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Saturday, June 04, 2005

It's Just One of Those Weeks

Under the terms of the Geneva Convention, al Qaeda simply is not a state party to the Convention, is a terrorist group and as such its members were not entitled to prisoner of war status - Joe Lieberman

I agree with you, Judge Gonzales, to give Geneva Convention protection to Al Qaida and other people like Al Qaida would in the long run undermine the purpose of the Geneva Convention. You would be giving a status in the law to people who do not deserve it, which would erode the convention. - Sen. Lindsey Graham

Al Quaeda (sic) and Taliban individuals . . . are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. -- Donald Rumsfeld

We conclude that these treaties (Geneva Convention) do not protect members of the al Qaeda organization. -- Justice Dept. Memo to Dept. of Defense, January 9, 2002

On January 18, I advised you [the President] that the department of Justice had issued a formal legal opinion concluding that the Geneva Convention III on the Treatment of Prisoners of War (GPWIII) does not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda. I also advised that the DOJ’s opinion concludes that there are reasonable grounds for you to conclude that GPW does not apply with respect to the conflict with the Taliban. I understand that you decided that GPW does not apply and accordingly that al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are not prisoners of war under the GPW. -- Gonzalez Memo, January 25, 2002

A US judge has ordered the Bush administration to release more than 100 new photographs and videos of abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib....It is not known exactly what the 144 photographs and videos depict, but they are from the same sources as the graphic images of prisoners being piled up on top of each other, threatened by attack dogs and forced into sexually compromising positions that triggered scandal and outrage just over a year ago....Government lawyers argued that releasing the photographs would reveal the prisoners' identities, a violation of their rights under the Geneva Conventions. -- The Independent



Stem cell research seems to be the mother of all GOP wedge issues -- people like Orin Hatch don't mind whacking a few embryos if their own aging carcasses stand to benefit. But I've been operating under the presumption that the stem cell veto is a big payday for the fundies. Oh, Grasshopper. When will you learn?

seesdifferent writes:
As a physician, I would suggest that when the history of big pharma is written, it will not be pretty. One of their major crimes is the constant reworking of old drugs, grabbing a patent on some minor molecular change, and then trumpeting these very minor (and sometimes bad) alterations as the new magic bullet. It's the cheap way to go, and the profitable way to go. Their advertising methods are considered unethical by all (okay all but six people), but that's what they need, to sell these "wonder drugs".

The result is often that 10 years down the road somebody discovers that these drugs are no better and actually kill people. Meanwhile, big pharma has bagged a billion in profits, and, thanks to the Thugs liability laws, will not have to answer for it. This strategy works best for mass-produced, mass-consumed drugs which do not actually cure anything, but rather create some sort of mental/emotional, if not physical, addiction to the little bottle of pills.

Okay, enough of a rant on that. The point is that big pharma wants its own patents of cheaply researched, not very great drugs, mass-market knockoffs.

Just the opposite of what will come from stem cell therapies.

Now, what do you think happens with public funding of stem cell research labs, with the goal of creating cures for relatively uncommon conditions?

Well, firstly, the patents belong to the universities. Too bad about that. And the markets will not be mass enough for big pharma's taste. Sorry, cancer is not a mass market. hmm bottom line looks pretty bad...

Secondly, if people are actually cured, they will not need all this painkiller stuff, insulin, other kinds of drugs for the symptoms of disease, that is the backbone of big pharma. CURES=NO DISEASE=NO DRUGS NEEDED=NO BIG PHARMA PROFITS=NO BIG PHARMA.

Big pharma had the fantasy of controlling the whole embryo research thing with their own money. Turns out that they forgot about Korea, Great Britain, California....whoops...I think that big pharmas plan has failed. Massive government funding of experienced labs eat big pharma every time.

So now Bush is holding the bag for big pharma's selfish miscalculation.
You would think by now I would've figured out that whenever BushCo. appears to be paying off the fundies, it's usually a cover for something that stands to benefit big business (conveniently, anti-choice judges happen to be pro-big business, too). I've got a new slogan I like: "Cheney '08: Killing People for Pfizer." The Halliburton thing could use a little retooling.


Jingo Bells

The US Military now confirms five, count 'em, FIVE cases of mishandling of the Koran. Hmmm. Let's take a trip down memory lane:
Newsweek, in reckless pursuit of a scoop that might score the daily double of embarrassing the Bush administration while heaping more disrepute on the Left's favorite punching bag, Guantanamo Bay, falsely reported a martial toilet-flushing of the Koran. -- Andrew McCarthy, NRO

This story has been marked by two features, I think: lousy reporting, and a desperate desire on the part of leftists worldwide to believe that assertions made by Guantanamo detainees, no matter how outlandish and uncorroborated, are true. -- The Artist Formerly Known as Hindrocket, Powerline

There is lasting damage to our image because of this report, and we would encourage Newsweek to do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region, and I think Newsweek can do that by talking about the way they got this wrong and pointing out what the policies and practices of the United States military are when it comes to the handling of the holy Koran. -- Scott McClellan

I mean, it's appalling, really, that an article that was unfounded to begin with has caused so much harm including loss of life. And one would expect as the facts come out of how this story was written, one would in fact expect more than the kind of correction that we've seen so far. -- State Dept. Spokesman Richard Boucher

I think what we make of it is that, despite our review of the situation, we can't find anything to substantiate the allegations that appeared in Newsweek magazine. And we've looked at, I think, something like -- reviewed 25,000 documents, and there's no indication that anything like that happened. other than what I mentioned in the press conference the other day, one last week, where I think more -- now more than one detainee tore pages out of the Koran and put it in the toilet in protest, to stop up the toilet. But we've not found where -- any wrongdoing on the part of U.S. service members. -- Gen William Myers

Just to step back for a second, I think it was Mark Twain who said that something that's not true can speed around the world three or four times in a matter of seconds, while truth is still trying to put their boots on. -- Donald Rumsfeld

Do you know who actually has been confirmed in one report to have said that a Koran was flushed down the toilet? A terrorist prisoner was doing it! A terrorist prisoner ripped the Koran into shreds, put the paper in a toilet and flushed it, and this got reported...It is apparent that the terrorists know who exactly who their friends are and they know how to play them. The media is their Stradivarius. All they have to do is plant rumors, stories, get them published in local newspapers about how evil and mean US soldiers and troops and prison authorities are -- and, bam! The US media will believe it. -- OxyLimbaugh

Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment. But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who had been inside and released to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated. -- Dick Cheney

Newsweek Lied. People Died. -- Michelle Malkin
And now, if you'll excuse me, I think I need a bath.


Friday, June 03, 2005

Decline of the West

When I first got whiff of American Idol, I thought -- you know, this is almost it, we've almost reached the nadir of western culture. But I bet if we try, we can go a little lower.

We tried. And low and behold, just when I thought we'd pretty much hit bottom with Dancing With the Stars (all the camp of Strictly Ballroom with none of the irony, and celebrities nobody's ever heard of), along comes the search for a new lead singer for a band nobody cared about before the death of Michael Hutchence, RockStar: INXS.

At first I was going to go with Dancing With the Stars, but it looks like its sheer awfulness might turn the corner into John Waters kitsch. And while I have yet to see RockStar: INXS, it gets extra demerits not only for dancing over a cold corpse, but also for squandering the talents of someone who is genuinely gifted like Dave Navarro, who must have big gambling debts or something to take this gig. Plus we're going to have to hear all that shitty music again.

There are two things the dogs will not tolerate in the house: reality TV or The Factor, so please feel perfectly free to express your opinion and judge the sewage factor of either of these creative endeavors without ever having seen them. And if anyone else's viewing habits are not dictated by a presumptuous dog pack and you think there is something I'm missing that more clearly represents the complete and utter creative and moral bankruptcy of western culture, please feel free to let us know.


Rinse, Repeat: Wal-Mart is Bad For America

Robert Greenwald, director of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism and Uncovered: The War on Iraq is at it again -- this time with a work-in-progress about Wal-Mart, a company that not only fails to provide health care for its minimum-wage employees, it also routinely directs them to apply for Medicaid, food stamps and Section 8 housing.

He blogged about it on the Huffington Post, and I was quite amused to see two frequently-chanted urban myths about Wal-Mart being hurled at him from the comments:

1. Wal-Mart has to do these things to compete in this business environment. Wrong. Costco manages to compete with Wal-Mart and its employee benefit programs are excellent. Wal-Mart isn't doing this solely to be competitive; they are driving all the profits to the top, where CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. made $23 million in 2004.

2. Wal-Mart is providing poor people with cheap goods they can afford. Wrong again. Wal-Mart has a practice of regularly advertising a few "opening price-point" items it can lure people into the stores with, but in most overall price comparisons they lose.

Robert is looking to make the documentary participatory and is seeking contributions in the form of pictures or videotapes of how Wal-Mart has impacted your community, and how people may have fought back to stop them from coming to a place they're not welcome. They're also looking for donations to finish the film, and if you give $30, they will send you a copy of the DVD as soon as it's available this fall.

I really urge everyone to support this project in any way they can. Somebody really needs to take these corporate creeps on, and their pockets are so deep that none of our brave elected officials or the courageous members of the MSM are ever going to do it.

P.S. Don't tell my mom I wrote this. She full-on LOVES Wal-Mart. It's one of those things we Don't Discuss.


This Week in Dog: Kobe's Beach Encounter

Kobe to giant German Shepherd on beach today: "Oh yeah? Well my mom got an email from Harold Bloom this week, so you can just Fuck Right Off, furball."

Okay he really didn't, Kobe never uses profanity. He just growled. But it's what he meant.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Media Heroes Whores in Action

Well you knew it had to come. The NYT (and others) have once again appointed themselves enablers of the dissembling right, and the dialog over Deep Throat has now devolved into a discussion of whether Mark Felt was "honorable" or not. Over at the Left Coaster, Duckman nails it:
How familiar that all sounds. It wasn't the abuses at Gitmo, it was Newsweek getting it wrong that was the great crime.

It wasn't the hypocrisy of bushco actions towards GLB&T people, it was the outrage that John F Kerry pointed out that Big Time dick cheney's daughter was a lesbian that was the heinous event.

I could go on and on. But just look at this article, think about it, ponder it for a moment. Mark Felt's honor and a buck and a half might get you a cup of Joe at Starbucks.

But that was the discussion in the Times, was he honorable.

Well, let's see. He couldn't go through "channels" as those people were the very criminals in charge, like Mitchell and Grey and assorted other White House toadies.

It's revealing to note that the first quote comes from a Nixon idolator, pat buchanan. He's a snake, opines pat, an expert on snakes, having worked for Nixon, and having to look in the mirror every morning.

But what about Watergate? I mean, who cares if Mr. Felt is "honorable" or not? Does what he did diminish the gross violations of the Constitution of the Nixon White House? The dead and damaged, the broken lives, the broken countries strewn behind Nixon's paranoia and insecurity?
Sounds like a little pre-emptive action to me -- smear Felt good so nobody in BushCo. gets any ideas about Doing The Right Thing.

Go and read the rest of Honor in Deed. It's a first rate rant.


Big Pharma Has Big Problems

The better part of me applauds the high principles of the ACLU, who supported Rush Limbaugh's attempts to keep his medical records closed to prosecutors who are trying to prove he "doctor shopped" 2000 pills from six doctors in four months. Rush argues that the case "threatens the privacy rights of all Floridians." Because, you know, he's all about the right to privacy.

The not-so-high-minded part was cheering like an English soccer hooligan when the Judge laughed his request out of court.

I know it's wrong. I just can't help it.


More Bubble Trouble

Very interesting article over at BOP News about the housing bubble, where Oldman argues that the Fed is doing everything it can to perpetuate it:
How long could this last? Well for political reasons that transcend the Atlantic it would be my guess that it lasts at least another three years. Another three years since whoever takes over the Fed from Greenspan is likely going to have to promise to be even more accommodating to the bubble to sustain economic activity and because to push it into early 2009 will be the requirement to consolidate and seal the Republican hold on power for another Presidential cycle. Look for further tax-cuts, raiding Social Security, and whatever else must be done to keep the bubble going from the politicians....

It will be a more brutal ending than most people can anticipate and it should be allowed to end now before the damage wrought is too great. However for political reasons it will likely be stretched out at least through the 2006 elections and quite probably through the 2008 ones. In three years the ending of this bubble will have incredible destructive financial results, wiping out wealth not just for a few years but potentially up to a decade plus further cascading consequences such as triggering the failure of the dollar. That alas is the price of hubris, but forewarned is forearmed whether you intend to ride this bull or insulate yourself from it.
While nobody has a good crystal ball for these things, comments from the Fed today seem to support the thesis. I'd be interested to know your thoughts on the article, it's well worth the read. But I fear that Bushian economics could be leading us all into an incredible financial train wreck.

Who thought it was a good idea to trust the cokehead with the money?

Update: I'm hearing some speculation that the big push to get bankruptcy reform through Congress was because the finance industry knew this bubble was ready to burst and wanted to mitigate the hit they know they are going to take. Makes sense.

Update: Billmon is discussing the bubble conundrum this morning, as is Barbara at Mahablog.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Heroic Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward, whom I believe to be the best-selling non-fiction author in the United States, and an extremely wealthy man, did not ultimately respond to the Felt family’s entreaties to make a joint presentation of the information, because they hoped the revelation will "make at least enough money to pay some bills." Woodward, instead, left them hanging after a few conversations. According to the Washington Post, he “had prepared for Felt's eventual death by writing a short book about a relationship he describes as intense and sometimes troubling. His longtime publisher, Simon & Schuster, is rushing the volume to press.” Nice.
Sounds about right.


Book of J Discussion

It's June 1, and as promised, we're starting our discussion of Harold Bloom's Book of J. It's been a delight re-reading the book, and I'm really grateful for those who suggested and encouraged the discussion.

I love Harold Bloom. I was reading a stormy protest he wrote a couple of years ago in response to Stephen King being given the National Book Foundation's annual award for "distinguished contribution." He had also recently forced himself to read the Harry Potter books (" I suffered a great deal in the process") and he saw both as symptomatic of the "dumbing down" of our cultural life:
Later I read a lavish, loving review of Harry Potter by the same Stephen King. He wrote something to the effect of, "If these kids are reading Harry Potter at 11 or 12, then when they get older they will go on to read Stephen King." And he was quite right. He was not being ironic. When you read Harry Potter you are, in fact, trained to read Stephen King.
In adopting the conceit that the first and perhaps principal author of much of the books of Genesis, Exodus and Numbers was a woman, Bloom forces us to throw off the cultural shackles that have entombed these books and challenge our ideas about what we think we know. He is not a lazy thinker, nor does he allow his reader to be one. As he pays tribute to the dramatic mastery of the author, he forces us to invigorate William Blake's notion that religious history is the process of "choosing forms of worship from poetic tales."

So I'll start the discussion off by throwing out a few questions:

1) How do you feel about the case he presents for J being a woman? Is it a convincing and/or useful premise?

2) At one point, Bloom asks "How does one begin to read more severely a writer whose work one has been misreading, necessarily and rather weakly, all one's life? The investment, societal and individual, in the institutionalized misreading of J is extraordinarily comprehensive, since it is divided among Jews, Christians, Muslims, and members of the secular culture." Do you think that is a fair assessment?

3) I would say that Bloom's most controversial thesis is that J was not motivated to write out of piety, and that her Yahweh is arbitrary, vindictive and often irrational, "an imp who behaves sometimes as though he is rebelling against his Jewish mother." Does your reading support that notion, and how do you believe that this character relates to the normative Yahweh as he is worshipped today? (Bloom claims that Yahweh has been "safely transcendentalized" and has become something of a "gaseous vapor.")

4) What aspect of the book took you by surprise? And do you believe, as some do, that it is "heretical?"

Feel free to comment about these or any other aspects of the book that impressed you, and you are also invited to join the discussion no matter how much (or how little) of the book you have read.

I will be leaving the link to this thread on the sidebar so you can join in at any time without having to search for the post.

Many thanks in advance to all who participate.


I Guess Ignorance of the Law Actually is A Defense

I have to say I was really surprised at the Supreme Court's unanimous decision to overturn the conviction of Arthur Anderson for obstruction of justice in the Enron investigation. Anderson's defense was that they started shredding documents because they thought there might be an upcoming SEC investigation; the announcement that there was, in fact, going to be an investigation did not come until several weeks later.

According to the NYT:
White-collar cases are not akin to - and are, in fact, often the opposite of - trials involving murder or bank robbery, where everyone usually acknowledges that a crime took place and merely debate the culpability of a particular defendant....That is because a potential fraud or obstruction of justice is only illegal if the defendant acted with the knowledge and intent to commit a crime.
According to the ever-impartial Times, "In truth, it is hard to argue with the law's logic: no one should be locked away in prison as punishment for making a business misjudgment."

Hard to argue? Well, oddly, that judgment was unanimously upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the most heavily Republican-loaded Circuit Court in the country to which Pricilla Owen was just confirmed (now with 4 Democratic appointees and 12 Republican):
The jury based their conviction on evidence that senior Andersen employees told coworkers to expect an SEC investigation. See id. at 298. Andersen argues that the correct instruction would indicate that concern about possible future proceedings is not enough, and that it did not know of the SEC investigation when the destruction took place. See id. The Fifth Circuit stated that "ignorance of the law is no defense," and concluded that Congress would have specified if a narrower standard were to apply in obstruction of justice crimes. See id. at 299.

The Fifth Circuit unanimously affirmed the conviction, rejecting Andersen's arguments and characterizing the firm as a member of Enron's "supporting cast," which fell in the wake of Enron's collapse "[l]ike a falling giant redwood." See id. at 284.
The WaPo speculates that with this decision, the Supreme Court is expressing concern about Sarbanes-Oxley, the 2002 law that made it easier for government to prosecute wrongful document destruction. Well, that's great. Just great.

It's hard to see anything good coming out of it -- most legal analysts agree that although the government could retry the case, it's unlikely given prohibitions against double jeopardy and the tougher standard of proof demanded as a result of the Supreme Court's decision.

I'm not a lawyer, so maybe someone can explain to me how "ignorance is no defense" not being applicable to white collar crime is anything other than a selective class-based application of the law. It looks like the Enron Pack are going to skate. I guess it truly does pay to have friends in high places.


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Wherein TBogg Gives 2008 Presidential Candidate Dick Cheney a Lesson in the Bleeding Fucking Obvious

“For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously.” - Big Dick Cheney



Deep Throat Comes Out of the Closet?

W. Mark Felt, former number 2 guy at the FBI, has identified himself as "Deep Throat." Bob Woodward, who has long said he won't reveal Deep Throat's name until after he dies, refuses to confirm.

Felt has long been on a list of potential candidates, but he's never been flashy enough to draw the attention that Pat Buchanan or Rehnquist did. Others have believed that Deep Throat was a composit, and that would mean that Felt was simply one of many.

My feeling is that even if Felt is Deep Throat, Woodward and Bernstein won't confirm it until he is dead. I've suspected for a while that Woodward has big plans for that event that largely center around Bob Woodward, and he's not about to share the spotlight with anyone else.


Monday, May 30, 2005

When Georgie Lies, the Press Complies

If WMDs are ever found I expect it will be in my sofa, where the dogs have managed to bury just about everything else (I'm pretty sure Jimmy Hoffa is in there somewhere). But the minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials, recently unearthed by the London Times, indicate that BushCo. wasn't interested in my dogs' plans for fine furniture before going to war. According to Rep. John Conyers:
If true, these assertions indicate that not only had our nation secretly and perhaps illegally agreed to go to war by the summer of 2002, but that we had gone on to take specific and tangible military actions before asking Congress or the United Nations for authority.

Thus, while there is considerable doubt as to whether the U.S. had authority to invade Iraq, given, among other things, the failure of the U.N. to issue a follow-up resolution to the November 8, 2002 Resolution 1441, it would seem that the act of engaging in military action via stepped up bombing raids that were not in response to an actual or imminent threat before our government asked for military authority would be even more problematic from a legal as well as a moral perspective.
Conyers is taking his case to the people and is seeking 100,000 signatures on a letter he hopes to present to Fearless Leader in person, in which he asks for information on intelligence "being fixed" to present a case for war in Iraq. You can sign it here. And a group called After Downing Street is a coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups and other political activist groups who are urging Congress to launch a formal investigation into whether BushCo. has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war. They are acting as something of a clearing house for information on the effort, and you can find more about them here.

David Sirota has a good bit today recounting the outrage that Washingtonians felt about Bill Clinton's blow job, none of which seems to be in evidence regarding BushCo's blatant lies about Iraq:
If ever there was proof that these people are completely and totally out of touch with the rest of the country, this is it. And it will only get worse - the Washington Post is apparently going to run two "jumbo" stories on the Clinton lies, while continuing to relegate Iraq to the back pages. Because to insulated Beltway elites, lying about a personal sex scandal is more offensive than American troops dying for a pack of lies in Iraq.
The dogs have said that if you write your Congressperson and tell them to put the wood to this one they promise to release Judge Crater.


Universal Health Care -- Brought To You By Exxon-Mobil

A recent article in the NYT announces that a variety of groups has banded together, including the AMA, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, The AFL/CIO and other labor unions, as well as members of Big Pharma to urge federal policymakers to take a "pragmatic approach" and take "incremental steps" to address the health care crisis in the US.

Talk about a deal with the devil.

Over at the Mahablog, Barbara says:
I've long believed that, someday, there'd be a tipping point.  Someday, when a big-enough chunk of middle-class Americans began to worry about their own access to health care, then people would listen. We'd be able to get past the noise about waiting lines in Canada and persuade Americans we don't have to put up with this.
But I think others correctly point out that government does not generally respond to public opinion, it acts when Big Business tells it to act. While many would argue that General Motors is suffering because of a complete lack of corporate responsiveness to what consumers want, they think they're being crippled by health care costs. Companies who traditionally pay health care benefits feel they are being hamstrung when they have to compete with the bottom lines generated by monoliths like WalMart who let taxpayers and public social services pick up all their health care expenses.

When BushCo. started banging the drum to privatize social security, my brother-in-law made an interesting observation to the effect that what the program REALLY needed was a big middle man akin to the role played by insurance companies in the health care industry. Basically a huge chunk of every dollar spent on health care in this country is being skimmed by people whose only job is to shuffle paperwork and reject coverage for all but the healthy. And there is absolutely, positively nothing "incremental" that can fix that.

In the end, we'll all have universal health care when GM decides we will. But if policy is being dictated by people who are largely responsible for the problem in the first place, expect the price tag to be enormous and any benefit to the public incidental.

(photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

I keep having the same conversation over and over again these days questioning the existence of a real estate bubble, and when -- and if -- it will burst. The short answer is, of course, that I have absolutely no idea. But periodically I read interesting things in the blog world on the subject, and the sage Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture has several articles recently worth reading.

Barry notes that the most dangerous factor in all of this is not that interest rates will rise, so much as people will become unemployed and not be able to service their debt:
It's not the leverage, but the ability to service the debt that causes problems. A potentially negative scenario is the Fed tightens too far, inducing a recession. Something else goes wrong - theoretically, China stops buying our Treasuries, and that forces the Fed to become a buyer of last resort (think Bernanke's printing press). Next thing you know, we have hyperinflation, large-scale unemployment, and a housing market off 50%."
He then goes on to cite statistics which demonstrate that from 2001 to April 2005, an astonishing 43% of all private sector jobs created have been housing related. But after the Fed started raising interest rates in June 2004, real estate-related job creation plummeted 68.2%. The implications are not good:
Barring a sudden rise in organic job creation over the next 6 to 9 months, this cycle will have run its course -- my guess is late 2005/early 2006.
Elsewhere, he compares the present housing market to the stock speculation of the late 90s. He notes that the stock markets peaked when their valuation equaled 140% of GDP, which is right where the real estate market is now:

He then goes on to quote the work of Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg on the topic:
As David observes, a good rule-of-thumb is "to be wary when anything begins to approach or exceed 140% of GDP." (We assume that includes the New York Yankees' payroll.) He ticks off the various arguments bulls cite as explanation for the great surge in housing and house prices (the latter, incidentally, rose a tidy 11% last year), such as low interest rates, the availability of credit, demographic pressures, a rising tide of immigration -- but remains skeptical.

He points out that "much of the move in real-estate valuation has not been due to income generation, per se, but rather due to loose financial-market conditions and an increasing level of exuberance."

He confesses that he gets "nervous when we see things move parabolically north because no asset class at any time ever failed to mean-revert after such an upside move." And, while acknowledging he has been bearish on housing for a spell now, points out that just because a bubble "hasn't burst doesn't mean it doesn't exist."

Warns David, "bubbles and baths usually go together." And so, we might add, do burst bubbles and tears.
One of the more interesting speculations I heard (and I don't remember where it came from) attributed Bush's big push to privatize Social Security to an attempt to infuse the stock markets with a lot of cash and thus create another bubble to take the place of the housing bubble (okay, Barry, "extended asset class") that will most certainly burst. It certainly makes sense, in a self-sabotaging Bushian economic sort of way.

I'm curious to know what everyone thinks. I realize it won't generate the heated debate that speculation about what's tattooed on Michael Jackson's gonads most certainly will, but since we're all going to be affected by it I'd like to know what plans, if any, you're making for whatever eventuality you foresee.

(photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Danica Patrick Rocks the House at Indy

Danica suggests the real reason why Robby is afraid of losing to a girl.

- Dave at 100 Monkeys Typing (via TBogg)

Update: Robby Gordon sure knows how to back his mouth up with results -- he SUCKED ASS and finished 27th today in the Coca Cola 600. There was not a woman in sight.


Robby Gordon is a Big Fat Cry-Baby, and You Can Tell Him I Said So

If your family doesn't have much overlap between the categories of "cousin" and "in-laws," you might be at a bit of a disadvantage watching today's Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600. In my family staring at cars as they drive around in circles for hours on end is always welcomed as an activity not usually involving gunfire, although until someone crashes it's only slightly more interesting than watching my Cousin Ronald's gun vault sink slowly through the floorboards of the living room and into the basement.

Anyway, one of the notable events this year at Indy is the 4th-place qualifying spot won by Danica Patrick, only the fourth woman ever to start at Indy. She very nearly finished first save for a slight wobble during practice, which would've given her pole position.

Veteran driver Robby Gordon, however, is not exactly overflowing with good sportsmanship, and thinks that the only reason Patrick qualified so high is because of her unfair weight advantage.

"The lighter the car, the faster it goes," Gordon said. "Do the math. Put her in the car at her weight, then put me or Tony Stewart in the car at 200 pounds and our car is at least 100 pounds heavier."

"I won't race against her until the IRL does something to take that advantage away."

Oh where do we start.

Robby Gordon is a bloated egomaniac of Trumpian proportions who races both Indy and NASCAR, and in four previous years he's pulled the superb publicity stunt each Memorial Day of racing at Indy, then jumping in a helicopter, flying to Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte and racing the Coca-Cola 600.

In almost every race, he stunk up the track:

1997 - Indy 29, Coke 41; 2002 - Indy 8, Coke 16; 2003 Indy 22, Coke 17; 2004 - Indy 29, Coca Cola 20.

This year has been particularly hard. As a co-owner of Robby Gordon Motorsports, he was fined $50,000 and docked 25 championship points, the most severe penalty for violations at Daytona, for an unapproved intake manifold. Then in April, he was fined $5,000 at Martinsville when inspectors found an unapproved deck lid.

As one fan site puts it:
These modifications are the steroids of NASCAR, tempting because of the high stakes and possibilities of improved performance. Let’s make sure the winners win because of driving skill, not because of performance enhancements that got past the inspectors.
Gordon hasn't had a win on either circuit this year. As another commentator noted, "Robby Gordon comes to mind as one of the biggest losers so far this season."

So instead of saying "you know what, I should just focus on winning one race rather than screwing up two in an expensive annual publicity stunt," he blames his pull-out on the girl. Classy. Face it, lardo -- they pushed back the start time at Indy this year just so it became virtually impossible for people like you and Tony Stewart to race both. Tony Kanaan, who qualified first at Indy and is the odds-on favorite to win, weighs 145 lbs. Let's see you stop shoveling cheeseburgers into your mouth and stick your face in front of a camera and tell everyone the reason he's kicking your ass is because of his weight.

Some asshole is always screaming that women shouldn't be able to to this or shouldn't be able to do that because we're smaller, lighter, have less upper body strength, blah blah blah. Finally our smaller size works to our advantage, and some new asshole has to come shrieking out of a vast wasteland of bungled fraud and incompetence to excuse his own ineptitude by saying that advantage is unfair. Because, you know, making illegal modifications to your car is just what -- good sportsmanship? Here, Robby. Have some more bacon fat to go with those biscuits and gravy.

Even the faithful aren't buying it:
Weight is simply one tiny factor in the complex speed puzzle that encompasses everything from chassis-engine combination to the direction of the wind. She has a first-rate team, a fast car and phenomenal skill at the wheel.

Weight also is less of a factor at Indy, where a driver is flat on the throttle much of the day, than it would be on a road course, with all its accelerating and hard braking.
Danica Patrick is driving really well. Robby Gordon is a whiny little bitch. And if driver weight is so important, his tellingly porcine visage indicates that the IRL aren't the ones who need to get to work.

Update: With 23 laps to go Danica's in first place. I swear to God, no shit I'm in tears.

Update 2: Finishing Indy in 4th as a rookie. That's fucking awesome. As noted automotive writer John Pearley Huffman says, "An amazing run for Danica Patrick. Epic. She blew a pit stop and knocked off her nose and still challenges for the win. An unbelieavable feat."