WC Varones

Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools

Denied

After yesterday's post, I received the following email from the Journal:

Dear Old Zeke,
We reviewed your post unfortunately were not hiring.
Regards,
Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

If Employment Were My Thing...

...I'd sign up to be a copy editor at the Wall Street Journal. These are probably the brightest people on earth who still completely botch grammar, spelling and semicolon usage.

The op-eds can almost be counted on for two or three flubs a day. Yesterday, a column on Tom Cruise alternated between "morals clause" and "moral clauses"; today we learn that "Mr. Cruise's talent managers at CAA are threatening to withhold their clients, who include Brad Pitt Steven and Spielberg."

I bring this up because the Journal is otherwise the finest paper in the land. I understand deadline pressure. But it's still frustrating to have these sanctimonious Ivy Leaguers talk about "people who spend too much time in front of their computer."

What is it--their big collective computer? How about "their computers," or even "the computer"?

Some time ago I noticed a ridiculous typo in a letter from Eliot Spitzer. I assumed the Journal left it unfixed to spite Mr. Spitzer; these days I'm inclined to think it's just plain laziness...

Vacation time

No posts from me until Labor Day. I hope Old Zeke, Keith, and L-I-A-H-C will fill in.

WSJ agrees: Greenspan sucks!

I've been saying for quite some time that Alan Greenspan was a horrible Fed chief. Now the Wall Street Journal is starting to agree. On the causes of the currently bursting housing bubble ($):


But the biggest single cause was Federal Reserve policy in the wake of September 11 and the collapse of the dot-com bubble. With business investment and confidence imploding, the Fed made a bet on the consumer to keep the economy afloat. Former Chairman Alan Greenspan and his mates drove short-term interest rates down to 1% and kept them there for a remarkable 12 months. Even when the Fed started to move rates up again, it did so at a slow and too deliberate pace.

The strategy worked in the early going, as the housing market remained strong and the mighty American consumer kept on spending despite terrorism fears, a war and weak job creation in the early years of the decade. The 2001 recession was one of the mildest on record. The trouble arose as the Fed maintained its easy money policy into 2004 and 2005, well past the time the Bush tax cuts of 2003 had helped to revive corporate spending and investment incentives.

One result is what now looks to have been a classic asset inflation in housing values. Mr. Greenspan never got around to using the word "bubble" himself, preferring the more elegant "a little froth." But that's about as close as any Fed chief gets to conceding a mistake. We agree that as a rule the Fed shouldn't target asset prices (housing, stocks) as it makes monetary policy; its core job is maintaining an overall stable price level. However, when housing prices climb as rapidly as they did in late 2004 and throughout 2005, something more than rational exuberance is going on. At one point, some 10% of all home purchases were estimated to have been for "investment" reasons, not for an actual residence.

This speculative buying was bound to break as the Fed eventually corrected its easy-money mistake. The current slump is in part the product of that correction, and it seems likely to continue for some time as the Fed's interest rate increases have an impact. For many Americans whose monthly mortgage payments are now rising, or who still hope to sell at last year's prices, this may be painful.

...

The housing slide is already leading to the inevitable calls for the Fed to reverse course immediately and cut rates once again. But this is precisely the wrong lesson to learn from the housing market rise and fall. The Fed's mistake was staying too easy for too long. Re-establishing the Fed's anti-inflation bona fides would help the entire economy, including the housing market.

A momentary flash of reason

It's rare that you read an editorial in the LA Times that displays a little common sense. It's even rarer to see one attacking liberal Democrats. Well, the unthinkable happened today as Wal-Mart pointed out how elitist, out of touch, and stupid the Democrats are to attack Wal-Mart:
The gusto with which even moderate Democrats are bashing Wal-Mart is bound to backfire. Not only does it take the party back to the pre-Clinton era, when Democrats were perceived as reflexively anti-business, it manages to make Democrats seem like out-of-touch elitists to the millions of Americans who work and shop at Wal-Mart.

One reason the Democrats may have a tin ear on this subject is demographic. Certainly most of the party's urban liberal activists are far removed from the Wal-Mart phenomenon. The retailer has thrived mainly in small towns and exurbs, which is one reason a Zogby poll found that three-quarters of weekly Wal-Mart shoppers voted for President Bush in 2004, and why 8 out of 10 people who have never shopped at Wal-Mart voted for John Kerry. Denouncing the retailer may make sense if the goal is to woo primary activists, but it's a disastrous way to reach out to the general electorate. Or to govern, for that matter.

Next up: A device called "Ipod"

Tonight's BBC World News featured a story about Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, and his plan to turn his state's coal deposits into motor fuel.

In closing: "But no matter how it turns out, you heard about him here first."

Sure, unless you're one of those ninnies who read the Wall Street Journal a long, long time ago.

Worst of both worlds

What are we to make of Joe Lieberman, the man who swears he's a Democrat and yet digs the Iraq War?

"Well I may be ugly, but I sure can't dance..."

Megamarketing

In the print edition of today's Wall Street Journal, an ad entices readers to "Timeshare a Luxurious 80' MegaYacht."

And you can dock it in front of your luxurious 2000 sq. ft. megamansion...

Bob Dylan: "I'm a prick."

I hope it's the technology--and not the artists--he's commenting on:

"I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past twenty years, really."

Germans shocked appeasement doesn't work

Like Jews boarding trains for the concentration camps, Germans thought if they just didn't anger the Islamofascists, they'd be OK:

"I am shocked," said Jürgen Lesch, 56, a Dresden software developer. "Now it looks like terrorism has reached us, as well."

Germany's refusal to take part in the U.S.-led war in Iraq once had Germans thinking Islamic terrorists would focus elsewhere, said Lesch's wife,Marita, 52, a teacher. "We didn't fight in Iraq, and until now we assumed that if we behaved well in the world, nothing would happen to us," she said.

That's no way to refer to Hindu government employees

Federal DOT Head Tours Alaska Oil Field

Right Place caption contest

These are always fun. Write your own caption for this pic:



Here's mine:

An heir to the fortune of one of the founders of J.P. Morgan, Ned Lamont was visibly uncomfortable having only two people waiting on him hand and foot.

Your U.N. at work

They are still molesting children:
The United Nations is investigating a suspected child prostitution ring involving its peacekeepers and government soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N. mission said on Thursday.
A more cynical man than I might suppose that the U.N. intentionally leaked the story so that the French would want to sign up for duty.

Going to war without France...

France reneges on promise to lead UN force in Lebanon. Instead of thousands of troops, it will send only 200.

"What are zey going to do?" said French President Jacques Chirac. "Zey are a bunch of -- how you say -- poosies in baby blue hats. Even we Frenchies are not afraid of zem."

Ned Lamont, self-made man

Ned Lamont is pretty deceptive when he describes his start in business like this:

In 1984, with a loan from People's Bank, I started Campus TeleVideo from scratch. Our offer was unique: Rather than provide a one-size-fits-all menu of channels, we let the customers design their cable system based on the character of the community being served.
Yes, Ned Lamont, self-made man who started with a loan from a local bank. Oops, did he forget to mention he's an heir of one of the founders of J.P. Morgan????

George Allen

What a jackass. It probably won’t hurt the Virginia Senate race, because people there know him already.

As for his '08 Presidential hopes, it's a pretty bad first impression on the national scene.

Randi Rhodes is a raving idiot

On the way home today I switched the radio over to the local Air America station, and heard some woman ranting about how terrible it was for President Bush to use the term "Islamofascists." I think the term President Bush used was actually "Islamic fascists," not "Islamofascists," but that's beside the point.

The woman had two points, both of them asinine:

1) Referring to terrorists by their religion, Islam, is a slur against all Muslims.
Wrong, of course. An elementary school student could explain the simple logic that the statement that some followers of Islam are fascists does not imply anything about all followers of Islam.


2) These terrorists shouldn't be called "Islamic fascists" because Hitler wasn't called a "Christian fascist."
Calling Hitler a "Christian fascist" would have been misleading. Of all the beliefs, lusts, and dementias that drove Hitler, Christianity wasn't in the top 10. Islamic fascists, on the other hand, are driven by their fanatical religious beliefs. They kill "infidels," they want to impose fascist Islamic Shariah law, and their faith tells them they'll get 72 virgins as a reward for their murderous acts. You'd have to be pretty stupid not to see the difference.

When I got home I looked up the radio schedule to find out who this idiot was. It's Randi Rhodes, supposedly one of Air America's top draws.

Liberals against copyrights

Free love. Free health care. Free Mumia. Everything should be free, man.

Free newspaper columns, too. The man is trying to keep you down and dumb if he doesn't let you read everything for free. That's the premise behind Common Dreams, a liberal content-stealing site that republishes columns without compensating the newspaper or the author. They hide behind a twisted and exceedingly broad interpretation of the "Fair Use" exemption in copyright law.

The problem? When people rip off their columns, newspapers are not generating ad revenue from their own web sites. That makes it hard to pay the people who write the columns in the first place. Liberal San Francisco Chronicle columnist Harley Sorensen was terminated in 2005, and his editor blamed the theft of his columns by sites like Common Dreams.

Now the same thing is happening to the New York Times. Its TimesSelect program hides the opinions of its columnists behind a subscription-only wall. While this obviously greatly limits the reach and influence of the columnists, it does raise a little bit of revenue for the Times (yes, a few people actually pay to read that stuff). But that won't work if sites like this republish NY Times columns in their entirety. Why pay for Times Select when you can just do an online search for your columnist?

Hear no evil

Still think the New York Times and the Democrats were right to expose and oppose monitoring SWIFT transfers and phone calls to and from overseas terrorists?

See no evil

Hmmm... terrorists carrying on individual, harmless-looking, bomb components, then gathering to assemble them in the plane's bathroom....

Still think Annie Jacobsen didn't witness a dry run two years ago?

An inconvenient hypocrite

Al Gore, while telling everyone else to change their lifestyle to save the environment, doesn't seem to want to change his own lifestyle. He:

* Flies in private jets
* Owns three large, energy-intensive houses
* Doesn't elect to take wind-powered electricity which is offered to him by his local utility
* Gets paid to allow a zinc mine that pollutes local rivers to be operated on his property
* Owns (or has owned) large amounts of oil company stock

Bonus point not mentioned in the article: he's not a vegetarian. Meat production is a huge contributer to greenhouse gases, both because of methane emitted by livestock and because of trees being cleared for grazing land.

I'm sure Gore will make some changes after being publicly exposed as a hypocrite. Switching to wind power is an obvious and easy one. And I've heard he may have already cut back on private jets after being exposed. But the point is, why didn't he look at the log in his own eye before criticizing the splinter in everyone else's? It's elitist arrogance. It's a trait shared by many limousine liberals, who criticize families for owning SUVs but burn much more fuel in their private jets than an SUV could ever burn.

Surrender-monkeys want Israel to surrender

Condoleezza Rice tried to do the nice thing by including the irrelevant French in cease-fire negotiations for Lebanon. For a while, it looked like they might agree to a reasonable proposal. But that was before France received orders from its Arab masters: Israel must pull out before Hezbollah is disarmed and before peacekeepers can move in.

Walberg wins!

Congratulations to the Club for Growth on its victory in supporting challenger Tim Walberg over pork-loving, pro-eminent-domain-abuse, incumbent Congressman Joe Schwarz.

AOL: Dumb as dirt

OK, so they swindled Time Warner out of billions of dollars worth of stock, but what have they done lately?

Nothing, except give every Internet user a reason never to trust AOL again.

Dead man walking

It ain't good news for Phil Angelides when the billionaire Hollywood left endorses Schwarzenegger.

Meet the nutroots

Clintonista Lanny Davis, working on the Lieberman campaign, discovers the tolerance of the left:
• On "Lieberman vs. Murtha": "as everybody knows, jews ONLY care about the welfare of other jews; thanks ever so much for reminding everyone of this most salient fact, so that we might better ignore all that jewish propaganda [by Lieberman] about participating in the civil rights movement of the 60s and so on" (by "tomjones," posted on Daily Kos, Dec. 7, 2005).

• "Good men, Daniel Webster and Faust would attest, sell their souls to the Devil. Is selling your soul to a god any worse? Leiberman cannot escape the religious bond he represents. Hell, his wife's name is Haggadah or Muffeletta or Diaspora or something you eat at Passover" (by "gerrylong," posted on the Huffington Post, July 8, 2006).

• "Joe Lieberman is a racist and a religious bigot" (by "greenskeeper," posted on Daily Kos, Dec. 7, 2005).
Davis, who has been living in a frickin' bubble all of his life, is shocked -- shocked! -- to discover that liberals can be mean, vicious, and racist.

Read the whole thing. His naivete is a laugh a minute.

If there were no laws, there would be no criminals

Who would have thought? Just months after taking power in Italy, the new government has a solution to prison overcrowding: let the prisoners run free!
But as a stream of released prisoners began heading straight back into the cells - one for attempting to strangle his former wife, others for attempted robbery - Italians began asking themselves if Romano Prodi's government had fully thought the measure through.
Who would have thought?

But that's not to say no one in Italian politics has any sense:
Antonio Mazzocchi, an MP with the right-wing National Alliance, suggested the first 700 prisoners rearrested should be put under house arrest, in the homes of the MPs who had voted in favour of the measure.

Uh-oh

Expect some turmoil in the markets from this today.

BP, formerly British Petroleum and now advertising with the slogan "Beyond Petroleum," has a deceptive environmental image. They are still a big oil company, warts and all, but they invest a very small amount in alternative energy. They make solar cells for example. BP's annual revenue is in the hundreds of billions, and profits were $32 billion last year. So their commitment to invest $8 billion over 10 years in alternative energy is a drop in the bucket. That's like if Enron announced that they planned to invest $25 million in apple pie and puppy dogs for little girls. Investing three months' worth of oil profits over ten years? That makes them "Beyond Petroleum?"

Nevertheless, the public falls for it. Ask environmentally conscious consumers, and you'll hear "BP good, Exxon bad."

Jeremy Siegel: weight your index by dividends

I like this idea:
"Value-based" portfolios and fundamentally-weighted indexes generally have produced higher long-term returns than comparable capitalization-weighted indexes over various historical periods tested (all assume the reinvestment of dividends).

Similarly, research that I and others have done supports the conclusion that weighting stocks by some fundamental metric of value, such as dividends, sales, or earnings, instead of by market value, has historically resulted in generally lower portfolio volatility than weighting by market-capitalization. Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results and there are limits on the inferences we can draw from research results and back-tested index data. However, I believe the data on fundamentally-weighted indexes are compelling.

I'm a big fan of indexing in general, and anything to improve returns even marginally interests me. I'm going to do more reading about this, and look into the existing funds Siegel mentions. I suspect that this is a real opportunity to beat capitalization-weighted indexes over the long term.

Civilians at home

Check out this video of civilians going about their daily lives in southern Lebanon. You'll love the ending.

And while you're at it, this chart is good news / bad news. Fewer fatalities and injuries, but still lots of rockets. Hopefully the past day or two have been better, as Israel makes progress with its ground offensive.

But, wait... there's more! Euroweenies will not call Hezbollah a "terrorist organization." That's classic! They are too afraid of terrorists to call them terrorists!

Man, Vital Perspective is a great blog!

HT: Powerline via Ace of Spades.
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