October 31, 2010

Boxers or briefs? Bikini or boy-cut?

Remember the cartoon images of anarchists? The guy in the trench coat with the cannonball-shaped bomb and the lit fuse?

After hearing somebody on CNN calling the terrorist who was caught on Christmas Day last year the "underpants bomber" I'm surprised some enterprising cartoonist hasn't come up with an iconic image.

I imagine Hanes and Victoria's Secret aren't enthused about their generic products being in the news for such a thing.

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October 30, 2010

Go library!

Back here I mentioned I'd found Meg Gardiner's thrillers. The library was short two of the five books in her Evan Delaney series, so I asked that it acquire them. Then I forgot about it.

Lo and behold, here we are ten weeks later and I got a notice in my e-mail that the books were waiting for me to pick them up. Off I went, and I now have both of them in paperback, with my due date the first one stamped on the brand-new form glued inside the front cover.

Hooray for Hawai'i Public Libraries!

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October 29, 2010

Halliburton, again?!?

It's always been true that small shareholders have very little influence over the companies whose stock they own, so I don't think they'd be able to change Halliburton's behavior and outlook.

It's a damned shame that's true, because if ever a company needed to be reined in, it's Cheney's former outfit.

On Thursday, a government investigation panel said that Halliburton might have played an important role in the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico by supplying cement that the company knew was unstable to BP, which used it to seal the well.
As you might expect, Halliburton says it's BP's fault; that BP should have tested the cement Halliburton supplied.

Um. Aren't you responsible for your product? Is your customer the one who has to determine whether it's up to the job it's been designed to perform?

Halliburton really needs some loudly-activist minority shareholders who'll put up alternate slates of directors at every annual meeting. In addition, their customers need to start looking for alternate providers of the products and services Halliburton sells. I can't think of any other way to get the company's attention. Fines don't seem to do it.

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October 28, 2010

Bonnie & Norah on the same stage?

Oh me oh my and a custard pie. Listen to these two sing and play this classic country song.

I'd have tried to scrape together the ticket price to see these two together.

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Ministering to the sick

It must be a holdover from when I worked swing shifts, but I always get that "day out of school" feeling if I don't get into the shower until after noon.

Since I've been handing Mom chicken soup and tissues all morning, that's what I'm looking forward to a little later.

Meanwhile, I've been looking at Word Press themes and trying to figure out how one would customize an existing free three-column one to match up with the layout and colors I've got. I'm way too used to seeing the blog this way to want to change styles now unless forced to.

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October 27, 2010

Migration

I'm thinking of migrating this blog from its Movable Type platform to the WordPress platform. I'm about six years and two major versions behind MT, and its comment spam blacklist plug-in is failing or has become inadequate. That blacklist was incorporated into MT's software by version 4 if not before, but I never upgraded (on the "ain't broke, don't fix" principle). Apparently the blacklist was written for 32-bit data bus systems and my host is moving to 64-bit, so something needs to be done. Rather than pay MT and upgrade incrementally, which might be necessary, it might behoove me to just go to WP in one step.

Are there still bloggers out there who have done this? All information gratefully accepted.

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The Case for Obama (and his party)

Every once in a while somebody says to me "Why did that political analysis article appear in Rolling Stone, of all places?" I have to tell them that politics has been covered in that magazine's pages since the 1960s. Hunter Thompson's gonzo journalism first appeared in RS, illustrated by Ralph Steadman.

So now we come to 2010, and here is a five-page article entitled "The Case for Obama" in the October 28 issue of Rolling Stone, and it's persuasive. It won't get you to stand up and cheer and then head for the nearest phone bank; its style is less pep talk than it is calm and cogent lecture. But it will serve to remind all Democrats that the Obama Administration has gotten more done in two years than any President since LBJ. Author Tim Dickinson enumerates eight accomplishments and explains each.

  1. Averting a Depression
  2. Sparking a Recovery
  3. Saving Detroit (and the American car industry)
  4. Reforming Health Care
  5. Cutting Corporate Welfare
  6. Restoring America's Reputation
  7. Protecting Consumers
  8. Launching a Green-Energy Moonshot
Pass the link around to any wavering friends you know.

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October 26, 2010

C'mon, election, get done!

I went out to the mailbox this afternoon and found ten pieces of mail. One weekly newspaper, two mail-order catalogs (Christmas? Already?), and seven campaign brochures, of which two were local and the remainder national.

Enough already!

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October 25, 2010

Plus ça change . . .

I had my "get-acquainted" visit with the VA Health Care system today. It all went well, except. There's a parking structure there with five floors, and it took me fifteen minutes of driving up and down before somebody pulled out and I managed to sneak into that spot before anybody else. So I was five minutes late for my first appointment. That was not how I had planned to have my first meeting with a new set of health care providers.

Turns out VA employees, like employees at every other business, love to grumble about the lack of parking near their workplace. I apologized for being late and explained; both the nurse's assistant and the doctor just rolled their eyes and said, "Ah yes. I had trouble today too. Your best bet is to make appointments really really early or mid-to-late afternoon."

Good to know.

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October 24, 2010

When's the World Series start?

Ack. Laundry day without even the redeeming feature of a baseball game to watch between folding.

See, this is why I want seven-game series to GO to seven games.

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October 23, 2010

Robocalls

There are good ones and bad ones. The other night I got one from President Obama asking me to vote for Colleen Hanabusa in HI-01. As if that wasn't enough, tonight I got one from former President Bill Clinton asking me to do the same.

How could I say no to two such illustrious men?

If you're in that district, vote for Colleen. She's the current President of the State Senate and has done a fine job there. Additionally, her opponent Charles Djou has voted in virtual lockstep with the national Republican party and its leaders in the House since he won the seat in a special election last summer. He's a member of the Party of No, and we don't need him representing us.

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Cheesy but fun

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October 22, 2010

Not the hometown CofC

In case your Republican neighbor gets mad at the Dems for calling the US Chamber of Commerce out for its 90%-plus funding of Republican candidates this election, partially with foreign corporations' money, tell him or her this:

The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.

And these contributions, some of which can be pieced together through tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records, also show how the chamber has increasingly relied on a relatively small collection of big corporate donors to finance much of its legislative and political agenda.

[snip]

. . .while the chamber boasts of representing more than three million businesses, and having approximately 300,000 members, nearly half of its $140 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 donors. Many of those large donations coincided with lobbying or political campaigns that potentially affected the donors.

Dow Chemical, for example, sent $1.7 million to the chamber in the past year to cover not only its annual membership dues, but also to support lobbying and legal campaigns. Those included one against legislation requiring stronger measures to protect chemical plants from attack.

The US Chamber is not equivalent to the local one, whose members are the car dealers and the local restaurateurs. It's an 800-lb. gorilla flush with cash and convinced that Calvin Coolidge was right: "the business of America is business." Just as many Christian fundamentalists ignore parts of the New Testament (the Beatitudes come to mind), though, the Chamber conveniently ignores the rest of Coolidge's speech that day:
We make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things that we want very much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization. The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. I cannot repeat too often that America is a nation of idealists. That is the only motive to which they ever give any strong and lasting reaction.
Silent Cal seems to have been a better man than I've given him credit for being. Rather than worshipping Mammon, the US Chamber of Commerce would do well to follow his thoughts.

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October 21, 2010

Pedantry, again

It's shoo-in, not shoe-in. It's sea change, not seed-change (thanks, Brian!). It's toeing the line, not towing the line.

This message brought to you by Funk & Wagnalls. Anyone remember the fun the Smothers Brothers had with that name? Tom would say "Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls!" The joke was he'd slur the "funk and" sound together, just to tweak the censors at CBS.

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October 20, 2010

Now this is nifty

It took a bit of a struggle, but I have now managed to configure Gmail to fetch all my incoming mail from my other email accounts as it comes in. I've been doing that using Eudora for 10 years, and when the Compaq died my access to my Prodigy mail was gone as well.

But! After guessing at what my password should be for Prodigy, I persuaded Gmail that it should go out and collect those messages as well. Now I'm temporarily swamped by 76 messages I hadn't been able to read for the past three days.

Hurray!

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October 19, 2010

Tricksy

Once I got the external monitor to work with the netbook, it displayed in letterbox format. That was kinda sorta tolerable, but then I added the "Add This" Mozilla add-on to Firefox, which automatically puts another toolbar on the screen. In letterbox, that meant I had about three inches of screen not taken up with task and toolbars.

Turned out (after a little Google searching) that pressing the Fn and F8 keys turns off the netbook's screen and displays content only on the external monitor, and it also auto-adjusts to the size of the monitor you've got. So now I'm back to using the full size of my HP w1907 flatscreen monitor.

It's always something.

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Yankee-haters unite!

Go Rangers!

My ideal World Series here would be the Giants taking on the Rangers with the Texas team winning in seven games.

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October 18, 2010

Going concern, of a sort

One USB keyboard and one 4-in-1 USB hub later, I now have a working system again. I'm thinking of taking the CPU in to Best Buy or some other repair place to see if it can be fixed for less than the price of a new desktop, because this is at best a workaround. I've got the netbook on the top of the keyboard drawer, lid tilted down so I can see the widescreen monitor. That monitor is plugged into the side of the netbook. It doesn't display full screen, either; it's giving me a letterbox format, which is odd to look at. I've fiddled with the display options in the Control Panel with no success, but I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

The Compaq died two years to the day after I purchased it. I blame Carly Fiorina.

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October 17, 2010

The computer, she daid!

Sound died, booting's impossible. Typing on a netbook is awful.

Thankfully I saved my bookmarks to a flash drive.

Woe!

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October 16, 2010

Mockingjay, Book Three of The Hunger Games

I finished it this morning and got it back to the library before it was due.

Phew. There's very little expository writing in this book; it's a thrill a page, many of them unexpected and told in throwaway lines.

Katniss, the heroine, has been thrust into the role of symbolic leader of the rebellion against the political leadership of the country. It's not a role she's comfortable with, but she realizes she can extract a quid pro quo from the actual rebel leader which will guarantee the safety of several friends, so she acquiesces. The story takes off from there. There's betrayal, retribution, and redemption served up in almost equal helpings here.

I enjoyed it, but atmospherically it wasn't quite as dark as I found Catching Fire to be (see here) until the end, when it became very dark indeed. That may be because there's almost unrelenting action rather than the interior dialogue Katniss holds with herself during the two iterations of the Hunger Games previously described in the first two books.

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Advice?

I'm still having computer startup problems. I've run a full battery of hardware tests and they confirm that everything tested is working fine. I'm now wondering if upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 might resolve this issue. It's certainly cheaper to upgrade the OS than to buy a brand new machine, particularly when the machine's hardware seems to be in fine shape.

Thoughts?

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October 15, 2010

Listen up, sports fans

Via Jon Weisman comes Joe Posnanski's Thirty-Two Great Sports Calls.

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Evelyn Wood, please help!

I just realized the library copy of Mockingjay that is sitting on my table is due on Saturday. There are 190 people waiting for it, so I can't renew.

Yikes!

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October 14, 2010

Luckovich on WH Solar Collectors

Okay, I'm late seeing this, but it's too good not to share.

The Prez wanted solar panels on the White House, but somebody screwed up.

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October 13, 2010

Photo with a side of flu vaccine

I went up to the Spark Matsunaga VA Medical Center to get a photo ID made today. It's an attractive building both inside and out, painted in traditional Tripler Army Medical Center pink but a lot more modern than the main facility. It's only about fifteen years old while Tripler was built in 1944. I noticed while entering that I could get a flu shot while there, so I did.

Unlike last year, this year CDC or whomever has managed to combine the regular flu vaccine with the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. Only one shot is required rather than the two separate ones needed last year.

It still made my arm sore afterward, though.

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Mainstream media not dead

I'm as big a fan of blogging as the next guy, but I admit that it takes a TV network to put together a video report like this. It's an overview of the mine explosion and rescue in Chile. There are some amazing pictures from the bottom of the rescue shaft as well as shots from the capsule itself.

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October 12, 2010

Oh, just wait for it on DVD

"It" would be the DVD of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the 2009 Swedish film based on Stieg Larsson's book.

I have a choice. I can get it from Red Box and watch it the night I rent it or wait for a library copy. If I get a library copy I can keep it for a week and pick the night I want to watch it. The $1 cost is the same.

There are 135 people ahead of me on the waiting list at the library. On the other hand, I've tried renting it twice from Red Box and it's been out of stock each time.

What to do, what to do.

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I love YouTube

This is a hoot. Ronstadt singing The Eagles' "Desperado" in an evening gown accompanied by Nelson Riddle and his orchestra. I think the audience was stunned.

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October 11, 2010

An odd sense of relief

I gotta say, in some ways it's easier to watch the baseball playoffs when you don't have a dog in the hunt. If the Dodgers were in I'd have been riding the escalator between exultation and despair for the past week. As it is, I'd prefer the Giants and Yankees lose due to my ancient hatred of those two teams for past perfidies they've committed against both the Brooklyn and LA incarnations of the Dodgers. But I really don't care if the Phillies (who looked awesome: did you see that Cincinnati only got 11 hits against them in three games?), the Rangers or the Rays win; certainly not enough to live and die with each inning.

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The original and the cover

JT, from Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon.

For a different take, here's Linda Ronstadt singing the same song from her Prisoner in Disguise album.

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October 10, 2010

Return of the Know-Nothings

Ron Brownstein writes of a startlingly willful ignorance in a column in the National Journal.

Republicans in this country are coalescing around a uniquely dismissive position on climate change. The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones.

[snip]

Of the 20 serious GOP Senate challengers who have taken a position, 19 have declared that the science of climate change is inconclusive or flat-out incorrect.

The original American Know Nothings were fearful of German and Irish immigration, not science. The name came from the scripted reply its members were supposed to give when asked about Party activities. They later renamed themselves the Native American Party and then faded away, mostly assimilated into the Republican party of the mid-1800s.

Maybe calling our new crop of fools Know Nothings is unfair to the original ones; they didn't deny reality, they just wanted to stop its spread. The current bunch seems to think if they all just stick their fingers in their ears and say "la la la I can't hear you" that the planet will stop heating up. Kind of like small children, I guess.

But that attitude is not only America's problem, as Brownstein concludes:

It will be difficult for the world to move meaningfully against climate disruption if the United States does not. And it will be almost impossible for the U.S. to act if one party not only rejects the most common solution proposed for the problem (cap-and-trade) but repudiates even the idea that there is a problem to be solved.

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October 09, 2010

Get out the vote!

Somewhere, somehow, things went haywire. The nation that built the Erie Canal and Hoover Dam and the transcontinental railroad can’t even build a tunnel beneath the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York.
Ladies and gentlemen, your penny-wise pound-foolish Republican leadership in action.

And that's just in New Jersey. If these clowns get into Congress in the numbers now projected, nothing progressive will be done. In fact, one of the precepts of the Republican party's "Pledge to America" is to roll spending back to 2008 levels. Why then? Because that's before the stimulus and the bank bailouts of 2009. That's it. That's the purely arbitrary reason for picking that year.

Folks, there probably is an enthusiasm gap between the Dems and the Republicans. Do your best to persuade your neighbors that whether they're happy or not, they have to vote against these reactionaries on November 2.

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October 08, 2010

Possible W00T!

Happiness is, among other things, getting a letter from the VA telling you you're eligible for the health care it provides. I'm sure there are still hoops to go through, but an affirmation of eligibility is a good first step.

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October 07, 2010

Holy Errors, Batman!

I've always turned off my desktop box at night. Recently when I've turned it on in the morning I get the Compaq splash page (it's a Compaq Presario SR5510F) but it never gets past that to the usual Windows Vista sign-in page. I've tried doing Startup Repair by pressing the F8 key while the machine starts, but when doing so I'm told it finds no errors.

Usually after turning off the machine with its On/Off switch it boots correctly, but I live in terror that someday soon it won't. I've got backups of my files, so that's not a big worry, but I really would like to have a working machine.

Any suggestions?

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October 06, 2010

Who pays for the experts?

Charles Ferguson amplifies on his film's assertion (mentioned below) that many academic economists have been paid so much by the financial industry that their veracity is suspect:

Over the past 30 years, the economics profession—in economics departments, and in business, public policy, and law schools—has become so compromised by conflicts of interest that it now functions almost as a support group for financial services and other industries whose profits depend heavily on government policy. The route to the 2008 financial crisis, and the economic problems that still plague us, runs straight through the economics discipline. And it's due not just to ideology; it's also about straightforward, old-fashioned money.

Prominent academic economists (and sometimes also professors of law and public policy) are paid by companies and interest groups to testify before Congress, to write papers, to give speeches, to participate in conferences, to serve on boards of directors, to write briefs in regulatory proceedings, to defend companies in antitrust cases, and, of course, to lobby. This is now, literally, a billion-dollar industry.

And then he cites particular examples, including well-known names like Glenn Hubbard, Laura D'Andrea Tyson, and Marty Feldstein.

At a time when we're up in arms about corporate spending on political campaigns, who knew we'd have to worry about the experts' loyalties too?

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October 05, 2010

An off-the-wall question

In light of the news that the White House will put solar panels on the roof again, I began to wonder:

Do contractors who do regular maintenance on that building have to undergo background checks?

When we put solar panels on our house it took a crew of four to do it. Does the local solar company in DC have to get the FBI to look into the criminal records to see if their current and new hires present no danger to the President and his family, not to mention all the other employees at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

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Baseball postseason TV schedule

Once again the purists among us who'd like to see baseball played in daylight are (mostly) denied; there are currently only two games scheduled to start before 5:00pm EDT, and both of those are tomorrow.

I blame the networks, but I also blame Major League Baseball and its eternal greed.

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October 04, 2010

Home-grown militias make comeback

We've seen that headline before, of course. Just last spring the right-wing angrily pushed back on a Department of Homeland Security report which said as much. But Time Magazine just conducted a six-month investigation of some of them and determined they are quite real.

"We call it somewhat of a perfect storm," says a high-ranking FBI official who declined to speak on the record because of the political sensitivities of the subject. With an economy in free fall and rising anger about illegal immigration, Obama became "a rallying point" for dormant extremists after the 2008 election who "weren't willing to act before but now are susceptible to being recruited and radicalized."

Theirs is not Tea Party anger, which aims at electoral change, even if it often speaks of war. In the world of armed extremists, war is not always a metaphor. Some of them speak with contempt about big talkers who "meet, eat and retreat." History suggests that even the most ferocious, by and large, will never get around to walking the walk. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center observes that "there are huge numbers of people who say, 'We're going to have to go to war to defend the Constitution or defend the white race,' but 'That will be next week, boys.' "

And yet there are exceptions, and law-enforcement officials say domestic terrorists are equally the products of their movements. Those most inclined toward violence sometimes call themselves three percenters, a small vanguard that dares to match deeds to words. Brian Banning, who led local and interagency intelligence units that tracked radical-right-wing violence in Sacramento County, California, says, "The person who's interested in violent revolution may be attracted to a racist group or to a militia or to the Tea Party because he's antigovernment and so are they, but he's looking on the fringe of the crowd for the people who want to take action."

There are a couple of detailed examples in this article, including a guy who had $2M in inherited money and had bought uranium and beryllium which, combined with thorium he cooked out of tungsten electrodes, can be exploded into airborne particles which cause cancer. He also had the ingredients for TATP, a high explosive often used in the Middle East by terrorist organizations.

This is frightening stuff.

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October 03, 2010

"For only $4.95/month!"

We can only hope the Tea Partiers eventually figure it out like good ol' Donald does here.

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TBS broadcasters for Division Series

Who let TBS win the contract to televise both leagues' division series? Man, I'd prefer ESPN.

Here are the broadcast teams.

  • Ernie Johnson (play-by-play), Ron Darling (analyst) and John Smoltz (analyst)
  • Brian Anderson (play-by-play) and Joe Simpson (analyst)
  • Dick Stockton (play-by-play) and Bob Brenly (analyst)
  • Don Orsillo (play-by-play) and Buck Martinez (analyst)

San Diego fell a game short by losing today, so it's the Giants who won the NL West and the Braves who go as the NL Wild Card.

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October 02, 2010

Good baseball weekend in view

The San Diego Padres play three games against the San Francisco Giants this weekend, needing to win all three just to force a one-game winner-take-all playoff game on Monday.

Does that happen often? Well, the last instance I can think of was in 1980, when the Dodgers faced the same situation against the Astros. The Dodgers won all three but lost in the Monday tiebreaker.

How are the Padres doing? They won Friday night. Then they won again this afternoon. If they manage to win tomorrow they'll force the Giants to play an extra game on Monday.

I'm of two minds. As a Dodgers fan of long standing I shouldn't be able to root for the Giants at all, but they've never won a World Series since they moved to San Francisco; getting into the playoffs is the first step toward that goal. As for San Diego, I have no strong feelings either way. I think I'd like to see San Diego win tomorrow but then see the Giants win on Monday.

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October 01, 2010

A movie to watch for

It's called "Inside Job," and it's the story of Wall Street and the global recession.

"I had grossly underestimated the level of extraordinarily unethical and even fraudulent behavior that had occurred on such a large scale,"
says Charles Ferguson, the film's director.

One of the things that startled me was Ferguson's assertion that Glenn Hubbard, now Dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Business (!), testified as an expert witness in the trial of two Bear Stearns executives acquitted of fraud in November of 2009. Hubbard, you may recall, was Chairman of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers for the first two years of Bush's first term. The act that he testified on their behalf didn't necessarily startle me; what did was the assertion (presumably gleaned from court transcripts) that Hubbard was paid $100,000 to do so.

Ferguson's point in citing Hubbard's payment is that as far as he (Ferguson) can tell, many academic economists have sold their expertise to Wall Street at the expense of their honesty.

Listen here.

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