Thursday, January 31, 2008

Money - Brilliance and Stupidity

Logic and Illogic

Why didn't I think of that? Today's local newspaper's editorial page had a letter from Las Vegan Bob Hartman. I don't know him, how long he has been in Las Vegas, or anything else about him but I tip my mortarboard to him. Hartman came up with a suggestion to address the budget shortfall in Nevada. As he puts it, "This may be too simple for the Legislature and governor..."

But before we reveal this brilliant plan, let me refresh your memory. Last week the projected budget shortfall was put at $ 564 million. Others have projected less, but let's take that figure.
The Guv has proposed cutting budgets by some 8 percent. That includes budgets of K-12 schools which are already in the bottom 10% in the nation in funding. It also includes cuts to Health and Human Services and Higher Education, both of which are severely underfunded like K-12. Total cuts just among those three entities exceeds $ 231 million plus the loss of another $ 40 million in federal matching funds to HHS if budgets are reduced.

The Guv has refused to raise taxes, has ignored suggestions to tap the "rainy day fund" and has ignored other suggestions. Hartman suggests adding on a $ 1.00 per night surcharge for every room rented. With a statewide room count of about 130,000 and 90% occupancy, the surcharge would yield nearly $ 43 million in a year. A $ 2.00 surcharge would yield nearly $ 86 million. My vote for State Budget Director goes to Mr. Hartman.

NCAA pretends to come clean: We have railed against the NCAA and their predatory practices against athletes in the past. College athletes, especially in the so-called revenue-generating sports of football and basketball are too often Gladiators courted by schools more concerned with the bottom line than the academic best interest of the athlete. The indentured servitude lasts for four or five years during which time an NCAA violation occurs if a scholarship athlete accepts a free t-shirt, meal, or any other so-called "extra benefit" not available to the student body in general.

The payoff for the athlete, says the NCAA is a college degree which is earned in many cases by fewer than half of the Gladiators. The NCAA lives in grand style off the spoils produced by the Gladiators. Plush offices and frequent travel to meetings, fine food in only the best hotels are but a few of the perks enjoyed by NCAA members. TV contracts, licensing agreements and bowl payouts provide hundreds of millions of dollars to NCAA schools and administrations. Coaches earn millions. Players earn peanuts.

A teeny-weeny pushback occurred when four athletes filed a class action lawsuit. But the NCAA, fearing a lawsuit might bring further scrutiny agreed to a settlement of $ 10 million - a drop in the bucket compared to revenue produced by the athletes. NCAA sources show revenue of
$ 564 million for the 2006-07 year. Each of the five BCS Bowl games paid out $ 17 million. The NCAA got off easy. I can hardly wait for the next class action.

A little blogging music maestro.... "Money for Nothing," by Dire Straits.

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Behind the Headlines

Las Vegas Hip, Hip, Hype

Home sales in the toilet: I don't blame the pundits, headline writers, and analysts, really I don't. They have to produce something that will attract people so their ratings increase so more advertisers can be attracted to pay higher prices for ads. What makes the whole engine run is that naive and lazy readers of and listeners to the headline writers and media pundits. Recent surveys show that a shocking number of people get their news from comedy and satirical news shows. Most people do not take the time to investigate or research on their own.That is why we get exactly the political leadership we deserve.

A recent headline shouted that a study shows homes still unaffordable. The implication from the headline is that homes are affordable by only a few. But homes are still affordable. Ok, perhaps the zero down loans for 105% of the appraised value no longer exist. It might take a family a while longer to save up for a 10% down payment on a home, but the market is flush with good deals.

Another recent headline bemoaned, "Five percent unemployment highest in years." Hello! It does not take a Phi Beta Kappa math major to subtract five from 100% and determine that the corollary of the headline is that 95% of the work force is not unemployed.

A third headline shrieks, "Foreclosure filings soar during '07," citing a report that shows 3.7% of houses in Nevada received foreclosure notices in 2007. Despite the fact that receiving a notice does not necessarily mean foreclosure will automatically follow (intermediate steps can often be taken), even at face value of the headline, the converse is that 96.6% of Nevada houses did not receive foreclosure notices.

In fairness, some good news was squeezed in among the fear mongering. Retail development "continued to flourish" according to another article. The number of hotel rooms continues to grow as does tourism.

So do your own homework. Don't copy the answers from somebody else because that person has his own TV program or writes about economics. Plenty of research is available. Remember, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. You can lead a man to knowledge but you cannot make him think.

A little blogging music Maestro... George Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So," from Porgy and Bess.

Dr. Forgot

Hungry Candidates Await Supper Tuesday

Ambivalent Politicos? Yes and No

And Then There Were None: Mystery writer Agatha Christie created a classic with "And Then There Were None," later done as a play and renamed "Ten Little Indians." The play begins with 10 people in an island with each one being taken out of the picture according to a nursery rhyme. The play reminded me of this year's presidential race. With apologies to Dame Christie we will attempt to describe such an occurrence in our own play, "Ten Little Candidates."

Ten Little Candidates going out to dine
One lost his Keyes and then there were nine.

Nine Little Candidates running state to state
Gravel ran out of money and then there were eight.

Eight little candidates praying unto heaven
Mike got the word and then there were seven.

Seven little candidates doing campaign tricks
Rudy got the bootie and then there were six.

Six little candidates trying to revive
Lawyer John lost his case and then there were five.

Five little candidates knocking on the door
Looks like Ron Paul's demise will leave only four.

Four little candidates, two on either side
Upon which one's shoulders will the presidency ride?

The one little candidate that history will remember
Will not be revealed until next November.

A little blogging music Maestro...."Gone, gone, gone" by the Everly Brothers.

Dr. Forgot

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Marx's Tomb. A Communist Plot

Sunnyday Tuesday in Sunshine State

El Primerio - Fighting it out in Florida: Today is the day that Rudy Guiliani will find out if his battle plan worked. Like the beggar who asked for $ 500 for a cup of coffee, Rudy decided to put all his begs into one ask-it. Senator McCain is basking in the limelight of having received the endorsement of the Guv. Pundits say that gives him the battle but not the war - yet. Mut the Good Guv Mitt is not ready to be smit by the McCain machine. His pundits say the race is a dead heat. If they tie, it is going to be interesting to see how the 57 Florida delegates will be split. In the back of the voting classroom Rudy and Rev. Huckabee are doing their best Horschak imitation of "Me, me me. Pick me!" We will bring you the results in tomorrows post.

Democratic Faux Pas? The Dems have certainly had a quiver-full of Florida frustrations from hanging chads in 2000 to touch screen fiascoes in 2004. So what is their strategy this year in the fourth most populous state with oodles of big money donors? They play hooky. The DNC punished Florida for moving its primary to January 29. But the spanking backfired as it left the Republican candidates almost unlimited free airtime the week before Super Tuesday. That showed those nasty little Florida legislators. Note to the DNC: Can you say, "Ready, Fire, Aim?"

Top of the Monte Carlo Conversation: We reported yesterday that workers would try to begin to repair fire damage to the Monte Carlo despite high winds. Instead we are imagining a conversation between a couple of rooftop construction workers that may have gone: Worker 1: Windy, ain't it? Worker 2: No, it's colder than Thursday. Worker 1. Me too. Lets get a hot cup of Joe. Work will begin in earnest today.

Bits of tid: This is a new segment of our posting. We will occasionally provide a gaggle of activities and happenings. Are you strapped in? That "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On" in the Lake Tahoe area was not Jerry Lee Lewis. A 3.2 temblor hit the Incline Village area yesterday. One finger salute from the auto dealer who wants to fly an oversize flag on an oversized pole. City fathers say, "No, no." Car dealer says, "Watch this!" That white stuff on Mt. Charleston is legal. Sixteen inches of snow fell in the mountains around Las Vegas this weekend. Snow bunnies are delighted. Of course the curmudgeons say, "The more snow, the more opportunities for avalanches. Right. And the more rain the more opportunities for drowning.

A little blogging music Maestro... "Going Out of My Mind"

Dr. Forgot

Monday, January 28, 2008

Everything in Moderation. Even Moderation

Everything You Wanted to Know

Equal rights; Equal justice: Life just isn't always fair. Take for instance the penalty for dognapping in Virginia - a felony that can result in up to 10 years in the hoosegow. But steal a cat (would that be a cat nap?) and the penalty is but a misdemeanor. Local politicians are up in arms, er, paws about the discrepancy. The proposal has been dubbed, "Ernie's law" after Ernie the kitten that was stolen from the SPCA. At this writing we're not sure if the law will pass or if it will be scratched. But we do know that being in the doghouse means trouble but being in the.... well, you get the idea.

Off-Strip dining elegance: Last night we attended a birthday dinner way off the Las Vegas Strip. A recently-opened restaurant called Six Tables is on Lake Mead and Rampart, about as far away from the strip as one can get. But it is somethingt new for Las Vegas - elegant and upscale with a strong European flavor. Six tables is the maximum that will be seated at any given time and only one seating per night - 7:00 p.m. Las Vegans are nortorious for arriving fashionable late but Chef Roland tells us they're getting there on time. A full course meal with no microwave preparation. A two hour dinner. No need to fight the tourists. How much better can it get?

Nothing is guaranteed but death and taxes: Take actor Wesley Snipes. Ok, if you don't take him the government might. The feds are sniping at the actor for no other reason than he stopped paying his income taxes. Oh, yes, he also demanded $ 11 millon in taxes that he'd already paid. Who does this guy think he is, Halliburton? Prosecutors ask that if he likes the number 11, how does he feel about 16? That is the number of years he could serve if convicted.

Windy with a chance of cleanup: Today's weather in Las Vegas emulates some politicians - blowhard. When the winds blow the cradle might fall but hundreds of cleanup workers put on their longjohns and gear up to clean up the Monte Carlo after the fire. The 2,400 guests, all of whom were relocated to rooms in other hotels where the smoke did not get in their eyes, have mostly left Las Vegas. Employees of the hotel are at this writing drawing their full salaries. Some have been asked to participate in cleanup efforts and the others are asked to check a hotline number daily. A tip of the hat to the Monte Carlo and owners MGM-Mirage for their class in handling of this event.

Politics ala Republican: As candidates get ready for the opening bell in the Florida primary the M&M boys, Mitt and McCain, continue their slugfest for position while Rudy must be asking himself, "Is anybody out there listening to me?" Rudy's strategy was like a marathon runner who did not start the race until the rest of the pack was five miles down the road. Meanwhile, back at the boxing ring Senator McCain accused Mitt of having a plan for troop removal. Mitt got so angry he said, "You, you... are being dishonest!" Wow. That should put the Arizonan in his place.

Politics ala Democrat: Hillary and Bill, who have been doing their best Billary campaign performance, walked directly into a haymaker from left field. Call it the Kennedy Krunch. Sunday's media told of Caroline's support letter for Senator Obama, then today Teddy and Patrick of the Kennedys announced their Barack support as well. Senator Clinton will take a standing eight count while her corner's cutman wipes the blood from her scorecard. Between rounds, from now until Tuesday her camp will try to figure out a strategy to overcome today's blow.

A little blogging music Maestro... "Not Ready to Make Nice," by the Dixie Chicks.

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Out of My Mind. Back Shortly

Rain and Other Poppycock

It never rains in California: But it rains regularly in Las Vegas - a couple of times in January, once or twice in February, then a few sprinkles every 90 days or so until the annual 3.75" rainfall has been reached. In some respectable communities near Seattle, Dallas, or Pittsburgh, that 3.75" can fall in hours. When it rained in Las Vegas in the old days there would be gully washers as the high points in the west part of the valley saw water cascading to the lower parts of the east valley and on to Lake Mead. Caesars Palace parking lot was built in the midst of one of the gullys and cars used to float from one side to the other and under the Strip. But flood control ruined all that and catch basins now deny current generations the thrill of watching the desert floods.

Prop up the Super Bowl betting: Betting purists look down their noses at prop or proposition bets - bets on obtuse kinds of things associated with the big games such as who might win the coin toss, who will get the first first down, longest pass completion, reception, run from scrimmage, etc. But bets on the offbeat and simple kinds of things that can happen in a game have brought thousands of new bettors to the windows of the casinos. A person doesn't have to have an intimate knowledge of the game to understand the longest pass or run play. As for me, I'm still not sure if inside linebackers play indoors and outside linebackers play outdoors. But I have a prop bet: I'll bet that the Monte Carlo casino and sports book gets reopened in time to bet on the Super Bowl.

Vote for Hardy. That's Party Hardy: Local city council members might be described like an Italian mushroom. There's many a "fun-guy" among them. The local Sun newspaper did an 18-month review of the spending habits of what wacky Latin might describe as "politicus spendus." Special event spending prizes go to Steven Ross, Lois Tarkanian, and Gary Reese led the pack of spending on items such as hula dancers, candy bars beach balls and dog treats to the tune of over $ 150,000. That should make taxpayers roll over and play dead. The story also revealed that Hizzoner the mayor spent a paltry two grand on such silliness. So much for his reputation as a big time party mayor.

Swing and a miss: A local attorney who bills himself as "The Heavy Hitter" on his local promos is about to strike out in the eyes of the judicial system. Barrister Glen Lerner missed the first day of his client's murder trial last week. The heavy hitter was not exactly in the training room getting his ankles taped for the national pastime, he was instead on "sabbatical" in Pennsylvania. He muffed his line drive as though it were a blooper to the infield. Talk about mixed metaphors. The umpire, er, judge, in this case, Michelle Leavitt, has not ruled if his excuse was fair or foul, but it is clear that the barrister is not batting a thousand on this field. Was his move a balk? We will let you know the score as soon as it comes in.

A little blogging music Maestro.... perhaps a few bars of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Monte Carlo - Money to Burn

Saturday's Leftovers

Meanwhile, back at the post: When we last met you, during the day of yester, the fire at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas blazed, the sky was falling, and plenty of tourists and locals were running around trying to get the best shot of the flames for posterity or to sell to Fox news or both. A fisheye look at some of the events that surrounded Blazing Battles follow.

First things first: The instant it was determined that an emergency existed, highly trained Monte Carlo employees flew into action starting with casino employees who battened down the hatches - which is to say they secured the moolah. Maids, security, and others who were on various floors went door to door knocking and opening to be sure all were being evacuated. Factoid: it is believed that at any given time some 20% of the hotel guests are asleep in this 24-hour town.

Shoo, shoo, all of you: Once the hotel was cleared of guests employees exited the property and effectively turned it over to the professionals - firefighters, police, and journalists. The firefighters from Fire Station #11 just down the street (Strip) arrived first, right at 11:00, along with police who were on routine patrol in the area. Since the hotel had been about 90% occupied including Miss America pageant contestants, several journalists from around the world happened to be there. Within minutes the local TV and radio stations as well as CNN, Fox News, and other national outlets were abuzz with "Fire in Las Vegas."

Obligatory coverage: Since it had a slow news day, the electronic equivalent of "EXTRA, EXTRA!" resonated throughout the airwaves and helicopter shots were followed by i-reporters shots and the airwaves were inundated with the story, giving TV its biggest boost since the writers strike began. This looked to be a really, really big story. Except that the fire burned itself out in a couple of hours without serious injury or loss of life - in fact no rooms were damaged, only the sign and facade on the roof. But coverage continued with some clever angles. A bride whose wedding dress was inside the hotel, birthday and anniversary celebrants who had partied all night and just gotten to bed, housekeepers who knocked on doors, and others who in the "Where were you when..." interviews made for excellent post-fire coverage.

Could have been worse: As the interviews waned the obligatory comparisons with former fires began to take over - the big one at the MGM Grand (now Ballys) in 1980 that killed 87 followed a few months later by and arson fire at the Hilton that killed 8 (the arsonist was convicted and sentenced to 8 life terms) and how changes have been made in high rise fire safety.

Bottom line: at this juncture it looks like Monte Carlo employees, firefighters, police all rehearsed and did their jobs well preventing any serious injuries. All guests were relocated and life in Las Vegas is back to abnormal.

A little blogging music Maestro...this will have to be Jerry Lee Lewis "Great Balls of Fire!"

Dr. Forgot

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday's Follies

The Week in Review

Gore Invented the Internet. Quayle did the Spellcheck: Politics continue to run rampant and will continue to do so. Today's chatter is full of the Dems in South Carolina and Repubs two states further south in Florida. The bickering among candidates and between parties has been going at a fever pitch. Hillary and Barrack diss each other to the point that Uncle John scolds them. On the other side of the wannabe aisle "Straight Talk John, zaps Amen Huck, who pings Mormon Mitt, who belittles Rugged Rudy who dumps on Rally-round-me Ron who pounds the policies of George who isn't even in the race.

Each candidate spends plenty of time degrading their opponents views then a little time defending their own platform. With so many contradicting charges and defenses, somebody has to be stretching the truth. The whole series of misstatements, spins, and untruths remind me of a quote from physician and writer John Arbuthnot whose life straddled the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, "Political parties die from swallowing their own lies." Perhaps we are seeing two parties choking on their own pablum. It might be time for a third or even fourth party to enter the fray. Could something be Blooming in New York?

Bring back the good old days: Three cheers for Terry Caudill. For those who are able to remember Downtown's Glitter Gulch in the days when most casinos were owned by locals who spent much of their time on site, things are reverting. Caudill is a homey. A UNR grad who worked as a keno runner and craps dealer. Keno running literally takes place on the ground floor. His mix of formal education and OJT makes him a good bet to add former King Benny Binion's place to his deck of Queens. Terry, owner of the Four Queens was recently cleared to be the owner of Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel.

Union's dilemma: The local unions will have to practice their tightrope walking. Revenue to state tax coffers are as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard. The Sir Gibbons the Guv has proposed cuts in all state budgets, resulting in a howl from those who feel the squeeze. The Guv pulled an ace from his sleeve and signed an executive order that repealed the use of project labor agreements, or PLAs. The agreements are agreements between public agencies and unions that effectively give the unions contracts that guarantee wages and benefits. Think pre-emptive no-strike. The union dilemma? Let the work go to non-union contractors and save the state millions, or insist on a hit and hope they don't bust.

THIS JUST IN... As we create today's post word comes that the top four floors of the Monte Carlo Hotel are on fire. The 32-story hotel that accommodates some 3,000 guests is ablaze. At this writing there are no reports of injuries or deaths. We will update you in tomorrow's post.

Dr. Forgot

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Button Up Your Overquote

Who Said That?

Las Vegas is a city like no other. One of my favorite quotes about Las Vegas came from Johnny Carson who described the homey atmosphere as: "Beneath all that phony glitter and tinsel you'll find real honest-to-God glitter and tinsel." Las Vegas was little more than a way station for the railroad between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles until gaming was legalized. Legend has it that when the proposal went before the legislature to legalize gaming crafters of the bill decided it would be more palatable if gaming revenues went to a good cause so they included a provision that a good portion of the gaming revenue go to education. As the story goes, a couple of little old elected officials from the cow counties said, "We don't need your dirty money educating our kids." And that portion of the bill was struck. Truth or fiction? No matter. One can only imagine the research centers that would exist today in Nevada had it been so.

Stephen Alan Wynn was born a Connecticut Yankee in the midst of World War II. A good enough student to get into Penn, he earned a degree with a major in English Literature. He took over the family bingo parlor business and parlayed that into an interest in the Frontier hotel then the Golden Nugget downtown, which he transformed into a 4-diamond resort. From there it was the Mirage, Treasure Island, and Bellagio and finally the Wynn. He waxed eloquent as the English major he was when he said, "Las Vegas is sort of how God would do it if he had money."

Chuck Palahnuik was born on the opposite side of the country - Pascoe, Washington. He wrote, among other horror and fiction stories, "Fight Club." Chuck agrees with Mr. Wynn's assessment of Las Vegas with his own slant, "Las Vegas looks the way you must imagine heaven looks at night."

Each quote above has included an allusion to Deity or heaven. Although the Valley of the Dollars is said to have more churches per capita than casinos, the religious comments are not restricted to holy places. Comments such as "Oh God!" and "Oh my God," can be heard in casinos after a jackpot, after losing big on the tables, and even in the bridal suites.

Others marvel at what was built in soil that could not grow a decent crop. Comic Jason Love once remarked, "Las Vegas has all the amenities of a modern society in a habitat unfit to grow a tomato."

We could not conclude without a quote from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" author Hunter S. Thompson, "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

Finally, in keeping with the religious theme, journalist David Lamb has a more portly perspective, "Las Vegas is the world capital of obesity. You can buy candy by the yard or the bucket at the Candy Jar in town, and there are more fat people here at any one time than there are Muslims in Mecca."

A little blogging music Maestro... ah the strains of Elvis singing "Viva Las Vegas."

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Liars, Damn Liars, and Politicians

Summary to Date

Liar, Liar, Iraqi Fire: The problems keep adding up for the current administration. A study by two non-profit journalism organizations reported the Bush White House told more than a few little white lies about Iraq in the two years after 9/11. Of the 935 false statements by the Decider, the Vice Decider, and top level staff, 532 untruths stated that Iraq had WMDs, was trying to produce them, or had links to al-Qaeda. It worked.

Poor Dennis Kucinich: He has been running for the presidential nomination consistently slightly below none of the above. He has been treated worse than Rodney Dangerfield while seeking respect. Last week prior to the Las Vegas Democratic caucus DK was invited to be one of the four candidates to grace the Cashman Center stage. But a funny thing happened to the long shot from Ohio on his way to the debate - he was, as the Country and Western song says, "stepped on, lied to, cheated on and treated like dirt." Master debater NBC (Nothing But Caucuses) decided that three on a match played better than a foursome so they shoved the Ohio odd man out.

DK cried, "Foul" and on Debate Eve stepped to the legal free throw line - the court system. But the case landed in the lap of a missing judge - one who has been suspended because she asked her bailiff to rub her sore feet and other stupid stuff for a judge to do. The case went to a substitute judge who had been whistled into the courtroom for the day. But Judge Sub was in a hurry to get to his real courtroom so an hour and a half after DK filed his suit Judge Sub sat patiently for 20 minutes and told (NBC) Never Bank on Courts it had to let the gentleman from Ohio orate. When the sun next rose on the Valley of the Dollars the state Supreme Court upset the applecart and overturned the hasty pudding judges decision. Solon Kucinich sat out the debate and must have been Nothing But Crushed.

Some Caucus Slobs: The at large sites that were set up at hotels on and near the Strip got most of the publicity but the caucus was held mostly at schools. The Clark County School District did their part for democracy by allowing 258 local schools to be used as sites. For the most part the caucus goers followed the school rules, but one group put themselves at risk of being suspended until their parents could come in and meet with the principal. Some might have put on restriction for the rest of their lives plus two weeks. Caucus goers in one upscale community ignored agreed upon rules that forbid campaign signs from being affixed or stuck in the ground, food being eaten in classrooms and, well you remember the rules. Cleanup will cost an estimated $ 100 grand which the school district plans to bill the organizers.

Fiscal Health of Health Care Group: A couple of decades ago a group of local doctors, fed up with health care system red tape, decided to start their own. The health services group grew and thrived as the entire Valley of the Dollars did for many years. They became so attractive that a national group decided to buy the locals. The national group is in the midst of consummating the deal when they stated their fourth quarter earnings. They had their worst fourth quarter in over a decade - a mere $ 1.22 billion in net income. Things are tough all over.

A little blogging music Maestro... "Crazy Times" by Gene Vincent.

Dr. Forgot

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More on the Raucous Caucus

Hail Caesars and Other Hotels

We referred in a previous post to the "Bacchus Caucus," as sites were approved in Caesars Palace as well as several other on and off-Strip hotel locations. The purpose was for the Democratic party to get more people involved in the election process and did it ever! Latest estimates were that more than 116,000 caucused for their candidates including many registered Republicans and Independents who registered as Democrats for the day. Analysts wonder at the long term impact the numbers might have, especially of those registered Republicans who would rather switch than fight. Will they vote for the party of the switch, or did they get caught up in the euphoria of a rare caucus in Nevada?

Another interesting phenomenon of the statewide caucus is the number of rural voters who tossed their support to the Obama camp rather than the Clinton camp. The mining and ranching counties are meager in population compared to Clark and Washoe counties, and are historically Republican dominated, yet in nine of 14 of those counties Obama was a decisive winner. That helped to give him the edge in delegates even though Senator Clinton won the popular vote - a fact that made some Democrats shudder as they reflected over a similar phenomenon that occurred in the Gore/Bush election of 2000.

Is Billy a bully? After the Iowa primary in a state that has been described as "the whitest place outside the North Pole" gave Senator Obama the nod over Senator Clinton, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard from the Clinton camp and seen in interviews - mostly through the pipeline of the media and talk show pundits. Republicans sat up and took notice as they had for years been preparing a campaign against the former first lady - to keep Bill from becoming the country's main man. The gloves came off in the Clinton camp and Sexy Ex-Prexy Bill became a player (although many felt he had been a player for some time). The result was two consecutive Hillary victories.

But some say that the country's ex had no business providing "Give me a break" and other critical soundbites. Regardless of what else Exy Prexy might be he is a strong campaigner. That much was evidenced in Las Vegas when he relentlessly sought as much back-of-the-house access to employees as he could get in an effort to blunt the culinary support of Obama. And it worked. Although Hillary supporters railed against the Strip caucus sites because they were seen as strengthening the Obama endorsement, she won the popular vote at nearly every site.

Four years ago the Demos were barely able to eke out 10,000 folks to caucus. This time 116,000 showed including as many as 40,000 new registrations, The large numbers also brought plenty of complaints about the mechanics of the caucus. Long lines, early door closures, and jeering of the opposing candidates were but a few of the complaints. Party leaders saw the glitches as the result of a good thing - the large number of potential voters. Will the excitement hold? Time will tell.

A little blogging music Maestro... Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time."

Dr. Forgot

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sex Between the Bushes

The Morning After

We have the luxury to look at the current political scene with an eye on the funnybone and our tongue firmly planted in our cheek. We're not alone. A pundit once described the Clinton White House years as "Sex between the Bushes." Since our musical and theatric puns have received considerable feedback, today's lesson will continue the irreverence and describe the Democratic race in terms of song and play titles by Simon and Garfunkel and Shakespeare with a pinch of Goldsmith. Certainly what is happening politically could only happen in America (Simon and Garfunkel).

The Nevada caucus looked to be a Hillary lock, then Obama got the endorsement of the powerful Culinary Union and the Bill and Hill push back began. Some from the Obama camp described the push back and her ultimate victory as She Stoops to Conquer (Oliver Goldsmith). But the Clinton campaign denied any chicanery and insisted that Senators Clinton and Obama are simply Old Friends (Simon and Garfunkel) who simply misunderstood one another.

Bill and Hill campaigned hard in Nevada as Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare) and Senator Clinton expressed her qualifications with Tales From New York (Simon and Garfunkel). After the roar of the caucus crowds both candidates were happy to get back to their families and enjoy some Sounds of Silence (S&G).

What started as A Midsummer Night's Dream (the other Bill) for the Senator from Illinois has become a campaign trail that would turn any novice into The Graduate (S&G). Meanwhile the Clintons continue to campaign as Bookends (Simple Simon and Art). Both candidates beat the drum of needed change, describing the current administration's policies as The Comedy of Errors (Bill the writer, not Bill the lover) and both claim their candidacy is a Bridge Over Troubled Waters (SG) that will bring stability in Washington. Fortunately the criticism of the current administration did not receive the same reaction as did the Spice Girls Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (Paul and Art). According to the gospel of Hillary, It Takes A Village. It is her hope that her votes do not come from A Deserted Village (Goldsmith).

There are many caucuses and primaries to go before the nominations at the conventions. It might come to pass that The Winter's Tale was Much Ado About Nothing (WS&WS). Both candidates will plan strategies late into the night Wednesday Morning 3 a.m. (Wild Hair and Garfunkel) and both hope their nomination will be As You Like It (Bard).

A little blogging music Maestro, Let's do that oldie "The Race is On" by Dave Edmunds.

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Who Can? Republican. Who's That Democrat?

And the winner is:

At this writing with nearly 100% of the precincts reporting in Nevada, the local Republicans have spoken. Ant the word uttered from most of the Republican lips rhymes with hit, what is what John McCain and the other Republican hopefuls took from Mitt Romney. While some pundits and pollsters predicted McCain and Huckabee running stronger, that shows their failure to become acquainted with Nevada culture.

Nevada has a large contingent of well educated, well organized, politically savvy Mormons, many of whom blatantly support their favorite son, Mitt Romney. Similar demographics exist in Wyoming a state Mitt also left smiling. But another unmentioned factor exists among Nevada voters - they don't like John McCain. He has railed against legal gambling and supported measures detrimental to the gaming industry. Although McCain is from a neighboring state, he is viewed as not a friend of Nevada. That could explain his third place finish behind the prodigal and "Who the Heck is Ron Paul."

Many pundits felt Fred Thompson would do better than a tie with Huckabee since he is in the entertainment business. Huckabee's showing did not surprise many. While Nevada is generally conservative politically, it is not evangelical. Finally, Rudy Guiliani whose face was on everybody's TV screen in the 9/11 aftermath barely eked out a few more votes than Duncan Hunter - who many voters thought was a cake mix.

The Democrat caucuses were significant if for no other reason that ten to 15 times as many showed up to caucus as in 2006. Not so surprising is that the pollsters and pundits got it wrong again. While they predicted a Hillary victory, the margin of victory over Obama was predicted at ten-15 points. It turned out to be barely a five point victory, and that is with the Clinton campaign pulling out all stops and former President Clinton stumping for his wife at virtually every Strip hotel. The two front runners garnered 96% of the votes between them. Running a far distant third was Senator Edwards who received a mere four percent, and Dennis Kucinich who came in below "none of the above."

Pundits who felt Edwards would do better in Nevada now say he could still play a significant role as king-maker depending on which candidate he eventually throws his support behind. That is, of course, assuming his star does not rise again among the forty-some states that are left to decide who will be the candidate of choice going into the fall elections.

A little blogging music Maestro... the old Dixie standard, Race Track Boogie."

Dr. Forgot

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Bacchus Caucus at Ceasars

Walk Us To The Caucus

If there is one thing the Nevada Democratic caucus has done it is to raise awareness about the political process on both sides of the aisle. Prior to this election the avreage culinary worker, I daresay, thought a caucus was some sort of food preparation. Even among those not of the culinary union ilk the very word caucus sounded odd. But thanks to the teachers union the term will forever be ingrained in our lexicon.

A bit of Democratic Nevada Caucus history: Last May it was determined that at-large caucuses would be held for those who worked on caucus day and be otherwise unable to caucus in their assigned locations - which are based on one's residence. It would be not unlike allowing 1950s auto workers in Detroit to caucus in auto plants or steel workers in Pittsburgh to caucus in steel mills. The largest group of unionized workers in Nevada is the Culinary Union. The plan was reviewed and approved in October and nine Strip area hotels were identified to make time and space available for culinary workers. So far so food.

Then a fly landed in the ointment. The culinary union decided to endorse Senator Obama. Shortly thereafter the Nevada state teacher's union, which leans toward Hillary, decided that at-large caucus sites on the Strip were inappropriate since other employee groups were not given the same option. The culinary union retorted that the vast majority of union workers who would be employed during the Saturday caucus were culinary workers employed on the Strip and therefore the at-large sites were justified. Others claimed the timing of the protest came only after culinary made their endorsement. The teachers union filed a lawsuit to block the at-large sites. A federal judge denied the suit. Score: Waiters 1, Teachers 0.

But the teachers union and other Clinton supporters might get the last laugh as they prepare for a Sunday chant of, "No more caucus, no more cooks, no more culinary sassy looks." Pollsters have projected that despite the Culinary Union endorsement Senator Clinton is projected to carry 41% of the Nevada Democratic voters to Senator Obama's 32%. And we all know how accurate the pollsters can be.

As for John Edwards, who continues to Show in the presidential horse races, it will be interesting to see who he will support once he wakes up and smells the Starbucks, and realizes that his biggest bargaining ship will come in the form of his endorsement.

A little blogging music Maestro, let's hear the Minutemen do, "This Ain't No Picnic."

Dr. Forgot

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bozo the Clone

Much Ado About Nibbles

Was it a slow news day? Did media members need a break from cock-eyed caucuses, presumptuous primaries, Hillary's pillories, Barack's background, John, Fred, and Rudy's beauties, and Mitt's millions? Did the pundits exceed their limit of 3,750 usages of the word "Kumbaya?" Was it a plot to take our minds off the economy, or the war? Whatever the reason, all three major networks, their cable affiliates, and a plethora of pundits focused on... food from cloned animals.

Oh the worry, the fear. Imagine, if you would, drinking milk from cloned cows, or chocolate milk from cloned brown cows. Might you one day be served a Clone Bone instead of a T-bone steak? Will a rib-eye become a rib-eye of the test tube? Will a flank become a clank? Tri-tip to tube tip? Will the home on the range become home to Frankensteer? The possibility of cloned meat coming to a grocery store near you brings a whole new meaning to "Make me a ham sandwich."

Ever since the announcement that Dolly the Lamb was cloned (The Dolly Lamba?) a whole new set of fears entered the milieu of the paranoids. A quick Google check of the term "cloned meat" brought up dozens of news stories, all from different sources, all released the same day, all including the words "clone" and "safe." Think there might be a message somebody is trying to get out?

Despite the fact that the electronic age of media has brought much more news to the average household, it has also brought plenty of misinformation. That is due in part of the need for a 10-second sound bite that reporters use to try to summarize a story, and the "new" twists on stories to keep them interesting to keep the attention of the audience. Let's take a look at some of the facts of cloning.

Cloning foods is not new. It takes about 30 years to breed a banana from seed . To speed the process scientists have been cloning for decades. Using the term "vegetative propagation" (less scary than cloning I guess) most apples, pears, bananas, potatoes, and grapes that you eat are clones. Frogs have been cloned since the 1950s. Some endangered species have been cloned to save them from extinction.

Picture the farm scene 20 or 30 years in the future: a youngster says, "Mom, this milk tastes funny." Mom responds, "Of course it does, Dear. That milk is not from Elsie the cow, it came from Bozo the clone."

A little blogging music Maestro... the twisted version from Sondheim, "Send in the Clones."

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Year of the Cat

One Life, Maybe Two

They say a cat has nine lives. But this cat - or more correctly, catalytic converter, has one for sure but maybe two. The catalytic converter is a device under your car. In all likelihood you have never seen it. It makes its best efforts to return the atmosphere back to the days when air was clean and sex was dirty and polluting cars were not a problem. The feds mandate the device to be attached to every car and it has been so attached since for the past thirty-plus years.

Pretty boring so far, huh? In order for your car to purr cleanly the cat is comprised of, among other things, precious metals - as in platinum, palladium, and rhodium which collectively sell for well over $ 8,000 PER OUNCE! And what happens as the value of the dollar drops as it has been doing for months? The value of precious metals skyrockets. And that makes the catalytic converters great for recycling. Are you starting to hear the magic words, "Here kitty, kitty, kitty?"

Where does one take a hot cat for a cool payoff? the same place copper thieves take stolen copper that has been ripped out everything from street lamps to air conditioning units - any recycling center. Word on the street is that each one of the metal felines brings between $ 100 and $ 200. Let's see, it takes any old drugged up hippie 10 minutes or so to remove the device. A practiced thief with a portable battery-powered saw can have one gone in 60 seconds. Thieves can live pretty well working part time.

What of the hapless car owner? Costs up to a couple of grand to get the meow back on your motor. So who wins? Crooks and recyclers. Who loses? Individuals - simply for the deductible if they are insured, but for the whole ball of platinum if they are not, and insurance companies. And who gets to pay the additional cost of insurance because of the rash of thefts of these little kittens? You and me.

Law enforcement folks tell us that SUVs, 4-Runners, and other trucks that sit high are most vulnerable to the converter thefts since they sit high off the ground making it easier for a thief to slip underneath and do the dirty deed. The problem is not unique to Las Vegas. The blog has more than 250 stories of such thefts - and that is only one board! The answer is not in locking or otherwise protecting the device, as that is next to impossible. Even if your car is equipped with an alarm it is unlikely that it would be tripped as the two unkind cuts are made to allow for removal.

The solution is stricter enforcement of the recycle yards. Require a photo and thumbprint for every sale. As for punishment of both the catalytic converter and copper thieves? I haven't decided whether capital punishment is appropriate - but then my cat has not yet been stolen (as far as I know).

A little blogging music Maestro... "Steal My Heart Away," by Van Morrison.

Dr. Forgot

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Play's The Thing

Shakespeare 102

After being inundated with emails and calls we agreed that in the interest of fairness and equal time, the Republican primary in Michigan must also be set to the tongue-in-cheek twists of the Bard. The scene in Hamlet Act V opens with Senator Romney perusing the media's placement of him as running in the second spot in Michigan. "Out, out damn spot." (I need to run in first place).

Senator McCain prepares for the battle. He is brave - a tested warrior. He speaks to his entourage, telling them that the brave will prevail in the election. As Julius Caesar he says, "Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste death but once."

Fred Thompson takes center stage. He is comfortable. It is as though he has had acting experience. He begins in his role as Marcus Antonius, "Friends, Romans, countrymen. Lend me your ears..."

When asked abut his populist philosophy and how it differs from the rest of the Republican candidates, Governor Huckabee responds, "The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven."

Finally Ron Paul takes center stage. His has been a most interesting campaign. Without the money of Senator Romney, John McCain, or other more prominent party members he has run his campaign on a shoestring. Many have called his philosophy madness but Mr. Paul, as Polonius, responds, "Though this be madness, yet there is method in it."

Rudy Giuliani recognizes the strength in the following that Ron Paul has built. Others might scoff at him but Rudy, as Caesar cautions, "Yon, he has a lean and hungry look; such men are dangerous."

The scene returns to Twelfth Night, Act II when Mitt Romney, still making his case to be nominated speaks as Malvolio: "Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

Rudy, while reviewing the results from the other party's primary realizes that Hillary is running strong. He fears that she might, as she has shone in New York be too a formidable foe. He phones her and quotes Hamlet as he suggests, "Get thee to a nunnery."

Rudy then turns to Ron Paul and asks why he has not made an effort to raise more funds and conduct a campaign with advertising like most candidates. Mr. Paul responds as Polonius, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." Mr. Paul as Iago adds, "Who steals my purse steals trash."

As the sun sets on the Michigan primary we do not know how the candidates ranked. But we have chosen to end our play, as Rosiland says in "As You Like It,"One can desire too much of a good thing."

The candidates have, as was done in Hamlet, "Tripped over their own tongues." Some might believe as Duke Senior in As You Like It, said, "True, we have seen better days," but I believe the best is yet to come.

A little blogging music Maestro... Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust."

Dr. Forgot

When Shall We Three Meet Again?

Shakespeare 101

Today we will to describe the upcoming Nevada Democratic Caucus as though it were a Shakespearean play. Let's first set the stage as though it were Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I: "When shall we three meet again? In thunder lightning or in rain. When the hurlyburly's done. When the battle's lost and won. Double double toil and trouble. Fires burn and cauldrons bubble" Sorry, Mr. Kucinich, Shakespeare didn't write the scene for four.

Later, in the garden Juliet, played by Senator Clinton, discusses whether she should emphasize the name Rodham or Clinton, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Macbeth, played by Senator Edwards pines for primaries in the Southern states where he feels his strength lies, "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Creeps in this petty pace from day to day."

In a scene from Hamlet, Senator Obama talks to the media regarding Hillary's denial that her camp had anything to do with the lawsuit to bar at-large caucuses. The lawsuit would play to her advantage. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Meanwhile, across the country in Michigan, Governor Huckabee, playing Duke Orsinio in Twelfth Night, has been taking a beating from his opponents. Ever the optimist he picks up his guitar and says to the people of Michigan, "If music be the fruit of love, play on."

Back in Nevada, President Clinton discusses strategy with Hillary. She asks what he thought of her emotional display in New Hampshire. Jacques, played by Bill responds, "All the world's a stage. All the men and women merely players."

Senator Obama, as Hamlet, is being encouraged by his advisors to come out a little more negative in his debates. The senator ponders then responds, "To be (negative) or not to be. That is the question."

President Clinton has left the room but Hillary has an important question for him regarding the caucus so she calls to him, "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou?"

A culinary worker asks Senator Edwards whether he feels he has a chance for the nomination given the fact that he has been running such a distant third. Senator Edwards, as Prospero responds, "(Winning the election is) Such stuff as dreams are made on."

As the caucus draws to a close, Juliet, again played by Senator Clinton, waves goodbye to the Nevada crowd and cries, "Parting is such sweet sorrow."

Dennis Kucinich as Richard in Richard the Third laments to his entourage his distant fourth place finish, "Now is the winter of our discontent."

While Senator Obama, ever the optimist, looks to the Florida primary with optimism and this time as Romeo asks, "What light through yonder window breaks?"

And Senator Edwards, as Hamlet, who has just been given the news that Mitt Romney will drop out of the race after placing a distant third in Michigan, comments, "Alas poor Yorick. I knew him well."

And so boys and girls the curtain falls on another caucus. Who wins in the end? You must attend the next play to find out.

A little blogging music Maestro? What else but Korn's "Politics."

Dr. Forgot

Monday, January 14, 2008

Money, Money, Money - Its A Rich Man's World

Votes "Fore" Sale?

Nevada is having problems making ends meet. Join the club. Governor Terminator of the Earthquake State next door has it even worse and has proposed drastic budget cuts. Ditto our own Guv who first said that K-12 education would avoid the 8% tax cuts of higher education system, prisons, social programs, and nearly every other state agency. Then he told the little kiddies, "Not!" and said millions had to be slashed from the peanut gallery budget. No exemptions. No excuses. Nobody gets to avoid the slashes.

"Twenty lashes," responded the teacher's union. "Not only is the Guv a liar, liar, pants on fire, the gaming industry isn't paying their fair share. We need money to educate the kids and since some states tax their gaming at a rate several times higher than Nevada, how about tacking on a few percentage points for reading, writing, and 'Rithmatic?"

"Blasphemy!" cried the gaming industry, "It will kill tourism. People will go elsewhere to dispose of their disposable income." And so it goes, from entity to entity. Everybody wants what taxes bring but each entity feels the tax burden on them is unfair, should not be increased, and if anything, should be lowered.

Then there are the golf courses. Some clever lobbyists in the year two thousand and "fore" crafted a provision and quietly slipped it into an assessor's bill that was sent it to the legislature. The provision would revalue the golf course property and lower taxes a little. How little? Assessed values changed from $ 25,000 per acre to less than $3,000 per acre. Remember, it was during a time that property values in Nevada were climbing like skyrockets in flight - a real afternoon delight.

And the taxes that were due on the golf courses? Quicker than you can say, "Meet me at the 19th hole for a drink," taxes on one of the parcels on a private hotel golf course dropped from more than $ 5,000 to $ 13 and change. Another parcel at a different private golf course got its taxes out of the sand trap - $ 134,000 in 2004 to $ 72,000 for the current year. The rates contributed to a huge budget divot of the state's $ 450 million shortfall.

The provision, it seems was, was drafted by Senator N. O'Tme and Assemblyman I. Dunno since nobody can remember who sponsored it. But the 60 or so golf courses in the Valley of the Dollars and double that number statewide have benefited by not having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes compared to previous years. Lobbyists for the golf industry claim the tax breaks are necessary or the golfers will flee to Arizona and Florida to seek their par. That's like saying gasoline is cheaper in another state so that's the place to buy it.

Then there is the "obsolescence factor," a complicated formula that is designed for golf courses that shut down in winter months to only pay taxes on the equivalent of the months they are open. Even though the calculation is designed specifically for winter weather courses, the loophole can be applied to all courses allowing them to further eschew their tax burden. Hole in one? Sounds like some legislators had a hole in the head when they voted for this one.

A little blogging music Maestro... "18 Holes" by Gus Van Sant.

Dr. Forgot

Friday, January 11, 2008

Las Vegas Cuisine - Friday's Leftovers

Another Week That Was

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? The giant International Consumer Electronics Show is winding down. Upwards of 140,000 geeks and geekettes from around the techno world descended on Las Vegas for the annual showcase of all things new in technology. Among the 140,000 were Microsoft chair Bill Gates who played the opening act as he has for years, General Motors Chair Rick Wagoner, and honchos from just about anything remotely (pun intended) connected with the sounds, sights, feels, tastes, or smells of technology. The show has grown so large - only one has eclipsed it - Comdex which crashed along with the techno sector of the stock market early this century. But are the techno geeks victims of their own genius?

Advances in technology have allowed hotels to track and predict the number of rooms that will be occupied on a given night. That has result in occupancy-driven rates for every room. That is, the same room that might rent for $ 49 on a Sunday of a slow week, might rent for ten times that amount on a busy weekend. Hoteliers call that tracking. CES attendees call it gouging. They are threatening to pick up their stereo and go home and never return. Some locals shudder at the possibility. Others say, "Good riddance. They are cheap and don't tip."

Hut, Hut... Busted! The principal at Green Valley High School may have never entered a science fair but he's discovered how to become a lightning rod. He plans to randomly drug test athletes at the school. The proposal has brought mixed reactions. Many parents have taken up the cry of a recent movie, "Yeah, Baby!" But some students, especially athletes, have wondered aloud, "Why us?" The ACLU has weighed in as well. They contend that while random drug testing of athletes is constitutional, they wonder what consequences of a dirty test would be. Stay tuned.

Hit a jackpot to his the sack: Remember the song named for Van Gogh's "Starry Starry Night?" A bed maker has used the same name for their new reason to have you never have to leave the bedroom. Starry Night Sleep Technology was updated the two-bit magic fingers bed to one that does everything but pay your monthly bills. And those bills will increase if you buy this sleeping beauty. It can cost up to $ 50,000 and does not even promise a good night's rest - of course, you might be too worried about paying for it to rest.

The bed has anti-snoring technology built in as well as mattress adjusting technology, individual heat controls - from 68-117 degrees, the obligatory massage, breathing and body movement monitors, and will call 911 if it detects you're about to kick the bucket. It also includes an iPod docking station, surround sound, and a projection system to show movies. And, you ain't read nothing yet. It also includes a "love button" that can lower window shades, dim lights, and play preselected music. It has other features, "too numerous to name." But can it predict who will win the presidential election?

A little blogging music Maestro.... the Eurythmics, "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This."

Dr. Forgot

Las Vegas le gusta Hillary?

Not so Very Culinary

I'll give this to folks who want to get elected to the presidency: their campaign managers can be very creative and they as well as their campaign workers seem to be indefatigable. Hours before the New Hampshire results came pouring in pundits had Hillary pilloried, down and out, stepped on, lied to, cheated on, and treated like dirt. If your name was Hillary, you were bound to be hurt. But a funny thing happened on the way to the vote calculations... she won, albeit a narrow victory.

All of a sudden the idiots who were managing her campaign became geniuses. And the pundits who, of course, could never be wrong, decided it was because she had cried and become more human to women. Or it was because New Hampshire women were better educated than the farm girls in Iowa, or wait, no, it was the race factor. Ah yes, these are the same types of people who can always predict what will happen in the stock market AFTER it happens.

After the New Hampshire perk-up Hillary's strategists looked at their next challenge: the powerful Culinary Union in Las Vegas had thrown its support to the "O" man. That is important because the Culinary Union is made up primarily of Latinos and African Americans, a constituency that had historically been a core of Clinton voters. But Hillary Hillary didn't worry. Hillary didn't cry or scurry. She looked at her options, bad and good. And took her brood to the neighborhood. She made a cross country trek to the desert and with a better diet and more exercise took a brief tour of parts Las Vegas rarely seen by other tourists.

Hillary had a Democratic elected official from the neighborhood near Eastern Avenue and Washington Boulevard, one inhabited by plenty of minorities, walk her door to door, then she had a rally at one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in town, Lindo Michoacan. The only problem with the plan was that none of the Gringo newscasters were able to pronounce the restaurant's name properly. That aside, it seems to have been a coup for the Senator from New York. Or not.

Local Demo politico Rory Reid (scion of Senator Harry) and Congresswoman Shelly Berkley have tossed their support to Senator Clinton. But the Culinary Union is probably the most stalwart group in Las Vegas. Anybody who cleans a toilet, washes a sheet, cooks at a buffet, serves a meal, etc. etc. etc. is a member of that union. The good Senator from Illinois plans to visit the Valley of the Dollars today to embrace union members. So was Hillary's attempt at busting the union's solidarity commitment to BarackO successful? Ask the pundits. They might be right. Or not.

A little blogging music Maestro... How about "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick.

Dr. Forgot

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vegas Update

Forty Million Tourists Can't Be Wrong

Las Vegas is the Entertainment Capital of the world. Visitors are the lifeblood that drives the economy of the Valley of the Dollars. Many tourists visit regularly. Some even have second homes locally. Although Laughlin is considered Snowbird haven, Las Vegas has its share of seasonal residents. But many transform themselves from visitors to residents. How many? Best estimates are that about 5,000 - 6,000 new residents arrive in the valley each month. That adds about 100,000 newbies every 18 months or so and that has kept Las Vegas at the front of the pack in terms of new residents for 19 of the past 20 years. There is no slowdown in sight.

Residents come to Las Vegas because there are jobs - mostly in the hospitality business but construction is still a lively occupation. Six new hotels are on the docket including the Palazzo, a sister to the Venetian which had a soft opening a week ago. Not all the action is on the Strip, though. Palace Stations $ 700,000,000 Aliante Station is scheduled to open later this year providing adding 1,700 new jobs. Along Boulder Highway the Eastside Cannery, which was recently sold to an Aussie outfit, will open this year. A farmer from Illinois was considering buying some Strip property in the 1950s. He ran the sand through his fingers and laughed at the salesman. "What the Hell do you think you could grow in this?" he asked. The salesman answered with one word, "Money."

Back on the Strip The Donald will open Trump's Tower later this year - his initial foray into the REAL gaming and entertainment business. In 2009 MGM plans to open the $ 1 billion "M" hotel, resort, spa, and casino further south on the Strip and MGM's $ 7.7 billion City Center is scheduled to open in Late 2009.

According to Deutsch Bank Securities, within the next four years 18 new major construction projects are scheduled at a collective $ 44 billion. Economists say that translates to 40,000 new rooms and 100,000 new jobs. Hold on to your hats. It looks like the E-ticket ride in Las Vegas continues at an unprecedented pace.

But not only residents move into this fine community. Some the business who are following the lead of The Donald and taking Horace Greeley's advice literally include AGO restaurant which plans to move open a branch of its popular LA restaurant to the Hard Rock. From Miami's South Beach in Florida, Opium Group brings its signature brand to Las Vegas with the opening of Prive' and the Living Room to Planed Hollywood, and Chef Kerry Simon opens Simon's at the Palms.

A little blogging music Maestro.... one more time for "Viva Las Vegas."

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bowling for Dollars

A Free Education

Sitting in the living room of a star high school athlete the college coach makes promises to the parents. Their son will get an education, he will be looked after, he will be kept safe, the coaching staff will treat him as well as he is treated at home, plus he will eat at the training table so the parent's food bill will drop significantly. The parents laugh then express their concern that their son has never been the best student. Not to worry, says the coach, we have academic advisors who will help him select classes and tutors who will help him academically. He will become a student and an athlete. He'll earn a college degree - Free.

It is a spiel that is presented thousands of times in hundreds of homes across America each year as coaches recruit what they hope will be the best athletes in the country. Some coaches fly in private jets, others criss-cross the country in search of the elusive difference maker. Sounds expensive, right? You betcha. Last year THE Ohio State University was THE leader in the money game. THE athletic department took in nearly $ 60 million. Of that amount it spent more than half ($ 32.5 million) on its football program. While THE Ohio State University might be the national champion in income and spending, they did not win football's BCS Championship this year. That honor went to poor stepchild Louisiana State University who brought in a paltry $ 48 million and spent a measly $ 17 million on its program.

So where does all this money go? Can't pay for a tee shirt for an athlete. That is an NCAA violation. Ditto if a booster wants to take an athlete to dinner or buy him a warm jacket in the winter or make any other purchase that is not available to the non-athlete student. So what is in it for the athlete? A chance to play professionally and earn millions each year? That is the carrot, but the likelihood of a high school athlete becoming a brain surgeon is better than that of a high school athlete becoming a professional football player and earning multi-millions per year.

Ok, but at least the college athlete gets a degree, right? After all, the sportscasters in always refer to the athlete who "graduated from the University of So-and So." Wrong again. At least a misnomer. If the athlete is white and plays football or basketball he has a 50-50 chance of earning a degree. If he is not white those chances drop significantly. Remember, young men who are willing to trade their bodies for an opportunity to earn the big bucks for the most part start out as poor, inner-city, undereducated high school students, and often end up as poor, inner-city, undereducated college dropouts.

College student-athletics as it is presented by ESPN, ABC, NBC, Fox and other major media outlets and their advertisers is a fraud. Coaches make millions, TV and radio networks make hundreds of millions, bowl organizers and licensed product makers make millions, communities and colleges make millions and the watchdog NCAA makes millions. The athletes make.... nothing. Amateur athletics? A big lie.

I can think of few other examples when so few have toiled to enrich so many. And the few who toiled, risking permanent injury, are so poorly compensated. How can this happen? It was once summed up to me by a coach in simple words that even I was able to understand: Sports has its own section in the newspaper. A political debate or math competition does not draw 102,000 screaming fans. Those screaming fans, who pay the freight, don't care if the gladiator for whom they are cheering attends class, gets a degree, or is paid part of the spoils. Go State.

A little blogging music Maestro.... "Hail to the Victors."

Dr. Forgot

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Vegas Follies

Only in Las Vegas?

Hear Ye, Hear Ye. Court's in Session: In the old days when the Mafia ruled Las Vegas a saying often heard was, "An honest judge is one who will stay bought." Whether or not it was true those days are long gone, but not the follies from the bench. One judge was castigated for sealing the record of a fellow judge's divorce case. Another judge has decided not to run for reelection. No reason given but allegations have been swirling regarding possible misuse of campaign funds. Then there is the forever law clerk who ran for office and won.

Her term was still in its infancy when charges were made against her and she was temporarily removed - although still kept her hundred grand salary. The charges recently have become official and they include: looking for information in all the wrong places, the judge improperly contacted a family court hearing master to get the goods on an attorney who appeared before her, fell asleep during at least three trials, engaged in improper contact with deliberating jurors, assigned herself two unqualified people to act as bodyguards, attempted to breach computer security in order to read employee emails, and made false statements to the media. And we've not even addressed the sexual harassment allegations. The judge is still suspended... and still drawing a hundred grand salary.

Judge-ment Day Cometh: Despite the number of judges in and around Las Vegas who are having their own trials, the filing period for those who would wear black robes recently opened. Of the 40 seats in the Valley of the Dollars that will be seeking bench warmers, more than 50 have applied for anointment. And there are 10 more shopping - uh, I mean filing days until the courtroom door slams shut.

Reading, Writing, and Economics: Everybody has money problems these days, it seems. With the housing market in the tank it is no wonder that tax revenues are down. Our governor has hit on a solution with the battle cry, "Take money from the kids. Full speed ahead!" The little nippers are not required to give up their piggy banks, but the state wants at least 96 million of its budgeted dollars back. Cuts will probably occur in kindergarten (the littlest kids are easiest to take candy from), and remediation programs.

The Guv had said that state school districts would be exempted from the cuts. Liar, liar, pants on fire. One senator suggested the unkind cuts are unnecessary. The state has a so-called "Rainy Day Fund" of $ 267 million. Baby, the rain must fall, so tap the rainy day fund says the state senator. The superintendent claims that if the day is not rainy enough to tap the fund, at least count the $ 67 million that was not required because the school district came in below enrollment projections. It must be true: figures don't lie but liars figure.

A little blogging music Maestro... how about "Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down."

Dr. Forgot

Monday, January 7, 2008

Gates to Las Vegas

Las Vegas Happenings

All Hail the Techies: They keep on coming - a flood, a plethora, a locust-like stream of people using every means of transport are coming to town. 300,000 New Years celebrants have returned to their homes and have been replaced by 140,000 Consumer Electronics Show attendees. They were led Sunday by Elvis and his guitar.... well, Elvis was played by King William of Gates and the guitar was played by an X-Box. The Gates Man played the big room as well as the other King, Midnight Idol, or Sigfried and Roy. Ok, he didn't make anything disappear, except perhaps anxiety over the next decade of technology, he did not play multiple instruments, at least not musical ones, and he didn't toss his scarves into the outstretched hands of crooning women. But he wowed his audience just the same.

His performance marked a decade as the headliner of the CES. Future performances might be less frequent as he soon will change his focus from all things Microsoft to philanthropic endeavors. He reflected on the success of technology's first decade and teased the audience with peeks into the technological future. Microsoft's sync technology for music and talk while in the comfort of your car is just around next model year's corner. Hollywood will come to the home theater (uh, the media room) room through the X-Box and allow for more interaction. Voice recognition and touch screens larger than life are but a few of the future ways of life. Bill Gates has become our Jules Verne.

Nugget Becomes More Golden: The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, one of the stalwarts among the Fremont Street Experience, has once again reinvented itself. I watched in the 1980s when then new owner Steve Wynn personally sat behind the wheel of a vehicle and crashed a wrecking ball into a Nugget wall as a symbolic gesture to tear down the old and replace it with a newer, better, more glamorous property. The Hotel-wrecker has since gone on to grander designs and the Golden Nugget has changed hands a few times.

Present owners have announced another expansion and makeover of the property to the tune of $ 60 million. A multi-purpose events center to be called the Grand and expanded gaming floor will complement the Red Sushi, a new restaurant and an even grander night life venue will be called, what else? The Gold Diggers. The dance floor will be bordered by bartenders to cater to the whims of the movers and shakers on the dance floor. The nightspot opens up on an over sized balcony to give party goers a grand 180 degree view of the Fremont Street Experience. Something about the Nugget seems to attract designers of vision.

A little blogging music Maestro... How about Ian Brown's "Golden Gaze."

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Las Vegas Weekend Wrapup

All the News That's Fit to Blog

The Geeks Are Coming: The geeks are here! Today begins the annual Las Vegas homage to geekdom. Some 140,000 loyal followers of all things geek will bow at the alter of technology and show secrets that will further make our lives better - or at least different. The King of all Geeks, His Majesty William of Gates will present the keynote chatter tonight that will no doubt be backed by more than just bells and whistles. Stay tuned to this blog for a summary of what new stuff the Gatester will show and predict."

We Want our Money Back: Buyer beware. It might come as a surprise to some investors that real estate is not guaranteed to increase in value regardless of economic conditions. Many of those getting bitten in the wallet right now had dollar signs in their eyes a few years ago when they bought spec homes and properties hoping to continue to ride the wave of inflated housing prices in the Valley of the Dollars. Some buyers are not only above the Strip, but are over their heads.

Earlier in the decade when land began to become scarce and buildings began to reach for the sky, a new concept was brought to town - the condo-hotel. The idea is to own a high rise condo that overlooks the lights and glamor of the Strip and rent it out to tourists. The hucksters who sold the units allegedly painted very pretty pictures and became prophets of profits which have not materialized. Their penthouse is sending them to the poorhouse. "Foul!" cried the investors and thus far about 40 have sued the company for misrepresenting profits. Can you say, "What you see is what you get?"

Lost in the Translation: Ever tried to tell a joke in a foreign language? Too often the punch line is lost in the translation. Other times innuendos and double entendres just don't make it in the other language. Such was the allegation of an insult at a pre-Christmas show attended locally by a large group of Iranian-Americans. A featured artist made a comment in Farsi, the local language, that some in the audience found offensive. Others said those offended didn't understand the context of the remark. Still, the question remains, did the Farsi folks parse the program to pillory the presenter, or was it just a farce? I have no clue. I'm sticking to English.... "A Rabbi, a priest, and a minister..."

Flooding in Fernley, Nevada: Dateline Fernly Nevada.... Congratulations to the news staff at CNN who, despite their east coast studio location, were able to properly pronounce Nevada (the "a" sounds like the "a" in cash. not like the "a" in "aaaaw, busted"). Some are calling the bursting of the levee "Little Katrina." Probably a good analogy since nobody has seen hide nor hair of FEMA. It will be interesting to see if any of the presidential candidates who arrive for the January 19 Nevada caucus will tour Fernley.A little blogging music Maestro... How about Brittany Spears, "You Drive Me Crazy."

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Las Vegas Electronics

Bright Lights, Big City

One of the huge advantages of living in Las Vegas is that it all comes to you. Las Vegans don't have to go to either coast to see the biggest stars entertain, or to see Broadway productions such as Mama Mia, or to witness a college football bowl game or the National Rodeo Finals, or enjoy the benefits of tourism dollars pumped into the economy to ease the tax burden on locals. But one of my favorite reasons for living in Las Vegas is the number of conventions that meet here. And where better? Groups as obtuse as the Association of Owners of Funeral Homes or as mainstream as Consumer Electronics Show all come to town for their conventions.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority keep space costs to a minimum in an effort to draw as many conventions as often as possible. Additionally, Las Vegas passed Chicago and Orlando in room count and now has more hotel rooms than anywhere else. In fact, 14 of the largest 15 hotels in the world are in Las Vegas. The granddaddy of all conventions in the pre-TSC days (pre-Tech Stock Collapse) was COMDEX which grew to some 300,000 visitors per year. These days the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is the largest with more than 140,000 attendees.

CES convention attendees are beginning to straggle into town this weekend as the show begins Sunday. The big draws once again will be the new gadgets and the old Gates - Bill Gates, one of the many stars to appear in Las Vegas who traditionally opens the show. For the tenth consecutive year Microsoft Man will reveal cutting edge products and discuss the future of electronics. The CEO of General Motors will also speak. Vendors at the show will unveil their i-pod lookalikes, i-phone lookalikes, and i anything and everything else. Past shows have introduced many of the products that are taken for granted today such as GPS, HDTV, plasmas, CDs, as well as anything digital or lithium-powered.

So what's new this year? Flying cars? Maybe not but you can bet your bottom i-phone that alternative fuel-powered automobiles will be featured along with any other new item that addresses one's sense of sound or vision. The difference between CES and other conventions is that by the very nature of electronics, not only do the masses come to the mountain, but the Mountain (in this case Mount Las Vegas) is beamed to the masses. CES features Las Vegas in every medium in far greater numbers than does any other convention.

So what's a fella (or gal) to see in this cavalcade of electronics? Not much. Just about 1.8 million the highest definition television screens surrounded by stereophonic sound, TV cameras and at least one reporter for every square foot of space all trying to get a different slant. Tens of thousands of new items will grace the floors spread over at least three convention center venues, hundreds of semis toting items to and from the show and thousands of workers with hundreds of boom lifts, delivery vehicles and electric carts to do the setup and takedown one week later.

The very thought of the magnitude of this event makes me dizzy. A little blogging music Maestro... How about Blood, Sweat, and Tears "Spinning Wheel?'

Dr. Forgot

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Morning After

Romancing the Stone

In the movie, "Romancing the Stone," one bumbling would be thief castigates another for trying to steal a valuable object through sweet talk and deception rather than blatantly seizing it. Some might say that the two winners in the Iowa caucus romanced the stone from their opponents. Let's review what happened.

Several weeks ago Hillary Clinton was the heir apparent for the Democratic presidential nomination just as sure as the Bumbling Bush had been his party's favorite prior to the 2000 election. But that is where the similarities end. For month's even the tenor of Senator Hillary's speeches were flavored with "When I am elected..." It seemed she was ready, willing and able to accept the party's nomination. Some in her camp might have successfully predicted "Bye, bye Biden" and the end to the musical "Elect Sweeney Dodd," but aside from his wife, few would have recognized the political "Bam" in Obama. Senator Clinton had the pedigree (though Repubs would disagree), the big bucks, both in terms of money and the party stags who boosted her candidacy, and a hubby who is the apple of the eye of the Democratic constituency.

Obama had youth. Oh, and later he had the endorsement of Oprah. He was so young, inexperienced, and naive that he didn't know he couldn't garner more votes than the other candidates. His opponent was Casey at the Bat. And when the votes were tallied the mighty Casey had struck out. The verdict even favored Bygone John Edwards to pillory Hillary.

In the spirit of the just ended college football season, the opposing team had their own upset victory. The mayor who single handedly saved New York didn't bother to show up for the game and therefore forfeited with 3% of the tally. "Who the Heck is Ron Paul" more than tripled Rudy's votes and the actor, no the candidate, no, the actor, no the candidate tied the war hero with 13% of the total. The two top vote getters on the Republican side were "A Million Here a Million There and Eventually it will add up to Real Money" Romney who was forced to adMitt that he was skunked bu Mike Who-Kabee?

Romney, like Hill, had the money but lacked the honey to beat out the poorly funded campaign of two-buck Huck. Huck made a beeline for Burbank and the Leno show the night before the caucus. Given his campaign war chest he probably flew coach both ways and had to sidestep angry picketing writers. But what Jay's Mike realized better than any of his opponents is that more Iowans have color TV these days than unions. The move was brilliant. His "everyman" persona rang true to more Rebub voters than did the Mitt kit.

As high as the winners and as low as the losers are after the prom, one must remember that one caucus doth not a nomination make. You can bet that Hillary's team, bruised and battered, is back at the planning table, the Edwards camp is planning an appeal in Rhode Island, Mitt is regrouping with religious fervor, and Rudy is hoping for a quick New York crisis so his tail can wag the dog. One thing that was refreshing was the limited divisiveness by the candidates compared to recent elections. The next nominees, it appears, will become so not by bullying and mean spiritness, but by romancing the stone.

A little blogging music Maestro.... How about "Call it Democracy" by Bruce Cockburn.

Dr. Forgot

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A New Century

Dr. Forgot's 100th Post

This is my one-hundredth post since Dr. Forgot blog began a couple of months ago. This post will step away from politics, Las Vegas and current events and reflect on other bits of banal activities. I grew up in Clairton, PA along the Monongahela River, just a short boat ride from Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle where the Monongahela meets the Allegheny River to form the Ohio. Such a meeting is called a confluence.

In the 1950s Clairtonians and others relaxed at Kennywood amusement park. I wrote of it in a post dated 12/27/07. From the post I heard from many for whom Kennywood had special memories. My old friend and classmate Donna L. wrote to remind me of the custom of families to take picnic baskets with them for the day. Baskets were placed on a picnic table under a shelter, then everybody went to the park to ride, swim, or to watch "The Amazing Cannonball Man" be shot out of a cannon and into a net. At lunch the families would return and their picnic baskets would be untouched.

Another classmate, Jim S. reminded me of great basketball standard caper. A group of young men played basketball in the church league. However the church had no gym for practice - which they needed desperately. Across town there stood a perfectly good basketball standard, complete with hoop, backboard, and net. It had been erected by the City for recreational use of the neighborhood kids. The boys church basketball team made some heady decisions: 1. they needed a basketball standard to become competitive, 2. The standard across town was hardly ever used, 3. why not dig it up and take it to the church.

In the dead of night (probably about 5 p.m.) the group, armed with shovels appropriated from their father's garages, stealthily crept up to the standard and began to dig around the concrete foundation to which the standard was anchored. Eventually the backboard, rim, net and pole, complete with what seemed like 500 pounds of cement were all liberated, transported to the edge of the church parking lot and replanted. The new practice facility looked so stalwart that even the blisters on the boys fingers didn't hurt.

While the team was busy digging up the standard, the neighborhood bitty (every neighborhood had one in the 1950s) watched in silence from behind her curtains and once the boys were gone, called the police to report a theft of city property and the names of each perpetrator. The next day at school each of the delinquents was hauled out of class and told to report to City Hall for punishment. At City Hall they faced a Star Chamber made up of the mayor, Wimpy, the pock faced policeman who struck fear into every Clairton teen, and a few councilmen. They were grilled, roundly humiliated, and threatened with banishment from society for the rest of their lives plus two weeks. Punishment included the return of the standard and community service. To the best of my knowledge none of the "shirts and skins" gang ever had another run-in with the law.

A little blogging music Maestro.... how about Nat King Cole's, "Ain't Misbehaving?"

Dr. Forgot

Leftovers into the New Year

Snapping up Snippets

Up Up And Away: Americans are a curious lot when it comes to flying. Over the past decade real tickets have given way to e-tickets, fares have increased, food service has all but disappeared, employees have disappeared (have you checked in at a kiosk lately?), flight crews have become surly, cops have been added, lines are longer, planes are more crowded and arrive later, and the employees who are left are overworked, underpaid, and anxiously awaiting retirement - hoping that their company does not join dozens of others already in bankruptcy.But we keep flying in ever increasing numbers. Atlanta continues as the busiest airport in the US with nearly a million flights annually. Hence the old saying, "If you're going to Hell you have to go through Atlanta," still holds true. Las Vegas had fewer flights but more people aboard. Chicago's O'Hare and Dallas Fort Worth, and LAX are also among the dizziest and busiest.

Blow 'em up, knock 'em down, build 'em up: Las Vegas has a history of blowing up and replacing hotels. Dunes. Boom! Bellagio. Sands. Boom! Venetian. Castaways. Boom! Mirage. Mirage parking lot. Boom! Treasure Island. Desert Inn. Boom! Wynn. And the booming beat goes on. Sometimes buildings just divide and expand like so many amoebas. The old Nevada Palace on Boulder Highway has blossomed into a Cannery that is such an awesome blossom that an Aussie bought it. The Hard Rock is bursting its seams to the tune of a $ 750 million 950 room addition and the Venetian recently spawned Palazzo. The building boom has changed Las Vegas from Little Lulu to Baby Huey.

Pssst... Hey buddy, wanna buy something?: Retailers are not happy about flat sales this holiday season. Sales are off a couple of percent compared to last year's. What's a marketer to do? In the spirit of making every holiday more commercial some retailers have figured out that Hispanics still have loose change in their pockets so several campaigns have started to target shoppers for the "Three Kings" celebration of the Magi which is celebrated January 6. It is surprising the retailers have not yet figured out that Russian, Greek, and Serbian Orthodox church members follow the Gregorian calendar and celebrate Christmas January 7. But I'm sure they will. After which they can boldly announce, "Only 36 shopping days left until Valentines. Day"

Da place for wise guys: If pink flamingos are soooo south Florida, what is soooo Vegas? Elvis? Garish homes decorated in "Early Pit Boss?" Neon and more neon? Yes to all of the above, but move over chic shtick, there's a new attraction coming to town. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is robbing the post office. Well, not actually. The old downtown post offices closed a few years ago and Oscar has proposed turning it into a Mob Museum. It is logical. If Washington D.C. can have a spy museum (which they do), why not a mob museum in the Entertainment Capital of the World?

A little blogging music Maestro.... anything by Guns and Roses.

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Predicting the Future

Is it Just a Bunch of Bull?

The old saw that bad news sells newspapers and drives electronic news seems to prevail. If it bleeds it leads. Bad news on the doorstep- I couldn't take one more step. Such is the state of the fourth estate. But dust away the shocking headlines and the Whitehouse banter and the spin doctors and what is left are cold hard facts. Will 2008 find the economy continuing to hurtle down the tubes?

What's that you say? The picture is not all bleak? During the past five years Standard and Poors 500 has rocketed more than 17%. It is true that came on the heels of a 25% increase in 2003 balanced a bit by a mere 3% increase in 2005 and little better in 2007, but that is a five year run of the Bull. That beats the running of the bulls at Pamplona Spain, which only occurs once each year but gets much more coverage because there is much more blood to report about. Many money strategists predict 2008 will also be a good year for the stock market and make a rare six-year run of positive growth.

But how can that be with sub-prime mortgages, credit problems, falling home prices, tighter loan standards, etc. Those folks supposedly in the know are predicting a brighter market in 2008 for several reasons. Much of the bad news cited above is over and things are settling down. Sort of like when FEMA finally arrived in New Orleans. As housing prices appear to be "bottoming out" more families can afford homes and more investors are willing to get back into the swing. Also, central banks around the world, including our own Federal Reserve, will continue to lower interest rates to encourage investing.

With the dollar at an all time low against the Euro and many other currencies, foreign investment is pouring into the US like two-for-one night at the local pizzeria. Cash rich economies such as those in China, Singapore, and the Middle East are snapping up investments in the US. AS the price of oil continues to rise and OPEC countries become awash with cash, they need a place to park it. As global growth continues US companies abroad benefit from the global boom.

Although stock prices rise, many have low valuations, which allow them to rise. Compared to bonds, stocks are considered a good buy. And although we have been CNNed and Foxed, and even Mainstream Media-ed to death with candidates who want to be your president, stocks in election years typically do well, especially in the third and fourth quarters.

Remember, the housing market values have dropped double figures - homes in some areas have lost up to 12% of their values. But during the run-up of the past few years, home market values have doubled and even tripled in some areas. So let's see... a $ 100,000 home rises in value to $ 300,000 over a few years. Then a "housing crisis" causes it to drop in value to $ 260,000 - and the sky is falling? Apparently that's what sells.

A little blogging music maestro.... How about "Bad Moon Rising?"

Dr. Forgot

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

7-7-7 You're a Winner! And a Loser

Ka-Ching... ker plop

Californians are the biggest liars in Las Vegas. Years ago when I first arrived in Las Vegas as a young, struggling schoolteacher I took a second job as a taxi driver and later as my wardrobe improved, a limousine driver. Whenever people would get into my cab or limo I'd always chat with them - "Where are you from? How are the casinos treating you?" etc. Most fares were from California. That is not a surprise as more than half of the visitors to the Valley of the Dollars come from San Andreas by the Sea. What surprised me most is that they would nearly always answer, "I broke even."

I'm here to tell you that if every visitor to a casino broke even, Las Vegas would still be more desert and gulches than concrete and neon. Of course, SOMEBODY has to win a jackpot occasionally. That's one of the things that keeps visitors returning to our oasis. With that in mind, the favorite of all government agencies, the IRS reminds us this time of year to read their Bulletin 419, "Gambling Income and Expenses."

A CPA friend of mine tells me that ALL income is taxable, even the change that you pick up in the parking lot because your kid is too lazy to bend over. Your kid might be lazy but he might not be so stupid since he will not have to declare the parking lot change as income. Although the casual gambler rarely reports casino or track or even internet gaming winnings, the IRS requires it. Three sevens might turn out to be lemons. Be careful how loudly you yell, "Bingo!"

The IRS allows you to deduct losses as long as those deductions don't exceed your winnings. And they want you to keep a log if you plan to deduct. No, not those tallys that casinos provide you. You know, the ones that have disclaimers printed on them? Nope, Uncle Sam wants YOU to keep detailed logs of how often, how much, when and where. Kind of takes the fun out of impulse gambling, but the more information you can provide the better your chances you'll be believed when the tax man cometh.

Want to be a professional gambler? That doesn't mean you place a bet on the Raiders for your brother-in-law. The IRS has recently established a designation of "professional gambler" for those whose frequent gambling activity serves as their primary source of income. The pros get to deduct related expenses such as hotel stays, car rentals, etc. But most gamblers are simply weekend warriors or day trippers upon whom Lady Luck occasionally smiles. If you fall into that category, the IRS wants you to share that information. And when your auditor asks you how you did at the tables, don't say you broke even. He'll know you're lying even of you're not from California.

A little blogging music Maestro... How about The Gambler, Luck Be A Lady, or even Camptown Races?

Dr. Forgot

Happy Gnu Ear

Ohhhhh, my Head!

Fortunately I do not suffer the ill effects of a night out partying New Year's Eve. I let the 300,000 revelers revel on the Strip and Fremont street and wherever else they chose to revel. I also chose to let the drunks run into each other by not getting in their way. These days a big night for me on New Years Eve is to watch the fireworks in Times Square at 9:00 PST on an HDTV. Then, if I am able to last another three hours, do the same with the Las Vegas celebrations. Each local station has their spot staked out from which to broadcast but crowd noise prevents them from being heard.

This morning I am not among the legions who staggered from the bed to the bathroom moaning, "My tongue is asleep and my teeth itch. Honey, is the coffee ready? I need lots." But I am among the legion of pundits who is ready to make predictions for the upcoming year. Are you ready?

The Los Angeles jail will be purchased by a well known hotel family that will build a resort on the property. It will have a French theme and be called the Paris Hilton.

2007 found Oprah endorsing presidential candidate Obama in hopes of bringing support from women. Not sure if they have a slogan yet, but how about, "Ladies, you know who to vote for if you want the Big O."

My prediction for 2008 is that the trend of celebrity endorsements of presidential candidates will continue. I'm going out on a limb here, but my prediction is that Hillary has now become too nice to engage in a bare knuckle campaign. She will seek the endorsement of (and this was close....) Donald Trump? No Rosie O'Donnell.

Mitt Romney is spending millions and millions of his own money on his campaign and still can't get traction among his co-runners. Hence I predict he will bring Drew Carey on board as his finance manager. Drew can tell him exactly when "The Price is Right."

Mike Huckabee is doing very well on his own but I predict he will add Kevin Federline to his to his staff just because the poor guy needs a job.

Call me overly optimistic, but it just seems to me that Brittney Spears is a natural to join the Rudy Guiliani camp. Look out Mrs. Current Guiliani.

John Edwards will seek the endorsement of Lindsey Lohan. That way if he wins the election she will be in charge of getting the liquor for the celebration party. If he loses, he has another challenging client to represent.

John McCain will add Caitlin Upton to his staff. Don't remember her? She's the Miss South Carolina Teen who blew it when she tried to answer a simple question about geography during a pageant. He is a veteran pilot who has been everywhere and from the looks of his campaign he'll be going nowhere so he can spend his time tutoring the poor gal and giving her geography lessons.

Dennis Kucinich, who will forever be linked to his comments on UFOs will ask Tom Cruise to join him in going after the offbeat constituency.

Finally, Ron Paul will ask Angelina Jolie to adopt him in hopes of getting more media coverage.A little blogging music maestro... try "Who Do You Love?" by Max Lipscomb.

Dr. Dorgot