Sunday, February 28, 2010

Watch Yer Mouth

I recently finished preaching on the Ten Commandments, and those sermons can be found here on my church's website.  Anyway, one of my members sent me a Southerner's Ten Commandments, which are:
(1) Just one God
(2) Put nothin' before God
(3) Watch yer mouth
(4) Git yourself to Sunday meetin'
(5) Honor yer Ma & Pa
(6) No killin'
(7) No foolin' around with another fellow's gal.
(8) Don't take what ain't yers
(9) No tellin' tales or gossipin'
(10) Don't be hankerin' for yer buddy's stuff
I think I like #3 the best!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Along with the geological shock, it's also an emotional shock when earthquakes like the one that just hit Chile occur.  But while we extend a hand and grieve with victims, we must also keep in mind that these happen frequently. 

The United States Geological Survey estimates that, since 1900, there have been an average of 18 major earthquakes (magnitude 7.0-7.9) and one great earthquake (magnitude 8.0 or greater) per year somewhere in the world, and that this average has been relatively stable.  Furthermore, most of the world's earthquakes (90%, and 81% of the largest) take place in the 40,000-km-long, horseshoe-shaped zone called the circum-Pacific seismic belt, also known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, which for the most part bounds the Pacific Plate.  That means the Pacific coast of South and Central America, California, Alaska, Japan, and Indonesia.

Finally, it's helpful to note that the world's largest earthquake known to date, registering 9.0 on the Richter occured in 1960 just a couple of hundred miles south of today's earthquake.

To help put Chile's earthquake in further perspective, below are two maps: one historical map of earthquakes over just the last 50 years, and the other a map of plate tectonics:

Friday, February 26, 2010


Ray McGovern, former high-level CIA officer and now retired 'dissenter', gives a similar reading on the Iran situation as Webster Tarpley.  Namely, that the US is supporting rebel groups in Iran in order to spread disorder and stimulate hardliners in the Iran, in order to foment regime change.  Or something like that.  Read it here.

The Real War

In the 'things aren't always what they appear' category, comes this analysis by Webster Tarpley of the recent events in the triangle consisting of southern Afghanistan, eastern Iran, and western Pakistan (the region called Baluchistan), located on the Indian Ocean.  If you see a larger plan in the American/NATO occupation of Afghanistan, such as the looming economic/military struggle with China, then this makes sense.  If you are familiar with any of the recent writing of Zbigniew Brzezinski, such as The Grand Chessboard (read the entire book as a PDF online for free here), one of Obama's key foreign policy advisors (and professor at Columbia University when he attended there), then again the larger picture makes sense.

I've really come to appreciate Tarpley's insights on issues.  (Look at his impressive bio here at Wikipedia.)  He always looks to the big picture, knows the larger global forces at work, and has a fantastic memory and wide knowledge of the world and its history.  It also help to know, as he does, German, French, Italian, and other languages in order to be able to read newspapers and literature from all over the world.  Unfortunately, he sometimes says goofy things or makes unnecessary sarcastic remarks that undermine his argument.  And he is largely written off by the establishment press and academia as an eccentric and a crank, if not a loony conspiracy theorist.  But I just call him a dedicated contrarian and filter what he says with that in mind.

Dealing with Americans Who Are Already Sick

Paul Krugman's take on the health summit:
What really struck me about the meeting, however, was the inability of Republicans to explain how they propose dealing with the issue that, rightly, is at the emotional center of much health care debate: the plight of Americans who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions. In other advanced countries, everyone gets essential care whatever their medical history. But in America, a bout of cancer, an inherited genetic disorder, or even, in some states, having been a victim of domestic violence can make you uninsurable, and thus make adequate health care unaffordable.

One of the great virtues of the Democratic plan is that it would finally put an end to this unacceptable case of American exceptionalism. But what’s the Republican answer? Mr. Alexander was strangely inarticulate on the matter, saying only that “House Republicans have some ideas about how my friend in Tullahoma can continue to afford insurance for his wife who has had breast cancer.” He offered no clue about what those ideas might be.

In reality, House Republicans don’t have anything to offer to Americans with troubled medical histories. On the contrary, their big idea — allowing unrestricted competition across state lines — would lead to a race to the bottom. The states with the weakest regulations — for example, those that allow insurance companies to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence — would set the standards for the nation as a whole. The result would be to afflict the afflicted, to make the lives of Americans with pre-existing conditions even harder.

So what did we learn from the summit? What I took away was the arrogance that the success of things like the death-panel smear has obviously engendered in Republican politicians. At this point they obviously believe that they can blandly make utterly misleading assertions, saying things that can be easily refuted, and pay no price. And they may well be right.

But Democrats can have the last laugh. All they have to do — and they have the power to do it — is finish the job, and enact health reform.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Faking It

Andrew Sullivan posted this on his blog, and it's fascinating, and also somewhat depressing, about how little of many films is actually real:

Turning Away From War

The warrior historian Andrew Bacevich writes something interesting about Europe's approach to war:
Over the course of the disastrous 20th century, inhabitants of the liberal democratic world in ever-increasing numbers reached this conclusion: War doesn't pay and usually doesn't work. As recounted by historian James J. Sheehan in his excellent book, Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?, the countries possessing the greatest capability to employ force to further their political aims lost their enthusiasm for doing so. Over time, they turned away from war.

Of course, there were lingering exceptions. The United States and Israel have remained adamant in their determination to harness war and demonstrate its utility.

Europe, however, is another matter. By the dawn of this century, Europeans had long since lost their stomach for battle. The change was not simply political. It was profoundly cultural.

The cradle of Western civilization -- and incubator of ambitions that drenched the contemporary age in blood -- had become thoroughly debellicized. As a consequence, however willing they are to spend money updating military museums or maintaining war memorials, present-day Europeans have become altogether stingy when it comes to raising and equipping fighting armies.

This pacification of Europe is quite likely to prove irreversible. Yet even if reigniting an affinity for war among the people of, say, Germany and France were possible, why would any sane person even try? Why not allow Europeans to busy themselves with their never-ending European unification project? It keeps them out of mischief.

Washington, however, finds it difficult to accept this extraordinary gift -- purchased in part through the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers -- of a Europe that has laid down its arms. Instead, successive U.S. administrations have pushed, prodded, cajoled, and browbeaten European democracies to shoulder a heavier share of responsibility for maintaining world order and enforcing liberal norms.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bye Bayh Baby, Baby Goodbye

More scoop on the Bayh, from a reporter who knew him in Indiana.  (Sounds alot like our own former Senator, John Edwards, just without the adultery.)
Democrat Evan Bayh is exiting the U.S. Senate in the same capacity he has served the past 12 years -- an embarrassment to his constituents, his party and an affront to democracy.

The Indiana senator's surrender will be remembered for two sound bites: He said he has loved serving Hoosier citizens, but he doesn't like Congress anymore. Less noticed but far more newsworthy was the antidemocratic manner in which he announced his retirement.

Bayh's claim that he loves serving the people of Indiana was a jaw-dropper for anyone remotely familiar with his political history. As a neophyte reporter at the Bloomington Herald-Telephone in 1986, when the son of former Sen. Birch Bayh was elected Secretary of State, I quickly learned what Evan Bayh was about -- Evan Bayh, and Evan Bayh only.

Honest About Defense

For me, the most refreshing thing about Paul is his dogged refusal to exclude the crippling cost of defense and the increasingly nutty attempt at global domination and control by the US. Oh, and habeas corpus - a conservative shibboleth until the Cheney era, which National Review aided and abetted.

Fructose as Poison

This study takes its place in a growing lineup of scientific studies demonstrating that consuming high-fructose corn syrup is the fastest way to trash your health. It is now known without a doubt that sugar in your food, in all it’s myriad of forms, is taking a devastating toll.

And fructose in any form -- including high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and crystalline fructose -- is the worst of the worst!

Fructose is a major contributor to:

•Insulin resistance and obesity

•Elevated blood pressure

•Elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL

•Depletion of vitamins and minerals

•Cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout.

If you received your fructose only from vegetables and fruits (where it originates) as most people did a century ago, you’d consume about 15 grams per day -- a far cry from the 73 grams per day the typical adolescent gets from sweetened drinks. In vegetables and fruits, it’s mixed in with fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all which moderate any negative metabolic effects.

It isn’t that fructose itself is bad -- it is the MASSIVE DOSES you’re exposed to that make it dangerous.

Toyota and the Obama Administration

You know, I've been wondering whether something like this would come up.  File this one under 'things aren't always what they appear.'  I don't know whether it's true or not, but all of the sudden focus on Toyoto seemed too much and at such a 'convenient' time for GM and for the Obama administration in its attempt to cow the new reformist government in Japan.  From Wayne Madsen:
The Obama administration has expanded its economic warfare against other countries, first reported on January 18 by WMR in the case of an authorized financial campaign against Venezuela. The Obama administration, according to WMR’s Asian sources, is waging an economic warfare campaign, coupled with industrial sabotage, against Japan through a pre-planned operation directed against the Japanese automobile manufacturer, Toyota.

WMR has learned that the Obama administration authorized the anti-Toyota campaign as a warning shot to Japan over its reformist government’s insistence that the U.S. pull its military troops out of Okinawa. WMR has learned that Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, have decided to turn the screws on Japan, not only for auto market leverage, but also to punish Japan over the insistence by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and the newly-elected anti-U.S. military mayor of Nago on Okinawa to move the U.S. military off of Okinawa.

Brooksley Born, Derivatives, and Larry Summers

It's interesting what you run across when you're reading.  Brooksley Born was an early hero in the attempt to warn the United States about the financial dangers of unregulated 'derivatives.'  Here is information about her from that great website Wikipedia:
Born was appointed to the CFTC (Commodities Futures Trading Commission) on April 15, 1994 by President Bill Clinton. Due to litigation against a company called Bankers Trust by major corporate clients, Born and her team at the CFTC sought comments on the regulation of derivatives, a first step in the process of writing comprehensive regulations. Born was particularly concerned about swaps, financial instruments that are traded over the counter between banks, insurance companies or other funds or companies, and thus have no transparency except to the two counterparties and the counterparties' regulators, if any.

CFTC regulation was strenuously opposed by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers. On May 7, 1998, former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt joined Rubin and Greenspan in objecting to the issuance of the CFTC’s concept release. Their response dismissed Born's concerns off-hand and focused on the possibility that CFTC regulation of swaps and other OTC derivative instruments would increase legal uncertainty of such instruments, potentially creating turmoil in the markets, and reducing the value of the instruments. Further concerns voiced were that the imposition of new regulatory costs would stifle innovation and push transactions offshore.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ron Paul

Ron Paul's straw-poll victory at CPAC over all over candidates (with the yucky Mitt Romney coming in second) was great, and reflects the changing priorities in the conservative movement from war to fiscal and economic change.  I could actually vote for Ron Paul, I think, given his anti-war views.  And I too agree that we have got to get our fiscal house in order, or we are in deep trouble as a nation.  (Actually, we're already in deep trouble.)

Actually, you know my deepest fear?  That if Ron Paul actually became a truly viable candidate, he would be assassinated by the shadow government.  They could not control such a person of integrity as Paul and would eliminate him before he became a real threat to him.

Greece and the Euro

Today's WaPo column by Robert Samuelson does a good job explaining the current dilemma with Greece's Euro debt, and how it relates to the rest of Europe, and indeed to every advanced welfare state.  No solutions, but it helps to understand the situation better, e.g., why the adoption of the Euro in Europe about a decade ago was so controversial.

Containment, Not War

Fareed Zakaria urges cautious on the war drums now beating for an attack on Iran:
Sarah Palin has a suggestion for how Barack Obama can save his presidency. "Say he decided to declare war on Iran," she said on Fox News this month. "I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, well, maybe he's tougher than we think he is today." Such talk is in the air again. Palin was picking up the idea from Daniel Pipes, a neoconservative Middle East expert who suggested a strike would reverse Obama's political fortunes. (Actually, Palin attributed the idea to Patrick Buchanan, but she obviously entirely misread Buchanan's column, which opposed Pipes's suggestion. It's getting tiresome to keep pointing out her serial gaffes, but Palin does appear to be running for president.)

What The Heck?!

One of the strangest op-eds I've seen in a while was Sunday's column by Jeffrey Rosen in the WaPo suggesting that Obama appoint himself to the Supreme Court.  Me thinks that perhaps it was a not-so-veiled critique of Obama's presidential leadership.  Duh!

Time For Leadership

Economist Robert Kuttner adds some detail to Reich's proposal, revealing how much presidential leadership this is going to take:
Option One: The televised summit happens. It's clear once and for all that there is no common ground to be had. And Obama gives the speech we've all been waiting for.

"My fellow Americans, I've gone the last mile to find consensus, but the Republicans have made clear by their actions that they put destruction of my administration ahead of the needs of the American people. I can't let that happen, because the stakes are too high. So I am asking the House to pass the Senate bill, and then to improve the law using the budget reconciliation process."

His approval rating jumps ten points overnight just because the voters admire guts in a leader, and will settle for some sign of a pulse.

A Majority Will Do

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich on health care:
My free advice to the president: If you want to get health care enacted you must use reconciliation and quickly. Host your bipartisan gab fest at the White House on Thursday. Tell Republicans you've been eagerly awaiting their ideas for over a year, but the American public can't wait any longer. Explain to them how our current economic mess is directly related to the health care mess -- we're paying 16 percent of our GDP for health care while health insurers are hiking rates and Americans are losing their health insurance every day. Then tell the House and Senate to get to work on putting their bills together (or tell the House Democrats to enact the Senate bill and then save their disagreements for reconciliation), and tell Harry Reid you want the Senate bill on a fast track of reconciliation.

Explain to the American people you understand their impatience. The Constitution does not require 60 votes in the Senate to pass legislation. A majority will do. That's called democracy.

Rising Star of 'Inglourious Basterds'

I found this comment by Lawrence O'Donnell about the movie Inglourious Basterds to be on the mark:
If Quentin Tarentino's ingenious Nazi-killing fantasy comes from behind in the polls and wins the best picture Oscar, the win will be a shocker to the TV audience, but not the Academy.

The more I talk to Academy voters, the more I hear them leaning toward Basterds. Maybe half of the votes have already been cast. Most of the rest will pour into the Academy this week. The timing for the buzz shift toward Basterds could not be better.

If I had a vote to cast, Basterds would get mine. What I love most about Inglourious Basterds is its utter indescribability. Go ahead, try to describe it to people who haven't seen it. It will sound like a silly, incoherent, horribly inaccurate depiction of World War 2. They will not believe any adult would put up money to make or see a movie like that. They will not be able to fathom why Brad Pitt would jump at the chance to star in it. Tarantino took a crazy idea that rattled around in his head for years, turned it into what must have seemed like a pretty crazy screenplay, then turned that into a masterful movie crammed with unbearable tension, twisted humor, true eloquence, and remarkable performances.
The choice between Inglourious Bastards and Avatar is a really tough one. I was taken with both of them.  At this point, I don't know how I would cast my vote for Best Picture, if I had a vote.  I definitely know that Christoph Waltz should win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (it really should be Best Actor), because he was the star of Inglorious Basterds.  Brad Pitt wasn't really a significant force in the movie at all.

Mad As Hell And Not Going To Take It Anymore

Jim Kunstler takes after both the tea baggers and the progressives for their basic incoherence.  I'll excerpt just his hit on the tea baggers, and you can check out his column for the rest:
The Tea Party appeals to the swelling numbers of the new former middle class angry at the sudden vanishing of their accustomed perqs and entitlements to a predictably comfortable suburban existence. They're mad at the government and hot for "liberty." But how do they propose to maintain the hyper-complexities of suburban life without taxes to pay for fixing the countless roads their lives depend on or to run the gold-plated central school districts that seem to exist solely to provide Friday night football? As for liberty, a handful of despotic corporations from McDonalds to WalMart have been granted the liberty to destroy the Tea-bagger's bodies and the economic fabric of their communities -- and they seem to want more of that kind of liberty, based on the recent decision of a "conservative" majority on the Supreme Court allowing corporations to buy elections. The Tea-baggers also apparently crave the liberty to push other people around, especially on questions of abortion and religion. That's an interesting kind of freedom.

As more and more of them lose jobs and incomes, will they resent their government-issued extended unemployment benefits? I doubt that you'll see them burning their own checks in big public demonstrations the way the Vietnam War protesters burned their draft cards. And of course this also goes for the retiree Tea-baggers who show up at their Tea Parties to inveigh against the government -- except the agency that prints their social security checks, or the other one that pays for their liver transplants (while 40-million unretired, un-insured Americans under sixty-five get slammed with extortionary hospital bills for twenty-thousand dollar routine appendectomies that end up bankrupting them).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Not Settled

George Will's column today is brutal toward global warming advocates.  The whole thing is not so much argument as it is ridicule.  I guess he deserves to dish it out since he's been on the receiving end of ridicule and distain for awhile in the last couple of years for his contrarian stand on global warming:
Science, many scientists say, has been restored to her rightful throne because progressives have regained power. Progressives, say progressives, emulate the cool detachment of scientific discourse. So hear the calm, collected voice of a scientist lavishly honored by progressives, Rajendra Pachauri.

He is chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 version of the increasingly weird Nobel Peace Prize. Denouncing persons skeptical about the shrill certitudes of those who say global warming poses an imminent threat to the planet, he says:

"They are the same people who deny the link between smoking and cancer. They are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder -- and I hope they put it on their faces every day."

Do not judge him as harshly as he speaks of others. Nothing prepared him for the unnerving horror of encountering disagreement. Global warming alarmists, long cosseted by echoing media, manifest an interesting incongruity -- hysteria and name-calling accompanying serene assertions about the "settled science" of climate change. Were it settled, we would be spared the hyperbole that amounts to Ring Lardner's "Shut up, he explained."

The Lean Years

Tom Friedman writes about the lean years:
Welcome to the lean years.

Yes, sir, we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us. And in these past 70 years, leadership — whether of the country, a university, a company, a state, a charity, or a township — has largely been about giving things away, building things from scratch, lowering taxes or making grants.

But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, “where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.

Indeed, to lead now is to trim, to fire or to downsize services, programs or personnel. We’ve gone from the age of government handouts to the age of citizen givebacks, from the age of companions fly free to the age of paying for each bag.

Let’s just hope our lean years will only number seven. That will depend a lot on us and whether we rise to the economic challenges of this moment.

Friday, February 19, 2010


In a very thoughtful column, Pat Buchanan analyzes our current political paralysis concerning the national fiscal situation.  Bottom-line, the inability to do take any effective action could create financial catastrophe down the line.

Tiger Woods Repents

This is a very powerful apology by Tiger Woods, with all the classic elements of acceptance of responsibility, acknowledgement of wrongdoing, contrition, and commitment to change.  No excuses.  No scapegoats.  No defensiveness.  Total humility.  I don't know how anyone could have wanted anything more from him in this statement.  A couple of excerpts:
The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.

I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them.

I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife's family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.

Iran, Iraq and America

This is a very powerful statement by an economist and historian named Sasan Fayazmanesh, reminding us of America's role in Iran and Iraq over the last half century:
In the 1979 Revolution in Iran the liberal forces made a fatal mistake: they adopted the old dictum of the enemy of my enemy is my friend and allied themselves with just about every force that opposed the tyrannical rule of the shah. The result was helping to replace one form of despotism for another: monarchy for theocracy. A similar mistake seems to be made today. Many liberal elements are once again allying themselves with anyone who opposes the current regime in Iran, including the same “Western” countries that nourished the despotic rule of the shah in the first place.

For decades these countries, particularly the US and Israel, helped the shah to deprive Iranians of their most basic rights and freedoms. With the assistance of these countries, the demented despot silenced all opposition to his rule, built and expanded his notorious secret police, made his opponents disappear, and filled Iran’s dungeons, particularly the infamous Evin prison that is still in use, with political prisoners. He had them tortured, mutilated, and executed. The US, Israel and their allies, had no problem with these violations of basic human rights in Iran as long as the “son of a bitch” was “their son of a bitch” and made them a partner in the plunder of the wealth of the nation.

Getting Hitler

Adam and I watched 'Inglorious Basterds' last night.  It was much different than I expected, in a good way, and I can see why it has been nominated for 'Best Picture'.  Good combination of humor, suspense, drama, and surprising turns.  Actually less violence and more suspense than I expected for Tarentino.

Christoph Waltz, playing Col. Hans Landa, a sinister Nazi officer, has been nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor.  He really carries the show, and the nomination is well deserved.

Brad Pitt on the other hand, is a drag on the film, which was a surprise.

It has very strong competition for Best Picture award from 'Avatar'. But even if it didn't, I'm not sure that a revenge fantasy film, where Jews get to fulfill their fantasies of revenge against the Nazis, would rise to the level necessary to win Best Picture.

Wait A Minute

Wait a minute.  I get it now.  Steel-framed buildings don't collapse from fire.  They never have, except for one time.  In New York on 9/11. 

Wonder what happened at the World Trade Center?  Gee, must have been a fluke.  Or maybe terrorist magic.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Will. You. Please. COLLAPSE!!!!!!!!!!!

If you collapse, I will stop believing in the 9/11 conspiracy theory that I have previously promulgated.  I promise.  Cross my heart.

Collapse.  Flat as a pancake.  Into your footprint.  I dare you. 

C'mon, dammit. Collapse.

What!  The Austin, Texas IRS building hasn't collapsed completely into its own footprint because of the fire and plane collision?  Well, it must be more structurally sound than those cheap World Trade Center buildings.  I heard they were made with bamboo poles rather than real steel.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Graceless Departure

The always graceful James Fallows writes about Evan Bayh's departure:
As my colleague T-N Coates has pointed out, Evan Bayh's very-last-minute decision not to run for the Senate is graceless by most normal measures. He didn't talk with the President or the leader of his party in the Senate, both of whom obviously had a stake in his decision. He caught his state's party organization so much by surprise that they may not be able to get a substitute on the ballot under the normal rules.

The puzzlement to me is how this fits with the previous 25 years of his political life -- rather, what retrospective light it sheds on that time. Bayh has held elective office since he was 30. He became Indiana's governor at 33 and U.S. senator at 43.

If he really cared about his Indiana constituents and their problems through that time, great! But if so, how can he walk away with this kind of careless disregard about whether, in the style of his departure, he is smashing up things that had said were important to him. If, on the other hand, these issues and people never really mattered that much, and public life had been a kind of popularity contest -- well, that may be true of a lot of politicians, but they don't like to reveal it quite this bluntly.
Personally, I'm betting that something more will soon come out that helps explain this 'graceless' act. It's unlikely to have been such a spontaneous decision, with so much at stake.

In the meantime, it would seem that if what you really want to do is represent corporations, like Bayh does, why not be a CEO or a lobbyist?  They don't have to hide their representation and they make WAY more money than Senators.

Happy money making, Senator!


And from the British newspaper The Daily Mail comes this astonishing report on the global warming front, that Phil Jones, one of the leading global warming catastrophists, admits that his critics have been correct on several issues:
The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.

Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.

Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be’.

The data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph’ used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Funny Cats

For my wonderful sister-in-law, who needs a good laugh to make up for all the bad news, here's some more funny cats!!

AGW Coming Undone

The Washington Post has a major article today on the recent scandals in climate change and how they are bringing the IPCC, along with its methods and conclusions, into serious question.
With its 2007 report declaring that the "warming of the climate system is unequivocal," the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won a Nobel Prize -- and a new degree of public trust in the controversial science of global warming.

But recent revelations about flaws in that seminal report, ranging from typos in key dates to sloppy sourcing, are undermining confidence not only in the panel's work but also in projections about climate change. Scientists who have pointed out problems in the report say the panel's methods and mistakes -- including admitting Saturday that it had overstated how much of the Netherlands was below sea level -- give doubters an opening.

It wasn't the first one. There is still a scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change. But in the past year, a cache of stolen e-mails, revealing that prominent climate scientists sought to prevent the publication of works by their detractors, has sullied their image as impartial academics. The errors in the U.N. report -- a document intended to be the last nail in the coffin of climate doubt -- are a serious problem that could end up forcing environmentalists to focus more on the old question of proving that climate change is a threat, instead of the new question of how to stop it.

More Clinton Than Clinton

Did I just read this right?  E. J. Dionne thinks that Obama should be more like Bill Clinton?  How could he be more like Bill Clinton?  Virtually every one of Obama's advisors are Clintonians (including Clinton's wife!), and his domestic and foreign policy is vintage Clinton.  The only thing left would be to have a personality transplant, so that he could become the happy-go-lucky extravert that Clinton is.  And to cheat on Michelle, which would probably be a death sentence.

No, Obama needs to be more like FDR.

Iran in the Crosshairs

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that the United States feared Iran was drifting toward a military dictatorship, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps seizing control of large swaths of Iran’s political, military, and economic establishment.
It looks more and more like the stage is being set for a military attack on Iran. This will not be pretty.
“We will always defend ourselves, and we will always defend our friends and allies, and we will certainly defend countries who are in the Gulf who face the greatest immediate nearby threat from Iran,” she said. “We also are talking at length with a lot of our friends in the Gulf about what they need defensively in the event that Iran pursues its nuclear ambitions.”
Here's what fascinating about that foreign policy goggledegook. The US military--Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Army--totally and completely surrounds Iran, from our positions and bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the Saudi peninsula. And then we have the gall to talk about 'defending ourselves'?

How crazy is that. It shows how totally distorted our foreign policy has become.  Not a republic but an empire.

Good News from Indiana

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana is calling it quits:
Senator Evan Bayh, the Indiana Democrat, has decided not to run for a third term this year.

Mr. Bayh will announce his decision in a press conference at 2 p.m. on Monday, an aide confirmed. The decision was closely held by Mr. Bayh, a party official in Indiana said, and came as a surprise to Democrats in his state who had already started working on his campaign.

“After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so in Congress has waned,” Mr. Bayh plans to say in his remarks. “My decision was not motivated by political concern. Even in the current challenging environment, I am confident in my prospects for re-election.”
I say 'good riddance' to this Democratic Leadership Council prostitute of the military-industrial complex and corporate money and influence in Washington. His people in Indiana will be much better off without him.

Why NATO is in Afghanistan

One more poignant selection from Kunstler's weekly essay, which helps to explains NATO's presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia:
A larger question is what happens to the vaunted peacefulness of contemporary Europe now that the narcotic of universal prosperity is wearing off. Maybe it will be too shellshocked for a while to do anything. More likely, though, old and new animosities will burble out of those lovely old streets. Nations that seemed to be populated by effete cafe layabouts will be transformed back into warrior societies. Never under-estimate the sheer power of testosterone in idle, unemployed young men.

For another thing, I expect Europe to join the global contest for the world's remaining oil resources. Germany and France, at least, won't enjoy the luxury anymore of kicking back while the US Military desperately tries to keep a western "police" presence in the deserts down there. Germany and France will also not have the luxury to drink espresso and watch Iran become a mad dog nuclear power, with missiles capable of striking Frankfort and Lyon. Won't that be interesting?

Darn Nice Corner of the World

Here is James Kunstler's happy contribution to the news analysis of the day:
Those who run Europe have three choices: to bail out Greece, to let Greece sink (into a desperate economic depression), or to pretend to bail out Greece. The sad truth of the situation is that there is not enough productive activity in Europe to really support all the members of the European Union in the style they're accustomed to. (Which also happens to be true of the USA and its constituent states, but you probably know that already.)

Europe is a sad case, really poignant, because it became such a darn nice corner of the world after the convulsions of the mid 20th century. Who, for instance, can spend two weeks walking the lovely ancient streets of Bruges or Orvieto, or Lisbon and not fall to their knees in overwhelming despair on return to the slum of Kennedy Airport? Europe rebuilt itself so beautifully after the war while America became a utopia of overfed clowns riding in clown cars around the plasticized cartoon outskirts of our ruined cities. Europe had wonderful public transit while America let its railroads rot away. European men went about their business in grown-up clothing while Americans men dressed like five-year-olds and got flames tattooed on their necks as though contemplating a barbarian invasion of Akron, Ohio.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


This is why our war effort in Afghanistan is immoral, in the absence of a strong reason for being there, which we don't currently have:
The top United States commander in Afghanistan confirmed that a rocket went astray during operations in the Marja area of Helmand province, killing 12 civilians, according to a statement issued by the International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the ISAF commander, ordered the withdrawal of the type of rocket launcher used in the incident, a high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS), from operations “until a thorough review of this incident has been conducted,” the statement said.

Left Out

This is unfortunately so typical of media debate on things like Iran.  On Fareed Zakaria GPS today, you have a hawk's hawk neocon, Bret Stephens, foreign policy columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and a 'realist' establishment strategist, Richard Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, discussing Iran with Fareed.  Stephens is making a strong case for military action and regime change, whereas Haass has just changed his position from diplomacy to possible military action.

So where is the responsible anti-interventionist voice, someone like Andrew Bacevich or the like?  Or is the media assuming that anti-intervention is not responsible and therefore not an option?  I think that's the assumption, which is why we had no real debate on the invasion of Iraq and most other military actions we've taken over the years.

I like Fareed, but I'm really sick of this lack of full debate.  Will we ever learn?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Practicing What We Preach

That Was Quick

The inimitable Alexander Cockburn:
That was quick. It seems only yesterday – in fact it was only yesterday - that we had Barack the Populist flailing away at the banks. He didn’t run for office only to end up "helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street", he told CBS’s 60 Minutes in December. Early, he’d talked hotly of the obscenity of the bankers’ bonuses. In January he was shaking his fist at the mighty powers of Wall St: "If these folks want a fight, it's a fight I'm ready to have." In his State of the Union speech he dealt the bankers another couple of glancing blows.

BUT now it’s Valentine’s Weekend and love is in the air. On Friday Bloomberg Business Week featured Obama telling two Bloomberg reporters he doesn’t begrudge the million-dollar pay-outs made to two of Wall Street’s most powerful men because, after all, “there are some baseball players who are making more than that.”

What about JP Morgan chairman Jamie Dimon ($16.1m plus a $1m salary) and Goldman’s boss Lloyd Blankfein ($9m)? "I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen," the President said. "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system."

To ask which is the “real” Obama is to drift towards the illusion of thinking there is one – as opposed to an infinitely mutable organism, endlessly adapting to political circumstance, with an eye eternally cocked to the main chance. People who nourished high hopes for Obama pathetically claim that he’s been taken prisoner by malign forces, by the Chicago mafia -- Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and David Plouffe -- and if he could only have other counsellors at his side, why then he’d… he’d…

Tea Party

Pat Buchanan writes about the origins of the Tea Party movement:
What called the Tea Party into existence?

Some are angry over unchecked immigration and the failure to control our borders and send the illegals back. Some are angry over the loss of manufacturing jobs. Some are angry over winless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some are angry over ethnic preferences they see as favoring minorities over them.

What they agree upon, however, is that they have been treading water for a decade, working harder and harder with little or no improvement in their family standard of living. They see the government as taking more of their income in taxes, seeking more control over their institutions, creating entitlements for others not them, plunging the nation into unpayable debt, and inviting inflation or a default that can wipe out what they have saved.

And there is nothing they can do about it, for they are politically powerless. By their gatherings, numbers, mockery of elites and militancy, however, they get a sense of the power that they do not have.

Their repeated reappearance on the national stage, in new incarnations, should be a fire bell in the night to the establishment of both parties. For it testifies to their belief and that of millions more that the state they detest is at war with the country they love.

Christmas Bomber as a 'Patsy'

Webster Tarpley, an astute observer of intelligence affairs (and lots of other things), writes about the Christmas Bomber:
The Detroit Christmas bomber was deliberately and intentionally allowed to keep his US entry visa as the result of a national security override issued by an as yet unknown US intelligence or law-enforcement agency with the goal of blocking the State Department’s planned revocation of that visa. This is the result of hearings held on January 27 before the House Homeland Security Committee, and in particular of the testimony of Patrick F. Kennedy, Undersecretary of State for Management. The rickety US government official version of the December 25 Detroit underwear bomber incident, which has been jerry-built over the past month and a half, has now totally collapsed, and key elements of the terrorism-spawning rogue network inside US agencies and departments are unusually vulnerable to a determined campaign of exposure.

Based on what was already known a few days after this incident, it was clear that normal screening and surveillance procedures had been scrapped and aborted in order to allow the youthful patsy Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria to board his flight from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Detroit. Mutallab’s father, a rich, well known, and reputable Nigerian banker had gone to the US Embassy in his country and formally warned a State Department official as well as a CIA representative that his son was in Yemen and in all probability consorting with terrorists. Under normal circumstances, this report alone would have been more than enough to get Mutallab’s US visa revoked in the same way he had already been denied entry to Great Britain. He also would normally have been placed on the no-fly list, thus setting up two insuperable obstacles to getting on his Detroit bound flight and winging off to produce an incident which caused several weeks of public hysteria in this country, completely with demands for body scanners in airports. In addition, the US intelligence community had reports that a Nigerian was training with the purported “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” in Yemen. Obama had called a December 22 meeting with top CIA, FBI, and DHS officials because of reports of a terrorist attack looming during the Christmas holiday.

But the important testimony came from Kennedy, whose responsibilities include Consular Services, and therefore visas. In his opening statement, Kennedy offered a tortured circumlocution to describe what had happened. Attempting to head off the question of why the State Department had not revoked Mutallab’s visa, Kennedy stated:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pass On This One, Please

This guy, Harold Ford, lately of Tennessee but now running for the Senate in New York is just WAY too ambitious for his own good.

A Message for City Planners and Other Thoughtful People

Why urban planning is good, from the same article as the last post, on the new suburban slums:
In the meantime, during these low, ragged years, a few lessons about urban planning can be picked from the stucco pile.

One is that, at least here in California, the outlying cities themselves encouraged the boom, spurred by the state’s broken tax system. Hemmed in by property tax limitations, cities were compelled to increase revenue by the easiest route: expanding urban boundaries. They let developers plow up walnut groves and vineyards and places that were supposed to be strawberry fields forever to pay for services demanded by new school parents and park users.

Second, look at the cities with stable and recovering home markets. On this coast, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and San Diego come to mind. All of these cities have fairly strict development codes, trying to hem in their excess sprawl. Developers, many of them, hate these restrictions. They said the coastal cities would eventually price the middle class out, and start to empty.

It hasn’t happened. Just the opposite. The developers’ favorite role models, the laissez faire free-for-alls — Las Vegas, the Phoenix metro area, South Florida, this valley — are the most troubled, the suburban slums.

Come see: this is what happens when money and market, alone, guide the way we live.

Geography of Nowhere

James Kunstler's prediction are coming true in California, as shown by this NYT article:
Drive along foreclosure alley, through new planned communities that look like tile-roofed versions of a 21st century ghost town, and you see what happens when people gamble with houses instead of casino chips.

Dirty flags advertise rock-bottom discounts on empty starter mansions. On the ground, foreclosure signs are tagged with gang graffiti. Empty lots are untended, cratered with mud puddles from the winter storms that have hammered California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Nobody is home in the cities of the future.

In a decade, they saw real property defy reality in real time in these insta-neighborhoods that sprouted in what had been some of the world’s most productive farmland.

In places like Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy, population nearly doubled in 10 years, and home prices tripled. After inhaling all this real estate helium, some developers and their apologists in urban planning circles hailed the boom as the new America at the far exurban fringe. Every citizen a homeowner! Half-acre lots for all! No credit, no problem!

Others saw it as the residential embodiment of the Edward Abbey line that “growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Now median home prices have fallen from $500,000 to $150,000 — among the most precipitous drops in the nation — and still the houses sit empty, spooky and see-through, waiting on demography and psychology to catch up.

Not a Republic But an Empire

We're not a republic, but an empire:
Just as Hadrian succeeded Trajan, Domitian succeeded Titus, Nero succeeded Claudius, and Caligula succeeded Tiberius, so Kennedy replaced Eisenhower, Nixon replaced Johnson, Reagan replaced Carter, and Obama replaced Bush.

Same empire, different emperor.

The extent of the U.S. global empire is almost incalculable. We know enough, however, about foreign bases, physical assets, military spending, and foreign troop levels to know that we have an empire in everything but the name.

There are, according to the Department of Defense’s "Base Structure Report" for FY 2009, 716 U.S. military bases on foreign soil in thirty-eight countries. Yet, according to the expert on this subject, Chalmers Johnson, the author of Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis, that number is far too low: "The official figures omit espionage bases, those located in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and miscellaneous facilities in places considered too sensitive to discuss or which the Pentagon for its own reasons chooses to exclude – e.g. in Israel, Kosovo, or Jordan." Johnson places the real number of foreign bases closer to 1,000.

This same Base Structure Report states that the DOD’s physical assets consist of "more than 539,000 facilities (buildings, structures and linear structures) located on more than 5,570 sites, on approximately 29 million acres." The 307,295 buildings occupied by the DOD comprise over 2.1 billion square feet. The DOD manages almost 30 million acres of land worldwide.

The latest defense budget (Obama’s first) is almost as much as the rest of the world’s defense spending combined. The U.S. military is the single-largest consumer of oil in the world, officially using 320,000 barrels of oil a day. The U.S. Navy’s battle fleet is larger than the next 13 foreign navies combined. And thanks to the work of economist Robert Higgs, we know that total spending for all defense-related purposes is actually about a trillion dollars. And then there are the supplemental appropriation bills not in the Pentagon’s budget.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Global Warming in a Snowstorm

The freezing snowmageddon hitting Washington is having the reverse effect of heating up the political debate over global warming and the corresponding 'cap and trade' policy.  The 'conservatives' are claiming that the hard snowstorm repudiates the global warming theory, while the 'liberals' like Keith Olbermann are calling the conservatives stupid and claiming that the bad weather is proof of global warming changing the climate in unexpected ways. 

I find both sides lacking in credibility and thoughtfulness.  One bad winter doesn't prove or disprove anything. 

If you want a very thoughtful (and persuasive) argument on the bigger issues here, written by a global warming skeptic, read this post by Douglas Hoffman.  I'm not saying its the final argument, but I'm leaning in its direction for the time being.  (I'm sure there's a thoughtful and persuasive argument on the pro-AGW side as well, but I just haven't looked for it.)

One more point.  One hears about 'tipping points' a lot in the global warming debate.  I sense that we have definitely reached one tipping point, where the 'global warming movement' is in sharp decline, at least in public estimation and political power.  Or to use a different analogy, the 'global warming' bubble has now burst.  That doesn't necessarily mean they're wrong.  But the momentum has clearly shifted and they are on the defensive.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

That'a Boy!

This was my personal favorite of the Super Bowl commercials:

Howard Zinn, RIP

Howard Zinn, who died last week, was one of the great progressive historians, writers, and activists of the last 60 years.  His book,  A People's History of the United States, had a profound impact on my thinking about the history of our country.  Here is an excerpt from a heretofore unpublished interview, where Zinn tells how his wartime experience during WWII changed his thinking about the nature of war.
I enlisted in the Air Force. I volunteered. I was an enthusiastic bombardier. To me it was very simple: it was a war against fascism. They were the bad guys; we were the good guys. One of the things I learned from that experience was that when you start off with them being the bad guys and you being the good guys, once you've made that one decision, you don't have to think anymore, if you're in the military. From that point on, anything goes. From that point on, you're capable of anything, even atrocities. Because you've made a decision a long time ago that you're on the right side. You don't keep questioning, questioning, questioning. You're not Yossarian, who questions.

And so, I was an enthusiastic bombardier, as I say. The war was over, presumably--a few weeks from the end. Everybody knew the war was about to end in Europe. We didn't think we were flying missions anymore. No reason to fly. We were all through France, into Germany. The Russians and Americans had met on the Elbe. It was just a matter of a few weeks. And then we were awakened in the wee hours of the morning and told we were going on a mission. The so-called intelligence people, who brief us before we go into a plane, tell us we are going to bomb this tiny town on the Atlantic coast of France called Royan, near Bordeaux, and we are doing it because there are several thousand German soldiers there. They are not doing anything. They are not bothering anyone. They are waiting for the war to end. They've just been bypassed. And we are going to bomb them.


Here's a neat video:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Financial IEDs

Here's a gloomy piece from Paul Farrell of Marketwatch:
Retire? You can fuggetaboutit if the new Global Debt Time Bomb is detonated by any one of 20 made-in-America trigger mechanisms.

Yes, 20. And yes, any one can destroy your retirement because all 20 are inexorably linked, a house-of-cards, a circular firing squad destined to self-destruct, triggering the third great Wall Street meltdown of the 21st century, igniting the Great Depression II that George W. Bush, Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson and now President Obama have simply delayed with their endless knee-jerk, debt-laden wars, stimulus bonanzas and bailouts.

1. Federal Budget Deficit Bomb. The Bush/Cheney wars pushed America deep into a debt hole. Federal debt limit was just raised almost 100% with Obama's 2010 budget, to $14.3 trillion vs. $7.8 trillion in 2005. The Congressional Budget Office predicts future deficits around 4% through 2020. Get it? America's debt at 84% of GDP will soon pass that toxic 90% trigger point.

2. U.S. Foreign Trade Bomb. Monthly deficits actually dropped from $50 billion per month to roughly $35 billion. But the total continues climbing as $400 billion is added each year. Foreigners now own $2.5 trillion of America, with China holding over $1.3 trillion in Treasury debt.

Nightmare: Palin/Petraeus 2012

In an article about Sarah Palin in the New York Review of Books, we find this description of her time as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska:
Palin won by 651 votes to Stein's 440. Installed in the mayor's office, she sacked the town planner, police chief, museum director, and librarian (who was later reinstalled after a public protest), and set about her mission of deregulating Wasilla. Business inventory and personal property taxes were abolished; land was rezoned from residential to commercial to meet the needs of incoming big-box chain stores and fast-food outlets, and from single-family to multi-family to encourage speculative condo development; Palin cast the tie-breaking vote in council to stop the city adopting a building code. She held out the invitation to prospective investors in Wasilla to build what they liked, where they liked, out of any materials and to whatever standards that they chose. The long, unlovely, centerless ribbon of commerce that stretches along Alaska's Highway 3, punctuated by the signage of Subway, I-Hop, Burger King, Arby's, KFC, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and the like, is a monument to Palin's cherished vision of the free-market, free-enterprise society. As she boasts—justifiably—of her time in Wasilla, "Basically, we'd gotten government out of the way."
And then the writer concludes with this, which I think has merit:
She's much more deeply in touch with her followers than Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, or any other recent candidate who's tried to court the same constituency. (Admittedly, they also lacked her flirty sex appeal.) She has the knack of turning public debate sulfurous with a phrase, as she did last summer with her remark that Democrats want "death panels" in their health plan. She is a catalyst around whom the Tea Party movement[3] is growing alarmingly in size and strength, PAC on PAC, determined to purge the Republican Party of its surviving moderate candidates, like Carly Fiorina and Charlie Crist, as, with Palin's help, it purged Dede Scozzafava in New York's Twenty-third Congressional District. Having hoisted her banner of Commonsense Conservatism, and campaigned across the country by Lear jet and tour bus to promote Going Rogue, she's unlikely to assuage her compulsion to be a winner merely by selling more books than anyone else during 2009's holiday season. She is the stuff of democratic—with a small d—bad dreams.
I can see it now. Palin wins the 2012 Republican nomination, then selects General Petraeus as her running mate. It is a slamdunk for a nation really hurting economically and culturally. 2000 all over again, followed by 2001, and 2003, if you know what I mean.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bust the Inner Circle

An article by Edward Luce of the Financial Times, is very, very interesting, as to the dysfunction inside the Obama White House. It is basically saying that Obama's administration is being hijacked by the four campaign insiders--Emmanuel, Gibbs, Axelrod, and Jarrett. I think the article is going to get lots of play this week.
At a crucial stage in the Democratic primaries in late 2007, Barack Obama rejuvenated his campaign with a barnstorming speech, in which he ended on a promise of what his victory would produce: “A nation healed. A world repaired. An America that believes again.”

Just over a year into his tenure, America’s 44th president governs a bitterly divided nation, a world increasingly hard to manage and an America that seems more disillusioned than ever with Washington’s ways. What went wrong?

Pundits, Democratic lawmakers and opinion pollsters offer a smorgasbord of reasons – from Mr Obama’s decision to devote his first year in office to healthcare reform, to the president’s inability to convince voters he can “feel their [economic] pain”, to the apparent ungovernability of today’s Washington. All may indeed have contributed to the quandary in which Mr Obama finds himself. But those around him have a more specific diagnosis – and one that is striking in its uniformity. The Obama White House is geared for campaigning rather than governing, they say.

In dozens of interviews with his closest allies and friends in Washington – most of them given unattributably in order to protect their access to the Oval Office – each observes that the president draws on the advice of a very tight circle. The inner core consists of just four people – Rahm Emanuel, the pugnacious chief of staff; David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, his senior advisers; and Robert Gibbs, his communications chief.

Retirement Fantasy

George Will has an interesting column on Paul Ryan's ideas ot solve the entitlement problem and tax reform.  There are some creative ideas for reform.  But then he says this:
Ryan would raise the retirement age. If, when Congress created Social Security in 1935, it had indexed the retirement age (then 65) to life expectancy, today the age would be in the mid-70s. The system was never intended to do what it is doing -- subsidizing retirements that extend from one-third to one-half of retirees' adult lives.
I'm sorry, but that is insane.  Working until you're 75?  I can see delaying retirement for government workers who retire after 20 years, (age 42, if you start work at age 22).  But I think most people, once they get to 62-65 are pretty well done in.  There are exceptions, but even now, I hear most people start taking social security at age 62, if they can make it on that somehow.

Only a rich writer and intellectual, used to his plush life in DC, could write something like that.

Stiglitz. The Man.

This is a useful and timely book. Joseph E. Stiglitz is one of the two or three score pundits, economists and historians who more or less predicted the disasters that have overtaken the American economy. And as a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under Bill Clinton, he has the political credentials to criticize the new Democratic administration as well.

“Freefall” has three standout strengths. First, it is a powerful indictment of Wall Street, the United States financial sector and the Federal Reserve Board. Second, it offers a reluctant but persuasive elaboration of how the Obama administration decided to embrace the financial sector and the Fed, continuing and enlarging both the bailout and the too-big-to-fail philosophy that it inherited from George W. Bush. Finally, it is a blunt attack on Stiglitz’s own profession, for transforming “scientific discipline” into “free-market capitalism’s biggest cheerleader.”

Crazy Dubai from Space

Financial Exceptionalism

This article in the NYT helps explain the strength of the US economy, even when we're deep in debt:
What explains this oddity? Why is the world betting that the United States will overcome its political deadlock and solve its problems — believing, it seems, in the truth of Churchill’s biting quip that America will always do the right thing, after exhausting every other alternative? And how long can this aura of invincibility last?

Maybe a long, long time. One of the many things that makes the United States different is that it prints the world’s most important currency and can always print more — one reason investors in government debt remain confident they will be repaid, even if in dollars devalued by inflation or by changing exchange rates.

There is also value in being the one nation on which the world still depends for security. That helps explain why foreign investors, including China, can denounce American politicians, Wall Street bankers and sleepwalking regulators for creating the current mess — and still buy at the next Treasury auction.

This paradox of American financial exceptionalism was unusually clear last week. When the stock market shuddered on Thursday because of worries about national defaults, it wasn’t Washington’s mountain of debt that got everyone rattled. It was the plight of a handful of profligate spenders in Europe — notably Greece, Spain and Portugal — whose comparative foothills of debt suddenly made them dubious credit risks.

The Sociable Brain

In an article in the NYT on hints of consciousness in patients in vegetative states:
Findings from modern neuroscience suggest that the brain is a highly social organ; more than enjoying company, it needs interactions to develop, to regulate mood, to solve problems, to responds to threats. When people are in isolation their brainwaves slow down; prisoners can become withdrawn, traumatized.
Weird.  Would this indicate that scientists working more or less alone in labs, students studying in the library, etc., have brains that are slowing down?

Yemen, Another Looming Project

Tom Friedman writes in the NYT about Yemen:
It’s not a secret how to fix this country, argued Mohammed al-Asaadi, a media consultant who sat in with us: “We need a revolution against the status quo. We need to build capacity, institutionalize the rule of law and build a culture of ownership and responsibility.” Added Murad Hashim, the Al Jazeera bureau chief here: “We need more education, but we have not used our educated people.” Indeed, Yemen has the resources to save itself, but they need to be mobilized by better governance. Without that, the trend lines will eventually overwhelm everything and the Qaeda virus, still controllable, will spread.
Doesn't sound so easy to me. Sounds like they need an American invasion to solve their problems, right?  Oh Thomas, ever the hawkish neo-liberal.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Assassinating American Citizens

Another important point by Glenn Greenwald:
Last week, I wrote about a revelation buried in a Washington Post article by Dana Priest which described how the Obama administration has adopted the Bush policy of targeting selected American citizens for assassination if they are deemed (by the Executive Branch) to be Terrorists. As The Washington Times' Eli Lake reports, Adm. Dennis Blair was asked about this program at a Congressional hearing yesterday and he acknowledged its existence:

"The U.S. intelligence community policy on killing American citizens who have joined al Qaeda requires first obtaining high-level government approval, a senior official disclosed to Congress on Wednesday."

Accusations of Guilt Must Be Proven

Glenn Greenwald makes an excellent point:
If I had the power to have one statement of fact be universally recognized in our political discussions, it would be this one:

The fact that the Government labels Person X a "Terrorist" is not proof that Person X is, in fact, a Terrorist.

That proposition should be intrinsically understood by any American who completed sixth grade civics and was thus taught that a central prong of our political system is that government officials often abuse their power and/or err and therefore must prove accusations to be true (with tested evidence) before they're assumed to be true and the person punished accordingly. In particular, the fact that the U.S. Government, over and over, has falsely accused numerous people of being Terrorists -- only for it to turn out that they did nothing wrong -- by itself should compel a recognition of this truth. But it doesn't.
Which is why fair trials--either criminal or military--are important to establish the facts about guilt or innocence.