Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Sunday, April 7, 2013


This is an update on the crew of Newshoggers:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How Clinton Damaged Romney-Ryan

Daniel Larison thinks Clinton damaged the Romney/Ryan ticket and they have no one to blame but themselves.
Scott Galupo identifies the main strength of Bill Clinton’s convention speech:

 But the case he made against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan was devastating.

It was, and it was all the more devastating because Romney and Ryan made no concerted effort to make the case for their ticket and their agenda last week. ........... Ryan was supposed to be the presidential ticket of the “data-driven” manager and his budget wonk sidekick, and between the absence of any significant policy discussion last week and what happened tonight that has lost all credibility. Clinton outperformed both of them in terms of discussing policy details, and underscored just how meaningless the “campaign of ideas” phrase has been. Ryan fans had been convinced for over a year that the election had to be a contest over “big ideas,” and when it came time to engage in that contest their party leaders didn’t even try.
Steven Taylor thinks Clinton was correct when he said:
In Tampa, the Republican argument against the President’s re-election was pretty simple: we left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.
It appears they are running a Bob Dole rope a dope campaign thinking that not being Obama will be enough.  It didn't work for Dole and it won't work now. Steven Taylor again:
However, the Romney campaign, especially as manifested by the RNC’s messaging, is failing to do two important (and interrelated) things: 1.  Explain how Romney will do better than Obama. 2.  Explain how Romney will do better than Bush. A successful campaign needs, I would argue, to be able to say how he would do better than the incumbent, but he also needs to explain what he would do differently than the last time one of his co-partisans occupied the White House.
The "policy" discussions at the RNC were little more than Republican talking points - very little policy.   Anyone who says they are going to cut taxes, increase defense spending and balance the budget does not deserve to be taken seriously.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dangers of Supplements

By John
This article in Men's Health focuses on supplements for men, but it points to easy to exploit gaps in the regulatory safety net. I'm a self-confessed junk food freak, so I take the sting out of putting gas in the car by going in to the concession for a soft drink or a candy bar. There I see the array of generic junk being sold along with lottery tickets, tobacco products and multi-packs of beer that underscore some serious information in this piece.

Who's Spiking Your Supplements?

American men have a mania for pills and potions that can add muscle or stiffen their sex lives. Shady drug labs supply the demand—by dosing "natural" nostrums with illegal meds and hidden health threats 

By law, dietary supplements must contain at least one vitamin, mineral, amino acid, enzyme, or other substance used by the body. But a growing number of supplements have also been spiked with prescription, banned, or completely untested drugs that you won't find listed on the label. Makers of these suspect potions often claim they're confused by overlapping government jurisdictions over what is and is not legal. More often the adulteration is deliberate and criminal, carried out by sellers who want to grab a share of a $27 billion market by touting a pill that really delivers. A single product can become an instant blockbuster: Before Competitive Edge Labs discontinued M-Drol, the company's gross annual revenue totaled more than $4 million—an impressive haul for an outfit with a payroll of four. 
Products most likely to be spiked are those sold for weight loss, bodybuilding, and "sexual enhancement"—categories pitched largely to men. The labels use the word "supplement," but the capsules might contain steroids, erectile-dysfunction drugs such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra), or any of a number of weight-loss drugs, some of which have been pulled from the market over safety concerns. It's an old scam, but with the globalization of drug manufacturing and the ease of Internet retailing, your odds of coming across a tainted supplement are higher than ever.
IN 2008, BART PANESSA WAS 45 YEARS OLD and ready for a new career and a warmer climate. After making his living as the owner-operator of car washes and oil-lube garages in the New York City area, he moved to Florida and began scouting around for an Internet-based business that would be simple to run. He came across Goliath Labs, a Fort Lauderdale company selling bodybuilding and sexual-enhancement supplements, including one called Ejaculoid. 
"I just started laughing," Panessa says. "Who would ever come up with a product and call it Ejaculoid?" But the bottom line was no joke. "It was a 3-year-old company doing very well with very little effort. Sales were going up 20 to 30 percent a year." So he bought it. "I'm like, 'You know what? We have the whole world. We could advertise. We could really make a go, come up with some new products.'"
A few months later, his "formulator"—the consultant who comes up with supplement recipes—told Panessa about a brand-new sex-enhancing concoction from a Chinese supplier. Panessa tried it himself and found it delightfully effective. So he e-mailed the Chinese connection, a woman he knew only as "Kathy," for a batch, which he then encapsulated and bottled at his Florida plant. 
Panessa, a street-smart New Yorker, suspected the new stuff worked a little too well. Sexual-enhancement supplements were being recalled with disturbing regularity for containing sildenafil or similar drugs. So in July 2009, Panessa ran independent laboratory tests. To his great relief and surprise, the results came back clean. "We're thinking at this point we have the Holy Grail," Panessa says. 
Sales of Ejaculoid XXtreme were hot until July 2010, when Panessa arrived at his office to find a note from the FDA on the door. One of his shipments had been seized by U.S. customs officials at the Canadian border for containing a form of sildenafil. Panessa blanched. Not only were federal agents now after him, but he also knew his own cardiovascular problems made his use of any sildenafil-type supplement a colossally bad idea. His lab tests had missed a chemical analog of sildenafil invisible to all but the most state-of-the-art screening 
The FDA immediately posted an alert. What shocked Panessa was that a recall was surprisingly effective PR. "Our phones started ringing off the hook with people wanting it. I swear to God," he says. "I actually could have sold triple the amount just with a recall," he says. About 5,000 bottles were in the hands of shop owners and online sellers. Only about 900 of them came back. 
Consider that Panessa was on the lookout for sildenafil and still sold a spiked product. He recalls the agent telling him that "99 percent of these guys don't even do a test, period." Often it's because supplement makers are happy with the sales and don't want to know more. "Everyone wants a product that works yesterday," Panessa says. 
Dr. Cohen says some manufacturers also play a chemical version of brinkmanship, trying to make a product as close to illegal as possible without crossing the line. "We're talking about a very complicated situation where everyone is trying to replicate the actions of testosterone and put that into a pill that flies under the regulatory radar," he says. 
Competitive Edge Labs declined to comment on M-Drol through e-mail. But in a sworn deposition taken for a lawsuit, company employee John Dodd testified that he did not check whether the active ingredient was banned, because other products containing it were already on the market. He also could not recall anyone checking with the FDA to ask if the ingredient was illegal. During the summer of 2009, around the same time Heath Stevison came down with his life-threatening symptoms, the company decided to stop making the product, quickly selling off its remaining stock. 
M-Drol's ingredients came from China; drugs masquerading as supplements often have tentacles that reach into that country. And in fact, Asia is emerging as a powerhouse for legitimate, quality pharmaceutical manufacturing. Yet neither the natural-products trade associations nor the FDA have data on the proportion of dietary supplements or their ingredients that come from abroad. Nutrition Business Journal estimates that more than 60 percent of the raw materials for vitamins alone come from China, but it has no further figures. Illegal traffickers from Asia are simply capitalizing on the resources at their doorstep—and the Internet wall of anonymity. After the Ejaculoid recall, "Kathy" changed her e-mail address; Panessa has not been able to reach her since.
More at the link.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Etch A Sketch

The Economist takes a look at Mitt Romney and is not too sure what it sees.

So, Mitt, what do you really believe?

Too much about the Republican candidate for the presidency is far too mysterious

WHEN Mitt Romney was governor of liberal Massachusetts, he supported abortion, gun control, tackling climate change and a requirement that everyone should buy health insurance, backed up with generous subsidies for those who could not afford it. Now, as he prepares to fly to Tampa to accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president on August 30th, he opposes all those things. A year ago he favoured keeping income taxes at their current levels; now he wants to slash them for everybody, with the rate falling from 35% to 28% for the richest Americans.
All politicians flip-flop from time to time; but Mr Romney could win an Olympic medal in it (see article). And that is a pity, because this newspaper finds much to like in the history of this uncharismatic but dogged man, from his obvious business acumen to the way he worked across the political aisle as governor to get health reform passed and the state budget deficit down. We share many of his views about the excessive growth of regulation and of the state in general in America, and the effect that this has on investment, productivity and growth. After four years of soaring oratory and intermittent reforms, why not bring in a more businesslike figure who might start fixing the problems with America’s finances?
But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind. America won’t vote for that man; nor would this newspaper. The convention offers Mr Romney his best chance to say what he really believes.
Now The Economist is considered conservative across the pond where it is headquartered but on this side of the pond it is probably right of center.  I personally think that Romney’s only core beliefs are money and power which makes it easy to see how his flip flopping is so easy – when you don’t really believe in anything it’s easy to change your mind.  A vote for Romney is a vote for????
Now we know that Paul Ryan’s core beliefs are based on Ayn Rand’s fantasy economics.    Those same fantasy economics that Alan Greenspan was forced to recant after they crashed the world economy.
I don’t think that Obama can improve things much but I have every reason to believe that Romney/Ryan can make things a lot worse for 98% of the population.
Originally posted at The Moderate Voice.

Poisonous Vows

By John Ballard

Reader advisory: This is a Paul Ryan take-down. It is not a hit piece. I have seen and enjoyed hit pieces before and I'm not reluctant to pass them on for the fun of it. In the atmosphere of a political contest, hit pieces are like snowball fights in the winter. It's part of the spirit of the moment. But this article is serious business. Don't go there carelessly.

In His Grief and Ours Leon Wieseltier examines and explains the origins of Paul Ryan's political and economic beliefs in a way that will challenge any thoughtful supporter of the rising star and favorite son of this year's Republican Party. Mitt Romney did us all a favor picking him as his vice-presidential running mate. Had he left him in the ranks in the role of a political nuclear deterrent he might have remained under the radar until after the election. But apparently against the advice of many of his best consultants Mr. Romney exercised a political nuclear option by snatching him up to share with him the spotlights of the campaign.

I have my doubts that most committed Republican voters will either read or be influenced by this three thousand word article, but despite the length it makes basically one key point -- that Paul Ryan's economic vision and analysis derive from his response to the death of his father by embracing the views of Ayn Rand. It is not my aim here to argue for or against the Libertarian philosophy. Many keenly intelligent, well-placed people in academia, business and politics regard the writings and insights of Ayn Rand as central to their respective world views. Some may even be called purists and with them I have serious disagreement. But they are not running to become the next vice-president, the person next in line for the office in the tragic event that something unforeseen should happen to the next president. That puts Paul Ryan under a different light than the rest of the Randian crowd.

Already we have seen how smoothly Ryan can excuse any past positions by saying "...Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket, and Mitt Romney will be president, and he will set the policy of the Romney administration.” Which is okay. That is part of the skill set of any political animal and no one is shocked by that kind of rhetoric. In fact we have come to expect that to be part of the game.

It is clear, for example, that after three and a half years of observing the president cave in to the most partisan opponents in recent memory there are still plenty of critics who still conclude that he is still faking it and lying, pretending to be something that he is not. He claims to be Christian but many believe him to be Muslim. He was born in America but the birther crowd continues to be convinced otherwise. The list is endless but there is no changing minds that are already made up. He could throw every Liberal in the country under the bus but it would still make no difference. But I digress... This is not about the president. This is about Paul Ryan, the man who wants to be next in line for that job behind Mitt Romney if he is elected president in November.
According to the canonical version of his life, the death of his father when Paul Ryan was 16 taught him to despise “dependency” and to extol “self-reliance.” “It was just a big punch in the gut,” he told Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker. “I concluded I’ve got to either sink or swim in life.” He added that “I was, like, ‘What is the meaning?’ I just did lots of reading, lots of introspection. I read everything I could get my hands on.” One of the writers he got his hands on was Ayn Rand, and he fell under her foul spell. Her novels are certainly fit for adolescents; and ideology may be regarded as the intellectual equivalent of arrested adolescence.  Atlas Shrugged might have been a sin of youth, like Siddharthaand Thus Spake Zarathustra, except that Ryan never repented the sin. He learned from Rand that the road to morality led through economics. (Earlier Marx had performed the same erroneous service for other young Americans, but for an antithetical end.) “The meaning” was to be found in capitalism. The market was an allegory for life. “The moral symbol of respect for human beings is the trader,” as John Galt instructs. Self-reliance, which Ryan falsely construed as the trader’s most essential characteristic, became Ryan’s supreme ideal. In one of the strident moralistic passages, called “Erosion of American Character,” in A Roadmap for America’s Future: Version 2.0, the budget plan that Ryan issued in 2010, and that established his prominence, he assails the “safety net” (the sardonic quotation marks are his) this way: “Dependency drains individual character, which in turn weakens American society. The process suffocates individual initiative and transforms self-reliance into a vice and government dependency into a virtue.”
This sets the stage for the rest of Wieseltier's article.  Remember as you read that line -- that the road to morality leads through economics. It's true, you know. Even Jesus taught the same lesson, that one can know a lot about someone by where they keep their treasure, and by implication, I suppose, how much of that treasure they possess.  Our own Calvinist roots in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were nourished by the sure belief that the reason anyone is rich is that they are being blessed by God. And correspondingly, those who are poor must be out of God's favor and are being punished. Or at the very least, they are simply lazy and irresponsible, have made poor choices in life and don't deserve anything better than what little they have.  

Here is a sample of what's in the article. Readers can scan this list and decide if they want to read further. My guess is that most will decide to skip it and go on with their day. 
A close look at Ryan’s writings, however, shows an intellectual style that is amateurish and parochial. His thought is just a package. The distinction between an analysis and a manifesto is lost on him. 
Ryan’s mind is inadequately aerated. His intellectual universe is a conformist, like-minded universe; he gives no indication of any familiarity with, or curiosity about, thoughts and traditions that differ from his own. I am not competent to evaluate his numbers, but no budgetary expertise is required to see that his moral and political concepts are crude and sometimes weird.  
 Ryan throws around “individualism” and “collectivism” as if they are utterly transparent and self-evident terms, and as if it is 1950. The poor guy was born too late for the intellectual excitements of the cold war, so he insists upon finding them in his own lifetime by apocalyptically transposing the old antinomies onto the contemporary debate about government and entitlement. Yet the analogy between the totalitarian collectivism of the Soviet Union and the role of government in Obamacare is talk-radio stupid.  
 ...Ryan’s concept of self-reliance, the gospel of John Galt (“you are your own highest value ... as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul ...”), is devoid of all humility—it is the very vainglory against which the Bible, Ryan’s ultimate book, warned. 
And if that is not enough of a reading filter, here is one final sentence that can be used as a touchstone. For readers who understand the following sentence without resorting to Google, the article is a must read.  Others are advised to skip the link and find something lower on the Flesch-Kincaid reading scale. 
Confronted with the ineluctable role of contingency in human affairs, he prefers to respond with a hallucination of human control: with an AEI Prometheanism.

We all make vows. Our lives are governed by vows. We vow to speak truth in court and other solemn occasions. The tradition has begun to fall apart in our lifetime but the institution of marriage was based on taking vows considered sacred. People taking public office or the military, or becoming citizens or even joining private clubs take vows to remain faithful to whatever the connection, promising to internalize that vow as part of all they do in the future.

But there are also times in our lives when we make a vow to ourselves. In many ways those vows are even more durable than any we take in public. After all , public vows are influenced by others. Peer pressure and the desire to be regarded as credible and respectable heavily influence the taking of vows. But when we make secret vows there is no compelling need to keep them other than to ourselves. it is these private, personal vows that are the measure of who we are.

As children we make sense of the world around us by reconciling conflicts. Sometimes we witness or experience events that are so deeply hurtful that we take a vow: That hurts. When I have a child I'm never gonna do that to my child. Or in cases of neglect: I'll never let one of my children go hungry (or have to move away from friends, or wear ugly clothes or whatever...)  And as the years go by the vow is often forgotten but it's effect on the person's behavior endures. So we carry these childhood vows into adulthood and they become guidelines to all we do. Sometimes, unfortunately, vows become toxic. And toxic vows are not always the convictions of children. Adults are also capable of making toxic vows.  Humans are perfectly capable of taking and acting on poisonous vows in the case of cults and extremists of various types.

The good news is that we can change our minds. The adult who realizes that he has been living in accordance with some adolescent decision or vow has come upon a liberating concept.  We are provided role models who shape our behavior, but at some developmental point we become free to abandon those role models, add to them or replace them altogether. The behavior of an abusive parent is often blended with a measure of love and affection that is poisoned by substance abuse. The challenge of the child is to internalize the love without following the rest of the example. The parent who dies is frozen in time in the mind of the child they leave behind. And in the aftermath of that terrible loss that abandoned child will instinctively look for ways to cope with that loss.

But sometime between childhood and adulthood we all are faced with the reality that the generations only move in one direction. Barring unforeseen circumstances children can expect to outlive their parents and parents can expect to die while their children are still alive. As adults we learn to face the horrible reality that there are many tragic exceptions to that fact, but until we arrive at that place we will always be in pain. That pain will not vanish when we finally come to terms with the exceptions, but it will no longer have the power to distort and sometimes destroy the rest of our life.

That eternal reality is part of what St. Paul meant when he said "When I became a man I put away childish things." And one need not be a Christian to grasp the meaning of that simple statement.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gangnam Style

Posted by John Ballard
This is waaay ahead of any popular curve in the US.  And it would be a waste of time and energy to even bring it up in public during a presidential election season when the national median IQ drops to its lowest seasonal adjustment.  All I can recommend is watch the video, then go to the link.

Gangnam Style, Dissected: The Subversive Message Within South Korea's Music Video Sensation
"Korea has not had a long history of nuanced satire," Adrian Hong, a Korean-American consultant whose wide travels make him an oft-quoted observer of Korean issues, said of South Korea's pop culture. "In fact, when you asked me about the satire element, I was super skeptical. I don't expect much from K-Pop to begin with, so the first 50 times I heard this, I was just like, 'Allright, whatever.' I sat down to look at it and thought, 'Actually, there's some nuance here.'"

One of the first things Hong pointed to in explaining the video's subtext was, believe it or not, South Korea's sky-high credit card debt rate. In 2010, the average household carried credit card debt worth a staggering 155 percent of their disposable income (for comparison, the U.S. average just before the sub-prime crisis was 138 percent). There are nearly five credit cards for every adult. South Koreans have been living on credit since the mid-1990s, first because their country's amazing growth made borrowing seem safe, and then in the late 1990s when the government encouraged private spending to climb out of the Asian financial crisis. The emphasis on heavy spending, coupled with the country's truly astounding, two-generation growth from agrarian poverty to economic powerhouse, have engendered the country with an emphasis on hard work and on aspirationalism, as well as the materialism that can sometimes follow.

Gangnam, Hong said, is a symbol of that aspect of South Korean culture. The neighborhood is the home of some of South Korea's biggest brands, as well as $84 billion of its wealth, as of 2010. That's seven percent of the entire country's GDP in an area of just 15 square miles. A place of the most conspicuous consumption, you might call it the embodiment of South Korea's one percent. "The neighborhood in Gangnam is not just a nice town or nice neighborhood. The kids that he's talking about are not Silicon Valley self-made millionaires. They're overwhelmingly trust-fund babies and princelings," he explained.
[More at the link]

►And here is a comprehensive analysis by someone in Minnesota whose site has disabled the copy/paste function. (That's one way to prevent stealing content.)  For anyone really interested this is a highly recommended link.  


Bugsy and Other Good Stuff

By John Ballard
In the interest of comic relief -- badly needed as the presidential election comes closer -- here is a great link and two You Tube clips that always brighten my day when I see them.

May You Be Reunited With Your Socialist Garment Worker Ancestors

Yiddish curses for Republican Jews. Get more curses.