Sunday, December 17, 2006


Did you see the front page? Almost 50% of the pages were ads. Perhaps the concern about the demise of the mainstream media is overblown, if they can still sell so many full page ads. Anyway, not a great day in the paper. Looks like the world is winding down for the holidays.

In the business section there is an article about old people using life insurance policies as a way to get rich. For instance, an 80 year-old buys a seven million dollar life insurance policy. He gets two million dollars from investors, and names them as the beneficiaries of the policy. The investors pay the premiums and wait for the old guy to die. Apparently Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and Warren Buffet all have "investments" in other people dying. The insurance companies hate this, although for a reason as cynical as the investors loving them. See, apparently the insurance companies bank on people paying for life insurance while they have young families, then closing the policy down when their families are grown. Out of 19.8 million policies, they actually pay on about 2 million. So, once again, the poor, poor insurance companies, who were swindling people, are now in danger of being swindled.

Second, there was a pretty scathing article about the reaction of the Transportation Security Administration to any public showing of the faults in the security system at airports. The assumption seems to be that the terrorists are unable to think creatively to thwart the security system, so in behooves us all not mention what we, as normal, non-criminals notice when we fly. This, of course, is idiotic. Kudos to those people who make public the inadequecies they discover so that TSA is forced to address them.

Third, the right is ascendant in Japan right now, and that seems to be bad news for everyone. They have apparently made the abductions in the 1970s and 1980s of Japanese citizens by North Korea the centerpiece of their campaign to get rid of the pacifist constitution, and otherwise build a more nationalistic, military Japan. While the abductions are a terrible story, this trend towards a more militant Japan may be even worse. At the end of the day, Japan is an island with a small population (compared to chief rival China), no natural resources, and surrounded by neighbors still upset about Japan's last foray into power politics. With China on the rise, it is hard to see how Japan would benefit from getting in a pissing match with the Chinese in military terms. As Admiral Yamamoto says in Tora! Tora! Tora! "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." The Japanese rightists should make sure they do not have to say that of Beijing in the future.

Fourth, the city council in Coolorado Springs has refused (again) to allow a menorah on public grounds, since it is a religious symbol. The Christmas tree next to it? That's secular. You know, for all Americans, while the menorah is foreign, and religious. Of course, as the Damned Lawyer has said before, the Christmas tree may not be "Christian" as such, but it ain't there to celebrate the secular holiday of . . . what? What other holiday would it be than the birth of Christ? Come on Colorado Springs. Put up the menorah.

Finally, the Times has an article about a man who is essentially creating a new discipline in crime solving. He is, by the way, obsessed with the statue of Blessed Ludovica Albertoni in Rome and has some interesting things to say about it. Anyway, the discipline is trying to use art history, current crime trends, psychological profiling, and an understanding of what art is where in the world to predict who would steal different art, and predict what is most at risk for being stolen. He has worked with the F.B.I., Scotland Yard, and the Italian National Police to start to develop some of the knowledge it would take to do this. Apparently you can't just go to Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones and demand the art back.


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