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Every cycle they tell you that this will be the most important election of your lifetime. They might have actually gotten it right this time.

Nobody really has a good idea of what's going to happen. Let's all hope for the best today.

Deja vu

Nov. 6th, 2016 08:42 pm
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Seriously, can the FBI just be done with this shit? I feel like I'm watching the election's worst moments eternally on rerun. Let's get back to the work of actually having an election here.
danalwyn: (Default)
There's a lot of tea leaf reading you can do in the Presidential Primaries in the US right now. A lot of it can be done with using the ghost votes (early absentee ballots and all that) cast for Republicans no longer in the race to predict who should have stayed in, and what the voters of a state really think. You can do entire pages of statistical analysis on this. That's on top of the reams of which poll results are likely to be altered because of which candidate's last minute ground game, etc., etc.

Probably more productive to just drink the damn tea. At this point, the Republican race is really up in the air (the Democratic less so), and everyone should accept that until after the conventions are over. Then it's time to start figuring out what to do for the actual race that half the country has forgotten about.
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Goodbye Scalia, we hardly even knew ye.

I mean, you were around for a while, but your opinions, while strident, were so ideologically incoherent that we had a hard time figuring out what you actually stood for. Something to do with the constitution, we think, or your particular interpretation of it, unless it proved convenient to whoever you were angry at today.

So, who knows? His death leaves the court deadlocked (and Republicans threatening to block nominations), and reduces the vitriol per Supreme Court opinion by about ninety percent, and concentrates most of the burden of judicial incoherence in Clarence Thomas.

May he be replaced soon so we can get on with the damn business of running the country.
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Apparently, Mississippi is still over fifty percent sane.

I'll leave it to you to decide whether that means things are slowly getting better or still sliding towards worse.

ETA: Personally I'm holding onto optimism and hoping that this marks an overreach for the measure's backers and the beginning of a more sensible backlash against them. But I'm not optimistic enough to bet money about what will happen next time they push one of these laws to the ballot.
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Dear America,

Don't be stupid.

The Coast Guard was searching for a man in the Pacific Ocean near the Klamath River in Del Norte County in Northern California. The man was swept away after he and two friends reportedly traveled to the shoreline to take photos of the incoming tsunami waves, Lt. Todd Vorenkamp said. His friends made it back to shore.



Quote from MSNBC.
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What's the word that you use when the country whose low cost labor you exploited through immigration to build your state's first major railway project makes a bid to bankroll and operate your latest high-tech railroad?

Oh yeah, that's right, irony.

(Things were looking ironic enough for California before the article had to mention that the Chinese may be the world's foremost experts in high-speed rail, yet another field in transportation where the geographically large and transport-intensive United States has fallen behind foreign expertise and innovation.)

Hat tip to Foreign Policy's Passport.
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I guess it's March now, and even though I no longer live in California I still have some attachment to the state, so I just thought I'd take a moment to say a big resounding 'fuck it' to all my friends out west.

Today's prediction: if the state Senate passes it, the bill will have exactly the opposite effect that it was intended to have.
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And speaking of people making pacts "with the devil"...

Former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, speaking during his trial for war crimes at The Hague, decided he had nothing to lose, and threw Pat Robertson (as in, American televangelist, Haiti-made-a-deal-with-the-devil Pat Robertson) under a bus last week. Taylor, who is guilty as hell of having perpetrated a series of mass atrocities during the Sierra Leone war (not to mention at home), revealed the long-suspected details of his and Robertson's gold exploration venture in Liberia, indicating that as part of the original deal, Taylor would give Robertson's company a license in return for Robertson lobbying the new administration on his behalf.

Or course, by Robertson's own tortuous train of thought (which I won't dignify by calling logic), Liberia probably made a deal with the devil. If Liberia did, Robertson was one of the devil's agents, or possibly even the devil himself, and since he believes that prayer can defeat demons, one wonders if he prays for himself. He probably needs it.
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All right, that's Mullen and Gates on board. The only question is how much support they'll get from the rest of the services. Where the head leads, the body may follow, but in this case the body's been very good at foot-dragging. We'll know more once we see what the other Joint Chiefs do and how they structure the review, but this is about as good of a start as you can get in the Pentagon.

Maybe they're finally tired of losing people to a stupid policy. Keep an eye on how this develops.
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It's been over a week since the Obama speech, and the bullets have mostly stopped flying. For now.

I've spent some time ruminating over various arguments, especially from the strategic minded, and I've come to three conclusions on Afghanistan, none of which I particularly like. I know that nobody bothers to read what I write when it comes to news and politics, but here they are anyway.


Three Things About Afghanistan )

He Escaped!

Dec. 2nd, 2009 01:18 pm
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DETROIT - In a press release today, the federal government revealed that Fritz Henderson has escaped from supervised custody and is now loose in the public domain. Henderson was part of an program created by the Obama administration to experiment with filling unwanted but necessary jobs in the US with workers sedated by a potent mix of narcotics, in order to prevent them from experiencing undue suffering. Henderson was subdued by US agents in March of 2009 by means of drugs in his coffee, after which he was transported from his natural habitat to a new position, and kept both tranquil and satisfied through continual injections while performing the duties of his new post.

However, according to an anonymous source within the Obama administration, a clerical mishap led to his dosage being reduced earlier this week. According to reports, Henderson became increasingly confused and agitated as he slowly became aware that he was not, in fact, a highly paid secretary, but was in fact the CEO of General Motors. The stress of being the head of America's largest industrial failure apparently got to him, and spooked by an expense report, he "went berserk" and escaped into the wild, mauling one of his handlers in the process. Reports indicate that, once out of the position of GM CEO he should shortly return to his natural state and will no longer be a threat to the public. However, sources within the administration indicate that there will be trouble finding a replacement willing to take over the burden of being the face of American corporate failure.

The federal government plans a session in Detroit to discuss the situation today, and invites all people with MBAs from prestigious universities to attend. Coffee will be provided.
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I think that was about as close as a sitting President can come to saying "Afghanistan is good for tossing the Quaffle, but remember that the Golden Snitch is still in play".

He mostly said what I expected, which wasn't precisely what I wanted, but he is at least making an effort to adopt a medium-length view of where the US should go, and reminding us that in the long run what happens in Afghanistan may not be that important. Also he said some very good things about the fact that primarily this will end up being an Afghan problem, but I don't know how exactly he intends to handle this. I need to think about this for a while.
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There's been a theory in the physics community, the high-energy physics community in particular, for the last year, a feeling of guilt, that comes from one central suspicion that we, quants in general, but ex-high energy physicists in particular, caused the Great Recession. For many years, those of us who couldn't cut it in HEP jumped ship from Academia and went on to work for ridiculous salaries as quants at Wall Street firms; it was sort of the escape hatch for a lot of us who either didn't want to deal with Academia, or couldn't cut it. And if you look at the mathematical models backing Credit Derivative Swaps, well, that has HEP theorist written all over it, it's the sort of convoluted math that we do prefer. The kind of person who thinks that the Standard Model could be simplified by adding five extra dimensions, one of them large, isn't going to have any trouble reshuffling and reshaping financial instruments to make the profits appear larger, and the risk magically disappear through a mathematical loophole. What regulator, or middle manager, who struggled through Calculus I, is going to be able to keep up with a financial wizard who diagonalizes infinite-dimensional matrices for fun, and when asked for his risk assessments turns in five pages of hand-scrawled equations with all the key steps missing?

Well Calvin Trillin agrees with us at the NY Times.

So, we come to the US public today asking for help in preventing the next crash. Spend money on financial regulation if you must, but the interests of the US might be better served by increasing the number of post-doc and researcher positions in High Energy Physics. By creating new jobs for these sad people, we can keep them safely and happily employed, and off of Wall Street. And believe me, you don't want them there.

Huh?

Oct. 9th, 2009 07:28 am
danalwyn: (Default)
Wait, what? Seriously?

I mean, why? He hasn't done anything yet.

Let me make a point. Barack Obama has made great strides in returning the world to some sort of diplomatic normalacy. He's done this by re-opening diplomatic channels, and by striving to reconnect the world's strongest military power to the world that it threatens. He has made several statements about human rights, specifically in Africa, where of all the first world leaders he has special clout, that are commendable and deserve praise. He has made steps both in nuclear disarmament and in promoting peace that are laudable, and in the fullness of time may bear spectacular fruit. And he is reforging the kind of alliances that we hope will see the world through the rocky times ahead as the political landscape of the world changes.

But all this, all the uncertainties in that paragraph, underline a very serious flaw. None of his accomplishments, none of his speeches, none of his initiatives, and none of his overtures, have yet yielded serious results. He's being praised for getting Iran back to the bargaining table against a united front, for essentially pulling the plug on Chavez's South American block, for re-normalizing our relations with an internally unstable Russia, and for the message that he's sent to Africa. But none of these efforts have yet produced anything substantial. Maybe in a year or two we'll be celebrating a victory on the diplomatic front, but right now we just don't know. We don't know whether he has the skill, the persistence, or that all-important trait, the luck to pull it off. And to hand the prize out based on expectations, on good intentions instead of results, seems to me against what the prize should stand for. We reward people for what they've done, not for what they say they're going to do.

It was a lousy year for the peace prize, and I don't think there were many stand-out contenders for it, but to award it to someone in their first year on the global stage, without any real significant accomplishments under his belt, cheapens both the prize and the recipient more then they deserve.

(I may be the only disgruntled person on my F-list, but since when has that stopped me from making an ass of myself?)
danalwyn: (Default)
The Wall Street Journal today reports that a rise in conspicuous consumption creating an inflationary bubble, followed by a panicked rumor in the wake of the beginning of the recession, has destroyed the Tri-County Land Trust, an uninsured loaning co-op owned and operated by, and catering exclusively to, the Amish. Apparently these were more modern Amish, capable of indulging themselves in such luxuries as Dutch Harness Horses, and carriages lined with LEDs and velvet (I don't know how the LEDs got there) powered by a booming furniture business. Now they're back with their ancestors, using their horses to plow fields, and desperately trying to ambush passing cars to sell them whatever furniture they have in house.

Obviously, they should have gotten a bailout. Maybe they could have gotten it in chickens.

(Hattip to lolfed, which also reports that the FDIC has some lawnmowers that they would like to sell you.


ETA: Fixed broken link.
danalwyn: (Default)
In light of recent events I feel that I should point out that the US has spent billions of dollars (that's billions with a B) learning how to get the pro-Choice movement to beat the combined anti-abortion movements. Of course, don't tell them about it; the government for the most part hasn't got a clue that's what they spent the money on, but the US has been spending a lot of money learning how to deal with the sophisticated, multi-level propaganda attack that they got hit with by the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. And nobody runs a fourth generation insurgency media campaign quite like the religious right. For years, they've been milking the same imagery, the idea of a group of brave, morally concerned freedom fighters doing the right thing, underfunded but with lots of willpower, in the face of determined attacks by the evil establishment. Well, the US has spent a lot of time and effort working a way to deal with that, and maybe the pro-Choice movement should take advantage of it.

What follows is a list of extremely amateurish suggestions that are the matter of personal opinion of a complete amateur, go on for a long 12 pages, and may have no real bearing on reality. Consider yourself warned.

Extremely, extremely long, tedious, and boring personal opinion follows. Seriously. I warned you. )

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] mergle for reading this once already.
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Passport ran an interesting prediction of what would happen to Texas if it actually managed to secede from the union.

The long and short of it is that Texas's economy would experience precipitous decline if the US decided to let it go, because the US would probably kick it out of NAFTA (and pressure Mexico into doing the same), basically destroying most of their economy. In addition, taxes would rise as Texas was forced to maintain a much larger military (proportionally) to contain not only the occasional American adventurer, but also drug traffic in their own state.

The real kicker is that, to maintain any level of functionality, Texas will have to get foreign aid and trade deals from friendly powers. The most logical local choices are Cuba and Venezuela, to which the new president of Texas will have to kowtow to. Across the oceans, Texas will have to make friends with the big donors, China and Russia. And part of that will probably involve Texas being forced to adopt the socialist rhetoric and practices of its new protectors.

So, long live the People's Socialist Republic of Texas!

Pr0n

Jan. 23rd, 2009 10:47 am
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Rarely does an economic crisis get cited as a source of mirth, but this one is approaching bounds that I would say qualify it as "loltastic", and I never use that word.

So if you've been following the bailout dilemma, you know that earlier this month Congress was approached by two businessmen in an attempt to get the United States to bail out a crucial US industry. Larry Flynt (of Hustler fame) and Joe Francis (of the legendary Girls Gone Wild) went to Washington to beg for $5 billion to bailout the US adult entertainment industry, whose years of declining sales may soon result in drunk college girls having to take off their tops without the presence of professional photographers. Apparently they were intending to either get Congress drunk enough to sign away $5 billion (a reasonable proposition), or they were intending to strip their clothes off and dance naked on the tables (which would probably result in Congress giving them any amount of money they wanted just to make it stop). Apparently neither of these schemes worked because we still have $5 billion dollars, and Flynt isn't trying to build a brothel on the moon yet.

But they've recently been joined by a third contender, Dennis Hof, who owns the Moonlite BunnyRanch in Nevada, apparently the site of an HBO TV series. Mr. Hof wants $1 billion to tide Nevada's oldest profession through tough times, ostensibly because those Wall Street High Rollers ain't coming by no more, despite the fact that the supply of would-be brothel employees has apparently been increasing as the crisis gets rolling. Now, I'm half convinced that Hof is just making fun of Flynt and Francis, but if he does manage to slide this through Congress (insert your own juvenile pun here) , given the terms we've used for the rest of the TARP bailout, the US will essentially own stock in a brothel.

Which leads me to two questions. First, if we do end up owning interest in a brothel, how many Congressional visits a year will it take to make sure that the Moonlite BunnyRanch is operating properly? And second, since We The People own the US government, will the rest of us get employee benefits or something?

As expected lolfed is all over this like white on rice. White on white rice that is, because white on brown rice would just not make sense.

In related news, The Economist's Free Exchange blog reports that, while the adult entertainment industry may be down in the dumps in some regions, the sales of things like lube are through the roof. Which means that when times get tough and money gets scarce, people stop buying porn and start having sex instead.

Don't think too hard about that. Seriously.

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