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Showing posts from February, 2007

Greenspan's Still Got It and Beware The China Bubble

As you might now, last week saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumble 416 points on Tuesday, recover a bit on Wednesday, and then get slammed again to the tune of 200 points on Thursday. What's behind this volatility? Is it a signal of the next big stock market crash? Probably not. What's behind it is one man; Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman.

In a speech last Sunday, the man simply uttered the word "recession" in relation to the U.S. economy, and all hell broke loose in the world markets. First the Chinese stock market plunged about 10%, and then the U.S. market tanked later in the day. Did Greenspan singlehandedly cause the Chinese market--and thereby the U.S. market--to crumble? The offending speech was, after all, made to an investor group in China. Maybe the fact that he was there, in China, talking about the U.S. economy, to which China is closely linked, caused skittishness that culminated in a sell-off. There's no way it can be a coinciden…

Blogger Jailed in Egypt

Last week, an Egyptian man was sentenced to four years in prison for writing comments on a blog that criticized the Egyptian government and a Muslim university.

This isn't the first time we've heard about such oppression in Egypt or elsewhere in the Middle East, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise. Still, as a blogger, it alarmed me. As an American, it filled me with pride, but also with concern.

While we live in a free country, we have to realize that our freedom is not guaranteed by anyone, we have to actively guard it and fight for it. Luckily, it is enabled by a government that was engineered to ensure personal freedom, and to create the conditions in which people could be free to live as they chose. However, if we stopped paying attention and stopped fighting for it, that freedom would disappear. It wouldn't happen over night, but it would happen eventually.

If you look closely, you can even see the early warning signs. Laws like the Patriot Act, which use fear …

Modern Day Air-Travel; or Buses That Fly

In aftermath of the JetBlue debacle, I feel its the right time to unleash a frustrated rant about air-travel that I've had bottled up in me for some time.

Just as a preface...I've been on ten flights in three months (two on JetBlue); my luggage was lost twice (once with JetBlue, once with Delta), half the flights were delayed, each of them was packed to the gills. I nearly missed one flight because, though I was sitting five feet from the gate, no announcements were made until the plane was literally sealing its door to go. On two of the flights there were babies that screamed in mortal pain for the entire trip, on one flight the toilet odors seeped upward and throughout the plane. Going through security was actually a highlight of the whole thing. If I had a perfect memory, I could go on, but these most recent flights are a pretty good sampling.

Didn't flying used to be glamourous? Remember the pleasant stewardesses with Southern accents who were just dying to take care of …

Afghanistan? Redux

An interesting article* on Afghanistan caught my eye today. In it, a powerful Afghan warlord predicted the U.S. will pull out of Afghanistan at the same time it pulls out from Iraq, and that both will happen this year. I don't agree that it will happen this year, or that the withdrawals will happen on the same time frame, partly for reasons I mentioned in a past blog; that the Afghan theater gets less attention.

However, the warlord does make some statements that echo my previous posting, namely:

"The occupying forces...have only one successful way and ... that is to pull out of Afghanistan as soon as possible." Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister whose forces operate in southeastern areas near Pakistan.

Notice, he refers to the "occupying forces." It doesn't matter where they are from, they all eventually get forced out, in other words. This guy isn't just shooting off his mouth, either. He and his militia were basically responsible for ejecting …

Pro Sports All-Star Games

Professional Sports All-Star games rank thusly in order of importance and seriousness:

1.) baseball
2.) hockey
T-3.) football and basketball

I bring this up because I turned on the NBA All-Star game last night for about ten minutes. Don't get me wrong, it was mildly entertaining to see the best in the game dunking on each other and burying three pointers, but it had the congenial feel of pre-game shootaround. The score was in the 40s after the first quarter. Guys were throwing alley-oops off the back board, dribbling between their legs...it was the Harlem Globetrotters. It was a circus, on top of the circus that already is pro-basketball. That's fine, but it's not enough to get me to watch.

When I watch an all-star game I go to see the sport's best, at their best, playing their hardest. I don't think this is too much to ask. If not, then just have the skills competitions and call it quits, as I believe was suggested in Sports Illustrated recently, but don't bill it…

Afghanistan?

Yes, Afghanistan. You may be shocked to learn that the U.S. has nearly 30,000 troops there. That's one quarter of the Iraq force. The only thing is, we barely ever hear about them until, like last week, we hear that president Bush extended the tour of duty for about 4,000 of them...how nice of him. Could anything be more demoralizing that believing you are on your way home from risking your life in one of the most forbidding places on earth, and then finding out you have another six months there? There's nobody to appeal to, because The President has decreed it.

The only other time we hear about what's going on in Afghanistan is when we hear that someone was killed. Other than that, the media is pretty much mum. Maybe that's because we are keeping things so secret that nothing leaks out, maybe that's because nothing materially good is happening. Either way, I've got some food for president Bush to think about:

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia."…

Book Analysis & Review: The Corrections

Book Analysis & Review: The Corrections
By: Jonathan Franzen

Review By: Grant Catton

Description and General Synopsis

The Corrections is over 560 pages long and the majority of the action in the book takes place shortly after the turn of the recent millennium, in the year 2000. The book centers around the Lambert family, who are originally from St. Jude, Kansas. The father, Alfred, is losing his mind due to dementia or Alzheimer's, or a combination of the two, and is wearing on the nerves of his wife, Enid. Enid is still sprightly and in full grasp of her senses, and coming to terms with the compounded anxiey of nearly five decades under Alfred's stoic and affection-less thumb. They are in their late 70s and have three children who represent Generation X to a stereotypical T.

Gary, the oldest, is a successful financial planner who appears even more successful in the heady days of the internet technology stock market bubble. While it seems he can't lose in his career, he is …

Super Bowl Dissillusionment

Okay. This will be brief...

The Super Bowl was a letdown. It's not necessarily anyone's fault. The rain had a lot to do with it. It rained for literally the ENTIRE game and that definitely deadened the whole pace of the game. There were more turnovers and kooky plays than I can even count or remember properly; a botched hold on an extra point, a missed chip-shot field goal (both by the Colts), the requisite two INTs from Grossman (one of which arguably cost him the game), one INT from Manning early in...throw in a dozen fumbles and you've got a strange game that seemed to have been won more on paper than on the sloppy Miami gridiron.

When the Bears returned the OPENING KICKOFF for a TD and followed up with an INT on the next series, I really thought we had a game on our hands. I was wrong. I expected some more from Grossman, though I don't know why exactly I expected that. He didn't play badly, I guess, but he didn't have a great game either. Chicago continued t…

Rest in Peace, Dear Barbaro

I wrote this piece last year, shortly after the running of the 2006 Preakness Stakes, in which that glorious bullet of muscle and fur named Barbaro suffered what ultimately was a fatal injury to his right hind leg. As you may or may not know, Barbaro was put to rest last week due to complications in healing that injury.

Barbaro was a race horse. He did what he was bred and trained to do, and while he did it, he did it well. Anyone who loves horses was saddened by this, but there was not much that could be done. That he lived for seven months after his injury was only because he was so well bred and thereby profitable as breeding stock. Were he much less, he probably would not have lived past Preakness day.

May he rest in peace, and forever frolic in a sunny field of Kentucky Blue Grass...

On Barbaro, And Who is to Blame...
By: Grant Catton
May 23, 2006

Saturday’s Preakness Stakes was the most disappointing spectacle I have seen in all of sport. Not only was it disappointing, as the heavil…