31 May 2009

Love Gone Cold

General Motors will declare bankruptcy tomorrow.

Author P.J. O'Rourke laments the end of a long love affair. It's a good read. Here's an excerpt.

America’s romantic foolishness with cars is finished, however, or nearly so. In the far boondocks a few good old boys haven’t got the memo and still tear up the back roads. Doubtless the Obama administration’s Department of Transportation is even now calculating a way to tap federal stimulus funds for mandatory OnStar installations to locate and subdue these reprobates.
Among certain youths—often first-generation Americans—there remains a vestigial fondness for Chevelle low-riders or Honda “tuners.” The pointy-headed busybodies have yet to enfold these youngsters in the iron-clad conformity of cultural diversity’s embrace. Soon the kids will be expressing their creative energy in a more constructive way, planting bok choy in community gardens and decorating homeless shelters with murals of Che.
I myself have something old-school under a tarp in the basement garage. I bet when my will has been probated, some child of mine will yank the dust cover and use the proceeds of the eBay sale to buy a mountain bike. Four things greater than all things are, and I’m pretty sure one of them isn’t bicycles. There are those of us who have had the good fortune to meet with strength and beauty, with majestic force in which we were willing to trust our lives. Then a day comes, that strength and beauty fails, and a man does what a man has to do. I’m going downstairs to put a bullet in a V-8.

When Stimulus is a Downer

Arnold Kling provides an analysis of how the stimulus has affected the economy thus far, as well as what he expects.

He's not a fan.

30 May 2009

Awesome Video Saturday XCIII

I don't know what to think of this adaptation. I read The Road and was moved and disturbed by it. It felt utterly real, both as a description of what that kind of future would be like, and for how different people would choose to behave. There are some indelible images in my head from this film.

Since becoming a father there are a few novels that have deeply impacted me. This was one of them. I don't know if the movie could retain that. If not, if they chose to separate the two, then it could work, as a stand-alone piece. I probably won't watch this, but I wanted to post the trailer.

27 May 2009

Cheney on the Prowl

One of the more interesting political happenings in recent months has been the doggedness of former Vice-President Dick Cheney in attacking the national security policies of the Obama Administration.

This is a man with no race to run and no real legacy to protect. The Wall Street Journal's William McGurn makes a good point in this lengthy excerpt (emphasis added):

...Back in those heady days after the 2008 election, anyone who suggested that Mr. Obama might find himself playing defense to Dick Cheney on Guantanamo would have been hauled off as barking mad. Yet that's exactly what Mr. Cheney has pulled off, leaving a desperate White House to try to drown him out by adding an Obama speech the same day Mr. Cheney was slated to address the American Enterprise Institute.
Of course, the effect was just the opposite. The White House reaction ended up elevating Mr. Cheney to Mr. Obama's level, and ensuring that his words would be measured directly against the president's. Like him or loathe him, Mr. Cheney forced the president to engage him.
For much of the Beltway, the Cheney surge is baffling. After all, when Mr. Cheney left office, his reputation seemed divided between those who thought him a punch line on late-night TV and those who thought him a war criminal. As so often happens, however, the conventional wisdom seems to have blinded Mr. Cheney's ideological opponents to the many advantages he brings to the table.
First is his consistency. The case he is making now is the same case he has been making for the past seven years. Even people who disagree with that case would have to concede its coherence, resting as it does on the notion that the United States is at war with terrorists and must react as a nation at war.
By contrast, Mr. Obama's war policies are increasingly incoherent. As a candidate, he excoriated the Bush approach to terror root and branch. As president, however, he has adopted some of the Bush policies, flip-flopped to the Bush side on others, and found himself at odds with his own party on closing down Guantanamo.
His speech on Thursday reflected these contradictions, at once reassuring the antiwar left that the Bush antiterror policies have been fully repudiated while trying to signal everyone else that he has retained most of their substance.
Second, Mr. Cheney is engaging Mr. Obama on an issue where Democrats have traditionally found themselves on the defensive: national security. Understandably, Mr. Obama's supporters are enraged when Mr. Cheney says the new president is unraveling "some of the very policies that have kept our people safe since 9/11."
But let's remember that Mr. Obama has been making much the same attack on the Bush administration. Indeed, the president repeated these attacks on Thursday, saying that the Bush policies on Guantanamo and enhanced interrogation have created more terrorists, betrayed our ideals and made America less safe. In many ways, Mr. Cheney's attacks on Mr. Obama's war policies are simply an example of what goes around comes around.
Finally, and perhaps most important, when your approval ratings are as low as Mr. Cheney's, you have nothing to lose by saying what you think -- and your ratings have nowhere to go but up. And that's just what is happening. A new CNN/Opinion Research survey released the same day as Mr. Cheney's speech showed his approval ratings at 37% -- up eight points since he left office.
In his remarks at the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Cheney noted that serving as a vice president with no desire for the Oval Office left him free from many of the usual distractions of political ambition. "Today," he told the crowd, "I'm an even freer man . . . a career in politics behind me, no elections to win or lose, and no favor to seek."
It's an interesting if unexpected turn of events. As someone who was largely comfortable with the National Security regime during the Bush Administration, I must say that I enjoy it.

Those who dismiss Cheney without paying attention to the substance of his arguments are making a mistake.

Hasta luego Sr. Taxman

What is the potential outcome of high progressive tax rates for upper income earners? In Maryland it is a 33% decline in the number of those taxpayers, and less government revenue than the pre-tax scenario.

Excessive tax rates chase wealth away and has a negative impact on government revenue. Obama take heed.

26 May 2009

Sotomayor

The confirmation of Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor seems a foregone conclusion. Republicans will make a stink, but barring unforeseen roadbumps not uncovered during two previous confirmation hearings, they will be unable to muster sufficient opposition to defeat a confirmation vote. As I mentioned before, I hope they do not block the confirmation on procedural grounds.

What kind of judge will she be? A liberal, but how liberal? The confirmation hearing probably won't tell us much, and her prior record may not portend high court votes.

As this interesting piece from Forbes discusses, there will be some discussion of her views toward business, past reversals, and affirmative action. I'm resigned to the outcome.

25 May 2009

Memorial

Today's holiday stems from the ugly necessity of war. I was fascinated by this article about General Curtis LeMay, the man responsible for more civilian deaths than any other American. His life and career are instructive in our time as well.

He made tough choices in a difficult time; one that we would have trouble relating to.

He was not the first and will not be the last. What is heroism? Doing the difficult, but correct thing, regardless of the circumstances. Heroism is not unique to the United States, but we honor and revere those who have fought for this country, and we remember and memorialize those that have died in it's service.

As one who has not served in uniform I express my deep appreciation to our active-duty servicemen and women, our veterans, and their loved ones.

Happy Memorial Day!

24 May 2009

To Disagree IV

This is more on Obama's criticism of those Chrysler debtholders that did not want to accept the government's proposed restructuring of the carmaker.

The implications of the governments abrogation of long-respected bankruptcy law will be felt in coming months and years.

More on the issue, from The Economist-

The collapse of Detroit’s giants is a tragedy, affecting tens of thousands of
current and former workers. But the best way to offer them support is directly,
not by gerrymandering the rules. The investors in these firms are easily
portrayed as vultures, but many are entrusted with the savings of ordinary
people, and in any case all have a legal claim that entitles them to due
process. In a crisis it is easy to put politics first, but if lenders fear their
rights will be abused, other firms will find it more expensive to borrow,
especially if they have unionised workforces that are seen to be friendly with
the government.

Word.

Enjoy your Holiday

If you plan to grill, do it right:

23 May 2009

Awesome Video Saturday XCII

My brother posted this on Facebook. I look forward to many of these.

17 May 2009

The Future of Space

The future of the Space Program is discussed in this article, especially as it relates to the Shuttle Program. The Space Shuttle is ancient technology, and its long-needed replaced is years from effective use. Read the article for an idea of what this means.

This is a great picture of the Space Shuttle silhouetted by the sun.


16 May 2009

Awesome Video Saturday XCI

Don't watch this if you don't like awesomeness or hate clowns.

14 May 2009

SPOTD #153

We're going on a little trip later today, but I have some posts in the queue, so never fear.

Today's Phrase:
From pioneering industrialist Henry Ford.

Actual
El fracaso es una oportunidad de empezar de nuevo, de manera mas inteligente.

Phonetic with emphasis on bold syllable
Ell frah-cah-so ess oo-nah ah-pore-too-nee-dahd day em-pay-sar day nway-vo, day mah-nair-ah mahs een-tay-lee-hen-tay.

Translation
Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently


Movies
We saw Star Trek. I liked it. More here.

Tracking
Michael Yon is a self and reader-financed journalist who has become well known for dispatches from Afghanistan and Iraq. He has been writing about a tracking school in Borneo and it is fascinating. Soldiers from friendly armies all over the world go to this school to learn both urban and jungle/forest tracking. Good stuff.


I Wonder What's in Here?
This is a helpful article from the Wall Street Journal's health columnist on supposedly healthy foods.

Lava Livin'
There is a huge underwater volcano that has led to adaptations in sea life that are new to many scientists. Pretty cool.

Kryptos
There is a sculpture at the CIA headquarters in Virginia called Kryptos. It contains a code that has not been decyphered in the almost 20 years since the sculpture was dedicated. This is an interesting story about it from Wired.

Conspiring Minds
The internet has made it easier for conspiracy nuts to disseminate theories and ideas. This article helps explain how.

Link of the Day
Although the Swine Flu fears have subsided, authorities have produced a simple test at Do I have Swine Flu? It never hurts to be certain.

13 May 2009

Conspiratorial Obfuscation

I primarily posted this because I like the title I came up with.

This post from Ann Althouse digs a little into the New York flyover story (some foul language), and why the pictures released by the White House don't really fit the story they provided. Until we know who was on the plane it will be hard to know what the real story was, if it is indeed something other than what we've been told.

Camille Paglia has been quite critical of the political missteps of the Obama administration. She thinks Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs should have been fired for his handling of the incident. I don't know about that, but I do think that he is a smarmy guy and not very effective.

11 May 2009

To Disagree III

This is a timeline of how the government worked on holders of secured Chrysler debt.

As I've mentioned here and here, I'm uncomfortable with the government's lack of respect for bondholders. It will have a negative impact on the ability of companies to raise debt capital.

UPDATE

This is a great article on the Chrysler situation, specifically the legal implications of what the government has proposed in the bankruptcy,

10 May 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I have a wonderful mom, wonderful mother-in-law, wonderful grandmothers, and wonderful sisters.

Most important, I have a beautiful and compassionate wife, who has brought two precious children into our lives and who works so hard for their welfare and mine.

I am a blessed man.

Happy Mother's Day!

Nerd Alert

You could say that I was a lapsed Trekkie. I watched some of the Original Series as a kid, but was a devoted follower of the Next Generation. Later iterations were less interesting to me, though Deep Space Nine was pretty good. I was very excited to see the new movie, happy to see the good reviews, and after watching it I am generally very happy.

Star Trek was dead. After the last show failed to gain traction I didn't expect anything else to come along. I heard about the remake, and thought, what could it hurt? I couldn't figure out how they were going to do it, but the final product is both faithful to the original mythology while opening up a completely new realm of possibility. I don't want to get spoilery here.

The movie had a great opening weekend, much stronger than any other Trek film has done. This bodes well for the future. Most impressively, my sci-fi disdaining better half enjoyed it a lot.

Popular Mechanics took a look at some of the physics of the film. It could have been worse.

09 May 2009

A Free Market

Innovation and creativity are alive and well, especially in Apple's AppStore.

Check out this humorous video on some of the more unusual apps available there.

Awesome Video Saturday XC

This is a really cool video. Apparently this group, Playing for Change, travels around and records different street performers playing songs and then mixes them together. It's pretty cool.



It's meant to promote peace across borders and cultures.

08 May 2009

Trekkin Tonight

We're going to the 8pm showing of Star Trek. I'm very excited.

I thought this was hilarious-


06 May 2009

To Disagree II

I was happy to see someone in the hedge fund industry respond to the President's bullying.

I hope some of the administrations actions are challenged legally.

05 May 2009

Cinco de Cuatro

Just in case the President is confused, this is the truth about Cinco de Mayo.

04 May 2009

Adios Life

So Life is done. Bummer. It really was a good show. At least the last episode was solid.

I agree with this guy.

RIP Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp passed away over the weekend. He was a great ambassador for Reagan-era conservatism. He articulated the core values of the philosophy, which is the greatest failing of the current Republican Party.

Here is a nice remembrance in the Wall Street Journal and some excerpts from Op-Eds writtem by him that appeared there. Here is a favorite of mine:

In my opinion, people of all colors and income levels don't hate the rich. They want to get rich. They're more interested in generating wealth than they are in redistributing wealth. They want to own property, educate their children and build a nest egg that can be passed on to their heirs. Unfortunately, some aren't able to access the same ladder of opportunity that is so readily available to the majority. . . .
By giving people access to capital and allowing them to take ownership of assets, entrepreneurship will be encouraged and the cycle of poverty can begin to be broken. All persons should have the opportunity to go as high as their merit and determination can carry them. My favorite quote is from Abraham Lincoln, who said, "I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good. So while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else."
Lincoln's definition of entrepreneurial capitalism is the best I have ever heard.
I like it too.

03 May 2009

Out-Google Google?

The UK Independent has an interesting article about a more intelligent software, capable of responding more intelligently to queries. It may be years before it rivals Google to the average consumer, but it is a pretty impressive prospect.

02 May 2009

TV'd

We've arrived at the point in the television season when shows are cancelled or renewed. This season has been especially cruel. Battlestar Galactica ended its run. Pushing Daisies was cancelled. Life and The Unit seem likely to be cancelled. Chuck has a chance.

What does this mean? Hopefully that I'll watch less TV. I'm not interested in Jay Leno's new show. The only comedies I really love are The Office and 30 Rock. Less would definitely be better.

I'm most disappointed to see Life go off the air. It is an unusual show, and the last episode provided some closure, but not quite enough for a fan like me. Plus Charlie Crews, the main character, drives a sweet Buick Grand National. My dad owned one in the late 1980's. It was a special car.

Awesome Video Saturday LXXXIX

5 Awesome Minutes:

01 May 2009

The Game Happened There

The Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls played a fantastic game last night, a triple-overtime Game 6 match-up. I don't watch that much basketball anymore, but I enjoy the playoffs and root for the Heat. I did grow up a fan of the Bulls, owing to my mom's devotion for Michael Jordan. Given the likelihood of a Heat loss tonight, I am hoping that the Bulls can take this series. I always pull for the East team in the Finals (except for the Pistons), so to have Chicago in there, a young and exciting team and the team of my youth, would be perfect.

After Game 2 of the series, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons predicted that this could be a series for the ages. He was right. He also predicted that Boston's previous experience in the playoffs would be the determinant. We'll find out tomorrow.

For more on why this has been such a great series, check out this piece by SI.com's Ian Thomsen.