Saturday, October 27, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Eternal Pessimists

It is a continual the glass half-full or half-empty? Pessimism abounds in the media.

These links today struck me as perfect examples of how every silver-lining has a cloud:

Joe Klein of Time is fishing for bad news in Iraq:

The apparent progress raises two questions: First, as always, what's the catch? And second, if the progress is real, if the Sunni extremists have been routed, if Baghdad has been ethnically cleansed to the point of near pacification, if the bottom-up reconciliation efforts are gaining momentum, what is the U.S. military mission now? Why can't we start bringing home the bulk of our troops immediately?

Paul Krugman, the pessimist's pessimist is at it again. The naysayers were right and the rest of wrong. As usual.

Krugman is actually right this time and there are plenty of negative things to be said about the sub-prime lending mess that we're working ourselves through these days. Krugman's problem, however, isn't his argument or logic--as I said, he's right on this.

It's the persistently and routinely pessimistic outlook that gets him in trouble. He's been predicting recession for going on 5 years now.

Like the proverbial blind squirrel who can't help but stumble upon an acorn, he's bound to be right at some point. But in the meantime, he's cried wolf so often I'm left wondering who is left to hear, much less heed, his warnings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where does the time go?

Tomorrow is 15 years. Has it really been that long?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Postcards from Moronica

I'll let this one speak for itself:

There was a small news article about five hostages being traded for prisoners in Afghanistan. Yet it is a large piece of information about Mr. Bush's failure to be a proper leader.

When a government is forced to turn over prisoners for hostages, you get more hostages taken, to force the government to do more things it should not do. Thus, the Afghani government of Hamid Karzai set up by Mr. Bush after the invasion will be increasingly unable to govern.

The one good war Mr. Bush had to fight, Afghanistan, was shoved aside for his personal vengeance against leaders in Iraq. Had Mr. Bush, with the blessing of most countries after 9/11, spent only about half of the money and sent about half the troops to Afghanistan as he has sent to Iraq, Afghanistan would have been rebuilt and shown that democracy works in Islamic countries.

But he did not. We know Iraq is lost, but Mr. Bush won't admit it, leaving our boys to die there for his glory. Now it looks like his stubbornness to keep up pretenses in Iraq will lose Afghanistan, too.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Of a different magnitude

Having survived Maliburn '85 and watched it's repeat in 1993, I'm somewhat sceptical of headlines like this:

Wildfire threatens Pepperdine University...

That is until I started to read. This is already in less than one short day well beyond any previous episodes that I recall:

The blaze had charred at least 1,000 acres, or more than a square mile. Wind that gusted as high as 65 mph carried embers across the Pacific Coast Highway, closing the popular road and setting fire to cars and trees in the parking lot of a shopping center where several stores were damaged.

Television news video showed several other buildings also in flames in the area, including clusters of beach-side homes.

Flames consumed the landmark Castle Kashan, a stately fortress-like home with turrets and arched windows, as about a dozen residents watched from across a street. Chunks of brick fell from the exterior of the burning building overlooking the coast.


Erratic wind gusts hampered efforts to drop water from aircraft and pushed flames toward HRL Laboratories, commonly known as Hughes Lab, a research and engineering facility jointly owned by Boeing Co. and General Motors Corp. about a mile north of Pepperdine. One outbuilding caught fire, Boeing spokeswoman Diana Ball said.

Flames engulfed Malibu Presbyterian Church, which had been evacuated, said youth pastor Eric Smith. “That’s the really good news, that everyone’s out and safe,” Smith said.

In addition, high winds have carried burning embers to the beach-side of the Coast Highway reportedly leading to the burning of several beach-side homes and damage to retail buildings and cars at a shopping center across the highway.

The Castle and Malibu Presbyterian Church both sit on the beach-side of Malibu Canyon road as it runs out of the canyon and begins it's descent to PCH. Both have sat there as landmarks for decades. I'm amazed at the thought they are now gone.

In past episodes such as this LA County firefighters have always dug in at the top of the University which sits carved into a horseshoe in the hillside. There in 1985 and in other years, firefighters waited for the fire to move over and down the hills, killing it before it could damage any of the University structures. With the recently finished Graziadio School of Business now sitting on that hillside, I'm wondering exactly how they'll approach the University's protection.

Video of the Fire Dept. newsconference earlier this afternoon is avaialable here.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Back with a Bang

OK, maybe not. But it's something. And something is more than nothing. Or so I learned in a Stats class in grad school.

I don't agree with many of the angles in this Roger Cohen piece (especially the gloss-over on neocons as uniformly imperialist), but I do agree with the central thrust about how 'neocon' has become shorthand for any 'hawkish' position or any 'conservative' position or, frankly, any position on any subject that someone doesn't like.

Though I'm not a neocon, it's a pet peeve of mine because I don't like imprecision when it comes to language.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Congress that couldn't Legislate straight

I've lost track of how many times Senate Dems have gotten Mitch-slapped in recent months. Now it seems that House Republicans are joining the party:

Republicans successfully maneuvered to derail a Democratic government eavesdropping bill Wednesday, delaying a House vote until next week at the earliest.

The bill, which seeks to expand court oversight of government surveillance in the United States, fell victim to a gambit by the chamber's Republican minority. Democrats were forced to pull the bill from the House floor with no certainty about how it might be revived.

If it weren't such serious stuff, it'd be hilarious. The Keystone Cops never looked this bad...

Monday, October 15, 2007

&^*# Fantasy Sports

I quit. I'm officially going AWOL at Fanball. An un-attended squad can do at least this poorly...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I'm the King of the World!

Er, I'm running the shop. Haven't a clue what I'm doing but we'll see what happens...

New meaning to the phrase

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Well, that can't be good...

When your employer shows up on somebody's analysis as at-risk for bankruptcy...

In last week's post I calculated Z scores, an index used to forecast bankruptcy risk, for the New York Times (NYT) and several key competitors, including the Washington Post (WPO), News Corp (NWS), and the McClatchy News Group (MNI) using the 10K and 10Q reports. Since then I did the calculations for four more newspaper publishers, Gannett (GCI), Journal Register (JRE), Lee (LEE), and Scripps (SSP). The results are consistent with the respective business conditions facing each company

1.835 4.118 2.139 0.812 2.755 4.137 1.282 0.752

News Corp., The Washington Post, Gannett and Scripps all score well above the 1.8 high risk threshold. These companies are diversified communications media companies with a number of high performance segments offsetting the structural decay of their newspaper properties. The other companies in the danger zone are all mainly pure-play newspaper businesses that made the fatal decision to buy out competitors at a false bottom similar to Movie Gallery's bad move.

McClatchy, Lee, The Journal Register and to lesser extent the New York Times should be placed on the watch list.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Numbers Phenomenon

On Numbers:

Wow. Numbers shouldn't be reported because they're "tricky," "at the beginning of a trend," and there's "enormous dispute over how to count" them?

No such moral conundrum existed last month when media predicted a looming recession after the Labor Department announced a surprising decline in non-farm payrolls that ended up being revised up four weeks later to show an increase.

And, in the middle of a three and a half-year bull run in stocks, such "journalists" have no quandary predicting a bear market every time the Dow Jones Industrial Average falls a few hundred points.

Yet, when good news regarding military casualties comes from the Defense Department, these same people show uncharacteristic restraint in not wanting to report what could end up being an a anomaly.

"Jeez," indeed.

What we're Facing

Or, an ode to Sim:

An e-mail, in response to my McCain thoughts this past week:

Perhaps if Katheryn Jean Lopez feels this country is in mortal danger and needs to continue this war of imperialistic aggression against the Muslim world, she should grab a gun and head for the front. I have had enough of the lunatic right telling us that we need to keep murdering and oppressing a people half way around the world. How many dead and displaced must we produced before we recognize the criminal acts we have committed. We are not buying the scare tactics of the radical right anymore. These Americans aare the true terrorists. This was was foisted upon our country by some very evil men that are currently running the country. Americans are the bad guys. Our country is being used by the energy corporations for our military and national treasure to try to gain profitable, long term access to the middle east oil fields. The charade is over. The American people are not being fooled any longer. Spare us any further propaganda.

Where do you start to argue with that?

Friday, October 05, 2007

The First rule of Holes

The First rule of Holes is...stop digging:

it's very simple. his religious beliefs call into question his ability to ethically perform the tasks he was contracted for. now as i said earlier, if he wants to open a soup kitchen, build shelters for the homeless, spend time with sick kids, run for office, whatever, by all means go for it. i have no problem with that.

but under no circumstances should he be trusted to put together and train a group of armed mercenaries to rally around a muslim country determining who and what is a threat.

Pure religious bigotry.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Blackwater Loon-acy

There is much criticism--much of it perhaps deserved--of US firm Blackwater Inc.'s conduct in Iraq. Then there is this:

also, i'm saying his interests and the interests of his company need to be called into question because of his own religious and political extremism....

it's not a stretch that this stems all or in part from some form of ideological indoctrination or supremacist mentality, where arabs and muslims are viewed as being inherently inferior and unworthy.

So apparently Blackwater is incapable of any sort of professionalism in its conduct as a result of Erik Prince's "fundamentalist" Christian beliefs and involvements. Loon-atic.

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