Monday, March 31, 2008

missteps in an election cycle

The Bush administration's proposed "addressing" of current financial crisis (no, it's not over) represents a failure on so many fronts its amazing.

First of all, the only actual smart move in the hodgepodge of shuffling was uniting the SEC and the commodities regulator as a single entity. It's silly to treat them differently. But given the systemic disregard for the actual implications of commodities pricing by the federal government (for example disregarding the cost of food and fuel from inflation calculations because they are "volatile" - meaning they go up, for the most part) what good will that do? well, it has the potential to discourage gaming of signals that ancillary markets use to make decisions. score one for common sense. only about 2 billion to go to get even with idiocy.

Second, if your goal is to appear to be doing something about a crisis, give the people something. This is just stupid crisis management. People are freaked out about housing. Do SOMETHING about housing regulation. Even if your real goal is to use a crisis to deregulate, throw a bone to the people that are freaked out. Here's a suggestion. It's called a slight of hand trick. Tell the American public you're not going to tolerate mortgage fraud and so you're putting in rules that prevent refunds or paybacks on sales prices that give the appearance of higher sales prices than actually occur. Now that you've done SOMETHING, you can continue your plan to essentially disregard the health and well being of anyone will less than 100M in assets.

Third and most importantly, from a party politics standpoint, WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING throwing banking reform into the mix during an election cycle that you're already behind in? Has the GOP really lost its mind? Where is Rove or Grove' on this one? You're basically saying "we think some reforms should happen but the ultimate decision is going to be made by the people who are already ahead in the polls and we're on your side anyway, so give money to them" - this is stupid campaign based decision making (something this administration used to be good at).

I don't get it. If anything this seals Obama's bid. He's ahead in the financial institution fundraising, mccain can't go there because of the savings and loan history and clinton can't do much because wall street is in her district. Foolish. That's all I'm saying.

Friday, March 28, 2008

the questions are all answers to questions in themselves

I ask:

If you are a drummer in a heavy metal band and your given name is Richard Ream, do you really need to change your name to Rikky Rokkett?

Monday, March 24, 2008

and now for something completely horrific

Sunday, March 23, 2008

on papers that suck

I should point out that hearst is hardly the only paper holding company with problems.

No, I'm not referencing Zell's little zinger with the Sun Times this week (Though I've always like Sam from back in his EOP days, despite his being a prick and harley guy to my bavarian and bolognese tendencies - never did go riding with him because of it either)

I'm specifically referencing two things:

1) Hilzik's weak piece on how we're not entering a depression for the LATimes. Really, one of the reason we have editors is to point out that statements have to be logically tied to each other. This piece really suffers from a disjunction between, say, cause and effect in comparison. I point specifically to the assertion that we are not entering a depression because right now our unemployment rate is less than 5% and during the depression it was as high as 25%.

Guess what? by the same logic unemployment has always been at 100% because everyone eventually dies and can't work (I ignore intellectual property here). You cannot draw a negative comparison by pointing out that a single moment does not equate to an extreme from an era. I point specifically to unemployment rates at the beginning of the great depression as an example - from 1928-1931 the unemployment rate was quite similar to our current rate - around 5%. The point I make is that one should not be comparing now to the middle of the depression because, were we in a depression we would not be in the middle of it now.

The second weak point (and there were only two points in the article) is that the Fed then didn't try and do much compared to the Fed now. I will simply point to this fact: The Fed then tried and failed to get JPM to buy the Bank of the United States. The Fed now tried and did not fail to get JPM to buy BSC (after securing 30B with taxpayer dollars on behalf of the purchaser). Painting these two scenarios as indicative of a Fed that is radically different is silly.

This was not a case of a headline being attached to an article that fundamentally mischaracterized it, it was in fact a failure to use comparative logic (all hail Ted Cohen) which was actually being used as the foundation for the entire article.

Alas, I wish it stopped there. It does not.

The Sacramento Bee. I've been rooting for McClatchy for some time during their acquisition spree, and not just because of that great song (oh, wait, that's Mclusky) - but because I feel like papers are undervalued and will get their crap together not to mention the street will realize their crap is more together than they think.

But I'm very frustrated with a recent posting of state employee salaries. I don't view this as any different from Google or other search engine's handling of, say mp3s, or telephone numbers. Or for that matter, the publishing of gas, electricity, water and data transmission information.

Fundamentally they public has a right to know a lot, but information is a lot like a gun - it depends on whose finger is on the trigger and where they're aiming it to determine if it's helpful or dangerous.

to use the gas transmission infrastructure as an example - allowing a prospective home owner to know that there is a gas main that runs along their property and that the company that owns it has been cited for safety violations is very different from making the transmission paths of all gas infrastructure searchable on the web. It's in our best interest to let people know specific information they may want, it's not necessarily in anyone's best interest to give everyone access to all specific information.

I assert that the Sacramento Bee is banking on hype more than anything else in their current efforts. All of the benefits claimed can be obtained by much less flashy posting of position ranges than individual salaries. What would be more interesting is do have them do a little actual investigative reporting to determine who is paid outside of ranges or which ranges are above average when compared to the private sector - admittedly a bit hard for corrections workers ;)

I will point out that the PUC recently decided to relax the salary reporting requirements for the entities it regulates. I will also point out that every regulated utility knows all of the financial holdings of the decision makers for their proceedings. Home value, debt on hand, investments, ownership in companies public and private.

The funny thing of course is that the advocates for relaxing salary reporting requirements for utilities are not getting involved in the sacbee issue for some reason despite the exact same issues being at stake.

In an email I sent to McClatchy I raised the subject of stewardship. Perhaps I am getting older and more conservative but this issue has increased in significance for me lately.

Stewardship. Think about it before you go and fuck it up for everyone else. They say you can't take it with you, but if your boat is sinking do you really have to ram it into as many other boats as possible on your way down?

It seems to me that Google's got a much better view of this subject than the papers they have been eating alive, maybe that's the whole point.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

but why focus on the good papers when there are so many that suck?

the SF commical has "done some analysis" on bike and car accidents that involve fatalities with cyclists.

Aside from there being not much by way of "analysis" and generally weak generally generalizations about things, which ends up making the piece look like an opinion piece (and there are hundreds of not much better opinions added on to the article), it's just hype and bandwagon journalism. I expect more from publishers.

If anyone wants to focus on cyclists who obey laws, maybe they should ask cyclists who enforce them? just an idea.

As a personal aside, I know for a fact that there are cops out there that have it in for cyclists, because I've been screwed by them MORE THAN ONCE.

The best example I can give of this is the asshole cop in Chicago that gave me a ticket for getting hit by a taxi busting a u-turn in the middle of the block on lasalle street.

Chicago cops in particular seem to be averse to evidence collecting, or the actual laws they are supposed to be enforcing (I've got stories, believe you me) but this particular experience pretty much clinched it for me.

After letting out a fare from a double parked position in the middle of the block a cab busted a u-turn in the middle of the block causing me to strike the left front quarter panel and be thrown over the hood of the car. A police officer arrived and, rather than looking at the damage to the cab (which could NOT have been caused in any way by a glancing blow but only a direct hit - which would have meant I would have had to be traveling at speed across the street in the middle of the block to hit the cab if it were at all possible), piggy pulled out a ticket book and cited me for something absurd because "some cyclist flipped him off and told him to fuck off a block back." Well, that cab driver (who drives illegally, lies to police officers, and gets into accidents) is still driving (if you have a hard time with my opinion, I hope he runs over your child so that you may see things differently), my bike was damaged, I had no citation to be able to use to get the cab company to pay for my damaged bike (thank god I was not injured - I was wearing a helmet) and of course the cab driver and cop didn't show up to court and the charges were dropped.

People sometimes wonder why cops get shot. I don't. It's obvious - it's because once you've been burned by someone in a position of authority who is clearly being arbitrary, vindictive, or exploitative, you will never trust a person in a similar position again. If you have a chance to avoid being judged against by a system that is allowed to cheat when you are not, you're way more likely to bump up the stakes to avoid getting screwed. It's a real shame that good cops are lumped into the same category as bad cops, but like the cyclists who stop at stop signs and red lights, no one remembers the good cops when they're in the fight or flight moment. It's always the cyclist's fault and it's always the cop's fault. That's hard wired into our psychology as the flawed animals we are.

When Tommy McBride died the only reason anything happened is because there were witnesses and it made the news, otherwise they'd've blamed being maliciously run over on him too.

i'll say it again

Kareem Abdul Jabar is an AWESOME man.

His post on how birds help me get dressed every morning and make him a happy person is pretty spot on. I maintain he's a huge asset to the LAtimes and the rest of humanity (note the upgrade for the times!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

arthur c. clarke

the with good reason acclaimed science fiction (emphasis on the science) has died at 90. Lest we forget what a great job he did making science and the fantastic coexist in very real ways, lets just say that he thought a lot of really cool things would be really cool, yet he remained quite human.

Monday, March 17, 2008

which reminds me

I put up some performance stuff related to the mohada fasta efforts (a mohadafasta website only 14 years late Joey!)

it's admittedly a little sparse, showing little improvement over my first web efforts (rollover buttons in Mosaic!) in 1995, but hey, as Steve Gabel said all those many years ago about the internets (well before senator ted stevens invented the series of tubes) - what do we really care about the www after we flush our shit out there?

variable theremin collaborative show

I was in ohio last week. I lectured on energy policy at miami university (in Oxford, OH) and performed with the variable theremin collaborative at ohio university (in Athens, OH).

Both experiences made me miss the university of chicago.

why comment on the economy when...

"before even meeting me when I was in a wheelchair."

jesus I am in so much denial over the impending global depression I've taken to making fun of total loser celebrity hanger ons.

well, I might as well dive in then eh?

some lady with one leg sleeps with an old rock star and demands a quarter of a billion dollars in divorce settlement. can it get any better? no, well, sort of. except that she actually got anything other than the clap. (though barely)

she fires her barrister "to save money", recommends it to everyone, claims that opposing counsel was mean to her without getting to know the real, cripple, her (which would of course change the way opposing counsel feels about her) and gets almost exactly what the ex husband says she should receive (technically about 1.5 million dollars more than what he recommended, but what's a few bills amongst jilted amputee screwing old perv rockers eh?) - oh and she can keep her 15 million in personal assets and has to pay for the expense of raising lefty the love child.

if it weren't all so totally gross it would be depressing, but instead is awesomely gross and depressing.

I am going to shoot myself now thank you very much.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Tilde, until day, Tilda Swinton

SFGate has a great piece on the long, under-appreciated career of Tilda Swinton, who recently won and Oscar for best actress.

I've always been smitten, so my happiness may not be totally objective. Her work with Jarman is certainly not for everyone, but what of Jarman's is? Orlando though, awesome.

I do struggle a bit with the class issue in England though...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Kick out California

Now is your chance: www.kickoutcalifornia.com is up and running. no matter what mary says, I'm pretty sure that getting kicked out of the country is not the same as making a decision to leave of your own free will.

the fields are magnetic

so, back in the day i thought the magnetic fields were okay, but I really liked the 6ths project for a whole host of reasons (barbara manning!). I never got into the 69 love songs despite thinking there were many fine songs on the album(s). But at some point I heard one song on a CD that a fan made for Califone one tour with that obvious baritone and simple song structure. it really struck a chord - incredibly evocative of the Lennon song Julia and not about someone's mom. a great song.

yesterday I finally saw them play live - very conveniently right across the street from where I work. I wouldn't say the show was great, but it was a perfect show to show off the great song writing. stephen merritt is easy to be irritated by, but pop song writing chops he's got.

the real bonus for me was they are being opened for this tour by a performance group (interstellar radio) that does some stuff I hoped would be similar to what I've been trying to do more of - they even have a live foley guy. the show was very golden era of radioesque, but quite live theatery as well, so not really what I'm trying to get to, but close. and it certainly put me in a good mood to talk with someone (Matt) who was doing live foley performances as well. The foley was way more true to concrete sounds, though partially this was because foley was part of what they wanted people to see, but they also used midi, which I try to avoid. It was however, quite entertaining. Apparently, in contrast to Poe's telltale heart the night I saw it, they did a science fiction piece the night before, would have been really entertaining I'm sure.