Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Enjoy the Strength of the Dollar While it Lasts

Because with the Obama administration treating hundreds of billions of dollars like chump change, the dollar will be on par with the peso soon enough:

President Barack Obama's budget outline for the 2010 fiscal year includes a 10-year, $634-billion reserve fund to help pay for his proposed healthcare reforms, a White House official said on Wednesday.

When I started to see the economy deteriorate grossly in September/October in my own profession, I knew that neither presidential candidate would be the right person to handle the crisis. I actually worried a bit more about McCain because he was a self-admitted economic dunce. Little did I realize that Obama was even worse. If this guy continues to spew money by the hundreds of billions, we will eventually look at Confederate and Monopoly money with warm regard.

Andy Richter to be Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show Sidekick

This pleases me:

Mr. Richter, who served as Mr. O’Brien’s sidekick during the first eight years of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” on NBC, is returning as the announcer for “Tonight” when Mr. O’Brien takes over in June. Mr. Richter, who will also perform in sketches on “Tonight,” left “Late Night” in 2000 to pursue acting and starred in several network comedy series, including “Andy Barker, P.I.,” which was produced by Mr. O’Brien’s company.

Richter played a big role in righting O'Brien's ship on Late Night, and it seems right that he'll be joining Conan on the Tonight Show.

Biden: Stimulus to "Drop Kick" Economy

Ol' Joe Biden says that the stimulus is going to "Drop Kick" the economy.

But the press isn't reporting all that Joe said. Luckily, you have this intrepid blogger to tell you the rest of what ol' Joe said.

As the discussion progressed, Biden also said that:

-He and Obama were going to body slam the unemployment rate.
-The Obama administration would lock Iran up in a figure-four leg lock.
-He asked Afghanistan if they smelled what Barack was cookin'.
-He also indicated that the U.S. would gladly take China on in a Lumberjack match.
-Declared that Biden 3:16 says that he (Biden) just kicked Sarah Palin's ass.

In all seriousness, I just saw video of Biden talking. Is that a bruise on his forehead, or did he go after himself with a Sharpie?

California's Marijuana Plan Won't Work

California is currently considering a bill that would legalize and tax marijuana. It is being hailed as the source of, according to some sources, up to $1 billion in new revenues for the state. It seems like a plan with little or no downside and, knowing the state of California's proclivity for shallow depths of thought, it'll probably pass. But it will fail, and here's why.

The plan can only be successful under one perfect scenario: The black market for pot instantly dies and several companies quickly move in with a ready-for-market marijuana supply and distribution network. You'd have to be stoned out of your gourd to think that will be the case.

Instead, here's what will happen. The law will pass, and the black market will continue while producers set up their supply and distribution channels. Some big companies will get into this because they will already have the distribution channels but not the product. Some well positioned black market suppliers will get involved because they will have the product, but not the distribution channels. Marijuana of unpredictable qualities will begin to hit California stores but, because of the state's desire for pot to be a cash cow, it will be damned expensive.

So consumers will be faced with a choice. They can buy over the counter pot at an extreme premium at no harm to themselves because, by state law, possession will be legal. Or, they can buy from their same old supplier at lower prices and trustworthy quality at no harm to themselves because, by state law, possession will be legal. If you think consumers will choose the former en masse, I have some highly taxed, high quality, marijuana you may be interested in.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bill Clinton is Right

You aren't going to see that headline very often around here, but former President Clinton is right. President Obama does need to switch off his apocalyptic rhetoric on the economy:

Now, former President Clinton says he thinks President Barack Obama should talk more optimistically about the prospects that the nation will recover from its current deep economic woes.

Clinton said he wants Obama to assure the people that America will surmount this problem. But at the same time, the former president said in an interview broadcast Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that "I like the fact that he didn't come in and give us a bunch of happy talk."

A president who blows smoke on the economy isn't very useful, either, mind you, but there is a mass psychology component to any deep economic recession. A president needs to be able to strike a cautious tone on the topic of the bad economy while conveying long term optimism. What happened to the hope, President Obama?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Tonight Show Prediction

NBC is about to go through one of their rare transition of Tonight Show hosts. Because of the rarity, this is a story in and of itself. This transition has added intrigue, which seems to be the pattern with NBC and Jay Leno endeavors. There is much being written about Conan O'Brien taking over the Tonight Show with Jay Leno still, in effect, leading him in with a new show at 9 central. Can O'Brien book guests when his biggest competitor will be his pre-local news lead in? Will his style work with the Tonight Show?

I think the answer to both questions is yes. When it comes to booking guests, things will be difficult for O'Brien in the beginning, but that isn't anything he hasn't already dealt with in his career. Leno's prime time spot will be much more appealing to booking agents-at first. The problem Leno is going to face is that his show is going to be a radical change for prime time viewers. Currently, he is the host of a talk/comedy show that is nice to go to bed to. At his earlier position, he is going to be viewed as a variety show, and variety shows have a very poor record over the past 30 years. I expect that we'll see high initial ratings for Leno's new show that drop off very fast as the novelty wears off and viewers migrate to other channels.

I enjoy Leno's Tonight Show and I watch it over Letterman most nights. But Leno's Tonight Show isn't even a shadow of Carson's. While nobody will ever reach Carson levels with the Tonight Show again, O'Brien might actually have a shot of being mentioned in the same breath as Carson. If you ever watched Johnny's shows, you know that the skits and the spontaneity were huge components of Carson's command of the show. But in his later years, the skits became less frequent, less amusing, and the show less spontaneous. That was probably a component of Carson's aging and mellowing. Yet Leno has stripped all of that fun out of the Tonight Show. His skits generally aren't all that funny, and spontaneity is an infrequent component of his shows. He found a way to take back late night after the Hugh Grant affair, but his show is staid and somewhat boring.

O'Brien has not displayed as much spontaneity as Carson, but his shows have been decidedly less conservative than those of Leno's. While some components of that will be toned down, I expect O'Brien to bring some of the Carson fun back to the show. It will take some people a while to adjust, and his ratings will probably suffer in the first one to two years. But as some of that Carson fun comes back to the show, so will the ratings.

What will history call the current economic mess?

A: They'll call it a debt crisis, and they will bemoan the fact that it took us so long to figure out that it was the debt side of our ledger that was the real problem, not the credit. They'll also look askance at our choice to debt ourselves out of a debt crisis.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Equailty Gone Wild

Women can now have a place in honest to goodness pissing contests. Introducing the Go Girl:

There are a lot of Twin Cities businesses, but this one is kind of delicate. Minnetonka's sells a device that lets women to go to the bathroom standing up -- or, as they would say, just "Go Girl."

Sarah Dillon draws plenty of attention when she drives around town. It's hard to miss the pink car and its Go Girl logos.

"I'll have people yell out to me, 'What's a Go Girl?" she said. "And in a nutshell, it's a product that allows a woman to stand up and go to the bathroom."

There is something so wrong about that product. You just don't expect to see "Cindy" with a heart-dotted i written in the snow.

Sidebar: Actually, after writing the story as, ahem, delicately as I could, I've decided this sidebar is best told in a loud bar after many beers. Let's just say, some women have been known to "Go Girl" without the aid of a Go Girl.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gregg Backs Out of Post He Never Should Have Accepted

Senator Judd Gregg decides Commerce Secretary won't work for him:

Sen. Judd Gregg abruptly withdrew his nomination as commerce secretary Thursday, telling Politico that he “couldn’t be Judd Gregg” and serve in Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

The White House — where some aides were caught off guard by the withdrawal — initially responded harshly to Gregg’s announcement, portraying the New Hampshire Republican as someone who sought the job and then had a “change of heart.”

Applaud him for eventually make a smart decision, but he never should have been lured to begin with. This wasn't an example of "a team of rivals"; it was an example of a naked political ploy to try to get the Democrats over the 60 senator hump by luring a senator they thought they could control into the cabinet.

The $789 Stimulus Bill?!?!

I loved this typo today at MarketWatch:

A $789 stimulus. That's a bill I can get on board with.

President Obama has "Political Capital"

Heh. I love stuff like President Obama justifying his positions by saying "I won" and stories like this:

Nearly seven in ten Americans approve of the way President Barack Obama is doing his job, giving him enormous political capital as he pushes Congress to give him unprecedented tools to fight economic crisis, according to a new McClatchy-Ipsos poll.

Spend that political capital, Mr. President (and by all indications, you are spending it like a congressional stimulus). Be President Bush, President Obama. Spend that arrogant political capital. See where it gets you the next four years after your hubris hits the brick wall of reality.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Private Sector Best Practice v. Government Best Practice

Thomas Sowell very succinctly sums up why many people prefer the private sector and cringe at the thought of government incringing upon their private lives.

Human beings are going to make mistakes, whether in the market or in the government. The difference is that survival in the market requires recognizing mistakes and changing course before you go bankrupt. But survival in politics requires denying mistakes and sticking with the policies you advocated while blaming others for the bad results.

Wise words to keep in the back of your head as you watch Washington try to control the economy.

A Stimulus Based Prediction

I've been mulling over the economy and the current desperate attempts in Washington to save it, and I'm growing confident enough in one thing to make a prediction. If and when this massive stimulus gets passed, it will lead to a level of graft and corruption in Washington that will make every other era of governance in the District of Columbia look like golden eras of ethical governance. In other words, in about three to five years, Washington will begin to look a lot more like Chicago.

Your Morning Bad News. And Chuckle.

Here ya go:

The current global recession is "the most serious for over 100 years", cabinet minister Ed Balls has said.

Mr Balls, a former economic adviser to Gordon Brown, said it was "more extreme and more serious than that of the 1930s", the Yorkshire Post reported.

The bad news is some British dude thinks the financial sky is falling.  The good news is nobody refers to you as "Mr. Balls."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Cutting Through The Crap On the Economy

I read this earlier today and I knew I had to post it in full. I hope National Review can forgive me, but Victor Davis Hanson gets to the nut of the current economic situation:

There is a great disconnect about the stimulus bill. Understandably Obama, in pushing for it, made the argument that the last eight years got us into this mess. So why, he asks, are his critics calling for more of the same? But are they really?

The weird thing is that economy got over-stimulated with massive deficits, cheap Chinese capital, low interest rates, inflated houses, and climbing food and fuel costs. The stimulus medicine is sort of like telling an exhausted sprinter that collapses after being unable to keep up the unrealistically fast pace that his cure is to get up immediately and try excessive sprinting again.

In short, things are upside down: The conservatives are mad that Bush over-spent, and suddenly when out of power want to restore fiscal sanity, while Obama says that the Bush borrowing brought on this mess and must be addressed by more borrowing. What is what? Conservatives suddenly are once again fiscal purists when out of power? Liberals blame Bush for reckless Keynesian spending and want to cure it by more of the same?

Few tell the truth: The conservatives should say 'Mea culpa—our deficit spending and borrowing helped to get us into this mess, so we've seen the error of our ways, and want you liberals not to repeat our mistakes.' And the liberals should say, 'Bush on the budget was one of us in borrowing and spending and priming, so we can't really trash the last eight years since we're now advocating more of the same.'

We have a significant debt issue that is at the heart of this downturn. Governments-domestic and foreign-are deeply in debt. Financial institutions are over leveraged. Companies have over extended themselves. American consumers are collectively up to their eyeballs in debt. That indebtedness needs to be addressed before any kind of strong, long term recovery can take place. Yet the brilliant economic minds in Washington are trying to get us out of this mess by stimulating more debt.

Look, we did need to do something to prevent credit markets from freezing. Credit is a vital part of the global economy, and had the credit markets seized up for a prolonged period of time, it would have been disastrous. The goal now seems to be to debt ourselves out of this mess, and that is exactly the wrong impulse to be indulging. A long, slow recovery is probably in order as economic entities at all levels get their debt loads back to manageable levels. Instead, I see us hitting a recovery late in '09, early in '10 that fires up inflation while growth significantly lags. That is going to lead us right back into the economic pits.

A Brief Thought on the "Stimulus" Bill

There is so much pork in the "stimulus" bill, it is the legislative version of that bacon-wrapped pork sausage recipe that was making the rounds last month.

Obama's Honeymoon With Media Nearly Over

Will wonders never cease? The Messiah has turned the media in record time. The AP...yes, the Associated Press...calls him out over pork in the porkulus bill:

At least Route 31 is a road to somewhere. President Barack Obama had it both ways Monday when he promoted his stimulus plan in Indiana and later at a prime-time news conference. He bragged in Indiana about getting Congress to produce a package with no pork, yet boasted it will do good things for a Hoosier highway and a downtown overpass, just the kind of local projects lawmakers lard into big spending bills.

President Obama has no idea what he is in for. He promised hope, and every example of of politics-as-usual is going to be seen as a betrayal of that promise by his biggest supporters (and potentially biggest thorns in his side), the media.

On Congress and Bailouts

This Congress is like a fat cat at a Friskies factory. They are binging in a way that can only be detrimental to the economy, not helpful. Eventually, there will be an involuntary purge, possibly in the form of stagflation that makes the 1970's look like a walk in the park.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Word to the Wise

Now that it is official that Alex Rodriguez was as steroid-tainted as the rest of them, I have a word of wisdom to everyone who thinks there may be a clean, white knight of this era of baseball: Ken Griffey Jr. probably isn't clean, either. He exhibited bulking up similar to some others, and he also experienced muscle injuries that are common to users.

The sooner we all face it, the better. There are no "greats" from this era of baseball. All who might be considered all-time greats are tainted because their egos were just too strong. Hall of Fame voters will need to come to grips with this. They will either need to outcast an entire generation of ball players, or come to terms with the fact that a lot of special players would have been special in any era but tried to inflate their standing by illegal means, but by means that were not outlawed by the rules of Major League Baseball.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Best Fried Cheese Curds in Wisconsin?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is soliciting people's opinion on the best fried cheese curds in Wisconsin. So many places are serving crummy fried cheddar nuggets these days that I think their comment thread is a great resource for cheese curd aficionados. For my money, the best two places to get fried cheese curds in the state are the Old Fashioned in Madison and the Northern Wisconsin State Fair in Chippewa Falls.

Pittsburgh Wins Sixth Super Bowl

...But that fumble really should have been booth reviewed. The Steelers would have likely won no matter what, but I think a case can be made for that being a forward pass. If I were a Cardinal fan, I'd be incensed that they didn't even look at it.