Monday, October 30, 2006

 

Today in science: Our Children as Luxury Goods

Often small news items have profound effects on our life which we do not realize until years later. Two items today on Drudge that will profoundly change the way humans live their lives.

-A male contraceptive that does not affect hormone levels.

It works by interfering with the way cells in the testes help nurture the development of mature sperm.

It blocks the normal bond which develops between immature sperm and tissue called Sertoli cells. This then stops the cells developing into mature sperm which are capable of fertilising an egg.

A study found that when given to rats, sperm production dropped to such low levels as to render them infertile.

However once the drug was stopped, the animals' sperm production soon returned to normal.

Lead researcher Chuen Yan Cheng of the Population Council in New York said this would be vital for any kind of pill to become acceptable to men.

"If you give the consumer the peace of mind that their fertility will be restored and that their hormones are not going to be affected, they may feel that it is safer to use this contraceptive," he said.


I know that other people are working on male contraceptives but those change hormone levels and I think no one wants that. Do we really need moody men?

-Liver tissue grown from stem cells gathered from umbilical cords. Stem cells from this source remove the ethical problems that embryonic stem cells, of course. This opens the door to reproducing organs in the laboratory. Organs that will be perfect matchs for the people who have their cord blood stored. (Attention parents, get that cord blood stored so your children can live to be 200!)

I have long believed that technology is the force driving changes in human society. I believe that the structure of human families will change remarkably in the not to distant future due to technological advances and to economics. For the past hundred years as agriculture has faded in importance in our society the role of children has changed also. From an economic point of view, children were a way of saving for the future when parents will be too frail to provide for themselves in the harsh pre-modern world. Now, there are a myriad of ways to save and life is much easier in a world when food is cheap and abundant.

So what is the future of children? They have become a luxury good. A consumable product that provides entertainment. I am not saying that having children is not also a way to ensure a more comfortable old age. Just that the child's role is much less important in that regard. This is obviously true in western society as birth rates and family sizes have fallen dramatically.

We have already seen the effects of this on families. Fewer children but more emphasis on perfecting children. Raising the importance of education and structured physical activity. Parents spending time on pushing ever younger children towards ever more complex goals. The sad part is the loss of childhood freetime spent in discovery to organized events. But we will have an increasing number of people who are smarter and more accomplished.

Where might this lead? The news about tissue grown in a laboratory connects to my vision in an obvious way. Priviledged people who have had a lot spent on their development will be able to afford artificial life extention. It will become as common as nose jobs. Our luxury children will live good lives well past anything we can imagine.

The male contraceptive is also important for another reason. For the past forty years the reproduction of our species has been in the hands of women. Prior to that men had set many of the rules. In fairness, I believe that our many religious and social taboos about reproduction were helpful to both sexes and society as a whole. There is no doubt that family life has changed dramatically since the introduction of female contraception. Well, now, men will have a say in when they want to become a parent.

Back to the economic analysis. Children will continue to be more of a luxury good than a way to save for old age. Our life spans will increase and the quality of our lives will increase. Men who do not want to have children will have an easy way to prevent them. What does this add up to? Wealthy people will have more children than poorer people and men will have control over the decision to reproduce so the nuclear family will make a comeback. In other words, back to the future.

Men are the weakest link in the family. We have traditionally been non-essential in the production of children beyond our capacity to provide an income. I am not saying that men are not necessary. We are and our removal from the family is evident in increased crime rates and poor adolescent behavior in general. Women can have children with a simple donation of sperm and are capable of bringing them to adulthood without a man in the picture. However, those children do suffer when they are not exposed to a decent male role model.

In the future, it will be wealthy men who control the decision to reproduce because they can afford children and because they will be able to deny their viable sperm to women. Women will not be able to find men who will father and, this is extremely important, support them outside of marriage. I know it is hard to believe but some women do look for wealthy men to father babies and support them for the effort of having a child. Men will be able to marry a woman and find out if she will be good mother material. More importantly, men will be able to refrain from having children until they are sure of the character of the woman they have married.

Children born out of wedlock will decline dramatically. Men have no interest in fathering bastards. They are removed from these childrens lives and reduced to the role of wallet. Divorce rates will fall. Women who divorce their husbands will not be able to find a man willing to marry or provide for them. Men will not spend their resources raising another man's child as the cost of raising a child increases. Single and divorced women will not be able to become pregnant in order to ensnare a man into providing for them. Neither will women want to marry men who are unable or unwilling to provide.

Wealthy men and women will have an interest in having children together. They will need each other to defray the costs of raising children while chasing the best education and social activities. Costs of time and money. Good men who are willing to have children will be at a premium. Assuming that the wage gap still exists, families with a male provider will have an economic advantage.

As you might be able to tell I am slightly optimistic about this future family. One possible danger is society becoming bifurcated between those that can afford to buy life extending techonologies and those that can't. Obviously, people who are living to be 150 will have many years to work and save and pass their inheritance on to their children. I do count on the fact that technologies always become cheaper and what was a luxury always becomes commonplace.

Please let me know what you think of my woolgathering.

 

A Big If

According to a Fox News report Al Gore will advise the British government on climate change. Blair had this to say about global warming: "It is not in doubt that, if the science is right, the consequences for our planet are literally disastrous."

Emphasis mine. That is a big IF. I'd like to see some open debate on the science:

Blair said the scientific community agrees that the world is warming, and that greenhouse gas emissions are largely to blame.


"Unless we act now ... these consequences, disastrous as they are, will be irreversible," he added


I don't believe that the scientific community agrees on the conclusions but rather that one side of the issue gets all the press. I haven't spent as much time as I would like to reading up on this (here is a link to the report Blair was responding to which I have not yet read) but I feel I have to do some digging if I want to get the facts.

Update: From CO2 Science:

A weak short-term correlation between CO2 and temperature proves nothing about causation. Proponents of the notion that increases in the air's CO2 content lead to global warming point to the past century's weak correlation between atmospheric CO2 concentration and global air temperature as proof of their contention. However, they typically gloss over the fact that correlation does not imply causation, and that a hundred years is not enough time to establish the validity of such a relationship when it comes to earth's temperature history.

And Melanie Phillips (via Michelle Malkin) suggests that it is all politics:

After all, Britain accounts for a mere 2 per cent of the world’s energy demand. If we garaged every car, grounded every plane and rationed families to one lightbulb apiece, it would make virtually no difference. China alone — which is opening a new power station every day — would make up our carbon emissions in 13 months. In short, whatever we do to curb our carbon emissions is all but irrelevant to the future of the planet.

A TV station in Maine has challenged the global warming doctrine:

Mr. Palmer (the general manager of television stations WVII and WFVX, ABC and Fox affiliates in Bangor) said he wanted no more stories broadcast on global warming because: “a) we do local news, b) the issue evolved from hard science into hard politics and c) despite what you may have heard from the mainstream media, this science is far from conclusive.” Mr. Palmer said in his e-mail message to his operations manager and two women who served as a news anchor and a reporter that he placed “global warming stories in the same category as ‘the killer African bee scare’ from the 1970s or, more recently, the Y2K scare when everyone’s computer was going to self-destruct.”

 

George Allen presidential aspirations are finished

Just so you know that being as stupid as he has been in his campaign against Webb is grounds for a polite, "We'll call you if we need you in 2007."

***see updates...Ed Morrissey comes forward with details about how the Allen campaign approached him to disseminate the Webb novel passages. He declined...***

I'll be on FNC's Big Story with John Gibson, 5pm Eastern, to talk about dirty politics and blabbermouths.

Update: Here's the vid. I believe I garbled "ends" and "means," but you get what I mean. Interestingly, I'm not getting much negative mail. A few "we have to fight fire with fire" arguments and "you are not a real Republican...I'll never watch/read you again!" fulminations, but most e-mailers agree this stunt was so beneath the Allen campaign. "But the other side does it!" doesn't cut it.

You know what I was originally scheduled to talk about? My column this week arguing why Republicans deserve to be re-elected on national security grounds and why Democrats can't be trusted to act like grown-ups.

Smutgate knocked that topic off the table. Way to go!


Sunday, October 29, 2006

 

Survey of Chicagoland Real Estate

In a nutshell stubborn sellers are refusing to lower prices and inventories are building. Chicago is second in the nation for bankruptcies. Congratulations Dallas! We are behind the rest of the nation in the bubble so falling prices should begin some time next year.

 

You Are Looking Live at a Sold Out...


Well it was not actually sold out but it was standing room only at Monroe Park on Saturday as 10 of us made it out for a game of touch football. Fortunately there were no serious injuries to report, just a few pulled/strained muscles here and there but I think an updated injury report on Sunday might include a few more complaints.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

 

Gran Turismo videos and screenshots

For Bill O to drool over. (Via QJNet.)

 

Hey


 

Celebrity Paranormal Project: I am not joking

Aren't all great steps forward in culture the result of combining two wildly popular things. Chocolate and peanut butter. Rap and white people. So what's next? Celebrities + Ghost Hunting = $$$$. Of course they only have the A-listers.

Personally, I thought it was going to be remodeling haunted houses on HGTV. Can I trademark that idea?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

 

I NEVER Thought I'd Say This...

I mean I really never thought I'd say this,
but...
maybe, for the good of the country the Dems need to win in November.

It's been a very long time since I've posted on this blog so you may think i've been to re-education camp (well...considering my new job maybe that's not far off) but that's not it.

First let me make it perfectly clear that I don't think for a moment that the dems will do a better job at running the country or that i agree with any of their party platforms, or that i think they deserve to run the country for any reason. The Dems still are the party of whining and blaming, and they still offer no credible solutions to the country's ills. And on top of all that, many of the dems stated platforms will make things much, MUCH worse (oh...repealing tax cuts comes to mind, as does cutting and running from Iraq).

But that is the essence of why they need to win. The dems need to be in a position of where they are responsible for their comments. Where what they say is taken seriously, with actual consequences. For the past six years they've been able to make headline and vituperative anti-Bush soundbites precisely because no one takes them seriously. A toothless dog, howling at the moon.

If, just if, they succeed to power then they will have to actually think about the consequences of their policy decisions. And don't think for a moment that Chuckie Rangle will be able to repeal Bush's tax cuts. It's very easy for an out of power minority party to make sound and fury over policy, but if the repeal every came to a floor vote then there are conservative Dems who not support it.

Recall what happened when Hamas was elected by the Palestinians (and no, I won't apologize for likening the Dems to Hamas). Hamas felt the sudden pressure of real responsibility; sure blowing up people is fun when it garners sympathetic, free publicity for your cause- stick it to that man! But when you ARE the man, everything changes.

Or, it's like the teenager moving away from home for the first time. He realizes quickly that maybe mom and dad weren't complete morons, that the mantle of responsibility makes decision making more complex. things aren't as easy when there's no one else to blame.

Two years of dems controlling the House wouldn't be all that bad. It might steel the President's and the Republican party's resolve at attacking crucial issues. Maybe we'll even see a few more presidential vetos.

If we can get the other half of congress to take responsibility for the war and the economy that's a good thing. And the only way the adolecscent dems will ever take real responsibility for our county is for them to have real power with its attendant consequences.

 

PLAYSTATION 3: Uncrated

See the uncrating of the PS3 at the PlayStation Magazine Global Headquarters. They even boot it up and show you the start up screen. I know, I know...shut up about the PS3 already. At least I won't kiss it when I finally get one.

 

New home prices plunge

But And, of course, sales increase.

Sales of new homes posted a surprising increase in September, although that may have been fueled by deep price cuts by builders struggling under a glut of unsold homes. [Emphasis added.]

May have been? Prices drop and the quantity demanded goes up. Gee, where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, econ 101.

New homes sold at an annual pace of 1.08 million last month, the Census Bureau reported, up 5.3 percent from August. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a reading of 1.05 million.

But the median price of a new home tumbled 9.7 percent from a year earlier to $217,100. And that measure of prices doesn't capture all the incentives such as free closing costs that builders have been offering to boost sales.

The number of completed new homes available for sale at the end of the period rose to a record 157,000.

A report Wednesday from the National Association of Realtors showed the sharpest year-over-year drop on record for median home prices. But a separate Census Bureau report earlier this month showed home builders having an unexpected increase in housing starts, and a survey of members by the National Association of Home Builders showed a small improvement in confidence, the first increase in that measure in a year, although those with a negative view of the new home market still outnumbered those with a positive view by a four-to-one margin.

What you can take out of this is that prices for new homes have fallen at least 9.7% because the figures do not take into account incentives like granite counter tops or the seller covering the closing costs. Builders have increased housing starts but from much lower levels than last year. I figure that they are willing to build for lower prices since the cost of construction is coming down. Besides building is how they make money. No building, no profit. Also, the number of homes sitting around waiting for buyers is not dropping. All this jibes with the sixth straight drop in existing homes sales.

The psychology of a home owner is affected by the bubble years and by the intrinsic worth he places on his home. It is human nature to value something you have owned and which has given you pleasure. Did anyone happen to see the commercial in which a old lamp gets left out on a crube in the rain? It chides us for feeling sorry for the lamp because afterall, it is just a lamp. But we do feel something for it. I know I have an inordinate concern for some things which my wife regards as junk. It is difficult for a homeowner to lower the price of their house because they have seen what prices were last year and they think should be getting those prices. At the same time they remember all the good times they had in their homes and there might be a tinge of remorse about lowering the price (devaluing?) their special place. Home builders have no such compunction.

Update:

Stubborn home sellers could worsen the downturn. (Via Ben Jones.)

From the worst place in the USA to be trying to sell a home:

Mike Larson, an analyst with Weiss Research in Jupiter, said in a statement that builders are offering $100,000 discounts, one-day sales and other perks, which are helping lower home values across the region. Sellers of existing homes can't match those incentives, so inventory is piling up.


Also, (Via Ben Jones.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

 

Today: A new car and new pictures of our "peanut"


We had a doctor's appointment today and another ultrasound. The "peanut" is looking good. Inna was surprised to learn that the baby could move around at eight weeks. If you look closely you will see her/his little hand sticking up in the middle and waving.

















Last Friday I got a call from the mechanic detailing the extensive repairs that our 10 year old Nissan Maxima would need. The car is in good shape considering its age and it is within a trip or two to Lindenhurst of 147k. The Bluebook on the car is about $2k so when he got over a thousand to fix the brakes I said that's alright, "Putting $1000.00 into this car is a waste of money." I had done some research on the Chrysler 300. It has been getting good reviews and both my wife and myself love the style. Well, I love it because it is Heitner-sized. (That means big.) We looked on the internet and found a Chrysler 300C, top end model, for $28k at the Carmax in Kenosha and we bought it. Kudos to Carmax. It was a very pleasant car buying experience. The people there really made sure that we knew everything about the car and that all our questions were answered. The car drives as well as it looks. A zippy V8 with very nice handling. It is a dream to drive. Did I mention that I am comfortable? It is not easy to find a car that I can say that about. Even the back seats are enormous.
















After the doctors visit we stopped by the Russian deli and I saw this ad for what looks like an Indian movie. The title and subtitle caught my eye.

:-)

Monday, October 23, 2006

 

What will happen if the Democrats don't win

Sometimes I worry for the more unhinged members of the nutroots. They live in a paranoid fantasy world and this allows them to construct all sorts of doom and gloom scenarios. A Democratic win might actually bring them out of this stupor and consider the possibility that the system is not corrupt. That would be a good thing for all Americans. So can you imagine the wailing and nashing of teeth that will follow if the Democrats fail to take the House. Imagine no more.

We all know the neocons won't cede power easily. They have to be aware that if the tide of Congress turns, Bush's last two years will be mired in gridlock and perhaps even be punctuated by several embarrassing congressional investigations. Of course, Cheney did say last week that everything in Iraq is hunky dory, which leads one to believe that after James Baker's devastating report and the escalating mass destruction of the war, Dickey-boy has simply lost it. But whether it is hubris, loony tunes, or both, the White House's freakish calm about the elections makes me as nervous as the hell we seem to be headed for. Therefore we should all be on alert. If for whatever reason we don't win back Congress in November the only real answer will be to take to the streets. [Emphasis added.]


Thousands of aging hipsters rioting. Starbucks torched. Prius' set ablaze. Rythmic chatting until the wee hours of the morning when they have to go to work. It's going to be ugly in the city. I am going to stock up of bottled water and soup.

Update:

Oh no. It can't be. I am filling sandbags as I type.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

 

Internet Poker

Uncertainty and confusion, but the games will go on

As an avid online poker player, I was livid when President Bush's signed the Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. Its a terrible bill that simultaneously constitutes a:
  1. Gross infringement of American liberty.
  2. Hypocritical form of protectionism/extortion by the federal and state governments.
  3. Counterproductive waste of regulatory and legal recourses.
  4. Blatant GATT violation certain to alienate some of our best friends and trading partners.
  5. Stimulus for the creation of undetectable/untraceable methods of moving money.
  6. Huge business opportunity for hustlers and cheats.
  7. Example of a law which undermines general respect for the rule of law.
Wittier Law School Professor Nelson Rose analyzes The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006:
The great unknown is how far into the Internet commerce stream federal regulators are willing to go. The Act requires institutions like the Bank of America and Neteller to i.d. and block transactions to unlawful gambling sites, whatever they are. But, while the Bank of America will comply, Neteller might not, because it is not subject to U.S. regulations. Will federal regulators then prohibit U.S. banks from sending funds to Neteller? And would they then prohibit U.S. banks from sending funds to an overseas bank, which forwards the money to Neteller?

For financial institutions within the U.S, the Act provides that exclusive regulatory enforcement rests with their federal regulators, like the Federal Reserve Board. The Federal Trade Commission is supposed to enforce regulations on everyone else. It is extremely doubtful whether the F.T.C. will ever try to do anything about the Netellers of the world, who are beyond regular U.S. regulatory control. §5365 Since there is no way to regulate overseas payment processors, the Act allows the U.S. and state attorneys general to bring civil actions in federal court. The courts have the power to issue temporary restraining orders, preliminary and permanent injunctions, to prevent restricted transactions. The only problem with this enormous power is that it is, again, practically useless against payment processors who are entirely overseas.

It is difficult to serve a company with the papers necessary to start a lawsuit, a summons and complaint or petition, if the company has no offices, or officers, in the U.S. Even if the papers for such a lawsuit can be served, there is normally no requirement that foreign countries enforce these types of orders. Other countries are particularly reluctant to enforce a T.R.O., which does not even require that the defendant be present. Preliminary injunctions are also often ignored, because they are issued without a full trial and can be modified at anytime by the trial judge. Neteller operates out of the Isle of Man. I do not know of any treaty or other law which would require the Isle of Man to enforce even a permanent injunction against one of its licensed operators.
I agree that the ultimate effect of the bill is almost entirely unknowable until a regulatory regime is established and our trading partners, particularly the Eurpoean Union, react to it. And until the courts invevitably have their say.

Neteller's recent press release (in pdf format) is here. Unfortunately they intend to comply with the provisions of act. Bettingmarket.com summarizes:
Neteller reiterates its previously stated opinion that the obligations of financial transaction providers such as Neteller, remain unclear at this point in time, and that clarity will only be achieved when the Secretary of the Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System issue the regulations they are required to prescribe within 270 days. However, the company says that it will now accelerate its review of this process;
...
In the interim period, the company states that US-resident customers will still be able to use the Neteller service as per normal. The company highlights the fact that US-resident's funds are held in trust accounts and will be available for withdrawal, on demand. The ability to withdraw funds will exist regardless of the customer's location or ability to transfer to any site.
The The Volokh Conspiracy's David Post and Orrin Kerr offer their takes on the matter. Post's argument that the act simply won't work in practice is correct.

In the wake of the bill's signing accurate information regarding the current status of online poker has been difficult to find. Countless blogs dedicated to gambling or poker seem to have sprung up overnight. Most seem like propaganda for gambling interests. Though from one of these new blogs, this post seems to offer a succinct and accurate overview of the current state of internet poker, with links to news articles. This post from bettingmarket.com is informative, too. If anyone has information that either of these links or my post contain any inaccuracies, please let me know in the comments section.

My favorite site, Party Poker, immediately stopped service to its US customers once the bill was signed. I've played only at Tradesports Poker since, where I've been the only American at the table every time. Via Neteller, I plan on funding accounts at Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars in the next few days. As far as I can tell they are the highest profile sites with the most traffic that plan on remaining in the US market. Again, anyone with more or better information please let me know in the comments section.

 

Mason files countersuit saying he deserves money


















Oh John you trickster! All this time making us think you were a doormat. Shaking our heads wondering when you were going to see the light about your bride to be. Well apparently being questioned by the FBI was more enlightening than you let on.

After Wilbanks went missing, investigators pressured Mason to take a lie detector test. Before he could be ruled out as a suspect, the claim states Mason was "the focal point of a possible criminal investigation and was the subject of intensive interrogation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the [FBI]." As a result, it says Mason's "personal and private life was virtually destroyed."

I guess you realize how selfish someone is when they let you go through being a murder suspect. Good luck Jennifer. I think you have as much chance of getting that money as I do.

Though it's unclear when this case will get to a jury, an Atlanta attorney says the decision could be swayed by how a jury views Mason and Wilbanks.

"If this gets to a jury, I feel that she will be in bad shape," attorney B.J. Bernstein said. "She is not a sympathetic figure for a jury, and that can make all the legal issues moot.

"It will be hard to find a jury that doesn't know about this. And even more difficult to find a jury that has sympathy for her." [Emphasis added.]

Truer words have never been spoken.

 

Fish



Not bad picture quality for a disposable underwater camera.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

 

PLAYSTATION 3

A VBlog from PlayStation Magazine with a guide to the operation of the PS3. Then some game videos. The bad news was that the demo unit could not load the game they were demoing. Still worth taking a gander. (Via QJNet.)

November 17th is the release date. Will I try to wait out in the cold for the chance to get one? Probably not. 400,000 on release and another 600,000 by Christmas. I think I can wait.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

 

Dominican police issue warrant for Uribe in shooting

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) -- Dominican authorities were seeking Juan Uribe after issuing an arrest warrant Monday for the Chicago White Sox shortstop in connection with the shooting of two men.

Uribe and a bodyguard are suspected of shooting and wounding a Dominican farmer and a captain in the Italian Navy with a pistol and a shotgun when the pair walked too close to Uribe's jeep around midnight Friday, authorities said.

The navy captain, Dondolin Alessandro, was treated for wounds to his stomach and hands. The farmer, Antonio Gonzalez Perez, had an elbow injury.

The Dominican athlete's brother Elpidio and an unnamed bodyguard of Uribe's were arrested Sunday, San Cristobal province District Attorney Robert Lugo said.

Uribe's agent, Martin Arburua, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday that he had spoken to his client, who denied involvement in the shooting. Uribe told Arburua he had spoken to police, but Lugo said the shortstop had not contacted authorities, who were trying to locate him.

"There is an order for Uribe's arrest and the prosecutor's office is investigating the case," Lugo told The Associated Press.


 

Quagmire? Civil War? Both!?

No, it's just France (via Drudge):

The French government yesterday held crisis talks with community leaders in an effort to halt mounting violence in suburbs around Paris, amid news that gangs of youths, mainly of North African descent, were intensifying attacks on police.

I'm not sure how bad it really is over there but I don't think we are getting the full story.

"These guys came to kill. They wore balaclavas, and had baseball bats and iron bars," said Joaquin Masanet, the general secretary of the powerful UNSA police union.

I'm not seeing much about this on TV or in the papers. If I didn't read blogs I don't think I would be aware of it and that seems to be the case more and more with the news.

Bill C:

No Parasan is a great site for all the news about France's descent into Sharia.

Monday, October 16, 2006

 

Lynne Stewart: Aiding Terrorists

28 months. The judge was a Clinton appointee, natch.

If I was Scooter Libby I would be expecting that pardon roundabout November 8th.

Like Rush says, it is not the seriousness of the charges but the intentions of the criminal. Good* intentions = light sentence.


*Good = Liberal.

 

Which Would You Choose?



Hat or Stereo? The hat is a little more expensive but Winter is coming fast.

I have a gift certificate to use. I think I'm going with the stereo.


Bill C:

No. Wait.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

 

South Park spoofs 9/11 conspiracy theorists

Like only South Park can.

Via HotAir.

BTW, Kevin, there are lots of good housing bubble links on the blog in the past month or so. Including one related to Houston. Just wondering what your opinion of the Texas real estate market was at this time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

 

Frist doing the bidding of gambling interests?

Andrew Stuttaford via NRO's Corner:

Well, I've finally got round to my emails on the topic of that Internet gambling/national security bill and there are far, far too many to reply to. No-one who wrote to me was a fan of the move and there were a good few that said this was the 'last straw' so far as their November vote was concerned. Most of the opposition to the law was on broadly libertarian grounds, but there was another strain too, which made interesting reading in the light of Congress' reputation at the moment.

Supposedly, the reason (apart, of course, from national security) that Senator Frist rushed through this legislation was to send a signal to the more moralistic voters out there. Maybe that will work, maybe it will not, but a revealingly large percentage of my correspondents felt that the real reason for passing the law was to protect the interests of Las Vegas, Indian tribes and other entrenched gambling interests. In other words, a piece of law designed to make the GOP look clean has made them look even dirtier than before.

One reader sent me in some words on the topic on July 11th from, of all people, Barney Frank:

"If an adult in this country, with his or her own money, wants to engage in an activity that harms no one, how dare we prohibit it because it doesn't add to the GDP or it has no macroeconomic benefit. Are we all to take home calculators and, until we have satisfied the gentleman from Iowa that we are being socially useful, we abstain from recreational activities that we choose?... People have said, What is the value of gambling ? Here is the value. Some human beings enjoy doing it. Shouldn't that be our principle? If individuals like doing something and they harm no one, we will allow them to do it, even if other people disapprove of what they do."

Barney Frank talking sense, Senator Frist not.

Draw your own conclusions. [Emphasis added.]

I have. No Republicans are getting my votes this November.

 

Runaway Bride sues ex-fiance

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- Jennifer Wilbanks, who became known as the "runaway bride" after heading west days before her lavish wedding in 2005, is suing her former fiance for $500,000. Wilbanks and John Mason broke up for good in May, about a year after she disappeared and then falsely claimed she had been abducted and sexually assaulted. Wilbanks seeks $250,000 as her share of a home Mason bought after selling their story to an agent, plus $250,000 in punitive damages for allegedly abusing the power of attorney she granted for him to handle their financial affairs, according to Atlanta television station WAGA.


Of course, this is her side of the story. Even so, if John Mason did rip her off, good on him. After putting up with her BS I am not going to condemn him for cashing in and shutting her out of the profits.

 

Small aircraft crashes into Manhattan high rise

But there is no reason to believe this is terrorism. Planes hit buildings all the time and it isn't terrorism. Yup. So don't think that!

 

Westinghouse Update - More HD Please!

I posted about the Westinghouse HD monitor I purchased a few months ago and since have had some more thoughts. I have found that two of my complaints have solutions that I stumbled across while using the monitor. If the info is in the manual, I did not see it.

One issue was the picture-in-picture swap feature. There is no button on the remote for a swap but the feature does exist. While in PIP mode you just hit the button (ex: say VGA for computer) for the small picture and the large and smaller pictures swap. If that is standard for PIP on other brands then I was simply unaware.

The other issue was with the fact that there is no button to change the input to HDMI source. It appeared that you would have to scroll though the input up-down button to get to it. I've found that if you press the DVI input and hold it for a moment it will switch to the HDMI source. I don't know if this is due to the fact that there is nothing plugged into the DVI 1 or 2 inputs - it just works for me and makes things easier.

I've watched some HD football and baseball recently and still I am impressed with the picture quality. But a bigger benefit for football is the larger viewing area of the field. It changes how you view the game much in the way actually being there does. You can see the entire line of scrimmage from the snap and don't have to wait for the camera crew to figure out where the play is going and pan over to the action.

Example: Watching the wide receivers reaction to the snap enhances the viewing experience, especially on running plays. When a back runs to the outside you can see ahead of time what is waiting for him rather than wondering and waiting for the camera to pan over to see if the reciever is blocking or if there are defenders just waiting to make a tackle. If you watch football you understand what I'm getting at.

 

Time to sell the Ten Year Notes...

I feel a little sheepish about writing this post. The truth is I started it last week, 4th or 5th of October, but I had problems converting the graph into a format that I could post and then I got sick. Maybe John can back me up on this since it was saved on blogger. So here it is and the reason I was going to post it was to highlight something I had picked up from Barron's. One of my favorite indicators is very bearish on ten year notes. It is the Committment of Traders (COT) figures which breaks down futures positions based on who holds them. There are three categories: Commercials, Large Traders, and Small Traders. The last two are self explanatory. Commercials are large institutions which use futures to hedge. Since the futures markets are always equally balanced between the three categories you can use this information to determine when a particular futures market is more likely to move in a certain direction. How? Usually, the Commercials are right about the market and when they take a big position short the market, which is the case right now, it doesn't pay to be long. It is not a great timing tool. I use it with other indicators. What COT does when it is overwhelming signalling down is tell you that when the market starts to move down it will be fast, big move.

I was also going to give a little tutorial on trendlines and how to use them to find support and resistance but I am going to wait on that. Frankly, I was going to delete this post because it looks like prognosticating with the benefit of knowing what will happen but Matt sent me an email containing a letter analysizing the bond market and it mentioned the COT numbers for the ten year note. As of this moment, all interest rate products are trading much lower after the release of the September 20th Federal Open Market Committee minutes. I don't know what they said but the markets hate it. Stocks, also. Also, the first support level comes in at 106.16. Tomorrow I will tell you who will win the Bears vs. Bills.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

 

Pyramid



The above photo is of the pyramid at the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. Fortunately for us our day trip to the ruins happened to fall on the equinox. On September 22nd the sun was directly over the equator and at about 5pm cast the shadow you can make out along the left edge of the pyramid.

The stone structure was designed so that at this time it would appear that a snake was stretched down the entire length of the side. You might be able to make out the snake's head in the lower left corner of the photo. A large crowd gathered to watch. There was more to see as the sun set but we couldn't stay for that as our bus had to leave to get back to Playa del Carmen where we were staying.

Monday, October 09, 2006

 

Kim Jong-il in the tank for Bush

I was feeling a little paranoid today so I thought I wouls play connect the dots for the moonbats. In 2004, the terrorist attack on Beslan helped secure the 'security' mom vote for W.

Pollster David Winston has always maintained that the hostage crisis at that school in Beslan in September, 2004, where so many mothers and children died, was decisive in making these women realize that security was the most important issue in that campaign. When it came to vote these women trusted the president and a Republican Congress to keep their children safe. I remember that at the time a woman in Ohio, explaining why she and her friends had finally decided to vote Republican, told me that nothing was more important to a mom than protecting her children.

Just as the election looms you have a nuke going off in North Korea to remind the American voter the world is a dangerous place. Voila. Victory. And they thought the Foley scandal would carry the day. BWahahahahahaha.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

 

Geoffrey Norman thanks Congress for saving him

The folly of this is bearable — what the hell, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when legislators pass stupid laws — but the thing that grinds your gears is that these particular people should presume to worry about other people being reckless and profligate with money. When Congress stops salivating every time a piece of pork gets dragged though chambers, then they’ll be qualified to take measures to prevent the rest of us from spending the rent money on the lock of the week. I’ve got more faith in my ability to pick the winner of the Ravens/Broncos game — against the spread, of course — than I do in Congress’ capacity to balance the budget, fix Social Security, or even just to say “no and hell no” to a multi-million dollar bridge to an uninhabited island in Alaska.
You want a sure thing? Bet against Congress to balance the budget. If you can find anyone, that is, who will take the action.

This story and the Foley incident, which I think is being made worse than it is, are putting doubts into the minds of Republican voters. Not what you want to happen before an election.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

 

Matt O gets his wish


Back in May 2005 I posted a long fisking of James Glassman and his naivete. In the comments to that post Matt made it clear that he was relieved to be trading California real estate for Chicago real estate. He also made it clear that he didn't like the type of people who were pushing up prices.

I'm as eager as you are to see those twenty-something housing speculators get their comeuppance.

Well here you go.

Real estate, also a world where appearances often trump content, operates according to a similar couching of reality. "Putting together" a loan package, for instance, or "writing up" an offer or "leveraging" your investment -- all these practices have their customary manipulations that many insiders give the nod to -- even when the practices are illegal, unethical or sometimes just stupid.

So when some loudmouth neophyte comes along with the sordid blow-by-blow of his real estate dealings -- from the "get real estate quick" seminars to the credit card-funded down payments, the stated income loans (a.k.a. "liar loans") to the over-leveraged portfolio, all collapsing in multiple foreclosures -- it's a confession worth listening to.

Welcome to the world according to Casey Serin, a 24-year-old real estate investor and author of the self-flagellating blog Iamfacingforeclosure.com. If Robert Kiyosaki was the pin-up patriarch for the real estate boom, Casey must be the poster child for its fall.


I do feel sorry for Casey. If he had done this six years ago he would have looked like a genius. I am sure he will make a comeback but for now his story is a cautionary tale. Soon it will be a great time to invest in real estate and we will owe a debt of gratitude to the Casey Serin's of the world for spurring the collapse of the real estate market.

Suddenly his voice has the buoyancy of a true believer. "To succeed in real estate you have to have the right knowledge and the ability to take action. I fell down this year. But I'm not going to go out without a fight."

Casey, mighty Casey.

Diego adds: It seems to me that Casey's problem is not real estate. It sounds like he has a gambling problem.

Friday, October 06, 2006

 

Study sees '07 `crash' in some housing

From the Chicago Tribune:

Paul Kasriel, director of economic research at the Northern Trust Corp., disagreed on the Chicago outlook, saying the prices here had not stabilized.

"Not in my neighborhood," he said. "The same houses that have been for sale for six months are still for sale. Some of them have lowered their prices, and they still haven't sold."

But Zandi sees a somewhat bright side.

"Even though this is a very serious correction, that these [market conditions] are things we haven't seen before, I am still arguing that the economy is going to hold together, that there's enough strength to overcome housing's weakness."

"That's nonsense," Kasriel said. "The housing market is an accident waiting to happen.

"We're already seeing a slowdown in employment growth, and a lot of it is housing-related. We're also seeing a slowdown in consumer spending, and that's housing-related.

"It's beyond me how something that has dominated the U.S. economy in the past four years and is clearly in a recession now won't have spillover effects on the rest of the economy." [Emphasis added.]


The question is how much will the recession in the housing industry affect the economy. A inverted yield curve at the beginning of 2006 pointed to a recession starting either at the end of 2006/early 2007. In the past, as one sector weakened the Fed lowered rates and our economy used the influx of cheap credit to speculate on something new. Is that game over? Will our economy not respond like the Japanese economy of the early 90s? Deflation means falling prices across the board and no amount of cheap credit can get people to borrow money on an asset they think will be cheaper in the future. It is a viscious cycle of spiralling asset deflation. After expecting this with the end of the dotcom bubble in 2000 I am a little sheepish about predicting another bout of deflation but at this point we have run out of assets to speculate on. I swear if the Fed cuts rates and Iomega rallies I am going to have a cow.

Update:

I happen to come across this article and it reminded me of Diego's comment. I don't know how common this is but it explains why prices are not dropping that much.

Denver-area home sales and prices were weak in September, according to reports released Thursday.

In addition, the housing market may be in even worse shape than the monthly reports based on Metrolist data indicate because of the way the statistics are being collected and because of rampant fraud, a top real estate executive said.

...

But perhaps an even worse problem is mortgage and appraisal fraud, Mygatt said.

"We have been seeing many more homes on the market, and average prices (in most months) are going up, which does not make any economic sense," Mygatt said.

Two days ago, a Coldwell Banker broker severed a listing agreement with the seller of a home priced at $850,000 because the broker suspected he was involved in a fraudulent sale.

"For five or six months, the home received zero offers," Mygatt said.

Out of the blue, the seller received an offer for $1.1 million, $250,000 above the asking price.

However, the seller would then contribute the additional $250,000 to a nonprofit limited liability company, so the seller is effectively receiving the $850,000 he wanted, Mygatt said.

The beneficiary of the nonprofit group is the buyer, Mygatt said.

Mygatt suspects the buyer will pocket the $250,000 and let the house go into foreclosure. But before that happens, the home will be listed as a $1.1 million sale, helping to skew the Metrolist numbers higher, he said.

He said these kinds of deals, often with lower-priced homes, are becoming increasingly common.

"This could not work without appraisal fraud," Mygatt said.


I would also add that it is normal to see builders offer sales incentives rather than dropping the price because they do not want lower prices showing up in the statistics. There is a theory of inflationary expectations based on the rational expectation of prices moving in the same direction they have moved in the past. Those expectations are the reason that prices often move higher than what is justified by underlying economic conditions. And if I am right, it will mean prices falling much farther than anyone would consider possible today.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

 

What happens when Musharraf gets killed?

This post over at HotAir got me thinking about the tenuous hold to power that General Musharraf has in Pakistan.

It didn’t sound like something Armitage would say. And, according to several Pakistani officials who were there, it wasn’t.

Pretty bold of them to undermine Musharraf this way. But with bombs going off near his house and rockets being found near places he’s due to speak, the price of undermining him may be at an all-time low. And dropping.

Ever get the feeling that the wheels are coming off?


First, I did not believe that Richard Armitage would say that we would bomb Pakistan back to the stone age. I thought he might have initimated that. You know, "..with us or against us." I think Musharraf probably felt that way and he certainly needed something dramatic to sell the jihadist sympathizers in his gov't of the idea of helping the US in the war on terror. "Do you want them to nuke us?" At this point, the jihadists must know this is an empty threat.

Back to the question. Musharraf might have more lives than a cat but the constant attempts on his life show that he does not have enough power to keep a lid on the Jihadists in Pakistan and when they do get him we will not be able to pretend that Pakistan is an ally. You know what, I think that will be a good day.

Musharraf provides cover to the diplo-weenies. They can say, "We must not press Pakistan to hard and put our guy in jeopardy." Actually, if the Jihadists were smart they would keep Musharraf around as a shield against drastic American action. It seems to me that they have free reign in most of the country right now and the US is loathe to 'destabilize' the situation for fear of losing Musharraf. The truth is we don't get that much from having him around because he is weak and he seems more interested in living than in confronting Jihadists.

We know the Jihadists are not stupid. But they are fanatical. So there is a good chance Musharraf will be toast. What happens then? Probably another puppet but if it is a Jihadist, or even a Jihadist sympathizer, then things will get very interesting. Remember, India was a hair's breadth from going to war over the bombing attempt on their parliamentarians. Maybe then we will stop pretending that Pakistan is an ally and really get tough with them. Or, much more likely, India will do it for us.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

 

Don't Feed The Alligators!


















Well that is what the sign said! But that didn't stop the three young men we were riding with on the way to a snorkeling trip. There were six of us in the van and as we headed down the road to the coast I was thrilled to see an alligator in the pond at the side of the road. However I was a little wary when the driver immediately pulled over and the side door swung wide open. The others were eager to coax the gator towards us with some food. I took a few pictures from a safe distance inside the van and waited for one of the others to do something really stupid but there was no free show to be seen. Just the gator eating some bread.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

 

Ted Koppel Quotes Don Corleone

...and gets things the wrong way round.

Former Nightline host Ted Koppel believes that the nature of the Iran's regime isn't the problem -- its American opposition to Iran's nuclear program. He argues the US should accept the inevitability of nuclear Iran and that our abject capitulation to the mullahs should be accompanied by a stern warning, citing a scene from 'The Godfather' to illustrate his point:
What, then, can the United States do to prevent Iran from developing nuclear technology? Little or nothing. Washington should instead bow to the inevitable.

'You insist on having nuclear weapons,' we should say. 'Go ahead. It's a terrible idea, but we can't stop you. We would, however, like your leaders to view the enclosed DVD of 'The Godfather.' Please pay particular attention to the scene in which Don Corleone makes grudging peace with a man - the head of a rival crime family - who ordered the killing of his oldest son.'

In that scene, Don Corleone says, 'I forgo my vengeance for my dead son, for the common good. But I have selfish reasons.' The welfare of his youngest son, Michael, is on his mind.

'I am a superstitious man,' he continues. 'And so if some unlucky accident should befall my youngest son, if some police officer should accidentally shoot him, or if he should hang himself in his cell, or if my son is struck by a bolt of lightening, then I will blame some of the people here. That I could never forgive.'
Don Corleone's machiavellian nature is obviously beyond Koppel, who unsurprisingly doesn't see the larger picture and gets the meaning of this scene exactly backwards. Later in the film Michael, now under his father's tutelage, asks about vengeance foregone. The exchange goes something like this:
MC: What about Sonny?

DC: I gave my word I wouldn't break the peace.

MC: Won't they take that as a sign of weakness?

DC: It is a sign of weakness.

MC: You gave your word you wouldn't break the peace. I never gave mine.

DC: We have plenty of time to talk about that now.
But we don't have plenty of time to prevent a nuclear Iran. Very soon, we must make the mullahs an offer they can't refuse.

 

Housing Market Crash Videos

Lou Minatti has a great new website vblogging the bubbles pop. I hope he gets more content. I should start logging my experiences on the southwest side. BTW, Carlton Sheets' real estate course is for sale on ebay. If we are contrarians, shouldn't we be buying these?

Monday, October 02, 2006

 

Slamming Dr. Frist















In the past I have treated Dr. Frist rather harshly and I was called on it. It turns out I need not apologize. Just check out the Fristbot in the comments of this post. I don't like being spun and the fact that he tried to justify his earlier comment with the clarification that he wanted to appeal to moderate Islamists. Huh? Sorry, no thanks. That is not going to fly.

And as for Frist -- well, thanks for your service, and goodbye, and try not to say anything stupid in the next five weeks. As a Senator, you make a hell of a heart surgeon.

Let me do you a solid and let you know there's really, really no point sinking any time or money into that presidential bid.

Just a little political consulting for you. Gratis.

In honor of Dr. Frist's political suicide and all that he has done to insure that Republicans lose in November, I repost these photoshops (above) to remind us what we are losing.

Also, Frist as Chamberlain.

 

So you know why the Republicans lost

I think the Republican party is doing its best to get creamed in congressional elections. I know this is really bad news for some people who would likely vote Republican.

The bill's chief Senate sponsor was conservative Republican Jon Kyl, who, like Leach, has said he believed Internet gambling was a moral threat. He has called online betting as the Internet version of crack cocaine.

"Gambling can be highly addictive, especially when its done over an unregulated environment such as the Internet" he said this year.

"If Congress had not acted, gamblers would soon be able to place bets not just from home computers, but from their cell phones while they drive home from work or their Blackberries as they wait in line at the movies," Leach said.

The US Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board will jointly develop implementing rules for the new law, while financial institutions have nine months to incorporate its provision.

Leach cited research which showed that young people who tend to spend hours of leisure time on the Internet, are particularly vulnerable.

As for me, if I wanted to be governed by the nanny party I would vote for Rahm Emanuel. I would like to think that I pioneered strategic voting in 1992 so I am more than a little happy that some Republicans are voicing discontent with the direction that congressional Republicans have taken.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan guerrilla war can never be won militarily and called for efforts to bring the Taliban and their supporters into the Afghan government.

The Tennessee Republican said he had learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated by military means…

Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican from Florida accompanying Frist, said negotiating with the Taliban was not “out of the question” but that fighters who refused to join the political process would have to be defeated.

“A political solution is how it’s all going to be solved,” he said.

I mean really, how stupid are these guys? Well stupid enough to alienate parts of their constituencies in the run up to the election. Men are overwhelmingly Republican and they are overwhlemingly, I would guess, gambling online. So hey, let's wag our fingers in their faces and tell them what they can't do...unless they are willing to drive to a casino or go to a gas station. No gambling unless the odds are astronomically not in your favor.

So as momentum shifts back to the Democrats at this late stage you would think that Bill Frist would not be suggesting a political compromise with the Taliban. That's the way to emphasize Republican strength on national security. Pinhead.

The person I feel the worst for is Tony Snow. He is going to have a rough couple of years with all the hearings.

Update:

Lest we forget, the WSJ reminds us that the real problem is arrogance. Republicans have caught incumbent fever. They think that their reelection is an end unto itself.

Even amid all of this scandal, many Republicans still refuse to acknowledge any problem. Appropriators continue to resist major budget reform, and the same Republicans who gave a Democratic President the line-item veto in the 1990s refused to give a weaker version to a GOP President this year. No wonder so many loyal Republican voters have been telling pollsters they're not sure if they'll vote this year. With his party down in the polls, Mr. Bush has tried to recast the midterm election as a referendum on the war on terror. This strategy may yet save Republicans from losing Congress, both because the war is the most important issue of our time and because the Democrats are calling for retreat in Iraq and essentially for a return to the antiterror policies of the 1990s. But it is no credit to the performance of Republicans in this Congress that their best argument for re-election is the wartime flaws of their opponents.

 

First baby photo

Can you see the peanut shaped void in the center of the static? Ok, the dot at the bottom is the baby. If you see that you also pass your vision test at the DMV.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

 

Gran Turismo HD Update

Hey Bill, you might not have a Lotus Elise but you can drive one virtually.

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