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?