Thursday, March 31, 2005

He's A Nutter

Psychic Powers
I knew it. Felos is a nut job.
That soft, sing-songy voice, the tilted head, the manufactured look of empathy, the half-smile, the attempts to paint Schiavo's starvation as some sort of warm and fuzzy event removed from the physical sphere, all come from a guy who, in his first right-to-die case, wrote this:
I felt the midsection of my body open and noticed a strange quality
to the light in the room. I sensed her soul in agony. As she screamed I heard
her say, in confusion, "Why am I still here ... Why am I here?" My soul touched
hers and in some way I communicated that she was still locked in her body. I
promised I would do everything in my power to gain the release her soul cried
for. With that, the screaming immediately stopped. I felt like I was back in my
head again, the room resumed its normal appearance, and Mrs. Browning, as she
had throughout this experience, lay silent.
He seems to be regularly in touch with the non-physical world:
Felos claims to have used his mental powers to cause a plane he was
passenger on to nearly crash. By simply asking himself, "I wonder what it would
be like to die right now?" the plane's autopilot program mysteriously ceased to
function and the plane descended into free fall. Felos then observed, "At that
instant a clear, distinctly independent and slightly stern voice said to me, 'Be
careful what you think. You are more powerful than you realize.' In quick
succession I was startled, humbled and blessed by God's admonishment."
Apparently Felos seeks out these cases in order to self-stimulate his spiritual release:
"As I continued to stay beside Mrs. Browning at her nursing home
bed, I felt my mind relax and my weight sink into the ground. I began to feel
lightheaded as I became more reposed. Although feeling like I could drift into
sleep, I also experienced a sense of heightened awareness."
At least Kevorkian has the guts to own up to his convictions. Felos just gets off on the whole thing while billing $400 per hour.
The French call it "le petite morte"; Felos calls it a day at the office.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Can't We All Just Get Along?

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - An Egyptian stabbed a Hungarian man and woman,
slightly wounding them, after the couple kissed while pausing for a photograph
near a mosque at Cairo's popular tourist bazaar, police said Tuesday.

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Ugandan Muslims have demonstrated
in the capital to protest a proposed restriction on polygamy they see as an
affront to their religion.Under Islamic law, a Muslim man is allowed to take up
to four wives, as long as he can provide for all of them equally. But a domestic
relations bill being debated by Uganda's parliament says Ugandan Muslims should
have to seek approval from their first wife before marrying again.

"Islamic law has been there since it was passed on from Allah to the Prophet Mohammed, it cannot be re-written now," one of the protesters, Bukulu Haruna, told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Grim Realities

The grim realities of Terry Schiavo's death are starting to surface.

George Felos, who has the audacity to patronize the public and spin the realities of Terry's condition in direct contradiction of her own family, has let it slip:

Felos said Terri "has never been on a morphine drip." She has received two small doses of five miligrams of morphine a week ago and on Sunday, but not for pain relief, he added without elaborating.

"Without elaborating." Let me speculate: The expected convulsions from dehydration have begun. The moaning we hear referenced by her family is real, and her mind and body are struggling to stay alive. It serves neither side to pretend that her death is purely a peaceful interlude.

And Felos' attempt to fuzzy-up the lens, zoom-out slowly, and have Terry fade to black ain't going to wash.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Aaron Resurfaces...

creator of this, and author of Aaron's Rantblog, has rejoined the ranks of the blogosphere here after a prolonged absence. Please give him a bookmark.

Can You Say "Firetrap?"...

The new Airbus A380 jetliner is so enormous that it will take almost one hour for its maximum load of 853 passengers to board. In an emergency, those same people must be able to escape within 90 seconds. . . (MORE:)

Churchill Comes To Town

... and Res Ipsa Loquitur has the goods on his appearance on the UC Berkeley campus.

His schtick? As you would expect, a race card, although last I checked he was still a member of the Caucasian tribe.

RIL sums up the panel's discussion:

...those who attack Churchill are presumably white people in power, Newt Gingrich (a critic of Churchill) is "ethnically-impaired."

Good grief. Gingrich has been out of power for years. Does this stuff still sell?

Monday, March 28, 2005

My Barbershop

Last Refuge?

Being deeply esconced in the homogeneity and commercial blandness of suburbia, I have to travel cross-town to avoid the Super-Cuts and Pro-Cuts and other monuments to vapidity in order to get a trim.

No teen queen is going to be seen easing my head back into a wash basin to get the shampoo and rinse. No dazed walk from the sink to the chair wrapped in a plastic sheet for me. No hip, canned music playing in the background giving the impression of a party. And I don't read US magazine.

Let me tell you about my barbershop:

Pictures of fighters and football players surround the heads of large mammals on the walls. The TV is tuned to auto racing, and a straight edge is used around the ears and neck. But beyond these standard features, I get to hear real conversations from the three barbers (two men and one woman):

Woman Barber was excited to tell me on Friday that she's getting married this week to her long lost boyfriend. He's been in prison for 20 years, and was recently released due to Arnold's prison release program. He doesn't have any prospects for work, and they ran into each other just three months ago at the Raiders game, but it all is just falling into place.

Man Barber #1 during my last visit unbuttoned his shirt to show me the stab wound he received in a bar fight. It wasn't just a scar, but a deep gash a few inches north of his left peck. Doctor told him a little lower and he'd be dead. I was assured that his assailant has his own wound as a souvenir.

Man Barber #2 a while back reached into his scissor drawer and pulled out a box full of wild boar teeth from a recent kill in the local hills. He only hunts with bow and arrow, and has had one ram its tusks into his leg.

The barbershop is the last refuge of reality in a synthetic world, where social pretense is left at the door and business is conducted in cash. Give me ex-cons, bar fights, and boar hunts any day, just don't ask if I want gel.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Crashing The Met

Banksy's Opening At The Met

An enterprising artist has decided that his work is as worthy to be publically viewed as the Masters currently on display at the New York Met, the American Museum of Natural History, the MOMA, and the Brooklyn Museum, smuggling in his own art and simply hanging it on the walls.

Going by the name of "Banksy," the prankster hit all four New York museums on March 13. And this wasn't the first time:

Last year he smuggled work into the Louvre in Paris and London's Tate, attracting attention in the British media.

"My sister inspired me to do it. She was throwing away loads of my pictures one day and I asked her why. She said 'It's not like they're going to be hanging in the Louvre.'" (more pictures)

Now I don't condone vandalism in our greatest museums, but this prank has a certain charm in its democratic brashness. If Warhol can (pun intended), why not me?

It also reminds me of a fraternity stunt we executed at UC Berkeley, whose grounds are peppered with avant-guarde sculptures that don't necessarily conform to recognizeable patterns of aesthetic work.

Late one night we emptied out our garage, shed, and dumpster of old, rusty items and trash, arranged it in provocative ways in the center of a quad's lawn, and placed an official-looking name plate at its feet.

Our display lasted for a month, receiving critical acclaim.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

ABC News Crucifies Terry Schiavo

Yesterday I was driving to work when I heard the ABC national polling director on the network feed explain, in authoritative tones, that the effort to save Terry Schiavo was out of step with American public opinion. Citing the results of their new poll, this authority on the collective consciousness of America definitively stated that a 63%-28% plurality favored removing Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube.

I was stunned by their polling result, and began to question my own, conflicted instincts.

But it, like almost everything else it spews forth,
was a manufactured lie.

Nor did the polling question mention that she
anticipates pain. Or that her face smiles and brightens in response to familiar persons, and laughs with others. Or that she experiences the pain of menstruation, and is comforted with aspirin. I heard her recorded voice when her feeding tube was extracted and I don’t believe it was purely a reflex.

I’m not prone to religious imagery, and this is not meant as a metaphor:

ABC News is crucifying Terry Schiavo. They are a modern day Roman centurion that has taken a vinegar-soaked spear and thrust it into her side.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Limits of Rockstar-dom

Dissed in Uganda
Bob Geldof has his heart in the right place. But now that Live Aid is a distant memory, and after being eclipsed by Bono as the Rockstar/Robin Hood-for-the-Third World, he has to put up with certain indignities. His latest effort to effect change in Uganda by calling for Presidential term limits has created a backlash:

Hundreds of people have marched through the streets of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, to protest Sir Bob Geldof's call for the president (Museveni) to step down.

They held placards which read: "Geldof sober up and shut up", "No to drug addicts and Rock Homos." (link)
Ouch. There are plenty of Rockstars that deserve those comments, I'm not sure Geldof is one of them. For example, he had the guts to publically give Bush credit for his commitment to Aids:
"Clinton talked the talk and did diddly squat, whereas Bush doesn't talk but does deliver." (Link)
Geldof has had a tumultuous personal life, watching his wife Paula Yates run off with Michael Hutchence of the band INXS, who subsequently committed suicide. Yates eventually died of a drug overdose, leaving him in charge of their three kids and one child from the Hutchence union.
Geldof still works on Africa aid and debt-relief, working under the radar while Bono takes the limelight. I was never a fan of his music, but I give him credit for committing to his moral passion and walking the walk for those who are weak and dying - not unlike those undertaking the vigil in Florida.
It seems to me that it's going to take a Bob Geldof type organizing a new "Live Aid for Terry Schiavo" if Terry is going to make it through the weekend.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Jihad: The Musical...

...has opened to rave reviews and standing room only audiences. Here, via Beautiful Atrocities.

Personally, I got all misty-eyed when John Walker Lindh took center stage and sang A Long Way From Whole Foods. A real show-stopper.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Chirac Draws A Digital Maginot Line

Jacques Chirac is feeling a bit beleaguered. The French might not pass the E.U. Constitution, French wine may not be all that it's cracked up to be, Agence France-Presse feels threatened by Google, and Google's announcement that it is to offer access to some 15 million books and documents currently housed in five of the most prestigious libraries in the English-speaking world has France's chief librarian in a tizzy:
"It is confirmation of the risk of a crushing American domination
in the definition of how future generations conceive the world."

It would have been "deleterious and detestable" for the image of France if the only texts popularly consulted around the world for an interpretation of the revolution were English-language ones, he said.

So Chirac is launching a digital Maginot line, quickly financing the Gallica project which has put some 80,000 French works and 70,000 images on-line, hoping to slow the digital advance of the Anglo-Saxon culture. But the budget for this effort is less than one thousandth of the 200 million dollars that the US is prepared to spend.

Given the success of the original Maginot line, one would think that Chirac would best adopt the Vichy strategy and cede the war to the Anglosphere; that being said, no one is arguing, including me, that French language shouldn't be fully represented on the internet. The only barrier to entry is the conviction with which one stands behind their country's culture.

I Know Dylan Is Multi-Dimensional, But...

...this is taking things a little too far:

Bob Dylan has finally given permission to a Hollywood studio to
make a film about his life. He will be portrayed by seven actors – one of them a
black woman.

It is traditional in films spanning a lifetime for characters to be played by more than one actor, but rare for them to change sex or race. (Director) Haynes is considering female actors, including the pop singer Beyonce Knowles, the tennis champion Venus Williams and the television presenter Oprah Winfrey.

Interesting. Venus Williams goes electric at Newport. Oprah lets it rip on the harmonica. Beyonce rides into town in the Rolling Thunder Review. Don't people realize that the only thing Dylan has played straight is his songs (and never the same way live) and his recent memoir? Everything else is a diversion to throw you off his scent. He won't let you know him outside of his art, only occasional glimpses on his own terms.

That being said, does this mean I've got a shot at playing Tina Turner?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bring Back The Stirrup

Frank Robinson Stirs It Up

Recent postings from Sluggo on Roberto Clemente and Mr. Snitch on the Zen of baseball, along with my recent visit to the Cactus League last weekend, and Mark McGwire's national self-destruction, have prompted my own metaphysical search for the ultimate baseball truth. And I think I've found it. Bring back the stirrup.

Yes. The professional sterility of the full length baseball pant, and the occasional monotone bobby-sock/knickers look of J.T. Snow and a handful of others, are draining the cheer and boyish charm out of the aesthetics of the game. We need to see some stirrups, low or high, striped or single-colored - but only with a white sanitary undersock (no A's gold or yellow undersocks! Charlie Finley, eternal shame.). Stirrups are as important to the game as a dark blue-clad umpire, a white-chalked field, a dark-green fence, or the team logo on the cap's crown.

And where did this uniform feature come from? It's roots are deep in the lore of the game and date back to the early 1900's, when real players like Ty Cobb ran amok:

Because clothing dye was not colorfast, colored socks bled onto a
player's legs and feet when mixed with his inescapable sweat seeping from his
skin. According to one history reading, this was particularly dangerous because
a player could get blood poisoning if the bleeding dye infected the bleeding
wound of a freshly spiked shin. The less-dangerous reason is that players didn't
especially enjoy their feet turning various shades of the rainbow, thus the need
for a solution. (link - a great read)

That's a pedigree that's worthy of preserving. As a Little Leaguer in the early 70s, the fashion was to pull the stirrup up as high as possible. You'd even doctor the sock by cutting it at the bottom of the stirrup, and sewing in a wide elastic band to let the arch reach high up on your calf and shin (high arch always in back). Frank Robinson is credited with pushing this fashion envelope. But I'd prefer the low arch variety as a standard.

We need to cleanse the game from the taint of steroids and the corrupting influences of fame and money. The easiest way would be to bring back the stirrup.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

How to Save California's Schools

I am what you might call a "super user" of the California Public School System: Spear-son and Spear-daughter in middle school and high school respectively, and Ms. Shaker a teacher's aid studying for her full teaching credential.

So when California spends over $9,000 per student (including local, state, and federal sources) in 2004, and yet ranks near the bottom in many state-by-state comparisons, it's going to take more than just the Governator to turn things around.

I've got two mandatory core curriculum changes that will improve the value of a California education and set our students on the right path for the future:

1) eBay Lab: If my son can sell his used Nintendo Gamecube, along with a set of old games, on eBay for 3/4 of its original value, then others need to be introduced to this service. Not only did he learn how to market an item (the gallery photo, description, and product listing are critical), but also how to price (reserve or no reserve price, review of comparable listings), transact an auction, interact with a buyer, pack and ship a product, receive electronic payment, provide feedback, and potentially manage any return issues. In others words, he became an online entrepreneur. Think how efficient our economy would be if all school kids were taught how to use this tool and apply the learnings to other businesses.

2) Apprentice Studies: There hasn't been a TV show that more accurately presents the concepts of responsibility and meritocracy in the corporate world better than the Apprentice. Granted there is plenty of gamesmanship and contrived drama, and corporate life can be dreary and corrupt, but the lessons of project management, task management, teamwork, planning, competition, and accountability are invaluable and sorely lacking in the school system. And these skills don't just apply to big business. Students would study the episodes, write papers on lessons learned, and then be assigned their own community service tasks in a competition. We'd have to scale back some of the awards, however.

eBay and the Apprentice - two of our best pop culture inventions that just might save the younger generation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Alarm! Alarm! We're all going to fry! The Great Flood will be unleashed! The end is nigh! The snows of Kilimanjaro are melting! Or maybe not for the reason you might expect. Link.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Avenging Emma

The Real Emma Peel

Maureen Dowd says she conjures up images of Diana Rigg in the 60s when she wants to trash someone in her column:

"When I need to work up my nerve to write a tough column, I try to think of myself as Emma Peel in a black leather catsuit, giving a kung fu kick to any diabolical mastermind who merits it."
Well I'm no John Steed, but I don't like Emma's memory to be co-opted by a boozy, bitter, bitchy and increasingly incoherent New York Times columnist. Can you recall a column by MoDo that had any policy insights whatsoever?

Meanwhile, Emma Peel lives on as the witty, brilliant, attractive, seductive, and self-assured character that she was.

These episodes, along with the Prisoner, were 60s British television at its best, and pushed the envelope in intelligent, provocative, and creative ways that today's commercial crap could only dream of.

Patrick MacNee (Steed), once said of Emma's character: " I was the woman, and she was the man." For some reason that's not how I want to think of Diana Rigg's character. But the question of whether she was simply a cult icon or a role model with larger cultural implications is worth debating.

It's Lonely At The Top

Being President of a small African nation has its challenges. Aides to Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika explain:
"Sometimes the president feels rodents crawling all over his body
but when lights are turned on he sees nothing."
I hate it when that happens.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Caption Contest

Michael Jackson's Career

Jose Canseco's credibility? The French work ethic? A380 test flight? Barry Bonds' back? Tehran in five years? Hillary Clinton close-up?. . .

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Taking Off Or Crash Landing?

This helps answer this question.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"This Is No Arab Glasnost"

. . . the best shot of realism I've seen in a few weeks:

The Arab leaders have worked out how a democratic gift-horse is
never looked in the mouth. So many in the West are easily hoodwinked by just the
semblance of democracy, as long as it helps them win arguments with opponents
back home.

Economic development, human freedom, full property rights and a
pluralistic political culture are the conditions for democracy. They can grow,
but, without them, any democracy project will fall. So we are still at stage one
in the Middle East.

And any chances of proceeding to stage two mean keeping up the
pressure - and not being fooled by decoys thrown up by Arab despots.

Spreading democracy is the only way to win the war on terror. We
are, alas, still a long way from this victory.

There's a fundamental cultural chasm between the Arab world and the West that will never be reconciled; we are seeing a flurry of people power in the Mideast that has yet to feel the harsh realities of an Islamic backlash.

The region may seek to adopt a veneer of political modernization, but it will not likely westernize. Any movement toward liberalization is a good thing, and worthy of our war effort, but the best outcome won't meet the standards of secular democracies.

Channeling the energy of religious fervor and sectarian hatred inwards towards political goals within the context of a system governed by man's laws, fairly adjudicated, is the best result for these countries.

Another Reason to Promote Economic Globalization...

. . . to bring people like this out of the Dark Ages. Other comments on Bangladesh here.

Airport Observations

I happen to spend a lot of time in airports because of the travel requirements of my job. As such, I fairly often run into, as others would describe them, "celebrities," or public figures, such as politicians, TV and sports personalities, and talking heads.

What's fascinating is that these public figures are rarely recognized within the airport, as people are entirely focused on their own travel experience. With our celebrity-obsessed culture, these same figures would cause a stir if they were in a restaurant or shopping area, but seem able to hide in the anonymity of the airport frenzy.

During the O.J. trial, the weekend before the verdict I was flying down to L.A. from Oakland seated behind Christopher Darden, the co-prosecutor with Marcia Clark. Granted he's not a recognizeable figure now, but at the time his face was splashed on every tabloid and newspaper in the country. He had been on cable TV for months, and the fate of O.J. lay in his hands. And the media coverage was wall-to-wall with the deliberations and the pending verdict. I made a point to walk through the terminal right behind him to see if he was recognized. No one made the connection during the transit through the concourse, recovering his baggage, and out the door.

Similar experiences with politicians. Governors, Bush Cabinet officials, Senators, TV reporters, etc. seem to travel fairly anonymously. More important politicians are often the last called onto the plane, emerging from a holding room near the gate. Gate agents seem to be trained in how to accomodate celebrities, either whisking them into first class prior to boarding, or making sure they're the last to board. I once had to compete with George Stephanopoulos for a seat; the little dork won.

Maybe politicians just aren't celebrities, and it's only politics junkies like me who see them as such. The point is, if you're into celebrity-spotting, keep your eyes peeled at the airport. You won't have any competition.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Now This I've Got To Try:

Here, via Slings and Arrows. Put me down for Al Pacino's final speech at the Baird School in "Scent of a Woman." What would you choose?

Blogger Tip

For those of you with your own blogs. Never lose a post. Here, via Harvey. (I'm still beta testing.)


and impotence, defined.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Genocide for Dummies

Little Chomskies

I've watched the Real Time with Bill Maher interview with Ward Churchill twice, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but I certainly can't ignore it.

Please watch the clip here and give me your thoughts below.

Maher brings on Churchill, who either is heavily sedated or adopting a victim pose, and tries desperately to have his guest make the incendiary point that the stock traders in the World Trade Center were complicit in genocide and therefore culpable for their own murders.

How does Churchill make this connection between selling IRAs over the phone and genocide? Granted, I'm on the Do Not Call List, but I'd draw the line somewhere short of their murder.

Those young brokers, he says, were actually "technocrats" (shudder), engaged in a "technical function" whose "by-product is eviseration and mass annihilation." You see, they help to "maximize profits by displacing labor into the sweatshops of Malaysia." Hence, they're "little Eichmanns."

A little self-disclosure here. When I got out of college I trained on Wall Street to be a broker, and spent time in downtown Manhattan dialing for dollars, trying to land wealthy clients (my degree of success should be self-evident.) We were the sales force on America's used-car lot of equity financing during the 80's economic boom, but I don't recall gassing any Kurds or hacking away at any Tutsis.

And a word about Malaysia. Sporting one of the world's most phenomenal airports (Kuala Lumpur International), home of the Petronas Twin Towers, and the country of origin of most hard drives, disk drives, and memory chips, Malaysia is a high-tech success story with an incredible infrastructure and a GDP per capita much higher than China, Thailand, Indonesia, or the Philippines. Doesn't seem to be much genocide in those Malaysian sweat shops.

So Churchill is either a rube, a fraud, a poseur, a dunce, or a little of each. As for Maher, he praises Churchill for "walking out on the edge" and calling attention to the fact that some people hate America for "valid reasons" - (this got heavy applause.) Maher is an intellectual in his own mind.

But maybe I'm biased given my past life creating global collateral damage over the phone. How did you interpret these performances?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Politics of Pygmies

Pygmy Politics

All the excitement in the news about finding a new race of Hobbits is obscuring a deep conflict in the paleontology community, and causing the replaying of similar disputes that popped up a few years back when the Kennewick Man was discovered in Washington State:

Since the discovery of the hobbits was announced in October the extraordinary find has turned into an extraordinary feud, with its roots in national pride and an Indonesian reverence for age. (link)

It seems that the head Indonesian Paleoanthropologist isn't too keen on calling this find a new species, and apparently isn't very concerned about preservering the bones:

A jawbone that is crucial to the discovery team's claim that more than one hobbit lived in the Flores cave had also been cracked and badly repaired while in the care of (Indonesian anthropologist) Professor Jacob.

What's going on here is the concern, similar to the Kennewick finding, that modern science will break taboos and somehow reflect poorly on the heredity and lineage of one's ancestors. In the case of Kennewick Man, assigning Caucasoid or Asiatic/Ainu lineage to the 8,400 B.C. bones disrupts the myth of a pristine American-Indian race, and the claims of eminent domain that emanate from that belief. To this day the Kennewick man remains in legal limbo.

With Homo floresiensis, the new Hobbit species that measures three-feet tall, presumably the Indonesians aren't too keen to suggest that their ancestors looked like anorexic Willy Wonka munchkins. But how can anyone, regardless of their sensibilities, not be blown away with wonder at this new find?

Despite recent tests that suggest the Hobbit skull was not microencephalic but representative of a normal adult, it's far from certain that these early finds will fully validate the Hobbit theory. But hopefully scientists will keep the pressure on for full disclosure, and keep the politics and national sensibilities out of the equation.

Friday, March 04, 2005

R.I.P. . .

. . . Blogger craps out while publishing my most amazing, inciteful, inspirational, and important piece ever. I had finally developed a Grand Unified Theory, reconciling quantum mechanics, evolution, intelligent design, science, religion, human behavior, and the U.S. tax code.

All down the Blogger drain. Because the inspiration was like a lightening bolt, the words flowed directly onto the post with no file back-up. And those words ain't coming back.

It was like that Dylan song, when he sings:

"everyone of those words rang true and glowed like burning coal, pouring off of every page like it was written in my soul. . ."

But Blogger took the Post, like a Dennis Rader neighbor. . .

I'll have to carry the burden that Man now won't live up to his full potential. C'est la vie. R.I.P. to the Post That Never Was.

Economics 101

Deficit as % of GNP
From AP:
WASHINGTON -More states are requiring students to learn about managing money, but personal finance remains a fringe topic in schools and a major source of federal concern. In a national survey last year, only 52 percent of high school seniors answered correctly questions about personal finance and economics. The students struggled, for example, with questions on income tax, stocks and bonds, credit card liability and retirement plans.
It's a good thing that the National Council on Economic Education recognizes there's a problem, but the bad news is that it's this generation that's going to have to come to grips with the entitlement programs and account deficits that are a drag on the economy.

And nobody seems to be teaching the benefits of free trade, dynamic labor markets, de-regulation, savings and capital, low taxation, time value of money, and compounding at the high school level where basic macro & micro-economic principles can prepare students to be informed citizens and financially independent. If they did, perhaps this guy wouldn't be so popular at his college.

But the least prepared people to address economic issues seem to be in the news media. Outside of the business-related shows like Kudlow's, the White House beat reporters are terrible at reporting economic news.

The federal budget deficit should never be reported as simply a number, but always as a percent of GDP. And this percentage has to be viewed in light of the prevailing interest rates and corresponding debt service. But reporters love to breathlessly announce a really big number, "the biggest deficit ever!."

And Social Security: one's "benefits" are simply IOUs on a future generation's ability to pay. There ain't no account with money in it, compounding away with your name on it.

And the mysterious descriptor "lower than expected." Pre-election, every economic statistic was lower than expected. After the election, those doing the expecting seem to have vanished.

And the constant reporting of the change in the consumer confidence survey numbers serves no purpose other than to confuse the public and distract from the fundamentals: "consumer confidence drops unexpectedly!" Oh my. Better sell.

Economics, finance, and investing should be required in the high school curriculum. Then kids could understand and appreciate good news like this.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Lucky He Didn't Try For A Soda Refill. . .

. . . Colorado police protect the integrity of the Chuck E. Cheese salad bar:

Aurora police have reviewed a weekend incident in which a man accused of stealing salad from a Chuck E. Cheese salad bar was hit with a stun gun twice by officers and said that proper procedures were followed. (link)
In a related incident, a Denver man was beaten with nightsticks for taking one too many "towelettes" from a local Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Here Comes the Sun

Could it be that freon and similar gases may not be the biggest contributor to upper atmosphere ozone depletion? Maybe that big bright star that rises in the East has something to do with it:

A dramatic thinning of Earth's protective ozone layer above the Arctic last year was the result of intense upper-level winds and an extra dose of space weather, scientists said Tuesday.

In a new study, scientists conclude that an intense round of solar storms around Halloween in 2003 was at the root of the problem.

"No one predicted the dramatic loss of ozone in the upper stratosphere of
the Northern Hemisphere in the spring of 2004," Randall said. "That we can
still be surprised illustrates the difficulties in separating atmospheric
effects due to natural and human-induced causes."

Condi Places Spiked Heel. . .

. . . firmly on Bashar's backside.

Bono in Pinstripes?. . .

. . . hold on to your wallets.

Looks like he will have some competition.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Play Mideast Revolution Lotto!

Place your bet on which Mideast country will experience a democratic revolution, similar to the Ukraine's "orange" revolution, within the next year. Place your "bets" in the comments below. Opening odds are based on Shaking Spears' initial assessment, subject to change:

Official Wager Form

  1. Lebanon – 6:5. . . . . . . . . . . . in progress?
  2. Jordan – 2:1. . . . . . . . . . . . . Abdullah abdicates?
  3. Egypt – 5:2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hosni gets hung?
  4. Syria – 3:1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bashar takes a Baath?
  5. Iran – 4:1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Mullahs get turban-limited?
  6. Saudi Arabia – 7:1. . . . . . . . . Abdallah abdicates?
  7. Pakistan – 8:1 . . . . . . . . . . . . .Pervez purged?

Other countries:

  1. North Korea – 20:1. . . . . . . . . Kim Jong takes ill?
  2. Russia – 25:1. . . . . . . . . . . . .Putin gets putsched?
  3. France – 500:1. . . . . . . . . . . . French try again?

Winners get a choice of either a) plucking Thomas Friedman's moustache, b) poking holes in Sandy Berger's socks, or c) whacking Richard Clarke with a hardcover copy of the 9/11 report.