Monday, December 31, 2012

Quote of the Day: Pravda

These days, there are few few things to admire about the socialist, bankrupt and culturally degenerating USA, but at least so far, one thing remains: the right to bare arms and use deadly force to defend one’s self and possessions.

This will probably come as a total shock to most of my Western readers, but at one point, Russia was one of the most heavily armed societies on earth. This was, of course, when we were free under the Tsar. Weapons, from swords and spears to pistols, rifles and shotguns were everywhere, common items. People carried them concealed, they carried them holstered. Fighting knives were a prominent part of many traditional attires and those little tubes criss crossing on the costumes of Cossacks and various Caucasian peoples? Well those are bullet holders for rifles.

Various armies, such as the Poles, during the Смута (Times of Troubles), or Napoleon, or the Germans even as the Tsarist state collapsed under the weight of WW1 and Wall Street monies, found that holding Russian lands was much much harder than taking them and taking was no easy walk in the park but a blood bath all its own. In holding, one faced an extremely well armed and aggressive population Hell bent on exterminating or driving out the aggressor.

This well armed population was what allowed the various White factions to rise up, no matter how disorganized politically and militarily they were in 1918 and wage a savage civil war against the Reds. It should be noted that many of these armies were armed peasants, villagers, farmers and merchants, protecting their own. If it had not been for Washington’s clandestine support of and for the Reds, history would have gone quite differently.

Moscow fell, for example, not from a lack of weapons to defend it, but from the lieing guile of the Reds. Ten thousand Reds took Moscow and were opposed only by some few hundreds of officer cadets and their instructors. Even then the battle was fierce and losses high. However, in the city alone, at that time, lived over 30,000 military officers (both active and retired), all with their own issued weapons and ammunition, plus tens of thousands of other citizens who were armed. The Soviets promised to leave them all alone if they did not intervene. They did not and for that were asked afterwards to come register themselves and their weapons: where they were promptly shot.

Of course being savages, murderers and liars does not mean being stupid and the Reds learned from their Civil War experience. One of the first things they did was to disarm the population. From that point, mass repression, mass arrests, mass deportations, mass murder, mass starvation were all a safe game for the powers that were. The worst they had to fear was a pitchfork in the guts or a knife in the back or the occasional hunting rifle. Not much for soldiers…

~ Stanislav Mishin, from Americans never give up your guns

Putting the "Fun" Back in Dysfunctional: Why I'm in Favor of Going Over the Fiscal Cliff

It's all about honesty. The country has been living a lie for the past 12 years, a lie that has gotten dramatically worse the past 4 years. Anyone who thinks the deficit can be closed merely by taxing the rich is a fool. Let's be honest-- there are two ways out of this mess: 1) the middle class must get soaked with higher taxes because that is where the majority of the money is, or 2) the fed must inflate the country out of the mess the politicians have created. My guess is the ultimate solution will be a combination of the two. The politicians will go to great pains denying they are raising taxes on the middle class, while doing it quietly behind the scenes in the most indirect ways they can. There is no way the country can keep spending $1.50 for each dollar in taxes they collect. When is the last time you heard anyone propose any real spending cuts? Prepare to get soaked.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Taxpayer's Guide to the Federal Debt

This video is a little dated. The situation is actually worse now.... the national debt is only..... $16,350,218,944,255.22 as of 31 Dec 2012 at 01:09:38 AM GMT. Thank you, politicians, for your gross incompetence and complete mismanagement of the federal budget.

Charles Ellis & Mark Cortazzo: Controlling Investment Costs

Quote of the Day: P.J. O’Rourke

Mr. President, the worst thing that you’ve done is that you sent a message to America in your re-election campaign that we live in a zero-sum universe.

There is a fixed amount of good things. Life is a pizza. If some people have too many slices, other people have to eat the pizza box. You had no answer to Mitt Romney’s argument for more pizza parlors baking more pizzas. The solution to our problems, you said, is redistribution of the pizzas we’ve got—with low-cost, government-subsidized pepperoni somehow materializing as the result of higher taxes on pizza-parlor owners.

In this zero-sum universe there is only so much happiness. The idea is that if we wipe the smile off the faces of people with prosperous businesses and successful careers, that will make the rest of us grin.

There is only so much money. The people who have money are hogging it. The way for the rest of us to get money is to turn the hogs into bacon.

The evil of zero-sum thinking and redistributive politics has nothing to do with which things are taken or to whom those things are given or what the sum of zero things is supposed to be. The evil lies in denying people the right, the means, and, indeed, the duty to make more things.

Or maybe you just find it easier to pursue a political policy of sneaking in America’s back door, swiping a laptop, going around to the front door, ringing the bell, and announcing, “Free computer equipment for all school children!”

~ P.J. O’Rourke, from Dear Mr. President, Zero-Sum Doesn't Add Up

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quote of the Day: James Shikwati

Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the foreign aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

~ James Shikwati, from "For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"

Grouch: Here's an idea for the geniuses involved in the fiscal cliff negotiations who seem hell bent on taxing and spending the country out of existence: let's try cutting some spending for a change...... reductions across the board in all foreign aid would be a good first start, followed by rolling back and freezing spending levels at all government agencies to 2010 allocations until the yearly deficit is reduced. It is a lot to ask a politician to make a decision for the good of the country instead of their own narrow self-interests, but that it what leadership is all about. By the way, where has leadership and statesmanship disappeared to? We seem to have nothing but a bunch of self-serving fools in charge of the country.

Fiscal Cliff Rock

A shallow and whimsical look at the fiscal cliff.

How the Green Energy Scan Works

In the 1950's, there was only the military industrial complex to worry about. Since then, the politicians in their "infinite wisdom" (sarcasm intended) have created the welfare industrial complex and the environmental industrial complex. The kickbacks just keep coming.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Quote of the Day: Thomas Sowell

When I was growing up, an older member of the family used to say, "What you don't know would make a big book." Now that I am an older member of the family, I would say to anyone, "What you don't know would fill more books than the Encyclopedia Britannica." At least half of our society's troubles come from know-it-alls, in a world where nobody knows even 10 percent of all.

Some people seem to think that, if life is not fair, then the answer is to turn more of the nation’s resources over to politicians — who will, of course, then spend these resources in ways that increase the politicians’ chances of getting reelected.


If you don't want to have a gun in your home or in your school, that's your choice. But don't be such a damn fool as to advertise to the whole world that you are in "a gun-free environment" where you are a helpless target for any homicidal fiend who is armed. Is it worth a human life to be a politically correct moral exhibitionist?

The more I study the history of intellectuals, the more they seem like a wrecking crew, dismantling civilization bit by bit -- replacing what works with what sounds good.

Some people are wondering what takes so long for the negotiations about the "fiscal cliff." Maybe both sides are waiting for supplies. Democrats may be waiting for more cans to kick down the road. Republicans may be waiting for more white flags to hold up in surrender.


Everybody is talking about how we are going to pay for the huge national debt, but nobody seems to be talking about the runaway spending which created that record-breaking debt. In other words, the big spenders get political benefits from handing out goodies, while those who resist giving them more money to spend will be blamed for sending the country off the “fiscal cliff.”

~ Thomas Sowell, from On Christmas, Liberals Are By No Means Liberal

Finally a Politician I Can Agree With

I would raise the debt ceiling on one condition and that would be a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Barring that, people in Congress, those who I’ve met up here, they don’t deserve to manage any more money. They’re doing a bad job managing the money they have. We should not send them any more money. They’re not to be trusted with money.

~ Rand Paul

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Quote of the Day: The Economist

"The S&P 500 Index has now outperformed its hedge-fund rival for ten straight years, with the exception of 2008 when both fell sharply. A simple-minded investment portfolio—60% of it in shares and the rest in sovereign bonds—has delivered returns of more than 90% over the past decade, compared with a meager 17% after fees for hedge funds (see chart). As a group, the supposed sorcerers of the financial world have returned less than inflation. Gallingly, the profits passed on to their investors are almost certainly lower than the fees creamed off by the managers themselves."

~ The Economist, from Hedge Funds: Going Nowhere Fast

Note: The expense ratio on a Vanguard S&P500 Index ETF is only 0.05%, which is 1/20th of 1 percent, or just $50 per $100,000 of investment funds, or basically almost free. So you can invest for almost free using index funds and ETFs, or pay hedge fund managers large fees to earn much lower returns.

A Christmas Carol by Orson Welles' Mercury Theater

In 1939, the “Campbell Playhouse” brought in two especially formidable thespians, Orson Welles and Lionel Barrymore together for Orson Wells's adoptable of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Sarah McLachlan: "O Little Town Of Bethlehem"

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Burglars

Today, in an early Christmas present to burglars, the Journal News in upstate New York, owned by Gannett, published the names and addresses of all gun permit holders in the Westchester and Rockland county areas of New York. Now all would-be burglars, whether hard-core criminals, or just the average kid in the neighborhood who is running short on drug money, will know who's packing, and more importantly who is not. Job well done, Journal News. You guys are criminal geniuses.

Dan Solin: The Show Wall Street Doesn't Want You to See

Passive Investing: The Evidence the Pros Do Not Want You to See

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bill Gross' Tips for 'Beating the Wealth Tax'

Bill Gross, founder and co-chief investment officer of bond giant PIMCO, has devised four ways individuals can beat the "wealth tax" – i.e. higher dividends and capital gains. In an interview with The Daily Ticker he outlines his proposals:

Tip #1: Invest in intermediate securities and roll down the yield curve. This includes buying 5-to-10-year TIPS in the U.S. and U.K. as central bank inflation targets rise. Gross believes negative real interest rates will continue for some time as policymakers around the world try to inflate their economies.

Tip #2: Buy real assets. Gross also recommends holding real assets, such as gold and oil, that keep pace with an inflationary global environment. The recent decline in the price of gold should not affect this thesis, he notes.

Tip #3: Buy stocks that offer steady cash flow and dividends in an unstable economy. Gross says examples of these stocks include Coca-Cola (KO), Procter & Gamble (PG), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Pepsico (PEP). In general investors should buy stocks that have consistent records of growth and can withstand a downturn.

Tip #4: Invest in developing economies with attractive balance sheets. Gross specifically names Brazil and Mexico as the best examples here. It's time for investors to recognize this new era of growth, he says, and these economies are "excellent" buying opportunities.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Your Tax Dollars Hard at Work for the Common Good

I see now why this administration needs more tax dollars. It costs a lot of money to put out "Holiday" cards like this one from our Ambassador to Finland. This man's name is Bruce "Mr. Clean" Oreck, of the Oreck vacuum cleaner fortune, and he's bundled over $500K for the Obama campaign (the price of ambassadorships is on the rise). I think it is only fair that middle class tax payers muscle up a little more dough to help promote the image of the US overseas.

Gift Giving Traditions Around the World

Gift Giving Traditions Around The World

This interactive gift giving map, brought to you by Cloud 9 Living, is meant for world travelers, study abroad students, those living in or visiting a foreign country; and anyone with curiosity about cultures, traditions and etiquette standards around the world.

The map specifically covers gift giving traditions in China, India, Japan, Brazil, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Italy, Sweden, Bolivia, Tibet, Morocco, Russia, Samoa, Israel and the English Commonwealth. With holidays ranging from Diwali to Christmas, and traditions from gifting yogurt to pulling on earlobes; everyone will learn something new.

Liberal or Conservative?

Via The Looking Spoon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Penn & Teller Call BS on Gun Control

As politicians and TV pundits fall all over themselves to call for new gun control laws, few even understand the problem much less have a viable solution that will make anyone but the criminals safer. Penn & Teller help put things into proper perspective. My personal belief is incidents of mass shootings whether it be Ft. Hood or Sandy Hook have more to do with the way our society manages the mental health of the most marginalized in society rather than guns themselves. Those wanting to do harm will always find a way, whether its buying guns on the black market or making fertilizer bombs. Banning certain types of guns or ammunition may make politicians feel good, but have little effect other than make law abiding citizens less safe.

"We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." ~ Ronald Reagan

Or as another wise man once said: "Nobody blames cars for drunk driving."

The most deadly weapon in world history.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Face of Retirement: Meet the Future You

Can a brokerage firm scare you into saving for retirement by adding years to your picture? Try it at

What Makes Guinness Guinness

A pint of Guinness examined from a physicist's point of view. The science of Guinness doesn't interest me as much as owning Diageo stock and tilting back a pint very now and then as I help the company grow its profits.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Year of Linux

Grouch: I'm a big Linux fan, even though I recently gave Windows 8 a try. You name it, I can figure out how to do it for free. My only limit is my imagination.

Here's a picture of my desktop-- two 23 inch monitors.

Quote of the Day: George Will

It is enough to make you want to hop in your Fisker and drive off a fiscal cliff.

You should know Fisker because you have helped to finance the Anaheim, Calif., company that makes — well, has made a few — electric cars. Its only model, the Karma — really; Obama administration green investments are beyond satire — costs $110,000. Your subsidy helped Justin Bieber, the fabulously rich Canadian teenager (he sings), buy one. No one ever said saving the planet one electric car at a time would be easy.

The Wall Street Journal reports that despite Fisker’s $192 million in Energy Department loans, the Karma “has been hobbled by recalls and quality problems” and the company has sacked half its employees. But perhaps Fisker’s biggest problem is that its source of batteries, A123 Systems, has gone bankrupt in spite of its $249 million Energy Department grant. The administration that in the fiscal cliff drama is demanding control of much more of the nation’s wealth is the author of many Solyndra-style debacles.

~ George Will

Grouch: Comrades, this cannot be true. Mr. Will surely knows our central planners have great and glorious visions of the future that will lead us to economic nirvana if we only give them a greater percentage of our money. His kind of wit is not appreciated at the highest levels of the politburo. We just may have to gift him a Fisker and let him suffer the consequences.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Quote of the Day: Adam Carolla

Well, first off, we should stop saying, "tax the rich," and say, "tax the successful." Because I'm not rich, I'm successful. And rich is easy to tax because that's just the guy who inherited daddy's money, whose dad was the Monopoly man and he lives up on the hill.

I'm successful, you're successful because we worked our tails off. And it's harder to take money away from people that work very hard for it.

And it's very easy to say, "Tax the rich." But, really, it should be "Tax the successful."

~ Adam Carolla

Grouch: Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quote of the Day: Nicholas Kristof

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month.

~ Nicholas Kristof, from Profiting From a Child’s Illiteracy

Grouch: The three laws of social programs all too often apply to those receiving Government benefits under the best of intentions:
  1. The Law of Imperfect Selection. Any objective rule that defines eligibility for a social transfer program will irrationally exclude some persons and all efforts to correct that exclusion will expand that program well beyond the original problem area.
  2. The Law of Unintended Rewards. Any social transfer increases the net value of being in the condition that prompted the transfer (i.e., what you subsidize you get more of).
  3. The Law of Net Harm. The less likely it is that the unwanted behavior will change voluntarily, the more likely it is that a program to induce change will cause net harm.

Cartoon of the Day: A Debt that will Live in Infamy

Sunday, December 9, 2012

An Update on My Windows 8 Experience

I took another shot at installing Windows 8 this weekend. For some reason this time the moon and stars aligned and I was able to complete a successful install and activation. I also received my Windows Media Center key 7 days after my initial request, and was able load this feature. This time applying updates did not introduce any undesired side effects. The only difference this time is that I wiped my hard drives clean before beginning the install. I was able to set up permissions in Windows 8 to stream recorded video to my PS3. My other goal was set up a dual boot environment between Windows 8 and Ubuntu 12.10, and after quite a few hours of loading operating systems it was completed.

My overall impressions of Windows 8 remain similar to my original post.

On the positive side:
  1. I like the Metro UI and think it will be very effective on the Surface.
  2. There appear to significant performance improvements (thank God!) over previous versions of windows.
  3. The app store feature is intended make the platform "idiot proof."
  4. Task Manager functionality has been significantly improved.
  5. Ability to pause and resume file transfers.
  6. Search feature is very powerful and fast.
  7. Media Center does a nice job of recording and playback of signals off of the TV antennae.
  8. Improved boot times.
  9. Integration with web apps of Microsoft's choice.
The cons:
  1. Feels like two desperate operating systems bolted together. It suffers from split personality syndrome.
  2. Moderate learning curve for users to become proficient with Windows 8.
  3. Windows close action is tedious from mouse users.
  4. Ads are annoying.
  5. Can't help but have the feeling data is being collection about my browsing habits, and my app usage.
  6. It is easy for the unsophisticated user to get lost admin the confusion of different screens and styles.
  7. Power users may be less empowered by Windows 8 than previous versions.
  8. Can't display more than one Metro app and a screen at a time.
  9. I find horizontal scrolling in general very annoying. Metro institutionalizes horizontal scrolling.
  10. Emphasis of Metro appears to more on cosmetics than delivery of information.
  11. Unveiling the password log in screen is an unnecessary step.
  12. No obvious reason to upgrade from Windows 7..... Vista on the other hand still sucks, and is worth the upgrade.
I've made significant strides from last weekend in getting Windows 8 installed and up and running. But the jury is still out in my mind as to whether this is an improvement over Windows 7 or not. The performance improvements are a welcomed relief, but the disjointedness of the user interface and overall user experience should cause user to think twice about upgrading. Those on Windows 7 should stay put. Anyone on prior versions of Windows should consider upgrading.

Quote of the Day: Lord Monkton

Quietly, politely, authoritatively, I told the delegates [at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha] three inconvenient truths they would not hear from anyone else:
  • There has been no global warming for 16 of the 18 years of these wearisome, self-congratulatory yadayadathons.
  • It is at least ten times more cost-effective to see how much global warming happens and then adapt in a focused way to what little harm it may cause than to spend a single red cent futilely attempting to mitigate it today.
  • An independent scientific enquiry should establish whether the U.N.’s climate conferences are still heading in the right direction.
As I delivered the last of my three points, there were keening shrieks of rage from the delegates. They had not heard any of this before. They could not believe it. Outrage! Silence him! Free speech? No! This is the U.N.! Gerrimoff! Eeeeeeeeeagh!

One of the hundreds of beefy, truncheon-toting U.N. police at the conference approached me as I left the hall and I was soon surrounded by him and a colleague. They took my conference pass, peered at it and murmured into cellphones.

Trouble was, they were having great difficulty keeping a straight face.

Put yourself in their sensible shoes. They have to stand around listening to the tedious, flatulent mendacities of pompous, overpaid, under-educated diplomats day after week after year. Suddenly, at last, someone says “Boo!” and tells the truth.

Frankly, they loved it. They didn’t say so, of course, or they’d have burst out laughing and their stony-faced U.N. superiors would not have been pleased.

~ Lord Monkton, from Bad boy smashes U.N. wall of silence

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Deck the Halls with Macro Follies

Put one in your Christmas stocking today before the Grinch arrives on Jan 1, 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

California Teacher's Union Educational Videos

You have to be pretty dumb to buy into this propaganda....... but then again that explains a lot of things.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quote of the Day: Warren Meyer

Here is what I am doing for the rest of the year -- working with every manager in my company so that as of January 1, 2013, none of our employees are working more than 28 hours a week. I think most readers know the reason -- we have got to get our company under 50 full time employees or else I am facing a bill from Obamacare in 2014 that will be several times larger than my annual profit. I love my workers. They make me a success. But most of my competitors are small businesses that are exempt from the Obamacare hammer. To compete, I must make sure my company is exempt as well. This means that our 400+ full time employees will have to be less than 50 in 2013, so that when the Feds look at me at the start of 2014, I am exempt. We will have more employees working fewer hours, with more training costs, but the Obamacare bill looks like about $800,000 a year for us, at least, and I am pretty sure the cost of more training will be less than that.


But this is going to be an ENORMOUS change in the rest of the service sector. I have talked to a lot of owners of restaurants and restaurant chains, and the 40-hour work week is a thing of the past in that business. One of my employees said that in Hawaii, it was all the hotel employees could talk about. Many chains are working on mutli-team systems where two teams of people working part-time replace the former group of full-time employees. 2013 is going to see a lot of people (who are not paid very well to begin with) getting their hours and pay cut by 25%. At the same time that they are required, likely for the first time since many are relatively young, to purchase health insurance.

~ Warren Meyer, from The Biggest Economic Story of 2013

My Experience with Windows 8

First, let me state that I am long-time linux/unix/solaris user on my home computers. I use windows for two reasons: 1) to print coupons, and 2) to do my taxes once a year. Other than that, I have little use for windows, and absolutely no use for extravagantly priced Apple products. However, I thought now might be a good opportunity to replace my copy of Windows XP with something more modern. So I forked out my $65 bucks and took my chances with Windows 8.

A few days later a package arrived containing the 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows 8 Pro along with a product key. I attempted to install the cd on a PC I'd wiped clean. On the first try, the install hung after accepting the customer agreement. On the second try, the install could see my hard drive, but refused to apply the software. To get around this problem, I installed an old copy of Windows XP and was then able to successfully upgrade to Windows 8.

I now had Windows 8 installed on my hard drive, and began getting used to the major changes in the user interface. I found the system, the new graphics and the metro ui to be visually appealing. However, the bouncing back and forth between the metro ui style screens and the Windows 7 style screens felt very jarring, and like two disparate operating systems were being pasted together to try to make a whole. The user experience is disjointed to say the least. The metro ui is not particularly mouse friendly and seems designed for tablets, not desktops.

Weird is the one word I'd use to describe the user experience, but at least everything was working correctly so far. That is, until I decided to apply system updates. That's when things all went to hell. After the updates, my sound no longer functioned and my video went on the fritz. I couldn't figure out how to fix these problems so I went to plan B--- install Windows 8 in a VM under linux.

Things went swimmingly with Plan B until it came to activating the release. Windows 8 refused to accept the product key that came with the product, even though it was typed in correctly. I'll be researching this problem over the next couple of days to determine how to fix. Needless to say, the initial experience of this user has been less than satisfactory, and I'd advise those running Windows 7 not to rush to upgrade to 8.

PS: I should also add that media center does not come with Windows 8 Pro. You have to buy that separately. For a limited time Microsoft is offering Media Center for free to early adopters. I applied for my free license key for media center which was supposed to be emailed to me within 48 hours. It's been over a week now with no communication from Microsoft. It's not difficult to conclude that my experience with Windows 8 has been rather sucky. I'm glad I have viable alternatives.