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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Night Eclectic Jazz-Brazilian Blast !

Paul Desmond
Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five
Antonio Carlos Jobim - Wave
Sarah Vaughan and Milton Nascimento - Bridges (Travessia)
Sonny Rollins - St. Thomas
Stan Getz - Desafinado
Ella Fitzgerald - Night and Day
Norah Jones - The Nearness of You
Pat Metheny - Last Train Home
Weather Report - Black Market
Weather Report - Teen Town
Weather Report - Birdland
Weather Report - A Remark You Made

Friday, November 19, 2010

Even more on today's ' Great Game ' : a Central Asia Special from DER SPIEGEL

...exploring Kyrgyzstan (1), Kazakhstan (2), Uzbekistan (3), Tajikistan (4), and Turkmenistan (5).

These countries, once the center of the "Great Game," a bitter struggle over natural resources and strategic bases between the British and Russian colonial powers, are seeing history repeat itself.

...Central Asia is one of the eternal hot spots in world history, a place where Darius I and Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane left their marks. The British and Russian colonial powers followed suit when they embarked on the "Great Game," a bitter struggle over natural resources and strategic bases.

The Great Game was adjourned at the beginning of the 20th century. But after 1920 an even more brutal dictator, Josef Stalin, put his stamp on the region when he redrew the borders of Central Asia. Stalin created five Soviet republics, carving up traditional trading zones, and settled areas in the process. His goal was to weaken and sow discord among the region's Muslim ethnic groups and thus make them less of a threat to Moscow.

The seeds of ethnic strife had been sown. They began to sprout when the vast Soviet realm was dissolved and its republics became independent nations, separated by unnatural borders. Former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski once referred to Central Asia, a hotbed of conflict and, in Brzezinski's view, one of the most strategically important parts of the world, as the "Eurasian Balkans."

Today the major powers' interests in the region range from military bases for waging the war against the Taliban to oil and gas pipelines and drug prevention. One of the most important heroin smuggling routes passes through a part of Central Asia controlled by Islamists.

For these reasons, the world is now witnessing a new version of the Great Game, this time involving both the former players, Russia and Great Britain, and new players, the United States, China and Iran. None of the countries within their field of vision is stable, eccentric dictators are in control almost everywhere, corruption is rampant and many nations are at odds with their neighbors. After several coups and ethnic unrest, Kyrgyzstan is leaderless. Kazakhstan, rich in natural resources, feels pressured by China. Islamists in Tajikistan have renewed their fight against the regime, and in Uzbekistan, a major cotton exporter, the opposition is brutally persecuted.
Articles include :

-Kyrgyzstan Has Become an Ungovernable Country
-Nazarbayev Dictates a Bright Future for Kazakhstan
-Appeasing the Uzbek Dictator
-Hubs for Gas and Militaries
-An Islamist Uprising in Tajikistan

Leaked British Ministry of Defense Document Blasts Tory PM's Recent Review

James Kirkup, Political Correspondent of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH reports that, according to the leaked MoD ocument : 
[ Conservative British Prime Minister ] David Cameron's defence review [ The Strategic Defense and Security Review or 'SDSR' ] has demoralised the Armed Forces, strained relations with allies and ignored significant military advice
It [ the 'SDSR' ] was rushed and its handling "badly damaged the confidence and morale of our personnel," the paper says.
The document, seen by The Daily Telegraph, was prepared by a board of military officers and senior officials working for Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, for a secret Whitehall assessment of the process.
SDSR: Lessons Identified, is dated November 3 and marked "Restricted". It describes a process carried out too quickly to take proper account of advice, to consult allies or to win the support of the Forces.
It also criticises the way Mr Cameron and his National Security Council (NSC), a panel of senior ministers, drove the review forward.
The disclosure of the report is the second major leak from the MoD over the defence review and may fuel tensions between the Prime Minister and Dr Fox, who is believed to have argued that the five-month timetable was too short.
Harrier on Carrier
Controversial decisions made in the review include leaving Britain without a functioning aircraft carrier for 10 years and abolishing both the Royal Navy's Harrier jump jets and the RAF's Nimrod spy planes.
It blames orders from NSC officials in the Cabinet Office. "At Cabinet Office direction, there was no pre-briefing of the chain of command and no pre-warning of units affected by the changes," it says.
The NSC was set up and chaired by Mr Cameron to oversee defence and security policies.
It has its own team of civil servants, who are blamed by some senior defence figures for pushing through some of the most controversial cuts.
In September, The Daily Telegraph disclosed a private letter from Dr Fox to Mr Cameron warning of “grave” consequences from “draconian” defence cuts.

The ' Great Game ' Continues. And now Iran's a player.

The struggle for dominance in Central Asia, dubbed 'The Great Game' pitted Russia against Great Britain during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The 21st century version has many new players, and Iran's one of them. As NATO nations contemplate withdrawal from Afghanistan, the L.A. TIMES reports, Iran is extending financial, military, and cultural tentacles into the country:
Diplomats being diplomats, neither the U.S. nor the Iranian side acknowledges any rivalry, or any wish to keep tabs on the other's activities. But in Herat, an hour's drive from the Iranian border, Tehran's growing bid for influence is on clear display.
As talk turns to an eventual winding down of the nearly decadelong U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, Iran is at the forefront of neighbors' jockeying for power, with an eye to a new era.
The recent acknowledgement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that his office receives as much as $2 million in annual payments from Tehran prompted the State Department to declare that it was "skeptical of Iran's motives" in Afghanistan. But U.S. officials believe the bulging sacks of cash handed over to a top Karzai aide are only the tip of the iceberg.
Western diplomats and Afghan officials say far larger sums are routinely dispensed, directly and indirectly, to a range of Afghan groups and figures considered sympathetic to Tehran. In Herat, the name of both the city and the province surrounding it, the special relationship with Iran is hard to miss.
Iranian money builds roads and industrial parks; store-bought goods from soup to nuts are most likely to have Iranian provenance; and waves of Iranian cash buoy sparkling new mosques and opulent homes.
Meantime, in anticipation of air-strikes against its nuclear facilities, Iran stages extensive military exercises and publicizes a new missile defense system.  
Iran's military this week is showing off its defensive capabilities, including what it described as new air defenses, amid renewed talk of airstrikes on Iran's nuclear sites.
Iranian military authorities said they activated radar and signal detection installations along the mountainous nation's 4,200 miles of borders; put army, Revolutionary Guard and Basiji militia forces on alert; and launched a six-plane mock military raid by the fictional "orange forces" likely meant to mimic an Israeli or United States airstrike on its nuclear facilities.
Iranian officials this week said they tested new encrypted air-command-and-control communications equipment; a domestically built medium-range air defense system called Mersad; and new weapons, including what they described as Iranian-made shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.
Tehran also claimed it was about to unveil a homemade version of a Russian air defense system, though military experts said the claim was inflated. Iran for years has been pressing Russia to sell its S-300 mobile long-range anti-aircraft rockets, but Moscow this year reneged, citing a United Nations Security Council resolution that barred sales of weapons to Iran.
Iranian officials said the war games were meant to improve air defense combat-readiness, sharpen coordination between the units via centralized command and control, assess military commanders' performance and identify tactical weaknesses, including potential breaches in electronic security.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Canada's Single Payer Health System : A Model to Avoid ?

So says Stanley Goldfarb in his THE WEEKLY STANDARD piece, quoting liberally from Andre Picard's article in the Toronto Globe and Mail 

“[H]ealth care system is coming apart at the seams….On the ground, there is too often a glaring lack of execution: long waits, bed shortages, unequal access to medication. Those failures are compounded by the fact that the ever-rising medicare bill is squeezing out education and other social priorities.”
No, that’s not from an item in the New York Times; rather, that’s from a piece in the Toronto Globe and Mail on Nov 7, 2010 about Canada’s health care system. Its problems provide a glimpse of what a fee-for-service medical care produces in a single payer system: no demonizing of insurance companies, no teeth gnashing about the uninsured, and no end to the concern about how to pay for health care. The Globe and Mail goes on to point out that most European countries have done what Canada needs to do: “Adopt a model that pragmatically mixes public and private elements both in funding and delivery…”
There really is not a single Canadian system but rather a series of provincial systems each with its own approach to the issue. The series in the Globe and Mail is surprisingly, to borrow a phrase, fair and balanced. There are some abuses in the private system, where it is allowed, but there are major deficiencies in the public system because of growing demand for services. On the whole though, an 8 percent inflation rate in health care costs in Canada is unsustainable and having a single payer system is not enough to make the problem go away.

Paul Krugman, in a recent appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” boiled the choice for Medicare down to identifying what works and what does not. This is an economist’s view of health care and it is beyond superficial. As the Canadian system shows, central control leads to, for example, a one-year wait to have a colonoscopy in Quebec. It might make sense from an economist’s perspective, but the populace is not that happy about it and demanding better government care. (Krugman also conveniently avoids talking about what does not work with Medicare, relying instead to focus on the positive.)

So think again about a single payer plan. It is struggling in a nation with about 1/10 the U.S. population. Plan B is needed. Ideological arguments about how we need to eliminate insurance companies and do away with a competition-based system simply do not square with the results of the Canadian experience. Yes, the cost of care for the average Canadian on a per capita basis is much less than in the U.S., but the availability of services is also much less for all the “discretionary” services that Americans, and particularly seniors, have come to expect.


Click to view edited transcript of yesterday's live SEEKING ALPHA discussion with panellists John Hoffman of PowerShares and Jerry Slusiewicz of Pacific Financial Planners is now available

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rainy Monday Night Videos - On Wednesday, for a Change

...Eighties style, both synth and new-romantics.

Spandau Ballet - True
Phil Collins - One More Night
Eurythmics - Love is a Stranger
Olivia Newton-John - Magic 
Alan Parsons - Don't Answer Me
Motels - Only the Lonely
The Cars - Drive
Billy Idol - Eyes Without a Face
Mr. Mister - Broken Wings

ETF's and Taxes : A SEEKING ALPHA Live Discussion TODAY (Wed., 11/17) AT 4PM...

...with John Hoffman of PowerShares and Jerry Slusiewicz of Pacific Financial Planners. Details ? Glad you asked.
On Wednesday, November 17, at 4 p.m. ET, Seeking Alpha will host a live event to help investors better understand everything they need to know about ETFs and tax issues. Whether you are considering investing in ETFs for the first time or you are a seasoned ETF investor, this event will have something to teach you. Topics to be covered include:
    * Key tax differences between ETFs and Mutual Funds
    * What rates different types of ETF asset classes are taxed at. More specifically: Commodity ETFs, ETNs, and 'Trusts'; Different types of Fixed Income ETFs including MLP funds; Currency ETFs; and Leveraged/Inverse ETFs.
    * Taxable ETF events - how likely are they?
    * The wash-sale rule - how can one use ETFs to 'get around' it?
    * The effective use of tax loss harvesting to limit tax liabilities

Culture Vulture Update : The Emperor’s Private Paradise, at the Peabody Essex Museum

Detail of decorative screen
Yesterday, the CV and Mrs. CV headed to Salem and the Peabody Essex Museum, to take in 'The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City'.

Never before seen by the public, the contents of an Emperor’s private retreat deep within the Forbidden City will be revealed for the first time at the Peabody Essex Museum.

An 18th-century compound in a hidden quadrant of the immense imperial complex, the Qianlong Garden (also known as the Tranquility and Longevity Palace Garden), is part of a decade-long, multimillion-dollar conservation initiative undertaken by the World Monuments Fund in partnership with the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Ninety objects of ceremony and leisure — murals, paintings, wall coverings, furniture, architectural elements, jades and cloisonné — unveil the private realm of the Qianlong Emperor (r.1736-1796), one of history’s most influential figures. In his time, he was among the richest, most powerful men in the world. A connoisseur, scholar and devout Buddhist, he created a luxurious garden compound to serve throughout his retirement as a secluded place of contemplation, repose and entertainment.
There's no additional charge to view the exhibit, which closes at the Peabody Essex January 9, 2011, after which it will travel to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Click here for information on museum hours, admission, and directions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Transformers, Beam Weapons and SKYNET-type Bots : Pure Sci-Fi or on the horizon ???

How far are we from robotic war-making vehicles, death-beams, and transforming  armored vehicles  ? Not that far. Don't believe me ? Read these summaries from JANE'S, respected provider of information on arms and security developments.

Just hope nobody's working on SKYNET...
Elbit expands UGV offering
Elbit Systems has developed a new small unmanned ground vehicle (SUGV) designed for reconnaissance and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operations in urban environments. The new system is called maxi-VIPeR (versatile, intelligence, portable robot) and is the newest member of Elbit's VIPeR family. The 20 kg SUGV can be carried either on the back of a soldier or inside a specially designed suitcase from which it is deployed. It can carry a payload of 30 kg and is capable of operating in various terrains - including snow, sand and mud - within a range of several hundred metres of the operator
Rafael launches larger Protector USV
Rafael displayed an 11 m version of its Protector unmanned surface vessel (USV) at the Euronaval trade show in Paris in late October. The increased size of the new version offers a larger payload capacity, better seakeeping and the fitting of two engines and propulsors for increased manoeuvrability and redundancy.'
' Death-ray ' technology isn't far behind either...
USAF awards microwave weapon study contracts
The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon contracts to devise a weapon that uses high-power microwave energy beams to destroy enemy electronic systems. At this stage, the specifics of the Non-Kinetic Counter Electronics Capability (NKCE) contract are hard to ascertain, as neither the USAF nor its industry partners are willing to divulge details of the programme, much of which, they say, is classified
Want transformers ? Soon we'll have 'em.
DARPA awards Transformer vehicle studies
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected AAI Corporation and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics as prime system integrators for its Transformer (TX) vehicle - in effect a next-generation 'flying jeep' - melding 4x4 road performance with a capability to reconfigure into a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle. Additional contracts have been awarded to Carnegie Mellon University and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne for the development of critical enabling technologies, while Aurora Flight Sciences (partnered with ThinGap) and Metis Design Corp have received Small Business Innovation Research awards to demonstrate relevant technologies

Cocaine or Food ? Given the Choice, Researchers Say, Female Rats Go for the Snow

He'd go for the pizza. She'd go for the coke.
In SCIENCE NEWS, Laura Sanders reports...
Presented with a choice between cocaine and food, female rats choose the drug while male rats go for the grub, a new study finds. The result may help clarify differences in addiction between men and women, scientists reported November 14 at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting.
At the time of the choice, all of the rats were hungry, so they should have been motivated to choose the food. Male rats clearly preferred the food. But female rats chose the cocaine over the food about half of the time. “Females and males seem to be very different when it comes to the incentive value of cocaine,” Kerstetter said.
When the researchers more than doubled the dose of cocaine delivered with each lever push, male rats grew more likely to choose the cocaine. But females still edged them out for cocaine craving, choosing cocaine about 75 to 80 percent of the time compared with less than 50 percent of the time for the males.
Female rats that had their ovaries removed after puberty behaved more like males, choosing food more frequently. Sex hormones produced by the ovaries might be setting up or regulating the cocaine preference in the brains of females, the researchers propose.

Monday, November 15, 2010

UPDATED : Hawthorne's THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE : A not-lighter-than-air balloon

Henry James opines that Nathaniel Hawthorne's THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE,  when viewed together with THE SCARLET LETTER and THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES-- is " the lightest, the brightest, and the liveliest of this company of unhumorous fictions. "  Hmm. That's not reallly saying much, is it  ?  

After finishing BR last night, I felt cheated and disappointed.

As with HOSG, Hawthorne runs out of gas well before the tale's end. He unsatisfactorily unravels the mystery surrounding the 'Veiled Lady',  gilt-toothed Professor Westervelt, and the wastrel Fauntleroy,  thus dissipating whatever energy or suspense he'd  built up to that point. Similarly, HOSG's denouement is rushed,  the narrative possibilities of the character Holgrave sadly truncated.

Well, 'nuff said. 

Even Henry James acknowledges " a certain want of substance and cohesion in the latter portions " of BR, yet  admits to being entranced by NH's  characterizations of Zenobia and Priscilla, and finds the novel " full of touches as deep as delicate."

I wish I could feel-- and say-- the same.

I also wonder whether NH's choice of a 1st person narrator--Miles Coverdale-- in BR, as opposed to the 3rd person of SR and HOSG, was wise.

UPDATE, JUNE 21, 2011.

Time to admit that Hawthorne's choice of 1st person narrative in BR was correct.

BTW, the Norton Critical Edition of BR edited by Seymour Gross and Rosalie Murphy (1978) provides an excellent, annotated edition of the novel  reviews from Hawthorne's contemporaries, and more recent scholarly articles.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oil Spill Felons Basically Brain Dead, says Commission

" Investigators see 'culture of complacency' behind gulf oil spill  : BP, Halliburton and Transocean need 'top to bottom' reform, leaders of a presidential commission contend ", reports the L.A. Times.
A stream of evidence shows that "a culture of complacency" rather than a "culture of safety" prevailed at BP, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton as they worked on the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, according to the chairmen of the presidential commission investigating the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Let us service your deepwater rig !
The panel's investigators uncovered "a suite of bad decisions," many still inexplicable, involving tests that were poorly run, alarming results that were ignored, proper equipment that was sidelined and safety barriers that were removed prematurely at the high-pressure well, said William K. Reilly, who is co-chairman of the commission with former Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida.

Their blunt assessments Tuesday came a day after the panel's chief counsel said he had found no evidence that BP and other workers "made a conscious decision" to cut corners on safety to save money.

"They didn't rule out cost, just said they weren't prepared to attribute mercenary motives to men who cannot speak for themselves because they are not alive," Reilly said of the panel's investigators and the 11 workers who were killed when the drilling rig exploded and sank on April 20. "But the story they told is ghastly: one bad call after another."   

Welcome to Institutional Zombie Land, where no one takes any responsibility for anything.

Good grief.  How long can the U. S.-- or this world-- survive while the Walking Dead make brain-dead decisions that affect us all  ?  

Alarming Numbers : One in Ten U.S. Children Diagnosed with ADHD

According to Pat Wechsler of USATODAY,
" The number of U.S. children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder rose by about 1 million, reflecting more premature births and increased awareness among parents and doctors, researchers said."
About 1 in 10 school-aged children was diagnosed with the illness at some time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today, citing a survey conducted in 2007 and 2008. That translates to as many as 5.4 million kids, a 23 percent increase from the 2003 level.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Constitutional Challenge to ObamaCare's Mandated Coverage ' Could Prevail '...

...asserts Ilya Somin, Associate Professor at George Mason University School of Law, and Richmond Times-Dispatch Columnist :
When 21 states and several private groups initiated lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Obama health care law earlier this year, critics denounced the suits as frivolous political grandstanding. But it is increasingly clear that the plaintiffs have a serious case with a real chance of victory.
The suits focus primarily on challenges to the new law's "individual mandate," which requires most American citizens to purchase a government-approved health insurance plan by 2014 or pay a fine. One of the cases was filed by 20 state governments and the National Federation of Independent Business in a federal court in Florida. Another was initiated by the Commonwealth of Virginia in a federal court in this state, and a third by the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan.
The judges considering the Florida and Virginia cases have both issued rulings rejecting the federal government's motions to dismiss the suits and indicating that the mandate can't be upheld based on current Supreme Court precedent. By contrast, Michigan district Judge George Caram Steeh wrote a decision concluding that the mandate is constitutional. But even he agreed that the case raises an "issue of first impression."

Monday, November 8, 2010

2010 Elections and American Exceptionalism : U.S. A BIG DEAL OR NO BIG DEAL ?

Excerpted below are articles on this subject that have appeared in the aftermath of the 2010 Election.  My own views--which are more in tune with Andrew Ferguson's than Micahel Kinsey's or Peter Beinart's-- follow.

Michael Kinsley - ' U.S. is not greatest country ever '
The important message of this election is not from the voters but to the voters. Maybe it can be heard above the din. It is: You’re not so special.

The notion that America and Americans are special, among all the peoples of the earth, is sometimes called “American exceptionalism.” Because of our long history of democracy and freedom, or because we have a special mission to spread these values (or at least to remain a shining example of them), or because of our wealth, or because of our military strength, our nuclear arsenal, our wide-open spaces, our pragmatism, our idealism, or just because, the rules don’t apply to us. There are man-made rules like, “You can’t start a war without the permission of the United Nations Security Council.” We’ve gotten away with quite a bit of bending or breaking of that kind of rule. This may have given us the impression that we could ignore the other kind of rules —the ones that are imposed by reality and therefore are self-enforcing. These are rules such as, “You can’t have good ice cream without fat” or “You can’t borrow increasing amounts of money indefinitely and never pay it back, because people will eventually stop lending it to you.” No country is special enough to escape these rules.

Obama was asked during the 2008 presidential campaign whether he believed in American exceptionalism. He said, “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Newt Gingrich’s gloss: “In other words, everything we cherish about America, our president thinks is not so very special, not so very different from any other country. ... No longer, in the left’s view, are we the Americans of the frontier, the sturdy, independent farmers.” But the question isn’t whether Americans can or should cherish our country, its culture and its values. Gingrich is saying that only Americans can do so. His message to the world is, “Hey, buddy, we’ll do the cherishing around here.” And the country he cherishes isn’t 2010 America — it’s some fantasyland populated by frontiersmen and “sturdy, independent farmers.” Scarborough is right about him, too. Why do we pay any attention?

This conceit that we’re the greatest country ever may be self-immolating. If people believe it’s true, they won’t do what’s necessary to make it true. The Brits, who suffer no such delusion (and who, in fact, cherish the national myth of being people who smile through adversity), have just accepted cuts in government spending that no American politician — even a tea bagger — would dream of proposing. Maybe these cuts are a mistake or badly timed, but when the British voted for “change,” they really got it.

Peter Beinart - ' Lunatic Notion of American Exceptionalism '

Republican megastar Marco Rubio announced that “America is the single greatest nation in all of human history. A place without equal in the history of all mankind” because “almost every other place in the world…what you were going to be when you grow up was determined for you.” Almost every other place in the world? From China to India to Brazil, hundreds of millions of people are rising economically in ways their parents could scarcely have imagined, in part because their governments are investing in infrastructure in the way the United States did in the late nineteenth century. The American dream of upward mobility is alive and well, just not in America. And rather than looking at what those other countries are doing right, the Republicans have taken refuge in an anti-government ideology premised on the lunatic notion that America is the only truly free and successful country in the world. That ideology won last night, and Keynesianism lost. Have a good day!

Andrew Ferguson - 'What’s So Great About America'

Marco Rubio will have to write a new speech sooner or later, but he shouldn’t hurry up on our account. We still enjoy the one he’s been giving all year. He delivered it again to a national television audience on Election Night, after walloping not one but two formidable opponents in his campaign for a vacant Florida Senate seat. Along with his gift for wooing voters, the speech has made Rubio, according to a chorus of news accounts, a “rising star”—even, said one Vanity Fair writer who should know, a “matinee idol.” Republicans might want to ponder why. 
The theme of the speech, and the source of its power, is American exceptionalism. “It’s sometimes easy to forget how special America really is,” Rubio says. “But I was raised by exiles .  .  . by people who clearly understand how different America is from the rest of the world.”

For many sophisticated Democrats the belief is not merely childish but dangerous. It distracts us from the urgent matters at hand. “This conceit that we’re the greatest country ever may be self-immolating,” Kinsley wrote. “If people believe it’s true, they won’t do what’s necessary to make it true.”

This strikes us—and will strike most Americans, we’ll wager—as the precise opposite of the truth. Americans through time have already done “what’s necessary to make” the country unique in all the world; that’s why Glenn Beck and all those Tea Partiers prattle endlessly on about the Founders. Thanks to the ingenuity, persistence, and sacrifice of earlier generations, our obligation now is to conserve the arrangements that make us exceptional, reaffirm them, and prepare to pass them on, with an abiding faith in personal liberty. And this much should be obvious: If Americans don’t believe “we’re the greatest country ever,” we won’t be for much longer.
* * *

And now, a word from this blogger..

Apparenlty Otto Von Bismarck never said, " there is a special providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America" .  However, one would hope that in respect to the U.S., this is true, and that we would neither depend nor trade on it, but earn it.

The indisputable fact is that this country has served as a beacon of freedom, personal liberty, and opportunity, as a refuge from oppression, and as a defender from tyrannies since its founding. That does not mean that we, as Americans, are faultless and infallible, or entirely immune from political, social, and cultural problems that afflict others. And it does not mean that we are guaranteed a bright future because of a once glorious past.

To reclaim that glory will require honest introspection, earnest application, work, and sacrifices that are by no means beyond those who populate Main Street.  I would not say we are only as good as our leaders--poltical, financial, legal, take your pick--or that we have the govenment and institutions we deserve. Nor would I say we are entirely without responsibility or blame.

We may be guilty of wishful thinking, which at times has induced us to undertake ill-conceived adventures abroad, amongst which  isolationists surely considered our entering World War II,  or exerting ourselves to contain the enormities of Stalinist autocracy. At times we've collectively had a short attention span, and yes, lapses in memory too ( Otherwise, would we have rebuilt a shattered Germany and Japan after WWII ? To be sure, this was in our self-interest, but at least it was enlightened self-interest.) Clearly, we are capable of being misled, in every meaning of that word. In this we, as a nation, are hardly unique. Moreover, today's pretext may have been 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'. But only yesterday, it was the 'Gulf of Tonkin Incident'.

Are we exceptional now ? That remains to be seen. We must rebuild our factories, schools, roads, bridges, and put people back to work doing meaningful, constructive jobs with liveable wages. We must stop alienating our manufacturing, scientific, and engineering patrimony. The middle class, and the children of the middle-class, cannot be sustained indefinitely on service jobs, serving up an infinite variety of burgers, or Mutual Funds for that matter. We must revive atrophied or decayed institutions in which, obviously, we misplaced our trust,  and which declined or failed properly to safeguard the well-being of the vast majority against the interests of an apparently insatiable kleptocracy. We need common sense legislation and regulations, clear and easily enforceable--in other words, "Volcker rules" --that individuals or entities will find risky or at least uneconomic to evade.      
As to how exceptional the United States of America has been--That will become most clear when other nations assume world leadership, and we witness with what wisdom, humanity, generosity they exercise it.  

If and when that happens, we may well  hope that for the U.S., the saying misattributed to Bismarck holds true.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tonight's Music Blast - OH ! THE COLORS !!! ( MON DIEU ! LES COULEURS !!! )

Prince - Little Red Corvette
Procol Harum - A Whiter Shade Of Pale
The Hollies - Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress
Bobby Vinton - Blue Velvet
Love - My Little Red Book (With Lyrics)
The Rolling Stones - Paint It Black
UB40 - Red Red Wine (2002 Digital Remaster)
Donovan - Mellow Yellow
Eric Andersen - Violets of Dawn
Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever
Elton John - Elderberry Wine
Fats domino - Blueberry Hill
Nena - 99 Red Balloons
Billy Joel - Shades of Grey
Joni Mitchell - Big Yellow Taxi (live)
Bruce Springsteen - Pink Cadillac
Hermans Hermits - Mrs. Brown You've got a Lovely Daughter 1965
The Lemon Pipers - Green Tambourine
Sting - Fields Of Gold
John Legend with Andre 3000 - Green Light
Dido - White Flag
David Bowie - Golden Years
Elton John - Blue Eyes
Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit
The Rolling Stones - You Got The Silver - Live 2006 - Keith Singing 
Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze
Michael Jackson - Black Or White
Django Reinhardt NYC Festival 2004 - Sweet Georgia Brown
Ruby Tuesday. Rolling Stones
Elvis Presley - Blue Suede Shoes
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels - Devil with a Blue Dress
The Band- Long Black Veil
Prince - Raspberry Beret
The Moody Blues - Nights In White Satin´67
Chris DeBurgh - Lady In Red
The Rolling Stones- Blue Turns to Grey (1965)
Neil Young - Heart Of Gold
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs - Little Red Riding Hood
Cream - White Room
Led Zeppelin - Black Dog Lyrics
Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (TOTP 1973)
Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl lyrics
Sting - Desert Rose
The Tremeloes - Silence Is Golden
Billy Idol - White Wedding
The Beatles - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar
Elvis Presley - Blue Christmas
Bing Crosby - White Christmas

What does the 'T2108' Technical Indicator mean for the Stock Market ?

That the Market's overbought, bubbie. And what's more, the T2107 Technical Indicator agrees, says Dr. Duru, in his article, Market Remains Unbroken and Unloved: Overbought Period Not Over Yet' : 
T2107 Chart. Honest.
The stock market continues to defy deflationary expectations - nothing like the smell of freshly printed bills in the morning!
My favorite technical indicators further paint a picture of a market unbroken. T2108, the percentage of stocks trading above their respective 40-day moving averages (DMAs), has firmly rebounded deeper into overbought territory (above 70%). The market stubbornly remains overbought for the 41st straight day.
T2107, the percentage of stocks trading above their respective 200DMAs, hit a fresh 6-month high after stalling through the second half of October. This action indicates more stocks are finally breaking out above their 200DMAs into longer-term bullish technical territory.
While the market remains unbroken, it also remains unloved. According to data from the Investment Company Institute (ICI), Americans are still drawing down on their equity-based mutual funds. Investors were net sellers of these funds over the past 5 weeks, continuing a three-year trend that has defied all expectations for retail investors to jump in and chase stocks upward on rallies. Foreign equity funds continued to see positive gains over these five weeks.
Bond funds remain very popular.

Friday, November 5, 2010


William Kristol of THE WEEKLY STANDARD says MSNBC's suspension of commentator Keith Olbermann for contributing to political campaigns is ludicrous.  

First, he donated money to candidates he liked. He didn’t take money, or favors, in a way that influenced his reporting.

Second, he’s not a reporter. It’s an opinion show. If Olbermann wants to put his money where his mouth is, more power to him.

Third, GE, the corporate parent of MSNBC, gives money to political organizations. GE executives and, I’m sure, NBC executives give money. Why can’t Olbermann?

Perhaps Olbermann violated NBC News “policy and standards.” But NBC doesn’t have real news standards for MSNBC—otherwise the channel wouldn’t exist. It’s a little strange to get all high and mighty now.

But there’s now a Republican House, and perhaps GE is trying to curry favor by dumping Olbermann?

Republicans of the world, show you believe in the free expression of opinion! Tell the crony corporatists at NBC—keep Keith!
And Kenneth P. Vogel of THE POLITICO informs us that, ' Political giving not unusual on cable ' :

A search of campaign finance records shows that MSNBC host Keith Olbermann is hardly the only cable news host who has written a check for a candidate in recent years.

With the distinction between journalism and punditry increasingly blurring, a number of overtly political cable stars such as Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity of Fox News and Joe Scarborough – like Olbermann, a host at MSNBC – have made campaign donations, as have many political commentators who don’t have their own shows.

Ireland's Running Out of TIme to Deal with its Bond Crisis...

says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in THE TELEGRAPH.

" The bond crisis is snowballing out of control before the country has had enough time to let its medical, pharma, IT, and financial services industries (don’t laugh, some of it is doing well) come to the rescue."

Tonight's Song - REASON FOR WAITING, by Jethro Tull

From the phenomenal album, STAND UP.

'Diversification' actually 'Di-worse-ifcation ' ?

In two articles, Roger Nussbaum responds to the assertion of Marty Whitman-- Manager of Third Avenue Value Fund (TAVFX)--in a recent BARRON'S that diversification is not a profitable investment strategy : ' Marty Whitman: Great Stock Picker, Wrong on Diversification ' and ' How Many Holdings Makes Sense in Your Portfolio?'.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Got the Post Mid-Term Blues ? How about some music ? Political Campaigns and Love Affairs have a lot in common, don't they ?

The needs. The promises. The petty lies. The self-deceptions. The fatal attractions. The tardy realizations. The instinct for self-preservation, or self-sacrifice. The eventual goodbyes. All captured in this playlist.    

Ten Years After - I'd Love to Change the World
Stevie Winwood - Roll With It, Baby
Dazz Band - Let It Whip
Cock Robin - The Promise You Made
Thompson TWins - King for a Day
Missing Persons - Give
Robert Palmer - Simply Irresistible
Chambers Brothers - Time Has Come
Electric Flag - Another Country
The Animals - We Gotta Get Outta This Place
The Rolling Stones - The Last Time
The Beatles - The Night Before
Cream - We're Going Wrong
Big Brother and the Holding Company - Take Another Piece of My Heart
Buffalo Springfield - Go and Say Goodbye

And now, for some REALLY IMPORTANT NEWS...

( Your Fun Caption Here )

Scarlett Johansson is set to play an alien seductress in 'Under the Skin'.

Johansson will portray " an alien on earth, disguised as the perfect aesthetic form of a mesmerizing woman. She scours remote highways and desolate scenery looking to use her greatest weapon to snare human prey -- her voracious sexuality.”

[ Translation : Desert locations are cheap, cities are expensive. That's why the alien-hottie hangs out in roadhouses in the middle of nowhere, as opposed to, say, Manhattan. She's, like, on a budget, right ? ]

" She is deadly efficient, but over time becomes drawn to and changed by the complexity of life on earth. With this new found humanity and weakening alien resolve, she finds herself on a collision course with her own kind. Taking her point of view throughout, the film presents a unique look at our world through alien eyes.”

[ Translation : if she doesn't get empathetic, the vicarious sex thing won't work, and if there's no 'vicarious',  well, who's gonna pay to watch men being eaten alive by a sadistic, nymphomaniacal alien,  except maybe _________ and  _________ ? ( Your fun fill-ins here ) ]


The next item is the teaser trailer for a new reality show 'Bridalplasty', debuting Sunday, Nov. 28.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And Now, The Rest of the Story...

...will be presented in its entirety at a later date. Meantime...

Last Remaining Politician Must Rebuild Entire Government Following Bloodiest Midterm Election In American History
In the wake of what is being called the deadliest midterm election in the nation's history, Washington's sole surviving politician, Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon's 4th Congressional District, emerged from the rubble of the Capitol building Wednesday to announce his intention to rebuild the fallen U.S. government.
 Kim Jong-Un Privately Doubting He's Crazy Enough To Run North Korea
In surprisingly candid remarks Thursday, Kim Jong-un, heir apparent to North Korea's highest government post, expressed doubt that he was sufficiently out of his mind to succeed his father, longtime dictator Kim Jong-il.

Activities Director Makes Most Of Hostage Situation
Four days after criminal organization Comando Vermelho seized control of the Novo Mundo Resort, activities director Janet Puchesy, 28, continues to make the most of the tense situation, bringing fun and creativity to the storage room where she and her fellow survivors are trapped, the hostage reported Monday.

Investor Extreme Complacency / Bullishness Cause for Concern ?

Yes, says Cullen Roche, in his article, " Where High Beta Junkies Go to Die "
As of Tuesday’s close the rally in equities has officially lasted 44 sessions. That’s long by historical standards, but a look under the hood shows some remarkable bullishness. This persistent bullishness is best exemplified in the Nasdaq 100 [emphasis mine]. There are a few indices that are notoriously high beta. This is one of them. And this is where the high beta junkies come to get their fix. In the last 44 sessions there have been just 15 negative sessions in total with 29 positive sessions. That’s a 3:1 ratio – very high by historical terms. What’s amazing is that the Nasdaq 100 has experienced just ONE 1%+ decline during the last 44 sessions. And in total, there have really only been three damaging sessions that totaled declines of 2.89%.
The Nasdaq 100 is currently on a 22.7% tear that sets it on course for a 150% annualized return. But more importantly, this index, which is an important indicator of risk appetite, is now 8.5% above its 50 day moving average. This has occurred just two other times in the last 3 years and both events were in the early stages of the incredible move off the 666 lows – an outlier if there ever was one. At the May high, before the flash crash, we were just 6.4% above the 50 day moving average and the market had rallied an astounding 20.25% in just 55 sessions.
If you’ll recall, the mentality was eerily similar. Small investor bullishness was at 48.5% (currently 51.1%) and the consensus widely believed that we were in the midst of a sustained economic recovery.
I think the market has now priced in an extraordinary amount of optimism heading into the election and QE2. Neither will prove to be a panacea. In fact, I believe gridlock will cause more harm than good during a balance sheet recession due to a move towards austerity and that QE2 remains the greatest monetary non-event.
In addition, investors are largely pricing in an economic recovery. The price action proves that there is extraordinary optimism about future equity returns. This has resulted in an extreme disequilibrium and in my opinion creates substantial downside risks. Unless the Fed is successful in reinflating the equity bubble (which they very clearly have stated they are interested in doing) it appears to me that the market’s natural mean reverting tendencies will dominate price action in the coming months.
Roche maintains his cautionary tone in " Election Results: Big Win for GOP, Potential Loss for the Economy "
This election is largely a referendum on the Obama economy. Unfortunately, I am concerned that the change is not necessarily any better. Specifically, I am most concerned about a return to the ways that got us into this mess in the first place:
    * I am concerned that we are moving back towards a belief that business is efficient and rational and therefore does not need to be regulated.
    * I am concerned that gridlock will lead to severe budget constraints. Like it or not, we are in a balance sheet recession. And when you’re in a balance sheet recession someone must run a surplus or economic growth will decline... Therefore, without continued government spending or tax cuts we risk a high probability of sinking back into negative growth and possibly worse.
    * While I am not a fan of unemployment benefits we are likely to see 3.5MM people lose their unemployment benefits in January as Republicans block passage of any extensions. In a balance sheet recession this will put an unnecessary strain on the economy..
    * We have a very serious state funding crisis that is now almost guaranteed to get worse as spending is reduced. Meredith Whitney believes the state funding crisis is the next shoe to drop and is being overlooked.

Jack Sparrow echoes Roche's views in his article, "Feeling Sanguine About Stocks? Bullish Complacency Has Reached an Extreme ", his wariness based first on the fact that according to the AAII and James Mackintosh at the FT, ' holdings of cash are now at their lowest levels since March of 2000 [emphasis mine]. '
" If that date sounds familiar,” adds Mackintosh, “it should. The dot com bubble was just about to pop, and the S&P 500 hit levels not reached again for seven years.”
... the bull-bear spread [ an index of bullish sentiment ] is at record highs (with cash holdings at decade lows). Complacency is rampant. So why haven’t stocks roared even more? Because a good portion of that bullishness has been focused on corporate credit markets alongside equities.
Bulls argue that the S&P is still reasonably priced, based on a forward earnings multiple in the 12.5 range. But this assumption depends on a far more speculative one — that corporate earnings have not hit a cyclical peak. The twin threats of post-stimulus slowdown and housing double dip threaten this belief.

What really matters now is whether the U.S. economy is in true recovery or not. If the answer is “yes,” then the Fed is behind the curve and QE2 will serve as just another inflationary paper asset boost. If the answer is “no,” then the great body of evidence suggests QE2 will fail — and investors will be punished harshly for taking their complacency to such extremes.

It's not merely retail investors who are bullish these days. " Financial Adviser Sentiment: Highest Since July 2007 "  says blogger Babak.
This week the [monthly] Investors Intelligence survey of newsletter editors is 46.7% bullish. That is the highest level of bullishness since May 2010. Another sentiment measure, much less known is the Rydex SGI Advisor Confidence Index (ACI) [emphasis mine].

Looking for Global Dividend ETF's ?

In his article, " Getting All Your Dividend Exposure in a Single ETF: Three Global Options " Michael Johnston points to " a handful of ETFs that combine U.S. and international markets, providing one-stop global exposure to dividend-paying companies that tend to exhibit characteristics of a value strategy..."

The aforementioned ETF's are :
  • WisdomTree Global Equity Income Fund (DEW)
  • Guggenheim S&P Global Dividend Opportunities Index ETF (LVL)
  • Dow Jones Global Select Dividend Index Fund (FGD)
And, to defeat the inherent bias of the above in favor of developed markets, Johnston suggests that investors also explore
  • WisdomTree Emerging Markets Equity Income Fund (DEM)
  • WisdomTree Emerging Markets SmallCap Dividend Fund (DGS)
See also Johnston's article," International Dividend ETFs: Comparing Yields ".

According to his SEEKING ALPHA bio, "  Michael Johnston is the co-founder and senior analyst at ETF Database, an online investment resource for ETF investors. ETF Database offers a proprietary ETF Screener that allows investors to filter the universe of 900+ ETFs to find the right fund. ETF Database also provides news, analysis, commentary, and actionable investment ideas on a daily basis. "

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Barnes and Noble Color Nook : Where's its Market Nook, vs. Kindle and Ipad ?

Joel West looks hard for a winning market niche for the Nook, which is more capable than Kindle, less capable than Ipad, and in between the two in terms of cost.

Some excerpts :
I've been trying to make sense of the new Nook Color announced Tuesday. The good news is, Barnes & Noble (BKS) positioned the product away from the two market leaders, the Kindle (AMZN) and the iPad (AAPL). The bad news is, the Nook Color is neither an e-reader nor a full-fledged tablet, and the existence of a market between these two segments is unknown at best.
* * *
The one thing nobody has mentioned is textbooks, both at the high school and college level. Color is de rigueur for the millineals (no Kindle) but price is important too (sorry iPad). If B&N has a braincell in their body, they’ll hire a direct B2B salesforce to hit the ground January 3 to peddle the Nook Color from their600 college bookstores for on campus classroom use.
Wonder if Barnes and Noble will take West's hint.

For more info on the Nook, see Lisa Jaklitsch's article in TECHNOLOGY, "Nook: Color Version Offers Ultimate Reading Experience".

" India Stock Market Bubble ! Caveat emptor ! " warns David Hunkar...

..who points out that
India’s Sensex closed at 20,032 on Friday.This is not far from the all-time high of 20.873 reached in January 2008. During the credit crisis, the index reached a low of 8.160. In just over 18 months the index has rebounded sharply gaining over 150%.
This dramatic rise is mostly based on the assumption that the economy will grow at over 8% consistently. However, there are many external and internal factors that may put this growth rate into jeopardy. As the hot money continues to flow into the Indian markets, I believe investors need to cautious as the risks for downward movement are higher than the rewards for further rise from current levels.
I found Hunkar's last two reasons striking  :
9. The corporate debt market is almost non-existent in India. Hence companies have to raise funds either through the equity markets or banks. The lack of bond markets causes distortion in the channeling of funds from investors to companies [emphasis mine].
10. India is a debtor country and the external debt continue to rise due to lavish subsidies offered by politicians. As of October this year, external debt stood at $273.1 billion.

Silver Market Manipulation by J P Morgan and HSBC, Investor Suits Allege...

Kerri Shannon reports that the compnaies are accused of conspiring " to drive down silver prices and gain hundreds of millions of dollars on short positions."

Some excerpts  :
Speculation of market manipulation has swirled around the silver industry for years. The CFTC started investigating silver market manipulation in September 2008. It also looked into allegations earlier this year by a London trader that JPMorgan was manipulating silver trading.
The CFTC has settled more than three dozen manipulation cases in its history, but only concluded one from trial through appeal. New structuring due to financial reform has lowered the CFTC's burden of proof.
One of the most high-profile commodities cases involved the silver market, when in 1985 the CFTC accused the Hunt brothers of Texas with trying to corner the silver market in 1979 and 1980. The Hunts made large silver purchases that the CFTC said artificially drove up prices, which then plunged.
While accusations of silver price manipulation are common, lawsuits are not, according to Michael Purves, chief equity strategist at BGC Financial.

What's a 'PAYWALL' and why won't it pay off for Newspapers ?

First, , acccording to Wikipedia a paywall (or pay wall)  " blocks access to a webpage with a screen requiring payment. Web sites that use them include some owned by periodical publications."  And looking at the numbers for News Corp , Felix Salmon has plenty of company in concluding that paywalls don't pay either for Murdoch's media giant or " other media machers".

For instance, monthly pageviews at News Corp's paywall are way down, to 2.7M from 21M  million. , which is hardly going to entice media buyers to place ads there.
 With those modest numbers, there’s certainly no way that News will get any noticeable ad revenues: media buyers simply have no interest in reaching such a small audience, no matter how much information News has on exactly who they are. And certainly, as Ingram says, “the newspapers have been cut off from the news flow on the broader Internet, and the potential benefits of attracting links and commentary from other sites that could help to promote their content”.
Salmon also concludes that there's no empirical evidence that print circulation is dropping because print subscribers are happily just reading the paper online.  Not only that,
Meanwhile, a new report from Jim Chisholm demonstrates that there is no correlation at all between print circulation declines and online readership. The Daily Mail, for instance, is booming on both the website and the print-circulation fronts.

The fact is that insofar as printed newspapers compete with the web, they compete with everything on the web, not just their own sites. No general-interest publication can prevent its print circulation from declining simply by walling itself off from the web. Which is why the NYT paywall is so silly: millions of dollars in development costs, and enormous amounts of important management time, devoted to something which will probably end up grossing no more than $20 million or so a year. That compares to $78.3 million in internet advertising revenues in the last quarter alone.
In other words, News Corp and the NYT would make more $ harvesting ad revenue from free Internet views than from paywalls.

3-D TV Could be Literally Sickening, says Study, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER...

...and that's regardless of what you're watching !!!

Some excerpts :
"(3-D) has had good success in Hollywood, but whether you can translate that to cable, satellite and broadcast television has yet to be seen," Bob Seidel, vp of CBS Advanced Technology and Engineering, said during the annual SMPTE conference last week. "There's about 8%-10% of the population that can't see the 3D effect due to a lazy eye muscle; usually if the person is color blind or has any sort of lazy eye difficulty, they can't see the effect.

"There is another percentage that can develop motion sickness or other motion-related issues, and then there are some that develop headaches. What percentage still requires further research, but it could be as high as 20% (in total that would have difficulty watching 3D)."

Samsung has issued health warnings in conjunction with its 3-D TVs.
To test whether 3-D TV might distort your vision and/or warp your mind, watch  this Beyonce (or is it Rihanna ?) video.

Congrats to the San Francisco Giants

...for their well-deserved World Series victory over the Texas Rangers, and for bringing a merciful end to the tortuous 2010 Baseball Season.

Let the post-season begin !

Let the bidding for Cliff Lee commence, and let the Yankees empty Fort Knox to pay him and any other free agent they covet .

Surely $300 Million is not too much to pay for another American League Pennant, and another World Championship, is it ? On the other hand, it might be a tad pricey for an ignominious, ALCS flame-out...

Is Randy Moss a Walking Tragedy, a Conscious Agent of Catastrophe, or What ?

" Go long, Randy, like,  to Route 1... Just kidding."
Could Randy Moss, the gifted NFL Wide Receiver, be all three at once ( the third option, above, being shorthand for ' Enigma ' ) ? Or is he something less complex than that ? 

Here's my take, for what it's worth. Randy is having a king-sized mid-life crisis, the kind golden boys (and girls ) experience when they suddenly realize that their best days may well be behind them ; that the money and accolades they've received for the better part of their adult life will soon be bye-bye ; and that team-owners, coaches, team-members, media, and fans will no longer be quite so acquiescent, which is too say, inclined to put up with the crap the golden have been accustomed to bestow upon lesser beings, like it's some kind of funky largesse.

Now some guys don't deserve third, fourth, or fifth chances. I would put Manny Ramirez in that category, because (1) he quit on his team and (2) in doing so stiffed one of the nicest guys in the game, David Ortiz, out of a possible 60-tater season and (3) physically abused a team official.  On the Manny-meter, Moss is at worst a 3 of 10.  And on that basis I'd say, sure, give him another chance, so long as I'm not paying the freight,  or obliged to see him back in a Pats uni anytime soon. 
On the other hand, maybe Randy needs to sit out part of a season to get his head straight.  Which sincerely I hope he does. And that's not the football fan in me talking, either. RM is a bright, engaging (when he wants to be) guy who could do a lot of good if he set his mind to it.

Cancel the milk-carton picture-- Logan Mankin's back with the Pats

...MankinsAccording to Tim Graham of ESPN, 
Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins is about to finally sign a contract with the New England Patriots, according to multiple reports.
Mankins is expected to sign his restricted free-agent tender of $1.54 million Tuesday and report for duty.
And Ian Rapoport of the BOSTON HERALD tells us...
That Mankins will arrive in Foxboro to sign the tender is no surprise. That he is slated to walk into Gillette Stadium two weeks before the Nov. 16 deadline to earn his accrued season toward free agency is a surprise [emphasis mine].
The Patriots have not reached a long-term deal with Mankins, who has sought to be paid at a level equal to the NFL’s highest-paid guard, Jahri Evans of the Saints. It is not clear why Mankins has decided to speed up his timeline.