Grace Under Fire

Tracy has a must-read post for anyone who cares about Olympic gymnastics. I am one of those people. While reading her post, I realized I have something sort of semi-relevant to share.

The years was, I dunno, 1993, maybe? I was in a small pharmacy in Tanglewood near where I lived. I don’t remember what I went in for, but I was standing sort of near the check-out. I think I was browsing magazines, when the door opens and this little dervish walks in and trips on me. Literally just walks in, walks, somehow, straight into me and pow! down we both go together on the floor of the Tanglewood Pharmacy. The owner lady hurries over and is asking are you okay? Oh my goodness, is anything broken? Maybe she was worried about lawsuits, I don’t know, but she seemed really worried about both the dervish and I. As she was getting up, she looked into my face like she was about to kiss me. “I’m sorry,” she said, and pushed herself off me. As she stood up, she promptly fell backward into a rack of greeting cards.

Seriously.

I pulled myself up and watched helplessly as the owner lady fluttered over the spaz and tried to pick up the greeting cards that had spilled all over the floor. The spaz looked sort of familiar. Short. Stocky. Adorable smile. Short, boyish hair. She was standing up, laughing off the fact that she’d fallen twice in the space of ten seconds, when she said to me, “Is that yours?”

A ten dollar bill had somehow fallen out of my purse in the scuffle. I said, “Oops.” And I swear to God, we both bent down to pick it up and we bumped heads. Like the Three Stooges. At that point she started laughing. Really laughing hysterically in this high, sweet giggle and I realized, oh my god, it’s Mary Lou Retton.

The woman who made me want to be an athlete, who filled my head with dreams of kicking ass on the world stage, was a complete and total klutz. I loved her. Loved her, loved her, loved her. I loved her even more after our encounter.

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Wall Street Sputters, Manhattan Shrugs

An opinion piece in WaPo written by Andrew Serwer of Fortune has an interesting article about why Manhattan continues to thrive despite the rocky patch Wall Street is experiencing. The best quote:

I once told a guy I know who runs a giant hedge fund that if I ever made as much as he did in a single year — about $30 million — I would promptly pack it in. “That’s why you will never make $30 million,” he retorted. Duly noted.

McCain Might Choose Female VP

David Paul Kuhn writing for the Politico posits that John McCain is working to poach Hillary Clinton supporters by choosing a female VP for the GOP ticket.

The fact that McCain would find Hillary votes a legitimate voting bloc, and one who might be comfortable voting for the GOP, speaks to McCain’s deep blue roots. Secondly, it proves that politicians view women as interchangable morons who would vote for anyone with boobs and vag. As if Democrat women would be fooled into voting for the GOP merely because a woman’s name graces the ballot. Imagine if Obama tried that: choosing, say, Duncan Hunter for his VP. Would that fly in New York?

We need strong leadership by a man or woman who can rally business, keep taxes low, fight terrorism and crime, and rev the economy. If I believed there was a person who could do that, I’d vote for him or her. But race and gender are not legitimate traits to base one’s vote upon.

Gay Marriage Available In California For A Week…Yet Society Continues To Survive

After a week of gay marriage in California, I feel pretty secure in saying whew! We survived! Humanity has not devolved; heterosexual marriage has not eroded into irrelevance, and except for a few shameful protests at the Supreme Court, almost nobody even noticed that gays were getting their matrimony on.

This is the way it should be.

One thing that always bothered me was the legal definition “domestic partnership” or “civil union.” These silly phrases existed for the sole purpose of reserving actual marriage for the people who had the good sense to grow up hetero. Way back, many years before I was born, there was another phrase that sort of tried to accomplish the same thing: “Separate but equal.”

Domestic partnerships, civil unions and other awkward seperate but equal phrasing demeans us all, even the hetero white girls like myself. I’ve read that many gays don’t want to get married, and I have to wonder if they don’t want to be “married” as most of the United States sees it: engage in these not-quite-marriage marriages whose rules nobody quite understands. Saying “I’m married” means something very definite in our society. Saying “I’m in a domestic partnership” means that the person listening needs a law degree to have a conversation with you.

One of the issues under domestic partnerships, and one of the most convincing arguments against gay marriage, is the issue of children. I don’t think that two gay women or men are the ideal parents, but I also don’t think single women, or single men, or even an intact, loving heterosexual marriage produces ideal environments for children. There’s no such thing as the ideal parent, any more than there is an ideal person.

Since the government is not in the business of deciding what ‘ideal’ means, it should be compelled to issue marriage licenses to whomever is of legal age and wants them. The argument that gay marriage degrades all marriage doesn’t make sense to me. Nobody’s marriage makes my relationship any more legitimate. What my neighbors and friends do is nobody’s business but their own; this is what I mean when I say I’m radically neutral. It shouldn’t be an issue. I shouldn’t have an opinion on it any more than I would anyone else’s relationship. To do so seems very presumptuous. If you don’t have something nice to say about my relationship, keep your mouth shut. And do the same for Adam and Steve.

Girlfriend Arrested In Suicide Is Painless Case

The case of the missing hedge fund manager who vanished on the day he was to begin serving a 20-year prison sentencefor defrauding investors has fascinated me for the past few days. It has everything: money, crime, a mystery! And now stupid old Sam Israel III has ruined my fascination by becoming totally ordinary. He wasn’t such a great Houdini after all. He is going to get tripped up by his girlfriend. Which is fine – I have no problems with good people turning on those who are doing something wrong if that’s what’s necessary. But he was stupid because he didn’t marry her, thereby preserving his right to never have her testify against him.

The man is willing to risk a 20 year sentence for the original fraud, plus N more years for fleeing. Yet all that was a better risk to Sam Israel than actually marrying the one person who could not testify against him.

A new low in commitment-phobia.

The Perp Walk

One of my favorite subjects, the legitimacy of the perp walk, was discussed at WSJ Law Blog today. They have a whole gallery of Wall Street perp walks.

I believe perp walks are extremely prejudicial, they deprive suspects of due process by mistaking the guilty for the innocent, and they seem a bit like gloating. We can never stop prosecutors from boasting and strutting for the cams, but I think there should be a little more respect for the process.

At one time, they might have been useful. In mob cases of yore, the prosecutors would drag the wiseguys out before the cameras to show the ones who weren’t caught that they were about to be. It was a fear tactic, a way to send a message to everyone who ever did business with the suspect, which in today’s world just doesn’t translate. Maybe now that the Gitmo detainees are being offered rights to the American court room, we’ll see more terrorist perpwalks – though I tend to doubt it.  There is simply too much respect for terrorists by the media covering these things.  They’d much rather photograph Jeff Skilling or Martha Stewart at their moment of indignity.

But what is the purpose of the perp walk for corporate titans who may or may not have done something illegal? There is no “secret signal” being sent to any of the other hypothetical bad guys; it’s purely showbiz.

I realize that both prosecutors and defense teams will use any advantage they have once in the court room, and I have no problem with that – but before the trial, when these people haven’t even been formally charged with anything, they deserve the assumption of innocence. If we’re giving that to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed now, shouldn’t we at least give it to our own guys? Guys who work in skyscrapers instead of caves? Guys who build wealth, not destroy it? Aren’t they worth a little benefit of the doubt, as they’re constitutionally guaranteed?

Dial back the hubris, Prosecutors.

The Long and Short of Short Selling

Economist has a typically comprehensive article about short sellers. Naturally, Jim Chanos is quoted defending his profession.

A fun fact in the article: in 1995 Malaysia’s finance ministry reportedly proposed caning as a punishment for abusive shorting.

Awesome.

Seven Political Priorities

I think the Republican party has lost its mind.  I think the Democrat party has no mind.  I am really a conservative without a political party at the moment.   

These are my seven political priorities:

1. A comprehensive plan to combat radical Jihadists.  This includes strong borders, relentless cracking down on illegal aliens (a subject I’ve heard very little about during this election season), and finishing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do not allow AQ terrorists caught on the battlefield access to American courts. Do not close Gitmo.

2. Destroy Iran because they’re terrorists and they’re crazy and they’re dangerous.  We need to stomp them like roaches. Quick, before they spread.

3. A balanced energy portfolio.  If this post were a Venn diagram,  this one would overlap both the previous priorities.  I believe we need to drill more, right now.   Open ANWR to drilling.  Open the Grand Canyon to drilling.  There can be no sacred cows about this.  Furthermore,  support companies that create new technologies to allow better, more efficient drilling by giving them tax breaks.   The same tax breaks can be issued to companies that invest in more sustainable energies.   

4. Corporate fairness.  Banish all corporate taxes.  Banish anti-trust laws, including insider trading.  Do not make a federal law that shareholders have a say in executive compensation.  Allow companies to do what they do best, without government intervention.  If you remove corporate taxes, a lot of shocking good things will happen.  One is that the unemployment rate will go down dramatically because there will be no pressing need to outsource everything for the cheapest possible price.  The second is that the economy will stabilize.  If companies make money, we all make money.  I’ve never gone to work for a poor man, and neither have you.  Allow those with the intelligence and drive to become execs to create the pathway for the rest of us to better lives.

5. Health care.   I believe the free market is the best manager of money.  Government has no place in health care; they can’t even run the Senate restaurants for gosh sakes.  The way to fix health care is to stop allowing lawyers to maul doctors in frivolous malpractice suits. That alone would bring down the cost of health care substantially. Also, recognizing that some people simply can not afford health care, abolish Medicare and then replace it with something more up to date which allows for patient care while also not costing tax payers $3 trillion annually. If the government is going to act like an insurance company, it should be held to the same standards of an insurance company.

6. Gay Marriage. I’ve never been extreme either pro or anti; I am instead radically neutral. I really don’t care if homosexuals get married, and neither should you. It really should be so fundamentally irrelevant to your life (unless you’re a homosexual about to get married) that you haven’t given it much thought, and you certainly aren’t going to stand outside with protest signs over it.

7. Education. This one is tougher than the others – I think it’s probably the most difficult problem for me to get my arms around. Vouchers are a terrific idea… However, I don’t see how a poor student, trapped in an urban school, is going to be able to afford to go to a better school. Since the family is poor, the parent probably works a crappy job, and she probably hasn’t the time or the money to drive 20 miles one way to take the child to school, so its possible – if not likely – that the very people who need the advantage won’t receive it because the logistics don’t work. I think maybe it’s a better idea to hold all public schools to higher standards so that travel is not an issue. Dumping money into inner city schools isn’t the answer. It’s been done before, and it never works. The money just gets absorbed and then vanishes and the children are left learning that there are 57 United States. I don’t have an answer, but maybe somebody does.

McCain Supports Lifting Ban On Off-Shore Drilling; Hopey McHoperson Makes Fun Of Old Guy

In a desperate effort to appease conservatives, John McCain supports lifting the ban on off-shore drilling this week.

“The stakes are high for our citizens and for our economy,” McCain, the presumed Republican nominee for president, said at a press conference Tuesday in Houston, Texas.

Hours later, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said President Bush on Wednesday will ask Congress to lift the ban on offshore drilling.

Bush has long called for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration, but Perino said he now wants to go further.

“For years, the president has pushed Congress to expand our domestic oil supply, but Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked such action,” she said.

Kudos to whoever in the White House made the tactical decision to actually say something about the political party attacking its policies and people. How novel. To address the point: I love the fact that [President Bush] now wants to “go further” than drilling in ANWR. How about ripping up the floor of the Gulf of Mexico for starters?

Earlier in the day, McCain, describing the high price of fuel, confused the cost of gallons versus barrels, which drew laughs from the crowd and the candidate himself. He quickly corrected himself.

“And with gasoline running at more than $4 a barrel … a gallon … I wish … $4 a gallon, many do not have the luxury of waiting on the far-off plans of futurists and politicians,” he said.

Oh good. He wants to veto every beer and he’s tongue-tied on the gallon/barrel issue. Could we please get a candidate who at least has some knowledge of this century’s pricing?

“We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.”

McCain’s plan would let individual states decide whether to explore drilling possibilities.

Hold on a sec. Let me adjust my whole fucking universe because something he said actually makes sense. This is the most definitive, most positive thing I’ve ever heard him say. Also, it’s much more substantial than anything Hopey McHoperson has ever said.

The proposal could put McCain at odds with environmentalists who say it is incongruous with his plans to combat global warning. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a McCain ally, opposes offshore drilling.

Yeah, there’s that. He has to kiss up to the Al Gore crowd while simultaneously appeasing Conservatives’ desire for a balanced energy portfolio. Thank goodness we know he’ll never actually do anything about increasing domestic oil production, thereby saving him the embarrassment of fending off his base: liberals.

By the way, how exactly does oil and gas contribute to global warming? According to this greeny site, it’s mostly the side effects of using petroleum products that are such ghastly bruises on the liberal heart:

There are several primary environmental impacts of using petroleum products: air emissions, including both greenhouse gases (which contribute to global warming) and air pollutants, spills, and the land disturbed and altered by oil drilling, pipelines, storage tanks and processing plants.

Land disturbed and altered by blah blah blah? New Orleans, Cedar Rapids, Phuket and even the teensy Bikini Atoll in the middle of the Pacific, which should have been deleted off the world map by nuclear weapons but is thriving despite the nukes, might have something to say about “disturbed land.” Enormous natural disasters continue to alter our land, shaping it by force and time (see also: erosion, dinosaurs, and the regrowth of Chernobyl). And more to the point, the United States has more land than we know what to do with. Look at a satellite map, particularly of the western half of the USA and you’ll see more greenspace than grey. That’s why environmentalists have been complaining about encroachment for twenty years or so – because we have enough space to encroach for twenty years, and twenty more, and probably hundreds more.

In short, that’s a spurious argument for not building plants.

Many officials from coastal states oppose offshore drilling because of the risk of oil spills. Environmentalists want offshore drilling to stop to protect oceans and beaches from further pollution.

During Hurricane Katrina, there was not a single oil spill. The Gulf Coast of the United States of America is one of the most heavily with oil platforms, and not one of them lost a single drop of oil, even though the government said that 105 of them had been destroyed. The last oil spill in the United States was on December 10, 2004 when a Malaysian freighter snapped in two off the coast of Alaska. The last oil spill the US was responsible for was on February 14, 2003 in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. An underground corroded pipeline fitting failed, releasing fuel into the waters. The spill was deep underground, however, and there was no impact at all on fish or wildlife.

All in all, the US does a good job of preventing disasters, and cleaning up its messes when an accident occurs.

McCain opposes drilling in some parts of the wilderness and says those areas must be left undisturbed.

“When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a ‘refuge’ for a reason,” he said.

Now that’s showing some intellectual weight: we call it that so it must be that, forever and ever. And all the wildlife will live happily ever after. Barl! This is nonsense. Use the land that is ours. The wildlife will find their way or not. As of this writing I believe that having our own source of fuel instead of being blackmailed by terrorist countries, and that a $2.50 gallon of gas for a mother trying to shuttle her kids to day camp and the grocery store is worth more than the life of an eagle, caribou, otter, or some snow rat. I believe that human beings are more valuable than animals. All humans, even jerky liberals who think $5/gallon gas is fine.

But back to McCain. Last week at a town meeting in Philadelphia he said he opposed drilling in ANWR for the same reason that he would not drill in the Grand Canyon.  “I believe this should be kept pristine.”

Keep in mind that the proposed exploration in ANWR would affect only .01% of the 19 million acres of the refuge. But apparently that .01% is too precious for animals and not precious enough for humans.

Then McCain turned on Hopey McHoperson:

“So what does Sen. Obama support in energy policy? Well, for starters, he supported the energy bill of 2005 — a grab bag of corporate favors that I opposed. And now he supports new taxes on energy producers. He wants a windfall profits tax on oil, to go along with the new taxes he also plans for coal and natural gas. If the plan sounds familiar, it’s because that was President Jimmy Carter’s big idea too — and a lot of good it did us.”

This is rich. Because McCain supports the exact same things dressed up in a different vocabulary.

McCain argues that a windfall profits tax will only increase the country’s dependence on foreign oil and be an obstacle to domestic exploration.

Oh. I’m confused, and so is he because on June 11, 2008 – about a week ago – he was on the Today Show with Matt Lauer. Lauer said, “How can you and the other CEOs sleep at night when people are having to choose between feeding their families and filling their tanks? Are those people reacting out of pure emotion, or is there some logic to people who are asking those questions?”

McCain replied, “There’s logic to it and emotion to it. I mean, after all, look what’s happening to Americans who are on fixed income, particularly low-income Americans. The oil companies have got to be more participatory in alternate energy, in sharing their profits in a variety of ways, and there is very strong and justifiable emotion about their profits.”

So he wants a tax on the profits just…not a “tax” tax on the profits. But I can explain this change of footing. On that same day, the Washington Post said:

“Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a proposal to tax the windfall profits of the nation’s biggest oil companies and eliminate some of [their] tax breaks, rejecting Democratic claims that the measure would help assuage consumer anger over $4-a-gallon gasoline.”

Meaning he was careful to avoid using the “windfall profits” line, but its clear that he wants to tax energy profits, whether or not they are labeled “windfall.” Which, I might add, is a misnomer. A windfall is receiving money for which you did nothing to earn. Example: your uncle dies and leaves you a billion dollars. Windfall. You had nothing to do with it [ostensibly]. Oil companies, on the other hand, can not ever claim to have a “windfall” profit on oil since it’s their business. I believe this is just a verbal summersault to avoid saying “excess profits” which sounds so blatantly socialist.

“I’m all for recycling — but it’s better applied to paper and plastic than to the failed policies of the 1970s,” he said.

So clever. And nice ping for the enviro crowd.

Obama on Tuesday blasted McCain for changing his stance on offshore drilling.

Good for Hopey. I guess he’s violating his own policy of no attacks though.

Obama said a windfall profits tax would ease the burden of energy costs on working families. He also wants to invest in affordable, renewable energy sources.

No, he doesn’t want to. He want you to invest in “affordable, renewable energy sources.” He wants to force oil and gas companies to work against their own best interest by funding the research for competing products. He wants consumers to pay higher taxes to contribute to this fraud.

Controversy over offshore drilling surfaced in the United States in 1969, after a crack in the seafloor led to a huge oil spill off Santa Barbara, California.

1969? And… a crack in the seafloor? Is that something anyone could have foreseen or repaired? And yet… here we are today, with our 1969 hippie dippie mentality governing our energy and defense policy.

During the 1970s, when many Arab nations launched an oil embargo, many U.S. officials pushed for the exploration of offshore drilling of the coastal United States. Environmentalists responded with loud protests.

Of course they did. They’re idiots.

Chanos To Financial Media: Quit Making Stuff Up

Oooh this is rich.

Now Chanos is taking aim at another train wreck: the financial media. In a speech yesterday, Chanos trashed the broadcast and on-line media for breathlessly reporting rumor as legitimate news and called for more regulatory investigations into whose who feed the gullible or nefarious media rabble.

Jim Chanos is pleading with the online and broadcast media for making crap up? Like, oh, say the summer of 2001, when he set off a flurry of unfounded rumours about a certain energy giant headquartered in Houston, Texas?

Also, we should assume he doesn’t include Bethany McLean in this horror show of hypocrisy since he’s working in tandem with Bethany McLean to destroy an Australian bank.

Chanos cited recent travails at a well-known New York investment bank that’s still around (yes, that one) that was the subject of repeated unsourced reports on a certain well-known business television channel (guess). The reports hammered the bank’s share price.

Chanos said he happened to be on his firm’s trading desk on that particular day, right in the thick of trader-land, where rumors are as rife as market positions.

“I run the world’s largest short-selling fund,” Chanos told the SIFMA conference. “We hear everything. That day we didn’t hear any rumors (about the bank).”

“Some of our financial journalists are MAKING the news,” said Chanos. “And blogs are saying things and reporters are reporting it as news.”

Whatever could he mean by this? [Note to self: cancel next year’s attendance at the Bears In Hibernation meeting.]

Chanos is calling for more government investigations into where journalists are getting phony tips that they foist on the market as news. “There are IM messages, email records, taped phone calls. This is not hard. Inspector Clouseau could do it.”

Hm. Chanos was friends with Spitzer; they shared Spitzer’s little prostitute – so I must assume that by “government” he means “prosecutors who will attack the companies I am shorting and therefore make me more billions of dollars. Like Spitzer.”

“A lot of this is just being manufactured to sell stories and get ratings.”

I am sick of this allegation. Not just for me [I have never been accused of manufacturing stories] but for blogs in general. There is simply no way to make up something and then have it broadcast as news. There are too many fact-checkers. Even friendly ones. If I reported something exciting, I’m sure the other right wing/ financial blogs would look into it, and either verify it or not. This allegation is one reason I always put the source link in my news posts; that way readers can see exactly where I’m getting my information. This “no editorial control” argument is silly and unfounded.  Paul Berliner, for instance, was a Wall Street trader, charged with securities fraud and market manipulation for intentionally spreading false rumours about The Blackstone Group’s acquisition of Alliance Data Systems (ADS) while selling ADS short. He spread his rumours via Instant Message – not blogs. Paul Berliner is the last rumour-monger I’ve heard about – so if there is a blogger out there manipulating markets, I don’t know about it.

I think Chanos’s complaint is not really directed at bloggers anyway; it’s a way for him to scare off the shorting competition.  He knows that bloggers will report this and see him advocating government involvement, and information will constrict, thereby giving Chanos and his short seller cronies another advantage. 

But Chanos actually is at a disadvantage when it comes to using the internet. Based on his comments, it’s clear he doesn’t really understand the internet and the fact that the great thing about it is that we can double-check each other.  We can check the mainstream media, then we can pick up the phones and call the sources ourselves to verify.   There’s really no such thing as a rumour on the blogs because as soon as somebody puts out something questionable, a thousand people jump on it and either debunk or verify.  And if its verified, it goes viral.  Beautiful.

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