Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You Have Got to Love the BBC

What is really embarassing is, this isn't even the first time they have done this.

The history of Newsnight's nightly markets update has not always been a happy one. On Thursday we reported that in New York the "Dow Jones was substantially down amidst more credit crunch fears". That's odd, many of you told us, as - being Thanksgiving - Wall Street's finest were on a day-off. Our economics editor Stephanie Flanders was mortified - "unforgivable and embarrassing" was her verdict.

This is, I am ashamed to say, not the first time we have made such a mistake. The markets information is almost always the last thing we do on Newsnight and in the scramble of a particularly lively programme last night we neglected to notice that the US markets were shut and blithely reported the day before's figure. I'm sorry and I'm determined this won't happen again.

Free Garry!

Putin continues solidifying his power, showing once again the corrupting influence of oil money on society. Sad really.

The former chess champion Garry Kasparov was sentenced to five days in jail yesterday after taking part in an anti-Kremlin protest rally in Moscow.

Mr Kasparov, the leader of the opposition Other Russia coalition, was charged with organising an unsanctioned protest "of at least 1,500 people directed against President Vladimir Putin", chanting anti-government slogans and resisting arrest.

His court appearance came only hours after he was arrested by riot police during the protest.

He was one of dozens of people detained during the 3,000-strong demonstration called "the march of the dissenters".

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Barack Vs. Hillary

Just a quick thought for the day...

I am constantly amused about how Barack Obama, a one term senator, and Hillary Clinton, who is just 1 year into her second term, are both attacking each other for being inexperienced. They are both right, geez, the Democrats pilloried Dan Quayle for being young and inexperienced, and he served two terms in both the House and Senate, before assuming the relatively innocous job of the Vice President!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Help, Help I am Being Repressed!

The problem Christopher Story has with his continuing Leo Wanta nuttiness, is he keeps on having to invent wilder and wilder stories to explain why is previous stories never ended up happening in the real world. In the latest chapter of this melodrama, he has the "unconfirmed" arrest of the US Army Provost Marshal, who when last we spoke was taking over the presidency.

We now have THREE reports to the effect that the Provost Marshal General was arrested or placed under house arrest at 6.00pm on Tuesday 20th November or on 21st November. We have a fourth report that the Provost Marshal General was 'fired', but as of 24th November, these reports are being backpedalled again, and we now have to advise that they cannot yet be confirmed. It was understood that his Number Two has taken over, but that cannot yet be confirmed either. The purge is thought to be being spearheaded by DOD Internal Affairs.

The Provost Marshal's arrest, if it actually took place (which is now uncertain again) will have reflected the fact that he failed on Tuesday 20th November to impose his will on the situation in accordance with his remit and oath as a commissioned officer, coupled with vigorous outside representations that decisive action along these lines needed to be taken immediately. Since the Provost Marshal General was present at, and a participant in, the corrupt round-table meeting in Washington, DC, at which Ambassador Wanta's unpaid prospective tax windfall payment of $1.575 trillion to the Treasury was being sliced up illegally, he has been in clear and gross dereliction of his duty, certainly warranting his immediate arrest, as we warned earlier. He could not have turned up at Citibank because he was engaged in gross, fraudulent and unconstitutional discussions at the Washington round-table conference. Hence his 'reported' arrest (as we flagged earlier).

I am reminded of the greatest contribution to the world of political science ever achieved in cinema. From the opening credits of Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

The directors of the firm hired to continue the credits after the other people had been sacked, wish it to be known that they have just been sacked.

The credits have been completed in an entirely different style at great expense and at the last minute.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Political Agendas Make For Bad Math

This story has been making the rounds among the conspiracy theorists I have been following, and it has finally annoyed me to the point that I will take the time to debunk it. An author on Counterpunch named, Mike Whitney, a fellow Washingtonian no less, is claiming that dramatically more US soldiers have died from Iraq than the published figures, because of the suicides of veterans which are not covered in the statistics.

The Pentagon was covering up the real magnitude of the "suicide epidemic". Following an exhaustive investigation of veterans' suicide data collected from 45 states; CBS discovered that in 2005 alone "there were at least 6,256 among those who served in the armed forces. That's 120 each and every week in just one year."

That is not a typo. Active and retired military personnel, mostly young veterans between the ages of 20 to 24, are returning from combat and killing themselves in record numbers. We can assume that "multiple-tours of duty" in a war-zone have precipitated a mental health crisis of which the public is entirely unaware and which the Pentagon is in total denial.If we add the 6,256 suicide victims from 2005 to the "official" 3,865 reported combat casualties; we get a sum of 10,121. Even a low-ball estimate of similar 2004 and 2006 suicide figures, would mean that the total number of US casualties from the Iraq war now exceed 15,000.

To use his own term. Baloney. The logic and math behind this is so bad that it would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. What Mr. Whitney is missing, is that the 6,256 is among all veterans, not just veterans of the Iraq War. In 2005, according to the Census Bureau, there were 24.5 million veterans in America, while the number of Americans who had both managed to serve in Iraq (which just started in 2003), come back and get discharged into the veteran population would have most likely have been in the mere tens of thousands. Even if you counted every single soldier who served, at 120,000 per rotation, two rotations at that time, that would be a mere 1% of all veterans.

The stupid thing is, Mr. Whitney could have actually come up with a reasonably accurate measure. The original CBS article he links to gives the suicide rate for veterans:

It found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 than non-vets. (Veterans committed suicide at the rate of between 18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000, compared to other Americans, who did so at the rate of 8.9 per 100,000.) One age group stood out.

Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)

So using our extremely high end estimate of 240,000, with a rate of 18.7 per 100,000 on the low end, and 31.9 on the high end that gives us between 45 and 93 suicides per year. Of course using the numbers they give us, even the same population of non-veterans would be expected to have around 20 suicides per year. So even for the last 3 years this means that an "excess" of between 75 and 219 suicides among the Iraq veteran population (although the number of vets would also go up too, but it was an extreme high end to begin with). A tragic number no less, but a couple of orders of magnitude below what this quack came up with.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

All Hail President Johnson

Christopher Story continues to get even more bizarre with his Wanta nutiness. Who knew a one star general could just take over like that...

THE PROVOST MARSHAL’S TRUMP CARDWhat trump card does Brigadier general Rodney L Johnson, Commanding General United States Army Criminal Investigation Command, have up his sleeve? It can be speculated that he may be ready, and may well have threatened, to impose Martial Law, since he, not George W. Bush Jr., is Commander-in-Chief, even though the criminal President remains in denial concerning this reality. Under Martial Law, the Provost Marshal would be empowered to take into custody anyone who stood in his way, and could control all media outlets through censorship – so that his operations could proceed without the media running along behind getting all confused and destabilising the financial markets in the process. He could presumably close the stock exchange and freeze all suspect bank accounts without recourse.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Amazingly, This Did Not Make CNBC

I have written thousands of words on this Leo Wanta nuttiness, but words cannot describe how stupid this one is.

Tuesday 6 November 2007 04:28





On Recycling

I viewed this Penn and Teller program on recycling earlier, and although I got the point, I didn't take it that seriously, but I bought a home recently, and I was going through the new bills that are associated with it, and it really got me thinking how tenuous much of the basis for recycling is, at least from an economic standpoint. Every month I have to write a check for garbage disposal, which includes a payment for the company to take away the sorted recycling goods. Now this is simple supply and demand, if the raw materials present in the recycling bin actually represented an economic benefit, they would have value, and rather than me having to pay for the company to take them away, they would be paying me to allow them to have these resources. Nobody has to pay, after all, to compel a paper company to harvest trees for a pulp mill.

Now this does not mean that there are not some sort of environmental externalities involved, but if there are, then that should be handled through some sort of tax system, not silly ways of making people feel guilty for not sorting their garbage, and then forcing them to pay for it to be taken away regardless.