December 9, 2007 archive

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

The Beatles:  Requiem for John

A Day in the Life

Polling: An introduction

A lot of people here read polls.  I’m a polling addict, myself.  

But a lot of what people think about polls is, well…. uninformed.  I’m a statistician.  

Before we jump below the fold, this is not going to be about any particular poll, or any particular race, or any particular anything.  It’s general

crossposted to swingstateproject and dailyKos

Docudharma Times Sunday Dec.9

This is an Open Thread: Come in: Look around.

Headlines For Sunday December 9: As Iraqis Vie for Kirkuk’s Oil, Kurds Become Pawns: Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002 :Parole Case and ’90s AIDS View Trail Huckabee: Runaway trailers leave random victims: Bosnian Serbs vote in presidential election

As Iraqis Vie for Kirkuk’s Oil, Kurds Become Pawns

KIRKUK, Iraq – Even by the skewed standards of a country where millions are homeless or in exile, the squalor of the Kirkuk soccer stadium is a startling sight.

On the outskirts of a city adjoining some of Iraq’s most lucrative oil reserves, a rivulet of urine flows past the entrance to the barren playing field.

There are no spectators, only 2,200 Kurdish squatters who have converted the dugouts, stands and parking lot into a refugee city of cinder-block hovels covered in Kurdish political graffiti, some for President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.


Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002

In Meetings, Spy Panels’ Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say

By Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen

Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, December 9, 2007; Page A01

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.


Dignity is very hard to come by for Americans in this seventh year since the corporate merger of Rubber Stamp Congress, Inc. with Bush & Cheney Planet Exterminators, Inc.  There’s plenty of debt, disgust, despair, depression, death, destruction, and denial, but there’s not much dignity.  America’s dignity vanished in Florida in 2000 and hasn’t been seen since.

Understanding the Subprime Crisis: A Narrative, Part Two

Part Two: John Meriwether and the rise of Arbitrage

In the first entry of this narrative, we paid attention to the story of Lewis Ranieri and the Salomon Brothers mortgage desk in the 1980s.  We will now focus on another major player at Salomon in the 1980s, one whose fame and influence is even greater than Ranieri’s, and who is as different from Ranieri as could possibly be.  That man is John Meriwether.

Ranieri was a loud, fat, New York-born Italian who started in the Salomon mail room and had never gone to college.  Meriwether, on the other hand, was famous for his quiet and reserve.  Michael Lewis, in his book Liar’s Poker, opens with a famous story about Meriwether that even he has admitted is probably apocryphal: the game of Liar’s Poker, a modified game of poker played using the serial numbers on dollar bills, was vastly popular at Salomon at the time, and the inscrutable Meriwether was the firm’s best player.  The story goes that Salomon’s managing partner, John Gutfreund, challenged Meriwether to a single hand of liar’s poker for the sum of one million dollars, and Meriwether responded that he would only play if the sum for the hand was ten million (Gutfreund turned him down, which Lewis says was the intent).  

His first notable trade at Salomon was a classic bit of arbitrage; a trader named J.F. Eckstein’s firm was failing in 1979, and tried to get Meriwether to buy out his position.  Eckstein had sold millions in US Treasury bills, while buying millions in Treasury bill futures (futures are a contract where two parties agree to the sale of a commodity at a set price at a predetermined moment in the future).  At the time, treasury futures were selling at a discount compared to the actual bills.  What Eckstein had done was place a two hundred million dollar bet that the prices of the bills and the futures would eventually converge, but the longer that took, the more his equity value was disappearing.  If he didn’t sell his position, he would be ruined long before the prices converged.

Meta: Scheduling IV

Admins, Contributing Editors, and Guest Bloggers please pay attention!


Chicken-hearted Dems too weak even to sell out when they try

If you ever wondered why the Democratic Congress hasn't ended the Iraq war — or even successfully made the tiniest step in that direction — it's all been laid out clearly in the last 24 hours.

1. The Democrats cave — again. The AP reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) — After weeks of tough talk, Democrats appear resigned to back down again on providing money for the Iraq war.

What happened?

''Republicans, Republicans, Republicans,'' said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. ''The real problem here is the president and his Republican backers'' who have ''staked out an increasingly hard-lined position.''

(Wonder if Democrats have ever thought of that tactic? Nah, not nice.)

2. Next we get some details from the Washington Post via Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leaders are contemplating legislation that would give President George W. Bush $70 billion in new funds for war but without any timetables for withdrawing troops from Iraq, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

The deal would also include about $11 billion in additional domestic spending through September 2008 that Bush had opposed, said the Post, quoting House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who met with the paper's editorial board on Friday.

Still unclear, however, is whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a vocal opponent of the Iraq war, would go along with the unconditional money for combat after several attempts in the House to bring the fighting to an end.

3. Then the coup de grace, from the AP again:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Saturday threatened to veto a massive spending bill being assembled by congressional Democrats, saying it's unacceptable to add billions of dollars to domestic programs.

The White House has not seen details of the $500 billion-plus measure — which senior Democrats are constructing behind closed doors — but reacted to it based on media accounts.

The bill contains $11 billion above President Bush's February budget, awarding the money to domestic programs such as education and health research. It also may contain several billion dollars in ''emergency'' funding for border security, foreign aid, drought relief and a food program for women and children.

Solidarity With The WGA: What We Can Do

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Today, AMTP broke off negotiations with the Writers Guild (WGA).  This is not a good development and may prolong the strike.

What, if anything, can we do to support the WGA strikers and to be in solidarity with the WGA?

Join me on the right side of this picket line.

Democrats and Republicans

The idea that there is one Democratic Party, and that it is to blame (or, for that matter, to praise) for anything, is wrong-headed.  There is no such organization  

There is a Democratic party, of course. But it’s made up of individuals.

And, while there are some bad congressmen in the Democratic party, all the good congressmen are in that party.  Who?

Senators like Barbara Boxer, Richard Durbin, and Ted Kennedy.

Can you imagine one of them in the Republican party?

Representatives like Diane Watson, Barbara Lee, George Miller and Lynn Wolsey from CA; Raul Grijalva from AZ; Ed Markey and John Olver from MA; or my own rep., Jerrold Nadler.

Can you imagine any of them in the Democratic party?

Even some Democrats in contested district are doing the right thing on a lot of issues.  Some of them are listed here

Candidates like Sam Bennett, running in PA-15; her website says

The Bush Administration seems to have things exactly backwards. Where government should be robust – protecting and caring for its citizens – they have made it weak. Where government should tread lightly, they have made it overbearing

got any Republicans who say that?

And, at the Presidential level, can you really say that there are no differences between, oh, just for instance, John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani?  Have you read the articles each wrote in Foreign Affairs?  Giuliani wants to terrorize the world by building an ever-larger military, an ever-larger spying apparatus, increasing the use of torture, and acting, in general, like the rogue nation we have become under Bush.  Edwards has a rather different vision – where we use our great wealth and power to build, rather than destroy; to gain the trust and respect of the world, as we once had it (and not so long ago).

Is the Democratic party perfect? Let’s not be silly.  

Is it the same as the Republicans? Let’s not be silly.

OK.  Edwards and Clinton both voted for the Iraq war.  Does that make them the same as Republicans?  That’s a fallacious argument.  By that reasoning, since I have two legs, and you have two legs, we must be the same.

And even the vastly imperfect individual Democrats are universally better than the Republicans they replace, or who might replace them.  Is Bob Casey my ideal Senator? No, he is not.  Is he better than Santorum? Damn straight.  Do I like everything Jim Webb says? I do not.  Do I like more of what he says than what George Allen says? You  bet.

When you find a Republican senator who declines to shake the president’s hand, let me know.

The Shaft: Bending Over to Compromise Sucks, Plus Good Impeachment News! w/poll

You see, I remember the last Iraq Occupation Supplemental.  I remember we’ll do it this one more time and draw the line in the sand in September.  Of course, September came and went, and we should be happy that there wasn’t any funding.  Same for October and November.  But now it’s December!

Pony Party: More Friday Night Photos

As I was driving home from taking pictures, I asked myself whether there would be some time in the future when light displays would be considered too luxurious for public consumption. That is a part of the reason I like taking pictures: I wonder if I am witnessing the passing of the world we live in. When I am old and no longer productive, will the pictures I take be the memories I drift on as I reach my final destination? Will the world I passed through simply be a memory for many of us? Will the children I saw delighting over the displays be forced to survive in a much meaner one of continuous shortages, grief and struggle, over the last few remaining resources?

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