Sunday, November 30, 2008

Giants v. Native Americans

The Giants travel to Washington to play the Redskins. Plaxico is out (he accidently shot himself, you see.) Brandon Jacobs is questionable with a bum knee. I still think the Giants will win handily.

UPDATE: The invaluable reports that Plaxico will be facing felony gun charges. In New York City, if convicted of illegally carrying a fire-arm will get you a mandatory 3.5 year jail term. You have to think that this will end his career. Less than a year ago he caught the game winning TD pass in the Super Bowl.

UPDATE: 23-7 for the Giants. They keep rolling.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who Says You Can't Live Well In These Lean Times?

A kindly neighbour took this photo of the wife and I after our new home reno. Even if the budget is tight these days, we found a little bit of room for improvement. Happiness begins at home.

Future Queen's and Carleton Graduates?

"Parsons was Winston's fellow employee at the Ministry of Truth. He was a fattish but active man of paralyzing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms—one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the thought police, the stability of the Party depended."

- George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 2

Queen's Speech Police Update

Here's a transcript from Ezra Levant's website, as he discusses the Queen's issue with CTV's Mike Duffy. Duffy makes a great point here:
I've had a number of Conservative MPs say to me, Duff, this will be used by people at Queens of a left wing persuasion to go after Conservatives. They'll try to bait the Conservatives into conversation and then have the speech police have them up on charge for daring to defend their political point of view which is at odds with the lefties.

I will post the video of this interview if it is available.

Earlier posts on this: Official Language Police at Queen's and Hello Queen's University

Accidents Happen, Right?

Giant's star receiver Plaxico Burress accidently shot himself in the leg:

The New York Giants wide receiver accidentally shot himself in the leg on Friday night, has learned, not long after being ruled out of Sunday's game against the Redskins with a hamstring injury.

He spent the night in the hospital and the injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. The team is still trying to gather further information on the incident.

Oh boy. The Giants never would have won it all without him last year, but this guy is really bad news.

UPDATE: ESPN reports that it happened at a nightclub.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Hate These Plates

I don't feel comfortable crossing the border with these babies.


These four items cost me $15.16. I asked the cashier if she made a mistake. She showed me the receipt, and nothing was accidently added. Vancouver is expensive, and so is my downtown grocery store, but really. (That's No-Name flaked tuna by the way. And the small sized Parmesan.)

Intrigue In Ottawa

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois have supposedly agreed to shoot-down a confidence vote on Monday.

Canada's opposition parties said Thursday they will vote against the Conservative government's fiscal update, sparking speculation the country could face another election in the midst of a global economic crisis.

I'm not going to get too excited about this because I simply don't believe it. The Liberals are leaderless and party funds are exhuasted. Canadians will be angry if they have to go to the polls again. It's all just bluster.

I welcome the Dippers and Liberals forming a coalition. Combined, they have 114 seats to the Tories 143. That means they'll have to join up with the Bloc, and no self respecting Liberal or NDP MP would want to be in government with separatists.

He might be sweating a little, but I think Harper is mostly sitting back and enjoying this.

UPDATE: Strack Attack wrote in the comments:

I'm starting to doubt my original thinking on this matter and maybe just maaaybe, the opposition is serious and will bring down the gov't. They have tabled a non-confidence motion and plan to put it in motion on Monday. Still this could merely be optics of playing tough this time around. The Tories can also avert this or postpone it with procedural tactics. Still, there seems to be some sort of agreement among the Dippers, Libs and Bloc and it appears Dion will lead it which in theory makes it all that much more plausible. Contrary to my own thinking the Libs must feel there is some sort of long term gain in doing this. I can't see them doing this for the good of the country. Who wants a flimsy coalition government lead by a guy who very few Canadians have confidence in to run our country through some of the craziest times we've had in decades? Did we not send a message saying just this a little more than a month ago??

UPDATE II: The Globe lists the opposition's gripes. This one has me hoping Harper hangs tough.

But it is the lack of movement on the economic front that both New Democrats and Liberals cited as the real impetus behind the decision to hold coalition talks. And neither party, they said, would be willing to back down unless the Conservatives do something dramatic in terms of economic stimulus — specifically help for the auto sector — over the next few days.

UPDATE III: Harper delaying the vote until December 8

"Horror Has a Face"*

It makes me ill to read this. Wal-Mart worker killed in bargain-hunting stampede

The 34-year-old Wal-Mart worker was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m., an hour after the store opened, when a throng of shoppers “physically broke down the doors, knocking him to the ground,” a police statement said.

It reminds me of the tribesmen in Apocalypse Now. I hope that Play Station was worth it. (spit!)

* Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.

UPDATE: The internet moves fast. Check out this guy's site with freshly designed jokes. Make sure to scroll down to "Wal-Mart Bingo".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Appalling Irony

Don't worry, sleep tight. It's all taken care of.

Remember this AIG commercial from a year ago?

Seriously, this is evil. This is Hansel and Gretel going into the gingerbread house.

Iraqi Sovereignty?

The Iraqi parliament has passed an agreement that declares a full US withdrawal of its military by 2011 and makes an unabiguous statement about Iraqi sovereignty. This agreement sounds like a big deal, but you have to search to find it. This from the International Herald-Tribune.

"This is the day of our sovereignty," said Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

"Together we will go forward toward a free, prosperous and glorious Iraq, where Iraqis can live with pride and dignity and can be proud that they are sons of this beloved country," he said.


The timetable set out in the document requires U.S. troops to withdraw from cities and towns by June 30, 2009, and for all troops to leave by the end of 2011 unless the Iraqis and Americans negotiate a separate pact to govern an extension of the American military presence.

I hope this goes smoothly. A messy emergency evacuation by the Americans and then a retaliatory sectarian slaughter afterwards a-la Vietnam is a scary scenario.

UPDATE: From the reaction of the few people I've talked to about this, I should file it in the "Who Gives a Damn" section. Amazing how bored people are with it.

The Wisdom of Benjamin Franklin

  • To find out a girl's faults, praise her to her girl friends.
  • Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.
  • Fish and visitors stink after three days.

Benjamin Franklin (January 1706 – April 1790)
- author, printer, theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, activist, statesman, diplomat and satirist.
- a Founding Father of the United States of America.
Hat tip: HP

Former Ottawan Harbours Pirates

In despair after the Rough Riders folded, Mohamud Muse Hersi went back to Somalia. (article)

Hersi emigrated to Canada in the 1980s, bought a gas station and raised a family, but his clan connections to Somalia remained strong. When the elders of Puntland were looking for a new president in 2005, they chose Hersi.

There are about a dozen hijacked ships anchored off the Puntland coast at the moment, waiting as the pirates and shipowners haggle over ransom money.

Hersi's critics accuse him and his ministers of taking bribes from the pirates to look the other way.

UPDATE: The Ottawa Citzen has more details. They mention that he owned a Richmond Road gas station. I wish they would say which one. When I was in high school, I worked pumping gas on Richmond Road.

Touching Thanksgiving Message From the Governor of California

I love Thanksgiving turkey. It's the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.

-Arnold Schwarzenegger

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Disgrace at Carleton - update from yesterday

UPDATE: to my previous post Disgrace at Carleton - My Alumnus

Looks like they are going to repeal the decision , no doubt after a huge backlash. (Hat Tip: Strack Attacks)
"I think everyone at the council really did have the best intentions with it," Smyth said. "Nobody meant any ill will to anyone who has been affected or touched by cystic fibrosis at all. And we really do apologize for all of this confusion. It's not what we meant for Carleton students at all."

I love the half-assed apology about the "confusion." They were on record saying it affected "white men" and wasn't "inclusive". There was no confusion. It was interpreted loud and clear.

Also see story at CBC News "Carleton student council to rethink Shinerama cancellation"

Thursday UPDATE: Margaret Wente (who has been on fire lately) looks into the issue and finds unrepentance:

The author of this offensive motion, which passed by a whopping 17-2, is fourth-year science (!) student Donnie Northrup. "I want to make it clear that he DOES NOT represent the will of the students," wrote Leah Hargreaves, one of the Facebook protesters. But Mr. Northrup is standing firm. He told Ms.Hargreaves in an e-mail that continuing to support CF would reflect "the same mentality that kept slavery legal, and prevented the women's vote."

This is the type of robot that the educational system has produced. That kind of talk gets rewarded.

Fear and Hysteria at the Guardian

One hears a lot from the leftists that people on the right exploit fear. For example, Noam Chomsky says:
The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people.

Michael Moore often plays this card as well. It's as if terrorists are mostly just bogeymen made up by the right.

But where else can you find anything more hysterical than the fear mongering about Global Warming doomsday scenarios? I was taking a look at The Guardian today, and they take fear to a new level in this article:

If it is too late to prevent runaway climate change, the Bush team must carry much of the blame. His wilful trashing of the Middle Climate - the interlude of benign temperatures which allowed human civilisation to flourish - makes the mass murder he engineered in Iraq only the second of his crimes against humanity


Is it too late? To say so is to make it true. To suggest there is nothing that can be done is to ensure that nothing is done. But even a resolute optimist like me finds hope ever harder to summon.


The trajectory both Barack Obama and Gordon Brown have proposed - an 80% cut by 2050 - means reducing emissions by an average of 2% a year. This programme, the figures in the Tyndall paper suggest, is likely to commit the world to at least four or five degrees of warming, which means the likely collapse of human civilisation across much of the planet. Is this acceptable?

My brother made a good point that Environmentalism is the new religion. Built in is the clause that if you don't believe, the WORLD WILL END! So start believing now!

Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai - Glued to Cable News

You've heard by now of the gun, and bomb attacks in Mumbai. Some 90 dead and over 250 injured. Luxury hotels were targeted. There, the terrorists are going after westerners, and particularly American and British passport holders. It looks like a hostage situation, according to the London Times:

At least 80 people were killed tonight and 20 Westerners taken hostage as suspected Islamic terrorists mounted a series of coordinated attacks on India’s financial capital.

I'm watching Fox news and they have very little information. They haven't confirmed if they have American hostages. The White House is having an emergency meeting... Now they are saying there are at least 90 dead... A great deal of carnage... The Indian army may have been called, there are rumors that they stormed a hotel and there is a gun battle going on.

It's obviously not just a local conspiracy against Hindus, but global in scope by targeting westerners.

In related news, Federal agents warn of a terror attack on the New York subway system.

The New York Post has more detail from India:

"They were talking about British and Americans specifically. There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: 'Where are you from?" and he said he's from Italy and they said 'fine' and they left him alone. And I thought: 'Fine, they're going to shoot me if they ask me anything - and thank God they didn't," he said.

Sign of the Decline of Western Civilization

Dating service for people who want to cheat on their spouses. (See here)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Big Picture on Bailouts

These numbers from Barry Ritholtz put things into perspective:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

Related: Citigroup Bailout? Is Anybody Tallying These Bailouts?

Book Review: Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan

I was 10 years old when President Reagan took office and 18 when he left. At that age I was influenced by pop culture not newspapers. Hence, Reagan was presented as a senile, war monger, harebrained ex-actor. Frankie Goes to Hollywood videos, 99 Luftballons, Land Of Confusion, the TV movie The Day After. Mushroom cloud imagery invaded my thoughts regularly. The term “Reaganomics” to me meant poor people cut off from lifesaving welfare funds. It was nonsense of course. The entertainment industry is overwhelmingly left wing. Their propaganda worked though, I was shocked when he was re-elected in a landslide in 1984. I thought everybody hated him.

Since then I have read a few books. David Stockwell’s The Triumph of Politics. It detailed Stockman’s time as head of the budget office, and how necessary spending cuts were virtually impossible when you’re trying to get elected. Also, The Power Game: How Washington Works by Hedrik Smith. This was an inside view of the process of what it takes to pass legislation during the Reagan years. Lobbyists, military bureaucracy, congress, the executive branch. It’s a miracle anything got done; what did was not done well.

So, even though I lean to the right, I’ve never had a great opinion of Reagan.

Recently I was visiting family in Ottawa and my father-in-law lent me Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. (Read the blurb, there’s no point of recycling it.) I knew that there something controversial about this book. It was love-it or hate-it among critics. I found out why very quickly. For his early years, author Edmund Morris creates a fictional, Illinois born narrator who witnesses Reagan first hand after meeting him at Eureka College. It’s a stretch, and very annoying at first. I was close to putting it down. But Morris is a gifted writer, and Reagan’s life from small town nothingness, to sportscaster, to Hollywood leading man and then on to General Electric spokesman and of course to politician, is too difficult to resist and I was compelled to keep going through the whole thing. (874 pages, including extensive notes and an index.)

Hollywood was as shallow back then as it is now. Reagan had one chance, one tryout, when he was down in Los Angeles covering spring training for his broadcasting gig. He got up, read from a sheet of paper for two minutes and that was enough. He was a good looking guy, with big shoulders and a great voice. He was signed by Warner Brothers for a long term contract a few days later. No Juilliard, no Actor’s Studio. (I’ve spent some time with a few actors in my day and that’s my way of saying “stuff your pretention”.)

Reagan’s first wife was street-wise actress/bombshell Jane Wyman. He was truly shocked when she left him and asked for a divorce. She became bored with him, especially his long political monologues at Hollywood parties. Jane was heard saying to a friend: “I'm so bored with him, I'll either kill him or kill myself."

This was telling of Reagan; the author made it clear that he was impersonal, and impervious to even the closest people in his life.

*Note on his Hollywood career. Bedtime for Bonzo is not a joke movie. Reagan plays a university professor who uses Bonzo the monkey for behavioral experiments to argue nature vs. nurture.

Reagan’s shift to the right was the result of two things. First simply, when he was a top grossing actor he had to pay the crippling 91% income tax that the top bracket had to pay from the WWII until the Kennedy administration. Secondly, was his disgust at radical labor movements. When the Screen Actors Guild, which he was president of, did not support a stagehand strike at the studios, he was threatened by union thugs who said they were going to throw acid in his face and ruin his movie star looks.

He spent his middle age as a company spokesman for General Electric, where he was able to go on the road throughout America to GE Plants and make speeches. His message of fiscal conservatism, tax cuts, and not being held hostage by labor unions, was received with tremendous approval from the middle class employees. As a politician he used this experience with great aplomb. He knew how to reach out to the people.

His political career is more well known to me but still made for great reading. He was a two term governor of California. In 1976, the incumbent Gerald Ford was chosen as the Republican nominee for president in 1976 even though Reagan had more popular support. He had to wait until 1980.

His two terms were groundbreaking for his tax cuts and de-regulation. With the booming economy he was re-elected by a record landslide in 1984.

It took Edmund Morris 14 years to compile research and write this book. Reagan himself had chosen him to be his “official” biographer. That does not mean it is a biased fluff piece; far from it. If Reagan had have been of sound mind to read it when it was published in 1999, I believe he might have been outraged through most of it. For me, it was a captivating read.

Disgrace at Carleton - My Alumnus

Seriously Cartoon, don't ever ask me for money again, ok?

Students Association rules to discontinue Cystic Fibrosis fund raising

All of which would seem to make cystic fibrosis research a worthy cause, right?

Wrong, you racist! This week, the Students’ Association at Carleton University in Ottawa voted to drop cystic fibrosis as the beneficiary of its annual $1-million Shinearama fundraiser. The reason: CF “has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men” — and therefore is insufficiently “inclusive.”

Un-f---ing believable!

UPDATE: Looks like they are going to repeal the decision , no doubt after a huge backlash. (Hat Tip: Strack Attacks)

"I think everyone at the council really did have the best intentions with it," Smyth said. "Nobody meant any ill will to anyone who has been affected or touched by cystic fibrosis at all. And we really do apologize for all of this confusion. It's not what we meant for Carleton students at all."

I love the half-assed apology about the "confusion." They were on record saying it affected "white men" and wasn't "inclusive". There was no confusion. It was interpreted loud and clear.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shame and Respectability

"The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is."

- George Bernard Shaw

Shaw also has this quote about Stalin, after he visited him during the early 1930's. It was at the height of the forced famine, mass murder in the USSR:
"... open hearted, just and honorable man .. who owes his outstanding elevation to those very qualities, and not to anything dark and sinister."

Famous Russian writer Edvard Radzinsky wrote:
"Shaw wrote confidently that rumors of famine were pure invention... No one knows how many people famine carried off. Estimates vary between five and eight million." (Stalin, p. 258)

I guess Shaw was very respectable.

Seems Like There's Plenty of "End of Empire' Chatter These Days

Forbes magazine has a piece about how the British coped with losing their empire and how this relates to the American predicament of our times:

... Sir Anthony Eden, was, in the words of The Times (London), "the last prime minister to believe Britain was a great power, and the first to confront a crisis that proved she was not." Once the last thrash of empire--the Suez Crisis of 1956--was behind it, Britain decided to withdraw as peacefully as possible from its empire, and to redefine its world role as the bridge between the U.S. and the rest of the world--an "honest broker" in Macmillan's words.

After the Suez disaster, British Prime Minister Sir Harold Macmillan sent President Eisenhower a telegram stating acidly, "Over to you." Meaning we're not dealing in the Middle East anymore, have fun with it. This is why I'm not sure it is such a bad thing if American power recedes. Let somebody else deal with the Middle East. Or North Korea for that matter. I don't say this lightly or flippantly either.

Citigroup Bailout? Is Anybody Tallying These Bailouts?

Now it looks like they are propping up Citigroup. For God's sakes is there any end to this? Can somebody produce a report of how much money has been allotted, to whom, how much has been spent, and how the hell much debt it causes? To what good? This is madness!

Are we in the trillions? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

UPDATE: How does $7.4 trillion sound?

Related: Schiff: Bailouts Won't Work

UPDATE II: This is getting beyond absurd. Citigroup has not cancelled the $400 million they are going to pay the New York Mets to put their name on the new stadium.

Citi isn't alone: Imploding insurance giant AIG is paying the British soccer team Manchester United $125 million for the privilege of having its logo appear on Man U's uniforms. That, despite the fact the firm is standing largely thanks to a $150 billion lifeline from the U.S. Treasury.

"A friend of mine joked they should put 'US Treasury' on the front of their uniforms," said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan watchdog group which is outraged by the expenditures.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sir, Yes Sir!

“If everybody's thinking alike, somebody isn't thinking.”

- General George S. Patton

Desert Storm in Arizona

Quarterback Kurt Warner has a jinx that he doesn't know about. It's the jinx of me watching him. Supposedly, Kurt is having an MVP year for the Cards. But I remember... A forgotten chapter in history is his stint with the Giants, which was horrible. He had busy feet. He fumbled. He was a bum. Whatever he had with the Rams, he didn't have anymore. It was painful watching him, and one of the most uninspiring Giants' teams I've ever watched. Now quietly, Arizona are a playoff caliber team behind Kurt. I watched them only once this year, when the Jets blew them out and Kurt had the same old problems. I still haven't seen MVP Kurt, and I never will. Not while my eyes watch.

UPDATE: A convincing 37-29 for New York. At 10-1, they are unquestionably the best team in football. Kurt looked like the Kurt I'm used to seeing. Busy feet. Fumbling. I'll believe a MVP/UFO sighting when I see it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hello Queen's University

I see some folks at Queen's U in K-town have been onto my site. Howdy!

The reference you're looking for is here:

Official Language Police at Queen's

Update: I don't know if things have changed since the early 90's but don't you just hate Queen's students? I remember these two women at a party I was at in England. They were pulling the trademark Queen's snobbery, going as far as making Carleton jokes at me in front of the Brits. The ironic Brits rolled their eyes and were unimpressed. Nobody had heard of Queen's and they thought their humour was witless. Stupid hicks didn't realize that they weren't in Eastern Ontario anymore.... Now they have conversation police. What a joke.

Schiff: Bailouts Won't Work

Peter Schiff, once again, is the voice of sobriety. Here's why he thinks the bailouts won't work.

This paragraph cuts like a straight razor:

Similarly any money that the world lends to America to finance more consumption will never be repaid. We will simply blow through it, and be back, hat in hand, begging for more. As we painfully learned in the housing bust, lending people money that they cannot pay back makes no sense. This applies equally to foreign central banks lending to America as it does to commercial banks lending to homeowners.

Schiff was a modern Cassandra figure leading up to this crisis. He forecasted the financial collapse and nobody believed him. See my earlier link:

Peter Schiff Was Right: Incredible Youtube Compilation

Palin Speaks, Something Stirs in Springfield

"I'm like, O.K., God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door," Palin said in an interview with Fox News on Monday. "And if there is an open door in '12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door."

- Sarah Palin

The next Republican nominee for president? Spinning movement detected from Lincoln's grave.

Must Read Article of the Day

Marcus Gee of the Globe and Mail has a bleak assessment of Japan since her economic collapse in the early 1990's which they haven't recovered from. And how it could now be happening to us.
A second myth is that Japan suffered more than the United States and other countries will today because its bubble was so much bigger. In reality, the credit and asset bubble that built up in the United States was the biggest in history. At the peak of Japan's bubble, it needed three yen of credit to make one yen of national income. The United States needed eight dollars of credit for every dollar of income. In Japan, the bubble grew for only about five years in the high-flying late 1980s. In the United States, the credit binge has been going on for a couple of decades.


To make matters worse, Americans entered their crisis with a savings rate of zero. In Japan, it was 16 to 17 per cent. Japanese could cope by reducing that over time to about 2 per cent. What will Americans do?

“To put it bluntly, America is much worse off, because there is no buffer,” said Mr. Koll of Tantallon Research. “America runs without a safety net.”

Like the Lloyd Bridges character says in Airplane: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines."

Friday, November 21, 2008

A 50 Year Old Takes His First Sexual Harassment Course

Here's a hilarious post by Bill Whittle. (NRO is still worth checking for pieces like this.) I have been through a few of these courses myself.

Well, first of all, I find it deeply offensive to my personal sense of honor and integrity to be punished or otherwise lectured on something I did not do. Period. And to be subjected to two hours of second-grade style, “who can tell me what Johnny did wrong by telling Sarah she has a hot body” lecturing infuriates me on many levels.


I was treated to a video that had precisely the same emotional pitch and condescension as the old ABC After-School Specials, which is appropriate when aimed at 10-year-olds but in a room full of adults was unimaginably cloying and infantile. In this helpful lecture on the evils of hateful stereotypes, a clueless, insensitive white male managed to offend everyone without the dimmest awareness of his own boorishness until confronted and re-educated (with a rising string section!) by emotionally advanced, sensitive (yet strong!) women and his solemn, understanding (but firm!), black male superior.

Christmas Comes Early to the CBC

Do you think they were feeling a little smug when this came over the wire? U.S. World Dominance Fading: Intelligence Agency

China is poised to have more impact than any other country, but the report also foresees a rise by India and Russia.


What is striking, the report notes, is that none of the three rising stars adhere to a Western liberal model but rather a system of state capitalism, under which the government takes a key role in economic management.

I love the little nod to "state capitalism." Do you think the state-owned CBC have any supporters of that concept?

The fact that the US Intelligence community made this report is a good thing. They have trouble forecasting the sun rising in the east in the morning. Wasn't the biggest story of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fact that US Intelligence was completely caught by surprise?

In this case, I think India will definitely rise. I see that as a good thing. China, and Russia are handcuffed by non-democratic and authoritarian governments. They might start flexing their muscles in their regions. Maybe it would be a bit of a relief if the US has diminished power and can worry about its own troubles closer to home, instead of everybody else’s?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review Blitz

There are a that I’ve read over the year that I’d like to recommend. Since I read them a while ago, and had no idea I’d be blogging, I never took notes and my memory isn’t clear enough for a full review of them. So I thought I would do a quick hit blitz of books that I particularly enjoyed.

I’m a big fan of Amazon. It’s a great place to buy for the discounts and for the reference software they have. If you create a profile, they will recommend books that fit your reading pattern. I have found so many great books this way.

So here are a few I recommend:

Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler
Many people recognize this title but it seems not many people I talk to have read it. An old Bolshevik revolutionary, Rubashov, now a Soviet official, is falsely accused of treason and sent to stand trial. It is a fictional account of the famous Stalinist Show Trials of the 1930’s. The party wants him to publically confess to trumped up crimes before his execution. How do they get him to do it? This is a brilliant book about idealism and humanity.

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore
After reading Darkness at Noon I went out and bought this Stalin biography. It’s an account of life inside the Kremlin with Stalin’s top officials and his inner-circle. As the back cover says: “Who were his Himmler, Goring, Goebbels? How did the ‘top ten’ families live?” The paranoia, intrigue and executions. What was behind the decision making? … Stalin was an evil genius.

The Company, by Robert Littell
This was a beautiful accident. I picked it up on a whim at the bookstore. I had never heard of it or the author. It’s a fictional account of the CIA from its foundations in World War II through to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The tragedy is the pattern of American meddling. The CIA, for example, encouraged a revolt in Hungary in ’56 and an attack on Cuba in ’61 both with disastrous consequences for people they were trying to help. The weakness of democracy is that it’s hard to see projects like this through when the going gets tough. The Soviets are much better at espionage but their system was ultimately unsustainable. Littell wrote a follow up novel, Legends, continuing with the CIA after the Cold War. Though shorter, it is just as great.

Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War, by Steven Pressfield
I was sold on Pressfield after Gates of Fire, the historical novel about the famous battle at Thermopylae in 480BC between the Spartans and Persians. In Tides of War, he gets more ambitious and covers the prolonged Peloponnesian War 431-404BC between Sparta and Athens, from the Athenian point of view. At first I couldn’t help but think of it in a 20th century context: Britain (Athens), a democracy and great mercantile sea power, vs. Germany (Sparta,) a rigid, authoritarian society with a fearsome land army. However, I came to see it as an examination of the flaws of a democratic power when trying to fight wars. The Spartan general, Lysander, has a speech on how to defeat the Athens demos not by big victory but by holding off and playing for time. “For every hour we deprive the foe of victory is another we turn his own strength against him.” North Vietnam said the same thing about the Americans… A bonus about this book is the wonderful maps of the Mediterranean, in and around ancient Greece, to help you follow the battles.

Berlin Noir, Philip Kerr
Another wonderful accident, this is three novels in one. They are about private investigator Bernie Gunther during the late 30’s in Nazi Germany. As I mentioned before on this site, I enjoy the noir genre, and with Berlin as the backdrop I knew I had to buy it. Gunther has witty one liners that surpass Chandler's Marlowe. Many top Nazi officials make appearances. The Nazis had a gothic/occult revival going, with Himmler as the main enthusiast. Kerr exploits this to the fullest.


The progress of science is strewn, like an ancient desert trail, with the bleached skeleton of discarded theories which once seemed to possess eternal life.

- Arthur Koestler

Countdown to the Olympics

Free heroin!

"It was quite delicious," said Greg Liang, a trial participant who was tracked down by The Globe and Mail's Jane Armstrong. Some of the addicts, he said, competed to see how much they could consume. "They were heroin pigs."

I'm sorry about the eight hour wait at the hospital while you're bleeding to death. We have important spending priorities here in BC.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Roger Sterling Fan Club

Sterling: No regrets fellas, we were in it and that's the important thing.

Duck Phillips (head of Account Services): It's heartbreaking, but still...good work Don. [Exits]

Draper: We hired him to bring in new business, not lose old business.

Sterling: Don't you love the chase? Sometimes it doesn't work out, those are the stakes. But when it does work's like having that first cigarette. Head gets all dizzy, your heart pounds, knees go weak. Remember that? [Pause] Old business is just old business.

- Mad Men #2, 4

A Bluff?

Somalian pirates are all over the news in recent weeks. I've been wondering why various high-tech navies in the region can't do anything about it? This segment from the Times of London, about the massive Saudi oil tanker that had been hijacked, had me wondering:

None of the governments that have sent warships to the region seems willing to use force to free the supertanker, preferring instead to see the matter settled by ransom negotiations. Both the US Navy Seals and Britain’s M Squadron, the Special Boat Service’s maritime counter-terrorist unit, have the expertise and training to infiltrate a hijacked ship covertly. “The risks are just too great,” said Lee Willett, a maritime security expert at the Royal United Services Institute. “I don’t think there is a real military option. It’s now more a matter of negotiating the size of the ransom.”
This sounds to me like a massive bluff. "Negotiating the size of the ransom?" Bull. If you are going to go in, you don't warn them in advance.

UPDATE: Pirates enjoy lavish lifestyle on the new Barbary Coast.

Hard Times Tends to Hatch More Honest Dialogue

Looks like EU members are starting to talk realistically about expensive environmental regulations:
Italy, Poland and a few other nations in mid-October threatened to veto ambitious new E.U. goals to fight climate change slated to be approved at the end of this year, saying that the measures were expensive. Italy asked for a new assessment of costs, and for more flexibility in their implementation.
The climate change measures are expensive, and hurt the economy, can we admit this? So let's stop talking about how it's better for the economy, the "green collar" jobs boom, etc.

Official Language Police at Queen's

(Article here)

KINGSTON (CP) -Students who make politically incorrect comments at Ontario’s Queen’s University can expect a lecture, whether they’re in or out of class.

The Kingston university has hired student facilitators to step in if they overhear students making homophobic or racial slurs, remarks bashing women or other offensive language.

The dean of student affairs at Queen’s says if students are making offensive comments loud enough for others to hear, it’s not a private conversation anymore.

Jason Laker says the facilitators use a respectful, non-confrontational approach.

But Angela Hickman, who edits a campus newspaper, says having such a program could stifle public discussion.

Can you imagine the type of people that will sign up to be a facilitator? University campuses are hardly the hotbed of racism. These people are going to make up everything conceivable to be able to exercise their power. It's not like they're going to report back at the end of the year and say they witnessed no homophobic, racist or misogynist comments.

UPDATE: Meet some facilitators here. Listen to the saccharin explanation:

"If there's a teachable moment, we'll take it," said assistant dean of
student affairs Arig Girgrah, who runs the program. "A lot of community building happens around food and dining."

She gave the example of a conversation about a gay character on
television as a good example of such a moment.

"It is all about creating opportunities to dialogue and reflect on
issues of social identity," Ms. Girgrah said. "This is not about preaching. It's not about advice giving. It's about hearing where students are at."

Can a university student survive without being able to make a 'perfume ponce' reference from 'Withnail and I" every now and then? Impossible, I say.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spoken Social Faux Pas of 2008

  • Q. Is there a recycle bin around? I have junk mail I need to discard.
    A. I have a waste basket right here.

  • I just got back from my Mexico vacation. I had an all-inclusive, beach front hotel. I never made it outside of the compound, except to and from the airport.

  • My barbeque grill was filthy, so I sparked it up, put in on full and burned it off for 20 minutes. Nothing like a good smoke to kill the germs.

  • I’m disappointed that Obama won.

  • (When ordering at a restaurant) No I don’t want the micro-brewed dark ale, I’ll have a Labatt’s Blue please.

  • In my experience, it’s much easier to get along with a male manager than a female manager.

  • I told my 12 year old kid, if he wanted to go to his baseball game he could ride his bike, I don’t have the time for these things.

  • I don’t think it is part of my job description to go to a soup kitchen with my work team and volunteer my time.

  • (When ordering at a restaurant during a work lunch) I’ll have a double vodka with club soda, in a tall glass with a slice of lime please.

  • I had computer troubles so I phoned the Help Desk and specifically asked for Bill. The other guy has an accent that I find difficult to understand at times.

UPDATE: These are not my personal opinions. I was attempting satire. I thought of things that would be perfectly normal to say 25 years ago, that might not be anymore.

Hard Times Throwback Word of the Day: Okie

Tom said, "Okie? What's that?"

"Okie use' ta mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means you're a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you're scum. Don't mean nothing itself, it's the way they say it."

- Man from Oklahoma, Grapes Of Wrath,Ch. 18

Most Hilarious "Correction"

I read Ezra Levant's site regularly. He's a free speech crusader. He battles phony politically correct censors who will tell us what we can and cannot read. Yesterday, he had a hilarious take down of J-school professor John Miller, who was on a panel with him at a free speech conference. (Here)

Today I saw the headline "Correction." I was wondering what facts he got wrong in the previous article. It ended up being a laugh-out-loud post. (Here)

I think this is delicious. For a year, "the journalism doctor" has been lecturing mere bloggers like me (and mere international best-selling authors like Mark Steyn) about not being real journalists. We aren't responsible; we're not competent; we're not professional. What a hoot to learn that he's not a doctor at all -- nor does he have a master's degree, or even a degree in journalism itself. But he's so snobby about his "craft" that he pretends to have one.

Read the whole thing.

Easterbrook on the Absurdity of the AIG Bailout

Those of us who are NFL fans enjoy Greg Easterbrook's column Tuesday Morning Quarterback. Football writing is his hobby, his day job is as a serious writer. He is a deft critic of govenment waste. In his TMQ column today he targets the AIG bailout. (scroll waaaay down to the section: Why Are Taxpayers Paying Lavish Bonuses to Retain the People Who Screwed Up AIG?)

The money being shoveled to AIG is simply vanishing -- AIG isn't even telling the Treasury Department what the money is for. When the General Services administration buys pencils, many layers of auditors check the deal. Isn't it a tad naive to think $152 billion can be entrusted to a firm with a demonstrated track record of financial mismanagement and that money is not going to be looted? The Treasury Department's handling of AIG appears to be spectacular irresponsibility with public money.

Now, about the $503 million in tax-subsidized bonuses to prevent "top employees" from "exiting the troubled insurance giant." The top employees of AIG are the ones who drove the company into the ground by making crazy deals, taking on bad debt or promising to insure bad debt when they knew AIG lacked adequate collateral. Those "top employees" at AIG are either cheats or incompetents -- we want them to leave! They haven't demonstrated any financial expertise. Yet the same AIG top managers who did a terrible, terrible job are set to receive huge bonuses: an example of the problem that corporate bonuses are awarded regardless of performance

This bailout mania is looking worse and worse. The money is going to evaporate.

Bonus: If you like great football writing, this column is must read. I never miss it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Peter Schiff Was Right: Incredible You Tube Compilation

Look at Euro Pacific Capital's Peter Schiff as he gets laughed at, Cassandra-like, when he predicts the coming economic collapse. These highly respected and paid financial pundits look pathetic in hindsight. Talk about "I told you so."

Peter Schiff Was Right 2006 - 2007 (2nd Edition)

Here's the link to You Tube if you're having trouble viewing

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Money, again, has often been a cause of the delusion of the multitudes. Sober nations have all at once become desperate gamblers, and risked almost their existence upon the turn of a piece of paper.

- Charles Mackay

A Pithy Argument Against an Auto Industry Bailout

It is starting to feel like a real popular backlash against bailing out the Big Three. Here's the clearest argument I've heard yet on why it is wrong from Daniel J. Mitchell

Perhaps most important, though, is that a bailout would be bad for the long-term health of the American auto industry. It would discriminate against the 113,000 Americans who have highly-coveted jobs building cars for Nissan, BMW and other auto companies that happen to be headquartered in other nations.


Bailouts are a particularly bizarre form of redistribution, however, because the corporate bureaucrats at the Big Three are among the very richest Americans. The UAW bosses make extravagant salaries, as well, and even regular union workers make an average of approximately $70 per hour, far higher than the average American.

Unfortunately, you still know its going to happen. Now the Canadian Government is joining the chorus and considering a package.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Dark Knight

Almost everybody I know skips the theatre and waits to watch at home. The Dark Knight recently became available to download came out on dvd. I was skeptical going in. Action movies have been terrible for the last 20 years.

What an experience! What a movie! They spend the high budget well. You know those movies where you are dizzy afterwards? You have to go for a drink afterwards and talk to another person about what you went through?

Home theatre. The technology is good enough these days, audio and video. You don’t need to go to the Cineplex.

The opening scene has you sold. (Don’t worry, no spoilers.) There’s a bank robbery that Joker planned. I can’t say more than that. My wife and I turned to each other: “What a scene!!!” This is where you wish you were in the theatre, just to hear the audience react with you.

(It helps to have watched Batman Begins, for the serial reasons, but not necessary. The Dark Knight is much better.)

I read Batman comics as a kid but was too old by the time they revised the series with Dark Knight. (That’s right, things like skateboards and comic books need to be abandoned at age 14 max.) However, I appreciate comic book movies. Such as: Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy, Tales from the Crypt, Batman (the original).

The Dark Knight is still a comic book but it’s better than anything I was ever exposed to. The Joker is an ingeniously realized villain. He’s real and frightening. Again, no spoilers, but why does he make himself up that way? (I thought Nicholson was a great Joker. Put him right out of your mind. Actually, it doesn’t take any effort. )

Michael Caine, who plays Alfred:

It's Sir Michael Caine's opinion that Heath Ledger beat the odds and topped Jack Nicholson's Joker from Batman (1989): "Jack was like a clown figure, benign but wicked, maybe a killer old uncle. He could be funny and make you laugh. Heath's gone in a completely different direction to Jack, he's like a really scary psychopath..."

IMDB trivia

Gotham is dark. This movie is a work of art. See it.

Ravens at Giants

Another tough one today as the Ravens come to the Meadowlands. Ever since the drubbing the Giants took from Baltimore in the Superbowl from the 2000 season, I've always been uneasy about them. They still have Ray Lewis. The key match up today will be Rookie QB Joe Flacco vs. the Giants pass rush. The kids seems unflappable but he hasn't seen this kind of pressure before.

UPDATE: Giants win 30-10. They are dominating during this tough stretch. It sure makes for relaxing viewing.

UPDATE II: My wife says that these Giants' posts are self-indulgent and nobody cares. She has a point, but on Football Sunday it's the best I can do.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Michael Lewis: The Death of the Wall Street Investment Bank

I'm a fan of Michael Lewis after reading his brilliant book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Gameabout Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane. His writing career exploded onto the scene with 1989's Liar's Pokerwith his insider's take on Wall Street.

He revisits Wall Street in this shocking article about the Subprime Meltdown. (Read here)

It's a long one. I printed out 17 pages. Make a pot of coffee. Well worth it. What I love is that he tracked down finance people who saw it coming, and describes their journey through this farce.

ABC: Always Be Closing

"We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado.

Anybody want to see second prize? [Holds up prize] Second prize is a set of steak knives.

Third prize is you're fired."

-Blake, from Glengarry Glen Ross

Greatest sales speech ever (see here youtube)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another Tiresome Project from Michael Moore

I struggled with the title to this post. I wanted to put something like: Fat Slob Commie Wants to Lecture About the Economy. But I'm trying to establish a little class on this site, so no cheap shots.

Last week I wrote about what Michael Moore got wrong: Memo to Michael Moore: Profits and Share Price Are Important

Now I see Michael Moore has a new film he's working on, and he plans to tackle the economy.

But as the political winds shifted in the months before the election --
and gusted after it -- Moore subtly began reorienting his movie. Instead of foreign policy, the film's focus now is more on the global financial crisis and the U.S. economy.

The untitled movie will contain an end-of-the-empire tone...

Moore has also said that in some ways he sees the movie less as a sequel to the Middle East-themed "Fahrenheit 9/11" than as a bookend to "Roger & Me," the director's breakthrough nearly two decades ago. That movie featured the U.S. economy and the auto industry at its center, and that, if nothing else, could again prove a timely theme.

How shameless. As I mentioned in my last post, Moore's championing of fat cat unions over shareholders in Roger & Me got it all wrong. Labor costs are the main reason why GM has failed.

I'm curious to see "how he knew it along." He's always short on specifics, and big on subterfuge.

2010 Olympic Delusions

The Olympics are coming in 2010. I for one, think it’s going to be a waste of time. Right from the outset, the idea was flawed. You’re going to bring people from around the world to Vancouver for two weeks in February. Ummm…. it constantly rains in February! It’s not a Winter Wonderland. People talk about a real estate spike after the Olympics. What folly. It’s no way to advertise Vancouver to outsiders in February. The black clouds hide the view of the mountains, the sea is a baleful grey. Have fun standing in the rain for two hours waiting for your taxi. (Did I mention we have a gigantic taxi shortage?) Oh boy!

I hate to seem mean spirited about this but they haven’t thought things through.

And of course, there are Vancouver’s social problems. Vancouver’s Professional Protestors ™ never ending outrage continues (here)

"Project Civil City" criminalizes the poor and restricts free movement of citizens through red zoning and ticketing, disrupting the basic survival methods of the most vulnerable, such as street-vending, dumpster diving and pan handling. It attempts even to restrict people from building basic structures over their heads to protect themselves from the elements. For these reasons we see Project Civil City as the hate crime that it is. Project Civil City is not a program to decrease homelessness and end poverty, it is a systematic plan to socially cleanse Vancouver and remove all visibility of the homeless for the 2010 Olympic games.

They are calling it a “hate crime.” I looked into Project Civil City and it’s a “Broken Windows” type program. For example, they want constant street and alleyway cleaning in certain areas littered with needles, garbage, glass and (shudder) human waste. (As the theory goes, if you let an area go derelict, you attract derelict behavior.) One basic proposal is to lock down garbage dumpsters. The dumpster divers root through them in search of deposit cans and bottles. The result is piles garbage strewing the street in the aftermath. It’s not an insane proposal. Most private dumpsters, including the one for my building are fenced off or locked. The building manager gets tired of sweeping up and throwing stuff back in the bin. But this group, The Anti-Poverty Committee, call it a Hate Crime because dumpster-diving is considered a livelihood.

Is it such a bad thing to try to do something? I’ve been here for 12 years and every person running for office and every editorial writer proclaim the solution is more shelters, more social housing. Money is poured in. And the homeless statistics still go up. So they propose more of the same. Round and round it goes. The terrible secret, like Field of Dreams, is that you build it and they will come. Would you rather live on the street in Saskatoon during the winter, or Vancouver where it very rarely goes below freezing? Buying a bus ticket is a lot more attractive if you know you going to be welcomed and taken care of when you get there.

Once again, I probably come off as being mean spirited. It is a tragedy for people. There are addictions and mental illness. Nobody wants to grow up and be a bum on the streets. But something has to be done besides “providing more shelters and social housing.”

The situation is bad. Just a few days ago I was paying at the gas station when the cashier stopped a homeless man from shoplifting. The guy went crazy, screamed profanities, challenged him to a fight outside. Does the guy making minimum wage need that? What about him? I live downtown, I see this kind of thing in shops all the time. I see/hear crystal meth addicts screaming every day. Once I got a memo at work, that warned employees that if you’re using the back entrance to the building in the loading dock, watch out for discarded needles.

It’s not a pretty picture. It won’t be for granny Sorensen visiting from Sweden during the Olympics either. Maybe if it rains enough, she’ll stay in her hotel.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hard Times

“No one can possibly have lived through the Great Depression without being scarred by it. No amount of experience since the depression can convince someone who has lived through it that the world is safe economically.”

-Isaac Asimov

Pour Yourself a Tall One

How bad are things these days? The bailouts are working right? The government is taking care of things. Obama is coming in!

Hitchens sends a wake up call.

The national Treasury is an echoing, empty vault; our Russian and Iranian enemies are acting even more wolfishly even as they sense a repudiation if Bush-Cheney; the lines of jobless and evicted are going to lengthen, and I don't think a diet of hope is going to cover it.

... many Obama voters appear to believe that the mere charm and aspect of their new president will act as an emollient influence on these unwelcome facts and these hostile forces. I can't make myself perform this act of faith, and I won't put up with any innuendo about my inability to do so.

In other news, there are capitalists and free marketers out there who think the new American paradigm where the government nationalizes the economy, is heading for a big disaster. You knew they would. They are out of fashion now but you can't ignore what they have to say. (A sample.)

What nearly all politicians on both sides of the aisle fail to understand is that the current contraction and credit crunch is necessary to restore order to an economy that is horribly out of balance. Years of misguided fiscal and monetary policy and market-distorting regulations have resulted in reckless borrowing and spending on Main Street, pervasive gambling on Wall Street, and rampant fraud and corruption at every intersection. America’s borrow and spend economy, and the bloated service sector that evolved around it, must be allowed to topple, so that a more sustainable economy grounded in savings and production can rise in its place. Any government efforts to delay the adjustment and spare us the pain will backfire, turning this recession into an inflationary depression.

Hard not to feel that the situation is bleak.

Royal Navy in Firefight

Last year when Iran captured eight British sailors, including a woman, in pathetic looking rubber dingys, you had to think it was the lowest point in the history of the proud organization. Nelson, up above somewhere, was once again holding up the telescope to his blind eye so as not to view that disgrace.

But if the sailors are allowed to do their jobs, as we see here, the dingys can be effective. (Story)

In the ensuing gunfight, two Somali pirates in a Yemeni-registered fishing dhow were killed, and a third pirate, believed to be a Yemeni, suffered injuries and subsequently died. It was the first time the Royal Navy had been engaged in a fatal shoot-out on the high seas in living memory.

Hat tip: Fydor

UPDATE: When speaking of rubber dingys, I couldn't help but think of the Rowan Atkins' Barclay Card commercials they used to show when I was in England. (See here youtube) In the UK the commercials are often better than the programing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Charity Begins at Home the Office

A buzzword that gets my back up is Corporate Responsibility. What is it? Well, it’s a lot of things but here is a definition from the Corporate Responsibility Index:

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development defines corporate responsibility as the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce, their families and the local community and society at large.

On the surface, I think who can argue with that? Ethics, quality of life, helping out the community.

It’s not long before you realize that it’s going end up falling onto the employees. My first grumbling with it started when, in the name of environmentalism, I began to notice the printer police. Companies in the last few years have started making rules against unnecessary printing. They’ll make laughable gestures such as setting up one printer, in an obscure corner to service the entire floor. (In order to make it physically difficult and time consuming to print.) Unfortunately, I have learned that with this comes an ample supply of busy-body employees who feel it their duty to enforce the rules.

One place I was working at had just such a set-up. It was a large company and the entire floor consisted of about 100 people. They had one printer off the kitchen for all of us. (Being in sales, we had to print off each of our orders, so it was quite busy at times.) Anyway, I was off to lunch and I printed out SI’s Monday Morning Quarterback football column. Something to read while I ate a 6” tuna at Subway. It took me about a minute to get to the printer and there was another salesman, a militant greenie, looking at my article still printing into the tray in disbelief. Sheepish, I said I needed something to read at lunch. He chided me. “Not exactly company business is it? What a waste.” I took my printout and left silently. I then spent the rest of the day fuming that I didn’t fight back.

That was a somewhat trivial example. Sometimes I hear stories in a similar vein that are genuinely crazy.

There’s a story from, er… a friend of mine that was even more worrisome. I He was fairly new at a company and was not fully aware of the culture. One day he noticed that all the different sales managers were wearing jeans, and t-shirts. It wasn’t casual Friday. He asked why they were dressed as such and his manager told him there was a team building project, with the all managers, at the end of the day.

Later near the end of the day, all the managers gathered in his area before they went off. Finally the VP of Sales showed up. My friend asked him where he was taking the managers. He answered with a laugh: “Oh, they wish they knew. I haven’t told them yet. They’re in for a surprise."

He didn’t give it much thought. He thought they might be going hiking or something.

A few days later they had huge pictures of each of the managers in silly chef’s hats and aprons festooned all over a wall. The caption read something like: “The good work we’re doing.”

Figuring this was the team building project, he asked his manager what it was all about. Told not to make private plans after work because of the event, the team was whisked off to a grocery store to buy supplies. They then went to a church basement where they cooked the food and served a hundred and some homeless people a charity dinner. They were not told in advance that this is what they were going to do.

Now, I’m really sorry here, but that is way too much to ask. Instead of, you know, doing your job to the best of your ability and making the company profitable, you have to “volunteer” your own time to serve food to homeless people. It’s outrageous to expect that. If I was in that position, I would have walked away.

I’ve been at companies that do United Way drives. I’ve had companies that allow you to volunteer on company time. I myself have volunteered to a program. These are good things. But to dictate this to people is way over the line. Is it not enough to bust your ass for a company 50 hours a week to try to make a living?

What reminded me of this subject is a commercial on NFL Network. The NFL and Home Depot have a program to build playgrounds in troubled neighborhoods. The ad shows an NFL player making a speech and cutting the final plank while Home Depot employee “volunteers” are there doing all the labor. My wife and I joke that the poor bastards make $10 bucks an hour with no commission and are probably forced to volunteer their days off to build Jungle Gyms.

I’ve heard many more of these types of stories. I want to try and figure out what it all means. Maybe it was just a sign of profitable times, where people forgot the bottom line. A poor economy has the magic effect of focusing minds. I will post more on this subject in the future.

UPDATE: I'd like to know how many people regret being phony in job interviews and mention that this sort of "value" is important to them? Next thing you know you're on your feet for six hours by a hot stove and then ladling Irish Stew to twitchy, homeless people. You're missing your family and Monday Night Football. Your boss sees your sourpuss and says, "You specifically said this was important to you, that you wanted to give back to the community, what's your problem?"

Social Responsibility

“What does it mean to say that the corporate executive has a ‘social responsibility’ in his capacity as businessman? If this statement is not pure rhetoric, it must mean that he is to act in some way that is not in the interest of his employers.”

-Milton Friedman

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Africa is a Continent Sarah Zach"

Headlines about Sarah Palin's intellectual challenges brought to mind the quote "Africa is a continent Zach" (Courtney B. Vance to Bill Paxton) from the movie The Last Supper.

When the movie came out, my wife had to convince me to rent it, because I wasn't interested in listening to the pontifications of a bunch of left-wing, self-righteous, graduate students. (Like there's any other kind of graduate student.) But it's actually a humorous satire on ideological extremism - very funny and cynical! Watch the trailer: The Last Supper.

Plus it has some fantastic artwork by an obscure artist David Ivie .

David Ivie
Elizabeth Harris Gallery

Otto Dix: Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor

World War I art

UPDATE: Otto Dix is incredible! Check out this nightmarish gallery.

UPDATE II: Reader Fydor found this great link:

A Day To Remember: "Back"

They ask me where I've been,
And what I've done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn't I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands...
Though I must bear the blame,
Because he bore my name.
-Wilfred Gibson

Monday, November 10, 2008


Declassified documents from 1968 reveal that a US B52 crashed on the ice off Greenland complete with four nuclear weapons. Only three were ever recovered. Story Here

The high explosives surrounding the four nuclear weapons had detonated but without setting off the actual nuclear devices, which had not been armed by the crew.


The documents make clear that within weeks of the incident,
investigators piecing together the fragments realised that only three of the weapons could be accounted for.

Ian Fleming's Thunderballimmediately comes to mind. SPECTRE stage a crash of a British nuclear bomber off the coast of the Bahamas. They then dive and recover the nukes. It's my favorite Bond novel and a so-so film. However, there was one part of the novel that gave me a chill. (This story proves that there was something to it.)

Bond is accessing the situation with M:

'Would that [the crash landing] explode the bombs?'

'No they are absolutely safe until they're armed. Apparantly even a direct drop, like the one from the B-47 over North Carolina in 1958, would only explode the TNT trigger to the thing. Not the plutonium.'


US Launched Secret Commando Raids

Here's a facinating article from the International Herald Tribune about some covert US military actions since 9-11 into sovereign countries such as Pakistan and Syria. My question: is this information going to compromise present and future operations? Are these damaging leaks? They keep quoting nameless officials.

The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.

In 2006, for example, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants' compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan, according to a former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Officials watched the entire mission — captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft — in real time in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center at the agency's headquarters in Virginia 7,000 miles away.


More than a half-dozen officials, including current and former military and intelligence officials as well as senior Bush administration policy makers, described details of the 2004 military order on the condition of anonymity because of its politically delicate nature. Spokesmen for the White House, the Defense Department and the military declined to comment.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Thought

Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.

-George Santayana

PJ O'Rourke: We Blew It

PJ O'Rourke is one of the biggest influences I've had in forming my political opinions. Fiscal conservatism mixed with libertarianism. Parliament of Whores and Holidays in Hell spoke to me in my 20's. Here's a great, long article on the aftermath of the 2008 election.

We have all of this going for us, worldwide. And yet we chose to
deliver our sermons only to the faithful or the already converted. Of course the trailer park Protestants yell "Amen." If you were handling rattlesnakes and keeping dinosaurs for pets, would you vote for the party that gets money from PETA?


To go from slime to the sublime, there are the lofty issues about which we never bothered to form enough principles to go out and break them. What is the coherent modern conservative foreign policy?

We may think of this as a post 9/11 problem, but it's been with us all along. What was Reagan thinking, landing Marines in Lebanon to prop up the government of a country that didn't have one? In 1984, I visited the site where the Marines were murdered. It was a beachfront bivouac overlooked on three sides by hills full of hostile Shiite militia. You'd urge your daughter to date Rosie O'Donnell before you'd put troops ashore in such a place.