Friday, February 27, 2009

And This Is The Kind Of Court Some People Want Us To Join

Apparently it was not enough that he was elected president of a country. It was also not enough that as president of Serbia that he was a member of the "Supreme Defense Counsel" or that he had control over the police and army in Serbia during the the atrocities in Kosovo against the ethnic Albanian Kosvars.

The UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (UNICTY) found Milan Milutinović innocent yesterday.

Either these judges cannot recognize a war criminal when they see one or the prosecutors went to the Clark-Darden School for Prosecutors Who Want To Lose Their Cases.

This is an odd result to me for a couple of reasons. In addition to Milutinović, there were five others who were charged with the same or similiar crimes. The other five were all convicted. Yet somehow, the court drew a distinction for Milutinović. Yet even though Milutinović was a memebr of the same groups, they somehow came to the conclusion that he did not have authority that the others did.

To me that's like saying Hitler would be convicted but not convicting von Ribbetrop because he was not in the direct chain of command becasue he was a diplomat.

For all the carnage and death caused by the Serbians in Kosovo, the five will get between 15 and 22 years in prison minus the time they have already spent in custody. Have to love European sentences. Be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and end up with a sence as low as 9 years in jail.

Seems ridiculous to me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dancing with the Stars Pairings (Or.. Who Gets the Shaft this Season)

From Fresh Intelligence:

• Former NFL star Lawrence Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska
• Actor Gilles Marini and two-time DWTS champ Cheryl Burke
• Rapper Lil' Kim and season seven champ Derek Hough
• Actress Denise Richards and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
• Pop star Belinda Carlisle and Jonathan Roberts
• Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and season six champ Mark Ballas
• Reality star Steve-O and Lacey Schwimmer
• Rodeo star Ty Murray and first-time Dancing pro Chelsie Hightower
• Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak and Karina Smirnoff
• Country singer Chuck Wicks and two-time champ Julianne Hough
• Access Hollywood's Nancy O'Dell and Tony Dovolani
• Actor David Alan Grier and Kym Johnson
• Singer Jewel and first-time Dancing pro Dmitry Chaplin

Looking at this list, its hard to say.

My initial thoughts: Tony ends up with Nancy O'Dell, who is the second oldest of the female contestants. Jonathan Roberts (who has previously danced with Marie Osmond and Rachel Hunter) appears at though he is making a serious run at Tony's title as being the cougar magnet. Newcomer Dmitry Chaplin either has his work cut out for him or is challenging Maksim's status as the pro who expects too much too soon from his partners (There is a report that Jewel has been injured in practice and is receiving steroids for her knee injury).

Otherwise, I think we will see Steve-O go out early. I don't think its going to be because he is inherently weak as a dancer, I've never seen him dance. But what I see is a guy who is hard to control in the first place being partnered up with DWTS' enfant terrible (she seems to live to piss off the judges, especially Carrie Ann Inaba).

To me the interesting pairings to watch are going to be Lil Kim-Derek Hough and Lawrence Taylor-Edyta Sliwinska. Both are professional who have a reputation for achievement but also for trouble. The question in Kim-Hough is how coachable she is going to be. With Taylor-Sliwinska, its going to be the same but I thikn is going to be whether he will be more like Jerry Rice or more like Clyde Drexler. Taylor used his body pretty hard, and despite mellowing since, is whether he will be able to keep up.

The front runner at this time: Shawn Johnson. She pulled Mark Ballas as her partner. He took another Olympian to the Mirror Ball trophy. As long as she takes his coaching, I can't see how she is not the favorite.

The worse looking pairing right now: Wozniak and Smirnoff. Who knows, maybe he has some rhythm, but right now he looks older and slower than the rest. Who knows, maybe the Geek vote will work for him.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Finally Some News on My Favorite Landlords

Some out there may remember Kip and Nicole Macy. They owned a rental property in San Francisco which they rented out. Of course, their version of being landlords included breaking into their apartments and stealing from them, trying to convince a city inspector to red tag their building to get rid of their tenants, calling the police to arrest at least one of their tenants claiming he was a "squatter" and cutting out support beams from underneath the floors of their tenants apartments.

Sounds like great people to be renting from.

Anyways, today a grand jury returned an indictment against Kip and Nicole Macy. Kip Macy is now being charged with six counts of stalking, four counts of burglary, two counts of false impersonation, two counts of theft, as well as counts of making threats, cutting a phone line, and receiving stolen property. Nicole Macy has been indicted with three counts, of burglary, two counts of false impersonation, an unknown number of stalking counts (perhaps six as well), as well as cutting a phone line and receiving stolen property.

And my favorite part of today's news, both of them are going back into custody because their bail bondsmen won't front the bail for them anymore. The reason? The property they put up (namely the property they were terrorizing the plaintiffs at by damaging it) has declined in value.

Almost like karma at work.

I'd wait to see what Mr. Macy has to say when he leaves an anonymous comment, but last time I was there, they did not allow inmates access to computers at the San Francisco county jail.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Nice to see that everyone is so oblivious

Am I the only who feels like this lately?

Seems to me that the only thing that everyone is focused on is the bailout and its ancillary questions. Even in that respect, the bailout is only getting coverage about whether it will pass or not and whether the delay will harm the Obama administration's power to get things done.

When the professional media does deign to talk about something else, they have been doing so in a fashion that would be right at home with Hearst' yellow journalism. (How about last week's Newsweek which proclaimed that Afghanistan was Obama's Vietnam ?) When I'm not seeing more pieces about the stimulus plan, I'm seeing more comparing Obama to either FDR or Abraham Lincoln.

Aside from that, we have the regular slew of stories which make me wonder where our priorities really are when we allow such things to be labeled "front page" worthy. (Such as ones like these.)

How about someone paying attention to the fact that North Korea has recently announced that it is rescinding all of its non-aggression pacts that it has recently signed with South Korea, or that it has recently begun moving a long range missile to a launching site? (Yeah, thanks to former President Carter as well as the Clinton and Bush administrations, there may be something nuclear to put on the warhead.)

Or in more national news, how the Roberts' lead Supreme Court has recently weakened civil rights in Herring v. United States. This is important stuff that reflects how the government is going to be allowed (whomever is in office) to operate vis a vis the rights of people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Yet outside legal circles, there has been almost nothing out there about it.

These are just a few of the stories that are out there. People need to understand somethings. First, its amazing how involved we are in making money in short term. Second is how little we care about things like our security, our civil rights, and our long term financial well-being.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Let the Madness Begin

Here's the lineup.

1. Belinda Carlisle
2. David Alan Grier
3. Jewel
4. Lil Kim
5. Gilles Marini
6. Ty Murray
7. Steve-O
8. Nancy O’Dell
9. Denise Richards
10. Laurence Taylor
11. Chuck Wicks
12. Steve Wozniak
13. Shawn Johnson

Now the interesting thing is that almost none of the pairings have been announced. Only two pairings that have been announced. The first is that Chuck Wicks will dance with his girl friend,.... Julianne Hough (does that seem like a good idea to go into a competition with your significant other? hmmm... suddenly this relationship is going to be on the watch list for implosion.). The other is that Maksim Chmerkovskiy will be dancing with Denise Richards. This pairing, to me, seems fraught with problems. Denise Richards does not seem like the easiest person to coach.

What we do know is that Karina Smirnoff will be dancing. Also, there will be a new profession, Chelsie Hightower. Lacey Schwimmer, unfortunately in my opinion (hey, she's got to do something other than whine about how unfair things are), will return. Other returnees will be Derek Hough, Cheryl Burke, and Mark Ballas.

If I had to bet, these are the two pairings I would bet will happen:

Belinda Carlisle will get Tony Dovolani. (At 50, she's the cougar of the group and Tony is the cougar's choice.)

Lawrence Taylor will get Cheryl Burke. (She seems to draw ex-NFL players)

Unlike other seasons, there does not seem to be much in the way of early favorites. Belinda Carlisle is a performer, but not a dancer (like Joey Fatone). The best of the bunch at first blush would seem to be Shawn Johnson. She's an athelete. She's used to being told to do things in a particular way. She accepts coaching (hence the gold medal). Will her gymnastics abilities translate to the dancefloor like Apollo Ono or Kristi Yamaguchi.

And now, we wait until the premeir on March 9.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Are We Moving Too Fast?

One of my heroes had this to say:

"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

Right now, everybody seems to be thinking that we need a massive stimulus package. At this time, both parties are in favor of a stimulus package. The difference of opinion in Congress seems to be about the size or the programs which will actually be part of the stimulus package.

However, the Congressional Budget Office has just issued a report that may call into question the wisdom of pursuing this type of stimulus plan.

In their report they have forecasted that over next ten years, the plan, as it stands now, will generate 815.8 billion dollars in budget deficits. That's almost a trillion dollars. And thats if the package does not get increased.

And how often is it that a government program ever is brought in on time and under budget?

In addition to the budget deficit problem, there is also the issue that the demands of the stimulus package. According to the CBO, it will exceed the limits laid down by federal law.

What does this all mean? It means that everything is going to get expensive. Not that its going to cost more for things, its just that any other program that the government wants to pay for (say like fighting terrorism, reforming health care, etc.) there will be less money to pay for all that. It could also mean that the cure proposed by both parties is going to cause problems worse than they are now.

Now, it should be noted, that in the 1990s, Japan went through a significant and prolonged recession. The Japanese response to the recession was to engage in a massive public works project. In all, the Japanese government undertook nearly 5.5 trillion dollars worth of public debt to pay for this stimulus package. The result: no meaningful recovery. Now, there is the argument that the infrastructure spending which was the center of the stimulus package (as it is to an extent with the Obama Administration's proposals) were not targeted in the right way. However, it should give someone pause before the government whips out its credit card and essentially maxes it out.

The only thing is, other than some of the House Republicans (from my perspective, I almost think they are doing it to be oppositional to President Obama and Democrats rather than being constructive about things), most everyone else in D.C. is convinced that the only way to solve this problem is through some form of the current stimulus package. Perhaps we need to stop and look around at the options.

Of course, given the way this country has been run for the last decade, that has not been a strong suit (i.e. USA PATRIOT ACT I and II, TARP). Already, we are learning that because the government decided to just throw money at the banks when the housing market started to go south, the program essentially wasted money by over-paying for bank stocks.

Once we start down a road this massive, there is almost no way to stop. The road that is proposed could lead to things that we as American do not necessarily want. There is a place for government spending in this mess, but it is not clear that the plan that is being put forward right now is the right one.

Then there is the specter of how all this debt will affect how the United States is able to operate. Essentially, the note on this country will be held by foreign investors. It is unclear what the effect all this debt would have. Some say that it should be minimal, but that it does expose the U.S. to potential liabilities and problems. If one were to accumulate a significant portion of this debt, say like a country that does not share out ideals of democracy, human rights, and individual freedoms, this could lead to a situation where we might have to choose between our ideals and our debt.

Unfortunately, no one seems to want to talk about these issues. No one wants to be seen as being Hoover. Everyone wants to be FDR. The one thing that should be remembered is this: the New Deal did not end The Great Depression in the United States.

The Great Depression in the United States ended in 1941 - 1942. That would be when the U.S. was building up in anticipation of the war, and after it entered the Second World War.

Perhaps someone should consider that before voting on the stimulus package.