Tuesday, February 28, 2006

...A New Hope...

There's an interesting and unorthodox candidate running for Congress in Nevada's 3rd District. Ms. Tessa Hafen. She's a single 29 year old Democrat and an active Mormon. She'll be running against the two-term Representative Jon Porter. Congressional Quarterly rates the race as "Republican Favored" rather than "Safe Republican." Tessa's biggest liability will be her age and the current disparity in their respective campaign warchests. These are in no way insurmountable though. She's running unopposed for now, but Democratic challengers have until May 12th to file for the primary. Anyway, I say keep an eye on her.

This Week's Sign That The Apocalypse is Upon Us

Distraught over the lack of role models for America's youth? Are you bored with G.I. Joes? Hungry for more worthwhile toys that will help your kids learn about standing up for truth, honor and America's security as they play? Well has the Vicale Corporation got some action figures for you.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Proud in Virginia

Several months ago I voiced concern over an event that I claimed made me "wary of admitting where I was from." I took a lot of heat for the statement, though I think everyone has felt similarly at one point or another. Today I'd like to take the opportunity to conversely note an event that makes me proud to claim the Beehive state: The thunderous defeat of the proposed Origins of Life Bill (legislation aimed at challenging the way evolution is taught in Utah schools). Utah's House Majority Whip Steve Urquhart correctly pointed out that the issue was better suited for the scientific rather than the political arena: "We should leave this up to the State Office of Education — they've been tasked to do this, not us."

Will Wonders Never Cease

For years I've been a thorn in the side of anyone who's had the misfortune of sitting near me. They may not even know me... but give them a few minutes and they certainly will be aware of me. It's not for lack of hygiene, ostentatious apparel, or objectionable language. Rather it's the slow and steady tremor that begins to shake any proximate desk, table, chair, seat or pew. Sometimes it takes people a little while to identify the cause, but it really doesn't matter if they ever pinpoint it or not. There's nothing they could do about it anyway. My fidgety, bouncing leg will not be stopped. It's not that I haven't tried. In spite of gruelling determination on my part, it's clearly proven itself to be a lost cause. As those closest to me will attest, five minutes after I've receive 'cease and desist' glare or even a polite request, the cycle will invariably start all over again.

Why? I have no clue. I'm not a drummer, and I don't think I really fit the A.D.H.D. bill. It's just something I've always done. I had actually come to terms with it as one of my defining character traits... until now. Hope truly cometh in the morning. I was watching T.V. on Saturday at around 10am when it aired. An ad for Requip, "the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of moderate-to-severe primary Restless Legs Syndrome."

Admittedly, I'm self-diagnosing myself here, but RLS is described as
"a neurological movement condition characterized by a strong, compelling urge to move the legs, often accompanied by leg twitching," and that sounds pretty on the mark. If there's medication for this, I think I'm game. Especially considering that the tips for managing RLS include reducing both caffeine intake and stress; I'm clearly better off with the medication as I try to finish out law school... and just think how I would be redeemed in the eyes of classmates, colleagues, and even ward members! The only listed side effect seems to be drowsiness, but I figure it can't be any worse than my International Arbitration class. Oddly, the real downside for me would be if it actually worked. Without my shaking leg, I'd have nothing to distract people from my incessant sniffling.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Serenading the Supreme Court

How do you influence the make up of the U.S. Supreme Court when your party has lost the presidency and remains the minority in the Senate? Simple. You just serenade your way into the hearts of today's Justices.

Democratic Facelift

I'm all about redemption and I celebrate those who overcome grevious mistakes... but that said, the Democratic Party may want to distance itself from candidates like this as it tries to rehabilitate its own image.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Kent Update

This elaborate bank robbery in Kent, England has really captured my imagination (I tend to be a little obsessive, so it doesn't take much). As a result though, I spent most of my morning today scouring British news sites for the latest on the heist. This is what I’ve stumbled across so far:

I found I was a little imprecise in my previous post... what was robbed Wednesday morning was not a traditional bank, but actually a security depot that held old currency for the Bank of England. The depot was charged with sorting through torn or defaced bills to be taken out of circulation. Interestingly, the fact that this money has been in circulation means that it will likely be more difficult to track down because it is much less identifiable.

Yesterday’s estimate that “at least” £25 million British Pounds had been stolen has turned out to be rather conservative. Some sources now report that it's actually closer to £50 million Pounds (£1 British Pound is around $1.75 U.S. Dollars - so that is almost $87 million). This might be a thorn in the robbers’ side though, because it may end up being too much cash. The Daily Mirror quotes a former senior British officer as saying “They've bitten off more than they can chew. The case is so high profile it will be almost impossible for them to spend the money.”

There are conflicting estimates of how many people were involved, but at least six armed men wearing balaclavas were at the depot early Wednesday morning. They bound the 15 employees inside with plastic ties and had the manager, Colin Dixon, help them forklift pallets with the two tons of money into their large white truck.

The burglars then ordered Dixon not to call police for at least an hour after they left or his family would be killed. An hour later, one of the bound staff managed to break free and activate the alarm. Around the same time, the police received an anonymous phone call informing them where Dixon’s wife and son were held.

Don't you worry though, the Kent police aren't taking this lightly. It's being investigated by their “serious and organised crime unit.” Apparently “serious” is pretty good too, because today there was a “significant development” as police arrested a 29-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman in connection with the robbery. Just in case these leads dead end, police are also offering a £2 million reward for information resulting in the capture and conviction of the Kent crew.

If the £50 million estimate holds true, it makes this the biggest cash bank robbery in history. Here are the other biggest robberies (cash and other) that I’m aware of:

1963 – The Great Train Robbery: Robbers stole £2.6 million from a London mail train.

1978 – The Lufthansa Heist: Almost $6 million in cash and jewelry was stolen from the Lufthansa airlines terminal at JFK airport in New York (the heist was later depicted in the movie Goodfellas).

1983 – The East London Bank Robbery: Robbers stole almost £6 million from a Security Express depot in East London.

1983 – Brinks Mat Robbery: Six armed robbers posing as security guards got in to the Brink's-Mat high security vault at Heathrow Airport and stole £26 million in gold and diamonds.

1987 – Knightsbridge Security Deposit Robbery: Thieves looted safe deposit boxes after being shown into the vault and got away with an estimated £40 million.

1990 – Bearer Bond Mugging: Muggers stole £292million in bearer bonds at knifepoint from courier Nicholas Lane on a quiet City side street.

1997 – Dunbar Armored Robbery: Thieves made of with around $18.9 million from the armored car depot.

2003 Central Bank of Iraq: Nearly $1 billion is stolen from the Central Bank of Iraq the day after the U.S. begins to bomb Baghdad.

2004 – Belfast Northern Bank Robbery: Thieves believed to be connected to the IRA stole more than £26.5million from the headquarters of the Northern Bank.

2005 – Banco Central Burglary at Fortaleza: Burglars rented an empty property near this Brazilian bank and tunneled over 78 meters to break in underneath the bank and escape with almost $70 million.

2006 Wiltshire Robbery: A crew smashed down the perimeter fence around property tycoon Harry Hyams house and stole paintings and antiques valued at more than £30 million.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Life Imitates Art

One of the largest bank heists ever went down last night in Kent, England. The take totals more than $43 million and the police have no real leads. The craziest thing of all is how it happened. The robbers pulled the bank manager over early last night using an unmarked Volvo with a flashing blue light behind its front grill. The manager, who was convinced the men were police officers, was "arrested," handcuffed, and placed in the back of the Volvo. Simultaneously, two men kidnapped the manager's wife and son from their home, telling them that the manager had been involved in an "accident." The robbers then coerced the manager into take them to his bank in the middle of the night by threatening him at gunpoint with harm to his family. They got to the bank at 1am, tied the night shift employees up, and left just after 2am having unloaded 25 million British Pounds into a large white van.

Sound familiar? Well, it should. Bandits, a Bruce Willis film from 2001, involves just such a heist. Characters played by Willis, Troy Garity, and Billy Bob Thorton take a bank manager and his family hostage during a series of bank robberies. They rob the manager's bank the next day by coercing him to accompany them to the bank. We'll see if this UK bunch turns out to be brighter than Willis and his crew, who were ultimately turned in by a woman (Kate Blanchett) that they had befriended.

Nor is this the first time that life has imitated a movie bank job. In 1997, Larry Phillips and Emil Matasareanu, a Kevlar sporting duo armed with assault rifles and handguns, robbed a North Hollywood bank. The police responded quickly and the pair soon found themselves in a Heat style shootout as they attempted to get away; Phillips was shot 11 times and Matasareanu 29. Phillips ended up shooting and killing himself before he was apprehended, while Matasareanu surrendered to officers after stealing a truck that wouldn't start (he later died before he could receive medical attention).

What I'm really curious about in all of this is whether these bank robbers knew they were pulling a movie job. Did they study how the gigs went down on film and try to plan accordingly? They certainly seem to have covered their bases so far... and if they're the same crew that pulled this very similar $50 million job in Belfast, Ireland in 2004 (purportedly the largest bank heist ever), then they've got this racket down to a science.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Choice Quote of the Day

"Cheney has quietly figured out how to avoid answering the messy questions that are a vital part of a modern democracy. His message to the Washington press corps is the same as the one he delivered to Sen. Patrick Leahy in the Senate cloakroom, when the Democrat had the temerity to criticize him: 'Go f--- yourself.'"

- Jonathan Alter, "The Imperial Vice-Presidency" (Newsweek, February 27th, 2006)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Gettin' Your Money's Worth

Carlos Boozer







$11.33 Million


















Things You Never Wanted To Know About Larry King

Shawn Southwick King, Larry King's Mormon wife of almost 9 years, began a media blitz last month to promote her new country album In My Own Backyard (Apparently marrying ole' Larry has been more of a vehicle to her success than anyone had envisioned).

As part of this promotional tour, Shawn recently appeared on the Howard Stern show and revealed intimate details about her marriage to Mr. King that no one really wanted to know. Naturally, I felt obliged to post the highlights for you (and no... I don't have a Sirius satellite radio subsciption nor do I listen to Howard Stern. Chalk this gem up to the beauty of google news):

  • Shawn and Larry had to wait an extra six weeks after they got married to have sex because Larry was recovering from an angioplasty.
  • Don’t worry though, in spite of this little hick up, Shawn and Larry have a good sex life now. Shawn says that "Larry has this Indian costume that just drives me wild . . . I wear chaps!"
  • Surprisingly, seeing Larry naked for the first time did not startle Shawn.
  • Shawn claims that Larry has never seen her garments?!?

  • And, if you can believe it, Shawn’s father did not approve of this Howard Stern interview!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Kosher Rock

I have a new favorite artist... and he's an orthodox Jew. Move over Death Cab and Ben Folds. Make way for Matisyahu (Hebrew for “Matthew”). He’s a twenty-five year old Hasidic Reggae singer and, in the grand tradition of Bob Marley, has put the God back into Reggae (sugared up with a little touch of hip hop).

I first heard of Matisyahu last fall on NPR. I’d meant to look into him at the time, but I got lost in the Fall Interview Program whirlwind. Luckily, I’m friends with BA, who sent me selections from this Pennsylvania native’s Live at Stubbs album long after I’d forgotten all about the NPR segment. He is forgotten no longer though... Toda, Brian, toda.

Matisyahu, with his flat-brimmed hat (ala The Chosen) and that big bushy beard (ala Tevye), has now moved himself into the coveted top spot on my ipod playlist. His peppy reggae raps about HaShem, King David and Joseph of Egypt are exactly what I’d been craving; a little unorthodox "orthodox" for the soul.

Friday, February 03, 2006

EFW: Especially For Woo

As per Woo's request. Everyone who has student loans, write and thank your Congressional representatives who finally got around to passing the reconciliation bill from last year's Deficit Reduction Act! The legislation cuts among other things, 12.7 Billion from the federal student loan program. If you owe $15,000, you'll owe another $1,360 over the course 10 years... If you owe upwards of a hundred thousand like many graduate students, it's gonna' be a whole lot more than that. One would expect that a Congress intent on stimulating the economy would consider education a good investment. Apparently not though. Instead they pass the buck and essentially "raise" taxes on middle and lower class families through these cuts. Unfortunately student loans aren't the problem. This is equivalent to putting a band aid on a leg with gangrene. Add to this the fact that the Bush administration is pushing to make several tax cuts permanent and you negate any "deficit reduction" supposedly achieved by this bill and keep the federal deficit nice and ballooned (estimated by the OMB to be over $400 billion in 2016).

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Under The Gun

Sometimes I can’t figure myself out. I hate pressure… but it’s often what I need to impel myself to action. When I’m under the gun, I’m usually on task, thorough and efficient. When I’m not, results can vary. Take today for instance. I only have one class on Wednesdays; one that today I decided to skip to catch up on all of my classes from the comfort of home. I was adamant that I would rise early and jump right on my task list. Didn’t happen. I end up snoozing myself until 10 this morning. It's okay though, I still have all day you see. But first the dog must be walked and fed, the email checked, and news read. After that I have a bite to eat before I immerse myself in International Business Transactions. Once fed, I build a fire thinking it will be nice to study next to. Then the mailman shows up. Letters to read – which reminds me, did I get any new email? Okay. Serious study time now. Wait… Brian IM’d me. Better shoot the sh-t about the State of the Union address for awhile. Arrrghh… Dog has to go pee, I’ll just run him onto the front lawn and back in again. Crap! A speaker bailed on the Conference I’m planning. I really need to see about a replacement. Rob’s calling. I have to talk to him about picking him up from the airport tonight. Geez. I’m bushed. I should start condensing my notes and hit my reading, but maybe I’ll squeeze a game of Settlers first – just to clear my head of course. Dog’s by the door; didn’t I just take him out? Fire’s low. Let me get wood quick. Back to homework now. What music should I listen to while I study? Maybe there is something new on the FTP. Wow. I’m a little famished. Snack break… I’ll be quick. Oh.. and I should pay my Verizon Bill before I forget. Okay, where was I. International Business Transactions. Let me check my email fast before I get started. Damn. It’s 5pm.