Tuesday, July 28, 2009

See My (Crocodile) Tears for Brett Favre

According to this article, Brett Favre has turned down the chance to come out of retirement (again) and play for the Minnesota Vikings. He is quoted as referring to this decision as the hardest one he's ever made.

That's quite a string of hardest decisions: to retire from the Packers, to play for the Jets, to retire from the Jets...

I don't feel bad for him. I used it all up here and here when I was so moved by his first decision to retire.

Word of advice to the Vikings: Read my previous post. Don't gamble on Vick!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Michael Vick--Why No One Should Sign Him

Michael Vick may be heading to an NFL team near you.

The issue isn't if the NFL can prevent him from taking the field. Ever filled out a resume? Why do you think that companies ask if you've ever been convicted of a felony? Now in this case, the company in question (the NFL) isn't afraid of being ripped off by a crook. However, it is within their rights to exclude a convicted felon from their organization.

The question is should Vick be allowed to play in the NFL. To this, I say yes. Why not? Is it because he helped finance and run an illegal organization that killed scores of dogs?


Give me a break. He killed dogs--fighting dogs, not miniature poodles. I don't approve, but that's beside the point. He didn't harm or kill a person. He didn't steel anything. He just did something unsavory.

Next question, should any NFL team gamble on Vick by adding him to their roster? To this, I say no, and my answer has nothing to do with what he did to dogs. Instead, it has everything to do with the fact that Michael Vick is the crappiest, most overrated quarterback in the last several decades.

He's fast, sure, but he's also an erratic passer and not much of a leader. A quarterback can be great if he's not fast, but he cannot be great if he cannot pass accurately or lead his team well.

In fact, a quarterback cannot even be good if he cannot pass accurately or lead his team well.

Actually, a quarterback cannot even be mediocre if he cannot pass accurately or lead his team well,

If a quarterback cannot pass accurately or lead his team well, then he can only be a crappy quarterback.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Michael Vick.

*This post is dedicated to my father-in-law.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Robbie Pees (in the toilet)!

Robbie used the toilet to pee last night. It was his first time.

Dare I anticipate that the end of diapers is just over the horizon?

Dare I eat a peach.

No, peaches have too much fructose.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Extended Unemployment

The county in which I reside has just passed a resolution asking congress for more money to pay unemployment welfare (call it what it is; it's not a benefit, it's welfare, and what you "pay into it" when you're working is a tax--it's not a savings account for when/if you become unemployed).

If you extend unemployment welfare, you'll end up with people unemployed for an extended period of time.

I'm not being heartless here, so dispense with that argument. Paying people to be idle is not virtuous. It's time to stop waiting for the right job and time to take any job. If there are no jobs in this area, then people in need of jobs ought to consider moving elsewhere.

Mark: The "Natural"

This is as much a blooper reel as a "highlight" reel.

C'mon, Aristos, it's his first season!

Yeah, but--

C'mon, Aristos, he's only six!

True, yet--

C'mon, Aristos, he's your son.

Yes. Yes he is. (sigh)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tom Waits: Warm Beer, Cold Women

I've been a bit off lately, so I haven't been able to think of anything useful to post.

I caught this on my iPod during my drive home from work, and I thought that you just might find in it what I do.

My wife hates him, but I think that Tom Waits is a genius.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Can Anyone Spare $23 Trillion?

I just read at Bloomberg.com that taxpayers will be on the hook for close to $23 trillion for all this bailout/stimulus spending.

Our government is so far out of its constitutional limits that it's time to abolish one or the other.

Secession anyone?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Murdock Takes a Leap of Faith

My good buddy, Howling Mad Murdock, went skydiving today. He just sent me a picture of a certificate stating that he "has successfully jumped from a perfectly good airplane." By the looks of the photograph, there's a bit more to this story...

Aristos: "Were you nervous?"
Murdock: "No, it's not like it was my first time."
Aristos: "You've been skydiving before?"
Murdock: "Oh, you meant the skydiving..."

I just called him and left a message saying that I am unimpressed. How does one unsuccessfully jump? I mean, am I supposed to marvel that my friend knows how to jump? In skydiving, it's not the successful jumping or even the successful landing that matters. What goes up must come down. What matters is the safe landing.

Howling Mad Murdock occasionally updates his blog Mindless Ramblings of a Howling Mad Mind, so there's a decent chance that he'll post about it before the year ends.

Hyperinflation Hits Cigarettes in New Hampshire

A recent article tells an interesting story. Remember the "Bank error in your favor" card in Monopoly? Here's the extreme reverse.

A man in New Hampshire bought a pack of cigarettes. Now we all know that cigarette prices have risen at quite a clip over the past decade, but this guy was pretty surprised when he checked his checking account balance and discovered that he had been charged over $23 quadrillion ($23,148,855,308,184,500).

What I found amusing was that it took over two hours for him to resolve the dispute with his bank and have his $15 overdraft fee repealed.

In classic fashion, the bank referred all reports' questions to Visa, and Visa referred all queries to the bank.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Biden Cops Out on the Economy

This article from the Washington Post, has Vice-President Biden answering critics of President Obama's economic plan, especially the effectiveness of the stimulus package in creating jobs.

Biden tells people that all one needs to do is to look around and see people working. To him, that's evidence that the stimulus package was helpful and necessary.

Is the vice president suggesting that when you look around and see people at work that those people owe their jobs to Obama and the stimulus package? That's what it sounds like. How does he prove this? Did no one have any jobs before the stimulus package?

And how about one of Biden's economic advisers saying, "The point of these programs on the jobs front is to cushion the blow."

So how exactly do we measure the extent of this "cushion"?
So how generally do we measure the extent of this "cushion"?
Is it even possible to measure the extent of this "cushion"?

All Biden and Obama have to do is say, "You think things are tough now, but--if it hadn't been for our ecnomic policies--things would be much worse."

Such a statement is impossible to verify or disprove. It's called a cop-out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Government Debt.

Didn't Obama promise to make the government more fiscally responsible? And yet this article from Bloomberg.com says that the budget deficit has surpassed one trillion dollars (+$1,000,000,000,000) in the first nine months of the fiscal year. Last month's deficit was a record, and "The June deficit compares with a surplus of $33.5 billion in the same month a year earlier."

"For the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the Office of Management and Budget forecasts the deficit to reach a record $1.841 trillion, more than four times the previous fiscal year’s $459 billion shortfall."

This is relevant because "Total public debt outstanding exceeds $11.5 trillion, according to the Treasury’s July 9 statement on the government’s cash balance."

Did you get that? Whose debt? Public debt. Your debt. My debt. Were this government a man in business, it would be in jail alongside Bernie Madoff.

No, I take that back. This government needs a maximum security prison, and it more than deserves to lose a confrontation in the showers.

"A man in debt is so far a slave."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those Who Can't Do Sometimes Really Do Teach

A young friend of mine is taking an on-line course in macroeconomics at the local community college. He recently sent me a note quoting one of his midterm exam topics with a request for my thoughts on it.

The topic was

11. The presence of market failures implies that:
A. money is not an effective tool for exchange in a market system.
B. there is an active role for government, even in a market system.
C. individuals and firms should strive to be self-sufficient rather than specialize.
D. command systems are superior to market systems in the allocation of resources.

My friend's dilemma was knowing the distinction between the correct answer--as in what his professor wanted him to select--and the correct answer--as in the truthful one. That the truthful answer was not even an option made this dilemma all the more annoying.

The professor, of course, wanted answer B: "The presence of market failures implies that there is an active role for government, even in a market system."

While my friend knew that he could simply select B and claim the point on the exam, he boldly decided to protest on principle.

He sent the professor an email saying
I don't believe any of these choices are correct. If the intended answer is B, which I think it is, I believe that would be a matter of opinion and not fact. First, "market failures" may not simply be attributed to the market itself and even so, this would not imply [necessarily] that the solution would be the government taking an active role. I just found the question to be misleading and the answer selections to all be false. If I was misled could you please offer some clarification.
The professors replied "CALL ME ASAP" (yes, in all caps).

In their telephone conversation, the professor explained how fiscal policy can correct market failures, and when my friend took him to task on this, noting that there are alternate approaches to the issue.

One thing that he could have mentioned (and I don't know if he did do so) is that the only time that a change in fiscal policy can correct a market failure is when when bad fiscal policy in the first place disrupted the economy and caused the market failure, and the new fiscal policy is a good or at least better one.

What people call "market failures" are really "market adjustments," whereby the market retools itself to operate under new conditions. Through the Federal Reserve System, the government attempts to boost the economy with its monetary policies, but in doing so creates the "boom" that leads to the "bust" in the "boom-bust" cycle. Then the government blames the bust on the market and says that it (the government) needs more regulatory power over the market in order to protect the people from market failure.

Since most people don't understand how markets work and how fiscal policies disrupt the market and force it to readjust to new conditions, they accept the government's/politicians' line. The politicians who tote the line do so either because

  1. They are ignorant of how markets function and naively hope that their well-intended policies will make things better.
  2. They are ignorant of how markets function but arrogantly assume that they know better for producers and consumers than producers and consumers themselves.
  3. They are informed of how markets function but can use "market failures" as opportunities to enhance their own power and prestige.
Unfortunately, all of these choices suck. However, unlike the topic on my friend's midterm, these are all correct answers.

After several minutes of debate, my friend's professor fell back to "Well, yes, it depends what school of thought you are from" (obviously not the school of thought that warns against ending a sentence with a preposition).

With this statement, my friend knew that he had drawn blood, for it forced the professor to accept that it was possible that all choices on the topic could be wrong (depending, of course, upon your school of thought--e.g. Keynesian or Austrian).

However, instead of conceding the point, the professor came out with "OK, so you get marked down one point if you get this wrong, big deal."--to which I am near to exploding with rage.

Hell yes it is a big damn deal. It may only be one point on an exam, but the issue here is that this guy is forcing students to select incorrect answers if they wish for a good grade. If a professor at a medical school taught that bloodletting was the best option for curing influenza, and then required students to answer accordingly on exams (or risk losing points and earning lower grades), then this guy would be tarred and feathered by the media, the courts, and the medical school.

If my friend's professor wanted to phrase the topic fairly, he would have said, "According to the Keynesian school of thought..."

However, doing so would have suggest that there are alternate schools of thought. Inquiring students might then look into those schools of thought and agree with them. Not wishing for this, the professor worded the topic as he did, and for that he is dishonest. Even if the professor believes that government intervention will protect markets from failing (and I'll wager that he does believe this), this doesn't get him off the hook--it merely makes him a dishonest fool. He's so unequipped to refute his opposition that he pretends as if his opposition doesn't exist.

My friend was more polite than I would have been. When the professor gave his "It's only one point" excuse, my friend only said, "I know what answer you want me to choose I just think the question gives students the wrong idea."

The professor said, "OK is that all?"

"Yes," I said.

"Then have a nice day."

What an a-hole.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Congress and Health Care Benefits

Whenever Congress raises the tax on tobacco, it justifies the raise--in part--because more expensive tobacco will mean fewer people using tobacco.

Now the debate is over Congress taxing health care benefits. What is it that Congress wants, fewer people having health care benefits?

Some people might actually say yes, that there is a faction that wishes for fewer people to have adequate and affordable health care coverage--the reason being that this same faction can thus justify sweeping in with its national health care plan to help solve a "crisis" that it created and gradually enhanced.

I'm sick and tired of Congress thinking that my pockets are a perfectly natural place for its hands. I want its hands out of my pockets, and I think that we would be wise to get a little archaic on them for their thievery--a constitutional amendment that limits their taxation and spending abilities. How do you stop a malicious and incorrigible pickpocket? Cut off his hands.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Obama's Ambitous Agenda

An acquaintance of mine and I were having a political discussion, and I wasn't altogether surprised to hear him praise Obama directly and the democratic-party controlled congress indirectly (he is, excepting when I set him straight, utterly ignorant of history, the constitution, economics--pretty much all of what we call social studies/social science). However, he reads the USA Today and watches The Daily Show With John Stewart, so he considers himself quite informed.

At one point, he tried to reason with me by saying, "Your politics aside, you have to admit that it has been a long time since a president has had such an ambitious agenda."

I took a moment to wonder which pundit fed him those lines before asking him, "Does the degree of ambition in the agenda indicate the quality of the agenda?"

"What do you mean," he asked.

"I mean, while not denying that Obama's agenda is indeed ambitious, I wonder if an ambitious agenda is necessarily a good agenda."

He kind of snarled at me--apparently I annoy him with such qualifications--and said, "By ambitious, I mean that he plans to get a lot of stuff done."

"Yeah, stuff." I said, adding "Ever ask yourself if it's the right stuff?"

"Well, a lot of stuff needs doing, and something's at least better than nothing. Besides, it's the same stuff that got us out of the depression," he replied--and thus indicated that he also reads an occasional issue of Time.

At this point, I began to lecture on how FDR and the New Deal actually made the Great Depression worse and last longer. He seemed somewhat impressed, but not convinced, so I offered him a deal.

"OK Dale, you read my copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal, and I'll read your copy of The Audacity of Hope."

"Deal," he said, and then muttered, "I don't have The Audacity of Hope."

Smiling, I said, "That's fine. I'll check it out at the library."

After a momentary beat, I noticed that Dale had a quizzical look on his face. It took me only a second to realize what troubled him.

"Obama wrote The Audacity of Hope," I revealed.

He nodded and smiled, saying "Sure, you read that. It's really good."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

How Unsafe Are We?

What is safe? I mean what is safe, as in the meaning of the word "safe." People watch, read, and listen to the news and feel unsafe. That is understandable. It doesn't take much for what passes as news to make one say, "What's this world coming to?"

But when have people been if not safe then safer? A very brief glance at any history of any people informs you that assault, tyranny, robbery, rape, murder, and terrorism are not new. Furthermore, in the past people were more vulnerable to diseases (e.g. smallpox, polio, bubonic plague--diseases that truly killed lots of people, as opposed to the presently dreaded swine and avian flu).

Just because somebody shot and killed former NFL quarterback Steve McNair doesn't mean that you and I are more vulnerable to violence. We're just more aware of it because of the media. We have such rapid and massive access to news that everything seems as if it's happening at once and everywhere. It just so happens that we feel like we know celebrities, so when something awful happens to them it feels closer than if it had happened to the neighbor of an acquaintance. McNair certainly isn't the first celebrity to die at the hands of an assassin--see Christopher Marlow, John Lennon, Sam Cooke, 2Pac, Sal Mineo, etc (by the way, the links take you to TruTV's Crime Library. Make sure you've got some free time, for it's a fascinating site).

Al Qaeda struck against Americans on American soil eight years ago, but are we less safe today than when the Soviets had nuclear missiles aimed at our major cities?

I would submit that human beings are never safe. We're not safe around strangers--who knows their intent. We're not safe alone--what if we need help? We're not safe in the wild--bears! We're not safe from death when we're just sitting around with our buddies--heart attack.

I would also submit that, given the advances in medicine, we are probably safer if not at least every bit as safe, as we were fifty years ago.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Not Independence Day

September 3--not July 4--should be commemorated as the United States of America's day of Independence from Great Britain.

While the Declaration of Independence is dated July 4, 1776, declaring independence is not equal to acquiring independence.

Don't believe me? Then try this one. I have borrowed heavily from Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. What I've added or changed is boldfaced...

In Congress, July 4, 2009, The unanimous Declaration of Aristos
When in the course of of human events it becomes necessary for one blogger to dissolve the political bands which have connected him with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle him, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.

hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of this Blogger; and such is now the necessity which constrains him to alter his former Systems of Government. The history of the present Federal Government is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

It has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

It has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For . . . altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For . . . declaring itself invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

In every stage of these Oppressions I have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: My repeated Petitions have never been answered. A government, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free blogger.

Nor have I been wanting in attentions to my American brethren. I have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over me. I have reminded them of the circumstances of my consent to be governed. I have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and I have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. I must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces my Separation, and hold them, as I hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

I, therefore, the finest Blogger in the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of my intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of my house, solemnly publish and declare, That my house, front and back yard are, and of Right ought to be a Free and Independent State, that it is Absolved from all Allegiance to the United States of America, and that all political connection between it and the United States of America, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a Free and Independent State, it have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, I mutually pledge to whomever gives a rip my Life , my Pseudo-fortune, and my sacred Honor.


Now, if you think that the United States of America became independent on July 4, 1776, then I welcome you to my new country--The Aristoian Republic. Bring the whole family. The currency exchange rates are good, so tourists can enjoy the numerous sights and attractions--including a really big rose bush, a new 12' trampoline--and of course you'll get a chance to tour Independence Basement, where my Declaration of Independence was authored and approved.

Aristoian Currency --------------------- Really Big Rose Bush

12 Foot Trampoline -------------Workstation, Independence Basement

My point is that the United States did not acquire independence merely by declaring it. Independence was not achieved until Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783--and the USA accomplished this only after a long war. Similarly, the Aristoian Republic will not acquire until some future time in an alternate dimension.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Foreclose on California

The state of California will be issuing IOU's instead of cutting checks. Many of the IOU's will go to citizens expecting their tax refunds.

Question: Can the citizens send the state IOU's when they've blown all of their money? Can they send IOU's to cover their mortgages, utilities, etc.?

Answer: No, they cannot. When citizens owe money, they owe money and face dire consequences (fines, jail, foreclosures, property seizures, etc.) if they cannot pay up. The state of California is a large government entity, so it plays by a different set of rules.

Let's suppose that the state of California were to play a game of basketball. In this game, both sides must follow the rules--until the state starts missing shots. Then the team's coach/governator announces the implementation of special government rules. Under the new rules, the state can travel, hack, go out of bounds, and pretty much anything else until they've caught up to the regular folks.

California's government likes to think of itself as having some kind of special privilege to spend, and once governments start acting like they can break or bend the rules, the people are in trouble.

Bill of Rights