Archive for September, 2010


Roundup – Interviews in Plants

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Line O’ the Day:

“You might as well know right now, however, that the Tea Party, no matter how successful it is at the polls in November, will certainly betray the party of liberty. There are several reasons for this, but the fundamental one is intellectual. The Tea Party does not have a coherent view of liberty. Its activists tend to be good on specific economic issues like taxes, spending, stimulus, and health care. They worry about government intervention in these areas and can talk a good game.  But just as with old-time conservatives, there are many issues on which the Tea Party tends toward inconsistency. The military and the issue of war is a major one. Many have bought into the line that the greatest threat this country faces domestically is the influx of adherents of Islam; in international politics, they tend to favor belligerence toward any regime that is not a captive of U.S. political control.  On immigration, the Tea Party ethos favors national IDs and draconian impositions on businesses rather than market solutions like cutting welfare. On social and cultural issues, they can be as confused as the Christian right, believing that it is the job of government to right all wrongs and punish sin.  This doesn’t describe them all. A poll taken last spring divides the activists into two camps: Palin and Paul. Both groups are mad as heck at the mainstream Republican party, but only the Paul camp has broadened that anger to the government generally.” – Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., Prepare to be Betrayed [LRC]

Fire Joe Morgan Day on Deadspin:

EXTRA! EXTRA! Jeter Has Best Year Yet! [Junior]

That’s why the run is such an underrated statistical measure of a player’s value. This is so fucking backwards. When we talk about a “good” baseball statistic, we’re talking about a stat that gives you an accurate representation of how valuable that player is to his team’s success. Many, many smart people have spent years and years figuring out good statistics. Runs — just plain runs — is a terrible statistic. There’s so much goddamn noise in it it’s like a fucking Boredoms record from 1986. Again, smart people have worked to develop stats that remove that noise so we don’t have to just guess. Progress. Advancement of human knowledge. Cars.

Playing Down To Your Audience [Ken Tremendous]

The point is, I don’t really think Mitch Albom gives a shit how many people are playing fantasy baseball. I think he’s writing a faux-populist rant aimed at curmudgeonly 72-year-old people who read Parade magazine and think computers are evil machines that are trying to steal their medicine, because he, Albom, thinks there might be some grandpas out there who have not yet read Five People You Meet in Heaven (there are not) and wants them to put down their Parade magazines and pick up their day-by-day vitamin trays and say, “You know sum’im? That boy understands American values!”

Let’s Welcome Special Guest Bill Conlin As He Helps Me Criticize Bill Conlin [Junior]

[Y]ou just compared Johan Santana to Jamie Moyer and the reason you can even do that and not seem batshit insane is because of wins. Yes, Jamie Moyer has 21 wins the past two seasons. He also has an ERA+ of 86 for both years. Johan Santana has 24 wins the past two years. His ERA+s: 132 and 135. Wins are the devil and you, Bill Conlin, worship at the altar of the devil. You are a devil-worshiper.

Titties Vs. VORP [dak]

The one they’ve brainwashed into bringing their message of Sabremetric supremacy to the world. The Staturian Candidate. Fake Lord in Heaven knows we’ve written an awful lot of terrible, forced puns. (Have you heard of the new Jenna Elfman show where she works at a Goldfish factory? It’s called Snacksidentally on Pepperidge.) So what really is there to say about “The Staturian Candidate” other than: kudos, Jerry Thornton. That is some forced shit.

Is This Normal? [Ken Tremendous]

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake was observed slapping the naked ass of Joe Morgan, a 67-year-old man, who is both a professional broadcaster for a national network and a team executive. This fact is so weird and creepy, to me, that I will to ignore the fact that apparently seconds after this occurred, Leake tried to clock some Giuliani Time with a different gentleman — a teammate, it seems, who, unlike 67-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster Joe Morgan, had the decency to be wearing pants.

Where Were You (/Will You Have Been)? [Ken Tremendous]

You know who sent that message? Jeff Francoeur’s 0.0 WAR. “Fuck you, concept of good baseball!” yelled Jeff Francoeur’s 0.0 WAR, while lighting its $5 million check on fire and using it as a torch to burn down the Mets’ hopes of competing in the NL East.

Reports Of Murray Chass’s Sanity Have Been Greatly Exaggerated [dak]

Yeah, because he’s bad. He’s a bad pitcher on a good team. This is worth writing an article about? This is worth me writing an article about Murray Chass writing an article? Well…fuck. This bodes poorly for both of us.

Little Man, Gigantic Exaggeration Of His Abilities [Ken Tremendous]

I am something of a connoisseur of David Eckstein hyperbole, and I can say quite confidently that this is some grade-A hydroponic shit. “Ultimate little guy with a big heart,” “winning influence” and “dirt-stained uniform” are all par for the course — kind of hacky, actually. But “if there is no room in baseball for someone like David Eckstein, baseball will lose a piece of its soul” — man. That is gorgeous. That is a shimmering rainbow of poopguage, which is a substance you get when you combine language with poop.

It’s Gallimaufry Time! [Fire Joe Morgan]

Felix has thrown more innings than Sabathia. And his job is not to win the game. His job is to help the defense prevent the other team from winning, which he has done better than anyone. The job of winning the game comes from the offense, which is about to set a 40-year low-water mark. How in the world do you have a job?

Best of the Best:

Kashmir: Three Minutes From Nuclear War [Eric Margolis via LRC]

“In 1948, the UN Security Council ordered a plebiscite to determine if Kashmiris wanted to remain in India, or join Pakistan. India has adamantly rejected the UN resolution and insists Kashmir is a purely internal matter. Deft Indian diplomacy has managed to thwart the Kashmir dispute becoming internationalized.  The uprising, asserts Delhi, is all due to “cross-border terrorism” from Pakistan. Israel has been aiding India in its fight with Kashmir mujahidin. So the conflict has festered for 62 years – even longer than the dispute over Palestine. Further complicating matters, numerous Kashmiri Muslims are calling for an independent state and demand Pakistan return Gilgit-Baltistan (“Northern Territories” to Pakistan). Now, the Kashmir conflict can no longer be avoided. It has become part of the arc of crisis that includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and India’s violence-plagued western regions.”

The Undiscovered Particles on the Edge of Known Physics [io9]

In general, all of the particles we’re about to discuss would fundamentally enhance and perhaps alter our understanding of the universe if they were to be discovered. These particles could confirm or refute decades old theory, lay the groundwork for a grand unified theory, and maybe even bring the impossible into the realm of the possible. But let’s not get too romantic about these particles – let’s first try to understand what they might be, before we speculate about what they might do.

The Deepwater plumes are a feast for bacteria who eat natural gas [io9]

Along with tons of oil, the Deepwater leak also released massive amounts of hydrocarbon gasses like propane and ethane, which are slowly dissipating under the water. Far from “killing the oceans,” these gasses are feeding huge bacterial colonies.

How the Nielsen TV ratings work — and what could replace them [io9]

Nielsen Media Research puts boxes into about 25,000 households, and these boxes record the viewing habits of every member of the household…The company goes to great lengths to make sure that each household chosen to be among the 25,000 Nielsen households stands for a large number of other people. “We make sure that our TV households maintain what we’d consider sort of normal behavior,” and people are warned against changing their viewing habits just to make a particular show popular.  So even if you don’t have a Nielsen box in your house, you should rest assured that you’re being represented in the statistical sample, Gibs says.

Who Is Pretending To Be The Togo Soccer Team? [Deadspin]

Last week, Bahrain hosted Togo in a friendly, beating them 3-0. Then Togo’s soccer federation said they hadn’t actually sent their national team, and they didn’t know who Bahrain had just played.

Dylan Grice On What Weimar Republic Popular Delusions Can Teach Us About Japan’s Upcoming Hyperinflationary Bankruptcy [Dylan Grice via Zero Hedge]

For all I know, Keynesians might be even right in thinking policy makers can fiscally jolt economies back to life, allowing them to recover back to their ‘default mode.’ But their assumption is that ‘default mode’ is positive growth. But what if it isn’t? What if the ‘default mode’ is falling output because the population is declining? Japan might just have spent the best part of twenty years trying to fiscally stimulate its way out of a demographic compression. If this is correct, and population decline has blown the hole in Japan’s government balance sheet there’s still plenty of damage in store because the demographic compression isn’t over yet.

The Men Who Sold the Moon [Reason]

Many intelligent folk—including Vannevar Bush, the engineer often credited with first imagining widespread personal computing—thought that manned space exploration was a dumb idea to begin with. “Putting man in space is a stunt,” Bush said. “The man can do no more than an instrument, in fact can do less.” But both science fiction writers and the politicians were right: Without human astronauts, no one, neither industry nor government, could have cared enough to make space travel happen.

Glenn Beck the Socialist [Phil Maymin via LRC]

Watching Beck, I discovered the truth about him: neither those who claim him as a libertarian nor those that denounce him as a phony are right. Beck is not a libertarian; he is a deep-seated socialist. But he is also not a phony; it is so deep-seated in him that he doesn’t even realize it.

On the Advice of the FBI, Cartoonist Molly Norris Disappears From View [Seattle Weekly]

She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program—except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It’s all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon.

Fat Men Can Have Sex for Longer [Asylum]

Scientists believe the reason for this discrepancy is that the fatter a guy is, the more of the female sex hormone oestradiol he has. Since oestradiol screws with a male’s overall chemical balance, it makes him take longer to perform his most manly of functions.

Limbless Man Swims Channel [Fox Sports]

A Frenchman who lost all his limbs in an electrical accident successfully swam across the English Channel on Saturday, a challenge he spent two years preparing for, his support team said.  Philippe Croizon, 42, set off from Folkestone in southern England just before 8 a.m. (06:00 GMT) and arrived on the French coast just before 9:30 p.m. (07:30 GMT), propelled by his specially designed, flipper-shaped prosthetic legs.

The No. 1 Sports Team Franchise on Facebook is … Who? [BNET]

It’s … Turkey’s Galatasary SK, with 4.5 million fans. Most people reading this won’t have heard of Galatasary, which even in soccer is only the 16th most popular team by fans. Yet somehow Galatasary has bested Man Utd, FC Barcelona, the Yankees, and the Cowboys in terms of social media friending.

Writing, Peter King. You Need Help With It. [Big Daddy Drew on KSK]

Randy Moss has a mad-on… Did Peter just suggest that Moss has an anger boner? I like this new, edgier Peter.

Many Are the Errors [Raghuram Rajan via The American]

Clearly, Fannie and Freddie did not originate subprime mortgages directly—they are not equipped to do so. But they fueled the boom by buying or guaranteeing them. Indeed, Countrywide was one of their largest originators of subprime mortgages, according to work by Ed Pinto, a former chief credit officer of Fannie Mae,4 and participated from very early on in Fannie Mae’s drive into affordable housing.

The Great Divergence: Private Investment and Government Power in the Present Crisis [Robert Higgs on The Independent Institute]

The greater part of gross investment consists of what the statisticians call the capital consumption allowance, an estimate of the amount of money that must be spent simply to offset wear and tear and obsolescence of the existing capital stock. In a country such as the United States, with an enormous fixed capital stock built up over the centuries, a great amount of funds must be allocated simply to maintain that stock. In recent years, the private capital consumption allowance has ranged from $1.29 trillion in 2005 to $1.46 trillion (in constant 2005 dollars) in 2009. Thus, even in the boom year 2006, about 60 percent of gross private domestic investment was required merely to maintain the economy’s productive capacity, leaving just 40 percent, or $889 billion in net private domestic investment, to augment that capacity.  From that level, net private domestic investment plunged during each of the following three years, taking the greatest dive between 2008 and 2009, when it fell to only $54 billion (in constant 2005 dollars), having declined altogether by 94 percent from its 2006 peak! Last year only 3.5 percent of all private investment spending went toward building up the capital stock. Thus, net private investment did not simply fall during the recession; it virtually disappeared.

Munger Tells 25 Million Americans To “Suck It In”, And To “Thank God For Bank Bailouts” As BRK Benefits From $95 Billion Of TARP Funding [Zero Hedge]

Nowhere in  Munger’s ridiculous hypocritical ramblings does the old man mention that it was precisely the same currency debasement, wanton money printing and incipient hyperinflation that created Adolf Hitler out of the failed Keynesian experiment that was the Weimar Republic. Just as nowhere does he discuss his massive conflicts of interest that would have bankrupted the billionaire should the equity in banks have been wiped out, and Berkshire’s holdings, together with its multi billions bet against the S&P, would have wiped out the firm, its shareholders and its management.

Political Earthquake Shakes Up Sweden [Stephen Castle on The New York Times]

Though the success of the center-right suggests a long-term shift in politics, analysts say Swedes remain deeply attached to their welfare system and want change to be gradual, not radical.

Dirty Power Struggle Could Backfire on Medvedev [Der Spiegel]

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has made no secret of his desire to get rid of Moscow’s strong-willed mayor, Yuri Luzhkov. The power struggle is threatening to split the pro-Kremlin United Russia party and could leave Medvedev with egg on his face.

Voodoo Economics Of the Silver Screen [Josh Barro via RealClearMarkets]

A new report out Saturday from the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency looked at that state’s film tax credit program — the country’s most generous — and found that even under the most optimistic assumptions, tax receipts driven by new economic activity barely offset 10% of the cost of awarding film tax credits. It estimates that the $125 million Michigan will spend on film credits in FY10-11 will generate just $13.5 million in new tax receipts, for a net fiscal cost of $111.5 million.

India’s Kashmir challenge [M.K. Bhadrakumar via The Hindu]

India’s regional policy, too, finds itself at a crossroads. The cementing of the U.S.-Pakistani axis in Afghanistan cannot but affect Indian interests and it leaves a lousy feeling of being let down by the Americans. However, it should be left to historians to dispassionately judge whether the Americans really did lead the Indians up the garden path. Or, was it a matter of the Indian diplomacy having been needlessly supine in the critical years between 2001-2006? If you submit as a doormat, others are bound to see you that way.

The End of the World as We Know It?  I Doubt It [Dom Armentano via LRC]

Will things be booming in 2012? I doubt it. But I don’t think that we will be eating berries or baking our own bread (unless we want to) or paying $100 for a quart of milk (or 6-pack of beer). One caveat. If the Middle East blows up, all bets are off.

Caged: Drug Gang Parrot Lorenzo The Lookout [Sky News]

A parrot that Colombian police claim was trained to act as a lookout for a drugs gang has been caged in the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla.

Goodfellas: Getting Made The Scorsese Way [Gentlemen’s Quarterly]

Madonna seemed to be in the mix [for the role of Henry’s wife, Karen]. I remember that we went to see her in the play Speed-the-Plow. Marty said hello to her afterwards. There was definitely somebody somewhere wanting to cast her. Can you imagine? Tom Cruise and Madonna? But Marty can get a performance out of almost anyone.

The Culture of Violence in the American West: Myth versus Reality [Thomas DiLorenzo via The Independent Institute]

In contrast, an alternative literature based on actual history concludes that the civil society of the American West in the nineteenth century was not very violent. Eugene Hollon writes that the western frontier “was a far more civilized, more peaceful and safer place than American society today” (1974, x). Terry Anderson and P. J. Hill affirm that although “[t]he West . . . is perceived as a place of great chaos, with little respect for property or life,” their research “indicates that this was not the case; property rights were protected and civil order prevailed. Private agencies provided the necessary basis for an orderly society in which property was protected and conflicts were resolved” (1979, 10).  What were these private protective agencies? They were not governments because they did not have a legal monopoly on keeping order. Instead, they included such organizations as land clubs, cattlemen’s associations, mining camps, and wagon trains.

Swiped: America’s Most Stolen Products [Minyanville]

[T]here’s an army of professional thieves walking off unnoticed, stashing millions of dollars in retail goods. Meat is stuffed under skirts. Razor blades are loaded into “boost” bags. Baby formula is taken and resold to unwitting parents or to eager drug dealers who use the powder to cut cocaine.

Escaping Double Dip Still Means No Relief for Jobless [Bloomberg]

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company has “to figure out how to deal with what is an ever-increasing amount of transactions being paid for with government assistance…“You need not go farther than one of our stores on midnight at the end of the month,” Simon said. “About 11 p.m. customers start to come in and shop, fill their grocery basket with basic items — baby formula, milk, bread, eggs — and continue to shop and mill about the store until midnight when government electronic benefits cards get activated, and then the checkout starts.”

Other Whimsy:





Any opinion expressed here is my own and not that of the firm which employs me.  Under no circumstances should writings or links on this website be taken as a solicitation for an investment or as investment advice.  These topics and commentaries are, whole and entire, for entertainment and discussion purposes only.


Roundup – NYPD Recruitment With Will Ferrell

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Line O’ the Day:

“Religion might be part of the particular motivation of every major side in the wars and terrorism of today, but it is the secular religion of collectivism, the civic religion of statism, that is most philosophically responsible for all this violence, and that has allowed people to reject their own religious teachings not to kill the innocent for what they have convinced themselves is the pursuit of the greater good. Utilitarianism and materialism and the worship of the worldly, not the spiritual, are the main problem here.” – Anthony Gregory,Mosques, Book Burnings, Collectivism and War Worship [The Beacon via The Independent Institute]

Best of the Best:

Fidel Castro says Cuban model no longer works [Reuters]

Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly magazine, wrote in a blog that he asked Castro, 84, if Cuba’s model — Soviet-style communism — was still worth exporting to other countries and he replied, “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

Taxes: What People Forget About Reagan [CNN Money]

So, despite his public opposition to higher taxes, Reagan ended up signing off on several measures intended to raise more revenue…Two bills passed in 1982 and 1984 together “constituted the biggest tax increase ever enacted during peacetime,” Thorndike said.  The bills didn’t raise more revenue by hiking individual income tax rates though. Instead they did it largely through making it tougher to evade taxes, and through “base broadening” — that is, reducing various federal tax breaks and closing tax loopholes.

Bedbugs Bad for Business? Depends on the Business [New York Times]

The costs of coping with bedbugs are significant, and they are not covered by most insurance policies because they are seen as a maintenance issue. Hiring bedbug-sniffing dogs, which is considered the most effective detection technique, costs about $250 for a 1,200-square-foot retail store and as much as $10,000 for a million-square-foot department store.

Dear Government: Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Handicapped! [Greg Perry via LRC]

It is my contention that if ADA advocates were honest – and they are not – they would require every handicapped person in the country to carry firearms.  I cannot make a fist like you normal people can. I can’t defend myself the way you normal people can. So having a firearm would make it more fair and fair is the ADA advocate’s favorite word. But you know the same people who love the ADA hate firearms. More accurately, they hate citizens who have firearms. So the ADA will never fight for handicapped people’s right to defend themselves.

Dear Summer, Please Go And Die [Big Daddy Drew’s Thursday Afternoon Dick Joke Jamboroo on Deadspin]

If you’ve ever played football (or any fall sport, for that matter, but I associate it with football because that was the fall sport I happened to play), you’d recognize that smell. Smells like clipped grass mixed with condensation mixed with OH FUCK YEAH FOOTBALL WOOHOO GODDAMN RIGHT BITCH!

5 Weird “Captain Planet” Episodes You Probably Don’t Remember [Arkard via Uproxx]

It seems that there is this kid who looks like a dopier version of Tobey Maguire and he gets infected with the HIV virus. It‘s implied that he got it from a blood transfusion but the doc does not fail to mention other fun ways of contracting the virus are bareback sex and sharing needle drugs. Keeping with the high level of class “Captain Planet” has always been known for, when word spreads out that Tobey is HIV-positive, he actually gets chased by an angry mob and decides to live in a cabin in the swamps…

US soldiers ‘killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies [The Guardian]

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

Tylenol Mouse-Bombs of Death Attack Snakes of Guam from Helicopters [BoingBoing]

The test took place in the forests around the US Naval base there last Wednesday, to combat proliferation of a non-native snake species: the brown tree snake. Expired mousies are stuffed with acetaminophen, like so many teensy drug mules. Their cute little bodies are strapped to pieces of cardboard and plopped from helicopters. The snakes can’t resist these tasty aerial hors’doeuvres, but acetaminophen is deadly to these snakes.

The buying and selling of legal marijuana [David Harrison on Stateline]

The Oakland County incident highlights a legal conundrum at the heart of many states’ marijuana laws. In seven of the 14 states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes, registered patients are allowed to grow their own supply or designate somebody as their grower. Michigan is one of those states. But the Michigan law is silent on how patients or their providers are supposed to begin growing an otherwise tightly controlled drug.

America the Exceptional [Glenn Greenwald on Salon]

But we invade, occupy and destroy Iraq — while severely abusing, torturing and killing their citizens — and then demand, as a condition for our allowing the end of crippling sanctions, that they fork over hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to American torture victims, even though it all happened 20 years ago, under an Iraqi regime that no longer even exists.  They hate us for our Freedoms.

Muslims and Islam were Part of the Twin Towers’ Life [New York Times]

Leaping down the stairs on Sept. 11, 2001, when he had been installing ceiling speakers for a reinsurance company on the 49th floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam had a brief, panicked thought. He didn’t see any of the Muslims he recognized from the prayer room. Where were they? Had they managed to evacuate?  He staggered out to the gathering place at Broadway and Vesey. From that corner, he watched the south tower collapse, to be followed soon by the north one. Somewhere in the smoking, burning mountain of rubble lay whatever remained of the prayer room, and also of some of the Muslims who had used it.  Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.

Obama wins the right to invoke “State Secrets” to protect Bush crimes [Glenn Greenwald on Salon]

In a 6-5 ruling issued this afternoon, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Obama administration a major victory in its efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review, when the court upheld the Obama DOJ’s argument that Bush’s rendition program, used to send victims to be tortured, are “state secrets” and its legality thus cannot be adjudicated by courts.

Oil From the BP Spill Found at Bottom of Gulf [ABC News]

Professor Samantha Joye of the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, who is conducting a study on a research vessel just two miles from the spill zone, said the oil has not disappeared, but is on the sea floor in a layer of scum.

Remembering the US Soldier Who Committed Suicide After She Refused to Take Part in Torture [The Nation]

The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been “reprimanded” for showing “empathy” for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: “She said that she did not know how to be two people; she…could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.”

Day One At Dink Inc.: A Woman Begins Her Odyssey Through Sports Gambling’s Underworld [Beth Raymer via Deadspin]

Robbie J. blew me a kiss. My heart swelled with pride. In girly cursive, I wrote the bet neatly onto a ticket and tossed it to Dink. For the remainder of the evening, the three of us unwound. We pushed the boxes of leftover pizza to the side and stretched our legs over the banquet table. Otis slept at my feet, surrounded by empty two-liter bottles of Coca-Cola. It was like a Norman Rockwell portrait of a family, but instead of bowed heads and palms in prayer, we rooted for the Bucks to hit a three.

The Hemline Index [Baardwijk & Franses of the Econometric Institute via The Big Picture]

Urban legend has it that the hemline is correlated with the economy. In times of decline, the hemline moves towards the floor (decreases), and when the economy is booming, skirts get shorter and the hemline increases. We collected monthly data on the hemline, for 1921-2009, and evaluate these against the NBER chronology of the economic cycle.  The main finding is that the urban legend holds true but with a time lag of about three years. Hence, the current economic crisis predicts ankle length shirts around 2011 and 2012.

How Much “Success” Can the Afghans Stand? [Nick Turse via TomDispatch via LRC]

Almost 10 years of U.S. and allied occupation, development, mentoring, reconstruction aid, and assistance has taken the country from unbearably dismal to something markedly poorer.  And yet even worse is still possible for the long-suffering men, women, and children of Afghanistan.  As the U.S. war and occupation drags on without serious debate about withdrawal on the Washington agenda, questions need to be asked about the fate of Afghan civilians.  Chief among them: How many more years of “progress” can they endure, and if the U.S. stays, how much more “success” can they stand?

Man Vs. Machine: How the Crash of ’87 Gave Birth To High-Frequency Trading [CNBC]

A small coterie of savvy investors smelled an opportunity. Since the SOES trades were automated, meaning they received almost instant execution, and were given priority ahead of the rest of the market, a fast-moving trader could move in and out of stocks using SOES at a far-more rapid clip than large investors, generating big profits

Government Using Anti-Terrorism Laws to Crush Dissent [Washington’s Blog]

And a 2003 FBI memo describes protesters’ use of videotaping as an “intimidation” technique, even though – as the ACLU points out – “Most mainstream demonstrators often use videotape during protests to document law enforcement activity and, more importantly, deter police from acting outside the law.” The FBI appears to be objecting to the use of cameras to document unlawful behavior by law enforcement itself.

Whimsical Pursuits:






Any opinion expressed here is my own and not that of the firm which employs me.  Under no circumstances should writings or links on this website be taken as a solicitation for an investment or as investment advice.  These topics and commentaries are, whole and entire, for entertainment and discussion purposes only.


Roundup – Protecting Rights in the Shadow of Terror

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Line O’ the Day:

“How far can [the current Depression] go and how long will it last? Dude, if I knew that, I would already own the Raiders and move their training camp to Denver just to piss off the Bronco faithful.” – Todd Harrison, The “Us” vs. “Them” Depression [Minyanville]

Best of the Best:

Here Are The Discovery Hostage Taker’s Insane and Retarded Demands [Warming Glow]

Until we get more developments, let’s sift through Lee’s demands.  His crazy, crazy demands.  The short version: he hates ‘filthy human children,’ ‘parasitic human infants,’ war, civilization, and immigration.  Likes: forest animals.  Buckle up for a long, crazy ride.

The Winner (Loser?) Of The Absolute Worst Masturbation Story [Jezebel]

For anyone who read with mounting sympathetic horror the triple whammy of Ken Doll + Pliers + DAD, it’ll come as no shock that “Ken” swept this field…beating out inadvertent performances, magnolia buds, clueless toddlers and lascivious stuffed animals.

China and India: A War of Giants [Eric Margolis via LRC]

In spite of million-man armed forces and nuclear weapons, India feels increasingly threatened by China’s rise. The Indians know full well that China expects obedience from its neighbors. Even a small border clash between these two assertive giants could light the fuse of a broad and very frightening conflict. The scramble for oil and gas offers ample causes of yet more conflict in Central Asia and even the Gulf, where today America rules supreme.

U.S. drones to watch entire Mexico border from September 1 [Reuters]

The U.S. government will have unmanned surveillance aircraft monitoring the whole southwest border with Mexico from September 1, as it ramps up border security in this election year, a top official said on Monday.

Exhaustive San Fran Fed Study Finds That, Gasp, Immigrants Are Good For The Economy [Giovanni Peri via the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco via ZeroHedge]

The U.S. economy is dynamic, shedding and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. Businesses are in a continuous state of flux. The most accurate way to gauge the net impact of immigration on such an economy is to analyze the effects dynamically over time. Data show that, on net, immigrants expand the U.S. economy’s productive capacity, stimulate investment, and promote specialization that in the long run boosts productivity. Consistent with previous research, there is no evidence that these effects take place at the expense of jobs for workers born in the United States.

Samsung’s Rebounding Lee Sees Product Crisis With Surging Sales [Yoolim Lee on Bloomberg]

In the past decade, Samsung Electronics has rocketed past Sony Corp. as the largest maker of flat-panel TVs. It has edged out Hewlett-Packard Co. in color laser printers that scan, fax and copy. It’s also the biggest in other technology-dependent areas such as liquid-crystal-display TVs and computer monitors. No. 2 in mobile phones, Samsung is pushing the Galaxy S smartphone to challenge Apple Inc.’s iPhone and narrow the gap with leader Nokia Oyj. Samsung claimed a 22 percent global mobile-phone share in the first quarter, up from 14.4 percent in 2007, when it overtook Motorola Inc., market researcher Strategy Analytics says.

Dozens detained at anti-Kremlin rallies [Reuters]

Putin robustly defended police crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in an interview published Monday. “Go without permission, and you will be hit on the head with batons. That’s all there is to it,” he said.

Venezuela hunger striker’s death angers Chavez foes [Reuters via Yahoo!]

A Venezuelan farmer who died after a hunger strike to protest President Hugo Chavez’s land takeover policies was denied his own doctor and has become a symbol for the oppressed, his mourning family said.

AGL Electricity Account [27b/6]

During school holidays when I was about ten, I attempted to construct a robot from household appliances which included a blender, Atari 2600 and Vacuum cleaner. My intention was to have it completed before the holidays ended so that it could accompany me to school and kill Bradley McPherson who had stolen my Casio calculator watch. After realising that the project would entail actual engineering knowledge and being told to “clean up that fucking mess in the shed”, I instead told everyone at school that Bradley’s mum had told my mum that he had been born with both a penis and a vagina and had to wear special underpants to keep the two separated.


Hunter S. Thompson wrote “Football Season Is Over” at the top of his suicide note. The end of football season was, for him, a convenient time to check out of life via gunshot. It is not hard to understand why: looking out the window in February, when the whistle has sounded and big men pour into physical rehab or the bars for the winter, is bleak as hell’s backyard no matter where you are. Up north there is snow, more snow, and grey cottony skies blocking the sun for months at a time. Down south the trees spit their leaves, and half of the mid-South looks like the back of a porcupine’s ass. In Florida, the snow birds pace the sidewalks like bedraggled death-herons lurching from one cafeteria to the next. It may be the most macabre of all scenarios, but you wouldn’t believe it until you see it.

“Bubbling” Tricks Your Mind To See Anyone Naked [Gizmodo]

A legend born: A young Mormon, forbidden from looking at porn, discovers a way to Photoshop safe-for-work bikini shots in such a way to let his mind fill in the blanks. It’s not porn if it’s in your brain.

Why Saving Is Right and Economists Are Wrong [Jeff Harding via Minyanville]

Examples of economic Newspeak flourish, especially if you listen to President Obama’s economic team. My favorite example is the present conflict between consumer spending and consumer saving. Since the crash, consumers have cut back on spending and are increasing their savings. Most economists are saying this is bad for the economy; they urge us to spend, spend, spend to save the economy. Actually, it’s just the opposite: Saving is the road to recovery.

Student Loan Debt > Credit Card Debt ? [Jess Bachman via The Big Picture]

Do Student Loans Make Eduction Affordable? You just assumed they did. It turns out to be a far seedier picture, if you ask College! Jess Bachman, who did several of the fantastic illustrations for Bailout Nation, turns his attention to this infographic of the scam that is Student Loan collections.

Dick Fuld’s Fantastic Revisionism ! [Barry Ritholtz on The Big Picture]

The fantasy world inhabited by Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld was given a surprisingly sympathetic ear from an unexpected forum yesterday: The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. This is a deeply disturbing development, as it leads to the unfortunate suspicion that the FCIC does not have the slightest clue as to the causes of the housing collapse, recession and and market crash.

Abandoned boats litter waters in tough economy [USA Today]

In the San Francisco Bay Area, as many boats were reported abandoned by the Coast Guard in the first quarter of 2009 as in all of 2008, says Deb Self, executive director of San Francisco Baykeeper, an environmental group. The number of eyesores, many of them leaking fuel and chemicals, continued to grow this year, from 64 in February to 76 this month, even after 12 boats were hauled away, Self says.
Philly requiring bloggers to pay $300 for a business license [Beltway Confidential on Washington Examiner]
After dutifully reporting even the smallest profits on their tax filings this year, a number — though no one knows exactly what that number is — of Philadelphia bloggers were dispatched letters informing them that they owe $300 for a privilege license, plus taxes on any profits they made. Even if, as with Sean Barry, that profit is $11 over two years.

The Persistence of Red State Fascism [Anthony Gregory via LRC]

There are many on the tea party right who can be reached, but they must abandon conservatism to become reliable opponents of the regime. So long as they retain the baggage of nationalism – perhaps the worst of all forms of tribalism and collectivism – and cling to their reactionary culture war, they will continue to be unreliable allies at best, losing sight of the state that enslaves us all, or worse, petitioning it to expand its power and crack more skulls so as to protect their sense of cultural and national identity.

Palestinian Opinion: A Turn to Pragmatism [David Pollock via RealClearWorld] and Attitude Factors in the Search for Israeli-Palestinian Peace: A Comprehensive Review of Recent Polls [Alvin Richman on World Public Opinion]

As Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas prepares to begin peace talks with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington this week, two just-released Palestinian polls offer some promising news, at odds with the tragic echoes of last night’s Hamas terrorism in Hebron. Until now, much of the media has speculated about Palestinian popular opposition to the negotiations. But the two new polls, taken separately in the first half of August, show that the people of the West Bank and Gaza are now swinging solidly behind compromise positions on several contentious core issues.

Iran’s Next President? [Meir Javedanfar on The Diplomat]

Yet confidence is a reflection of how you see yourself, and based on that—no matter what others think of him—Ahmadinejad acts as if he wields genuine power. It’s this perception of himself that has presumably prompted him to embark on a mission that many would see as far too ambitious for a leader of his standing: grooming his successor. The decision as to who will be Iran’s next president is, of course, ultimately up to Khamenei. But this doesn’t seem to be preventing Ahmadinejad from having a go at choosing him. And who does he have his eye on to succeed him? His first choice seems to be his former first vice president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai.

U.S. Soldiers Film Themselves Pranking Iraqi by Planting a Grenade In His Trunk [Gawker]

A reality TV show that pranks celebrities by planting fake bombs in their cars is causing a stir in Iraq. But a couple months ago, U.S. soldiers filmed themselves planting a live grenade in an Iraqi’s trunk as a “prank.”

Why Sarrazin’s Integration Demagoguery Has Many Followers [Der Spiegel]

That, in fact, is the first of three big questions the book has raised: In what country are we living? After the 2006 World Cup, it seemed that Germany had become cheerful and cosmopolitan. But the popular approval of Sarrazin leads us to question whether there isn’t an underlying xenophobia after all…The second question the debate raises concerns the current state of affairs. Is Sarrazin right when he claims that the integration of Turks and Arabs has largely been a failure?…The third question has to do with the relationship between the political and journalistic class with the rest of the country. Do citizens feel abandoned on the question of integration? Or, asked another way, does Germany have a fertile breeding ground for the kind of populist right-wing party that is already par for the course in many European countries?

China and India: Contest of the century [The Economist]

China has officially become the world’s second-biggest economy, overtaking Japan. In the West this has prompted concerns about China overtaking the United States sooner than previously thought. But stand back a little farther, apply a more Asian perspective, and China’s longer-term contest is with that other recovering economic behemoth: India. These two Asian giants, which until 1800 used to make up half the world economy, are not, like Japan and Germany, mere nation states. In terms of size and population, each is a continent—and for all the glittering growth rates, a poor one.

Boom in state credit may endanger Brazil ratings [Reuters]

State banks accounted for 42.2 percent of Brazil’s credit market in July, up from 34.4 percent in September 2008 — when the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the global crisis.  BNDES alone is now responsible for 21 percent of overall financing in Brazil. In 2009, it lent about $75 billion (48 billion pounds) — nearly twice as much as the World Bank during that period.”This is creating a clear imbalance in the market, in which the state (banks) can expand without the risk of going broke, because they’ll always have the government as the guarantee of last resort,” said Rafael Guedes, managing director of Fitch Ratings agency in Brazil.

Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds [Michael Lewis via Vanity Fair]

The Greek state was not just corrupt but also corrupting. Once you saw how it worked you could understand a phenomenon which otherwise made no sense at all: the difficulty Greek people have saying a kind word about one another. Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying to myself, “What great people!” They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing. Lacking faith in one another, they fall back on themselves and their families.  The structure of the Greek economy is collectivist, but the country, in spirit, is the opposite of a collective. Its real structure is every man for himself. Into this system investors had poured hundreds of billions of dollars. And the credit boom had pushed the country over the edge, into total moral collapse.

Guest Post: Primer #2: Is there a housing bubble? and Guest Post: Primer #3: The Dangers Of Mass Psychology (Or Why Overwhelming Majorities Are Always Wrong) [Ben Rabidoux of Financial Insights via ZeroHedge]

As you can see, we are dealing with a two standard deviation event.   Based on rents, homes are 60% above their long term intrinsic value.  Truly shocking! Finally, let’s look at home ownership rates.  They are at historic highs (now breaching the 70% level, above the level the US experienced prior to its crash).  You need a steady supply of new home buyers to keep the real estate game going.  So it begs the question of who will be the new buyers.  You may be prone to say that immigration will be our short-term salvation.  I would beg to differ.  Net household formation in Canada is running at 175K per annum. That includes imigration [sic] and ‘organic’ household formation. Currently housiung [sic] starts are running at +200k per annum. It’s not hard to see that there is oversupply in the pipeline for the near-term future.

ESPN’s ‘Tyson & Tupac’ doc reveals regrets [The Hollywood Reporter]

When Mike Tyson looks back on his friendship with Tupac Shakur, he thinks about the rapper’s big heart, explosive anger — and the one regret he has about their relationship. ‘He always wanted me to smoke weed with him, and I never did it, and I wish I did,’ Tyson said in a recent phone interview.

Whimsical Pursuits:


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Any opinion expressed here is my own and not that of the firm which employs me.  Under no circumstances should writings or links on this website be taken as a solicitation for an investment or as investment advice.  These topics and commentaries are, whole and entire, for entertainment and discussion purposes only.

The Paradox of the Zero Bound

OBR – Ensemble Casts: Mean Girls (2004)

Somebody mentioned a while back (probably FilmDrunk) that of the ensemble cast of 2004’s Mean Girls, it was arguable that Lindsay Lohan, easily the most famous prior to the film, was the least successful following it. There is a couple ways to answer that: ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, possibly profit earned by subsequent films starring each of the main actresses.  Such measures does suffer from a bias inasmuch as it leaves out any television roles for the actors or actresses, but it would be marginally informative on just how everyone is doing.  Better than going on how many nude scenes everyone has filmed since (Tim Meadows IS Demetri Blackulus in Mushroom Stamp; never happened but let’s be honest, The Ladies’ Man wasn’t far off, which, unsurprisingly, took 11% as far as RT was concerned).

Ensemble casts themselves don’t always work out well; there are often movies that toss a panoply of actors into a mix without any discernible plan (or plot).  Even a classic film can fall prey to the tendency: The Blues Brothers actually came dangerously close to losing itself in cameos but was saved by the strength of its leads and the overall inspired mayhem of the film.  All too often, a film houses an ensemble for the ensemble’s sake.  The much stronger effect arises, quite obviously, not so much from a movie designed for an ensemble but a well rounded cast designed to fit the demands and flow of the film.  Mean Girls, whether you like the movie or not, had an ensemble that molded well to the interactions of its characters.

Mean Girls was one of those films that played constantly on HBO or Showtime when I had access to those channels for a brief period of time a few years ago.  Lindsay Lohan’s tits brought you to the table and the movie was good enough keep the fork and knife in your hands.  Perhaps the most disturbing fact was that, with a cast is a murderers row of hotness spanning Lacey Chabert, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, Lohan, Lizzy Caplan and Tina Fey,  everyone except for Fey plays a student and their ages run (at the time of filming):

Fey: 34

McAdams: 28

Chabert: 22

Caplan: 22

Seyfried: 19

Lohan: just under 18

GOO!  Apparently Lohan being a sex-symbol in the film was a little bit over the wall to PervLand (where the oompa-loompas wear no pants).  No matter.  Here’s how the core of cast made out, post-production.

Rotten Tomatoes Score (click to enlarge):

Profit per Screen (Domestic; click to enlarge):

None of the members exactly made out like bandits, but Lohan hitting a brick wall in 2008 sticks out as she was easily the most well known when Mean Girls itself was filmed (despite being the youngest).   McAdams is probably the most respected at this point, although box office receipts are hardly guaranteed by her presence.  Seyfried has perhaps been the most risque (other than Lohan’s actual life) with her turn in Chloe that featured multiple sex scenes including a lesbian scene with Julianne Moore.

Beyond McAdams, the remainder have all appeared on television, with Chabert doing the bulk of very unsung work (in addition seven separate films that received no tomatometer rating).  The strongest television performances though came from Lizzy Caplan, who did 19 episodes of “Related“, six episodes of HBO’s delightful trashfest “True Blood” (in which she killed a vampire, went topless–somewhat of a prereq for actresses on this program–and was killed off via being strangled by a serial killer while high on vampire blood), and 20 turns in “Party Down“.  This ignores of course Fey’s writing and starring in 81 episodes of the award winning “30 Rock“.   Fellow SNL alum Amy Poehler went on to front “Parks and Recreation“, good for 52 episodes so far, and a series of shit caked flicks, the exception being Blades of Glory (RT: 69%), opposite Will Ferrell, Jon Heder and her husband Will Arnett.

The male actors in the film, namely mainly on Jonathan Bennett, Rajiv Surendra and Daniel Franzese, have basically done jack and shit since, .  They weren’t terribly memorable in the film itself either.  Tim Meadows, the best known of the fellas, has shown up in punch bowl turds like Semi-Pro (RT: 20%) and The Benchwarmers (RT: 12%), although Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story had some redeeming value (and a stunningly high RT of 74%).

Perhaps not a win all around for the Mean Girls‘ ensemble, but definitely a strong showing.  Well, if Lohan gets off the sauce and poppers.

Any opinion expressed here is my own and not that of the firm which employs me.  Under no circumstances should writings or links on this website be taken as a solicitation for an investment or as investment advice.  These topics and commentaries are, whole and entire, for entertainment and discussion purposes only.


Roundup – A Very Special Episode

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Line O’ the Day:

1. Alabama: Oh hey, look who’s numero uno. It’s Orange Satan and his little fiefdom of tardbilly mouthbreathers. I liked the Tide much better back in the old days, when Mike DuBose was bending receptionists over his desk. I don’t need the state of Alabama to have any pride whatsoever. They should never be allowed to feel good about themselves. What the fuck do you half-human mongoloid overall-wearing chimps have to be proud of? Congrats, your team finally won another title last year. That means you are now one year closer to Nick Saban bolting for Michigan and leaving you to pick up the pieces of your pathetic, awful, and empty lives, the kind of pointless existence that makes membership in the Aryan Nation all but an inevitability.” – Big Daddy Drew, The 2010 Hater’s Guide To The Top 25 [Deadspin]

Best of the Best:

The Remains:


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Any opinion expressed here is my own and not that of the firm which employs me.  Under no circumstances should writings or links on this website be taken as a solicitation for an investment or as investment advice.  These topics and commentaries are, whole and entire, for entertainment and discussion purposes only.