Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#OccupyFail: Princeton students demonstrate self-awareness 

If self-awareness is a sign of maturity, then otherwise liberal Princeton undergrads are well on their way.

Protesters participating in the Occupy the Highway march from New York to Washington nearly clashed last night with a group of high-school and college students at a bar in Princeton, N.J.

The confrontation began after Princeton student Whitney Blodgett started to yell at the marchers as they passed by the bar. “We’re the 1 percent!” Blodgett yelled at them, laughing and making a thumbs up sign. “Get a job!” his friends yelled in chorus....

When the marchers arrived in New Brunswick, N.J. on Thursday, nearly 100 people turned out to support them as they assembled at Rutgers University. At Princeton, only one person, a female freshman student, came out in support.

"Only one person, a female freshman student, came out in support"?! Makes the beating heart of this old Tiger burst with pride.

(3) Comments

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Perhaps unoriginal observations on the occasion of Barney Frank's retirement 

The WaPo has a nice article wrapping up Barney Frank's career. No doubt there is room to differ with the Post's take, but still worth reading.

At a rather ginormous risk of infuriating our readers, I am going to confess that I rather enjoy Barney Frank as a person and worry that the Congress will be worse off without him. Almost twenty-five years ago, Frank visited Michigan Law School and for reasons I cannot quite remember I had an opportunity to have a genuine conversation with him. I had never before, and have not since, encountered a politician who was so interesting and original on so many subjects and so willing to engage directly, even with a non-constituent who obviously mostly disagreed with him. Like my lightening rod friend, Ann Coulter, Frank both enjoyed the tussle and was intellectually equal to it. And he respects smart people who sincerely engage back. See the linked article on his relationship with Hank Paulson. I wish there were more politicians like him.

Indeed, I wish there were a gay, pugnacious, smart, articulate, engaging, member of Congress on the right. Both the Republican Party and the country would be better off. And, no doubt, our democracy is enriched every time a serious person emerges who speaks words not directly lifted from the morning's talking points email.

Finally, Frank's retirement will, at the margin, hurt the GOP this year. He had become a favorite whipping boy on the right -- see, e.g., Newt's rise in the polls after bashing him a few weeks back -- but now that attack will lose its potency. We won't have Barney Frank to kick around any more.

UPDATE: Oh, and there is this. Frank's successor as the ranking minority member on the House Financial Services Committee is Maxine Waters. I'll have to stop watching CNBC in the morning if Waters becomes a regular.

Of course, your results may vary.

(26) Comments

Monday, November 28, 2011

Governor Awesome on #OWS, the Tea Party, and leadership 

Chris Christie: Talking sense so we don't have to!

(2) Comments

Influence Explorer 

This is a neat little tool one of my Facebook friends posted that allows you to see who is getting money from whom. You can search lawmakers, organizations, companies, and prominent individuals to see who is donating money to what cause or campaign. You can also narrow it down by Industry. For example, the Securities and Investment Industry has "donated" $46,203,172 just in the current election cycle, and currently Mitt Romney has received the most from that industry. Unsurprisingly, most of it is from Bain Capital. What IS surprising is that Bain Capital has given a lot more money to Democrats, including Obama. Take a half hour out of your day and play with it.

(2) Comments

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The tax gridlock 

For those of you struggling to keep track at home, here is a nice graphic that lays out the tax increases that are coming in the next 13 months if Congress continues to fail to compromise. They ain't pretty, and it is hard to see how the current crew of losers that constitutes our national political class is going to reach any sort of agreement.

(3) Comments

A short note on bringing up Jeremiah Wright 

Glenn Reynolds links to an interesting post by William Jacobson that argues that the Democrats are, by their response to a Romney ad that did not so much as hint at an allegory to a reference of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, still worried about Wright's association with Barack Obama.

First, the notion that showing images of blacks in a video is an attempt to invoke Jeremiah Wright is preposterous. There also were plenty of whites in the video; momentary flashes of non-whites does not give the video a racial overtone.

Second, and most important, this was nothing more than a pre-emptive Democratic attempt to make it toxic for anyone to bring up Obama’s long association with Wright by making charges of racism even when Wright is not mentioned. That shows you how much the Democrats fear a true investigation of Obama’s background and his ridiculously incredible claims that he did not know that his pastor and mentor was a race-baiting flame thrower....

Memo to Tad Devine and David Di Martino: If a rock from 1984 and a dinner from 1997 are on the table, so too are Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and the vast emptiness of Obama’s narrative.

All of that is, of course, true, but the Republicans would be unwise to pursue the question for two reasons.

First, Wright is old news, and as soon as that pitch is thrown the pro-Obama pundocracy will ask "is that all they got?" No, actually, the GOP will have a 3+ year track record to run against, and there is a very little good to say for it (apart from the OBL hit and decisions that Obama mostly runs away from, like the drone wars and keeping Gitmo open). Focusing on "old news" or the "Obama as cypher" meme will only move the game to Obama's home court, personal issues. And that leads to...

Second, is there any leading Republican candidate, Mormon or Gentile, who would benefit from a close examination of his or her religious practices and affiliations by the secular humanists in the national media? OK, so that may be the one personal issue that will not dog Newt, but you get the point.

Jeremiah Wright was a totally legitimate issue in 2008 and John McCain was the perfect candidate to go for that soft spot. Probably unfortunately, McCain made a decision not to do it and even ordered surrogates to back away. Now the issue is spent.

(6) Comments

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stocks set another dubious record 

After a long, six-month decline, American stock markets have set another dubious record:

U.S. stocks fell, capping the worst Thanksgiving-week drop since 1932 in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as S&P cut Belgium’s rating and a report said Greece is demanding private investors accept larger losses on their debt.

It feels at least that bad.

(1) Comments

Climate Gate II 

Regular bloghounds know that the unknown leaker has published another trove of emails among establishment climate scientists. The latest batch, and the prospect for much more, expose the dishonesty of at least some of the leading practitioners of climate science. Really remarkable stuff. And the possibility that many more emails are to come promises to keep the story going for some time.

That is, if the mainstream media covers it at all.

(11) Comments

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Advice for my children 

An amusing and actually useful list of "50 things every 18-year old should know." I agree with all of it, although I cannot say that I have been wholly successful in passing all of this wisdom on to my own children.

(3) Comments

Public service announcement 

Minor self interest and my deep concern for the financial well-being of my readers impel me to link to Amazon's huge page of Black Friday deals. Click though the link, and my many dependents -- pretty much, the dependents -- will get a little tip for anything you buy, whether it was on sale or not. We appreciate it!

(1) Comments

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Greetings out there in TigerHawk Land. We hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving in keeping with your tradition, or at least the Pilgrim tradition.

We have a lot to be thankful for in our family, not the least of which is that fate deposited us here in the United States. We try to remember that a lot more often than annually, but especially today.

Take care, and try not to drink too many of those awesome bourbon and ciders.

(5) Comments

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Governor Awesome on taxing the "rich" 

New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie this afternoon traveled in to the belly of the beast -- the Princeton Public Library -- and spoke truth to liberals. I missed the show on account of family obligations, but a friend was there with his camera. So here is some never-before-seen Governor Awesome footage!

On taxing the "rich":

On the tax code in general:

The claim that "here in New Jersey the top 1% pay 41%" is accurate, by the way, or at least it was for me. For the 2010 tax year, my federal, state, and local direct taxes -- income tax, employment taxes, and property tax -- came to almost exactly 41% of my adjusted gross income. Of course, that does not include the many other taxes I paid, including sales taxes, utility taxes, and excise taxes. Excluding the indirect impact of corporation taxes and my employer's share of "my" employment taxes, the government takes at least half of what I earn. Am I paying my "fair share"? One cannot prove fairness or unfairness, but it seems to me that the case for taxing me even more on the grounds of "fairness" is not open and shut no matter how loudly President Obama declares that it is.

UPDATE: See the comments for a different interpretation of the governor's remarks from the person who shot the videos.

(9) Comments

Bad news for Jon Corzine 

Not good:

The amount of customer money missing from the collapsed trading firm MF Global may be more than $1.2 billion — double previous estimates — the trustee dismantling the firm’s brokerage unit said on Monday.

But the surprise finding, which caught regulators off guard, may be overstated, according to a person briefed on the investigation. Some regulators say they believe that the trustee double-counted $220 million that had been transferred between units of MF Global, this person said.

Still, the much higher number highlights the disarray of MF Global’s records and raises significantly the hurdle for tens of thousands of customers seeking to get their money back. The trustee’s estimate represents a significant portion of customer funds held by MF Global.

How do you screw up your records that badly if you are not intending to screw them up? Well, it can happen. But only if your internal auditors have no power or no brains.

(3) Comments

Because our Congress has nothing better to do... 

Having absolutely and without qualification failed in its obligation to secure for posterity the fiscal solvency of our great nation, the United States Congress is considering forbidding airlines from charging fees for checking luggage.

“Many airlines consider checking a bag not to be a right, but a privilege — and one with a hefty fee attached,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who has introduced legislation that would “guarantee passengers one checked bag without the financial burden of paying a fee, or the headache of trying to fit everything into a carry-on.”

Airlines, of course, will make up most of the lost revenue some other way. So, those of us who avoid bag fees -- and there are many routes to avoiding them -- are now to subsidize people who do not make the right choices, all because Mary Landrieu has some constituents who don't know how to pack?

I am no big fan of checked bag fees for precisely the reasons described elsewhere in the linked article -- that they have made already crowded cabins a lot more crowded. Unfortunately, neither the airlines nor Senator Landrieu would appreciate my preferred solution, which is fees for carry on bags. Allow one "personal item" -- a purse or computer bag -- for free, and charge for anything else, and you will clean up the cabin in a trice.

We need a new national commitment to mock any politician of either party who proposes silly new laws about trivial subjects to distract our attention from their own transporting incompetence.

(7) Comments

Monday, November 21, 2011

Supercommittee down: Deficits solved! (Or not.) 

Stock market futures are down a lot this morning because of news that the "Supercommittee" charged with reaching a Congressional compromise on taxes and spending has failed.

Curiously, if you believe in the Congressional Budget Office's "static model" -- and that is the device used in Washington for these discussions -- there are substantial deficit reductions already baked in. The "Bush" tax cuts are expiring on January 1, 2013, and the automatic cuts will disproportionately hit defense spending -- a traditional target of Democrats -- without any Congressional vote. All of that adds up to $7.1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years, a substantial reduction that would put the United States in a much better position than its current trajectory.

Then why don't the markets like the result? There are at least three reasons.

First, one has to believe the CBO's static model. Only politicians and journalists are so fey. Or disingenuous. Most of us believe that massive new taxes in 2013 with no corresponding reform will do a lot of damage to economic growth in the next few years. The impact of that increase would have been muted if it were coupled with a huge reduction in future tax liability (by reforming entitlements), but there is no such relief in sight.

Second, one has to believe that Congress never enacts another incremental spending bill without cutting something equivalent. Those of us on the right look at all the incremental revenue in 2013 (the massive baked in tax increase minus the economic impact of the tax increase) and expect that politicians of both parties will find a way to buy votes with it.

Third, the failure of Supercommittee reminds everybody how freaking hideous our political class has become.

It is extremely frustrating.

(4) Comments

Sunday, November 20, 2011

If only the good guys were in charge... 

From my perspective, it is fine--not optimal, but fine--that Barack Obama is not a liberal. Somebody pursuing effective technocratic centrist policies that work would be an enormous asset to the world right now.
- Brad DeLong

Actually, Brad, I'd rather he was a liberal and were biased against "technocratic centrist policies". This is just another version of "If only the smart people (like me!) were in charge". As far as I can tell, "centrist technocrats" turned controversial safety net policies into completely unsustainable univeral entitlements; demands for better working wages into unkeepable retirement promises, and financial regulation into a giant, brittle triple-A safe harbor.

Centrist technocrats are the government version of an all-pizza diet.

Alas, many political persuasions fall into this trap. Consider Peggy Noonan this weekend:

The theory applies also to our politics. America is in political decline in part because we've elevated salesmen—people good on the hustings and good in the room, facile creatures with good people skills—above people who love the product, which is sound and coherent government—"good government," as they used to say. To make that product you need a certain depth of experience. You need to know the facts, the history, how the system works, what the people want, what the moment demands.

(5) Comments

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Proofreading watch 

This hilarious yet unbelievable error can only reflect one thing: A corporate culture with few if any mainstream American males.

(2) Comments

Not to Beat A Dead Horse or Anything... 

...but I'd like to see if anyone can reasonably justify this.

Or this:

I'm sure that one guy was just trying to make a scene, as no-good rabble-rousing ruffians are prone to doing. EDIT: I stand corrected, apparently he was.

I, for one, am glad that those are the people protecting me while I sleep. I know I can count on them. Protest really brings out the best of humanity.

(32) Comments

A small point about political humor 

The political humor bestseller list on Amazon rather strongly suggests that our president may have some popularity issues.

Remember, when you buy something on Amazon -- anything, actually -- consider clicking through the link of a blogger you enjoy. There are many more deserving than me, I am sure, but since it costs you nothing there is no reason not to direct a tip from Jeff Bezos to somebody who entertains you.

(0) Comments

Who owes what to whom? 

The BBC has a very interesting clickable graph that shows which countries owe what to which other countries, plus their debt burden compared to GDP and per capita. More reasons, in effect, why the great democracies of the world are going to have to solve their long-term fiscal problems or cease being great democracies.

(3) Comments

Showing up on Monday and defending Newt Gingrich 

A strong defense of Newt Gingrich, who sparked a pseudo-controversy by proposing that schools "fire the janitors" and get the kids to clean up.

Politico offers a headline calculated and designed to make you hate Newt Gingrich more than you already do: Newt: Fire the janitors, hire kids to clean schools. And when you click it open and actually read it from top to bottom, you find the former House Speaker is making all kinds of sense, no wonder they want him gone. Hey Politico! Yeah, there is someone I trust a little tiny bit less than I did three minutes ago, but it ain’t Newt Gingrich.

It is a good idea, actually, within limits. If the rising generation is missing anything, it is a basic understanding that successful human existence requires a lot of work (and, no, 37.5 hours a week is not a "lot of work") under even the best of circumstances. And, in any case, many private schools hold the students accountable for some measure of, well, custodial work. Both my children learned a lot and were none the worse for wear for having to clean their schools. I have long wondered why we should not expect the same of public school students.

(4) Comments

The Supercommittee will fail and taxes will go up 

That is a prediction, of course, but the signs are pointing that way. The Washington Post reports that this morning, just a few days before Wednesday's deadline, the "Supercommittee" is at an impasse. Republicans are offering a deal that Democrats just will not take -- small tax increases that nonetheless offend the Tea Party stalwarts in the House in exchange for the permanent extension of the "Bush" tax cuts.

This nifty article in Salon explains how the Democrats outmaneuvered the Republicans, in part because George W. Bush himself gamed the CBO process when he enacted the cuts ten years ago.

The smarter course for Democrats, it would seem, is to do nothing and let the automatic spending cuts triggered by a supercommittee failure go into effect and then hope that Obama is reelected and the Bush tax cuts go away once and for all at the end of next year. That would have a more meaningful impact on deficit reduction than any realistic compromise with the GOP now would, and it would spare the sort of deep social safety net cuts that Republicans are also after. More and more voices on the left have been making this case in recent days....

And Democrats on Capitol Hill seem to be hearing it. Thursday began with plenty of buzz about the GOP’s sudden openness to new revenues. But it ended with Democrats offering a clear response: There’ll be no deal as long as you want the Bush rates extended.

So, basically, Republicans will have to choose between substantial tax increases and deep cuts in defense spending.

There is a growing awareness among the "rich" that higher taxes are on the way, either through a last-minute Republican collapse (unlikely, given the thunder in the House) or by deadlock (the Bush "cuts" will expire at the end of 2012, and they will not get reinstated unless the GOP has both the White House and 60 solid votes in the Senate, which seems very unlikely).

Therefore, higher taxes on the 1% are coming almost regardless of the Supercommittee's negotiations.

Therefore, the Republicans should try to get something good for the higher taxes.

I believe that a very large number of the "rich" would support higher taxes in return for large and demonstrable cuts in entitlements.

The only way to do that without inflicting immediate pain on voters is to extend the retirement age substantially, on a sliding scale, starting now. My proposal for doing just that is here. We simply must get out of the business of subsidizing retirement (as opposed to disability, whether or not that disability is caused by geriatrics).

Therefore, Republicans should propose a wholesale repeal of the Bush tax cuts -- all of them -- in return for a substantial and permanent extension of the retirement age under all federal entitlement programs.

That would be a trade worth taking, and it would send a very positive signal to the financial markets that we will not go the way of Italy, Greece, and other irresponsible countries. That would give our economy huge room to maneuver.

Otherwise, Republicans will achieve no sustainable deficit reduction, the defense budget will be slashed massively, taxes will go up substantially but the government will spend the increase on entitlements, and the press will ensure that everybody understands it is the fault of the GOP.

Bad deal.

(3) Comments

The Protect IP Act Will Destroy The Internet 

I can't see how anybody who subscribes to the idea of small government could possibly approve of this. Please, PLEASE call your congressmen urging them to oppose this bill, especially if you live in Texas, Vermont, Michigan, or Iowa.

(0) Comments


This post targets a very specific demographic. If you don't play very many video games it probably won't appeal to you. If you're thinking about giving this as a gift to your kids or someone else's, be aware that it IS an Mature-rated game. In my opinion, most kids in high school can handle it, but don't give it to anyone under, say, twelve or thirteen. There's no curse words or nudity, just good old-fasioned violence, blood and gore.

For those of you in the demographic I'm referring to, that is to say, the Nerd demographic, there are a few spoilers in here, some from older games. None of them will be news if you've done any reading up on this game in advance, though.

For those that play video games, but have never played an Elder Scrolls game (or the recent Fallout games), Skyrim is an open-world, first-person Role Playing Game. The Elder Scrolls games have always emphasized versatility and player freedom. You can choose to ignore the Main Quest completely if you want to and still experience the other 95% of the game. I usually end up doing this because getting better equipment and leveling up a few times before the game throws something big at you is always a good idea.

Skyrim's improvements on Oblivion, the previous game, are not as dramatic as the improvements Oblivion made on Morrowind. Here's a list:

1: The story is better. In Oblivion, you were Robin to the game's Batman. Actually a better comparison might be that you were Link to the game's Zelda, since he sits around the whole time figuring out the backstory reading while you do all the work.

In Skyrim, you're the hero. In this respect, the story is similar to Morrowind, where you end up being The One The Prophecy Foretold. You have dragon blood in your background, like Martin and Uriel Septim from Oblivion. Since the dragons return, this is kind of convenient. It's your job to stop The World Eater, a giant black dragon named Alduin.

2: Graphics are improved. Oblivion's graphics are from 2006, although to the game's credit, it's only beginning to show its age. Skyrim's landscapes are absolutely stunning. Watching aurora from the top of a mountain is incredibly pretty. An album of screenshots I took is here. (No spoilers I'm aware of)

3. The landscape is more interesting. Oblivion's landscape was fairly homogeneous. It was basically all meadows and forests, maybe some snow in the north. Skyrim is reminiscent of Scandinavia, so there's a lot of snow and mountains. There's forests, plains, the sea, a swamp or two, and each ecosystem is distinct. Every city also has unique architecture and design, something which was barely noticeable in Oblivion.

Also, there are children now. As far as I can tell, you can't hurt them, but I only tried once or twice for the sake of Science. When I cast a fire spell at a little girl, she scolded me, saying "you shouldn't play with fire," and the incident didn't seem to register with any townsfolk. However, another time I wanted to see what would happen if I hurt the Jarl's kid, so I swung my sword at him. It looked like he took some damage, but the guards jumped on me before I could test this hypothesis any further.**** (Outraged people, direct your concerns to the bottom paragraph)

4. Non-Player Characters are more varied and have more personality. Each NPC has a different voice and manner of speaking. Even if multiple characters are voiced by the same human, the human at least tried to change his voice for each one instead of having one voice per race and gender. Some NPCs are even played by celebrities, the main commander of the Evil Empire is played by Michael Hogan, who some may know as Colonel Tigh from Battlestar Galactica.

5. Gameplay is simplified without sacrificing precious flexibility. They've completely done away with the usual D&D-based character sheet with Strength, Endurance, Agility, Intelligence, etc. The only stats left are your vitals (Health, Mana and Stamina) and your skills. Every stat (damage with a weapon, armor rating) is calculated based on your skill with the thing in question. You improve your skills by practicing them, as usual, and you level up every few skill improvements. Every time you level up, you can increase your Health, Mana, or Stamina by 10,(If you pick stamina, your carrying capacity increases by 5lbs), and you earn a new perk.

Every skill has a "perk tree", with more benefits the higher up you go in this semi-metaphorical tree. For example, the first perk in a skill tree is usually "You do it 20% better," but higher up the One-Handed Weapons tree, there's a perk that lets you do a charging attack for a critical hit. A perk in the Light Armor tree is "you can move as freely in light armor as you can in normal clothing." And so on.

6. Fighting dragons in 1st person is incredibly thrilling. 'Nuff said.

I've encountered a few things that I don't like so much about it.

1. Some bugs here and there. I have two quests that are interfering with each other, and the two questgivers are stuck in an infinite loop.

2. There's no way to improve your speed. They got rid of the Athletics skill and the Speed stat (which actually makes sense), so you can't get faster by buffing that. They DID add a Sprint button, which consumes your Stamina and I'm a big fan of that. But as far as I can tell, every character moves at the same speed by default. You can go faster by buying (or stealing) a horse, or by sprinting until your meter is drained, or by being naked (armor slows you down).

3. AI is marginally better, but it isn't even close to what they were hyping it to be. I haven't found even ONE real example of "Radiant AI" yet, and they largely all act like blockheads. One thing that still ticks me off that they haven't gotten right since Morrowind is that if you accidentally hit a Town Guard while trying to help them, for example, kill a dragon, they will STILL immediately stop fighting that to pursue Justice. They've had literally 8 years to solve this problem and they haven't yet. The frustrating part is that they actually fixed that problem with non-guard NPCs. If you're in the Mages Guild, and you accidentally shoot them with lightning while you're fighting something, they just say "Hey, watch it!"

4. It's crashed a few times, but never catastrophically, and it's probably because my graphics card is tired of having to work so hard.

That pretty much wraps up my concerns. In conclusion, this game is tons of fun, and it's absorbed the lion's share of my free time for the better part of a week (which the Tigerhawk Dad is THRILLED about, let me tell you). It's addicting, beautiful, fun, and has enormous replay value.


I can understand why you might be alarmed that I wrote a paragraph about hypothetically hurting children. My curiosity is only due to the fact that games are a relatively new form of media, and things are changing all the time. The concept of having children in violent video games is pretty new. Fallout, another game by Bethesda which takes place in a post-nuclear apocalypse, has children for the purposes of showing how horrifying the landscape and scenario is, but you can't hurt them. You can shoot them with an assault rifle and they'll tell you to "Quit iiiit" the way they'd talk to a schoolyard bully. Developers are sensitive to societal issues, which is why most games are pretty black-and-white as far as morality is concerned, and most of them don't even bother themselves with the moral implications of the player's actions. This is the key point: just because people do sadistic things in a video game doesn't mean they'll do it in real life, because most people can tell the difference between them. And besides, dead prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto are infinitely preferable to dead prostitutes in real life.

(7) Comments

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weak-willed Saudi men 

Saudi authorities have so little regard for the self-restraint of Saudi men that they are now trying to require women with attractive eyes to conceal their orbs in public. Right, eyes, not cleavage, legs, ankles, or even hair, all of which have been banned.

Women with attractive eyes may be forced to cover them up under Saudi Arabia's latest repressive measure, it was revealed today.

The ultra-conservative Islamic state has said it has the right to stop women revealing 'tempting' eyes in public.

A spokesperson for Saudi Arabia's Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, Sheikh Motlab al Nabet, said a proposal to enshrine the measure in law has been tabled.

This is, of course, disgusting, as are many Saudi policies. The question we are not allowed to ask in polite company is this: How many Muslims around the world would, under the influence of truth serum, support the adoption of Saudi rules, or close approximations, in their own countries?

(3) Comments

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pizza is a Vegetable Now 

Thanks to the magical powers of lobbyists. Congress wanted to cut costs in school lunches, which demand a certain number of vegetables, so a piece of legislation decided that the tomato paste in pizza counts as a serving of vegetables. Kids are gonna be thrilled!

(4) Comments

Caption this! (Aussie rapture edition) 

The official caption from this official White House photo is, well, not entirely persuasive:

President Barack Obama waves to people in the gallery after addressing the Australian Parliament in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Nov.17, 2011.

We all know that you, our endlessly clever readers, can do better than that!

Caption This!

(20) Comments

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A short note on housing bubble ideology 

A nifty Chart of the Day on the housing bubble worth digesting by both left and right:

housing prices around the world

The linked post makes the point,

If you really think it was all Fannie and Freddie's fault, then you have to explain why the U.S. just happened to have the same (roughly) arc of a housing boom as basically every other industrialized country all around the world at the same time.

True dat, and the same goes for conservatives who put it all on federal mandates for more minority lending. But the chart also discredits lefties and populists who blame the crisis on the compensation systems in American banks or on the degradation of lending standards on account of credit securitization or on the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

There were many reckless lenders and borrowers over the last decade, all over the world. The original and most basic reason is that there was too much competition in lending, which pushed banks and other financial institutions to offer ridiculous terms to irresponsible or incompetent borrowers. Those lenders competed so aggressively because they had too much capital on their balance sheets, money that for all intents and purposes had to be lent (or the stockholders would essentially fire the bankers in question for losing money). Those huge balance sheets were the consequence of too much credit created or suffered to exist by the world's central banks, including but not exclusively the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States. Why did the Fed and other banks allow credit creation in excess of GDP for so many years in a row? Partly because nobody wants to stop a bull market before its time -- there is more or less no better way to piss people off -- but also because the usual signal for too much credit -- consumer products price inflation -- was masked by the one-time migration of the world's production to China. Tons of credit, soaring asset prices, and tame inflation. What's not too like?


(10) Comments

On the sad future of the European Union 

Fintan O'Toole -- dontja just love Irish names? -- persuasively explains why neither the fantasies of right nor left will save the European Union. Sadly, his own proposed solution is not as persuasive as his rather grim diagnosis.

Before you mock the European experiment, remember (i) it did foreclose a ruinous fourth war between France and Germany, and (ii) American prosperity depends on European prosperity, at least in the short term and at the margin.

(4) Comments

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Mario Kills Tanooki" 

Recently, PETA came out to protest the 3D remake of Super Mario Land 3, because of the raccoon-dog (or "Tanooki". It's a Japanese thing.) Suit that Mario uses in some games to glide through the air. They feel, apparently, that this will only lead to increased Tanooki trapping and skinning, which is apparently a thing already.

Now, it's okay to be against hunting or trapping (even though I think it's fine). I can also see how someone would string together pretty flimsy logic to say that kids who play the game might decide they want to fly, and they'd try to trap and skin a Tanooki themselves.

What appalls me is the next step PETA took.

Some psychopath decided to create the game Mario Kills Tanooki in order to get their point across further. This game plays a little bit like Robot Unicorn Attack, you chase Mario and the only button you can press is Jump to get over obstacles. The landscape is hellish and soaked in blood. Your sprite is a Tanooki with bits of its skin ripped off and Mario is flying above in the suit, dripping blood. (NSFW speech coming up, reproduced for authenticity) The object of the game is to catch Mario who is flying above, and when you finally catch him it says "Fuck You Mario, this is my skin!" in big flashing letters.

This some seriously twisted stuff. Kids don't picture this kind of thing when they play Super Mario (in fact, they're aware that his outfit is obviously A COSTUME, a fact that apparently escapes fully functional adults), this is something that only adults could come up with. I'll write a post later this week about what parents don't understand about video games. I know which game that *I'd* rather have my kids play, but it scares the crap out of me that someone out there thinks PETA's version is more appropriate.

(7) Comments

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Evening Prog - On The Backs Of Angels 

The first song off of Dream Theater's new album, A Dramatic Turn Of Events, featuring their new drummer Mike Mangini.

(0) Comments

Annals of the war on employers 

California's government apparently believes that the best way to create jobs is to impose even more potential liability on employers.

Many employers think they can save money by classifying their workers as independent contractors. But doing so incorrectly can now cost even more—something the California plaintiffs’ bar is sure to take notice of. On October 9, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 459 (S.B. 459). This new law, which will add Sections 226.8 and 2753 to the California Labor Code, imposes liability on employers that willfully misclassify employees as independent contractors. Employers throughout California that use independent contractors may be affected by S.B. 459, which goes into effect January 1, 2012.

Few employers that I know of use independent contractors because "they think they can save money." In my experience, employers use 1099s because (i) the prospective employee wants to be treated that way for some reason, perhaps so they can work multiple jobs, or (ii) because it is a lot easy to get approval for "temporary" 1099 staff than supposedly permanent W-2 staff. As often as not, big companies have tough internal obstacles to hiring new "heads" because, as a practical matter, they are much harder to get rid of if the need for them goes away. (For starters, the W-2 employees do not view the company as having laid anybody off if only temps are cut.) Lower echelon managers evade those internal obstacles by hiring 1099 staff that they can terminate on a moment's notice. Putting even more potential liability on employers who blow the classification will cause them to raise the bureaucratic hurdles for hiring 1099s. This new law and the publicity it is receiving from big law firms will no doubt reduce the number of 1099 workers in California by some margin. Only some of those workers will become actual employees; the rest will be out of a job.

Liberals tend to assume that there is a fixed quantity of work that employers simply must have done, so regulations like this will not change behavior except in the ways that liberals want. As any executive knows, this is asinine. The far more likely response is that somebody like me will get a "client alert" that provokes a wholesale review of the potential legal problem. That, in turn, will put a spotlight on heretofore poorly understood staffing decisions, which new scrutiny almost always ends up in workforce reductions.

(6) Comments

Comic genius Frank Miller on #Occupy 

I am sure, at some point in the last 12,000 posts, that I have mentioned that I read comic books. Or at least used to -- as longstanding readers know, I have a lot less time for frivolities than I once did.

Anyway, Frank Miller is, for my money, one of greatest comic book storytellers of all time. Possibly the greatest. For those of you who do not partake, he is the creative mind behind the movie 300.

And, well, he does not much like the #Occupy "movement."

(5) Comments

Two (of the many) reasons why our economy remains in a funk 

Item: "Biden: First Guy We Called for Economic Advice Was Jon Corzine."

My question: Did the Obamans call Corzine for advice because of the bang-up job he did as governor of New Jersey, or because he had been CEO of Goldman Sachs?

Item: "Amid ailing economy, members of Congress delve into sports issues."

Yeah, don't pay any attention to the man behind the curtain.

(2) Comments

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jimmy O'Bama 

Somebody put this up on YouTube in July, but it was new to me and, I might add, as entertaining as it was disturbing. Good effort.

(1) Comments

More jobs lost, and Stryker points the finger 

Stryker Corporation, which makes implants and instruments for orthopedics and neurosurgery, put out a curious press release Thursday at the close of the market:

Stryker Corporation (NYSE:SYK) announced its intention to implement focused workforce reductions of approximately 5% of its global workforce and other restructuring activities that are anticipated to reduce annual pre-tax operating costs by over $100 million beginning in 2013. The targeted reductions and other restructuring activities are being initiated to provide efficiencies and realign resources in advance of the new Medical Device Excise Tax scheduled to begin in 2013...

Background and commentary

The Medical Device Excise Tax, part of the financing for those parts of Obamacare that increase costs rather than reducing them, will apply to revenues, rather than profits, from sales of medical devices in the United States. The obvious effect of the tax is to discourage new medical technology (because the return hurdles necessary to justify the investment in innovation will have to overcome a steep new tax obligation perhaps years before any actual profit) and to encourage investment abroad rather than here (because the tax applies only to revenues in the United States). Beyond that, the tax will do a lot of damage to the growth of device company profits in 2013, so our industry needs to dig particularly deeply to cut costs so as to maintain profit growth over the next two years. All of this is obvious, and was made plain to the Democrats in the White House and the Congress long before they voted for Obamacare.

Point is, the Democrats knew in advance that their votes would cost jobs and reduce innovation in the medical technology industry. Any who claim otherwise are lying, plainly and simply.

The curious thing about the Stryker release, however, is not the fact of the job cuts, but that the company went out of its way to finger the device tax. Even a year ago, no medical technology company would have dared to risk pissing off the White House, which in 2009 and 2010 had routinely and publicly hammered any large business that did not at least claim to support its healthcare agenda. Now, though, Stryker is naming names. The only reason can be that Barack Obama is so unpopular that formerly beleaguered industries no longer fear his wrath, even if they still labor under his taxation and regulation.

I, for one, take comfort in that.

(7) Comments

Friday, November 11, 2011


Glenn Reynolds links an article in this morning's New York Times detailing the spread of disease among the #Occupiers in New York's Zuccotti Park. The place is really beginning to sound like the breeding ground for the next great pandemic:

“It’s called Zuccotti lung,” said Willie Carey, 28, a demonstrator from Chapel Hill, N.C. “It’s a real thing.”...

Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., the director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center, said the conditions could leave park-dwellers susceptible to respiratory viruses; norovirus, the so-called winter vomiting virus, which can lead to vomiting and diarrhea and which could quickly overwhelm the limited bathroom facilities in the area; and tuberculosis, which is more common in indigent populations and can be spread by coughing.

Even some camping in the park have grown concerned in recent weeks with the living quarters. Damp laundry and cardboard signs, left in the rain, have provided fertile ground for mold. Some protesters urinate in bottles, or occasionally a water-cooler jug, to avoid the lines at public restrooms. Food, from orange peels to scrambled eggs, is often discarded outside tents....

Although condoms are often available on-site, Dr. Tierno said the protest’s evolution to private tents, from sleeping out in the open, had raised the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. The site’s pounding drum circles, he added, could lead to hearing damage. He compared conditions at Zuccotti Park to those in a hajj — the pilgrimage to Mecca, in which whole groups of people have come down with respiratory infections in a short time — and those experienced by the flower children of the 1960s, when, he said, communal living situations created problems with sanitation and sexually transmitted diseases....


The comparison to the hajj and the communal living of "flower children" more or less says it all. At this point one is tempted to announce that "the prosecution rests" and move on to more pressing matters, but a serious question hangs obviously in the air: Why do the Occupiers, who demand "universal single-payer affordable healthcare," choose to behave in ways that hurt the public health? If it is so immoral to hurt the public health by omitting to pay for "universal single-payer affordable healthcare," why is it not as or more immoral to choose to live in a way that obviously incubates and spreads disease to the rest of us?

I am so confused. Perhaps you, our wise and gentle readers, can explain away this apparent hypocrisy.

(8) Comments

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What I'm Going to Be Doing All Weekend 

instead of being a productive member of society.

(2) Comments

In what respect are "corporations not people"? (An inquiry in to lefty ignorance) 

In one of the various recent stories about the growing depravity of the #Occupy demonstrations, there is a picture of a demonstrator with a "corporations are not people" sign. This slogan is popping up with some regularity among my many lefty -- or at least non-righty -- Facebook friends, and the abolition of corporate "personhood" is the subject of a new campaign among lefty activist groups.

It is not precisely clear whether this is a genuine attempt to change the law -- the movement seems to be particularly offended by the Citizens United case, which overturned certain campaign finance regulation that restricted speech by corporations -- or a publicity stunt designed to energize the left against business and its backers in the 2012 elections. The argument seems to be that corporations ought not have constitutional rights because they are creatures of law and not biology, and that the rights of the constitution "ought" to apply to living, breathing people. All very romantic, but what does it mean?

Let's roll through the Bill of Rights and explore the implications of stripping corporations of constitutional rights.

The First Amendment

Should a state be able to preclude a religious corporation -- Catholic Charities, Inc., for example -- from practicing its religion? Should the New York Times Company have freedom of the press, or speech. Should we strip Democracy Now, Inc., of its right to petition government for redress of grievances?

The Second and Third Amendments

I'm willing to agree that we can deprive corporations of the right to bear arms, and in a pinch we ought to be able to billet troops on corporate property. So I suppose I agree with the "corporations are not people" movement in some respect!

The Fourth Amendment

Much as I would enjoy watching a warrantless search of the offices of the New York Times or MSNBC, I suspect that the left would be pretty upset if their corporate allies in the media were no longer safe in their persons, places, and effects.

The Fifth and Sixth Amendments

Shall we allow the prosecution of corporations for the same offense until a conviction is obtained, or do we think that they should be free from double jeopardy? Should we be able to confiscate corporate property without due process or just compensation? I suppose many lefties would think so, right up until somebody confiscated the copyright for their shitty novel from the publishing corporation that is paying them royalties. And, if you believe that corporations are not persons, they should have no right to hire lawyers in their defense when accused of a crime, or to cross-examine witnesses against them.

It seems to me that depriving corporations of the rights in the 5th and 6th Amendments gives powerful new tools to governments that want to control our society absolutely, but inside every lefty there is a totalitarian waiting to burst out and order us around, so perhaps this is not surprising.

The Seventh and Eighth Amendments

No right to a jury? Allow for "excessive fines"? It would not take much to shut down the New York Times Company these days...

Of course, lefties often argue that one does not need to form a corporation to publish a newspaper, for example, or raise money to campaign against carbon emissions. True, but good luck finding people who want to take on the personal and bottomless liabilities of partnership to do those things.

Is the "corporations are not people" movement ignorant, or just pandering to ignorant people? It is a little hard to tell.

(12) Comments

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The CNBC Republican Debate: Off-the-cuff reactions 

I have watched only two of the many Republican debates so far this year, the second being the one moderated by CNBC this evening. If you missed it, no doubt an online version will be available in short order.

I had several off-the-cuff reactions, in no particular order.

The questions from the CNBC team were a lot deeper than typical debate questions, in part because they avoided, in the main, superficial attempts at entrapment in favor of thoughtful and complex interrogation on such matters as taxation, trade, and regulation. The main exception was a pointed question to Herman Cain on the recent accusations against him by various alleged sexual harassees, which CNBC had telegraphed in its promotion of the debate this morning on "Squawk Box."

The Mormons did the best job. Of the two, Mitt Romney has the campaigning experience, organization, and money to win, and Huntsman does not. You have to think that Huntsman would make an excellent Secretary of State in a Romney administration, however.

Newt was interesting as always. That does not make him electable. The stakes are too high to run the risk of his candidacy -- the United States will be dead money for a long time if Barack Obama gets a second term -- and in any case we need Newt as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Cain and Bachmann have become tedious and (remain) incoherent. Santorum's face is all wrong -- he looks angry all the time, and that never works.

Rick Perry committed the gaffe of the night in forgetting a central tenant of his own platform and then saying "oops" in response to the follow-up opportunity for redemption. The post-debate talking heads thought that this was the headline error of the night, and it certainly was not good. I am wondering, though, whether a moment of "Halfheimers" really will hurt Perry with GOP primary voters as much as the journalists, who revere quick-wittedness much more than the average American, suppose.

The other Texan in the race, Ron Paul, was frustrating as always. One wanted to agree with Paul (at least if one was a libertarian), but he was so muddled and inarticulate that we had to fill in the blanks with our own supplemental and clarifying words to construct anything sensible out of what he said. The transcript will be awful for Paul. And, anyway, abolishing the Federal Reserve is just silliness, as I will make clear in a future post.

The troubling part is that after months of campaigning and God knows how many debates, most of these guys are rank amateurs. So, I put the question: Can somebody out there explain how any Republican other than Romney has a plausible and reasonably probable path to a majority of the electoral votes?

(10) Comments

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Da Bears 

Great game last night, for those of us who cheer for the Bears (your blogger lived eight years in Chicago, back in the day) or against the Iggles. I do both, so it was a nice evening.

Less frivolously, here is a graphical look at the four major "secular" bear stock markets since 1900. If history repeats itself, we will not really break out until 2016-18, which will be 15-17 years after the crash of the tech and telecom bubbles in early 2001.

My grandfather used to talk about bear markets. He was born in 1900, and was fortunate to have graduated in the Harvard Business School's second class. He invested through two secular bears -- the Dow was net flat from 1929 to 1954, and again from 1966 to 1982 -- and yet still managed to make plenty of money by methodically saving and investing in good companies over more than 60 years. Time and faith in America got it done, and they will for Americans who are just starting out today. Recessions and depressions are painful, and they can stall personal and national progress for many years -- the same grandfather said that the Depression set him back ten years -- but they always end and will again this time.

(3) Comments

Two videos that came up while watching Da Bears 

I more or less enjoy any Eagles loss, but having lived in Chicago for years I have a special love for Da Bears. So, therefore...

Separately, my classmate and I felt the need to explain Howard Cosell's halftime highlight reels, which remain unmatched, to my son, who could not understand why one would want to watch films from Sunday games on Monday night. If you are of a certain age, you will love this video...

(3) Comments

Monday, November 07, 2011

American exceptionalism 

A British writer asks non-Americans who have visited the United States for "tiny, weird things you discovered about the United States only when you got here." The many responses are amusing and insightful, especially, I think, if you have not spent a lot of time in Europe and elsewhere to compare.

(11) Comments

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A bit of Chicago 

I passed through Chicago, just about my favorite city, Monday night to Wednesday afternoon, and took a couple of pictures. I love Chicago's big buildings.

Big John, from the lobby bar of the Ritz-Carlton, late Tuesday afternoon.

Big John

Sears -- forever and always -- Tuesday morning. I worked in that building for eight years, and am stuck in my ways.


Tuesday, a few of you know, was my dear departed father's birthday, and the occasion for my annual cigar. That is getting harder to do -- his brand, Garcia Y Vega, seems to have departed from this happy vale -- but I found some Phillies Blunts in the Walgreens on Michigan Avenue. I asked the bartender in the hotel where one might smoke the cigar. "Indiana." Apparently Illinois went all fascist a couple of years back and banned cigar bars. So I munched it walking down Michigan Avenue on an unnaturally warm autumn evening.

Victory Cigar

(3) Comments

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?