Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ludwig von Mises on Bush's Fiscal Policy

Rumor has it Bush crudely ordered Bernanke to lower interest rates ("Some people call it cussin'. In Texas, we call it talkin'.") last week.

About a hundred years ago, Ludwig von Mises anticipated this:

No emergency can justify a return to inflation. Inflation can provide neither the weapons a nation needs to defend its independence nor the capital goods required for any project. It does not cure unsatisfactory conditions. It merely helps the rulers whose policies brought about the catastrophe to exculpate themselves.
From The Big Picture.

Physicians and the Death Penalty

Physician-ethicists discuss the death penalty, especially physicians' possible role in killing inmates in light of arguments before the Supreme Court in Baze v. Rees. (New England Journal of Medicine.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Saddest Little Video Game Ever

Passage. Be warned: It is heavy on the sentimentality.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

We Were Once A Great Nation

Back in '04, when Shrub was maintaining that only a few insurgents were preventing our armies from establishing a beacon of democracy in Iraq, we wanted nothing more than to hear John Kerry say to him, "Mr President, in 2000, America's armies were the most powerful in the world. After four years of your leadership, her armies are now obstructed by 'only a few insurgents.' Can America have her army back now, or is there more waste and ruin to come?" Kerry didn't speak, but the voters did: They wanted more isolationism, more protectionism, and more fear-mongering. So that's what we got.

Parag Khanna has a forthcoming book, excerpted in this week's NYTimes Mag, which describes this state of affairs pretty well:

Twenty-first-century geopolitics will resemble nothing more than Orwell’s 1984, but instead of three world powers (Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia), we have three hemispheric pan-regions, longitudinal zones dominated by America, Europe and China.
(If you want the Bush legacy in a nutshell, that's it.) On an optimistic day, Caroline Kennedy could have convinced us a young, charismatic Obama could do something about this, but more likely, we'll just end up throwing him on the flames of our Pyrrhic fire.

On an admistrative/meta-blogging note, we're also trying to branch out from getting all our education from the NYTimes Mag. Informed Reader at WSJ is becoming a key supplement.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

QotD: Hey, It Worked for Hoover, So It Will Work for Me!

Keith Olbermann took Bush to task for the current recession but did the usual pundits one better by suggesting some real ways to restore economic prosperity.

In the same segment, Rachel Maddow praises John Edwards:

…Not only was he the first on talking about the stimulus package, as you mentioned, but he’s also been the populist guy on economics. He’s the guy whose been most willing from the very beginning to actually identify bad guys in the economy. To say, let’s be patriotic about something other than war, let’s be moralistic about something other than sex, let’s talk about corporate irresponsibility and corporations that don’t serve the people who work for them, or the consumers. Let’s actually identify un-American bad behavior in the economy and, that kind of, I think, real forceful approach to the issue, is going to place him in good stead right now.

The State of the Union, According to Colby Buzzell

From the February 2008 edition of Esquire, not yet online:

[In California], I met a Jesuit priest who works as a chaplain at San Quentin. We were standing outside the prison. It was painted beige. Birds were chirping, you could hear the water, it was all very peaceful. We talked a bit about what he does--he basically goes around and if the inmates want to talk to him, cool, if not, that's cool too. But he also told me that inside the prison there are about fifty or so houses where the guards and staff can live. "You saw those schoolchildren?" he asked. "They were going home inside. The school bus drops them off at school outside, but their moms and dads and families live on the grounds. It's a great deal.... They're safe, secure, it's Marin County, for six hundred bucks a month. That's a good deal. Mom and Dad walk to work, not bad."

No, not bad at all. But I got to thinking that it was kind of sad that for most Americans, the only way they could afford to live in Marin County was behind the fence at San Quentin. I wondered if I was looking too deep, so I asked him what he thought of this.

"Enclaves," he said. Then he pointed out to me an an old brick house that's directly across the street and told me that it's the same vintage as the prison, 1855 or so. "So we've come from that"--the old brick building with an inviting porch outside of it so that people could socialize--and then he pointed over to the condos, which to me looked very similar to the prison, rooms like boxes, stacked one right on top of the other, but with perhaps a good Internet connection--"to that."
Note to Mr Buzzell: That is the worst writing we've quoted on this site. The sentiment gets you one free pass only.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Best Review from Sundance '08

Andrew O'Hehir, blogging for Beyond the Multiplex at Salon, reports on Trouble the Water:

I shouldn't spoil this movie for you, because I simply can't believe it won't come out of Sundance with a head of steam and a distribution deal in place. Let's just say that Kim Roberts' raw footage from the Ninth Ward captures a tale of thrilling human drama, terrible tragedy and unbelievable heroism among some of merica's most stigmatized and downtrodden people -- and that Kim and Scott's post-Katrina story, as captured by Tessin and Deal, is even more amazing than that. No human being I can imagine could watch "Trouble the Water" and not be overwhelmed by grief and joy, and humbled by one's sudden awareness of one's own prejudices about the lives, passions and dreams of poor people. George W. Bush would weep buckets at this movie. (Maybe Dick Cheney wouldn't, but notice that I limited my target audience to human beings.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Hebrew Hippocrates

So we were taking care of a man who happens to be a patient of one of the few original House doctors. The man has a heart condition for which he needs blood thinners, lest he eventually suffer a stroke. He just went to surgery, which usually means bleeding, at least until everything heals. We duly weighed the pros and cons of stopping the blood thinners, temporarily; some said the risk of bleeding after surgery was greater than the risk of stroke in the perioperative period.

The House Doctor, in reply to these concerns about the dangers of blood thinners, pulled out an index card from his pocket, where it was written (in Hebrew, which he had to then translate for us Gentiles), "The art is long but life short; the crisis fleeting, the experience perilous, and the decision difficult." And so we have to thin the guy's blood, q.e.d., even if that means he bleeds to death.

That was yesterday. Today, CODE BLUE sounds out from the man's room, where blood is literally erupting from the surgical wound like a volcano.

This Hebrew Hippocrates will one day retire, a terrible shame for posterity and a tremendous blessing for patient safety.

Ed.: The man did pull through, but I think that takes away from the story, don't you?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pushing Daisies

Or, We Love Anna Friel.

We had only begun to warm up to this cutesy new show last fall when the Writer's Guild strike set in, and Anna Friel's perky character (or maybe just her pretty face) Chuck is what we miss most about new TV production. May all writers rot in hell for taking her off the air.

Also, we figure adding pics of more attractive women will get us even more hits from Google Image Search.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


LibraryThing is a place where you can catalog your books (a preview of ours lives in the right-hand margin), compare your library to other readers' libraries, display them on a virtual shelf, and generally take your bookishness to a new dimension. Recently, they have come into a small supply of advance copies from a handful of publishers to share with members, and so we snagged a copy of Hillary Jordan's debut, Mudbound.

Jordan's novel does evoke To Kill A Mockingbird in its themes of racism and intolerance, both of which are portrayed with an uncomfortable honesty; there isn't a single white character who doesn't speak differently about blacks when there are no blacks around to hear. The sexism is similarly evident; would-be farmer Henry feels as if he owns his wife, Laura, while he has a healthier (and more impassioned) give-and-take relationship with his land than he does with her.

The story, which centers on the collision of Laura, a nice city girl forced by a number of circumstances to start a family on a mud-bound farm, with a black sharecropping family, is narrated in first person, but from every character's perspective in turn. Think Bram Stoker's Dracula, told in a series of journal excerpts. Jordan makes an attempt to capture the individual narrators' dialects with varying success; the effect was unfortunately distracting, especially early on, although the artistic appeal of this approach is obvious. The plot itself starts thin but builds to an intense and gruesome climax. With a tougher editor, Hillary Jordan will grow into a force to be reckoned with.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dennis Gartman's Rules of Trading

True of the Stock Market, also applicable to Dating.

1. Never, Ever, Ever, Under Any Circumstance, Add to a Losing Position... not ever, not never! Adding to losing positions is trading's carcinogen; it is trading's driving while intoxicated. It will lead to ruin. Count on it!

2. Trade Like a Wizened Mercenary Soldier: We must fight on the winning side, not on the side we may believe to be correct economically.

3. Mental Capital Trumps Real Capital: Capital comes in two types, mental and real, and the former is far more valuable than the latter. Holding losing positions costs measurable real capital, but it costs immeasurable mental capital.

4. This Is Not a Business of Buying Low and Selling High; it is, however, a business of buying high and selling higher. Strength tends to beget strength, and weakness, weakness.

5. In Bull Markets One Can Only Be Long or Neutral, and in bear markets, one can only be short or neutral. This may seem self-evident; few understand it however, and fewer still embrace it.

6. "Markets Can Remain Illogical Far Longer Than You or I Can Remain Solvent." These are Keynes' words, and illogic does often reign, despite what the academics would have us believe.

7. Buy Markets That Show the Greatest Strength; Sell Markets That Show the Greatest Weakness: Metaphorically, when bearish we need to throw rocks into the wettest paper sacks, for they break most easily. When bullish we need to sail the strongest winds, for they carry the farthest.

8. Think Like a Fundamentalist; Trade Like a Simple Technician: The fundamentals may drive a market and we need to understand them, but if the chart is not bullish, why be bullish? Be bullish when the technicals and fundamentals, as you understand them, run in tandem.

9. Trading Runs in Cycles, Some Good, Most Bad: Trade large and aggressively when trading well; trade small and ever smaller when trading poorly. In "good times," even errors turn to profits; in "bad times," the most well-researched trade will go awry. This is the nature of trading; accept it and move on.

10. Keep Your Technical Systems Simple: Complicated systems breed confusion; simplicity breeds elegance. The great traders we've known have the simplest methods of trading. There is a correlation here!

11. In Trading/Investing, An Understanding of Mass Psychology Is Often More Important Than an Understanding of Economics: Simply put, "When they are cryin', you should be buyin'! And when they are yellin', you should be sellin'!"

12. Bear Market Corrections Are More Violent and Far Swifter Than Bull Market Corrections: Why they are is still a mystery to us, but they are; we accept it as fact and we move on.

13. There Is Never Just One Cockroach: The lesson of bad news on most stocks is that more shall follow... usually hard upon and always with detrimental effect upon price, until such time as panic prevails and the weakest hands finally exit their positions.

14. Be Patient with Winning Trades; Be Enormously Impatient with Losing Trades: The older we get, the more small losses we take each year... and our profits grow accordingly.

15. Do More of That Which Is Working and Less of That Which Is Not: This works in life as well as trading. Do the things that have been proven of merit. Add to winning trades; cut back or eliminate losing ones. If there is a "secret" to trading (and of life), this is it.

16. All Rules Are Meant To Be Broken.... but only very, very infrequently. Genius comes in knowing how truly infrequently one can do so and still prosper.

from The Big Picture

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Secret to Healthy Eating

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Isn't it possible that NH likes Clinton?

Possible explanation of Clinton's surprise victory over Obama yesterday in NH: Obama leads the polls because people indicate a preference for a black candidate over a white one when talking to the pollster, so they can seem progressive. But when they cast a ballot, they use a different standard for choosing their candidate, and so someone else wins and the black candidate, leading in the polls, gets left at the altar.

Mickey Kaus is keeping tabs on as many theories to explain the Clinton-Obama overturn as you can find. They need catchier names.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Shout Out

The Instaputz review of Liberal Fascism has made it #4 on Google, but just as important, it has forced "author" Jonah Goldberg, on his blog at NRO, to print f**kwad. Hats off to you, TS!

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Paradigm shift. Web 2.0. Buzzword, buzzword, buzzword. MBAs generally annoy us, but they do make money, and money isn't annoying when you have it. Josh Kaufman's Personal MBA, essentially an annotated reading list of management and business books, caught our eye if just to see a little of how MBA types think the game should be played. It reminded us that skimming all the way through technical writing is usually yields more than reading it linearly, so even if we only take that one idea away from it, it's already done something for us today. From Cool Tools.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Based on a True Story

Chekhov rushed home from a business trip to feed his cat. The cat, too hungry and impatient to wait for her self-sacrificing master to spoon the Fancy Feast into her dish, bites Chekhov on the hand.

Chekhov pets her. "Hungry, aren't you, girl?" he says, petting her before going to wash his wounded hand.

The bite doesn't heal and four days later, Chekhov is admitted to the hospital, where the surgeons amputate his thumb and fingers. Eight agonizing weeks of recovery later, he is finally able to grasp a cup with his claw-like thumb, and the doctors send him home. "You'll never play piano," they say, "but considering, it is a remarkable recovery."

Stepping back into the house, Chekhov finds the cat dead, having starved to death.

2007 Lists

At Fimoculous.