September 30, 2008

Contacting Congress

I took what action I could regarding the Wall Street Bail Out Gold Rush. I the Senate my state is represented by Joe Lieberman and Chris "Friend of Angelo" Dodd. I expect any plea to them to oppose this madness would likely fall on deaf ears.

Since this is going to come in the House again before it hits the Senate anyway I decided I would contact my representative, Christopher Shays, who voted in favor of the first bail out package. I don't know if he'll listen to me - I've never given him any money, but I'll be sure to report back if and when I get his form letter response.

(Feel free to use any or all of this language to contact your Congressional Representation)


Mr. Shays,

I am deeply disappointed in your decision to vote in favor of bailing out Wall Street and troubled banks. I am disappointed because not only did the measure you supported not do anything to address the root causes of the problem, but it included language to perpetuate and even worsen those problems.

There are two words that brought us to the crisis we face today. Affordable Housing. The federal government, beginning in the Carter administration with the passage of the Community Reinvestment Act, sought to use the housing mortgage industry as a welfare program. The push to write loans for less qualified borrowers was intensified during the Clinton Administration to the point of legal action preventing business expansion of banks that did not meet CRA standards. Business decisions were no longer made based on standard of loaning money to those from whom banks could have a reasonable expectation of repayment.

The Government Sponsored Enterprises of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were tasked with buying and securitizing these sub-prime mortgages, and the standards of loans they would buy were pushed lower and lower. Free from risk banks made increasing numbers of marginal and simply bad loans to unqualified buyers. The securitized loans found a ready market on Wall Street with their implied Federal guarantee.

But the problem is, that all of this "affordable housing" turned out to be not so affordable for the people who took out the loans.

Congressman, any tax dollars spent mitigating the damages of these failed policies that does nothing to address the laws and regulations that lead to this crisis  will be money wasted. I urge to vote against any legislation that does not address the problems inherent in the Community Reinvestment Act, and that does not completely and permanently divorce Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from the federal government.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:34 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 29, 2008

Wall Street Bail Out - EPIC FAIL

The House voted down the hastily thrown together bail-out the banks proposal. I have 228 Thank you notes to write. (Are Thank You emails considered proper etiquette?) So the question is what next? Where do we go from here.

I'd like to see the the problem solved through massive federal deregulation. Give banks the ability to break open existing Mortgage Backed Securities and repackage them. Let them mix and match the best mortgages the have to create something salable if the need to raise capital.  Let them shuffle loans between MBSs to create something of potential value to buyers.

Finally. Stop the creation of new sub-prime loans. Or at least prevent them form being securitized. In fairness to the banks this would have to be accompanied by removing the regulatory obligation to issue sub prime mortgages.

There are a lot of You Tube clips floating around with Democrats praising Fannie and Freddie and the CRA for doing such a great job creating affordable housing. But that's a lie. If the housing was affordable - that is if the people who got the loans could afford to pay them back - we wouldn't be in this mess.

The federal government needs to begin the immediate sale of all equity and assets it has gained though various  bail-outs and buy-outs.

Lastly, privatize Fannie and Freddie. No more implied federal guarantee. No more "Government Sponsored Enterprises." Meet their current obligations (because you said you would) then throw them overboard and let them sink or swim as private companies.

Get government out of the way - allow for maximum creativity and flexibility and serious consequences for fraud.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:48 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 28, 2008

Lipstick On A Pig

$700,000,000,000 worth of lipstick.

I have read through the draft of the bank bail-out legislation and not only does it so nothing to change the underlying problem - it enshrines the policies that lead to the credit melt-down we are experiencing now.

Here are the relevant portions of the draft (all emphasis mine):

Section 103. Considerations.
In using authority under this Act, the Treasury Secretary is required to take a number of considerations into account, including the interests of taxpayers, minimizing the impact on the national debt, providing stability to the financial markets, preserving homeownership, the needs of all financial institutions regardless of size or other characteristics, and the needs of local communities. Requires the Secretary to examine the long-term viability of an institution in determining whether to directly purchase assets under the TARP.

Section 107. Contracting Procedures.
Allows the Secretary to waive provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation where compelling circumstances make compliance contrary to the public interest. Such waivers must be reported to Congress within 7 days. If provisions related to minority contracting are waived, the Secretary must develop alternate procedures to ensure the inclusion of minority contractors.

Section 109. Foreclosure Mitigation Efforts.
For mortgages and mortgage-backed securities acquired through TARP, the Secretary must implement a plan to mitigate foreclosures and to encourage servicers of mortgages to modify loans through Hope for Homeowners and other programs. Allows the Secretary to use loan guarantees and credit enhancement to avoid foreclosures. Requires the Secretary to coordinate with other federal entities that hold troubled assets in order to identify opportunities to modify loans, considering net present value to the taxpayer.

Section 110. Assistance to Homeowners.
Requires federal entities that hold mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the FDIC, and the Federal Reserve to develop plans to minimize foreclosures. Requires federal entities to work with servicers to encourage loan modifications, considering net present value to the taxpayer.

Section 124. Hope for Homeowners Amendments.
Strengthens the Hope for Homeowners program to increase eligibility and improve the tools available to prevent foreclosures.

I'm neither a lawyer nor an expert at interpreting legislative language, but I see all that adding up to a continuation of the federal government using the banks and the mortgage industry as a massive welfare program.

This bill is designed to stabilize and perpetuate the current status quo. If you want to know why, just consider that the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee is Chris "Friend of Angelo" Dodd. Who in the last decade collected more donations with ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than any politician in Washington.

I don't think there is much chance of stopping this bill from passing both houses and being signed into law. The quotes above are from an early draft. I have every faith that the final legislation will be far worse.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:29 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Overheard Dialog

I overheard my son inventing some dialog for the characters in his new Lego Batman PS2 game.


Robin: I'm getting tired, Batman. I need to take a break.

Batman: Hero's don't take breaks Robin. They fight Fight! FIGHT!!! for the freedom.

FREEEEEEEDOM.

Robin: Uh, Batman, you're starting to freak me out.

Batman: That's O.K. I like freaking people out.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:31 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 27, 2008

Too Small To Fail?

In the beginning of the credit crisis, the problem was that Bear Sterns was just too big to fail. The repercussions throughout the market and the economy would be too great. So the government stepped in and brokered a deal to bail them out.

Then Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. Too big to fail - they'd take down the whole economy. The government should just take them over and then everything would be just fine.

Lheman Brothers it seems was not too big to fail.

We don't really know if Meryl Lynch was too big to fail they were bought by Bank of America before we had a chance to find out.

AIG it turns out was too big to fail. So the federal government just printed up some new money and bought them.

Washington Mutual with $300 billion in assets was not too big to fail. JP Morgan was sitting there waiting for them to go under and have their assets seized by the FDIC so they could buy them at a bargain price.

Wachovia seems to be the next institution on the edge. Their stock is on the way down and unless they are thrown a lifeline soon … FAIL.

All of this leaves me wondering, have we run out of banks and other financial institutions that are too big to fail?

And if we have, why are we rushing headlong into a bipartisan bailout?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:12 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 24, 2008

George Bush - Lying Coward

I started watching the President's address on the financial crisis and the plan to take over the rest of the financial sector of the economy - aka the Big Bail Out. I didn't make it through the whole speech. I was too angry after the first section on "How did we get in this mess?"

Bush spoke at length about all of the actions of the financial industry and individual borrowers. He spoke about Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. And how the combined decisions of all of these parties lead to the crisis we're in. He apparently couldn't muster the courage or the honesty to mention how many of the decisions made along the way were influenced or mandated by federal regulation.

I guess it wouldn't have helped him sell his plan to "fix" the problem if he pointed out how responsible the government was for creating it in the first place. Instead he painted a picture of the government as a spectator to the failure of the market.

I called bullshit and turned the TV off.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:32 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 21, 2008

Holywood Halfwits

I happened to be in the room where my wife was watching the broadcast of the Emmy Awards. I saw the category for best female actor actress in a movie or mini-series and the winner was Laura Linney for HBO's John Adams.

At the end of her acceptance speech she thanked the "Community Organizers" who founded this nation.

Disgusting.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:56 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


The Free Market Challenge - UPDATED

Blogging at Paterico's Pontifications Justin Levine writes of the challenges the current market crisis creates for advocates of a free market economy.

Which brings us back to the current economic situation with Freddy Mae, Fanny Mac, and a host of other institutions. I would argue the same dynamic is at work here. Freddy and Fanny were born out of government tinkering with market principles in a half-assed manner. So now the government was faced with a stark choice:  More thorough regulations of the institutions, or a complete economic meltdown that would adversely affect everyone – including those who steered clear of the housing industry and are effectively “innocent” players here.

That is what I see as the real challenge for free market advocates today. There are very few genuinely laissez-faire institutions left when it comes to the large pillars of our economy. We could face this same situation again if we are lulled into thinking that 20% government regulations will always be better than 60% government regulation in all situations in every industry. Regretfully, many use the term “free market” as just a reflexive talking point these days rather than as a substantive idea that reflects the realities of today’s commerce.

Unfortunately he closed the comments to that post so that even an imperfect advocate such as myself could not make an attempt to answer that challenge. I emailed this concern to Patterico who offered that if I blogged my response it would be linked in an update. So I will give it shot.

The first fact that needs to be put on the table is that this crisis in no way represents a failure of the free market. In a free market, no lender would go out of their way to invent ways to give loans to people who could not afford to pay them back. They would not be writing zero down payment, no-document (proof of income) mortgages and refinancing loans to 100% or more of a home's value. These loans were solutions to expanded credit requirements mandated by regulation under the Community Reinvestment Act.

Institutions sought to minimize this risk they were forced to accept by creating complex and largely unregulated securities backed by these sub-prime loans. As the value of these loans and securities began to fall, the market did what it had to do. Institutions with weakened balance sheets found it difficult or impossible to get the credit they needed to operate. Had this market based judgment been allowed to occur in the first place, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in now.

The question is, now that we are in the middle of this crisis, what do we do about it? Levine is right about it being a challenging question.

I see the question as, "The government created this crisis. Can and should the government have a role in fixing it?"

Despite my adherence to the idea of a free market, even to the point of it being a "reflexive talking point," I do see a role and a responsibility for government in cleaning up its mess. But as a reflexive adherent to the free market, I would like to see that solution bring with it an acknowledgment of the failure of using banking regulation as a vehicle for welfare and social engineering. And with that acknowledgment a strong move toward deregulation and a free market. I see little value in the argument put forth by Washington and both presidential candidates that since too little regulation failed the solution is more regulation.

I believe that the number one priority of the government vis-a-vis the institutions it has nationalized should be to sell the assets of those institutions and completely disentangle them from federal ownership. This should be particularly so in the case of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac whose existence as Government Sponsored Enterprises should be ended and what is left of them should be fully privatized.

The next most important step is to repeal the Community Reinvestment Act and allow banks to make loan and business decisions based on an assessment of the relative risk and return, not government's social engineering goals.

The proposed government bail-out gets one thing right. It starts from the understanding that the source of the problem lies with financial institutions' portfolios of bad debt. I don't know if what they are proposing is going to be a workable solution but I do know that the government walking away from this crisis it created and letting the whole economy collapse is not the answer.

I also know that if we ride out this storm and do nothing to correct the source of the problem we will have accomplished and learned nothing.

UPDATE: I wrote above that "I don't know if what they are proposing is going to be a workable solution." Since that time I and others have had further time to look at and evaluate the current proposal. Based on that review I think the current bail-out proposal is foolish, misguided and dangerous. One need look no further than this clause to get a sense of how bad this legislation is:

“Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

Any action of the government involving this much money requires not only review and oversight from as many sources as possible, but a that review and oversight should have a layer of review and oversight. This is not the free market we're talking about here, this is the government. The best approach is to regulate it. Regulate it. And regulate it some more.

If they players on Wall Street don't get a warm fuzzy secure feeling from this and don't like the rules, then let them take their ball and go home. The rest of us will have to start a new game.

Giving the Treasury Department a check for $700 billion and free rein for what to do with it is a stupidly bad idea.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:57 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 20, 2008

Media Matters

Saturday mornings have gotten a little busy. Out the door to get the daughter to her voice coach by 9:15. Drop the son off at Karate at 9:30. Luckily these places are not too far apart, because I have to be back to the voice coach at 10:00, and then pick up the son at karate at 10:30.

The upside (downside?) of all of this carbon generation is that I get to hear a little bit of Saturday morning talk radio. Specifically I caught some of Mark Simone on WABC. His Guest this morning was NBC new anchor Brain Williams. In the course of their discussion they touched on the Charles Gibson of Governor Sarah Palin.

I wish I had the means to record it so I wouldn't have to do this from memory. Williams said that even though the Palin partisans were critical, the fact that the interview hadn't been ripped apart by the media means that Gibson did a good job.

I'm not a Palin partisan, but what a steaming pile of BS. The fact that the media that had been going after Palin from the moment she was announced as McCain's running mate didn't criticize Gibson's hack job of an interview proves only that it fits their world view.

There were three approached Gibson could have taken to the Palin interview. 1: He could have lobbed softball questions designed to show Palin in the best possible light. 2: He could have asked even handed questions designed to elicit information, good or bad, about a relatively unknown candidate. 3: He could have set out to make her look bad.

Gibson clearly chose 3. He came of as pompus and professorial. He clearly viewed and treated Palin as an inferior person to be tolerated with an amused contempt.

Of course the rest of media wasn't critical. They probably want to give him an award.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:05 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


September 19, 2008

Fiscal Consevatism

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Michelle Malkin is calling the latest move to bail out the the mortgage industry (see post below) the death of fiscal conservatism. I think this overblown hyperbole.

Fiscal conservatism is not dead. What should be dead is any illusion that George Bush and his administration are fiscally conservative. I would have thought someone of Malkin's intelligence would have come to that conclusion long ago.

When has the Bush administration demonstrated anything close to fiscal conservatism? Certainly not during the first six years when he and his fiscally liberal congressional majority went on a spending spree and vastly grew the size and cost of government.

Since the Democrats took over Congress Bush has actually dusted off his veto stamp and tried to stop some spending. This, however, doesn't represent fiscal conservatism but rather fiscal partisanism.

As a fiscal conservative I take offense at the suggestion that George Bush and most of the Republicans in Congress represent that ideal.

No. Michelle. Fiscal conservatism is not dead. It is just terribly underrepresented.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:41 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 18, 2008

They're Not Done Yet

I wrote in the post below about how the federal government has nationalized a significant portion of the financial industry with nary a peep. People are decrying the bail-outs. They are expending a lot of energy assigning blame as Wall Street is being replaced by Pennsylvania Avenue.

I wrote in a comment to that post that I don't believe this is all part of some grand conspiracy to take over everything. I think we have painted ourselves into a corner and the government sees these bail outs/takeovers as the only option we have other than financial disaster.

The government is on a one solution fits all roll that seems to know no limit.

The head of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve began discussions on Thursday with Congressional leaders on what could become the biggest bailout in United States history.

While details remain to be worked out, the plan is likely to authorize the government to buy distressed mortgages at deep discounts from banks and other institutions. The proposal could result in the most direct commitment of taxpayer funds so far in the financial crisis that Fed and Treasury officials say is the worst they have ever seen.

(First of all, I think we can forever dispense with the expression Congressional Leaders. There hasn't been one spotted in the wild for so long it is safe to assume they are extinct.)

The government is going to buy up all the crappy mortgages it coerced lenders into making in the first place. The number their talking about spending is $300 Billion. It seems almost fitting - except it's the tax payers who are going to have to pay that bill. Some of us are having a tough enough time with our own mortgages.

And what is going to happen to those sub prime borrowers when they stop paying on the loan that the federal government holds? Is Washington going to be foreclosing on tens or hundreds of thousands of homeowners?

I really don't see that happening. That's not the way to win votes. To win votes you just ignore the nonpayment and forgive the loan. Free houses brought to you by Uncle Sam.

Where is John Galt?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:57 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


The Nationalization of America

"It's a Republic. If you can keep it." I can't say with any certainty what Benjamin Franklin had in mind when he uttered that phrase, but the answer to the question "if" is fairly clear.

In the cacophony of punditry, both professional and armature, surrounding the mortgage industry collapse the focus seems to be on if/who to bail out and who caused the problem. Little seems to said and written about how much of the financial sector has just been nationalized by the federal government.

Bear Stearns. Fannie Mae. Freddie Mac. AIG. All were deemed to be too big to fail. Meaning that their connections to, control of, and influence over the markets were so large that the impact of their failure could be devastating.

All of that is now under the direct control and even ownership of the Federal Government. The crisis brought about by government mandated sub-prime loans has been a handy excuse for the nationalization of a large portion of the financial sector.

On the campaing trail the candidates talk about needing to reform Wall Street. If the pace of nationalization keeps up, Wall Street will cease to matter. It will all be Pennsylvania Avenue.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:16 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


September 16, 2008

How To Create A Crisis

Ever wondered what it would take to create a crisis in a major market segment? One that not only wreaks havoc in that segment but threatens widespread failure of a nation's financial markets and destroys a few major financial corporations along the way?

Well it's really not that hard - if you're the federal government.

You start with some bogus assumptions based on your desire to be a social engineer. You decide that certain minorities are being systematically locked out of the American Dream of owning a home by lending policies that require such things as adequate income to pay a mortgage and sizable down payment. Since those requirements are preventing these people from getting mortgages you decide that those standards were created for precisely that purpose. It never occurs to you that those standards are there because banks make their money by making loans to people who can pay them back.

Next you tell the mortgage lenders that if they don't find ways to give mortgages to these under-serviced communities on their own they will be made to do so by force of government regulation. It probably wouldn't hurt to throw out terms like "fines" and "penalties" every now and then either.

Now if you happen to have a couple of quasi-governmental organizations that exist to buy and sell mortgages to keep the market liquid, it would be helpful to get them to lower their standards for the quality of loans they can trade. You might need congressional help with this.

Having a cooperative federal reserve is also very helpfull. This whole spread the American Dream scheme will be a lot easier if interest rates are kept low. This will make it even easier for lenders to qualify borrowers by starting them out at a really low rate, that will adjust later.

To keep the ball rolling, continue to weaken standards of risk that lender allowed to assume. This can be done by further lowering the standards of what your quasi-governmental agencies can accept. You could, believe it it or not, take this all the way to then point where borrowers don't even have to prove their income. They just tell lenders what they make and lenders say OK here's your loan.

It would be a good idea to enourage the second mortgage/refinancing side of the business too. Get lenders to the point where they'll loan 100% of a homes value. It wil be OK. Prices will alwaye be going up.

That's it for the set-up. You've built your house of cards, now it's time to knock it down.

The Governors of the Federal Reserve can be helpful in this phase.

If they start raising the prime interest rate - just a little at a time - eventually mortgage rates will start to climb. Which means all of those adjustable rate mortgages that were sold when rates were at historic lows, will start to adjust. Upwards.

It will be a trickle at first as the truly low-hanging fruit of your new class of sub-prime borrowers start defaulting on their loans. Soon enough of these loans will have been foreclosed that it will start to make news. And since it's the same groups of people you started out "trying to help" losing their homes, it will of course be big news.

This news will further depress the housing market leading to more foreclosures. Which will further depress the housing market etc. etc.

This is not all going to happen over night. Its going to take a decade or more. Those mortgage backed securities your quasi-governmental agency was selling will get traded and traded and traded. Even though in the sub-prime categories they are little better than modern day junk bonds. A lot of investment firms will have sizable holdings of these derivative securities. Their problem is that assets backing them up are worth less than when the loans were created and those values are sinking lower.

This means those financial institutions will have to write off enormous losses. In some cases the losses will be so big that the companies will not survive.

Here's where you throw a little head fake - the first big one to fail, you step in and bail it out with billions of dollars in taxpayer money and loan guarantees. This gives the rest of them feeling of security. If they believe that they are also too big to fail.

If you're really lucky, your quasi-governmental agencies will be the next victim. It will cost billions but you can take adantage of the opportunity to seize control and make them fully governmental agencies. This gives you serious control over whatever the home lending market becomes after the meltdown.

After that, you turn off the magic bail-out machine. When the next couple fail and you've got a couple more teetering on the edge - you deliver the final blow.

Propose more federal control.


I know it sounds far fetched and no one would ever try to do something so stupid. But it's kind of fun to imagine.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:41 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


September 15, 2008

This Could Make My Voting Decision Easier

I had basically decided to sit this election out. There isn't a candidate running that I want to see as president. It would take a major political shift for Obama to not win my state of CT, so any vote I cast would have been purely symbolic and only for my own benefit.

However I may to stock up on Mallox and noseplugs and cast a vote for John McCain. That's at least what it will look like in the official tally. In my mind it will be a vote against this:

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, campaigning in North Carolina where black votes could help swing the state to the Democrats, said today that electing a black person to the White House would be transformative.

Biden said the policies of running mate Barack Obama make his presidency even more urgent and declared this to be the most important election that any living person has seen in their lifetime. But he particularly singled out the meaning of electing someone who is black.

"That will be a transformative event in American politics and internationally," Biden said. "That all by itself will be significant.


This was always an undercurrent in the Obama campaign. Mentioned around the edges and in the media. Now it is the campaign rhetoric of the candidates.

I would never have voted for Barak Obama based on the content of his character. I may now vote against him because he asks to be judged by the color of his skin.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:38 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 13, 2008

By Design - An Itnroduction

I have this great little book somewhere (I can't find it at the moment) called Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy. I don't remember where or how I got it. I do know that I sort of broke the rules. Instead of just reading it for a daily meditation, I read the whole ting at once.

All of the meditations were headed by a quote from a writer. I remember none of the text, but I can recall a few of the quotes. There is one that comes to mind tonight and if I could find the book I would quote it exactly and tell you who the author was. But since I can't the best I can do is paraphrase.

"Don't give away your thunder."

What this means is, if you are in the middle of writing something, keep it to yourself. Don't tell the story at cocktail parties because it will drain the energy you need to actually write the thing.

I'm going to break that rule. Because I can.

I have begun writing a book. This itself is not news. I have in fact started writing a book many times. But this is the first time I have started writing a non-fiction book. I will almost certainly be self publishing and I will offer limited edition autographed copies for a significant premium!

I've got a good start on the basic outline since it is essentially autobiographical it follows a fairly familiar time line. I needed to get past the outline and put down some actual words so I wrote a brief introduction. It is the thunder I give away today!

It occurred to me the other day that I should write a book about design. I know what you’re thinking already “Just what the world needs. Another design book.” It is true that there are a lot of books about design. Go to your local book store and you’ll find shelves of them covering everything from graphics to interiors to architecture and industrial design. There are shelves of books about design theory, design techniques and the impact of this design or that designer.

With the exception of a biography of type designer Frederick W. Goudy, I have never read any of them. So what makes me qualified to write this book? I feed and house my family with a salary earned as a graphic designer. I’ve been making my living this way for 20 years

How did I get to this position without having read a single design book? On the job training and good advice from some very talented people that you have never heard of - because they’re not in any of those books I haven’t read.

Why haven’t I read any of those books? I can answer that in two words: Design Conferences. I have been to a number of design conferences in my career and the one thing they have taught me is that designers are a pretentious lot. That and the reality that every design agency on the planet has done work for Unilever and/or Coca Cola.

They speak in lofty terms about the importance of their work and the impact design can have on the world. While back at the office they work on making more effective packaging for soap and better ads for soft drinks. So that you will buy more soap and more soda.

What do I think I have to ad to this? A touch of reality. A touch of reality about the fact that while design is about making things better, that is not the reason for design. Design is about making things better so they’ll sell better.

If you choose to read on, you will not find any grand theories about the role of design in the universe or how designers can save the planet. The original title for this book was going to be “Everything I know about Design.” But that would have been far too limiting and more of a pamphlet than a book. What you will find is my biography as a designer and by the time you reach the end you will have hopefully learned a few of the things I have learned along the way.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:02 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Pizza Madness

There is a great little pizza place about half a mile from my house. Its an independent storefront operation with a couple of flimsy tables in its lobby that you could stand at and eat a slice when they are not being used to set up pizza boxes. The while shop is smaller than my living room.

They offer free delivery but I prefer to go there for the atmosphere.

There is no barrier between the kitchen and the customer area. It's about 90 degrees in there all the time, its usually smokey and it smells like 25 different kinds of pizza.

The back area is always busy with the guy working the dough, the guy making the pies and the guy pulling them out of the oven and boxing them. The delivery guys come and go in a blur.

They have a problem though. They are too good for their own good. On a Friday night - particularly a rainy Friday night like last night was - the organized chaos in the back becomes madness. They fall apart when things get busy.

I called in my order and arrived to pick it up about 5 minutes after they said it would be ready. In the 10 minutes I waited three people called to complain that they hadn't gotten their delivery or that their order was wrong. Several people in the lobby had been waiting long enough that they obviously hadn't made their pizza until they walked in the door to pick it up.

They need a new system to manage orders. What works for them on an average day can't handle the stress of busier than normal.

The brothers that run the place and work in the back making the pizzas are great guys. Always friendly - always working hard. More than once they've handed me a free slice if I had been waiting too long.

They make a good product. They need to get better at selling it. They probably wont lose me as a customer, good pizza that close to home is impossible to give up. But some people will decide it's not worth the wait.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:18 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


September 12, 2008

Barack Obama Goes Offensive

Barack Obama decided it was time for the gloves to come off. No more Mr. Nice Chicago Machine Politician. He was going on the offensive.

Or rather he decided to be offensive.

His first attack is an ad called "Still" that attempts to ridicule McCain for not using email or even being very computer literate. Obama is calling McCain old and old fashioned. (Neither of which I see as necessarily bad things.)

What the Obama team apparently didn't do was use Google. Had they done so they would have discovered and ample record of the fact that McCain doesn't do a lot of computing because he can't. The physical limitations resulting from five years of torture as a P.O.W. make typing and using a computer very difficult.

I am sure the Obama campaign is going to want this ad to go away very soon and very quietly. They will pretend it never existed, and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for an apology.

I don't think THE ONE should get a pass on this. I don't think this should be allowed to just fade away. So I downloaded the You Tube and converted it to be saved here for posterity.

MOV

WMV

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


September 07, 2008

Barack Obama - War Monger

Recycling an old Hillary Clinton bit, Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that at one point he thought about joining the military. In an interview on This Week, Obama said:

“You know, I actually did,” Obama said. “I had to sign up for Selective Service when I graduated from high school. And I was growing up in Hawaii. And I have friends whose parents were in the military. There are a lot of Army, military bases there.

“And I actually always thought of the military as an ennobling and, you know, honorable option. But keep in mind that I graduated in 1979. The Vietnam War had come to an end. We weren't engaged in an active military conflict at that point. And so, it's not an option that I ever decided to pursue.”

I wonder when he's going to tell a story about a daring corkscrew landing under sniper fire.

Let's ignore for the moment the audacity of fact that there was no requirement for Selective Service Registration in 1979, and look at the rest of the statement. Specifically that Obama didn't join up because "We weren't engaged in active military conflict at that point"

He didn't join because he wasn't going to get to fight? He wasn't going to get the chance to break things and kill people? As if there is no honor in serving in the peace-time military. Or is it that there is no glory?

I don't believe a word of it. I don't believe he ever gave serious consideration to the idea of joining the military.

But if his story is true, what does it say that he only decided not to join because we were not actually in the middle of a shooting war? Is he that enamored of combat?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:05 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


September 06, 2008

Advice For Sarah Palin

Apparently Oprah Winfrey has made a decision not to have GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin as a guest on her show. I guess she doesn't want to do anything that might negatively impact the campaign of THE ONE.

She is taking some heat for the decision and I think Palin needs to step up and put an end to this and issue the following statement:

It has been reported that Oprah Winfrey, who has been an ardent supporter of Senator Obama's campaign, has chosen not to have me as a guest on her show and that people are being highly critical of the decision. While I appreciate the demonstration of your support it is not really necessary. Had I been invited to appear on the show I would have declined. As I said in my acceptance speech, here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion - I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country. Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reasons, and not just to mingle with the right people.

I think that should put an end to the Oprah situation.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:42 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


Election 08

I went to Noodle Food and saw this visual that Diana Hsieh found at Titanic Deck Chairs that I think perfectly sums up the choice we have to make this election.



Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:01 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


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