Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Yuru-Kyara of Miyagi Prefecture is a Living Musubi?

That last video makes me curious about what Yuru-Kyara represents Miyagi Prefecture. It happens to be a living rice ball man wearing armor named Musubi-Maru. I guess he is the Musubi Retainer to Date Masamune judging from the symbol on his kabuto. I guess he can also be known as Musubi Masamune or maybe Date Musubi-mune.

There is also a plastic soft-cream cone in the right of the picture. That is the Japanese symbol meaning tasty ice-cream is being served at this shop.

Japanese Mascots Set a World Record for Weirdness

Wow these are some weird-assed freaky looking mascots:

The terrible staring eyes of that black bear thing in the front row would keep children up at night hoping it isn't lurking just outside of their windows.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Obama Offers Half-Measure on Syria

Well at least he is doing something other than ignoring what is happening.

Under fire for not doing more to help Syria’s rebels, President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he's sending opponents of strongman Bashar al-Assad another $155 million in humanitarian aid and defended his handling of the bloody conflict. Obama said the aid sends a message to the world.

That is a drop in the bucket. Just go "all-in" and start arming the rebels. You have a much better seat at the table once Assad falls if you have given the rebels the tools to win their freedom. I guess since Hillary is out at State we won't be seeing any actual backbone out of the White House. I mean she actually helped Libya kick out Ghadaffi. Instead Obama is just sending some cash and hoping for the best.

Conservative Hispanic group Tell Lawmakers to Clean up Immigration Language

This seems like a good idea if you eventually want to get Hispanics to vote for your guy in the next election.

The talking points, published by BuzzFeed, went out to Republican lawmakers on the Hill as momentum builds for an immigration bill that would legalize most of the country's 11 million illegal immigrants. The memo urges lawmakers to call them "undocumented immigrants" and to avoid terms such as "aliens" or "illegals," which are seen as offensive and dehumanizing. Another phrase to avoid? "Send them all back."

They also urge lawmakers to not talk about "amnesty" and instead use the term "earned legal status" which actually sounds more apt. I mean you are requiring the prospective citizen to pay back taxes, a fine, and take an English test in order to qualify. If a person jumps through those hoops then they are actually earning that legal status.

Then the GOP needs to fill the gap by helping these undocumented immigrants figure out their tax bill and help them pay it and raise money for their fine. Then use some federal money going to the Department of Education to start up some English language schools. In other words help these people become citizens instead of demonizing them.

In fact undocumented immigrant is a mouthful. I would advocate the use of the term prospective citizen. That is what they are trying to achieve so you might as well call them that. I mean if it is just a matter of a few thousand dollars an English test and some waiting period they will be a citizen so that term would fit better.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cantor Looking for a Softer GOP: Less Debt Fights More Helping People

This is a great idea for the GOP going forward.

After lying low for several months, Mr. Cantor is reasserting his presence in the Capitol, even as Speaker John A. Boehner continues his struggles to maintain Republican unity. In the coming weeks, the majority leader plans to lay out a second, softer track for his party beyond the constant cycle of budget showdowns and deficit talks. 

Notably, that track will include a new push for private-school vouchers for underprivileged children, health care options beyond the old fight over the president’s health care law, new work force training initiatives and a renewed push for science, technology and engineering visas for would-be immigrants.

All of that stuff sounds perfectly suited for a GOP that cares about the common man. The idea for private-school vouchers is exactly how the GOP can start inroads into the inner city. This is an idea that the Dems hate because it hurts teachers unions who hate the idea of getting kids out of failing schools.

Also I hope someone has finally found out that killing off something like Planned Parenthood or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would just save a few billion but cost the GOP in political capital. The idea that they can just spend the money more efficiently or take away the abortion part of PP without hurting the "helping the woman in the poor community" part of it are hopefully what the GOP will do.

The GOP that cares might be a much better way to sell then lets cut everything and see what we have left.

Senate Immigration Reform Seems Reasonable

Well at least there is a framework for negotiation that can be advanced. Doing nothing is not helping things and creates an unnecessary wedge issue.

—Creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here, contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people here on visas.

They don't say what "securing the border" is supposed to mean but tracking people on visas would be good start. I read somewhere that an illegal just needs to pay a fine and some back taxes or something and they can start on the path to citizenship. Maybe there needs to be a residency requirement as well. Maybe living in the country for 5 years or something.

—Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.

This needs to have been fixed already. We want PHD candidates and things to stay in the country after college and contribute to the workforce. There should also be a path for these people to obtain citizenship if they stay and work for a certain period of time.

—Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants in the future, including requiring prospective workers to verify legal status and identity through a non-forgeable electronic system.

Sounds like a good enough plan. Make this similar to a LexisNexus search on the prospective employee

—Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn't recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.

As long as we can keep track of these low-skill workers then I have no problem with this. Have the department of agriculture keep track of this stuff. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

GOP Finally Wises Up: Ditches 47% Rhetoric

Well I guess the dude with the funny name is going to be GOP chairman for another term. At least he is finally using some inclusive rhetoric for now.

"We want to be Republicans for everybody. We have to take our message of opportunity where it's not being heard," Priebus said. "We have to build better relationships in minority communities, urban centers and college towns. We need a permanent, growing presence. It doesn't matter where you live, who you are, what you look like or what your last name is. Because we will be a party for everyone, everywhere."

Hopefully this will go into practice by creating minority outreach with a GOP message of lower taxes and more opportunity for everyone. Hopefully the "rich, white guy party" will have died with the 2012 election. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Texas to New York Gun Owners: Come On Down!

Well it seems that Texas wants any New Yorkers that are fed up with the their just passed gun laws.

One ad says in classic Western script: "WANTED: Law abiding New York gun owners seeking lower taxes and greater opportunities."

Clicking on the ad leads to a Facebook page touting the virtues of Texas, including the fact that the state has no income tax so "you'll be able to keep more of what you earn and use that extra money to buy more ammo."

It seems that Texas is getting better and better to quite a few law abiding Americans.

Obama Tries a 50 State Gun Control Play that Using Unions

I think they are just getting desperate now.

Fifty or so gun-control groups, labor unions and others are working together to go after lawmakers — including moderate Democrats in the Senate and House Republicans in districts won by Obama. These lawmakers will be lobbied by constituents to support Obama's plans.

The NRA, in turn, is activating its base of supporters to oppose the Obama proposals.

So union thugs are going to intimidate lawmakers into gun control? I would love to see them try it in the deep red states. I guess someone in the White House said executive orders aren't working and most gun control won't make it through the Congress so this is Plan C. The only problem is that I'm pretty sure that only in the deepest of blue states will even come close to the draconian bans that came out of New York. There might be some lip service but I'm pretty sure an assault weapon ban or limiting clip sizes will not be passed anytime soon. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Manti Te'o Was Supposed to Sit Down With ESPN's Jeremy Schaap but Backs Out

I have a feeling that Jeremy Schaap would press him hard. Deadspin seems to agree with that assessment.

First, Jeremy Schaap fancies himself a hard-hitting interviewer, and wouldn't let this sit-down go by without asking specific, pointed questions that leave no wiggle room for non-answers. Te'o's statement contains facts that don't mesh with what's been reported, so it would be very easy for Schaap, if he wanted to, to pin Te'o down on a lie. Much better for Te'o to find another, softer interviewer. Like, say, Oprah.

The first question that needs to be answered is that Te'o talked with this girl on the phone for hours and supposedly fell asleep next to the phone on several occasions. Who was this girl he was talking to? She is in on the hoax and needs to be exposed for sure. He met her on Nov 28, 2009, after the Stanford Notre Dame game, and she finally fake died on Sept 12, 2012. So she fooled him for like 2 years. There has to be phone records to someone for those calls. 

Sports Illustrated Had some "Small Red Flags" On Te'o's Fake Dead GF

I have to say that these are anything but "small red flags."

And what were those "small red flags"? He couldn't find an obit for her online, he said. He couldn't find a death notice. He couldn't find a record of her on Lexis Nexis. He couldn't find "her brother's name to spellcheck it." So he wrote around it. (This is what an ESPN reporter did as well.) He tipped off his editors about this stuff.

Those editors didn't say "wait a minute she isn't coming up in a Lexis Nexis search?" That should have been a pretty big red flag to say the least. She also was supposed to have graduated from Stanford but they have no record of her going there. This is reporter 101 stuff and it seems that the higher-ups at SI decided to bury the flags instead of throwing cold water on a feel good story.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend all a Hoax?

Oh this has to be one of the lowest things I have ever seen out of a Hawaii athlete if it proves to be true.

A friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told us he was "80 percent sure" that Manti Te'o was "in on it," and that the two perpetrated Lennay Kekua's death with publicity in mind. According to the friend, there were numerous photos of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Te'o together on Tuiasosopo's now-deleted Instagram account.

The sheer quantity of falsehoods about Manti's relationship with Lennay makes that friend, and another relative of Ronaiah's, believe Te'o had to know the truth. Mostly, though, the friend simply couldn't believe that Te'o would be stupid enough—or Ronaiah Tuiasosopo clever enough—to sustain the relationship for nearly a year.

The Deadspin article if very well sourced and gathers information like one of the best investigative reporters in the business. Lennay Kekua's pictures were actually from another Facebook user that the reporter contacts. There is also no record of her being at Stanford or graduating, getting a bone marrow transplant, or even dying. She seems to have been made out of whole cloth either to fool Te'o or to add a layer of myth to his Heisman candidacy. This part of Te'o's statement sounds weird if this stuff was true:

This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

Supposedly the hoaxter who is this Ronaiah Tuiasosopo guy was talking to Te'o on the phone nearly every night? The hoaxter was also supposed to have joined Te'o in Hawaii at least on one occasion. Did the hoaxter pay or trick some girl into calling him every day? That doesn't make any sense. Oh man this can only end badly for our so-called "Golden Boy."  

Dennis Kucinich Heads to Fox News

Well it is nice to see liberals pop up on Fox News.

“I’ve always been impressed with Rep. Kucinich’s fearlessness and thoughtfulness about important issues," Roger Ailes, Fox News' chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "His willingness to take a stand from his point of view makes him a valuable voice in our country’s debate."

Kucinich noted that throughout his career, the network—popular with conservatives—has given him a place to air his views. "Through 16 years in Congress and two presidential campaigns, FOX News has always provided me with an opportunity to share my perspective with its enormous viewership," he said.

It is good to hear voices from outside of the echo chamber from time to time to keep Fox News viewers honest. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Facebook Graph Search Receives Big Shrug from Wall Street

Well it seems that Facebook's big announcement was just a damp squib to investors.

The new feature, dubbed "Graph Search," allows Facebook users to search their own network of connections for people, places, photos and interests that have been shared on Facebook. For example, users will be able to search for "friends who live in my city," "photos of the Eiffel Tower," or "music my friends like."

Facebook first announced the event last week, but was vague in its media invitations, calling for reporters to "Come and see what we're building." But investors appeared to be unimpressed with the announcement. Shares of Facebook (FB) fell 2% Tuesday afternoon.

I would be unimpressed as well because this is pretty much a search engine of your friends stuff. If your friends don't have a lot of stuff shared then it would be nearly worthless to anyone else. I'm not sure how useful a photo of the Eiffel Tower taken by your friend will be or why I would need to search for it.

Also it would be impossible to monetize this thing in any meaningful way. If you search for "music my friends like" will a Pandora or an Amazon link pop up where you can listen to or buy that music? It probably will just say your brother-in-law likes Coldplay as if you didn't know that already. I guess it will be useful if you have 1000s of friends that you don't know really well.

Obama's Gun Control Executive Orders Seems Reasonable Enough

Unfortunately they would not have stopped Sandy Hook or any other massacre but it certainly a nice feel good measure.

The steps could include ordering stricter action against people who lie on gun sale background checks, seeking to ensure more complete records in the federal background check database, striking limits on federal research into gun use, ordering tougher penalties against gun trafficking, and giving schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety.

I guess that seems reasonable. Maybe matching some of those safety grants with some funds from the Department of Homeland Security of something similar would be a nice touch. What was funny is that will those "tougher penalties against gun trafficking" apply to Eric Holder and the other idiots who perpetrated the "Fast and Furious" gun-walking scheme?

Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists bother man who helped kids

I blame the media for pushing this guys story so vigorously early on.

Rosen took the four girls and two boys—students of slain teacher Victoria Soto—into his home, gave them toys and comforted them while he tried to reach their parents. He spent the days following the massacre telling his story to the swarming media that invaded the small Connecticut town in the wake of the shootings.

I hope he isn't found dead now that people are going after him. The media used him for their own agenda and all he did was a good deed. I really think the conspiracy nuts need to lay off of him because he is just a normal guy that tried to do something positive for some scared kids. 

Girls Recap Up on my Personal Site

I decided to do more reviews and such on my other site. I'm starting with a recap of Season 2 Episode 1 of the show Girls on HBO.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Biden Uses Gun References in Remarks

Biden needs to have his own comedy special with all of these unforced errors.

Vice President Joe Biden said on Friday he was “shooting for Tuesday” to get President Barack Obama his recommendations on how to battle an epidemic of gun violence and warned “there’s no silver bullet” to stop the killing.

He is right that there is no "silver-bullet" when it comes to stopping the killing. Even if there was an assault weapons ban that kid with the shotgun at Bakersfield, CA still would have run amok. He supposedly shot a bully but might have gun down his classmates as well.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Bond Yields Creep Slowly Northward: Debt Bomb Now Armed

Well I think we need some serious fiscal restraint because these numbers are really quite scary.

The national debt would also be affected.  Using the CBO baseline calculations at a blended 2%, the 2022 national debt will have grown to $31.4 trillion.  A simple reversion to the mean historical interest rate of 5% would grow the national debt to $40 trillion by 2022, assuming that spending is frozen at current levels.

That "frozen at current levels" is funny when you look at how the government spends money like it is water. Our GDP is $15 trillion so debt would exactly double our GDP. In other words we will become Japan by 2022. The scary part is that the GDP of the entire world is $69.97 trillion so we would have more than half of the worlds GDP in debt alone. In other words I'm pretty sure there aren't enough buyers to cover upwards of $25 trillion in added debt.   

Secular Bull Market? Sounds Good to Me

Well the Alabama Indicator came through other pundits believe there was a different indicator that was hit on January 2nd and 5th.

To wit, last Monday we experienced a 90% Upside Volume Day that was followed by another 90% Upside Volume Day on Wednesday.  Ninety percent Upside Volume Days are when 90% of total volume traded, both “up” and “down” volume, comes in on the upside.  Such back-to-back sessions are pretty rare, especially at the beginning of a New Year.  In fact, my notes show that the last time we saw such an occurrence was on January 2, 1987 (Friday), and again on January 5, 1987 (Monday), setting the stage for a rally that would peak on April 7, 1987 after a 24.5% “run.” 

Sounds good so far.

The history of back-to-back 90% Upside Volume Days was highlighted in our technical analyst Art Huprich’s comments Thursday afternoon, noting that according to the Sentimentrader, back-to-back 90% Upside Days tend to lead to a gain of 6.1% (median) one month later 83% of the time; and gains of 12.8% (median) three months later 100% of the time.  (For more information, see Art’s report here.)

I like the idea of a 100% chance of 12.8% gains in three months. The only bad part is one of those back to back 90% upside days that Minyanville talks about occurred in 1987 when we had Black Monday. The Dow peaked in August of that year at 2722 after opening the year at 1895. In other words "Sell in May and Go Away" might be worth considering if you believe in these sorts of omens.

Moderate Republican Group Gets Rid of Republican in their Title

I guess the GOP is just getting too extremist for its moderate members.

The organization's board of directors voted Tuesday morning to scrap party identification from its title and be known simply as "The Main Street Partnership." The group's new president, former Ohio Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette, told Yahoo News that he plans to begin conversations with Blue Dog Democrats and centrist groups in the coming months.

"The goal is to try and fill the void that is the middle," LaTourette, who resigned from Congress this year, said. "The American political system is like a doughnut: You've got sides, but you don't have anything in the middle, and it would be my goal to work with Republicans and Democrats who want to find the path forward to getting things done and compromise."

Lets hope they can form a viable middle of the road alternative to the firebrands on both sides of the aisle. I hate both the liberal extreme and the conservative extremes and think a middle of the road solution is what this country needs. There used to be moderates in both parties but now the fringe has taken control. Hopefully this middle group can actually compromise.

Alabama wins 42-14 Time for the Market Rally

Well lets hope we climb a wall of worry on the various debt ceilings and budget deadlines coming up the following months. I am definitely selling in May and going away though. I think dysfunctional Washington is going to run the market for a while.

Small Investor Index Released by TD Ameritrade

This seems like a very interesting way to figure out what the small investor is doing.

Backtesting of the TD Ameritrade Investor Movement Index (as it will be called) seems to prove Quirk right.

At the start of December, as markets treaded water on fiscal cliff fears, the indicator shot to its highest reading since January 2012. So despite all the headlines, the active retail investor was ratcheting up risk, buying equities, options and ETFs–in some cases with leverage—that stood to benefit from a solution to the "fiscal cliff."

If you believe the retail investor is "buys high and sells low" you can fade the market whenever this index goes higher. I would love to see academics test this index to see how well it works as a predictor a few weeks or months out. This other feature that TD Ameritrade is putting out seems interesting as well:

The next iteration for TD Ameritrade, sources at the firm said, will be for users to be able to see which individual stocks and ETFs others hold. Also, that data will be aggregated so traders can see how their portfolio stacks up to others.

For example, you would be able to enter someone with your same age and risk profile and see which stocks and funds they own. Perhaps even track their moves.

The social networking arena is the next big push for online brokers like TD, as they strive to get more traders, especially younger ones.

It will be very interesting to compare these aggregated small investor holdings to the portfolios of the big-time investors like Seth Klarman and Leon Cooperman that you can get on GuruFocus. I would bet on the pros of course but it might be interesting to see if they are actually beating the small investor by very much or not. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

Rooollll Tiiiide!!! I want the Stock Market to Go Up!

Well I guess I will be rooting for Alabama according to this article.

When 'Bama reigns, the market, in fact, rises an average of 1.95 percent - modest, to be sure, but better than the average 1.38 percent loss it posts when the Irish wear the crown, according to Bespoke Investment Group.

The Tide have won 14 championships as opposed to Notre Dame's 11. (Read More: Notre Dame vs. Alabama, Likely Most Wagered BCS Game)

In recent times, the disparity has been even clearer.

For the past five times Alabama has won, the market has risen each year with an average return of 10.2 percent.  

Oooh, I love a 10% gain. So its "sweet home Alabama" for me. Plus I have always hated Notre Dame since I was in high school.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Time to Buy an Orange Cup to Drink Hot Chocolate In?

Now this is one strange quirk in the human brain.

To see how hot chocolate enjoyment was affected by cup color, Piqueras-Fiszman and her colleagues asked 57 participants to rate samples of the same delicious beverage in four colors of plastic cup: white, cream, orange and red. (All cups were white on the inside.)

The participants said the drink was more flavorful when served in a cream- or orange-colored cup. Interestingly, participants rated the orange- and cream-colored cups of cocoa tastier despite the fact that participants didn't say there were any significant differences in sweetness or aroma between the colored cups.

I wonder if the dark brown of the hot chocolate and the orange of the cup formed some sort of connection in the brain. Also it would be interesting to see what other cup or dish colors enhance flavors as well.

Bicholim Conflict Finally Comes to an End 400 Years Later

Well it turns out the Bicholim Conflict was actually a hoax put onto Wikipedia that stood on the site for 5 years.

“From 1640 to 1641 the might of colonial Portugal clashed with India's massive Maratha Empire in an undeclared war that would later be known as the Bicholim Conflict. Named after the northern Indian region where most of the fighting took place, the conflict ended with a peace treaty that would later help cement Goa as an independent Indian state.”

Amazingly, the article was even nominated for the site’s Featured Article of the Day, a Wikipedia stable that highlights some of the site’s best-researched and written articles.

I have a feeling that more and more of these hoaxes will appear on Wikipedia as people start to become more ignorant of history in the coming years.