Sunday, September 30, 2007
"8PM Tuesdays on ABC" - Translated from pictographs recently unearthed on a cave wall in ruins beneath Stonehenge
"For a good time -Call 1-800-666-6666, ask for Ahmadinejad - tell no one else why you are calling." From men's rooms in Iran's parliament and Minneapolis airport.
"Bride Wanted, limited duty, you will need to work only one out of five conjugal visits, over age 14 need not apply" posted by Warren Jeffs on FundamLDS.org
"You Are The Real Terrorists" posted by Ahmadinejad on CIA.gov.
"Backtrace and scour referenced post for Bin Laden links ASAP" from CIA e-mail to NSA
"Alms, we don't need no stinkin alms" - On the bottom of an overturned bowl held out to riot police by Burmese monk.
"MoveOn plans comment Tsunami to crash conservative blogs, pass it on" posted by "A Real American" On FreedomWatch.org
"We will target all sites posting the phrase "comment Tsunami" "- from an e-mail sent to all MoveOn members.
"Run Newt Run!" posted by "a loyal American" on FreedomWatch.org
""Run Newt Run!" makes a bolder, catchier statement than "Please Run Newt", lets "Run" with it, Norah" - from an e-mail sent by Newt Gingrich to Lawlor Media Group.
"I read your damn book" - from Patton to Rommel and from the bulletin board in the Arizona Cardinals locker room today - Cards will lose to Steelers despite hiring three of their 2006 coaches.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Season of Destiny - A division win by the Chicago Cubs? No, As Good As News naturally turns to thoughts of football dynasties as we hit October. Let's define dynasty as a team that wins at least three championships within a six year span. There are five in modern NFL history, corresponding to the decades - the 60's Packers (including pre-superbowl NFL championships); 70's Steelers; 80's Niners; 90's Cowboys and 00's Pats. As the NFL season moves to week 4 every dynasty is undefeated except the Niners, and someone had to lose when they played the Steelers. Not all these teams are big spenders but there is a common thread - some continuity of ownership. Also true for the near dynasty Skins and Raiders when they were winners, but they now struggle under one new owner and one owner so old he may not be quite the same guy he used to be. Only one franchise, the Steelers, has remained a winner after a transfer of ownership to the next generation of the founding family.
Donors Gone, Trusts Veer From Their Wishes - Mr. Anthony, a millionaire with a history of giving to many local charities (orphanages, nursing schools, The Anthony Fund For Needy Bloggers) sets up a trust to make donations after his death. Anthony wants to continue with the same type of donations, so he names his brother, Billy Carter Anthony, as co-trustee and explains his wishes to Billy. Knowing that people die, Anthony names a local bank where his friend Chesterfield is President as co-trustee with oral instructions to watch the investments, leave the choice of donees to Billy and make sure Billy doesn't drink too much. Knowing that things change, Anthony gives the trustees substantial discretion to select donees, he doesn't want millions going to a nursing school with only two students someday.
Anthony dies, leaving a bundle to the trust. After years of sticking to the plan, Billy and Chesterfield die and the local bank is acquired by Megabank. To cut administrative costs Megabank shifts the trust's giving from many small annual donations to a few big ones. The local donees can't handle these, so the donees become larger institutions. In a remarkable coincidence one of the principal donees is now an elite college where Endora, a VP from Megabank's Trust Department (oddly Endora is the VP who administers the Anthony Trust) recently began serving on a prestigious advisory board and the very same college where Endora's twins just started their freshman year. Endora is very convincing when she explains that the trust's donations have nothing to do with her board seat and her twins were model students who would have been admitted anywhere (both applied early decision so we can't test that claim.)
Sound nasty? Should Megabank have a tougher policy on reporting and avoiding conflicts -decisions that put the trust administrator in a position to benefit indirectly from disposition of the trust assets, especially at the expense of the grantor's non-binding intentions? Should the attorney general? (Of which state, Megabank may migrate the trust to the least stringent regulator?) Should we go with a death tax that moots the issue? Does the fact that Leona Helmsley left millions to her dog make the ginormous death tax sound any better? Maybe we should just yawn and say so what - Anthony's dead and the college is a legitimate donee even if Endora seems a little slimy?
Friday, September 28, 2007
He's a Baby, He's Big and the Aquarium Is So Proud - The first walrus born at the NY Aquarium made his public debut yesterday. Pictured with his mom, Kulusiq, the big guy does not have a name yet. He weighed 115 pounds at birth on June 12 (glad it wasn't twins Kulusiq?) and he's already up to 268 pounds. Curators say he is advancing in a mensa kind of way, propelled by his curiousity. The linked article includes a reference to a name that walrus site, but the choices offered by the Aquarium don't excite As Good As News. How about Kuriousiq? OK, not great - leave a comment with your nomination.
Life Lessons In a Global Marketplace - As Good As News gave "Outsourced" a very positive review (Sept. 25) and the NY Times likes it even more. "a wonderful surprise", "unique - a charming culture clash romance that could be taught in business schools". Well, maybe- very fun film and highly recommended. As economics it could be taught in grade school, as a case study in cultural adaptation it might merit a B-school screening. First, thank you Times. This review means "Outsourced" will reach more screens, produce big DVD rental numbers, lead to more and better financed movies by Mr. Jeffcoat. Just one nagging question, NY Times - why is the "Darjeeling Limited", an "overstuffed suitcase", showcased with a huge photo and review on page E-1 while "Outsourced" is buried on E-14?
Partisans and Picture Makers in Love and War - The Republican militiawoman training in heels for the Spanish Civil War is back in the Times (photo at As Good As News, Post of Sept. 22, What Does IHTFP Mean Again). Now it's the showcase photo for a Gerda Taro Exhibit at the International Center of Photography. The formal shooting range pose and dressy attire make the gun seem almost like a prop in a fashion shoot, but there's something about the subject's expression and stance that says she means business as her dark image jumps from the light background of clouds and dust. Kudos, Times, this grabbed us for a reason and it's worth a second look.
Papers Study August Crisis, From First Wave to Last Ripple - This item reviews two studies, both concluding that one hedge fund's decision to sell set off a ripple effect that contributed to August's steep stock market decline and the same thing could happen again. Hedge funds using similar strategies now manage hundreds of billions of dollars, something that has developed within the last decade. This development, combined with the herd instinct (like algorithms sell alike) creates a market dynamic that has not been thoroughly studied. Yawn! But wait, "[MIT] Professor Lo is trying to prove it [extra market risk resulting from $billions managed with similar strategies] not grandstand about it, which is unusual when it comes to any topic related to hedge funds", writes Jenny Anderson. Hear! Hear! Now Ms Anderson, can you convince your colleagues at the NY Times to change their grandstanding and simplistic ways, stop getting all their hedge fund stories from Congressional staffers who don't understand the field and start doing some independent reporting? See Disclaimer Day and Taxes are Death - To Comics and Journalists.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Harvard Student is Given Extra Exam Time to Pump Breast Milk - Since when has Harvard offered a course in breast milk pumping? When is it taught, is it co-ed, can non-enrolled students audit and attend the final exam?
Blackwater Logs Most Shootings of Firms in Iraq - The other contractors are doing their best, just give them time to get up to speed. Only Blackwater has reached the point where it is taking out entire firms instead of just isolated private citizens. (note - this flaw was repaired in the title for the linked e-story, quoted title is from the hard copy Times).
GM-Union Deal Could End Business As Usual In Detroit - Business as usual ended for Detroit in the late 1960s. Try visiting downtown after dark. As for the auto industry, defeasing health care obligations to a funded trust was a win-win idea. GM gets a load off its financial statements, UAW members get to look to a funded trust for future benefits instead of a shrinking payor that might fail someday. The mini-strike was probably needed to give the plan credibility with UAW members, but it was no sell out, just Union leadership with vision.
Myanmar Attacks Protesters, Arresting Monks - OK, so Doc Gurby of Turkmenistan is crazy but Myanmar is just conducting business as usual when it attacks arresting monks? Why were these monks so arresting anyway? Yes, that Britney Spear, Sinead O'Connor shaved head look can be a real head turner. (e-headline changed to "Raids Monasteries"- curse you Time's editors - why do you fix these mistakes before I'm finished making fun of them.) Myanmar sounds like a chocolate coated, marshmallow filled treat sold only in Summer. Besides getting some leadership that's not a military junta with a stone-age mindset, this country needs a branding makeover, starting with a new name. Burma has a nice ring to it.
Time. Pencils down. Stop. This means you Mr. Borrok. Stop or I'll be forced to report you. I don't care who your father is, you must stop writing immediately.
As Good As News is outraged. No, it's not the cushy treatment Fuji's getting. He hasn't been convicted of anything yet. Peru relies heavily on house arrest for accused criminals awaiting trial, so Fuji's treatment, while exceptional by prison standards, is nothing compared to the life he would be living at home with the millions he looted.
The pre-trial phase may last until Fuji's death. When faced with a difficult situation in which any action could produce bad results the typical approach in all branches of the Peruvian government, especially the judiciary, is to do nothing - even when doing nothing produces the worst possible outcome for the country. The system is actually designed to encourage bureaucratic paralysis. Government officials, including judges and prosecutors, are subject to possible criminal charges for missteps, while no deadline is ever enforced and there seems to be no systematic cost or penalty for inaction.
As Good As News is no friend of Fuji, but we don't begrudge him a visit, a guitar and a two room cell when he might be serving a life sentence without trial. The fact that the government is preparing a "more permanent facility" should make Fuji afraid, very afraid. The outrage is directed at, who else, the NY Times. The Times could not find Peru on a map when Fuji and Montesinos were looting the country, now it runs a CONJUGAL VISIT caption for a World Briefing item. Sex may sell, but this guy is 69. If you're going that route, NY Times, run a style section feature on Paris Hilton.
Norah, you have done a fantastic job with Andy's publicity. The echos from the Times Syle Section piece on Andy Borrok still resound throughout the blogging universe. Shockingly, however, they seem to be turning increasingly negative. By the way, Norah, we didn't hear from you. It's never too late, I'm already working on two versions of Norm & Andy - Part 6.
Thanks to a kind comment from His Past on Eater.com a stream of visitors stopped by As Good As News yesterday. The Eater.com post on Andy has a long string of comments, mostly anti-Andy. Only a handful are based on first hand information but they include some interesting stuff. Take a look, we'll let Eater.com and its commenters speak for themselves.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The linked NY Times story on the happy index has some highlights that might not belong in the business section. Women don't like spending time with their parents because they are doing chores with Mom while the men watch TV. Women spend the same amount of time working as in previous generations, but because it is more often a combination of in-home work and work at a paying job, the to-do list is twice as long, the frustration and anxiety are greater and women are less happy than they used to be. Men are happier. Bigger TVs, more channels, sharper picture - this generation has it all over the old timers. High school girls are just as unhappy as their mothers were in high school. Success in academics and sports can't overcome the time and anxiety spent on the desperate effort to be a hottie. High school boys are, you guessed it, happier than their fathers. See above - Bigger TVs, more channels, sharper picture and, for the high school boy, add near porn on free cable and high school girls that still work at being hotties. OK, the stuff about the TVs isn't all in the story, but I'm sensing a trend here. In fact the e-Times has retitled the story, "He's Happy, She's Less So". Freakonomics, why don't women just watch more TV? What is the psychic benefit that drives them to do all the work while the men veg out?
Kudos to As Good As News, who turned the Times around with a desperate round of 1:00 AM comments last night. What almost happened? Let's go back to the beginning. On July 19 the Times ran a snide story by C.J. Chivers, "Behold Turkmenistan's Marvels! (Authorized Version)" mocking the secretive and authoritarian regime created by Doc's predecessor. Unfortunately the piece was obsolete before it was written and failed to note that every change made by Doc Gurby had been a step in the right direction. As Good As News responded, naturally - we are the official blog of reclusive Turkmenistan - in one of our all time favorite posts (July 19, titled To The Ramparts Turkmen - visit the post and you will get the link the the Chivers story as well.) This quieted Mr. Chivers, but, as we learned late last night, it did not erase the damage already done. On Monday Doc Gurby appeared at the Columbia World Leader's Forum - he was the warm up act for Ahmadinejad - played a boosterish video on Turkmen education and fumbled when he sounded less than clear and forthright in dodging a couple of questions on freedom of the press in Turkmenistan. Sure, he should have consulted with As Good As News before the show, but, no big deal, right?
Not to Jane Roh, writing for National Journal.com/The Gate, who took this non-event, combined it with material from the Chivers article (which was about the Turkmenistan created by Doc's predecessor) and came up with the headline "Another Potentially Crazy World Leader..." - really Ms Roh? Because he inherited leadership of a country with no free press and had trouble ad libbing an explation that met with your approval, he must be crazy? Yes , Ms Roh, I note that Turkmenistan has minted some coins with Doc Gurby's image - wake up, he's only the President - and you were stretching mightily if that's the only "crazy" action by Gurby you could find. By the way, he was a practicing dentist and university professor before joining the government, not a "dental student." Is he crazy because, while speaking at Columbia, he announced freedom for 9,000 prisoners and an expanded Turkmenistan amnesty program, but couldn't respond with details to a question about two specific prisoners? Will W's successor know the names of everyone in Guantanamo in February 2009? Was it the confused English in portions of the RFE/RL quotes that seemed crazy, Ms Roh? A cheap shot, how polished would you sound if you had to handle hostile questions while speaking Turkmen?
To compound the disaster, The Lede, an official NY Times blog, ran with the "potentially crazy" quote and a rehash of the lowlights from the Jane Roh post. So, in a self referential circle jerk, the NY Times blog The Lede is now calling Doc Gurby crazy based on Jane Roh's fit of non-analysis which rests, in turn, on the CJ Chivers NY Times piece that was obsolete the day it ran. If you actually read the facts (instead of the snarky asides and the misleading headlines) in the Chivers piece or the National Journal/The Gate post or the RFE/RL report it is clear that Doc Gurby has done nothing crazy. He hasn't tried to make revolutionary changes overnight, but every change Doc has undertaken has improved Turkmenistan. As Good As News made this point repeatedly in an heroic late night comment session, paving the way for the Times turnaround in Mr. Stern's article this AM. It's not easy being the official blog of reclusive Turkmenistan, but somebody has to do it.
"This is a true example of not believing everything you read in the NYT, especially in the Style section, and particularly when reported by sub-par journalists. Someone did not do his homework (i.e. not verifying the publicist's data sheet, emailing a friend of the subject who just met him in May?). Of course Andrew Borrok got into Georgetown and Columbia via family connections. His father was or still is on the board at Columbia. Why would you think that his education/career history means he is smart? His tenure at Proskauer was brief; he did not do well there. He left out other jobs - and unexplained absences - when reporting his job history to the NYT. We don't even think he worked at Bear Stearns long, certainly not long enough to qualify as a banker. Why didn't the reporter interview his former colleagues/supervisors? Or how about some friends who have known him for years? Because he has NONE! And Andrew could care less about being loved. He would rather pay for his loving...And BTW his publicist is burying your blog so nobody can find it on Google anymore :) "
Thank you "one who knows him" especially for your warning that Andy's publicist is burying As Good As News! Norah, yes Norah Lawlor (on left in the photo), Andy's publicist, I mean you. I know you're out there now. Norah, this is essentially a comedy blog - do you know what that means? I have no mission, no scruples , no integrity.
Norah, you don't need to bury poor As Good As News. For a very, very modest fee, Andy can just fall off the radar. We're rather busy with the Fujimori trial anyway. For a slightly less modest fee we can tell the world that Andy is a truly nice guy, a warm spirit who will soon set lower Manhattan on fire with his new restaurant. Norah - just use the MySpace link to your right - once you get to my site you can send me a private message, take a minute to check out the comedy clips while you're there. I'll draft Norm & Andy - Part 5 (in fact I'll draft two different versions) while I'm waiting to hear from you. Norah, it's your call now.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
First, why the invite? A stand for free speech? Maybe, although you can support free speech just by tolerating hateful speech, you don't need to promote it. Giving a crank like Ahmadinejad a prestigious forum tends to legitimize him. Bollinger pointed to the tradition of the Columbia World Leader's Forum as a place for all voices, and the crowd's right to hear, not Ahmadinejad's right to speak, as an essential element of academic freedom and a necessary basis for understanding and responding to opposing viewpoints. Was the invitation to Ahmadinejad a choice to promote academic freedom or to publicize President Bollinger? Was the nasty introduction all part of Bollinger's original plan, or did each draft Bollinger wrote get nastier and nastier as Bollinger was criticised heavily for extending the invitation? Bollinger's motives are probably the most interesting question in this story, but there is no easy way to answer that question. Once he invited Ahmadinejad to speak, someone needed to challenge him. The nasty remarks, when quoted out of context, almost seem over the line. Ahmmadinejad deserves them, and more, but tactically they generate sympathy for Ahmadinejad. In context they were part of a systematic, well-supported challenge by Bollinger. See the video for yourself.
On balance As Good As News says kudos, President Bollinger, although that invitation was a tough call. We reserve the right to change our mind if you run for office within the next two years - somebody has to fill that vacancy if Hillary wins. What a coup, defender of free speech and academic freedom, but tough on Iran - with front page headlines to show for it.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The linked Time's story has no news, just background. As Good As News will offer some background on the background.
Gustavo Gorriti is the Time's go to guy for the mandatory quote from a "respected local journalist." Gorriti cut his teeth covering the guerrilla group Shining Path for the Peruvian magazine Caretas. Fuji made his reputation by shutting down Shining Path and a second group, Tupac Amaru, in a popular and successful "any means necessary" campaign that cemented Fuji's unholy alliance with Vladimir Montesinos, the minister of SIN -the Peruvian intelligence agency. Tupac Amaru held the Japanese Embassy hostage just down the street from my hotel during my first visit to Lima. Gorriti spent time in Montesino's jail - held for questioning on Shining Path.
Montesinos reportedly blackmailed Fuji with a page from the birth records of Miraflores (a district of Lima), a page that showed Fuji was not born in Peru. So what? Peru's constitution requires that the President be native born. Montesinos, the intelligence chief, may have been controlling Fuji, his own President, with his knowledge of the altered birth records. Caretas eventually ran a story on the disputed birth record, noting an apparent alteration.
Caretas is a story unto itself. This magazine has survived printing independent, investigative journalism in a country that was a near police state at one point in the Fuji-Montesinos era. Maybe it's the pictures of the topless ladies that keep Caretas out of trouble. Maybe it's good karma from the Caretas story involving your favorite blogger - (scroll to Engelhard after you click). Maybe publisher Enrique Zileri just knows when discretion is the better part of valor. Somehow Caretas just rolls along.
When they were young - Norm's parents divorced. He told undergraduate friends at Berkeley that his father had died. Andy's mother died.
What were they like in school and during their "Friends" years - Andy apparently tried to impress people with his privileged background and family money and rubbed them the wrong way instead. Of course he went to a lot of schools and worked in two large professional organizations, thereby multiplying his opportunities to leave former classmates and colleagues with less than fond memories. Andy must have been a decent student - even with a lot of family clout behind you, you can't screw up too badly and still move from Columbia, to Georgetown Law, to Proskauer, to Columbia B, to Bear Stearns. Norm was glib and outwardly frank and warm, a polished and successful con man by the time he finished Berkeley. Norm duped his graduating buddies into investing with him, then spent the money on himself. He also managed admission to Wharton, I'm betting that application wrote up his first scams as entrepreneurial success stories.
And after the "Friends" phase? - Neither seems to have married or settled down. Andy made a fortune in one real estate deal he did with his father and then retired to the kitchen. Since then he's unveiled that need to be loved by using his financial resources to generate publicity for his cooking and himself, but we don't really know how his cooking stacks up. Norm seems to have shafted every investor at every turn, spending the money on fancy hotels and dates with young women even before he started giving it to Hillary.
Here is your next assignment NY Times - yes, I know you took a quick stab at this when the story broke, but there must be more - why did anyone trust Norm with a nickel, a seat as a trustee at a reputable college, a major role in a political campaign or any other serious responsibility, when his entire public track record consisted of a fraud conviction, a bankruptcy and a mysterious ability to raise funds for Democrats.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Pictured - The Tesla Roadster - An electric car, it costs $100,000 but the batteries are included.
Chileans Order Peru's Ex-Chief Home For Trial - Alberto Fujimori, President of Peru for four terms (this guy did not let a little thing like a constitutional term limit stop him) is returning. He let his henchman Montesinos loot the Peruvian treasury and use SIN (the apppropriately acronymed national intelligence service) to terrorize the country. Fujimori presided over a bureaucracy that was paralyzed with corruption and fear, fled with a planeload of cash and thought he would somehow return in triumph when his successors stumbled. Instead he was detoured into a Chilean jail, but now he gets his wish - a return to Peru. As Good As News is looking forward to an interesting trial - although we know from sad experience that the outcome will be determined by politics, not the law and the facts. We will definitely keep you posted on this and there will be opportunity aplenty for humor.
Case Against Polygamist Goes to the Jury in Utah - One mystery solved. Prosecutors are not using statutory rape charges because a 14 year old may have consensual sex in Utah. Good to know. As Good As News still fears that failure to charge the victim's husband/cousin/rapist with anything means that Warren Jeff's will be acquitted on the charge of accomplice to rape. The jury is out.
At State Dept., Blog Team Joins Muslim Debate - Welcome, Digital Outreach Team. Post a comment on Top Ten Reasons to Visit Iran Now (June 24) or The Fatwa at Home and Abroad (June 12). You will not be flamed by our genteel readers, you have an As Good As News guaranty.
Her Taste in Art? Scary, Police Say - MIT sophomore Star A. Simpson was arrested at Logan Airport yesterday after she inquired about an arriving passenger while dressed as a pseudo suicide bomber. The costume, intended to entertain career day visitors and plug Electrical Engineering, consisted of a black hoodie with a lit circuit board and battery attached to the front, "Socket To Me Course VI" (and you groaned at plug electrical engineering) on the back and a lump of clay in Ms Simpson's hand. Too obvious to be really scary? Maybe, but State Police were not amused by the hoodie homage to Bill Belichik and they were prepared to use deadly force on Ms Simpson. This will not go into the Journal of The Institute for Hacks, TomfoFoolery and Pranks at MIT. MIT alums will remember what IHTFP really means, and some may remember an old prank that shows how times have changed. As a Yale at Harvard football game neared halftime - back before Division IAA when Ivy League ball meant a little more - the young announcer Brent Mussberger fearfully announced the end of the universe as a mini-explosion, essentially a firecracker, dislodged a small square of turf on the field. The crowd watched calmly and a few seconds later a balloon rose, announcing the presence of MIT with the message MIT 1-Harvard 0, all on national TV. Mussberger looked like an idiot, a role he has reprised throughout his career. The game continued and a good time was had by all. The crowd reaction would be understandably different today, this type of prank stopped being a prank on 9/11. Star Simpson should have known better, but she's a college sophomore. Can we plead this way down, and give her, at worst, a short suspended sentence with a chance to have her record expunged if it doesn't happen again?
Friday, September 21, 2007
Andy (Andrew Borrok) has not reappearred in the Times. Three commenters on the original As Good As News post of September 16 offered a first hand look at Mr. Borrok. The post on Andy drew a lot of visitors. We can't pretend to understand why, but after analyzing the data carefully two things are clear - a lot of people were searching for "Andrew Borrok" and one NY Times photo with Laurie Fetter (Playboy's May 2003 Centerfold) (also frequently searched) generates more buzz than a thousand bold face appearances in NY social blogs and columns.
We are two different nations, an artificial state created as a buffer betweenProblems with best quote:
big powers, and we have nothing in common except a king, chocolate and beer.It’s
‘bye-bye, Belgium’ time.
- you forgot women's tennis (Walloon Justine Henin and Flemish Kim Clijsters).
- a government that provides all basic services but is so paralyzed that it can't make any mistakes, and you want to throw that away? Shame on you, Mr. Dewinter, you have Eden, the government that governs least.
-don't sneer at chocolate and beer - it's more than Texas and New York have in common.
As Good As News wishes Belgium all the best, whatever that may be. By the way, things are very slow in Turkmenistan (because the #$%^&* NY Times won't cover anything - and then it has the nerve to call the Turkmen reclusive). So, Kingdom of Wallonia, if Belgium splits look no further for your official blog. We see absolutely no conflict of interest with Turkmenistan and have more than enough time for the dual role.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
The disclaimer - this is not a real post. For now, As Good As News will resist temptation. Let the vast universe of video oriented bloggers handle OJ's sting operation (planned and led by Leslie Nielsen) and Kerry's taser victim (who seemed to be asking for it - would anyone have even thought to taser this guy if he had just gone quietly limp instead of screaming don't taser me - don't throw me into that brier patch). mhass30, C&C R, where are you?
If you have a minute to spare, picture Judge Judy. Now read Judge Who Chastised Weeping Asylum Seeker is Taken Off Case. Caught you moonlighting, Judge Judy, nobody is buying that Noel Ferris alias. Next time make up a realistic name.
Now picture silly string - in the hands of a combat soldier in Iraq trying to spot the trip wire that will detonate a booby trap bomb. Now picture more silly string, stacked in boxes in New Jersey because no one can ship it to the soldiers in Iraq who want it. Toy Goo Might Save Some Soldiers' Lives, But It's Stuck Here is the link, but don't bother. The headline tells the whole story.
Picture a Couch Surfer who just won't go away. What do you do? Make your house disappear. An Irish House Hides In Plain Sight.
Pity the poor college freshman who returns at Thanksgiving to find the dump she loved and left behind converted into a "real Martha Stewart bed and breakfast" (You just can't escape those Barnard grads) in Refeathering The Empty Nest. No pity here. The student is lucky she didn't return to find a lodger in her old bed as her parents struggled desperately to cover the cost of Middlebury College tuition. In fact, she's lucky her parents didn't just move with no forwarding address, the approach recommended in "Just Retired" - one of the clips at the MySpace site linked in the right hand column.
Today is a two post day - don't miss the separate post on market timing, aka fraud.
Surfing the World Wide Couch - First the disclaimer - I am an old guy with a MySpace page. Visit anytime, there's a link just to your right and up slightly. The theory is that networking through MySpace will expand my budding comedy empire. The reality is sadly different, but more on that below. Since most of you will certainly be unwilling to move the cursor over one inch and click (even though this would allow you to play some really funny videos) I state for the record that my MySpace page includes my real name, age, picture and marital status. After all, what's the point of getting a comedy gig then losing it when you show up and the booker finds out you are not really a beautiful twenty-four year old woman from Montana via Brooklyn named Ironica? (Damn, with that approach and the right picture, I could really have built some blog traffic.)
Now to the NY Times story. Actually we need to detour for a minidisclaimer. The picture above is fabulous. It was the picture the Times actually used, but I admit it, like the Times itself, I am catching your eye with something that's staged and almost disconnected from the story. The story features the Couch Surfing Project, a MySpace type website that takes the next step - "friends" agree to host "friends" as house guests in the real world. One couch surfer in the story has guests more than three nights a week. The site reports over 400,000 positive experiences, over 276,000 friendships formed. I've considered the Couch Surfing Project with great care and I'm running in the opposite direction. The guests in the Couch Surfing Project story all seem really nice, but I attract a different crowd. 90% of the people who want to be my MySpace friend are spammers, generally peddling pornography - including three new offers this morning. Note - this refers to requests and does not, I repeat does not, include any of the friends that I actually added. With this kind of degenerate magnetism, inviting unknown friends as house guests would seem to require considerable post-guest disinfecting. Lead the guests on a tour of the local town like a good Couch Surfer host? Could be a lot of fun, assuming the guests post bail and handle defense costs. And then there's the whole couch thing. With the kids away at school we have three guest bedrooms with two baths (thanks to my wife, who has generously completed the month-long clean-up project required each Fall). Would we be offering an en suite bed and breakfast in exchange for a moldy couch and a breakfast of old potato chips garnered from beneath the cushions? Kudos, brave couch surfers, carry on without me. My couch surfing days ended not long after I finished school, that's why they invented the hotel.
What actually happens in improper market timing, aka fraud? Let's use an example, simplified in some ways that do not change the principles involved. Mutual Fund is an open ended fund, meaning investors can buy and redeem shares of the fund whenever they want, with the share price recalculated every day so that the price of a share always changes in proportion to both changes in the value of the assets owned by Mutual Fund and changes in the number of shares outstanding. A new share price for Mutual Fund is calculated at 5PM, NY Time every day and orders for new shares received during the day are filled at that price. In other words, investors place their order before the exact price is determined. Now suppose Mutual Fund specializes in buying shares of European stocks. One Tuesday morning a hedge fund manager (hereinafter Mr. Piggy) wakes up and sees that every European stock index has gone through the roof. Mr. Piggy calls his friend Desperate very early in the morning on Tuesday and says sell me shares of Mutual Fund at the price you set at 5PM on Monday. Both Desperate and Piggy know the value is much higher (because the European markets have already skyrocketed but the Mutual Fund price has not been recalculated) so Piggy is asking for a bargain. Both Desperate and Piggy know it's against the rules. Desperate thinks about all the lending and brokerage business Big Bank wants to do with Piggy's hedge fund, Desperate thinks about all the lending and brokerage business Piggy could take away, Desperate thinks about the big bonus he's expecting, the one he's already spent. After struggling valiantly with this moral dilemma for nearly a millisecond, Desperate tells Piggy it's OK to buy at the Monday price early on Tuesday morning. After all, who's hurt by a little market timing, aka fraud.
Who is hurt? The other shareholders of Mutual Fund, that's who. Every dollar Piggy saves by buying after he knows the price is less than the market value comes at the expense of the other investors in Mutual Fund. When the price is recalculated at 5PM Tuesday the bargain Piggy got will be reflected in the value of Mutual Fund's assets, this dilution will reduce the price at which all the other shareholders can redeem. Because the effect of the fraudulent deal between Piggy and Desperate is spread over all the other shareholders it's not easy to spot from the outside.
In the trading world this type of "improper market timing" is called back pricing or a free option. It's fraud when a mutual fund announces one set of rules in the prospectus it gives to small investors then applies a different set of rules when it is selling shares to a favorite customer. It's highway robbery when it shifts value to the Mr. Piggies of the world at the expense of the other shareholders. Bad labels and bad explanations took the air out of a major story (there were many instances besides Wachovia) which should have produced some real outrage.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
As They Were Nurtured, Barnard's Alumnae Return the Favor -Last Winter I sat in a film symposium, watching the opening scene of a new independent film a few weeks before its release. The scene was a teen boy reading in a train cabin on a long journey across India, suddenly thrown into turmoil, nearly death, as the train derails violently. Even before the derailment, I had an overwhelming sense that I had seen this movie before - impossible, it was a preview. Then the name of the film sank in, "The Namesake", a book I had read just a year or so before. The opening scene was a perfect match for the image, the vivid moving image, that book had imprinted on my subconscious.
The linked NY Times story tells of the many Barnard alumnae who have become famous as writers and how their reputation, and their contribution as teachers and yes - even as Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees - attracts and inspires new generations of writers at Barnard. The rest of this post is about how I came to read The Namesake, and about the best college fund raiser ever. It may have been Anna Quindlen's idea -call on alumnae and friends of Barnard to host and teach a writing seminar, invite alumnae to attend for a very modest fee, throw in a lunch, have a good time, get the alumnae involved and increase the endowment by a few bucks while you're at it. The first step was to line up the writers. I suspect even Ms Quindlen was a little surprised at the response -the famous, the near famous, the not so widely know but published to good reviews all said yes, yes and yes. And so the word went forth to the alumnae - "Great Writers at Barnard" - and the alumnae responded and responded and responded. The opening panel discussion had to be moved three times to find a hall big enough to contain the crowd. And why not, for the aspiring novelist, the unassuming blogger even for the dedicated and curious reader, this was the literary equivalent of taking hitting lessons from A-Rod and Ken Griffey, Jr.
The opening panel was Anna Quindlen, Mary Gordon, Anna Brashares, Jhumpa Lahiri and Edwidge Dandicat - luminaries all, awash in awards and bestsellers. My wife was at Barnard with Mary Gordon and Anna Quindlen so we already had all their work, but I was so impressed with Ms Lahiri that I ordered The Namesake the next day. (Maybe the picture gave me away - I am not a Barnard alumna - but I should have mentioned that I lucked into the whole Great Writers deal because I had the good sense to marry one.) I signed on for the humor panel in the early PM and ended up discovering Jane Leavy, Valerie Block and Cathleen Schine (more books ordered) and laughing out loud as Ms Leavy pushed an entertaining discussion into the outrageous. Watching the Kellermans team teach a mystery tutorial in the late afternoon reminded me a little of James Carville and Mary Matalin, they had disagreements that were almost choreographed as their different backgrounds and outlook emerged in discussing their work (much of which we had already read.)
What's that - a chorus of comments demanding an encore of Great Writers at Barnard because, ouch!, As Good As News is sorely in need of another writing lesson? How about it, Ms Quindlen?
Monday, September 17, 2007
G.O.P.'s Dirty Tricks Begin- Bob Herbert editorializes on Republican efforts to change California's electoral college vote from the traditional "winner take all" to a vote that is proportional to the results of the popular vote. More importantly, in attacking the motives of the GOP, who are evilly trying to win the 2008 election, not promote civic reform and good government - Mr. Herbert takes a gratuitous swipe at Britney Spears - " This crowd [the GOP] is no more interested in genuine electoral reform than Britney Spears is." Bob, it's time to stop piling on poor Britney. If we all just ignore her for a few months maybe she will go away. The quoted sentence was inserted as a stand alone paragraph that repeated a point already made and added nothing to the column. Bob, you are writing editorials for the NY Times, you do not need to throw Britney's name around like you are competing for ad revenues with something you read covertly while waiting in line at the grocery store. By the way, Bob, did you ask Britney for her views on electoral college reform before you went to press? What kind of jounalist are you? From now on, leave the snide, superfluous, unsupported pop culture references to As Good As News.
Bret Somers, 83, 'Match Game' Wit - As Good As News will miss Ms Somers. Her obit reminded me of some old game shows, What's My Line, the early years of Match Game, Hollywood Squares. On their good days, these were actually the first reality shows -the panels, including luminaries like Ms Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, Larry Dawson, were free wheeling ad libbers, loose, quick, witty and adept at encoding some really smutty material with double entendre. The game show format was camouflage, these shows were essentially a writers room for a comedy show (the reality version of Dick Van Dyke, where Maury and Sallie were doing some pretty good ad libbing on their own) or a gang of friends dissing each other at a bar (the reality Cheers). If only we could see Charles Nelson Reilly stuck in the house with the gang from Last Comic Standing.
The Mystery of Hitler's Globe Goes Round and Round - Wolfram Pobanz, retired cartographer and globe collector, searches fanatically for the Fuhrer Globe, and he knows the real thing is not in any museum yet. Hitler had several large globes custom made, but the one from his New Reich Chancellery office is missing. I believe you Herr Pobanz, the real Fuhrer Globe hasn't turned up yet, but it will be hard to miss - not only is the thing the size of a Volkswagen, every country is named Deutschland.
Ira & Abby -will play soon at a theater near you. This romantic comedy addresses broad themes of love and marriage, but shines when it just has fun with witty dialog throughout and broad comic premises that work. Jennifer Westfeldt writes and stars. Comparisons to Woody Allen are inevitable - it's a romantic comedy set in NYC involving a neurotic Jew and a blond schiksa. Ira & Abby is definitely worth seeing. Watch for it, distribution and advertising may be limited - this is an independent film - but cast and production values are not low budget.
After Scandal, HBO's Former Leader Lands at IMG - Chris Albrecht, former CEO of HBO, is taking a job as head of IMG's media unit and starting his own hedge fund. Mr. Albrecht was forced to resign from HBO in May after he was arrested and charged with assaulting a girl friend. Earlier HBO had paid $400,000 in a settlement with an employee who worked under Mr. Albrecht and accused him of choking her during an office confrontation. Albrecht blamed his problems on alcoholism and didn't seem all that apologetic. "I made a big mistake and I paid a big price...this was...not going to define my entire life." What exactly was the big price, a vacation between cushy jobs? Mr. Albrecht doesn't seem very sorry about assaulting these women (and there may be more than the two that became public). Why didn't he make some changes after the first assault, instead of using HBO money to hush it up and pretending nothing happened? Sarah Jessica Parker and David Chase couldn't contain their support - both expressed their future willingness to work with Mr. Albrecht. Of course Chase and Parker are both grateful to Albrecht and HBO for past success and both may want to deal with IMG in the future, but you can avoid comment without making enemies. Ms Parker was particularly annoying - "I would never be reluctant to work with him again. Maybe I'm being Pollyanna-ish, but people want to work with people who have been successful." Sarah also announced her new production venture with Adolf Hitler - "a guy with a history of success, someone who really makes the trains run on time will be invaluable in a business where it's tough to contain costs." And she was such a nice girl in Square Pegs.
With Famed Players, Game Takes on Madden's Turf - a Madden quality football video game that features great players from the past. Johnny Unitas, Jerry Rice and Barry Sanders back in action, who could resist. It's enough to make us boomers stay at home, cut back on the binge drinking and the violent crime.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Alan Greenspan is barely scratching the surface with his query on how W can be a Republican and still be Mr. Big spender, Big government. Teddy Roosevelt would lead the charge against W's last gasp wave of regulation designed to exploit Federally owned natural resources. Barry Goldwater would ask what happened to individual rights when W let Darth "anything goes" Cheney gut the constitution. AuH2o would be confused by the whole social conservative movement that Karl Rove turned into the basis for the Republican base- Barry might not favor gay marriage - but he would say it was none of the Federal government's business. Notice how Barry's picture refused instructions to go left at the top of today's post. Ike would be astonished by the Federal budget and budget deficit. This guy won two wars for less than W's annual budget shortfall and knew the military - industrial complex required a wary eye. Ike also passed the first modern civil rights bill and nominated Earl Warren as Chief Justice. W prints money to fund Iraq and gets his advice from the military-industrial complex. W's own father was a sophisticated internationalist and a realist who understood that the dream of democracy wouldn't justify sending American men and women to die in Iraq so that an Iraqi civil war could be initiated (with Saddam's overthrow) and then contained (through continued coalition presence) with no net long term accomplishment. W campaigned on including minorities in the Republican party and he has succeeded. The minority who believe public schools should teach evolution as science, the minority who believe in faith based snap decisions that ignore history and the facts, these minorities are solidly in the Republican camp.