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Monday, January 28, 2008

Political Satire Songs: Don't..Stop..thinking about Barack

In thinking about what songs would be representative (in some way) of these candidates, I came up with these:


John McCain - Hard Sun by Eddie Vedder (cover)




John Edwards - "Same Old Song and Dance" -Aerosmith














Hillary Clinton - Don't Cry For Me Argentina - MaDonna








Mitt Romney - "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred



Mike Huckabee - "Psalm 69" by Ministry




Barack Obama Walking On The Moon - The Police

I didn't clarify the references. But in Mr. Obama's case, the fact he is compared to Kennedy whose goal was to land on the moon, and the lyric, "Giant steps are what you take, " seems to be fitting for the candidancy of Obama.

Rudy Giuliani- "Too Late for Love" by Def Leppard

Ron Paul - Supermodel (You better work) by RuPaul.




Friday, January 25, 2008

Hypnotize Me: Heath Ledger did for many


The Notorious B.I.G. - Hypnotize Me




The song was a highlight of Mr. Heath Ledger's first film "10 Things I Hate About You" with his attractive and quirky co-star, Julia Stiles. (Of Bourne Trilogy fame...)

I am not going to go into what Ledger was, or happened. That is up to media hound dogs to sniff out and hunt down that poisonous crap. (I had my feelings...wrong or uninformed as they may have been.) Instead, I'll put together a montage of his work and connections to the stars.


Heath Ledger singing " I Love You Baby" for 10 Things




Heath Ledger and Mel Gibson starred in one of my all-time favorite movies - The Patriot. From the title sequence to the ending, this movie encapsulates the struggle for American Independence in a hodge-podgey way, yet the filmography is to me what makes this a solid movie. The story of Bejamin Martin, father of 7, including Gabriel (near left), trek through his own mind and the landscape of America's first struggle against the British Crown is touching.
It is not a movie without flaws. No movie is. The heart of the story to me appealed - and the characters stay within themselves, in the material written, and hypnotize me to watch this movie plenty of times. I just like the feel of the people, the Colonial times, the language, the travels, the simplicity of it all.
Scenes like this one to the left are touchers. Many more are too.
Heath later gain fame as a homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain. I can not comment on the merits of this film. I didn't watch it. But given the jokes and the critical acclaim, I must believe it was another role Ledger took to task. He also met the woman (Michelle Williams of Dawson's Creek fame) that would be the mother of his only child on the set.
Lastly, we have the soon to be released installment of Batman The Dark Knight . With his role as the Joker, Ledger opposes The Cape Crusader, Christian Bale who gained fame in American Psycho. (An interesting duality to me.)
Whatever you may think of Mr. Ledger, I truly think he will go down alongside the likes of James Dean & Marilyn Monroe due to his roles, his ability and his tragically shortened life.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

3 Stories: Freedom, Risk and Why the World is Always Spinning Wrong

This morning, as I watched the heads of media speak about their various stories of interest and their supposed expertise, and I thought these three speak clearly to the world malaise:

Rogue Trader – Societe General’s Jerome Kerviel

In France, a 31-year old former back office worker-turned-trader and computer geek, manipulated the market to the loss of $7.1 Billion US dollars, the largest ever for a single trader.

His annualized salary: $145,000 US dollars + benefits. ($100,000 bonus.)

His ability to hide these losses, evidently for 2 years, is remarkable. That the BBC reported this morning he was “mediocre and not a rising star” is contradicted if you realize how hard it would be to swing the trades consistently enough to lose 7 billion dollars, hide it from the “supposed stars” of the trading section, and, is currently at-large.

His positions were liquidated on Monday by the bank, during a holiday and low-volume trading, resulting in the huge losses and the halt of trading on Société Générale's shares. And possibly, the movement by the Fed, the volatility by the U.S. Markets on Tuesday and Wednesday and the further fear about financial institutions were triggered by this one-man trading legend.
To Quote from the article:

The bank took the first three days of this week desperately attempting to unwind the positions in what proved to be hostile conditions as markets plunged. If they had gone up, the positions might have made gains for the bank, Mr Bouton said. As it was, they turned into "gigantic and colossal" losses.

Analysts said that SocGen's unwinding of the massive rogue positions on Monday would have contributed to the violent slump in share prices and may, therefore, have played a part in the surprise decision by the US Federal Reserve to cut American interest rates. "There's a very strong link between the equity futures market and the cash equities market," one equity strategist at a
big bank said. "It may have influenced Fed thinking." The trader managed to conceal his positions through his knowledge of the administrative side of the bank, the "middle office", where he worked for three years until 2005.


What it shows: an underestimation and major stupidity by a large bank. The creative work of “rogue trader” – as destructive as it was – reflects that a lack of understanding exists on positions approved by his employer. Moral: SOCGEN probably got what they deserved – of course, affecting the little guy’s lot – and will hopefully, go out of business. (Sorry if you have money there. Evidently, they will manage onward, and upward.)

Innocent Man, after the lawyers figure out their privileges

On CNN, I missed the opening of this tragic story. Alton Logan spends 25+ years in prison on a crime he did not commit. Two lawyers, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, know the real killer: Andrew Wilson that has invoked attorney-client privilege, and according to the CNN legal analyst, has no recourse until their client dies. (Which he did.)

First, the attorney-client privilege is supposedly sacrosanct, only a potential prospect of a crime can loosen the lips of these paragons of the legal system. Yet the moral imperative should have loosened them. An innocent man is jailed; the real criminal is all ready behind bars (and dies there); no injustice can come from the freeing the one, at the expense of the other.

Yet these lawyers can actually use the “I’ll lose my ability to practice law and be disbarred and shamed” argument to support their dilemma, or the “attorney-client system works on trust” morass as cover. Bullshit. Only the idealized novels of John Grisham could a fiction exist.

Lawyers don’t go that “extra mile” as much as they go that “extra dollar” for you. These ones went to the “extra mile” in getting a notarized statement, long ago, that reflects the existence of this evidence that will release the Andrew Logan after 25 years.

Quote:
On March 17, 1982, Coventry and Kunz drew up an affidavit:“I have obtained
information through privileged sources that a man named Alton
Logan
who was charged with the fatal shooting of Lloyd Wickliffe (sic)
at on or about 11 Jan. 82 is in fact not responsible for that shooting that in
fact another person was responsible.”

Each lawyer signed it, as did a witness and a notary public. Then they
sealed it in a metal box. “We were freaked out because it was really volatile
and because the state was seeking the death penalty against Logan,” said
Coventry, who has kept the box ever since.Kunz said they prepared the document
“so that if we were ever able to speak up, no one could say we were just making
this up now.”

My take: the lack of sacrifice by these lawyers, in getting this man freed, is systemic of a larger problem: putting another’s life ahead of your own. A man’s freedom is arguably the most important right we have. Whenever you have the ability to set free an imprisoned man, as most lawyers can and do, through their
actions (or inactions), it trumps the legal code. Especially when a man's life was at risk - especially if you compare an innocent man to an all ready admittedly guilty one.

If it means you lose something important, the right to practice law, or it creates a legal quandary in
the system, affecting the defense of clients, so be it. The hierarchy of the system is all ready skewed, biased toward a wide array of people. This one instance was not going to shake the foundations; instead, it could have had a positive affect on perception of allegedly competent lawyers.

Bond Insurers Possibly Get Bailed Out of Debtor’s Prison

The monoline insurers (AmBac and MBIA) were in serious trouble because they lack the ability to cover even a miniscule amount of the insured investments instruments they were backing. (With estimates of 1-5% of
capital supporting securities bundled in the sub-prime mortgage arena and
municipal bonds, amongst others.)

They were (and had been) downgraded by ratings institutes, such as Moody’s, and would cause more downgrades in the banks they are closely tied to via the investments, causing more write downs in those huge
companies – Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, for examples. The ratings companies are currently waiting, and not doing their job, in reevaluating “the paper” these companies are backing.

As a result, at least, New York State Insurance Dept. has decided to “work out” a deal for these buffoons. They are buffoons because they rarely pay out; and they get a license to “print money” to themselves; and yet, they screwed that up. As much as people like Larry Kudlow’s saying, “Free market capitalism—it’s still the best path to prosperity,” when a company or two suddenly gets into trouble, I notice the “work out” deal, an infusion of capital (in this case, north of 10+ billion dollars) is suddenly the “best path” instead of that huge company going under and the market readjusting.
Quote(s):

New capital may help preserve the top credit ratings for the bond guarantors
such as MBIA Inc., the industry's largest, and halt any erosion of investor
confidence in the $2 trillion of assets they guarantee. Ambac Financial Group
Inc., MBIA's biggest rival, lost its AAA grade from Fitch Ratings this month on
concern about rising defaults tied to subprime mortgages.

New York State’s insurance regulator has tried to lead the efforts, and on Tuesday said it was “engaged with insurers, banks, financial advisers, credit rating agencies, other regulators and government officials, and other stakeholders in examining and developing measures to help stabilise the market.”

“The guarantee [from bond insurers] has allowed banks not to write down the value of these positions,” said analysts at UBS. “If monolines fail, the guarantee is worth nothing and these assets have to be written down. This is the latest development for the mortgage crisis and is another negative for banks.”

And sure, people will lose money because of that series of misfortunate events, if it happens.

If you are invested in the market, that is called risk. Uncertainty. The price of doing financial business.
The losses due to trusting people (your advisor) too much. Also know as, “life.”

We all face it. Every relationship is a hedge. Upgrading or downgrading the underlying assets of working with another human being, hoping to benefit from "our investment" in that particular person. (Spiritually hopefully.) Unexpected life turns deal us a loss. The stupidity of others causing you turmoil and losses.

Isn't that what happened to the innocent man, Alton Logan – didn't he paid the huge price in the asset of his own life. Those lawyers hedged their position “long” on that man’s life. What would have happened if he died in prison? Or gotten the death penalty instead? What would the story, if heard, been?

Jerome Kerviel losing $7 Billion dollars. To put that into perspective, it would take 132 1/4 years of losing his yearly salary, EVERY DAY, to reach that loss level. One man who spent time in the back office prior to becoming a trader – and used his computer “expertise” to trigger this situation. Quite a feat that will result in a prison term for Jerome Kerviel.

It takes talent to be this inept or this fraudulent.

But we will never know the whole truth.

And yet I commend him.

He did what many of us could barely fathom, and did it well enough to go unnoticed for nearly two years.

3 stories.
One man didn’t get freedom soon enough.
Thanks to lawyers looking for their freedom in "upholding the legal code."

One man had too much freedom. His conscience and his master were “out to lunch.” French. Gotta love
them.

Insurance companies with too much freedom, and given more by a “free market” that ain’t so free, since no one really wants to pay “the price” of just “doin’ business.”

That's my rant. I'm back!!!!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Being Positive?: You go &%*# yourself!!!

I am not going to rant about American people. Though, when you really stop and look around, you'll see plenty of immorality, hear disquieting things and feel quite disenchanted with the way everyone nearly is. (I know there are 'good' people. But I seem to never be around when they do their wondrous acts.)

Beyond that, I get the sense that we ignore a lot more. Simple courtesy, recognizing when others are down or taking a moment to say, "Well hi. Isn't this a (pick your adjective) day?" Those things don't come too much from anyone I meet.

People are too caught up in their gig. (And everyone I ever meet has a more important gig than mine. I know it. So I don't like talking about my gig anymore. I used to like talking about my gig.)

But when I ask, "So, is your gig going to do X for you in Y years?" I get either dumbfounded silence, a hem-haw response or a look of withering contempt over my presumption over what their gig should be doing for them.

The fact I am too interested in what they are going to be doing, or why they do it or how maybe they could do it better, seems too intrusive. (I guess that's a quality I picked up at the School of Stalking I must have attended...)

Maybe I am tired of talking about my feckless life, since that's what it is currently. (And maybe for 7 years or more.) I like to hear someone talk about themselves, to either:

1) To learn about them, their dreams, aspirations and what drives them to
do what they do
2) To assist them in whatever way I believe I can apply my meager
talents: a direction, a suggested education, a website or maybe tutoring on some subject.
3) To learn from them a nugget of information, or knowledge to apply
somewhere now, or later in my own life.
4) To garner some humanity from the inhumanity I schlep through on a
daily basis

Believe me, I talk a lot. (Going back to my pre-school days.) But, I also listen to people as much as I can. I will remember some innocuous fact about a person's life, a birthday, a book they've read, a hobby they like or their favorite sports team, because I found it an interesting thing
about them
. Not everything, but usually something they don't expect me to
remember at all - especially if I only talked to them once or a handful of
times.

But (this practice) I don't seem to get much out of it anymore. People aren't much for convo. Either because of fears they have abruptly taken too much to heart, or their gigs are now all they are. Too busy. Don't need you unless you can immediately satisfy my needs. (Whether they be financial, physical or emotional in tenor.)

I've lost my sporadic positivity in the last few years due to these things. I can't keep trying for upbeat (and yet I still do, but get disappointed more easily now) in offering what little I can to people. I'm not a Joel Osteen or even given to such spiritual things...(Though I have unfortunately taken to watching his show on Sunday morning after I do my route.)

What I offer is not enough for most. Whether it be an ear or a few dollars (that I have a hard time coming by myself) or some other assistance. I know it. I have a hard time accepting help too. (Some that read this blog know it.)

What's worse is when whatever you offer is critiqued as, "well, though it is free, it is not quite what I wanted (or enough.)" I know, I've done that plenty too.

So, what am I going to do about it? Likely, stop trying to give. At some point, I get tired of the rejected offering. Somehow, the package I present is unworthy for human eyes and hearts, so it is bothersome to continually attempt to do the right thing and get shut down or ignored.

This is a wrong in a world full of wrong. But I don't think what I am doing is likely going to raise any eyebrows. The position I come from is inherently weak all ready. Strengthening it is a Herculean task that I haven't found the stamina to consider.

Those that can, will do. Those that can't, must step aside and be quiet.

(Which is ultimately best for me. Since my voice is adding more noise than harmony.)

My mood is sullen.
I don't take great pleasure in this post.
But being positive has never ever been one of my strong suits.

Have a Day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Roger Clemens: All Those in Jeopardy, Baby!

With his recent news conference, 17-minute taped phone conversation, 60 Minutes interview and impending appearance before the U.S. Congress, Roger Clemens has raised some doubt to his guilt in the Steroid Era of Baseball. However, some continue to think that it can't be possible that Clemens could have been a target of less-than-honest federal agents or government-supported investigators.

His trainer, Brain McNamee, seems very likely a man coerced into a no-win situation, the favorite play of those Federal, Virginia farm boys. With a son in a serious medical condition, and a federal mandate to "play ball" with them, the fact he could have thrown Roger Clemens under the bus for his own personal freedom or ability to look like a "truthful sot", after dealing in steroids, is certainly possible.


ESPN's Jason Smith last night on "All Night" seemed to think that Roger Clemens wasn't very clear in his phone conversation. Of course he wasn't. He taped the call to somehow garner evidence of his innocence. His legal representative(s) instructed him not to coax, or intimidate or imply a threat in any way toward McNamee. In other words, he was to stay fairly ambiguous because:

1) Their call was being monitored by the Feds/name your law enforcement - quote from McNamee: "I'm on a cell phone. And I understand that I don't expect - I can't open up to you the way I want to, and I know you can't."

2) In many jurisdictions, taping a call is illegal, or at least, inadmissable depending on the nature and agreement of the parties. Moreover, you can't coerce testimony or threaten a person in or about the nature of the situation and maintain a sympathetic pose in a court of law. Roger was doing that, in light of his obvious anger over this charge.

Roger Clemens: "I just want the truth out there, and if I got to go - whatever I'm doing - I just want the truth out there. And like I said, I just can't believe what's being said. We're getting it from all angles. And, you know, I haven't talked to anybody other than my representatives - and Randy (Hendricks). Everybody is just - everybody is just so upset."


Brian McNamee: "I don't have any money. I have nothing. I'm not doing a book deal. I got offered seven figures to go on TV. I didn't do it. I didn't take it. I didn't do anything. All I did was what I thought was right - and I never thought it was right, but I thought that I had no other choice, put it that way. And I think when I spoke with your guys, that I laid it out there. And I was sick. I was in the hospital. " (Possibly coerced by the government to give up a big name, Roger Clemens, or go to prison.)
Roger: "I didn't do it, this, you know, all this stuff. And I just, like I said, I'm numb to everything. And we get, you know, Deb is, you know, she's a mess. And I mean, like you said, when it affects Brian, you know, I got Koby in the game, and he's getting, he's getting crushed."
Brain McNamee: "Roger, what do you want me to do? What do you want me to do? What do you want me to do?"
(The sounds of a scared man -- not a man who is confident that his assertions were true in the Mitchell report. Or maybe, he was trying to get Clemens to admit something also. The Feds may have put McNamee up to a plan to send an email (Clemens:"That's why I answered your e-mail when I heard ") and take calls from Roger to entrap Clemens. So in this area, both sides are playing a game...)
3) Code. The two of them are vague and ambiguous in several passages, talking about the New York Mets, Jim Murray, some person of interest to worry about, etc. The passage seems like McNamee brought the thief to the hen house, introducing Clemens to a person that had nothing but bad intentions, unbeknowst to Clemens...
Later, McNamee let's it slip he's being recorded, look at this passage:

McNamee: I've got a car that doesn't work. I got (expletive deleted) attorneys
saying (expletive deleted) they shouldn't be saying and trying to make a name
from themselves where I lose control.
-
McNamee: Everything I have to this day I have because of you.
Clemens: I'm just, like I said, Mac, I'm just - I can't, you know, for the life of me, I'm trying to find out why you would tell guys that I used steroids from -
McNamee: I understand that. I understand that. And like I told the guys that tape-recorded me -
Clemens: Who's the guys that tape-recorded you?
McNamee:
(unintelligible)
Clemens: You're talking about the two investigators
that came down and talked to you.
McNamee: Right. If I was lawyered up. If I
had any idea what the (expletive deleted) was going on, why would I do that?

McNamee guises it, not so well. He cuts off Clemens because he:
A) Is Getting Clemens to mention Steroids can be enough to prove some involvement for the Feds
B) But he is just playing along, trying to clue Clemens in to the wire tapping by the Feds. Not that it matters, since Clemens was doing the same.
Both sides are playing a high stakes game. Clemens is trying to clear his name -- trying to besmirch McNamee's reputation, who is still being pulled around by a string by the Feds. The Feds have Brian as a star witness, but it may backfire on them, if this gets too far a field.
The Congressional hearing will likely raise more questions -- if Clemens is decided clean, McNamee will likely go to prison for lying or obstruction -- but will either or both men take the 5th on direct examination? Likely, McNamee will. He has, it seems, more incentive to not tell the truth there.
Or at least, was given one by the Mitchell report - since that isn't prosecutable by any standard I know of. (But what he told the Feds likely is.)
Clemens may be guilty - I just have to see him take the same stances he has projected and somehow do it with the same spirit. And whether he goes first - leaving McNamee to either tell the truth behind him or take the 5th, will decide.
It all should be very interesting.
Greg Kihn Band: Jeopardy OK . Seemed like an appropriate song.

Friday, January 4, 2008

American President Poll: Who people liked to run America

In my only poll: If you had a choice between these former Presidents, who would you pick to run this country in 2008?

In 99 votes, William J. Clinton beat Ronald Reagan out by 1 vote. The fact that FDR and Lincoln did not receive more love (considering FDR had The Great Depression and WWII and Lincoln had the Civil War) reflects something.

Either:
1) People who voted did not know/care about their accomplishments in light of those hard times
2) The most recent Presidents (and most often talked about in terms of policies) were considered able to right this ship
3) The two at the front were representative of the RED-BLUE mentality we have in America
4) I give those who voted too much credit - and the sample is too small

Kennedy, surprisingly, was dead last. Whether that reflects the "truth" of his Presidency, the rumors surrounding his personal life, the division over his assassination or his family in general, I can only guess.

But for 99 votes, what can I really tell?

With last night's first step to election, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee won in somewhat stunning fashion. But it is only one state. And neither man is going to have a remotely easy path to their parties nomination. (Bill Clinton did not win primaries at the outset of his future 2-term Presidency. )

Huckabee appeal to the ultra conservatives might be just as divisive as Bush's appeal was. Arkansas governor in the White House? Sound familiar?

Obama has the "change" mantle to uphold against a woman who knows the game of politics better than most men, except for her husband. John Edwards is a fine politico. That's all.

Whomever wins, will have a nation that in its underbelly is really struggling. Though we do not have the struggles of the 1960's, I think it has become a very odd America which I live in.

Have a Good Weekend!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Project: American History X

After I struggle with a cold, I will be starting my next foray into history, American History. It is something of unique interest to me to discover all the names I never learnt or the people narrowly discussed, as if they never had anything of substance to offer to the conversation of America's evolution.

Truth of the matter, I figure it will take 7-10 years to go to the breath and scope I plan to reach in this project. Of course, before I started writing about baseball, I never figured I'd get close to the number of pages or the time spent on that either.

More to the point, I am doing this more for the desire to learn, to clarify and to actually leave behind a very complex and possibly, readable book(s). It will keep me busy. And I will not be publishing it...just doing it for my descendants (which are none) and whomever decides to rifle through my things when I part this world in 35-65 years. Shouldn't be too many folks.

Edward Gibbon wrote of Rome; Churchill of The World Crisis and The Second World War; why not America for me? (I am joking. Those men were, and always will be, heads and hearts above anyone I've read in modern times. Just it tells of the scope I what I am planning to do.)

I suspect it is always a man's firm belief that we will learn from history and try to improve upon its future results. So often though, we repeat the errors; forget the names and faces; bury the people we find unappealing; and ignore the lessons.

I have.

I bet you have too.

So that's the 411 on 2008-20??. A resolution I made to write about this once shining example of a country that may find itself much the lesser by the end of this current century. I don't wish it, but "Decline" is apart of all "Empires."

Later on. That's history.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

In 2008: How Many Words will you write or type?

Seems like a silly topic, and it is, but exactly how many words will you put together during a year? How many has humanity wrote (not published in Gutenberg form) in the course of its existence?

Right now, we got about 6.5 Billion bodies on the Earth. Figure 75% are (or will be) literate. And that is very optimistic total. So, 4.875 Billion. Figure human existence has offered another 13-20 Billion souls up. But Literacy rate was way, way down. Say 10% at best, probably more like 2-3%. But to get to a round number, let's say another 2.125 Billion on the overly safe side. That gets us to 7 Billion people who wrote or typed out some form of language.

Figure life at 70 years across all ages. Again, optimistic. 60 years of consistent writing. 333 days a year, to get to 20,000 days of writing our little minds out. How many words per day? 250 is considered 1 page of text by most. And that sounds about average for people of a wide array of human communication. For a grand total of 5,000,000 words in a lifetime.
Multiply by 7,000,000,000 souls and you get 35,000,000,000,000,000 words written in human existence or 35 American quadrillion times a blurb has come out as a word. (Meanwhile, Erin Andrews has graced us with her illustrative presence throughout. Showing a picture can be worth a quadrillion words.)

I may be off in my numbers, or just a crazy sot that added to the garbage pile of useless words in writing a post about essentially nothing.

Just words...that's all they really were.