Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Live-blogging the President's Iraq speech 

Moments from now, I'll be live-blogging the President's Iraq speech at this post. Each number indicates a separate republishing. Refresh as necessary, and add your deep thoughts below.

1. The introduction is quite neutral. Non-ironic mention of "our unity at home" being tested. He should know, as one of the big testers of that unity. Deep bow to the troops, which completed "every mission they were given."

2. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. Long list of accomplishments. "This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security."

3. "Tonight, I encourage Iraq's leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency" and establish a representative government. Sounds a lot like George W. Bush, essentially an ex ante endorsement of his policy. Reiterates our commitment to Iraq over the long term. All military will leave by the end of next year, and our civilians will step up as the soldiers step down. "This approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq." Ultimately, the terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraq will remain united. Also sounds like Bush, and not at all like the Joe Biden of 2007, who wanted to bust the country in to three parts (yes, the same Biden has been dispatched to tell the Iraqis what to do next).

4. "Here too, it is time to turn the page." Spoke to Bush. "It is well known he and I disagree about the war from its outset, yet no one can doubt President Bush's support for our troops nor his love of our country or commitment to our security." A nice gesture, however inconsistent with much of what Barack Obama has said in the past.

5. Turns to Afghanistan. "As we speak, Al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region..." The "drawdown in Iraq" allows us to deploy the resources we need to go on offense in Afghanistan. This is, at least, consistent with his campaign theme. (And who doesn't love the way he says "Tah-lee-bahn"?)

6. As was the case in Iraq, we can't do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. "Next August, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace will be determined by conditions on the ground. But make no mistake, this transition will begin. Because open ended war serves nobody's purpose." I support this policy, although I am not sure that I support the enunciation of it, which might well give our enemies new resolve.

7. Closing positivity about our leadership in the world, linking that to domestic policy and "a growing middle class." "We spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas." A domestic policy surge. Calls for an industrial policy (says we have "put off tough decisions" about the manufacturing base -- what decisions?). Not sure which of his long litany of tasks are even the province of government -- I do know this, businesses have not put off tough decisions. This is incoherent nonsense.

8. "As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force the world has ever known." Good. Write that down. OH!: "Just as the GI bill helped those who fought World War II, including my grandfather, become the backbone of our middle class..." Nice deft counterstroke to the birthers and Muslim-rumorers.

I think he threaded the needle fairly well, putting the argument over the strategic value of OIF in to the history books. Indeed, he has pretty much adopted the Bush doctrine, skating close to the edge of acknowledging that with his tip of the hat to Dubya. Yet, the speech was as Charles Krauthammer suggests "flat," and I agree that it was odd, very much so, that he tacked on the domestic policy business at the end. Very weird for a speech about the end of a war, and reflecting that his real interest is in changing America at home.

Stephen Green is drunkblogging here.

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Iowa Electronic Markets update 

The latest news out of Gallup (which puts the Republican lead on the November "generic ballot" at an unprecedented 10 points, well ahead of the Rasmussen tracking poll) inspired me to check out the current pricing on the Iowa Electronic Markets for "Democrats Hold" contracts. (For those few of you who do not know, the Iowa Electronic Markets are actual futures markets on which people may buy contracts that predict the results of elections.) Based on trading that occurred, I believe, before the publication of the Gallup poll, the IEM have swung dramatically in favor of the Democrats losing the House in November:


The Senate, however, is an entirely different matter.

Senate control10

A little divided government would do us all some good. Perhaps even Barack Obama.

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Follow Earl 

The WSJ has a nifty map for tracking pending hurricanes, including a tab for Earl, which threatens to douse a few Labor Day weekend cookouts along the eastern seaboard.

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Wine, women and song, but especially wine 

This, it seems, is news you can use (emphasis added):

One of the most contentious issues in the vast literature about alcohol consumption has been the consistent finding that those who don't drink actually tend to die sooner than those who do. The standard Alcoholics Anonymous explanation for this finding is that many of those who show up as abstainers in such research are actually former hard-core drunks who had already incurred health problems associated with drinking.

But a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren't entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one's risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers' mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers...

[E]ven after controlling for nearly all imaginable variables — socioeconomic status, level of physical activity, number of close friends, quality of social support and so on — the researchers (a six-member team led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin) found that over a 20-year period, mortality rates were highest for those who had never been drinkers, second-highest for heavy drinkers and lowest for moderate drinkers.

We moderate-to-heavy drinkers will try not to lord our superior longevity over the rest of you.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Flying blind at Lehman 

The litigation currently going on in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy case reveals just how uninformed the risk managers at Lehman were on the eve of the firm blowing up. Bloomberg reports:
Barclays Plc had no idea how big Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s futures-and-options trading business was when it considered taking over the defunct bank’s derivatives trades at exchanges in 2008, a Barclays executive said.

“Lehman’s books were in such a mess that I don’t think they knew where they were,” Elizabeth James, a director of Barclays’s futures business, testified today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. James worked on Barclays’s purchase of Lehman’s brokerage during the 2008 financial crisis.

She said she received an e-mail from former Barclays trading executive Stephen King saying Lehman had “absolutely no idea” if it had sold $2 billion more options than it had bought, or whether it owned $4 billion more than it had sold.

The e-mail was dated Sept. 22, 2008, the day Barclays completed its takeover of the brokerage and a week after Lehman filed the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. James was testifying in a trial to determine whether Barclays should pay Lehman as much as $11 billion for making an allegedly undisclosed “windfall” on the deal.
All of this ultimately reflects poorly on Dick Fuld, who ran the firm in an autocratic manner. One wonders if better senior management would have placed more emphasis on compliance, back office operations, and rigorous risk management practices with respect to derivatives. There was more going wrong at Lehman than the linked article discusses, and the evaporation of the firm's capital was so huge, and so rapid, that it was a case of fraud, or incompetence, or both. In that belief, I follow in the Jim Chanos school of thought.

CWCID: Bomber Girl

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Monday, August 30, 2010

While we are on the subject of banks 

My favorite song from "Mary Poppins" is, perhaps not surprisingly, "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank." I had, however, forgotten how tremendously apropos and, well, instructive it is.

I'm a complete dork. I love it when Banks sings "plantations of ripening tea," but so many of the other lines really do apply today.

And, yes, that is Dick Van Dyke.

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Just because I'm a glutton for punishment... 

...I'm going to link to Clive Crook's little write-up on Glenn Beck's rally on Saturday. (Actually, many of you who beat me up for this post will like Crook's, I think.)

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C note 

Is Citigroup untrustworthy?

The spat between Citigroup (C) and CLSA analyst Mike Mayo continues. This time the veteran bank equity analyst is calling foul on the issue of "trust" when it comes to the bank's management team.

"While Citigroup has positives, such as better capital markets, improving credit and emerging market positions, our concern around trust reflects a long-term consideration," Mayo told clients in a research note Monday.

It does not get better from there.

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Matt Drudge is an imp 

You might have been able to hear Matt Drudge cackling when he juxtaposed these pictures...

Obama and Putin

Funny and cruel!

UPDATE: The reaction to Barack Obama in his helmet brings this post to mind. Obama may actually be hurting the public health by wearing a helmet!

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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...is more dangerous than you might think.

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One from the archives 

I call this one "Spaniel in flowers."

Spaniel in the flowers

Original post here. I no longer see the Spaniels regularly, and I miss them.

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A first lady to admire 

My opinion of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy just went up. A lot.

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If stock market analysts are extremely bearish... 

...does that mean it is time to buy?

For the first time since at least 1997, fewer than 29 percent of ratings for stocks covered by brokerages worldwide are “buys,” according to 159,919 recommendations compiled by Bloomberg. Analysts are turning more pessimistic even as they push up estimates for profit growth among Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies to 36 percent, the highest since 1988. . .

As we have noted so many times previously, following the Wall Street crowd of analysts is rarely the way to make money.

Hmmm. And Barry Ritholtz is not exactly a bull. Double hmmm.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Qualifications watch 

If I lived in California I would vote for Carly Fiorina this fall, although more to achieve the partisan result in the Senate and the end of Barbara Boxer -- who is both liberal and stupid -- than out of any particular wish to see Fiorina's political career advance. I am not at all clear on her accomplishments, other than her having been the female CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a top economic adviser to the McCain campaign [**cough**]. But then, that is a gilded resume compared to many of these clowns.

This, though, is as sad a commentary on the state of American politics as any of seen in a while (and perhaps any that you've seen since my post on Glenn Beck yesterday...):

Carly Fiorina, the Republican Senate candidate from California, will travel to the Middle East over the Labor Day weekend to shore up her foreign policy credentials.

Marty Wilson, her campaign manager, said the candidate wants to be updated on the region, according to the Associated Press.

A freaking trip the Middle East is adequate to "shore up" the "foreign policy credentials" of a candidate for the United States Senate? Fortunately, perhaps, Senators don't actually need foreign policy credentials.

The anticipated benefit of the shoring up must be enough for Fiorina to trade away several days actually campaigning in California less than 70 days before the election. I do not know which is worse, that a Republican political campaign thinks voters are so easily duped (an opinion shared by Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign), or that it is quite possibly correct in its assessment.

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Facebook status of the day 

From a lefty environmentalist Facebook friend, a dilemma:

Found out today they'll pay my way--plus my son's--to go give a talk on carbon offsets in Thailand. Now the ethical dilemma: How to justify flying around the globe in order to bash carbon offsets as a false solution to climate change?

First comment, "buy some offsets for your flight!" Heh.

Refreshing, though, to see that she understands that carbon offsets are the opiate of the chickengreens.

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Off to Vermont for the day 

Delivering the THT to Landmark College in Putney, just north of Brattleboro, which means at least ten hours of driving through the boring parts of New England for me, perhaps trapped in returning shore traffic on the way down. Many of you, no doubt, are hoping for that.

I'll try not to get any more liberal while I'm there.

Meanwhile, whether true or not, this is fairly amusing. (Theo, if you enjoy that sort of thing, which I do. Unofficially, of course.)

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Choosing words poorly 

I have never seen Glenn Beck's show, and I have seen him on television under five times, so I have no direct opinion on whether he is an idiot, a genius, or an evil genius. I respectfully suggest, however, that when you have offended a huge proportion of African-Americans by scheduling a rally in the same spot and on the same date as Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, you might not want to promote it as "[leading] America out of darkness." Unless, of course, you are trying to piss people off.

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Arnold on the public pension mess 

Well put:

Few Californians in the private sector have $1 million in savings, but that's effectively the retirement account they guarantee to public employees who opt to retire at age 55 and are entitled to a monthly, inflation-protected check of $3,000 for the rest of their lives.

Read the whole thing. It seems, for at least this fleeting moment, that Schwartzenegger's found his inner Christie. Let's hope he does not let go of it.

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Friday, August 27, 2010


Back when Steven Van Zandt had his own act, the Disciples of Soul, he did a couple of great albums that were not nearly as successful as they ought to have been. Tonight somebody reminded me of "I Am A Patriot," which I listened to a lot 25 years ago.

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Two years ago this evening... 

Two years ago this evening Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party for president, and formally kicked off his campaign with an astonishing rally at Denver's Invesco Field. The TigerHawk Teenager was there, and snapped a few pictures from the cheap seats.

The One

Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing.

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Tiger picture of the day 


There is a disturbing side to this story, mega-cuteness notwithstanding:

A two-month-old tiger cub has been discovered hidden with a stuffed tiger toy in the baggage of a woman heading to Iran from Thailand, wildlife protection officials have said.

You have to wonder whether they also found the smuggled bomb miniaturization plans.

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Governor Awesome drops the hammer 

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has just fired his education chief and two-time conservative gubernatorial aspirant, Bret Schundler, for lying. Assuming the facts are as described in the linked article, I would have fired Schundler were I in Christie's position, so good. More importantly, Christie has established his credibility as a boss not to be trifled with, always useful cred in the Soprano State.

Onward and upward, guvna.

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The limits of the law 

The Obama administration has, again, backed away from trying a detained suspected terrorist. It is almost as if the White House is realizing -- egads -- that the criminal justice system is not a useful means for dealing with unlawful enemy combatants. Not that Barack Obama will ever admit that.

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Friday afternoon movie trailer 

This seems like a movie many of our readers would enjoy...

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 19th Amendment 

Before my late father passed away early this year, I used to joke with his doctors that he was so old that, when he was born, women did not yet have the right to vote in this country. That was true -- he was born in 1915, and the 19th Amendment was certified 90 years ago today, in 1920.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
At the time of the Constitutional Convention, it was pretty much taken for granted that the franchise was intended for property-owning white guys. I guess that it is easy for me to say this as a middle-aged property-owning white guy, but I think women have made a great deal of social, political and economic progress over the past century. An argument can be made that there is still work to be done, perhaps in such areas as equal pay (although there is data that suggests that the gap has narrowed in the past few decades), but from a big-picture standpoint, it is much better to be an adult female in the U.S. today than it was in 1910 or 1920.

I was going to imbed one of those old TV ads for Virginia Slims, but I am not a big fan of cigarettes, and I thought some might consider it to be a wee bit condescending (the "baby" part). So, just the link. I have tried so hard to reform my ways since I joined what was then an all male club in college just over three decades ago. I know that I still have a long way to go, baby. Oh, darn.

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The United States Postal Service is losing $1 billion per month. This is not surprising, because nothing important must by needs come in the mail any more. With all due respect to the post office's place in the national psyche (such as it is) and the imperatives of catalog merchants, we need a long term plan to wind down this now obsolete agency with an adequate transition for its employees and few remaining customers. By 2015, 2020 at the latest, the USPS will have no purpose more important than the manufacture of buggy whips.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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While Rome burns 

As a know-it-all teenager growing up in Iowa, I once declared with great certainty that the federal government should not do anything that it was possible for the states to do. My father looked at me over his glasses and suggested that I might not hold to that opinion if I lived in Massachusetts, New York, or New Jersey. He might have added California, which took time out from not dealing with its catastrophic fiscal crisis to erect a truly asinine non-tariff trade barrier:

A bill authored by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D – San Fernando Valley) requiring companies seeking contracts to build California’s High Speed Rail system to disclose their involvement in deportations to concentration camps during World War II gained final approval from the state legislature today. AB 619, the Holocaust Survivor Responsibility Act, passed the Assembly on a vote of 50 – 7 and was sent to the governor, who will have until September 30 to act on it. AB 619 would require companies seeking to be awarded high speed rail contracts to publicly disclose whether they had a direct role in transporting persons to concentration camps, and provide a description of any remedial action or restitution they have made to survivors, or families of victims. The bill requires the High Speed Rail Authority to include a company’s disclosure as part of the contract award process.

The point, of course, is to prevent the French from competing for the contract, their trains having transported Jews to concentration camps while under occupation by the Germans. Too bad for California, because by my reckoning the French make the best high-speed trains in the world. At least among countries with relatively weak currencies.

The United States, or for that matter, the State of California, had better hope that other countries do not hold it to the same standard. See, e.g., this gem from the comments:
Just curious; how were the Japanese-Americans transported inland in 1942?

No moral equivalence implied, but I would be quite surprised if there were not members of the California legislature who were descended from people who benefited from the "forfeited" property from those deported Japanese-Americans. And do we really need the many countries against which we have waged war, however legitimately, imposing similar restrictions? Of course, the law does serve one essential purpose. It distracts at least some of the public from reflecting on the rank incompetence of the California political class.

CWCID: The always interesting Facebook feed of Mindles H. Dreck.

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On the tarmac tab dump 

At O'Hare, in my seat with the door still open. Here's what I have this morning.

Have archeologists discovered the house of Odysseus? Maybe the Homer was writing history.

Obamacare may end health care benefits for college students. It seems that collegiate policies, which are relatively cheap to provide, do not meet the new law's "one size fits all" requirements. This is not a surprise, since a central feature of the new law is to bring the young in to the system (that is, to tax them) to pay for the benefits of the old or enfeebled.

Another reason to throw the Republican lever in November.

Door closing, more later.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chicago phone camera dump 

Digital photography is not the same as traditional photography -- it is more a means of communication than a tool for provoking memory or a visual art. It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I snap a lot of pictures and upload them to Facebook or zap them to friends. All part of the running gag that is my workaday life. So, anyway, a few pics from the day stashed in the Blackberry...

The view from my window this morning early...

Lincoln Park

Scenes from the morning run along the lake...

Runnin' LSD

Runnin' LSD

Dinner at "16" in the new Trump tower (Nano-review: Quite good food, beautiful views, a bit over-priced, and much too intrusive service)...


Walking back from dinner, up North Michigan Avenue...

Mag Mile

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Can Bush be blamed? 

The headline from the AP article is not good -- "Bad news on homes, goods adds to air of recession" -- and the lede is worse:
It's starting to feel like another recession.

Businesses are ordering fewer goods. Home sales are the slowest in decades. Jobs are scarce, and unemployment claims are rising. Perhaps most worrisome, manufacturing activity, which had been one of the economy's few bright spots, is faltering.

"The odds of a double-dip are rising and uncomfortably high," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, referring to the possibility that the nation will tip back into recession. "Nothing else can go wrong. There is no cushion left."
George W. Bush has not occupied the Oval Office for more than 19 months, so it will become more and more difficult to blame a double dip on his administration. Even a short and mild secondary recession will be a difficult hurdle for President Obama's re-election campaign, which must start in earnest in 17 months.

I am a believer that a sitting president can't do all that much to help a weak economy, no matter how much he owns it politically. The executive branch can do some things independently, but the more meaningful work must involve other parts of the government. Many economists believe that the Reagan tax cuts of 1981 -- really, the Kemp-Roth bill or ERTA -- had some positive effect, although such effects may have been modified by TEFRA the following year. Congress passed those bills, albeit with strong leadership from the White House economic and legislative team, as well as the Fed. Clearly, it would be politically more difficult for a 21st Century Democratic president to captain a similar effort involving tax cuts favoring wealthier taxpayers and businesses, since such legislation is anathema to most Democratic members of the House and Senate, and much of the party's base.

One thing a president can do -- which Ronald Reagan loved to do -- is to use the bully pulpit to talk up the entrepreneurial spirit of American business. Reagan understood that economic growth and the associated (and politically important) job growth would flow largely from non-S&P 500 companies. That is still true today, notwithstanding the rather large cash balances on many public company balance sheets, which possibly can be seen as a barometer of managerial uncertainty, and not so much a venture capital fund.

That raises the question of why President Obama has not used his bully pulpit to deliver rousing speeches encouraging American ingenuity and business savvy. There are plenty of people who voted for him who are in positions of leadership in large and small businesses, and many would be very receptive to a bit of cheerleading. There is very little political downside, even if a rah-rah tone might be slightly outside of President Obama's comfort zone. True, he has never really worked in or run a growth business, other than his campaign organizations, which didn't have conventional P&L and balance sheet parameters or objectives. Yet, President Obama has many close and early supporters who have that life experience, and he is an astute enough politician to understand the importance of such experiences and incorporate them into a set-piece speech. The teleprompter is presumably agnostic and non-partisan with respect to the words it accepts and shows on screen.

I don't know that a series of Reaganesque speeches on American entrepreneurship would actually help to spur economic growth, but it might buy President Obama some political time and space to operate in, and steer what will almost certainly be a more evenly split Congress toward some legislation that is at least mildly positive for business and employment growth.

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"Squeal like a pig": The anniversary 

Forty years have passed since James Dickey wrote Deliverance, an important novel I have never read but will now that I have thought of it. Anywho, the New York Times has a nice story marking the anniversary of the book, including some trenchant observations about the state of men in literature today and the history of the famous "squeal like a pig" line from the movie. A lunch time enrichment opportunity, perhaps.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Good Soldiers 

I read about a third of David Finkel's The Good Soldiers, a platoon-level account of fighting in Baghdad during the first year of the "surge," on my flight to Chicago this evening. It is the most evocative description of infantry combat I've read in a long time, perhaps the Dispatches of the Iraq war. Light night beer and burger finished, I'm running up to my room to keep reading.

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Outing the bagel tax 

Our "public servants" prefer to hide taxes so that they can spend our money without paying a political price. Everything from paycheck withholding to the absurd corporate income tax to undisclosed business-to-business taxes hide the true extent of taxation from the average voter. It is therefore a good and wonderful thing that this business, at least, is deflecting the irritation over a new tax (in the guise of an interpretation of existing law) toward the guilty parties responsible officials. More businesses should do the same.

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The housing market locks up 

It seems to me that this presages another leg down in housing values:

Sales of previously occupied homes fell to the lowest level in 15 years last month as the economy weakened.

The National Association of Realtors says July's sales fell by more than 27 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million. It was the largest monthly drop on records dating back to 1968. June's sales pace was revised downward to 5.26 million.

Home sales picked up in the spring when the government was offering tax credits. But the market has struggled since the tax credits expired on April 30.

I am the rare middle American in his late forties who has never made any money on real estate. I always buy high and always sell low, and for that reason do not consider my home equity when assessing my own financial position. But we have foolishly persuaded most Americans to believe that their home is their "most important asset" instead of a burdensome expense, and they are not going to be happy about this. As people realize that their house is worth less even than in early 2010, their confidence will fall still further and the economy will struggle under the sheer weight of all that gloom.

The temptation, in an election year, will be to reinstate the "temporary" subsidy for home purchases that prevailed through April. This would be a mistake. When you are going through hell, keep going. We need housing prices to decline to a sustainable level, the deadbeats to be evicted, and the bad mortgages to be written off. Until that happens, there will be no hope of a real recovery for the consumer economy.

Of course, your results may vary.

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Stealing the election in Michigan 

The Democrats in Michigan must know they have a problem. An editorial in this morning's Detroit Free Press:

There are campaign dirty tricks, and then there are perversions of the electoral process that cry out for some authoritative response and criminal consequences.

The flap over an allegedly fake slate of Tea Party candidates, intended to siphon votes from Republicans this fall, is looking more and more like the latter. It's time for the Oakland County prosecutor and the state attorney general to get involved, and get to the bottom of this affair.

What we know so far casts real doubt on the sincerity of this Tea Party exercise. The principals behind it have been exposed as Democrats with union ties. They were all put on the ballot in very competitive districts where votes for them would hurt Republican hopefuls. And last week, a Democratic operative in OaklandCounty was accused of fraudulently notarizing affidavits for a dozen of the candidates on the ballot. That in itself is a crime worth prosecuting.

If Democrats in Michigan are in trouble, they are in trouble everywhere.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Attention political campaigns 

We feel ignored. We get more traffic than a lot of these dudes, and are available to be corrupted at comparable rates.

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Monday test 

Via Instapundit, take the online test to determine your "sociosexuality" index, or how promiscuous you are. The results include a listing of average scores by country, indicating where you might be most comfortable.

Unlike the O'Quiz that TigerHawk links to, there is no suggestion here to post your results. That said, Helsinki is an interesting city.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

President Obama and the book store 

I like a book store as much as anybody, but was this really necessary?

Vineyard Haven - President Barack Obama had a simple task for his first morning on vacation: shoot over to a Martha's Vineyard book store to fill out his daughters' summer reading list and grab himself a novel.

Easier said than done.

His sports utility vehicle, part of a 20-vehicle motorcade, passed through a cordon of Massachusetts State Police motorcycle officers, in a protective cocoon of Secret Service agents.

Tagging along for the quick trip on Friday were White House communications trucks, an ambulance and two vans full of reporters and photographers.

Uh, hasn't the White House heard of Amazon Prime? Given the summer traffic on Martha's Vinyard, which is hellish under the best of circumstances, there are no doubt any number of residents who would spring for the annual membership fee just to keep the Obama family from venturing out for trivialities.

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Sunday morning thought experiment 

My views on the Park51 project (the "Ground Zero mosque" to us righties) are well-documented. That said, the more sanctimonious and culturally-outreachy defenders of the project really ought to address this thought experiment:

A friend poses the following: Imagine that there really were these fundamentalist Christian terror cells all over the United States, as the Department of Homeland Security imagines. Let’s say a group of five of these terrorists hijacked a plane, flew it to Mecca, and plowed it into the Kaaba.

Now let’s say a group of well-meaning, well-funded Christians — Christians whose full-time job was missionary work — decided that the best way to promote healing would be to pressure the Saudi government to drop its prohibition against permitting non-Muslims into Mecca so that these well-meaning, well-funded Christian missionaries could build a $100 million dollar church and community center a stone’s throw from where the Kaaba used to be — you know, as a bridge-building gesture of interfaith understanding.

What do you suppose President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, the New York Times, and other Ground Zero mosque proponents would say about the insensitive, provocative nature of the proposal?

The thought experiment continues from there.

As I've written before, our Constitution and system of government allows, or ought to allow, the owners of land or a leasehold to build a place to assemble and practice their religion, whether or not it is Islam and whether or not that land is near the sight of the September 11 attacks. But that same Constitution also ought to allow us to deride and denounce that decision as inflammatory, which it manifestly is.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Meet me in AC for AC 

I'm off to Atlantic City to see Ann Coulter debate James Carville tonight at 8 pm. There are still tickets available if you are in the New York - Philly - Wilmington corridor and haven't come up with a better alternative. Otherwise, check back here tomorrow for bloggy coverage.

If you show up, I'm wearing jeans, a red shirt, and a khaki jacket.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday afternoon stroll memory lane 

Who out there remembers Gordon Sinclair's "The Americans" from 1973? I do. It was a shot in the arm when the country was really in the doldrums, all the more so because Sinclair, a famous Canadian broadcaster, was not known to have been particularly pro-American. Indeed, quite the contrary.

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Sarah Palin and Dr. Laura 

I do not understand why Sarah Palin would come to the defense of Dr. Laura, via Twitter. If she wants to be a serious national politician with wide appeal, why comment at all about Dr. Laura -- what is gained? If she wants to comment, why tweet?
Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!

Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")
Nationally syndicated conservative columnist Deroy Murdock is quoted in the Daily Beast:
“Sarah Palin's tweets resemble something scribbled by a ninth-grade cheerleader. Is it asking too much for a reputed American political leader to communicate in complete sentences? Palin's gravitas gap is growing into the Gravitas Canyon,” said the media fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. “Even worse, she deploys her vacuity to defend an acerbic talk-show host who just detonated herself by tossing around the word 'nigger' on the air 11 times, as if it were a volleyball. The American right can do better than this. And it must."
Actually, my niece was a ninth-grade cheerleader last year, and her text messages to me were nicely written, but Murdock's point is valid.

I have speculated previously that Sarah Palin has little interest in being a national candidate, and prefers life as it is now -- she can spend as much time with her family as she pleases, and make a good living on the lecture circuit with a handful of trips to the Lower 48. Her base will remain, and her base is passionate about her. In a post-Obama United States -- whether in 2012 or 2016 -- a successful candidate for president will have broader appeal than she currenty enjoys.

UPDATE: Sarah Palin has a longer explanation of her defense of Dr. Laura on Facebook. I believe that in terms of media and channel, this is a better forum than Twitter for a national politician. However, I do not understand the phrase, "taking back my First Amendment Rights," as it relates to Dr. Laura. Was there a government entity that threatened to shut her down? The First Amendment protections regarding free speech and free press are not a shield against criticism from other individual citizens.

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Luxuries and necessities 

It is interesting how changing circumstances can affect one's sense of the "necessary." Via Ezra Klein, a graph of American attitudes about luxuries and necessities over time.

Luxuries and necessities

Ezra laments the "centrality" of cars -- the widespread and inelastic idea that they are "necessities" -- which will make it difficult to reduce carbon emissions. One need not be a climate alarmist to regret that we have organized our living environment virtually to require an automobile in most circumstances. One can simply resent sending money to evil people who are trying to do us harm. Either way, that number is unlikely to change much until the great swath of American suburbia starts to regulate and plan the use of land quite differently.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday night Caption This! 

The White House Facebook feed has its moments. The original caption for the picture below:

Barack Obama helps spell out "Ohio" with the Weithman family, Rachel, 9, Josh, 11, and mom Rhonda, in their home in Columbus, Ohio Aug. 18, 2010.

I think we all know there is room for improvement.

Dance mania

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The Mann "hockey stick": RIP? 


Oh, my. There is a new and important study on temperature proxy reconstructions (McShane and Wyner 2010) submitted into the Annals of Applied Statistics and is listed to be published in the next issue. According to Steve McIntyre, this is one of the “top statistical journals”. This paper is a direct and serious rebuttal to the proxy reconstructions of Mann. It seems watertight on the surface, because instead of trying to attack the proxy data quality issues, they assumed the proxy data was accurate for their purpose, then created a bayesian backcast method. Then, using the proxy data, they demonstrate it fails to reproduce the sharp 20th century uptick.

Now, there’s a new look to the familiar “hockey stick”.

It would be a wonderful thing if the actual scientists and statisticians in the TigerHawk readership weighed in, pro or con.

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Ann Coulter takes one for the (other) team 

Gay rights are gaining traction even within the ranks of social conservatives. WorldNetDaily has kicked my friend Ann Coulter off the agenda at their "Taking America Back National Conference" because she is speaking at "HOMOCON," a gathering of gay conservatives. Ann took the occasion to wonder why "all gays aren't Republican," and to tell WorldNetDaily (which distributes her column) that they are "nuts on the birther thing."

Yup. When you're to the right of Ann, you need to ask yourself whether you are a nut. No. Really. You do.

And Republicans should capitalize on Ann's advice and take it further. (Ann is not, as far as I know, a supporter of gay marriage. Yet.) While the social conservatives (with whom I only occasionally agree on the substance) do not generally offend me because I usually see merit in their arguments even when I disagree with their conclusions, their opposition to gay rights bothers me because it strikes me as simply cruel. To me, equal rights for homosexuals is a much simpler issue than, for example, abortion, about which any thoughtful person should at least be ambivalent.

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Facebook status of the day 

I woke up this morning to this status update from a Facebook friend (and actual friend) with more than the usual, er, capacity:

It took six rounds of Lagavulin, but finally got the guy sitting next to me at the Petroleum Club to shut up after a spirited but vacuous discussion. Turns out he's the top trial lawyer in Oklahoma, a Marxist, and can't hold his liquor. After he passed out, the entire team at the bar gave me a standing ovation, which I feel is an undeserved accolade.

Nice. I can think of less effective means of "tort reform." Only 49 "top trial lawyers" to go!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Democrats have waked a sleeping dragon 

Beware numismatists aroused.

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An important question 

What are the differences between tequila and mezcal (which, by the way, I had for the first time this weekend)?

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If you're old enough to remember watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, live on TV, you are probably old enough to remember drinking beer out of returnable bottles. I remember well collecting many cases worth of empty tall boys of Genesee Cream Ale after one successful party, and getting my deposit back from the local beer distributor in Pennsylvania. The deposit was a material percentage of the cost of the party, after all.

AP is reporting that the era of returnable bottles could be coming to an end.
For years, it was the way breweries did business: sell bottles, then take back the empties. It just made sense, especially to folks weaned in the lean days of the Great Depression and World War II, that bottles should be scrubbed and refilled, not thrown away.

These days, in a culture where nearly everything is disposable, recycling is a rite and energy costs are high, the decision of whether to toss tradition into the trash heap lies with one brewery about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

The 138-year-old, family-owned Straub Brewery is begging customers — mostly in Pennsylvania, but also some in Ohio, New York and Virginia — to return thousands of empty cases. If enough customers do, Straub will keep selling cases of 12- and 16-ounce returnable bottles past year's end.
I realize that there can be differing viewpoints on the economics and environmental costs and benefits of the various methods of packaging and distributing beer for retail consumption. That said, TigerHawk readers, if you have any bottles of Straub beer, do the right thing and return those empties!

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Mystery photo 

I took this picture recently. Betcha can't guess what this is, where it is, or what it does. Valuable TigerHawk kudos to the commenter who figures it out.

Mystery photo

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sestak sinking in PA 

It is not yet Labor Day, so there is a bit of time left on the clock, but things are looking tough for Joe Sestak in the latest poll tracking the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania.
With Joe Sestak's victory in the Democratic primary and the poll bump that came with it now three months in the rear view mirror, Pat Toomey has taken a 45-36 lead in the Pennsylvania Senate race.
On paper, Sestak would seem to be a good candidate to run for national office in Pennsylvania -- as a retired admiral in the U.S. Navy, he ought to have decent national security credentials, and he demonstrated that he could be an excellent fundraiser and defeat a long-time Republican incumbent in his race for the House seat in 2006. However, Sestak's command personality may make it harder for him to connect with voters who might be part of his natural base, as well as swing voters.

Pat Toomey is not the same exact type of candidate as Rick Santorum, who lost by historic margins as an incumbent in 2006 -- Toomey is generally perceived as being more conservative on fiscal issues, and less outspoken on issues of importance to social conservatives. Still, it will be very interesting to see how well Toomey performs in certain key districts around suburban Philadelphia, which have been trending Democratic for some time (in the PA 13th Congressional District, which includes some of Philadelphia County, Democrat Allyson Schwartz is expected to win re-election fairly easily). If Toomey does well in the suburbs, that will send shivers down the spine (and not tingles up the leg) of many Democrats concerned with the national picture, looking toward 2012, especially considering this bit of analysis:
The biggest key to the race is probably Obama's considerably fallen popularity. His approval rating stands at only 40% with 55% of voters disapproving of him, one of the biggest declines from 2008 performance we've seen for him anywhere in the country. Part of Obama's low numbers is a reflection of the Republican trending voter pool in the state this year, but there are also more people who voted for Obama but disapprove of him now in Pennsylvania than there are most places. Our national poll last week found only 7% of Obama voters are now unhappy with the job he's doing but in Pennsylvania the figure is 15%. Toomey has a 14 point lead with those disaffected Obama voters, showing the extent to which those voters moving away from Obama are moving away from the Democratic Party in general.
Pennsylvania may not be a bellwether state in terms of national politics -- it was famously described by James Carville as "Philadelphia on one end, Pittsburgh on the other, with Alabama in the middle" -- but the election of a U.S. Senator seemingly to the right of the center of its body politic, and potentially by a convincing margin, would be a notable event.

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Yet another desecration 

With all the sturm und drang over the "Ground Zero mosque," you'd think people would be up in arms over this outrage. Is nothing sacred?

CWCID: Regular TH comment troll Christopher Chambers.

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The death of the word "robust" 

From "4 Things We Hate About the Obama Oil Spill Review" we get this cranky and yet awesome little rant:

Let's just start with this: it's time to ban the word "robust" from usage as a term of action by both business and government. We can't even read the word "robust" anymore in a corporate press release or government statement without a language lie detector in our brain igniting neuron fireworks -- and we had to read the word many times in the Obama oil spill review document.

Agreed. When I see "robust" in any institutional communication, my inner Pavlov's dog smells bullshit. And that is a tragedy, for "robust" was once a fine and manly word, now ruined for us all by corporate flacks and political hacks.

I wish the professional spinners would stop spoiling good words.

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Harry Reid and the "Ground Zero" Mosque 

Senate Majority Leader ("aspiring Minority Leader") Harry Reid has come out in opposition to the "Ground Zero" mosque, the Islamic center proposed to be built in lower Manhattan. My own views on the subject are essentially libertarian. I am certainly not a passionate opponent of the mosque, although I bridle at the seemingly inconsistent treatment given St. Nicholas, which was actually destroyed on 9/11. I am also sympathetic with the argument that the lack of meaningful domestic Islamist terrorism since September 11, 2001 has more to do with the moderation of the American Muslim community than any particular measure taken by our government, and that we -- including especially Republican partisans trying to stir up trouble -- ought to be very careful about alienating it.

On the question of Harry Reid's intervention, I both understand the pressure he is under and think that he handled it poorly. The pressure: I was in Las Vegas airport yesterday morning delighting in the shining of my shoes by a very chatty African-American man, originally from Detroit. At no prompting from me, he launched in to a measured but pointed denunciation of the Ground Zero mosque and Barack Obama's wishy-washiness on the subject. He declared "nothing against Muslims," but regarded the mosque as a slap in the face. Point is, if that guy is a hawk on the GZ Mosque then it is obviously a hotter potato in Nevada politics than I would have dared imagine. So I understand why Reid spoke out in opposition. But I am not sure why he could not have parried the taunting from Sharron Angle by saying simply that "this really is a local land-use issue in New York -- just as we would not want New Yorkers telling us what we can build here in Nevada, we should stay out of their business." I would think that would have made the issue go away for most Nevada voters. And, by the way, it is the right answer.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

The 1099 "reform" and the continuing war on business 

Among the many new burdens on businesses large and small, this is among the most offensive. Companies that operate with different systems and dispersed accounts payable cannot know whether they exceed the $600 limit by looking inside one system. Mere compliance with this provision is going to cost every business in America a lot of money, all dead weight cost that will further lower rates of return, increase costs of capital, and suppress economic growth. If we had a competent press, it would immediately ask any politician who professes to support "small business" whether he or she will vote to repeal the new 1099 rules. Sadly, we do not.

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No room 

After reading the New York Times article entitled "City Cemeteries Face Gridlock," it made me thankful that my family has a tradition of cremation. I can appreciate that there are religious beliefs which indicate that burial is the proper route, whatever one's interpretation of Genesis 3:19, Genesis 18:27 and Ecclesiastes 3:20 might be.

The article indicates that the only remaining real estate bubble in the country might be within the fence lines of an urban cemetery. Even for New Yorkers, this graf revealed a somewhat harsh reality:
“We have people who would like to disinter Mom and Dad and sell the graves back to make some money,” said Richard Fishman, the director of the New York State Division of Cemeteries.
If Spielberg could write a mega-hit horror movie about greedy real estate developers digging up graves to make room for suburban sprawl, it seems to me that there are many scary and comedic possibilities for a dramatic premise based on a liquid secondary market for used grave sites.

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The power of bacon 

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a front page feature article on Sunday, describing an exurban family practicing "21st-Century homesteading." The Fraser family "raises bees, chickens, ducks, and pigs, for honey, eggs, and meat."

As to the pig part of that farming, the details are fairly far down in the article, which is worth reading in its entirety.
One day not long after Firefly and Daisy were butchered, Carolina - who, like her sister, had been thinking of becoming a vegetarian - asked what Mom was cooking.

"Bacon and sausage from our pigs," Megan explained.

"Ewwww!" Carolina protested.

"I felt really sad about the pigs," Eliza recalls earnestly, "but the bacon smelled really good."

So it went for Scott, whose coworkers asked how he could possibly kill those cute little pigs. One day he gave away samples of fresh bacon, and in the time it took to fry it up, the questions stopped.

"Never underestimate the power of bacon," he says.
It might be one of the most powerful substances on this planet. I would much rather that the Russians supply the Iranians with as much applewood-smoked bacon as the country could consume (but for it being haram), and not uranium.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

On undeclared boycotts 

It sure looks as though Harvard University is boycotting Israel. One is forced to wonder what investments Harvard has in Arab countries that deny basic civil rights that Westerners take for granted. The United Arab Emirates, for example.

UPDATE: Maybe it ain't so.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

A question for conservative bloggers 

Right Wing News has polled conservative bloggers -- not including me, probably because of my squishy positions on social matters -- and come up with a list of the "25 Worst Figures in American History." Uh, I have a question: Al Gore makes the list but Jefferson Davis doesn't? I mean, we used to want to hang that traitor from a sour apple tree, and now he does not even make the farookin' top 25? Do "conservative bloggers" in fact read less history than, er, conservatives?

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Keep on shoppin' in the free world 

That was then, this is now.

Then, Time Magazine can snark a bit about a line in President Bush's speech of September 20, 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, and other critics pile on later:
And for God's sake keep shopping — "I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy" — and keep praying...
Now, the first lady can make essentially the same request with respect to the Gulf economy, albeit in a much more inviting way:
This weekend's jaunt was announced after first lady Michelle Obama said during a recent trip to Panama City Beach, Florida that, "One of the best ways that fellow Americans can help is to come on down here and spend some money," She's expected to be joined by the president and 9-year old Sasha.
It's nice to know that a current and a recent occupant of the White House agree on a form of economic stimulation.

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It's tough all over 

Good point.

I do think that high stress jobs, be they in the White House or in some other demanding setting, burn people out. The phenomenon is real. But VDH makes an excellent point -- neither do I recall that the press detected similar fatigue among the Bushies. Maybe they were tougher, they having been tempered in the fires of private sector competition, or the press just was not looking. It is hard to imagine that they were under less pressure.

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Laura Schlessinger is a tool 

The lefty blogs are in high dudgeon over Laura Schlessinger's repeated use of the "N" word in an exchange with an African-American woman who called in with a genuine issue, her frustration -- which sounds legitimate to me -- that her white husband would not stand up for her when his friends and family make "racist" or at least race-based comments. Conservatives should object just as loudly. Dr. Laura's rant is brain dead stuff from beginning to end. Forget the N-word baiting. Where's the sense or compassion in advising people to avoid "marrying out of their race" if they do not want suffer the indignity of dumbshit generalizations? Huh? You do not have to be a politically-correct academic liberal to think that is both idiotic and mean. And, by the way, it is bad for America, which could use a little more interracial marriage.

Makes me embarrassed to be a conservative.

Professor Althouse more along the same lines.

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On unions and their impact on the recovery 

Richard Posner written a crisp post on the impact of labor unions, and the Obama administration's pro-union policies, on the economic recovery (or lack thereof). As is often true with Posner's writing, the piece challenges shibboleths on both the right and the left. Read the whole thing.

CWCID: "Bomber Girl."

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One thing I like about Sarah Palin 

Whatever else you might think of her, it is hard not to admire Sarah Palin's capacity for causing Democrats to spontaneously detonate their own political careers.

A New Hampshire state legislator resigned his office Thursday after becoming the second Democrat in as many days to speculate about Sarah Palin's death on Facebook.

State Rep. Timothy Horrigan made the remarks Wednesday night in a thread discussing the Alaska plane crash that killed former Sen. Ted Stevens.

"Well a dead Palin wd be even more dangerous than a live one...she is all about her myth & if she was dead she cldn't commit any more gaffes," Horrigan wrote.

I admit, I am a bit surprised that the dude resigned. Would his constituents really have tossed him out for a quip about Sarah Palin, however blockheaded, on his Facebook page?

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

California Thursday dumping of the tabs 

The tabs are piling up like grapes drying in to raisins in the hot California sun (of which more below).

Hardening the "cultural confidence" of those of us who subscribe to traditional American values. The linked post addresses an issue that has been rattling around in my own noggin for some time. Teaser:

Why does the Ruling Class, using Codevilla’s term, have such strong cultural confidence?

And what can we do to undermine it?

If I had to pick an ultimate target for activism and action by Conservatives, Libertarians, Tea Partiers, and common-sense Conservatives, it would be strengthening to diamond-hardness the cultural confidence of those who believe in the American way of life –free enterprise, limited government, personal freedom — and nuking out the foundations of the cultural confidence of our opponents. That is, long term, the most important thing. Many things in the short and medium term have to come first, but that is the long term goal.

Dang, spreads on Club Med credit default swaps are widening again. Another swoon for the Euro?

The Bush tax plan vs. the Obama tax plan in one easy-to-understand graph. Look to the comments for the entertainment.

So, I'm at our facility in Irvine, California. I made the mistake of ordering a "Greek Salad" from the take-out place near by, and got back the salad equivalent of a transporter malfunction: There were nuts of all sorts and -- egads -- raisins in the freaking thing, but nary an olive. Indeed, apart from a little lettuce the only thing "Greek" about this salad was a bit of feta sprinkled over the top (as if). In an admittedly immature but I believe understandable fit of pique I announced on Facebook that "If I want raisins in my Greek salad I'll ask for them," to which one of my so-called "friends" posted this link. OK, fair point.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am all for giving money and time to worthy causes, so I am a supporter of the Buffet-Gates initiative. It sets an excellent example to the world's wealthy, even if it is also a bit sanctimonious. Today's rich need to be taught noblesse oblige, which I suppose is in the main better than them having learned it from wealthy ancestors. And, besides, most of this money will do a lot more good than it possibly could in the hands of government. But I like "the Giving Pledge" even more now that I know that European lefties are against it.

The "Ground Zero mosque" is going to be "green"? This seems like a naked attempt to enlist the support of the transnational environmentalists. You know, if there are any who were opposed to the Ground Zero mosque in the first place.

The Deepwater Horizon spill "by the numbers." Lotso' interesting factoids.

I beg to differ.

Can exercise help you control your foul temper? I know several people who ought to work out more.


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Account overdrawn 

Jon Stewart and company definitely have their moments. This is very good, although probably NSFW in our modern high liability workplace, where all the various "cards" remain in full force and effect.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Race Card Is Maxed Out
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Leading by example 

If I were an ex-President, I would do this sort of thing all the time.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Public service announcement 

Amazon has alerted me, and now I am alerting you, that it has some big deals on laptop computers. Seems like a good time to pick up a couple for the kinder before they go back to school.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Not quite a tab dump. Mere items.

Are "stay-at-home-dads" a status symbol for a certain sort of wife? On the one hand, just about everybody featured in the linked story seems quite, er, unlikeable. On the other hand, is a status house husband really any more cringeworthy than a trophy wife?

And this: A coming boom in M&A? That sure would be fun, but I'mnot holding my breath.

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How to quit a job with flair 

I like the beers down the emergency slide move (I have always wanted to leave a plane down one of those things, so I can identify), but this is even better. On the one hand, you have to worry about an employee who quits a job this spectacularly. Something tells me, though, that she will have a much easier time finding another one than Steven Slater.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Nice catch 

Watch this video, now gone viral:

I can't tell if Masato Akamatsu really "makes one of the greatest catches ever," or if the fence is actually short in height, and that makes the play doable. I don't think, however, that Willie Mays needs to lose sleep that Akamatsu's glove will go down in history as being superior. Nonetheless, nice catch.

Also, I don't understand a word of Japanese, but still enjoyed the tone of the commentary.

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Church and state 

Read the entire Philadelphia Inquirer editorial, and substitute "Cordoba Initiative mosque" for "LDS temple," and "New York City" for "Philadelphia," and you might have had a national story about First Amendment rights, and private property rights (albeit without the critical and emotional 9/11 component). Instead, it is just a run-of-the-mill shakedown by a city government. Or, as Micheal Corleone would put it, "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business."

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Monday lunch time discussion topic 

Mitt Romney, the youthful once and future Republican presidential candidate, just welcomed his fifteenth grandchild in to the world. I say that is wonderful stuff, but your results may vary. Does knowing that Romney has so many progeny make him more appealing to you at an emotional level, less appealing, or is it irrelevant (perhaps because you never respond emotionally to facts about the families of politicians)?

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Mystery photo 

From the deepest recesses of my Blackberry, what is this thing?

Mystery Photo

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday morning in Carolina tab dump 

Yes, we have accumulated a delicious glop of gritsy tabs while on vacation here in Carolina. Eat them with bacon and eggs this morning.

The coming battle royal between tax payers and retired public employee pensioners. Much of the political question will come down to this: Do you think public employees generally "serve" in some way that is more meritorious than private sector workers, or do you think they chose the life of "soft America" because it is, well, softer?

More on New Jersey's Governor Awesome. Highlight reel:

It was supposed to have been the biggest fight of Chris Christie’s young administration: a May showdown over what Democrats in Trenton were calling the “millionaires’ tax,” designed, like each of the 115 statewide tax increases of the last decade, to paper over a small part of a yawning structural deficit by soaking the rich, one last time. Never mind that half the filings and a third of the revenue from the tax were to come from New Jersey’s business community, already battered by a perfect storm of overtaxation, capital flight, and recession. The Democrats were loaded for bear, and had the legislative majorities in place to pass the measure, having spent all winter threatening a government shutdown should Christie use his veto pen.

Democratic senate president Stephen Sweeney had even admonished, in a turn of phrase eminently Trentonian in its sheer backwardness, that “to give up $1 billion to the wealthy during this crisis is just wrong.” He promised that the millionaires’ tax was where the Democrats would “make our stand.”

The tax passed on party-line votes in the assembly and senate on May 20. Sweeney then certified the bill and walked it across the statehouse to Christie’s office, where the governor — who had vowed to balance the budget without raising taxes, and who’d developed a bewildering habit of keeping his promises — vetoed it. The whole thing took about two minutes.

“We’ll be back, governor,” Sweeney told Christie on being dispatched with the dead letter.

“All right, we’ll see,” came the reply.

And just like that, the biggest obstacle standing between Christie and the realization of his sea-changing, fiscally conservative first-year agenda was gone.

“We have not found our footing,” Democratic state senator Loretta Weinberg later said, still reeling from the decisive defeat. “I think a lot of people underestimated Chris Christie.”

The linked story also includes a nice history of New Jersey's mismanagement. If you live in one of the other 45 or so better-managed states, you would do well to read it so you can stand guard against the same thing happening to you.

Uh, maybe women don't work longer hours than men.

"The equalization of resources in which success is punished is part of the plan. It's a feature not a bug."

Iraq forces take over duties from the last American combat brigade. When will they call it victory?

The latest sea ice news. Yes, Virginia, when the page turns on the boreal summer -- we mix metaphors like a banshee around here -- the forecasts of doom will again have been wrong.

Our new strategic partner: Vietnam.
Cold War enemies the United States and Vietnam demonstrated their blossoming military relations Sunday as a U.S. nuclear supercarrier cruised in waters off the Southeast Asian nation's coast — sending a message that China is not the region's only big player.

A rumor that all responsible people should hope is not true.

Damned good question.

New Yorkers cut back on the sugary soda, but still do not earn a pass on the hectoring.

In perhaps unrelated news, an animated map of the spread of obesity in the United States over the last 20 years.


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A short note on the WTC mosque 

I have not weighed in the "Ground Zero Mosque" -- the planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan -- because I am not sure I have much to add to the sturm und drang surging through the blogosphere and talk radio. My own view is, well, libertarian: If the founders of the center own the land they ought to be able to build on it, and opponents should be perfectly free to demonstrate against it. Blocking the center by legal or political means troubles me more than letting it proceed with the understanding that many people will be offended by it, even if they are the families of the victims of 9/11 (friendly reminder).

I admit, my reaction to this controversy turns partly on my increasing irritation with people who take offense at the dropping of a hat. People who want to do things or build things or are a little rough around the edges are increasingly hemmed in by people whose sensitivities are so delicate that they cannot handle change or candor or swinging elbows. In the case of the Ground Zero mosque, the opponents ought to be strong enough to accept its existence and the people who build it and worship there ought to accept that it will forever be known in certain circles as the "Ground Zero mosque."

So, as you might imagine, Iowahawk's "future history" hits the center of my target.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Sorbet 

Last night at McCrady's, a very nice restaurant in old Charleston (George Washington dined in the place during his "Southern tour" in 1791), a friend ordered "The Sorbet" for dessert. This is what he got:

&quot;The Sorbet&quot;

I had the excellent "trio of lamb," a nice red zin, and a delightful chocolatey thingy as the sweetness at the end. Tasty to be sure, but not nearly so photogenic.

I don't know about you guys, but I had a very nice day. I rode an almost unbelievable bike about 15 miles, then ran a bit more than three miles on the beach at Isle of Palms. Lunch at Melvyn's Bar-B-Q, followed by boating, tubing and beers on the inland waterway. Sadly, I did not use sunscreen. Doh!

Sunburned me

More later, if dinner is as impressive tonight. Or if the spirit otherwise moves me.

Back home tomorrow, where I will see the TH Teenager, he having returned from his month in Vermont. Awesome!

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Once again, Lady Gaga pushes the boundaries of, well, something.

Oh, and don't click the link if you are offended by almost naked breasts.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Carolina riding 

Yet another long weekend for Your Blogger, this time cycling in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Yes, my buddy and I have matching signature jerseys from Mellow Johnnys, Austin, Texas. (The usual ban on mocking the host of this blog is lifted for this post only.)

Cycling on the Isle of Palms

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Regulation run amok 

When local enforcement officials shut down lemonade stands and make a 7 year-old girl cry, something is really wrong.

It is worth reading the entire story from The Oregonian, keeping in mind that Portland is not exactly a hotbed of right-wing activity:
It's hardly unusual to hear small-business owners gripe about licensing requirements or complain that heavy-handed regulations are driving them into the red.

So when Multnomah County shut down an enterprise last week for operating without a license, you might just sigh and say, there they go again.

Except this entrepreneur was a 7-year-old named Julie Murphy. Her business was a lemonade stand at the Last Thursday monthly art fair in Northeast Portland. The government regulation she violated? Failing to get a $120 temporary restaurant license.

Turns out that kids' lemonade stands -- those constants of summertime -- are supposed to get a permit in Oregon, particularly at big events that happen to be patrolled regularly by county health inspectors.

"I understand the reason behind what they're doing and it's a neighborhood event, and they're trying to generate revenue," said Jon Kawaguchi, environmental health supervisor for the Multnomah County Health Department. "But we still need to put the public's health first."
With all due respect, Mr. Kawaguchi, try to gain some perspective. You can empower your inspectors to quickly see if there is a reasonable threat to public heath, and exempt kids such as Julie from the heavy hand of business regulation. Perhaps the question really is, had the $120 license fee been paid, would there have been any rigorous examination of the public health threat that Julie's lemonade stand posed, or is the license fee just a shakedown to finance and perpetuate a local bureaucracy? I ask that question as someone who believes that there should be an FDA, and in fact, years ago, I met professionally with FDA officials, reviewing reasonably complex sets of non-parametric statistics. However, there has to be some common sense involved and a thought process that recognizes proportionality -- you don't need to know how to measure the heteroscedasticity of a data set as a part of an expensive clinical trial to realize that shutting down a kid's lemonade stand seems foolish on so many levels.

CWCID: Hot Air

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