May 31, 2005

Where To Eat On An Expense Account

I need everyone's help. I am traveling to Cincinnati next week for business. I need restaurant recommendations. Money is no object. The object is to spend as much money as possible. We're talking expense account dinners here. Nothing but the best.

Any suggestions?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:38 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment

May 30, 2005

Random Thoughts

I don't have the energy for much that is serious today. It has been an exhausting month. I am tired. Not tired in a sleepy kind of way that you can cure with a good night's sleep. But tired in a deep and lasting way that feels like it could be permanent. So forgive my not marking the day for what it is to the nation and the world, but only for the trivia of my exhausted existence.

Today my son turned 5.

In somewhat related news I spent a good deal of the morning in the downstairs bathroom with a plunger and a snake. I successfully extracted a pair of tweezers and a toothbrush. Yes. They were both thrown away instantly. The downside is, the toilet still doesn't flush properly. All further attempts have not yielded the source of the obstruction.

We bought one of those free-standing, adjustable-height, basketball hoops. After the unimaginable hell of putting this thing together the kid had better get a basketball scholarship to the school of his choice. He owes me that much.

Wednesday it will be one year since my father passed away. When he died my mother gave me his golf clubs. I haven't really played in years but she wanted me to have something that was important to him. There is a driving range just down the road from work. I will take his 5 iron and hit a bucket of balls at lunch.

Every day it gets harder day to not put OS X Tiger on the company laptop. At first it was just because the Widgets are cool. A great deal of fun and in many cases an utter waste of time. Great Stuff. But the RSS reader built into Safari. Damn that is sweet. I have played with RSS readers in the past but never found anything I liked. The Safari reader works they way I want it to. I can build a library of bookmarked feeds in a pull down menu and load each into a tab. I san also just hand select feeds that have been updated. I can read more blogs in less time. This is good.

Yesterday I was standing in the driveway about four feet behind the car. The boy was between the two cars tring to get something that had rolled under the Jetta. Out of nowhere two deer came charging through the neighbor's yard and over the three foot wire fence. They passed full speed between me and the cars and went over the five foot wooden fence surrounding our yard. They didn't make the jump cleanly and there is still fur on the fence. The dear escaped the yard - I over a lower section they cleared easily. No one was hurt though the dogs were wired about an hour. Deer do not belong in our neighborhood. This pair was clearly lost.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:24 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment

May 24, 2005

On The Table And Gathering Dust

I just heard Bill Frist on Sean Hannity. He says he is not happy about the deal and that “The Constitutional Option is still on the table.” It's still on the table in exactly the same spot is has been for a year or two. Gathering dust.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:11 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

Let's Make A Deal

So it seems the Senate rules have been changed. It apparently does not require a super-majority to approve an appeals court nominee. It does not require the vote of a simple majority. All it takes to decide the fate of a nominee is a super-minority. The gang of 14 has spoken and they have taken over the Senate's responsibility to advise and consent.

Now we just need to put our thinking caps on and come up with a clever name for this little junta.

I suppose there will be some benefits to having the federal judiciary under the control of a pack of maverick Senators (7 Democrats, 6 Republicans and John McCain).

No need for the president or his staff to put all that time and effort into selecting a nominee. Just ask the Fantastic Fourteen who they like and rubber stamp it. If they want to preserve some illusion of Presidential authority they could just submit a list of 3 people they like and let the Junta pick one. Or maybe the Mavericks could send the president a list of judges it would be O.K. to nominate. Either way without having to put all that thought and effort into coming up with nominees the President will have more time to focus on other things like setting up programs to buy viagra for pedophiles.

Think of the money the Senate will save on its operating budget. No need to have those exhaustive and probably expensive hearings in the Judiciary Committee. All that time spent answering questions, the FBI background checks are no longer necessary. The Feckless Fourteen will decide. Instead of the thousands of dollars spent on the current process they can get together over coffee for about $500 and pick some judges.

Since there will be no need for the other 88 Senators to debate, maybe we should figure out how much that time is worth and deduct it from their pay.

Come to think of it does anyone know how the Felonious Fourteen feels about John Bolton?“

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:59 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

May 22, 2005

My Comment

The Federal Election Commission is soliciting comments on proposed regulation of political speech on the internet. The quote on the banner for this site is from Patterico and my comment was written it spirit:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.
I eliminated some of the formalities and things like my home address, but here is the text of the comment I submitted.
Ladies and gentleman of the Federal Election Commission you have been given a task unheard of though not unimagined in U.S. history. You have been charged with the regulation of political speech based on its content. It is not unimagined because the fear of such regulation is the reason the First Amendment contains language protecting the right to free speech.

An individual or group can within specified limits participate in the political process. Those limits include when speech occurs and more importantly the content of that speech. Now a federal court has compelled you to consider how to apply those regulations of speech to political activity on the internet.

At this point I could quote the First Amendment and follow that with a good deal of impassioned language about the rights of citizens to participate in the political process. I could urge you to cast your regulations in a favorable manner. However since I do not recognize your authority to regulate political speech I don’t see the point in expending the effort.

I am not concerned with whatever regulation of speech you see fit to try to impose as I will continue to exercise my unabridged right to free speech. I will not be silenced.

Red State has a good list of resources you might want to check out before commenting to the FEC. But act quickly. The deadline for Comments is June 3.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:54 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment

May 21, 2005

Bad Economic News For The Democrats

Democrats are probably regretting the lesson they learned from Bill Clinton: “It's the economy stupid.” Judicial nominations, Senate rule changes are great issues to rile up the base, but they are your people already. On thing the last election had to teach them - if they were willing to learn - is that their base is not enough.

They know, however, that what drives elections is the economy, followed closely by national security. Those are the issues where a party can win over voters in the middle and a few from the other side as well. The rest is all noise for the faithful.

So this bit of of news can't be going down well.

The dollar rose a fourth consecutive week against the euro on speculation the Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates while the European Central Bank will be forced by a weak regional economy to hold or even cut rates.

``You've got a yield play in favor of the dollar and you've got some stability issues in Europe,'' said Enrico Caruso, chief trader at currency hedge fund Tempest Asset Management in Newport Beach, California. The dollar's four-week gain ``has been orderly but there's going to be a breaking point soon,'' where it will rise even faster, he said.

The dollar also advanced this week against the yen, British pound and Swiss franc on speculation the three-year bear market for the U.S. currency is over. Economic reports next week will show a recovery in U.S. orders for durable goods and that gross domestic product expanded more last quarter than previously estimated, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

That darn economic recovery that they weren't able to convince voters wasn't happen just keeps rolling along. In fact, it has probably reached the point where we don't have to call it a recovery anymore. We have recovered and we have a strong growing economy. That's not good for news for the Democrats with the 2006 elections right around the corner.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:45 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment

May 20, 2005

The Constitutional Question

I have been thinking about a sentence I wrote in the post below, because it hasn't seem right since I wrote it:

Whatever side of the argument over the constitutionality of filibustering the nomination of judges you take...
Here's the problem. Both sides in the Senate battle have been working overtime to cloak themselves in the Constitution and it sickens me.

The Republican's are making the equivalent of a Constitutional Newsweek argument. There are numerous places in the Constitution that call for a super-majority, but it is not called for in the advise and consent of judicial appointments. Therefore the Constitution clearly calls for an automatic up or down vote. This sounds a lot like Newsweek saying they showed the Koran flushing story to one official who objected to one part but offered no comment on the toilet portion of the story, therefore we assumed it was accurate.

It also reeks of the very Constitution is a “living document” kind of bullshit that they so despise in “liberal activist judges.” We are told that the reason the currently filibustered nominees were put forward in the first place is that they wouldn't engage in precisely this kind of nonsense.

The bottom line is that Constitution doesn't specify what constitutes advise and consent and that it should be read that how they achieve that is covered under the language that gives the senate authority to set their own rules.

The Republicans want to approve judges who will decide cases they way they want them to be decided. Conservatively. They want their people on the bench if not to advance their agenda then at least to thwart the other side's. Their motivation is purely partisan and ideological, and there is nothing wrong with that. What stinks is when they attempt to wrap their political motives in the Constitution. It rings hollow and it cheapens the document.

The Democrats are essentially no different. They want to prevent Bush's nominees from making it to the bench for purely political reasons. They are blocking nominees not based on their qualifications but by what they have called their “judicial philosophy.” Their politics. The bottom line is they don't want the other side to appoint judges that will not decide cases liberally. It is purely political and partisan. Yet they proclaim they are doing it in the name of preserving the check and balance of the Constitution. That too is bullshit. And their use of the Constitution as a rhetorical cloak also cheapens the document.

I wish both sides would just stop.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:59 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

It Had To Be Him

There are rumors of possible coup attempt in the Senate. Apparently a Junta made up of 12 moderate Senators from both parties are going to attempt to assume the authority to decide which nominees to the federal appellate courts are approved.

Whatever side of the argument over the constitutionality of filibustering the nomination of judges you take, I think almost everyone can agree that putting the control of the judiciary in the hands of this group is not a good idea. 12 Senators holding that much power over anything is not a good idea. Once they have tasted that power, what is to stop them from wielding it over anything and everything they desire?

Party loyalty?

I don't think so, since one of the members of this power grabbing group is none other than RINO party chairman John McCain. If this groups succeeds in taking over the Advise and Consent roll of the Senate, look for legislation making it illegal to complain about it soon.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:41 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

May 19, 2005

Bill Whittle


I started to read this knowing I would link it and looking for a line to quote here. There are too many to pick just one.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:03 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

May 17, 2005

Because I Want To Be Cool

I briefly noted my outrage at the lack of standards at Newsweek in this post titled Down Periscope. If you don't know, the now retracted riot inciting news item was published in a section of the magazine called Periscope. Tuning Spork left the following in the comments:

Hey, y'know what'd be cool? If you could write, as a former journalism major, why you abandoned a career on journalism for a career in graphics. And, then, why you value yer blogging time. That'd be cool!
Well who doesn't want to be cool? I will tell the story, though I think maybe Spork might be disappointed.

I wish it was story of great moral courage and defiance in the face of the liberal media establishment. Of fighting the good fight for a cause without hope. But it is really none of that.

I grew up in the city of Bath, Maine. If you know of it at all, you know there is only one thing in Bath. The Bath Iron Works. The BIW builds ships for the navy. I don't think they have worked on a commercial project for almost 30 years. My father worked at the shipyard. He started as an apprentice electrician. He retired as Chief Electrical Designer. When you saw those videos of Aegis class cruisers launching cruise missiles at Bagdad, you saw some of his work.

Bath was the quintessential factory town. Everyone worked at the Yard or made their living off of the people who worked there. Me I wanted to write. When I was 16 that was all I wanted to do with my life. I didn't see it as a practical choice though. And if there is one thing I learned growing up in Maine it was a solid Yankee Practicality.

We were not wealthy, even by Bath standards. If I was going to be a writer I was going have to work for a living too. This basically meant I was going to be working at the shipyard. The one thing I wanted almost as much as I wanted to write, was to not work at the shipyard. Journalism came to the rescue as the most practical solution. Making my living writing the news while I did my own writing on the side. So off to the University of Maine I went. (I had acceptances from a couple of other schools - bigger schools. More expensive schools. I took the practical route again.)

A core part of the curriculum of the Journalism department was writing for and doing the paste-up of the school newspaper. The Daily Maine Campus. Over the course of my career I held a number of staff positions - a couple of them paid positions. I started as special sections editor. Basically I put together a features section for each season - fall, winter, and mud - outlining the great seasonal things one could do on campus. I also did a section on a university budget crisis that won an award for the Maine College Press Association.

Next I did a stint as Editorial Page Editor. The second day of the semester I ran an editorial I wrote extolling the virtues of Ronald Reagan's platform of Peace Through Strength. The Editor in Cheif, who was so far left he couldn't see liberal let alone the middle, nearly had a breakdown. He threatened to run a retraction the following day - after which I would be fired. The entire senior staff threatened to walk out and he backed down. He once tried to argue that the cinder block wall in his office wasn't really solid because atomically there was more space between particles than there were particles. He insisted there was more empty space than wall, until I suggested he take off his shoe and put his foot through the space as hard as he could. We eventually came to an uneasy kind of peace though he never stopped regretting giving me the position.

My senior year I was not chosen by the committee to be Editor. Surprise. Surprise. Surprise. I took a position as managing editor. The paper was in my hands two nights a week. It was an exciting time. This was the year we got computers.

Prior to this year our production process was tortuous. We typed stories on typewriters fed by rolls of brown paper. These were given to the editors who marked them up before giving them to the typists who typed them in the big old typesetting machines. They also went to the professor teaching the core classes in news-writing and formed the basis of your grade. Every spelling error cost you a letter grade. Unless you misspelled a proper noun. That got you an E. This made the class tough for those of us with poor typing skills.

Then we replaced the typewriters with Sanyo PCs running Wordstar. These files were translated into a Compugraphic editing system. The formatting was very much like html and in about a week I figured out how to to automate much of the paper's standard formatting. Which was great because we had a production deadline. Our paper wass printed at the presses of the Ellsworth American, about a 45 minute drive from campus. At 10:30 the local paper the Bangor Daily News had a truck leaving with their Ellsworth edition. If we got there before they left, they would drop it off. Miss the truck and you were making the drive. I hated driving to Ellsworth.

By the end of my college career it was pretty clear that as far as newspaper work was concerned I was much better suited to production and opinion pieces. At least those were the parts of it that I enjoyed the most.

Along the way I took a couple of computer sceince classes - writing meaningless programs in Pascal on punch cards. I also managed to garner enough elective credits to have minors in International Relations and Philosophy.

I kicked around a couple of meaningless menial non-shipyard jobs for a year then saw an ad for a paste up person for the local paper, the Times Record. I sent them my resume and got a call form the editor. It seems they were also looking to hire a reporter. They put me in a room with a page of notes and a typewriter and gave me half an hour. I didn't get the job. I did a good enough job with the story, but the same typing skills that gave me so much trouble in college came back to haunt me.

Then I found a job with a small printer in Yarmouth, Maine. I started in the bindery department. In fact I was the bindery department. This gave my parents hope that college was not a complete waste. Printing was at least related to journalism.

While at the print shop I was introduced to the Macintosh. I went in one Saturday to play around with the MAC II and Pagemaker 1.0. I was hooked instantly. That first day I set up the next job in the new jobs bin - a two color business card. I set it up so that the laser printer produced the separations. They had never done them like that. they had just printed them out and cut apart the seps by hand. Over the course of four years I did every job in the place except run the presses.

I moved to Connecticut when the path of my future in the printing business began to look to clear. I had friends here, and I was seeing a woman who lived here so this made the perfect location to escape my fate. I took a job as a print buyer for a small marketing and communications company that no longer exists (but that's a story for another day). When the company fell apart all that was left was the creative partner, the mailroom guy and me - the guy who could work the computers. So in addition to doing all the admin stuff on a PC I started executing the boss's designs on the MAC. He liked to give a client three options. One day he handed me two layouts and told me to do the third on my own. That is how I started learning design. He gave me one valuable piece of advice that I have never forgotten. “Look At Everything.” Look at junk mail, study the type in movie credits, look at the label on the shampoo bottle. Sometime I hate that advice, because I can never turn it off, and my wife doesn't understand why I look at her clothing catalogs. But it was good advice.

Side note: that is also how I met my wife. Since the boss could no longer afford to keep me on full time he made me freelancer. He also said that any work I got on my own I could use his equipment as long as his work got done first. I started doing some work on the side for the woman I eventually married. (Another story for another day.)

Marriage and family plans meant I needed a real job. I went to work for a large marketing agency doing digital production. I got to work with a talented designer who is still a great friend. He didn't know much about the computer on his desk. We taught each other. Which was good because one day the agency decided they were no longer going to have a production department so they made all the production people art directors.

I loved that job despite the 15 hour days - every day. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. Then they decided they wanted to have a production department again. They decided that their art director/computer wiz with a production background would be a good person to have there. I was no longer happy. I left and went to the agency down the road for a promotion and better money.

I was in charge of two major accounts. The retainers of these clients paid my salary. Due to a couple of corporate mergers the agency lost both clients. My job there ceased to exist.

From there I found my current position in the in-house design department of a large global corporation where I have been for six years.

Which brings us to today and the last part of Spork's question, “And, then, why you value yer blogging time.”

I'd give you the short answer, but I think it's a little too late for that.

First, blogging is fun. Having people read this is fun. Good for the ego - except when traffic goes down.

Second, through blogging there is a world wide conversation happening and I happen to believe that I have something to add. Whether or not I actually do is I suppose up to the rest of you to judge, but I will continue put my two cents in because I believe it is worth at least that much.

Third, there is still a small kernel of that youthful belief that if I work at it hard enough and long enough, I have it within me to write that sentence, that paragraph, that page that changes the world.

How cool would that be?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:43 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment

May 16, 2005

I Can't Act Either

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:24 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment

Down Periscope

A confidential spokesperson at the department of public works has confirmed that numerous people have flushed copies of Newsweek Magazine.

At the risk of fueling the “echo chamber” criticism of weblogs, I am compelled by utter outrage at what passes for standards of journalism at Newsweek Magazine. Their irresponsibility has only been compounded by this weekend's attempts at an overly nuanced non-correction and non-apology.

In the race toward the bottom of the Main Stream Media barrel Newsweek may have actually passed CBS.

Michelle Malkin probably said it best: Newsweek Lied. People Died.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:04 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

May 15, 2005

I Need A Tree Surgeon

I am weak. I lack a certain fundamental strength of will that keeps people from doing some things that they know they are not supposed to do. But there I was sitting in front of the company laptop, next to it on the dining room table the install disc for OS X 10.4 Tiger.

I know I am not supposed to install Tiger on this system. I know the IT group and my boss would be pissed. But I could not resist. I slid the DVD into the slot loading drive and started the install sequence. The system rebooted itself off the DVD and began the install. It got as far as checking the destination disc and stopped. It wouldn't install.

So I ran the disk repair utility on the install disc. I have problems with my Catalog B Tree that Apple's disc utility would not repair.

So now I've got to get my hands on a copy of Disk Warrior. Disk Warrior will rebuild the directory catalog one file at a time. At least it will try to. I hope it does anyway. If I can't get the B Tree rebuilt then there is no way I can install Tiger without getting IT involved. I could back up the data, blank the drive and Tiger would install like a dream. But IT holds the discs for other software I would need to reinstall.

Involving IT is not an option. They would not approve. They take issue with unlicensed operating systems. They are such a bunch of stick in the mud weenies.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:59 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment

Vader... Vader... Vader..

Have you been reading the Darth Side? I mean what kind of upstanding self-respecting geek are you if you are not?

Today's bit of brilliance Darth Vader's Day Off.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Do you know what I think about being ordered to sit on my hands and wait aboard Executor? Blast it. You heard me: blast it right where the Sith don't shine.

Impressive. Most impressive.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:41 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

May 13, 2005

They Want To Preserve This?

The Democrats are making a lot of noise about “preserving the traditions of free and unlimited debate” in the U.S. Senate. On its own that's a load of crap, they just don't want the Senate to approve qualified judges they don't like for political reasons. But have you ever wondered just what it is they are trying to preserve?

Radio Bloggger has an mp3 posted to give you a sense of what passes for debate in the “Greatest Deliberative Body.” I think we can do without preserving to much of this.

And consider this question. When can a Senator to stand on the Senate floor and speak at length about being a born again Christian and cite stories from the Bible as message to his colleagues without the left going into fits of apoplexy about the coming American Theocracy?

Listen to the mp3 and you'll know.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:14 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment

May 12, 2005

Thank You George Voinovich

Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed then nomination of John Bolton for the position of ambassador to the United Nations. The nomination was sent to the Senate without a recommendation. This was the doing of Republican Senator George Voinovich who voted against the nomination resulting in a tie vote in the committee.

“After poring over hundreds of pages of testimony ... I believe John Bolton would have been fired if he worked for a major corporation,” Voinovich said at the committee hearing. “This is not the behavior of a true leader or the face of the United States to the world community.”
This is obviously a reference to a couple of alleged incidents in which Bolton was less than nice with some of the people working for him. This obviously points to the fact that Voinovich has probably not worked in a major corporation for a long time if ever. Things it is alleged Bolton did have never gotten anyone fired where I work.

But still if the Republicans can muster the spine for a fight, the debate of the Bolton nomination on the Senate floor will no doubt be a good show. The Democrats can and no doubt will be ranting and raving about Bolton's alleged ranting and raving. The Republicans, if they have the will, can use the very public forum of a contentious Senate debate to highlight everything that is wrong with the United Nations.

George Voinovich helped to make this possible. Let's hope this doesn't become a missed opportunity.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:49 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

May 08, 2005

A Moment of Blake

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? more...

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:23 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment

May 07, 2005

So Much For Market Pricing.

Everyone always wonders why gasoline costs as much as it does. The people in Maryland no longer have any doubt. Its the government's fault.

When you are in the business of selling a commodity product one of the few ways you have to differentiate yourself is price. But in Maryland if you attempt to charge a price that the government considers to be too low, they will step in and tell you to raise that price.

A gasoline price war erupted in St. Mary's County last week after one station slashed its price for regular to $1.999 a gallon and spurred three others to follow suit, giving drivers some hope of relief at the pump.

But the price dip proved fleeting.

Maryland regulators quickly stepped in and told the stations that their prices were too low. They needed to go up by 5 cents.

Of course they don't do this for no reason. Of course they use the same sort of weak anti-business logic that betrays a typical regulatory lack of understanding for how markets work. O.K. so thats not entirely fair, they do understand half - the half that justifies their interference and in fact their very existence. It's the same tired old recycled socialistic opinion of markets that regulators have relied on for decades.

They believe that if they allow some chain operator to dive the price down this will force the independent operators out of business. And yes, this can happen. Through functions of scale and better efficiency a larger operation can be profitable at a lower price. A small independent dealer who cannot match those attributes cannot must either charger a higher price, offer significantly better service or go out of business. A major player such as BJs who was one of the players in the price battle, can afford to operate at a loss further increasing pressure on small independents. As far as that theory goes, the regulators are correct. Unfortunately they try to eliminate this part of the competitive process in the name of preserving competition. When your in the business of regulating, clear thinking isn't exactly a job requirement.

It's with what happens next that they get really wobbly. They believe that once the big company had driven the little guy out of the market they can charge whatever they want. But it doesn't work that way. Given that the only barriers to entry into the business are those put in place by the government, if the big company that cornered the market tries to boost the price too much, they will lose.

Here's how it works. Assume that a gallon of gasoline costs the vendor $2.00. The average retail price in the area is $2.10. Then along comes the big guy who wants to own the market and starts selling gas at retail for $1.95 The little guy has no choice but to cut his price to the bone. And even if he sells gas at cost, he won't remain in the market all that long as his customers will all be going down the road to the $1.95 guy. So the plan works all the little guys are gone and it's just the bog guy he has cornered the market. It cost him a small fortune to get that position but he has it. Lets say the first thing he does is jack the price up to $2.02. He's no longer selling gas at a loss but the margin is still to thin for anyone else to enter market. He still has it cornered, and he is very slowly starting to recoup his losses. The independents may be gone but consumers are still paying $.08 less per gallon.

But lets say this big company that cornered the market isn't all that smart, and isn't patient when it comes to making their money back. Let's say they jack the price up to $2.20. They would be the quintessential Monopolist sticking it to the little guy. But it won't last. Somebody is going to look at this and say hey If I get into that market and sell gas at $2.15 I'm making a sweet margin over the $2.00 cost and by unde-cutting Monopoly Guy I'm going to do a great business. It's a no brainer. getting financing probably isn't going to be a challenge either.
Monopoly Guy is going to have to respond. He is going to have to drop his price to match or beat the New Guy. The New Guy says bring it on I've got margin to spare.

Sure the Monopoly Guy could go back to selling gas at a loss again and start the process over, but how many times are they going to do that before they are the ones going broke? Monopoly Guy's smart play once he has cornered the market is to set his price where he is getting just enough profit to make owning the market worth it, but not not so high that the profits attracts competitors to the market.

Either way the consumer, who the regulator claims to be protecting by forcing a price increase, is paying less for gas.

So if you live in Maryland, the next time you go for gas remember that you could be paying less per gallon. But the sate wont allow it.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:15 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment

May 06, 2005

Maybe We Need Another Protocol

Once upon a time there was a great scientific consensus. Pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels was creating a greenhouse effect. The members consensus agreed that the Earth's climate was going to get warmer, the polar ice caps were going to melt and the ocean levels would rise flooding thousands of miles of coastland. It would be an ecological and environmental disaster of biblical proportions. (Despite the fact that the problem was man made - and not an act of god.)

The members of the Scientific Consensus got together with a lot of consenting activists and politicians in the town called Kyoto and there they created The Protocol. The Protocol was to limit the production of pollution by industrial nations in hopes of having an imperceptibly small effect on the predicted climate change.

They even made a movie about it. I hear it was pretty bad in terms of the plot, the science and the acting, but the special effects were supposedly worth half the price of the ticket.

What got left out of all the consenting about Global Warming was its lesser known cousin Global Dimming. Global Dimming is the phenomenon of pollution in the atmosphere reducing the amount of sunlight that reached the surface of the earth. You probably haven't heard a whole lot about the crisis of Global Dimming for a couple of reasons. First the idea of pollution blocking sunlight and limiting warming doesn't fit well with The Consensus and The Protocol. Second, we appear have to have this problem on the run.

That's right, Global Dimming has given way to Global Clearing. And what is the result? Global Warming!

Our planet's air has cleared up in the past decade or two, allowing more sunshine to reach the ground, say two studies in Science this week.

Reductions in industrial emissions in many countries, along with the use of particulate filters for car exhausts and smoke stacks, seem to have reduced the amount of dirt in the atmosphere and made the sky more transparent.

That sounds like very good news. But the researchers say that more solar energy arriving on the ground will also make the surface warmer, and this may add to the problems of global warming.

And they don't come right out and say it, but I bet you can guess who is to blame for all of this Global Clearing caused Global Warming: Ronald Reagan.
The results suggest that a downward trend in the amount of sunlight reaching the surface, which has been observed since measurements began in the late 1950s, is now over.

The researchers argue that this trend, commonly called 'global dimming', reversed more than a decade ago, probably following the collapse of communist economies and the consequent decrease in industrial pollutants.

If Reagan hadn't defeated communism, they would still be polluting. There would be no Global Clearing and therefore less Global Warming. The polar ice caps would stay frozen and the oceans wouldn't rise up and flood every coast on the planet.

At least one scientist is about to be drummed out of The Consensus. I bet they are going to take his name off The Protocol newsletter mailing list too:

Researchers will now focus on working out the long-term effects of clearer air. One thing they do know is that black particulate matter in the air has been contributing a cooling effect to the ground. “It is clear that the greenhouse effect has been partly masked in the past by air pollution,” says Andreas Macke, a meteorologist at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, Germany.

Uncertainties remain part of the game because scientists have only a limited ability to track cloud cover and particulates, says Macke. Increased cooperation in programmes such as the NASA-led International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project should help to close the gaps in our knowledge of how dirty air affects climate, he says. (emphasis added).

We need to get the Consensus people and the Protocol guys back together. We should pick a symbolic location like Detroit perhaps, and come up with a new plan. The Detroit Protocol to Decrease Global Clearing.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:28 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

All of Your Flower Pots Are Belonging To Us

The following statement came via eamil:

In the name of Allah we have struck against the infidels foul horticultural imperialism. We have grown weary of your wisteria and impatient with your impatiens. The weeds of your planting will no longer be allowed to assault the vision of the holly. Your gardens of satan will be wiped form the earth. In the name of Allah it will be so.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:04 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

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