Friday, August 31, 2007

Endless Summer

Ex-Worker Shoots at 3 at Co-op City, Killing Old Boss, Police Say - A Trip by Bus And Subway To Surrender - This is in no way funny, but the subway to surrender (the gunman travelled by bus and subway to the courthouse then turned himsel in) aspect is remarkable. In a follow-up to yesterday's post - remember freshmen who are new to NYC, CitiLegs, not subway, CitiLegs.

Tennis Fans Find Excuses to Flee the Office for Flushing Meadows and, in a seemingly unrelated story, At IBM a Vacation Anytime, Or Maybe No Vacation at All. Pictured above is Colleen Channer, a lawyer who was not afraid to pose while watching the US Open because she was officially on vacation. The empty seats were vacated by people who had called in sick and ran just before the photo was snapped. The guy in the big blue cap at the far left in the top row (partially obscured by the railing - well entirely obscured by the railing - all right already, I admit it, he's not really there- just humor me) who is working on his laptop while talking on his phone is from IBM. Being seen at the open is no problem for Mr. Big Blue, he can take as much vacation as he wants whenever he wants under IBM's policy. In fact he is on his 273rd consecutive vacation day and he hasn't enjoyed one yet. Your humble reporter, on the other hand, has not taken a day of vacation since he retired, and yet has enjoyed every one of them.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Real Don'ts for NYC Frosh

Welcome, Students. Now Watch It - This NY Times feature lists things college students newly arrived in NY should not do, supplemented below courtesy of As Good As News.

- Don't sleep in the Subway - always nice to start with a song lyric - Petula Clark also warned about the pouring rain - however, if you are lucky enough to pull an assignment to one of NYC's historic dorms (roach infested and 200 years old) you might actually prefer the subway. Make sure your valuables are very secure before nodding off. The Time's warning here misses the real problem - never wear an outfit like the one pictured above in a public space in NYC - you invite mugging and molestation and if you can't produce a student ID on short notice you might find yourself in the middle of a psychiatric consult at Bellevue before you can say you're from Kansas.

The real scoop here is that you will not use the subway as much as you expect. No - you will not be driving in Manhattan, silly - you will be walking. By late September you will have your CitiLegs and a brisk jaunt of two or three miles, complete with strategic jaywalking, will seem like nothing.

-Don't Drink Too Much and [Don't] Use The Street as a Toilet - You probably will drink too much at some point and the NY Times is unlikely to stop you, but if you are accustomed to using the street as a toilet then just stay at home. The $250 and ten days in jail for public urination is the tip of the iceberg. Look at what is happening to Sen. Larry Craig.

-Don't mispronounce Houston Street - As a college freshman you will make many mistakes, this one is hardly worth agonizing over. If you mispronounce Houston and someone notices then quickly add a comment about HoSo or Big Italy so you can pass the entire conversation off as irony.

-Don't Play Chess for Money with the Hustlers in Washington Square Park - sage, if somewhat obvious advice. Presumably 3 card monte, available at select locations throughout the city, is acceptable?

-Don't Count on Following the Highway Signs to Yankee Stadium - And where exactly would a college freshman arriving in NY after Labor Day be getting Yankee tickets and a car in which to lose his way while attempting to follow this whimsical signage? Save this one for the tourists.

-Don't Spend Money on Condoms - OK, but please read past the headline on this one.

-Don't Order Bottled Water - The notion that a student would drink bottled water because he or she does not realize the high quality of the NYC tap water is fundamentally absurd. Students drink bottled water so they can look cool, waste their parent's money and avoid the hard labor associated with refilling a squeeze bottle. The fact that NYC has drinkable water is beyond irrelevant.

-Don't Light Up in a Bar - I'm sure things were different in the bars you went to at home while you were still in high school, college frosh, but here in NY we frown on smoking in bars. Why not skip the bar and the smokes, isn't drinking bottled water enough cool?

Welcome class of 2011.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bush Library? I Didn't Know He Could Read

Bush Cites Nuclear Risk of Leaving Iraq - Just not possible. Yes, W (actually Darth Cheney) is now grasping at straws to avoid admitting error, but in W's case he would sight a nucular risk.

Architect Chosen for Bush Presidential Library - The New York firm Robert A.M. Stern Architects has been selected to design President Bush's Presidential Library. The W Library will be located on the SMU campus (Laura's alma mater, W went to Yale but they already had a library). Tentative plans feature a Texas heritage theme, a one room "school house" centered on a windswept prairie in an isolated section of the Dallas campus. One corner of the room will host an exhibit of W's favorite reads: DC Comics classics; the back of every Dr. Pepper bottle ever made; and a special Presidential edition - Three Habits of Highly Effective People - if only W had been willing to read the full 7 habits, we might never have gone to Iraq. A second corner will feature an exhaustive collection of every document produced by the White House during the W years. Darth Cheney recently classified all this material with a special new designation - "Top Secret for Eternity" so the volume of material actually on display will be quite manageable - actually this corner will be empty except for some very old Life magazines (W likes the pictures) taken from a West Wing waiting area. A third corner will include a video display of every major speech W made while in office. Karl Rove actually "resigned" to take on this project as editor in chief. Karl is not just selecting the best of W, he's reshooting. "Darth and I told that clown exactly what to say and he still screwed up 60% of the time.", said Rove. "With a double and a sound board, not to mention the benefit of knowing what actually happened between 2001 and now, I can really straighten out that idiot's legacy." The final corner is "Laura Lets Loose" as the first lady designs exhibits promoting the children's causes she espoused in the W years and adds a special Grin and Bare it segment, showing exactly how she handled the Decider whenever she didn't like the decision.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

If Only, Thinks Larry Craig

High Rolling Right Past Las Vegas - The Venetian in Macao opens today with three canals. OK, so the Vegas Venetian has only one canal, at least it's not polluted.
Senator, Arrested in an Airport Bathroom, Pleads Guilty - Senator Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho, was arrested in June by an undercover police office in a men's bathroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and plead guilty three weeks ago to disorderly conduct charges. He seems to be scrambling, PR wise, now that Roll Call broke the story. The undercover policeman in the stall adjoining Craig's reports that Craig tapped his foot in "a well known signal to engage in lewd conduct." Apparently tapping wasn't enough, Craig went on to brush the officer's foot, then wave his hand under the stall divider several times before his arrest. Now that it's public Craig is saying (and thinking):
-I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct. (I wasn't bothering anybody. Everyone knows that bathroom is a gay rendezvous, why else would they have a cop in there? I swear that prick tapped back or I never would have brushed his foot - it was entrapment.)
-I should not have plead guilty. I was trying to handle the matter myself and expeditiously. (I just shut my eyes and pretended it would all go away. Now I'm ruined. If I had just thought it over I could have told them I was only trying to borrow some toilet paper.)
-I said it was "completely ridiculous" when those snarky homosexuals tried to out me last year and I still do. (Damn, if only I had known this was going to come out - the story I mean, not me. I should have said I thought I was in the ladies room.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Inside Job

With the Bench Cozied Up to the Bar, the Lawyers Can't Lose - This is a lucid and accurate column on the massive inefficiency in the legal system citing self-regulation by the legal profession (including judges) as the cause. Great stuff, as far as it goes, and so brief that I urge you to read it if you have a hard copy of the NY Times. It's a Times Select item so you won't get far with the link. As a lawyer who worked in-house for a corporation I was not getting paid by the hour, so I had an inside view of many problems, with no incentive to stay quiet and keep billing. Judges at every level are reluctant to enforce any discipline against delay or frivolity, They try to unclog the disaster this creates by forcing settlements, even when one side of a case shows little merit. After a few months of pre-trial skirmishing an entitlement mentality takes hold - plaintiff's lawyers (lets picture a husband and wife team, Sue and Bill Thensettle) need to get something, look at all the work they have invested in the case. Wait - Sue and Bill advised their own client to file suit on a lousy case, forced the other party to waste countless hours (which convert to many $$) on motions and depositions which did nothing but confirm the fact that the case was lousy and for this process they deserve a fee? If a dentist pounded on an infected tooth until you paid him to stop, someone would listen to your complaint. A court will just encourage you to pay to stop the pounding because, given the system the judges have created, it's the only way to clear the calendar and stop wasting the court's valuable time.

The "Cozied Up" column covers only part of the story. Legislatures have some authority to regulate judicial processes and procedures, they don't do enough with it. Why not? Trial Lawyers are a disciplined, wealthy lobby. They have a vested interest in preserving a system that lets them bill by the hour through lengthy proceedings or garner contingency fees based on settlements achieved using two points of leverage - fear of the jury and fear that the judge will allow any expert evidence, no matter how unscientific, to reach the jury. Courts can cover some incremental costs with user fees, avoiding the legislative scrutiny that a more complete budgeting process might trigger. Lawyers have improved self regulation in areas like protecting clients from embezzlement and clear cut malpractice, keeping the spotlight off fundamental inefficiencies in the litigation system. Finally, in the vast majority of cases the individual lawyers are acting in their client's best interest each step of the way in a given case, even though the result is high bills. The judges put a great premium on fairness over efficiency. They reduce the chance of reversible error by letting nearly everything go to the jury and they really believe that settlements are the best way out of the morass this creates, even though this path ultimately invites more and more litigation. The road to legal inefficiency is paved with good intentions.

Alberto Gonzalez has just resigned. Maybe there is fire as well as smoke in some of the unofficial e-mail surrounding the earlier firings of Assistant Attorneys General, politically directed investigations, etc. Somehow I don't think Karl Rove's book will cover this in detail. We will look for any interesting developments before posting tomorrow.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Golden Gate could be Golden

The Golden Gate, Brought to You by... - The Golden Gate Bridge faces an $80 Million operating deficit over the next 5 years. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, the authority that manages the bridge, is trying to come up with a corporate sponsorship plan that won't effect the look or character of the landmark. One idea is to develop a visitor's center on the San Francisco side, adding cultural value for tourists and chances for companies to sponsor buildings or booths in the center, thus getting an association with the bridge, all without an iota of change to the span itself. San Francisco Beautiful, the non-profit opposition, is already on guard, determined to preserve not only the Golden Gate's fabled appearance but a sense of style and class they fear will be dragged down by corporate sponsorship.
San Francisco - maybe you have it backwards. First consider all the companies that already use a Golden Gate like bridge as part of their logo or advertising. Something they already do for free. Cisco comes to mind. Second, take all the companies that want to capitalize on this icon in future logos and ads. Create an official sponsor category that let's them do this with the blessing of the bridge's management, for a fee. If need be, investigate whether there is a way to protect, limit and license the commercial use of the bridge's image, a land mark trade mark? (copyright?, design patent?). If the Bridge authority paid to design and build the bridge why does a company like Cisco get to use the image of the bridge as a logo for free? In other words, don't even think about changing the bridge, find a way to collect from the companies that are already capitalizing, for free, on the image of the bridge. Cisco, and others using the bridge logo, might put up $80 Million just to avoid a fight and earn some good will at home.
If licensing doesn't work, assemble a coalition of the willing orange -Ing, Home Depot, Syracuse, sorry San Francisco Beautiful - I think we should let Hooters in on this, further suggestions welcome. Promise to keep the bridge orange if they buy the paint.
As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes - As Good As News has already exhausted its readers with boring jabs at Chinese President Hu Jintao (Party Animal to us) so we will spend only a minute on today's massive story - page 1 headline plus continuation into a full two page spread inside. The Times finally put some points we have been making together in one place. The premium China has placed on economic growth, even at the expense of the environment, and the health and safety of the Chinese (not to mention trading partners), serves a purpose:

For the Communist Party, the political calculus is daunting. Reining in
economic growth to alleviate pollution may seem logical, but the country’s
authoritarian system is addicted to fast growth. Delivering prosperity placates
the public, provides spoils for well-connected officials and forestalls demands
for political change. A major slowdown could incite social unrest, alienate
business interests and threaten the party’s
Since Party Animal became President in 2002, he has talked a good game about reducing growth to a sustainable level and addressing intolerable environmental abuse. But in a country where even the Party Animal's hints and asides are usually gospel, no one seems to listen to him when he says that environmental, health and safety issues are important enough to justify restrained economic growth. Wonder why? The NY Times says:

Five years later, it seems clear that these senior leaders are either too
timid to enforce their orders, or the fast-growth political culture they
preside over is too entrenched to heed them.

Maybe, or maybe they just aren't trying. Note the reasons for growth uber alles include spoils for well connected officials and keeping the party in power. Party Animal did come up with a system (now abandoned) to measure the impact of environmental damage on GDP, so maybe he is sincere, but why is this the one area where no one seems to listen to him?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Diapers Back on Top

Women in NASA Triangle Face Each Other in Court - Capt. Lisa Nowak, the astronaut accused of trying to kidnap her love triangle rival, is back in the news and sharing the courtroom with her intended victim during a pretrial hearing. Capt. Nowak wants to stop wearing her ankle bracelet because it's inconvenient and expensive (the accused gets to pay for her own house arrest accessories, nice touch). The prosecutor had a sympathetic suggestion, fire your media consultant and then you can afford the bracelet. Detective William Becton was questioned at length in the hearings. The legal issue - did Becton advise Nowack of her rights. The real point - what else - the diapers. Detective Becton found three used diapers in the back of Nowak's car. Becton says Nowak acknowledged that she used the diapers so she could drive non-stop on her kidnapping mission. Nowak has an alternate version - some cock and bull story about the diapers being left over from a hurricane two years before, but every stand up comic in America stands squarely behind Detective Benton - Astronaut Uses Diapers In Non-Stop Cross-Country Love Triangle Kidnap Journey - that's our story and we are sticking to it - yech - don't take that "sticking to it' too literally. Note that this story about Capt. Nowak's hearing is featured directly above a second NASA story, one with no photo and half the column space of the diaper piece. NASA has determined what caused foam to fall, damaging heat shields, on the last shuttle mission. The falling foam story has no love triangle, no diapers, just the safety of the astronauts on future missions at stake. Did Rupert Murdoch buy the Wall Street Journal or the NY Times?
Companies Agree To Pay To Settle SAT Error Suit - College Board and NCS Pearson, Inc. agreed to pay $2.85 Million to settle a class action involving mistakes in the SAT scores reported to over 4,400 students in 2005. The settlement averages about $646 per student, College Board got off easy. Imagine, the difference between lifetime income for an Ivy League grad versus a community college grad, multiply times 4,400 then add on the damages for the mental anguish of the students times 4,400, then add on the damages for the mental anguish of the parents times 8,800. Good thing for College Board the error was discovered before the admissions decisions were final, although it did effect the choice of some students on where to apply.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Two Sporting Propositions

Bake Sales and Trash Pickup Help College Teams Stay Afloat -Penn State fencers, frequent NCAA champs, clean Beaver stadium after football games, even scraping the gum off the bottom of the seats. Some of the football players help out, the ones getting punished for fighting. Butler softball players get to clean the basketball arena. Utah swimmers have it easy, they cater the luxury boxes during the football games. Other "minor" sports sponsor bake sales and car washes. All these work projects and fundraisers fill budget gaps and keep the minor sports programs, which grant scholarships, alive. It may seem unfair, but consider the alternative. Just as Rutger's football turned the corner, swimming, crew and several other sports disappeared. Minor sports regularly vanish at the Division 1 schools. Title IX sometimes gets blamed, but the core problem is usually lack of funds, not the requirement that programs funded with state money provide for equal participation by women.

So - Nittany Lions - how about a sporting proposition. If the fencers finish higher than the football team in this year's NCAA rankings then the football team cleans its own stadium, turns the proceeds over to the fencers and participates in an exhibition fencing tournament as a fundraiser. All participants wear tights. If football ranks higher, the fencers clean again, and put on a skit as teenage mutant ninja turtles at the football awards dinner.

All this weirdness stems from the basic decision at most Division 1 (1 A in the case of men's football) schools to run football and basketball as a business. There are positive elements to this approach. A few successful programs consistently yield profits that help support other sports - although for many schools this is a mirage, encouraging futile investment to reach a goal that is always just out of reach. Even the programs that don't produce a steady income can win sometimes, boosting the spirits of students and alumni. Think about the Rutgers students spilling onto the field in a sea of red after last year's win over Louisville, and guess what it did for alumni donations and the number and quality of applications from incoming freshman.

As Good As News likes a good college ball game, but on balance running college sports as a business may do more harm than good. Some colleges, Williams for example, put enormous effort into recruiting, coaching and winning in a tremendous number of sports, but the goal is to develop the student (and maybe make the alumni a little happier), not fund the athletic department. MIT used to field teams in more sports than any other college, maybe it still does, but the goal was to compete hard at the level of the students , not recruit future pros.

How about one more wager, let's take a look at the income reported in the year 2018 by the members of the 2008 Williams football team and the 2008 University of Southern California Trojans, a preseason number one pick that will produce many professional athletes. First, As Good As News recognizes that income will not accurately measure the contribution, success or happiness of a teacher, musician, writer, curator, social worker, etc. Understood, but we need something we can count here. Now let's compare incomes in 2018 - the team with the higher income does nothing. Each member of the team with the lower income must donate 20% of his 2018 income to the athletic department of the winning school. Any takers gentlemen?

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Tehran Says It Has Designed A Smart Bomb - The initial reaction from as Good As News is fantastic, but very surprising, news. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is goofy, but he is sometimes clever. Wouldn't he realize that any truly smart bomb would make a u-turn immediately after launch and explode in his lap? Iran can't just launch this thing, they need to brainwash it first. There must be more to this story. Hugo Chavez, President for Life of Venezuela, and the Cheech to Ahmdinejad's Chong, announced recently that he was adjusting time by one-half hour. Perhaps Chavez plans to reverse the Earth's rotation momentarily (think Superman resurrecting Lois Lane - although in "real" science fiction, you would rotate forward at a speed exceeding the speed of light to reverse time). This rotational adjustment would disrupt the rest of the world's guidance systems, but certainly Hugo would share the details of his time plan with his pal Mahmoud. So, with the appropriate adjustments to the targeting coordinates, Tehran would not just have a smart bomb, it would have the world's only working smart bomb. Somehow As Good As News will sleep soundly tonight, it just doesn't seem like Cheech and Chong are up to this....yet.

Tennis Everyone? Older Players Lose Swagger but Gain Swag - It's not just the Earth that can spin backwards, warping chronological expectations. Each year hundreds of tennis seniors (like 86 year old Lucy Dettmer, pictured above) get endorsement deals with equipment manufactures. OK, Lucy's getting free rackets, not making millions, but I'm still impressed. In fact I'm junking my plan to win the Head of the Charles Men's Grand Master Single in 2033 and concentrating full time on tennis. With focus and dedication, I think I can get a free pair of shoes by the time I'm 75.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wolverine Stew

Michigan Joins the Race For a "Me First" Primary -

"Michigan has been bellyaching for years, far more vociferously than any other state, about Iowa and New Hampshire going first, Mr Ballenger said. Michigan is saying, "We"ve had it, we're going Jan 15, we're going to trump everyone.""

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch announced the results of an emergency joint session of the New Hampshire Legislature held last night: "New Hampshire sneers at Michigan and announces its primary will be held tomorrow, assuring continuation of its historical primary primacy for the 2008 election. The New Hampshire primary for the 2012 election has now been set for Nov. 11, 2008. "

Iowa announced the results of the caucuses that were secretly held late last night. Hillary Clinton wins with a beer and champagne coalition of union leaders and intellectuals who said they might have considered Obama if he had taken the time to get to know Iowa. Obama was stunned, "I had months of campaigning scheduled for Iowa - how could they move the caucus without even telling the candidates?" Mike Huckabee squeezed out a shocking upset in a Republican vote that was scattered almost evenly over six candidates. Veteran GOP delegate Earl E. Byrd said he went with Huckabee because the other Republicans didn't even pretend to have a sense of humor, adding, "That Guliani guy was downright scary when he got angry - I thought he was going to blow his hair right off his own head, but the real losers are those pricks from Michigan - this ought to poke them in the eye with a sharp stick, and if we need to go retroactive with our next caucus - we will! "

U.S. Group Accuses Chinese Toy Factories of Labor Abuses - "China Labor Watch, which is based in New York, said that it had investigated eight Chinese factories over the last year and discovered widespread labor violations, including the hiring of under-age workers, mandatory overtime, unsafe working conditions and managers who engaged in verbal abuse and sexual harassment." Chinese leader Hu Jinatao, known endearingly to As Good As News readers as Party Animal, yawned – he had just returned from a long night of clubbing -– and said it was time for the do gooders and the Western media to get off China' s back. “We are a government of laws” said Party Animal, “we are a newly developed country and we will learn about safety and workers' rights once we have established global leadership in toys and other markets. Besides, one fat despot has dominated the toy market for centuries from an isolated workshop using malnourished senior citizens as slave labor. His workers can't leave because they would freeze to death in polar conditions if they tried to escape wearing only green tights. He even operates a reindeer team 24/7 with no food or water during the holiday season just to make his final deliveries. Where's the NY Times Story on the real bad guys?" S. Claus, CEO of Polar Toys Limited, could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'll Take a Combo Platter and a Diet Cola Please

Yes, They Deep- Fry Oreos, but Not in Trans Fats - The Indiana State Fair bans trans fats in the frying oil. Fortunately, the food tastes the same - only now it's health food. Give me one combo platter (one Snickers, two Oreos, and a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, all battered and fried in oil) with a diet, caffeine free Pepsi.

By the way, NY Times, what are your rules of headline capitalization that As Good As News copies so slavishly? For example, in the headline for this story, why is "Not" capitalized while "but" is lower case?

New Civics Class Asks, What Would Muhammad Do? The British government has funded the development and distribution of an Islamic curriculum that emphasizes non-violence and other civic virtues in teaching the Koran. Brilliant - Not! Muslims are already questioning the accuracy of some lessons and asking why just Islam, why not a Christian program that teaches civic virtue. The core problem is more significant. Any government generated program will always be inauthentic and the suspicious reaction may do more harm than the lessons do good. The radical anti-Western jihad has a real, if not incontestable, basis in Islam's teachings, one that is taught as the official version of Islam in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Some Islamic scholars and leaders profess a "moderate" interpretation. As Good As News would love to see and hear more from them. In fact, the only good that might come out of the Brit's effort to turn Islam into a government sponsored civics lesson is the reaction of these moderates. Maybe the moderates will lead a more public challenge to radical jihad themselves, better than leaving it to the government - or leaving Islam to the jihadists.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vick to Relocate?

Pet Cruelty Accusations Startle Upscale Enclave - Saddle River is a borough of 3200 people in Bergen County, New Jersey with an average home price over $1 Million, average per family income over $150,000 and celebrity residents like Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Sean Combs. A DHL driver recently noticed dogs and cats with matted fur walking among knee high piles of feces while making a delivery to a Saddle River manse. When the Bergen County ASPCA got inside they found a nightmare, twenty-three dead pets, cats breeding out of control and a basement knee deep in feces. The house is owned by a married couple, a stock broker and an entrepreneur, who had recently filed for bankruptcy. They are not talking. Hard to understand why a couple that probably started out taking in strays as an act of kindness could both stand by as the situation disintegrated. Right about now the citizens of Saddle River are seriously questioning the old saying - any publicity is good publicity.

But for Michael Vick there is opportunity in disaster. Mr. Vick, buy this house. Start rebuilding your reputation by saving the pets that are left. Dump that entourage in Virginia that's busy ratting on you to save their own skins and make new friends in New Jersey. The people in Saddle River are a close mouthed bunch who won't even give reporters the time of day, much less the names of the other residents in the neighborhood near the house. Richard Nixon once lived here, now there was a guy who knew how to blow off a reporter and stone wall law enforcement. Apparently even the wealthy in in New Jersey understand omerto, or at least respect their neighbor's privacy. So, Michael Vick, cop a plea, serve your time, cajole your way back into the NFL with repentance and good works. By the time you're ready for a second chance - well Saddle River is an easy commute to Giants Stadium.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Broken In - not Worn Out

Leaving Well Enough Alone: The Rise of the Unrestored Collectible - Today As Good As News features a moderately dull Automobile section story on leaving the classics alone. Forget it - I'm running late. Today's post is really a photo - because it is beautiful, and a want ad. How do I get this car, a 1957 Jaguar XKSS, never restored but in great condition. The XKSS was the ultimate car of its time, essentially a street version of a Le Mans racer. After giving the matter serious consideration, I am not prepared to offer any family member in exchange for this vehicle but all other suggestions will be taken under advisement. Respond now by comment to As Good As News.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What do you mean you're moving to a stadium

With Markets Moving Wildly, Insight Suffers - A Few Late Mortgages Create A Credit Crisis

Troubles In Mortgage Market Start to Strain Manhattan Deals

OK, slowed by vacation travel and basic lack of interest, As Good As News has not really been on top of this story. Apparently while I was not watching (the last four decades), Wall Street took over mortgage lending from Main Street. This was the result of two factors. One was relentless consolidation in the bank business - the bank on Main Street in your town is now always part of a global supersized financial institution. The other is "securitization" - not security, as in the bank holds a mortgage on your house and will foreclose if you don't pay - securitization, as in the debts of many borrowers are packaged together as a big debt, and sold, like a bond. These packages of mortgage debt were popular, funds flowed down to home buyer/borrowers and a real estate boom was fueled. They were so popular that lending was encouraged beyond the point where old fashioned Main Street banks would have been willing to extend credit. Now borrowers are defaulting, house prices have declined below the amount of the loans they secure and suddenly nobody wants to buy packages of mortgage debt, so it is not easy to find money for mortgage loans. In fact people are worried about old fashioned things like bank failures and borrowing money generally is becoming a sticky proposition. Especially hard hit are mortgage loans over $417,000 (jumbos), the largest amount eligible for packaging by Fannie Mae and/or Freddie Mac - two organizations that sound like fast food chains and may have similar staffing policies but are in fact the preeminent mortgage loan packagers, originally chartered by Uncle Sam.

So, you want to buy a big house, or a large closet in Manhattan, you need to borrow over $417,000 and you can't find a loan - what do you do?

The Jets and the Giants Borrow $1.3 Billion for Their New Stadium - That's right, it does not matter if you are in a high risk industry where your bottom line can turn red based on the performance of a bunch of twenty year old thugs who think a bad record is not a 1-15 season but something they can clear up with a good lawyer and some community service. Just call your prospective country manor a stadium and bankers will throw money at your feet.

Need more than a paltry $1.3 Billion? Countrywide Financial, the nation's largest mortgage lender, borrowed $11.5 Billion from a consortium of 40 banks. Countrywide had to swear off the jumbos to get this money, so on the surface it makes your task even tougher, but think big. Just make sure your bank knows that the country's entire financial system - mortgage loans, corporate loans, stock prices etc, - might fail if you don't get your loan and you will be closing on that dream house next week.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Can I major in comedy?

Forced to Pick A Major in High School - High school freshmen are forced to pick a major at Dwight Morrow High School, a public school in Englewood, NJ - a town with a mixture of mansions and poor areas near the George Washington bridge. Seems a little early to make a career decision. I'm still thinking about my own career choice, and I'm retired. Education experts are lining up loudly on both sides. Kids can be fickle. I attended a kindergarten graduation where the students were forced to announce what they wanted to be when they grew up. The first girl said artist and a class of twenty somehow produced fifteen would be artists. The Dwight Morrow plan could be great - the students get to choose and they end up structuring an academic program around something that interests them. If the major is just a focal point for broad training in analytical skills, Math and spoken and written English, why not? The student is in a position to change majors in high school or do something different in college or career with no harm done. If the major makes high school a little more interesting along the way - well, sounds like a plan. If the major is an early career decision that eliminates choices - disaster. Let's see what happens in real life before we take sides.

The same school features classrooms called Harvard, Yale and Rutgers in an effort to foster an academic track atmosphere. I can just see parents scheming as their kid finishes eighth grade, it's never too early to get into Harvard. Why no class named for MIT, Columbia or NYU? Dwight Morrow High won't get any donation from me.

Dwight Morrow was a senator and diplomat, the father of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a noted Nazi sympathizer who was the wife of the famed aviator. I wonder if they cover any of this in History class? It might generate some interesting graffiti.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Congestion Fees - they're baaaack

New York to Get US Traffic Aid, But with a Catch - The Feds approved $354 Million in aid for New York City's plan to reduce traffic, but: 1) The funding is contingent on implementation of the full plan, including congestion fees (the charge on each vehicle driving below 86th Street in Manhattan) and 2) NYC must come up with more than $200 Million to fund the congestion fee portion of the traffic plan because the US won't pick up the tab. The congestion fees have already started a war between Mayor Bloomberg and the NY State Legislature in Albany. W seems to be fanning the flames - the Federal carrot keeps the issue alive, but Bloomberg needs to go back to Albany once again on the unpopular congestion fee, and the legislators are already shaking their heads like side to side bobble head dolls.

Here are some tactical suggestions, Mr. Mayor. Tell those legislators the fees are not hard to collect. In the 80's no car could move in Manhattan without paying a squeegeeman to smear dirt around the windshield. - if people will pay for that, then collecting the congestion fee is no problemo. Promise Albany you will collect all the fees on the way in to Manhattan - what happens if you collect on the way out, as initially planned, and the driver is broke? That's right - an exit fee turns Manhattan into a roach motel for tourists. Finally, appeal to their competitive spirit, if the Brits can do it so can NYC.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Karl Growing Old at Home?

A Grass Roots Effort to Grow Old at Home - This story features an elderly couple who remains in their Georgetown home thanks to a mutual aid society with the neighbors. Nothing to do with Rove, but you have to love the way the headline about "growing old at home' is placed directly under the photo of W kissing Karl goodbye on page 1 of the hard copy NY Times.

Rove resigns as Bush Aide - The blogosphere is abuzz with speculation on why Karl resigned. The mystery of the fired AGs may be a real problem for Karl, , or just a nuisance. His stated reason, he is doing it for his family, is being dismissed too lightly. It's not the time - as every Blue blogger has noted, why wait until your son leaves for college to head home- but it might be the money. Karl has been a public servant for many years and he is not getting any younger. A successful book and some lucrative consulting work on the 2008 campaign could help him set his family up for life.

Sweatology - The Human Cooling System is Leaky, but it's Efficient - Why does Nixon automatically come to mind when we need a photo of sweat? The science page story on sweatology puts Dick in a whole new perspective - he was actually cool because he perspired so profusely - take that hippie scum.

After Killings, Sense of Unity Surprises Newark -Tragic murder of college bound Newark students unites a city that was turning on it's Mayor. Corey Booker's genuine grief and commitment connected with a community in mourning and forced the Sharpe James brigade of petty pols to hold its collective tongue, at least for now. The complaints and gossip will resurface soon, but Booker may have just established a personal relationship with the community that can endure the sniping.

Monday, August 13, 2007


A Case So Shielded One Side Is in the Dark - Jon Eisenberg, a lawyer representing an Islamic charity and other clients suing the US government for illegal surveillance, wrote his appellate brief under Orwellian circumstances. In his words,

"Yesterday, under the auspices and control of my litigation adversaries, at their offices and on their computer, I wrote a brief of which I was not allowed to keep a copy, responding to arguments which I was not permitted to see, which will be met by a reply which I will not be permitted to see."

It's like the poor guy is subject to the Eisenberg uncertainty principle.

If you try the link above you will see that the case is so secret it was moved to Time's select, you can't even read the news story without special clearance. Also note the suspicious absence of pictures.

Similar cases have been dismissed because the plaintiff could not prove surveillance without discovery in the litigation, or claim a specific injury resulting from surveillance. Mr Eisenberg's client is an unusual position, it claims the US Treasury bungled, mistakenly giving the plaintiff a classified document that showed it was under surveillance.. The government's approach is heads I win - if plaintiff doesn't have specific knowledge of illegal surveillance the case must be dismissed, tails you lose - if plaintiff does know about illegal surveillance then the case must still be dismissed because state secrets are privileged and cannot be revealed at trial. The Orwellian brief writing process was an effort to minimize the chance any secret would be disclosed, because the court has not (at least not yet) accepted the "tails you lose" argument. If the government prevails then the executive branch could, in theory, break any law, classify it's actions as secret and avoid any judicial review of those actions.

If only AG Albert Gonzales had been around to help Nixon with Watergate.

Of course 1984 was written by a Brit in Burma inspired by Stalin, and by the British colonial bureaucracy, and the US may still be on the low end of the 1984 scale. In China, Party Animal Hu Jintao is introducing a pilot security program in Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 Million people. Most citizens will be required to carry an ID card with chip carrying data on work history, education, religion, ethnicity, police record, insurance, reproductive history, etc. The same city is installing 20,000 surveillance cameras and sophisticated software to recognize crime suspects and "unusual" activity. Do not fear gentle people of Shenzen, Party Animal just wants to know where you are on Saturday night, you never know when you'll get a last minute invitation - to Rave Gulag. US and European firms are providing software, hardware nce, and financing for the prime Chinese contracto, no one can resist the lure of the massive Chinese market, but these firms may be securing a place at the head of the line in some future walk of shame.

And then there is Burma itself. Myanmar remains one of the most oppressive regimes anywhere, so bleak for so long that it rarely even makes the news. Htein Lin, a Burmese political prisoner who painted surreptitiously on sarongs donated by his fellow prisoners now has an exhibition in London. Lin was sentenced to seven years, although he did nothing - a friend mentioned his name in a letter as a possible recruit for a political organization.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Brand Death

Product Packages Now Shout to Grab Your Fickle Attention - Consumer goods companies now use packages as ads, including frequent packaging changes, the addition of sound chips and other features. Tomorrow I will be reading a NY Times with headlines in TYPE LIKE THIS while drinking a Coke from a rectangular bottle. What's happening here, last week every business problem was presented as a branding issue. It reached the point where business jargon was becoming even more obscure than usual. How do the gurus of brand discipline explain the trend to new and ever shifting packaging? Of course some of it is functional, the tissue box that matches your decor, the gum dispenser that fits in your cup holder, the toilet paper that offers a choice of left or right handed. But there is more afoot than function. Is the consumer's attention span so short now that it's pointless to use packaging consistency as a branding tool? Some products just don't brand - pity the unwary Mountain Dew buyer duped by constantly changing packaging - "yech, now I remember, this is the stuff that reminded me of urine when it was in a clear bottle". Sound chips are still at the gimmick stage and a dangerous gimmick it is. A package of cheese that talks is just asking for trouble if it can't keep its yap shut in the 3AM danger zone - this will only confuse the crystal meth addled shopper. Imagine the scene from a convenience store:
"I go well with Triscuits"
"What the f...."
"I go well with Triscuits"
"Are you talking to me?"
"I go well with Triscuits"

And the ensuing morning news:
"Two clerks were wounded and a package of cheese severely mutilated in an unprovoked attack at a local 7-11 early this morning. Police were at a loss, noting only that robbery was not the motive as the assailant fled empty handed - banging his head shouting "Cheese Devil, Cheese Devil, Cheese Devil...."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I'd Say Mediocre

The Big Wind That Left Brooklyn Upside Down? It Was A Tornado All Right - As Good As News eyed this story eagerly, fully prepared to do a Damon Runyanesque bit on a Mafioso social club from Bay Ridge transported to Kansas, or maybe to Christine Todd Whitman's lawn in the Somerset Hills of NJ. Then came the last line, kudos to Brooklyn, which writes its own story and to reporter Andy Newman, who found it. Retired firefighter Howard Rinchey assessed the damage, his roof ripped up, his picnic table upside down in his neighbors yard, "..for this type of tornado [Brooklyn has had no other tornado since record keeping began in 1950]..I'd say mediocre."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hello Kitty

Cute Kitty is Pink Badge of Shame in Bangkok, but what about NY or SF? - Police in Bangkok who commit minor infractions (littering, parking in a no-parking zone) will be required to wear a pink armband with a Hello Kitty face and a pair of linked hearts. Brilliant, so brilliant that the mere threat of the pink Hello Kitty has eliminated bad behaviour and no one has been kittied yet. A previous incarnation of the same idea featuring a tartan arm band failed miserably - naughty cops would wear it for a day then take it home as a souvenir. The prospect of sporting Hello Kitty appears to hold special terrors for the macho psyche. Would it work in NY? Probably not as well, the police here may be tough but they understand irony and would display Little Kitty with a grin. The concept might still work with a little fine tuning. What if the Police Commissioner went berserk, and used the Department's homophobia against it? Maybe a rainbow armband with a pink triangle would give NYPD bad boys second thoughts. One thing is certain - if Commissioner Bud Selig had issued a rainbow/pink triangle armband every time he had reason to believe a major league baseball player was using steroids the game would have cleaned up its act a decade ago and Barry Bonds would have hit number 656 last night.

Abuses Belie China Pledge on Rights, Critics Say - A group of human rights organizations accused China of harassing lawyers, dissidents and journalists and reneging on promises to make human rights a centerpiece of the 2008 Olympics. Organizations included Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc. - the usual suspects. As Good As News, naturally, agrees with the good guys, but really, what did you expect? Even Jay Leno harasses lawyers, dissidents and journalists. For Party Animal Hu Jintao this is not oppression, it's a recreational activity. So what if China made a few promises to get the Olympics, every Party Animal says things at night he can't remember in the morning. In another effort to capitalize on publicity surrounding the one year count down to the Olympics, a group of Chinese scholars, lawyers and journalists wrote an open letter to Party Animal calling for the release of political prisoners. This letter had dozens of signers, a courageous group indeed. One signatory is Bao Tong, a former party leader now under house arrest. Mia Farrow, Madonna and Angelina Jolie are not offering to exchange places with Bao Tong - Only Africa is in, America is still looking the other way on problems in China.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

My Back Pages

Snow Leopard Pelts Seized - Hu Jintao, China's President, General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (familiar to As Good As News readers as Party Animal) has a real love for rare cats and a genuine conservationist streak. Police seized 104 snow leopard pelts from a trader in Gansu, China. Active enforcement will protect the endangered snow leopard, and those seized pelts will certainly look terrific in Party Animal's den.

Farrow Offers to Take Sudan Prisoner's Place- Mia Farrow offered to exchange places with Suleiman Jamous, a coordinator for the Darfur rebel group Sudan Liberation Army now being held a virtual prisoner at a UN hospital in Kordofan, East of Darfur. Jamous needs a stomach biopsy which cannot be performed there, but he will be arrested if he leaves. As Good As News understands that Woody Allen has offered to cover all transportation costs if Sudan will accept Ms Farrow's offer. Angelina Jolie and Madonna have both announced their support for Ms Farrow's publicity stunt, oops, I meant courageous gesture, and are rumored to be racing to get out the first press release offering to exchange places with a jailed African leader, as soon as they can identify one.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Fake Steve Unveiled

A Mystery Solved: Fake Steve is an Editor - The author of the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs is Daniel Lyons, a 46 year old Forbe's Editor who lives near Boston, far from Silicon Valley. Kudos to Mr. Lyons on a funny, well executed satire. Fake Steve is known for humorous egomaniacal rants and insulting nick names like Beastmaster (Bill Gates) and Squirrel Boy (Eric Schmidt of Google). Fake Steve is inspiring and instructional. As Good As News has used cute nicknames in the past like Doc Gurby and Darth Cheney, but we will learn from Fake Steve.

Boxers Who Disappeared are Taken Back to Cuba - If they disappeared how could anyone take them back? This isn't a headline about a magic act. Two champion boxers from Cuba failed to show up for their scheduled fights in the Pan Am Games last month then turned up on Thursday drinking and carousing at a resort near Rio. The situation was confused by an announcement from a German promoter that he had signed the boxers to contracts, but the boxers were deported back to Cuba. Fidel says the boxers will be held in "guest houses" and "punished, but not harshly." The Brazilian police say the boxers actually wanted to return to Cuba, so maybe it will work out for them. As Good As News thinks they are about to discover what disappeared really means. As this story is written Fidel is telling Raoul - "even if I die I want you to make sure that these ungrateful traitors never leave Cuba again."

Chinese President Hu Jintao (aka Party Animal) can't believe his eyes. Yet another front page headline on dangerous lead content of made-in China toys. What will it take to get these Western journalists off his case. Party Animal already whacked Zheng Xiaoyu (very former head of Chinese FDA ) after that little fiasco with the antifreeze in the toothpaste grabbed some headlines, but the Western media still won't shut up. Party Animal looking to blame this one on Santa Claus, but if that doesn't work - watch out. It's not always easy to find the right scapegoat though, look for someone who has opposed Party Animal in the past and has no connections with Party Animal's friends in the toy industry. Hey Party Animal - no one said it would be easy to look like you were running a government of laws without actually doing it.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Are Your Friends Contagious?

I just returned from a two week road trip and blog vacation to find a very disturbing phone message. Apparently ottoman humping and beer guzzling are not in keeping with the solemn dignity of the Turkmen people and any further lapse will result in loss of our hard-earned status as the official blog of Reclusive Turkmenistan. My efforts to defend As Good As News in a return call led only to confusion. The Turkmen view the Ottoman as ancient opressors and are only too happy to see them humped, but not on a video accompanied by non-traditional music. The fact that As Good As News broke the story before the Daily Show elicited only the rhetorical question: if John Stewart were going to leap from the Brooklyn Bridge would you jump first? Turkmen prefer fermented goats milk to beer and are only vaguely familiar with the Western concept of the six pack. Fortunately, Doc Gurby was intrigued by the Death Cat, wanted to know if the cat could predict political assassinations as well as death from natural causes.

Barry Bonds finally caught Hank Aaron. This was inevitable, the only news is that it didn't happen sooner. Roger Maris never deserved his asterisk. The fact that the season was extended from 154 to 162 games effected many records, but only Roger was singled out for an asterisk. Like many observers, As Good As News would be happy to shift that asterisk next to Barry's name, but let's take it a step further. The official record book should go online, with comment threads for every record. What would the Babe have done if he had not spent years as a pitcher and started playing in the dead ball era? Suppose Ted Williams had not lost several prime years to military service in two wars. What if Junior Griffey had stayed healthier? The official on-line record book of MLB would create more buzz than the Maguire-Sosa home run race - now there's an asterisk fest.

Obesity can spread from friend to friend like a virus according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Other effects of behaviour may also spread, even amplify, as they travel across a network of friends. The cause of this phenomenon is not certain. Could lead to a whole new approach in selecting friends. Imagine , a new format in Face Book with extended questions on habits and outcomes, good and bad. Not just body type, drinking and smoking - do you study and work hard, get good grades, eat healthy, have a history of heart disease, etc. Picking a roommate could become a life choice. So, if I make friends only with thin, workaholic teetotalers will I reform? Not a chance - either I drag the new friends down with me or I get bored and go back to my old gang before I get any "benefit" from associating with the new friends. I'm sure all my friends would feel the same way. Strangely I have not received a single e-mail or phone call since this story was published. But I'm sure none of my friends would dump me for some thin guy.