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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Sign “O” the Times

July 25th, 2011 - 8:52 am

The Truth About Cars: The big recovery has been postponed for a year or more.

Daily Ticker: The mass layoff is making a comeback.

Bank of America/Merrill Lynch: The first estimate of Q2 GDP is likely to show the economy expanded at a feeble 1.5% pace, a slowdown from Q1.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

July 25th, 2011 - 8:11 am

GOP congressional candidate Karen Harrington announces FireDebbie.com — as in, Wassermann-Schultz.

I am so going to get her booked for Coast to Coast Tea Party.

Steve Wynn comes out swinging against the Obama Administration, MSNBC gives Al Sharpton his own show and quality Lego pr0n — all on another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs!

Bonus: What would Don Draper do?

Did I Just Score?

July 23rd, 2011 - 12:47 pm

After a craptacular week, finally some good news.

RIP: Amy Winehouse

July 23rd, 2011 - 11:02 am

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, “No, no, no”
Yes, I’ve been black but when I come back you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab, I won’t go, go, go

I’d rather be at home with Ray
I ain’t got seventeen days
‘Cause there’s nothing, there’s nothing you can teach me
That I can’t learn from Mr. Hathaway

I didn’t get a lot in class
But I know we don’t come in a shot glass

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, “No, no, no”
Yes, I’ve been black but when I come back you’ll know know know
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab, I won’t go, go, go

The man said, “Why do you think you here?”
I said, “I got no idea”
I’m gonna, I’m gonna lose my baby
So I always keep a bottle near

He said, “I just think you’re depressed
Kiss me, yeah baby and go rest”

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, “No, no, no”
Yes, I’ve been black but when I come back you’ll know, know, know

I don’t ever wanna drink again
I just, ooh, I just need a friend
I’m not gonna spend ten weeks
Have everyone think I’m on the mend

And it’s not just my pride
It’s just ’til these tears have dried

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, “No, no, no”
Yes, I’ve been black but when I come back you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab, I won’t go, go, go

Left Losing the Hopenchange

July 23rd, 2011 - 10:01 am

CNN: “President Barack Obama’s approval rating is down to 45 percent, driven in part by growing dissatisfaction on the left with the president’s track record in office, according to a new national survey.”

Emphasis added with delight.

Look, the left isn’t dissatisfied because Obama’s been moving to the center, any more than my friends are becoming dissatisfied by my move toward sobriety. Because, you know: S’yeah, right.

Maybe the left is finally just as sick of the economy as the rest of us are, and are finally starting to give the President the “ownership” he keeps claiming — right before he blames Bush again.

From the Island of Death

July 23rd, 2011 - 8:01 am

So the Oslo terrorist is a right-wing extremist. Is that somehow better, than had he been yet another jihadi? Is it worse? No. His victims — 90 and counting, mostly kids it seems — are still just as dead. And he’s still just a terrorist.

My only worry is that Norway’s famously-lax justice system won’t be able to deal as harshly with this monster as he deserves.

The Amazon Tablet: Too Good to Be True

July 23rd, 2011 - 7:47 am

I’m as excited as any gadget fiend by the news and rumors surrounding Amazon’s not-so-hush-hush new tablet. I love my Kindle, and can’t wait to see what more they have planned. But some of the talk strains credulity. Here’s what BYTE is peddling:

Look for our breaking coverage of Amazon’s new tablet – and how it relies on its existing Whispersync synching service and WIFI free Whispernet cellular-based network — later today in a story by me and BYTE’s executive news editor Eric Mack.

“Free, cellular-based, contract-free connections will give the new Amazon tablet an unusual feature that will appeal to a lot of people. They can just look at the [Amazon Tablet] and say, Yep, I’ve got a signal,” an analyst told BYTE. “Tablet users will be able to buy stuff with no monthly charges and with everything integrated with Cloud Drive, Amazon’s Store and other features. It’s a simplicity thing.”

So I went to BYTE’s home page to see what the other breaking Super Kindle story was, and fished up this bit:

The tablet is rumored to ship in a nine-inch form factor. Whispersync essentially turns the future tablet–or a Kindle–into a WiFi-free cell device that uses Cloud Drive to share and sync huge volumes of rich media, including books, music, photos and video, sources told BYTE.

Let’s look at the economics of the current Kindle.

For $139, (or $114 with “special offers,” or “ads”) you can have a Kindle with WhisperSync — that works over your WiFi. For an additional $50, you get 3G connectivity, anywhere in the world, “at no extra charge.”

And what is that 3G good for? Mostly, for buying books. Yes, you can browse the web on your Kindle, but you really don’t want to. The experience is so awful that even Amazon has hidden the browser under a menu called “Experimental.” You can use your 3G to download newspapers and magazines and text-only versions of certain websites. But you still have to pay for the newspapers and magazines and the websites. And if you travel abroad, that “no extra charge” will cost you an extra five bucks a week for as long as you’re on the beach.

I’m not complaining. I didn’t complain back in May when I got hit up for the extra money. It was still worth it to have my Kindle and my 3G down on the Mayan Riviera. Cheap, actually.

But you do need to know what your $50 really buys you: The ability to buy books — rarely bigger than a single megabyte each — anywhere in the world. Anything more than that is going to cost you more than that.

Let’s keep that in mind when we look at BYTE’s fantastic tale about what the Super Kindle will do for you. Let’s go back to that unnamed analyst who claimed:

Free, cellular-based, contract-free connections will give the new Amazon tablet an unusual feature that will appeal to a lot of people. They can just look at the [Amazon Tablet] and say, Yep, I’ve got a signal. Tablet users will be able to buy stuff with no monthly charges and with everything integrated with Cloud Drive, Amazon’s Store and other features. It’s a simplicity thing.[Emphasis added]

That same $50 3G upgrade is going to sync endless gigabytes of music and video for you?

I don’t think so.

My 3G iPad has an unlimited data plan, too — for $30 a month. And you can’t get that plan anymore. Except for those lucky enough to be grandfathered in, unlimited data has gone the way of the dodo — and not just for iPads and iPhones.

Or maybe the analyst never meant to imply that the Super Kindle wouldn’t have a one-time, up-front price for unlimited 3G. If not, then what is the “unusual feature?” Most iPad buyers already opt for the 3G model, and have since it debuted back in May of last year. If anything, Amazon is even later to the party than, well, everybody but Sony.

That’s not to say Amazon is going to produce yet another Android tablet nobody wants to buy. Take Amazon’s unbeatable online shopping experience and combine it with 3G and CloudDrive, and we will — finally! — see a tablet able to compete with Apple’s wares. But if you think you’ll pay an extra $50 or even $100 upfront and be connected everywhere, all the time — then you’re as gullible as the folks at BYTE.

Before it folded, BYTE was the go-to magazine for Super Genius level tech reporting. But its relaunch effort is off to a very shaky start.

Friday Night Videos

July 22nd, 2011 - 6:37 pm

Brian Setzer. “Sleepwalk.” In concert.

YouTube Preview Image

What else did you need to know?

There But for the Grace of… Here I Go!

July 22nd, 2011 - 2:10 pm

US to UK: May I follow you over that cliff? Here’s Louis Woodhill with the numbers:

The new British fiscal plan was very similar to the “grand bargain” being advocated by the Obama administration. It supposedly consisted of 77% spending cuts and 23% revenue increases. However, some crucial tax rates were increased, including a hike in the top marginal capital gains tax rate from 18% to 28%.

The tax increases derailed England’s economic recovery. GDP growth over the next three calendar quarters averaged only 0.77%. This was 70% lower than the growth rate during the 9 months prior to the tax hikes. The percentage of British adults with jobs, which had been rising, plummeted after the tax increases. It has since stabilized at a lower level.

Bad luck, I suppose.

I Hope I’m Not Jumping the Gun Here…

July 22nd, 2011 - 10:07 am

…but a terror attack on Norway is like giving a drubbing to your kid niece — yet that’s the level where these guys operate.

People are dead — again and again and again — because of the total failure of Islamists to be able to live in, or merely to accept the reality of, the modern West.

Stop Repeating Yourself

July 22nd, 2011 - 9:59 am

Jonathan Alter, student of history:

Where’s Franklin Roosevelt when we need him? While campaigning amid 25 percent unemployment in 1932, Roosevelt argued for what he called “bold, persistent experimentation.”

As he put it: “It is common sense to take one method and try it. If it fails, admit failure frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

This spirit of creativity and experimentation is missing in today’s Washington, especially on jobs creation.

Persistant bold experimentation — stimulus, string-pushing, ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank — is precisely why we have a jobs problem, and precisely why unemployment never dropped below double digits until WWII came along.

Blame It on the Bossa Nova

July 22nd, 2011 - 7:33 am

I have a little something about Sinatra in the Sixties, complete with video, on the PJ Lifestyle site.

A Riddle

July 21st, 2011 - 3:07 pm

Q: What is it called in Washington when you lose $1.6 billion dollars?

A: “A major accomplishment.”

Coming soon to an economy near you: 10% unemployment. Jeff Reeves details how weakness in the financial sector, tech, and aerospace are bringing us back to the double-digit blues.

But let’s think about that for just a moment.

Banking? That industry has been given jillions in liquidity injections and whatnot over the last 30 months. Yet they still can’t make enough money to keep people on the payrolls.

Tech? Tech has been on a buying binge, with lots of M&A action. I have a theory as to why. They’re sitting on lots of cash, but don’t feel confident enough to expand their own businesses. Better then just to buy somebody else’s. But M&A’s usually lead to layoffs — at best. Remember AOL/Time-Warner?

Aerospace? This is the crown jewel of American manufacturing. In passenger jets, there’s pretty much just Boeing here and Airbus in Europe. In military applications, there’s pretty much just the US and whatever Sukhoi and MiG retreads the Russians can peddle on the cheap.

But other than ULA, the less said about our current launch abilities the better — at least until the private sector picks up what NASA has dropped. The Pentagon is facing hundreds of billions in cuts, and commercial air travel will stay in the doldrums until the economy picks back up.

Oh, and you might have heard that the liquidation of Border’s retail — alone — wiped out most of last month’s meager jobs gains.

So that’s it. Take away banking, tech, and aerospace and you’re left with Starbucks and McDonald’s. But who can afford to eat out anymore? The Great Recession devastated blue-collar jobs as the construction industry collapsed. Now we’re talking about high tech and banking taking it on the chin.

If Reeves is right, the ripple effects are going to be near-catastrophic.

Sign “O” the Times

July 21st, 2011 - 12:05 pm

Report: US consumers forced to pay for basic necessities with their credit cards.

Maybe we’re just following the example set by Washington.

Slip Slidin’ Away

July 21st, 2011 - 10:45 am

I don’t spend much time looking at poll numbers in off-years, for the same reason I don’t eat canned beets: It’s unpleasant and unnecessary. But this PPP study was just too juicy to pass up:

A Democratic polling firm said President Obama’s already weak job-approval numbers are “worse than they appear” and he likely would lose the election if it were held today.

For the first time in a year, Mr. Obama does not lead former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Public Policy Polling’s monthly national poll on the 2012 presidential race. They are tied at 45 percent, and Mr. Obama is losing among independent voters by a margin of 49 percent to 44 percent.

Worse for Mr. Obama, PPP said, the “vast majority” of undecideds disapprove of the president’s performance. The survey of registered voters was conducted July 15-17.

“There’s a very good chance Barack Obama would lose if he had to stand for re-election today,” said Dean Debnam, president of PPP. “This is his worst poll standing in a long time, and he really needs the economy to start turning around.”

It’s starting to feel like 2005 or 2009 — when the incumbent party clueless as to the depths of public disgust with them. As late as the spring of ’06, GOP strategists were simply clueless, talking about how money and name recognition would save their majority. The Democrats were just as bad, convinced somehow that everything would be just fine last November. Seriously — it wasn’t until late summer/early fall that “reputable” polling firms got serious about talking about a GOP takeover.

By “reputable,” of course, I mean “anybody but Rasmussen.”

President Obama should have gotten a wakeup call, but this White House is constitutionally unable to change course. I don’t know if that’s due entirely to the man at the top, or if his advisors, cabinet, czars, and syncophants reinforce Obama’s essential intransigence. Whatever the case, their entire strategy — for dealing with immediate problems and next year’s campaign — seems to consist of the same two steps, repeated as needed:

1. Make dangerous, stupid policies.

2. Make sure the Republicans get slightly more blame for them than the President.

Oh, and I guess there’s a third step: Re-election! But, like the underwear gnomes or getting directions in Maine, I’m not sure how they get there from here.

The feeling I get — But a Lot Can Happen Between Now and the Election™ — is that if the GOP can pair a credible candidate with a not-too crazy Veep, there’s going to be a whole lot of red on next year’s map. Public sentiment has turned nasty against this President — and for good reason.

Sherwood Schwartz: American Shakespeare?

July 21st, 2011 - 9:55 am

Trifecta: In praise of the all-American antics of Gilligan’s Island.

Your Evening Awesome

July 20th, 2011 - 5:55 pm

In light of recently discovered evidence, I might have to rethink my dislike of The Beatles.

Mac OS X Lion: First Impressions

July 20th, 2011 - 1:34 pm

The Good:

• It sure is purty.

• WebKit2 — the new guts underneath the browser — is wicked fast.

• I like fullscreen apps much more than I thought I would.

• I dislike Mission Control less than I thought I would.

The Bad:

• Scrolling between virtual desktops induces minor nausea. What works on a 10-iPad can be a little too much on a 24-inch monitor.

• The Finder sidebar is now as devoid of color as iTunes 10. Now I must actually look at the icon or read the text, rather than just knowing by the color. How is that an improvement?

• The SysPrefs pane takes forever to load. Huh?

• iCal is even less usable than its marginal predecessor.

The Ugly:

• iCal. It’s like they started to make it look like the iPad Calendar app (which is lovely), and then halfway through realized it was just stoopid on a desktop. But then they got busy on other stuff and forgot to undo the half-done changes. It’s so bad it looks like a freebie Android app, slapped up on a billboard.

In Conclusion:

Fantastic upgrade to the world’s best desktop OS. Except for iCal, which stands out like an oozing pustule on a bikini model.

You Have Questions, Trifecta Has Answers

July 20th, 2011 - 1:20 pm

Trifecta: On this week’s Grab Bag, we answer your questions about the NewsCorp scandal, Carmageddon and how to escape poverty.

Bonus: Now with pie!

Good grief — because what Michigan needs is more of what Michigan already has:

Free collective bargaining states provide quality wages and benefits that all struggling Americans need to survive. Without these protections the standard of living is significantly decreased for the entire state.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay in 2009 for right-to-work states was $4,476 less than the average in Michigan for all workers.

That’s from a Detroit News editorial today from Mark Gaffney. Are union wages higher? Perhaps. The problem is, there aren’t any union jobs.

The red lines show people leaving Detroit. The black lines — and if you squint just right you can see a few — show people moving to Detroit. There’s an interactive version of the map at Forbes, and you can use it to see that all of Michigan is becoming as hollowed-out as its once-great auto industry. You know, the industry the UAW helped to destroy.

Trifecta: Guess who’s coming to protect you from the evil credit card companies? A big-time Jeopardy winner!

No. Seriously.


July 20th, 2011 - 8:17 am

If you’re getting the feeling the debt ceiling deal will look more like what the Senate is proposing than the House’s “cap, cut and balance” plan — well… me, too. Here’s why:

Obama urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a fellow Democrat, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to start “talking turkey” about it.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, one of the six Democratic and Republican senators who have been working since December on a deficit-reduction plan, said the proposed $3.75 trillion in savings over 10 years contains $1.2 trillion in new revenues.

Plenty of new taxes, and no real cuts. Yep, that’s the ticket.

I’m waiting to see the details on the tax half of the plan. Are the new taxes going to hit just “the rich?” You know, those “millionaires and billionaires” who got that way on $200k a year?

Here are the tax hikes Obama already plans on getting, even before a deal:

In his most recent budget request, the president proposed letting the top two income tax rates revert to 39.6% and 36%, up from 35% and 33% today. He also called for an increase in the capital gains and dividend rates to 20% that high-income households pay, up from 15% today. And he would reduce the value of their itemized deductions and personal exemptions.

In addition, ObamaCare removes the cap on Medicare payroll taxes, and adds a Medicare tax on investment income. (My hurting retirement fund thanks you in advance, Mr. President.)

So if the new new taxes coming out of the Senate fall only the rich — well, how many times can we go back to that well before it runs dry?

Please, also keep in mind that the ObamaCare taxes are deficit-neutral at the very best; they pay for the new program. If, that is, you believe it when Rosy Scenario tells you ObamaCare itself is deficit-neutral. Now also remember that the expiring Bush tax cuts only amount to an extra trillion over the next tens years. At current spending, those ten years of tax hikes cover a mere nine months of deficits.

Something’s gotta give. And it ain’t the rich.

They’re coming for you and my, baby — and they’ve gotta come soon.

Another Monster Quarter for Apple

July 19th, 2011 - 2:44 pm

Check out Business Insider for the liveblog of the earnings call from Cupertino, but here are the vital stats:

evenue: $28.57 billion vs. $24.72 billion Street consensus ($26.69 billion “amateur” consensus, $26.72 billion “real” expectations (based on prior performance vs. guidance))
EPS: $7.79 vs. $5.71 Street consensus ($6.72 “amateur” consensus, $7.09 “real” expectations (probably too high)

iPhone shipments: 20.3 million vs. 16.5 million Street consensus (via Piper Jaffray), 17.85 million “amateur” consensus

iPad shipments: 9.25 million vs. 7.8 million Street consensus (via Piper Jaffray), 8.4 million “amateur” consensus

Mac shipments: 3.95 million vs. 4.2 million Street consensus (via Piper Jaffray), 4.3 million “amateur” consensus

iPod shipments 7.54 million vs. 8.4 million Street consensus (via Piper Jaffray), 8.4 million “amateur” consensus

Of course, iPod sales were really much higher, when you consider that every iPhone and iPad is an iPod, too. That’s the kind of cannibalization any company would be willing to endure.

UPDATE: Revenues are up 82 percent and profits up 125 percent, from this quarter last year. That’s unheard-of for a company Apple’s size.

ANOTHER UPDATE: 20 million iPhones last quarter, about four million iPod touches, and nearly ten million iPads. That’s 34 million iOS devices in one quarter. Developers are, I’m sure taking notice of that big-ass number.

Also, OS X Lion is coming out tomorrow. I’m just not sure when to upgrade, since I know I’m really going to miss Spaces and Exposé. Mission Control looks very slick — but maybe not as much in tune with the way I work.

Unimpressive, Most Unimpressive

July 19th, 2011 - 2:37 pm

Karl Rove thinks the President might be having some fundraising trouble:

The president held six fundraising events each in California and New York. Even these two bastions of rich liberals have a finite amount of $2,500 donors. Mr. Obama is front-loading campaign cash and won’t regularly get this amount of big buck donations each quarter.

Even though at least $35 million (almost half the total Obama/DNC haul) can be credited to just 244 well-connected “bundlers,” Team Obama made a big thing of their 260,000 new small dollar donors. But that means only 292,000 donors from his last campaign have renewed their support for the re-elect so far. That’s just 6.6 percent of the 3.95 million people who donated to the ’08 Obama effort, only a quarter to a third of what most reelect campaigns could expect from renewal efforts at this point.

Perhaps there really is donor fatigue among the legions of stalwarts who put Mr. Obama in the White House the first time.

Still, $48.7 million last quarter — I know some Republicans who would love to have such trouble.

Trifecta: Can the two sides ever come together on the debt ceiling talks — or is economic and political disaster already inevitable?

Would That It Were True

July 18th, 2011 - 6:24 pm

Hair of the Dog: The Sunday shows were so bad this week, I tried to find a YouTube video of a man wearing clown shoes trying to walk across an ice rink covered in axel grease. Turns out, you can’t find everything on the internet.

Bonus: Herman Cain inspires the first of many Fredo Moments.

Your Monday Afternoon Dose of Gloom & Doom

July 18th, 2011 - 2:38 pm

Colin Barr: “Double dip, here we come.” Key bit:

Even if we don’t end up with an economic downturn, slower growth means unemployment will stay higher for longer — which will make it hard to tell the difference. Goldman now expects joblessness to fall just slightly by the end of next year, to 8.75% from a recent 9.2%. Earlier this year the firm was predicting end-of-2012 joblessness of 8.25%, which is not exactly something to celebrate but actually looks pretty good now.

And if a recession does take hold, it could mean another round of Federal Reserve stimulus, as much as Ben Bernanke might like to stop running that particular play.

“If the economy returns to recession—not our forecast, but clearly a possibility given the recent numbers—Fed officials would undoubtedly ease anew even if inflation is close to their target,” Hatzius writes.

Goldman Sachs — AKA: Bankers to the Political Stars! — is so enmeshed with the Obama Administration that together they look like the acid-fueled melted-flesh nightmare child of M.C. Escher and H.R. Giger. And even I’m sorry I came up with that mental image.

Anyway, if Goldman Sachs is forecasting 8.75% unemployment at the next year, then the demagoguery we’ve seen from the White House these last two weeks is nothing compared with what’s to come during the election.