Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mancow Muller Talks Waterboarding On "Countdown"

I've Been Busy!

Man, I have been locked down with so many projects I don't know where to begin. I have a couple of random thoughts that I'll post up.

1. The choppy economy is about where I would expect. We get some mixed news constantly. There is a lot of discussion about the Fed trying to reign in some of the liquidity that it put out to try to keep ahead of potential inflation. It is great they are talking about it.

2. The banks seem to have stabilized, so we should see some of the TARP monies repaid back tot he U.S. Treasury in coming months. That will help because tax revenues will still be weak for 2009.

3. It sucks that the Pens are going to the Stanley Cup.

4. The Lakers-Nuggets series is great (as long as the Lakers fall, I will be happy), but the Cavs are not playing well or being coached well enough to make the finals. Down 3-1, it would be a miracle if the Cavs pull the series out.

5. Danny Boy's tampering is going to cost the Redskins another draft pick. He stinks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Couple of Thoughts on Bush's Torture B.S.

Cheney is out and about saying torture was effective. He says Bush knew and in an interview yesterday on Faux News he said he wasn't sure if Pelosi knew - which gives further credibility to her insistence that she did not know waterboarding was actually taking when she was briefed about enhanced interrogation techniques.

There are really three issues when it comes to waterboarding:

1. Is it torture? - There is clear precedent in U.S. military justice that it is torture. Reagan's DOJ prosecuted a Texas sheriff for waterboarding prisoners - so all that nonsense about terror suspects not having Geneva Conventions protections is silly. Bush got some shoddy lawyers to claim that waterboarding was legal - but there was widespread disagreement within his own legal advisors. All that said, the science of it is that it is torture for the human body and mind.

2. Is it effective? There is ample evidence that torture does not work. The problem is that is results in bad information because the person who undergoes it will say anything to get it to stop. But don't take my word for it, or the evidence from scientific studies. One of the guys who waterboarded for Bush says it didn't work.

3. Most important. What kind of country do we want to be? From a strictly moral perspective, in my opinion there is no time and no condition under which the U.S. should waterboard/torture suspects. The U.S. is at its best when we have no moral conflicts or contradictions in our policies.

For some "entertaining" reading, I would suggest people actually read the recently released Bradbury memo that details the use of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques that Bush authorized.

In the memo on p. 37 it explains that KSM was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded "at least 83 times". (two high value terror suspects)

It also explains that waterboarding "may be used for two "sessions" per day of up to two hours. During a session, water may be applied up to six times for ten seconds or longer (but never more than 40 seconds)."

Since Bush only authorized the application of water 6 times per session - 12 times in a day. That means that KSM would have to be tortured in no less than 31 sessions under the approved waterboarding rules (183/6) and Zubaydah underwent at least 14 sessions. I say let's release everything and see what info we got out - based on science, what the interrogator who I linked to above said, and the mere fact that it was done so many times to each of these guys, it is doubtful that we got any actionable intelligence.

Putting Hannity through a 90 second session with just two applications would be enough to make him cry like a baby and "confess" that Keith Olbermann is his favorite TV personality. He would have psychological trauma and obviously could in fact die. But this kind of public spectacle would be a clear example that waterboarding is torture and it doesn't lead to good info. Hannity doesn't want to die, have psychological damage, soil his pants in fear, or have to admit that waterboarding is torture, which why he isn't going to live up to his own offer to help the troops.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Early SI NFL Power Rankings

The Bears come in at #4 in Peter King's early power rankings for the upcoming NFL season. Obviously the guy loves Cutler.

He puts the Redskins at #23.

I know it is early, but I love any positive news on the Chicago Bears.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Colbert Mocks Hannity

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Sean Hannity's Liberty Tree
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Thoughts About Hannity Waterboarding

A few weeks ago, blowhard idiot Sean Hannity said he was willing to be waterboarded for charity - in particular, for the families of fallen soldiers. He did this on his own TV show. Of course, he isn't actually going to do it because he would end up crying like a baby and soiling himself on national TV. (Too bad for the troops.)

But man, if Sean Hannity really wanted to help families of troops he really could make this a huge event. Hannity could start by saying he won't do it until there are at least $1 million in sponsored donations. He could get that easily. Frankly, he would probably raise $5 million from people who would want to see him waterboarded.

Then, Fox could run it on primetime TV and it would be one of the most-watched TV events of the year. They could sell millions of dollars in advertising, some of which they could put toward charity.

Better yet, he could do a pay-per-view event that would surely raise at least $10 million from people who would pay to $50 to watch it (I'd watch it). If he enlisted the help of others he could really make it an event. Put in an undercard fight of Keith Olbermann vs. Bill O'Reilly in a battle of the talking heads. (Olbermann would kick O'Reilly's arse.) You could have Rush duke it out with James Carville (Fat Drug-Addicted Gas Bag vs. the Ragin' Cajun). Add in a couple of musical acts and comedians - not the boring right wing ones like Billy Ray Cyrus and Dennis Miller - but actually entertaining folks and you would have a huge event. Then close up the night with the main event - Sean Hannity getting waterboarded for 90 seconds (although I doubt he would go longer than about 20 seconds (probably more like 10 seconds).

It could easily raise $25 million for charity. Oh but Sean won't subject himself to torture and possible death so it will never happen.

Sobering Deficit

The White House is projecting a $1.8 trillion deficit for this year. That is a horrible number no matter how you look at it.

The problem is that Obama's starting point was $1.7 trillion according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Obama inherited an economy that was shrinking rapidly (-6.3% GDP growth in fourth quarter of 2008), and he absorbed the huge spending that Bush poured into the economy in the fourth quarter. The CBO's baseline for 2009 is $1.667 trillion. That is the starting point.

The President's stimulus adds some spending this fiscal year, but when you add the fact that tax revenues are not growing because of the continued slow economy, whe see the $1.8 trillion deficit for this year.

The stimulus is there to try to shock the economy back into a positive. That should happen by the fourth quarter this year. Then, the interesting thing will be to see what happens in coming years. President Obama will have to tackle the deficit, and with growing tax revenues from a growing economy, allowing Bush tax cuts to expire on those making over $250,000, recovering TARP loans, holding the line on discretionary spending, and addressing Medicare and Medicaid we should see improvement in the deficit figures.

The fact is that we can absorb the deficit this year, but they are unsustainable over multiple years. His plan makes sense and he will be rewarded with a second term if things work out. If things worsen, we will need new leadership and a new direction. By next year, it will no longer be Bush's economy, it will be his economy.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Big Oil Drilling Nonsense

ExxonMobil voluntarily gave up 8 of its 13 oil leases with the State of Alaska because they didn't want to open up new oil production operations. They got the leases in 2002 and have done nothing with them for 7 years. The State has been fighting with ExxonMobil to get them back. Sarah "Drill Baby Drill" Palin has been in protracted litigation because ExxonMobil didn't want to return the leases. They made a business decision to hold on to the leases in order to prevent other firms from drilling and further eroding oil prices.

My good friend Dennis thinks that Big Oil companies will drill like mad if they are just given leases and freedom to do so. Alaska has very favorable rules for oil firms, and they have proven oil reserves. But still oil giants that hold leases refuse to drill - the reason is simple - they want to maximize shareholder value. They don't have any economic incentive to just "Drill Baby Drill."

Friday, May 08, 2009

More Good Economic News

It looks like the rate of job losses is slowing. We still had 539,000 job cuts in April, but when Obama took office in January, we had 741,000 cuts in that month - the worst of the recession. Unemployment rose to 8.9 percent - which is much too high - but again we see evidence of an improving economy. As I have stated in earlier posts, unemployment is a lagging indicator of the economy and we should expect no job gains for a few months yet. Firms want to see that the economy is in fact improving and will wait and wait until they are sure before they start hiring again.

Wall Street was bolstered by the news and the Dow is up about 100 points in early trading. We closed last week at 8212 and should beat that this week. We are up about 2000 points (about 30 percent) from the low on March 6. It has been a great runup - and as I have also stated in the past the Dow is a leading indicator of the economy. So, it looks like Wall Street folks are feeling great about the prospects for the overall economy.

On March 24, I predicted that Obama's actions would bring the Dow up to 8500 by April 23. We closed above that earlier this week, so it looks like I was about 2 weeks off. Oh well.

Americans are feeling much better about the direction of the country and Obama's leadership. This is why Obama continues to have sky high approval numbers.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bank Stress Test Day

The results are to be released today on the Fed's analyses of the 19 largest banks. This is going to be a complete non-event. Between leaks and the promises that the government won't let these banks fail there isn't much news.

Unless it is reported that one of these mega banks (only banks with at least $100 billion in assets were part of this batch of stress testing) is going to be dissolved - which isn't going to happen. There isn't going to be much of an impact.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Nice Start to the Trading Week

In another sign of the improving economy, home sales rose in March - making it two months in a row with an increase.

On top of that, construction spending also increased in March. This was a surprise, but it may be the first indicator that "shovel-ready" stimulus projects are going into effect. We'll have to watch over the next few months to see if that hypothesis is correct.

This news is being welcomed by Wall Street. We are up 150 points on the Dow after one hour of trading. One day does not a recovery make, but the news continues to be good which we should all be happy about.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Obama's Gallup Poll Number

It is an astounding 68 percent approval for the President.

Clearly there is growing optimism in the country. The economy is moderating and as I have stated in the past, as the stimulus dollars really start to circulate through the economy in coming months, we should see even greater improvement in the economy.

We have been on a major bull run on the stock markets, with the Dow rising by about 1700 points over the last two months. For those who don't know, the Dow is a leading indicator of what is to come. By the Q4 of this year, we may actually see growth. I'm predicting .5% GDP growth. That would be a remarkable turnaround in one year, given that Q4 of 2008 saw a -6.3% growth rate of GDP (these rates are for annualized GDP growth/decline - U.S. GDP did not drop 6.3% in Q4, it would have if economic conditions were similar to Q4 for an entire year).

All that said, unemployment will still be dismal for the rest of the year. Unemployment is a lagging indicator of economic strength. Firms don't like to hire until they are absolutely sure the economy is improving.