Friday, September 19, 2008

Capitalism is dead in America

The mixed economy is not longer mixed. Welcome to socialism, at the speed of light. I can only hang my head and raise a glass in a toast to the memory of what could have been.

And now a prediction: Give all failing industries time to approach the government for a bailout. They will all line up, and less efficient they are (negative profits and enormous numbers of employees), the more likely they will become part of the new "don't let anyone fail" government of ours. Expect auto and airline industries at the front of the line.

I expect inflation to go through the roof, since these paper bills we hold apparently have no value at all since the government is giving them away to purchase failed enterprises and prop up stock prices. Run for the hills!!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

McCain, what the hell!?!

C'mon, I mean, c'mon. It makes you look like a befuddled old man to forget how many homes you own.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm back

At least for a little while. Glad to have you back with me!

Michael Phelps

An important question. I don't care if he is or not, but what's the point of a free country if you can't ask questions like these? Hat tip to Mr. Mahood for bringing this important issue to my attention.

Yay! I'm a Sh*t Sandwich Republican

It's official, I'm a Sh*t Sandwich Republican. It's like choosing between Amy Winehouse and Brittney Spears. I choose Brittney. Thanks McCain, you're my Brittney. Given a choice between driving towards a cliff at a leisurely pace of 25 mph and speeding off at 80, I'm going to calmly vote for the lesser of two evils. Afterwards, I'm going to club some baby seals and give the pelts to homeless people to keep warm this winter. And Obama, don't worry, it's far from too late for McCain to do something so stupid that I don't vote at all. Sorry, but I can't vote for a candidate that believes Earl Warren is an ideal Supreme Court Justice. I mean, honestly, why bother to have a lame Congress when the courts can legislate any way they want? Kinda seems anti-Democracy to appoint legislators for life.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Taking some time off

I will be taking a break from the blog for a bit. Please check in again in a week or so as I hope to return then.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

America's Image

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner says, in reference to America's image, "the magic is over."

I'm not certain what magical image America had prior to the Iraq war, except for the image of the poor victim for a couple of weeks following the World Trade Center. Would Europe prefer that the United States had taken a different path following the attack? Most believe so.

I ask a specific question. Would the world be better off with Saddam Hussein and the Taliban still in power? Is there a belief that diplomacy would have cured the ills in those areas? If diplomacy removed the Taliban or Saddam, it truly would have been "magical." Just look at the success of diplomatic efforts in North Korea. I am not proposing that this war was run in the correct way, only that any efforts less than war would not have been effective at getting the same result.

As it happens, the fighting in Iraq is giving the world the results of an interesting experiment. The experiment wasn't intentional, but it exists nonetheless. Can a nation that is attempting to run a "moral" war, win that war? Can civilian casualties truly be minimized? Obviously, trying to run a "moral" war has been much less effective than the traditional manner. That doesn't mean it's not worth trying.

Let's ask a different question.

Does the image of America matter? Not the actions, but the image. If the United Nations gives any clue, those nations with the worst reputations and records get to rule on human rights. Apparently, the more awful one is in the world, the better one fares in the UN. Why should that be?

One possibility is the US is a horrible juggernaut that trounces over the people of other nations and all they can do is beg for mercy. If that's true, it has been the single most ineffective use of power by any nation in history. I mean, what if we really tried to do what we are accused of doing? I can't imagine a less effective way to do it. I think there is a much more accurate answer.

In the immortal words of Lord Palmerston, "We have no permanent allies, only permanent interests ." Nations do not follow or agree with other nations because they are pleasant, only because they have something they need. This is why the world pays more attention to 500 deaths in the Middle East than 50,000 in Rwanda. It's not a kind world. If the US wants to be popular, it can always give away money, land, and sovereignty to other nations and it's popularity will skyrocket. It is always easier to avoid fighting a difficult fight than standing up for one's principles. The world is annoyed with the US because it was willing to stir up the hornet's nest of the Middle East while Europe was willing to quietly turn it's back on the situation there.

If we must err, let's err on the side that is least likely to harm freedom in the world. When the United States becomes isolationist and allows Europe and Asia to control their own affairs, it inevitably ends up in a World War as the most aggressive power comes to control (historically this has been Germany). When the US is active, the USSR falls, South Korea maintains itself, or the US ends up with a bloody nose like in Vietnam. Choosing between these two historic options is not difficult. Take a messy war like the one in Afghanistan any day over a World War with a real power. Fortunately, success in foreign policy is not a popularity contest. I fear Machiavelli had it right when he said it was better to be feared than love. May the US be the most just and least popular ruler the world has ever seen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A link to the girl

Here she is, the one Spitzer paid 3k/night to ruin his career.

Thanks wwtdd for linking to Page 6.

I love Goldenberg's Peanut Chews

I had some of them the other day, and they were awesome, but apparently I missed the news. A few years ago, the brand was bought out by Just Born, Inc., which also makes Mike & Ike. The shape of the candy, with that small sheath of cardboard holding all the lined up peanut chews in it is exactly the same, just the outside is different. Still, I'm sorry to see them change at all... it was kind of like eating a candy from the '30s. And they've added a milk chocolate flavor in addition to the original dark that I refuse to try. Ever. Unless I'm at the movies and there's nothing else.

Rumor has it the average Goldenberg's consumer was getting older and they decided it was time for an image change. Though they're the same candy, I'm sorry to see the era of the Goldenberg's name come to an end. Apparently they were a Philly original and have been around since 1890. See, you learned something today.

Riviera Beach sucks!

What is wrong with the people at Riviera Beach?

"Under the new law, anyone with droopy pants that show skin or underwear faces legal action."

Somehow I doubt there is a law on the books preventing someone from going out in a bikini, but if you cover that up with saggy pants, it's a fine for you. Nicely done, outlawing styles of dress that offend. What could be wrong with that? Is this what we need government for?

Shame on you, Mayor Thomas Masters! And shame on the voters that passed this bill!

Quick Mississippi analysis

Obama won roughly 90 percent of the black vote in Mississippi on Tuesday, but only about one-quarter of the white vote.

This is interesting. The black vote entirely votes Democrat. According to Time, nearly 80% of blacks voted for the Democratic Party in general elections.

If one were to avoid the question of blacks simply voting for a black candidate, and whites voting for a white one, and instead focused on blacks voting for the candidate that is most in line with the Democratic party, is it possible that Obama is showing the inclination of the Democrat faithful to vote for him? After all, what could represent the faithful more than the black vote? Would Hillary, by taking large sections of the white vote, be more likely to take the white vote in an election, which is more likely to be swing votes or centrist? Has she become the "Republican" in the race for the nomination?

Perhaps Republicans should be cheering Obama as a candidate, as he appears to be taking less of the centrist vote and may continue on that path if he is the Democrat nominee. After all, McCain is about as centrist a Republican as the Republican party has put forth in decades. I am beginning to suspect Hillary would pose a stronger threat to a possible Republican victory than Obama. It's also hard to consider a victory by McCain a victory for Republicans... it would probably just be a loss for Democrats. Will I really have to choose between, in the immortal words of South Park...

Spitzer... staying or leaving?

It's being reported today that Governor Spitzer is weighing his options, choosing whether or not to resign. Why the delay? I suspect he has been hoping that his support would appear after the initial statement. He's a politician and is making a political decision. I might hope for better, but I should expect nothing less.

But one reason that is given is he is planning to use his office as a bargaining chip with prosecutors. This part makes no sense to me.

Why should his resignation of his office in ANY way change the way the law treats him in a plea deal? Would it make sense for a CEO to tell a prosecutor he would resign in the same circumstances? What about a convenience store clerk? The idea of a convenience store clerk using his resignation as a bargaining chip is absurd. Why should the prosecutor care? And by the same token, why should a prosecutor care if Spitzer stays or goes?

Has the law been upheld if a felony is reduced to a misdemeanor or if jail time is avoided by a guilty party because they held a position of high power in the government? I say no. That sounds to me like an excellent reason to go exactly by the book.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's Magic!

Fed improves liquidity by lending to banks that are squeezed. Like magic, the market rallies and news commentators are talking about how this will help avoid recession and improve recovery. Is anyone asking why these banks are unable to get liquidity themselves? If this is so good, why not do it all the time? What has the government been waiting for? Why not always have a fantastic economy if there's no down side? Why EVER have a recession?

I have the answer.

There is a downside.

Banks can't get liquidity because people don't think they're worth the risk. There's no free lunch.

Allowing companies to fail is a good thing. Propping them up encourages failure. Who do you think will foot the bill if these risks, that the market has deemed not worth supporting, fail? The answer to that is whoever gave these banks the loan. In this case, it's your government.

Mark my words. Whenever the government invests in the markets, it takes risks the market participants are unwilling to bear. It buys high and never sells. We should be careful that the cure is not worse than the illness. When a bank goes under and doesn't repay the loan to the government, the next question you will hear is whether the government should support the bank and effectively add to a bad trade. We should stop rewarding failure.

After we take the medicine of recession, if it even comes, our economy will be stronger for it. There is no way to buy your way out of it. Trying to do that will only hurt us more in the long run.

Prostitute Aggravation

Apparently running an international prostitution ring isn't as glamorous as it seems. Paying bills, working with vendors... it's like another long day at the office, and that's not even considering the jail time. Soon, they'll be telling me being a world class assassin is all about filling out the correct paperwork.

Monday, March 10, 2008

This story speaks for itself

Shroud Of Turin Accidentally Washed With Red Shirt

Proud to be a New Yorker

Governor Spitzer was involved in a prostitution ring

I can't help it, I just think this is hilarious. So much for cleaning up Albany with a prosecutor! At least he's doing New York proud by not knocking on the door of his stall for gay sex in a bathroom. How the mighty have fallen.

I'm commenting on this prior to his press conference, so maybe this won't be as steamy as I hope. Personally, I'm hoping for an arrest at his home and a perp walk in front of his family, a humiliation he visited on many of those he prosecuted who were not allowed to surrender to the police.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Torture Pt. 3

We all know there's a difference between torture involving mutilation and rape, and waterboarding. We do a disservice to the debate by categorizing them together under the title torture and pretending they are the same thing.

Torture Pt. 2 - Bush's Veto

Torture's been on my mind a bit ever since President Bush vetoed a bill to prevent the CIA from using certain interrogation techniques including waterboarding. I haven't read the bill (or any bill in it's entirety since I went to Model Congress as a kid), but I feel confident to discuss the issue involved.

At this time, there are two distinct aspects as to whether or not the United States should use coercive interrogation techniques, aka torture. 1. Does it work? 2. Is it moral?

Many say it doesn't work, but personally, I'm convinced that I'd talk hours earlier if someone hurt me than if they did anything but. I'd like to think I'm stronger than that, but torture techniques have been improved upon for millennia and I'm confident I can deal with psychological pain far longer than physical pain. But that's not the issue at hand. If it doesn't work, we won't do it, and if it does, that doesn't make it morally correct. For the sake of getting to the core of the moral argument, let's assume torture works.

This is not a simple issue. Obviously there are levels of coercion, from sleep deprivation and imprisonment to the iron maiden and beyond. Some have permanent physical and/or psychological effects, other do not. In addition, there are many reasons given for the motivation to torture, from those who would use it as a punishment, a deterrent, an incentive, an interrogation technique, or a number of other reasons. I have intentionally left out entertainment and many of the other macabre reasons people have used torture in the past as I'm trying to focus on one particular aspect of torture. That aspect is torture as an interrogation technique. That's what this bill was about.

The question is, if torture for interrogation can be proven to save lives, should we prevent our CIA or military from doing it anyway? It's a difficult question, especially given the usual hypothetical: What if torture was used to glean information on the location of a nuke in a major American city and the information ended up preventing the catastrophe? Most people agree, and I suspect most Democrats as well, that torture would be justified in those circumstances. I certainly believe this.

If we make torture illegal under all circumstances, and design our laws to follow what we see as moral, can we be convinced that a government bureaucrat will risk breaking those laws to his own personal detriment? Or will he be more likely to do as our soldiers did when they had Osama bin Laden in their sights many years ago? Apparently we didn't fire because we required confirmation. When that confirmation arrived, the opportunity was gone and so was Bin Laden.

Of all the people we want to steadfastly follow our laws, none are more important than those with the guns in our government. Our military MUST be held responsible for its actions and must follow the laws and orders set by civilian authority. There must be NO misunderstanding as to what is allowed by our troops. We cannot have a loophole that is understood that under certain circumstances "It is okay to break those laws, all will be forgiven."

If we all agree that there are certain circumstances where torture is acceptable (think nuke in New York City), let's spell them out. This is too important an issue to insist on making it illegal, while simultaneously saying that in extenuating circumstances it is both acceptable and expected. Anyone who votes for the bill making torture practices illegal should answer the direct question of "Is torture EVER acceptable?" with a resounding "NO!" I sincerely doubt the many lawmakers who voted for this bill feel that way. The answer should not be "let's make it illegal, but expect extremely good and patriotic men will risk the consequences by breaking this law when it seems in the nation's best interest." Our military and foreign policy need clarity. I don't want to hear that we could have prevented losing a city if we'd gotten the information a few hours earlier, but the subject was still resisting talking in his comfortable cell and our men were proudly following our laws.

We are a nation of laws and not of men. At least, we strive to be a nation of laws. We build statues of lady justice, whose eyes are blind to those who stand before, and we wish all to be equal before the law. We should not place laws on the books that are intended to be broken by our own government, with the punishment to be withheld by the whim of the State after the fact. That's a slippery slope I'd rather not slide down.

Shameful AP misrepresentation, or, Torture Pt. 1

Yahoo news says, printing an article By Deb Riechmann, Associated Press Writer :

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the nation's ability to lead the world depends on its morality, not military might. "We will begin to reassert that moral authority by attempting to override the president's veto next week," said Pelosi, D-Calif.

Actual quote:

In the final analysis, our ability to lead the world will depend not only on our military might, but also on our moral authority.

Emphasis added by me.

There is a difference, and when I originally read the misrepresentation, my head almost exploded. It was bad enough that I had to go to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's blog just to confirm it.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I love cheap technology... and drugs!

Staples just sent me an ad for $50 off this hard drive. It's a 500GB external drive, which, with the rebate, comes to $120. Seems to me that the prices are getting a bit close to zero these days! Inflation may be increasing, but it's not stopping the march of progress in lowering prices.

And yet... I wonder if some health cost issues are similar? People say drugs are more expensive today, but I think they're just talking about new drugs. I'm willing to bet that drugs haven't increased in price a bit in 10 years if one were willing to use the drugs available 10 years ago. Perhaps the the cost of drugs to receive the best available today should not be compared to the overall cost of drugs from 10 years ago. The inflated cost may be the result of "newer and better." If you want the same old 10-years-out-of-date drugs, I'm sure you can get them cheaply today. (I'm not saying expired, just the same drugs available then.) If you want drugs from the '90s, expect to have a '90s lifespan as well. Sort of like a computer form a decade ago... today charities don't even accept them.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The right response

Obama's advisor who called Hillary a monster has resigned.

Congratulations are in order to Obama's camp for the rapid recognition of the inappropriateness of this comment, the immediate apology, and the resignation of the offending party. I am honestly proud of this response, which would be expected from a principled candidate running a principled campaign. I am not an Obama supporter, but this is the single most impressive item of integrity I have seen coming from his camp to date. It is the correct response of a politician who does not approve of what his advisor said in front of the media. It is the standard for the industry.

On a separate note, does this portend a joint ticket of Obama and Hillary (I don't know yet which one leading)? Certainly one could not have a joint ticket if one were to support an advisor who called one's president or vice-president a monster. Of course, if Reagan-Bush tells us anything about political bedfellows, one may say "voodoo economics" and still work for the shaman in charge.

Slapstick gets me every time.

I kinda lost it at work today when a glanced at wwtdd and saw this.

And I thought I partied hard...

Apparently you can get much more alcohol into your bloodstream if you snort vodka instead of just drinking it. Is it classier if you do the shot with a straw up your nose? I guess I'm just a vodka lightweight with my Ketel One chilled in a martini glass.

And the drinking game's called "Gas Chamber!" Sweet!

(Don't misunderstand, real gas chambers aren't cool, but as a name for a drinking game... awesome)

Panic! Panic, panic, panic...

Unemployment dipped to 4.8% and 63,000 jobs went up in smoke. What does that mean?!? You read that correctly. A higher percentage of people who want employment are now able to find it. And there were wage gains, too. But fewer jobs. Apparently fewer people want to work right now. This means that fewer workers than last month were looking for employment and unable to find it, while at the same time, people with jobs earned slightly more. Sure, losing jobs is bad news, but seriously, when, in the entirety of US history, has there been under 5% unemployment with wage growth and everyone is screaming recession? We may go into a recession, but if this is what recession looks like, we've become a bunch of wimps. I'm still waiting for our first quarter of negative growth.

I agree, recession is likely to arrive, but ups and downs are a natural part of markets and economies. But if we call this a recession and panic, I expect heads will start exploding if we are visited by a real economic downturn, with 10% unemployment and GDP growth that ACTUALLY drops below zero.

Some perspective please. Let's try not to go to the emergency room when the weather's cold and our noses start to drip. Runny noses and cold weather are a part of life. It's not the plague, at least not yet.

Hamas Heroes Pt.2

Does it take courage to give one's life for a cause? I think so. But please, think a bit first. Getting killed while killing a bunch of students who are studying the bible? You absolute moron! Courage? Yes. Glory? None. Pathetic. If that's glory, would Hamas would have been prouder if he'd gone to a nursery and killed dozens of babies? It's not like they wouldn't have grown up to become Israelis who'd fight and be a part of Israel's government through their voting and taxes.

I'm unimpressed. Glory in war comes from extraordinary courage or success, and probably many other things that don't roll off the tongue so easily. Falling on a grenade or taking out an enormous number of enemy soldiers before succumbing to your wounds, that sort of thing. I think it is past time that Hamas reconsidered acting as though enemy civilians are soldiers. It is hard to imagine the atrocities the Israelis would create if they treated the civilians in Gaza as soldiers as well. There would be Israeli heroes who had killed thousands of enemy combatants with the push of a button and a well placed bomb. We should all be thankful that this answer to the heroes of Hamas is unacceptable to the Israelis, but none should be more thankful than the Palestinians.

Hamas Heroes - An extended commentary

"The Hamas movement announces its full responsibility for the Jerusalem operation," a Hamas official told Reuters in Gaza. A Hamas operative successfully killed 8 students before being killed himself.

Let's be clear on what has happened here:

A sovereign government (Hamas in Gaza), in prosecuting a war against another sovereign government (Israel), successfully infiltrated a soldier across the border into a school in Israel and killed 8 civilians (students at the school) before the soldier was killed himself. Hamas is celebrating this action and has labeled the soldier a hero.
I believe everyone (both Hamas and Israel) agree that this is what occurred.

The Israeli government and Hamas are at war. I cannot see this described any other way when one side of a conflict is celebrating the intentional and planned death of another nation's civilians by it own soldiers. It seems, based on this admitted and intentional action, that there is nothing Hamas is unwilling to do to the Israeli populace in an effort to achieve its goals. I have intentionally left out the reasons for this war, whether the action was in response to other actions by Israel, whether the nation or the border itself is legitimate, whether Jews should be allowed to live in the Middle East (or at all), or any of the muddier aspects of this conflict. I am focusing purely on the act itself, which was specific and achieved an intentional result.

I am not a military strategist, but I am willing to assume that Hamas is achieving some military goal through this soldier's act. Perhaps this it will be this act, when combined with many other acts and a successful overall strategy, that will win the war for Hamas. Let's assume this is true. Let's give Hamas the benefit of the doubt and assume that this sort of action leads to less bloodshed in the long run and will give the Palestinian people the land and lives they believe they have always deserved. That this act will lead to justice for the Palestinian people as they see and desire it. If this is true, we may continue to condemn the action, but we cannot reasonably expect Hamas to remove this military option from the table or cease this strategy.

But I don't like it. I think killing civilians, with the intention of killing civilians, is utterly reprehensible. So the question becomes, "How can this strategy be removed from the table?" Obviously, this strategy forwards the goals of Hamas or they wouldn't be doing it, admitting it, or celebrating it.

I have the obvious answer. Whatever actions Israel has been taking to prevent this strategy are not working. These actions will not work until Hamas says, "We will not try to kill Israeli civilians," or at least "The soldier who crossed the border was not ours," as Iran says on a regular basis in Iraq. To get Hamas to say this requires Israel to bring Hamas to the negotiating table, even while the nations are at war. These negotiations will be over how the war will be prosecuted. Since Hamas will never voluntarily go to the negotiating table, it would require Israel to negotiate unilaterally until Hamas comes around. For example, if Israel said, "Every time a soldier comes from Gaza, successfully kills Israeli civilians, and is admitted to by Hamas, the nation of Israel will react by notifying the populace of the the first town on list A, that they have one week to evacuate before the town becomes a replica of Dresden." This sort of strategy was very effective in ending the resistance of the Japanese (who intended to fight to the last man) to coming to the negotiating table at the end of World War 2. Japan had suicide bombers of their own and a tremendous devotion to their cause. After "Fat Man" landed on Nagasaki, the Japanese lost their will to fight.

Of course, Israel can afford to be kinder and allow residents to evacuate before obliterating a town. I have a suspicion that by the time the 4th or 5th militarily strategic town had been razed to the ground, Hamas would no longer be sending soldiers into Israel.

Is this a moral solution? Not great. Is this an acceptable answer? Maybe. Is this overkill? Very likely. Would this create a humanitarian disaster? Probably a small scale disaster. Is it morally reprehensible to destroy civilian property (and likely unintentionally kill civilians in the process)? I think so. I think this may not work at all. But what is clear is that, for Hamas to stop attacking Israeli civilians, the strategy of killing civilians must be shown to be a losing strategy. Hamas must WANT to stop killing civilians, even though it may mean they are losing what they have considered a effective strategy to prosecute their war with Israel. Ideally Israel should not lose its own humanity in the process.

If the USA had not dropped atom bombs on Japan in 1945, how many more lives would have been lost? Those cities were both strategic and civilian targets. The issues involved here are far from clear. I just can't get past the idea that the Rape of Nanking or the intentional execution of civilians by Hamas is a strategy that should be allowed to survive in war during the "Pax Americana." As Churchill observed, history is written by the victors, and I'm awfully glad we won that one.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Go Widow Six Seven!!

Widow Six Seven was Prince Harry's call sign in Afghanistan. I can hardly imagine the swelling pride the English must have in their royals after so many decades of an unimpressive monarchy. I feel proud of him and he's not even my prince!

The Brits are removing him from combat now that the story has been broken by Drudge. Shame on Drudge for breaking the story in the midst of the news blackout and forcing the issue. I certainly don't believe any public interest was served by revealing his presence to allies and enemies alike. Loose lips sink ships and often lead to casualties. At least the breaking of the story didn't cause the royal or his fellow troops to come to harm by being targeted before his removal.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Speaking of fences...

I wonder if eBay has put any fences for stolen goods out of business... or has it enabled fences (obviously required for any successful robbery) to unload goods more easily?

I suspect the discount for stolen goods must give a smaller margin to the fence, now that goods can flow easily to buyers who are used to buying from individuals on eBay. Who needs a fence when you can sell the goods yourself just by getting an email account? Still, high end goods would require someone with talent to move them, as few would buy incredibly expensive items over the Internet.

Did the Israeli fence work?

Seems so... Remember a few years ago when suicide bombers were exploding every month in Israel? There seems to be a bit of silence from the media on the success of the Israeli fence, but I think congratulations are in order. It's not as if the Palestinians have become more peaceful, though maybe I am confusing the success of the fence with the passing of Arafat. I don't miss him a bit.

On the subject of fences, isn't it interesting that free nations construct them to keep undesirables out and authoritarian nations build them to keep their brightest from leaving? If socialism makes such good policies, why do socialist nations fall all over themselves to prevent their citizens from fleeing? If capitalist inequality is so unjust, why are people scrambling to enter with just the shirts on their backs?

Trade war

If a Democrat is elected to the presidency, which is 64% likely according to the smart money, it seems very likely NAFTA will fall. Both candidates for the Democratic party nomination are competing to see who can attack NAFTA most strongly. Since when has a tariff increase ever been beneficial to the United States? It virtually guarantees inflation, as the goods we buy will cost much more if they're produced domestically.

Free trade is the cornerstone of a successful economy. Glance at any nation that cuts off trade or increases tariffs and it's obvious the damage that occurs instantly and deeply. There is a reason we isolate the economies of our enemies and embargoes work so successfully.

Why would we voluntarily embargo ourselves? The answer is simple and absolutely corrupt. The purpose of eliminating NAFTA would be to protect those jobs that cannot compete in the global marketplace at the cost of the US consumer. It prevents the consumer from buying the best goods in order to benefit those that cannot compete and protecting those jobs that should no longer exist. It is nothing more than a handout to those businesses that would close their doors without it. We've been down this path before. Remember the lesson of the Smoot-Hawley tariff. Want to guarantee a depression, raise tariffs... it works every time.

Forclosures - They're for everyone

Nobody escapes the housing crisis! The King of Pop hasn't been paying his mortgage, and if Mr. Jackson doesn't pay the balance by March 19th, it's all over for Neverland. If I were wittier, I'd say something about never seeing Neverland again or some such. Nevermind. I'll never try that again. Never.

Sometimes you see a musician fall and wonder how badly their lives can get screwed up. I have to admit though, taking one look at Amy Winehouse or Britney Spears makes you realize how much farther they can drop. It's like it's a contest to hit bottom, but my money is on Winehouse to hit bottom first. Sure, you can get locked up in a psychiatric ward or date your paparazzi or molest some kids and have your face fall off (yes, I know he was never convicted, but that doesn't mean he wasn't guilty)... but unless you're smoking crack too, you're barely in the running these days. Michael Jackson's so normal now, he doesn't even make headlines.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr. has passed

It is a sad day.

I'm sorry to report that Mr. Buckley is no longer with us. His mind, wit, and life made him a role model for many and he was a modern-day Renaissance Man. Taken straight from the news story I read on Brietbart, in his own words:

"I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition," he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. "I asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."

I couldn't agree more.

No Free Markets for Old Men

Listening to the Fed Chairman speak today, I couldn't help noticing that everyone was asking questions as if they were organizing a command economy. How can we help these people? How do we stop that from happening? How can we protect blah, blah, blah, blah...? Why don't we do this regulation or help the middle class this way? Blah, blah, blah, blah government do blah, blah recession?

I have to wonder:
Why have we decided to single out the middle class as deserving special treatment to benefit them, to the detriment of the economy? They've almost become as sacred as children when the phrase comes out of a politician's mouth. And when was the last time the government did anything other than deregulation or tax cuts that assisted the economy or averted recession?

I was waiting for the phrase "Buyer Beware" or for someone to mention that the markets are really quite good at taking care of themselves. Not one person stood in favor of free markets, not one, though it appeared Ron Paul was going to, but couldn't stop droning on about our currency ponzi scheme. Fortunately, nobody was listening, so the pyramid still holds and our paper currency, which is based on the value of nothing whatsoever, still has value.

Since these are the people in charge of regulating our economy, it stands to reason that a flood of regulations and dabbling in the markets will be forthcoming.

Also, I saw "No Country for Old Men" and wow, really amazing! I hope they make a bunch more like that one. It was a lot more exciting than the Fed meeting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Diamond robbery

I think these guys just committed the coolest crime of the decade, though we all know crime isn't cool. Crimes that involve digging tunnels... it could only be better if they used an EMP to shut down a casino, then robbed it and disguised themselves as a SWAT team and made their getaway and then made a movie out of it.

Thanks to for bringing it to my attention on a slow news day.

I'm certain they'll be caught, sounds like an inside job and there are 7 guys involved, but I'm impressed. Usually I think I can do a better job than the burglars, but this time, hat's off. If they don't get caught, it'll be a major embarrassment for the Italian police.

Google takes a beating

It's hard to be sad for a company that says "Do no evil," and yet is complicitous in the censoring of many web sites with totalitarian regimes. Could this be the market punishing Google for failing to uphold the moral high ground? I doubt it, but I'm not shedding any crocodile tears for it's current share price - almost $300 off it's high.

An unpopular view of the housing crisis

CNBC's front page with a cute caption is the "housing crisis." Why is it a bad thing that houses cost less? Isn't that good news for everyone who doesn't yet own their own home? I thought it was home ownership, rather than real estate speculation, that was part of the American Dream. Wouldn't a crisis be what would happen if there was a sudden jump in the cost of a new home?

Unlike every other good, whether it is TVs, food, cars, or light bulbs, we've decided we want houses to be expensive, and that higher prices would be good for us. We're like oil producing nations hoping for a bump in the demand for gas. And yet, lower prices mean that in the future, if we buy a home, we can spend more on everything else in our lives and pay less for our mortgage. How can that be a bad thing? To me, that sounds like a boon for future generations.

Personally, though, I want my apartment to double in value, for me to sell it, then buy it back on the bottom of the market. A few times. Future generations be damned. And I want my internet stocks to go up to pre-bubble values, too.

Monday, February 25, 2008


The Mugabe Efficiency Theory of Economics!

Print all the money you like, and put in price controls so gas costs 23p/liter and a car may be had for 30 pounds. Enforce the price controls with guns and courts. What could go wrong? In the face of obviously unwarranted criticism from fools, Mr. Mugabe has effectively disarmed his opponents by stating their claims were based on "bookish economics." Genius!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I guess everything's a-okay then

Iran says we didn't give them time to respond to our accusations they were trying to make nuclear weapons. They say they've been very nice, all our accusations are false, and even if they were true, we tried to pull a fast one by not giving them time to respond. Iran would like the USA to "apologize" for the accusation after the UN report vindicated them.

Here's a quote from the UN report.

"The U.N. nuclear monitor released a report last week saying that suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest." Sweet!

And yet...

Here's UN Director General Mohamed ElBaradei talking about the one issue not yet laid to rest
"...with the exception of one issue, and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past."

I think we may owe them an apology. Of course, we might have to retract that apology if Iran then takes it upon themselves to follow through with their predictions about our ally Israel.

After all, it has been almost a year since Iranian president Ahmadinejad said "Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation. The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm." He must mean a single storm of happiness and freedom. I'm sure "one storm" couldn't possibly refer to anything else. Ahmadinejad has such a poetic way with words. With the UN on his case, I'm sure we can trust this man to keep his nuclear ambitions entirely with the realm of a civilian nuclear program and we will owe his nation an apology. If we're wrong, it's not like he's implied he'd wipe one of our allies off the face of the map.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Stuck in Ft. Myers at it snows in NYC

Blogging from Ft. Myers at Hampton Inn. The smart money in the election is 4-1 against Hillary winning the primary and 2-1 in favor of the Democratic Party taking the White House. Sounds like the primary is a done deal and the general election is getting there. More interesting is McCain's likely VP choice... Tim Pawlenty at about 25% is in the lead... oh, wait, that's not interesting at all... I don't have the least idea who he is, but he's not Rudy G or Tom Coburn or Nancy Reagan or Master Shake or anyone I've ever heard of. I'd like to be the first on record to suggest he pick Master Shake. If he is destined to lose anyway, that would make for a fantastic VP debate, because the presidential debate is sure to be a snooze. On that note, I'm off to dinner in sunny FL.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I bought 2 new Tara McPherson paintings!

"O frabjous day!"
Here are the two new additions to my collection, painted by Tara McPherson. She is having a show this Saturday at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea with Lori Early, another of my favorite artists. All should go and all are welcome, at least according to Jonathan. Plus, free beer. What goes better with art than a beer or scotch? Well... gorgeous women in attendance, of course. Always interesting women... and Al's limo, too, but I digress. My amazing girlfriend will be coming with me to brighten my entire evening!
The internet always fails to show the true splendor of paintings. It is one of the few failings of this great communication medium. But even this cannot bring me down today.
Art is a key element to a whole life. Go buy some and support your local starving artist. Today is not too soon.

Chipotle burrito a close second

I miss Taco Bell and I've never known why they don't have more franchises in NYC. I just had the Chipotle burrito for lunch, and though it's no gordita crunch, I'm fully satisfied.
And yet...
Update: Rumor has it, it's no longer on the menu. I could just cry.


We shot our own satellite out of the air and hit it on the first try!

It sure beats the alternative of shooting and missing. I didn't even know we had that capability, but now the whole world knows. Perhaps that will add a few years to the Pax Americana, with enemy nations always aware that we can violently confirm the adage "What goes up, must come down," regardless of who put it up.

As far as an arms race with China goes, whatever gave you the idea they were not running as fast as they could? Why, just a year ago they used a military missile to shoot down a satellite in high orbit! Let there be no mistake, the arms race is a race that all nations take part in and have taken part in for all time history. There's no winning, but never doubt the importance of the good guys remaining in the lead.

The megarich want to fatten their own wallets! Oh no!

According to Jamie Johnson, a member of the wealthy Johnson & Johnson family, the super-rich are thrilled with the economic slowdown and drop in stock market value because it "has resulted in a thinning of the aristocratic ranks." Apparently this means the rich are getting richer and income inequality is on the rise. The wealthy will be taking baths in their own money as orphans are thrown out into the snow. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

And yet...

The complaint of the wealthy in the 7 year bull market mentioned by Johnson is that the ranks of the wealthy are getting too crowded. Did the Bush years cause the worlds richest people to feel their elite position has been threatened by so many newcomers? Did the tax cuts shake the faith of the wealthy in their positions of power? Did inequality decrease under Bush according to the anecdotal opinions of the super-rich?

Let's not forget, even though the wealthy wear monocles and are all old fat white men with moustaches and big cigars (kinda like the Monopoly guy), they're just as concerned as the rest of us when their neighbors compete with their success. Apparently wealth alone doesn't except one from keeping up with the Joneses.

Johnson goes on to mention that as soon as the recession hits, his rich friend who hates the competition for the benefits of wealth will be the first to buy. Let's hope the rich buy a lot in the possible coming downturn... sounds like exactly what was hoped for by the recently passed stimulus package that intentionally excluded the wealthy. Who knows, if the super-rich are successful enough in "trying to fatten their own wallets and further insulate their lifestyles" by buying real estate, high end goods and expensive services most can't possibly afford, they may just prevent the economic downturn the rest of us all fear. I propose a toast to the wealthy going on giant spending sprees! Maybe if they buy enough in the downturn, companies won't even have to cut jobs for us poor peasants who "need" our incomes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Didn't ask for a tax break?

"It's a Washington where George Bush hands out billions in tax cuts year after year to the biggest corporations and the wealthiest few who don't need them and don't ask for them - tax breaks that are mortgaging our children's future on a mountain of debt; tax breaks that could've gone into the pockets of the working families who needed them most." Barack Obama 2/13/08

Everyone who paid taxes received a tax break under the Bush tax cuts... is it a surprise that the wealthy, who pay by far the most taxes as a percentage of income, in total dollars, and even when they die, received billions when they received back a portion of what they earned?

As far as those who don't need them or don't ask for them, ask the next wealthy person if they'd rather work until the middle of July or the end of July for the government before they earn their first day's labor for themselves and see what they say. The idea that the wealthy don't desire tax cuts is patently absurd, but I'll chalk that up to rhetoric because it sure sounds like a good excuse to take from someone what they don't want or need and give it to those that need it. Show me a wealthy person who doesn't want or need their money and I'll show you someone who's ready for a great Vegas weekend and won't be wealthy for long. A fool and their money...

In a nation where few can agree on politics, there is no doubt everyone would prefer that their personal taxes be lowered.

Anecdotally, I don't know a single wealthy person, other than Warren Buffet, who wouldn't enjoy receiving more of their own income, and if Mr. Buffet doesn't want to keep his money, he is (and has always been) free to donate his own money to the government as he likes, though as an intelligent and successful businessman it seems unlikely he would choose to give to such a wasteful organization freely.

It is unfortunate that the wealthy in our society are singled out for punishment for their success, or the success of their families, by being enslaved to work for the government for more time out of every year than any other member of our society. People earn what others are willing to pay them for their work and time. Has Mr. Obama decided the government is better to decide who should be paid and how much based on their "need?" Would he prefer the government distribute the fruits of the labor of the wealthy to those whose work in our society has been deemed less valuable? Unfortunately, though this is no surprise for a Democratic senator, this appears to be the case. If he becomes president, sincerely I hope he chooses my contributions as worthy of receiving extra income above and beyond their market value.

Who will speak up for the wealthy? Who will say, "This is unjust, they have as much right to the fruits of their labor as anyone else?" Sounds selfish, doesn't it? Unpalatable? Without the wealthy enjoying the fruits of their labor, they will just go away, and take with them all the businesses, jobs, capital, and tremendous quality of life they bring to our nation from the lowest to the highest, but especially to themselves. Envy is not a decent quality, and even if it is held by the majority against the minority, it does not gain any moral weight, not one ounce. At the core of capitalism is an understanding that equality is not justice. It is the freedom to produce that is important, the keeping of one's own property, not the equal distribution of what is produced through the taking of property from others.


I feel it's long past time someone came forward and unapologetically supported all the good capitalism does for the world. So few people appreciate that the modern treatment of disease, the inexpensive goods all around them, and the conquoring of famine around the world are all a direct result of capitalism. Fewer still recognize that they live better than kings just a few hundred years ago.

One need look no further than that almost perfect experiment in capitalism versus socialism that ended just a few short years ago in Germany. West Germany, under imperfect capitalism, was filled with wealth and inequality. East Germany, under socialism, was filled with universal poverty and equality. Only one side of the Berlin wall was designed to keep people in. The same people, the same history, different political systems. In East Berlin, the was a totalitarian state with an iron grip on its people, a place where the Trabant was made for decades, where progress halted in its tracks and people risked their lives just to escape. Shame on those who would turn our nation into an equivalent East Berlin with their socialist policies. We should never forget where those policies of socialism, based purely on equality, will lead.

It's time someone stood up and said, "This is not what government should do! This program, that regulation, and the other tax are all sending ripples through our lives and damage everything they touch!"

Let's no longer pretend socialism is an acceptable course. It is no more and no less than the taking from those who produce at the barrel of a gun. Every economic law and regulation that is passed should consider that fact seriously. May we never forget that the only reason the government passes and enforces laws is because it has the guns. We must be ever vigilant that those guns are used with the utmost care and only in the most extreme cases, or, as we have seen in our time, East Berlin awaits!