Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cynthia McKinney for President

As opposed to the future, the refreshing thing about 2008 is that you can support whosoever you please for the Green Party nomination with the absolute certainty that they're not going to win. And so, it is my pleasure to switch in this cycle from Kent Mesplay (but keep it coming Kent!) to Cynthia McKinney.

Now, there are many problems with Cynthia McKinney. She's a disaffected Democrat, her disgrace came from punching a security guard, and, as you can see from her announcement(which I ask that you take the 7 minutes and 21 seconds to hear), she's barely more articulate than Shrub. But, as she says
America deserves a government as good as its people, and as noble as its ideals.
McKinney, as far as raising our profile, raising money, and recruiting members, is the way to go. And, unlike the case with the Democrats, she means that we don't have to choose between choosing a black and choosing a woman. I know that a lot of Democrats liked Kucinich, but held their noses and voted for Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama out of practicality. And I know that whackjob wingnuts chose Dubya over Keyes in 2000 for the same reason. But, this is different. I don't think Cynthia McKinney would be a good president. She's be worse, probably, that Ralph Nader. But, I don't expect her to win. I understand that this is how at least one of the guys from Predator became governor, but I'm not voting for her out of apathy or protest. I'm supporting Cynthia McKinney because I believe that of all the candidates, she most supplies what we need now. Which are credibility, money and members.

That whole "The Green Party threw the 2000 election to Bush" meme kind of took hold. I mean, c'mon. First off, the Socialists took enough votes from Gore to tip the balance. Secondly, he actually won in the recount. Thirdly, if he'd run a decent campaign (by, for example, I don't know, oh, not selecting Senator Lieberman as his running mate? Nor showing up orange to the first debate? And, oh my God, what was that with Elián González?) there would have been no way it could even have been close. And, as Michael Moore made clear in Fahrenheit 911, it was Vice President Gore himself who squelched protest over the outcome. Instead of 5/9 of the Supreme Court being impeached and Gore being installed, we got what we got.

If Kat Swift starts to date me, or Kent seriously guilt trips me, I might flip. But, both are unlikely. Because, you've got too much pride, right, Kent? Notice that there are only three declared candidates for the Green Party nomination. The ones who've dropped out have thrown their support to Cynthia McKinney. As I'm doing.

I wonder if Al Gore's up for another VP stint....

Requiem For A Browser

So, in 2004 the government canceled the Comanche Helicopter Program, which resulted in my scrambling about for a job and not moving into a pastel townhouse in Manhattan Beach. Say what you like about LA, but it will have vastly more warning than Manhattan Island when Greenland injects oodles of water into the North Atlantic.

One of my options was product management for the Netscape Browser, at that (and this) point a Firefox derivative desultorily supported by AOL Time Warner. It would have meant moving to Columbus and trying to restart the browser wars with infinitesimal corporate backing and while I do select massive enemies, I don't choose to lose. Anyway, they've decided to kill it.

[AOL] released Netscape 7.2 Web browser developed by Time Warner's team and not Netscape staff.

As of December 2006, Netscape's market share was a pathetic 0.2 per cent penetration. The end was imminent.

This December, AOL announced that on February 1, 2008 it would drop support for the Netscape Web browser and would no longer develop new releases. This week, it was announced it Netscape's end would come after a month.
Still, if I'd had 0.2 %market share -- which I think I could have managed -- and still hung on to my job for another 15 months, I really feel I could have explored Columbus to its fullest. There was supposed to be a bar there that had a string quartet playing, which fascinated me. Here in New York? No violins in bars. In Boston, there was violence in bars, but it wasn't the same.

Does noone fear violent revolution anymore?

"The financial industry is bracing for a hurricane" of big write-downs to come in the next few weeks from companies holding complicated credit investments, said David Kelly, chief market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management in New York. "But I think we're just going to get a squall."

Mr. Kelly said anxiety over risky credit instruments is understandable, although he believes a worst-case outcome, including bankruptcies by Wall Street firms, ultimately won't come to pass, in part because government policy makers have been increasingly aggressive about taking steps to avoid a broader recession.

"If it comes right down to it, the (bond insurers) will be bailed out in some way because the financial system needs them to function," said Mr. Kelly. "The amount of money at stake is considerable, of course, but it's nothing in comparison to the resources of the federal government."
The 'resources of the federal government', of course, refers to taxpayer money. So, these people created this system of collateralized debt obligations on real estate asset backed securities which inevitably resulted or will result in mass homelessness and joblessness. And, to acknowledge how flaky the system was, they set up these fake companies which guaranteed a return on these highly correlated investments. If you believed that house prices would increase forever, well, you were a moron, but you wouldn't need insurance. Once you saw the need for insurance, you had to understand that you couldn't get it in any meaningful way.

But. Instead of saying, "Well, we bought insurance from agencies which would clearly fail if they had to pay out at all as part of the grand deceit to pad our bonuses for several years," investment bankers are starting to say 'government policy makers' 'will ... bail... out' 'bond insurers.'

Let's hope they're wrong. I don't think a bloody uprising would be good for my commute.

Compass Rose Decals Coming to subway exits

I went to to find some way to complain about the planned $1 taxi surcharge and found out about this. I'm so happy.
New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Grand Central Partnership (GCP) President/CEO Fred Cerullo and MTA CEO Lee Sander today announced that temporary directional compass decals have been placed on the sidewalk at four subway exits around Midtown Manhattan. The compasses tell pedestrians what street they are on, and what street lies one block from them in each direction.


[P]rovide feedback on their experience by visiting [the] website at

Pro-nuke blurb from Psychology Today

via Schneier on Security
IX. We Love Sunlight But Fear Nuclear Power

Why "natural" risks are easier to accept.

The word radiation stirs thoughts of nuclear power, X-rays, and danger, so we shudder at the thought of erecting nuclear power plants in our neighborhoods. But every day we're bathed in radiation that has killed many more people than nuclear reactors: sunlight. It's hard for us to grasp the danger because sunlight feels so familiar and natural.

Our built-in bias for the natural led a California town to choose a toxic poison made from chrysanthemums over a milder artificial chemical to fight mosquitoes: People felt more comfortable with a plant-based product. We see what's "natural" as safe—and regard the new and "unnatural" as frightening.

Any sort of novelty—including new and unpronounceable chemicals—evokes a low-level stress response, says Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist at ChildTrauma Academy. When a case report suggested that lavender and tea-tree oil products caused abnormal breast development in boys, the media shrugged and activists were silent. If these had been artificial chemicals, there likely would have been calls for a ban, but because they are natural plant products, no outrage resulted. "Nature has a good reputation," says Slovic. "We think of natural as benign and safe. But malaria's natural and so are deadly mushrooms."


More for the timeline of legistlative, regulatory and enforcement failures which, if I haven't been clear, I would like someone else to put together.
Says Patricia McCoy, a law professor at the University of Connecticut: "Congress never likes to blame themselves, but in this case there's no question they bear some of the responsibility." Indeed, only now is Congress talking about enacting some tougher regulations that they could and should have pushed through 10 or 20 years ago.

McCoy points to two key pieces of legislation that are at the root of the current mortgage crisis: the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 (DIDMCA) and the Alternative Mortgage Transactions Parity Act of 1982 (AMTPA).

The former abolished state usury caps that had limited the interest rates banks could charge on primary mortgages - and, in the process, gave banks more incentive to make home loans to folks with less-than-perfect credit.

Though DIDMCA did eventually open the door to some predatory lending in low-income communities, McCoy thinks that, on balance, the 1980 legislation was valuable in the way it deregulated the mortgage market and made home loans more available. It is AMTPA, the 1982 law, that McCoy sees as most problematic.

Prior to the passage of AMTPA, banks were barred from making anything but the conventional fixed-rate, amortizing mortgages. AMPTA lifted those restrictions, giving birth to all the new and exotic mortgages that have so many borrowers in hot water today.


"One of the problems was that there were no substitute regulations to make sure these new mortgages didn't turn out to be exploitative," says McCoy.


McCoy gives a bit of a pass to the 1982 Congress, as it would have been difficult for them to anticipate the growth of the subprime market (in 1982, it was hard for low-income people to get any mortgage) or the willingness of lenders to give interest-only mortgages to the borrowers in the worst position to afford such a loan. ...

"Certainly by the late 1990s, Congress knew of the problems," says McCoy. "It had plenty of time over the past 10 years to do something, and it did nothing."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cola's apparently pretty bad for you

So, almost two years ago I quit soda for about a year and a half. This did nothing for me, so I started up again a few months ago with gusto -- I'll have two or three cokes a day now.

It is well known that too much soda can increase the risk of diabetes and obesity. But when it comes to kidney problems, is there a difference between colas and other kinds of soda?


In a study published in the journal Epidemiology, the team compared the dietary habits of 465 people with chronic kidney disease and 467 healthy people. After controlling for various factors, the team found that drinking two or more colas a day — whether artificially sweetened or regular — was linked to a twofold risk of chronic kidney disease.

So, yeah. Obesity turns out to be a pretty easy thing to track; diabetes and chronic kidney disease less so. But, I guess I'll have to plan to quit again.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ask the press to ask about climate change

Passing on a petition I got an email for, from somebody called "The Alliance for Climate Protection." Click the link to sign.
Dear friend,

The press has been asking the presidential candidates hundreds of questions on a range of issues, but seldom asks about the greatest threat to our planet: the climate crisis. I want to know how the next President -- Democrat, Republican or Independent -- is going to address this critical issue. Don't you?

Please add your name to this petition and we will deliver it to the key media outlets. Together we can ensure this topic gets the attention it deserves.

A League of Conservation Voters’ study found that ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked presidential candidates more than 767 questions -- only 5 of which were related to global warming. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked more than 402 questions -- only 5 were about global warming. Sadly, other political commentators and reporters have shown a similar disregard for this key issue.

Please add your voice today.

Cathy Zoi
CEO, The Alliance for Climate Protection

This follows an earlier email from MoveOn, who also have a petition.
Dear MoveOn member,

In the last year, the major TV networks asked the presidential candidates 2,679 questions. Pop quiz: How many were about global warming?

A) 514—after all, it's one of the top issues facing the country
B) 165—as many as were asked about illegal immigration
C) 3—the same number asked about UFOs

If you guessed 3, you're right: Reporters asked as many questions about UFOs as they did about the climate crisis—the biggest threat to our planet.1

Can you sign our petition urging top TV reporters to ask the presidential candidates about global warming? Click here to add your name:

The petition to the reporters says: "The American public deserves to know where all the candidates stand on the climate crisis and the solutions they propose to address it. Asking those questions is your responsibility."

Please forward this email to your friends, family, and co-workers.

The media help decide what's an "issue" in the '08 election. Unless climate change is on the '08 election agenda, it won't be on the next president's agenda. And the UN's top climate expert warned: "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two or three years will determine our future."2

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. And polls show that voters care about it.3 But somehow, the TV networks never got the memo. NBC's top political reporter, Tim Russert, didn't ask a single question about global warming last year. Same for Sunday political show hosts on CBS and ABC. CNN asked just 1. Incredibly, Republican-leaning Fox bested them all with a grand total of 2.

Our friends at the League of Conservation Voters will deliver your signature and comment directly to the TV networks at a press conference in front of their Washington, D.C., headquarters. And they'll use our petition signatures to prove there's public demand for TV anchors to ask about climate change.

Sign this petition to urge TV anchors to ask about climate change. Clicking here will add your name:

Thank you for all you do.

–Noah, Wes, Ilyse, Justin, and the Political Action Team
Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

1. "What Are They Waiting For?", League of Conservation Voters

2. "Desperate times, desperate scientists," Salon News, December 12, 2007

3. "Poll: Finding Their Voice as Agents of Change," Democracy Corps, October 30, 2007

The both point at this same study, but MoveOn has apparently confused Wolf Blitzer with the press in general. What do you want from Democrats?

Dear attractive woman number 2

It's movie quote time.
Dear attractive woman number 2, only once in my life have I responded to a person the way I've responded to you, but I've forgotten when it was or even if it was in fact me that responded. I may not know much, but I know that the wind sings your name endlessly, although with a slight lisp that makes it difficult to understand if I'm standing near an air conditioner. I know that your hair sits atop your head as though it could sit nowhere else. I know that your figure would make a sculptor cast aside his tools, injuring his assistant who was looking out the window instead of paying attention. I know that your lips are as full as that sexy french model's that I desperately want to fuck. I know that if for an instant I could have you lie next to me, or on top of me, or sit on me, or stand over me and shake, then I would be the happiest man in my pants. I know all of this, and yet you do not know me. Change your life; accept my love. Or, at least let me pay you to accept it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dow 10,000

The problem with being right about impending disaster is that you can't eat smugness. So, I don't want to point out when the Dow Jones Industrial Average hits 12,000, as I've predicted it'll go all the way to 10, and I know that people get upset when the DJIA loses value. You pull your kids out of school, fire employees, sell your house (ah, oops,) all sorts of terrible things. And I don't feel a lot of schadenfreude, as the people who benefited most from the spurious inflation of the equities markets have already feasted on their ill-gotten gains, and can't be made to unfeast.

The market's haven't closed, and sometimes they pop up again at the end of the day, but they're at 12,137.51 now. On October 10, it opened at 14,010, so it's already 47 % of the way corrected, and that's with a dropping dollar.

So, since it doesn't really benefit me or anyone I know for the market to drop like this, I won't point out when it hits 12,000. But, I wanted to note the possibility.

You could try this book. I don't know much about it, but I wanted to end on a positive note.
In Conquer the Crash, Robert Prechter explains why he thinks the boom times are behind us. Based on his interpretation of the Elliott Wave principle (an idea premised on the notion that mass investor psychology is what really drives markets), Prechter believes that the U.S. economy is about to enter into a deflationary depression that few investors are prepared to deal with. In making his case, Prechter assembles an impressive array of data that in essence suggests that the bill for the last 10 years of market excess is about to come due. The second half of the book shows how to avoid becoming "a zombie-eyed victim of the depression" and offers advice on protecting one's assets in a deflationary environment (cash is king). If there's any good news in the future that Prechter sees coming (other than how to avoid it), it's that all-out depressions don't last very long. Conquer the Crash should appeal to gloom-and-doom investors and to those desperately looking for a safe haven from the uncertainties of today's markets. --Harry C. Edwards

Looks like it's going to be another year

Do you wonder why the big investment banks have been going back and saying, "Oh, you know those values I was putting on my assets? They were imaginary?"

It was to keep the bonuses up, in order to keep Manhattan Real Estate prices up, in order to keep hedge funds solvent. So, last year's losses had to look like profits. But, since I've largely given up on the idea of a Manhattan apartment's keeping any sort of value, this bothers me less than it would have four months ago.

Update: WaPo has more on this

Wall Street's five biggest firms together paid a record $39 billion in bonuses, even though three of them suffered the worst quarterly losses in their history and shareholders lost more than $80 billion.

Goldman Sachs Group, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers Holdings and Bear Stearns together paid $65.6 billion in compensation and benefits last year to their 186,000 employees. Year-end bonuses usually account for 60 percent of the total, meaning bonuses exceeded the $36 billion distributed in 2006 when the industry reported all-time high profits.

The bonuses are larger than the gross domestic products of Sri Lanka, Lebanon or Bulgaria.

"To many people, it will be shocking and questionable," said Jeanne Branthover, managing director of Boyden Global Executive Search. "People in New York in the world of investment banking will understand it. It's critical that pay is still there or you're going to lose really good people."

Yeah. Wouldn't want those good people off looking for work in Bulgaria. Were the layoffs all of bad people? It seems like you could layoff fewer people if you just didn't give parasitic investment bankers bonuses, and watch them run off to make their fortunes as real estate brokers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Numerous unpublished studies submitted to the Food and Drug Administration by pharmaceutical companies have found that many popular antidepressants have little or no effect on patients, according to a new review of the previously hidden findings.


Since the overwhelming amount of published data on the drugs show they are effective, doctors unaware of the unpublished data are making inappropriate prescribing decisions that are not in the best interest of their patients, according to researchers led by Erick Turner, a psychiatrist at Oregon Health and Science University. Sales of antidepressants total about $21 billion a year, according to IMS Health.

Group Marriage Debate Takes Another Step

Link from the Housing Bubble Blog:

Republicans and Democrats ... usually find some mutually acceptable midpoint and enact a stimulus package. Even in today's hyperpartisan Washington, the odds still favor such a deal.

This time, though, don't expect that to be the end of the story -- because the coming recession will not be normal... because we face an economy that's been warped by two developments we've not seen since FDR's time.

The first of these is the stagnation of ordinary Americans' incomes, a phenomenon that began back in the 1970s and that American families have offset by having both spouses work and by drawing on the rising value of their homes. With housing values toppling, no more spouses to send into the workplace, and prices of gas, college and health care continuing to rise, consumers are played out.
'Spouses' should read 'spice.' I'm not sure why that hasn't caught on. You'd think gambling on the spread of a plural change like that would be safe as hice.

Depression Meme launched in the MSM!

Link from Slate:
“It looks like the financial sector as a whole will see a big decline in profits, and the only time this happened in the last 100 years — financial firms’ going from making good profits to negative profits — was the Depression in the 1930s,” said Richard Sylla, a professor of financial history at New York University. “I don’t think it will be as bad this time; the Federal Reserve is fighting the problem as hard as it can.”
Yeah, they've shown such ontopofitness, sticktuitiveness and cluefulness to date that we needn't worry about a thing. Every little thing is going to be all right.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mesplay: The Climate Is Changing, and we are largely unprepared

Green party rocks. Pick up the stream now!

Hording firearms against civilization's collapse is not an approved reason to get a Federal Firearms License

See below for some context.
The Federal Firearms Licensing Center (FFLC) is responsible for determining eligibility and acting upon applications for Federal firearms licenses. Inspections of applicants are coordinated with regulatory field offices. Such applications are required to be filed by all persons who intend to engage in the business of manufacturing, importing, or dealing in firearms. Firearms licenses are also issued to persons who wish to be collectors of curio and relic firearms.
So, you could import them. Or rely on blunderbusses. Manufacturing? ... Man, you can get inspiration from anywhere.

Green Party Presidential Debate

Green Party

Don't Miss This:
Tonight! Special Rebroadcast of the
Green Party Presidential Debate
Tuesday, January 15th, 7:00 - 10:00 pm (PT)

In the Bay Area: KPFA radio - 94.1 FM

Outside the Bay Area: other Pacifica network stations, or Online at

With hosts Larry Bensky and Aimee Allison

Two hours of edited debate moments And one hour of direct listener call-ins from anywhere in the world

See for call-in numbers and more info...

Spread the Word!

Information on Green presidential candidates, with links to candidates' web sites:

Please help the Green Party in its efforts to elect Green Party Candidates to office.

Donate to the Green Party of the United States

Donate to GP Fund

Carbon offsets are being marketed to induhviduals

I don't even know how to think about this. What's your response? Should I ask for these for my birthday?

e*Trade upside down on Savings Interest

E*Trade is currently paying 5.05% annual percentage rate on Savings. This is nice, but what's interesting about it is that their 6-month CD has an APY of 5 %, which, not to belabor the point, is less. The 1-year and 3-month CDs are at 4.5% and 4.35%, and anything over a year is at 3.75 %.

The longer you commit to their having your money, the less they'll pay you for the privilege. For a regular bank, it goes the other way. E*Trade apparently believes that money will be cheaper the longer they wait. Well, here's hoping.

Monday, January 14, 2008

You gotta love this guy

[T]he $3 trillion dollars that evaporated on Greenspan’s watch was in fact stolen from the American people while the Fed chief concealed the crime behind the smokescreen of low-interest rates. In the final analysis, Greenspan will be seen as a greater traitor than Bush.

No comment, really. Just wanted to point to another blog.

I ... but ... that's crazy. Hillary Clinton's saying we would have invaded Iraq without her help

Hillary made the case, as she has before, that the vote for the war was really a vote to give Bush increased diplomatic leverage over Saddam, something she claimed made war less likely.

But this time she added that there would have been a war without any such resolution in any case.
The leverage was the statement by the camerae that they wouldn't stop an illegal war. You can't say both that it increased the leverage and didn't make war more likely. It's nonsensical.

Antarctica's Melting, Too

Link from Slate:
The Washington Post also fronts news that melting is increasing in Antarctica in areas that scientists had presumed would be safe for a time, raising the possibility of significant sea level rise if the trend continues.
The story makes it sound as if the IPCC sort of felt Climate Change would save Antarctica for when it had done melting all the other ice.

The new finding comes days after the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the group's next report should look at the "frightening" possibility that ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could melt rapidly at the same time.

"Both Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheet are huge bodies of ice and snow, which are sitting on land," said Rajendra Pachauri, chief of the IPCC, the United Nations' scientific advisory group. "If, through a process of melting, they collapse and are submerged in the sea, then we really are talking about sea-level rises of several meters." (A meter is about a yard.) Last year, the IPCC tentatively estimated that sea levels would rise by eight inches to two feet by the end of the century, assuming no melting in West Antarctica.

And, you know, there's always a mechanism. I'm free to make broad qualitative statements whereas scientists always need mechanism, if you were wondering how I was so far ahead of the curve.
"Without doubt, Antarctica as a whole is now losing ice yearly, and each year it's losing more," said Eric Rignot, lead author of a paper published online in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The Antarctic ice sheet is shrinking despite land temperatures for the continent remaining essentially unchanged, except for the fast-warming peninsula.

The cause, Rignot said, may be changes in the flow of the warmer water of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that circles much of the continent. Because of changed wind patterns and less-well-understood dynamics of the submerged current, its water is coming closer to land in some sectors and melting the edges of glaciers deep underwater.

"Something must be changing the ocean to trigger such changes," said Rignot, a senior scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We believe it is related to global climate forcing."
It seems like he's going out on a limb here, right?

Anyway, growing horror in others always makes me feel a little less isolated, so it's nice to see.

Update: And by the way?
Ohio State University professor Lonnie Thompson ... described a significant speed-up in the melting of high-altitude glaciers [on] Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya.
Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania. There are foothills in Kenya, but I don't think they're glaciated.

Classic Arbitrage or Theft?

The Wall Street Journal reports, you decide.
Magnetar helped to spawn CDOs by buying the riskiest slices of the instruments, which paid returns of around 20% during good times, according to people familiar with its strategy. Back in 2006, when Magnetar began investing, these were the slices Wall Street found hardest to sell because they would be the first to lose money if subprime defaults rose.

For the Wall Street firms underwriting the deals, selling the riskiest pieces was "critical to getting the deals done because they were designed to act as a cushion for other investors," says Eileen Murphy, principal at Excelsior CDO Advisors LLC, a structured-finance consultancy.

Magnetar then hedged its holdings by betting against the less-risky slices of some of these same securities as well as other CDOs, according to people familiar with its strategy. While it lost money on many of the risky slices it bought, it made far more when its hedges paid off as the market collapsed in the second half of last year.
So, if you say "this is all a sham that will fall apart as a piece," then this is a pretty obvious strategy. Buy the piece that everyone says will fail -- so you get the high returns when the music's playing -- and bet against the rest, so you make out when it stops.

It's so cynical and obvious, that you have to be inclined to believe there was real criminal intent behind it. We're sort of married to the narrative that employment in the financial sector makes you blind to economics truths, but this story rather belies that.

The interesting part is the statement that the deals couldn't get done without this action.
  • We securitize mortgages
  • Buying them is obviously a bad idea
  • We 'put the risky bits aside'
  • The badness of the idea of buying them is now obfuscated
  • Hedge funds buy the risky bits and bet against the safe bits
All of the bits are based on infinitely inflating housing prices, so they're all bad bits.
  • Hedge funds do well while the prices inflate
  • Hedge funds do well when the prices collapse

Nice work if you can get it, which I guess is why getting it involves years of 16 hour days, advanced degrees from elite institutions -- Magnetar's founder Alec Litowitz apparently only has a Bachelor's, but it is from MIT -- and wealthy parents.


Tom Tomorrow asks us to show a little pity for the pundits. So, you and I can look at the candidates and the country, and can say 'McKinney/Edwards/Huckabee, with Edwards to win.' However! The poor pundits have to have something to say every day. You recall the 2004 Democratic Presidential Nominations. We knew it would be Edwards or Kerry, but there was this long and expensive bout of nonsense, which we're seeing again.

Of course, like Football or Spears/Hilton/Lohan, this is just gunk designed to keep us from talking about the issues that affect us. And campaign horserace folderol is particularly pernicious, as it distracts the people who are most inclined to talk about substantive issues.

But, it's our system. And the Jonathan Alters and so forth are just doing their jobs. So, really, this is a plea for tolerance. I'm not suggesting you pay attention to them. But try not to hate them for their anti-American support of the corporate plutocracy.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

First Presidential Debate Tomorrow

It's not clear that this is going to be streamed over the internet, but I'd like to see it.

Is MoveOn coming out against Hillary Clinton?

I just got a fundraising appeal for a Maryland congressional primary from It starts
Dear MoveOn member,

They're a problem. Democrats in Congress who vote with President Bush on the war. Who take checks from lobbyists. Who side with corporations instead of voters.

It's not enough just to fight Republicans— progressives need to make sure the Democrats we elect are on our side too.

Does that sound like anyone you know?

We really do need to impeach the President

I don't know what the next president will do on taking office, other than immediately abandon ideas for a national sales tax. However, if the current president lasts out his term, I have a pretty clear vision of him popping uppers, surrounded by the federal government's top experts in ergonomics, stimulants and penmanship, burning through his final 200 hours signing thousands of presidential pardons.

The Democratic Congress has already been distracted from working legislation through Republican filibusters by the need to investigate the administration on thousands of discrete violations of the public trust. TPM Muckraker points to one example in the linked story in the LA Times today.
Congressional critics launched an offensive against the Bush administration Thursday for denying California and other states the right to adopt strict curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said she would consider issuing a subpoena for documents that might show White House interference in the Dec. 19 decision to deny California a waiver to enact its own rules under the Clean Air Act.

"This outrageous decision . . . is completely contrary to the law and science," Boxer said in a briefing with state officials at Los Angeles City Hall. She held up an empty cardboard box as a symbol of the Environmental Protection Agency's refusal so far to provide the hefty technical and legal backup that normally accompanies air pollution waiver decisions and are usually published in the Federal Register.


"Subpoena these guys," [California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who sued the EPA last week in an effort to overturn the decision] urged Boxer. "Send the marshals out. Get them to tell us under oath. They are not going to get away with this. Sooner or later, we are going to uncover real corruption . . . that is dangerous to California and to the whole world."

Brown said that the Bush administration may be able to delay court action a year, until the president's term is over, but that Congress may be able to speed the process. "What you have is a bunch of scofflaws in the White House," he said. "This fellow Johnson is becoming a stooge in a really pathetic drama that hopefully will not play out much longer."
It's utterly mysterious to me that the Congressional Leadership doesn't really understand that the American people put them in power largely to pursue impeachment. (Polls? Bah. They're my people.) We really have to discover and unwind what's been going on over the past several years, to undo the damage and to keep bad actors away from future public policy decisions. It's necessary to the working of the country, and it's something that the president has the power and apparent inclination to disrupt.

So, we have to remove him from power before he can do that, making Nancy Pelosi the 44th President of the United States. George McGovern has picked up this theme. We can assume that he got it here, as it's safe to say that former major party presidential nominees are faithful readers of this blog, and call it a 'malecho.'

[T]he case for impeaching Bush and Cheney is far stronger than was the case against Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew after the 1972 election. The nation would be much more secure and productive under a Nixon presidency than with Bush. Indeed, has any administration in our national history been so damaging as the Bush-Cheney era?

How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?


[W]e must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.
As I've mentioned, in what, to be fair, we might call a 'wexecho', Congressman Robert Wexler of (parts of) Palm Beach, Florida, is ... as far as I can tell, repurposing his reëlection fund to advertise for impeachment. I don't know if that's proper, or even legal, but you know what? I'm going to give him $100.


Who's with me?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Odds of Recession to hit 100% by August 2009

Assuming a linear trend.
In the latest monthly survey, economists put the chance of recession at 42%, up from 38% in December and 23% just six months ago. On average, the 54 forecasters who participated see the economy expanding at less than a 2% annual rate in the first and second quarters. Last month's survey estimated 2007 growth at 2.5%.
Update: Sorry, missed the laugh line:
"Length of recession doesn't vary very much: about three quarters and that's it," said David Wyss of Standard & Poor's.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Eelco Rohling: Current predictions of sea-level rises may be too low.

The world's sea levels could rise twice as high this century as U.N. climate scientists have predicted, according to researchers who looked at what happened more than 100,000 years ago, the last time Earth got this hot.


Back then, Greenland was 5.4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than now -- which is similar to the warming period expected in the next 50 to 100 years, Rohling said.

Current models of ice sheet activity do not predict rates of change this large, but they do not include many of the dynamic processes already being observed by glaciologists, the statement said.

How could the UN be so wrong?
Lead author, Professor Eelco Rohling of the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science, based at the National Oceanography Centre, said: ‘There is currently much debate about how fast future sea level rise might be. Several researchers have made strong theoretical cases that the rates of rise projected from models in the recent IPCC Fourth Assessment are too low. This is because the IPCC estimates mainly concern thermal expansion and surface ice melting, while not quantifying the impact of dynamic ice-sheet processes. Until now, there have been no data that sufficiently constrain the full rate of past sea level rises above the present level.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

My Other Car Is An Oshkosh, b'gosh!

I always think of Northrop Grumman as a bus company that makes weapons. And giant space telescopes. I found this pretty curious.
The Los Angeles defense contractor, in its most recent move to broaden its business beyond its aerospace and naval lines, is expected to announce today that it will compete for a chance to build as many as 140,000 vehicles. Northrop is teaming up with Oshkosh Truck Corp., which has extensive experience making military trucks.
The Pentagon's solution is what is called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, a family of three vehicle types capable of performing missions from reconnaissance to cargo hauling. The vehicle's target weight is below 20,000 pounds, about half the weight of the heavier armored vehicles now being rushed to Iraq. At less than $300,000 each, the JLTV would also be half the cost.
Which is to say, given the poor adoption of the H2, the government feels it has to subsidize the development of the next SUV brand. Maybe they've just given up on American car-makers altogether, and feel that maybe Oshkosh can save the industry. Recall that International Harvester made the first SUV, but President Carter managed to put out that fire. This time, maybe we'll get a truck manufacturer into the car industry.

In any case, I'll wait for the hatchback.

Update: Reading this post, I don't think it's clear that the thing I find curious is that a bus company is reaching out to a truck company to make its vehicles. Oshkosh does have an existing business, but you'd think NG would be able to disintermediate them. Coömpetition at its best, I guess.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Krugman and NAFTA

I was reading this comment at TPMCafe
Clinton pal Paul Krugman was ... a shill for the Clinton push for NAFTA.
Really? It was so obviously a bad idea, and he's such a good liberal. The Economist confirmed that everything we thought was going to happen with NAFTA did, in fact, happen, in their cheerful "plutocrats have devastated the economy and that's a good thing" style.

But, it turns out to be true!
Paul Krugman, a trade economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that for the United States, the agreement is "economically trivial." Professor Krugman supports the treaty, saying he thinks it will help to keep free-market reformers in power in Mexico. He sums up the war of words this way: "The anti-Nafta people are telling malicious whoppers. The pro-Nafta side is telling little white lies."
He was too honest to assert that NAFTA would be a good thing for us, but that's small comfort. Even as recently as May, he hedged with "whatever you think of NAFTA."

Ah, well. All halos get tarnished. I'm still a fan.

Mortgage Kickbacks at over a third of the sale price?

This is really astonishing. I know that my favorite part of the housing bubble has always been the "guarantees" that banks would buy the loans back from the securitors if they went bad, but if I can actually wrap my head around this, it could supplant it.

From the Housing Bubble Blog...

[Steve] Hawks [of ReMax Platinum] said he examined title work on several homes and found that someone had removed an addendum that instructs the title company to issue checks to a third-party limited liability corporation. The document is removed or hidden, either way with same result, he said.

For example, a $500,000 listing is bumped to $800,000 and $300,000 gets kicked back to the third party through the addendum. If the institutional investor knew about the $300,000 cash, they would never buy the loan. That's why the addendum has to be pulled or hidden, Hawks said.

Of course, this is Las Vegas. This is out and out criminal behavior; it's not going to get to be my favorite thing unless it turns out to have been national and structural. It's an enforcement failure, which I don't think is as cool as a legislative or regulatory failure.

But, it could have been national, it could have been reported upward in the 90s or early aughts, and it could have been the result of explicit cuts of enforcement agents. So, all in all pretty emblematic, but it has a few hurdles to jump if it wants to be my absolute favorite thing.

Vernon Smith explains why 1997

So, the question "why 1997" as far as kicking off the housing bubble, is a pretty fundamental one. And Vernon Smith, "a professor of law and economics at George Mason University [and] the 2002 Nobel Laureate in economics," believes he has the answer.
[A]t the end of the capital-gains rainbow was the right to take up to $500,000 of profit, tax free.

Thank you President Bill Clinton for your 1997 action, applauded by the banks, the realtors and all citizens in search of half-millionaire status from an investment they could understand and self deceptively believe to be low risk; thank you for fueling the mother of all housing bubbles.
Maybe somebody should get a timeline together of the various legislative and regulatory failures that fueled all this. Wikia returns nothing for "regulatory legislative failure timeline housing bubble," which is a shame, but this is a credible starting point.

Open Source (Wikia) has its own search engine

You can try it here or install the Firefox Add-In with this link.

I assert that internal combustion engines have changed somewhat in the past 100 years

Today's internal combustion engines are not radically different than those of 100 years ago.
What's the WSJ smoking? Are they just saying this because the Otto Cycle is still the core concept? 100 years ago, ICEs were pretty different.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Oh, if only a financial innovator would save us!

The U.S economy has been made into a voracious credit pyramid desperately needing bigger bubbles just to stay afloat. This is the consequence of the illusion we have been sold – perpetual prosperity. Propping up asset bubbles with more fiat money ultimately threatens not more just inflation but a rapid deflation when the music stops. The dollar retracing the past 40 years’ growth is mainly due to the realization that financial engineering was accepted as organic growth. It wasn’t and the jig is up. The extent of that failed paradigm finally resulted in issuing mortgages like after dinner mints and showed just how desperate we have become to simulate (no T) growth.

FYI: man’s self-rule nearly over

This year of 2007 is nearly over. Looking back, it has proven to be prophetically eventful. This year has been marking a conclusion to mankind being allowed to freely follow the path of his own choosing. We are about to enter the period when God begins to bring a full end to man’s self-rule. The fulfillment to end-time prophetic events is about to be thrust upon the whole world, and man’s way, as well as Satan’s, is about to begin to be shut down!
The point, I guess, being that John Edwards will be deified at his inauguration?

I so rarely read anything that reminds me of Brautigan

"We started off with almost all funny pictures," says Zephyr Teachout, national director of the Sunlight Network. "But people are much more serious than we expected. So we added images of Iraq, the flood [after Hurricane Katrina] -- and those are much more popular."
Zephyr Teachout of the Sunlight Network?

Early Childhood Problem Solved!

Nice post by Judith Warren of the New York Times; essentially it's an ad for the surrogate mother industry in India. I'm not super clear how it works, but presumably your agent ships a zygote to india and brings you an infant 9 or so months later.

While this solves a lot of problems by itself, imagine if you could take custody when they're four or five years old -- children aren't going to have many memories before that, but they require a lot of adult attention, both physical touching and very interactive learning. It's incredibly time consuming, and in the weird two-parent structure we seem addicted to, it really has to impact one or both parents' careers significantly.

The time consuming stuff can be done overseas! You get your kid back when they're old enough for the public school to take them! The surrogate mother can spend all that time with the kid, changing a little the meaning of 'pay to play.'

Playing Devil's Advocate to Win

It's like a curse. Once you start linking xkcd cartoons, you can't stop.

I'm bringing 'gry' back

OK, one more xkcd

Thursday, January 03, 2008

That Federal Reserve Board May Cut Rates Again January 29th

In fact, I wouldn't bet against it. Which is what I did last time.

Look at December 11, 2007 -- the steep and substantial fall in my treasured foreign T-Bill ETF (blue; the inverted dollar is red and the Dow* is green) comes after the last rate cut, when the gubbiment was propping up the dollar. It's taken a while for the li'l slugger to regain his losses, but, hey, you can't lose money betting against the greenback.

There's some risk the Fed won't cut rates as much as currency speculators bet, and the dollar will plummet rather quickly. But, for the Jan 29-30 meeting, I think it'll be prudent to slink off into something a little more dollar-neutral for a few days.

* -- not evil elves. The Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Doesn't Guillermo Del Toro look like a Hobbit?

The Age of Consequences

RealClimate blogs at the link a new report "just released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security" which tries to compass what exactly will happen with the climate change and all. This may help start driving some investment decisions.
History also teaches that people have a tendency to develop ways of coping with environmental fragility, by choices of individual living strategies such as the ability to migrate, or by decisions made at the societal level, such as engineered flood control measures or mobilizing assistance from outside. The report offers the idea that it takes a population a few generations to learn how to operate within the limits of its natural world. For example, the report attributes the dust bowl drought in some measure to environmental inexperience of a population who had only recently migrated from more humid regions. With our recent increased mobility, and with climate change itself, we find ourselves losing this buffer of experience and understanding.
I feel like I've been saying this, but I don't reliably communicate what I want to, so I wanted to quote somebody else. And, I've mostly been taking an agricultural perspective -- we've got to restructure the ways we think about farming and land use to let us adapt to fast changes in the climate. Never mind that the soil will never get to reach a steady state.

The report itself is here.

Cheney Impeachment: Taking the Next Step [email from Congressman Wexler]

Dear Rionn,

In my last email to you, I wrote how your support for our efforts to hold impeachment hearings for Vice President Cheney has helped us get some attention from the mainstream media. My editorial was recently published in the Philadelphia Inquirer and newspapers from coast to coast have covered our success. 175,000 supporters have now signed up at and the number continues to build.

Over the past weeks, I have put significant financial resources behind this effort, including advertising, multimedia, blog ads, and technical support for Thank you to the hundreds of people who have already generously supported the cause.

Now, with your help I want to expand this effort.

With your support I want to make a major Internet advertising buy on Google that will guarantee that for the next two weeks, every person that looks up "Dick Cheney" on Google sees an advertisement for our petition. With your help we can own "Cheney" on the web.

In addition, I want to publish blog ads, such as you see to the right, throughout the web to galvanize Americans in support
of our cause. (You may have to right mouse click and select "Download Pictures" to see the ad).

It is time to reach beyond those that are regular readers of the political blogs, and expand the number of people
mobilized to help push for impeachment hearings. The truth is that the number of Americans who support our efforts is immense and we need to
do everything possible to reach out to them and maximize our strength.

I cannot do this without your support, so click here if you'd like to contribute to our work.

When Congress reconvenes on January 15th I will deliver the hundreds of thousands of names we have collected to my
colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and I will do everything I can do to convince them to support immediate impeachment hearings. I will also
be entering all of the collected names into the Congressional Record and present them to the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

The mainstream media has not done enough to cover this effort but with your help we will force the issue into the national dialogue.

Click here if you'd like to help sponsor this effort.

We must now redouble our efforts to ensure that Vice President Cheney and the Bush Administration are held accountable.

In order to continue funding this effort we need your help. Please consider making a financial contribution to help us expand our advertising advocating impeachment hearings for Vice President Dick Cheney. Your help will go a long way toward stopping the out of control Bush Administration.

Click here if you are willing to contribute today.

Thanks for your help and keep up the fight!

Congressman Robert Wexler

The trouble with Kansas

I've downloaded Celtx and started using it to prepare a screenplay. It has a number of sample projects, including L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. So, now I'm reading The Wizard of Oz. And this seemed like a pretty cutting comment on Los Angeles.

The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, "I cannot understand why you should
wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you
call Kansas."

"That is because you have no brains" answered the girl. "No matter how dreary
and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there
than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like

The Scarecrow sighed.

"Of course I cannot understand it," he said. "If your heads were stuffed with
straw, like mine, you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then
Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Carbon offset's cheaper than you'd think

[ed - I bought a $379 round trip ticket from Newark, NJ to Seattle. Apparently, I can offset my carbon for about seven bucks. What does that buy, iron filings for an algae bloom?]

Leave the World a Better Place™ - Carbon Offsetting Option

EcoSkies - Carbon Offsetting Option Continental has partnered with Sustainable Travel International (STI), a non-profit organization that supports global climate protection and environmental conservation. STI offers customers the option to make a contribution to offset their carbon footprints for travel on Continental. All contributions are paid directly to STI. Continental does not receive any portion of any contribution.

Sustainable Travel International calculates that to offset your amount of CO2 from this itinerary, you may contribute $7.10 or another amount.

New York Times obfuscating climate change

This is a little weird. One could play a fun game of 'find the error' with this column by John Tierney (which suggests the consensus on anthropogenic climate change is driven by confirmation bias,) if one were invited to parties. But, actually? Bringing corporatist newspaper columns to parties might be a habit standing in the way of such invitations.

Mr. Tierney is not a think tank employee or a government shill. He's an employed reporter, or at least a columnist, with the paper of record. It just seems bizarre his editors feel that more doubt needs to be injected into the conversation.

Unforced cluelessness on Kenya?

In Dana Perino, the White House has finally found a press secretary whom no one ever expects to actually have a grounding in any sort of knowledge. Usually, when she says something breathtakingly misleading or incorrect, you can match it to some nefarious interest of the Bush Administration with a little reflection. After all, they make their own reality, and the press secretary shares that reality with us. But, I'm having trouble finding their interest in
''It's hard-pressed to comprehend here how this could have gone so wrong in terms of Kenya being on its way to some stability and then having this election turn into such a violent situation.''
Word usage aside (what's hard-pressed?) why are they portraying Kenya as unstable? It's unstable now, because we've demonstrated what happens when a country just lets one candidate steal the election, and the Kenyans don't want to end up like us. But, the election results really started it.