Friday, December 19, 2008

Numbers for Detroit

Every once in a while I get a kick out of getting out the calculator and figuring out how much decisions made by those inside the Beltway cost the rest of us.

Congress refused to pass a bailout for the Big Three auto companies. So the executive branch decided to fill the void. The cost of this first bailout will be $17.4 billion with a "b". (Actually, it will be more than that bc. since we are deficit spending, part of this money will actually have to be borrowed. Let's forget all that and just say that it's 100% money we actually have.)

There are several way s of looking at this. One, there are about 320 million Americans. $17.4 billion with a "b" divided by 320 million people means we are spending $54.37 per person to bail them out. Seen that way, the the Potomac Schicks will be paying $271.85.

We can also look at this not as individual citizens but as tax filers. That is, many people don't pay taxes so that $17.4 billion with a "b" might better be divided by the number of tax filers (generally that means the number of families). I hate spending too much time Googling these things so I'll just use the figures from the first thing I found--2006 stats from The Tax Foundation. They say in '06 there were expected to be 136 million tax returns filed. If that's the same number as '09, when we divide it out, we see that each family will have to pay $128 for the bailout.

Oops, hold your horses there, mi amigo, turns out that 32% of those who filed in '06 paid no income tax. (I've heard it said that that figure has gone to 40% but I'm too lazy to verify that.) Take the $17.4 billion with a "b" bailout and divide it by 93 million filers who actually pay income tax and we now find that everyone who files and actually pays income taxes is responsible for $187 of the bailout.

$54 per person, $272 for my fam., or $187 as a particular tax payer. There are several ways to look at it.

The bottom line is this: if we let 'em get away with this, this is only the beginning. Let me rephrase that: this was only the beginning. This is not a bail out. It is a stop gap until Barry and his crew get in there and give away more.

Ike talked about the military/industrial complex. Well, friends, we're about to witness the power of the Big Labor/Big Government complex. This bailout and what will follow is nothing more than a jobs program. Every one of the rascals who's been endorsing this thing has said that the priority is protecting these jobs. If we don't help the Big Three then millions of jobs will be lost. I guess one way to look at it is to say we either pay workers through a bailout or we pay them with unemployment.

But guess what, the very subtle change that is being baked into this thing is that the "job" of GM, Chrysler, and Ford is no longer to sell cars--it's not to make a profit for shareholders. It's to protect jobs. And the "job" of government, evidently, nay, obviously is not to hold back and let the market work. Government's "job" is now to step in and artificially prop up these companies to preserve the jobs. That's always been the job of the unions. Now what we're seeing is that labor, car companies, and Congress have come together to do whatever it takes to protect these jobs.

That's fine. I guess. It certainly makes everyone feel good. But it's economically unsustainable. Jobs doing what??? Car sales have dropped on an annual basis from 17 million to 10 million. With demand like that, someone has to lose a job! Are these folks going to build cars to use as reefs to increase the oyster population in the Chesapeake? Are they just going to park them in a field like they did with the FEMA Katrina trailers? There is no demand for this product.

It makes no sense. They're going to be out of a job eventually. At the very least, they are not going to have the same job at the same pay that they have now.

Unless, of course, you tax us each $187 more to put them all on the government payroll.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sat. Nite Fights--@ Chuck E. Cheese!


Seems that Chuck E. Cheese's is gaining a reputation amongst the po-lice nationally as the in place to brawl with other parents. Why fight at the little league game when you can do it at your kid's birthday party?

The melee in Flint spilled out into the back parking lot. Hilarious.

The chart comes from the Dec. 9 Wall Street Journal. Thanks, Geo.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Follow the RRs Example, Detroit

This is a link to a blurb from CNBC last week that's worth the four minute and 44 second length. [I hate to put anything up with a NYT ad in it, but what can you do?]

Matthew Rose, CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. and Lambda Chi Alpha brother, talks about the railroad industry 25 years after deregulation. There are a third fewer miles of track and the number of railroad employees fell from 500,000 to 200,000, but the trains carry 60% more freight now than they did pre-deregulation. RR restructuring targeted pricing and technology. Thirty-seven class one RR companies have consolidated into just seven today. Layoffs occurred mostly through attrition. Capital fled the industry in the face of this drastic reform but profitability has returned.

This is what the Detroit auto makers need. The American taxpayer does not need to be subsidizing a system that is no longer sustainable. The system needs to be replaced. Replaced by something beyond the imagination of the Those Now In Charge.

Someone the other day said that annual cars sales have dropped from 17 million to 10 million. I don't know if that's accurate, don't have the drive to look it up to confirm. But if it's true, all this talk about helping the Big Three out in order to "protect jobs" is a bunch of hooey. Jobs doing what--building cars that no one's buying?! If your sales are down 40%, your production lines and employee roles need to be cut by 40%. [Unless of course you are the government.]

If there are no buyers (bc. buyers no longer have lines of credit on their homes, or they can't get loans, or potential buyers don't have jobs any more), then factories very simply need to be closed. Stop building cars! Nobody--not Detroit executives, not government bailout plans--can continue to pay people to build cars if no one is buying them! This is the end of an era, just as it was the end of an era for the caboose in the early nineties.

Can it be any more simple?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Will it be a bath tub?


Interesting interview on Squawk this morn with Bill Zollars, the CEO of YRC Worldwide (that's Yellow Trucking for those of you who are not Squawk fans).

YRC is in a spot. Business is down double digits year over year. It's "significant. . . . It's very hard to find a metric that's headed in the right direction." He was on a year ago and presciently predicted this was coming. Sure enough he was right. He agrees that it may not end up being a V- or U-, but rather a bathtub-shaped bottom. Yikes.

Due to pension commitments Yellow has been forced to shift money from salaries over to pension benefits. They have more recently negotiated with the Teamsters union to reduce benefits to such an extent that the union pay and benefits package will soon be no better than the package for non-union members.

Unfortunately for so many, there may be a whole lot more of this in the coming months as American benefits adjust downward in order to be competitive in this World Economy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

THe Highwaymen

One of my favorite songs, tho, it doesn't qualify as a masterpiece.

What I would give to have been at that concert.

"I am still around, always be around, and around, and around, and around. . . "

Monday, November 24, 2008

Foreclosure Mess


Fannie and Freddie, which are now government-run entities, announced last week that they are suspending foreclosure sales until after the holidays. Read about it here, but let's paste in one little blurb:
"Freddie Mac is on track to help three out of every five troubled borrowers with Freddie Mac-owned loans avoid foreclosure this year," Freddie Mac Chief Executive David Moffett said in a statement. "Today's announcement builds on this momentum and provides a new measure of certainty to many of these families during the holidays."
A couple of comments.

The government couldn't clean up after Katrina, how does anyone expect it to be able to clean up an economic crisis so complex that it can't even be explained, let alone understood? Prediction: this will only prolong the misery both for homeowners and taxpayers.

Note the term "avoid". Government is much better at avoiding (and helping others to avoid) than it is at achieving. What's being avoided is the inevitable. Unfortunate as it is, this is the bursting of a bubble. Some people own homes that they never could and never will be able to afford. Others bought or borrowed at the top and now owe more that their home is worth. Putting the sale off until after the New Year is simply that--putting it off.

As I predicted, now that the government runs Fannie and Freddie, feelings are being introduced into the decision process. Freddie now is the the business of "provid[ing] . . . new measure[s] of certainty" to delinquent borrowers. This is to be expected bc. where there is government involvement, there is politics, and where there is politics, feelings often become more important than sound economics.

Finally, this policy will encourage others to stop making payments. After all, if you and your neighbor both are under water and he has stopped paying but gets to stay in his house, why should you pay? There's no consequence.

Who knows, maybe it's better for everyone if delinquent borrowers are allowed just to squat where they are for a while. The banks certainly don't want the properties and vacancies only add to the downward spiral of real estate values in any neighborhood. On the other hand, moving folks out who can't afford to be where they are, and moving them out as quickly as possible, may be more humane and will certainly bring this mortgage mess to a speedier conclusion.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sell More Cars


If you've never been, you might one day consider visiting The Rouge, a Ford factory right outside Detroit. We took the tour a couple years ago and found it to be pretty interesting.

One thing that struck me coming away from it was the museum's portrayal of the labor movement. Either the curators know that their audience is pro-labor and so cast a positive spin on the unions or they feel a need to be politically correct and make up for Ford's bashing the unions through it's history. Either way, the big push is to portray the company-union relationship now as a "Partnership". It's no longer adversarial but instead cooperative.

Which brings me to the spot in which the Big Three, the Congress, and American taxpayers now find themselves. Ought we bail out Big Auto?

The problem is that because company and union are now a Partnership, the Big Three morphed from being car companies into being jobs programs. The Partnership's goal is not to sell more cars and trucks, but to stay alive to be paid another day. Management wants to keep their jobs and the union wants to protect their jobs. The poor share holders, I'm sure, tho, would prefer that the Partnership makes a profit by selling more cars.

In their effort to stay alive, representatives of the Partnership showed up on Capitol Hill yesterday to beg Congress to allow American tax payers to become share holders.

According to the reporter on Squawk Box this morning, Ford is presently losing $400 for every car it sells. I'm sorry, but investing in a company that's doing that does not appeal to me. I'm assuming that if they sold more Fords they would be making a profit. But in the mean time, why would anybody buy stock in that company? Why? It makes no sense.

The only answer is to save the jobs. Remember my assertion that the Big Three are nothing more than jobs programs disguised as car companies. Maybe the economy is so bad that we need in the short run to protect those jobs, I don't know.

But I guarantee you this: in the long run, a car company cannot survive when it's losing $400 per unit. A government program, of course, can go on losing $400 per unit as long as the taxpayers allow it and the Treasury keeps printing increasing worthless dollars.

The question taxpayers and Congress members need to be asking is, honestly, do we want to keep this jobs program going? Do we want the Partnership to survive? Or do we want them to convert back to for-profit car companies? My guess is that giving the Big Three Partnership $25 bil. more will not cause them to sell more cars.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Barry's Bonanza



IBD does a great job here of listing all the promises that Barry's website makes to the American electorate.

Whew, it's exhilarating! And I mean that in the most sarcastic way.

I like the one about doing my taxes in five minutes, tho, I'm sure that will not apply to the 60% or so of us who actually pay income taxes. After all, how long should it take for the 40% of you who pay no income tax to fill out an application to stake a claim on a portion of my earnings. Yes, yes, we're among that five percent (shame on us) who won't be getting a tax cut.

Another fave of mine "makes" employees provide seven paid sick days a year. Isn't that how the Big Three auto workers have gotten themselves into trouble--by paying people not to work?

He's also going to "finish the fight" against al-Qaida. Do you think al-Qaida will agree to that? Maybe they'll sign a peace treaty on a carrier parked in the Persian Gulf.

"Slash earmarks"!?!?! That makes me laugh out loud. Literally. There's not a snowball's chance in hell that a bill, any bill, will make it off Capitaol Hill without being laden with pork. Congress is incapable of that.

It's quite a bonanza, Barry.

Grab your wallets, folks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Masterpiece 6: The Peaceful Transition of Power


A friend recently attended a lecture by Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico. When asked about corruption in Mexico or about the Mexican drug lords or some such thing, Fox pointed out that he was the first president in Mexican history who was able to stay in the country after leaving office. Fox reportedly pointed out how lucky the U.S. is to have such a history of smooth transitions of power, something that Mexico is just growing into.

Isn't that a masterpiece? We smoothly flow from Hoover to FDR, from LBJ to Nixon, from Billary to Bush, and now Bush to Obama never thinking twice how impossible that is in so much of the world.

Credit much of that to our electoral college system, some of it to a three branch system with checks and balances, and lots of it to the American culture's insistence on of the rule of law.

It's why people are still lined up all over the world to get here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

did I ever post this?


don't think I did. . . .

Seems so irrelevant now, but it still cracks me up.

My guess is that ACORN registered him to vote. Possible many times over.

The Wonder of Walmart


I got this graph from the IBD website.

What amazes me is Wal-Mart. From the accompanying article: "Wal-Mart's same-store sales rose 2.4%, beating forecasts. But comps excluding the world's No. 1 retailer fell 3.5%." Look at the top graph. Same-store sales for all stores was -.5% but take out Wal-Mart and it was -3.5%.

I've writ before about my amazement with grocery and big box stores. It's amazing the market share, the power of Wal-Mart. It does what Sears & Roebuck did in the early 20th century--provide affordable goods to the folks. That is a true service, desperately needed.

How many people have noticed that since Wal-Mart began providing four dollar generic prescriptions, Target, CVS, and Walgreens have all followed? How many people has that helped? And without any kind of government mandate.

My worry is that Barry, Nancy P, and wild man Harry Reid will legislatively force Wal-Mart to unionize. Wal-Mart is, after all, the prize for Big Labor.

It would be a shame to GM/Ford/Chrysler-ize something that this country so badly needs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jesse


This is the image that will always remain with me.

Granted, I can't stand the son-of-a-bitch. He's a corrupt, race-baiting hack.

At the same time, what an historic occasion. I generally assume noble intentions even with corrupt, race-baiting hacks, and though I may dislike Jesse Jackson, I can only imagine what Barry's election means to a man who has fought his whole life to see this day. How many times people must have said to him, "Not in your life time, Jesse"? Heck, how many times do you think he said that himself?

I got Jesse's picture here from the UK's Daily Mail. They ask whether Jesse's tears are from joy or from frustration that it was Barry who had accomplished what Jesse had not. Who cares? The point is, what a moment it was.

It's a New Day. The page has turned. My last hope for a McC victory was hope for the Bradley effect. It's sad to have hoped for something so distasteful. But it never happened.

History will judge whether Barry will be a good president or not. But the significance of what he accomplished is much larger than any one election or any one presidency. Good for America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Presidential Erection

I can't vote for anything without thinking of the late great Gilda Radnor playing Emily Litella on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update".

"What's all this fuss about a presidential erection?" Classic.

Spent half an hour this morning looking for a clip of it on the interweb but can't find it. Maybe Santa will bring me a collection of old SNL shows that has a copy.

In the meantime, Emily Litella has her own Wikipedia page. I did find web videos on "violins on TV" and on "buying Puerto Rico a steak". Very funny.

Never mind.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pirate Update

I guess no news is no news with the pirates. They do reportedly live the lives of American gangsta rappers enjoying the best looking women, fancy homes, new guns. Read about them here.

This is surprising to me. Surely that Russian destroyer has arrived on the scene. I thought the Russians would make examples of the Somalis. String 'em up from the yardarm. But evidently not.

Probably waiting for the Barry to be elected or for Jimmy Carter to arrive on the scene so one of them can broker a deal and save the day. (Sometimes I crack myself up.)

CC update

Circuit City shares update. Wish I'd owned them at the close yesterday. As of 3:23 this afternoon they are up 42% for the day.

Of course, that's an increase from 26 cents to 37 cents. Yikes.

CC announced today that it will close 155 stores leaving it with 566 stores still around. Cutting 17% of its workforce, renegotiating its leases. And is considering Chapter 11 after the New Year. Yikes again.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Time to Buy?--the whole store



Being a former Richmonder, I've been keeping an eye on the shares of Circuit City (CC).

It closed today at 37 cents per share. That's down from the all time high of $30.39 on May 30, 2006. Now, I know CC has had it's problems. But 37 cents?

That means the market cap today is $65 million. Circuit City owns 682 superstores and 11 other stores in the U.S. according to Yahoo Finance and did business out of 779 Canadian stores. They also own a retail electronics website business.

Let's do the math. $65 mil. divided by 1472 stores comes to a market cap of $44,158 per store. We'll throw the website in for free. I know, I know, they're sitting on $288 million in debt. Divide that by 1472 stores and add the debt to the price and it comes to $239,810 per store.

Circuit City is valued by Wall Street at $240,000 per store?!?!? Yes they're bleeding cash, but golly jeeez, that's $140,000 less than the median price of a home in California this year!

Anyone out there who can explain that, I'd like to hear. Something can't be right.

Double Entendre

A good friend told me yesterday that corporate execs are presently sitting in board rooms around the country making tough decisions that affect us all.

They don't know whether to lay Mary or Jack off. (. . . or jack off.)

Depending on how you read that, they're either choosing between Mary and Jack or choosing between screwing employees and pleasuring themselves.

I had to laugh.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

WTF?

What are you thinking, McC?

Billary is/are the one/two who is/are credited with the idea of the government buying stressed mortgages up and renegotiating them. As an example, someone put zero down on a house that is now worth $20,000 less than they owe with an interest rate that has recently gone to 3% more than it was before it adjusted. Uncle Sam buys the mortgage and "re-adjusts" it to what the house appraises for now and at the current interest rate.

This is supposed to be good bc. the bank doesn't have to foreclose and so real estate prices supposedly will stop falling. The bank avoids suffering by dumping the bad loan. The homeowner gets to stay in the house and gets a reduced payment and mortgage. But the taxpayer has to come up with the money to buy the loan and has to eat the $20,000 loss.

Here's a clue, McC: Barry beat the snot out of Billary. He'll beat the snot out of you if you insist on this.

Picture this. My neighbor and I bought our houses at about the same time--2005, the height of the bubble. One of us put 20% down and did a 30 year fixed rate mortgage. One of us put 10% down with a three year ARM. The interest rate has now adjusted and we can't afford the payment. Prices in the 'hood are now down 20% so the former of us has a house that is worth what we owe, the other has a house that is worth 10% less than what we owe. One of us can afford to continue making payments, one of us cannot.

Billary and now McC want the government to buy the mortgage of the house that's under water, adjust the mortgage principle down and the interest rate down so that what's owed is now only what the house is worth. The tax payers pick up the dif. So the one guy gets a lower mortgage and a lower payment for nothing and the other guy was a sucker for saving up for a 20% down payment. Asininity at it's finest.

But "fair". I guess you can say that it's "fair".

Like hell.

There is no way that even this Congress could be so stupid as to pass this thing.

But I've been amazed before. If they do seriously consider this monstrosity, let me suggest a couple of riders to the bill. Anyone who gets this Stressed Mortgage Assistance is banned, for as long as they own the house, from having cable TV. They will be allowed one motor vehicle per family. Any extra cars, as well as any boats, campers, jet skis, or pleasure boats will be auctioned to the highest bidder before the government will buy their mortgage. Auctioned also will be the flat screen TV, DVD player, central air conditioner, dryer, and microwave oven in every one of these houses. Don't need 'em, use a clothes line. (This by the way should be named The Green Amendment bc. it will not only save the taxpayer money, it will save electricity and, thus, prevent global warming.) Limit cell phones to one per family. All credit cards are canceled save one (for emergencies) with a $1,000 limit. A vacation prohibition will take effect: anyone getting mortgage relief who is caught going to Disney, the Bahamas, Atlantic City, or on a cruise for five years will immediately forfeit all Stressed Mortgage Assistance.

Come on, McC, get a grip.

McNabb the Typical Dem


Donovan McNabb must be a Dem. The W is not important: what is is that you "feel" that you are the better team.

Check out this stinging post on Chris Cooley's blog.

"We just didn't show it." Isn't it your job to show it?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Statehouse Bailout Next?

Looks like the states will be the next ones stepping up to the trough for a bailout. California and Massachusetts have both asked the Fed if they can borrow money under the same terms as the bank bailout. Maryland is sure to follow as the dam breaks and states rush to take advantage of a new source of funds.

There's a reason folks won't buy your bonds, Sacramento and Boston: you're a bad risk! Like all those sub-prime borrowers and "greedy" fat cats at Countrywide and Lehman Brothers, you assumed real estate prices would continue to rise and made decisions based on that assumption. You made health care promises and created generous pensions for teachers, firefighters, and other public employees. You borrowed money for road projects, pork projects, and prisons.

Now real estate prices have headed south meaning lower assessments and lower property tax receipts. The economy is in the crapper meaning lower tax receipts. It's the proverbial Rainy Day. But there's no rainy day fund.

Ironic (or hypocritical) that you won't hear Congress complain about the statehouse politicians they way they complain about the Wall Street boys even tho both of them made the same bad bets. Wall Street did it for profit, Boston and Sacramento politicians did it for votes. In fact, not only will the libs in Congress not attack their statehouse cronies, it will be the libs in Congress who will push to bail the states out.

Barney Frank, the man who had as much to do as anybody with killing Fannie and Freddie reform legislation over the years, is already talking it up. "I hope that the money won't be needed . . . but if it is, there is no better borrower than the state." Yeah, right. If that's the case, why does the Governator have to come begging to the Fed for a handout?

What Congress should do is tell fiscally irresponsible states to take a hike.


Mud Bowl at U Mich


Here's the Mud Bowl at the SAE house in Ann Arbor on Saturday. the photographer didn't get one of the guys playing.

It was a great day except for the loss by the varsity to the Illini.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Masterpiece 5--Southern Cross


This qualifies as a masterpiece.

To my untrained ear the harmony is as good as any (tho, maybe not so much in this live version) and the imagery vivid.

Two lines always stand out.
So we cheated and we lied
And we tested
And we never failed to fail
It was the easiest thing to do.
You will survive being bested.
Somebody fine
Will come along
Make me forget about loving you.
Anyone who's ever screwed up in life--which is probably just about all of us--can surely relate. And find comfort in the song.

The other line is part of the chorus.
Spirits are using me
larger voices callin'.
Creativity--one of the great mysteries. Where do great ideas come from? And great symphonies, novels, and paintings? How about a great invention or a unique solution to a problem?

Taoists speak of the Uncarved Block. Within the block of stone lies a statue. The sculptor connects with the Tao in a Holy Act of creativity--carving the statue to reveal what is Meant To Be for the block of stone and what is Meant To Be for the gifted sculptor. And the whole world is rewarded. The statue was always there, the sculptor always had it in him, and final product is what's Meant To Be.

Surely, this is what is meant by "Spirits are using me/larger voices callin'"--Crosby, Stills, & Nash sing of the Holy connection between Spirit and Artist.

One need not be Leonardo da Vinci or Paul McCartney to connect with the Spirit, tho. One can be an artist just by living a virtuous, passionate, and loving life. It's in every one us.

Thanks to Lyrics Depot for the text of the lyrics.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tipping Point?


I read somewhere last year that the nationwide total real estate market had never gone down more than 20% since the Great Depression. It took ten years after the great depression for prices to come back to their former highs.

The July S&P Case-Shiller index indicates that we hit that low over the summer. [Look at that graph and tell me if that's not the nastiest thing you've ever seen.] Granted, Case-Shiller is not a clear reflection of the total U.S. real estate market. It measures single family units in 10- and 20-city composites leaving out commercial real estate, raw land, condos, townhouses, and new homes. That being said, as of the end of July, the 10-city composite showed a 21.1% decline from the June/July '06 high and the 20-city composite showed a 19.5% fall from the high. So we are nearing Great Depression territory at least among lived in, single family homes in the big metro area markets.

Who knows where we're headed. Some suggest that the market is showing signs of bottoming in some areas. The rate of price decline in some markets is slowing. It's hard to believe we're bottoming, tho, given the fact that the credit markets are nearly frozen and we have yet to see many of the bank-owned foreclosed-upon subprime homes hit the market. At the same time, the number of existing subprime mortgages is falling as more and more people refinance or leave the keys on the counter for the bank. Certainly the market will not turn until the inventory heads back in the other direction. In August there was a 10.4 month inventory of houses on the market. Tho, down from a high of 11.1 months in July, that needs at least to get back down below 9 months.

The determinant--and the big mystery--is the effect the economic turmoil over the last few weeks will have on all this. It can't make things any better. And surely there will be unintended consequences, most of them probably negative, that come with any new legislation and regualtion from inside the Beltway.

P.S. on Pelosi

Just came across the Pelosi quote that I scribbled on scratch paper yesterday and which set this whole tirade off. From her news conference right after the House voted down the banking rescue bill:

"We delivered on our side of the aisle."

Either you're such a sad, back-benching hack that you will say anything or you are stupid and/or on crack and have no touch with reality. You delivered 60 percent of the House Democrats. 60 percent! You are the majority party! In the House that means you have control over everything. You, Madame Speaker, couldn't get 40 percent of your own party to vote with you?! You couldn't even get your own leadership to vote with you! Six committee chairmen voted no.

No, you did not deliver. And by that, I mean, you Speaker Pelosi did not deliver. You are completely incompetent.

Back Bencher


This woman is horrible.

The second highest compliment I give is in telling someone they made a difference. That they left something not only not less, but greater than it was when they found it. Our honorable Speaker does not qualify to receive that compliment.

Pelosi doesn't know how to do her job, and, what is much worse, doesn't even know what her job is. You don't bring a vote to the floor if you don't know the outcome ahead of time, Madame Speaker. Every high school student body president knows that. You can't blame yesterday's train wreck on anyone but yourself.

You are in a position of power
. If you are not going to get the vote you want, exercise that power, do not bring the vote to the floor.

The market in toto lost a trillion with a "T" dollars in value yesterday. Yes, Madame Speaker, that's even more than we spent in Iraq last year. Don't be a freakin' amateur. We can't afford it.

Your job in time of crisis (and I never use the word crisis) is not to attack "this administration". Leave that to the back-assed, back bencher representatives from Podunk. Your job in time of crisis is to do what's right for your country and for the world. You're not in the middle school gym locker room, you're the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives for goodness sake. You're playing a childish game that diminishes your position and demeans the office you hold.

Shame on you.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pirate update


The pirates reportedly are demanding $20 million in ransom for the 33 Russian tanks, ammo, crew, and ship. One crew member died from hyper tension according to the pirate spokesman. Someone on Fox said that while they were demanding $20 mil., the pirates would probably settle for anywheres from one to three mil.

Fortunately, the ship is now safely anchored (so no one will have to spend too much sweat searching for it) with the American guided missile destroyer, Howard, nearby keeping an eye on it.

"We want ransom, nothing else. We need $20 million for the safe release of the ship and the crew," Ali said, adding that "if we are attacked, we will defend ourselves until the last one of us dies." [italics added]

I got news for you, Mr. Ali. You're a dead man walking. When the Russians get there, they won't be playing by ACLU rules. If you have any desire at all to live to see the next Ramadan, best that you jump in the water and swim to shore sometime in the night.

As an aside, what do you suppose are the qualifications for being a "Somali pirate spokesman"? And shouldn't that be spokesperson?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Halloween is near


We dressed Buck for Halloween early this year.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Aaarrrrrggghhh!

Aaarrrrrggghhh mateys, look what we found!

In a move reminiscent of the Walter Matthau classic Charlie Varrick, Somalian pirates stumbled upon a Kenya-bound ship containing 33 Russian T-72 tanks and quite literally a boatload of ammunition. No worries, tho, unloading the tanks would be a "very difficult" endeavor that the pirates likely are not capable of pulling off. I wonder if those T-72s come with owners manuals. . . . imagine the product liability warnings.

Now the Russians are sending a navy frigate to the scene to get things straight. What's that line?--"The [pirate's] code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules." My guess is that the Russians will go by their own code if they ever get their hands on the Somali pirates.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Electoral Count

Intrade has Barry ahead 291 to 247.

Hedgehog has it tied 269-269. 270 are needed to win. Remember from your Constitution that if no one gets a majority of electoral votes, as would be the case here, it goes to the House of Representatives where each state gets one vote and 26 votes would be needed to win.

Wouldn't that be a circus?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fatheads

The presidential Fatheads are here!!!! These things are great.

When I ordered the one for the Redskins last year and got U. Mich at half price, I suggested they make them for John Riggins, Clint Eastwood, and Ronald Reagan. Monica Lewinsky, too, if I remember correctly.

The only problem here is that Barry and McC cost the same. Shouldn't the McC Fathead cost more? To make it "fair" just like Barry's tax increases will make it all "fair". Those fat cat Republicans should show their patriotism and pay more.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Don Says It's McC

Donald Trump endorses McCain. I have mixed feelings on The Don, but definitely respect his business acumen. From an interview on the Greta show last night, here seems to be his bottom line:

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you endorsing him because you've known him for a long time, or is it--tell me the difference between Senator Obama and Senator McCain in your eyes.

TRUMP: Well, I can tell you one of the differences is that Senator Obama wants to raise taxes beyond belief, and senator McCain doesn't. And in a fragile economy like we're in right now, you cannot go around raising corporate taxes and lots of other taxes. You just can't do it. Then you really will see the great depression.

I couldn't agree more. This is the only issue as far as I'm concerned. I guess taxing the rich would be more "fair" (I mean that most sarcastically), but what will be the price to make people feel good--to make it "fair"? Misery for the working Joe. A depression not seen since the Thirties.

All those Baby Boomers getting ready to retire will sell. They'll get out of both the stock market and the real estate market. And they'll never get back in, thus prolonging the misery. Too many entrepreneurs with the capital to invest simply won't, thus killing job growth for a prolonged period. It won't be pretty. For anybody.

Fear the change.

Yipee, Our Financial System is Collapsing

It's a tough position the Dems find themselves in having to root for further economic collapse.

Weather Channel weather people root for angry "Cat. Five" hurricanes. Firemen crave fires. Crazy lefties pray for higher unemployment and lower stock prices. The worse the economy gets, the better for Barry. Similar it is to the situation 18 months ago when they were cheering for the surge to fail in Iraq. The more casualties, the deeper the quagmire, the better chances that voters would choose "change".

It's not so different from crazy Republicans who hope for some sort of terrorist attack that would send voters McC's way.

Bottom line is that this economic mess is another Black Swan. It'll end up being the worst mess since the Great Depression. Greenspan calls it a once in a century occurrence. Maybe everyone should have seen it coming, but no one saw this coming. Blame it on Bush, on Congress, on Wall Street, on lobbyists, on predatory lenders and corrupt appraisers and spoiled Yuppies with their McMansions. Blame it on greed if you like, but all I ever saw was people trying to do the best they could. The blame game has no winner.

It is what it is.

Maybe we should just do like Willie and gratefully acknowledge that "fortunately we are not in control."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No to Georgia

I've been going back an forth with a blogger who advocates admitting Georgia into NATO. A political liberal, he argues that Putin would never dare invade a NATO country and so, by entangling ourselves with Tiblisi, we draw a line that the Russian Bear would never cross.

Using the word "never" in this case is naive to the point of being dangerous. The Soviets, of course, would "never" have dared invade Afghanistan. The Germans would "never" have dared to invade Poland. Saddam, I'm sure, thought that because he had done such a good job convincing the world that he had weapons of mass destruction, we "never" were going to invade Iraq. Yeah, and those sub-prime CDOs were "never" a risk to the stability of the American banking system.

Invading Georgia is a gimme for the Russians. It's on their border. It's small and it's weak--the size of South Carolina with approximately the same population. Swallowing Georgia would boost Putin's and Russia's manliness both at home and on the international playground. It would strengthen Moscow's stranglehold on Europe's energy supply. It would even make them rich.

From Putin's perspective, what's the potential downside? We might boycott the winter Olympics? Weak. We'll kick them out of G8? Boo-hoo. We'll put more missiles in Poland? My guess, they can live with that. Yet in the end they'll still have Georgia. And they will have sent a message to Ukraine: play by Moscow's rules or suffer the Georgian fate.

Georgia in NATO would be a big mistake. As I say to my kids, be careful in choosing your friends. George Washington put it differently in his farewell address when advising future generations to steer clear of permanent alliances--avoid entangling alliances.

So, let the European nations kill Georgia's admittance to NATO. Barry and McC, you can say it's important all you want. That shows that you're strong and gets you votes. But . . . are you really willing to go to war over a piss ant country the size of South Carolina?

For the sake of our future, don't commit us to a fight on the far side of the Black Sea. The risk far outweighs the reward.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Look Out Localities

This is going to be the toughest problem facing the economy over the next two or three years. All the local governments living off the teat of the booming real estate bubble have now made promises they won't be able to keep.

Says the AP:
"The three main sources of revenue for cities -- income tax, property tax and sales tax -- are all declining, the report warns. Meantime, health care, public safety and fuel are getting more expensive."

Read all about it .

Friday, September 12, 2008

"You Don't Know What You're Getting"

I love Wifey. She's not the political junkie that I am who follows every headline on most days.

But she's pretty good at hitting it on the head now and again.

On the O'Reilly show the other night (see below), Dennis Miller opined that Gov. Palin is "deep, deep inside [Obama's] melon, man". He doesn't know how to react--attack? hold back? ignore? fake a Biden heart attack to get Billary onto the ticket?

Wifey and I were watching and so I asked her to speak for all of Womankind. "You're a woman. What is it about the governor that's catching on so well?"

"She's authentic."

"But she's a politician and all politicians embellish. You can't honestly believe all that stuff about Sarah-cuda," said cynical me.

"At least when you look at Palin, you know that the embellishment is an amplification of her true self. When you look at Hillary up there, you have no idea what's being embellished."

I think that says it all.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More Asininity

This quote from an IBD op-ed series entitled "The Audacity of Socialism":
"I don't know which is the worst evil," [Jim Wallis] said in a 1994 interview with the Los Angeles Times magazine, "the crackhouse or the gentrified house."
Crackhouse = gentrified house? Really? Someone out there please explain. . . .

Wallis is the minister "tapped [by Barry] to oversee the drafting of the faith-based plank of the party platform." It appears that he's one of these community organizing ministers who thinks that if you're not out there working for social justice--presumably, social just as defined by him--that you're not being a good Christian. I guess this quote means that you're a sinner if you go into a crappy neighborhood, risk, in many cases, life and limb in addition to capital, to try try spruce the place up.

Oops, I forgot--neighborhood re-hab is only a good thing if the government does it by taxing the crap out of me so they can give my money away in the form of grants to community organizers. Instead, why not skip a few steps and provide tax incentives that encourage me to go into crappy neighborhoods to spruce things up? Answer: community organizers bring in more votes than I ever would.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Surprise, Surprise

Dear M. Sarkozy, U.N., Euroland, and the West in general:
We're never going to leave. Anything you're not willing to fight for, we'll just keep.
Signed,
Russia



Russian foreign minister makes it official. Says he:

"Russian forces are on the territory of South Ossetia and Abkhazia at the request of the presidents and parliaments of those republics and on the instructions of the Russian president," Lavrov told a news conference.

"In the next few days an agreement should be signed which will give a legal basis to the presence of Russian forces. They will be there for a long time, at least for the foreseeable period. That is necessary to not allow a repeat of Georgian aggression," Lavrov said.

I told you so.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunrise


Every once in a while one feels like he's been in the right place at the right time. This particular morning was better than church.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Thanks, Kurt

Check em.

I couldn't figure out what those things were at first.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

WSJ v. NYT

This cracks me up.

Here's The Wall Street Journal today quoting from the New York Times about the nomination of Geraldine Ferraro. (She, by the by, is someone I have grown truly to respect.) The NYT, of course, being one of the ones leading the attack against Sarah-cuda.

Notable & Quotable
September 6, 2008; Page A9

From a New York Times editorial on July 3, 1984, on Geraldine Ferraro's nomination for vice president:

Where is it written that only senators are qualified to become President? . . . Or where is it written that mere representatives aren't qualified, like Geraldine Ferraro of Queens? . . . Where is it written that governors and mayors, like Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco, are too local, too provincial? . . . Presidential candidates have always chosen their running mates for reasons of practical demography, not idealized democracy. . . . What a splendid system, we say to ourselves, that takes little-known men, tests them in high office and permits them to grow into statesmen. . . . Why shouldn't a little-known woman have the same opportunity to grow?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Keep Thinkin', Dems

Redford delivers one of many great lines in Butch Cassidy and the Sunshine Kid: "You just keep thinkin', Butch. That's what you're good at."

The Dems must be going through a little of that now. It will be the polls and, eventually, the votes that will determine the impact of Gov. Palin's nomination and the effect of her speech last night. Between the time she was picked and last night, tho, she, her family, and McC certainly did get hammered.

The Democratic Spinmeisters whom I stayed up late into the night watching didn't know what to do with her. She's something they've never seen, something from out of The Blue.

You guys "just keep thinkin'," tho. It's what you're good at.

Big Sis

My favorite moment of the night last night.

Adios Kwame



Those durn racists in Detroit threw out "The Hip Hop Mayor".

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Blogger Shot in the Head

In some parts of the world writing the wrong thing on your blog can be fatal.

Muckraking blogger Magomed Yevloyev from Ingushetia, a Russian subject republic next to Chechnya, had reportedly been warned not to return home from a trip out of the country. Yet return he did only to be taken into police custody as he stepped off the plane. He showed up at the hospital 20 minutes later with a bullet in his head. A police spokesman said that the blogger had been taken into custody and, "Along the way, a shot was involuntarily fired from a policeman's gun and the bullet hit Yevloyev's head." In the temple.

Yevloyev ran a website that reported Ingushetian news including many stories uncovering government corruption. It had been shut down before for printing "extremist" views.

One more reason to be thankful we live in the U.S.

"It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have" (Clint Eastwood as Willian Munny in Unforgiven).

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Anbar Chooses Peace

Yesterday, the U.S.turned primary security operations over to the Iraqis in the western province of Al Anbar. That's the 11th province of 18. More importantly, it's the first Sunni majority province to be turned over.

"Iraqis - like countless other Muslims across the world - witnessed al Qaeda's brutality first-hand and rejected it," said President Bush in a short statement.

Like 'most anything else of such consequence, there are many factors that led to the turnover, a turnover that would have been unthinkable just two years ago--the surge, the change in American tactics, the Anbar Awakening, the death of so many insurgents. Who knows how much secret diplomacy has been going on out of sight of world press? (The Saudis, Jordanians, and Syrians all share borders with Anbar.) It's never one thing but this is certainly a good thing.

So now's a time to celebrate peace in this troubled corner of the desert.

For the life of me, I can't understand why this in not front page of every newspaper in the country. No matter, it's still cause for celebration.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Press Asininity

Some jackass reporter on ABC News this evening said about the pregnancy of Gov. Palin's daughter that "the press should have been given this." Where does one begin?

"Should have been given this." So the McC people "should" have said, "Here's our running mate, the next Vice President of the United States. She has done X, has fought for Y, has accomplished Z, and, by the way, her 17 year old daughter is pregnant out of wedlock. Yes, here's the name of the father and his home address so that you can go park your jackass press van outside his house tonight and catch him on his way to school in the morning. If you miss him in the morn, no worries, you can show up at football practice and interview his coaches and teammates." Classy, very classy.

This is yet further evidence that the big time press reporters are as inside-the-Beltway/out-of-touch-with-America as the jackasses sitting on the floors of Congress. This is not about you, Jackass Reporter. We don't care about your ratings. Or you career. Most of us don't think this even is a story. It certainly has nothing to do with the vice-presidency. The privacy of this family is much more important than whether or not you get the story.

"Should have been given this." Get a freakin clue: your right to know ends at our front door. Whether we're running for office or not.

Obama Shows Class

Barry told the press today to back off. Very classy. This from Christina Bellantoni at the Washington Times:
[Obama] issued a strong statement to "back off" reports of Bristol Palin's pregnancy, telling reporters families — and especially children — are off limits in this presidential campaign.
Mr. Obama, campaigning here, also noted that his own mother was 18 when she gave birth to him.
"People's families are off limits," he said. "People's children are especially off limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. "
"I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories," he added. "That shouldn't be a topic in our politics."
He vehemently pushed back against an unnamed McCain aide suggesting his campaign had any ties to the blogs that were spreading rumors before the news broke, saying he was "offended" by that and if any of his staff was involved in spreading the issue, "they'd be fired."
"We don't go after people's families. Our people are not involved in any way," he said

The hope here is that the country can move on from here without, as they say, further comment. I'd much rather hear debate on the future of Social Security and Medicare.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Corrupt Bastards Club

Gov. Palin spoke Friday about having fought the old boys' network. Later I heard reference to the Corrupt Bastards Club and the name sounded so funny that I had to check it out. Turns out that such a thing actually existed.

The CBC was a group of Alaska politicians under investigation for political corruption. Supposedly some of them were in a pub one night when a citizen called them a bunch of corrupt bastards. They proudly adopted the name for themselves and even made hats and T shirts.

I guess they're not laughing now bc. 11 of 14 of them have been convicted. Of those, four have been sentenced and four are awaiting sentence. All of this according to my good friend Wikipedia.

What's so funny is not the club name so much as as the gall required for membership. The audacity. The impudence. These guys--and guys they all were--evidently were so confident they'd get away with it that they had shirts made up.

Well good for them.

Hil. disses Bill

The embedding on this has been disabled at YouTube so you'll just have to go there to see it.

But it's hilarious (sorry Patty)--Hillary completely rejects the affection of her husband. Too durn funny!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Time for a Field Trip



Now that Gov. Palin's the pick, how about a field trip to ANWR?

The Gov. could be the official docent. Even more impressive would be to have union member husband Todd be the guide since he has actually worked on the north slope.

McC can then learn for himself that drilling up there can be done and can be done right.

The important thing is to make a huge production of it. Take the press. Invite Brokaw, Williams, & Couric. "You went with Barry to Berlin, you should come with me. Let me give you the home town tour of ANWR from one who knows it." Invite O'Reilly, Rush, Matthews, and that guy on CNN. Invite Oprah and the girls from The View. Fill up that huge Straight Talk Express plane with a bunch of pressies and crank up the "North To Alaska".

To make it really good, invite Barry to come along. Invite him to do so from the stage at the GOP national convention. A bipartisan, patriotic, post-partisan thing to do.

The important thing is to take advantage of this issue.

No, the important thing is to start drilling up there.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McC Ad from Last Night



I meant to put this up last night. This was a class act and from the heart. The McC camp certainly didn't have to run anything like it.

It was, after all, an historical occasion.

Damn. . .










. . . she's better than McCain!

This is going to be a blast.

Here's the Obama response:

"Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies -- that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same."

If they're going to try to paint this spark plug from Alaska as "more of the same" of anything, Barry's going to be crushed. She is fantastic.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rattled?


Just a quick thought before off to bed.

Did Barry seem a little rattled tonight? I say that bc. his strategy seemed definitely to change--from soaring, inspirational rhetoric with little substance to focus group-tested, Democratic cliche. One of the five or six notes I took says that now the gloves are off. It's changed from I'm-above-all-that to attack.

Me, I think that's great. Now we'll be in the sand box together, mano-a-mano. Great practice for dealing with the likes of Putin, Peking, and Abinominojaaaad.

All along I thought Barry was somewhat of a puss. But now I see the light. Anyone who can beat Billary is someone to be feared. And now the down and dirty, rough and tumble Chicago politician has arisen. Look out all you folks who thought he was above such mud slings.

When I say rattled, it's not that he's on his back. Only that he's changed tactics. Rattled in a good way for him for it shows he's willing to change tactics when needed. Look for Barry the attack dog to raise his ugly head.

One last thing, I stand by my post from last night. Bill was a ten but I'd only give Barry a 7.5.

Pick Palin, McC


My pref. is Governor Palin, Mr. McC.

Young, attractive. Oh by the way, did I mention she's a woman. Her integrity is impeccable, her values strong. Talk about outside the beltway--Alaska's as far as it gets. She recently signed into law a bill that will advance the construction of a new natural gas pipeline from Alaska.

She has five kids, the oldest in the Army, the youngest in diapers.

She's tough, honest, and McC's kind of gal. Wouldn't that be somethin'?

Here's the draft Palin blog. "New Energy for America".

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Master



Yes, he earned the distinction of being one of only two presidents ever to have been impeached. Yes, he was disbarred. Yes, he lied to his country. He lied to his friends and his family and then sent them into the world to defend him all the time knowing it was a lie. Some friend he. Yes, he got a snarlin from a 21 year old intern--on several occasions and while he was married and in the Oval Office. He might well be a rapist.

But no one alive today can give a speech like the one he gave tonight. He's the master. Obama-schmobama, you've been out shined.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This One for McC

Here's a blurb I posted over on The Chaliceblog in the comments section of a post asking folks to predict who will win in November. My prediction is McC.

Barry was doing well when all a candidate had to say was, "Pull out of Iraq." Now, it's much more complicated. They did the poll in the spring. The poll said people want change. My prediction . . . come November, apres le primary-frenzy, people won't want change just for change's sake. They'll want to look a little deeper. And what they'll see in Barry is not what they really want in a President. Or, at least, what they're willing to risk.

Here it is, my presidential prediction from The Chaliceblog:

If you believe in systems theory, you believe that systems resist change. Last spring everyone on both the right and left agreed the mess in Iraq was our biggest problem. There was enough focus on that one issue for enough people to agree that change was less scary than status quo.

Now Iraq has fallen from the headlines. Is there enough focus on our problems for America as a system to overcome its resistance to change? Our problems are many and great--the economy, energy, the environment, Supreme Court Judges, health care, social security/medicare, education, race relations, blah, blah, blah. But in such times of stress, my argument is that people will be even more resistant to change, even more afraid of taking a chance.

What's changed is focus. There's not a laser clear focus on one issue that produces enough fear for the system to overcome its resistance to change. Not among enough of the voters.

Enough voters will be laying there in bed waiting for that Ambien to kick in, worrying that the economy's bad but will raising taxes really fix it? Gas prices are high but will refusing to drill or to build nuclear plants help that? Health care is a mess but is turning more of it over to the government going to make it better or worse? Oh, and did I mention that he's black. And untested.

And it's not just the individuals within the American system who will fear change and vote against it. It's all the special interests and powers that be, corporate and otherwise, who will fight to keep what they've got.

I think it will be McCain because by the time all the attacks and fear mongering is done, the fear of change--the fear of the unknown--is what will actually decide the election.

10:31 PM, August 26, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

All Star Line Up?

If tonight's line up is supposed to be the Dems' all stars, I have to be thinking that maybe we Republicans don't have so much to fear. Pelosi, Kennedy, Carter, and Michelle?

Man, oh man, that's a little off the main stream, isn't it?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Whole Lotta Love

Jimmy Page, of The Yardbirds, Led Zepplin, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame fame, reportedly will sing "Whole Lotta Love" tonight as Peking passes the Olympic flame on to London.

Guess he'll have to change that one line in the song, maybe from "Shake for me, girl/I wanna be your backdoor man" to something like "Jump with me/I wanna be your pole vault man". The Queen might not approve.

Any other suggestions?

"Hey, oh, hey, oh. . ."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

So it's Barry-Biden

Biden: Thanks for picking me. I guess this means that I'm now The Chosen One.

Barry: No you're not. I'm still The Chosen One.

Biden: No, I'm The Chosen One.

Barry: No, I'm The Chosen One.

Biden: No, I'm The Chosen One.

Barry: No, I'm The Chosen One.

Biden: No, I'm The Chosen One.

Barry: No, I'm The Chosen One. . . .

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Russian Bear


Two interesting quotes flagged from the August 15 Wall Street Journal.

On A13 in Garry Kasparov's article, Russian Alexander Dugin is quoted as saying that "Russian forces 'should not stop until they are stopped.'" Kasparaov describes Dugin as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin.

Yaroslav Trofimov quotes a Russian soldier outside the town of Gori in his article on A6. Gori sits in a strategic location along the major east-west highway in Georgia. It's an hour drive from there to the capital of Tiblisi. Control of Gori cuts off access between Tiblisi and the town of Poti on the Black Sea. Trofimov queried as to the odds of the soldier's unit proceeding to Tiblisi, at which point the soldier "spat and answered, 'Anyone who stands up to Russia, we shall destroy them.'"

Now, my greatest accomplishment in the study of Soviet/Russian affairs occurred in Howard Davis's Soviet Systems class in November 1982. On the morning of a test, the Soviets announced that Leonid Brezhnev had gotten over his case of the flu by passing into the Realm Beyond. So Howard asked us, in a opportunity for extra credit (something completely unheard of at my alma mater), who we thought the next Soviet General Secretary would be.

I was completely correct predicting that it would be someone already on the Politburo with a KGB background--probably Yuri Andropov, former KGB chairman who had made a name for himself by calling in the tanks to crush the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The ten extra credit points meant that I earned a 99 on the test. It was the only time I can ever remember hiding my test from my classmates out of embarrassment for having done so well. No one got a 99 on a Howard Davis test.

Keeping in mind that that was the highpoint of my Soviet/Russian eduction, allow a few observations.

The Russians remain a bully on the Playground of World Affairs, led once again by a KGB-trained master of the art of realpolitik. As the second largest oil producer in the world, they reportedly have quadrupled defense expenditures in the last six years. They rank ninth in population (half the size of the U.S.), but second in military might. They have no problem invading Georgia or cutting off natural gas and fuel oil exports to Ukraine.

Now they are willing to fight for oil. They want their empire back. They'll never leave Abkhazia and South Ossetia again. And they don't much care about the UN or the rest of us.

I don't believe they will be stopped. . . until they're stopped.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Poll Changes

Can't say exactly why I haven't been writing. Been out of town some. Internet was down for a few days due to a defective cable modem. Time to get back into it, tho.

Last posting on July 29 had the projected electoral college vote count at 204 for McC and 334 for Barry. It's now 266 for McC and 272 for Barry. Remember, 270 wins it. McC's picked up 62 in just three weeks. Virginia and North Dakota are dead heats with McC getting those electoral votes in this particular count. All this from The Hedgehog Report blog.

At the Intrade futures market where one can put down real dollars on the election, McC can't seem to break above $40 with a close today of $38.60 while Barry has recently dropped from a high in the high $60s range back to a close today of $58.90. Intrade it turns out is very accurate in its election predictions. I believe it correctly predicted every US Senate race in '06.

It's great fun to watch.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Something's Wrong

Wifey flew to Cincinnati this morn.

Here's the deal: she took a flight from DC to Detroit to Cincinnati because the direct flight to Cincinnati would have been $1200 and the two leg flight through Detroit only cost $350.

Somewhere in there is a lesson about capitalism and the free market and efficiency and so forth. . . .

But WTF?

Friday, July 25, 2008

"We Can't . . ." says Obie

"I have firmly believed since the beginning of this campaign and the last several years that we can't solve the problems we face in the United States alone," Obama told CNBC.

Well that's a pretty sad commentary coming for someone running for president. The candidate of hope, claims he.

I'm more on the side of T. Boone Pickens who says of the American energy dependence, "It's our crisis and we can solve it."


Find more videos like this on PickensPlan

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No More CRAP

I've taken down the CRAPonSundays blog.

If you'd never been there, it stood for Church Regular Against Politics on Sunday. It was created as an answer to the constant flow of politics I was hearing from the pulpit at church--Geo Bush is the devil, we're torturing people in Guantanamo, universal health care and gay marriage are human rights. I've moved on to the Pour It blog and I've moved on from that church and that denomination, tho, have yet to find the right place to sit on Sunday mornings.

Inspiration for cutting the CRAP blog should be attributed to Willie Nelson. Just finished his and Turk Pipkin's book, The Tao of Willie. More on the book at a later date, but suffice it to say here that while the things said on the CRAP blog were straight from the heart, the negativity's no longer worth the effort. Too much hurt.

Wifey'd been telling me from the beginning that no one would read it bc. of the negative blog title. Tried to deny that the title was negative, that it was just clever, but I can no longer even convince myself of that.

I've saved all the posts for post-erity if anyone's curious. I went back a re-read a couple of them and a couple of them are actually pretty good.

But sometimes it's time to move along down The Path. The CRAP blog served its purpose.

And so the Journey continues. . . .

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hey, that's what I said

In an IBD editorial this morn, Thomas Sowell agrees with my March '08 blog post: a leading cause of the subprime mortgage fiasco was the Community Reinvestment Act which pressured lenders to make loans they never would have made otherwise.

A short blurb:
It was not that many years ago when there was moral outrage ringing throughout the media because lenders were reluctant to lend in certain neighborhoods and because banks did not approve mortgage loan applications from blacks as often as they approved mortgage loan applications from whites.

All this was an opening salvo in a campaign to get Congress to pass laws forcing lenders to lend to people they would not otherwise lend to and in places where they would not otherwise put their money.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Thanks, Dubya

Funny how things work sometimes.

Went to pick up #1 son at Reagan National Airport today and got there a few minutes early. Found myself cursing Johnny-Law-on-a-Segway because he ran me off the second I pulled up--no waiting in front of the airport, only picking up. Thank you terrorists.

So I did the loop and landed in the cell phone waiting area. The Dennis Miller show was on the radio and what to my wondering ears did I hear? Dennis thanking our President for it being 2505 days since 9/11 without a significant terrorist attack on American soil. In my book, that's quite an accomplishment.

So we might not like having to take our shoes off to get on a plane. Or not being able to wait in front of the terminal at Reagan National. We might not like the Patriot Act. We might not like wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We certainly don't like the 1600th block of Pennsylvania Avenue being closed to auto traffic and the inside of the Statue of Liberty being closed to everybody.

But we are very thankful that there has not been another attack on this side of the pond. It's not by accident. And it's not nearly acknowledged enough.

Thank you, Mr. President, and all you folks out there who have had a hand in making this possible.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pakistanis Protest

A mob of "investors and brokers" stormed Pakistani stock markets in three different cities yesterday, smashing windows and setting tires on fire. Asks the LA Times in its headline, "What do you do about a bear market? In Pakistan, you stone it."

Nice.

The fact that it happened in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore all on the same day suggests that the tantrum was coordinated in some way. Who knows, tho?

Some of us feel like we'd like to do the same thing after what's happened in the market in the last months, but this is embarrassingly uncivilized. Guess that doesn't matter in much of the world.

Scary to think that Pakistan is the world's six largest country by population. And a nuclear power to boot.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obama on U.N. Dues

"Our ability to effectively lead in [the United Nations] is substantially undermined when we do not fulfill our financial obligations at the UN. As President, I will insist that Congress provide funds to pay our dues on time, in full, and without improper conditions. "
So says Obie in the Better World Campaign questionnaire for presidential candidates.

This is another thing on which I'd have to disagree with him. Au contraire mon ami, unconditional love in the form of a never-ending flow of dollars from Congress contributes to the U.N.'s ineffectiveness.

Or, better put, if we ever want the U.N. to be effective, we're going to have to put conditions on those financial obligations. What incentive do they have to change otherwise? Money talks. By taking this off the table as a negotiating tool, Obie further reveals his unfortunate naivete.

By inserting that word "improper", of course, he has left himself plenty of room for flip-flopping . How Clintonesque. Now if he ever does have to use the power of the purse against the U.N. (i.e., if the polls ever show that it would be politically expedient for him to do so) he can do so. And then say, "I never said never impose conditions. It's right there in black and white in that Better World questionnaire: I said never impose improper conditions." Ahhh, I see, it's only improper conditions that he's against.

I don't know what's worse, the pandering qualification or the naivete of writing the U.N. a blank check.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Go, Rahm, Go

I'm probably as Republican as they git. And I'm certainly no Rahm Emanuel fan because he did such a politically admirable, tho otherwise unpardonable job defending the indefensible--Billary in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Have to tip my hat, tho, that he's come up with a great bill that would encourage the development of natural gas automobiles. Read the press release here. Found a reference to it on T. Boone Pickens' Pickens Plan site.

Tho I'm not convinced, as T. Boone is, that wind is the solution to our energy probs, the thought of natural gas cars replacing gasoline cars fascinates me. Battery cars have to be plugged in and to do any kind of major conversion will take more nuclear power plants. That will take years. Also, I'm not sure how clean all these batteries will end up being in the long run.

Rahm's bill would require car companies to build NG cars (the technology's already there), encourage gas stations to start providing NG, and give tax incentives to regular folks who buy the NG cars or convert their gasoline cars to NG. Talking heads on CNBC argued the other morn whether that conversion would cost $2,000 or $3,000, so conversion would assumably be in that neighborhood.

The thing that sounded coolest in Rahm's press release was the "Phill". Should his bill pass, we would get tax credits for installing Phill connections so that cars could fill up at home by connecting to home NG lines. Think of it: every night we could fill up our cars right in our own garages. We'd never have to stop at a "gas" station again. How convenient is that!

So Rahm . . . I can't see me ever voting for you, but I certainly support you on this one. Hopefully, knuckle heads on both sides of the aisle and in both houses of Congress will pull together and push this thing through.

Obama Cartoon

Here's a good one by Michael Ramirez at IBD.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Masterpiece 4--The Supermarket

One morning recently a water main in Montgomery County broke and we were all told that for three days we were to boil our tap water before drinking it. Word got to me about 9:30 in the morning.

Along about noon I decided to run up to the Safeway on the corner to buy a case or two of bottled water. The thought of boiling water for two days just didn't sit well. Just as I was climbing into the truck it hit me that I must be dreaming: there won't be a drop of water left. Everyone in the neighborhood has beaten me to it, the shelves will be bare.

Much to my surprise, I was way off. At the head of every aisle and in the free space in the meat and produce sections stood pallet upon pallet of bottled water, much of it even on sale. No price gouging there. Seemed like there were even a couple extra checkout registers open to handle the rush of soccer moms and seniors who were similarly disinclined to boil for three days. Safeway recognized and responded to the market demand in a matter of hours--in a matter of minutes, really.

The American supermarket is itself a masterpiece.

This is not my original idea. A George Mason University econ professor in the summer of '83 must be given the credit. Tho I can't remember his name, I will never forget his eloquent soliloquy on the American supermarket.

Stop for a second the next time you're at Safeway or Giant, for that matter, Walmart, Staples or Lowe's--they're the same thing. Appreciate the abundance around you--the complex economic system necessary to bring it all together. Fresh produce, meat, and dairy. Frozen dinners, ice cream, orange juice, and pizza. Canned goods, cake mixes, pasta, potato chips and sodas of every variety. Accross the river in Virginia you can even buy wine and beer.

Today's supermarket offers a much more international fare than its ancestor just a generation ago--roses from Ecuador, salmon from Chile, strawberries from Mexico, apples from New Zealand, shrimp from Costa Rica. Asparagus year round.

And it's not just the food. Think of the packaging--the boxes for cereal, the bags for chicken nuggets, the cans for everything from beans to blueberry pie filling. You have bug spray, matches, medicine, make-up, magazines. Every soap and detergent you can imagine, every paper product you'd ever need for your Sunday picnic. Diapers for the baby, Depends for the mother-in-law.

Somehow it all comes together in this one magical place. From around the country, from around the world. Seven days a week, the shelves always full.

How lucky we are.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Up Next, It's the Minumum Wage

As if there aren't enough economic probs for small business owners, the minimum wage is set to increase nearly 12%.

Take the case of Phyllis Tampling, owner of Jim's Restaurant in Prattville, Ala. Food prices have soared (hard to imagine the price of potatoes going up 75% in one week) but she's been unable to pass the costs on due to competition not only from other restaurants, but also from prices at the pump and the checkout line. Now she's looking at mandated salary increases. Those who aren't on minimum wage will also have to get raises in order for them to stay ahead of those who are. It's a ladder of wage inflation.

I wonder how it will all balance out at Jim's Restaurant. Higher wages would mean fewer profits. Raising prices would mean fewer sales and fewer profits. Refusal to raise wages could lead to employee turnover which also would eat into profits.

The market will work it all out one way or another. My prediction is inflation and further economic contraction.

You have to hand it to the little guys--the Phyllis Tamplings of the world--for sticking with it.