Wednesday, December 31, 2008

73,000 Store Closings Possible in First Half

This is disturbing, but at the same time, it is partly an overdue correction:

U.S. retailers face a wave of store closings, bankruptcies and takeovers starting next month as holiday sales are shaping up to be the worst in 40 years.

Retailers may close 73,000 stores in the first half of 2009, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

I was in the retail world from the late 1990's to 2001. I try to be a student of whatever business I am in, and it was no different in retail. The one thing that I always had trouble wrapping my brain around was how so many retailers felt it wise to rapidly expand all at the same time. I mean, I understood that expansion was critical to market share and new revenue while same store sales suffered, but they were moving into smaller and smaller markets that could be challenged to support their stores (while eroding business at existing stores in larger markets), and there was sooo much competitive overlap in so many areas. I've felt for a long time that we were due for a large wave of store closings as competition and poor decisions came home to roost for many retailers. I just didn't think it would be such a tsunami.

Doing It Wrong

I don't mean to make light of this with that headline, but I don't think this kid was serious, and I'll elaborate after the snippet:

One of the central figures in the 2007 Jena Six civil rights case never gave up pursuing his football career, even after his well-publicized run-ins with the law.

Mychal Bell, an 18-year-old high school running back, clung to the hope that he could earn a college football scholarship. Then came another legal scrape this Christmas Eve.

After news broke of his arrest on a shoplifting charge, Bell shot himself in the chest Monday with a .22-caliber handgun. He remained hospitalized Tuesday but police said his chest wound was not life-threatening.

"When it was broadcast that he was charged with shoplifting he just felt that the whole year had been wasted and that he had worked all of that time for nothing," said Louis Scott, who represented Bell in the case where Bell and five other black teenagers were charged in the 2006 beating of a white classmate.

Bell's grandmother, Rosie Simmons, and mother, Melissa Bell, told police that "Mychal had made comments over the past two days that, because of the current media attention he had because of the shoplifting arrest, he didn't feel like he could live anymore," Monroe Police Lt. Jeff Harris said, reading from a police report.

A lot of people threaten to commit suicide. A lot of people try and fail. Some try and succeed, but they are outnumbered by the two former. Usually, when you look at threatened and failed attempts, the thought that pops into your mind is, "they really thought that would work?" That's the vibe I get from this story.

That doesn't mean he doesn't have problems that need to be addressed. He clearly does. But deep down, I'll bet that he didn't really want to die. Those that really want to die are remarkably successful at it, and they tend not to give others the chance to save them. I hope his family gets him the help he needs, because despite his words, deep down I think this kid does want to live.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Yellowstone Gets very Quakey

Yellowstone has had 250 small earthquakes in a very short period of time.
Yellowstone National Park was jostled by a host of small earthquakes for a third straight day Monday, and scientists watched closely to see whether the more than 250 tremors were a sign of something bigger to come. Swarms of small earthquakes happen frequently in Yellowstone, but it's very unusual for so many earthquakes to happen over several days, said Robert Smith, a professor of geophysics at the University of Utah.

"They're certainly not normal," Smith said. "We haven't had earthquakes in this energy or extent in many years."

Cue supervolcano stories in The media is having a field day pumping out stories of economic calamity and personal suffering, but there is one thing they can never resist: A good ol' annihilation of man by nature story.

Christmas Regrets

A lot of people regret things during the Christmas season. For those of you that do have some holiday regrets, I'd like to cheer you up by letting you know that even our biggest Christmas icons have regrets about Christmas 2008.

Five Things Santa Regrets about Christmas 2008
5. He let the reindeer eat Taco Bell the night before the trip.
4. Violating the air space over Dick Cheney's residence the same night he gave him a new shotgun.
3. Stopping to use the bathroom at the Minneapolis airport.
2. Letting Mrs. Claus talk him into wearing the thong she gave him for their anniversary.
1. Not getting a piece of the bail out action.

Five Things Rudolph regrets about Christmas 2008
5. Hitting on Vixen at the company Christmas party.
4. Hitting on Prancer at the company Christmas party.
3. Leading the sleigh into the wind farm that cost Comet his tail.
2. Posing for the holiday spread in Playdoe.
1. That shotgun Santa gave Cheney.

Ten Ways to Welcome 2009

Since economic pessimism is overwhelming, I've decided to offer up ten ways to welcome in the new year amongst this depressing climate. Enjoy.

10. Count down your 401K.

9. As the clock strikes midnight, kiss the spouse you can't afford to divorce.

8. Instead of popping the bubbly, pop an economic bubble.

7. Go to Times Square. Avoid giving money to homeless hedge fund managers.

6. Take your beloved out to a nice, cozy dinner. New Year's Eve is a night to throw caution to the wind, so supersize it.

5. New Year's Eve is a very romantic night to get engaged. As a rule, the ring should cost two months' wages, so take your fifty cents to the quarter machine in the Kmart lobby...

4. Avoid the amateurs and stay in. Most shelters will tune in Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on the community television if you ask nicely.

3. Ring in the new year with a romantic fire. The steel 55 gallon drum will also radiate heat to keep you warm.

2. Dance the night away. It is said that stripping is recession-proof, and you'll need the money.

1. Fire a gun in the air at midnight. At least in prison, you'll get three squares a day.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Borders Books is Toast

My wife and I are huge fans of Borders Books. It is well known in our "circle" that our favorite date ends with a trip to Borders wherein we pick out books, drink coffee, and largely ignore each other in the Cafe for an hour or two. A favorite Christmas gift of ours is a Borders gift card, but this year, we asked that family and friends not buy them for us out of nervousness inspired by the company's dire financial straights. Still, we held out hope for it. Until today.

At approximately 2 am, I received an email via my Borders Rewards membership. The subject line announced 40% off on everything because of Borders' closing. Stunning news immediately following Christmas, right? Well, there was no news of a Chapter 11 filing by the company. About ten hours later, a correction email was sent out. The deal wasn't for the closing of all Borders' stores, just one in Sacramento.

If you are a company going through very difficult times, that kind of error is inexcusable. We will still patronize Borders because we prefer its atmosphere to that of its competitor. Just the same, I think I may have to prepare the lovely Mrs. Jib for a new locale for our favorite dates because I'm not sure the company is up for the challenge that it faces.

Tom Cruise is now Cinematic Poison

I am currently curled up and watching a History Channel documentary on the the Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler. The movie Valkyrie, which opened this holiday weekend, should be right up my alley. But I have no desire to see it, specifically because of Tom Cruise. It looks like it could have been a good movie, but I have lost all tolerance for Tom Cruise the actor. I don't like how he acts, how he portrays characters. As such, I'm unwilling to sink my money into this movie, and will be unlikely to sink it into future Cruise films.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

I did not get around to wishing everyone a Merry Christmas before the 25th, so I'd like to take a moment now to say that I hope that you all had a very joyous Christmas, and that you all have a safe and prosperous new year.

Stalin 3rd Most Popular in Russia

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was voted Russia's third most popular historical figure in a nationwide poll that ended on Sunday, despite the famine and purges that marked his rule.

The "Name of Russia" contest run by Rossiya state television channel over more than six months closed on Sunday night with a final vote via the Internet and mobile phones. It drew more than 50 million votes in a nation of 143 million.

I'm going to make an a poor analogy in order to offer up some scale here. Let's say we held this poll here in the United States and Jeffrey Dahmer was voted the third most popular historical figure. Appalling, right? Now, consider this-by some estimates, Stalin was responsible for 588,235 TIMES more deaths than Dahmer. Now that's beyond appalling.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Word of Wisdom to the Pro-Pot Legalization Crowd

I know that the 'legalize marijuana' crowd is passionate about their position. I know this because I've been told so by a number of them in between fists full of Cheetos. I urge them to reconsider that position, however. Why? Well, because if they love their bud so much, they should appreciate how cheap their illegal smoke is. Do you really think the government will legalize it without excising their pound of flesh via taxes? After legalization, if you want affordable pot, you'll still need to buy it illegally as the government will levy high taxes on the legal variety. Yeah, you may be able to buy pot legally, but you won't be able to afford your munchies or the cable TV that you'll want to mindlessly stare at for hours.

Get Your BAC While Jammin'

Do you love music? Do you have trouble hitting road signs and peeing on the shoulder of I-94? Maybe you need the iPod Breathalyzer:

Just when you thought the iPod accessory market had seen it all, a company called David Steele Enterprises announced the iBreath- a fully functioning FM Transmitter add-on that doubles as a digital alcohol breathalyzer. That’s right, folks- this little gizmo not only transmits your music wirelessly to your car stereo, it also tells you whether or not you’re “cool to drive.”

The word on the street is that if you blow over .08, your iPod plays I Had a Bad Day until the battery dies to punish you. If sober, it plays Why Don't We Get Drunk (and Screw).

A Twitter Confession

I once visited Twitter. I gave it an honest shot, but I hated it. To this day, I'm still not sure if my loathing resulted from the format or my crotchety, anti-technology age of 32. While this post could very well have been Twittish, I still resent the limits on my loquaciousness.

Yglesias Censure Illuminates Limits of Blogger Muscle

Matthew Yglesias wrote something that his overlords disapproved of, and they made note of it in a post at his blog:

This is Jennifer Palmieri, acting CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Most readers know that the views expressed on Matt’s blog are his own and don’t always reflect the views of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Such is the case with regard to Matt’s comments about Third Way. Our institution has partnered with Third Way on a number of important projects - including a homeland security transition project - and have a great deal of respect for their critical thinking and excellent work product. They are key leaders in the progressive movement and we look forward to working with them in the future.

This is the conundrum a lot of bloggers face. If they stay unaffiliated in an effort to exert their own editorial position, their influence will often times hit a plateau. Criticism of their allies, however justly deserved, earns them outsider status. If they join up with the establishment, their voices can reach new heights. Unfortunately, their ability to criticize 'allies' becomes muted, and thus their true influence is bottled up. It is the rare blogger that can walk the line and still be effective.

Packers Lose to Bears in OT

I am irrationally angry right now. Irrational because the pattern of this entire season dictated that the Packers would lose this game. Still, I think now would be a good time for me to back away from the blog before I write something I'll regret. (If you want to visualize me right now, think Linus with those squiggly lines over his head).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I have two observations from life today.

1. The worst winter driver I've encountered in a long time almost rear ended me on the way to work today. I'd been watching him flirting with my bumper for miles and I was very nervous as road conditions were horrible and speeds were varying. Then it happened. The line of traffic slowed to about 15 MPH, and I saw him hauling up on me at about 45. He didn't slow. I'm not even sure he saw me until the last second, when jerked right onto the unplowed shoulder and went around me. He ended up forcing himself back onto the road right in front of me. So what did the sticker on his bumper say? "Society for an Idiot Free America." Here here! I say we start with him.

2. My Christmas spirit has been non-existent until very, very recently. Suffice it to say, I have much Christmas shopping to do and very little time to do it in. So after work, I hit the stores. I made a dent, but by the time I threw in the towel, I wanted to start a fight. The economy may be in the dumps, and people may be spending less, but on a Wednesday night a week before Christmas, there was an obscene number of Christmas shopping zombies in the stores.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

State of the Packers

It is probably time we faced some hard truths here in Packerland:

1. The defensive line just is not good. It does not do a good job of stopping the run, it does not do a good job of getting pressure on the QB. It is weakened by injuries, yes, but this unit was supposed to have excellent depth. It does not.

2. The secondary is an exemplary unit...when the defense can get pressure, and when they are in press coverage. When there is no pressure, they can get picked apart as much as any other unit in the league. And when they are in zone, they are average at best.

3. The linebackers seemed at one point to be a particular strength. Unfortunately, that was probably an overestimate. Hawk is a solid player, but not one deserving of his high draft position. Chillar has his strengths in pass coverage...when he can get on the field. Poppinga obviously has photos of Ted Thompson in a compromising position with a 1980's era Packers "cheerleader."

4. The offensive line is a mess. It consists of veterans reaching their downward years and projects. They cannot put together a complete game. The fact that Ryan Grant has had a 1000 yard season is more of an indicator of the meaningless nature of that milestone than the play of the line.

5. The Ryan Grant contract was a big mistake. He should thank Brett Favre for the leverage.

6. Aaron Rodgers is not ready to carry a team on his back. It was unrealistic to think that he would in his first season, and it seems that only Favre Fvans have foisted that expectation upon him. He has had a very good first season, just not good enough to put this team over the top. But here's the good news-if the Packers solve their line problems, he very well may become that QB.

7. This coaching staff is not as good as we thought they were at this point last season.

8. This team was never as good as their 13-3 record last year. I knew it then. They are not as bad as their current 5-9 record, though. They have the talent to be somewhere in between. Unfortunately, somewhere in between isn't going to be good enough for a Super Bowl unless the talent in key areas is upgraded.

Iraqi Reporter Throws Shoes at President Bush

Thankfully, that's all it was.
On an Iraq trip shrouded in secrecy and marred by dissent, President George W. Bush on Sunday hailed progress in the war that defines his presidency and got a size-10 reminder of his unpopularity when a man hurled two shoes at him during a news conference.

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog!" shouted the protester in Arabic, later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.

Bush ducked both shoes as they whizzed past his head and landed with a thud against the wall behind him.

If you get the chance, watch the video. President Bush is still pretty spry. He might have a future in dodgeball.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Dark Day for UW Whitewater Students

In Walworth County, Wisconsin, in the city of Whitewater, 18 individuals have been arrested for dealing drugs:

A 10-month undercover investigation by multiple area law enforcement agencies resulted in at least 18 arrests in the City of Whitewater last week.

"It was a good day for law enforcement," Whitewater Police Chief James Coan said last Wednesday.

"Eighteen people were rounded up and arrested on drug-related charges here in Whitewater," Coan confirmed. "Two other subjects are being sought on arrest warrants. This is the culmination of a 10-month undercover investigation conducted by our department, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Police Department and the Walworth County Drug Enforcement Unit.

Whitewater students will now have to struggle to find a pot dealer amongst the dozens and dozens who still remain. (In all seriousness, good for the city, but pot was the most significant violation here, and others will fill that void.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Big 3 Bailout

I was talking with someone today whom I consider to be in that political middle ground that is so important to both parties. We got onto the topic of the bail out which failed in the Senate last night. This person was of the opinion that the UAW does bear a significant amount of blame, putting their own interests before anyone else's, including all of the suppliers (and their employees) who could be conceivably hurt by a Detroit bankruptcy(ies). I hope that this person represents the mainstream of thought on this issue. I happen to agree with him. This is not the time for making sure you get the most for everyone. This is a time for saving as many jobs as possible, even if that means not getting everything you want and making tough choices. I made a similar personal choice recently. It is a shame that the UAW still doesn't fully get it. Unfortunately, from what I'm gathering in my neck of the woods, some of their members do get it, but all too many don't.

A Thought on the Brewers and Yankees

I doubt all four will end up in pinstripes, but if the New York Yankees open the 2008 season with CC Sabathia (already signed), Ben Sheets, Mike Cameron, and Bill Hall, I hope they enjoy wearing Sabathia out to make the playoffs, only to get their asses kicked in the first round.

Of course, this doesn't bode particularly well for the Crew's playoff chances in '09, but maybe the Yanks will be willing to give them something for Corey Hart after the all star break so they can enjoy his second half performance, too. Hell, maybe the Brewers can get them to take Rickie Weeks, too.

If They Did It

Is it just me, or does Rod Blagojevich look like the love child of Mike Myers and George Stephanopoulos?

The Sacrifices Our Boys Make for the Fair Gender


One of the longest-running spousal debates may now be settled in favor of men and for the sake of little boys.

Leave the toilet seat up, some British doctors now say. The reason: a rising trend for heavy wooden and ornamental toilet seats to fall down onto the penises of unsuspecting (and just potty-trained) toddlers.

Ladies, your little men just aren't at a good height for that most tragic of all male bathroom accidents. Leave the seat up...for the children.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Another Accurate Prediction: Cow Fart Edition

From Sykes:

For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if a federal proposal to charge fees for air-polluting animals becomes law.

This is what I wrote almost 2 years ago, exactly:

I want the EPA to crack down on bovine emissions. I want to see them force farmers to grow reformulated grass for the cows to graze on. I want a requirement that forces cows to be fitted with cowtalytic converters. I want to see them require breeders to re-engineer cows so they include EGR devices.

It was 2 years ago that the Brits brought up bovine emissions. It was only a matter of time before our own EPA got stupid over the topic. I'm surprised it took them this long.

In re Andrew Sullivan's Obsession with the Palin Pregnancy

Andrew Sullivan is still obsessed with Sarah Palin's pregnancy with Trig. In a recent post, he presents a straight-on photo of Palin as evidence that she was not showing nearly as much as she should have been. This is the photo:

Sullivan is obviously a man who believes all photos are truth. Unfortunately, a good photographer will tell you that a photo shows you what the photographer wants you to see, and often times, a photographer wants you to see their subjects in the best light possible. I have not seen the EXIF data on this photo, but if I had to guess, I'd say the photographer took the picture with a longer lens or focal length, at some distance. The benefit of photographing people at a longer focal length is it tends to flatten features, unlike a wide angle lens which exacerbates features.

Now, I again say that I haven't seen the EXIF data on this photo, but I'm making an educated guess that this is what this photographer did. Their (Palin and the child) features seem to be flattened to me. Also, if you look at Palin in her abdominal and groin area, the fabric of her clothes do not lay in the way that they do in photos of her from the presidential campaign. There appears to be a 'paunch' in her abdominal area that isn't there in any of her images from the second half of this year. Also, the fabric in her lower abdominal/groin area is not laying in the way you would expect from the relatively lean Palin we came to know in the presidential campaign.

Amateur analysis of photographs is at high risk of error. There is a reason that your photos rarely look the way that a pro's do, and it isn't just Photoshop. The fact is that you can manipulate the way light focuses on your film or digital sensor. A pro would likely use a longer focal length in a portrait style shot in order to eliminate unattractive exaggerations of features. I'm guessing this shot wasn't done by a pro as the flash seems to be head on and is unattractive, but an amateur would also be able to accomplish this by standing a little further away with a point and shoot and then trying to accomplish in-camera cropping by zooming in. In either scenario, depth would be flattened, and in a head on shot of a pregnancy, depth is critical.

Upon looking at the photo in greater detail, I think there are two additional aspects that reduce the depth of Palin's figure in this photograph. The first is her coat. Because it is 3/4 closed, it obscures any lines that would give us an indication of figure. Second, she seems to be slouching a bit. When you add in the flattening of a long focal length and the coat obscuring her lines, that slouch puts her face and upper body further forward, enhancing any flattening that may be occurring.


In 1995, I was a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. On October 3rd of that year, I was eating lunch at the Burger King in the University Center. The dynamic in the dining room was very odd. The white students had congregated on one side, the black students on the other side. On the televisions hanging from the ceiling was the OJ Simpson verdict.

The room is silent, odd for a dining area, and the volume on the televisions is cranked up. The verdict was announced. Once side of the room erupted in cheers. The other side stayed silent, with heads dropping and little more than whispers being uttered. I ate alone that day, and I turned my attention to my newspaper, quickly wolfing down my sandwich so as to get the hell out of a very uncomfortable environment. I get back to the dorms, and the verdict is all anyone can talk about.

Fast forward to December 5, 2008. I'm sitting at a Red Robin with a couple of co-workers, ordering lunch. One co-worker looks up at the televisions suspended from the ceiling and makes a passing comment that the OJ sentencing is coming in. Conversation quickly turns to other topics. I continue to read the closed captioning on the TV in a very noisy dining area. Nobody is paying attention but me. I try to stay on top of the conversation while reading the sentences of 'no less thans' and 'maximum ofs'. I know OJ has received his sentence, but I can't make sense of what the actual sentence is. Then I read it: 15 years.

I join back into the conversation at my table. I finish my sandwich, use the restroom, sit back down and, in a room that never changed in emotion, said to my lunchmates, "15 years." They looked at me with confused faces. I repeated myself. "OJ got 15 years in prison." Shoulders were shrugged, and conversation quickly moved on to other topics.

What a difference between two scenes. I went back to work, clicked on a couple of news websites, and nobody had the headline up yet, even though the verdict was almost a half hour old by then. Finally, a co-worker said, "OJ got 15." Another said, "Good. It was over due." Not another word was said.

In away, when OJ Simpson was acquitted in 1995, it made him a joke in American culture. Had he been convicted, his celebrity status would have clung to him despite the notoriety. Many would have elevated him to martyr status. But in 2008, the acquitted OJ Simpson was a national laughing stock and an after thought. In a way, a greater justice may have been done. Simpson will spend a number of his remaining years in a prison cell. If this had happened 13 years ago, his star and his legacy still would have been bright to the naked eye. Today, it is barely noticed. Athletes are a vane bunch who desire to have their legacies fondly remembered. Today, OJ Simpson's legacy is only visible when it pulses in its death throes. That punishment, for a man like Simpson, may be greater than any verdict or sentence.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

$25 for a Barrel of Oil?

That's what Merrill Lynch is projecting:

U.S. stocks fell for the first time in three days, pushed down by concern General Motors Corp. may file for bankruptcy and a plunge in energy shares following Merrill Lynch & Co.’s prediction that oil will hit $25 a barrel.

That is an appealing story, but remember, it was just months ago the experts were telling you to anticipate $200 a barrel oil. I don't necessarily think that $25 is out of the question because I think we've got at least six months of moderate decline before things hit a bottom across the economy, but I don't put too much weight in it, either. Sooner rather than later, OPEC will cut production (or at least claim they will), a crisis will occur in an oil producing nation, and oil prices will bottom out before the economy does.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How Long Until Conan? And Other Thoughts

Misc. thoughts:

*Is it just me, or has Leno gotten more obnoxiously liberal since the election? I don't harbor any illusions that Conan O'Brien is any less liberal, but at least his comedy transcends it a little better.

*Why is it the first part of a windshield wiper blade to go is the part that cleans the glass right in the middle of your sight?

*I pay property taxes that probably exceed the current value of my property. Still, the city I live in can't be bothered to plow well or toss down some sand and salt when the roads get miserable.

*Did the Christmas light manufacturers really need to shorten the length of LED strands compared to incandescent strands? If I need 150 of lights, does it really matter if I buy 10 strands of 15 footers or 6 strands of 25 footers? I still need 150 feet, right?

*This week, the National Weather Service has predicted 9 to 15 inches of snow for my locality. We've gotten 4. I see this as a good omen for this winter.

*The darkest hour is just before dawn, and if we're lucky, dawn for this economy will come next July. In the mean time, hold on tight for the next six plus months.

*One nice thing about an artificial Christmas tree is I don't have to re-create my father's annual screed about the cost of a natural tree.

*If you are a small business owner, I recommend that you become heavily involved in your local community. In these tough times, people will choose the bargain price unless they consider you a friend, in which case they'll still spend a little more to help you.

*I don't think any intelligent Republican or conservative can actively root for Barack Obama's failure right now because his failure will guarantee worse lives for all of us 4 years from now. That doesn't mean we can't oppose what we see as ill fated policy initiatives in an effort to make them better. It does mean that we don't have the luxury of rooting for his failure for ideological sake like our opponents have with Bush for the last 8 years.

*Libertarians feel they are in a position to gloat right now, and to a certain extent, they are. Their dogmatism for theory will be their shortcoming, however, as pragmatism and realism overwhelms theory. My only hope is that the left doesn't hijack pragmatism to enact a rash of ill-considered policies.

*Did you know that CFL light bulbs are best used in lamps and other light fixtures where their glass swirl is above their base? It seems that the heat produced by the base leads to early failure of the bulb when the base is above the bulb in things like ceiling light fixtures.

*Is it just me, or is the three piece suit making a come back?

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 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?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Bird Flu is Falling! The Bird Flu is Falling!

Nice to see that Glenn Reynolds is still paranoid about the bird flu. Logical advice, but sharing it on his stage seems awfully alarmist.

Programming Note

On election night next Tuesday, I will not be live blogging. I will be drinking, and drinking heavily. Carry on.

The Brewers Lost to the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

I can live with that at this point in the franchise's progression.

Fisking A Reuters Reporter

I haven't been big on fisking (point by point rebuttals) over the year, but this Reuters reporter who has spent more time in Germany than the U.S. recently has my dander up, so here I go.
There may be no better place in the world to witness the shift in sentiment toward the United States than Berlin.

It was hard to imagine a more pro-American city when I first moved here in 1993, yet the wind has changed and the love affair is over.

America was at its peak in Europe in 1993. The Wall had fallen, but nobody was sure that communism and the USSR were completely dead yet. Yeah, I can imagine it was hard to find a more pro-American place at that point. We'd already saved it, but the lingering threat still hovered, and Europe was not yet ascendant. Europe, specifically Germany, and more specifically West Berlin, still felt vulnerable.

The infatuation with all things American has all but disappeared.

It was bound to disappear. For the entirety of the Cold War, Western Europe was essentially a ward of the United States. They were independent, yet they were entirely dependent upon the United State's military guarantee of their sovereignty. As Europe rose as an international competitor of the United States, it was natural that any infatuation that might have been would fade away. It is ignorant to think otherwise.

Perhaps it will change after the November 4 U.S. presidential election -- even though things will never be the same no matter who wins.

As in other countries, America's image has suffered. A June PEW survey found 31 percent of Germans had a favorable view of the United States, down from 78 percent in 2000.

Europe had yet to really feel its oats in 2000. I don't care who was President of the United States the last 8 years, that number was destined to plunge as the Euro, and as a result, the European Union, strengthened. And don't think that the Obamessiah is going to change that significantly unless Russian tanks begin to roll across the European plains.

Being an American in Berlin was once special. Not any more.

A city saved and protected by the Americans during the Cold War, Berlin was an island of overwhelming admiration for America, its presidents and above all the American way of life -- at least its altruistic, kind-hearted, justice-seeking side.

America was once special in Berlin because Berlin's very freedom was entirely dependent on the United States. It isn't all that uncommon for the dependent to chafe against those they are dependent upon as they become more able to fend for themselves. See teenagers.

Avenues were named after U.S. generals, schools after U.S. leaders and squares named after U.S. cities. American disc jockeys speaking mangled German were radio stars.

The U.S. ambassador's Fourth of July gathering was once the most coveted ticket on the garden party calendar. Not any more.

"Ways" and "Passes" were once named after triumphant Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin. But as time moved on, so did the public.

Berlin mayors spoke American-accented English and everyone from children to the elderly had a twinkle in their eye when recalling the 1940s Berlin airlift, Checkpoint Charlie tank standoffs or John F. Kennedy's 1963 speech in the city proclaiming "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner").

It isn't hard to be a big fan of the people that are currently pulling your fat out of the fire. That fandom is not destined to last when your own team has it's own strength, tough.

Probably the most moving assignment of my 18 years as a correspondent abroad was in 1994, when a district that hosted 6,000 U.S. soldiers who protected them from 90,000 Soviet forces stationed outside the Berlin Wall held a parade for the departing GIs.

Steglitz is a low-rise district with a small-town feel, and I had expected perhaps a few thousand to interrupt their Saturday shopping for a quick wave goodbye -- or good riddance.

Instead, more than 250,000 packed the streets on that sunny summer morning. As the soldiers marched, the Berliners cheered, and cheered, and cheered. They threw tons of confetti from windows and gave their departing heroes a thunderous send-off.

The reporter in question should not confuse a "thank you" with a "we love you so much that we want you to be here forever." Sometimes thank yous are synonymous with "good bye."

I was born 11 years after the airlift ended in 1949, was toddler in 1963 when Kennedy came, never served in the army and, frankly, never learned in school about the U.S. role in Berlin.


Even in a big city with its stressed and grumpy residents, Berliners always seemed eager to help when I opened my mouth and American-accented German came out.

While I have no doubt that Mr. Kirschbaum is thoroughly Deutsch-ified, I don't think, after all this time, he understands the long love-loathe relationship that Germans have for the United States.

At first, I wondered why I kept running into so many retired GIs in Berlin who stayed. There are thousands of teachers, mechanics, cooks, DJs, bakers, and many in other professions.

It did not take long to figure out why. And I stayed too, one of almost 13,000 Americans who live permanently in the city.

When I first arrived in 1982 as a student, I had the naive goal of losing my American accent. I feared a "foreign accent" would bring disadvantages -- as it might in the United States.

Fortunately, my language abilities are limited and the bad accent actually opened many doors. Years after I married a Berliner, my wife admitted the only thing she remembered about our first meeting was my accent.

I'm not really seeing the point of these paragraphs. Any time you bring new people into a new area, a certain number of them will fall in love with their new home. I did with an area that I still think is inferior to my hometown. Some people even fall in love with Detroit. The fact that a number of Americans fell in love with Berlin (and Berliners) means nothing.

I used to hitch-hike across Germany when I was a student and often felt a surprising warmth toward the United States. Strangers wanted to buy me lunch; for many it was a personal recompense for a piece of chocolate a GI had given them decades earlier.

During the 1990s pro-American sentiment was still high.

They appreciated George Bush's support for reunification in 1990 that overcame British and French reticence. And Bill Clinton got rock star treatment every time he came here.

Even in the wake of September 11 attacks, Berlin's support for the United States was special. More than 200,000 attended a pro-America rally in Berlin on September 14, 2001 to hear German President Johannes Rau say:

"No one knows better than the people here in Berlin what America has done for freedom and democracy in Germany. So, we say to all Americans from Berlin: America does not stand alone."
The author mistakes the transition from dependent to competitor for some nefarious shift of opinion from pro-'good America' to con-'competitor America'.

It was, of course, the dispute over the invasion of Iraq.

Before that, U.S. presidents had always been welcomed in Berlin. However, in May 2002 George W. Bush needed 10,000 German police to shield him from 10,000 anti-war protesters.

While Iraq played a role, Europe, Germany included, began a reflexive resistance against the U.S. this decade because it was no longer fully reliant upon the United States for its security because there really wasn't much in the way of threats. Instead of defender-defended, the relationship became that of more adversarial competitors.

It was difficult to believe that a U.S. president seemed to be avoiding the city that owed its very survival to America. There was a brief ray of hope a month later when Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech in Berlin -- and 200,000 people showed up.

The response to Obama was not to Barack Obama. It was Europe's response against America. While I hold no doubt that Obama's yellow bellied ways will appeal to Europeans, he'll never be Jack Kennedy. And because of that, any hope that the author has of Obama reinvigorating the Cold War era relationship is grossly misplaced.

In case things don't change after November 4, perhaps it's time to try finally to get rid of the American accent.

Better get working on that, bud, because the days of the U.S. acting as benevolent host while Europe acted as the symbiotic parasite are long gone.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Quick Question

If the half-Caucasian Barack Obama loses next week, am I, as a 3/4 Caucasian, supposed to go into a rage over the fact that my fellow mixed racial American was denied the presidency? Or am I an oppressor simply because that extra 25% of white genetics left my skin significantly paler than his? Can someone please tell me what makes us one race or another anymore, because I'm a little lost.

Where are the Obama Press Conferences?

Jay Leno brought up an excellent point in an interview with the raging lefty David Gregory tonight. He asked Gregory why it was that Obama had not held a press conference in a month and a half. They press has been obsessed with VP candidate Palin's accessibility to the press, but only Jay Leno, an obviously left-leaning guy, has bothered to ask why presidential candidate Obama is dodging direct press accessibility. Given how favorable the press has been to him, one has to wonder why he is restricting their access.

What does this mean, Senator Obama?

I encourage everyone to ask that of Senator Obama, multiple times if necessary, in the next 5 days. I'd like an answer to this prior to election day.

"There's a lot of change going on outside of the court. The judges have to essentially take judicial notice up, I mean you've got WW II, the doctrines of Nazism that we are fighting against that started looking uncomfortably similar to what's going on back here at home."

Details, Senator. Quickly, please.

Elizabeth Edwards: You Make Stupid Decisions

Elizabeth Edwards thinks you are too stupid to make your own decisions:

However, Edwards’ critique of Obama’s plan doesn’t mean that she’s saving any love for McCain’s health care proposals. Edwards – who has battled breast cancer since 2004 – said McCain’s plan fails in all important areas by leaving the decision-making process up to individuals, who can frequently “make stupid economics decisions.”

She isn't the only one. It is a hallmark of the left to think that the government makes smarter choices than you do. And by giving Democrats a historic victory with your vote next week, you'll be agreeing with them that you are too dumb to make choices for your own life (but somehow not too dumb to make a critical choice for the impending life of others).

Bud Selig Needs to Punch Back

Baseball has been the media's chew toy for longer than Bud Selig has been commissioner. Just the same, they seem to reserve a special, perverse pleasure in ripping any and every decision that he makes. Often, the man is in a no win situation. Take the World Series last night. The decision had already been made that no game would be rain shortened. It was exactly the right decision. As a result, Game 5 was suspended and would have been suspended no matter the score. Bud Selig cannot control the weather, and unbelievably, for the first time in World Series history, a game was threatened by weather after it already started. And the sports media jumped on the suspension. But had the game been called and a decision enforced with the Phillies up 2-1, the media would have compared it to the All Star game in Milwaukee.

Bud needs to start standing up to the sports media. Cut off access to idiots. Throw his weight around the way NFL and NBA commissioners do. Selig has helped enable this caustic sports media, and they know that there are no repercussions for continually lambasting baseball. While I think Bud Selig has been an excellent commissioner, he is notoriously poor at managing the press. While playing hard ball with them now will not help his cause, it will make the next commissioner and baseball in general stronger.

And just as a side note, suspended, tied games are not without precedent in baseball history. In fact, in 1984 during the regular season, a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago White Sox was suspended in the 17th inning because of a curfew. The game was picked up the next day, with the White Sox winning in the 25th.

Dean Barnett, 1967-2008

I first started reading Dean Barnett via Hugh Hewitt. It wasn't long before I looked more forward to Barnett's posts than even Hewitt's. He was an intelligent, principled, conservative read, and the right is reduced by his loss. I never had the chance to meet him, but my condolences to his family and loved ones. He will be missed.

Yet Another Observation on the 2008 Election

In sales, you should always ask for the sale. Likewise, in politics you should always ask for someone's vote. This year, I've been asked for my vote for Obama so often that it is actually starting to piss me off. I haven't been asked to vote for McCain once. Now there could be any number of reasons for this. For example, I live in territory the McCain camp may have already conceded. Additionally, it isn't like I'm unknown to the local Republican party, so perhaps they have just moved past me, better using their resources on individuals they are less certain about. Still, it is disappointing, and I hope the McCain campaign is doing a better job of asking for voters' votes elsewhere.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where Do We Go Now

As I examine this election, I've decided that there will be one of two results:

1. There is a Dewey Defeats Truman moment. In other words, my few colleagues who target their fire at the polls are right, and McCain pulls out a most unlikely victory. And I am humbled as a commentator.

2. Obama wins with some varying but convincing margin.

I am of the opinion that #2 is most likely at this point. And if that does occur, we are at a 1964 moment. If we are lucky, this bottoming out will trampoline the right to new heights. Unfortunately, I fear that we are not in a 1964 moment when it comes to ideas. The right is not transcendent right now. Our ideas are in disarray, not at the verge of ascendancy. There are few natural leaders of any movement. There is nothing cementing the conservative-libertarian-evangelical alliance. The right is facing a reckoning. It is up to leaders at all levels to make sure that conservative/libertarian values come out the other side of this strong.

Reason has left the arena

John McCain's only hope this election was a strong, reasoned public. Then he began co-opting Obama rhetoric. In doing so, he ceded reason, and as a result, reason has left the arena. Emotion and rhetoric will rule this election, and that is going to leave John McCain wondering what could have been. If you think he is bitter now, imagine how bitter he'll be after Jimmy Carter the Second (history will determine if Obama is Jimmy Carter the Lessor, and may God help us if he is).

At What Point Does the SUV Become Cool Again?

Apparently, that point is when gas hits $2.50.

Face it, as good as it is to go green by buying a hybrid or gas-saving small car, there are just some things those cars can't do. Plus, because of their popularity, small car and hybrid buyers are now paying an extra premium for the honor of driving a little econobox that may not suit their needs. Before you fork over a lot of green to go green, check out five reasons why buying a large truck or SUV may still make sense.

All five are great reasons-and politically incorrect one month ago. If the economy continues to tank and oil prices follow, I project articles singing the praises of 1970's muscle cars by January.

Observations on Trick or Treating 2008

We have completed our annual exercise in keeping hoodlums off the street by giving all kids candy. I have a few observations from this year's event, and the observations come with advice for parents.

1. I had many kids tell me the pieces of candy they wanted from my bowl. Parents, that's rude of your kids, and I'm likely to deny their request and give them the crappiest pieces I have. If they ask with a 'please', I may be of a different mind.

2. I have a rule. If you are old enough to dress slutty, you are too old to trick or treat. If you are young enough to trick or treat, you are too young to dress slutty. In previous years, the offenders were older girls who were well past their trick or treating years. This year, it was the reverse. Don't let your little girls dress like that, moms and dads. There are a lot of sick SOBs out there, and while you may be allowing your little one their wants, you aren't protecting them at all.

3. Don't send your 4 year old to my door with two bags because you have a six month old in the stroller. I know that six month old won't be eating candy.

4. If your child has a cumbersome mask or is still working on his or her fine motor skills, don't send them up the stairs to my porch without any help. If they fall, I'll feel bad, but I'll fight your lawsuit with much ferocity because you were too stupid to know your kid needed help.

5. Don't walk the kids down the street with a beer in your hand. I have enough respect for your kids not to drink on a football Sunday, so you need to have enough respect for them not to get a snootful while taking them out. (Exception: Houses that offer parents a quick drink. Everything in moderation).

6. Do not drive your kids house to house in a dense residential area. They can make the walk just fine, and given the volume of candy that will be given them, they probably should. And yes, your little prince or princess can handle wind and cold. The only exception to this rule that I can think of came in the very first year I handled the candy doling duties. That year, we got over 20 inches of snow between October 31 and November 1.

7. If you are two houses down and I shut off my light, you have my apologies, but I've run out of candy. Don't send your kids up to the door, please.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Right is a Mess

What a cluster. The Presidential and VP candidate are diverging. Fiscal, social, national security, and Reagan conservatives, along with Libertarians, are barely tolerating each other. Some are jumping ship for what they perceive to be the 'stronger horse'. Most conservatives can barely stomach the Republican label. A standard bearer of conservatism is awash in controversy created by its founder's son endorsing the socialist-liberal candidate for the presidency. We are a long way from the conservative ascendancy most of us foresaw 4 years ago.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No More Brett

But Days of Our Brett may never end:
Butler also said there are “other stories that are going to come out” about Favre.

“This is just the beginning,” (LeRoy) Butler said. “This is only the smallest one.”

Butler did not elaborate.
If there is a cascade of Brett Favre scandals, Wisconsinites may end up just as jaded as New Yorkers.

Two Years

I realize that I have been an electoral pessimist lately, and because of that I've decided to pocket a post I'd handwritten a couple of days ago. Instead, if the worst comes to pass on election day, I will re-write it with a more positive outlook. All I will say right now is this: My fellow conservatives, if this election gets ugly, we will have to fight like starving, wounded, cornered badgers for two years just to survive. But at the 2010 midterms, the momentum will swing back our way.

If this presidential thing doesn't work...

...Barack Obama may just have a place in the WWE as The Rock's replacement:

Monday, October 20, 2008

On Brett the Jet

The big news around Packerland is that Brett Favre spent an hour and a half discussing the Packer offense with the Lions prior to their game earlier this season. This brings two thoughts to mind.

1. What Brett did was not against NFL rules. That does not clear him, though. Many of us out here in fan land have jobs that are subject to confidentiality agreements and non-competes. If I were to do something analogous to what Brett did (and I have no doubt he did it), it would cost me in damages and legal fees. Brett should be grateful he doesn't work here in the real world, because that sort of activity is not taken as lightly as it is in the NFL.

2. Note to current GMs and future GMs: Never hire Brett as a coach. If that's the best he could do scouting his own old offense for the Lions, then he'd be a disaster as an actual coach.

RIP Zima

If I could find you, I'd pour a little of your clear, whatever-the-hell-it-was-you-were, liquidy, alcoholic somethingness on the ground in your honor. Actually, I'd pour all of you in your honor. I didn't drink you before, so no sense in starting now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Now I Get It

Somebody had to spell it out for me, but now I understand why the Teamsters were burning up my phone line:

kf hears from a trustworthy non-Republican source (with access to actual insider information) that the Dems are getting set to pass "card check" legislation fast next year, right out of the box, assuming Obama wins and the Democrats get their expected big Senate majority. The legislation--which would eliminate the secret ballot in union organizing elections, allowing union organizers to gather signed cards person-to-person--is cheap, in budgetary terms. And it's very, very important to organized labor.

Nice to see the unions are using their members' money to buy a piece of the Presidency.

Anecdotal Observation

In 2000 and 2004, I found that when I ended up in political conversations (to put it politely) about the presidential election, I would either end up with people chiming in on my side or quietly telling me afterwards that they agreed with me. This year? Not at all. I've largely been arguing solo. I don't necessarily think that this has national consequences for McCain, but I definitely think it has consequences for him here in Wisconsin.

On the one hand, I want to be part of the optimistic McCain camp. Every vote he gets will be important, even if he loses. On the other hand, I'm becoming more and more sure that he's toast. In my everyday life, I see no evidence that McCain isn't trailing Obama by a significant amount here in Wisconsin, and I suspect that this is playing out to differing degrees in states across the country.

Wars Aren't Fought on a Clock...

...but political campaigns are. You can survive in war when fighting on your own turf if you can buy enough time. In a political campaign, if you are fighting on your own turf with the clock ticking down, you are in big, big trouble. And this Presidential campaign has moved fully onto Republican turf. It ain't looking good if you, like me, are dreading a Carter administration for a new generation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hell is a Jilted Comedian

I can't believe the McCain campaign is going through with this.
David Letterman and Sen. John McCain will get a chance to make up.

The Republican presidential candidate is scheduled to appear on Letterman's Late Show on Thursday.

It will be McCain's 13th visit to the CBS program but his first since he angered Letterman by canceling last month.

Letterman was unhappy when McCain sat for an interview with Katie Couric instead of him on Sept. 24.

Letterman may very well let bygones be bygones. Unfortunately for the McCain camp, angry comedians are more cunning and vicious than a cornered, wounded animal. Letterman could very well make John McCain look like an ass and a fool with just weeks to go until the election. Frankly, I can't believe they are willing to take that risk.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rectum? Damn Near...

Some see hope in this logo. Some see propaganda. I see a bloodied bung. (I'm so going to regret the traffic this post brings.) I think the symbolism I see is more apt.

Cat Colds

I woke up at an unholy early hour today-3:30 am. Between then and when I left for work at 6:45, our cat sneezed no less than 10 times. When I got home from work, I was informed that she slept nearly all day. She clearly has a kitty cold. But what makes this post-worthy is that over the last 24 hours, we estimate that she has slept for approximately 21 hours. I want that ability the next time I get sick.

The Answer is No

The question is, "Wind turbine blades are heavy and huge. Could manufacturing them closer to the nation’s wind belt save transport costs and create much-needed jobs?"

I can see why an eco-unrealist could get excited, but let's be realistic here. Even if wind energy takes off, it will be no match for higher ticket, mass market products like cars. Secondly, wind energy is second only to nuclear energy when it comes to NIMBY-ism. The cap on this is going to be much lower than some people wish.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall Colors

Minnesota Foliage 003
Originally uploaded by Jibby7
When life gives you a crappy portfolio, take a little time off and enjoy nature's beauty.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

McCain's Wandering

I just watched some late night television, and the shows are making John McCain look terrible for his on stage wandering at last night's debate. I am reminded of 1996 when Bob Dole leaned on the railing-that-wasn't-really-a-railing and fell off the stage. Fair or not, it made Dole look very, very old. In my mind, that moment was the beginning of the end for the Dole campaign. Hopefully McCain's wandering isn't a similar moment.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Best Blog Headline of the Year

No contest. Give the man his award.
Damn it Feels Good to be a Banksta

Brett Favre Just May Be a Serial Killer

That's what they say, isn't? That this kind of behavior is a sign? It would explain that streak-he obviously harvests ankles and thumbs and knees for his own personal use.

(Relax, Favre phanatics. I'm just kidding).

Human Psychology Enters the Economic Realm

Unfortunately, markets do not always act rationally. Human psychology occasionally kicks in and overwhelms logic. Greed can do that, and it creates bubbles. Fear can do it, too, and it can wipe out wealth in a heart beat. The fear has kicked in. If you have some extra cash, start considering when to buy in at the low ebb. If your cash is already tied up, all you can do is ride it out at this point. The herd has begun running toward the cliff, and if you join them in the sell off, enjoy your free fall, because the bottom is going to hurt.


I really loathe this presidential election. I loathe the nominees. I loathe the campaigns being run. I loathe the brand muddling ads. I loathe the pandering. Make it end. Please. I'm going to be unhappy no matter who wins, so it really is a matter of whether I'm most unhappy or just unhappy.

How long until 2012?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Thoughts on a Wisconsin Sports Weekend

The one silver lining to this sports weekend was Saturday's Brewer victory, their first playoff win since 1982. Other than that, it was a big, steaming pile. Some thoughts:


This is turning into an ugly season, and it has nothing to do with Brett Favre not being in town anymore. A big part of the Packers' success last season was the defense. The play of the corners and Cullen Jenkins in the interior made the entire defense a better unit. We saw glimpses of how big a part of this team Jenkins in particular was. When he went down last season, the entire defense began a slide. The injuries on the defensive side of the ball this year have deteriorated the quality of that unit. They aren't terrible, but they aren't good enough.

As for the offense, we are seeing an undisciplined offensive line. They are not executing well, and they are committing a lot of foolish penalties. Their performance is a big part of the reason this running game is not getting on track, and that's holding back the entire offense. As for the receivers, they are still a formidable group that fights for the catch better than any group in the league. Their dropped passes is a concern, but not a major concern. It all comes back to the line play.


It was a hell of a year with a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Their flaws were exposed in September and October, though. This is a team with poor plate discipline. And it isn't just about being more picky at the plate. If you watched enough games, you could see what the book was on some of these hitters. With Prince Fielder, the book was to get him to chase up and out of the strike zone. With Corey Hart, it was to get him to flail at low, outside breaking stuff. The point is, the Brewer hitters were well scouted and they did not make adjustments to what pitchers were doing. They just kept flailing. They gave defenses a lot of free outs over the last month.

Dale Sveum did a good job of managing the bullpen, but it is really impossible to say whether that would carry forward into next year. He had the luxury of a bullpen enlarged with September call ups and a post season pen augmented by starters. Still, the pen that Yost had for most of the year just wasn't good enough. This will never be a team that can afford to stack the pen with talent, but Melvin is going to have to find a way to reconstitute it for next year. The team is facing other holes, but that's another post for another day.


What's there to say? This team just isn't as talented as we thought. Clay stands to be a star in the future, and that future may get kick started yet this season.