Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chromecast is a Smart TV for only $35

Well I ordered this device but I'm currently back-ordered from Amazon.

Chromecast is a small, two-inch dongle that can be plugged into the HDMI port on an high-definition television (HDTV) and stream YouTube and Netflix content directly to the set. Users can also mirror websites, images, and video displayed in their Chrome Web browsers onto the screen with a simple extension. The Chromecast has no dedicated remote control and is instead controlled by any number of Android, iOS, Mac, or PC devices on the same Wi-Fi network.

I think this device might really be a great addition to anyone that has a HDMI TV and might make Google dominate the living room from a strange direction.

This partnership scramble stands in stark contrast to the difficulty and very public frustration both Google and Apple had when finagling deals with content producers during their respective device launches. And while the companies originally had to sort out messy business like live broadcast integration and profit sharing to get their products off the ground, Chromecast eschews most of those headaches and just streams existing services outside the box, so to speak, while being controlled by other devices.

Yeah, Google just dodged the content battle and just let the various services add their own apps to the device. The services like Pandora and Netflix needs to worry about the content and Google just delivers it to the TV. I also like the idea of turning your phone or tablet into a channel changer and using Chromecast to show tabs from your browser. This might be the best $35 I have spent in a long time.

Starbucks Ranks up Wi-Fi at Stores with Help From Google

It seems that Starbucks Wi-Fi might be faster than ever before.

Starbucks said that Google, in conjunction with Level 3 Communications, will now be providing Wi-Fi service in Starbucks' U.S. locations that's up to 10 times faster than the current service powered by AT&T. 

The faster service will first appear in new Starbucks locations over the next month. Starbucks will then roll it out to its 7,000 other U.S. stores, starting with the busiest locations where Wi-Fi usage is highest. The company expects to complete the transition in about 18 months.

Do You Use the Internet? The NSA can Snoop Everything you Do on the Internet. XKeyscore Might Be Worse Than Email Snooping

Well it seems that the NSA can pretty much track everything you do on the Internet according to a new Snowden leak.

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA's "widest reaching" system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Yup a simple query gets the NSA agent the contents of all your email, your Internet searches, and all the metadata as well. They can even look at your Facebook chats if they have your username. They also have a way of checking every IP address that goes to any website that the NSA wants to track. So if you go to Fox News or other "unacceptable" sites the NSA can track that. The IRS targeted conservatives so it isn't a stretch for the White House to reach out to the NSA to track the undesirables.

What is actually scarier then just querying email and web searches is if they change metadata or simply plant some email that makes you into a terrorist. I mean the NSA can just put an email in your Gmail box from Al-Quida or someone and suddenly you are a terrorist. There will be no way to clear your name because it will all be done without you even knowing it. A Facebook chat between you and your "terrorist handler" can be doctored in a few quick keystrokes. 


Bipartisanship at Last: Congress United over NSA Snooping

They didn't seem very interested until Snowden spilled the beans.

Last week's House vote of 217-205 defeating an attempt to dismantle the program was significant not only because of the narrowness of the victory for the Obama administration, but also because it created unusual political coalitions. Libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats pressed for change against the Republican establishment and Congress' pro-security wing.

Backing the NSA program were 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who typically does not vote, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Rejecting the administration's last-minute pleas to spare the surveillance operation were 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats.

I guess those Congress-critters just love listening that voted to keep the program just love listening to your phone calls. I bet they are seriously looking forward to monitoring your credit card purchases, hotel records, and Internet searches as well.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pope Changes Stance on Gays

I think Pope Francis might be one of the great Popes in history.

At first glance, Pope Francis’ statement on homosexuality, delivered today in an impromptu press conference aboard the papal plane, seemed to indicate a remarkable break with church tradition. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told journalists, as he flew from Rio de Janeiro to Rome. “The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … They’re our brothers.”

Wow, that is reversing quite a bit of the churches teaching. However, the church still says that homosexual acts are sins and does not support gay marriage. That seems about right but it is interesting to see this Pope say that gays are their brothers and he does not judge them.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gen-Y Are Scared of the Stock Market

I kind of understand their fear but these numbers are quite scary if they continue for several decades.

This isn’t hypothetical. In a recent MFS Survey, 40% of Gen Y agreed with the statement “I will never feel comfortable investing in the stock market.” Among Gen Y investors, 54% feel overwhelmed by available choices and 47% tended to put off investment decisions. 

Due to fear of risk, 30% said their primary investing objective is protecting principal and have allocated an average of 30% to cash, more than other age groups, and nearly equal to the 33% allocated to stocks. T. Rowe Price noted in 2010 that almost one in five self-directed participants age 25-35 had over 80% of plan assets in cash. 

1/5 have 80% in cash? I have a feeling that the other 20% of that money is either in a treasury bond or a money market fund that is making less than 1%. Hopefully, someone can tell some of these Gen-Yers that a Vanguard Total Stock market mutual fund or even a vanilla S&P500 Index Fund would be much better use of that money. 

It seems that Gen-Yers are trusting financial advisers and lean on them quite a bit. Hopefully, these advisers don't turn into the next Bernie Madoff's absconding with billions in Gen-Y money. Clueless investors trusting greedy financial wizards always end badly.  

The Conjuring: Movie Review: Must See

Well I saw The Conjuring last night and I have to say that it is one of the best horror movies I have seen in a long time. It had that oppressive feel that you can only get from a well paced and truly scary movie. I left the theater with a nice uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach and casting a wary eye toward the shadows expecting an orange-eyed crone to be looking back at me.

The movie is set in the 1971 with lots of bell bottoms, long sideburns, and ugly pant suits worn by the various characters. The movie is basically about a family with five daughters moving into an old house that they used all of their money to afford. In other words when things start to go wrong they have nowhere to turn. Of course things start to go wrong when the father played by Ron Livingston opens up a boarded up cellar. Of course this leads to various bumps in the night and unexplained bruises on the mom played by Lili Taylor.

As we go along things get worse and worse for the family. First one of the daughters has her leg yanked by an unseen force. They smell rotting meat and weird cold-spots as they try to live their every day lives. Then the youngest daughter starts sleepwalking and bangs her head lightly against a very old wardrobe. There is a nice circus-themed wind-up toy that has a mirror in it that when the music stops a ghost is sometimes seen. I loved the idea of ghosts in the mirror so I enjoyed this prop.

All of the creepiness builds up in a very nice way that I really enjoyed. Finally there is a scene where the family has had enough when all of their family photos are smashed and messed up. Then we have the reveal of the creature and it was very well done and scary. After that happens the family goes to the Warrens played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson to help them escape the ghosts and demons.

The Warrens set up various 70s ghost-busters sort of equipment and they monitor the house and the various ghosts that are bothering the family. These scenes could have felt like the movie Poltergeist but it felt nice and fresh to me. Then we have a nice thrill ride of the ghosts revealing themselves and people getting thrown around rooms and such. It all culminates with a nice set-piece demonic possession scene that could have felt stale but was actually quite creepy.

Wilson and Farmiga does a great job of breathing life into the Warrens and you actually cheer for them to beat the evil ghosts. The family never felt annoying and you wanted to see them succeed in freeing themselves of the ghosts and demons that plagued them.

In fact I would love to see Wilson and Farmiga in a remake of Amityville Horror directed by the same guy as this movie (James Wan.) He actually did the Saw movies which I didn't much like but also helmed Insidious which was very good. That movie wasn't as good as The Conjuring (except for one set piece scare in a window that was awesome) but I enjoyed it for what it was. In any case I'm looking forward to whatever supernatural thrillers James Wan will be doing going forward.

Finally, my only gripe is that I'm still not sure about the title. I have no idea what they were Conjuring and what it had to do with the family or the Warrens. When I first saw the title I thought it might have had something to do with magic or summoning circles and that kind of thing. Instead it was a nice creepy demonic possession tale with ghosts thrown in for taste. Maybe they could have called it Hell House or Bethsheba (the name of the evil demonic ghost) and it might have been a little better title in my mind. In any case I enjoyed it and say that if you are a horror movie fan like I am it hit the spot exactly.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

NSA Says they Can't Bulk Search Their Own Employee Email: Um, They Can but They Just Don't Want To

This has to be laughable if it was true.

But ask the NSA as part of a freedom of information request to do a seemingly simple search of its own employees' e-mail? The agency says it doesn't have the technology.

"There's no central method to search an e-mail at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately," NSA Freedom of Information Act officer Cindy Blacker told me last week. The system is "a little antiquated and archaic," she added.

I filed a request last week for e-mails between NSA employees and employees of the National Geographic Channel over a specific time period. The TV station had aired a friendly documentary on the NSA and I want to better understand the agency's public-relations efforts.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure they want some reporter getting their hands on emails that go from the NSA to the National Geographic Channel in regards to a PR softball story. So the NSA has a poky old email system from the 1998 or something which makes them look incompetent. Sounds like a good way to dodge FOIA requests from nosy reporters and make them look like harmless and backward.

More Horrific Crimes out of Cleveland: The Perfect City for Serial Killers and Kidnappers?

It seems that when poverty, mistrust of the cops, and mentally deranged people meet we have this situation:

A registered sex offender was charged Monday with murder and kidnapping in the slayings of three women whose bodies were found in plastic trash bags in a run-down East Cleveland neighborhood. It is the third major case in four years of multiple killings or abductions to haunt the Rust Belt metropolis.

The other cases were of the guy that held 3 women captive for a decade and a different serial killer murdering 11 people over a several year span. In other words Cleveland is a perfect storm of desperate victims trapped in place due to poverty, a populace that does not watch out for one another, and what seems like a culture of not "snitching" to cops who don't seem to investigate disappearances with much gusto. In any case this is probably not the last horrific crime that Cleveland will see in the next decade.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Too Many Tentpoles: Summer of 2013 Littered with Bombs; Sielberg and Lucas Were Right

Well I have to agree with this article 100%.

The overcrowded summer of 2013 will likely be remembered more for its costly misfires — Sony’s “After Earth” and “White House Down,” Disney’s “The Lone Ranger,” Warner Bros./Legendary’s “Pacific Rim” and Universal’s new release “R.I.P.D.” — than for its predictable hits, which include “Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel” and “Despicable Me 2.”

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas look awfully prescient with the predictions they made last month during a panel discussion at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

“There’s eventually going to be a big meltdown,” Spielberg forecast. “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen of these mega-budgeted movies go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm again.”

What the studios need to understand is that they can make a franchise-creating movie for less than $200 million if they tried. They have done it in the past and they will probably do it in the future. I'm pretty sure they could have made the Lone Ranger for the cost of Johnny Depp's salary and maybe $50 million more for Western sets and special effects. I mean the only real super-effects thing in Lone Ranger was in the last 30 minutes of the movie. 

In fact they could have cut out 30 minutes or more of the Lone Ranger and it would have still been as good in my opinion. All of the Tonto back-story could have been cut. Also most of the scenes where the Lone Ranger and Tonto were chasing the bad guys through the Arizona desert were redundant. They also could have cut the part with the very old Tonto telling the boy the story and it would have been fine. They just kept eating peanuts without cracking the shells and it just became annoying. In fact the entire General Custer-esque character played by Barry Pepper could have been cut as well. I mean the movie had 2 train chases One could have been shortened and it would have been fine by me. I mean you are there to watch Depp ham it up as Tonto and see Armie Hammer playing the strait-man so all the extraneous stuff could have been cut.

In any case I will probably not be seeing the rest of those tent-pole flops for any reason. I thought After Earth, which had Will Smith talking in some strange voice, just looked like Lost World with futuristic stuff and Jayden Smith in a raccoon suit. White House Down is just Olympus Has Fallen with different actors. Pacific Rim looked cool but I'm not sure why you need $200 million to tell a story about monsters fighting robots. Finally, RIPD just looked like Men in Black but with Supernatural Cops instead of Interstellar Cops. There is one scene where some creature smashes a car armed with a gattling gun that just belonged in a low budget Sci-Fi Channel shlock-fest. What is shocking though is 2015 might be flop-fest of Biblical proportions:

In 2015, between May and August, the studios will release just as many — if not more — high-profile sequels, reboots and tentpoles. It is expected to be one of the most pricey, loaded summers in decades, with the likes of Disney-Marvel’s “The Avengers” sequel, Fox’s “Independence Day 2,” Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean 5,” Sony’s “The Smurfs 3” and Paramount’s “Terminator.”

Okay, Avengers sounds good so I will see it site-unseen. I didn't like the first Independence Day (wait the aliens can be killed off with a computer virus?) so there is no way I'm watching a sequel. I haven't seen the last 2 Pirates so I won't be watching the 5th one. Smurfs is just awful and I'm not sure why they made a second one so no way I'm watching a third. And finally, the last Terminator was just so very bad so I will not be eager to see another one. I think 2015 will be the final meltdown that Lucas and Spielberg talked about.

The Conjuring the Box Office Winner: Hopefully It Will Usher In Summertime Scary Movies Like Japan

Well it seems that low budget horror movies are scoring big with movie goers this year.

The Conjuring's $41.9 million debut is a new record for an original R-rated horror movie ahead of last month's The Purge ($34.1 million). It's also the second-highest start ever for a supernatural horror movie ahead of Paranormal Activity 2 ($40.7 million). For distributor Warner Bros., it's also higher than Pacific Rim's opening last weekend, which is particularly noteworthy given Pacific Rim's price tag was nearly ten times as high as that of The Conjuring.

So in other words spend 1/10th of the amount of Pacific Rim and you still make the same amount of money with a good scary movie like The Conjuring. The Purge did a killing this summer as well. I hope this will mean that scary movies invading the summer "Blockbuster Season" will become a new thing. 

In Japan scary movies are the norm during the summer because people like to get a scare in order to beat the heat. That is not how it is in the US because most scary movies are pushed toward Halloween because that is our cultural norm. I can understand this bias but I'm hoping The Conjuring doing so well in the summer will be the start of something similar to what they have in Japan.

I can see Americans coming to a nice air-conditioned theater and instead of watching a misfire "tent-pole movie" like Pacific Rim instead watching a small budget scary film like The Conjuring. I mean getting a chill from a nice supernatural thriller is always welcome when Americans are baking all over the US. Plus, I would love to see Guillermo del Toro making a supernatural thriller (his movie "Mama" was outstanding) instead of a $200 million robots vs. monsters movie any day.

The best part about summer scary movies is that the studios can make 10 The Conjuring's for each Pacific Rim. So you can throw quite a few scary movies at the wall and maybe some real chillers will stick. I'm sure some will be misfires and boring The Ring knockoffs but hopefully we can get some iconic scary movies if we are lucky. I'm looking forward to seeing The Conjuring tomorrow and will write a movie review for sure.

Oy Ye! Oy Ye!, The Duchess of Cambridge Has Birthed a Son

The future Monarch of All Britannia has lept from the womb of the comely Duchess of Cambridge on this Day of Our Lord July 22, 2013.

It's a prince! On Monday, the world welcomed the newest addition to the royal family and the future heir to England's throne. Palace officials confirmed the arrival of His Royal Highness the Prince of Cambridge, born at St. Mary's Hospital at 4:24 PM BST, and weighing 8 lbs 6 oz.

I'm sure the Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha would be interested in a royal marriage with the tiny future Monarch as a bulwark against Austrian aggression.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Comic-Con Not About Comics Anymore: It's Gone from Geek to Chic

I have always wanted to go to the "super bowl of comics" but I guess I should have done so 10 years ago because according to this Comic-Con sounds like ass.

For example, this year's schedule includes a preview of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Psych, Vampire Diaries, American Dad, Community, How I Met Your Mother, The Blacklist and panels hosted by TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. Though, perhaps the apex of Comic-Con pop culture invasion came in 2012 when Twilight and Glee, and their respective armies of Twihards and Gleeks, came to the event in full force.  

Yeah, I can't wait to stand in line to watch some ass-grab from NBC talk about The Blacklist or some other crappy TV show sponsored by TV Guide. I'm surprised Honey Boo-boo isn't somehow involved in this drek. What they need is a smaller comic-themed Convention that is held at a different time of year. Just invite comic-themed stuff (and sci-fi as well) to that convention so it is "yes" to Agents of SHIELD or Walking Dead but no to How I Met Your Mother or Glee.

The Early Results are In: The Department of Energy Says Fracking Does Not Contaminate Drinking Water

Matt Damon (and his Qatari backers) must be crying in their beers/non-alcoholic beverages about this turn of events.

A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press. 

After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.

It has only been a year but so far so good. There are other problems like poor well designs and finding out what to do with waste water that need to be addressed. It seems that the waste water problem might be solved because some companies will just recycle the water so that they can keep drilling with it. It actually saves money to recycle the water instead of trucking it out to injection wells and then paying more to have it put back into the earth.

The Government Backs up the Truck on Student Loans to the Tune of a 24.3% profit

Wow no wonder the government wanted to get in on the student loan business. They are making a killing on it.

To give you a better sense for how significant that disparity is and its implications for student borrowers, at the time of this writing, the difference between the 3-month and 10-year Treasuries was 2.44%, which increases to 4.49% for student loans after the 2.05% surcharge is added. The way the math works, that spread translates into a 24.3% present value profit — $24.30 for every $100 of undergraduate loans the government finances under this scenario if fully implemented today.

So for every $100 billion in student loans the government pockets a whopping $24.3 billion. That is strait up killing even mighty Apples 18% profit margin. In fact Google is barely beating that margin with 28% this past quarter. No wonder Obama is trying to get so many kids signed up for college. It is a huge money spinner for the government so keep that gravy train running. I mean there are $1 trillion in student loans outstanding so the money being raked in every year is astronomical.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wait, What? We need only $900 Billion in the Next Decade to Balance the Budget?

It seems that the government is raking in the cashola and all of the fear-factor about the deficit does not seem to be coming to roost.

Our $600 billion of new savings mean the debt is already stabilized. Wait, what $600 billion of new savings? Well, that's how much less the Congressional Budget Office figures we will spend on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the next decade compared to what it figured back in February. And that's how the $1.5 trillion of additional savings the CBPP said we needed half a year ago turned into $900 billion now.

I'm sure someone can find either $90 billion a year in cuts or revenue or a mix of both to balance the budget going forward. I think tax reform by itself might be able to close that gap if GDP grows how I think it will in the next decade. Then you add the massive surplus that will be coming in from being a net exporter of oil and the next decade might be pretty sweet for the US. Then if you add immigration reform you can goose GDP growth even further.

House Judiciary Committee Makes Show of Stopping the Snooping Database

Well at least they are paying lip-service to protecting our privacy.

In a heated confrontation over domestic spying, members of Congress said Wednesday they never intended to allow the National Security Agency to build a database of every phone call in America. And they threatened to curtail the government's surveillance authority.

Top Obama administration officials countered that the once-secret program was legal and necessary to keep America safe. And they left open the possibility that they could build similar databases of people's credit card transactions, hotel records and Internet searches.

So they are trying to build other databases for credit card transactions, hotel records, and Internet searches as well? I guess a GPS location database lifted from your phone will be next. At least the Congress is looking at this stuff instead of being distracted and pretending like this isn't going on.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trayvon Martin is Now a Gay Basher Fearing Rape? Rachel Jeantel just Keeps Making Things Worse

Well, I think Rachel Jeantel should quit while she is behind because every time she opens up about what happens it makes Trayvon Martin look worse and worse.

Asked whether there was any doubt in her mind as to whether Martin “absolutely believed” Zimmerman was “pursuing him” that evening in 2012, Jeantel replied in the affirmative. He was “freaked out” about it, she said, especially after she had suggested to the late teenager that Zimmerman “might be a rapist.”

She explained that because Martin was not a homosexual, he was troubled by the actions of Zimmerman: “For every boy or every man who’s not that kind of way,” she said, “seeing a grown man following them, would they be creeped out?” 

Jeantel continued: “You have to take it as a parent, when you tell your child, you see a grown person following you, run away, and all that. You going to tell your child stand there? If you tell your child stand there, then you’re going to see your child on the news for missing person.”

I was wondering why Trayvon ran for it instead of just confronting Zimmerman and this might be why. He also ran past his father's fiancee's home as well instead of stopping there to say "this is where I live I have a right to be here."

It also explains why Trayvon just hauled off and false-cracked Zimmerman as well. Trayvon thought he would be raped which is a fear that a 17 year old boy sometimes has when he is being followed by a 28 year old man who just came out of a truck in a strange neighborhood. This is even more of a fear when the man started chasing him. In any case it was a strait-up tragedy and Rachel Jeantel needs to stop giving interviews.

How Criminals Get Guns: Yeah it's Pretty Easy

It seems that all the hoops legal gun owners have to go through to get a gun really doesn't matter because all you have to do is jump on the Internet and buy what you want.

Their online search inquiries for buying AK-47s quickly turned up an ad from a gun seller that said prospective buyers should "call and ask for Nick." 

Torrez instructed van Zeller through the call, telling her to tell Nick she could offer him $750 in cash for the assault rifle. Nick agreed to meet her and Torrez right away at a nearby Taco Bell parking lot to do the sale. 

Yup $750 and they had a AK-47 all ready to do whatever with. That is why background checks and registering a weapon every 6 months is a waste of time. A criminal just goes on the Internet with $750 and he walks away with a gun with no questions asked.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Stupid Kid Tweets About Mass Shooting After Zimmerman Verdict

Well it seems that America was generally riot free after the verdict. However some 15 year old idiots still shot off their mouths.

The tweet that got a 15-year-old promptly pulled into a police station.
Last week a teen was freed from jail after being arrested for something offensive he wrote on Facebook. 

Over the weekend, another teen was arrested for something he wrote on Twitter. 

A 15-year-old Chicago high school sophomore with the twitter handle @Mark12394995 tweeted about the Zimmerman trial before a verdict had been reached.

“If Zimmmerman free imma shoot everybody in Zion causing a mass homicide, and ill get away wit it just like Zimmerman [all sic],” he wrote.

He should have been arrested for bad grammar and use of the words "wit" and "imma." 

Putin Dives 50 meters to Examine a Shipwreck: Makes Sure there is Nothing Left to Steal

Well crazy KGB man who loves his action-hero image is now touring wrecks off the Sea of Finland.

Wearing a black jacket, blue jeans and white sporting shoes, Putin sat comfortably in the capsule's glassed front and submerged into the Gulf of Finland to look at the wooden wreck.

He resurfaced smiling after some 20 minutes and praised the work of the Russian Geographic Society, which has been studying the sunken vessel, for honoring the memory of Russian sailors who perished in the sea, including during World War Two.

Maybe they found something he could get a 5-fingered discount on after all. After he stole Robert Kraft's Super Bowl Ring you make sure you keep you hide the good silverware when he comes visiting. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

US Government Posts Largest Surplus ever in June: We are in the Black for $117 Billion

It seems that the government is making money hand over fist.

Rising tax revenues, public spending cuts and big payments to the Treasury from state-backed mortgage firms helped the government take in $117 billion more last month than it paid out, the U.S. Treasury said on Thursday. 

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a smaller surplus of $39.5 billion. 

Tax hikes plus billions in dividends from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are adding up to gains. It would be nice to have that surplus banked in a sovereign wealth fund run by Blackrock, Warren Buffett or some other knowledgeable investor. Knowing how the government works it will be wasted on some BS before too long.

First-time a Planet has been discovered with a Blue Atmosphere: Not Water But Sideways Glass Rain

That sounds promising but it really does seem like a freaky hell hole though.

The exoplanet's weather is less than ideal. Its atmosphere is more than 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius) and the planet rains glass sideways in 4,350 mile per hour (7,000 km/h) winds, according to Hubble officials.

Yeah that means life probably does not live on this planet. Astronomers have no idea why the planet is blue though. Maybe there is large traces of cobalt in the atmosphere for whatever reason.

Student Loan Deal Reached: Loan Rates Now Tied to the 10 Year T-Bill Just in Time for the Rates to Rise

Well it seems that college kids with student loans are now at the mercy of higher interest rates going forward.

According to Inside Higher Ed, undergraduates will pay interest equal to the yield on 10-year Treasury notes, plus 1.8 percent. For grad school loans, it will be the T-Bill plus 3.8 percent, and for parent loans the government will add 4.5 percent. Rates will be fixed for the life of the loans, and capped for 8.25 percent for undergraduates, and 9.25 percent for grad students. 

As soon as the FED stops the low interest rate shenanigans and funny money printing these rates will jump to the highest percentages before too long. In other words the FED chairman will directly affect the borrowing cost of millions of college kids. Hopefully, when the economy is booming again and interest rates need to be hiked these kids will have decent jobs to pay off this increased debt burden.

King of Queens actress Leah Remini Leaves Chruch of $cientology

Well at least she is finally coming to her senses.

Remini's skepticism supposedly began, of all places, at the 2006 wedding of Cruise and Katie Holmes in Italy -- where Remini asked about the whereabouts of David Miscavige's wife, Shelly, who reportedly had not been seen in public since 2007.

After a Church official scolded her, Remini was then "put through interrogations and blacklisted" and endured five years of "thought modification," the Page Six source says. "It's not about wanting or not wanting to do Scientology," the source continues in Page Six's story. "The issue is that [Miscavige] is taking down this church and hurting people and families.”

Yeah, that is a common practice to "interrogate" someone if they ask about someones wife. Well now she will be totally shunned by her former friends and any family members in the Church. I'm sure quite a bit of her future work in Hollywood will get curtailed as well. At least she has that King of Queens syndication money to fall back on.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Death of the Bookstore Has Been Greatly Exaggerated: A Gamers Suggestion to Goose Sales at Barnes and Noble

Well if they can get that Nook problem off their backs the retail sales at Barnes and Noble seem to be growing.

In the fiscal year ended April 27, the retail business, which includes the website, generated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $374.2 million. That was a 16 percent increase even as sales declined 5.9 percent to $4.57 billion. Meanwhile, Nook had a loss by the same measure of $475.4 million on sales of $776.2 million. 

It is pretty much a profitable business with an anchor around its neck in the form of the Nook. This part of the article is interesting:

Still, the chain will need to keep changing to remain relevant over the long haul. While the company won’t discuss its plans, it’s already refashioning itself as a family destination. It’s broadened out and increased its assortment, replacing products such as CDs and DVDs with more toys, games and gifts and is devoting more square footage to play areas.  

What they need to do is create a game night where they put up some tables and encourage people to try some of the games they are peddling. I have noticed that the Barnes and Noble at Ala Moana has increased their board gaming section quite a bit. I think it would be cool if they have some people that work for the store demo some of those games.

A weekly Settlers of Catan tournament would draw in quite a few different people that might not be going to Barnes and Noble. Even having a trivia game night at the Starbucks would bring in people by the boatload. Hopefully, some of those gamers and trivia players would pick up some graphic novels or something while they are there. I would certainly do so if I was there.

What Barnes and Noble can do is make themselves into more of a destination place in the mall. Not just for buying books but for listening to live readings (story hour with kids) hosting book clubs, game nights like I outlined above, and maybe even having lectures from professors from a nearby University. That is all stuff that you cannot buy from an online store. Amazon won the technology war by killing the Nook so Barnes and Noble needs to win the value-added war to keep people coming back to the bookstore.

Big Brother Host Julie Chen Reacts to Racist Scumbags on the Show She Hosts: Just Walk off the Show Chen!

I think she should take a principled stand and simply say that she won't be on the same show as a bunch of racist, homophobes, that love Hitler and can't get enough of the Nazi Doctors that tortured the Jews at Auschwitz.

"When I found out that Aaryn, who is a 22-year-old girl, made anti-gay, anti-black and anti-Asian comments, I have to be honest, the Asian ones hit me the most," she said on talk show. "I heard about her describing Asians as 'squinty-eyed' and 'go make a bowl of rice.' It stung. I took it personally. I'm a human being."

Chen, 43, has hosted the reality show for all 15 seasons and seen a lot of different personalities emerge in the house, but hearing the competitors' distasteful comments this time around really hit home, she said.

"The really sad part was it took me back to the '70s when I was growing up in Queens and when I was 7 years old being bullied," the Chinese-American journalist said. "Being called a chink and people pulling their eyes. But it took me back so many years and I thought to myself, 'Wow, I haven't heard comments like that [in a long time].'"

Yup so a principled stand would be to take a leave of absence from the show until all the scumbags are out of the house. That will show that she doesn't condone racism and will not be associated with a show that is glorifying it.

So What Does it Cost for the Government to Spy On You?

It seems that the telecoms have a fee schedule in place.

AT&T, for example, imposes a $325 "activation fee" for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge only about $250 per wiretap. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that, according to industry disclosures made last year to Rep. Edward Markey.

I wonder if the government has to sign up for 2 years of wiretapping or they pay a penalty? Also if they wiretap an IPhone does Apple get a cut of that money. Wiretap exclusivity? The government does get a deal on reading your email though:

Meanwhile, email records like those amassed by the National Security Agency through a program revealed by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden probably were collected for free or very cheaply. Facebook says it doesn't charge the government for access. And while Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google won't say how much they charge, the American Civil Liberties Union found that email records can be turned over for as little as $25.

I'm glad we are getting a deal on email snooping to offset the cost of wiretapping us. What would be an interesting thing to do though is to have the an automatic email sent to you from Google whenever they let the NSA read your email. Just a friendly reminder that Big Brother had his eye on you.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

From the Distract America File: Obama Embroiled in Broccoli-gate?

With 3 simmering scandals and his NSA reading recording everyone's phone calls, snooping your email, and checking your texts we have Obama saying broccoli is his favorite food.

President Barack Obama made an unscheduled visit on Tuesday to the second annual Kids' State Dinner, a healthy lunch children's event hosted by first lady Michelle Obama in the East Room of the White House. The president greeted the 54 kid guests and made a few brief remarks.

"Food can be fun, it can be healthy," Obama said, according to a White House pool report. "You are setting up habits that are going to be great your entire life."

As he left, Obama was asked what his favorite food is. His answer: "Broccoli."

Pandering to the pre-teen crowd are we? I'm sure Obama will have the kid who asked him this question roughed up by the NSA and her Dad will be audited for the next 20 years. 

Obamacare a Complicated Mess Due by October 1st

This flowchart is supposed to help you understand Obamacare:


It kind of looks like a chart of a nuclear reactor or how a refinery is setup. I just can't wait for a low-information person to have to navigate this thing or have to pay a tax penalty.

Mortgage Interest Deduction Might Turn into a Credit Instead

This sounds like a sound tax reform as long as they reduce my capital gains taxes as well.

The various proposals would have a tax credit from a low of 12 percent to a high of 15 percent, without the need for taxpayers to itemize their returns. The proposals would limit the mortgage interest covered in the credit up to $500,000, or half of what it is now. All but one of the major proposals would eliminate the tax credit for a second home. 

"A tax credit is a much fairer way to help homeowners, especially those that need it, like lower income families," argued Fisher. 

This will help lower income home owners who don't itemize deductions and don't have a second home at all. Couple this with an across the board capital gains and dividend tax cut as well as a lower corporate tax rate and we might have some growth going forward.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Well Not Even the Racist Nazi-Doctor-Loving Contestants of Big Brother can Help Their Poor Ratings

Well it seems that CBS putting a bunch of racists on TV is not having the desired effect on their ratings.

Regardless of all the “buzz” surrounding BB15 — or perhaps because of the nature of it — recent ratings have registered all-time lows for the summertime staple.

Because of the controversy, Aaryn and GinaMarie have, still unbeknownst to them, lost a modeling contract and a job as a pageant coordinator, respectively. Other houseguests on record as having made racist, homophobic and/or misogynist remarks, such as Spencer, were not singled out in the segment.

The comments heard on the 24-hour web feed from included gay slurs; commending Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as a gifted speaker, as well as the work done by Nazi doctors; and use of a derogatory sexual term for women.

At least his employer is running for cover.

"The values represented by Spencer Clawson's comments during the Big Brother show do not at all align with Union Pacific's values. Mr. Clawson is on unpaid leave of absence while participating on Big Brother. Union Pacific does not condone his comments," the company said in a prepared statement. "Union Pacific is acting in accordance with Collective Bargaining Agreement terms regarding Mr. Clawson."

I'm pretty sure Union Pacific would be against someone who is praising the wholesale torture and slaughter of Jews and Roma at Auschwitz. Hopefully the union hinted at in that collective bargaining agreement will step aside and make this anti-Semite find work on the Holocaust Denial circuit with former Iranian President Ahmadinajoke. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Big Brother Contestant Praised Nazi Doctors? Oh and 6 of them are Racist, Homophobic, Misogynist etc. Good Job CBS.

I guess CBS won't show it but I think they may have found some of the worst people in the world and gave them their own show. This has to be the worst of the worst and CBS seems okay with it.

Here are examples, compiled and expanded from the above sources, video clips, and other sources:
  • GinaMarie said that, because of her income level, she receives “nigger insurance” (she whispered the n-word, so it’s possible she said the version that ends with “a”). She whispered it to both Nick and Andy, neither of whom challenged her.
  • GinaMarie said Helen, who’s Asian, “should be kissing our ass and serving us some fucking rice.”
  • Aaryn said of Andy, “No one’s gonna vote for whoever that queer puts up.” She also suggested he’d win MVP because “people love the queers.”
  • Aaryn said about Candice, who’s black, “be careful what you say in the dark; you might not be able to see that bitch.” (A month ago, Aaryn tweeted, “Attractiveness comes from inside. What would you look like if your looks mirrored your words and actions?” So much irony.)
  • GinaMarie said Candice “gets that fuckin’ blackness,” referring to Candice’s reaction to something that happened in the game.
  • Aaryn said of Helen, “Shut up. Go make some fucking rice.”
  • Talking about sheets that smelled bad, David said they were that way because “black Candice” was on them, and then admitted, “that was totally racist.”
  • Jeremy, who calls the house’s women “bitches,” said of Katilin, “I did touch her vagina today.. she didn’t act like she was happy.. I like to feel around see what’s she’s working with.. see if it’s a nice meat wallet … I know she’s on her period.”
  • Spencer called Andy “Kermit the fag”; Amanda called Andy “Faggoty Ann” (McCrae later called her out for that language, but she defended it).
  • Spencer said that the medical torture conducted by Nazi doctors was beneficial and praised Hitler’s speaking abilities, even while acknowledging that he’d be criticized for that.
  • Katilin said she likes gay people but they’re “untrustworthy in a game like this.”
  • McCrae said, “If I’m talking to a girl, that probably means I don’t want to fuck her.”
  • Spencer referred to women as “cunts.”
  • GinaMarie said, “you know two blacks stick together. They’re like tokens.”

I didn't think there was a person alive that actually praised Nazi Doctors and said what they were doing was "beneficial." This is Spencer Clawson of Big Brother if you don't know. That is the face of an ignorant, racist, scumbag and has no place on network TV drawing a paycheck from CBS. Here is just a bit about Josef Mengele one of Spencer Clawson's beloved Nazi Doctors and what he did at Auschwitz:

As with other inmates at Auschwitz, Mengele's imagination knew no bounds when it came to devising physical torments for his victims. Preliminary examinations of the twins were routine enough. The children filled out a questionnaire, were weighed and measured. However, a more gruesome fate awaited them at Mengele's hands. He took daily blood samples from his children, and sent these to Professor von Verschuer in Berlin. He injected blood samples from one twin into another twin of a different blood type and recorded the reaction. This was invariably a searingly painful headache and high fever that lasted for several days. In order to determine if eye color could be genetically altered, Mengele had dye injected into the eyes of several twin subjects. This always resulted in painful infections, and sometimes even blindness. If such twins died, Mengele would harvest their eyes and pin them to the wall of his office, much like a biologist pins insect samples to styrofoam. Young children were placed in isolation cages, and subjected to a variety of stimuli to see how they would react. Several twins were castrated or sterilized. Many twins had limbs and organs removed in macabre surgical procedures that Mengele performed without using an anesthetic. Other twins were injected with infectious agents to see how long it would take for them to succumb to various diseases.

Spencer Clawson whom CBS's put on their Big Brother program says that the man that performed the above atrocities was "beneficial." The casual racism on Big Brother is bad but anyone who praises a monster like Josef Mengele and continues to be on a CBS show needs be branded as a pariah.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Bitcoin Heads Towards ETF: Could This Be a Massive Opportunity or a Money Flush?

Well if this fund takes off then we might see a Bitcoin appreciate like gold did when the GLD ETF opened up. This is why:

If the SEC approves the Winklevoss' request each share of their ETF would be worth one-fifth of a bitcoin. It would operate like a conventional ETF. For example, the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD) tracks the price of gold bullion and holds physical gold based on the amount of deposits. The Winklevoss twins would back each share sold by acquiring the underlying asset. In other words, for every five shares of a Bitcoin ETF sold, the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust would be forced to purchase one bitcoin.

In other words the more shares sold the higher the Bitcoin price would go up. Supposedly there is a cap on the amount of Bitcoins in circulation (they are generated through some sort of computer program that "mines" them) so as the ETF becomes more popular the price of Bitcoins might go up due to scarcity.

Supposedly this is quite a bit like the gold market was run up when their ETF was introduced according to this:

SPDR Gold Shares, with a recent $50 billion in assets, has contributed a significant portion of overall gold demand in recent years. The World Gold Council, the trade group of gold miners that sponsors the fund for marketing agent State Street Global Advisors, estimates that about $236 billion of gold was purchased in 2012. It says roughly 6% of that demand came from ETFs, of which SPDR Gold Shares is by far the largest. (The next largest, iShares Gold Trust, has assets of about $10 billion.) 

Near the height of the gold bull market, in 2009 and 2010, ETFs accounted for roughly 13% of gold demand, according to the council.

That is all demand generated out of thin air just to satisfy the ETF. If there was no GLD then that 13% of the demand would not have been created at all. Also the ETFs accounts for quite a bit of the trading in physical gold itself. Most physical buyers are long term holders and can't and won't flip coins every few days. The other buyers are jewelry makers who just barely increase their demand year to year. So these people very rarely trade gold. However, the mere existence of the ETF created quite a bit of physical buying.

For seven years after its launch, the fund grew exponentially, becoming not only one of the biggest buyers of gold but also at one point the second-largest ETF of any kind. The more gold prices rose, the more popular the fund became and the higher Wall Street brokers raised their price targets for the metal.

This might happen with the Bitcoin. As the Bitcoin goes higher more and more money might pour into the ETF and create a virtuous circle. If this ETF becomes very popular then it might act similar to gold did during this period talked about above. However, Bitcoins are not gold. The whole idea of Bitcoins seems very shady and it is hard to tell who owns them and who is "mining" them.

The bottom line is that the Winklevoss twins are trying to create an ETF that makes money by charging investors for the right to have fractional ownership of an imaginary currency controlled by one or more people no one has ever met.

I did think of one factor that might help Bitcoins though. If they can be accepted as legal tender for goods and services then their value would be assured. I know some stores accept Bitcoin but nearly every other one does not. If the Bitcoin becomes an actual currency (like Amazon accepts them or something like that) their value will take off. This is something that gold does not have going for it. You can buy physical gold but you cannot use a gold bar to buy a TV (I mean you could but not from an actual store.)

I'm sure if this happens some sharpie at Goldman will figure a way to arbitrage the price of Bitcoins to the currency that they can be traded into (I think only the Dollar and the Yen can be traded for Bitcoins right now IIRC.) In fact there are a only a few companies trading Bitcoins for cash so here is another potential red flag:

On its website Mt.Gox describes itself as "as one of the oldest and most established bitcoin businesses in operation today, Mt.Gox K.K. has developed a reputation based on reliability and stability, allowing users to trade with confidence." The claim says more about the Wild West nature of digital currency than it does about the stability of Mt.Gox. Though Mt.Gox recently filed with the Treasury Department to register itself as a money services business, questions remain about the reliability of the exchange and the identity of the traders using it.

In any case it might be an interesting way to deploy some seriously speculative money in one's portfolio. You have to remember this fact that Bitcoins are insanely volatile and the prices fluctuate by huge amounts. From March to April this year Bitcoins went from $40 to $260. Then from April until now the Price of Bitcoins went from $260 to $90 with a stop at $60 in between. That is a traders asset if I have ever seen one. In any case I just like the idea of a currency that would not be beholden to the FED and to the other Central Banks and their funny money printing presses. 

Climate Change a $10 Trillion Opportunity? Yeah for Wealth Destruction

Even though the idea of Climate Change has been dealt some serious damage by the various scientific scandals we still have people banging the drum.

Yet, the progress in the 20th century and the spread of information in the 21st century, assures there is hope. We have the technology, mostly American, necessary to meet the carbon emission reduction targets of 2020. As noted, the investment needed to bring about this change globally is $10 trillion by 2020 – just a 20% shift in our global annual infrastructure spending from 20th century technology to 21st century technology.

I would not trust the US Government (let along China or Russia) to efficiently deploy this $10 Trillion judging by their tract record. The vast majority of this money will go into the pockets of plutocrats and third-world dictators and not do anything of consequence. It will be Oil-for-Food in Iraq on steroids. This part is just pollyannish:

The challenge is that while the technology exists we still don’t have the business model and financial innovation necessary to attract the $10 trillion by 2020. The president can change that. How? By thinking beyond just the EPA, and stop limiting thinking about how to recycle 20th century solutions like Fannie Mae and come up with 21st century solutions like crowdfunding. Crowdfunding, for example, allows investors to band together to quickly fund low-risk stable clean energy infrastructure projects, a better investment than settling for 3% annuity payments for the next 30 years of their life.

Um, crowd fund up to $10 trillion in low-risk stable clean energy infrastructure? Even if they were able to generate 1/100 of that amount it would mostly be wasted. If Solyndra is any yardstick this money would be flushed directly down the toilet and offer zero return for those suckers' money.

Most green energy has been a boondoggle. Solar had a ton of bankruptcies and wind is unsightly and seems to kill tons of birds. I wouldn't trust "smart grids connected to the Net" because you know the NSA is going to track where electricity goes and for what purpose.

If someone really wanted to "combat climate change" they would set aside $100 billion and put it into a fund and sell "green bonds" on that amount. Then have Blackrock or whomever run that fund for some nominal fee. That way investors will get some sort of return for their money instead of promises and ill-thought out green patronage. I wouldn't trust the US Government with that amount for any reason knowing how corrupt the stimulus spending in green energy went down.

Monday, July 01, 2013

It's Official Latinos Still Hate the GOP

It seems that being nativist is paving the way for Hillary to win it all in 2016.

The poll, from Latino Decisions, shows former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walloping U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) among Latinos in a hypothetical 2016 matchup. According to the poll, Clinton grabs 66% of Latino voters. Only 28% would vote for Rubio.

Clinton is wildly popular with Latinos. 73% view her favorably and just 17% view her unfavorably. Those with an opinion are evenly divided on Rubio: 31% favorable; 29% unfavorable.

I'm pretty sure that many Latino voters in this poll have no idea who Rubio is because (or don't care either way) because his favorable/unfavorable numbers add up to only 70%. Also this part is a no-brainer:

The poll also reveals an added danger for Republicans with Latino voters. 58% said House Republicans' vote to block the Obama Administration from delaying deportation of "DREAMers," young unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, made their views of the Republican Party "much less favorable."

Who knew that deporting children would poll badly with Latinos? The GOP is going all out to never have another President in modern memory.

Immigration Bill Moves to the House: GOP Determined to Not Have a Republican President for the Next 30 Years

Well at least they have their principals.

In 2012, Obama won re-election with the backing of 71 percent of Hispanic voters and 73 percent of Asian-American voters. A thwarted immigration overhaul could again send those voting blocs to Democrats' side.

"We wouldn't even be where we are right now had it not been that 70 percent of Hispanics voted for President Obama, voted Democratic in the last election," Pelosi said. "That caused an epiphany in the Senate, that's for sure. So, all of a sudden now, we have already passed comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. That's a big victory."

Far be it for me to agree with Nancy Pelosi but she is 100% right in saying this. You cannot get a person to vote for you if you want to deport their mother or grandmother. It is just that simple. The Senate understands this but it seems the House doesn't care. In any case if immigration reform dies at the hands of the Far Right then its time to form the Centrist Party. This group would ignore the Far Left and the Far Right and get things done for America. I would use the Democratic-Republican Party from Thomas Jefferson's time. Maybe the Pragmatist Party would work as a name.