Friday, April 25, 2008

Obama should drop out to highlight Hillary's dangerous ego has an article dripping with irony.

The article points out how ridiculous it would be for Obama to do what Hillary and her supporters expect him to do in the face of their underwhelming bid to win the nomination.

The article puts the shoe on the other foot for effect.

This underscores the need for Hillary to sheath her ego and put the needs of the party and the country above her own interests.

Good idea for Banks

The Economist reports on a good idea for banks.

Banks are a necessary evil, so they should be subject to strict control to prevent them from making bad situations worse.

Banks: Love to hate'em.

For the past decade, banks have managed to alter their relationship with their "customers". I place the word in quotes because that's what bank users are called, but that's not how they're treated anymore.

The banking lobbies have managed to have state laws changed in their favor. The law now reduces the duty of care that a bank owes its depositors down to ordinary care.

What does this mean? Ordinary care is the same duty you owe to someone on the street that you've never met. Banks can now treat you and the money they handle for you as if you were a stranger to them.

In the past, anyone who handles money on your behalf is legally a fiduciary to you. As a fiduciary, they must exercise a heightened duty of care and must not engage in self-dealing.

Anyone with experience knows that banks do not behave according fiduciary rules.

Banks have managed to morph the relationship with their customers from a fiduciary relationship, carrying duties of loyalty and duties of care, to one of creditor and debtor.

Banks prefer being creditors because that provides them a host of rights that can be enforced against their "customers".

These rights now take the form of overdraft fees, checking arrangements that opportunities to create charges that their set up customers must now pay.

It's high time that banks be held to account for their attempts to create debtors out of their customers.

Banks still remain fiduciaries when handling your money, despite what the law may say.

Widespread hunger can change things quickly

The Financial Times reports that hunger is on the rise in the U.S.

The American system tolerates a certain degree of hunger. The capitalist refrain of "incentives" comes to mind.

I've said it before: The U.S. needs a "New, New Deal".

Nothing creates disruptions like widespread hunger. Vast numbers of people with voting rights change the political landscape rather quickly, especially when their bellies drive them.

Regardless of whether you support the laissez-faire view of the economy or the welfare state view, ignoring this alarming statistic comes at your peril.

Recession is spreading the love.

Yesterday I posted that we're in a recession.

The States are getting hit too.

The Washington Post reports that a recession is hitting the states.

Residents of affected states should be concerned since the states will likely make demands of already strapped citizens to bail them out.

Many states have balanced budget amendments, making deficits illegal. The money will come from either losses in services, increased taxes, or both.

This is what happens when prosperity is financed with some point the bill comes due and the borrowing stops.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Well, Hello Captain Obvious...

McCain states the obvious in a story about the failure of government in the Katrina Embarrassment.

If there wasn't a time to say, "No Shit," then now is that time.

What does Captain Pander really hope to accomplish?

I'll tell you what: He's hoping to mend the fences that his predecessor wasn't even aware existed. Once elected, he'll do exactly what his predecessor did--forget the poor.

McCain should have been in New Orleans or at least on Bush's ass about the response to it, but that didn't happen because his interests were in ass-kissing the president.


Ethics shmethics. We don't need no stinkin' morals.

Good thing Domenici is nothing but an old fart ready to die or retire.

He's managed to show the electorate what sort of "values" he has. notes that the Ethics Committee gave the New Mexico Senator a spanking for his role in the Justice Department Attorney firings.

Unfortunately, the Republicans were too long in the minority. When they finally gained power, they did what most lottery winners do: They went hog wild and overdid it.

I suppose that's what happens when you haven't the 'nads for power.

Genetic Discrimination Law May be Flawed

Congress has finally passed a bill that's been stalled for the past year.

The Bill, H.R 493 (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2007), attempts to classify Genetic Discrimination as a Civil Rights violation under the Civil Rights Act.

I did a brief read of parts of the Bill and found a possible loophole that employers and insurers could exploit to gather genetic information about employees.

Specifically, Section 202 (b)(2)(B) allows the collection of genetic information if "the employee provides prior, knowing, voluntary, and written authorization;".

The opportunities for abuse abound since most employees in this country are "at will". By virtue of their "at will" status, they can lose their jobs for failing to sign a mound of documents including a waiver of Genetic Privacy.

I know the Act says it's illegal for an employer to collect such information, but if an employer does so, where will the Supreme Court will land on the issue of whether it was knowing and voluntary?

I'll tell you: The Supreme Court, as currently constituted, will side with employers, in resolving confusion on the issue.

So what do we have? A law that has loopholes, easily exploitable by savvy employers.

Self or Future? Hillary must decide.

David Broder writes in the Washington Post the same trouble that I wrote about previously in an earlier post about Hillary.

Trouble looms for the Democrats if this process isn't resolved soon.

It's perhaps time for Hillary to take one for the team.

Of course, those asked to do that rarely do so willingly. The larger their ego the less willingly do they fall upon their swords.

Democracy doesn't root well with poverty and Mugabe

Robert Mugabe and his thugs provide a prime example of how democracy, itself, is not the cure for national ills.

Democracy must be married to a history of respect for rights. It must be paired with significant investment in the process by the people who participate.

Without the proper investment in the process, democracy cannot take hold. The trappings of democracy, the voting, the campaigning and so on may be followed.

Those trappings are nothing more than window-dressing designed to fool the people and the world.

Poverty does not go well with democracy since the poverty creates great incentives to corruption.

Past human extinction risks explored

Recently published article in Live Science provides evidence that climatic change created an evolutionary bottleneck in human evolution approximately 70,000 years ago.

Scary stuff to know that we almost died out.

A few thousand people survived in disparate bands, giving rise to the entire human population.

Of great interest to me is the fact that the Khoi and Bushmen of Africa probably represent to closest living representative of what our ancestors looked like. They serve as the first branch off the modern human tree.

70,000 years is really close in evolutionary time.

Call it for what it is: RECESSION

Welcome to your recession.

The Washington Post speaks of the shrinking housing market.

This doesn't bode well for the near future. Everything in the economy is intertwined with housing.

People no longer have the credit to buy. Prices are falling so mortgage lenders won't lend considering that the value of their loans cannot be covered by the home values.

It's not looking good.

Gold prices fall

According to the Financial Times today, Gold prices have begun to decline.

When Gold rises, it usually means the dollar is weakening. The converse holds true as well.

This indicates that the dollar is slowing its decline and inflation may be slowing.

A low valued dollar is good for increasing sales of domestically produced goods overseas, but it totally sucks for those who make their living in dollars (read: Americans).

The combination of inflation and stagnant economic growth (stagflation) bodes ill for U.S. citizens. Hopefully the change in gold price foretells of smoother times ahead.

The cost of high context.

Al Jazeera has an article about the Libyans making a stupid maneuver on the U.N Council Security Council.

The Libyans have compared the Israelis to Nazis as it pertains to Gaza. The Western members of the Security Council walked out.

Here's the problem with making such remarks: The Israelis are not rounding up people to kill them. They are rounding people up and placing them on a reservations style settlement, but that's a far cry from systematically gassing millions of Palestinians.

Arab culture is often called high context. This means that hyperbole is often used for effect.

Unfortunately, Western Culture is not high context so these sorts of displays create communication errors.

Incompetence on parade.

Apparently the president has violated the first rule of making secret deals.

He now has to contend with a letter he provided to Ariel Sharon giving Israel support for its West bank expansion.

How can we disentangle this foreign policy snafu with the Palestinians without lying through our teeth to either them or Israel?

Don't put into writing what you may later regret.

Yet antother duh moment brought to you by Bushco.

Denying us the honor; denying a solider his due.

Dana Milbank writes in today's Washington Post about the Pentagon's refusal to allow the media to cover the funeral of the highest ranking solider to die in Iraq.

Milbank asserts the rationale behind the Pentagon's restriction boils down to controlling the message essentially.

Actions such as these should give us pause. If the war had more support, chances are that the Defense Department would encourage media attention.

This harkens back to photos of flag-draped coffins that became a poignant reminder of the costs of war. The Pentagon didn't want those seen wither.

What do they shield us from?

I think few Americans would object to seeing the final respects paid to a soldier who died in service to his or her country.

The Defense Department is denying us the honor, but then again that seems to be their modus operandi--no honor.

It's good to be the future King

The Washington Post talks about Prince William and his new skill set: Flying Helicopters.

It's good to be the Prince, sometimes.

Chompers abound

According to this article, my hometown of Nashville is ranked number 2 in the nation for best dental hygiene.

Way to go Nashville!

Clears up some stereotypes about the South being a haven for dentures and toothless rednecks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Score 1 for Occam; 0 for true believers

A story from Live Science underscores why the best approach to take to unexplained phenomena in the sky is skepticism.

Let's review some rules of science that keep one from looking like a complete moron when faced with the unexplained:

1) Occam's Razor - always choose the more simple explanation over the more complex. In this case, the confession of a hoaxer is the simpler explanation.

2) Confirmation Bias must be controlled for - this means that we prefer explanations that confirm what we already believe. We do it even when we consciously try to avoid it. In this particular case, one should not believe anything until the evidence has been examined. If there's insufficient evidence, stick with non-belief pursuant to # 1 above.

This should be enough to keep you from making an ass out of yourself.

Screwing the Pooch on Iran has an article that underscores how we screwed the pooch with Iran.

Our biggest foreign policy mistake with Iran comes down to this: Reacting to what they say now and what they did 28 years ago instead of what they do now.

Iran is not the same country that it was 28 years ago. To foment aggression based on old wounds is to exploit a painful past to the detriment of our future.

Iran is now comprised of a majority too young to remember the hostage crisis and the events leading up to it. These young people want to participate in the new global economy. They are ripe for the picking with our "western ways," if you will.

Iran is the ascendant powerhouse in the region. We should deal with them in a manner befitting their ascendancy instead of our current approach consisting of nothing more than jingoism and shortsightedness.

Instead of finessing our relationship with Iran, like we should be doing, we cultivate relations with the Middle East of the past--Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The new center of gravity in the Middle East has moved further east to Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Bush's reliance on his puerile loyalty to the Middle East of the past shows his incompetence. He has elevated his personal relationship to Saudi Arabia, but at what cost?

The interests of the United States do not coincide with the current administrations reliance on faltering networks and antiquated collegiate notions of loyalty.

Hopefully, the next president has a better plan than "buddying up," because continued reliance on unreliable friends and belligerence plays into the hands of the extremists.

McCain cannot rely on his anger as a substitute for foreign policy gravitas.

J. Peter Scoblic has an op-ed in the L.A. Times about John McCain's foreign policy gravitas.

Apparently, it's up in the air or at least the same as we've seen for the past eight (8) years.

I don't know about you, but I don't think we can stand any more of what we already have.

It's been such a wonderful success. Hasn't it?

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Hillary said to McCain

Tom Hayden has an article in The Nation about what Hillary is doing to herself and the Democratic Party.

Here's what I don't get: Hillary's doing everything in her power to win the nomination, but at the risk of alienating those who have never been more energized and motivated to vote, viz. the young. The young who feel empowered by possibly helping elect a president will be the same people that stay involved in Democratic politics for years to come.

This is the problem with U.S. politics today, they follow the mantra: "Screw tomorrow, it's all about now and all about me."

The ego is astounding! Hillary would rather risk giving the White House to John McCain than allow Barack Obama to win the Democratic nomination.

Maybe Hillary needs to re-burnish her Democratic credentials.

Where's the logic? There isn't any, that's the problem.

Dusting off the Benjamin Disraeli...

Sometimes politicians past offer stunning one-liners that so appropriately hit the nail on the head when we're faced with a present day politico.

George Bush comes to mind when I read a quote from Benjamin Disraeli while referring to William Gladstone.

“He has not a single redeeming defect,” said Disraeli. (Courtesy of the London Times)

Funny but appropriate.

Defection from a religion? Sounds like apostasy to me.

This article in the Village Voice, paints a picture that I've suspected all along.

Namely, that if you're searching for meaning in life from a place of vulnerability, then there will always be some snake oil peddler willing to supply you with their brand of bullshit.

Bullshit takes the form of any religion or hokey spiritualist malarkey designed to gain control over another "lost" soul.

Keep your bullshit detectors at full power folks.

Superdelegates. Politicians by any other name

With Hillary's future still up in the air, despite what her campaign says, and despite what the press says, one wonders about all those superdelegates out there.

Here's the scoop: Superdelegates are politicians. They are waiting to see the direction of the prevailing political wind.

Many are holding out for promises from the candidates in exchange for their votes.

The candidate in greatest need of superdelegate votes will most likely be the one who promises the biggest and best favors in exchange for those votes.

Who's in greatest need of superdelegates? Hillary.

The longer this goes on, the more promises superdelegates will get. The more promises made, the less influence the electorate will have on the result.

When all is said and done, the best result will be the one where the popular vote chooses the nominee.

Magna Carta still relevant.

If you think that history is the realm of boring old stuff shirts, then you should think again.

A weekly article at
Live Science reminds us how a document created over 800 years ago has relevance, even today.

Good points all.

It's rather easy to see how history moves in cycles when you look at the history surrounding the Magna Carta.

Danes beat Yanks.

The Economist has some sobering news about the best places to conduct business over the next five (5) years.

If the U.S. is going to be a world leader, then maybe we should get our act together on the business front.

Making matters worse is that the U.S. has slipped in the rankings. Maybe we should be asking ourselves why.

Welcome to the future..let's skip the ethanol and go straight to electric

I recommend keeping your eye on EESTOR.

This company has managed to excite Lockheed Martin and an electric car company, ZENN. Both companies see promise in EESTOR's ultracapacitor technology.

A recent article touts the possibilities.

Imagine an electric car without heavy batteries that take hours to recharge. Instead, the car uses capacitors, or in this case ultracapacitors to store electricity in minutes.

By adding a stand alone solar battery bank at one's home, you could easily have free transportation costs, after capital expenditures are made.

This prospect of a possible kiss off probably scares OPEC and the ethanol people.

Financial Times article predicts rough times ahead

The last time this country saw significant bank failures like those warned of here, in the Financial Times,we found ourselves entering a depression.

We're now in a recession. Nothing is on the table to correct the market's turmoil.

As I mentioned before in a previous post: Things will get worse before they get better

Scalia shows his aristocratic side.

Scalia shows his true aristocratic colors in this Courts case.

Who sides with the wealthy interests? Scalia does.

Who fights for the rights of the wealthy? Scalia does.

What does it tell you about Bush when he said that he wanted more justices "just like Scalia"? It tells you that Bush is not on the side of every day folks, but on the side of the wealthy interests.

If you are not wealthy, then explain why you'd vote for someone who favors judges "just like Scalia"?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

McCain will have this millwheel around his neck

This story in the Washington Post says it plainly.

Bush is the worst president in history.

I'm glad that I can sleep at night knowing that I never voted for this bozo.

Why the last 8 years have been wasted...

The subprime mortgage mess is really a symptom of a number of issues.

First: Borrowers took out loans they could not afford, most banking on an improvement in the economy and in their wages.

Second: Lenders created too many novel and highly risky loans to increase their sales.

Third: Our current administration took us into a war with the expectation that a war would help stabilize economy, but it didn't.

Here's the rub: Without infrastructure spending, like we had during the New Deal, job improvement and job growth depends entirely upon business creating jobs.

Business began outsourcing to maximize profit, rather than creating jobs here, so borrowers made a bad bet, but business also took their money and ran overseas. Loyalty anyone?

Further, lenders bear responsibility for their greed. They encouraged borrowers to cash out equity that basically eliminated any residual wealth borrowers had built. Now, there's no cushion for the vast majority of home owners and without another reservoir of ready capital, consumer spending has dropped and will continue to do so, making the economy worse.

Lastly, the Great Depression ended for two general reasons. Infrastructure spending (that our current administration did not advocate) and a war (that our current administration encouraged). What we learned from this go around is that war, by itself, will not turn an economy around. War, must be married to infrastructure spending.

Unless we have an administration that wisely spends money domestically to encourage actual growth, then things will only get worse before they get better.

Don't drink the Tort Reform Kool Aid

As a lawyer, I regularly hear the ideologues tell me how my profession is ruining America.

Hell, if it wasn't my profession, it'd be the immigrants, the poor, the inner city urban youth, etc.

Well, reforming the tort system is nothing more than an agenda pushed by those who don't like following the rules or civil behavior and good business conduct.

Here are the facts about tort reform.

Lawyers, however reviled they become, may be the last bulwark against the return to aristocracy.

Billionaires get tax breaks us normal folks don't...shocking

Speaking of economic incentives. It seems those poor old billionaires don't have any incentive to make money because of the onerous taxes.

A few weeks ago I had a right wing sycophant try to convince me that levying taxes on rich people creates a disincentive to work on their part. Huh?

The logic goes that it's more lucrative to work less to keep from paying taxes.

So follow the logic: A billionaire who pays taxes at 50% on a yearly income of a billion dollars would rather not make half of a billion dollars instead of having to pay taxes. Really?

I don't know about you, but I'd be more than happy to make 10% of a billion dollars ($100,000,000.00) and pay the remaining 90% in taxes than not make anything at all.

Welcome to the new ideology: Stupidity.

And yet another example of ego exceeding ability

It seems that Dr. Phil is managing to create a bunch of trouble for himself.

There's no wonder Oprah has distanced herself from him when you see his history.

His methods, although in your face, come off as him being purely judgmental, instead of therapeutic.

Now that I know his past, I really cannot fathom why he's allowed to profit from his bullshit.

Best Sex

Thank God for this research.

Now I'm relieved of the pressure to perform.

Out of Africa

Work like this helps dispel the notion that we are so different after all.

We're all from Africa and we all descend from a small population of anatomically modern humans.

Will the real Iron Man please stand up?

The geek in me finds this stuff utterly cool.

When can I get one?

Here are "values" in action.

The Abramoff Mess doesn't seem to go away.

Here's what I don't understand: Why is it the party of "values" and so-called morality, is the one being linked so heavily with corruption and croneyism?

At what point do we just pat them on the head and tell them to shut the hell up about values and own up to their self-serving ways?

Washington Post for the story.

Monday, April 21, 2008

MLK...the new face of the Republican Party...really.

Yet again, the Republicans have shown themselves for the backward douchebags ( I really love that word!) that they really are:

MLK & the GOP

How can those on the right honestly decry "race politics" when they are so transparent with their chicanery?

I'm not the smartest guy on the planet, but this takes the proverbial cake .

In my profession we have a couple of tests we regularly use to evaluate potential cases: 1) Straight-Faced Test, 2) Laugh Test.

The latter test is the worst one and the state Republicans have clearly violated the laugh (or should I say
laughable?) test with this buffoonery.

Article about local politics in Nash-Vegas

Well, our illustrious former Senator, Bill (Always call me "Doctor") Frist finds himself on the losing end of a party payback.

The local Nashville free weekly progressive paper,
The Nashville Scene calls Frist's support of a nimrod for a federal judgeship for what it is:

Confederacy of Dunces

It's little wonder why Frist and his ilk are well on their way out.

The people are fed up with the wealthy spoiled brats who've led our country into a mess preaching values they scarcely follow, unless it's an election.

The country can ill-afford more croneyism and nincompoopery than it's already endured.

Garry Shandling - The Real Jesus

Andrew Sullivan has a link to a story about how Jesus is too much of a sissy for "real men".

Sissy Jesus - Link

I guess I can understand what the article's author means when you look at the p.r. that's been done on Jesus for the past 2000 years.

Jesus has been portrayed as a blue-eyed, carefully cropped, goatee-wearing dude, often painted in soft light to attract the girls kinda way.

If you think about it, chances are that Jesus looked more like Garry Shandling than he looks like the lead singer from Creed.

Maybe it's a harder sell to a bunch of blond haired white guys to paint Jesus in an image that is more reflective of the reality.

Garry Shandling's got my vote for
Looks Most Like Jesus.

I always knew I wasn't lazy for nothing....

Well, when you think about the economic downturn, it makes you wonder what it takes to get ahead.

According to the numbers, getting ahead is all but a dream for most these days. In fact, after everyone has cashed out the equity in their homes and raided their 401-k's the only thing left is work.

Hard Work Doesn't Pay - Link

Apparently not even work lets you maintain your lifestyle.

I've been directly affected by the downturn. I can speak with anecdotal evidence on the impact the policies of the last 8 years have had on me as an individual.

For those of you not members of the wealthy elite, you should really examine deeply how the political machinations of our
so-called leaders affect you. The wealthy can take care of themselves, but those of you on the lower rungs should swallow your pride and vote for someone who has your economic interests at heart. Does it really matter that the candidate goes to the same church?

Can you afford 4 more years of what we currently have?

Thank you Harlan Ellison...

Don't you hate it when you speak with someone who has an utterly asinine and stupid view on a topic?

In America, we are constantly regaled with the notion that every opinion has merit. We are taught that every opinion has weight. We are taught that every opinion deserves equal time and consideration.

As a child, I had no argument against the forgoing. Deep down I instinctively knew something was wrong with what we were taught.

One day, I came across Harlan Ellison. He's a science fiction writer and generally a crank, but full of worthwhile insights and pithy remarks.

He was giving some opinion on
opinions (oh, how ironic...) and he pointed out that contrary to what we, as Americans, had been taught about our opinions, that we were not in fact entitled to them.

His point was thus: "You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to your
informed opinion."

Stunning elegance. Dramatic statement of the truth.

I throw this little nugget out when faced with the fall back epithet people use when they've lost an argument, "I'm entitled to my opinion."

No, you're not.


I am ever on the lookout for new information about our collective human history. The need to know of our past led me to an Anthropology degree.

To this day, I scavenge for new research that sheds light on our past.

Came across this article in
Science Daily.


Apparently, due to inbreeding, I'm related to a significant portion of other blue-eyed folks.

Confirms a hypothesis of mine: Everyone on the planet has at least one ancestor that came from a cousin marriage.

So no more making fun of the Hillbillies...

The Church - Poverty Connection

Heres a story that highlights the problems that religion creates when it interferes with politics.


Now, don't get me wrong. Religion does have a use. It serves as a social cohesive, especially when there are no other social or political structures.

But, when religion begins to have adverse social effects that are quantifiable and real, then perhaps it should be compartmentalized in a society.

The problem with putting religion in a box though is that its adherents use it as the foundation of their worldview. How do you take a foundational element of a particular
weltanschauung and "fix" it?

In the end, it must be excised or rationally examined. Downside: Religion doesn't lend itself to rational examination by those who follow it.

2nd Amendment

Well, it seems that my prediction about the 2nd Amendment case (Heller) recently decided by the Supreme Court is turning out to be correct.

I posted on back in November '07. Here's the direct link:

Apparently, some took offense and decided to make an ad hominem attack in the blog. Fortunately, others found my comments of value.

I think my particular position on the Constitution befuddles those who like to pigeon-hole people as being either liberal or conservative.

On the one hand, my views seem rather liberal, especially when dealing with individual rights and the purpose of the Constitution. On the other hand, those of the liberal camp view me as being rather conservative when I advocate for less government and so forth.

I describe myself as being a Democratic Libertarian. Libertarians find this definition difficult to swallow, but it isn't really if you think about it.

In a nutshell, I think the Constitution and the founding fathers sought to protect individual rights and that any expansion of those rights is favored under law. The government's purpose is to protect individual rights and to do everything in its power to relieve individual citizens of obligations beyond an individual's power.

Government is in the best position perform certain functions that individuals cannot. Like maintain a military stop monopolies, and generally take on actors whose power is far in excess of individuals standing alone.

In the beginning...

After much thought and a few abortive attempts to start blogging in earnest, I have committed to blogging regularly.

Perhaps now I can provide the full force of my opinion (slanted though it may be at times), insight (limited though it is), and humor (droll as usual).

It's a new day and a new beginning.