Monday, May 22, 2006

Marginalizing Perry Eidelbus

I spend a good deal of time reading other blogs, both for my own edification and entertainment. One of the bloggers I read is a young lad named Perry Eidelbus. He focuses capitalism and on debunking economic fallacy - favorite subjects of mine. Anyway, I had a little altercation with him last week that was actually precipitated, of all things, by a debate about American Idol.

First you have to read his post, click here (It's quite short).

Now below is that post's comment thread.

CaptiousNut said...
Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the voting audited by an independent firm? Wouldn't that debunk the "we don't want three male finalists" conspiracy theories?

Perry, I love your blog, but you are a pure socialist when it comes to American Idol.
9:56 PM, May 18, 2006

Perry Eidelbus said...
I'm not sure who, if anyone, is auditing the results, but I find it meaningless. After all, Arthur Andersen was auditing Enron.

I don't follow that you think I'm a socialist when it comes to AI. I simply point to the voting results as another failure of democracy. After all, look at how many Americans were stupid or otherwise duped in 1992 and then 1996.

In fact, to expand upon Podhoretz's analysis, Paris' departure was like Ross Perot's 1992 candidacy. Though they're different in that one left the competition and the other entered, both involved a split in the vote. Podhoretz made sense to say that with Paris gone, her supporters probably went more for Katherine and Elliot than for Chris.

3:03 AM, May 19, 2006

CaptiousNut said...
Oh my God, you are so off the deep end on this it is scary.

I call you a socialist and you respond by using a socialist ruse du jour.

They use the outlier Enron (one of 17,000 public companies) to blanketly inveigh against capitalism and Wall Street. You use the same analogy to try to discredit auditing.

How about this, 99.9% of public companies are audited and ARE NOT frauds.

Yeah the show was fixed to avoid "three male finalists", but then was it fixed when Chris got voted off too? You can tell by Seacrest's immediate and repetitive comments ("by your votes America"), that Idol was shocked.

Personally, I liked Chris the best. But just because the result isn't to my liking it doesn't mean that the process is unfair or fraudulent. When you start nit-picking McPhee's high notes and cynically questioning both the integrity and implementation of the voting, you sound like a typical socialist unhappy with the price of oil or the market wages of teachers and journalists.

The winner is not for an elite (you or me) to decide.

American Idol is making hundreds of millions this year, do you really think they'd risk the integrity of the show to fine tune the outcome? As far as I can tell, they don't need to.

The only thing I don't like about the voting contest is that you vote "for" people rather than against them. Obviously they get more votes under the current system, but often times I think it is easier to see who should be voted off than who should continue.

Of course I see the flaws in democracy and often rank stupidity of the masses. That's the entire basis of my blog.

8:12 AM, May 19, 2006

Anonymous said...


12:41 PM, May 19, 2006

Perry Eidelbus said...
CN, you need to take a breath and realize the false assumptions from which you've proceeded. If you're going to insult me by claiming something I'm obviously not, let alone saying I've gone off the deep end, then your comments will no longer be welcome. I don't come over to your blog and start acting like a horse's ass, do I? So really, dawg, chill.

I cannot help but wonder how convoluted your definition of "socialist" is. You accuse me of being one, then compare me to those who want regulation of prices and wages? You of all people should know that's a pile of shit, so knock it off. Or do you resort to cries of "Socialist!" the way others throw around "Nazi"?

You claim to know about the dangers of pure democracy, yet you cannot see that that's my major complaint. Am I a "socialist" because of that? No more than the Founding Fathers were "socialist" for distrusting what they called "mobocracy." Idol voters apparently chose Katherine over Chris, but a plurality of the American people chose Bill Clinton. Twice. These people are presumably the same electorate who continually elect 534 members of Congress who effectively lay waste to our country. (I say 534, but if anyone else is like Ron Paul, let me know and I'll adjust accordingly.)

I never said an elite should select the winners, so you can stop putting words into my mouth, thank you very much. However, the last two weeks showed that someone can turn in a lesser performance and be selected over a better competitor. Even Katherine, and you could see this from her body language and facial expressions, expected to get booted. The process definitely needs some tweaking.

What you call "nit-picking" is factual, substantial criticism from someone who knows what good vocals are. It's not even a matter of Katherine's high notes. There are plenty notes that should be within her range that she nonetheless screeches. There's no polish or real power, not if she has to do that. She sang "Someone to Watch Over Me" well, I suppose, but that's the only decent performance I ever heard from her.

Now, I never even said there's cheating. I simply said that that accuser's point was well taken. You point out that 99.9% of companies are not frauds, but most companies aren't of such prominence. Ever hear of "21" and its scandal? Remember the allegations some years ago, which were quietly swept under the rug, of Jeopardy!'s anti-male favoritism? I used to enjoy the show until Trebek got so obvious.

I've been checking Technorati since last week, and some people, though it's a "friend of a friend" thing, say that they called in to vote for Chris, only to be thanked for voting for someone else. I wouldn't be surprised at a glitch like this, or that a standard audit wouldn't catch it.

Would AI's producers risk distorting the outcome? At first I thought that the show would lose a lot of viewers, but the American people do have a short collective memory. This will be largely forgotten by next season. I don't see that there was much to lose, if there really was something fishy.

Now what if the auditors did catch a huge blunder in the voting system, or fraud? That would finish the show. Have you already forgotten my blog entry where someone pointed out that even Ernst & Young is so desperate for business that it will reverse its findings and suddenly assert its client's lies?

Maybe it's my fault for treating the show like a singing competition, which a reasonable person would think it purports to be. Boner is right. The show is all about overall appeal, and Kat sells better than Chris. Kellie worked for a while, but I guess she didn't want to show much skin.

Boner is completely wrong about Chris' style, though. His "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" was great. His "A Little Less Conversation" was also great, true to Elvis' style. He's not just another rocker.
5:05 PM, May 19, 2006

New comments have been disabled for this post by a blog administrator.

Devil's Advocate: Wow C-Nut, he called you a "horse's ass" and slapped you good there...

Did he now? I was somewhat taken aback by the vitriol of his response. But mostly, my wife and I had a good laugh at his apoplectic fit. Calling him a "socialist" really struck a nerve right through his paper-thin skin. It wasn't until later on that I realized he closed the comment section.

Could he be any more childish? He was apparently afraid of my response (or anyone else's for that matter). I had to copy and paste the comment thread because he'd probably delete them all if I just linked to it.

Well, not one who's easily muzzled, he got my response anyway via email. Here it is below:


First of all, I do use the term "socialist" quite liberally. For instance, I have complained that the illegal defense rule in the NBA is a socialist attempt at regulating play.

I don't think you can equate excessive use of "socialist" with with excessive use of "Nazi" for the simple fact that we don't really have Nazi's ruining our country but we certainly have socialists throughout the power structure of the country. I am sure we agree on that!

Anyway, I started off by calling you a socialist, as a joke. Anyone who looks at your blog for a millisecond knows that you are capitalism incarnate. Furthermore, even from the paucity of comments I have posted, you should have an inkling that I generally don't act like "a horse's ass" and have a pretty good understanding of economics and its terms.

Sarcasm doesn't transmit well over the internet. Yeah, I could have characterized you as a "whiner" or even a "sophist" because at root, I found your reasoning uncompelling. I even could have appended "sarcasm" parenthetically as I have done often times.

Sure it's a stretch to liken anyone who complains about outcomes to a socialist, but it's no more a stretch than using a popularity contest decided by the multiple votes of 9 year old girls as a vehicle to illustrate the failings of democracy.

It's all theoretical. It's all good. And it's all innocuous.

Yeah, I ripped you with that Enron analogy. But that is what I do, remember "captious" - my name is its own disclamer. If you had said 2+2=4, but had shoddy reasoning I would have pointed that out as well.

There were several ways you could have responded to me: ignore my comment, delete my comment, laugh it off, or engage in further argument. And I am quite disappointed in the tack you chose. Your last comment didn't need the invective-ridden first two paragraphs to make its point. I have some pretty thick skin so that doesn't bother me at all. For years I stood in a trading pit all day, fighting with the biggest scumbags around.

As I said in my first comment, I am a fan of yours. But quite frankly, you overreacted. I guess you thought my comments were making you look bad or something. They weren't - at least not nearly in the degree that you discerned.

However, your response, replete with profanity, a toothless threat, and the closing of comments, doesn't behoove you one bit.

If I didn't care what you thought, I would neither read your blog, comment on it, or spend my time with this clarifying email.

If you still think I am crazy, then I would encourage you to have some of your friends/family read your original post and our dialogue (including of course this email) and render their opinions.

Now I consider that email I sent to be just what I said, clarifying and mostly on the conciliatory side. Perry had another chance to show some maturity. Sadly he dropped the ball yet again.

Here was his response:

I deleted your message without reading

I'm really not in the mood for arguing, all right? Especially with someone who improperly uses "socialist." to label those with whom he disagrees.


Now I don't think there is a person with a 3-digit IQ that believes he didn't read my email. And then he padded that transparent lie with his remark about my usage of "socialist". Really Perry, is that supposed to somehow incontrovertibly prove that you didn't read my email that clearly explains my liberal usage of the term?

Further proof is Perry saying that he doesn't want to "argue". How does he know my email response was argumentative if he didn't read it? It could have been an apology or a simple "bleep you".

However, he was partially honest when he said, "I'm not really in the mood for arguing..." I can't really blame him for that. After all, he spent all day Friday writing his last comment and the best he could come up with was "horse's ass" and "pile of sh*t".

Now I have read quite a bit of his blog and I have learned that Perry styles himself quite proudly as a Christian. A simple google of "Christian" on his blog currently yields 3 pages of search results.

I am not quite sure how he can reconcile lying, cursing, and "take my ball and go home" tantrums with his conspicuous moral superiority.

Anyway, I had to Marginalize Perry because as I said earlier, I don't like to be muzzled AND because he needed to be taught a lesson. This is just the type of benevolent service I am adept at providing.

Everyone should be starkly aware that any email they send or comment they post on a blog may likely linger on the web forever. Who knows how long this post of mine will be on web? Or how high in the search results it will be for "Perry Eidelbus"? Perhaps his grandkids will one day find it.

By definition, my wife is a smart cookie. She wanted to offer her more succinct analysis of this episode:

C-Nut's Wife: Perry is just plain nuts and probably has a man-crush on Chris Daughtry.


Perry's blog is well-worth reading - he is great at monologue but obviously needs some work on dialogue.

UPDATE - Perry has blocked my direct links to his posts. So to get to his blog from here, one must right-click on my links, copy the shortcut, and paste into another browser tab or window. For more on this childish tactic of his - click here.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

May Showers and Mo' Massachusetts Morons

Check out my new car.

Okay, it is only new to me - some Moron might call it a certified pre-owned vehicle. This monstrosity is a 1997 Chevy Suburban, perhaps the only car smaller than the Hummer and the now defunct Ford Excursion.

It gets 12 miles per gallon and currently costs $120 to fill up the out-sized gas tank.

Devil's Advocate: Do you think gasoline prices are going to plummet or something?

Not necessarily. But bear in mind I procured the car from my munificent mother-in-law. So however much I get gouged on gasoline will be offset by my purchase price of zero. Remember that gasoline is but just one cost of car ownership. It makes no sense to pay up $10,000 for a so-called fuel efficient car that will only save you $6,000 in gas. This is the subject of a recent column titled The Real Cost of Driving where the author concludes that given all of the costs, his guzzling 1992 Cadillac costs 70 cents per mile, while the green hybrid Toyota Prius will run you $1.42 a mile.

Anyway, as for my new/old Suburban, my wife will drive it 3.5 miles total per day, one round trip to the commuter rail station and for only four days a week, since she telecommutes on Fridays. Now I will be sure to take some flack for driving such a massive Earth-heater, given the preponderance of enviro-fanatics up here in Boston. I have pointed out the ironies, hypocrisies, and inanities of their cause more than sufficently. But while I was typing this up, I realized that I have probably consumed less fossil fuel than anyone I know. (Okay, my uncle, a 30 year resident of Brooklyn Heights likely consumes less than me BUT he heats the Earth with his logorrheic monologues.)

I lived car-less for nine years in Philly, walking to work and riding public transit. In New York, I took the subway a whopping one stop from Brooklyn Heights to Wall Street. And in Charlotte and Boston I have been working from home. The same goes for my wife. She also walked in Philly, subway-ed in NYC, walked four blocks to work in Charlotte, and now takes the commuter rail in Boston.

So the next time one of my mindless acquaintances make a crack about my "SUVs", I am going to make them compare 10 year energy consumption records. By the way, my wife and I now refer to our 14 mpg Ford Explorer as our "little fuel efficent car".

The stock market got whacked last week and I’ll explain why.

It’s because long term interest rates are rising. The econo-illiterates in the media all concur that it’s because the Fed raised short-term rates – but that isn’t really true.

First of all, the Fed only controls short-term rates. They have absolutely no control over longer term rates, the only ones that matter. The 10-year and 30-year Treasury bonds are what matter for businesses and mortgages and those yields are determined by global trading markets.

Devil’s Advocate: But everybody assumes the Fed controls all interest rates… If they can’t control longer term rates, then why did the 10 year and 30 year bonds tick up after the short term hike this week?

I think they were going to go up anyway. But this is what you see time and time again, people trying to explain security price fluctuations based on a current news cycle. My first boss (who made millions trading) told me 10 years ago that,

“...their job is to explain stock price movements...if they can’t explain it, then they won’t have a job...”

Why then the market sell-off?

First of all, when interest rates rise, bond markets attract capital away from equity markets. Every tiny .1 percentage increase in bond yields (of all durations) entices more money into T-Bills, money markets, corporate bonds, and what not. As I have noted before, I am loaded up on cash because I forecasted this rise in rates. Also note that every upward tick in yields sucks money out of real estate as well.

The market I believe is frustrated with the Fed. If the Fed wanted to slow the economy down, it should have been selling 30-year bonds in massive quantities. Selling bonds would suck cash out of the economy and would raise longer term yields and achieve their macro objective of cooling the economy. Instead, the Fed thinks that by manipulating nominal short term rates, that it can effect its goal. Not only does the Fed have this misguided notion, so does 99% of the country (if they have an opinion at all).

Let’s backtrack. The bull market of the late 1990s provided our government with budget surpluses and coincident arrogance. Emboldened by the extra money, Big Government decided they didn’t need to issue 30-year bonds any more, ceasing issuance in October 2001. This may be one of the dumbest moves ever committed by our econo-illiterate politicians. There were two major consequences.

1) With the supply of 30-year bonds cut off, the price of said bonds skyrocketed. When bond prices rise, remember their yields crater. The past five years have seen 30-year yields fall from around 6% to a ridiculous low of 4.25% in May of 2005.

Consider that there were investors locking in money for 3 decades only one year ago at 4.25%, a yield that Joe Blow gets in his money market account today. (Last May/June was also the top of the real estate frenzy – no surprise there.)

As a rule, low long term rates sow the seeds of inflation. It’s a fact that just nobody knows or cares to think about – especially not your Federal Government.

So, the Fed, by ceasing to issue 30 year bonds, actually incubated the inflation that it now seeks to eradicate.

2) Furthermore, by ceasing issuance of the 30 year bond, our incompetent Big Government was unable to take advantage of 46-year-low rates. We have minimally 100 years worth of debt obligations, but could only float bonds at these cheap rates for 10 years into the future. It took 4.5 years until the Gov’t saw its folly - 30-year bonds just resumed issuance. And there’s really no surprise that today its yield is a full point (6.25%) above last year’s low. So after almost 5 years of not borrowing against our long term obligations, the deficit is necessarily worse off than it would be otherwise AND it’s costing more to finance.

Devil’s AdvocateBut didn’t the suspension of the 30 year bond cause the plummet in interest rates?

It played a role for sure. Yields may not have fallen as far as 4.25%, but they were in a major downtrend already. Anyway, so long our government is promising cradle-to-grave entitlements and doling out hundreds of millions each time a typhoon hits a banana republic, it has no business spending money that not only it doesn’t have, but doesn’t feel compelled to borrow.

It's precisely malfeasance like this that gives rise to goldbugs and other conspiracy theorists. Many goldbugs think the government secretly is trying to cause inflation and dollar depreciation in order to devalue the national debt. Many others are convinced that the dollar will soon be worthless and that the government has sold all of the gold in Fort Knox and other Reserve Banks.

With today's $700 an ounce gold price and equity weakness, the markets are definitely saying something.

I believe they're simply saying we have some commodity inflation and the Federal Reserve is powerless to do anything about it. All we can hope for is that the government doesn't exacerbate the problem it helped create.

This is a fashionable sign in my neighborhood these days. Some politician (John Tobin) is disseminating them in hopes of effecting safer driving.

First of all, I am all for safer driving. The riskiest thing Americans will ever do is travel by car. Over seven hundred people a week die in car accidents - that adds up to over 40,000 last year alone. It's just tougher to blame these deaths on George Bush, so the media sticks to exaggerating the relatively inconsequential deaths in Iraq.

Most people are safe drivers; there are however a minority out there that endangers lives just about every time they get behind the wheel. Anyone who thinks that signs are going to persuade self-centered bastards to drive more carefully is hopelessly naive. What they need on the roads is stricter traffic law enforcement - not front lawn suggestions.

Though again, this is Boston. This is how they do things up here. There might not be a greater concentration of self-righteous moralizers anywhere else. Essentially, there are two ways to influence human behavior, via economic incentives and via law enforcement but Boston brainiacs generally eschew both approaches.

When Boston Morons aren't telling you how fast to drive, or what type of car to drive, they will be telling you how much you should pay your nanny. Look what some idiot posted on Craigslist last week.

Paying your nanny $300 a week ?
Reply to:
Date: 2006-05-06, 12:45AM EDT

is less than $10 an hour. Would you work for that? What kind of person will work for such low pay? Someone you'll regret hiring. Aren't your kids important? Being a nanny is not hanging out by the pool. I teach, take children to activities, break up sibling arguements[sic], stay late, come in early, etc. So splurge and hire the best for yourkids![sic]

Can you be a bigger loser than this dingbat?

She is going to single-handedly raise the wages of nannies everywhere - or so she thinks.

Now look at another self-evident Moron posted on Craiglist.

Reply to:
Date: 2006-05-08, 8:25PM EDT


Idiot, I don't think one Craigslist seller's behavior will be altered your post. Hey, but why let that reality impede on your own whining self-righteousness.

And the sterotype holds that all of the moralizers are Southern rubes...

Excuse my pedantry, but I learned the word "inure" back in high school. According to it means:

To habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged subjection; accustom: “Though the food became no more palatable, he soon became sufficiently inured to it” (John Barth).

I'll never forget that word because of how I learned it. It was used to describe Kapos, the prisoners in concentration camps who supervised, often brutally, their fellow captives. I believe I saw the word in Viktor Frankl's book.

More than a few times I have asked, rhetorically or explicitly, why the heck people live in Massachusetts. My answer has always been "inertia". They live here because they were born here. And I guess they stay here because they have been inured to the misery.

Two weeks ago I aptly described the climate up here.

Though I grew up in Massachusetts, I never realized how dour the climate was until I came back. A warm day in February will undoubtedly be spoiled by rain. If the sun is shining, count on a stiff northerly breeze. And quite frankly, the sun isn’t often out much at all. It’s almost like living in a lake effect region of upstate New York. Even in this “global warming” induced mild winter, it still snowed on October 28th. Inertia has got to be the only reason people continue to live here.

Those of you lucky, or smart, enough not to live in New England probably saw the flooding rains that hit here last weekend. It's been brutal. On Saturday I hit to see the 10-day forecast. Unbelievably it was predicting rain FOR THE NEXT 10 DAYS.

And guess had already been raining for the preceding 5 days. It's mid-May, and I have only played golf up here once this year. I even had to put the heat on for a few minutes this past Sunday. My toddler son is going stir crazy because I haven't been able to take him to the playground for over a week, and counting.

Lifelong residents, like my parents, have become inured to this weather.

They have also become inured to the feckless government, moralizing fanatics, and static economy. Forbes recently ranked Boston the 200th (out of 200) cheapest city to do business in - in other words, the worst.

Since my April 26th post, the number of homes for sale in Newton, according to has risen from 704 to 724. I just realized that those numbers may not do justice to the currently reality because of the rapidly growing number of FISBOs (For Sale By Owner). Just at the end of my block are four FISBO signs.

I am also happy to report that two of my friends recently sold their homes sans broker - saving them tens of thousands of smackeroos.

People have always had this option, so why all of a sudden are thousands of people opting to sell their own homes?

My answer is pure contagion. Once somebody hears of another doing it, they themselves submit to the power of suggestion. Then the idea spreads virally.

The same applies to this Southern migration. Florida and Arizona have always been cheaper and warmer. So why only now are hordes migrating away from the dank and dreary Northeast?

Devil's Advocate: Isn't it pure demographics - aging Baby Boomers seeking warmer climes and lower state taxes?

Sure that is part of it, but don't try to discount my contagion theory. In Charlotte, all of the newcomers are actually young people from the Northeast. The non-Boomers, including more than a few of my friends, are moving to Florida and Arizona as well. It's one thing to be merely aware of a faraway nicer, warmer, and cheaper place to hang your hat, but quite another to know friends or family members who've already taken the plunge. Plus, in the internet age, it takes 2 seconds to click on a link and see how much house you can buy down there or perhaps to see the weather forecast in Florida.

Almost everyone I met in Charlotte was a displaced Northerner. There they are called "Yankees" by the increasingly marginalized natives. Everyone's story was the same. They followed a friend, brother, or a job down there. They had people following them - often times their own parents. (So much for that in-law buffer zone!)

I really don't know how statistically significant those 700+ homes for sale in my town really are. But my hunch tells me that real estate in Boston will languish for years to come. As jobs and young people keep moving, the tax base will continue to erode, which will lead to more and more taxation, further aggravating the exodus. Massachusetts really is in an economic death spiral.

Furthermore, in my opinion, there is nothing that can prevent this. I am bearish on the stock market, but there are potential catalysts that could turn me bullish (lower taxes, entitlement reform, etc.) If you saw a stock with no hope for profits, you wouldn't sink a penny into it. I feel the same way about real estate in Massachusetts (and California).

By the way, first time home buyers today are going to be hurt the most. Thirty year fixed mortgage rates have gone up over a point to around 6.5% and yet real estate prices haven't dropped enough to reflect that. For example, last year it would cost you $2,839 per month for a 30 year fixed mortgage (5.5%) on $500,000, yet today it would cost you $3,160 for the same loan at today's rates (6.5%).

A $300 increase in cost should roughly translate to a $50,000 decrease in price. Do you think 500k homes are 10% off of their price peak? I certainly don't.

This is what I mean about today's first time buyers getting hurt. When interest rates are factored in, real estate is actually higher priced now than ever.

Here is the stock market analogy. It is generally safer to buy a high flying stock trading at 100 times its earning estimates when it is growing rapidly, than it is to buy the same stock when it drops to 50 times its estimates but is losing earnings momentum.

The worst case scenario is playing out for real estate. Instead of a quick 20-25% correction, the market is just stagnating, staying overbought, and sucking more buyers in at these nosebleed prices. It's most certainly going to make the eventual correction more severe.

Oh yeah, about that death spiral...

41% of Massachusetts residents have recently thought about moving out of state.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Weaning Morons Off Television, Books, and Oil Agitprop

This woman is the only person I know that is "addicted to oil".

Have you ever watched her cook on PBS? She must go through gallons of olive oil like normal people go through gallons of milk. She adds olive oil at least three times during food prep - and in many cases, spoons more directly onto the finished product on your plate.

For what it's worth, I know someone who employs (via subcontractors) tons of illegals in Arizona. They told me that nary a soul missed work during that "big" illegal strike on Monday May 1st.

For you uni-linguists, that means "open the door or I will break the window".

Who is the marketing genius that planned these protests on International Workers' Day - a veritable Communist holiday?

I think it is safe to say that these protests are backfiring.

In my last post, I updated my original Deranged Dog People post. Yesterday, I forgot to include the above self-explanatory picture. (Click on the pic to enlarge.)

There are many people out there that inveigh against watching television. Their complaints run the gamut from "TV causes obesity" to "TV fries your brain". I believe, that like anything else, too little or too much can be bad. Excuse the analogy, but not watching American Idol today would be like eschewing the original Shakespearan plays. When historians look back on 2006, they are going to be very much interested what the masses were doing during the time period in question. If you want to be a cultural Luddite and live an anachronistic lifestyle, fine. But there's considerable ignorance implicit with such.

Anyway, media today is amidst a complete paradigm shift mostly because of the internet. Sure talk radio and cable television were big deals, but they were mere stepping stones to the disruption that the internet is causing. The disruption is two-fold.

1) Content production costs have collapsed to almost zero: cheaper cameras, free research via the web, collaborative reporting, free web hosting, etc.

2) Faster and wider content transmission coupled with mobile telecommunicative devices has made the world indeed a very small and knowledgeable place. News stories now effectively disseminate at the speed of light and to all corners of the globe.

Anyone could now do what Bill O'Reilly does by plugging in a webcam and bloviating about the day's headlines - with little to no cost. In fact many now already are. Check out Michelle Malkin's new daily v-log, or video blog. People will very soon be syncing up their iPods or PDAs to their PC each morning, and uploading everything from SportsCenter and Seinfeld to popular v-loggers like Michelle and whomever else emerges from the free marketplace of punditry.

Devil's Advocate: Is that your plan C-Nut? To become a renowned celebrity pundit?

It would be nice, but so would winning the Masters - neither are very realistic. You can see that there are no ads on my blog (nor any plans for them) and I don't troll the blogosphere posting hyperlinks to my posts, like many other wannabe's do. My blogging is purely a hobby, and has so far been extremely rewarding.

I honestly feel that I have learned more in the one year I have been blogging than I learned in the previous 30 years of my life. All of this mental growth is due to one thing - media interactivity. It's one thing to read some pinhead's view of the economy, yet quite another to actually think about it, perhaps do some research, and articulate a coherent retort.

As for you stuffy elitists who avoid the lumpen television and only read books...

You are information-challenged as well. A book, by definition, is a monologue and not nearly as robust a medium as a blog. We live in the age of the DIALOGUE now. A discourse without an open, appended comment section will have a very hard time gaining (or in the case of antique newspapers, sustaining) an audience. Media consumers simply want an outlet to respond. Furthermore, only piss poor journalism need fear scrutiny and rebuttal.

That's right, OPEC's market share was actually larger in 1999 when oil cratered to $11 per barrel. So if you are going to be a Big Oil, price gouging conspiracist, then you ought to work that into your whacky theories.

I just can't resist exposing Bill O'Reilly's economic illiteracy.

Back in August, Bill said that high gasoline would plunge the country into recession.

He couldn't have been more wrong

He also said during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, that he had proof that Big Oil was manipulating the price. Not only did he never divulge it, last week he admitted that he hasn't been able to find any proof. Yet, he hasn't changed his mind. Like all good conspiracy theories, the lack of evidence is confoundingly more proof of a vast cover-up.

The other day he bashed Big Oil for not investing in ethanol technologies which is ridiculous on its face.

Should the Fox Network be forced to invest in video games or other recreations that would take viewers away from the television? How about forcing Fox in to invest in medical devices or education - certainly the country needs that more than American Idol?

Bill has said that Exxon-Mobil's $400 million pay package for its retiring CEO was an "insult to its customers".

But on a pro rata basis, Bill himself will make more than that (over 13 years). He isn't the CEO of Fox, nor has FOX made nearly as much money for investors.

In fact, at $36 million per season, American Idol's Simon Cowell will also make more money than Lee Raymond. Simon is very far from the CEO slot as well.

Last I checked, neither of the two were meeting the transportation needs of our vibrant economy or generating shareholder returns on the order of Exxon-Mobil.

Bill has said many times that Exxon should sell their product cheaper (among other reasons, because we are "in a time of war"). He's asserted that,

"They only need to earn half as much."

But a good rule of thumb with public companies is,

half the earnings = half the stock price.

If Exxon's earnings halve, shareholders will lose $193 billion.

If all of the dreaded five BIG OIL companies cede to this populist demand and halve their earnings, the total loss for shareholders would be = $559 billion.

(At its peak, no doubt a ridiculous point of reference, Enron was worth only $70 billion. So this loss would be of eight times the magnitude. Yet many of the same people defending the little guys who allegedly lost money on Enron stock, are itching tax Big Oil down to these depths.)

So pension funds, university endowments, mutual funds, and small investors, aka Big Oil investors, would bear the brunt of this cataclysmic loss.

The publicly traded oil service companies also depend entirely on Big Oil to lease rigs, and to buy their equipment along with other services. They account for another $300 billion worth of public equity. With Big Oil, earning half as much, they will necessarily be able to reinvest only half as much money. So investors would lose another $150 billion or so there as well.

Devil's Advocate: But wouldn't consumers paying less at the pump stimulate the economy in other ways? Wouldn't this offset those losses in the stock market?

First of all, don't assume that cheaper oil at the wholesale level would translate into cheaper prices at the pump. Gasoline prices are also a function of taxes (average of 46 cents a gallon - and never going down) and the cost of refining which Big Oil has very little control over.

Second of all, if for whatever reason, either by law or volition, the oil companies profit margins were halved, I can guarantee you that the price of oil would sky rocket. This is financial markets 101. When the whole world sees the amount of money spent on exploration plummeting, the price of oil will rise to reflect that future decreasing supply.

Also, if oil companies lose half of their profits, they will also pay only half as much in taxes.

The nation's energy companies are already providing a "windfall" of taxes. According to Department of Energy data, from 1977 to 2004, federal and state governments extracted $397 billion by taxing the profits of the largest oil companies and an additional $1.1 trillion in taxes at the pump.

In today's dollars, that's $2.2 trillion - enough to buy a Toyota Prius for every household in the nation.

In fact, oil companies have paid in taxes more than three times what they earned in profits during those 28 years.

As the oil industry brings in record profits, it also pays record taxes that average 39 percent worldwide, even after accounting for special deductions and credits. That compares with a 33 percent average tax rate for other industries.

In 2005, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil paid more than $158 billion in total worldwide taxes. This gargantuan tax bill nearly equals the entire economic output of Iran and surpasses the total gross domestic product of 150 of the 184 countries ranked by the World Bank.

Okay, that Prius blurb is a bit absurd. Some (who knows exaclty how much?) of that money had to be spent on road maintenance over the last 27 years. So there is no way that we all could have been given Prius' from taxing largesse.

Also, make no mistake about it, cars like the Prius are the enemy of tax collectors. Generally speaking, fuel efficiency is a tax loophole. Gasoline taxes accrue on a per gallon basis and are ostensibly meant to pay for road maintenance. Yet the people who drive the most, likely buy fuel efficient cars, and therefore pay the least in gas taxes.

Similarly, as the price of gasoline rises, drivers cut back on gasoline consumption and state tax receipts get ravaged. The states will respond by likely cutting local aid to towns. So don't be surprised this year when your local municipality tries to raise taxes on you. They'll expertly frame it as needed to "save high school sports" or a similar ruse, as they have been doing the last two decades in Massachusetts.

But the overall point remains, if Big Oil's profits are cut, not only will the price of oil rise and shareholders lose billions, the government will also lose billions in tax revenue.

There's no doubt that Bill O'Reilly is economically illiterate but, I have a sneaking suspicion that he knows he's dead wrong. He simply doesn't care. He goes to great lengths to show he's "fair and balanced", and Big Oil bashing is just part of that larger endeavor. After all, he can't be a right wing shrill if he stands up to Big Oil - or so he thinks. It's just like when he highlights nutty religious people, no matter how obscure and impotent they are. He's just pandering to demographics. With likely 80% of the country economically illiterate, he sees Big Oil bashing as a pretty safe gambit.

Big Oil bashing amounts to not much more than Big Complaining. Like most complainers, Bill and his brethren's arguments seriously lack context.

If the price of oil is being manipulated, then what about sugar, gold, silver, Treasury Bonds, and real estate?

All are at or near multi-decade highs. Look at the explosion in copper:

Should we start hauling Big Copper CEOs before Congress now?

That chart above shows the recent explosion in zinc.

Because of which, it now costs more than one cent to make a penny. The latest projection is 1.4 cents to make a penny.

Surely our government wouldn't spend 1.4 cents to make a penny? If only I had such confidence. Soon, a nickel will be more valuable melted down, than in your bank account as well.

Given the relevant context, it's kind of tough to argue that ONLY oil prices are being manipulated up.

Generalized commodity inflation explains oil prices - so lose the conspiracy theories.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Boston - One Giant Dank Cemetery

Today is May 2nd, yet in Boston the forecast is for a high of 46 degrees and up to an inch of rain.

Though I grew up in Massachusetts, I never realized how dour the climate was until I came back. A warm day in February will undoubtedly be spoiled by rain. If the sun is shining, count on a stiff northerly breeze. And quite frankly, the sun isn’t often out much at all. It’s almost like living in a lake effect region of upstate New York. Even in this “global warming” induced mild winter, it still snowed on October 28th. Inertia has got to be the only reason people continue to live here.

Devil’s Advocate: Well then C-Nut, why do you live in Boston?

I live here because of a temporary quirk in my wife’s job. Obviously, as an independent securities trader I can work from anywhere. Hopefully we will be moving soon.

So I find curious all of this militant environmentalism in New England. I could understand it in beautiful California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and the like, but here there’s little to appreciate.

Devil’s Advocate: What about the fall foliage?

That is a mere two weeks long. It is very cold if you go up to the White Mountains AND I can guarantee you that it will rain half of the time. If you think that will get you through the next 7 months then I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in.

People up here (that don’t know any better) make self-justifying excuses all of the time. They invariably tout skiing in defense of the winter. Well, I don’t think you can ski in April or May. What do you do then?

Make no mistake. The climate explains so much of the bitter ideology up here. I tell people it took me 30 years to lose my New England bitterness, and in the past 9 months it has come roaring back with a vengeance.

Also I had people up here proudly tell me that, “they don’t wear their religion on their sleeve.” But I have to take issue with that. As I and Michael Crichton have posited before, fanatical environmentalism is a religion, and the believers are as evangelic as any Latter Day Saint or bible-thumping rube. Environmentalists have scolded me for not recycling, not feeding my son organic milk, and for buying a Christmas tree at Home Depot instead of supporting the local farm.

I stand by my religion claim. Some guy even admitted as much on his bumper sticker that I saw the other day. It read,

“earth is thy religion”.

Again, I don’t know how locals can be so fond of the Earth, given the harsh weather. In fact, I tell people (known to be enviro-fanatics) that “I HATE THE EARTH - IT'S MY LEAST FAVORITE PLANET”. I also have been known to let out, “I HATE THE BLEEPIN’ ENVIRONMENT”. The knuckleheads just don’t know how to respond. CaptiousNut is so oft outrageous that many people can never tell whether he’s serious or not.

Since the Boston Tourist Commission isn’t going to hire me anytime soon...

Near my house is a massive cemetery that I have to drive by to go just about anywhere. I couldn't help from thinking the other day that a cemetery is the perfect metaphor for Boston. This city is all about dead and semi-dead people.

As a teenager, I attended an enrichment program at the Rose-Hulman Institue of Technology (Indiana). There were 30 child geniuses (and me) from all over the country. One guy from California told me that “...the Northeast is a dying, if not dead part of the country.” I was taken aback if not slightly offended. But what did I know, I was all of 17 years old and had never left New England, save for DisneyWorld. Years later I would realize that pissant prodigy was right.

(Googling has revealed that the pissant went to Harvard undergrad and is now an MIT professor, firmly ensconced in the Peoples Republic of Cambridge, perhaps the epicenter of the “dead Northeast”.)

What do I mean by “dead”?

First of all, there are people on life support driving cars all over the place. Radio talkshow host Howie Carr was going off the other day on the dangers of elderly drivers. I couldn’t concur more strongly. At least once a week my life is threatened by a blue-haired old lady in a Lincoln. A few months ago, I watched my 92 year old grandfather pull into his garage, put the car in reverse instead of park, get out, get knocked over by the car door, and fall under the car. He would have been run over had the car door not gotten stuck on the side of the garage.

Two years ago, my 85 year old grandmother, after years of innumerable accidents (some where she just drove away), finally totaled her car while driving down, thankfully, an empty street. She was banged up badly, broken ribs, etc. Most importantly (and luckily), she didn’t kill or injure anyone else.

For sure it’s a hard thing, giving up one’s driving. Nobody is eager to concede their freedom and become dependent on others for errands, church, and whatnot. Someone is likely going to have to pry the car keys from my hands one day. I just hope that future generations are better at convincing their parents to let go. God knows, these selfish Baby Boomers don’t even want to care for their parents, never mind drive them all over the place or, EGADS, have them move in.

I thought this was all about the inherent complications with giving up one’s lifestyle, but Howie Carr insists that the children don’t confront their senescent parents because they don’t want to be cut out of the will. How pathetic, and in many cases how true. Make sure you get your $75,000 inheritance no matter how many small children your mother runs over. I really do collectively loathe the Boomers. I think they should be renamed "The Worst Generation".

I was surprised to find Massachusetts listed as only the 12th oldest state. 13.5% of its population was over the age of 65 during the 2000 Census. But other New England states pick up the slack – Connecticut ranked 10th and Rhode Island ranked 6th. Also, the numbers are probably somewhat understated because of the high number of college students in Massachusetts that likely skew the average lower.

I may get in trouble for this, but it needs to be said.

Another thing I hate about Boston is how homely the women dress. Women up here hardly ever wear skirts, heels, or even blouses. Everywhere I go, ladies, young and old, are wearing jeans, sneakers, Red Sox hats, sweatshirts, and tee shirts. Underneath those hats is usually unkempt hair.

No DA, it is not a lesbian thing. ALL WOMEN UNDERDRESS UP HERE.

I chock it all up to the groupthink contagion. It's easy to walk around dressed like a slob college student, if only because everyone else does.

I could easily include some pictures of homely locals - Lord knows I have my camera with me all of the time. But I have had trouble getting people to pose for me. When I tell people the pics are for my website, strangers invariably ask its name. I tell them it's "marginalizing morons" and for some reason their cooperative enthusiasm immediately vanishes.

I just don't understand why.

Remember my post on Deranged Dog People?

I have to add a couple more examples to that epic post.

My neighbor drives all over town with her dog on her lap. I have noticed countless other drivers doing the same. Not only does Massachusetts have to ban cell phone usage (at least go "hands-free"), it seems they have to address another driving hazard up here: homely dressed old women with poodles on their laps.

Speaking of laps. A deranged friend of mine made the mistake of admitting to me that she holds her dog on her lap WHILE SHE GOES TO THE BATHROOM.

I never understood while people tell me anything, given my extremely big mouth. Now that I have three websites, read globally, it makes even less sense. I had to place a note on my door warning guests that "...anything they say or do can and will likely be used against them in the blogosphere."

Here is my favorite personal Big Mouth story. I played in a golf tournament in Philly about ten years ago. One of the guys I played with took more than a little license with the rules. When I found out the guy turned in a score of 75, I let others know what actually happened on the course.

Now the word gets out and the body-building drug dealer comes looking for me. He runs in the clubhouse and pulls me aside to "talk to me".

Jerk: Did you tell SOMEONE that I cheated?


I'll never forget how far his jaw dropped when I laid that one on him. It's a wonder I am still alive.

Oh yeah, and I recently found out that my flake sister feeds her two dogs - ORGANIC DOG FOOD.

But the biggest omission from the Deranged Dog Post was the subject of vicious dogs. Why anyone would want to own a pit bull (besides a drug dealer) is beyond me. The people attracted to these monsters are usually trash (white and black) or upper crust fruits who think no dog is inherently dangerous - "it's all how they are raised".

I was waiting in the always long line at Let There Be Bagels in Port Washington, NY. Some loud-mouthed woman behind me starts talking to someone else about pit bulls, how they are the sweetest dogs in existence and they just "have a bad rap". I turned around and screamed at the woman, in front of many people,


Okay. That didn't actually happen But I should have said that.

There is seemingly a pit bull attack every day in this country. Check out that 10 year old's arm.

And the 8 year old girl's face.

Pit bulls' jaw strength is something obscene like 2000 pounds per square inch.

To give that some perspective, a cheetah only bites at 600 psi.

Needless to say, when a pit bull decides to bite you, he'll let go when he feels like it - no sooner. How much flesh it leaves on your bones is up to his discretion as well.

A friend of mine in Philly has a pit bull. He told me that when he walks it, other pit bull owners (there are plenty in South Philly) come up to him and ask if he, "wants to let the dogs hit". At the time I didn't know what that meant. It is when they keep the dogs on leashes, but let out some slack so they dogs can have a controlled fight. I am no animal rights nutjob, but this is sick.

Devil's Advocate: But that confirms what the woman above was saying about how the dogs are raised, doesn't it?

Go take two golden retrievers and see if they "hit". Pit Bulls are naturally vicious. At the risk of being too presumptuous, I assert that many of these pit bull apologists who attribute the dog's innate pugnacity to "the way it's raised" are the same people who blame guns, rather than people, for gun related deaths. Like I said, that is admittedly a bit of generalization, but it accurately describes at least two vicious dog owners that I know.

It's an oft uttered refrain that pets (and children) really do reflect the owner. I take issue entirely with the Moronic owners, because many have elevated the dogs up to the same status as people.

Last week I took my 1.5 year old son to a park at 7am. As soon as I arrived, I saw that there were three dogs running around - two black labradors and a golden retriever. Obviously they really are just about the friendliest dogs known to man. So I went out to the middle of the field and let my son run around. One dog owner, was letting her dog run freely on the other side of the field. Anyway, the dog (probably 1-2 years old) comes galloping across the field and bowls over my son. Now I was about 15 feet away and not particularly worried. But the dog's owner really got me pissed.

She comes sauntering over, having never once even called the dog to stop and says to me,

"Is he alright?"

Meanwhile my kid is still on the ground, wailing away, mud all over him, and still wrapped up in the dog's 15 foot leash.


Deranged Dummy: It was an accident. (even though the dog was unleashed and she made no attempt to catch it.)

I then said to her, in my soft serial killer tone,

"If your dog had bitten my son, I'd take my golf club to its head..."

Deranged Dummy: But...


She turned white.


She sighed and nodded in tacit agreement.

Devil's Advocate: Whoa, C-Nut. That sounds like you crossed a line with that threat.

First of all, that wasn't a threat because I used the word "if". Furthermore, I was teaching this naive woman an important lesson - that's just the type of service I provide on a gratuitous basis.

Like I said above, my problem is with the owners, who too blithely think their dogs harmless - even to 23 pound infants.

Fifteen minutes later I was accosted by the entire population of dog walkers in the park who apparently didn't like the way I dealt with that dingbat. They actually had the gall to say it was my fault that my son got run over. I couldn't make this stuff up. I wielded some logic and facts, they perhaps realized the weakness of their stance and eventually conceded, "I guess you have a right to be in the park too."

I duly thanked them for their magnanimity.

Anyway the dogs all stayed on the leashes the rest of the time I was there. Apparently the Deranged Dog People are there every morning. It was a nice park that I hadn't been to before. So I went back the next morning and walked around with a golf club. Okay, I haven't done that yet. I was strenously advised against that by both my wife AND my anger management counselor. But driving by the other day I saw that without some scary guy known to make golf club threats, all of those same people had their dogs running freely throughout the park.

Okay, fresh off of that escapade, I went to Larz Anderson Park in Brookline this weekend.

First of all, I have never seen weirder people in my life than those at the park that day. This is a ripe subject for an entire other blog. On the way out, I was strolling my son up a very steep hill to get back to the parking lot. Some unleashed, nasty looking dog started chasing me up the hill. Ever vigilant, I was on top of the situation. I hollered back to the remiss owner, "Is that a pit bull?". No he assured me, it was a boxer. So it is now running right up to my son in the stroller and I ask the guy to get his dog away from my son. The dunderhead reassures me that his dog loves kids. Now I am getting mad. So I shoo the dog away with my foot and ask the guy again to "GET HIS DOG AWAY!!!"

Now the owner gets mad at me. He calls me paranoid and came very close to finding himself at the bottom of the hill, minus a few teeth.

These idiots need to get it through their head that DOGS ARE NOT PEOPLE and in the hierarchy of living creatures they are FAR BELOW YOUNG CHILDREN.

Okay, I started this post with the horrible weather forecast for Tuesday. Well, here's this morning's forecast for Wednesday, verbatim as I just heard on the radio.

"Dank, dreary, rain all day with temperatures still in the 40s".