Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The "Not A Shred Of Credibility Left" award goes to...

John Snow!! OK, try this:

The Clinton surplus was inflated by a stock-price bubble... "You're going to make a lot of mistakes if you forecast based on a bubble," [Snow] said. "Bubbles burst."

Snow has some support for his view. "Capital gains receipts were unusually high'' during the last years of the Clinton administration, said Ed McKelvey, senior U.S. economist at Goldman, Sachs & Co. in New York. He estimated that when the budget surplus reached a peak of $237 billion in 2000, capital gains tax payments were about $90 billion higher than the norm for the early-to-mid 1990s.

Let's accept those figures and normalize them for the excessive activity at the height of the bubble... so that'd be... let's see... $237 billion.... minus $90 billion... carry the 12... and that gives us.... $147 billion! Why that's hardly a surplus at all! The Bush Administration can cut $147 billion in taxes without any discussion at all!

Of course, Snow doesn't acknowledge that the government's recent success in reducing the size of the deficit is owed at least in part to a similar "bubble", one based not on soaring stock prices, but instead on a provision in the tax code that will effect this year and this year only. As the Bloomberg article notes: "After reaching a record in 2004, the deficit fell by $94 billion in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 as tax receipts soared." That is fueled by taxes on hundreds of billions of dollars in profits repatriated by U.S.-based companies. These funds had been sheltered overseas, but this "penalty vacation" allowed companies to drag in all that cash over the period of a year.

Here's the problem: they won't be able to do that next year. And even if they could, they won't have years and years of profits sheltered to bring in. So the only year that the deficit didn't get worse under Bush, it was only due to... well, I guess they'd be technically correct in saying that it's not a bubble, but as to the underlying characteristic criticized by Snow, namely that you'll make a lot of mistakes if you forecast based on something that'll go away, that remains the same.

Administration rationale for illegal wiretaps assailed

This is, I think, a very important article. What I think is absolutely crucial to discerning the intent of the administration is this:
NSA and Bush administration officials were urged repeatedly by members of the joint inquiry and by the Sept. 11 commission to recommend FISA reforms that they felt were needed... Said Eleanor Hill, staff director of the joint inquiry and former inspector general for the Pentagon... "The question was always asked of these witnesses: 'What do you need?'"

Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales said this week that the administration had discussed possible reforms to FISA with members of Congress. "We were advised that … that was not something we could likely get," he said.
So, although there was opportunity to get some reforms, since the particular reforms they wanted weren't attainable, they just decided to ignore the law. That's... oh, what's the word? Oh yeah, illegal!

What is unclear in this exchange is precisely the nature of the disagreement between Hill's statement that Congress asked the Administration, "What do you need?" and Gonzales's statement that, "[T]hat was not something we could likely get..." There are two possible scenarios here:
  • The first is that either Gonzales or Hill is lying. Gonzales indicates that the Administration wanted reforms to FISA that would allow the NSA to "address that problem," but that Congress wouldn't accomodate them. This would make Hill a liar. Hill indicates that Congress offered the opportunity to request changes to the law, but the Administration didn't follow up on those chances for whatever reasons, making Gonzales a liar.
  • The second is that Congress did offer the opportunity for reforming FISA, but the Administration asked for something that went too far in Congress's view and that was the thing that "was not something we could likely get..."
You can make your own guess as to which of these scenarios is closest to reality. The bottom line, though, is that it doesn't really matter. In the end, regardless of the reason there was no reform to FISA and the Administration then chose to ignore the law. These rationalizations are just that: rationalizations.

Even the matter at issue in this article, the oversight of calls between a San Diego residence housing two of the 9/11 hijackers and a known safe house in Yemen, provides only a rationalization. If that really was a problem (and I don't concede that it was; read the article for more), the law has to be changed to provide the "flexibility" required before the "flexibility" can be used.

Bush is clearly responsible for this breech and assault on the Bill of Rights. He should be impeached.

Meet the fan...

According to this morning's N.Y. Times, Jack Abramoff is about to spill the beans:
Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates... Prominent party officials, including the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, are under scrutiny involving trips and other gifts from Mr. Abramoff and his clients.

One interesting thing about this is that it probably means that the investigation into the killing of Konstantin "Gus" Boulis is probably not involved. I can't imagine that Abramoff would lie down in a case where he could be involved in a murder conspiracy. That probably means that, out of all the possible targets of the investigation, Bob Ney is probably breathing a bit more easily.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Taking responsibility while not taking responsibility

Remember how this was gonna be the responsibility administration? Well, we took a big step there today, right?
When we made the decision to go into Iraq, many intelligence agencies around the world judged that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. This judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of governments who did not support my decision to remove Saddam. And it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As President, I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq -- and I'm also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities. And we're doing just that.
Right? It's good to see the President taking responsibility, right?

But this is yet another smokescreen, just like after Katrina. Let's look at what Bush really says. He's reforming those intelligence agencies that let him down so bad. Everyone had the same faulty intelligence, so he's reforming the process that gave us that faulty intelligence.

The great trick here is that Bush is trying to get credit for taking responsibility while actually shirking responsibility for the "intelligence failure." He casts the blame on the intelligence agencies and the international community and everybody else for the information the Administration used to justify going to war. But as we know, the Administration was informed repeatedly that the yellowcake claim was bogus, including by the very intelligence agencies he blames for mis-informing him. The U.N. weapons inspectors repeatedly said that they could find no WMDs in Iraq and there were no indications that there were on-going weapons programs. The Administration was informed repeatedly that the sources on which they were relying for intelligence were unreliable and had plenty of reasons to lie about Iraq's programs.

There may have been intelligence failures, but the simple fact is that the Bush Administration lied, manipulated evidence, ignored anything that weighed against the point they wanted to make, and endeavoured mightily to make a clearly baseless link between Iraq, al Qaeda, and the 9/11 attacks. Where there were intelligence failures, the Administration exacerbated those by exploiting any faulty evidence that supported their pre-determined conclusions, turning a skeptical eye only on that information that worked against them. That was the failure here and, until Bush takes responsibility for that, he's still just trying to obscure his true failures in the build-up to the war in Iraq.

Update: One other thing. Let's keep in mind that Cheney himself visited CIA headquarters in the run-up to the war to "assist" in intelligence analysis:
...[T]he vice president was at the forefront of a White House campaign... to build the case that Iraq was an imminent threat because it possessed a dangerous arsenal of weapons.

Before the war, he traveled to CIA headquarters for briefings... After the war, when critics started questioning whether the White House relied on faulty information to justify war, Cheney and Libby were central to the effort to defend the intelligence and discredit the naysayers in Congress and elsewhere.

Administration officials acknowledge that Cheney was immersed in Iraq intelligence, and pressed aides repeatedly for information on weapons programs.
Does the plan to reform our intelligence apparatus include sacking the man who put the greatest pressure on the involved agencies to generate intelligence supporting a particular conclusion? Or does it at least include a directive banning the involvement of political operatives in what should be an objective process? Because the biggest failure as we prepared to go into Iraq seems to be not of the process of intelligence gathering or analysis, but the skewing and manipulation of that process in pursuit of the political goals of the Bush Administration.

And another update: Greg Sargent at TAPPED has a post making basically the same point. This is the first mention I've seen (besides myself) of this sneaky rhetorical dodge.

Douche-ly mentions

As I've noted before, I think calling guys douches is funny. So here's a comic where someone calls someone else a douche. That's funny in and of itself, and the context is even funnier.

Man, the search on this hyeah blog bites nuts. I was trying to dig up the URLs for those douche posts. So I searched for "douche", "douche" in the title, "douche" in the body text, etc. But it couldn't find any results. That's retarded. What's up with Google sucking?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

This is what we've come to

So this morning I get an e-mail in my Inbox with the subject line, "Blast 'kills al-Qaeda commander'." And I think to myself, "Yeah, right, this is the, what, 5,000th al-Qaeda commander so far?" Then, looking at the body of the e-mail, I saw that it was Pakistan that was reporting that they had killed an al-Qaeda commander, and I was like, oh!

So... When I thought it was the U.S. reporting that, I assumed it was a lie. As soon as I found out Pakistan had said it, I was interested. And no one--no one--can credibly argue that our government hasn't earned that level of distrust from its public and the world at large. That's pathetic.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

GOP meltdown

Having been pelted with the inalterable fact of monolithic GOP voting blocs (a fearful prospect even outside the fact that I generally disagree with the GOP on most things), as well as having heard many tales of Karl Rove's dream of eternal GOP dominance, it's good to watch them fall completely apart. There are a lot of sources for what's coming out of Congress today and you should check those out
No word yet on whether Ted Stevens will indeed resign now that his darkest nightmare has come true... Note, however, that Alaska still gets to keep the money. That's a $450 million buy out, so maybe Ted's taking a darkest before the dawn approach to things...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Definition of Chutzpah

So doesn't it take a lot of balls, I mean real chutzpah, for U.S. officials in Iraq to be pissed off at Iraqi officials for torturing detainees?
A joint statement by the American Embassy and the United States military command called the situation "totally unacceptable" and said American officials "agree with Iraq's leaders that mistreatment of detainees will not be tolerated."
I mean.... are you fucking serious? After all the revelations of Abu Ghraib, rendition, strange wandering international CIA flights, and secret Eastern European detention centers, we have the unmitigated gall and audacity to say shit to anyone about torture being unacceptable? Almost as unbelievable as Bush's reprehensibly partisan Veteran's Day speech.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ray Nagin on race

When I heard Ray Nagin on NPR the other day, I was interested to hear what he had to say about the city's reconstruction efforts, the future of the population, and so on. When Michele Norris, the NPR reporter, asked him about the issue of Latino and Mexican immigrant workers, and especially about comments he had made about New Orleans not becoming "overrun with Mexican workers," I thought, "Uh oh. How long before some liberal commentator takes him to task over this?"

Well, someone may have beat him to it, but the first one I've seen has been Jason Zengerle on The Plank, The New Republic's new blog (registration may be required). He manages to demonstrate that the issue is almost impossible to talk about without getting in trouble, but not that Ray Nagin has any bias against Latino or Mexican workers in particular.

The simple fact is that, throughout the modern South, Latino immigrants are the go-to gophers for contractors looking for a cheap and pliable workforce. For a project like the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, which consists of thousands of subprojects and may require relocation of human
resources, the attraction of using an inherently baseless labor force would probably be highly attractive to a contractor.

Local leaders like Nagin would be remiss not to try to push to secure at least some of these jobs for his own citizens, especially given the sad economic status of many of them prior to the onslaught of the storm. But to push for this, though, he does have to talk about the situation. And it's nearly impossible to discuss the situation without talking about Mexicans or Latinos in general. Of course, it's possible to go too far, demonizing immigrant laborers and blaming them for problems completely unrelated to their prescence, as Clay Risen discusses. But merely
mentioning them shouldn't be grounds for castigation, either. Otherwise the debate becomes pathetic shadow boxing between liberals striving desperately to find the appropriately inoffensive term for whatever victimized group they're trying to defend, spending more time covering their own backside from their supposed allies than from rabid conservatives and nativists whose talking points veer from outrage and invective to lies and fantastic prognostications of doom.

This debate is really similar to the issue that's riven the Sierra Club for a few years now. Basically, the Sierra Club is, of course, a quite liberal organization. And it's taken as read in liberal circles that Thou shalt not speak ill of people of color. That includes immigrants. There's a sizeable contingent of people who feel that it's difficult to talk about the environment, though, without talking about the population of the country. The official policy of the Sierra Club, passed in 1996 and re-affirmed in 1999, is that "The Sierra Club, its entities, and those speaking in its name will take no position on immigration levels or on policies governing immigration into the United States. The Club remains committed to environmental rights and protections for all within our borders, without discrimination based on immigration status."

It's quite possible, others would argue, that a commitment to environmental right and protections for all within our borders does not require discrimination based on immigration status (i.e. once you're here, you're here), but that in no way precludes discussions about what we should do about the levels of immigration allowed, how illegal or unregulated immigration should be dealt with, and so on. But when people tried to bring the issue back before the Sierra Club, there was no debate. Instead it was instant polarization, much to the delight of right-wing foes of the environmental movement.

Are there some people pushing this movement that are racists? Are there some within the anti-immigration (or at least immigration-suspicious) movement within the Sierra Club who are just agents provocateurs delighting in the strife and internal divisions caused by the debate? Sure. But of course progressives, environmentalists, leftists, and liberals only help these people by so eagerly and rabidly responding to the provocations.

I'm just saying cool out on Ray, is all.

There's apparently a listener response to Michele Norris's NPR piece here. I can't listen to this right now due to firewall issues, but I'll check it out later.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Harry Goes AGGRO!

Juicy bits from an interview with Harry Reid. Most interesting thing, I think:
"Nothing happens regarding intelligence gathering ... unless it's signed off on by the Vice President," [Reid] said... When I asked Reid whether he meant to state so flatly that Cheney was personally and directly stalling the Intelligence Committee's work, he didn't pause a beat. In fact he almost stood from his chair. "Yes. I say that without any qualification ... Circle it."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Post-action analysis

TPM Cafe has an interesting analysis of what happened in the Senate today. If you buy this take (and I pretty much do; I thought pretty much the same thing when I first heard what was going on, esp. the bit about Gingrich), today was a rather momentous one:

I have a theory about Congress, which is that there is often a moment when the effective majority switches, when the minority takes control of the agenda well before an election. It happened in 1994 when Gingrich forced the Crime Bill back to conference. It happened in 1996 when Kennedy forced the Senate to take up the minimum wage increase. After those events, the majority never quite had control of the agenda again.

I think the same thing just happened today when Harry Reid took the Senate into closed session to force a discussion of the delayed Intelligence Committee report on misuse of intelligence.

Bill Frist's ability to run the institution now lies completely in ruins.
How sweet is that? I think Frist's ability to run the institution has been staggering for a while, starting at the very latest with the Terri Schiavo business, which may not have seemed absurd to all people but was rather ridiculous to at least a good portion of people who were otherwise sympathetic to Frist's reputed causes. Add on the insider trading, internal dissension from Republicans pissed over his inability to hammer home John Bolton and rally Senate Republicans around Harriet Miers, and he's been walking the road to lame duckness for a while. Well, he's just arrived.

This could really be a catalyst or the Democrats in 2006 if they play it correctly. I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical of Reid when he first became Minority Leader, but this was a pretty awesome stroke.

Game on

OK, I've argued this before, and TNR backs me up on it for this nomination. Hell, even Orrin Hatch thinks so.

Eh. For my part, I don't give a rat's ass. Yeah, I think the guy's pretty extreme. His dissent in Casey is pretty absurd, I think, although it's arguable (not particularly convincingly, I think, but arguable) that even that's not that extreme. To be fair, Alito didn't write and pass that law, just dissented (as Alito noted in his dissent, "Whether the legislature’s approach represents sound public policy is not a question for us to decide").

But OK, he's too conservative, too extreme, let's bomb him (figuratively speaking, of course), raze the forests and burn the villages, and he's out of there. Do you think that would then mean that a chastened Bush would nominate Laurence Tribe for SCOTUS? I don't think so.

The fact is that Democrats lost the election in 2004. You can argue about why (Republican dirty tricks! Democratic candidate too far to the left! Democratic candidate too far to the center!), but most of these things are just excuses. The Shrum-led Dems fucked up another election, trying a half-assed "we really do care about national security!" strategy combined with a scattered attempt to move the debate to domestic issues. The Rove Machine successfully played the same goddamned game it's been playing since the early '70s and the Democrats lost. And until they win elections, they ain't selecting the SCOTUS candidates. Which means, as long as Bush, Frist, and Hastert are running the country, they're going to pick Alitos, Scalias, and Thomases until the goddamned cows come home.

What's the "take-home message" here? Quit your whining, suck it up and get ready for 2006, because taking back first the Congress and then the White House is the only way to ensure that SCOTUS members are not right-wing roundhead bastards.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Minimizing the original crimes?

So everyone's certainly heard the news by now. And now Libby has resigned, yay.

But what I find interesting is this paragraph of the Times story:

"If the charges announced today lead to a conviction or guilty plea, the episode will stand in Washington history as another example of a cover-up becoming more serious than the original wrongdoing."

Actually, we don't really know that. The original wrong-doing, if proved, would be pretty damned serious: the uncovering of a CIA operative with non-official cover who was working on WMD programs at a time whe the administration's purported focus was on controlling WMDs. WMDs in the wrong hands, which was the administration's rationale for the invasion of Iraq, would certainly be much more serious than perjury and obstruction of justice. Endangering our ability to detect and control movements of WMDs in order to prosecute a war with the explicit rationale of... well, controlling the movements and development of WMDs is serious on so many levels that crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice are neglible except as tools to expose these high crimes.

And that's just the exposure of a CIA agent. Never mind the crimes that may be considered on the basis of possible lies told to Congress by administration officials and trumped up evidence to justify a war that's cost the lives of over 2,000 American soldiers and will cost us hundreds of billions of dollars before it's over.

These indictments and possible convictions for the crimes therein will become fading footnotes in the klieglight glare that would be focused on those found guilty of such crimes.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

In honor of Harriet Miers

Harriet, sweet Harriet, hard-hearted harbinger of haggis.

Beautiful, bemused, bellicose butcher.

Un-trust... ing.

Un-know... ing.

Un-love... ed?

"He wants you back," he screamed into the night air like a firefighter going to a window that has no fire... except the passion of his heart.

I am lonely.

It's really hard.

This poem... sucks.

Sweet stuff.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Tim McCarver sucks

I have to say that I agree with this site, although, as more of a football fan (go Bucs!), I have to say I don't dislike him as much as the combination of Joe Buck, Paul Maguire, and Troy Aikman. God, those guys piss me off...

That said, Tim McCarver is pretty much an awful announcer.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Video archive

Apropros of this, there's this. I can't tell if the video link works here at the office, so I'll check it when I get home. This whole thing finally explains the link between Fred Armisen and Wilco, as demonstrated in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.

As an aside, I was the Jeff Tweedy solo gig at Great American Music Hall. An awesome show and the Great American Music Hall is absolutely the best venue ever. I've seen all kinds of shows in all kinds of places and nothing touches this place for beauty, sound quality, comfort, and intimacy with the performer. Doc Watson at GAMH was quite epic, also. It's not restricted to "smart" or nutritious music though. Spacehog ripped the place up and I saw Cake and Dieselhed there on more than one occasion, as well as the Mofessionals, Mother Hips, and tons of other local and touring rock bands. If you ever get a chance to see a band you like there, it's worth the travel!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Republicans are criminals

They don't even bother to hide it any more.

[W]ould-be government contractors [met] in the Hart Senate Office Building to figure out how to get a share of the money [Me: IN THE SENATE OFFICE BUILDING!!]. A "Katrina Reconstruction Summit," hosted by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and sponsored by Halliburton, among others, brought some 200 lobbyists, corporate representatives and government staffers to a room overlooking the Capitol for a five-hour conference that included time for a "networking break" and advice on "opportunities for private sector involvement."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) sent his budget director, Bill Hoagland, who cautioned that federal Katrina spending might not exceed $100 billion. But John Clerici, from a law firm that helped sponsor the event, told the group that spending would "probably be larger" than $200 billion. "It's going to be spent in a fast and furious way," Clerici said.
But all that money's covered, right? The fiscally conservative GOP is covering it, right? Tax hikes, spending cuts, or something?
[A] member of the Republican Study Committee [which proposes to pay for hurricane relief spending through budget "offsets", essentially budget cuts in other areas, and not through tax increases]... accepted that Congress would not find cuts to pay for the $62 billion spent so far on Katrina -- much less the $250 billion more that Louisiana wants from the feds. If "we find $20 billion in offsets, we'll probably declare victory," said the congressman, who spoke on the condition that he not be named.
Let's see... that's at least $42 billion not covered in offsets, meaning that, in the BEST case scenario, "fiscal conservatives" are going into hock on over 66% of the funds, and more likely more than 90% of the funds.

I always said that Republicans would destroy this country if they got their way, and they're doing it in full effect. If you're a Republican, you can argue, blah blah blah, all day long, about that's not how you'd do it, these are RINOs, but your party is in control of every... single... branch... of... government. And it was Republican voters that nominated them and overwhelmingly voted for them to put them in office. It's your fault that Bush, who has not vetoed a single spending bill during his administration and has spearheaded enormous tax cuts, is the President (well, yours and the Supreme Court's). It's your fault that an unrepentant band of thieves runs Congress. It's your fault that wing nuts from such divergent extremes as Grover Norquist, Jamse Dobson, and their bastard son Rick Santorum have such pull in this country in spite of the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with them about just about nothing.

If you're a Republican, it's your fault and you are an unindicted co-conspirator in the looting and destruction of America. Congratulations.

Friday, September 16, 2005

XMLSpy integration with Eclipse sucks

So I'm a pretty die-hard fan of JetBrains' IntelliJ IDEA. But for various reasons, among them a new job, I'm using Eclipse now. OK, fine, I can learn to live with this. But there are a lot of capabilities in IntelliJ that aren't available in Eclipse, such as editing XML (you can edit it, but there are no special tools). So I thought, ah HA! I'll use Altova's XMLSpy Home Edition (which is free) and it will even integrate directly into Eclipse! Awesome!

Well, it's awesome with a couple of tiny drawbacks, with the primary one being, I guess, the fact that it completely destroys your ability to do anything in Eclipse, up to and including working with XML! I'll provide some examples later today, after I finish toting them all up...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Well, that didn't work

So much for that bright idea. It actually would have been fine, except that I ended up hung over for the first time in a while. We had a party for the U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier last night and I overindulged a bit. It was less that, even, except that I'm off my pace. We started the South Beach Diet last week, which involves no drinking at all in Phase I. So... I had had no beers all week, then just went ape shit yesterday (yes, it was cheating; no, I don't care). That hurt, it really did.

Oh, well, I've not read any news or feedback on Chertoff's performance on Meet the Press yet today and we've still got it on Tivo, so I'll "live blog" by tape delay later on anyways...

Knowing when to talk shit is really key....

Man, well I guess Mexico's totally pissed. What a fucking sore loser Ricardo Lavolpe is: "The U.S. is a small team," he said. "They play like my sister, my aunt and my grandmother." Well, Dickie, your team must really suck then, because you just got owned by your sister, aunt, and grandmother, bitch. Wow, the nerve of that dick. It's one thing to belittle your opponent when you beat them, but to belittle them when they beat you? Even when the Tricolores resorted to throwing body blocks across the field (I thought the game was pretty poorly officiated, in Mexico's favor), they never really threatened the U.S. With Keller in the goal and a thorough defense controlling and disrupting the flow of most of the Mexican attack, they never really seemed to generate real fear. And then he wants to go talking about how much the U.S. team sucks? Dude, you lost, pretty thoroughly to a (in your opinion) pretty shite team. But...

"'The first team to make a mistake would not win, and Mexico made the mistake,' Lavolpe said."


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Live blogging Meet the Press

If anyone's interested, I'm going to try to live-blog Meet the Press tomorrow morning as an exercise. Michael Chertoff's on and I'm very interested in his excuses and explanations for DHS's response to Katrina. I'm also interested in how Russert will press Chertoff, given the press's recent awakening from obsequiescence.

Well, we're on at 8:00 AM PDT tomorrow, so we'll see how this goes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


I have to go through this morass to figure out how to get to my new job. Yeesh. A commute from Long Beach to Irvine. I'm hoping to find a mass transit-y way to do it, but let's just say that it ain't looking too likely.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Smackdown in NYC11!

This sounds sooooo awesome! First off, it takes really twinky Brits to make an insult like "drink-sodden former Trotskyist popinjay" sound offensive, but there you are.

I think both these guys are dickwads: Hitchens is an arrogant, name-dropping twit who, while undeniably hyperintelligent, is also a judgmental intolerant prick who's regard for George Orwell (well-placed regard; Hitchens' book Why Orwell Matters is quite awesome) is surpassed only by his regard for Christopher Hitchens.

George Galloway, on the other hand, is absolutely reprehensible. Although adopted as an iconoclastic icon of resistance by the left because of his outspoken resistance to the Iraqi war, this perception of him has to be taken in isolation, because in just about every other facet of his life and personality, George Galloway is a scumbag. His only regret in life is that Stalin died to early for Galloway to be a proper Stalinist. An apologist for Saddam Hussein and Islamo-fascism (note that I'm not conflating the two; Galloway basically likes any flavor that's anti-Western), he was knee-deep in nefarious dealings with various people of a less-than-savory reputation. It's been hard to make any of these charges stick, but I certainly do go by the "smoke and fire" tenet (note that the little prick can't sue me for saying that).

I guess I'd probably choose Hitch on the basis of his relative lack of involvement with horrible people. I'd predict that he'd win because Galloway is primarily a demagogue with a very slippery grip on facts. But in the end what I really hope to see is a good fight, with a few sound bites that can measure up to "drink-sodden former Trotskyist popinjay."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


My pirate name:

My pirate name is:
Dirty Jack Flint
You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from

Nothing to see here...

This is not the conflict of interest you're looking for.

So let's see who pays the Govinator's rent. Hmmm... the Western Growers Assn., which represents agribusiness. Under ordinary circumstances, I would worry that payments from agribusiness to the governor would contribute to Schwarzenegger's resistance to user fees for water customers like, oh, agribusiness. But since Ah-nuld "just never bothers himself with it" there's no problem!

An ethical system that relies on politicians' assurances that they aren't swayed by unlimited donations is no ethical system at all. Sure, in some share of cases, the politicians wouldn't be liars and wouldn't be swayed (or, as in the case of Bush and Cheney, are so much a part of the system they are sponsored by that they'd never take action against it anyway). But clearly the "I don't pay attention" excuse could be hugely useful for those that want to accept money from special interests. Schwarzenegger's denials of influence are completely besides the point: the man who said that he would accept no money from special interests is in fact benefiting from millions of dollars in money from special interests. Since these same special interests fight tooth and nail over the smallest dollar amounts they might be required to pay in taxes and fees, I can't imagine that these funds are given in the spirit of pure charity or noblesse oblige. These arrangements display Schwarzenegger's true role as governor: a bought-and-paid-for proxy for big business and an enemy of the environment and working Californians.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson steps beyond his own ordinary outrageousness

And when I say "outrageousness," normally Robertson inspires outrage in me, but this is beyond the pale. It was bad enough that, even as we ramped up for a war to remake the Middle East in our democratic image, we were willing to tolerate and even sanction an anti-democratic coup in Venezuela. Now fathead here has to go proposing that we actively seek out and kill a head of state with whom we happen to disagree. Note to Pat Robertson: you may not like Hugo Chavez, but there are world leaders who are much much worse. And, as bad as our imperialist hubristic arrogant image in the world already is, one of the leaders of the religion that purports to have elected our President making statements like this only makes that perception worse. Instead of homos and drug users and other liberal scourges having caused 9/11, it is exactly this kind of rhetoric and lawless assumption of free rein on the world stage that has led others to hate the U.S. So thanks a lot, Pat, you fathead idiot. Why don't you just keep your hate directed inward on your own nation and leave the foreign relations to... well, I guess those dealing with the foreign relations nowadays ain't much better, eh? Shit. We are so screwed.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Gas prices and absentee landlords (or blog lords)

So I haven't been posting much lately, I just noticed. My last post was about Bill Frist being a douche, which I still stick to, in spite of a number of illustrious types saying that at least something not 100% idiotic could be accomplished via his douche-ness. I won't argue that point, but he's still a douche and he looks like a goddamned space alien.


Well, I've been busy. A massive shoulder injury, or at least painful as hell, sidelined me for a little bit. What caused it? I dunno. Solution? Vicodin and sitting on my ass. So that was pretty sweet. I missed a fair amount of kung fu class, but the rest did me well. I recovered nicely with a sailing trip out to Two Harbors on Catalina Island with my buddy Dan this past weekend. I'll throw up some pictures from that later.

Hey, check this out! You can take the boy outta Florida, but Florida can always come visit the boy, I guess.

So, on national news, apparently high gas prices are having some good effects. I'm basically in favor of high gas prices, cf. prices in Europe. The main problems I see with the current high gas prices here in the U.S. are:

  • I wish we'd done it earlier through taxes, allowing a gradual adjustment to the economic burdens. Taxes could then be adjusted downwards to absorb the unavoidable price shocks and bumps. No one would have to worry about changes in the cost of fuel, since the cost of fuel would be relatively standardized. The shock absorber would be the tax pad, so changes in oil prices would affect government revenues, but in general that's going to be a much better and more remote shock absorber than, say, Delta Airlines, which is on life support and will not withstand fuel prices at the current levels for much longer.
  • Regardless of whether or not people deserve what they get, lots of people are going to be spending (hell, going to be, nothing, are spending) lots of their income on gas that they had allocated to other needs. In a debt-ridden society (like I said, I'm not talking about whether they deserve it or not), that can lead to catastrophic effects, including massive defaults on mortgages, consumer debt service, and so on. That would affect the overall economy and the share of responsible people who did nothing to deserve the problems besides being members of the economy. Look at the Latin American and Asian debt crises over the last couple of decades. Of course, those suffering the most will be the poorest.
  • I highly doubt that, as a society, we'll learn a goddamned thing from this besides this: do everything possible to ensure low gas prices. Did the Big Three learn from the lessons of the early '70s? Clearly not, and now all three are having massive problems because all of their vehicles are enormous gas-guzzling monstrosities. And just like in the '70s, the Japanese automakers are having the Big Three's collective ass for lunch again. If I was head of one of the Big Three, I would have been on the phone screaming at the engineers to increase the mileage of our entire fleet exponentially at about 8:55 AM 9/11/2001. But it never occurred to any of the dumb shits that a on-going clash between Islamic terrorism and the batch of fucktards in the White House would lead to higher oil prices, which might, just might, make a suburban mom in a 10 gallon-to-the-mile Ford Behemoth pause when she had to pay $457 to drive down to the corner store. Idiots. So there's no good reason to think that the U.S. will do anything besides claw and slash to get oil prices back down, instead of wisely learning to live with them (and keeping them artificially high if and when they do go back down).
OK, that's all I have for now. I meant to add a bunch of links for various points, but it's late and I have a cooling pizza waiting for me. Ciao, kiddies.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bill Frist is not a hero...

He's a douche.

Look, I'm strongly in favor of stem cell research. It holds a lot of promise for people with terrible illnesses, most of the embryos from IVF clinics will be destroyed one way or the other, and it's silly to restrict our basis of research on the basis of a viewpoint that's strongly in the minority (and yes, I understand morality isn't a votable concept, but in this case the issue is far from clear to most citizens and the views of the polity are the only basis for judgment).

But changing his stance on this issue doesn't make First a hero. It makes him the first official candidate for the GOP nomination in 2008. Even though he's pissed off some key Republican constituencies, as we've seen on a number of issues, it's more important to win than to be pure. By early 2007, when campaigning will begin in earnest, this issue will have lost its partisan venom for Frist, but the air of compassion and pragmatism will still linger about him, hopefully (from Frist's viewpoint) obscuring the pathetic image of Frist's pandering to right-to-lifers in the Terri Schiavo case.

After having vehemently opposed stem cell research for so long at the behest of the Bush Administration and the absolutist pro-life right wing, Frist's change in position is nothing more than blatant pandering, positioning himself for post-nomination general election politics, with what he gauges to be the smallest impact on his chances of gaining the Republican nomination. That doesn't make him courageous, it makes him a snivelling, pandering douche.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Rockstar Games sued

So the lawsuits over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas have begun. An 85-year-old woman bought the game for her 14-year-old grandson and is now pissed to find out that the game contains graphically depicted simulated sex.

But wait, wasn't GTA:SA rated Mature? That's for... 17 years of age and older. Yet this woman bought the game for her 14-year-old grandson. This dumb ass is all up in arms about the bad stuff contained in a game that she never should have bought for her fucking grandson in the first place! These labels aren't subtle, people. If you're too fucking stupid to figure it out, you don't get to complain later.

It's only in the window between Mature and Adults Only, i.e. 17 year olds, that could conceivably have a legitimate gripe. And of course that doesn't address the fact that apparently this woman thinks it's OK for her 14-year-old grandson to play a game simulating shooting cops and stealing cars (again, not subtle: the name of the game is GRAND THEFT AUTO), but she's aghast that he might see something resembling sex (if you've seen the video of Hot Coffee or actually played it, you'll know it's not the most titillating sexual experience to come down the pipe).

Damn it, I really hate pathetically stupid people.

What version of a class or resource am I using?

I end up working with lots and lots of different Web applications, fat-client applications, and server extensions, meaning that I get various versions of various bits of code scattered all over the damned place. This becomes a real problem when you're basically learning things on the fly and modifying stuff heavily. A really good example is working with log4j. After lots of changes and extensions, I'm reasonably happy with our current configuration. However there are lots of files floating around and sometimes my apps end up getting one of these older configurations, which leads to heartache. So how can you figure out which version of a particular resource you're getting?

The code below shows how you can use the Java VM itself to tell you where items are coming from:

ClassLoader cl = Thread.currentThread().getContextClassLoader();
while(cl != null)
{ loc = cl.getResource("/");
   System.out.println("Search and destroy --> " + loc);
   cl = cl.getParent();

It's worth noting that your classes will end up using the first version found in the class loader (assuming all classes in the same process space). The other versions found, if any, will be obscured by the first version.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I think calling guys "douche" is funny

For example, Bill Frist is a douche. I don't know why, but it strikes me as funny, in a completely pointless way. "Douche" and "douchebag" are both funny, but I think the former has a bit of an edge.

I just saw a Burger King commercial that's from the same lineage as the Subservient Chicken. Fully understanding that by saying so I become part of the viral commercial meme, this was a hilarious commercial. It was for Chicken Fries, which are, like, chicken sticks or something. And the main attraction was semi-Gwar type of band, wearing chicken masks and singing songs about nihilism outside of the shelter of your chicken bits or something. But the thing that really drove the point home was the backdrop behind the band that read, "Coq Roq." That's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Super annoying Struts error

So I've run into this a couple of times before and found it very frustrating. Hopefully this will help some people avoid that same frustration! Basically, you can display validation error messages in a Struts form page with this syntax:

   <html:messages id="errors" message="false">
      <bean:write name="errors"/>

Under some (previously mysterious to me) circumstances, this can give you this error message:

An unhandled exception occurred. The name of the exception is:
Cannot find bean errors in any scope
javax.servlet.jsp.JspException: Cannot find bean errors in any scope

The problem comes all the way back in your form or action class when you create the error message. Unfortunately, it's not at all related to the actual message. In fact, your bean is there! Or at least in my particular case it's there. So I do this in the action class (you can also get error messages from within the validate() method of your form class if you're subclassing the ValidatorForm class):

ActionMessages errors = new ActionMessages();

if (someBooleanErrorCondition)
              new ActionMessage("Here's your error message!");

if (!errors.isEmpty())
   saveErrors(request, errors);

Things go wrong at the point where I'm creating the new ActionMessage object. The problem is that I put the literal message in the constructor instead of a resource key from the file. Replace that line with:

           new ActionMessage("error.message.whatever");

If that was your problem, this should fix it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Something wrong with page display in Internet Explorer

I use Mozilla Firefox at home and this blog looks just fine. But it is totally munged in Internet Explorer. I'm using one of the default templates from, so it's totally their fault. Yeah.

I dunno, I have some add-on stuff, trackback and hit counter, so maybe it's related to that. Or maybe the template is shite or IE is shite or this blog is shite. So many possibilities.

Anyways, I'll try to fix it later this week.

UPDATE: OK, I figured it out. I was using the <pre> tag to format my code examples in an earlier post. That makes IE barf. So now I'm using a <style> tag. The drawback with that is that now Firefox eats the spaces that align the Java code (yes, I'm using non-breaking spaces in there; that works in IE but not in Firefox).

Multiple levels of redirection

But nonetheless. Here's a post (that is, this post) that points you to another post that points you to yet another post. But I would be remiss to ignore the source, so that's why I'm doing it that way.

Pretty hilarious. I can't decide if cyclotouriste is an actual psychopath, a plain old idiot, a jokester, or some combination of the batch. I do like the fact that he uses the word "poltroon" repeatedly. It's not one you run into often nowadays.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Comparing classes in Java 1.4 compared to 1.3

Let's say you need to compare classes, checking, for example, whether a particular class is the same as this class. You might have something like this:

public class CorrectClass
  boolean isCorrectClass(Class cl)
    return cl.equals(CorrectClass.class);

This works with Java 1.3 or earlier, but gives you an error under 1.4:

Information: 1 error
Information: 0 warnings
Information: Compilation completed with 1 errors and 0 warnings
Error: line (xxx) the symbol class$org$vshivers$test$CorrectClass conflicts with a compiler-synthesized symbol in org.vshivers.test.CorrectClass

To make it work properly under 1.4, use the afore-mentioned compiler-synthesized static member:

public class CorrectClass
  boolean isCorrectClass(Class cl)
    return cl.equals(CorrectClass.class$org$vshivers$test$CorrectClass);

Annoyingly, this is changed back to the original syntax in 5.0. Well, it's really more annoying that they changed this rather basic operation in 1.4, making it incompatible with every previous and subsequent version of Java.

Convenient timing for a personality sea change?

So Karl Rove apparently learned that Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA from a journalist, but, gosh dang it, he just can't remember who that journalist was:
President Bush's deputy chief of staff has told investigators that he first learned about the operative from a journalist and that he later learned her name from Novak.

Rove has said he does not recall who the journalist was who first told him that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, or when the conversation occurred, the lawyer said.

Just slipped his dang ol' mind, man.

This from a guy who has been reported to be able to reel off nation-wide voting pattern breakdowns precinct by precinct and described by a long-time observer of the Austin political scene as "the most focused, disciplined and organized political consultant he ever met."

That's really convenient, isn't it?

UPDATE: As noted here, none of this really matters: excuses are just that, excuses. I just find this frantic backpeddling and talking-point flinging to be really funny coming from the "Responsibility Administration" and its shills.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


So there's this article in the New York Times entitled G.O.P. Asks Conservative Allies to Cool Rhetoric Over the Court. And in this article, one guy says, "The extremism of language, if there is to be any, should be demonstrably on the other side. The hysteria and the foaming at the mouth ought to come from the left."

Oh my yes. The frantic left. Unlike the calm even-handedness of Ann Coulter, who certainly is a voice of reason. Or the talk radio hosts who are so eager to keep the national debate civil that they throw quite a ruckus whenever they're called Nazis. And never mind those Christians who just want to share their love of Christ.

Oh, also, note that Scott McClellan said, "[President Bush] said that he would hone in over the next few weeks on a handful of nominees." Yeah, that certainly sounds like something he'd say. Actually, maybe that's how we managed to hit that building full of civilians, too much honing and not enough homing.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Bush's Court appointment strategy: The fight is the whole point

There is a lot of speculation as to Bush's strategy with the appointment of a Justice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. For example, Brad Plumer in MoJo speculates that Bush will nominate a wing-nut, throwing the Senate into tizzies, before Bush finally withdraws the wing-nut, nominating a "compromise" nominee, who's distinguished from the first by, for example, raising a higher barrier to random killings of the poor by credit card companies. In response, Jeffrey Dubner on TAPPED riffs on a theme, but disagreeing that Bush will withdraw the nominee, forcing a showdown on the filibuster and the nuclear option. What's pretty certain is that, according to Atrios, the check is already in the mail: "all signs point to extremist."

I'm going with Dubner on this one, but I have a more expansive view on it than Dubner or, for example, Ed Kilgore at TPM Café. In Kilgore's view, this appointment is the big pay-off for the Christian right, the tasty treat at the end of a long expanse of being flogged like a mule for political points without much in the way of a sack of tasty religious oats on the way. I don't disagree with that, just as I don't disagree that Bush will nominate a wing-nut then try like hell to jam the wing-nut down SCOTUS's throat. But there's even more than that and to see this, draw back for a minute and think about Rasputin... er, I mean, Karl Rove.

Remember that the Bush administration has been built on Rove's "divide and conquer" strategy, provoking outrage through proxies--or increasingly on his own--while allowing the President to remain--relatively--above the fray. This nomination gives the administration to achieve both goals outlined by Dubner and Kilgore, as well as re-igniting the culture war mentality the GOP so successfully cultivated during the 2004 campaign. Directly put, the President and Karl Rove relish the upcoming nomination fight all on its own. Here's why.

Bush's poll numbers are in free fall. This goes both for Iraq in particular and his job performance in general. The Social Security and domestic policy pursuits on which Bush promised to expend political capital after the election have fallen flat (with, as has often been noted, his Social Security plan actually losing support the more people learn about it). The problem with these issues is that they're concrete, measurable, arguable and debatable. On this type of playing field, Bush has been a dismal failure.

But on the "values" issues, oh, the values issues. These let the administration take the moral high ground, at least as perceived by a distinct segment of the population, and beat their opponents with it mercilessly. Nuance, subtlety, and certainly respecting the position of those you may disagree with are thrown out the door. Terri Schiavo, abortion, gay marriage, you name it, it can be fought over. And there is no way to win any of these arguments. They're dogmatic arguments, they're argued on metaphysical bases, and they generate smoke and fire and heat and nothing of any consequence--other than the distraction so desperately sought by the Bush administration and so effectively exploited previously.

In this view, the more hard-core and divisive the nominee, the better. The arguments shift away from policy specifics, where most Americans don't back the administration, and back to shouting matches, where thuggish insult and bare power politics are heralded as defending America's moral heart from the decay of the obstructionist opposition. We'll see again the fight over the filibuster, the fight over right-wing moral values, the faux concern over "states' rights" (only an issue when conservative causes are threatened and something to be ignored or denigrated when desired, i.e. gay marraige, Schiavo, medical marijuana, and so on), the smearing of administration opponents or even those who aren't party-line dogmatists.

It's going to be a long, hot summer. Prepare for the ugliness of 2004 all over again.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Marijuana hypocrisy

I didn’t see this article when it first ran, but it was referenced in this editorial today. Now I’m as much for legalization of recreational use of marijuana as anyone. But the fact remains that it’s stupid to endanger easy access to medical marijuana for people who actually need it so that it can be slightly more convenient for stoners to pick up their weed. And honestly if you’re any kind of decent stoner, it ain’t that fucking hard to buy pot in Northern California. This is something that really pissed me off when the dispensaries first opened and everybody on the block (and you know who you are) was hanging out at the “clinic.”

Now, none of that excuses this bullshit: "We're empathetic to the sick," Pena said after a news conference held at the U.S. attorney's office to announce the indictment. "But we can't disregard the federal law."

Empathetic to the sick. You fucking liar. You fucking scumbag. Watch out, NoCal: the Feds hate you. All of them hate you. You are antithetical to everything they stand for and they are going to come down on you like Lucifer’s fucking hammer.

It's simply outrageous that all of this energy and persecution is directed towards something that grows in the ground, requires no refining, processing, or other type of extraction process to utilize its active ingredients, and is less harmful than many legal substances. But this puts the lie to so many conservatives who prattle on about government interference in people's lives and freedom and personal liberties (and a tip of the hat to those who are consistent, few though they may be). If they can't mind their own business over something like this, then they're just as interested in being all up in your business over other matters too.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Number of "taxpayers" not paying taxes increases

Check this out: The percentage of taxpayers with no income tax liability is at an all-time high. It's worth noting that just a quick glance at the stats shows that this has gone up from about 1/4 of the population in 2000, before Bush took office, to almost a third, an increase of 7.2 percentage points or almost 29% growth. I want to look into the numbers a bit more. Somewhere in there it should indicate who makes up that additional 29%. My guess is it's a bit of the very bottom, i.e. the lowest income workers, and a hefty helping of the top. But I'll try and see...

Some interesting things that jump out initially though...

  • From 1950 to 1970, this figure steadily declined, at least apparently: The data points there are at five-year intervals, so conceivably there was variation within those intervals, including the possibility of an increase in the rate. But overall the trend was down.
  • There is a significant uptick from 1970 to 1975, with basically restoration again in 1980. This tracks pretty well with the Republican administration in office at the beginning of the '70s and Democratic administration in office at the end (there was a Democratic Congress throughout).
  • There was a pretty significant increase from 1990 to 1995, about 17%, which is interesting considering the various tax reforms enacted during that period, including George H.W. Bush's 1990 tax increase and the Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1993.
  • There was a noticable, but not significant, increase in the late '90s. How this jibes with the increasing income of earners during the late '90s job and investment boom is a quite interesting question.
  • Since 2000, there's been a steady increase, not surprising considering the Bush Administration's emphasis on tax cutting.

As I said at the start, what's interesting about these figures is determining where the newly tax-shorn come from. Of course, there are other significant sources of income out there besides plain ol' income, which wouldn't necessarily be covered by these figures. But for most people below the top economic strata, other means of earning income, including capital gains on stocks and stock options, still come out on your final income tax statement, so it's still salient.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Oh my God...

In the annals of the Custom service, this has to go down as one of the most absurd episodes ever.

I mean, I wouldn't let this motherfucker in the country on general principles ("Are you fucking crazy? With that 'haircut'?"), but with a bloody chainsaw?! Didn't that tip anybody off? Are we supplying Customs agents with fucking crack or something? "Sure, get the hell in here, psycho, so I can get back to hittin' that there dang ol' pipe... give me a bit more steel wool..."

Holy fucking Toledo... I guess he's not a Ay-rab, so there's obviously no

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The handiwork of Satan himself

Evangelicals could certainly get a good start on uprooting the Devil, ol' Scratch himself, if they were to head up to Redmond, WA, and beat—just physically wallop—the evil bastards responsible for Visual SourceSafe. It simply sucks. So isn't it great, there's a new version coming out! 'Scuse me if I don't rush out to try it. They've had, well in my experience anyways, eight years to make it not lick balls. I say no more chances. I'm using Subversion at home and it's pretty sweet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The drive to universal health care

I've been an enthusiast for universal health care for quite some time. I'm going to start toting up all of the benefits of a universal health care system, as well as discussing the various forms that a universal health care system here in the U.S. might take. To be fair, I'll also contrast the benefits of such a system with the benefits of the current system and the disadvantages of each system also. However, in the research that I've done, this is a clear win for the universal system.

I'm starting this because I really need to start tracking all the times that I hear items where I think, "You know, removing health care expenses from the situation would completely change that equation." As a "for example," the West Contra Costa country school district is looking at changing the benefit structure for teachers as they retire, a change necessitated entirely by the health care costs being incurred as teachers retire. On the one hand, it's the district's obligation to live up to the promises they've made to people who've been working in some of the neediest schools in the nation for quite paltry wages in one of the most expensive areas in the world. What kind of choice is it to ask someone (as was described on NPR this morning) to make the decision between retiring now and taking a reduced pension or retiring with a full pension but receiving reduced health benefits? At the same time, the district is saddled with rocketing health care costs and serious revenue problems. The officials there are faced with their own terrible choice between funding their obligations to retired teachers and cutting school programs for children that already face cuts in just about every area of support they receive.

Now, remove the burden of providing health care from the school system. Yes, the burden would still fall somewhere, but it wouldn't be something unique to the school district. Based on the experience of other industrialized nations and some of the unique factors that make health care so expensive in this country (both of which I'll discuss more later), costs would go down for insuring these retirees, while the costs would also be distributed in a number of different manners, removing the acute pressure on particular providers.

This goes beyond just school districts, of course, and can be seen in the problems faced in pension programs for the legacy airlines (the actual pension pay is an issue there, but the cost of funding health care also factors in majorly), workers compensation programs (remove the need to assign liability for a health claim and workers comp just... goes away...), and more.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Random monkeys

So C & I are working on the Saturday L.A. Times crossword puzzle. Stumped by one of the clues, I type "sacred song" into (where I had already found a couple of clues; yeah, maybe it’s cheating, but mind your own goddamned business) I get the following response:

No entry found for sacred song.

Did you mean Sacred monkey?

Uh… no I didn’t, but thanks for the suggestion.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Bachelor recap

OK, so we went to the live broadcast of the season finale of The Bachelor. I wanted to bring my camera in, but it's safe to say that that wasn't in their plans, so... that didn't happen. So I'll just give a basic recap.

Basic recap: lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong day. Really long day.

OK, a more detailed recap.

We pulled up—right on time, I'll add—in front of what appeared to be an old public school book depository or maybe an abandoned DMV building in Glendale. This was the studio. My first thought was that the whole series had been filmed in New York. Now these girls come out here for their big night, the big finale, and they're probably expecting to driven out in a limousine to some large complex in Studio City, with palm trees and the Hollywood sign in the background and instead... they're gliding past graffiti-covered body shops and carnicerias to a book depository building in Glendale. Yuck. But OK.

So we go up and have to sign in. There's a huge line of people waiting to sign up. At this point, we're thinking, fuck this, let's just blow this off and go to LACMA and have corned beef sandwiches at Canter's or something. But we stuck it out. We finally got signed up and got our dandy bag lunch. Awesome. Peanut butter pockets and a rotten apple (Carrie's wasn't rotten, but the whole bottom of mine was rotten and moldy; nasty).

So then things really started happening. Not really. Nothing ever really started happening. But we moved from where we got the bag lunches to standing in another line. Then we went inside and got seated, so that was good. And then they did the show. So that was pretty exciting too. If you saw the show, well, it looked pretty much like that. If you didn't, then you probably don't care. Either way...

What was interesting—not unexpected, but interesting—was the gender make-up of the crowd. There were, I think, 5 men there out of a crowd of probably 150 people at least. It was a chick fest to the nth degree. We ended up getting moved to the center of the back risers behind the rose where the rose ceremony was going to be held. Our theory is that they thought it would be good to have a guy visible. As it ended up, we were pretty spectacularly unvisible, although we did crop up once near the beginning of the show.

I'm not going to recount what happened on the show—suffice to say that they really did not need to fill three hours with it—but there were a few interesting things.

First, they cheated a little bit. All of bumps were filmed an hour or two prior to the show, so whenever they were going to commercial and Chris Harrison said, "We're here live in Hollywood" or words to that effect, it was bullshit. It was like a Linda Richman routine: "The Bachelor Finale Live in Hollywood is neither live nor in Hollywood; discuss." Not a big deal, but there it is.

Second, the few times that I've seen famous people (I haven't seen that many, because they seem to actively avoid me; I'll write that up sometime), they've appeared quite different from their two-dimensional representations. Dolly Parton was probably the most egregiously weird (you'd think her boobs would dominate, but when I saw her outside Rockefeller Center one time I couldn't stop staring at the enormous five-story-tall wig on her head), but it's been fairly true in my experience. Well, here everyone looked exactly the same in person. Oh, Charlie O'Connell was a bit taller than I expected. The women looked exactly the same. Chris Harrison looked and sounded exactly the same. I wonder what that guy's gonna do when the Bachelor/Bachelorette is finally cancelled?

The really strange thing was the presence of the women's families. I was really wondering how bizarre it was going to be to have Charlie ditch one of the chicks in front of her family. That would have been massively uncomfortable for everyone involved. And, regardless of your take on reality TV, I can say with certainty that the principals involved take it seriously, at least at the time and at least in this instance. That was finessed by Charlie dropping the bomb on Krisily in her dressing room.

Eventually it was over, the Bachelor claimed his womanly prize (and she did look pretty damned fantastic, I have to say; the spurned woman was also quite lovely, which isn't a shock considering she was Miss Rhode Island USA), we were served Martinelli's sparkling cider (no way you're getting free booze out of these cheap bastards), and we were on our way. Seven hours of ass-numbing pain and no real revelations. We do, however, have another check on our list of "Things to Do in Southern California:" Been to a TV show live, check.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bachelor finale!

w00t! Got me and the li'l lady tickets to the live season finale of The Bachelor! How dorky is that?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Headlines are not scalpels

I understand the point, but if you really parse it, I can guarantee that this isn't true: Therapies Cut Death Risk, Breast-Cancer Study Finds. Most studies have found that, no matter what therapies you try, your risk of death rockets up about 100% the moment you're born and stays there. The only therapy shown to cure you of dying is death: at that point, you're pretty much in the clear.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

What is there to debate about Bolton?

From today's N.Y. Times:

U.N. Nominee Asserts His Independence on Intelligence

With a vote scheduled today on his nomination, John R. Bolton said a policy maker should maintain the right to "state his own reading of the intelligence."

Oh, ha ha!!!! If, by "intelligence," you mean transparent self-serving lies and, by "his own reading," you mean making shit up, then I guess, yeah, Bolton is independent as hell. But let's suppose your intelligence analysts say, "We are not certain that country so-and-so has chemical weapons." In response, you say "I think they do have chemical weapons. Only give me intelligence that backs up the idea that so-and-so has chemical weapons." Is that your own reading? Or is that deciding what the conclusion should be then fitting facts around it? Because one of those is appropriate behavior and one is not.

I think that it's the one that is not.

Let's take the intelligence on Cuba discussed in the article:

Among newly declassified documents being reviewed by the committee are some from the Central Intelligence Agency expressing vehement opposition to testimony on Cuba that Mr. Bolton planned to give in June 2002, at least partly on grounds that Mr. Bolton was presenting as the government's view a conclusion that Cuba possessed biological weapons, when the intelligence agencies were not so certain.

One memorandum sent by an unnamed C.I.A. official to George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, told how a meeting in mid-2002 on the Cuba testimony "quickly grew contentious when we discovered that Mr. Bolton had left instructions that we confine our comments to sources and methods issues or to substantive information that strengthened the under secretary's argumentation in the proposed testimony."

OK, that's not right. We've demonstrated, in the largest venue possible, that there can be great damage to our credibility—not just of the person speaking but of our entire nation—when suppositions and theories about intelligence are stated as facts. Uranium from Niger, WMDs ready to launch in 45 minutes, and missile tubes are just a few, not to mention Colin Powell's dog-and-pony show at the U.N. Security Council.

Now we're debating whether or not we're going to send one of the very architects of this "intelligence of assertion" to the U.N. while our credibility is already shredded. Should anyone be surprised that other countries are leery of our declarations on Iran and Korea's nuclear programs and other intelligence?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What's going on with the trade deficit?

So the trade deficit is at its lowest level in six months (since the deficit six months ago was another record, that still doesn't mean that we're in particularly great shape, but any progress is better than none). That's pretty good news and will help in a number of areas, including strengthening the dollar, which in turn reduces the price of oil world-wide.

But what I'm interested in is what exactly is going on with this. The trade deficit goes down when the amount we export goes up and/or the amount we import goes down. So part of the change is easily explainable and really pretty overdue: the weakness in the dollar should reduce the price of American-made goods, making these goods more attractive to foreign buyers. This is the "amount we export goes up" leg.

The big question is what's happening in the "amount we import goes down" category. A corollary of the weak dollar is that imports become more expensive to Americans, and the amount we import should therefore go down. That hasn't really happened until now, partly because much of what we import, in the form of oil, is relatively stable and mandatory. But what's extremely curious is this:
A drop in the trade deficit with China - to $12.9 billion in March from $13.9 billion deficit in February - accounted for a good portion of the decline... The decline in imports was most pronounced in volatile areas like drugs from Canada, and clothing and household goods from Asia. Textiles and furniture also experienced notable drops.
What's really interesting about that is that textile import quotas were recently eliminated, leading to fears that textile production in China would swamp world markets. This has, to some extent, proved correct. As noted in The Standard, a Hong Kong-based Chinese business paper, "imports from... mainland [China] leapt by up to 534 percent after a global quota system ended at the beginning of this year. "

But this has not been the case in the U.S.:
Markets had been expecting the bilateral trade deficit with China to reach record levels due to the recent lifting of US textile quotas. In the event, not only did imports from China decline for the second consecutive month, but US exports to China rose for two months in a row.
Now, as noted in the N.Y. Times article, clothing is a fairly volatile segment of the market. But the fact is that clothing is also very sensitive to pricing. The greatly increased Chinese clothing production and export of clothes and other textiles should lead to steep reductions in the cost of clothes. Couple this with the fact that the value of the Chinese renminbi is tied to the price of the dollar, which means that the increased cost of imports due to the weakness of the dollar is not a factor.

One possibility is that there has been a slowdown in textile purchases due to a glut of textiles having already been purchased in the previous months since the removal of the quotas, a not indefensible idea since we have been running record trade deficits the entire time. Another possibility is simply that this is a glitch in the trade numbers and the next couple of months will see us right back to our old habits.