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, February 10. 2012
Earlier, The News Junkie posted a great piece on the kerfuffle surrounding Obamacare and birth control.
I was 'lucky' enough, at roughly the same time, to see a friend post this on their Facebook page:
Interesting, I thought. I had always been taught that abstinence was affordable. Can anyone tell me when it stopped being affordable?
Friday, February 3. 2012
By now, you've all heard the good news. It's been on the news everywhere, and the market jumped dramatically. This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that job growth exceeded everyone's wildest expectations. 243,000 jobs were added, far more than the expectation of 140,000. More importantly, 257,000 private sector jobs were added, while 14,000 government jobs were lost. Unemployment dipped from 8.5% to 8.3%. All of this is very good news. Even those who oppose the president and his methods of handling the economy will not serve themselves to disparage this growth. I certainly won't. What I will say is that the general media is great at reporting headlines, but not digging into the numbers or providing historical context.
The media won't dig in, but others have in order to see what the numbers behind the numbers say, particularly since the CBO's report earlier this week was so lackluster.
The first bit of perspective comes from the Democrats, who spent most of the early 2000's disparaging the job growth of the Bush years as "McJobs". I notice none of them are speaking right now. Which is odd, because while we added about 90,000 very good paying jobs, over 113,000 of the jobs added were clearly "McJobs", or low wage labor. Any job growth is good, so I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I just want to know why "McJobs" were bad 9 years ago, but good now? If any Democrats would like to comment on this, they are more than welcome.
Another bit of news that went overlooked was the surge in part-time and temp work. Again, any job growth is good. I have nothing but good feeling for people who have been out of work but have managed to wrangle a paycheck. But if Obama's goal is "An Economy That Works", I'm sure he didn't mean "Works Temporarily and Part-Time"
A third, though somewhat justified question, is why the BLS has actually increased job growth estimates by a very large amount over the course of 2011. It's possible preliminary numbers were low, but by 23%? Revisions are always needed - by why so many positive adjustments? Usually it's "seasonal fluctuations". Which means...?
Continue reading "Job Growth and More Media Bias"
Tuesday, January 31. 2012
I've always been 'Green'. Not "I recycle and you should stop driving an SUV and if you don't you're evil" Green. I'm more of a constructive 'green'. In my youth I did ecological projects with the Boy Scouts, planting trees, cleaning parks, learning about nature by hiking the Appalachian Trail. I figure it's better to improve than scold, and you should start at home anyway. It's better to be concerned about how you do things and let other people worry about how they choose to live. If people want to be 'green' because they fear Carbon Dioxide, that's their choice and I'm OK with it. I don't agree with them, and I really don't appreciate when they decide their way is better and want to force me to do things their way.
My teen years were marked by two contrived events now known as "The Energy Crisis". Political situations had led to a belief that oil prices would rise forever and we'd run out of fossil fuels by 2000 (technically, we were supposed to hit Hubbert's Peak in 1979 - but Hubbert didn't count on various factors which extended his timeline). All kinds of crazy stories in the 1970's drove many to the point of hysteria. Not dissimilar to what we're being told today, except back then the world was cooling, not warming. It doesn't matter which way the temperature was going, because ecological consciousness was, and is, part of the 'correct' cultural identity. As I matured, I learned it's not just about ecology. It's about efficiency.
Continue reading "Being Green Means Being Economically Viable"
Thursday, January 12. 2012
Yesterday, Warren Buffett did something that was, in my opinion, outlandish and childish. He says he felt guilty for his comment about needing to pay more in taxes, so he took it upon himself to offer a dollar for dollar match for every extra payment a GOP member of Congress makes. Except for Mitch McConnell, who he will match 3 to 1.
Buffett is mistaken on several levels. First, as the linked article points out, why weren't Democrats and Obama included in this dare? Clearly this is Buffett's partisan nature and bias showing through. He is seeking to demonize one party over the other, without justification. I haven't seen Democrats lining up to make extra payments, nor have I seen Obama going 'over and above'.
Secondly, and more importantly, I shouldn't have to see anybody making extra payments. Not Buffett, not Democrats, not Republicans, not Obama. Making these payments is a personal decision, not a public one. Buffett went public with his statement last year that the wealthy should pay more taxes. Maybe they should, but I don't think that's a real issue. If Buffett wants to pay more, and T. Boone Pickens doesn't, let one send in the extra check as he sees fit, while the other chooses not to. Buffett went public, so he is turning this into a game. It's a game I'm not interested in, unless it is done fairly. Buffett rigged this game from the start.
He is more interested in making certain politicians look bad. I think it makes him look bad.
Saturday, January 7. 2012
Several months ago, I stumbled onto a baseball article which intrigued me. In probably the best example of how an exchange of product and services doesn't have to have a winner and a loser, Major League Baseball witnessed a trade in 2009 that ultimately benefited every team involved. What is particularly odd about this trade is that there were more than two teams involved.
Three teams executed a trade which, over time, involved a fourth team. The three involved were Detroit, the New York Yankees, and Arizona. A player involved in the original trade passed through 4 more trades before landing with the St. Louis Cardinals. Essentially, this turned out to be a trade which allowed 4 teams to improve enough to reach the playoffs. Sure, it took 2 years, but at least everyone benefited.
As the saying goes, one person's trash is another person's treasure. It is sometimes assumed that there has to be a winner and a loser involved in every trade. But the networked nature of exchange can lead to net gains for all involved. In an example of Metcalfe's Law, 4 teams showed how markets can benefit everyone, even in baseball where there are usually winners and losers.
Continue reading "Let's Make a Deal"
Wednesday, January 4. 2012
I was informed, as 2011 waned, that my tax credit for commuting would fall from $230 a month to $125. This bothered me. Not because I feel I deserve a credit to commute, but because I can't figure out what the government is trying to do.
The fact is, if public transport is a 'good' we should all take advantage of no matter what, then the government should pay for it by taxing everyone and making it available for 'free' - as they do in Portland. Of course, I oppose this idea entirely. However, if the theory is that we can get people to do something that is 'good for everybody', then isn't this the way to do it? Half-measures, like credits, subsidies, and other methods of this ilk only mask what is possibly (though probably not) a problem - that public transportation isn't really viable. There are ways to determine whether this is true, but not for the average commuter.
What is the premise behind having a tax credit for public commutation? I like it, I'll use it if it's offered, but I didn't demand it, nor did I write Congress to keep it at $230/month. The cost, to me, of increased taxation due to the lower credit will be about $270 over the course of the year, so it's not a big deal. Why not just get rid of it altogether? If public transport is truly efficient, then it would make much more sense for me to take it, rather than driving into the city myself (or carpooling).
My commute is about $330/month. The cost of driving (assuming the Federal allowance of .55/mile and $150 a month parking) is about $780/month. Even if I made a more realistic assumption of about .25/mile, public transport is still an advantage. But public transport is heavily subsidized. So I really don't know which is more efficient, and determining this is very hard.
Here is the issue: Subsidies and tax breaks are supposed to promote the 'public good'. But how do I know which is more efficient, let alone even better, for me personally? If it is a 'public good', then its value will be transparent without subsidies and credits. I'll take whatever credits get offered. It would be crazy for me not to. But I'd much rather have a clear means of determining which makes more sense by comparing simple features like cost, time and effort (hey - in the end, I like reading on the train, so if it did cost more I'd probably still take it).
It is precisely this lack of transparency that makes other government initiatives, like Obamacare, a pure misallocation of resources. Unable to determine where our real efficiencies lie, we opt for what we assume is 'best' or costs us least. But we cannot know for sure if these things really make sense at all.
Monday, January 2. 2012
Some old friends were back in the NY area for the holidays. Rather than stay at a hotel, they watch friends' homes who are also traveling. Last year, I was jealous of the fact they were staying in a house that George Washington had slept in. This year, they stayed in the same house. After a nice dinner at a local pub, they invited us over.
The house as it appeared in 1919:
The house is known as The Timothy Ball House in Maplewood, NJ. It's not open to tours, because it's a private residence. The owners do let in groups of local school children to see the portions of the original structure which are intact and visit the room that Washington literally slept in.
The Ball family were Washington's cousins, Mary Ball having been his mother. Washington would stop by while the troops were wintering in Morristown (which they did over two brutal winters, the second far more difficult than Valley Forge), because a view from the ridge in Maplewood allowed him clear access to watch English troop movements in Elizabeth and Staten Island.
Continue reading "Old Homes: "George Washington Slept Here""
Friday, December 30. 2011
6 years ago, as we prepared to move to a new house, my wife and I decided to 'declutter'. Since then, we have been in permanent declutter mode, because having too much stuff around is a pain. Not only that, but as the saying goes "one man's trash is another man's treasure." Well, not so much trash, but if I'm not using it, it may was well be trash.
In order to get rid of household items, we utilized a variety of services. The most well known would be Craigslist and Ebay. After all, you can make a few bucks while in the process of getting rid of useful things you consider junk. However, my wife also stumbled on Freecycle.
We use it through Yahoo! Groups, but you can join on the web. It's free, it's easy to use, and you do nothing more than post what you're offering and what town you're in. The person then picks it up at your door.
When I was on my way to the airport one early morning, my cab driver told me she was recently divorced and havig a rough time. She had picked up several things from us on Freecycle saying "you people have been a godsend." Another person sent me an email telling me that the barely used Heelies (kids wheeled sneakers) were the hit of an otherwise difficult Christmas. For our part, we rarely take, but last spring somebody posted "As many perennials as you can dig," and we wound up spending an hour digging up plants which now fill a previously bland portion of our backyard.
If you haven't tried it, or aren't familiar, Freecycle (Yahoo! link) can help you clean up as 2012 begins, while helping out others at the same time. It's not for everybody, but I'm a devotee.
Thursday, December 29. 2011
As we approach the new year, a common theme of many sites is to review the previous year's events, while casting an eye to the future. Part of my job is to create business models for various lengths of time, so the idea of 'predicting' the future is something I have a level of comfort with. However, the art of prediction is art only. In making any kind of prediction, I've found it is useless to suggest that something will happen with a level of assuredness that exceeds even odds. In fact, my models typically have a High, Medium and Low outlook, with High having about the same likelihood as Low, and Medium being most likely. But Medium is couched as a 50/50 possibility.
Another problem with predicting things is that you can go overboard. Making absolutely outrageous predictions may garner headlines and attract attention, but unless you get extremely lucky, you only wind up looking foolish. I don't need to make myself look any more foolish than I already am. Unless I'm going to make a reasonable prediction, I'd prefer to not make any at all.
It's far too difficult to make assumptions about the behaviors of others, the outcomes of their actions, and the potential ripple effects to make a prediction that is completely assured. That is, unless you rig the system. I don't have the power to do this, so rather than discuss how I'll rig things to make sure I'm right, I'll just link to some predictions from others, make several of my own, and let Maggie's commenters have some fun thinking about how the new year will unfold.
Continue reading "2012 Predictions"
Wednesday, December 28. 2011
A former intern at my office is now working with this speaker and directed me to this presentation. It's a fascinating discussion of choice. Recently, there was a post on Maggie's about the Runaway Boxcar. How do we approach choice in a crises? Stress alters how we make choices, as well as how we view them. So, too, does culture. At times, the speaker in this video criticizes American views of, and approaches to, choice. It is unfortunate, because the entire presentation is wonderful. She points out Americans could benefit by incorporating more collaborative approaches to choice, as opposed to the highly individualistic view we tend to have. But she fails to mention other cultures lack the insight the American perspective has, and could benefit from more choice, rather than less. It is also worth noting that the American perspective allows for greater collaborative approaches to choice, whereas other cultures tend to look down on individualistic views.
Choice is difficult. Choices can, at times, be paralyzing. But it doesn't mean that more choice is always the answer or that the American narrative on choice is wrong. It just means the American narrative of choice is different, and that American history shows more choice may not be better, but yields better overall results.
And, honestly, I can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. They have very distinct and different tastes. Coke is better (to me).
Friday, December 23. 2011
Terrific piece at ZeroHedge today using Christmas Trees and land management as an allegory for the Fed's interventions in the market, and why it's dangerous.
We can increase moral hazard by taking effective steps to 'insure' against its downside. At some point, however, everything has to revert to the mean.
When Gutenberg printed his first Bible in 1455, is it possible he ever thought "I believe this technology will be outdated in 650 years"? Doubtful. In fact, he probably didn't even care.
We do care about change, though. Mainly because it is part of our lives. Change shapes us and molds us, even as we create the change we seek in our own lives. For Gutenberg, much of life was relatively the same over the course of time. By the time Benjamin Franklin was a printer 300 years later, he was still using essentially the same technology Gutenberg had created. Some revisions had taken place, but it was still a very manual process and the nature of the process would not seem unfamiliar to Gutenberg.
It's been about 100 years since men like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst changed the business of publishing. How would they have reacted to a blog like Maggie's? Could they have envisioned the future and recognized opportunity? It's possible, but more likely they would have feared the shift in message delivery systems and fought the new technology. Our perceptions about what we do and where we are going is shaped by what we've have done in the past. As a result, we tend to react poorly to new ideas and products which don't fit neatly into the way we believe life should progress. 25 years ago, we would have considered it odd to think that a TV would hang on a wall or that we could purchase virtually everything we needed as we watched a TV program.
Continue reading "The Future of Media"
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 13:24 | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, December 22. 2011
Lots of things drive men, but few are as powerful as the animal instincts which create the attraction between a man and a woman. Many times I've uttered the phrase "Yeah, she's hot" with other buddies of mine. But I've never stopped to consider the differentiation between 'hot' and 'pretty'. Hot is an attraction, a magnet and promotes a desire which is usually more salacious than meaningful. Pretty is also an attraction, but requires thought and consideration. Pretty has lasting qualities. Hot can be fleeting.
I thought this article, forwarded to me by a female friend, was a terrific summation of the difference. I differ from the author in that I'm all for 'hotness' at the right time and place, and in limited doses. Hotness shouldn't be the only selling point. One of the problems of hotness is that it can be too easily revealed to be a charade.
One benefit of pretty is that it can be made to appear hot (as the Olivia Newton-John example points out). It can be stepped back, if necessary. Sometimes, however, hotness is just a veil and we are going to be disappointed with what's really there. The Legends of Micronesia often utilize themes of this sort, people, ghosts and gods who improve their appearance to entice people and promote a disastrous end.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 10:30 | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, December 20. 2011
I visit Cafe Hayek regularly, though missed the past few days. I was shocked to see today that the Comments section had been closed. I had commented on a few topics there over the years, but generally avoided it because it frequently becomes a quagmire. In fact, I noticed this recently when I'd posed a question, only to find myself under attack for asking any questions that didn't agree 100% with the authors.
Strange thing is, the question I'd posed was a request for clarity by posing an example, not a statement of opposing viewpoint. Suddenly, however, I became a "two-bit moron" and an "uninformed boob". I'll cop to being both, though I think using these terms on people you're exchanging views with, in a somewhat public forum, is rude.
It's unfortunate the professors found the need to shut down their comments. Commenting on articles is a fine balance, not unlike sending emails. You can't properly convey emotion, and as a result sometimes meanings are misunderstood. Typically I try to employ the same courtesies I utilize in real life. I refrain from name-calling and will restate a point, if necessary, to add clarity. On comments (unlike email), you can't always pick up the phone and say "no, that's not what I meant".
I'm happy that I've never seen a comment thread on Maggie's become a name-calling mess. There have been plenty of disagreements, and that's healthy. But when you stop respecting others, you stop respecting the process.
Friday, December 16. 2011
ZeroHedge posted an article that lists 50 crazy facts about the US Economy. It is pretty impressive how this economy has been 'recovering' for so long, and yet these facts exist. Did I say impressive? My bad.
One of the 50:
Thursday, December 15. 2011
In this morning's news stories, BD linked to a discussion of what may happen should Tim Tebow and the Broncos win the Super Bowl. Outlandish talk, not just because of the religious/political overtones injected by the article, but also because the Broncos are a long way from the Super Bowl.
Most importantly, however, was the fact - and this is a fact many people following this story choose to ignore - that Tebow is winning not because of his religion or beliefs, but because of his hard work.
His fervent religious beliefs are intriguing and that's what makes him a great news story. He's different from many other well-known athletes in this respect. It's unfortunate that it's not his work ethic that makes him interesting. This may be due to the fact that so many great athletes work extremely hard. So I guess it's a surprise that he can have religion and work hard, too, that makes him different? Not according to his teammates.
Wednesday, December 14. 2011
I'm opposed to any new income taxes. It matters little if they are assessed on my income or a much wealthier person's income. The average person is overburdened.
I feel the same way about corporate taxes, too. The oddity, in both personal income and corporate taxes, is how little people actually pay and how few of us pay. There are a myriad of reasons for this. Loopholes, primarily, but also the manner in which taxes are assessed. After all, capital gains and investment income are not taxed in the same fashion as earned income, for many good reasons. It is money at risk, and money at work. It must be treated differently.
My personal belief is that a flat income tax, with no (or very few) loopholes is transparent, easy to employ, and would reduce the need for a large bureaucracy chasing the average citizen. It would generate more, or at least equivalent, revenue but not cost the government as much. All told, it's a money saver. This is a preference that I'm unlikely to ever see, as many people don't fully understand the benefits of a flat tax, in particular its very 'fairness' (a vague term, but defensible in the manner I'm using it).
A flat tax alone probably isn't enough, though. To truly have an impact and get people focused on longer time frames, I've always felt a Tobin Tax would be useful. Capital gains taxes would be eliminated and replaced with a Tobin Tax on currency trades and a Transaction Tax on investments. There are many reasons to not like this, given the nature of Wall Street behavior today. However, as part of a broad tax overhaul, it would probably yield tremendous results. Bruce Krasting disagrees, as does the House of Lords. It's possible this is because the current concept would be to implement a Tobin Tax in addition to the existing tax structure, rather than as part of an overhaul. As part of a complete restructuring of the tax code, these taxes would focus investors on longer buy and hold periods, reduce High Frequency Trading, stabilize currency exchanges, and generate considerable revenue for the government. The problem, of course, is the level at which the tax is set. .03% is perhaps too high. Then again, OWS would complain it's too low.
It would be intriguing to see someone elected who is willing to alter the tax code so it more naturally meshes with the way business is done today.
Tuesday, December 13. 2011
Today, Yahoo! asked if I am I better off than my parents? Do I have more opportunity and a better life overall? These are questions that politicians will be asking the next few months. They are questions pundits continually ask. But posing these questions doesn't really inform us.
Depending on how I define 'better off', I could reply yes or no to both questions. If all I did was pay attention to the broad statistics and ignore my personal situation, then no. I should join OWS and complain incessantly.
Am I earning more in real terms than my father at a similar age? No. I do have much more saved for retirement, but at my age my father was finishing putting two boys through college, and looking to pay for three more children. He had a larger home and a nicer car, and he went on some very nice vacations (sometimes with us, usually without). The problem is, no matter how well off he was, his life is not mine. I can't compare how well I'm doing to him, because we entered very different professions and made very different choices. Do I feel better off? Yes. Do I live very well? Yes. So whether I am better off or not is a vague question. It is not dependent purely on statistics. Answering the two original questions will beg other questions rather than providing a concrete response.
After all, we tend to have very short memories about our situations and how we've progressed.
Continue reading "Am I Better Off Today?"
Tuesday, December 6. 2011
Several neighbors kindly stopped by last weekend and dropped off the NY Times Sunday Magazine. The cover had a picture of ME! How exciting. Not quite as exciting was the article about how, in my current state, I may well be doomed. The article offered several solutions on how my breed may be saved.
I've owned a bulldog for 17 of the last 18 years, and currently own my second. I grew up with collies, german shepherds, and golden retrievers. Never did I expect to fall for a breed such as this. In fact, the original purchase was a Christmas gift for my new wife who loved the breed. We lived in an apartment, and they are excellent apartment dogs.
Neither of my dogs have had major health problems. More importantly, regarding the article, I've never met a breeder who would disagree with some of the commentary the article provided about the breed. All of them are upfront and honest about the difficulties bulldogs present. I purchased my current dog from Cody Sickle, who is quoted in the article. He is well known for producing healthy dogs. My vet is a former breeder, and his partners have all adopted the bulldog as their 'specialty'.
The key point of the article, however, is that the standard needs to be changed. Here, unfortunately, breeders and the AKC have not taken the necessary steps. Undoubtedly, the breed needs some refinement and some steps should be taken. But can you really question the majesty of such an animal as this?
I've seen all kinds of talented bulldogs. Skateboarding bulldogs, skimboarding bulldogs, bulldogs that run obstacle courses, they are all exceptional. But I think I'm partial to this one.
Monday, December 5. 2011
"When taxes are too high, people go hungry. When the government is too intrusive, people lose their spirit. Act for the people's benefit. Trust them; leave them alone."
Saturday, December 3. 2011
This past weekend, my elder son asked me to drive him to the outlets so he could get some Ralph Lauren shirts at a reduced cost. Frankly, I don't know where he got this penchant for name brand clothing, but it's his money, not mine. What is my money is the gas it takes to drive an hour to the outlets and the time I gave up to make the 2 hour (round trip) drive. I thought it would be a good lesson for him on 2 levels. First, I could teach him about opportunity costs by showing him why the trip was frivolous. Second, he'd get some driving practice so he could get his license in 2 weeks.
I wound up getting to fulfill my goals, he got his shirts, and we both learned a valuable lesson.
No good deed goes unpunished. In other words, Murphy was right. You can almost count on unintended consequences.
Continue reading "Economic Efficiency and Unintended Consequences"
Friday, December 2. 2011
Gotta love those headline writers. "Jobless Rate Falls" will be standard fare for the next week as the MSM continues its cheerleading to promote Obama's campaign. I'm not opposed to cheerleading if it makes sense. But we've heard all this before! It's a broken record.
More workers and lower unemployment are always good. But lying about their meaning is a huge problem. We don't have a hiring trend, let alone a trend meaningful enough to call for an economic recovery!
In other words, about 3/4 of the drop in unemployment is from people leaving the workforce, while the long term trend since January 2011 is flat (at best). In addition, the size of the job gains are still minimal, don't represent a meaningful trend, and come as we gear up for - what? - holiday season. This is a snoozer from the MSM, but if it begins to show strength into 2012 (if we see 200,000+ jobs created in December, Jan, Feb), I'll happily eat crow. But we've seen growth of 122,000 jobs before during the recession. In fact, we've seen months of more than 200,000 several times. At what point does this story get old?
Continue reading "More MSM Cheerleading"
Wednesday, November 30. 2011
Somebody thinks the West is finished financially. What does that mean, though?
Personally, I've been a supporter of switching back to a gold standard, even if only temporarily, in order to impose budgetary discipline and promote economic growth.
Regardless, it was only a matter of time before Emerging Economies started to catch up. In the long run, this will benefit the United States, because at some point their workers will want to live like us, demand wages like us, and spend like us. Outsourcing will shift back to high productivity areas like the US.
In the meantime, the question becomes a relatively simple one. Would you rather see the US grow at 2% a year and the rest of the world at 1% or less, or see the US grow at 3% a year and the rest of the world grow at 5% or more? The first is the situation we've been in, recently. The second is more likely over the long haul, because as other small nations grow, they will demand more from the US.
So I reject the concept that we're "finished financially" and suggest we're at a turning point, and the direction we go is dependent on whether we make intelligent economic decisions, or continue to engage crony capitalism financed by fiat currency.
Where we go is dependent on how we choose to manage our current state. Artificially, as we are now, or by focusing on our strengths, such as creativity, marketing, and education. We are entrepreneurs at heart. The rest of the world benefits from the vision and effort the US exhibits.
Tuesday, November 29. 2011
I'm not a big fan of religious exhibitions in public venues. I'm not opposed to them, I'm not critical of seeing a prayer circle after a game, or a player thanking God for divine intervention. That's what the player wants to believe? Fine. My issue is really one that relates to this - if God is helping the winning team, then what's He doing for the losing team? Are they just not strong enough believers? Did they not say the right prayers or did they not make the correct sacrifices? It's not really a strong argument to say "God allowed/helped me to win" because it presumes God didn't allow or help those on the losing side.
God gives each of us abilities, and how we use them is what determines how well we do at sports, work, home life, etc. Beyond that, God doesn't intervene much, in my view. If I start using drugs and begin to play poorly on the field, did "God allow/help me to use drugs"? I don't think so.
It's a sword that cuts both ways, and in the end it's a personal decision relating to how you choose to use your God-given talents that determines whether you're a winner or loser. When you're playing for the championship against another believer, then it comes down to your mental toughness. Another God-given talent, one which can be developed and improved (just as any God-given talent can).
Continue reading "Tim Tebow and Religion in Sports"
Monday, November 28. 2011
Where is OWS hoping things wind up? Given some of the recent pictures in the blogosphere, one calling for a "Cultural Revolution", it's likely that these nitwits have a hankering for the recent past and all the wonderfulness others in Russia and China experienced. In a sense, a very bizarre sense, we could call them 'conservative', because they want to return to the way things were - even if those things were in another severely degraded country. Lord knows they are not progressive.
I was watching a boring football game and began to glance around other channels, and noticed "Dr. Zhivago". I'm a fan of David Lean, and in particular this film. Beautifully shot, well crafted, magnificent characters and storytelling.
As I watched, I couldn't help but think "this is what OWS dreams about - the chance to expropriate the property of others so they can misuse and destroy property."
Continue reading "Zhivago"
Our national fascination with holiday shopping is once again at 'all in' mode. Black Friday has passed, Cyber Monday is upon us. Cyber Monday was originally a fictional concept, with online retailers suggesting for years that the Monday after Black Friday was the heaviest online shopping day of the year. It wasn't. When it was first suggested, it was twelfth largest holiday shopping day. However, Cyber Monday is now a cultural meme and last year became the largest online shopping day for Amazon simply because that's how it was marketed.
Regardless of which day is largest online, Black Friday remains the shopping holiday that resonates. Every year, we hear it used as a bellwether on the health of our animal spirits toward spending. This year, we've heard that it's indicative of great things to come! Then again, it was used that way last year, too. 2011 has proven to be substantially larger than 2010, in terms of Black Friday spending (6.6% growth versus 0.3% growth year over year). Ultimately, Black Friday of 2010 indicated nothing of importance economically, because most of the holiday spending increases were from high income folk. The large initial growth on Black Friday this year may not say much more than people are looking for bargains, and retailers are seeking to burn off inventory.
Wednesday, November 23. 2011
The 'mood' in the US, if we are to believe the MSM, is that nasty Republicans have undermined the political process with their adherence to outdated dogma. Nevermind that Democrats adhere to outlandish (and outdated) dogma, the discussion will revolve around how to demonize one side or the other. The MSM claim "compromise" is what's important. They also hint the Republicans cause all the problems.
There is a history of compromise in Congress, but there is also a history of sticking to your guns. How you view things usually depends on what you want to believe. Personally, I think sometimes compromise is good, but at other times sticking to your beliefs is better. In the case of the deficit, I'm more dogmatic. There have to be more spending cuts before we can even discuss, let alone implement, more taxes. If we do implement more taxes, I believe having the 'rich' pay more isn't a bad idea, but a better idea is to combine that with a broader income tax base that includes the 49% who don't pay anything.
The nature of the spending cuts are as fair as we could hope for, given the current political environment. Particularly if you believe, as I do, that the Supercommittee idea is an unconstitutional solution. I believe this because cuts are 'automatic' whether the committee agrees to a deal or there is no agreement at all. If they make a deal, Congress agrees to support it. If they fail, the current outcome, nobody votes for anything except to possibly stop the cuts. There is limited representation, there is limited discussion. The cuts just happen. Clearly there is an undemocratic theme here, but at least everything gets cut. Nothing is spared. It may be unconstitutional, but we're being unconstitutional together to achieve a goal. I can't believe that's good, but some think it is.
Continue reading "Failure of the Supercommittee"
Tuesday, November 22. 2011
Today, the first of two GDP revisions was issued. It was revised down from 2.5% to 2.0%. Revisions are a natural part of our economic reporting structure. We can't get all the data in a timely fashion, so certain guesses are made regarding the data that is missing when initial results go out. 'Guesses' should be incorrect. 'Estimates' would be the correct term.
It's not unusual for data to be revised downward, and it's not unusual for revisions to get little fanfare. What is unusual is the consistent nature of the downward revisions we have seen over the last few years and how little attention this receives.
I'm sure the bureaucrats view their 'guesses' as 'estimates'. But I wouldn't be surprised if they have been told to paint a pretty picture, within reason. Few of the downward revisions have been outlandish. Given the nature of the economy the past few years, however, wouldn't it make sense to have a slightly more negative outlook on the initial print?
No, because the initial print is what gets all the press and it's what everyone will pay attention to. Politics isn't supposed to alter the economic reporting, but in this administration it has taken a decidedly political turn.
Monday, November 21. 2011
Supporters of Obama's foreign policy are sure to be scratching their heads now. Anyone who feels Obama has done a better job than his predecessor, particularly with regard to the Mid East and Islam in general due to the OBL mission, have new questions to ask themselves. Such as, "What the heck was Leon Panetta paying attention to?"
General David Petraeus took over just 2 months ago, and faces his first crisis as a massive network of operatives have, no doubt, been executed or face execution. All the goodwill Obama may have had for catching and killing Bin Laden should now be tossed right out the window. Early reports on what occurred may prove incorrect, but it appears the operatives and their handlers "got lazy" regarding their communications. In that business, laziness carries a high price.
Yesterday, The Barrister posted a terrific video in which the manipulation of Europe was exposed in a speech at the European Parliament. The thought that a 'conspiracy' may be taking place seems far-fetched, but the fingerprints are showing up everywhere.
The Euro is probably doomed. It was a lousy idea from the start, but once it was implemented, it was managed poorly. The EuroZone is a mess, democracy there is a thing of the past. It's amazing how the mismanagement of money can alter politics, but we are seeing the same theatre take place here in the US, although it's happening in slow motion. For all intents and purposes, the dollar remains "the best looking horse in the glue factory."
As it stands, the central bankers are the power brokers now. Bernanke will choose the next president, just as the ECB drove two Prime Ministers from office.
Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.
Friday, November 18. 2011
I'd like to thank my teens for pointing out to me that pizza has been declared a vegetable by Congress.
Years ago, the Reagan administration received abuse for suggesting ketchup was a vegetable. Now we have Congress actually voting on this stuff?
Tomatoes, of course, are a fruit. So pizza should be a fruit, not a vegetable. Since they can't even get that right, it's probably no surprise Congress can't come to a reasonable agreement on the budget.
I'm not inclined to believe conspiracy theories, and the thought that Jon Corzine would comply with something along these lines seems absurd. But Jon is very well connected and does have an interest in maintaining the strong link between the government and Wall Street. That link, however, is starting to show signs of wear. Between Tea Partiers and OWS complaining about crony capitalism, and the fact that market rigging only lasts so long before it collapses on itself, we may well be seeing the end stages of the game being played out.
From that standpoint, a 'hit' on MF Global would make perfect sense. It's true that even in the best economic conditions, speculators are viewed as evil. The balance they bring to prices and markets, as well as the liquidity they provide, are overlooked because they operate in a realm many people simply don't understand. As a result, there is a belief that somehow speculators 'control' market outcomes. Nothing is further from the truth, but it is a widely held concept.
Did the Fed want to see some pressure taken off upward price movements? Yes. Will this help? Yes. Does this undermine markets further? Yes. Does this increase the uncertainty which is keeping our economy from moving forward? Yes.
We can ask many other questions, but none will answer whether or not this was a hatchet job. My guess? It wasn't, it was just mismanagement. But there is an awful stench coming from this whole affair.
Friday, November 11. 2011
Today, Zerohedge posted that MF Global has admitted to commingling funds.
Jon Corzine left a few days ago, and turned down any funds he was due, as he should. He is no doubt positioning his defense. Is he any worse than Madoff? I certainly don't think he is any better. Yet another political figure, in this case of the Left, shames himself.
I don't want to take anything away from our Veterans, and Bruce's earlier posts, particularly regarding the link between St. Martin's Day and the end of WWI, were enlightening and enjoyable. Certainly, I am proud of my family's veterans (a picture of my stepfather receiving a drink from an Italian police officer is posted, sorry for the quality), and I have nothing but good things to say about those who serve.
But, for those of you willing to take a moment to chuckle, I would like to point out that 11/11/11 is "Nigel Tufnel Day".
Continue reading "Nigel Tufnel Day"
Thursday, November 10. 2011
Last night, I attended a 50th anniversary screening of "West Side Story". The event was for one night only, and having never seen it anywhere but on TV, my better half felt it would be fun to see on the big screen. As usual, she was right.
The film has been digitally remastered for the 50th anniversary release, with the sound and picture as crisp as if it were filmed today.
Prior to the feature there were short interviews of Russ Tamblyn, Richard Beymer, George Chakiris, and Rita Moreno. Turner Classic Movies then interviewed Chakiris, producer Walter Mirisch, and Natalie Woods' singing voice double Marni Nixon. Each preview offered insight to the casting, the production, the choreography and the amazing amount of training and effort that went into the production.
The seamless nature in which the singing was dubbed is not noticeable. Pitch, accents, and lip synching were all managed extraordinarily well. Meanwhile, the framing of the shots and choreography are phenomenal. This remains true today even if we compare "West Side Story" to movies which take advantage of modern film and audio technology.
Continue reading "West Side Story"
Friday, November 4. 2011
The current market on Wall Street is driven by a number of outrageous factors. Europe and U.S. Debt, Fed Quantitative Easing, Hot IPOs, and large scale fraud are headlines each day.
Last night, an interesting IPO was priced, and it could be a bellwether, as its movement may be indicative of market conditions.
So are businesses with low costs of entry. One of the sure signs of bubble behavior is herd mentality that becomes contagious and self-reinforcing.
Thursday, November 3. 2011
The "MF" in MF Global does not stand for "Maggie's Farm". But it could stand for "Massive Fraud". What's amazing, as the MF Global story unfolds, is how one of the liberal standard bearers, Jon Corzine, put his future and his reputation on the line to make more money than the tidy sum he already has. He was, after all, known as a risk taker. But he was also one of the Left's golden boys.
There's nothing wrong with making money, and nobody should begrudge Corzine what he earned. However, I was happy to see him removed as my governor, due to the hypocrisy of his rhetoric and his disastrous leadership. His political views, contrasted with his behavior as CEO of Goldman Sachs, were inconsistent. He claims to be a man of the people, seeking to right wrongs and help the poor. He also gave support to, and received support from, unions. As CEO of Goldman during the run up to a public offering, he cut staff, fought unions, and tried to lower wages. In doing so, he oversaw a successful IPO, but was eventually ousted.
It's always intriguing to see liberal hypocrisy laid bare and listen to the spin. After all, it was recently speculated that Corzine might be a Geithner replacement. Few of his Democratic colleagues have jumped to defend him.
Corzine could, and should, have been much smarter about this. After all, MF Global purchased a firm which had executives jailed for exactly the same kind of fund commingling which seems to have just occurred. So it seems reviewing history was not helpful to the management of MF Global. Does a connected politico earn a jail cell for his behavior?
Monday, October 31. 2011
Recently, I posted about Steve Jobs. I believe, despite faults which he undoubtedly possessed, Steve was a visionary who radically altered our lives for the better over the last thirty years. Were it not for his untimely passing, he may have altered them further in the next twenty to thirty years.
It was part of his lifestyle, his mission, to look at things in a manner which was different from everyone else. He took computing from the realm of technology and moved it into culture and fashion. He did this without moving out of forward thinking technology. This kind of transformative behavior is unusual. Very few entrepreneurs are able to retain a firm hold on massive corporate structures. Even fewer can hold on and maintain a sharp entrepreneurial vision.
Now that Jobs is gone, Apple will be left to see if Jobs' vision was his alone or if someone else can pick up the slack at the company. However, in terms of personalities which society perceives as 'transformative', we are left with a gaping hole. There doesn't appear to be anyone quite like Steve Jobs.
I read this article recently, suggesting Jeff Bezos could be the "next Steve Jobs". I think he's definitely in the running. Jeff has changed the way people think about buying things. Like Jobs, I'm sure he's got flaws and faults, but I'm curious to see if he can be transformative. Even today, mom and pop shops in towns across the US are cursing firms like Amazon and Wal-Mart. But this isn't a fault of Bezos, it's simply the nature of the economy, which is one of change.
Are there other personalities out there who could be the "next Steve Jobs"? Certainly there are, and we may not have even heard of some of them yet.
Saturday, October 29. 2011
This was passed along by a friend. It's long, but honest. The breakdown on health is fascinating, putting the onus on misdirected incentives and unhealthy lifestyles. Clearly these things can only be fixed by an overbearing nanny state. I'm posting it late because I figure it's useful for insomniacs or data junkies like me.
Friday, October 28. 2011
We've seen the complainers for weeks now. They infest selected streets in the US and other major countries around the world. I use the word infest because they are parasites. They add nothing, offer no solutions, and continue to claim they represent 99% of society when, in fact, more than 60% oppose them or are at least ambivalent. They do not "speak" for those they claim to represent, they are a drain on society and public spending, and are frauds.
Rants against OWS are tiring. If I'm going to provide a negative story, I also like to provide a positive. The OWS movement is fraudulent because it focuses on negative things while claiming to be a force for good. Negatives produce strong knee-jerk reactions, which the OWS hopes to provoke. Humans prefer positive stories and these stories have better long term benefits. I have two stories which differentiate most people from the OWS movement, and I know there are many others.
What makes these stories different? The manner in which the people involved sought to get something they wanted. By pursuing a path related to values they considered better than cash, they wound up getting more. Perhaps not as much as the market may have paid them, but more than enough to make it worthwhile.
Continue reading "We Are The 100%"
Wednesday, October 26. 2011
Recently, my alma mater Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh applied to join the ACC. Both were accepted. I had very mixed feelings. I attended Syracuse during the halcyon days of Big East Basketball. We were one of the original 3 Big East schools. We pulled the first major upset, beating Villanova for the Big East Tournament Championship in 1982 with a very mediocre squad. The Big East placed 3 teams in the Final Four in 1985, then 2 in the Final Four in 1987. The 1987 NCAA Championship saw Syracuse lose by a point in the final seconds as Indiana' Keith Smart nailed a jumper in the final seconds. Over the years, the Georgetown/Syracuse and the University of Connecticut/Syracuse rivalries have been heated and seen many legendary games. Syracuse's 6 overtime Big East Tournament victory over UConn in 2009 was the kind of game you only hope to see, and wind up telling your children about.
Big East men's basketball has had 6 NCAA Champions in the last 27 years. Women's basketball has seen many more, as the University of Connecticut Huskies have set a new standard for the term 'Excellence' when it comes to sporting achievements. In 32 years, it has won 28 championships in 6 different sports.
On the other hand, Big East football has seen very few important moments, has never really developed a strong following, and has not helped its best teams rise. In some respects, Big East football is a bit of a joke even though programs like UConn and Rutgers have managed to revive themselves. Over the years, it has been football that drives conference alignments because of the revenues involved.
As other conferences grew and focused on their revenues, the Big East played it safe. They lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech in 2005. Hardliners in the conference scoffed, and I count myself among them. There was no way the move would benefit those teams (it hasn't really, but they've done better than they would have in the Big East). The Big East was clumsy. It just couldn't get the job done for those schools, nor for the two which recently left.
Continue reading "Brand New Family: Syracuse sports"
Monday, October 24. 2011
We all look for great deals when we buy things. Groupon has taken this concept and turned it into a phenomenon. Alas, it is an easy concept to mimic. Living Social, Facebook, and Google have all launched similar products.
Meanwhile, the Groupon idea is not always a winner for the small businessperson seeking to corral new or increased business. I recently utilized one of their offers at a local business. While it was a savings for me, it represented a loss to the business owner. This is the risk many people are willing to take to drive business, leading many to try Groupon once and abandon it. The Groupon story from a sales and income perspective is fraught with issues.
There was a time any dot com business could drive an IPO skyward. The new ideas coming out today are too easy to mimic and barriers to entry are low. Maybe someone can explain why Linked In is priced at $92, when it only earns $.07 per share and has competitors targeting it like mad?
These new businesses are not groundbreaking ideas and are being overvalued.
Groundbreaking ideas are what will drive the economy forward. Not IPOs for coupon books.
Saturday, October 22. 2011
It's been 40 years since David L. Wolper brought Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the big screen. His adaptation was somewhat different than the book, including a name change to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The book remains a staple of children's literature. While the movie went through a remake in 2005, the original remains a classic. It has lines that are familiar to all who have seen it, and its songs still resonate.
An interesting side note about the author, Roald Dahl. He was a spy for Britain in the United States during World War II (along with several other well known personalities such as David Ogilvy). He spent quite a bit of time trolling the social circles of Washington and New York City, collecting information. During his time here, Dahl began writing and found his calling.
One hopes Charlie Bucket has managed his global empire properly and treats his Oompa-Loompas well. I haven't seen any in Zucotti Park.
The OWS movement embodies certain qualities which we don't seem to fully understand. It's neither a generational or an issue-driven movement. It lacks solutions. It has no direction or focus. There is a reason for this, defined many years ago by Eric Hoffer.
Hoffer was skeptical of mass movements, feeling they epitomized juvenile behaviors. He was able to determine why, pointing to a lack of self-esteem which the protesters exhibited. Hoffer felt self-esteem was critical in the development of adult behaviors. He outlined how widespread affluence and the rapid changes in modern society lead to a desire to attain adulthood more quickly, but with certain rites of puberty being shortchanged, particularly with regard to work and endeavor.
In his view an extended adolescence led many to seek outlets for their inability to define themselves. These people, lacking in self-identity, defined themselves as they saw themselves described by others. There was an intense self-loathing and guilt regarding position and place. This was a direct result of low self-esteem. Self-esteem was not being cultivated as many of those in protest movements didn't work, and were incapable of understanding their responsibilities. From this perspective, all mass movements were interchangeable, regardless of what they sought to promote.
Continue reading "Adolescents At Home and Abroad, with Eric Hoffer"
Friday, October 21. 2011
If you happen to be up late tonight, or just enjoy waking up and looking at the sky, tonight is the peak of the Orionids meteor shower.
I may take a bit of time to go out and have a look. Chicken Little could use the company.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 19:34 | Comment (1) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, October 20. 2011
The idea that we need more entrepreneurs to help improve the economy (a theme I've been thumping) is not lost on the government. However, their solution is to use taxpayer money to invest in areas they deem worthy. Most venture capitalists look for profitable businesses with a high potential return. Or at least some kind of return. The government has the luxury of being able to borrow as much as it wants from the Fed, or taxing the citizenry to death to pursue its dreams of a greener world...and is not seeking any return.
This is not entrepreneurial behavior. This is not venture capitalist behavior. It is the kind of behavior we should all be wary of - the government picking winners and losers. It's a precarious game, particularly if you choose a market that is so small your money isn't likely to have any kind of decent return. This administration claims the GM and Chrysler bailouts "made money" (though I am sure a careful accounting will prove otherwise). Assuming this is true, and politicians are astute enough to put taxpayer money to a profitable end - why the hell are we investing in this?
At its very core, it's just wealth redistribution. They just slapped a different label on it.
Ed: A quote from that piece:
Monday, October 17. 2011
To predict the demise of Capitalism, that is. Adam Smith did, too. So did my favorite economist, Joseph Schumpeter. Each one had different views on how it would end.
Marx foresaw the proletariat rising up and seizing the means of production. We all know how well that worked out.
Adam Smith believed an accumulative class would eventually collapse upon itself. Smith felt accumulation drove the market forward, but also felt accumulation for the sake of accumulation was wrong. He felt eventually, there would be nothing left to accumulate. Somewhat Malthusian in nature, and very unlikely based on his own concepts of markets and value.
Schumpeter went to great lengths explaining exactly why both these great minds were wrong. He felt Marx completely misunderstood the nature of markets. Schumpeter put the innovator, the entrepreneur, at the center of his economic model. It is the driving force of creativity and the desire to improve that keeps Capitalism and markets healthy. The value provided by this group of people helped offset the underlying problems of labor described by Marx.
Capitalism existed as a force for change, not a static system which was essential for Marx's system. Schumpeter was unabashed in his support for, and love of, markets and capitalism. He sought to destroy Marx's arguments, and did so in impressive manner.
Continue reading "Marx Wasn't The Only One..."
Sunday, October 16. 2011
My wife had knee surgery recently, and our medical group has a wonderful facility nearby. We arrived at 6:30 AM, checked in, she was brought into surgery at 7, and I went home. The drive being only 15 minutes, I was able to return, get something to eat, do some work, and return in time to pick her up. We left at 9:00AM.
It was only arthroscopic surgery, something I've had several times over the last 12 years (anyone playing sports is likely to have had it at least once). But it amazes me how quick these have become, showing the huge productivity gains in the medical community.
I've had my knee, my elbow, and my back all scoped. The amazing thing is all of these were done at ambulatory care centers. In 1985 I had work done on my knee which today would have been done utilizing arthroscopy. The work was done in a hospital, requiring an overnight stay.
It's amazing so many of these surgeries, which at one time required opening up a good portion of the joint, are now barely invasive. It's also incredible that you can literally walk away from many of them. My wife is already limping slightly, and should be moving fairly well by Monday (Friday surgery).
When we talk about the rising costs of medicine, we never talk about the improvements that have accompanied the price increases.
Saturday, October 15. 2011
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 1"