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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Required Reading for Writers

August 31st, 2011 - 4:05 pm

Thinking of writing that Great American Novel, but aren’t sure you can make any money at it? Don’t worry — it’s worse than you think. Here’s Sarah Hoyt to set you straight:

Needless to say, the one thing my family told me, from – I think – before I could toddle (I could talk before I could walk. No. Don’t ask.) was “If your husband ever so much as slaps you, you leave. That day. And you don’t go back.”

Unfortunately my family never knew about publishers and the status of the mid-list author.

Now go read the whole thing.

The Chicago Way is now the Washington Way

August 31st, 2011 - 3:17 pm

Trifecta: The Obama Department of Justice is targeting Gibson Guitar. Who’s next?

California is descending from business-hostile to parents-hostile. No, really:

Under AB 889, household “employers” (aka “parents”) who hire a babysitter on a Friday night will be legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage to any sitter over the age of 18 (unless it is a family member), provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers’ compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck.

Failure to abide by any of these provisions may result in a legal cause of action against the employer including cumulative penalties, attorneys’ fees, legal costs and expenses associated with hiring expert witnesses, an unprecedented measure of legal recourse provided no other class of workers – from agricultural laborers to garment manufacturers. (On the bright side, language requiring an hour of paid vacation time for every 30 hours worked was amended out of the bill in the Senate.)

Unbelievable.

No, wait — totally believable for the morons in charge of the once-great Golden State.

Now They’ve Gone and Done It

August 31st, 2011 - 12:44 pm

The Germans have figured out way to tax… thingy.

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Palin: Out of Iowa

August 31st, 2011 - 9:16 am

Sarah Palin has cancelled her big speech in Iowa:

[A person close to Palin] cited “continual lying” from event organizers at Tea Party of America, including a recent mixup over whether former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware would also speak.

Ms. Palin is known for last-minute schedule changes that whipsaw supporters and media across the country. But the latest decision is puzzling. Ms. Palin’s speech at the rally was viewed as her most high-profile appearance of the summer, fueling speculation she was indeed plotting to run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Odd.

So what’s really going on? Dunno — unless pressed, I gave up speculating on Palin’s motives and ambitions long ago.

UPDATE: The organizers say Palin hasn’t cancelled.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE: Palin is back in, but Christine O’Donnell is back out.

This is no way to launch a presidential campaign.

On second thought, it’s no way to launch a winning presidential campaign.

Pivoting Like a Laser

August 31st, 2011 - 8:10 am

Remember that financial crisis? You know, the one that built up under Clinton and Bush 43 thanks to a rent-seeking Fannie Mae and a race-baiting ACORN? The one that nearly brought down the entire banking system? The banking system that had been complicit in selling trick mortgages to unqualified homebuyers who couldn’t even have afforded decent mortgages? And how the contagion spread to Wall Street as the crappy loans were bundled up with safe ones in risky credit-default swaps which the ratings agencies graded AAA so they could be sold off to unwitting investors?

That financial crisis? Autumn of 2008? We’re still reeling from it? Remember?

Well, hey, they haven’t forgotten about it in the White House, either — no, sir! In fact, the President himself is giving some serious thought to doing something about it already. Here’s the outline of the plan:

The administration has been working for weeks on how to implement a mortgage relief program. President Barack Obama could include a nod to the plan in a speech on job creation next week, sources familiar with the administration’s plans said.

The refinancing initiative would allow certain borrowers to refinance loans that are backed by government-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Administration, the sources said.

A broad-based effort to automatically refinance millions of mortgages is not in the works, yet the administration is looking to take targeted changes to an existing program that would allow more borrowers to take advantage of low mortgage rates, including allowing borrowers to refinance even if they owe a significant amount above their property’s current value.

The idea is to help struggling borrowers refinance at current low interest rates, which would cut their monthly payments and free up cash for other spending. The hope is that this could drum up overall business activity.

It looks — of course — like Fannie and Freddie and Wall Street get of scot-free in all this. And absent any real details, it’s impossible to say if the new plan will work any better than the old plan, which accomplished diddly.

Three years later — three years! — you have to wonder if even good plan is enough. Americans got raked over the coals by Fannie, Freddie & Wall Street. Then they got snookered by a new President who ran as a moderate but then used the crisis as an excuse to govern as a hardcore Progressive.

So after nearly three years of nada, don’t be surprised if Americans don’t respond well to the President’s plan — whatever it turns out to be.

Don’t Be (Too) Evil

August 31st, 2011 - 7:19 am

DirectorBlue is the latest right-of-center Blogspot site to get axed by Google. Ed Driscoll adds:

When I first launched my blog in early 2002, I used Blogger’s templates and input system, as they were the easiest, fastest way to get started. But I quickly secured the Ed Driscoll.com domain name, in part because back then, Blogspot was unreliable as a hosting platform due to its frequent crashes.

Today, Blogspot is unreliable as a hosting service because your blog and years of archives can quickly disappear without a trace, and as Ann Althouse went through back in May, getting them restored can take hours and hours and ultimately days of valuable time. Especially when, as Althouse discovered, Google’s tech support surrogates bring the snark.

This is exactly my experience. I started VodkaPundit on January 10, 2002. Just three months later, I’d moved to VodkaPundit.com at my own expense, to spare myself all of Blogspot’s headaches.

Now I’m sparing myself from Google’s spiteful ways.

By the way: A couple weeks ago I changed my default search engine to Bing, and I don’t have any complaints. Something to think about for yourself.

UPDATE: DB is back online, without explanation from Google.

I’m Beating in a Box, In a Plastic Box

August 30th, 2011 - 2:30 pm

A human heart, alive in a box.

The details:

Up until this point, live organs have been transported from donors to patients in coolers, buried in ice to keep them “fresh.” This only works for about six hours, which is why private jets, helicopters, and ambulances are used to speed these irreplaceable and lifesaving items around the country as quickly as possible.

Now, if I where a disembodied heart, I’d find an icy cooler a distinctly uncomfortable way to travel. A company called TransMedics agrees, which is why it’s constructed this self-contained Organ Care System, or OCS. You can stick a heart into this fancy device, hook it up to a supply of donated blood, and start it beating again, and it’ll happily sit there, warm and toasty and productive and supplied with all the oxygen and nutrients it could want. The housing is even clear plastic so that the heart can see out and enjoy the trip, which is probably a fairly unique experience for an otherwise internal organ.

There’s video at the link, where you can see a live, human heart beating in a box. It doesn’t take a great imagination to see the places this technology can lead.

HP: We might just bring back the TouchPad tablet we cancelled a couple weeks ago after only 49 days on the market.

HP also might — or might not be! — spinning off its PC business. Or perhaps selling it to another company. Or not. HP might — or might not! — sell webOS to an interested party, unless it just kills it off. Whatevs.

This is a company in serious and rapid decline.

You Mean Ezra Klein Isn’t Still in School?

August 30th, 2011 - 1:18 pm

Red State takes Ezra Klein to school for failing to understand what a Ponzi scheme is. I read the whole thing — and Klein’s column, too — and came away shocked that WaPo could print something so facile.

The “Policy Wonk” needs a little more real-world seasoning before he embarrasses himself again.

Attack of the Ivy League Clones

August 30th, 2011 - 12:43 pm

Trifecta: Meet Alan Krueger, the President’s new Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, who is identical to Obama’s last two chairs of the Council of Economic Advisors.

It’s the change you’ve been waiting for!

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

August 30th, 2011 - 8:19 am

Yid with Lid: One year ago, Obama promised a jobs plan just as soon as he came back from vacation.

He’s Lucy. You’re Charlie Brown. Your job is the football — and he’ll jerk it away every time.

Bill Quick isn’t just an entertaining storyteller, he’s a sharp businessman who understands the publishing industry better than most publishing companies. Looking at how ebooks are changing the industry, he concludes:

“Good” writers generally craft stories that many, many people like. That word “craft” entails a lifetime of hard work, trial and error, self-education, and, yes, native talent. Not everybody can do it. In fact, not very many people at all can do it relatively well or successfully. And therein lies the issue over which the dying world of book-object-story is currently dashing itself to pieces. The commercial structure undergirding our previous method of story delivery – the mass-marketing of book-objects that present individual stories — acted as a gatekeeper that prevented all but those regarded by hard-eyed editors using a definition of quality that included notions of profit — Will this story sell enough books to make a profit in our current commercial structure? — from reaching a significant number of readers.

That structure is dead — and the gatekeeper function it performed is equally dead [Emphasis added].

It’s an unnerving time for publishers, as their “structure is dead.” But it’s an equally-unnerving time for writers, who must find new ways to reach an audience, and to do so profitably.

Rather, I think it’s unnerving for established writers.

Young writers are busy with their Great American Novels and will, without much worry, publish to Kindle and the iBookstore and trust that their audience will find them. Some will succeed, some will fail, just like they do today. A very lucky and talented few will become the next Tom Clancy or John Grisham. But I’m not concerned about them, because the next Clancy or Grisham will always come around. Some writers just tell rollicking good popular stories, and will continue to do so — no matter what form the industry itself takes.

But one class of writers who currently benefit under the current system will suffer, and another class which has suffered will find new benefits in the exciting world of e-publishing. Let’s cover the bad news first.

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Hair of the Dog: The politics of hurricane destruction (unless they don’t), Jon Huntsman has Rick Perry worried (only he doesn’t), and Jake Tapper knows everything about Libya (except for the name of the war there).

Bonus: You’ll neve guess which US governor is the new Moe Howard.

These Boots Were Made for Walking

August 29th, 2011 - 3:33 pm

How long has it been since the Senate passed a budget? Jimmie Bise says, “Let’s take a walk.”

It had better be a long walk.

Roughing It the Modern Way

August 29th, 2011 - 3:15 pm

THe power has been out here for a little while now — long past the duration of the UPS battery I keep the computer and the wifi router plugged into.

But I have an iPad with eight hours of battery life and a solid 3G connection. From there, I can work, read a book, watch a movie on anetflix, whatever. And if the power stays out longer than Ruhr hours? Then out in the garage, there’s one of those car jump batteries with the power outlet on it.

I love the 21st Century.

I Hope You Change

August 29th, 2011 - 2:33 pm

CNN/ORC: One in four Democrats wants to dump Obama.

Please note, that’s CNN and ORC, not Fox or Rasmussen.

Of course, Obama won’t get a primary challenger, or at least not a serious one. For starters it takes a lot more than 27% to knock an incumbent out in the primary. Secondly, the offense to black voters — primarying the first black President! — would not be soon forgotten.

What this poll does reveal, however, is a dissatisfaction with the president, even among Democrats.

There He Goes Again

August 29th, 2011 - 12:38 pm

I wasn’t at all being facetious when I asked if unemployment is a feature, not a bug, of Obamanomics. And here’s the next bit of evidence in support of my theory:

President Barack Obama, under pressure to spur job growth, said on Monday he had chosen Princeton labor economist Alan Krueger to become the top White House economist and that he will offer a jobs plan next week.

Yes, because nobody knows more about job creation than Big Labor.

Yikes.

And the message it sends to business is even worse. Hiring Krueger for the jobs says exactly one thing: Full speed ahead on Obamanomics. There will be no course corrections, there will only be more taxes, more spending, more regulation, more bullying.

The good news is, if you can call it that, it that there’s no one left who cares enough to listen.

Ask yourself this question: What if President Barack Obama doesn’t really care about unemployment?

I’m certain the president feels the pain of those who are looking for work but can’t find it, or who cannot find enough work. And it’s a sure thing that he’s worried about what chronic unemployment is doing to his reelection chances. The jobs situation is Obama’s biggest political vulnerability. But judging by his actions, joblessness isn’t a bug of his political philosophy — it’s a feature.

After choking off inflation, cutting taxes, and resisting any call for grand, new spending programs, President Reagan oversaw an amazing expansion of the U.S. economy. In just six years, the U.S. — quite cavalierly — conjured up an economy the size of West Germany’s and added it to the one we already had. Building on that base, President Clinton oversaw an even greater expansion, fueled by the entrepreneur-driven high-tech field.

Then along came George W. Bush (and a thoroughly corrupt Congress) with his “compassionate,” big-government conservatism — and we got huge increases in spending, a big new entitlement, and a lame economy. It all came crashing down in 2008, setting the stage for a young and untested Democratic senator to win the White House.

Not one to let a crisis “go to waste,” Obama oversaw spending increases that would make the old Spendthrift Republican Congress™ blanch, and yet another massive and labyrinthine entitlement program.

So here we are, more than two years into the recovery, and unemployment is rising while the labor force is shrinking — a feat unparalleled in modern times. And where are the entrepreneurs? They’re going Galt rather than deal with the massive Regulatory State foisted on us by meddling Democrats and their rent-seeking buddies in Big Business and Big Labor. Or they’re deciding not to grow their businesses, lest they get caught in ObamaCare’s snare.

None of which came as a surprise to anyone, really.

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Who’s Flying This Thing?

August 28th, 2011 - 1:12 pm

With the Space Shuttle program over and the Russians having Soyuz trouble — the International Space Station might have to be abandoned this winter.

I’d hate to be the first guy back who has to get that thing up and running. I can barely remember to crank the water heaters back up after a vacation.

“We Hade a Very Good Tim”

August 27th, 2011 - 7:47 am

Having sex with Rick Perry, shredding the Constitution, and making enemies with the Tea Party — all on another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs!

Friday Night Videos

August 26th, 2011 - 7:27 pm
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The Cars’ sophomore effort, Candy-O was an uneven effort compared to their self-titled debut album. But if it wasn’t as solid from front to back, Candy-O sure came out swinging with “Let’s Go.” The opening chords were practically a command to do just what song title said.

Most importantly, Candy-O introduced me to the pinup art of Vargas at the tender age of ten. He died just three years after painting one of the most beloved album covers of all time.

Required Reading

August 26th, 2011 - 2:18 pm

Bookworm: On learning curves and presidents and presidential wannabes.

You Can’t Even Whistle the Tune

August 26th, 2011 - 12:00 pm

I think it’s safe to go ahead and call the curs at Goshen College unpatriotic.

By default or design, Ben Bernanke may effectively be the most corrupt individual ever to head up the Federal Reserve. Although he didn’t use the word “corrupt,” there’s not much other conclusion to reach after reading Camden Fine explain the Fed’s perma-low-rate policy in today’s WaPo:

In my view, the Fed’s policy is nothing more than a backdoor bailout for the Wall Street mega-banks and investment houses; it amounts to the back of the hand for the community banks of this country. The Wall Street money houses are basically getting free money that they can hedge and arbitrage worldwide to make baskets of money, while local banks are stuck with deposits costing more than the federal funds rate, sluggish loan demand and a 2.20 percent 10-year Treasury. For the extended future, earnings contractions will accelerate as the investment portfolio prepays and runs off, and capital will be difficult if not impossible to raise, stifling growth on America’s Main Streets.

You need to remember that Bernanke is making it impossible for lower- or middle-class Americans to save money on purpose. That’s the stated policy of the Fed, to get the economy “moving again.” It’s the high-finance version of slaughtering perfectly healthy pigs during the New Deal, to protect farmers.

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You don’t get rich by destroying wealth. But that is precisely what Bernanke is doing. He is impoverishing the middle class and retirees to entice them into spending money today instead of saving it for tomorrow.

You see, after decades of living off easy credit, that’s all the government has left to get things moving again in time for the next (or any) election. Things have gotten so bad, Bernanke can’t even create the inflation he wants by printing up trillions over the last three years, and keeping interest rates artificially low for half a decade or longer.

The only real way out of this trap is to get back to what we once did so well: Defer consumption, earn interest on our savings, and use credit sparingly. Bernanke’s policy — all of Washington’s policy — is rapid consumption, zero interest, and easy credit. Yet that’s exactly what got us into this mess.

As an accomplished drinker, I can tell you: A little hair of the dog after a binge only delays the inevitable — and makes it worse, too. It’s childish even to try it.

Are there no grownups in charge of anything in our nation’s capital?

You Have Questions, Trifecta Has Answers

August 26th, 2011 - 8:09 am

Trifecta: On this week’s Grab Bag, we answer your questions about Joe Biden & China, Morgan Freeman & God, and Paul Ryan & 2012.

Bonus: We finally reveal what the fifth dentist recommends.

Yet Another Blow Against Religious Orthodoxy

August 26th, 2011 - 7:51 am

The latest climate science from CERN:

The first results from the lab’s CLOUD (“Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets”) experiment published in Nature today confirm that cosmic rays spur the formation of clouds through ion-induced nucleation. Current thinking posits that half of the Earth’s clouds are formed through nucleation. The paper is entitled Role of sulphuric acid, ammonia and galactic cosmic rays in atmospheric aerosol nucleation.

This has significant implications for climate science because water vapour and clouds play a large role in determining global temperatures. Tiny changes in overall cloud cover can result in relatively large temperature changes.

Unsurprisingly, it’s a politically sensitive topic, as it provides support for a “heliocentric” rather than “anthropogenic” approach to climate change: the sun plays a large role in modulating the quantity of cosmic rays reaching the upper atmosphere of the Earth.

Perhaps EPA needs to be empowered to regulate the sun.

Steve Jobs: A Legacy

August 25th, 2011 - 10:15 am

Even most successful entrepreneurs do not change an entire industry. But that’s exactly what Steve Jobs did to personal computing — three times.

With the Apple II, Jobs made personal computers useful. In the mid-Seventies, home computers were build-it-yourself hobby boxes, useful only to the nerdiest nerds. By the time I entered middle school in 1981 there was an entire lab filled with Apple II Plus machines, and lots of fun software to run on them. The first computer “clone” wasn’t Compaq’s copy of the IBM PC — it was a clone of the Apple II. An industry was born.

Three years later Jobs made the personal computer approachable with the Macintosh. He didn’t invent the GUI or the WIMP metaphor but he and his team made them useable and affordable. What most computer users took for granted in 1995 was deemed a “toy” by many critics when the first Mac arrived in 1984.

And last year, Jobs made the personal computer ubiquitous with the iPad. This third revolution is only beginning, yet still many critics deride this “toy” as a “media consumption device.” I do most of my photo editing on my fat, slow, first-generation iPad — and I’m outlining a novel on it, too. Others use it to create music, paintings and video. That’s some “consumption” going on.

In the meantime, Jobs also:

• Created the first “event” Super Bowl ad
• Reinvented the cell phone
• Revitalized and reinvented movie animation with Pixar
• Brought low the old, thieving record labels
• Started from scratch the largest music retailer
• Changed the way people buy, keep, travel with, and listen to music
• Created a physical retailing empire with greater profits-per-square-foot than Tiffany’s
• Apple is currently making people (and the competition) rethink the laptop computer with its diskless MacBook Air

Oh, and Jobs by-the-way took the helm of a computer company that was just months away from bankruptcy and turned it into the world’s most profitable and valuable computer maker, consumer electronics firm, and cell phone manufacturer.

Good lord. Any one of these many accomplishments, and Jobs would be hailed as a titan of industry. You may or may not be an “Apple person,” and the way you work, play and compute have all been deeply effected by the man in the black, mock-neck sweater. From your Windows 7 all-in-one computer, to your Acer Timeline ultra-lightweight laptop, to your SanDisk MP3 player, to your Android smartphone or your Samsung tabletnone of them are made by Apple and all of them adhere to the vision of Steve Jobs.

That’s an astounding legacy, unparalleled except perhaps for Henry Ford.

Poor health is certainly what prompted Jobs to resign yesterday as CEO of Apple, Inc. Nobody knows how long he’ll have to enjoy his retirement — but he’s earned it like no one else has.

So, thanks, Steve, for all the insanely great stuff. Thanks also for leaving Apple in such capable hands. But thank you most of all for setting an example that never failed to inspire.

Mort Zuckerman, This is Your Wake Up Call

August 25th, 2011 - 10:13 am

It only takes a few simple words to ruin an otherwise insightful newspaper column. Keep that in mind as you read Mort Zuckerman in today’s Wall Street Journal:

It is no surprise that many have begun to doubt the president’s leadership qualities. J.P. Morgan calls it the “competency crisis.” The president is not seen fighting for his own concrete goals, nor finding the right allies, especially leaders of business big or small. Instead, his latent hostility to the business community has provoked a mutual response of disrespect. This is lamentable given the unique role that small business especially plays in creating jobs. [Did I really need to add the emphasis?]

Latent, Mort? Latent? It was pretty obvious by absolutely no later than the summer of 2008 that Senator Obama — the most liberal member of that august body — was nothing but hostile to business. A guy steeped in the Marxism Lite of Hyde Park and the Marxism Heavy of the Ivy League nomenklatura was never going to understand business as anything other than a wild horse to break to his will.

And President Obama has certainly done just that, with ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, the NLRB and his out-of-control regulatory state. The fact that Obama is surprised and displeased with the actual results of his pogroms, only speaks to the shallowness of his hostility. But there was never anything latent about it.

Another Thursday, another report of first-time jobless claims well over 400,000:

The number of people who filed for unemployment assistance in the U.S. last week rose unexpectedly, official data showed on Thursday.

In a report, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending August 19 rose by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 417,000, confounding expectations for a decline to 405,000.

The previous week’s figure was revised up to 412,000 from 408,000.

In a couple Fridays from now, we’ll get the BLS jobs report for August — and it’s going to be another ugly one. I might have to forego my monthly analysis and go straight for the tequila.

Yeah, these days even my booze is made in Mexico.