Showing posts from 2011

Serendipity, new-style

Back in October, Andrew Breitbart, the much-maligned purveyor of and several other 'Bigs" posted this tweet:

I am one that likes to check out different styles of music so I followed his link. Here is what I found.

Give it a spin. Who knows, you may like it.

It snagged me with its catchy beat, peppy tune and those whiny vocals (yes, Andrew, it is emo.) After I watched the video, I clicked on several others that came up and decided that I would put Grouplove in the plus column, although I secretly wondered if they may have been involved in Occupy Wall Street (just kidding, guys.)

So, tonight I was at a local concert. It was a festival-style show where there are multiple bands. I had purchased the ticket because I wanted to see @GavinRossdale and the newly re-formed Bush. There was a room called the Budweiser Lounge where a poster in the hallway indicated that at 8:15 the featured band would be Grouplove.

Grouplove? Hmmmm. I remembered the name, but I couldn…

What IS a bailout?

The latest news is that Germany is being told that it must act quickly to save Europe and to stave off the impending apocalypse. The plan now is for the European Central Bank (which is prohibited from purchasing sovereign debt of member nations) to loan money to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Then, in a money-laundering quid pro quo which would land any legitimate (or illegitimate) businessperson in prison, the IMF will, in turn, loan money to these nearly bankrupt states.

But, here is the kicker... by doing this little transaction, the burden of risk shifts from the ECB and the EU nations, and falls upon the members of the IMF. The United States comprises almost 18% (if I read this chart properly) of the risk and the EU members are in total about the same. The money still needs to be 'printed' by the ECB and the Federal Reserve, but now we (US citizens) are now on the hook for a sizeable chunk of the debt that will NEVER be paid back.

Why do I say NEVER paid back? We…

How Egregious Does It Have To Be?

I just read in the Wall Street Journal that MF Global, former Senator and Governor Jon S. Corzine's investment firm, took $1.2 Billion from customer's account, more than double that which was previous estimated.

A couple of days ago I tweeted that the ex-Guv/ex-Sen must have forgotten that only government can play fast and loose with money (both theirs and other people's) in that manner without suffering the penalty of illegality.

Now it appears that they have stolen (there is no other word for it) a HUGE sum of money. What will the penalty be?

At what point does over a billion dollars become a big enough sum to warrant swift and harsh retribution by the authorities? At what point does the management of that company forfeit everything that they personally own in order to make investors whole? At what point do these people spend the rest of their lives in jail?

A long, long time ago I sat on a jury which convicted a ghetto guy of grabbing 10 cartons of cigarettes from a 7…

What if the 99% got ALL of the 1%'s money?

I am still stuck on this Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) phenomenom. I listened to a bit of Randi Rhodes on XM Radio today and Nicole Sandler was filling in for her. Nicole was talking to John Nichols of The Nation magazine about the growth of the Occupy Movement. It was quite funny listening to them talk about how the "Occupants" are willing to stay out there throughout the winter. These people are so righteous that they are willing to suffer to make their point. Awwww.....

I thought about starting my own Occupy movement, but then I remembered that I have to work the rest of the year. Damn...

So, they talked more and more about the income inequities and how the 1% have all of the money and the two of them actually said that the reason that the 99% are so bad off is because the 1% took all of the money. Seriously, they said that on the air.

Rather than discuss macro-economics and how wealth is both created and destroyed by the whim of the market, I was curious if I could be wrong…

What American Dream?

Asterisk note: Each blog posting I do, I swear that it will be short, then it ends up looking like a manifesto. So, here is another attempt at brevity (maybe that is why I tweet and blog... sort of the yin and yang of modern communications.)

Much has been said of the American Dream lately, especially in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests that are sweeping across the country and the world. Sweeping every place, except apparently, where these protestors are encamping.

I spoke in an earlier posting about the American Dream and what it is. I then read a piece in the DogWalkBlog about the haves and the have nots. It has made me reconsider what qualifies as the American Dream.

Using the same logic that I use to mock the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who deign to represent ALL of the black Americans, who am I to foist my idea of what The Dream looks like upon all Americans? Like the song Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, is The Dream still a house, a white picket f…

What happens when you ask the government to "help"

Recently in the US there has been quite a controversy over the issue of debit card transaction fees. These fees are the money that the "system" (Visa/MasterCard, banks, clearinghouses, etc.) charge to process a transaction at the point of sale.

Previously, it involved a rather complex set of rules to apportion the amount that the system would charge to move money from the purchaser's bank account to the business' account. Take a look at this page which describes some of what is involved with a merchant account, then try to figure out what a transaction will cost you if Visa handles the transaction.

On that Visa link, don't you just love the term 'reimbursement'? It sounds like you are getting something back, doesn't it? Actually it is the amount that Visa reimburses the card-holding financial institution for the transaction. Also, it looks like a complicated government tax form, doesn't it? So complicated that you can never actually figure out w…

Is TV in for a heck of a ride?

Apologies to GigaOm for 'lifting' a bit of the title of this posting. I just read a piece by Habib Kairouz in the NewTeeVee section of GigaOm entitled "Buckle up: Tratitional TV is in for a heck of a ride"

The gist of the article is that TV has for the most part avoided the disruptive effect of the internet on its business model in the manner that it has affected the print media world. (Please read the article for a much more in depth analysis.)  And thanks to @feliciaday for linking to the article.

A few points came to mind for me while reading it. Here they are:

From a social point of view, people will still need to watch their shows at the same time. Nothing is more bizarre than watching someone tweet about something on TV when they are time-shifting with a DVR. I like pausing shows while I step away for a few minutes or when commercials come on so that I can zip past five minutes of them. I also like to pause while I comment/rant about something so that I don'…

To China, we are Comedy Central

I recently read the book "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future," by Robert Bryce. In it he discusses how China has pretty much cornered the world market on the rare earth elements that provides the raw materials for essential components of Lithium Ion (L-ion) battery cells and extremely strong magnets used in electric motors and generators.

China's approach is that these materials in the unfinished state are worth a lot less than they are as part of finished goods. Well, this makes sense. These goods are valuable as well as strategic.This is also why China is taking a proactive stance in Africa to endear themselves to various poor countries that also hold reserves of many of the materials that they need. 

(China's human rights reputation, as well as their lack of any aversion to doing "what it takes" to do business with third world kleptocrats is the subject for another blog post.)

So, yesterday in the Wall St…

What is Obama's endgame?

This is pure opinion on my part, but I believe that Obama is trekking happily on the political equivalent of the Bataan Death March because he has something to prove.

You have seen people like the "crazy" preacher on the street corner in the tenderloin district, or others with a Quixotic air about themselves, who seem to revel in the fact that people don't like them and look down on them. It is almost a self-perceived badge of courage and honor. "If I piss off the right people, then I must be doing something meaningful" they seem to think as if that gets them a little bit closer to their promised land.

I truly think that he is brushing up his Bona Fides, proving that he can put it out there saying "Damn, the torpedoes... Full speed ahead."

But what is he aiming for? What is his goal?

President of the World.

That's right. Head of the UN. Bill Clinton wanted it, but never got it. If BHO got it, he would have bested a Clinton twice...

Remember, Obama…

What CAN we do?

I was recently perusing the DailyKos and I came across this video. Take a look...

It all sounds so convincing, doesn't it? Great artist, patriotic pictures, hard working Americans just trying to do what is right and, of course, evil businessmen trying to scarf up everything good about this country for themselves. What could be wrong with that story?

I grew up in the 1960's. I can remember, through the lens of a naive kid, how things were. We were pretty happy in our lives and things were pretty simple.We seemed to have enough money, but we really didn't... or did we? My dad had a 'good' job at the railroad, but he worked his butt off. Outside. In the heat. In the rain. In the cold. Nasty work, but he had a job. We barely had enough money to make ends meet. I remember milk was 4 cents at school. If we took a nickle with us to buy a carton, we had to bring the penny back. Seriously. Did we know we were poor? Not really, and there were others a lot worse off than us.

My Ride on the Tide - Light Rail comes to Norfolk, VA

Monday afternoon, my wife and I took our first ride on Norfolk's new light rail system, The Tide. I won't go into all of the details of the massive cost overruns and the fact that the train's maiden voyage was close to two years behind schedule. That is past.

The Tide actually began official passenger service at 6AM on Friday August 19, 2011. Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) had originally announced that they would allow passengers to ride for free that weekend, from Friday to Sunday. Wisely, they extended the free trips through next weekend.

Before I describe my experience, let me first preface my comments by letting you know that I am a huge rail fan. I have always enjoyed riding the rails. My father was an Norfolk and Western RR (now Norfolk Southern) employee and each summer as a child, I would get an employee's pass, board the Pocahontas or the Powhatan Arrow and ride it to Narrows, VA where my grandmother would meet me for a week at her home in West Virginia. Even the…

Funny numbers that aren't so funny

As much as I want to not watch them, I still am drawn to the Sunday morning news talk shows. Today, as can be expected, the top subject is the debt ceiling deadline coming up in just 16 days.

There is always a Democrat and a Republican on there, trying to "not negotiate the deal on TV." I am watching Rep. Chris Van Hollin (D-MD) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Fox News Sunday.

Democrats almost always argue by pointing to the absurdity of the Republicans' stance. The Republicans almost always argue from a heartfelt, pragmatic point of view that the system is f'ing broke and needs to be fixed NOW.

As I listen, I keep thinking that this argument is not congruent. We should remember that just because one can argue convincingly and well, that the argument is not necessarily sound.

I must be a little slow, because, it really just came to me listening to Van Hollin justify raising taxes to match the "framework" (I love that term) of the Clinton years, when everythi…

What have we gotten for $14 Trillion?

As most of you know, the United States federal government's Executive Branch (that is the President's part, for those of you who have recently graduated from public school) is in a fight with the Republicans in Congress to raise our debt limit ceiling. This is a statutory limit on the amount of money that the government is allowed to borrow... the government equivalent of our credit card's credit limit.

At this date (July 13, 2011) the Republicans are hanging tight in their negotiations to disallow an increase in the debt limit until the President and his allies in the Senate agree to cut spending by a significant amount. Also, as of this date, no one knows how it will end up. This debt ceiling increase requirement is not uncommon, but finally the Right has put their foot down to say "No more."

The howlers on the Left claim that it is just posturing so that the "rich" don't have to pay any more in taxes. Funny, how the TEA party is populated by norm…

What has the Taliban proven in Kabul?

After the horrific attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan (peace be upon that God-forsaken country) by Taliban 'insurgents', a Taliban spokesperson spokesman stated that this attack proves that the Allied forces have not been able to secure the country and have therefore failed.

What it actually proves is that if you are willing and expecting to die to make your case or prove your cause, then nothing can be secure. Period.

When people are willing to work months and years to insinuate themselves into a job, a community, an organization under a false pretense; when they are willing to endure the mental anguish of living a lie for a very long time; when the culmination of their life is to make a bold statement that actually is more like taking candy from a baby then it is a Rambo-like hero action, then YES, it proves their point.

But that IS the point isn't it? When a warped, irrational group of people casts aside 10,000 years of civilized, societal growt…

Let's Repeal the Electoral College (and get this country back on track)

I just read this piece by Charles Krauthammer about how beholden the Democrats are to unions with their rabid support and how Obama is quietly putting up roadblocks to our trade deals with other countries to protect these unions, all the while touting the need for more jobs and more exports.

It sickens me to imagine another four years of Barack Obama.The thought of his reelection makes me think of that religious group that would rather let their sick child die than allow professional medical help, since medicine violates their 'religious' sensitivities.Well, our dear President is allowing his 'religion' to stop him from doing what is right for our great nation.

My hope to cure this 'problem' shifts to the November 2012 election which, while still early, is starting to heat up with competition between Republican challengers. I will withhold comment on the current field. Who knows if any of these people can cause Obama to be a one term President like Jimmy Carter…

Republican Platform if I could do anything about it

The first real debate amongst Republican candidates for President was tonight on CNN. I couldn't watch it.

Oh, I watched about 10 minutes and saw how every question was an opportunity to run out their elevator pitch and I just had to turn it off. Even Herman Cain was saying the same thing he said on Neil Boortz today. I guess there is only so many ways to say the same things 1000 times.

If things were a little more organized, there should be a Republican Platform and all candidates should buy into it with registered exceptions and their differentiators should be style, charisma, competence and ideas.

Presidents don't really come up with the answers, they just decide which option is best, so why pop a spontaneous question, give them 30 seconds to answer, then make them act like they just invented the next iPad killer and they are talking through a Powerpoint presentation without the projector?

The modern political 'debate' really is retarded. There. I said it.

Now, to …

My take-away from Weinergate

Now that a day has passed and the Twitterverse is beginning to suffer from an acute case of weiner-withdrawl, I would like to reflect on the past 10 days and talk about what I have taken away from this latest episode of viral humiliation.

First, the press conference in New York City was as surreal as it gets. I was at work trying to find an internet connection to watch the presser at 4pm and Twitter starts buzzing with "I don't believe it, @AndrewBreitbart is on stage taking questions." Other than the fact that the tweets were coming from respected journalists at ABC News (@RickKlein and @JakeTapper), I wouldn't have believed it.

Breitbart was there (coincidentally, according to him) and was getting bombarded with questions, so he stepped up on the podium at the invitation of several of the reporters so that they could hear him better. His jist was "Where do I go to get my reputation back?" Unfortunately for the Congressman, he was fashionably late allowing…

Time for a new paradigm for a Presidential campaign

This will be a quick post.

I think that it is time for a new way of running for President of these United States. Someone should run for President as the leader of a management team and say that if elected, he/she would bring in this committed team to run the nation.

For instance (and don't take this as any endorsement)

The Presidential candidate (who shall remain generic) would announce

Secretary of Technology (combines Energy, Transportation, EPA and Trade) - Newt Gingrich
Secretary of Debt (combines Treasury, HHS and Budget Director) - Paul Ryan
IRS Commissioner - Herman Caine
Secretary of Labor - Chris Christie
Secretary of Commerce - Donald Trump
Press Secretary - Andrew Breitbart
Council of Economic Advisors - Arthur Laffer

The president is important, but he is really just the decider and sets the tone. He doesn't even really set the agenda. The people on the team are the ones that gets things done and can be more important in the long term than the President.


I'm Sorry, Joplin

I'm sorry, Joplin... and Vicksburg... and Tuscaloosa... and Fukushima... and West Texas... and...

The list could go on and on and on.

Saying "I'm Sorry" is an apology and shallow apologies happen way too often these days. I cannot apologize to the folks in those cities and towns for tornadoes, floods, wildfires and tsunamis because they were not of my making.

What I can apologize for is feeling put out by some strong winds at our home, a few broken tree limbs and losing power for almost 24 hours yesterday.

It is so easy to be put out by inconvenience and to feel sorry for ourselves when things like this happens. We may lose some food in the freezer, or miss the finale of "Dancing With The Stars", but in the long run does it really matter?

What about this? This is a photo of an IT support company's office building in Joplin, MO after Sunday's tornado cut a swath right through town.

This sort of destruction makes some water damage or downed trees se…

Social Security: Investment, Welfare, Ponzi Scheme or JPN?

Today while watching Fox News Sunday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) was on with Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ). Durbin is one of my least favorite politicians because of his pathological refusal to give a straight answer to any question. Chris Wallace was asking the two senators about deficit reduction and the debt ceiling.

I don't even remember what was said, but something sparked an idea in my head to see how much money I could have/would have made if I had invested all of my Social Security money in the market using the S&P 500 average for each year.

To figure this out I would need two groups of information: How much money I had 'contributed' (along with my employer) and what was the annual return for the S&P 500 for each year I have been employed. Well, it turns out I actually needed three pieces of info.

I had recently scanned my latest Social Security Statement, so it was readily available. All of you US workers get an annual statement that shows what your retirement and di…