July 27th, 2009 – A Mixed Bag

After a relatively quiet weekend, the papers are bursting with opinions, much like Mother Nature does in spring, when it sends daffodils and other delights bursting through the earth.  Of course, our material is still mired in the mud…We hear headlines about how Obama has invited the “guys” (Sgt. Crowley and Prof Gates ) over for a beer.  But that’s not the way I recall it…seems to me, toward the end of the press conference, Pres Obama said, as an aside, that Crowley had mentioned something about a beer at the WH.  Any deductions of what that seemed to suggest had Obama back-pedaling even further, although now he’s seen the light and is embracing the idea, even promoting it as his own.  The real kicker is the obscene words that flowed from Professor Gates:

  • “I am pleased that he, too, is eager to use my experience as a teaching moment, and if meeting Sgt. Crowley for a beer with the president will further that end, then I would be happy to oblige,” Gates said in a statement on TheRoot.com, an Internet newsletter he edits.  (for Reuters)

So now you have Gates implying that Obama wants to use Gates’ experience as a teaching moment.  hmmm.  What do you think: teaching our young how NOT to challenge a law enforcment officer?  Maybe about how NOT to comment on a situation when you don’t have all the facts. hmmmm,  What could it be?  Sure, there will be extremes – but that is not this case, this instance, this moment

And is Sgt Crowley going to cave to social pressures and go “make nice” when he has been severly wronged?  Any such attempt to “make nice” would send a wrong signal to everyone who supports law enforcement organizations.  Wives, childlren, teachers, pastors, small business owners, etc.  We abide by the law and an officer’s authority becasue this is the basis of civility within our social structure.

On to healthcare. Great writeup in WSJ’s Notable &  Quotable with Clifford Asness, writing at stumblingontruth.com. And another great column “Dr. Obama’s Tonsillectomy”. Truth is, I can’t recall the government has ever taking anything, and converted it into a model of efficiency. Ever.  Feel free to correct me, but I don’t see it.

And lastly, as it’s bedtime here, I see Unions’ Labor Chiefs are doing better than the workers….hmmm.  and that’s a surprise to someone?  Oh yes, Let’s take one last minute to look at SEIU.  Verbatim from WSJ: Union officer benefits are also far more generous than anything dues-paying workers enjoy. Consider again the SEIU, probably the country’s most powerful union. Their officers and employees get a yearly 3% cost of living increase, but SEIU members get none; officers qualify for an early pension at 50 or after more than 30 years of service, but workers can’t retire early with a pension; officers qualifying for disabilitiy retirement after a year’s service, but workers need 10 years.  In the land of union retirement, some workers are more equal than others.

Rantchet – A misuse of language, Chinese Think-Tanks

I watched the live coverage today as the President attempted to clarify that when he said the Cambridge Police acted stupidily, he did not intend to malign them (worsening an already sensitive issue.  He needs to understand it is not about a “racial” issue, it is about the President usurping Law Enforcement’s authority)

Then he went on to say, twice, things were rantcheting up.  Huh?  Since when did ratchet become rantchet?  It would be one thing if he just stumbled over some words, but since he did it twice, it sounds like he doesn’t know the word, or at least is not familiar with it enough to use it correctly.

This has been an on-going issue with me – his misuse of language.  I have heard him use double negatives, I have heard him speak slang (during “polished” speeches), and this disturbs me.  As an employer seeing college applicants who cannot write well, cannot speak well, I can’t help but wonder if the President’s misuse of language isn’t a sign of a breakdown – dummy down style – of our system.  I fear it is.  I have read he is well-educated, and I have to believe this, but I am beginning to question the quality of that education.

As an industrialized nation, we are continually falling behind on the educational front.  We can claim “strategic innovation” as a direction for our country, but truth is, we are not producing an educated population that can build or lead innovation.  Face it, our bench strength is not very deep.

Over-population can have its advantages.  I have read that an advantage China’s think tanks have is that there are so many people making contributions.  Couple that with a strong education, and the writing is on the wall for us (no pun intended).  The old saying about winning the war without firing a single bullet may very well take place during our lifetime – on our watch.  Not a pleasant thought.

From March 2008 article:


Wang Luolin nodded politely and smiled, then told me that his academy had 50 research centres covering 260 disciplines with 4,000 full-time researchers.

As he said this, I could feel myself shrink into the seams of my vast chair: Britain’s entire think tank community is numbered in the hundreds, Europe’s in the low thousands; even the think-tank heaven of the US cannot have more than 10,000. But here in China, a single institution—and there are another dozen or so think tanks in Beijing alone—had 4,000 researchers.

The Arrest of a Black Scholar – Professor Gates

This case reminds me of the true story I am reading: “Why Just Her – Jeane Palfrey” (http://www.whyjusther.com/).  It documents a gross miscarriage of justice, much much worse than what Professor Gates experienced.  Unfortunately, unlike Prof Gate’s experience, no one hollered too much as Washington DC circled their wagons.

Now, with the uproar over Professor Gates’ experience, I can’t help but wonder if all the hoopla isn’t justified?  At first, I was disgusted by it (pleeeeez, it was just two people being emotionally frustrated with each other, with one side clearly having the upper hand – note to self, never argue with law enforcement officers over petty things).

But the supporters’ voices are getting their point across, aren’t they?   In Jeane Palfrey’s case, there was no huge outcry for the lone white woman the government threw its full weight upon.  Maybe if citizens had united for her, we could have made a difference.

The book is compelling – mostly because it seems inconceivable that the government could get away with its behavior.  I googled the author – he is considered a renegade attorney, and based on this book, that is probably justifiable.  He’s not one to play nice when you aren’t playing by the rules.

But Gates, and all the attention over something so trivial, it’s just a shame when you consider these same people could have voiced their concerns over much larger injustices.


From Reader’s Digest:

A scientific study, published in the Journal “Neuron“, has found that  multi-tasking does not make you more efficient.

Subjects were instructed to identify different-colored images while also identifying a variety of sounds.  Researchers then monitored brain activity with an MIRI.  When both color and sound were introduced at the same time or within a half a second of each other the brain simply delayed responding to one until the other was performed.

The conclusion was that the brain has a built-in “bottleneck” that prevents interferences caused by dueling thought processes.  Some multitasking can be learned with practice (such as playing an instrument while talking).  But many overlapping tasks (such as emailing while talking on the phone) are not really possible.

Lesson: You are better off completing one task before moving on to another; otherwise you compromise the integrity of both tasks.

Government Foolishness (BoA)

Morgan Hosel yesterday brought to our attention the BoA vs taxpayer fiasco (see below).  I understand Bank of America benefited from implied government insurance, but never signed the paperwork.   And I understand the government (or customer) should benefit from taking the risk. However, if BoA didn’t sign the paperwork, that is the foolishness of the government, and the government loses.

And the Big G wants to run healthcare?

By Morgan Hosel for Motley Fool

Earlier this year, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) received an additional slug of capital from taxpayers to digest its Merrill Lynch acquisition. In addition to $20 billion of TARP funds, the bank received what’s called a ring-fenced asset guarantee on 90% of a $118 billion pool of assets.

In layman’s terms, B of A took $118 billion of dodgy assets, stuck them in a separate pile, and asked taxpayers to cover 90% of the losses after the first $10 billion. In exchange, it was to issue Uncle Sam $4 billion in preferred stock yielding 8%, plus warrants worth 10% of that amount. A month earlier, Citigroup (NYSE: C) did a similar thing on a $306 billion pool of assets.

Now here’s where things get weird: The asset guarantee was never used. Consequently, B of A doesn’t want to pay the $4 billion-plus it agreed to compensate taxpayers with. Complicating matters, it claims it doesn’t have to pay simply because it never signed the papers back in January. How convenient.

There’s no question, however, that the deal was struck. B of A’s Jan. 16 press release clearly states that the government was providing “insurance for $118 billion in exposure,” and would “pay a premium of 3.4 percent of those assets for this program.” 

Regulators, feeling used and abused, are fighting for at least a portion of $4 billion as a premium for what’s essentially an insurance policy. This makes sense: There’s no doubt that B of A benefited handsomely from the guarantee, lowering its cost of capital and allaying fears that it was about to explode.

Even if taxpayers never paid out a penny, there’s an argument to make that they accepted a substantial risk, and should be compensated for it. That’s how the business of insurance works.

O’s Healthcare, Pelosi’s lie, Global timeline, Who do we blame?

After a long day at work – my manufacturing facility in SoCal, coming home I heard Obama on the radio news  talking about how nurse Becky told him everyone has to “buck up” for the Health Care” plan he is pushing.  If that doesn’t just beat all.  Nurse Becky is telling us what we need to do! He is so amazingly inexperienced, it is incredulous.

For anyone following global crisis, here is an interesting link that has a timeline for you.

On a separate subject, I just don’t understand Pelosi’s lies about the CIA briefing her on waterboarding.  How can a person in power lie?  I never lie.  It’s just not possible to be honorable and tell a lie (admittedly, because in part you know the consequences are worse than the truth).  You would think she would know better.   Of course the flip side is she didn’t lie, but since she can’t backup her allegation under intense scrutiny and outrage, she leads us to no other conclusion.  And now, the fiasco about Congress not being briefed on plans that never got off the table – that is reminiscent of Clinton lying about having sex with ML, because the statement all hinged on how one interpreted the use of the word “is”. 

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the–if he–if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not–that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement….Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”

Remember that?

Here’s something to ponder: Who’s to Blame for the (economic) mess we are in: http://www.newsweek.com/id/186180


To quote another wonderful woman:

“Being powerful is like being a lady.
If you have to tell people, then you aren’t.”

Margaret Thatcher.

She also said:

“We want a society where people are free
to make choices, to make mistakes,
to be generous and compassionate.
This is what we mean by a moral society;
not a society where the state is responsible
for everything, and no one is responsible
for the state.”

Defining Success

Margaret Mead,  by Wikipedia’s description, was a popularizer of the insights of anthropology into modern American and Western culture.  The other day, she was quoted as having said:

” I must admit that I personally measure
success in terms of the contributions
an individual makes to her or his
fellow human beings.”

I really wonder, in the wake of Michael Jackson’s passing, what she would have thought of his contribution.  Would she have thought he contributed?  Certainly, he was a top entertainer.  But how does that contribute to fellow human beings?  Inspiration?  Were we inspired to do something?   I loved his work, but was I “inspired”?  Perhaps.  Perhaps in the sense of witnessing someone do the very best they can.    Perhaps the contribution was the enjoyment in watching the performance.

So what about shock-jock Madonna?   I like her work, but she’s not at her very best – her performance is mediocre, relatively speaking, and her voice isn’t all that good.  She is ambitious enough to do anything (gross or not)  to keep fans gaggling for her.

So what would Margaret Mead have said?

Let The Markets Decide

I listened this morning  to GM’s CEO “customers, cars, & culture” priority…

Did anyone read Anna Schwawrtz’s brief interview in Time? http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1909115,00.html

She lived through crash of 1929,and is considered a financial matriarch. She co-authored with Nobel laureate Milton Friedman the highly acclaimed financial bible A Monetary History of the United States (Princeton University Press, 1963), and she’s worked as an economist with the National Bureau of Economic Research since 1941.  She now serves as an adjunct professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Bottom line: Companies that fail should be allowed to fail. Let the market decide. Rescue plans provide no motivation for companies to “get it”.

After listening to “the new” General Motors this morning, I heartily agree.

Global Warming

Are we all on the same page?  Does everyone know that Al Gore stands to benefit from the cap-and-trade regulations?  He is a partner in a capital firm called Kleiner Perkins, which has invested about $1 B in 40 companies that stand to gain from the cap-and-trade regs. (IBD, 6/18/09)

Remember this the next time you hear Al Gore ignoring reports that contradict his assertion that global warming is accelerating.  That reminds me – it snowed in Yonkers New York earlier this week.  In July!  How’s that for global warming?