Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Top 5 Reasons to Vote Against Wall Street's $700 Billion Bailout

For all the "panic" created by the credit crunch there are still very few calling for what is actually needed which is a root and branch reform of how banks/investors/hedge funds & pension funds operate. The prevailing attitude seems to be one of "give banks the money and we can all go about our business as if nothing has happened". Considering the banks created this mess it's simply staggering that we are now asked to trust their judgment about _any_ possible solution. It seems to be simply beyond the ability of most economists and pundits to question the system, like religious zealots no matter what evidence of put before them they continue to believe.

Anyway, the Top 5 Reasons to Vote Against Wall Street's $700, they all seem like good reasons to me;



The Rich Are Staging a Coup This Morning

Dennis Kucinich responds

Seeing as every economist and pundit in Ireland is speaking of the $700 Billion bailout "deal" with reverence usually reserved for returning messiahs I'll post this set of questions by Dennis Kucinich that no one in this country thought to ask;


Friday, 26 September 2008

America’s Elephant In The Room

Quiet long but entertaining article by David Michael Green;
All of this is deeply related, in multiple ways, to what is without a doubt absolutely the first most astonishing fact of American politics. And that is that conservatism (I prefer to call them ‘regressives’) isn’t the most repudiated ideology this side of cannibalism. And that regressive practitioners of this hateful disease masquerading as a political philosophy haven’t been tarred-and-feathered, hung, drawn and quartered, then run out of town on an electrified rail. And that any red-blooded American wouldn’t infinitely prefer in this day and age to be called a pedophile, a terrorist or a European – heck, or all of the above combined – rather than a conservative.


The Silence Is A Lie

the always readable John Pilger;

As Harold Pinter said of unmentionable crimes: "Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."


The Daily Show: On Sarah Palin

very funny

Thursday, 25 September 2008

25 Harshest Reactions To the Wall Street Bailout


Highlights include

"The point is this is one of the most important irrevokable economic decisions we will ever make. Let's make it in a state of panic."
— Stephen Colbert

"I'm not going to fire you; you can still be called Congress. But you don't have any power."
— Jon Macey, Yale Law School professor and deputy dean, providing an allegory for Secretary Paulson's proposal

"If you think the Bailout of All Bailouts...won't saddle American taxpayers with billions, if not trillions, of risky obligations, you don't know politics... Never before in the history of American capitalism has so much been asked of so many for...so few."
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor

Dollar to fall 90%??

Especially if the proposed bailout goes ahead.

RHINEBECK, N.Y., Nov. 19 (UPI) -- A financial crisis will likely send the U.S. dollar into a free fall of as much as 90 percent and gold soaring to $2,000 an ounce, a trends researcher said.

"We are going to see economic times the likes of which no living person has seen," Trends Research Institute Director Gerald Celente said, forecasting a "Panic of 2008."

"The bigger they are, the harder they'll fall," he said in an interview with New York's Hudson Valley Business Journal.

Celente -- who forecast the subprime mortgage financial crisis and the dollar's decline a year ago and gold's current rise in May -- told the newspaper the subprime mortgage meltdown was just the first "small, high-risk segment of the market" to collapse.

Derivative dealers, hedge funds, buyout firms and other market players will also unravel, he said.

Massive corporate losses, such as those recently posted by Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) and General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM), will also be fairly common "for some time to come," he said.

He said he would not "be surprised if giants tumble to their deaths," Celente said.

The Panic of 2008 will lead to a lower U.S. standard of living, he said.

A result will be a drop in holiday spending a year from now, followed by a permanent end of the "retail holiday frenzy" that has driven the U.S. economy since the 1940s, he said.

This would make those two wars of choice _really_ expensive...


The Crash

On the day that Ireland officially enters recession here is an interesting interview on the roots of the crash;


There has been lots of coverage of the proposed bailout by the US government, an interesting clause in this plan would, in effect, make the US Treasury Secretary one of the most powerful dictators in the world;
"Section 8. Review. 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." In other words, no lawsuits allowed by aggrieved investors or American taxpayers. No complaints later from ignorant pols who didn't know what they voted for. Take it or leave it, suckers.


Friday, 19 September 2008

Moral Psychology

Jonathan Haidt delivers an interesting TED Talk about the differences between conservatives and liberals; (18 minutes)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

10 things you need to know about Pompeii

in honour of her new book Mary Beard has posted some corrections to well know "facts" about Pompeii;

1. The inhabitants of the Roman town were all killed by the eruption of 79. Wrong. Just over 1000 bodies have been discovered – out of a population of perhaps 12,000. Most of them made it to safety.

2. The city lay undisturbed from the day Vesuvius erupted until its rediscovery in the eighteenth century. Wrong again, I’m afraid. Almost straightway the locals came back to salvage their stuff, digging through the volcanic rubble, and if they were lucky, heaving out some of the most valuable stuff. If they were unlucky, their tunnels collapsed and they got smothered in the process.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

White Privilege

handy list detailing how different Palin and Obama are presented in the media;

  • White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
  • White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
  • White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.


it does sorta feel like this

Monday, 15 September 2008


It's a constant source of amazement to me that to be 'liberal' is a bad thing - especially in the U.S. Instead, to be a good person, you must be conservative (especially in matters of sex), rabidly capitalist, religious, form opinions early and never change them and preferably be ignorant. Bob Herbert has some things to say about being liberal;
Liberals have been so cowed by the pummeling they’ve taken from the right that they’ve tried to shed their own identity, calling themselves everything but liberal and hoping to pass conservative muster by presenting themselves as hyper-religious and lifelong lovers of rifles, handguns, whatever.

Creationism, this side of the ocean

Mark Rowlands on a call in the Times of London for creationism to be taught in science class (off all places), includes this great quote;

And if lack of scientific support isn’t enough to omit something from a science lesson then what would be enough?

But, more importantly, encapsulated in these comments is, I think, much of what is wrong with today’s society. To think that the sincerity or even the fervor with which someone holds a belief confers any value on that belief is the defining mistake of our time. This denigration of truth in favor of sincerity is progressively permeating more and more of our society. The problem is that sincerity is very malleable. Indeed, it wouldn’t be going too far to say that when sincerity and desire hook up, desire is invariably going to insist on being on top

Friday, 12 September 2008

Bush II

I think this sum's it up

More Georgian Blowback

RUSSIA flew two strategic bombers to Venezuela yesterday in the first such long-range flight since the Cold War.

Officials said the bombers carried no live weapons -- nuclear or otherwise -- and would return to Russia early next week.

The bombers arrived in South America ahead of planned joint military manoeuvres between Russia and Venezuela, which some analysts believe is a tit-for-tat response to the Americans sending warships with aid to Georgia following last month's five-day war.

It was the first time strategic bombers have landed in the Western Hemisphere since the end of the Cold War. The foray, and the coming military exercises with an avowed US enemy, are likely to strain the already tense relationship between Moscow and Washington.

Russian air force major general Pavel Androsov said the Tu-160 bombers were carrying only test missiles.

He said the jets would conduct several test flights over neutral waters and return to Russia on Monday. That suggest the jets will not participate in military exercises Venezuela and Russia plan to hold in the Caribbean Sea later this year.

The deployment -- which will include a naval squadron and long-range patrol planes -- is expected to be the largest Russian naval manoeuvres in the Caribbean in nearly two decades.


Thursday, 11 September 2008

Another Video from Pat

Secular Philosophy also tackle the main issue;

the Human Rights Council has become the epicenter of a movement by certain Islamic states to curtail freedom of religious expression, under the guise of combating “defamation of religion” and “Islamaphobia.” The ultimate aim of this effort is not to protect the feelings of Muslims, but to protect illiberal Islamic states from charges of human rights abuse, and to silence the voices of internal dissidents calling for more secular government and freedom.

Intellectual arrogance

Massimo Pigliucci over at Secular Philosophy offers a considered rebuttal to notion of intellectual arrogance. I particularly liked it as he is an expert in his field and declares (rightly) that this makes him more qualified to make claims of fact than 'mere' laymen. Too often real experts are reluctant to stand on their authority for fear of appearing elitist or are frightened this might offend the listener in some way.
[snip]The reasoning, such as it is, goes like this: how dare you, Dr. X (put here any name of any scientist who dares to write for the public), claim that so many people are wrong and you and a small number of other egg-headed intellectuals are right? Who are you to declare the truth of evolution and the falsity of intelligent design? What makes you the arbiter in deciding what is science and what is bunk?

The answer is simple: I am an expert. You shouldn't trust me on car mechanics, or on civil engineering, or on market analysis. But what I have to say about science counts more than what most people have to say about it because I am a scientist and they are not.


More damning, you are engaging in the ultimate act of arrogance: to declare something true or untrue not because you have reason or evidence, but only because it makes you feel better. May I suggest that you need a good dose of humility, and that one way to get it is to admit that the universe is not about you, and that some people out there really know more than you do, as unpleasant a thought as this may be?

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

John McCain, the next nut in charge?

I reckon McCain will actually win. More wars and madness then.

Roman Reinactement

This here is a video promo for the Nijmegen Roman Festival which was held in August. Because I'm such a Roman history geek I thought it was great.


Some background on Fannie Mae

In summary;
Here is the cycle: The government invents something virtuous; the private market takes it over and loses hundreds of billions; the government then bails it out. This is best understood as socialized risk, privatized gain. Yes, the shareholders of Fannie Mae will deservedly lose a bundle -- it's always the shareholders who take a hit -- but the insiders who thought up subprime and the executives of Fannie Mae during the roaring '90s already made their pile.

The LHC started up today... cool!

Nice 3 minute video of what it is.

Listening to the radio this morning the presenters where practically gasping over the 9 Billion Euro bill. I reckon that's roughly 2 aircraft carriers or about a third of a Fannie and Freddie bailout. The correct reaction should be "how wonderful to spend money on knowledge and science instead of war and greed".

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Protectionism makes you rich

I don't know if Peter Mandelson is the most evil person in Europe, but I bet he's in the top 5.

Neoliberal economists claim rich countries got that way by removing their barriers to trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Ha-Joon Chang shows in his book Kicking Away the Ladder, Britain discovered its enthusiasm for free trade only after it had achieved economic dominance. The industrial revolution was built on protectionism: in 1699, for example, we banned the import of Irish woollens; in 1700 we banned cotton cloth from India. To protect our infant industries, we imposed ferocious tariffs (trade taxes) on almost all manufactured goods.

By 1816 the US had imposed a 35% tax on most imported manufactures, which rose to 50% in 1832. Between 1864 and 1913 it was the most heavily protected nation on earth, and the fastest-growing. It wasn't until after the second world war, when it had already become top dog, that it dropped most of its tariffs. The same strategy was followed by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and almost every other country that is rich today. Within the ACP nations, the great success story of the past 30 years is the country whose protectionism has been fiercest: during the 1980s and 1990s, Mauritius imposed import tariffs of up to 80%. Protectionism, which can be easily exploited by corrupt elites, does not always deliver wealth; but development is much harder without it.

The first goal of any society is to provide enough food and labour to sustain itself, under no circumstances should this be "outsourced", handed over to a third party or bartered away.


Excellent Pixar quality animation

link from Why, That's Delightful

Monday, 8 September 2008

Hypocrisy of this Magnitude has to be Respected.

Interesting article available at Information Clearinghouse about Russia/Georgia and the West. It's by William Blum so you know it's worth reading.

So what then was the purpose of the Georgian invasion of Ossetia if not to serve the electoral campaign of John McCain, a man who might be the next US president and be thus very obligated to the Georgian president? Saakashvili could have wanted to overthrow the Ossetian government to incorporate it back into Georgia, at the same time hopefully advancing the cause of Georgia's petition to become a member of NATO, which looks askance upon new members with territories in dispute or with military facilities belonging to a nonmember state such as Russia. But the nature of the Georgian invasion does not fit this thesis. The Georgians did none of the things that those staging a coup have traditionally found indispensable. They did not take over a TV or radio station, or the airport, or important government buildings, or military or police installations. They didn't take into custody key members of the government. All the US/Israeli-armed and trained Georgia military did was bomb and kill, civilians and Russian peacekeeper soldiers, the latter legally there for 16 years under an international agreement. For what purpose all this if not to incite a Russian intervention?

Friday, 5 September 2008

Do these people ever listen to themselves?

More to the point, why do their supporters not care that they are such hypocritical bastards.

link from onegoodmove

The Roma Sub Rosa Series

Steven Saylor's historical mysteries set in ancient Rome and featuring investigator Gordianus the Finder.

I started reading this series a few months back after borrowing the first three from a friend at work and last night I finally finished the last book. I really enjoyed the series but obviously thought some where better than others. Two of the best where "A Murder on the Appian Way" and "Catalina's Riddle" which kept me gripped and guessing right to the very end.

Two honourable mentions are "Venus Throw" which delivered a cracking surprise and "A Mist of Prophesis" which delved into the character of Gordianius him much more than any of the preceeding novels.

One of the great strengths of these books is the characterisation he lends to the supporting cast of famous (and not so famous) historical figures. I have read about Cicero many times but I think forever more it will be Saylors' Cicero I imagine, likewise his Catalina and Clodius. You know the author is doing a good job where you hope a doomed character won't be doomed after all. More so in a historical novel.
Many of the final novels deal with events surround Julius Caesar but I got the distinct impression that both the Character and Author where getting a little tired of late Roman Republic shenanigans. That's not to say I didn't enjoy them (I really did) but it might be time to start wrapping it up.

The Big Bang

Two excellent documentaries on BBC4 last night;

Lost Horizons: The Big Bang:
To coincide with the switch-on of the LHC, the world's largest particle accelerator complex, Professor Jim Al Khalili delves into over 50 years of the BBC science archive to tell the story behind the emergence of one of the greatest theories of modern science, the Big Bang.

The remarkable idea that our universe simply began from nothing has not always been accepted with the conviction it is today and, from fiercely disputed leftfield beginnings, took the best part of the 20th century to emerge as the triumphant explanation of how the universe began. Using curious horn-shaped antennas, U-2 spy planes, satellites and particle accelerators, scientists have slowly pieced together the cosmological jigsaw, and this documentary charts the overwhelming evidence for a universe created by a Big Bang.
The Big Bang Machine
Professor Brian Cox visits Geneva to take a look around Cern's Large Hadron Collider before this vast, 27km long machine is sealed-off and the experiment to create the simulation of a black hole begins.

When it's up and running, it will be capable of creating the conditions that existed just a billionth of a second after the Big Bang. Brian joins the scientists who hope that the LHC will change our understanding of the early universe and solve some of its mysteries.
Nobody does it better than the BBC. Jim Al Khalili is fast becoming the Attenborough of the quantum world while the incredibly personable Cox jumps off the screen with his enthusiasm and excitement. Great stuff!

here's someone else's thoughts.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Making Canned Halloween Monstrosities

This is pure genius;


Also, how to make a charred corpse.

Ah, sweet sweet justice

This is great, security guards start using their nightsticks on a banner-waving fan who was running across the pitch, prompting players and fans to storm the field and beat up the guards.

Slight Irish interest here, new Irish soccer couch Giovanni Trapattoni makes a brief appearance.

link from boing boing

Geogia V Russia

I feel sorry for Georgia, they've got an idiot leader who thought starting a war with Russia would be a good idea and now they have to borrow IMF loans to rebuild their country. It's a real pity their leaders didn't realise they where just pawns in a much bigger game.

The real surprise for me has been the vitriol of the British (both political and media) in condemning Russia - lots of talk suggesting "we" should not stand for it etc etc. I'm used to rank hypocrisy from the western media but this time it really took the biscuit especially when Russia recognised South Ossetia. It really didn't take long for the Kosovan cat to create mayhem.

What is in the water?

Yes! we really do have to ask outselves, "What is going on?"

I saw this a few weeks ago now and thought it was great!

Over Population

I had 'a discussion about this kind of thing with my wife a few weeks back, the outcome of which was she decided I was 'a little bit evil'.

Holy Crap!

I haven't posted anything since the start of July!

Well to be fair I was in Italy for most of July (I really must post about it) and I've been incredibly busy at work since my return. Still, I must return to bitching about the world.