Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hello, Stagflation

Ugh. We're screwed.

The Federal Reserve and the Treasury announced $800 billion in new lending programs on Tuesday, sending a message that they would print as much money as needed to revive the nation’s crippled banking system.

The gargantuan efforts — one to finance loans for consumers, and a bigger one to push down home mortgage rates — were the latest but probably not the last of the federal government’s initiatives to absorb the shocks that began with losses on subprime mortgages and have spread to every corner of the economy.

The Fed is going to try to inflate us out of this mess, but with economic contraction, they are going to make the late 1970's look like a walk in the park.

To the New York Bretts Fans

The Packers got their butts handed to them last night by the Saints. It was a disappointing performance, and I'll be the first to admit that Aaron Rodgers did not have a great game. Today, however, the New York Bretts fans came out of the woodwork, claiming that if the Packers had kept Favre, not only would the team have a better record today, they somehow would have won last night. I have three things to say about their chances last night with Brett under center.

1. Think back on how many shootouts the Packers won with Brett over the years. Having trouble coming up with more than a few, aren't you? That's because the ultimate gunslinger wasn't actually all that good in shootouts. He was undisciplined and made a ton of errors when games seemed to be spinning out of control. Like you, I was hoping for Favre-like big plays in the second half from Rodgers. Unfortunately, even Favre did not make those plays very often in games like last night. He was more prone to toss 5 interceptions in games like last night.

2. You all are right. The Packers do miss the pass rush that Brett brought last year. And he was a stout run stopper, too.

3. You all are right. The Packers do miss the blanket-like pass coverage Brett brought to the secondary of this team.

And as a bonus, Brett was a hell of a lot better punter than that new guy. Hell, he is the difference between 5-6 and 11-0 after all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Santa Claus Requests Bailout

North Pole- In a press conference today, jolly gift giver Santa Claus told the press that without a bailout from U.S. Federal government, dire consequences would follow for Christmas.

"Ho ho hum. Times are hard here at the North Pole. I've had to take on considerable debts to acquire the electronic gifts that today's children desire. With the tight credit markets, this Christmas might not happen.

"I also face the prospect of laying off half my elves, quite literally throwing them out in the cold on their tiny little asses.

"I implore the U.S. Government to save Christmas."

Critics are already on record against the Claus bailout. Citing the exorbitant wages and benefits the Elven Toy Workers Union have extracted from the North Pole, they say Claus would be better served filing for bankruptcy.

Critics also point out Claus's failure to modernize his shops. The North Pole still largely produces wooden toys and simple dolls, toys that today's market of children find passe and old fashioned. Claus's booming debt has in part been occurred by purchasing modern toys at retail. Compounding matters is the fact that much of that debt has been compiled on a weary, high interest Citi Card.

Some in Congress are already questioning the cost effectiveness of Claus's use of a private sleigh on Christmas Eve. They want Claus to switch his package delivery to the U.S. Postal Service. But some on the Hill are quickly lining up on Claus's behalf. Stating the rolling effect a Claus bankruptcy would have on the rest of the economy, they have called Claus, "Too big to fail." And after all, this one would be for the children.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Problems With NASA's Urine Recycler

I'd hate to be the guy to discover it wasn't working right.

NASA is having problems with a $250 million system it just delivered to the International Space Station to recycle urine and other wastewater into drinking water for astronauts.

On the plus side, they probably thought they were being treated to Busch Light.

Conservatism Has a Long Way to Go

So here we are, weeks removed from another electoral drubbing, and the soul searching has begun in earnest. Eventually, good ideas will come from this process, and those good ideas will be put into action. But right now, the ideas, the thoughts, the brainstorming just isn't all that good yet. I don't mean to pick on another blog for going through the process, but in reading Commentariat's piece "The real future of conservatism: five ideas," I was able to pick holes in some lines of thought that I think are common but weak right now. So think not of this as a fisking, but rather an attempt to strengthen our thoughts.

#1 Oppose Liberalism
Con-I don't have much complaint with this one given the current circumstances. My only complaint is that opposing is what minority parties do. The surest way to stay in the minority is to be little more than the opposition. The art in politics is have such compelling ideas that the majority opposes and then co-opts you.

#2 Don't give up on social conservatism. But don't emphasize it, either.
Con-I am baffled as to why so many are pointing their fingers at social conservatives right now. But first, I'd like to directly address the author's point. Social conservatives, contrary to what some other conservatives think, aren't stupid. The policy being advocated here is much the same as what a lot of conservatives have already been doing for years. Social conservatives know this, and that's why they were a bubbling cauldron of discontent that made the Huckabee campaign go. As a whole, Republicans have used social wedge issues to their benefit since at least 1980, but most social conservatives feel like their has been scant little in the way of accomplishments. This policy would at best alienate more social conservatives, and at worst would turn some of them back into Carter Democrats (if the Democrats can ever figure out how to accept them).

Now, as to the larger idea that social conservatives somehow shoulder a significant share of the blame here. I'm just not seeing it. 2006 wasn't about social issues. It was about the failure of Republicans to be what they promised to be. And 2008 was one of the least social issue oriented presidential campaigns in my memory. I know that Sarah Palin chafed some conservatives out there, and there is a desire to blame some of the loss on her and her values. But her values had no resonance this campaign. This campaign was about the economy, a desire to move on from the Bush years, and somehow making amends for our history. Still, some want to throw social conservatives overboard, while others want to marginalize them. Both ideas would be mistakes for the long term viability of conservatism and the Republican party.

#3 Dump the drug war
Con-Pointless. It is a worthwhile debate to have, but not right now. This barely registers as an idea for the party and conservatism's future. It just doesn't resonate well with the larger electorate. It is also a wedge issue internally for the party because there is not consensus on this.

#4 Run David Petraus [sic] for President in 2012
Con-Yeah, he has done a hell of a job in Iraq. That's not enough to take this flight of fancy, however. First, we know nothing about his political philosophies, and we probably wouldn't until it was too late. Second, the American public has always had a healthy skepticism against mixing their military and their politics. I'm sure some have visions of Eisenhower dancing in their heads, but I'd like to remind them that Ike was pursued by both parties, and he was hardly a conservative. Bush's brand of conservatism wasn't all that conservative at times, and that has contributed to the splintering of the coalition. You could possibly get even worse in Petraeus. You just don't know.

#5 Found an opinion journal other than National Review and the Weekly Standard
Con-Go ahead. It'll fail unless you can absorb the losses year after year. Start something intelligent on the web, and maybe you'll get a toe hold. But those two publications will still have their place. There is a danger in driving for ideological purity in that it can get pretty exclusive very quickly. Both of those publications have displayed a degree of pragmatism because sometimes, what is good for the Republican party is good for conservatism, even if it doesn't seem like it would be on the surface.

Right now, it feels like we are having a collective brainstorm on the right. The ideas just aren't great yet, though. We have to progress these thoughts and do it quickly. The political world moves quickly. It was just four years ago that the Democrats seemed to be on life support. They righted their ship quickly, but their ideas are no stronger. They will be ripe for defeats if we get this hashed out, and soon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

From Where He Sits

I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to a friend of mine. Elliot Stearns writes the blog From Where I Sit, and while I have only met him once (that I can remember...cause I drinks a bit), I can say he is a hell of a guy, and let me tell you why.

One Tuesday night, I ventured out to Milwaukee, a fifty minute drive for me, to meet with some fellow bloggers at a bar. Most of the night is still bleary, but I clearly remember getting up to leave. I shouldn't have been driving. Elliot came up to me like he was going to give me a big, friendly goodbye, but instead of shaking my hand, he rolled his wheel chair onto my foot. He gave me a choice: He could break my foot or I could give him my keys.

I, of course, gave him my keys. I was a little sloppy, but I wasn't stupid. I was in a fix, though, as I was the only person heading back to Jefferson County. Quick thinker that he is, Elliot told me he had just the solution. I followed him out to his oversized van and there in the back was an extra motorized wheelchair. He offered to let me take it home as long as he got to hold onto my keys. It was a deal I couldn't pass up.

So I got into the chair, we said out goodbyes, and I took off. The chair itself was nice, but the voice synthesizer and the mouth control were a little odd, especially considering Elliot can use his arms. Plus the mouthpiece tasted like stale Twinkies and Pall Mall's. But still, I was appreciative and the chair was pretty fun...until the battery died.

So here I am, about a block from Mayfair Mall, drunk with a dead motorized wheelchair and working legs. I figured my night was going to get very awkward. It was then I heard a honking horn. Who was coming to my rescue again that night but Elliot!

Sharp guy that he is, he figured out what was wrong at the sight of me. Generous soul that he is, he offered to give me a hitch and head to Jefferson County. I thanked him profusely, got back in the chair, and squealed with terrified joy as he pushed me with the van. The ride was a blast. Only twice did he lose me. I feel terrible to this day that I prolonged his evening by an hour the second time when I veered off the interstate and lost consciousness.

But that's the kind soul that Elliot is. He could have just left me there, but he waited. When we got back to my place, I loaded his chair back into the van, shook his hand, and off he went. I am eternally grateful that he was looking out for me that night, but I do have just one question. Elliot, when am I going to get my keys back?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Great American Myth

Unions in America derive a portion of their power from the fact that blue collar works are the under dog in an under dog loving nation. While it is a fact that the blue collar worker is an underdog, that does not mean that their unions are always the underdog. In fact, it isn't unusual for unions to rival and exceed corporations for power.

I believe I've written about this before, but I also think it is timely to bring it up again. In the spring of 2007, I attended a conference where a former steel executive talked about raw material costs. In that speech, he got onto a side topic about how the steel industry let the unions become too strong, and how he saw the auto industry allowing the exact same thing to happen. He was right, but we too often confuse the worker for the union. We want the worker to have the best that is possible; that is, after all, the American Dream. Unfortunately, we fail to recognize that sometimes unions gain so much power over their respective industry that the workers' excellent compensation actually serves to undermine the entire industry. That is what the auto industry is confronting today.

Nature loves a balance, and so does labor relations. In the 19th century, we saw too often industry's power outstrip that of labor. We recognized that inequity, and unions did an admirable job of bringing things back into balance. Unfortunately, in numerous industries, the balance of power has shifted to the unions, and much like the corporate powers before them, they've abused it. What has resulted is a blue collar work force that is facing a much bleaker future than it would if a balance had been maintained. Power is a stronger motivation than even wealth, though, and as a result some unions have done a disservice to their members. Until the balance is restored, industries like the auto industry are un-fixable.

It hasn't bottomed out

One month ago, I thought he market was approaching a value point. I no longer think so. After talking with a lot of people, I've come to find that October was brutal in numerous segments of the economy. As a result, a significant minority of business people are scared and hoarding their first quarter cash. Thus, I expect a self fulfilling prophecy of a rough first quarter. Some of that money will come back in the second quarter, but only some of it. If enough comes back that quarter, I think things will stabilize by quarter 3. But as panicky as everyone is right now, it won't take much to force this instability into quarter 3 and 4 of next year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Big 3, A Bailout, and 'Green' Cars

Something about the stories on the potential auto industry bailout has really been bothering me. Time after time, I see it asserted that Detroit needs the money in order to re-tool their plants to make electric or hybrid cars. Really? If so, that may be the argument that kills the little bit of doubt I have about opposing the bailout.

It isn't as though I oppose those types of cars. If people want them, I say sell 'em. But here's the problem-they don't solve any of the big three's problems. They still won't be able to make high quality, profitable, traditional cars, a product for which there would still be a large volume potential. Instead, they'd be betting their futures on something which is still a niche vehicle that sells at a premium.

Four months ago, that might have made sense. Today, when gas is under $2 and people are cutting back their spending, it makes no sense what so ever. Those vehicles work for Toyota because they have a strong, profitable passenger car program and they can absorb the wild swings in demand that are possible with their high margin hybrids. Detroit doesn't have that luxury. They would need to rely on those vehicles to replace their lost truck and SUV sales, and that just isn't going to happen for a while.

Former Senator Ted Stevens

Despite the strategic consequences, this is a net good:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican in Senate history, narrowly lost his re-election bid Tuesday, marking the downfall of a Washington political power and Alaska icon who couldn't survive a conviction on federal corruption charges. His defeat by Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich moves Senate Democrats within two seats of a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.

People like Ted Stevens did much to put the Republican party in the bind that it now finds itself. This is a big short term set back, but it will be better for the party over the long term.

Jay Walk All-Stars or Real Poltical Point?

There is a YouTube video blazing around the blogosphere that shows Obama voters getting elementary questions incorrect. I'm very disappointed to see so many on the right indulging in this video. That exact same video could very easily be made of McCain voters. In fact, the idea for this isn't even new-Jay Leno has been doing a similar skit for years. In this incarnation, it is little more than a lazy 'gotcha' moment, and I thought the right was better than this.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Thought on Life

The pro-choice supporters base their entire argument on a woman's right to choose for their own body by blurring the line at which life begins, and they do so quite successfully. So why doesn't the pro-life movement wage a battle on the point at which a body begins to form? If a body begins to form at the splitting of cells after conception, then we clearly have two bodies within one, and the host body clearly would not have the right to choose death for the developing body it hosts. I think that is what bothers me most about the current political debate. Of course you can make decisions for your own body, and your own body alone. You aren't, however, allowed to make negative decisions for someone else's body, and a child's body begins shortly after conception.

A Brief Gas Thought

The price of gas will likely drop below $2 a gallon. But how low of a price can we really afford?

(If you don't get it, stop and think really hard why a plunging gas price might make it more difficult to afford for some-to-many.)

Electricity Thieves

I just saw a commercial on the news about a special report that particular channel will have on energy thieves. I'm sure they'll make their study look like hard work, but I'd like to share the lazy man's way to look for electricity thieves. First, look for that one or two incredible Christmas light displays in your local area. Start there. Most are honest people who pay their bills, but my experience over the years says that those who put on extravagant light displays stand a higher likelihood of tapping into their electricity line before the meter. So enjoy those lights-you just might be paying for them.

Free Money!

I'd like to start this post off by saying (in a very Cher Horowitz manner), "my bad!"

Why am I making this mea culpa? Well, because I supported the original $700 billion bailout. I supported that bailout because the credit markets were frozen by fear, and that stood to seize up the entire economy faster than running your engine without oil. Little did I know that the bailout would become the biggest Matthew Lesko scheme since, well, Matthew Lesko.

Don't get me wrong. I knew that companies outside the financial industry would be lining up with their hands palm-up. But I was naive on three counts. First, I thought that the Fed and the the Treasury would use the funds specifically as outlined in the bill. Second, I didn't think that other companies would stampede the trough as they have-I expected more of a subdued rush. Third, I didn't think that even congress was so stupid as to hand the cash out in wheel barrows to all takers.

Skeptic though I am, even I did not anticipate the way this would become a Lesko book. The latest absurdity is Detroit. If any three companies ever needed bankruptcy, it was these three. They are getting their tails kicked by foreign competition for two reasons: The UAW's power over them has saddled them with uncompetitive labor costs, and the way CAFE regulations are structured, their profitability became tied to vehicles they can no longer sell in great volume. Bankruptcy can solve one of those problems and alleviate the other.

I write this as the son of a man who has been a damn hard working, blue collar worker his entire life. Yet for many years of his adult life, he made a wage that gave him a comfortable living, and he did it without a union. I don't want to begrudge autoworkers a nice life. But then again, neither have Toyota and Honda. The UAW moved beyond that though. They got greedy, all the while saying that they were doing it to protect future autoworkers. As my barber said recently, what about those future autoworkers now?

Until the U.S. auto industry solves the problem of their unions and move into line with Toyota and Honda on the labor front, they are screwed. That $25-$50 billion will be gone in a heartbeat, and we'll either need to ante up more to prop the "Big Three" up, or they'll eventually fold, leaving the remainder of their employees in a lurch-or employed by Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, and others, where their wages will be in line with their peers. And still better than most others, I might add, including numerous white collar workers. The line on the bail out should have been drawn weeks ago, but without a doubt it needs to be drawn now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Deep Breaths, Everyone

To my friends on the right: The world is not coming to an end. Yes, some unpleasant legislation will become law. Yes, conservatism needs to get the house in order. Barack Obama is not the anti-Christ, nor will he be above scrutiny. Even 'progressive' Democrats will have to respond to constituent pressure...at least they will if they have any sense of professional self-preservation. And conservatism is not dead.

To my friends on the left: Enjoy this heady feeling. Enjoy your ascendancy. Enjoy imagining a generation of 'progressive' ideals. For the next two months, your side is the cat's ass. Just realize that reality has a funny way of slapping you in the face quickly once your candidate takes the oath office. We on the right witnessed this first hand about four years ago. To make matters worse for you, you have no foil, no strong opposition, no fall guy for anything that goes wrong on your watch. Your overwhelming victory means the buck will stop with the Democratic party. That means that you'll have very little maneuverability when things don't work, and the fingers of the American voter will be pointed straight at you. Have fun with that.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Why Republicans Have Lost Big in Two Straight Elections

It would take a book for me to explore all of the reasons Republicans have lost big in two straight elections, but I think it boils down to one key issue. A sizeable portion of Americans had put their faith in conservative ideals over the past 25 years, and as recently as four years ago, we thought that number was growing. But a funny thing happened. Too many so-called conservatives turned out to not be very conservative at all once the voters put them into office. The Republican majorities, most of whom ran on conservative ideals, did not live up to those ideals. That broken faith sent 'Reagan Democrats' back across the aisle, splintered the several strains of conservatism, and left some dispirited conservatives to sit on their hands. In essence, the public woke up and said, "if I'm going to elect someone who is going to act like a Democrat, I may as well go with the real thing." It is going to be very, very difficult to make amends for the broken faith.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

This is Weird

It has been a long time since I've gone to bed on election night knowing who the next president would be. I believe the exact year was 1996, and that year I knew who the next president would be for many nights before election day. That might be the best thing to come of this particular election. We needed a decisive election to help tamp down the fear of electoral shenanigans coming from both sides of the aisle.

Having said that, good night all. Democrats, enjoy your night of celebration. Conservatives, the sun will rise tomorrow. I promise.


Tonight, many of you are swelled with hope. Despite our political differences, I hope that your hope is well founded. I see no need to put political persuasion above good of country, and thus, I do not hope for the abject failure of President Elect Barack Obama. despite my opposition to much of his proposed policies. But hope does at times fade. I hope that many of you enjoy, nay, relish tonight. The next four years will be highlighted by many peaks and valleys, and those valleys will test the strength of the hope you feel tonight.

Defining Obama's Presidency

I'm sure many a reader will slide their eyes across that headline and think, "Defining his Presidency? He just got elected!" Well, hear me out on this. He will have a choice once in office. He can be the conduit for pent up liberal/progessive momentum, or he can be his own man, a leader. If chooses the former, and I fear that he will, his presidency will be a disaster. If he chooses the latter, however, he may just have a chance at a second term and a positive presidency.

Love him or hate him, Bill Clinton was more "his own man" than "conduit," and because of that, history will neither relegate him to the dustbin nor label his presidency a net negative, despite his flaws and errors. Obama has a much tougher road ahead of him than Clinton did during our vacation from history. Thus, he needs to be his own man, a leader, and a significantly better one than Clinton.

This isn't to say that it would be a presidency that conservatives would at all be pleased with. It is just to say that he can find a way to avoid being the next Jimmy Carter, and that way is by leading without giving away too much of his influence to the netroots.

Fox News Projects Barack Obama the next POTUS

Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama. I hold no ill will toward the man, and I hope that my conservative friends and colleagues also separate the man from his policies. Now, as for those policies...the fight against them begins now.

A Brief Look Forward

Things are by no means over on this election night, but it certainly doesn't look very good. The right is about to be cast into a very dark place. This doesn't mean the right has been condemned to 40 years in the wilderness; after all, fighting against the majority has seemed to be the strongest glue to hold the coalition's various parts together over the years. Unfortunately, that's no way to lead a country. The right's house is in disarray, and we cannot just rely on being an out gunned minority party to bring order back. There is a lot of hard work ahead.

And I should add one thing: This hard work needs to be done quickly. 2010 will be an important bounce back opportunity. No majorities will be possible, but the right needs to move closer to equilibrium with the left if it wants to have a chance in 2012.

John Murtha Wins. Really, Western PA?

I'm at a loss on this one. John Murtha wins re-election despite calling his constituents racists and rednecks. That tells me something about his district, although I'm not sure which of the following that is:

1. They heard Murtha call them rednecks and racists and thought, "Hey, he really does understand us."
2. That while their status as rednecks and racists may be up in the air, their status as kind of thick is confirmed.
3. That they are so beholden to the Democratic party that they can have abuse heaped on them by a Democrat because "he's one of us."
4. They don't take Murtha all that seriously, which is disturbing considering he is their representative.

Maybe it is all of the above.

If Obama Wins Tonight...

...and it is looking favorable for him, let's just hope that retirement communities in Florida don't riot over the results. Nobody wants that. Nobody.

In and Out Voter

I was in and out of my voting locale in near record time, and I voted in the ever busy "after work" hour. I saw no signs of hijinks or shenanigans in my little burgh. Of course, I didn't partake in the candy on the ballot table, so I'll never know if it was spiked.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Will Obama be Good for Businesses?

Probably not, especially if you are in the coal or energy business, which in an interview last January with the San Francisco Chronicle he said he'd bankrupt for building new coal plants. And this leads me to a question about this election. There have been a lot of substantive evidence that a Barack Obama presidency would not be good for America, much like there was ample evidence 4 years ago that John Kerry would not be good for America. The difference is, everything stuck to John Kerry, and something like this would have been a bombshell. When it comes to Obama, however, it seems like every piece of evidence hits a brick wall before it even gets to him. I get the feeling that a large part of the American public has invested an unrealistic expectation of what they would be getting with this man as President, evidence to the contrary be damned. And if they elect him on Tuesday, they aren't going to get what they expect.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sweet Jesus, McCain Appears on SNL

I've often ripped Bob Dole for not letting his sense of humor show through in 1996. Unfortunately, John McCain did so in 2008, and in doing so, he turned McCain-Palin into the K-Mart-Dollar Store of political brands. Tonight, McCain was on the opening segment of Saturday Night Live, and he undercut the credibility of his campaign with the skit that he did. I am so disappointed in his choice right now. "McCain-Fine Gold" was funny, but it did not augment his case to be president whatsoever. What the hell was he thinking?