Month: December 2007

World Wide Pants Makes Deal With Striking Writers, Letterman Back on the Air

So will Craig Ferguson’s show, which is also produced by Letterman’s sartorially named production company.

The details of the deal have not yet been released, but this should create a significant advantage for both Letterman and Ferguson, not just because they will have writers, those monologues typically take a dozen writers to hammer out, but because there are a lot of guests who won’t cross a picket line, and with World Wide Pants productions, they are not.

As to whether this will lead to Letterman taking back the ratings lead from Leno, only time will tell.

As for me, I may watch Letterman, but I won’t be watching Stewart or Colbert, who will be airing shows without a deal with writers.

Why We’re All Going to Hell, Part 54,302

John Scalzi, in his blog post, Why We’re All Going to Hell, Part 54,302, makes the point that should be made: When the press covers someone giving away billions of dollars to the hungry, sick, and infirm, and the big story for the media is, “What does this mean for his narcissistic no-talent grand daughter?*“, we are all going to hell, particularly the wankers in the media who have decided to cover it this .

I might further argue that we are already in hell.

*Early in the brief 7 ½ month history of this blog, I made a promise not to mention She Who Must Not Be Named, which was expanded a while back to They Who Must Not Be Named. Therefore, I will not mention her name, or their names, unless they run for office.

A Bad Review of A Bad Book About an Awful Secretary of State

In the New York times book section, Robert Dallek* has a tremendously lame review of Elizabeth Bumiller’s book, Condoleezza Rice: An American Life, which also appears to be tremendously lame, at least based on the following excerpt:

Ms. Bumiller says that if President Bush and Ms. Rice can produce a settlement in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians and an end to North Korea’s nuclear program, it would give them claims on success that would significantly improve their historical reputations.

The classic rejoinder is the Yiddish, “Az der bubbe vot gehat baytzim vot zie geven mein zayde.” (If my grandmother had balls she’d be my grandfather.)

Mr. Dallek however appears to take this meaningless exercise as some sort of depth:

What distinguishes Ms. Bumiller’s book from other initial studies of the Bush administration and its principal actors is its absence of finger pointing or polemics. Ms. Bumiller’s biography is scrupulously fair and most notable for its above-the-battle tone. In Ms. Bumiller’s rendering Ms. Rice is neither hero nor villain but an ambitious woman whose achievements and shortcomings speak for themselves.

So Bumiller’s book is nothing. An active aggressive nothing. The sort of nothing that makes the TV show Seinfeld feel like it was about something.

No analysis, no thought, just stenography.

His further quote of Bumiller is instructive:

“It was obvious from Rice’s many metamorphoses that her real ideology was not idealism or realism or defending the citadels of freedom, although she displayed elements of all of them,” Ms. Bumiller writes. “Her real ideology was succeeding.”

If this means that she thinks that Condi Rice is primarily interested in advancing Condi Rice, then it’s an interesting point far too obliquely made, and if If she means that Condi cares about getting things right, I don’t think so, or as a commenter on another blog says:

Wow. Doesn’t tripe that insipid belong on the op-ed page under a David Brooks byline? I recognize that book reviews aren’t exactly news reporting, but this is ridiculous.
Robert Johnston | 12.27.07 – 9:04 pm | #

Condoleeza Rice has been egregiously and adamantly wrong about everything, but she has continued to fail upward.

*The doctor is right. Never trust a Dallek.

Cuyahoga County, Ohio County to Switch to Optical-Scan

I don’t generally buy into the conspiracy theories about touch screen voting, the group most involved in the issue in Maryland, TrueVote Maryland, is overrun by Greens determined to get nothing done, so that they can blame the Democrats.

I think that the machines are insecure, unreliable, and they don’t provide an adequite voting record, but the reason it’s good news that the Ohio county containing Cleveland is moving to optical scan is because I’ve used the touch screen machine, and they suck wet farts from dead pigeons.

They are buggy, the break down a lot, and they make for much longer lines, discouraging voting.

As to access for the blind, there are simple inexpensive solutions (basically a terminal with earphones and an integrated printer).

Too True

In his blog post, Memories of 2003, the great Paul Krugman notes:

Back in 2003 all the Kewl Kids, as a lot of my friends call them,

FWIW, I call them “very serious people”.

thought that to suggest that Bush was misleading us into war was, you know, shrill — it marked you as not being a Serious Person.

And here’s the thing: they still do. Even now, it’s better for your reputation not to have noticed until, say, 2005 that we had some dangerous people running the country. If you noticed earlier — or, worse yet, you caught on to the administration’s essential mendacity right from the beginning — it’s not a sign that maybe you had good judgment. It shows that you were an irrational Bush hater.

This is kind of like the term “Prematurely anti-fascist” that was big in the 1950s.

How can one be prematurely anti-fascist??? That’s kind of like being prematurely anti-baby eating.

It was a way of dismissing people’s ideas without any serious review.

It’s why the Democratic party should extricate from groups of “very serious people” like the Council on Foreign Relations.

Clueless: NY Times Columnist David Pogue

Mr. Pogue is wringing his hands about how those meddling kids today don’t respect IP.

He relates how he wrote an article about PyMusic, a piece of software that strips the DRM out of iMusic downloads, and how he received a sh#@ when he said, “To me, it’s obvious that PyMusique is designed to facilitate illegal song-swapping online, nd therefore, it’s wrong to use it.”

He gets a bunch of nasty emails from readers (one of those things, it seems that upsets NY Times and WaPo writers) explaining how there are a myriad of legitimate uses for this, such as backup, using some other sort of MP3 player, etc.

So, he claims to get it, and recently he went before a young audience, and gave a number of examples, and asked if they were wrong.

The final one, and the one that shocked him, was when he only got 1 or 2 hands for, “You want a movie or an album. You don’t want to pay for it. So you download it,” and he gets 2 hands out of 500.

He’s shocked, but he is shocked because people understand the issue, Patent and Copyright Law is at its Core Public Interest Law.

IP meaning intellectual product, not intellectual property, is not and was never intended to be property as we understand it.

Congress under Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the constitution, has the power to, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

This is not property. After all, when I say, “Take my wife….please,” Henny Youngman still has the joke.*

IP is an infringement on a very natural state of creativity. Patents and copyright are not much more than 300 years old, but we have the Odyssey, the Aeneid, Gilgamesh, the Bible, the Christian Scriptures, and some really kick ass cave paintings, among thousands of other items.

These young students have looked at the world around them, and determined, for example, that record distributors steal from the artists and give them no money, so that their money does not “Promote … the useful arts”.

David Pogue does not understand the underlying principles of the current IP regime, and these wet-behind-the-ears kids in his audience do.

*Of course his being dead for decades makes his being able to tell it academic.
Of course looking at modern pop music, there is a question as to whether any of the stuff in the top 40 rotation qualifies as, “useful arts”, but that is a metaphysical question, not a legal one.

Kansas GOP Chairman Admits to Illegal Voter Suppression

So not shocked.

When Nixon decided to appeal to the southern racists, he eagerly embraced their Jim Crow voting strategies too.

However, I am a bit surprised that Kris Kobach would brag about it in public:

To date, the Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years!

There is a primer to this illegal, the RNC has been under a consent decree for some time, and quite frankly UnAmerican technique here.

I guarantee you, BTW, a lot of the voters “caged” are serving in the military overseas.

I Love it When Conservatives Go Hammer and Tongs After Each Other

In the left corner, wearing the bible print trunks, Michael Dale “The Gastric Bypass” Huckabee, and in the left corner, wearing currency print trunks with the corporate sponsorship, the Club for Growth.

It appears that the CfG is taking out bunch of nasty ads against Huckabee.

Four years ago, they called me a, “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show”, so I’m experiencing no small amount of schadenfruede.

While Obama and Hillary Try to Make Hay, Edwards Takes High Road on Assassination

We’ve got them sniping back and forth here, and to his credit John Edwards is not saying that it’s all about him:

Benazir Bhutto was a brave and historic leader for Pakistan. Her assassination is a sad and solemn event, and our hearts go out to her family and to the Pakistani people. But we will not let this contemptible, cowardly act delay the march of progress in Pakistan for a single second.

I have seen firsthand in Pakistan, and in meetings with Prime Minister Bhutto and President Musharraf, the instability of the country and the complexity of the challenges they face. At this critical moment, America must convey both strength and principle. We should do everything in our power to help bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice and to ensure that Bhutto’s movement toward democracy continues.

Compares favorably to the posturing by Clinton, Obama, Romney, Giuliani, etc. where they all basically say, “this is why you should vote for me

It compares even more favorably to Mike Huckabee’s statement, where he says, “There’s a country called Pakistan? Really? Are you sure??

I would note that my assessment of Bhutto is far less charitable than his, but he’s not making hay of the assassination, which is a good thing.

Adventures in Bad Desense Technology Reporting

I’ve seen the story all over the net about successful Russian test launch of the RSM-54, or Sineva from the Tula, Delta IV class submarine earlier this month.

There was much talk about it was a “hybrid ballistic missile that in its final stages becomes a modified cruise missile” is actually a bit of a misnomer.

…., is a hybrid ballistic missile that in its final stages becomes a modified cruise missile. In this guise, the warhead cannot be targeted by anti-missile systems that rely on a ballistic trajectory for their calculations.

This is a misnomer. What we have is called a “MARV”, MAneuverable Reentry Vehicle, and it is fairly old news.

The Pershing II which actually reached deployment in the 1980s in Europe before being retired under the INF treaty had such a system, though not for ABM evasion, they coupled it with a terminal radar for a CEP under 30 meters.

For a strategic system it would likely be used for evasion, and there are reports of it being used on the Trident reentry vehicles.

You can see see the aerodynamic surfaces, and the radome on this picture of a Pershing II launch from Wiki.

A Note to Ramesh Ponnuru

It appears that the Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for National Review, has taken offense at a a blog post I made about 8 days ago regarding rumors that Time Magazine wanted him to write regular OP/EDs for them.

The title was and is over the top and offensive, which will surprise my friends no one bit, and you can go to the post and see my apology in the comment.

However, I take exception (not offense, exception) to one thing that he posted in The Corner:

That’s one “progressive” blogger’s reaction to the possibility that I will become a regular columnist for Time.

(emphasis mine)

I am not a progressive. I am a liberal.

A progressive is what wimps call themselves if they favor forward looking programs, but have capitulated to the linguistic efforts to equate the term “liberal” with “N***er Lover” in the 1970s by various reactionaries.

I’d like to think that I have a bit more intestinal fortitude.

To quote John F. Kennedy:

But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

You can also refer to the late Steve’s Gilliard’s post on the subject. He was alway rather insistent on his use of the term “liberal”, rather than “progressive”.

Even New Labour Sick of Anti-Terror Laws

It looks like Gordon Brown is looking at a revolt among his own party regarding his proposal to extend the period of detention without charge in terrorism cases from 28 days to 42 days.

It probably does not help that Sir Ken Macdonald QC, Head of the CPS and Director of Public Prosecutions, in addition to, “the former attorney general Lord Goldsmith and the former Lord chancellor Lord Falconer.”

What I don’t get about the current politics in Britain is how the other parties are not exploiting the current situation.

Brown is floundering, Blair was remarkably unpopular, and that was before his conversion to Catholicism, which from what I’ve read, both historical and current stories, is a very big negative to the British public.

Why the Tories or Lib-Dems are unable to pick up significant seats in these circumstances is completely beyond me.

It’s Official, Politicians Becoming Drooling Idiots: Barack Obama Believes His Own PR

I understand his politics of hope. I understand how he thinks that this is the best way to go. I also understand how this is a central tenet of his campaign.

Still, in looking at his speech intended to close the deal in Iowa, it’s clear that he’s jumped the shark:

It’s change that won’t just come from more anger at Washington or turning up the heat on Republicans….

OK, I differ, but it’s consistent with his message.

Then, unfortunately, he goes on with his examples of how hope has won.

But I also know this. I know that hope has been the guiding force behind the most improbable changes this country has ever made. In the face of tyranny, it’s what led a band of colonists to rise up against an Empire.

Let’s run the numbers: 25,000 American casualties, 8000 in battle, 17,000 from disease including about 8000 who died as prisoners of war, and a slightly smaller number of British casualties. This isn’t hope, this is Bismark’s, “Blood and Iron”, at a cost of somewhere north of 1% of the population of the 13 colonies.

No one bowed before hope.

In the face of slavery, it’s what fueled the resistance of the slave and the abolitionist, and what allowed a President to chart a treacherous course to ensure that the nation would not continue half slave and half free.

In justification of what the slave owners considered their property, we have 110,000 Americans killed in action, with 360,000 total dead in US service, and 93,000 Confederate KIAs and 258,000 dead in CSA service, a number amounting to about 1 in 30 people living in the United States.

This was a battle against selfishness, and the costs were enormous, not a battle over “hope”.

In the face of war and Depression, it’s what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation.

World War II, huh? We have 73 Million dead.

Again, about 3% of the world population.

In the face of oppression, it’s what led young men and women to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through the streets of Selma and Montgomery for freedom’s cause.

Which ignores the bombings of school girls, tens of thousands of lynchings in Jim Crow land, resulting an ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Black Americans from the South to the North.

That’s the power of hope – to imagine, and then work for, what had seemed impossible before.

The people were not swayed by a desire for change and hope, they were forced kicking and screaming, and the sons of Jim Crow, in their heart of hearts still believe, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever“. Trust me, I’m white, and I’ve lived in the south, and I heard the “white to white” discussions during things like the OJ trial and following Katerina.

They believe it to this day, and they vote consistently Republican.

I understand the need to show “The Audacity of Hope“. It’s what you think will resonate, and you really believe it, but I’d be hard pressed to find one more counter factual example than all four that have been given here.

In his speach, he has not only rode his motorcycle over a tankful of selachians, but he has done so wearing a tutu and fairy wings.

He has left the realm of Matthew Yglesias’s Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics*, and gone straight to something I am calling the Tinkerbell Theory of Everything, wherein the noble tinkerbell (typically played by a follow spotlight) is saved by all the children in the audience clapping just as hard as they can.

If there is a problem with the Neocons, and other descendants of the Trotskyite intellectual tradition, it is the consistent denial of reality in order to confirm their theories, but Barack Obama makes them look like hard eyed realists.

H/t to Chris Bowers for the initial catch on the speach.

*To quote the other Matthew:

The ring is a bit goofy. Basically, it lets its bearer generate streams of green energy that can take on all kinds of shapes. The important point is that, when fully charged what the ring can do is limited only by the stipulation that it create green stuff and by the user’s combination of will and imagination. Consequently, the main criterion for becoming a Green Lantern is that you need to be a person capable of “overcoming fear” which allows you to unleash the ring’s full capacities. It used to be the case that the rings wouldn’t function against yellow objects, but this is now understood to be a consequence of the “Parallax fear anomaly” which, along with all the ring’s other limits, can be overcome with sufficient willpower.

Suffice it to say that I think all this makes an okay premise for a comic book. But a lot of people seem to think that American military might is like one of these power rings. They seem to think that, roughly speaking, we can accomplish absolutely anything in the world through the application of sufficient military force. The only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower.

What’s more, this theory can’t be empirically demonstrated to be wrong. Things that you or I might take as demonstrating the limited utility of military power to accomplish certain kinds of things are, instead, taken as evidence of lack of will. Thus we see that problems in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t reasons to avoid new military ventures, but reasons why we must embark upon them: “Add a failure in Iran to a failure in Iraq to a failure in Afghanistan, and we could supercharge Islamic radicalism in a way never before seen. The widespread and lethal impression of American weakness under the Clinton administration, which did so much to energize bin Ladenism in the 1990s, could look like the glory years of American power compared to what the Bush administration may leave in its wake.

My Thoughts on the Bhutto Assassination

First, it’s clear that even by the standards of Pakistani politics, she was highly corrupt, as mind boggling as this characterization was.

This is something that is frequently ignored, as the westerners that she met with were dealing with someone who went to Harvard/Radcliffe and then Oxford. She was well spoken, and knew how to make her point in terms that were familiar to the western officials whom she studiously cultivated.

In this way, she was very similar to Ahmed Chalabi, whose support from US officials, despite a history of criminal, dishonest, and corrupt dealings, managed to convince US figures who were profoundly ignorant of that part of the world to support his interests.

That they both went to college at prestigious western schools, (Chalabi received his BS from MIT, and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago) is not an inconsequential part of this equation. It taught both of them how to communicate their interests in a very fluent way with their American counterparts.

That being said, it is clear that Bhutto was far more interested in actually governing and implementing policies, as opposed to Chalabi’s rather more venal interests.

Additionally, as the head of a the only major opposition party was assassinated yesterday, and with the elections less than two weeks away, it’s clear that the elections will not mean anything.

All that they will do is to serve as a rubber stamp of Pervez Musharraf’s power, as the only other potential rival to power, Nawaz Sharif, has not been allowed stand for election.

As to Mushaffaf, he is largely the product of, and completely beholden to, the Pakistani military establishment (which includes Pakistani intelligence services) which has little or no interest in pursuing the American anti-terrorism or anti Taliban agenda.

The Pakistani military’s culture resembles to a very large degree that of the German Imperial Navy pre World War I. They are focused on “der tag”*, the day, i.e. the eventual large scale conflict with India much in the same way that the German fleet focused on an eventual showdown with their British counterparts.

As a result, both organizations had limited effectiveness to the task at hand.

As such, it is no surprise that very little of the military aid that the US has sent to Pakistan has gone towards fighting the Taliban or terrorism, but has instead been directed toward India.

As to who is directly responsible for the assassination, I do not know, and neither does anyone else writing about it, though I lean toward various Pakistani warlords in the generally lawless border regions who were directly threatened by Bhutto’s policies.

However, it is clear that Musharraf deliberately impaired the security arrangements for Bhutto, probably in an effort to hamstring her ability to campaign, and as such he does bear some direct responsibility for her death.

I don’t see any resolution of this situation as being favorable to the United States, a quick perusal of Sharif’s record shows him having amended the constitution to make removal of a prime minister nearly impossible, and considering the fact that Pakistan has somewhere between 30 and 100 nuclear weapons, and the possibilities for the average Pakistani citizen are even worse.

There is a more general lesson to be learned though, and that is that the US has for a very long time generally cast about for “our man” in various places in the world of interest, rather than looking at issues of governance and process, and the results when this individual falls up short, as has happened when the US withdrew to some degree from Musharraf and placed its chips on Bhutto, have almost always been disastrous.

*At official events banquets, the German Navy always had a toast to “der tag”, translated as “the day”, referring to the eventual clash of fleets.

People Who Write Better Than Me: Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald nails it again:

What a stupid and vapid woman this is, but respected and admired by our media class because she fits right in with them — endlessly impressed by her own sophistication, maturity and insight while drooling out platitudes one never hears except in seventh-grade cafeterias and on our political talk shows. As always, this isn’t worth noting because the adolescent stupidity on display here is unique to Noonan, but precisely because it isn’t. This is how our national elections are decided: by people like her, spewing things like this.

Economic update

Nouriel Roubini sees the following signs of an upcoming recession (I consider them to be signs of a current recession, but I’m not an economist):

  • Initial unemployment claims at 2001 recession level.
  • Durable and capital goods orders falling.
  • Consumer confidence down.
  • Oil prices closer to $100 than to $90/bbl.
  • Retail sales falling after accounting for inflation.
  • Residential real estate going down, and accellerating.
  • Commercial real estate starting down (more below).
  • Various leading indicators falling, as are corporate earnings.
  • Credit markets not only staying seized up, but getting even more seized up. (Dr. Roubins bullet points this out into about 5-7 items)
  • Unstable world environment.

In terms of more specific news, we have mortgage applications falling off a cliff, despite a rate cut, Fitch saying that it may downgrade residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) because the insurers for these bonds are basically insolvent, Goldman-Sachs is predicting that Citigroup may be forced to cut its divident (implying that there is more bad news to come), the Chinese Director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange saying that the US should not cut rates any more because it will “hammer” the dollar, there is increasing evidence that commercial real estate is starting to tank too (It typically lags residential real estate by about ½ year), and residential real estate prices have fall by 6.7% year over year (and at about an 11.7% rate for the past quarter).