December 2006 - W.C. Varones

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12.31.2006

Leo DiCaprio: as hot as Varones always said

11:44 PM 0
I'm kidding, of course--Varones got over that crush not long after "Titanic." But this much is true: the one-time Prince of Pretty is picking fine projects and giving superb performances.

Exhibit A: "Blood Diamond," which I just spent my New Year's Eve watching. I didn't even get to make out with the 64-year-old usher at midnight (not for lack of trying, mind you--there was a long line), and still I chalk this up to one of the better ways I've spent a New Year's. See the movie, experience the horrors and thrills, and be inspired to stop buying silly rocks to put on your fingers, you dumb American pigs.

Happy New Year!
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Hollywood originality

11:49 AM 0
At the movies last night, I saw a preview of a record-setting movie. The eighth remake of the same friggin' movie.

It's a heartwarming story about tough kids in a rough school, and the teacher who cares enough to make a difference.

This time they got Hilary Swank to take the role. She'll go down in the proud tradition of Michelle Pfeiffer, Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond-Phillips (whose wife was so embarrassed by his role selection that she left him and went lesbo with Melissa Etheridge), Morgan Freeman, Mr. Chips, and a few others I can't remember right now.

Who the hell do they expect to watch this? I, like most other Americans, have seen one or two of the above-mentioned remakes, and could never be swindled into watching it yet again. What, are there legions of obsessive high school teachers sworn to watch every hero-teacher movie that Hollywood pukes out?
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Report card

9:53 AM 0
Time for the year-end report card on financial recommendations. It was a good year over all.

First, the market picks. I said repeatedly to buy stocks and gold, and avoid bonds, and that advice paid off. Specifically, on 6/30/05, I said stocks were going higher. They have done so -- about 23% since then. On 3/10/06, I said to avoid bonds. Ten-year rates were at 4.76% then, and are now 4.71%, so bonds would have maintained their value while paying the same interest as a money market fund. There were several reiterations of the stocks/gold/anti-bond theme over the year.

Now for specific stock recommendations:
Rec date Ticker Rec price 12/31/2006 Return
12/22/2005 GLD 50.14 63.21 26%
1/10/2006 WMT 45.86 46.18 1%
3/25/2006 NOOF 7.75 9.61 24%
5/6/2006 SLV 139.95 128.64 -8%
5/20/2006 AMZN 33.94 39.46 16%
6/20/2006 SLV 102.86 128.64 25%


I cashed out of NOOF in early April. If you did too, that would really be a 10% gain in a couple weeks rather than a 24% gain over the year.

My one option recommendation was a loser. I bet that Amazon would stay in the 32 - 39 range in November, and it rocketed to 42.50 (I have repaired that trade by buying back the Nov 37.50 and selling a Jan 40. If Amazon is well above 40 in January, I'll let the stock get called away. If not, I'll have an 0.80 profit on the option trades overall).

I'm sticking with Amazon, Wal-Mart, silver, and gold. Wal-Mart may have a tough year if we have a recession from the housing bubble hangover. If it does, I'll buy more. It's a three-, five-, or ten-year stock for me. Amazon is much more speculative, but I'd like to hold on to it for the long term too. And silver and gold -- well, I'll be trimming my position at much higher prices in a few years. The Fed is going to create inflation to bail out the housing bubble, and that will be good for all things commodity. I'm still bullish on the stock market for the same reason. The Fed won't allow the idiot American consumer/speculator to face the consequences yet.

As for other predictions, I was the first I'm aware to definitively state that Rick Santorum would lose re-election. I also correctly predicted the allegedly neck-and-neck Bilbray-Busby California Congressional race. I did not predict the Democratic landslide, though, and even thought that George "Macaca" Allen would keep his Senate seat.

If I'm missing any bad calls, please let me know. You know how the mind tends to recall favorable things more than unfavorable... and the archives can be a treasure trove of embarrassment.
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12.30.2006

Babel

9:58 PM 0
Don't bother seeing Babel. It's moderately interesting, but tediously slow. This review headline has it right:
Babel Review: ‘Crash 2: Now It’s Global…And Longer…And Boring’
Crash was much better, as are some of Alejandro González Iñárritu's other movies, like Amores Perros and 21 Grams.

Skip Babel. Rent Amores Perros instead. It's also a bit slow, but much more original and interesting.

While we're on the subject of long, slow movies, I also saw The Good Shepherd. It's worth it.
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The Full Monty

A Warrior Reincarnate

12.29.2006

Reunited -- and it feels so good!

Iraqi work ethic

11:42 AM 0
He's not only a brutal murderer; he's also a lazy bastard.




Most people would do it in minutes.
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New media source: the media

Fun with the intellectual left in San Francisco

9:06 AM 0
A while back, Scrappleface did a joke about Nancy Pelosi belittling the victims of Hurricane Katrina as lazy, stupid losers waiting for government handouts.

Funny enough. But the editor of the San Francisco Bay View didn't get the joke, and forwarded the story to an e-mail list of Katrina victims who were traumatized by Pelosi's cruel attitude:
An excerpt from your story had been sent to me, and I forwarded it to this list, which is read by Katrina survivors and people who want to support them. I had thought the excerpt was authentic until just now, when I read the full story on your website and detected that the entire website is satire. I might not have been fooled (assuming the story IS satire) if I didn’t know Pelosi. But I do. I live in her district and know her as extremely cold and callous, often blaming the victim - just the way you portrayed her.

If your story is satire, please tell that to the people on this list. As you can see, your story has caused them immeasurable pain.

Scrappleface took the opportunity not only to publicly humiliate the dim-witted editor, Mary Ratcliff, who can be mocked at editor@sfbayview.com, but also to give her a civics lesson.
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12.28.2006

Bubble tracker

Weekend TV

7:57 PM 0
I hope this is televised!

Saddam to be hanged by Sunday:
Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sentenced to death for his role in 148 killings in 1982, will have his sentence carried out by Sunday, NBC News reported Thursday. According to a U.S. military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, Saddam will be hanged before the start of the Eid religious holiday, which begins at sundown Saturday.
Comcast, if you're listening, this is a prime pay-per-view opportunity. I still feel ripped off from Tyson-Holyfield, but if you give me this, I'll forgive you.
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Jackass Number Two on DVD

8:42 AM 0
I got it last night. Can't believe I waited so long. It's great, just as the first one was.
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12.26.2006

Mmmmmm.... housing crash

11:41 AM 0
In today's WSJ: Renters gloat over housing slump.
Among all the defiant renters, few roar louder than Mr. Killelea, who pays $2,350 a month to rent a snug, two-bedroom craftsman house near Stanford University in Menlo Park, Calif. He figures it would cost him $7,000 a month in mortgage payments and taxes if he owned it.
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Wine bargain

8:12 AM 0
For those of you near a Beverages & More, there's a sale on a wine from a Chilean vineyard that I've visited.

It's called Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reserva. It's a $17 cabernet on a 2-for-1 sale. It's a hell of a wine for $8.50. Grab a case. Sale ends January 1.
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12.24.2006

Bad news for Old Zeke

12.23.2006

Economists: Christmas is stupid

8:37 AM 0
From today's WSJ:
Given the fanfare and billions of dollars in spending it generates, you might think Christmas is the best thing to happen to the economy all year. But some economists say we would be better off without it.

In the cold, hard analysis of the dismal science, Christmas is a highly inefficient way of connecting consumers with goods. Squeezing a big chunk of people's spending into a year-end frenzy of gift-buying generates an abundance of ill-considered presents -- millions of unwanted ties, picture frames and toe socks that, had they found the right owners, could have brought a lot more satisfaction.

Economists call that foregone benefit the holiday's "deadweight loss."

"The economy is better off" if fewer gifts are given, says Tyler Cowen, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., who riffs on economic topics in a popular Web log, or blog, called Marginal Revolution. "Most gifts are not enjoyed much anyway."
I'll disagree. Christmas means buying stupid shit for other people that they don't need. Without Christmas, American consumers would just buy stupid shit for themselves that they don't need. As long as we're becoming a nation of debtors buying stupid shit that nobody needs, we might as well generate goodwill by giving to others.
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12.22.2006

Susette Kelo vents

11:16 AM 0
Susette Kelo, victim of eminent domain, sent this Christmas card to the local politicians who took her home:
Here is my house that you did take
From me to you, this spell I make
Your houses, your homes
Your family, your friends
May they live in misery
That never ends
I curse you all
May you rot in hell
To each of you
I send this spell
For the rest of your lives
I wish you ill
I send this now
By the power of will

So she's not a poet. It's the thought that counts, and I second that emotion.

Thanks to Mark S. (a defender of the Kelo ruling on federalist principles, though not, I hope, a supporter of politicians taking people's homes for the benefit of big developers) for sending this.
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Holiday reading

12.20.2006

United 93 on DVD

9:43 PM 0
I didn't watch United 93 when it came out in the Spring.

I didn't see it, because I didn't want to think about what those passengers went through.

It's on DVD now, and I just watched it via Netflix. I hope that others who are reluctant will watch it as well.

It's a great film about real American heroes. The film is both meticulously researched and riveting. The filmmakers not only studied the historical facts and interviewed numerous participants and family members, but even had many FAA and NORAD personnel portray themselves in the film.

It is educational, enlightening, and moving. See it now.
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Worst way to go

6:38 AM 0
3 aboard plane that crashed into sewage tank:
A salvage crew today is expected to lift the remains of a small plane that crashed into a massive raw sewage tank in Gilroy so that coroner's officials can remove the three bodies inside the crumpled aircraft...

On Tuesday, workers drained raw sewage from the 600,000-gallon tank to expose the plane, which had one wing sheared completely off, apparently from hitting a concrete divider within the tank.

After the plane was exposed at the bottom of the 20-foot tank, the surface was deemed too slippery and dangerous to safely remove the bodies, Svardal said.

I just hope they died on impact and didn't drown slowly...
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12.17.2006

San Francisco logic

Freaky Sunday

8:47 AM 0
Welcome to Bizarro World. After years of runaway spending from a Republican Congress, the Democrats may be the party to restore fiscal restraint:
Republican leaders left behind just enough spending authority to keep the government operating through mid-February, less than halfway through the 2007 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Democrats have signaled that when they take control of Congress in January they will extend that funding authority for the remainder of the year based largely on the previous year's spending levels, which will result in many cuts in programs.

The Democrats also will do something that is certain to anger many lawmakers but cheer critics of excessive government spending: They will wipe out thousands of lawmakers' pet projects, or earmarks, that have been a source of great controversy on Capitol Hill. In the past, lawmakers have peppered individual spending bills with earmarks benefiting special interests. But the funding resolution the Democrats intend to pass in lieu of spending bills will be devoid of earmarks.

Among the casualties will be $3 million for AIDS and homelessness programs in San Francisco pushed by House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and $3 million to establish the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York, pushed by the center's namesake, the Democrats' incoming House Ways and Means Committee chairman.

I'll believe it when I see it. But they're at least talking a good game so far.
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12.16.2006

9/11 Truth Revealed!

4:08 PM 0
We are a nation with millions of brilliant minds. Scientists, engineers, researchers.

And yet, until now, no one thought to build a chicken wire model to prove that airplanes could not possibly bring down the World Trade Center.
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News of the obvious

2:36 PM 0
Vegetarians are more intelligent, says study.

Next week's study: people who don't lick electric sockets are more intelligent than those that do.

Vegetarianism is the conscious choice of those who pay attention and understand the environmental and animal welfare consequences of the meat industry. Eating meat is the default behavior of those who either don't know or don't care.
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12.15.2006

This one time at band camp... I molested your dog

Happy Birthday

Riverside city official: Stop the music! She's a Jew!

The right thing to do

7:32 AM 0
Congratulations to New Jersey, which just passed a civil union law. As I've been saying for quite some time, this is the right way to approach the "gay marriage" issue.

Civil unions across the country are inevitable. It's just a matter of time. Twenty or thirty years from now, this will look like a small-scale repeat of the civil rights movement, and history will frown on those opposed to gay rights.
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12.14.2006

Will Ferrell blows Hollywood's powerful

7:12 AM 0
Michael Eisner. 90-year-old Sumner Redstone. The Weinstein brothers -- both at the same time while David Geffen looked on.

Will Ferrell blows them all. And it's paid off handsomely for him.

How else could you explain how an unfunny, middle-aged loser could suddenly find himself the star of blockbuster comedies like Talladega Nights, Anchorman, and Elf?

I saw Talladega Nights last night. Good movie. But who the hell let Will Ferrell in it? The story was funny. The surrounding characters were hilarious. But Will Ferrell was his usual, boring self, a hardly noticed void in the middle of a funny movie. He's still the same unfunny guy he was years ago in those stupid cheerleader skits on Saturday Night Live (which he obviously blew Lorne Michaels to get on).

Why does Will Ferrell get Talladega Nights while David Spade gets Joe Dirt? Spade needs to break out the knee pads, obviously. Put Spade in Talladega Nights and it would have been the exact same movie -- maybe better.

Amazing the scripts you can get, the supporting casts you can get, the producers and directors you can get, and the marketing budgets you can get. All for a little knob polishing.
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Health officials support genital mutilation

6:59 AM 0
National Institutes of Health officials say circumcision reduces the risk of HIV transmission.

You know what? Removing the penis entirely lowers the risk even more.

Circumcision is a radical prevention for a non-existent problem. When was the last time you heard of any male in America getting HIV through heterosexual sex? Sure, it could happen, but you could be struck by lightning while holding a winning lottery ticket, too.
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12.12.2006

Mmmmmm.... libertarians

8:31 PM 0
The Republicans lost because they pissed off libertarians?
In the past, our research shows, most libertarians voted Republican—72 percent for George W. Bush in 2000, for instance, with only 20 percent for Al Gore, and 70 percent for Republican congressional candidates in 2002. But in 2004, presumably turned off by war, wiretapping, and welfare-state spending sprees, they shifted sharply toward the Democrats. John F. Kerry got 38 percent of the libertarian vote. That was a dramatic swing that Republican strategists should have noticed. But somehow the libertarian vote has remained hidden in plain sight.

This year we commissioned a nationwide post-election survey of 1013 voters from Zogby International. We again found that 15 percent of the voters held libertarian views. We also found a further swing of libertarians away from Republican candidates. In 2006, libertarians voted 59-36 for Republican congressional candidates—a 24-point swing from the 2002 mid-term election. To put this in perspective, front-page stories since the election have reported the dramatic 7-point shift of white conservative evangelicals away from the Republicans. The libertarian vote is about the same size as the religious right vote measured in exit polls, and it is subject to swings more than three times as large.

Sounds about right. I voted for the douche bag in '04 (though I regret it), and I'm glad the corrupt, big-government Republicans lost in '06.

Read the whole thing. If the Dems restrain their tax-and-spend instincts, they may claim the libertarian vote -- and a national majority -- for years.
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12.11.2006

Borat update

The difference

It's the meat, stupid.

6:32 AM 0
You've heard it here before. You can't be a meat-eating environmentalist and Al Gore, meat-eating hypocrite.

Now the U.N. spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to discover what you already knew: meat is worse for the environment than cars or planes.
Meet the world's top destroyer of the environment. It is not the car, or the plane,or even George Bush: it is the cow.

A United Nations report has identified the world's rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests and wildlife. And they are blamed for a host of other environmental crimes, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs.

The 400-page report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, entitled Livestock's Long Shadow, also surveys the damage done by sheep, chickens, pigs and goats. But in almost every case, the world's 1.5 billion cattle are most to blame. Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.
Another steak, Al?
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12.09.2006

Tom Coburn for King

3:02 PM 0
Historians say that some of George Washington's officers were so impressed with him that they proposed to make him king of the new United States of America. That's how I feel about Senator Tom Coburn right now. He is a solitary voice of integrity and fiscal discipline in a parliament of whores.

I've noted Coburn's stands against pork many times before. Today I noticed what Coburn has done with his Senate web site. He uses it to expose the U.N. wasting U.S. taxpayer dollars to promote itself and to give the Secretary General a $4.3 million apartment upgrade. And what's that on the right side of the page? A banner for Porkbusters, the "grassroots Internet movement whose members have banded together to demand an end to the Congressional spending circus in Washington." This is not business as usual in the clubby, collegial Senate.

If Ted Stevens were dead, he'd turn over in his grave.
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12.07.2006

Tort reform, Texas style

6:30 PM 0
Class action lawyer Bill Lerach has been the scourge of small companies for years. When a stock drops, Lerach rounds up shareholders to file suit against the company. Companies often settle these nuisance lawsuits to avoid long and expensive legal hassles. Generally, the lawyers get rich and the "plaintiffs" get a pittance.

Until now. Federal Judge Melinda Harmon (Bush 41 - Texas) is making Lerach pay the defendants' legal costs in a meritless lawsuit ($):
One reason the tort bar files so many frivolous lawsuits is that there have been very few penalties for its legal abuses. So congratulations are due to a Texas judge who last week ordered class-action kingpin Bill Lerach to pay up for his latest wretched excess.

Federal Judge Melinda Harmon's good deed came at the end of a high-profile suit against Alliance Capital. She dismissed the case in summary fashion and invoked a little-used legal rule that requires the Lerach firm to pay Alliance's legal fees. While the plaintiffs might have had cause for filing the suit, the judge said, by the end of discovery it was clear "the continuance of the claim against Alliance was at that point without merit" and so the Lerach firm must pay for dragging Alliance past that point.

"Loser pays" is standard practice in Britain. It helps discourage frivolous lawsuits. We should use it more often here.
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12.03.2006

Fancy places

Sunday Borat Update, Part II

7:43 AM 0
More victims of Borat:
A TV crew from Kazakhstan's Channel 31 was in Columbus on Nov. 6 and 7 to make a real documentary on the U.S. political system, but the crew got a wary reception from press secretaries who feared public skewering by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, star of the mockumentary "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."

It didn't help that the Kazakh cameraman's first name was "Bolat," a name similar to Cohen's alias...

When the real central Asian TV crew showed up in Ohio, press secretaries for the state's Republican and Democratic parties were suspicious enough to verify their credentials with the U.S. State Department.

"They were really adamant that they were not Borat," said Ohio Democratic Party press secretary Randy Borntrager, adding that the film crew told him that "Borat" "is giving Kazakhstan a bad name."

State Department officials who supervised the TV crew's two-week multistate trip say they got apprehensive phone calls wherever the real Kazakhs went. Even the FBI called them to make sure the crew was legitimate.
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Sunday Borat update, Part I

7:26 AM 0
Borat is one of the greatest movies of all time. Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the greatest comedians of all time.

But this constantly repeated media theme about Borat as social commentary that reveals the dark truths about Americans is overblown. On the Arizona bar patrons that gleefully sang along to "Throw the Jew Down the Well":
A very different picture, though, emerged from a conversation with the treasurer of the company that owns the bar, Carol Pierce, who said that she herself is Jewish. Pierce could be seen during the segment on HBO, laughing heartily behind her goateed husband.

In explaining her light-hearted take on Borat, she pointed out that what television viewers saw was only a few minutes of the two-and-a-half-hour performance that Borat gave when he came to Tucson, Ariz., in April. The rest of Borat’s performance, in which he sang about throwing his wife and family down the well, made it perfectly clear to Pierce that the man performing was a comedian in disguise — who was very funny.

HT: Karol.
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WSJ to readers: You illiterate losers!

6:31 AM 0
The Wall Street Journal enjoys running articles that let you know whether you're literate or not. Here are two easy ways to test yourself:

#1. WSJ 11/7/06
"Anthropologist Clifford Geertz of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton passed away last week. His name will be generally -- if often hazily -- familiar to literate people who will, however, be unlikely to appreciate the considerable impact he had on our intellectual world."
#2 WSJ 11/21/06:
"Even the most reasonably literate American may find it difficult to name more than three of the past chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. But of those three, one of them will almost certainly be Roger Brooke Taney..."
I'm illiterate on Count 1. That name is not generally, nor hazily, familiar. But the music there... it was hauntingly familiar.

On Count 2, I'll name John Marshall, William Howard Taft, Earl Warren, Warren Burger, and William Rehnquist. That's five. That makes me The Most Reasonably Literate American in the Wall Street Journal's eyes. Sorry George Will, William F. Buckley, Noam Chomsky, et. al. You are all distant seconds.

But Roger Brooke Taney? Who the &*^# is that???

Even the most illiterate Wall Street Journal reviewer of books on American history should be able to name Marshall, Warren, Burger, and Rehnquist. If they keep hiring these illiterate hacks, I might have to cancel my subscription.

HT: Old Zeke, who adds that the use of the phrase "the most reasonably literate American" is, in itself, evidence of minimal literacy.
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