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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BULLETPROOF TIGERS

"The bear population across the Arctic from Alaska to Greenland doubled from about 12,000 to 25,000 since 1960"
"As the climate crisis mounts and Arctic icebergs slip away, polar bears are suffering starvation, population declines, and drowning as they must swim further and further to find food. Seeking to raise awareness for the endangered species' plight, ADDI Concepts has taken wildlife preservation literally by designing a life-vest for displaced polar bears struggling to stay afloat as their homes sink into the sea."
So says the UK Guardian. A life vest for Polar Bears. The fact that the polar bear population is bigger than at any time in human knowledge, and that the ice pack completely replaced all losses in recent decades is irrelevant to this idea (and the story, which blithely and conveniently ignores these facts). We must save the bears. Sad stuff from a newspaper, and a goofy idea. The idea that bears do, in fact, have to dive underwater to get their food is simply irrelevant to this line of thinking.

But wait, there's more. The same company came up with bullet proof vests for Bengal Tigers. This is the kind of solution that sounds like a parody, it sounds like something Kids in the Hall would come up with.
Vested TigerUnderling 1: People are shooting Tigers. They're endangered.

Boss: Well, how about Tiger Armor? Cops wear bullet proof vests, we can hook tigers up with them too!

Underlings: Brilliant!!

Underling 2: But... don't Tigers rely on their stripes and camouflage to survive? And won't a hunter just aim at something the vest doesn't cover?

Boss: Who let that guy in here?? Is he the one I didn't get a harumph from?

Underlings: Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!
I want these companies to spend the money developing this stuff, I want them to hire people to make them and buy parts and so on.

Then I want the knucklehead who came up with these retarded ideas to personally walk up and strap these bad boys on the gigantic predators. And I want to find the person who wrote this sentence for a national newspaper and hit them with a fishing pole, just the thin flexible part at the top like Bill Engvall talks about. I want to whack guys that write something like this as if it is indisputable fact:
Polar bears are facing a bleak future as Arctic icebergs continue to melt and ancient shelfs of ice collapse.
That colossal a level of ignorance and lack of research (or deliberate activism) in a reporter should be painful.

HOUR UPDATE

"They aren’t perfect, no family is"

As I noted in an update yesterday, Al "inconvenient truth" Gore didn't bother observing Earth Hour. The story has gotten a bit murky now. Originally it was reported that Al's house was powered by geothermal energy so it didn't have to be turned off (all the outside lighting of trees and such).

Now Al Gore's spokesman is claiming that he did turn the lights off:
The Gores honored Earth Hour by shutting off the lights at their residence. The heating and air conditioning were turned off as well.
This is the home that after being mocked for being grossly wasteful and polluting the Gores added solar panels and bought energy from their own alternate energy companies.

Yet the same guy that exposed Gore's absurd hypocrisy in his home's grotesque energy consumption has time-stamped photos showing the lights clearly on and brilliantly lighting the mansion.

Who to believe? Personally I would be amazed if Al Gore even bothered thinking about turning the lights off. He's made it abundantly plain that his interest in global warming and ecology is a business interest and a way of gaining power and prestige, he doesn't give a crap about making changes himself unless forced to. He's exhibit A of the hypocritical left commanding everyone do what he will not to save the planet. So yeah. Gore had the lights on.

Do I care? Only in the sense that it is more proof of his arrogance and hypocrisy, typical of the AGW fanatic. Only that the entire exercise was so absurd and meaningless even their most prominent high priest ignored it.

CARING ENOUGH

"an estimated 990,000 people died of malaria in 1995 – over 2700 deaths per day, or 2 deaths per minute."

Anopheles
As I've written about in the past, malaria is the single most lethal sickness on earth, it kills more children than any other source in the world. Malaria is the world's biggest killer in the last x years, particularly in Africa aside from old age. Worldwide, 350 to 500 million people get malaria per year, and a million or more die each year. Here are some stats courtesy the CDC:
  • Forty-one percent of the world's population live in areas where malaria is transmitted (e.g., parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, Hispaniola, and Oceania).
  • Each year 350–500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and over one million people die, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • In areas of Africa with high malaria transmission, an estimated 990,000 people died of malaria in 1995 – over 2700 deaths per day, or 2 deaths per minute.
  • In 2002, malaria was the fourth cause of death in children in developing countries, after perinatal conditions (conditions occurring around the time of birth), lower respiratory infections (pneumonias), and diarrheal diseases. Malaria caused 10.7% of all children's deaths in developing countries.
  • In Malawi in 2001, malaria accounted for 22% of all hospital admissions, 26% of all outpatient visits, and 28% of all hospital deaths. Not all people go to hospitals when sick or having a baby, and many die at home. Thus the true numbers of death and disease caused by malaria are likely much higher.
This horror is, after decades, finally getting attention from various groups. The Clinton Foundation set up a program last year designed to get malaria treatments cheaply to areas that had no access to it before. The price in some areas dropped by as much as 95% under this effort, lowering the price to 50 cents. Now activist groups like Care2 (which apparently is just an umbrella group for every conceivable leftist cause in existence) are calling for donations and more help for this effort.

Yet what's missing from this push?

Any mention of DDT. Since DDT was banned in the USA (and thus any country that uses it is prohibited from getting World Bank loans), ninety million people have died. Recently the World Health Organization (and thus the World Bank and UN) has changed its position on DDT and the drug's use has been okayed in countries afflicted by malaria-carrying mosquitos.

Also missing? President Bush's huge push for African aid and assistance, which the Africans are well aware of, but Care2 and similar groups want to avoid mention of in any way. President Bush far more than the Clinton foundation, and under his administration the changes regarding DDT took place - whether they'll stay in place under the Obama administration is doubtful - but that simply cannot be admitted by the left. For groups like Care2, the old Rachel Carson junk science fears of DDT and the hatred of President Bush trumps everything. Killing DDT was an early victory for the radical left in America and they love it like American patriots love the fourth of July.

So instead of trying to wipe out the cause of DDT in an effort that African nations would undertake on their own, these leftist groups want to address the results of DDT with loans and money from countries outside Africa. Instead of letting them take care of themselves, the left wants to take care of Africa. Not only is this patronizing, but it contributes to the problems Africa suffers from. Countries with tyrants can use their money for palaces and bullets rather than taking care of their own people - and they would with malaria because they get sick and their soldiers catch the disease - which keeps them under the control of leftist government.

And there's just a measure of silliness to it all. Care2's other email to me today? It's about the red river floods. Their concern isn't the homes and businesses of the people afflicted, it isn't about lives destroyed and lots. No, they're worried about pets. "Animals shouldn't be forgotten when a disaster hits." They say. Donate money to save the little puppy. Sandbags? People's lives? Nah. Forget that, let's help the kittens. It is a bizarre perspective, to say the least.

DIPLOMACY vs CAPITULATION

"Political disagreements come and go, but genuine respect for each other, rooted in our respective faith traditions, does not."

Obama diplomacy with Islam
President Obama is going to visit Turkey in April and he will be making a few speeches there. At the Christian Science Monitor Chris Seiple suggested a few hints he means to be helpful, so that President Obama can present himself in the most diplomatic way possible. Ordinarily I'd be a but surprised that some newspaper writer figures the President of the US needs his advice on how to deal with other countries, but given the bumbling and embarrassing incompetence of the US State Department under Hillary Clinton, maybe he needs all the help he can get.

Chris Seiple is the president of the Institute for Global Engagement and, as he says, has been around the world and spoken to many Muslim leaders, so he speaks from at least some degree of experience and personal ability.

Mr Seiple's advice was in the form of 10 phrases that he believes President Obama ought to ignore, and they are meant in the spirit of friendship and trying to approach Islam without causing offense or annoyance:
1. "The Clash of Civilizations." Invariably, this kind of discussion ends up with us as the good guy and them as the bad guy.

2. "Secular." The Muslim ear tends to hear "godless" with the pronunciation of this word.

3. "Assimilation." This word suggests that the minority Muslim groups in North America and Europe need to look like the majority, Christian culture.

4. "Reformation." Muslims know quite well, and have an opinion about, the battle taking place within Islam and what it means to be an orthodox and devout Muslim.

5. "Jihadi." By calling the groups we are fighting "jihadis," we confirm their own – and the worldwide Muslim public's – perception that they are religious. They are not.
6. "Moderate." This ubiquitous term is meant politically but can be received theologically. If someone called me a "moderate Christian," I would be deeply offended.

7. "Interfaith." This term conjures up images of watered-down, lowest common denominator statements that avoid the tough issues and are consequently irrelevant.

8. "Freedom." Unfortunately, "freedom," as expressed in American foreign policy, does not always seek to engage how the local community and culture understands it. Absent such an understanding, freedom can imply an unbound licentiousness.

9. "Religious Freedom." Sadly, this term too often conveys the perception that American foreign policy is only worried about the freedom of Protestant evangelicals to proselytize and convert, disrupting the local culture and indigenous Christians.

10. "Tolerance." Tolerance is not enough.
Now, some have responded to these points with outrage: We're Americans, we can say whatever we damned well please, and they better swallow it with a smile! Some have nodded sagely and thought yes, it is time for more cautious diplomacy rather than the idiot cowboy ways of the previous Chimperor.

I have a little different response. Most of what he says is basic charity and decency toward someone, particularly someone who is at best distant toward you. Some are more stern than they initially seem, for example under "Clash of civilizations" he points out:
There is no clash of civilizations, only a clash between those who are for civilization, and those who are against it.
His point is that any "civilization" that at best protects and ignores murderers and ignores the rule of law cannot be defined as such. It is mere barbarism, and ought not be given the title of civilization. He does not think there is no such clash, merely that the title is misleading, and it lends greater significance and honor than the enemy deserves.

Other points are an attempt to avoid code words and cultural confusion that can conflict with the attempts at diplomacy and reaching across societal boundaries. Under "Secular" he notes this:
And a godless society is simply inconceivable to the vast majority of Muslims worldwide.
See, for the Muslim there's no separation of church and state, there's not even a distinction. Church and state are one. It is simply not possible to divide the two, since the church and Islam controls all aspects of life, from personal hygiene to courts and government, from schools to art, to dating to all areas of every corner of society. Islamic religious courts make laws and decisions for government. There is absolutely no separation, and those who are raised and live under such a system have a hard time understanding that it can be different.

So when the average Muslim in countries like Indonesia thinks about the USA, they think "Christian nation" so Christians are in charge like Muslims in their nation: if a political or military decision is made, Christians did it. They can't understand the possibility that the church does not control the government.

The point Mr Seiple is trying to make is that when you deal with someone from another culture, you have to reach out to what they understand and in terms they will respond to. In Diplomacy, that's sort of the point: to be diplomatic. If you can't reach some basis of understanding, you cannot have any agreement or discussion at all.

So to that extent, I think he has a point: be cautious and controlled with your language and present your case wisely. If the Muslims don't respond in a similar manner, if they are clumsy or offensive, or just cannot comprehend how to speak to our culture, then it is our job to adapt to their failure and inability as best we can - just as it is their job to deal with our failures, as they may happen. It isn't that we should fear or have our language controlled by Islamic people, it is that in the setting and office of diplomacy, this is how best to do your job.

However, there is a way in which Mr Seiple is in error as well. Take for example Jihad. He is correct that in Islam "Jihad" does not merely mean "holy war" it means any struggle against unholiness, and the primary meaning for most Muslims in their life is the struggle against sin and unholiness in their own lives. However, Mr Seiple is wrong when he says
...we confirm their own – and the worldwide Muslim public's – perception that they are religious. They are not. They are terrorists, hirabists, who consistently violate the most fundamental teachings of the Holy Koran
That's simply false. The Koran clearly teaches that Jihad also means holy war; that lying, enslaving, killing and stealing from the unbeliever is not just permitted by in some places commanded. The official interpretation of the Koran as done by Imams, Muftis, and the Hadith does teach that a holy war not just permits but sancftifies actions taken in the cause of Allah and against the unbeliever. Dying in a fight against the unbeliever sends you straight to paradise with all those virgins, liquor, and comfort (and young boys who never age) whereas all other Muslims must endure hell until they pay for the sins in their life before going to paradise.

Terrorists are Jihadis, and they are religious. The worldwide Muslim public believes correctly that these killers are religious and fighting against evil. They see it as a battle between religions, not civilizations: Christianity vs Islam, Judaism vs Islam, Hinduism vs Islam, etc. It might be wiser to avoid the term so that this perception is avoided, but it is not that we should avoid it because it is incorrect.

Similarly, the term Freedom is not to be avoided, for that is what the west stands for more than anything else. If the Muslim culture misunderstands freedom, then it is our duty and the duty of the diplomat to explain liberty to them, not avoid it. It is the central pillar of western civilization, it is the very shining beacon of hope that the US stands for. Diplomats are not simply workers trying to accomplish a goal, but representatives of their nations and cultures and that ought never be avoided or downplayed. We should be bold and strong in presenting the benefits and greatness of the culture we represent as a diplomat - and all of us are diplomats when we deal with those outside our culture.

That doesn't mean arrogant or dismissive, brutal or condescending. It means strong. And strength is respected by all people in all cultures - even feared, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in one's enemies. Strength means strength of character, of integrity, of not backing down on what is right and proper, it means honor in the face of dishonor, dignity in the face of indignity, and courage in the face of opposition. Know what you believe, understand it to be true, and do not fear disagreement. And realize that when you deal with Muslims, you are dealing with people who from their earliest age have been taught that they are superior in every way and you are inferior and even despicable.
“How can you prove you are not a bad person? You can't prove that.”
-Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Muslims are good at this: they do not fear negative reaction to their declarations of faith and belief. They defy people to become upset. They stand tall and declare their ideals to any who will listen, and they respect that from others. The purpose of diplomacy is not to be weak and capitulate, it is to be understanding, respectful, and winsome. If your opponent attacks, disarm him and move on to the goal, do not fight and squabble. Sometimes that means leaving the table, sometimes it means a show of strength, but always with wisdom and respect.

So with that in mind, I'd like to offer a few words that Muslims ought to avoid when dealing with the west, in the light of Mr Seiple's offerings above.
Devil1. Satan. While in Muslim culture the presence of demons and angels and Satan is pretty well assumed, in the west, this is largely the realm of fantasy and stories. Satan isn't a scary or dangerous figure, he is a figure of mockery and humor. When you mention Satan to someone in the west they don't become offended or afraid, they don't begin spiritual introspection or look over their shoulder in concern, they laugh. We think of Satan as a red guy with horns and a pitchfork, a figure of ridicule, not fear. Calling someone a "great" Satan might even be considered a compliment.

2. Unbeliever. While this is a standard concept in Islam, it is confusing to the west. Unbeliever in what? The west swarms with faiths and beliefs, even religions which claim not to be religions. There is no one monolithic religion in the west, so being an unbeliever just makes no sense, everyone believes in something.

3.Antisemitism. Jews used to be treated with respect and dignity in Islamic countries, the Koran clearly calls Jews "people of the book" who are to be treated better than mere infidels. To be virulently opposed to and hate Jews might make sense culturally but it does not make sense in Islam. Further, since the holocaust, Jews are considered a protected people in the west, and while that sense is fading, any antisemitism instantly throws up barriers and opposition in the west.

4. Holocaust Denial. This is simply unforgivable to the west. Whether you personally believe the events of the Holocaust happened, or happened as detailed in countless eyewitness accounts, court testimony, admissions by people involved, documentation in movies and paperwork, and so on are false or not... acting that way with the west makes people think you are insane or criminally idiotic. Chances are someone you speak to will have family members with a tattoo on their arm and stories of death camps.

5. Christian Nation. Because the concept of government and religion in Muslim world is different than the west, the use of this term will confuse people from the west. America, for instance, calls its self a Christian nation at times, but that does not mean Christians are in charge. It simply means that in the nation's history, the majority of people were Christians and Judeo-Christian ideas helped shape the nation's culture and ideals. Not that it is in command, but it is an influence through individual beliefs.
Just a few thoughts to help the Muslim deal with the west, and understand who they are dealing with

Granted the guys who'd use this kind of language aren't likely to read this blog or listen to a thing I'd have to say (although, hello to all the people from Islamic states who look up stuff on my blog that sounds sexy and has pictures of pretty girls). But in the name of parity and fair play, it only makes sense to offer both sides advice.

Quote of the Day

“All of Europe, which has nationalized health care already, is also experiencing the current economic crisis. Why does Obama believe that bringing national health care here will in any way save us a similar economic crisis in the future? He keeps repeating that only if we get health care costs under control will we have ‘real’ prosperity, but the countries that have already ‘tackled’ this problem in the past were not spared their own economic meltdowns.”
-email to Jonah Goldberg

Monday, March 30, 2009

SHOCKED AT THE SHOCK

"I'm shocked at the shock"

McCotter jams
The video I'm going to link here is actually old by internet standards - over a week - but it took me this long to run down the transcript. I wanted to not just throw up a vid but to give the transcript and some analysis, so it had to wait til now. So the video is all over the internet (you can watch it here at Breitbart.tv) if you want to see the C-Span feed.

Previous to the McCotter speech (his name, by the way, is gloriously old fashioned, Thaddeus: you just don't see names like that any more. The man isn't old fashioned, he played lead guitar a rock band called The Second Amendments) there was a segment by Representative Steven LaTourette (R-OH) noting that he was shocked that anyone could claim to be shocked at the AIG bonuses, seeing as the majority of them voted for those bonuses to be protected after throwing out an amendment that would have specifically prohibited their payment as part of the bailout deal.

He then demanded that a Democrat stand up and defend this behavior and tell who threw out the Wyden-Snowe amendment mentioned above and inserted protection of bonuses into the bill. No Democrat responded.

That was followed by a few other short statements, Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) stood up and made this speech:
I too am shocked at the shock. When the stimulus bill came through the House, there were warnings from the minority party that we did not have time to read it, that we would find in that bill things that would be egregious and outrage the sensibilities of the American people.

But I will give credit where credit is due. It is, in fact, in this part a stimulus bill, for it stimulated the greed of the bonus babies at AIG because it protected and approved taxpayer-funded bonuses to that bailed-out company.

Facts are hard things to disprove. Every single Democrat in this House that voted for that bill voted to approve and protect those AIG bonuses. Every single Democrat in the Senate that voted for that stimulus bill, along with three Republican Senators, voted to approve and protect those AIG bonuses. The President of the United States signed into law the protection and approval of those AIG bonuses that they now find so repugnant now that the American people know what was done.

In my mind, this was part of a deliberate strategy to keep the employees at AIG who had broken the bank there to fix the mess that they had made. They knew that this Congress would not go alone with the executive bonuses being paid to bail out companies. They had to protect them with this amendment. It was dropped in in the dead of night.

If you are shocked, be shocked at the Members of your own party or administration that put it in and be shocked that we will now pass a bill of attainder that is unconstitutional to try to cover our, shall we say, tracks on this matter.

Here is the sad reality of where we are today. In a time of crisis, they passed the Wall Street bailout. The nightmarish prognostications of myself and others have been exceeded. Now what we find is an attempt to cover one's tracks with another bill in a time of crisis that will leave no one, no one, safe from the hand of the taxman when the politicians come to cover their tracks at your expense.

The public deserves better. The public deserves transparency. We cannot fail them again.
McCotter's delivery is smooth and dry, and carries a wink with it, and his voice is strong and commanding. In short, he was a terrific success. McCotter has a strong future in politics, even if he's not exactly the conservative some think.

Yet he brings up certain points that nobody wanted to address - and indeed were simply ignored by the Democrats. Representative McCotter's points are like knives jammed into the opposition's balloon of hypocrisy, claiming they are shocked at the very thing they deliberately voted for and specifically inserted into the legislation to protect. I wish more American people knew about this - which is why I'm posting this now, to hopefully reach a few more people and spread the word a little more.

The Democratic response was pathetic, it never even attempted to defend their hypocrisy, once that was pointed out all of the discussion suddenly turned to the need for a bailout and absurd, outrageous claims of President Bush being to blame for the gigantic deficits that they personally ran up. They can't defend it. All they can do is try to deflect attention. And I wonder if many of them are even aware of their hypocrisy despite it being so clearly stated. I think they pushed it aside and went on with their plan of attack: Republicans caused disaster, we're fixing it, somehow, by spending this money and it would have been worse without the spending. Somehow.

I expect almost none of them read the amendment - certainly we know none of them read the stimulus bill in the House of Representatives because nobody got an actual copy of the bill before voting.

This is what your government has become. You need to know this, and so do your friends and co workers.

A CONFLICT

"The more restrictions that we are placed under from the Government, the less value we can deliver to our shareholders in the long run"

Two things today caught my attention. First is tax-dodging Obama Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner who claims that banks are going to need billions more in bailout funds from the federal government.
“Some banks are going to need some large amounts of assistance,” Geithner said today on the ABC News program “This Week.” The terms of a $500 billion public-private program to aid banks “cannot change” for investors or they’ll lose confidence in the plan, he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Secretary Geithner also claims that "there are $135 billion left of uncommitted resources" and while I am skeptical of the man's math skills, this is at least some action on the financial crisis by the Obama administration after almost three months in power.

Yet there's also this story from Allan Chernoff at CNN that claims banks are getting nervous about the TARP bailout fands and want out:
There's a growing sense among some bankers that Troubled Asset Relief Program known as "TARP" has become toxic. As a result, they want to bail out of the bank bailout program.

"It should be called 'TRAP,' not TARP," said Brian Garrett, chief executive of Bank of the Bay in San Francisco, who is trying to return bailout funding. "Giving it back is harder than getting it."
What's the problem? Well to start with, the banks want to keep their top end executives, the guys they consider the brightest and best, and the way to keep those guys is with incentive payments - bonuses. After seeing the drummed out, false outrage by Democrats in Washington and the Obama administration over AIG bonuses, and seeing congress pass an unconstitutional bill of attainder on bonuses, taxing them at a 90% rate, these banks want out. Having that government money for a bailout has too many strings attached, surprise surprise.

Which is true, do the banks need more money or are they in great shape? Are there many banks who'll need billions more in a new bailout, or do they not really want that cash?

Well, both could be true. These banks are so dismayed at the TARP bailout funds and their consequences that they're feigning optimism about the economy:
"We want to return the TARP money as soon as possible. We feel more bullish about economic prospects broadly, but we recognize we can't repay the money without the approval of the regulators," said Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas Van Praag.
Why this act? Because they cannot return the money, by law, until they've been "stress-tested" as to how they would respond to a severe recession. So they have to pretend there is no danger of a severe recession - or worse - to try to ditch the government puppet strings.

Amd consider this: the US Federal government has gained unprecedented power over the banks and financial institutions because of these bailouts. That's something big government loves, and will not give up readily. The banks don't want that control, so they're pretending things are rosy. The federal government wants that control and more, so they're claiming things are going to need more help.

And guys like me look at the banks and figure if they got themselves into this moronic position, maybe they don't need those guys they're paying bailouts to. I wouldn't give the losers who ruined my business a bonus, but then, that's just me.

AN HOUR

“We like symbolism”

Google
Saturday the 28th was the third annual "Earth Hour" in which earnest, well-meaning leftists try to get everyone to turn off their lights in a symbolic demonstration of conservation and to make a statement around the world about how we have to cut back our consumption of energy to save the planet.

While I take issue with the idea that the planet needs saving and further with the idea that were this the case that humans are capable of it, I have no problem with the principle of conserving and using less energy if you can. Turn off the lights when you leave a room, shut off the TV if you aren't watching it, that kind of thing is simply prudent stewardship. I do have a basic problem with the entire concept of "Earth Hour," though just like I do "Earth Day." What is it meant to accomplish?

There's little that can be done to actually raise more awareness about the myth of Anthoropogenic (Human-caused) Global Warming (AGW), its blasted at all humanity nearly 24 hours a day in almost every conceivable venue. Other than making people feel good about themselves for making an empty, symbolic gesture, what could prompt such an event?

I have a suspicion I know why and how this kind of thing comes about though. Back in the 80s I was a lefty too, I was all filled with passion and ideology and the vision of helping others through government because people were greedy and selfish and big companies were evil. In those days I was filled with the potential of man, especially rational man and the rightly argued intellectual position. I thought that if you could present things properly and state your case in the right way, people were compelled to agree with you. And I thought I had that ability. What can I say, I was young.

I believe most of the folks who come up with this sort of symbolic gesture are exactly that sort. They think that if they can just come up with the right idea, then people will have to agree, they will be backed into a corner and forced to acknowledge your brilliant ideas. That if you just present the issue in rthe proper manner, people will go along with you. This is the kind of thing you come up with in your early 20s sitting around with friends in college, the sort of idea that makes people write utopian novels. I have worked out all the world's problems if only people would listen!

So Earth Hour comes about - a time when the world shares a common goal, a simple idea that tells a powerful message, and who knows, in this hour of cooperation maybe, just maybe we'll understand that we're not so different, that we can all get along, that all those wars and conflicts and troubles just don't need to happen. Imagine, a world like that

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

I thought it was particularly appropriate when in the movie Forrest Gump Lennon was shown getting the idea for this song from a retard. Because for someone Lennon's age to cling to the thoughts in the song show a retardation of intellectual maturity, if not a cessation of growth. The song is beautiful - more's the pity - but the words are the kind of thing a child would imagine about the world. We just all should get along! How? We just should! Imagine! And the childishness doesn't end within the concept.

Because this kind of thinking is based not on rationality but sophistry - not on logic, but emotionally compelling, yet cleverly presented ideas - the idea that it is intellectually superior is misguided. The "intellectual" of today is better at compelling illogic than rational examination of facts and prudent response. In the end, their behavior contradicts their rhetoric because it comes not from wisdom and careful rational examination but gut level emotional instict, a childlike response to the world that isn't how they feel it ought to be, but haven't worked out why or how beyond what feels right.

Here are some examples of what I mean.

At Ed Driscoll, we get this story of the mayor of Sydney giving a press conference in the middle of "Earth Hour" about how the city is sending a "very strong message to our world leaders." Yet because the conference was carefully lit and filmed, it burned a tremendous amount of energy (those Klieg lights are not cheap to run) and lit up the area for the duration of the video. Wasn't the whole point to be darkened? And as Ed points out, a lefty reading his blog misses the point entirely and goes on attack for Ed daring to question the act.

He also pointed out the problem with using candles to light your Earth Hour celebration. They seem all earthy and natural and a kick back to a better, vanished, less technological time but... they pollute more than incandescent light bulbs. The carbon emissions are about 1/4 as much as a light bulb (to equal the light of one bulb with candles (40) results in a 10 fold emissions increase) but light bulbs don't produce smoke nor do they burn out as fast and need to be replaced. You can get thousands of candles worth of life out of a single light bulb. Some even had torches out, which pollute far more than a light bulb.

I can't help remember the guy who wanted Jews to light one less candle for Hanukkah because it was creating so much pollution from nine candles.

Take a look at this picture from Tim Blair's blog. What is it an image of?

EHHQ
The Earth Hour headquarters, lights dutifully off... computers dutifully on. Cell phones on. I-Pods on. Again: the symbolism of the lights being off is visible, but the intent of saving energy and conservation is defied by having all this technology turned on.

Thanks to Andrew Bolt's blog, who noted the power demand actually went up during Earth Hour, there is this collossally absurd post at the Sydney Morning Herald that was written and published before Earth Hour had taken place:
Planet Earth turned on the dark last night as 1 billion people flicked the switch for Earth Hour 2009. In a record show of support for action against climate change, the lights went out in thousands of cities and towns in more than 80 countries.
A billion people? Seriously? Amazing how he's referring to this in the past tense when the story was written before the event took place (it was in the edition put out the evening before). This knucklehead expects a single rational human to believe that one out of every six people on the entire planet turned off their lights to celebrate this time period? Is he insane? Or is he just lying, by pretending that everyone who has no lights or turns them off that time of night anyway is somehow part of this event? The goal was for a billion people, but in truth only about five million apparently joined in, according to best estimates. That's equal to the population of the mighty state of... Minnesota. Equal to the entire population of the tiny African country Eritrea.

If you planned not to turn out your lights, you faced threats:
...some militant protesters have threatened to force the light out at business headquarters which do not voluntarily take part in Earth Hour, with plans for action against "wasted energy" in London office blocks over the weekend.
Which led a businessman to avoid mentioning his name or company when he pointed out that turning off the lights represents a security risk and technical problems with doing so in a business:
I spoke with the owners of one Boston area office park - who asked not to be named for fear of being seen as "un-green" - and they listed a number of safety, security, and legal issues that come with blacking out a building.

The first concern is security cameras. If they turn off, say, a lobby's lighting, they've essentially lost their security system as well, as their cameras can no longer see what is going on inside.
...
Then there are technical issues in actually blacking out a building. Buildings often have multiple breakers as well as battery-powered emergency lighting for the hallways and stairs of exit corridors. In the case of their buildings, they say the wiring for this backup lighting would have to be manually unplugged from their battery packs in order to be turned off.
The White House in the US didn't black out for Earth Hour - likely for these kind of concerns. An empty symbolical hour is not worth the security risk.

But it would save money, right? To not run the power? When Fox News asked UN Officials about how much money they'd save by shutting off lights this year (thanks to eco-fanatic president Ban Ki Moon). Initially they were told $81,000! Then as the UN guys actually looked into the real amount of power used and savings, it dropped to a final number of... $102. So yes, there's some savings if you shut off the lights in a gargantuan building like the UN headquarters.

Meanwhile, the Competitive Enterprise Institute suggested instead everyone turn on as many lights as possible to celebrate human achievement. Of the two empty, symbolic gestures, I would be more inclined to go that way: to stick a thumb in the eye of the leftist who thinks moving to pre-civilization. That night, on the street was no different than any other night, even at the leftists across the street.

Prize for the most empty and idiotic, self righteous gesture? Google making the home page background black and pretending they shut their lights off (see picture at the top).

*UPDATE: Al Gore, self-appointed high priest of all things green and hysterical, left the lights on at his house. His defense? All his power comes from geothermal. Even assuming that dubious claim is true, that wasn't the point of earth hour to begin with: it is about blacking out in solidarity to make a point, not about giving up spending non-"green" energy.

Quote of the Day

"Why do the Tim McVeigh types count against the Right, but the Black Panthers never against the Left? Why aren't liberals troubled by Rosie "Steel Never Melted Before Before Bush" O'Donnell but wigged out by Michael Savage?"
-Jonah Goldberg

Friday, March 27, 2009

MORE CHEAP PICTURES

Well its Friday again and I'm out of steam. That means its time for more cheap pictures from the Image Bank to distract people from the fact I have nothing clever to say.

Removes HorninessLARP loser
ConfusedA Bad Job



Kitty PillowWatch where you point that
Tiger FunDark side of Arabic culture
Mmmm lunchMmm lunch

PLAYING ONLIVE

"How about a nice game of chess?"
-Joshua, Wargames

OnLive Logo
Are there any computer games you'd like to try but cannot afford? Games you'd play, but wouldn't pay 50, 60 bucks to own personally? Well OnLive wants to give you a chance to do so, and is hyping it as the next big thing in computer gaming.

OnLive is a project which has designed a system by which games are stored on servers and instead of installing them on your own computer, you play them over the internet, using a much more powerful and swift machine to handle the actual game. If you want to play, say, Civilization IV, you log on and rent a session of Civ IV over OnLive instead of buying the game, installing it on your system, and playing it locally.

The OnLive team intends to make all game platforms available for rent in this system, including ones presently only on game consoles such as PS3 and Nintendo. The idea is that if you want a game, you log onto OnLive through your internet connection, go through menus until you find what you want, choose it, pay to play that game, and play it over your internet connection. You don't have to buy the game or have the space to store it, you just pick and go.

For people who like to try out games or get bored rapidly with any one game, this seems like it would be a good deal: rent it a while then let it go. There used to be a lot of computer game rental places that worked the same way, and businesses like Game Crazy still do with console games.

The present concept is a direct competitor to console game companies such as X-Box, but there's no reason that with the final commercial release they could not work out a deal where the top end console game systems that connect to the internet would not be able to work through OnLive as well. Such a system would allow players to rent games for use on your 360, and play them through the console, games that are only available for and use the controllers on that game. At present OnLive is an alternative to console systems, but if they're smart they can work out a way to work with the systems as well.

OnLive wouldn't require you to upgrade anything, you could play it over a HD television set with controllers rather than needing a new console or new game cartridges every few months or years. The system would upgrade its self and you would just get the results. Your computer might need upgrading to work with the games, but where it replaces consoles it would be pretty cheap.

OnLive bills its self as "the future of video games" and perhaps they're right. Sounds great, right? Well there's some discussion about that.

Think about your current internet connection: is it stable, fast, and consistent enough to play games over reliably? OnLive claims they've come up with software that eliminates lag, but that sounds doubtful at best. Playing games on your own system has the advantage of being there whenever you turn your computer on. OnLive adds two additional layers of potential failure: their server can die (or need maintenance) and your internet connection can be down. Now instead of possibly being unable to play because your console died or your computer is having problems, or there's a power outage, you can also not be able to play because OnLive is having problems, or your ISP is down for the moment.

Big time game producers such as Nintendo, EA Games and others make a lot of money by creating console games and then selling them for quite a bit of money; will they sign on to such a project? If OnLive takes off they could make good money - perhaps better - from royalties on the rentals than on one-time purchases of games. Electronic Arts has already signed up, they see a bright future in this concept, a future that skips manufacturing and packaging costs entirely.

PC World looked at the demo and here's what Sid Shuman had to say on their website:
We were able to quickly toggle over and spectate matches of other players or record 15-second "Brag Clips" of some greatest hit moments. The games loaded surprisingly briskly. And there was almost no perceivable lag (trust us, we looked). The main drawbacks: You need exceptionally fast 5 Mbps speeds to attain HD 720p visual quality (standard def video can come out over 1.5Mbps lines), and the video compression smears out a bit of the graphical lushness.
Obviously the lag would get worse with, say, ten million users playing at the same time worldwide, but the system is presently in beta as well: presumably it will get better.

Another concern is that, for some players, having cheat codes or manipulating and modifying their own games is a bonus. If I play a game on my system I can change it however I want: different music, different abilities, many games even allow you to custom design scenarios. OnLive will not let that happen; you'll have to work with what you have from the server. Cheat codes may still work, but manipulating the game will not. In essence, it's not really your game, you just are getting access to someone else's game.

Lacking the actual physical property means that if you lose your password, forget it, or have some catastrophic failure of your computer you might not even own the games you "bought" because you're still just borrowing the game online. And since it is online, there's always the worry that someone might hack you over your OnLine connection.

Microsoft has long desired a system like this with their software: you get your operating system with the computer, then rent software you use. Want to use Publisher? You can rent it from Microsoft, over the internet. You never actually own a copy, you just borrow it online. OnLive is taking that to a different area, but it is the same principle, and I don't know how willing people will be to do so. At the same time, it is likely at least some of these games will be available for purchase in the ordinary manner, but possibly not all, or even many.

To make this work, OnLive needs plenty of original, high-demand content, a competative price that people will pay, and solid, reliable service. OnLive claims they only need one server farm per 1000 mile radius, but I suspect as the load of customers increases that may be changed. The idea appears to be a flat monthly fee, plus additional fees to permanently "buy" a game to play whenever you want. There might be a fee based on what games you play and how long - perhaps premium fees for new games and cheaper for older, less popular ones.

According to Daniel Terdiman at C-Net, some games will be offered for free demos:
The company also said that it will probably offer free trials of some or all of the games it offers, allowing consumers to decide whether they want to buy. OnLive recognizes that some players may use those trials as a way of deciding whether to buy such games from traditional retail stores, but Perlman and McGarvey suggested that as long as people are interacting with the OnLive system, they'll be happy.
I am not entirely enthused by the idea, but at the same time it would be nice to check out some games I wouldn't ordinarily want to buy, just to see what they are like. I could end up buying a game I tried OnLive, but I wouldn't want to go exclusively through such a system. And it does look like you'll need a pretty top end machine to keep up with the quality described in various articles that saw the demo. I'd just rather not be tied to my internet connection when trying to play a game.

POLITICAL CARTOONS

"We have met the enemy, and he is us"
-Pogo

Pat Oliphant has long been a political cartoonist I enjoy. Much of the time his hard left politics confuse him and give him a foolish take on daily issues, but he is very effective and I've always liked the little penguin creature with a comment at the bottom - in short, he's a talented and skillful political cartoonist. At his best he sounds a cautionary note with skill and intelligence such as this one:


But at his worst, and he's been getting worse and worse, he has something like this:


Which is flat out a stampede into Ted Rall territory. Since President Bush took office, that's been mostly what Oliphant puts out. Oliphant's job is to be a political cartoonist, not to be a political cartoon himself. It is good for a political cartoonist to hold strong viewpoints, and it is important for their voice to sound in a shocking manner at times. The political cartoonist has one panel to give a powerful, iconic image that will resonate with a reader and make a strong statement with as little as possible.

Yet the statement should be reasonably accurate and sane. Like with comedy, a political cartoon is at its most effective and interesting when it is true. The truth can be slight or partial, but there needs to be some semblance of sanity and reality for the satire or earnest point made to be effective. You could draw a wicked political cartoon all about how Hollywood comedy writers are about to take over and torture Albania, but no one would care because it's absurd and has no semblance of reality.

The increasing venom and hate directed at Israel (that cartoon isn't about zionists or radicals, it's about Israel so don't hand me that musty canard) is very disturbing to me, not because I'm Jewish (I'm not) or because I believe that Israel is God's chosen people who are going to be central in the end of the world in some dispensational pretrib theological viewpoint (I don't). It is that antisemetism is too often the forerunner of tyranny. When hate against the Jews rises, it usually is a sign of something awful on the way, of loss of liberty and crushing oppression on the horizon. Not because of anything particularly special about Jews in particular, but because as Orwell so brilliantly pointed out in 1984 every tyrant needs a bad guy to blame all woes on.

At present in the US that's Republicans and big business - just like it always is for the left - but the hate against the Jews is rising rapidly as well. And cartoons like the one Pat Oliphant drew above used to only show up on Storm Front websites and hard fascist neonazi literature. It is literally the kind of thing that was used in Germany to help Hitler's rise to power and actions against Jews. And its patently absurd and filled with unreasoning hate. Ted Rall's hateful insanity is largely limited to indepedent hard-left rags like the ones you can pick up at any coffee shop or used CD store. Pat Oliphant is syndicated in hundreds of newspapers and is a major and respected name in the business with many books for sale.

A political cartoonist needs to make sure their target is as big as possible, that they always find the bad guy and skewer them no matter who is hurt by it and no matter what political position they hold. If you do something worthy of mockery, a political cartoonist should have their ink at the ready to mock. Even if they're beloved by your side of politics. Rip on Ann Coulter and Keith Olbermann alike, rip on President Bush and President Obama alike. A political cartoonist should be as apolitical as possible; your politics should be almost invisible. And there's so much fodder out there I cannot imagine why someone would have to go so far to one side or the other to find material.

Take this recent offering by Red Planet Comics:

HypocrisyNo political side is attacked, no party or slant of politics is nailed, just the hypocrisy and deception of politicians and bureaucrats in general. The change of positions to find a scapegoat is under attack here, not any specific politician or their party. It is true that by a majority the same party happens to hold both positions, but members of both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of this little trick.

For political humorists and cartoonists, the enemy is the government not one party or the other in government. When you lose that perspective or the ability to maintain it, its time for you to retire.

*Hat tip Ace of Spades HQ for this cartoon. As Ace points out, also check out Jonah Goldberg's recent column on political divisiveness and paranoia in politics along the same lines.

Quote of the Day

“We’re looking for supporters, we’re not looking for a fight. That will come later, when we have an army.
-DeHaven, an Obama Organizing For America rep

Thursday, March 26, 2009

MEN LOVE CURVES

“If you ask men 'What would the ideal woman weigh?' they have trouble with the question. They don’t even know how much they weigh.”

MM
There's a study that was recently published in the February issue of Psychological Science which suggests that when economic times are leaner and more difficult, men tend to prefer women who are "curvier." E.J. Mundell reports at Sexual Health.com:
According to a new study, men tend to desire slightly larger women when they are hungry, but their tastes turn to more svelte types when their tummies are full.

Economic woes may work to exert similar pressures on male desire, the researchers added. They found men's attraction for heftier women rising as their wallets got thinner.

While the psychology behind the phenomenon remains unclear, "it could be that when men are hungry they seek out signals of lushness or opulence -- and heaviness in the female might be such a signal," said study co-researcher Dr. Leif D. Nelson, an assistant professor of marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business.
How did they come to this conclusion?
They devised a simple means of testing out that theory on a population of college students.

"We wanted to find samples of hungry and non-hungry men," Nelson said, "and the easiest way I could think of to do that was to stake out dining halls and sample men right before they entered -- when they were presumably most hungry -- or right after dinner, when presumably they are most full."

As hundreds of men and women entered or exited these campus cafeterias during the height of the lunch hour, Nelson's team had them fill out brief questionnaires as to their "ideal mate," with weight buried among other questions such as hair color or height.

Men who filled out the questionnaire just before they entered the hall described their ideal woman as three or four pounds heavier, on average, than men interviewed as they exited the cafeteria after a full meal.
So the small number of guys who responded in this particular study that were hungry didn't want women around who remind them of hunger by their skeletal figures. They tried the same thing with men based on how wealthy they considered themselves, and the poorer this specific group of men were, the more weight their "ideal woman" carried. In fact, a study looking at Playmates and their alleged measurements over the years seemed to show a correlation between poor economic times and larger sizes:
"Previous research falls right in line with what this study is suggesting," said Terry F. Pettijohn, an expert in the psychology of sexual attraction at Mercyhurst University, in Erie, Pa.

Pettijohn was co-author of a much-publicized 2003 study that found the body measurements of Playboy Playmates of the Year changed with ups and downs in the U.S. economy.

"It seems that, when we feel certain types of environmental trends -- whether it be lack of food or resources such as money -- it can change our perception of what we'd find attractive," he said.

Sorry Abbie Gortsema.
How valid is all this? Well, putting aside the flaws with studying a handful of college students and extrapolating that to the general population of all men (and they are devastating flaws), there's a basic difficulty with men. The initial quote at the top hints at it: men aren't actually very sure about measurements or sizes or weights of women. We aren't even real clear on what we want exactly in a woman. Like when you ask a woman about their ideal man, you get a series of vague generalizations. Most guys don't know how tall a girl is usually, they just know she's as tall as their collarbone or sternum or what have you when they hug. And certainly no man is going to - this side of a carnival - know the difference between a woman who is 125 pounds and 128 pounds.

For instance, I like redheads with more curves, long hair, and a pretty face. What does all that mean in terms of measurements? Heck if I know, I couldn't tell you how much she ought to weigh or what her cup size should be or how tall she should be. I just know what I like when I see it. If you ask me at different times of day depending on how I'm feeling or what I've been doing, that might shift slightly. What I consider curvy, some might think are fat, or some might think are skinny. Some of the women I've dated were much heavier than I'd prefer, which suggests that my physical "ideal" isn't really all that important to me - and you'd be right.

MMStudying popular actresses and Playmates of the Year isn't terribly informative in terms of this study, primarily because popular body types change on their own. During the booming economic times of the 1980s, the more curvy women became popular, then during the boom of the 90s and during most of the Bush years, they got skinnier and skinnier. Why? Because fashion won't sit still, they have to keep changing things - why buy new clothes and different products if they're the same thing as last year? So what was hot yesterday is out of style today.

To whatever extent skinnier or heavier women are considered popular probably has a lot to do with backlash as well. Men and cultural icons, tired of one way push toward the other. We've had skeletons pushed at us for several years, perhaps its moving away and more toward women with curves now.

Yet if you asked men if they thought Marilyn Monroe was beautiful and sexy in any decade since the 1950s, they almost all would respond with a resounding "hell yes." And she's considered grossly overweight these days - compared to stick figure models and actresses who look like they'd choke on a BB.

I don't see this correlation between economic times and women's body types, nor do I see a correlation between hunger and what you find beautiful (other than in food). Perhaps there is something there, what it would mean is meaningless except for academics, but I don't buy it. What I do know is this:

What guys like to stare at in a picture or a movie isn't necessarily what they want to take home. Something useful for women to keep in mind.

Think about it. Who is considered sexy and gets lots of attention from guys right now? Jessica Simpson. Lindsey Lohan. Kim Kardashian. None of these women are twigs. Who does Hollywood want us to look at, who are the women that women's magazines fixate on? Women like Keira Knightley and Angelina Jolie (yes she's gotten very skeletal). Who's pushing the thin on us, again?

Not men.

*Hat tip to Cassy Fiano (nicely curvy) for this story.

*UPDATE: Check out what's happened to Scarlett Johansson, primarily loved by guys for her curves. She's losing those curves because... well your guess is as good as mine.

Quote of the Devil

"I'm having a very good crisis," says Soros

"It is, in a way, the culminating point of my life’s work," he told national newspaper The Australian.
I have no comment.

A MODERN MEDIA-JOURNALIST

"I‘ve information biased, bogus, banal and paternalist"

Helen Thomas
At the Accuracy in Media blog, K. Daniel Glover argues that while the legacy media is not as fawning and worshipful of President Obama, even their mild and rare criticism tends to be supportive and hopeful.
The mainstream media's goal now is not to serve as an objective and critical government watchdog; it is to get the Good Ship Obama back on the course they expected it to travel.

Remember the softball words of Chris Matthews after Obama was elected: "I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work. ... Yeah, it is my job. My job is to help this country. ... This country needs a successful presidency -- more than anything right now."
Whether this is true or not it is too soon to tell, but one comment at the site caught my eye and I wanted to pass it on, it is a parody of a song:
I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Media-Journalist

(with thanks in perpetuity to William Schwenck Gilbert)


I am the very model of a modern Media-Journalist,
I‘ve information biased, bogus, banal and paternalist,
I know the talking heads and every bureau puke and oracle
from A-B-C to C-N-N in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with schedules for sabbatical,
I live to write a sentence that’s both simple and grammatical,
I’m good at leading questions, and my team puts out a lot o’ news,
With many damning facts for which, at times, fact-checking’s not in use!
ALL:
With many damning facts for which, at times, fact-checking’s not in use!
With many damning facts for which, at times, fact-checking’s not in use!
With many damning facts for which, at times, fact-checking’s not, oh not in use!

I’m very good at racial stereotyping and diversity,
I know the ‘scientific names’ endorsing this perversity,
In short, in matters biased, bogus, banal and paternalist,
I am the very model of a modern Media-Journalist.
ALL:
In short, in matters biased, bogus, banal and paternalist,
He is the very model of a modern Media-Journalist.

I’m full of mythic history, rewritten so it’s ‘relevant’;
I like my coffee caustic, I’ve a pretty taste for Volauvent,
I quote in daily articles the views of quasi socialists,
In columns I accede to notions from post-modern notionalists;
I can tell un-Dowded talking points from those in New York Magazine,
I help the croaking chorus bitch at ‘nonsequences’ unforeseen!
Then I am in a business you’d mistake for Gilbert’s Pinafore,
If not for validation, it’s a mystery what I’m in it for!
ALL:
If not for validation, it’s a mystery what he’s in it for!
If not for validation, it’s a mystery what he’s in it for!
If not for validation, it’s a mystery what he’s in it, in it for!

Then I can write a memo with Orwellian verisimilitude,
And tell you ev’ry detail of how Donaldson’s toupee is glued:
In short, in matters biased, bogus, banal and paternalist,
I am the very model of a modern Media-Journalist.
ALL:
In short, in matters biased, bogus, banal and paternalist,
He is the very model of a modern Media-Journalist.

In fact, when I know what is meant by “permalink” and “Blogosphere,”
When I can tell at sight a hunting rifle from a frogging spear,
When I know Stars’ affaires ain’t news and how our coverage went awry,
And when I know precisely what is meant by who, what, where ‘n why.
When I have learnt what progress has been made in free economy,
When I know more of ethics, real science, and isonomy,
In short, when I’ve a smattering of what is news, not punditry,
You’ll say a better Media-Journalist has never done dead-tree!
ALL:
You’ll say a better Media-Journalist has never done dead-tree!
You’ll say a better Media-Journalist has never done dead-tree!.
You’ll say a better Media-Journalist has never done dead, done dead-tree!

For my journalistic knowledge, though not firm or evidentiary,
Is what I learned in Journal’ School and really so last century,
But still, in matters biased, bogus, banal and paternalist,
I am the very model of a modern Media-Journalist.
ALL:
But still, in matters biased, bogus, banal and paternalist,
He is the very model of a modern Media-Journalist.
-by Stephen
Just writing lyrics that work in this song is a challenge, let alone doing it so cleverly.There's no question that the legacy media is still in the tank for President Obama and, having sacrificed so much of their dignity and professionalism to get him elected are in there for the long haul. The only question is how long before real criticism starts to peek through the wall of solidarity as the man demonstrates not just that he never was experienced or ready for the job, but is a flailing and hapless speaker without careful preparation and a script to read. Time will tell.

Quote of the Day

"We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world."
-Helen Keller

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

RESIGNATION

"Ever since I could remember, all I ever wanted was to be a wise guy."

AIG
Some of you have not worked in offices or for a big corporation, most have probably not seen the ugliness of a corporation dying or cruelly sacrificing portions of its self for profit at the top. The guys who work at AIG have, and here's a letter from one of the guys that resigned. The man's name is Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president of the American International Group’s financial products unit. He agreed on a 1 dollar salary (like the CEO Edward Liddy). He's leaving the company and has a few choice things to say which were printed in the New York Times:
I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.
...
I have the utmost respect for the civic duty that you are now performing at A.I.G. You are as blameless for these credit default swap losses as I am. You answered your country’s call and you are taking a tremendous beating for it.

But you also are aware that most of the employees of your financial products unit had nothing to do with the large losses. And I am disappointed and frustrated over your lack of support for us. I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut.
...
Many of the employees have, in the past six months, turned down job offers from more stable employers, based on A.I.G.’s assurances that the contracts would be honored. They are now angry about having been misled by A.I.G.’s promises and are not inclined to return the money as a favor to you.

The only real motivation that anyone at A.I.G.-F.P. now has is fear. Mr. Cuomo has threatened to “name and shame,” and his counterpart in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, has made similar threats — even though attorneys general are supposed to stand for due process, to conduct trials in courts and not the press.
There's more, go take a look. Then look at congress and how President Obama are treating this company. Look at the fake, drummed up protests ACORN is setting up to intimidate AIG workers.

I have no sympathies with the AIG management who engaged in the idiotic business practices that got them into the position they are now. I have no sympathy for the ones who went to congress asking for money to continue in business. Here's a bit from the excellent movie Goodfellas in which the main character explains how it works when you go to the mob for a loan:
Now he's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with a bill, to Paulie. Trouble with cops, deliveries, Tommy, he calls Paulie. But now he has to pay Paulie every week no matter what.

"Business bad? F*ck you, pay me. Had a fire? F*ck you, pay me. The place got hit by lightning? F*ck you, pay me."

Also, Paulie could do anything. Like run up bills on the joint's credit. And why not? Nobody will pay for it anyway.

Take deliveries at the front door and sell it out the back at a discount. Take a thousand dollar case of booze and sell it for five hundred. It doesn't matter.It's all profit.

Then finally, when there's nothing left, when you can't borrow another buck from the bank, you bust the joint out.

You light a match.
That's how it works when you go to the government too, especially the Democrats. Yet unlike the mob, the government makes you out to be the bad guy in the process, uses the press and activist groups to smear you, turn you into a demon. Why? Because it sets up other policy initiatives, like President Obama's sudden desire to take all financial institutions and investments under the government's wing, not just banks. You get hurt? Well you're just rich white guys anyway.

I have sympathy for all the people who worked hard and with good faith trusting a company and its management to treat them right. I have sympathy for the writer of this letter and all the people like him.

This guy's had enough. Can anyone blame him?

*hat tip Ace of Spades HQ for this story

NANO TECH

"as cute as a cartoon caricature... desperately loveable"

About a year ago I wrote about the Tata motor company's bid to buy luxury car manufacturers and it's tiny little Nano that was unveiled in New Delhi. At the time, they figured the car would sell for around $2500, but now the car has finally reached the market and it sells for just over $2000.

How can the car be so cheap, and how good is it, really? According to Vladimir Kondvickar from Top Gear Magazine, quite good:
"The Nano's a real car: By which I mean it looks, feels and drives the way you'd expect any car to," he wrote in the Mumbai Mirror newspaper, describing it as "one of the greatest bargains of all time".

"It doesn't feel different, or cheap, or bad just because it costs so little - if Tata hadn't committed to a price, they could have charged twice as much and you wouldn't have blinked."
The Nano has a top speed of around 70 miles per hour* and has a little bitty two banger motor of just 645 cc, but for a town car it will perform quite well. But how can it be so cheap? Well, here's a diagram that's going around with a few stats:


The Nano lacks most of the luxuries that US drivers come to expect, and the performance that European drivers want. It won't corner at high speeds, it won't roar past your fellow drivers. It has no air conditioning, no air bags, no power steering, no power locks, no power windows.

So you're getting a very basic, stripped down car. It cannot be sold in the US as now constructed; the European version will cost twice as much. Yet even with a double price tag, it's less than half the price of any conventional car now for sale in America. The VW Beetle was incredibly stripped down as well, and it sold like crazy, because people wanted a car that was cheap and worked.

And really, what does anyone expect for 2,000 dollars? You don't look for a luxury sport model at that price, you look for a minimal car that will get good mileage and move you where you need to go. The cargo space is small? What did you expect? There's no A/C? Who thought there would be? The Model T didn't even have side windows or a hard roof, its top speed was about 40 miles an hour, 45 down a hill. It had to be hand-cranked and boiled over a lot, the wheels broke and needed repair, and you couldn't find gas anywhere but in special locations.

It sold like crazy because it was cheap and readily available.

The Beetle was infamously easy to work on and had a neat, likeable design. If the Nano can copy that, even at 4-5 thousand dollars it will be a very popular little car. With the right advertising campaign its odd looks and itty wheels could be considered ironically "hip" and "cool" like the idiotic and ugly Scion. And in these economic times, especially for college students, a cheap little car is always welcome.

*Here there is some conflict. The diagram shows the top speed at 70 kph, which is around 40 miles an hour, but the news stories say it gets 105 kph. Did the diagram confuse MPH with KPH, or did the newspapers, in reverse?

GREAT INVESTMENTS

"It’s not what politicians say, it’s what they do."

Modern investment
With the stock market plunging around the world and banks collapsing, many people are looking for a better place to put their money, a superior investment. I can give you one right now, a secret that only a handful of people have been able to take advantage of. With this investment scheme you will make not just double, not just triple, not even a hundred times as much back as you invest, but thousands, even tens of thousands. What is this scheme?

Buy a congressman.
Remember that AIG’s largesse — $9,342,839 in individual, PAC, soft money and 527 contributions since the 1989 election cycle — is dwarfed by the $170 billion in support the firm has gotten. That’s $18,195 for every dollar contributed. It certainly seems like subsidizing the pols led to quite a good return, as it did for Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, General Motors and others.
I've long been amazed at how much a company who contributes a few thousand dollars per person (there are specific limits on how much a person or company can legally donate to a politician in the US) gets back from their congressman in terms of earmarks and contracts. Donate a few grand, get back millions in federal funding. That's such a good deal, such a powerful investment, it is worth donating the thousands to every single guy you can. If only one of them wins and throws you back a fat contract or a bailout, you've made back the kind of money that even Hillary Clinton can only dream of, even with her astounding cattle futures investment.

What congressmen do is take care of their contributors, taking care of them to an absurd degree of benevolence, far beyond the benefit they've gotten from campaign contributions. But wait, it doesn't stop there. Remember the campaign, how desperately the legacy media sold out any semblance of credibility, objectivity, and reliability to get their guys elected? I suggested that some believe that was out of a hope that they'd be saved through this effort and was mocked by a commenter for saying such a thing. Senator Cardin (D-MD) thinks otherwise:
With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin.

A Cardin spokesman said the bill had yet to attract any co-sponsors, but had sparked plenty of interest within the media, which has seen plunging revenues and many journalist layoffs.

Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

What is the one force in a free market that can save a largely obsolete, fading and disliked industry? Government intervention. Yet, as Dan Reihl snarks:
Congress can't make newspapers non-profit. For most practical purposes, they already are.
This would allow newspapers to continue as non profits for "educational" purposes without needing to actually generate a profit. It would prop up the businesses even if they lose customers and cannot show an actual earning to investors and their board members. The bill wouldn't actually save newspapers, it would just allow them to continue dying slowly rather than collapsing abruptly like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. People would continue to move away from newspapers for their information, advertisers would continue to abandon the papers for other media, but the papers could technically limp along longer. And for a while, their influence - already overemphasized by a small group of influential people in the country - could continue.

Having problems figuring out where to put your money? The only sector in the world that thrived in the great depression was the federal government. Get yourself a congressman and you'll see amazing returns on your investment. Until the economy totally collapses, at least.