Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for December, 2008

Financial analysis, The Year of the Ox

Posted by Charles II on December 31, 2008

Well, it’s time to fess up to last year’s predictions and make some more.

The metaphor for 2008 is of an army withdrawing from one battle and re-engaging on another front. The challenge is to redeploy assets as opportunities develop, while not allowing inflation and currency decline to eat away at the underlying value in the meantime by holding too much cash. Timing and flexibility are critical, though being late may not be as dangerous as being too early. The matter is complicated by predicted slow growth/recession in the US, accompanied by unpredictable effects worldwide.
* Nice poetry, less helpful as advice. The correct advice, of course, was “Run and hide.”

The 2008-2009 market is potentially one of the most dangerous in a generation.
* That was a pretty good prediction. A better prediction would have been that it definitely was the most dangerous of two generations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in economy, financial crisis | 7 Comments »

Abu Gonzales rites rights writes

Posted by Charles II on December 31, 2008

Larisa Alexandrovna says that Alberto Gonzales is writing a book about his time in the Administration, which is really remarkable because he has testified under oath to not remember anything that happened.

My comment: It’s a truly original product. Every other page will be blank, making it useful as a diary, datebook, or coloring book for children.

Posted in Alberto Gonzales, Busheviks | 4 Comments »

Roland Burris = Eugene Sawyer?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 31, 2008

That is, is Burris the weak-as-water divide-and-conquer stalking horse put forth by the Vrdolyak machine to get Obama’s seat back into their hands come next election day?

That’s what an Illinois Kossack suspects: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 2008, Barack Obama | 2 Comments »

Due to unforeseen circumstances…

Posted by Charles II on December 30, 2008

Juan Cole’s blog is the place to go for a roundup of analysis on the situation in Gaza. One link he provides to Farnaz Fassihi points out that a consequence of the bombing of Gaza is that governments across the Middle East are at elevated risk of being overthrown by radicals:

The ferocity of the Israeli attacks in Gaza — and mounting casualties, which United Nations estimated Monday at 320 dead, including 62 civilians, and more than 1,400 injured — could channel pent-up anger against Arab leaders into further support for Islamist groups. These groups are increasingly seen as the only organized movements willing to stand up to Israel.

In Iraq, Ayatollah al-Sistani has called for “[t]he Arab and Muslim worlds … to take practical steps in order to stop this continual aggression and to break this cruel blockade…”

As Juan Cole says, “Sistani’s forceful call for practical action, on the other, shows an increased militancy and self-assuredness on the part of the Shiite authorities in Iraq.”

And al-Maliki has responded. According to Zeina Karam of AP:

the political party of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement condemning the attacks and calling on Islamic countries to cut relations with Israel and end all “secret and public talks” with it.

According to Karam, in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrullah has mobilized huge numbers (half a million?) of members of Hezbollah, and even the king Abdullah II of Jordan has donated blood for Gazans. While clearly just a symbolic gesture, it is a sign that American policymakers should consider. In Egypt, repression is too heavy for people to demonstrate openly, but that just makes it the more likely that there will be a coup. The Taliban has also joined in.

In Europe, countries with significant immigrant populations also have to be concerned. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy has condemned the attacks (Juan Cole’s translation here).

One would never have imagined that Israel would succeed in uniting Sunni radicals like Hamas with Shi’a like Iran, or that it could have succeeded in alienating its natural allies in Europe. But it has, and it is not far from bringing down the pro-western regimes that have made the job of the IDF relatively easy. I’m sure that when things spiral out of control and Israel’s continued existence is no longer a sure thing that Likud will say that these were completely unforeseen circumstances.

Posted in israel, Middle East, wrong way to go about it | 10 Comments »


Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 30, 2008

Don’t mind me, I’m just preening over the news that, yet again, Minneapolis and Saint Paul were among the top five cities in America in terms of literacy:

CITY OVERALL RANK  2008 2007 2006 2005
Minneapolis, MN 1.5 1 2 2
Seattle, WA 1.5 2 1 1
Washington DC 3 5 3.5 3
St Paul, MN 4 3 5 9.5
San Francisco, CA 5 7 9 5
Atlanta, GA 6 8 3.5 4
Denver, CO 7 4 8 6
Boston, MA 8 10 11 7
St Louis, MO 9 6 12 15
Cincinnati, OH 10.5 11 7 9.5
Portland, OR 10.5 12 10 11



*Preens some more*

Posted in education, Minnesota | 3 Comments »

Light Rail And Its Enemies

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 29, 2008

Atrios posted this observation the other day, in the context of shooting down various arguments made against light rail transit:

The anti-light rail lobby has long dangled shiny “new” technology, like absurd Personal Rapid Transit vehicle systems, which miss the point of “mass” transit entirely, as a never-to-be-achieved alternative to light rail as a way of derailing projects.

Well, of course. The antis’ main, albeit generally unspoken, motivation is to do anything to avoid coming within fifty yards of anyone who might be poor or have darker skin than they do.

Posted in transportation | 5 Comments »

Um, Okay Then

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 29, 2008

Remember The Yes Men’s satirical presentation on “vivoleum” — the bodies of climate-change victims rendered into fuel?

Well, a Beverly Hills liposuction practitioner tried doing a real-life variant on that:

A Beverly Hills plastic surgeon that created “lipo-diesel”, a fuel from his patient’s fat is in trouble with the authorities. Craig Alan Bittner apparently used this biodiesel to fuel his Ford SUV and his girlfriend’s Lincoln Navigator. California state law forbids the use of human medical waste to power vehicles and Bittner is being investigated by the state’s public health department in this regard said California public health officials.

It gets better:

Its unclear how and when Bittner started making “lipo-diesel” though his activities came to light when three of his patients filed lawsuits against him which allege that his assistant and girlfriend performed surgeries without a medical license and that they removed more fat than was necessary which resulted in them getting disfigured. His practice Beverly Hills Liposculpture, closed in November and his website said Bittner has moved to South America to do volunteer work at a clinic. The attorney for the patients suing Bittner suspects he fled the country because of the investigations. Dozens of other patients have complained about Bittner to the state medical board which has not made any official comment.

There must be more suckers per square inch in Beverly Hills than anywhere else on earth.

Posted in eedjits, Oil, wrong way to go about it, WTF? | 1 Comment »

Our allies, the Turks and the Kurds

Posted by Charles II on December 28, 2008

Anyone who commits the land power of the United States to the Middle East ought to have his head examined –Douglas MacArthur, generously paraphrased

Hurriyet Daily News:

As Turkey’s first full-time Kurdish TV Channel, TRT-6, is about to be launched, bans remain on the use of letters in the Kurdish alphabet such as w, q, and x, which are absent in the Turkish language.

The head of the Kurdish Writers’ Association, İrfan Babaoğlu, dismissed the channel initiative as tragicomic and said the dilemma Turkey faces now is the use of the Kurdish language, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review yesterday.

“People cannot name their children, streets, or parks in Kurdish. Just today (Sunday) in Diyarbakır, 12 parks were opened; all their original names were in Kurdish. They were then given to the municipality and the names were changed by the district governor,” Babaoğlu said. “Most of them did not even have w, q, or x in the name. …

Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan requested minute keepers of Parliament to refer to the Kurdish not as “an unknown language” that has been the practice since 1991, but as “a non-Turkish language.”

These are our friends.

Posted in Iraq war, Turkey | 3 Comments »

Help Support Authentic Journalism

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 28, 2008

Al Giordano’s The Field is sending a reporter to Bolivia to cover that country’s historic referendum on a new Constitution. But they need a few shekels thrown their way to make that goal a reality.

Show them a little monetary love, if you can swing it, here. They are among the few outfits doing decent work on Latin American issues the mainstream press ignores or botches.

Posted in heroes, Latin America, media | 1 Comment »

The Attack On Gaza

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 27, 2008

Bare hours after lifting the food and media blackout just long enough to get some nice pictures of 90-some trucks of token food supplies rolling into Gaza — a mere drop in the bucket for the area’s needs — the Israeli government has now launched a brutal attack on, and invasion of, Gaza:

Well, so much for peace. Looks like Siun was right, and the deliveries yesterday were just a pathetic public relations ploy. Israel managed to assassinate the police chief, governor, and security chief. A first strike bombing like this can do a fair bit of damage, as it did, but Hamas will now disperse its people and assets, and future bombings will be less effective. Hamas missile counterattacks killed, oh, one person.

Air power, in the end, doesn’t do squat in a war like this. The leaders killed will be replaced, and not by moderates. The missile attacks (which are scary but essentially ineffective) will continue. Gazans will hate Israelis even more. To get anything “meaningful” accomplished Israel has to invade on foot—they have to search for the missiles and the missile production centers.

When they do, they put themselves at risk. Hamas has destroyed Israeli tanks in the past, and has spent the last couple years building up a small military force modeled on Hezbollah. If they can adopt Hezbollah’s open terrain tactics to city fighting they could inflict some reasonable damage. Because of the small size of Gaza, it’s unlikely that they can win tactically, but politically, the goal is just to show Israel that they can’t take Hamas out using military force and that they can’t slap Hamas around without taking enough casualties to notice.

This is the lesson Israel was taught by Hezbollah during their invasion—that their issues with Hezbollah cannot be solved with military force (which is why, in the end, the Israelis made the prisoner exchange they said they fought the war to avoid.)

But of course this is what opinion polls — of opinions driven by the hard-right Likud/Kadima neocons running the Jerusalem Post and other papers — show the Israelis want.   They apparently think that their main mistake last time around was simply not butchering enough people.  Just like a lot of our right-wingers think our main mistake in Vietnam was in not using nukes.

Charles adds: Fisk on the Gaza campaign. In eight years, 20 Israelis have been killed by Hamas’s rockets:

Yes, let’s remember Hamas’s cynicism, the cynicism of all armed Islamist groups. Their need for Muslim martyrs is as crucial to them as Israel’s need to create them. The lesson Israel thinks it is teaching – come to heel or we will crush you – is not the lesson Hamas is learning. Hamas needs violence to emphasise the oppression of the Palestinians – and relies on Israel to provide it. A few rockets into Israel and Israel obliges.

Posted in colonial wars, Gaza, israel | 14 Comments »

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