Month: August 2009

The Very Modern Model of a Modern Republican Candidate

Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert McDonald mentioned in an interview with the Washington Post that he did a masters thesis on “welfare policy,” and the Post went and did some real journalism: they went to the library at Regent University, Pat Robertson’s diploma mill, which was called Christian Broadcasting Network University at the time that he filed his papers.

What they found was shocking, though not surprising:

  • Called working women “detrimental to the family”.
  • Opposition to birth control.
  • Absolute ban on abortions, including where rape, incest, and the health of the mother are issues.
  • Covenant marriage (basically making divorces much more difficult).
  • Support for religious school vouchers.
  • Opposed tax breaks for child care expenses.

I am so not shocked that he is a right wing medieval nut job, but I think that some Virginia voters might be.

I’m shocked though that the Washington Post actually allowed real journalism to reach its pages. This article is positively brutal, and deservedly so.

Economics Update

The Institute for Supply Management’s Chicago Purchasers’ Index beat expectations,
rising to 50, where 50 is the dividing line between contraction and expansion.

It’s the highest number since last September, but it has been goosed a bit for cash for clunkers, which has me wondering what the number will look this September.

I would say that we have a pretty good indicator for the cynics among us (hi there) that the stock market rally will soon be ending, as insiders are now selling their stocks 30.6 times more than they are buying, and when the insiders sell, it generally means that some sort of disappointment is on the way.

We are getting mixed signals from Asia, with both Chinese and Japanese industrial production rising, but South Korean exports falling this month, giving a 20.6% year over year drop.

In energy, closed at $69.96/bbl, as falling stocks led to demand concerns, and in currency, the biggest mover was the Yen, on the election news.

Democratic Party of Japan Defeats Liberal Democratic Party

This is a major change in government, with the DPJ ending over 50 years of LDP rule, winning 308 of the 480 seats in the Diet.

I’m not sure how much of this is ideology, and how much is just that the voters were sick and tired of the LDP, which has been an increasingly rudderless bastion of cronyism.

From what I understand of the DPJ, their ideology is not particularly clear either.

They seem to be a bit more assertive on the foreign policy front, and a bit more inclined to developing internal consumer markets, but the differences are not much.

I do think that anti-American sentiment provided some of their votes, and we will see this all over the world for the next few decades, as we continue to feel reverberations of the absolute disgust of the population at US diplomacy under Bush and His Evil Minions&trade.

In many of the industrial democracies, we have an age cohort that has come to political awareness over the past 8 years, and their sense of the US is not as a beneficial influence in the world.

As they move into leadership positions in the next 20-30 years, we will see an increasingly confrontational foreign policy from them.

They Were Photographing Me from Black Helicopters Today

Because I was in the back yard, preparing Maghmūma With Asparagus, it’s a sort of an Arab pot pie called a “covered dish” from the book From Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens, translated by Nawal Nasrallah. It dates from the 1400s or so.

I was doing it in the fire-pit of my smoker, because I was checking out the recipe for “Trial by Fire”, a medieval cooking competition that is conducted under camping conditions, which means that I was preparing Arab food outside, which means that the FBI was surveilling me.

I know what you are saying: This guy has gone completely around the bend. Totally paranoid. The FBI isn’t profiling people because they eat Middle Eastern cuisine.

You know, what you are saying right now sounds right, but unfortunately, the FBI IS profiling people because they eat Middle Eastern cuisine:

Hoping that spikes in falafel and tahini purchases in the Bay Area would blaze a trail to Iranian secret agents, in 2005 and 2006, the FBI mined grocery store records for Middle Eastern food sales in the South San Francisco-San Jose area. According to Congressional Quarterly, the project didn’t last long and didn’t lead to any falafel-related prosecutions.

Not only is this morally wrong and unbelievably f$#@ing stupid, but it actually happened.

This is why civil rights and limits on law enforcement matter: because without these limits, law enforcement can, and will engage in the most abusive dumb-ass behavior imaginable.

BTW, the Maghmūma turned out very well, as did the crust, though next time, I’ll crack the coriander seeds.

When Pump and Dump Fails

In this case, it’s Cerberus, the secretive (aren’t they all) hedge fund that bought Chrysler, and then took it into bankruptcy.

As I noted at the time, they bought Chrysler because they were hoping to buy it on the cheap, and when the likely purchaser, General Motors, turned out to be in almost as bad a shape as
Chrysler, they took a bath, as well as taking a hit on their investment in GMAC.

So now, investors are clamoring for the exits, (also here) because even though Cerberus is chock full of former government insiders, they do not believe that they will make money with the firm.

It’s clear that they bet on government bailouts that would be extremely favorable to them, and they were not, and now they are experiencing a run on the bank.

Unethical Even by the Standards of the Public Relations Industry*

It turns out that the discovery that Mark Penn’s use of his Wall Street Journal column to pimp for clients and to trawl for new clients is not an issue for their editorial page.

Not surprising, given that the WSJ has the most venal and dishonest editorial OP/ED section in the United States, though Fred Hiatt and the Washington Post offer some competition in that area.

*I cannot believe that I just said that.
That may be the first time that I’ve ever said this about a Democrat.
But it is Mark “The Human Stain” Penn, so it is not a surprise that he would have earned this distinction.

Release of Federal Reserve Sh&%pile for Cash Purchases Stayed

Federal Judge Loretta Preska has stayed her order for the Federal Reserve to release information on the emergency loans that it made:

The U.S. Federal Reserve won a delay of a federal judge’s order that it reveal the names of the banks that have participated in its emergency lending programs and the sums they received.

Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan stayed her August 24 order in favor of Bloomberg News, which had sought the information under the federal Freedom of Information Act, so that the central bank could appeal.

The Fed asked for the stay claiming that releasing the information would cause grave damage to the financial system, but that was also their argument for not complying with Bloomberg News’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in the 1st place, so what is really going on here is a pretty standard stay pending appeal.

I fully expect this to go all the way to the Supreme Court, and if this information gets released, I fully expect it to reveal that the Federal Reserve has been lying, as their standard behavior has been to assume that you can’t handle the truth, so the truth must be suppressed.

As I have said before, this is why central banks powers need to be limited: While the interest rate/inflation fighting function must be thoroughly insulated from politics, because the act of taking away the proverbial punch bowl is inherently politically suicidal, any other function that does not require that level of political isolation must be vested in a more accountable institution.

Background here.

Dick Cheney Is Pathetic

While Madeline Albright did not actually call Dick Cheney “pathetic”, she said that his statements about the Department of Justice’s investigations of torture “are kind of pathetic.

When we look at Richard Milhaus Bruce Cheney, he is pathetic, he:

  • He went to Yale, and flunked out by reason of alcohol
  • Got busted twice for DWI
  • Convinced Gerald Ford to drop Nelson Rockefeller as VP and replace him with Bob Dole in 1976
  • Ran Ford’s losing campaign to Jimmy Carter,
  • Spent 10 years in the Congress, some of it as House whip, and only sponsored a handful of bills (IIRC, about 2).
  • As Secretary of Defense, he instituted the massive expansion of private contractors doing jobs that had previously been done by the DoD.
  • As head of Halliburton, bought Dresser Industries, and the billions of dollars in asbestos liabilities that came with that.
  • Picked himself as Vice President.
  • And then there is his time as Vice President.

This man has been a pathetic failure his entire life. It needs to be understood that whenever he has made a decision, he has been deeply wrong.

He is a sad pathetic old man, and he needs to be treated as such.

Russia May Terminate Bulava SLBM

After numerous test failures of the new solid-fuel Bulava submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) intended for the new Borei-class submarines, there are reports that it could be replaced by the liquid fueled Sineva missile, which is currently deployed on older submarines.

My guess is that it would take less time and effort to make the Bulava work than it would to replace it, since it is derived from a land-based system which already works, and the rework of the Borei’s to do this would be involved, but I am speaking from a position of profound ignorance here.

How Sri Lanka Defeated the Tamil Tigers

Here is an interesting analysis of how Sri Lanka defeated the Tamil Tigers.

The short version is that they ignore world opinion, and refused to make avoidance of civilian casualties a centerpiece of their campaign.

Note that these are legal under international law, which requires that non-combatants not be targeted, not that efforts be made to protect them from combat activities that legitimately target the enemy.

The post makes what I think is an error, in that it fails to distinguish between colonial conflicts, which include Iraq and Afghanistan, and internal civil wars, such as Sri Lanka.

Evidence shows that in an colonial conflict, these are precisely the most counter productive tactics.

As to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is where I look for an application of this principle, I think that conflict in the disputed territories is much more of a colonial conflict than a civil war, so these techniques would not be effective.

Aleynikov Wants Deferred Prosecution

Sergey Aleynikov is the programmer alleged to have taken Goldman Sachs’ high speed trading computer code, and his lawyers are asking prosecutors for a delayed prosecution, which basically means that if he keeps his nose clean, he gets a dismissal in a few years.

It sounds to me like he is going to get it, based on the refusal of Goldman Sachs to turn over his personnel file.

I’m wondering if this was a case where GS was worried about his competing with them in this market in his new job, and decided that filing a dodgy complaint with the FBI would shut him down, and then realized that if they turned over personnel records, that they would out themselves for some sort of crime.

Background here (or it will be when “the Google” fixes the blogger search function).