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Thursday, January 08, 2009
Jimmuh Speaks Out

And removes all doubt that he's a fool.

Since we were only observers, and not negotiators, we relayed this information to the Egyptians, and they pursued the cease-fire proposal. After about a month, the Egyptians and Hamas informed us that all military action by both sides and all rocket firing would stop on June 19, for a period of six months, and that humanitarian supplies would be restored to the normal level that had existed before Israel's withdrawal in 2005 (about 700 trucks daily).

We were unable to confirm this in Jerusalem because of Israel's unwillingness to admit to any negotiations with Hamas, but rocket firing was soon stopped and there was an increase in supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel. Yet the increase was to an average of about 20 percent of normal levels. And this fragile truce was partially broken on Nov. 4, when Israel launched an attack in Gaza to destroy a defensive tunnel being dug by Hamas inside the wall that encloses Gaza.

Ah, it was a defensive tunnel?

On another visit to Syria in mid-December, I made an effort for the impending six-month deadline to be extended. It was clear that the preeminent issue was opening the crossings into Gaza. Representatives from the Carter Center visited Jerusalem, met with Israeli officials and asked if this was possible in exchange for a cessation of rocket fire.

Wait a minute! I'm confused. Wasn't there supposed to be a six-month ceasefire that Carter was trying to extend? If so, how is it possible that one of the things beinf offered by Hamas was "a cessation of rocket fire"?

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Boycott the BCS?

Bill James, the famed writer of baseball books, suggests we do just that.

In truth, my objections to the system are a little different than Stern's. His biggest objection, I think, is No. 4 above—that the BCS system is used to justify something that should not be justified. To me, the deal-breaker is No. 3—the imposition on the computer rankings of irrational rules that essentially guarantee the failure of the process.

James is spot-on there. He points out that due to complaints about teams running up the score, the computer rankings are forbidden to take into account the scores of games, or even which team was at home. That's insane. There are ways to adjust for runaway scores, but to treat a 21-20 loss on the road as the same thing as a 57-14 loss at home is ridiculous.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009
The First Sign You're In Trouble

Reading this article on an author who lost a small fortune in the Bernie Madoff scandal, this popped out at me:

I often asked Richard, the head of our feeder fund, how Madoff made such consistently good returns. Although Richard tried to explain it to me, it was clear he didn't know, either, because I'd leave our meetings still unable to explain to anyone else how it worked.

Years ago, I partnered with another real estate guy to make mortgage loans on apartment complexes. We had one lender who had two different loan officers whom I'll call Steve and Sally. Steve was a big picture guy, the sort of person you'd put up to give a speech on the philosophy of lending. Sally was the nuts and bolts person.

As it happened their skills complemented each other, so they should have worked well together. But their company decided to put them in competition for loans, and my partner and I were supposed to choose one of them.

Well, you can probably guess the problem. My partner, who's a great talker, wanted to go with Steve, while I wanted to go with Sally. Being an accommodating guy I went along with the choice of Steve for a few weeks.

But there was a problem. I would call Steve with a nuts and bolts problem; how do I do X. Steve would launch into a 15 minute discourse on X and how it related to Y, at the end of which I often felt like I knew less than when we started. So I started suggesting to my partner that we go back to Sally. He resisted. So I tried to get the loans done through Steve, with the result that one of them got completely mangled in underwriting, despite the fact that I had previously confirmed the analysis with Steve. It cost us a pretty good commission, and I was able to convince my partner to switch our business back to Sally.

Moral of the story: If somebody can't explain something to you, it's probably because they don't understand it themselves. And if they don't understand it themselves, why are you relying on them to make major financial decisions that will affect you?
Monday, January 05, 2009
The Most Annoying Liberals of 2008

Compiled over at RWN. I generally agree with his picks, especially the top spot.

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Social Activist Supports Peace, Non-Violence; Becomes Outcast

Of course, this is not how this piece is being spun:

When the scheduled federal trial begins this month for two Texas men who were arrested during the Republican National Convention on charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails, one of the major witnesses against them will be a community activist who acted as a government informant.

Brandon Darby, an organizer from Austin, Tex., made the news public himself, announcing in an open letter posted on Dec. 30 on that he had worked as an informant, most recently at last year’s Republican convention in St. Paul.

Mr. Darby’s revelations caused shock and indignation in the activist community, with people in various groups and causes accusing him of betrayal.

“The emerging truth about Darby’s malicious involvement in our communities is heart-breaking and utterly ground-shattering,” said the Austin Informant Working Group, a collection of activists from the city who worked with Mr. Darby. “Through the history of our struggles for a better world, infiltrators and informants have acted as tools for the forces of misery in disrupting and derailing our movements.”

Actually there is no indication he was an infiltrator; rather it appears obvious that he was a legitimate volunteer who became an informant when he learned of plans for violence at the RNC. But that doesn't stop a HuffPo blogger from waxing indignant:

The trial for Austin residents David McKay and Bradley Crowder is on January 26th, and each could be imprisoned for up to 30 years. I am hoping that within three weeks our new administration stops shadowing those trying to rebuild my city like they are enemy combatants.

Because it is important that social activists like McKay and Crowder be free to make as many molotov cocktails as needed.

Hat Tip: Memeorandum.

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