Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Election judge is dumbfounded her ballot was rejected

I swear, not from the Onion, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Shirley Graham was astonished to learn that a lawyer from Norm Coleman's campaign on Tuesday blocked her absentee ballot from being added to the U.S. Senate recount.

"I'm an election judge," said Graham, of Duluth. "I expected to be the last person whose ballot wouldn't be counted."

Stay Classy, Israel

Israel "accidentally" rams three times, and almost sinks, a boatfull of doctors and relief supplies sailing to Gaza.

I see your Kennedy and raise you a gay man.

Perhaps Gov. Patterson will make an end-run around Caroline Kennedy and appoint an openly gay man, Danny O'Donnell (plus, bonus celebrity tie -- Rosie O'Donnell's brother), as Senator. Read about it here.

Geitner - Summers = Obama Economy FAIL

Oh, and Happy New Year!

The New York Times has an article, so useful, which shows precicely when Larry Summers, with his co-conspirators Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin tanked our economy.

In 1997, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a federal agency that regulates options and futures trading, began exploring derivatives regulation. The commission, then led by a lawyer named Brooksley E. Born, invited comments about how best to oversee certain derivatives. Ms. Born was concerned that unfettered, opaque trading could “threaten our regulated markets or, indeed, our economy without any federal agency knowing about it,” she said in Congressional testimony. She called for greater disclosure of trades and reserves to cushion against losses. ... In early 1998, Mr. Rubin’s deputy, Lawrence H. Summers, called Ms. Born and chastised her for taking steps he said would lead to a financial crisis, according to Mr. Greenberger. Mr. Summers said he could not recall the conversation but agreed with Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Rubin that Ms. Born’s proposal was “highly problematic.”

And then, in 2008, due pretty much entirely to unfettered derivitive proliferation, our economy tanked. The same article, mentions, delicately, that
The Wall Street debacle that swallowed firms like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and imperiled the insurance giant American International Group, has been driven by the fact that they and their customers were linked to one another by derivatives.

As to Tim Geithner, he just handed over somewhere around $320 billion to a friends' company.
Tim Geithner, former President of the Federal Reserve, has been appointed Secretary of the Treasury. He's a protégé of Robert Rubin, who is now director and senior advisor of Citigroup. Luckily for Rubin, the government has-completely coincidentally-agreed to insure Citigroup against losses of upwards $300 billion. This is in addition to an allocation of $20 billion from the $700 billion bailout package, which followed an earlier $25 billion injection. Quite an expensive coincidence.
From Laney Tower.

Perfect historical summation of the current Israel-Gaza mess

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who brokered the historic Camp David accords, arguably the most important treaty between Israel and its Arab neighbors, discusses the historic framework of the US, Israel, and Gaza; and gives a roadmap for the future, all in 9 minutes. Plus, this short clip shows pretty much everything wrong with the mainstream media. Watch Joe Scarborough make the case that because he has read the New York Times and the Washington Post he knows as much as Zbig, who, you know, WAS THERE.

As to his analysis, don't forget that Zbig is a hawk. If he says Israel overreacted, we should maybe pay attention.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pattern matching, less useful than you'd think

I've been suffering from Vertigo. When dizzy (which is pretty much most of the time) I feel dizzy, but no less intelligent than normal. This, however, is an illusion. When my ear/eyes/brain malfunctions, all the normal balance functions taken care of by the hindbrain move right up to the cerebrum, displacing things like, uh, speaking, rationality, etc. Disturbing, esp., as I can't feel it. I never feel dumber, just more miserable.

I just read an interesting article(please read) describing how people who feel less in control of their lives find more spurious patterns than those with more control. Looking at my own pattern, I feel free to suppose that those with less brainpower find more nonexistent patterns than the smarter among us. Yes, I think we're hardwired to find patterns, even when none exist. It is actual difficult work for us to determine which patterns are real and which are figments of our inborn overactive imaginations.

Why, you say? Uh, well, one totally non-scientific data anecdote. I've noticed that when I feel especially vertiginous, I assume the actions of my beloved fiancee (take a bow, Geebee), my family, and assorted souls with walk-on parts, have rather more significance (mostly negative) than warranted. That is, I see nonexistent patterns in their behavior. More specifically, I am much more difficult, more touchy, seeing slights where none were intended. Matching nonexistent patterns willy-nilly, and, as it seems to me, oh-so-cleverly. When my vertigo clears, the patterns, the significance, the pattern disappears. The actions are just people doing stuff. No global significance attached. That is all.

Love your mother, eat breakfast, have sex later. For reals.

Some things that look difficult (at least in Japan) may be simple. Daughters who like their mothers and who eat breakfast start sexual activity 3 years later (19) than those that have antagonistic relationships with their mothers and don't eat breakfast (16). Love you, Calla Lilly, Apricot Blossom, and Snapdragon.

Look, it's in an article, all sciency and everything! So, all, be loving, accepting, and stock up on instant oatmeal.

Here's the cite. See? All together now. "Love you, sweetheart; of course I trust you to be home by midnight."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

One of my favorite poems by Jack Gilbert.

(Just think, I could have posted a poem I wrote. All together now, deep cleansing breath.)

Bring In the Gods - Jack Gilbert

Bring in the gods I say, and he goes out. When he comes
back and I know they are with him, I say, Put tables in front
of them so they be may be seated, and food upon the tables
so they may eat. When they have eaten, I ask which of them
will question me. Let him hold up his hand, I say.
The one on the left raises his hand and I tell him to ask.
Where are you now, he says. I stand on top of myself, I hear
myself answer. I stand on myself like a hilltop and my life
is spread before me. Does it surprise you, he asks. I explain
that in our youth and for a long time after our youth we cannot
see our lives. Because we are inside of that. Because we can
see no shape to it since we have nothing to compare it to.
We have not seen it grow and change because we are too close.
We don't know the names of things that would bind them to us,
so we cannot feed on them. One near the middle asks why not.
Because we don't have the knack for eating what we are living.
Why is that? she asks. Because we are too much in a hurry.
Where are you now? the one on the left says. With the ghosts.
I am with Gianna those two years in Perugia. Meeting secretly
in the thirteenth-century alleys of stone. Walking in the fields
through the spring light, she well dressed and walking in heels
over the plowed land. We are just outside the city walls
hidden under the thorny blackberry bushes and her breasts naked.
I am with her those many twilights in the olive orchards,
holding the heart of her as she whimpers. Now where are you?
he says. I am with Linda those years and years. In American
cities, in København, on Greek islands season after season.
Lindos and Monolithos and the other places. I am with Michiko
for eleven years, East and West, holding her clear in my mind
the way a native can hold all of his village at one moment.
Where are you now? he says. I am standing on myself the way
a bird sits in her nest, with the babies half asleep underneath
and the world all leaves and morning air. What do you want?
a blonde one asks. To keep what I already have, I say. You ask
too much, he says sternly. Then you are at peace, she says.
I am not at peace, I tell her. I want to fail. I am hungry
for what I am becoming. What will you do? she asks. I will
continue north, carrying the past in my arms, flying into winter.

--Jack Gilbert.

This is my touchstone. I will continue north, carrying the past in my arms, flying into winter.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A slightly different take on Christmas

Leonard Cohen, live, 1967, "The Stranger."

Merry Christmas, in all its different forms.

For my friends and family in Utah .... and beyond (Hint hint CA, NY, and MA)

I'll have Bbbb---lll----ueeee Christmas without you.

It's a Blues Christmas.

There's 15 inches of snow on the ground in Portland, I missed my first vertigo appointment due to the ENTIRE CITY BEING SHUT DOWN, we've been inside for 8 days or so, but yet it's a beautiful Christmas morning. I feel better than I have in weeks. Posting has been light to nonexistent due to dizziness--real, not metaphorical. However, in this brief burst of verticality, I'll try to post a thing or two.

I hate hate hate MOST christmas music. "Most christmas music" is a handful of warhorse canonical songs that have been sung unto death. By Sting. For this post, I'll try to acquaint you with some christmas songs that you never heard playing in Wal-Mart.

First, Lightnin' Hopkins singing a song variously named "Santa," or "Santa Claus." Quite the red suit and white beard.

Here's Freddy King, having a less-than-optimal Christmas "Everybody's singing Merry Christmas, as they watch the sky fill with reindeers. I'm smiling on the outside, but inside, I'm crying Christmas tears."

And, an actual Christmas Chestnut, except it's sung by Nat King Cole, and is about chestnuts during Christmas. I, at various times in my life, have been forced to listen to to that genre terribly terribly misnamed "easy listening." Easy for some, one can only assume. Anyhoo.... every once in awhile a song would come on that I thought was not only beautiful, but all the way to sublime. They were always sung by Nat King Cole. Here's his Christmas song, probably the only standard Christmas song (I keep repeating that phrase, would an abbreviation help?) that might, perhaps, move me to tears.

Finally, Leadbelly, the man who was released from Parchmen Farm TWICE for murder, because the warden liked his singing. A lovely, sweet Christmas song. My fave. (Of the Blues.) "Children all be so happy on a Christmas day."
There's a wealth of stunning Christmas blues not available on Youtube. Assuming the world does not yet again begin to spin to fast for comfort, I'll see if I can post some of the old great Bluesmen's songs.

And, now for something completely different: Bach - Christmas Oratorio: Cantata #1 BWV248 - Mov. 1/9. I love his choir music. Actually, I love all his music, but the choir music has a special place in my heart, and this one is even seasonal!

Merry Christmas! My Christmas wish, listen to more Pogues and skip church, for the children.

First, the most beautiful Christmas song of modern times--The Pogues, live, inexplicably, on St. Patrick's day, singing "Fairytale of New York." Shane Mcgowan is a world treasure.

Second, looks like churchgoing may make you less honest. So, once a year, month, week, skip church and have fun with your kids instead!
Here is an enjoyably impudent piece of research from Innsbruck University. People were observed buying newspapers, using an honesty box to pay. They were interviewed later - so the person with the clipboard seemed unconnected with the newspaper purchase - and asked about age, occupation and attitudes. Men cheated more than women; people over 50 cheated more than the young; higher education made no difference; and by a long chalk churchgoers cheated most. This may be a statistical anomaly. But we all know one thing: religion no more makes people good than lack of it makes the rest of us bad.
From The Guardian.

And to get everyone even more in the spirit: "Christmas 1979" by Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire. Not to give the plot away, but "Merry F****** Christmas to you all."

And as a final Christmas present, yet another Pogues song, live, "If I should fall from grace from God." My youngest, Snapdragon, listening to the Pogues when she was all of, what, five? Said "Irish Punk is just like normal Irish music, only faster."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Poor Bernie Madoff, he's punished by, uh, being sent to his room/$7,000,000 home.

Bernard Madoff, accused of the largest fraud in U.S. history, will be allowed to remain in his $7 million Park Avenue apartment instead of being sent to jail, under terms of an agreement announced today by federal prosecutors. Found Here.

Words fail.

So, what's happening to those rich people that lost everything?

A view from the front lines.

More Shoe-Throwing

Bush invades Iraq for no discernable reason and causes the death of upwards of a million Iraqis.

Muntazer Al-Zaidi throws two shoes at Bush and causes no damage.

Guess which one is getting "interrogated".

I heard rumors it was Christmastime.

So, in celebration of the season, and in celebration of all things LOLcats (and beyond) I bring you A ScaryDuck Christmas; no ducks, and not scary.

Sample dialog:

Mary O'Nazareth: Hello. I am Mary O'Nazareth and I am excellent. Today, I shall be mostly visiting my boyf Joe Carpenter becoz we r very much in LUB in a proper, chaste manner. Also, I like kittens and ponies

TEH ANGLE OF TEH LORD: Hello. I am TEH ANGLE OF TEH LORD and I am excellent. Let's see if she recognises me...

M. O'Nazareth: Hello TEH ANGLE OF TEH LORD. Sup?

TEH ANGLE OF TEH LORD: Message from upstairs. U R up TEH duff. LOL

M. O'Nazareth: FTW! Will I be havng a puppy? And wait... is that a false beard?

TEH ANGLE OF TEH LORD: Errr... nothing. TEH boss say u hv 2 marry J. Carpenter and call teh baby JEBUS. LOL

M. O'Nazareth: JEBUS? Is he going to be Mexican?


and bonus:

J.Carpenter: Here's three nails, put me up for the night.
Receptionist: LOL, that's an Easter joke, sir.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Shoe Bomb This Time

At a press conference in Iraq, a citizen chucked both shoes at Bush. This is considered in Iraqi culture to be an extreme insult.
A CNN commentator declared Bush was no lame ducker.

Considering that we all have to remove our shoes to pass through airport security after the shoe bomb incident, how will this change the security protocol for press conferences. Will we be seeing barefoot journalists? Or will we design special restraints that clamp their feet to the ground? In what spectacular way can we over-react?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bubbles, all alike

The good folks at Irvine Housing Blog have created an all-purpose bubble chart. Housing bubble? Oil Bubble?

OK, here's an Oil Bubble Chart, courtesy of those fine folks at Calculated Risk.

Compare and contrast. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

GM paid $300,000. for their Christmas tree.

Really. But then again, they only want some portion of 15 Billion dollars. How much of our taxpayer money has slipped away into the pockets and under the couch cushions (oh yeah, and bonus checks) for the financials?

Don't worry everyone; Bernie Madoff has an emergency plan.

From the Madoff Securities website:

Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (“Madoff”) has created a Business Continuity Plan (“BCP”) designed to enable a rapid recovery and timely resumption of critical operations following a significant business disruption (“SBD”).

So, if you're one of the investors who lost some of that Fifty Billion Dollars (doesn't it look like more when written out?) when the Madoff hedge fund turned out to be a ponzi scheme, not to worry! There's a plan B!

How did he get away with it?

According to the NYT,
The Securities and Exchange Commission, which investigated Mr. Madoff in 1992 but cleared him of wrongdoing, appears to have been completely surprised by the charges of fraud.
The SEC also conducted two inquiries — in 2005 and 2007 — into Madoff's company, according to the AP. Ooops. Drat. Sorry.

Further, according to Bloomberg:

Maxam [Madoff's accountants] provided audited financial reports showing that the assets were held in custody at Bank of America Corp., Flatto said. Flatto said he learned this week that the reports were wrong: The assets were kept in custody at Madoff’s firm.

It's clear we have, what? essentially NO securities regulation in this country. That's quite the discrepancy. Thank you, Bush.

On a slightly different tack--Bernie Madoff admitted to the fraud and his sons turned him in. Why? Perhaps they're guilty too? And Dad saved them by sacrificing himself? Or maybe Bernie just figured his time had run out.

And look! Here's someone else, (a high-flying lawyer with his very own law firm that employed 250 lawyers, cut it out you guys!) busily swindling innocent investors! But, only of 380 million, plus another 35 million in escrow accounts. You have to understand, in an escrow account, which holds client money, misplacing a couple of hundred dollars, putting money in or taking it out at the wrong time, are all serious legal errors, which may put a lawyer's license to practice law on the line. 35 Million? Wow. Who needs that much money?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pat Boone -- Either figuring out or totally forgetting that he ever sang "Tutti Frutti"

Breaking news! Pat Boone has come out either for or against "Sexual Jihadists! " Kid ya' not. Totally Rockin' Pat! Is leather involved? How do I sign up?

What The Diddly?

After presiding over the unprecedented loss of $11 billion in assets, and the sale of the company,
Merrill Lynch & Co. chief John Thain has suggested to directors that he get a 2008 bonus of as much as $10 million, but the battered securities firm's compensation committee is resisting his request, according to people familiar with the situation.

They are only resisting paying him royally because people are watching. For too long ridiculous executive compensation has been the rule rather than the exception. It's not in the stock holders' interests to pay like this, but since it is difficult for small time investors to effect company policy, the fat cats who sit on one another's boards keep authorizing these outrageous packages.

For a long time, executives have argued that the companies need to pay top dollar to attract the very best management. Hmmmm, loosing $11 billion, that's certainly exceptional performance. I guess he is in a league with other corporate earners such as Mulally at Ford who got on the order of $28,000,000!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gettin Her Grove On!

I'm in good company......

Move over Kyoto

There is pressure on Obama to have the US join other countries in the Kyoto Treaty (and the new version of it that is being worked on) to reduce carbon emissions. Critics say that the cap and trade structure of that agreement does not work because the enforcement and regulation make it too easy to get around. Furthermore, some "progress" only exists on paper as far as reduction of CO2 goes. For example, China was planning to build hydroelectric dams, and under the Kyoto Treaty would receive carbon credits which it would be free to sell to other countries. But since China was planning to build those facilities anyway, there has really been no reduction of carbon fuel use on their part, and now some other country will have a license to pollute more.

A leading climate scientist, James Hansen of NASA, endorses a different approach: Impose a carbon tax, but distribute the revenue evenly amongst the citizenry. This offsets the economic burden of adding a new tax during these difficult times but still incentivizes reduced use of carbon fuels. The tax would increase over time to motivate people to shift over to other energy sources.

This approach would tax people with huge houses, gas guzzling cars, wasteful habits, and busy travel calendars more than people who make choices to conserve. It seems worth a shot, but since we are Americans after all, everyone will probably just keep going on as before thinking that they'll just be getting the money back anyway if most people make few changes. After all, even when we tax stupidity, people keep right on buying those blasted lotto tickets.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What foods are good for you is dependent on who you are.

A large study "with volunteers from across Europe" has shown that your specific genetics determines what type of diet is good for you. Basically, some people do just fine on a high saturated fat diet (the supposedly bad kind; the example given is Irish food), and do not have the expected health improvements when put on a low saturated fat diet (the Mediterranian diet). So eat, drink, and be merry, 'cause who knows what's going on? Me? I'm off for more sausages.

Friday, December 5, 2008

$165,000, or exactly how much it costs to put lipstick on a pit bull.

Yes, Sarah Palin at it again! This just must be habit by now, but I get a slightly guilty frisson of pleasure each time I read of her -oh-so-mock-fiscally conservative high jinks. Next, I'm guessing Moose emblazoned with Palin posters in trees.

What happened? The McCain campaign spent the princely sum of $110,000. for Sarah Palin's makeup and hairdressing, according to the New York Times, plus another $55,000 for her fashion stylist. I clearly need to change jobs. Good to know today, when we also found out that over a half million people lost their jobs in November.

The "Shatner", Updated

These garments, mirdles-----man-girdles----are being marketed ostensibly for providing lumbar support. Yeah, right. Seems more like they are for love handle containment. Or perhaps, as the model on the right seems to think, they are meant to provide extra sock storage. You decide.

In any event they help close the gap between men and women in terms of quality of life. Not the jump forward for women we all hope for, but a giant step back for men. Aahhh, progress.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wow Daddy, Wow!

I just love this kid's excitement level. His ambivalence is classic.

Encore, Encore!

Wow, an anti-Prop 8 bit that is not preachy-----even when Jesus is speaking!

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Pretty Wild

Our yard is subject to scavenging by many wild animals. Rabbits, moles, groundhogs and deer devour my plantings. Large clutches of wild turkeys perch on our deck railing. (This is exciting in a good way until you notice that they ALWAYS poop upon departure, and turkeys are big birds! You really don't want 14 turkeys pooping on your deck in one fell swoop.)

Even worse however are the animals that tamper with the garbage cans. Raccoons knock our cans over and unlatch the "tamper-proof" garbage lids. After they finish festooning our yard with edible tidbits, the skunks arrive. Evidently something keeps startling the blasted skunks, for we frequently detect their acrid essence. The crows have even gotten in on the act. One of them pecked a hole the size of an orange in one of the lids (plastic, obviously), and now they visit that can regularly and pull out tempting morsels.

But we don't have coconut crabs! (This is not photo-shopped.) These creatures live in places such as Guam, and can crack coconuts easily with their powerful claws. I sure would not care to run across one while taking out the trash. So I guess I'll quit complaining and count my blessings-----oh wait, there are fifteen friggin' turkeys!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sad news: The Complete Ubernerd passes away.

Tanta, whom we now know is actually Doris Dungey, has died of ovarian cancer at 47. These people whom we never meet, just pixillated words on a screen, can still move us. Perhaps blog posts are like the epistolary novels of the past; letters from an unknown, but probably not mythical, sender cast out into the ether. This concrete proof of her existence, I could do without.

She was the Complete Ubernerd. I suspect (and this is high praise), that she was even more boring than me. Wanna learn about finance? Go read one of her posts. I double dog dare ya'.