01/10/2012 archive

My Misspent Youth

Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll.

The rest of it I just pissed away.

Players Roll the Dice for Dungeons & Dragons Remake

By ETHAN GILSDORF, The New York Times

Published: January 9, 2012

“There is something fundamental to the D&D role-playing game that answers a need for people,” said Mike Mearls, senior manager of Dungeons & Dragons research and development – that need being telling your own heroic story.

Still, a new edition could backfire, if the changes requested by hard-core fans can’t be reconciled or if players believe the company is merely paying lip service to their concerns. Nonetheless the company remains “absolutely committed” to the core tabletop game-play, Ms. Schuh said. “People want that face-to-face experience.”

Certainly committed players will remind you that tabletop role-playing games still outperform computer games in one key arena: improvisation. Video games have limits. Some dungeon doors can’t be opened because a programmer didn’t code them to open. Dungeons & Dragons remains a game where anything can happen.

Gone steadily downhill since the introduction of the Bard and the elimination of the Assassin as a counterweight to the Paladin.

Twilight Bloodstone

Re-arranging the Deck Chairs

Glub, glub, glub.

The new WH Chief of Staff and Citigroup

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012 4:58 AM Eastern Standard Time

(T)he 2008 financial crisis is the new Iraq War: it does not matter how prominent a role someone played in enabling it, or how much they profited from it, or how centrally they were part of the corrupted machinery that brought it about. If they have the right ideology and good standing in Washington circles, all is forgiven and they do not suffer any consequences at all, even reputationally. Indeed, not only is it no impediment to their advancement, but it’s actually an asset.

The General Accounting Government Accountability Office this week issued a report criticizing the Treasury Department for incomplete and misleading press releases designed to make the results of the TARP program look better than reality warrants. In particular, “GAO’s analysis of Treasury press releases about specific programs indicate that information about estimated lifetime costs and income are included only when programs are expected to result in lifetime income“; “however, press releases for investments in AIG, a program that is anticipated to result in a lifetime cost to Treasury, did not include program-specific cost information.” In other words, Treasury loudly touts in its Press Releases when it makes money from TARP, but excludes the losses.

For his work at Citigroup, work that included betting on the housing collapse, Lew received a salary of $1.1 million. After Citigroup received its $45 billion taxpayer bailout, Lew – two weeks before joining the Obama administration – received another $900,000 from Citigroup as a bonus. This was revealed only in 2010; in 2009, when Lew first joined the administration as a State Department official, both he and the administration refused to say if he had received a post-bailout bonus from Citigroup (at the time, there was a huge political scandal over Wall Street executives receiving large bonuses despite needing taxpayer bailouts). There’s certainly nothing illegal about betting on a housing market collapse, but it’s quite symbolic that those who made millions of dollars from the crisis are now running government policy.

Lew (like so many key Obama officials) also participated in the orgy of Wall Street de-regulation that took place in the 1990s when he served as Clinton’s OMB head; after leaving Citigroup to join the Obama administration, he unsurprisingly said in response to questioning from Sen. Bernie Sanders that he does not believe deregulation contributed to the financial crisis.  The New York Times today says that Lew “has built a reputation as a pragmatic liberal who believes Democrats must compromise with Republicans on long-term deficits in order to forestall draconian cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein was a bit more blunt: Lew “has emerged as one of the members of the Obama administration Republicans prefer working with.” Whatever else one might want to say, Lew, a fairly standard-issue Democrat with less of a “centrist” reputation than Daley, is a perfect fit for this administration.

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

Pew Research Center

May 4, 2011

(A) growing number of Americans are choosing not to identify with either political party, and the center of the political spectrum is increasingly diverse. Rather than being moderate, many of these independents hold extremely strong ideological positions on issues such as the role of government, immigration, the environment and social issues.

Independents have played a determinative role in the last three national elections. But the three groups in the center of the political typology have very little in common, aside from their avoidance of partisan labels.

Using a statistical procedure called cluster analysis, individuals are assigned to one of the eight core typology groups based on their position on nine scales of social and political values – each of which is determined by responses to two or three survey questions – as well as their party identification. Several different cluster solutions were evaluated for their effectiveness in producing cohesive groups that are distinct from one another, substantively meaningful and large enough in size to be analytically practical. The final solution selected to produce the political typology was judged to be strongest from a statistical point of view and to be most persuasive from a substantive point of view. As in past typologies, a measure of political attentiveness and voting participation was used to extract the “Bystander” group, people who are largely not engaged or involved in politics, before performing the cluster analysis.

Based on your responses, YOU are a…   Solid Liberal!

(h/t Susie Madrak)

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Robert Reich: How a Little Bit of Good Economic News Can Be Bad for the President

Two years ago the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent. Now it’s 8.5 percent. At first blush that’s good news for the president. Actually it may not be.

Voters pay more attention to the direction the economy is moving than to how bad or good it is. So if the positive trend continues in the months leading up to Election Day, Obama’s prospects of being reelected improve.

But if you consider the number of working-age Americans who have stopped looking for work over the past two years because they couldn’t find a job, and young people too discouraged even to start looking, you might worry.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Austerity for Dummies: The 3-Minute Guide to a Bad Idea

“I feel stupid,” someone said the other day. “I consider myself well-informed, but I have no idea what the term ‘austerity economics’ really means.”

Actually it’s not that complicated, and most of the lesson plan can be found in today’s headlines.

We’ll explain austerity to you in six steps, and we promise it it won’t take more than 900 words. Since adults read an average of 250-300 words per minute — and we know all of you are above average — our little course shouldn’t take more than three minutes.

Dean Baker: Will Romney Lie His Way to the White House?

Mitt Romney seems ready to wield his version of birtherism as a major weapon in the fall campaign against President Obama. In his standard stump speech he tells audiences that President Obama wants “to replace our merit-based society with an entitlement society.” According to Romney, this means a European-style welfare state that redistributes wealth and creates equal outcomes regardless of individual effort and success.

That’s pretty strong stuff, but of course this doesn’t sound anything like the President Obama who many of us have come to know and criticize. After all, this is the guy who got the top Wall Street bankers and told them that he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks. And, according to Ron Suskind, he assured them that he would hold his ground.

John Nichols: No Longer a Party of Lincoln: The Racial Politics of the New GOP

The Republican Party, founded by militant abolitionists and the political home through much of its history for committed foes of segregation and discrimination, has since the late 1960s been degenerating toward the crude politics of Southern strategies and what former Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater referred to as the “coded” language of complaints about “forced busing,” legal-services programs, welfare and food stamps. But the 2012 campaign has seen this degeneration accelerate, as the candidates have repeatedly played on stereotypes about race, class and “entitlements.”

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum told a crowd of supporters: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

Richard Dreyfuss: Hawks Hysterical Over Pentagon Cuts

To no one’s surprise, the military-industrial complex and its allies are pushing back against the Obama administration’s plans to trim some fat at the Pentagon.

The big boys-namely, the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Defense Industrial Association and the Professional Services Council-co-wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warning that even Panetta’s modest efforts to slow defense spending could lead to catastrophe. Panetta’s proposed $480 billion reduction might fatally undermine the defense industrial base, the letter warned, and it added that they expect further cuts in years to come.

Noting that the Congressional supercommittee’s failure to reach an accord might trigger another $600 billion in defense cuts, the three industry heavyweights said, “Even if the trillion-dollar ‘doomsday’ scenario is avoided, respondents were operating under the assumption that, based on past history, more cuts would be added on top of the $480 billion over the next decade.”

Dan Savage: Rick Santorum’s homophobic frothing

The Republican candidates now vying to be most anti-gay will find they’re on the wrong side of American voters in November

Alfred Kinsey famously – and, as later studies seemed to prove, erroneously – reported that 10% of the American population was gay. For decades, the American gay rights movement celebrated and pointed to the Kinsey Report; “1 in 10” and “10%” were popular gay rights slogans when I came out in the 1980s. But later research would show that our numbers were smaller. A recent study conducted by the Williams Institute at the University of California found that 3.8% of adults in the United States were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Just as gay America once celebrated Kinsey’s 10% figure, America’s religious conservatives/extremists celebrate these newer, lower estimates. They argue that the LGBT community is so tiny – just 9 million Americans, according to the Williams Institute – that our calls for civil rights protections and full civil equality shouldn’t be taken seriously. Rights, they implicitly assert, should be awarded only to minority communities that have attained some sort of critical mass. (The Williams Institute’s estimates, for the record, are believed to underestimate the size the LGBT community, just as Kinsey once overestimated it – people lie about their sexual orientations; how do you control for the closet; what about LGBT children, etc.)

On this Day In History January 10

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 10 is the 10th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 355 days remaining until the end of the year (356 in leap years).

On this day in 1901, a gusher signals start of U.S. oil industry

A drilling derrick at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont, Texas, produces an enormous gusher of crude oil, coating the landscape for hundreds of feet and signaling the advent of the American oil industry. The geyser was discovered at a depth of over 1,000 feet, flowed at an initial rate of approximately 100,000 barrels a day and took nine days to cap. Following the discovery, petroleum, which until that time had been used in the U.S. primarily as a lubricant and in kerosene for lamps, would become the main fuel source for new inventions such as cars and airplanes; coal-powered forms of transportation including ships and trains would also convert to the liquid fuel.

Crude oil, which became the world’s first trillion-dollar industry, is a natural mix of hundreds of different hydrocarbon compounds trapped in underground rock. The hydrocarbons were formed millions of years ago when tiny aquatic plants and animals died and settled on the bottoms of ancient waterways, creating a thick layer of organic material. Sediment later covered this material, putting heat and pressure on it and transforming it into the petroleum that comes out of the ground today.

(emphasis mine)

There had long been suspicions that oil might be under [“Spindletop Hill.” The area was known for its sulfur springs and bubbling gas seepages that would ignite if lit. In August 1892, George W. O’Brien, George W. Carroll, Pattillo Higgins and others formed the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company to do exploratory drilling on Spindletop Hill. The company drilled many dry holes and ran into trouble, as investors began to balk at pouring more money into drilling with no oil to show for it.

Pattillo Higgins left the company and teamed with Captain Anthony F. Lucas, the leading expert in the U.S. on salt dome formations. Lucas made a lease agreement in 1899 with the Gladys City Company and a later agreement with Higgins. Lucas drilled to 575 feet (180 m) before running out of money. He secured additional funding from John H. Galey and James M. Guffey of Pittsburgh, but the deal left Lucas with only a small share of the lease and Higgins with nothing.

Lucas continued drilling and on January 10, 1901, at a depth of 1,139 ft (347 m), what is known as the Lucas Gusher or the Lucas Geyser blew oil over 150 feet (50 m) in the air at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day (16,000 m3/d)(4,200,000 gallons). It took nine days before the well was brought under control. Spindletop was the largest gusher the world had seen and catapulted Beaumont into an oil-fueled boomtown. Beaumont’s population of 10,000 tripled in three months and eventually rose to 50,000. Speculation led land prices to increase rapidly. By the end of 1902, over 500 companies were formed and 285 active wells were in operation.

Production began to decline rapidly after 1902, and the wells produced only 10,000 barrels per day (1,600 m3/d) by 1904. On November 14, 1925, the Yount-Lee Oil Company brought in its McFaddin No. 2 at a depth of about 2,500 feet (800 m), sparking a second boom, which culminated in the field’s peak production year of 1927, during which 21,000,000 barrels (3.3 GL) were produced. Over the ten years following the McFaddin discovery, over 72,000,000 barrels (11.4 GL) of oil were produced, mostly from the newer areas of the field. Spindletop continued as a productive source of oil until about 1936. It was then mined for sulfur from the 1950s to about 1975.

America’s first documented oil spill

You know it’s bad when Meteor Blades has to go to another blog and do damage control.


The Contentious Debate on Ron Paul Among Progressives

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Monday January 9, 2012 5:01 pm

There’s something deeply bothersome about the way which Raw Story executive editor Megan Carpentier misquoted Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald in a post published at The Guardian on January 8 that was titled, “Ron Paul’s useful idiots on the left.” What she did was no different than what someone with a news organization like Fox News might do to form the basis for a news story designed to further transform someone into a person that deserves to be hated and ignored.

Link added, but op.cite

Now, you might be saying, what does it matter? Why recount this argument? Why not let it remain another clash between two progressives worth forgetting? And, because it involves GOP candidate Ron Paul, this is a waste of time. Paul is anti-reproductive rights, a gay-demonizer, a candidate opposed to public education and Social Security, a favorite congressman of the John Birch Society and someone with links to the Constitution Party, which promotes Christian Reconstructionism. That is all fair. But, that lets progressives condemning whom they call “useful idiots” off the hook.

Why is it so difficult for progressives to concede the basic point that Ron Paul’s presence in the race, the fact that he is polling second in many states and has been a part of primetime debates, means many Americans are exposed to talk about war, civil liberties (excluding reproductive rights and marriage equality) and national security and this raises their awareness and understanding of these issues?

Why does this point immediately become construed as anything more than this basic point, one where there should be no argument? Here’s why.

Progressives refuse to concede that Obama is that poor on these issues or that Paul is in fact genuinely antiwar or for individual liberty. Somehow, as Ben Adler of The Nation argues, his views against reproductive rights make the views he expresses on all other civil liberties issues insignificant.

(T)he back-and-forth on Paul exposes how presidential elections are a complete sideshow for the 1% or the powerful lobbies in Washington. The election industrial-complex limits voices and choices. It renders candidates, like Buddy Roemer or Gary Johnson, “unpeople” the moment it looks like they no longer have momentum, the instant they look like they have no chance of winning. They do this immediately to people constantly spouting off views that seemingly threaten the establishment. They will even do it to someone like Paul who has actually gone up in the polls in New Hampshire (see this report from CBS’ “The Early Show”).

Did I mention Naked Capitalism is now a Bircher site?

What else would you expect from people who claim all criticism of Barack Obama’s policy failures are racism.

C’thulhu fhtagn.