Another year you’ll never get back

It’s December 31, and 2011 is almost history. Let’s take a look back, JibJab style.

A Few of my Favorite Things – Friday Night Bits n’ Bobs

About seven years ago I spent a week touring through southern Germany with my family, culminating with a final 2 days in Salzburg, just across the southeastern border into Austria. Salzburg is a beautiful city, but in order to spend half a day visiting nearby Das Kehlsteinhaus, better known here as The Eagle’s Nest, the only remaining vestige of Hitler’s high command retreat in Obersalzburg, I had to consent to a grueling half day Sound of Music tour with my wife and daughters in and around Salzburg itself. Three hours on a bus with chirpy Julie Andrews singing incessantly in the background. Ugh.

That being said, Maria and the young von Trapps seemed the perfect intro to tonight’s Bits & Pieces, which includes a few of my favorite links that I have collected over the years, ranging from informative to entertaining to complete and utter timewasters. With that in mind…

I can’t remember how I came across this Famous Trials website, but it is fantastic, complete with synopses, trial transcripts, evidence, photos, and more for any number of historically interesting cases, ranging from the Salem Witchcraft trials, to the Alger Hiss perjury trial, to the 3 trials of Oscar Wilde. Legal Eagles, and wannabes like me, dig in.
Boomshine, a totally addicting timewaster. Be warned.
I’m sure few of you would have guessed, but I enjoy arguments. No, really, I’m not kidding. And by arguments I mean formal, logical arguments. Anyone interested in arguing must know, and hopefully avoid, the logical fallacies.
Jim Boeheim, head coach of the Syracuse University basketball team, has long been known for speaking his mind to the media. This tendency towards bluntness has recently gotten him in some reasonably serious trouble, but as a long-time Syracuse fan it also provided my favorite post-game press conference moment. (Warning…earmuff the little ones):

And, weirdly, the same press conference as re-interpreted by girls in bikinis:

As an aside, speaking of Syracuse basketball, I was actually in attendance at the greatest game in Big East history. It was a long night, but well worth it in the end.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have been fascinated by the JFK assassination. One of the first books I ever remember checking out of our local public library was a book about the assassination, and over the years I have read pretty much every book that has been written about it. I even have a condensed copy of the Warren Report on my bookshelf. This is been brought to mind because for Christmas I got Stephen King’s most recent book 11/22/63, about a man who goes back in time in an effort to prevent the assassination. I started it on Tuesday morning and finished it yesterday. Thought it was great. Anyway, if you are at all interested in the assassination and the many varied conspiracy theories (and why they are all bunk), this site by John McAdams is a great place to start.
The Illustrated Road to Serfdom.
I linked to this once before over at the blog whose name dare not be spoken, but everyone should read this book at some point, and it’s free on the web, so I’ll link to it again: The Ultimate Resource.
For movie buffs, I give you another boring-day timewaster, Invisibles. You have to name the movie from a still shot taken from one scene, but there’s a catch. All the people – but not their clothes – have been airbrushed out of the photo.
Another one for movie buffs. Have you ever watched a movie supposedly based on real events and wondered how much of it was true, or what the actual people looked like? Well, now you can find out.

Substitute Morning Report

Vital Statistics:

Last Change Percent
S&P Futures 1261.52 -1.51 0.12%
Eurostoxx Index 2303.7 11.42 0.50%
Oil (WTI) 98.98 -0.67 -0.67%
LIBOR 0.5810 0.000 0.00%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 80.120 -0.366 -0..45%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.871% -0.028%

Last trading day of the year. Should be a very sleepy one. Bond market closes early today, at 2pm est, most desks are operating with skeleton crews, and most books have already been squared/positioned for year end. Not a whole lot going on.

European news seems concentrated on Spain and its deficit cutting. Today the Spanish PM announced 14.9 billion Euros in deficit reduction, made up of both spending cuts and higher taxes.

S&P index is, at the moment, poised to post it’s 3rd straight year of positive gains, although just barely, and it could easily tip negative for the year by the end of the day. Currently up just .38% on the year, it needs to stay above 1257 to post a positive year. At 1262 as I type.

Not a whole lot more to say…although I’m sure john could add some pithy comments even as the markets sputter to a year end close. Here’s to hoping for continued improvement in 2012. Happy New Year, all.

This Guy Lost (Bits & Pieces)

I don’t watch much in the way of television, especially what I consider Reality TV, but my daughter sent me this because she knows I love this song, I mean don’t we all? I guess this guy lost out to a female singer but I thought his rendition of “At Last” was both interesting and unusual. This vid is full of XFactor bullshit so skip ahead to 2:13 if you just want to hear the song…………………..I think it’s worth it.

And I’m so lame, I’ve only figured out how to put one video in a single post……………and then I can only add text above it (sounds like a New Year’s Resolution to me), so if anyone has any other great music to put up……………………..please just do it.

I posted three, LMS, – an iconic jazz band – Hall, Desmond, Baker, Gadd; Knopfler and his roots band Notting Hillbillies, and Katrina Dideriksen who does broadway stuff for a living and blues for fun – my step-niece.

from brian: what some minnesotans do in an unseasonably warm & snow-free december:

The Brightest Thing in Forty Miles from Leif Enger on Vimeo.

I’m Baaack

We’re still crawling out from under the Christmas Tree around here but I read this interesting post and immediately thought of all of you.  It’s a little deep in the weeds but I found it a fascinating read for the progressive/liberal end of the political spectrum.  I guess I’m assuming I’m not the only one who thinks about these issues so we’ll see if anyone else thinks they’re important in an election year.

Last night I had a little free time and as it seemed pretty quiet around here, I went over to the Plumline to see what everyone was discussing and I thought the most interesting links in the Happy Hour thread were those relating to the “Drones”.  The discussion was launched by a piece from Greg Miller over at the WaPo and then the reaction from a few left leaning bloggers.

Other commanders in chief have presided over wars with far higher casualty counts. But no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.
The rapid expansion of the drone program has blurred long-standing boundaries between the CIA and the military. Lethal operations are increasingly assembled a la carte, piecing together personnel and equipment in ways that allow the White House to toggle between separate legal authorities that govern the use of lethal force.
In Yemen, for instance, the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command pursue the same adversary with nearly identical aircraft. But they alternate taking the lead on strikes to exploit their separate authorities, and they maintain separate kill lists that overlap but don’t match. CIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens, two of whom were suspected al-Qaeda operatives.
The convergence of military and intelligence resources has created blind spots in congressional oversight. Intelligence committees are briefed on CIA operations, and JSOC reports to armed services panels. As a result, no committee has a complete, unobstructed view.
With a year to go in President Obama’s first term, his administration can point to undeniable results: Osama bin Laden is dead, the core al-Qaeda network is near defeat, and members of its regional affiliates scan the sky for metallic glints.
Those results, delivered with unprecedented precision from aircraft that put no American pilots at risk, may help explain why the drone campaign has never attracted as much scrutiny as the detention or interrogation programs of the George W. Bush era. Although human rights advocates and others are increasingly critical of the drone program, the level of public debate remains muted.
Senior Democrats barely blink at the idea that a president from their party has assembled such a highly efficient machine for the targeted killing of suspected terrorists. It is a measure of the extent to which the drone campaign has become an awkward open secret in Washington that even those inclined to express misgivings can only allude to a program that, officially, they are not allowed to discuss.

Judging from the comments I’m not actually convinced that everyone read the Miller piece, or the other commentary, but that’s neither here nor there.  I’m finding it fascinating that there is so little outcry from left leaning pundits and citizens and when I read the following piece it crystallized for me that we’re becoming either immune or unconcerned or maybe just apathetic to the most important issues of our time.  Over at America Blog they’ve been tracking viewer hits through Blogger and have put together what appear to be the top three issues based upon stories on their website.  Granted these are issues that matter to the left, I’m not even going to pretend to understand the issues through a conservative lens, but I think Obama and Company have quite possibly undercut liberal ideals to a pretty remarkable extent.  And I also believe the whole “drone” story will become issue number four.

1. There’s an interest in these subjects (NDAA, PIPA, & mortgage fraud) that’s deep and persistent. All of our site’s regulars have weighed with their “views” a long time ago. As near as I can tell, the driver to all three posts is Google (search terms: PIPA, NDAA, “whistleblower found dead”) as new people search on these subjects. If so, Google is telling us something.

2. Message for the left — If this really is a clue to the mind of left-leaning voters, it would be smart to hit these subjects hard, starting now. There are far more listeners, I suspect, for whom the PIPA, NDAA, and mortgage fraud messages resonate, than anyone appreciates.

I’d suggest taking advantage of this opportunity. If our small indicators are right, the time to plant seeds is now, not months from now. The soil is ready, so to speak. Let’s not lose the chance.

3. Note to Obama & his merry band — I would not underestimate the extent to which these issues, especially NDAA, are a bridge too far for your base. It seems you’ve been playing a game of “how low can we go” — how far can we stoop to the demands of the money-soaked property rights and national security establishments and not lose our dependable triangulated base. 

NDAA=Indefinite Detention 

PIPA=Kill the Internet Bill

Mortgage Fraud=Whistle Blower Death in Nevada

Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather spend more time discussing these kinds of issues than the GOP primaries and their merry host of actors.  Just in case no one reads the original story in America Blog, the point is that the three stories linked just above keep popping up in the Best of the Week and Best of the Month categories long after they should have disappeared from the forefront.  My contention is that the “Drone” story may be another one.

Bits & Pieces (Wednesday Night Open Mic)

And this is probably my last one, until next Monday.

If you’re a fan of the original Fellowship of the Ring, you might want to check out Drew McWeeny’s liveblog of his watching of the Blu-Ray extended-edition of same. I often disagree with Mr. McWeeny, but in this case I think he’s got it exactly right. Love that movie. Love them all, and look forward to getting the extended editions on Blu-Ray in the not-too-distant future.

Also, the latest production video from The Hobbit—in this case covering the huge production that is location shooting on such an elaborate film—is up. Can’t. Wait.


Honesty in advertising:

From the Very Depressing Children’s Books category:
Here’s a lawsuit waiting to happen:
I didn’t think you could really improve on water. I never considered adding H2O to the mix!
This is why considering the surrounding environment is so important when choosing a retail location.
What’s lurks in the hearts of men (and women)? The shadow knows.
That’s it for tonight. Happy New Years, everybody!

— KW

Morning Report

Vital Statistics:

Last Change Percent
S&P Futures 1263.3 3.1 0.25%
Eurostoxx Index 2294.1 3.790 0.17%
Oil (WTI) 100.9 -0.440 -0.43%
LIBOR 0.5793 0.004 0.61%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 79.741 -0.095 -0.12%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.00% -0.01%

Another low-volume day is on tap with no economic data. Tomorrow, we have initial jobless claims, and if they are good, that may be the excuse portfolio managers use to do a little window dressing on the second-to-last trading day of the year. Separately, Italy had a good bond auction, selling 9 billion euros of debt. Bid to cover was 1.7, and the 10 year yield dropped 14 basis points.

Is the US going to bail out Europe? A commentary piece in this morning’s WSJ suggests we already are. We are lending to the ECB through currency swaps, which aren’t technically loans. The ECB then lends dollars to the sick banks of Europe.

Money quote from the article: “This Byzantine financial arrangement could hardly be better designed to confuse observers, and it has largely succeeded on this side of the Atlantic, where press coverage has been light. Reporting in Europe is on the mark. On Dec. 21 the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted on its website that European banks took three-month credits worth $33 billion, which was financed by a swap between the ECB and the Fed. When it first came out in 2009 that the Greek government was much more heavily indebted than previously known, currency swaps reportedly arranged by Goldman Sachs were one subterfuge employed to hide its debts.

When is the next Humphrey-Hawkins anyway?

Bits & Pieces (Tuesday Night Open Mic)

New homes sales were up in November, but 2011 figures still suck. But, maybe November is a good sign?
Animals’ reactions to being placed inside a cardboard box:
Hat tip to Ace of Spades HQ. Also from Ace of Spades:
It’s funny because it’s true. Also from Ace, to Troll McWingnut’s point about Ron Paul not being a great contrarian voice


Also, Kraft’s Velveeta Fudge recipe. If you go that route, don’t be afraid to throw in an extra teaspoon of vanilla. The more fattening version uses full fat Velveeta (what I’d recommend) and adds a 1/2 cup of dry milk.

I’ve never had the more elaborate Paula Deen version, but it looks evil. Watch Ellen Degeneres help her make it. She rolls it peanuts, but I’d still go for the pecans, if I were you. My theory is that you ought to add a little extra Velveeta, vanilla, and pecans to any Velveeta fudge you choose to make. Feel free to double pecans and vanilla, maybe add another a couple of cubes of Velveeta (up it about 15%). But, that’s me, your mileage may vary.

— KW

I Hope I Never Have to Look for a Job Again

I will not do well with interview questions like these, in part because they piss me off. But then, I’ve never been a fan of brain teasers.

Although I’ve been through my share of irritating job interviews. I had one where the guys wanted me to write out a SQL query longhand to create a database an automatically populate it and some other stuff—and I would never be able to write out an extended SQL procedure and have it work the first time. They could have just asked me that to begin with, and saved us all a lot of time. Almost nothing I write works the first time—I write, debug, write some more, debug some more, look on the Internet to see how this or that works again, to refresh my memory.

Of course, I’ve been on the opposite end of that, interviewing people for a position who didn’t seem to read the job description. We were always explicit about what you should know about, yet people would show up not knowing any of things we had asked about. It just mystified me.

Of course, the qualified people often bailed when they found out what the position was offering. We were cheap. Of course, if any of those people are still working in the design field, they probably aren’t making any more than what we offered at the time. Graphic design has a definite undersupply of jobs and an oversupply of talent.

Morning Report

Vital Statistics:

Last Change Percent
S&P Futures 1263 2.7 0.21%
Eurostoxx Index 2293.2 2.790 0.12%
Oil (WTI) 100.53 0.850 0.85%
LIBOR 0.5758 0.002 0.35%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 79.844 -0.077 -0.10%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 2.02% 0.00%

Hope everyone had a good Christmas.

Markets are up this morning in thin holiday trading. Needless to say, not a lot of news this Tuesday morning after the holiday.

Case-Schiller was released this morning, and the results are slightly lower than expected. The 20 city index dropped 3.4% at an annual rate to 140.3, which puts the US real estate market back to May of 2003 levels. Denver and Washington DC were up in Oct, while Detroit and Atlanta experienced 2% + declines. Remember, there is a lag with CS, so these numbers are October numbers and we are going into a seasonally weak period. I wouldn’t be surprised to see prices take out the post recession lows this spring.

On the bright side, consumer confidence has rebounded smartly from this summer’s lows. The conference board consumer confidence level came in at 64.5 vs. street expectations of 58.9. While we are still at extremely depressed levels historically, the mood has brightened considerable with the index jumping from 40.9 in Oct to 64.5 in Dec. Interestingly, the retail ETF (XRT) yawned at the number – I would have expected to see analysts take up their comp sales estimates for Dec. Retailers will report Dec comp sales on Jan 5.

Chart: Consumer Confidence

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