Archive for March, 2009

Small Town World

March 30, 2009

I keep hearing commentators speculate that kids growing up in today’s Facebook world will be different, that youthful indiscretions will be overlooked because everyone’s adolescent and college years will be documented on various Social Networking sites and the naked pictures, and vomit videos will be passe.  But why do we have to speculate on what will happen in the future when everyone you meet knows, or can know, all your past embarrassments?  After all, isn’t that what life has been like for the vast majority of people since the dawn of time?  Living in a community where everyone knows what you did, a community you can’t get away from?  That’s life in a small town world.  And we’re headed back there…


Running again

March 28, 2009

After a long winter with very few runs (a dozen?  eighteen?) and a hectic last month, I finally got out running again at my new home in Connecticut.  Did a short one with my youngest, and then headed back out and did just under three.  Looks like some good running turf here and plenty of hills.  Gotta keep that cardio up.  Plus, I’ve got 5 (count ’em) CBC Radio 3 Podcasts to catch up on.  It’s me against Grant Lawrence…

I wish the Obama administration was doing this….

March 16, 2009

From Andrew Cuomo, NYS Attorney General:

Dear Mr. Liddy:

The Office of the New York Attorney General has been investigating compensation arrangements at AIG since last Fall. We were disturbed to learn over the weekend of AIG’s plans to pay millions of dollars to members of the Financial Products subsidiary through its Financial Products Retention Plan. Financial Products was, of course, the division of AIG that led to its meltdown and the huge infusion of taxpayer funds to save the firm. Previously, AIG had agreed at our request to make no payments out of its $600 million Financial Products deferred compensation pool.

We have requested the list of individuals who are to receive payments under this retention plan, as well as their positions at the firm, and it is surprising that you have yet to provide this information. Covering up the details of these payments breeds further cynicism and distrust in our already shaken financial system.

In addition, we also now request a description of each individual’s job description and performance at AIG Financial Products. Please also provide whatever contracts you now claim obligate you to make these payments. Moreover, you should immediately provide us with a list of who negotiated these contracts and who developed this retention plan so we can begin to investigate the circumstances surrounding these questionable bonus arrangements. Finally, we demand an immediate status report as to whether the payments under the retention plan have been made.

We need this information immediately in order to investigate and determine: (l) whether any of the individuals receiving such payments were involved in the conduct that led to AIG’s demise and subsequent bailout; (2) whether, as you claim, such individuals are truly required to unwind AIG Financial Product’s positions; (3) whether such contracts may be unenforceable for
fraud or other reasons; and (4) whether any of the retention payments may be considered fraudulent conveyances under New York law.

Taxpayers of this country are now supporting AIG, and they deserve at the very least to know how their money is being spent. And we owe it to the taxpayers to take every possible action to stop unwarranted bonus payments to those who caused the AIG meltdown in the first place.

If you do not provide this information by 4:00 p.m. today, we will issue subpoenas and seek, if necessary, to enforce compliance in court.

Andrew M. Cuomo

Attorney General of the State of New York

Damn right.

Health Care Thought of the Day #1

March 14, 2009

In the US, if your health costs are not covered by

  • Medicare (US Government)
  • Medicaid (US Government)
  • Veterans Affairs (US Government)
  • US Governement Employees health plan

and you become seriously (expensively) ill, then there are people working for your health insurer whose job is to find reasons to deny coverage.  Think about it.  If you are dying of cancer, weakened and distraught, dealing with the fear and worry of yourself, your spouse, your children, and trying to keep showing up at work (so you can stay insured) there is a professional out there whose only job is to deny you and those like you the coverage you payed for.  They know the system and can draw on all the resources of a multi-billion dollar insurance company.  Your only hope is that they don’t want to push it so far it causes  your large emloyer to get angry and pull all their other business.  But of course, if you work for a small company or are individually insured, it’s cheaper for them to lose the business then to cover you.

Cramer Style BS

March 13, 2009

For those of you living on Neptune that missed the rumble in the cable wars this weekend, Jim Cramer, top flight CNBC financial guy, got completely steamrolled by John Stewart, who took him to task for being the phony blowhard he is.  What is fascinating is that Cramer showed up for this.  What was he thinking?

Well, my idle speculation is that Cramer simply rolls with BS,  like so many in the mainstream media and the conservative movement of today.  I don’t mean this as simply an insult, but rather as a statement of fact when we consider the Frankfurt definition of BS: “A willful indifference towards facts and reality.  The practice of saying anything perceived to advance your immediate cause, without knowing or caring if it is true or false.”  And Jim Cramer came on prepared to BS his way through the interview.  He certainly didn’t appear to have thought about it beforehand, as he was left virtually speechless as Stewart slammed him again and again with his own words.

And Stewart?  Well Stewart is a progressive and progressives have  been beat down since the Reagan years.  None of the MSM media affords progressives the benefit of the doubt necessary for the 7 figure prognasticators to get by with their BS.  So Stewart and his producers bought their game and thus wiped the floor with Cramer’s sorry a**.  They had their facts, their quotes and had anticipated Cramer’s retorts, and so were ready with more facts and quotes.  Gong boy didn’t stand a chance.

Calling BS

March 13, 2009

Kevin Drum has an excellent post on a context-less statement by Obama.  It seems the prez said

“Today’s system of fifty different sets of benchmarks for academic success means fourth-grade readers in Mississippi are scoring nearly 70 points lower than students in Wyoming—and getting the same grade.”

Bob Somerby, among others, rightly called this out as meaningless on its own.  Kevin seems to have found the context, and it shows that this is a legitimate and serious issue (basically, because each state creates their own tests, you can’t measure one against the other, so every state claims they are average or above average, when in fact the Mississippi average is really significantly lower than the Wyoming average).

What’s really important here though is that the blogosphere held his feet to the fire on this.  If there is any one thing that turned me against the modern conservative movement in the US is their incessant use of truthiness (thank you Steven Colbert) instead of facts.  Certainly not something limited to conservatives, but they seem to have taken it beyond the pale.

If Obama and the progressives are to avoid the fate of conservatives, we need to make sure they back up their galvanizing stories with actual facts.

Oklahoma City Redux?

March 12, 2009

Chuck Norris is bloviating about Texas seceding from the union.  About how the government is becoming the “enemy of the state”.  Right wingers are going crazy talking about how Obama is not really a citizen (Seriously. It seems to depend on his mother, at his birth, realizing that her son would someday run for president and so snuck into Hawaii to get him a false birth certificate and plant the birth announcement in the local newspaper) and therefore not legitimately President.  And so his orders don’t have to be obeyed by the military.  And the drumbeat of “communist”, “marxist”,  and “socialist” pounds constantly on winger TV and radio.  It’s tempting to laugh all this off, but I remember a similar era in history in which the Republicans stoked the wingnuts (their base) and we ended up with paramilitary groups talking about seceding from the Union and the illigitimacy of the President and on and on.  Anyone else remember the Militia movement?  And how it ended?


March 11, 2009
Imagine that there was no FDIC right now.  Take a few minutes.  
So in, say, September think of how many people would have pulled their money out of their bank (or tried to) if there was no government guarantee on their deposits.  Maybe the FDIC smacks of Socialism but if the government wasn’t there we’d be looking at something worse than the Great Depression.

Never A Professional Music Reviewer

March 6, 2009

You know,  I just had a revelation as I wandered around my hotel room packing up to leave tomorrow and listening to the iPod: I can never be a professional music reviewer.  Never.  Because success in that business seems to be judged by just how harsh you can whack a song/artist/album/whatever, and I just don’t have the extra seconds in my life to waste  on that business.  I just packed my extra socks to Hey Ocean!’s “Warning” which falls into the category of “Why the h*ll doesn’t everyone know this tune and play it to death on the radio?” with it’s wicked tempo changes (hell, tempo?, it goes from Canadian alterna-rock to Carribean funk in one bar) and then dropped the underwear in the outside pouch of the old-fasioned garment bag to  Kathleen Edwards “Cheapest Key” which contains, alphabetically, the best lines in rock (“B is for Bullsh*t and you fed me some” or “F is my favorite letter as you know”, ’nuff said).  D*mn, I love music.

The bell curve

March 6, 2009

“Andrew Sullivan has a recent post on IQ. ”

That statement is only partially true.  Several weeks ago he had a post, and then it was recent, and I thought to myself that it was about time I wrote one of my own about “The Bell Curve”, the controversial book published in the 90’s about the various average tested IQ’s for different ethnic groups.  And, truth be told, I was really waiting for Andrew to mention it again (as he does from time to time as he was the original publisher of the book) because Ta-Nehisi Coates had mentioned it in passing months and months ago and I waited so long to ricochet a post off of that one I could no longer find the original on his site.  This actual post is too small to justify the procrastination (or at least it would be if I hadn’t spend a good chunk of paragraph nattering on about it), but I think the real problem was that I knew if I did this post I would have to do a post, or more likely a long series of posts, on IQ itself, which is a very interesting geek-like topic to me, and something I’ve read and thought a great deal about and so could easily bore all of you to death with.  Faced with the potential mass exodus (;-) of readers (you know who you are), I became paralyzed.  Anywho, here’s the post I should have written:

“The Bell Curve” basically boils down to this:  If you take the self reporting Asians, they score about five percent higher on IQ tests than self reporting Causcausians, who in turn score about five percent higher than self reporting African-Americans (aka “Blacks” in the early 90’s).  The rest of the book was a lot of nonsense about the CONSEQUENCES!!! of this ‘undeniable’ truth.  I’ll give the authors credit for having the balls to publish data that was only going to get thim in trouble with the culture police and shunned from polite society, but on the other hand they filled many pages with shaky speculation on what it meant, and those dark ruminations left me thinking a) they were bigots (although if the facts are the facts, even a bigot can be right) and b) they probably would probably be hailed as geniuses in any bar occupied by conservative white intellectuals and drink for free all night, thereby offsetting their ostracization from the PC crowd, who certainly can be a pain in the a**.  Oh and I should note that it’s been a decade and a half since I read the book and couldn’t even finish it so I am sure the numbers cited above are only in the ballpark.  Hernstein’s earlier work without Murray were drier but more interesting.

What fascinated me about “The Bell Curve” wasn’t the book itself then, but rather the controversy that rose up like a sand storm, obliterating all radio talk show hours in its path.  Because in the end, even if we accept all of Hernstein’s and Murray’s (the authors) numbers at face values, they don’t have any actual relevance.  Because any given black guy or white woman or Asian child isn’t affected by the average intelligence of their ethnic group.  They are affected by their own precise intelligence, inasmuch as we are affected by our intelligence at all (an over rated concept BTW).  The bell curve of the book is one with a wide distribution, ranging from severly mentally handicapped to once a century genius.  Look at it this way: I’m of Irish descent.  Maybe the Irish on average are about five percent shorter than other people (I don’t know, I’m making it up).  Maybe they are even twenty per cent shorter.  Little wee guys.  But I’m six foot one.  When I go to cram my sore knees into that coach class seat what the heck do I care about the fact that some average cousin of mine would be comfortable?