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."


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.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wouldn't want to be this guy. . . .

. . . right about now.

The AP reports that the only surviving terrorist in the attack on the American consulate in Istanbul has been captured. His three compadres were killed in that attack as were three Turkish security guards.

Do you figure they'll water board the guy? I wonder if they read him his rights. Surely he's been granted a habeas corpus hearing.

Here's the relevant Youtube:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

We're Paying for Both Sides of the War

T. Boone Pickens was on CNBC this morn launching his new energy plan. I love this guy. He's spending ten million dollars of his own fortune to publicize the plan and it's certainly worth a look.

T. Boone argues that we should build enough wind to replace the natural gas now being used to generate electricity and then convert cars from gasoline to NG. The goal is American energy independence. The technology already exists for NG vehicles--many buses here in the DC area run on NG. And NG is plentiful here in the US as long as the politicians and tree huggers will let us go get it.

More on all this later, but suffice it to say here that he's dead on when he points out the danger of sending $700 billion overseas every year to pay for oil, much of it to less than friendly folks in crazy parts of the world.

We send troops to fight and to die with the hope of stabilizing and democratizing the Middle East. At the same time we send petro dollars to Iran and Saudi Arabia who use those dollars to support the jackasses who are killing our troops.

It's got to stop.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Turn Out the Lights. . .

the party's over. You know that all good things must end. Call it a night, the party's over. . . .