due torre
26 April 2007
Nevermind No One's Used One Since 1997
posted by mike d
This may be the best screensaver I've ever seen. From my rigorous scientific research, it takes about five of these guys to be going perpetually; and fifteen or thereabouts to be bouncing off the ceiling.

(Via CT)
23 April 2007
Wolf in the Henhouse
posted by mike d
I've nothing profound to say about l'affaire Wolfowitz; just express my disappointment.

The (apparent) preferential treatment for la Riza paints the Wolf as a Grade-A hypocrite in light of his no-holds-barred anti-corruption push. Whether it is different from SOP at the World Bank or not - if it is, then the Bank is as corrupt as this appears to be; if not, then the Wolf has been sticking out like a sore thumb.

I have had doubts about his opinions in the past. But even when I've disagreed with him I've defended Wolfowitz's intellectual honesty. While it's fun to watch clips of Rumsfeld shaking Saddam's hand back in the 80s, Wolfowitz was warning about Saddam's destabilizing effect on the region since 1979. If you're going to admire Al Gore for pushing global warming (as you should), you've got to respect a man who called the invasion of Kuwait 12 years ahead of time. And in an administration full of hacks, he was a true intellectual

That admiration was further bolstered by the -very brief- interactions I had with him previous to his joining the Bush administration, the reputation he built up to that point, and the comments of people who worked with him.

These revelations have destroyed much of my respect for the man and gone so far as to make me question whether I should have risen to his defense in the past. It also makes me wonder whether this apparent venality was there from the beginning, or whether it came as a result of exposure to his colleagues from 2001 to 2005.
17 April 2007
posted by mike d
Nothing can be said about the Tech tragedy beyond what has already been said, until we know more about what happened. All that I can do is quote one of my oldest friends, who moved down to Blacksburg two years ago:

Didn't I move away from DC to get away from shit like this? Anyway, we're about to go out and get DRUNK. The situation here has gone from surreal to sad/angry/want to drink until it goes away......

Truer words were never said. We're all raising a glass for ya.
16 April 2007
Jackie Robinson's Jackie Robinson
posted by mike d
While I'm recusing myself from commenting on culturally significant topics, let me hip you to this:

"Your job is going to be worse than mine because you're down south." Jackie Robinson said these words to Nat Peeples in the spring of 1954.

Federal Baseball, second only to Ball Wonk in providing colorfully independent Nats coverage.
So It Goes
posted by mike d
I have nothing to add to last week's coverage of Kurt Vonnegut's passing, but the NYT coverage is pretty good.

This is more for me than for you - I'm switching jobs, keeping an eye on the family, and fighting crime on the side, all at the same time.
posted by mike d
The best thing you'll read all day:

The story begins in any of the three dozen taquerias supplying the Bay Area Feeder Network, an expansive spiderweb of tubes running through San Francisco’s Mission district as far south as the “Burrito Bordeaux” region of Palo Alto and Mountain View. Electronic displays in each taqueria light up in real time with orders placed on the East Coast, and within minutes a fresh burrito has been assembled, rolled in foil, marked and dropped down one of the small vertical tubes that rise like organ pipes in restaurant kitchens throughout the city.
08 April 2007
Petey Greene
posted by mike d
"Well, let’s cool it now. Slide on in, adjust the color of your television, hole up and get ready to groove with Petey Greene’s Washington."

Growing up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC -and moving away and back half a dozen times- there are lots of bits of local culture there that I missed out on. Twice in the past week I've come across Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene - a DC institution worth learning more about.

Greene's Wikipedia entry sums up his claims to fame in a succinct paragraph:
After leaving prison, he was hired by AM radio station WOL to host his own show, "Rapping With Petey Greene". His stature grew, and he soon found himself hosting his own television show, "Petey Green's Washington", on WDCA-TV. On March 8, 1978, he was invited as a guest to the White House by President Jimmy Carter to honor visiting Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito. He famously quipped to the Washington Post that he "stole a spoon" during the evening gala.

The time in jail (for armed robbery) seems to have been better than the typical Lorton story - he was a DJ there, and: "In 1965, Greene persuaded a fellow inmate climb to the top of a water tower to threaten suicide so that he would be able to 'save his life' by talking him down. 'It took me six months to get him to go up there,' he later recalled."

But it's the TV show that brought Greene fame, and what brought him to my attention. A friend sent along this clip from Greene's TV show. It has to be seen to be believed.

Aside from amusing stunts like these, Greene was active in promoting the rights of ex-cons, no minor concern in a city like DC. He left a legacy with the African American community that, frankly, us white boys knew nothing about.

So it's cool to see the other piece of Petey detritus that washed across me last week: Talk to Me. Don Cheadle plays the man himself, and adds fuel to my need for a velvet suit with paisley lapels. July 20th can't come soon enough.
05 April 2007
posted by mike d
So, for el trabajo, I'm going to Chicago for 24 hours next week (Tues-Weds). My evening is booked, but I'll have some free time to explore the town. Besides the Institute of Art and the "Married... with Children" fountain, what should I check out?
04 April 2007
"Miami Vice" Vice
posted by mike d
Crockett & Tubbs I have already tipped my hand on my thoughts about Miami, but recently I've become engrossed in catching the old Miami Vice TV show. While I'm watching for the visceral thrill of recognizing some old neighborhoods (I even saw my old apartment building in one episode), and the fashion notes I've taken from the show are copious, the real thrills are the extras and guest stars.

Two weeks ago, I saw an episode in which Pam Greir -playing Tubbs' old flame- shot John Turturro, who had turned her sister to prostitution. A couple of nights before that, the episode cast Rocky's second manager (Burt Young) running drugs with a young Michael Madsen, all while having the bald guy Locke from Lost as his lawyer - with hair.

Last night's show's cast looked promising enough, with Brian Dennehy as the "Rev. Billy Bob Proverb", a thinly-veiled Jim Bakker, and a 21-year-old Ben Stiller in a cameo as "Fast Eddie Felcher" (really). The icing on the cake was realizing 20 minutes into the show that Rev. Proverb's nemesis (another TV preacher) was the principal from Back to the Future.

Tonight's episode promises just as much: the sublime Miguel Ferrer will be appearing as a DA, presumably to prosecute the lead guy from the original CSI. Penelope Ann Miller will no doubt play a role she later perfected in Carlito's Way.

If you don't get the Sleuth Channel, let me recommend remedying that immediately.
Good Moments in Bad Web Design
posted by mike d
So the Washington Post redid its website, although to be frank, except for a change in font & size, I don't notice a whole lot new about it (there's supposed to be some changes further down the front page of the site, and... zzzz...). One of the annoying things the left in the site design is the set of drop-down site menus at the top of the homepage ("News", "Politics", "Opinion", etc.). These are terribly laid out (who expects a drop-down menu in multiple columns?), not to mention confusing (the first choice under "News" is, naturally, "Politics")

I expected them to adopt something similar to what the New York Times has, with sections listed down the left side of the page. And, in fact, for the print edition and individual sections, the Post does this, as well. These are much more intuitive to follow. In fact, even Posties themselves prefer to follow these left-hand menus. Quote St. Barry of Svrluga:

The whole Nationals section of the site - which you can get to by clicking on "Nationals" on the left side of washingtonpost.com/sports - should really take off in the next couple of weeks.

Never mind that the Nats section can be accessed from the "Sports" tab on the front page (it even gets second billing, ahead of the first-place Wizards).

Now I could understand why someone wouldn't want to use the left-hand menu. On the Times site, it does look a little really cluttered. But the obvious solution is what my boy Tom has done over at Manifest Density (never mind the overall site design looks ripped off the now-defunct Memefirst). Tom should lend his little expanding list widget to the WP IT people, so they can publish an online newspaper that is no longer as obfuscating as it is informative.
03 April 2007
Taxing Thoughts on Private Equity
posted by mike d
Felix Salmon, who's forgotten more about economics (and housing start prices in particular) than I'd ever have the chance to learn, ventures an interesting hypothesis about the algae bloom of private equity:

An editorial in the New York Times today cites a paper by Victor Fleischer in which, over the course of 51 densely-argued pages, he shows that private-equity principals get taxed at ridiculously low rates for no good reason. Here's the tax dodge: if you're running a private-equity fund, then most of the money you invest belongs to your investors, or limited partners...

Now because you [or your investors - mike d] have made an investment in the fund, most of your individual profits can be structured as being capital gains on that investment, rather than income. Let's say you own 1% of the fund, but receive (as is standard) 20% of its profits. Thanks to your 1% stake, that entire 20% profit share – and often some if not all of your 2% management fee as well – is taxed at the 15% capital gains tax rate.

This compares to the 36% that investors would be charged on regular income. Quite a savings.

Now there are a couple of interesting points Felix didn't mention, that make this seemingly straight-forward causation interesting:

-First, the capital gains tax was lowered to 15% in 2003. Previously it had been at 20%, but was lowered as part of Bush's 2001 tax package, famously designed to first give back the fruits of boom and subsequently salve the wounds of a bust. The paranoid out there would note that this administration has become a byword for government secrecy - maybe they want secrecy at the commanding heights of the economy? I doubt it, and doubt this was an intended outcome of the tax change, but it's the first thing that popped into my fevered mind. More realistically, this change might explain why the rise of these funds is happening now, as opposed to during the '90s.

-Also as part of Bush's tax package, this tax benefit is set to sunset in 2010. Most observers (sloppy writing, I know, but "I think most people think" is even worse) saw the sunset as a means to sell as temporary cuts that would be made permanent by the permanent Republican majority Karl Rove was working on back in 2000. But with Pelosi at the helm, and 2008 looking grim for the 'R's, the tax benefit is set to expire three years hence. Does this mean the story DealBreaker flogs to death in the Fall of 2009 is the "Great Unwinding of PE Firms"? You heard it here first.

-But this begs the question: why was a cap gains tax cut enough? Five percent can be the difference between make and break for fund managers, but both 15% and 20% are below the income tax (36%) charged to the tax bracket these guys are in. So why is this happening now, when the benefit of moving this cash stream from income to cap gains has been around for so long?

I dunno. The answers are left as an exercise for the reader.

UPDATE: In the comments over at Felix's, Sebastian Holsclaw points to Sarbanes-Oxley, and not tax policy, that is driving this trend, saying that it's a drain on small & medium-sized companies. While I think that SOX has affected companies in unexpected ways, I think that a company that is planning a $4 billion IPO cannot be described as "small".

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