Sunday, April 30, 2006

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith Dies

Canadian-born economist and former ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith died Saturday at the age of 97. Among the many accomplishments in his long career was the enormous contribution he made as a lead architect of the Great Society programs that became in their sweeping scope a monumental legacy of ambitious government action in the last half of 20th Century America. In that endeavor, Dr. Galbraith extended the reign of Keynesian economics as a foundation of fiscal policy, assuring that hundreds of millions of Americans would live in a nation whose government chose to engage a long-term, enduring fight against poverty that Classical economists and their political proponents believed was an unnecessary, inappropriate, and counter-productive role for government. The great Keynesian economists ruled the era from Franklin Delano Roosevelt on, however, and Dr. Galbraith was at the forefront of their work with Presidents and Congresses throughout the latter half of the last century. Galbraith's contribution to the Great Society was so significant that he shaped the speech that President Lyndon Johnson would make to the American people explaining this new, vigorous engagement of the U.S. government in building a modern nation where the power of the private sector was unleashed through the standing commitment of the state to its people and its businesses. Ultimately, Galbraith would break ranks with President Johnson because of the latter's prosecution of the war in Vietnam.

Although many outsiders and even a number of economists consider Galbraith the standard bearer of "liberal" economics, his was a far more complex view of the science of human action, as his contemporary Ludwig Von Mises described their shared field of endeavor. From his work in the World War II Office of Price Administration, Dr. Galbraith developed a sweeping prescription for national economic growth that advocated allowing oligopolies to form as a means of encouraging rapid technological innovation in part through economies of scale. Coupled with a benign government stance toward industrial concentration would be what he called "countervailing institutions" to act as buttresses against potential abuses by the oligopolies. Many believe that it is exactly this model that countries like Japan and others in Asia followed in the later 20th Century. In the United States, the great military/industrial complex was in large part an application of this concept of guided market concentration being allowed to play out to generate technological advancement, huge numbers of high-paying jobs, and economic dominance on the world stage.

Galbraith earned no small amount of disdain from peers for his 1958 book, The Affluent Society, in which he tore down what he called the "myth" of consumer sovereignty in the American economy. He continued to upset standard models of economics in his 1967 book, New Industrial State, in which he argued that the paradigm of "perfect competition"—long used as the basis for modeling most market structures—was wholly inadequate for describing the real world of firms. In that book, he argued that many industries are characterized by firms more like oligipolies that engage in fierce competition for market share, expanding both horizontally and vertically in a process that ultimately makes them institutions separate from even their owners. It was this approach that led to modern-day emphasis, even in principles of microeconomics classes, on a market structure now called "monopolistic competition," perhaps the most interesting of all market structures because of its topical aspects such as strategic pricing, marketing, and market contestability.

Dr. Galbraith was vitally active even into his last years, writing and making public appearances. He was, at the time of his death, professor emeritus at Harvard University.

John Kenneth Galbraith has now passed from this good Earth that he made better for his intellectual contributions; and because of those great and good contributions, he will stand forever as the powerhouse luminary of the theory and practice of economics of the last half of the 20th Century, that amazing era after the failed Classical economists of the 19th Century had been chased fully into the shadows and before their spiteful and equally failing Right-wing successors would return from the depths of deserved repudiation to diminish the world of the 21st Century.

The Dark Wraith gives a moment of silence in respect for Dr. Galbraith.

<< 7 Comments Total
 blackdog blogged...

I saw this early this morning. My hat is off and my heart morns for a true gentle genius who wasen't appreciated enough by most. Damn I hate it when we loose our finest. I too take a moment of silence.

Sun Apr 30, 02:42:34 PM EDT  
 stephen benson blogged...

i too, join in honoring the memory and work. i have four galbraith titles on my shelves. most of them have endured multiple readings. when a towering intellect combines with vision and superb literary style (i don't know if it's true, but i recall something along the lines of kennedy demanding to read all the india dispatches because galbraith was such a good read) i am left in awe. he also looked elegant and natural in a kilt. he will be missed.

Sun Apr 30, 03:36:38 PM EDT  
 trailertrash blogged...

Good afternoon, Dark Wraith.

What a nice artcle on a man who accomplished a lot during his lifetime. I'll take a moment of silence, too.

Oh, after this note. I think you did say you were working on this site. I see that the right side, usually with all the links, is empty. I hope that's because you're working on it? Thanks.

Sun Apr 30, 04:25:22 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Here's the obituary from the Boston Sunday Globe.

- oddjob

Sun Apr 30, 08:55:57 PM EDT  
 ballgame blogged...

Galbraith played a huge part in my becoming a progressive when I was growing up. His gentle manner concealed an occasionally biting wit; I can remember that he always endeavored "to save his opponents from error."

Sun Apr 30, 10:19:01 PM EDT  
 meEE blogged...

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." John Kenneth Galbraith

Thanks for this article. First I heard of his death. And now I'm curious to learn more.

Sun Apr 30, 10:24:27 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, ballgame. My thanks go to you and the other commenters here who have noted their appreciation of Dr. Galbraith's contributions. I honestly wasn't expecting this level of commentary on the article, and I am most grateful.

The blogger Barbi at Night Bird's Fountain provided a selection of Galbraith's better known quotes, and I herewith offer them with thanks to Barbi, as well as to Cyn, who followed up with a post of her own about the good professor and ambassador.

“Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite.”

“Few people at the beginning of the nineteenth century needed an adman to tell them what they wanted.”

“It is not necessary to advertise food to hungry people, fuel to cold people, or houses to the homeless.”

“There are times in politics when you must be on the right side and lose.”

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

“Liberalism is, I think, resurgent. One reason is that more and more people are so painfully aware of the alternative.”

“There is something wonderful in seeing a wrong-headed majority assailed by truth.”

“All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door.”

“War remains the decisive human failure.”

“Humor is richly rewarding to the person who employs it. It has some value in gaining and holding attention, but it has no persuasive value at all.”

“Where humor is concerned there are no standards - no one can say what is good or bad, although you can be sure that everyone will.”

“It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled sea of thought.”

“If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should never grow old.”

The Dark Wraith notes the almost eerie timeliness of many of those quotes.

Sun Apr 30, 10:29:27 PM EDT  


Friday, April 28, 2006

The Written Peace:
Open Forum of April 28, 2006

High time it is we had an open forum here, moving on as we should from the grim news of the day to the even grimmer news of tomorrow and the next day and the next.

A warm welcome is extended to the new commenters here, among them Father Tyme and blackdog, both of whom tend to be found in other quality joints like BlondeSense. We also have as relatively new regular commenters here ballgame and Stephen Benson, along with Ralph Hitchens. Kathleen Callon of Kat Callon and Rhodian Attic is now gracing The Dark Wraith Forums, as is Dave of Dave's Big Beef and Texas Shiva of Hole in the Bucket, who was gracious enough to use as the header on her blog a graphic I designed for her entry on blogScream.

Speaking of which, I quietly and without fanfare herewith note that the blogScream News Wire service passed the one year mark online as of this month. There are currently 27 regular syndicate members and two guest members in the news cycle, and the daily feed is seen by well over seven thousand people every day.

And if I haven't said so lately, I am ever grateful to the long-standing regular and occasional commenters here at The Dark Wraith Forums: non-bloggers My Pet Goat and OddJob are as close to Ancient Ones as we get around here, as are elf and charliepotato. Others include Gary of American Agenda, Peter of Lonetree and Liz of BlondeSense, Wild Clover of Clover's Field, meEE of Eternal Ecstasy, karen m of Evil Mommy, our old friend The Fat Lady Sings, our equally old friend SB Gypsy of The Gypsy's Caravan, Old White Lady of It's morning somewhere, the venerable Eric Hopp of Oh Well: A Commentary, the hard-driving PoliShifter of Pissed on Politics and Revolutionary Paradigm, our very own fairly people-friendly Stealth Badger, and the ever enjoyable Trailer Trash.

I should also give congratulations to Jen of donkey o.d. for recently crossing the 100,000 hit mark. Jen contributes at Night Bird's Fountain, where you can also find Barbi, Lizzy, dorsano, DeLLBerto, Cyn_NY, Bergs, Karen, and a cast of thousands doing some great blogging.

Among the new entries in the Dark Wraith's BlogRing are the delighful An Angry Old Broad, Scott at Macaroni Duck (don't ask me what it means; I haven't a clue), Fred Bieling's blog Making Conservatives Cringe, Mixter's Mix, and Neil Shakespeare (no relationship to Shakespeare's Sister... at least I don't think there is, anyway).

Also, Brian Keeler, known previously as NYBri, is running for the New York Senate in the 41st District. He'll need some votes. His Campaign Website has the specifics on his candidacy; so if you're in the 41st District in the State of New York, or if you're interested in the politics and issues in that part of the country, go and see what Brian has to say.

Finally, as far as links and such are concerned, I do want to welcome the new advertisers here at The Dark Wraith Forums., started by attorney Robert Shapiro, is an online legal document service center, providing quality legal documents and document services at a fraction of the cost of an attorney. LegalZoom even reviews documents before returning them to the customer. Love and Pride is the number one online retail store for jewelry and accessories for the LGBT community. If those don't spur the rampant consumer in you, at least get some Starbuck's Coffee or something from Barnes & Noble for Mother's Day.

Enough commercialism. Let's talk topical news.

President Bush says he doesn't want to see a windfall profits tax imposed on the big oil companies, but he wants them to do what's right and invest in more oil exploration, new pipelines and refineries, and some new technologies. Meanwhile, the Republicans on Capitol Hill are still talking about sending every American a $100 check to ease the pain of high gas prices. So here we go again: money handed out like water (this time rather blatantly to buy votes) with no offsetting revenue for the federal government. Of course, the Senate is getting butch with OPEC and the oil companies, demanding something or other along the lines of accountability for something or other. Good theatre all around.

And while we're at it, suffer me a note on alternative energy resources, a rant that does nothing to mitigate my complete understanding that we need to get moving on alternative energy sources. My point here is that we need to do so without wearing economic, financial, and environmental blinders. None of the alternative sources of energy now on the table—and I mean none of them—come without extraordinary costs, the bulk of which are hidden. Take, for example, hydrogen for fuel cells. Hydrogen is generated by breaking down water, a process that requires a substantial energy input. The major proponents and firms pushing this technology have one and only one long-term source in mind for the input energy: nuclear power. Although other sources of energy do exist for extracting the huge amounts of hydrogen that would be needed in a hydrogen fuel cell driven economy, that's not where the big cats are looking. They have their eye right on nuclear power plants doing the work. Even the Department of Energy sneeks this point in at its Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Infrastructure Technology Program Website. Go way down to near the bottom of the drool page, and you'll see the casual mention of nuclear energy in the context of the infrastructure for hydrogen generation. Unfortunately, other methods of getting massive amounts of hydrogen often involve some process that starts with a fossil fuel, with the idea being that the break-up of the hydrocarbons will release the hydrogen for capture. The problem is the by-products: reduced carbon compounds. The oil and gas industry claims all this carbon can be "sequestered" deep underground, but private scientists and the Department of Energy call such plans "very high risk."

Okay, there's always ethanol. The problems with this alternative energy source, especially for motorized vehicles, are many; but one of the issues that bothers me the most is a miscalculation problem very common in analyzing new projects. For every field that is planted to corn for ethanol production, that field is lost to other uses. This in economics is called opportunity cost—the cost of the best or highest-value opportunity foregone by committing to an action. The opportunity cost of standing in line to get a cheap price on some product is the value of your time at labor. If you can make $10 an hour at your best work, standing in line for half-an-hour to save some money costs you $5 in opportunity cost. That's a cost that never shows up in a receipt or a bill, and it's money that you never actually see leave your pocket; but it's a cost nonetheless. And opportunity costs often are the dominant costs in overall economic cost structures.

My favorite story about opportunity cost being unrecognized is the one about when I was teaching at a prestigious private college, and the city mayor and her finance chief came to speak about their plan for a new sports stadium in town. After the finance fellow had presented the numbers to all the wide-eyed business students and faculty, I asked him why there was no cost included for the land. "Oh, we own the land the stadium's going to be built on," he answered. I could see the look on his face: he had enough training in economics and managerial finance to know that he was about to get eaten alive for not including an opportunity cost. Yes, the land was not going to be purchased, but that didn't mean it wasn't a full-blown cost of the project since the land, by being committed to the stadium, was therefore unavailable to be sold, leased, or put to any other use. That was the beginning of the litany of hidden costs not included in the mayor's grand stadium plans. Not one hour of the cost of all the city workers being used to plan and execute the project had been included. The calculations also excluded all the physical and human capital facilities of the city, its law enforcement division, and its utility companies. These were costs to which the city had already committed, and they would stand as draining parasites in near perpetuity.

There's opportunity cost in action. So when you're thinking about alternatives to fossil fuels, don't just think about direct costs; think about total economic costs. We must indeed move on from fossil fuels, and we need to get started right away. Just don't think that it's going to be a relatively painless matter. The transition is going to hurt like Hell, and it's going to be expensive far beyond what the direct cost numbers indicate. It's not just a matter of, "How much do I write the check for?" It's also a matter of "What's the value of what I have to give up to do this?"

The numerical answer, honestly calculated, to that second question will probably dwarf the numerical answer to the first question.

Economics is not called "the dismal science" for nothing, you know.

Every topic is open for discussion. We'll be having some rousing rounds of the Hokey-Pokey later in the evening; and if the crowd feels up to it, we might even keep the espresso bar open all night. And to celebrate President Bush's stance that the Star Spangled Banner should be sung only in English, we might try a chorus of that great American song in several alternate languages, including Yiddish, Mandarin Chinese, and Creole. That ought to mess with some xenophobes' minds big time.

Say what you have to say, be as frisky as you like, but make sure the last one out turns off the lights and kills the neon "No Loitering" sign. And for Heaven's sake, someone please make sure to carefully put away that new copy of Binary Su Doku for Hegelians I just got at Western Zen Online.

The Dark Wraith awaits the rush.

<< 36 Comments Total
 The Fat Lady Sings blogged...

One other problem associated with hydrogen use is its carbon dioxide output. The environmental impact will be just as great if not greater than oil. Actually, there’s a great big problem associated with just about every 'alternative' fuel out there. I have no idea what the solution will eventually turn out to be; I just wish these solutions had been worked on since 1979 - instead of ignored in the vain hope it would all dry up and blow away. We approach asteroid detection and elimination with the same laissez-faire attitude; and just like oil it too will rise up and bite us all in the ass one day. I only hope I won't be alive to see it. Problem is – I have this unreasoning fear that I will. By the way, Dark Wraith - I've written an article on The Bilderberg Group. Have you any thoughts or opinions on their effect/contribution to the world’s economic woes?

Sat Apr 29, 01:30:19 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Actually, Fat Lady Sings, you sort of beat me, there. I'm putting that article of yours in my nightly "The Dark Wraith Recommends" because it's a good summary of a few aspects of one of the more disturbing cabals around.

I'm going to dig around to see if I can find the links to a couple of Mother Jones articles that will give you the Heebie-Jeebies about those cats and several other creepy groups crawling around in the woodwork. I don't want to get into what could legitimately be called conspiracy theory stuff, at least not on this blog; but I don't have to go into that kind of depth and detail to say that the Bilderberg has people way too convinced that they need to move the world along to their way of thinking.

Other groups have this same mindset, among them the Club of Rome and the Opus Dei. I'll tell you right now that there have been and still are factions within Freemasonry that are Hell-bent on one scheme or another. (The vast majority of freemasons are not, however, of that mentality at all.) Whether or not groups really affect the world as much as some conspiracy theorists say they do is beside the point: the people in these groups think they should, and they think they can. In at least a few cases, their convictions have actually manifest themselves in results that were wholly bad for others and even for nations.

I don't like most groups that scheme to make changes without broad agreement through pluralistic, liberal discourse; and I especially don't like groups that do this in the shadows where they think they can work out the world's problems according to their own parochial notions of what's best for everybody else, especially for everybody else who's not like them: rich, white, and male.

The Project for the New American Century comes to mind in this regard.

Some of these groups are nothing but bumbling, "Order of the Knife and Fork" brigades. They do nothing but pseudo-scholarly discourse over big meals. On the surface, Bilderberg fits this description perfectly. Other groups, however, have more claws, and they've ended up doing harm far beyond the measure of their own puny minds.

I would put the Bilderberg Group in this latter category.

To what extent the Group has had effect, I shan't say here. Not now, anyway. It's not quite time for that, although it seems to me that many people of sound reason and good skepticism have seen that there really are conspiracies out there. I don't think, however, that people in general want to hear too much. Not yet, anyway. I also don't want to let any kind of conspiracy theory discussion devolve into the all-too-frequent anti-Semitism nonsense.

As an old Jewish friend of mine told me a very long time ago, "Look, of course we're trying to take over the world. So are the goya. So are the Communists. That just proves how nuts we all are."

The problem is, the little trolls of the Project for the New American Century were of a group so nuts they really did take over a rather important piece of it called the United States of America.

And that's not a conspiracy theory, Fat Lady Sings: that's what really happened.

The Dark Wraith wishes people wouldn't try to take what's not theirs, like other people's freedom.

Sat Apr 29, 02:18:10 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...


but he wants them to do what's right and invest in more oil exploration, new pipelines and refineries, and some new technologies

Well THAT ought to solve everything in no time! The window on that sounds to me like five to fifteen years before results appear. You're the former oil guy, DW, what say you?

Re: Opportunity costs.
I completely agree with what you're saying, but I have a question. How do you plausibly figure out what the "best use" is? Obviously by choosing one future use you necessarily exclude innumerable other choices (many or most of which are of little value or even negative value), so of course opportunity costs are going to look like bogeymen if you think about them emotionally rather than brutally rationally.

Yet, how can one rationally, & simultaneously plausibly, expect to imagine the most valuable use foregone when people often don't realize the best use, and instead stumble upon it by accident?

For instance, do you suppose all those urban renewal gurus would have EVER imagined that the best use for much of what they wanted to condemn was to not tear it down, and instead encourage it to revive the way that damn nutcase Jane Jacobs insisted they do (God bless her soul, may she rest in peace :-))?

If they could not imagine that, how could they have possibly calculated the actual opportunity cost of their wonderful, proactive, incredibly awful ideas?

- oddjob

Sat Apr 29, 09:12:01 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Go. Read. Enjoy! :)
(Hat tip, BlondeSense.)

- oddjob

Sat Apr 29, 09:46:57 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, OddJob.

That question you're asking is the one my best and brightest hit me with. The first time I heard it some years back, I was caught flat-footed. Now, I'm a little better prepared, but the answer is to some extent what you anticipated.

In real estate, we use the term "highest and best use" to describe that use to which a piece of land is put most productively. As you rightly point out, there are innumerable uses for a given plot of Earth, but most of those uses would be entirely or largely unproductive.

Now, a word on productivity. In economics, we consider productivity in terms of the present value of expected future net cash flows arising from a project. This doesn't mean we're all about cash, cash, cash, either: just as there are implicit costs, there are also implicit revenues; and the whole realm of implicit cash flows is fraught with terrible difficulties. That's why accountants live longer than economists: accountants deal only with actual, explicit flows, mostly those that have already occurred, although some that are projected, but even in projections, the numbers are based upon tangible, contractual obligations in most cases.

Economists can't do that. Historical costs are irrelevant to economists: we call them "sunk costs," and they should not be used in decisions now for future returns.

Moving from that point, how on Earth can we determine highest and best use? Well, we can't—not with complete certainty, anyway. But what we can do is put limits on what is worth consideration. Yes, a 400-acre farm in the middle of Nowhere, Nebraska, might very well be ideal for a high-technology space port and shopping mall complex, but we're pretty sure it isn't. We are pretty sure that land in the area is owned and used by rational individuals who are implicitly maximizing an enormously complicated set of functions balancing personal satisfaction and profitability of the assets. So right there, we have a darned good starting point.

Now, unless someone can show me that a market defect exists that is systematically preventing all of the people in Nowhere, Nebraska, from moving the productive configuration of their land from farming to that space port/shopping mall complex, I shall work with the assumption that the highest and best use of the land is in agriculture generally, and probably in something like the type of agriculture being practiced around there, in particular.

That's the basis of opportunity cost analysis: what is the most common, most likely alternative that would be available for the use under consideration. When a person is at leisure, the only close substitutes are things he or she could be doing other than leisure. Yes, that's a 'Duh?' statement, and it's meant to be. But if a person isn't at leisure, about the only alternative (other than being dead) is work, and then the opportunity cost boils down to 'what is the most productive (in terms of money) work the person could be doing' instead of being at leisure? Again, the answer is generally fairly straight-forward: what the person actually makes when he or she does work? This might not always be the right question, though, especially these days when there is a severe (in my judgment) problem with "under-employment": people who could do much better as far as wages are concerned, but institutitional, physical, and even psychological barriers are keeping them from being their most productive in terms on monetary reward to their labor input.

This is a fiendishly complicated issue. My recent calculation of what I make on an hourly-equivalent basis indicates that my wage rate is now under eight dollars per hour. It's easy for me to lament that this just isn't what I'm worth, but it's not really that easy: subjectively, I think I should earn more; but from what I can tell, the market really is saying that this is right about where I should be. That complicates the calculation of opportunity cost of leisure terribly: when is the opportunity cost exactly what a person is making at labor, and when is the opportunity cost actually more than what a person is currently making at labor?

Now, returning to the ethanol versus consumable corn. It is probably a relatively easy argument that the opportunity cost of an ethanol corn crop is the consumable corn crop that could instead be grown on a given plot of land. Although other uses for the land might exist, it is very likely that, if the land has been in agricultural use prior to the planting of corn for ethanol, it was in that use because market forces had guided its owners to that end.

In other words, we should assume that there is good reason why land is used as it is; and when we move it to another—albeit even a relatively similar—use, we must look at the prior use as the benchmark for opportunity cost.

Now, this goes to your note about gentrification. In urban economics, we talk about the "filtering" of a particular housing stock: this is the natural decline in value of improved property. Filtering is accelerated or slowed by outside forces, most of them man-made; but in and of itself, all housing stocks filter from higher value to lower value. To slow, stop, or reverse this process requires capital added to the improved property, and this isn't just a stock (or one time push) of money; instead, it's a flow of resources that must be relatively continuously committed to the housing stock to abate its degradation in value.

At any given point in time, improving an existing land form from its standing value to some other value requires the calculation of what it will cost versus what will flow in benefits from the improvements (original or extra). In the case of gentrification and other reversals of filtering, the problem boils down to this: what is the highest and best use of a given plot of urban or peri-urban land? This then goes to exactly your point: to what extent do we look for alternate uses. If we look too extensively, we'll never get anything accomplished; at the same time, if we look too narrowly, we might very well miss a particular use that hasn't shown up in the actual market because of some institutional barrier. One of the most common that I've seen in urban and suburban renewal is zoning, which has for years forced the uses of land to conform to very old ways that are no longer the most productive. Another is insurance: many underwriters would be uncomfortable with a proposed use of land that is radically at odds with the existing uses; and one reason for this is that pricing coverage on new uses would be difficult, given that actuarial analysis favors using existing data in a closely similar situation, and such data would, by definition, not exist for a brand new use. Another institutional barrier is competitive interests. It could very well be the case that an innovative, and definitely highest and best use configuration of land could have serious community proponents, but their interests are at odds with developers who see the land use in the context of larger projects on their agenda.

This happens quite frequently: locals might see a nice big green space in their little enclave as the highest and best use, but a developer planning a major downtown shopping complex would prefer that land be used to build rental and owner housing for consumers who would then provide the customer base for the commercial enterprises nearby.

And that, OddJob, is the worst part of highest and best use analysis. Although many financial economists would disagree with me, there really are calculations of value that are not independent of the individual or group for which the calculation is being done. The relative values of implicit revenues and costs can be staggeringly different for two different groups, and this can result in radically different conclusions on what constitutes the best use to which land should be pressed into service.

My hands are getting a bit stiff from typing. I hope I've confused and confounded you sufficiently for the time being, OddJob.

The Dark Wraith gets up to walk around for a few minutes, now.

Sat Apr 29, 10:33:21 AM EDT  
 Wild Clover blogged...

Good morning All:

How nice to come in and find clean coffee cups for a change! I'm having my first coffee in over 36 hours...I slept/dozed all day yesterday-what a waste of a day off!- getting rid of an ear/sinus infection that had come to a head Thursday night. I'm hoping I'm over the low grade crud that has been putting me to bed early for the past week so I can enjoy some on-line time again.

On the topic of hidden "opportunity costs". Many years ago, a friend with the FAA was transferring to a location about 5 hours from his home. He had a moving allowance of several thousand dollars(2 or 3), and decided to make a few bucks by doing it himself. Hubby and I tried to tell him that the time involved for someone making around $20/hour, plus truck rentals, plus gas, plus storage rental, was going to take any of the so-called profit out of it. Our friend was single, with a multitude of hobbies, and a pack-rat mentality worse even than mine own. He rented a full-sized 18 wheeler moving truck TWICE. The first load I had nothing to do with-hubby and 2 friends were paid $10/hour food to help. That first load was mostly the wood-working shop-things like industrial grade free-standing drill presses. Our friend our of curiosity went an hour out of his way to hit a weigh station, and the attendant was in awe-he had his load about 5000# above the truck's rating. Such awe that he was permitted to drive off with it. The second trip I helped load. I stood and asked why he wanted 3 broken dryers loaded(they were outside and full of water and ice-did I mention this was February?)"They have good parts". "Does the dryer in the house work?" "Yes""Then I'm NOT loading these rusted out water-filled thigs to leak all over the inside of your truck." I refused to load a twin matress from the outbuilding...he'd found the thing on the side of the road and I'm sure any yuckies were dead after the months of living outside, still, YUCK!. I managed to weed out the fish aquariums that had no glass left...I still had to figure out how to pack the rest with their cracks and missing panes. We took about 14 hours to load that truck to the gunwales. Picture an entire 12x12 bedroom floor to ceiling with boxes of things like an ammo-reloading kit and lead melting apparatus--heavy as shit-I'm amazed the floor to the doublewide had held up. Some furniture. He had a third truck he did himself later at the final move.

Figuring things up later, he "cleared" something like $200. He used a couple weeks vacation time, and a lot of aggravation-as well as having to move all this shit again out of storage when he found a new place. Now, if he had paid for it to be done, the FAA would have picked up the entirw tab. Doing it himself, there was a monetary limit, as well as some budget cruncher to "disallow" expenses if he saw fit. Our friend had a fit. We had warned him. IIRC, help he paid for(us) didn't get compensated since we weren't from some temp agency.

I always have looked at time considerations unless it was the case of not having the cash, period. If I don't have $20 to get my oil changed but have $10 for the materials(yeah, I'm way low on these numbers), then spending 2 hours of my time to do it($16) is a neccessary evil. Spending a couple bucks on stuff like yogurt and pre-packed fruitcup for the Implet's lunch rather than taking an extra 15 minutes to make sandwiches and stuff is cost effective for me-especially since I can spend that 15 minutes here :)

I mistrust any scenario that purports a money-for-nothing scenario, especially as put out by anyone with any ties to our present government.

Speaking of money for many gallons of gasoline does it take at $3/gallon to pay the CEO of Exxon for one day? Kind of makes you think....(BTW-this is one of my discussion topics with customers..heh heh)

Sat Apr 29, 11:07:38 AM EDT  
 blackdog blogged...

Good afternoon, Dark One.

Have you ever read an economic impact analysis in a categorical standard issued by the EPA?

These are pollutant emission laws for entire industries as defined by SIC codes, for examply: porceline enameling. They would always attempt to bring in the cost of not promulgating the regulation by estimating the health costs of the injured or dead people affected. Made for some tough reading for me back in the 80's, but it also gave me respect for economics where I will remain a dunderhead.

But it is a pleasure, although a somewhat difficult one, to visit this site and maybe learn something. For that, I thank you.

Sat Apr 29, 01:36:42 PM EDT  
 blackdog blogged...

Oops. It can be difficult when on the web to believe any of the BS you are reading or listening to. As to my earlier comment on acetone here is something to consider, from Tom abd Ray, click and clack the tappet brothers.

I tend to trust these guys. And sorry for the misinformation. Oh Dark Wraith, I abase myself by getting another Saturday beer.

Sat Apr 29, 03:34:52 PM EDT  
 stephen benson blogged...

good afternoon dark wraith and all others:
this is a paste job of a comment i left at lindsey beyerstein's. it pissed a few people off so i might be on to something. the subject was what the policy of progressives should be regarding immigration.

estoy utilizando español porque puedo contar mejor que Custer. vivo ocho millas de la frontera mexicana. vivimos juntos bien abajo aquí. trabajamos juntos, jugamos juntos, criamos a nuestros niños juntos. mi madre estaría en una clínica de reposo sin el cuidado que ella recibe de la gente a que otras desean proscribir. deseamos que Washington y Ciudad de México saldrían de nosotros solos. simplemente dejan nos sola. esta discusión entera no es nada solamente una distracción de las aplicaciones verdaderas el desastre en Iraq, incompetance en la casa blanca, corrupción en un nivel magnífico y del venal, y el jugar desvergonzado en los miedos del ignorante. otra vez, por favor, del nos deja solos.

i will provide a translation upon request. the economics questions were giving me a headache, administration policy is tweaking my ulcers, i'm losing money on basketball games, time to work on my tomatos and peppers in the garden.

Sat Apr 29, 05:25:32 PM EDT  
 blackdog blogged...

Request. I barely speak english, I'll take all the help I can get. BTW, the PHC is on now, I recommend it to all. On NPR.

Sat Apr 29, 06:18:24 PM EDT  
 Stephen Benson blogged...

blackie, no problem at all. . .

I am using Spanish because I can count better than Custer. i live eight miles from the Mexican border we live together well down here, we work together, we play together, we raise our children together. my mother would be in a nursing home without the care that she receives from people to that others wish to outlaw. we wish that the Washington and Mexico City would leave us alone. simply leave us alone. this whole discussion is only a distraction of the true issues, the disaster in Iraq, incompetence in the white house, corruption on a grand scale and a venal one, and shameless playing in the fears of the ignorant. again, please, of leave us alone.

Sat Apr 29, 06:33:34 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Stephen Benson.

You touch upon a point that is really mystifying to me, especially in Texas. I swear that most of the Texans with whom I worked—and many of them were almost archetypes of how non-Texans think of Texas men—never said the first word about Mexicans being some kind of "problem." We had two Mexicans in our little oil and gas group. They worked like dogs, and I don't recall ever hearing a negative word about them concerning their ethnicity.

Now, don't get me wrong: there were all kinds of redneck sorts who had a problem with anyone who wasn't White, but there was a broad, unspoken social agreement that Mexicans were generally off limits among those with whom I worked. These guys were more than willing to let out a racial slur against African-Americans (although they didn't do it openly unless they were absolutely sure they were in the exclusive confidence of like-minded people), but not against the Mexicans, especially because the Mexicans were usually busting their butts working like dogs.

And beyond Texas, I don't recall hearing hardly any of the racial and ethnic slurring that attends so many people (even to this day) when they refer to African-Americans or other groups. In fact, it seems to me there's almost an affinity among many people in this country for all things Mexican.

Then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, BAM! there's a giant issue and ethnic problems are popping up all over the place.

It's stupid. Even at the local junior high schools, there's a simmering war brewing between the Hispanic students and the kids who are African-American and Caucasian. One woman of color who works with disadvantaged minority students was talking with me about this issue, and said she had never thought that the Black and White kids would all finally get together and like each other only because they had found a common enemy. I told her it was sounding like the beginnings of some kind of multi-racial West Side Story.

(It gets worse, by the way: the local community of students whose parents are from India and China are beginning to flex their political muscles in the school system, and this is causing no end of simmering anger among Black, White, and Hispanic parents.)

God. But of course, it's not the fault of the hate merchants on the Right. No sir. They're not responsible at all.

The Dark Wraith really needs a break from this stupid reality TV show... it's just too confounded real.

Sat Apr 29, 08:21:27 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, blackdog.

Well, I'm impressed by your comment on the EPA impact estimates. You seem to be telling me that you really do understand opportunity cost—in this case, the opportunity cost of not enforcing a regulation!

This was a legislative effort back in the '80s and into the '90s to counter-balance the constant whining about the cost to industry of environmental regulations. The supply-side economists and assorted other Right-winger econ types were constantly bawling about the burdensome costs the government was imposing through the "hidden tax" of regulation, and these impact statements were the institutional rejoinder, pointing out that there's a cost either way; and in fact, the cost of non-compliance was staggering compared to the cost of compliance.

Now, we don't hear that. All we hear is the battle cry of the industry shills to get government off their backs, to lessen regulations, to let "the markets" deal with problems.

I swear, it's almost enough to turn a rational old conservative like me into a raging Socialist.

The Dark Wraith puts on his revolutionary military fatigues.

Sat Apr 29, 08:37:02 PM EDT  
 Father Tyme blogged...

Good Evening DW,
I don't know if Robert Heinlein (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - 1966)was the first to use it but TANSTAAFL seems to apply; There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. So much for the ethanol.
If you really want to screw up the kool-aid crowd, add Arabic, Persian and Korean to the languages for presentation of our beloved English Drinking Melody. Can you imagine seeing an Iraqi, Iranian or North Korean singing under our flag? To make it worse should they be U.S. citizens or not? Maybe they could raise their fists?
Binary Su Doku for Hegelians? Right or Left? PNAC right! Outstanding, and I thought Hex would be easy!
The Bilderberger - sshhh! I'm still worrying about the "Knights who Say Neigh".
I'm afraid that's all for now as my saucer is leaving for Agharta.

Sat Apr 29, 10:22:04 PM EDT  
 oldwhitelady blogged...

Good evening, Dark Wraith.

Thanks for the mention and the linky! I was just over at your message board and noticed you haven't updated the streaming headlines for some days, now.

After reading this latest Open Forum, The rampant consumer in me was unleashed! I used your Starbucks link to order a coffee that sounded very tasty. They request a minimum of two items ordered, so I figured a nice tea would be good, too. I won't give them to my mother, as she gave up coffee some years back for hot chocolate.... I guess I could give it to her for Mother's Day, then make the sacrifice to drink it, myself;)

Sat Apr 29, 10:56:02 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Old White Lady.

There's a reason I haven't updated the news: I can't get into the backroom of my own stupid board!

I tried to do an update of the whole architecture, and now my own codes won't work, and the whole thing is locked up tighter than a drum. I made the original architecture really airtight as far as security goes, and I didn't set a trap door for myself because that creates a vulnerability. Now, I'm paying the price as I must slowly, methodically work my way in. It's taking me forever, and it's about the stupidest thing I've done in quite some time.

I'll get in eventually, but it's going to take me some time.

And thank you for stopping by Starbucks. I was pretty proud of myself when that company agreed to let me run their ads. I had sort of hoped that the products at Starbucks would be better than some others to offer on the Internet. Clothing is still a hard sell online. Many people—especially women—are still really wary of purchasing clothes without trying them on unless they are already very familiar not just with the company, but also with the clothing maker, since that gives them some assurance about how the sizes work. I know this is also true with men's clothes: with most brands, 30-inch waist/32-inch inseam is just right, but with one or two brands, I've had to go to 31-inch or 32-inch waist. Shirts are always a pain: 30 inches at the waist and 42 inches at the chest makes for a difficult fit unless I find a brand that's "full cut." International Male sells lots of shirts like that, but I'm still furious with them for finally deciding that my Website didn't "fit into" their advertising business model. They can bite me. So can the Gap and Old Navy for telling me exactly the same thing.

Anyway, doing effective advertising on the Internet is a whole lot like work. Most of what I think might generate decent sales turns out to be a dog; but some of the advertisers, just by their presence, lend a certain degree of reputability to The Dark Wraith Forums, so I keep them even though they're generating zero in residual.

Interesting stuff to do though... well, at least for a business geek like me, anyway.

The Dark Wraith needs to think of a slam-dunk winner of an ad campaign, though.

Sat Apr 29, 11:30:21 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

And speaking of coding, good readers, yes, I do know that this blog is loading with an infuriating slowness in Internet Explorer, and I am almost literally pulling my hair out trying to figure out what's wrong.

If my timings are accurate, the site is loading very quickly in Firefox, but that's probably (again, if my timings are accurate) because Firefox does like the AJAXing I've done to content in the sidebar. But the slow loading in Internet Explorer is about to send me around the bend. My worst fear is that my coding is fine, and it's the server that's getting weak. That suspicion has been heightened in my mind because the loading has gotten progressively slower over the past couple of weeks, and some of my sequential timings were done when I had made no attempts at code modification.

If it's the server, I have a major problem on my hands. Of course, if it's my code, I've still got a major problem on my hands given that I've stripped the code down to nearly the bones. The last thing I'll probably do if nothing else seems to work is to remove the hit counter at the very bottom. I've made that thing way too complicated anyway in my efforts to keep it counting honestly. Right now, it's set never to count my own hits and not to count anyone more than once in any 48 hour period. It also has hit suppressors for blocks of IP addresses so that someone who uses two different computers within the same IP range doesn't get counted twice as a hit. Unfortunately, all of those bells and whistles might be what's slowing everything else down as that script has to do its run every time there's a page load.

Like I said, that hit counter might have to go. The big one is the only one that matters to me anyway. It counts only brand new, never-before visitors to this place. Although it's nice to have information about total hits, total pageloads, and other aggregates, I can get those statistics from raw data at the server level and from the advertisers, since they collect information about how many total "impressions" of their ads are being generated by their displays here.

So, over the next week or two, you might see the blog acting a little weird as I try my best to shake out whatever it is that's causing this ridiculously long loading time. One way or the other, I'll solve the mystery.

The Dark Wraith does not let go until he either fixes the problem or shoots it.

Sat Apr 29, 11:47:36 PM EDT  
 oldwhitelady blogged...

Good morning, Dark Wraieking from that odd, spur-of-the-moment, impromptu clash.

I'll tell you this much, litbrit. We have John Negroponte in charge of National Intelligence, now. That man was the architect of unbridled Central American savagery in the Reagan era, and the fact that he's even still a free man is a tribute to the enduring power of the Right-wingers to protect their most illustrious beasts. He and a whole slate of other Reagan-era trouble-makers are in the halls of power again, and I have no doubt whatsoever that Latin America is right at the top of their list of hotspots for regime change, what with the way so many countries are veering seriously to the Left down there.

While the current focus of regime-changers is the Middle East, it won't be long before the corporate world starts to press its case that Central and South America are just as much our backyard as countries on the other side of the world. The few contacts I have tell me that we're going to see "incidents" before the end of this year, and those are going to end up being a portfolio of pretext for much more open American action in our own hemisphere.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The Bush Administration is the collective punch of utter failure in statecraft. They have let the Chinese out-maneuver us commercially all over the globe, they have allowed anti-American interests to fester everywhere, and they can't imagine anything other than brute force and menacing bluster as the tools of engagement in dealings with other countries.

That, above all else, is the stunning failure of this Administration, comprising as it does, failed and failing amateurs on a world stage filled with powerful, intelligent, savvy men and women heading into a future we in American are less and less likely to see as we wallow in the mounting legacy of neo-conservatism.

The Dark Wraith has taken up grumbling to himself as a somewhat satisfying habit.

Sun Apr 30, 08:56:15 PM EDT  
 father tyme blogged...

Dark Wraith,
I'm not so sure that the Bush Administration isn't a sort of "community college" for present and future dictatorships all over the world. With the rest of the leadership ilk watching, they're conducting distance learning classes in how to totally subvert a country's laws, screw the people and then have those people ask, "Thank you, sir. May I have another?"
The question is, who will be the first graduate of The Bush-Cheney School of NeoCon-Nazi-Fascism? I think the Media will matriculate Cum Laude. Fox News will get an honorary Doctorate.
I wonder what the tuition is?
Hu was a guest lecturer.
Tony Blair should be drafted as their first visiting sycophant. Anyone else with suggestions on professors, aides and possible students?
Here's looking forward to the first alumni reunion; probably around 2008.

Sun Apr 30, 09:48:59 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Father Tyme.

I have no doubt that Condoleeza Rice, gifted as she is with such natural talents (especially for Scary Lady scowls that could curdle sweet milk), will one day be memorialized as one of the famously successful graduates of the Neo-Con School of Authoritarianism & Fiscal Mayhem.

Paul Wolfowitz has already done good by his time at the old school, what with his current position as President of the World Bank.

And even though the curriculum was particularly hard on young Scooter, he will surely go on to become a noted lecturer and lifer at some Right-wing think tank.

That, or he'll become the mayor of one of those neo-Nazi villages in Idaho.

And I do see great things for alumni such as Douglas Feith and John Bolton; but my hopes aren't high for the likes of Scotty McClellan, who might very well end up in some hippie commune on the outskirts of Buffalo, where he'll develop a new religious cult devoted to memory-erasing drugs and fervent calls to Jesus in the middle of the night.

Take note of my predictions, Father Tyme. Remember: I've been a professor for a long, long while, now, so I do have a good sense of how young undergrads eventually turn out.

The Dark Wraith hands out the hall passes.

Sun Apr 30, 10:20:46 PM EDT  
 meEE blogged...

It's getting late, for me anyway, but thanks for the forum and interesting folks. Before I go I'll sing for you, before we all join in singing that damnable anthem and recite a Limerick, too.

Just a click away!

Thanks DW.

Sun Apr 30, 10:51:58 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Always a pleasure having you here, meEE.

The Dark Wraith should seriously consider turning this place into a permanent condo complex with a giant community living room.

Sun Apr 30, 11:06:59 PM EDT  
 ballgame blogged...

DW: Thanks for the mention. The attention and intellect you bring to bear for your blog and its participants is truly amazing.

As to the Bush administration's total lack of statecraft, I am occasionally given to wonder whether we are really witnessing utter incompetence, or the deliberate and calculated destruction of the U.S. 'brand' so as to ensure maximal competition between nations/peoples and minimal effective coordinated regulation of multinational conglomerates. Under this perspective, the 'war on terror' would really be a 'war to create terror' so that any potential domestic opposition can be destroyed through the stripping of civil liberties from the masses (a la V for Vendetta).

I keep waiting for something to happen in reality to falsify this bleak hypothesis.

Sun Apr 30, 11:07:23 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Big dollar slide may be in the immediate future. (Hat tip, Buzzflash.)

- oddjob

Mon May 01, 09:24:42 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

ShrubCo's. foreign policies fomenting destabilization thwart the policies' very goals and squander international clout as well. (Hat tip, Buzzflash.)

- oddjob

Mon May 01, 09:33:46 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, OddJob.

Concerning your link to the article about the U.S. dollar, you might recall my graphical post, A Walk-Down Primer on the U.S. Trade Deficit with China. The very bottom statement in that graphic is where we are right now.

The Dark Wraith shouldn't be such an alarmist, however.

Mon May 01, 11:01:56 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

The Dark Wraith shouldn't be such an alarmist, however.

People would wonder why you hated America if you were to be that way.

- oddjob

Mon May 01, 12:24:05 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Bolton speculates aloud about ending televised press conferences. (Hat tip, Crooks and Liars.)

- oddjob

Mon May 01, 02:38:40 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

And this is sure to attract attention in some capitols. (Hat tip, Buzzflash.)

- oddjob

Mon May 01, 04:41:06 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, OddJob.

I wanted to tell you that I had been working on a post about the Federal Reserve, but that article about the falling value of the dollar to which you linked got me thinking about something concerning the dollar's recent slide.

I'm looking at some numbers that bother me. Although I don't go into apocalyptic economic scenarios all that much, I'm a little agitated tonight.

I'm going to switch gears and try to get a post up tomorrow about this drop-off in the greenback. I won't go into some wild speculation about the end of the world as we know it, but I do want to put a little background knowledge under people's belts for the ride ahead.

There's actually some good news in all of this, but there's some pretty grim news as well, and it's not just for the Americans.

God! but these neo-cons have made a mess.

God! but I wish the people who voted for Bush could take responsibility for their little affair with redneck imbecilic politicians.

The Dark Wraith would very much like to conduct a public, mass paddling.

Mon May 01, 09:18:54 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

oddjob suspects that what you are intimating is the economic version of said mass paddling.....

Isn't that what shakeouts are usually all about?

(I'd be surprised if it was any worse than the decade long slide the Japanese appear to just now be emerging from. At least I thought I'd read somewhere or other that they appear to be finally moving beyond it.......)

- oddjob

Mon May 01, 11:13:16 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, OddJob.

Yes, the Japanese are just now emerging strongly from their adjustments.

The American version of the correction will, however, not be as gentle as was the Japanese version; it will, instead be for all the world like some kind of... well, yes: economic paddling.

The Dark Wraith hollers, "CLEAR!"

Mon May 01, 11:30:57 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

It's interesting that you see things headed this way. The last time I saw my father (a couple of weeks ago at a family funeral) I overheard him mentioning that he was looking into transferring some of his portfolio into gold and foreign investments. He's one of those investors generally derided as wackos for having an interest in technical analysis, but regardless of his modus operandi, he's done quite well for himself. He's come to the conclusion that in the not too distant future things will get rather rough, and it will not necessarily be a short term phenomenon.

Time will tell.

- oddjob

Tue May 02, 01:59:13 AM EDT  
 jenny blogged...

thank you Dark Wraith! and thank you for the education. I always learn so much on your blog.

Mon May 08, 01:21:05 AM EDT  


Monday, April 24, 2006

Inflammatory Opinion:
One Thousand Fifteen

Robert NovakValerie PlameOn July 14, 2003, columnist Robert Novak, in his article entitled, "Mission to Niger," wrote the following words: "Valerie Plame is a [Central Intelligence] Agency operative. Two senior Administration sources told me..." In the White House press briefing of September 29, 2003, Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, "[T]hat is not the way this White House operates. The President expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. No one would be authorized to do such a thing." Mr. McClellan later in that press briefing went on to say, "[T]here's been no information that has been brought to our attention, beyond what we've seen in the media reports, to suggest White House involvement," and he demanded of reporters questioning him, "Do you have specific information to suggest White House involvement?" None did at the time, although such evidence would ultimately surface in grand jury testimony, principally about the activities of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and more recently in court filings that note the involvement of Vice President Richard Cheney and President George W. Bush in what might have been an effort to discredit Ms. Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, whose article in The New York Times disputed Administration claims that the regime of Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase unrefined, "yellowcake" uranium from Nigeria.

Mr. Novak outed Ms. Plame 1,015 days ago.

U.S. Attorney Patrick FitzgeraldBased in part on a subsequent complaint filed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Justice Department agreed to launch an investigation into who within the Bush Administration disclosed the name of a CIA agent. On December 30, 2003, then-Attorney General of the United States John Ashcroft announced at a news conference that he was recusing himself with respect to that investigation, and he publicly named Assistant Attorney General James Comey as Acting Attorney General to oversee the matter. Mr. Comey at that same news conference named Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, as the lead prosecutor and investigator.

That was 846 days ago.

Mr. Fitzgerald was given no independent budget, and his work was overseen by the office of Mr. Comey, a political appointee.

Irving Lewis LibbyMr. Libby, who served as an adviser to Vice President Cheney, was indicted on five counts in October of last year. Not one of those charges involved the disclosure of the name of Valerie Plame; all were instead because, as Mr. Fitzgerald said upon announcing the indictment, "[Libby] lied about it [the disclosure of Plame's name and status] afterwards, under oath and repeatedly."

To date, in the matter of the disclosure of the name of an American spy—a non-official cover (NOC) operative working through a front company tracking global trafficking in weapons of mass destruction—Mr. Libby is the only individual who has been indicted, and his indictment, again, had nothing to do with the disclosure of Ms. Plame's name and work.Judith Miller To date, the only individual to have served jail time was an employee, Judith Miller, of The New York Times, who was found in contempt of court for declining to reveal her journalistic source to a grand jury. In this latter side story, Mr. Fitzgerald's work has been to the entirely successful effect of ending the long-standing presumption among reporters that they had at least some affirmative defense against being compelled to violate confidentiality agreements with the sources for their stories, particularly with respect to government wrongdoing.

U.S. District Judge Reggie WaltonMr. Libby will not go on trial until January of next year, and when he does, that trial will be before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, perhaps best known for dismissing the case brought by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Judge Walton in that case agreed with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, representing the United States in defense against Ms. Edmonds' suit, that the need of the FBI to protect 'state secrets' superceded Ms. Edmonds' right to redress through the courts. This, of course, explains Mr. Libby's recent motions to compel discovery on literally thousands of government documents: should Judge Walton agree that a document critical to Mr. Libby's defense cannot be subpoenaed because of a government claim of state secrets privilege, the defense can immediately move for dismissal of charges.

From only months after Mr. Fitzgerald's appointment, the litany of rumors about indictments of senior Administration officials came and went. In the wake of the Libby indictment, the rumor mill began anew with fresh and fertile vigor: media outlets were speculating that Karl Rove might be soon be indicted, despite U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald's own statement that, "[T]he substantial bulk of the work of this investigation is concluded." The fact that Mr. Fitzgerald has subsequently brought matters related to this investigation before a new grand jury should not be interpreted as any indication that he plans to bring further indictments: Mr. Fitzgerald predicated his declaration that the bulk of the investigation had concluded by stating flatly, "[V]ery rarely do you bring a charge in a case that's going to be tried in which you ever end a grand jury investigation." In other words, the prosecutor was pointing out that, during a federal trial, it is standard procedure for the prosecution to have a grand jury readily available should the need arise during the course of the legal proceedings.

The speculation rages on to this very day, with major focus on Karl Rove, who was supposedly the subject as recently as last week of evidence presented by Mr. Fitzgerald to a grand jury.

The criminal justice system of the United States is motivated by three fundamental goals: certainty, severity, and celerity (swiftness). In plain English, if you break the law, you're definitely going to get punished, it's going to hurt like Hell, and you're going to get it right now. Failure in practice to achieve any one of these three goals corrodes the case under consideration and, more deeply, the confidence in and reliability of that system of criminal justice. That, at least in the United States, is why we allow prosecutors what sometimes appears to be abusive leeway (particularly in grand juries), why we legislate prison sentences that constitute significant percentages of human lives, and why we strive for speedy trials. Whether or not this is a good system is irrelevant: this is what we strive for in this country, and this is what we achieve every day of every year as we prosecute and punish thousands upon thousands of Americans.

Alleged crimes committed against the United States in the outing of Valerie Plame happened well more than a thousand days ago. Subsequently, further crimes may have been committed in covering up the principal crimes. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby will stand trial nearly thirteen hundred days after the commission of the principal crime alleged by the CIA in its original complaint submitted to the Justice Department. Almost thirteen hundred days. This is the celerity of geological processes more so than that of an effective criminal justice system.

And yet, somehow, some mainstream media outlets and a number of bloggers still stand ready to declare with every court filing by Mr. Fitzgerald that further indictments are just days or hours away; and some of the attendant analyses have become increasingly at odds with basic reasoning. Perhaps the most stunning example of hope trumping forensic integrity in journalism was offered on April 19, 2006, by Sydney Blumenthal, writing for the Guardian Unlimited. Beginning in earnest with near-Armageddon terminology, Blumenthal launches into hopeful speculation about " that could truly shake the Bush White House to its foundation." Mr. Blumenthal moves on with that premise, starting with praise for Fitzgerald's recent conviction of former Illinois Governor George Ryan on 18 counts of corruption, a prosecution that ended the globe-threatening scourge of selling commercial driver's licenses to unqualified people. The fall of ex-Governor Ryan was attended by the return to power of the Illinois Democratic machine and its union allies, who together made systemic, massive corruption forever the world-renown landmark of Chicago. Current Governor Rod Blagojevich has already become embroiled in scandal the scale of which dwarfs that of his predecessor, as the Democrats sink their teeth ever further into one of the state's few remaining pools of money, the state's teacher retirement fund, giving every indication that they plan to suck it down to insolvency. Excellent prosecutorial work: nail a small-time corruption scandal and leave in its wake sleaze on stilts. And as an aside, little media attention ever came of the violent harassment of the lone dissenting juror in Ryan's trial, a woman who was eventually—perhaps because she wasn't going along with the Fitzgerald's pre-determined script—dismissed by the judge because she had previously had "brushes" with the law for which she was never convicted, but which she didn't note in a prospective juror questionnaire. Is that outrageous and unfair jurisprudence? Certainly not: it's Chicago jurisprudence; and the point is that a U.S. attorney can run an investigation, drag powerful politicians into a maelstrom of media lynching, and secure convictions at will when he wants to. God help anyone who ends up in the earnest gun sights of a federal prosecutor. The odds of surviving as a non-convict are truly miniscule.

That, of course, must be taken in the context of expenditures by the U.S. Attorney under consideration: in the first 15 months of Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation of the Valerie Plame scandal, he was reported to have spent $723,000. That works out to a daily burn rate on funds of about $1,600, which would cover a couple of attorneys, a handful of paralegals and other investigators, photocopying, and some meal expense vouchers at Mabel's 2Go Burger Trough. It does not work out to an Earth-shattering federal investigation of the Executive Branch of the government of the world's most powerful nation.

Karl RoveBlumenthal is undeterred by where the facts on the ground actually point: he hinges a possible impending indictment of Rove on Fitzgerald's recent filings in the Libby case, which reference Rove as a 'subject' of the on-going inquiry. Being a 'subject' in a criminal investigation is one step short of being a 'target' of investigation. Rove is not one of those unfortunate souls with the label 'target' on his forehead; and it is altogether disingenuous not to point out that prosecutors are more than willing to label anyone a 'subject' whose testimony might eventually be required. That's how law enforcers keep useful citizens compliant; but noting breathlessly that Rove is a 'subject' does not point the way to some pulsating beacon of hope for his immediate, or even eventual, indictment. It just doesn't.

More in-depth analysis by such journalistic resources as Editor & Publisher seems to indicate that Fitzgerald is building a case against Rove and perhaps others based upon grand jury testimony given by none other than I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, himself. The filings Mr. Fitzgerald has delivered to date are genuinely unclear with regard to his intentions beyond the prosecution of Libby. It is entirely reasonable to hope, however, that a seasoned federal prosecutor would not be seeking the conviction of an indictee on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury while at the very same time be planning to use that person's testimony in a case against others. Perjury is the express lane to eviscerated credibility in a court of law, and a convicted perjurer is completely and utterly destructible by opposing counsel. Fitzgerald may be gaming the media and the anti-Bush crowd, but he is most decidedly not stupid. Even so much as associating Libby with accusations against others could come back like an explosive boomerang were subsequent prosecutions to include allegations that a convicted Mr. Libby had made.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is not the salvation of America from the Bush Administration, one of the few Presidencies in U.S. history that drifts perilously close to being a criminal enterprise. Mr. Fitzgerald has secured a five-count indictment against a man whose name three years ago would have been unfamiliar to all but the most serious policy wonks. That's all Mr. Fitzgerald has measurably accomplished in 846 days; and even if Mr. Fitzgerald were tomorrow to announce indictments of far better-known officials of the Bush Administration—men such as Karl Rove and Dick Cheney—along with a far lesser known host of minor, shadowy neo-conservatives, thugs, and common liars within the White House, the history of the future would not change materially. The war in Iraq has already become a part of the American experience for years to come, and some 2,500 American soldiers will not suddenly come back to life. The federal budget surpluses of the Clinton Administration have been squandered, and the national debt, instead of being paid down as it could have been, now threatens to push against a mind-numbing ten trillion dollars. A phony "debate" about the future of the Social Security Pension Fund prevented prudent, actuarially sound adjustments that would have ensured solvency of the Trust well into the second half of the century. The federal judiciary has been filled with judges some have described as a frightful cabal of Dominionists who will ensure that, generations after the current minions of neo-conservativism and theocratic enlightenment have been hanged, their policies will still be shaping the rule of law in the land. And the Supreme Court now has a density of extremists sufficient to guarantee that the civil rights and liberties long assumed to be a progressively more expansive part of the privileges of American citizenship will vanish over the coming years.

In other words, the rule of law was in the end no vanguard against the onslaught of those with a new vision of America, that shining beacon of liberty now and after this era the pious and corrupted land of the less-than-free, a nation felled by men and women no force on Earth could stop before they had wrought their destruction.

In the gathering and permanent night of America, the Dark Wraith has spoken.

Other articles by the Dark Wraith on this topic:
The Valerie Plame Scandal:  Part I   Part II   Part III
The Color of Whitewash

<< 55 Comments Total
 isabelita blogged...

Ah. You have given articulate form to my dread, or part of the dread or one of the dreads swirling darkly in my mind.
Nothing for it but rebellion.

Tue Apr 25, 01:37:36 AM EDT  
 SB Gypsy blogged...

Good morning Dark Wraith,

The rule of law in this country has ever been a target and goal, but I thought we were getting closer and we all valued that. Then SCOTUS destroyed it for us.

So, how do we get rid of all those bushco-appointed judges??

Tue Apr 25, 10:50:08 AM EDT  
 Father Tyme blogged...

Morning Dark Wraith,
Well, you really know how to get my morning started! Good thing I don't drink coffee. I might have to be up all day thinking about this and then do something radical.
Ah, but the day is young.

Tue Apr 25, 10:59:08 AM EDT  
 charliepotato blogged...

Hello Dark Wraith,

Ominus! No apparent solution. Beginning to feel claustrophobic from the pressures of this admin. We must stop them from bombing Iran, but how?

Tue Apr 25, 06:45:33 PM EDT  
 Kathleen Callon blogged...

This has to be one of the best posts I have ever read. Very impressed with how thorough and informative you are.

Thanks for the timeline and commentary.

Tue Apr 25, 08:42:23 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, CharliePotato.

You and I both know that we cannot change history. Processes exist that, once they have passed a certain point, simply cannot be stopped. It could very well be that in our time—in this time—all we are now seeing is the fulfillment of history.

Such an awful thought.

Not that we are doomed now by fate, mind you, but rather that we are now condemned to a task of such a proportion as derailing destiny, itself.

The Dark Wraith had rather hoped it would be somewhat easier.

Tue Apr 25, 08:45:27 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Kathleen. Welcome to The Dark Wraith Forums.

I just went over to your blog, Kat Callon, and I was nearly dumbfounded by the picture you have in your current post. I have been working for hours on a graphical post (something I do every now and then) using that very same image.

Good Lord, that's strange.

The Dark Wraith is feeling way too much paranormal stuff for his rather realism-oriented soul.

Tue Apr 25, 08:51:44 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Father Tyme.

You really should be drinking coffee, you know. Lots of it, in fact.

We have work to do, and there's no time for naps.

Okay, maybe short naps are fine. But no snoring.

The Dark Wraith will not countenance snoring while the world is headed for Armageddon.

Tue Apr 25, 08:53:58 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, SB Gypsy.

We cannot get rid of those judges. All we can do at this point is anticipate that their influence will be watered down over the coming years by appointments to the federal bench of another breed of jurists.

Also, although many of the judges Bush has appointed are ideological rocks who will never change, some will. I have seen it go both ways, but I do know that a few men and women appointed in the Reagan Administration have since developed an unexpected judicial temperament far more in keeping with the mainstream. This doesn't happen all the time, mind you: the U.S. District Judge to whom I refered in this article is a man who is still obviously willing to stand down in the face of executive dominionism. I have read opinions of other judges who, although they railed or otherwise condemned the evisceration of their judicial powers, nevertheless conceded that they had no power to stop Mr. Bush.

Unless another round of neo-conservatives and their allied intellectual rejects sustain power in 2008, we shall see if the next President is willing to allow Congress to strip the Presidency of the power this Administration has grabbed. I am not altogether sure that the next President, though, will be willing to surrender the enormous, nearly dictatorial privileges now vested in the office.

I think that worries me greatly. It could be the case that the only way this era of the "unitary executive" will end is in a constitutional crisis pitting the legislature and the parts of the judiciary against the executive.

As attractive as revolution might sound, such periods are generally attended by great and terrible stress upon a nation.

Then again, a substantial part of the citizenry of this nation would have no one to blame but itself should we come to that melancholy and possibly even bloody resolution.

The Dark Wraith will, of course, be available to rabble-rouse with the best of 'em.

Tue Apr 25, 09:16:01 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, isabelita.

It concerns me sometimes that what I am saying has no resonance among readers, so it does me some good to hear that others are having, at least in the backs of their minds, thoughts similar to what I am expressing.

I see no end of cheer for Fitzgerald. Do you remember how, in December, there was talk of "Merry Fitzmas" in anticipation of the imminent indictment of Karl Rove? Nothing came of it, just like nothing had come of previous waves of rumors.

In my judgment, at this point it's too late. Rove, Cheney, Feith, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Wurmser, Hadley, Hannah, Abrams, Rice, and the rest of them have already done their incalculable damage to the Republic, its fisc, and its reputation.

And Fitzgerald did not put Bush under oath!


It's enough to make a preacher cuss.

The Dark Wraith is often glad he's not a man of the cloth.

Tue Apr 25, 09:23:12 PM EDT  
 PoliShifter blogged...

Hi Dark Wraith,

I am not even going to pretend to meet your intellect for my pea brain is 1/100th of the size of yours.

I will say I think I understand what you are saying in your post.

But the only way I feel I can explain to you that I understand is by drawing a parallel to Enron.

Now I know the Enron case is not exactly related to outing CIA operatives.

But it does involve our legal system, right?

Well, at the time of Enron I was an investor in stocks, a subsricber to the Wall St Journal, and a subscriber to Investors Business Daily.

I read the articles day after day after day about Enron.

And here we are now what? 5 years later? And these bastards are just now standing trial? And the likes of Skilling, Fastow, and Kenneth Lay all want to tell us how innocent they are?

I realize there is no material similarity. But there is the legal system. One thing is certain to me. The more time that spans between an indictment and conviction, the better off the defendant.

Enron who? Libby what? Valerie who? Rove what?

By the time this case is settled we will be well in to the next Presidency and NO ONE will care.

In that regard, Fitzgerald has failed the American People as so many Prosectutors do.

Is it their fault or the system?

After all, the systme is made of people, people like Fitzgerald.

Wed Apr 26, 12:30:42 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, PoliShifter.

You do, indeed, have the idea. One of the principal differences, however, between the Bush White House and Enron was that the prosecutors in the Enron case did not feel that the Enron CEO was above being forced to provide testimony under oath.

Mr. Fitzgerald apparently didn't want to offend Mr. Bush by insisting that he swear that what he said was the truth.

The Dark Wraith certainly understands and hopes prosecutors will soon extend that courtesy to all other upright citizens of this law-abiding nation.

Wed Apr 26, 12:59:28 AM EDT  
 ballgame blogged...

Well, I guess it's pretty clear why you're not called the Cheerful Wraith.

While most of your points seem valid, and overall your post provides salutary ballast against unrealistic hopes regarding the ultimate outcome of Fitzgerald's court filings, I do think you're excessively negative about Fitzgerald's impact on derailing the criminal enterprise now running the country.

Fitzgerald's investigation was the first tangible event which suggested that something concrete might block the Bush juggernaut. It punctured the media-fueled myth of Bush invulnerability, and gave journalists working for the corporate media a vital opening to present a somewhat more realistic portrait of 'the nice President you'd like to have a beer with'.

You can look at the likely outcome of Fitz's investigation (the conviction of a no-name for perjury) as trivial, or you can view it as one of the first holes that ultimately led to the flat tire of 30% approval ratings. You can view the slow pace of Fitz's proceedings as a caricature of justice, or you can enjoy the Chinese water torture of the resultant press coverage the admin has been subjected to.

You might respond that the Iraq war by itself would have led the public to the same Bush rejectionist mood, but I don't think that's a foregone conclusion. Before Fitz, all too many people were willing to trust the Great Decider and dismiss putative consequences to our Constitution or national standing as the ravings of overwrought Bush haters. For these people, Fitz's investigation provided the first true window to Bush's actual character, and changed 'what if' speculation about some future president's potential corruption to 'what now?'

I agree with you that the odds of salvaging our country from the ravages of the folks who seized power remain long. (The response of mainstream Dems to Bush's wounded state has of course been infuriatingly tepid.) But I think without the Fitz investigation, they'd be a whole lot longer.

Wed Apr 26, 08:37:05 AM EDT  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

Good morning Mr. Wraith,

Early in this investigation I tended to view it as a ho hum kind of venture. Great if it works, but of relatively minor importance compared to all of the other chinks that could be used to help bring down Bushco.

Then as time passes, the potential extent of involvement by this administration becomes clearer. The clarity, in part, provided by all the leaks, various written analyses, and one indictment. Hope builds; could this be a fatal wound?

More time passes and you realize it is nothing more than a slow bleeder. It weakens the beast but will not be fatal without other wounds; wounds that are for the making if the Democrats would grow a spine.

Blumenthal referred to McClellan as a flea on the windshield of history. Personally, I think Fitzgerald will end up being nothing more than roadkill because the damn opposition party is too busy cowering and not looking out the windshield. To both Democrats and Fitzgerald: Shit or got off the pot!

Wed Apr 26, 12:49:29 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

A post on BlondeSense that ALL should read!

- oddjob

Wed Apr 26, 02:14:03 PM EDT  
 Ralph Hitchens blogged...

Wraith: The law Libby was alleged to have violated may appear unambiguous but in practice I fear it is anything but. I'm a card-carrying member of the Loyal Opposition as pleased as the next guy to see the Bushites discomfited, but I also spent 20 years in the intelligence community, including a few years detailed to the Agency, and learned early on that there are two types of CIA employees: those in cover status, and those not. The former, including many who worked in "open," non-covert jobs like Ms. Plame's at WINPAC, were identified with an alphabetical suffix after their names in various internal documents -- rosters, lists of attendees at interagency meetings, and the like. We all knew when we saw a specific letter after someone's name that his/her identity was to be protected. But I don't have any idea how far such knowledge extended. Since Joseph Wilson had worked at the NSC, there was undoubtedly an awareness among many people in and around the White House that his wife worked at CIA, but how many of these people would have known that she was in cover status? And how likely is it that high-level intelligence "consumers" such as Libby and his boss would have known this fact? The law in question only extends to people in cover status, I believe. I have no qualms about mentioning to anyone the names of some CIA acquaintances, like my techno-visionary friend Carol Dumaine (star of a Washington Post op-ed piece not all that long ago) or ex-analyst turned sausage maker Stan Feder (recently profiled in the Food Section of the Post), but there are others I came to know whose names always appeared with that particular suffix and will therefore not be mentioned. It's one thing to know the law, but another to know to whom the protection afforded by that law extends.

Wed Apr 26, 03:56:35 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Ralph, Newsweek appears to have addressed your concerns.

- oddjob

Wed Apr 26, 05:10:51 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, Mr. Hitchens, and thank you for your contribution. You are echoing points I made in my original series, The Valerie Plame Scandal:  Part I   Part II   Part III

Your point is, in fact and at least to some extent, to the heart of the matter: although I have no interest whatsoever in sounding like a shill for the anti-Plame crowd (although I have no problem with taking a few shots at her self-promoting husband), there were more than a few voices inside the Beltway who said Plame's status as an NOC was known prior to Novak's outing of her. This story has credibility because Valerie Plame, herself, worked as a non-official cover operative under her own name.

As I explained it in the original series, she had been outed from actual spy status in a dust-up some years before, and that's why she had been pulled in from service overseas. The gambit as I believe it was being played was that she was posing as an energy consultant to a company called Brewster-Jennings, and she was working there as a former CIA agent, as is not uncommon for former operatives who've left the Company.

The difference was that she really was still working for the CIA, although there's even some dispute about that. Apparently, she was in transition from providing services for the CIA to working for the State Department at the time Novak blew the whistle.

You hint at some of the nuances in this compicated situation, among them the question of how you can "out" the "outed" who are already working under their own names. Plame wasn't a spy in the classical sense of the word, but her work was important, although I think it was far closer than is generally known to the center of a methods-and-strategies war that was going on in the American intelligence community at the time.

In my original articles, I questioned the applicability of the agent identities protection law in the case of Valerie Plame. I still do, and I doubt seriously if a less-than-stellar prosecutor would want to touch that approach to prosecution with a ten-foot pole: Plame had already had her cover blown some years before, was already known by some outsiders, and was operating openly albeit in a front company. The problem was that it was not she who was damaged in the outing by Novak as much as it was the stream of intelligence products her work was producing.

That means Fitzgerald, to hang anyone on the outing of Plame, wouldn't have a big, black-and-white law to which he could point for a jury; instead, he'd have a complicated series of laws, Executive Orders, and precedents in the prosecution of spy outers.

That, I would submit to you, is an enormously difficult row to hoe in prosecution for a fellow like Mr. Fitzgerald who is far more successful at nailing state government officials who sell commercial driver's licenses to guys who never went to trucking school.

In other words, it looks to me like Mr. Fitzgerald is going after indictments in the Valerie Plame scandal based upon the known and far easier-to-manage turf of perjury and obstruction of justice, leaving completely untouched the extraordinarily complicated world of spy craft and betrayal.

The only question that remains in mind is this: if Mr. Fitzgerald (perhaps reasonably) chose to navigate investigative targets into corners of perjury—a task prosecutors can do pretty easily if they're fairly crafty á la Ken Starr—why in God's name did he let Mr. Bush provide testimony without benefit of oath?

If Fitzgerald knew he was going to have to attack this whole matter as a technical rout with perjury and obstruction prosecutions, why would he allow anyone a free ticket past the thorn bush?

To my dying day, unless Fitzgerald uses the broad (and ridiculously vague, in my judgment) powers prosecutors now have to charge people with lying in non-custodial interviews (the way Martha Stewart got hanged), he deliberately and wantonly let Bush get away.

That is not a prosecutor's job. Ever.

The Dark Wraith again thanks you, Mr. Hitchens, for commenting.

Wed Apr 26, 06:23:02 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

he deliberately and wantonly let Bush get away

Prosecuting your boss gets into tricky legalities???

- oddjob

Wed Apr 26, 08:27:46 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Well, yes, OddJob, I suppose I would have some qualms about putting the guy who signs my paychecks into the hoosegow.

I had that problem on more than one occasion as a consultant, by the way. One thing I did notice was that, as my concerns about client wrongdoing became more compelling, my consulting fees were getting paid in a more and more timely manner. When things were going smoothly, I might wait months to see some of my money; but as soon as trouble started brewing, the guys writing the checks made sure I didn't have any problems with my billings.

Funny how that worked.

The Dark Wraith sees a lesson there somewhere.

Wed Apr 26, 08:35:42 PM EDT  
 elf blogged...

Good evening DW,

Ahh why didn't you warn me I would need tissues after reading this!

Why is it since 9/11 I have been alternating between screams and sobs?

I look at my kids and their friends who hang out here and hang my head in shame. This is no way for them to come to maturity. A couple of them are in boot camp now. The one absolutely convinced he can game the system while I just nod my head and say nothing of my real fears to him.
Don't get me wrong.. they ALL know how I feel about this administration. What I don't say is how convinced I am these people have so successfully infiltrated much of what runs this country as is evidenced by the courts. And how much it scares me.

I would get the " oh, you take things too seriously" retort.

And they all thought Clinton was absolutely great! Of course they were barely teens then. Think it had more to do with him playing an instrument ( not his, the sax!!)then helping the country amass a surplus budget!

I have a picture I cut out of the morning paper a few years ago. It is of two women, one older sitting on a chair and the edge of a bed neither looking at the camera. Taken in Bosnia, the artistry of it just captured me but it was the haunting look on their faces that made me keep the photo and put it in a frame. Their expressions seemed past the point of tears.

Maybe it is because I am getting older but it seems this is how so many women look after time and I am just beginning to truly understand why.

Wed Apr 26, 10:24:18 PM EDT  
 Father Tyme blogged...

Dark Wraith,
Not that it's that important but does anyone know when W told his first official lie? I mean as president. Someone's gotta have it on tape or print.

Wed Apr 26, 10:44:57 PM EDT  
 oldwhitelady blogged...

Good evening, Dark Wraith.

I read the article and the comments. After reading, I was just a bit down. It seems as though we should never let our expectations raise.
However, as I clicked on the link in this sentence:

You are right on the money about people not even knowing anymore who Karl Rove is. This article at was just published within the hour. It points to the emerging situation where Rove's indictment, although damaging to the President, wouldn't be some Earth-shattering destruction of him. Not anymore, anyway.

I found a smile because... The URL is for which doesn't seem to be CNN. That cheered me up.. just a little.

Wed Apr 26, 10:57:36 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Thank you, Old White Lady! That'll teach me to multi-task on information and advertising content at the same time.

Let's try the comment to Mr. Goat one more time, now that I've deleted that original mess of a comment.

Good evening, Mr. Goat.

You are right on the money about people not even knowing anymore who Karl Rove is. This article at was just published within the past couple of hours. It points to the emerging situation where Rove's indictment, although damaging to the President, wouldn't be some Earth-shattering destruction of him. Not anymore, anyway.

The picture of Rove accompanying that article, by the way, is one of a man who doesn't look at all terrified of what happened in that grand jury session today. Perhaps the boy is bluffing, but that's not the look I would expect from a man who had been taken through the wringer in front of a prosecutor.

Again, however, maybe the man just has a poker face.

Note in that article how Condoleeza Rice's star is rising. This goes right into what I was talking about in my post about optimal Bush Administration strategy going into the November elections.

Strange times in which we live.

The Dark Wraith could do without quite so much strangeness.

Wed Apr 26, 11:26:59 PM EDT  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

Not that it's that important but does anyone know when W told his first official lie? I mean as president. Someone's gotta have it on tape or print.

When he took his swearing in oath.

Thu Apr 27, 12:33:00 AM EDT  
 PeterofLoneTree blogged...

"Not that it's that important but does anyone know when W told his first official lie?" -- Father Tyme

Wasn't there something back in Jan. of '01 when he swore on a bible: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Thu Apr 27, 08:45:01 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Actually DW, I wasn't thinking about the awkwardness of Fitz's paycheck, I was more wondering about things like Fitz having the authority in the first place to prosecute the Chief Executive when he himself is a subordinant member of the Executive Branch (the rationale behind creating special prosecutors in the first place).

Taken in Bosnia, the artistry of it just captured me but it was the haunting look on their faces that made me keep the photo and put it in a frame. Their expressions seemed past the point of tears.

I have noticed a few times before in my life a particular visage on the faces of those who have been systematically oppressed by their life circumstances. It's a pensive, resigned, depressed, and sometimes haunted look that lingers long in my mind after I've seen it.

Those in Bosnia would have good reason to wear such a face.

- oddjob

Thu Apr 27, 08:46:53 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...


DW, yet another killer bumper sticker idea.

- oddjob

Thu Apr 27, 12:00:21 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Today's Non Sequitur (in its backhanded way) honors the blogosphere....

- oddjob

Thu Apr 27, 12:31:42 PM EDT  
 Stephen Benson blogged...

good morning dark wraith:

i have gone through your series on the valerie plame case and, sir, i must begin with an expression of admiration for both scut work and style. outstanding research, organization, and delivery. i agree with your analysis. in cases like this, we have moved on to the next debacle, the next scandalous outrage, the next shameless deceit with such A.D.D.ish speed that, when justice comes, it is by its very delay, thus denied. if ken lay is convicted, his role as a "bush pioneer" and good buddy, and most generous campaign contributer will be lost in the shuffle. his involvement in the formulation of current energy policy will never be known. i also remember that when leo ryan took his unpopular, and politically disasterous stand against the unfair application of the death penalty in illinois, bush (as governor) simply took steps to make the appeal process harder. i don't know where we are going to end up with all of this. it is becoming harder and harder to avoid gloom. again, sir, i salute your work. thank you.

Thu Apr 27, 12:52:40 PM EDT  
 blackdog blogged...

Good afternoon, Dark One. I had been thinking for longer than I like that Fitz was working on the "big picture" that might be the keystone that could unravel the entire piece of crap that we suffer under. Now after reading your post I'm not so sure, but I can hope. It may be all I have left. There is no doubt that justice deferred is no justice at all, seems like someone greater than I stated that a long time ago. In some ways you remind me of EP who has a very good post today on the SC.

Dark One, please continue on your mission, some of us like continuing education and need a little help to see the truth in a complicated situation.

That is my plea.


Thu Apr 27, 04:39:16 PM EDT  
 Blackdog blogged...

We can only hope, check this out.

Click here.

Hope it's got a corncob up it's butt, which would explain it's "poker face".

To the Dark One.

Thu Apr 27, 07:00:28 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, blackdog.

Thank you for the link, and I repaired your original comment so it wouldn't do the frame-buster routine, so you can come back now.

There's nothing you can do here that I can't fix. Now, there really are things I can do here that I'm not sure I can fix. Right now, I'm about losing my cool with the slow loading of this site, and everything I'm doing is making the problem a little worse, it seems.

Anyway, that's my project tonight: get this place spruced up a bit. We've had quite a few visitors from Washington Monthly, so I really need to get this site to load more quickly.

I should also do some dusting, and maybe straighten up the furniture. The sofa really needs to be replaced, but I had my heart set on buying that faux wall-mount of Karl Rove's head (the one with the full antler rack). Maybe I can get a good deal on eBay.

Then again, if I could find a manufacturer, I'll bet I could sell some of 'em myself in my own eBay store.

Yeah. That'll work.

The Dark Wraith needs to call those guys in China and see if they could do a rush order on a couple hundred.

Thu Apr 27, 07:09:26 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, OddJob.

You're right: there simply has to be a good bumper sticker in there somewhere.

And thank you for mentioning bumper stickers. I forgot to say anything about returning to the "Had Enough, Yet" bumper sticker in the e-store. The sales of that one were better than any other I had done, so I wanted to give it a little more run time while I came up with a fresh series.

The national debt idea should get me started.

The Dark Wraith needs to get his creative side back in gear.

Thu Apr 27, 07:14:03 PM EDT  
 Eric A Hopp blogged...

Hello Dark Wraith,

Excellent article on Patrick Fitzgerald and the Valerie Plame scandal. I'll say that as much as I would love to see Karl Rove indicted, the longer this case continues dragging on, the less chance there is in nailing Rove. If we don't see any more indictments from Fitzgerald within the next couple of months, say until September, you can pretty much conclude that "Fitzmas" is over.

This case has gone beyond what Fitzgerald can investigate. Valerie Plame is just one link in a never-ending chain of corruption and scandal that has been coming out of the Bush White House. You've listed some of those links yourself--the war in Iraq, the non-existent Iraqi WMDs, the national debt, Social Security, the neocon's take over of the federal judiciary. And there are so many more scandals--Katrina, Cheney's energy task force, Big Oil and the rising gas prices, Portgate, deregulation and the constant siding of Bush with corporate interests. These are scandals that Congress needs to look into--not Patrick Fitzgerald. So while Fitzgerald's investigation may be concluding, there is still so much more that has to be revealed through a strong, congressional investigation and oversight into these White House transgressions. The Republicans are not willing to lead this oversight.

We better hope and pray that the Democrats can gain control of one or both houses in Congress so that we can finally have some oversight into this corrupt administration. Otherwise, we are going to be really screwed!

Pardon my French.

Thu Apr 27, 07:27:52 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, Stephen, and thank you for the kind words.

Although I haven't received any hate mail, I have gotten a pretty notable silence from other bloggers concerning this entire arc of articles on the Valerie Plame scandal.

If Karl Rove is eventually indicted, I shall be more than happy to have good friends point out to me that I was completely wrong. But as more and more time passes, it's as blackdog pointed out: justice delayed is justice denied. And perhaps more disturbingly, this entire investigation is stunning in comparison to the one carried on by Ken Starr.

My God, that little toad navigated a brilliant President into a corner in sworn testimony before a grand jury (where you can't have your lawyer hold your hand), forcing him to answer questions about a woman fellating him; and yet somehow Mr. Fitzgerald negotiates with George W. Bush a non-custodial, unsworn meeting with Mr. Bush's attorney present?!

It stinks to High Heaven.

I would really, really love to know what Bush told Fitzgerald in that nice visit. Did Bush actually tell Fitzgerald, 'Yes, I authorized the leak of the National Intelligence Estimate', or did Bush mislead him as he did the American people at the time?

Lord! but it's grim when a little toad like Starr was willing to do things to a stellar President while the handsome Fitzgerald goes for indictments on a guy nicknamed "Scooter."

Forgive me, good people. This whole thing smells like a skunk; and given that I grew up in the country, I shall be convinced to my dying day that, when you smell a skunk nearby, that means there is a skunk nearby.

Unless, of course, it's your cousins from up the road who take a bath maybe once a year. But that's another story, and they don't come around as long as the dogs aren't on leashes.

The Dark Wraith slips slowly into digressionary excess.

Thu Apr 27, 07:43:29 PM EDT  
 blackdog blogged...

I sacrifice small creatures such as fleas on the blackdog's back to the Dark One who is so beholding to those lesser than he. Thanks for such a great site where all who are not idiots have some say and are accommodated so well. I go now to roll in the grass and get new fleas. Thank you, Dark Wraith.

Thu Apr 27, 11:45:05 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, blackdog.

This is one of the wettest Springs in recent memory in this part of the country. That means the fleas are going to be bad this year.

That would explain, of course, all the Republicans coming out of the ground offering hundred dollar checks to make people happy with the high gas prices.

The Dark Wraith reaches for the Hartz Mountain Flea & Republican collar.

Thu Apr 27, 11:54:43 PM EDT  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

...I have gotten a pretty notable silence from other bloggers concerning this entire arc of articles on the Valerie Plame scandal.

Good evening Mr. Wraith,

Nobody likes learning there is no Santa Claus. The Dark Grinch that stole Fitzmas you are to some.

Fri Apr 28, 12:13:12 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Eric. I am indeed glad you stopped by.

Your comment that this matter has gone beyond what Fitzgerald could investigate is the troubling conclusion I have reached. The Watergate scandal, although there were sidestreams to it, was a compact matter in that it was a single crime leading to a relatively straight-forward cover-up.

In the matter of the outing of Valerie Plame, the disclosure of her name to outsiders was only a small component of an overall scheme of deception, disinformation, and manipulation in the run-up to a war. Making the present situation even worse is that, as I note at several points in my original series, the disclosure of Plame's name might not, in and of itself, be readily prosecutable under existing statutes related to the security of the identities of agents. That does not mean that outing her was legal: in my judgment, the crime was a complicated and criminal conspiracy, and her outing was only a single act within that conspiracy. In fact, the vast majority of the actions the Bush Administration and its officials took, each in and of itself, would be difficult to prosecute. It is only in their aggregate, as an overall plan or scheme, that the criminality emerges clearly.

I'll tell you this, Eric: no sixteen hundred dollar a day investigation is going to come even close to dealing with something like that.

Neither, though, is a Democrat-controlled Congress if its majority is anything like the fearful cabal that's been the Democratic minority there for the past five-plus years. Being afraid they're going to offend a national-security minded electorate, being afraid they're going to be accused by the media of making waves, acting like saying something a little hurtful calls for an immediate, groveling apology: this does not bode well for these cats if they take over the doghouse.

(No offense, there, blackdog.)

Once—just once—I would like to hear one of the august greybeards of the Democratic Party say once and for all, "The Bush Administration is corrupt, and it has been corrupt from its very beginnings. Its failures began on September 11, 2001, and its failures continue to this day. Is this what you really, really want, America?"

Geez, would I like to hear that.

Then again, someone in the Republican Party might be offended.

God, where's Ike Eisenhower when you need a general to slap the crap out of a Republican Party gone stupid?

The Dark Wraith is now rambling.

Fri Apr 28, 12:14:48 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Mr. Goat.

'The Dark Grinch who stole Fitzmas'.

Mr. Goat has just made the Dark Wraith's night.

Fri Apr 28, 12:17:30 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

I like your rambling and agree with it wholeheartedly!

I also agree with your assessment regarding the size of ShrubCo.'s criminal enterprise and that something of this magnitude really does require the efforts of a Congress that fully embraces its oversight duties instead of enabling the White House simply because they believe duty to party matters more than duty to the country.

Oh, and while you're having one of the wettest springs we're having one of the driest. (We haven't had a goodly amount of precip. since January.)

I hate abnormally dry weather; it shoots the gardens to hell!

- oddjob

Fri Apr 28, 08:46:52 AM EDT  
 PeterofLoneTree blogged...

"Neither, though, is a Democrat-controlled Congress if its majority is anything like the fearful cabal that's been the Democratic minority there for the past five-plus years." -- DW

And how many Democrats are "in for a piece of the action"? "Silent partners", so to speak? Or, in some other way, compromised?: "Hey Congressman, remember the photos we took of you bleeping the bleep last year when you got so shit-faced"?

Fri Apr 28, 10:43:32 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Peter, I think if you go here and scroll down to the April 26 cartoon you'll get a feel for how your question could be best answered.....

- oddjob

Fri Apr 28, 10:58:01 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, Peter of Lone Tree. On another blog, I got a rather chilly reception when I pointed out that the good Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is married to Richard Blum, a director and major stockholder in URS Corp., which is sucking wildly and beneficially at the teat of everything from Homeland Security through its EG&G and URS Divisions to our military adventurism through its EG&G Division, while Feinstein, herself, seems to prefer not to comment on this rather amazing conflict of interest situation.


It's bad enough when the foxes are in charge of the henhouse, but it's really gotten out of hand when some of the confounded chickens, themselves, have acquired a taste for poultry.

The Dark Wraith crows for a new morning in America.

Fri Apr 28, 11:10:41 AM EDT  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

It's bad enough when the foxes are in charge of the henhouse, but it's really gotten out of hand when some of the confounded chickens, themselves, have acquired a taste for poultry.

Chickens still have genes for teeth, so the idea of acquiring a taste isn't that far fetched. What's scary is that chickens look alike in the flock, whereas a fox you can tell a mile away.

Fri Apr 28, 12:41:22 PM EDT  
 elf blogged...

Afternoon DW,

I have a request to make. I would like a new bumper sticker saying:

'The Dark Grinch who stole Fitzmas'

Mr.Goat cracked me up with that one!!

And I have packed away my Fitzmas teeshirt in a little hidey hole for future archeologists to discover and ponder.

Fri Apr 28, 02:28:52 PM EDT  
 Kathleen Callon blogged...

I'm looking forward to that post. Coincidences and synchronicity often excite me, too.

Hope you have a great weekend.

Fri Apr 28, 04:19:08 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

truthout is blogging interesting info. (which I obviously have no way of verifying). (Hat tip, Buzzflash.)

- oddjob

Fri Apr 28, 10:58:21 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, OddJob.

Jason Leopold had an article a couple of days ago predicting this.

I'm not sure of whether to take any stock in it or not. There was talk quite some time back that Fitzgerald was about to submit a request to the first grand jury for indictment of Rove, but nothing came of that. This time, it seems a little meatier, given that Rove just completed his testimony.

I don't know, though. Leopold's article earlier in the week stated that Rove's attorney had been sent a letter by Fitzgerald giving notice that Rove's status had changed from 'subject' to 'target', but Rove's attorney is still hotly denying that he has received any such letter.

This could be real, or it could be a gambit by Fitzgerald. In fact, it could even be a gambit by Rove, himself.

God! I hate this non-linear universe.

If I were to guess, I would say Fitzgerald is going to ask the grand jury to vote for indictment. Grand juries usually do exactly what they're asked to do by U.S. Attorneys, but that might not be the case this time.

We'll just have to wait and see.


The Dark Wraith will not be holding his breath over the weekend, though.

Sat Apr 29, 12:06:14 AM EDT  
 blackdog blogged...

To the Dark One and all of his minions, good afternoon.

Very consise article that pretty much sums up the entire debacle.

Did anyone see the Steven Colbert routine at the National Press Club deal on C-Span Saturday? C-Span has been replaying it and in my opinion, I think the first shot against the ship of state has been shot over the bow. The shrub actually sat there and must have been mortified.

I hear creaks and groans from the structure of the ship of state as it attempts to wallow into a close-hauled course, mostly to cover it's arse.

The Plames were there and seemed to be having a better time than most of the others, but with your head up your arse it's difficult to laugh at the obvious, as most of the stolid non-questioning crowd seemed confused and afraid to laugh.

Hat's off and a blackdog bow to Steven Colbert.

Sun Apr 30, 03:11:06 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, blackdog.

I have seen the re-cast of that Colbert routine. In part, I am amazed that it took this long for someone to pin that little Presidential toad to the ironing board and straighten him out; on the other hand, the longer Bush was allowed to run amock without anyone directly confronting him, the harder it was to actually do it.

In a way, Colbert might very well have just broken a logjam, although I thought it was most interesting that had as one of its lead stories all day today that the highlight of that affair was Bush's own light-hearted self-deprecations. Little was said of Colbert's flame-thrower enema into the heart of Bush's thinking nexus.

I was also quite delighted that Colbert didn't spare the mainstream media. That's been a long time in coming. The major news networks have spent no small effort pretending that Blogosphere Left doesn't exist, especially Blogosphere Left 2.0, the non-KOS/non-Americablog part of it. Now, the mainstream media is being eaten by its own comedians.

That's cool.

The Dark Wraith hears the sound of gallows being prepared for the neo-cons and their appeasement-minded, coiffed news anchors.

Sun Apr 30, 11:42:43 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

"You know -- fiction."

Just priceless.....

- oddjob

Mon May 01, 01:06:09 AM EDT  
 SB Gypsy blogged...

Good Morning Dark Wraith,

Little was said of Colbert's flame-thrower enema into the heart of Bush's thinking nexus.

heh heh heh - good one!

Sun May 07, 10:17:22 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, SB Gypsy.

Frustration can breed literary creativity.

The Dark Wraith should then be getting better at writing with every day that passes.

Sun May 07, 10:36:46 AM EDT  


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pulp Economics:
Oil Quiz

For quick information and sheer entertainment, nothing beats a pop quiz, especially one that deals with a timely, fun, and altogether exciting topic like petroleum products. Herewith presented is the second Pulp Economics Quiz: each question is worth 20%, and there will be no curve applied to scores.

Click here to open the Oil Quiz.


<< 56 Comments Total
 trailertrash blogged...

Good evening, Dark Wraith.

The dog ate my homework. I was studying for this quiz, when a tornado took my study notes.

I'm thinking 40% is pretty darned good. I've learned, over the past few years that, "Up is Down" and, "Bad is Good". Obviously, I scored very high on this quiz.

Wed Apr 19, 10:02:25 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Trailer Trash.

I think you're at the wrong Website. The applications for Scott McClellan's job are at

The Dark Wraith will, however, provide you with a letter of recommendation.

Wed Apr 19, 10:20:17 PM EDT  
 PoliShifter blogged...

What's worse Dark Wraith, and I know you know this but I figure what the heck...if you will indulge me.

Here in California we get 0 of our oil from the Middle East.

We even have pretty good domestic production. Some of the oil producers here in CA produce oil for a cost of $12 a barrel...

And yet they turn around and sell it for the going market price...which last I checked was above $72 per barrell...

Needless to say record oil profits, wind fall retirmenets and salaries for CEO's etc.

Same thing happened during the oil embargo in the 70's and the U.S. imposed a tax on excess profits.

Wed Apr 19, 10:41:20 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Also just 40%.

My, my!

- oddjob (who appreciates learning the information I obviously did not know!)

Wed Apr 19, 11:03:38 PM EDT  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

Missed #2 and #3. Back in 1972 I was buying lawn mower gas for $0.3 something, but had not one idea of the price per barrel.

Wed Apr 19, 11:15:58 PM EDT  
 texasshiva blogged...

Good evening.

Progress at 20%. I'm getting better at these...

Thu Apr 20, 01:09:19 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

60%. I wasn't alive in 1972 so I was all chance on that one, and I guessed 1/2 on the last one. Close but no cigar!

Thu Apr 20, 01:51:23 AM EDT  
 karen m blogged...

Good morning, Dark Wraith.

I scored 40% on the quiz. I thought that was pretty good for guessing.

I was a kid in the '70s, and I honestly had no idea that the price of oil had been so low. It looked really expensive to me.

Thu Apr 20, 09:55:46 AM EDT  
 dread pirate roberts blogged...

good morning dw

nice history/econ lesson. 40%. dang. no excuses. i was alive back then. sort of.

Thu Apr 20, 11:03:08 AM EDT  
 SB Gypsy blogged...

Good Morning Dark Wraith,

On one of your pop quizes, I think 40% is quite a satisfactory score.

I think you're at the wrong Website. The applications for Scott McClellan's job are at

* snorffle *

Thu Apr 20, 11:43:19 AM EDT  
 Dave blogged...

Hunh! I got 40% too.
I got questions 1 and 5 correct.
On #2 and 4 I overthought it and figured that the answers would be counterintuitive, so I lowballed question 2 and figured that Saudi Arabia was too obvious.
Oh man, If I had guessed $12 a barrel for question 3 I could argue it, because that's what it's close to in inflation adjusted dollars. (But I guessed $15....

Thu Apr 20, 03:33:04 PM EDT  
 trailertrash blogged...

Good afternoon, Dark Wraith.

Thanks! My application has been completed. I just need that letter of recommendation:)

Your quote:

Of course gas prices will come down: the elections are in November.

Yeah, but until November, it will continue to rise. I noticed that it's gone up about $.30 within the last week!

Thu Apr 20, 06:05:38 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, Trailer Trash.

Right now, the oil futures markets are so spooked that, if someone whispered, "Boom," a whole lot of traders would leave to be with Jesus.

Rumors are part of the broad flow of information used by markets to assess values from moment to moment; but sometimes the rumors just about dominate the thinking. War is on a lot of people's minds, and it's taking on a life of its own.

All I can do is hope that the speculation about it doesn't cause the reality of it; and I hope to God no one in the Bush Administration or in a foreign government tries by nefarious means to push us over the edge into the abyss of a war with Iran.

I wouldn't be able to afford to drive to where I teach with gas at $5.00 a gallon.

The Dark Wraith would have to set up his pup tent on the school grounds.

Thu Apr 20, 06:46:24 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

And forgive me, all, for my relative silence during the quiz. I didn't want to disturb those who were still taking it.

I really shouldn't do these quizzes. I feel almost evil when I start laughing at the comments.

Texas Shiva's declaration that her 20% was evidence that she's improving at taking my quizzes is almost verbatim what students who take my real quizzes say sometimes.

Now, I hope you all know that a quiz like this isn't an assessment instrument. It's merely an entirely pleasant way to gather some knowledge. Those who take these quizzes have already demonstrated intelligence beyond the ordinary: we leave to the fundamentalists the choice of life that declines new information and re-alignments of previous beliefs.

And 40% is actually pretty decent. Most normal people don't spend their lives voraciously absorbing information about petroleum markets and prices.

They do, however, become much more aware of the industry during times of great stress as we are now enduring. They also become much more interested in understanding the industry, its history, and facts about the commodity upon which we all depend so greatly. In education, such times of heightened interest in learning the a particular subject are called "teachable moments."

Unfortunately, this Administration offers to all of us nearly unrelenting opportunities for one teachable moment right after another.

Sometimes, the Dark Wraith longs for the luxury of guiltlessly vegging out in front of an old movie.

Thu Apr 20, 07:00:25 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Not an old movie, but as this is a static medium perhaps a comic will suffice?

Not his best, but today's Zippy the Pinhead.

Or, if you prefer something a bit more acerbic (bitter even), today's Non Sequitur.

- oddjob

Thu Apr 20, 07:23:51 PM EDT  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

And 40% is actually pretty decent.

Heh heh, the George "Special Ed" Bush hoe handles on Faux News are going to be quoting you for sure as his polls slide to 33%.

Thu Apr 20, 07:46:55 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Mr. Goat.

The grading scale is as such:

20% and above: Pass
If you're George W. Bush: Fail

The Dark Wraith knows how to set a fair curve.

Thu Apr 20, 08:20:38 PM EDT  
 Eric A Hopp blogged...

WOW! I passed! I got 20 percent!

It was an interesting little pop quiz, considering I didn't know anything about the oil market. A couple of questions are total curveballs--Canada being the top supplier of crude oil to the U.S. was one I never expected. But reflecting on the answer, I can see that happening now, considering the price of crude has gone over $70 a barrel, making it economically feasable to extract the crude oil from Canada's tar sands. I should have realized that OPEC has a number of members ouside of the Middle Eastern countries, and I took a guess on $7 a barrel for the 1972 price. The question that surprised me was the the 2/3 percentage of all oil is used by transportation in the U.S. That is a lot of oil being wasted by gas guzzling SUVs! If there is one area that we need to improve our energy efficiency, it has got to be in the transportation sector--especially with CAFE standards. Unfortunately, I don't see the Bush White House pushing for improved energy efficiency. As a former oilman himself, President Bush would rather give in to Big Oil's expressed interest in more drilling and more production. That's not going to help us much as long as Americans keep driving the big Hummers.

Thu Apr 20, 10:17:01 PM EDT  
 PoliShifter blogged...

Hi Dark Wraith,

If you are grading on a curve then judging by the repsonses I got an A

Fri Apr 21, 12:39:35 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

This is OT, but I thought it was a column worth sharing. (Hat tip, RawStory.)

- oddjob

Fri Apr 21, 11:56:06 AM EDT  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

Funny that you should post that link; I just read it and was going to post it here also. The comparison of the Wraith's Special Analysis: A Tactical Decision before the End Game (and reader comments) with Dean's article (especially the What We Can Expect From Bush in the Future) is almost too eerie.

Fri Apr 21, 12:18:03 PM EDT  
 Stephen Benson blogged...

i aced it, but i worry about stuff like that and totally guessed twice. like on number one producer. i remembered from somewhere that the soviet union was #1 exporter, but there's no there there anymore. . .what is your professional evaluation of "the great wave, price fluctuations in history" by david hackett fisher. i've been besieging it a few pages at a time for over a month now. do you think it's worth the slog?

Fri Apr 21, 12:27:45 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, Stephen.

You aced it?!

Sheesh. I must be slipping.

I can see aggregate results, but I don't set these up so I could match a name or IP address to a taker. I do see that I've had two 100% scores so far, so apparently you aren't the only one who's nailed this test to the wall. (So far, by the way, over 200 quiz takers, and the median is holding firm at 40%.)

I won't be changing the curve I noted in a previous comment, but I will be beefing up my next quiz, I'll tell you that right now.

Moving on, I wish I could dismiss Hackett's book, Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History, as unworthy, but I cannot quite do that. I actually like the book because it offers a relatively popular accounting of historical price cycles that motivates people to think about large-scale, secular trends in history.

I have two principal issues with the book. First, the Black Death in Europe did, indeed, cause major shifts in the economies and the cultures of the nations that were affected. As grim as it may sound, these changes were largely for the better: fewer workers meant living standards, which had been eroding for perhaps half-a-century or more in some places, recovered. Also, the awfulness of the decrop of the population led afterward to considerable opening of people's minds and interest in moving on from the dark times. You can see this even in the changes in fashion in Europe: before the Plague, most people's clothing was frockish and altogether dim; afterward, clothes became more form fitting, and styles, fashions, and even traditions of clothing in common rite and ritual began to pop up almost out of nowhere (they actually had much older roots, but people were willing to try things again).

The problem is that the Plague didn't cause changes as much as it accelerated pressures that had been building before it.

I see this problem in a number of historical accounts: a touchstone is used as the proof of a turning point, but the evidence is downplayed or ignored that change was already underway before the crisis ever showed up.

That note of criticism having been stated, I really do like the book, and I thank you for reminding me of it. I just put it in the sidebar as the featured book advertisement.

The Dark Wraith will one of these days find a book people will actually want to buy in that stupid sidebar.

Fri Apr 21, 04:10:28 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, Mr. Goat. I went over to that link OddJob provided, and as I was reading the article by John Dean, I actually said aloud, "That's what I wrote!" Your term 'eerie' is rather appropriate.

I wrote a comment to the article at FindLaw, although I don't know whether or not they'll actually put it up on the message board there.

We'll see. Maybe we'll have some new visitors to the blog if they actually print my comment there.

That means we need to straighten this place up and act nice and normal around here. We certainly don't want to scare off any new readers here with some quirkiness about this place that people might not understand.

The Dark Wraith heads out to grab some extra Spam™ sandwich spread for the guests.

Fri Apr 21, 04:16:59 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Actually, I'm not surprised to see similar educated guessing among well educated political junkies, even if they have no direct ties to each other.

The past events are (basically) well known, and the behaviors of the principals are well known, and as long as one is reasonably insightful regarding human behavior, there are then only a relatively limited number of likely ways in which future events will unfold. The details are of course unpredictable, but the courses in which those details will direct events are not so unpredictable.

For instance, it isn't as though we skeptics knew with any certainty what the exact ways in which the details would unfold regarding the aftermath of invading Iraq, but it's hardly a surprise that Iraq is in the early stages of civil war. In like manner, there are only so many outcomes left for ShrubCo.

- oddjob

Fri Apr 21, 05:18:20 PM EDT  
 Eric A Hopp blogged...

The past events are (basically) well known, and the behaviors of the principals are well known, and as long as one is reasonably insightful regarding human behavior, there are then only a relatively limited number of likely ways in which future events will unfold. The details are of course unpredictable, but the courses in which those details will direct events are not so unpredictable.

Interesting thought Oddjob, but I wonder if there really were only a number of limited ways that these future events could have unfolded. I would say that there were a greater number of ways future events could have unfolded early on in either the invasion, or in the early days of the Iraqi reconstruction that could have changed the course of future events. An example here would be the Bush administration's decision to disband the Iraqi regular army. By keeping the regular army intact and under U.S. supervision, we may not have had witness the subsequent looting that occurred after the war--especially the looting of unguarded Iraqi arms depots. This certainly could have changed the outcome of this low-tech insurgency, since the insurgents would not be using the explosives looted from those unguarded depots to attack U.S. convoys with roadside bombs. As the Bush administration made its decisions early on within the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq, those decisions would lead to new consequences and new outcomes--some of which would greatly hamper the Bush administration's control of Iraq.

Anyone know where we could find a used DeLorian Time Machine?

Fri Apr 21, 06:33:53 PM EDT  
 Stephen Benson blogged...

well your deepest darkness, i was afraid that's how you would answer. i will keep slogging. sometimes when a book of that kind is dense and slow going, i can find the "fulla shit" part and dismiss it. a lot of what you cited was making sense. and, it's easy to forgive something like mixing a cause with a dramatic accellerator when the basic point is valid. i like fisher's work in general and will attack this one with the same grim resolve i showed with "albion's seed." thank you for your attention. dean's article was well written, i would not be surprised at all if he lifted it from somebody with morals to be outraged.

Fri Apr 21, 07:28:54 PM EDT  
 Father Tyme blogged...

I got 20% Haven't done that poorly since Eisenhower's recession. Guess I'll wait for Leno's jaywalking auditions. Oh the Humility!

Fri Apr 21, 07:52:37 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Interesting thought Oddjob, but I wonder if there really were only a number of limited ways that these future events could have unfolded. I would say that there were a greater number of ways future events could have unfolded early on in either the invasion, or in the early days of the Iraqi reconstruction that could have changed the course of future events.

Agreed, but there still would have been an insurgency and it still would have procured weapons. Given that the Iraqi Army was involved to one extent or another in Saddam's atrocities against the citizens, keeping the army intact would have lessened some problems, and created others. I can easily imagine such a scenario still creating the impression among the Iraqis that we were primarily there not to liberate them but to opress them.

That still leads to a growing insurgency effort to drive us out, and then you're still left with an artificial country deliberately fashioned by the English and the French out of three different homelands with three different and atagonistic ethnicities vying with each other for the best result at the end of whatever it is that happens, only now the Sunnis have a much stronger hand since the army would be largely one that Saddam had created and Saddam relied upon the Sunnis.

Surely the outcome would have been different in the particulars, but I'm not so sure the overall outline would have been all that different.

- oddjob

Fri Apr 21, 08:08:58 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

(I should clarify that I didn't mean to suggest that the insurgency under your scenario would have procured the weapons in the manner they did in reality, but rather to suggest that as long as there are insurgents, they will certainly get weapons somehow or other.)

- oddojb

Fri Apr 21, 08:11:06 PM EDT  
 PeterofLoneTree blogged...

"The Asian Development Bank warns of threatening monetary turmoil"
Signs-of-the-Times article at

Fri Apr 21, 09:36:02 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Hey, Father Tyme, welcome to The Dark Wraith Forums.

Don't worry about the quiz score. You can always take it again and ace it. Besides, it's good to know petroleum industry facts: you never know when you're going to be at a gas station where someone's going to ask you, for example, what percentage of our petroleum consumption is for transportation. Now you'll be able to answer the question and impress all the other drivers there.

I was talking today with someone at school, and she said she had heard that the United States actually exports oil. She asked me if that was true. I told her that it was, indeed, true that we are an oil exporting nation (not a net exporter, mind you; but we are most definitely an exporter). So here's the question:

As a percentage of total U.S. oil consumption, how much oil extracted in the U.S. is exported?

◊ less than 1%
◊ about 2%
◊ around 5%
◊ close to 10%

The Dark Wraith awaits an answer.

Sat Apr 22, 12:15:01 AM EDT  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

268 million barrels sounds like a whole bunch doesn't it Mr. Wraith?

Sat Apr 22, 12:45:14 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Eric.

The DeLorean Time Machine might not do much good. From what I understand, the DeLorean wasn't all that great on gas mileage.

I will tell you that I firmly believe that events could have proceeded far more favorably in Iraq, and therefore in resulting global oil markets, had we not made so many unbelievably bad mistakes early in the war.

From what I understand, our military commanders negotiated a considerable stand-down of the Iraqi army (thereby making our march to Baghdad considerably less bloody than it otherwise could have been), which means we had essentially established a settlement with the heavy guns that would have ensured the continued integrity of the Iraqi oil production machinery, which could then have been brought up to pre-embargo production levels within a year.

Instead, we screwed the Iraqi army, sent the Sunnis into continuing, doggéd insurgency, and sent the Iraqi oil production infrastructure into long-term torpor.

There are a lot of other issues, too; but right now, I'm in the mood to blame President Forrest Gump and his crew for leaving us hanging out to dry with a looming economic crisis.

All of that rant having thus been vented, some oil traders want $100 a barrel, but they're not going to get it, not on this run-up. They'll get it on the next one, I think, but we'll have some relief here eventually.

But so help me God, if I hear one more media hoehandle say there are "spot shortages" showing up in parts of the country, or if I hear one more oil industry flack say "supply disruptions" are merely the result of normal transistions from Winter gas blends to Summer blends, I'm going to launch into a head-ripping Econ 101 post here, wherein I shall spare little in the way of vitriol about ignoramuses who misuse economics and its terminology to justify the insufferable.

The Dark Wraith is once again starting to feel that pain radiating through his left arm.

Sat Apr 22, 12:58:14 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Mr. Goat.

The Strategic Reserve is less than three times that amount.

Yet another fun statistic.

The Dark Wraith dearly loves the numbers game.
[Until it comes to that $3.019 number at the gas pump yesterday.]

Sat Apr 22, 01:04:25 AM EDT  
 Father Tyme blogged...

Dark Wraith,
I'm guessing we export around 5%. If I remember my sordid U.S. history, most, if not all of our export comes solely from the Alaska Pipeline to Japan and I think that was around 5 or 6% by act of congress but it may have been changed by the last few congresses. I seem to remember a joke during the 70s gas shortage that Kissinger 'saved' us from the A-Rabs with a secret deal. The guess was that he offered them Rhode Island. Can't wait to see what this congress offers them!
P.S. I THINK that we have to sell them the oil at a ridiculously low price forever; I may be wrong.

Sat Apr 22, 07:23:24 AM EDT  
 ballgame blogged...

I will be beefing up my next quiz

Thanks a lot, Stephen! Me and the other 20%ers will be stealing your lunch money.

Oh Knowledgeable One, I have a question for you: What would the price of a gallon of gasoline be if it had to incorporate the costs of security expenditures in the Middle East?

(My back-of-the-envelope estimate based on some quick web research suggests it's less than I would have thought.)

Sat Apr 22, 09:53:12 AM EDT  
 elf blogged...

Hi DW,

Ok, did this the other day at work (shh don't tell anyone), and you can count me in at a solid 40%. This after remembering being in line for gas on whatever odd or even day I was allowed to buy some in the early 70's!
You would think I had a clue!

At least we had sense enough soon after to dump the GM Jeep and get a Honda. Yesterday put a little less than 7 gal. in my Toyota Matrix and I was really taken aback at the $23 it cost me.

So the DNC called this morning asking if I would contribute...bwahahaha I told him ain't no way until they get some fukin balls..well, no I did not say that but did make mention of a Spineless Democratic Party.

He brought up Pelosi, Clark and Dean. I expressed surprise that the DNC is even recognizing Dean's magnificent contribution and chuckled at Pelosi, but wanted to know why the hell he can't even mention the name of the only true Patriot of the bunch Feingold.

Soon after he attempted to bring the conversation to a close, I told him I was not yelling AT him, just at the Party in general and until they start fighting back I will only contribute to the ACLU and specific candidates of MY choice!

My husband laughingly felt sorry for the guy but quickly found some yard work to do as by then I was on a roll!!
Guess I'm still teed off!!

Sat Apr 22, 02:28:15 PM EDT  
 stephen benson blogged...

good afternoon dark wraith:

like i said, i totally lucked out at least twice with guesses on the quiz. i've done well in school situations guessing like that. on the export of u.s. oil i guess 5% along the same lines of it coming directly out of the pipeline and straight to japan by treaty or fiat of congress. i never apologised for wrecking curves in school. to protect my lunch money i started goju ryu karate lessons at the age of 8.

Sat Apr 22, 04:36:30 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, elf.

I am not without sympathy for your husband's decision to quietly depart during your dressing down of that hapless fellow from the Democratic National Committee. Sometimes it is best to allow a downed beast the dignity of being eaten without spectators grimacing at his death throes.

I do, however, wish I had a transcript of your conversation with the DNC fundraiser. I would have gladly and gleefully published it. I have the draft news copy of the article all ready to go:

DNC Rep Gets Ass Chewed Off
April 22, 2006 — In what was supposed to be a routine call to whip up some dough for more spineless, mainstream Democratic candidates, an unnamed teleflunky got a hold of Mrs. Elf, who was in no mood to mince words.

Investigators trying to reconstruct the scene at Democratic National Committee headquarters say that, because of blast patterns on the walls that were still standing, the destruction definitely originated in the teleflunky's earpiece, which was found embedded in his duodenum, along with fire and brimstone. Others in the room said they heard the victim say, "But... but... we're on your side against the Republicans." He then attempted to move on to his script about new surgical implants of spinal tissue in Congressional Democrats, and he cited a well-known Democrat who recently said to the Republicans, "Oh, YEAH?!"

This might have actually set off what appears on security cameras as the flash of a low-yield nuclear weapon, as Mrs. Elf's voice removed the representative's right ear, passing it straight through his left mastoid bone in a progressive, sideways mushroom cloud of strong language bordering on ancient incantations known to summon demons.

A spokesperson for local police said no charges will be filed because causing injury to invertebrates is not unlawful when the creatures are asking for donations.

More news later here on The Dark Wraith Forums News Network.

Sat Apr 22, 06:42:00 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, Father Tyme.

You got the percentage right: about five percent of our total oil consumption; and you are correct about why, too. The oil extracted on the North Slope is cheaper to ship out than pipe down.

Not bad, Father Tyme.

The Dark Wraith ought to think about putting together a petroleum consulting firm with the readers here.

Sat Apr 22, 06:44:52 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, Stephen.

Well, I suppose the Goju Ryu might also be a fine way to hone and develop certain quantitative and geometric skills, too. Although I'm not entirely convinced that one has to be into such theories as chronosynclasticinfindibulum to acquire mastery of Goju, it does make for a nice symmetry between the martial art and certain aspects of more modern, Western physics. I never did take much stock in the deeper meanings of the techniques, and I suppose that was greatly to my detriment. At the time, especially with Goju Ryu, the whole cat thing struck me as odd, and I do regret not being more open to the metaphors and allegories behind the breathing, movements, and mindset. The ryu is probably more important than the specifics of the tradition one chooses to learn.

Ah, well. Now, that I'm older, perhaps my patience can allow me a bit more willingness to learn such things.

The Dark Wraith always grunts at the thought of physical exercise, though.

Sat Apr 22, 07:34:54 PM EDT  
 Stephen Benson blogged...

yes, the exercise part can be tough. but when you're a runty, sarcastic, curve wrecker it provides a way to survive the educational system. as an adult i became more entranced with akido. pure defense and all that, to say nothing of easier on the knees. i was brought through that whole mens sana, mens corpus school where a life of action and a life of contemplation were not considered separable. i was drawn to your blog through your incisive comments at shake's and the last duchess. it's a pleasure in today's world of ruling room temperature iq's to be stimulated through ideas and other viewpoints. i especially liked your comment about turning out something more dangerous than facists or communists through your teaching. i do agree, that informed, educated citizens are very dangerous indeed. the highly literate armies of washington and sherman (to say nothing of zenophon and epaminandous) proved that to previous tyrants.

Sat Apr 22, 07:59:51 PM EDT  
 ballgame blogged...

FWIW: My calculations suggest that incorporating Middle Eastern security expenditures into the cost of gasoline would raise prices by something like a dollar or two.

This site says the U.S. consumed 320 million gallons of gas daily as of a year ago. This article by Linda Bilmes (Harvard) and Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia) puts our current monthly expenditures for the Iraq war at $7.1 billion. Assuming the Iraq war represents 70%-85% of our Middle Eastern security expenditures (wild guess on my part), that works out to something like $1 to $1.50 per gallon if my math is right ... which is hardly chump change but less than the doubling of the price of gasoline I might have expected.

Of course, Bilmes and Stiglitz point out that the true economic costs of the war go far beyond our current monthly expenditure on Iraqi military operations, and put a conservative price tag at over $1 trillion, with a moderate estimate at double that, so -- depending on your timeframe -- doubling the price of gasoline might be a more accurate assessment of its true cost after all.

Sun Apr 23, 09:31:28 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, Ballgame.

I had been thinking about your original post on this matter, and I was of several minds on how to address a cost estimate of securing the oil extraction and transport infrastucture in Iraq. The problem has a handful of vexing dimensions.

First, a substantial amount of the physical Iraqi oil production machinery is in a state of disrepair. This is the direct result of the years under which the regime of Saddam Hussein was subject to sanctions after the first Gulf War. Oil extraction equipment, transport conduits, and the myriad of associated and support facilities that aren't used cannot simply be turned back on. Believe me when I tell you that something as simple as a pumpjack that hasn't been cranking for 15 years isn't in any shape to start going up and down as soon as it's needed again.

Worse is that oil wells, themselves, don't just sit ready and waiting for a pump to start in again on them. In fact, the term "workout" would take on a whole new meaning with respect to the existing wells in Iraq. Your initial comment got me to thinking about that: the very task of getting all those moribund wells to start being productive again, much less to get them up to their pre-embargo pulls, would be an unimaginably expensive undertaking. It would require not just money, but a hard-core, years-long, sustained commitment by somebody. And it gets even more complicated when you consider that, at least in some cases, it might be better to simply drill new rather than try to recover production from existing holes. Sometimes, an oil reservoir itself is affected by extraction, and once high-pull extraction ceases, a lot about the reservoir itself can change, especially over a number of years.

Securing the wells, then, is only a small part of the entire cost of turning Iraq into a serious oil exporting nation once again.

Think about this, Ballgame: who is going to foot the cost of just getting capacity back up to speed? The Iraqis, themselves, don't have the money for a crash program; and even if they did, they've got a whole lot of other issues on their plate that just aren't going to wait. That means those big, nasty, giant, global oil companies are going to have to do most of the investment, if it is to be done at all; but that means those behemoths are going to want the lion's share of returns from such a program because doing such a job would mean diverting a whole lot of physical, financial, and intellectual resources away from other projects all over the world, all to the end of doing what would arguably be the biggest workout in the history of the oil industry for a nation that no one really believes is going to be a nation after the smoke clears.

Consider what a financial debacle it would be if a deal were made between a consortium of oil companies and "Iraq": so if that state of Iraq collapses into three mini-states, the Shi'ites are going to control most of the oil fields, but it might very well be that the rump Iraq—the sovereign state consigned and committed to previous obligations—is the province of the Sunnis, who will end up sucking hind teat, getting Baghdad and the miserable surrounds if they're lucky.

So any deal with "Iraq" as it exists right now is phenomenally risky for any corporate entity thinking at this time about committing several billion dollars.

Now, about security. That's a sovereign matter. To the extent that we've been farming our own security services out, especially with regard to protecting oil pipelines in Iraq, we have failed in our duty to concern ourselves with high-quality defense of the continuous productivity of those lines. This should not—and realistically, cannot—be a private cost. The last thing I would want to see is a further development of the private armies and militias oil companies are already using all over the world. Unfortunately, it might come down to that, but we're talking in Iraq about one unbelievably large and expensive force, a force that would include well-armed soldiers as well as surveillance equipment on the ground, continuous overflight monitoring, and at least some near-Earth satellite support for recon, telecommunications, and global positioning system services.

A billion dollars? That's not the way to do the calculation. Try maybe a hundred million a month, right off the bat, as a fixed cost, which means that, when production is low in the first couple of years, that's going to be a huge component of the total cost per barrel of the Iraqi oil. Only as production levels increase will that fixed cost get spread over a lot of barrels of oil, which means the total cost of extracting the oil from Iraq would actually fall over time, provided production really can be increased significantly, smoothly, and for the foreseeable future.

Although major oil companies are swirling around Iraq right now, and although there really is more than slight interest in getting things going again there, the risks are substantial, and no one's going to put massive dollars on the plate right now; and more importantly, no one really will until the political situation there becomes much clearer than what it is now.

The insurgency as it threatens oil facilities in Iraq is not the cause of low production, it's merely one more symptom of the deep, abiding, and show-stopping problem of dealing with a country that is no longer a country expect in the minds of those who have yet to the howling hints that, without a dictator, some countries just aren't nations because it was the iron fist of dictatorial rule that ensured sovereignty took precedence over the natural dynamics of disparate peoples with incompatible interests.

This is how the Dark Wraith sees it, anyway.

Sun Apr 23, 11:16:02 AM EDT  
 charliepotato blogged...

Hi Dark Wraith,

I took a shot at this and got 40% which I didn't think was bad for a potato. Actually many of the questions need a guess on my part and I bet I'm not alone.

Sun Apr 23, 06:16:08 PM EDT  
 The Fat Lady Sings blogged...

Good Afternoon, Dark Wraith. No - I didn't fall off the ends of the earth; though I must say the thought is tempting. I missed #2 and #5. My experience with the 70's oil crises was through teen-age eyes; and they tend to operate as though partially blind - so I would judge my memory faulty. Regarding price - my best friend's fiancé manages a gas station. He was told by his supplier to expect prices to rise above $4 per gallon this summer. And that's a stone bitch as far as I'm concerned.

Sun Apr 23, 06:34:20 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Fat Lady Sings.

I simply must form that Blogger Search and Rescue Brigade I've been contemplating. That way, when a blogger goes missing, we might have a shot at recovering said blogger before he or she ends up on milk cartons.

Yes, I think $4.00 a gallon will start to cause some measure of social unrest. It seems to me that, at least for the time being, people are willing to suffer this with sufficient satisfaction found in complaining to everyone from the gas station attendant to friends and co-workers; but if we hit four bucks, I think there will be small but noticeable signs of something a little more troublesome.

The mainstream Democratic politicians will be right there to do nothing but share the outrage and hope everyone votes for them in November.

Maybe that's how it will work out, but we'll still have to endure half-baked little platitudes from Bush like 'hydrogen is the fuel of the future' and other such nonsense.

It will definitely be fun this Summer, though. As for me, I'll be staying in my cave for the most part, listening to the nonsense come from Bush and the oil industry.

The Dark Wraith might have to start telecasting his courses from his home computer.
[Which, of course, means some of you could tune in for the action and excitement.]

Sun Apr 23, 09:13:35 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

And good evening to you, Charlie Potato. You, too, were on my watchlist of Wayward Souls.

Again, 40% is decent on a quiz like this. I wouldn't say you're ready to be the CEO of a major oil company, but there might be a future for you as an oil and gas man who becomes a President of the United States.

Goodness, you couldn't do any worse than our current President when it comes to energy policy.

Gawd. It just occurred to me again that we have more than two-and-a-half years remaining before real solutions to our energy problems will even be put on the table.

The Dark Wraith is going to have to start chopping wood right away for next Winter.

Sun Apr 23, 09:18:39 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

This is wholly OT, but I read it in yesterday's Boston Sunday Globe Magazine and found it worth sharing.

You may have to register to read all of it (not sure), but it turns out Vermont is taking it in the teeth with regards to this war that the state is largely opposed to. I found the article insightful.

- oddjob

Mon Apr 24, 09:10:40 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

This is completely OT, but I read it yesterday and found it worth sharing.

You may have to register to read all of it (not sure), but I found it insightful. It turns out Vermont is losing more men per capita over in Iraq than any other state. The article explains why, and it goes to Rumsfeld's ideas about what the US armed forces should look like.

- oddjob

Mon Apr 24, 10:03:40 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

It appears I've posted the same thing twice. I did that because I couldn't see it coming up on the main screen.

I don't know why that's happening, but feel free to delete either one of the posts, DW.

- oddjob

Mon Apr 24, 10:06:22 AM EDT  
 SB Gypsy blogged...

This post has been removed by the author.

Mon Apr 24, 01:28:43 PM EDT  
 SB Gypsy blogged...

Good Afternoon Dark Wraith,

Try maybe a hundred million a month, right off the bat, as a fixed cost, which means that, when production is low in the first couple of years, that's going to be a huge component of the total cost per barrel of the Iraqi oil.

Which only goes to prove that the whole war thing is unpractical, and was bound to fail.

We can't keep the peace sufficiently for the oilmen to do the job.

We just can't invade a country for the oil, it's too hard to get it to market. Iraq will not loose too much money over the long haul, because the longer it is before their oil comes to market, the more they'll get for a gallon. All they have to do is just keep blowing up the pipes, while we run around like ants, trying to respond to emergencies.

The crying shame is, if we had put all that war money into our economy, developing ways to conserve, to generate clean energy, and to foster peace and prosperity in the world........

Oh yeah, we "elected" an oilman.

Mon Apr 24, 01:36:34 PM EDT  
 SAP blogged...

Good afternoon, Dark Wraith.

40%. Considering I was born in '72, not too bad.

And my little birdie in the E&P industry tells me $5 this year is not only doable, but very likely.

Time to ditch the Buick and get a horse.

Mon Apr 24, 08:20:16 PM EDT  
 SB Gypsy blogged...

Good morning Dark Wraith,

Time to ditch the suburbs, and buy a little farm, out in the way back of nowhere, up in a mountain valley.

Tue Apr 25, 10:54:13 AM EDT  


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Budget Deficit Projected to Reach Near-Record for 2006

Blaming the costs incurred in the rebuilding of the Southeast from Hurricane Katrina as well as the budget drain from the Global War on Terror, the Bush Administration announced this week that the federal budget deficit for 2006 would reach an estimated $423 billion, close to the record set in 2004 of $433 billion dollars and considerably higher than estimates made as recently as early last month by both the White House and the Congressional Budget Office that the budget deficit would be considerably less. Bush Administration officials had maintained that they would be able to halve the current level of red ink by 2009, a goal that appears substantially more unattainable with the latest admission that federal revenues continue to lag far behind expenses. As recently as March 3 of this year, the Congressional Budget Office was projecting a notably lower federal budget deficit for fiscal 2006: the baseline deficit for all of 2006 was projected at that time as $336 billion, but it was then revised to $371 billion in line with the President's budget projections. Adding to the evidence that federal revenues are severely and unexpectedly lagging behind expenditures, Reuters is reporting that, contrary to Wall Street economists' expectations that federal revenues would fall short of expenditures in March by about $73 billion, in actuality the deficit for March hit almost $85.5 billion, following on the heels of a record shortfall of $119.20 billion for February.

In an effort to downplay the dramatic loss of budget discipline during the past five-plus years of Republican control of the Executive and Legislative Branches of the federal government, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow in December of last year claimed that the budget surpluses in the final years of the Administration of President George W. Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, were a "mirage," pointing to allegedly "anomalous" tax revenues in the final years of the 20th Century. The numbers tell a far different story, however: the gap between expenditures and revenues had been closing throughout the Clinton Administration, ultimately culminating in revenues exceeding expenditures in both 1999 and 2000. The surplus immediately fell in 2001, and went into deficit territory the next year—where it had been for Clinton's predecessors—then growing progressively more negative every year until 2005, when the deficit shrank somewhat. With the 2006 estimate, the mounting red ink has resumed its spiral. The graphic below is a revision of one published here at The Dark Wraith Forums last December based upon federal budget figures through 2004. The graphic below updates the depiction with current data and projections provided by the Congressional Budget Office.

The fiscal discipline of the Clinton Administration is starkly evident in contrast to that of both the prededing and the successor Administrations. The surpluses of the final years of the Clinton Administration were the culmination of a long-term effort to clear out the deficits that had been the legacies of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Strikingly, as soon as the second Bush Administration took office in 2001, the hard-won gains began to vanish, and by the second fiscal budget of George W. Bush, the deficits had returned. Three rounds of tax cuts by the Republicans in Bush's first term correlate strikingly with the clear shortfall of federal tax revenues against expenditures; and in the face of what is now projected to be a near-record budget deficit for the current year, Mr. Bush is calling for making permanent the tax cuts of his first term. The graphic below focuses the previous graphic on the federal budget surpluses and deficits during the Clinton and Bush Administrations, overlaying each with its associated trendline.

Using aligned years for each Administration's budgets, the trendline for the federal budget deficits and surpluses of the Clinton Administration has a slope of approximately $69.9 billion, meaning that revenues were growing faster than expenditures by an average rate of almost seventy billion additional dollars per year during the years 1993 to 2000. The trendline for the federal budget surpluses and deficits of the Bush Administration has a slope of —$93.5 billion, meaning that expenditures have been outstripping revenues at an average rate of more than ninety-three billion additional dollars per year during the years 2001 to 2006 (with the last budget deficit as currently forecast).

The graphic at left shows the top personal marginal tax rates for the years 1993 to 2006. The three rounds of tax cuts during the first term of the Administration of President Bush are evident. After years of holding steady at 39.6 percent, the marginal tax rate paid on ordinary income by the wealthiest Americans began to slide precipitously shortly after Mr. Bush assumed office and continued to decline with successive rounds of tax cuts until the rate settled at its current level of 35 percent. In addition to the benefit of these tax rate reductions on ordinary income, taxes at the federal level on other sources of income declined, as well. As far as only the top marginal tax rates are concerned, though, for the period from 1993 to 2006 the simple correlation coëfficient between the top marginal tax bracket and the budget surplus/deficit equals 0.754. The square of the Pearson product moment correlation coëfficient for the period under consideration equals a striking 0.574. This Pearson coëfficient is frequently called "r-squared"; in the present analysis, the derived value means that well over half of the variation in federal budget deficits and surpluses over the past 14 years can be explained by changes in the top marginal tax rate on ordinary income, and all of those changes occurred during the Bush Administration, when the Republican Party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress.

The Republicans have no one to blame but themselves for the budget deficits that they, and they alone, have created. Under the Clinton Administration, the United States had recovered from the legacy of budget deficits left by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; and despite continuing claims on the White House Website with sub-titles such as "The President's Tax Relief Has Helped Spur America's Economic Momentum," the mounting budget deficits have left the United States once again falling deeper and deeper into debt, with a troublingly large proportion of the on-going shortfall being covered by foreign interests: as of the end of 2005, the external debt of the United States stood at $9.56 trillion.

If any hope can be found in this multi-year federal budget catastrophe, it is in the growing possibility that the scandals now engulfing the Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress will lead to a voter backlash at the polls in November of this year, at which time the Democrats could return to power in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Although the prospects for subsequent impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney are rather remote, the American electorate will have the opportunity in November of 2008 to remove from the White House the fiscally reckless Republicans and replace them with Democrats who can once again, as they did in the 1990s, rescue the nation from the consequences that are the consistent legacy of Republican Administrations.

The Dark Wraith will share with many other Americans the hope that our collective handbasket will not have reached its destination before that glad time arrives.

<< 39 Comments Total
 glenda blogged...

I remember a time when the Republicans were fiscal conservatives. Where does the buck stop now?

Sun Apr 16, 12:30:30 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

In China, Glenda.

The Dark Wraith can't even muster a grin as he notes that.

Sun Apr 16, 12:45:28 AM EDT  
 meEE blogged...

In China

Well said and sadly so.

The pendulum has swung about as far as can be imagined--maybe there should be a law that states if by some chance a republican does get into office he, she, it may only serve for 6 months and then a democrat must come in and clean up the fiscal mess for the remainder of the term.

Glend--remember when the house fell on the wicked witch of the east? Why aren't there more houses falling out of the sky and landing on big bad bullies?

Sun Apr 16, 03:24:34 PM EDT  
 PoliShifter blogged...

It's all that damned entitlement spending that is the problem. Thank God we have the Republicans in power to finally rein in that unncessary spending like healthcare, student loan programs, and head start. This is America not Sweden.

All these damn commie pinkos will be the end of us. How dare the Democrats want to spend $14 billion on social programs. Don't they know we have weapons to build and wars to fight?

Sun Apr 16, 04:07:12 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, PoliShifter.

Lessee, now... $18 billion on a deficit of $423 billion comes out to a savings of... Holy cow!... 4¼%!

Boy, you can't get a coupon like that at Walmart. Now, who says the Republicans aren't fiscal conservatives?

The Dark Wraith wants to hear no more nonsense about reckless spending.

Sun Apr 16, 05:05:09 PM EDT  
 PoliShifter blogged...

Just think of all that money going to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Katrina...

If those people hadn't chosen to live in Hurricane prone areas or in a bathtub like New Orleans, then by golly our current budget deficit would be 2% lower than it currently is!

Just imagine if Democrats in power...Not only would the budget be balanced but we'd have all this entitlement spending too! We can't have that, nope, not no way ever again.

Sun Apr 16, 05:12:17 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, meEE.

I was thinking about the Wizard of Oz several days ago: the black-and-white part of the movie sort of struck me as a metaphor of our era: we had our nice, colorful time; but now we've returned to the land of colorless life, drab scenery, and altogether uninteresting players on the stage.

The least the Republicans could do is have some kind of sex scandal, but noooo: it's all about money and bombs.

Cripe. I didn't know the pharmaceutical companies even made Viagra for war-mongers who can't get a good draft on for themselves.

The Dark Wraith misses the days of simple, salacious sleaze.

Sun Apr 16, 05:17:40 PM EDT  
 dread pirate roberts blogged...

some of the republican appointees are having sex scandals. the ones at the top are obviously asexual, having successfully sublimated their sex drive to an urge for war and death.

and you, DW, are just so mean and hateful to bring up actual economic data. that nice john snow has a much rosier view, even if it is fiction.