The Gnomes of Zurich

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 12:12 PM EST

THE GNOMES OF ZURICH....John Quiggin thinks Switzerland is about to go bankrupt. Just thought I'd mention it.

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Trouble in River Citi

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 11:27 AM EST

TROUBLE IN RIVER CITI....Back in the hazy days of early 2008, Countrywide failed. But hey — they were hugely exposed to subprime mortgages, so that was hardly a surprise. Don't read too much into it. Then Bear Stearns failed. But they were the weakest of the investment banks and had unusual derivative exposures. The others were probably OK. Then Fannie and Freddie failed. But they were GSAs. And Lehman Brothers went under. But Richard Fuld had really screwed the pooch, and the federal bailout plan would keep the other investment banks OK. But then Merrill got eaten, and Morgan and Goldman turned themselves into bank holding companies. No more investment banks. But at least the big money center banks were basically OK, right?

So tell me: now that Citigroup seems to be on the brink of failure, what are we supposed to think? Is anyone safe? Is Brad DeLong right, and full-scale Swedish style nationalization is the only real option still open to us? Does Congress really want to go into recess without passing some kind of major stimulus package before January 20? Really?

Consequences of Gay Marriage, Illustrated

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 11:18 AM EST

Speaking of things that are falsely hyped as bringing about the apocalypse, here's a graphical representation of gay marriage's ramifications. Enjoy.


From GraphJam via Andrew.

MacBook Update

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 11:00 AM EST

MACBOOK UPDATE....Thanks to everyone who suggested resetting the SMC controller in my MacBook. It didn't work, but it did cause the white LED on the front of the notebook to start pulsing again, which made me think it was working for a while and allowed me to go to bed happy. When I woke up this morning, though, the battery was still dead after a night of charging and the message on the menu bar was actually more ominous than before. Sigh. Off to the Genius Bar, I guess.

But I'm curious about something. An awful lot of people in yesterday's thread seemed to think that I had committed some kind of technological malpractice by letting the battery discharge completely. Mind you, this wasn't deliberate on my part. I just closed the lid one day (August 29, I think, after using the MacBook to blog about Sarah Palin during a power failure) and then didn't happen to use it for the next two or three months. But frankly, even if I'd known I wasn't going to use it I wouldn't have done anything special. I would have just figured that the battery would discharge completely and I'd have to charge it before I used it next. No big deal.

But that's not so? If you let your battery discharge completely, the entire machine dies and refuses to charge the battery again? Why? Just to teach me a lesson? Or what? I don't understand why completely discharging a battery should have such dire effects. I thirst for knowledge, as always, so can anyone enlighten me?

Sadr's Slump

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 10:51 AM EST

SADR'S SLUMP....The latest from Baghdad:

More than 10,000 supporters of the radical anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr gathered in Baghdad's Firdos Square on Friday to protest the Iraqi government plan to sign a security agreement which would maintain American troops in the country for up to three years. With powerful symbolism, demonstrators hanged an effigy of President Bush from the plinth that once supported the statue of Saddam Hussein that was toppled after Baghdad fell to U.S. troops on April 9, 2003.

Hmmm. Am I the only one who thinks 10,000 is a pretty puny turnout for one of Sadr's protests? Didn't he used to brag about turning out crowds of nearly a million? Symbolism is nice, but a few hundred thousand marchers would have been a much more impressive show.

Based on this, I predict that the SOFA will pass parliament shortly. You heard it here first.

The War on the War on Christmas Kicks Off With Biggest Logical Leap of the Year

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 10:13 AM EST

henninger-santa-hat.jpg It's that time of year again. From now until December 26, expect over-the-top proclamations from your favorite conservative hacks about how our inability to say the words "Merry Christmas" is a sign of this country's imminent downfall. And it's not just our culture that suffers because of our overzealous political correctness, says Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger. In the most absurd (and least substantiated) logical leap of the year, he claims our economy is being destroyed as well.

"And so it will come to pass once again that many people will spend four weeks biting on tongues lest they say "Merry Christmas" and perchance, give offense. Christmas, the holiday that dare not speak its name.
"This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin — fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy."

Yup. It has nothing to do with the government's financial overseers being asleep at the switch, or a decades-long conservative push for deregulation, or even the greed of lenders who gave out bad loans in order to make millions and Wall Street types who created financial instruments they could not understand in order to make billions. Nope. The stock market is tumbling, unemployment is growing, and people across America are feeling the pinch at their kitchen tables because your local Target has a "Happy Holidays" banner out front.

You aren't getting away with it any longer, Target. Daniel Henninger has exposed your scam. Angry mobs are coming to your locations to scrawl "Merry Christmas" over your "desacralized" signs, and then everyone will feel better and start buying TiVos and the economy will be great again.

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Car Tax Update

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 9:49 PM EST

CAR TAX UPDATE....I see that the California legislature is thinking of taking my advice and raising the vehicle license fee back to the same rate (2% of assessed value) that we had for most of our history:

The plan creates a potential political quandary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The last governor to triple the vehicle license fee was his predecessor, Gray Davis, and it played a large role in his recall. In his first act in office, Schwarzenegger cut the fee back down to its current rate.

Yeah, that's a quandary all right. Poor Arnold.

Apple Woes

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 9:22 PM EST

APPLE WOES....So remember how you guys were all over me for years about how bad PCs sucked and how I should get a Mac to solve all my problems etc. etc.? And so I finally got one a few months ago, and it worked fine. (Not really any better than a PC, to be honest, but it was fine.) Remember all that?

Well, guess what? I haven't used my MacBook for a couple of months, but I pulled it out the other day and discovered that Macs don't hibernate in order to extend battery life. They just go into standby mode when you close the lid, and then hibernate right before the battery goes completely dead. So of course my battery was completely dead. No big deal, though: I just plugged in the charger and went away for a few hours.

And nothing happened. The notebook no longer recognizes the battery and declines to charge it even a tiny bit. Reinstalled the battery, but that didn't do any good. So now what? Take it into an Apple store and find out what's wrong, I guess. What a pain. Why can't Apple make decent hardware, anyway?

Now: Even Easier for Teens To Embarrass Each Other!

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 7:10 PM EST

Oh my God, you guys. Rejoice, teens of the world. It's just gotten a whole lot easier to pursue one of your favorite interests: torturing each other on the Internet. On a new site called High School Tabloid, teens can submit pictures and scandalous stories from their very own high schools. Just think: The angst and growing pains of your friends, enemies, and frenemies memorialized—and laid bare for literally the whole world to see! Check out this screen shot from the home page:

And its motto pulls no punches: "Gossip, Publicity, Popularity."

Teens who post are awarded points, two for comments posted to a story and "10 points for posted headline with story." (So are the points for the headline or the story?) Earn enough points and this fabulous prize could be yours:

Obtain 50,000 points you become an official High School Tabloid columnist which will give you the opportunity to write a cover story, which will be featured on the HighSchoolTabloid home page! .GOSSIP.PUBLICITY.POPULARITY.

Folks, there may be hope for journalism yet.

HT YPulse.

John McCain Countersues Jackson Browne

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 6:28 PM EST

mojo-photo-mccainbrowne.jpgFor those of you who felt like the McCain campaign, round about early September, started to look like some sort of demented cartoon, don't say "that's all folks" yet. As we discussed here back in August, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne filed suit against the McCain campaign for using his song, "Running on Empty," in a campaign ad. Sure, the suit was more symbolic than anything (considering the ads were probably off the air by the time Browne called his lawyer) but the remnants of the McCain campaign are taking it very seriously, countersuing in U.S. District Court in California. As Reuters reported, McCain filed two motions:

The first is a standard motion to dismiss, claiming that McCain's use of the song was fair use. McCain also says that Browne's assertion that the Lanham Act's prohibition on the implication of a "false association or endorsement" fails because it only applies to "commercial speech," not "political speech." The second filing is maybe even more interesting. It's an anti-SLAPP motion, which is typically used by defendants as a way to seek monetary damages after a plaintiff has subjected a defendant to a lawsuit meant to chill free speech. So far, McCain is only looking for attorney's fees and costs, but claiming an artist has interfered with free speech is quite the poke of an eye in show business.

That's right, McCain is looking to recoup some cash here. To add insult to injury, the first motion included the boastful assertion that using "Running on Empty" in their ad "will likely increase the popularity of this 30-year-old song." Hilarious, but McCain may have a point, as the only major "win" that had anything to do with his campaign was pop-cultural: SNL's ratings bump and Tina Fey becoming America's sweetheart. Maybe Browne should write a book?