November 30, 2003

Hard to Swallow

CAUTION: Rant containing potentially disturbing imagery!

The editorial cartoon in this Sunday's Connecticut Post really made my blood boil. The illustration was of a large prescription bottle. The label read

RX: Congressional Pharmacy, Washington, DC
Prescribed To: America's Seniors
PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT 1 capsule to be rammed down throat daily
SIDE EFFECTS: Privatization. HMO subsidies. High Drug Prices. insufficient Coverage. Nause
TAKE WITH CAT FOOD
Obviously this was drawn by some wizened old liberal who doesn't think his share of $400 Billion over 10 years is enough to buy his vote. The cat food line is particularly outrageous since Medicare's own surveys indicate that a whopping 4% of seniors face serious financial issues regarding prescription drugs.

I think I am going to pick a day (maybe I'll wait until spring when it warms up a bit) and stand at the end of my driveway naked. A sign would invite anyone who thinks the Medicare Prescription Drugs for Votes Plan is not enough to stop and kiss my @$$.

My version of the cartoon would have read as follows

RX: Congressional Pharmacy, Washington, DC
Prescribed To: American Taxpayers
PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT 1 capsule to be inserted rectally daily
SIDE EFFECTS: Expanded Federal Control of Health Care, Higher taxes, Lower Disposable Income. Can lead to Price Controls.
TAKE WITH SECOND JOB

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:15 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


November 28, 2003

Thanksgiving

Since I only got 1 hit all day - from somewhere in Europe - not many people probably noticed that I took the day off! I did want to say thanks to all those who have stopped here to sample the things that cross my mind, especially those few who stop by every day. I also want to thank the people who inspire to try to find something to post and too keep going even on those days when I don't want to - you'll find them listed under recommended reading on the left. And once again a thanks to Rocket Man for helping to get me started.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:52 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


Still Better than Gridlock

Just when I was beginning to get annoyed enough the the Bush administration to start thinking some of the arguments about electing a Dem to the White House to instill a little gridlock made sense - he makes a surprise Thanksgiving trip to visit the troops in Bagdad. This works in so many ways, and sends so many messages it is hard to know where to begin.

There is of course the message this sends to our troops. This tells the troops that they have full faith and support of the Commander in Chief. There is the explicit message he delivered to the troops and to the Iraqi people, that we will not turn tail and run. These are very important messages to send. That he could send them and steal the headlines from Hillary's Afghanistan trip is really just the apple pie after a great turkey dinner. But the real message, and the most important message this trip sends is to our enemies on the ground. What this is about in the end is what it says to Saddam, Osama, the Ayatollas in Iran, the dictators in Syria and Korea, and even the royal family of Saudi Arabia.

The message it sends to supporters of terrorists everywhere is that the United States can essentially do whatever it wants, whenever it wants. Forget about the imagery of the President serving dinner to the troops for a moment and look at was accomplished. The President of the United States the most powerful and important man on the planet boarded a plane - and not a nondescript unmarked plane but the clearly marked Air force One - and flew 12 hours to the other side of the planet. They landed at Bagdad International Airport - in the middle of a war zone - and sat down for dinner. He shook some hands, gave a speech, got back on Air Force One and took off for home. They did all of this without the world knowing until they were back in the air. I bet even the French are impressed.

Somewhere in the back of whatever is left of Saddam's and Ossama's minds they have to be thinking that if they can pull this off, if they can fly the President of the United States in and out of Bagdad without anyone knowing, what else are they capable of. And somewhere in a basement in Tikrit and a mountain cave in northern Pakistan a couple of guys already on our shit list are probably sleeping a little less comfortably.

I am still overwhelmingly frustrated at Bush's spendthrift ways in general and particularly the Medicare Prescriptions for Votes program but this Thanksgiving trip reminds me that we are still better of without any of turkeys running against him.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:33 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


iPod Wrap-up

Here's the history. I decided it was time for another round of the great Ebay game. My target was an Apple iPod for $50 or less. My first partial win was a unit with a rusted firewire port for $25. I cleaned up the rust but couldn't get it working. So I put it back up for sale on Ebay and it went for $71. I added the $40 profit to my original budget and wet back to Ebay to play for an iPod for $90 or less. The next round netted me another malfunctioning device for $86. this iPod suffered from either a software crisis or a dead hard drive. If it was software I could fix it a dead hard drive would mean trying to buy another one and swap out parts. But I don't really want an iPod that badly. So I put this one back on Ebay and it just sold for $76. My Ebay/iPod game is now officially over. I have played the game before and won, this time I played the game and lost. It should be noted though that in losing - not getting a working iPod within my limit - I still managed to come out $30 ahead.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:56 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment


November 25, 2003

Nightmares

Steven Den Beste has penned an amazing and amazingly frightening analysis of the possibilities stemming from the use of WMD in the war on terror.

The "War on Terror" is a final chance for everyone to avoid catastrophe. The strategy we're following gives the world by far the best chance it has of getting through this without mass death and destruction.
I highly recommend reading it. But not right before going to bed.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:01 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Medicare Fraud

The worst place to be right now on the age/political spectrum is to be a politically conservative individualist who is on the thin generational edge between boomer and Generation X. What really sucks about it is that you're old enough to understand what is going on around you and you can see what the idiots in Washington are doing to your future. You are young enough that can see the long stretch of years ahead of you striving and working to reach a point where even after paying for every vote buying entitlement coming out of congress you can still afford to have a decent home and a decent life for your family. And because you are politically aware you know that legislation like the $400 BILLION Medicare Prescription Drug Bill is nothing more than a payoff to the single largest segment of the voting public.

When I think of what this entitlement is going to cost me I wish I could have 2 minutes of quality time with George W. I would love the opportunity to shove a lit cigar under his nose and quote one of my favorite lines from the movie Top Gun

Son, your ego is writing checks that your body can't cash

But I don't think that would really matter because George and every other elected thief in Washington knows that neither they nor anyone in their generation will have to cash that $400 BILLION check.

There isn't even the hope that under the weight of this new program the whole Medicare system will just collapse. Long before the system is in actual crisis the politicians will scare up an imaginary Medicare crisis which will be the basis for decimating the pharmaceutical industry through regulation and price controls. From there it is not even a slippery slope but a mere hop skip and a jump to fully socialized medicine.

Worse still is that the $400 BILLION Medicare fraud represents the desert cart at the end of the all-you-can-eat spending buffet the White House and Republican Congress have been feeding at like a boat load of drunken sailors who haven't eaten in a week. As someone who is going to spend the rest of his working life paying for all this gluttony there are two ideas that I see completely missing from this government, compassion and conservatism.

The scariest thought of all though is that Bush and his Republican congress are still a better option than anything the Democrats have to offer. The Democrats in the senate fought hard to block the $400 BILLION Medicare fraud because they didn't think it was enough.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:10 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


November 24, 2003

My Memorial Vision

I was reviewing the finalists for the World Trade Center Memorial recently and though I found some of then aesthetically appealing I found them all to be emotionally unsatisfactory. I guess in part that is probably because the memorial is not there for my benefit and because I don't need it. I don't need a place to remind of me what happened and what I felt on September 11. That is etched permanently into my memory.

Part of what I find lacking in the Memorial concepts stems from a deep dislike for the building plans for the new Trade Center. In the midst of the rage, anguish and confusion of 9/11 my first thought was that we should rebuild the towers exactly as they were. Time has only modified that thought slightly. Because there does need to be a memorial. If for nothing else to serve as a reminder to every ass who does nothing but criticize every step we take in defiance of terrorism. Now my thought is that we should rebuild the towers exactly where and as they stood with the addition of 11 floors to the top of each to serve as a memorial.

But I would not build a memorial only to those who died on that day. I would build not only a memorial to the lost but a tribute to the living. A tribute to those who fought death on that day. A tribute to those who toiled endlessly, digging with their hands and passing debris in bucket brigades in the hope that they might pull one survivor from the wreckage. I would build not only a memorial to the lost but a tribute to the spirit of a wounded nation that gathered itself and declared This Will Not Go Unanswered.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:43 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 21, 2003

Feith Buz

The Fieth memo story appears to at least be picking up steam on the internet. Over the last few days I have recorded about 12 hits from Google searches for the story. Up until yesterday my site - which since its inception on August 30 of this year has received a total of 640 hits - was on the first page of the results. As of this morning, Hold the Mayo is showing up on page 8.

Update

If you google "Feith memo investigation" Hold the Mayo is #2 out of 2,400

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:44 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 20, 2003

Apathay?

I don't quite know what it is today, maybe I'm just tired. I wrote last week that my posts tend fall into either This Amuses Me or This Pisses Me Off. Today nothing much amuses me - and I don't seem to be able to find something to get pissed off about. The whole Michael Jackson thing is certainly fodder for enough humor to last for months - which is good because that's probably how long the wall-to-wall coverage is likely to last. I can't even work up to being more than mildly annoyed at the way they bend the rules of criminal justice for famous people. I mean maybe I've see too many Law and Order variations/reruns but I thought the process was you got arrested and then they held a hearing to determine bail. Jackson knew what his bail was 24 hours before he turned himself in. It doesn't seem right.

Teddy Kennedy is still getting away with calling minority judges neanderthals. The mainstream press is still ignoring the Feith memo - and no one seems too upset that the thing was leaked in the first place.

I'm sure with good night's sleep I'll be able to laugh at the King of Pop once again.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:16 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 19, 2003

Bush-up Bra

I am adapting this from a comment I posted to Hit & Run this morning. The subject under discussion was the decision by the Bush administration to try to solidify its support in the South by putting import quotas on certain textile products from China. While the steel tariffs had a discernible impact on industry - little or none of it good - I don't expect these quotas to have any real impact at all.

In the areas of manufacturing and raw materials, there is really no entity that has the market position and power to challenge the influence of government actions. A long history of over regulation and anti-trust actions have seen to that. When it comes to clothing - and in this specific case undergarments - government is attempting to influence the world of consumer retail. Once government enters into that arena, they come face to face with the behemoth named Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart's power in the marketplace will render Bush's misguided textile quotas meaningless.

There is an excellent article from Fast Company Magazine that takes an in depth look at the pressures Wal-Mart puts on its suppliers to reduce cost. The scope of Wal-Mart's power in the retail world is mind boggling and although they are a U.S. based company, patriotism does not enter into their buying decisions. If quotas inflate the cost of undies from China, Wal-Mart will buy them from anywhere else they can get them for a penny less than domestic sources.

The net effect will be to distort production internationally but do nothing to help U.S. manufacturers. If you think Wal-Mart's buying decisions can't have that effect, Consider these stats from the Fast Company article:

Wal-Mart is not just the world's largest retailer. It's the world's largest company--bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors, and General Electric. The scale can be hard to absorb. Wal-Mart sold $244.5 billion worth of goods last year. It sells in three months what number-two retailer Home Depot sells in a year. And in its own category of general merchandise and groceries, Wal-Mart no longer has any real rivals. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined.

There is no question that Wal-Mart's relentless drive to squeeze out costs has benefited consumers. The giant retailer is at least partly responsible for the low rate of U.S. inflation, and a McKinsey & Co. study concluded that about 12% of the economy's productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s could be traced to Wal-Mart alone.

Last year, 7.5 cents of every dollar spent in any store in the United States (other than auto-parts stores) went to the retailer.

The rest of the article chronicles the effects of this power on manufacturers. If you work for a company that does business with WM, (I do) these stories will hit home. If you don't they will amaze you.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:47 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


November 17, 2003

Bipartisan Non-Investigation

By now anyone who gets some of their news from internet sources is aware that The Weekly Standard published a confidential memo from undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. I wonder how many have noticed how little coverage this is getting from media on all sides of the spectrum. There has been very little coverage and virtually no controversy. Where is the outrage? Where are the impassioned calls for an investigation? Where are the self-righteous partisan politicians shouting that heads should roll? The silence over this leak of confidential intelligence is deafening compared to the hew and cry over the Democratic strategy memo leaked last week. The simple truth is neither side wants this to be looked at too closely.

Where one would naturally expect the shrill bleatings of the likes of Kennedy, Daschel and Hillary claiming that the the republicans released this secret memo for political gain there is nothing. Why? As last week's leak showed, the Democrats want to use possible intelligence failures and distortions as weapons against Bush in the 2004 election. Any investigation that revealed the contents of the Feith memo to be the truth would invalidate that part of their election strategy. With the economy improving the Dems would rather let a major breach of secrecy pass than risk the last issue they have to base a campaign on.

The Republicans who last week were in high dudgeon last week over the Democratic strategy memo that called for the Ds to use intelligence committee investigations to gain political advantage are silent on this leak. Why? Clearly given the Democratic strategy leaked last week this memo helps them, but if it were investigated and proved false it would be a disaster for Bush.

It's high stakes poker played with confidential intelligence information and national security. Winner takes all for the Office of President of the United States. If the GOP had any confidence in the information in the Feith memo they would be betting the farm on an investigation. Or are they playing it close to vest hoping to lure the Dems into calling for an investigation that sinks all 9 candidates by validating the war in Iraq.

The Democrats either know that an investigation would hurt them or they are trying to bluff the Republicans into a false sense of security. Either way nothing gets done and a major security breach goes not only unpunished but without investigation. Bipartisanship at its finest.

UPDATE
According to an AP report here Senate Intellligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he expected to ask the Justice Department and the Pentagon to determine if the leak constituted a crime.

"That's highly classified material and an egregious leak of classified material"
Democratic vice-chairman of the committee Jay Rockefeller is ecpected to sign onto the request.

I am not sure how an "egregious leak" of "highly classified material" can happen without a crime being committed.

The Republicans open weakly and the Democrats call.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:24 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


November 16, 2003

iPod News

I have just completed an Ebay auction for a second malfunctioning iPod. My cost $86. Subtracting the $40 profit I made on the sale of the previous non-functioning unit I got this iPod for $46. Nicely below the $50 budget I set at the start of this game. From the description of the problem with this one it seems like a software problem. Before bidding I did a little research on the Apple support site. It should be an easy fix and victory will be mine.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:07 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 15, 2003

All Natural Leaf Blower

Several days of very high winds that blew across the northeast recently caused a lot of havoc and damage. Those who suffered have my sympathy. For me the wind storm was a blessing. Probably 98% of what was once fall foliage was blown against the fence making clean up much much easier.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:19 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 14, 2003

Zealous Planning

I owe another thank you to Rocket Man. Not only was he a great help getting this site going + a post on his sight sending me to Eject! Eject! Eject! was one of the things that convinced me to even start. A recent link on his blog convinced me to finally check out the USS Clueless site of Steven den Beste. This post on religious zealotry and its role in the strategy and planning of UBL is outstanding.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:22 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


The sum of 30 hours of debate

Randy E. Barnett, Professor of Law at Boston University and member of the Volokh Conspiracy has written an excellent analysis of the filibuster debate for the New York Sun.

He concludes with

That no judge should ignore the Constitution when doing so suits their ideological agenda is a philosophy all nominees must accept. So must all senators. For they too have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, the whole Constitution, and not just the parts that, for the moment at least, lead to results they happen to like.
I wish I had said it that well myself.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:21 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 13, 2003

The Short List

There is a very short list of links to the left, and in my experience reading blogs the brevity of my link list is out of the ordinary. As I as adding two new links Steven Den Beste and Andrew Sullivan it occurred to me that I should offer some sort of explanation.

Here it is. I ad a site to my links because I think it is good. I consider listing a link as giving a personal recommendation.

The current list of nine is by no means exhaustive or final. In fact if you have a site to recommend - see the comment section below. I'll be happy to check out anyone's blog and if I think they are worthy of recommending I'll add them.

With the exception of Rocket Man who provided encouragement and a a number of invaluable hints when I was getting started links are listed alphabetically. (If the blog is listed by the author's name I'm keying off the last name; thus for now Andrew Sullivan is at the end of the list.)

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:46 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


Very Very Cool

A neat little mind over matter demonstration? Requires Download

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:51 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Big Brother's Colors

According to a World Net Daily report

The city of Lauderhill, Fla., passed a new law that controls the colors residents can paint their home
The specific target of the measure is a man who had painted his house purple and gold – the colors of his college fraternity.

I could go on at length about the absurdity of painting your house the colors of your college fraternity. Or I could rant about the psychological implications of a lack of maturity that leads one to cling to portions of their youth too tightly. And quite frankly I would have preferred it if he had painted his house purple and gold just to piss off his busy body neighbors – which he has succeeded in doing.

But what really bothered me about this story was this:

a consultant will help the city create a color palette with hundreds of shades from which homeowners can choose. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the palette in January.
I tried a number of different searches on Google to try to determine how many possible paint colors you could choose from at a typical paint store or home improvement store. The closest I got to a number was “infinite.� I did come across and interesting discussion about the range of the visible electromagnetic spectrum the author of which concluded that somewhere there are probably around 300 trillion possible colors.

From this palette of 300 trillion visible colors the City Commissars of Lauderhill, FLA are going to vote on which few hundreds residents will be allowed to paint THEIR OWN HOUSES.

If I had the capital to fund a fantastically quixotic gesture against the stupidity and the intrusiveness of this law, I would buy a house in Lauderhill, and paint it a patchwork of every color the commissars approve.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:07 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


November 12, 2003

The Future of the Constitution

There is an exercise I would recommend to any new blogger (having been one recently myself). I printed my entire site and read every word - nowhere near my computer. Aside from confirming my suspicions that I am a horrible typist and not that good (or diligent) at proof reading I learned that on occasion I sit down and type without fully engaging my brain. There are a number of posts where I could clearly tell I was making it up as I was going. I don't disagree with the essence of what I was saying, but I don't think I said it very well. The typos and the missing words, and those sentences where I changed course but didn't delete all of the old before continuing on, can and will be corrected (some day). The rambling and intellectual wandering I will leave in place as a reminder to myself to try to have a better idea of where I am going before I get started.

I noticed too, that there are basically two types of posts on Hold The Mayo. I classified them by their basic emotional component. "This Amuses Me" and "This Pisses Me Off." There are a few that probably fall into both. Of the things that fall into PMO the most common are the Judicial System, the Tax System, and political hypocrisy. If I ever try to take on all three in one post I would be reduced to ranting incoherently! So unless I come across a hypocritical politically motivated judicial decision about the tax code that I can't ignore, I'm going to try to limit PMO posts to no more than two of the big three.

For most of the topics that annoy me, I tend to focus much more on the bigger picture. When it comes to the judiciary for instance I tend not to give a lot of attention to individual injustice and instead zero in on the systemic disregard of the Constitution, the law and the proper role of judges within the law that make individual injustices possible. Thus, I have written multiple posts an the current situation with federal court nominees in the Senate. A subject that covers two my biggest PMO issues.

The Democrats are filibustering the nominations of judges they label as extreme right wing judicial activists. What has earned these judges this label is a belief that is the role of the court to interpret and apply the Constitution not to re-write it, that the proper role of a judge is to judge according to the law - not to create law. Judges like Miguel Estrada and Janice Rogers Brown are in point of fact as opposite of judicial activists as you can get. What the Democratic obstruction amounts to is an effort to increase the liberal politicization of the judicial system. Recent conservative electoral victories have shown that Americans are ready to pull back from big government. That Americans want to put the brakes on the slow incremental drift toward socialism that many liberal policies represent. Having lost the power to advance their agenda legislatively, the left is seeking to ensure that the advancement of their agenda by activist judicial fiat is not thwarted.

I have been critical of the response of the Republicans in the Senate as being weak and basically non-existent. News reports now indicate that the Republications are getting off the sidelines and into the game. It's about time. The political battle over George Bush's nominations of strict Constitutionalist judges to the federal bench may well be one of the most constitutionally significant moments since the succession of southern states that lead to the Civil War. I write that not as an exercise in hyperbole but in the belief that if you look past the partisanship and the politics what this battle represents is a debate about the meaning and the role of the Constitution in America.

Each of the nominations currently being obstructed are to positions that have been described as a stepping stone the U.S. Supreme Court. The outcome of this political struggle within the Senate will determine if there are judges on a career path the SCOTUS who believe constitutional questions should be adjudicated based on what the Constitution actually says about the scope and limits of government authority or if we will continue down the path of judicial law-making. Will their be justices who believe that the Constitution represents the the highest legal standard, or will there be justices who believe that decisions should be based on their personal ideology, public opinion, or precedents of foreign courts.

As you watch the debate in the Senate over the next several weeks and hear the partisan wrangling and acrimony, remember the issues at stake are not really political power and process but the composition of the highest levels of the judiciary. What is at stake is the future of the Consitution.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:15 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 11, 2003

Road Trip

Just back from a two-day trip to Atlanta to set up a trade show booth. Finally managed to prove my 5th grade teacher wrong and was paid for making paper airplanes.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:24 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


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