Saturday, May 31, 2008

How to get rid of cat Dandruff

Our Maximum Leader has had a dandruff problem for a long time. I was scoping out some remedies on line when I came across this one.

In all seriousness, though, if I find a good solution, I'll blog about it later.

What is Value to the Customer #2

This is a follow-up on my previous post. Another example given by Peter Drucker in his dicussion of "What is value to the customer?" is that of women's shoes. To a teenage girl, value is all about fashion. Comfort and price are nearly irrelevant. For the housewife, durability, comfort and price are the primary components of value while fashion is a limiting factor. That is, the shoes must be comfortable and durable, but they cannot be totally out of fashion.

This represents "value" to some, but not to others.
Image from Everything Turquoise.

Value is not the same thing as low price. If you don't understand what "value" is to your customer, then you can't do a very good job of satisfying them.

Strategic Planning: What is Value to the Customer

This post is an effort in thinking out loud. Or thinking in prose. Whatever. I hope you get something out of it.

I'm about to embark on a strategic planning effort for my department at work. In preparation for this effort, I'm going back and re-reading Peter Drucker's classic book, Management. Mr. Drucker leads you through a series of questions in the process of answering the big question: "What is our business?"

One of the lead-up questions is: "What is value to the customer?" That's the one I will be focusing on at work. Some people confuse value with low price. It's not the same. Here's an example discussing what "low price" means in terms of a component of home construction.
Electrical equipment such as fuse boxes or circuit breakers are paid for by the homeowner but selected and bought by the electrical contractor. What is price to the electrical contractor is not the manufacturer's price for the product. It is the price of the manufacturer plus the cost of installation - for that, of course, is price to his customer, the homeowner. Contractors are notoriously price-conscious. Yet, a high-priced maker of fuse boxes and circuit breakers is the market leader in the U.S. To the contractor this line is actually low-priced because it is engineered to be installed fast by relatively unskilled labor.
Where I work, we have several groups who are deeply confused about this point. One group produces Lotus Domino team sites for free. The sites are loathed by all because they are practically unusable. Information stored on these sites is nearly impossible to find. While the site is free, the cost of using it is enormous.

That group never answered the question, "What is value to the customer?" In that case, "value" is sharing information. An expensive site that allowed them to share and collaborate quickly and easily would "cost" far less than a free Lotus Domino site. In their case, that group has implicitly decided that their business is the creation of Lotus Domino sites and not helping the workforce collaborate. If they worked in the commercial world, they would have gone out of business long ago because they never asked themselves the right questions.

Doggy is in BIG Trouble!

This loldog reminded me of a time when I visited my brother at college many years ago. He was going to UCSB and I lived in LA. I had gone up to spend a weekend with him and at a neighbor's house, the dog had just wrecked the place. No one was home and you could see what had happened through a big sliding glass door. Everything that could be shredded had been shredded. The general consensus of everyone who saw it was that "the little doggy is gonna get his butt tanned!" It was hilarious.

see more dog pictures

Friday, May 30, 2008

Barack Obama - Unifier

...except when it comes to, you know, working with his political opponents. Other than that, he's the man if you want unity. Our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings has more.

On the Budget Deficit and Home Loans

At any point in time, the amount of money available for borrowing is fixed. The greater the demand for borrowed money, the harder it is to get it. Wouldn't you think that the government waddling in and sucking $400B+ out of the pool of available loans each year would make it harder for the average Joe to get a loan?

No home loan for you! The education industry needs it more.

Graph from Wright's Law.

On Hits and Comments

Yesterday I noticed a significant number of posts in the blogosphere about the VP selection possibilities for John McCain so I wrote my booster piece for Meg Whitman. I took the link and embedded it in a couple of comment threads on other blogs.*

I got lots more hits, but no comments. I could tell as I was writing it that my normal commenters weren't going to be that interested in it, but I was wondering if it could catch a few additional links here and there and bring in many more hits. It might have garnered one or two links, but nothing substantial. The experiment wasn't a great success. The time spent praising Meg was time taken away from additional posts and she was the lead post for the whole day. Yawn.

I've tried this before and it's never worked. Eventually I'll learn.

* - Leaving links in the comments may or may not be proper blog commenting etiquette, but I felt that my post was sufficiently long and had enough original content to be worthy of a link in the comments.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Meg Whitman for VP!

Update: I've changed my endorsement. I still really like the idea of Meg Whitman as VP, but I'm going in a different direction now.

Update 2: Forget it. I'm back to supporting Meg for VP!

One of the few talk show hosts I still listen to, Michael Medved, has written a very nice summary of McCain's possible VP choices. Michael is a very strong supporter of Bobby Jindal, the new governor of Louisiana, for VP. I like that idea, but I'll go one step further.

I had originally thought that the ulitimate VP would be a self-made, hispanic businessman. Someone who had leadership and character and understood what it takes to create jobs. Someone who could reach out to the ever-growing hispanic population and be an example of opportunity siezed rather than complaining about vicitimization. Of course, such a selection would drive the pinheads on the right completely out of their minds. Rush and Sean and Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham would scream about how this was clear evidence that McCain was going to annex Mexico or Mexico was going to annex the US. Then I heard some people suggest Meg Whitman.

I had never heard of Meg, so I looked her up. Former CEO of eBay, Republican, pro-life (as far as I know), she is everything the Democrats fear. Unlike Barack and Hillary, she has real accomplishments, has created real jobs and real wealth for the nation. She would slaughter anyone in a debate about the economy and would represent the new generation as well. With a former POW leading the ticket and the former CEO of eBay at the #2 slot, there wouldn't be much left to criticize.

Meg Whitman for VP!

Obama is already finding that criticizing McCain on military and foreign policy issues is like leaning into a left hook. Could you imagine a lifelong politician like Obama laying into the ex-CEO of eBay about how she doesn't understand economics? How would he go after either of them for having never dealt with adversity? Hillary's made some hay claiming sexism. Meg is the ultimate in overcoming whatever sexism there is. From the Wikipedia article linked above:
Ms. Whitman joined eBay when it was a small auction website with 30 employees and revenues of more than $4 million. With her expertise in brand building at top consumer companies, she helped this Internet pioneer evolve into an unmatched global ecommerce engine that continues to influence and reshape the way people trade, pay and communicate around the world. According to Forbes magazine, Whitman was worth an estimated $1.4 billion in 2007. She is one of only seven women to have been repeatedly ranked among the world's most influential people by Time magazine.
What would the Democrats be left with? Attacking her because she's rich? Everyone who has ever used eBay and enjoyed its benefits would be inclined to look on this choice positively.

Lastly, if you want someone who could claim not be part of the Bush White House and who could run against Congress, Meg would be it.

Update: Could you imagine the war of words on the campaign trail between Michelle Obama and Meg Whitman? It would be a massacre. An absolute massacre.

Others blogging about McCain's VP choices include:
The Wizbang blog talking about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
TalkLeft who suggests Rudy
The Saloon suggesting Bobby Jindal is getting support
Procrastinating Politicians with a short list of suggestions
Ann Althouse who suggests that Mitt Romney would be a great choice (Meg was heavily involved in the Romney campaign)
The Whole Bird is rooting for Bobby Jindal
Inside Catholic wants to see Sarah Palin
NY for Mitt wants to see...Mitt, who else?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

John McCain Flips Out in a Wild Rage!

John McCain went completely ballistic at an anti-war heckler recently. My goodness, Senator McCain practically strangled the guy. His volatile temper makes him totally unsuited to be Commander in Chief. Just check it out.

My YouTube Comments

...have probably been a bit harsh.

Humorous Pictures
more cat pictures

The Modern Video Style Won't Last

I was mucking about recently, looking for some good social networking tutorial videos on YouTube when I came across this one. It's not worth watching for content, only for style. You don't need to watch the whole thing.

I think this video is a good example of the modern style of filming, where everything is done with low budget sensibilities. Cameras wiggle and waver, the talent is in an odd position and the script is a slapdash affair if there even is a script. In this case, the script is pretty well done and the information well-organized compared to most of the trash I came across.

This is probably due to the ability of the general populace to film and broadcast their own work. The people producing the videos don't have much training in the art if any at all and don't really care. While it's popular now, I don't think it will last, nor will it be looked back on very fondly a decade or so from now. It's sort of like disco music - simple and repetetive.

As I sifted through mountains of videos discussing social networking, I started leaving comments about the videos I saw. All of them were terrible. Some of them tried to be cute and hip while others were just rambling manifestos about the subject. None of them took the topic or my time seriously. It was perfectly OK to blow the first 30 seconds of the video on music or montages of irrelevant junk. Most of them had no structure at all. I have yet to find a decent one to share at work.

Democratizing information distribution has its downside.

Update: Dig this piece of rubbish:

It's filmed in someone's car with the lighting on the wrong side of the talent. It's simply horrible.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Photoblogging from my enV

This is a test of my ability to photoblog from my phone.

Update: Verizon adds all kinds of advertising junk to the post, but on the whole I like it. The image came out on its side, so I have to be careful when I take pictures to make sure the camera is oriented properly. Having said that, this is a really cool feature.

Identify This Photo

My daughter was taking some wacky photos yesterday and snapped this one.

What is it? Hint: we were having dinner over at my fiancee's house.

Barack Obama - the True Heir to the Failed Policies of President Bush

Update: This post continues to get lots of hits. I invite visitors, particularly those under the age of 30, to check this one out.

I absolutely love Barack Obama trying to paint McCain as promising a third Bush term. No one in this campaign, Hillary included, more completely represents the failed policies of the Bush administration than Barack Obama.

Wild increases in education spending with very little to show for it? Obama wants more!

Financially doomed new health care entitlements? Obama wants newer and bigger ones.

A tactically unfocused policy in Iraq? Obama's got his childish Strike Force idea.

Massive pork spending for agriculture? Obama supports it!

You think McCain is the reincarnation of Bush? Hardly. Barack Obama is the clear winner in that comparison.

All the failed parts of the Bush administration only more of them.

May Sunset

We had a really nice one last night...

Amen, Senator Coburn

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), writing in the Wall Street Journal, hits the nail right on the head about the Republicans' chances this year.
As congressional Republicans contemplate the prospect of an electoral disaster this November, much is being written about the supposed soul-searching in the Republican Party. A more accurate description of our state is paralysis and denial.

Many Republicans are waiting for a consultant or party elder to come down from the mountain and, in Moses-like fashion, deliver an agenda and talking points on stone tablets.
This echoes exactly what I've heard on talk radio - there is some kind of "message" the Republicans can craft to win elections. It's not about message as Senator Coburn notes, it's about behavior.
Voters are tired of buying a GOP package and finding a big-government liberal agenda inside. What we need is not new advertising, but truth in advertising.
He also brings up something I had never heard of - the K Street Project.
The K Street Project is a project by the Republican Party to pressure Washington lobbying firms to hire Republicans in top positions, and to reward loyal GOP lobbyists with access to influential officials. It was launched in 1995, by Republican strategist Grover Norquist and House majority leader Tom DeLay.

K Street in Washington DC is where the big lobbying firms have their headquarters and is sometimes refered to as the fourth branch of government. Lobbying firms have great influence in U.S. national politics due to monetary resources and the revolving door policy of hiring former government officials. It is common practice for politicians to request money from lobbying firms for an exchange in better access to officials and to buy favoritism in policies.
Well that's pretty sickening. Funny how we never hear the loudmouths like Rush and Sean Hannity and Mark Levin talk about this. Meanwhile, where do you think all that pork is going if not to the sponsors of the K-Street lobbyists?

Senator Coburn finishes with a strong endorsement of John McCain as the one fellow who can smack some sense into the big government, porked-out, borrow-and-spend fatcats in the Republican Party.
Regaining our brand is not about "messaging." It's about action. It's about courage. It's about priorities. Most of all, it's about being willing to give up our political careers so our grandkids don't have to grow up in a debtor's prison, or a world in which other nations can tell a weakened and bankrupt America where we can and can't defend liberty, pursue terrorists, or show compassion.

John McCain, for all his faults, is the one Republican candidate who can lead us through our wilderness. Mr. McCain is not running on a messianic platform or as a great healer of dysfunctional Republicans who refuse to help themselves. His humility is one of his great strengths. In his heart, he's a soldier who sees one more hill to charge, one more mission to complete.
Amen, brother.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Michelle Obama Complaining About Student Loans

...comes from one of her standard stump speeches.
And then you’ve got the other half of young people who were like me and Barack, who too, out loans to pay for our college. So yeah, we have Ivy League degrees, but they cost us a whole lot of money to get. And see, what we did was what we thought we were supposed to do. We got those fancy degrees, and then we left corporate America, and went to work in the community. And with every job we took, we made less money...(W)here we found ourselves, in a position like most young couples, with our PhD’s and JD’s and MPh’s and WLMOP’s, all those wonderful degrees, all mired in debt. We had not paid off our loan debts until just a few years ago. Barack couldn’t even run for president.
Synopsized: We borrowed money from the rest of you to get our degrees from Ivy League schools. We took our own sweet time paying it back because we felt like it. It sucks to be us.

She then goes on to talk about how lousy the country is and how things are getting worse all the time. Gratitude is totally alien to her. It sounds like an Ivy League version of Rev. Wright.

Just In Case You Had Forgotten What She Looks Like's our Maximum Leader caught in the act of rolling around for the sheer joy of it.

My lovely fiancee has given me the use of her camera for the time being so catblogging can resume.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Run Marathons

...because I decided to change the definition of the word marathon. I think the previous definition was unfair. There is no way on Earth I could run 26.2 miles. However, I want to be a marathon runner. So I changed the definition. It now means "taking a walk around the block" because that's what I want.

Now that you've discovered the secret of Gay Marriage, what can you do?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Why I Support Gay Marriage

I have to say I was really happy when I heard the California Supreme Court ruled that gays could get married. The law as it stood was not fair to gays. They wanted to be able to get married and be just like heteros and I'm all in favor of doing away with unfairness for it's own sake, fairness being defined as "Give me what I want because I want it."

Here are some other things I'm in favor of changing in the name of fairness:
  • Spicy food giving some people heartburn. I think we need to redefine "spicy" until it's something everyone can eat without side effects.

  • Sailing making some people seasick. We should redefine sailing until all boats are stable enough to allow everyone to enjoy them without barfing. If we need to leave them tied to the dock, that's fine with me.

  • Skipping rope being too difficult for some people. If you're fat or uncoordinated, skipping rope just isn't fair. We need to redefine it until everyone can skip rope.

  • Handicapped people not being able to compete in the 100 yard dash. We need to redefine our track and field terms until everyone can compete equally.

If you don't support things like this for Olympic track and field events then you're a bigot.
Our Cantor of Chemistry has more on this topic.

Crazy Days at the 'Post

All kinds of wild things have been going on here at the posh editorial offices of The Scratching Post. We managed to sell our house, and none too soon. Take a quick gander through the writings over at Professor Piggington. The real estate market hasn't hit bottom yet.

While the house was up for sale, someone with access to the house managed to get in and steal both my still camera and my video camera. They rummaged through the drawers in my bathroom where one might keep jewelry and they tried to get away with my PC as well, but it looks like they were in too much of a hurry. My cameras were hidden, so they must have cased the joint during one of our open house days.

Both cameras were slated for replacement once I sold the house and the total loss was pretty small. I think what saved me from even greater problems was the fact that I don't own anything worth stealing. Poverty has its rewards.

To celebrate the sale of the house, I ditched Sprint. Yay! I got on my fiancee's Verizon plan and bought myself an enV. It seems to work well, even in those places where Sprint dropped calls. Which would be just about everywhere. Downstairs in my house, for example.

My missing camera explains the lack of catblogging lately. I still need to learn how to use my phone and the 2 megapixel camera that comes with it. Between having no camera and the stress of trying to get to an agreement with the buyers before I lost the chance to lease an outstanding house nearby, I've been a bit preoccupied.

More blogging to come. I've got a video camera all picked out, but if you've got a still camera to recommend, I'd love to hear about it. I'm looking for one that can take external lenses. My old one was nice, but it was limited to it's own optical zoom capability.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Now This Is Just Sad

more cat pictures

Light Will be the Blogging

...because finished the paperwork for selling the house and leasing another I have. Much to be done, now there is.

When 900 years of stuff you have to move, look as good you will not!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Farm Bill: Yet Another Reason to Vote for McCain

...because McCain voted against it while Obama voted for it. David Brooks has more in today's NY Times.
Barack Obama talks about taking on the special interests. This farm bill would have been a perfect opportunity to do so. But Obama supported the bill, just as he supported the 2005 energy bill that was a Christmas tree for the oil and gas industries...

The pharmaceutical industry, the defense industry and the financial sector all give more money to Democrats than Republicans. If Obama is actually going to bring about change, he’s going to have to ruffle these sorts of alliances. If he can’t do it in an easy case like the farm bill, will he ever?

John McCain opposed the farm bill. In an impassioned speech on Monday, he declared: “It would be hard to find any single bill that better sums up why so many Americans in both parties are so disappointed in the conduct of their government, and at times so disgusted by it.”

McCain has been in Congress for decades, but he has remained a national rather than a parochial politician. The main axis in his mind is not between Republican and Democrat. It’s between narrow interest and patriotic service. And so it is characteristic that he would oppose a bill that benefits the particular at the expense of the general.
You know, now that I read this again, I realize that David Brooks is ignoring the issues that are important to all Americans and is just practicing politics as usual. Well, maybe not David Brooks, but someone involved in this is.

On the Drop in the Dollar and the National Debt

This post is kind of an open reply to one of our dearest critics and harshest friends, aon, who a few days back left a comment suggesting that the recent devaluation in the dollar was going to be a problem for the US in paying back foreign-held debt. I don't think this is the case. National bonds are held in the currency of the nation issuing them. That is, T-bills are sold in dollar denominations with a given interest rate and a set payoff date. If the Chinese want to buy them, they have to convert their yuan into dollars to do so. If we want to pay them back, we pay them in dollars, not yuan. I don't think the devaluation has any effect on this.

A dollar is just a thing like a lamp or a computer or a desk. Its value fluctuates with supply and demand. If Germany has a higher interest rate on their government bonds than the US, then people will want to buy those and will sell their dollars to buy Euros. Demand for dollars will fall and demand for Euros will rise and therefore, the dollar will be worth fewer Euros. That's one cause when a currency drops in value.

That's kind of thumbnail sketch of the way I understand it. Corrections in the comments are welcome.

A Touching Scene

Yesterday when I went to school to pick up my daughter, I saw a touching scene. At our school, we have an ancient Italian lady who has worked as a teacher's aide for decades. She is easily in her 90s. As she was hobbling away from school and going home for the day, a bright-faced little poppet, a first grader no more than 6 years old ran after her, calling her name. The old Italian lady turned and smiled and the little girl rushed up and gave a her a big hug.

It was a tender and charming scene. A woman who had experienced so much in life sharing a moment of warmth and love with a tiny, innocent child. I pulled out my phone to share this with my fiancee. As I waited for her phone to ring, I got that special message that Sprint had prepared for me, nay, for all of us.

Signal faded. Call lost.

1980s Music

My son, being 16, is in to bands like the Violent Femmes. Apparently, the Violent Femmes were around back in the 1980s. I remember hearing the name, but very little if any of the music. My boy always wonders why I haven't heard of bands like this that got their start way back when. He plays me some of their music and it's alright, but nothing like what was popular then.

As an instructive exercise, I had him watch this.

What would you have selected from that era?

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Daisy

My posts have been light on pictures lately so I decided to throw this one in just for aesthetic reasons. Well, that and I like mama's girls.

Farm Bill Shows the Democrats' Fiscal Responsiblity even worse than the Republicans. In short, the farm bill will increase spending by 44% over the last one. Robert Novak goes ballistic at the craven Republicans who supported this.
Minority Whip Roy Blunt voted for the bill. So did Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam, who was seen whipping votes for passage. House Republicans voted 100 to 91 to approve the bill (with only 15 Democrats in opposition), assuring an overridden veto. Similarly, in the Senate, Republicans voted 35 to 13 for the bill, and the only Democrats opposing it were Rhode Island's two senators.
Two things jump out at me about this. First, the Democrats have the majority and only two Democratic senators and 15 Democratic congresscreatures opposed it. The Democrats are far more in favor of this than the Republicans.

Second, and most importantly, Robert Novak doesn't even mention it. It's gotten to the point where no one expects the Democrats to do anything but spend money wildly. There's no point in criticizing them for such things, because spending like crazy is just what they do, it's part of their core principles.

Anyone who votes for a Democrat expecting fiscal sanity is sadly mistaken.

A Political Platform you can Support

Victor Davis Hanson articulates a splendid platform and strategy for the Republican Party. Check it out. Too bad no one is actually following it. We don't need new ideas. We need the proper execution of proven ones.


Signal faded. Call lost.

Three more times in the last hour. The day I get my cash from the sale of my house I am going to destroy my Sprint phone and replace it with an EnV and service by Verizon.

Google Tech Talks: Transcendental Meditation OK, Augustinians not so Much

A friend at work turned me on to the outstanding series of YouTube videos called Google Tech Talks. They're about an hour long each and I've only seen one completely, this one called How Ant Colonies Get Things Done. It was absolutely fantastic. Things like this are one of the reasons I don't watch TV at all any more.

After watching that one, I surfed through some of the others. There are 773 of them. A couple of them dealt with using meditation to deal with the stress of being constantly connected to the web. Here's one of them. At first I thought it was pretty cool, but as I watched it I grew sad. The room, the people and the topic seemed so tragically empty. Agnostic meditation is a shallow thing. It's spiritual beings acknowledging only their biochemical side yet hungering for a deeper tranquility. It was an effort to control their brain chemistry and nothing more. When the meditation was over and the workday resumed, they had no new tools to deal with the stress as it arose.

I thought of all the Catholic teachings on prayer and meditation and giving up your troubles to Christ that were most likely closed off to these people as Google's genuflection to political correctness prevented them from inviting speakers who could talk on such things. I'll admit I did not go through all 773 videos, so it's entirely possible that they did invite such a speaker, but I seriously doubt it.

For 2000 years, some of the greatest minds of the world have explored Catholic theology and applied it to the human condition. It's tragic that the world of prayer and spiritual meditation developed by these people is not offered to the employees of Google.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hotdog of the Day

see more dog pictures

The Electorate as Spoiled Children

...can be seen in the ease with which the press reports that the economy is tanking or in "meltdown". Here's the latest bit, a throwaway line in an article about Obama and the possibility of Romney as McCain's VP.
If (Obama) can convince a reasonable number of blue collar white Democrats that are racially doubtful about him that he can do more to soothe their economic woes, this could trump the racial doubts of many about him. That and the Bush albatross of the war and the economic meltdown around him is a tough one for McCain to get around
Emphasis mine. 5% unemployment, the Dow at 12,800 and inflation around 4% is meltdown only if you're a spoiled child.

Say you're the head of a family. You've got an income and you have normal things you spend discretionary income on such as trips to Disneyland or a vacation. One day, your car breaks down and needs a ton of work. It costs a lot to repair. If you cut back on your expensive fun, you can get by, if you do not, you have to go into debt. If your kids are spoiled, they will scream and cry at the thought of not being able to go to Disneyland and if you are in turn weak, you'll go anyway and spend money you don't have so you can mollify the kids.

That's where we are right now, the press is encouraging it and this election season has been filled with it. Global competition in the labor market is driving down wages all over the world. The economic realities of China and India modernizing have shown no favoritism for one nation or another. Increased consumption in those countries has driven prices of commodities up. That's just the way it works and all the government programs in the world can't stop it.

Instead of showing maturity, the press is giving voice to the petulant among us, helping us scream and kick about how terrible this all is. In turn, all of the politicians, even the normally stingy John McCain, are giving in to the spoiled brat routine and are promising to burn dollars to create a smoke screen so we don't have to see reality. Barack Obama's campaign has been the absolute worst of the lot, showing not even the slightest comprehension of the global forces inexorably changing our economic landscape. Instead, he promises to burn mountains of greenbacks to shield us from reality. (See also: Republic, Weimar)

Further, as our population ages and retires, we will enter a period where our financial obligations will quickly overwhelm our resources. Both Obama and Hillary want to add to those obligations and massively, with monstrous health care programs. Pile that on top of the ongoing global changes and you've got the car breaking down, the water heater leaking and the drains backing up while the children scream to have the family double the number of vacations it takes.

What frightens me the most about this election are not the choices, but the foundation of the issues. Many nations before us have tried to shield their citizens from reality. Despite all of the information available to us, we're doing it, too. Long after the election has passed, the childishness that seems so embedded in our culture will be with us. At some point in time, we will have to pay for it. In the meantime, the press eggs us on to cry about the mildest of economic slowdowns and kick and scream for more goodies.

The house burned down. Let's buy that jet ski we always wanted!

A John McCain TV Ad

...from SNL.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Kitteh Massage!

This was just too great not to post it.

H/T: Wannasmile.

Barack Obama Vows to Meet With Hitler and Stalin

In his petulant response to Bush's remarks about appeasement, Barack Obama talked about negotiating with Iran and Syria while pulling troops out of Iraq. He felt that Iran and Syria had an interest in stability in the region, too, which would lead them to the negotiating table. I wish I had a link to the transcript, but I couldn't find one and I ran out of time to keep looking.

His commentary just blew me away. Of course Iran and Syria have an interest in stability in the region. It's the same interest in stability that Hitler and Stalin had about Poland in 1939 when they signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. How could any modern politician be that stupid? Mark Steyn had a great take on this.
I don’t know where to begin taking that apart...What happens though, when you send the president of the United States to sit down in a meeting with the president of Iran, a man who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map of the Middle East, a man who is a Holocaust denier, and presided over a Holocaust denying conference, what you’re essentially doing is making that man respectable. You’re saying well, here’s the American position, and here’s the pro-wiping Israel off the map and Holocaust denying position, and now we’ll put them both in the scales, and reach a balancing point between the two. That’s where Obama is deluded and na├»ve. And I think frankly, he’s just extraordinarily ignorant about foreign policy
Talk about not ready for the job. He wouldn't be ready on day 1, day 100 or even day 1000.

A photo snapped by a jubilant Barack Obama as he celebrates Iran and Syria agreeing to "stability" in Iraq.
"My diplomacy has resulted in peace in our time!" he later said.

Update: When you stop and think about it, Barack Obama is actually worse than Neville Chamberlain since he's offering to facilitate this era's version of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Furthermore, in the late 1930s, Hitler was at least making noises about wanting peace. Iran has done nothing of the sort and has explicitly called for all kinds of death and destruction on Israel and the US. It's truly surreal to hear Obama complain about being colored as an appeaser when his rhetoric shows him to be more of a naive, credulous pacifist than the greatest appeaser of all time, Neville Chamberlain.

Repackaging Junk Doesn't Sell

Several pundits on the right have written prescriptions for the current string of Republican losses in recent special elections. Those prescriptions are all about repackaging the Republican brand, coming up with new ideas and some version of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America. The problem with that is the party has systematically destroyed its brand through its actions. You can't market fiscal responsiblity when you've been profligate.

I imagine that similar meetings occurred at Ford in the late 1970s and early 1980s when they discovered that people no longer associated the Mustang with a sleek sports car. They had produced cars that were junk and had wrecked the Mustang brand. All the TV and print ads in the world could not convince the public that the Mustang was a cool sports car. It just wasn't.

A 1979 Mustang, no one's idea of a classic car. Image from Muscle Car Club.

That's where the Republicans are today. Their best bet is to fall in line behind John McCain and hope he wins the presidency, after which they need to hew closely to the true concepts of fiscal and personal responsibility. It's the only way they're going to be able to rebuild their brand.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's the Dlrow Series!

Tonight, the San Diego Padres (15-27) travel to Seattle to take on the Mariners (16-26). It promises to be a ghastly series. I wonder if the Theocracy's baseball expert, our Cantor of Chemistry, would be willing to break down the matchup for us.

Finding Paperwork in a War Zone what my life seems like right now. Some day I'll post about the events in my life that led to me blogging, but right now it's all about finding the right paperwork to finalize the sale of the house and prepare for a marriage. Due to the destruction in my life from those previous events, it's turning out to be the equivalent of being a requisitions clerk on Guadalcanal.

PFC Schwartz was awarded the Bronze Star for Bureaucratic Valor
for managing to file a requisitions form for a dozen copper shoelace grommets after
his brigade's administrative encampment was struck by a severe Japanese mortar bombardment.

Image from WWII Information.

Wages are Declining - I Blame President Bush!

...except that these wages are in Canada. Oh what the heck, let's blame President Bush anyway. If we didn't, then we'd have to admit that global labor competition is driving wages down naturally and that would get in the way of hating President Bush.
Robert Samuelson's argument is so self-evident no politician can ever state it. A couple of weeks back, Statistics Canada reported that, after adjustment for inflation, Canadian wage-earners are earning less than in 1980. For example, in British Columbia the median wage-earner earns 11.3% less than a quarter-century ago.
Increased competition for jobs drives wages down. Increased competition for goods drives prices up. Reality is unpleasant sometimes.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Some of us Just Have a Bigger Messiah Complex Than Others

...and in some of us, it fills every cell of our bodies until it crowds out the protoplasm. Dig this.

Good Lord, it's like the guy has descended from Heaven to preach the Truth to us. We're not worthy, Barack. Really. We're not. How about if you go up to Canada and preach instead?

President Bush and the Misery Index

Is it a recession? A depression? A total collapse of the global financial markets? Whatever it is, it's all W's fault. Take a look at the Misery Index on a year-by-year basis here.

Will this nightmare never end? We need more governmental intervention in the economy and sooner rather than later.

No Wonder the MSM is so Awful

What follows goes a long way towards explaining how demagogues have managed to do so well in elections across the world.

I just checked out the class requirements for the Columbia School of Journalism, the nation's most prestigious journalism school. As far as I could tell, journalism students are not required to take any statistics classes. No wonder they get taken in by simple statistical frauds! They don't understand basic statistical analysis at all.

This seems tragic to me as most reporting consists of little more than giving some statistic or other and then infering causation from an individual human interest story used as an example of the statistic. If you want to know why the news media is as terrible as it is, look no further than the Columbia School of Journalism. In fact, I've got a new slogan for them.

Columbia J-School: The nation's leader in preparing reporters to be victimized by the simplest of ruses.

Going a bit further, there is no indication that J-school graduates know much of anything outside of writing. The outstanding blog, Carpe Diem, goes even farther in explaining what's going on when it shows relative salaries for J-school graduates vs. other disciplines. No one is getting into journalism for the money and I would further argue that no one gets into journalism because engineering and physics were too easy.

Without backgrounds in other disciplines and without any analytical tools, the newsmedia is ripe for exploitation by demagogues and charlatans. After seeing this, I'm not surprised that politicans can get elected by saying demonstrably stupid things.

The Answer to Yesterday's Economic History Quiz Hitler and the Nazis from the mid-1930's. Here's the quiz.

We have a winner!

One fellow commenting anonymously (I'm pretty sure I know this rogue) got it right.
His economics were something of a Ponzi scheme where he had to keep taking over other countries to fund his spending on guns & butter.
aon guessed Hitler as well with some others thrown in. Here were some other answers with my responses.

Dean and Paul both suggested FDR. While FDR managed to pupate our current bloated government, I'm not sure how much this example fits him. aon suggested a range of dictators including Stalin and Mao and made some typically prescient points about each. Then, just as typically, he went off the deep end regarding President Bush.
Mind you, GWB did pretty much everything the exact opposite of what you've described. External inflation is allowed to the extend that the $US is worth about 1/2 what it was when he was elected. Roads, bridges and levees are allowed to decompose while the unemployment rate is around 5%...

Funny, I'd never realised until you pointed it out that Bush is actually worse than Mao, Stalin AND Hitler.
Hating don't make it so, amigo. President Bush has pretty much done exactly the same as the example, spending wildly on domestic programs. External inflation is pretty much meaningless. If it doesn't translate into a local effect, then it doesn't much matter. 5% unemployment is called full employment and is the thing most countries aim for. We've had it for about 8 years. As for infrastructure crumbling, that's a pretty complex matter and whatever blame needs to go around seems to be equally spread. Here in San Diego, our water system is falling apart while our public education industry waxes fat and prosperous. California is deep in debt, San Diego is deep in debt and the public school system budgets hit another record level in real dollars every year.

I'll leave it to you to amplify your point about President Bush being the equal of such catastrophic economic morons as Hitler, Stalin and Mao. Be sure to show your work and include a comparison to Mr. Misery Index himself, President Carter.

Paul went with FDR as well and suggested he was the worst president ever. I'm going with President Carter on that one, at least in the modern era. Whatever his economic failings, FDR had the Nazis and Tojo right all along while the Republican isolationists had it dead wrong. Carter got it all wrong.

In a post scheduled later today, I'm going to reveal something I discovered while doing a little research yesterday that stunned me and has a direct impact on this discussion. What I found out explained how Hitler and other economic populist demagogues have managed to win the endorsement of voters time after time.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cheezburger of the Day

more cat pictures

Economic History Quiz

OK, boys and girls, it's a pop quiz. With the Democrats running about blaming Big Oil (those villains!) for the rise in gas prices and the Republicans handing out 300 Yuan to every prole in the nation, here's an excerpt from a web page describing a nation where this kind of thing has been used before to buy votes. When and where was this? (No fair googling this stuff, either!)
(The leader) was "wholly ignorant" of economics...What (the leader) did know was politics and how to achieve public support-(he) was an immensely popular leader with approval ratings even Bill Clinton would envy-and early on, he made it clear that economics would be subordinate to politics.
In his highly influential (history book), British historian A.J.P. Taylor similarly gave the (political party) credit for creating widespread prosperity, concluding, "The (party's) secret was...freedom from the then orthodox principles of economics. Government spending provided all the happy effects of mild inflation; while political (control), with its destruction of (political enemies) and rigorous exchange control, prevented such unfortunate consequences as a rise in wages, or in prices."

(A disagreeing historian's) version of things more accurately reflects what was really happening in (the nation during this time). (The leader's) economic policies were systematically wrecking the (nation's) economy and were rapidly painting him into a corner were his only choices were (very bad).

(The leader), argues Kershaw, was deathly afraid of inflation and a repetition of (previous bad years). Nevertheless, he had to reduce unemployment or he wasn't going to last long enough to (rule the nation)...Tax cuts were also out of the question because he believed they led to less revenue not more growth.

(The leader's) solution for ... unemployment problems was ... massive deficit spending. In fact, by Kershaw's account, the (Party's) government guaranteed (huge amounts of money for) massive road building, subsidies to the auto industry, lots more bureaucrats to enforce all the new controls and regulations...
The result, of course, was catastrophe. Don't expect our press to know anything at all about this subject, of course.

Put your answers in the comments.

Thank You, Janet Albrechtsen

...for writing pieces like this.
THERE is a certain familiarity to the concomitant series of actions and reactions when disaster strikes in the world. The US stands ready, willing and able to offer assistance. It is often the first country to send in millions of dollars, navy strike groups loaded with food and medical supplies, and transport planes, helicopters and floating hospitals to help those devastated by natural disaster.

Then, just as swift and with equal predictability, those wedded to the Great Satan view of the US begin to carp, drawing on a potent mixture of cynicism and conspiracy theories to criticise the last remaining superpower. When the US keeps doing so much of the heavy lifting to alleviate suffering, you'd figure that the anti-Americans might eventually revise their view of the US. But they never do. And coming under constant attack even when helping others, you'd figure that Americans would eventually draw the curtains on world crises. But they haven't. At least not yet.
Read the whole thing. It will make you proud to call the Aussies friends.

It will also make you proud to be an American. It may not be enough if you're Michelle Obama, but then she's had a tough life what with trying to find private ballet lessons for her kids and all.

Good on ya, Janet.

World of Good, Play-Doh Style

The Monks at our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings have an outstanding World of Good idea that you can participate in from the comfort of your own home. Check it out!

For more WOGs, a description of why we WOG and an opportunity to join the WOG Squad, see this post.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet!

Woken up early by the cat, did some research, fell back to sleep, woke up, blogged, made breakfast and lunches for the kids, corrected my daughter's homework, drove her to school, went to work, picked her up from school, helped her with homework, worked from home, took her to soccer, shopped for food, made dinner, picked her up from soccer, gave her and my son dinner, worked some more from home...

It's all in a day's work for Superdad!

Man, I need a beer.

An Observation About Political Differences

We tend to judge our opponents by their actions and our allies by their intentions.

Because Republicans intended to cut the budget, conservatives see them as fiscally responsible. Because Democrats passed massive social spending increases, conservatives see them as fiscally irresponsible.

Because Democrats talk about helping the poor, liberals see them as compassionate. Because Republicans have tried to slow the growth of social spending, liberals see them as heartless.

In the meantime, we all owe something like $35,000 each on the debt and Oakland is a catastrophe. Pay up and keep to the safe part of town.

The Psychological Profile of Bloggers

...can be found here. I just scanned it, but it looks great. I'll go into my reasons for searching for it later. Here's a key bit:

A few weeks ago, I collected some of the goals some bloggers had stated they had for 2008. I looked at those goals and extrapolated to certain qualities. These were the ones that showed up the most, in order of frequency of occurrence:

  • ambitious, achievement-oriented
  • interested in community
  • reader-oriented
  • visual
  • self-reflective
They also appeared to be interested in learning, a bit obsessed, playful, conscious of time management, value-oriented, and to have a desire to be effective and focused.
Most intriguing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sprint's New Slogan

Q: What is Sprint's new corporate slogan?

A: Sprint. Signal faded. Call lost.

Michelle Obama is Surreal

Isn't there something surreal about Michelle Obama? She got her education thanks to money loaned to her by the rest of the country. She got degrees from some of the most prestigious schools in the nation with these loans. She and her husband then got high-paying jobs and he has gone on to become the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency. 50 years ago, she would not have had the opportunities she has today and yet her speeches talk about an endlessly shifting bar and life getting harder and harder. No one from the press seems to ask her or Barack about this.

Her entire existence is clear proof that things are getting better all the time. It's so weird that I can't think of an analogy for this one.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The CNN Girls Squeal for Obama

If you haven't seen this yet, you should. If you're a blogger, embedding it might be a good idea.

The only way Saturday Night Live can satirize this would be to have the MSM reporters doing a Madonna-like dance number in front of Barack, hoping to be the one who he picks as his groupie.

The end of the MSM can't come soon enough.

What Happens When the Press Doesn't Know History?

You get Barack Obama as a presidential candidate.
In defending his stated intent to meet with America's enemies without preconditions, Sen. Obama said: "I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did."

That he made this statement, and that it passed without comment by the journalists covering his speech indicates either breathtaking ignorance of history on the part of both, or deceit.
Read the whole thing.

Alan Abramowitz Might Think You're a Symbolic Racist

...and you probably are. Dig this.
Racial attitudes have changed dramatically in the United States over the past several decades, of course, and overtly racist beliefs are much less prevalent among white Americans of all classes today. But a more subtle form of prejudice, which social scientists sometimes call symbolic racism, is still out there -- especially among working-class whites.

Symbolic racism means believing that African American poverty and other problems are largely the result of lack of ambition and effort, rather than white racism and discrimination.
Emphasis mine. Condensed version: Unless you think that blacks are hopelessly victimized, you're a racist of one kind or another. We will continue to redefine the term until you fit it. So those of you who think that behavior creates outcomes, you're racist.

I wonder how many African and Carribean immigrants are symbolic racists.
In a side-by-side comparison of 2000 census data by sociologist John R. Logan at the Mumford Center, State University of New York at Albany, black immigrants from Africa average the highest educational attainment of any population group in the country, including whites and Asians.

For example, 43.8 percent of African immigrants had achieved a college degree, compared to 42.5 of Asian Americans, 28.9 percent for immigrants from Europe, Russia and Canada, and 23.1 percent of the U.S. population as a whole.
I would bet that a whole bunch of them are. If you think that family structure matters more than race, you're a symbolic racist, too.

It turns out that Alan Abramowitz is a professor of political science at Emory University. My bet is that at the annual Emory University talent show, the professors do a song and dance number akin to the "Everyone has AIDS" song from Team America: World Police, substituting "Everyone's a racist" for "Everyone has AIDS."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

World of Good, Softball Style

Our Grand Inquisitor has an outstanding World of Good post that you won't want to miss. Check it out.

For more WOGs, a description of why we WOG and an opportunity to join the WOG Squad, see this post.

The Backyard Arthropod Project

I know I've linked to this before, but it's worth doing again. If you haven't seen The Backyard Arthropod Project before or you haven't visited it lately, I highly recommend it. It encapsulates the sharing of passions and knowledge that I think is the greatest gift of the Blogosphere.

Popular Music has Frozen in Time

I was at the grocery store the other day and over their speaker system where they were playing popular music came a Crosby, Stills and Nash tune from the 1960s. It was still something they could play in the year 2008 and not induce rolled eyes and cringes from their shoppers. Now imagine if you did the same thing in, say, 1968. Could you imagine the reaction from the shoppers, particularly the younger ones, if this came on the speaker system?

I can just see it now. Jimi Hendrix, his headband soaked in LSD, his pupils dilating like umbrellas being opened and closed as fast as possible, totally unaware of his surroundings, belting out The Charleston on his electric guitar.

"You may not be able to buck and wing,
Fox-trot, two-step or even sing,
If you ain't got religion in your feet
You can do this prance and do it neat!"

Image from Maniac World.

Yeah, right.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Momma Daisy

...doin' what Momma Daisies do.

A Little More About the Engagement

So I dropped the hint that I got engaged on Wednesday. Here's a little bit more about it. I've been dating my fiancee, Terrie, now for about 7 months. I've never had a relationship like this one, where it is all effortless and natural. The two of us have very similar life stories. Our kids know and like each other and they like both of us. Even our Maximum Leader is in love with her. You should see the reception Terrie gets when she comes through our door for a visit. There are head bumps and leg rubs and purring and flopping. K T just radiates love when Terrie's around.

When I was on my business trip to Hawaii last week, there came a point where I realized that I never again want to go away and not come home to Terrie. I wished I had a reliable jeweler in Hawaii so I could come home with a ring and propose on Friday. That was not available, so I had to wait and shop for the ring on Tuesday. As an aside, if you're in the market for a diamond, check out the prices on Blue Nile. I didn't feel comfortable buying a diamond on line, but they gave me an excellent benchmark for pricing the ring. Our local jeweler, Renzulli's, was actually below Blue Nile's prices and did a great job on the ring.

On Wednesday night I made a nice dinner. I grilled lamb chops, made new red potatoes and steamed some green beans. I had crackers and exotic cheeses for appetizer. I asked Terrie to bring over a bottle of our favorite wine. She suspected nothing, poor thing. I had the Lovin' Spoonful playing on my little Rio Karma through my living room version of Dr. Frankenstein's Stereo.

I put out the cheese and crackers, hid the ring box under a cushion on the sofa and when she came in, we poured some wine and sat down on the sofa to chat. I told her what I felt in Hawaii, got down on one knee and proposed with the ring. She never saw the ring. She gasped and asked me a couple of times if I was serious. Then she said yes.

Note to guys: The girl may not see the ring when you propose, but she will see the ring for the rest of her life. Do not think you can scrimp on the ring just because in that one, emotional moment she might not see it! :-)

So what song was playing when I popped the question? Darling Be Home Soon, specifically these lyrics:
But darling be home soon
I couldn't bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It's not just these few hours but I've been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk to

It could not have been more perfect.

Time for the Board Meeting at the 'Post

...and our CEO is awaiting the budget report. From the looks of things, everything had better be in perfect order.

Mosquito Fish to the Rescue!

Years ago when I was in high school and college, I worked as the tropical fish expert at a variety of pet stores. At the time, I had severe allergies to all kinds of critters, so the only pets I could safely have were fish. When I was 12, a neighbor gave me a 10 gallon tank and some guppies and I was off and running with fish.

At one point, I took care of a man's home full of aquariums filled with very unusual fancy guppies. He had hot pink guppies which were rare at the time, but my favorites look like this.

Image from Neeky's topical fish.

Guppies are very close relatives of mosquito fish, those ubiquitous little fellows you see in streams and ponds. Mosquito fish are named because their favorite food are mosquito larvae. They are an excellent alternative to pesticides in eliminating mosquito problems. Here's where they're coming to the rescue of us all.

As homes are foreclosed on, some of them become abandoned. Some of these have swimming pools. In the absence of people, swimming pools become stagnant ponds, the perfect breeding ground for clouds and clouds of mosquitos. Add a few mosquito fish to the mix and the mosquitos become nothing but lunch. And breakfast. And dinner. Yum yum yum!

Dig this article from today's WSJ and this attendant video.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cheezburger of the Day

more cat pictures

Slow News Day

It's a really quiet day here at the expansive editorial offices of the 'Post. Not much to tell. Sold the house yesterday. Got engaged last night.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Cheezburger of the Day

more cat pictures

I'm not big on Blackberries, Either

Carpe Diem has the reasons why.

Sunset Jazz

Here's a sunset from two days ago set to music from Louis Jordan. Grab a martini or some wine and enjoy. After all, you can't have sunset jazz without a sunset!

It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Bunch

Dig this:
Shellshocked House Republicans got warnings from leaders past and present Tuesday: Your party’s message isn’t good enough to prevent disaster in November, and neither is the NRCC’s money...

In a piece published in Human Events, the Republicans’ onetime captain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, warned his old colleagues that they face “real disaster” on Election Day unless they move immediately to “chart a bold course of real reform” for the country.
For my money, Newt is one of the greatest leaders of the 20th Century. Unfortunately for the current crop of Republicans, they lack the one thing Newt had: trust.

If these empty suits, these misspelled Democrats, these ultimate RINOs manage to chart some kind of "bold course of real reform," who will believe them? I wouldn't. I heard all that before. They had the Congress and the White House for years and we ended up with what? Huge increases in spending and a massive deficit. The recession may never come at all and yet we've managed to blow $200B on a stimulus package that amounts to nothing more than getting a payday loan from China so we can mail out checks to everyone.

A "bold course for real reform" starts with getting rid of these guys. The sooner the better.

Have you received your stimulus check yet?

Can You Decide Sexual Orientation Before Puberty?

From our friends over at Stop the ACLU comes a link to this story.
For school officials in Haverford Township, the challenge was daunting: What do you do when a 9-year-old student, with the full support of his parents, decides that he is no longer a boy and instead is a girl?

Parents of a third-grade student at Chatham Park Elementary School approached the administration on April 16 to ask for help in making a "social transition" for their child.
The article goes on to discuss the controversy surrounding this, but I have a deeper question. How can you tell if you're transgendered or even homosexual years before puberty? Maybe I just don't understand the whole homosexual thing. My first reaction to this is that it's the ultimate in spoiling a child. It appears as if the child has been given no boundaries at all and is going as far as he can to try and find just where mom and dad draw the line.

Taking my assumption as fact: It's sad and pathetic at the same time. Boundaries are a sign of love. They're the act of an adult protecting and guiding a child by imposing adult sensibilities on a child's world. Even children know they don't know everything. Even though they don't like to be told to turn off the TV and go outside because they're not allowed to play video games 24 hours a day, they want to know that their parents love them enough to guide them. When my kids talk about schoolmates who are spoiled, the conclusion they come to is not that those other kids are lucky, it's that their parents just don't care.

That's what this sounds like to me. It's parents who are too weak to put any limits at all on their child. Now he's called their bluff and gone completely off the deep end. The article goes on to quote someone whose title makes him sound like an expert.
About one in 5,000 people is transgender, said Walter O. Bockting, a psychologist and coordinator for transgender health services at the University of Minnesota. Bockting said he sees about 10 children a year who are 9 or younger.

"It's a little early, but occasionally that happens," he said.
OK, so he's the coordinator for transgender health services, so what? That's a single psychologist giving their opinion, not a scientific consensus. It still doesn't make any sense to me. I'd have to see the DNA evidence of serious genetic problems before I believed this one. The words of one goofy psychologist does not make it so.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

How Many Cannibals Can You Feed?

How many cannibals could your body feed?
Created by OnePlusYou

The Feline Theocracy's Offical Artist has us beat by a wide margin.

Stuff Catholics Like'll just have to go see the site. It's hilarious. Trust me.

H/T: Our Court Jester.

Voting in North Carolina easier than you might think. Let's all go out there and vote today!

The Raccoons Don't Come in the House any More

...because the skunks are moving in instead. I've been rolling the dice and leaving the cat door open at night in the hopes of keeping our Maximum Leader's interruptions of my sleep down to two or less per night. I had thought that the raccoons, after a year or so of being locked out, might have moved on to other places to forage. It seems as though they have, but instead, last night we had an adolescent skunk come in the house to explore. It was a very well-mannered skunk and didn't spray or even stink up the place and calmly walked out when I turned on the lights.

I wish I'd been able to take a photo.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Value Investing

BusinessPundit has a good post on the subject.

I Was Going To Ask You What You Thought

...about my series extolling the virtues of prudery on marriage but I changed my mind. In the last few days I had begun to regret my decision to go that route and post so many times on the topic of marriage. I began to fear that series came across as a sign of some kind of ridiculous hang-up about sex, whether or not I actually have one. Posting pictures of Barbara Billingsley from her Leave it to Beaver days, even in jest, seemed silly or hopelessly nostalgic or embarrassingly naive.

Then I started thinking about what it really meant to arm cops with assault rifles. You see, I truly believe in John Edwards' concept of two Americas, just not the causes he describes. There's one with the money and the morality and the social cohesion and one without. The difference is the presence of dedicated fathers in the lives of their children. The portion of America without such fathers has devolved into such chaos and self destruction that the other portion of America is having to turn their police force into the US Marines in order to control the situation.

In that moment, I stopped worrying about how my blog crusade for 1950s-era morality came across. We're considering giving cops assault rifles because the violence of fatherless America is getting out of control. It's not the violence of some temporary series of riots, it's an everyday, ordinary, ambient, background level violence. We're not confronting the cause of the violence, we're just responding with greater firepower so we can win the confrontations. So long as the violence is contained within the neighborhoods where civilization has been wiped out and we can get to work or the mall or the kids' soccer game safely, we're fine with giving the cops armored personnel carriers if necessary.

So, yes, I'm sure I come across like some kind of spat-wearing, bow-tie clad, starched dork. I'll accept that consequence to my posts because, unfortunately, we're considering turning our police forces into this.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

An ad for the Macbook

...that Apple probably doesn't want you to see.

The Peter Pan - a new Metric for Politicians

I am completely exhausted with the endless posts about how this politician or that is hypocritical, stupid, uninformed or just plain wrong. Of course they are. They're doing what they are built to do - promise goodies to the voters in exchange for votes, goodies that will cost the majority of voters less than it would have had the voters bought those goodies for themselves. Naturally, the difference in cost has to be paid for somehow, usually by borrowing money from the Chinese. Politicians try to give us all an extension of our childhood by promising benefits without responsiblity.

With that in mind, I am here to propose a new measurement of political pandering, the Peter Pan.

Curse you, big pharma! I'll lower the price of drugs arbitrarily no matter what you do!

When the Republicans offer to cut taxes and not cut benefits, that's some serious Peter Pans. When the Democrats offer to give everyone health insurance without paying for it, that's big time Peter Panning.

Of course, all of this works only so long as we want an extended childhood. The moment we decide to become grown ups and pay for what we get, Peter Pan dissolves into a puff of smoke.

How sad. I'd miss the little guy. Let's not do that, OK?

Don't be Such a Prude, Arm the Cops!

The erudite and well-intentioned Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee and Pajamas Media has an excellent post on a plan in Chicago to arm the police with assault rifles following an explosion of murders in that city. The post goes on at length about the cost of doing this, discussing the price of weapons, ammunition and training. The comments in that post talk about marksmanship, collateral damage and the possiblity of friendly fire casualties.

It's all very enlightening.

Allow me to digress a bit from the red meat conservative fascination with guns and suggest instead that turning the police force into a clone of the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) is not going to solve the problem, assuming the problem has been identified as crime. If the problem is that we're not killing people with sufficiently cool weaponry, then this is indeed the correct solution.

If we want to cut the crime rate, then we need to become prudes.
All but three of 23 recent studies found some family structure effect on crime or delinquency. Seven of the eight studies that used nationally representative data, for example, found that children in single-parent or other non-intact family structures were at greater risk of committing criminal or delinquent acts. For example: A study using Add-Health data found that even after controlling for race, parents' education, and income, adolescents in single-parent families were almost two times more likely to have pulled a knife or a gun on someone in the past year. (Todd Michael Franke 2000)

Six of seven studies that looked at whether overall rates of single parenthood affected average crime rates found that changes in family structure were related to increases in crime. For example:

· A study that looked at the relation between divorce rates and out-of-wedlock birthrates and violent crime between 1973 and 1995 found that nearly 90% of the change in violent crime rates can be accounted for by the change in percentages of out-of-wedlock births. (Mackey and Coney 2000, p. 352)

· A study that looked at crime in rural counties in four states concluded, "[A]n increase of 13% in female-headed households would produce a doubling of the offense rate." (Osgood and Chambers 2000, p. 103)
Emphasis mine.

Gads, how hideous! Why the very thought that we might need to come out against sex in any way at all makes me queasy. Can't we just give the cops M-1 tanks instead?
Why arm the cops with assault rifles? Because bow ties are icky.

A Commencement Speech We'd Like to Hear P J O'Rourke. Here's a tidbit.
Don't moan. I'm not going to "pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next." I'm a member of the 1960s generation. We didn't have any wisdom.

We were the moron generation. We were the generation that believed we could stop the Vietnam War by growing our hair long and dressing like circus clowns. We believed drugs would change everything -- which they did, for John Belushi. We believed in free love. Yes, the love was free, but we paid a high price for the sex.

My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth's resources of the weird. Weird clothes -- we wore them. Weird beards -- we grew them. Weird words and phrases -- we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize.
Read the whole thing.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Cheezburger of the Day

Hawaiian Sunset

Aloha! I just flew back from a week-long business trip to Oahu and boy, are my arms tired! The rest of me is tired, too. It was a great trip and I stayed in an outstanding hotel - in fact, it was the best hotel room I have ever had, bar none. More on that later. For now, let me just leave you with a sunset picture I took from the balcony of my hotel room.

I uploaded a particularly large image this time, so please click on this for a much better version.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Marriage and Slavery

This is another in a continuing series on the breakdown of marriage in America, its causes and effects. The previous post in this series can be found here.

I am Catholic. Culturally, Catholicism has a great effect on me and therefore my cultural heritage can be traced back 2000 years. Slavery was abolished less than 150 years ago. If I am affected by things that happened 2000 years ago, can one really dismiss the effects of things that happened far more recently than that?

I used to think so, but James Wilson’s The Marriage Problem changed my mind. Here’s a quick sketch of his research and conclusions.

The muddled notions of modern feminism aside, a man’s primary role in a family is to protect and provide. Because slaves did not own the fruits of their labor and because male slaves could not protect their families from being dispersed, the man’s value in the slave family was minimal. Marriage among slaves was illegal. For these reasons and others, slave families were primarily matriarchal.

After the Civil War, Jim Crow laws as well as other societal norms similarly diluted the man’s value in the black family. Additionally, for a variety of reasons, black women outnumbered black men, which as we have seen before, depresses the number of marriages in a community.

How many generations would it take to drive out the effects of my Catholic heritage upon me and my descendants? Blacks in America have a long cultural history of female-headed households. While the number of these has exploded in recent years, the effects of slavery and racism on the black family cannot be dismissed.