Jan 222009

Just one day after George W. Bush left office, an NSA whistleblower has revealed that the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program targeted U.S. journalists, and vacuumed in all domestic communications of Americans, including, faxes, phone calls and network traffic.

This is probably just the beginning – I’m guessing more information will trickle out (over several years) that details what else the Bush administration did with all that secrecy.

Nov 062008

The LA Times reports “Tensions between McCain and Palin camps come to light“. Might be interesting, let’s take a look:

“…aides to John McCain disclosed new details about her expensive wardrobe purchases and revealed that a Republican Party lawyer would be dispatched to Alaska to inventory and retrieve the clothes still in her possession.”

That’s pretty damned funny.

“Fox News reported Wednesday that Palin’s lack of knowledge on some topics also strained relations. Carl Cameron reported that campaign sources told him Palin had resisted coaching before her faltering Katie Couric interviews; did not understand that Africa was a continent rather than a country; and could not name the three nations that are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement — the United States, Canada and Mexico.”

That’s pretty damned sad.

Nov 052008

Best of luck, Obama. You are going to need it to deal with the mess that has been left for you.

Oct 152008

Quoth the UT:

“Mayor Jerry Sanders warned of deep, imminent budget cuts and water rationing across San Diego yesterday, while also stressing the importance of a new City Hall and an expanded convention center.”

…About the city budget, Sanders said his aides are projecting a $43 million deficit in the current fiscal year, which will mean that “we almost certainly will need to curtail programs and close facilities that enjoy broad public support.”

…In addition to pledging support in his strongest terms yet for a convention center expansion and a new City Hall, the mayor stressed that he was prepared to take more active roles in expanding Lindbergh Field and accommodating the Chargers regionally, two issues he has generally kept his distance from so far.

Water rationing – I get that. Everyone should, we live in a desert.

Expanding City Hall (seriously?), the convention center, the airport (travel demand is dropping), and paying up to the Chargers while cutting community facilities and services? That’s a messed up set of priorities.

Sep 232008

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

You have got to be kidding me. You are a pretty funny guy, Paulson.

The way Bernanke sees the auction working, however, it’s the other way around: the banks would tender their assets for sale, and then Treasury would put in a bid at what it considers “close to the hold to maturity price”

Which means that the Treasury would have no idea what the market rate is on this toxic debt, and would probably end up paying whatever the original price was. This is simply crazy.

As Rich says:

1. It’s ridiculous that we are using taxpayer money to pay above market prices for possibly worthless assets and that the proceeds are going to highly paid people who knowingly took huge risks.

2. I hope there is going to be some sort of accountability among all the regulators who first denied the risks and are now throwing our money at fixing their aftermath. If all the same people stay in charge, this kind of stuff will just keep happening.

I’d also add a third point: If taxpayers are on the hook for recapitalizing the institutions, there needs to be equity participation for taxpayers.

The whole thing is eerily similar to the last time we heard “trust us”.

Apr 212008

I’ve been working my way though the many wonderful talks at TED and was happy to see a new one pop up with Gore showing his new slide show: New thinking on the climate crisis. Do yourself a favor, and watch it. He is a great speaker, and the topic is extremely important. Gore is right, the scale of change requires law and politics.

As fantastic as the talk was, I have a nitpick. I wish he spoke more about the huge car dependence we have in the USA. It is sort of the elephant lurking in the room. Any changes to our impact on the environment will have to start there. There are solutions, there just needs to be the will to change business as usual – More rail for cargo and transport, better mass transit, conversion to electric, and making cities walk-able through approaches like new urbanism.

The fundamental issue, as Michael Pollan says, is cheap energy. Without putting a price on carbon, there won’t be enough change. Of course, cheap energy was a temporary state, and now as crops are turned into ethanol, the decision seems to be fuel or food in many respects. How the rich starved the world is an interesting read.

This seems somewhat appropriate: Thousands of people saw varying shades of green at EarthFair yesterday at Balboa Park – and it seemed like all of them came in their cars.

Mar 042008

Just in case I didn’t already think Nixon and Kissinger were complete mental bastards: The Nukes of October: Richard Nixon’s Secret Plan to Bring Peace to Vietnam

Nixon decided to try something new: threaten the Soviet Union with a massive nuclear strike and make its leaders think he was crazy enough to go through with it. His hope was that the Soviets would be so frightened of events spinning out of control that they would strong-arm Hanoi, telling the North Vietnamese to start making concessions at the negotiating table or risk losing Soviet military support.

Interesting, a year before and in a political race for the presidency, Nixon intervened to persuade South Vietnam to avoid the talks. This potentially stopped an early peace deal. Nice one, dick.

Codenamed Giant Lance, Nixon’s plan was the culmination of a strategy of premeditated madness he had developed with national security adviser Henry Kissinger. The details of this episode remained secret for 35 years and have never been fully told. Now, thanks to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, it’s clear that Giant Lance was the leading example of what historians came to call the “madman theory”: Nixon’s notion that faked, finger-on-the-button rage could bring the Soviets to heel.

That’s about the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard of.