Friday, April 29, 2011

"Truth, Justice and The American Way" Is Just Not Enough Anymore?

In a sign of the times and in perhaps a marketing appeal to sell more comics outside the US, the comic book geniuses at DC comics have decided that Superman will renounce his American citizenship because he is tired of being perceived around the world as a tool of US government policy.

The Superman I grew up with wouldn't give a hang about how anyone perceived him as long as he was a force of good in the world.  But times have changed.  The enemy is no longer the comrades behind the iron curtain; it is something that lurks in the shadows and is hard to identify.  And almost everyone around the world seems to want to embrace the American Way of economic and political freedom, consumer choice and an educated, prosperous middle class.  The Superman I knew as a child would not respect or yield to the corruptocrats at the UN.  He would want to clean up the corruption.  As the IMF indicated in one of its recent reports, The Age of America as the world's only economic Superpower seems to be coming to end through a long series of self-inflicted wounds at the hands of our own corruptocrats.  Is Superman just a leading indicator of the demise of America?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Caricatures: Conan O' Brien as Seen by Artist John Kascht

Quantitative Easing Explained: Just a Guy with a Beard Who is Allowed to Print Money

Theater of the Absurd: The Obama Birth Certificate Issue

First, let me say I am not a Birther, but I don't personally believe we will ever know beyond a shadow of a doubt whether Obama is a natural born citizen or not. And I don't think it really matters. I don't want the kind of Constitutional crisis that would result from an illegitimate President and his actions while in office.

With the release of the Obama Certificate of Live Birth document yesterday, it should come as no surprise that the skeptics are racing to cast doubt upon it. However, what is truly fascinating in this whole sordid affair is how easy the Whitehouse has made it for the doubting Thomases. How dumb do you have to be to put out such an obvious digitally manipulated image? This doesn't necessarily mean the information on the certificate isn't real. It just means someone has messed around with the pdf file and wasn't smart enough to clean up after themselves. In other words, this isn't even a "professional quality" alteration/enhancement. Unbelievable. I don't think even The Donald will step into this issue, but only time will tell.

Fight of the Century: Keynes vs Hayek, Round Two

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We Don’t Need No (Public) Education: Sheldon Richman on the Separation of School and State

Who likes the sound of a school bell? Sheldon Richman certainly doesn’t.

“Schools, by their structure, are preparing kids for some sort of authoritarian lifestyle,” he says.

Richman is critical of the school choice movement, saying that even in charter schools, money is still being provided by the state.

He edits The Freeman and, publications from the Foundation for Economic Education. Richman also is the author of Separating School and State and is a contributor to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

Topics include: Unschooling; critiquing charter schools; for-profit private schools; and home schooling.

NASA: The Frontier is Everywhere

A Tale of Three Budgets

The key question here is just how of GDP should be confiscated by the government for whatever purposes it deems worthy, and how will that impact future growth, tax levels and the freedom of its citizens.  For the perennially confused, remember that servitude to government is not freedom.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What is Freedom Worth and Why Would Anyone Cede Their Freedoms to Government?

The recent turmoil in the Middle East should serve as a reminder to all freedom loving people everywhere just how precious and tenuous freedom is. There are always other people, even in the name of goodness, looking to take those freedoms away in exchange for the comforts of servitude. As Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." And even more forcefully: "If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

This video contains scenes from the Syrian protests this week and crowds being fired upon by government soldiers. Be warned, it is a very graphic and disturbing video.

A Song from Ray Stevens

Monday, April 25, 2011

50th anniversary of ABC's Wide World of Sports

Here We Go Again: Attorney General to Investigate Rising Oil Prices

I believe every administration starting with Gerald Ford has sought to demonize oil companies and oil speculators whenever oil prices rise beyond the point consumers feel comfortable paying.  President Obama, not to be outdone by his predecessors, has made a fair amount of noise about getting the Attorney General to investigate the rising price of oil and the role that speculators and oil companies play in this increase.  From a political point of view, the timing couldn't be better with the major oil companies such as Exxon, Chevron and Conoco-Phillips set to report dramatic increases in profits.  In politics, insinuation is everything, and facts mean little.  Already the mainstream news outlets have picked up the insinuation and are running with it as though it is a fact that oil companies and speculators have colluded to drive up the price of oil.  One thing I can guarantee you, as in past investigations, is that no collusion will be proven and no action will result from this investigation.  The other thing I can guarantee is that obvious areas will not be covered in this investigation such as:
  1. The oil market fear caused by the Middle East turmoil
  2. The three wars being waged in the Middle East right now along with the threat of more governments falling in oil-rich nations and the chaos that ensues
  3. The Feds weak dollar policy since oil is traded in dollars
  4. The staggering national deficits that are contributing to the weakening of the dollar
  5. The threats of the rating agencies to lower the ratings on US debt
  6. The threat of the IMF and other governments around the world to pull out of the dollar standard
  7. EPA rules severely hampering domestic production
  8. The drive to make "green" energy cost competitive
All the examples above are failures of political leadership in both political parties that are major factors in the rise in oil prices.  But none of these will be mentioned in the Attorney General's report when it is issues.  In fact, the whole purpose of this investigation is to deflect attention from the real causes of this rise in prices.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Verse: N. Scott Momaday

Before an Old Painting of the Crucifixion

I ponder how He died, despairing once.
I've heard the cry subside in vacant skies,
In clearings where no other was. Despair,
Which, in the vibrant wake of utterance,
Resides in desolate calm, preoccupies,
Though it is still. There is no solace there.

That calm inhabits wilderness, the sea,
And where no peace inheres but solitude;
Near death it most impends. It was for Him,
Absurd and public in His agony,
Inscrutably itself, nor misconstrued,
Nor metaphrased in art or pseudonym:

A vague contagion. Old, the mural fades...
Reminded of the fainter sea I scanned,
I recollect: How mute in constancy!
I could not leave the wall of palisades
Till cormorants returned my eyes on land.
The mural but implies eternity:

Not death, but silence after death is change.
Judean hills, the endless afternoon,
The farther groves and arbors seasonless
But fix the mind within the moment's range.
Where evening would obscure our sorrow soon,
There shines too much a sterile loveliness.

No imprecisions of commingled shade,
No shimmering deceptions of the sun,
Herein no semblances remark the cold
Unhindered swell of time, for time is stayed.
The Passion wanes into oblivion,
And time and timelessness confuse, I'm told.

These centuries removed from either fact
Have lain upon the critical expanse
And been of little consequence. The void
Is calendared in stone; the human act,
Outrageous, is in vain. The hours advance
Like flecks of foam borne landward and destroyed.

~ N. Scott Momaday

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Lenin's Birthday... Woops, I Meant Happy Earth Day

President Obama declared today's 41st annual Earth Day proof of America's ecological and conservation spirit—then completed a three-day campaign-style trip logging 10,666 miles on Air Force One, eating up some 53,300 gallons at a cost of about $180,000. And that doesn't include the fuel consumption of his helicopter, limo, or the 29 other vehicles that travel with that car.

The first earth day took place in 1970.  Here are a few predictions made on that wondrous occasion:
“We have about five more years at the outside to do something.”
Kenneth Watt, ecologist

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
George Wald, Harvard Biologist

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.”
Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

“Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”
New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

“Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
Life Magazine, January 1970

“At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”
Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

“Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.”
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones.”
Martin Litton, Sierra Club director

“By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”
Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

“Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”
Sen. Gaylord Nelson

“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

Sadly, none of these predictions even came close to being true, even 41 years after that glorious first Earth Day celebration. But there's always next year.

In the meantime, let's just appreciate the fact that we have good world citizens like North Korea who celebrate Earth Day each time the sun goes down and leave their lights off for good of all humanity. Thank you, oh magnanimous leader, and shining example to the rest of civilization, Kim Jong-il.

Now, back to reality.

Thank you, capitalism.  Thank you, developed economies.

Your Tax Dollars Hard at Work: The EPA Rap Song

Original found here. Glad this survived those draconian budget cuts so grandma didn't have to eat dog food..... or is this just dog food for the ears?

Come on and Click it, flip it, turn the handle to the right, turn off the water, twist the handle real tight. Slip on your sneakers, lace em up tight, leave the car parked you know that’s alright. Public transportation is the way to go, it’s one of the ways to keep emissions low, you can ride your bike, instead of the car, if we save on fuel then we’ll all go far.

I said Click it, flip it, turn the handle to the right, turn off the water, twist the handle real tight. Slip on your sneakers, lace em up tight, leave the car parked you know that’s alright. Public transportation is the way to go, it’s one of the ways to keep emissions low, you can ride your bike, instead of the car, if we save on fuel then we’ll all go far.

You can pick up paper and recycle it too, and there are many other things that you can do. You can click off the game boy, flip off the light, while you’re brushing your teeth, turn the handle to the right. Close the fridge door - keep it shut tight, no food has been added since the middle of the night. A 5 minute shower is all that’s needed to keep energy from being depleted. A long sleeve sweater is what I know – will keep you toasty and the fuel bills low. Plant a tree in your neighborhood, besides giving shade you know it looks real good.

I said Click it, flip it, turn the handle to the right, turn off the water, twist the handle real tight. Slip on your sneakers, lace em up tight, leave the car parked you know that’s alright. Public transportation is the way to go, it’s one of the ways to keep emissions low, you can ride your bike, instead of the car, if we save on fuel then we’ll all go far.

The USA is where we are to kick a new trend and to raise the bar. The climate is changing and that’s a fact, bears don’t know when to take a nap, On top of that it won’t be cool when the flood waters rise and mosquitoes rule. It’s time to get off the couch and start to move.

Come on and Click it, flip it, turn the handle to the right, turn off the water, twist the handle real tight. Slip on your sneakers, lace em up tight, leave the car parked you know that’s alright. Public transportation is the way to go, it’s one of the ways to keep emissions low, you can ride your bike, instead of the car, if we save on fuel then we’ll all go far.

Come on and Click it, flip it, turn the handle to the right.

Your Share of the US Debt

Whether you believe the CBO projections on future debt levels are optimistic or pessimistic (past history has shown them to typically be overly optimistic), the chart below allows you to run through various debt scenarios to see just how much debt our elected representatives are obligating each taxpayer to pay at an unspecified time in the future. The debt payments will more than likely be made through higher taxes and inflation.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Logic of Plunder Politics

Who Works the Longest?

And the surprise answer is: Mexico.

The High-End Limo Cartel in Nashville

From the Institute for Justice: "Until 2010, sedan and independent limo services were an affordable alternative to taxicabs in the Music City. A trip to the airport only cost $25. But in June 2010, the Metropolitan County Council passed a series of anti-competitive regulations requested by the Tennessee Livery Association - a trade group formed by expensive limousine companies. These regulations force sedan and independent limo companies to increase their fares to $45 minimum.

The regulations also prohibit limo and sedan companies from using leased vehicles, require them to dispatch only from their place of business, require them to wait a minimum of 15 minutes before picking up a customer and forbid them from parking or waiting for customers at hotels or bars. And, in January 2012, companies will have to take all vehicles off the road if they are more than 7 years old for a sedan or SUV or more than 10 years old for a limousine.

These regulations have nothing to do with public safety. Nashville is stooping to economic protectionism to put affordable car services out of business in favor of more expensive services that happen to have more political power. Many Nashville residents who regularly use limos and sedans will be forced to spend twice as much money for exactly the same service and hard-working sedan drivers will be driven out of business.

The Institute for Justice teamed up with three Nashville entrepreneurs and will file a federal lawsuit today in the U.S District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee to vindicate the right of Nashville's limo and sedan operators to earn an honest living free from excessive government regulation."

Steve Wynn on the State of the Economy

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A History of The Weather Underground

In 1969, a small group of leftist college student radicals announced their intentions to overthrow the U.S. government in opposition to the Vietnam War. This documentary explores the rise and fall of this radical movement as former members speak candidly about the passion that drove them at the time. The film also explores the group in the context of other social movements of the time, featuring interviews with former members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Black Panther Party. The documentary also examines the U.S. government's suppression of dissent during this turbulent era through projects such as COINTELPRO. Using archival footage from the 1960s and 1970s, the film also intersperses recent interviews with high profile ex-Weathermen like Bernardine Dohrn, David Gilbert, Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd and Brian Flanagan, who talk about their involvement in the organization, their experiences, and the trajectory that led them to be placed on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

A Modern-Day Engineering Miracle

Using slow motion video Bill Hammack shows the ingenious engineering design of a pop can stay-on tab. To use the least amount of material it was designed to change, while in motion, from a 2nd to a 1st class lever.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cartoon of the Day: The Debt Hangover

Everything's Amazing But Nobody's Happy

Isn't it amazing how capitalism has allowed technology and prosperity to spread to the masses and yet no one seems happy. When I was a kid the pace innovation seems glacially slow compared to today, but I can remember how thrilled I was to watch color TV for the first time, to see the blue and white uniforms of my beloved Baltimore Colts as they marched down the field to score another touchdown. People today have no clue just how lucky they are. We don't even need to carry cash in our wallets to buy every little thing our heart desires. And maybe there is a downside to this. Because it is so easy to acquire things today, all those tiny, miraculous machines, we have little appreciation of these minor miracles that make up our everyday lives, these inventions that were not even a glimmer of thought in someone's mind twenty or thirty years ago.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Costs of the Tax Code

Narrated by Hiwa Alaghebandian of the American Enterprise Institute, the mini-documentary explains how needless complexity creates an added burden – sort of like a hidden tax that we pay for the supposed privilege of paying taxes.

Two things from the video are worth highlighting.

First, we should make sure to put most of the blame on Congress. As Ms. Alaghebandian notes, the IRS is in the unenviable position of trying to enforce Byzantine tax laws. Yes, there are examples of grotesque IRS abuse, but even the most angelic group of bureaucrats would have a hard time overseeing 70,000-plus pages of laws and regulations (by contrast, the Hong Kong flat tax, which has been in place for more than 60 years, requires less than 200 pages).

Second, we should remember that compliance costs are just the tip of the iceberg. The video also briefly mentions three other costs.

1. The money we send to Washington, which is a direct cost to our pocketbooks and also an indirect cost since the money often is used to finance counterproductive programs that further damage the economy.

2. The budgetary burden of the IRS, which is a staggering $12.5 billion. This is the money we spend to employ an army of tax bureaucrats that is larger than the CIA and FBI combined.

3. The economic burden of the tax system, which measures the lost economic output from a tax system that penalizes productive behavior.


Grouch: How much does it cost to just comply with the United States Tax Code? $338 Billion (more than $1000 per American citizen), not to mention the immense cost in time---the IRS itself estimates that Americans spend 7.6 billion hours a year dealing with the complexities.

I don't think anyone who's filled out a tax return lately would argue that the tax code is too simple or that they'd like to spend more time and money preparing their tax return. I don't hold much hope that there are any politicians in Washington who know how to make things simpler. Every time tax simplification legislation gets passed, the tax code just keeps getting larger and larger, and more and more complex. For grins, I've posted the original 1913 tax forms (that dreaded year that kicked off this lunacy) for the readers to compare to the contortions they have to go through today. Notice the tax rates: 0% on $1 - $19,999, 1% on $20,000 - $49,999, 2% on $50,000 - $74,999, 3% on $75,000 - $99,999, 4% on $100,000 - $249,999, 5% on $250,000 - $499,999, and 6% over $500,000. That looks a lot more like The Land of Opportunity than what I see today.

Baching the Forest

Incredible Pop-out Painter

Incredible pop-out painter ! brought to you by Funny Clips

Andrew Klavan: Behold! Your Public Sector Unions at Work.

Everywhere you turn these days, your public sector unions are hard at work, protesting cutbacks to public sector unions. Andrew Klavan exposes the charming charm of your unionized civil servants.

Friday, April 15, 2011

16 Tons

As a boy I remember helping my grandfather shovel coal down in his coal cellar into the furnace to heat the house. About that time Tennessee Ernie Ford's song 16 Tons was on the radio and I recall singing that song without really understanding the meaning as I shoveled. Luckily, I never had to work in the coal mines to earn a living, but is any of us really free of this kind of servitude when our government is racking up mind-blowing levels of debt, and seems to think the nation's wealth belongs to them rather than the people who actually earn it?

'Patriotic Millionaires' Demand Higher Taxes

As I've said many times on this blog, there is no need for such showboating to show how patriotic you can be, or to force that level of patriotism on others. Anyone in any income category (Warren Buffett and Bill Gates included) can make a non-tax deductible donation to their favorite charity of choice -- the US Government-- at the following address anytime they have cash they don't need:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
Hyattsville, MD 20782

So I don't want to hear any more whining about how people are under-taxed. Time to shut your mouths, get out your checkbooks and take action -- help feed this endless spending machine that is modern-day Washington, DC. But I guarantee you this: no matter how much you donate, Congress will still spend more than it receives no matter how much the revenue increases, and you'll go broke long before the budget is ever balanced.

Inspirational Leadership

Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Creative Disruption: 20 Years of Linux

The Story of Linux

The Origins of Linux - Linus Torvalds

I've used Linux since the late 1990's.  The Linux distributions have improved dramatically over the years to the point that I no longer run anything else on my home computers.  Linux can do anything that windows can do, and most of the time can do it better.  The choices of software applications are simply staggering, and part of the difficulty of using Linux is that there is so much choice and freedom it is hard to choose/customize the optimal configuration.  The power of Linux was on display recently when IBM's Watson, running Suse Linux, defeated the best human Jeopardy players in a week-long tournament.  For newbies and those who want to kick the tires, Linux Mint 10 is probably the best distribution to start with.

My Desktop:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gloom, Boom and Doom

The always interesting Marc Farber discusses how governments use monetary policy to keep the average fellow down.

Quote of the Day: Barack Obama

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. ... Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem.

~ Barack Obama, 2006

Monday, April 11, 2011

Quote of the Day: Robert Samuelson

We in America have created suicidal government; the threatened federal shutdown and stubborn budget deficits are but symptoms. By suicidal, I mean that government has promised more than it can realistically deliver and, as a result, repeatedly disappoints by providing less than people expect or jeopardizing what they already have. But government can't easily correct its excesses, because Americans depend on it for so much that any effort to change the status arouses a firestorm of opposition that virtually ensures defeat. Government's very expansion has brought it into disrepute, paralyzed politics and impeded it from acting in the national interest.

Few Americans realize the extent of their dependency. The Census Bureau reports that in 2009 almost half (46.2 percent) of the 300 million Americans received at least one federal benefit: 46.5 million, Social Security; 42.6 million, Medicare; 42.4 million, Medicaid; 36.1 million, food stamps; 3.2 million, veterans' benefits; 12.4 million, housing subsidies. The Census list doesn't include tax breaks. Counting those, perhaps three-quarters or more of Americans receive some sizable government benefit. For example, about 22 percent of taxpayers benefit from the home mortgage interest deduction and 43 percent from the preferential treatment of employer-provided health insurance, says the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

"Once politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything," writes the eminent political scientist James Q. Wilson in a recent collection of essays ("American Politics, Then and Now"). The concept of "vital national interest" is stretched. We deploy government casually to satisfy any mass desire, correct any perceived social shortcoming or remedy any market deficiency...

~ Robert Samuelson, from Big Government on the Brink
HT: Maggie's Farm

A Conversation with Charlie Munger (U Michigan) - 2010

Feeling Gloomy? Here are The Jive Aces with Bring Me Sunshine

Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Consuelo Mack Interviews Bond Manager Marilyn Cohen

On this week’s Consuelo Mack WealthTrack, bond manager Marilyn Cohen says it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when the bond market implodes. She discusses steps to take now to survive the bond bear market. The Grouch agrees the bond market is going to get ugly sometime in the future, and all that "safe money" is going to come to stark realization things were not so safe.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quote of the Day: P.J. O'Rourke

But I will not pan “Atlas Shrugged.” I don’t have the guts. If you associate with Randians—and I do—saying anything critical about Ayn Rand is almost as scary as saying anything critical to Ayn Rand. What’s more, given how protective Randians are of Rand, I’m not sure she’s dead.

The woman is a force. But, let us not forget, she’s a force for good. Millions of people have read “Atlas Shrugged” and been brought around to common sense, never mind that the author and her characters don’t exhibit much of it. Ayn Rand, perhaps better than anyone in the 20th century, understood that the individual self-seeking we call an evil actually stands in noble contrast to the real evil of self-seeking collectives. (A rather Randian sentence.) It’s easy to make fun of Rand for being a simplistic philosopher, bombastic writer and—I’m just saying—crazy old bat. But the 20th century was no joke. A hundred years, from Bolsheviks to Al Qaeda, were spent proving Ayn Rand right.

~ P.J. O'Rourke, from Atlas Shrugged. And So Did I.

What Dodge and Cox Income is Doing with Derivatives

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Is Paul Ryan the Only Grownup in Washington?

Are you buying into the Ryan plan for a Path to Prosperity? I find myself continually disappointed in the failure of politicians of both parties to take the country's debt problem seriously. Congress and the Administration seemed programmed to do nothing but spend, spend, spend.

The Budget Pie

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely..........

Sunday Verse: Michael Salcman

Dr. Williams Delivers a Baby

Dr. Williams was making his rounds:
one dilapidated house, then another,
powdered oxygen on the aluminum siding,
brown shingles on the roofs.
In between visits, he’d sit in his car
a notebook on his lap and arrange words—
instruments on a surgical tray—
uterine sounds blunt as tire-irons,
scalpels sharper than paper.
Often a cry from within the house
would bring him running past its yard,
past a tomato plant or wheelbarrow or red hen,
things he took in as he sprang
up the porch steps, hoping the family
was already in the parlor, had put the kettle on,
had found clean towels and disinfectant
to swab the wound or welcome the crowning head.
He put down his old-fashioned doctor’s bag,
a satchel peaked like a dormer at both ends,
his initials stamped in gold, long ago faded,
and took off his wool overcoat. Tonight,
he noted the burdened book shelves,
responsible chair, the goose-necked reading lamp,
the desk loaded with papers, writing tools
and a folding pince-nez: the father
was a professor or writer of some degree,
who could afford both coal and electric.
He suspected they were Jewish, the mother
of German ancestry, the father Sephardic—
but had no reason to know. In truth
he had only a cursory familiarity with their tribe
and knew no Hebrew. But the mother’s cry?
Soon, it was going to be soon. He timed her pain
until a dark spot between her labia grew
and it was time to prep and drape her;
then he encouraged the head with a gloved hand
turned the shoulders and delivered the rest.
Dr. Williams told the father it looked like a writer,
this noisy boy, vigorous and exploring.
They would name him Allen.

~ Michael Salcman

Friday, April 1, 2011

Who Says There's No Money in Radio Anymore?

The debate continues to rage in Congress over ways to reduce Federal spending and by how much. One of the smaller ideas on the table is to eliminate the Federal funding of NPR. The thinking goes something like this: why should taxpayer money be used to fund radio stations; let NPR go out and make it on its own in the marketplace since they offer a superior product to for-profit radio stations. It turns out that NPR has been a pretty lucrative gig for many:
Fresh Air host / executive producer Terry Gross: $245,563 in 2008
This American Life host Ira Glass: earned $170,605 in 2008
Morning Edition host Renee Montagne: $405,140
Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep: $356,499
All Things Considered anchor Robert Siegel: $358,653
Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon: $364,465
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is no slouch in the area of compensation either. According to CPB's 2009 tax forms, President and CEO Patricia de Stacy Harrison received $298,884 in reportable compensation and another $70,630 in other compensation from the organization and related organizations that year. But that pales in comparison to the $1.2 million in compensation NPR president emeritus Kevin Klose stuffed in his pockets in 2009.

In 2001, the federal government appropriated $340 million for CPB. Last year it got $420 million. As Congress considers ways to close the $14 trillion deficit, cutting funding for the CPB has even been proposed by President Obama's bipartisan deficit reduction commission. Instead, The President wants to increase CPB's funding to $451 million in his latest budget.

PBS has other sources of income besides the taxpayers. "Sesame Street," for example, made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales from 2003-2006, which along with taxpayer money help pay Sesame Street Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell $956,513 in 2008.

What do you think about about the taxpayer continuing to fund these organizations giving the $14T plus in Federal debt that someone is going to have to pay off sooner or later? Is funding NPR and PBS a vital and legitimate function of government?

Gmail Motion -- The Future of Email?

Google has done it again. When Gmail was originally introduced few years ago, it was a revelation of sorts in terms of services and space it offered, for free. Gmail Motion Beta is Google's yet another attempt at re inventing Email technology. Gmail Motion lets you control Gmail with different body gestures, simple as that. And the best part is, this is not some concept that might be implemented sometime in the future, Gmail Motion is here and you can take the technology for a spin right now!

Gmail Motion - How it Works
Gmail Motion uses your computer's built-in webcam and Google's patented spatial tracking technology to detect your movements and translate them into meaningful characters and commands. Movements are designed to be simple and intuitive for people of all skill levels.

Grouch: I like most of what Google does in developing new technology, especially Google Voice, but I'm more than a little skeptical that this will catch on much past April 1st.