Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, October 15, 2009 8:14 pm


Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:14 pm

Ever wonder how much good all that money the health-care lobby is spending to lobby Congress could do if it were put to good use?

Wonder no more:

In an article at, we learn how much money is being spent in an attempt to prevent real health care reform:

The health care sector has spent $263 million this year lobbying Congress for changes to reform plans, a government watchdog group estimates.

That’s a huge amount of money. How many people could purchase health insurance with that much money? According to USA Today, the average health insurance premium for an individual is $4824. Dividing $263 million by $4824 tells us that 54,500 individuals could have purchased health insurance with the funds spent by the health care sector in their lobbying effort this year.

Last month we learned that 45,000 people a year die in the US due to lack of health insurance. Think about that for just a minute. The amount of money being spent in an attempt to prevent health care reform is more than enough to purchase insurance for all of those who die due to lack of coverage. Of course, we can’t predict ahead of time which of the 46 million uninsured Americans will be the ones to die from this lack of coverage …

As Hunter S. Thompson was so fond of reminding us, the thing speaks for itself.

Worship me, mortals!

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:14 am

It’s National Grouch Day! Everybody bow down and worship me!


OK! Now, you kids get off my lawn!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 9:07 pm

Things we don’t talk about when we talk about nation-building

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 9:07 pm

Athenae notes that in the past few years, as we’ve discussed nation-building as a key component of fighting terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been a few things we haven’t discussed:

A few years back I did a story; can’t find it on the Southtown site now, about a group of ministers from the South Side neighborhood of Englewood (Ill.) who wanted to get terrorism prevention funds from the government, on the grounds that drugs and gangs and guns were killing more people in their community every year than supposed weapons of mass destruction elsewhere. It was a genius move, really; turn the conversation around. Naturally the downtown and national press yawned: How quaint. How silly. How naive.

They knew how the world works, you know. A lot of the disgusted commentary that comes from pundits who treat everything like a joke has this tone, like, “Oh, you silly idealists, you don’t understand.” They knew the only shot they had at getting their problems made a priority was to make the conversation what the powerful wanted to hear. It’s because idealists know how the world works that they know what can be fixed and how to fix it. It’s not a willful disregard of the facts, it’s a cold assessment of them: The only way anybody’s going to care about us is if we have the word “terrorism” attached to our problems. And for that sincere attempt to get something done the only way they could, they got laughed at.

The money never came. No army of nation-builders ever arrived to support those who wanted peace and fight those who wanted violence, any more in Englewood than they did in NOLA or Cedar Rapids or anywhere else struck by disaster in the past eight years. The debate continues about how much we should spend building a world half a world away. How much should we spend building a world right here? Our national conversation never comes near the question anymore.

There are a lot of things we don’t talk about as a country that we need to. We mention race — all the time — but do we really talk about it? We sure as hell don’t talk about class. We don’t, in fact, talk much about anything that has to do with relating to one another communally. There’s a lot of talk of individual responsibility and individual achievement and individual opportunity, some of which is desperately needed, some of which is common knowledge and some of which shades into crap like going Galt. But we don’t even presume the existence and function of human communities to the extent that national policy shows any emphasis on solving their problems.

That’s nuts on a very basic level; homo sapiens is a social species. But beyond that, it’s nuts in this particular country, especially at this particular time. For all the trendy talk about individualism, we are a country today because a long time ago a whole bunch of individualists saw the merit of pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for something bigger than themselves. Nobody bled at Cowpens or Kings Mountain just so that a decade or two later he could announce, “I’ve got mine, Jack; screw you.” No, the framers explicitly acknowledged that even beyond the basic powers of government, of which they were justly suspicious, we as a people have a common welfare, a tie that bound us then and binds us today and that, history shows, we have attempted to sever only at our peril.

And we are at peril. One of the reasons that backwoods farmers (like my ancestors) from the western Carolina wilderness joined up with the learned men of the metropolises of Philadelphia and Boston was that they knew that no individual, and no single state, was going to win independence. Our oppressors today may not wear long, red coats, but they are just as oppressive and just as worthy of being cast off as those of our ancestors, whether they are lack of education or lack of economic opportunity or lack of a secure future because the damn oceans are going to rise. They aren’t problems that an individual is going to solve.

So, yeah, let’s do some nation building, right here, right now. Let’s fix NOLA. Let’s fix the ghettoes. Let’s fix health care. And let’s fix the system that lets those problems get so bad in the first place and then keeps us from talking about them, or from talking honestly about them.

Among the many virtues of this approach is that there are so many different reasons to do it that we need not agree on all, or even all that many, to unite. One of my big reasons, though, is that I expect that some day I will die, and when I do I expect that I will be asked some questions, and one of the questions I really don’t expect to be asked is, “So, did you REALLY think that he who dies with the most toys wins?”

Call DSS

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

Because the radio antenna on my car isn’t working very well anymore, about the only radio station I can pick up with any regularity is WKZL. So I was listening to their morning show on the way to work this morning when Jack Murphy and his crew go off on how Halloween has become a slut-fest, costumewise.

I happen to think that’s perfectly OK — for grownups. For minors, not so much, which was kind of Jack’s point. He said something to the effect that he saw what turned out to be a 12-year-old girl in one of the slut getups and said any parents who would let their kids out of the house looking like that ought to have the kids taken away. (As the father of an 11-year-old girl, I have a certain sympathy for that viewpoint. Our culture is incredibly bad about sexualizing children.)

Whereupon Jack’s daughter Ashley called to remind Dad that when she was 14, she and all her friends dressed up as pirate hookers.

Jack was sort of floored by that. He said something like, “I thought y’all were milkmaids.”

Nope, Ashley said, you’re thinking of when I was 15 — when I was a German beer girl.

We shall, as Mark Twain once wrote, draw the curtain of charity over the remainder of the scene, mainly because that’s when I pulled into my parking place.

So, how’s that raise workin’ out for ya?

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:45 pm

I’m so relieved. It looks as if our economy is finally back on the road to long-term stability:

Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year — a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street’s pay culture.

Yeah, my pay’s gonna be at a record high this year, and that’s even before you throw in my Cadillac health plan, my Cadillac stretch limo, my country-club membership, my —


What do you mean I’m not getting that?

But … surely if these firms, many of which are chartered and insured by U.S. taxpayers ostensibly to serve some definable public purpose, are paying their top executives so well, then all the problems must be fixed and things must be OK.


His accuracy record is 100% … wrong.

That’d be Sean Hannity. And ThoughtCrimes offers a good reason why we should be concerned about this. Hint: got a life jacket? Second hint: and a BIG gun?

“Rick Perry: Tough on crime. Tough on the innocent.”

Rick Perry, the Texas governor who apparently blew off exculpatory evidence in a death-penalty case, is coming under increasing fire for yanking around the commission looking into the case.

Some of that pressure is from primary opponents in his re-election campaign, and this being Texas and me being a cynic, I frankly doubt any of them gives much of a damn whether, as appears almost certain in this case, Perry allowed the execution of an innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham. But to the extent they’re making noise about the case, they’re making it more uncomfortable for Perry, they’re making it even harder for him to defend an already-indefensible system, and they’re contributing to a climate in which we finally, finally, might start talking critically and analytically about the system under which we put criminals to death.

Politicians have been killing convicts for political purposes for centuries, and the fact that some of them might have deserved the death penalty anyway doesn’t make it right.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 10:21 pm

Bad talk-radio host. No NFL team for you.

ROTFLMAO, I am. A certain flaccid radio gasbag’s bid to own the St. Louis Rams apparently is going nowhere:

In the wake of today’s stinging comments from respected Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Irsay, my guess is that Limbaugh’s chances of successfully bidding to become an owner of the St. Louis Ram are close to nil. The idea that the controversy-averse NFL would go forward over the increasingly loud objections to Limbaugh’s proposed bid just doesn’t fly, especially since, at least out front, Limbaugh appears to have no powerful NFL allies in his corner pushing for the deal to happen.

And make no mistake, this story is playing out as a very public rejection of Limbaugh and what he stands for.

The only question is who the talker will blame when he ultimately is forced to withdraw his ownership bid and he commences with his full-time victimhood shtick. In truth, it looks like Limbaugh will have only himself, and his incendiary rhetoric to blame. And in terms of who’s actually driving Limbaugh off the playing field, it’s millionaire NFL players and owners.

Good luck portraying them as part of some vast left-wing conspiracy.

The NFL team owners are a cozy bunch. They’re very rich, and when, as has happened on a few occasions in the past 30 or so years, they’ve expanded their numbers, they have done so by adding to the group people very much like themselves — very rich, almost uniformly low-profile. (And before you hold Al Davis up as an exception, ask yourself what he has done in the past five years to draw attention to himself — certainly not field a decent team.)

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson got where he got– and this is an incredible simplification of a complex process that took many years — by 1) playing in the NFL himself for several years, 2) taking his bonus from the Baltimore Colts’ 1958 league championship and investing it in a business that grew into a hugely successful restaurant chain; 3) using his business success to help him cultivate personal relationships with existing owners, in addition to basically inventing the permanent seat license as a funding mechanism for stadium construction — something else that obviously would be attractive to current owners, all of whom would someday need new stadiums themselves.

Now, you can say whatever negative you want about the clubbiness and homogeneity of such a group, and in most contexts I’d probably agree. But Rodney Dangerfield in “Caddyshack” doesn’t even come close to the level of damage Rush Limbaugh as a team owner could do to the NFL, the most successful major-league sport in America. (And it ain’t just the owners who oppose him, although they’re the only ones whose opinions matter.)

This is a very public, very personal rejection of him by some of the most admired people in America, and I relish the thought that Limbaugh will take it personally and, almost certainly, try to find a way to make himself the victim.

UPDATE: Right on time.

You know, I don’t so much mind what Limbaugh says, although lies and racism do tend to tick me off, as I mind the fact that he REFUSES TO OWN what he says. He’s a coward, pure and simple.

That’ll learn ’em

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:49 pm
Tags: , ,

A bunch of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students apparently passed swine flu to one another while playing beer pong over the weekend.

I’m a sucker, I’ll admit it …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:15 pm

… but if you put the headline “Giant Snakes Threaten U.S.” on a news article, I’m probably going to read it first and worry later about whether it’s worth my time.

The best parts? 1) It’s true. 2) They’re coming for New Jersey.

Bonus: Picture of a snake taking on an alligator. It’s sort of like State playing Wake: You want them both to lose.

Shorter health-care debate

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 6:01 am
Tags: ,

Shorter health-insurance industry: Nice health-care system ya got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

Shorter Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.: G’head, punk. Make my day.

Monday, October 12, 2009 11:13 pm

Ken Lewis: Not going quietly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 11:13 pm

Looks like Bank of America’s attorneys really are going to be in big legal trouble because of what BofA shareholders were and were not told before BofA’s takeover of Merrill Lynch. BofA is waiving attorney-client privilege.

From The Wall Street Journal (text h/t Zero Hedge):

Bank of America Corp. agreed to hand over documents that detail the legal advice it received during its purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co., according to people familiar with the situation, a sharp reversal after months of resisting such a move.

The new legal approach is in part intended to pave the way to a settlement of various investigations, say people familiar with the matter. It’s also designed to ease pressure on the bank as it works to restore stability amid the unexpected departure of chief executive Kenneth Lewis at the end of 2009.

The board voted to waive the privilege on Friday. On Monday, the bank informed Mr. Cuomo’s office that it had reversed course and was waiving its privilege.

The shift will likely result in the bank handing over troves of documents — including emails and memos between Bank of America and its outside law firms — to the federal, state and Congressional officials who are investigating the Merrill purchase.

BofA’s move will likely reveal exactly what advice was provided by outside firms Wachtell, Lipton Rosen & Katz, which represented Bank of America during the Merrill transaction and a long and trusted advisor to the bank, as well as Merrill’s counsel, Shearman & Sterling LLP.

“You can see where this is going,” said James Cox, a law professor at Duke University. “This is going to get to the down and dirty question of what counsel did say and did not say, what counsel meant and did not mean.”

Now what will be really interesting, given that when this shotgun wedding took place it was the government carrying the shotgun, is what all this might tell us about the role of federal authorities, particularly Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson. It would probably be too much to hope that those officials could face charges, or even civil liability, for misleading BofA shareholders. But a guy can dream, I guess.

Ceausescu’s ghost; Or, trawling through all the poison for a part that isn’t contaminated, however small.

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:03 pm
Tags: , ,

Moving from the Nobel Peace Prize to the Nobel Prize in Literature, I tip my hat to Digby for steering me to this July interview with newly minted laureate Herta Müller, published in Germany’s Die Zeit. She relates some harrowing incidents from her life as a writer during the reign of the madman Ceausescu. This incident came shortly after she was hounded out of her job as a techbnical translator at a factory (all emphases in the original):

Then came the interrogations. The reproaches: that I wasn’t looking for a job, that I was living from prostitution, black market dealings, as a “parasitic element“. Names were mentioned that I had never heard in my life. And espionage for the BND (West German Intelligence Service) because I was friendly with a librarian at the Goethe Institute and an interpreter at the German Embassy. Hours and hours of fictitious reproaches. But not only that. They needed no summons, they simply plucked me off the street.

I was on my way to the hairdresser’s when a policeman escorted me through a narrow metal door into the basement of a hall of residence. Three men in plain clothes were sitting at a table. A small bony one was the boss. He demanded to see my identity card and said: “Well, you whore, here we meet again.” I had never seen him before. He said I was having sex with eight Arab students in exchange for tights and cosmetics. I didn’t know a single Arab student. When I told him this, he replied: “If we want to, we’ll find 20 Arabs as witnesses. You’ll see, it’ll make for a splendid trial.” Time and again he would throw my identity card on the floor, and I had to bend down and pick it up. Thirty or forty times maybe; when I got slower, he kicked me in the small of my back. And from behind the door at the end of the table I heard a woman’s voice screaming. Torture or rape, just a tape recording, I hoped. Then I was forced to eat eight hard boiled eggs and green onions with salt. I forced the stuff down. Then the bony man opened the metal door, threw my identity card outside and kicked me in the rear. I fell with my face in the grass beside some bushes. I vomited without raising my head. Without hurrying I picked up my identity card and headed home. Being pulled in from the street was more terrifying than a summons. No one would have known where you were. You could have disappeared, and never shown up again or, as they had threatened earlier, you could be pulled out of the river, a drowned corpse. The verdict would have been suicide.

A security apparatus like this degrades the very culture and social fabric of a country, because a security apparatus like this involves not only wiretapping but also informants. Müller tells this story, from when she and her husband, Richard Wagner, had left Romania for Germany:

My file at least answered one painful question. A year after my departure from Romania, Jenny came to visit in Berlin. Since the time of the harassment in the factory she had been my closest friend. Even after I was sacked we saw each other almost daily. But when I saw her passport in our Berlin kitchen, and the additional visas for France and Greece, I confronted her directly: “You don’t get a passport like that for nothing, what did you do to get it?” Her answer: “The secret service has sent me, and I was desperate to see you again.” Jenny had cancer – she is long dead now. She told me that her task was to investigate our flat and our daily habits. When we get up and go to bed, where we do our shopping and what we buy. On her return, she promised, she would only pass on what had been agreed between us. She lived with us, wanted to stay for a month. With each day my distrust grew. After just a couple of days I rummaged through her suitcase and found the telephone number of the Romanian consulate and a copy of our door key. After that I lived with the suspicion that in all probability she had been spying on me from the outset, her friendship just part of the job. After her return, I see from the file, she delivered a detailed description of the flat and of our habits, as “SURSA (source) SANDA”.

But in a bugging protocol from 21 December, 1984, a note in the margin, next to Jenny’s name, reads: “We must identify JENI, apparently there is great trust between them.” This friendship, which meant so much to me, was ruined by her visit to Berlin, a terminally ill cancer patient lured into betrayal after chemotherapy. The copied key made it clear that Jenny had fulfilled her task behind our backs. I had to ask her to leave our Berlin flat at once. I had to chase my closest friend out in order to protect myself and Richard Wagner from her assignment. This tangle of love and betrayal was unavoidable. A thousand times I have turned her visit over in my mind, mourned our friendship, discovering to my disbelief that after my emigration, Jenny had a relationship with a Securitate officer. Today I am glad, for the file shows that our intimacy had grown naturally and had not been arranged by the secret service, and that Jenny didn’t spy on me until after my emigration. You become grateful for small mercies. That my file proves that the feelings between us were real, almost makes me happy now.

There’s just one problem. Twenty years after the madman was put up against a wall, Müller says, huge chunks of his security state still remain, intruding on and intimidating the populace and leeching off the country:

For me each journey to Romania is also a journey into another time, in which I never knew which events in my life were coincidence and which were staged. This is why I have, in each and every public statement I have made, demanded access to the secret files kept on me which, under various pretexts, has invariably been denied me. Instead, each time there was signs that I was once again, that is to say, still under observation.

In spring earlier this year I visited Bucharest, on the invitation of the NEC (New European College). On the first day I was sitting in the hotel lobby with a journalist and a photographer when a muscular security guard inquired about a permit and tried to tear the camera from the photographer’s hands. “No photos allowed on the premises, nor of any people on the premises,” he bellowed. On the evening of the second day I had arranged to have dinner with a friend who, as we had agreed on the phone, came to pick me up from the hotel at six o’clock. As he turned into the street in which the hotel was situated, he noticed a man following him. When he asked to call me at the reception, the receptionist said he would have to fill in a visitors form first. This frightened him because such a thing was unheard of, even under Ceausescu.

My friend and I walked to the restaurant. Again and again he suggested that we cross to the other side of the street. I thought nothing of it. Not until the following day did he tell Andrei Plesu, the Director of the NEC, about the visitor’s form and that a man had followed him on his way to the hotel, and later the two of us to the restaurant. Andrei Plesu was infuriated and sent his secretary to cancel all bookings at the hotel. The hotel manager lied that it was the receptionist’s first day at work and that she had made a mistake. But the secretary knew the lady, she had worked in the reception for years and years. The manager replied that the “patron”, the owner of the hotel, was a former Securitate man who, unfortunately, would not change his ways. Then he smiled and said that by all means the NEC could cancel its bookings with him, but that it would be the same in other hotels of the same standard. The only difference being that you wouldn’t know.

I checked out. After that I didn’t notice anyone else following me. Either the secret service had backed off, or they worked professionally, i.e. unnoticed.

In order to know that a shadow was needed at six o’clock, my phone must have been tapped. Ceausescu’s secret police, the Securitate, has not disbanded, just given another name, the SRI (Romanian Information Service). And according to their own figures, 40% of the staff was taken on from the Securitate. The real percentage is probably much higher. And the remaining 60% are retired and living on pensions that are three times higher than those of everybody else, or they are the new architects of the market economy. Apart from jobs in the diplomatic corps, a former spy in today’s Romania can attain any post.

Life in a surveillance state is degrading, which is only one of many good reasons why the Constitution requires warrants for it. But even without your best friend informing on you, the wiretapping is bad enough — which, unfortunately, is a concept our newly minted Nobel Peace laureate seems to have trouble grasping.

Sunday, October 11, 2009 5:29 pm

They write letters

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 5:29 pm

I actually got the following e-mail. This is hilarious.

* * *

[Note:  The following letter went out to Tea Party Organizers.  You are
receiving this mailing because you were listed on one of the Tea Party
sites as a contact for news items.  This is a one-time mailing regarding
this issue.  However, if you would like to be removed permanently from
the mailing list regarding any future initiatives, please mail me at expressing your wishes.  To avoid problem, please include
your email address from the header of this message, as I have no other
conclusive way of identifying you.  Regards, [name withheld to prevent undue embarrassment of the sender -- Lex]


Dear Tea Party Members:

First, I want to express my deepest appreciation to everyone who has been
involved in all aspects of organizing, promoting and participating in the
Tea Party events.  The willingness of people to devote so much time and
energy in the name of preserving liberty and restoring our lost rights is
amazing, and inspiring.  Just when despair sets in and you begin to think
that the United States might be down for the count, the American people do
what they have always done -- fight back for their independence!  But this
time, instead of a waging a physical battle with guns, we are engaged in a
battle of ideology.  Ideas are our weapon, with truth and principles as our

I am impressed at how well the organizers have done at keeping up the
momentum by staging a continuing series of creative events.  The town hall
protests over the summer were a staggering success and the 9/12 march on
Washington, although minimized, misrepresented or ignored by the main
stream media, still had tremendous impact on the politicians, no matter how
much they denied it.  Let's go back to Washington, this time two or three
million strong, but with a well defined and financed advertising campaign
that does not rely upon the moribund media.  This campaign should be
designed to insure that our message is conveyed accurately to the rest of
the country.  And then we will keep returning in ever-growing numbers until
our government finally acknowledges that we too are American citizens!

During the month of October we are all working diligently to keep the
cowards in Congress from sneaking a health care bill through the back
door after discovering that they could not do it honestly, in the bright
light of day.  We must also stop the disastrous cap-and-trade legislation
that would certainly destroy our economy.  Once again, the President has
demonstrated his utter contempt for the American people by completely
bypassing the normal legislative process and having the EPA, a regulatory
agency under his purview, declare CO2 as a "pollutant", so that his
draconian policies can be implemented without the need for scientific
scrutiny or public review and debate.  My hope is that the October Surprise
will be a trick for Congress and a treat for the the rest of us!

The reason I am writing is that I want to bring another important issue
to everyone's attention.  During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama
repeatedly spoke about his deep commitment to national service.  In our
President's view, we are not sovereign individuals possessing unalienable
rights protected by the Constitution.  Instead, as a thoroughgoing
collectivist, he views "society" as the fundamental political unit and
the sole repository of rights, with people as merely the raw material of
that society -- a natural resource to be applied by the collective's whim
and will to those societal issues and problems deemed by the controlling
elite (i.e., by him) to be worth addressing.  If you think about this for
a moment, I believe that you will see that this perspective makes sense of
every one of his subsequent actions, from his calmly believing that he can
make all of our personal decision for us, whether in the realm of executive
pay or health care, to his belief that he has the power and authority to
control every aspects of our economy.  And as we are the clay in his hands,
he intends to shape us as required to achieving his purpose, by instituting
mandatory service requirements for every citizen, effectively making us
all slaves of the state.  Here is what Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had to

    "Citizenship is not an entitlement program.  It comes with
    responsibilities.... Everybody--somewhere between the ages 18 and
    25--will serve three months of basic training and understanding in
    a kind of civil defense.  That universal sense of service--somewhere
    between the ages of 18 and 25--will give Americans, once again, a sense
    of what they are to be American and their contribution to a country and
    a common experience."

Get that?  Rahm knows that you don't have any idea what it means to be
an American, so he plans to place you and everyone in your family into
a re-education program that will ensure that you learn what a "proper
American" is and how they act!

Barack has been a little busy lately with some of his other plans for us,
so he hasn't gotten around to trying to implement this national service
requirement -- yet.  But that doesn't mean that this program lies dormant.
On the contrary!  And just like all of his other schemes, this one is
being snuck in under the radar in a truly despicable manner.  You might
remember that earlier this year that the "Serve America Act" was passed,
transferring an additional $6,000,000,000 (yes, that's 6 billion) of
taxpayer money to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

And what is this organization doing with all those additional funds.  Well,
a good chunk of it is being funneled into the National Service-Learning
Partnership, which is working very diligently to get every school in this
country to institute "service-learning" programs, which is just a fancy bit
of double-speak for "mandatory community service" programs for all students
from Kindergarten up, with rigid service requirement on all high school
students which must be met in order for them to graduate.  In other words,
every child in this country is being forced into indentured servitude,
in direct violation of the 5th and 13th amendments of our Constitution.
According to reports I have read, over half of the public schools across
the country have already instituted these mandatory requirements.

Channeling Rahm Emanuel, Ron Waldman, the Head of the Meridian School in
Seattle, WA, stated it this way:

    "Service is the rent you pay for living on earth, and it starts in
    elementary school.  By the time they leave 5th grade, we want our kids
    to feel that this is part of the fabric of who they are.  It's not
    whether I should or shouldn't serve the community, but how.  That's
    just what we do."

And this is very representative of statements made by teachers and school
administrators across the country.  Our public schools are rapidly being
transformed into indoctrination camps, brainwashing the youth to see the
social philosophy promoted by Obama and the progressives as simply the
unquestioned norm.  They are being taught that they must suppress their
own dreams and plans, placing the needs of society or the community above
their own.  And in this way, their enthusiasm and independence is slowly

There is much more to be said on this subject, and I have created a website
which analyzes the philosophical and moral underpinnings of this movement.
I have also created a running blog which track ongoing developments in
the arena of mandatory service.  Please take a look and read all the
gory details.  I would appreciate it if you could also make all of your
organization's members aware of this site.  It is extremely important that
we get the word out to as many people as possible about this action which
is not being reported on in the main stream press.  It would be of great
help if you could also announce the site at your October rallies, and I
would also encourage you to write about this issue on your own websites,
blogs or newsletters, and to send letters to the editor or write articles
for your local papers expressing your outrage at what is being done to our

The assault on our freedoms is pervasive, and it may seem difficult to
focus on yet another area of attack, but I believe that this issue is one
of the most important to our future.  While health care and cap-and-trade
will have devastating economic consequences, we could shoulder those
burdens as we continued to work for a better future.  But if mandatory
national service becomes the law of the land, then we will have, once
and for all, abandoned the fundamental principle of individualism at
the core of our Constitution, which is the underpinning of all of our
rights and freedoms.  We will have truly become servants to the state,
with the fundamental relationship between the government and its citizens
permanently inverted.  Please work with me to stop that from becoming a

At my site you will also find an initiative called the John Galt Pledge.
As most readers of this letter will probably already be aware, this pledge
was the concise summation of Ayn Rand's moral philosophy outlined in her
novel Atlas Shrugged.  In conjunction with that pledge, I have written a
"Personal Declaration of Independence" as follows:

     "I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the
     sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

     I take this pledge as a personal Declaration of Independence.  As a
     sovereign individual, I assert the exclusive right to my life, my
     liberty and my property, as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.  As
     government is properly instituted to protect my rights, I oppose, and
     declare as unconstitutional, all actions taken by government that
     violate the very rights it is charged with defending.  I support a
     return to the principle of individualism upon which this country was
     founded.  And rejecting any initiation of the use of force as being
     wholy inappropriate, I support a society based strictly upon voluntary
     association and free trade among its people.

This is the pledge that I make to myself, as a personal commitment to
proudly stand in the face of opposition and defend my rights and my freedom.
I ask anyone else who understands these words and wished to also publically
proclaim it to the world, to add their voice to a movement for a return to
the principle upon which this country was founded.  And they can start by
adding their name to the growing list at this site.

Thank you for your time and attention.

In Liberty,

[Name withheld to prevent undue embarrassment -- Lex]

* * *

If you’re still reading at this point, you’re doing better than I did, at least the first time around.

I was gonna just ignore it, but then I decided that perhaps this was what the liberals call a teachable moment. So, whacked up on anti-allergens and cold medicine, I penned a reply:

* * *

Dear (name withheld to prevent undue embarrassment):

I’m flattered to be listed on a Tea Party site as a contact for news items. But you need to know the following things:

1) Ayn Rand badly needed an editor.

2) No, she REALLY needed an editor.

3) Objectivism is a pseudo-intellectual attempt to justify selfishness in moral terms. It fails because five thousand years of philosophy and moral inquiry have pretty well determined that there’s no way to justify selfishness in moral terms and ten thousand years of civilization has determined that pure selfishness is a drag on, not an impetus toward, improved quality of life.

4) For the overwhelming majority of people, “Going Galt” is a masturbatory fantasy. Are you capable of safely and effectively obtaining/providing clean and safe air, food and water; practical and sufficient clothing and shelter against the elements; adequate health care; and satisfactory outlets for productivity and creativity for yourself and those you love, all on your own? If so, great, go knock yourself out. If not, shut up.

5) “Going Galt” also is based upon the notion that some people are parasites. It’s true. Some are, but not all parasites are parasites in the ways that Ayn Rand thinks. Some people really are welfare cheats. But a significant number of corporate and investment-bank executives also are parasites, and on a far larger scale than the welfare cheats. (As a former musician, I have first-hand exposure to this phenomenon, and I am laughing my ASS off at the implosion of the record industry.) Moreover, they have a vested interest in maintaining a system that denies millions of people the opportunity to develop their full potentials — that is, to move closer to the Randian ideal you espouse — because maintaining that system makes it easier for them to denounce those millions as parasites, thus deflecting attention from their use of the system to steal from the very people they denounce.

6) Our large, complex society has evolved the way it has for a reason: The most important milestones and achievements we reach today are almost uniformly the result of collective effort not because of any conscious choice but because it’s the ONLY way those achievements can be brought about. Breakthroughs are the result, most often, of incremental advances, not quantum leaps, and the most effective way to achieve incrementalism is to have lots of people working on lots of different increments at once.

7) The American people do NOT always fight back for their independence. If they did, George Bush and his minions would be in prison for crimes including but not limited to murder, illegal military invasion, illegal and unconstitutional domestic wiretapping and fraud. And this isn’t just about Bush. We have been watching our rights erode for decades, typically under the rubric of “national defense” in response to “the Communist threat,” and not lifting a damn finger.

8) What is the “ideology” of the Tea Party movement? Lower taxes? Our taxes already are among the lowest of any Western industrialized democracy. Less federal spending? Knock yourself out, dude, but in an era of shrinking GDP, federal spending, though distasteful, is essential to prevent further erosion of employment. In fact, although it’s not politically popular to say so, a bulletproof macroeconomic case can be made for far more federal spending, appropriately targeted, than is going on right now.

9) The town hall protests over the summer were a “staggering success” if, by “staggering success,” you mean a) a corroder of civil discourse, and b) an actual booster of public approval of Democratic health-care reform proposals. Yeah, approval rates are up. Go look it up. is your friend.

10) The town hall protests could not be MISrepresented because the protesters themselves offered such diffuse, varied and even contradictory messages. In fact, when one compares their significance with the tens of thousands of Americans who die annually as the direct result of lack of adequate health insurance, a strong if not bulletproof case can be made that those protests were OVERcovered and that the true “silent majority” in America favors the kind of reform that health-care insurers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and their lobbyists and Congressional whores definitely do not want.

11) It is delusional to suggest that a health care bill is being sneaked through the back door in Congress. No fewer than three House and two Senate committees have held open, public hearings and votes on health care. Mainstream media coverage, although too often focused on the politics rather than the substance and too often assuming as given some anti-reform assertions that in fact are not true, has been substantially deeper on this issue than on such other recent, major issues as Medicare Part D, torture, wiretapping and the decision on invading Iraq.

12) Although the merits of cap-and-trade are debatable, particularly with respect to any other specific policy proposal, it is by no means clear that the measure would be “disastrous,” particularly given our inclination to privatize benefits and socialize costs of … well, just about everything we do.

13) It is ludicrous, in the aftermath of the most anti-science administration in American history, to hear anyone suggest that this administration is attempting to proceed “without the need for scientific scrutiny.” Tell it, just for starters, to the brave volunteers to whom our government lied about the effects on their health of working at Ground Zero after 9/11.

14) Show me anything in President Obama’s public or private statements, pronouncements or actions that provides any support whatever for the notion that he views “society” as “the sole repository of rights.” Go on. I’ll wait.

15) Still waiting.

16) While you’re looking, show me anything in that same realm that indicates he believes he can “make all of our personal decisions for us, whether in the realm of executive pay and health care.” Again, go on. I’ll wait.

17) Still waiting.

18) While you’re looking, listen: What he ACTUALLY believes is that a) executives of a private concern that has survived to this point only because of massive infusions of public money (the merits of those infusions side; I happen to believe most if not all were unwarranted) should in fact be answerable to taxpayers for their compensation (and, even in corporations that haven’t gotten tax money, should be answerable to THE CORPORATION’S OWNERS in a way they simply are not right now because of a system rigged to the benefit of corporate officers), and b) the private health-care system has become so monopolistic on a state-to-state level (and this fact is borne out by objective market-share data) that something must re-introduce competition to the marketplace and the only entity big enough to do that is government.

19) Here’s something else to look for: anything in Obama’s public or private pronouncements that we must be slaves of the state. Being a citizen of this country involves certain obligations as well as certain rights; the one is the price we pay for the benefit of the other. It’s a free exchange. If you don’t like it, leave. We pay taxes, we serve on juries, because doing so is an essential part of the framework by which our rights are guaranteed. It’s not a contradiction; it’s a real-world acknowledgment that complex organizations function in complex ways through complex arrangements.

20) Rahm Emanuel can say whatever he likes. It’s a free country. But Rahm Emanuel has a big mouth, as even the president has acknowledged. We have seen in the health-care debate that, although his position should, in effect, make him a channel of the president’s thoughts, Emanuel is perfectly capable of going off the reservation.

21) Even if Obama believed in mandatory national service, so what? a) Many other democracies, such as Switzerland and Israel, have mandatory national service, and no one considers them tyrannies in that regard; b) mandatory national service is favored by a number in Congress; and c) the number in Congress who favor it is nowhere close to the majorities required for it to become reality in this country.

22) We educate children at no direct cost to them, because we believe doing so benefits society in the long term. Do you oppose the notion of implementing a mechanism by which society gets a faster return on its investment? If so, fine — at least that’s a consistent, logical policy position. If not, what do you oppose about this particular mechanism and what would you do differently?

23) At various times in our country’s history, we have required our children to pray in school to a Christian God and to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to a piece of cloth (as well as to the intangible but highly desirable values that cloth symbolizes). How, in nature, is what Emanuel proposes any different?

24) Your “pledge” of autonomy is a cheap and meaningless gesture, given that whether you like it or not, there are police officers, firefighters, teachers, docs, nurses, paramedics, public-health professionals, military-service members and others who will act on your behalf, for your benefit, whether you like it or not without, in certain circumstances, your even being aware of it.

Son, lots of people read Ayn Rand at 17 and are impressed. Those still impressed 10 years later typically have little experience of how the country works in and of itself, how it works in comparison and relationship to other countries, and what our real-world alternatives are.

My ancestors fought honorably for this country in locales stretching from Korea back to Kings Mountain and Cowpens. I take a back seat to no one in my love for it. But I’ve also spent 50 years watching how things work, and don’t work, in the real world, and one of the things I learned is that Ayn Rand was a novelist, not a social scientist, for a reason.

If you would, please remove me from your mailing list.

All best,

Lex Alexander

* * *

This story actually has a happy ending, perhaps because, uncharacteristically, I managed to say that everything he was claiming was silly without actually using the word “silly.” At any rate, he wrote back:

Hi Lex:

As requested, you have been removed from the mailing list. I am sorry to have disturbed you.

I did get a kick out of your message and may have to frame it for my wall. I think my initiative and your message neatly sum up the division in our country today. We certainly have different ways of looking at these important issues!


(name withheld to prevent undue embarrassment)

There. See? People can disagree without being disagreeable. As long as he’s not putting my message up on the wall for a darts target, I think he and I are good now.

The kid is all right

Filed under: Wildcats — Lex @ 9:49 am

With regular starter Stephen Jackson suspended for two games, Stephen Curry got the start last night for Golden State against the Suns. How’d he do?

In 37:18, he scored 18, going 6-12 from the field (2-5 from behind the arc), 4-4 from the stripe, with 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 TOs and a block. On defense, he held the Suns’ Steve Nash to 2 points.

Saturday, October 10, 2009 3:20 pm

Jon Kyl, lucky duckies* and the nature of the 21st-century recessions

One of the defining characteristics of the U.S.’s more recent recessions has been the length of time it has taken the employment rate to return to its pre-recession peak.

It’s going to be a long, long time before employment returns to the levels whence it plunged to the current 9.8% unemployment valley. And Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona doesn’t give a rat’s hind end:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tried to accelerate the usual lengthy process in order to take a quick vote on proposed bill H.R. 3548 to give federal unemployment benefits extension to all 50 states but Kyl halted his efforts, calling for more time to consider the bill and possibly add amendments to it. …

This means that the bill has no chance of a vote this week, as Senate Dems had indicated was likely, but rather the earliest can pass is next week. So for the thousands whose benefits will run out soon, let alone those whose benefits have already run out, you have Jon Kyl to thank for not getting this extension passed sooner.

This isn’t going to hurt just a few people:

As Congress debates the measure, 400,000 people ran out of benefits in September and another 208,000 are set to lose them this month, according to the National Employment Law Project. Some 1.4 million people will stop receiving checks by year’s end if Congress doesn’t act, according to the employment law project.

The chorus calling for a benefits extension grew louder after the government reported on Friday that unemployment hit a 26-year high of 9.8% in September. Employers shed a higher-than-expected 263,000 jobs last month.

If you’d like to tell Kyl’s minions what you think of his economic strategy, you can get info here. Remember: You don’t need to be loud to be firm.

Maybe this shows I have no aptitude for Congress, but if I were Harry Reid, I think I’d tell Kyl I didn’t give a rat’s hind end what he wanted and would just pass the damn extension before any senator would be allowed to go home for the weekend.

Because, although I seldom make political predictions, I won’t hesitate to predict that the outcomes in 2010 and 2012 will be based primarily on who is doing more, or who can make it look as if they’re doing more, to help those without jobs, directly, as in this case, and via job creation.

And because Obama has proclaimed it a virtue for an administration to be able to keep multiple balls in the air, I’d like for someone with talent to be looking into why the dips in employment are taking longer to go away, what we can do about that, and whether there’s anything we can do to stop it in the first place. But that’s just me.

*Go here if you don’t get the reference

Freedom isn’t free. So how much of it do you want, and will that be cash, check or credit card?

Lots of people like to say that. dday, bless him/her, decides to examine the real-world ramifications:

“Warmongers have had the great luxury in this country of never having to justify their costs. Not just the human costs, but the real financial costs to constant military buildup. The usual retort is that you can’t put a price on human lives. If that was the case, there would be no requirement for budget neutrality in health care reform, something that could save as many as 45,000 lives annually – the people who die from a lack of health insurance.”

The fact of the matter is that we’ve put a price on human lives, and even freedom, for a long time in a variety of contexts. Car companies weighed the costs of improving safety features in cars against the cost of payments to survivors of those who died because of their lack. Hell, even in World War II, the government weighed the economics, not just the military benefits, of making the P-51 its first-line fighter in the European theatre, a subplot touched upon, among other places, in Len Deighton’s best-selling novel “Goodbye, Mickey Mouse.”

National defense is essential. But not every step we take today to defend the nation is essential (and, on the flip, we’re probably omitting some steps that ARE essential — and wouldn’t it be ironic if we were doing so in part because of cost)? Each step, each option can and must be subjected to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, in isolation and in context. The phrase “wars of choice” isn’t an oxymoron.

Who knew?

Filed under: Ew. — Lex @ 2:44 pm
Tags: ,

Apparently, underage Latin American boys are now eligible to compete in the Miss America pageant.

Needed: tort reform

Criminal lawyer Constantine Xinos holds certain libertarian political principles. That’s his perfect right.

He chooses to be something of a jackass in expressing them. That’s also his perfect right. Indeed, far be it from me to criticize someone else simply for being a jackass in the expression of viewpoints.

But he chooses, in addition, to bully children. And that’s where my sympathy swings from him toward the Teamsters.

(h/t: Ed)

“Tort reform,” lawyers, malpractice and health-care reform

You no doubt believe, in significant part because a lot of people who ought to know better are saying so, that malpractice insurance is a big and preventable part of our huge health-care costs.

It’s an attractive scenario, not least because it makes lawyers the bad guys. Just one problem: It’s not true.

Also, a lot of people will be making a big deal out of a Congressional Budget Office report that “tort reform” would save $54 billion from federal deficits during the next 10 years — $41 billion in spending reductions and $13 billion in new revenue.

That’s not peanuts … except in the case of what the U.S. spends for health care. We spend roughly $2.4 trillion every year on it. So these savings would be the equivalent of saving a nickel on a $24 restaurant tab.

Here are the relevant facts about medical malpractice:

  • A disproportionately small number of health-care professionals is responsible for a disproportionately large percentage of malpractice claims.
  • This can happen because the states and professions do not adequately police their own. In particular, details on every malpractice claim, merited and unmerited alike, need to go into a publicly available national database.
  • The biggest driver of malpractice-insurance premiums isn’t malpractice-suit judgments or settlements, it’s the performance of the insurers’ own investments. This was true a long time before last year, when all the markets went to hell.
  • The fact that doctors push patients toward diagnostics and treatments in which they have a financial interest is a far bigger driver than all malpractice-associated costs.

This information has been publicly available and factually undisputed far too long for the misinformation to be entirely accidental. So we must ask ourselves: Who benefits from having this misinformation out there?

Well, because malpractice patients’ lawyers tend to donate disproportionately to Democrats, and because the targets of suits against doctors, hospitals, and drug and device makers tend to be run disproportionately by Republicans, you can argue that Republicans benefit financially and politically.

Of course, you also can argue that, financially and politically, Republicans would benefit equally, if not more so, from an actual reduction in malpractice, following some of the steps suggested above. But where would the fun be in that?

UPDATE: From the comments, Mark Baird adds ammunition to the argument that talk about “tort reform” is just a distraction:

Following is a [Government Accountability Office] report on medical malpractice [that] could not find any evidence to substantiate the claims of lawsuits impacting health care costs, access to health care or defensive medicine (with one possible lose connection relating to OBGYN). But of course you will not see this report on any media outlet swinging left or right.

Remember the CBO report regarding the cost of a single payer system that we all grasped to support our arguments against a single payer system…

Well, there is the CBO report which had this to say about tort reform:

“But even large savings in premiums can have only a small direct impact on health care spending–private or governmental–because malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of that spending.”

And of course there is Tillinghast-Towers Perrin (one of the largest in the world that provides risk management for the insurance and reinsurance industry).

According to the actuarial consulting firm Towers Perrin, medical malpractice tort costs were $30.4 billion in 2007, the last year for which data are available. We have a more than a $2 trillion health care system. That puts litigation costs and malpractice insurance at 1 to 1.5 percent of total medical costs. That’s a rounding error. Liability isn’t even the tail on the cost dog. It’s the hair on the end of the tail.

Of that 1 to 1.5 percent what portion of that is “frivolous”? (Page 10)

And then of course the report from Towers Perrin that states that the total tort cost in the US is 2% of the GDP. What percentage of that is “frivolous” and of that percentage what percentage is “frivolous” corporate lawsuits. So how much are “frivolous” lawsuits driving up the cost of everything? Maybe less than 2 cents on the dollar or maybe even less the 1 cent on the dollar?

Housing balloon 2.0

Filed under: We're so screwed,You're doing WHAT with my money?? — Lex @ 1:53 pm

Full disclosure: I’ve got an FHA mortgage. But I had to provide bulletproof documentation of our income to get it, and our down payment was WELL above the current mandatory minimum of 3.5%.

That out of the way, if you’ve ever wondered how you might go about re-inflating a popped housing balloon, here’s how:

The FHA program’s volumes have quadrupled since 2006 as private lenders and insurers pulled back amid the U.S. housing slump, [consultant and former Fannie Mae executive Edward] Pinto said. The jump has left the agency backing risky loans and exposed to fraud in a “market where prices have yet to stabilize,” he said.

Well, that’s just great. And the likely cost to taxpayers? $54 billion in the next 24 to 36 months, Pinto said.

Get out of town! That’s just nuts, said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

Uh, no, not exactly:

“About 14.4 percent of FHA loans were delinquent as of June 30 and 2.98 percent were already being foreclosed upon, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The combined percentage for all mortgages was a record 13.16 percent, according to data from the Washington-based trade group, which said the share of FHA loans past due is being suppressed by the large amount of new debt …

… because, for those of you not following the bouncing ball, some of the problems with the new FHA debt have yet to come to light.

But they will. And you, O Citizen, are on the hook for them.

Lies and the lying liars who govern us

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 1:41 pm
Tags: ,

If you lie to the government, it’s years in prison and a fine that’s probably several multiples of your annual income.

But if the government lies to you, particularly your investments, hey, it’s just doing what it has to do.

That little nugget, buried at the bottom of a NYT article this week, is elaborated upon by the Wall Street Cheat Sheet:

If you or anyone you know still believes the government (or the media) tell us only the truth, please pass them this direct admission that lying is a primary strategic device for so-called “authority figures”:

[T]he Treasury Department said that any review of [patently misleading and false] announcements last year “must be considered in light of the unprecedented circumstances in which they were made.”

Translation: when our elected representatives and their appointed officials believe we need to be manipulated, they rationalize their lies based on whether they think we need them at the time.

I am not naive. I firmly believe we have a problem with ignorance and sheeple in our country. However, the only way to fix the problem is to distribute more accurate information — not the opposite. Further, for those of us who work hard to stay educated, we expect to be treated like adults!

In this specific case, the Treasury Department’s lies (via Hank Paulson) encouraged people to hold their investments. Therefore, if you listened to Paulson et al, you literally lost your hard earned money and life savings. Last time I checked, citizens should not expect to get fiscally hosed by their Treasury Secretary.

Say it with me, kids: Rigged. Game.

Friday, October 9, 2009 10:32 pm

Frank & Christine, 10/3/2009

I just posted about a 40-shot photo album from the wedding on Facebook/Flickr, but I thought I’d also post some of my faves here.

Christine and bridesmaid Avana right before the procession

Christine and bridesmaid Avana right before the procession

Frank and his girls await Avana and Christine as they come down the aisle.

Frank and his girls await Avana and Christine as they come down the aisle.

Frank reads his vows

Frank reads his vows

OK, all nice n legal now

OK, all nice 'n' legal now

Christine and Mom

Christine and Mom

The blended family -- IDs on the Flickr page

The blended family -- IDs on the Flickr page

Because no lakeside wedding is complete without a homicidal chain-saw wielding maniac.

Because no lakeside wedding is complete without a homicidal chain-saw wielding maniac.



Just after sunset

Just after sunset

Barack Hussein Obama, Nobel Peaze Prize laureate

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:30 pm

This was what was on my radio when it woke me up this morning, and the first thing I thought was: The Onion has a radio show now?

I mean, c’mon, by what possible standard does Obama deserve this, especially inasmuch as nominations were due Feb. 1?

But as I got some more coffee into me, I got to thinking.

First of all, it’s a little late to worry about debasing the currency of glorious human achievement. I mean, when Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat get Nobels for peace, Irony, ladies and gentlemen, has well and truly left the building. George W. Bush gave Presidential Medals of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a man who, to be kind, has a lot of innocent blood on his hands, as well as to a whole passel of supporters of the illegal invasion of Iraq. (And he refused to give one to J.K. Rowling, although whether it’s because her “Harry Potter” novel series encourages witchcraft or because she lacked the requisite amounts of innocent blood on her hands, I can’t say.) Hell, Watergate/firebombing conspirator Chuck Colson got the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian award, to mark — wait for it — Human Rights Day.

Heck, in 1976, Starland Vocal Band won the Best New Artist Grammy over Elvis Costello.

So you can argue about qualifications all you want, but, dude, that train left the station years ago.

So I sipped my coffee and got to wondering: Hmm. What is likely to happen as a result of this award?

Will we be an inch closer to world peace? Don’t be silly.

But will Rush Limbaugh’s head explode? Probably. Sean Hannity’s? Yep. Thomas Sowell’s? Indubitably. Cal Thomas? Uh, like, duh. Glenn Beck’s? To the extent that he has a head, yes, although to you and me it’ll look sort of like popping a pimple. Ann Coulter’s? Absolutely. Michelle Malkin’s? Yepperino.

Achieving world peace it ain’t, but causing all that mayhem amid the Axis of Stoopidity will be of unquestionable benefit to humanity, I decided. It’ll even be entertaining. Oh, hell, who are we kidding, it’ll be funny.

And all else being equal, when we’re all laughing, we’re closer to world peace than when we aren’t.

And with that, I finished my coffee and headed off to work … where I read this from my friend Vanessa’s friend Roz: “Yo, Barack, I’ma let you finish, but I just wanted to say that Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng has had the best effect on peace of all time, yo. Most peaceful dude of all time.”

Best Iran policy analysis ever.

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:17 am
Tags: , ,

Courtesy of our friends at Fafblog!:

Q: What should we do with Iran?
A. All options are on the table. …

Q: What about bombing their cities and burning their children and raping their livestock and feeding their people to thousands of millions of man-eating ants and piling their skulls into a heaping bonfire on the White House lawn while the President and the Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff dance naked in circles ejaculating wildly into the flesh-filled smoke? Is that on the table?
A: It would be irresponsible for this option not to be on the table, given that all other options, as we have said, are on the table.
Q: What about leaving Iran alone? Is that on the table?
A: No. That is not on the table, because it is not an option.
Q: Are you sure? It looks like an option.
A: It may look like an option, but in fact it is the East Tunisian mock option, which over the course of many years has evolved to mimic the distinctive coloring and plumage of the true American option, in order to better evade and intimidate predators.

Let’s see Juan Cole top THAT.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 8:23 pm

“Corporate Communism”

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:23 pm
Tags: , ,

MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan’s neologism for the way things currently are run in this country may be more catchy than strictly correct. But the problems he identifies (guest-posting at Zero Hedge) are quite real and quite dangerous to our long-term economic health:

As Americans, I believe we reject Communism because it historically has allowed a tiny group of people to consolidate complete control over national resources (including people), in the process stifling competition, freedom and choice. It leaves its citizens stagnating under the perpetual broken systems with no natural motivation to innovate, improve services or reduce costs.

Lack of choice, lazy, unresponsive customer service, a culture of exploitation and a small powerbase formed by cronyism and nepotism are the hallmarks of a communist system that steals from its citizenry and a major reason why America spent half a century fighting a Cold War with the U.S.S.R.

And yet today we find ourselves as a country in two distinctly different categories: those who are forced to compete tooth and nail each day to provide value to society in return for income for ourselves and our families and those who would instead use our lawmaking apparatus to help themselves to our tax money and/or to protect themselves from true competition.

Go read the whole thing, which isn’t long — and then read the comments to learn what you can do about it. I particularly like this anonymous one: “Our democratic votes every year (or 4 [years] for most) are irrelevant when compared to our economic votes.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 8:50 pm

My first and last bit of investing advice …

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:50 pm
Tags: ,

… comes from Forbes, via Marketwatch’s Paul Farrell: Don’t invest.

No, really, that’s pretty much what he says, at least as it comes to individual stocks:

No wonder “too-stupid-to-fail” banks prefer gambling with [high-frequency-trading]-Quants over helping small commercial banking customers. This is their cash cow generating future earnings: As Forbes recently put it in “The New Masters of Wall Street” “… even as financial markets collapsed last year, high-frequency traders collectively enjoyed $21 billion in gross profit” while “some high-frequency traders are sending out 1,000 orders a second.”

Worse yet, if America’s 95 million individual investors do try to play this new game against these HFT-Quants, they will lose big. …

Forbes bluntly put it this way in a sidebar: “Trading for Dummies” “The role of sucker on Wall Street has traditionally been played by retail investors.” That’s you.

Don’t trade … the more you trade the less you earn

Nevertheless, Forbes offered some sound advice: “If every penny counts for you, there are still ways to avoid being the dumb money in a trade.” The usual tips: Streaming quotes, limit orders and “pay attention to premarket action.”

But in their fourth “Trading for Dummies” tip they really show their cards, telling Main Street investors something we’ve been preaching for years: “Don’t day-trade: It’s a losing game to try to make money chasing momentary market inefficiencies. Too many pros with too much computing power are already at it. Instead, decide on a set of long-term investing goals and trade infrequently to achieve them.”

Rigged. Game.

You can never outshoot a computer processor. Wetware just isn’t fast enough.

Until securities-trading law is seriously rewritten and brutally enforced, you’re almost better off burying your money in the back yard.

Ladies and gentlemen, Irony has entered the building. Again. Through the same door.

Filed under: Cool! — Lex @ 8:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

Given all the far-right lunacy that has emanated from Texas over the past 10-plus years, it’s just … well … interesting what kind of jurisprudence has developed there more recently.

First, the Supreme Court case that overturned bans on gay sex (as well as, in states such as North Carolina, orientation-neutral bans on sodomy) originated in Texas. Now, a Texas judge, has ruled that a gay couple married elsewhere can get divorced in Texas.

Which implies … well, actually, the judge came right out and said it:

In a first for Texas, a judge ruled Thursday that two men married in another state can divorce here and that the state’s ban on gay marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

Both a voter-approved state constitutional amendment and the Texas Family Code prohibit same-sex marriages or civil unions.

Although the case is far from settled, and the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage is a long way from being thrown out, Dallas state District Judge Tena Callahan’s ruling says the state prohibition of same-sex marriage violates the federal constitutional right to equal protection.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had intervened in the two men’s divorce case, arguing that because a gay marriage isn’t recognized in Texas, a Texas court can’t dissolve one through divorce.

Callahan, a Democrat, denied the attorney general’s intervention and said her court “has jurisdiction to hear a suit for divorce filed by persons legally married in another jurisdiction.”

Obviously, the case will be appealed in Texas and almost certainly to the federal system, regardless of which side wins at the state appellate level. But it’s interesting, isn’t it, how utterly lacking is the legal justification for civil discrimination against gays that even in a state like Texas, a judge can see that the emperor has, ahem, no clothes?

(To repeat: I think government ought to be out of the marriage business, that religious groups should be able to marry or refuse to marry whomever they please, and that civil rights ought to be available to all competent adults equally irrespective of sexual orientation.)

The world’s greatest republic …

Filed under: Quote Of The Day,We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:21 pm

… is somewhere else these days, dday says, and some days it’s hard to disagree:

Americans have subconsciously figured out how this all ends: it doesn’t. Because we cannot have a serious debate on anything in this country without it devolving into bitchy gossip and meta-critiques of how things “play” politically, tough decisions just don’t get made. And so 68%, in this poll, said America will not win or lose the war in Afghanistan; it will just go on without resolution.Tragically, people have actually gotten USED to this outcome.

And because we’re not worthy of the forebears who bequeathed us this country, we put up with it.

Your liberal media, cont.

Filed under: Journalism — Lex @ 8:48 am

One way the media discriminate politically is by deciding who gets their attention and who does not.

Rabid, Astroturfed teabaggers? Attention.

Polite people bankrupted by our health-care system? Not so much.

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