Battlepanda: November 2006


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Beijing-Berlin express?

FRANKFURT (AFX) - Deutsche Bahn said it has agreed to take an 8 pct stake in an international consortium that intends to develop cargo traffic in China.

It said the consortium will invest 1.2 bln eur in 18 combined traffic terminals in the next five years.

Besides Deutsche Bahn, the Chinese Rail Ministry's subsidiary CRCTC will hold a 34 pct stake, HongKong's investor New World will hold a 22 pct stake, China's Hancai and CIMC a 10 pct stake. France's CMA/CGM and Israel's ZIM will hold an 8 pct stake each in the consortium.

Deutsche Bahn also said that CEO Hartmut Mehdorn, the Chinese Rail secretary Liu Zhijun and Vladimir Jakunin, Russia's RZD state rail company president, signed an agreement of intent to expand rail traffic between China and Europe early this week.
Maybe one day people will think nothing of hopping on a train in go to China.

This is also very good news for European/Chinese trade.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Lebanon is on the brink"

Just what the mid-east needs: another state on the cusp of failure. I don't know to what degree Israel's pointless little war contributed to this current perilous state of affairs, but this latest assasination does highlight rather grotesquely the unreasonableness of its raison d'etre. How was the Lebanese government supposed to be held accountable for not stamping out Hezbollah militia in the south when they can barely keep their own government together and their cabinet ministers from assasins?
Syria did withdraw. At that point, Lebanese politics became less polarized, and elections produced a national unity government that Hizbullah also joined.

But then in summer of 2006, Israel launched its long-planned war on little Lebanon, wreaking vast destruction on south Lebanon and on the southern slums of Beirut where Hizbullah was based. Israeli policy was in part to attempt to divide and conquer the Lebanese by making the reform government of Fuad Seniora attempt to disarm Hizbullah, which maintains a small paramilitary force of 3,000 to 5,000. The Lebanese government is too weak to take on Hizbullah, but members of the March 14th reform movement did lay the blame for the war at its feet.

As a result, Hizbullah has pulled out of the government. With Gemayel's assassination, the government will fall if it loses even one more cabinet minister. Worse, the society has now been economically devastated by Israeli bombing raids and is increasingly polarized. The Olmert government's plan for the second Lebanese civil war seems increasingly plausible. Syria has stupidly played into Israel's hands in this regard. The Lebanese themselves are in danger of once again allowing themselves to be used as proxies by people like Bush and Asad and Olmert. The positive achievements of the national unity government of summer-fall 2005 have been undone. Lebanon is on the brink.

China's Betting on Africa

Have you ever gotten really tired with a blog that is good but at the same time relentlessly focused and biased on one topic? I feel that way about the Peking Duck. I'm no fan of the PRC. But over at the Duck it seems every other post is about the evils of the PRC (and the various problems of chinese society in general) in shrill and blindered terms.

Case in point, Ivan's recent post about China's recent diplomatic moves to build closer ties with Africa:

I've heard enough. Enough of this stomach-churning shit about bloody Communist China's "friendship" with the various nations of Africa. [snip]

And there's a LOT of bullshit going on in China's current propaganda campaign about the (deeply racist) Communist Party's "friendship" with "Africa" (whatever the hell "Africa" is, "Africa" is far, far more diverse, culturally and religiously and politically, than Europe is.....)

Thus, let me apply Occam's Razor to the current Chinese Communist Party propaganda campaign vis a vis "Africa" (whatever the hell "Africa" is, as I said, "Africa" is even more diverse than Europe is):

The CCP is just re-hashing the old (and failed) Mao-ist attempt to justify the CCP's claim to unchallenged dictatorship by positing a fantasy of the CCP being the (Leninist) "leader" of the "developing world."

In other words, this ridiculous propaganda campaign has at least as much to do with the CCP's desperate attempts to rationalise its Leninist claim to unchallenged (historically "inevitable") dictatorship, as it has to do with any predatory economic ambitions which the PRC has in Africa.
It's easy to get queasy when you think about an anti-democratic behemoth like China doing business with the kind of ugly, corrupt tinpot dictators that seems to be endemic to Africa. However, since when has the West's approach of alternate applications of exploitation and charity ever done anything good for Africa? Besides, to be perfectly honest, the U.S. has never backed off making deals with bad, bad, people when it suited us, and the world would be a worse place if we stopped. Put yourself in the place of an average African: given the way things are over most of the continent, what would you find preferable? More of the same, or a crack at change, China style?

There's some legitimate concerns that if the Chinese are just after the oil and other raw materials and thus will not help African countries' industrial development beyond those sectors. However, from what I've seen, those raw materials are what the African economy is going to have to go on for now and the Chinese are giving them a far sweeter deal than other countries. They're building infrastructures and building relationships with resource-rich nations that are currently basket cases in a way that could pay off big down the line.

The law of diminishing returns seems to suggest that capital should flow from developed nations, where the biggest investment opportunities are snapped up to developing nations which still have a lot of room to grow. But in the real world the opposite is frequently true for the investor as the security and infrastructure in many undeveloped countries are so damned bad. Think of China as a megainvestor who can overcome those obstacles to some degree -- they've got enough clout to bargain directly with the central gov and they're big enough to diversify in countries all over Africa.

(How valuable will close relationships with oil-producing African states like Nigeria and Angola be around 2030 to a country like China or the United States? Something to think about.)

As for the charges of racism...give me a break. I'm sure that Ivan is right in that each individual culture in Africa is like a unique snowflake. But given their shared need for development, I don't think the political correctness or otherwise of Chinese sloganmakers is at the top of their concerns right now. And please tell me, when you contrast the western and Chinese approach to Africa, which offers the more dignity to Africans?
The People’s Republic has declared 2006 “the Year of Africa.” The West had its own unofficial Year of Africa in 2005, and it is instructive to compare the two. The industrial nations conducted a sort of moral crusade, with advocacy organizations exposing Africa’s dreadful sores and crying shame on the leaders of wealthy nations and those leaders then heroically pledging, at the G8 meeting in July, to raise their development assistance by billions and to open their markets to Africa. Once everyone had gone home, the aid increase turned out to be largely ephemeral and trade reform merely wishful. China, by contrast, offers a pragmatic relationship between equals: the “strategic partnership” promised in China’s African policy is premised on “mutual benefit, reciprocity and common prosperity.” And the benefits are very tangible. Earlier this month, at a much-ballyhooed summit meeting in Beijing attended by political leaders from all but five African states (the ones that recognize Taiwan), the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, announced that China would provide $5 billion in preferential loans and credits over the next three years, effectively doubling aid to Africa, while canceling many outstanding debts. A dozen Chinese companies signed agreements for $1.9 billion worth of construction projects and investment.
[Article hat tip: Dymaxion World, where John adds some good comments.]

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Reich on McCain's Motives

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich speculates about John McCain's real motive in calling for more troops in Iraq:
I think McCain knows Iraq is out of our hands – it’s disintegrating into civil war, and by 2008 will be a bloodbath. He also knows American troops will be withdrawn. The most important political fact he knows is he has to keep a big distance between himself and Bush in order to avoid being tainted by this horrifying failure. Arguing that we need more troops effectively covers his ass. It will allow him to say, “if the President did what I urged him to do, none of this would have happened.”

McCain is smarter on this score than Dems who intend to engage in post-Baker Commission “what we must do now” bipartisanship. It may make Dems feel relevant and important, but it will also make them complicit in the impending failure. Come 2008, they will share the responsibility for the horror of Iraq. HRC will be drawn in, as will Barak Obama and all other Dem notables who will feel it necessary to participate in a “plan.”

In the end, McCain alone will be able to escape blame. At least, that’s what I think he’s thinking.
(Via Mark Thoma at Economist's View.)

Question: Is Robert Reich the highest-ranking former U.S. government official who is now a blogger?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The bad idea that just won't die

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is once again pushing his idea of reviving the draft.

I have one thing to say to that:

Partisan realignment maps

Nicholas Beaudrot, election statistics uber-geek, has posted a series of "partisan realignment maps" for the Senate battleground states of this past election at Electoral Math: Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Maryland, Montana, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Washington.

Read Pennsylvania for an explanation of his methodology.

His conclusion for Tennessee, my home state:
I wish I had a closer view of Harold Ford's strategy in Tennessee. My impression was that he spent a huge amount of time and effort attempting to narrow the partisan gap in East Tennessee, the most Republican part of the state. If that was his strategy, it didn't work; only a few counties in the Eastern part of the state registered any noticeable shift towards Democrats. Instead, Ford's greatest success came in Central Tennessee, just east of Nashville. This suggests that Ford might have been better off concentrating his resources on the Nashville media market and nearby small towns—Lebanon, Murfreesboro, Gallatin, Cookeville, Crossville, etc., rather than hitting hard in Knoxville, Newport, Kingsport, and Johnson City in the Northeast corner of the state. Let's take an example: Cannon County, just east of Nashville. Ford won the county 53-45; a big improvement over 2004, when Kerry lost 46-54. By contrast, Ford made up almost no ground in Greene county in the Northeast (32-68 for Kerry vs 35-64 for Ford). There are several other counties that show similar results.

The point I'm trying to make is this: Ford expended a lot of effort trying to shift incredibly Republican counties from a margin near to 30-70 to a one closer to 40-60. But, there were a number of counties that were already around 40-60 that flipped to 50-50. Ford might have been better off trying to push those counties another 5-10 points into the Democratic column than he would have been trying to make up ground in the most conservative part of the state.

The Liberal Agenda Revealed

Posted by Stephen of The Thinkery in comments at Ezra Klein's blog, here is the liberal agenda:
8:00 - Wake up. Hug tree.

8:10 - Quick breakfast of Wheaties w/ banana and unborn fetuses, stem cells spread on toast.

8:20 - Get dressed in hemp suit.

8:30 - Miscellaneous worship of false idols.

8:45 - Drive to methadone clicnic in hybrid car; 30% electric, 70% Bible furnace.

8:50 - Receive methadone. Sell for pot.

9:00 - Catch up on a little reading: Torah, Koran, Book of Mormon, other books not The Bible.

10:00 - Stop on way to welfare office to drown puppies.

10:20 - Pickup welfare check.

10:30 - Cash check.

10:35 - Buy more pot.

11:30 - Miscellaneous Sodomy.

12:00 - Light lunch of sushi and stem cell pie, plus cappuccino, at upscale coffee shop.

12:30 - Stop at nearest cemetery to bleach flags on veterans' graves.

1:30 - Miscellaneous coveting.

3:00 - Steal babies, throw them from bridge.

3:30 - Bomb a church.

5:00 - Formal dinner/fundraiser of virgin Christian sacrifice. Guest speakers Michael Moore, Al Franken, Satan, and Bizarro Ann Coulter.

6:30 - Smoke cigars lit by a burning pictures of Jesus

6:45 - Infiltrate the school system to attract impressionable young student to the homosexual lifestyle.

7:00 - Miscellaneous taking the Lord's name in vain.

7:10 - Smoke pot.

7:15 - Giggle for about twenty minutes.

7:35 - Order pizza with extra cheese and stem cells.

8:00 - Pay pizza man in food stamps.

8:30 - Watch Real Time with Bill Maher.

9:30 - Bedtime snack of nachos with three kind of cheese and peppers. No stem cells, watching weight.

10:00 - Miscellaneous dishonor of mother and father.

10:30 - Early bedtime, need rest for tomorrow's All-Day Sodomy Fest.

That's pretty much my typical day. Except he forgot about the gin martinis. I'm so looking forward to the All-Day Sodomy Fest tomorrow.

I wish to complain on the strongest possible terms....

The Helsinki Complaints Choir:

(Via a comments thread at Unfogged.)

The incoming senate minority leader

Ladies and gentlemen, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as interviewed by Melissa Block. Sorry this is behind the curve, but doing even a half-ass job of transcribing stuff from the radio is a pain.

McConnell feels some love for Bipartisanship:
[It's] important to remember that the minority in the Senate is almost never irrelevant. Particularly a robust minority of 49.

The Senate was constructed by our founding fathers and then the subsequent evolution of the filibuster rule has turned the senate into an institution that can really operate on a bipartisan basis.

It takes 60 votes, not 51 to do virtually everything in the senate. [snip] In order to accomplish something for America we have to [put together] deals that make sense. Otherwise, the minority party is in a position to with a mere 41 votes to prevent the passage of almost anything.
As Martha Stewart would say, the filibuster: It's a Good Thing. Except for when it comes to Bush's judicial nominees.

McConnel on the minimum wage:
We tried to get the minimum wage increased just a couple of month ago. It was coupled with some other things, like getting relief on the death tax which has been an onerous thing for family farmers and small businesses for a long time. We'd be open to increasing the minimum wage, it does be need to be packaged with something else to provide relief for small business who would be laying off a lot of the youngsters as a result of the increase. [Blah blah blah] It would need to be in a package that is attractive to both sides.
It's funny how at this point Melissa Block just completely ignored his whole Death Tax! boilerplate about Family Farmers! and Small Businesses! and cut to the chase.
Block: Will you decouple it from the estate tax then?
McConnell: Probably.
Ah, bipartisanship means never wanting to be the party that filibustered a rise in the minimum wage.

Doggy Don'ts

I saw a woman walking her Shiba dog (just like Percy!) while she was riding her bicycle today. Shortly after I thought to myself "that's really not such a hot idea", she ran over the dog by the neck.

Luckly, the poor dog didn't seem the worse for it. I guess Shibas must have stout necks.

Good thing she wasn't riding a scooter.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Steve Ballmer: All Your Code Are Belong To Us

Just when I'm getting over my loathing of Microsoft, CEO Steve Ballmer opens his big mouth.
In comments confirming the open-source community's suspicions, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Thursday declared his belief that the Linux operating system infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property.

In a question-and-answer session after his keynote speech at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) conference in Seattle, Ballmer said Microsoft was motivated to sign a deal with SUSE Linux distributor Novell earlier this month because Linux "uses our intellectual property" and Microsoft wanted to "get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation."

"Novell pays us some money for the right to tell customers that anybody who uses SUSE Linux is appropriately covered," Ballmer said. This "is important to us, because [otherwise] we believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability."

Ballmer did not provide details during his comments Thursday. But he was adamant that Linux users, apart from those using SUSE, are taking advantage of Microsoft innovation, and that someone -- either Linux vendors or users -- would eventually have to pay up.

(Via BoingBoing.)

Why Radley Balko is my favorite libertarian

Posts like this one.
A few months ago, I attended the annual Federalist Society luncheon where D.C.'s conservative legal minds gather for an irreverent review of the previous Supreme Court term. This year's keyonte was former Bush administration solicitor general Ted Olsen. One of the principles Olsen said we could count on new justices Alito and Roberts upholding was a reliable "deference to our law enforcement officers."

I've never understood why this is considered a conservative principle. Why would a philosophy that claims a healthy mistrust of government defer to those agents of the government who are least accountable, and in that they're permitted to use deadly force on citizens, most in need of oversight?

Toys for our boys in blue

Isn't "campus police brutality" an oxymoron along the lines of a "gummy snake bite"? Apparently not in L.A., where they take their police brutality very seriously.

Tazing someone repeatedly while asking them to stand up: It's the new "stop hitting yourself...stop hitting yourself."

Mostafa Tabatabainejad should count himself lucky that he was only guilty of failing to leave the library in a timely manner when he would not produce his campus ID. Imagine what could have happened if he had been caught attempting to use a halogen lamp in his room or take more than a cup of soda and a piece of fruit out of the dining hall.*

*This sentence probably only makes sense to Amherst college students. I have tucked many a bagel under my jacket to elude the steely eyes of the law. Perhaps not coincidentally, I was never tased.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

For the Eeyores, you know who you are

Some of my commenters are stubbornly refusing to get excited about the Dem's recovery of the House and Senate, believing that replacing one group of congresscritters with another is nothing to celebrate.

Well, I'm not asking you to squeeze into a cheerleading outfit for Nancy Pelosi, but can you at least be happy that James Inhofe is on the way out as the chairman of the Environment and Public Works committee?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate's most vocal global warming skeptic, James Inhofe, on Thursday dismissed a U.N. meeting on climate change as a "brainwashing" session

Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who will step down as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee in January, told a news conference, "The idea that the science (on global warming) is settled is altogether wrong."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

United States of Suckers

I think that many of you who pay attention to health policy probably knows as a in a bullet point kind of way that the US spends much more on healthcare on a per capita basis than any other country, but this graph I came across today at a forum discussing Taiwan's National Health Insurance scheme illustrates the point nicely:
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Note: the dark purple is the public expenditure and the light purple is the private expenditure, which means that our public expenditure per capita already exceeds that of many, nay, most OECD countries with big gubmint care. I'm sure that's not news to most of you either, but again, it's nice to see it in a picture -- yep, your government spend more taxpayer dollars per person on healthcare than the French, but you can't have universal healthcare like they do because that'll be all socialist.

Taiwan's not on the graph, but it would probably be between Korea and Poland if it were.

By the way, I spent most of today at a forum that delved deep into the many dysfunctions of Taiwan's National Health Insurance system. It's a messy morasse of issues technocratic, bureaucratic and political. Dark stuff, but the speakers knew that they can always work the crowd over for a cheap laugh by making fun of the US system. "Ha ha. Americans lose face because they're the richest country in the world and they don't even have healthcare for all their citizens" "*Snigger* They pay more then anybody else, but their life expectancy is lower than the OECD average." "Pay no attention to the lame outlier on that GDP per capita versus healthcare expenditure per capita chart. That's America. They're...special."

Maybe that's what it would take to get the US public with the universal healthcare program -- ads of people all over the developed and semi-developed world laughing at us.

Or think of it this way: If a graft-happy not-quite-developed nation of hypochondriacs where they haven't even figured out how to make the pavement all one level in the capital city has got universal health insurance, I really do think it is within reach of the United States. We can do eet!*

*But not before the Democrats get control of all three branches of government.**

**And not like this.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Feed the beast to stop its growth

Mike Moffatt examines the "starve the beast" hypothesis about government spending, and concludes that it has been refuted.
I decided to examine the literature and see what evidence there was for the starve the beast phenomenon. I found three recent articles on the subject:


All three articles find the same thing - that there is absolutely no statistical evidence for the "starve the beast theory". What recent evidence we have actually supports the opposing theory, that is increases in taxes lead to lower government spending, and vice versa.
But what's the mechanism behind this trend of lower taxes leading to greater spending? Moffatt quotes from Jeffrey Frankel:
What is the mechanism through which the Starve the Beast approach is in theory supposed to restrain spending? The mechanism is that if you create huge deficits, citizens will worry so much about the national debt that they will come complaining to their Congressman: "I'm worried about raising taxes on my grandchildren." The Congressman will then be less likely to vote higher spending. Maybe people worry about the national debt, about taxes on their grandchildren. But surely they don't worry about such uncertain prospective future taxes... more than they worry about certain taxes today... Unpopular taxes today must put more pressure on Congressmen. Thus as a political economy argument, Starve the Beast just doesn't make sense, if the alternative is the regime of the 1990s.
In short, taxpayers aren't so concerned about running up a big tab on the government credit card when there's the possibility that someone else will get stuck with the bill.

Friday, November 10, 2006

No man is an island - except me

Thanks to my world map shower curtain, I've learned about Canada's Brock Island in the Arctic Ocean.

A lame duck with integrity

Lame duck Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, will block renewal of John Bolton's appointment as ambassador to the U.N.
"The American people have spoken out against the president's agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy," the Rhode Island moderate told The Associated Press.

"And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse something the American people have spoke out against."

The committee, dominated 10-8 by Republicans, requires a majority vote to send the nomination to the Senate floor. A tie would be the same as a no vote.

Thank you, Sen. Chafee.

(You can almost hear Pamela Geller Oshry's head exploding.)

Bad medicine

OK, I know I'm way behind the curve on this one, but this is dismaying news:
WASHINGTON -- Former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford pleaded guilty Tuesday to conflict of interest and false reporting of information about stocks he owned in food, beverage and medical device companies he was in charge of regulating.

Crawford admitted to falsely reporting that he had sold or did not own stock when he continued holding shares in the firms governed by rules of the Food and Drug Administration. Beginning in 2002, Crawford filed seven incorrect financial reports with a government ethics office and Congress, leading to the charges.

Of course, Crawford is working at a lobbying firm now...

It's not until that I started covering the medical beat here in Taiwan that I realized how much weight the FDA seal of approval carries abroad. California Medicine Man, the blogger I got the heads-up from, is right -- a loss of objectivity in the FDA has the potential to make lives worse all over the world.

Even the appearance of impropriety can cause a devastating loss of faith in as essential and as politically sensitive an institution as the FDA. With the legion of questions that have been raised about conflicts of interest, hidden agendas and behind the scenes lobbying over the last few years, no one should better understand this than Lester M. Crawford.

His selfishness and his dishonesty was both shameful and destructive. His assertion that "Nothing that I have done, I hope, can be construed to affect the integrity of the FDA," is both self-serving and a manifestation of wishful thinking.

Crawford's cynical acts have lowered the credibility of a government agency that has at least the potential of improving countless lives. He deserves far more than a slap on the wrist.

I'm sure my libertarian friends are snickering about how this proves the FDA is a flawed organization, and we'll all be better off if the consumer/patient is allowed to make up their own minds on whether a med is worth the risks in conjunction with their doctors. That's nuts too. This news is so damaging precisely because the agency's guidence is so badly needed. I can tell you now that pharmaceutical companies are monkeys. Disingenuous monkeys. I don't even know how many press conferences for the latest miracle cures in diabetes, asthma, heart conditions etc. etc. I've been to. To some degree it is up to the patient and their medical provider to get informed, but some regulatory body is required to make sure that there are some basic standards in place.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dear President Bush:

Boy, I'm sure glad that we measured the drapes.

The teeth are a gnashing in the darkest corners of the blogisphere. Jesus' General has a roundup from LGF for your gloat-related needs.

I was wrong

I've believed for several years that the U.S. House of Representatives was permanently gerrymandered in favor of the Republicans. (If you'd asked me to define "permanently," I'd have said "at least until 2012.")

I was wrong about the effectiveness of modern gerrymandering techniques.

I've never been so happy to be wrong.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Campaign ads of yore

The most famous of this batch of ads from Johnson is the "Daisy" spot, where a little girl haltingly counts up to ten while pulling petals off a daisy, followed by a countdown to a nuclear explosion as camera zooms in on her face. However, the ad that really wowed me was the Glen Canyon Dam spot, which directly addressed the public works=creeping socialism meme coming from the Goldwater campaign.

Quite a change from the "let's see how many talking heads we can cram into 30 seconds" style of campaign ads, no?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Friday dogs blogging: Dogs on a bed II

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Why can't they ever get this comfortable in their own crates?

Iraq: Botticelli or Jackson Pollock?

I spent the six years after high school studying art in one institution or another, so when I glanced below the fold of today's Taipei Times, the following headline naturally caught my eye: Iraq is a 'work of art in progress,' says US general. Major General William Caldwell is quoted as saying " Every great work of art goes through messy phases while it is in transition. A lump of clay can become a sculpture. Blobs of paint become paintings which inspire."

Having never been in the armed services, I am loathe to apply scorn and criticism to men and women braver and more dedicated than myself, but with that caveat on the record, I am dismayed and disappointed by the Major General's words. The appeal to history's vindication of this war stands in stark contrast to recent events: the dismantling of checkpoints erected to search for a missing soldier at what is ultimately the behest of Muqtada al Sadr, the leaked chart from US Central Command which depicts unmistakably the country's accelerating slide towards chaos (CentCom's choice of wording, not mine), and reports of bomb blasts and discoveries of headless bodies so frequent as to seem inevitable. When I hear this manner of talk, it brings me back to the unnamed White House aide who coined the infamous phrase 'reality-based community' as a patronizing epithet, and how this Bizarro-worldview is chillingly echoed by the neoconservative dead-enders who, having seen reality fail to conform to their radical philosophy, seem to maintain that it is reality that is in error.

Anyone who majors in art necessarily minors in bullshit. It trains you to spot both when you see them. If Major General Caldwell chooses to refer to Iraq as a work of art, then I must ask who was the inspiration. Francis Bacon? Hieronymous Bosch? At the risk of torturing the metaphor to the point of massive organ failure and/or death, I might add that it would have helped if our commander in chief and his defense secretary had sketched a few thumbnails before breaking out the brushes back in 2003.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Catblogging

Panther and Monkey share the sunny spot on the bed.

The Keyboard Kommandos save the world again!

Koufax! Koufax!

The best episode yet of Keyboard Kommandos. (Possibly NSFW.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hurray for divided government

William Niskanen of the Cato Institute sings the praises of divided government in the Washington Monthly:
Our federal government may work better (well, less badly) when at least one house of Congress is controlled by the opposing party. Divided government is, curiously, less divisive. It’s also cheaper. The basic reason for this is simple: When one party proposes drastic or foolish measures, the other party can obstruct them. The United States prospers most when excesses are curbed, and, if the numbers from the past 50 years are any indication, divided government is what curbs them.
Via Greg Mankiw. I wonder whether Prof. Mankiw will be taking this advice to heart and voting Democrat in the very close New Jersey senate race. Somehow I doubt it.

Don't let me down, America

Posting have been sparse enough on this blog as it is...almost nothing on the mid-terms. This is partially because of a busy schedule, and partially because, well, it's almost like how it can be almost unbearable to watch a championship final when you know you're team's ahead.

When Bush first got elected, I barely knew the difference between a Democrat and a Republican. I didn't start paying attention until the Iraq war. So my only election is really the crushing experiences of 2004.

But this looks good. This looks really good. I'm starting to feel OK about letting myself feel optimistic.

We'll see...

Worst Boss Ever

If you think your boss is bad, just be glad you never worked for Compulinx:
Federal law enforcement officials Tuesday arrested the well-known CEO of White Plains, N.Y.-based MSP provider Compulinx on charges of stealing the identities of his employees in order to secure fraudulent loans, lines of credit and credit cards, according to an eight-count indictment unsealed by the U.S. Attorney's office in White Plains.

Terrence D. Chalk, 44, of White Plains was arraigned in federal court in White Plains, along with his nephew, Damon T. Chalk, 35, after an FBI investigation turned up the curious lending and spending habits. The pair are charged with submitting some $1 million worth of credit applications using the names and personal information -- names, addresses and social security numbers -- of some of Compulinx's 50 employees.
(Via Slashdot.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Will the real (or nominal) George Will please stand up?

Heh. This is why I love Daniel Gross.
But some of those who are trumpeting the high nominal value of the stock market are urging people to focus on the real, inflation-adjusted value of another asset that has been at record highs recently. Take a gander at George Will's absurd column last week. "Economic hypochondria is also bred by news media that consider the phrase 'good news' an oxymoron," he wrote, "even as the U.S. economy, which has performed better than any other major industrial economy since 2001, drives the Dow to record highs." Next, Will pooh-poohed high oil prices, noting "the recent 20 percent decline of the cost of a barrel of oil, from a nominal record of $78.40 (which, adjusting for inflation, was well below the 1980 peak of $92 in 2006 dollars)." Got that? Will celebrates the record nominal high in stock prices but urges readers to focus on the real price of oil. By mixing and matching real and nominal, Will could just as easily have argued that oil is more expensive than it has ever been, while the Dow is barely at the level it reached in 1999. If Democrats controlled the levers of power, he'd be making precisely that argument.
Of course, the kind of game-playing between real and nominal values as well as different ways to calculate figures like unemployment are the bread-and-butter of rightwing shills. Which makes the effortless way Gross skewered Will for his routine disingenuousness only more satisfying.