Flimsy Sanity: January 2008

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chalmers Johnson

Has Bush switched medication?

He really seems to be able to talk better.

Amazon Reviews

Who is Grady Harp? Slate author Garth Risk Hallberg was pleased with his review by a top Amazon reviewer until he delved into the system.
My own research suggests that GH is no more or less credible than Amazon's other "celebrity reviewers." Harriet Klausner, No. 1 since the inception of the ranking system in 2000, has averaged 45 book reviews per week over the last five years—a pace that seems hard to credit, even from a professed speed-reader. Reviewer No. 3, Donald Mitchell, ceaselessly promotes "the 400 Year Project," which his profile identifies only as "a pro bono, noncommercial project to help the world make improvements at 20 times the normal rate." John "Gunny" Matlock, ranked No. 6 this spring, took a holiday from Amazon, according to Vick Mickunas of the Dayton Daily News, after allegations that 27 different writers had helped generate his reviews.
In the comments section of Metafilter was this:
I'm in the Amazon Vine program. Every month they send two free things, which I pick from a list of available items - books, health care, electronics, music, etc.. it's pretty nice honestly, these are things that would cost $50 or more had I to buy them, it isn't crap. The electronics in particular can be very high value items. In return, all I have to do is write reviews. It's unclear how Vine members are chosen, I'm ranked around 3500 but there are people ranker higher who were not chosen.

Everything this Salon article says is true, and worse. For example, I've seen self-published authors self-reviewing (bad books) with sock puppets giving dozens of 5-star reviews. I've seen reviewers gang up and help or hurt other reviewers. People getting paid to write reviews.

If reviewing for Amazon determines what you read, than it's gone too far. I review a lot of out of print obscure stuff that might get one helpful vote in 5 years - who cares, I review what I like to read. If your goal is to get helpful votes, than you must review new books for a number of reasons - first reviews get double the number of ranking points, and new books get a lot more people looking at them trying to decide to buy or not, thus more helpful votes.

The ranking algorithm was disclosed by Amazon a while back in the discussion forum - something like, the first 5 votes gets one point, 20 votes get another (all doubled if your the first reviewer). Unhelpful votes likewise remove points in similar block sizes (but never removes more than that review gained ie. 50 unhelpfuls and 20 helpfuls would net out to zero points)...oh on the ranking, the number of points caps out after 20 votes, so you have to keep writing new reviews to get more points, each review has a limited number of possible points.
posted by stbalbach at 7:01 AM on January 28

Also on Metafilter were these examples of gaming the system. Retaliation reviews and guerilla tagging.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Funnies

by Piraro

Friday, January 25, 2008

Employment Opportunity

Pilot awarded $5 million for Sept. 11 tip . By the way, he did not call the FBI but two other instructors (who only received recognition in the senate) did, but he testified in the trial. Then there is the $50 Million for Osama's head, raised from the paltry $25,000,000 thanks to Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota. The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are overwhelmingly there as a result of bounties. You have to wonder if the lure of a fortune is any more reliable than torture for accurate information.

Our government officials are for sale and they think money is motivation enough for any action. They act like there are suitcases of it laying around. Our money just isn't real to Washington, not the President, not the Congress. Every man, woman and child owes $30,000 of the national debt, but no official is trying to learn to budget. The economic stimulus is just another example of spending money you don't have to correct a problem caused by poor budgeting and speculating.

Maybe we should privatize all law enforcement. Like mafia soldiers we can get paid for hits on our neighbors. By the way, what is with police switching from blue uniforms to black and shaving their heads to look like Nazi skinheads anyway? Is it to intimidate rather than to protect and serve? Just asking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Labor and Management

Homecoming Royalty

I was pretty much an outcast in high school. Good grades, very few and ragged clothes and just a small cadre of misfits as friends. Whenever some election would come up, the popular kids would suddenly know you. They usually didn't bother keeping up the facade of friendship for more than a couple days pre-election.

I was reminded of this when I listened to the Democrats debate on the radio yesterday. The "love for the poor" that poured out of that bunch was almost competitive - the frontrunners brought up the few things they did for the poor when they were very young and just out of school. Give me a break - they are all rich with some super rich corporate friends with offshore accounts and factories in China. One thing I have to give the Republicans, they don't even pretend the poor exist. Of course they get the poor white trash vote by mentioning gay marriage and Christian family values.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bush Pardons Himself

Free Market Follies

Markets are dropping all over the world. An interesting article about the banker's guilt is Will the Big Banks Collapse Here is just a portion of an interesting synopsis:
Through a complex combination of government-licensed monopoly (Federal Reserve System), implied government safety nets for mortgage investors (Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac), creative finance (asset-backed securities), and credit-rating services that were either stunningly naive or compensated in ways not beneficial to objective analysis, brokers marketed a series of high-commission, fast-sale investment packages that sold like hotcakes until August, 2007. Then, without warning, they stopped selling.

These packages had sold all over the world. European banks got in on the action, marketing these investment packages to their clients.

Americans have seen all this before: the savings and loan crisis of the 1980's. The S&L's were borrowed short (depositors) and lent long (home buyers). Then the rules changed. The government in 1980 abolished Regulation Q, which had limited the rate of interest that banks and S&L's could pay to depositors. A rate war began.

That was the test of the mortgage carry trade. The system failed. We are now in the midst of another similar test. It is much larger. It is worldwide. It is affecting capital markets that were once far-removed from mortgages.

You have heard of NINJA loans: no income, no job or assets. These were loans made by local mortgage brokers to first-time home buyers. Poor people were offered loans at rates far lower than conventional loans. The brokers told the prospective debtors that they could re-finance later to get long-term loans. This was not put in writing, and so it cannot be proven. But everyone in the industry knew it was being done. Therein lies the trap for America's largest banks. "Everyone knew."

The ticking time bomb in the U.S. banking system is not resetting subprime mortgage rates. The real problem is the contractual ability of investors in mortgage bonds to require banks to buy back the loans at face value if there was fraud in the origination process.

And, to be sure, fraud is everywhere. It's in the loan application documents, and it's in the appraisals. There are e-mails and memos floating around showing that many people in banks, investment banks and appraisal companies - all the way up to senior management - knew about it.

That is the supposed key to the prosecution: "Everyone knew." If everyone knew, then defrauded investors have a legal case. Anyway, they would have a case if they were not trying to collect from the real masters of America, the multinational banks.
When a criminal conspiracy acts in a criminal fashion, it can be prosecuted. But when a criminal conspiracy has been licensed by the government, and has de facto run the government of every major nation for a century, it will be difficult to get a conviction. None dare call it criminal.

In both cases, we had free market cheerleaders for Presidents. And both believed in government intervention when their suit and tie fraudsters wrecked. Where is the philosophy that the free market will solve all problems? Of course, these law and order authoritarian freaks think that it is only the peasants that need policing. They might have to release all the drug users who never harmed anyone to make room for the liars and cheats who can watch time creep on their Rolex's.

I once read an article on the depression years and the author said that in the wild 20's, absolutely everyone put their money into the stock market, even the shoeshine boys. Seems we never learn that the big boys are not our friends.

Monday, January 21, 2008

We Are Pathetic

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Views of the "Successful" Surge

Beyond the Green Zone by Dahr Jamail is an interesting book talk on CSpan. Mr. Jamail was an unembedded journalist who is angry about how the media covers the war.

He explained that the privatization of logistic services to the armed forces (in all 750 or more bases)was studied by KBR for feasibility and then approved so that the contract went to KBR while Cheney was Secretary of Defense - right before he became CEO of Halliburton, the parent of KBR.

-That part of the reason that the army is suffering less losses is that they are avoiding conflict by going out in the field and just sitting in a safe spot for 12 hours. Can hardly blame them.

-A real reason some people are returning to Baghdad (like reported in the media as a sign of progress) is that Syria has closed their borders and they were the only ones accepting refugees.

I really recommend this talk if you have the time.

Another interesting article is The corpse on the gurney
Rebellious al-Anbar Province was, for instance, essentially turned over to members of the community (many of whom had, even according to the Department of Defense, been fighting Americans until recently). They were then armed and paid by the U.S. not to make too much trouble.

In the Iraqi capital, on the other hand, the surging American military looked the other way as, in the first half of 2007, the Shiite “cleansing” of mixed Baghdad neighborhoods reached new heights, transforming it into a largely Shiite city. This may have been the real “surge” in Iraq and, if you look at new maps of the ethnic make-up of the capital, you can see the startling results — from which a certain quiescence followed. Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a longtime opponent of the Bush administration, called a “truce” during the surge months and went about purging and reorganizing his powerful militia, the Mahdi Army. In exchange, the U.S. has given up, at least temporarily, its goal of wresting control of some of those neighborhoods from the Sadrists.

Despite hailing the recent passage of what might be called a modest re-Baathification law in the Iraqi Parliament (that may have little effect on actual government employment), the administration has also reportedly given up in large part on pushing its highly touted “benchmarks” for the Iraqis to accomplish. This was to be a crucial part of Iraqi political “reconciliation” (once described as the key to the success of the whole surge strategy). It has now been dumped for so-called Iraqi solutions. All of this, including the lack of U.S. patrolling in al-Anbar province, the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, plus the addition of almost 30,000 troops in Baghdad and environs, has indeed given Iraq a quieter look — especially in the United States, where Iraqi news has largely disappeared from front pages and slipped deep into prime-time TV news coverage just as the presidential campaign of 2008 heats up.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Constitutional Amendments

Call me naive, but I believe the purpose of the constitution is to provide a framework for democracy - so I find it sad that one man one vote attempts like eliminating the electoral college and granting Washington DC representation get nowhere even though they are reintroduced every session. The list of some proposed constitutional amendments is quite interesting.

I really think more state rights might make sense. That way, all the idiots could move next to other idiots and we could tour them (or avoid them). If they want to pass their own laws about flags and marriage, fine. Other states can create alternative options like laws against overpriced health care (the real obscenity) and finding a way to make schools that work. Oh yes, and let people marry whomever they fancy because the only people who care about other people's sex lives are perverts and voyeurs.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why Edwards Looks Better Every Day

Hillary Clinton's Sleaze Parade
New questionable actions emerge daily. You’re probably familiar with many. But it’s the broader pattern that disturbs me-how much the Clinton campaign seems to nurture questionable actions from her operatives, supporters, and surrogates. And how the campaign’s actions go beyond drawing legitimate political lines to an all-too-Rovian instinct to do whatever’s deemed necessary to take down those blocking Clinton’s potential victory. Here’s a representative list of actions that, taken together, offer a troubling portent for her candidacy and presidency.

Start with the hiring of chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn. He’s CEO of a PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, that prepped the Blackwater CEO for his recent congressional testimony, is advising the giant industrial laundry corporation Cintas in fighting unionization, and whose website proudly heralded their union-busting expertise until it became a potential Clinton liability and they removed that section. B-M has historically represented everyone from the Argentine military junta and Philip Morris to Union Carbide after the 1984 Bhopal disaster.

Then there are Clinton’s campaign donors. Any major candidate has some dubious supporters, but Clinton’s gotten money from particularly noxious sources. Start with her donation from Rupert Murdoch, who’s given to no other Democrat.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why You Should Not Vote

Democracy Versus Stability by Joel S. Hirschhorn

Rather than focus on finding new ways to reform the system, too many people cling to the faulty hope and optimism that they can fix things by voting. At first this seems reasonable. Just one problem: History shows that voting no longer works. And the primary reason is that the two-party system is a sham, a disgrace, and worse. Recently, MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann was praised when he called the Bush presidency a criminal conspiracy. That missed the larger truth. The whole two-party political system is a criminal conspiracy hiding behind illusion-induced delusion.

Virtually everything that President Bush correctly gets condemnation for could have been prevented or negated by Democrats, if they had had courage, conviction, and commitment to maintaining the rule of law and obedience to the Constitution. Bush grabbed power from the feeble and corrupt hands of Democrats. Democrats have failed the vast majority of Americans. So why would sensible people think that giving Democrats more power is a good idea? They certainly have done little to merit respect for their recent congressional actions, or inaction when it comes to impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

One of the core reasons the two-party stranglehold on our political system persists is that whenever one party uses its power to an extreme degree it sets the conditions for the other party, its partner in the conspiracy, to take over. Then the other takes its turn in wielding excessive power. Rather than political reform achieved by shifting power from one party to the other, Americans get a different set of liars and crooks. When they belatedly realize their error they fall for the same old scam and put the other party back in power, and get a new set of liars and crooks. American government seems to be moved forward, except that its democracy continues to decline in spite of and because of elections.

Most Americans, at least those that vote, seem incapable of understanding that the Democrats and Republicans are two teams in the same league, serving the same cabal running the corporatist plutocracy. By keeping people focused on rooting for one team or the other, the behind-the-scenes rulers ensure their invisibility and power. Individual politicians on both teams can only rise to power by being loyal to their respective parties.

Mr Hirschhorn thinks a low turnout will discourage them. I just don't think they give a damn what the people think or want. I still think voting third party is a better approach - useless but more satisfying.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

News Roundup

*When is fraud ok - When the Supreme Court says so. Investors cannot sue.

*Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your F**king Morons
by Jim David

*Why the Saudi arms sale is a dumb idea.

* Why The Qwest Scandal Should Have You Out In The Streets
Government officials, in their official capacity as agents of the U.S. government, testifying at the trial, have stated under oath that the requests (wiretapping) were all made only after 9/11, but records unsealed in court a few days ago, prove unequivocally that the request was actually made seven months before, in February of 2001

Nascar in a Nutshell

Brass Rule

Treat everybody fairly until they treat you badly, then pay them back as a lesson not to do it again.

Pretty much the plot of most movies and fiction adventure books. Funny, I can't think of any best sellers that promote the golden rule.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Obama vs Fox

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Hampshire Recount

Kucinich will pay for recount.
Kucinich alluded to online reports alleging disparities around the state between hand-counted ballots, which tended to favor Sen. Barack Obama, and machine-counted ones that tended to favor Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. He also noted the difference between pre-election polls, which indicated Obama would win, and Clinton's triumph by a 39 percent to 37 percent margin.

There is no strategic way that Obama could demand a recount without damaging his campaign and looking like a whiner. Good for Kucinich even though the general public will say he is insane asking for a recount when he only received 2% of the vote. He is not claiming he is a victor, he is saying that fraud will not be as easy as it was in the last elections.

The following came from Censored News and explains why the Bush 2004 victory was such a miracle:
Exit polls are the gold standard of vote count validity internationally. Since exit polls ask people as they emerge from the polling station whom they just voted for, they are not projections as are polls taken in the months, weeks or days before an election. They are not subject to faulty memory, voter capriciousness (voters voting differently than they indicated to a pollster previously), or erroneous projections about who will actually turn up to vote. Pollsters know who turned up to vote because the voters are standing there in front of the exit pollsters. Because of these characteristics, exit polls are exceptionally accurate. They are so accurate that in Germany, for example, the winners are announced based on the exit polls, with paper ballots being counted as a backup check against the exit polls.15 Exit polls are used, for this reason, as markers of fraud.16

GOP pollster Dick Morris further affirms exit polling’s validity. Immediately after the 2004 election he wrote:

Exit polls are almost never wrong. They eliminate the two major potential fallacies in survey research by correctly separating actual voters from those who pretend they will cast ballots but never do and by substituting actual observation for guesswork in judging the relative turnout of different parts of the state…

To screw up one exit poll is unheard of. To miss six of them is incredible. It boggles the imagination how pollsters could be that incompetent and invites speculation that more than honest error was at play here.

Confounded and suspicious of the results, Morris resorted to advancing the bizarre theory that there must have been a conspiracy among the networks to suppress the Bush vote in the west by issuing exit poll results that were far off from the final tallies.

A number of different statisticians have examined the 2004 election results. University of Pennsylvania statistician Steve Freeman, Ph.D., most notably, analyzed the exit polls of the swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida and concluded that the odds of the exit polls being as far off as they were are 250 million to one. Exit polls in Florida had Kerry leading by 1.7 points and by 2.4 points in Ohio. These exit poll figures were altered at 1:30 a.m. November 3, 2004 on CNN to conform to the “official” tally. In the end, Kerry lost Florida by 5% and Ohio by 2.5%. This is a net shift of 6.7 points in Florida and 4.9 points in Ohio in Bush’s favor, well beyond the margin of error. By exit poll standards, this net shift was unbelievable.

A team at the University of California at Berkeley, headed by sociology professor Michael Hout, found a highly suspicious pattern in which Bush received 260,000 more votes in those Florida precincts that used electronic voting machines than past voting patterns would indicate compared to those precincts that used optical scan read votes where past voting patterns held.

The Edison-Mitofsky polling group that conducted the National Exit Poll (NEP) issued a 77-page report on January 19, 2005 to account for why their exit polls were so unexpectedly far off.21 Edison-Mitofsky rule out sampling error as the problem and indicate that systemic bias was responsible. They concluded that their exit polls were wrong because Kerry voters must have been more willing to talk to their poll workers than Bush voters and because their poll workers were too young and inexperienced. Edison-Mitofsky offer no evidence indicating that their conclusion about more chatty Kerry voters actually occurred, merely that such a scenario would explain the discrepancy. In fact, as nine statisticians who conducted an evaluation of the Edison-Mitofsky data and analysis point out, Bush voters appeared to be slightly more willing to talk to exit pollsters than Kerry voters. This would make the exit polls’ discrepancy with the official tallies even more pronounced. In addition, the Edison-Mitofsky explanation fails to explain why exit polls were only exceptionally wrong in the swing states.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Change, change, change

All this talk of change is pretty funny considering "you don't bite the hand that feeds you". Edwards is the only one that is telling the truth when he says he will stand against big business, so be prepared for no pharmaceutical, oil, or banking reform and the end of a free internet no matter which candidate wins. Check out the contributions for pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, securities and investment banking and telephone and utitlities . And don't think Hillary will fix our over-priced poor quality health care too soon according to this.

Change seldom comes from politicians. Lincoln only became anti-slavery after public sentiment changed; the Vietnam war ended when not only college students but also returning veterans protested and the government felt threatened by revolt. No candidate is mentioning fair, monitored elections or global warming - two things most in need of immediate change.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Taxi to the Darkside trailer

I heard Condi saying "Do you think we should just close Guantanamo and let these killers loose?"

From what I have read, most of them were turned in by their neighbors for a bounty. I am quite sure that by now most hate us enough to be killers even if they never started out that way - torture is kind of funny that way.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Peace on Earth

Sometimes when I feel like worrying, I think about worldwide economic collapse, global warming and starvation, big brother surveillance (the oil and drug businesses creating a new fascist society under the guise of religion). We have the ingredients in place for some horrible recipes even though the Republicans like to look on the bright side and think you can make cookies out of manure.

Of all the bad choices, the least horrible is a pandemic so that people would again not be so plentiful. Maybe they would again be valued and the earth could support them - at least disease is a fast, nondescriminating killer unlike wars and starvation. Years ago I read the bestseller The Territorial Imperative by Robert Ardrey and in it he said that territory was as important as food supply in regulating growth in the animal kingdom. Humans continue to breed no matter how crowded or miserable their future might be.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Get out Bush

I'm confused

I'm confused why the media is depreciating Edwards coming in second in Iowa because there is a good chance he would have won if a secret ballot was the preferred method. Since Kucinich and Robertson advised their followers to caucus for Obama, Obama's 6 percentage lead is not that huge. When you consider that Edwards is anti corporation rule of America and is depending on union funding, he is at a real disadvantage monetarily compared to Clinton and Obama. Of course, the whole spectacular that we call voting for the president is absurd considering the fraud that was the 2000 and 2004 elections. Why Elections Don't Matter

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Maybe this is enough

Seems one doesn't really need to do much to get tasered anymore.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008



Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Interesting Trivia

No one in history has preached to more people in live audiences than Billy Graham. In late 1949, Graham launched the first of his major crusades in Los Angeles, which lasted a total of eight weeks (other notables included a twelve-week crusade in London in 1954, and a 16-week one in New York City in 1957). However, it was the Los Angeles crusade which made Billy Graham a well-known figure, due in large part to media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Graham had been preaching against Communism in some of his sermons, and Hearst liked what he heard. He communicated two famous words to his editors: “Puff Graham.” Suddenly, publications like TIME, Newsweek, A.P., Quick, and LIFE all featured Billy Graham, and he was launched into national prominence.