Friday, November 21, 2008

How can he stand himself?

On Nov. 5, Norm Coleman was reported to have received about 600 more votes than Al Franken. As I posted earlier, Norm then pronounced that if he were in Franken's shoes, he would concede and forego a recount and let the healing begin. (No mention of making sure the will of the MN voters was properly and fully determined.)

So the mandatory recount is perking along and Franken keeps gaining ground. At this point in the recount (about 60% done, I think), according to Franken's camp today, Norm is only up by fewer than 100 votes. There's more Franken territory left to be counted than Coleman territory, so it seems possible that Franken will come out ahead at the end of the recount.

In light of this, Normie today said that he won't give up his right to challenge the election results. He's ready to head to court. He says he was sleep-deprived when he demanded that Franken give up his right to a recount. Oy.

It's entirely possible that Minnesota's senator will be elected by just a handful or two of votes. Almost 3 million votes cast.

Conversion experiences

When I listen to Christian conversion stories, I don't find it at all difficult to believe or understand the part of the story where someone went from believing in no god to believing in a god. In so many stories, people experience a sense of the presence of god. But I rarely understand how that translates into a belief in Christianity, specifically. What about their conversion convinced them that this god they experienced or discovered is the Christian god and that belief in Christ as savior is the only route to knowing God? I'm suspicious that upon sensing the presence of a god, they assume or presume this to be the god with which they're most familiar and this (in the culture of the majority of Americans) is the Christian god, packaged with the associated creeds/dogma of the Christ story. (And yes I have the same suspicions about conversion stories for other religions in other cultures.) I'd like to see people at least consider the possibility that there might be a god, but it may not fit within the confines of the most convenient religion (given their cultural place) or any established religion. If something about their experience is unique to believing in a Christian god, then I'd like to hear about that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I hadn't heard about Joe Eszterhas’s faith

Joe Eszterhas’s awakening from the WaPo:

Or was it God's divinely impish sense of humor? "Who, you? You're praying? After everything you've done to break my commandments and after every nasty, unfunny thing you've written about Me and those who follow Me - now you're sobbing? Praying? Asking Me to help you? Hah! Okay, fine, I'll help you. But if I do, know this: My help will obliterate the old, infamous you. You'll wind up turning your life inside-out. You'll wind up stopping all of your excesses. You know what will happen to you? You'll wind up telling the world what I did for you. You'll wind up carrying my cross in church. Yes, I make all things new - and you will be new, too."

I will thank Him forever because He gave me new life and a heart which is truly able to love for the first time in my life. His love is mine.

H/t: Dennis Prager

Conversion of the Prince of Darkness

Long Washingtonian piece on Novak's conversion. Probably not worth the effort if (a) one loathes him or (b) one wants deep theological thoughts.

MN Senate recount - images of questionable ballots

I've been so curious to know what manner of marking people made on their ballots that left their intent unclear. It's not merely incompletely-filled bubbles. Minnesota public radio publishes images of challenged ballots here.

Egad (again)!

Just found out another shareholder is leaving the firm today. That's seven attorneys I can think of in the last 12 months. Scarier by the day.

The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts

Louis de Bernieres is one of my favorite authors and this is a book club pick that I pitched. Liked it lots.

De Bernieres' novels are typically set in another time and place. Corelli's Mandolin is set on the Greek island of Cephalonia occupied by the Italian army during WW II. (If you had the extreme misfortune to see the movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin, just completely disregard. There's no comparison.) Birds Without Wings is set circa 1900 in the Ottoman Empire as it comes to an end and the nation of Turkey is formed under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. (These two books would make my top five favorite books of all time.) TWODENP is his first novel and it is set in a fictitious Central or South American country in recent decades. All three novels showcase a large cast of eccentric characters (plenty of whom you fall in love with) set against the backdrop of enormous geopolitical upheaval and war. One of his recurring themes is the dichotomy between the antlike quality of people as forces out of our control toss us around, squash us or remake us, and the power of the individual including the ability of a single person to alter the course of history.

De Bernieres’ novels are always deeply researched and filled to the gills with detail. In TWODENP, there’s even an entire chapter on economic manipulations in this fictitious land, complete with references to Friedman, obviously commenting (though not with a clear angle) on political events in various Central/South American countries in the 1980s.

TWODENP has a touch of magical realism, that he doesn’t use in CM or BWW. I’m not generally a fan of magical realism because it can be used as a cheap ploy for an author to get past plot problems, but de Bernieres uses it judiciously.

If you’re inspired to read something by de Bernieres, I recommend BWW or CM first. Know that the first 50-75 pages are tough (he admits his novels have a built-in mechanism to weed out readers with poor concentration), but after that they're glorious. I find it absolutely necessary to make a list of characters for reference in the beginning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Anne Rice and Athens, Texas

This was a real surprise. I don’t listen to a lot of the NR Between the Covers interviews but the Anne Rice interview intrigued me because of her recent re-conversion to Christianity. About three-quarters of the way through, she mentions Athens [update in case I have a reader: my hometown, kinda] as a place with which Hollywood is unfamiliar.

I'd say so.

Misdemeanor Hazing or Attempted Murder?

This DA’s career is over once the moms get through with him.

From the Chronicle’s website:

Harris County District Attorney Kenneth Magidson said Wednesday the ex-cheerleaders restrained several junior varsity cheerleaders, blindfolded them, bound their hands and pushed them into a swimming pool in an off-campus hazing incident.

From The indicted cheerleaders include:

Kelly, 17
Hannah, 18
Haley, 17
Kristen, 17
Adelynn, 18
Meigan, 18

Madison, 17

Only in Texas. This is worse than waterboarding and the charge is hazing?

H/t: Jeff Ward

Getting prepared for greater deficit spending

I expect that Obama will undertake some infrastructure spending and that such spending will increase the deficit over where it is at now. Here's a good post (by Tim Fernholz writing at The American Prospect's blog) with graphs (the work of John Irons at EPI) that shows where we're at, historically, with regard to deficit, and makes the case that there's some room to increase the deficit without approaching historically high deficits (all normalized for GDP). (Am wishing he included debt graphs as well.)

Romney on the Detroit Three

In the NYT:

[First...] That extra burden is estimated to be more than $2,000 per car. Think what that means: Ford, for example, needs to cut $2,000 worth of features and quality out of its Taurus to compete with Toyota’s Avalon. Of course the Avalon feels like a better product — it has $2,000 more put into it. Considering this disadvantage, Detroit has done a remarkable job of designing and engineering its cars. But if this cost penalty persists, any bailout will only delay the inevitable.

Second, management as is must go. New faces should be recruited from unrelated industries — from companies widely respected for excellence in marketing, innovation, creativity and labor relations.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Longhorn Football Future?

From the Houston Chonicle:

Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has been named head football coach-in-waiting to eventually replace Mack Brown at the University of Texas, athletic director DeLoss Dodds said Tuesday.

"We have decided to build our future from the inside," Dodds said.

Dodds said Muschamp will make $900,000 annually beginning Jan. 1 and contract details will be finalized at a later date.

"We’re looking at our future, and he will be our future," Dodds said.

Not sure I like what this portends.

Car Query since the ailing three are on the verge

I have a Dodge Dakota truck. Since I’ve been buying, I’ve had a Ford that was made in Germany (Jim Rome’s sled..boy was that a mistake after year 2), a Honda Accord, and Ford Taurus.

Our former blog brother and spouse have two Ford SUVs though both have also owned Toyota’s in the past.

I know LJ once had a Lexus.

I’ve never really bought anything over something else because it was made here that I can recall but I do remember being a bit self-satisfied that my "German" car profited Ford.

Cuban conspiracy

I can't claim to be following the Mark Cuban insider trading story. But I noticed this at HuffPo, and pass it along for the pleasure of conspiracy buffs:

Later in the day the complaint was filed and after Mr. Cuban posted his rebuttal, an item appeared on a New York Times blog that makes me understand why Mr. Cuban seems to be throwing caution to the wind and making his accusation. In what the Times characterized as a "purported email" from an SEC staffer to Mr. Cuban, it is revealed that there was bad blood between the agency and Cuban not just as a result of the accusations about his sale of stock in Cuban is taken to task for his financial backing of the series of documentaries entitled, "Loose Change." The films set forth a case for a conspiracy among individuals in the U.S. government to bring about the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001.

Niall Ferguson at Vanity Fair on the Meltdown

Long article of which I understood maybe a third but I did like this:

This is no new insight. In the 400 years since the first shares were bought and sold on the Amsterdam Beurs, there has been a long succession of financial bubbles. Time and again, asset prices have soared to unsustainable heights only to crash downward again. So familiar is this pattern—described by the economic historian Charles Kindleberger—that it is possible to distill it into five stages:

(1) Displacement: Some change in economic circumstances creates new and profitable opportunities. (2) Euphoria, or overtrading: A feedback process sets in whereby expectation of rising profits leads to rapid growth in asset prices. (3) Mania, or bubble: The prospect of easy capital gains attracts first-time investors and swindlers eager to mulct them of their money. (4) Distress: The insiders discern that profits cannot possibly justify the now exorbitant price of the assets and begin to take profits by selling. (5) Revulsion, or discredit: As asset prices fall, the outsiders stampede for the exits, causing the bubble to burst.

The key point is that without easy credit creation a true bubble cannot occur. That is why so many bubbles have their origins in the sins of omission and commission of central banks.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Credit Default Swaps

Here's one explanation of the credit default swaps.

For Steph...

Krauthammer's piece is here.

Bailing out on bailouts

Bush administration decides to not use $350 of the $700 billion dedicated to bailouts. Instead they're leaving that for Obama's administration to do with as they see fit. Good grief. Paulson's whole idea, with Congress' approval, was that this money needed to be spent immediately, wasn't it? That was what, four weeks ago? six? I so with that Obama would on Jan, 21, 2009 say that we're not going to apply the money to bailing out failing companies, but instead will use it to commission infrastructure projects. I don't have high hopes that that will happen, but I can dream.

Prince, a Republican Spokesman????

Do not want to get into a discussion of the Bible but...Yikes!

The purple one would not exactly my first choice. His Androgynousness in the New Yorker:

So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.” He pointed to a Bible. “But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.”

When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”

I'd've thought him to be the last person to be opining on "sticking it wherever..." Also, while I'll not call into question his JW faith or his knowledge of the Bible, I'm pretty sure that if he's referring to Jesus when he says "God came to earth," he's dead wrong. If he's referring to the visit to Abraham...and I'd be shocked if he were, maybe.