Friday, October 30, 2009

By Way of Explanation

Peggy Noonan, the Feline Theocracy's Holy Ambassador to the Court of the Mainstream Media, has a terrific editorial today. However, I'll start with a little news item.
The House health care bill unveiled Thursday clocks in at 1,990 pages and about 400,000 words. With an estimated 10-year cost of $894 billion, that comes out to about $2.24 million per word.
It's madness to think that the government, which is bankrupt with so many of it's major programs and is bankrupt in the aggregate as well, can take on this job. So why is it being done? Our Ambassador explains.
When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren't they worried about the impact of what they're doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

I think I know part of the answer. It is that they've never seen things go dark. They came of age during the great abundance, circa 1980-2008 (or 1950-2008, take your pick), and they don't have the habit of worry. They talk about their "concerns"—they're big on that word. But they're not really concerned. They think America is the goose that lays the golden egg. Why not? She laid it in their laps. She laid it in grandpa's lap.

They don't feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—"strongest nation in the world," "indispensable nation," "unipolar power," "highest standard of living"—and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.

We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists—they're unimaginative. They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.
Not to worry, though. The day when that collision with reality will occur, the one that will make many of us finally grow up and learn that we cannot have what we refuse to work for, is coming. And the faster we borrow and spend, the sooner it will arrive.

Get off of the Streets! Jim the Realtor Is Loose!

Dig this video from San Diego's very own Jim the Realtor.

Jumping Jupiter, the guy is driving around residential streets filming as he goes! As you watch, you keep waiting for a toddler to run out into the street and get smeared by this idiot. Some people talk on the phone while they drive, others eat and still others text. This nut is filming movies. If talking on the cell phone is equivalent to being drunk in terms of car-crash odds, then filming while you drive must be the equivalent of getting behind the wheel after washing down a handfull of Quaaludes with a fifth of Jim Beam.

CBS Is Not a News Outlet

It's this kind of sickening opinion-passing-as-journalism that will ruin this kingdom Obama theocracy dictatorship worker's paradise nation!

What evil hath FoxNews wrought?

Link of the Day

... is this week's Friday Ark! I haven't participated in a long time, but I did this week. There's lots of good stuff over there, so go check it out.

The Catican Compound Expands Yet Again

Background here.

Last night we made sure the cat door was open and sure enough, our Maximum Leader floated up the stairs on a cloud of glory* and fell asleep in the chair in the master bedroom. The Catican Compound now includes every square inch of the house except the beds of the two people allergic to her.

She's never been happier in her life. Neither of our allergic family members have shown any ill effects yet. We clean the house regularly and most of her time is still spent in the Catican (the garage). Things are working out perfectly. I'm so blessed to have married a woman who recommended we keep our Maximum Leader and find a way to work things out even though she was one of those who was allergic to her.

Surveillance cameras (my Blackberry) caught this image of our Maximum Leader late last night.

* - it may have been shedding hair. We just assumed it was glory.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Question

If I watch the World Series on Fox, does that make the final score opinion and not news?

Connect the Dots

Here are three links and excerpts for you. First, CNN reporting from Richmond, CA.
Investigators say as many as 20 people were involved in or stood and watched the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside a California high school homecoming dance Saturday night ... As many as 10 people were involved in the assault in a dimly lighted back alley at the school, while another 10 people watched without calling 911 to report it, police said.
Second, we have Mark Steyn noting something from England.
A council has banned parents from supervising their children in public playgrounds until they have undergone criminal record checks. Adults have been excluded from two adventure play areas in Watford, apart from a handful of council-vetted 'play rangers' who will assist youngsters, it emerged today. Parents will be forced to watch their children from outside the perimeter fence. Watford Borough Council claims it is just following Government guidelines and cannot allow adults to walk around playgrounds 'unchecked' ...

Council Mayor Dorothy Thornhill said they are merely enforcing government policy at the play areas, in Vicarage Road and Leggatts Way. She said: 'Sadly, in today's climate, you can't have adults walking around unchecked in a children's playground and the adventure playground is not a meeting place for adults.
Finally, we have this little bit of research data:
In a study of convicted child molesters, 77 percent of those who molested boys and 87 percent of those who molested girls admitted to the habitual use of pornography in the commission of their crimes.
Clearly, the best solution to these problems is to increase Federal funding for child care, err, more cops, err, keeping libraries open later, err, um, whatever. Let's just get that stream of funding moving!

It's Called a "Siege"

Hot Air is reporting that it looks like the new Obama strategy in Afghanistan will be to cede the countryside to the Taliban and protect the cities.
At the moment, the administration is looking at protecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters, officials said. The first of any new troops sent to Afghanistan would be assigned to Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual capital, seen as a center of gravity in pushing back insurgent advances ...

Military officers said that they would maintain pressure on insurgents in remote regions by using surveillance drones and reports from people in the field to find pockets of Taliban fighters and to guide attacks, in particular by Special Operations forces.
In plain English, this is called a "retreat" and the end result will be a "siege." As noted in the Hot Air piece, if the enemy controls the countryside, they will control the food supply. They left out one other piece, however. If you control the countryside, you also control the roads.

We have them just where we want them! All around us!

The Prevent Defense only works if there's a time limit to the game. Otherwise, you just lose.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moral Darwinism

Dig this.
It is a Chicago public school full of energy and spirit. It has about 800 girls, and 115 of them have something in common – something you might find disturbing ...

All those young ladies are moms or moms-to-be at Paul Robeson High School. It's not a school for young mothers, it's a neighborhood school. And all of the pregnancies have happened, despite prevention talk.
Professor R. Scott Appleby might have noted the statistics that show these girls and their children are more at risk of dropping out, getting low-paying job, using drugs, going to prison and suffering from abuse than those who practice the oppressive morality taught by the Catholic Church.

Come to think of it, whose morality is really oppressive after all?

Link of the Day

I'm not a big fan of the Governator, but this one from him is priceless.

Cheezburger of the Day

A Simple Question

... posed by a friend in a chat session earlier today.

If CNN plays the same police chase as Fox, which one is the evil station and which is good?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Running the Prevent Defense in Afghanistan

... that sure sounds like what Obama is going to choose, given Senator Kerry's speech the other day. Here's a tidbit.
Achieving our goals does not require us to build a flawless democracy, defeat the Taliban in every corner of the country, or create a modern economy—what we’re talking about is “good-enough” governance, basic sustainable economic development and Afghan security forces capable enough that we can drawdown our forces.
So we won't go for the win, we won't add enough troops to hold as much territory as possible and deny the Taliban resources. Instead, we'll draw back and defend government institutions that can't function without control of the countryside. It's the "Prevent Defense" for Afghanistan.

Aside from the occasional drone attack, we'll allow the enemy free run of much of the country while we undermine the current government by questioning their legitimacy.

The prevent defense only works if there's a time limit on the contest. If you've run up a 40-point lead and there are only 5 minutes left to play, it will help you win. If there's no time limit at all, you're doomed. I don't think the Taliban is placing a time limit on this one, do you?

Monday, October 26, 2009

On Writing Obscure Polemics

A few days ago, I posted a snarkfest about an incredibly obscure event, a peace gabbathon at UCSD where R. Scott Appleby of Notre Dame floundered miserably. I wrestled with it for a while for a variety of reasons, but in the end decided to post it. It was rewritten several times to reduce the level of vitriol.

Professor Appleby seemed to be highly regarded and was given a prestigious speaking engagement in front of a group of academics and, from his biography, this was not his first such talk. He's given plenty of platforms to share his thoughts where he's trotted out as a learned representative of the Catholic Church, of which I am a member.

I thought he was a terrible representative of my faith.

Blogging gives the rest of us a chance to respond. None of us will ever be invited to UCSD to talk. That doesn't make our point of view any less valid. By blogging my disapproval, I'm able to respond in public and somewhat level the playing field with Professor Appleby. I've got a decent Google ranking, so my polemic might end up being found often enough to contribute something to the debate. If that's a problem for the good professor, he can always respond in the comments.

In addition, I'm still pretty ticked that the ostensibly Catholic Professor Appleby performed a public face plant in front of a pack of secular academics at UCSD last week. Here's something he might have noted, a gift to all of us from the modern secular world, a group of high school seniors doing poorly in school, all of whom are the products of sexual libertinism.
"Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa?"

In a moment of exasperation last spring, I asked that question to a virtually all-black class of 12th-graders who had done horribly on a test I had just given. A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: "It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study."

Another student angrily challenged me: "You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us." When I did, not one hand went up.
For the secularists, marriage and sex are only tangentially related. For these black children, that moral code has led to catastrophe. For the last several decades, the popular culture has attacked the morality taught by the Catholic Church and it's theological allies, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim. As a people, we worshipped at the Altar of the Orgasm. Now we pay the price.

I probably ought to stop writing right here because this is just going to turn into a particularly nasty rant. I guess I'll just leave it with this:

Professor Appleby ought to recognize that the reason the Catholic Church has been around for 2000 years is because its moral code works. That's what the secular world can learn from us. That point could have been made in his talk in about 90 seconds and without kissing the hem of Obama's robe.

Enough. Let's stop the anger right here. Let's conclude with a happy song, one that secular America can really get behind and support.

Hooray for unfettered sex and fatherless children crashing and burning all over the country! The real problem is income inequality and the greed of wingnut corporate fatcats, right?

How to Authoritarian States Arise

Every once in a while you stumble across a blog post or online article that is so chock-full of wisdom that it changes your view of the world. Following this link from the Puppy Blender to this post over at Chicago Boyz, I came across this original blog post by Shannon Love also at Chicago Boyz. Her hypothesis is that authoritarian regimes arise when liberal ones collapse of their own ineffectiveness.
The history of the 20th Century paints a very clear picture of how liberal orders collapse into authoritarian ones. Contrary to popular belief, liberal orders do not gradually evolve into authoritarian ones by the accumulation of state power. Instead, liberal orders fail suddenly when they cease to provide basic physical and economic security. The functional power of the state decays until conditions reach a degree of disorder that triggers a sudden collapse into an authoritarian order. Ineffectiveness kills the liberal state, not excessive powers.
There's a lot more at that post and it's worth reading and absorbing every word of it.

Her thesis clarifies so much. All of the fussing that we're doing about ObamaCare taking over a huge part of the economy shouldn't be around the fact that the government is going to sieze power, but that it will do so and is doomed to fail, just as it has failed with welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and every other monstrous government transfer payment program. Our fiscal doom approaches, not because the government is gorging itself, but because of what it is eating.

The US Dollar is still the currency of commerce across the globe and we trade on that fact every day as we borrow, borrow, borrow. For the US, the cataclysm may come when the Dollar is replaced, even partially, by another currency and we fall into Peronist hyperinflation. At that point, American Exceptionalism will be a thing of the past and we'll discover we're just the same as everyone else when our money becomes worthless.

Conservatives like Doug Hoffman and organizations like the Tea Party movement are more important than you might think. By fighting against government expansion, expansion that is doomed to ineffectiveness, we're preventing the onset of an authoritarian regime.

Wow. How's that for a paradigm change?

Cats Are Liquid

... and they can even flow uphill.

Last night, our Maximum Leader was outside in the Catican Compound. The doors to our house were closed. This morning, she was found asleep in a chair in our master bedroom when I woke up. I think she flowed under one of the doors and then up the stairs into our bedroom*.

Here she is having washed ashore on one of our sofas. Unseen, enigmatic tides will carry her out again.

* - Or someone could have opened our cat door for her. Either way, she managed to seep into the house like some kind of feline fog.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Link of the Day

This guy was brilliant.

America Stole Everything

... and oppressed everyone and that's why we're strong*. At least that's what my kids learned in Social Studies in grade school. But that leads me to this question:

If being ravening, vicious bastards was the key to success, then how come the Aztecs don't rule the world?

Those crazy Aztecs - they really knew how to rock and roll all night and party every day!

* - To be accurate, white, male America stole everything and oppressed everyone.

Your Bible Quiz for the Day

... is taken from John 8. Finish the following verse:
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and _________________________________ .
Is the answer:

A. "from now on do not sin any more."

B. then Jesus took a long drag on his bong and flipped the woman a pack of condoms. "Whatever, chick. Use these next time. People are gonna fool around no matter what anyone says. No big deal."

C. Your version here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

R. Scott Appleby Lays an Egg

A few nights ago, I attended a lecture at UCSD given by Scott Appleby entitled "What Can Muslims & Catholics Teach One Another & the World." As a Catholic, it was an incredibly depressing and embarrassing talk.

Appleby is a history professor of some note at Notre Dame. Notre Dame being the foremost Catholic educational institution in the country, I was hoping for a lot more than I got. Professor Appleby was there as a representative of my faith and one of our most respected Universities and he let us down badly.

First off, his talk was so poorly composed that it was nearly incoherent. Two thirds of the way through, I was still trying to figure out where he was going with it.

Second, one of his key concepts - that Catholics and Muslims need to engage in theological conversation* - was blown out of the water in one of the first questions at the end when a Muslim fellow stood up and told him that the Koran was the word of God and that was the end of that discussion right there. On the way home from the lecture, my host for the evening expounded at length on how Muslim students in his class agree with that concept and that questioning the Koran was a distinct no-no. If one side takes its text as The Unquestioned Truth then discussions aren't going to be discussions at all, but lectures instead.

Third, the good professor trotted out his progressive bona fides right at the start of the talk and snarked about "right-wing talk show hosts" fanning the flames of religious paranoia. By coincidence, I had tuned in to Hugh Hewitt that evening on my way home from work before the talk and listened to his interview of Lawrence Wright. Here's a tidbit.
We have a population of about two and a half million Muslims in this country. But the truth is, our Muslims in this country, we’re so blessed by this community, it’s so much better off than, it’s the wealthiest Muslim community in the entire world, Saudi Arabia included. They make about as much money as the average American, they’re just as likely to go to college or graduate school as the average American, far less likely to go to prison.
Wow, that's some pretty serious paranoia. Err, maybe not. Hugh is as big a Republican honk as there is out there. It's a good bet that Professor Appleby has never met him. The audience of his lecture all sniggered sagely when Scott condescendingly sneered at Hugh and his peers. So much for dialog with one's opponents. Pathetic.

Fourth, Scott missed the mark badly in not discussing how the US military has contributed to the conversation between religions. The Abraham Lincoln Battlegroup probably did more for Christian - Muslim relations in one month than that entire room of academics will do in their lives. Our last several wars have been fought in defense of Muslims and we've accomplished a lot despite our attempts to inflict torture and atrocities on them.

Indian Ocean (Mar. 14, 2005) - An elderly Indonesian patient shows her sincere appreciation to a "Project HOPE" volunteer by kissing her hand and saying a prayer for her as she waits for her helicopter flight back to Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, upon discharge from the Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffery Russell

Fourth, the talk ended with a paean to President Obama. That in itself is no issue, partisans will be partisans, but his discussion of Obama seemed Messianic to me. As he gushed, I mentally substituted "Jesus Christ" for "President Obama" and concluded that if the talk had been given 2000 years ago in the Middle East, not much would have changed. It was creepy to hear a professor touted as a Catholic thinker praise Obama as if he were the second coming of Christ. The good professor thought that President Obama had indeed earned the Nobel Peace Prize and trotted out the Cairo speech as a perfect example of what Obama is trying to accomplish. I'll leave it to Victor Davis Hanson to wreak havoc on that particular bit of Obama narcissism. Suffice it to say that it was embarrassing to hear a history professor from Notre Dame gush about such a dreadfully historically inaccurate speech.

But this is still missing the point. It's not that the professor's talk was flawed, it's that he missed the crucial point of what Catholics and Muslims have to teach the world - the denial of one's self in the pursuit of a holy life serving the will of God. As the talk went on, I wondered if Scott ever went to Mass any more, he missed the point of Catholicism that badly.

It's a good bet that the majority of the audience was secular and the secular world has much to learn from Catholics and Muslims. The greatest mass murderers of all time were secular - Mao, Stalin and Hitler (even if some of them are our favorite political philosophers). The secular world has brought us sex without commitment which has filled our prisons and impoverished more people than any corporate fatcat. The secular world is filled with taking without earning, a viewpoint that is at the heart of President Obama's domestic policies. (See also: debt, $1,400,000,000,000 of.)

As I sat there, I wondered what was going on in the heads of the academics around me. I doubted many of them understood in their hearts the meaning of my Catholic faith and that of the Muslim fellow in the audience. They had all gathered to listen to a Catholic historian from the premiere Catholic university in the country tell them what they could learn from Catholics and Muslims. It turned out that from him, they couldn't learn much at all.

* - At least I think that was one of his key concepts. The talk was such a disorganized hodgepodge of intellectual odds and ends that it was difficult to figure out just what he was trying to say.


Today, Wake is playing Navy in football. They're doomed. Wake will always be behind Navy.

So What's the Big Deal About Fox News?

Joe Klein's panties are in a wad.
Let me be precise here: Fox News peddles a fair amount of hateful crap. Some of it borders on sedition. Much of it is flat out untrue.

But I don't understand why the White House would give such poisonous helium balloons as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity the opportunity for still greater spasms of self-inflation by declaring war on Fox.

If the problem is that stories bloated far beyond their actual importance--ACORN's corruption, Van Jones's radical past--are in danger of leaching out of the Fox hothouse into the general media, then perhaps the Administration should be a bit more diligent about whom it hires and whom it funds.

If the problem is broader--that Fox News spreads seditious lies to its demographic sliver of an audience--the Administration should probably be stoic: the wingnuts will always be with us.

Read more:
I think Joey needs to grab a couple of beers and watch some NFL this weekend. Joe goes on to advise the Administration to stop paying attention to Fox News, but it's couched in such enraged, distraught rhetoric that it's like he's screaming "there is no FIRE!" in a crowded theater.

What's the big deal here? I admit, I don't watch the news or read the newspapers any more, so I might be missing something, but from what little I've seen, I don't think that Fox is any more seditious or poisonous than anyone else. To give Joe some credit, he did put his finger on the real issue - Fox did, in fact, find some nuggets of truth. Van Jones was a racist kook and Anita Dunn really did find intellectual guidance in the greatest mass murderer of all time. In a world where the phrase "nappy-headed hos" is enough to temporarily trash a career, you'd think that showering praise on a guy who beat Hitler and Stalin going away would be something that would override little Joey's Wingnut Alarm-O-Meter.

I guess not. I guess that ideological purity beats real life. In the end, that's what Joe's spasms of rage against Fox seem like - proof to his "progressive" friends that he's just committed to The Cause as they are.

Maybe Joey needs to get a life.

Friday, October 23, 2009

On Rattlesnakes as Pets

Rattlesnakes do not make good pets. They're not terribly clever animals and when aroused can deliver a painful, envenomed bite. Bringing one home to live with you is a bad idea.

Not something to take home for your little girl to play with.

Similarly, while it may seem to make sense at first, bringing in a statist government is probably a bad idea if you're big business. B-Daddy has waxed supportive of the Obama Administration's efforts to restrict executive pay and, being a fellow who believes that people should have to deal with the consequences of their actions, I have to agree.
These guys loaded up on risk like there was no tomorrow and expected the Fed and the Congress to bail them out, which institutions promptly obliged. Where are the consequences that will change future behavior? Further, I hope this accelerates the pay back of the TARP/porkulus money, and stops further bleeding from the Treasury on this front. This is predatory government, when big special interests capture the government institutions that supposedly regulate them.
Emphasis mine.

The problem with electing a Juan Peron clone is that they're, well, fascist. Mr. Big Business does indeed get to keep his private property, but only at the sufference of the fascist leader's government. In this case, Big Business supported this guy, slorped down money the government borrowed from others and now they're finding themselves shackled by that same government.

Others have fussed that this is a breach of the rule of law, but that hardly matters unless those executives want to bring suit against the government for breach of contract. Given that many of their jobs exist only because the government has handed them wads of cash, I hardly think that's likely. Besides, the rule of law wasn't what they wanted in the first place, they wanted the cash and to place the economy in stasis so that all those icky, smaller, growing competitors could be squashed through government action. Now that their pay is being cut and capped, it's a little too late to fuss about it.

That's what you get when you decided to keep a rattlesnake as a pet.

Well, This Hardly Comes as a Surprise

Dogs are bad for the planet.
The eco-pawprint of a pet dog is twice that of a 4.6-litre Land Cruiser driven 10,000 kilometres a year, researchers have found ...

"If you have a German shepherd or similar-sized dog, for example, its impact every year is exactly the same as driving a large car around," Brenda Vale said.

"A lot of people worry about having SUVs but they don't worry about having Alsatians and what we are saying is, well, maybe you should be because the environmental impact ... is comparable."
Dogs. Ugh.

Alternate take: This problem is easily solved by exiling the appropriate number of noisy environmentalist wackos to live in the pastoral squalor of Somalia. The resultant reduction in aggregate carbon footprint will more than pay for Bodie the Wonder Dog and his canine friends.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quote of the Day

... comes from Mark Steyn.
Don't expect too much from 2010. On present form, even if Obamacare leads to ebola outbreaks in 43 states, the GOP will still manage to screw it up.

Cheezburger of the Day

Praise Jesus!

I have long envied my friend's Arrooophone (iPhone). I've got a Blackberry Curve and while it does what I need to do adequately, it just can't compete with the Arrooophone. I've seen these ads and wondered what the fuss was all about.

(Why, yes, I do live in a cave, why do you ask?)

Anyway, the Droid is a Motorola phone running Google's Android operating system and it will be available on my Verizon network. I just read a bunch of reviews which all say something like this one.

Just about anyone who has come in contact with the phone can’t stop talking about it. And from what we hear, they have good reason.

The phone is a three-way effort between Motorola, Verizon and Google. It looks a lot like the iPhone, and may even be as thin or thinner than the iPhone 3GS. It also has two key advantages over the iPhone – a slide out physical keyboard, and use of the Verizon network ...

The Droid poses a different and more significant challenge to the iPhone than any other phone to date ... According to people who’ve handled the device, the Droid is the most sophisticated mobile device to hit the market to date from a hardware standpoint.
There was another that said something to the effect of "Don't be surprised if you see people leaving the iPhone for the Droid."

I can't wait.

A Link That Kelly Will Like

I saw this over at our Pater of Prowling and immediately thought of our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Comparing Mathematics to Society

... I argue that society is far more complicated and unpredictable than mathematics and engineering.

A few days ago, I posted the question, what would happen if we all agreed that 3=407? All manner of strange results would occur. Some would be good - your bank account might jump by $404 on some random day - and some would be bad - the bridge you drove across could collapse as it was designed for 3,000 pounds of load, not 407,000.

The point is that equating two things that are not even remotely equal has a ripple effect across everything it touches.

So as American society moves closer and closer to gay marriage and we all rush to show how open-minded we are by equating homosexuals and heterosexuals, what will be the end result? How can anyone logically predict it? After all, the entire human race is derived from hetero relationships and zero percent of the human race is derived from homosexual ones.

We are moving to the point where we will say this:

The source of all humanity = the source of none of humanity.

3 will indeed equal 407 in our world. And after that ... who knows?

Cheezburger of the Day

Just Thought You'd Like to Know

Our Maximum Leader just ralphed right into her water dish. A perfect bulls-eye!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Liberal Arts Degrees Are Fine, But ...

... some companies are reaching out to foreign students to find workers.
I had a somewhat disturbing conversation yesterday with Steve Fussell, the senior VP of human resources at pharmaceutical maker Abbott. His basic message, which I may pursue in a column down the road, was that Abbott is going to be hiring tons of people for high-paying jobs over the next decade, but not many of them will be Americans because we study the wrong things in college and we're not willing to work overseas.

The key quotes:
1) "I hate to say we don't have the world's best universities. We may have the best minds, the best liberal arts education. The problem is it doesn't match the work anymore." (That is to say, not enough students are getting science and math degrees.)
This echoes what I heard when I visited the University of Houston to give a talk. I asked the professors (science and engineering disciplines all) why they didn't have American grad students. They told me they didn't get many applications from American kids, it was mostly from foreigners. They took what they could get.

Rage Is Expensive

There's been a lot of electrons spilled over the Obama Administration's obsession with Fox News and I'm sure I don't have anything original to say on it, but I just had to add my $0.02.


I don't understand it at all. So a news outlet is against you - so what? It happens all the time to politicians. MSNBC couldn't have been more anti-Bush if it had photoshopped devil horns on him in every clip it showed. Again, so what?

Another point - did anyone in the administration game this all the way out to the end? Could they find any example anywhere in the history of the country where a politician defeated a news outlet? This wasn't picking a fight, this was deliberately driving your car into a brick wall.

The only explanation I can think of is blind rage, the same kind of blind rage the left expresses for Sarah Palin. There couldn't have been any cost-benefits trade-offs done for this one because I don't see how anyone could have listed anything in the benefits column. It's mindless.

Our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings has more.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Book Recommendation for Anita Dunn

I think that Obama's communications director, Anita Dunn, might want to read Hungry Ghosts before she prattles praise about Chairman Mao again.
This first authoritative expose of the 1958-1962 famine prompted by China's collectivization plan, "The Great Leap Forward," comes at a time when the cult of Mao is alive and well inside China, and while agents of Chinese influence are able to arrange audiences with a President. Via his painstaking research and reporting that included two treks through interior Chinese provinces, Becker tells how the famine occurred because ill-trained peasants were forced to undertake a gigantic and centralized industrial and agricultural expansion. The new factories, canals, and irrigation systems failed spectacularly, and in contrast to propaganda boasts of having economically outstripped the U.S., when in reality the populace was driven by starvation to cannibalism, slavery, and madness.
That Mao. What a joker!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Catican Has Expanded

... it's now the Catican Compound.

The Catican is the name that our Holy Scribe, Niall Mor, gave to the home we made for our Maximum Leader in the garage. To recap, my new wife and one of her sons are allergic to cats. Having our Maximum Leader live in the garage and have access to the backyard seemed like a good compromise. As fitting a Maximum Leader, however, we've recently put in new fencing that adds the entire front yard to her domain and she's managed to claim most of the interior of the house by simply wandering in when the doors are open and finding her way into cozy places to sleep.

Click on the image for a truly regal version.

The linen closet makes a wonderful spot for a nap.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Irish Bagpiper

I got this gem in my email today from my mom and thought you would like it.

As a bagpiper, I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man who had no family or friends. The funeral was to be held at a cemetery in the remote countryside and this man would be the first to be laid to rest there.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods area, I became lost and being a typical man, did not stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late. I saw the backhoe and the crew who were eating lunch but the hearse was nowhere in sight.

I apologized to the workers for my tardiness and stepped to the side of the open grave where I saw the vault lid already in place.

I assured the workers I would not hold them up for long but this was the proper thing to do. The workers gathered around, still eating their lunch. I played out my heart and soul.

As I played the workers began to weep. I played and I played like I'd never played before, from Going Home and The Lord is My Shepherd to Flowers of the Forest . I closed the lengthy session with Amazing Grace and walked to my car..

As I was opening the door and taking off my coat, I overheard one of the workers saying to another, "Sweet Jeezuz, Mary'n Joseph, I never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

A Hypothetical Math Question

What would happen if we all decided that 3 = 407? That is, if whenever we found the number 3 (not just the digit), we could replace it freely with the number 407 and vice versa. We wouldn't change the times table or addition or subtraction facts explicitly, we just decided that 3 = 407.

What would happen? Would you notice?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blogworld 09 - Creating Great Visuals

David Armano gave a talk on adding cool stuff to your blog post. The description can be found here. Here are my notes:

  • "The eyes are not reponsible when the mind does the seeing" - Publilius Syrus.

  • Dave went through a lot of good examples of how important visuals are to conveying information.

  • It's important to present information in a very simple way so that people can grasp the concept immediately. It's a messy process to get to a simple diagram, but don't worry about that. The process to get to simplicity is complex. Simple visuals have the ability to grab your attention.

  • Mindmap got a plug. I've always enjoyed mind manager, but I think it's got some serious limitations when it comes to posting information on the web.

  • 6 steps to getting visual.

    1. Empathize: See the world as a child.

    2. Memorize: Commit thoughts to memory. Draw out your ideas.

    3. Analyze: Take a step back.

    4. Synthesize: Filter signal from noise. This is crucial and it's where most people fail.

    5. Visualize: See it, then do it. David uses Adobe Illustrator to do his visuals.

    6. Materialize: Make it tangible, make it stick. Make it something that grabs people and they take note of what you created.
  • Dave went through a concrete example of a visual he made for HiveMind that went through these steps. It was excellent, but difficult to replicate here.

  • The wrong question is what software he uses - Adobe Illustrator, the right question is how he goes through the process of developing the visuals. He admitted that Adobe Illustrator has a steep learning curve. He claimed he could have done the HiveMind graphic in Gliffy or PowerPoint as well.

  • He recommended Tufte's Envisioning Information, Gray's Selling to the VP of No and Krug's Don't Make Me Think.
Here, David is preparing to take a photo of the audience, probably to use it as a great visual later on!

Blogworld 09 - Real Time Web

Louis Gray gave a talk on real-time web applications and their growth. The information about the talk can be found here. My notes:

  • Why real time now? There are lots and lots of free tools out there available to us. We have shorter attention spans and these tools cater to that.

  • The real time tools can be better than Google because you can see real-time feedback. Consider the difference between using Google to search for a movie review and searching Twitter for the same movie and seeing tiny reviewlets.

  • FriendFeed is another example of the real-time web.

  • Louis is going through a series of online tools that allow you to do this. The benefit to this is that it becomes closer and closer to a normal, face-to-face conversation instead of the equivalent of the postal service.

  • Pingie allows you to get mobile phone alerts from your feeds instantly so that you can react instantly if that's important to you. It sounds like something that would be important to Public Affairs folks for companies that could get attacked out in the blogosphere / twittersphere.

  • The real-time web is eliminating the need for hitting the refresh button.

  • Google Wave is at the early stages of this. I think this is Google's effort to stake out a big part in the real-time web. It was generally agreed in the room that Google Wave's implementation wasn't great, but that it's potential is enormous.

  • The other great thing about this is that you get tons of information fed to you without killing your email inbox. If your company limits the size of your inbox, real-time web sharing tools like Google Wave completely circumvents these problems.

Louis Gray

Blogworld 09 - Friday Keynote - The State of the Blogosphere

Richard Jalichandra of Technorati gave the opening keynote on Friday. You can see the details about the presentation here. What follows are my own notes from the talk.

  • The state of the Blogosphere is STRONG! (The crowd goes wild!) Whoohoo!

  • There's the rise of a class of professional bloggers. Mainstream media folks are starting to emulate the writing styles of bloggers. Citizen-journalism is growing as is blog readership.

  • Technorati is rolling out a new look in the very near future.

  • Richard recapitulated his talk from last year by way of introduction to the rest of his talk.

  • This talk will focus on the rise of the class of professional bloggers.

  • There's been a big growth in bloggers getting paid at least partially for their work. Richard showed a pie chart of his data that indicated that 72% of his respondents are just hobbyists. He doesn't have a truly gigantic sample size, so I would bet that the percentage of bloggers getting paid is probably smaller than he says. In any case, the number of people getting paid for their blogging is growing. Within the set of those getting paid are those that find business opportunities because of their blogging. That would then include the realtors we heard from yesterday who blog to make connections, but don't get directly paid for their blogging.

  • Microblogging does not seem to be a threat to normal blogs. Of those who said they blogged less, only 1/3 of them said it was because they could microblog.

  • A lot of unsurprising stats followed - people are taking blogs more seriously, more people are getting their news from blogs, lots of journalists and former journalists now blog and so forth.
I'm going to quit at this point. The theme here is that there is a flow of revenue and impact into the Blogosphere. Because of the negligible barrier to entry for publishing on a blog, there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to expect this to slow down.

I've got a nice photo of Richard, but I'll have to wait until I've got a table to hook up my camera. I'm going to shut down now to save my laptop battery.

Blogworld 09 - The Opening Night Party

... it rocked. See for yourself.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blogworld 09 - How to Get Really Huge in the Blogosphere

I've been looking forward to this one. It's being given by Ben Huh, the fellow who runs I Can Has Cheezburger. He wants to help us all become corporate fatcats.

Here are my notes.

  • In order to be huge, you have to be very tightly focused. As things went on, Ben discovered that he was one of the biggest obstacles to growth because he kept trying to scatter their focus and chase interesting things.

  • Their mission statement is very simple - we want to make you happy for 5 minutes a day. By making it clear and tight, they know what they're about.

  • He highly prioritizes his actions and focuses on what he would do if he could only worked 1 hour a day, 2 hours a day, 4 hours a day and so forth. It's an interesting way to get at your priorities.

  • They make their business processes as simple as possible.

  • The more complicated you make things, the more you slow down your growth.

  • They use WordPress as their online content management system. They don't see it as a blog, but instead as a communications system. They also use Skype for communications. They use cloud services to host their data - they don't want to get involved in hosting problems.

  • Put your money where you're going to get a return. They don't have a phone system, they do it all through the Internet.

  • All of this simplicity frees you up to spend your time focusing on improving the things that make you unique and successful.
Ben's talk was strongly reminiscent of Peter Drucker's work and most of the other business books I've read. Ben does the important stuff with passion and dedication and focus. This was an awesome talk.

Blogworld 09 Thursday Afternoon Keynote - Sponsored Blogging

As an occasional user of Pay Per Post, this talk was of particular interest to me. Jeremiah Owyang was the moderator and the panelists were Ted Murphy from Izea, Jennifer Lezio (sp?), Lisa Baradokin (lawyer, spelling?) and Wendy Piersall a blogging network owner that uses sponsored conversations. You can find detail about this session here.

The panel is being billed as a debate on this topic, but I'm not quite sure I follow why there's a debate in the first place. It's not like when you use Izea to make money on a pay-per-post you don't let eveyone know you're doing it. When they took a quick show of hands poll in the room, about 70% of the room were in favor and 5% were against it. The rest were undecided. Here are my notes from the conversation.
  • Lisa the lawyer discussed the recent changes in FTC regulations. She claimed the regulations are pretty simple and I blogged about them here.

  • Product placement and similar sponsored conversations has been going on for years

  • Jennifer is against it because they're not for everyone. My initial reaction is who is she to decide who should do it and who shouldn't? She's playing the nanny, worrying about others' reputations. I can worry about my own branding, thank you very much.

  • Wendy agrees that it isn't for everyone. Again, who is Wendy to tell me what I can or can't do?

  • Wendy's view of herself is much larger than she really is. Wendy had a sponsored conversation! Great Caesar's Ghost! Now how will I ever manage to change the oil in my car?

  • Ted supports sponsored conversations, but has a strong position about declaring that such things are happening.

  • Jennifer is bothered by our relationships with our readers, afraid that we're making money off of our audiences by our sponsored conversations. Her issue is do you want to be a spokemodel or a thought leader? She claims you can't do both. I'm glad she's worried about me.

  • Wendy wrote about some product or another and the link she had used to the product site had been sold and it now pointed to a pr0n site. Um, so what?

  • I'm getting ticked off now. CNN was licking the sweat off of Saddam Hussein's balls so they could have access within Iraq, so now we've all got to be like them? 60 Minutes knowingly libeled General Westmoreland, but they're not a sponsored site? Dan Rather spreads absolute crap from forged documents about George Bush trying to get John Kerry elected and he's the one we should emulate?

  • The gist of it is that Wendy and Jennifer want to look over my shoulder as I write. They dont seem to find their own lives sufficiently interesting to fill their days. Neither do I.

  • If these dingbats had ruled the place in 1840, the US's western border would still be in Indiana.

Blogworld 09 - Integrating Media Into the "One Site"

The presentation has already begun, so this link to the description of this talk will have to do for an intro.

My takes:

  • Richard Nicolay is the speaker. The presentation is aimed at real estate sites, but it's applicable to all.

  • The website is all about creating relationships and the way the site looks is part of how you brand yourself.

  • As long as you keep the key elements of your site as you change it, your visitors will be able to easily adapt to the changes.

  • Richard spent a lot of time discussing Posterous. Posterous is a lightweight blogging tool that allows you to mix all kinds of media. Posterous even works with Blogger! Way cool. I may need to try this from my Blackberry. The presentation is more of a demo than a standard presentation so if I want to share this with you, I'll have to use Posterous myself and report back.

  • Rich is a big WordPress user and has another cool tool - Lifestream. Lifestream is a WordPress plugin for displaying feeds on your site. Looks interesting, but not applicable to everyone.
OK, this is a pretty cool session, but he's really just getting into his favorite tools and gadgets. What it shows is that there are lots of tools out there that allow you to integrate multiple streams and feeds into your blog or website so that you retain the look and feel.

Blogworld 09 - Social Media Success Stories

I had to pop over to my work network for a second, so I'm coming back late to this one. Here are the details about this session. What follows are my notes.

  • Brian Wiegand of is using Social Media to build a base of fanatics by connecting to MommyBloggers. They sell consumer products like toilet paper and cosmetics. They started something like 16 weeks ago(?) and have already seen a lot of interactions and traffic from their efforts.

  • Frank Eliason of Comcast Cares is passionate about what he does. You have to put your most passionate people out there as bloggers. Frank isn't passionate about their product line, he's passionate about customers. Companies need to teach their employees to be out in the social media world. Frank is big on one-tweet resolution. Customers tweet their problems and Comcast jumps in and tries to fix it after only a single tweet. Different tools are good for different things. Twitter is great for listening to the customers talk between themselves. Forums are used to allow customers to form communities around your products. Every space has its own community aspect. Facebook is a great place for meeting people you already know, not so good for meeting people you don't know.

  • Samantha Gammell of Oscar Meyer uses social networking to help custoemrs interact with the WeinerMobile. Seriously. The WeinerMobile is a marketing vehicle. The used social media to help for communities of the nuts who love the WeinerMobile. They use their blog to keep people up to date on what the 6 WeinerMobiles are doing.

  • Justin Levy Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse bought into the company a while back. The company didn't have brand recognition as a small steakhouse outside Boston. When he took over, the restaurant was losing money. Justin immediately cut their advertising budget and went to social media. His goal was to own the front page of Google on search terms related to his restaurant. He figured that his customers found him through Google searches. In the first month of trying this, they were making a profit again because of the increased customer traffic.
The theme of this session was using social media to interact with and create communities formed around your products.

The Social Media Success Stories panel.

Blogworld 09 - Social Media ROI

OK, the first keynote went well, now it's time for the first panel session. This one is populated by real estate folks who are using social media to drum up business. You can find out the details of the session here. Here are my quick notes.

  • Jim Marks: Define ROI - traditional financial measures can be used - how much money do you generate from social media. A more difficult measure is Return on Influence.

  • Mike Simonsen - He takes the attitude that Return on Influence is more important.
  • Sherry Chris sees the Return on Influence as important and uses social media for branding. From Web 2.0 Expo, Aaron Kim had a better take on this. Much more concrete.

  • Jim is sticking with the revenue side of this. Aaron Kim would agree.

  • Mike is playing the goodwill and karma cards.

  • Dan Green is hitting some good notes. Time invested in social media is time not spent doing other things.

  • Sherry is seeing opportunities and connections being made because of her participation on the social media sites. It's an echo of what Laura said in the first keynote.

  • Dan spends about 132 minutes a day on social media marketing. He figures his hourly wage for blogging is $245 an hour after taking into account the sales he has made because of connections he made on line. It took Dan 5 years to get to this point. It took him 18 months to get his first lead with social media.

  • Jim maintains that you must have a strategy to your social media efforts and you must keep track of the time and effort you invest.

  • Rob Hahn, the moderator, says if you can't measure it, you don't have a strategy. Turning the question on its head, the question is when do you decide to quit?

  • Jim maintains that the question is over, blogs are worthwhile.

  • What should you measure? Dan: inbound inquiries. Mike: unique visitors to your site. Sherry: sales calls that come from the social media sites. Jim: traffic and conversion are the only two to measure.

  • A questioner brings up a good point - we can measure ROI on this because it's on a computer while the rest of the things we do during the day aren't measured. Social media sure beats sitting around in the office and playing solitaire.

  • How do you improve your social media ROI? Jim: figure out how to get people to follow your links from Twitter to your blog which is where you'll convert visitors to business. Sherry: don't do the same thing on every site. Each site is very different. Mike: Be informative and interesting in order to make connections. Dan: Market to the people who are predisposed to buy from you. Don't market to Google, market to the people who already know you. The word of mouth from supporters will bring you business.

  • Jim is a big fan of the hand-written note for cementing relationships. Rob agreed and quipped that the next big social media invention will be the pen and paper.

Jim Marks, a hard-nosed business man, made some great points.

Blogworld 09 - Thursday Keynote Crowd

It's standing room only at the opening keynote. It's much bigger this year than it was last year and last year it was big. I could see this outgrowing the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Blogworld 09 - Thursday Keynote - Laura Fitton

OK, here we go! Can a little tuxedo cat keep up with a steady stream of presentations and keynotes and blog through the day? You bet! Caffeine ingested, power cord plugged into the wall, wireless connection made, let's boogie!

After some admin notes from our Vicar of Victory, Laura's on. Here are the key points from what she had to say.

Rick Calvert, a man who rocks.

  • Laura claims her life was totally changed by Twitter. She was a stay-at-home mom who decided to restart her consulting business. Or something like that. I was still setting things up, so I missed some of her intro.

  • She's jazzed by Twitter's ability to connect people all across the world. In fact, if you're not tweeting and connecting, you're cheating the rest of the world of your talents.

  • Mentoring is a key part of all of this. By making these connections, we now have the ability to mentor people all across the World. There are things you can do that other people need and want to learn.

  • What people will do for love is what drives her.

  • Umair Haque is referenced.

  • If you don't connect, you cheat the rest of the world of your talents and something awesome won't happen that would have had you connected. Similarly, if you don't connect, you cut yourself off from all kinds of support and love from others.

  • Laura's really energetic and fun, but you don't have to be, all you need to do is connect and make yourself available to others and others available to you.

  • Laura's formed a group from these connections that is doing awesome things. Well, more wacky and fun than awesome to me, but still, it's way cool what she's done with her connections.

  • What is your superpower?
What she's not saying, but what is the theme of the talk is using these new tools like blogging and Twitter and Facebook to increase the opportunities available to you. From there, it's a matter of having a positive attitude to sieze these opportunities. Twitter and blogs haven't changed what it takes to provide water supplies to the city of Des Moines, the physical acts of producing things and services still exist, but the opportunities available for you to participate and contribute in things all over the world will leap out at you and beg you to grab them if you just make the decision to connect.

Laura is a fun speaker and makes you feel good.

Update: Here are some more points.
  • Twitter disrupts isolation.

  • Twitter gives us a gloabl sensing the detecting system. The ability to follow the Iranian protests was a good example of this.

  • My take: She talks a lot about how things change with the connections from Twitter, but the big things that are coming right down on top of us - the penalties we pay for thinking we can have things we haven't earned - might not be tractable through things like Twitter. On the other hand, the medium is a way to influence society. Hmmm ...

  • Don't repress yourself! Share what you're doing so mighty forces of connections can come to your aid!

  • She used the example of Iran, but that's not exactly a success story. The protestors got shot and the Obama Administration stood by with their thumbs in their mouths.

  • Laura is a wonderful altruist. Her four key words are Listen, Learn, Care, Serve. Amen, Laura.

Blogworld Warmups

We just sat down in the back of the room for the first keynote speech of Blogworld Expo. We've staked out the strategic high ground - we're right next to the power outlets. We met Rick Calvert, our Vicar of Victory, the fellow who runs the show and who hooked us up with free passes this year*. He told us that this year's show already has more people registered than any of the previous shows.

This should be way cool. More blogging to follow.

* - My employer is changing accounting systems. All financial transactions are paralyzed, so this trip is not being paid for by work.

An Inauspicious Start

OK, so here we are in Vegas, just about to walk over to the Convention Center and go to Blogworld. It all seems so easy ...

Everything packed? Check!
Alarm went off in time? Check!
Wander into the bathroom - do they have an in-room coffee maker? Check!
Two foil pouches of coffee? Check!
Take a look at the first one - decaf. Hmm, well, we had a 50-50 chance of getting it right the first time, so let's just open the second, which is ... also decaf!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Road Trip to Blogworld!

We're heading for Vegas, baby! A friend and I are on our way to Blogworld Expo, riding in the world-famous FredMobile*. I'll be blogging from there to let you know what's going on. If you're going to be there and you want to meet up or you'd just like me to try and find some people or get some questions answered, leave me a comment and we'll do our best to get you what you want.

Look out, Vegas, here comes the FredMobile!

* - It may not actually be world famous.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What Would You Be Doing If You Weren't Blogging?

... or spending time reading blogs?

I started The Scratching Post in February of 2006 with the intent to make money with it. I had just gone through a prolonged family tragedy that wiped me out financially. I was struggling to the point that it took me a month to save up the $15 entrance fee to the landfill so I could dump some rubbish from my yard. I had time in odd increments and wondered what I could do with that time to make money. I figured blogging might work out. I'd read that you could make some money with advertising on your blog, so off I went, blogging away.

That turned out to be a waste of time. My hourly wage was practically zero and I found I couldn't force myself to do the one key thing you need to do to succeed - focus on one topic. I made $100 from AdSense and probably another $100 or so from Pay Per Post before I quit trying to make money with the blog, but I kept writing.

So what else could I have done? Up until a few days ago, I had figured the choice I made was about as good as any when a stray thought came into my head. What if I had decided to moonlight as a street performer instead? Way back when, I used to play the flute. With the dedication I gave this blog, I could have been skilled enough to come up with a good 45-minute set list and would have made a lot more playing with my flute case out at Balboa Park or somewhere like that. That effort would have led to opportunities to play elsewhere, just like the research and effort on this blog has led to career opportunities in the life I did choose.

I've always loved Debussy.

So how about you? What would you have done had you decided not to blog or spend time reading blogs?

Dear Neal Gabler, Feel Free To Leave

... your departure would undoubtedly make America an even better place.

Multiculturalist Neal wrote today on that the US is not exceptional.
There is nothing wrong with self-satisfaction or national pride. But the incessant trumpeting of our national superiority to every other country in the world is more than just off-putting and insulting. It is infantile, like the vaunting of a schoolyard bully that his Dad is better than your Dad. It is wrong. And it might be dangerous both to ourselves and to the rest of the world.
Err, yes. Dangerous. I'm sure of that. I mean, look how dangerous we've been so far, what with our garrisons of troups in Paris, Marseilles and Lyon of Occupied France. And think of how we've turned all of Kyoto into one giant slave-labor camp, devoted to the manufacture of Snuggies.

How many more Japanese laborers must we kill to manufacture cuddly warmth so we can watch "Dancing with the Stars" in comfort?

I'm sorry. I accidentally entered poor Neal's delusionary world for a moment there. The truth of the matter, at least for my family tree, is that my ancestors escaped some pretty lousy situations to get here. We thrived while the ones we left behind didn't. Despite mountains of evidence, Neal still insists on equality between nations. Neal needs to study some statistical analysis before he writes about this again. To suggest we're equivalent to, say, Ghana or Bosnia or even mighty Italy, is a pretty tough sell in the face of the facts.

However, if we give Neal and his multiculti buddies a little time, we might be able to legitimately claim equality with Argentina.

Monday, October 12, 2009

TVs at the Point of Sale Make no Sense

At our local Texaco Shell (thanks for the correction, Dean) stations, they have TVs at the pump. At our local Albertson's grocery store, they have TVs in the produce section and at the check out counter. They look like this.

This makes no sense to me at all. The TV distracts you from all the goodies they have on display for impulse buyers right at the checkout stand. There's no time to peruse the magazines to pick one up with a TV blaring at you. At the Shell station, it makes even less sense. There's nothing to buy at the pump except the gas you were going to buy anyway, so why put the TVs there? I would think you would want the pump area to be boring so the customer would zip into the minimart to get a Coke and some chips.

What am I missing?

Quote of the Day

Comes from Anita Moncrief's post about how she went from being a black radical to a black conservative and from hating America to loving it.
Friends who are still radicals rail at me for loving a country that enslaved us, and I tell them I don’t. I love a country that had the guts to stand up time and time again and right a wrong. A country that is not afraid to pick itself up and start again.

Good Morning! Today, Your Investments Lost 8 Billion Dollars

... is the report the Chinese have been getting lately on their $1T worth of US Treasuries. I wonder if palms are getting sweaty in Beijing? They don't seem to be getting sweaty in Washington.
World leaders are acting on threats to dump the dollar while the Obama administration shows a willingness to tolerate a weaker currency in an effort to boost exports and the economy as long as it doesn’t drive away the nation’s creditors. The diversification signals that the currency won’t rebound anytime soon after losing 10.3 percent on a trade-weighted basis the past six months, the biggest drop since 1991.

“Global central banks are getting more serious about diversification, whereas in the past they used to just talk about it,” said Steven Englander, a former Federal Reserve researcher who is now the chief U.S. currency strategist at Barclays in New York. “It looks like they are really backing away from the dollar.”
A 10.3% drop in the dollar is a $103B loss for the Chinese over the last 6 months. Ouch!

The short synopsis of the situation is this: We can't stabilize the dollar until we raise interest rates. We can't raise interest rates until we see economic growth. We won't see economic growth until the private sector starts expanding. We won't see private sector expansion while the government sucks all the money out of the economy.

The solution being proposed is massive health care spending by the government and possibly a second stimulus package.

Message to Beijing: I'd start buying Maalox. Lots and lots of Maalox.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Peace Prize for Zorro?


I Blame Bush

For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

Link of the Day

B-Daddy hits the nail on the head with this post about the Nobel Peace Prize going to Obama.

Gold vs. the S&P 500

In a recent National Review post, Republican apologist Larry Kudlow makes this point:
We know that gold is soaring. And we know the dollar is slumping. But, did you know that year-to-date, while the S&P 500 is up 18 percent — a great showing, no doubt — gold is up even more? The precious metal is up 21 percent. In other words, measured in true, gold-backed purchasing power, stocks have really done nothing this year.
This got me to thinking and I did some surfing around this morning to see if I could find a decent gold-denominated S&P 500 index.

The first think I found is that none of the sites I visited have a way to download data into Excel. It was a complete exercise in futility. Yahoo! was the best and I was able to get a decent S&P 500 spreadsheet, but gold was nearly impossible. I finally found a site with annual average gold prices since 1973 and started entering them by hand into my S&P 500 spreadsheet until it dawned on me that gold was not the right way to look at it.

Gold is a rock. You don't really use it for much of anything, at least not in the way we consume oil or wood. It's subject to all kinds of wild swings in prices that don't have anything to do with anything real, but instead are measures of investors' level of anxiety. Instead of measuring things in terms of gold, we should measure in terms of inflation. After all, inflation represents the prices normal humans pay for the things we use, not hobgoblins from the fevered imaginations of gold bugs.

With that in mind, I found this:

Inflation-adjusted relative price and total return of the S&P 500

After looking at this, I realized that I should have known better than to have taken Larry Kudlow seriously. He's the Republican equivalent of Paul Krugman. Comparing the S&P 500 to gold is an interesting intellectual exercise, but nothing more than that. The truth of the matter is that the S&P 500 has indeed made a very nice recovery this year. His measuring it against gold is just an academic comparison done by a Republican hack who is struggling to find something negative to say about the stock market's recent rise.

As usual, the remainder of Larry's post goes along the standard Republican tracks: "Cut taxes!" There's no serious discussion of what gigantic cuts in benefits will be made, so there's not a shred of fiscal responsibility in his post. After noodling about with all of this, I came to one, simple conclusion.

Man, I wish we'd elected Fred Thompson president.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Link of the Day

Is this disturbing bit from our Precentor of Measurements.

The Answer to Yesterday's Quiz Question

... can be found in this chart of the Federal budgets in 1945 and our near future.

To refresh, the question was this:
Some economists have suggested that our current deficit and debt is no big deal because we've been here before and gotten out of it. For example, our relative debt burden in 1945 was greater than it is today and yet we managed to pay it off.

What is the flaw in that comparison?
The answer lies in the source of the deficit spending. In 1945, we spent like crazy to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Once we won the war, we could stop buying all those Sherman tanks and use that money to pay off the debt we had incurred during the war. No one was jumping up and down screaming that we needed to keep buying Liberty ships for the sake of the poor or that cutting the strategic bomber budget was racist.

In short, the cash flow we had used to win the war was now available for debt reduction.

There is no comparable event on the horizon today. The completion of the stimulus spending will be replaced by more money for all kinds of social programs. The spending that has led us here will go on and on and on and on and on ...

Until our culture embraces the concept of earning what we get, we're doomed to continually reap these deficits.

The graphic came from this post over at Political Math which has a much better take on this concept.

After The Nobel Prize, This Is Even Funnier

Dig this. Hilaaarious!

The Perfect Nobel Prize for our Times

In thinking more about Obama's Nobel Prize, is it possible to find anything more perfect for the world in which we live? It's a fantastic, concrete example of getting something you haven't earned. Obama supporter Ruth Marcus from the Washington Post had this gem buried in her blog post on the award:
This turns the award into something like pee-wee soccer: everybody wins for trying.
That's close, but it places the blame at the wrong feet. Instead, I suggest that the award is totally fitting for the Western World in the year 2009. It's benefits without costs, rewards without effort. It's Health Care and Stimuloids and Gay Marriage and everything else that we insist on having because we want it and, by George, have the ability to borrow to pay for it in one sense or another.


Friday, October 09, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Quiz Question

Some economists have suggested that our current deficit and debt is no big deal because we've been here before and gotten out of it. For example, our relative debt burden in 1945 was greater than it is today and yet we managed to pay it off.

What is the flaw in that comparison?

Update: The answer has been posted here.

Quote of the Day (Bumped)

... comes from the comments of this London Times article displaying apoplexy over the hilarious decision to award President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.
Laugh at the old Soviet 'awards' system all you like; you had to do far more than this to get a Lenin prize.

Reactions from around the Feline Theocracy (and elsewhere):

Our Archbishop of Texas is incredulous.

The Secular Apostate has found the (almost) proper music video.

Our Pater of Prowling gives us the Facepalm.

Our College Of Cardinals alleges payback.


Our Precentor of Measurements is shocked.

Others are calling for us to help Obama win the Heisman Trophy. Sounds good to me!

If you've got a take on it, leave it in the comments or if you've blogged it, leave the URL in the comments and I'll link back to you.

Where Are We in the Recovery?

Nowhere near where we should be.

Recall that this is a balance sheet recession. That is, we stopped spending and expanding because we ran up too much debt.
Every corporation in the land is going to cut back so it won't go bust. That's called a balance-sheet depression because what they are trying to do is make sure that they are not going to go bust and they will do anything to get rid of costs, to get rid of debt in order to survive.
The recession stops and expansion begins again when the fear of default and collapse subsides. Now consider the following chart borrowed from Rolfe Winkler's recent excoriation of the ever-dim Paul Krugman.

Before we recover, we will need to reduce our debt burden.

Clearly, we've yet to even begin to go in the right direction. Any recovery now will be anemic at best because the money we could spend on expansion will instead be spent on ever greater debt payments.

Now check out this graphic borrowed from Mish's most recent post wondering when interest rates will start to rise.

Fed interest rates and unemployment.

What this shows is that the Fed has been encouraging borrowing by continually reducing interest rates over the last 15 or so years. The corresponding leap in debt shown in the first chart is no surprise. However, now that interest rates are at 0.25%, there's nowhere left to go. The debt payments that are strangling us are not doing so because of the interest charges.

That's when you're in real trouble.

Think of it in your own life. Imagine having a mortgage payment so large that you can barely purchase necessities. Now imagine that the interest rate on your mortgage is 0.25%. Now imagine that you had to take a pay cut (this corresponds to the drop in tax revenues for the government and the drop in sales for corporations).

Being the responsible type, your immediate response would be to vote in a monstrous new entitlement program giving everyone health care, right? (Sorry. I got off track and jumped into B-Daddy's favorite topic.)

So where are we in the recovery? Still going in the wrong direction and perhaps about to accelerate.