Social & Political

Nature reports on White House interference with global warming testimony

<![CDATA[White House adviser linked to cuts in climate-change report : Nature News:

The chief science adviser to President George W. Bush came under fire last week for his role in watering down congressional testimony on the health effects of global warming.

Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, had briefed senators on the subject at a hearing on 23 October. As required, she submitted her written testimony 24 hours in advance to the White House — which then proceeded to chop it in half. Detailed comments from the office of John Marburger, the president’s science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), may have played a part.

Nice — Al Gore wins the Nobel Prize while the Bush White House continues to suppress information about how global climate changes would impact ordinary Americans. Here’s the nail in the coffin:

The original testimony also indicated that children, the elderly and the poor would bear the brunt of the impact, and suggested that these problems “remain largely unaddressed”.

Again, the least powerful will pay the price for Bush’s willful disdain for global warming.

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Media Comment & Crimes

52 percent of us are certifiably insane

<![CDATA[Zogby International:

A majority of likely voters – 52% – would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows.

That’s all I have to say about that.]]>


Jambaz: Playing to improve investing results



Playing games is a great way to keep your mind sharp. Brain Age, a Nintendo DS game, says it can “keep your DS brain in shape” (I don’t think I have a DS brain) using the techniques of a Japanese neuroscientist. I’m always looking for a way to sharpen specific skills, whether it is thinking strategically or beating friends at poker. This week, I finally feel like I mastered the Jambaz investing game, coming in second out of 31 players that visit my blog.
It’s in these more defined undertakings that I think computer gaming can be tremendously helpful, because a computer can help you try many more strategies quickly.* When you combine that opportunity to simulate more attempts at success with competition with the crowd, as Jambaz has with its stock picking game [click here to enter], which has been running the sidebar of this blog for the past few months, I think we can start to see how social gaming can be an important and worthwhile tool.
I’ve been an investor in the stock market for a long time. However, I am a buy-and-hold investor, looking for what I consider to be undervalued shares and keeping them for a year or much longer. There isn’t much incentive, once a buy decision is made, to keep up on what is going on, because I’m confident that the returns will come. This has worked very well for me. I have no losers, and five stocks up more than 200 percent, in my portfolio now. At Marketocracy, where I’ve run a model mutual fund, I’ve sold only a few, and added fewer, stocks I bought since I started last October—my fund (listed as “MMF”) is 23.24 percent ahead of the S&P 500 since its inception and up 35.59 percent on the year. I’m pretty comfortable with my picks.
Jambaz, though, gives me an engaging way to stay in touch with what is going on with individual stocks, getting me thinking about potential buys. Having been one of the alpha testers, I’ve been playing from the very beginning. Now, I am working with Jambaz to recruit more players, because I am really finding it is helping improve my market mind.
It took a while for me to see the benefits of the “exercise” of picking the next day’s close for the stocks in my game. At first, I thought it would make more sense to have games that fit my buy-and-hold style, but having played a daily game and experienced a marked increase in my awareness of the activity around stocks I own or am thinking about buying, the daily pick is where the real value is.

I was a pretty bad player early on, albeit with Boeing stock I still suck–even though I’ve had big real gains with the stock I am running at zero-percent accuracy in the Jambaz game. As time passed, I found that I was able to pick the next day’s close with increasing accuracy. It forced me to spend three to five minutes keeping up on stocks, something that my investing strategy has prevented.

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Most of my stock holdings are in technology and finance, and those are the sectors I know best in my daily life. Using Jambaz, I was able to start experimenting with new sectors, particularly consumer packaged goods and food/drink stocks. During the last game I ran on RatcliffeBlog, I improved my daily picks on Coca-Cola (NYSE-KO) from near zero percent to 50 percent overall. By the end of the game, which lasted two weeks, my Coke picks were improving. The result? I now have a better sense of what moves this stock and, when I think the time is right I may very well add some to my real-world stock portfolio.

With stocks I really know well, like Apple’s fast-moving and very volatile shares, serve as a kind of control sample for the game. Presumably, I should do well with Apple shares, even though they go up or down by several dollars a day, because it is something I’ve covered professionally.
Another interesting benefit is the traffic to my site is changing because people who play the game through the Jambaz widget on my site are returning more often. RatcliffeBlog had only 75 visitors a day before and has only about 90 regular visitors now, yet 31 players are using Jambaz through the site. I can imagine using the Jambaz widget as a standing editorial element—in fact, having a separate game for each stock you cover, allowing readers to join the speculation through the widget, could be a useful return-traffic driver.
How about a few tips? Well, Jambaz gives you the choice of entering prices two ways, as a literal price or a hot/neutral/cold slider. Choose the hot/cold slider, because it gives you greater leeway in choosing prices. With a very expensive stock, like Apple, the literal price range was often too narrow for me to pick accurately. Using the hot/cold range is a kind of fudging of the numbers, but when we are talking about sentiment, which is all that a daily stock price is made of, that’s close enough for the game’s sake.
You still have to look at what the stock has been doing recently, for what information may come to market in the next day, such as an analyst speaking at a conference or a quarterly guidance call, but Jambaz isn’t easy when you choose the hot/cold slider, just more forgiving.
The other advice I’d give is to spread your game around. The widget is a doorway to a community of players, and you can wrack up points from many different games, not to mention get a sense of what a smart group of people are thinking about different stocks.
Ultimately, a game is the painless way to learn something or keep up on something. Just like fantasy baseball or football, which makes players a better observer of those games, picking stock prices is a habit for informed investors, even if they don’t make daily trades hoping to carve out a few dimes or quarters on daily volatility. The attention given to the market improves one’s analysis of stock movement. It helps me spot when the market isn’t being rational, because that is the time to buy and hold. Just like the Japanese neuroscientist says of our brain’s need for exercise, I’m finding the workout valuable.
*Someone once said “A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history, with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.”]]>


Limbaugh is the real betray-us

<![CDATA[John Edwards for President-Edwards Decries Offensive Limbaugh Comments :

“Rush Limbaugh should be ashamed of himself for calling brave members of our military ‘phony soldiers.’ There’s nothing phony about the sacrifices being made by any of our troops in Iraq. Two soldiers who bravely told the truth about flawed U.S. policy in an August New York Times op-ed died a very real death in Iraq three weeks ago. Limbaugh should apologize to these soldiers’ families and to all the brave men and women in our armed forces fighting for the very freedoms he enjoys as an American every day. All Republicans and Democrats should join with me in condemning his disgusting words.”

Where are the cries against this cowardly broadcaster? MoveOn is condemned by the Senate for an ad criticizing the current leader of U.S. armed forces in Irag, but Limbaugh gets away with this?
The same Senators who introduced that condemnation should be considered hypocrites for their silence on this issue. If they aren’t prepared to defend our men on the ground when they lionize the general in charge, they aren’t fit for leadership. That goes for both the Republican and Democratic versions of the MoveOn bill.

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Scary Republican devolutions

<![CDATA[John Dean: From Nixon to Bush to Giuliani:

John Dean knows something about White House abuse of power. He wrote a bestseller in 2004 on the Bush White House called “Worse Than Watergate.” In a recent interview I asked him what he thinks of that title now. Now, he replied, a book comparing Bush and Nixon would have to be called “Much, Much Worse.”

Death and torture is the new factor in American corruption, according to Dean.

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Social & Political


<![CDATA[It isn't hard to be honest in politics. It only appears to be hard to be honest and successful in politics. Just don’t lie (or manufacture false positions) about what you believe. Admit when you learn, because it shows you didn’t know enough before and can change. Explain changes of mind. Don’t lie, be human.
It’s that easy.
For instance, when evangelicals stop damning others for the sins of their most devout leaders, I will not think the Praisins posting is comic, but just an unfunny stereotype. But, with so many Sen. Larry Craigs and Ted Haggards, who spend their days condemning what they do on nights and weekend, or whenever they stop at the Minneapolis airport, Praisins is a cutting satire. So, speaketh me until proven wrong.
Finding an upright puritan is an act of faith, akin to proving the existence of God. You can only believe until they start throwing dirt on the body.]]>

Media Comment & Crimes

A devout fruit treat

<![CDATA[Praisins: The devout fruit treat

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Imagine the advertisements. A group of upright praisins rape a youth (you pick the sex) and the lead Praisin says: “Sure, you go ahead and cry ‘rape.’ We’ll be making cash on Sunday morning cable access by this weekend. It’s all in how you repent….”
Excuses, excuses.]]>

Social & Political

Another reason to indict Alberto Gonzales

<![CDATA[Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations – New York Times:

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Contrast that secret opinion with Gonzales’ testimony before Congress in January 2005, during his confirmation hearings, as reported by the Washington Post:

The message Mr. Gonzales left with senators was unmistakable: As attorney general, he will seek no change in practices that have led to the torture and killing of scores of detainees and to the blackening of U.S. moral authority around the world. Instead, the Bush administration will continue to issue public declarations such as those Mr. Gonzales repeated yesterday — “that torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration” — while in practice sanctioning procedures that the International Red Cross and many lawyers inside the government consider to be illegal and improper.

If torture and abuse would not be tolerated, why would Gonzales sanction it only a month later? Gonzales is an outright liar.
Following up: White House denies the memo conflicted with its anti-torture stance. Apparently, “a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures” isn’t the “abhorrent” behavior the White House was talking about when it said it doesn’t torture. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says: “It was different in that it was focusing on specifics, not reinterpreting that memo,” Perino said. “. . . It is a policy of the United States that we do not torture, and we do not.”
We only slap, drown and freeze them.]]>

Media Comment & Crimes Social & Political

Self-serving doublespeak #1,002,987,337

<![CDATA[Chertoff: Illegals ‘degrade’ environment – Yahoo! News:

“Illegal migrants really degrade the environment. I’ve seen pictures of human waste, garbage, discarded bottles and other human artifact in pristine areas,” Chertoff said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “And believe me, that is the worst thing you can do to the environment.”

“The worst thing you can do to the environment” is litter? Well, I suppose so, if you are one illegal immigrant. But another really bad thing for the environment would be ignoring the Kyoto Treaty if you are the U.S. administration. How about cutting clean water protection?
How about putting up a fence that won’t keep people out (it’s “virtual,” according to Department of Homeland Security, but animals will be prevented from reaching fresh water by said virtual fence)? How about failing to use treaty relationships to ensure safe and prosperous workplaces in the lands the immigrants come from–that was the point of NAFTA, after all.
Worse still, how about littering the American political landscape with junk thinking is pretty bad, don’t you think? We should send Michael Chertoff back to the private sector, build a wall around him, and keep America free of such self-serving doublespeak.]]>