Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Congratulations to our Pater of Prowling!

Perhaps he is prowling no more. Go see for yourself.

Much Cuteness

Dig this.

A Ride in a Prius

On our mini-vacation last weekend, I got to take my first ride in a Prius. It's a nice enough car, comfortable and well-appointed, but I'm not sure I understand what all the fuss is about. According to the readout on the dash, the thing was averaging about 38 MPG. That's great and all, but my 2001 Nissan Altima FredMobile gets 22-25 MPG. There's a difference, but I just don't see that big of one.

More to the point, I bought my FredMobile used. A Prius is most likely bought new because there are so few used ones available. No ore was strip-mined in order for me to obtain transportation, no streams polluted with the leavings of polyvinyl extrusions. The Prius, I'm afraid, leaves a great deal of refuse in its wake. The FredMobile was the ultimate in recycling as is buying anything used. Extending that, the furniture in our house all came from consignment stores. That's recycling, right?

Doesn't that make my FredMobile and my Dave Ramsey lifestyle more eco-friendly than that of the Prius drivers? Of course, I don't get to parade my ecological sanctimony around town and drive with my nose in the air, but shouldn't I? Hmmm. That leads me to an interesting idea for a bumpersticker.


You can buy one here.

The First Line is the Best

... and I mean best. You'll see what I mean in this quote from California legislatress Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa).
Well, there is this mantra out there - "live within our means" - and while that sounds really nice . . . and it sounds really responsible, it's meaningless. Our means are completely within our control . . . We have just given away huge corporate subsidies in February; we have given away other tax reductions over many, many years; we've created tax loopholes; in good times, we routinely give away taxes, and then in lean times we never replace those tax deductions or close those loopholes. . . . So "live within our means" doesn't mean anything. The fact is, we have a state with a population that have [sic] needs that we have a moral obligation to provide.
Emphasis mine. This is the argument that goes on inside every marriage where money is a problem and one of the two can't control their spending. Need Want triumphs over means.

In lieu of a divorce from our legislature, some Californians are opting for a trial separation. I wonder why?
(F)or the fourth year in a row, a survey of 543 CEO's found that California's toxic combination of high taxes and intrusive regulations made it the worst place in the nation to do business.
Maybe if we nag, harass and abuse our employers and taxpayers a little more, they'll give us more money to spend.

Update: That quote from Noreen sounds like it was dialogue lifted from the last third of Atlas Shrugged.

Who is John Galt?

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Perfect Family Vacation

We're currently up in Santa Clara on a mini-vacation and having a great time. More will be blogged on that later, but for now I want to propose the perfect family vacation and then take your improvements in the comments.

What's the perfect vacation, you ask? Why, that's simple! It's one so awful, so horrid, so indescribably bad that all subsequent vacations, no matter how boring, seem like paradise by comparison.

Here we go.

Start with a minivan and 5 people - 2 parents and 3 kids. Go to a location that is over 100 degrees and leave the windows rolled up. Don't turn on the AC - explain to the kids that it uses too much fuel. Turn the radio to either country western or death metal. For entertainment, tour tract homes from the car, homes you have no intention of buying. For refreshment, buy McDonalds strawberry shakes, but don't drink them until they're melted and warm.

There. That's a good start. The floor is now open for improvements!

Scurrying Around the Theocracy

... I came across this.

OK, so this isn't from the theocracy, but it's still a great bit. Go check it out.

Enjoy!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Let the Politicians Use VA Hospitals

Shannon Love, blogging over at the Chicago Boyz, has a great idea.
We should create a legal requirement that political elites have to use the same system they foist on everyone else. They should have to wait for hours in doctors’ offices. They should have to wait weeks or months for tests. They should be fobbed off on emergency rooms if they get sick over the weekend. They should be denied any Hail Mary test, medication or procedure. They should get the entire politically-managed health-care experience.

This standard should extend to all elected officials, political appointees and their immediate families.
Awesome. She needs to add one extra caveat. The politicians should also be taxed according to what they spend in the government budget. That is, if the deficit per capita is $1500, then the politician with a family of four should pay an additional $6000 per year in taxes.

What's sauce for the goose ...

Do You Still Visit Shopping Malls?

Over a two or three year period, I did not visit a shopping mall even once. Recently, I went shopping for clothes and found myself at a couple of malls here in San Diego. It was a surreal experience. I had lived my life without such things - without walking around a huge structure built for the purpose of keeping my attention so that I might buy what they offered. Instead, when impulse struck or I needed something, I used the Internet or went to a single-purpose store like Office Depot or a grocery store.

I haven't been able to put my finger on just why the shopping mall has become so alien to me. Perhaps I've become so steeped in Dave Ramseyism that the concept of buying-as-entertainment is subconsciously morally repugnant.

How about you? How often do you visit shopping malls? Is it a pleasant experience or is it something you avoid at all costs?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

An Ocean of Clouds

... lapping at a shore of mountains.


I took this photo today as we flew from San Diego to San Jose. I used my little Canon PowerShot to take the photo and then loaded it onto my tiny Acer Aspire One netbook. I used Picnik to edit it - in this case, I just reduced the resolution so I didn't use so much of my memory in Picasa where this blog's photos are stored.

I'm not sure what it looks like. The windows of the plane were clouded with scratches and the screen of the netbook is pretty small, so quality control is difficult. I'm not surprised at this - there's got to be a price to be paid for such a tiny footprint.

On the plus side, this whole blogging travel kit is so small and so light that I packed it in my normal luggage and didn't need an extra case like I do for my normal laptop.

I'd love it if you left a comment and let me know what you thought of the photo.

Who Needs HDTV?

In the battle between Internet entertainment and TV entertainment, the scales are tipping towards the Internet.
June 25 (Bloomberg) -- Television programs such as “The Simpsons” and “CSI” are for the first time commanding higher advertising rates at Web sites including Hulu.com and TV.com than on prime-time TV.

The premium rates in the just-ended 2008-2009 television season are mainly for shows that rank among the most-watched by Nielsen Co., said David Poltrack, chief research officer at New York-based CBS Corp., which is home to “CSI” and owns TV.com.

Marketers, who are now considering commitments for the 2009-2010 TV season, are willing to pay more because TV.com and Hulu.com, owned by investors including News Corp., NBC and Walt Disney Co., provide committed viewers who actively seek out shows. There are fewer commercials, and consumers are twice as likely to recall Web ads, Poltrack said, citing Nielsen.
It's all about the cash and chasing the consumers who have it. Can't you see some fantastically novel entertainment that combines video and audience feedback? I wonder if you could create a serious TV show and turn it into a comedy by running a filtered set of audience tweets across the bottom of the screen a la Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

... comes from a chat session at work.

"Just focus on process improvement. The actual work will take care of itself."

Hilarious!

We Need a Second Stimulus Package!

... that way we could buy the Chinese something really nice and maybe then they'd stop being angry with us.
June 26 (Bloomberg) -- China’s central bank renewed its call for a new global currency and said the International Monetary Fund should manage more of members’ foreign-exchange reserves, triggering a decline in the U.S. dollar.
Let's borrow some more money from the Chinese and get the a really, really nice present.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

America Will Become the Ayatollahs' Protector

... if the current revolution fails and Iran develops nuclear weapons. We won't have a choice. Here's why.

Imagine that the revolution taking place right now in the streets of Tehran re-occurs in 2013. Further assume that Iran has the bomb. Several, in fact. Assume further that this time, the Iranian Army decides to intervene on the side of the revolution because everyone except the Revolutionary Guard has had quite enough of the mullahs and their corruption and incompetence.

What happens as the mullahs' world falls apart?

First off, as Christopher Hitchens points out, the mullahs really believe all that death to America and death to Israel stuff.
One of the signs of Iran's underdevelopment is the culture of rumor and paranoia that attributes all ills to the manipulation of various demons and satans.
Christopher Hitchens also points out that their paranoia and hatred of the US, UK and Israel has very little to do with reality.
There is nothing at all that any Western country can do to avoid the charge of intervening in Iran's internal affairs. The deep belief that everything—especially anything in English—is already and by definition an intervention is part of the very identity and ideology of the theocracy.

It is a mistake to assume that the ayatollahs, cynical and corrupt as they may be, are acting rationally. They are frequently in the grip of archaic beliefs and fears that would make a stupefied medieval European peasant seem mentally sturdy and resourceful by comparison.
So, given this, as their regime collapses, will the mullahs:

a) go quietly into the night

or

b) launch everything they have against the objects of their hate?

I would suggest that option b) is the most likely. America would then be faced with the choice of losing one or more cities to nuclear weapons or supporting the Iranian regime against the protestors. The cost of losing a city might be higher than you think. The problem of a nuclear attack doesn't stop with the hundreds of thousands that would be vaporized. If you thought 9/11 was bad for business, just wait until a major transportation center like Chicago is blasted off the map.

Now let's assume that there is no revolution and that instead, Iran continues its meddling in other countries' affairs through the use of proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah - perhaps enhanced by similar groups in the UK or US. Unless the destruction they cause in the US rises to the level of nuclear attack, how do you stop it? Israel has shown that police forces and conventional armies operating under restrictive rules of engagement can't prevent attacks. You have to cut off the source of their support.

However, you won't be able to do that because that leads you back to the first scenario wherein the cornered mullahs unleash nuclear weapons on your cities. You would be reduced to protecting the demented regime that attacks you because you value life and civilization and they do not.

Finally, you won't be able to let anyone overthrow the mullahs because no matter who it is - Russia, Pakistan or the combined Arab states, the end result is the same for the US and UK. As the Great Satan, it won't matter who is actually attacking them, some of those bombs will be reserved for us. We will become Iran's de facto ally against the rest of the world.

This revolution in Iran could be our last chance to prevent the world from becoming a knowing, willing host to a very dangerous parasite.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

On Last Chances

So it looks like the revolution in Iran is getting shut down violently. Iran has pledged that there will be no negotiation of its nuclear weapons program. It has renewed calls for the destruction if Israel and continued its standard polemics against the US and UK. Meanwhile, President Obama has expressed concern, but refuses to "meddle" in Iranian affairs no matter how much they meddle in everyone else's. (See also: Hamas, Hezbollah.)

If this leads to the incineration of Chicago, what will we give then to take all of this moral purity back?

At least we won't have "meddled."

Acer Aspire One Review

For Father's Day, my kids (and fiancee) got me an Acer Aspire One netbook PC. I've had a few days to play with it now and have formed a pretty good opinion of it.

Quick review: It's a full-featured laptop, only smaller. I like it!

Slightly longer version: It's essentially a standard laptop with a small screen and no CD drive. The screen size is only a mild sacrifice as you can still read Cheezburgers with it and watch YouTube videos. I don't miss the CD drive at all. It comes with Windows XP, my preferred OS, already installed. The WLAN connected to my home network without any fuss.

The most surprising part about the Acer are the speakers. They have an impressively rich sound. I dialed up the celebration scene from The Caine Mutiny and the dialogue was just as deep and manly from the tiny Aspire One as it would be from a normal TV - no tinny, wimpy voices here!

Having said all that, it suffers from the same problems that all laptops do. It's small. I still love working on my big, dual-monitored desktop machine (where I am writing this now). Neither the Aspire nor my other laptop have the CPU horsepower to run Adobe Creative Suite programs for anything other than emergency situations. The Aspire is clearly underpowered in this respect, but you don't buy a Netbook to edit videos with Premiere Pro, you buy it because you can take it anywhere and surf the Interweb Tubes.

I haven't used it for mobile blogging yet, but this weekend we will be going up to Santa Clara. I'll bring the Aspire and one of my small cameras (not my Nikon artillery piece) and see what I can do mobile blogging with a very small footprint. I'm sure it will do just fine.

Finally, its compact size and low cost make it ideal for toting around the house for those times when you want to surf the web or stream music and you don't want to set up a base camp for some bigger laptop. It will be great in the kitchen when I want to scan through Cook's recipes or watch instructional videos on cooking like this one. I plan to have a stereo jack waiting for it on my home audio system so I can use it for Internet radio or Pandion or just listening to my music.

All in all - I really like it.

My test video.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Template On How To Deal With Iran

... comes from The Gipper himself. I've never been a Sean Hannity fan and I think conservatives spend too much time worshipping Reagan, but this one is priceless. Enjoy.



H/T: Our Grand Inquisitor

Update: Christopher Hitchens points out that Obama's fears of being a foil for the Iranian government are pointless. Because of their delusions and paranoia, we already are a foil and no amount of washing our hands and self-flagellation for real or imagined sins will change that.
There is nothing at all that any Western country can do to avoid the charge of intervening in Iran's internal affairs. The deep belief that everything—especially anything in English—is already and by definition an intervention is part of the very identity and ideology of the theocracy.

News from 1930

This is an awesome blog.

H/T: Paul Kedrosky.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Next up, the Hubble Telescope

The Secular Apostate has the context. We have the video.

The Care Bears Meet the Grizzly Bears

The Administration's Care Bear foreign policy has met up with a grizzly bear in Iran. Here's a view from inside the Middle East on the Cairo speech.
Mr. Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo did not reshape the Islamic landscape. I was in Saudi Arabia when Mr. Obama traveled to Riyadh and Cairo. The earth did not move, life went on as usual. There were countless people puzzled by the presumption of the entire exercise, an outsider walking into sacred matters of their faith. In Saudi Arabia, and in the Arabic commentaries of other lands, there was unease that so complicated an ideological and cultural terrain could be approached with such ease and haste.
Here's the grizzly's reaction to all the rainbows and unicorns offered by the president.
June 22 (Bloomberg) -- Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the security forces will crush further protests over the disputed presidential vote ...

“The saboteurs must stop their actions” or face “the decisive and revolutionary action of the children of the nation in the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij, and other security and military forces, to put an end to the chaos,” the state-run Mehr news agency cited the Revolutionary Guards as saying today in a statement.
Just imagine what will happen when the Care Bears meet up with a nuclear-armed grizzly.

It will be like this, only with ICBMs.

Cheezburger of the Day

Bodie the Wonder Dog Meets our Maximum Leader

I wish I had photos to share, but I was busy monitoring the introduction. The results were satisfying and at times hilarious.

First off, Bodie is a 20-30# cocker spaniel mix. He's young and full of joyous energy. Bodie lives with my fiancee and he and our Maximum Leader had never met.

Latin name: bodius spasmodius.

Our Maximum Leader is 14# and about 10 years old. She's not afraid to tell you when she's grumpy. At the sight of Bodie, she got grumpy very quickly.

Our new house is a two-story place and she ran up to the top of the stairs and camped out there. We had closed the doors to the rooms upstairs so she couldn't hide under the beds. From her commanding position on the heights, however, she had a sufficient tactical advantage over the incoherently curious canine. At first he ran halfway up the stairs and barked at her while she growled and hissed. We finally convinced him, through a mix of petting and yelling that there was no need to bark. We convinced her through a mix of petting and treats that her position as Maximum Leader was not threatened.

Over several introductions during the weekend, they gradually grew accustomed to each other. We're now at the stage where he is just mildly curious and she is just mildly enraged. Yesterday, I put out some treats for her at the top of the stairs and Bodie ran up to see what they were and perhaps eat a few. Our Maximum Leader munched them while growling at him. It was a riot. It sounded like this: "Mmmph grrrowwwrrrr nom nom grrrr mmmph grrrrr nom nom grrrrowwwrrr..." At one point she was growling at him, baring her fangs with her mouth full of treat. Bodie got the message and I just laughed until tears ran down my cheeks.

We're debating a proper theocratic name for Bodie. The current favorite, after a suggestion by Kelly the Little Black Dog, is to make him our Captain of the Guards. After all, the Vatican has Swiss Guards, why shouldn't the Catican (thanks, Niall!) have a Cocker Guard?

We haven't decided on his title yet, so if you want to leave a suggestion in the comments, please feel free.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How to end the Health Care Debate

If the ground rules for the discussion of health care reform included a stipulation that our children would not be forced to pay for what we consumed, the discussion would be over instantly.

Meanwhile, The Liberator Today has more. Dig his Social Security Returns Calculator link. I came out with a -0.07% rate of return on my Social Security contributions over my lifetime.

Cheezburger of the Day

An HP Conundrum

Why does this page have a "printable version" option?

Hangin' with the Locals

Here's one of them now!

One of our local friends at the new house. It's a gopher snake or something of that sort. Harmless, peaceful and a great hunter of pests.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Scurrying Around the Theocracy

... I came across this.

Here's a teaser from it.

There's a cool shark photo in it.

Enjoy!

Man, That's Some Good Vigorous Debate!

Robert Gibbs and his boss must be pretty proud of how the Iranians are conducting their vigorous debate. Around 2:30 in the video below, the Iranian government makes a sound counterpoint.


When you get right down to it, who are we to judge who's right and who's wrong? After all, we're just as guilty as anyone else. I mean, who can forget how we endangered the Snail Darter?

H/T: Gateway Pundit.

Update: Don't worry, though. The One is on the job.

Newsmax has learned that the Obama administration also has zeroed out funding for pro-democracy programs inside Iran from the State Department budget for fiscal 2010

An Ancillary Benefit of Prayer

Over at The Raving Theist, there's been a series of posts about friends of his who are dealing with medical issues. One, a child, is facing surgery for cancer. Requests for prayers go out on a regular basis with plenty of folks piling into the comments to pledge their spiritual support.

This week on Dennis Prager's radio program, he was discussing theology with a Jewish physicist and they briefly touched upon the issue of such prayers. Dennis said he wasn't a big believer in it and gave the example of all the people who died under Mao, some 75,000,000 or so, who most likely prayed and yet died anyway. I'd like to suggest that this is short-sighted.

When you pray for someone, it is an act of selflessness. For the moment you are praying, you are subordinating your desires to those of someone else. You are also acknowledging your (very small) place in the world. Whether or not the desired outcome is achieved, you have acted with charity and humility. That in itself is a worthwhile thing.

There's no Protection from Stupidity

Dig this.
June 20 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said a new agency he proposed this week as part of an overhaul of U.S. financial regulations will protect consumers from deceptive lending practices.
Now take a look at this.
A close examination of their finances shows that the Obamas were living off lines of credit along with other income for several years until 2005, when Obama's book royalties came through and Michelle received her 260% pay raise at the University of Chicago ...

Tax returns for 2004 reveal $14,395 in mortgage deductions. If we assume an effective interest rate of 6%, then they owed about $240,000 on a home they purchased for about $159,250.

This means they spent perhaps $80,000 beyond their income from 1999 to 2004
Pray tell me, oh great regulatory champions of the left, how would one prevent the other?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Scurrying Around the Theocracy

... I came across this.

Here's a teaser quote from it.

Hitler wanted to kidnap or kill the Pope.

Enjoy!

Expected Results

If you have balance sheet problems, that is, if you have too much debt, your financial life isn't going to improve until you pay off some debt. Borrowing more won't help.

Our current recession/depression is a balance sheet recession. People, companies and nations have too much debt. National governments have responded with still more borrowing and spending with predictable results. Dig these charts from Vox comparing the current recession with the Great Depression.

Budget deficits across the globe


We are borrowing and spending at a much faster rate than in the 1930s...


Industrial output


... with nothing to show for it.

That's pretty much what you'd expect if your problem was too much debt.

Here's the rest of the essay. It has a lot more information and is worth a read.

The Source of the Adulation

This weekend, ABC will host an hour-long infomercial for President Obama. A week or so back, Newsweek compared him to God. MSNBC is like a hormone-crazed teenage girl with him - I don't doubt that Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann have their rooms plastered with glossy pull-out photos from Tiger Beat's* spread on Barack.

So why all the panting, sweaty palms and squealing? Charles Krauthammer made an interesting point during a rant about Obama's supine response to Iran the other day.

But the rest of the media (other than Fox News) are entirely in the tank, and it's embarrassing. You would think it would be embarrassment that would deter them.

Obama does u-turns on all kinds of policies — on taking money in campaigns, on rendition, on eavesdropping, on all kinds of issues, and the press does a u-turn, a whiplash u-turn in step.

In the end, what you have to could conclude is that it is, in part, ideological affinity with Obama, but also in part, he's a rock star, and he sells.
Bingo!

The MSM, traditionally pack animals anyway, have latched onto him like a rock star. No one who cared about their popularity in high school in 1975 wanted to be the first one to say, "You know, I really don't like KISS. In fact, their music is awful." That's where we are right now. A cloistered pack with modest intelligence following a rock star around like groupies because none of them want to be considered uncool.

Look, everyone, it's Barack! Isn't he dreamy?

* - Or the equivalent from Time.

Expedition into the Forbidden Zone

We've recently moved into an area that has many coyotes. They're known to be out during both day and night, looking for animals to eat, animals like cats. To give our Maximum Leader the outdoor access she craves, we've made the back yard cat-proof. It was already coyote-proof, but it needed some simple modifications to keep her from escaping. It was the perfect solution - a nice-sized, outdoor area for her to patrol for lizards and birds.

The only problem is that she hates it. All she wants is to roam in the front yard and from there, the rest of the world. Admittedly, the back yard is a barren wasteland and we're taking steps to make it more of the jungle paradise she prefers, but until then we have to escort her on forays into the Forbidden Zone.

"Theocracy One is on the move, Red Ranger, do you have her in sight?"
"Roger that, Catican Base, we're tracking her."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Playing with Adobe CS4 Contribute

I've got Adobe CS4 Uber Collection* and included in it is Adobe Contribute, their blog interface tool.  It allows you to create blog posts on your local machine and then publish them to blogspot.  So far, meh.  I've already encountered a script error.  It could be something with one of the widgets on my sidebars, but I'm not sure.

When you edit in contribute, you edit directly on the blog page.  Instead of an edit window, right now I see this.

Hmmm.  I was going to insert a screencap here, but I can't do it.  I can insert and image, but it has to be on the Interweb Tubes already.  I can't just insert one from my local hard drive.  Most annoying.

This is going to need some work.  I'm going to publish now and then come back to see what else I can do.

Update: I think I can do this now by a simple drag and drop of the image.  Here we go.

Well, that seemed to work.  You can see what a zany, cluttered workspace I'm having to use.  I think it's useless as all I want is the ability to edit an entry with better tools than you have in the standard blogger edit screen.

When I tried to publish with the image, I got an error.  No uploading images for you!  This is worthless.

Update 2: I'm back in the blogger editor. here's the image I was trying to share with you.

Meh.

* - at least I think it's called the Uber collection.  I could be wrong.

Scurrying Around the Theocracy

... I came across this.

Here's a teaser quote from it.

She made a mistake, however, when she accused Grandfather, a new member of the Church, but a long time neighbor, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old blue pickup truck parked in front of the town’s one and only bar all afternoon.

Enjoy!

Soft Red

One of Momma Daisy's daughters is blooming. Some of her blooms are the soft red shown below. I have no idea what causes her to bring forth variations on her standard orange flowers. I wonder if there is a way to cause it through the use of particular fertilizers. Hmmm.

Oh well, enjoy the photo!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wall Climbing Robot

I thought this was pretty cool.

Second Verse, Same as the First!

If you ever wondered what the econogeniuses advising the president to feed endless barrels of dollars into the government spending woodchipper were saying years ago, Option Armageddon can give you a clue.

Every financial crisis we've ever had has been met with the same prescription. Spend, spend, spend! Deficits are a long-term problem - we have problems now! Deal with today's problems with everything we've got because tomorrow may never come at all.
In the age of central banking, economists like PK (Paul Krugman) have convinced us they have the power to fight off the business cycle. Like a 19th century street mountebank hawking snake oil, they peddle a miracle elixir that can reverse the symptoms of any recession. Its two magic ingredients—government spending and central bank money-printing—are available in different proportions, depending on the particular recessionary symptoms with which the “victim” is stricken.

The economists show us charts and regressions and other complicated arguments that no one unfamiliar with their argot can follow. Deep down, we all know it’s (nonsense). We know at a gut level that more debt and more inflation won’t actually cure what ails us, that it will just mask the symptoms for a time. Until, well, the next time we face economic difficulties. At which point the economists will come back to sell us a new (better!) variety of snake oil.
Option Armageddon has done the hard work of going through Krugman's articles and found example after example through the decades of him suggesting we need to ignore debt and focus on spending. It reminds me of an old song ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Missing a Golden Opportunity with Iran

... maybe our last opportunity, too.

Once Iran has the bomb, it will be nearly impossible to foment a revolution against the mullahs. You've got one going right now, it just needs some support to kick the loons out and replace it with a more enlightened and friendly republic.

And what are we doing? Nothing.

This chance will probably never come again.

Universal Health Care as a Moral Question

As the debate over universal health care heats up, the question of the day revolves around this - how will we provide coverage to the uninsured people of America? I'd like to suggest that is only a portion of the real question we face.

In Robert Samuelson's excellent book, The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement, he has a chapter on how the US transformed from a nation that balanced its budget to one that accepted endless deficits. He talks about the corrosive effect this had on society as it gave an example, the largest example possible, of the benefits of living beyond your means. You could have it all, have it forever and never have to save for it or pay for it. We're now about 40 years down that path and we're dealing with the question of how to provide universal health care when the real question is should we provide universal health care.

Morality is simple when there is only one dimension to the problem. That is, if you run over a duckling on an otherwise carless road while driving slow enough to get out of the way, people can ask you with indignity, "Why did you do that?" That's where we are right now. Since we've decoupled having from earning, everything that the underclass needs can be demanded from society at large as there is no other consideration besides need.

However, if you pose the question this way: "Shall we give health care to the poor and further burden our children with debt or shall we try to relieve our children of the debt we have laid upon them and allow the poor to suffer?" the issue becomes much murkier.

Robert Samuelson himself blasts the President's health care plan, but misses his own point.
The one certain consequence of expanding insurance coverage is that it would raise spending. When people have insurance, they use more health services. That's one reason Obama's campaign proposal was estimated to cost $1.2 trillion over a decade (the other reason is that the federal government would pick up some costs now paid by others). Indeed, the higher demand for health care might raise costs across the board, increasing both government spending and private premiums.
If you change the mindset and approach the problem from an earning point of view, the above excerpt looks something like this.
The one certain consequence of expanding insurance coverage is that it would force our children to work harder and earn more. When people have insurance, they use more health services. That's one reason Obama's campaign proposal was estimated to force our children to earn an additional $1.2 trillion over a decade. Indeed, the higher demand for health care might raise costs across the board, increasing the demand on our children to work longer hours and earn more money to pay for it.
The health care debate is being framed around the wrong choice of words. It's all about costs and how it will raise or lower them as if costs had no connection to anything else in the world. With an existing budget deficit, all of the additional costs will force our children to work harder, longer hours and earn more money so they can pay for what we're trying to buy.

Sitting around discussing this premium or that and how this or that procedure would be covered is a tangent to the real discussion that needs to take place.

How much overtime will the children in our kindergartens and preschools today have to work in order to pay for this? Further: If they will have to pay for our health care, who will pay for theirs?

Singing: Working hard is good for you, it's the thing you've got to do! Work harder and harder every day, because our bills you've got to pay!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

We're Doomed

Dig this.
The cloudy, chilly and rainy open to June here has been the talk of the town. So far this June is running more than 12 degrees cooler than last year, and the clouds, rain and chilly lake winds have been persistent. The average temperature at O'Hare International Airport through Friday has been only 59.5 degrees: nearly 7 degrees below normal and the coldest since records there began 50 years ago.
If the temperature continues to drop at this rate, by December it will be -13 degrees and a year after that, -133 degrees.

If you'll excuse me, I need to go outside and run in circles, screaming.

Dark Profile

I shot this one the other morning and I just love it. I turned off the flash, so the camera tightened up the shot until the only thing in focus was her face. I think the effect was striking.


I've been thinking recently that I'd love to get a macro shot of her eyes. Flashless, of course. I think you'd be able to make some wonderful Photoshop artwork with that as a base image.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stability Is Better Than Progress?

I need to get back to unpacking, but in following a link to a health care discussion that Tim Eisele left in a comment, I started thinking about how our culture is moving towards stability rather than growth.

The entire point of universal coverage is just that - covering everyone with health care. That it may destroy our pharmaceutical research industry seems to be acceptible collateral damage. That it ends up being another benefit to those who haven't earned it is immaterial. The goal is to allow them to live their lives as they do right now without concern about how they will earn health care coverage.

Dittos with the GM and Chrysler bailouts. The government is rewarding organizations who have proven themselves failures so that there is minimal change to the way we live.

I would argue that innovation and progress requires some amount of destruction and discomfort. That's not a new thought - the creative destruction of capitalism has been widely discussed. What I would suggest is that all of the goodies we want to preserve are things we cannot pay for and continued access to them will require economic growth that brings with it the creative destruction we're trying to stop.

That is, we are striving for stability in an inherently unstable system.

This is unstable.

We're Moving?!?

Our Maximum Leader is a very adaptive cat. She's usually very calm and collected, no matter what's going on around her. Throughout most of our packing and moving preparations, she went through her normal routine, unfazed. When the movers showed up, though, she got very worried.

I don't like change!

Once we moved, she adapted to the new place very quickly. Today we're going to cat-proof the backyard so she can go outside whenever she wants. Experts recommend you keep your cat inside for two weeks after a move, but she's always needed much less time than that. She's dying to get out there right now. Once we get the fence improvements up, I'll try to take some JungleCat (more like DesertCat with our yard) photos and post them.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More Debt Porn

Brad Setser linked to this outstanding set of charts that compares the current economic situation to previous recessions from all kinds of angles. The analysis is simple and easy to understant. Here's my money quote from the summary.
  • Real economy indicators show signs of stabilization. See in particular the charts on manufacturing sentiment, nonfarm payrolls, oil prices, and car sales. Nonetheless, many of these indicators remain worse than anything hitherto experienced in the postwar period.

  • The collapse in the federal government’s finances is unprecedented, raising questions about how the government deficit will be brought under control.
The debt is increasing with no indication that the economy is growing to service it.

The solution, of course, is universal health care.

A Maximum Leader Cheezburger

This photo is from our recent move. Our Maximum Leader has adapted quickly and is seen her relaxing in her new home.

What Not To Do In A Balance Sheet Recession

... borrow more.

If you're having to reduce your standard of living because you've got too much debt, the answer is not more debt. While households and businesses understand this and are deleveraging (paying down their debt) the Federal government is more than taking up the slack. Dig this chart from Option Armageddon.


Here's a bit of the analysis to go with it.
It’s been said that the income statement is the past, but the balance sheet is the future. Our balance sheet is getting worse. Those who see “green shoots” believe the crisis is abating. But they don’t understand its origin: a credit bubble that, in the aggregate, continues to inflate. The equity value of our economy is going down—think the stock market and housing equity (see below). At the same time our debt is going up. In other words, America’s leverage continues to expand.
It's crazy, man. Just crazy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Whew!

Unpacking and putting things away after a move is a pain. Isn't there some kind of magic wand for this sort of thing?

The Mayo Clinic Has A Great Website

I've got shin splints from overexertion during my recent move. As with almost everything, the Mayo Clinic has a terrific set of web pages describing the condition, causes and treatment of the problem. I don't know what anyone else uses for medical information, but for my money, the Mayo Clinic is hard to beat.

On Newly-Discovered Rights

When earning and having become decoupled, new rights can be found everywhere. For example, many supporting universal healthcare claim it should be a right. Since there is no longer a connection between getting and earning (hello $1.85T deficit!), they can claim anything as a right.

A more accurate version of the statement would be this: those that cannot afford healthcare have the right to force you to earn it for them.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Aliens Have Landed!

I'm writing to you from work where I have just spotted an alien cyborg. I was able to take a quick photo of it with my Blackberry. I'm not sure what it is or how much time we have left before it begins whatever diabolical plan it's contemplating. Do any of you know what it is? What should we do?

Clearly, this is not of our world.

Please help us!


What should I do about this alien invader?
Approach it slowly and tell it we come in peace
Bow down and worship it
Offer it some stimulus money
Poke it with a stick
Go for it's eyes! Attack now before it's too late!
Flee in terror!
Answering this is a waste of time. By the time I vote, you will already have been consumed / enslaved / disintegrated
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

I Don't Understand YouTube

In going through some old posts via SiteMeter while looking at what people are visiting on this site, I've discovered that many of my embedded videos from YouTube have been disabled. For example, all of the Monkees' romps that I posted seem to have been yanked as well as the little bit of Gene Kelly from the start of An American in Paris.

Meanwhile, I was hunting for Hugo Drax lines from Moonraker and I came across this.


So we're not protecting long clips from the Bond franchise, but The Monkees and Gene Kelly are off limits?

I don't get it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Maybe It Would Help If We Borrowed More Money

This doesn't sound like good news.
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Russia and Brazil, seeking to reduce their dependence on the dollar, announced plans to buy $20 billion of bonds from the International Monetary Fund and diversify foreign-currency reserves.

Russia’s central bank said it may cut investments in U.S. Treasuries, currently valued at as much as $140 billion, a week after China said it may reduce reliance on the dollar and American bonds. Brazil’s Finance Minister Guido Mantega said his country will purchase $10 billion of debt sold by the IMF, China will buy $50 billion and India may announce similar funding.
How could this have happened? We may need to spend more money to find out.

Hugo Drax Kitteh

I've always been a big fan of Roger Moore as James Bond. I know I'm in the minority here, but I happened to be grrowing up during the Moore era of the Bond films. In any case, I took a much-used Cheezburger image and made a Hugo Drax lol. Enjoy!


I found the audio clip on the Interweb Tubes!. Here it is for your listening pleasure.
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

Unemployment Indicates Something More

Our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings has a great post about the unemployment rate shooting way above the Obama Administration's predictions. The key chart is this one.


While many correctly suggest that we could have had this kind of unemployment without the $800B price tag, there's a bigger point that is being missed.

The overshoot in the unemployment rate doesn't just show that the Stimuloid Porkgasm™ was a total waste of printed money, it shows that the economic models upon which it and all other macroeconomic decisions are being based is completely wrong. The model isn't even close to predicting reality. It didn't get the slope right, it didn't get the second derivative right, it's missing every metric of curve-fitting you can think of and missing them by a country mile.

In a talk at Google, Mish points out a similar problem with the underlying conventional wisdom that has gotten us to this point. He talks about how the Fed inflated one bubble after another - first the dot com bubble and then the real estate bubble and when each one popped with disastrous results, the economic soothsayers all exclaimed that no one could have seen this coming.

For those of you on the left who claim some kind of prescience, I point you to Barney Frank's and the Congressional Black Caucus' undying defense of the hopelessly bankrupt Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of whom were six-figure jobs factories for retired Democratic political operatives.

In any case, there were those who called these bubbles. Mish and Nouriel Roubini come to mind immediately. It's just that none of them live in the same intellectual world as Paul Krugman, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner or Hank Paulson. The folks who are and have been making the macroeconomic decisions live in the world of that graph, minus the real data points.

What the unemployment number shows is that they have no clue at all about how the economy really works.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

The Interweb Tubes

... I has them!

We moved everything into our new house (most of it is still in boxes) and we've managed to bring the Interweb Tubes into our house. Hurrah! I've got my morning coffee, our Maximum Leader is exploring the house after spending the night in the Catican* and I'm surfing the 'net.

It's all coming together.

* - Our Holy Scribe came up with this moniker for the garage in a comment to the post that describes our new arrangements.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mission Bay Bridge

I took this photo while driving around yesterday morning. I love the blues in the picture. I think it's worth clicking on the image, but that's just me.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Multiculturalists Jump the Shark

Dig this.
In November 2008 a Dutch journalist, Joanie de Rijke, was abducted by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. She was held captive, raped repeatedly, and released after six days for a ransom of 100,000 euros ($137,000). After her ordeal, she acknowledged that her captors “did horrible things to me,” but added in several media interviews “They also respected me,” and emphasized “They are not monsters.”
The Dutch politician who spoke out against her treatment and her response to her captors' behavior has been roundly criticized.

OK, that's it then. That's a wrap on the multiculturalists' world, wouldn't you say? Even when they're kidnapped and raped, they can't bring themselves to pass judgment on the pond scum* that did so.

* - I apologize to pond scum for this comparison.

Ouch! This Hits Home

This is funny, but not so funny, if you know what I mean.

;-)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Supervising Is Hard Work

... and sometimes the best place to observe all the action associated with packing is from the garden in front of the house.

I hope they're being careful with my dishes!

See the World from the Deck of a Cruise Ship!

Here are (some) of the details.
The cruise lasts from 4-8 days and nights and costs a maximum of $1,200 per person double occupancy.
Sounds great! Here's the rest of the info.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Music That Makes You Move

Err, well, that's not entirely accurate. I'm not moving because of the music, but rather with it.

There. I think I just spoiled the whole mood. Yay?

Anyway, here's the music I'm moving to today.

Wow.



H/T: Our Grand Inquisitor.

Moving Weekend

The staff of The Scratching Post will be moving this weekend into a spacious, new set of offices that we believe will help improve the quality of our blogging*. Due to the effort associated with this move, blogging may be light.

* - it could hardly get worse.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Waterspout

Here's a twitpic from a friend.

Dude.

You Can't Stop A Tsunami

... so don't even try. In the end, all your attempts will be wasted energy.
Yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note and Fannie Mae mortgage bonds are higher than they were before the Federal Reserve said March 18 that it would buy as much as $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities to help drive down borrowing costs.

The Fed’s program, along with a plan to buy as much as $300 billion in Treasury securities, helped push rates to a record low 4.78 percent twice in April.

Treasury yields are climbing as investors anticipate a greater supply of government debt being sold to fund federal spending.
$1.2T down, infinity to go.

"With enough Lego blocks connected together," said Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, "this catastrophe could have been prevented."

When Do They Seek A New Beginning with Us?

President Obama is back over in the Middle East, preaching to the Moslems.
June 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama pledged to “seek a new beginning” between the U.S. and the Muslim world, calling for people in both societies to find common ground and end a “cycle of suspicion and discord.”
When will there be a reciprocal visit? Considering that our last several wars have all been fought to defend Moslems, it might be a good idea to ask this question.

I mean, between apologizing for being such a pack of jerks to them, of course.

Actually, after perpetrating injustices like these, a new beginning might be in order.

An Unused Cheezburger

Over at Cheezburger, you can now look at the captions for each picture that didn't make it to the front page. Sometimes they're better than the one that did. Here's a hilarious one.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Cat, Blogging

Every morning, our Maximum Leader exercises her editorial control over the content on this blog. Here, she's researching some economic statistics. Apparently they're in the pile of papers on the floor*.


* - We're not always the tidiest of bloggers, you know.

Embracing Failure

Judge Sotomayor's repulsive comment about wise Latinas inspired Victor Davis Hanson to write a well-reasoned piece on racial memberships wherein this passage can be found.
I had half-Mexican-American students who had Hispanic first names and fathers — something like a Horacio Dominquez or Jacinta Guzman — who were fully assimilated, upper-middle-class, did not speak a word of Spanish, but were active in La Raza-like groups and, presto, were seen as authentic enough to be given the benefits of unspoken affirmative action.
Going one level of generalization up, we've decided that failure is something to be honored. La Raza does not elevate success, but instead emphasizes failure by shouting constantly about how that failure can be blamed on someone else. If La Raza and their ilk bragged continuously about the achievements of their members and talked about how self-sufficient, prosperous and industrious they were, there would be no way they could seek reparations for alleged past crimes.

The racial spoils system implicitly embraced by Judge Sotomayor is predicated on failure.

In other news, the US is running a $1.8T deficit this year. Apparently we have too much failure (the noble victims who are paid redress) and not enough success (the villains who pay for their crimes).

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Music and Love

What more could a kitteh ask for? This is going to make me smile all day.

Question of the Day

Does Nora understand that she's making music, or is it the motion of the keys that fascinates her?

Comment of the Day

... comes from this post over at FuturePundit. Someone called Mercy Vestel had this to say, triggered by a post about electricity costs from wind power.

I should add that I'm considering the fundamental economics and not the way the government picks winners and losers. The $7500 battery tax credit is equivalent to paying for all of the gasoline a 40mpg gasoline car would use to go 150,000 miles.

So for these small cars the government subsidy is equal to the TOTAL COST of fuel over the lifetime of the vehicle. That's not tilting the playing fields so much as holding it up by one end and shaking.

For $7500, it would make sense to install a cistern on top of a car to collect rainwater if that's what the government thought you should do.

So obviously with Obama picking winners from the throne, the fundamental economics won't really matter. Of course, as demonstrated by the Ethanol disaster, the danger in not understanding the stupidity of the central government plan is that the central planners are fickle and subject to change based on the whimsy of the political winds.
Awesome.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Inner Sanctum

Today, in never before seen footage, we reveal the Inner Sanctum of the Maximum Leader of the Feline Theocracy. This is where she meditates and prays in preparation of bestowing her blessings on the faithful.

Just looking at it makes me feel holy.

You Can't Have a Peron without a Cult of Personality

... and lo, what do we find? We find our friend Robert Samuleson* worrying about the media infatuation with Juan Peron President Obama.
Our political system works best when a president faces checks on his power. But the main checks on Obama are modest. They come from congressional Democrats, who largely share his goals if not always his means. The leaderless and confused Republicans don't provide effective opposition. And the press -- on domestic, if not foreign, policy -- has so far largely abdicated its role as skeptical observer.

Obama has inspired a collective fawning. What started in the campaign (the chief victim was Hillary Clinton, not John McCain) has continued, as a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism shows. It concludes: "President Barack Obama has enjoyed substantially more positive media coverage than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush during their first months in the White House."

The study examined 1,261 stores by The Washington Post, The New York Times, ABC, CBS and NBC, Newsweek magazine and the "NewsHour" on PBS. Favorable stories (42 percent) were double the unfavorable (20 percent) , while the rest were "neutral" or "mixed." Obama's treatment contrasts sharply with coverage in the first two months of the presidencies of Bush (22 percent of stories favorable) and Clinton (27 percent).
It would be practically impossible to enact a substantially fascist change in America without complicity by the MSM. That Robert Samuelson is noticing this shows that there is indeed hope.

* - Mr. Samuelson is no one's idea of a conservative. Up until January 20, 2009, he was very critical of President Bush.

The Way Oakland Could Be

In many previous posts, I've linked to an MSM article that describes how civilization has broken down in Oakland as family structures have broken down. Now, in links from Hot Air and Ace of Spades, comes the story of American Indian Charter Schools in Oakland. In short, they are spitting in the face of the liberal education establishment and crushing them on the scoreboard. Here's the fun part.
School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded "self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort," to quote the school's website.
Here's the scoreboard.
Among the thousands of public schools in California, only four middle schools and three high schools score higher. None of them serves mostly underprivileged children.

At American Indian, the largest ethnic group is Asian, followed by Latinos and African Americans. Some of the schools' critics contend that high-scoring Asian Americans are driving the test scores, but blacks and Latinos do roughly as well -- in fact, better on some tests.

That makes American Indian a rarity in American education, defying the axiom that poor black and Latino children will lag behind others in school.
The student-teacher ratio is 27:1. So much for the thought that we need hordes of new teachers.

Here's the school's website. It's loads of fun.

This Is Not Investment

Brad Setser's outstanding Follow the Money blog has another terrific post today, this time discussing how US borrowing hasn't changed in total, it's just changed in composition. Here's the chart he created from Federal Reserve Bank data.


What it shows is that total US borrowing has not risen. However, the borrowing is now entirely done by the government. Why does this matter? Isn't it a good thing that we're not increasing our borrowing?

Here's the issue. Simplified, people borrow to finance either lifestyle or homes. Businesses borrow to finance growth. Governments borrow to finance benefits. The chart suggests that we can expect lower growth while the population learns to expect higher benefits. Borrowing increases debt servicing obligations. Lower growth decreases the ability to pay those. Someone, somewhere is going to have to increase their profits substantially to pay the interest on this debt. This chart shows pretty conclusively that such mundane matters are of little interest to us right now.

Example: Proctor and Gamble borrows so that they can make more money in the future. The Department of Health and Human Services borrows so it can hand out checks to people. One leads to the ability to pay back the debt, the other leads to the expectation that these checks will coninue ad infinitum.

Not to worry, though. This won't go on forever.