Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Timing Of These Israeli Strikes

     About 120 killed by Israel.

     We know, for a fact, that there is no pressing need for these strikes to occur now.  The rocket attacks, while harmful, occur at roughly the same degree of lethality as they always have.  Jay, earlier, commented that no one should have to accept such rocket attacks.  Of course, if we played by those rules, there would be nearly endless wars on Earth. The Burmese and Thai would have to go to war. The Thai and the Malaysians would have to go to war. The Venezuelans and Colombians would have to go to war. The Indians and Pakistanis would have to go to war.

     The Israelis are using the annual media lull to get away with vengeance killing.  120 people dead?  Does anyone think these airstrikes hit 120 rocketeers? 

     My policy suggestion is to, for all intents and purposes, stop helping either side.  We do send lots of money (100s of millions?) to the Abbas government, and billions (including military aide) to the Israelis.  Cut them both off.  Pronto. 

     WHY DOES THE MUSLIM WORLD HATE US? It isn't because we are free, as Senator Schumer (D-NY) said on September 12th, 2001, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, it is because no matter what atrocity or treaty breaking the Israelis do, we keep sending them guns and money.  U.S Foreign Policy is Dead! Love Live U.S. Foreign Policy!
Global Capitalism and Guinea

     As a reminder, after the death of Lansana Conte, dictator/President for 24 years in Guinea, there was a bloodless coup by a mostly military group.  Conte had come to power the same way 24 years ago. 

     The Conte government took money from the international aluminum producers and made little to no effort on behalf of the Guinean people.  The Camara gov't could be interested in making itself rich, and has sought power for that purpose...  it could be interested in seeing benefits for its linguistic group (the Malinke)...  it could be interested in helping everyone in Guinea except the Soussou (those who benefitted most from Conte's rule)...  or it could be interested in serving all Guineans.

     The ironic part being that the global capitalist(best-price-seeking) mindset wants Capt. Camara to be a petty, selfish corrupt dictator bent on keeping the peace and being the only one who gets a slice of the pie.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Attack Planned?

     Those who follow the news might heave learned that Friday evening is the time to break "bad" news, because fewer people are paying attention.  If you get to wait as long as you want, between the celebration of the birthday of dead Jesus and the end of the year in the calendar based on dead Jesus's birth is the time to bury a news story.  This sort of thing is surprisingly common, no matter the location. 

     Certain people in the Gaza strip (total population > 1,000,000) fire small rockets into Israel.  I think three people have died, and another dozen have been injured, in the 1000s of rocket attacks launched since Hamas took over Gaza.  Israel is now threatening to invade Gaza, perhaps during this news lull, because of the (relatively) meaningless acts of a few.  Of course the rocket attacks should not be ignored, but many, many suicide bombers have done more damage over the years.  What's more important, and what the Isreaelis have always done is allow the actions of a few to justify retaliatory strikes against the many.  For example, it has been alleged that a Corporal (G. Shalit) in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was kidnapped.  Israel, in retaliation, bombed the electricity power generation facility that served 600 to 900 thousand people.  I don't deny there is a strong possibility that the kidnappers were on that electric grid, but, we all know damn well that the other 599,995 to 899,995 people had nothing to do with it, but paid anyway.  I've said for a long time that Israel is being very stupid in expecting the Palestinian governments preventing any single Palestinian attacking any Israeli.  No offense, but if Israel can justify aerial bombardment with expectation of civilian casualties with any single attack, then certainly they are expecting the Palestinian government to control 100% of its citizens.  I expect better of Israel.
How Bad Is America? Pretty Bad This Time

     "One of the things we want to see immediately is a restoration of a civilian democratic rule," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. 

     "Civilian" "Democratic" rule?  Conte was "civilian" in the sense that he was a member of the military.  That alternative definition of "civilian" which includes "the military" will be sent to you in your new "Doublespeak Dictionary" arriving soon.

     "Democratic"? Conte took over in a coup.  He was in power for almost 25 years, it isn't officially a one-party state, but his party has been in power the whole time.  Back in 2004 he tried to force his man (the successor, by the Constitution) into the successor job, and Parliament wasn't really keen on the idea, so he made sure Parliament didn't meet until it agreed.  That sounds more like the English Monarchy of the 1600s than "democracy."  Again, your dictionary updates will be coming soon in the mail.  Please also look for other new definitions:

     Profit: See, God

     Freedom: The wonderful power to do be allowed to do what you are told to do
Better Than Any Newswire ...

     ... is Wikipedia's Coverage of the Coup Attempt in Guinea.  Naturally, I am concerned that interested parties will attempt to manipulate this news, but, at least, it will be a bit clearer when it happens.  As far as I was concerned, especially during the first couple days, their coverage of the South Ossetian crisis was also best.
The Coup in Guinea

     I have read a little bit about the Mano River wars (a.k.a Charles Taylor wars) in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote D'Ivoire and Guinea, so I knew the name Conte and Conkary before Conte died two days ago, after having run the country since 1984 as dictator.  He had taken over in a bloodless coup after the previous leader had died, nearly identical to the current situation.  By the way, in the Mano River wars, Conte was generally against Robert Taylor, which is a plus.  One of the big "problems" of these wars(was there a non-problem?) were everyone was rallying/paying militias to go over the border.  People tend to be less brutal to their neighbors, while foreign contract killers have almost no incentive to be humane.

     Good and bad news in Guinea.  The bad news is that every international organization has come out against the putchists.  Guinea is in Francophone Africa, and France is particularly upset, AFP is using bogus ledes and headlines to paint the worst possible light (e.g. the new government has promised elections within two years, AFP actually wrote they had "ruled out" all elections for two years.  AFP is making it up.). 

     The language mix in the country is (table based on Ethnologue) is reported to be 40% Fulani, 30% Malinke, and 20% Soussou.  Conte was Soussou and lots of the top people in the government he ran were, too.  The putchists might well be a Malinke faction.

     Good news:  No fighting so far (re-categorize under great news).  Supposedly, most all Guineans are much happier with the idea of a non-corrupt military government than a continuation of the Conte legacy.  They were planning a curfew, but the imposition of the curfew is being delayed till after Christmas.  The former government was corrupt.  Capt. Camara has pre-emptively accused the "loyalists" of getting ready to bring in foreign mercenaries.  This suggests the idea behind his power is entirely Guinean.  Camara has a way with words.  Although only a Captain, he ran the logistics or supply division of the Army. 

     Bad news:  Camara's people already had a parade.  As a practical minded-person, I can't see that there is any real utility in this, don't they have a government to set up?  If I had to guess, the worst possibility is that this is going to turn into a "Malinke-turn-at-the-trough" after a quarter century of Soussou rule.  I doubt neighbors will try to take advantage and move into Guinea, but certainly justifications like "in defense of the Constitutional order" are already winning wide approbation among the allegedly responsible parties.  A dictator write a Constitution that says his hand-picked second-in-command should be put in charge if he dies is a meaningful document?  I'm pretty sure that's all the Constitution amounts to in this case.

     If no one is dying now, how many Guineans would you be willing to sacrifice (i.e. kill, and since it is premeditated, therefore murder) in order to create a democracy that has "never" existed there? 

     Oh, and if you are a Russian or South African, this is particularly bad news.  Russia's Rusal and South African Anglo-Dutch Ashanti are probably among the biggest producers.  They had deals cut with Conte, and now will have to renegotiate.  English Rio Tinto, Australian BHP Billiton and American Alcoa are also present in Guinea, the world's biggest source of Bauxite, the raw material used for aluminum.  Bloomberg is running a story principally based on the words of the EurAsia group, based in New York, which says the mining companies will face "constant extortionary pressure."  Has there been any extortionary pressure?  Did the mining companies used to pay off Conte, personally, so that little to no taxes or fees needed to be paid to the Guinean treasury?  However, it should also be noted that most of the current event facts I have relied on have come from the Bloomberg Newswire.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Friend Says "He Madoff With Their Money"

     Madoff is under house arrest, allegedly not allowed to leave his multi-million dollar Manhattan apartment. 

     What is a Ponzi scheme?  Ponzi found that you could buy a type of postage stamp in Italy, sell them in America, and because of the exchange rates, you made money.  This was entirely legal, a loophole in the system.  In finance, this is called arbitrage, finding a gap between prices and exploiting it. 

     Based on the amount of money people invested with him, Ponzi would have to transport millions of these stamps, but, regrettably for him, only 27,000 existed.  So, he started paying off investors with the new money rushing, and quite a lot of it ended up in his pocket.

     How come Madoff still has a seven million dollar apartment?  The idea behind not putting him behind bars, I've heard, is that he isn't a direct threat to anyone anymore.  Are you sure of that? Are you sure he doesn't have an offshore company, which he is now free to manage?  I think he'd be an absolute fool if he didn't have such a company.  Can he manage it freely, of course not, but if he had much foresight, he could be managing it indirectly.

     I think we need to expect more, and punish more freely, the people who have more, and wield more power.  The fine for jaywalking, for example, what sense does it make that a rich person pays the same $50 fine as a poor person?  Since it means nothing to a rich person to pay such a fine, they are basically given a license to violate any law whose penalty is a fine.  Speeding tickets?  Who cares if you are rich!
Is Every Senior Republican Senator A Hypocrite?

     I Hereby propose legislation for the 111th Congress, "The Hypocrite Awareness Act."  Remember when all the Republicans were going to push something called the "nuclear option," which would have been a ruling by the Chair on a point of order that, on judicial nominations, no filibusters would be allowed.  See, President Bush nominated lots of Judges to lifelong appointments on the Federal Court whose only "qualification" was ideological, sure to upset the Democratic ideological opposition.  Character was not an issue, and many lacked it.  Post-14th century views on the sexes or the races were, apparently, not uniformly required. 

     Are these Republican Senators hypocrites?  Were they lying when they said this was an important principle?  How many of these same, exact Republicans would support the idea that they shouldn't ever filibuster an Obama judicial nominee? 

     Truth be told, after starting to dig around, I thought there might be some merit to the arguments being made by the Republicans at that time.  I wasn't convinced, but if the Republicans are willing to make it again, perhaps a little less pressured by time constraints (President-elect Obama, naturally, hasn't made any judicial appointments), and the issue might be resolved. 

     Well, that, or the hypocrites might be exposed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thanks, Washington Post

     This paper does dirty work sometimes, but this is nice stuff:
Caroline Schlossberg nee Kennedy

     Why was it a joke for Sarah Palin to run for President, but we should take Caroline Kennedy seriously as a potential Senator from New York?

     I already asked if anyone thinks George Walker Bush would have been considered for Governor of Texas, not to mention President, if his father hadn't been President.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Civilization and Hats (really: hair)

     What gets in your hair? With so much surface area, hair picks up more particulate than any other part of your body, especially since, at least in the winter (if you are uncouth) most everything else is covered up. 

     So, if you had to cover your hair, with a hat or hoodie, half the time, which half would it be?  I always find drug stores to be quite smelly.  I find health food stores to be quite smelly, but in an OK way.  The air in NYC, least so on Monday mornings, very early, are always filled with dust of life (esp. industry, transportation and cooking).  So, always when on the street.  What about at work?  I am thinking of old movies featuring newsrooms, where wearing hats indoors was the norm. 

     Putting on your hat, you are saying the air could use improvement, taking it off, you are expressing satisfaction. 

     By the way, I have always thought this concerning tying one's hair up, if it is long. Seeing people with long hair flowing on the subway (where the air seems foulest) makes me wonder... what do they smell when they get home?  No, dears, wear it up in a bun, tie it in a pony tail, or, better yet, put it under a hat.
Krugman On the Media

     Krugman was saying that, in general, economics reporting has improved over the last decade, but he made one exception, here is a close paraphrase: that you can't be taken seriously on foreign policy unless you were wrong about Iraq, and you can't be taken seriously on the housing crisis unless you were wrong about the bubble.  He was saying that the only people who get quoted who are "sell-side" in the housing industry.

     Strangely, later he made a strange timeline mistake.  Smoot-Hawley was passed in mid-1930, but Krugman said it was passed before the Great Depression started (1929).  At least he said, following Ha Joon-Chang, that the numbers don't add up to pin any serious blame on Smoot-Hawley for worsening the depression.  They do not add up at all.
The Bailouts

     Are the auto and finance industry bailouts a violation of America's World Trade Organization obligations?  Would we actually pay the fine if found guilty?  Don't expect any "journalist" to raise this question.
Clan or "Ethnic" Based Polities (UPDATE 1)

UPDATE 1: Add Ferraro paragraph at end

     In many countries in Africa and the Middle East which have many linguistic or tribal groups, the government is often from one group.  It is easy to imagine that qualified people outside the clan consider this unfair, unjust, possibly corrupt, or, at least, a bad recipe in the long run. 

     Already in American politics, family often trumps quality.  Let's face it, George Walker Bush was considered a real candidate not because he was a likable, upbeat idiot with a alcoholic, privileged asshole background, but because his father was President. 

     Let's not hand the Senate Seat in New York to Caroline Kennedy.  She is not an expert on our wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, she is not an expert in terrorism, she is not an expert in Russia (still the #2 nuclear missile power), China, India or trade issues, she is not an expert on the economy, she is not an expert on Health Care, she is not an expert on taxes, she is not an expert on the justice system.

     Instead of any qualifications, Caroline Kennedy has a very, very large rolodex.  She has this because of the connections of her clan, the Kennedys. 

     If she had even one of these expertises, I could consider supporting her.  Instead I am embarassed for America and her increasingly clannish ways.

     It turns out Geraldine Ferraro wants Caroline Kennedy also not get the post, pointing out the same thing, and wrote to Governor Patterson should nominate one of the six, sitting female members of New York's Congressional delegation.  Excuse me, Geraldine?  You were abysmal during the Democratic primaries, and you are abysmal here.  We should pick people solely on the basis of which reproductive organs they have?  That is often a top priority for dating, but totally irrelevant in politics.  Could we review the list of experiences (I forgot Global Climate Change! Another expertise Caroline Kennedy doesn't have) I presented?
Bulls & Bears on Fox News

     I have been out of touch with the idiot media recently.  These numbnuts actually got me to yell at the TV!  Is Obama bringing us to a command economy like the Soviet Union?  The best way to understand the Soviet Union is a non-democratic government that, in addition to running National Defense, a National Pension, the Education System, the Health Care System... ALSO ran Ford, GM, Chrysler, Exxon/Mobil, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, ABC, NBC, CBS, et cetera, et cetera.  The labels less unimportant.

     Bulls & Bears had four or five guests talk about the issue with State Budgets.  In this discussion, no one mentioned that States are, in most cases, bound to balance their budgets by their own laws.  Four of the five simply hate government.  The "defender" of taxes couldn't get the name of Gramm-Leach-Bliley out correctly, which makes me think he was being fed information.
Piracy off the Somali Coast

     By the way, there is a huge business beach-landing goods on the Somali coast and then moving it over the border into Kenya. This sidesteps their corrupt import bureau and tariffs.

     Anyway, do you think Sharia law approves of piracy?  America backed the Ethiopian military effort to destroy the last government in Somalia's capital Mogadishu a few years ago, called the Islamic Courts Union.  You can be DAMN sure no one in America will receive the news from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN or FOX that piracy off the Horn of Africa is, in part, a consequence of American Foreign Policy.

     Is there some great stain involved with being a journalist?  Of course not.  Then why are such dumb-asses getting the job?

     I'm watching Fox & Friends this morning, and the idiocy has been non-stop.  Not only have the stories (between multi-minute segments on a single mother-kills-daughter death) been dumb, the presentations have been idiotic. Little of it qualifies as "news."  First they call Joe Biden saying the economy is tanking a "gaffe." What planet are they on?  Biden also said the economy might need another 600-700 billion dollar plan, which the "hosts" talked about for a while, 2 of 3 saying that they heard it might be 1 trillion dollars, suggesting Biden never said anything wrong, and never committed a "gaffe," but they kept going on and on saying that he uses "colorful language" (doesn't that usually mean cursing?) and "hyperbole."  As Bob Somerby says, but doesn't quite understand, they were repeating the script.  Bob, they are idiots, they are lazy, if you tell them that Biden committes "gaffes" and then he says something they don't like, that must be the gaffe.  It's certainly not a plot, it is a consequence of not being smart.  Then they talked about Congressional pay raises.  Rather than just say they hate the Democratic Congress, and Congress in general, they got some idiot from twitter to say it for them, and they read the person's comment on air.  The person's comment was that Congress had done nothing at all, and so didn't deserve a raise.  Nothing?  One of the "hosts" said they should take the raise, and give it all to charity, because that would put it in the economy. 
Obama Has Many Choices

     We can almost assume that not 100% of the people Bush appointed were idiots.  There are thousands of political appointments, and he didn't know them all personally.  Bush didn't get in any trouble at all, for anything he did as President, so I'd like to thank the shoe-thrower.

     Here are some people who work for the government, or government started entities, and a review of them:
Thomas StallUSAID Iraq DirectorWorse than Worthless. Still saying "stay the course." Knee-jerk privatizer, people be damned
Raymond GilpinUSIP Assoc VP (Econ)Knee-jerk privatizer, somewhat forthright with bad news, not impressive, non-native English speaker
Paul BrinkleyDep. UnderSec'y of Defense
for Bus. Transformation
Not brilliant, still too pro-Business, but pragmatic. Keep
John HerbstState Dept. Coord
for Iraq Reconstru

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Things About My Father

This post is personal.  Since I never write stuff like that, I thought I'd hide it, unless you push the button. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Common Misconceptions

     I don't think I held to any "common misconception" listed until I got to this one:
Lemmings do not engage in suicidal dives off cliffs when migrating. This misconception is due largely to the Disney film White Wilderness, which shot many of the migration scenes on a large turntable in a studio. Photographers later pushed the lemmings off a cliff using a broom.
Thanks to J.S. for the link.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Perp Walk: 54 times

     MSNBC running dog lackeys play Blackwater perp-walk 54 times in 15 minutes.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Language & Conflict: A Report from Afghanistan

     Many thanks to WIIIAI, for this link to a discussion of the language issue (Dari (vs Farsi) vs Pashto) in Afghanistan.  Student conflicts have resulted in 100s of injuries.  The Culture Minister is accused of being against all Iranian influence as foreign, and un-Afghan, but the same guy supports the use of English.  One person says that people re using the language issue to divide Afghans, as part of a plot.  If I have done that, I apologize.  My main interest is justice, specifically administrative/legal justice, a requirement for good governance, which requires that the judge, jury, lawyers, witnesses, police and prison guards can all communicate reasonably effectively with the accused.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Obama, Wasting His Time, America's Time

     Obama is going to have a press conference to announce the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs today.  Is anyone going to try to convince me that putting him in front of a bunch of flags, telling us who is going to have a job, and giving us the rosies of his resume, is a useful use of time? 

     Obama isn't President yet, but he's already wasting our time.  The media, and people who tune into the media, for such events, are also to blame.

     This is one of the things I hated about the Bush administration, when a lot of the top officials in the entire country would be seated around a table with Bush, or standing in front of a bunch of flags, acting as stage props while Bush spoke, as if they were a bunch of trained seals.  I know Bush believed in that kind of craziness, that the words sound more important if you can waste important people's time by making them stand behind you when you speak them, but I was hoping Obama was more intelligent than that.
Good Economic News

     For the last many, many months, pretty much all the economic news has been bad.  Since there was little you could do about it, I've haven't really been making note of it.  Well, there was some good news this week.  The Mortgage Bankers Association, which represents the mortgage finance industry, reports on changes in the mortgage market.  Last month the market firmed, by quite a bit.  Of course, it is firming from a very low point, but we aren't talking about a little month-over-month firming, but the biggest jump in this statistic in the last decade.

     That, and some of the jobs numbers, while really bad, weren't as bad as the month before, or as bad as "the surveys" expected.  That's more of a "bad situation not getting bad at a worse rate" kind of good news, but, anyway.
The Job of the Presidency

     Was George Walker a front man for shadowy interests?  When asked if Obama's election was a repudiation of him, he couldn't say yes, but he did say it was a "repudiation" of the Republican Party (it was a fairly close election, actually).  Bush then explained
I think most people voted for Barack Obama because they decided they wanted him to be in their living room for the next four years explaining policy. In other words, they made a conscious choice to put him in as president. [emphasis mine]
These were not scripted answers, and Bush's understanding of the job of President appears to be revealed here, explaining what other people have decided.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Obama's Birth Certificate

     Even though people are petitioning the Supreme Court to force Hawai'i to produce the document, the Obama campaign put this online months ago.  Notice anything odd about it?

     I noticed something odd.  The "race" field.  Could someone explain to me how this is relevant?  I suppose it could be used later to disprove that a person is who their birth certificate says they are ("Why, you're a white myn, but this here documents says you have two black parents!") but, gosh, lots of things we have now do that.  Blood type is reasonable.&bbsp; Foot prints are often taken. 

     Let's aim to erase "RACE" from public documents, like identity cards, just like we wouldn't (now) put your parents religion on your birth certificate, or put your religion on your identity card.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I believe you, city dweller, shouldn't get anymore pets (dogs/cats/et cetera)

     If your pet has the freedom to enter and leave your abode on its own whim, more power to it.  Otherwise, if I get a say, I would prefer you not have any more pets.

Monday, December 01, 2008


     I have added the RSS feed to the Daily Howler!  It's available here.  A year or more ago I got Dr. Imad Khadduri, formerly of Iraq's Nuclear program, to use a CSS stylesheet I gave him.  Yay!