October 31, 2008

This Is Victory?

McClatchy reports:
WASHINGTON — Two years ago, President Bush hailed Najim al Jabouri as a symbol of success in the battle to curb Iraq's sectarian violence. Today, Jabouri is a symbol of how uncertain that success is.

Last month, Jabouri quietly left Tal Afar, an ancient city near Iraq's desert border with Syria where he was the police chief and the mayor, collected his wife and four children and flew to safety in the United States.
Unfortunate, but at least the war was self-financing, right...?

And things are going great in Afghanistan, right?

And we showed Iran who's boss, right?

October 27, 2008

A Throw of the Dice for the Alaska GOP?

Ted Stevens has been found guilty. The conventional wisdom is that he will now lose his reelection bid and the GOP will lose the seat.

Suppose, for the good of the country and the party & in order to concentrate on the next phase of his his defense, Stevens pledged to resign after being reelected. Would Palin appoint his replacement? Would that sway Alaska voters? Could Stevens be...incentivized...to pledge resignation and held to his commitment?

Addendum. According to Alaska law, Palin could appoint a temporary replacement but a special election would be held within 2-3 months.

October 26, 2008

Bush's Economic Stewardship:
A Grudgingly Mitigative Point

Until recently, the S&P 500 has been well above its historical norm.

Which in no way excuses the spending...

Palin and the Campaign Staff

The Politico reports:
And the final straw for Palin and her allies was the news that the campaign had reported spending $150,000 on her clothes, turning her, again, into the butt of late-night humor.

"She never even set foot in these stores," the senior Republican said, noting Palin hadn't realized the cost when the clothes were brought to her in her Minnesota hotel room.
The McCain campaign retaliates:
A second McCain source says she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.
So, Senator Gang-of-14, how does the maverick stuff feel when you're on the receiving end? (Assuming you're even aware of what's going on and what your staff is leaking.) CNN:
Palin's 'going rogue,' McCain aide says

"Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic," said another McCain source with direct knowledge of the process to prepare Palin after she was picked. The source said it was probably the "hardest" to get her "up to speed than any candidate in history."
And what did you expect when you picked a low-population-state governor who'd served less than two years of her first term?

Back to the Politico:
Palin's loyalists say she's grown particularly disenchanted with the veterans of the Bush reelection campaign, including Schmidt and Wallace, and that despite her anti-intellectual rhetoric, her closest ally among her new traveling aides is a policy adviser, former National Security Council official Steve Biegun. She's also said to be close with McCain's chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, who prepared her for the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate.
That's a constructive sign. If Palin is to have a positive future, she needs to create an intellectual basis for her instincts.
I've been getting disenchanted with Palin, but, okay, I'll give her a pass about the clothes and the make-up. My concerns about her spending and her immigration position remain.

My concerns about McCain have been resolved: I flat-out think he shouldn't be President.

A Dinocrat Rarity

A bad post.

Iirc Yahoo! Finance was flogging this "issue" a few days ago. The linked Bloomberg article is terrible too. Then again, 'Hedge Funds Experience Redemptions Despite Outperformance' would be a less gripping headline than 'Hedge Fund Withdrawals Stress Market; Citadel Reassures Clients'.

It opens with:
Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Hedge funds are aggravating the worst market selloff in 50 years as they dump assets to meet investor redemptions and keep lenders at bay.
Aggravating a selloff...tsk, tsk, naughty, naughty. Record mutual fund redemptions...not mentioned.

"With the average hedge fund down 18 percent this year", you'd think that Bloomberg would add that the typical mutual fund is down about twice that, as is the S&P 500. Bloomberg doesn't.

I hope that the Bloomberg article is merely slovenly reportage and not the kind of agenda-driven "journalism" that is so flagrant this election year.

Redistribution Preview

A server at a restaurant wore an Obama tie, but he was not happy when told his tip would be given to the homeless person outside who "needed it more".

This might be an even more effective demonstration, if a legal way to do it could be found: the customer tips the waiter; then, as the waiter leaves the table, a couple of heavies waylay him, take away the tip, give some of it to the homeless guy and some back to the waiter, and keep the rest as expenses for services rendered.

Pit Bull Mike Huckabee with Lipstick?

USA Today reports:
WASHINGTON — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin calls herself a fiscal conservative who wants to "rein in government spending." She says she "reformed the abuses of earmarks in our state." Republican John McCain said during the last debate that his running mate has "cut the size of government."

But Palin didn't cut the size of government as mayor of Wasilla, and she hasn't done so as Alaska's governor, city and state budget records show. Spending in fast-growing Wasilla increased by 55% during her tenure from 1996-2002, records show. In nearly two years as governor, she has presided over a 31% spending hike by a state government that sought earmarks from Washington even as it reaped billions from higher oil prices and Palin-backed tax increases on oil companies.

Bill McAllister, a governor's office spokesman in Alaska, said the state lived through painful budget cuts in the 1990s when low oil prices restricted revenue. "There's an element of catch-up here," he said.
The rate of spending growth in Wasilla is up to twice as high as the rate of population growth.

Why didn't the Democrats cite facts like this instead of making vicious personal attacks against Palin? Maybe some Democratic constituencies perceive such facts as positives. Maybe Camille Paglia perceives them instinctively.
Paglia's Palin piece includes:
I remember how John F. Kennedy (the first politician I ever campaigned for) electrified young people and transformed our political reality, which was about to emerge from the long, grey slog of the Cold War.
Bay of Pigs. Cuban Missile Crisis. Vietnam. Czechoslovakia. Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That's a lot of emerging...

October 24, 2008

Pit Bull Trent Lott with Lipstick?

During the first half of October, the McCain campaign's single biggest personnel expenditure was for Palin's stylist.

Curious behavior for a populist. Is Palin being a dutiful soldier following the McCain campaign's instructions, or is she exhibiting a Pelosian sense of entitlement?

October 23, 2008

Fashion Plate Palin on Illegal Immigration

The Corner and View from the Right point out that she's for it. Another compassionate conservative. John Derbyshire, correctly, doesn't take excuses.

A child of destitute non-English-speaking refugees, I am strongly pro-immigration, but I am even more strongly for the rule of law[1]. A nation that pursues things like the War on Drugs but refuses to enforce its borders...well, I'll just say the USA's prospects looked bleak in the 1970s but that time we experienced a renaissance...

Enough is enough. I will do nothing to help the McCain-Palin ticket win this election. "McCain-Palin. We'll Wreck the Country Slower." is not a slogan to make me tap my precarious financial resources.

Note to McCain: Duke Cunningham was a war hero too.

Afaic this is now beside the point, but what in heaven is McCain thinking?
[1] Strongly as I am for the rule of law, I am just as strongly against a metastasized legal code choked with crimes which are little more than malfeasances of which an influential pressure group disapproves.


Addendum. Strongly though I am for closing the borders to intruders, I recognize that most of the people who are here illegally were de facto invited. A realistic decent policy should take this into account, but I'm not ready to talk about it until the borders are secure. Using the current illegals as an excuse to keep the borders open is outrageous hypocrisy in defense of the government's criminal behavior on behalf of special interests and against the American public.

October 22, 2008

Panicking is Patriotic

Liz Ann Sonders, who is Chief Investment Strategist at Charles Schwab, says a recession began in December 2007, and she sees signs of the panic selling that usually accompanies a market bottom.

The RNC Strikes Again

Mark Tapscott reports that the Republicans are decking populist Sarah Palin out in six-figure Saks finery (as Tapscott predicted, the Politico did not decline to follow up):
And then they wonder why the American people - most of whom for a dozen years looked to the GOP to fix America, as the party had been promising to do for decades - have mostly decided Republicans are no longer to be believed.
Whatever possessed McCain to turn the newly nominated Palin over to handlers associated with Bush?

But that's the Republicans. Since 1988 the pattern has been to do just enough to arouse my enthusiasm and support, and then WHAM! I was on the verge of sending the Republicans money after the Palin nomination, but this time I held off and I'm relieved that I did.

Unfortunately, this puts a bit of a cloud over Palin. We're entering a recession or--heaven forbid--worse, and Governor Hockey Mom is touring the country as a fashion plate. Is she just being a dutiful soldier following RNC orders, or does she consider the designer outfits her due?

Tapscott concludes:
Short of a top-to-bottom transformation in leadership, ethics, intelligence and principles, it's difficult to see a future for this bunch.
Look at it this way: George Bush will go down in history as a transformational President...

October 19, 2008

Ayers' Class Gets Him a Pass

Dinocrat quotes the Weekly Standard's Sam Schulman:
Why is Bill Ayers a respectable member of the upper middle class and Sarah Palin contemptible?
I've wondered about that myself, but I finally understand.

Ayres isn't a domestic terrorist; he is a nobleman gone wrong. Naturally, all is forgiven.

I suspect that applies to a number of 60s radicals.

October 18, 2008

Space Elevator

A few weeks ago, the Japanese announced they are getting serious about a space elevator. The Russians[1] may be stirring too.

Since the Japanese are currently the world's best engineers, they might pull this off.

It would probably be a game-changer insofar as the world balance of power goes. Accordingly, the USA doing it would be preferable afaic, but that's almost beside the big-picture point. What is essential is that humanity do it.

Just as during the chaos and pessimism of the 60s and 70s, the building blocks of the information era were being created,...?
[1] Although Tsiolkovsky had the original idea of a space elevator, the headline of this piece is unsupported by the text. I don't see corroboration that the Japanese will subcontract manufacturing to the Russians.

Traitor to My Class?

(H/T: Iowahawk)

October 17, 2008

Dreams from My Ghostwriter?

There are claims that Bill Ayers made essential contributions to Obama's auto(?)biography (H/T: Dinocrat).

Is there pattern-recognition software that could help to reach a conclusion? I seem to recall hearing about programs that test for plagiarism by professional authors or copying/plagiarism by students.

(It might be too late in the game for something like this, even if shown to be true, to turn the race around. It could have been a difference-maker if McCain had been running a coherent campaign instead of indulging in a series of stunts: some brilliant and others erratic, discomfiting, arguably self-disqualifying. Still, 'a week is an eternity in politics'.

I want Obama to lose, but McCain's temperament worries me and I question whether he has campaigned well enough to deserve to win. And a society that appoints a Bill Ayers to be a Distinguished Professor of Education at a state university...what does it deserve?)

Addendum. This looks like a job for a forensic linguist (H/T: Althouse commenter Pogo) or a stylometer: a courageous one, given how Joe the Plumber is being pilloried. In fact, since free software is available, I wonder if Rathergate debunker Charles Johnson is cranking away.

Addendum 20090429. The creator of the above stylometric software does not believe that Ayers ghosted 'Dreams from My Father'.

Addendum 20131203. The above link is dead, but not the post; see here.

October 16, 2008

Japan's PM : US bank bailout is 'insufficient'

Bush and his enablers got the Europeans looking down their economic noses at us. Now it's the Japanese:
Japan is sitting on more than $950 billion in foreign exchange reserves, second only to China's $1.9 trillion. Together, they control a major pool of funds that could come to the rescue of the West's severely strained financial industry. Options range from helping to provide credit to strapped financial institutions to cash infusions in return for ownership stakes in them.

Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said Tuesday that Japan would be willing to contribute to a rescue led by the International Monetary Fund.
They'll help the ignorant barbarians--for a price, of course.

The IMF (or is it the World Bank?) imposes budgetary restrictions on banana republics it bails out. Might that kind of national humiliation would give our worthless political class a clue? I doubt it.

Addendum. The Chinese, too, are sneering at us. Dr. Doom agrees:
Our new $1 trillion annual deficits will likely cause Russia, China, and the other countries who are funding our spending spree to say, hey, wait a minute, why are we funding this banana republic.

October 15, 2008

Nationalization, Not Investment or Bailout

The financial crisis has seemed too serious to nitpick about, but I won't ignore the government "investment" in the banking sector.

A number of the big banks didn't want government money, but for practical purposes it was mandatory:
Under a programme described by President Bush as "unprecedented and aggressive", the US treasury will buy minority stakes in nine leading banks including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America and Citigroup. Thousands of community banks will be eligible to follow.

Many of Wall Street's top banks were unwilling to take the money, fearing it would be seen as an admission of weakness, but they were given little choice by the US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson. In a televised address from the White House, Bush stressed that the measures were temporary and that banks would buy back the government's shares once the economy recovers: "These measures are not intended to take over the free market, but to preserve it." [hyperlink is mine, not the Guardian's--gs]
So it is necessary to destroy the free market in order to save it. Having stuck its nose under the tent, the camel will be content. Uh huh.

Intrade or somebody should start a long-term contract to see just how "temporary" those measures will be, especially with an Obama administration.

Addendum 20081018. This piece recalls that "emergency" Depression-era farm bailouts remain in place todday, and the programs have largely changed into corporate welfare from their original purpose of bailing out family farms.)

October 13, 2008

Three Words: Dollar. Cost. Averaging.

Dinocrat is relieved about today's jump in the markets, but notes:
Of course, it wasn’t until 1954 that the Dow undid the damage that had been done in 1929.
Not to be pedantic, but it took almost 3 years for the October Dow to bottom from its 1929 high. Come to think of it, I do hope my point is pedantic with no relation to the immediate future.

It's been too long since I read The Intelligent Investor, but iirc it states that an investor who began dollar-cost-averaging at the 1929 high would have compounded his money by an annual average of 8% by the time the market returned to the high.

October 11, 2008

Solitary, Poor, Nasty, Brutish and Short?
Cool! When Can We Start?

The WSJ reports how the Swiss--the hardheaded Swiss for heaven's sake--have voted plants' rights:
Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich,...recently sought government permission to do a field trial of genetically modified wheat that has been bred to resist a fungus. He first had to debate the finer points of plant dignity with university ethicists. Then, in a written application to the government, he tried to explain why the planned trial wouldn't "disturb the vital functions or lifestyle" of the plants. He eventually got the green light.

The rule, based on a constitutional amendment, came into being after the Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to establish the meaning of flora's dignity.
"Where does it stop?" asks Yves Poirier, a molecular biologist at the laboratory of plant biotechnology at the University of Lausanne. "Should we now defend the dignity of microbes and viruses?"

Seeking clarity, Dr. Poirier recently invited the head of the Swiss ethics panel to his university. In their public discussion, Dr. Poirier said the new rules are flawed because decades of traditional plant breeding had led to widely available sterile fruit, such as seedless grapes. Things took a surreal turn when it was disclosed that some panel members believe plants have feelings, Dr. Poirier says.
This is a willing return to primitivism. It is much loonier than Lysenkoism or Algorism, which at least have the virtue(!) of being frauds.

Ecuador rolls back the Western imperialist heritage:
In another unusual move, the people of Ecuador last month voted for a new constitution that is the first to recognize ecosystem rights enforceable in a court of law. Thus, the nation's rivers, forests and air are no longer mere property, but right-bearing entities with "the right to exist, persist and...regenerate."
Back to Dr. Keller:
One morning recently, he stood by a field near Zurich where the three-year trial with transgenic wheat is under way. His observations suggest that the transgenic wheat does well in the wild. Yet Dr. Keller's troubles aren't over.

In June, about 35 members of a group opposed to the genetic modification of crops, invaded the test field. Clad in white overalls and masks, they scythed and trampled the plants, causing plenty of damage.

"They just cut them," says Dr. Keller, gesturing to wheat stumps left in the field. "Where's the dignity in that?"
Yeah right, sneer I, channeling the Progressive Soul. And I bet Dr. KKKeller believes says Sarah Palin is a woman and Clarence Thomas is black.

Addendum. The Swiss Constitution is here. See in particular Articles 78 and 120.

October 9, 2008

Why Liquidation Selling?

Maybe global investors are expressing no confidence in the US government after a $150B bribe to Congress was needed to get the bailout bill passed.

Somebody should do a skit about what it would take to get a declaration of war if today's Congress was in session after Pearl Harbor.

Hopefully we won't see a real-life demo. Would these clowns manage to authorize counteraction against a Mexican incursion into the Southwest? Even if they did, would the courts overrule it?

October 2, 2008

Ptoi! on Compassionate Conservatism

Great evil is upon us, wails the religious right[1].

They brought it on themselves. Compassionate conservatism is a gateway drug to socialism.
[1] The Anchoress:
...this election has been co-opted by something dark that has too many tentacles, and too many mindless ant-workers, in too many places.
Too many tentacles? Got it:
Obama == Cthulhu
Something dark with too many mindless ant-workers? Got it:
Michelle == Shub-Niggurath
<serious>The Anchoress would never stoop to race-baiting</serious>, but here's a helpful suggestion to those who would: replace or complement the Cthulhu Mythos with voodoo and the mindless ant-workers with zombies.

October 1, 2008

Complexity-Induced Decline?

According to a Dinocrat commenter, we're experiencing "how complex and elderly social systems decay and collapse."

I've been meaning to read Joseph Tainter's archeological study of that process. Cf. Glenn Reynolds:
The bailout bill -- once three pages long -- is now the length of a novel and larded with "sweeteners."
Supposedly innovation can counteract complexity-based decline. Unfortunately, much contemporary innovation involves the deliberate fabrication or manipulation of complexity to the overall detriment of society.