“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood."


  1. Deuce's requiem for bob

    Read the lyrics, you'll understand.

  2. And when the blog you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

    There's a lot of damage to this whole Bob-Melody thing. When Bob was banned that was almost my last friend left on the Elephant Bar. Now all I got is Doug.

  3. Mr Rogers does reassure me safety back in the EB. He gave me pedophilic dreams as a child.

    And I like you, T.

  4. Now I get it.

    Boy am I dense.

    I'm your friend, T. Don't be a drama queen.

  5. Lately I've been so busy blogging the Bible and the Book of Mormon, cover to cover, and computer stuff, I haven't been into politics. I think I'll start doing a little more. Maybe we should get ol' Bob behind us and try to go back to the way things were.

  6. For you, Ms T, the way we were.

    Has time rewritten every line?

  7. It is impossible for "strangers" to routinely communicate over the course of years, even rancorously, without bonds of affection being formed.

    While this tragedy ended... tragically, I think it needs to be said that when the regulars thought bob was going to lose his wife to a terminal disease, most immediately offered words of consolation. Even our resident "unbeliever" offered comfort in the name of the Deity. This speaks well of us.

    I am certain that I am not alone in feeling a hole where once was the companionship of a good and gentle man. May bob find his way out of the darkness...Amen.

    Now...back to fighting...

  8. Some months ago, I commented to our resident energy guru that it was getting harder and harder to make heads or tails of current financial reporting. This link addresses that concern, as well as health care and absolute economic principles.

    Indeed, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in for a very bumpy ride of indefinite duration.

    True Lies

  9. Maybe we should get ol' Bob behind us and try to go back to the way things were.

    Are you serious? After everything that went on today. I never put my opinion in yesterday because I didn't want to fuel the fire. I was in and out today so I didn't see all the comments that were deleted but the ones I did see were exactly like the ones I defended you from. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't fun, for me on anyone else here.

  10. Personal anecdotal evidence points to a possible silver lining forming on the economic storm clouds. Pent-up demand may be producing green shoots.

  11. whit,

    We must hope those green shoots beneath the silver lining are not pulverized by the driving hail from black thunderheads.

    Harvard’s Rogoff Sees Sovereign Defaults, ‘Painful’ Austerity

    “The U.S. is in a state of paralysis in its fiscal policy,” he said. “Monetary policy will tighten first, and I don’t think it’s the right mix.”

  12. Oh yeah, I forgot my homeboy. I consider Sam to be a friend.

    LT I got your drama queen right here.

    Speaking of Pink Floyd, the cover of "Animals" featured a pig flying over Battersea Power Station in London. Right next to that, the US is building the new $1 billion embassy, complete with a moat to keep all the Muzzies out. Thoughtful diplomats remember the 1979 Revolution in Iran.

  13. A bad recession is likea bad hangover. There ain't a damned thing you can do but let it run its course.

    The simple rules is: When you hear about secret "swaps" agreements, it's Fraud.

    If the market goes "this" way they show you "this" agreement; if the market goes "that" way they show you "that" agreement. Hoping for a miracle, of course, all the way.

    To insure Everyone (affordably) you must have a "basic" policy that the country can afford to provide to the poor and/or sick, and a cadillac (supplement) available for purchase for the wealthier.

    There WILL be rationing to an extent, but there has Always been rationing in one way or the other, and there Will Always be rationing of some sort. It's the nature of man.

  14. Seeing bob go has been truly sad. Sadder still, imagining his tremendous suffering.

    I hope that, cut loose from this outlet, he finds capable, compassionate assistance and is encouraged to once again "lay hands on all the beauty and strength of life."

    That's often enough a tall order even for the untormented.

  15. Banks at risk of going bust tops 700

    "Nearly a third of the more than 8,000 lenders across the country reported a loss for the year, the FDIC reported Tuesday."

    "'Usually a lack of profits is not considered a good result...'"
    [as he scratches his head in amazement, wondering, "Where do they find these people?"]

    "The fund's [FDIC] deficit continued to balloon in the fourth quarter to nearly $21 billion - its largest deficit on record."

  16. I predict that Bob will be back in March, and the proprietors will give him another chance. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

  17. In 2006 every little old town in the South had two, or three New banks going up. I don't take a genii to figure out that a town of two thousand doesn't need 6 banks.

  18. Dick Cheney had five "near death experiences" and is still alive, maybe that's the real reason Obama wants to "reform" the best HC system in the world.

  19. Right on, T.

    Have a beer for me if you're ever at one of my favorite places

  20. Health insurance premiums have been climbing even as general inflation remains low. A spate of double-digit increases for people who buy their own policies has infuriated consumers, and the president is trying to tap the outrage to build support for his comprehensive remake.

    The House could vote later this week on the measure, which has strong Democratic support. However, prospects in the Senate are unclear.

    Industry analysts say losing the exemption would not have a major effect on the way health insurance companies do business these days.

    Antitrust Exemption

  21. I don't know how many "slices" the first cat scan did. I know a couple of years ago they did 16. Then, they did 32. Now, they do 64.

    Price in 2008: $1.2 Million

    What do cat scans cost now? Around $3,500.00?

    This hospital does Over 13,000/yr.

    $40 Million+ first year.

    Will they just Have to have the 128 slice when It comes out?

    Do they really Need a $40 Million/yr return off of a $1.2 Million machine?

    I guess it depends on who you ask, eh?

  22. "Canada welcomes the signing of the framework agreement between the government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement" (JEM), said Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, referring to Darfur's most heavily armed rebel group.


    The agreement will still need to be backed by other armed factions, entered into effect at 2100 GMT Tuesday.

    A ceasefire with the JEM would close the most active front in Darfur, but smaller rebel groups, such as the faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army of France-based exile Abdelwahid Nur, have refused to enter talks with Khartoum.

    Darfur Ceasefire

  23. My HP laptop cost $1100.00 five, or six years ago. I can buy a better one at Walmart for, I guess, $400.00.

    Or, a Much better one for about $1,100.00

    Or a Way, Way Better one for a couple of thousand.

    It's what makes the mare run.

    Who's to tell GE that they can't make a 128 slice Catscan machine? Who's to tell the hospital they can't buy it?

    What happens to innovation when the gov takes over and says, "That's enough; 64 bits is plenty?"

    What about that $40 Million/yr for catscans? Well, maybe $10 Million of that was to patients that couldn't pay. Of the $30 Million remaining, maybe $10 Million was eaten up by insurance companies that don't pay the same rate as you, or I, if we go down and pay out of pocket. Put Medicare in there, somewhere, probably.

    Leaves $20 Million, but those things are expensive to run. Those Doctors, and technicians don't work cheap.

    But, Still.

    Maybe that section is a "profit center" that supports a children's oncology center that shows a "loss."

    This stuff ain't simple, folks.

  24. That said: If you're a poor Mississippian, with no health insurance, and can't even get in to see a specialist, much less get a cat scan, it doesn't matter.

    0 times any number is still 0.

    If One cat scan maxed out your $3,000.00/yr max policy at Dardens, and you're doubled in pain knocking on doors, applying for jobs, trying to make it till you can get another $3,000.00/yr policy with another company all of this doesn't mean very much.

    You're voting Democratic, and Pulling for Obama. If you think about it very much, you'll Hate Republicans as long as you live. And, you'll raise your kids to hate Republicans, too.

  25. Nir Rosen emails Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy:

    By Nir Rosen
    Best Defense guest Iraq political commentator

    It's been frustrating to read the latest hysteria about sectarianism returning to Iraq, the threat of a new civil war looming, or even the notion that Iraq is "unraveling." I left Iraq today after an intense mission on behalf of Refugees International. My colleague Elizabeth Campbell and I traveled comfortably and easily throughout Baghdad, Salahedin, Diyala and Babil. We were out among Iraqis until well into the night every day, often in remote villages, traveling in a normal Toyota Corolla. Our main hassle was traffic and having to go through a thousand security checkpoints a day. Stay tuned for our report next month about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq (which deserves more attention than political squabbles) and the situation of Iraqis displaced since 2003. Stay tuned for my own article about what I found politically as well. And finally stay tuned later this year for my book on the Iraqi civil war, the surge, counterinsurgency and the impact of the war in Iraq on the region.

    From the beginning of the occupation the US government and media focused too much on elite level politics and on events in the Green Zone, neglecting the Iraqi people, the "street," neighborhoods, villages, mosques. They were too slow to recognize the growing resistance to the occupation, too slow to recognize that there was a civil war and now perhaps for the same reason many are worried that there is a "new" sectarianism or a new threat of civil war. The US military is not on the streets and cannot accurately perceive Iraq, and journalists are busy covering the elections and the debaathification controversy, but not reporting enough from outside Baghdad, or even inside Baghdad.

    Iraqis on the street are no longer scared of rival militias so much, or of being exterminated and they no longer have as much support for the religious parties. Maliki is still perceived by many to be not very sectarian and not very religious, and more of a "nationalist." Another thing people would notice if they focused on "the street" is that the militias are finished, the Awakening Groups/SOIs are finished, so violence is limited to assassinations with silencers and sticky bombs and the occasional spectacular terrorist attack -- all manageable and not strategically important, even if tragic. Politicians might be talking the sectarian talk but Iraqis have grown very cynical.

    When you talk to people they tell you that the sectarian phase is over. Of course with enough fear it could come back, but Shiites do not feel threatened by any other group, and Sunnis aren't being rounded up, the security forces provide decent enough security, and they are pervasive, there is no reason for people to cling to militias in self defense and besides militiamen are still being rounded up, I just don't see enough fuel here for a conflagration -- leaving aside the Arab/Kurdish fault line, of course. (Though if Maliki went to war with the Kurds that would only further unite Sunni and Shiite Arabs.) The Iraqi Security Forces like Maliki enough, even if they prefer Alawi. The Iraqi army will not fall apart on sectarian lines, it would attack Sunni and Shiite militias, if there were any, but these militias are emasculated. They can assassinate and dispatch car bombs but they can't hold ground, they can't engage in firefights with checkpoints. The Iraqi Security Forces might arrest a lot of innocent people, but they're also rounding up "bad guys" and getting a lot of tips from civilians. The Iraqi Security Forces might be brutal, sometimes corrupt, but they no longer act as death squads, they take their role very seriously, perhaps too seriously, but these days anything is better than the recent anarchy and sectarian massacres.


  26. [...]

    Of course Maliki is in the end still a Shiite sectarian actor and has a core constituency, as Chalabi cleverly forced him to reveal, but Maliki is not pro-Iranian (though Iran is too often demonized as well as if the dichotomy is pro-American and good or pro-Iranian and bad). It's not a dichotomy of pro-Iranian or nationalist either.

    It's not about whether Iraqis are sectarian or not. They are, though the vitriol and hatred have decreased. It's that they are not afraid of the other sect anymore. Fear is what led to the militias taking power and to the political and military mobilization along sectarian lines. There are attempts by some Shiite and Sunni parties to scare people again but in my conversations I feel it is failing. The fear is gone and the Iraqi Security Forces fill the security void, even if it's not pretty.

    There is concern about Sunnis being disenfranchised or getting the shaft. But they have been disenfranchised since 2003. In part they disenfranchised themselves but anyway none of them expect to get unshafted. It's already done. The government is in Shiite hands and now it's a question of whether it will remain in the relatively good Shiite hands of Maliki, who provides security and doesn't bring down an iron fist on you unless you provoke him (sort of like Saddam), or the dirty corrupt and dangerous Shiite hands of Maliki's rivals -- Jaafari, Hakim, etc. I think these elections mean a lot more to Americans (as usual) and maybe to Iraqi elites than they do to Iraqis.

    Besides, what can Sunnis do? Nothing, they're screwed and they have to accept it, and they have. The alternative is far worse for them. Sunnis in the region will not go to war alongside the Sunnis of Iraq. That moment came and went in 2006. Iraqi Sunnis don't even have a single leader who is charismatic and has real appeal, they're divided among themselves and these days your average Iraqi just isn't that into politics. I've heard it hundreds of times by now, they blame the religious parties, they say they got fooled and now they understand. Now that's not completely true, but the militias were able to mobilize people because of a security vacuum. These days it doesn't matter how remote and shitty the village I visit is, there are Iraqi Security Forces, and people have good things to say about them. Compared to the first three years of the occupation, Sunnis seem downright docile, maybe bitter or wistful, maybe angry, but their leadership is emasculated, in jail, abroad, just trying to survive, or just trying to make money.


  27. [...]

    Maliki will probably emerge the victor in the elections. His more sectarian and corrupt Shiite rivals are discredited and unpopular, but more importantly, he is an authoritarian ruler in the Middle East, he would have to be really incompetent if he couldn't stay in power. If Karzai could do it, then Maliki should be able to as well. Of course there is nothing uniquely Middle Eastern about this. In fact maybe looking at post-Soviet states is useful -- that is, the new ruler will not readily relinquish control, even if he has to bend the rules a bit, or operate outside the constitution. This has happened in Asia, Africa, and other places in transition. I hate to admit that I hope Maliki wins. He's the best of all the realistic alternatives. It's not like a more secular candidate is likely to win, so if it's not Maliki it will be Jaafari or Chalabi. Frankly this is a rare case where I hope Maliki violates the constitution, acts in some kind of authoritarian way to make sure he wins the elections, because the alternative is fragmentation, or a criminal, sectarian kleptocratic Shiite elite taking over, and then Iraq might unravel. For now it's still "raveling."

    Good to hear.

  28. Good, let's get out of there (while the gettin's good.)

    That's Over A $ Hundred Billion/yr, right there.

    We could use a Hundred Big'uns right now.

  29. In addition, a continued American military presence could help Iraq move forward politically. No one there particularly likes having the Americans around, but many groups seem to trust the Americans as honest brokers.

    And there would be a moral, humanitarian and political benefit: Having American soldiers accompany Iraqi units may improve the behavior of Iraqi forces, discouraging relapses to Saddam Hussein-era abuses, or the use of force for private ends and feuds. Advisers not only instruct Iraqi commanders, they also monitor them.

    As a longtime critic of the American invasion of Iraq, I am not happy about advocating a continued military presence there. Yet, to echo the counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, just because you invade a country stupidly doesn’t mean you should leave it stupidly.

    Extending Stay

  30. With $100 Billion I can build out a $50 Billion Gallon Yr Ethanol Capacity.

    Two years in Iraq = No More Oil Imports, EVER!

  31. That should have been: 50 Billion Gallon/Yr

    The dollar sign didn't go there.

  32. Turn in the key, Lee

    Slip out the back, Jack

    There must be a hundred ways to leave Iraq.

  33. Maybe it would take the revenues from 3 years in Iraq. I forgot about diesel. :)

  34. Blackwater has been involved in several security incidents, including the 2007 shooting at Nisoor Square in Baghdad that killed 17 people, including women and children. Since the shooting, the Myock, N.C.-based Blackwater has renamed itself Xe Services and overhauled its management.

    Iraq has pulled the company's license to operate in the country.

    Levin said he wants to determine who should be held accountable for the gaps in oversight that led to the 2009 shooting and what should happen to prevent future incidents. But he stopped short of suggesting that Xe be barred from working with the military overseas.

    Blackwater Contractors

  35. Meanwhile back "home":

    Insults fly at Latin American "Unity Summit"
    Posted By Joshua Keating Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 12:26 PM

    Things reportedly got pretty heated yesterday at the Latin American "Unity Summit" in Cancun, when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez got into it with his arch-enemy, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe:

    According to a source who attended the luncheon and asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation, Chavez and Uribe started yelling and called each other names, using obscene language.

    The source also said that Cuban President Raul Castro had to intervene to stop the verbal fight, asking, "How is it possible that we're fighting at a summit intended to unite Latin American and Caribbean countries?"

    In the Telegraph's account includes more juicy details:

    Mr Chavez then accused Mr Uribe of planning his assassination by a paramilitary squad and threatened to walk out of the summit in disgust.

    "An angry Uribe then shouted: 'Be a man! These issues are meant to be discussed in these venues. You're brave speaking at a distance, but a coward when it comes to talking face to face'," the diplomat said.

    Mr Chavez is reported to have replied: "Go to hell!"

    Ahhhhh, but I do miss it.

  36. What you say, rufus, has been true for at least the past four years.

    We need a new plan, Stan.

  37. The 'Unity Summit' sounds like the EB.

  38. Making up nearly one-fourth of U.S. voters, 18-to-29 year olds are less religious, more racially diverse and liberal on social issues such as gay rights. They are steeped in digital technology and social media, and are strong believers in the view that the government should do more to solve problems.

    For example:

    _Nearly two-thirds admit to texting while driving, and more than 8 in 10 sleep with their cell phones by their bed.

    _Nearly 4 in 10 have at least one tattoo; about half of those people have two to five tattoos.


    _About 37 percent of young adults are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades.

    Government Gridlock

  39. Meanwhile in Afghanistan:

    Yes, well, that about covers it.

    And the next major to-do in North American meteorological affairs will handily avoid us.

    We can actually see parts of our lawn, with actual grass, and we actually grilled on our actual terrace - visible underfoot for the first time in almost a month.

    Can Spring be far away?


  40. The 'Unity Summit' sounds like the EB.

    Wed Feb 24, 12:41:00 AM EST

    On a GOOD day, at that.

  41. James Delingpole’s column in the says it all.

    Corus’ steelworks at Redcar, near Middlesbrough, “Teesside Cast Products”, is to be closed (”mothballed” is the euphemism). It is Britain’s last great steelworks and an essential national resource. Without it, we are at the world’s mercy.

    Corus is owned by Tata Steel of India. Recently, Tata received “EU-carbon-credits” worth up to £1bn, ostensibly so that steel-production at Redcar would not be crippled by the EU’s “carbon-emissions-trading-scheme”. By closing the plant at Redcar – and not making any “carbon-emissions” – Tata walks off with £1bn of taxpayers’ money, which it will invest in its steel-factories in India, where there is no “carbon-emissions-trading-scheme”.

    There’s more. The EU’s “emissions-trading-scheme” (ETS) is modelled on instructions from the “International Panel on Climate-Change” (IPCC) of the United Nations Organisation. The Chairman of the IPCC is one Dr Rajendra K.Pachauri, a former railway-engineer, who obtained this post by virtue of his being Chairman of the “Tata Energy-Research Institute” – set up by Tata Steel.

    Cap n' Trade - coming soon to a country near you.

  42. Gee, I missed whatever happened in the Bob/MLD Blogyoudrama.
    Ah, well.

    All your stories and anecdotal sob stories from Mississippi add up to zilch, for me Rufus:
    The fact remains that you cannot point to one enterprise, other than defense, where the government does a better job than private enterprise.

    "This stuff ain't simple, folks."

    So how the Fuck could ANYONE imagine that the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT could competently address the problems?

    Canadian Premier on US health procedure: 'This was my heart, my choice and my health'...

    This was my heart, my choice and my health," Williams said late Monday from his condominium in Sarasota, Fla.

    "I did not sign away my right to get the best possible health care for myself when I entered politics."
    His doctors in Canada presented him with two options - a full or partial sternotomy, both of which would've required breaking bones, he said.

    He said he spoke with and provided his medical information to a leading cardiac surgeon in New Jersey who is also from Newfoundland and Labrador. He advised him to seek treatment at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami.

    That's where he was treated by Dr. Joseph Lamelas, a cardiac surgeon who has performed more than 8,000 open-heart surgeries.

    Williams said Lamelas made an incision under his arm that didn't require any bone breakage.

  43. Orson Bean:

    "When I go, I want to go like my dear old grandfather:
    Quietly, in his sleep, not screaming,
    like the passengers in his car."