“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Appalled and Amazed

I don’t know whether to be appalled or amazed at what passes for news media leadership in this town.

One of the great ironies of the upheaval in journalism has to do with the legacy media’s view of blogs and bloggers. On one hand, they chastise bloggers for not adhering to the same standards of journalism as the mainstream news outlets. It’s a legitimate concern, but on the other hand, they have adopted blogging like it’s going to save them.

That stampede into cyberspace gives one blogger at the Amarillo Globe-News, and a top manager to boot, the chance to prove she doesn’t know what she is talking about.

In her blog posted March 27, Dawn Dressler, the executive editor who has led the newsroom to new lows, waxes about the role of newspapers in watchdog journalism. She implies that the Glob does that kind of journalism. Maybe she thinks keeping minutes of the various commission meetings is watchdog journalism. I think the closest the Globe-News comes to being a watchdog is running in AP copy from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

I think it’s so totally laughable that Dressler would think she has any legitimate claim to even discuss watchdog journalism.

Nor is Dressler able to correctly tell students about what the United States Constitution really says about journalism. She wrote, “Our founding fathers knew the importance of keeping a watchdog in the house when they made journalism the only job protected by the Constitution -- something school students who frequently tour the Globe-News never know when asked.”

Jeez, Dawn, maybe they “never” know because they know better. The Constitution doesn’t protect any job class. Journalists have no special privileges. In fact, that’s why we’re fighting for shield laws. What the Constitution protects is free speech for everyone — even you.

Keep on blogging and I’ll keep being appalled at your lack of knowledge and amazed you’d post it without checking your facts.

President Obama's Weekly Address - 3/28/09

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour

This is just a last minute plea to participate. You've got a little over an hour to look at the web site and view the video. But your light switch is your vote. It's easy and it's an important message to send. Thanks.

Vote here.

Let me Remove The Scabs From Your Eyes, Jedi Padawn

I was gonna drop this in comments, but it got too long, LOL.

Paul Krugman got it right in his latest column:

"Underlying the glamorous new world of finance was the process of securitization. Loans no longer stayed with the lender. Instead, they were sold on to others, who sliced, diced and puréed individual debts to synthesize new assets. Subprime mortgages, credit card debts, car loans — all went into the financial system’s juicer. Out the other end, supposedly, came sweet-tasting AAA investments. And financial wizards were lavishly rewarded for overseeing the process.

But the wizards were frauds, whether they knew it or not, and their magic turned out to be no more than a collection of cheap stage tricks. Above all, the key promise of securitization — that it would make the financial system more robust by spreading risk more widely — turned out to be a lie. Banks used securitization to increase their risk, not reduce it, and in the process they made the economy more, not less, vulnerable to financial disruption
. "

There are numerous examples of innovators in this country from Henry Ford to Michael Dell. They created something quantifiable in the real world that changed the way we lived. Vision, guts, some good breaks, and a few tough breaks. Many smart and great business people right in our backyard who take risks, and become successful.

This post is not about them . . .

Leaving out old schoolers like Buffett and Soros, it is luck and connections in high finance. I have worked with many, many, many, many, many, people in Boston and the eastern financial corridor.

I was just about the only kid who worked his way through college who was in an executive position, the vast majority went to finishing schools and ivy league. Never met another person from WTAMU, LOL. Just sayin'.

Parents had the connections passed on to them, now the kids, etc. Keep in mind that these financial institutions were a century or more old, many of the mutual fund co's at least half a century. Insurance 120 years.

With the rare exception, these freshly minted MBA's I worked with from Wharton, Harvard, et al had only one goal . . . coming up with a way to leave corporate world and open their own money management firm or hedge fund ASAP.

Not because they were super bright, or could create a smarter way to take volatility out of investing, but because they could make 50 calls and raise a couple of hundred million dollars from Dad's friends. Most importantly . . . they could make vast amounts of $$$ with the 2 and 20 rule. And they were taught in grad school that fiscal innovation (complicated shennanigans) was the way to a personal Xanadu. Not to help the average anyone invest through smart due diligence, but for the same blueblood crowd who were already loaded.

The 2 and 20 rule is simple . . . a hedge fund manager charges 2% of the assets and gets 20% of the profits. The best part? A giant hole in the tax code that allows them to treat a substantial chunk of their compensation as capital gains, taxed at 15% rather than the 35% rate that applies to ordinary mortals' income like us.

Know what else is cool? No regulation! No pesky government lowlings from a Texas Tech or a South Central Louisiana State, with no idea about how the invisible hand of the market works (eyeroll), trying to look over your shoulders. You could devise any bullshit numbers you want, sell phantom stock short without covering, or pull a Bernie Madoff. No one was gonna call you out.

Another cool thing was the proliferation of offshore stock exchanges, a secondary market if you will, where you could pull any crazy stunt you wanted. Don't worry, the market is self-correcting. LOL.

AIG had such an entity called the AIGFP. Bear Sterns, Lehman, Merrill . . .

Our taxes are bailing out these shits. There are thousands of hedge funds, and thousands of third party money managers.

They talk up performance, but how the hell would you know? They have no transparency, so can you sort through complex derivatives, naked options, covered call option chains, convertible bond options yourself?

We need to get back to several things:

1. Trustbust and break up investment firms, banks, and insurance companies into separate entities. Now. Great Rachel Maddow video on this HERE

2. Banking should get back to being boring.

3. Hedges have to show serious transparency, or they get seized and liquidated. Money managers go directly to jail.

Just a few thoughts on a Saturday morning.

-Prodigal Son

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Matt Taibbi's article

Here is the article alluded to in the material from the previous post. I didn't see a link to it on blogarillo's post. It's probably there. This is very good reading and captures the spirit of what's really been happening on Wall Street.

I noticed that some of the AIG execs are returning their bonuses. What! humanity from pigs? Could it be these men are gaining some shreds of humanity.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Suggested reading from Barry Rithotlz

Investigating AIG

President Obama's Weekly Address - 3/21/09

American Renaissance Act of 2009

Hoo-boy. Everyone is rightfully pissed about those bullshit bonuses being handed out like they came out of thin air or something. LOL

It's normal to let righteous indignation spill out, but when a tearful CEO says he ONLY got paid $1mm (The horror!), and bank records show that it was really more like $11 million, then the public outrage really turns to actual tar and feather talk.

Another unemployed buddy of mine in Boston joked that he was considering saving money on his heating bill by burning a banker, LOL. Jus' keeeeding folks, but he has been looking for a gig for six months now, and the frustration in his voice was palpable. His wife works, but beantown is a two-income kinda place, ya know?

These guys at the top of the banks getting bailout money are really driving us unemployed peeps up a gods-damn wall. They keep using the same out of the box thinking and fiscal shennanigans that brought our nation to it's knees, only for their compensation.

Cutsie names like pension restoration plans, and supplemental executive retirement plans, are used to drop big coin into the pockets of these bastards. And it comes from us over 40 little guys, who are top performers, but can be dumped because of "right to work" bullshit and highly taxed dinky severance.

There was a great financial times article this weekend talking about, "over-correcting." Firing too many competent employees to save money, and then finding out too late that no one is around with the expertise to solve the issues.

I call it the "Circuit City" business model. I get that a business can replace guys like me with someone else that can be had for 60 cents on the dollar, but good luck getting the quantitative results. Circuit City has gone POOF! So maybe it was smart to keep the crooks around to unwind the CDS'. But personally, it should have been done as part of a plea deal, not bonuses.

OK, we know the problems, here is my humble economic plan. It's reaaaalllly big picture, but I have had the time to think about it a lot at 2 am, LOL

1. Trust busting: Beef up and expand the FDIC to include oversight, auditing, and seats on the boards. Work with DOJ on enforcement and make nailing top mgmnt illegalities a priority, and fold the SEC and FDIC together. The IRS' should be required to nail offshore tax havens participants. Make the offshore tax haven industry a federal crime.


  • Private equity firms are ready to buy the best pieces of AIG-type firms. The US Gov't should bust them up, require ALL SVP and above to be terminated and put an independent accounting firm in the role of outsourced CFO in charge with quarterly PUBLISHED audits. Issue securities in all of these companies to American citizens, and LEGAL aliens in the form of 5 year vested ARA 2009 (blog post title) bonds with a coupon of X%.
  • No more revolving door from FINRA to securities companies. Pay compliance folks well at FINRA and then it's a 5 year waiting period to go to work at a brokerage firm.
  • Usury laws enacted and enforced on credit card companies. Top rate is 10 points above prime. Enact enforceable guidlines for credit terms. (FDIC oversight)

  • A nation rail plan like the interstate highways. City centers, to airports and commerce centers, and to next major metropolis city center. Make it all electric, no diesel.
  • Rebuild entire national electrical grid.
  • Get wind, tide, and geothermal tied in to the new grid, and the US Gov't owns it for 200 years. No more Montana Power Co repeats either.
  • Establish a bond rating division of the FDIC. Bye to S&P, and Moody's conflict of interest.
  • 50% of all commercial trucks must get an average MPG of 35 by 2013. Hey, we won WW2 in four years, why not this? Outright help AMERICAN truck manufacturers pay for the retooling of factories for this. Furthermore . . .
  • 50% of light trucks and SUV's must get an average MPG of 35 by 2013. Outright help AMERICAN truck manufacturers pay for the retooling of factories.
  • 50% of passenger cars and SUV's must get an average MPG of 40 by 2013, 50% must be all electric by 2014, and 100% must be all-electric by 2020.
  • A manhattan project-style recyclable and long-charge holding battery program led by NASA started NOW.
  • All "right to work" laws eliminated. Two weeks notice both ways. Employee fails to notify or show up? No last check. Employer fails to notify? Gotta pay double. Will bring some stability to labor.
  • EFCA enacted. 'Nuff said
I have left out defense dept reforms on purpose. Still thinking about those . . .

No more performance pay to non-performing execs? Idiots in Gov't getting a free pass (hello Thornberry?) Can't legislate this one. We need media to expose these POS at the top, so . . .
  • Cable regulation. Why am I paying for FOX noise? Cafeteria plan for cable subscribers, pick the channels you want. $ per channel. Europeans paying $35 for full cable, WTF?
  • Fairness Doctrine update. 1 to 1 on all media. Talk, news, TV, when it comes to political talk, ya gotta present both sides every time.
  • Subsidize a national wifi net. Not as fast as paid-for internet, but the poor and schoolkids have access to something.
  • One media outlet per company per town, period. Own radio? No TV. Own newspaper? No radio OR TV.
BIG ISSUE: What about accuracy in reporting, how to embarrass the Howard Kurtz', George Wills', and entrenched blatherers to be accurate?

The US taxpayer will buy out all Health Care companies, Their market cap is waaaayyy down, could not be a better time. Sure, POS like Bill Frist will make $, but charge a capital gains tax of 75% on it. Hey, they got rich off sick people and ripping off the taxpayer . Cost of around $70 billion

  • Everyone on medicare, establish a simple billing method for docs, and strict automated auditing for fraud. Rollout it out in stages, starting with low population centers like the Panhandle to work out the kinks.
  • Keep your doc, keep your dentist, keep your opthamalogist. No waiting for immediate needs, gotta wait for other stuff.
  • Charge $30 per person, per month, in every family. Wanna have 20 kids? Gotta pay for 20 kids. Take it out of each check like FICA.
  • No more pharmaceutical advertisements, they spent more on these boolshit ads than research. Let it all be spent on research.
  • Medicare will now aggressively negotiate drug prices. Drug companies gotta make money, but the free ride where the American citizenends.

Just some thoughts while staying up late at night worrying about my job situation.

Now, it's YOUR turn for feedback.

-Prodigal Son

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Three Right Wing Overlords ride to the defense of AIG bonuses

I imagine some of you noticed the three columns in todays AGN regarding the AIG bailout.

The anonymous Globe News column [states...

"U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon - along with Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock - blamed the Democratic House leadership for ramming a huge spending bill through Congress that no one read, but which contained loopholes that enabled AIG to provide $165 million in bonuses to top executives. "

I'm not sure which bill Thornberry is referring too. He voted for TARP 1, but I suppose didn't have time to read it.

In truth the AIG bonus contracts were signed before either of the huge bailout bills, so I'm not sure which loopholes he's referring to. Maybe he's saying there should have been provisions in the bailouts to prevent bonuses. It is unclear from the statement in the Globe News column.

The second column by Washington Post Nazi Charles Krauthammer states...

"That's $165 million in bonus money handed out to AIG debt manipulators who may be the only ones who know how to defuse the bomb they themselves built. "

I think it's interesting that Krauthammer defends the AIG bonuses from three standpoints. First, he says the bonuses are owed contractually. Second that these very same men are the only ones capable of understanding the labyrinthine investment properties they created, so their presence is essential for the repair of said investments. Thirdly he says the bonuses are but a drop in the bucket when compared to the stupendous amounts of cash associated with the bailout and AIG.

While I don't disagree with him I can't help but feel the executives at AIG are getting off with a purely criminal act. Yes their bonuses are owed by contract, but those contracts almost seem like the premeditated planning a thief makes before he breaks into a home. Don't forget that the AIG executives work with one another, they are associates, and in this case, thick as thieves. The complex planning of the investment properties as an excuse for a bonus seems a bit like paying the thief to tell you how he managed to pull of a great heist or perhaps like giving a criminal a great book deal to tell how he did it. As for Krauthammer's third arguement. Well maybe 165 million isn't a great deal when you're dealing with trillions of dollars. But which of us writing here really feels that such lofty bonuses are truly justified. What man, imperfect as we all are, is really due such largesse. Is it fair to ask the rank and file employees to take a pay cut while these sorts of bonus figures float around for an elite few. Krauthammer chooses to stand up for the bonuses but he is wrong to do so. Since I own part of AIG now I say let's teach these guys a lesson.

The last column, written by Michelle Malkin, can only be described as idiotic. Firstly her column has nothing to do with the AIG bonus mess. Instead Malkin, the dark haired equivalent of Ann Coulter, uses the AIG bonus scandal as an excuse to rant, in vague terms, about Democratic spending. Her column, as always, skirts around real issues and cherry picks facts not to help clarify the situation as a responsible columnist does, but rather in an irresponsible manner, offering purely ad hominem arguements designed to inflame the sensibilities of the already enraged and thoroughly buffaloed Republican base.

Thanks Michelle you've served up another lightweight piece that is meant not to inform or educate but rather to get people pissed off. Why don't you try getting pissed off at the people who really did something wrong -- the assholes at AIG -- who drove the company into the ground and are now getting paid because no one but them can understand the mess they made.

So in the end, after reading the editorial section of AGN, I'm certain that many Amarillo locals are convinced that the AIG mess should be allowed to lapse quietly away, bonuses paid, taxpayer money gone. Good job Les, Charles, and Michelle, you've boned your team in the bum again and made them love it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

And more hm

I hardly know where to start with this, either.

One place would be to take note of a story on newschannel10's Web site (http://www.newschannel10.com/global/story.asp?s=10045430) that starts, "From the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shutting down, to these most recent cuts at the Amarillo Globe-News, many people are saying the newspaper industry is in trouble.... Just nobody within the industry is saying that."

Where in the world do these people get this idea that nobody within the newspaper industry is talking about the death of the Rocky, the Seattle P-I’s total migration to the Internet and the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of several other newspapers? It is just mind-boggling to me that anybody in the news media would open a news story about problems in the industry with a line that says nobody is talking about it.

Then, newschannel10 goes on to quote Les Simpson, "The Amarillo-Globe-News has been in business for nearly 100 years and we will be here for many years to come. We are not going out of business. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are a strong business and will survive the current recession."

I guess all the talk in the industry, from Les' point of view, is laughable.

But seriously folks, Morris Communications is in deep trouble. The firm has gotten another extension for a $9.7 million interest payment. The extension really doesn't do much for Morris. Moody's Investors Services has introduced a new feature, "The Bottom Rung,” according to "Media Daily News" and its Web site. And on the bottom rung are companies with a credit rating of B3 or lower, which it considers most likely to default on their debt in the next year.

In the collapsing world of newspapers, Moody's identified MediaNews Group as a high-risk candidate for default, along with three smaller newspaper publishers: Freedom Communications, GateHouse Media, and Morris Publishing. Again, these potential deadbeats are in good company … ,” media daily news states, adding that the company includes Tribune and other well-known companies. (http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=102003)

And I read somewhere on the Web today that hits on newspaper Web sites have flattened during February and only a few of the larger newspaper Web sites had seen upticks in hits. It specifically cited the Boston Globe's Web site Boston.com as one example.

Which leads to the transition to the Web.

First, please take note of Mr. Simpson's blog entry of March 10. What he is really doing is feeling around about an electronic delivery system that goes beyond the Web. There are options being marketed in which Kindle and Kindle-type devices can actually be sold for a very low price as part of a package. Imagine, if you will, how much less expensive it would be to give subscribers a Kindle and then feed the newspaper that way. It would be a drop in the bucket compared to the costs of maintaining a pressroom and circulation department.

Of course, this kind of speculation is laughable.

I also wonder about the data I mentioned about Web site hits. I regret I can't dredge up the citation at this point, but I am wondering if there is some blog and Internet fatigue building. Hardly anyone responds to Mr. Simpson's blog posts, although I can't rule out nobody gives a damn about what he says.

Spacedark addresses the quality of the content in reference to the Globe-News' Pulitzer. I seem to recall Executive Editor Dawn Dressler talking touchingly about how she is reminded of the newspaper's great history every time she comes up the elevator that leads to the hallway near the newsroom. And, how she would like to lead the newspaper to another Pulitzer.

Yeah, right. I have no idea what she must be smoking, drinking or chewing to think the Globe-News is as capable of a Pulitzer now.

Of course, concentrating on content and devoting resources to real news is laughable.

It's also laughable to think that Ms. Dressler can lead to newsroom to a Pulitzer under any circumstances. Her recent blog about Amtrak could have been much less embarrassing had she read the Indy's Attitude (http://www.amarilloindy.com/2009/031209/IndependentAttitude0312.html) on March 12. A few phone calls, and she would have learned that the infrastructure makes a straight Oklahoma City-Amarillo-Albuquerque shot impossible. Part of the rail route that would have made it possible is now a wonderful bike path.

I repeat what I have said many times since leaving the Globe-News: There are many good people in the trenches who are being asked to do too much work into little time. It's easy to make mistakes under those circumstances. Which, lets me cut them a little bit of slack on the error at the bottom of their story. After all, I did the same thing on my comment about dumping newspapers on Mr. Simpson's lawn. And, given the lateness of the hour and the length of my day, I would plead a request for tolerance on typos in this posting.

But, the management needs to be held responsible for the direction it has taken the paper in the last five or six years, at least from a journalistic point of view. And I have made no secret of my disdain in that regard. Mr. Simpson, in one of his blogs, refers to the superintendent of schools as "his friend" and has borrowed a Kindle from the head of Toot-N-Totum. And, I have voiced my strong objection to his participation in some of the downtown development activities.

Maybe it's just me, but I think newspapers and newspaper publishers should be a little bit more distant if they are going to be ethical journalists and provide the community with good journalism.

But, of course, that's probably a view that's laughable.


I hardly know where to start with this article, but how about with this interesting line: "Also, to embrace the transition from print to online, there will be a computer displaying the Globe-News Web site, amarillo.com, so visitors can read the paper when they visit." Did the reporter inadvertently let the cat out of the bag, or is it just more unclear writing? The latter is always possible with the Globe-News, and it certainly must be considered in this article; the online version ends with a paragraph consisting only of the words "Take the AGN" and no terminal punctuation. What the heck does that mean? Was there supposed to be a Henny Youngmanesque "--please!" after those words, or is the Globe-News reduced to begging for subscribers in news stories?

I don't know why they're having such a difficult time. After all, as Les Simpson reminds us in the article-- yet again-- the Globe-News once won a Pulitzer Prize! Of course, it was 1961 and neither Simpson nor Morris Communications were anywhere in sight. Amarillo had an Air Force base and the best-lighted main street in America. The paper that won the Pulitzer had two editions-- the morning Daily News and the afternoon Globe-Times, so I'm having a little trouble making the connection with the meager stack of newsprint that wastes two minutes of my time each day.

If a fifty-year-old Pulitzer is all that stands between the Globe-News and the final whimper (they certainly won't go out with a bang), I think Les Simpson should stop laughing and start packing.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Former Vice President Dick Cheney warns of "terrorists with exploding lemons"

Panhandle Truth Squad would like to welcome a Very Special Guest Poster, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The dismantling of Constitutional protections and the abandonment of the Geneva Conventions were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to get lucky and not have any further attacks against the United States since 9/11. I think that's a great success story.

President Obama campaigned in favor of the U.S. Constitution all across the country, and now he's making some choices that, in my mind, will in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.

What has he done to protect us against terrorists with exploding lemons? We know that terrorists have these lemons east, north, south, and west somewhat. I hope one explodes in San Francisco, hopefully in the Castro! That would certainly show Obama!


Eliot Spitzer Nails It*

The Real AIG Scandal
It's not the bonuses. It's that AIG's counterparties are getting paid back in full.

* Insert the "whore" joke of your choice.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wage Cuts at AGN?

I have it through a reliable source that, at an all-hands on deck meeting around 5 p.m. today, Les Simpson announced across-the-board wage cuts.

As I understand it, Simpson said that employees who make less than $25,000 per year take a 5 percent cut; from $25,000 - $50,000 the cut is 7.5 percent and for those making more than $50,000 a year, the hit is 10 percent.

Of course, this is rumor.

March 19 - or not rumor:

open question

I've been trying to edit and expand our satirical "RecantAmarillo Map o' Sins" for several weeks now. It has been gradually disappearing from The Google and now all elements are completely gone. No one can seem to figure out why.

Any ideas out there what may have happened? I don't want to get completely paranoid and start believing that Repent Amarillo complained to someone and it was removed without notifying us, but as a Gmail user for the past several years, I also don't want to believe that The Google just loses stuff.

Suggestions or ideas?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Humble Proposal

In honor of "Change" and the shit-for-brains who are getting bonus' at AIG for being sneaky, thieving, lying dirtbags who have crashed our economy, a humble proposal . . .

You can imagine the immense problems of actually mailing, shipping, and transferring giant reams of paper (stocks certificate) back and forth when the NYSE (for example) trades a billion shares a day.

So, most trades are electronic, and the physical shares are held at DTC, or the depository trust corp, and whenever a share is traded, it is done electronically with a "book entry" through your brokerage firm.

AIG has 2.69 billion shares outstanding, 10% is held by insiders, and 48% is held by institutions (mutual funds, endowments, etc) leaving 42% floating around or 1,129,800,000 shares.

As far as I can discover, we as taxpayers own 80% of this 1,129,800,000 or 903,840,000 shares.

903,840,000 shares divided by 300 MM people is about 3 shares per man/woman/child in the U.S. That is just AIG, what about CITI? Goldman Sachs? Wells Fargo? The others getting bailout $$?

If I bought a Treasury bond, I would be shipped the bond cert, unless I instructed otherwise. Why not these firms we are bailing out?

So here is my proposal: Put all of the shares we own in all of the companies we have bailed out together. When you put a portfolio of equities together, it is a mutual fund.

Call it the "2009 American Bailout Mutual Fund" or whatever.


We can all then politely ask the Treasury to MAIL US OUR CERTS IN THIS NEW Mutual Fund.

We can put them in the safe, or send them to our broker, but more important . . .


So whadda ya say? Capitalism with a democratic flair? Color the new certs green in honor of St Pats!

-Prodigal Son

every day is St. Patrick's Day

Fields of Athenry (written by Pete St. John; version by Dropkick Murphys)

"By a lonely prison wall,
I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters, Mary, when you're free
Against the famine and the Crown,
I rebelled, they cut me down.
Now you must raise our child with dignity."

another one bites the dust

Seattle Post-Intelligencer to publish last edition Tuesday.

No word on whether Les Simpson is still laughing at us for worrying that we will lose our favorite whipping boy local paper.


Monday, March 16, 2009

blinded with science

Debate on the Internet has certainly contributed to many people's awareness of the existence of rhetoric and logical fallacies. It has certainly not, however, universally contributed to understanding.

In fact, much like Godwin's Law, there now seems to be a mechanism at work that causes all arguments to devolve into an accusation of a logical fallacy1. Witness.

See, logical fallacies are a useful device for highlighting a poorly constructed argument. They are not rubber stamps that prove the opposition wrong.

Mr. Gunter calls the idea that Bush's tax cuts failed a "Post Hoc Fallacy." He is referring to the Latin phrase post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this), which refers to the erroneous notion that all things that happened before something else surely influenced it. All second somethings are caused by all first somethings. Obviously, this is absurb.

But, Mr. Gunter, like many who rubber-stamp arguments as fallacies misses the nuances. I shouldn't have to point this out, but sometimes past events actually do effect the present and future.

E.g., Friday night I drank half a bottle of wine, a couple of beers, and a couple of rum and cokes at Saffron Mediterraean Restaurant and then at Le Chateau downtown as I danced to music from the 1980s. The next morning, the sun rose. The rising of the sun was not caused by my over-imbibing nor by my dancing. But my pain-filled reaction to the sun surely was.

Bush's tax cuts were advertised as a panacea that would help all sectors of the economy. The fact that they didn't, well, surely that is relevant.

Surely someone can put it into better Latin, but perhaps we can call this bizarro-world notion that simply calling discussion of the ramifications of a past event a Post Hoc fallacy means that said event had no effect (or an indeterminable effect) on the future a Post Hoc Nil Propter Hoc fallacy.


1 I am not immune to this mechanism. So you can comb our archives if you want, Curious Texan; you will only prove my point.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fox News Triumvir Glenn Beck seeks to cash in with 9-12 project

Piecing together the heirarchy of Republican leadership isn't difficult. At the top sits the granddaddy of them all, Rush LImbaugh. Below him entroned upon their Foxnews comfy chairs sit a triumvirate of leaders, one third of which is Glenn Beck (can you guess the other two?). Beck recently revealed his new website the 9-12 project. This cliche ridden document reads like some sort of misguided mishmash of religion and rudimentary Nationalism.
Here is the list
1. America is Good -- Okay Glenn I think most folks in the country are good and mean well. This is just Beck appealing to the uber patriot right wing mentality. Later on he says it's okay to criticize America.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my life. Yes but should we be mixing our politics with our religion Glenn?

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday. Okay why don't you start with a little honesty regarding the war on terror and the war in Iraq. We attacked a country and killed thousands and rendered millions homeless and you guys still chant about how that war was effective. By destroying Iraq, torturing it's citizens, and plundering it's resources we've increased the terrorism problem exponentially. Get real...be honest.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority not the government. Yes Glenn you are the ultimate authority in your own home in matters of family. Beyond that? Well you are one of the triumvirate of Republicans leaders below Rush Limbaugh, so that is a position of some authority I would say. Too bad you use that authority to spout vague and inflammatory bullshit like the 9-12 project.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it. Unless you're Karl Rove, or any of the individuals, including George W. Bush who illegaly tortured prisoners. If our ex president were a leader of some Banana Republic in Africa he would almost certainly be on the Hague's list of men to be prosecuted for political crimes.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal rights. Yes and working class people have the right to pursue happiness just like rich guys do. That's why I love Obama's decision to return the option of card signing to form unions. Maybe working guys will get to pursue their happiness again instead of seeing their wages stagnate while a small percentage of wealthy grow fatter and fatter

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable. Yes but the government can force you to pay taxes. We need to fix health care and if the banks fail we could find ourselves very dire circumstances. The party is over pal. Time to pull the teat out of your mouth and recognize that by working together we can make things better for everyone, not just you.

8. It is not Un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion. Glenn I will give you credit. You did stand up for Democrat's right to criticize Bush and I'll allow you to do the same if Obama really does mess up. However isn't it a little early to be declaring every decision Obama makes a huge error. After all the man has been in office all of seven weeks.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me. Actually this should be true but we have so many people buffaloed by media nuts that confuse them into voting against their own interests this statement is rather ridiculous.

Bravo Glenn...did you jot this list down during a good long sit on the crapper?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Medium Rare

Those who have been reading this space for several years know my opinion of Howard Fineman. He is one of the most reliable voices of the media echo chamber, that vast (in their own minds) space where "serious journalists" talk, but only to each other. This Newsweek column is the quintessential echo chamber piece, questioning whether Obama's honeymoon is over. Note, to begin with, that Fineman doesn't quote or even name a single source, unless you count Saturday Night Live. Not only does he get to protect his sources from potential embarassment, but he also gets to present half-baked, but titillating ideas as belonging to "important people", and therefore worthy of his by-line. The reality, of course, is that some people do hold the opinions Fineman reports. But if they truly have merit, they need to be spoken by those with actual expertise, not slipped in a brown paper package to an all-too-willing journalist accomplice. More likely, these are just the whispers of echo-chamber journalists with too much time on their hands who yearn for a real fight, not more whooping up on the suddenly moribund Republicans. They are probably hoping that the WH will rise to the bait and fill a few more otherwise drab news cycles.

Fortunately for us, few people (other than other reporters) actually pay much attention to this drivel. Fineman correctly, if imperiously, notes that the public still likes and trusts the president. And it is true that the only score that matters is what the economy does over the next 2 years (roughly). It is worth remembering that the press made a great deal more fun than this at the expense of newly-elected George W. Bush, but then ignored all their own opinions and rushed to put him on Mt. Rushmore when 9/11 occurred. The present crisis is also not in the media's control. If the public at-large decides that the economy is recovering and keeps spending and investing, then the economy, which is 2/3 dependent upon consumption, will indeed recover, and the press will write that they knew it would happen all along. After all, they will tell us, who else could have known?

Ya know, I certainly share Spacedark's concern over the fate of the printed newspaper, but I also recognize that the best use of most newsprint is as fish-wrapper.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Tale of Two Strident A-Holes

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, etc... In that time there were two men, and two political parties. On the one side stood a Reverend, a man who's comments were so strident and downright ugly that those in the other party strongly disliked the Reverend. Hearing this strong dislike, the members of the Reverend's party listened to the Reverend's words and said to themselves; "You know I can see how some folks on the other side might think this guy was a strident a-hole. We're gonna minimize his influence in every way we can."

Now the other party had a similar man. A man that spoke ugly half-lies about the opposing party. A man the opposing party felt was a strident a-hole. This man had drug problems and preached against drug users, this man went with whores and had been divorced three times, but preached against other's marital indiscretions. Indeed this man seemed thoroughly corrupt to the opposing party. But did the strident a-hole's party say to themselves "You know I can see how some folks on the other side might think this guy was a strident a-hole. We're gonna minimize his influence in every way we can." No they did not. In fact they made this man king of their political party.

It was the brightest of times, it was the dimmest of times, yada yada yada

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gas, Liquor, and Ammo

My investment choices for the next 2 years listed in the headline, LOL.

I love this chart, it shows how GDP grew, and yet wages kept plodding along or falling. That national GDP expansion is gone. As in Trillion$ gone. Pensions, 401k, endowments, public employees retirement, POOF!

Ya know, this pinkslipped thing during the "Great Recession" is tough, good, and weird. I am learning a lot, and spending great time with my two unbelievably smart, joyful, explorers of life. My wife and I actually laugh more if you can imagine that, especially at that idiot on "the bachelor" and his "dates" who think that the dude is actually planning, and taking them on champagne and caviar jaunts . . .

Some of the tough parts are the decisions you have to make, health care, budgeting, hoping . . .


Here are a few "Whodathunkit"s and survival TIPS;

1. Severance pay is heavily taxed, 25%+ right when you need the cash most. These taxes will go to pay for cleaning up after and bonusing out the bastards who caused the economic meltdown and your job to go away.

2. COBRA health insurance is a rip-off. A family of four costs $1600/month minimum. The stimulus plan calls for paying 65% of COBRA, but it will not kick in for two months, and is not retroactive. Congress, you get at least a d+ for trying, and it might help going forward. . .

3. Short term high-deductible health insurance is more affordable at around $320/month. You have to pay full boat for a doctor's visit, full boat for prescriptions, 80/20 on some things, but you are covered with a $5k deductible up to $2 MM if catastrophe strikes.

4. Your doctor can give you some samples of your meds for a few months. This will save some $$.

5. Unemployment insurance takes about 3 weeks to roll in. Oh, and your employer will fight it, and it also is taxed to pay for AIG bonuses. EVERY little bit will help though, so go apply the day you are let go.

6. Call your mortgage loan holder, and ask them about helping. Many have programs to temporarily lower your house payment. HERE is info as well. You can use unemployment insurance income to show financial hardship through lower earnings.

Just some info you won't find from the millionaire idiots on teh TV. Me? Zero on the horizon for a job until the economy begins to turn.

-Prodigal Son

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

C'MON LES, MAN UP - Did you spin for us or the SEC?

Last week, you called some of the blogger information about the Amarillo Globe-News "laughable," but we promptly pointed out how you had dissembled in your lame attempt to discredit us. You also tried to spin the words in your post in an attempt to discredit us, this time to make it seem that we were claiming to "report" when we posted the information as a "rumor."

We posted information from the 10-Q, a quarterly report which Morris Communications submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It was pretty clear how selective the information you posted was.

Instead of posting meaningless stuff, like how people in Georgia react to snow and whether LinkedIn is worthwhile, why don't you open a discussion about the real issues in this city.

Oh, wait. Never mind. I forgot. Amarillo has no issues.

GOP chairman bows to Elephantine leader


The power struggle within the GOP continues. Looks like the "incendiary and ugly" are winning.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

I was working on a post trashing the Globe-Republican's editorial board and their boyfriend, Mac Saint Thornberry, but those guys have about zero credibility on anything at this point so screw them.

Read this instead: Why Is Geithner Continuing Paulson's Policy of Violating the Law?

I can think of dozens of reasons to remain highly supportive of President Obama, but his handling of the credit/banking crisis has been disappointing to say the least.