Friday, February 06, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Send in the clones.
 
2) His nickname must be Peckerhead.
 
3) Not sure I'd ever want to mess with this guy.
 
4) Why is this even news? She had her babies, they survived this long, who cares if she has 14 kids, beyond herself, her family, the biological father? Of course I have an opinion, but you know what? My opinion, along with 300 million other opinions, don't frikkin' matter!
 
5) When is a punishment not a punishment? When it's not punishing the intended target. A three month suspension in February means Michael Phelps can start racing again in the outdoor season this summer, and the international season later. It's an off year anyway in terms of international meets, and he'd probably cruise through the season in third gear anyway.
 
6) Not that I think he deserves any punishment at all, and apparently, the USAS agrees with me, but has to pay lip service to...something.
 
7) Krugman's right. Pelosi and Reid, as well as Obama, ought to man up and make this happen. In fact, if I'm Obama, the second Judd Gregg is sworn in at Commerce, I'll double-back on the deal he cut and let the NH governor appoint a Democrat. Fuck them and the horse they rode over the cliff, the Republicans.
 
8) Just in case you missed the news this morning, you probably know someone who lost his or her job recently.
 
9) Hm, I might have a future as a body double for the next governor of New Mexico.
 
10) Why is that Nigerian e-mail scam still hanging around? Maybe because it's had a ninety nine year head start!

Friday Music Blogging

video

Sort of. More like Friday Comedy Blogging,but this is a mix of the Christian Bale tirade with one of the more tired commercial tropes of the past year.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bailouts And Stimulus

A lot has been tossed about Blogospheria and Blogtopia (© Skippy) about the stimulus package passed last week in the House and under consideration by the Senate, as well as the bank bailout trial balloons.
 
The usual suspects are chiming in from both sides, angry about some such or other. From the right:

Yes, the stimulus is less than a trillion—$819 billion in the version passed by the House. But that's still a bigger total than a million a day since the first Christmas.

That's a soundbite that is going to resonate.

This is some serious bullshit that you're about to lay down and it will destroy your presidency. I'm being totally serious. What's more, it will destroy the Democratic Party's reputation as being the party that does a better job of taking care of the middle class and the poor.
First, it's interesting that the right wing has fixated on "$1 million a day since Jesus' birth" when it comes to spending on their neighbors yet have absolutely no problem in that figure being spent on Iraq, a people most of them will never meet, much less have over for dinner. It's a childish argument to make, and please, Republicans, keep making it, so we can keep hammering you about Iraq!
 
I'm guessing a small amount of economic security is worth less than some nebulous "safety from terrorism," which has to allow for that trope to be legitimate, to boot.
 
Too, the arguments from Sadly, No! with regards to the "bad bank" proposal, while legitimate, ignore the environment and history this proposal was made in. Let's take a quick look at how this is supposed to work:
The bad bank clears the toxic assets off the books of banking systems by buying them at market prices and forcing write downs by the banks. A good bad bank forces banks to write down their bad assets and cleanse their balance sheets with those made insolvent being recapitalized, nationalized or liquidated by the state. But it is equally possible to use a bad bank to buy the banks' toxic waste at inflated prices so that the bank can start lending again. That's when it becomes a bad bad bank.
The Obama proposal would buy some assets at inflated valuations, what the banks are carrying them at. Other assets would be bought at current market values, meaning the banks would take a loss, and a third class of assets would be left on the banks' books for them to worry about.
 
Here's the problem, the argument that S,N! misses: banks can only lend based on a capitalization ratio. That means, if they have $1 million in invested capital (shares outstanding), they can only lend a proportion of that capital. Time Magazine reports that the loan-to-capital ratio is currently 30-1 at some banks. That million dollars of capital produces $30 million in loans.
 
The kicker, the really nasty bit of this unbalanced scenario? Any loss is written off against the capital base. So if, of that $30 million lent, $500,000 goes bad, your capitalization is now only $500,000 and oops, you are in violation of any number of banking regulations, since you maintain $29.5 million against a $500,000 capitalization. You have to sell off some of your other mortgages in order to restore your minimum base.
 
But to whom, in a market where ALL banks are suffering the same scenario? Worse, even if you could sell off loans made, you'd end up selling off only the really good ones, the ones that have the best shot at being paid back, so now you are in even more danger of being in default.
 
Your only option is to shut down. You announce you're closing. Your depositors, at least those without insurance, make a run on you. Rumours start to pass about other banks also about to close. Their depositors take a run at those banks.
 
Soon, the entire banking system is shut down by Presidential fiat. The FDIC has to come up with...$7 TRILLION DOLLARS.
 
Suddenly, a trillion doesn't seem like such a bad idea, now does it?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I Be B.A.D.



It's that time again! Blogroll Amnesty Day or B.A.D. The day when Blogtopia (and yes, Skippy coined that word!) recognizes those who need a leg up and some exposure.

So I'm going to link to five smaller blogs than this insignificant shitty little place and mention them for kudos. I don't get around to them as often as I'd like, but I try.

1) Mad In The Middle Bob claims he's boring. He's not.

2) Debsweb Quirky. Who else would have NASA's picture of the day next to gourmet recipes?

3) Politicat Travis is a great writer.

4) Southern Atlantis The best thing to come out of Norleans since bagnettes and Cafe Du Monde.

5) Agita Diaries There are few as poetic and MandT.

Google: Big Brother

There's a fine line between informative and intrusive. Ask any celebrity. But now, it seems, we are all celebrities:
 This image was published on Google Earth (original image). It depicts Australia's Bondi Beach. If you look closely enough, as PC World points out, you can practically read the labels on the bikinis.
 
Worse than this, of course, is this new Google product:

The tracking feature, called Latitude, will appear on compatible mobile devices in a new version of Google Maps, version 3.0.0. It can also be added as a gadget on iGoogle, the company's personalizable home page service.

Google reassures us that this feature is opt-in only, but here's the kicker:

To begin sharing your location, you must either sign up for the Latitude service or accept an invitation to view the location of someone already using it.

Latitude's help pages describe the fine-grained control the service allows over who sees what, and when. For each friend with whom you choose to share information, you can give your precise location, the name of the city only, or no information at all.

Key phrases here: "accept an invitation" and "For each friend with whom you choose to share information".
 
In other words, if you're drunk one night and some intriguing contact decides to share their location with you...you know, to facilitate chat or some such...you are automatically enrolled in Latitude. Worse, everyone you know who is enrolled in Latitude will now, by default, have access to your precise location unless on a case-by-case basis, you choose to limit their access. You can't block general location services completely unless you opt out of the service or manually fix your location on a Google map.
 
Say you have G-chat, Google's chat feature. Your contacts on there will be able to precisely locate the exact address where you are, whether you are using your mobile device or your home PC. Or as Techtree puts it, you can "stalk your friends". Doesn't matter if you're home, at your girlfriend's house, at HER girlfriend's house (*winkwink*), a bar, work, playing hooky, whatever. People will know precisely where you are at all times.
 
Well, now that sucks! What's the point in that?
 
Here's the kicker: Latitude is bundled with the latest downloadable version of Googe Maps for Mobile software, which means if you want the latest mapping, you have to install Latitude, too.
 
Couple that with what appears to be the ultimate iteration of Google Earth, a live or at least near-live feed of the Earth, and your friends will get to see this.
 
Ew!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It's Only Arrogance If You're Wrong

Today's news seems to be themed. Let's scan it quickly, shall we?
 
1) He will not Blago gently into that good night:
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is lashing out at lawmakers who booted him from office, calling his removal a "hijacking."
2) Christian Bale's F-bombing:

"I want you off the f***ing set, you pr***," Bale reportedly says at the start of the audio recording, which TMZ reported was sent by the film's executives to their insurance company in case the actor didn't finish filming the movie.

"I'm sorry," Hurlbut reportedly replies.

"No, don't just be sorry. Think for one f***king second," Bale reportedly shouts. "What the f*** are you doing? Are you a professional or not?"

The man said to be Bale appears to grow angrier as Hurlbut replies to him in a calm tone, "Yes, I am."

"No, no. Am I gonna f***ing rip your lights down in the middle of the scene? Then why the f***are you walking right through, 'Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh,' in the background," the man said to be Bale, sing-songs. "What the f*** is it with you? What the f*** don't you understand?"

For the Iranian government, it is an important milestone along the road to reclaiming Persia's ancient claim to major power status, which it feels the jealous west is trying to deny it.

It is also enormously significant in Iranian internal politics. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got elected promising economic benefits for the common man and modernisation. He has made a complete mess of the first part of that mission. Delivering the second is important for his prospects of re-election in June, in the eyes of both the average voter and – even more importantly, given the controlled nature of Iranian democracy – the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

All of these items have one thing in common: central to the event is a sense of entitlement, of hubris. Of arrogance.
 
I know a little something about that.
 
We've all had our "Bale moments." We've flipped off the driver who cut in front of us, or swerved around someone in the supermarket to beat them to the express line and then argued with them when they raise the mildest objections.
 
We've all had our "Blago moments," too, trying to defend the indefensible with outlandish comments and thin-skinned objections.
 
And we've all had our "Ahmadinejad moments," where we try to recapture past glories in an attempt to re-establish ourselves as players in a game. In this instance, Iran is trying to raise the spectre of the old Persian civilization, one that was on the cutting edge of technology and knowledge, centuries ago. Who among us hasn't played a game of basketball years after our sneakers have been put away?
 
All of these (less so in the case of Iran) are pretty laughable, but mostly because the folks involved are wrong, and wrong for the wrong reasons.
 
Blagojevich wasn't impeached and removed from office for criminal convictions. He abused the power of his office, something that's fairly clear from even the minuscule evidence that was presented in the Illinois legislature. His objection that he wasn't allowed to present a defense has some merit, to be sure, but from what he's said about the witnesses, it seems he was determined to practice his defense against any criminal charges Patrick Fitzgerald was going to bring. That was a waste of time.
 
Similarly, Iran doesn't really need to send up a satellite to prove it is ready to lead once again in advancing knowledge. A simple and truly free, secular election would go a long way to proving that, an election not controlled by a fear-ridden Assembly of Experts, grasping to keep power against the samizdats of information the Iranian people have been accumulating.
 
And Bale, for whatever reason, didn't need to tear into the DP who made a simple yet ugly mistake. Having been in a similar situation myself, you turn it into a blooper reel, let the guy get his job done, and move on. Let the director handle any fall out. Keeping in mind that a few days after this incident, he was arrested in London for assault, it seems likely there's a deeper motive for this outburst.
 
Arrogance can take many forms: the arrogance of a President who pretends to know everything he needs to know before committing to war, or the arrogance of a driver who claims a parking spot as his own, even tho there's already someone waiting for it. The president might be right, he might be wrong. If he's wrong, it's arrogance, hubris. If events prove him right, then he's a leader, a genius.
 
It's a thin line that separates arrogance from genius. Again, a line I've straddled often. In no way do I intend to defend the arrogance I've noted above, but I'm proud to be considered arrogant, because it means I'm willing to step up and give things a try, and not sit on the sidelines cheering other people on, and following like a sheep. And I'll succeed much more often than not, which is why I keep trying to forge ahead.
 
It's really only arrogance when you fail epically and you don't learn from it. If you can't balance the humility of having been thrown out of office or dealing with your problems yourself rather than taking them out on others, or surrendering to the notion that perhaps your best days lie ahead, not behind, then you truly are arrogant.

Monday, February 02, 2009

All Hail Punxatawney!

Apparently, we'll have six more weeks of winter, according to Punxatawney Phil this Groundhog's day.
 
As opposed to the only 42 days we'd have left of winter if he hadn't seen his shadow (do the math). That's what Staten Island Chuck predicts.
 
Now, I suppose there's some truth to this meme. After all, the only way Phil doesn't see his shadow at the appointed time is if it's REALLY cloudly and REALLY cloudy weather this time of year in the Northeast means it's been a very mild winter, and that moisture sufficient to cause big storms has been able to accumulate in the atmosphere.
 
Which means we can probably look at the large weather patterns and say that things will get warmer in a hurry. Conversely, if the skies are clear and the sun is shining, likely the air is pretty dry because it's been cold.
 
To true calendar watchers, the first real sign of Spring's arrival is that baseball pitchers and catchers report for Spring training in ten days. That thought warms my cockles on this first Monday in February.
 
Spring of course offers such renewal that we often overlook those things in winter that point towards the coming warm: the crocus piercing the crusty snow, or the cardinals chasing each other through the branches of the apple trees in the annual mating ritual. I guess you have to be outside for those, and that's hard when it can still be bone-chilling outside.
 
And then, of course, the end of football season comes around this time each year, which is the surest harbinger that winter is waning.
 
I watched some of that over-hyped excuse of a game last night. I'd call it "football", but in truth, it was a game of Refereeing. This is precisely why I stopped watching football when the compelling story of Joe Namath's knees ran its course (save the occasional Richard Todd or Ken O'Brien game). It had stopped being the game I played as a kid, a game of innovation and execution, and had turned into "who could piss off the ref the least".
 
It reminded me of school. Or life under a Republican president. And I don't think it's a massive surprise to find that Republicans enjoy football more than Democrats. It is the ultimate expression of fascism in America, or was until Dick Cheney was VP.
 
Besides that, I don't have to call it a football game because every damned sentence out of an announcer's mouth was reminding me that it was either a football or NFL game. Think about it: what was the last sentence to come out of John Madden's mouth that didn't include "football"? "I take thee as my lawfully wedded wife"? Cuz I'll bet the next sentence was "To have and to hold, in sickness and in football health..."
 
It's, like, his "you know", you know?.
 
Seriously, guys, you can save a lot of us a lot of annoyance if you drop "football" from your vocabulary. I recall many years ago, NBC experimented broadcasting a game without announcers. It was a delight not to listen to (pick your favorite announcer) talk about how that running back carried the football or this defensive end really is hungry for the football.
 
I recommend a thousand dollar fine and fifteen yard penalty on the defensive team anytime any announcer takes it upon himself to remind us that the twenty two men wearing helmets and shoulder pads on the field are playing football.
 
Just the spectre of having Troy Polamalu beating the crap out of me after the game would be enough to keep me from ever speaking the word again.
 
Yes, the last two minutes of the game were something special...again, if you factor out the fifteen yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that the referees just had to call that had nothing to do with the play as it unfolded and could have been better handled with an immediate expulsion of the player and a hundred grand fine.
 
I worked out in my head how the game would have gone if the referees had just been disappeared. I figure the Steelers would have won 14-0 after scoring twice in the first half, and the game would have been over long before "Cash4Gold.com" (?!?!?!?!?!?!?! D-huh???) had it's Super Bowl commercial.
 
Wait....was NBC so that hard up to sell commercial time that "Cash4Gold.com" was able to buy ad time in the fourth quarter????
 
That's really all I needed to say to write this column.