Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mr. Rogers and Koko

Alright, despite this thing being in limbo, I simply had to share the video below. Mr. Rogers and a lovable communicative gorilla: need I say more?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Is There Anybody Out There?

Simple question: is this blog still worth my time?

When I started blogging, I know that more than a handful people checked out the site on a weekly basis. Since then, visits have steadily decreased. Although there are a couple of reliable readers, I'm wondering if it's time to move on.

Update -- If I do end up killing 2dollars27cents (which is a Ginsberg reference, by the way), my online adventures are far from over. I always envisioned this project as a dry run, and I'm starting to believe that my interests are more geared toward a collaborative project.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Brain Dump

Google Squared and Wolfram Alpha are inching toward the search engine of tomorrow.

Tazers don't always work as they are supposed to.

Do you know what happened 20 years ago today?

How broke is your state's unemployment fund? Propublica can help you find out.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Biologist's Dream Destination

Socotora Island seems like it's worth a visit. I wonder how much airfare costs.


Monday, June 1, 2009

You've Just Won a Brand New Car (Company)!

Michael Moore rejoices at GM's bankruptcy. Worth a read.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Holland's Dwindling Prison Population

The Netherlands is facing a different kind of crisis: too few prisoners.

"During the 1990s the Netherlands faced a shortage of prison cells, but a decline in crime has since led to overcapacity in the prison system. The country now has capacity for 14,000 prisoners but only 12,000 detainees."

Doing some quick math, the incarceration rate in Holland is approximately seven hundredths of one percent. By comparison, the rate in the United States is over seven tenths of one percent. Here's more information on the US prison system. I wonder what Holland is doing differently?

(link via boingboing)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Paging Mr. Orwell

"Wisconsin police can attach GPS to cars to secretly track anybody’s movements without obtaining search warrants, an appeals court ruled Thursday."


The Coming Long War

Always on the lookout for a pragmatic (if pessimistic) view of world events, I found this article from The Nation intriguing. Sample:

"Leading counterinsurgency theorist John Nagl, an Iraq combat veteran and now the head of the Center for a New American Security, writes that "there is a growing realization that the most likely conflicts of the next fifty years will be irregular warfare in an 'Arc of Instability' that encompasses much of the greater Middle East and parts of Africa and Central and South Asia."


Friday, May 22, 2009

The Newburgh Four

As has been widely reported, four American men are under arrest for plotting to attack two synagogues and an air national guard base in New York. Reading about the individuals involved, the picture that emerges is of a gang of uneducated, mentally unstable ex-cons, duped by an informant desperate to get himself out of hot water with the federal government. TPM has the best run down, including links to major MSM articles.

Although this is a case of domestic terrorism, I see a several parallels between the men arrested in Newburgh and the suicide bombers and Jihadi that are fighting in Iraq and Af-Pak. In both cases, the foot soldiers of terror come across as uneducated and brainwashed, not sure of what they are fighting for or against, but committed to their adopted cause thanks to a frail and often manipulated understanding of Islam conveyed by more intelligent individuals.

There are lessons to be learned from this correlation. Instead of seeing the War on Terror through the lens of a black and white struggle for freedom, maybe we should instead see it as a fight against the David Cromities of the world--men who have little to live for and an axe to grind against societies they feel have failed them.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Listen to The Body

Understanding Cheney

Josh Marshall has a great read on the so-called "dueling speeches" from Obama and Cheney today. I completely agree that, with Cheney emerging as the face of the Republican Party, maintaining a clear perspective on his legacy is very important.

"This is someone who not only organized and seemingly directed a policy of state-sponsored torture. He did it in large part to get people to admit to crankish conspiracy theories he got taken in by by a crew of think-tank jockeys in DC whose theories most even half way sensible people treated as punch lines of jokes."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Recession?

Although millions of Americans have lost their jobs since the Bush Administration left office, a select few have done alright for themselves. Money quote:

"In all, 10 of the 34 former Cabinet secretaries who served during Bush's eight years in office have registered as lobbyists or joined consulting or lobbying firms, the analysis shows. Others sit on the boards or work for industries they regulated. For instance, Gale Norton, who once oversaw 500 million acres of public land as Interior secretary, now is a lawyer in a Shell Oil division for oil exploration."


NB: Chey suggested I call this post "Crawling Up From the Depths of Hell."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Brain Dump

Maureen Dowd plagiarized TPM before TPM plagiarized me. (See here.)

Danger Mouse is pushing the envelope.

Belgian bodybuilders walk out rather than submit to doping tests.

In an entirely predictable turn of events, the political data out of Israel are still discouraging.

Flight Control is blowing up.

Buzzword(s) of the day: social entrepreneurship. Bill Dayton is also worth a looksee.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Do you know what's happening in Guatemala? It all started five days ago when a scandalous video surfaced. In the video a prominent lawyer accuses the president and his personal secretary of plotting to have him killed. The tape, which was discovered two days after the lawyer's brutal murder, has sent the country into turmoil.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this crisis has been the MSM blackout and role of new media and social network sites in spreading the word and coordinating protests. boingboing has an excellent rundown of the sequence of events.

Remarkably, I can't find anything but relatively superficial snippets from Western news networks. Here's a sampling from NPR, the AP and the BBC.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Change I Can Believe In

"Those of us who work in health care may have to look past our fear of change to accept needed reform for the entire country's good. We can be among those who promote positive changes, not those who resist them. If we do so, health care can avoid going the way of Detroit. We can be part of the solution to our nation's broken economy. And we can help the many people who are left out of the health-care system."


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some Things Never Change . . .

I don't know whether it's a good thing that I can identify with the mind that created this 35,000 years ago.

Update: Read up on the significance here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ventura Trumps Obama

All is not well in the universe . . .

"I will criticize President Obama on this level; it's a good thing I'm not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law."

That's former Navy SEAL, professional wrestler and governor Jesse Ventura. Why is he making more sense than Obama?

Update: From the same interview (speaking on the topic of waterboarding):

"It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders... "

Monday, May 11, 2009

Man of Steele

Michael Steele is becoming my favorite Republican.

First, he was forced to publicly apologize to Rush Limbaugh for calling him an "incendiary entertainer." Next, he defended a women's right to choose.

He also claimed that what others mistook for political missteps were actually a series of litmus tests, saying "it helps me understand my position on the chessboard."

Pawn, perhaps?

He also turned in a prize-winning performance at this weekend's White House Correspondents' Dinner:

Update: Putting this video in context, I want to point out that by the time Steele stands up, Obama has already moved on in his speech. You can see Steele racking his brain trying to decide what to do. It's very awkward.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Legalize It?

A new Zogby poll indicates a majority of Americans think marijuana should be legalized. Perhaps more interesting, only 37% are against. What do you think?

Update: As noted earlier on this blog, Portugal's progressive drug policies are paying dividends.

The Pig Panic

From locking up Mexicans in China to the mass slaughter of swine in Egypt, the panic surrounding H1N1 has been widely documented. A little less intense was the Afghani reaction: quarantining the only pig in the country.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Where Are the Morlocks?

H.G Wells was right! So were some of his contemporaries . . .


Monday, May 4, 2009

Van Gogh Was Framed

I've always been a Van Gogh fan, but I've also always thought of him as a bit of a lunatic. Not only did he commit suicide, he was reportedly manic, alternating between intense creative episodes and spells of deep depression. The cherry on top, however, was the story of him cutting off his own ear in a fit of madness. Now it turns out his good friend cut it off and he fell on the grenade. Gauguin was a real prick.

Update: Link has been fixed. Thanks for the pointer, CBob.

Just Another Nonagenarian

When I grow up, I want to live in a blue zone.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Start the Witch Hunt

Working in finance, I have become very familiar with the concept of benchmark performance. Because it's how folks keep score in finance, benchmark performance has tangible consequences. Moreover, with just about everyone in the business losing money, it still carries weight (unlike your 401k).

Here's the point: the current downturn, the whole debacle, is about people losing perspective. Benchmark performance epitomizes institutionalized relativism, the rationale being, "as long as I am doing better than the other guy, I am winning." Relativism obstructs the bigger picture, preventing individuals from looking beyond the immediate gain (ie, higher interest rates from structured investment vehicles) and recognizing risks (ie, that you shouldn't loan money to people who can't prove income or have no tangible assets.)

Far be it from me to assign blame for this mess. Bankers, clearly, suck. People who took out loans made a gamble and lost. I don't know how aware they were that they were gambling, but that doesn't really change things. The rest of us, well, we're all paying for it. As long as we're mulling all this over, why not talk about the real culprit: relativism. We need big picture people in charge, otherwise everyone gets screwed. Hopefully, we can get it right next time.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wine vs. Beer

A new study finds wine is better for you than beer. The real story, in my opinion, is that on average people who consume moderate amounts of either beer or wine live longer than those who do not. Cheers.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Pig Ache

Mike is already on top of this. The whole article is worth a read, especially if you are feeling a sudden urge to go buy all the surgical masks you can find.

"The swine virus does appear able to spread easily among humans, which persuaded the WHO to boost its influenza pandemic alert level to phase 5, indicating that a worldwide outbreak of infection is very likely. And the CDC reported on its website that "a pattern of more severe illness associated with the virus may be emerging in the United States . . . But certainly nothing that would dwarf a typical flu season. In the U.S., between 5% and 20% of the population becomes ill and 36,000 people die — a mortality rate of between 0.24% and 0.96%."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Phew . . .

I don't dig on pork either.


Interesting tidbits here. Is Larry Summers this administration's Bob Reich? Obama makes the case:

"[T]he fact is that Larry Summers right now is very comfortable making arguments, often quite passionately, that Bob Reich used to be making when he was in the Clinton White House."

I've always regarded Summers as someone likely to have Gordon Gecko on speed dial, and I find it hard to believe he has reexamined his laisez-faire mindset. Also, his track record at Harvard was more than controversial. If if were Bob Reich, I'd be a little peeved.

More on Summers. More on Reich.

Monday, April 27, 2009

This Will Come Back to Haunt Me . . .

Shep Smith is making sense. More specifically, Shep Smith, anchor at Fox News, is making sense:

"Everybody's freaking out and I can't really understand why . . . I mean 40 people, one hospitalization . . . whatever . . . hopefully a lot of people don't get sick from this . . . I mean there's a flu: 40 people have the flu, so y'all be careful care."

Plus, there's this, which I applaud.

Cheney '08

Ross Douthat's first column as the conservative-in-residence at the Times is worth a read. Although I disagree with Douthat's politics (with some very rare exceptions), I welcome an intellectual conservative voice at an institution that has not lived up to its storied reputation in recent years. The silver lining: no more Bill Kristol. I'll drink to that.

Another Pig-Headed Move by the GOP?

Karl Rove and other Republican heavyweights ridiculed stimulus funding aimed at increasing the country's ability to deal with a flu pandemic. Seems about as stupid as volcano monitoring . . .


Friday, April 24, 2009

Even Secessionism Is Bigger in Texas

Back in late 2008, Russian scholar Igor Panarin made waves when he predicted the United States would collapse by 2010. From the WSJ:

"California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia."

A recent DailyKos poll lends some credibility to Panarin's hypothesis. From MSNBC's First Read:

"A healthy minority of Texans -- as well as a majority of Texas Republicans -- say they want to secede from the union. According to a new DailyKos/Research 2000 poll, 37% of Texans and 51% of Lone Star Republicans agree with Gov. Rick Perry’s recent suggestion that Texas may need to leave the United States."

What's in store for California?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Obama Doctrine?

"I firmly believe that if we're willing to break free from the arguments and ideologies of an earlier era and continue to act, as we have at this summit, with a sense of mutual responsibility and mutual respect and mutual interest, then each of our nations can come out of this challenging period stronger and more prosperous, and we can advance opportunity, equality, and security across the Americas."

Easier said than done.

Future-Proof Jobs

With the future looking bleak, especially from an economic standpoint, it's good to know there are opportunities out there. As I read through the article, I was reminded of Obama's budget and his vision of education as the bedrock of future prosperity. While it's comforting to know these types of jobs exist, I also want to know what we as a society are doing to educate the skilled workers that will be required to power tomorrow's economy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Question of the Day

What's more popular than Cuba but less popular than Venezuela?

Yglesias has the answer.

(Or just look at the tag.)

Homing in on the Real Torture Debate

The United States government waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times. They waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times.

There are plenty of ways, many idiotic, to dance around the torture issue and few interest me. (The least interesting may be whether the US "tortured" or simply used "enhanced interrogation techniques.") What I keep returning to is how counterproductive this is in terms of American interests. For all the good it does to see and hear someone like Barack Hussein Obama at the helm, these stories more than mitigigate the positives by promoting extremism and anti-Americanism, both abroad and domestically.

All Catholic Dogs Go to Heaven

Rocks too . . .

Jackie Chan Hates Democracy

The article is worth a full read.

Fighting the Norm

Assuming it actually happens, I sometimes wonder how I will fee when Norm Coleman finally retreats into obscurity. If you are as eager to find out as I am, click through to, a site aimed at eroding Republican support for Coleman's endless court challenges.

"[I]f thousands of us donate $1 to help progressives defeat Republicans in 2010 for each day Norm Coleman refuses to concede, we'll reverse the incentives for DC Republicans. They'll tell Norm, "Go away!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

What's Next?

I don't think I've ever been so intrigued by the conservative movement as I am now, mostly because it's in shambles. I think its fairly obvious that the pendulum is swinging left, and I'm mostly happy about it. However, what goes up must come down, and the right is in the process of crowning its next heir. Schmidt might officially be in the running. Me likey:

"If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party," he said. "And in a free country a political party cannot be viable in the long-term if it is seen as a sectarian party."

(thanks Mike)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Banking on Change

"When the developed world gets over its bias for "printing press–era cash technology" then complementary currencies will be commonplace here too, Rushkoff predicts. He sees a future that has people literally reprogramming their economic systems, using computer networks and handheld devices to administer new forms of grassroots cash. Those currencies could be almost anything: Cash we can use only at one local restaurant, cash cards for Wal-Mart or other chain stores, babysitting dollars we can trade in our neighborhoods."

Nokia is already trying to accomodate changes like this, given the use of prepaid minutes as currency in Africa. (Needing to transfer money to family members over long distances, consumers in the developing world load their cell phones with prepaid minutes. They subsequently transfer these minutes to another device owned by a friend, family or broker who in turn exchanges them for currency, goods or services. Nokia is creating mobile software that makes this process easier to accomplish and record.)

Taking a macro view of human history, the concept of currency is a constant. The form, however, has changed in numerous ways. Thinkers like Rushkoff are forging ahead, making educated guesses at the world of tomorrow. I think he's on the right track. I would note that the article specifies that the developed world is behind the curve. Nokia clearly isn't.

Very Punny

San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi recently proposed legislation that would put the city in charge of selling and distributing medical marijuana. The mayor's office issued the following statement:

"The mayor will have to hash this out with public health officials," press secretary Nathan Ballard said. "It's the mayor's job to weed out bad legislation. And to be blunt, this sounds pretty bad."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Borowitz on the Recession

Please tell me I will never take myself so seriously that I won't find stuff like this hilarious. Money quote:

"When I graduated from B-school in '98, you could write your own ticket," said Dirk Bendelson, a veteran asshole from Stamford, Connecticut. "It was a glorious time to be a mofo."

(thanks Leenie)

The War on Sanity

I could go on and on about the so-called "War on Drugs." It's left a trail of ruin in its wake, impacting US foreign policy, domestic incarceration rates and the federal deficit. Something that particularly irks me is how proponents of the "War on Drugs" demonize alternatives, warning that the country will go to hell in a hand basket if we shift toward decriminalization. Fortunately, other developed nations are forging ahead. The data coming out of Portugal are encouraging.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009


"This is not the rigid mentality of an engineer of human souls; it’s the attitude of a community organizer."

Full article here.

(thanks Nick)

Right and Wrong Angles

When I was working for a certain, multi-billion dollar wealth management group, I sat in on more than a handful of client meetings aimed at pitching insurance annuities to rich folk. Many potential buyers asked (millionaires, generally speaking, are a pretty bright bunch), "what if the bank goes under?" Each time, my boss responded, "failure on that scale would not be tolerated. The federal government would have to step in. You'd never lose your money."

He was right.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Just Say No

Mike is on to something here.

Piracy and Economic Localization

Piracy is on the rise (see here, here and here for more.) Not only do these attacks capture the imagination, they also offer an opportunity for some Tom Friedman-esque analysis. As one might expect, shipping insurance is more expensive these days. Shippers are even hiring security consultants, and I doubt it will take long for some companies to start adding professional muscle to vessels traveling certain routes. Obviously, all this requires substantial investment, and, as is always the case, these costs are passed along to the consumer.

Here's the other angle: that broccoli that was grown in the county next door, it's not getting hijacked by pirates on the way to the local farmer's market.

Eating local has plenty of environmental, economic and health-related benefits. I say we add diminished risk of pirate attack to the list. Plus, looks like the price gap between mass-produced food and the local stuff just narrowed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Attack Shark

This is as depressing as it is poetic. I am thinking about Vonnegut:

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
“It is done.”
People did not like it here

While I disagree with the last sentiment, I think the first few lines are brilliant. Granted, poetry was not Vonnegut's strong suit.

Reality Check

Taking a broad view, things really aren't that bad after all. Of course, these guys still look like idiots.

Monday, April 6, 2009

North Korea's Failed Test

Everything I've read about North Korea indicates that it's years away from being able to detonate a nuclear weapon in the Western Hemisphere. Therefore, I wasn't all that tuned into its recent missile test. However, as a friend points out, I'm ignoring the bigger picture: the real fear is a North Korean/Iranian alliance.

With North Korea supplying the rocket and Iran supplying the payload, North Korea's test launch seems much, well, scarier. Fortunately, it was a failure.

In context, Obama's recent European tour is all the more encouraging, as the long-absent pragmatism he championed on the campaign trail seems to be making a comeback. Let's hope this is just the beginning, and that Wall Street is next on his agenda.

For the record, I predict that the President's speech in Prague will come to be regarded as a seminal piece of American foreign policy.

How Stereotypes Happen

As painful as it is, I still can't tear myself away from this vid.

See You Yesterday

The Diomede Islands epitomize the limitations and inherent paradoxes of modern life and science. The two islands are about two kilometers apart from one another, yet straddle the international dateline. Therefore, it takes a day to get from one isle to the other. You have to love that.

(thanks Sasha)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Drama at CTIA

Billy Crystal faked an injury to get out of CTIA. Brilliant. If only I'd thought of that.

As an afterthought, for how long has Leno been Crystal's understudy?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Paging Bart Simpson

I hate to admit it, but I laughed (and laughed and laughed and laughed). Mom, if you checked out the blog today, please don't click through.

Upside of a Downturn

I can't say I would be sorry to see the Hummer die. Granted, this means more than a handful of good, American jobs tossed to the wayside, but that's nothing new. Let's hope when bust turns to boom again, sound ecological thinking trumps over-consumption.

They probably aren't too upset about it, but these folks might be in the market for another pet peeve.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recession Weiners

Economy going to shit? Get rid of that second mortgage, shelve the landscaping project you've been planning and prevent future liabilities.

Strangely, I grew up in Madison Park. The author is either a high school classmate with a sense of humor (which narrows things down considerably) or a spoiled Korean girl. Could be both, I suppose.

The Ramp House

This is fantastic. In a former/future life, I was/will be an architect.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Bigger Picture

Since this economic crisis began, I have argued that we need to look beyond the exorbitant bonuses and outrage. Rather, we should be focusing on deregulation and the pro-Wall Street culture that has reigned supreme in Washington since Reagan entered office in 1981. Even the trillions of dollars that American taxpayers have funneled into the nation's banking system are small potatoes compared to the political power that financiers have amassed over the course of the last half century or so.

It's as simple as this: Instead of being blinded by dollar signs, look at who's in the driver's seat. By electing not to nationalize banks, the federal government has empowered the people who got us into this mess. Granted, this is an extremely complex situation, and I see many drawbacks to nationalization. Matt Taibbi has a fantastic article detailing this aspect of the current crisis. I particularly like how he addresses the role of financial language in the crisis and our economy as a whole. Money quote:

In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Krugman v. Geithner et al.

Krugman has a decent op-ed in the Times this week. Unsurprisingly, he hits the nail on the head at one point. Noting that Geither's plan is a good deal for financial institutions, he writes:

If asset values go up, the investors profit, but if they go down, the investors can walk away from their debt. So this isn’t really about letting markets work. It’s just an indirect, disguised way to subsidize purchases of bad assets.

However, I think this conclusion might be missing the point. After all, we can all agree that the taxpayer is getting screwed here. (Even my redneck, Limbaugh-loving grandfather agrees with Krugman on this.) Therefore, if we move beyond the outrage of it all, what are we left with? Here is where the good professor loses me. He writes:

But the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, apparently wants an easier way out. The common element to the Paulson and Geithner plans is the insistence that the bad assets on banks’ books are really worth much, much more than anyone is currently willing to pay for them. In fact, their true value is so high that if they were properly priced, banks wouldn’t be in trouble.

Is that such a crazy concept? I absolutely believe those assets are worth more than the market is willing to pay. Financial markets, as complex as they may be, are driven by psychology. Anyone who has money to invest has to be at best wary (and certainly weary). I for one think Krugman is overstating the negative impact of Geithner's plan. Roubini is in the same camp.

Krugman is fantastic most of the time, but these days he is mixing the Kool-Aid. And everyone is drinking.

About that Nano . . .

Tata has unveiled the world's cheapest car, priced at about $2.5K. Looking at this machine, I can't help but conclude that this economic downturn is a blip on the screen. Clearly, consumption is still in fashion.

If every soon-to-be-middle-class family in India gets one of these, I think Al Gore's speaking revenues have a good chance of skyrocketing. The peak oil folks have to be loving this. But hey, it does 0 to 60 in less than a half a minute, although with the air conditioning on that might be tough. God knows we all need air conditioning.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Market Mayhem

Most major world indices finished up around 7% today. I think the rally was deserved. As a good friend points out, we are still lower than we were after the Geithner/Treasury no show earlier this month. This was really a drawing-in-between-the-lines rally.

Briefly, my thoughts on this mess: the monetary policies the US and other governments have implemented are unprecedented. I'm not saying they will work and I'm not saying they won't. If I were a betting man, I would wage on the former; however (and as is often the case), these short term solutions might create or extended more fundamental problems. I guess we will all have to stay tuned. In the meantime, learn from the professor.

(thanks Turner)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Worst of Both Worlds

Despite its overwhelming support in Congress, this AIG bill is giving me a little heartburn. Josh Marshall makes an excellent case against the legislation. However, he neglects to address a major component of the bill: its impact on the economy and financial markets.

"Debating the 90% tax bill has the potential to kill TALF (and any public/private partnership for that matter) and irrevocably damage TARP. It’s a problem for TARP because recipients will repay as soon as possible even if it means massively restricting capital access and which is precisely what lawmakers have attempted to avoid so far and is what could send the country into a depression."

It gets worse:

"It’s potentially a substantially bigger problem for TALF because if you’re considering participating in the TALF you now definitively HAVE to look at the Government’s willingness to tax your profits on your TALF participation if they deem them to be outsized at any point."

As Marshall notes in his post, this bill could represent the "worst of both worlds." Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of AIG execs walking off with taxpayer money. I simply believe that complex problems demand complex solutions. This bill is pure politics. Let's hope the Senate steps up.

Note: I have purposefully elected not to cite a source for the passages above.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

He who controls your breadbasket controls your destiny

I loved this NY Times article about the Obamas breaking ground on a vegetable garden in DC and was fascinated by this piece about chickens in the Bronx.

I am also a big fan of Roosevelt/Obama parallels. Turns out Franklin and Eleanor were the last folks to have an edible garden at 1600 Pennsylvania.

Regarding the chickens: they may be just about perfect for urban living. Eggs are delicious and nutritious; chickens make great city dwellers; and, perhaps best of all, they are extremely annoying and cook up nicely (negating the guilt factor and pleasing the palette).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, Florida and Ohio. In 2008, Obama won all five states, coasting to a 365 to 173 electoral victory over John McCain.

As multiple media sources have noted, Obama has spent some time in these states since entering office. In fact, the president has visited eight states that went red in 2004 and blue in 2008 since late January. This should come as no surprise. After all, paraphrasing Dick Cheney, the primary goal of every first term administration is winning a second term. Is it therefore surprising that Obama's recently released NCAA bracket seems to reflect the political status quo?

Taking a closer look, Obama's upset picks are notable. For example, he is opting for Indiana's Butler over LSU in the first round. Not a huge shocker there, as that game could go either way. More suspiciously, Barack's bracket has #11 Temple over the Sun Devils, who are a six seed. Similarly, Barack is favoring Richmond's VCU over UCLA, who made it to the Final Four each of the last three seasons. In a swing state showdown, the President also has Florida St. ahead of Xavier; granted, Florida's 27 electoral votes compare favorably vs. Ohio's 20.

Most suspicious of all, at least in my mind, is that the President has #2 Duke (overrated) going far into the tourney and the #1 seed Tar Heels winning it all. Granted, these are solid teams and storied organizations. Still, Obama is likely sitting pretty with basketball fans in North Carolina, a state he won by about one percentage point in 2008. Conversely, he is likely not making any friends in the Pac-10. Not that that's a problem. Dems already own the West Coast.