Monday, March 30, 2009

Everyday Normal Life.

hey all, if I had a busier week than I had the last week, I don't know when it was. go away on vaca, and when you come back: whoa. still catching my breath. I always say, "Life: it'll kill you!"

I'll get posts going again soon. some of you have asked about the sxsw posts, as well as where the twitter feed went (I blogged the "goings-on" from this year's 'embarrassment of riches' music festival in Austin, TX): if anyone wants to see all the posts from sxsw in one long scrolling page, you can click on the tag/label "sxsw" in the labels section, bottom, left of this blog (there's one at the bottom of this post right here also), and then you have the option to see all the posts w/ that tag on them. Go ahead. An insane 4 days. Lots of bands, some celebrities, a fabulous, tiring time! The twitter feed I set up specifically for sxsw (for brief, on-the-fly updates), I moved to the bottom left of this blog; just scroll down a ways. I can't decide if I'm going to keep the twitter feed linked to this blog or not; not sure it serves any purpose for everyday, "normal" life. Yeah. Everyday normal life. "everyday normal life." Say it again: "everyday normal life. everyday normal life. everyday normal life." I like it. I don't know why. But I like it. Everyday normal life.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

In airport..

Not a whole lot to report on from yesterday, with regards to band
action, because we didn't see many! Had a lazy start at Bro's place,
ate ribs for lunch; by the time got down town, it wasafter 4pm.
Neither Matt or me were feeling great, then before you know it, Matt
got really sick. We decided to call it a day after slogging around a
little bit... Went back to bro's house, who had some good friends
over, and we barbecued and chilled out. Philly, here we come!

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day Three (2nd post)...

try refreshing if page isn't loading properly; give it some time...

Okay, so I heard a lot about this rapper named Cage. He was playing at one of my favorite places here, Club Deville, so I was stoked to see him. Notice anything wrong with him? He's white! I was surprised by that, but not nearly as surprised as I was by how much he sucked. I mean, anyone reading this could rap better, on the spot, improv, w/ a microphone! I am not kidding! I thought it was a schtick, a joke, I really did. He was just shouting basically in monotone. NO flow to speak of. I left halfway through his first song, babbling to everyone in line waiting to get in to turn around and don't waste your time. I didn't get a crowd of 150 people going off about him, at all.The worst "rapper" I ever heard in my life, by far.

Then there was this fool-of-a-man walking around w/ this band's logo on his back.

Running out of time here to blog, but these last 3 pics are of the 1AM Dino Jr. show at one of the sweetest places I've ever seen a band at. It was in a building that didn't have a ceiling, a big courtyard if you will, w/ plants, trees, cobblestones, balconies; very cool. And of course, Dino Jr slayed. As always. But i had never seen J. Mascis play with THREE full stacks before. He had them bent around him, almost in a semi-circle. Seriously, the guy is bleepin' nuts. But if this was the only show I saw down here, the trip would've been worth it. They were extraordinary, and played a tone of hits.

Day Three...

Very tired now. A lot of work all this band-seeing. At the time of this writing, we've seen 31 bands/artists. Still at Bro's house, and it's 2PM local time. Heading downtown around 3:00 for last blast of shows. Got in at 3:30AM the last two nights. Head for the airport at 8AM tomorrow. Have you ever been to Vegas? sxsw is exactly like spending 4 days in Vegas: you want to maximize your sightseeing, get the most for the money you paid, thinking 4 days is not enough time your first day there, then realizing by the last day, you'd never have a 5th day in you, and get on the plane to go home a completely wrecked. Matt was comparing heading out yesterday to "punching the clock." But it's work, having all this fun! Okay, enough complaining. Some pics from yesterday...

This was a shot from "Flatstock 20," the 20th year sxsw has had this show of over 100 artists who specialize in concert/flyer posters. WAY cool. We spent about two hours walking around, and could've spent the whole day. We were in awe of all the work.

I met Dez Dickerson, the guitarist from Prince's Revolution band! We rapped for about 10 minutes, and I bought a copy of his new book, "My Time With Prince," which actually looks pretty good. Super-nice, down to earth fella. Intelligent. This was a thrill for me, as Prince has always been one of my favorites.

One of the bands we saw yesterday (we saw only 8 the whole day), Earthless. They're a Psych-Groove-Heavy instrumental trio. J. Mascis played with them at this show. Unfortch, J. did the nice thing and took a backseat, keeping his amp low, and respectfully not walking all over the main guitarist (who is awesome in his own right); but J was prodded on several occasions to 'go off' by the main gtrst, but never did. They rocked one, heavy, 54-minute song! I gave up on the 36th minute and went outside the tent to chill. It was bleepin' nuts! Also saw Andy Duvall (Zen Guerrilla drumer, Philly expat) and Jason 'Korko,' (Bardo and Night Marchers drummer currently, also from Philly). Andy was taking pics, professionally I think, and Jason was playing w/ New Zealand Band the Renderers, who we might catch today. I said hi to J. Mascis after the show (on street out front), and he was his usual "King-of-Whatever" self, and extremely mellow, just lurching about the block, oblivious all the sxsw madness going on around him.

Matt on 6th street. He keeps saying he wants to get a tat while he's down here. Maybe today...

We took a brake from the noiz and caught a comedy showcase. It was awesome! Little spot (80 people max), and 15 minutes per comic. jenneane garafolo (sp?) was fantastic, but there was a woman on before her who blew me away. Will have to get her name up here later.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Earthless w/ J. Mascis

5:19 pm Wednesday. Earthless is a jam band. Whole set is one song.
Riff rock/groove rock/beavis n butthead-banging. They are doing a 4-
sticks knockoff in this photo...

Day 2, Post-Siesta...

I'm running out of time to blog. Here are more bands we saw yesterday: Howl, Fuck Shovel, Mark Sultan, Obitz, Flower Travelin' Band, Idol Warship, John Forte, Reflection Eternal, Annihilation Time, Earthless, Circle Jerks. Remember, this is just the second half of day two (post-siesta). Some pics below..

Bartender at Radio Room had an interesting/fun way of serving beers!

This is the fabulous and very interesting Flower Travelin' Band; they began in the 70's, I think they're from Japan. Rennie recommended them to us, and they were fun and great. Think: 1 part Emerson, Lake & Palmer/2 parts Ozzy, Sabbath/2 parts Santanna, 3 parts some South Pacific Tiki Groove, and 2 parts Jam Band. And check out that Guitar!

John Forte. World's first acoustic guitar playing rapper. He was okay for the first 30 minutes...

Reflection Eternal, live band (drums, bass, two guitars, keyboard/sequencer, and a DJ using Mac laptop w/ his turntable), fronted by Talib Kweli. Scoot Inn was at capacity and it was a great crowd; about a 50/50 miw of black and white, everybody jumping and dancing. One of the best rap shows I've seen. Rap of the night: "...I got 'em contemplatin' suicide like Joy Division..."

Ms Bea's, a cool outdoor small joint w/ two bands, putting on about 20 bands per day.

Annihilation Time; Day 1; no audio (clip from still camera)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

more music, day #2

Ms. Bea's. about 2PM, our first stop today (where we saw Snake Trap). Total chill vibe, today, Austin.

This was Skeletonwitch. Hardcore thrash metal. As fast as it can be played. Every song was about sorcerers, zombies, guts and flesh. One song was called, "no rest for the dead." Matt and I cracked up at some of the titles and in between song banter of these guys. There was an aggressive pit where people were getting hurt; one guy dislocated his shoulder it looked like. Not my favorite kind of music, but I did respect these guys for playing like they did. Notice the dueling white Ibanez Destroyers - or are they Blazers?

Juliette Lewis's band; don't even remember the name. We watched about 3 songs and had a killer Margarita. She was okay; kind of wanted to be Janis Joplin in a song or two. let's put it this way: she killed Keanu Reeve's band.

at the Scoot Inn, waiting for Pete Rock, which never happened. Again, another chill venue. Great down here.

almost at the halfway point!

we're back at Brother Blair's house for "siesta." Heading out for 2nd part of day 2 around 8:15pm Central time. Primarily rock on deck for this evening, and then a little after midnight I'm taking off for Reflection Eternal, which includes Talib Kweli (formerly of Black Star, w/ Mos Def) and Hi-Tek, whiel Matt catches another act. Pete Rock was supposed to be at Scoot Inn at 6PM but scheduling got messed up and no one knew what was going on. Supposedly he's coming tonight to DJ for Reflection Eternal, which will be ridic. I learned that from a group of homies at Scoot Inn I approached: "so if y'all think I'm asking you this just because you're black, you'd be correct. What's up w/ Pete Rock?" They laughed and one of them said, "I was gonna ask you that!" once we're back from tonight's shows, we'll be officially halfway finished w/ sxsw. It's been great so far. I feel like I'm gonna leave Austin the same way I leave Vegas. Toast. Burnt toast....when we're downtown, there are major network issues: some of my live blogging apps - if not all - don't send (tweets; email, et al). That's why there hasn't been as much of that as I would've hoped for. Whatever. New post w/ pics from today soon.

Day 2, Baby!

This is first band we stumbled upon today (Snake Trap); they were good. An
instrumentsl trio. Think Slint/Primus/Dub Trio. And a couple Dos
Equis. Saw Kyelsa: heavy metal/rock. Good, not great. And now we're at
Emo's Annex, and Skeleton Witch is about to go on...

...end of day 1

Grant Hart. He was okay; nothing special, sad to say.

The legendary Dicks at Austin Music Hall. Busted onto scene in early 80's w/ slew of other hardcore/punk bands; originally from Austin, Texas. They looked old, but were really god. Singer was funny and reminded me of Santa Claus. David Yow (Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard) came out and sung a song with them, he was good as well. He stated in a recent interview, the Dicks were the only band he was ever scared to see, that's ow crazy/scary they were back in the day. And THAT's saying something, coming from him.

Another legend, Roky Erickson (13th Floor Elevators) came out and joined Black Angels for a song. What a mess he was: didn't think to put his drink down when he came out, so one of the Angels had to take his drink from him, and was explaining he could play better that way. Then, he was strumming and there was no sound, so another member had to turn up his gtr volume for him. Just a fucking mess of a person. Sounded good though!

Last show of night was Easy Action, fronted by John Brandon, another legend, formerly Negative Approach singer, and then Laughing Hyenas. Full-on rock, old Detroit style. They were very good. They played at Scoot Inn, one of the best joints down here so far: outside, w/ xmas lights hanging everywhere, and we even grabbed a brat from their mobile sausage stand for the ride home. Got home about 1:30AM.

Black Angels

Roky Erickson coming out soon to play w/ them. They're pretty good.
First time I ever heard them. Psych/groove/Doors thingy.,,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

pics from first half of day 1 (text in post below this)

Annihilation Time

me and Hutch, from the Thermals



Matt, Me

Matt and Keith Morris from Circle Jerks

tired. oh so...tired... are we gonna make it? We're on our "siesta" now, back at my brother's house. and we're beat. really beat. we gotta catch an hour nap and head back out by 8:30 for the Dicks w/ David Yow, Circle Jerks, Roky Erickson w/ Black Angels, Maserati, and others...oi vey. It's only halfway through day one, and we're so tired now. I guess we are getting old after all.

We've seen about 7, 8 bands so far. tv/tv sucked. Posers. After that we saw tag-a-long, who were great: think early Epitath (sp?)/Nitro style band, happy-punk. They were selling customized large underwear from their merch-booth. They kicked it. Then we saw Thermals, who were halfway through their set, and they were really good. Red 7, as well as so many other places down here, have indoor stages, and outdoor stages. It's awesome. Total "mardi gras" feel, as blocks and roads are closed off, people stumbling/drinking in the street, endless fun; endless bands. Saw DMG$ (damaged goods) on our way out of the Thermals show; a couple other 'whatever' bands, and then we saw Annihilation Time. This band rules. They are Punk/Metal. An equal blend of punk/metal. They wrecked shop. a 5-piece (at Emo's) that just shredded. Think Black Flag/Thinn Lizzy/Tank: a bleepin' blitzkreig! Check these guys out if you like full-on, maniacal punk (or Metal). Then we checked out Grant Hart (yes, Husker Du), and he was good; we didn't stay too long 'cause we had to get back to catch some sleep for tonight's round. Just grant and an electric gtr. Good songs, a legend to be sure, but nothing phenomenal, from what we saw.

Now we're resting for a bit, then back to it. So much for my nap. I'll post some pics after this post.

The Thermals!

Outdoor show, 80 degrees, beer.

"I'm Somebody!"

Just Picked up our badges; it's warm, bright & sunny; bands are playing!

streaming thoughts...

...So if you ever find yourself in a TGIF restaurant, like we did yesterday at the Dallas airport, try the sliders appetizer: 4 nice-sized patties w/ bacon on good rolls, and a special sauce on the side. I was impressed. Junky, fattening, but delicious.

...Check out this link for the complete list of bands, parties and showcases at sxsw. As of this writing, there are 5,049 shows! 5,049! That's bleepin' nuts, no?

...every time I travel, I see first-hand just how terrible the PHL airport actually is. things happen quickly and efficiently at other airports; service is superior; the layouts at other airports make more sense; people who work at other airports always seem to be nicer; the food and beer selection is better...ah well.

The Pope is anti-life?

This is fucking outrageous. The pope is clueless! Condoms FACTUALLY help to PREVENT the AIDS virus from spreading. And here's the pope, saying the exact opposite, and he has no clue how absolutely, factually wrong he is. It's an abomination. He is exploiting the less educated throughout the world. He's a rock star in many people's eyes, and many people actually believe what he says is the truth. Even utter bullshit such as this. There is no way to sugarcoat this: the pope is anti-life. He is anti-people. Just listen to this absurdity! sj

Pope says condoms are not the solution to Aids - they make it worse

The Pope courted further controversy on his first trip to Africa today by declaring that condoms were not a solution to the Aids epidemic – but were instead part of the problem.

In his first public comments on condom use, the pontiff told reporters en route to Cameroon that Aids "is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems".

Pope Benedict has previously stressed that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against Aids. The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of the disease.

After his election as Pope, Benedict described Aids as a "a cruel epidemic which not only kills but seriously threatens the economic and social stability of the continent", but reiterated the Vatican ban on the use of condoms.

He said the "traditional teaching of the Church" on chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it had proved to be "the only sure way of preventing the spread of HIV and Aids".

The Pope, who will also visit Angola, is making his first trip as pontiff to Africa, the continent where the Roman Catholic Church is growing fastest.

Two years ago there was speculation that the Vatican might amend its ban on condoms after Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan, said that in couples where one partner had HIV/Aids, the use of condoms was "a lesser evil".

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, the Vatican Health Minister, also said condoms could sometimes be exceptionally condoned, for example when a married woman was unable to refuse her HIV-positive husband's sexual advances.

"You can defend yourself with any means," he said. A subsequent Vatican study of the issue reiterated the blanket ban on condoms, however.

In 2003 a senior Vatican official claimed condoms had tiny holes in them through which HIV can pass, exposing thousands of people to risk.

The then head of the Vatican Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, said: "The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom."

He added "These margins of uncertainty... should represent an obligation on the part of the health ministries and all these campaigns to act in the same way as they do with regard to cigarettes, which they state to be a danger."

The World Health Organisation responded at the time by saying that "These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million."

The WHO said that "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90 per cent.

wii bowling/bro's house/Austin

Life is good. Cousins, family, beer, wii.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day All!

Here's the leprechaun my son drew in school this week!

Monday, March 16, 2009

my 2009 sxsw schedule

So, it's not finalized, but this is as close to what Matt and I would like to achieve this week, with regards to performances, artists and the like. In some cases, there are bands listed multiple times, which just gives us more opportunities to see them (since there are many times multiple acts we want to see are playing the same time). Also, not everything on here is 'must-see,' however, one never knows how the days/nights will shake out and where we're actually going to be at any give time, so we thought we'd leave some other possibilities on there. Sick. sj

Tweeting Works: AT&T Boosts SXSW Network

so here's an update on an earlier post about ATT/iPhones tanking in Austin due to crowds. sj

The tweets, blog posts and constant complaining about AT&T’s shoddy network coverage at South by Southwest has not fallen on deaf ears. Seth Bloom, a spokesman at AT&T, emailed me 10 minutes ago to say that the carrier is adding capacity to the downtown Austin network, and attendees should see their iPhone (or other AT&T device) experience improve by this evening. Bloom writes:

"To accommodate unprecedented demand for mobile data and voice applications at SXSW, we are actively working this afternoon to add capacity to our cell sites serving downtown Austin. These efforts are ongoing, but we anticipate that customers should see improved network performance this evening and for the remainder of the event. We will continue to monitor network performance throughout the event, and will do everything possible to maximize network performance throughout. We apologize to customers who were inconvenienced during this surge in local network demand."

Let’s hope the added capacity helps, and that AT&T customers can keep toting their smartphones, rather than bulky laptops, around the convention center.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Brats, Baby!

best/funniest/most interesting band names from this year's sxsw music festival

some of these names seriously crack me up. My current favorite is "I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness." I don't know a single thing about them. Does anyone? I'd love to hear more about them; see if their music is as original as their name & logo. Check out the rest these crazy names. sj

We Have Band
Doctor Krapula
Pink Nasty
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
Bowling for Food
Slaves to Gravity
We Should Be Dead
The Crash That Took Me
That 1 Guy
Yak Ballz
We Were Promised Jet-packs
Psychedelic Horse-shit
Olympic Ass Kicking Team featuring Terry Anderson
The Gay Blades
Natalie Portman's Shaved Head
The Mother Truckers
The Homosexuals
And You Will Know US By The Trail of Dead
Death by Stereo
The Great Lakes Myth Society
Bryan Scary and the Shredding
A Hawk and a Hacksaw
The Lovemakers
Shout Out Out Out Out
Reef the Lost Cauze
Death Fest
The Sleepover Disaster
DJ Nobody
Shitty Carwash
El Jesus De Magico
Designer Drugs
This Bike is a Pipe Bomb
Outer Spacist
A Whiskey A Dance A Fight A Kiss Goonight
Love You Long Time
Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey

AT&T Fails The SXSW iPhone Test

uh - oh. I might not be live blogging from sxsx2009 after all. it's gonna get 5 times as crowded next week. &^%$! sj

South by Southwest is one of the biggest annual geek shows, so naturally there are thousands (tens of thousands?) of iPhones roaming around downtown Austin. Good luck making calls or receiving text messages, especially anywhere near the convention center.

As this Twitter search feed illustrates, many people are frustrated with the lousy mobile service AT&T (T) is providing. (Our $100/month iPhone has "no service" in the press room, for instance.)

Of course, this is probably more iPhones per square foot than AT&T has to deal with in Austin any time during the year. But mobile companies love to brag about the temporary networks they set up for big events like the Super Bowl. So next year, AT&T, how about a better plan?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mobile blogger, test #3: blogger text!

the other "N" Word...

This is a highly informative piece from the WSJ regarding the current banking crisis, from THE expert on such matters. Please read. Once people look past the 'nationalization/socialism' hysteria the entire GOP Senate, and their leader, Rush 'druggie' Limbaugh (and don't forget his mainstream media-sidekick, Sean "the drunk" Hannity) trot out there on a daily basis, they'll see those are not such bad words, or bad ideals, after all - at least not in these extremely difficult times; and these instruments aren't permanent either. Select bits and pieces can be implemented as well. It's not all or nothing, like the GOPers would have people believe. sj


'Nationalize' the Banks
Dr. Doom says a takeover and resale is the market-friendly solution.

New York

Nouriel Roubini is always dressed in black-and-white.

I have known him for nearly two years, and have seen him in a variety of situations -- en route to class at New York University's Stern Business School, where he's a professor; over a glass of wine in his boyish loft in Manhattan's Tribeca; at an academic conference, seated sagely on the dais; at a bohemian party in Greenwich Village, at . . . oh . . . 3 a.m. -- and he always, always wears a black suit with a white linen shirt.

And so, in black-and-white he was, earlier this week, when he rushed into the office of Roubini Global Economics, his consulting firm in downtown Manhattan, and offered a breathless apology to this correspondent, who'd been waiting for half an hour. "Really sorry I'm late! Charlie Rose taped for way longer than he said he would."

Mr. Roubini -- a month short of 50 -- is in huge media demand, the nearest thing to a rock-star among the economists who hold our fate in their hands these days. The peculiar thing, of course, is that he's in demand because he specializes in predictions of gloom. (He has earned himself the sobriquet of "Doctor Doom.") In person, though, he's anything but a downer.

The man has instant impact on public debate. An idea he floated only last week -- that our "zombie banks" be temporarily nationalized -- aired first on, where he writes a weekly column. It has evolved, in the space of just a few days, from radical solution to almost received wisdom.

Last Sunday on ABC, George Stephanopoulos asked Lindsey Graham, the conservative Republican senator, what he thought about all this talk of bank nationalization. Mr. Graham said that he wouldn't take the idea off the table. And on Wednesday, Alan Greenspan told the Financial Times that "it may be necessary to temporarily nationalize some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring."

Mr. Roubini tells me that bank nationalization "is something the partisans would have regarded as anathema a few weeks ago. But when I and others put it in the context of the Swedish approach [of the 1990s] -- i.e. you take banks over, you clean them up, and you sell them in rapid order to the private sector -- it's clear that it's temporary. No one's in favor of a permanent government takeover of the financial system."

There's another reason why the concept should appeal to (fiscal) conservatives, he explains. "The idea that government will fork out trillions of dollars to try to rescue financial institutions, and throw more money after bad dollars, is not appealing because then the fiscal cost is much larger. So rather than being seen as something Bolshevik, nationalization is seen as pragmatic. Paradoxically, the proposal is more market-friendly than the alternative of zombie banks."

In any case, Republicans must now temper their reactions, he says. "The kind of government interference in the economy that we saw in the last year of Bush was unprecedented. The central bank -- supposed to be the lender of the last resort -- became the lender of first and only resort! With our recapitalizing of financial institutions, and massive government intervention in the markets, we've already crossed a significant bridge."

So, will the highest level of government be receptive to the bank-nationalization idea? "I think it will," Mr. Roubini says, unhesitatingly. "People like Graham and Greenspan have already given their explicit blessing. This gives Obama cover." And how long will it be before the administration goes in formally for nationalization? "I think that we're going to see the policy adopted in the next few months . . . in six months or so."

That long? I ask. "Six months from now," he replies, "even firms that today look solvent are going to look insolvent. Most of the major banks -- almost all of them -- are going to look insolvent. In which case, if you take them all over all at once, you cause less damage than if you would if you took over a couple now, and created so much confusion and panic and nervousness.

"Between guarantees, liquidity support, and capitalization, the government has provided between $7 trillion to $9 trillion of help to the financial system. De facto, the government is already controlling a good chunk of the banking system. The question is: Do you want to move to the de jure step."

Yet another reason why bank nationalization is a good idea, Mr. Roubini continues, is that "we started with banks that were too big to fail, but what has happened, in the process, is that these banks have become even-bigger-to-fail. J.P. Morgan took over Bear Stearns and WaMu. BofA took over Countrywide and then Merrill. Wells Fargo took over Wachovia. It doesn't work! You can't take two zombie banks, put them together, and make a strong bank. It's like having two drunks trying to keep each other standing.

"So if you took over a big bank, and you split the assets in three or four pieces, maybe you create three or four regional or national banks, and they're stronger! Nationalization -- or 'temporary receivership,' if you like, if the N-word is a political liability -- is an occasion to undo the sort of consolidation that has created an even bigger systemic problem. And the only way to do it is by essentially taking them over and breaking them up."

Here, I ask Mr. Roubini whether he has been more right -- more prescient -- in his reading of the economic downturn than all the other famous bears in America. After all, judging by the attention paid to him in the press, it is hard not to conclude that he is the leading guru of the current recession, or "near-depression," as he often calls it. My question, remarkably, induces in him some diffidence. "I don't want to personalize the analysis, you know . . . because, first of all, there were many people who got many of the elements right.

"People like [Robert] Shiller were very worried about the housing bubble. People like Steve Roach were worried about an economy based on asset bubbles leading to consumption bubbles that were unsustainable. People like Ken Rogoff talked about global imbalances in the current account deficit not being sustainable. Nassim Taleb has been worrying for a while about 'fat tail' events . . . . So lots of people signaled concern about things. I was one of those who put the dots together and thus gave a more fleshed-out picture."

To Mr. Roubini, the most interesting question isn't the one of who got it right. Instead, he asks why we "over and over again, get into these periods of irrational exuberance, when not only is there an asset bubble and a credit bubble, but people believe these are sustainable over a long time -- Wall Street, policy makers, rating agencies, academics, journalists . . . ."

What exactly is Nouriel Roubini's economic philosophy? "I believe in market economics," he says, with some emphasis. "But to paraphrase Churchill -- who said this about democracy and political regimes -- a market economy might be the worst economic regime available, apart from the alternatives.

"I believe that people react to incentives, that incentives matter, and that prices reflect the way things should be allocated. But I also believe that market economies sometimes have market failures, and when these occur, there's a role for prudential -- not excessive -- regulation of the financial system. The two things that Greenspan got totally wrong were his beliefs that, one, markets self-regulate, and two, that there's no market failure."

How could Mr. Greenspan have been so naïve, I ask, hoping to get a rise. "Well," says Mr. Roubini, "at some level it's good to have a framework to think about the world, in which you emphasize the role of incentives and market economics . . . fair enough! But I think it led to an excessive ideological belief that there are no market failures, and no issues of distortions on incentives. Also, central banks were created to provide financial stability. Greenspan forgot this, and that was a mistake. I think there were ideological blinders, taking Ayn Rand's view of the world to an extreme.

"Again, I don't want to personalize things, but the last decade was one of self-regulation. But in the financial markets, without proper institutional rules, there's the law of the jungle -- because there's greed! There's nothing wrong with greed, per se. It's not that people are more greedy now than they were 20 years ago. But greed has to be tempered, first, by fear of losses. So if you bail people out, there's less fear. And second, by prudential regulation and supervision to avoid certain excesses."

How does Mr. Roubini think the media has covered the financial crisis? "The problem," he says -- after first stating to me that he intends "no offense!" -- "is that in the bubble years, everyone becomes a cheerleader, including the media. This is the time when journalists should be asking tough questions, and I think there was a failure there. The Masters of the Universe were always on the cover, or the front page -- the hedge-fund guys, the imperial CEO, private equity. I wish there had been more financial and business journalists, in the good years, who'd said, 'Wait a moment, if this man, or this firm, is making a 100% return a year, how do they do it? Is it because they're smarter than everybody else . . . or because they're taking so much risk they'll be bankrupt two years down the line?'

"And I think, in the bubble years, no one asked the hard questions. A good journalist has to be one who, in good times, challenges the conventional wisdom. If you don't do that, you fail in one of your duties."

Mr. Varadarajan, a professor at NYU's Stern School and a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, is executive editor for Opinions at Forbes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

ccc mobile blogging test #2

An excellent, full-bodied Pale Ale!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Do five simple things a day to stay sane, say scientists

I don't know where I got this from, but I saved it last winter and just came across it now. Just in time too! ....'cause things are getting ker-aazzyyy! sj

Do five simple things a day to stay sane, say scientists
Mark Henderson, Science Editor

Simple activities such as gardening or mending a bicycle can protect mental health and help people to lead more fulfilled and productive lives, a panel of scientists has found.

A “five-a-day” programme of social and personal activities can improve mental wellbeing, much as eating fruit and vegetables enhances physical health, according to Foresight, the government think-tank. Its Mental Capital and Wellbeing report, which was compiled by more than 400 scientists, proposes a campaign modelled on the nutrition initiative, to encourage behaviour that will make people feel better about themselves.

People should try to connect with others, to be active, to take notice of their surroundings, to keep learning and to give to their neighbours and communities, the document says.

Its advice to “take notice” includes suggestions such as “catch sight of the beautiful” and “savour the moment, whether walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends”. Examples of learning include mending a bike or trying to play a musical instrument.

“A big question in mental wellbeing is what individuals can do,” Felicia Huppert, Professor of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, who led part of the project, said. “We found there are five categories of things that can make a profound difference to people’s wellbeing. Each has evidence behind it.” These actions are so simple that everyone should aim to do them daily, she said, just as they are encouraged to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables.

Critics of the recommendation said that the Government and health professionals ought not to be prescribing individual behaviour in this way. “The implication is that if you don’t do these banal things, you could get seriously mentally ill, and that trivialises serious mental illness. What is happiness, anyway? It’s so subjective,” Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas, said.

Although the report has no immediate policy implications, ministers will pay attention to it because Foresight is headed by the Government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington.

The project investigated ways of improving the nation’s “mental capital”, which Professor Beddington likened to a bank account of the mind. “We need to ask what actions can add to that bank account, and what activities can erode that capital,” he said.

Among the other issues it highlights is a strong link between mental illness and debt. Half of people in Britain who are in debt have a mental disorder, compared with just 16 per cent of the general population.

Rachel Jenkins, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, who led this section of the report, said: “We’ve known for a while there’s a link between mental health issues and low income, but what more recent research has shown is that that relationship is probably mostly accounted for by debt.”

The report advocates more flexible working, days after Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, announced a review of government plans to extend such arrangements.

Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Lancaster, a co-ordinator of the report, said: “People who choose to work flexibly are more job-satisfied, healthier and more productive.”

Steps to happiness

Developing relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours will enrich your life and bring you support

Be active
Sports, hobbies such as gardening or dancing, or just a daily stroll will make you feel good and maintain mobility and fitness

Be curious
Noting the beauty of everyday moments as well as the unusual and reflecting on them helps you to appreciate what matters to you

Fixing a bike, learning an instrument, cooking – the challenge and satisfaction brings fun and confidence

Helping friends and strangers links your happiness to a wider community and is very rewarding

Monday, March 9, 2009

Required reading/viewing, #27. Frank Schaeffer's got GOP and religious cred; and he's using it to expose the republican party for what it's become.

Hi Folks. So I've known about Frank Schaeffer for a little while now, but didn't know how fed up he actually was over Bush, Rush, the GOP, and the religious right (the latter two, which he once belonged to, the religious right, he and his parents were "co-founders" of, if you will). Unlike Michael Steele (RNC leader) and other GOPers who have apologized to Rush Limbaugh for telling the truth, you won't see that happening with Frank. And he does bring the hammer. Watch this video when you have 8 minutes (an interview he did w/ D.L. Hughley on CNN), and read his "Open Letter to the Republican Traitors (from a former republican)" below. It's an extremely well-written piece and really drives home many points. Perhaps the republicans who visit here (there are lots of you, I know!) can take a little something away from his observations. Original piece here. sj

You Republicans are the arsonists who burned down our national home. You combined the failed ideologies of the Religious Right, so-called free market deregulation and the Neoconservative love of war to light a fire that has consumed America. Now you have the nerve to criticize the "architect" America just hired -- President Obama -- to rebuild from the ashes. You do nothing constructive, just try to hinder the one person willing and able to fix the mess you created.

I used to be one of you. As recently as 2000 I worked to get Senator McCain elected in that year's primary. (McCain and Gen. Tommy Franks wrote glowing endorsements regarding my book about military service, AWOL.). I have a file of handwritten thank you notes from Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush I and II. In the 1970s and early 80s I hung out with Jack Kemp and bought into his "supply side" myth and even wrote a book he endorsed pushing his ideas.) There's more, but take it from me; my parents (evangelical leaders Francis and Edith Schaeffer) and I were about as tight with -- and useful to -- the Republican Party as anyone. We played a big part creating the Religious Right.

In the mid 1980s I left the Religious Right, after I realized just how very anti-American they are, (the theme I explore in my book Crazy For God). They wanted America to fail in order to prove they were right about America's "moral decline." Soon after McCain lost in 2000 I re-registered as an independent in disgust with W. Bush. But I still respected many Republicans. Not today.

How can anyone who loves our country support the Republicans now? Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan defined the modern conservatism that used to be what the Republican Party I belonged to was about. Today no actual conservative can be a Republican. Reagan would despise today's wholly negative Republican Party. And can you picture the gentlemanly and always polite Ronald Reagan, endorsing a radio hate-jock slob who crudely mocked a man with Parkinson's and who now says he wants an American president to fail?!

With people like Limbaugh as the loudmouth image of the Republican Party -- you need no enemies. But something far more serious has happened than an image problem: the Republican Party has become the party of obstruction at just the time when all Americans should be pulling together for the good of our country. Instead, Republicans are today's fifth column sabotaging American renewal.

President Obama has been in office barely 45 days and the Republican Party has the nerve to blame him for the economic and military cataclysm he inherited. I say economic and military cataclysm because without the needless war in Iraq you all backed we would not be in the economic mess we're in today. If that money had been spent here at home on renovating our infrastructure, taking us toward a green economy, putting our health-care system in order we'd be a very different situation.

As the father of a Marine who served in George W. Bush's misbegotten wars let me say this: if President Obama's strategy to repair our economy, infrastructure and healthcare fails that will put our troops at far greater risk because the world will become a far more dangerous place. So for all you flag-waving Republicans who are trying to undermine the President at home -- if you succeed more of our troops will be killed abroad.

When your new leader Rush Limbaugh calls for President Obama to fail he's calling for more flag-draped coffins. Limbaugh is the new "Hanoi Jane."

For the party that created our crises of misbegotten war, mismanaged economy, the lack of regulation of our banking industry, handing our country to rich crooks... to obstruct the one person who is trying to repair the damage is obscene.

Just imagine where America would be today if the 14 to 20 million voters -- "the rube base" who slavishly follow the likes of Limbaugh -- had not voted as a block year after year thus empowering the Republican fiasco. We would have a regulated banking industry and would have avoided our current financial crisis; some 4000 of our killed military men and women would be alive; over to 35,000 wounded Americans would be whole; we would have been leaders in the environmental movement; we would be in the middle of a green technology boom fueling a huge expansion of our economy and stopping our dependence on foreign oil, and our health-care system would be reformed.

After Obama was elected, you Republican leaders had a unique last chance to send a patriotic message of unity to the world -- and to all Americans. You could have backed our president's economic recovery plan. Since we all know that half of our problem is one of lost confidence and perception, nothing would have done more to calm the markets and project resolve and confidence than if you had been big enough to take Obama's offered hand and had work with him -- even if you disagreed ideologically. You had the chance to put our country first. You utterly failed to rise to the occasion.

The worsening economic situation is your fault and your fault alone. The Republicans created this mess through 8 years of backing the worst president in our history and now, because you put partisan ideology ahead of the good of our country, you have blown your last chance to redeem yourselves. You deserve the banishment to the political wilderness that awaits all traitors.

Jim Cramer's take on Obama's stimulus package

I love Jim Cramer. Always have. I love his knowledge, his passion, his personality, his confidence, and especially his humor. I totally respect his opinion as well. He brings up some great and simple points in this recent article of his, as well as solutions. Points that counter Obama's on the economy, and expose the danger and weaknesses of Obama's stimulus package. This is a great read. I've posted a few excerpts below. sj

"...Look at the incredible decline in the stock market, in all indices, since the inauguration of the president, with the drop accelerating when the budget plan came to light because of the massive fear and indecision the document sowed: Raising taxes on the eve of what could be a second Great Depression, destroying the profits in healthcare companies (one of the few areas still robust in the economy), tinkering with the mortgage deduction at a time when U.S. house price depreciation is behind much of the world's morass and certainly the devastation affecting our banks, and pushing an aggressive cap and trade program that could raise the price of energy for millions of people."

"...I wish it were true right now that stocks played less of a role in peoples' lives. But stocks, along with housing, are our principal forms of wealth in this country. Only the people who have lifetime tenure, insured solid pensions and rent homes but own no stocks personally are unaffected. Sure that's a lot of people, but believe me, they aspire to have homes and portfolios. If we only want to help those who have no wealth to destroy, we are not helping the majority of Americans; we are not helping the broader population."

"...we have no time for some of this now, on the verge of a second Great Depression. This is an agenda that must be held back for better times. It is an agenda that at this moment is radical vs. what is called for. I am proud to have voted for the Obama who I thought understood the need to get us on the right path, and create jobs and wealth before taxing it and making moves that hurt job creation -- certainly ones that will outweigh the meager number of jobs he's creating."

The A-word

It's starting to look a lot like an apocalypse.
By David Sirota

Mar. 07, 2009 |

Any serious scribe will tell you that writing is, at its heart, the maddening struggle to find exactly the right words. Should the overcast sky be called "gray," or "beige"? Is Rush Limbaugh best described as "an enraged Jabba the Hut," or "a deranged Stay Puft Marshmallow Man"? Are we living through a "recession" or a "depression"?

Recently, I've been groping for the precise word to characterize the zeitgeist of this (unfortunately) historic moment. I know it's not merely "demoralized." It's something far more dread-laden -- a word I finally found during a visit last week to central Mexico.

Sitting atop the famed Pyramid of the Sun, I took in Teotihuacan -- the ancient metropolis outside Mexico City. Its weathered bricks and mortar look like many great archaeological wonders, except its annals include a harrowing asterisk: When the Aztecs discovered the site, it was abandoned, and nobody knows what happened to its inhabitants. The ruins thus feel like monuments to an apocalypse.

That's the term that popped into my mind as I baked in the Mexican sun -- "apocalypse": a phenomenon whose signs are everywhere these days.

Iraq bleeds from unending strife, while Israelis and Palestinians appear intent on annihilating each other. Pakistan just released A.Q. Khan, the scientist who delivered nuclear secrets to North Korea -- the country that's again threatening long-range missile tests. Colombia’s civil war rages, and the "great news" in Mexico is President Felipe Calderon's announcement that drug cartels haven't totally taken over the country.

In America, our apocalyptic symbols are usually subtler -- the birth of octuplets or a restaurant chain's Chicago Seven pizza, which consumerizes a renowned court case into a fast-food dish. But Wall Street and Washington exhibit a more overt Sodom and Gomorrah quality of late, to the point where even business magazines like Portfolio are invoking the A-word.

It's not just the economic turbulence or the corruption that evokes this new darkness -- both have been around for a while. It's the “I feel fine” obliviousness of R.E.M.’s cataclysmic ballad -- the aggressively defiant, adamantly proud ignorance that marks history’s end times.

As wages stagnate in a nation whose median household income is $50,000 a year, one financial executive tells reporters that bankers "can't live on $150,000 to $180,000." Another bemoans efforts to restrict CEO pay by saying that "$500,000 is not a lot of money" -- and the New York Times chimes in by insisting that it’s true: "Half a million a year can go very fast."

Similarly, as lawmakers hand banks trillions of taxpayer dollars, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., complains that Congress has gotten "very little done to help the financial sector," and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., says America should be most worried that "we're running out of rich people." Meanwhile, reporter Rick Santelli is billed as a populist hero for standing amid wealthy commodities traders and telling CNBC’s viewers that the people being thrown out of their homes are "losers."

Hollywood, our cultural mirror, reflects this back as a simultaneous mix of hedonism and fatalism, an MTV beach party at the end of the world. During this economic crisis, we're given "Confessions of a Shopaholic," a comedy film that glorifies overborrowing and overspending. We'll soon be fed the final season of "Lost," a television show whose Benetton models stumble onto a mystery that might destroy the planet. And then it's on to a film version of "The Road," Cormac McCarthy's fable about cannibalism at the end of humanity.

Apocalypse ... it seems so biblical, but suddenly feels so now. And if we don't quickly wake up and turn things around, we will be left to mutter Col. Kurtz's despondent whisper: "The horror ... the horror."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sometimes solutions are easy.

story below from LA Times.... sj

Obama to reverse Bush policy on embryonic stem cell research

White House sources say key restrictions on federal funding will be lifted Monday. Social conservatives protest that the move will 'aid the destruction of innocent human life.'

By Noam N. Levey and Karen Kaplan

4:24 PM PST, March 6, 2009

Reporting from Washington — President Obama on Monday plans to lift key restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, reversing one of the most controversial domestic policies of his predecessor, according to administration sources.

The move has been widely anticipated by scientists and patient-advocacy groups who chafed at President Bush's 2001 decision to bar federal funding for research on nearly all human embryonic stem cells.

Under the Bush policy, a limited set of embryonic stem cells created before August 2001 could be used in federally funded experiments.

But many scientists said that policy placed significant constraints on research aimed at producing cures for disease. Embryonic stem cells can grow into nearly any type of tissue in the body, and scientists are hoping to learn how to mold them into heart cells for cardiac patients, pancreas cells for diabetics and replacement brain cells for people with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease.

In changing the policy, Obama may further anger social conservatives who believe that the research is immoral because human embryos are destroyed in the course of obtaining stem cells. Many are already upset at Obama for reversing Bush administration policies that restricted abortion services.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said federal funding should be directed to research on stem cells not derived from embryos.

"The question is whether taxpayer dollars should be used to subsidize the destruction of precious human life," Boehner said in a statement Friday. "Millions of Americans strongly oppose that, and rightfully so. Taxpayer dollars should not aid the destruction of innocent human life."

Administration officials did not provide much detail Friday about the order that Obama plans to sign at a White House ceremony Monday.

One official said the president would emphasize "a return to sound science," a theme that Obama and other Democratic candidates talked about often during last year's presidential campaign.

Eight years ago, Bush cast the restrictions as a compromise that would allow scientific research to continue "without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos." Congress tried to lift his restrictions. Bush twice vetoed legislation to do so.

The restrictions became increasingly vexing for many scientists, who charged that they had slowed the pace of research.

"It was such a disaster," said Julie Baker, a stem cell researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Reversing the policy would give federally funded scientists access to hundreds of newer stem cells that are free of the chromosomal abnormalities and animal molecules that they say make the so-called presidential cell lines essentially useless as potential medical therapies.

Many scientists are also eager to get their hands on the dozens of new lines that carry the genetic signatures of the diseases they study. None of the presidential lines have that feature.

American scientists are no longer at the vanguard of stem cell research, asserts a study published last year in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

In the paper, Aaron Levine, a public policy professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, found that whereas U.S. researchers published 46% of the world's top papers in the fields of molecular biology and genetics, they produced only 36% of the human embryonic stem cell studies.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sometimes, you just have to say, "Whaaaa.....?"

Some dude in western Maryland (which might indicate something in itself) has decided he doesn't like it when Food Network folks like Alton Brown or Jamie Oliver tell aspiring chefs to use kosher salt in recipes. His solution?
Blessed Christians Salt!
..It's sea salt that's been blessed by an Episcopal priest... the company also hopes to market the salt through Christian bookstores and as a fundraising tool for religious groups.

Yet another thing to convince sincere religious folks to part with a little extra cash. This guy must be some kind of tool to think that there's anything religious associated with kosher salt. Kosher has to do with the way food is prepped, not 'blessed' by a rabbi. Kosher salt is the ultimate organic food item; in fact, salt itself is kosher because it occurs naturally, you don't have to process it. To be kosher, all a rabbi does is certify that the processing that does occur avoids violation of Biblical dietary restrictions.
So what's the real reason?
"The fact is, it helps Christians and Christian charities," he said. "This is about keeping Christianity in front of the public so that it doesn't die. I want to keep Christianity on the table, in the household, however I can do it."

Right. So, how many Jewish friends ya got, pardner?
Godlewski makes his aim clear: "There's no anti-Semitism. I love Jesus Christ and he was a Jew."

Got it.
If the salt takes off, Godlewski plans an entire line of Christian-branded foods, including rye bread, bagels and pickles.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sun Rises, Market Falls

another interesting, well-written analysis from last week's (visit their site via left sidebar), on Obama, the markets, politics of, et. al. indeed, everything from 538 is interesting and insightful. sj

Sun Rises, Market Falls

One of the more unapologetically idiotic notions being advanced by
certain conservative commentators is the idea that the poor
performance of the stock markets represents a negative reaction to
Barack Obama's stimulus package.

For one thing, the trading markets aren't gauges of overall economic
health. They are gauges of future anticipated profits for the large
corporations that make up their components. In the long run,
certainly, these two things should be correlated. But they needn't be
perfectly so: an oil price shock, for instance, is possibly good for
the profitability of Exxon, while being damaging to the economy at
large. Likewise, the announcement of a plan to take over and
turnaround Citigroup, perhaps a necessary evil for economic recovery,
would certainly not be good for Citigroup's shareholders, who would
probably get wiped out in the process.

That's not the the basis of my critique, however. Rather, it's that
this line of argumentation often cites "evidence" that flies in the
face of Finance 101.

Robust markets like major stock indices are fairly good at
incorporating information. They don't literally have to see an event
occur in order to "price in" its effects. On Wednesday, for example,
Barack Obama signed the stimulus package into law. Once this
occurred, the prospects for the passage of the stimulus rose to 100%.
But what had been the probability of the stimulus bill passing the
very second before Obama put pen to paper? Probably about 99.999999%,
accounting for the small probability of a hostile takeover by space
aliens in the intervening moments. The performance of the market in
reaction to such events tells us no more about how it feels about
them than it does to the rising of the sun.

To the extent that we can learn anything about the market's
preference for the stimulus, we'd instead need to look at those
moments where the passage of a stimulus package became more or less
certain, or its magnitude became significantly larger or smaller than
previously anticipated. In the article I linked to above, professors
Bittlingmayer and Hazlett claim to have isolated a couple of such

More pointedly, key political victories for the Team Obama spending
plan have not been viewed as buying opportunities on Wall Street. A
string of negative market reactions began with the December 18
announcement of a stimulus bill of $700 billion (Dow down 2.5%),
continued with the January 7 announcement that the actual plan would
be “on the high side” (-2.7%) and continued with last week’s 61-36
Senate vote supporting the Administration’s fiscal plan. The White
House victory and the new bank bail-out plan announced the following
day by Treasury Secretary Geithner were met with a 5% wipe-out in the
DJI, and a decline in Treasury bond yields, indicating a “flight to

Bittlingmayer and Hazlett's memories turn out to be rather selective.
Take the December 18th date they describe in their article, when the
markets fell by 2.5 percent. On this date, according to the Wall
Street Journal Obama had outlined the broad parameters of stimulus
package "worth between $675 billion to $775 billion" to Capitol Hill.
Was this a surprise to the markets? Not according to contemporaneous
accounts of the market's activity that day, which do not so much as
mention the stimulus. Moreover, at this time, there were as many
complaints that the stimulus was too small as that it was too large.
As the Journal then reported:

"The biggest fear is that people will do too little," said one
Democratic leadership aide, "like a start-up that fails because it
didn't do enough."

Obama aides hope to keep the package below the trillion-dollar mark,
a psychological threshold that could carry political consequences, as
they fear being accused of adding too much to the country's long-term
budget deficit.

One could advance an argument, which would be no less unconvincing
than Bittlingmayer and Hazlett's, that the market was behaving badly
that day because it wanted more stimulus rather than less.

How about January 7th, the next occasion cited by Bittlingmayer and
Hazlett? Bittlingmayer and Hazlett's phrasing to the contrary, there
was no major "announcement" about the stimulus bill that day.
Instead, there were some off-handed remarks made by Obama at a
morning briefing on the economy, which were described by MarketWatch
as such:

President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday that his proposals to
jump-start the economy must also build a stronger nation in the long
run. Obama said the size of the stimulus package hasn't yet been
settled in discussions with lawmakers, but it would likely be on the
"high side" of his team's estimates and lower than some economists
have been recommending. The latest guesses are that it will be about
$775 billion over two years.

That sort of carefully-parsed response is hardly the sort of "shock"
that is likely to have altered Wall Street's expectations about the
stimulus. Indeed, Wall Street had many better things to be worried
about that day between a plethora of dour economic news.

And how about November 24th, when Obama rolled out his economic
advisory team and prompted the Wall Street Journal headline "Obama
Signals Big Stimulus Plan"? Bittlingmayer and Hazlett forget to
mention this date. And little wonder why: the Dow had closed up by
almost 400 points.

The fact is, there have been very few surprises in the entire debate
over the stimulus package, the passage of which was more or less
inevitable from the moment Obama took office, and the eventual size
of which -- just under $800 billion -- was in line with the
expectations that the markets had held for weeks and weeks. The
nearest exception was probably on January 29th, when the initial
version of the stimulus passed through the House without a single
Republican vote, something which looked as thought it might
theoretically imperil the prospects of the bill passing in the
Senate. If the market was anti-stimulus, it should have loved this
news; instead it dumped about 230 points.

Disclosure of conflict of interest: I own some mutual funds. I'd like
to see 'em go up. I'm not an anti-Wall Street guy. I'm just anti-stupid.

Buffett Says Economy Will Be ‘In Shambles’ for 2009

Warren Buffet really is the man. Cool as a cucumber. But losing hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of 18 months has REALLLLLLlly got to hurt. From Bloomber's

Buffett Says Economy Will Be ‘In Shambles’ for 2009

By Rick Levinson

Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Warren Buffett said the economy will be “in shambles” for the rest of this year as financial firms take losses tied to reckless loans made during the housing boom.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index will probably gain in three-quarters of the next 44 years, just as it did in the period since Buffett took over Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in 1965, he said today in his annual letter to the company’s shareholders.

While Buffett and business partner Charlie Munger can’t predict how stocks will perform in 2009, they’re certain “that the economy will be in shambles throughout 2009 -- and, for that matter, probably well beyond,” he wrote.

Gross domestic product shrank at a 6.2 percent annual pace from October through December, the most since 1982, the Commerce Department said yesterday in Washington. Buffett said the consequences of the U.S. housing bubble are now “reverberating through every corner of our economy.”

Home purchases should involve an “honest-to-God down payment of at least 10 percent,” Buffett said. “Putting people into homes, though a desirable goal, shouldn’t be our country’s primary objective.”

Buffett endorsed efforts by the U.S. government to prevent the failure of financial firms including Bear Stearns Cos., which was sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

‘Immediate Action’

“Whatever the downsides may be, strong and immediate action by government was essential last year if the financial system was to avoid a total breakdown,” Buffett said. “Had that occurred, the consequences for every area of our economy would have been cataclysmic. Like it or not, the inhabitants of Wall Street, Main Street and the various Side Streets of America were all in the same boat.”

Buffett’s letter accompanied the release of Berkshire’s fourth-quarter results, in which net income fell 96 percent to $117 million on losses from derivative bets tied to stock markets. Berkshire shares have fallen 44 percent in the past year as the value of the firm’s top stock holdings dropped and losses increased on the derivatives.

By the fourth quarter of last year, “the credit crisis, coupled with tumbling home and stock prices, had produced a paralyzing fear that engulfed the country,” Buffett said. “A freefall in business activity ensued, accelerating at a pace that I have never before witnessed. The U.S. - and much of the world - became trapped in a vicious negative-feedback cycle. Fear led to business contraction, and that in turn led to even greater fear.”

Monday, March 2, 2009

RHCP: "Under The Bridge Downtown" (Literal Video Version)

There are some creative kids out there these days. Check this out. it's bleepin' hilarious. For real. sj

Sunday, March 1, 2009

my trip to the market today... blogged by me to facebook, via status comments...

status update:
I am prepared to die: our highly educated local weathermen/women just reported on tonight's imminent "Snowpocalypse 2009!!!" 7:38am

Karl at 7:42am March 1
Snowpocalypse? In Philly? What does that mean, more than 1/2 inch? (/snark)

spacejace at 7:51am March 1
Yes dude; Philadelphians have become embarrassingly soft the last decade in this respect.

Karl at 8:15am March 1
I just checked your forecast. You're gonna need a snowblower.

Darlene at 8:15am March 1
jason- remember the blizzard of 93 ? that was awesome- almost as good as the summer they didn't pick up trash!

Kelly at 8:18am March 1
That sounds pretty sirious....

Jennifer at 8:47am March 1
You're starting to sound like my father, let's all rush out and buy milk and bread!!!

spacejace at 9:43am March 1
Totally, Jen. I'm off to the local smacme soon for our weekly food shopping, and I fully expect the masses to be buying their cake ingredients (milk, eggs, sugar, et al) for the impending lockdown the next several days! How are you Jen?! How many kids do you have, two? they're adorable!

Dave at 10:09am March 1
Buffalo NY scoffs at us.

spacejace at 10:34am March 1
French Toast, I meant; That's what my buddy Matt says: "every time there's a threat of even a dusting of snow, people are compelled to head to the store to get their ingredients to make French Toast: eggs, milk, bread..."

spacejace at 10:38am March 1
well, I'm off to Smacme now.... Got my my iPod, along with my old school, big, bulky, gigantic headphones. On tap: Nas, Torche, Mastodon, Minor Threat, Los Natas, MF Doom and Hives...

spacejaceat 11:12am March 1
I'm parked and on my way in..wait! There are no carts! It's a mess. But I have Jhnny Rotten to help put up with the...the...people.

spacejace at 11:35am March 1
Leaving produce section... Stay tuned for live blogging from my "last grocery store trip" (due to impending "Snowpocalypse!"

spacejace at 11:50am March 1
Soup aisle...cranking to first Monster Magnet..

spacejace at 11:57am March 1
Bullshit, wheat pasta costing almost twice as much as non...

spacejace at 12:12pm March 1
Use the right coupons, get what's on sale, use the recycable/our own bags... So much pressure...

spacejace at 12:26pm March 1
Paper aisle... Slow, but smooth sailing...people seem relatively okay with "the end"...Nirvana's "in utero" playing (extraordinary and remarkably underrated record)

spacejace at 12:33pm March 1
Bullshit, organic, cage-free eggs are about twice as much as regular..

spacejace at 12:50pm March 1
So big dude slips, falls, waks his head on supermarket floor; I couldn't feel a pulse, head out front to recall 911 (is a joke in your town), just as EMT 's got here. So...where was I?.. Oh yeah, Ramen noodles...

spacejace at 12:55pm March 1
Heading to checkout, jamming Orange Goblin...

spacejace at 1:16pm March 1
Home sweet home. 1hr 40 min...