Friday, June 30, 2006

SC Rules Against Military Tribunals

Sydney Morning Herald

Sounds like the Bush administration will now have to invent the judicial equivalent of a signing statement. Should be interesting.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

WWI Factors Leading to WWII

Some interesting tidbits on how the "resolution" of WWI led to WWII.

From the History Channel

June 28, 1919

At the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles with the Allies, officially ending World War I. The English economist John Maynard Keynes, who had attended the peace conference but then left in protest of the treaty, was one of the most outspoken critics of the punitive agreement. In his The Economic Consequences of the Peace, published in December 1919, Keynes predicted that the stiff war reparations and other harsh terms imposed on Germany by the treaty would lead to the financial collapse of the country, which in turn would have serious economic and political repercussions on Europe and the world.

By the fall of 1918, it was apparent to the leaders of Germany that defeat was inevitable in World War I. After four years of terrible attrition, Germany no longer had the men or resources to resist the Allies, who had been given a tremendous boost by the infusion of American manpower and supplies. In order to avert an Allied invasion of Germany, the German government contacted U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in October 1918 and asked him to arrange a general armistice. Earlier that year, Wilson had proclaimed his "Fourteen Points," which proposed terms for a "just and stable peace" between Germany and its enemies. The Germans asked that the armistice be established along these terms, and the Allies more or less complied, assuring Germany of a fair and unselfish final peace treaty. On November 11, 1918, the armistice was signed and went into effect, and fighting in World War I came to an end.

In January 1919, John Maynard Keynes traveled to the Paris Peace Conference as the chief representative of the British Treasury. The brilliant 35-year-old economist had previously won acclaim for his work with the Indian currency and his management of British finances during the war. In Paris, he sat on an economic council and advised British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, but the important peacemaking decisions were out of his hands, and President Wilson, Prime Minister Lloyd George, and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau wielded the real authority. Germany had no role in the negotiations deciding its fate, and lesser Allied powers had little responsibility in the drafting of the final treaty.

It soon became apparent that the treaty would bear only a faint resemblance to the Fourteen Points that had been proposed by Wilson and embraced by the Germans. Wilson, a great idealist, had few negotiating skills, and he soon buckled under the pressure of Clemenceau, who hoped to punish Germany as severely as it had punished France in the Treaty of Frankfurt that ended the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Lloyd George took the middle ground between the two men, but he backed the French plan to force Germany to pay reparations for damages inflicted on Allied civilians and their property. Since the treaty officially held Germany responsible for the outbreak of World War I (in reality it was only partially responsible), the Allies would not have to pay reparations for damages they inflicted on German civilians.

The treaty that began to emerge was a thinly veiled Carthaginian Peace, an agreement that accomplished Clemenceau's hope to crush France's old rival. According to its terms, Germany was to relinquish 10 percent of its territory. It was to be disarmed, and its overseas empire taken over by the Allies. Most detrimental to Germany's immediate future, however, was the confiscation of its foreign financial holdings and its merchant carrier fleet. The German economy, already devastated by the war, was thus further crippled, and the stiff war reparations demanded ensured that it would not soon return to its feet. A final reparations figure was not agreed upon in the treaty, but estimates placed the amount in excess of $30 billion, far beyond Germany's capacity to pay. Germany would be subject to invasion if it fell behind on payments.

Keynes, horrified by the terms of the emerging treaty, presented a plan to the Allied leaders in which the German government be given a substantial loan, thus allowing it to buy food and materials while beginning reparations payments immediately. Lloyd George approved the "Keynes Plan," but President Wilson turned it down because he feared it would not receive congressional approval. In a private letter to a friend, Keynes called the idealistic American president "the greatest fraud on earth." On June 5, 1919, Keynes wrote a note to Lloyd George informing the prime minister that he was resigning his post in protest of the impending "devastation of Europe."

The Germans initially refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles, and it took an ultimatum from the Allies to bring the German delegation to Paris on June 28. It was five years to the day since the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, which began the chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I. Clemenceau chose the location for the signing of the treaty: the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles Palace, site of the signing of the Treaty of Frankfurt that ended the Franco-Prussian War. At the ceremony, General Jan Christiaan Smuts, soon to be president of South Africa, was the only Allied leader to protest formally the Treaty of Versailles, saying it would do grave injury to the industrial revival of Europe.

At Smuts' urging, Keynes began work on The Economic Consequences of the Peace. It was published in December 1919 and was widely read. In the book, Keynes made a grim prophecy that would have particular relevance to the next generation of Europeans: "If we aim at the impoverishment of Central Europe, vengeance, I dare say, will not limp. Nothing can then delay for very long the forces of Reaction and the despairing convulsions of Revolution, before which the horrors of the later German war will fade into nothing, and which will destroy, whoever is victor, the civilisation and the progress of our generation."

Germany soon fell hopelessly behind in its reparations payments, and in 1923 France and Belgium occupied the industrial Ruhr region as a means of forcing payment. In protest, workers and employers closed down the factories in the region. Catastrophic inflation ensued, and Germany's fragile economy began quickly to collapse. By the time the crash came in November 1923, a lifetime of savings could not buy a loaf of bread. That month, the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler launched an abortive coup against Germany's government. The Nazis were crushed and Hitler was imprisoned, but many resentful Germans sympathized with the Nazis and their hatred of the Treaty of Versailles.

A decade later, Hitler would exploit this continuing bitterness among Germans to seize control of the German state. In the 1930s, the Treaty of Versailles was significantly revised and altered in Germany's favor, but this belated amendment could not stop the rise of German militarism and the subsequent outbreak of World War II.

In the late 1930s, John Maynard Keynes gained a reputation as the world's foremost economist by advocating large-scale government economic planning to keep unemployment low and markets healthy. Today, all major capitalist nations adhere to the key principles of Keynesian economics. He died in 1946.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Real Reason We Can't Close Gitmo

We're afraid that if we release the prisoners, they might be tortured.

Cunning Realist

How do the Bush Admin PR flacks manage to keep a straight face when they say these things?

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Party of Ideas

Economist's View laments:

And I'm tired of the "we're the party of ideas" claim. The recent Republican agenda includes:

Flag Burning
Line Item Veto
Tax Cuts
Gay Marriage

This is the party of new ideas? Where?

Now They're Not Looking At Our Financial Records

Only looking at "international" financial transactions. Didn't the whole phone-tapping thing start out as "only international calls" before it was revealed that *everyone's* phone records were being spied upon?


Friday, June 23, 2006

Never Enough

So now it seems that wiretapping every American's phone records isn't enough to "keep us safe". Now the prez is going through our financial records as well.


Cultivating Corporate Ignorance

"as far as we know" seems to be the catch-phrase of the naughties.

Every day, another entity, corporate or government, loses National ID numbers.

Every notice of massive data loss is tagged with the disclaimer, "None of the numbers have been used illegally as far as we know."

"Bobby, did you lose your goloshes again?" "Not so far as I know, mom."

Ignorance is bliss.

To my knowledge, not one corporation has said, "We used the best security we knew how, the records were encrypted and accessed only be individuals with necessary access and clearance, but these dastardly crooks used Mission Impossible techniques to abscond that vital information. We will use every and all means at our disposal to track and prosecute the criminals and we will cover all expenses in making our customers whole."

Instead, we get an Adam Sandler-esque "Whoopsie!"

Legally, no one unrelated to Social Security or tax purposes can legally even *use* Social Security Numbers.

In reality, its easier to steal someone's ID for a fake credit card than it is to slip in the shower.

Back in '05, BofA even lost tapes containing the personal data of several congressmen. Data protection bills? Still non-existent. Or did someone steal those as well?

15 Jun '06

US Navy Jun '06
USDA Jun '06

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Specious Arguments R Us

We use this technology on other criminals, why not the general public?

Forget the Slippery Slope. The bigger danger is Specious Logic. I love the last line of the article where people express concern for their privacy rights. Police's response?

"You shouldn't be worried about being spied on by your government," said Commander Heal. "These days you can't go anywhere without a camera watching you, whether you're in a grocery store or walking down the street."

How much confidence in the competence of your police force does that engender? While some worry whether the police are able to appreciate our rights and won't violate them, the police are actually so ignorant of our rights that they're not even smart enough to know when to *lie* about not knowing them. They're not even clever enough to spout the lie, "We will endeavor to respect people rights... yadda yadda."

Instead, the pull out the old horse, "Rights? You never had rights. Those are long gone anyway."

I can just imagine this police force getting caught robbing someone's home. "Oh, it's ok. This house was bound to be robbed eventually anyway."

The Independent

LA's spy-in-the-sky drone sparks privacy concerns
By John Hiscock Los Angeles
Published: 20 June 2006

The future of law enforcement was launched into the smoggy Los Angeles skies at the weekend in the form of a drone aircraft intended to bring spy-in-the-sky technology to urban policing.

The unmanned aerial vehicle, called the SkySeer, looks like a remote-controlled toy and fits into a shoulder bag. In the air, the craft is guided by global positioning system coordinates, and a camera fixed to the underside sends video to a laptop command station.

A prototype is being tested by the LA county sheriff's department, which says the SkySeer will accomplish tasks too dangerous for officers, and free helicopters for other missions. "This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers or survey a fire zone," said Commander Sid Heal, head of the sheriff's department technology exploration project. "The plane is virtually silent and invisible."

The SkySeer, which has low-light and infrared capabilities and can fly at speeds of up to 30mph, would also be able to spot burglary suspects.

Commander Heal believes it will be the first of many unmanned surveillance crafts which will be used in police work. "Who knew five years ago we would be shooting photos and videos with our phones?" he said. "I can see this drone technology replacing some conventional aircraft in 10 years."

The LA sheriff's department operates 18 helicopters costing £2m to £3m each. The SkySeer costs £15,000 to £23,000.

Although the SkySeer is not yet capable of spying into windows, some critics are uneasy about eyes in the sky monitoring daily life.

"A helicopter can be seen and heard and one can make behaviour choices based on that," said Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "Do we really want to live in a society where our backyard barbecues will be open to police scrutiny?"

Police say the concerns are unwarranted because everybody is already under surveillance.

"You shouldn't be worried about being spied on by your government," said Commander Heal. "These days you can't go anywhere without a camera watching you, whether you're in a grocery store or walking down the street."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Stages of Truth

I'm paraphrasing...

The idea is ridiculed.
The idea is violently opposed.
The idea is accepted but declared unimportant.
The idea is adopted as always having been true.

No New Ideas

That's the catch-phrase these days. All fingers point to the moon when the question of responsibility is posed to those favoring the Iraq War.

"X don't have any good ideas".

True. But *no one* has any good ideas. That's why they refer to the metaphore of "jumping off of a cliff" to describe these decisions before they were made. We're in free fall. Stop wasting your energy flapping your arms. Hell, maybe even flapping our arms would be an improvement over pointing to everyone else and saying, "No one could have foreseen this." and "X doesn't have any good ideas."

The ironic thing is, some of the many suggestions could have been good ideas. But any change whatsoever has been dismissed/ignored by the "stay the course" administration.

So we're gonna just grind this one out until we just can't take it anymore, eh? Great strategy.

So this is going to go on until some adult stands up, declares Humpty broken and moves on. Those that supported the Iraq war weren't necessarily wrong (in my opinion) they just zealously supported an administration that couldn't find its own ass with both hands because instead of contemplating suggestions to "look behind them" they point all fingers at everyone and scream, "Coward! Stay the course!"

Actually, we have no one else to blame but ourselves. We elected these fools. Twice. (I only voted for this idiot the first time).

Maybe we do truly get the government we deserve.

Good Investing Advice

Harry Koza

TORONTO (GlobeinvestorGOLD)—"Write me a column on "Extreme Investing," said the editor, oxymoronically.

"What, like averaging down your Nortel from $120.00 to $2.00 wasn't sporty enough for you, now you want me to tout some really foolhardy investments? And you're asking me, Mr. Risk Averse himself, to recommend something extreme? Me, whose investment philosophy can best be summed up as, 'Bland is Good, But Boring is Better'?"

Geez, I dunno, this may be a sign of a new market top. I mean, sure, I realize that for the twenty-something crowd, "extreme" is the new byword. They're into extreme sports like mountain biking down Mount Everest, cordless bungee-jumping, nude javelin catching, and going over Niagara Falls without a barrel. They listen to 'extreme' music like acid-jazz-house-rap-speed-metal-thrash, whatever that is, sport dozens of tattoos, and have odd bits of metal stuck through their various body parts with alarming insouciance.

Fine. I can understand that kind of extremism, even if I would not choose to partake of any of it myself, especially the body-piercing part. But investing? Can we talk?

It hasn't been that long since everyone was running from tech stocks, looking for safety in fixed income instruments, and the investment press was full of talk about "the new prudence" and preservation of capital. Now the new prudence, having lasted about as long as a Chrétien campaign promise, is out the window and people want "extreme" investments.
Speculation nation

We already have extreme investing: it's called speculation. That can range from talking a punt on Moose Pasture Mines Inc. to buying earthquake or hurricane derivatives, to trading pork-belly or frozen orange juice futures, to buying a lottery ticket. While that sort of thing may be fun, especially if you are doing it with someone else's money, it's definitely not investing.

Before we go any further, let's just refresh a basic concept here. My dictionary defines investing as "committing (money or capital) in order to gain a financial return." Note that last part: it's in order to gain a financial return. One doesn't invest in order to get struck by lightning, win the lottery, find buried treasure, or spin straw into gold. One invests in order to gain a financial return.

Buying a Super 7 lottery ticket gives you 1 chance in 62,891,499 of winning the jackpot. To put that into perspective, the odds of getting struck by lightning are only 1 in 300,000, yet few people would touch that bet. Super 7 is an 'extreme' lottery, designed by the government especially for those people for whom the 1 in 14 million odds on Lotto 649 aren't skewed enough (the odds of winning the 649 jackpot are exactly the same as the odds of you dying in the next fifteen minutes. Never happen, right? Think about that the next time you're lined up with a fistful of 649 forms at your local Seven-Eleven). This is a perfect example of Harry's First Law of Capital Markets: "Make the Stupid Pay."

I think what the Editor had in mind by 'extreme investing' is speculative, or high-risk investments. The online hyperdictionary defines "high-risk" as "Not financially safe or secure; a bad investment; high risk investments; anything that promises to pay too much can't help being risky; speculative business enterprises."
Step right up!

Well, if it's a flutter on the sporty side you're looking for, come on down! There are plenty of exciting investments out there for those looking for a walk on the wild side of the Street, and plenty of salespeople who will happily help you to 'maximize the velocity' of the funds in your account. There are commodity futures, penny stocks, movie partnerships, gemstones, junior mining stocks, vacation timeshares, junk bonds, weather derivatives, earthquake futures, unhedged hedge funds—you name it.

Hell, back just before the Fall of Milken, Drexel was launching derivatives based on the air rights over office buildings (You've got to admire anyone who can sell air as real estate). If it floats, flies, flares or, well, whatever, there's some corporate finance geek out there who can turn it into a security.

Nowadays they securitize everything: David Bowie song royalties, car loans, trailer parks, hurricanes, tobacco company cancer lawsuit liabilities. Everything. Anything. If there's any kind of risk in it, there are, as they say in the Chicago commodity pits, usually a bunch of dentists in Peoria who are willing to strap it on.

I have to admit, I myself have bought shares in many a moose pasture in my time. I'm not against speculation, which is defined as "engagement in risky business transactions on the chance of quick or considerable profit." There's nothing wrong with taking a punt on pork bellies or a flyer on flax futures. Just remember the speculator's Prime Directive: never bet more than you are prepared to kiss goodbye. Don't put your entire portfolio into Bre-X at $200 a share, or six carloads worth of pork belly futures. Believe me, it's no fun when the Teamsters show up and ask "Where do youse want we should put your 'bellies?" But, if you've got a couple of grand to risk, and the lack of which won't cause you to miss any car payments, then go for the gusto.
Buy what you know

Personally, I've always preferred junior mining stocks, since I could talk the talk—metavolcanics, strike, dip, true width, induced polarization, all that rock stuff—and I knew a lot about the mining game, having knocked around the trade in my younger and— dare I say—more extreme days. And also, they were cheap. That's why they call them penny stocks. There's a lot to be said for a good 10-cent mining stock. New Consolidated Golden Peat Bog Explorations Ltd., at a dime a share, can double a lot faster (sometimes even several times in a day) than a $50 bank stock can. Plus, for a relatively small amount of money, you can buy a lot of stock, which lets you feel like a macher, a shooter. You can call up your broker and tell her to buy you 10,000 shares of Dry Hole Oil and Gas Inc., and you sound way cooler than if you just ask her meekly to buy you an odd lot of Citigroup shares. And every once in a while, that little mining stock turns into a Diamond Fields, or an International Corona.

A few years back, the papers were full of Barrick Gold Corp.'s failed attempt to buy an Africa-based gold producer. I figured that, having gone through all that effort to acquire an African gold mining company with a big land position and having been rejected, Barrick wouldn't just go home and lick its wounds, but would look for something similar. Enter Pangea Gold, a small TSE-listed gold mining company with a huge land position in the greenstone belts of Eastern Africa. The stock was around $3 a share at the time. I bought 1,000 shares, and within a month or two, Barrick took the company over at $7 a share. Of course, I was disappointed that I hadn't bought more, but then, if it had gone to 50 cents, I would have been disappointed that I owned too much. This is called the Rule of the Wrong Amount, one of the governing principals of capital markets.

Timing is everything, though. A few years back, I read an item in Scientific American about a physicist at Los Alamos who was developing fuel cells small enough to power laptops and cell-phones for up to six months between recharges. Cool idea, I thought. A few days later, I saw a story scroll by on a Bloomberg screen about how a small OTC bulletin board company called Manhattan Scientifics had bought the rights to the technology for a big block of stock. The stock was trading around $0.25 (U.S.)—right in my price range—so I bought 4,000 shares. I called up the president of the company, and dropped the name of the large investment bank I worked for at the time, and asked him if I could to talk to the scientist about his research.
Know your limit

The researcher called me back from his car phone a little while later and we had a nice long chat about energy densities and other esoteric fuel cell topics. Within a few weeks, the stock had tripled to $0.75, so I sold enough to cover my costs. Now my remaining position was all gravy.

Over the next few months, as the tech bubble inflated, the stock rose, getting as high as $7 and change. I was long gone by then, however, having sold my last shares around the $6 mark. I looked the stock up again today and it's selling for under a dime a share. Pity the poor saps who bought it at $7.

So, penny stocks can be a lot of fun. Just don't play with more than you're prepared to kiss goodbye: my portfolio still has some dogs that I bought at $1.50 some years ago that are trading at $0.05 today. It hasn't hurt my overall return because I never put much into any one of these speculative stocks. The ones that do well make up for the dogs.

Now, commodities are something I've never had much success with. I dropped $5,000 in a few nanoseconds once on options on bond futures, and decided I didn't know what I was doing so I had better quit.

If you want to speculate in financial futures, take a look at one of the technical analysis magazines like Futures. You'll notice that those magazines are chock full of advertisements for secret trading systems that are guaranteed to beat the market. I dunno, though, if I had some secret never-miss futures trading system, I sure wouldn't be selling it to all comers for $387.50 a pop in the back of some magazine. I'd be retired on my private island in the Caribbean—maybe Jamaica—and be quietly running the world from my estate there.
Leave cattle to the cowboys

Actually, commodity futures are great if you are in a commodity business, like if you are a wheat farmer hedging your crop against a drop in prices when you go to sell it at harvest time, or if you own a chain of gas stations and want to hedge the risk of a gasoline price spike. Or, if you make lumber, raise cattle, grow oranges or cotton. For the average retail investor, however, the old adage holds: the best way to make a small fortune by trading commodities is to start with a large one. Yes indeed, we have met the dentist from Peoria, and he is us.

As for movie limited partnerships, you really need to be in a high tax bracket (alas, in Canada that basically means that you have to have a job), and you need to have high net worth and a lot of disposable income, with a particular emphasis on disposable. Besides, you probably won't get to meet Uma Thurman anyway, as she will have become suddenly unavailable for the movie you're backing about the time your cheque clears, and will be replaced by the producer's cousin.

Junk bonds are ok, too. Just stick to a well-run junk, er, high-yield bond fund. You really need diversification with a capital D for this racy class of asset. Leave it to the pros. Putting a lot of money into any one junk issue is a stunt best not attempted at home. The high yield market has had a very nice run, and while there may be a bit more steam left in it, rising interest rates will slow it down considerably.

Finally, remember the key rule of speculating: don't bet the farm. Yeah, I know, I've mentioned this one about six times already, but it is the one necessary, carved-in-stone secret of successful speculating, and too many people ignore it.

When I think back to my younger days, when I was an avid speculator, I recall that many people in the investment business used to look askance at me, as if speculators were some lower life form than investors. Speculation was the red-headed step child of investing, a raffish practice of dubious reputation, indulged in by guys with cigars who hung around at the racetrack, or near the snooker tables in the Engineer's Club.

Nowadays, everyone is a speculator, yet they think of themselves as investors. Worse, people got spoiled during the Bubble: they think that double-digit equity returns are the norm, and with markets looking to generate returns in the 6 per cent to 8 per cent area for the next several years, they're willing to push the envelope to try to get them. That, to me, suggests that the excesses of the bubble have not yet been squeezed out of the market.

Be careful out there. Lawyers, guns and money may not be enough.

US's New Manufacturing Powerhouse

Great stuff from Simply Left Behind


Source: Steve Clifford

Q. Does International Trade benefit the United States?

A. International trade benefits everyone.

Q. How?

A. Let’s look at Finland. Finland makes excellent cell phones. Then they sell their phones to other countries and buy what those countries make best, TV’s from Japan, textiles from China, tin from Brazil, and taxi drivers from Uzbekistan.

Q. So every country produces the products they make best and free trade allows everyone to get the best of everything?

A. Exactly. We get the best from each country. Furs from Russia, sherry from Spain and oil from Saudi Arabia.

Q. What does the United States sell to other countries? What product do we make best?

A. Debt.

Q. So other countries sell us oil, TV's, sherry, and cab drivers, and we sell them debt?

A. Right. Last year we sold $150 billion of debt to China alone.

Q. Couldn’t the Chinese manufacture their own debt?

A. They could, but they are not very good at it. They fare much better by selling us their great textiles and then buying our superbly crafted debt.

Q. Why do we make the best debt?

A. The quick answer is productivity. Our debt productivity is the highest in the world. Last year we ran a trade deficit of $666 billion. That’s $6000 for each household in the U.S.

Q. Is that good?

A. That is great productivity. Look at the French, who are trying to compete with us in debt production. Their trade deficit was a paltry $109 per household. The debt productivity of the U.S. is fifty-five times that of France.

Q. Is that because the French work only 35 hours a week, take long vacations, and are saddled with social welfare policies that sap individual initiative?

A. Yes, and they also waste time with their families when they could be producing debt.

Q. What explains the United States’ extraordinary debt productivity?

A. Culture, technology and government.

Q. Culture?

A. We make the best debt in the world because we have a culture that allows debt to flourish. Debt is second nature to us. We invented home equity loans, auto loans, and variable rate mortgages. Financial obligations – debts, mortgages, auto payments now consume one fifth of household income in the U.S. And the average credit card debt of U.S. households is about $10,000.

Q. Sounds like France and China don’t have a chance!

A. Not with our technological edge. Other countries are still using old fashioned mortgages while we are pioneering with space-age debt technologies such as interest only strips on pass-through securities based upon pools of collateralized mortgage obligations. We are the country that invented off-balance sheet debt financing. We’re the home of Enron!

Q. So our trading partners recognize our technological lead?

A. No, they whine about unfair trade practices.

Q. What is their complaint?

A. They claim that “Stumble, Fumble and Borrow” is protectionist, giving our domestic debt industry an unfair advantage.

Q. Is “Stumble, Fumble and Borrow” a law firm?

A. No. “Stumble, Fumble and Borrow” is the current administration’s approach to any issue. Hurricane Katrina? Stumble, Fumble and Borrow. Iraq? Stumble, Fumble and Borrow. Energy? Transportation? Health Care? Farm Programs? Stumble Fumble and Borrow.

This year the administration will receive over $150 billion of supplemental appropriations for war, counter-terrorism and disaster relief – all appropriated outside of the normal budget process and all financed by debt.

Q. Why can’t other countries compete with “Stumble, Fumble & Borrow”?

A. Because in the last two years, “Stumble, Fumble & Borrow” has added $742 billion to our federal debt. Our level of debt, $72,000 per household, provides economies of scale that give our domestic debt industry an unbeatable advantage.

Q. That’s great, but how will we pay it all off?

A. Pay it off? Our expertise is debt manufacturing and marketing. We don’t have much experience in paying it off. We can’t compete with the Swiss, the Danes and the Dutch when it comes to paying off debt.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Smithsonian replaces EV-1 exhibit with Taureg just before movie launch.


Squashed Under a Mountain of Good News

Leaked US Embassy Memo at Christian Science Monitor.

White House press secretary Tony Snow did not deny its authenticity, calling it "an accurate reflection of the realities there." But he also said that conditions had changed since the memo was written a few weeks ago.

In a comment about the story on his website, Rush Limbaugh said this is exactly what he expected to happen.

We nail Zarqawi; it's the epitome of good news. Bush has one of the best weeks of his presidency last week and a couple of days prior to that, and so what do the Democrats do? Redouble their effort to paint this whole thing as a lost cause, and they get of course their willing accomplices in the Drive-By Media to go right along with it. In fact, the Washington Post citing a 30-day-old story preceding any of the good news of the last week.

Bush is one of the only US presidents for which doing nothing can be spun as "one of the best weeks of his presidency".

"Well, at least nothing blew up, flooded, burned, or was secretly revealed by the Administration as an undercover agent. All in all, a *great* week!"

I'm gonna add a few other reasons that might explain the Catastrophic Success in Iraq:

- Gays in US allowed to marry
- Flag burning in US

The one I'm betting on?

The administration, err... I mean "Too much good news."

Suicide Doors

So along with the wife's new pregnancy comes the realization that my life driving a two-seat convertible is nearing the end. So a few weeks ago, we buy a 4-door.

The new car is nice, but I'm noticing that it has a unique door system. Most car doors have these "notches" sorta-things that help hold the door open. There's the "barely open" position, the "half-open" and the "fully-open" position.

Well this car isn't a big fan of doors staying where they are. Every time I park, I shut the car off, open the door and push it open and remove the key. The door swings past "barely" and "half" and usually has just enough speed left to barely make it up the ramp of "fully open". There it hangs for a bit (usually for *me* to get half-way out of the car) before the door changes its mind and run back downhill it yet another demonic attempt to crush me against the frame. Suicide doors? I've got homicide doors.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Handling Stolen National ID Numbers

ING makes the right noises.

The company is mailing letters on Monday to the workers and retirees whose personal data was stored on the computer, and will pay for a year of credit monitoring and identity-theft protection, Campbell said.
"ING will indemnify any customer who experiences any identity theft as a result of this incident," she added.

Putting unencrypted data on laptop computers "is not the ING standard," Campbell said.
"We are aggressively moving forward with a comprehensive confirmation process that all of our laptops meet our encryption and password-protection policy requirements," Campbell said.
"In addition, we have implemented an immediate policy to restrict any laptop from being exposed to the public domain until properly protected."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Violating the Constitution to Protect the Constitution

Andrew Sullivan

"Greening" Petroleum

Jeff Matthews

Can we get an "Amen"?

Illegal Immigration -- What Does Mexico Do?

We've heard the arguments:

"Send troops to protect our borders!"

"We have to allow illegals. Citizens don't want to work!"

But where are those arguments coming from? Not just America, apparently:

Stepping Over the Line
Don't try sneaking north across Mexico's other border.
By Joseph Contreras

June 5, 2006 issue - Ever since he crossed into Mexico, José Moisés has had nothing but trouble. Now the 30-year-old Honduran mechanic is hunkered down with other young illegal migrants in a rail yard just north of Mexico City, waiting for nightfall to hop a northbound freight. He displays a pale line encircling his finger. He used to have a ring there, he says—until Mexican cops slammed him against a squad car in the southern border state of Chiapas and grabbed it. "They took everything," says Moisés. "Here the Central American has no value."

As tough as the United States can be for workers who slip in from south of the border, Mexico is in a poor position to criticize. The problem goes far beyond the predatory gantlet of thugs and crooked cops facing defenseless transients like Moisés. There's ample precedent in Mexico for just about everything the United States is—or isn't—doing. Calling out the military? Mexicans may hate the new U.S. plan to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops on the border, but five years ago they cheered President Vicente Fox for sending thousands of Mexican soldiers to crack down on their southern frontier. Tougher laws? Hispanic-rights groups are enraged over U.S. efforts to criminalize undocumented aliens—yet since 1974, sneaking into Mexico has been punishable by up to two years in prison. Foot-dragging on amnesty? Fox has spent the past five years urging the United States to upgrade the status of millions of illegals from Mexico. Meanwhile, his own government has given legal status to only 15,000 foreigners without papers.

Some of the worst abuses take place on the coffee plantations of Chiapas state, where some 40,000 Guatemalan field hands endure backbreaking jobs and squalid living conditions to earn roughly $3.50 a day. Some growers even deduct the cost of room and board from that amount. "If you ask them, 'Why are you bringing in Guatemalans to work?' they say, 'You can't depend on Mexicans. They don't work hard; they're irresponsible'," says George Grayson, a political scientist specializing in Mexico at the College of William & Mary. "The truth is, you can pay [the guest workers] a pittance. And if they cause the slightest disturbance, you can send them back to Guatemala."

At least a few Mexicans are balking at the hypocrisy. Late last year their National Human Rights Commission issued a report criticizing Mexico's widespread mistreatment of aliens; the report described sub- human facilities where captured illegals are kept until they can be deported. Several international news agencies ran stories on the publication. But most of Mexico's leading papers ignored it.

Work hard for a pittance or we send you somewhere you really don't want to be.

Where Does Honor Begin.... and End?

HfA brings up several salient points regarding the administration's Or-Speak. If the link doesn't work, I've quoted most of it below.

My question is however, where does Honor begin and end?

I used to have a great deal of respect for Colin Powell. I really thought that he'd make a great president. Under the banner of the "Powell Doctrine", he helped regrow the honor of a military that had bled self-confidence and respect for decades following the Vietnam War. Powell seemed a man of integrity.

His dog and pony show to the UN in support of the Iraq War seemed suspect at the time. We later discover that the administration had used Powell's honor as a battle standard to sell their lie. Discarded later as propoganda met the battlefield, the administration no longer needed the tattered rag. How long before the nation's, the military's and Powell's honor be stitched back together?

Why did Powell do it? Why did he support these false premises? One could argue that Powell believed what he was saying, but I doubt it. I think it was his sense of duty that made him do it. He was a man steeled in the military. His sense of duty to his presidency he did not question. Why else would he wait for the end of the presidential term to resign?

But all military personel are expected, nay demanded, to disobey orders they know to be wrong. No one questions that the president and the military supports torturing those held in Guantanomo and other places. They refuse to prohibit torture. The create secret places where torture can take place. They fill the airwaves with the vitalness to protect the homeland from the hidden enemy... yet they prosecute anyone caught torturing by the public. The crime? Not performing torture, but revealing it.

Just as ordinary grunts are expected to reject orders they know are wrong, we expected Colin Powell to reject the command to ply the UN with vials of baby powder described as Anthrax. Colin's mistake? Not remembering that duty to a man who is president cannot be allowed to override the duty to the office of the president and to the Union.

One of the gates at Guantanomo has a sign that reads "Honor Bound to Protect Freedom". The foundation documents of our Republic describe that "All Men Are Created Equal", yet now "Men" has been revised (yet again!) to now mean, "not including those outside the US". American's pride themselves in repeating, "no punishment without due process" yet even Bush himself has admitted that those serving in Guantanomo will most likely never leave and will most likely never receive a trial. Why is it so hard to give a trial to a military enemy? Does international law really give no recourse to try an enemy that isn't wearing a uniform? I can't imagine your run of the mill military trial conversation being

Judge: "What is this man accused of?"

Prosecution: "Fighting in a war for the wrong side, your honor."

J: "Witnesses?"

P: Well, sir, we have no *direct* witnesses, but our boys were receiving fire from the room in which this man was found wounded, with a machine gun, pointed at our guys and he screamed "I'm gonna kill every last one of you" before attempting to detonate a grenade.

Defense: "Your honor, my client wasn't wearing a uniform."

J: "NO UNIFORM!?!?!? Case dismissed!"

How hard is a Kangaroo trial anyway? If you've got at least circumstantial evidence that the guy wants to wontonly murder, how hard is it to get him a life sentence?

Could the embarrasing fact that we've been torturing these people make the trial process more difficult? Impossible? Or just even more politically embarrassing?

So here these hundreds sit. Without trial, presumably still being tortured for information and occasionally we slip up and let one (or three) commit suicide.
'manipulative self-injurious behaviour' or 'SIBs' the military/administration calls it. Spokesmen for the US have since called the deaths 'a good PR move' by the prisoners, and 'an act of assymetrical warfare'.

We fire guided Hellfire missiles from an unmanned drone flying at 10,000 ft, piloted from the other side of the world at bunch of thugs armed with machine guns and homemade IEDs.

A prisoner in Guantanomo commits suicide and we declare it "Asymetrical warfare"?

Where does Honor end?

The president's war on language

From Mat Whitecross:

One of the less noted aspects of the Bush Administration's 'War on Terror' is the government's simultaneous War on Language, a calculated use of Orwellian double speak. Post 9-11, the invasion of other countries became a 'preemptive strike', the capture and torture of civilians 'extraordinary rendition'. A sign on the front of the US prison in Guantanamo Bay reads 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom'. Small comfort to the 460 'unlawful combatants' who after four years still languish inside, without any access to basic human rights.

A particularly shocking example of this phenomenon is the Department of Defense's attitude toward suicide attempts by Guantanamo's detainees. Officially, 41 attempts have been admitted by the US government to date. Speak to any of the prisoners who have been released, and they will tell you the figure is laughably low. The reason for this discrepancy? No doubt aware of the adverse publicity the facility was receiving in the media, those running the prison decided to re-label suicide attempts as 'manipulative self-injurious behaviour' or 'SIBs', to euphemise still further. After reclassification, predictably the rate of attempted suicides plummeted overnight. Nevertheless, the British journalist David Rose has written that in the six months after the new terminology came into practice, there were forty reported SIBs, almost two a week.


This weekend, three prisoners, two Saudis and a Yemeni, finally succeeded where so many before had failed, and took their own lives. Without access to family or lawyers, after over four years in US custody, they knotted bedsheets together and hung themselves from the grills above their cells.

Shafiq [Rasul, former Guantanamo detainee] met the Saudis while being held by Northern Alliance fighters in Afghanistan. Later, he saw them again while detained in Guantanamo. He says, 'They were just like us: normal people. Who knows, if we were still there, maybe it could have been us. My only surprise is it hasn't happened before.'

Spokesmen for the US have since called the deaths 'a good PR move' by the prisoners, and 'an act of assymetrical warfare'. The War on Language continues.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The American Inquisition

It's gonna take this country a long time to live down our Bush Administration policies.

We've got several hundred persons "detained". We can't release them because they're dangerous. We can't try them because nearly all evidence we could present against them would be tainted by torture. So here we all sit. Hoping that this problem, like the Iraq war itself will simply resolve itself.

Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll all just commit suicide.

When our moral superiors use the phrase "The American Inquisition", we'll have no other choice but to look to the ground.

The Dumb Leading the Blind

These and the multitude of similar instances would be funny if they weren't so damn common with W.

From HfA

Bush puts foot in his mouth, again

First, it was President Bush saying to a man in a wheelchair, "You look mighty comfortable." Today, there was this exchange at a presidential press conference:

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Peter [Wallsten, Los Angeles Times]. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?

Q: I can take them off.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.

Q: All right, I'll keep it, then.

THE PRESIDENT: For the viewers, there's no sun. (Laughter.)

Q: I guess it depends on your perspective. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Touché. (Laughter.)

It should be noted that Peter Wallsten is legally blind.

If his past is any indication, Bush has problems recognizing the blind. Blind celebrities, even:

Here's a vignette we're dying to see on the ABC broadcast of Sunday's Ford's Theatre Presidential Gala: When Stevie Wonder sat down at the keyboard center stage, President Bush in the front row got very excited. He smiled and started waving at Wonder, who understandably did not respond. After a moment Bush realized his mistake and slowly dropped the errant hand back to his lap. "I know I shouldn't have," a witness told us yesterday, "but I started laughing."

Stolen IDs. How Many Do You Know Of?

I know of three:

A former co-worker spends nearly 6 months trying to get her credit cleared up after a car-wash attendent stole a credit-card receipt from her car. She has memorized the numbers to all three credit agencies.

A friend is contacted by AZ police to return to prison. He's never been to AZ. Apparently a suspected wife-beater gave an AZ *police department* a stolen ID and skipped bail. My friend spent several lost work days going back and forth to CA authorities to clear up the mess to save a plane-flight (on his dime) to AZ.

Another friend was just contacted by OH officials regarding an embezzlement case there. Some local schmuck listed my friend's address, phone number, SSN and other information as the Financial Officer of a fly-by-night scam business.

I was the most lucky of the incidents I'm aware of personally. I was contacted by a electronics store in Los Angeles regards a $6,000 tv purchase. The company respresentative was *very* helpful and offered to forward all information she had to my credit card company for use in prosecution. My credit card company (i.e. my bank) wasn't interested. They simply said, "Wait for your new card in the mail. We can't chase down every lead."

Unfortunately, many police officials have the same attitude. When my stolen (and subsequently stripped) car was found in Oakland, I asked what plans they had for persuing the perpetrators. "What do you want us to do, take fingerprints?", the officer replied sarcastically. Yeah, I guess that would be a waste of time.

The financial equations of theft.

US National ID Number

Let's call it what it is. The "Social Security Number" has lost nearly all association with "security".

It's is used as a national ID, it functions as a national ID and for all practical purposes it *is* a national ID number. If someone has your SSN, they can own your assets and there's nothing you can do to change or stop it.

I don't agree with it, I dislike it intensely, but fretting over the possible implementation of a National ID number is worrying about spilt milk. We have it. It's here. We need to fix it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Patriotic Fashion

Some history on The Pledge and the Belamy Salute. From WikiPedia

Strange how things change...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What Will You have to Blow to Drive?

To start your car?

Some habitual drunks must install court-ordered blood alcohol devices in their cars that test their BAL before the car will start. In the name of increasing target demographics, some loan dealers are offering a similar mechanism to those with bad credit. From Economist's View:

High Risk, High Tech Loans

Starter-interrupt devices are beginning to be used in risky car loans. If a consumer falls behind in making payments, the car won't start. In this case, technology is doing two things. First, it is displacing labor. With these machines, "Repo Men" are no longer needed, at least not in the same numbers. Second, it is reducing the risk of loans in the automobile market which enhances its efficiency:

For Some High-Risk Auto Buyers, Repo Man Is a High-Tech Gadget, LA Times/AP: Rashida Redd punched in a six-digit code in her Pontiac Grand Prix... The 34-year-old Pottstown, Pa., mother of five had to file for bankruptcy protection about a year ago in the face of mounting medical bills from her husband's open-heart surgery.

Despite her poor credit history, Redd was able to lease the 3-year-old car ... on the condition that it have a starter-interrupt device. ... The cigarette-pack-size device [is] mounted under the dashboard.... If she misses her $94 weekly payment, it won't let her car start.

Starter-interrupt devices are becoming a popular way for lenders to ensure that they get paid, and consumers seem willing to accept them to get into nicer cars, use a smaller down payment and qualify for a lower interest rate... Consumers with poor credit often face interest rates of more than 20% — nearly triple the rate that drivers with good credit can get... They also have to make a down payment equal to 10% to 20% of the car's purchase price, while buyers with good credit can buy a vehicle with little or no money down. ...

[T]he devices were mainly geared for the "buy here, pay here" market — consumers with the lowest credit scores. Typically, these buyers have filed for bankruptcy protection or had a repossession. "Buy here, pay here" customers also are limited to how expensive a car they can buy, typically no more than $5,000...

Where else could these be used? Home appliances such as washers, dryers, and refrigerators that won't function if payments are missed? Something about this feels intrusive, but I can't think of any reason to oppose it since it would allow more people to purchase these items on better terms.

This will probably average out to be a good thing, but what stands out most distinctly is how technology is creeping into more and more private areas of our lives... and being readily accepted. Many people seem genuinely willing to trade a privacy or priviledge.

I see a lesson here: There's a reason they don't bait traps with vinegar.

Sure, given a "lower" interest rate, the privacy invasion almost seems worth it. But later, when these devices are "accepted" by more people, interest rates will go up to where they are now.

The arguments for the trade in privacy will have evaporated and for this demographic, getting a car without the starter-killer will be nearly impossible.

Will the trade be worth it then?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Special (Political) Olympics

As I read this post on BBC News regarding W's non-push for a Gay Marriage Ammendment, the first thing that popped into my head was the Special Olympics.

Bush is leading a throng of well... slow people out to a game that they know they won't win and serves no other purpose than to make those people feel good.

But no, dammit! That is *not* the analogy. The Special Olympics is about Good. It is about giving attention, love, hope and joy to people that society tries its best to ignore. Those dedicated men and women spend countless hours encouraging, supporting and loving people that most of us don't want to even acknowledge. We like to think we're good people, but guess what *they're* the good people. I just can't bring myself to sully such with the likes of Republican crass pandering to fearful idiots.

So the only analogy I can think of (kinda shows my intellectual tinyness, doesn't it?) would involve leading the ignorant with baubles and false hopes to be later sheared of value and tossed aside.

Child molesters, maybe?

Shameful. Pathetic. Desperate.

It's cliche and I'm dissappointed I can't think of a better on, but for now, I'll stick with a sheep analogy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Immigration and Jobs

The article posted over at Stumbling and Mumbling isn't terribly enlightening, but I find the comments ( I'm referring to the first three, in case more get added. ) are spot-on.

Which brings me to my common immigration-related refrain of Extreme as Example. Extremes are almost never the best answer, but in the case of immigration, I suggest that looking at the extreme case my give some insight:

What if we completely removed barriers to immigration? Check and reject those with weapons and other criminals, but let everyone else pass. According to the pro-immigration-at-any-cost camp, that would lead to an explosion of greatness in America, would it not?

Why do we not open the borders completely to all to wish to live/work here? I think most know the answer to that question.

Everyone who supports immigration supports it only to the extent that they see it as being beneficial to themselves. These types of arguments are old and common. They have no interest in supporting the view that helps the Nation as a whole, just the view that they see as being profitable... damn the rest.

There are many good reasons that we limit immigration. The only *real* debate is how many and of whom, i.e. numbers.

Everything else is rhetoric.


Summer is upon us and it's time for a refreshing new experience. Imagine walking on hot sand or taking a nap in a hammock with a mysterious tube in your mouth.

"Taking a nap in a hammock with a mysterious tube in your mouth"? Is this the intersection of our failing medical system and the Right To Life movement?

No, it's just another installment of hypermarketing.

The Cool Hunter

Icee(TM) boring? Put it in a tube! Yogurt boring? Put it in a tube! Straws are so last year!

Riding on the coat-tails of those other marketing jauggernauts -- toothpaste, Prep-H & anal lube -- frozen fruit pulp is preparing to catapult itself from mere frozen blender cocktail to .... well..... frozen fruit pulp in a tube. Very modern. ( Modern evidently meaning "post-freon age", apparently. )

The model in the picture almost looks embarrassed to have her picture taken with this "tube" in her mouth. We all know how easy it is to embarrass people who have almost-nude pictures of themselves posted on billboards.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Is It Time for a New Kind of Mutual Fund?

Corporate chicanery lately seems to know no bounds. The Cunning Realist.

I think it was NPR that had an article a few months back regarding the issue. That article traced this increase in corporate chicanery to mutual funds. It went something like this:

As "normal" people began dumping x% of their pay into mutual funds, they hoped that they could just ignore the funds until they were ready for retirement.

The financial industry has had a field day with this. For them, the less attention people payed to these huge sums of money, the better. Even if individuals wanted to dump a stock because of board misdeeds, they often own the company as part of a mutual fund and not an independent stock.

So here's my idea: How about the best of both worlds? I propose a mutual fund that provides investors with a web-based interface that allows them to choose which stocks in the fund they do not want their funds invested in.

I know, the whole point of a mutual fund is that you hire someone else to cover these details for you. As we have seen above, there are shortcomings to this arrangement.

What if, as a Humbug Mutual Fund owner, I could log onto the HMF site and see a list of all companies that are currently owned by the fund. If Company X had really peeved me by giving their CEO a fat bonus while grinding up impoverished children in Africa to add as a main ingredient in their product, I could go to the HMF site, click the button next to 'Company X' and vote that my "share" of Company X holdings should be liquidated and reinvested in the other remaining companies.

Yes, I know, this is a childish view that is impractical to implement and ignores the practicalities of modern mutual funds and how they work. But how many people would dump money in the fund if someone were to get it to work? I know I would.

The ultimate Socially Responsible mutual fund.

Bush's Mea Culpa a Repeat?

The media made a bit deal about Bush regretting his "Bring it on"/"Dead or alive" phrases. Is this just another talking point?

Economist's View

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Next Time Christians Kvetch About Violence in Video Games

Remember this:

A top aide to mega-church pastor Rick Warren is advising the makers of a children's video game in which characters kill New Yorkers while shouting "Praise the Lord." When children tire of converting or killing New Yorkers, they can switch sides and command the demonic armies of the AntiChrist, and kill the conservative Christians. The real-time strategy game, slated for release in October 2006, is based on the best selling series of Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The web site of Left Behind Games states the involvement of Mark Carver on its Advisory Board. This web-based marketing tool also highlights his role as Executive Director of Mr. Warren's Purpose Driven Church. What appears to be going on here is an old-fashioned business practice called "endorsement by association."

Wonder if Christians stopped bitching about violence in movies after "The Passion of the Christ" came out. I do seem to recall some churches in Israel... um... "overlooking" copyright issues when they decided to play pirated copies in order to meet an Easter deadline. I'm sure Jesus would have done the same thing.

Update: Does the game encourage violence or conversion? See Layman's comment. Any "independents" out there have first-hand experience with the game?

Is Bush a Failure?

Sullivan asks:

"Incompetence doesn't quite capture the enormity of the failure or the incoherence of the project. And so we stagger on, desperate for hope, but forced to confront the worst-managed war since Vietnam. Except the stakes are far, far higher than Vietnam. And the consequences of failure close to existential. I know that in part because Bush keeps telling us. Is he lying? Or is he just drowning in a job that he is simply unable to do?"

You don't seem to be finding answers when reviewing W's manifest failures.

Try looking at the problem the opposite way: Is there a pattern to his successes?

Medicare Section D. Tax cuts. More tax cuts. No-bid contracts.

Its easy to cast W as incompetent, but he hasn't be incompetent at everything.
Perhaps Bush is not the complete failure he appears to be. He may simply have different goals. He's only failed America... not his friends.

To cite the cliche: "Follow the money".

America is Capable of Evil

An excellent post by Peter Beinart at the Huff Post.

One of the critical differences between the liberal and conservative foreign policy traditions is their willingness to accept that America is capable of evil. For conservatives -- as I write in my new book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals--and Only Liberals--Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again -- the idea has traditionally been anathema. From the beginning of the modern conservative movement in the 1950s, conservatives have worried that if Americans recognized their moral fallibility, they would lack the self-confidence to fight their enemies. That's why conservatives largely refused to admit that Joseph McCarthy was violating civil liberties. It's why when Bush gets called on Guantanamo, he basically says, that's ridiculous, we're America, we can't violate human rights.

This horrible story from Haditha powerfully underscores the liberal vision, which is this. We are not angels: without sufficient moral and legal restrictions, and under conditions of extreme stress, Americans can be as barbaric as anyone. What's makes us an exceptional nation with the capacity to lead and inspire the world is our very recognition of that fact. We are capable of Hadithas and My Lais, so is everyone. But few societies are capable of acknowledging what happened, bringing the killers to justice, and instituting changes that make it less likely to happen again. That's how we show we are different from the jihadists. We don't just assert it. We prove it. That's the liberal version of American exceptionalism, and it's what we need right now in response to this horror.
Very succinctly put. I hadn't been able to put my finger on it before, but that very neatly captures a major sticking point between the ideologies of Libs and Conserves.

Ethics Training?


Ethics Training?

I sure hope that means more than the "ethics training" courses *I've* been forced to take in the past.

At a previous employer, past company "lapses" with government contracts meant that each year all employees were herded into small conference rooms with their bosses so that we could learn the benefits of dodging invitations to role-play hyphothetical quandaries.

"Julie's boss patted her on the butt. How should Julie respond?", etc. These "classes" have gotten so inane that the company has now dispensed with even the 1-hour confabs and replaced them with "computer based training". Strangely, "Punch her boss in the face" doesn't get a button on the new web-based screen of options.

So how exactly does one integrate "don't massacre innocent civilians" into a Dilbert-based board game? Do they have some fancy ARPA phone-tree thingy?

"Your platoon buddy, under stress from 4 back-to-back deployments to a no-win situation snaps when his best friend is blown to bits by the 400th IED of the week and begins to spray machine-gun bullets at anything that moves. How should you respond? If you think you should take your buddy aside and ask him how he feels about being forced to pick up his best friend's body parts for no reason other than George W. Bush would rather be making photo-ops rather than international policy decisions, press '1' now."

"Please hold for the next available counselor. This call may be recorded for quality purposes..."

Hughes on Bush's Bubble

HfA on Bush's bubble

This, from the guy that claims not to pay attention to the media.

Is it a safe rule of thumb to think that the President's spin-doctors always spin things to sound *better* than reality? How bad does reality have to be for the end-result spin to be, "(Our non-media reading boss) only heard about this yesterday because he saw it in the news"?

My theory continues to be that Bush is the confidence man. I know this is a tired cliche, but I believe the evidence points to him being a puppet and Dick and Rummy are running the show. Items not directly interesting to Dick or Rummy are ignored in the hope that they'll blow over. When a fire burns for more than a day or two, they push a button and dispatch the talking head (Bush) with a pre-printed "talking points" speech to mollify the situation until it does blow over.