Monday, June 25, 2007

Oh No!

As I briefly check in from my hiatus which should end this coming weekend, I have received the worst possible news. It seems Takeru Kobayashi has developed jaw arthritis and may not be able to compete in the July 4th Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating contest. From the Daily Telegraph:

Takeru 'Tsunami' said he can only open his mouth to make a gap the size of a fingertip after being diagnosed with jaw arthritis.

In an entry on his blog entitled Occupational Hazard, Kobayashi said: "My jaw refused to fight any more."

The injury occurred only a week after the slender 29-year-old started training to win his sixth
straight title at the annual July 4 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating contest on New York's Coney Island.

"I feel ashamed that I couldn't notice the alarm bells set off by my own body," he said. "But with the goal to win another title with a new record, I couldn't stop my training so close to the competition.

"I was continuing my training and bearing with the pain but finally I destroyed my jaw."

Gee, hard to believe scarfing down all those hot dogs has negative ramifications, isn't it?

Friday, June 15, 2007

And It's Not Going To Get Better Any Time Soon

A story in today's Washington Post tells the tale of the American housing market. Foreclosures are sky high. From the Washington Post:

The percentage of U.S. mortgages entering foreclosure in the first three months of the year was the highest in more than 50 years, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

As the association released its numbers, the Federal Reserve held a hearing to determine whether regulators could do anything to crack down on abusive lending practices, which have exacerbated the problem

The problems arose last year as the housing market softened, driving down home prices and making it more difficult for cash-strapped borrowers to sell their homes or refinance their way out of trouble.

The most dramatic fallout took place in the sub-prime market, which caters to people with blemished credit or other factors that make them a risk to lenders.

Those borrowers entered foreclosure at a rate of 2.43 percent, up from 2 percent the previous quarter. The percentages seem small, but they are far above norms, particularly in a healthy economy. The concern is that the mortgage industry's troubles could damage the economy if they are not contained.

This is a problem that isn't going away anytime soon. The following graph (shamelessly nicked from At These Levels) shows the volume of upcoming ARM mortgage resets. In the next 24 months close to a trillion dollars worth of these mortgages (4 - 5 million homes) are going to reset with at least 60% of those resets coming in the sub-prime market. A fair amount of these sub-prime mortgages have large penalties for prepayment, that and along with slumping home prices makes it very hard to refinance your way out of your loan. You're just stuck on the rocky road to foreclosure.

When that happens the economy is going to go south pretty quickly.

Tears Of A Clown

Damn those mean Democrats for pointing out that interim U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin got his job through abject cronyism. From TPM Muckraker:

Former interim U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin tearily announced Thursday that public service is, "not worth it."

Griffin was named to replace Bud Cummins after Cummins was fired by the Bush administration along with seven other U.S. Attorneys.

Griffin addressed a lunchtime audience at the Clinton School of Public service Thursday, sometimes crying as he said he had no plans to return to politics.

Poor little guy, never even got a chance to abuse his power to disenfranchise African-American voters.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Scooter Libby

I wouldn't get too excited about the prospect of Scooter Libby being hauled off to jail anytime soon. He will appeal the decision to go directly to jail. Time to do some judge shopping, white shoes required.

The Art Of The Con

In case you haven't noticed, a new sort of gambling hall has been popping up all over Ohio, featuring what are being termed games of skill. That is, the games are at least 51% skill based. These games should be outlawed.

I don't make this judgement based on the fact that Ohio voters have turned down gambling on the ballot three times, these games are not gambling. Instead, they are con games dressed up as gambling. Let me explain.

If you go to any state that allows electronic gaming, there is a state law that governs the minimum rate of return that those games pay out. For instance, in Nevada the minimum rate of return is 75% and in New Jersey it is 83%. Competition for players of those games though generally drives up the rate of return to the high nineties. The games populating Ohio have much, much lower rates of return, but are dressed up to look like the games players are used to playing in states that have regulatory control of the rate of returns.

What this generally means is that if over a period of time in Nevada you inserted $100,000,000 into an electronic game, at the end of play you would have roughly $75,000,000 left over and the house would keep the rest. In Ohio, you might only be left with half that, if anything.

To put it quite simply, legalizing gambling in Ohio would be the equivalent of legalizing pot, keeping games of skill legal in Ohio is the equivalent of legalizing crack.

As a test, I recently went to one of these parlors to see how long it would take me to lose $100. The game I played offered me nine ways to win each hand. I played a dime each way for a total of ninety cents a hand. The hundred dollars was gone in just over an hour. Imagine how fast a hard core gambling addict, or drunk, would lose his money.

We are currently getting all of the pitfalls of gambling, with none of the benefits that scrupulously run casinos would bring. The legislature needs to close the door on this loophole by making them illegal, or vote to allow legalized gambling in Ohio. I really don't care which way they go on this issue, but to do nothing is a criminal in itself.

The 2007 Comfest Schedule Is Out

Click to enlarge

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Great Grift

Wow, I knew the economic outlook in Albania was bleak, but getting the whole country together pretending to like Bush just to nick a watch, that's beyond bleak.

Seriously though, why did the White House lie about the watch getting stolen? Oh yea, it's the Bush White House, it's all they do.


I find this hilarious. Jonah Goldberg prints a letter from one of his readers which ends:

Conservatives need to turn off the money spigot. We can turn it back on in plenty of time for the general election next year, but right now we need to stop writing checks to any GOP organization and to any candidate who is not explicitly supporting a conservative agenda. If money is the lifeblood of politics, we need to apply a tourniquet and NOW if we're going to get our so-called elected representatives to pay any attention to us and get their heads out of the D.C. bubble. (He said, being charitable.)

I don't find this funny because the GOP base is angry, nor because they think their small donors matter. No, I find this funny because a letter talking about turning off the spigot was printed by a guy who has spent his entire adult life drinking from the hose it fills.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Soprano's Finale

************************Spoiler Warning*****************************

Well, I watched the finale of the Soprano's and I found it to be intriguing at the very least. I thought the episode was alright over all, but the last scene is really all there is to talk about. I admit it, I was DVRing the episode and when the screen went black, I thought that because the show went long, it had screwed up the ending until the credits rolled.

Now as to the final scene, which I watched several times, was left up to interpretation. My interpretation is this: Tony was shot dead when the scene went black. Not by the guy who went to the restroom in a Godfather reference, but by the two African-American men who were shown entering the restaurant. If you watch that last shot where Tony's eyes look powerfully into the camera, while your eyes are looking into his eyes, there is something else going on in that scene. If you watch carefully, and you might have to watch it in slow motion, it appears Tony was going for a gun. His left hand drops off the jukebox into his waistband and starts to jerk back up when the screen goes black, although it is his left hand and Tony is a rightie. Tony is looking toward the door, but that isn't a look you give your daughter, and the only two people between him are the two African-Americans who might have been hired by the Brooklyn underlings in an off the books hit since with Phil dead, killing Tony would leave it all to themselves.

Who knows though? Could be something else.

It was also good to see The Noisettes got a song on the final episode.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sopranos Prediction

Since it is the topic de jour this week, I guess I should make a prediction about the final episode of The Sopranos. So, here it goes.

I believe that in the wake of nobody showing up for his mother's funeral, Paulie Walnuts has become a sort of double agent for the New York mob. As such, he intentionally gave the cousins from Italy the wrong address for the hit on Phil Leotardo. Probably someone he had a beef with in the past. This gave Phil extra time to pull off the decapitation of the New Jersey mob, which Paulie would inherit after the decapitation.

In fact, I think the fed who tipped off Tony will soon know that the info they picked up on the wiretap was actually Paulie talking to Phil about it. Did you notice how fast Paulie bugged out of town once it became known that the hit on Phil was a failure?

Anyway, before Phil's gang can find Tony, the feds do, and they take him into custody. Perhaps the information Tony provided on the Middle Easterners panned out or maybe just because Tony's situation is so dire, the inform Tony that his gang is decimated and they offer him witness protection to prosecute Phil as it is his only way out.

Tony takes the deal. As I heard earlier this week, they are the Sopranos, and what do Sopranos do? They sing. Then Tony's life becomes something similar to the dream sequence after he got shot in which he is that sad sack of a salesman. Forced to live his life out of the game, a fate worse than prison save one thing. Tony actually knows where Junior hid all the money.

That or the set breaks open and all the characters fall into a pool where they perform some sort of Ethel Merman aqua-ballet number.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bluff Called

Vladimir Putin has called George Bush's bluff of Bush's call for cooperation with the Russians on a missile defense plan. I have to admit I was pretty shocked when Bush went so far out on a limb yesterday when he called for such cooperation. Today, Putin said sure, why don't you install one in Azerbaijan. Neither man can let this happen, and here's why.

Bush cannot install one of these Interceptor missiles in Azerbaijan because if the Russians get hold of it they will reverse engineer it and find out that it is a complete and total fraud. This thing most likely doesn't work at all in a real world situation and we can't let the Russians know that. We have to make them think that it is a possibility that it will work.

As for Putin, he can't really let it be installed in Russia because on the off chance that it does work, he certainly knows that hidden somewhere deep in the code is what we would refer to as an off switch which would put him at a distinct disadvantage. Putin must take the threat of these seriously and develop technology to overcome them which is hard to do while they are not only your defense, but your enemies too.

Putin is simply saying this because he knows he has just made George Bush the fool. George Bush is right about one thing though. The Interceptor is not a threat to Russia, it's a threat to the American taxpayer's wallet.

Paris Liberated!

Paris Hilton has been released from prison due to medical concerns. Is this giving you any ideas Scooter?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New Low

Not only is the President's approval ratings in the toilet, Rasmussen is reporting a new low for the number of Americans that identify themselves as republicans. From Rasmussen:

A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of 15,000 adults in May found that just 30.8% now say they’re Republicans. That’s down slightly from last month and down more than six percentage points from the GOP peak of 37.3% during Election 2004. The number of Republicans has been falling fairly steadily since the middle of 2005.

George Bush, killing the republican party one voter at a time.

How To Fix School Funding

Not really, I'm just responding to the tripe Dick Armey is currently churning out over at Swampland. From Swampland:

Not once [during the Republican debate], was retirement security addressed. It did not rear its head in the form of a question nor as an answer. We heard a great deal about the American family, but no candidate talked about education, or more importantly, the decay within our nation's schools. This month millions of kids are out of school for summer break. If only we could break the stranglehold of union control over the classroom. [emphasis mine]

Yea, I'm sure Armey's friends still in government would rush out to pick up the additional operational costs that year round education would incur. Wait, maybe they would, maybe they would.

What we really need in public education these days are uniforms. Not for the students mind you, but for the educators. After all, police and fire departments have quite strong unions in their own right, but you never hear a conservative bash a cop or fireman over their unions, do you? And they pretty much get whatever funding they want, don't they? The answers to those questions are obvious and the reason is that they are so photogenic for campaign ads. So I say uniforms for teachers!

Make it something zippy, with badges and epaulets, and oh yea, throw in an American flag on the sleeve. It will instantaneously change teachers from evil socialists to great American heroes with their new photogenic garb. Public education would be impossible not to fully fund otherwise you might be depicted in ads for your next election by your opponent as someone who hates America for not funding these great public servants. And your opponent will have ads with folks in uniform to tell your constituents exactly that.

Sure, it's ridiculous, but so is Armey.


The above photo is the proposed design for the new Franklin County Courthouse. I only have one question. What is up with all the glass?
Given the security threats federal and local courthouses have faced from Timothy McVeigh to recent courthouse shootings, does anyone else see a fatal (literally) flaw in this design? Is there going to be a bell tower across the street for potential snipers?
I'm truly baffled by this.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Great New Product

Oh, fuck it. I tried to get this video to embed, it wouldn't work. Go view it here.


Scooter really got creamed today. Thirty months in prison and a $250,000 fine. Oh, and MSNBC is really doing some fabulous coverage of Paris Behind Bars, Day Two. Apparently she got to keep her hair extensions. Absolutely riveting, huh?

Concert Review: BRMC

Last night I caught Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Newport. All in all it was a pretty good show. The sound was great and the band played a wide representation of their repertoire ripping through twenty-some songs. I do have some nits to pick with the show though.

First of all, seriously, ditch the strobe lights. If you have epilepsy, do not go see this band. After two hours of staring at blinding strobe lights, I thought I was a Japanese cartoon character. Also, cut the smoke back by about 75%. It was a little tough to see the show unless you were in the front, although the smoke did help mute some of the strobe lights. At one point I turned to the guy next to me and asked, "Who is playing harmonica?" We couldn't tell because we couldn't see it.

One other thing, the three song acoustic set in the middle of the show caused the show to lose momentum, at least for me.

Outside those things, well worth the money.

Monday, June 04, 2007

William Jefferson Indicted

About time. If you are wondering why he is still in Congress, here is a reminder.

Just Thought You Would Like To Know

If you're unfamiliar with the geography, Tropical Cyclone Gonu, a category 5 strength hurricane, is heading directly toward the Straits of Hormuz and shipping lanes that transit 20% of the world's oil daily. Here is the advisory.




Ah, The Clusterfucks That Could Have Been

With men as stupid as Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Steven Cambone, John Bolton, and Donald Rumsfeld spending considerable time in the last six years at the highest levels of government, I suppose we should be happy, no, overjoyed that the worst they managed to do was create the clusterfuck that is Iraq. God knows they tried hard to create ones far greater. From Congressional Quarterly:

Lawrence B. Wilkerson, the U.S. Army colonel who was Powell’s chief of staff through two administrations, said in little-noted remarks early last month that “neocons” in the top rungs of the administration quietly encouraged Taiwanese politicians to move toward a declaration of independence from mainland China — an act that the communist regime has repeatedly warned would provoke a military strike.

The top U.S. diplomat in Taiwan at the time, Douglas Paal, backs up Wilkerson’s account, which is being hotly disputed by key former defense officials.


“The Defense Department, with Feith, Cambone, Wolfowitz [and] Rumsfeld, was dispatching a person to Taiwan every week, essentially to tell the Taiwanese that the alliance was back on,” Wilkerson said, referring to pre-1970s military and diplomatic relations, “essentially to tell Chen Shui-bian, whose entire power in Taiwan rested on the independence movement, that independence was a good thing.”

Wilkerson said Powell would then dispatch his own envoy “right behind that guy, every time they sent somebody, to disabuse the entire Taiwanese national security apparatus of what they’d been told by the Defense Department.”


“They are dangerous men who will lie about almost anyone or anything,” Wilkerson angrily responded by e-mail, singling out Feith, DiRita, Cheney and Rumsfeld for scorn.

He called back-stage encouragement of the Taiwanese “even more serious” than the alleged manipulation of Iraq intelligence, because it could provoke China to attack the island, triggering a U.S. response and the world’s first nuclear shooting war.

Thank God these men are as incompetent as they are idiotic. Even President Bush could be talked into going along with this and told the men to knock it off.

As for our actual policy with respect to Taiwan, I've always suspected that our real policy is all show, no go. I can't imagine any American president risking a nuclear confrontation with China over Taiwan, but you never can tell what some people will do. I know the American people would not be supportive.


As I sat in my living room this morning in the pre-dawn darkness trying to raise the amount of nicotine in my body to self-prescribed levels, I heard a number meander out of my television. Seventeen. "Seventeen?" I thought, my God, we have already lost seventeen members of our Armed Forces this month. After all, it's only the fourth of the month.

A flip to the New York Times confirmed what most of us knew all along. The surge, is only accomplishing to pad the butcher's bill that Bush's fiasco has become. From the New York Times:

Three months after the start of the Baghdad security plan that has added thousands of American and Iraqi troops to the capital, they control fewer than one-third of the city’s neighborhoods, far short of the initial goal for the operation, according to some commanders and an internal military assessment.

The American assessment, completed in late May, found that American and Iraqi forces were able to “protect the population” and “maintain physical influence over” only 146 of the 457 Baghdad neighborhoods.

One third of one city, that is all the surge has managed to pacify. And for these gains, we are now averaging the loss of over four servicemen a day.

As I told people at the time of this invasion, once we went in, we went through the looking glass. There would and could be no second chances because once we lost control in such a heavily armed country, it was over. The Bush administration has done nothing but attempt second chance after second chance each a Friedman long, forever to be followed by another.

It's over, the guys in charge of this war fucked it up, and we can never fix it. End it.

Hey Kids

Sorry for the lack of posts, my Internet connection has been anywhere from non-existent to intermittent for the last week and a half. I guess Time Warner is doing some sort of an upgrade and understandably, there have been outages in that coveted three AM to six AM time slot. Not much I can do about it as Time Warner is my only choice where I live.

Anyway, it seems to be back working again although I am still losing the local ABC affiliate and the radar channel. What are you going to do?