14 February 2009

Now I see what's being stimulated

I got my first piece of junk e-mail touting a scheme based on the “stimulus” legislation that passed Congress yesterday. And if junk e-mailers are making more money who am I to count the cost?

12 February 2009

$800 billion and no budget for clue

Politico reports

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) all have publicly insisted that the measure emerge more or less unchanged from the House-Senate conference committee that kicked off Tuesday night.

How would they know? They didn’t have time to read the original and won’t have time to read the result of the conference. But hey — that’s way better than letting those free market types have their way.

Goin' digital

Via Brothers Judd is a report that reads

President Barack Obama signed legislation Wednesday to delay the U.S.’s mandatory switch to digital-only television on June 12 even as hundreds of television stations across the country finalized plans to shut off analog broadcasts on Tuesday, Feb. 17, anyway.

The headline claims the stations are ignoring the legislation and Obama, but I don’t see that. The deadline that was moved wasn’t the earliest moment at which a TV station could switch, but the latest. If a station switches earlier that’s still compliant with this legislation.

As it turns out, I am actually on the “Tech Sub-Committee” for the local PBS station where this is discussed1. The only thing holding that station back right now is the original surveys were optimistic about signal strength. The result is that the digital signal does not cover all of the analog region so switching means cutting off viewers even if they have converted to digital. The station is understandably reluctant to do that. Otherwise they would be dropping analog next week. They are trying to work with the FCC for a new survey and the attendant permission to boost signal strength, at which point the analog broadcast will be turned off.

It was stated that of the local commercial TV stations, only one will still be on analog at the end of the month (some stations have already dropped analog). I was told that the power bill for running a transmitter is a major chunk of the budget. For the PBS station, the current digital signal strength is 1% of the analog power. Even if they get that boosted to 5% as they hope, it’s still a significant bump on the bottom line.


1 which is funny because I don’t watch television and I support the defunding of public television.

10 February 2009

Ospama

I noticed that a poster calling itself “Suggestions4Obama.com” has been dropping the same comment at a number of weblogs (you can see it here but I have seen it word for word elsewhere and netsearching yields many hits).

The content is the standard wall of fear mongering with no explanation of how the current stimulus bill would fix anything, only the “we need to do something, this is something, we need to do it” logic. I do like the Hoover / Bush analogy in the rest of the comments at the example, though.

Capitalist Rope

Hot Air has reports about the increasingly dire economic situation in Venezuela, thanks to the decade or so of stimulus provided by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The main thrust of it is that contractors working on petroleum production are leaving because they are not getting paid, in at least one case getting shorted over $100M. What I want to know is, didn’t these firms expect this would be the end game? Or did they make enough while times were good to cover the end game short fall?

End Times Watch

I recently heard an editorial on NPR that slammed our overly complex tax code based on the series of tax cheats nominated by President Obama. It was pointed out that no human can possibly understand a 65,000 page set of tax regulations, so perhaps we should look at simplifcation. I thought the radio was tuned to the wrong station.

05 February 2009

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi Watch

Seriously, why can’t Gates take up sailing or golf like any other self respecting billionaire? You can grouse all you want about The Gilded Age and “Robber Barons”, but at least folks back then did not have to put up with this noxious posturing.

Amused Bystander

Second looks

It’s a PUMA retrospective video at Hot Air. I don’t have time to watch videos, but it did remind me that I was pondering politics the other day and realized — gosh, Secretary of State Clinton is looking a lot less un-attractive these days. I realize that Senator McCain has actually not completely embarrassed himself since the election but still. There is no way a botox-addled appartchik like Speaker Pelosi would have rolled SOSHRC the way she did President Obama.

Al Sadr Irrelevancy Watch

As Iraqi Elections Loom, al-Sadr’s Political Clout Fades

An article from Time magazine which, amazingly, was actually somewhat accurate. Iraqi PM Maliki’s party dominated the elections. Al Sadr attained a greater level of irrelevance. But he’s going to come back from Iran in triumph any day now. Just like the Mahdi himself.

Kitchen Staff Supervisor

I know I am a little late with this, but I had set aside this post about the appointment of Senator Judd Gregg for Secretary of Commerce.

I am surprise the Gregg accepted the nomination. Ignoring the downside from a party loyalty perspective, it’s not clear what personal beneifts Gregg thinks he will receive. First there is the general MAL orientation of the Obama Adminstration, with which one presumes Gregg will be at odds. It seems very likely that Gregg will simply be either marginalized or forced to become a proponent of economic policies he thinks are stupid and counter-productive. This aspect is so strong that originally I thought it was a clever ploy to pry Gregg out of the Senate and then dispose of him from the Cabinet as well via resignation when Gregg finally gets fed up.

Beyond that is the fact that the Obama Adminstration is adopting a Holy Roman Empire structure where the officials officially in charge are not because of all of the princelings czars and chiefs who are assigned the interesting bits of the political land. E.g., the undercutting of Secretary of State Clinton with envoys to the Middle East, China, and presumably other places once those get interesting. I have no doubt there will be various economic czars (like “Chief Performance Officer”) to erode the scope of the Secretary of Commerce regardless of whether it’s Gregg or someone else. Why does Gregg think this will be good for him, or anyone else for that matter?

It reminds me much of the sort of byzantine organizational structures that heads of state who are fearful for their position create, so that every subordinate can be overruled or marginalized by a shift of emphasis rather than any explicit action that could be called to account. Of course, this is simply the MAL game plan for the nation — multiply law and regulation until everyone is guilty and therefore every one is vulnerable to the whims of the enforcers — writ small. But at least there is a plan!

Recipricocity

Of course, these social network websites sell advertising. One that caught my eye was from “Mate 1”, a match making service, which I tend to look at because it usually features a very attractive female (itself interesting, because presumably this means that such as advertisement is attractive to men and women, or they’re trying to recruit men preferentially). Anyway, this time it was an animation that implied that once you signed up you would get lots of messages from the service.

But, my brain informed me, if you get numerous messages, wouldn’t that apply in general? And therefore any message you sent would be lost among the numerous messages the recipient was also getting? A bit of turn off, I would think.

I like being opaque

A former colleague badgered me in to signing up with yet another social networking website (Plaxo). What occurred to me while I was fiddling with that is how many such websites presume that it’s fine to mix business and social aspects of your life. Plaxo, for instance, promotes business connections but in its “About Me” section has sections for “political views”, “tv shows / movies”, and “religious views”. Is it because I am so old fashioned that I find those rather odd things to be publicizing in a business context? I like to keep my aspect separated, which is why I dump all of my politicizing here instead of on my associates in my social and business aspects.

04 February 2009

Fun with polls

According to this poll, 38% of Americans think the stimulus should be passed “as is” and 17% think it will make the economy “a lot better”. So we have 11% of the American Street who think the stimulus bill will, at best, make the economy “a little better”, supporting it as is. I wonder if that’s the same 11% who thought there was no problem buying a house with a mortgage payment larger than their take home pay.

It's all fun and games until some one gets elected

I read this bit by Victor Davis Hanson and I was immediately take away with a line from the only good Star Trek movie — “Obama, I’m laughing at the superior intellect”.

The problem with this hole is that we're not digging fast enough

I had this in my tabs to write about but Mr. Eagar beat me to it. The gist is that the Republicans in the Senate have decided to promote economic recovery by requiring Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac to buy mortages issued by private banks if the interest rate is sufficiently low.

Words fail me. I would use some of the invective Eagar has in stock but frankly that’s not going to suffice either. All I can think of “does these people have minions that help them remember to move their jaws when they chew?”.

P.S. As an example to others, I am not going to attempt to disguise the flourescent idiocy of this by comparing it to some of the other mind-crogglingly stupid plans that are floating around. If it’s stupid then it’s stupid. It doesn’t matter what other stupid things are going on.

Neologism

“Sycopress” — sycophantic press. “It was a sign of his fading popularity when President Obama dropped in to visit with the sycopresses in the White House news room today and only three of them fainted.”

From Stepahnie

02 February 2009

Laboring the Economy

KausFiles reports that

[President] Obama has issued a late Friday executive order requiring that when a government service contract expires—and there’s a new contract to perform the same services at the same location—the new contractor has to keep the old workers. Why?

Kaus then observes

For example, the Obama administration itself can be seen as having won a new contract to perform the same Federal services, at the same location, as the previous contractor, the Bush Administration. Did Obama keep all of Bush’s employees in order to reduce “disruption” and enjoy “the benefits of an experienced and trained work force that is familiar with the Federal Governments … facilities”?

Yes, well, such rules only apply to the little people.

But beyond such blatant hypocrisy is the consideration of what this means in practice. How, exactly, could a new contractor keep the workers for the previous contractor? This is likely to make contractors de facto government agencies that can’t be reformed, only eliminated along with what ever services were being performed. I.e., the services will be held hostage to keep the same workers in the same jobs regardless of performance. Well, I can see how that concept would be attractive to Obama.

01 February 2009

Bias is history

I have read a number of posts lately on the winter storm problems and the difference in reporting vs. Hurrican Katrina and something occurred to me — the recognition of bias requires memory. So naturally if you’re one of those journalists or more broadly of the MAL for whom history always started yesterday you will be incapable of understanding why others accuse of bias. Now that’s turning a weakness into strength.