Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Billy Mays had heart disease?

The only reason I question this conclusion from the medical examiner is that he had been scheduled for an elective hip surgery on the Monday (yesterday) after he died. A 50 year-old man would routinely get an EKG during any preoperative evaluation and I would think that severe heart disease would have shown up. Perhaps not.

Regardless, it is a sad event.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Carlos brings the crazy

Maybe non-Chicagoans wonder why the Cubs-Sox series is such a necessary event, especially with both teams languishing under .500, several games out of first place; watching either team is not unlike seeing a chipmunk struggle against the current during a downpour. Cruelty is hardly ever entertaining....

... except when the Cubs come to the Cell.

When the Cubs lose, they never do it with dignity, and goddam if that isn't funny. Barrett punches Pierzynski instead of tagging him out. The Cubs blame their fans when they lose. And in game 1 at the cell we had Milton Bradley getting kicked out of -- not the game-- but the dugout, by his own manager!

Even with all this comedy, occasionally a ballgame breaks out. How can a Sox fan resist watching this train wreck year after year? This year we had Bradley, sure, but you knew that wasn't the apex of the asininity... no, for that we needed to wait til Sunday: for Captain Carl, the King of Crazy, whose body of work speaks for itself.

With the bases loaded and the game on the line Sunday, the Cubs picked up a steal sign and Zambrano pitched out to the catcher, Geovany Soto. But the errant throw went too far outside with the ball traveling all the way to the back stop, and Getz scored for the Sox.

Instead of mitigating his error, Zambrano compounds it by deliberately hitting the next batter, Dewayne Wise, out of frustration. Cue Keyboard cat. Needless to say, the Cubs unraveled and their only threat was later squelched by the cool defense of the Sox. John Danks appropriately plunked a Cub in the next inning, and the Sox went on to win the game and the series, with their pride intact. Even I have some empathy for Lou, who apparently needs babysitting skills in addition to baseball skills.

I wonder if being a Sox fan would be as much fun if we didn't have the Flubbies 8 miles away for contrast.

BIlly Mays' final pitch [UPDATE]

I can almost hear it...

"Billy Mays here for the CT scan! If you hit your head and it keeps on achin', get a CT scan! Mental status changes are no problem for the CT scan. It scans, it pans, it looks in your melon. Focal neurologic deficits? Lethargy? Check out your noggin after the floggin'... suitcases, hammer punches, baseballs... don't take a chance, just ask to be radiated. Look for midline deviation, hematomas and tumors...with the CT scan. Take it from me, Billy Mays!"

Sad, really, because this was likely a treatable cause of death in a young man.

At left, a subdural hematoma.

UPDATE June 30th:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cub fan: Priceless

1. One bleacher seat purchased on Stubhub: $60

2. Ryne Sandberg Cubs' jersey: $45 (1984 dollars)

3. Regis Salon hair gel: $18 for 6 oz. tube

4. Two beers: $15

5. Getting your nuts cracked by a Chicago cop moonlighting as Wrigley security in front of 33,000 Cubs faithful: Priceless

Baseball Weekend: Sox host Cubs

Yup, the White Sox - Cubs interleague weekend never disappoints. So, in honor of the event, I'll give a few links to drink by:

1. Green shoots in Soxdom. Jared Mitchell, the Sox' #1 draft pick this year, was voted Outstanding Player as he led his LSU Tigers over the the Texas Longhorns in the College World Series.

2. After they stop serving beer in the 7th inning, just ask Cubs catcher Geovany Soto for a hook-up: man's prolly got some wicked weed...

3. ...which might also explain Lou Piniella's more mellow demeanor...

4. Ex-White sox player Steve Lyons brings the stupid as Dodgers' broadcaster. (I heard this interchange live during the game and sat slack-jawed.)

5. Ozzie Guillen: "Ramirez not as good as me." True dat. Is the manager eligible for the 25-man roster?

6. Just being a Cub isn't enough of a disgrace? No, I guess not #1. No, I guess not #2.

7. Alright, some gratuitous "Cubs suck" stuff.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Public option in health care

Robert Reich answers the critics of the public option:

Read it here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

White Sox need Quality at-bats

Last night was yet another crappy display of offense by the White Sox, yet another night where some second-rate opposing pitcher gets nine strikeouts and looks like Cy Young.

I realize that the Sox are a young team and some guys are just plain struggling to get their bearings in the big leagues, but Brian Anderson is a disppointment. If he cannot hit big league pitching, then he needs to change something: his stance or approach, or something. He needs to concentrate on making contact, and maybe a bunt now and then can get him on base, especially with his speed. The same goes for Getz and Beckham; small ball could get some baserunners. Last night, we had only two baserunners (one was Konerko's home run) before the ninth inning and not one bunt attempt. Anderson stood there with his bat on his shoulder looking at strike three like he didn't even see the pitch.

Jim Thome is a tool. He is just there to hit as many home runs as he can before he's inducted into the Hall of Fame-- even when just a baserunner is needed for the team. Last night, he's up with a man on and the Sox are down three runs with Konerko, who had already hit a dinger earlier, on-deck. So what does Thome do? Instead of spraying one to left field --which is left uncovered-- to get on base, he swings for the fence... and strikes out. Tool. Heck, Mark Buerhle would make a better DH.

It's not just the outs, it's the quality of at-bats. Koruda, the Dodgers starter, had not had a win since opening day and last night he looked like he was ready for the All-Star game. The Sox had very few quality at-bats, swinging at crap and looking at strike three. If something is close, foul it off!

The fact that the White Sox are still in the hunt for the division is pure luck for being in the worst division in baseball. This is not a good team. Their pitching and fielding are mediocre (although the rookie Beckham is a pleasant addition and Anderson, as dismal as he is at the plate, is an excellent center fielder.)

My recommendation would be to unload all the dead weight before the trade deadline and concentrate on getting a younger team for the future. Maybe someone would want Thome, a National League team who might need a designated hitter for the World Series, or an American League team with a righty DH who could be platooned. Dye, as much as I like him, is a free agent at the end of the year, 35 years-old and still valuable for a trade. Contreras could help someone in a pennant race, even if it's from the bullpen. Play Anderson every day for the rest of the season and if he can't hit over .270, trade him in the off-season; keep Podsednik in right field after Dyes's gone and move him to center for next year.

I'll keep watching, but games like last night make my brain hurt.

Idiot of the day.

No, it's not Governor Sanford... what he does on his time is his own damn business. The media of course run to the titillation like moths to a flame.

Today's ass-hat is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has stated Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke "engaged in a cover-up and deliberately hid concerns and pertinent details ..."

I'm with Warren Buffet who says Bernanke has done a superb job and took decisive action when it was needed. If Rep. Issa has other information, then he should bring it forward or just STFU.

I'm not really sure I could be as patient as Mr. Bernanke has been with such frivolous accusations from brainless morons.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

GOP Iran Solution

Tom Tomorrow:

Is Hannity Insane?

Okay, okay, I apologize for using the "Cavuto"... so I'll answer the rhetorical question: Yes, and this is just one small reason why Fox News is toxic waste.

Then, of course, there is Shep Smith-- the proverbial one-eyed king reigning over the land of the blind.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Did Al Gore invent the Iranian revolution?

One other thing that has occurred to me is the power of the internet in such crises. Imagine if we had twitter and youtube during Tianamen square.

And the Authoritarian Fear wing of the GOP fought the Gore Senate bill in the early 90's that opened up ARPA into the World Wide Web. Instead they used that meme to savagely pillory Gore during the 2000 election with the false accusation that he said he "invented" the internet.

The availability of such outlets are tantamount to the printing press... which brought on the first assault against authoritarianism. (Eric's Thomas Paine references made me think of it.)

Obama's perfect Iran gambit

The drama in Iran has heightened the rancor of domestic politics. The Sunday morning shows were replete with militarists from John McCain and Charles Grassley to none other than Bibi Netanyahu decrying the President's weak stance on the violence in Iran. And if one were to venture over to the right wing blogs or twitter, they would be greeted with all manner of disrepect for Obama's handling of the international affair.

McCain more recently praised the President's latest statement that called for an end to "all violent and unjust acts" in Iran, but earlier McCain had said "This is not just an Iran issue, this is an American issue. This is what we are all about...", echoing his blatantly misguided "We are all Georgians now" pablum from 2008.

Likewise, Sen Grassley and former Sen Fred Thompson were on separate Sunday morning shows stating that "we must do more" but neither offered specifics.

Here's my take. Obama's speech in Cairo a few weeks ago was the perfect gambit to our interactions with the Islamic world. This is indeed an "Us versus Them" scenario and the Us comprises moderate and liberal forces in every country and among every religion. The "Them" is made up of extremists, and every nation has them. The moderates can unite only so far as to show solidarity to promote self-determination and human rights, but revolution must come from within the nascent democracies themselves.

That speech in Cairo can be compared to Reagan's Brandenburg Gate speech where he implored Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." But Reagan did not deploy US troops to tear down the wall, rather the support emboldened the citizens to seize their own moment. Likewise, Iran is at a critical stage in their development as a nation and we should allow this to play out . This is their revolution, not ours.

Diane Feinstein has been eloquent in her opinion that we should leave our fingerprints off this event. The British and French have deflected most of the disdain coming from the Teheran oligarchs, and we should keep it that way. The US' sordid history with Iran leaves us with no political capital to expend one way or the other in Iran. One of the few things that could derail the democracy movement in Iran would be the US's support for that movement.

I would venture to guess that the only entity less popular with Iranian democrats than the murderous regime now in power there is likely the US government, remembered for barbarous policies and meddling for more than 40 years in Iran.

Obama's got it exactly right. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Iran is but one despotic regime and it's demise can be celebrated in due time. The work needs to be done by the Iranians and any action by the US-- at this particular time-- would be counter-productive.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obama's health care plan knocked by his own doctor

Forbe's has an article about Barack Obama's personal physician from Hyde Park in Chicago who apparently takes issue with the President's solution to the health care crisis. This, of course, has the right-wing media outlets and blogosphere all a-twitter.

The ironic thing is that Dr. Scheiner, who had taken care of Obama during his tenure at the University of Chicago Law School, feels that the President does not go far enough in displacing the free market with a government-run health care system.

Scheiner thinks that a good health reform would be "Medicare for all," a single-payer system where the government would cover everyone and pay for it by cutting out waste in the system...

...He thinks that Americans have been scared into believing that they will lose the coverage they already have if a public plan is created. And he worries that nobody cares about the 50 million uninsured. "I have people who have lost their jobs and come to me and I give them drug samples," he says.

Scheiner says he thinks that Obama probably sees the virtues of a single-payer system but has decided it would be politically impossible to create one.

FWIW, I could not agree with Dr. Scheiner more.

Electric airplane

No more fossil fuel necessary. Read the story here.

I'm not sure where the stewardess sits.

James Fallows

Friday, June 19, 2009

Froomkin Fired from WaPo

Truly stunning.

One more vocal, coherent, articulate voice is silenced.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Morning Snark: hypocrisy

Sen John Ensign (R-NV), conservative, born-again Christian, Promisekeeper, homophobe... has admitted to an affair with a staffer and states that the only reason he made the admission public is because she (yes, it was a woman!) was trying to extort money from him.

Ensign says he is resigning from his #4 Republican leadership role in the Senate. I didn't know there were even 4 Republicans left in the Senate.

If he were to follow his own advice, he'd resign from the Senate altogether.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Scarborough: Asshat of the day

Talking this morning Joe Scarborough took issue with Leon Panetta's assertion that Dick Cheney "almost wishing for" another terrorist attack. Mika Brzezinski made the salient point that if Cheney really was concerned, he should have called the President, the NSA, Homeland Security, etc for a private meeting and there is no evidence that this was done. But to bring unfounded concerns to the public without pursuing solutions is "not right."

Panetta said: "...It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."

Almost (Merriam-Webster): adv. Slightly short of; not quite; nearly.

Scarborough did the usual smirk, and after interrupting Mika twice then concluded that the former Vice-President was not required to pursue a private meeting because the President's "supporters" called him "evil" at one time. Case closed, Cheney is right and Panetta is wrong.

Here's my take:

1) I have never heard Obama or any of his cabinet call Cheney evil (although I personally believe he is-- look up the definition of "evil" and the Biblical references-- but my opinion is irrelevant). Many Bush and McCain "supporters", heck even the Vice-Presidential candidate Palin herself intimated that Obama was a terrorist, or at least "palling around with terrorists"; among other things too numerous and silly to even mention. Did that relieve Obama of common courtesy, not to mention pursuing national interest?

2) Panetta did not say Cheney wanted the US attacked, he said the it "almost seemed" (Cheney was looking for another attack. Well, it does "almost seem". Cheney has been mouthing off about this fear ever since 9-12-2002 and has never shut up, and apparently he never will.

3) We will be attacked again, that's a fact based on history. It may be an embassy, an army barracks, or even the homeland, because it happens with fair regularity... and Cheney-- and Scarborough-- will be there to say "I told you so." Thanks.

Macroeconomic and Sentiment review

Here is the latest video from my investment adviser:

He is scheduled to "debate" Dennis Kneale on Friday. (Past performance is no guarantee of future results.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dick Durbin: World's Worst Inside Trader

The next big thing out of the right wing noise machine is sure to be the recent revelation that Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat, made two stock transactions after meeting with Treasury Secretary Paulson on September 19th regarding the banking crisis. Durbin reportedly sold $116,000 in mutual fund shares and bought Berkshire Hathaway B shares, the fund run by Warren Buffett.

To be sure, it does smack of capitalizing on information and trading public issues on isider information. Any applicable laws shoudl be exercised and any ill-gotten gains should be re-paid, with appropriate fines. Let's see how Sen. Durbin likely did. Against the S&P 500, Berky B trailed and against the Fidelity Balanced Fund, a steady eddie of stocks and bonds, Buffett and Durbin got smoked.

This is further proof how inept an educated person can be even when handed top shelf information. Rumor has it Durbin's great grandfather was buying shares of buggy whip makers the day Ford Motor Company went public.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tech-driven Economy?

The Holy Grail of clean energy is the car battery.

Watch this video.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Newt Gingrich: adulterer,

hypocrite, newly converted Catholic, on his third wife (former mistress), did I say hypocrite?... and he cannot even get the Constitution right.

At a recent church visit:  "I am not a citizen of the world," said Gingrich... "I am a citizen of the United States because only in the United States does citizenship start with our creator."

Newt... Go.  Away.  You're embarassing yourself.

(h/t Glenn Greenwald)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Faber: House of Cards

I remember watching David Faber's (at right) CNBC Special House of Cards in February and becoming quite depressed at the time. Tonight I watched it again and have to say that the depression has been replaced by a new sense of outrage.  The reporting is excellent, for which Faber deserves an Emmy nomination to be sure.  

Alan Greespan's smirking and smiling were difficult to take, but his answer to one Faber question in particular elicits overt anger.  Faber asks if perhaps Greenspan should have felt some obligation to maybe at least look at the loans being accepted by banks as Triple A rated to see if they were legitimate... because, after all, he was the nation's central banker and banks were buying subprime mortgage-backed securities (MBS's) at an alarming rate.  Greenspan says: 
“If we tried to suppress the expansion of the subprime market, do you think that would have gone over very well with the Congress? When it looked as though we were dealing with a major increase in home ownership, which is of unquestioned value to this society — would we have been able to do that? I doubt it.”

Excuse me?!  Congress?  The purpose of the Federal Reserve Board, in addition to setting monetary policy to maximize jobs and minimize currency fluctuation,  is also "To supervise and regulate banking institutions" and "To protect the credit rights of consumers."  In addition, the Federal Reserve Board, while it reports to Congress and the President, is designed to act independent of Congress for the obvious reasons.  The fact is that Greenspan's board had the unique power of ordering banks not to accept CDO's or MBS's or any paper that it deemed unsafe.  The various Collateral Debt Obligations (CDO's) and other financial products were, admits Greenspan (at left), not understood by himself or the bankers who bought and sold them. Huh?

Greenspan continues:
"This is one of the most extraordinary things about this whole episode. Looking at the way we all behaved, how is it possible that this species built up such an extraordinary world standard of living that has drawn hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty?  The thing we should be most extraordinarily appreciative of is how far this system has carried us because there is no doubt that somewhere in the future we’re going to have this thing again. It will not be for quite a period of time, but it will occur because the flaws in human nature are such that it doesn’t work."
How is it possible?  How?  Because social institutions have been designed to mitigate the risks of individual greed and avarice!!  If you don't even understand the purpose of government regulation, then how the hell can you collect a salary as a government regulator?  What were you doing all those years?  As for the comment "The way we all behaved"... speak for yourself you sonofabitch.  Some of us, believe it or not, were getting up every day, going to work, living within our means, paying our mortgages, and our taxes (which paid your salary), while you were writing books, dining with banker buddies, praising Ayn Rand, and wringing your hands while the entire world economy melted down on your watch.  And "we all" get stuck with the check.

The other asshat of note on Faber's program is Ann Rutledge of Moody's rating agency: one of three such firms that rated the various financial products Triple A, the highest rating.  She admitted that, although she worked as a bond rater, she had no understanding of how CDO's worked, but she felt it was okay to give them the highest rating for safety anyway.  Asshat.  No make that criminally negligent (at the very least) asshat.  She decried the competitive nature of the business as an excuse for her negligence. From MSNBC:
... the credit rating agencies also had an incentive to award a security the best possible rating. That’s because they were paid for their appraisals by the very banks that issued the securities.  Ann Rutledge says that, during the boom, the business got more competitive.  "You just wanted to make sure you had as much business or more than the next rating agency," she said.
Oh no she didn't...!!!  She didn't just say that, did she?  And she looks blankly at the interviewer; no realization of the fraud to which she has just admitted.  Does she have a lawyer?  Is the the FBI, CIA or Attorney General watching this show?  A gynecologist says on TV "there are only 237,000 uteruses in the county and 30 other gynecologists, so I tell every patient that they need a hysterectomy because you just want to make sure you have as much business or more than the next gynecologist."  Fraud.  You lose your soul, your self-respect, your medical license, and you go to jail.

Watching this show (and I highly recommend it), I cannot fathom how half these people can get before a camera and admit what they have done-- no remorse, not even blinking an eye-- this is a testament to how craven the financial industry has become and how insulated they have become from the social contract.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Kindergarten: "It's Payoff Time"

Now that's what I'm talking about.  

An ad from 2005, those heady days when fraud was a way of life.  This Flynn guy probably lives on his own private island somewhere while the rest of us shmucks are left to clean up the mess.

File this under: "never trust a guy wearing a tie."

Mozilo charged; we need more perp walks

This past six months has been surreal, but the most surreal thing to me is that CNBC is full of angst over the "government taking over" various industries while there has been very little said (on the business and financial commentary) about the crimes that have been committed.

Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide is being charged by the SEC with fraud for reporting mortgages as better than reality and also dumping personal stock while publicly stating that everything was wonderful.  I realize malfeasance may be difficult to prove, but not impossible.

Obviously there was gross misrepresentation somewhere: mortgage lenders, ratings agencies, product salesmen.  The wheels of justice move slowly, but move they must.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

What's good for GM...

...is a disaster for everyone else.

From the Right: David Brooks predicts a "quagmire":
The end result is that G.M. will not become more like successful car companies. It will become less like them. The federal merger will not accelerate the company’s viability. It will impede it. We’ve seen this before, albeit in different context: An overconfident government throws itself into a dysfunctional culture it doesn’t really understand. The result is quagmire. The costs escalate. There is no exit strategy.

From the Left: Robert Reich predicts GM is going away eventually:
So the Obama administration is, in effect, paying $60bn to buy off both constituencies. It is telling the first group that jobs and communities dependent on GM will be better preserved because of the bail-out, and the second that taxpayers and creditors will be rewarded by it. But it is not telling anyone the complete truth: GM will disappear, eventually. The bail-out is designed to give the economy time to reduce the social costs of the blow.

When two such disparate economists come to similar conclusions, one must pay attention.  My comments are 1) Sure the $60 billion is a boondoggle-- a bipartisan boondoggle started by the previous administration,  2) Even with the extreme waste, this will provide a huge Keynesian stimulus with immediate results*, 3) $60 billion is the same as 4 months in Iraq, and we haven't heard much ado about that lately.

*but why not just give $1,000,000 to each auto worker instead?

And now, for the lighter side: