Saturday, December 16, 2006

Marginalizing Bad Drivers

I can't stand these people that try to use Iraqi War deaths to buttress a most likely deeper criticism of the war.

My stock response is always, "Yeah, well over 100 Americans died in car accidents yesterday..."

Recently I had this altercation and the guy responded, "You may be an intelligent guy but that is a stupid thing to say." Then he "cut and ran" from the discussion.

Since that conversation ended, I will continue it here.

Devil's Advocate - I think what he is saying is that people die everyday for stuff like lung cancer and that doesn't mean we should ignore military deaths...

That's a bad example because lung cancer comes (mostly) from a self-destructive bad habit. I am just trying to put the deaths in perspective since Big Media does such a poor job of it.

Members of the military are paid volunteers doing heroic work AND they're fully aware of the risks of their choice. Their deaths are certainly tragic.

But for me, there is far more tragedy in someone dying simply on their drive home from work. If the numbers were closer it'd be a different story. But 3,000 military deaths in 3.75 years can't be compared to 160,000 auto accident deaths over that same period. There are substantially more widows and orphans created on American roads than in Iraqi deserts.

For most Americans, Iraq is an abstraction. If you don't know a soldier, turn on the news, or open a newspaper that war may as well not even exist. Bill O'Reilly said last night that the 15 minute segments of his show on Iraq are the least watched of his whole program. Many Americans like me just don't care. Thankfully I have the fast forward button of my DVR.

Devil's Advocate - So if you aren't there, then it's an abstraction? So was the Holocaust just an abstraction that people could justifiably ignore if they didn't know any Jews?

If there was a different Holocaust, forty times as big going on in America, then you could rightfully chock up Hitler's Holocaust as a trivial development in a far off land. My point is that auto accidents are such a more immediate danger to Americans than 7th century "insurgents" in Iraq. There are plenty of viable arguments against the war, but the number of military deaths doesn't even crack the top 100.

Almost every time I get in my car, I am toting my most prized possessions in life - my wife and two small children.

Of the five different cities I have lived in, Boston drivers are absolutely the most dangerous.

First of all, you have octogenarians in Oldsmobiles and Buicks driving everywhere. You know, modern society estranged them from their kids so they aren't living with them. Their kids won't confiscate their car keys because who'll then chauffeur the dinosaurs around? And as I mentioned in a previous post, they don't want to be cut out of the will - no matter how many kids their doting parents run over.

Watch the video and keep your eyes on the man crossing the street. The cause of the accident was cell phone yapping. It's horrid to think that that pedestrian got flattened because some self-centered bastard JUST HAD TO TALK TO SOMEONE...

People in Boston are all invariably yapping on their cell phones (not illegal yet), watching a dvd, text messaging, or driving with their dog on their lap like my neighbor.

Yeah officer, the only reason I ran over that little kid was because my little Fifi jumped up to lick my face. She is so sweet my little Fifi.

Remember this is a state that bans tag at recess because it's dangerous but it won't outlaw driver cell phone yapping.

Devil's Advocate - You are being over-dramatic about kids getting run over?

Am I? How would anyone know? Go try to find stats about the complicity of cell phones and car accidents. This stuff is confoundingly not reported. At the scene of any accident, drivers should be interrogated as to cell phone usage. It's easy enough to verify the call times from cell phone bills.

My peeves, as usual, are cemented by logic. I hate tailgaters and I hate right-lane highway speeders - they tend to be the dangerous weavers. I loathe drivers that imperil my safety; in fact I take it quite personally.

Off the highway, if you tailgate me, I will quickly glance at the mirror and profile your sanity. If you don't look like some gun-carrying lunatic, I will immediately hit the breaks and drive as low as 15 mph to teach you a lesson. Good luck trying to go around my massive Earth-scorching Chevy Suburban. Even if I am in a hurry, I feel duty-bound to self-sacrifice and teach the tailgater a lesson about appropriate driving distance and perhaps better personal time management.

I also can't stand these drivers on the highway that think coming within six inches of your fender is a normal way to ask you to shift right and let them pass. High beams from a distance are rude enough. Bear in mind that if I am driving 10 mph over the limit already, I feel no compulsion to switch lanes. No one is entitled to drive 80 mph. The highway is a dangerous place to have pissing contests but sometimes you have to push back provided safety permits.

When I was a child the government agents in "schools" erroneously taught us that a yellow light meant take to caution and slow down. Nowadays it means, hit the gas and fly through that intersection. See, I have been saying over and over again that teachers lie to the students!

This was in fact the cause of a car accident that destroyed my back almost 8 years ago. The traffic light turned yellow, and some geriatric in Philly misjudged how far from the light he was, hit the gas, and came barreling into the cab I was riding in. We had a green light and had just eased into the intersection at 21st and Lombard. Because he was accelerating, the fossil hit us so hard that both cars were wrapped around a telephone pole. They needed the jaws of life to get the Moron out of his car.

I could have been hurt far worse than I was so I hate to complain about my plight. But if you really loathe someone, wish a bad back upon them. A bad back pains physically AND psychologically. Every frustration or setback tortures your body as well as your mind. Always an intense hothead, now I have to exert constant effort on chi management. Perhaps one day I will write a positive post and expound some more on my techniques.

Boston is a self-described "tough town". But the cold climate, rudeness, and economic malaise do not chisel out "tough" citizens as people here like to think of themselves. It churns out egocentric *ssholes. Nowhere is it more apparent than on the roadways.

Let me walk you through the morass of Boston's driving/traffic problems.

First of all, the mass transit here sucks. The government does not encourage people to take the trains or buses. They won't build high rise apartments near train stations. You wouldn't believe the trouble West Roxbury gives to anyone who tries to build an apartment or two near its train station. They want traffic studies, environmental studies, etc. They have old people in town who still drive down Centre Street to mail a letter or buy groceries 3 times a week and don't want any more "traffic". As a result, no young people live downtown and therefore you can forget about a vibrant market for bars, restaurants, or other commercial development. The lack of high rise apartments precludes a critical mass of residents, which would otherwise energize the local economy and put a dent in commuting traffic. Centre Street in West Roxbury is one of the most pathetic dilapidated main streets I have ever seen - 5 miles from Boston no less (only 22 minutes on the train). No normal young people would ever consider living there as it stands.

But that's not the only side effect. Since there is no way to live near a train station, everyone has to scatter about, own a car, and drive everywhere. See how these things spiral out of control? Arguments to discourage "traffic" invariably make it worse.

Last year, gasoline crossed the $3 dollar level and likely tempted many drivers to think about taking mass transit to work. A good thing right? Well the Massachusetts government apparently wanted to forestall that - they raised fares across the board. Subway fares are going up the most - 36% next month. They claim the fare hikes are required by law. The MBTA is hiding behind a "legal requirement" to balance their budget.

Bet your bottom dollar that the budget is in the red because of unions. Remember, environmentalism ALWAYS plays second fiddle to socialism - a lesson Greg Mankiw would be wise to digest.

Alongside the octogenarian driver is the more dangerous teenage/college punk driver. There are scores of them and not just because of the socialist/environmental zoning restrictions that force everyone into car-dependent lifestyles. Remember, Massachusetts is a full-blown Communist bastion. Under the shibboleth of equality, the Commonwealth will not let auto insurance companies price discriminate on very important factors. Generically speaking, they can't discriminate based on age or geography no matter what actuarial risk profiles demonstrate. Consequently, young drivers pay the same premiums as safer, older drivers; and rural drivers have to ante up just as much as more accident prone city drivers.

Devil's Advocate - This isn't fair?

Not only is it not fair, it's very dangerous. Why should older, safer drivers in rural Western Mass have to subsidize lane-weaving college kids in Boston? It befuddles the mind why at least half of the state's representatives haven't risen up in arms to protest this price distortion. Their deafening silence implies at least a fear of Boston-based pols and at most a stark ignorance of economic reality. The study I read concluded that car insurance is, on average, $150 higher than it would be if insurers were free to "discriminate" just on age and geography. Allowed to charge the accident prone their fair premiums, fewer urbanites and fewer youths will be on the roads.

Why does Mass have this policy on geographical discrimination? Who knows? I believe it's because they don't want minority Dorchesterites to be paying more than the bluebloods in Chestnut Hill. Or maybe it germinated from the power of Boston pols who just wrested cheaper car insurance for their constituents. When I lived in Philly, a friend of mine was given his father's BMW. He called for an insurance quote, for a new BMW , parked on the street in Philly, driven by a 23 year old. They told him insurance would be 7k per year. Needless to say, that BMW never made it down to the City of Brotherly Love. He took the subway and cabs instead.

Whatever the original motivations or ongoing justifications, free market meddling in the name of "equality" remains socialism with all of its attendant negative externalities. Here it goes beyond just higher prices and lower efficiency because people not so infrequently die in car accidents.

Now back to my "cut and run" critic who thinks I am a fool to talk about highway deaths. He doesn't have any kids to worry about or to make him drive a little bit safer. I suggest he think about OTHER PEOPLE'S KIDS or even his own health. Over one hundred people per day die in car accidents; maybe the number isn't significantly reducible but I highly doubt it. The fact remains, nobody is studying the issue; we are all just supposed to become inured to it - I guess.

My theory is that there is a sub-population of dangerous drivers out there, not very hard to identify. They will be the ones that at some point end up injuring or killing somebody. Surely, everyone knows a few acquaintances that drive like lunatics. People either yap on the phone, speed, tailgate, and weave all of the time OR hardly ever at all. I think they need unmarked police cars out there mounted with cameras to get these specific jackasses off of the roads. Also we need better mass transit, fairer "discriminatory" insurance pricing, and a deregulated cab industry - please don't get me re-started on the cabs.

Bad driving is taken too lightly by almost everyone. Just accept it because it's far worse in other countries? I don't think so. Around 400,000 people have been killed on the roads in just the last 10 years. It is a present day mini-Holocaust.

And that 400,000 number isn't counting all of the broken backs, limbs, and vegetative comas wrought by car accidents - a number likely much larger.

I could be wrong, but I think it's possible to get driving deaths down to say 90 per day rather than current 115 and climbing.

Recently a college classmate of mine and his wife were killed in an auto accident, orphaning their infant daughter. Some guy of dubious immigration status drove across a wide grassy median on the highway and caused the tragic pileup. There was no sign of drugs or alcohol. The guy either fell asleep, was talking on his cell phone, or guilty of some other distraction. The news of this accident was broadcast widely all over New York (of course without the messy illegal immigrant angle). What real life example of most families' worst nightmare wouldn't be?

My wife knows three kids from her high school that were killed ON BICYCLES by automobiles.

A former co-worker of mine came home to the most horrible phone call one day. His wife and fourteen year old son were killed in an accident on the way home from lacrosse practice.

I knew a ten year old child who chased a ball into the street, only to be run over by a passing car.

Think for a moment. How many auto deaths have hit close to your home? That number will only go up.

Some Morons vote for socialists, but others may get distracted by Oprah or SportsCenter and run you over on the street, regardless of whom they voted for.

Be wary of them all.


Hello jalopnik readers!!!

Sorry to disappoint but your webmaster misled you. Nowhere in my post did I insist that deaths from cell phone yapping drivers are worse than the Holocaust. Either he reads too fast or thinks too slowly.

I hope he's got a better grasp of cars than he has of basic reading comprehension!!!

Salmon and Mashed Potatoes

Listen to Boston Celtic Tony Allen eloquently explain his career best game last night.

To think that all this time I was incorrectly pronouncing it as "sam-uhn"....

Friday, December 08, 2006

Social Skills for Blockheads

The video is a little messed up. If I happen upon the commercial again I will re-upload it. All you need to know is that it's a television ad for Magtastik where Dr. Paul Poumeliotis unleashes this doozy,

Playing with blocks or similar building activities really enhances your child's interactive skills and later on, social skills...

What the bleep?

Playing with blocks will enhance your kid's social skills?

Will it guarantee a date for the prom as well? If not, can I sue the quack doctor?

Apparently all of those weirdos in my class mustn't of had enough block time as toddlers.

Invoking "social skills" is one of the best ways to market to dumb parents these days.

...Daycare will improve kids' social skills.

...Deval's Patrick's all-day kindergarten will improve children's social skills.

...Playing with Magtastik blocks will improve social skills.

Personally, lower taxes would improve my coefficient of socialization. Somehow I need to work that "social skills" shibboleth into my own propaganda.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The End-of-the-World Trade

Intro to Conspiracy Theory

Anyone who's traded the gold sector as much as I have is fluent in doom-and-gloom, End-of-the-World financial prognostications.

Skepticism towards government abounds in every populace and has in every period. Are the pols lying to us? Surreptiously lining their pockets? Abusing their power to suppress dissent? Are they manipulating the garb of reality through parades, rhetoric, or scapegoats?

Of course they are - ask any random person on the street. Open almost any history book.

Now ratcheting that cynicism up a notch it follows that government must be recklessly manipulating the financials to further its own devious interests.

What are those interests? And how are they doing this? Well the details of a conspiracy theory are inherently unimportant. Conspiracy theories fend off factual probing with a Hydra-headed resilience.

Oil companies manipulate prices up; later they fall. It couldn't be market forces moving the prices, the greedy oil execs decided to soak the little people. Then they got scared of Bill O'Reilly's populist handwringing and used their omnipotence to lower gas prices back down. Every price move or industry development has a knee-jerk cynical explanation. Supposedly we went to war in Iraq just to get oil. Since we have gotten that oil and increased world supply, prices, against all economic logic, have risen. And that brings the nutjobs back to their oil industry greed/manipulation lemma.

I am not kidding. The who, what, when, and how of a conspiracy theory are fluid to the point of irrelevance. The vaguer the accusation, the wider the net to cast.

In 1755 a horrific earthquake ravaged Lisbon, Portugal killing between 60,000 and 100,000 people. The absence of seismologists opened the door for any and all opportunistic speculators. The Church took occasion to blame it on immorality. Jean Jacque Rousseau blamed it on depravity of urban living. (If people didn't live all jammed together on 5 story buildings there'd have been much fewer casualties). Ignorance has always given license to conspiratorial conjecture.

Make no mistake, there will be a financial earthquake in your lifetime. We'll all have personal scapegoats lined up to blame: oil companies, Alan Greenspan, George Bush, Bin Laden, Wall Street, politicians, hedge funds, "greed", the national debt, China, outsourcing, illegal immigrants, the "rich", etc. Amid the crossfire of blame, genuine culpability will be quite beside the point.

So why all this talk of doomsday and conspiracy theories?

The reason I write this post is that my trading positions at the moment look like I am predicting the end of the world.

Long gold and silver.
Long oil.
Short the Nasdaq.
Short the 30 year bond.

Of course, trades are inherently short-term; conceivably I could cover and reverse them all before lunch. But if oil exploded and the dollar collapsed, I'd make a small fortune. Frighteningly, these scenarios are two key ingredients in any viable End-of-the-World prediction.

Now do realize I am not simply trading off a doomsday conspiracy theory; my positions are dictated by empirical price action and economic theory. Any legitimate economic textbook will tell you that cheap money (low interest rates) sows the seeds of inflation, which then erodes the currency. The only question is of timing.

Look at it this way, if the dollar lost value, our way of life would be turned upside down, and perhaps a shudder would be felt globally. Those dim ramifications demand we consider everything that could possibly cause the dollar to devalue.

Inflation of course is suspect numero uno. It can arise from the government simply printing too much currency; it could come from a sudden spike in prices (leaving aside for a moment the relationship between the two). Lastly, dollar weakness could arise from a fear of fiscal solvency, i.e. the national debt.

Oil is arguably the oxygen of the global economy. Jack its price up and Goldilocks won't long be able to breath. Almost every single necessity of life will cost more - at least theoretically. Ergo, rising oil must play a starring role in The End of the World.

The other co-star, previously alluded to, is your Federal Government. So how much money is it really printing? That's a question not exactly dominating your local news now is it? Here we are getting into more esoteric financial stuff that I admittedly don't fully understand such as the velocity of money, M1, M2, etc. What I do know is that the government owes lots of money and unfortunately for its creditors, the Feds are the ones who print it.

Should we just trust the slimeballs on this one?

I just did a google search for "growth of money supply" and found this nugget on the Federal Reserve's website.

In 2000, when the Humphrey-Hawkins legislation requiring the Fed to set target ranges for money supply growth expired, the Fed announced that it was no longer setting such targets, because money supply growth does not provide a useful benchmark for the conduct of monetary policy.

Our government is so compassionate...It doesn't want to confuse us, the fretful public. As is plain to see, tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorists don't exactly have nothing to point to.

I am sure some people monitor the Fed's printing of greenbacks, but I think it's safe to say that it gets about 1,000,000th of the public scrutiny given to say the quality of cous cous at Guantanamo Bay.

So after the "trust us on money supply" policy piques your cynicism, next take a look at the Federal Reserve's interest rate machinations. At the slightest sign of weakness they drop rates to artificially revive the economy and buffet political incumbents. They arrogantly feel that such fine tuning steadies the ship. I disagree.

In the long run, the economy is going where it's going no matter what the Fed does. Long term interest rates (set by markets) and technological innovation trump the short term borrowing cost of money. The Fed's manipulations create large distortions which preclude the vastly more efficient free market from allocating capital. All the Fed really did in the last few years by lowering rates was encourage debt-laden consumers to borrow and spend more money. Sure Fed defenders can find GDP growth numbers or other convenient metrics that allegedly justify their "ship steadying" mission. But I say, look at havoc of the Nasdaq dropping 70% from its high. Did they really need to lower interest rates in the wake of Long Term Capital or the Asian financial crisis? Or later on after 9/11?

Note also they raised them in 1999 partly to entice people to not make a Y2K run on their banks. The criteria for their manipulations are unbounded.

Devil's Advocate - But wasn't Greenspan trying to deflate the Nasdaq bubble in 1999? Wasn't he doing the right thing?

You mean deflate a bubble that he arguably helped create (by lowering rates in 1998 under the guise of Asian woes)?

That would be like machine-gunning a guy and then wanting credit for calling an ambulance.

Okay, for the sake of argument, say they were correct to raise rates in 1999. Since the Nasdaq doubled anyway, from 2,500 to its 5,000 zenith, clearly they were too late to the rescue. This brings us to our present day analogue.

Right now, the Federal Reserve is literally praying that their recent rake hikes not only slow the economy, they are praying that a cooler economy will then a bite out of inflation. This may be the largest parlay bet in history.

Remember, a tightening Fed couldn't ground the dot-coms in 1999.

What if the economy slows but commodities march onward and upward?

Lowering rates will just aggravate the inflation. So what then, raise rates in the face of a breaking economy? That will never happen.

The Fed simply does not have a tool to crack open the stagflation nut - which is what we could be looking at if the Fed's parlay busts.

Congress could theoretically crack that nut BUT it has a record of making things worse.

Here's what it could do to stem inflation, strengthen the dollar, and invigorate the economy:

1) Lower taxes.
2) Start phasing out Medicare. Push HSAs.
3) Privatize Social Security.
4) Shrink the size of government. Deregulate more industry. Decentralize government schooling.
5) Attack hidden taxes on business like the tort lobby, ethanol mandates, etc.

Here's what they will most likely do:

1) Raise taxes on income, capital, and perhaps oil companies.
2) Expand Medicare (or leave it alone while demographics expand it).
3) Will do nothing positive with Social Security. They will means test "wealthy" people off of it. They will increase the cap beyond the first 90k of salaries. They will make 11 million illegal immigrants retroactively eligible for benefits - even though the "trust fund" is already underfunded and also ravaged by unfavorable demographics.
4) They will expand the size of government. Regulate more industry, e.g. hedge funds are up next. The socialists will keep pushing for nationalized healthcare.
5) They will add more hidden taxes on economic activity.

If you don't think econo-illiteracy pervades America from Joe Blow on the street, all the way through the highest political offices, then you haven't read enough of my blog. Any financial earthquake will be met with the crossfire of blame mentioned above but the ignorant finger-pointing will pale compared to the damage wrought by the political "solutions". Be sure to thank your local Congressman.

I am covering a lot of stuff here but this is no disjointed diatribe.

If the dollar is fundamentally in trouble, the only place to hide is in precious metals. Sure you could convert your dollars to euros, yen, or other currencies but then you're opening another can of worms - especially with the euro. The European Union is more concerned with global warming and world government than they are with economic vitality. The Japanese have their own problems as well, e.g. an inflexible banking system.

Devil's Advocate - So how does the dollar weaken if you don't see other currencies strengthening?

Finally DA, you ask a good question. I don't necessarily see the buck weakening versus other currencies - at least not to the extent of other goldbugs. My argument for dollar weakness focuses more on a loss of purchasing power from inflated commodity prices (and debt).

Gold is THE SAFE HAVEN from dollars, euros, and yen. While currencies have come and gone, the yellow metal has held value for 4,000 years.

Sure you could demonstrate how horrible of an investment gold has been over many time periods BUT I can always fire back my 4,000 year argument. How'd the dollar do during the Civil War? How'd the German mark fare with Hitler? Didn't Oscar Schindler use diamonds as a currency while fleeing for safety?

The conspiracy theories will never, ever go away. In fact, I think they will gain steam for the foreseeable future.

Some of these goldbugs are indefatigably nuts. They believe the government has sold all of the gold at Fort Knox. They believe you have to own gold coins instead of gold futures because banks will never be able to deliver your metal in the wake of a financial catastrophe. Others live in cabins with stockpiled food, firearms, and bomb shelters. As nutty as I am, I am not quite there yet.

There's so much more I could say on this topic but I am going to end it here for now.

Tax Shelter asked in advance for a "What if I am wrong?" consideration. I am sure he'll fine tune the question in the comment section but I'll give it a go now.

If I am wrong about these trades, I will lose some of my hard earned money. My positions are not very large but are quite levered in the sense it looks like one big End-of-the-World bet. Should oil drop, not only will I lose on that position, but it's likely that gold and silver dip as well. And of course stocks and bonds may rally some more.

I want to emphasize again that these are "trades" not investments. Aside from the 30 year Treasury, I have been both short and long gold, silver, and the Nasdaq more times than I could count just this year.

I am "wrong" every single day. Today I bought Apple too early. Yesterday I lost 7 points on Gold. I got run over shorting the Nasdaq in November. The game I play is not about being "right" all of the time or even 51% of the time. It's about cleaning up on your winners and having small losers. I don't like the term "diversification" - I much prefer "a basket approach". It really has taken me 10 years to learn how to trade smaller. As a fearless youth I swung a big bat on single positions and had to numb the losses with inebriation. Maybe that's why there are no trading firms in Boston, because bars won't sell you more than three drinks before cutting you off?

I am fully aware that my blog spouts a formidable negative vibe. I have the End-of-the-World trade on and of course I am short the housing market because I rent. When I say I don't believe in long term equity investing remember I am speaking for myself only and about the stock universe as I see it today. I have a hunch that Tax Shelter wants to know the long term bull arguments for stocks and perhaps real estate but I'll wait for him to clarify.

If the economy keeps roaring, interest rates stay low, and real estate starts ascending again, I will get hurt financially - no question about it.

But if I am right and play the right side of coming trends, not only will I earn some good money, but I will vault up the wealth ladder.

It's one thing to get rich when seemingly everybody else is, like in internet stocks or in real estate, but quite another to make bank while others are bleeding. Something like 69% of Americans own a house and at least 50% own stocks directly. I am not really that bearish on the stock market because its valuation is not that high. I am however very strongly bearish on housing and on the long bond because of their stratospheric prices.

Okay that's it. I am ending this post because the concept of me making money on this trade is just too depressing.

Maybe I'll renominate it as the schadenfruede trade...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Article on Education

The Dream Palace of Educational Theorists
by John Derbyshire (Dec. 2006)

Education is a subject I find hard to contemplate without losing my temper. In the present-day U.S.A., education is basically a series of rent-seeking rackets.

There is the public school racket, in which homeowners and taxpayers fork out stupendous sums of money to feed a socialistic extravaganza in which, when its employees can spare time from administration, "professional development" sabbaticals, and fund-raising for the Democratic Party, boys are pressed to act like girls, and dosed with calming drugs if they refuse so to act; girls are encouraged to act like boys by taking up advanced science, math, and strenuous sports, which few of them have any liking or aptitude for; and boys and girls alike are indoctrinated in the dubious dogmas of "diversity" and political correctness.

Any article that starts out like that can't be bad.

Click here and read the rest.

Moronic Athletes

I am working on a few posts but my time is otherwise strapped and the babysitter is MIA. All I have today are these timeless Moronic quotes from the sports world.

Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson on being a role model: "I wan'all dem kids to do what I do, to look up to me. I wan' all the kids to copulate me."

New Orleans Saint RB George Rogers when asked about the upcoming season: "I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first."

And, upon hearing Joe Jacobi of the 'Skins say: "I'd run over my own
mother to win the Super Bowl," Matt Millen of the Raiders said: "To win, I'd run over Joe's Mom, too."

Torrin Polk, University of Houston receiver, on his coach, John Jenkins: "He treats us like men. He lets us wear earrings."

Football commentator and former player Joe Theismann, 1996: "Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

Senior basketball player at the University of Pittsburgh : "I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes."

Bill Peterson, a Florida State football coach: "You guys line up alphabetically by height." And, "You guys pair up in groups of three, then line up in a circle."

Boxing promoter Dan Duva on Mike Tyson hooking up again with promoter Don King: "Why would anyone expect him to come out smarter? He went to prison for three years, not Princeton."

Stu Grimson, Chicago Blackhawks left wing, explaining why he keeps a color photo of himself above his locker: "That's so when I forget how to spell my name, I can still find my clothes."

Lou Duva, veteran boxing trainer, on the Spartan training regimen of heavyweight Andrew Golota: "He's a guy who gets up at six o'clock in the morning regardless of what time it is."

Chuck Nevitt, North Carolina State basketball player, explaining to Coach Jim Valvano why he appeared nervous at practice: "My sister's expecting a baby, and I don't know if I'm going to be an uncle or an aunt."

Frank Layden, Utah Jazz president, on a former player: "I told him, 'Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?' He said, "Coach, I don't know and I don't care."

Shelby Metcalf, basketball coach at Texas A&M, recounting what he told a player who received four F's and one D: "Son, looks to me like you're spending too much time on one subject."

Amarillo High School and Oiler coach Bum Phillips when asked by Bob Costas why he takes his wife on all the road trips, Phillips responded:
"Because she is too ugly to kiss good-bye."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Barney Frank-ly Is A Dissembling Socialist

On November 29th, Congressmen Barney Frank (S - Massachusetts) appeared on the O'Reilly Factor. Frank is no political lightweight; he'll chair the House Financial Services Committee when the Democrats take control of Congress in January.

Definitely watch the video first. I've transcribed the important exchange below - though it's a thoroughly inadequate substitute for the viewing experience.

BillO - Do you believe in income redistribution?

BF - To some extent the whole country does...George Bush supports a tax structure in which people at the upper end get taxes much more than people at the lower end. It's called progressive taxation. But that's not what I've been talking about mostly now. The problem we have now is not that the government isn't doing enough to redistribute to the lower end but that the government is doing too much to redistribute it to the higher end.

BillO - Do you believe in it or not?

BF - Stop being a silly would-be district attorney...Bill if you want to do that go to law school. The fact is I told you I do like George Bush does.

BillO - You're not like George Bush. That's ridiculous.

BF - Bill, will you please stop interrupting?

BillO - When you say something dopey, I am going to point it out.

BF - I came on the show to have a coherent conversation...

BillO - And I asked you a question and...

BF - And as I try to answer it you keep interrupting. It's your style when you don't like the answer...

BillO - It's YOUR STYLE to make an invalid comparison between you and George Bush....That's bull.

BF - I said that I agree with George Bush that people at the upper end of the income scale should be taxed more than people at the lower end.

BillO - That's not income redistribution.
BillO - What's the top tax rate? What should it be?

BF - I think when Bill Clinton had it at 39%, we had a very good economy. But that of course is only part of the problem because you are trying to ignore the issue that public policies today are in fact (effect?) going in the reverse direction and what we've seen is more and more of the wealth that we've created in this society is staying in the hands of very few people and I would like to see public policies that distribute the wealth more fairly. I'm not talking about taking from the rich and giving to the working classes or poor. I am talking about a fairer share of the increased wealth because as Alan Greenspan said a couple of years ago, it's all going recently to a handful of people. I am talking about just sharing the increase instead of redistributing.

BillO - 39%, you think is a fair top rate.

BF - Yeah, I said that.

CaptiousNut - Actually BF, no you didn't say that. You blurted out some vague connection to the internet bubble and a 39% tax rate.

Boy would I have loved to have been there asking my socialist Congressman questions. Bill did a decent job (compared to his peers in the news business) but it's nothing like to what I would have laid on the slimy stammerer. Of course, Bill can't "drill" Barney too hard or he'll never come back on the show. I predict it will be a while before Barney appears again given his embarrassing performance.

Now is Frank a liar or a complete Moron?

What I mean is, does he truly believe in confiscating money from the working rich and handing it to the non-working, morally-challenged poor and just doesn't want to admit to it?

Or he is so thoroughly stupid that he really thinks he answered the darn question?

Hey Barney do you believe in X?

Well, to some extent the whole country does....


He mocks Bill as a "would-be district attorney" but there isn't a judge in the land that would permit such outright evasion. Your honor, will you please direct the witness to answer the question?

Now how many lies can Barney cram into his non-answer?

The whole country supports progressive taxation?

First of all, I don't support it. Libertarians are likely all against it. Steve Forbes has been advocating a flat-tax for many years and ran for President on that platform in 1996. Not to mention most especially that HIGH INCOME EARNERS DON'T SUPPORT the disproportionate confiscation of their wages.

George Bush supports progressive taxation?

Why? Because he didn't veto every Congressional bill not including a flat-tax? Therefore he believes in progressive taxation?

The same exact day Frank uttered these falsehoods (again while evading a direct question), wire reports were buzzing about George Bush touting Estonia's economic growth and FLAT TAX.

Of all the days in the last six years to misrepresent lie about President Bush's tax philosophy, could Frank have picked a more untimely one?

Too bad Bill didn't have a Captious voice in his hear on this point...

I just had a flashback to Al Gore hyperventilating about global warming in NYC on one of its coldest days on record.

How can Frank say with a straight face that Bush agrees with him on progressive taxation?

Bush lowered the top tax bracket from 39 percent to 35 percent.


Bush also cut taxes on the low end.

Flattening out the tax code at its highest point seems a most peculiar expression of support for progressive taxation.

Then again, answering a question about your personal beliefs with "the whole country believes in..." also confounds most holders of 3-digit IQs.

President Bush also wants to abolish the estate tax which is arguably its most progressive confiscation. Frank and his comrades are not exactly on board with that one.

Let's pause the litany of lies for a second.

Frank's response (re: income redistribution) may span the gamut of pejorative adjectives, but that's not to say there's no logic to his tack. Let me try to illustrate this obliquely.

Often times when Senator John Kerry is interrogated about some policy or gaffe of his, he starts his response some variation of, "We have to do better..." or "I have to do better..."

When any Congressmen admits his and his cohorts' incompetence, the listener will reflexively fall into initial agreement. After that, it's much easier for a John Kerry to evade a question, peddle BS, and unleash more sophisticated propaganda. A few sentences into Kerry's response-turned-monologue, and the audience of Soundbite Nation won't even remember the initial question; at least that's what he's striving for. Worst of all, John Kerry won't seem like such a detestable figure.

I want to give another example before I tie to all together.

Remember a dissembling Greg Mankiw hid behind Alan Greenspan in his call for higher gasoline taxes,

National security. Alan Greenspan called for higher gas taxes recently. "It's a national security issue," he said. It is hard to judge how much high oil consumption drives U.S. involvement in Middle Eastern politics. But Mr. Greenspan may well be right that the gas tax is an economic policy with positive spillovers to foreign affairs.

My comment was:

A Greenspan quote? Is that supposed to bring gravitas? Here's what this is. Greg wanted to trot out his own personal conspiracy theory of oil consumption subsidizing "Middle Eastern politics" - whatever the heck that nebulous animal is. BUT, he lacked the stones to say it himself and opted to mask his tripe in a quote from Yoda.

Barney Frank's use of "the whole country" and "George Bush" is a very LOGICAL DEFLECTION - not fundamentally different than the examples given of John Kerry or Greg Mankiw. In this case, Frank wields President Bush as the Useful Stereotype to burnish his own image.

Bill O'Reilly essentially called Frank a socialist, and graciously gave him a chance to disavow it. Frank then tried to sell himself as mainstream, cut from the same mold as the most powerful and visible capitalist of all - George Bush. All the while Frank indulged in FALSE COMPARISON and demonstrated an infinitely flexible relationship with the truth.

...I would like to see public policies that distribute the wealth more fairly. I'm not talking about taking from the rich and giving to the working classes or poor.

Wow, a fairer distribution of wealth that doesn't involve taking it from those who have it????????

...I am talking about just sharing the increase instead of redistributing.

How can sharing possibly not be considered redistribution?????????

The problem we have now is not that the government isn't doing enough to redistribute to the lower end but that the government is doing too much to redistribute it to the higher end.

The only thing he can be talking about here is the "tax cuts for the rich". When his ostensible co-ideologue George Bush dropped the top income tax rate from 39% to 35% - that is called "redistribution". Huh?

Letting people keep 4% more of the money they earned is a government "redistribution"?

If a guy walks by me and I don't mug him for his wallet, did I then "redistribute" his cash to him?

The problem we have now is not that the government isn't doing enough to redistribute to the lower end...


Can you say straw man?

You can't even say that Frank "bobs and weaves" - at least in the context of tax redistribution. The bell rang, he ran out of the ring, stole the announcer's microphone, and started fulminating from the rafters.

Distortion, deflection, mythological metaphor, vituperation, and outright propaganda all by a man "who came on the show to have a coherent conversation".

Note that Greg Mankiw is proud of his Congressman Barney Frank.

Frank was recently re-elected in the gerrymandered 4th District of Massachusetts. He ran unopposed.

If you can't or didn't watch the YouTube clip at the top, make sure you find the time to do so; it's highly illuminating.