Wednesday, March 22, 2006

 

VH1's 2006 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Broadcast

Just a few quick notes from last night's broadcast of the 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony:

- My goodness, Debbie Harry does not have the energy she used to have. And what the hell is up with the red hair - does she not remember the name of "her" band? I have to say, my enthusiasm for this summer's Blondie/The Cars tour was greatly diminished by her performance. Maybe she was distracted by the debate about who should be in "her" band.

- Why the fuck did it take so long to get Sabbath into the HoF? I honestly don't have a reason for this.

- Metallica sure kicked ass on Sabbath's "Iron Man"; so much ass-kicking occurred that it nearly made up for the wussy-ness displayed during their Some Kind of Monster documentary.

- Why the fuck did it take so long to get Lynard Skynard into the HoF? OK, that's a rhetorical question; rock snobbery is the only logical answer - 'cause, ya know, only hicks and southern bigots listen to Skynard.

- Kid Rock should be required by law to sing vocals during every performance of the current Skynard line-up.

- Watching James Hetfield play air guitar during Skynard's "Free Bird" was pretty cool. And even Matt Pinfield was bobbing his head during the solo. The band should be issued some sort of congressional medal for the wretched excess of the 3-guitar attack, because I can't think of anything more American. Whoa - now Lars Ulrich is air drumming.

- Wow, the production values of this show really sucked, especially given that there was a full week to pull this broadcast together.

Monday, March 20, 2006

 

The Wisdom of Buffett

Uh, that'd be Warren, not Jimmy. The genius investor speaks out on the danger of "professional" account management and excessive trading:

And that's where we are today: A record portion of the earnings that would go in their entirety to owners -- if they all just stayed in their rocking chairs -- is now going to a swelling army of Helpers. Particularly expensive is the recent pandemic of profit arrangements under which Helpers receive large portions of the winnings when they are smart or lucky, and leave family members with all the losses -- and large fixed fees to boot -- when the Helpers are dumb or unlucky (or occasionally crooked).

[SNIP]

Long ago, Sir Isaac Newton gave us three laws of motion, which were the work of genius. But Sir Isaac's talents didn't extend to investing: He lost a bundle in the South Sea Bubble, explaining later, "I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men." If he had not been traumatized by this loss, Sir Isaac might well have gone on to discover the fourth law of motion: For investors as a whole, returns decrease as motion increases.

Interestingly enough, my employer has been sending out polite invitations to sign up for a new 401(k) account management service. I finally got around to looking over the paperwork, and quickly shit-canned it when I found that the service came at the price of 0.6% of the fund's value each year. WTF? At a 10% rate-of-return, that would eat up over 1/20th of my yearly gains (we haven't seen 10% average annual returns in the time that I've been investing, so the actual impact would be much worse).

 

The Greek Phone-Tapping Scandal

The cell-phone tapping story from Greece seems to have totally disappeared in the US media, but the UK's Guardian follows it up with an interesting article that dives deeper into the potential role of Vodaphone, and raises questions about the US's involvement:

Because the antennae that relayed the calls to the recording equipment were close to the US embassy, many believe 'Big Brother' is the CIA.

Koronias appeared to confirm those suspicions, telling the parliamentary committee that the surveillance system required people with expertise in a number of hi-tech areas 'as well as plenty of money'.

More tellingly, the US embassy's former political counsellor, John Brady Kiesling, also pointed the finger at Washington. The CIA's fingerprints were all over operation, he said.

'Everything points to the US embassy,' said Kiesling, who left the State Department in disgust over the Iraq war. 'Nobody else would have, or be interested in, a list [of people tapped] that would look like that.'

Have we so quickly forgotten about this?

Regardless of who's at fault here, the technical details of the operation certainly will be interesting, once they are revealed. I'm also curious to learn more about Vodafone's involvement - was it the unwilling participant in an operation by a foreign government, or did the company go along willingly?

Monday, March 13, 2006

 

Time To Stock Up

Any time the government suggests creating a stockpile of non-perishables, it's bound to be interesting:

In a remarkable speech over the weekend, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recommended that Americans start storing canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds as the prospect of a deadly bird flu outbreak approaches the United States.

Ready or not, here it comes.

It is being spread much faster than first predicted from one wild flock of birds to another, an airborne delivery system that no government can stop.

It's nice to see some rational thinking coming from our leaders in Washington, even if it will be met with ridicule.

What I'd really like to see is someone from Homeland Security come out with a recommendation/requirement that every American household contain a suitable amount (say, two weeks' worth) of food and water along with other supplies and a means of defense, but that's not nearly as sexy as spending billions on computer systems that don't work.


 

Short Memories

The current meme amongst many conservatives is now whether or not is possible to spread democracy in the Middle East, since it's apparently a lot easier to write off an entire region as being hopelessly backwards than it is to accept the fact that Our Dear Leader has irrepairably fucked up his crusade.

I do find it interesting that folks like Richard Lowry have now decided that perhaps only "strains of Islam" (nice selection of words there) are compatible with democracy, and in the same breath he has the audacity to trace the current problem of radical Islamism to the Iranian revolution of '79. Lest Mr. Lowry and his associates forget, the history of the Middle East might have been very different indeed had a democratically-elected prime minister not been overthrown and replaced by a pawn of the West. In this case, democracy was not compatible with our energy needs, and so we pissed on it to get cheaper gasoline. Now we have the audacity to look back on fifty years of meddling and ask if we haven't just been dealing with some sort of incorrigible savages? That's pretty fuckin' rich, if you ask me.

There are a hell of a lot of things wrong in the Muslim world, and not all of them begin or end with mistakes that the West has made in the region. I do find it interesting that so many are willing to overlook a half-century's worth of intanglement when attempting to write off entire cultures, though.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

 

Coincidence?

Fact 1: The USA PATRIOT Act renewal will place into a federal law a requirement that medications containing pseudoephedrine be placed behind the counter.

Fact 2: V For Vendetta debuts next weekend.

For what it's worth, there's already some bullshit in Michigan that requires products containing pseudoephedrine to be placed behind the counter. What this means is that stores which don't have a pharmacy have simply stopped selling products with that active ingredient, while those stores that do have a pharmacist can only sell those products when the pharmacy is open. Go to the store late at night to get medication for a family member (as I tried to do for my wife last month), and your selection is greatly limited.

For as much as I get uptight about Bill Of Rights stuff, it's really these sort of issues that represent a real loss of freedom in our country. What was that about the law of Unintended Consequences?

Friday, March 10, 2006

 

Greenspan Predicts Third-Party Prez Candidate

Noted libertarian and retired Fed reserve chairman Alan Greenspan apparently thinks that the "vast untended center" of American politics will span a third-party candidate in '08 or '12. The "idological divide" of the Republican and Democrat parties is said to be at fault.

I agree that there's a huge difference in the idology of the two parties at this time, but frankly, is there much difference in the policy? If we look at the so-called "controversial issues" surrounding Bush's tenure in office, we find that, in large part, the Democrats have supported his plans. Where was the resistance to the USA PATRIOT Act? The Iraq war? Defense spending? The confirmation of Bush's cabinet and Supreme Court nominees? There has been plenty of talk from the left side of American politics, but very little backing up that talk in the way of a voting record.

Then, of course, we have the Republicans, who for all their talk of conservatism and responsible spending have irrepairably smeared the reputation of drunken sailors and have yet to apologize for it.

I certainly welcome a third-party option, but frankly I'm not so sure that it'll do much good if it comes from the center of American politics.

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