Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Powell Aide Lawrence Wilkerson backs me up

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I haven't received the general agreement I expected to my assertion that Sarah Palin was "George Bush without Connections." But, here's something.
Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, said that as a new president, Bush was like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee whom critics said lacked knowledge about foreign affairs.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Conventional Wisdom Update on Climate Change

link via TalkingPointsMemo
Could the time for Happy Talk be drawing for a close? It seems like sections of the government are forgetting Shrub is still president. One of my prospective brothers-in-law was saying the other day that Bush 43 had been a disastrous president -- it always makes me anxious to hear the President being spoken of in the past tense. He's still there, doing terrible things, and to forget that renders us blind to the danger.

Anyway, the USGS, who you'd think would be out trying to find kleptocrats to turn over mining rights to (just kidding, I know that's the Bureau of Land Management,) released a study announcing climate change was happening faster than they'd previously been willing to admit.

Are you ready for what the Federal Government now believes? This is from the [PDF] executive summary:

Based on an assessment of the published scientific literature, the primary conclusions presented in this report are:

• Recent rapid changes at the edges of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets show acceleration of flow and thinning, with the velocity of some glaciers increasing more than twofold.... Inclusion of these processes in models will likely lead to sea-level projections for the end of the 21st century that substantially exceed the projections presented in the IPCC AR4 report (0.28 ± 0.10 m to 0.42 ± 0.16 m rise)....

• [S]ubtropical aridity is likely to intensify and persist due to future greenhouse warming. This projected drying extends poleward into the United States Southwest, potentially increasing the likelihood of severe and persistent drought there in the future...

• The strength of the [northward flow of warm, salty water in the upper layers of the Atlantic, and the southward flow of colder water in the deep Atlantic, {which} plays an important role in the oceanic transport of heat from low to high latitudes.] will decrease over the course of the 21st century in response to increasing greenhouse gases, with a best estimate decrease of 25-30%.... [RFM: this means the lower latitudes will heat up much faster than the upper latitudes, and New York City, to choose a place at random, may even get colder for some time.]

• A... doubling of northern high latitudes CH4 emissions[RFM:, a much more intense greenhouse gas that Carbon Dioxide,] could be realized fairly easily. However, since these models do not realistically represent all the processes thought to be relevant to future northern high-latitude CH4 emissions, much larger (or smaller) increases cannot be discounted.

So, there you are. The main point here is that scientists continue to discount the impending global tsunamis predicted by this blog. They laughed at me! I should build a giant robot, or something.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hope

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I popped open my Christmas Kindle today to get the paper, and what did I see?
John P. Holdren, a physicist and environmental policy professor at Harvard, will serve as the president’s science adviser as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology. Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist from Oregon State University, will lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which overseas ocean and atmospheric studies and performs much of the government’s research on global warming.

Dr. Holdren will also be a co-chairman the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology along with the Nobel Prize-winning cancer research Dr. Harold Varmus, a former director of the National Institutes of Health, and Eric S. Lander, a genomic researcher.
It struck me that maybe our perceived cynicism about politics was because bad things kept happening to us, and our apathy was because we didn't seem to be able to do much about it. I'm ready for good things to happen.

I do think it's too late to stop a catastrophic collapse of civilization. However! I've been wrong before -- as, uh, regular readers know -- and I'm very open to being wrong about this. It's really nice to see government being set up to respond in powerful ways. I don't even know how to respond, other than positively. Gobama!

I was 11 years old when Reagan took office, and we've just been in a world of shit since then. I'm giddy about the prospect of good governance.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Geek Out with some hurricane animation

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I did.

Congress Catches On

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Mel Watt, a Representative from Charlotte, North Carolina, asks Interim Assistant Treasury Secretary Neel Kashkari what I think is a key question: Is Goldman Sachs running this country? Ah... this isn't going to end well. Still, I guess it's better to know the truth.

Update: Apparently my fact-checking team failed to confirm which state Charlotte was in. It's updated from South Carolina.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prosperity is just around the corner

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The Simpsons features a bratty child, and starts every episode with him repeatedly writing upon a chalkboard some assertion that an authority figure wants him to internalize, like "I will not [do some prank.]" This episode, he writes "Prosperity is just around the corner."

Ah, adulthood. I can repeatedly warn you about stagdeflation, and a depression which will compare to the Great Depression like World War II did to World War I, and I still get supper. Heck, I could have dessert if I wanted it.

Ha!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Inflation on and after 2006

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So, to quote Nephos, who linked to a very pretty picture
An interesting example is looking at US inflation around WW1: Inflation skyrocketed at the end of the war as the US invested in sending its work force toward futile engagement in the trenches. And then deflation skyrocketed once they came home. The average over this period was probably somewhere in the vicinity of something small.
Using the linked table -- and there's a line between quoting and stealing I'm never sure when I cross, but I make you click in to the table -- inflation in the year 1924 was zero, so we'll treat that as a turning point (even though the year before was positive, at 1.8%) and end in 1923. Inflation jumps from 1% in 1914 and 1915 to 7.9% in 1916, so we'll start in 1916. This gives us inflation rates of 7.9, 17.4, 18, 14.6, 15.6, -10.5, -6.1 and 1.8 per cent per year, which add up to a 1915 dollar being worth 93 cents at the end of 1916 and 59 cents at the end of 1923. Deflation starts in again about half-way through 1926 -- remember that's supposed to be the middle of a great economic boom -- so the 1915 dollar bottoms out at 58 cents in 1926 before zooming back up to 78 cents (nearly its 1917 value) after 1933. In 1943, it's back to 58 cents.

Look, I made a plot.
The four post WWI years 1930 - 1933 had a lot of deflation, and it took ten years to undo them. Using this as a precedent, buying a house could still be an extremely sucky investment. However, I think the path of inflation will be the one we'll follow.

More on the Pessimism Bottom

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This is from a[nother] reader of Agora Financial's Five-Minute Forecast. As you know, I like to make obvious points seem more credible by having someone else repeat them.
“Barton Biggs is no doubt a great moneyman,” writes a reader in response to a Biggs essay we published last Tuesday . “His assertion... ‘We must be pretty close to maximum bearishness’ sound[s] like... cheerleading, to me.”
...
“We’ve hit the point of maximum pessimism? The point of maximum pessimism can only be known in hindsight. People will get more and more pessimistic as their personal conditions/news get worse. If you are saying it’s not possible for people to be more pessimistic than they are now, I disagree. Whether or not they do become more pessimistic is another argument and will depend on what happens to them. (I have a couple of friends who left Liberia at the start of the civil war. They were really pessimistic then. In fact, I was so concerned, I recommended counseling, but they still felt they would be back in Monrovia before Christmas. Ha. Somewhere over the next five years, they hit their point of maximum pessimism.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

I'm now eligible for a Pulitzer

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The Pulitzers wouldn't be the Pulitzers without the Christian Science Monitor to give them to. With the CSM going online-only, this means...
Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler told E&P that "we are expanding the Pulitzers to include many text-based newspapers and news organizations that publish only on the Internet." At the same time, they are "stressing" that all entered material should come from news outlets that publish material at least weekly, "are primarily dedicated to original news reporting, are dedicated to coverage of ongoing stories and that adhere to the highest journalistic principles."
Which leaves the door open for yours truly.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Maybe it is time to buy

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“The Changing Prospects for Building Home Equity,”[PDF] tries to predict where today’s first-time buyers in the 100 biggest metropolitan areas may actually have less home equity by 2012 as a result of continued price declines. The verdict was that buyers in 33 of the markets could see a decline by 2012, including potential six-figure drops on an average home in the New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle metropolitan areas.

It may be, actually, a good time to buy a house. I think yesterday, I realized that hyperinflationary policies -- where you lose a lot of money by not lending or investing -- are a tack the Obama Administration may very well try to get the credit markets unfrozen.

Say you buy a $500K house that has some platonic, abstract value of $250K in a universe where housing prices are tied to rents and incomes. After 5 years of 15 % inflation, you haven't lost anything -- you have a $500K house again. If you have a 15 year morgage, ten years later you own a $2M house. While it seems like you've made nothing in real terms, if you've only been paying 4.5% on this, you're golden.

Update: I also wanted to comment on this in the column itself, [A]s it does with the stock market, the [bottom to the housing market] will probably arrive when everyone is feeling the most pessimistic. I hear this sort of thing now and then. Isn't that kind of stupid? Not only is pessimism harder to measure than even prices, but you can always get more pessimistic -- prices have a soft bottom at 0 (you could pay people to take stuff away, which is why I don't say 'hard bottom'), but I don't think pessimism is even strictly a scalar quantity. The statement is an implicit suggestion that you replace your inability to predict the shape of a hard-to-measure trend with your inability to predict the shape of a harder-to-measure-and-hard-even-to-define trend. I don't see what you gain.

Friday, December 05, 2008

First Big Problem with President Elect Obama

link referred by TPM
Now, I've spoken a lot about how I entered the Shrub presidency with optimism and an open heart, and was quickly disabused. And, it's my intent to do that with 44, except for the disabusing part. I want to be perfectly clear that it is not my intent to find fault with President Obama until I decide he's another good-for-nothing wastrel driving the world towards doom. But, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel-prize-winning former World Bank President -- should have a prominent place in his cabinet.
Stiglitz denounced Rubin's support for repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial from investment banking for precisely the reasons we are now witnessing on Wall Street.... Stiglitz became the most prominent voice in Washington to say plainly that free-market absolutism, which began with the Reagan revolution and continued under Clinton (who upon being elected declared the era of "big government" was over), was ill-founded theoretically and disastrous practically....

As far back as 1990, Stiglitz argued in a paper (it can be found on The Economist's Voice Web site at www.bppress.com) against securitizing mortgages and selling them
All I could come up with when asked who should be on Obama's economic team was Elizabeth Warren. But, Joseph Stiglitz should definitely be up there.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

That's how they get you

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There are a lot of pundits I generally agree with, but they all have some fatal flaw -- like Professor Krugman's pro-NAFTA Clintonism and Joshua Micah Marshall's failure to appreciate just how unstable our political and economic systems are -- that reassure me that I have some need for independent thought.

This guy, Glenn Greenwald, though, is pretty tight. I'm really tempted to outsource all of my opinion-forming to him. Remember Anna Karenina?
Stepan Arkadyevitch took in and read a liberal paper, not an extreme one, but one advocating the views held by the majority. And in spite of the fact that science, art, and plitics [sic.] had no special interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these subjects which were held by the majority and by his paper, and he only changed them when the majority changed them--or, more strictly speaking, he did not change them, but they imperceptibly changed of themselves within him.
I've always felt like this was my eventual fate, to be a superfluous man. And Glenn Greenwald's getting me closer.

Update:Just as we enter the last month, I think Nephos and I have developed the word of the year: Arkadyevitchizing from Arkadyevitchize, to replace one's opinion-forming capacity with preformed editorial content, used of media. It's developed in the comments of this post, but I moved it into the body so that it would be searchable, as it's now in this blog's header.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas Story

The Season's Greetings blog is gone! I grabbed my story from the Google cache.

News From Antartica

link
Well, there goes the Wilkins Ice Sheet.
New rifts have developed on the Wilkins Ice Shelf that could lead to the opening of the ice bridge that has been preventing the ice shelf from disintegrating and breaking away from the Antarctic Peninsula.
...
If the ice shelf breaks away from the peninsula, it will not cause a rise in sea level since it is already floating.

And, hey, they found a mountain range. WIth really big lakes.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Samantha Power back in Obama's good graces

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Phew. I don't know why Samantha Power called Senator Clinton a monster. But, I was distressed to see her dropped from the campaign. Now, she's back, working for Mrs. Clinton herself. That's got to be a little awkward, but Hillary Clinton was running in some part on her thick-skinned-ness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

5 days left in Hurricane Season

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And then we'll no longer be hearing things like
A LARGE AREA OF DISTURBED WEATHER CONTINUES OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN
CARIBBEAN SEA IN ASSOCIATION WITH A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE. THIS
SYSTEM REMAINS POORLY ORGANIZED AND FURTHER DEVELOPMENT...IF ANY...
IS EXPECTED TO BE SLOW TO OCCUR. HEAVY RAINS AND LOCALIZED FLOODING
OVER PORTIONS OF PANAMA...COSTA RICA...NICARAGUA...AND EASTERN
HONDURAS ARE LIKELY DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS AS THE SYSTEM
DRIFTS WESTWARD.
Not because it won't be happening, but because there'll be noone staffing the National Hurricane Center.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One problem solved

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One big confusion I've had with the Bush Administration was the secrecy of presidential papers. I remember this as being the first hugely damaging thing the Bush Administration did to my optimism and positivity regarding our 43rd president, and the Caribou scandal the last, destroying it completely. But, they seemed to be in different orders. The opening of this Washington Monthly article sets me straight.
Ronald Reagan was the first chief executive to whom the Presidential Records Act applied, and his papers were due to be turned over to Carlin at the beginning of Bush’s term.

Gonzales wanted Carlin to delay the release until June. His letter didn’t say why, but Carlin agreed. Then in June, Carlin got another memo from Gonzales—Bush’s attorney now wanted until the end of August. Carlin agreed again. The extensions continued until November, when Bush issued an executive order: effective immediately, the release of presidential records would require the approval of both the sitting president and the president whose records were in question, rather than just the former.
So, that's that.

Update: I guess some of you may not have given up on the Bush Administration until later than I did, maybe not even until the second half of 2001 -- maybe when he was AWOL for three days after 9/11? That was good for Rudy Giuliani, but maybe not so much for the country. Anyway, here's a link to a story on my aforementioned last straw, the Caribou scandal: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/oct/19/news/mn-59151

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I am the stone the the builder refused

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What came to mind? Psalm 118, or the Boondocks Television show?

I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize The Boondocks had a second season. This, I guess, is the downside of not having a TV -- you miss all the good shows. Anyway, it did. And it's now at the top of my NetFlix queue.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Yo! I’m a recycling bin

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Before I was an MIT graduate, I was a RUCCAS graduate. And I think I've mentioned enough MIT research that I should give a shout out to the Alma Mater.
Sean Duffy, an assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers–Camden... notes. “We began noticing a pattern: regardless of the receptacle’s label, recycling bins with little holes in the lids contained recyclables and almost nothing else, while those that lacked such holes were basically used as trash cans, even though they were recycling bins.”

The heroic hole in question measures about 6 inches in circumference, large enough for bottles made of glass or plastic. In the research team’s one-month study they observed 10 waste stations in a five-story academic building. Each station consisted of three container types: commingled glass, plastic, and aluminum; trash; and paper. Not only did the little hole increase recycling rates, but it lowered the amount of contaminants entering the recycling stream by 95%.

WayLay finally speaks to me

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I'm not a huge Carol Lay fan, but today's is pretty good. I guess today's blogs are about managed insanity. On top of my mild PTSD, I have the occasional suspicion that I only think I'm still in the reality I know.

Once you admit the possibility of alternate universes -- the stoner's view of quantum physics -- you have to ask the question, "How do I know I'm still in mine?" And it's super hard to tell.

Long time readers will recall what is now my second* most popular article ever on TheSpoof.com, Evidence found for dimensional annealling. And the idea there was, that these universes tend to come back together. You could probably make an energy minimization argument for it -- every time you branch, you add a universe's worth of energy. Nature being what it is, there'd probably be some process to undo that. So, they cleave. And maybe they don't anneal perfectly, but just swap elements. Like you, or the brothiness of chile relleno.

But, you've got to be in the mood. When someone nearby notices something off kilter, and tries to get you to validate that stuff's not normally like that, it can be really annoying. Try to keep in mind that everybody's a little worried they'll become dimensionally unstuck.

* -- That last one was really well received. Kick John McCain while he's down! It's hard to imagine that my writing has gotten better -- I'm using 'super' as an adverb! And I've got to say I'm a big fan of Dick Cheney is in your apartment now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You can't just release the Guantanamo inmates

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To some extent this is probably because I haven't looked for the answer at his campaign web site or change.gov, but I'm not sure what the President Elect means when he says he is going to close Guantanamo Bay. However, we can look at these five gentlemen ordered released today for some clues as to what to do.

It's easy to feel that the vast majority of inmates fall into this camp, but they're not even combatants, much less enemy ones.
President George W. Bush said in 2002 the six men had been planning a bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo. But Justice Department attorneys said last month they no longer would rely on those accusations to justify the continued detention of the six men.

However they argued the Algerians should be held because they planned to go to Afghanistan in late 2001 to fight U.S. forces.

In ordering the release of the five men, Leon said the allegation was based on only one unnamed source and he did not have enough information to judge the source's reliability or credibility.

He ruled the government did provide enough evidence that one of the detainees, Belkacem Bensayah, supported al Qaeda and planned to fight against the United States in Afghanistan.
One guy planned to go fight, and he's still in the clink. You know what the military term is for people who plan to go fight? Civilians.

Like any good liberal, I believe that nearly all the inmates in Guantanamo are this innocent. But, you can't just let them go.
When we last saw Saber in November, he was in his sixth month of solitary confinement. Since August, he has seen us, his legal team, twice and a psychiatrist on three brief occasions. For a few minutes each day, he sees the camp guards who bring his meals. He has had no other human contact. The glaring lights in his cell are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When we left the cell, we could hear Saber shouting -- brief, truncated cries. We could not understand what he was saying.
They have gone crazy. The Rumsfeld Process was to unload every mind-breaking interrogation technique the CIA had studied on these guys. But, they didn't have anything to say. It's not like they're all criminal masterminds who knew what was on Al Qaeda's schedule for 2009. I think they were mostly just resisting the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq -- they're POWs from wars we declared won. These guys weren't even that. And, now we've driven them crazy.

If you know anyone who's been in therapy, they probably don't plan on coming out soon. Once you've gone crazy, I think you just manage it. I think I'm suffering a little PTSD from sky-diving, and I don't know how I'd uncrazy that. So, we've driven these guys crazy, and we have to give them the tools to manage their craziness before we wash our hands of them. They're going back to their wives and families. We have enough experience with our own combat vets coming back and doing damage, and these guys have been through a lot more.

I'm not sure what the answer is -- Illegally Detained American Prisoner Recuperation Centers throughout the Middle East? -- but I'd like to hear the question addressed. It's too bad the people who caused the problem aren't tasked with solving it, but they were incompetent anyway.

Lost Again

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An actor? Seriously? I'm less sexy than an actor? What kind of topsy-turvy dreamworld are we living in?
Oh, well. Next year.

Happiness

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Turns out to be well-correlated with not watching TV. I guess I could have guessed that, but, again, it's nice to have data.

As long as I'm passing on New York Times' tidbits, I like Zappos.com, but given my strict regimen of only buying things on deep clearance, I've found them a little frustrating. They've had like one style of shoes that I liked deeply discounted enough for me. It's never made sense. Well! The Times outed them today. They have a whole separate discount site! I'll see if I can't get by with some Lumiani 3554s.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Deposit Rates and Inflation

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So, the Wall Street Journal goes on an on about how great CD rates are.
The average rate of 2.61% on a one-year certificate of deposit as of Wednesday is up from 2% in early May, according to Bankrate.com, a North Palm Beach, Fla., financial-data provider. The jump comes despite Federal Reserve interest-rate cuts that have reduced the fed-funds rate to 1%. Such cuts usually lead to lower deposit rates.
...
Unlike previous periods of turbulence, the Fed's rate-chopping campaign isn't relieving the pressure this time. In the past, reductions in the federal funds rate have helped level off interest rates on CDs and savings accounts, according to Market Rates Insight Inc., which tracks pricing trends for financial institutions. "This time around, it's much more fierce," says Dan Geller, executive vice president of the San Anselmo, Calif., firm.
So, the poor little banks are getting squeezed by having to offer competitive interest rates -- they can't pay for it with bailout funds, because those are all going to pay dividends to their investors. We therefore get super-high interest rates on our savings. Like 3.93 %. Inflation in September was 4.94 %. I don't want to get all tied up in fancy Economic theory, but that's more.

Really? If you put away $100 today, next year you can buy $99 of goods with your savings. Incited?

Brazen acts of courtesy

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Now, never mind why, but I was reviewing the Centered Writing Practice web site, and saw that Oprah Winfrey had invited a gentleman who'd come up with 25 rules of considerate conduct on her television program. The author's selling it as a book, so given that I have started blogging about civil behavior more, I wondered, "how can I get these rules for free?"

Well... The CIVITAS Initiative at Western Wyoming Community College also has 25 rules of considerate conduct, which they considerately post for free (pdf). There's some overlap. Is this really acknowledging others (both lists #2), respecting others' opinions (both lists' #10) or respecting others' time(both lists are exactly the same, it turns out. This is #14)?

I'm going to think the best (#3,) but this is the state that elected Richard Bruce Cheney to the House of Representatives. And it seems to have stolen the name 'CIVITAS Initiative' as well -- there's apparently no other reference to a 'CIVITAS Initiative' on any web site related to the great state of Wyoming, so I can't tell if they mean it to mean 'CIty-VITAlity-Sustainability,' which you'd think would be CiVitaS, anyway.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Online Procrastination Quiz

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I was signing up for free online marriage counseling, and they offer a procrastination quiz. I can just imagine these guys reviewing the aggregate data and scratching their heads. "What are we doing wrong? Clearly, if our results were correct, the country couldn't function. Maybe we're somehow selecting for pathological procrastinators? How can we design an online procrastinations quiz that doesn't... Ohhhhh."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's hard to reclaim a mansion

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I often look at houses converted into apartments and wonder how hard it would be to convert them back. Turns out? Really hard.
Each tenant will receive $75,000, with the exception of one elderly tenant, who will receive $175,000.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How rational is your exuberance?

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So, stocks were definitely overvalued on December 5, 1996, when NEWCAG called us out for irrational exuberance.

That was a 6,381.94 close. We'd have to lose another 26 % to get back there. If we all work together, we can do it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Theft

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While Congress was distracted by the bailout, Treasury Secretary Paulson changed a rule giving a lot of tax money to his industry.
"Did the Treasury Department have the authority to do this? I think almost every tax expert would agree that the answer is no," said George K. Yin, the former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the nonpartisan congressional authority on taxes.
...
Section 382 of the tax code was created by Congress in 1986 to end what it considered an abuse of the tax system: companies sheltering their profits from taxation by acquiring shell companies whose only real value was the losses on their books. The firms would then use the acquired company's losses to offset their gains and avoid paying taxes.
...
The Jones Day law firm... released a widely circulated commentary that concluded that the change could cost taxpayers about $140 billion. Robert L. Willens, a prominent corporate tax expert in New York City, said the price is more likely to be $105 billion to $110 billion.
...
Lee A. Sheppard, a tax attorney who is a contributing editor at the trade publication Tax Analysts[, said] "We're left now with congressional Democrats that have spines like overcooked spaghetti. So who is going to stop the Treasury secretary from doing whatever he wants?"

I really feel that the time for removing George W. Bush from the Presidency has passed. It'd be hard to get it done in the two months remaining in his term. But, if he retains the power of the pardon in January, how will these people end up in prison?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Every so often, I'm reminded the idea that the world makes sense is an enforced delusion

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Professional clogs? In what sort of a profession can you wear clogs?

On October 10, Connecticut became the third fair marriage state. They're actually now the second, but that's beside the point. Two weeks later, on October 24, I got engaged. And now, two weeks more hence, I'm browsing REI online to fill out my gift registry. And it's offering me professional clogs.

On the one hand, I feel like I'm having trouble embracing my yuppiness when I wonder what's so special about $15 running socks. I mean, sure you get two (one for each foot,) but c'mon. Other the other hand, I'm wondering where that $1200 stroller from The Office is. I know we should ask for strollers in the baby shower, but the earlier you hit people, the better. I've only got enough invites for family, anyway. And we're Scot-Irish -- as cheap as the Scots, but without the money. We're the race that keeps Appalachia down, recall. This article in Salon suggested our backwardness would give Hillary Clinton the Democratic Nomination. And if you look at a county-by-county result, you'll see we went for McCain.

Wrote a heartwarming Christmas Story

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My friend Jeremy Handleman is promoting a production of Alan Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings, November 20 - December 7 at the McGinn/Cazale theater on Broadway. He asked me to contribute my "funniest true story about something that went horribly wrong during a past holiday celebration," so I gave it a shot. Let me know what you think

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

24 days left in hurricane season

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Paloma? Have you ever met anyone named Paloma? Wait, let's look on Facebook... Apparently, there was a Chilean girl on Survivor Gabon by that name. Or, is. I don't know if Survivor is still being made, if it's currently in season, or if Gabon is this year. But, that's not germane. The point is, there are people named Paloma. And the people who name hurricanes watch a lot of TV.

Anyway, Paloma is about to crush Cuba under her glittery jackboot heel.

I don't feel good about making predictions about when the hurricanes will actually start coming, as I don't have any model for doing so, and wouldn't put data in it if I had. But, life's not about feeling good. And I feel like we're going to have another late December, early January stormfest.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Some luck at choosing nail biters

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I've been watching election results using the TPM widget. Select 'Minnesota/Senate' or 'New York/House of Representatives' and choose Staten Island (NY-14 -- the far left extent of that Long Island shaped thingie at the bottom) for the two races I was interested in.

Staten Island was a blowout. It was just interesting to watch it go Democratic, athough given the particular dynamics of this cycle (by which I don't mean Obamania -- Staten Island has its own drama,) it was pretty clear it would.

Minnesota is still not called. Franken trails by 572 votes. Maybe I choose my nail biters too well. I have go live my post-election life!

Update: Incidentally, I had trouble finding out how Cynthia was doing all night. We garnered 0.1 % nationally, I was one of 140,702 votes.I know it's ironic when we whine about Nader splitting our vote, but we're trying to support local candidates!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

NYC Marathon Pace Between 12 and 14 minutes per mile

there's no link
Except for two segments -- the first 5 KM where I was below 11 minutes/mile, and the 30 - 35 and 35 - 40 -- I was in that range.

OK, I mistitled that left one. But, the point is, if I'd kept running I would eventually have reached a winning pace ;)

Barack Obama Votes, possibly for Cynthia McKinney

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Hey, absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence.

You may've heard about the statutory rape convictee running for State Senate in Vermont. In the first place, I am totally behind letting convicts run for office. Dismissing someone's candidacy because he or she has gone to prison just gives the government another tool for supressing its critics. In the second place?
Pearse Corcoran, 22, of Burlington, who cast his vote last week at Burlington City Hall, said he didn't vote for Forney.

"I had heard about him. I heard it was circumstantial and all that, but I think that's irrelevant. Plus, there's the DUI thing," he said.
Wasn't Dubya supposed to be the Jackie Robinson of drunk drivers?

So glad we don't have e-voting

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I got to vote today. I even got to take a camera in -- apparently, the guard I spoke with hadn't read the big sign on the wall (once I did, I... well, I let it have run out of batteries.)

I was really relieved to see levers in there. I always panic that New York will switch over without telling me, and I'll end up inadvertently voting for Armeggedon and the Rise of the Antichrist.

Election Day's always painful for the political junkie, as the only thing you want to know -- how the Green Party (or whatever ticket you're following) is doing, district by district -- is not available to you until the late evening. And the campaigns themselves are just hanging out doing not very interesting things.

As a side note, I try not to spend a lot of time condoling public figures. But, you have to imagine that as his Grandmother was his primary care giver when he was a child, Senator Obama turned to her for guidance through his adult life -- I know I go to my mother on questions well outside her areas of expertise. Besides the normal mourning, he loses her on the eve of his being elected president, which he probably feels would have pleased her. In addition, though, he's entering a phase of his life where he's going to need a lot of guidance, and only have interested parties to offer it. That's got to add some to the wistfulness.

So, hard hearted as I am, I do want to express a little compassion for our presumptive president elect.

Rainfall, Autism May Be Linked

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So... the higher incidence of autism is due to increased density in the Pacific Northwest?
The finding may have... to do with... the need to stay indoors more.
...
"I strongly believe it's not the precipitation itself," [Michael Waldman, PhD, the study's lead author and the director of the Institute for the Advancement of Economics at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y] tells WebMD. "My sense is, if truly there is an environmental trigger, my guess is it is one of the factors related to indoor activity..." such as... TV viewing....

In the past 30 years, the rates of autism have increased from about one in 2,500 children to one in 150.
...
The findings, he adds, should not be taken as a reason to... ban television viewing.
So, just thought you'd like a note as to what's preventing your children from leading full and emotionally enagaged lives. Please don't act on it. Thanks!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Feedback

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I'm just thinking...





First year of first Bush (43) Administration: 9/11
Policy Response: Invade Iraq
Result2002 GOP Sweep, 2004 Reelect
First year of second Bush (43) Administration: Katrina
Policy Response: ... ... ... Keep Occupying Iraq
Result2006 GOP Decimation, 2008 Non-credible GOP Candidate

Apparently, "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail," is meant to be a warning, not a guideline.

Just Ask Yourself This

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Do you want to vote for someone Noam Chomsky is not voting for?
In private emails with campaign supporters this week, the respected social critic noted that he had voted Green in 2004, and would be voting for the party ticket next Tuesday, as well.
Although... that doesn't really sound like it was for attribution.

A particularly fatal marathon

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After finishing the New York Marathon yesterday, I had a forty-five minute walk to 81st Street. It was less than a mile, but West Drive was choked with tens of thousands of other people who had just run a marathon*. I survived this ordeal. Two people didn't.
There were two fatalities among the 37,899 finishers of Sunday’s New York City Marathon, according to the New York Road Runners, the organizer of the event. 

One was a 58-year-old man who was pronounced dead at Lenox Hill Hospital after completing the race on Sunday afternoon. The Road Runners did not release any details on the other death besides the fact that he died on site after reaching the finish line.

There were also two heart attacks en route.
There were two other heart attacks reported by the Fire Department on Sunday. It said that a 59-year-old man was treated by emergency medical services after collapsing on the Queensboro Bridge before 1 p.m. He was revived to a steady pulse with a defibrillator and rushed to Weill Cornell Medical Center.

A 41-year-old man also had a heart attack at 107th Street and Fifth Avenue at about 3 p.m. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital.

The race director Mary Wittenberg said that both were still alive Monday morning.
I saw the guy at 107th Street getting a heart massage. This is not something that particularly picks you up when you have 3 1/2 miles left to go. It's too late to say that he's OK
The following day, the 50-year-old research scientist Matthew P. Hardy suffered a coronary artery blockage and died at home having completed his 12th New York City Marathonp[in 2007]
but it's good to hear he's alive.

* --the left side of the road was all UPS trucks with baggage we were picking up. We finished, got a bag of food and drink, a finisher's mylar blanket, and then began the slow march past the baggage trucks before being released at 81st Street, at which point we had to walk back downtown a little to get our chips removed.

Ralph Nader is running under Natural Law

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The link is to the 'Vote Hemp' voters' guide. And, you'll see that, from this perspective at least, Cynthia McKinney outstrips Barack Obama.

But, the interesting thing is that Ralph Nader is running in the Natural Law Party. Like everyone else, I haven't been paying attention to Ralph Nader at all this cycle. Having his presidential candidacy as a standard was salutary in 1996 and 2000. When he broke away in 2004, we ran party activist David Cobb. This did not turn out as well, although in 2004 we also suffered from scape-goating by the 2000 Gore Campaign.

In any case, Nader's initial success and later abandonment left us feeling like we should have a celebrity presidential candidate, and without having one.

And, now we have Cynthia McKinney. She has much better name recognition than Peter Cobb, but is far more controversial than Ralph Nader. Everybody loves Ralph Nader, except for Scapegoating 2000 Gore Campaigners and retired GM executives. But, since leaving the Green Party, his presidential campaigns have been ludicrous. And now Natural Law?

Natural Law is the transcendental meditation party. I thought about voting Natural Law in 1992, before I decided that Bill Clinton's promise to institute a BTU tax made him good enough for me to go ahead and vote for the winner, with all the attendant culpability. NL was the only candidate running a physicist for president.

But, I do not believe that Ralph Nader bounces when he meditates. It doesn't seem like a natural fit. I don't even understand why he keeps running. I don't know of anyone who does. Ach, Ralph.

Green Party Rising

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A lot of what I do on this blog is, I come up with an idea, wait for some more accountable figure in the media to say it, and then link to him or her.

As I expect to be right, and the correct way of thinking is bound to occur to somebody eventually*, this works out pretty well. And so, we have today's Krugman.
[T]he G.O.P.’s long transformation into the party of the unreasonable right, a haven for racists and reactionaries, seems likely to accelerate as a result of the impending defeat.
However, American really likes being a two-party nation. And, so I expect that there'll be huge internal struggle between the corporatist Clintonista democrats and the progressives. And since the Republican party won't be welcoming to the Rightist Democrats, the Leftist ones will be the ones to leave. And they'll need somewhere to flee to.

Our task is to be ready to absorb them.

* -- This can take a while. But, the actual future is always consistent with that subset of known facts that happens to be true, so careful thinkers frequently happen upon it.

Obama Against Luggage Surcharges

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It looks like you can safely vote Green, as there's no chance that McCain will pull it out. And, this is not just in New York -- there are states like Arizona where it's still possible the GOP could upset, but it's pretty safe to say that
(1) Either Barack Obama will win the presidency, or
(2) Widespread electronic vote fraud will bring down the government.

We'll hope it's (1). Cynthia's competitive nowhere. The WSJ poll not only lumps third party voters together, but then lumps those in with 'undecided.' I've decided!

However, as we did when Shrub was installed, we have to look for a silver lining. Some way that an Obama Presidency is a good thing. And, here's one:
It was 1988, and Mary Andersen was at the Miami airport checking in for a long flight to Norway to be with her husband when the airline representative informed her....

-You’ll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway , the man behind the counter said.

Mary had no money. Her new husband had travelled ahead of her to Norway , and she had no one else to call.
...
As tears streamed down her face, she heard a “gentle and friendly voice” behind her saying, “That’s okay, I’ll pay for her.”
...
Who was the man?

Barack Obama.
All of which is to suggest that a President Obama would be a little more opposed to luggage surcharges. Luggage surcharges are a necessary and wonderful thing, but it would be nice to have a president senstive to their possible excesses.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Roubini: Global Stagflation in sight

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Greetings from RGE Monitor!

The financial wildfire has turned around the stagflationary trends seen earlier this year into a vicious cycle of global deflation in debt, assets, wages, and goods. Headline consumer inflation has peaked in most of the developed and emerging world, except in places where food/fuel subsidies were recently rolled back or post-Q3 data are still unavailable. According to the IMF’s October World Economic Outlook, the world’s average consumer prices have increased 6.2% y/y Q2 2008. JPMorgan expects world CPI inflation to slow to 2.6% y/y Q2 2009. Lower commodity prices subdued headline inflation and are expected to continue doing so on slackening global demand. Core inflation has yet to show a significant decline but a feedback loop of debt deflation, asset deflation, commodity deflation, wage deflation, and slower global growth will likely lead to flat or lower headline and core consumer and producer prices in Q4 2008 through 2009. But in the short- to medium-term, stag-deflation seems the most likely scenario for the world economy.
I just like the "Greetings! You're running headlong to your own doom!" format.

Why is Sarah Palin conisdered an expert on energy?

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So, normally, when I hear someone in the media say something more than once, I assume it's a lie. That might be cynical, but it's worked well. And John McCain's called Sarah Palin an expert on energy more than once. It's nice to validate one's heuristics every now and then, so I decided to look for evidence that Governor Palin was an expert on energy. On her bio page at Senator McCain's campaign web site, I found
She created Alaska’s Petroleum Systems Integrity Office to oversee and maintain oil and gas equipment, facilities and infrastructure, and the Climate Change Subcabinet to prepare a climate change strategy for Alaska.
...
Governor Palin took on the oil companies and began a competitive process to construct a gas pipeline. Because of her leadership, work has begun on a $40 billion natural gas pipeline – the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history – to help lead our country to energy independence.

When oil and gas prices went up dramatically and the state revenues rose, Governor Palin sent a large share of that revenue directly back to the people of Alaska. She also suspended the state's fuel tax.
...
As Governor, Palin is chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multi-state government agency that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment. She also serves as chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) Natural Resources Committee, which is charged with pursuing legislation to ensure state needs are considered as federal policy is formulated in the areas of agriculture, energy, environmental protection and natural resource management.
...
She also served as chair and ethics commissioner of the Alaska Conservation Commission, which regulates Alaska's most valuable non-renewable resources: oil and gas. When she found corruption there, she fought it and brought the offenders to account, even though they may have been members of her own party.
I expected the least critical possible analysis of Governor Palin's background on the site, so I'm not going to criticize this. But, where's the policy expertise? She has some background in pipeline planning maybe, but energy generally? Isn't Senator McCain supposed to be Mr. Nuke? That doesn't even involve oil and gas pipelines.

Friday, October 31, 2008

New York Homeowners -- Smarter?

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So... a New Yorker's first reaction to this plot is smugness. We're 50th in terms of oweing more or nearly as much as the equity in our homes. But, 50th is 6 %. That's more than one in every seventeen people -- if you look to your left, and you look to your right, and none of the eight homeowners on either side are underwater, you are.

This is something that should roughly never happen, in a world of responsible lending. Tax arrears are really the only thing that should put you here. But, it's more common than the flu.

If 6 % of the homeowners nationally were underwater or near underwater, we'd be in crisis. But, that's the state minimum by state.

Update: And, this should be said


But Wyss said this could change as financial market upheaval transforms Wall Street. This month, New York City Comptroller William Thompson estimated that the city alone might lose 165,000 jobs over two years.

"We're going to see home prices coming down pretty significantly in New York," Wyss said. "A lot of people are losing jobs, and won't be getting their usual bonuses, and that leaves less money for housing."

I'm trying not to be self-concious about the fact that I have roughly the same marathon goal as a woman twice my age

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But, you know, she's got a natural advantage, not having been born fat and ungainly.

Update: Joy Johnson did win her age bracket. Bertha McGruder came in more than an hour later. I did beat Ms. Johnson, but much respect is due all five runners in the bracket. An 80-year-old man beat me by more than an hour. Results here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Validated Again

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Nephos suggested I start noting all the times that I was right, is why this is coming up so much. I forget why. It's actually kind of time consuming.

In any case, I noticed on StillBlog that not only had Major League Baseball decided to keep on playing even without the Red Sox, but that the Phillies had won.

You'll recall that when Walter Shapiro asserted in Salon.com
Samuel Alito is a passionate fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, a baseball team so star-crossed that it has won the World Series exactly once (1980) in the past century.
I'd responded
[T]he Phillies aren't unlucky. They've just never been dominant.
So... right again.

The GOP's war on Presbyterianism

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Furious about a new political ad in North Carolina that suggests she's "godless," state Sen. Kay Hagan said she'd seek a cease-and-desist order against U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole's campaign if the television spot isn't pulled in the next 24 hours.

Hagan, a Democrat from Guilford County, and Dole, the Republican incumbent, have both been engaged in a highly negative ad war over the U.S. Senate seat.

Hagan held a press conference Wednesday morning with her family and her minister in Greensboro to denounce the ad at the Presbyterian church where she is an elder and has taught Sunday school.

"Elizabeth Dole is attacking my strong Christian faith," Hagan said.
So, this is Liddy's defense.
The ad is based on Hagan’s attendance at a September fund-raiser... at the home of... Woody Kaplan[, who sits] on the advisory board of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee....

Kaplan, who gave $2,300 to Hagan, said Wednesday that the event wasn’t associated with the Godless Americans.
...
Dole’s campaign said the ad was fair game in part because Hagan has attacked Dole for being "in the pocket of big oil" just because some of her contributors work for energy companies.
Yeah. That's not the same. If I work for a corporation, I'm a conduit for its money to flow to candidates that think correctly. If I belong to an organization and contribute to a candidate, I'm giving out in two ways that aren't necessarily linked.

I support candidates that my company's executive leadership is not behind, so it's certainly possible that Mrs. Dole is not in the pocket of big oil. But, I think active Presbyterianism should be a clear contraindicator of atheism.

Elizabeth Dole is a Methodist, which while not a reform church isn't one of these wacky GOP charity-free megachurches. I think she actually goes to my aunt's church (my father was raised Methodist,) where I've attended services myself. It's a little surprising that the GOP would accept Methodists and denounce Presbyterians as godless, but then we are consensus-driven and devolved, characteristics that the modern Republican party detests.

This bears watching, is all I'm saying.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Voting for Obama as a Working Family

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I'm sensitive to the fact that you don't want to do something which will increase the chances of a McCain win, like not vote for Barack Obama. But, voting for the Democratic Party -- the party that gave us NAFTA, gave the president the authority to invade Iraq, poured billions of dollars into the missle defense boondoggle, failed to act around climate change and has passed up or blown every chance to give us national universal health care -- just doesn't make any sense.

I know that at least two of those (pick 'em out!) sound like attacks on Hillary Clinton, but that's only because she's a creature of the Democratic Party.

This idea might have some legs. We don't have a parliamentary system, so regardless of whether you vote for Obama as a Democrat or as the Working Families candidate, you're voting for him. I'll let you make these decisions.

I'm passing on a letter from Democrats.com's Bob Fertik. I will say that I was for Bloomberg's undemocratic power grab. And I would have though MoveOn.org would have copyrighted "Thanks for all you do," but I guess it's just a generic progressive activist vague statement of gratitude. Anyway, here's the letter.
RFM


Dear Activist,

When you vote for Barack Obama on Tuesday November 4, I hope you'll join me in voting for Obama on Row E - the Working Families Party.
http://www.workingfamiliesparty.org/obama/

Voting for Obama on Row E is exactly like voting for him on the Democratic Party line, only it lets you make a statement that you're a PROGRESSIVE Democrat who supports economic, social, and environmental justice. That's a message the politicians in Albany and Washington DC will hear and act upon.

Below is a letter from a few of New York's netroots leaders that I'm proud to endorse. I welcome your thoughts here:
http://democrats.com/ny-vote-for-obama-on-row-e-working-families-party

Thanks for all you do!

Bob Fertik


Democrats are on the ascent, nationally and in states like ours, where the decades-old Republican stranglehold on Albany may finally be broken in less than one week.

If the Democrats are victorious, then the real battle will begin: how do we hold them accountable to progressive values against the enormous pressure they will face to play it safe?

It's going to be a big challenge, so we'll cut to chase: we need your help. New York needs your help. The single biggest thing we can do right now to boost progressive power in the Empire State is to strengthen our very own progressive third party - the Working Families Party.
http://www.workingfamiliesparty.org/obama

As you may well know, they've led many of the big battles over the last ten years, from raising the minimum wage to putting paid family leave on the map, to fighting for affordable healthcare for all, public transportation, and most recently taking on Mayor Bloomberg's extremely undemocratic plan to extend term limits without a public vote.
http://www.itsourdecision.org/

The term limits fight deserves a close look. The WFP, with the help of bloggers and parts of the city's labor movement, was able to turn what would have been an overnight power grab into a very real - and only narrowly lost - fight. They did it by quickly assembling a grassroots coalition, online and in the streets, to put pressure on a City Council that had expected none.

The term limits battle is another reminder that voter anger is not enough - winning means having progressive institutions with the resources to respond when push comes to shove.

The fights of the future will be no different. The more strength the WFP has, the better our chances are of keeping Democrats from drifting rightward in 2009.

To do it, we need to get every progressive we can reach to vote for Barack Obama - and the Democratic candidates for Congress and the state legislature - on the Working Families ballot line.
http://www.workingfamiliesparty.org/obama

That's where you come in. Thousands of Netroots activists in New York already vote on the Working Families line, but need a reminder. Many thousands more would find their happy home on "Row E" - if we let them know (repeatedly) about the opportunity.

They've set up a great website to do just that: Vote Change Like You Mean It.

Our task is to make sure enough people read what's there. Tell your friends, family, all your fellow New York progressives. Blog, Twitter - whatever your thing is, do it.

It's simple. Working Families votes not only let us "vote our progressive values," they carry an important implicit threat. The WFP and its allies online and off have a track record defeating incumbent Democrats through primary challenges when those Democrats let us down.

The more Working Families votes there are this November, the greater that threat becomes, and the more likely we are to win the big votes for affordable housing, campaign finance reform, a fair budget, and everything else next January and beyond.

On November 4th we have a chance not just to kick Republicans out of the White House and Albany, but to start making Democrats better from day one.

We hope you'll join us. Go to: www.workingfamilies.org/Obama -- tell your friends, fellow activists, and every New Yorker you know. The more votes, the more progressive power.

To contact the WFP about helping directly, email Dan Levitan at dlevitan@workingfamiliesparty.org

Sincerely,

Phil Anderson and Robert Harding, The Albany Project
Michael Bouldin, Daily Gotham
Justin Krebs, Political Organizer
Bob Fertik, Democrats.com

GOP warns of one-party power

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You remember 2003 - 2007, right? Nobody wants to go through that again. The GOP warning of one-party power is like a crazy man shooting into a crowd shouting, "Do you think you could kill any fewer people with this gun?"

Actually, I think that's a current advertising campaign from the NRA, which might explain why they and the GOP are so aligned.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Agreement (with me)

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Yeah, I know. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Still, I'm not saying I'm pleased with our economic collapse, just that it validates me.

Anyway, I've been saying for a while now, and on this blog for at least a year, that housing prices will fall 70 % from their peak to 1997 levels. And what's the money quote today?
Peter Schiff, president of broker-dealer Euro Pacific Capital... said... "After a decade-long spending orgy, market forces are finally trying to restrict consumer spending and dampen credit. But the stimulus looks to provide a new source of funds after savings, income, and credit have been exhausted. Our imbalanced economy is in desperate need of retrenchment, but stimulus plans will effectively hold the firemen at bay while throwing gasoline on the flames."

Additionally, said Schiff, easy credit means people will spend more on consumer goods and they'll have less to spend on housing. As a result, he expects home prices to fall a lot more.

"They'll surrender all the gains they made in the past 10 years," he said, "and be even lower than they were 10 years ago."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Home Sales at 1968 Levels

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I don't really draw any inferences from that, it's just surprising. Home sales haven't changed since I was born! 1963, 1964 and 1965, by the way, were all way higher.

A Pet Owner Aspirant Comes Clean

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I feel vulnerable and want to exert my will over something.
That's what I said.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Phew

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So, since around 1998, I've been focused on two coming apocalypses: the economic collapse and the global climate catastrophe. The former is nigh upon us, but the latter may still be up to 20 years away -- anyway, it's not immminent, and I sometimes have hope that we may have a Manhattan island throughout my lifetime. Or, not to mortally jinx myself, throughout my actuarially predicted lifetime. That's a digression.

My approach to the former problem was to start credentialing myself as a high-income worker and hob-nob with the wealthy and powerful. This, then, is pretty validating:
EMMANUEL SAEZ[, the income-share expert and economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley]: Perhaps the best comparison is the Great Depression. During that period, the income share of the top 10% was stable. But that masked a sharp fall for the top 1%. The income share of the top 1% fell from 24% in 1928 to 15.5% in 1931.
...
[It was such a big drop] [m]ostly because capital gains took a big hit, and I think it will in the coming years as well. One of the most important (factors) during the Great Depression was that profits to business took a huge hit. That affected the top 1%, but the top 10 % as a whole remained stable because the high-wage earners did pretty well during the Great Depression. Those guys rarely lose their jobs and don’t get much of a pay cut.

Can I retract that?

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I really don't predict we'll hit the Bush 43 Presidency low of 7286.27 from October 9 of 2002.

So... this statement is looking more challenged every day. We could totally go through this floor. You'll have to forgive me -- this was just mindless boosterism on my part.

I still think we'll pass 10,000 definitively in five years. It'll be part of inflating our problems away.

Tanzania: What Can the Country Learn From the U.S. Campaigns?

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I just want to saw I found that headline really disturbing. Stay good, Tanzania!

It must be noted that religious and racial sentiments are tool that can be used to tear apart the fabric of society. That is why some Americans are identifying themselves with candidates of their religion and colour.

Tanzanian politicians ought to avoid the use of such tags in elections or else the unity and peace we have been boasting about may soon melt like an ice cube does in hot water.
Do you even know the corporatist party candidate religions? They're both Christians, as is Cynthia, but to Christians, that covers a lot of ground. They're probably not Eastern Orthodox or Coptic. Wikipedia says they're Roman Catholic[Cynthia], Southern Baptist (née Episcopalian)[Rep] and United Church of Christ[Dem]. So, if people are separating along religious lines, the Greens are in a pretty good position. 

McKinney/Clemente Buttons Available

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As penance for my earlier abuse of our candidate, I'm handing out campaign buttons from a big bag I bought. It's not going so smoothly. People seem to feel the Green Party was a factor in installing W in office, but this is why instant runoff voting is so high on our agenda.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Fucktard's Guide To Driving

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So, I've been thinking in recent days of writing a book called something like "Why you're a fucktard and how to change." I made up a little definition for fucktard -- someone who out of insolence or self-absorption behaves in a manner suggesting mental disability -- and came up with little explanations of everyday feedbacks like "if you stand in front of the subway doors, the people on the train can not leave, so the car can not leave. It doesn't matter how quickly you get on, as you're not leaving without the train," and "if you stand in the street waiting to cross, or even on the very edge of the curb, motorists will slow down, the street will not clear, and you cross later than you would have had you waited more than 12 inches back from the curb."

Just, you know, a path fucktards could follow to get themselves out of the hell they create and share with other people. I don't have the time to write such a book, and I can't maintain the negativity and self-righteousness it would require. Obviously, this idea only possesses me during my morning commute. Which is full of fucktards.

I was then pleased to see that this has been done for motorists, whom you might suspect start at a little disadvantage crawling out of fucktarddom.

[Tom Vanderbilt, who wrote "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do"] disappeared for three years into the university warrens of road scholars, who, more than 125 years after the advent of the automobile, are legend. "There are people with entire academic careers devoted to off-ramps," he says.
This was my dream in 10th grade, by the way -- to be one of these people. I wasn't even thinking of the beneficial confusion introduction myself as a 'road scholar' might create.
Perhaps most eye-opening is Vanderbilt's declaration that "the way we drive is responsible for a good part of our traffic problems." That's right, it's not what urban philosophers Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, James Howard Kunstler and, well, my brother and I, in our 1993 book, "Where the Road and the Sky Collide: America Through the Eyes of Its Drivers," have been saying all along -- we are burning in traffic hell for our greedy sins of rampant urban sprawl.

No, what's gumming up the highways are hideously self-absorbed drivers who weave in and out of lanes -- creating a chain reaction of people stepping on the brakes -- desperate to get to some utterly inane appointment for which they think they can't be late. It's not that America has too many people and too few highways. Nearly 90 percent of our roads are not congested 90 percent of the time. Look at it this way: If one-fifth of solo drivers hitched a ride with neighbors or friends to the business park or mall, we'd be sailing along Happy Highway every day.

The tall and slender Vanderbilt, a rather soft-spoken scholar himself, doesn't resort to loud adverbs to make his points about congestion. In his book, he gives way to traffic behaviorist Alan Pisarski, who blames affluence for cities jammed with narcissists in BMWs. Congestion, Pisarski says, is "people with the economic means to act on their social and economic interests getting in the way of other people with the means to act on theirs."

NEWCAG missed the agency problem?

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In another half-hearted attempt to pretend that he wasn't at the center of an Objectivist conspiracy to bring down the global economic system, NEWCAG
...told the House Oversight Committee that his belief that banks would be more prudent in their lending practices because of the need to protect their stockholders had been proven wrong by the current crisis. He called this a "mistake" in his views and said he had been shocked by that.

Greenspan said he had made a "mistake" in believing that banks in operating in their self-interest would be sufficient to protect their shareholders and the equity in their institutions.
So... he didn't get that banks are run by managers, and managers have primarily short-term interests -- they want big bonuses quarter by quarter, and want to pump, vest and dump their options. He just missed it.

You know how in letters to the editor, and in movies where people are advising policy makers, boring people say obvious things? Apparently, they're really necessary.

I saw W. last night, and it showed a bunch of people telling a policy maker just downright crazy things. Those people? Not so desirable. But, it looks like maybe it's useful to write tedious obvious letters to your governing officials. They apparently want you to believe they don't think things through.

Optimism

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"[P]eak oilers" looking forward to another supply crunch should consider two things. First, recession, by resetting the demand baseline downward, extends the life of oil reserves.
While that makes sense, it misunderstands the peak oil paradigm, which is that consumption will outstrip discovery. By a lot. I haven't checked, but I don't expect that this is yet untrue. However, there's more.
Second, the U.S., energy-consumer extraordinaire, is more aware than ever of its oil addiction. The irony is that, as OPEC stabilizes prices, it will reinforce America's political will to deal with that.
At the risk of sounding cavalier? I can't stop giggling. Everybody feeling aware? How's that will doing?

Running up a third time

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If you were wondering how long it's been since I had a running up headline entry, the answer's twenty months. A few weeks ago, I tried to focus on vulgarity and celebrity references, and that's paid off. Here's the headline in question:
How We Ended Up Giving One Another Head, But Not in a Gay Way
So, I'm back in the headline writing roster. But, at what cost?

Really, having cracked the code, I feel like I should keep at this until I win. We'll focus on the moral qualms after they're relevant, which our leaders tell us is what grown-ups do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Regularly Scheduled Maintenance

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OK, frankly? What do these guys take me for? I started erroring out on the page at 4 o'clock, and after 6:30 they start giving me this folderol about how they're updating the site and they'd always meant to do it at this time.

Is this really building trust with their other clientele?

Monday, October 20, 2008

That's Not Party Building We Can Believe In

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Update: This turns out to have been totally misguided. She's clearly identified as the Green Party presidential candidate all over her web page. I don't know if it just wasn't there when I checked, or I simply missed it. I'm probably laying my continuing sense of betrayal from Ralph Nader at Cynthia McKinney's door, which is patently unfair.

Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party Candidate for President, and I'm going to vote for her, as I'm a straight party line voter.

But, and I didn't make any bones about this in the nomination process, I don't particularly think she'd make a good president. I'm voting for her only becuase she's my party nominee.

Now, Cynthia has started sending out a lot of desperate communiques, saying she needs more money, she needs more volunteer time, and she doesn't understand why she'd not getting it.

For my part? I don't understand why the word 'Green' doesn't show up in a search of her campaign home page. She's cobbled together a coalition to lose with. You don't need a coalition to lose! You can lose on your own. And you're not going to get a lot of party activist support if you cast yourself as the leader of a movement and accept whatever presidential candidate nominations are lying around.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Funny enough to pass on

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I've got a real fondness for humor based on spam email. This one has kicks off
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

DEAR AMERICAN:

I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE.

I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Will Call

there's no link.
I'm going to the opera -- Karita Mattila in Strauss' Salome -- tomorrow, which is great. Except I bought season tickets. And this is what's going to happen:

1. I'm going to get the whole season's tickets at once tomorrow night at will call
2. For every other performance, I'm going to spend an hour and a half trying to locate said tickets.

Isn't this majorly stupid? I don't want to manage these physical tokens! I don't want to risk forgetting them! I want to preserve the option to skip my last planned trip home before show! I'm really not optimistic about my ability to convince them that keeping the tickets at will call for the rest of the season is a good thing. But, you'd think, that if they're willing to give me the tickets at all, they'd be willing to give me the tickets every performance.

What I realized earlier tonight is that the tickets themselves are probably unnecessary. They validate me, they give me my ticket, I present my ticket. I feel like if validating me were easier, the whole ticket could go away.

As a Christian, I can't embed any identifying or otherwise commerce-enabling techologies in my body (the Bible only excludes the forehead and the right wrist, but it seems safer to generalize,) but surely there must be something we can do. Maybe tap my RFID-enabled AmEx card? Can AmEx get on this?

Back when the Blue Card was new, the marketers at American Express realized that having a computer chip in the card was very powerful, and the applications were far broader than digital cash. They just didn't know what they were. So, they opened it up for a "give your idea to a major corporation" competition. I submitted this idea of a digital ticket for an event on the card itself, and went on at length about the infrastructure it would require.

I really think the time for that idea has come. Or is still here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Please Don't Provoke the President

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Keep in mind that we have a President who, at the very least, created opportunities for terrorist attacks for the first 8 months of his presidency so that he could claim special powers when one happened, and also invaded a whole other country to help his party in the 2002 midterm elections. In light of that, is this really responsible writing?
[I]f [McCain] does [catch up] it would probably be as a result of a mistake by Obama or some sort of national-security crisis rather than anything McCain does for himself.
We should be really clear here. A national security crisis is not going to help John McCain -- he's not someone people are inclined to turn to in a crisis anymore. Even if there were a crisis impeding Senator Obama's ability to serve, it would help Joe Biden electorally. I'm not super sure what would happen if Senators Obama and Biden were taken out, but I do not think that a McCain presidency would be the most likely result.

And, furthermore, I don't think the President's strong enough to suspend the constitution and stay in office. I don't see that ending well. Seriously, focus on destroying the evidence of your crimes. You can't stay, and you can't put McCain in.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Apparently, Kenya has really strict visa restrictions

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The American author of a best-selling book attacking Barack Obama is being detained in Kenya because he does not have a work permit, a senior immigration official said Tuesday.
...
Obama's late father, whom he barely knew, was a Kenyan economist and the candidate is considered by many Kenyans as a native son. Minibuses are emblazoned with his picture and vendors sell T-shirts bearing his image.
As much as I like the idea of imprisoning propogandists and their sponsors, I can't support it. Restrictions on free speech aren't OK when we like the outcome.

Kenya is supposed to be a constitutional democracy! I know I keep asking Barack Obama to intervene in Kenya, but it would be especially nice in this case. Think of it: After Senator McCain has rolled out, "All Sleaze, All The Time," Senator Obama calls Mwai Kibaki and asks him to let this mudslinger go. It would be a nice contrast, right?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The IReagians

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So, if you were, like myself, laboring under the delusion that Reagan was installed by the Iranians' cynical manipulation of American Public Opinion and this somehow formed a relationship that turned into the Iran Contra Affair and Dick Cheney's "Iranian Puppet" Vice Presidency, I've got to tell you that that's not the current conspiracy theory.

Apparently, Reagan, Bush 41, et al, undertook to undercut Carter's attempt to spring the hostages in a successful bid to undercut Carter's reelection. The outcome's the same, I guess, except that it makes it seem like Dick Cheney feels like he's doing the Iranians bidding as his own man.

Mazda is desiging cars for a water starved future

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The Kiyora has one very unique feature--rain water is channeled from the roof through a carbon filter, filling up a bottle between the front seats. This is the car for a water-starved future.
It's good that they're thinking ahead, but they're designing for a water-starved future with a lot of rain. They should have run this past the system engineers.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

George Bush Gets Favorably Compared to Somebody

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Now that Sarah Palin's on the world stage as "George Bush without connections," it's hard to remember an incident where the sitting President was deemed more capable or accomplished in any fashion than anybody else. Rolling Stone rolls forth to fill the gap.
John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.

In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.
I'll take their word for it.

My Bailout Allegory

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You're in the cockpit of a cargo plane in Afghanistan, transporting refugees to Germany. You're scanning the skies for Turkish, Iraqi, Pakistani or Taliban planes, as any of them might want to shoot you down for your own purpose. But, mostly you're there to ensure that pilot doesn't get lost.

The pilot lurches forward in evident abdomincal pain. Turning to him you see that his skin is dessicated. A chunk of dried flesh tumbles from his temple as you watch He is literally coming apart.

You: What the Fuck!
The pilot turns to you. You can see the blackened blood vessels in his yellow eyes. He doesn't speak for a moment, then starts to croak

Pilot: I'm sorry, I thought I had another couple of days. I didn't want it to end like this.
You: What is the matter with you?
Pilot: I'm a vampire. I need to drink human blood to survive. I know that's awful. I'd rather die than take blood from one more human being.
You: There are 200 refugees in this airplane. You, I, and they are all going to die unless you keep operating this aircraft.
The pilot laughs huskily

Pilot: I can't be killed that way. As soon as my blood mingled with yours, I'd be fine again.
He continues to fly on in silence. You turn matters over in your mind After a few minutes, he begins to shudder violently, causing the plane to do likewise. Refugees start shouting and banging on the door.

You: How much blood do you need? Like, if I let you... feed... on our clients, how many are we talking?
Pilot: I know what you're trying to do I appreciate it, but I... OK, this has got to happen. Ten. Ten refugees would be fine. And, I'll just take a little blood from each. They'll survive. And, if they do die, there's only a small chance that they will arise to curse the earth as evil undead themselves.
You: Ten refugees! That's out of the question! Look, just take three.
The pilot dashes out of the cockpit too quickly and silently for you to notice

You: Three refugees. Maybe I'll let you take two more later. But, if you need the other five, we're going to have to call the UNHCR for approval.
The Pilot reappears. His right arm holds the elbows of two struggling Afghanis. His left arm releases one who sinks to the floor with puncture wounds on his neck. One of the refugees breaks free and dives under your seat as the pilot focuses his attention on the other.

Pilot; And, the refugees themselves? At what point will we confer with them?
He begins to drink. The man under your seat begins to shuffle, whine and cry.

You: I can't see them approving any part of this, so we'd better not ask. But, it's for their own good. Is there any other place you could do this?
The pilot laughs and reaches around under you, intent on finishing his meal.




Azazel

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So... in my rôle as a minutiae blogger, I'll tell you this. I was chatting last night about Sarah Palin at the Vice Presidential debate, and the young lady I was talking to mentioned she'd half expected Denzel Washington to take the stage. I replied, "to stop the archangle Azazel?"

Whereas she'd gone
Sarah Palin --> Debater --> "Great Debaters" --> Denzel, I'd gone
Sarah Palin --> Evil Archangel --> "Fallen" --> Denzel.

Now, it's possible you've never heard of "Fallen;" it's main significance to me was to show how much movies where the hero fails aren't enjoyable -- it really justified American cinema's tradition of successful protagonists for me. But, it came out ten years ago, and I may have mentioned it a few times since, but probably not in the last, oh, nine or so years.

I was talking today with an Aramaic couple. I asked the woman if she'd seen Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, which, of course, is in Aramaic. She asked her husband if he'd seen the movie with Aramaic, and he says, "With Denzel Washington? And the angel that passes from person to person by touch?" Apparently, it's got some Aramaic in it as well.

So, it's a little weird that in the space of two days, the same ten-year-old box office flop has been the wrong answer to two different questions in conversations I was in. It's all part of the cosmic unconciousness.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I read Vice Presidential qualifying media!

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Sarah Palin, she now claims, reads the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Economist. I read Professor Krugman's column in the Times Mondays and Fridays, and other stories as they come up. I subscribe to the other two.

Not only am I more qualified in foreign affairs than Sarah Palin, I read the right papers. I might end up VB by acclamation.

Mountain Redoubt

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Well, of course, the long term plan is to build a retreat at the treeline on a mountain, draw water from the ambient atmosphere, of which we expect a lot on fogball earth, and grow chemosynthetic algae for food.

Of course, buying an actual house now borders on moronic. But, there are apparently great deals on land.
Horton[, the nation's largest home builder by unit volume,] two weeks ago sold about 2,000 house lots in Desert Hot Springs, a blue-collar community in the far reaches of Southern California's Inland Empire, for $7.8 million, according to county records. William Shopoff, a land investor who bid unsuccessfully for the property, estimates Horton paid about $110 million for the land before spending to prepare the property for development by grading and installing infrastructure such as sewers.
So, maybe I should tighten the time schedule for this.

Did anybody hear about planned mountain communities? Or even a resort?

Facts Matter

link -- the WSJ has apparently stopped requiring logins for all its content, btw.
Governor Palin kept decrying 'Greed and Corruption on Wall Street'. I agree that corruption's a bad thing, but could she possibly have meant that they're only bad together? Can you imagine Wall Street without greed? It's not like trading bonds is a particularly satisfying job. You don't do it to create things that matter, change the world for the better or leave a legacy. It's all about the money. Maybe she's pro-avarice, but anti-greed; that's a little hard to parse, but I do have a Bachelor of Arts degree from an accredited institution.

Senator Biden's assertion that 'facts matter' responded to Governor Palin's complaint that Democrats felt how we ended up in Iraq was relevant, and he said something similar when she said, to paraphrase, "I can't speak to the causes of Climate Change, but we have to reduce emissions to address it."

I do love how Biden slammed John McCain for refusing to speak to the President of Spain.

Governor Palin held it together pretty well, and the debate was more watchable than I'd thought. I sort of felt her answers degraded as time went on. My biggest laugh was when she accused the abusive mortgage lenders of Putin-like head-rearing. But, this is it for Governor Huckabee, who is not going to fulfill my secret fantasy of swooping in to save the GOP ticket after Palin had been found wanting.

And I expect we'll see her again in 8 years. It's good that she supports fair marriage.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

There's a 20 % chance of a hurricane hitting Ireland Saturday

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I know I always seem to be advocating panic, but... can I get a little panic? There's a 73 % chance Laura will at least be a tropical storm when she makes landfall.

This is a great time to leave Ireland.

The big news out of Ireland yesterday was that they're guaranteeing all bank deposits. This caused a run on English banks, as everyone transferred their accounts. Funny, right? Unlike a hurricane.

Look at the Belfast Telegraph. It's not that Tropical Storm Laura gets much less emphasis than "Britney Spears' ex-boyfriend offers sex tape for sale," it's that she's not mentioned at all.

These people had better focus.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Like Being President, But With Less Travel

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Bloomberg's going to blow through the term limits and be mayor again. This is good news, as I don't imagine his successor would be competent to understand our economic situation, much less navigate through it.

I'm not in general a fan of handing power to the wealthiest possible person and letting him or her do as they want, but it really seems to have worked out for us so far. And this explains Bloomberg's ultimate disinterest in being President. Mayor of New York just seems to be a better job.