Thursday, August 30, 2007


Courtesy of Hedgehog Report

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Death of the Two Party System

While the party system isn't dead, it is on life support.

A political party derives it power essentially in two ways: controlling both the nominating process and the money. The latter has been consistently weakened over the years. While rule changes have definitely hastened party control of the money, it is advancement of society which has cemented it. Candidates can now appeal directly to the people for money and the average American has more cash to give.

Party control of the nominating process has also been weakened in recent history, but it is now approaching code red. The Democratic party has already taken away Florida's delegate votes and now the Republican party is threatening to do the same to Florida, New Hampshire, Wyoming Michigan, and South Carolina (here). Essentially the system is in chaos.

The party may stave off this attempt but in the long run they will lose. If every state moves their primary forward will they take away all delegates? No. They can only hold the line temporarily. Also the party cannot control the Ned Lamonts and Steve Laffeys (Rhode Island) of the world from mounting primary challenges. Voter turn out in primaries have shrunk along with party enrollment making the primary electorates sufficiently extreme and polarized group to open the Lamont window.

How will this play out in the long run? Third parties will proliferate. The long run may be 50+ years, but in the end the two party system will crumble. A lot must happen to get there including loosening ballot access restrictions, redrawing ultra-gerrymandered districts, and a reversal of Buckley v Veleo (this limited individual contributions to candidates), but it is only a matter of time.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ocular Penetration Act of 2007

This is a wonderfully eloquent speech delivered on the floor of the house. Due to the level of pitched emotional oratory you probably should keep the volume low around delicate ears.

Live From Congress: The Skull Fucking Bill Of 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Banana Republic

The trial of Lt. Col. Steven Jordan is a joke. He is being tried for what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. It is too crazy a story to recount here but you should read it HERE.

It seems that the military brass has come to the conclusion that they have to bring some high ranking officer to trial for Abu Ghraib to silence critics. They found their goat in Lt. Col. Jordan. Regardless of what you think of him being tried, if there is a trial it should be real.

The prosecution called witnesses that sided with the defense and the judge shushed the prosecution in odd fashion. That is on top of the oh-so-convenient revelation that the Lt. Col. was never read his rights.

This is a sad day in the history of law.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Right to Violent Video Games Upheld

According to the NYT here, courts around the country are protecting the right of minors to purchase violent video games.

This is good news for a couple of reasons. First, the government should not be telling parents what their children can and cannot consume. The anti-video game laws would make sense if there were hoards of children invading video game stores and bringing them home to their parent less abodes. The reality is that they may be able to buy the game without their parents, but they cannot play it without parental supervision. Maybe there are some kids sneaking their television and xbox into a dark alley to play but in most cases their parents know exactly where they are and what they are doing when they are playing. Mom and Dad can easily pull the plug. Lazy parents should not be allowed to abdicate their duties to a government for convenience sake.

Secondly, kids cannot be shielded from life. Maybe someday the government can turn us all into bubble boys but until then it doesn't make sense to nuder every kid in the name of "safety" or other undefined lofty goal. In the words of the Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals...

“Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low,” he wrote. “It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it.”

Quixotic is a good explanation. He also said that if an outlaw of violence is constitutional then it must logically extend to books such as "The Odyssey" and "War and Peace". A slippery slope.

In the end it is simply a populist knee jerk reaction to a minor issue. Makes good headlines that politicians crave.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Headline of the Year

"Bears Eat Man at Beer Festival"

This headline via CNN contains everything one could want: Bears, Bears eating people, beer, and a festival. I'll call it a headline novel. A headline that can be turned into a novel, or maybe a good story in the ADD media (Read: Maxim etc.).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rove employs the only strategy that will put a Republican in the White House: defeat Hillary in the primary!

Assuming Bloomberg does not run, there is no doubt in my mind that Hillary is the next president.

While my opinion and a dollar will get you a can of coke, somebody more important agrees with me: Carl Rove.

Why else would he attack her here? He either believes that Republicans should somehow ensure her defeat in the primary, or that she must be battered from now until Nov. 08. The former is most likely true because I don't see how saying she is unelectable will get Republicans to run to the polls to vote against her. I do see how Democrats may take a second look if they believe she can't win in the general election.

Making Democratic primary voters believe she is unelectable is essentially the only way she does not become the next president. Her 'negatives' which Rove (and every other Republican that has no other rational) cites are only a useful stat if there is an opponent. If Sam Brownback becomes the nominee does that matter? No. Who else could compete? Romney? No. Thompson? No. Gingrich? Hell no. McCain? Maybe, but he can't win the primary.

Secondly, Hillary cannot be attacked like a John Kerry. She is the first woman in the history of our country to have any chance whatsoever of becoming president. You will see a sizable backlash from Independents and women who don't necessarily like her when the campaign gets dirty. Therefore, Republicans will not be able to capitalize effectively on her vaunted negatives.

If Rudy is the nominee i would be willing to make a sizable wager that she wins, if anybody else is nominated i will bet everything i own on her.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Unmanned Military?

An unmanned military may not be far in the future. Although there will always be a need for boots on the ground, the Navy is now experimenting with landing unmanned drones on aircraft carriers. This article from breaks down exactly how the Navy intends to land the aircraft.

The benefits of an unmanned fleet of fighters may also be its weakness. Without a human pilot there is no danger of losing a life. The threat of losing just one life gives reason for pause before ordering a mission. Without that, the only barrier is cost. I don't think that it is unreasonable to think that political and military leaders would be become more willing to strike more targets.

Because the march of progress will go on there is no way to reverse it, but the unintended consequences should be pondered and somehow mitigated.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Economic Pain Forthcoming

I am now completely divested from the stock market and I advise you to do the same if possible. Usually I don't make predictions because of the high probability of looking silly, but a downturn seems imminent.

Why? Because there isn't enough liquidity in the market. From the NYT...

"The pain for hedge funds and banks has been broad, starting in the mortgage market, spreading to the wider credit markets and ultimately the stock market.
The problems have been worsened by the debt that hedge funds have taken on and used to invest to amplify gains.
Now hedge funds are quickly taking off that leverage, responding to tighter lending standards from banks or redemptions from anxious investors.
The casualties have included investment banks like Bear Stearns, which witnessed the collapse of two hedge funds that were invested in mortgage-backed securities, and blue-chip quantitative funds, whose computer-driven trading models did not anticipate recent market movements.
Now the ripples have spread to Goldman, whose stellar results have made it the firm to beat on Wall Street in recent years."

The cheap cash the Fed was showering on us through low rates led to a predictable overextension. People bought houses they couldn't afford while businesses received loans they didn't deserve. If millions of people begin defaulting on their homes (Jim Cramer predicts 7 million possibly) and investment firms don't have money to invest there will be tough economic times ahead.

The saving grace may be that many good companies are sitting on large cash positions. Many corporations learned their lesson from the dotcom market bubble burst and began stockpiling cash. But there is no reason to predict that they would begin investing it if the entire credit market begins to implode. Instead, they may decide that the prudent move is to continue sitting on all the cash. Central banks around the world including in the U.S. have been fighting the situation by pumping cash into the system at an incredible pace (here).

I am not knowledgeable enough to break down the entire situation. I am knowledgeable enough to know that when central banks have to pump billions of dollars into the system to keep the credit market alive that it is time to get on the stock market sidelines. Sell and live to tell.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Week Break

I will be most likely not posting until next week. My work has brought me to the home of the socialist revolution where the remaning guerillas are hold up: Boston.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Apprehensive about FISA expansion

The latest "secret" FISA ruling is good and bad. They struck down the governments ability to intercept foreign calls being transmitted in the U.S. under the FISA law. Republicans were quick to react and claim that they have Democratic support for expanding the FISA law to allow for the wiretapping.

After reading this article in the Post it does make some sense. If somebody in Afghanistan is talking to somebody in Iraq and that call is being transmitted through the U.S. (and yes many international calls are somehow routed through the U.S. amazingly) then why shouldn't the government be able to tap it? They are not American citizens and not entitled to our constitutional protection. So why am I still apprehensive?

Because as we know from 200+ years of democratic governance, government only expands, it does not contract. It is only a matter of time (probably not long) until this is expanded. Its bad enough they can already intercept a foreign call to an American citizen. I guess I can even swallow this but the shadowy nature of the whole process is what really concerns me. I feel as if we are getting the "trust us" wink. Well big surprise, I don't trust them.

Unnamed judges in secret courts whose records are sealed are going to protect our rights? Conservatives arguments on this are honestly pathetic. They talk in generalities about "fighting terrorism" or about "preventing another 9/11" but the reality is they would have a much different opinion if Bill or Hillary were president.

This brings me to ask a similar question that I posed to "conservatives" about the enemy combatant label issue: Do you trust Hillary Clinton with the ability to use unnamed judges, in secret courts, with classified results to not abuse that power?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fashion Timeout

I am perplexed about how powerful rich men can't find suit jackets that fit. That jacket sleeve almost looks like its going up to his elbow. Same is true for his right arm which isn't extended.

All I can think about is Chris Farley singing "fat man in a little coat...fat man in a little coat..."