hippie. That means no picking a truly progressive nominee. And if there is one thing that Obama has shown in his time in office, it is the ability and willingness to punch a hippie, on subjects ranging from torture to health care.

The other is the notion that the hippies will take the punches and like it because they have nowhere else to go.

Greenwald, to his credit, says that anyone who really does think that way shouldn’t — that if they have serious philosophical or policy differences with Obama or his nominees, then they ought to, well, differ. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same thing he said back in 2006 about Republicans/conservatives who differed with Bush. Of course, back then it was just Glenn being partisan.

Me? I think any potential nominee of either party and whatever political philosophy who can be mentioned in the same breath as Harriet Miers without the speaker’s being laughed out of the room has no business on the Supreme Court. But beyond that, I have no idea.

Monday, April 19, 2010 8:54 pm

Duke College Republicans oust chairman. Why?

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:54 pm
Tags: , ,

Was the chairman of Duke’s College Republicans ousted because he had mismanaged the group and embezzled funds, or because he’s gay? The link includes both student-newspaper article and the articles of impeachment. The comments add some perspective and context, although they’re all pseudonymous so I don’t know how much credibility to give them.

There’s a lack of hard information, a lot of he-said/she-said, and a whole bunch of ethical questions to be derived from this situation.

One disturbing element is that, at least according to commenters, the chairman sent an e-mail to other group members attempting to address the issue and asking that they keep it in confidence, and at least one member chose not to. Without smearing the whole group, I’m going to say that that was an incredibly ill-advised decision … but I also think that no one in this kid’s position should have thought for a minute that anything he put into an e-mail would remain confidential.

If the guy mismanaged and stole, then he should have been impeached, obviously. That said, it’s disturbing that some sort of meeting to change the impeachment rules apparently took place just beforehand.

Beyond the merits of the decision to impeach, it’s not clear to me just how “out” this guy was — perhaps not even to his own parents. If he wasn’t out before, he sure is now, what with the publication of the news in both the Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill student papers. I’d be interested to know what sort of ethical discussions, if any, took place around the respective papers’ decisions to publish their stories. Involuntarily outing someone can have all kinds of unforeseen negative consequences, and the bulk of the comments seem to indicate that the kid was told the papers were going to publish with or without him, although at least one commenter disputes that and says the kid himself asked for coverage. Again, we need more facts. 

Finally, I’m amused that the Duke College Republicans site’s header includes rotating photos of the Manhattan skyline.

Saturday, April 17, 2010 10:44 pm

I had not realized this …

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 10:44 pm
Tags:

… but the retiring Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens is the high court’s only Protestant. Protestants constitute 51.3% of America. Outside the arena of abortion rights, I am unsure how significant this fact is — indeed, it may not signify much of anything.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 10:50 pm

A few Tax Day thoughts on the teabaggers

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 10:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

No overarching conclusions about the group’s beliefs/motives here, but a few things have emerged from the primordial media ooze to gain purchase on the shifting sands of my awareness:

  • In general, I, too, worry about budget deficits. But, having not slept through Econ 101 (got a B, in fact), I understand that when consumer demand has collapsed and jobs are hemorrhaging, the government has to spend because no one else is going to. And it’s funny how so few of those NOW worried about deficits worried about them between 2001 and 2008.
  • One thing I don’t worry about is the notion that federal income taxes are unacceptably high by any recent historical standard, because they’re just not. On the other hand, a recent CBS/New York Times poll found, teabagger concern about those taxes appears to have been overblown by anecdotal media reports: “Most [Tea Party movement supporters polled] describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as ‘fair.’”
  • And, finally, although I’m willing to give teabaggers in general the benefit of the doubt on race issues, that doubt is significant all the same for this reason: that same poll found that:
  • 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.
  • They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

UPDATE: If the Christian Science Monitor is mocking you, you probably should just give up.

Sunday, April 11, 2010 11:35 pm

Gasping for breath

The deluge is not over, but the worst of it has passed, and I now have a wee bit of breathing space. So, let’s see, what has happened while I’m gone? Nothing good, it seems:

I have no idea when I’ll be back, so this’ll have to do ya for a while.

Thursday, March 18, 2010 9:41 pm

A pretty decent observation about political blogs …

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 9:41 pm
Tags:

… from John Cole, who should know cuz he runs one:

Right-wingers spend their whole lives seething with incomprehensible rage.

Left-wingers spend their entire lives butthurt.

Discuss.

Sure, John: Rape isn’t a crime of passion, it’s a crime of rage and control.

Sunday, February 7, 2010 2:37 pm

Odds and ends for 2/7

First things first: The Super Bowl: I grew up a Baltimore Colts fan and, in particular, a Johnny Unitas fan. The Saints weren’t even on my radar until the Panthers came into the league and the Saints became one of their divisional rivals. But Johnny U. died a long time ago, the Colts left Baltimore even longer ago than that, and the Colts have a Super Bowl win in their recent past while the Saints have never been until now. Add to that the question of who needs this win worse: Indianapolis, home to some of the worst elements of Big PhrMA that are robbing the country blind, or Nawlins, which the country pretty much allowed to drown and then abandoned after Hurricane Katrina? Go, Saints.

Fox News to the contrary, there’s nothing “new” about the teabagger movement: It is straight-down-the-line GOP, right down to requiring candidates to support the Republican National Committee’s platform. (Interestingly, the party hasn’t got its platform posted at the moment, allowing a much vaguer, less offensive “what we believe” page to suffice.) If people want to support the Republican Party, more power to ‘em, but no one should join the Tea Party movement under the mistaken impression that it’s going to lead to reform. It will lead, instead, to more of the same stuff that got us into all this trouble in the first place.

Slapfight! Alien v. Predator! Teh Crazee v. Teh Stoopid! Or, you know,  Joe Farah v. Andrew Breitbart. This is one where you not only don’t want anyone to win, you want them both to leave the game with season-ending injuries.

He said it, I didn’t: The American Enterprise Institute’s Gerard Alexander is on to those of us who happen to think Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a Very Bad Thing: “It follows that the thinkers, politicians and citizens who advance conservative ideas must be dupes, quacks or hired guns selling stories they know to be a sham.” Well, let’s see: Supply-side economics? Sham. Global-warming denialism? Sham. Bankster bailouts? Sham. Post-9/11 air quality in lower Manhattan? Sham. Creationism? Sham. WMDs in Iraq? Sham. I could go on, but these items are only supposed to be a few lines long. Just sayin’.

And because the last thing you want is a poisonous snake in the midst of a nicotine fit, Po the viper gets his daily smokes:

Odds and ends for 2/6

New York’s attorney general comes down hard on Ken Lewis and Joseph Price in a civil lawsuit, alleging that the Bank of America CEO and CFO misled not only the bank’s shareholders but also their own board, the company’s lawyers and the public as to the amount of water Merrill Lynch was taking on when BAC acquired it — an amount sufficient to have taken BAC down too without a taxpayer bailout. While we wonder why Lewis and Price remain unindicted comes news that Lewis’s attorneys intend to call Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke to testify in his defense. If my 401k and kids’ college funds weren’t so devastated, I’d be buying popcorn.

The United States attorney general comes down hard on Mitch “WATB” McConnell and other Republicans who think there’s any sort of basis in fact or law for trying the Underpants Bomber anywhere but U.S. District Court. Read the whole thing; it is full of Win.

If he legally changed his name to “Enormous Genitals,”* do you think it would help?: Pakistani career diplomat Akbar Zeb has been rejected by Saudi Arabia as ambassador to that country because his name translates into Arabic as “biggest d**k.” You laugh, but the United Arab Emirates rejected him earlier for the same reason. (h/t: Fred)

*Movie reference:

UPDATE: Fred says we missed a chance by not including this, and I agree:

Shredding the Constitution. Again: The U.S. government was surveilling an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, for months and months and never came up with any basis for indicting him. And yet, somehow, he ends up on an assassination list, in apparent violation of at least three different amendments to the Constitution. Someone want to explain to me how this works?

Fritz Kraemer: the biggest warmonger you’ve never heard of.

How good are you at assessing risk — in particular the risk that what you think about a particular subject might be wrong? You can take a test here to find out. The higher your score (perfect is 100), the more willing you are to consider the possibility that what you think you know is actually wrong. I scored 93, which probably comes as a surprise to everyone who considers me dogmatic. It doesn’t surprise me for two reasons: 1) In 25 years of journalism, you learn to do your homework. So on stuff that I was confident I was right on, I was confident for a reason, and I didn’t hedge my bets, so to speak, during the test. 2) In 25 years of journalism, you also learn not to lean too hard on stuff of which you’re not confident, because the consequences can be much worse than just getting a fact wrong. They can include getting fired and sued. So on questions where I wasn’t certain, particularly those containing multiple factual assertions, I usually chose the “just have no freakin’ idea” option and didn’t feel any shame about doing it.

Tom Tancredo thinks we need a “civic literacy test” that people must pass to be able to vote. So Eli says, OK, fine, let’s get some answers to these questions.

Obama’s ugly budget would look even uglier if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac liabilities — which, since Christmas Eve, have been potentially unlimited — had been on budget. But, in a trick Bloomberg calls “worthy of Enron,” they were left off.

Multiple personalities; or, IOKIYAR: Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who went all “Pulp Fiction” on Nancy Pelosi months ago for accusing the CIA of lying to Congress, is accusing the CIA of lying to Congress.

What is the Obama Justice Department hiding, and why are Senate Democrats helping them?: Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to head Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel should have been approved months ago; instead, it’s “hung up.” Again. For reasons that make sense only if you believe that Obama doesn’t really want her but also doesn’t want to take the PR hit for pulling her nomination. Memo: Dumping all over your friends is a real good way to get your base fired up to turn out in a challenging midterm election. Not.

How Republicans are trying to recruit more women: “Women sometimes need a little more handholding, or they need their friends to help them make a decision,” Republican National Committee co-chair Jan Larimer said. Ooooo-kay.

Given how often someone tries to repeal important parts of the Bill of Rights, I’m not entirely certain that such Senate traditions as filibusters and the hold should end. But I think we can safely say that when one senator — in this case, Richard Shelby of Alabama, whom no one will ever accuse of sentience — can put at least 70 presidential nominations on hold just because he’s not getting the pork he wants, it really is time to rethink some things. It’s also worth remembering that 1) the pork Shelby is seeking is 10x as much as Ben Nelson got for signing on to the health-care reform bill and 2) Shelby tried to kill GM and Chrystler bailouts because foreign auto makers have plants in his state. This isn’t about the good of the nation; this is about Shelby doing things because he can. But the national media appear to agree that IOKIYAR.

In light of the impending Super Bowl, a few words on the football players about whom almost nothing good is ever said. One reason I like Dan Dierdorff as a football announcer is that, having been an O-lineman, he’s conscious of what they do and how often it makes a big, big difference that most announcers never even pick up on.

Republicans can’t work with Democrats because they want Obama impeached, believe he’s a socialist, think he was born outside the U.S. and therefore is ineligible to be president, aren’t sure if he wants the terrorists to win, think it’s at least possible ACORN stole the 2008 election, consider Sarah Palin more qualified to be president than Obama, don’t want sex education taught in public schools and do want Biblical creationism taught in public schools. But the media think our biggest political problem is that Democrats aren’t sufficiently bipartisan. Sigh.

I’m beginning to understand why Tennessee fans hate Lane Kiffin: He has secured a verbal commitment from a quarterback who’s currently in seventh grade.

Former HP CEO and current Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has unleashed sheer madness in the form of a campaign ad that runs for 3.5 minutes and includes everything from a totally bass-ackwards metaphor to some poor schlub crawling on all fours in a sheep suit. I know it’s California, but still:

One of Jason Linkins’ commenters tips us to the artistic inspiration for the ad:

I want to see this movie. The California election, not so much.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 11:57 pm

Odds and ends for 2/3

Penn State “Climategate” scientist cleared of falsifying data: Three of four charges are dropped, including one claiming he destroyed e-mail; the investigating committee decides it isn’t competent to assess the fourth and punts to a different committee.

Eated: The FDIC closed six banks Friday, bringing the total for the month to 15. Six was the total for the month of January a year ago.

A cautionary note about the strong 4th quarter of GDP: Never, in 50+ years’ worth of data, has a quarter’s GDP growth of 5.7% coincided with a drop in private hours worked (-0.5%). Not sure what that means, but given that we know that productivity growth right now is being driven by layoffs, not capital investment or technological advances, and that 90% of that GDP growth was attributable to stimulus spending only, something’s fishy here.

Lessons from the AIG meltdown from one bureaucrat who sat at the table: I suspect that his conclusions are good because of, not in spite of, the fact that he worked for a state and not the feds.

Contributing factors vs. “but for” factors: Barry Ritholtz divides contributing factors from “but for” factors in deciding how much blame to apportion where for the economic crisis. What’s a “but for” factor? But for X, the crisis wouldn’t have happened. His three major but-for factors? “Ultra-low [interest] rates; unregulated, non-bank subprime lenders; ratings agencies slapping AAA on junk paper.” What about Fannie and Freddie? Contributors, yes, but not but-fors because they arrived so late to the subprime game.

MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan carves the president a well-deserved new one. Perhaps he hasn’t heard what happened to Ashley Bancroft when she did the same to his predecessor. Who’s she, you ask? Indeed.

If the Democrats had the brains God gave a billy goat, this wouldn’t be happening, but Republican pollster Frank Luntz has laid out a strategy for Republicans to use in fighting financial reform, and I’m pretty sure that because of previous Democratic inaction, Luntz’s strategy will work.

David Rosenberg (via Zero Hedge) says this is all far from over: “We ran some simulations to see what would have happened in 2009 without all the massive amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus. Instead of real GDP contracting 2.4% for all of 2009, it would have been close to a 4.0% decline. And, as for the last two ‘positive quarters’ — well, Q3 would have been -1.0% QoQ [quarter over quarter] at an annual rate and -1.5% for Q4 (as opposed to the +5.7% annualized print). Still no sign of organic private sector growth and here we have the Fed discussing exit strategies and the Obama team about to soak it to the rich (for anyone who makes over $250k). This is what is otherwise known as a ‘low quality’ recovery.” On the bright side, at least he puts paid to all this “The stimulus didn’t help!” nonsense.

James Fallows explains how circumstances now prevent the traditional conception of bipartisanship from functioning in American politics (at least in Congress). I understand all this — quite well, in fact. Indeed, millions and millions of ordinary Americans understand all this probably as well as Fallows does. The question is: Why is it that so many of the people whose job it is to understand this — David Broder, Chris Matthews, Maura Liaason, and I could go on and on and on — do not understand this? Relatedly, because they do not understand this, why do they still have jobs? Digby gets it: “Can anyone argue that the village just sees all electoral losses as a result of the losing party failing to be “centrist” and “bipartisan” enough?  It doesn’t matter what  the real factors are that drove the electorate.”

Way-cool animated model of the solar system: Go here for hours of family fun!

Odds and ends for 2/2

Punxsutawney Phil weighs in on this whole Groundhog Day thing. Spoiler: He is, profanely, obscenely, NSFW-ly not a fan.

Bestest snow in a decade: The night we moved into our current house in January 2000, we got what likely will be a strong contender for snowstorm of the century. This past weekend’s storm, which dumped better than 6″ on us and close to a foot not far north of here, was almost as good. Got to go sledding and have a snowball fight with the kids — they killed me. Enjoyed Cajun crab-corn chowder and other good eats with good friends. Settled into a warm armchair Sunday night with a great novel and some Nattie Greene’s Red Nose winter ale. Ahhhhh.

Bad news, worse news for banking: The current commercial real-estate bubble could take down the banking system when it pops. And CRE ain’t the only potentially lethal problem out there. I’ll say one good thing about the free-marketeers: They can certainly f\/(% up a banking system.

Goldman Sachs to tell THE president to get bent, pay ITS president a $100 million bonus: Someone explain to me again why we don’t want to punish the banksters.

More insider trading that the SEC somehow manages to overlook.

While Jim Bunning does the taxpayers a few favors on his way out the door, Chris Dodd is throwing Molotov cocktails: Dodd, along with Richard Shelby and Paul Kanjorski, has pretty much killed the proposed ban on proprietary trading by banks. Because the one thing we desperately needed was even more taxpayer money at risk. Or has he? Goldman Sachs’ stock price seems to think Dodd hasn’t killed it after all.

Has prop trading really killed even one bank? Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker asked that question today. The answer is yes: Merrill Lynch, which the Fed bribed Bank of America to take over. (That transaction itself has raised all manner of, for BAC officers/directors, ugly questions about what stockholders were and weren’t told about the ML takeover.)

The Fed: One big counterfeiter, basically. Which, honestly, is sort of what I had thought, except that I figured there were important distinctions that were eluding me on account of I’ve got the economic skillz of a cinder block. Turns out I was more right than I knew, which does NOT make me feel as good as you’d think.

Not that what people want actually matters, but health-care reform with a public option is more popular even among Republicans in swing districts than the current Senate bill, which lacks one. And to no one’s surprise, although at least 51 Democratic Senators are on record as supporting a public option, now that reconciliation (i.e., simple majority vote) could make it happen, some of those “backers” are backpedaling, lest they upset their corporate overlords.

As is often the case, The New York Times’ David Brooks is guilty of slopping thinking. Matt Taibbi dopeslaps him back in the direction of reality and, in the process, puts in a shout-out for factual journalism over the false equivalence of “objective” journalism.

If you believe this, 26 states, including North Carolina, are insolvent. I don’t know whether to believe it or not, but, lord, it wouldn’t surprise me at this point.

I suppose it’s possible that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” will disrupt some military units … which is what desegregation opponents in the military warned Harry Truman 60 years ago. And as the fictitious Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on “The West Wing” observed, “You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it.” More to the point, so, basically, did all the senior witnesses who testified before Congress on the matter today.

Why the hell isn’t someone under indictment for this?: The CIA is allowing some of its personnel to moonlight for private, for-profit corporations. This isn’t bad only because it divides CIA staffers’ focus/attention, although that division is, indeed, a bad thing; it’s bad because it gives certain corporations access to government secrets they’re not entitled to have.

Why, it’s almost as if someone’s looking out for the taxpayers’ interests: Defense Secretary Robert Gates has fired the head of the $350 billion F-35 program because of cost overruns and performance issues. He also has withheld hundreds of millions in payments to Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the fighter jet. There’s gotta be a catch; I just haven’t figured out yet what it is.

I personally think Khalid Sheikh Muhammad should be tried in New York City, and I think people who think otherwise for any reason other than the cost of security are incontinent. And here’s what I would call a conservative argument in favor of trying KSM in, if not in New York City proper, at least in a civilian federal court elsewhere within the Southern Judicial District of New York. And here are some other reasons why letting the White House, Congress and local officials butt into this is a bad idea.

Colorado Springs tries an interesting social experiment: Rather than raise taxes, the city is letting a third of its streetlights go dark, letting dozens of police and firefighter positions go unfilled, not paving any streets and cutting all kinds of other services. I am sincerely interested in seeing what happens with this.

The NFL may well be the most popular sports operation in America, but they still desperately need competent public-relations counsel.

As do Senate Democrats, who spent the weekend schmoozing with bank lobbyists in Miami. No way that could go wrong for the taxpayer.

Supposedly we now have a study that says abstinence-only sex education works: Except for the part where the program studied — which might, in fact, work, although I’d say more study is needed — was not, in several important ways, abstinence-only. More details here. This isn’t just apples to oranges, it’s apples to mountain oysters.

As does Sarah Palin, whose PAC spent more money in the last half of 2009 on copies of her book than it did in contributions to other political candidates, ostensibly the PAC’s primary purpose. For those of you following along at home, this is a way of funneling political contributions to her PAC straight into her own pockets.

Question of the day, from Eli: “… if only one political party’s base gets to be taken seriously, does it really have to be the one that parades around with pictures of the President Of The United States dressed as a witch doctor?”

What could possibly go wrong? A Michigan man with a sled tried to fashion a rocket pack out of an old car muffler, gasoline and gunpowder. Police say he had been … wait for it … drinking. (h/t: Nance)

Saturday, January 30, 2010 12:29 am

Odds and ends for 1/29

I’ve already called for impeaching Obama. Looks like we can now add Holder to the mix: A draft report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility that originally found that Bush officials Jay Bybee (now a federal judge) and John Yoo (now a “law” “professor” at Berkeley) committed professional misconduct (which would constitute grounds for impeaching Bybee), the final version was cleaned up to say they showed “poor judgment” only. Granted, fabricating a legal justification for torture out of whole cloth does show “poor judgment,” but it shows criminal intent as well.

Well, OK, it’s a first step: Pravda, of all places, reports that Francis A. Boyle, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champlain, Ill., has requested arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for the arrests of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Rice and Gonzalez for “crimes against humanity” under the Rome Statute, which established the court. For all I know this is an Eastern Hemisphere version of an Onion article, but, hey, a citizen can dream.

Well, this bites: More than 30% of Triad mortgages will be under water by 1Q2011, Deutsche Bank estimates.

Historians finally weigh in Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism.” Only two years after the fat, lying putz laughed his way to the bank. Thanks a ton, guys.

Banksters organize protest of their treatment … indoors, because it was too cold to go outside. Power to the people!

Bloomberg’s David Reilly asks a good question about this week’s bankster-related developments: Where’s the anger? (Besides Chez Blog on the Run, of course.)

Major-league media?: The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm keeps using the phrase “discretionary spending.” I do not think that phrase means what he thinks it means.

Every little bit helps: Somali “pirates” pledge aid to Haiti. (Somali pirates’ est. 2008 income: $150MM+).

Possibly the most entertaining appeals court ruling of the year, and it’s still only January: Gender discrimination in the workplace as manifested by rude language (Oh, so NSFW, by the ruling’s own standards).

What’s stopping the Senate from ramming through a public option in reconciliation? I’m just askin’, on account of 51 breathing senators are on records as supporting one. Seriously, Joe Lieberman can go to hell.

Party of fiscal responsibility, my butt: Every single Republican senator voted Thursday against a new pay-as-you-go rule. Every single Democratic senator voted for it. Remind me again, please, who the grownups are. Quoth commenter Chad N. Freude at Balloon Juice: “They are opposed to pay-as-you-go because they are opposed to go.”

Whoux Dat?; or, There’s a reason they call it the No Fun League: Because you can’t abbreviate No Brains League as NFL. No Frontal Lobe, maybe. (h/t: DivaGeek)

The U.S. economy shrank 2.4% in 2009, the worst calendar-year performance since 1946.

California Senate approves single-payer health-care system; the Governator vetoes it on the laughable grounds that the state “can’t afford it.” Dude, you pay either way, and with single payer, there’s an excellent chance you’d pay less.

Terrorist convicted: The jury deliberated only 37 minutes before finding Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder for shooting abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in the head at point-blank range. Roeder admitted the shooting and also testified that he considered only chopping off Tiller’s hands instead of killing him. What a great humanitarian. Memo to New York: If Wichita can try a terrorist, so can you. Memo to the Republicans: Americans are beyond tired of government by incontinence.

I’m probably the last person to find this out, but the free audio-editing program Audacity can record streaming audio from, apparently, any Web site. This makes me insanely happy.

So Obama got together with some Congressional Republicans today. And it’s John Cole of Balloon Juice, who, despite humerus- and-clavicle- and scapula-scraping surgery a couple of days ago, is flying without painkillers, For The Win: “If Mike Pence really is regarded as one of the deep thinkers for the GOP, I’m beginning to understand why they refused to admit Terri Schiavo was brain-dead.” Although the prez himself does nicely with the runner-up: “I would have implemented those ideas had I found a credible economist who agreed with them …”

Thursday, January 28, 2010 9:14 pm

Odds and ends for 1/28

The ultimate Miller Time: Earlier this month, Harriet Ames turned 100 and then scratched the last item, getting her college diploma, off her bucket list. The next day, that sheepskin in her hand, she died.

To the best of my ability, I will never again say a bad word about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Conflict of interest?: The New York Times isn’t commenting on a report that the son of its Jerusalem bureau chief is serving in the Israeli military. I understand the problems that publication of this fact, if fact it be, is likely to create for the editor and the paper, as well as the possible security threat for the son and his unit if in fact this is the case. But this isn’t something the Times can ignore or stonewall.

Sen. Judd Gregg: PWNED!!111!!: Gregg, who has been pimping this idea of a bipartisan deficit-reduction commission to shield Congress from the political liability of making tough decisions, shows why he needs the shield when MSNBC’s Melissa Francis, whose work will never keep the Peabody Award people up nights, asks him to name something he’d cut from the budget and he refuses to answer. (To say nothing of the fact that he hems and haws around the question of cutting education spending when that has practically been Job 1 for the GOP since Reagan. Brother, please.)

But you don’t want to reward them, either: Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz says we not only need a lot more stimulus spending, we need it targeted where it will provide a decent rate of return if we’re going to be able to reduce our debt long-term. And where would that be? Technology, infrastructure, education — all the things the Republicans have been trying, by and large, not to fund. Even a ROI of 6% will help pay off long-term debt. But the ROI on spending on banks is 0%. You listening, Mr. President?

Conservative victimization: Obama calls out the Supreme Court for its wrongheaded, wrongly reached ruling in a wrongly accepted case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and the wingnuts accuse the president of trying to “intimidate” the conservative activist wing of the Court. Questions, for the wingnuts (which is most of ‘em) who spent eighth-grade civics out back smoking dope: How, exactly, do you go about intimidating someone who already has been confirmed to a lifetime appointment? And how easily intimidated do you have to be to hold such a job and still be intimidated by … well, pretty much anything?

The cops lied, and fortunately, 12 of 14 jurors were willing to do something about it. I’ll say it again: I have too much respect for good cops to have any tolerance for bad ones.

George Stephanopoulos asks a good question. NewsBusters has a hissy fit, spouts objectively false claims. (“Liberal media” = “They won’t tell the lies we WANT them to tell.”)

In many important ways, the United States sucks compared to other countries, and it is important to remind ourselves of that. On the other hand, we — alone, I believe, among industrialized countries, and I’d be sad to be wrong about that but not for the reason you probably think — have given corporations more rights and fewer freedoms than people, so we’ve got that going for us.

Bigotry in Malawi: A gay couple in that country are being held “for their own safety” in jail. Where they’re being beaten up.

“I’ve never actually played FarmVille, but any game worth playing has to have Pork Knights”: How to Suck at Facebook.

The Great American Interrogation Disaster, from the man who may know more about interrogation than anyone else alive.

Memo to Andrew Breitbart from the Universe: Payback’s a bitch.

You may be a mansplainer if …: Consider me warned.

Freeloaders: In Moscow, stray dogs use the subway. For free. For real.

Britain’s libel laws are much stricter than America’s. There’s just one problem.

America loves Brett Favre: How much? More than anything that wasn’t a Super Bowl since the “Seinfeld” finale in May 1998.

Huge loss: Journalist Joe Galloway is hanging up his notepad. In recent years, Americans who have worn the uniform and those who wear it still have had no better friend.

Huger loss: J.D. Salinger, RIP.

I have just found the one college course even cooler than my employer’s “Ten Greatest Pop Songs of the Past 50 Years”: ZDI.001: Introduction to Zombie Defense. I forwarded this to several friends, one of whom said she also would post it and added, “I’m also going to read closely for practical purposes.”

And in that vein, I love people who think like this: Seated with Michelle Obama during the State of the Union was 18-year-old high-school senior Li Boynton, who’s researching ways to test water for purity. After reading Life of Pi, a novel about a guy stranded in the middle of the ocean, Boynton designed a solar-distillation device in case the same thing ever happened to her. She was in fifth grade.

And, finally, this is genius: Dante’s Internet:

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