Friday, February 29, 2008

Things which need to be invented

Some things which desperately need to be made:

- Single, unified database for purchases indexed by credit card identification sharing purchase information with all subscribed and participating stores. Participation requirements include a provision to provide the maximum consumer discount for purchases based on membership requirements (ie: paying with your credit cards works like using a membership discount card, in discount and purchase tracking). Company makes money by selling aggregated purchase information from all stores/vendors to specific stores/vendors.

- Single sign-on for all useless web sites which want independent registration (eg: all online forums, blogs, news sites, etc.).

There are more, but those are ones which are bugging me today.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sometimes, I don't understand the government

Ok, actually, lots of times, but who's counting. Most recently, the government raised the limits on the size of home loans which could be purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, pseudo-public companies created and supported by the government for the purpose of increasing home ownership by Americans. I'm just curious, but what part of the trillions of dollars of home loans currently being defaulted on by people who were allowed/encouraged to buy houses they clearly couldn't afford suggests that we need more irresponsible home buying by Americans? But that's a side note...

The real thing I fail to understand is why Congress decided to raise this limit right after one of the companies posted a record 3.6 billion dollar loss for the quarter. Huh? Normally, in business, you expand and accept more risk when you're doing well, or the business climate looks good in the coming months, or some combination of those. In this case, the business is doing awful, and the business climate looks awful. A responsible business would be reducing risk and exposure while concentrating on their core profitable business, like every other mortgage company in the US is currently.

So, I have to conclude that either Congress is full of complete and total morons, they have some ulterior motive which is not beneficial for the American people (eg: continuing to get bribes from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), or there's something else going on that I just don't understand. Given how much stupidity and dishonesty is evident with todays politicians, I'm guessing one of the former.

Monday, February 25, 2008

This just in: Nader says something I agree with!

Nader is a funny guy. In some ways, he's representative of all the left-wing wackos who spew anti-business and popularism BS to promote their own agenda. In other ways, he's a self-absorbed figurehead with a large ego and a voracious appetite for self-promotion. In many ways, he's just another democrat running for office with a slightly further-from-the-middle platform. Rarely do I find an instance where I agree with left-wing or right-wing zealots; the further from the middle the less likely I have found. However, on rare occasion, they do take a stand I happen to agree with.

For example, from

"If the Democrats can't landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form," Nader said.

Bravo, Ralph, I think you hit the nail on the head with that one. If the Democrats can't win this election by a landslide, they really need to rethink the whole "pushing crappy candidates down the electorate's throat" approach, close down, and emerge in a different form, preferably one without all the socialist undertones and big government focus. For once, I agree with you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Real Inflation Nears 12%

Real inflation, as calculated by the CPI metric before the government changed it to be intentionally and deliberately incorrect, was just below 12% for February, on an annual basis (ie: compared to one year ago).


That's the highest inflation has been since 1981, when it was coming down from the 15%+ peak in the late 70's. Pretty interesting (and bad), if you ask me. I wish more financial sites would report the real inflation rate instead of the bogus one which is commonly reported, so more people would be aware of the problem, and maybe politicians would have to actually try to do something about it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Kosovo Secession

The whole Kosovo situation is kinda interesting, IMO. Both because of the particulars, and the interesting international "law" ramifications.

First, the particulars. In a surprise to nobody, each country had on opinion which was entirely reflective of their own political situation and what would benefit them the most in reference to it, and 0% reflective of what would be best for the world in general. This should serve as a good example of why the UN is doomed to failure: every country does what best for their own political situation, always, and not what's best for the world.

- China condemned it because of Taiwan
- Russia condemned it because of Georgia separatists
- Spain condemned it because of their separatist movement
- The US welcomed it because of their strategy in Afganistan/Iraq/elsewhere
- Several UK countries welcomed it because they are in NATO and have been defending its independence already
- etc.

Now, the more interesting longer-term question: when, and how, should groups or people and/or areas of countries be able to declare their independence, and be recognized as new countries? It seems to be a pretty legally vague area of the legally vague to begin with area of international law. I would think there should be a way to do it, since governments are supposed to serve their people, and clearly there are times when governments do not serve a sect of their people at all (if not all their people). But obviously if groups of people were allowed to split off and form new countries whenever their government didn't support their needs, we'd have thousands of independent countries in the US alone, not to mention the rest of the world divided along religious lines, which doesn't seem optimal.

I dunno what the right answer is, or if there is even one. But it's a very interesting situation.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Demise of the GOP

So there's an op-ed piece in the NYT from an Obama supporter conjecturing that an Obama victory in 08 would be a signal that the GOP is on it's way out:

I guess the question I would have for the author is: If McCain wins the election, does that spell the end for the Democratic party? I mean, if I follow your rhetoric, McCain is old, white, and representative of people who support slavery (way to play the race card in proxy, btw). Meanwhile, Obama is great, wonderful, supports whatever version of his nebulous promise of change is convenient for the listener, and should win in a landslide.

The problem I see for your theory is fundamentally the same reason Kerry lost to Bush in 04. It's not like the country liked Bush; over 50% of the people disliked him, I'd say. But Bush was the evil people knew, and Kerry was the candidate promising the nebulous "not Bush" policies. Eventually, he proved that nebulous promises without substance could not win a campaign for president, even if the other candidate is not well liked.

But it's even worse for the democrats, cause there's really no way out of the political hole they have dug for themselves. If they stay nebulous, they can keep flip-flopping with the winds, but they would lose the general election to a religious nut, and certainly to a more moderate republican like McCain. Alternatively, they can get specific with some policies and plans, but that means they take more of a hit when they flip-flop on them, and fracture opinion within their own party (since you can't view the nebulous idea as whatever you wanted it to be any more), and more likely than not, as Hillary as aptly demonstrated, you're pretty likely to be viewed as a moron by people who aren't strong supporters when they realize the idiocy of your actual plans.

McCain is positioning himself as the evil we know, say it like it is, do what he thinks is right candidate, and I give him a good chance of winning on that platform. A much greater chance, I'd think, than either the nebulous "not Bush" platform or the "here's the specifics of my moronic socialist direction for the country" platform. I'd agree that this election is the best opportunity for the Democratic party in a long time. So I ask, if the dems lose this election, which seemed locked up not even a year ago, could we say that they are just incapable of nominating a candidate who can win an election ever again?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Good for Congress

You might want to save a link to this post, cause it might not come again in my lifetime, and it certainly wasn't intentional. But, whether motivated by partisan politics, political grandstanding, posturing, or an unlikely hint of actually representing the Constitution and the interests of the American people, in failing to renew the "warrant-free spying on citizens" bill with the "get out of jail free for gross illegal and unconstitutional actions" provision, Congress actually did something right.

Yes, I said it. No, the sky is not falling. I don't want to overstate it; it was only the House that did something right (the Senate was quick to fall into the Constitutional abuse congo line), and they didn't actually block it, just delayed the vote to renew it. But, in an endless sea of bad laws, bad decisions, corporations buying votes, partisan bickering, and practically every other imaginable way Congress could set an example for how the country is not supposed to be run, by their inaction the House actually did something right.

Don't make a habit of it, guys... my whole world view could collapse.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Height of Political Greed

Because it's so poignant, I'd like to point at what I consider to be one of the strongest examples of self-serving political greed evident at the moment. Huckabee, the right-wing religious nut and poster-child for everything wrong with the Republican party, emphasized today that he's going to stay in the race for the nomination, keep draining money from his supporters, and keep alive efforts to divide the Republican party.

Now a smart man would look at the whole situation, and evaluate. For example, such a man might conclude that as Hillary drives moderate voters toward the Republicans, right-wing religious nuts drive voters toward the Democrats. The same man might also note that the more the Republican party appears to be fighting the idea of anyone with reasonably moderate views as their nominee, the more they turn away intelligent voters. A truly insightful man might even realize that if Huckabee were to, by chance, actually win the nomination, it would virtually assure a Democrat in the White House in 2008; whereas McCain actually has a pretty good chance of averting the disaster that would be Hillary Obama.

But Huckabee is none of those; as even he would probably tell you, Huckabee is not a thinker, Huckabee is a preacher. In my book, that also makes Huckabee the prime example of self-serving political greed for personal gain at the expense of doing what's best for the country, and I think that makes him worse for the country than even one of the Democrat candidates, who at least might actually think their ideas, however idiotic and misguided, would help the country.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cause of the Housing "Crisis"

Amidst all the calls for government bailouts, economic stimulus packages, and investigations into the evil, corrupt corporations which forced people to buy homes they couldn't afford, let's not forget the root cause of the housing bubble, burst, and eventual fallout: greed.

Greed drove the housing bubble, primarily the greed of individuals with limited means and education, who saw an opportunity to get rich by trading up as the housing market shot up like a drug addict after a score. Greed was also evident on the part of the hedge funds, looking for better returns at higher risk; financial companies, making millions packaging bad mortgages as securities; banks, lending to people and reselling to wall street for a quick buck; and everyone involved, taking the money while they could and expecting the government to bail them out if/when it went south.

Greed also caused the burst, in a more subtle way. Greedy for fame as the architects of the "new economy", the regulators entrusted to prevent financial turmoil instead blew the bubble. Greedy to spend without increasing inflation, Clinton turned off the CPI, disconnecting it from reality. This allowed Greenspan to keep interest rates at rock bottom while claiming to have inflation under control (which was obviously false), keeping the firehose of cheap debt blowing up the housing bubble.

Finally, greed will also be the primary factor in the fallout. Greed for votes is causing politicians to ignore long-term economic effects, and throw more easy money at the problem. Greed for votes gives "tax rebates" to people who don't pay any taxes. Greed for votes takes more money from the financially responsible people in the country, and gives it to the people who's greed helped create the housing bubble. Greed for a quick, painless fix and a way to avoid paying for earlier mistakes will continue to print easy money, pushing real inflation out of control, sewing the seeds for an food crisis for the lower class. Greed for political gain will push off long term problems, and create even bigger crises for our children.

Money isn't the root of all evil; it's a medium for valuing the exchange of goods and services. We expect greed from people and individuals in our economy; capitalism is built in everyone's greed counter-balancing everyone else's. On the other hand, greed, in the hearts and minds of the people entrusted to help the country and its people, is a very dangerous thing indeed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Education Problem in America

After watching Hillary on Letterman last night, I come away with the impression that the overwhelming problem in America, which dwarfs all others in consequence, is the lack of education and intelligence among the citizens. If we could solve this problem, and teach people to actually think, so many other problems would just go away.

I mean, first I was kinda upset because what Hillary was saying was so stupid, so brainless, I couldn't imagine how anyone could want her running a lemonade stand, much less a small business, and god help us our country. But it occurred to me that she's not an empty-headed drolling retard, so the only logical explanation for her empty-headed drolling retard ideas is that she's saying what her constituents want to hear, and appealing to her base.

Which brings me back to the education problem; apparently the education and intelligence of the people in this country is far worse than I had estimated, in my naivety. I can't really explain how 30% of the country could want Hillary anywhere near government office other than a total breakdown of our education system, and the complete lack of 30% of our citizens to actually form a coherent thought. Even a 5th grader could listen to what Hillary is saying, and say "wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense at all." (and I'm talking normal 5th graders, not even the mutant smart ones they find for the TV show).

I do have to give her credit for one thing: she has perfected the Bill Clinton esque art of telling the people exactly what the polls say they want to hear, no matter how stupid, hair-brained, ridiculous, retarded, asinine, or preposterous it actually is. Some examples:
- Thoughts on feeding the starving? I think we should have the government provide health care to everyone in the country.
- Thoughts on the economy going into a recession? I think we should force banks to stop foreclosing on people and let people keep the houses they had no business affording, because people put guns to their heads and forced them to sign mortgages with huge rates they can't pay (which, side note, would be an unconstitutional abuse of executive power, but Bush has been making good headway in abuses recently).
- Thoughts on making campaigns less expensive and wasteful? I think the government should pay for campaigns, so they can be more expensive and wasteful and all taxpayers can foot the bill.
- Thoughts on fixing social security? Keep paying it, increase coverage (what do you mean, paying for it?).
- Illegal immigration? We should find a way to let all workers get documented and vote (cause they'll vote for me!).
- Taxes? Tax the rich and corporations more, while we still have some left in the country. Tax breaks for the welfare class.
- Foreign policy? Stop fighting, bring the troops home, gut national defense, and just ask people nicely to be nice to each other and us.

I mean, good god. Seriously, I can see why republican's are pushing to overhaul the education system in America. I hate to say it, but if this is how dumb our people are, it might be worth giving parochial schools a chance (and I despise mixing religion and education)... how much worse could it be than this?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Global Warming vs Scientology

I had an interesting thought this morning: which religious cult is worse, Global Warming or Scientology? Let's go to the tape...

In this corner, the "religion" founded by a science fiction writer to prove the point that there were enough dumb, gullible people in the world that even a religion based on totally ridiculous beliefs could flourish, Scientology has gained a worldwide following. It boasts a tiered internal structure you buy your way up through, buys and manages help hotlines so they can get access to the most mentally unstable people to brainwash into the cult, bullies anyone who publicly criticizes them with multi-million dollar legal actions, cuts people off from their families while draining their life savings, and is generally despised by intelligent people.

In the other corner, Global Warming was founded by scientists eager to get grant money from politicians eager to get votes for opposing big business. Based on distorted, inaccurate, or totally bogus pseudo-scientific propaganda, Global Warming has gained the support of many powerful people in the liberal leaning political parties, press, and Hollywood groups. Famous for scare tactics, this cult also bullies detractors with multi-million dollar legal actions, has taken billions of dollars from people, and continues to do significant damage to primarily the American economy. Possibly worse, the obvious pseudo-science preached by the leaders of the cult cause many people to dismiss any claims of environmental damage, lumping them into the cult's teachings, and masking any real damage humanity might be causing. This cult could very well significantly contribute to the extinction of humanity.

Which is worse? I propose many death matches to find out...