Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Cindy Sheehan was sort of right- Bush bears some responsibility for the disaster in New Orleans...

Sorry Mossback, but Cindy Sheehan's right and you're wrong. We
already have in the public record the equivalent 9/11 Aug 6 PDB for New Orleans

Biblical in its uncontrolled rage and scope, Hurricane Katrina has left millions of Americans to scavenge for food and shelter and hundreds to thousands reportedly dead. With its main levee broken, the evacuated city of New Orleans has become part of the Gulf of Mexico. But the damage wrought by the hurricane may not entirely be the result of an act of nature.

A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans' levees, but it was too late.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which before the hurricane published a series on the federal funding problem, and whose presses are now underwater, reported online: "No one can say they didn't see it coming ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

The Bush administration's policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge. In 1990, a federal task force began restoring lost wetlands surrounding New Orleans. Every two miles of wetland between the Crescent City and the Gulf reduces a surge by half a foot. Bush had promised "no net loss" of wetlands, a policy launched by his father's administration and bolstered by President Clinton. But he reversed his approach in 2003, unleashing the developers. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency then announced they could no longer protect wetlands unless they were somehow related to interstate commerce.

In response to this potential crisis, four leading environmental groups conducted a joint expert study, concluding in 2004 that without wetlands protection New Orleans could be devastated by an ordinary, much less a Category 4 or 5, hurricane. "There's no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection," said one of the report's authors. The chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality dismissed the study as "highly questionable," and boasted, "Everybody loves what we're doing."

One of the aspects about being a responsible adult is that one tends to prepare and defend one's life and loved ones against the "system shits the bed" sceneario.

Bush and his supporters haven't been the types of folks who go in for ...well... planning.

Not that he's completely to blame: New Orleans is one of those places that people 500 years from now will consider and say, "How could they have been so stupid as to build a city there in the first place?"

We now have a disaster on a par with the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. It could have been prevented.

London blogging...New Orleans panic...

London- It's kind of odd to be in a London Hilton that doesn't have CNN, but does have Dubai TV. (It doesn't have al Jazeera either, for that matter.)

I finally got internet access today. (Getting into my hotel room was an ordeal in itself- suffice to say though, that after years of doing this, I know that when they say they "don't have a room available," if you have a reservation, and are a frequent stayer, they do indeed have a room for you. All you have to do is apply polite stress to the system, watching, measuring results, and they will come through. It's one of the side benefits I got from reading Herb Cohen's book on negotiating. It's a fine room, too.)

It appears from the UK, - seeing the first headlines in the NY Times since I left the US, that New Orleans is this years' 9/11.

NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 31 - Chaos gripped New Orleans on Wednesday as looters ran wild, food and water supplies dwindled, bodies floated in the floodwaters, the evacuation of the Superdome began and officials said there was no choice but to abandon the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, perhaps for months.

President Bush pledged vast assistance but acknowledged, "This recovery will take years."

For the first time, a New Orleans official suggested the scope of the death toll. Mayor C. Ray Nagin said the hurricane might have killed thousands in his city alone, an estimate that, if correct, would make it the nation's deadliest natural disaster since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, which killed up to 6,000 people.

"We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water," and others hidden from view in attics and other places, Mayor Nagin told reporters. Asked how many, he said: "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands."

As survivors struggled with a disaster that left damage of up to $25 billion, a gargantuan relief effort began. Ships, planes, helicopters and convoys of supplies and rescue teams converged on the Gulf Coast, and Pentagon officials said 30,000 National Guard and active-duty troops would be deployed by this weekend in the largest domestic relief effort by the military in the nation's history.

With police officers and National Guard troops giving priority to saving lives, looters brazenly ripped open gates and ransacked stores for food, clothing, television sets, computers, jewelry and guns, often in full view of helpless law-enforcement officials. Dozens of carjackings, apparently by survivors desperate to escape, were reported, as were a number of shootings.

Having been to New Orleans in the past year and 1/2, I'm pretty shocked by this; not surprised- after all, New orleans was a low lying city in Hurricane Alley- but this is pretty devastating.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Very Brief Hiatus...

I'm off on a rather extensive business trip (出張で). In a couple of days I'll be blogging from London, then Japan, then Beijing.

Beijing should be cool...

"I'll see you Cindy Sheehan and I'll raise you Hugo Chavez..."

Seriously, though, Jesse Jackson's meeting with Chavez might be able to do some good.

It can't hurt. And who knows? And maybe Al Sharpton will galvanize African American sentiment for a reasonable exit from Iraq. It'd be nice though, if he seriously addressed Tawanna Brawley for us European Americans. I know he's older and wiser, and, frankly, would have made a better president than the current one. (Who'd doubt Al Sharpton would use force against our enemies?)

With Jackson meeting Chavez, and Martin Sheen and Cindy Sheehan engaging in a "bearing witness" as well, it's good to see the best traditions of progressive Christianity in action (and not surprisingly more people seem to approve of Sheehan's practices than Bush's at this point), as opposed to the folks who want to repeal the 14th Amendment and bring back the confederacy. (Also see this.)

With regard to that last link, I agree with Joe Carter when he asserts that the "dominionists" make up a small percentage of evangelicals. Having said that, I suppose it would be good now and then if one were truly able to actually uninvite one's self from another's blogroll...

What else would it do but be able to download directly?

I usually don't blog about technical issues, for the same reasons that flowers don't make noise. (Actually, I've never blogged about what I actually do...and the recent stressful spate of work has set up something rather cool for me. If I can pull it off. And now back to something completely different...)


SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 29 - Apple Computer and Motorola plan to unveil a long-awaited mobile phone and music player next week that will incorporate Apple's iTunes software, a telecommunications industry analyst who has been briefed on the announcement said on Monday...

It was not clear whether the iTunes phone would allow users to download songs directly from the Internet onto the phone, though music industry analysts said they doubted that such a capability would be immediately available. Mike McGuire, an online-music analyst with Gartner Inc., a research firm, said that so-called over-the-air downloads would first require ironing out technological and music-licensing issues.

But the day of wireless downloads of full songs is not far off, according to major wireless carriers. Sprint said on Monday that by the end of the year it planned to offer phones that allowed users to download full songs wirelessly. Mr. Nelson of Verizon Wireless said his company was also in the final stages of developing such a capability.

Oh, yeah, right the "technological" issues stem from the fact that infrastructure for high bandwidth apps sucks in the's that wonderful, magical, mystical, hidden hand of the "free" market there...

Carrying one less device would be a wonderful thing.

Monday, August 29, 2005

"What I am feeling is water falling on my head"

First words from live video feed from MSNBC on Katrina.

Maybe they'll have updated the link by the time you read this but the very silliness of real-time reporting on this is absurd...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hurricane thoughts...

New Orleans is a cool city; it's too bad they're going to get at least partially slammed.

It'll be bad because of its topography, but they'll survive.

I wonder if the above ground cemeteries will be OK. I don't know, but that seems kind of important to me.

I've always liked hurricanes (it's like an imposed party complete with candles if you're not being flooded or otherwise in a precarious state of life), but they were a pain in the but if you had a real life to live when they hit.

One other question: what's happening to the folks in jails?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Suicide bombers, poor rural military recruits and sex

Richard Bennett correctly identifies the sublimation of sex as a rationale for suicide bombers; what he missed is the connection between sexual potency and poverty and lack of opportunity. Lack of opportunity- it can be religiously imposed or due to poverty; but you know what? This exists everywhere - even in the US- and one side effect of poverty is alienation from one's self and one's community and society, with the resulting either a gross over-exaggeration of sexual performance or impotency. Either way, it's dysfunctional sexual behavior.

Rx: Gang of Four's songs:

They were probably after Richard's time...

Why the price of oil will continue to go up - part III

This Kos diary says almost all of it.

The only other thing I'd add: there are still media business types saying prices might go down.

That's how you know that even if it's a bubble, it's not near bursting yet.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Why the price of oil will continue to go up - part II

I was but a young lad so it seems, when I left my first company after some 8 years of service...I remember a meeting I had with the VP of R&D, and discussed the many ills that company had, and after the meeting, I had realized a fundamental truth: often dysfunctional organizations are intentionally planned to be that way.

With Iraq having massive demonstrations in opposition to its proposed new constitution, it might be asked, "Was this planned?"

I suspect so, and so does Tom Hayden...

Far from planting democracy, US policy is squelching what little democracy there is, threatening to dismember Iraq, causing a civil war that will be the pretext for US troops to remain, and re-arranging the Middle East to include a de facto Shiite alliance from Teheran to Basra. That's why Bush can find no "noble purpose". It is about a war for dominance, not democracy.

The only problem, though, is that continuing civil war will mean continuing threats to oil supplies. There can't be "dominance," because the civil war has in it the prospect- pointed out months ago by Gwynne Dyer- that the Iraqis will eventually realize this is a suckers' game.

In the meantime, there will be threats to oil supplies- because that's why we're there.

If they can stop the oil flow, they win against this gambit. But we lose, and lots of folks die. As long as there's no clear resolution, there's uncertainty and oil will be pricey.

"Porn makes you bind" - distractions distract...


Vanderbilt Uni psychologist David Zald and his team exposed [human] guinea pigs to a barrage of "disturbing" images interspersed with landscape or architectural snaps, telling them to scan the images for a certain target image. The press release explains: "An irrelevant, emotionally negative or neutral picture preceded the target by two to eight items. The closer the negative pictures were to the target image, the more frequently the subject failed to spot the target. In a subsequent study, which has not yet been published, the researchers substituted erotic for negative images and found the same basic effect."

The bottom line is, says Zald: "We observed that people fail to detect visual images that appeared one-fifth of a second after emotional images, whereas they can detect those images with little problem after neutral images."

So, what's it all about? Well, the boffins reckon it's related to the "rubbernecking" concept - the process whereby you try and drive by an accident without having a shufti but "our emotions of concern, fear and curiosity cause us to stare out the window at the accident and slow to a crawl as we drive by"...

In the second experiment, the researchers sought to determine if individuals can override their emotion-induced blindness by focusing more deliberately on the target for which they are searching. In this experiment, the subjects undertook two different trials. In one they were told specifically to look for a rotated photo of a building; in the other they were told to look for a rotated photo of either a building or a landscape.

The research team hypothesized that the more specific instruction - to look for the building only - would help the research subjects override their emotion-induced blindness. After running the tests, the researchers discovered that they were partially right: specific instructions helped some subjects control their attention, but it didn't help others.

There's reasons people spend time on cusions cultivating ki...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

While oil will keep going up until at least 2006

Oh, there'll be ups and downs, but the long term trend is up, up, up.

Yes, part of ihe story is peak oil, about which nobody's doing anything yet.

But the main reason oil will continue to go through the roof is Iraq.

Some points:

  • America's energy policy at the business end has always been pretty savage: from killing off lots of whales, to enslaving coal miners, America has always turned a blind eye towards the ruthless extraction of energy to fuel economic growth. You could include slavery too, in that I suppose.

  • Jimmy Carter- speaking honestly - declared the middle east an area of "strategic importance" to the US- which it was and is at the moment: dry up the oil, and we're screwed big time; and this time it won't be somebody doing an embargo on a whim (which was billed as being peed at Israel but actually had something to do with being paid off in worthless dollars).

This time it is about our very hegemony in the region that's at stake: our task is either to make Iraq a stable, prosperous, "Germany-like" (that is, the Germany of today) American "friend" or - or- give up the very way of life as we've known it for about 60 years.

Now... how likely do you reallythink that Iraq will be "Germany-like?" How about Saudi Arabia?

See where I'm heading?

The whole world knows, dammit, that our Achilles heel is cheap oil at the hands of religious fundamentalists and people who've been screwed by our policy of coddling dictators.

They're not likely to turn into "Germany-like" overnight.

So oil is going up, up, and away.

It was better to let sleeping Saddam Hussiens lie if ther wasn't an exit strategy from imported oil.


It's time to put away dreams of John McCain being a "moderate" alternative to Bush

The guy's pandering to the creationist crowd:

n Tuesday, though, he sided with the president on two issues that have made headlines recently: teaching intelligent design in schools and Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother who has come to personify the anti-war movement.

McCain told the Star that, like Bush, he believes "all points of view" should be available to students studying the origins of mankind.

What some "Maoists" think of Tibet...

You can't make this stuff up

MIM believes the people of Tibet and China should cooperate economically under capitalism and not fight. That means that if the World Bank supports Han Chinese settlement into Tibet, we should not oppose it either! It's not a question of national culture, but one of economic survival. There is plenty of land in Tibet. The real question is economic development.

If the Tibetans take up Maoism, we support their evicting the Dengist regime from Tibet. If on the other hand Han Chinese return to socialism, they should oppose the "Free Tibet" movement and struggle to make sure Tibet progresses socially and economically. Either way there will be Tibetans and Han Chinese inclined to the Maoist road and there will be those who want capitalism or something even more backward.

Like I said, you can't make this stuff up. This is what real self-styled Maoists sound like.

Also noteworthy:

Now, of course I think these folks are Koo-Koo for Cocoa Puffs TM, and I post this merely to note its extreme oddity. All in all, though, I'd say their viewpoints seem much closer to some necons' viewpoints than my viewpoints, by a mile...

Try a little tenderness

When Americans talk about "the lessons of Vietnam," they usually mean failed policies and programs that shouldn't be repeated. But there were some successes in the Vietnam War, including an initiative to win the allegiance of captured and defecting Vietcong and North Vietnamese fighters by treating them generously and reshaping their attitudes. This idea - that harsh treatment of prisoners can be less effective than showing compassion - now deserves a test in Iraq.

The program in Vietnam was called Chieu Hoi, roughly translated as "open arms." While rarely effective against the most hard-core and high-ranking insurgents, Chieu Hoi succeeded in winning the support of nearly 200,000 fighters for the American-backed government of South Vietnam.

Under Chieu Hoi, defectors and prisoners who proved cooperative received clemency against treason charges as well as good food, health care, vocational training and jobs. At the same time, they were systematically indoctrinated with literature, classes and activities to persuade them to support the South Vietnamese government...

Captured enemy documents now in the archives of the Army Special Operations Command discuss the powerful effect of Chieu Hoi on the enemy. One Vietcong report from 1966 says: "The impact of increased enemy military operations and 'Chieu Hoi' programs has, on the whole, resulted in lowering of morale of some ideologically backward men, who often listen to enemy radio broadcasts, keep in their pockets enemy leaflets, and wait to be issued weapons. This attitude on their part has generated an atmosphere of doubt and mistrust among our military ranks." The Vietcong feared the program, and expended a great deal of effort in attempting to thwart it through assassinations, infiltration and counterpropaganda.

So what does this have to do with Iraq? While Chieu Hoi was geared to counter a Communist threat, it was based on universal principles of counterinsurgency that could easily be applied to the current struggle. In fact, Chieu Hoi was something of an import in its own right: it was the brainchild of three men with long experience battling rebels. One was Sir Robert Thompson, who led the British Advisory Mission in Vietnam and was renowned for his work in Britain's quelling of the Communist insurgency in Malaya in the 1950's. The others were Rufus Phillips, a former C.I.A. official working for the United States Agency for International Development, and Charles Bohannan, a retired Army colonel; this pair had led the American effort in late 1940's to stop the Huk insurgency in the Philippines.

They designed Chieu Hoi to focus on changing the underlying attitudes of the subjects, not simply on trying to control their behavior. Empirical research in social psychology reveals that efforts to directly control behavior through coercion or bribery usually leave underlying attitudes intact, or even harden them. Thus putting a gun to a man's head and instructing him to support a particular political ideology will work only as long as the gun is present and he is being watched. The preferred method for long-term change is instilling sincere belief in the new political ideology, making the gun and monitoring unnecessary.

I would submit that while it is true that "winning their hearts and minds" by changing their underlying attitudes is absolutely necessary and morally the only direction in which to go with prisoners of any stripe, it seems to me like this is speaking long after the cows have left the barn. Just like in Vietnam.

For what everone remembers is not this "successful" program, but the picture above, and what everyone will have burned into their brains is not how nice we can be once we've decided to drop the bad imitation of the Brittish in Northern Ireland/Israelis in Palestine, but Abu Ghraib.

It's actually more shocking that they have to publish an article like this - "see! we can get a lot by being nice to them!" - as though torture and Abu Ghraib was somehow the norm nowadays.

But - probably echoing the earlier articles on this topic from the Atlantic- it's OK, I guess to remind folks that this torture stuff only backfires.

And that folks who champion it ought to worry about karma...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Stupid NY Times Story of the day...

Secular Iraqis Say New Charter May Curb Rights, says the title, but right under it, "President Bush, however, asserted that the Iraqi document guaranteed women's rights and freedom of religion."

Now let us first say that George W. Bush is either over optimistic or being disingenuous and I'd suspect intentionally so.

Here is the constitution
. It says pretty plainly:

CHAPTER ONE: Basic Principles

Article (1): The Republic of Iraq is an independent, sovereign nation, and the system of rule in it is a democratic, federal, representative (parliamentary) republic.

Article (2): First, Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation:

a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.

b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy.

c) No law can be passed that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this constitution.

Second, this constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people, and the full religious rights for all individuals, and the freedom of creed and religious practices.

Now those secular Iraqis might know of which they speak. What is not clearly expressed - what remains vague here- are all kinds of issues which courts rule in the US.

The big example in my head here: what about apostasy?

Clearly secular Iraqis must have that in mind above all. And it seems pretty clear: you can't really have an Islamic state without some sanctions for apostasy, and if you have that, freedom of religion is out the window.

Maybe I'm wrong here, but that's how it looks to me. Maybe religious Iraqis will merely feel a "powerful sense of rage" in response to apostates, and let the alone.

But I suspect that's not the case.

With all the reports about the agitation for Islamic law in Iraq, if I were a secular Iraqi, I'd take no comfort in armchair 101st keyboarders hailing the Iraqi draft consitutiton as a "decent compromise."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

DC Media Girl Roasts Malkin, and in the process her associates

Here, and here.

Michelle Malkin...Michelle Maglalang...even her name is a dimestore joke.

More evidence of Bush's popularity

Bill Moyer, 73, wears a "Bullshit Protector" flap over his ear while President George W. Bush addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

If even the National Post is publishing stuff like this, you know the cluckster in chief is in trouble...

Moyer, of course has it right: Bush and his supporters really have no regard for the truth- they are classic bullshitters in the parlance of the term below.


Who would Jesus assasinate?

OK, well, I thought it was interesting when Media Matters posted this bit about Pat Robertson being bloodthirsty and wanting Hugo Chavez assasinated, (HT: Atrios), but I'm actually kind of surprised that the NY Times picked it up.

Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

Although those US officials have been at a loss to explain the presence of certain US embassy personnel near and around the coup leader.

In addition, the Times neglected to report that Robertson basically left out some salient facts: Chavez is dictatorial and corrupt, but has also garnered very broad support by turning petrodollars into social programs, boosting health and literacy of Venezuelans. It's the latter thing that really pisses off the conservatives; after all, they have no problem with dictatorial and corrupt Saudis, Pakistanis, Iraqis, and of course, Robertson had no problem with his old friend Mobutu Sese Seko, or Roberto d'Aubisson, the Salvadoran death squad leader who murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero.

That dang libreral media...always leaving out context.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Joe Tierney: I'm dazzled by his erudition...

Actually, not.

Peter Maas wrote a pretty good overview of the peak oil situation in last Sunday's Times magazine.

Matthew Simmons, a head of a Houston investment bank specializing in the energy industry and author of "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy" was a main source for the book...

So what does Joe Tierney do? Well...

I didn't try to argue with [Simmons] about Saudi Arabia, because I know next to nothing about oil production there or anywhere else. I'm just following the advice of a mentor and friend, the economist Julian Simon: if you find anyone willing to bet that natural resource prices are going up, take him for all you can.

Julian took up gambling during the last end-of-oil crisis, in 1980, when experts were predicting a new age of scarcity as the planet's resources were depleted by the growing population. Julian had debunked these fears in "The Ultimate Resource," the bible of Cornucopian economics, which showed how human ingenuity had kept driving down the price of energy and other natural resources for centuries.

He offered to bet the pessimists that oil or any other resource they chose would be cheaper, in real terms, at any date they picked in the future. The ecologist Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb" and "The End of Affluence," took up his offer and chose copper, tin and three other metals worth $1,000 in 1980.

Hey Joe, I got a bet for you! I'll bet you $5,000 that at some point the Anasazi ran out of water and became extinct...I'll bet you another $5,000 that climate changes in the Asian steppes brought about forced migrations due to lack of grazing land that brought about the fall of the Roman Empire.

I mean, if you're going to take it as a sure thing that natural resource prices can't go up to the point of squeezing civilization, then I would assume that when I trot out instances of environmental over-extension that he'd be perfectly willing to pay up.

The New Yorker this week: the article on Hewitt and the article by Gladwell.

Hugh Hewitt's profile in this week's New Yorker by Nicholas Lemann, is a very interesting deconstruction of Hewitt: the article is clearly written with a right-of-center slant; never really calling into question Hewitt's fundamental position on the media, which is, to wit: there can only be opinionated media.

Look, I'll admit that this blog is more opinionated than it would be if it were purely journalistic, but the purpose of this blog, in addition to recording facts and my own state of mind in relation to them is to be a bit propagandistic.

Hewitt seems to think there's nothing but propagandistic journalism.

That, in the definition below, is nothing but bullshit journalism, and it's most often seen from well, folks like Hewitt.

Recording facts as they exist, and attempting to be censorious of one's opinions is indeed a position: it is the position that in taking that orientation one can best arrive at a view of things free from one's prejudices. Hewitt just doesn't care about prejudices.

Also worth reading: the article by Gladwell on health insurance, which pretty much implies one obvious truth: if "moral hazard" principle insurance actually worked, insurance costs in the US would be going down, not up.

Single payer.

Yes, they really do have an army game on the army website - just so prospective Casey Sheehans know what they're getting into?

I thought Randi Rhodes was being hyperbolic, but it turns out she's right.

Evidently, though, Snowden's secret is not part of the game.

Snowden was wounded inside his flak suit. Yossarian ripped open the snaps of Snowden's flak suit and heard himself scream wildly as Snowden's insides slithered down to the floor in a soggy pile and just kept dripping out...Yossarian screamed a second time and squeezed both hands over his eyes...

"I'm cold," Snowden wimpered. "I'm cold."

"There, there," Yossarian mumbled mechanically in a voice too low to be heard. "There, there."

Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden's secret. Ripeness was all.

"I'm cold," Snowden said. "I'm cold."

"There, there," said Yossarian. "There, there." He pulled the rip cord of Snowden's parachute and covered his body with the white nylon sheets.

"I'm cold."

"There, there."

Conservative Terrorist Rudolph sentenced.

But this is is the important point:

John Hawthorne, whose wife, Alice, had died in the attack on Olympics, addressed Mr. Rudolph during the sentencing to describe him as Napoleonic - "little person, big bomb."

"You're still a small man," he said. "You show defiance and arrogance, but only to hide your fear of the dismal future in store for you." Mr. Hawthorne played a video tribute to his wife and noted that today would have been their 18th wedding anniversary.

Fallon Stubbs, Alice Hawthorne's 23-year-old daughter, offered Mr. Randolph forgiveness. "Because of you, I have become a tolerant person," said Ms. Stubbs, who was also injured in the bombing. "Not for you, but for me, I forgive you, I look at you, I love you.

"And if I cry," she added, "it's not for me. It's not for my mother. It's not for my father. It's for you."

At that point, Mr. Rudolph appeared to break eye contact, according to The Associated Press.

It's good that -unlike Paul Hill- Rudolph will have the rest of his life to contemplate the horrors he's inflicted on others.

And thankfully the extremistrs won't make a martyr out of the timid Rudolph like they did with Paul Hill.

A Challenge to right-wing readers of this blog...

With Bush's stunningly low approval ratings (he's now offically less popular than Nixon was in the summer of 73) it's reasonable for the Democrats to start thinking big- like taking back both the House and the Senate in 06.

Now, here's how it will go down: for the rest of 05, there will be nothing straying from the current game plan, which would be to basically try to have at least the Senate Dems on message, with the exception of an occaisonal turncoat like Liberman.

So, for example, there's no reason to filibuster Roberts- despite the fact that he appears to be an extremist, unless of course something big happens on that front - like, say, he could be filibustered.

The big enchilada, though, is 06.

There ought to be a unifying message- a Democratic "Contract for Americans."

Look, righties, it's unlikely you'll get what you want on abortion and gay rights out of the Dems, although on abortion, it's likely that the Dems could pass measures to actually minimize the number of out of wedlock births, for example.

But what would you want from them?

If you'll never vote for a Democrat unless they're against abortion and gay rights, then I suspect this doesn't matter. But then, as I implied below, you're not likely a "values" voter.

So what would change your vote? What should the Dems try to do to fix things?

Naturally they won't become Republicans.

I'd say myself they should offer up

  • An exit strategy for Iraq.

  • Term limits for Congressman.

  • Term limits for Supreme Court justices.

  • A constitutional ammendment explicitly spelling out the right of privacy.

  • A constitutional ammendment on the "takings" clause.

  • A real energy policy, with real conservation measures and CAFE limits for all vehichles.

There are actually a number of wedge issue laws that can be enacted.

So what would you like to see ?

Update: Digby's is indeed right here: our first priority will be to remove Republicans from power, and we will not be taking any prisoners in doing so.

It is conventional wisdom that one of the reasons Hackett did as well as he did was because of his sincere righteous indignation about the leadership of this country and I think it's at least partially true. That translates to strength and authenticity to people who hear long-winded multi-year withdrawal scenarios and immediately switch the channel --- which are a majority of voters. I think the guy is tremendously charismatic whose status as an Iraq war veteran made him somewhat unique, but there is little doubt in my mind that he was able to win over some people, probably the Ross Perot type independents, who respect candor and authenticity. In this day of over-handled candidates it is a very heady breath of fresh air to see a Democrat appear unafraid and unintimidated...

That, I think, is the real question here. Will our "shrillness" help or hurt the party? I think the netroots believes it's time to try a message that has a little more heat than lukewarm water. The establishment, still smarting from their seminal loss in 1972, is scared to death of anything that resembles real passion. Far more than a serious division in the party over specific policy, that, I think is the real fault line. What kind of politics --- not policies --- do the Democrats think will win?

So the policies I'd advocate would be ones that people would agree with but would marginalize the Republicans: the right of privacy, I think is number one on the list for this.

Maybe, just maybe Christians are starting to realize

what Chuck Gutenson's saying here.

I would like to think that most Christians, even most conservative Christians, aren't going to counteance rampant immorality from someone that says words against abortion and gay people.

But I think Bush is unpopular because gas prices are going through the roof.

Working to see that your kids don't get dead is caring for your kids.

Mossback's making his kids less safe OTOH
, unlike Cindy Sheehan.

I've been picked up by ""

This is a pretty cool site. It's kind of an automated blog that automatically picks up feeds from blogs left an right about issues.

It's official: George W. Bush is an unpopular president.

George W. Bush's approval ratings drop
: Among Americans registered to vote, 38% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 56% disapprove, and 36% approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 60% disapprove.

(HT: Atrios.)

Jujitsu and political debate...

Using the techniques of Jujitsu or Aikido (working with your opponent's force to defeat him) is often a very good way to illustrate the absurdity of one's position; a good example is this riposte in this Think Progress post on Gorelick:

OMG–poor President Bush–so surrounded by partisan Bush-haters that he can’t even appoint a bipartisan commission without it instantly becoming the “partisan anti-Bush commission”

So shocking that those partisan liberals would exploit the facts to attack our beloved president . . .

Think Progress : Great blog

The debunking of Jamie Gorelick nonsense, especially is good (e.g. here).

"Strict Constructionists" and Stolen Elections: Let's bring Freedom to America first.

Read the September issue of Harper's to see how completely absurd the concept of "strict constructionism" is. (Sorry, no link yet.)

Some key points:

  • It's not clear that "the constitution as originally interpreted" meant that it was orignally meant to be interpreted the way it was originally interpreted. Anyone familiar with making contracts that have unforseen bugs in them knows this is a stupid idea.

  • The idea, that say, the 14th Ammendment was written to disallow affirmative action ignores the, er...original intent of why the 14th Ammendment was added.

  • Nobody but the most extreme of right wing extremists would favor things such as not paying women equally for equal work, or having state run churches, or having legalized discrimination at the state level. These are things near and dear to the folks like Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, but they in no way represent most Americans' views.

  • On reading the article, you cannot come away with the conclusion that the intent of these judicial extremists is to actually subvert justice.

Read the article.

Also, get the August issue and read "None Dare Call it Stolen." (Nice summary here. And here too.)

As Krugman reminds us of the 2000 election problems, and the unconscionable political interference by the largely Republican court, I would say the bigger priorities facing the US are bringing liberty and justice here.

Nobody can seriously, with a straight face say we're "liberating" Iraq when we're not liberated at home.

What to do about Iraq?

We are not really bringing liberty to Iraq. (Also see here for more.) That's a given by now.

In fact, the state of liberty at home in the US is in deep trouble.

We are still dependent on oil.

The best thing that can be done about Iraq is to get an exit strategy soon. There is no way we can achieve an objective of liberty there, or perhaps even strategic control of the oil there without engaging in genocide.

It's that simple.

We should try to put the problem in the hands of all interested powers - like the UN. We should admit we screwed up and ask the world for help.

That's a good start.

Then we can implement a real strategy to get the world economy off imported oil, especially from the middle east.

Sunday, August 21, 2005



If “bullshit,” as opposed to “bull,” is a distinctively modern linguistic innovation, that could have something to do with other distinctively modern things, like advertising, public relations, political propaganda, and schools of education. “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit,” Harry G. Frankfurt, a distinguished moral philosopher who is professor emeritus at Princeton, says. The ubiquity of bullshit, he notes, is something that we have come to take for granted. Most of us are pretty confident of our ability to detect it, so we may not regard it as being all that harmful. We tend to take a more benign view of someone caught bullshitting than of someone caught lying. (“Never tell a lie when you can bullshit your way through,” a father counsels his son in an Eric Ambler novel.) All of this worries Frankfurt. We cannot really know the effect that bullshit has on us, he thinks, until we have a clearer understanding of what it is. That is why we need a theory of bullshit.

Frankfurt's own effort along these lines was contained in a paper that he presented two decades ago at a faculty seminar at Yale. Later, that paper appeared in a journal, and then in a collection of Frankfurt's writings; all the while, photocopies of it passed from fan to fan. Earlier this year, it was published as “On Bullshit” (Princeton; $9.95), a tiny book of sixty-seven spaciously printed pages that has gone on to become an improbable best-seller...

“So far as I am aware,” Frankfurt dryly observes, “very little work has been done on this subject.” He did find an earlier philosopher's attempt to analyze a similar concept under a more genteel name: humbug. Humbug, that philosopher decided, was a pretentious bit of misrepresentation that fell short of lying. (A politician talking about the importance of his religious faith comes to mind.) Frankfurt was not entirely happy with this definition. The difference between lies and bullshit, it seemed to him, was more than a matter of degree. To push the analysis in a new direction, he considers a rather peculiar anecdote about the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. It was the nineteen-thirties, and Wittgenstein had gone to the hospital to visit a friend whose tonsils had just been taken out. She croaked to Wittgenstein, “I feel just like a dog that has been run over.” Wittgenstein (the friend recalled) was disgusted to hear her say this. “You don't know what a dog that has been run over feels like,” he snapped. Of course, Wittgenstein might simply have been joking. But Frankfurt suspects that his severity was real, not feigned. This was, after all, a man who devoted his life to combatting what he considered to be pernicious forms of nonsense. What Wittgenstein found offensive in his friend's simile, Frankfurt guesses, was its mindlessness: “Her fault is not that she fails to get things right, but that she is not even trying.”

The essence of bullshit, Frankfurt decides, is that it is produced without any concern for the truth. Bullshit needn't be false: “The bullshitter is faking things. But this does not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong.” The bullshitter's fakery consists not in misrepresenting a state of affairs but in concealing his own indifference to the truth of what he says. The liar, by contrast, is concerned with the truth, in a perverse sort of fashion: he wants to lead us away from it. As Frankfurt sees it, the liar and the truthteller are playing on opposite sides of the same game, a game defined by the authority of truth. The bullshitter opts out of this game altogether. Unlike the liar and the truthteller, he is not guided in what he says by his beliefs about the way things are. And that, Frankfurt says, is what makes bullshit so dangerous: it unfits a person for telling the truth.

There goes that liberal media again...


August 21,2005 | SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah television station is refusing to air an anti-war ad featuring Cindy Sheehan, whose son's death in Iraq prompted a vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch.

The ad began airing on other area stations Saturday, two days before Bush was scheduled to speak in Salt Lake City to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

However, a national sales representative for KTVX, a local ABC affiliate, rejected the ad in an e-mail to media buyers, writing that it was an "inappropriate commercial advertisement for Salt Lake City."..

In a statement Saturday evening explaining its decision, KTVX said that after viewing the ad, local managers found the content "could very well be offensive to our community in Utah, which has contributed more than its fair share of fighting soldiers and suffered significant loss of life in this Iraq war."

Station General Manager David D'Antuono said the decision was not influenced by the station's owner, Clear Channel Communications Inc.

Celeste Zappala, who with Sheehan co-founded Gold Star Families for Peace, said she was puzzled by the decision.

"What stunned me was that it was inappropriate to hear this message," she said. "How is it that Salt Lake City should hear no questions about the war?"

This is the pitiful state of our liberties in the Bush era.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Operation Yellow Elephant

What's not to like?

More dishonesty from Bush...

Via Americablog
, but I have a different take on this PR thing than Avarosis:

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) -- With anti-war protesters continuing their vigil outside President Bush's ranch, the commander in chief began a five-day push Saturday to tell Americans why he thinks U.S. troops must continue the fight in Iraq...

"Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy," the president said in the recorded broadcast.

"They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war, and they know we will prevail."...

As he has before when he has been challenged, Bush invoked the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in his radio address.

"On that day, we learned that vast oceans and friendly neighbors no longer protect us from those who wish to harm our people," he said. "And since that day, we have taken the fight to the enemy."

Let's take the last bit first:

On that day, we learned that vast oceans and friendly neighbors no longer protect us from those who wish to harm our people.

The United States is the most heavily armed nation on earth. It spends more for defense than any other nation. Its navy is several times the size of its next nearest competitor.

The fact is we haven't relied on "vast oceans and friendly neighbors" to "protect us" since, I dunno, the Spanish American war.

Bush either really is that ignorant, or really is dishonest. I don't think Bush is ignorant.

And of course, Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11.

"They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war, and they know we will prevail."

As London showed, stirring up a hornet's nest somewhere else won't prevent you from getting stung at home.

Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy.

All I can think of in response to this is:

And so, I suspect, does the rest of the world.

Friday, August 19, 2005

What's wrong with this picture?

I always thought the concept of a personal trainer was a bit too self indulgent except for possibly professional tennis players who generally are young enough to require the discipline. But this is too much:

Mr. Kupris, 23, is one of the most sought-after personal trainers in New York City. This may be in part because he is friendly and attentive, and in part because of his self-taught expertise in body toning. But what really distinguishes Mr. Kupris is his willingness to go beyond the trainer's traditional job description. He meets clients at home or wherever they want to work out. For $125 an hour he'll become more like a brother, helping them with many other aspects of their lives. Part chef, part activity director, part children's camp counselor, he represents a new approach to personal training: the ultimate full-service fitness consultant.

Personal trainers who meet their clients in a gym for a 45- to 60-minute workout have become relatively commonplace. Some 6.2 million Americans hired one in 2004, an increase of more than 2 million over five years, according to a survey conducted by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

Now some clients are looking for more than just workouts. They want someone who becomes part of their life: who motivates them to try new activities, coaches them about what to eat and provides any other hand holding they need to get strong and stay that way. Graham Melstrand, the director of educational services for the American Council on Exercise, said in an e-mail message that this new demand has created "an opportunity for the well-qualified fitness professional to move beyond the traditional boundaries of fitness programming in the health club setting."

Trying unfamiliar activities, many trainers say, is an important part of the new training strategy.

Poor Leonard Cohen

This shouldn't happen to any 70 year old.

You gotta watch your money no matter what...

Also: check out this bit on his day to day life.

Cohen's lifestyle may not be lavish, but he's still got a great attitude and a good life.

Worth reading today:

Armando's post in Kos, and Paul Krugman.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Here it comes: the oil shock....


Forecasters still expect economic growth to remain healthy for the rest of the year, as companies invest in new factories and the housing boom continues. But the high cost of oil already appears to be curbing growth, translating into unusually modest gains in employment and pay.

If history is any guide, higher prices will hurt consumption, curb the nation's output and shift spending patterns. The risks of a domino effect on the economy are real, economists say.

"We can't lose sight of the fact that energy restricts growth," said Anthony Chan, a senior economist at J. P. Morgan Asset Management. "It is doing so."

So far, the economy has showed much more resilience in the face of higher energy costs than most analysts had anticipated. Although prices began rising in early 2002, consumers have kept shopping, companies have expanded and inflation has remained under control. At times, it seemed a new economic era had dawned.

Without question, economists say, rising oil prices cause less economic pain than they once did. It takes half as much energy to produce $1 of gross domestic product today, adjusted for inflation, than it did 30 years ago. Even at today's prices, oil is cheaper than it was in the early 1980's, once adjusted for inflation.

The falling costs of other goods, thanks in large part to global competition, have also helped cushion the blow from higher energy costs. While energy prices rose 3.8 percent from June to July, the price of all other goods inched up only 0.2 percent, the Labor Department said yesterday.

"There seems to be a greater tolerance in the economy in terms of what can be withstood," said Doug Leggate, an energy analyst with Citigroup in New York.

But a spike in oil prices still hurts, economists say, even if the pain does not come immediately. In the past, the full effect was not felt until a year, or even two years, after prices began rising. Both of the last two recessions - in 1990-91 and in 2001 - began more than a year after energy prices started a sharp climb.

"It is way too soon to be sanguine," said Andrew J. Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick in England, who has written about oil. "The influence of a petroleum shock runs deep and runs slow. My own view is that we will find oil shocks still hurt, and hurt fundamentally."

It was only 13 months ago that the price of a barrel of crude settled above $40. Oil, which closed yesterday at $66.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, is not likely to become much cheaper anytime soon, analysts say. Nor are natural gas prices, which have gained 73 percent this year. This means that winter heating bills for American households are set to soar.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Do people really want to be like they are on their blogs?

I think it's the Cindy Sheehan thing that's making the righties jump the shark- yes- jump right over that sucker, for me.

Take Michelle Malkin (e.g., here and here); please.

I'm sure Mr. Maglagang takes her everywhere, but she always finds her way back home.

Folks such as Malkin ( she's who has written things that reasonable people can call racist) have a problem with Cindy Sheehan.


Malkin has a problem with Michael Moore, too, evidently.

Do you want to be like Michelle Malkin? Do you want to trash the name of someone who gave far more than Malkin can possibly conceive for Bush's folly?

Malkin has a lesson for us: we should practice right speech.

Similarly, Joe Carter, through his quotes on "Justice" "Sunday" II (if there were justice it would involve a some prosecutorial inquiries into Tom DeLay) quotes one Jerry Sutton, who teaches the same lesson. Sutton, to my way of thinking, is clearly slandering Michael Schiavo here, and one would hope that Schiavo would actually sue him. No doubt Schiavo has sustained damages for this type of behavior, and it's time that "Dr." Sutton learn what right speech is all about.

Monday, August 15, 2005

As they say, "Oyyyy!"


Business people who've never even thought of Buddhism also are finding themselves booked for Zen retreats with colleagues. Seminars with titles like Executive Zen, Zen at Work and Zen and Business offer businesses a way to help their employees handle stress and excel.

"When we take a moment out of an overfilled day and incorporate a very basic Zen practice, for instance, the practice of mindfulness, it's amazing how your day can turn around," said Monique Muhlenkamp, publicity manager for California's New World Library. In her work, she promotes such books as Marc Lesser's "Z.B.A.: Zen of Business Administration: How Zen Practice Can Transform Your Work and Your Life" ($14.95 paperback, 256 pages).

"For many people, it's no longer just about a job; they want and need more. Applying Zen to the day-to-day helps on many levels."

(Emphasis mine.)

And sure enough...

Q. What can one gain from a continuing meditation practice?

A. Clearly someone who is typing while thinking about the ball game will not perform in the same league as when you are attentive to the job at hand. So maybe you will get a raise, a promotion, satisfaction of a job well done, a more successful business.

Sometimes I understand Hakuin pretty well...

You can't help but psychologize this...

Back from my little vacation (camping at Lake Chelan, with my son, who loved it), I noticed this bit from Kos quoting George W. Bush from this article:

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."...

"I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy," he said when asked about bike riding while a grieving mom wanted to speak with him. "And part of my being is to be outside exercising."

I'm in pretty good shape but I don't exercise 2 hours every day. The fact that he's avoiding a grieving mother - as Kos says - he fears facing the consequences of his actions - illustratges his fear of accountability- even Bush knows, deep down, that he's screwed up royally. Let's face it: every single - every single- justification that's been made for this war has been founded on a lie. And the situation there is worse for our being there, not better.

It's why the right wing slime machine's been manufacturing outrage against Sheehan. They want to deny the consequences of their actions at all costs: it is sociopathy as foreign policy.

As Cindy Sheehan herself says:

George Bush took a 2 hour bike ride on Saturday, and when he got back, he was asked how he could go for a two hour bike ride when he doesn't have time to meet with me, and he said: "I have to go on with my life." (Austin Statesman, August 14) WHAT!!!!!????? He has to get on with his life!!! I am so offended by that statement. Every person, war fan, or not, who has had a child killed in this mistake of an occupation should be highly offended by that remark. Who does he think he is? I wish I could EVER be able to get on with my life. Getting on with my life means a life without my dear, sweet boy. Getting on with my life means learning to live with a pain that is so intense that sometimes I feel like throwing up, or screaming until I pass out from sorrow. I wish a little bike ride could help me get on with my life.

need to focus on the positive, though, and there is so much. I had so many amazing things happen today. I couldn't walk through Camp Casey or the Crawford Peace House today without hugging people and getting my picture taken. Now I know how Mickey Mouse feels at Disneyland. I had a soldier from Ft. Hood come out today and he brought me a small stone with a First Cavalry insignia painted on it and the pictures of three of his beautiful buddies who were murdered there by George's reckless policies. It was such an incredible moment for me when he said: "Keep on doing what you are doing. We are so proud of you. Casey would be so proud of you."

This is the other thing that Bush - and the right wing slime machine fears: a sincere response to the insanity - sincerity to the point of spirituality.

Bush cannot possibly "get on with his life" without truly "meeting" the Cindy Sheehans. Cindy Sheehan need not meet with Bush to know she has already accomplished something.

Cindy Sheehan is only asking Bush to be what he said he would be way back in January of 2001: to be president of all the people.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Off for vacation....

Don't expect anything profound till next week...


Washington State Gas Prices... and Portland Area Gas Prices...

shop wisely...

Sheehan: not being angry anymore...

Michael Moore highlights Cindy Sheehan and links to Gold Star Families for Peace.

Michael Moore may get things wrong from time to time, but he's essentially right, and the right is essentially wrong about most of the things he targets.

But I think what really gets the right is that, unlike Michelle Malkin, he's actually entertaining without being - well, hateful and angry.

And that seems to be the theme of Cindy Sheehan's post today at the Huffington Post.

It's good that folks like Sheehan are transcending anger, because although anger can provide the energy to affect change, it is a dangerous thing when uncoralled.

But like Sheehan anger can be transformed into something better.

And the right is clearly unsettled with Sheehan, because she's the real deal. She's someone who sacrificed her child - the righties I see smearing her have never really understood sacrifice, have never understood the cost of freedom has to be paid by acting freely, and most importantly, have never understood that anger and resentment aren't meant to be fed with more anger and resentment, but can only be sated by compassionate action.

She's not simply aping MLK or Gandhi here in calling Bush and the righties to accountability- and even if she was, the call to accountability would still be sincere, and would still demand a response.

And responsibility is all she's asking. It's all anyone ought to ask of those who are employed by us, such as Bush.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Even better investment advice...

Why the little guy can't win and the best he can do...

WHEN I started out on this new book," David F. Swensen was saying the other day, "I thought I was going to take what we do at Yale and make it accessible to the individual investor." Oh, lucky day! Mr. Swensen, the chief investment officer of the Yale endowment - and to my mind, the best manager of institutional money in the United States - was going to show you and me how to invest the way he does.

To his surprise, however, the book Mr. Swensen eventually wrote, "Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment," published this last Tuesday, turned out to be the opposite of what he intended. Its title notwithstanding, it doesn't show the little guy how to invest like Yale. Instead, it shows why the little guy will never be able to invest the way Yale does.

For all the "democratization" that has taken place in the world of personal investing the deck is still stacked against the individual. That was Mr. Swensen's fundamental discovery. And his willingness to change course and turn "Unconventional Success" into a polemic aimed primarily at mutual fund companies, but also at other Wall Street types who fleece the little guy, is to his everlasting credit...

His new book has given Mr. Swensen a greater appreciation of the enormous advantages he has as an institutional money manager, starting with the obvious fact that he has a staff that spends full-time researching investment possibilities. Thus, he takes it as a given that individuals shouldn't pick stocks themselves. "I see every day how competitive the markets are, and how tough. So the idea that you can do this yourself, that's out the window."

What is it about mutual funds Mr. Swensen finds offensive? Just about everything. He hates the way the loads and all the hidden fees mean that the investor is always behind the eight ball. (When I asked him about hedge fund fees, which are much higher, Mr. Swensen replied: "I don't mind paying a lot for actual performance. Besides, when we negotiate fees, it's sophisticated investor versus fund manager. It's a fair fight.")...

So does Mr. Swensen offer any hope at all? Some. He thinks we'd all be better off sticking with index funds, instead of trying to beat the market. He thinks we should get our index funds from Vanguard, with its rock-bottom fees. (As a not-for-profit company, Vanguard also doesn't have the central conflict of interest.) We should have a diversified portfolio of index funds, for the same reason Yale does. We should be disciplined in our approach, especially in rebalancing our portfolio to stick to our diversification targets. Of course, this invariably means paring back on winners and increasing our investment in laggards.

The original words to the tune for "Johnny Comes Marching Home."

The song was orignally called "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye; this is actually a song that is very evocative of the horrors of war.

While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo
While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo
While goin' the road to sweet Athy
A stick in me hand and a drop in me eye
A doleful damsel I heard cry,
Johnny I hardly knew ye.

With your drums and guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With your drums and guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With your drums and guns and drums and guns
The enemy nearly slew ye
Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer
Johnny I hardly knew ye.

Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild
When my heart you so beguiled
Why did ye run from me and the child
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.

Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run
When you went for to carry a gun
Indeed your dancing days are done
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.

I'm happy for to see ye home, hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see ye home, hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see ye home
All from the island of Sulloon
So low in flesh, so high in bone
Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye.

Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo
Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo
Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg
Ye're an armless, boneless, chickenless egg
Ye'll have to put with a bowl out to beg
Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye.

They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again
But they never will take our sons again
No they never will take our sons again
Johnny I'm swearing to ye.

Via Brad de Long.

I didn't know the orignal words; but now I do know another piece of war propaganda trivia...

Economics blogs now driving investment trends...

So says the WSJ:

While many investors continue to take their cues from traditional outlets, the real news junkies -- including those who aim to get a trading idea before they hear about it from their broker -- have bookmarked the blogs, or Web logs. Even Wall Street itself is paying heed.

"It's all about the 'memes,' " says Stan Jonas, head of interest rate strategy at Fimat USA in New York, employing a word that describes ideas that spread quickly by word of mouth -- or Web. "Those guys say it and about a week or two later, the guys on Wall Street pick it up."

via The Big Picture...

The econ blogs mentioned:


It probably bothers some to see Kos here (I don't have access to the original article, and don't know why "Truth Laid Bear" is there for the life of me), but good economic insight is often posted by Kos diarists.

It's made me money.

I'd also add seeking alpha, and especially his economics blog resource pages.

Notice how fair and balanced I am??? I've even linked to a page that links to Becker and Posner's blog...

Want great investing advice? If you're looking to see what makes money, don't have ideological blinders on, but do understand that others will act on behalf of ideology. It's no crime to make a wise investment that supports your own ideology though.

"Advice?" Here's better advice:

Andrew Pryor (publisher of Sound Mind Investing, "America's best-selling financial newsletter written from a biblical perspective") guest blogs at Evangelical Outpost on, well, investing, ostensibly, but it looks more like a plug for his site when you do the click-throughs.

What is there, and posted, looks more like standard bromides:

The right investing decision is one that is prudent under the circumstances. Does it pass the "common sense" test? How much of your investing capital can you afford to lose and still have a realistic chance of meeting your financial goals? The investments that offer higher potential returns also carry greater risks of loss. The right portfolio for you is not always the one with the most profit potential.

For example, it's usually best not to have a majority of your investments in a single asset or security. For that reason, people who have large holdings of stock in the company they work for often sell some of it in order to diversify. If the stock doubles after they sell it, does that mean they did the "wrong" thing? No, they did the right thing. After all, the stock could have fallen dramatically as well as risen (ask the former employees of Enron). What would a large loss have done to their retirement planning? The right investment step is the one that protects you in the event of life's occasional worst-case scenarios. Generally, this moves you in the direction of increased diversification.

So, while I'm all in favor of diversification, I also think it's suicidal to be brain dead for the "long term."

So here's my observations and advice for diversification:

What does that mean for diversification?
For the "near term," (about the next 6 months to a year):

  • In general, with the exception of energy, forget US large caps, the Dow and the S&P 500, except as a hedge against increasing oil prices. They go up when oil goes down and vice versa.

  • For the long term, it's a good idea to hold at least some ETFs in oil related fields.

  • It's a good idea to have funds in the Asia and emerging markets region. It's also good to diversify within this market: some funds do significantly better than others.

  • Some money in ultrashort bonds is good. So is some money in unhedged foreign currency bonds or bond funds to hedge against a drop in the dollar.

  • Research, research, research.

  • Buy lower than you sell. (A bromide, to be sure, but often forgotten. Nobody ever went broke taking a profit.)

At least in the past year (longer, if I checked) this has returned well over the return on the DOW, the return on the S&P 500, etc.

武道 (ぶどう) , or, why the "101st Keyboarders" are clueless:

Link 1


One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful. Seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skillful.

It is better to save your army than to go down fighting...

Link 2

The easy way is always mined.

Never draw fire; it irritates everyone around you.

The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions:
when they're ready.
when you're not

And finally, a quote from Cindy Sheehan (via Kos):

The President says he feels compassion for me, but the best way to show that compassion is by meeting with me and the other mothers and families who are here. Our sons made the ultimate sacrifice and we want answers. All we're asking is that he sacrifice an hour out of his five-week vacation to talk to us, before the next mother loses her son in Iraq. He says he is spreading peace. How can you spread peace by killing people?

That is the main point: the big principle of the art of war, West or East, is to engage in war only as a way of ending strife and conflict.

Bush - and his supporters on the right- don't have specifics about how they are engaging this thing in order to end it. In fact, it's only expanding, which should call to mind the first principle of holes- when you're in one, stop digging.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The oil we eat

It's the name of another article from Harper's

The Dust Bowl was no accident of nature. A functioning grassland prairie produces more biomass each year than does even the most technologically advanced wheat field. The problem is, it’s mostly a form of grass and grass roots that humans can’t eat. So we replace the prairie with our own preferred grass, wheat. Never mind that we feed most of our grain to livestock, and that livestock is perfectly content to eat native grass. And never mind that there likely were more bison produced naturally on the Great Plains before farming than all of beef farming raises in the same area today. Our ancestors found it preferable to pluck the energy from the ground and when it ran out move on.

Today we do the same, only now when the vault is empty we fill it again with new energy in the form of oil-rich fertilizers. Oil is annual primary productivity stored as hydrocarbons, a trust fund of sorts, built up over many thousands of years. On average, it takes 5.5 gallons of fossil energy to restore a year’s worth of lost fertility to an acre of eroded land—in 1997 we burned through more than 400 years’ worth of ancient fossilized productivity, most of it from someplace else. Even as the earth beneath Iowa shrinks, it is being globalized...

The common assumption these days is that we muster our weapons to secure oil, not food. There’s a little joke in this. Ever since we ran out of arable land, food is oil. Every single calorie we eat is backed by at least a calorie of oil, more like ten. In 1940 the average farm in the United States produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil energy it used. By 1974 (the last year in which anyone looked closely at this issue), that ratio was 1:1. And this understates the problem, because at the same time that there is more oil in our food there is less oil in our oil. A couple of generations ago we spent a lot less energy drilling, pumping, and distributing than we do now. In the 1940s we got about 100 barrels of oil back for every barrel of oil we spent getting it. Today each barrel invested in the process returns only ten, a calculation that no doubt fails to include the fuel burned by the Hummers and Blackhawks we use to maintain access to the oil in Iraq.

David Pimentel, an expert on food and energy at Cornell University, has estimated that if all of the world ate the way the United States eats, humanity would exhaust all known global fossil-fuel reserves in just over seven years. Pimentel has his detractors. Some have accused him of being off on other calculations by as much as 30 percent. Fine. Make it ten years.

And sure enough, there go food prices:

High gas prices may not only pinch your wallet at the pump but also at the supermarket. Some stores and even restaurants may have to charge more to cover their costs.

Talk about sticker shock. Hal Spradlin couldn't believe pump prices when he filled up his delivery truck Tuesday morning. Usually $65 gets him close to a full tank. But Tuesday? "Three-quarters of a tank," Spradlin said. And by week's end, Hal will nearly pay three times as much. "It's an average of $180 a week to fill this thing up. Twenty cents a gallon makes a big difference," said Spradlin.

If you think what Hal pays at the pump doesn't affect you, you're wrong. Hal delivers produce for Sam Okun, a food wholesale business in downtown Toledo. Even though the company does not charge extra for gas, the increase cost is built in to the price of some products. "Lettuce that cost us $8 before, we were getting $10 now. We are [selling it for] $10.50.

And that's not all the other areas where petroleum impacts the food chain.

Oh boy...we're in trouble...

Able Danger? You're kidding...

Righties are touting the "Able Danger" story as proof that See! 9/11 was Clinton's Fault!

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Sept. 11 commission knew military intelligence officials had identified lead hijacker Mohamed Atta as a member of al-Qaida who might be part of U.S.-based terror cell more than a year before the terror attacks but decided not to include that in its final report, a spokesman acknowledged Thursday.

Al Felzenberg, who had been the commission's chief spokesman, said Tuesday the panel was unaware of intelligence specifically naming Atta. But he said subsequent information provided Wednesday confirmed that the commission had been aware of the intelligence.

It did not make it into the final report because the information was not consistent with what the commission knew about Atta's whereabouts before the attacks, Felzenberg said. The commission has gone out of existence, although a follow-up organization called the 9/11 Public Discourse Project continues to follow closely the Bush administration's progress in implementing their recommendations.

...According to [ Rep. Curt Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees] a classified military intelligence unit called ''Able Danger'' identified Atta and three other hijackers in 1999 as potential members of a terrorist cell in Brooklyn, N.Y. Weldon said Pentagon lawyers rejected the unit's recommendation that the information be turned over to the FBI in 2000.

According to Pentagon documents, the information was not shared because of concerns about pursuing information on ''U.S. persons,'' a legal term that includes U.S. citizens as well as foreigners legally admitted to the country.

Felzenberg said an unidentified person working with Weldon came forward Wednesday and described a meeting 10 days before the panel's report was issued last July. During it, a military official urged commission staffers to include a reference to the intelligence on Atta in the final report.

Felzenberg said checks were made and the details of the July 12, 2004, meeting were confirmed. Previous to that, Felzenberg said it was believed commission staffers knew about Able Danger from a meeting with military officials in Afghanistan during which no mention was made of Atta or the other three hijackers.

Staff members now are searching documents in the National Archives to look for notes from the meeting in Afghanistan and any other possible references to Atta and Able Danger, Felzenberg said.

He sought to minimize the significance of the new information.

''Even if it were valid, it would've joined the lists of dozens of other instances where information was not shared,'' Felzenberg said. ''There was a major problem with intelligence sharing.''

Er, ummm... if you didn't already know it the 9/11 Commission report was a whitewash:

The most momentous subject before the 9/11 Commission was: What did President Bush know about the Al Qaeda threat to the United States, when did he know it, and if he knew little, why so? The Commission reports that on several occasions in the spring and summer of 2001 the President had “asked his briefers whether any of the threats pointed to the United States.” The Commission further reports the President saying that “if his advisers had told him there was a [terrorist] cell in the United States, they would have moved to take care of it.” Facing his questioners in April 2004, the President said he had not been informed that terrorists were in this country.

Conceivably it was at or near the moment when Bush took this position that the members of the Commission who heard him grasped that casting useful light on the relation between official conduct and national unpreparedness would be impossible. The reason? The President’s claim was untrue. It was a lie, and the Commissioners realized they couldn’t allow it to be seen as a lie. Numberless officials had appeared before the whole body of the Commission or before its aides, had been sworn in, and had thereafter provided circumstantial detail about their attempts—beginning with pre-election campaign briefings in September, through November 2000, and continuing straight through the subsequent months—to educate Bush as candidate, then as president-elect, then as commander in chief, about the threat from terrorists on our shores. The news these officials brought was spelled out in pithy papers both short and long; the documentation supplied was in every respect impressive.[2]

Nevertheless the chief executive, seated before the Commission, declared: Nobody told me. And challenging the chief executive as a liar entailed an unthinkable cost—the possible rending of the nation’s social and political fabric.

This stuff isn't going to be forgotten, even if there were snafus in the Clinton era.

Another banner day for the George W. Bush oil bubble...

$66 a barrel, "with a bullet", as they used to say about the Billboard charts.

So what would it take to bring prices down? Short of a global recession that would significantly push demand down, analysts and traders see no end to the exceptional price rally that began nearly two years ago.

But I still think there'll be a Sept 10-11 pullback in prices.

Ties found between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government!!!

Only thing is, it's the Iraqi government the US installed.

Aug. 10, 2005 - A former Washington-area man accused in court papers of being the “American contact” for an Osama bin Laden “front organization” is now believed to be working for the new Iraqi government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, two U.S. law-enforcement officials and a longtime associate of the man tell NEWSWEEK...

Tariq A. Hamdi, who allegedly delivered a satellite-telephone battery to bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998, has left the United States and has told associates he is currently employed in the Iraqi Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, said the government officials, who asked not to be identified because of pending legal charges against Hamdi.

Hamdi's precise status with the Iraqi foreign ministry could not be immediately determined. But one of the U.S. law-enforcement officials said that federal prosecutors were concerned enough about Hamdi’s current status that they undertook a legal review with the State Department to determine if it would prevent them from charging him with federal crimes because of diplomatic immunity. But the prosecutors determined that his diplomatic status was “irrelevant” because the crimes they were considering charging him with took place before the current Iraqi government even existed, the official said.

Hamdi, an Iraqi-born American citizen who formerly lived in the Washington suburb of Herndon, Va., and worked for an Islamic think tank, has long been under scrutiny by federal law-enforcement agents in connection with a broader, three-year long probe into a web of Islamic charities with suspected terror links.

Really, Iraq was more important to Bush than going after al Qaeda. Let's stop pretending otherwise.