April 30, 2006
THE country's new leaders were only five days into their jobs Thursday morning, when a BMW filled with armed men pulled alongside a van carrying the sister of Iraq's new Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi. The men opened fire, killing Maysoon al-Hashemi, a 61-year-old grandmother.The Times was at least willing to give Bush the benefit of the "First 100 Days" standard. And that's just for a new administration in a two centuries old government. This is the first administration of the first democracy in a Arab nation and the times has written it off in five days.
With such an impossible standard for success it's no wonder the Times is shouting failure.
April 29, 2006
DENVER — Some of the nation's largest meatpacking companies plan to shut down plants Monday, anticipating many of their workers will attend immigration rallies that day.
The top three beef-producing companies, Tyson Foods (TSN), Swift & Co. and Cargill Inc., all said they were closing plants.
ConAgra Foods Inc. (CAG) said it would honor requests for time off if possible, but did not plan any changes in production.
Any purchase of any product is a value choice. Is that half-caf low fat latte worth $3.00 or is there something of greater value I could spend that money on? It is of course absurd that a good number of people making the most noise in the media and the halls of Congress about $3.00 a gallon gasoline probably don't give a second thought to paying $3.00 for an 8 oz. cup of coffee.
People need to remember that oil companies and refineries and gas stations and coffee shops do not exist for the sake of providing them with fuel. They are in business to not only make a profit but to maximize that profit. They do this by investing their capital to produce a product that people want to buy.
Right now, a gallon of gas costs about $3.00. Consumers have but two options. Pay the price or don't. If the value of a gallon of gas is not worth the price at the pump, don't buy it. Buy half a tank instead of filling up and find ways to drive less.
If enough people do this the result will be an decrease in demand for gas. Decrease demand enough and guess what that does to the price?
It is really very simple. Ask yourself this: Is there something else that I could buy with my $3.00 that would bring more value to my life?
If the answer is yes, shut up and go spend your money on that.
If the answer is no, shut up and pump the gas.
Here are the words of John "Screw the First Amendment" McCain from a recent appearance on the Don Imus Show
"He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform....I know that money corrupts....I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government."I wonder if this ass remembers the words he spoke when came the senate
"I, John McCaiin, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God." (5 U.S.C. 3331.)Is McCain such a moron that he doesn't think the First Amendment is part of the Constitution that he swore to support and defend.
That this tyrant is considered as front runner for the Republican nomination in 2008 says as much about the GOP as naming Howard Dean party chairman says about the Democrats.
I wonder how much the media which so loves the maverick Senator will be bothered by his utter disdain for the First Amendment? Probably not too much.
I wrote in the comments at Rhymes With Right that the only way McCain could ever get my vote is if the Democrats nominate Clinton. The more I think about his statement, the more I think that if he does get the GOP nomination I will just shrug.
And because I am still free to say it, F' You, John.
April 27, 2006
The alarm went off at 4:00 am. A co-worker was picking me up at 4:15 so we could catch the 5:05 Amtrak from New Haven to Providence.
So after a very fitful four hours of sleep I am hurtling through the pre-dawn darkness on a government run train. Yeah, this day is off to a great start.
The reason for all of this is train time is training. I am required by my employer to complete 16 hours of personal development training every year. Failure to do so would result in not only a tragic lack of personal development but would also negatively impact such things as raises and bonuses. So I train.
The horizon is beginning to brighten and I am making slow progress toward the bottom of my 24 oz Dunkin Donuts coffee. Thus far the combination has done little to improve my outlook.
I shouldn't really complain too much. It is to some extent by choice that I am where I am. It comes down to get up in the middle of the damned night to travel to a design conference or fulfill my training requirement by sitting in some dreadful two day business class taught by our internal training department (a division of HR).
Today me and eight of my co-workers are on our way to the Rhode Island School of Design to attend a one day conference called "Success by Design." What I expect from having read the brochure is that designers and marketers from a handful of companies and agencies will give presentations on the role design plays in their business. We will hear words like "brand" and "experience" and "brand experience" repeated until the impossible happens and they become even more meaningless.
One of the presentations is from the company that is working to resurrect the Narragansett brand. A venerable old New England beer. I am really hoping they bring samples.
Beyond that it is just the torture of listening to designers blather about the significance of their own work. Have you ever heard a designer talk about the deeper meaning of the graphics on a package label? About how this symbolizes this and that element means that. It's bullshit. All of it.
Designers do things they think look good and communicate what it is they are trying sell. All of that other crap they make up to sell the design to the business people.
Here's an example.
My previous employer was a marketing agency whose name began with the letter "R." At one point they decided they wanted a new logo for the company so they asked every one in the creative department to submit ideas.
One concept that my boss and I worked up was based on an architectural detail of our building. Above the main entrance there was a a round light in a metal frame. We put they R of the company name in a circle. (An idea that Radio Shack developed quite independent of our work).
It was a cool graphic and since we worked on consumer product brands it was a nice reference to the little registered mark ® you see on every logo.
The design wasn't chosen, they went with some Nike inspired swoosh thing like every other company at the time. But we did get some interesting feedback. Someone in senior management liked the idea enough that they wrote several paragraphs on what the circle meant.
The thing about these conferences is that it's designers talking to designers and we all know its BS. But it's a day out of the office. It will cover half of my training requirement for the year. There's the possibility of free beer samples. As for learning and personal development, there is always the possibility that I could learn some useful new bullshit.
12 hours later.
So now the conference is over and I am on the train home. In the morning portion of this post I was tired and a little bit cranky, now I am just tired. It would be nice if I was one of those lucky people who can sleep on trains and planes. I guess that ability comes with the experience of traveling a lot. After a while you must be able to tune out the noise and the bumps but I don't do this enough.
The conference was basically what I expected. Some of the presenters did a good job with their bit so I would have to say I enjoyed it. Did I learn anything?
Sure. From the first presenter I learned that if you talk really really fast and never pause to take a breath you can do a two hour presentation in an hour an 20 minute time slot and still have time for Q and A.
The guy who bought Narragansett, a once dominant New England beer that was very nearly dead, did not bring samples to his presentation.
I learned a good deal more about the personal life struggles of one company founder than I would ever really care or need to. I think they call it "over sharing."
I learned that design is capable of solving all the worlds ills. From bad public schools which could be made better by tricking students into learning with well designed computer games to the terrible state of our energy policy.
I learned that if you are president of Bryant University you can score some cheap applause by telling a crowd that you look forward to the day we elect an landscape architect president and how she will fix everything.
Lunch was an appallingly cliche dried out chicken breast with some yellowish sauce, some funky tasting mashed potatoes and undercooked carrots.
The last presenter of the day was by far the most entertaining. He is a partner at a major design firm that probably even a lot of non designers would recognize. His presentation contained virtually nothing of substance but it was refreshing.
(note: it is an interesting experience to be listening to music on the iPod and have one of your own podcasts start to play.)
What was refreshing was that he presented three case studies. He went through the various stages of the evolution of the projects but he did not take himself or his work too seriously. He made fun of work they did that was worthy of mocking. He made fun of his clients. He made fun of himself. He didn't present the work with the BS designers use to sell design to business people.
There was one memorable one-liner from the beer guy. Someone asked how they determine which bars to use to track sales. He didn't really answer the question when he said
If they have a Caesar salad on the menu, it's not a Narragansett bar.So why go to a conference like this? That entertaining last presenter summed it up rather well when he was asked how much they relied on testing in the design process. He said that if you start with good research and a sound decision making process that his experience is that testing usually just confirms what you already know.
Basically we go to these things and mostly hear things we already know. But it's sometimes god to hear them and think about them again.
April 25, 2006
The California State Assembly is considering legislation to impose a windfall profits tax on oil producers. Their plan levy a 2% tax on oil company income of more than $10 million.
The bill was sponsored by Democrat Assemblyman Johan Klehs.
"The only thing I can think of why prices are going up is pure and simple greed," he said. "The way oil companies can avoid paying this tax is reducing the price of gas at the pump."What a complete moron.
The oil companies have a real easy way to avoid paying this tax. They will do it the same way the avoid paying every other tax. They will add the cost of the tax to the price of gas and make the consumer pay.
The end result, the oil company will continue to make a profit, the price of gas will go up, the state will collect more taxes. The only people being penalized are the consumers.
Collusion between the government and environmentalists that severely limits our ability to develop domestic sources of crude oil and to increase our refining capacity.
Collusion between the government and the ethanol industry that places tariffs on imported ethanol. This forces us to buy gas with more expensive ethanol which the government has mandated in collusion with the environmentalists and the ethanol industry.
Collusion between the government and the domestic sugar industry that keeps tariffs on imported sugar and keeps the price of sugar artificially high (sugar is more easily and cheaply converted to ethanol.)
We definitely need to put an end to all of this collusion and price fixing.
(Originally posted as a comment at Hit and Run)
April 24, 2006
Common sense told us that when you put a big tax on something, the people will produce less of it. So we cut the people's tax rates, and the people produced more than ever before. The economy bloomed like a plant that had been cut back and could now grow quicker and stronger.
April 23, 2006
The net result is that even though your profit margins are not what they used to be, you are still making tremendous profits on the ever increasing volume of product you sell.
You have achieved success against a deck fully stacked against you.
What does this get you?
Senator Arlen Specter calling for congress to consider a "windfall profit" tax.
Good move Arlen. That's the key to economic growth. Nothing encourages people to struggle to achieve like punishing them for excessive success.
Thomas Brewton writing at Intelletual Conservative highlights these facts from a Wall Street Journal Editorial
A study last year by Cornell University agricultural scientist David Pimentel shows that it takes so much fossil fuel to create ethanol, that we end up with a net energy loss.
The numbers go like this: It takes 131,000 BTUs to grow and convert enough corn for one gallon of ethanol. A gallon of ethanol, however, has an energy value of just 77,000 BTUs. In other words, it takes about 70% more energy (which comes from fossil fuels, by the way) to produce ethanol than the energy ethanol creates. It’d be easier — and less costly — for consumers to pour most of every gallon of gas they buy down a sinkhole.
Professor Pimentel also looked at the cost of making ethanol. He found that ethanol costs $1.74 a gallon to produce, compared with 95 cents to produce a gallon of gas. That’s why “fossil fuels — not ethanol — are used to produce ethanol,” he says.Sugar apparently is a much more efficient source of ethanol in that is is much easier to produce. However due to the fact that sugar prices in the US are kept artificially high, also to the great delight of corn growers, it is too costly.
These farm subsidies need to go. Its time for these people to grow up and go it on their own.
April 21, 2006
It didn't come down to the wire, but it was close. ABN AMRO One, which at one point had more than an 80 mile lead on Movistar, ran out of wind nine miles from the finish. At one point they actually set an anchor because their forward speed was not enough to overcome the current flowing in the opposite direction. They did manage to win the leg though by a good dozen miles, but those last few hours had to be frustrating. Video
Pirates of the Caribbean took third.
The current overall point standings are:
ABN AMRO ONE 62.5
ABN AMRO TWO 39.5
Pirates of the Caribbean 39.0
Brasil 1 34.0
Ericsson Racing Team 28.5
Brunel 11.5It's is going to be extremely tough to unseat ABN AMRO One from the top spot, though it is mathematically possible. The race is between the Movistar, ABN AMRO Two, and Pirates for second and third. It poses an interesting strategic question for the three crews as they look at the upcoming in-port race. Do they go for the win, or do they concentrate on just beating the other two. The scoring for the in-port race is:
boats receive points equal to half the number of entries, less half the number of boats placed above her in that race. For example, the winner of the Sanxenxo In Port race (7 boats) will get three and a half points, and the third boat will get two and a half points, the fifth boat will get one and a half pointsIf Pirates can beat both Movistar and AMBRO Two, they would gain half a point on one boat and a full point on the other.
The big unknown is Brunnel. They skipped the last three legs to do some major work on the boat to try to make it more competitive and will be re-joining the fleet for the in-port race. On points they are a long shot to finish better than last and a top three overall finish is all but impossible. But they could manage to take valuable points away from other boats, making the race for second and third more interesting.
The in-port race is scheduled for April 29. On May 7 the fleet starts out on a sprint to New York. A mere 400 miles. If the conditions are right these boats can easily do that in a day. Alas, New York is just a brief stop and there will be no in-port race for me to go and watch. On May 11, the fleet starts out for a 3,200 mile Atlantic crossing as they race to Portsmouth, England.
Yes, I want to go.
April 19, 2006
I don't listen to music in the car that often even though my kids don't really like talk radio so I have no idea what is new and good. All of the old stuff that I like, I have.
I am therefore asking the world wide web - or at least the six people who might read this - to offer suggestions. Any genre you like, though I am not likely to go for rap or heavy metal.
UPDATE: 21st Century Paladin has a coincidental post extolling the virtues of a band called Switchfoot. I've never heard of them so I've been listening to samples at the iTunes Music Store. They are definite contenders.
UPDATE: We have a winner. Dare You to Move from the album "The Beautiful Letdown" by Switchfoot
April 17, 2006
Result: Other journalists outraged over the leak demand an investigation to determine its source. This leads to Special Prosecutor investigation resulting in a procedural indictment unrelated to the original subject of the investigation. No charges filed in the investigation of the leak.
Scenario 2: Government employee gives journalist highly classified information regarding on-going anti-terrorist intelligence operation. Journalists print information causing significant national security impact.
Result: Journalists win coveted award.
April 12, 2006
"I have lots of things, like all these Manolo Blahniks. I have all that and I think it's great. I'm not one of those people like, 'Well, we must renounce ourselves.' No, I have a closet full of shoes and it's a good thing.
I was coming back from Africa on one of my trips. I had taken one of my wealthy friends with me. She said, 'Don't you just feel guilty? Don't you just feel terrible?'
I said, 'No, I don't. I do not know how me being destitute is going to help them.' Then I said when we got home, 'I'm going home to sleep on my Pratesi sheets right now and I'll feel good about it.' "
April 11, 2006
Who do you think that might be? There's a clue in how the Times expresses it's opinion of the activities
It is part of a senator's job description to help a major employer in his or her home state, and it is not unusual for that employer to encourage that help or to reciprocate with campaign contributions.
Do you think that sounds rather quid pro quo? Do you think the article is about a Republican or a Democrat?
Who gets to decide which laws we have to obey and which ones we don't? Do we get to vote on it? (ed: don't we already do that?)
There are some obscure laws on the books that prohibit drilling for oil in places like the Gulf of Mexico and ANWAR. We should just ignore those and start drilling. No need for permits or permission. Undocumented Oil Extraction. Haliburton's going to make a fortune.
Hold the Mayo will be accepting recommendations for other laws that we should ignore. As soon as I figure out who gets to decide I'll send them the list.
April 08, 2006
Daughter has theatre from 10:00 to 12:00 two towns and eight exits down the highway.
After dropping off the son, we usually get to theatre with time to wait for the director to arrive and open the doors. The it's back up the highway to karate. I do have enough time to stop at a Dunkin Donuts for coffee.
Now before the coffee snobs come down on me, let me tell you that I don't care. I have no need of a hand crafted low foam low fat concoction carefully prepared by a specially trained barrista. For the same money I can get a 24 oz cup of decent black coffee and be happy.
After getting the son at karate, we have an hour and a half to kill before theatre rehearsal is over. We do errands, we stop at the toy store. We take the post road to Norwalk instead of the thru-way. We don't want to get there too soon. The son does not like to wait.
When theatre is over we head out for lunch. The Saturday lunch of choice - Burger King. (Note: this is not my choice. It's what the kids want and I let them have it there way.) Their preferred seating is all the way in the back of the restaurant. I don't mind since it gives me a good view of the drive-up microphone.
There are very few people who will pull up to the mic, roll down their window, turn their head and order.
There is one group I call the Leaners. A Leaner will turn their whole torso to face the mic, hang one arm out the window and lean out to get as close to the mic as possible.
There's another group I have labeled Futile Gesturers. Along with standard talking hand motions an FG will often hold up fingers corresponding to a quantity of an item ordered. I have seen several FGs apparently pointing to items on the menu display as they order.
But those groups combined are probably only a third of the people I observed. (note I did not keep tabulated results so that may not be statistically accurate.) The vast majority of people will put one hand on their chin or at touch their face in some manner.
I have two theories for this. The first is that they are very focused on saying the exactly the right thing in exactly the right way. They want to remember that right after they order the double Whopper with bacon and cheese with the large fries that they want Diet Coke not regular. Because there is a certain finality to to the drive thru window. Once you drive off whatever you have is pretty much what you're going to eat. By the time you figure out that your Coke isn't diet it's really not worth going back. You'll just have to accept a few extra calories.
The other theory is that they are very self conscious about speaking into a microphone. Somewhere in the back of their minds they think that their order is being broadcast to the entire restaurant. It's public speaking and they are not at all comfortable.
Personally, I'm a bit of a leaner. How do you order drive thru?
April 07, 2006
Just how bad is the McCain/Keennedy compromise bill?
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the bill in the first 5 years will be a minimum of $2 Billion. This estimate does not include the number of formerly illegal immigrants who will become eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you are not aware of it, Earned Income Tax Credit pays a refund to people who don't earn enough money to actually pay taxes.
The average payment under this program is $2,400. Lets say half of the current illegal immigrant population would qualify. That's six million people getting an average payment of $2,400. Do the math. It's a ton of money. ($14,400,000,000)
HT: Mark Levin
Like that surprise hidden on page 302 - which would replace the country's entire bench of experienced immigration judges with pro-immigration advocates.
With a few exceptions, today's immigration judges (who serve for life) are dedicated to enforcing the law, and they do a difficult job well. This bill forces all immigration judges to step down after serving seven years - and restricts replacements to attorneys with at least five years' experience practicing immigration law.
Virtually the only lawyers who'll meet that requirement are attorneys who represent aliens in the immigration courts - who tend to be some of the nation's most liberal lawyers, and who are certainly unlikely as a class to be fond of enforcing immigration laws.The second hidden problem with the bill comes from Dick Durbin who added a last minute amendment called the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act is a nightmare. It repeals a 1996 law that prohibits state universities from offering in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens. The principle, of course, is that no illegal alien should be entitled to receive a taxpayer-subsidized benefit that out-of-state U.S. citizens can't get. But the committee's bill allows illegals to be treated better than those U.S. citizens on tuition.
The bill also gives an amnesty to the nine states (including New York) that have been flouting the '96 law, two of which (California and Kansas) are now facing lawsuits.I guess this sort of means that immigration reform is going to do nothing to stop illegal immigration and that members of the Judiciary Committee is well aware of that fact. I mean why bother allow states to offer illegals in-state tuition if you're not going to allow illegal immigration?
As for letting the nine states out of their lawsuits, I guess if we are going to give foreign nationals amnesty for violating our immigration laws we might as well do the same for a few state governments.
The Senate leadership can put out all the spin it wants that this bill was killed by procedural politics, but the bottom line is that it is a piece of crap and it well deserved to be flushed.
April 05, 2006
Asked if he was concerned about testing the missile on the day President Bush was speaking in Bridgeport, a spokesman said said the missile's stealth technology and special chameleon paint made the launch undetectable to radar or visual tracking.
When asked if the press would be able to witness future tests, Fairfield's spokesman said, "You just did. We launched 2 minutes ago right over there. Did I mention the missile is silent too?"
Republicans were right when they said McCain-Feingold wouldn't stop the flow of money it was trying so hard to staunch. This reform will do no better a job with 527s. The money will just pop up again through some other loophole and both Dems and Republicans will be stuck playing a perpetual game of "Loophole Whack-A-Mole" at the Chucky Cheese of Failed Campaign Finance Reforms. It is a dismal restaurant with cold pizza where you're not allowed to speak for 30-60 minutes before the food comes.
Who is whacking the mole at any given time will, of course, depend on who all the free speech and the free flow of money happens to be benefitting. Arrgghh, this is why people don't love to get involved in politics.
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