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Saturday, March 21, 2009

An Apology

This is too awesome.

Inside the Beltway

Jon Decker is on MSNBC discussing the AIG controversy and when asked who the "losers" were in this controversy, like a good Washington pundit, these were his answers:
President Obama
Treasury Secretary Geithner
Senator Chris Dodd

Typical.

He should have answered, "The American people."

Cheap Shot of the Day

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Rogers at Kung Fu Monkey

Reminds me of someone I used to know.

People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Michael Moore's Not on the List)

In honor of Bernie Goldberg, I'm going to start a little mini-series of blog posts called "People Who Are Screwing Up America," but unlike Bernie Goldberg, my list isn't going to just contain people who I disagree with or celebrities who annoy me...it's going to include people who are actually screwing up America.

For instance, on Bernie's list, Michael Moore comes in at number 1. Yes, a documentary filmmaker is the number 1 person screwing up America...how, why, I don't fucking know. Michael Moore is pretty easy to ignore, especially if you choose to do so. Have you seen Sicko? I haven't...and let me tell ya, it took absolutely no effort.

But that's beside the point. You can't expect a guy who thinks the dictionary has a liberal bias to really be able to discern the difference between people who are screwing up America and people who are screwing up his day.

So here's my first (not neccesarily number 1) America-screwer:

Joseph Cassano.

I know what you're thinking. Who???

Yes, gentle readers, he's not as famous as Sean Penn or Michael Moore or Al Gore, but I include him on my list not because of name recognition, but because this guy has actually been screwing up America.

No, wait. No screwing up. Plain old screwing...the anal kind, bent over, pumping like a pornstar. In fact, he's done more damage than Michael Moore, Barbra Streisand, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, and Tim Robbins combined!

So who the hell is Joseph Cassano then? He's a former executive with AIG, the insurance giant whose failure is contributing to this global financial crisis everyone is talking about.

Matt Taibbi has the goods
: (Read the whole article.)
In a span of only seven years, Cassano sold some $500 billion worth of CDS protection, with at least $64 billion of that tied to the subprime mortgage market. AIG didn't have even a fraction of that amount of cash on hand to cover its bets, but neither did it expect it would ever need any reserves. So long as defaults on the underlying securities remained a highly unlikely proposition, AIG was essentially collecting huge and steadily climbing premiums by selling insurance for the disaster it thought would never come.

Initially, at least, the revenues were enormous: AIGFP's returns went from $737 million in 1999 to $3.2 billion in 2005. Over the past seven years, the subsidiary's 400 employees were paid a total of $3.5 billion; Cassano himself pocketed at least $280 million in compensation. Everyone made their money — and then it all went to shit.
Yes, you read that right:
Over the past seven years, the subsidiary's 400 employees were paid a total of $3.5 billion.
These are the same guys, by the way, who received the $170 million in "retention bonuses," courtesy of poorly designed contracts and paid by the US taxpayer.

So yeah, making some lefty documentaries and winning an Oscar won't get you on my list, but making yourself rich by losing billions of dollars of other people's money will definitely get you a spot.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Special Olympics

The other day, I went to Best Buy to peruse the outdoor antennas and digital converter boxes. I canceled my satellite TV service recently, so if I ever want to watch a Bronco game again, I need the antenna and converter.

Of course, they didn't have what I was looking for, so I decided to browse the DVDs, computer games, CDs, but as I'm browsing every time I passed a store employee, they'd ask me, "Is there something I can help you find?"

The answer, of course, was no. I was just browsing, and more than that, I didn't want to be disturbed. I wasn't going to get mad about it, because I mean, helpful employees? That's a good thing. I just wasn't in the mood for it. So whenever I saw a blue shirt, I'd duck down the next aisle in full avoidance mode.

But there I was, browsing the CDs when I was approached by a disabled guy in a blue shirt. I have no idea what his affliction was --a form of cerebral palsy, I suspect -- but it was obvious. He was a trooper, though, limping around to put CDs back on the shelves.

At one point, he gimped over to me and stared at me for a moment, one eye going this way, the other going that. When he opened his mouth to speak, I was blasted with a scent that seemed like a mix of dog shit and baby farts, and then shortly thereafter, he began, "M-m-m-m-my name is J-J-J-Joe. Is-Is-Is-Is there s-s-s-something I c-c-c-can help you find?"

My intitial reaction was discomfort. I was already annoyed by the over-exuberant customer service as it was, and here's this retarded guy making me uncomfortable. I wasn't about to be an asshole, though, so I just smiled and told him, "No thanks, just looking," and he gimped away, leaving me be.

A few minutes later, I was walking back to my truck empty handed, reflecting on the episode. It didn't take long for my annoyance to turn to admiration.

Here's a guy doing his job to the best of his ability, despite being less than able (not to be unkind). And the guts!

No doubt throughout Joe's life he's had to deal with rudeness, the stares and the whispered comments and the people who think he's stupid or worthless because he walked funny. And yet, here is he fearlessly approaching a guy despite the possibility of rudeness, despite the possibility of ridicule and disgust.

It's almost as if he's saying "I'm not going to let a little cerebral palsy stop me from doing my job."

And to that I say, "Way to go, Joe. You're the man. Don't ever let them tell you different."

Kicking My Own Ass

I was thinking about buying the P90X workout DVD set, not because I want to get ripped in 90 days, but because I'm interested in this whole idea of muscle confusion. But even then, I didn't feel like buying the DVDs with three easy payments. (Or, to quote Mitch Hedburg, two easy payments...and one complicated payment.)

Luckily, I was telling a buddy at work about this and he mentioned that he bought the P90X workout for his sister. He kept his, but his sister sent it back to him. "It kicked my ass," she said.

Sweet! I'll take it then!

I mean, I'm not looking to be Gerard Butler's stunt double in 300 II or anything, but I would like to improve my core strength.

Ick!

I think this is the first time I've ever said this about a woman:
Put your pants back on, girl!


Maybe it's the camera angle or the lens, but doesn't it look like Lindsey's head is actually larger than her waist? That's disgusting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You're Welcome America

Will Ferrill's Broadway show about George W. Bush was hilarious!

This was my favorite joke:
And yes, one time I did walk in on Dick Cheney down in the basement of the White House. He was being fucked by a giant goat-devil in a room full of pentagrams and he looked up at me with solid silver glowing orb-like eyes and his breath had a strong ammonia scent to it and he told me in a language that I knew in my heart had not been spoken in over a thousand years, "Paras golada!"
He was being fucked by a giant goat-devil...

BWAH-HAH-HAH!

AIG

I was watching the AIG hearings yesterday and the first thing I noticed was how Congress is a walking stereotype. The feed I was watching --CNN's online feed-- didn't identify who was speaking, where they were from, or what party they belonged to, but all that became obvious almost as soon as they opened their mouths.

The dude with the southern accent? Republican. The dude dropping his Rs New England style...Democrat. Hispanic guy from California, Democrat. Dude that's super-interested in how many meetings Tim Geithner attended, but not all that concerned with the bonus issue...Republican!

And of course, Code Pink showed up, too. Why, I don't know. I thought they were an anti-war protest group, but like most protesters, they seem less concerned with helping their cause than getting their picture taken with their little signs. This may sound unfair, but I hate that shit. Is that really necessary?

This is a congressional hearing, not the comment section of Huffington Post.

And the dude in the picture, he gave it the old college try. He defended the bonuses as necessary to make sure the business didn't fail...

And yet, it kind of already failed, didn't it?

And what's the reason for these bonuses? They were "retention" bonuses, but in practice they seem more like golden parachute type bonuses. They not designed to retain good employees. They're, according to AIG's own CEO, designed to provide an incentive for soon-to-be former employees to close up all their accounts in a nice tidy little bow.

How the hell can you call that a retention bonus?

And what the hell? They couldn't find someone to wrap up those books for less? Jesus, no wonder they were approaching failure.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Quick Buck

Today a buddy at work was expressing regret that he didn't buy up a bunch of AIG shares on Friday, when their shares were (he says) trading around 60 cents, and sold them today, when they're trading at just over a buck.

This is why I could never be a financial wizard.

While it's true that the transaction would have resulted in a quick profit, it seems to me that kind of thinking is fundamentally stupid.

If prices are, as economists insist, signals that contain information about something's value, then what does it say when a company's stock price loses almost 98% of its value in less than a year, falling from a 52-week high of $49.50 to just over a buck today?

It should tell you, "Don't buy me."

But what does it say about the quality of these signals if they are ignored, perhaps for good reason? After all, in this scenario, despite all the risk, despite all the signals saying "Red flag, red flag," my friend would have made a nice profit had he pulled the trigger, almost 50%, better than any interest bearing account, bond, or mutual fund. (Hell, that even beats the profit margins the Ponzi schemes were promising!)

Statistically, this kind of investing strategy would prove to be a sure winner at least some of the time, you know, the whole "a broken clock is right twice a day" thing. I'm not sure the math is stable, but if the bankroll was big enough to absorb the losses, I can see how the windfalls might actually result in profits.

But what I'm describing isn't actually an investment strategy. It's a gambler's wet dream. Win big, or go home broke.

It's not how business should be done and it's not how decisions should be made.

George Bush Says Something Smart!

Does George W. Bush have more character than Rush Limbaugh? As bad as this reflects on Rush, the answer is a definitive Yes.
"I love my country a lot more than I love politics," Bush said. "I think it is essential that he be helped in office."
I can count on one hand the times I've agreed with Bush, and this one gets the pinky.

Yax K'uk Mo

Finally!

I'm watching a documentary I Netflix'd called "Lost King of the Maya," and unlike my previous Mayan Netflix experience, this one is actually about the Ancient Maya, no magic, no numerology, no ignorant speculation.

Just archaeological study of Copan's founding father, a dude named Yax K'uk Mo. (The letter X in this case is pronounced with a "sh" sound, so it's Yax K'uk Mo sounds like "Yash-kook-moh.")

He was unknown to science until a few decades ago. Until then, his image on the stelae and altars of Copan was mistaken for that of a god or some kind of supernatural entity, not an actual person. Boy, was that wrong.

Yax K'uk Mo was not only an actual person, immortalized on the famous Altar Q, but the dynasty that he founded at Copan lasted for four hundred years.

Four hundred years! (Not many European dynasties can make that boast!)

Which brings me to the commentary part of this post:

We do our children a great disservice, as well as the people that preceded us in the Americas, by pretending that the history of our continent began with the arrival of Europeans.

In other words, in history class there should be a little less on John Cabot and a little more on Yax K'uk Mo. After all, Cabot was just one of many Europeans* to explore a land that had already been settled for...oh...thousands of years.

And Yax K'uk Mo founded a royal dynasty that lasted for four hundred years!

* Who know how many Norse expeditions preceded Cabot? At least one...
I heard about Glenn Beck crying like a bitch tearing up on his TV show, but I didn't have the heart to actually watch the clip on Youtube. It's just too embarrassing.

I am curious, though, about how genuine these crying episodes are. Is Glenn Beck menopausal or something? Is he really just that emotional? Or is it something else, something, dare I say, a bit more manipulative, like Crybaby Theater or something?

Luckily, I found this interview that brings up Glenn's tearjerking performances:
When you’re weeping on the air, which you do every so often, are you in control of yourself or do you feel like you’re slipping out of control emotionally?

No, I’m not slipping out of control. I’m in control of myself. I don’t think there’s a problem with people showing emotion. I don’t care what people think, I don’t care if you make fun of me, I don’t care if you disagree, I honestly don’t care in the end if I turn out to be wrong, because actually I hope I’m wrong. There’s no way for me to win if I’m right on some of this stuff.
So there you have it. He really is that emotional, and when he's turning on the spigots, he's in complete control of himself.

Does that make it maniupulative? A little bit...

And while I didn't watch the Glenn Beck crying video, I did watch this compilation of Shep Smith dissing Glenn Beck's power hour on Friday. The most amusing part is how Smith's southern accent comes to the fore from time to time. When he mockingly insists that Glenn Beck will be "joining us from his Fear Chamber directly" I started cracking up.
Hilarious.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kids

Gotta love em.

I took my brother's family out to dinner last night --Santiago's, best Mexican food in the city- and got to spend some time with the niece and nephew. She doesn't try very hard, but Angel is so damn cute.



Like niece, like uncle. Put your hands on top of your head...

Are CDs Dead? Or Just in Storage?

This weekend I decided to pack up all my CDs. Not because I'm moving or not going to listen to CDs, but I have so many that they take up quite a bit of space. Now I'm left with another dilemma: where to put the bins.

Of course, in order for this to happen, I had to encode all this music into MP3 format first. And yeah, that's a lot of ripping. If you're looking at those three bins thinking, Man, that must have took forever, you're actually not that far off.

It was time-consuming, but worth it. Now I have so much more room for activities...

PS: The end result, hard drive-wise? 112 gigs, 25,377 files. It would probably take me a year to listen to it all.