Friday, January 31, 2014

Typhoid Barry

It's a terrible thing to watch a person dissemble. Most of us have witnessed it; it's never pretty. The next-to-end stage is truly shocking - that's where the person is in utter free fall. All previous norms and morals have been jettisoned. He flails through the day in a retro-evolutionary manner which is the strongest argument I've ever seen for Darwin's musings. If presented to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, he'd call her Betty and fart out "God Save the Queen."

President Obama is there.

I've always doubted that Obama possessed a refined set of core principles. That's not intended to be a slap. Obama, to me, defines himself aspirationally: "We need to be there," albeit "there" is an undefined pronoun. He then defines himself - to himself - reflectively: The needs and desires of those in his purview, to the extent aligned with his nebulous aspirational view, become his needs and desires.

  • Aspirational view: "People shouldn't have to worry about paying doctors if they are sick. Getting the best health care is the first priority." 
  • Reflective view: "I can't afford insurance, but I get sick just like everyone else." 
  • Result: "Free health insurance for everyone that can't afford it, funded by mandatory health insurance for those that can afford it." Note - that is, in 20 words, ObamaCare. 
Yet now, President Obama rests in a place within which he cannot thrive: No one is listening to him anymore. He’s become toxic for those running for re-election in his own party. He is now more accurately labeled “Typhoid Barry.”

In some dark way I am sympathetic to his aspirational views. As stated above concerning health care, it is hard to argue against cogently. The problem for Obama is the community that surrounded him throughout his life formed his reflective view. If that community had a different perspective, we might have seen a different outcome:
  • Aspirational view: "People shouldn't have to worry about paying doctors if they are sick. Getting the best health care is the first priority." 
  • Reflective view: "Insurance is expensive. I need to prioritize my spending to afford it, or take the minimal health care provided that I can afford." 
  • Result: "Minimum one hospital per county that must treat any patient that walks in, that hospital cannot ask first for health-insurance information, and that hospital must do all things necessary to stabilize that person's condition." Note - that is, in a few more than 20 words, our current system. 
But, alas, his community was not such. His community wants several things:
  • Free health care. Discussed above. 
  • Forced membership in labor unions. So union leaders sit on top of all the federal labor boards. Federal contracts require prevailing wages and written labor contracts. 
  • Environmental regulations completely untethered to economic concerns. From lightbulbs to drilling permits to coal regs, the costs can only begin to be calculated. And when realized, we'll be too deep to turn back. 
  • Restitution for slavery. They started with Pigford. When, by the way, do I get to line up for what the coal companies did to my family beginning 30 years after slavery ended? 
  • An end to the W Wars and the "cowboy" mentality President Bush brought to international relations. 
We could obviously continue the list. But it serves our purpose. In those five points are the demise of any person that adopts them as his or her guideposts. In order: 

Health care. Ain't nothing free, and the federal government does not earn any money - at best, it is a redistribution mechanism. And we cannot afford to give everyone health care. It is that simple. And every country that has tried it has failed miserably. Obama going all-in here has given his adversaries and fair-wind friends all the deficit ammunition ever needed. His reflective ethics have fallen short of his aspirational goal.

We know why the union focus is there. Membership has plummeted for decades, and the pensions have been raided to fund political donations to democrats. Unions are broke. Bush the Elder required them to provide detailed financial reports on the status of their pensions - before the reports came due, Clinton removed the requirement. W did like dad; Obama did like Bubba. Trace the money the feds gave to GM immediately before the BK filing - it went to the union pensions. This entire situation is nothing short of thievery. Unions are dirty, and Obama must feel cognitive dissonance in the buggery supplicant role. 

Environmentalists are the most fun. They'll stop a logger from downing a renewable resource over a three-inch flying rat, yet will not admit that wind farms are where migratory birds go to die. If you have a wind turbine near you, walk as close as you can safely to view the surrounding ground: It's an Avian Salad Shooter. There's a complete impossibility at work here: One does not switch sources and resources simultaneously. We switch our source first - get it all under our control – modify the power grid. Then we switch resources to wind and so on.

And on this same point, you know why Obama, et al., are going after commodities traders, albeit as quietly as they can? Because long after producers and consumers of large quantities of corn, wheat, etc., created this market to help them minimize revenue and cost risk, the speculators entered. And why not? It's a commodity like any other - prices fluctuate and money can be made (or lost). It's capitalism. Ah, but with speculative commodity traders (by which I mean traders that have no underlining interest in the commodity) came price fluctuations and price increases. And now that the Obama Admin has approved E15 (sticking corn in your gas tank) to appease the Environmentalists, the Admin has an interest in dampening the inflationary impact it will have on corn. "Make less money," the King said to his subjects.

The entire environmental focus is a shell game orchestrated for the benefit of the admiring children. But us adults standing behind them know it's a shell game, and Obama has to be catching on. The Cranial Torque ratchets up a notch.

Concerning Pigford and its potential progeny, there is no basis for economic reparations to a single slice of our citizenry. None. We all suffered and gained to build this country. Every one of us has given and taken. For Obama to claim some right of - as Eric Holder calls them - his people to be given preference over all the other people in this nation simply has no foundation. It's form over function; it's religion without God; it's the Little Rascals without Spanky. It's what causes that subtle eye twitch when Obama raises his left hand; the nerve package pushes his cheek upwards. "Moral demise ahead: Steep incline - Slow Down NOW!"

And the issue that pushes Obama over the edge: The reality of terrorism and despots in a world of effeminate leaders. Has Obama done anything to end hostilities? He pulls back in Iraq, and now Iraq is imploding. He’s not leaving Afghanistan – he’s being kicked out. Libya rages, and you can add several other African countries to the list of open warfare that involves us overtly or covertly. The wonderful deal with Iran is now somehow too secret to tell us about … try it sucks too much. Quit treating us stupidly.

But here’s the real issue with Obama and terrorism: Exhibits 1 and 2 are PFC Manning and Snowden. Both were basically kids that utterly raped the intelligence databases. Kids. One had a USB stick. We have to assume that the adults – true spies working on behalf of China, Russia, et al. – have been bleeding everything those kids got and more for decades. But no one talks about that. Shameful.

The world’s a dangerous place, Barry. Campaigning and governing are so very different, eh? Yet President Obama has not made the switch. Everything is still framed and delivered as a professional agitator on the streets of Chicago trying to get water from stones.

And with the blossoming of ObamaCare into the pocketbooks of millions of voters, the incumbent dems see a new Obama: Typhoid Barry.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

and the winner is ...

it dawned on me that the best thing before sliced bread had to be unsliced bread.  just because something becomes sliced and changes in no other function doesn't thereafter enter it into the Best Thing Since Hall of Fame.  it had to be there before, too.  so, we're left with - What was the best thing before bread?

i guess we can get some insight from that great black hole of unsubstantiated fact, wikipedia: The earliest archaeological evidence for flour, which was likely processed into an unleavened bread, dates to the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe, around 30,000 years ago.  which raises the issue of sliced bread - i doubt slicing unleavened bread is what is so profound.  it had to be leavened bread for which slicing became something to admire.

the plot thickens.  again, the same wikipedia link: Although leavening is likely of prehistoric origin, the earliest archaeological evidence is from ancient Egypt. Scanning electron microscopy has detected yeast cells in some ancient Egyptian loaves. However, ancient Egyptian bread was made from emmer wheat and has a dense crumb. In cases where yeast cells are not visible, it is difficult, by visual examination, to determine whether the bread was leavened. As a result, the extent to which bread was leavened in ancient Egypt remains uncertain. 

ok, then, we learn nothing.  let's try this: Pliny the Elder reported that the Gauls and Iberians used the foam skimmed from beer to produce "a lighter kind of bread than other peoples.

pliny?  ayep.  read here.  life was kinda boring, but that takes us back to 50AD or so.

now, the best thing since leavened bread?  take your pick:

1st century: Buttress dam in Roman Empire

1st century BC: Segmental arch bridge (e.g. Pont-Saint-Martin or Ponte San Lorenzo) in Italy, Roman Republic. Arch dam (Glanum Dam) in Gallia Narbonensis, Roman Republic.  150 BC Astrolabe invented in the Hellenistic world. Before 71 BC (possibly 3rd century BC): Watermill (grain mill) by Greek engineers in Eastern Mediterranean (see also List of ancient watermills) 

2nd century BC: The earliest fore-and-aft rigs, spritsails, appeared in the 2nd century BC in the Aegean Sea on small Greek craft. Here a spritsail used on a Roman merchant ship (3rd century AD).  Finery forge in Han Dynasty China, finery forges were used to make wrought iron at least by the 2nd century BC in ancient China, based on the archaeological findings of cast and pig iron fined into wrought iron and steel found at the early Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) site at Tieshengguo. 2nd century BC: Paper in Han Dynasty China: Although it is recorded that the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) court eunuch Cai Lun (born c. 50 – AD 121) invented the pulp papermaking process and established the use of new raw materials used in making paper, ancient padding and wrapping paper artifacts dating to the 2nd century BC have been found in China, the oldest example of pulp papermaking being a map from Fangmatan, Gansu. 

 3rd century BC: An illustration depicting the papermaking process in Han Dynasty China. Early 3rd century BC: Canal lock (possibly pound lock) in Ancient Suez Canal under Ptolemy II (283–246 BC) in Hellenistic Egypt.  3rd century BC: Valve Tower Sluice in Sri Lanka.  3rd century BC: Water wheel in Hellenistic kingdoms described by Philo of Byzantium (c. 280 – 220 BC). 3rd century BC:Blast furnace using Monsoon winds in Sri Lanka. Earliest example from the 3rd century BC, although most sites date from 1st millennium AD.  3rd - 2nd century BC: Blast furnace in Ancient China: The earliest discovered blast furnaces in China date to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, although most sites are from the later Han Dynasty. After 205 BC: Dry dock some time after Ptolemy IV (221–205 BC) in Hellenistic Egypt.

hunh ... so much from which to choose!  of course, the grain mill stays with the bread theme, but that's not necessary.  i'm rather fond of pulp papermaking, but then the blast furnace has to rank up there.  i can't pick.

wait.  won't cop out.  ok, i'll drift a bit further back:  5th - 4th century BC: Traction trebuchet in Ancient China between 5th - 4th century BC, appeared in the Mediterranean by the 6th century AD.

there. the best thing before sliced bread was leavened bread.  the best thing before leavened bread was the traction trebuchet.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

salmon anyone?

so i'm going through some websites last night ... the street dot com is a recent favorite ... and i happen upon some articles that carry on what i was discussing yesterday vis-a-vis sears - shld - and whew!  here and here and here.

now, i just so happen to agree with rocco, but, man, does he have the filleting knife at the ready:  If You Work For Sears, Quit and Find a New Job, NOW; Sears Doesn't Deserve Respect; and Sears Treats Consumers Like They're Total Idiots.

quit your job then find a new one.  Just. Get. Out. While. You. Can.  it's like when a person awakes to a home engulfed in flames.  find the exit - screw the Renoir.  and i love the "total" modifying "idiots."  it has a certain "let's be clear here" flavor.  sears executive management has got to be in whatever comes after crisis mode.

ok, so i'm thinking about this.  sears is toast, let's assume, because it found a niche in the marketplace and set up camp.  as the marketplace changed, they awoke one morning to find only their tent left standing and the fire dowsed with old coffee.  as they peered into the distance, they could see their former customers happily walking into walmart, macy's, etc.

let me stop here for a second.  i actually went to sears a few times last year.  my son needed some funky tool.  "sears has stupid shit.  let's go there."  we actually found something that worked, but i learned as we strolled the aisles that craftsman tools are now made in china.  "they're crap," my son said. "made by communists, prisoners, or both," i said echoing my long-gone father.  so i pay for the whatever, and the clerk gives me a coupon that printed with my receipt.  it was some amount off a future purchase in some other department.  same thing happened when i bought some dumbbells there.  future purchase, different department.

so i can't get what i want a future trip to sears.  i have to find something in some department i never shopped in before.  but, ah, i beat the system on one purchase.  the clerk was cheerful at checkout so i asked, "you wouldn't happen to have any coupons for this, would you?"  i felt like i was showing a stranger my empty weed bowl to scrounge a small bud.  well, she did and i used it.

but one thing did strike me, and it's relevant here:  when i found that tool with my boy, i knew precisely where to go to find a check out.  i knew because i grew up 60 or so miles north during the 1960s - and the floor plan hasn't changed.  sears has never made the leap from DOS to Windows; the entire store bleeds the C prompt.  of course people stopped buying there - if you put a new shirt on the same mannequin that greets you disturbingly on the left as you enter the store, the shirt fades into the background.  the linoleum walkways and the carpeted sections are identical.  if someone wants something new, they go to someplace new - or at least a place that feels new or different or whatever.  sears looks and smells the same way today as it did decades ago.

so all these stores that used to cater to the middle class are going to die.  that's a lot of square footage.  our local mall is literally 70% empty. yes, it has a sears. the mall was just purchased.  we all expect a group of outlets to come in.  even if the prices are only told to us to be fabulously off retail, we'll shop there.

anyway ...

i just got some email reminding me that obamacare individual mandate went into effect january 1.  yeah, ok.  i'm fine, thank you.  i'll pay the fine.

i'm hungry.  pulled this out of my recipes - Citrus Balsamic Glazed Salmon

1-1/2 pounds salmon fillets, 3/4-inch thick
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 (14-ounce) can seasoned vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rub salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon in 2-quart shallow baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Whisk balsamic vinegar, cornstarch, orange juice and brown sugar in medium saucepan. Add stock and heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring until the mixture thickens. Arrange salmon on serving platter and serve with sauce. If you want, put sauce on salmon then return to oven under broiler but watch closely.

sounds good.

alright - gotta focus.

Monday, January 13, 2014

chest wound

thinking through some of the revelations of the weekend.  how very interesting the cruelness of some people can be.  when money is perceived to be on the table, people unmask their demons.  pathetic, it is, in so many ways.  good-earned money becomes drenched in blood.  i walked for more good reasons than i knew.  new knowledge; new responsibilities.

the numbers on this page amaze me.  the last time i was in a theater was Christmas week 2009.  clearly, other people still go on a regular basis.  i'd like to see data on the demographics.  oh!  here's some data.  they call them popcorn people.  makes sense.  i'm not sure to literally interpret this line - 6.8 movies per person on average - but it's something.  maybe for the person that goes to the movies, they go on average 6.8 times a year.  but how many people don't go?  ah, here we go: More than two-thirds of the U.S./Canada population (68%) – or 225 million people – went to the movies at least once in 2012, consistent with prior years. Ticket sales continue to be driven by frequent moviegoers who attend once a month or more. In 2012, frequent moviegoers represented 13% of the population and 57% of all movie tickets, an increase of 7 percentage points in ticket share from 2011, at the expense of occasional moviegoer ticket share. This suggests that the increase in ticket sales in 2012 was among moviegoers who increased their attendance from less than once a month, to once a month or more.  so, i'm part of the one-third that don't go at all.  out of ten people, about 3 don't go at all, 1 goes at least once a month, and the remaining 6 go anywhere from once to three times a year.  sounds about right.  one person out of ten has issues.  hunh ... there's almost 40,000 screens in america that kicked out almost $11B in ticket sales in 2012.  overseas is more than three times as much revenue.  still, it seems like a lot of effort when most of the product just sucks.

i'm amazed to watch the common stock of sears and jcpenney waste away like a couple of unmedicated cancer patients.  so many stores, so much debt, no growth.  i've often thought that facebook was a silly investment because they've got everything in one place.  if a new social network arises that harnesses the cool factor, facebook could see its user base evaporate in a matter of months.  but now it seems that these two retail dinosaurs have lost their user base.  it's sad, but look at jcp's numbers:   revenue shrank by a third in five years; they lost a BILLION dollars in 2013; their current assets are almost halved in five years; they got almost $3B in long-term debt; and their cash flow is hemorrhaging.  sears lost a billion last year and is selling off assets to make some bottom lines something above anemic.  interesting enough, analysts think sears is going to drop from current $36 a share down to $20, while jcp is going to increase from $6.80 to almost $9.00.  part of that could be ownership - sears is owned by a hedge-fund guy that is going to strip it like a boosted car; jcp is trying to rebuild.  if i were a gambling man, i'd let jcp get beat up a little bit longer then buy.  look at net book value.  yeah, i know, that's been tanking, too, but there just isn't much left to carve away.  sears, on the other hand, has a nbv of $17.60.  both of those charts kinda help the analyst numbers to make sense.  ok, short sears, buy jcp at $6.20 or less.  got it?  of course, before you put any money in, find a hacker that will tap into the companies' email servers so you can learn if they are talking with bankruptcy counsel.  that would be a smart move.  well, from an investment perspective.  not so much from a legal perspective.  i've had a penchant for rite aid for several months ... it's a buy and hold.  two-year run probably.

waiting on a meeting.  yawn ... would like to head home to relax.  didn't sleep well.  was up several times throughout the night.  ahh, here!  post this, meet, gone ...

Friday, January 10, 2014

filling in gaps

i'll write throughout the day when gaps allow ...

one and only mention:  my mom's circling the drain.  

over on the WSJ's Marketplace site, some guy named Darrell Delamaide wrote this sentence:  Far from being a bold agent of change or the transformational president he has consulted with presidential historians about being, Obama has as a result presided over a rudderless, ineffectual economic policy that falls far short of progressive priorities of reducing unemployment and improving the lot of the working class.  he's my literary hero.  inside a sentence stating his opinion, he tucked a dependent clause that cut like shears through silk.  outstanding work.  here's the link.

global warming update:  The Coast Guard said it was the earliest the ice had frozen here [the Great Lakes] since the 1930s.  hunh.  i bought and stacked another cord of wood last night.

report reads that about 4 in 10 american households have at least one gun.  let's see ... assume that 1 in 10 households are criminals.  that leaves a 2 out of 3 chance that an armed burglary will be met with "please don't hurt me" rather than the sweet smell of gunpowder.  no wonder crime continues.  my house?  trained shooters and weapons from three directions.  best of luck.

ouch:  More terrible economic news hit the struggling American people today when the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that only 74,000 jobs were created in December, the fewest number in five years. The unemployment rate dropped from 7% to 6.7%, but that is due only to the disheartening fact that 525,000 of the unemployed stopped looking for work. As a result, the labor force participation rate dropped to its lowest point since 1978. comparing obama to jimmy carter is highly insulting to mr. carter.

use gmail?  go to settings (the gear looking thing close to the top on the right).  read through the first page. see this? "Email via Google+:"  change the drop-down box to read "No one" then go to the bottom of the page to save the change.  fricking idiot google.  leaving this wondrous new feature at the default will allow just about anyone to type only your name and be able to send you an email even if you never communicated with them, never wanted to, and never gave them your e-address.

"polar vortex" sounds so cool as the reason for the northern cold snap.  people can't stop using the phrase.  the problem, i understand, is that the polar vortex has nothing to do with it.  the jet stream has slowed for a bit thus allowing the cold air to drop south. gotta love catchy phrases, though.

need to git!