Thursday, January 21, 2010

And another thing!

I forgot to mention the first thing that occurred to me when I read the Wall Street Journal article about Obama's banking proposals. Incidentally, the article I linked to earlier has changed, and a part that I had quoted appears to be missing from the current article. So to refresh your memory:

"This renewed focus on financial services reform by the Obama Administration is clearly a transparent attempt at faux-populism, in light of the outcome of the Massachusetts Senate race," said Rep. Scott Garrett (R., N.J.).
Does this congressman really believe that Obama cooked this up in less than two days? Paul Volcker has been pushing these ideas for months before Congress and whoever else would listen.
Now I don't doubt that the tenor of Obama's remarks reflect Tuesday's results. Of course they do. But the policy itself? Please.

I don't mind (much) that politicians play at politics. But Rep. Scott Garrett shouldn't insult my intelligence with this kind of stupid utterance.

Drawing the wrong conclusion

Republicans are ecstatic over Tuesday's election in Massachusetts, rightly so. But they had best not get too cocky. The sentiment in the country isn't pro-Republican. It isn't even completely anti-Democrat. It's more anti-incumbent and anti-political establishment.

Yesterday the Obama Administration was trying to claim that Brown's election on Tuesday was driven by the same sentiment that put Obama in office. That's partly true, but not the way the spun it. (They claim that it is the anti-Bush anti-Republican sentiment of 2006 and 2008 that caused Massachusetts to vote for a Republican in 2010. Riiiight.) It's slowly dawning on the masses that the governing class (both parties) doesn't know what its doing, and doesn't give a damn about the concerns of the people. In 2008 that meant voting anti-Republican. On Tuesday that meant voting anti-Democrat.

But the Republicans can't rely on only being the "Not Democrats". They may be able to win back both houses of Congress this fall with that message, but once in office people will expect them to govern. I'm still not seeing any indication that they can do that any better now than when Bush was in office. They may get swept back into office in 2010 only to be swept right back out again in 2012.

In 2006 and again in 2008 I stated that the Democrats didn't deserve to win but that the Republicans deserved to lose. Now the Democrats deserve to lose as well. That doesn't mean the Republicans now deserve anything other than what they got in 2006 and 2008.

Tuesday was a good start. Now this fall we need to follow through and vote all the bums out, in both parties.

PS Several times in the past year or so I have made the point that I don't intend to vote Republican in 2010. I still don't. For years I voted for them because the alternative was worse. Maybe it still is. But just because the other guys are catastrophes doesn't mean I want to vote for the mere disasters. I'm tired of that. Plus, even though in my local congressional district I would be voting against the execrable Alan Grayson, I can't stomach the idea that a vote for the local Republican would be a vote to put John Boehner in charge of the House of Representatives. Similarly, a vote for Rick Rubio for the US Senate would be a vote for Mitch McConnell to run things. Not a change one can believe in!

Re-elect no one. It's the only way to get the attention of the bastards in charge.

Obama proposes new regulation

... and it sounds like a good start. The devil is in the details, of course, but Obama's new proposals today sound mostly like steps in the right direction. I don't like the tone of all the President's comments today (the one's I have read in the linked article, anyway) but I'm willing to let the man have his rhetorical flourishes if the policy is good.

I hope to look at this more later, and may or may not have more comments, but I do want to point out something really stupid: the initial Republican response:

The initial reaction from some Republicans has been sharply critical, with several saying the White House is trying to hammer big banks to score political points.

"This renewed focus on financial services reform by the Obama Administration is clearly a transparent attempt at faux-populism, in light of the outcome of the Massachusetts Senate race," said Rep. Scott Garrett (R., N.J.). "The American people have rejected extreme government expansion into the private sector, be it in the health care, financial services or auto industry."
Several points can be made off the top of my head.
  1. Of course the President is trying to score political points, as are his critics. Football players play football, and politicians play politics.
  2. Big banks may not deserve to get hammered politically right now - but the banksters running them certainly do deserve it. The common perception is that the bankers got bailed out by the government, and are now pocketing the profits while screwing everyone else. The common perception is correct in this case, at least in regards to the Too Big To Fail institutions.
  3. Government has the responsibility to regulate banks and financial institutions. Currency is issued by the US government, and banks play a role in how that currency is used. As such they are not operators in a free market. Good regulation doesn't mean over-regulation. But it doesn't mean no regulation either. Clearly the banks (and other organizations like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) did not manage their affairs well over the last 12 years. And the regulatory agencies got much wrong as well. It is time to address those issues.
  4. If the banks were free operators, they should have been allowed to fail. But several of the biggest institutions control too much of the market to allow that to happen. The size of the banks means that the government WILL have to get involved if times get rough, and not just through the FDIC. Reducing the size of the largest institutions would mean that we could let individual banks fail. That would reduce the intrusion of government into the market, not increase it.
  5. Hand in hand with the fourth point, regulations could insure that separate business models don't operate under the same roof, extending systemic risk.

So for toady, right now, Obama is proposing better policy. That is new - most of his proposals have been terrible. And the Republicans are proposing bad policy. That's the same-old same-old.

Update: I forgot to mention the first thing that I thought of reading Garrett's comment. I've made it a separate post.

Ever get the feeling your government is trying to replace you?

I do all the time.

The Obama administration is preparing to handle applications from as many as 200,000 undocumented Haitian immigrants who want to live and work legally in the United States under a new immigration program unveiled last week in the aftermath of Haiti's destructive earthquake.
I understand there's a disaster in Haiti, but I also have no doubt that these people will be allowed to stay indefinitely. And that's not to mention the 45,000 or so that the Red Cross is flying into Florida in addition to those already here. Not that I necessarily believe the 45,000 number either. More from the article:
Those Haitians approved will be allowed to stay in the United States for 18 months and be issued work permits to find jobs.

To be approved, Haitian immigrants must submit proof of Haitian citizenship and must show they were in the United States before Jan. 12 -- the day the devastating earthquake struck Haiti.

Local immigrant advocacy groups say that between 34,000 and 68,000 potential TPS applicants may be in South Florida and almost 100,000 statewide. They had earlier pegged the number of Haitians eligible for TPS at 30,000 nationwide. [emphasis added]
Their earlier estimate had been off by nearly an order of magnitude? They might hit 30,000 in Orlando alone, with more than half of that coming from Pine Hills.

Florida currently has over one million people officially unemployed. (Yes, I'm one of them. So are at least four friends that I can think of.) This isn't going to help that situation. But then, it isn't intended to.
USCIS officials said they are increasing staffs at various offices and service centers where applications are processed to expedite decisions.

The goal is to fast-track work permits for applicants, delivering them within 90 days or sooner, said USCIS' Mayorkas. TPS applicants typically wait six months. [emphasis added. Why doens't the government try fast tracking stuff for its own citizens? My brother spent most of the last ten months of his life trying to get SSI. The first check arrived a few days before he died, and the government is sitting on all of the back SSI they owed to him. Another friend has been trying for months to get SSI approval for a valid reason, and keeps getting turned down - but only after months of waiting each time. Our government takes more care being responsive to the shitholes of the world (Haiti, Afghanistan, Somalia) than it does into governing America. Fucking useless bastards.]

``All applications will be treated as urgent,'' he said.

Authorization to work is a key priority for the majority of undocumented Haitians, particularly now that they are desperate to send money to relatives affected by last week's earthquake.

USCIS will try to waive the hefty application fees -- almost $500 -- to as many applicants as possible, said Mayorkas. But he would not commit to waiving fees for all applicants.

``We are aware that some people are financially vulnerable and we will be reviewing the applications with a generosity of spirit,'' Mayorkas told reporters.

Some aid group members pressed Mayorkas to also waive the requirement for government-issued identification for applicants. [Yes, for the love of God, let's not actually document anything. No doubt these Haitians will all be voting come November.]

USCIS officials at the meeting said they will consider accepting Haitian IDs after a Miami Haitian consulate official -- commercial attaché Karlo Pelissier -- said at the meeting that his office can issue ID papers for the applicants.

The consulate generally charges $30 for an ID, but Pelissier said he will check with his government on whether the fee can be waived.

By obtaining work permits with the possibility of getting a job, tens of thousands of undocumented Haitian immigrants in the United States are likely to send tens of millions of dollars to homeland relatives. [Remember, each job these immigrants get is one less job for a native.]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Announcing ...

... that in approximately five months my wife and I will be welcoming a daughter into this world. We found out the sex yesterday, and we already have a name picked out. (In fact, we've had the name for both a daughter and a son picked out for years prior to actually starting to have children.) I'm not sure I want to share the name, but I can tell you that if she were Sarah Palin's daughter she might well be called Nixon Hailstorm Palin.

And yes, K and I are very excited!

Wedding Gear

A friend is getting married in a couple of months and I've been asked to be a groomsman. I accepted, of course, and even had some helpful recommendations on how we should dress. I sent the following email:

How could I possibly say ‘No’ to the man that drove all over Hell and Creation with a half-shaved face to figure out a scheme to get me to the Super Bowl. “We’s gonna catch ourselves a feee-ush.” [*]

For the tuxes, I recommend lavender, with very wide lapels, very big matching bow ties (“It must be – the BOOOOOW tie….”), and shirts with massive amounts of ruffles. Or is the Leisure Suit Larry thing not what we’re going for?

Of course, we’d all have to grow mustaches for the look to work.

[* But that is another story....]
Naturally, there have been questions. Another groomsman asked:
Question - should the pant legs need to just barely show the white socks at the bottom?
I replied:
I don't think so. I believe they should be of the correct length. But they should definitely be flared. Not quite bell bottoms, but definitely flared.
Truth be told, I'm not sure what to do about shoes - shoes and accessories are always the trickiest part.

But just to make everything clear, here's how it breaks down.

The tux:

The shirt:

The bow tie:

The 'stache:

If we can just get the right shoes and belts....

A fun waste of time ...

The Sarah Palin Name Generator

My real name translated to Flex Gunship Palin. (I am strongly considering changing my first two names to Flex Gunship.) My wife didn't like hers so much, so I won't post that. I WILL mention that every time through you will get a different response.

Here are the names some of my friends got:

Muzzle Mammoth Palin
Pie Gallon Palin
Bomb Locomotive Palin (possibly my favorite)
Blitz Harden Palin

There are many more in the comments to the post. Check it out.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Blue Grass = Accoustic Thrash Metal

I've stated on many occasions that Blue Grass music and Thrash Metal are very similar. For those that doubt I present the following two-fer:


Wankers

A favorite show of mine over the last two years or so has been Whale Wars. It's a tale of intrepid adventurers, the Sea Shepherds, set on stopping the Japanese whaling industry from killing more whales - by any means necessary!

Well, not exactly. Actually, it's a group of dreamy young volunteers being led by an incompetent old environmentalist whack-job and liar. (South Park brilliantly parodied the show.) Mostly these guys are a bunch of "ineffectual Vegan pussies", as Not-Really Larry King called them, and they seem clueless as to their best possible strategy to achieving their goals.

For example, last season they had an extended stretch in which the Japanese whaling fleet killed and butchered several whales while the Sea Shepherds watched helplessly. While they couldn't stop the Japanese from killing those particular whales, they got excellent footage of the slaughter. It was PR gold! Put those images on Japanese television and one might actually sway Japanese public opinion, which is what really matters. (Most people would probably be less inclined to eat meat if they saw what happened in an abattoir. We're so civilized now that most of us have little idea what it takes to create our food.) But the clueless dolts didn't even realize what they had.

Regardless, the show is more entertaining than not, as the Sea Shepherds are staggeringly incompetent. Bad decisions, bad strategy, and worse execution make the show seat-of-the-pants viewing - one never knows if the SS will manage to get one of their own killed. While I don't like the killing of whales, and the scenes I described in the last paragraph are disturbing, the Sea Shepherds are little more than idiots playing at piracy. In short, they're a bunch of wankers, as my wife first noted to me some time back, and it's fun to watch them try to improve the gene pool by deletion of defective specimens.

And it's looking like the new season will be even more entertaining! The Sea Shepherds got a new skiff with which to harass the whalers. The Japanese responded to the new provocation by running over the new skiff and leaving six SSs to die in the sea - Doh! For those looking to breed more stupid people, fret not: the crew were rescued by another ship, the Bob Barker. There's footage of the incident over at CNN. There's also outrage of the news anchor that the Japanese could be so callous. True enough, the Japanese didn't seem interested in saving the lives of the SSs in the water.

But it's also true that the Sea Shepherds have actually rammed Japanese ships with their own ship (not a skiff) on two other occasions. The man in charge of the Sea Shepherds seems even less concerned with human life than the Japanese. The Sea Shepherds have also engaged in piracy (assaulting and boarding ships on the high seas) and they're probably lucky the Japanese haven't actually sent a destroyer to sink their ship. Not to mention that the captain of the Sea Shepherds has regularly put his own crew in jeopardy by his own poor decision making.

So why no outrage from CNN about the Sea Shepherds ramming ships? Well, that's obvious. Since they're on the side of whales angels they can do no wrong. Just another sign of the decline of civilization, or at least the decline of critical thinking in the news media.

Programming Note

I hope to blog more this year. From March through December of 2009 I only put up 20 posts, and ten of those were in March. Hopefully I will have more time and energy this year for a variety of reasons. At least until June! After that all bets are off....

Dominance

Alabama won the BCS National Championship Game tonight, edging out Texas. The game was actually much closer than the final score might indicate (37-21), and one has to wonder if Texas would have won if Colt McCoy hadn't been knocked out of the game. Regardless, the SEC has won another National Championship. In the BCS Era the SEC has been THE dominant conference, winning all six National Championship Games in which it competed. For those not keeping track at home, the SEC has won the last four National Championships in a row.

A couple of years ago I sat down and worked out the stats on how the various conferences had fared in the BCS title game. Unfortunately I didn't blog that info at the time. I probably left it in an email or a comment on someone else's blog. Fortunately for me someone at Wikipedia has updated the work for me in the meantime, and made the helpful chart seen below:


Besides the perfection of the SEC, three other results stand out. First, only one other conference has won more than a single title, the Big 12 with two wins. Second, the Big 12 has lost two-and-a-half times as many as it has won - five loses! Third, only one other conference has even hit 50%, and that's the PAC 10 with a 1-1 record. In other words, no other conference is even close.

One other result stands out for the truly observant. Save for a horrible call and some bad luck, the Big East would actually be 2-1 and the Big Ten 0-3. Them teams from the upper mid-west ain't all they're cracked up to be.

PS: Here's the rude emoticon mentioned in the last link:
Added: Something else caught my attention. Three of the conferences have been completely dominated by one team. If a PAC 10 team plays for the title, it is USC. For the ACC it has been FSU (a good reminder for those that forget how dadgum good Bobby Bowden was as a coach), and the Big Ten only sends Ohio State. That makes two of those conferences (PAC 10 and Big Ten) look awfully thin, at least at the elite level.

The ACC doesn't look as thin for two reasons. First, the Big East's two championship contenders have now switched conferences and joined the ACC. Second, it's going to be a while before ANY of those teams compete at the championship level again. They're not thin, they're anorexic! And the Big East currently does not have one single team that has played for the BCS title. They're not thin, they're dead!

Note that this also points out the depth of the SEC - it's the only conference to have had four teams play for the BCS title, and all four have won. The Big 12 has had three teams compete for the title, with only two winners.

All this doesn't mean that the SEC Champion should automatically be placed in the championship game. But it makes a good case that Auburn really got screwed in 2004.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Tricks played by clogged ears

I'm sick with a cold/walking pneumonia and my ears are a bit clogged up. Thus I'm hearing some funny things that haven't been said. Example: Tonight on NBC's national news broadcast I heard Andrea Mitchell say

Into the cold, the Obama family returned from bombing Hawaii....
It took a few seconds of pondering to realize she must have said "returned from balmy Hawaii." So far this has been the only upside of being sick.