Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Kitten Blogging

Hai, mah peeps!

Dadby gawt hesseff a noo bideo camra, so I thought I wud plai wif et.

Diss es me, waten foah hem to coem hoem.

Friday Music Blogging

Steely Dan - Black Friday

OK, obvious choice, but Walter Becker was graduated from my alma mater.

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) She deserved this. She deserved a lot more. Somehow, I think karma is about to prove to Lori Drew that it's the bigger bitch.

2) In a phrase: Not Good.

3) Were you at WalMart at 5 AM? Kohls at 4? Then you helped write this article.

4) It seems as if Europe might be immune to this recession. But that's because they've had actual leadership during it all.

5) I haven't heard the entire album yet, but maybe Axl should not have rushed it to the know, take a little more time, overproduce it a little bit more, stuff a few more guitar solos in it, maybe include a free puppy with every purchase...

6) In other Chinese Democracy news...

7) Question: Why not Bill? He's going to have an awful lot of time on his hands the next four years...

8) They take mugshots for loitering in LA????

9) And let's not forget the latest terror group: nudists. "I swear officer, I really WAS just happy to see her!"

10) In California, this would be illegal.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

For Thanksgiving

We're often asked to reflect on this day, set apart to acknowledge whatever bounty we've gotten in the past year's harvest, and give thanks for our blessings.

This year, it's been pretty tough to come up with much.

First, let's thank America for waking up to what's happened to this nation in the past eight years and having the guts and determination to do something about it. And so long as we're thanking America, let's thank her for not tumbling into the abyss in the past eight years. Despite our loss of freedoms and respect, she has managed to provide us a bulwark from tyranny beyond that which Bush & Co. have managed to steal.

After all, we aren't forced to keep our two-way televisions on 24 hours a day. There's something to be thankful for there.

We should be thankful that America isn't going thru what is happening in Mumbai and if that means some petty minded bigot of low expectations wants to grab the credit for Bush, so be it. I disagree, of course: Bush has only inflamed a situation, and the only reason we haven't been attacked has been logistical. They *want* to attack us and want to, badly.

It has just been dumb luck they haven't bothered to try very hard. As I said, we should be thankful that George Bush didn't buck history and become the first President to have TWO Al Qaeda attacks on his watch, but it seems small beer to be lowering the bar that far.

So long as we're thanking Bush, I want to thank him for the past eight years, which have served as a reminder to the American people that we aren't that far evolved from the muck and mire that most nations have to live under. We aren't that superior, because our system only works really well when we put smart people in places of power. I'll have a post in January that details this more.

When we put venal, petty, partisan, short-fingered vulgarians in charge, we suddenly turn into a banana republic without the umbrella drinks.

We must thank Barack Obama, for making us see the possible again. Politics has been called "the art of the possible," so now let us pray that President-designate Obama (the electoral college doesn't meet for a few weeks) is a true artist.

Too, let us thank Hillary Clinton for pushing thru the glass ceiling that made Obama's candidacy and election less likely. 18 million cracks later, and we see a black man and a white woman standing as examples to our children that say "Yes, you can".

I want to thank John McCain, too, but I'm not sure for what. For selecting Sarah Palin and in one step rendering the Republican party irrelevant for decades? Possibly, but I think it's important to have two strong parties. Just look at the past eight years to see what happens when one party can dominate the other.

I guess, finally, we thank everyone in our lives who has helped us get to this day, alive and able.

And from me, thank you for reading this drivel on a daily basis.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


As a New Yorker, my thoughts and prayers are with my brothers and sisters in Mumbai tonight.

It shouldn't happen to anyone, and when the dust settles, I hope the bastards are bought to justice. For now, heal.

के रूप में एक नई यॉर्कर, मेरे विचार और प्रार्थना मेरे भाई और मुंबई आज रात में बहनों के साथ कर रहे हैं.

यह किसी को भी, और नहीं होना चाहिए जब धूल, सुलझेगी मैं
इस कमीनों न्याय करने के लिए खरीदा जाता है उम्मीद है. अभी के लिए, चंगा.

A Tale Told By Idiots

[I]t is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. - Macbeth, Act 5, Sc. 5
So, the latest desperate attempt by the anti-Obama forces focuses its depleting energy on....Hillary Clinton:
If President-elect Barack Obama nominates Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state, many legal scholars believe it would be the former law professor's first violation of the Constitution as president.

Why? Because the Constitution forbids the appointment of members of Congress to administration jobs if the salary of the job they'd take was raised while they were in Congress. (Article I, Section 6: "No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office ... the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time."  Emoluments meaning salaries and benefits.)
True enough, the language is clear. And yet, this is one of those clauses of the Constitution that seems quaint, antiquated, and woefully out of touch like, say, the Second Amendment. Indeed, as Pete Williams points out, this clause has been violated repeatedly over the past century. William Howard Taft named Sen. Philander Knox, Nixon named Sen. William Saxbe, Carter named Sen. Edmund Muskie, and Clinton named Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.
The solution was to roll back the pay hikes in order to fulfill the spirit of the clause.
Now, we're not talking about a massive raise here. It was a cost of living adjustment and one could make the case that, indeed, emoluments were not raised at all, merely restored to their 1990s level. However, a case could be made that any Senator who sat in this past Congress would forever be barred from serving as Secretary of State or any other Cabinet post.
It seems pretty clear this clause was designed to prevent a quid pro quo situation.
But, noooooooooooooooooooooo, that's not how the insane wing of America wants to play this! An example:
"Is Hillary Clinton Unconstitutional?" In a word, Yes -- or, to be more precise, a Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be unconstitutional.
Torture? Constitutional.
Patriot Act? Constitutional.
Abandoning habeas corpus? Constitutional (until the SCOTUS overrules it).
A Senator taking a personal paycut (given that Hillary would have to seriously cut back on her speaking commitments and Bill would have to stop advising foreign governments)? UNconstitutional.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feeding The Hydra

In mythology, of course, the Hydra of Lerna was a many-headed beast who devoured cattle and killed men with its poison breath. If one lopped off one of its head, two grew back in its place. It took Hercules and his cousin to kill the monster.
In politics, the Hydra is comprised of that faction of Progressive Blogtopia (© Skippy The Bush Kangaroo) that simply cannot stand the Clintons.
Exhibit A is presented courtesy of Taylor Marsh. This particular head's name? Arianna Huffington:

But given the palace intrigue that always accompanies the Clintons, James may be too genteel. Consider: in the two Times stories examining the "Clinton-Obama détente," we hear from "confidants of Mrs. Clinton," "former Clinton administration officials...who admire Mrs. Clinton," "a longtime friend," "a former aide," "two advisors to Mrs. Clinton," "a longtime friend of the Clintons who broke with them," "one Clinton advisor," "lawyers on both sides," "people close to the vetting," "close aides to Mrs. Clinton," "her confidants, who insisted on anonymity," "a close associate of Mrs. Clinton," and "one Democrat who is close to both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton."

So by taking in Hillary, Obama is getting more than just Hillary -- and more than just Hillary and Bill -- he's getting the entire Royal Court of the House of Clinton, complete with chancellors, chamberlains, and a court-jester or two.

The "royal court" construct is particularly juice coming from a woman of means whose political career began and ended by being the "beard" of a Republican senatorial candidate. Presumably, this gives her a certain leg up in experiencing the royal court, but a careful analysis of her history suggests she has deep and mixed feelings about the Clintons, despite her conversion to progressivism.
In short, she hates Bill and Hillary, but she's worked hard to supress those feelings.
Unfortunately, as Marsh points out, Arianna can't hide them completely.

There is no evidence, you know, the kind that comes with an actual name, to prove Hillary Clinton and her closest circle, which at this point is rather small, has added to the drama the media covering her has spun out of control.

It's not surprising that people are buying into the soap opera construct. It's just disappointing when there's no proof that any of this is coming from HRC's side or Obama's either.

There is no doubt that the most qualified person who ran for President in 2008 was Hillary Clinton. Who has been closer to the Oval Office than a First Lady? Who has seen first hand the inner workings of policy?
Did the Clinton's establish a court? Of course they did. Will Obama establish a court? Of course he will.
But, as Peter Beinart (via Marsh) points out, this is a good thing, to mix a little of the Clintons into the Obamas:
For the first time in four decades, a Democratic administration is going to hit the ground running rather than fall on its face because it will be staffed by people who know how the federal government works. That's change all right—the kind we can believe in.
Moreover, as Time Magazine notes, Obama doesn't have much time to get on-the-job training:
But not since Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in the midst of the Depression has a new President faced a set of challenges quite as formidable as those that await Obama. That's why Obama has been quicker off the blocks in setting up his government than any of his recent predecessors were, particularly Bill Clinton, who did not announce a single major appointment until mid-December. As the President-elect put it in his first radio address, "We don't have a moment to lose."
So it's not only that he's availing himself of a fairly professional, talented crew of people who are experienced in precisely how to run a White House, he's also not got the luxury of vetting a million people who might be equally qualified, who might benearly as adept, but who might run into trouble in the confirmation process.
You may not realize it, but there are 300 posts in the White House that must be confirmed by the Senate. Granted, Obama has a friendly Senate awaiting him in January, but the confirmation process demands bipartisan participation (amen to that) which means Republicans will be lying in wait for anything, and I do mean anything, they can take a pound of flesh from Obama's hide.
Remember the Clinton Attorney General appointment? It was nearly "three strikes and you're out," what with Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood. Could you imagine the uproar if Obama gets hit on such a vital appointment, twice?
The Bush administration touted that "the adults are taking over," even if they quickly whined about missing W keys on the computers (which should have been our first clue). Obama does not intend to make that mistake again. It's nice to see the adults truly are  taking over. Hopefully, Obama can kill the Hydra as well. Or at least make it grow the hell up.

Monday, November 24, 2008

An Interesting Test

It should be interesting to see the market reactions today to this:
An economic stimulus package that President-elect Barack Obama is expected to announce Monday will not likely have a major impact on manufacturing until the end of 2009 or later, an analyst said Monday.

Obama is rolling out a plan that will require congressional cooperation even before he is inaugurated Jan. 20. His plan is likely to exceed the $175 billion he proposed during the campaign and would include an infusion of money for infrastructure projects, new environmental technologies and tax cuts for low- and middle-income taxpayers. It will not call for tax hikes for the wealthy.

Analyst Ann Duignan of JPMorgan said in a note to investors that machinery companies such as Caterpillar Inc., CNH Global, Deere & Co. and other manufacturers would not begin to feel an impact from federal spending until 2010.

(emphasis added)
Given that the market has basically spit up the Bush recovery scheme like a cat with a poisoned furball, Obama's plan should see some welcome positive reaction in the market place. Which I'm sort of hoping for because I started buying stock again on Friday. It will be hard to segregate the reaction to Obama's plan from the reaction to the Citigroup bailout, but my suspicion is stocks will reach pretty high, other things being equal.
Curious thing about Citigroup: they are the largest bank in the United States (at least, they were before all this merging started in the wake of the Bear Stearns debacle), and had just received a $6 billion capital infusion from the House of Saud, and, indirectly, the bin Laden family. They seemed poised for a commanding position in the banking community.
And now we're finding out they were already $300 billion in the tank in subprime mortgages alone, which we have agreed to guaranty.
Looking back now, the market mechanisms made this situation nearly unavoidable: subprime mortgages were making money hand over fist, and the repackaging of mortgages into derivative securities (sorry for the jargon, folks) made it a double-dip scoop of ice cream on top of the slice of pie.
The first Ponzis in were earning money hand over fist each quarter: Countrywide, Ditech, all those guys who advertised relentlessly on the TV, were making earnings that dazzled even the most suspicious bankers, who are generally thought to be sober fellows. Realistic bankers who wanted to sit on the sidelines, and make money the old fashioned way (ripping off widows and orphans), felt enormous pressure from the shareholders and market analysts to jump in with both feet into what was clearly a lucrative business.
It became a self-feeding cycle: banks would lend money, people would mortgage their homes, banks would then scrape for even more money to lend to borrowers who were slightly less credit worthy and the erosion of the credit markets began. This was all fine so long as the historical axiom that housing prices always rose, long term, was in effect.
Here's the problem: the way loans were structured, it was in the homeowner's best interest to move every five years or so. The mortgage models were based on thirty year ownership. Over the long term, yes, homes were a really good investment. But not so much in the short term.
You'd borrow on an adjustable rate mortgage with a teaser intro rate AND interest-only payments for the first five years. Before the end of five years, you'd sell this home, buy a new one on a brand spanking new five year adjustable mortgage with a teaser rate and interest-only payments and use the proceeds to pay off your old mortgage.
Once housing prices peaked and began to slide, now people were being asked to pony up significant amounts of principal to pay off the shortfall in the sales proceeds, thus taking dramatic amounts of money out of both the mortgage market as well as the consumer market.
Citibank is heavily involved in both markets. I suppose $6 billion was just a bandaid on an amputation.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye

Imagine for a moment, a five year old boy. He is terribly skinny, has blonde hair cut short. He is in his first grade class. His teacher, Miss McCaffery, is a tall, willowy woman, fragile to even look at.

The class has just returned from lunch and is beginning preparation for art class. The ceilings are high in his room, which is in a schoolbuilding built just about thirty years earlier, in a time when education was considered holy, and schools looked like cathedrals. A place of training for a world about to change dramatically.

The boy puts on his apron, carefully tying the laces behind him since he still really hasn't mastered shoelaces even. The apron is blue, flecked with dots of tempra paints, the paint of choice for schools worldwide. One by one, in rows, the class is called to the back of the room to get a tray of paints and paintbrushes.

In another universe, on another earth, the boy will paint a masterpiece that will begin a long career in art.

In this universe, the PA system clicks on as the boy returns to his desk along the aisle by the coat rack.

"Teachers, students...we've just learned that President John Kennedy has been shot today in Dallas. We have called your parents and are making arrangements to have them come pick you up, boys and girls. For those who's parents we cannot reach, we will remain open until 3."

The benumbed boy, the budding artist, drops his tray. His masterpiece lies on the floor in its component splatters.

Next, the principal places the mic near the radio (or TV) to broadcast Walter Cronkite's voice to the school, describing what is happening.

The rest of the afternoon is a blur. He remembers finding his sister in the schoolyard. They come together and she hugs him, even if he is too young to fully comprehend what is happening. He remembers walking home past Sloan's Supermarket, his mom holding his hand for the first time since his daily trips to the skating rink in kindergarten. His sister's sobs still ring in his ears to this day. She never cried!

He spent that weekend and that Monday glued to the television set.

Little did I know how that event would twine and intersect my life in so many ways, but that's a different post.

I saw Oswald shot, live. But the most harrowing image of the weekend for me was the symbolic horse, Black Jack, the soldier's boots placed backwards in the stirrups.

Black Jack represented the fallen commander. There was a moment in the funeral procession when Black Jack bridled and in that moment, an electric horse could summon the feelings of a nation. His reluctance to move forward with the procession echoed our own disbelief that someone so young and vital could be cut down so summarily.

It was then, that moment, that I truly began to understand what was happening. And it terrified me.