Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sutter Creek Sunset

Chaos Glassworks

Beautiful stuff to be found at Chaos Glassworks.

Sutter Creek Rain

Sarah Palin is so Dumb ...

... that she probably thinks there's a difference between collision insurance and liability insurance when it comes to cars.

I don't know if you've seen this, but it's so illustrative of so many points that it's worth recapitulating here. Here's the Obama anecdote from the healthcare summit.
When I was young, just got out of college, I had to buy auto insurance. I had a beat-up old car. And I won’t name the name of the insurance company, but there was a company — let’s call it Acme Insurance in Illinois. And I was paying my premiums every month. After about six months I got rear-ended and I called up Acme and said, I’d like to see if I can get my car repaired, and they laughed at me over the phone because really this was set up not to actually provide insurance; what it was set up was to meet the legal requirements. But it really wasn’t serious insurance.
Insurance that meets legal requirements is liability coverage only. Coverage that takes care of your bumper is collision insurance. This is basic knowledge for all of us out here in Hicksville. This was not some slip of the tongue done in the middle of an antagonistic interview, this was a planned anecdote at Obama's healthcare summit. The fact that he used this anecdote proves one or more of the following:

  • He has no idea how insurance works.

  • His staff has no idea how insurance works.

  • The press doesn't care that he doesn't know how insurance works. (Imagine if Sarah Palin had said this.)

  • He doesn't think you know how insurance works nor does he think you should have to. Government regulations should make it safe to be a complete idiot.

  • He knows how insurance works, but his strategy is to throw so many anecdotes of woe into the debate that it's impossible to react to all of them.
I'm open to your suggestions here.

Sarah Palin. Man, is she stupid or what?

Blue Green Yellow Green

Striations of color.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

California Snow

We're up in Lodi this weekend, going wine tasting. Here's a very California photo from our trip up yesterday.

This is Compassion

... to enagage in using individual, anecdotal tales of woe to create massive new entitlements leading to colossal debt and eventually to rioting.

The Obama Administration recently unveiled it's FY 2011 budget. It calls for a deficit of almost $1.6T, the largest budget deficit ever. I don't know what to write about this. It's beyond mind-blowing. It's the result of having the government run by packs of academics and political lifers who have only the most tangential intersection with financial reality.

Germany is to Greece as China is to the US

Dig this.
Germany’s biggest banks are looking at a rescue plan for Greece under which they would buy Greek debt backed by financial guarantees from Berlin, the Financial Times has learnt.
OK, so that sounds like one of our own recent bailouts. The German government will be guaranteeing the Greek debt bought by German banks. Right about now, trusting the Greeks to be able to repay anything seems like a bad idea. So just why are they considering this?
Several such banks, including Hypo Real Estate, Eurohypo and Deutsche Postbank, which hold billions of euros of Greek debt, all said they would not increase their holdings.
The German banks are already up their eyeballs in Greek debt. A Greek default would damage the German financial system. So right now, the German government is trying to figure out how to force Greece to cut spending and raise taxes, not because they care for Greece, but because a Greek default would be very painful for Germany.

That sounds a lot like China and the US. If you read the commentary around the Interweb Tubes, most of it is very sympathetic to the Germans. After all, they're working longer hours and producing things people want to buy while the Greeks are spending money they don't have to get things they haven't earned. It's not a big leap to see that same logic applied to the US.

Just something to think about as you watch all of this play out.

Greece and Califronia

... and the US and Germany and more from Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Steyn.

First, Mark Steyn.
Unfortunately, Germany is no longer an economic powerhouse. As Angela Merkel pointed out a year ago, for Germany an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question simply because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around ever to repay it. Over 30 percent of German women are childless; among German university graduates, it's over 40 percent. And for the ever-dwindling band of young Germans who make it out of the maternity ward there's precious little reason to stick around. Why be the last handsome blond lederhosen-clad Aryan lad working the late shift at the beer garden in order to prop up singlehandedly entire retirement homes? And that's before the EU decides to add the Greeks to your burdens. Germans, who retire at 67, are now expected to sustain the unsustainable 14 monthly payments per year of Greeks who retire at 58.

Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less-profligate, still-just-about-functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn't pay. You'll wind up bailing out, anyway. The problem is there are never enough of "the rich" to fund the entitlement state, because in the end it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they've run out Greeks, so they'll stick it to the Germans...
From VDH:

Here in California we see the symptoms of the same Greek malady as we go from one budget shortfall to the next — dream-like borrowing, raising taxes, and furloughing, in lieu of the tough medicine of cutting government payrolls, changing pension payouts, and freezing the pay of state-workers until their compensation mirror images those in the private sector.

Postmodern Western society will soon witness a real showdown, analogous to the teenager who rebels and either accepts that he is still dependent on his parents and therefore subject to the rules of the house, or runs away and implodes in a sea of drugs and street-life.

In short, how will an entitled society react when the money runs out and it learns that it must change or wither away — and all the whining rhetoric about “social justice” and “a green future” and “spread the wealth” and “redistributive change” won’t bring another barrel of oil or bushel of wheat or Douglas fir 2” x 4”?
Is it progressive to spend ourselves into ruin? Is it compassionate to spend next year's support for the handicapped today?

Friday, February 26, 2010

On the Road Today

... so there won't be much blogging. Of course, if you're on the road, you need road music and that means Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vote Ackbar!

IMAO points us to this article in the WaPo where the students of Ole Miss are voting on a new mascot to replace their old one, Colonel Rebel. The leader in voting, apparently, is Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars.

Hilarious! Vote Ackbar!

The Ole Miss Rebels need to know when it's a trap. Who better to warn them than Admiral Ackbar?

You can support him at Go Ackbar!

A Run on Greek Banks?

Mish turned us on to this article in the Wall Street Journal that describes how wealthy Greeks are pulling their money out of Greece.
ATHENS--Wealthy Greeks are pulling their money out of local banks and sending it abroad, fearing increased government scrutiny on assets and a run on the banks if Athens is forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund, according to private bankers and other people with knowledge of the situation.

"There is a lot of uncertainty out there," said a senior private banker at a Greek bank. "We've had a number of customers asking to move funds out of Greece, mostly to Cyprus, Luxembourg and Switzerland." ...

"We estimate that €8 billion has moved out of Greece to accounts abroad since December. It's money from bank accounts, stock sales, property sales and other sources," he said, adding that that represented a substantial chunk of the €30 billion under management in Greek's private banks.
Greece and the US are wildly different in size, so I tried a crude comparison to bring these numbers to US sizes by using the two nations' GDP ratio from the World Fact Book. I came up with an equivalent flight from US banks to the tune of roughly $330B. That means Americans would be withdrawing $330B from B of A, Wells Fargo and so forth and sending it off to banks in Japan, France and Germany. The articles claim the Greeks are afraid of a run on their banks. I'd suggest that this is a run on their banks.

Lastly, that article, which I'm afraid is only available to subscribers, goes on to detail how the Greek government is planning on taxing savings by levying a 5% tax on all bank deposits. There's quite a bit more taxing planned, but that's one of the major reasons smart money is leaving the country. By using the Euro, the Greek government has made this even easier as the investors pay no conversion penalty for moving their money. In the old days when they had the drachma, by now the drachma would be practically worthless and the investors would have been killed exchanging them for, say, deutschmarks.

Yesterday, I linked to an article where a Greek union boss said this, "People on the street will send a strong message to the government but mainly to the European Union, the markets and our partners in Europe that people and their needs must be above the demands of markets." That is precisely what Greece has been doing for a long time. The result is a wrecked economy and an unstable banking system. The "people" are now finding out that their needs can't be met by governments waving magic wands.


... is the Greek goddess of retributive justice.
Nemesis directed human affairs in such a way as to maintain equilibrium. Her name means she who distributes or deals out. Happiness and unhappiness were measured out by her, care being taken that happiness was not too frequent or too excessive. If this happened, Nemesis could bring about losses and suffering.
After years of junk science where every odd, warm weather event was attributed to Global Warming, the warmists have indoctrinated us to see statistically anomalous events and indicators of something larger. It suited their purposes at the time and they waxed fat and prosperous doing so.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snoozing on the Catican Couch

Today's Link of the Day

... comes from Bradley Wright. It will make you feel good about your fellow man.

Lying to Each Other

Remember when everyone was freaking out over the greedy capitalist bankers using weird derivatives and other bizarre investment vehicles to hide the risk levels of the junk they were peddling? Well, dig this.
Concerns that Greece and other struggling European nations may not be able to repay their debts are focusing investor attention on another big worry: Economies across the Continent have used complex financial transactions—sometimes in secret—to hide the true size of their debts and deficits.

Investors long turned a blind eye to European governments' aggressive bookkeeping, aimed at meeting the euro zone's fiscal ceilings. Countries using the euro currency have a rich history of exotic maneuvers aimed at meeting rules requiring members to cap debt levels at 60% of their gross domestic product and their annual budget deficits to no more than 3%. Despite criticism, European leaders deemed many of these moves acceptable as they sought the long-planned currency union.
The suggestion that we'll all be safer if the government watches the books is disintegrating in Greece and across the rest of Europe as well.

Everything You Need To Know About Greece's Debt Problems

... is summed up right here.
Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Greece’s unions shut down transportation, medical and educational facilities today in a second 24-hour strike aimed at resisting Prime Minister George Papandreou’s drive to cut the European Union’s biggest budget deficit ...

“People on the street will send a strong message to the government but mainly to the European Union, the markets and our partners in Europe that people and their needs must be above the demands of markets,” Yiannis Panagopoulos, president of the private-sector union GSEE, told NET TV yesterday.
Mr. Panagopoulos apparently graduated from the "How can I be out of money? My checkbook still has checks in it!" school of economics. Mr. Panagopoulos' world view didn't spring out of his head, fully formed just last night. It's been taught to him over years by a society that has totally disconnected earning from having. Money simply appears out of thin air and has a value because he wants it to.

Reality and Mr. Panagopoulos are about to have a discussion. It's going to go something like this.

Update: The front bumper just hit the wall.
Greece's financial instability is spreading to its private-sector banks, the latest indication that the country's credit woes are worsening.

Fitch Ratings, citing concerns about Greek banks' funding costs and profitability, downgraded the country's four major banks to triple-B, or two notches above "junk" status. Fitch characterized its outlook for Greek banks as "negative."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Overplaying Your Hand as a Victim

Greece is snarling at the Germans. The Germans are unhappy that they're being asked to bail out the Greeks financially in 2010. The Greeks are unhappy that the Germans conquered Greece in 1941. In 1960, West Germany paid war reparations to Greece for the Nazi occupation. Now it seems as though that wasn't enough for the Greeks.
ATHENS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Greek opposition lawmakers said on Thursday that Germans should pay reparations for their World War Two occupation of Greece before criticising the country over its yawning fiscal deficits.

"How does Germany have the cheek to denounce us over our finances when it has still not paid compensation for Greece's war victims?" Margaritis Tzimas, of the main opposition New Democracy party, told parliament.

"There are still Greeks weeping for their lost brothers," the conservative lawmaker said during a debate on a bill to clean up the country's discredited statistical service.
There's a real risk here. 1941 was 69 years ago. Most Germans alive today were not alive back then. After blowing through all of their money and lying to everyone about their budget problems, it's probably not a good idea to be pointing fingers at the Germans and blaming them for things they had nothing to do with. While it might play well in Greece where some Greeks (a minority?) want to avoid responsibility and consequences, it probably doesn't play too well in Germany where they have the cash to prop up Greece.

How many of you were alive when this happened in 1941?

Momma Daisy

You can't stop her! You can only hope to slow her down!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

A Bit More on Greece

Robert Samuelson lays into the Greek debt problem with his usual clarity. Included in his article is this bit.
To some economists, Greece's situation is so dire that default is inevitable, though it may be a few years away. The required austerity would be too punishing, says Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute. Greece would need spending cuts and tax increases equal to 10 percent of GDP, he says. The resulting savage recession would worsen existing unemployment, already about 10 percent.
The Europeans are so compassionate, aren't they? Much more so than we greedy, capitalist, social Darwinist Americans.


A photo of Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri lifted from this article on the winds of destruction blowing through the global warming movement. The photo screamed "GREED!" at me as both of them have cashed in big time on the credulous dupes that supported them.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Can You Completely Replace MS Office with Adobe Creative Suite?

At work, I've become the resident Adobe honk. I do everything I can on the web on our Movable Type blogs. I no longer use PowerPoint for presentations, I either put my presentation out as a straight-up blog post or I embed an SWF file created in InDesign that gives me a deck of slides I can flip through from a browser with cool transition effects.

The one tricky part has been replacing Word or WordPad as my note taker. When you've got to copy down someone's address from an email and you need a temporary place to store it while you do other things, or when beloved readers leave captcha words in their comments for Jacob to turn into captchadefs, where do you put them?

I'm just starting to use Dreamweaver to do that. When you think about it, Dreamweaver can do almost everything Word can do, short of organizing things in a document with tables of contents. As I understand it, InDesign can do that part. Unfortunately, InDesign is a bit more difficult to use than Word (at least so far for me), but Dreamweaver does an outstanding job as a note taker. The files are much smaller and whatever I create there is ready for cut and paste onto a blog without having to worry that it's encrusted with formatting tags like MS Word snippets.

Like barnacles encrusting the cockpit of an F3 Hellcat downed at Guadalcanal, MS Word coats your text with all kinds of unnecessary formatting tags that later need to be removed in your blog post editor.

My initial take on this experiment is that it will be a big success. Dreamweaver replaces Word just fine.

A Shroom

I saw this big boy on a walk yesterday. It was about 10" across. I took the photo with my Droid.

A Text Scroll Box in a Blog Post?

I was just playing with something in Dreamweaver and wanted to see if it would work here. I know this is kindergarten stuff to some of you, but I'm still at that level with a lot of web things.

As you can see, once there's enough text in this box, the box will grow scroll bars... that's why we call it a scroll box! You could also place an image into the scroll box. And then we could add more and more and more. Let's add an image of Jacob.

Excellent! The code comes from quackit.

Update: How about a form?

Yes you can! Muuhahahaha!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

Link of the Day

... is this one to B-Daddy's outstanding post on the real environmental danger - pollution. As opposed to the not-quite-so dangerous products of whatever global warming is occuring.

Is War the Worst Thing in the World?

I've taken to listening to podcasts while I drive and my affection for Victor Davius Hanson led me to this one where he debates Ronald Edsforth of Dartmouth on the topic, "Is Preemptive War in order to Promote a Free Society Justified?" It's worth listening to the whole thing just to understand the peace activists intellectual foundation.

The chief component of that foundation, as articulated by Mr. Edsforth, is the concept that war is the worst thing in the world. The claim is that war turns a young generation into murderers and torturers. While it is indeed true that violence against other humans is extolled on the battlefield, it is not true that war creates the most hideous versions of humanity. This is illustrated by this little snippet from Victor Davis Hanson.

(I can't figure out where I can host mp3 files with an embeddable player, so I had to make a video and host it on YouTube.)

Imagine the morally corrosive effects of pacifism on the Dutch soldiers to be told to plug their ears so they didn't have to hear the screams of the dying. That kind of thing happened on a national scale in Mao's China, Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany and Hussein's Iraq. It went on for years. In all cases, children were taught in school to recognize signs of disloyalty to the regime in their parents and turn them in if they were detected. Everyone learned to spy on everyone else because they knew what was going on all around them - the torture, the murder, the rape rooms - and they were willing to allow their neighbors to be devoured if it meant that they would be saved.

That is a far worse version of humanity than the men and women who serve in the military and are molded by war. This relatively tiny and even comparatively benign example from VDH utterly demolishes the basic premise of the peace activists.

Barack Obama: Shortstop for the Yankees?

The worship of The One has gotten to the point where it's almost impossible to parody. Dig this.
He's too detached and cerebral . Too deferential to Congress. Too willing to compromise . And he's too much of a law professor and not enough of a commander in chief ... These are some of the qualities for which the president, rightly or wrongly, is criticized. They are also the qualities that make him well suited for another steady job on the federal payroll: Barack Obama, Supreme Court justice.

(H)is education, temperament and experience make him ideally suited to lead the liberal wing of the court.
Has anyone, anywhere at any time ever been rewarded so greatly for so little accomplishment? He was elected president with absolutely no qualifications whatsoever, he was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for only intending to do things and now some WaPo pundit is suggesting he take a seat on the Supreme Court.

Why stop there? Why not shortstop for the Yankees or center for the Lakers? It's insane. This is like watching a spineless parent give in over and over to an increasingly demanding toddler.

His education makes him ideally suited for the Supreme Court?!? And just what education was that? Has anyone seen his transcripts? We do know he has never published anything anywhere. You can bet his transcripts and whatever other artifacts dating back to his school days hide lots of embarassing things or they would have released them by now.

Supreme Court Justice Obama. Right.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Michael Hyatt - the E-Myth Revisited

I had the good fortune to hear Michael Hyatt speak a while back. I just stumbled across this video that has a great review on the book, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It. It's only about 4 minutes long and has some great nuggets of wisdom. I don't agree with all of it, but I thought it was provocative.

Online Video Converter

Just a quick sharing of something I've found on the Interweb Tubes. At work, I've been using videos instead of PowerPoint to share information. YouTube's got a lot of great content that illustrates my points, but downloading the files can result in video content that Adobe Premiere can't read because it has no video clip information embedded in the file. Online Video Converter is a free service that will take a YouTube video, convert it to mp4 and then allow you to download the result. All the work is done on their servers, so your machine is free to continue editing your video project while the conversion gets done.

Way cool.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This Isn't Funny Any More

One wonders if the IPCC got anything right.
More trouble looms for the IPCC. The body may need to revise statements made in its Fourth Assessment Report on hurricanes and global warming. A statistical analysis of the raw data shows that the claims that global hurricane activity has increased cannot be supported.

Les Hatton once fixed weather models at the Met Office. Having studied Maths at Cambridge, he completed his PhD as meteorologist: his PhD was the study of tornadoes and waterspouts. He's a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, currently teaches at the University of Kingston, and is well known in the software engineering community - his studies include critical systems analysis.

Hatton has released what he describes as an 'A-level' statistical analysis, which tests six IPCC statements against raw data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Administration. He's published all the raw data and invites criticism, but warns he is neither "a warmist nor a denialist", but a scientist.

Hatton performed a z-test statistical analysis of the period 1999-2009 against 1946-2009 to test the six conclusions. He also ran the data ending with what the IPCC had available in 2007. He found that North Atlantic hurricane activity increased significantly, but the increase was counterbalanced by diminished activity in the East Pacific, where hurricane-strength storms are 50 per cent more prevalent. The West Pacific showed no significant change. Overall, the declines balance the increases.
There has been no warming in the last 15 years. Hurricanes did not increase or get worse. The glaciers will not be gone in a few decades. Polar bears are on the increase.

This wasn't science. This was religion.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Ady Gil Getting T-boned

I dunno, man. If I've got a corvette coming at me at full speed and I've gotten them mad enough to spray me with fire hoses, I'd be moving at something more than 0.15 knots. Just sitting there waiting to get nailed looks pretty stupid. But then, they wanted it this way.

Seeking Thrills, Saving Whales

So Peter Bethune is on his way to Japan to face charges.
An anti-whaling activist from New Zealand is in custody on a Japanese vessel and will be taken to Japan to face charges after secretly boarding the ship as part of a protest, officials said Tuesday.

Peter Bethune, a member of the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd activist group, jumped aboard the Shonan Maru 2 from a Jet Ski on Monday with the stated goal of making a citizen's arrest of the ship's captain and presenting him with a $3 million bill for the destruction of a protest ship last month.
This was in response to the ramming of the protestors' ship, Ady Gil Here's a summary from the breathless narrative on the Sea Shepherd site.
In an unprovoked attack captured on film, the Japanese security ship Shonan Maru No. 2 deliberately rammed and caused catastrophic damage to the Sea Shepherd trimaran Ady Gil.

Six crew crewmembers, four from New Zealand, one from Australia, and one from the Netherlands were immediately rescued by the crew of the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker. None of the crew Ady Gil crew were injured.
The Ady Gil was a lovely, expensive craft, purchased no doubt with the contributions of many. Here's what's left of her.

I'm sure there will be all kinds of yapping about how the Japanese are cruel savages and violent and killers and all the rest. Whatever. Pete and his crew all knew what they were doing and hamming it up for the cameras by getting their boat T-boned and their skipper arrested were part of their little play. Good for them. Looking at the photos of the Ady Gil, it's impossible to conclude that they didn't let it get hit on purpose.

Of course, they counted on the Japanese behaving in a lawful and civilized manner. Pete might have been a bit more circumspect around them had they behaved like they did in World War II. Petey might not have been so brave had they hauled him off to dinner.
Many written reports and testimonies collected by the Australian War Crimes Section of the Tokyo tribunal, and investigated by prosecutor William Webb (the future Judge-in-Chief), indicate that Japanese personnel in many parts of Asia and the Pacific committed acts of cannibalism against Allied prisoners of war. In many cases this was inspired by ever-increasing Allied attacks on Japanese supply lines, and the death and illness of Japanese personnel as a result of hunger. However, according to historian Yuki Tanaka: "cannibalism was often a systematic activity conducted by whole squads and under the command of officers".
Oh well. I guess your definition of "atrocity" is all relative.

As for the whales, are they endangered? If not, then what's the difference between whaling and catching tuna?

Next up at bat - Spain!

Here we go!
Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Spain is planning a benchmark sale of 15-year bonds in euros, its first syndicated issue since concern about the ability of southern European countries to contain budget deficits roiled markets.

The country is selling bonds as European finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss support for Greece, whose struggle to contain the region’s largest budget shortfall is hurting its neighbors. The cost to insure against a default on Spain’s bonds rose, according to credit-default swap prices.

“The bond sale is a real test for Spain and other countries facing pressure because of their big deficits,” said Ivan Comerma, head of capital markets at Banc International- Banca Mora in Andorra, who was invited to buy the notes.
The article goes on to say that Spain is nowhere near as bad off as Greece, but the year is still young. The wonderfully compassionate and progressive Spaniards have managed to spend themselves into the poor house.


Performance Art

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lazy Blogging

I'm off doing other things today, so I don't have time to do a proper post. Instead, I'll just put up a funny cat video. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

Playing with Fire

The other night, while cooking another batch of yummy lambsicles, I used my Droid to take a video of the fire in the Weber. I brought it into Adobe Premiere and played around with color translations and segment transitions and came up with this. It's only 30 seconds long and the fire at the end is completely different in color from the fire at the beginning.


Sunshine Sunday

Our Maximum Leader was basking in the sun this morning.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Link of the Day

... comes from Victor Davis Hanson, writing about the fall of Rome and drawing parallels to America. As usual, it's an excellent piece.

Some Super Bowl Culinary Reminiscing

Last weekend, I made red beans and rice, shrimp and sausage gumbo, ham and sausage jambalaya and mixed greens with turnips and tasso for the Super Bowl. Here are two of my favorites.

Nom nom nom!

I took the recipes from two of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen and Cajun-Creole Cooking. I can't recommend these two highly enough.

On Fairness, Compassion and Work

Thomas Sowell has an opinion piece today discussing the concept of fairness. Rather than excerpt it, I'll just post a thought that popped into my head while reading it.

Fairness is always applied after you work and not before.

That is, fairness and compassion in our culture of wealth redistribution have no meaning until someone actually produces something that the rest of us can sieze. You can't grab what hasn't been produced yet, so fairness isn't applied until the businessman has put in the 3 years of 80 hour weeks building up his company to the point where it brings in a few million dollars. At that point, we apply fairness and compassion. Until then, fairness and compassion do not apply. If they did, wastrels that accomplish nothing would have been pressed into the service of that company.

That would be fair, right?

More (and more encouraging!) Views on Greece from Greeks

Reader Ralph left a comment on a previous post directing me to this article in the WSJ about how Greece is morally bankrupt because they blame others for their problems.
According to the dominant conspiracy theory, Greece is engaged in a gigantic fight to save the honor of the euro zone—believe it or not. The "attacks" of the "foreign speculators" against Greece in effect represent an onslaught against the euro by all the "dark forces" (read: Americans) who do not wish Europe to prosper and assume its rightful place on the international scene. This is a discourse that goes down extremely well with the majority of the population. For 30 years, all of Greece's political parties have fed them a steady diet of "anti-imperialist" rhetoric, according to which the causes of Greece's misfortunes is always the xenoi and the machinations of "neoliberal profiteering."
That rings true with progressive politicians - the instantaneous reaction to look for "profiteers" to blame. Profits are a sure sign of villainy. It is also precisely what I found in the quotes of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

WSJ commenter Perikles Konstantinides challenges the statement that the Greek people agree with this in a comment containing this bit:

No one blames foreigners for what is going on, except for a very few politicians and some fringe journalists and communists. The vast majority of the Greek people acknowledge that the country dug its own hole and that we are solely responsible for our troubles. Four different opinion polls published last weekend show that strong majorities -55-70%- consider the austerity measures announced by the government both needed and necessary.
That sounds not only more reasonable but quite mature and clear-headed on the part of the Greeks. With regards to our own fiscal follies, I've always thought that reality smacking us upside the head will wake us up to the idiocy of Keynes and endless borrowing. The quotes I was finding from the Greeks were causing me to despair, but this one is a lot more reasonable.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Two More Tidbits on Greece

The civil service unions are not cooperating. They'd be just fine with a total economic collapse, I guess. Or maybe they just expect the Germans to write a bucket of blank checks.
A strike by civil servants shut down schools and hospitals and grounded flights across Greece on Wednesday, as unions challenged cutbacks aimed at ending a government debt crisis that has shaken the European Union.
Over at the Huffington Post, there's a knee-jerk reaction to blame capitalist pig-dogs.
Goldman Sachs helped the Greek government to mask the true extent of its deficit with the help of a derivatives deal that legally circumvented the EU Maastricht deficit rules. At some point the so-called cross currency swaps will mature, and swell the country's already bloated deficit.
Evfen if we assume that Goldman Sachs was at the heart of some kind of skullduggery to conceal the problems in Greece, so what? If they hadn't been there, the same problems would have arisen. The Greeks handed out more goodies than they could afford. It's a classic case of progressive ideals taking a nation over a cliff. Earning was separated from having and off they went into the abyss. Dragging Goldman Sachs into this is a pathetic attempt to mask the fact that socialism failed.


What are the Greeks Saying?

I spent a little time noodling around the webs, looking for English-language versions of Greek newspapers, wondering what they're saying about their impending debt default and the rescue plan being generated by the rest of Europe.

The Athens News shows Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou blaming everyone else.
In his televised address to the nation, a sombre Papandreou did not hesitate to blame “the unprecedented crisis we are experiencing” on the fact that Greece finds itself targeted in a wider speculative attack on the common European currency.

“Our national duty is to ward off these efforts to push the country over the cliff,” Papandreou said.


“Today Greece is in the centre of a broader international profiteering game, with the euro as its target,” the premier added. “Unfortunately, because of our country’s past policies, we are seen as the eurozone’s weak link. It is a national duty to fight those forces that have tried to push our country to the edge.”
It's those darn profiteers and speculators! His response, gleaned from the rest of the article, will be to increase gasoline taxes and cut civil servant pay. They're also looking at means-testing their version of Social Security. There was no evidence there that they questioned their underlying devotion to socialism.

Greek News, a Greek-American newspaper, is a bit more direct.
The sense of urgency may finally be hitting home. “Greeks have realized, in the last 40 days, that this is no joke,” says Eftichios Vassilakis, vice chairman of Aegean Airlines, Greece’s largest air carrier. “We are at a critical moment. Some like to say that Greeks respond best when we’re at the edge of the cliff. Well, we’re definitely at the edge of the cliff.” ...

Most Greeks agree that the tax system (see following story) and the bloated public sector, nicknamed “the country’s sickest patient,” are at the root of Greece’s current problems. In a country of 11 million people, almost 850,000 workers are employed by the state, which means they receive 14 monthly paychecks instead of 12. Many enjoy a work day that runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. “The state must change the mentality of the public employee,” says one investor and economist, Timos Mellisaris, who calls Greece’s public sector “the last communist frontier.”
Wow. 2 extra paychecks a year and a 7-hour workday. That's got to be nice. Still, if Greece is anything like California, it's not the civil servants that are the problem, but the cash handouts to the population.

From that same article, we see capitalism thriving.
Those with healthy balance sheets, however, see a silver lining. Basil Stephanis, president of Selonda, a $167 million aquaculture company with fish farms in Greece, Turkey and Wales, says Greece’s woes are “an opportunity to consolidate and buy up companies with liquidity problems.” Constantine Petropoulos, chairman of Petros Petropoulos, a $158 million firm that sells cars, automotive supplies and industrial equipment, also plans to beef up his portfolio. “We will acquire businesses that we wouldn’t have ever been able to consider in better times,” he says.
OK, I'm going to stop here with a broad generalization.

A picture taken in Greece, borrowed from that has nothing to do with my post, but is being used to visually break up a lot of talky-talk.

Socialism lives where people don't actually do any work. The politicians and the gadflies looking for handouts believe in the redistribute-the-wealth rhetoric. The folks actually producing things are living like Ayn Rand, even if they talk and vote like Ted Kennedy. If that was not the case, Constantine Petropoulos would be looking for ways to share his profits with "less fortunate" businesses.

Progressive concepts, apparently, only work when you don't.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Looking for a Place to Store my SWF Files

I've started playing with Adobe InDesign and hope to soon begin exploring how to make interactive web-based presentations with InDesign and Flash. I'd like to post my experiments here, but I'm a newbie when it comes to finding places to store those files. From what I've seen, my Google account doesn't give me any storage space for generic files. Can anybody out there give me a link or two to a good, hopefully free, service?

Is America Waking Up?

The Tea Parties argue yes, but these two chaps from the Wall Street Journal argue no. It's less than 3 minutes long and is worth watching.

I would argue that a Japanese implosion will be the wakeup call for all of us and that will happen within the next few years. The reason that will wake us up is that Japan holds so much of our debt. They'll sell their bonds and add to the cataract of debt being issued by the Obama Administration. That will kill our bond market and freak out everyone.

Google Webmaster Tools

As a part of my noodling around on the Interweb Tubes this morning, I signed The Scratching Post up for Google Webmaster Tools. It shows you all kinds of interesting statistics about your site, particularly about how Google search sees you. The result is full of teh awesome. It gives you a table of Google search terms and where posts from your blog rank in the search results. For example, we're #1 when it comes to the term "lolhamster". We're also #1 on "homemade electromagnet". That explains many of the hits I've been getting from Google.

I haven't finished fiddling around with the thing yet, but it's free and it gives you great feedback on your site. If you try it, I'd love to hear what you find out about your own site.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

Are the (Greek) Poor Better Off Now?

So Greece (and Italy, Spain and Portugal) have followed the compassionate script to the letter and cut their defense spending to almost nothing and boosted their social spending to the moon. They ended deep in debt to the point where a financial crisis is pushing them to the edge of sovereign debt default.
BERLIN—Germany is considering a plan with its European Union partners to offer Greece and other troubled euro-zone members loan guarantees in an effort to calm fears of a government default and prevent a widening of the credit woes, people familiar with the matter said ...

Mr. Schäuble told officials in Berlin on Monday that he had concluded there "was no alternative" to a rescue plan, according to a person familiar with his comments.
Emphasis mine. If these nations default or if they just try to get a handle on their debt servicing responsibilities, the budget slashing will go way beyond the cold-hearted levels of the past.

Will the Greek poor be better off because the government was compassionate?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

This Is What Voting "Present" 130 Times Means

... it means the dude lacks a spine. I think a lot of us saw this one coming.
President Barack Obama has left Democrats as confused as ever about how the White House plans to deliver a health care reform bill this year, after two weeks of inconsistent statements, negligible hands-on involvement and a sudden shift to a jobs-first message.

Democrats on Capitol Hill and beyond say they have no clear understanding of the White House strategy — or even whether there is one — and are growing impatient with Obama’s reluctance to guide them toward a legislative solution.
Well, duhh.

xtranormal at Work?

In the office yesterday, we were discussing how we could use xtranormal to make some interesting videos for work. Rather than just talking through some subject or recording our own boring voices, we could use the text-to-speech-to-movie capabilities of xtranormal to create fun videos. Here's my first take on it.

I wish I could pick different actors with different sets. I love this music studio set, but I want actors from other venues. Hmmm. xtranormal makes a product called State that runs on your machine rather than online. It might be worth a try.

It's a NARAL Freak-Out!

... and no wonder! Dig this Bible-thumping, theocratic fascist Super Bowl ad from those right-wing, death squads at Focus on the Family!

Those Christian cretins won't be happy until we're all goose-stepping our way through Sunday school!

Dean has more on these brain-dead religious zealots.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Our House Looked Like This, Too

I never, ever thought I'd live to see this day.

It's not Racism

... that makes it hard for Asians to get into school. It's the cultural truths their stories tell, ones that we dare not speak. Dig this tidbit from a great article by Kara Miller on how Asians outperform other racial groups in the US, but can't seem to catch a break when it comes to college admissions.
A few years ago, however, when I worked as a reader for Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, it became immediately clear to me that Asians - who constitute 5 percent of the US population - faced an uphill slog. They tended to get excellent scores, take advantage of AP offerings, and shine in extracurricular activities. Frequently, they also had hard-knock stories: families that had immigrated to America under difficult circumstances, parents working as kitchen assistants and store clerks, and households in which no English was spoken.
The issue has nothing at all to do with racism and everything to do with our fear of speaking the truth about our culture. No one wants to be criticized by the cool kids who are living the non-judgmental, libertine life. If you look at census data, Asians have more intact families than other groups. They have the best SAT scores (avg - 1623). Blacks have the fewest intact families and have the lowest SAT scores (avg - 1276). It's got nothing to do with race and everything to do with behavior. Race just happens to be an easy way of categorizing people because our census data takes in that information and we all focus on it.

Imagine what would happen if we told the truth. Imagine what would happen if we just looked at factual admission requirements and took the best students regardless of race. We'd have to confront the fact that behavior is the dominant feature when it comes to success. You can't live the libertine lifestyle and succeed. Moral judgment has a place in society. Traditional families work better than broken ones.

We'd have to conclude that the prudes were right.

Better the Asians get screwed when it comes to college admissions than admit the prudes were right. In the meantime, we can all wring our hands about racism. With racism as the villain, no one has to change their behavior at all.

The IPCC Goes Over the Cliff

Well, someone in the media is finally doing their jobs. Too bad it's someone in the UK and Australia and not in the US. The Sydney Morning Herald excerpts an article from the Telegraph where the authors have taken a little deeper look into the IPCC report on global warming, the document that is supposed to be the definitive paper on climate change. Ironically, it is the definitive paper on the topic, but not for the reasons the warmists had hoped. Dig these tidbits.
But the Telegraph, of London, has discovered a series of new flaws in it including:

  • the publication of inaccurate data on the potential of wave power to produce electricity around the world, which was wrongly attributed;

  • examples of statements based on student dissertations, two of which were unpublished; and

  • more claims that were based on reports produced by environmental pressure groups.
They are the latest in a series of damaging revelations about the panel's latest report, published in 2007.

The panel was forced to issue a humiliating retraction last month after it emerged that statements about the melting of Himalayan glaciers were inaccurate. Little more than a week ago it was revealed the panel had based claims about disappearing mountain ice on anecdotal evidence in a student's dissertation and an article in a mountaineering magazine.
I've written some peer-reviewed science stuff and this is just completely inexcusable. My worst work never had any of this kind of rubbish in it. You can't be scientist and use unpublished dissertations and unsubstantiated rumors as sources. It doesn't matter how many degrees from which universities you have or how many "peer-reviewed" papers you have published or what kind of awards you've received. This is just total garbage. It is not science.

Meanwhile, the American media ignores it all.

Here's a typical MSM report on global warming. Every third yap is either the phrase, "peer-reviewed" or the word "consensus".

Sunday, February 07, 2010

I Saw the Game

... and I still don't believe it. I've been a fan for 20 years and hung on every game, even when they were 3-13. They just won the Super Bowl.



Geaux Saints!

As As Marques Colston's unofficial publicist, I'm helping our Maximum Leader throw a big Saints party today for the Super Bowl. Lots of Cajun food, Louisiana beers and Saints shirts for all!

Win or lose, we're going to have a good time. Geaux Saints!

Equal Pay for Equal Noms

Since I sometimes post photos of my cooking creations on this blog, I thought I'd post this one from my lovely wife. She made a chicken cacciatore derivative the other night that was absolutely outstanding.

The verdict: Five noms out of five!

Cleaning Products

Under our kitchen sink, we have more kinds of cleaning products than we have different kinds surfaces to clean. In an algebraic sense, if I make a one-to-one mapping of cleaning products to the surfaces they are intended to clean, we still have excess products.

What on Earth for?

Perhaps some of these are for combinations of stains and surfaces. One might be for poultry grease stains on Italian wool, another might be designed for Oklahoma clay stains on Brazilian granite, and so on.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Drowning Dutch

More than half of the Netherlands is under water! Unfortunately, the Dutch don't know this. They're clinging to the illusion that only about a quarter of the country is below sea level. They really need to get on board with the UN's International Panel on Climate Change.
In the Netherlands, the government has gotten skeptical of the IPCC after the UN body’s report put more than half of their country below sea level:
The Netherlands has asked the UN climate change panel to explain an inaccurate claim in a landmark 2007 report that more than half the country was below sea level, the Dutch government said Friday.
According to the Dutch authorities, only 26 percent of the country is below sea level, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be asked to account for its figures, environment ministry spokesman Trimo Vallaart told AFP.
I think that meeting will go something like this.

Lost Opportunities

... are well-illustrated over at Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed. Dig this chart from his post.

The chart shows what would have happened had the Federal budget been held to just (just!) 4% annual growth starting in the year 2000. There would have been several years of surplus, the latest being about $17B in 2008.

In 2000, there was an already oversized Federal government with mammoth amounts of money for self-important politicians to play with and hand out to all kinds of groups. There was money for earmarks so they could have sent lots of pork home. Instead, they spent more and more and more, all while the party of fiscal sanity, the Republicans, was in control.

Now that the party of fiscal ignorance* and class warfare is in office, we're truly screwed. It didn't have to be this way.

* - Please, spare me your arguments that the Democrats are anything other than morons when it comes to money. I can think of trillions of counter-arguments.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Geaux Saints

Two days to the Super Bowl. I can't wait.

The Truth

Secular Apostate posted this nauseating video that tells you all you need to know about the President, the Congress and the @#^&*(@^ who are looting the country.

I'm reduced to angry, bad words by this.

Link of the Day

... comes from our Grand Inquisitor. Funny stuff!

Big Carbon Trading Fraud Uncovered in Europe - Tooth Fairy Implicated

This is just hilarious.
Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- European regulators need to take “decisive action” after a new round of fraud tainted the world’s biggest emissions market, according to the head of carbon trading at Barclays Capital.

Germany’s Federal Environment Agency said Feb. 3 that about 250,000 CO2 allowances with a market value of 3.2 million euros ($4.4 million) were improperly transferred after cyber attacks. The so-called “phishing” incident comes after Europe lost a total of 5 billion euros in revenue for the 18 months ending in December 2009 because of value-added tax fraud in the CO2 market, according to Europol, the law enforcement agency.
So let's see if we can get this straight. A con game based on junk science designed to prevent glaciers from melting that really aren't by reducing a tiny build up of harmless gases that will increase no matter what the Euros do has been pilfered by thieves. This is like Oceans 11 for the Global Warming set.

I guess this is all OK morally since they're stealing from thieves. Whatever.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Still Hung up on a 1.6 Trillion Dollar Deficit

... and wondering where it leads. Here's what's going on in Greece where they're a bit ahead of us on the debt default trajectory.
Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Greece’s biggest union approved the second mass strike this month and tax collectors began a 48-hour walkout, showing that Prime Minister George Papandreou’s parliamentary majority may not be enough to ensure enactment of his plan to cut the European Union’s largest deficit.
In Japan, they're watching Greece and soiling their pantaloons.
Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Japan’s government must heed the warning on soaring debt loads stemming from the turmoil of Greece’s credit-rating downgrade, a Bank of Japan board member said.

The example of Greece, along with concerns about the credit quality of countries including Spain and Portugal, shouldn’t be regarded as “a burning house on the other side of the river,” Seiji Nakamura said in a speech in Fukuoka today.
Meanwhile, President Obama, who in his own life lived off lines of credit in the years prior to his book deals and whose administration is simply blowing up our budgets with fiscal atomic bombs, had this to say.
Speaking about the economy at an event in New Hampshire, Mr Obama told Americans: “When times are tough, you tighten your belts.

“You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritise. You make tough choices.”
In Greece, they're making tough choices to the point where unions are striking. In Japan, they're starting to panic. In the US, a guy who nearly wrecked his own finances and who has obliterated our public ones, is lecturing the rest of us about fiscal sobriety.

H/T: Our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings who have more on the topic.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Lean Six Sigma Movie

Here's my first attempt. It's not quite finshed, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

Update: Bumped and updated with new embed code.

Update 2: Now with a new version of the movie!


No Time to Blog

... busy playing with, making movies.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Link of the Day

... comes from Riehl World View. Dig this:
Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can persuade a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Only about a third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active.
There's more at the link.


On the 2011 Deficit

The Obama Administration recently unveiled it's FY 2011 budget. It calls for a deficit of almost $1.6T, the largest budget deficit ever. I don't know what to write about this. It's beyond mind-blowing. It's the result of having the government run by packs of academics and political lifers who have only the most tangential intersection with financial reality.

All previous rants about the government being completely out of control are made obsolete by this budget.

On Music Theft

Here within the Catican, we're very supportive of artists' rights. We believe that musicians and film makers should be paid for their work. A while back we signed up for OpenDNS, a terrific Internet filtering service that works on the basis of site requests by your browser. We've customized the settings to block all Peer-to-Peer (P2P) connections to prevent music and film theft within the Theocracy. We just came across Stop Music Theft, an excellent site that lists many sources of music and video file sharing and we're using that to supplement our OpenDNS settings.

If you've got other ways of preventing music and video theft, we'd love to hear about them.

Monday, February 01, 2010


The folks at IMAO have done it again.


Cheezburger of the Day

Blackened Fish on the Grill

... is full of delciousness! It also prevents the smoke from filling your house.

Last night I made blackened redfish from Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen- it's a fairly simple recipe that never fails. After doing it a few times indoors and smoking out the family, it dawned on me that I could do it on our Weber grill just as easily. The results? Nom nom nom!