Sunday, December 06, 2009

How many people are leaving Florida because of the recession?

A lot. Probably even more than the official numbers state. Here's an example from a story in the Orlando Sentinel:

In its early life, Camelot Elementary was Central Florida's poster child for runaway school growth.

At its most crowded, the east Orange school had more than 1,320 students on a campus built for 740 and needed 45 portable classrooms to accommodate everyone.

By 2005, portables had chewed up the basketball court, taken over the lawn and run right up to the pitcher's mound on the field behind the school.

Today, all but two of the portable classrooms are gone. The ball fields and basketball courts are restored, and the student population is below 700.

Camelot is now a school comfortable in its brick skin. The breathing room is nice. But the familiar warning -- to be careful what you wish for -- has never been more appropriate.

Dizzying population growth in past years often left schools scrambling to find places for the continuing crush of new students. But the money their families spent on everything from houses to cars to sneakers also put money in state coffers.

That, in turn, helped finance public education.

But in the past few years, population growth -- the main engine driving the state's economy -- has stalled. And this year, for the first time since World War II, more people are expected to move out of Florida than move in.

At the same time, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is shredding school-district budgets, forcing some to close campuses, cut school days and curtail services.
But at least the economy is recovering, right?
An infusion of nearly $1 billion in federal stimulus money, credited with saving more than 18,000 education jobs in Florida, has helped stave off a deeper crisis. But the state's public schools, on average, started this school year with $418 less per kid than they had at the start of the 2007-08 school year.

State economists predict Florida's budget pain will continue for at least the next three years, with tanking growth drying up billions of dollars in needed revenue. That will hurt all services, including public education.

Schools also will be hurt by the sluggish housing market, which means fewer dollars in property taxes collected for schools, and by the loss of federal money slated to run out next year.

Finally, though enrollment has been dropping for several years -- public schools lost some 40,000 students between 2005 and 2008 -- it might be ticking upward this year. That's because a lot of recession-strapped parents seem to be pulling their children from private schools and enrolling them in public ones, state forecasters say.
The good news is that there's a reform movement afoot to raise taxes. I'm sure that will help the local economy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Glitch in the System

A post coming whenever I get around to writing it.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

"Germans?"

Listening to ABC's coverage of the Oklahoma-Miami game tonight I heard the announcers (Brent Musburger and I think the other was Kirk Herbstreit but I'm not sure of that) start to yammer about that Favre jerk. Turns out Favre has now been a starting QB for just over 17 years, since he played his first game as a starter on September 27, 1992.

Brent started asking his partner trivia questions such as "Who were the starting QBs for the Universities of Miami and Oklahoma when Favre made his first start?" Then they put up a graphic and mentioned some other items from 9/27/1992 such as which song was #1, which movie was #1, etc. Then they mentioned that Bill Clinton was President. I had to check the TV to see if their graphic really said that. Sure enough, it did.

Is it me or does the quality of pretty much everything in this country seem to be on the decline in recent years? Perhaps it is just my impending fogeydom, but I don't think so.

(And just in case anyone reading this doesn't understand the title of the post....)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I feel better now.

It looks like there is one sane individual left in government. Via Calculated Risk I see that Paul Volcker has NOT lost it:

However well justified in terms of dealing with the extreme threats to the financial system in the midst of crisis, the emergency actions of the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, and ultimately the Congress to protect the viability of particular institutions – their bond holders and to some extent even their stockholders – have inevitably left an indelible mark on attitudes and behavior patterns of market participants.

• Will not the pattern of protection for the largest banks and their holding companies tend to encourage greater risk-taking, including active participation in volatile capital markets, especially when compensation practices so greatly reward short-term success?

• Are community or regional banks to be deemed “too small to save”, raising questions of competitive viability?

• Does not the extension of support to non-banks, and even to affiliates of commercial firms, undercut the banking/commerce divide, ultimately weakening the commercial banking system?

• Will not investors in money market mutual funds find reassurance in the fact that when push came to shove, the Treasury with an extreme interpretation of its authority, took action to preserve those funds ability to meet their declared commitment to pay their investors at par upon demand?

What all this amounts to is an unintended and unanticipated extension of the official “safety net”, an arrangement designed decades ago to protect the stability of the commercial banking system. The obvious danger is that with the passage of time, risk-taking will be encouraged and efforts at prudential restraint will be resisted. Ultimately, the possibility of further crises – even greater crises – will increase.

There is no easy answer, no one-size fits all contingencies. Experience, not only here but in every country with highly developed, inter-connected financial systems and institutions bears out one point. Governments are not willing to withhold financial and other support for failing institutions when there is a clear threat to the intertwined fabric of the financial system. What can be done is to put in place arrangements to minimize the extent of emergency intervention and to damp expectations of government “bailouts”.

Three cheers for St. Paul, the Dragon Slayer! Hip-hip, HOORAY! Hip-hip, HOORAY! Hip-hip, HOORAY!

Not that I think anyone is going to listen to him. For example, I have read that Chris Dodd wants to take the four main banking regulatory agencies and role them into one super agency. He doesn’t offer a rationale, or explain how this new institution would have forestalled the current crisis, but you know: Bigger is always better! The new agency will be TOO BIG TO FAIL. But the presence of one trustworthy individual is far more than I expected.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Unreality check? Unreality? Check!

Let's look in on America to see what it is creating to get out of its current economic state. Perhaps it will be a new type of industry, where Americans will make actual material goods.

Lawyers, insurance firms cash in on fantasy football

(CNN) -- Henry Olszewski was stoked in 2008 when he, along with millions of Americans, drafted New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to his fantasy football team.

About eight minutes into the season, a 220-pound safety was blocked into Brady's knee, tearing two of the quarterback's ligaments. Brady's season ended, as did Olszewski's.

"That Monday, [Olszewski] came in the office, and he was bummed out," said Anthony Giaccone, president of Intermarket Insurance. "He asked, 'Why can't we buy insurance for fantasy team players?' "

Thus spawned the brainchild for Fantasy Sports Insurance, which guarantees that NFL players won't miss a certain number of games. FSI will reimburse a fantasy player's entry fee if they do.
Judas H. Priest. They've invented another financial instrument for people to use when gambling. Out-fucking-standing. It's like they have never heard of mortgage backed securities....

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Blogging about email about blogging....

Or,
I don't need a degree to be unemployed!

Amba put a new post up over the weekend entitled You Get the President You Deserve. It inspired me to write her a few emails. She has requested permission to post some of it, which I have granted, and I'm also going to post the stuff she highlighted below for my own archives. These went back and forth yesterday as part of three emails. The italicized comments at the start of the first two sections are from Amba's post. (You should know that, because you should go read her post.)

I hope that those of us who are still sane can all agree that a violent end to his presidency would be a catastrophe for this country we profess to love.)

The phrase President Biden should scare all right thinking people, even if they hate America.
******
So do you want the demon socialist president of your political fever dreams — because he’ll be easier to defeat in 2012 — or do you want a president we can live with till then?

Doesn’t matter. Obama is both a hard core statist AND a political animal. And for all animals survival is the first imperative. There’s no way he comes out of the Chicago Machine without be a political survivalist.

So we’re getting two main thrusts from his politics: The first is his push to remake America into a socialist paradise (count me among those that think Obama actually hates traditional American ideas on limited government and all that entails); and the second is his cozying up with the banksters and financial powerhouses of Wall Street and the Washington DC economic establishment. One of these is for ideals, and the other for survival. These sometimes conflict, but not as often as one would hope – both are quite comfortable with centralized control by a self-selected elite.

Given these premises, nothing important Obama can do can possibly please those of us that fear large institutions of any stripe.

For that matter, I have trouble agreeing with minor points. For example, I don’t care WHAT Obama says in his speech tomorrow/text today. (What a world! What a world!We’ll have digested the speech and passed it through our intestines before he even gives the damned thing. By the time he speaks it will be working its way through the political sewer system.) The President should stay the hell out of the classroom. (That goes for prior Presidents as well.) At best it represents another photo-op in the President’s (any Presidents) ongoing efforts to win votes. At worst it is cheap propaganda. And there is a very tiny difference between the two. More importantly, doesn’t he have something better to do? I seem to recall hearing something about an economic crisis. Quit wasting time and get to work, you damned self-aggrandizing shill!

Actually, I’m probably happiest with him doing this kind of crap. What the US really needs is a massive deleveraging and the less money spent by the government the better. But that’s not happening anytime ever. The days of the Republic are long gone – now we’re just another democracy voting ourselves into the poor house.
******
Also, as I wrote a few days ago, why should the children work hard when the banksters don’t have to?

Plus, the UE numbers are showing that college grads aren’t doing much better than high school grads right now. You can graduate from high school without breaking a sweat, if you can just conform to the norms. (That’s why a dropped out.) So why work hard? If I hadn’t gone to college I’d be much less in debt right now, and I don’t need a degree to be unemployed!

But the Prez will get up and spew the normal party line, telling the child’en to study hard and work hard. And in other speeches he will continue to tell them to become engineers. Although you can bet he will make sure his daughters go to law school. He won’t leave them to suffer through the ongoing boom and bust cycles of engineering employment – they’ll be part of the new ruling class. At the very least he’ll make certain they end up with a hedge fund somewhere, ala Chelsea.
I embedded the link in the third section and changed "bankers" in the first sentence of the last section to "banksters". Other than that is appears as emailed.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

This is so wrong....

Obama is set to give a speech to school children:

In the Sept. 8 speech, Obama will challenge students to work hard, set goals for their education and take responsibility for their learning, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a letter to principals.
Hard work? Take responsibility? That's un-American! Our children ought to hire lobbyists, complain that their education is TOO BIG TO FAIL and demand a Federal bailout.

Why not? It worked for Obama's (and Bush's) bankster friends with Goldman Sacks and Obama's thug supporters in the auto unions....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Random Quote

Near the creek, well hidden, was one of my hiding places, which I had made carefully and used often. I had torn away two or three low bushes and smoothed the ground; all around were more bushes and tree branches, and the entrance was covered by a branch which almost touched the ground. It was not really necessary to be so secret, since no one ever came looking for me here, but I liked to lie inside with Jonas and know that I could never be found. I used leaves and branches for a bed, and Constance had given me a blanket. The trees around and overhead were so thick that it was always dry inside and on Sunday morning I lay there with Jonas listening to his stories. All cat stories start with the statement: "My mother, who was the first cat, told me this," and I lay with my head close to Jonas and listened. There was no change coming, I thought here, only spring; I was wrong to be so frightened. The days would get warmer, and Uncle Julian would sit in the sun, and Constance would laugh when we worked in the garden, and it would always be the same. Jonas went on and on ("And then we sang! And then we sang!") and the leaves moved overhead and it would always be the same.
- from Shirley Jackson's novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Note: Don't read the blurb at Amazon if you ever intend to read the book. The less you know beforehand the better the read.

Monday, June 01, 2009

What to say?

From a NYPost story about Obama's date night in NYC:

Then it was up to Broadway, where they had tickets at the Belasco Theatre for "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," a play by August Wilson about a man coming to terms with the history of slavery.

"I'm nervous, excited, honored," said Andre Holland, who plays character Jeremy Furlow, before the show. "It's like in Shakespearean times, when the king would come to the show." [emphasis added]

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spats (1996 - 2009)

Another bad day. We had to take Spats in to be euthanized today. A month to the day after Pistachio had died we discovered that Spats was dying of cancer. She had been slowly whithering away these last few months, and a couple of days ago she stopped eating altogether. Her decline was quick, but not so fast that she wasn't likely to last a few more days. So we gave her the last mercy we could.

I am sure that over the coming years Kim and I will have many more cats, and I'm sure we'll love them all. But Pistachio and Spats will always be first in our hearts.

Kim told the story of how we came to adopt Pistachio:

In July 1998, T and I moved into a new apartment, one that allowed pets. I had grown up with cats and had been looking forward to getting a kitten to add to my and T's new family.

Being conscious of pet issues and such, T and I knew we were going to get our new pet from a shelter. Gainesville Pet Rescue had a great reputation, and we decided to make their organization our first stop. Like any good rescue organization, they had several kittens to choose from. We looked at them, and they were all very cute. But seeing how tiny they were and how much work raising a kitten would require, we realized weren't quite sure we would be good parents to a kitten.

The rescue worker understood out concerns and asked how we would feel about an adult cat. Then she showed us Pistachio. Pistachio was a full-grown female, about two years old. She had a beautiful calico/tortoise coat and the greenest eyes I had ever seen. The rescue worker told us she had been with them for about two months. They were have problems adopting her out because she was an adult and most people wanted kittens. They opened her cage to let me pet her. I scratched her under her chin, and she curled her head into my hand. I was in love instantly.
The first few weeks with Pistachio were great. But as we both transitioned into spending more time at school we became worried that Pistachio was getting lonely. So we went to the same place we had found Pistachio and adopted a second cat, Spats.

From Pistachio's point of view we could not have done worse, but Spats also found a home in our household, especially with Kim. Spats & Pistachio were very different cats (Spats being part jackaloupe) but they complimented each other well, Pistachio's irritation notwithstanding. (Pistachio and I shared this personality trait: we both always seem to be irritated. If it hadn't been Spats's presence that bothered her it would have been something else.)

I am just too burned out at the moment to do either of them justice, but Pistachio & Spats will both be sorely missed in the future. I'm sorry we couldn't have more time together, kittens.

Addendum: The hardest part is that the house now feels empty. It's been years since we didn't have our girls waiting for us when we came home. The only reason the house hasn't felt more empty than it has, with Pistachio's absence, has been because of our concern for Spats. But Kim's napping now, and the house just feels empty with them gone. When we moved back to Florida, the girls moved into our new place before the furniture did. A house with cats and no furniture felt friendlier than a house with furniture and no cats does now.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ass-

Bowl.

Note that he quickly sought and received absolution for his assholery from another Democrat.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Soon to be deleted Comment Madness

Over at Dave Schuler's blog I've left a comment (directed at Michael Reynolds) that I fully expect to be deleted. Here it is, with some links that I should have put in the original.

I will not gamble with a man who has claimed that I am worse than a Nazi for supporting lower marginal tax rates. You are a lying sack of excrement, and only marginally better of a "human being" than the armed thugs who invaded my mother's house last year. Incidentally, they were also Obama supporters. Say "Hi" to them at the next meeting for me.

I understand that 6 weeks is a very, very long time. For my kids. But I wonder if we might not agree that repairing the staggering damage done to this country and this economy by members of your party might take just a bit longer.

Typical of an Obama supporter. (When they aren't robbing little old ladies at gun point, that is. But I guess that was okay, because my Mom is just a "typical white person" and I know how you Obamabots hate "typical white people".)

You have not addressed one single issue. You claimed that Obama would be competent, and that his Administration would be as well. Well, Obama nominated a tax cheat to oversee the economy and the IRS on the claim that Geithner was the ONLY man for the job. Despite Geithner being an experienced insider, and having plenty of lead time, he hasn't even been able to name his staff. Where's the competence there? Or is that failure also the fault of Rush Limbaugh?

Geithner has also not been able to do the ONE thing he said he would do, and the one thing he NEEDS to do. He was supposed to have a bank rescue plan before Congress WEEKS ago. Where is it? Is that also Limbaugh's fault, or is it Karl Rove's? (I'm sure it's another one of those evil "typical white people" whose guts you hate.)

Where's the competence at the State Department that can't even translate one single word correctly?

Where’s the competence with a President who claims that we’ll have six percent economic growth in the future to HALVE the size of the budget deficit?

Address what's happened in the last six weeks, asshole. You won't though, because that would require that you actually engage in honest debate, and you are as incapable of honesty as you are of any basic human decency.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Reset; Retry; Abort; Fail [UPDATED]

Hillary tried to do the diplomacy thing today. The results were less than stellar.

GENEVA, March 6 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red "reset button" to symbolise improved ties, but the gift drew smiles as the word "reset" was mistranslated into the Russian for "overcharge".

"I would like to present you with a little gift that represents what President Obama and Vice President Biden and I have been saying and that is: 'We want to reset our relationship and so we will do it together," said Clinton, presenting Lavrov with a palm-sized yellow box with a red button.

Clinton joked to Lavrov: "We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?"

"You got it wrong," said Lavrov, smiling as the two pushed the reset button together before dinner at a Geneva hotel.

He told Clinton the word "Peregruzka" meant "overcharge", to which Clinton replied: "We won't let you do that to us."

"We mean it and we look forward to it," she said of "resetting" the relationship, a phrase that Joe Biden first used at a security conference in Munich.

Lavrov said he would put the gift on his desk. (Reporting by Sue Pleming; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
Judas H. Priest, the State Department can't even come up with decent Russian translations anymore. This Administration is beyond parody.

UPDATE: More stupidity from our new Secretary of State. In front of the European ParliamentClinton compared the complex European political environment to that of the two-party U.S. system, before adding:
"I have never understood multiparty democracy.

"It is hard enough with two parties to come to any resolution, and I say this very respectfully, because I feel the same way about our own democracy, which has been around a lot longer than European democracy."

The remark provoked much headshaking in the parliament of a bloc that likes to trace back its democratic tradition thousands of years to the days of classical Greece.

One working lunch later with EU leaders, Clinton raised more eyebrows when she referred to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who stood beside her, as "High Representative Solano."

She also dubbed European Commission External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner as "Benito."
On the plus side, she's doing better than the Secretary of Treasury.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Holy sh--....

Holy effin' sh!t. This is extremely bad, as Bill Quick notes. This is a tacit admission that our banking system isn't simply teetering on the brink, but that it has fallen over the edge.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration continues to piss around with side issues. To wit, Obama continued with more of his Management Seminar Presidency, today's topic being health care. Apparently his aides are thrilled to be working on the easy topic of health care reform. Read the whole article, but here's the part that struck me:

"You know what makes everything so hard?" [the unnamed Obama economic aide] asked me [David Corn]. Before I could answer, he stepped closer to me.

"It's the economy," he remarked. "We could deal with any of this"—referring to the assorted financial crises underway—"if the economy wasn't so bad. You have one big insurance company that goes bad? Okay, you can go out and find other companies that will buy up parts of it. You can work something out. That's not difficult to do. But now there's no one out there to buy. You have a home foreclosure crisis. You can put together a plan. But there's no plan that's going to work if the guy who's foreclosed on loses his job and can't make a house payment. You have a major auto company go bust? You can prop it up, throw it some capital. But if no one is buying cars, it doesn't matter. Look at Toyota. It's one of the best run companies in the world. And it can't make it these days."

As he said this, he shook his head slowly. He looked deeply perturbed.

"We can come up with all sorts of solutions," he said. "But it's the economy." He noted that he and other administration aides are working around the clock, that every day he jumps from one crisis to another, and that he feels that he and other administration policymakers have plenty of latitude to craft innovative responses to the assorted economic problems. Yet he said that he and his comrades cannot change the economic environment within which these policies are to be implemented.
Notice that the unnamed official keeps offering the poor state of the economy as the reason the Administration can't fix this problem or that, but neither he nor the Administration seem to recognize that the economy is the real problem. Instead Obama & Co. get bounced from crisis to crisis, ignoring fundamental issues (Where's the bank reform, Geithner?) while expending effort on non-essential issues. The economy hasn't tanked because we haven't built enough bridges. The economy hasn't tanked because we don't have enough wind mills. The economy hasn't tanked because of rising medical costs. The economy has tanked because of crappy financial decision making, crappy governmental policies, and because greed made the nation (in whole and in parts) take leave of its senses. NONE of Obama's major initiatives address these issues, save perhaps as palliatives.

Obama doesn't grasp that circumstances have changed. The issues he choose to campaign on in 2006 must, in 2009, take a back seat to larger issues. Back in November I wrote, "Neither [Presidential candidate] has shown any ability to adjust their policy goals to meet current conditions – that is what the financial crisis has taught us." Recent events have confirmed my speculation.

Furthermore Obama is trying to do everything at once. (Except actually address the underlying economic problems.) Whenever he speaks about any topic he exhorts us thus, "We cannot delay this discussion any longer," or "We have to act and act now." He never modulates his tone, nor does he prioritize the tasks at hand. The lack of modulation demonstrates poor leadership, while the inability to prioritize illustrates poor management skills. Not being able to identify the key problems shows that Obama has no insight.

It's gonna be a long, dismal Presidency.

NOTE: Sorry Kim, I couldn'd resist. But I'm going to bed now! Or at least to the couch. I'm going to stay out here a while to keep an eye on Spats & the heating pad.

Obama's First Pardon

Obama's first Presidential Pardon should go to Wesley Snipes.

WTF?

Apparently 22 out of 236 Georgia state legislators are KNOWN tax cheats. I've been expecting increasing levels of non-directed violence in the country over the next few months (possibly years) but as more of these kinds of stories come out I'm starting to wonder if I was too optimistic (Again! Damn it!) in believing that an actual revolt would not happen.

I also note that InstaPundit has linked to several more stories of government incompetence and corruption this morning, although at least a couple of them are stories I mentioned first.

Perhaps you'd like a side of crow to go with that turkey?

And if you feel the need for a snack, we'll have more crap sandwiches latter.

I'm really enjoying all the hand wringing by Obama's media supporters. Obama is basically doing EXACTLY what he said he'd do, and they're surprised. (Perhaps they should be. Obama may be the first President I can remember who has done what he said he'd do during the campaign.) But if Obama has lost Dowd, then he's going to be in very deep shit, and soon. No wonder Obama's already going gray.

I am also enjoying all the other circuses/crises. Obama has ignored the economic turmoil except as a method of forcing huge government spending increases down our throats. (Obama doesn't even understand the basics, so perhaps we're better off if he doesn't really focus on the economy. Except that the vast expansion of government spending will have large negative consequences.) His Treasury Secretary speaks only when it will create more chaos in the market place. Obama has selected one tax cheat after another for important posts, and has even put one of the tax cheats in charge of both the IRS and a new effort to hunt down tax cheats who use off-shore banking to hide wealth. (The Obama Administration needn't bother with this, though. Pretty soon there won't be any wealth to hide.)

But that's not all! Obama has insulted the British PM, turned his back on our allies in Eastern Europe so that he can play the fool for Putin & co., decided to give $1 billion dollars to Hamas while criticizing Israel for not letting their citizens be killed more efficiently, and has made a public pissing match with a fat & happy radio host THE central issue of his Presidency.

The ongoing spat with Rush Limbaugh demonstrates that the Obama team has far more interest in campaigning than in governing. While Geithner kept the banks in the dark as to how he plans to stabilize the finance sector (mainly because even he has recognized that his ideas are crap), Obama's team has been consistent in their orchestrations of a campaign against Limbaugh. Campaigning is easier than governing, so we shouldn't be surprised that is where Obama is focusing his energies. (I had foreseen this state of permanent campaign back in July of 2008. People will be yearning for the aloofness of the Bush Presidency 'round about autumn, I suspect.)

But at least Rush has a large audience. What's the point of also going after Jim Cramer and Rick Santelli? In the face of NO meaningful opposition to his agenda Obama has decided to demonize anyone he can in order to distract from the fact that he doesn't know how to govern.

As I write I see that Iran has stated that they can attack Israel's nuclear sites via missile, Israel is considering a solo attack on Iran to prevent Iran from creating nuclear weapons (assuming they haven't already), Venezuela's Chavez has stolen more American assets, the Swiss have become restless over US attempts to bully their banks, the Obama Administration has decided that making energy more expensive is key to getting the economy back on track, and one of Obama's new intelligence appointees is under investigation for ties to foreign governments.

The story about the appointee to chair the National Intelligence Council demonstrates some of the basic competency problems with the Obama Administration.

The director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, last Thursday named Mr. Freeman, a veteran former diplomat, to the chairmanship of the National Intelligence Council, known inside the government as the NIC. In that job, Mr. Freeman will have access to some of America's most closely guarded secrets and be charged with overseeing the drafting of the consensus view of all 16 intelligence agencies.

...

Mr. Freeman has not submitted the financial disclosure forms required of all candidates for senior public positions, according to the general counsel's office of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Nor did Mr. Blair seek the White House's approval before he announced the appointment of Mr. Freeman, said Mr. Blair's spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi.

"The director did not seek the White House's approval," Ms. Morigi said. "In addition to his formal background security investigation, we expect that the White House will undertake the typical vetting associated with senior administration assignments."

The Obama Administration will vet the candidate AFTER they have nominated him! Outstanding. This has occurred because of a breakdown in command - Blair should not have made this decision without having gone through the White House vetting procedure. But between the new head-vetter's problems with his own background and the Obama White House's infatuation with AM radio, this Administration does not possess the needed competency for even cursory vetting of nominees.

For the moment Obama's polling numbers remain high, but that won't last. I wonder how many more stories we will read about Michelle Obama's well-toned arms or hard-hitting pieces about Obama's soft drink of choice in coming months? Or how many more cheery stories we'll see about the new Cheap Chic or the unexpected happiness of some unemployed people because now they have time to decompress? At some point the public will likely turn on Obama, and the media will probably suffer for having been nothing less than the Obama Propoganda Machine. It's going to be an ugly summer. If the temperatures are unusually hot this summer....

UPDATE: Holy leg tingles! Obama is losing Matthews!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Conversational Snippet: The Bob Newhart Show Edition

Tonight Kim and I heard the following exchange on TBHS. Jerry has been depressed because his girlfriend dumped him, and his friend Carol is attempting to help him work off the aggravation. (Just ignore the global warming. Why shouldn't you? The climate has.)

Carol:And I know exactly what you're going through, trust me.
Jerry: Oh yeah? Have you ever been thrown over for a 22 year-old guy?
Carol: As a matter of fact, yes.
Kim: Could they say that back then?
Me: Yes. You could say all kinds of things on TV back then. Oddly enough the country has become more prudish while simultaneously becoming more vulgar.
Kim: Oh, you mean like the way we've simultaneously infantalized and sexualized children.
Me: Exactly. [pause] Our country has gotten really fucked up in the last few decades.

More commenty goodness

In the past XWL once accused me of leaving most of my best stuff in the comment sections of other people's blogs. That's probably true, although it's a low bar.

Amba had a post about Obama and some of the opposition that has developed around Obama. In "Barack has met the enemy, and he is us" Amba mentions several InstaPundit items today and concludes, "It's gonna be another long four years." Naturally this led me to make my own long-winded comment about various matters.

Perhaps the most insightful bit on Instapundit was a quote he took from an Althouse commenter:
“Does anyone really think Team Obama’s focus on Limbaugh reflects their success so far in office?”
Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal notes that the market is not happy with Obama's plans. But they're not being wholly fair to Obama, and it appears they haven't fully come to grips with the problem. Look at this quote from the linked editorial:
Housing prices have fallen 27% from their Case-Shiller peak, or some two-thirds of the way back to their historical trend.
Hmm. That would suggest that housing prices still have plenty of downside before we hit bottom. And since I've already brought up Professor Shiller, I may as well drop another indicator of his that we haven't entirely hit bottom:
There were four massive stock bubbles in the 20th Century: 1901, 1929, 1966, and 2000. During each of these bubble peaks, the S&P 500 neared or exceeded 25X on professor Robert Shiller's cyclically adjusted P/E ratio.* After the first three of these peaks, the S&P 500 PE did not bottom until it hit 5X-8X. We're still in the middle of the last one.

The most recent bubble peak, 2000, was by far the most extreme we have ever experienced. In 2000, the S&P 500 by prof. Shiller's measure exceeded 40X (it had never before exceeded 30X). With the S&P 500 hitting 700 today, the PE has now fallen back to 12X.
The linked piece explains that there’s more than one way to hit bottom on this index, though. Stock prices could already have bottomed out but will stagnate for years.

And here’s another indicator of how bad things got last year, this time from the New York Times:
Last week, Fannie Mae announced that it lost $58.7 billion in 2008, more than all its net profits since 1992. Freddie Mac is also expected to reveal record losses in coming days.
Obama’s impact on the housing and financial problems prior to his election were minimal, although he seems to have supported all the wrong policies, but he was hardly alone on that front. So as I wrote elsewhere, Obama doesn’t deserve the blame for this mess. He will and does deserve blame for his actions in office, however, and some discounted share of blame for the transition period between the election and the inauguration. And here the WSJ editorial is correct when they assert:
The market has notably plunged since Mr. Obama introduced his budget last week, and that should be no surprise. The document was a declaration of hostility toward capitalists across the economy. Health-care stocks have dived on fears of new government mandates and price controls. Private lenders to students have been told they're no longer wanted. Anyone who uses carbon energy has been warned to expect a huge tax increase from cap and trade. And every risk-taker and investor now knows that another tax increase will slam the economy in 2011, unless Mr. Obama lets Speaker Nancy Pelosi impose one even earlier.

Meanwhile, Congress demands more bank lending even as it assails lenders and threatens to let judges rewrite mortgage contracts. The powers in Congress -- unrebuked by Mr. Obama -- are ridiculing and punishing the very capitalists who are essential to a sustainable recovery. The result has been a capital strike, and the return of the fear from last year that we could face a far deeper downturn. This is no way to nurture a wounded economy back to health.
They fail to mention that the government is taking over the mortgage lending market and has no intention of letting go of its newly found powers. But the NYT’s article I linked to explains exactly that, and also explains how even the people brought into Fannie Mae to fix the problems have started bailing out because of too much government interference.
In the last six weeks alone, the Obama administration has essentially transformed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into arms of the federal government. Regulators have ordered the companies to oversee a vast new mortgage modification program, to buy greater numbers of loans, to refinance millions of at-risk homeowners and to loosen internal policies so they can work with more questionable borrowers.

Lawmakers have given the companies access to as much as $400 billion in taxpayer dollars, a sum more than twice as large as the pledges to Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, General Motors, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley combined.

Regulators defend those actions as essential to battling the economic crisis. Indeed, Fannie and Freddie are basically the only lubricants in the housing market at this point.

But those actions have caused collateral damage at the companies. On Monday, Freddie Mac’s chief executive, David M. Moffett, unexpectedly resigned less than six months after he was recruited by regulators, having chafed at low pay and the burdens of second-guessing by government officials, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Fannie Mae has also experienced a wave of defections as people leave for better-paying and less scrutinized jobs.
I imagine that we will see another wave of political appointees to fill the empty slots at Fannie Mae, which is a part of what got us into this trouble in the first place. (Need I mention that the political appointees are likely to have little experience and less competence for their new jobs?)

Ah well, we’ve taken a bad situation and we’re making it worse. The bigger problem isn’t Obama, or the Democrats, or even our political leadership in general. The bigger problem is that the electorate has decided that government can and should take care of everything. We are the enemy. Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Bush, McConnell, Boehner, etc. are just the foot soldiers we the generals have sent to the front lines.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Everything's amazing and nobody's happy

Via Amba I've just seen a perfect rant about the times. Unfortunately embedding isn't allowed so you're just going to have to suffer and click on the link.

And herein lies a problem. Our economy has become tough. Unemployment is up (believe me, I know), the financial sector is a disaster, housing markets are desperate, etc. But the times are still great from a historical perspective. Hell, we could have several years of moderate contraction in the economy and we would still be in great shape from an absolute perspective.

And the toys! They're not really going anywhere. Our cell phones and HD TVs, the iPods and air conditioning, those aren't really going anywhere. You might not be able to replace them as often as you'd like, but they're going to be around when you DO scrape up the funds for new stuff. Unless they've been replaced by something even better, of course.

Food is plentiful, shelter is available, information is more widely disseminated than ever before. Here in the US we're not really having that bad of a time.

Even our biggest problems (debt, government) are tractable problems if we would address them calmly.

But we won't. "Bad times" has become a relative term. Compared to the fat times of the previous 26 years, the next few years are going to suck. But only on those terms, and not even entirely by those terms. In the 1980s we were thrilled to have Walkmen cassette players. (For you kids that may be reading this, those were small devices that played a cassette which contained roughly one album of recorded music. The cassettes themselves were as big or bigger than most MP3 on the market today.) I'd be pissed to be stuck with having to listen to only one album at a time now. But we thought times were great in 1986.

Unfortunately, we are responding to the current crisis in entirely the wrong way: We are increasing our debt load and expanding the role of government. This is going to lead to even tougher choices (relatively speaking) in the future, which we will certainly over-react to again. It's a downward spiral, and it's partly attributable to our impatience in waiting a couple of seconds for our miracles devices to send and receive signals from space.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Fun with Comment Sections!

I've been commenting a lot of doom & gloom stuff over at the Ambivablog the last couple of days. I thought I would make my latest comment (so to be posted over there) a separate blog post here.

Amba, some nasty racist-types have glommed onto HBD. But that is hardly the whole of it. (You've got Gene Expression linked so I imagine you know some of this.)

Some of the nasty types have also not noticed that their preferred race (speaking solely of white American racial supremacists here) doesn't come out on top of every, or even most, categories. East Asians tend to top Caucasians for median IQ, as do the Ashkenazim (Hitler's ashes would swirl in a vortex if they knew). I suspect that if the population of the Indian sub-continent were looked at by caste the Brahmins would also top Caucasians.

As for the eugenics angle, different populations breed for different circumstances. Thus traits like sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs, pale skin in higher latitudes and darker skin in lower latitudes, etc. Some differences don't mean much to society anymore (from an objective stand point) and some do.

Intelligence (commonly discussed in terms of IQ, in some circles discussed more in terms of g-loading and the like) DOES matter in modern economies. Intelligence is not equally distributed, and that matters. Donna, want to start a fight? Mention that IQ matters in the midst of a bunch of liberals and watch the sparks fly! Larry Summers is lucky he can still get a job after sticking his foot in it, and he was a liberal in good standing. (This is actually orthodox among many groups. You can start fights bringing up the same topic in front of many Republicans & independents as well. And then there’s Derbyshire, who believes in HBD but thinks it may well be best if the vast bulk of the population believes the opposite. Derb is a fun guy!)

Other traits also have separate distributions. Risk taking would be another trait unevenly distributed, and a trait that matters in EVERY society. Too little risk-taking and innovation might come to a standstill. Too much and you might have high levels of crime, violence and war. (If I had to choose a society at one extreme or another, I would choose too much risk-taking. The ultra-violence has a way of eliminating itself from the population. But this appears to be directly linked to high levels of testosterone and I would guess it is easier to moderate that long-term than it is to breed up higher levels from a population that has too little. One can easily argue that the other way however. It would take someone using a lot of population genetics & the related math to make valid claims one way or the other on that, and their projections would still be subject to both chance and unknown unknowns in making their predictions.)

Case in point, Europeans that settled the US most likely tended to being amongst those that took greater risks. Moving from ones homeland to someplace half-way around the world, a complete mystery and wilderness to the vast majority of those travelling, and with no safety line home or possible retreat, implies a high level of risk tolerance. We mostly likely benefitted from getting a high proportion of Europe’s gamblers! Europe still had enough such people to conquer most of the world. But between immigration to the colonies (not just here but all European colonies, especially for the colonists that stayed put in their new locals) and the bloodshed of WWI, Europe probably reduced its level of risk tolerance.

But back to the point: These things matter. If intelligence does matter, and isn’t equally distributed (forget racial groups for the moment and just consider a normal distribution) then a policy that states that everyone should go to college would be stupid. As would a policy that has everyone graduate from high schools dedicated primarily to college prep. Yet that’s what we’ve done. It’s wasteful or money, talent and lives. How many of our social welfare policies make incorrect implicit assumptions about the covered population that have negative consequences? A great many, it turns out. (Again, intelligence is only one variable to consider. Others also matter.)

But this can’t really be discussed. Beyond simple medical facts that are irrefutable (Sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs) or now trivial matters (like skin color) we are not permitted to discuss that such things exist. Donna asked for an example of such denial. Ask and Ye shall Receive! Brad Delong a few years back started a bit of a blog flame war when he asserted that human populations MUST be homogenous. (He was responding to a post of Andrew Sullivan, so perhaps he just caught The Stupid from Sullivan.) As mentioned, this garnered a lot of response, including lots of comments from various heavy-weights in Delong’s comment section – which Delong deleted if they were too good at refuting his argument. The Update to this Gene Expression post also makes some excellent points broadly related to this topic.

(More commonly, one hears the assertion that recent human evolution doesn’t exist, or that if it DOES exist it only effects “trivial” issues like skin color. Delong just dressed it up with mathematics and charts.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Age of Competence indeed....

During Obama's management seminar on Monday our new Emperor put Charlie Rangel in charge of the breakout session on tax reform. Obama believes (or wants us to believe) that the second most corrupt man in Washington DC can actually fix the American Federal tax system. This is beyond farce.

ADDED: In his Not-A-State-of-the-Union-Address Address to Congress, Emperor Don't-you-dare-call-Him-Hussien claimed that Americans invented the automobile. Of course Germans invented the automobile, but don't worry. I'm sure His command of detail on every other subject is perfect.

Obama has decided to reform our energy policies. (A wonder that no one thought of that before.)He will also add a $600+ billion health care trust to the budget, give everyone an education through college, and reform the way government does everything. And He has declared that He will direct the government to cure cancer! My God Obama, is there anything He can't do?! Thank Obama that we have someone of His enormous intellect to figure these things out for us! All this while halving the budget deficit in four years!

Don't bother mentioning that President Carter made energy reform the center-piece of his Presidency. Or that Nixon got the ball rolling on cancer research back when Don't-you-dare-call-Him-Hussien still wiped snot off his nose with His bare hands.

Don't bother mentioning that the Medicare and Medicaid 'trusts' are already bankrupt; or that giving everyone a college degree will make college degrees even more worthless than they already are; or that it's impossible to believe that corrupt individuals like Charlie Rangel are best suited to reform the government that they helped corrupt in the first place; or that His efforts at efficiency come only AFTER He shoved an $800,000,000,000 crap sandwich down the throats of the tax payer; or that what He is claiming is mathematically and financially impossible.

Don't bother because no one wants to hear it. The nation has lost its mind. Or perhaps more than a century of 'public education' has completely destroyed the citizenry's capacity for thought. But now the public will only accept politicians who make assurances that all things are possible through government. This is how the American Experiment ends, not with a bang, but a whine of "Where's mine?"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Some how, some way, we will find a dumber way of doing things....

The George W. Bush Presidency was the MBA Presidency. Those of us who have toiled in Corporate America should easily recognize that fact, although perhaps not everyone will understand exactly how that translated into the mistakes of the Bush Presidency.

But now we have someone else in the Oval Office, and the era of the MBA Presidency seems to have passed into history. Unfortunately that just means we will have to endure some other horror. Today I realized what that would be.

President Obama had a budget summit with members of Congress today. He came out and lectured the legislators that we can't continue down the current path. He blamed his predecessor for all manner of problems. He insisted that we needed to do things in a better, more intelligent manner. And then he had the assembled Congress Critters split up into smaller work groups. These groups were to spend the afternoon 'brainstorming' for better ways for the government to take care of its fiscal and budgetary responsibilities. These groups would then reassemble late in the afternoon to share their ideas.

Now one could remark on all manner of points. For example, don't these legislators, most of whom have been in DC for years, already know how things should be done? If so, why haven't they done these things in the recent past? Shouldn't OBAMA, having been a US Senator in the very recent past, also know these things?

Further, given that Democrats ran the previous Congress, shouldn't their leaders also share the blame for the past two years of fiscal and budgetary fiascoes? Apparently Obama is blaming Bush for all the budgetary woes of recent years. Doesn't this one-time law school lecturer on CONLAW know that all taxing and spending powers rest solely with Congress?

Or perhaps one could have listened to this and wondered exactly how long this Congress was going to be President Obama's bitch lap dog? Sooner or latter they will get tired of his pissy schoolmarm scoldings, and will re-assert their authority over this supremely arrogant upstart.

Those points flashed through my head but had little impact. What struck me was the breakout groups, the brainstorming, and the shared ideas at the end of the day. We have moved from the MBA Presidency to the Management Seminar Presidency. God help us all.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Home again

I returned home yesterday. The procedure went well, and the recovery was faster this time than last. Mom had the same procedure (a cystoscopy) done in early December, but this time she did not have complications with low blood pressure, and they removed the catheter before she left the hospital. So I only accrued a couple of days of exposure to cigarette smoke. Hopefully I will stop smelling like an ash tray after a few more showers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Update

justkim here.

Icepick's mom's procedure went well. She's home and recovering. Icepick is going to spend the next few days with her and his brother to help out. He's pretty much internet-free over there, so he doesn't have access to e-mail or his blog. If you have any messages for him, please feel free to e-mail me or post them here. I'll be sure to pass them along.

Thank you to those of you who have sent the good wishes. I know Icepick appreciates them, and I appreciate that you all are here for him.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blogging Forecast

Blogging will be light to nonexistent in coming days, with an intermittent chance of commenting. I will be staying with my mother for a few days while she goes through a "procedure" and recovery. Big fun will be had by none.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thank God the news media is covering the stories that matter

Currently the feature story on CNN:

Air Force One is one 'spiffy ride,' Obama says

Highlights from the story:

The president, who has made several trips around the country in Air Force One, was particularly excited during his first trip on the plane as commander in chief when he flew recently to the House Democrats' annual retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia.

"Thanks for giving me a reason to fly Air Force One," he told the House Democrats after his flight, which took him away from a week of fighting for the economic stimulus bill.
Nice way to spend tax payer money, President Spendthrift! Was it really necessary to take Air Force One to go from DC to Williamsburg? The distance is ~250 miles. Surely Marine One or a car trip would have saved the tax payers some money.

But the President doesn't really think of it as tax payer money - he thinks it's all his.
"Hey guys, what do you think of my -- this spiffy ride here?" the president asked the group of reporters traveling with him on the presidential plane.
The press won't call him on this because they are so excited to be this close to the Imperator.
Riding aboard Air Force One is a treat for the president, but also for the reporters covering the White House, said CNN's Ed Henry.

"I'm always amazed that every time someone finds out what my job is, without fail, their first question is: 'Do you get to fly on Air Force One?' " Henry said. "There is a wonder and mystery about this plane that is just remarkable."
When the revolution comes, these guys will be first up against the wall....

Ask and Ye shall recieve

Instapundit asks, "[I]s it really true that Federal obligations exceed world GDP? I don’t think it is. I certainly hope not."

Let's see what the US government has to say. The United States Treasury Department issues annual reports about the financial condition of the United States Federal government. A Citizen’s Guide to the 2008 Financial Report of the U.S. Government is a lengthy report that will give us part of the answer to Instapundit's question.

Now, I'm just looking for quick and dirty answers, so if you want to dive into the whole 206 pages for more accurate numbers, go right ahead. (Remember, this is only the "Citizen's Guide" as well, so the 206 pages merely represents a thumbnail summary of the situation. That fact by itself ought to make you queasy.) Page 17* gives us the following chart:



The Net Position (Assets Minus Liabilities) line represents our national debt as of Sept. 30, 2008. The Sustainability Measures section captures the expected future liability on items such as Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years. Two categories are included. The Closed Group only considers people currently covered by the programs, and the Open Group which also includes future participants. The Open Group has a lower liability because many of those people will pay into those programs but won't receive benefits in that time frame. The Open Group is the more optimistic of the two estimates because it assumes we can continue to let new participants into the programs. Adding these two numbers gives a rough estimate of US Federal Obligations as of Sept 30, 2008.

Nation Debt ..................$10.2 trillion

Other Obligations ........$43.0 trillion

Total ..............................$53.2 trillion

These numbers do NOT include the TARP or the current stimulus package! Those won't appear on this report until next year's report.

Now for the world's GDP. I'm having trouble finding world GDP numbers for 2008. However the World Bank does give me numbers for 2007. According to this chart, world GDP in 2007 was $54.3 trillion. Assuming no growth in 2008, world GDP would slightly exceed us federal obligations. If one were to use the "pessimitic" number for US Other Obligations, that would add another $6.1 trillion dollars to the US total, easily pushing us past the world GDP number!

Given everything that has happened in the last four months, it is easy to believe that US federal obligations now exceed the world's annual GDP. Maybe I'll update this later with more accurate numbers, and maybe not. But the claim Instapundit wonders about is credible.

* Page 17 by the .pdf page count at the top; it's marked as page 10 on the print out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Woo hoo!!!!

We've done it!

Federal obligations exceed world GDP
Does $65.5 trillion terrify anyone yet?

(Read the whole thing. Go one, take some time & follow the link.)

We are now so broke that the entire world's economic output won't be able to pull us out of the fire! Hot damn! Also note that the obligations mentioned in the story linked above only include those of the federal government. State and local governments, not to mention the debt of companies and individuals, have their own obligations (i.e., debt). God Bless America!

Playing in the background is a CBS News report that what happened to the Japanese economy is that they didn't spend enough money to get out of their recession, and that they actually paid their bills. In other words, our media is encouraging us to acquire even more debt!

Fortunately we have a whole new fun game to occupy our minds....

Freedom

"Hello there. This is a wonderful day for me... Five minutes out of my iron lung... Five minutes out of my little prison... my kind and friendly prison."

-Polio survivor commenting on her progress. The ellipses in the quote represent pauses for the patient to stop and gulp breathes of air. She was still paralyzed and hadn't yet been removed from the iron lung, although it had been opened and she was breathing on her own. As seen in old footage during an American Experience episode called "The Polio Crusade".
I had recorded the episode a few weeks ago and finally got around to watching it this afternoon. When the recording stopped a commercial for Cialis was playing. I went from watching a program about the medical miracle of the 1950s to seeing a commercial for the medical miracle of the day. One might think our era compares unfavorably to the prior era in this regard, but one would be (partially) wrong. Freedom from the fear of such diseases as polio allows us to concern ourselves with much more trivial matters. Unfortunately such freedom creates a softness of spirit, even if the Cialis stiffens other things.

Fun for the whole Body Politick!

Donna B. has been moved to tears by the passage of the President's "stimulus" package.

The stimulus bill passed this evening was never read by a single Senator or Representative or by the President and his staff. No one person knows what the hell is contained in the full thing. I expect Obama to sign it Monday, not knowing having a clue what he is doing.

This is the reason for my tears tonight.
True to my alleged optimistic self I am looking at the brighter side.

It's a simple matter of looking at this from the right perspective: Don’t think of it as a gigantic spending bill, think of it as a magical mystery box instead! Imagine how much fun we’re going to have in the coming months and years discovering what’s been stashed in that Fantastick Federal Footlocker of Fabulist Fiscality! This is going to be the most funnest time we’ve ever had!

For the record...

The local drag races started at exactly 11:10 PM last night. Tonight the first race didn't start until 12:04 AM Saturday morning. That's a very late start for a Friday night. The first race may well have been fatal, as at 12:08 AM I heard multiple rescue sirens screaming to the scene of a race that stopped rather abruptly. Too bad the stupid-ass local law enforcement officers can't find the real speeders in this town.

At 12:10 AM the second drag race of the night started, and another just started at 12:12 AM. No doubt the police won't find them either even though they're all within earshot of the wreck at the first race.

And at 12:14 I'm hearing two separate races going at the same time. OutSTANDing!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Song for the Day

Just f'ing because, okay?



Also, Barry's oldest son is now in Crowbar. And Crowbar definitely fits my mood.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Today's blog posts have been brought to you by the Mike Ditka Anger Management System

Mike Ditka used to wear a suit and tie on the sideline while coaching football games. He believed that the suit and tie might help him keep control of his famously volcanic temper. Today's blog posts have all been written while wearing a suit and tie, and for the same reason. I can assure you this has helped. If I hadn't deleted some of the things I wrote about local law enforcement, then they'd have likely come to arrest me.

Because the day couldn't get any better!

Today we discovered that Mom's bladder cancer has recurred again. One more trip to the hospital, to be followed by more BCG treatment.

Meanwhile my brother is likely very close to the end. He has barely eaten in three weeks and has lost ten pounds off his already slender frame in the last two weeks.

Furious

Today I got a speeding ticket. I was going 39 in a 30 mph zone. Okay, that's a little fast. In my defence I was the only car on the road, and the deputy sheriff who stopped me was comfortable enough with the conditions to step in front of my car to wave me down. After he gave me the ticket I asked him if he would be there tonight when the gang-bangers will be drag racing up and down that road at 100+ mph. He said they sometimes work at night. I also asked him about the nightly drag races in Hunter's Creek. He walked away at that point.

(The drag races start most nights at 2 AM. The other nights start earlier still. Everyone in the county seems to know about these races except for local law enforcement. They seem mistified by all the accidents down here.)

Incidentally, the cops managed to pull over the only two white men in suits in all of Pine Hills while I was there. Actually, the other "white man in a suit" was an illegal immigrant who could not speak a word of English. Unfortunately for him he looked too much like Whitey.

This happened right around the corner from my mother's house. The house which was invaded last year. After the invasion, an eyewitness to the crime identified the home invaders. The sheriffs deputies working that night went to the house of the invaders, asked to look around inside, said they saw nothing suspicious, and LET THEM GO. No finger prints, no further investigation, not one lousy thing. The Orange County Sheriff's Department is absolutely fucking useless. Those assholes will NOT go after criminals unless they are forced to by media pressure. (Shockingly, they managed to catch two men who had raped an 11 year-old girl a few days ago. The only reason they were able to do it was because the wife of one of the rpaists figured out what happened and turned him in. The Sheriff's Office would have never pulled it off on their own.) Normally deputies sit around looking to hand out speeding tickets to make certain they can justify there existence. And you can be goddamned certain they won't pull over anyone dangerous looking. They have no intention of taking even the smallest risks unless absolutely necessary.

Now, if they WERE interested in crime I could direct them to several crack houses in the area. Or the illegal "car repair" shop just a few hundred feet from where I was pulled over. (It might be a small illegal (meaning unpermitted) car repair business, but I suspect it's a chop shop for stolen cars.) Or I could direct them to the guys that invaded my mother's house last spring. Oh, wait, they already know about those guys! Or maybe I could direct them to the guys across the street from the home invaders that breed pit bulls for dog fighting. (I know this because they put up signs in their front yard advertising that that is what they do.)

So, let's review, shall we? In my lifetime I have had the following encounters with Central Florida Law Enforcement.

In 1988, I was in a car accident. The Orange County Sheriff's Deputy that appeared at the scene of the accident was seen pulling me and my brother by the hair while screaming in our faces. Later at the emergency room the hospital staff had to have the Deputy restrained when he kept barging into the area I was in, pushing around nurses and grabbing charts out of the hands of doctors. I generally never mention this episode for the simple reason that I don't remember it. I had a severe concussion as a result of the accident and several days of my memory have been erased. But several credible witnesses (i.e., NOT my brother) told me about this when I had recovered. I didn't pursue the matter at the time because I was too beat up from the accident, so too my brother, and our mother was recovering from a bad illness of her own. Apparently the deputy was a friend of the person who had t-boned our car. He was attempting to claim that I had been drinking, probably in an effort to cover up the fact that his friend had been speeding. (Lucky for me they test the blood for that sort of thing. I had NOT been drinking. Oddly enough, when we later visited the car in the junkyard, the back seat was covered in empty beer cans. I know those weren't in the car when I was. I almost suspect they were in the other person's car and the deputy moved them over to try and cover up for his friend.)

Last year, my home was burglarized. Again, the Sheriff's office didn't manage to do anything in regards to capturing the thieves. They DID manage to stain the carpets and furniture with finger print dust, however.

Also last year, Mom's house was invaded. I covered that above.

Now, a ticket for me while ignoring lots of real crime. And not just in Pine Hills! Yesterday there was another armed robbery/shooting at a business on the corner of Orange Blossom Trail and Oak Ridge Road. That marked the fifteenth reported armed robbery with gunfire at that intersection in the last eight months. (And "reported" is an important distinction. At a corner like that, there might be a couple of armed robberies a week that don't get reported. The hookers and drug dealers don't want to get caught by the police so they let all that slide.) As I've written elsewhere, the citizens have taken to defending themselves recently, because they know the police will not help them under any circumstances.

CNN can't spell

From a story about Obama's theatre gaffe:

Many stage afficianados believe that the prohibition only applies to performers or theater hands, and non-actors have nothing to worry about.
That should be either aficionados or afficionados. I've seen it spelled with one or two 'f's, but that second 'a' is wrong. A new "Age of Competence" indeed....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From the "It can always get worse" Files

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Kansas-based group to protest Caylee Anthony's memorial

Yes, this is the same group of idiots that protests at the funerals of US military personnel, claiming the deaths are God's punishment for the US harboring homosexuals.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The United States of Stupid

Or should that be the United States of Wuss? It's a tough call. A Wisconsin middle school teacher has been placed on administrative leave after a picture of her holding a firearm was found on her Facebook page. I can't decide if I'm more appalled by the stupidity of this action (guns are legal in this country; see the Second Amednment) or appalled by the continued wussification of the nation. I wonder how long it will be before we're suspending teachers just for saying words like "gun" or "firearm".

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lazy Blogging II

Back in November 2006 I took advantage of a lazy blogging tool mentioned by Michael J. Totten. Reading that I thought, "Hey, I can do this again! So here it is again. Changes from before are highlight in red, with the old answers scratched out.

Meme blogging! Via Michael J. Totten, the One Word Meme. Follow the links through Totten to see who originated this one.

You can only answer one word. No explanations.

1. Yourself: raging bemused
2. Your spouse: bemused cranky
3. Your hair: wacky unkempt
4. Your mother: smoking
5. Your father: dead
6. Your favorite item: memory
7. Your dream last night: unremembered
8. Your favorite drink: lemonade real Southern iced tea*
9. Your dream car: F-88
10. The room you are in: clean! messy
11. Your ex: non-existent
12. Your fear: idiots
13. What you want to be in 10 years: alive
14. Who you hung out with last night: wife
15. What you're not: healthy employed
16. Muffins: bran
17: One of your wish list items: teeth employment
18: Time: NOW!
19. The last thing you did: blogged
20. What you are wearing: clothes
21. Your favorite weather: steamy
22. Your favorite book: unknown
23. The last thing you ate: chicken spaghetti
24. Your life: happening aggravating
25. Your mood: sour raging
26. Your best friend: wife
27. What you're thinking about right now: cantaloupe**
28. Your car: Civic
29. What you are doing at the moment: typing editing
30. Your summer: desired
31. Your relationship status: married!
32. What is on your TV: nothing Crowbar
33. What is the weather like: cold pleasant
34. When was the last time you laughed: tonight now

* They shouldn't insist on one word answers for such questions.

** Having read that I was thinking of cantaloupe before, how can I not think of cantaloupe now?

I suppose I should be upset that so little has changed over the last 27 months. But I'm actually upset about the things that did change more than anything else. Unemployment sucks.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Let's hear it for the new "Transparency and Openness" in our government!

After one of Leon Panetta's confirmation hearings this week, a reporter tried to ask Panetta a question. The reporter was then "restrained" by a man who accompanied Panetta to the hearings.

Following Leon Panetta’s confirmation hearing Thursday, several reporters approached the CIA director-designate in the hallway outside room G-50 in the Dirksen Building.

There, CongressDaily reporter Chris Strohm — upon asking a question — was physically restrained by a man who accompanied Panetta at hearings both days.

Strohm, when reached by phone Friday, said he was unsure of the man’s role.

“I felt this hand grab my right arm and push me aside,” Strohm said.

By his account, Strohm told the man, “Please don’t touch me” more than once. Eventually, the man let him go.

Tim Starks, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, said he witnessed Strohm approach Panetta and ask a question, just before the man began “grabbing him by the arm and moving him away.”

“I said to the guy, ‘That’s not the way you do it,’” recalled Starks.
But no need to worry about the CIA now manhandling the press. The press will rollover for President Messiah anyway.
Starks said that he’s covered the CIA for years and had never seen a reporter strong-armed that way before, adding that the agency is typically respectful of journalists.

Reflecting on the incident, Strohm played it down somewhat, saying that he’s “had worse happen” while reporting.

A staff assistant at The Panetta Institute said they are not addressing any media inquiries before Panetta’s confirmation. The White House declined to comment.

After today’s hearing, there was no similar incident: Panetta briefly answered questions from reporters. [emphasis added]
"Played it down"? A reporter gets pushed around by some thug from the CIA for asking a question, and it happens in the halls of Congress, and the reporter just "plays it down"? Imagine if this had happened under a Republican Administration. My ears are ringing just thinking about the howls of outrage.

Anyway, we shouldn't be surprised. It's not like Obama hasn't resorted to political thuggery before.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cheery Thought for the Day

Various governments attempted to end the Great Depression using all kinds of ideas and tools. All attempts failed. What actually ended the Great Depression was World War II.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New Word of the Day

Althouse has a post on Daschle's withdrawal. (Ew.) Commenter Pogo says, "Daschle just got unicorned." Later I point out that he should have said, "Daschle just got unicornholed."

So, here's our New Word of the Day:

Unicornholed: Indicates the state of having been screwed by Barack Obama or his Administration.

The Modern American Soup Line

During the Super Bowl the other night, Denny's announced they would offer a free Grand Slam breakfast to everyone in America. This morning I wandered by the local Denny's. At 10 o'clock somewhere between 20 to 25 people were lined up outside. I have no idea how many more were standing inside. Regardless, I decided that even though I'm unemployed my time was more valuable than that, so I came home. Still, it was a bit shocking to see that many people that WOULD waste their time for one meal.

Here's some crappy video I shot using my Kodak camera during the drive-by....

Wow!

The nerve of some people! From Andrew Sullivan:

And enough with the complaints that the GOP has become the Party of No. That's their job. I'm immensely relieved that the Republicans, for obviously cynical reasons, have yet begun to re-earn their total-fiscal-asshole status. I want my Republican party complaining about spending and borrowing. I want them delaying a little and quibbling over every line. It's when they played the Rove-Bush bribe-the-electorate-with-your-grandkids'-money that I got off the bus.

So it's great to have you negative whiners, obstructers and and [sic] skinflints back. I missed you guys. We all did. [Italics in the original, bolding added.]
Is he serious? Sullivan supported Obama in the last election. In no way shape or form can one claim to support Obama AND claim to be against profligate governmental spending and power. Obama made it very clear that he wants the government to run the country's health care industries, and the country's finance industries. Obama also wants to dictate every last detail to the nation's energy industries, and the transportation industries. That's his whole program! Obama has also made it clear that the government cannot spend too much money for his tastes. Yet Sullivan now claims to be for fiscal restraint! Moreover, he is NOW claiming that the party he very publicly turned his back on is once again his party. Unbelievable!

Lobbyist, Journalist, Whatever....

The brouhaha over Tom Daschle should make one thing clear: Lobbyist, like journalist, and unlike lawyers & doctors, is not a strictly defined position. From an article I linked to earlier, on my other blog:

Daschle, a former senator tapped to head Health and Human Services, is not technically a lobbyist. But he was paid more than $5.2 million over the past two years as he advised health insurers and hospitals and worked in other industries such as energy and telecommunications.
Later the article adds the following:

Once out [of the US Senate, Daschle] was attractive and valuable to all sorts of government-regulated industries, even if he never registered as a lobbyist who could make straightforward appeals for or against legislation affecting his clients.

He received more than $2 million over two years as a senior policy adviser for the
Washington law firm Alston & Bird. He also earned more than $2 million in consulting fees from InterMedia Advisors LLC of New York, an investment firm specializing in buyouts and industry consolidation. An associate let Daschle use his car and driver, for which Daschle had to pay late taxes and interest.

Several health groups also paid Daschle $15,000 or more to speak to their gatherings.

"He welcomed every opportunity to make his case to the American public at large, and the health industry in particular, that America can't afford to ignore the health care crisis any longer," said his spokeswoman Jenny Backus.

If Daschle truly felt the need to make a case on this issue, he wouldn't have demanded exorbitant wages to "plead" his case. It's just another scam.

Of course, such scum as Daschle wouldn't be "attractive and valuable to all sorts of government-regulated industries" in the first place if those industries hadn't been so heavily regulated. All that regulation is just another example of the politicians and government functionaries ensuring their own comfortable existences. Remember that whenever anyone tells you that government regulation and money is the solution to any problem. Government IS the solution to many problems, but don't assume on faith that it can solve anything, or that the people selling on something don't have ulterior motives. For example:
[Fred] Wertheimer, of Democracy21, said that rather than dwell on Daschle's problems or the Corr and Lynn waivers, he focuses on Obama's executive order and the hope of progress to come on public financing of campaigns.
I have no doubt that Mr. Werthhiemer really has the interests of public employee unions and the Democratic Party at heart more than anything else. I base this knowledge on his forgiveness of Obama's many transgressions concerning both lobbyists in government and campaign finance. If he truly cared about these issues, he wouldn't be such a shill for one party.

Hit Reset, Then Continue

MicroSoft CEO Steve Blamer said the following recently:

We’re certainly in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime set of economic conditions. The perspective I would bring is not one of recession. Rather, the economy is resetting to lower level of business and consumer spending based largely on the reduced leverage in economy.
This hits the spot directly for me. We've over-spent and over-borrowed for many decades. Now the time has come to pay the piper. The biggest worry I have is that efforts to prop up the old model will only make matters worse. I don't think that means we should take no action, but it does mean that we shouldn't take action-for-actions-sake, nor should we attempt to spend-and-borrow at an even greater rate. The current Administration's plans for "economic recovery" are even worse than the old Administration's plans. But given the stupidity and hubris of the current ruling elites (in both parties, and in the other places where the ruling elite tend to settle) I expect them to take the current set of crises and turn them into utter disasters.

H/T: Steve Sailer

Back in the saddle

Wherein the following is too damned long

Getting Fired

Last April I rather suddenly shut this blog down. While at work on Monday April 7th, I got a call from the Compliance office of my company. My director requested my presence.

I knew this was a bad thing. Getting called by Compliance is a sign that one is in deep shit, and about to be fired. When I got to Compliance I was greeted by my director, who led me into a room with two people from the Compliance Department itself. They asked, "Do you know why you're here?" I said "No, but I assume I'm about to get fired." Ms. Muckity-muck from Compliance responded, "Then you assume incorrectly." Which was an outright lie on her part, but what the Heck.

Over the next four hours or so I was grilled about my Internet usage at work. "For some reason" IT had flagged my Internet usage and examined it in detail. "They found the results troubling" and forwarded the results to the Compliance Department. Said Dept. also reviewed my Internet usage in minute detail, and then contacted my director so that he too could 'scope me. At least that's the story they told me.

Company policy stated that no employee was allowed to use the Internet for any reason other than work, and that any violation of said policy could result in immediate termination. However, after four-and-a-half years of working for them I knew that policy was never enforced. (Shows what I knew.) Everyone I knew used the Internet for personal use at work to one extent or another, including my director. In fact, I had often used the Internet for non-work reasons at his behest.

During the interrogation they asked me several questions about this blog. My secret identity had been cracked. At the end of the interrogation they told me I was on paid leave, that I shouldn't return to the work site until they contacted me, and that they would review my case and decide which if any punishments I would receive. When I got home I took my blog "private" as a sign of good-faith on my part.

(Note: I had also not "outed" my director on his violations for "good faith" reasons AND because I had been made to sign an agreement at the start of the interrogation that I wouldn't "point fingers" at other people. Advice to anyone reading this: If you get called into such a meeting, screw good faith unless you really trust the person in charge. If you don't, then you may as well drag as many of the bastards down with you as you can.)

Long story short (which means you know you have a damned long way to go), the whole thing had been for show. That Friday they called me in and fired me.

Let me be very clear on several points. First, I had an excellent work record at my company. Second, I was doing four times the work I had been hired to do, and was doing it in half the time, and was doing a far better job than my predecessor. Third, I had requested more work to fill my time and my superiors had no additional work for me. In fact, they had actually taken some work away from me in the months prior to my termination. Fourth, I did NOT visit any porn or gambling sites at work. (I should mention that the director who fired me spends six months out of the year playing fantasy baseball at work for money, sometimes naming his teams after famous Klansmen, and uses company email to recruit participants into his son's nation-wide NCAA Basketball gambling pool.) Fifth, they could not (or would not) tell me why I my records had been flagged at that time. I had done nothing in the previous month that I hadn't been doing for the previous year.

I DID finally get them to tell me who made the final decision, and it had been my director. I don't think he realized that Ms. Muckity-muck told me that given his reactions later. That evening (Friday April 11) I went in to clean out my office. As I was taking down a couple of University of Florida banners in my office, the director who fired me said "I'm finally getting this damned Gator paraphernalia out of here." Yeah, a classy move from a classy man. Even my manager (who was in the room as well) flinched at that one.

Unemployed

So, four months before my fifth anniversary, ten weeks before vesting in my pension, and two days before turning forty, I got fired. Over time I have gone from thinking I had been the victim of a combination of bad luck and a personal vendetta, to thinking it had been a combination of personal vendetta plus the need to slash budget (I know our department was over-budget at that time), to now believing it was a combination of personal vendetta, the need to slash our departmental budget, AND that I was at the beginning of a silent lay off at work. Over the last nine months I've started hearing rumors that salaried heads are getting slashed for exactly the reason given for my termination. In this way the company can decrease its workforce while (a) keeping it silent to avoid bad publicity, and (b) if they're lucky they won't have to pay for unemployment.

I filled for unemployment anyway. The determination letter came in the mail, telling me my application for unemployment benefits had been accepted, and I claimed my first week. A day or so later, a second letter came, telling me that my application had been denied on appeal by the company. I then had to go through a twelve week process of appealing. When the day of the hearing arrived, I discovered that my old company didn't even bother to have a representative call into the meeting. (It was a teleconference, although all participants had to testify under oath.) I won by default. Still, I received permission to read my "Closing Statement" into the public record.

Since then I have been looking for work. Initially I got a few interviews, but people were reluctant to hire me for one of two reasons: Either I got priced out of a job, or they wouldn't hire me because I had been fired by my old company. Since then the employment market in Central Florida has completely dried up. I'm completely humped on that front.

Blogging Then

After I took down my old site, I just left it down. I didn't actually mean to stop blogging, but until unemployment issues resolved themselves I decided to lay low. I did put up another blog as a place holder. But I decided to keep the old blog private. Once my former director knew of my old blog it was possible he would share the knowledge. I had kept it private from work for a reason, and had no desire for those assholes to read it now.

But I did keep my old Blogger account. When I started blogging again I just changed the display name - I figured that the tools I had worked with didn't have the intelligence to track me in that manner. Unfortunately this caused a minor problem for me: All of the posts on my old blog now said "Posted by Outis". Since the blog was private, this didn't matter much, but it still annoyed me. Still, old comments (at Bill's, or XWL's or Althouse's blogs) showed up as Icepick, even though "Outis" would show up if one clicked through to the profile page.

Blogging Now

But now I've decided to make the old blog public again, and I even believe I will start posting under my old handle. Of course, this means that the Searching for Home posts will now state "Posted by Icepick" which loses some of the point. But what the hell, I'm not sure how many of my few readers got the point anyhow. (To be fair I never did make the point explicitly, although I will soon.)

So for now I think I'll quit being "No One", and get back to being Icepick. I was that guy for about four years (I had been commenting long before I started blogging), and this other guy for only about nine months, so the role should feel comfortable.

ADDED: I've imported all the posts from Searching for Home into this blog for now. All posts between May 2008 until the post immediately before this one were originally posted under the name "Outis" on the blog Searching for Home. Perhaps this doesn't make sense, perhaps it does. Mayvhe I'll go back to using the old blog, or maybe I'll just stay here. But it feels right to be posting as Icepick again.