Friday, August 31, 2007
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
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
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
Monday, August 27, 2007
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
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
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
Friday, August 24, 2007
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
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
"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
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
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
Friday, August 17, 2007
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
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
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
Monday, August 13, 2007
"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.
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
"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
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
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
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
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
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.