We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, November 12. 2014
Our urban hike just won't go away. Yesterday, Bird Dog posted pics of Trinity Church. Today I'm posting one location we didn't happen to visit. It was on the original agenda, by the time we got to Washington Square, taking a swing west would have added too much time to the walk. Spirits were high, but it seemed too much to ask. There's always next year.
As a young arrival in New York, I was single and had small amounts of cash to spend on entertainment. There were plenty of ways to find that entertainment at South Street Seaport, midtown in some of the (much more expensive) watering holes, Greenwich Village, and even portions of the West Village. In particular, The White Horse Tavern (warning - the full article, if you wish to read it, requires joining the site, but there is plenty in the portion I've linked to) was one of my favorite places to go after work on Thursday and Friday. For some reason, I never stopped in on the weekends.
Continue reading "The White Horse Tavern"
Saturday, November 8. 2014
Earlier this year, my son came home from school and asked me how hard it was to brew beer. This was not a surprising question from a boy who is 17. I still asked him why he wanted to know. His response was related to school (shocking). He said his Chemistry teacher brewed beer. I thought for a moment, and pointed out that cooking was a form of chemistry, so brewing seemed a natural extension.
At that point I mentioned a brew kit my brother had purchased for my birthday many years ago. It languished in an apartment closet until we moved to our house, and I never utilized it It was gone, but I asked would he be interested in learning to brew?
The answer was robustly affirmative, and we began to look into the purchase of a brew kit.
If you have the desire, you can build your own brew kit for about $35. Two 6 gallon Home Depot buckets, a siphon, an airlock, some washers and a small plastic spigot and you're all set to build the kit on your own. The spigot, washers and airlock can all be purchased online. You'll need lids for the Home Depot buckets. You'll need drills to attach the spigot and the airlock. It will take a little time and effort, but would save a little cash. The alternative is to spend about $100, buy the kit ready made along with all the ingredients for your first batch of brew. I opted for the expensive, easier, route.
You'll also want to read up on brewing first, too.
Continue reading "Oktober Brew for November - reposted"
Thursday, November 6. 2014
How to Lie With Statistics was the first book I was required to read when I was studying for my Master's in Economics. The book wasn't designed to show us how to lie, but to make a point. It's easy to lie with statistics. 100% of the time. 60% of the time, lying works all the time. It's all about positioning. Al Franken cut his teeth by showing how Republicans lied using tricky graphing techniques, then started using his own special brand of lying to continue to hoodwink his constituents.
The book was really designed to get students to think about context. When I present data, I never present just data, I present context. It's not enough to say that Man-Made Global Warming correlates with the reduction in pirate activity. We all know correlation is not causation, the context of why the lack of piracy is causing Global Warming is critical.
I recently posted about why interest rates won't rise. Part of that discussion continued on in the comments section, regarding inflation and savings. Normally, interest rates are slightly higher than inflation (positive real interest rates), and typically fall below the rate of inflation when the economy is in a rut (negative real interest rates, when people spend more than they save, driving up inflation but eventually causing interest rates to rise in order to attract savings). Yet we have not seen a general rise in inflation or interest rates in the last few years. There are many reasons for this, and those reasons are helping to keep real interest rates negative and low. If we knew the truth, we'd probably see more consumers behave differently, and it's likely the Fed couldn't continue engaging its policy of printing more money. But hiding inflation is exceedingly easy to do. Especially if you utilize hedonic adjustments, which is one of many methods used to delude the populace.
Hedonic adjustments can be justifiable. For example, if a regular banana costs $1, but a banana that keeps you full all day and meets your minimum daily health needs is only $5, it would appear the 'cost' of a banana is 400% higher than it should be, if you want to live. However, if it takes 10 regular bananas to match what you can get from 1 $5 banana, then you've actually realized a 50% decrease in price! Hedonics DO make sense,when in the realm of productivity gains for the consumer.
However, as the linked article from Zero Hedge points out, you can use 'enjoyment quality' to make a 400% increase actually appear to be a 7.1% decrease. You get no real additional value out of a 42 inch plasma TV that you didn't get from a 27 inch LCD. But the government can quantify and justify that the price you paid was actually LESS for the big screen plasma, even if it wasn't. Voila! You've saved money by spending more! Looking at the list of areas where hedonic adjustments are applied show a variety of useless of price decreases, simply so the government can imply regularly that you are spending less than you really are. It helps our politicians maintain "the money illusion." This benefits them, allowing them to engage Keynes' famous quote, “Lenin (the founder of the former communist Soviet Union) was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose”.
So yes, technically our inflation rate has been far higher than you realize, and the Fed has been making your savings worth less and less each year. No, it probably won't end well, so enjoy it while you can, and remember to try and find the contextual support for any government data. There usually isn't any.
Tuesday, November 4. 2014
It's not uncommon to hear Fed officials and politicians deny that we are monetizing debt. Technically, we are not. We issue debt, the debt gets purchased, and the Fed (which is essentially a private institution, though it's really a quasi-governmental institution) buys it back. Normally government debt is held by the public, which is why economic analysis of the old "crowding out" problem was so prevalent.
By keeping interest rates low, and repurchasing debt, the appearance of private ownership is maintained, but it is a roundabout method of monetizing debt. Allowing rates to rise to any meaningful degree will have severe negative impacts, in the short term. Since we are in a politically driven economy, this cannot be allowed to occur, so interest rates must remain artificially low.
Of course, the long term ramifications of monetizing debt are inflation (followed by deflation) and severe misallocation of economic resources. In other words, bankruptcies, unemployment and a financial morass. Not to mention the end of an expectation of comfortable retirement (how can you retire on a fixed income if interest rates are below 1%?).
Don't expect interest rates to move up any time soon, and don't expect any reporting of realistic inflation. Just vote for the guy/gal who will shovel the most tax money toward you.
Tuesday, October 28. 2014
Tonight I watched the Kansas City Symphony play the national anthem at Game 6 of the World Series. I began to wonder, if you're a trained musician and you don't make a major orchestra, do you begin trying out for smaller city orchestras? I had no idea. I suppose you begin looking for seats in various cities until you can find one. Then I wondered whether it's lucrative work.
These are extremely difficult jobs. While I may not be deeply involved in the symphony, I am well aware how hard it is to be good enough to be asked to join one, especially the best (Boston, Philadelphia, New York, etc.). That said, how much could it pay?
I was rather surprised. I didn't expect them to live on subsistence wages, but it makes me wish I'd had a greater appreciation for music (and the talent to go along with it) in my youth.
Monday, October 27. 2014
Henri was a founder and one of the better known members of the Ashcan School, along with several others who were known as the "Philadelphia Four." Among these four artists was Everett Shinn. Everett felt one of our tour stops, Washington Square, was the "most beautiful place in New York."
It certainly is a wonderful place, vibrant and active on nice days. Shinn caught its beauty on a wet and windy night, as well.
Tuesday, October 21. 2014
This is a 4 year old story discussing why reconciliation is "good", in particular as it applied to the ACA.
It is a certainty, as Lord Acton once said, that power corrupts. In many cases of political activity, that corruption isn't just apparent in bribes, graft or other rackets that take place. It's visibly evident in the hypocrisy of power. In reality, reconciliation is probably bad every time it is used. I say this because it was mainly designed to overcome filibusters. Filibusters exist in order to extend debate on contentious issues on which neither side can claim a clear and overwhelming majority agreement (read as "bipartisan" - a term I despise since I view it as a means to push a slow growing Progressive agenda, but which many people think is a "good").
If a system's success depends on having the 'right people' in place, there's probably something wrong with the system. As our republic is aging, it seems there is a distinct and overwhelming stench coming from Washington because both parties are putting people in place who are perceived to be the 'right people'. Yet things just keep getting worse.
Monday, October 20. 2014
Saturday, October 18. 2014
All in all, the trip was a success. We stuck to the agenda, with a few extra stops baked in, up through to Chinatown. After that, minor adjustments were made to accommodate individual needs and schedules. But we made great time and managed to take in a good portion of the city's major sites and neighborhoods.
I hope everyone had a great time, I know Mrs. Bulldog and myself did. We enjoyed the company immensely. It was great to meet so many people and enjoy one of the world's great cities on such a personal level. From Fraunces Tavern to Cooper Union and McSorley's (where one member of the group was proud to announce he'd celebrated his 21st birthday recently - lucky young man!), we managed to soak in the flavors of New York. I think the one thing that surprised me most was that Stanford White designed the arch in Washington Square Park. In addition, one of the statues on the arch was designed by Alexander Calder's father.
I'd like to personally thank BD and Mrs. BD for introducing us to the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central. One of the coolest drinking establishments in NYC that I've ever been in. I will return with friends and family...and maybe even a few clients.
Tuesday, October 14. 2014
Yesterday, I paid $2.92. Not surprisingly, prices vary from place to place. I'm in New Jersey and we tend to have lower prices. On my way home from Syracuse on Sunday, I paid $3.47 only 5 miles north of the Pennsylvania border. Had I taken the risk to go 10 miles further (my indicator said I had 30 miles left, and that is not very accurate), I could have paid $3.25 simply by crossing the state border.
Recently, there was an article about falling prices in the morning news links here on Maggie's. The suggestion was that US drilling was the driver. I wasn't sure this was accurate, because the numbers didn't add up. Here is a short article on what the other factors may be.
For conspiracy theorists, there's always the political manipulation angle: "Oil has fallen to $60 a barrel. Experts predict it will continue to fall until exactly one minute after the polls close on November 7th." --Jay Leno (election is the 4th this year....but it's all in the delivery).
With a slight shift in visitation points, the current map of the walk seems to add up to 9 miles or 3 1/2 hours of walking time. With stops, a beer or sandwich here and there, we should hit the 5 hour mark, but 9 miles is significantly less than the original 11. Funny how many steps you can save just by altering the path you choose.
So, for the time being, this is the current path chosen. We welcome additions, suggestions and ideas from attendees and online spectators alike. Perhaps we'll do a 5 hour webcast chronicling the adventures. Not sure my iPhone would last that long, though.
Saturday, October 4. 2014
While the concept of taking regular pictures of a subject is not new, the ease with which it can be done (particularly on an individual level) has improved. As a project for an artist, however, it can yield intriguing results. Nicholas Nixon's study of the Brown Sisters provides a tremendous view of how a subject group, in this case a family, progresses through time. I am not sensitive enough to be moved to tears, though others have been.
My wife and I had very different reactions to the pictures. She focused on the items mentioned in the article, all of which are intriguing. I looked at the individual pictures, seeking to find indications of change and age. While each picture shows differences, I was of the opinion noticeable changes started appearing somewhere around the 16-20 year mark.
Wednesday, October 1. 2014
The author, Eduardo Porto, makes the claim "Elected governments are certainly imperfect. But to address our most intractable ills, they are the better tool." I wonder if this is something he'd have written if Bush were in the White House? Doubtful. More importantly, it's worth noting 'government as a tool to fix ills' is a common Progressive claim. It's also one which is completely misguided since it relies on having 'the right people' in office. If the wrong person or people are in charge, Progressives (and Conservatives) who believe government is a 'good' claim "government is broken" or "the wrong people are in charge." The first claim is most likely true regardless of who is in office. But if these claims are true, does government suddenly get fixed when the 'right' people are in charge? Certainly not!
If your system of righting perceived ills requires having 'the right people in charge', you have devised an awful system of governance. It's unlikely the right people can ever be in charge.
What really galls is his belief that an imperfect elected government is the best resource for fixing any perceived ills. Porto seems to have no problem with the 'right' politicians getting wealthy as long as they strike a stance which he support - opposition to businessmen getting wealthy because they provide consumers with beneficial products. It's easy to ignore that, for the last 6 years, with people I'm sure he considers 'right' being in place, Porto's perceived societal ills caused by business have gotten worse. After 6 years of His Wonderfulness being in charge, this journalist is still writing diatribes about how awful things are, or how awful they are becoming. Why has he not stopped to consider the complete and utter uselessness of our Empty-Suit-In-Chief? The 'fix' he voted for has failed him miserably, and he is miserable because he knows it, so he's complaining that the 'fix' was improperly applied. In fact, it was applied properly and it's just plain unworkable. Government is an ineffective method of generating social change, regardless of the 'right people'.
Continue reading "Capitalists are Socially Aware"
Tuesday, September 30. 2014
2 years of unemployment over a 20 year period isn't too bad when you consider how many people are still looking for steady work since 2008. I have a number of friends who have left this industry and entered new careers. It's tough to start over when you're past the age of 45. Which is why I'm glad I'm working and complain very little about my job. I make less than others with similar experience to mine, mainly because each bout of unemployment forced me to rearrange my salary needs and alter spending patterns. This is unfortunate, now that I have 2 kids in college, but it's good, too. I'm less likely to face the ax again since my experience comes cheap.
But I haven't been around Maggie's lately, and it's because I've had issues I'd classify as "First World Problems" over the past few months, which are better than the alternative "Big Problems". But it's worth sharing one in particular because it may help others with perspective, and it sure helps me with dealing with it.
Continue reading "Work: It's All About Attitude"
Saturday, August 9. 2014
-Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
-The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
Friday, July 25. 2014
Reason TV didn't wait for this to go viral before they provided a smackdown to both Kristin and Funny or Die:
It's doubtful Remy's exposure of the hypocrisy of Kristin's work will get as much exposure.
While Funny or Die, or Kristin Bell, may start lobbying to make other people do what they want via government diktat, it would behoove them to start living up to their own sense of moral superiority. Minimum Wage Laws are a primary reason so many teens are unemployed, as are the vast array of other restrictions preventing them from working. I held my first job at 13. Today, you can't get a job at 13 and it's just as difficult to find one at 15. Neither of my sons worked before the age of 16, not for lack of trying.
More importantly, studies have shown very few people actually 'live' on a minimum wage. Most minimum wage earners are under the age of 25 and are the second or third wage earner in a home.
What happens when automation pushes all these low wage earners out the door? I don't know. Perhaps we should ask the blacksmiths, since they all lost their jobs with the advent of the automobile. Why wasn't their union looking out for them so we could all be riding horses today? To be honest, I have a friend who is blacksmith. He does quite well for himself today, since there are few people with his skill set. Maybe Mike Rowe is on to something.
Thursday, July 24. 2014
A few reasons. First, my younger son loves sports and sports analysis. Statistics were something he followed from an early age. My older son did not. Secondly, my older son had different teachers and slightly different math programs. These programs mimicked the comedian's schtick:
I had an extremely difficult time helping him learn his math based on the program offered by his school. I was unable to learn the principles they were making him learn, how could I provide any assistance?
My younger son's experience, on the other hand, engaged a teaching method similar to that mentioned in the first four paragraphs of the article. He was using life experience and discussion with friends to learn the basics. The math program he was taught was significantly different from his brother's, the methods similar to those I from which I learned (I know the way I learned math was different from public school kids - my Catholic school was outperforming other local schools on standardized tests for years).
Ultimately, it's important to realize math is the basis of logic and reason. A deficiency in math skills may go a long way to explaining why so many Americans think they can get something for nothing from the government. Common Core may have fine intentions, but its implementation is a disaster, and is heavily politicized. It is unlikely to solve the issues it is designed to fix.
Monday, July 14. 2014
Monday, June 30. 2014
I like Pope Francis, and I think he has said and done many good things to date. I think his comments on Capitalism were misplaced, and so is his current commentary on Communists.
Points in time like these remind me why we need to teach basic Economics in our schools. Capitalism has done more to reduce poverty and improve the economic prospects of the poor than Communism ever did.
More importantly, and this is where Pope Francis goes veering off the rails, Communism forces people to 'be good', rather than allowing them the right to choose the proper path of behavior. It is true that certain miseries and unfair behaviors take place under Capitalism, but these are more than mitigated by the greater gains of all individuals across society. Communism, on the other hand, uses force and coercion to fix perceived inequalities and creates a permanent political class system which is not just economic in nature, but capable of enforcing its whims on those who are not part of the class.
It's worth remembering that Economics was originally called "Moral Philosophy." While Adam Smith is considered the father of Economics, he considered himself a Moral Philosopher and was merely seeking to determine how people made their decisions to act in certain ways. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out:
Saturday, June 28. 2014
I don't typically sunbathe, my Irish heritage has limited my hours in the sun. My boys are working outdoors this summer and keep their sunscreen with them all day. We know that any SPF over 30 is a waste, and reapplication is the key to good management of sun on skin. I just hope this early 80's sunbather was using some. My friends in high school would use iodine mixed in baby oil. I tried that once and came away with the most wicked burn I can remember.
Friday, June 6. 2014
Monday, June 2. 2014
I will grab at least one dirty water dog in the Spring, just so I remind myself that this staple is what it's always been - a nice reminder of life in New York City. The only other food I eat on the streets is the falafel or gyro made by Falafel King over by Lincoln Center. Good food at a reasonable price.
Wednesday, May 28. 2014
It began as the Rogue's Gallery, a series of pictures of New York's most notorious criminals, around 1857, some 20+ years after the first photograph was developed. No doubt as the cost of photography fell, the role of a photo as an effective police tool became apparent. It was a critical innovation of Chief Inspector Thomas Byrnes, a man known for aggressive police work, in the 1880s. Byrnes is also known as the developer of "The Dead Line" and "The Third Degree".
The Dead Line referred to an imaginary line drawn across Manhattan at Fulton Street, and based on the concept that criminals would be interested in the banks and jewelry stores south of said line. Any known criminal south of this line would be arrested on sight. In a day and age when 28 detectives were available to investigate the crimes among 2 million inhabitants, the money south of this line dictated policy.
Byrnes' most notable case was linked to one of the most famous serial killers of all time. Byrnes had claimed that Jack the Ripper would find it impossible to operate in New York City without being caught in 48 hours. Those words would haunt him.
Continue reading "Thomas Byrnes, Chief Inspector"
Tuesday, May 27. 2014
It's articles like this that remind me Jean Baudrillard was right and I realize this isn't reality. It is an alternate reality, though. It seeks to simulate what the rest of us live. Kanye may feel comfortable calling out people like George W. Bush, or anyone else he doesn't like, but it's pretty clear he hasn't been in touch with reality for a long time.
The real question is why people like this continue to get coverage. My guess is they fear slipping into obscurity, and the best way to avoid it is to be outrageous and 'make news'.
Since real news isn't important to many people anymore, people like Kanye and the Kardashians can continue to dominate. Analysis is meaningless, the only thing important today (and don't think Obama isn't well aware of this) is a good photo, a headline, some Tweets to your peeps, and positive coverage on "The Daily Show" and any other Comedy Central program that purports to 'deliver the news'.
Saturday, May 24. 2014
Looks like Thomas Piketty fudged data to make his case. Not all that surprising, since we're familiar with how those on the Left love fudged data (cough, cough, East Anglia, cough).
It's also not surprising that the true believers still think there's value in his 'theoretical framework'.
I'll save them some time and effort. There isn't.