Friday, November 25, 2005

Hype-disillusionment Cycles

Against my own better judgement, I drank too much of the Google-koolaid and bought shares in Google about 2 months ago. They are now up about 42%. I want to brag on it, but it's important to note that I haven't taken a profit yet, so the jury is still out on this being a good idea.

At around 280 I just got tired of reading all these media stories about Goog and hoping that the Winter Santa rally would hold again took the plunge. What I like about Google as a company is that they're not afraid to innovate "neat" ideas just for the hell of it and worry about making money off it later. Google maps is an interesting idea because they've open sourced the api's to it so anyone can dream up ways to implement the maps. This blog you're reading is courtesy of Google. The concept that they can target a link to an advertiser to what's on a search page Google serves up is not that genius an idea, but putting that link up for auction to the advertisers is. Because of that, Google is making tons of money.

The problem with watching it go up 42% is knowing that it could just as easily go down 42% from where I bought it. Hell, even lower. (I once owned Corning during the DotCom bust. . .)The P/E multiple is easily in the 90's or so which is scary. I tell myself that I'm cool with weathering the downs because I really do have confidence in Google's future. Historically, there have been stocks that have ramped up quite handsomely over a 10 year span and this is what my holding timeframe is for Google.

All that being said, I still recognize that there is a lot of hype here. Google is the subject of a vast assortment of rumors, such as impending listing as a S&P index stock, secret purchaser of vast amounts of cheap dark fiber to create a parallel internet, etc. etc. Who knows.

The chart represents an analysis of what happens to hype stocks. I'm hoping the "peak of inflated expectations" hasn't happened yet and the "trough of disillusionment" isn't too far below where I bought it because I intend to hang on to this one for a while. (Famous last words. . .)

"I will send them . . ."

Festus does it again. What contempt he must have for us. . .

Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. . . . As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders.

Contrast that with this report from Time . .

According to two sources with knowledge of the meeting....the commanders said that they not only needed more manpower but also had repeatedly asked for it. Indeed, military sources told Time that as recently as August 2005, a senior military official requested more troops but got turned down flat.

....The battalion commanders, according to sources close to last week's meeting, said that because there are not enough troops, they have to "leapfrog" around Iraq to keep insurgents from returning to towns that have been cleared out. The officers also stressed that the lack of manpower — rather than of protective armor or signal jammers — posed one of the biggest obstacles in dealing with roadside bombs, which have caused the majority of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

The list

The Washington Monthly is keeping an ongoing talley of the manipulations of data the Festus White House blathered at us to go to war in Iraq. It's good info, check it out. Here's a few. . .

The Claim: Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda prisoner captured in 2001, was the source of intelligence that Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons. This information was used extensively by Colin Powell in his February 2003 speech to the UN.

What We Know Now: As early as February 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency circulated a report, labeled DITSUM No. 044-02, saying that it was "likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers." Link. This assessment was hidden from the public until after the war.

The Claim: Administration officials repeatedly suggested that Saddam Hussein had substantial connections to al-Qaeda. Even after the war, George Bush said, "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda [is] because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda." Dick Cheney said the evidence of a relationship was "overwhelming."

What We Know Now: As early as September 21, 2001, President Bush was told by the CIA that there was "scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda." In fact, according to Murray Waas, "Bush was told during the briefing that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime." Link.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Larry, Curley or Moe?

More and more comes out that suggests that Festus hasn't come clean with us from the beginning

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.

One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.

The September 21, 2001, briefing was prepared at the request of the president, who was eager in the days following the terrorist attacks to learn all that he could about any possible connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

The highly classified CIA assessment was distributed to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the president's national security adviser and deputy national security adviser, the secretaries and undersecretaries of State and Defense, and various other senior Bush administration policy makers, according to government records.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.

Indeed, the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, according to congressional sources. Both Republicans and Democrats requested then that it be turned over. The administration has refused to provide it, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.

One reason that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld made statements that contradicted what they were told in CIA briefings might have been that they were receiving information from another source that purported to have evidence of Al Qaeda-Iraq ties. The information came from a covert intelligence unit set up shortly after the September 11 attacks by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith.

Feith was a protégé of, and intensely loyal to, Cheney, Rumsfeld, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, and Cheney's then-chief of staff and national security adviser, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. The secretive unit was set up because Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Libby did not believe the CIA would be able to get to the bottom of the matter of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties. The four men shared a long-standing distrust of the CIA from their earlier positions in government, and felt that the agency had failed massively by not predicting the September 11 attacks.

. . . The vice president's office also showed great interest in their work. On at least three occasions, Maloof said, Samantha Ravich, then-national security adviser for terrorism to Cheney, visited their windowless offices for a briefing.

But neither Maloof nor Wurmser had any experience or formal training in intelligence analysis.

At the risk of getting repetitive here, when is Festus going to pay the price for misleading us into an intractable conflict in Iraq? Recent polls suggest that 68% of us simply don't believe him . . .

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Caring for your introvert

One of the gems you stumble on browsing web logs, this one really spoke to me. Check it out.

The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward.

We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Lies, lies and more lies. Instead of using the occasion to honor our soldiers on Veterans day, Bush used the occasion to do a little political judo. This clip from the CJR says it better than I:

One part of the speech directly tackled questions over the intelligence used as justification for the invasion of Iraq, and one quote in particular has shown up in most press reports about the speech. The New York Times ran the president's quote in full in its early report this afternoon:

Some Democrats and antiwar critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war ... These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

While it's true that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence that the Bush administration pressured intelligence agents into altering their findings, the president still fudges the issue just a bit here. Yet neither the Times nor any of the major media outlets we looked at managed to pick up on his sleight of hand.

Fact is, as Harry Reid's "Rule 21" gambit pointed out last week, the initial Senate investigation only looked at how the intelligence community handled the information it collected -- and, as of yet, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has not investigated exactly what intelligence went to the president, whether all of it was taken into account and what the vetting process was at the executive branch.

To put an even finer point on it, the chairman of the commission, Judge Laurence Silberman, that Festus cites was quoted as saying "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

Yet another sort of factual statement from Festus that doesn't mean what it seems to say because, well, because it's a lie. . .

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Capote and Good Night and Good Luck

Interesting that these should come out around the same time as they both serve to fill in the backstory to events I was aware of but too young at the time to get the whole picture. Both have an awful lot in common as they fill in the backstories of what was going on when CBS and McCarthy were sparring during the commie witch hunt days as well as what Capote went thru while writing a breakthru form of non-fiction novel.

In "Good Night and Good Luck", I learned how much peril Murrow was in as well as the risk the head of CBS was taking when challenging the bullying that McCarthy was getting away with. The movie portrays Murrow's reporting as the tipping point in history where the tide shifts against McCarthy and his final fall from power. Filmed beautifully in black and white, (Murrow is never without a cigarette with it's dramatically lit smoke curling languidly thruout) it was jarring sometimes watching vintage scenes from the 50's filmed with the flash of contemporary camera movement and angles. The very active camera was the one thing that saved the film from dragging even more than it could have because it's very much a talky drama/documentary.
I left the film wanting to know a bit more about Murrow than I saw. I'd no more idea of what made him want to take on McCarthy after it was over than I did when it started.

"Capote" fills in a few more blanks for me as well about Capote and his book, "In Cold Blood". All I recall is that he was the funny talking guy I used to see on late night TV talk shows but I never knew then what he was famous for nor why he was so odd. The film starts with the farmhouse murder and shows us Capote's journey thru research and writing of the story and his, in a way, seduction of one of the murderers as he befriends him to get the complete story out of him to complete the book. Hoffman mimics Capote brilliantly and the whole film is artfully done. "Capote" came closer to getting under the skin of it's lead character than "Good Night. . ." did, but I still left feeling that I wasn't allowed close enough.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Is is

Festus finally had his definitive "is is" moment. Recall Clinton defending his parsing of the term "sexual relations" by stating something like, "well, that depends on what your definition of is, is." I'm sure it made sense to him at the time, but it doesn't read well now.

Probably the most outraged I've been lately at Festus's total lack of competence and honesty was in response to a news conference from a South America's conference (yet another debacle) where he at the same time defended our use of torture while flatly stating we weren't doing it anyway. Clearly an "is is" moment if I've ever seen one.

Here's what Festus said:
"We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice," Bush said at a news conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos. "We are gathering information about where the terrorists might be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do ... to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture.

And, therefore, we're working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible -- more possible to do our job. There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans, and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet, we'll aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law. And that's why you're seeing members of my administration go and brief the Congress. We want to work together in this matter. We -- all of us have an obligation, and it's a solemn obligation and a solemn responsibility. And I'm confident that when people see the facts, that they'll recognize that we've -- they've got more work to do, and that we must protect ourselves in a way that is lawful.""

Got all that. The familiar themes of "an enemy that lurks" and "wants to hurt America" and "when people see the facts" suggest that Festus wants to say the means are justified by the results but can't. Mind you, I don't really care how Al Quaeda captives are treated, but the whole point of agreeing to humane treatment of prisoners of war is that we don't want our soldiers tortured.

Here's an interesting response
:"If that's the case, why threaten to veto a law that would simply codify what Bush alleges is already the current policy? If 'we do not torture,' how to account for the hundreds and hundreds of cases of abuse and torture by U.S. troops, documented by the government itself? If 'we do not torture,' why the memos that expanded exponentially the lee-way given to the military to abuse detainees in order to get intelligence? The president's only defense against being a liar is that he is defining 'torture' in such a way that no other reasonable person on the planet, apart from Bush's own torture apologists (and they are now down to one who will say so publicly), would agree. The press must now ask the president: does he regard the repeated, forcible near-drowning of detainees to be torture? Does he believe that tying naked detainees up and leaving them outside all night to die of hypothermia is 'torture'? Does he believe that beating the legs of a detainee until they are pulp and he dies is torture? Does he believe that beating detainees till they die is torture? Does he believe that using someone's religious faith against them in interrogations is 'cruel, inhumane and degrading' treatment and thereby illegal? What is his definition of torture?"


The political sh*tstorms are raging so heavily lately I can't keep up, so here are some links for your outragement. . .

Bills to Cut Social Programs Move Forward in Senate and House Got no link here cause it's WSJ (here's one)but it's still ongoing but the gist is that they're finding ways to gut saftey net programs to pay for a seperate $70 billion bill to extend Festus's treasured tax cuts

The Wages of Wal-Mart Another WSJ link that reports that: Hoping to make nice with detractors, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott has called on Congress to increase the $5.15 minimum wage.
It's like shooting rats in a barrel here, WalMart can raise it's own wages without asking Congress to make them do so. What's the real motive? The answer may be that calling for an increase in the minimum wage amounts to Wal-Mart calling for a hike in the labor costs of its smaller rivals, not to mention any potential start-ups. Wal-Mart already pays its workers an average hourly wage of close to $10 and so Mr. Scott is essentially asking Congress to strengthen its competitive advantage.
Sweet. . .

Prevailing Wages to Be Paid Again On Gulf Coast The levys hadn't even been fixed before Festus found it so important that he signed a degree making sure that the wages paid to the cleanup workers would be discounted. There were no such provisions on the corporations bidding for the work and most of those bids were "cost plus" meaning it didn't matter what the wages were. Making sure the workers got screwed while the companies reaped guarenteed profits is nothing but evil.
Gulf Coast workers and businesses have complained that they are being left out of the recovery. While the federal government spends more than $60 billion on recovery, they say that out-of-state companies receive most of the contracts and that many of those firms pay workers less than the prevailing wage -- which is often the union wage.

For example, 75 unionized electricians said they lost their $22-an-hour jobs rebuilding the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station near New Orleans because a Halliburton Co. subcontractor found workers to do the job for less.
Hmmm, Halliburton, where have I heard that name before. . .

Iran's recently elected president demonstrates just what "hardline" means in Iranian politics:

Iran's new president created a sense of outrage in the west yesterday by describing Israel as a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the face of the earth".

....He said: "Anybody who recognises Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury, [while] any [Islamic leader] who recognises the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world." He was addressing a conference titled The World Without Zionism.
We've come a long way as a species, haven't we. We still hate and kill people who worship differently than us.

Judge: Microsoft's music player gaffe is 'concern' A federal judge scolded Microsoft on Wednesday for devising a marketing plan that would have forced portable-music player makers to package only Windows Media Player with their products. Old habits die hard, I guess. . .

Joe Wilson speaks.
It was payback — cheap political payback by the administration for an article I had written contradicting an assertion President Bush made in his 2003 State of the Union address. Payback not just to punish me but to intimidate other critics as well.

Just for the record.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Just because our White House has let us down in the past, that doesn't mean it's going to happen in the future.

VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: On the first hour of the first day, we will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office.

PRES. BUSH: If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it. And we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing.

Another FEMA
The Bush administration has missed dozens of deadlines set by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks for developing ways to protect airplanes, ships and railways from terrorists.

A plan to defend ships and ports from attack is six months overdue. Rules to protect air cargo from infiltration by terrorists are two months late. A study on the cost of giving anti-terrorism training to federal law enforcement officers who fly commercially was supposed to be done more than three years ago.

"The incompetence that we recently saw with FEMA's leadership appears to exist throughout the Homeland Security Department," said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson

Serious breakdowns in settlement with Wal-Mart
There were serious breakdowns in a government settlement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. over child labor law violations in Connecticut and other states - including allowing attorneys for the world's largest retailer to write key parts of the deal, according to a Labor Department inspector general report Monday.

As a result, Wal-Mart received "significant concessions" in the $135,540 settlement made public in February, the report said. Among them: The Labor Department was required to notify the retail giant 15 days in advance of opening an audit or investigation, something that's inconsistent with guidelines for the department's Wage and Hour Division.

Wal-Mart also could avoid formal citations or penalties if it brought facilities into compliance within 10 days of being notified about a violation.
Imagine a company so large and powerful that it gets to negotiate it's own punishment when it breaks the law. . .

Senator Roberts Remarks on the WMD Commission Report

“I don’t think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further.
This is from March, earlier this year. I guess this attitude is why the Dems had to hijack the Senate in order to force some kind of conclusion on Part II of the WMD report that was supposed to focus on how intel was used to con the country into supporting the Iraq war.

The Report They Forgot More on the Roberts fiasco.
In February 2004, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (SSCI) announced that it had unanimously agreed to expand its investigation of prewar Iraq intelligence from focus on intelligence community blunders and into the more controversial area of “whether intelligence was exaggerated or misused” by U.S. government officials. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Jay Rockefeller, struck the agreement with Chairman Pat Roberts -- provided, Roberts insisted, that the probe into policy-makers’ activities wait until after the presidential election.

It’s now more than a year later, and Rockefeller is still waiting -- the Phase II report has yet to appear. What happened?

In Kuwait, Gush Of Oil Wealth Dulls Economic Change Another WSJ article that basically describes Kuwait as a welfare state where no-one does any actual work and gets paid well for it.
When Ms. Jaafar got married, the government gave her and her husband $17,150 to help with expenses. The couple also received free land, a car and cash to help build a house. Their expenses were minimal: electric bills, which often go unpaid, were almost nothing. Subsidized food made basic meals close to free. On her 10th anniversary, a congratulatory check for nearly $250,000 arrived from the government. Ms. Jaafar retired after 15 years in her government job of three hours a day. But her pension still brings in 95% of her previous salary, which was $4,116 a month.

Capital Blue This is probably total BS, but still fun to contemplate.
An uncivil war rages inside the walls of the West Wing of the White House, a bitter, acrimonious war driven by a failed agenda, destroyed credibility, dwindling public support and a President who lapses into Alzheimer-like periods of incoherent babbling...
The war erupted into full-blown shout fests at Camp David this past weekend where decorum broke down in staff meetings and longtime aides threatened to quit unless Rove goes...

White House staff members say the White House is “like a wartime bunker” where shell-shocked aides hide from those who disagree with their actions and office pools speculate on how long certain senior aides will last.

Bush, whose obscenity-laced temper tantrums increase with each new setback and scandal, abruptly ended one Camp David meeting by telling everyone in the room to “go fuck yourselves” before he stalked out of the room.

Senior aides describe Bush as increasingly “edgy” or “nervous” or “unfocused.” They say the President goes from apparent coherent thought one moment to aimless rambles about political enemies and those who are “out to get me.”

“It’s worse than the days when Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s began setting in,” one longtime GOP operative told me privately this week. “You don’t know if he’s going to be coherent from one moment to the next. What scares me is if he lapses into one of those fogs during a public appearance.”

Whew! That was quite a purge. More later!