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
Friday, April 18. 2014
Wednesday, April 16. 2014
During a recent lunch, my wife and I were discussing the growth of small distilleries in New York. They are making a comeback because of a change in the law which lowers the fees necessary to be a small output distiller. This has been a job growth engine for the state, while also producing some much needed state revenue. It is a classic example of how less law can increase economic growth and opportunity.
The conversation with my wife, however, revolved around any laws which may exist (and they do, in some states) that limit production to using only agricultural products which are produced in-state. My wife had no problem with this, saying it would grow more jobs. I pointed out any state putting such limitations on distilling or brewing would hurt the economy, because if a distiller wished to use product from another state to start up, he couldn't, and since the law would force him to purchase only in-state product, prices for those products would increase dramatically as more brewers or distillers opened, becoming a prohibitive factor in new business.
I'm all for local-grown product, if that's what you like. But everybody, from consumer to brewmaster to distiller needs to have choices. If I might like a product which is made in one state, but utilizes grain from another, I may never have the opportunity to try it. Laws which limit inputs are, by definition, limiting economic growth. Which is why protectionism is always a bad idea. Limiting opportunity can only limit growth. This concept can be applied across a broad swathe of legislation which seeks to 'create' equality by creating new inequalities.
That said, it is nice to see small pockets of legislators learning "less is more" when it comes to laws and jobs. As for my bourbon, I'm still a fan of Buffalo Trace and Maker's Mark. However, I've tried Widow Jane, out of Brooklyn, and it's quite good. I also received some Hillrock as a gift and it, too, is very good, though the cinnamon aftertaste is a bit different than I've had. Still another recommended Hudson Baby Bourbon, though I haven't tried it yet.
Still looking to try my first Pappy Van Winkle, though.
Monday, April 7. 2014
It's a fun read, if you're up for it. Because Ezra Klein spends quite a bit of time discussing how we willingly delude ourselves into wanting to win battles we can't win. The problem, of course, is that Ezra only spends time using examples of topics that are contentious and don't have clear-cut answers. Ezra deludes himself with politics, becoming increasingly stupid through the course of the article, without even noticing it, and using it to create a stance of moral superiority built upon...well, not much.
Strong start with the title. Pretty pathetic follow through. Ezra doesn't spend a moment questioning himself or his beliefs, or how he could have fallen victim to the accusations he lays against others. Furthermore, he doesn't take the time to analyze some critical philosophical points which are more meaningful than the numbers he claims support his view. Choice, to me, outweighs all the perceived (and I'd say non-existent, though I know the math says otherwise) benefits of forced behaviors. I should have the choice to get a vaccine. I should have the choice to own a gun. I should have the choice to own a Hummer. Even if Ezra feels the benefits of forcing me to believe what he believes, and behave as he behaves makes him feel better about society as a whole, I should still have that choic
It's not about the math he employs, it's about the choices I should be permitted to be able to make.
Friday, April 4. 2014
It's worth noting his donation has been known about since 2008. It's also worth noting Eich penned a blog post about his donation and how it did not conflict with his position, that his role as CEO was to pursue Mozilla's goals regardless of whether employees agreed with his personal views or not.
This is not enough anymore. As this author notes, your views are meaningful and can play a role in what happens to you. Should they? If I disagree with much of what Donna Shalala supports, should I prevent my child from attending her university even if it's the best place for him to go?
I don't agree with most of Zuckerberg or Gates' political views. I still use their products. I fail to see what led to Eich's ouster. They hired him knowing his views, they may have expected a backlash, but felt they could deal with it. They should have.
I opposed gay marriage legislation, too. Admittedly, for wholly different reasons, since I think gay people have the right to be as miserable as the rest of us married folk. I opposed it because I just don't think government is the proper guarantor of contract, or grantor of right, of marriage. Were Martha and George Washington married? As far as I can tell they were, though not necessarily, because the US government didn't exist when they got married. In fact, government involvement in marriage was originally designed as an exclusionary tool, not an inclusive one. The earliest laws were designed to prevent miscegenation. The easiest way to avoid the discussion is to simply say government shouldn't have passed any laws preventing people who consent to marriage from entering that contract. Since I opposed gay marriage legislation, could I suffer the same fate as Eich? Quite possibly, in our intolerant society, I could, because I don't support laws giving special exceptions to existing laws, I just want to do away with those laws altogether.
Personal views are personal views, and as long as Eich was cognizant of his long-term goals as CEO, and didn't let his personal views impact his treatment or management of people within the organization, then he should have been kept on. Otherwise, his removal is an act of cowardice and shame.
Wednesday, March 26. 2014
Well, the IPO has been launched, the early returns are in and... you can decide on whether we are in a bubble.
Or maybe it's just a Buble and everybody is feeling good...
Monday, March 24. 2014
Speaking of incentives, is virtue inalienable? Are there situations which can mitigate morally reprehensible behavior? Broadly speaking, I'd say no, not usually. However, context is important and always useful in developing a justifiable opinion about some very specific situations. Along these lines, what represents an unfair advantage in making an exchange? Would the person purchasing this egg be wrong to not disclose information he had about it? After all, we do have laws about not disclosing information about what is being sold.
These same laws should apply to the buyer, should they not?
Sunday, March 23. 2014
But this is a good example of how advertising can not only entertain, but co-opt a message which is designed to hurt a business. It may not drive business, but God bless the owner who realized how to turn a bad situation to his favor.
Many people believe corporations and businesses are strong, particularly if they are large and have huge profits (as many car dealers often do). It is my view advertising is proof businesses are weak and competition is intense. Finding new and useful ways to get your message to break through the clutter is good for business. Done poorly, it can annoy, distract, and possibly hurt business. Done well, it can keep your consumer base intact or grow the foundation of purchasers. Or keep your opponents off balance.
Tuesday, March 18. 2014
Rado was born in Cambridge in 1945, his father a refugee from Nazi Germany. He was studying architecture and science when he met Syd Barrett and Roger Waters. He joined them, along with Nick Mason and Richard Wright, to perform under a variety of band names. He was less interested in rock, enjoying jazz and blues. He was also a serious student and chose to leave the band to pursue his studies. He is believed to have been one of their most talented members. Clearly having an artistic streak, he followed his interests into photography.
He became an acclaimed photographer, and some of his work is available online now. His guitar work is available on two recorded tracks which are available, a cover of Slim Harpo's I'm a King Bee and the original Lucy Leave when the band was called The Tea Set. These often appear on Pink Floyd bootlegs. Klose remained close to his friends in the music community, occasionally working on some albums in the 2000's.
Sunday, March 16. 2014
The story lays bare difficulties which face humanity on many physical and spiritual levels - love, anger, acceptance and forgiveness.
His broadsides against the Church and God should have been directed at individuals within the Church itself, or the misunderstandings of the nature of God. Instead he engaged a series of stereotypical and repetitive misconceptions which are common. His most egregious being a comparison of God to terrorists by discussing how many people died in an earthquake in Turkey. Getting past this requires an understanding this is a critical part of developing the story, however acidic the commentary employed.
To Frears' film-making credit, Philomena comes across as a truly great person - devout, loving, and understanding what being Catholic really means, despite having had to deal with great tragedy and hardship. Her difficulties often were by the hand of individuals who called themselves tools of God.
She epitomizes all that is good and right in the human condition - making few demands of anybody, finding great joy in life, and forgiving those who wronged her, intentionally or otherwise. She recognizes her shortcomings and errors, and accepts them for what they are. She pushes on through life bravely, assured in her relationship with God and her faith. As Stephen Frears' character attempts to snarkily put her down, her 'ignorance' instead puts him in his place and he comes to learn that despite being a respected public personality with a broad arc of learning, he still has much to learn from people he holds in low regard.
I recommend this film, because it is great in many ways, and has only one very bad flaw that is necessary to the story, yet is overcome by the uplifting nature of the main character.
Friday, March 14. 2014
This breakdown of what may likely be the real story surrounding Archimedes' discovery of the measurement of volume is actually more interesting, though less entertaining, than the original. The site isn't too bad, either, even if it does have a slight pro-AGW slant to some of the articles.
Thursday, March 13. 2014
I think so. I got an article which crossed my desk this morning:
King Digital Entertainment (makers of the Candy Crush Saga mobile game) is planning to launch an IPO valuing $7.56 billion, which is worth more than 15 percent of S&P 500 companies. Each of King's 22.2 million shares would be priced between $21 and $24, and is expected to debut the trading on March 26. Fox Business reports King would command a market value worth more than other major tech companies like AOL, Lions Gate Entertainment and even 2.8 times more than struggling J.C. Penny. Last month, King revealed that its fourth quarter revenue hit $602 million, and $159 million in profits.
It's cheap at the price - roughly a one to one price to (annualized) earnings ratio. However, this is a gaming company, and gaming companies are notorious for their price fluctuations. Very few companies which make standard XBox or Playstation games have remained at reasonable price levels, the competition is fierce and consumer tastes are fickle. Less standard gaming companies, such as Zynga (based almost entirely on Facebook registrations) have suffered mightily after going public.
King Digital has been very profitable, but I've had experience with firms like this. Typically, when they are privately held, they are fast, nimble, and aggressive. When they cash out, they become bloated, lazy and unresponsive. Can they break the mold? Since it's my view the market is artificially overpriced, my guess is this is a stock that will jump quickly and far early in its trading life, and then slip back down as reality hits home.
I can't blame the stakeholders for wanting to cash out, and perhaps this is the best time for them to take what they can get.
On the other hand, maybe investing in really useful stuff like this might be a better option.
Wednesday, March 12. 2014
The point Obama makes here is valid, but begs a larger question, because it impacts his argument in support of a higher minimum wage.
The caller on this program made $36,000 per year, more than double minimum wage (and likely due to multiple household earners). However, if minimum wage is so low, can people on minimum wage who have cable and a cell phone (and many do) make the same choices? Minimum wage is providing enough for certain 'luxuries' which, in the grand scheme of things, are really just trade-offs for what we consider important in our lives. Obama's response indicates even the most leftish of liberals recognize this.
The discussion on minimum wage is much larger, of course. Most people earning it are not Head of Household, and most live in larger family groups with several earners. Regarding the president's response, however, we exposed to insight on the man's psyche. He realizes that managing your life is a series of choices, some better and some worse. But he's unwilling to allow people to make most of those choices on their own. It must be on his terms. His healthcare, his minimum wage, his regulations must all be in place before you or anyone else is allowed to make the necessary choices needed to run your life.
Me? I'd rather have health care than a cell and cable when my finances are strained. But you may not. Right now, Obama's argument to raise minimum wage is that you shouldn't have to make this choice. But we all make choices, Mr. President. It's how an economy works.
Monday, March 10. 2014
Money from the Koch Brothers is not welcome, even if it brings jobs and saves lives. That's not good enough.
Clinton, however, is acceptable because he takes money and jobs away. It's not optimal, but it's close enough to optimal.
Thursday, March 6. 2014
Yet a case like this seems - I say seems, because we can't ever know all the details - to be indicative of many things that are wrong in American society today. Entitled kids? Maybe, that's very common. Abusive parents? We've seen that, so it's possible. Litigation to solve something which should be worked out privately? I have no idea why this is in court, but there are plenty of cases in the courts which have no reason being heard. These people need counseling, not lawyers.
I believe in a 'my house, my rules' environment. Children, even some young adults over 18, often don't understand why rules exist, don't want to know why they exist, and want only what they want. Furthermore, once a child turn 18, and particularly if they decide to leave home permanently - for any reason - they have to accept responsibility for themselves. As a parent, if my child left on good terms, I would offer and provide assistance when it was needed and requested. If they left on bad terms and immediately made demands on me and the rest of the family, let's just say things may not work out as well. The child should expect and understand why that might happen. If they were willing to take steps to remedy the situation, they would always be met with welcome arms.
I can't say Rachel Canning is entitled, I don't know. The superficial information seems to indicate she is and simply isn't happy living within her parents' somewhat strict governance. But that's part of the the parent/child dynamic. I don't put limitations on who my boys can hang out with or date, but I have had long, and often difficult, discussions with them about the types of kids they spend time with. Other parents take a much more active role. We all have a different approach, and it's my opinion that the house makes the rules regardless of how I make my own house rules. If the child lives in the house and relies on the parents, then that is part of the package.
Wednesday, March 5. 2014
"Can libertarians and social conservatives ever get along? It depends. Both groups could begin to focus on what they have in common more than where they disagree.
A good start would be to stop looking to government to validate our personal beliefs or solve every problem."
Monday, March 3. 2014
Thursday, February 27. 2014
Recently, while Bird Dog was lounging in the Caribbean, I was sent to do a presentation at a conference in Palm Desert, California. Since I was a featured speaker, the conference was paying for my hotel, and as these things are typically boondoggles held at high-end resorts, I asked my wife to join me and she reluctantly agreed. It took a tremendous amount of arm-twisting, two lines of text at a minimum.
My presentation meant a day in a ballroom with 200 of my closest industry competitors. It provided a great opportunity to discuss issues at the heart of my business and I managed to deliver a 30 minute presentation in what seemed like 5 minutes. I'm still learning to present well, though I was pleased to hear my work referenced several times by the speakers who followed me.
Once I got past the fun part, it was 'boondoggle on' and the wife and I availed ourselves of the surrounding region. We took a bike tour of Palm Springs, headed out to Joshua Tree National Park and did an hour's hike up Ryan Mountain for some spectacular views. I highly recommend a visit to Joshua Tree, if you're ever in the area. It has a beauty which is very hard to describe. It may not be for everyone. I found it fascinating. I also wanted to visit the Salton Sea, but time didn't permit.
As we were preparing to leave, my wife noticed an article about Mid-Century Modern architecture in a local magazine. What caught her eye was a house owned by the Kaufmanns, a family I recently wrote about. Apparently, this family was rather innovative in their tastes. Successful in the business of retailing, they expanded the American cultural landscape by contracting with ground-breaking architects, in this case Richard Neutra. Success really does breed success. Their home in Palm Springs is considered the premiere example of the Mid-Century Modern home.
Continue reading "Mid-Century Modern Architecture in the Desert"
Thursday, February 20. 2014
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to read this is how far we've sunk. Obama's true colors continue to show as the economy slumps further.
Can you say Pravda?
In college basketball, this was best exemplified by the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson NCAA Final in 1979. The NBA had Bill Russell and the Celtics in the 50's and 60's. When a reboot began with Bird and Johnson, Michael Jordan joined them and created an era of his own. Football experienced a similar revitalization with the arrival of the West Coast Offense and Joe Montana. Baseball has gone through multiple reboots recently, though few have had a positive spin. Steroids and strikes have had bigger impacts on the face of baseball than the arrival of a dominant player or a new method of playing the game. Sabermetrics have been a net positive, and even my interest in the sport has grown over the last 15 years because of the new math which opens a window onto what real productivity is in the sport.
I haven't watched much of the Olympics, but I've been fascinated with Ted Ligety for some time. In a sport which is usually decided by hundredths of a second, Ligety crashes down slalom courses with seeming abandon and winning by what can only be called massive margins. His dominance is of the type rarely seen in any sport, let alone skiing.
Ligety is one of those people who has reinvented his sport. I did a limited amount of downhill racing in my youth, and I remember the coach telling us the point was to find the fall line and make the course as short and fast as possible. For years, that was the formula for reaching a victorious finish, often by slim margins of a second. Giant Slalom, in particular, was usually a visual of tight turns around the gates and keeping as close to a straight downhill line as you could accomplish.
Ligety, on the other hand, takes wider turns and gets as parallel to the ground as he can. This approach has turned the US team into a powerhouse. Ligety creates power on short portions of the course where others coast briefly, and as a result he is able to smash the competition by moving rapidly, and effectively, from turn to turn. Long ago, someone told me Beckham was a geometry genius because he could figure out how to get a ball from Point A into a goal around the wall. I doubt he understood much about geometry at all, but he certainly understood how to make a ball do what he wanted it to do. Ligety, by the same measure, is a physics genius. He's determined how to turn portions of his run from potential to kinetic energy and power himself faster than others are able.
Most of the Olympics has been a bore, outside of hockey and Ligety.
Friday, February 14. 2014
Yesterday most of us here in the Northeast spent the day digging out of yet another big snow pile. I grew up with snow, in the mountains of Pennsylvania, then four years of Syracuse nastiness. It doesn't bother me in the least, and I'm more than happy going out with a snow shovel to dig, dig, dig.
I figure you need at least 4+ inches to call off school, and at least that much to prevent me from heading in to NYC and the office. Yesterday was one of those days, with my younger son having yet another snow day and me staying home for probably the fifth time this winter.
But Bill de Blasio was having none of it. His point of view was to get the kids into school at all costs.
This is a mayor who is slowly destroying any popularity he has with voters by making decisions which are difficult to support in any way. I couldn't believe NYC schools were open yesterday, until I heard the press conference. Bill's words go far in explaining how important he feels school is. It hasn't got anything to do with education, it has everything to do with having daycare so parents can work.
"It's always a tough decision based on imperfect information."
Really? The Weather Service had said, with regularity, that it was going to be a minimum of 6 inches, Bill. They warned of potential for a foot or more. Sure, the Weather Service may be wrong about climate change, but you believe that, so surely you must have some level of trust in their observations?
Ohhhh...OK, now I get it. You just wanted to make sure daycare was in session. Fine, everything is understood and all is well. I'm sure the teachers will be happy to know they are part of your daycare plan.
Continue reading "Mayor Bill Thinks School is Daycare"
Thursday, February 6. 2014
What were they concerned about? US involvement in unrest in the Ukraine. Because we don't do that stuff anymore now that Barry is in charge.
As the Olympics is about to begin, I can only imagine this phone call ended with chants of "USA, USA!"
Tuesday, February 4. 2014
But today's release, by the CBO, about how Obamacare will impact the workforce is possibly the most insightful look into the potential damage this legislation will wreak on workers in the United States.
But wait! There's more! Spin, that is. After all, what good is an administration if it can't get the gullible masses to believe the CBO didn't say what it did say? I'm curious to see how this plays out (or doesn't, as is more likely) in the media over the next few days.
Saturday, February 1. 2014
This author explains why the problem isn't the government, but the entrepreneurs looking for money. I'd say she's incorrect. People are frequently distracted by shiny objects. Government offers of cash are usually rule-bound and inflexible. meaning we alter our decisions to get 'free stuff'. If you told me that you'd pay 1/2 of the price of a car, but I had to buy a $70,000 Tesla (costing me $35,000) as opposed to a $25,000 Mini which I have the cash for, chances are I'm going to scrounge for the extra $10,000 even though I could use that $10,000 to repay a loan or take a vacation. We always tend to try and 'trade up' in the world, and if the incentive seems too good to be true, we'll usually take it. Unfortunately, Sky Masterson's wisdom regarding an offer which is too good to be true:
Yes, the entrepreneurs should be more thoughtful and careful. It says much about their ability to run a business if they deviate from their business plan for less than optimal reasons. But what does it say about the government that is encouraging them to deviate from the business plan? Sky Masterson likely recognized the government as the biggest con running.