Friday, April 30, 2010

Racing Arizona

Politicians and their sheeple have done a great job this year of bringing back race as a wedge issue.

We were all really concerned that once a black president was elected we would all finally move beyond race and racism, but it's a relief that they have recognized that race as a political wedge issue is still very valuable.

Just look at how well it has been used. If you think we're over taxed, it's because you're racist. If you think the government is spending money on the wrong thing, you're a racist. If you disagree with passing a law mandating 30 million new customers for the insurance industry, it must be because you are a racist.

If you think hundreds of teens should be home studying or working at a productive job on Friday nights instead of rioting on the Country Club Plaza? Well son, you're a damn racist.

Yes sir. Despite all of the hope and change, the race card is alive and well in politics today. Just look at all of mileage the race baiters are getting out of this new Arizona Illegal Immigration law.

Before even reading or understanding the law at all, Koolaid drinkers flew off the handle calling it unfair and racist. I'm no lawyer, and I haven't gone through the legislation with a fine toothed comb, but my friend R.Sherman is, and he has. He's a great guy despite being a lawyer and he points out that the Arizona law essentially takes current federal law and makes it Arizona State law, except that the Arizona law is more lax than federal law.

Look, I'm on record as being pretty status quo on illegal immigration.I certainly don't condone it anymore than I condone any other illegal activity. But then again, of all the problems we have in our country, I don't think illegal immigration is the worst.

To the people who are acting all outraged about the supposed racial injustice of the Arizona law, I question your sincerity. I don't think you're really worried about the rights of illegal immigrants. More likely, your worried about your voting blocks and creating a wedge issue.

That's to bad because there are real, legitimate reasons to not like the Arizona law. Just from what I've read I don't think it's racist, I just don't like the idea of giving the police more excuses to hassle us. Frankly, I think we're putting ourselves at more and more risk when we give the government more reasons to stop us and demand identification.

I mean let's face it. The human rights train left the station long ago. We've already pretty much established that the Bill of Rights is more of a punchline than a protection against government abuses.

But rather than trying to limit government abuses, we've done everything we can as a society to encourage it. We basically said "Here Uncle Same, take half my income. Take care of my neighbors so I don't have to. While you're at take care of my health and retirement planning as well. What? You say you need to read my emails and listen to my phone calls so that you can keep me from doing something that it bad for me? Well, okay. You know best."

And now you're worried about abuses in Arizona? Well, you should be. But as I've said before, we have ourselves to blame. When we put too much faith in "the authorities" to look out for us you can't be too surprised when those abuses inevitably occur. If we make the government collectively responsible for everything, then the governed aren't individually responsible for anything.

You can't have a nanny state without also having a police state.

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Random Photo XXVII: Cardinal

This guy and his wife have made my backyard and the backyard of two of my neighbors their home for the last few years. Nice to see that they survived the winter.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Eat the rich

There was something I wanted to keyboard about a couple of weeks ago, but because I've got a good job in the city, working for the man every night and day, I didn't have time to get to it.

That's what happens with us salary types sometimes. Gotta punch the clock so you can bring home the Benjamins and, more importantly, pay the taxes without which everyone would get sick and die, starve and die, not have roads and die, or just generally freak the fuck out and die.

Ah, yes. That's what it was. I wanted to keyboard something about taxes. It was around April 15, Tax Day ... or as I call it, Pull Down My Pants and Slide On The Ice Day.

At the time there was a pretty concerted pro-tax increase public relations effort put forth by... well, who knows but the source was probably somewhere deep in the bowls of our bloated federal bureaucracy. Even a media avoider like me couldn't dodge the bevy of stories featuring "rich" people who want to pay more taxes. I first heard the NPR version of the story, but it was also pretty common in print and on blogs.

And I take the stories at face value. I mean, if the Washington Post reports
"I'm in favor of higher taxes on people like me," declared Eric Schoenberg, who is sitting on an investment banking fortune. He complained about "my absurdly low tax rates."
… I'll take their word that this guy Schoenberg exists and that he wants to pay more taxes. According to the reporting, he's not alone.

But there's something fishy about such a sentiment. For one thing, what people like Schoenberg are saying (if they actually exist) is that they want the government to raise taxes on other people. This is a pretty common liberal viewpoint. And by liberal, I mean the current Democrats and Republicans who seem to think we can continue buying everything for everybody without having to eventually pay for it.

That's all well and good. I've pretty much started to come to grips with the fact that the battle is over and the forces of fiscal restraint have lost. Americans (those who bother to pay attention anymore) have discovered that it's easier to vote themselves other people's money and outsource their social responsibility for their neighbors to the government.

I just find it a bit silly that they feel like they have to wage a PR war to assuage their guilt. They're trying to convince me that raising taxes will be a good thing. That even the rich people want their taxes raised because they want to pay more taxes. Okay. Fine. Let the good times roll.

But here's the thing. If rich people want to pay more in taxes, they can. Now. Without any acts of congress or anything. If you're a rich bastard, you don't have to shelter all of your earnings. You don't have to hide your assets. You don't have to take the millions of deductions on your tax return.

Hell, I bet you could even write out a check for $50,000, take it to your local IRS office and just plain donate it to your government that is cash strapped because of its investments in General Motors and insane foreign wars. You'd probably even get a tax deduction for your donation.

So yeah rich people. If you're feeling guilty about not paying enough taxes, then by all means pay more. Just don't expect me to buy in to the BS that I'm getting a good value for my tax dollar.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Beck

Well, it looks like nobody is going to respond to my request for free tickets to tomorrow's Jeff Beck concert at Starlight.

There was a time when I wouldn't really think twice about drop a couple of c-notes to go see one of the last true guitar heroes. But for now, my economic priorities are firmly placed on a Supermodel Wife and two beautiful daughters. So for now, I'll be satisfied watching YouTube videos of the master at work.



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Friday, April 23, 2010

Random Photo XXVI: This bud's for you

The flower-works show we've enjoyed over the past couple of weeks has almost been worth the long winter wait and the tree pollen allergy attacks from which I may never recover.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

TARPitecture

Don't you hate it when you're trying to have a conversation, trying to reply to a comment, and you realize you've gone passed the character limit?

Happens to me quite often no matter how brief and economical I try to be with the words.

Anyway, there's this awesome cat, Lodo Grdzak, who classes up my joint every once in a while. I always appreciate when he stops by to leave a comment because even though we disagree on a lot of things, he's always thoughtful and writes intelligently. Seriously, this guy has some great perspective, an original voice, great stories and amazing taste in music. Really, if I wasn't already married... Well, I highly suggest you make his blog a regular stop in your RSS reader.

So why do I bring this up? Well I'm glad I asked.

Lodo dropped by recently and commented on my previous post re: Goldman Sachs. Here it is in it's entirety:
As a bit of a digression, I couldn't help but notice you failed to mention the billions of dollars made by the government in the TARP bailouts. Not only was all TARP money paid back; but at a huge profit to the government. Even Citi's loan (the most volatile of the banks) would yield a $10 billion profit to the government if we cashed-in our Citi stock now. But the government's waiting 'cause we'll make a lot more money than that. Obama's handling of the financial crisis (the worst since the Depression--'caused by Libertarian speculators that didn't want SEC oversight within the financial institutions) has been nothing short of genius. Particularly when you consider he handled it while planning war strategy in Afghanistan, passed health care reform (easy task I know), and had to appoint a Supreme Court judge. GM has paid back close to $2 billion dollars of their loan, and once they start selling stock again, the government's gonna clean up on that deal. All while maintaining 900,000 jobs. When you're wrong, you're wrong. And you should admit that the bailouts worked and retract comments you've made in the past that said they wouldn't.
I started to respond, but again ran out of characters. So I wanted to get this out there as a new post because, wow, there are a lot of claims in all of that.

I'll try to respond to each the best I can. But let me start by saying everyone should go easy on the Obama Koolaid. It's potent stuff.

I won't call the TARP campaign a "success" as such. Yes, companies have been saved. But we have succeeded in saving companies that should not have been saved in the first place. We have continued a precedence that started in the 1970s, where the government puts a ton of money behind a failed busies keeping it alive long after it should have died. These zombie corporations only serve to encourage bad/risky behavior by other business down the line.

If a company has no fear of being buried, it has no reason to act responsibly. John Q. Taxpayer is always there to bail them out as long as you grease the right palms in Washington. Hey, don't take my word for it. People much smarter than me have already pointed this out. I'm just the messenger, man.Secondly, in regards to the success of the bailouts, I think it's important to note that the TARP program was "only" $700 billion. Yes, that is an insane amount of money to waste on zombie corporations. But keep in mind that amount is a fraction of the $12 TRILLION committed in all of the bailout schemes.

The assertion that GM has totally repaid it's TARP loan is somewhat true. The problem is that, of the $50 billion that GM borrowed, it repaid only $6.7 billion in cash. The rest, was "repaid" in equity in the company, which means that the US Government owns 60 percent of post-bankruptcy GM. Since that stock is no longer traded, you can't really peg a value to that 60% holding, but it sure as hell isn't worth $43 billion (last trade was for 75 cents a share).

Furthermore, I'm sorry but saying that TARP has been totally repaid is just incorrect. According to ProPublica, just over $391 billion was disbursed, of which more than $186 billion is still outstanding. If you include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in that, there's another $119 billion outstanding, bringing the total to over $300 billion that still needs to be repaid.

Regarding Citi, I'm not sure what Lodo's source was, but again according to ProPublica, Citigroup took $45 billion from the government and has returned about $23 billion, leaving them $22 billion in debt to us taxpayers. It's difficult to accept that we would realize a $10 billion profit "if we would cash in our stock" because the stock would immediately resume its downward spiral if the government decided to sell it.

Lodo also points out that the government-owned companies have seen nice stock gains, or at least stable stocks. This shouldn't be a surprise. Taking the investor's point of view, buying stock in a company owned by the US Government is pretty much a sure thing. Since we have a couple of years before our government is crushed under the fiscal weight of entitlements, bailouts and pork spending, investors can rest assured that companies owned by the government have been and will be bailed out of any mismanagement. At least until society completely breaks down in 2012 and we all get jobs as Road Warriors.

However, you should keep you eye on those stocks if/when Uncle Sam decides to sell.

As for the jobs situation, The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that nearly half of states are still reporting increases in unemployment. Unemployment is still above 9 percent nationally, so it's still too soon to congratulate Obama on his masterful handling of jobs and employment policy.

The war stuff? Well, we're still at war, we'll have troops in the Iraq and Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, and Obama supporters don't seem to care about that now that it's their guy in office.

Anyway, the upshot of all of this it that we're a long way from me admitting I was wrong about the bailouts.


EDTI. — In response a question about citing Pro Publica as as source, they are an independent group of journalists and one of the few highly credible information sources on the Internet. Here's what they say in their About page:
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.
I strongly suggest you begin frequenting their website.


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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Springtime for Goldman

A bloggy friend recently twitted me that I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with Goldman Sachs.

And honestly, I don't have much of a defense. I do think Goldman Sachs is one of the groups most responsible for the global financial meltdown of the last two years. They've got their greedy little fingers in pretty much every nefarious deal that has been brought to light.

Goldman Sachs employees or former employees are in positions of power in multiple governments (just ask the Greeks how well that works out). They masterfully pulled strings to get bajillions of dollars in government bailouts for themselves and their sweetheart business partners (courtesy of what every Obama apologist I meet tells me is a lower tax burden for myself). The result of that bailout? How about a second quarter of record profits
Goldman Sachs said today its first-quarter earnings almost doubled to $3.3 billion as its trading business again surpassed the rest of the financial industry. … It was Goldman's second most profitable quarter since going public in 1999. In the fourth quarter, Goldman Sachs earned a record $4.79 billion.
So yeah, I don't think I'm alone when I took a little delight in seeing that Goldman Sachs was the target of a civil fraud lawsuit from the SEC (although I do wonder what took the SEC so long. Must have taken longer than they thought to bury the worst evidence connecting Goldman to the Obama administration… but that's a different post.)

There's a lot of financial industry jargon and legalese involved in the complaint by the SEC. NPR's Planet Money does a great job of explaining it, but I'm going to try to make it even simpler.

It basically breaks down like this:
  1. A hedge fund scumbag named John Paulson wanted to make a huge bet against the ability of suckas to pay their NINJA mortgages, hoping to make a ton of money when the real estate bubble (that Goldman helped create) burst and people started losing their homes. To do this he needed a kind of bond that would be composed of high risk mortgages that were sure to fail soon.

  2. Goldman stepped in and said their buddies at ACA Management, a kind of wholesale company in the bond business, would be happy to build this bond (or else!) and then Goldman Sachs would sell it for them.

  3. So Paulson and ACA got together, picked out a shit-ton of absolute crap mortgages and built the bond, also called a CDO (collateralized debt obligation). The mortgages in the bond were carefully selected so that Paulson and Goldman Sachs could be sure the CDO would fail.

  4. Paulson then bought a bunch of insurance on the CDO that would pay him off big when the CDO eventually when tits up.

  5. In the meantime, Goldman sold the CDO to institutional investors like banks, pension funds and orphanages. Note, they raked in a lot of cabbage in commissions from these deals.

  6. When the housing market collapsed, the CDO failed just like it was designed to, and Paulson and Goldman Sachs made a fuckwad of money from their insurance bets (their short positions).
This scheme may sound vaguely familiar, especially to you Broadway and/or Mel Brooks fans. It's basically the same thing Max Bialystock was trying to do in The Producers, except Goldman Sachs succeeded in failing.



So, the SEC says Goldman Sachs and Paulson defrauded investors by saying that the CDO was built to succeed when in fact they themselves had engineered it to fail.

Of course, it also looks like they engineered a patsy in this whole scheme as well. They've bought a witness to say that he told ACA that Paulson's hedge fun planned to bet against the CDO, thus putting the responsibility on ACA to disclose how crappy of an investment it would be.

So apparently Goldman will get away with defrauding investors and the public. But that's okay, at least the Obama administration can claim that they tried.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Light headed

Another really neat computer animated short. It's nice to see an artist translate high level themes like knowledge, self discovery and sacrifice into a poetic, seemingly simplistic piece of video art.

Well done to the creator of Lightheaded.



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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random Photo XXV: Evening shade

I like the way the evening sun filters through the Japanese snowballs in front of our windows and casts shadows on the Roman shades.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

As seen in Kansas: Fr. Kapaun Memorial

Catholic leadership has been taking a lot of heat recently, and rightfully so. You can't give tacit (or even blatant) approval to pedophilia without getting some pretty serious backlash.

People just aren't going to put up with it. Nobody should.

I'm not Catholic, and I'm not going to make any excuses for any of that stuff. But I do think it's important to point out that there are a lot of people, Catholic and otherwise, that have contributed a lot of good to the world.

One person in particular was Father Emil Kapaun, a Korean War hero from the tiny Kansas hamlet of Pilsen.

Kapaun was the son of Czech immigrants, grew up on a small Kansas farm and graduated from Conception Abbey seminary college north of Kansas City.

He was serving as an Army chaplain in Korea when his army unit was overrun by a Chinese invasion force. Rather than retreating with the main Army force, he stayed behind with his battalion, ministering to wounded and giving medical aide.

Eventually, Kapaun and about 40 soldiers found themselves huddled in a trench surrounded by hundreds of Chinese. To the soldiers, who had heard rumors of the Chinese "take no prisoners" policy, surrender was suicide. But with the mortar rounds falling, Kapaun worked with a captured Chines officer to negotiate a surrender. He risked being shot in the back to stop the execution of wounded American soldiers at the hands of the Chinese.

Soldiers who survived the Chinese attack say Kapaun's negotiation and bravery is responsible for saving the lives of 40 men that day.

In the North Korean POW camp, Kapaun made it his duty to ministered to the other prisoners and keep up their morale. There are many accounts of him giving up his food rations and other personal items to fellow prisoners.

He died of exhaustion and pneumonia in the POW camp at the age of 35.

The Army awarded Kapaun the Distinguished Service Cross, and there is currently a bill in Congress to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government.

The Catholic Church declared Kapaun a Servant of God, and he has become a candidate for sainthood. If his canonization is approved, he will be only the third Catholic saint to be born in the United States.

In his hometown of Pilson, Kapaun is memorialized in a bronze statue depicting him helping a wounded soldier off the battlefield. There are also many schools, Army bases and chapels and other sites named in his honor throughout the state, country and even the world.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Laugh riot

Okay, it's time for me to come clean.

By now you've all heard of the huge riots on the Plaza last week caused by a bunch of teenage rebelz without a clue. You know about the fist fights, the girl-on-girl cat fights, the pushings into fountainses, and the rather ugly spontaneous group line dances in the streets.

Lots of people have covered this. The news, bloggers, more bloggers, still more bloggers.

Oh yes. It's been quite the to-do. And you know what, I can't help but feel a little responsible for all of this. But in my defense, like most race wars, it was all a misunderstanding. There's a perfectly innocent explanation.

You see, it's like this: I took my Supermodel Wife out to the The Cinemark Palace theater on the Plaza to see Date Night a few nights ago. Well let me tell you, that was one damn funny flick. I laughed so much at the antics of Tina Fey and Steve Carell and the rest of the ensemble cast.

When the movie was over and we were walking out of the theater, I said "That movie was a RIOT!!!"

But I said "Riot" very loudly. Too loudly, as it turns out.

So... Sorry about all that.

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YouTube Tuesday: Pixel bombed

I really dig this short film on a couple of levels. As a child of the 80s, I see all my good friends from Donkey Kong, to the Space Invaders and Pac-Man, characters I spent a lot of time with in the convenience story back home (it was the small town equivalent of a video arcade in the early 1980s.

On a different level, I appreciate the metaphorical implication that it will be our digital, technological, iPad-craving lifestyles (or possibly the Higgs Boson)that will destroy our planet bit by bit, not some catastrophic event.


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Monday, April 12, 2010

Bullitt list -- 04.12.10






Today's category: Enter the Dragon

Listen, I get that China is the up-and-coming superpower. We Yanks have had our day in the sun. But now the strains of having it too good for too long, along with the desire to have it all for free have made us a few steps slow and short of breath.

The Chinese, on the other hand, still have what Survivor called the Eye of the Tiger. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to live there or anything, and I'll take the relative freedom of the USA to the Chines censorship and state social control. But there can be little doubt that the Day of the Dragon is near.

They just need to iron out a few things. Because they have some fucked up shit going on that is unbecoming of a world superpower
  • You remember this gal from a month or two ago? Chick is growing devil horns. When you say you want your girls to be horny, this isn't what you have in mind. Chinese doctors say the growths on Zhang Gouzheng's forehead are "cutaneous horns," made up of compacted keratin, which is the same protein we have in our hair and nails, and forms horns, wool and feathers in animals.

    They say that, while rare, they tend to show up in fair-skinned elderly adults who have history of significant sun exposure, and in demon spawn.

  • Kudos to the federal judge that awarded several Virginia families $2.6 million in damages from a Chinese manufacturer of drywall. It seems the Chinese thought it would be a good idea to make drywall (you know, the stuff the walls in your house/apartment are made of out of?) from the waste materials of scrubbers on coal-fired power plants.

    Big surprise, that cheap Chinese-made drywall emits sulfuric acid gas into you home. Bummer. It causes extensive damage to wiring, heating and air conditioning, floors, closets, kitchen cabinets -- not to mention YOUR LUNGS!!!

    So, yeah. China, as you make the ascendancy into superpowerdom, you might want to figure out how to build houses that don't kill your own people.

  • Another Chinese medical oddity that may or may not be related to sulfuric acid emitting drywall is the case of a boy who was born with 16 toes and 15 fingers. There are many advantages of having so many digits -- it's a new world record, you can easily count to 31, you have multiple options for flipping the bird.

    Still, doctors opted to do surgery on the polydactyl boy to make him more normal. Of course as we've seen, 'normal' in China has a whole different definition.

  • The Chinese are taking misogyny to a whole new level. You know what happens when you take the communist's one-child-per-family policy and mix in a culture that values men over women?

    You get a badly imbalanced gender ratio for one thing. By some estimates, China will have 30 million more men of marriageable age than women within the next 10 years. Thirty million! That's more than the population of Texas. Can you imagine the state of Texas being nothing by dudes? Gives me the heebie-jeebies.

    I don't know what they're going to do. Import a lot of foreign women? Some kind of war to "cull" the surplus men? Promote the use of X-box, Cheetos, Mr. Pibb and Internet porn as a means to keep all these maniacs in check?

    All I know is that this kind of gender imbalance is unprecedented (to the best of my knowledge) and could end up causing the downfall of the Chinese superpower just as it gets going.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Kansas vs Missouri: Sizing things up

It's pretty common knowledge that Kansas is a better state than Missouri.

It goes all the way back to the American Civil War days when Kansas was on the winning side. Truman, the Missouri president, destroyed two Japanese cities with atomic bombs. Eisenhower, Kansas contribution to the White House, gave us the Interstate Highway system.

Even today, Kansas has superior roads, schools and modern sewer and waste water management systems. The mayors in our towns and cities wear shoes while at work, and they don't rely on unconstitutional earnings taxes to fund their cities' budgets.

So with all these strikes against them, it was kind of a shame to see yet one more indignity come to the men of Missouri recently.

Condomania, makers of advanced, custom fit condoms for the men of America, recently released analysis of years of data gleaned from their "FitKit" system for measuring length and girth of the male member.
"These fitted condoms range in length from 3 to 10 inches and from super slim to extra roomy." says Chris Filkins, Condomania’s Directory of Technology.

"After gathering detailed information on over 27,000 penises, we now have the most comprehensive database of penis sizes on the planet! Needless to say, these men's privacy is our utmost concern, and we're interested only in the statistics, and not who's who! But the data itself is pretty interesting.
The rankings of average penis size put Kansas men firmly in the meaty part of the bell curve, right in the middle of the 50 states at number 26. Unfortunately (for the Show Me State gals) Missouri men came up a bit short, limping in at a flaccid #36, just behind Texas (but three spots ahead of Nebraska).

But hey, c'mon Missouri. Don't let this get you down. It's just a dumb ranking based on scientifically collected data. Penis size doesn't matter, anyway. What matters is the emotional connection... or something.

No need to build giant monuments to compensate.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Random Photo XXIV: 'Pecker gotta eat

One of the sure signs of spring is what I call The 6 a.m. Woodpecker that has lived in my backyard for the past few years.

Actually, it's a pair of woodpeckers, a couple. They used to feast on the cedar shingles on our house until we replaced our siding. Then they moved to our neighbor's house and made holes in his siding.

Now they've moved on to a more natural habitat, this dead tree limb behind the neighbor's house. The female of the couple is pictured here getting an evening meal on Sunday.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

As seen in Kansas: The final resting place of Fokker Niner Niner Easy

A week ago today, and 79 years, the coach stood frustrated at Kansas City Municipal Airport after missing a reunion with his two sons. He boarded the plane to California, there to consult on a movie commemorating his career, and would never see his sons again.

A few hours later, Knute Rockne and five other passengers and two crewmen of the Fokker 999E plummeted into the Kansas prairie and were killed instantly.

By some early accounts, a freak storm caused the plane to crash. Those of us who've lived in Kansas for a couple of years wouldn't doubt it, especially in that era of aviation. But further investigation concluded that the crash was caused by the catastrophic failure of a wing strut on the Fokker 10AF Trimotor plane.

Regardless of the cause, the result was a scorched spot in the Kansas Flint Hills. You can imagine what it must have been like for the first people on the scene. Weather probably much like today's weather. Cool morning, moist grass. The smell of gasoline and hot oil hanging in the air.

It was a rather gruesome tourist attraction for weeks. Kansans from the area, unfortunately, had little respect for the deceased or for Rockne's surviving sons, 14-year old Billy and 12-year-old Knute Jr., who had returned that day to Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City after an Easter vacation in Florida. Newspapers reported people slogging their way through muddy fields to the crash site to walk away with various chunks of debris as grisly souvenirs -- a chunk of rubber from the plane's tire or a piece of its rudder. There's even one account of a person claiming to have found a gold tooth at the crash the site.

In the years since, the sensation of the incident has worn off and the site has been treated with more respect. A small, tasteful memorial on the site has been maintained for decades by Easter Heatherman who, at the age of 13, was one of the first people to arrive at the crash to render aide. And the Matfield Green travel center along I-35 also has an exhibit commemorating the accident.

While tragic, the resulting investigation into the crash revealed a flaw in the wing spars caused by moisture weakening the wood laminate. All US airlines at the time were forced to ground their Fokker FA10s and many were discovered to have the same flaw. No doubt many more lives were saved.

Also, the intense public interest in the accident forced the Aeronautics Branch of the US Department of Commerce (forerunner of today's FAA) to abandon its policy of keeping the results of aircraft accident investigations secret.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Nuit Blanche

Here's another cool, artsy slice-of-hyper-real-life video. The highly stylized film explores a brief moment in time between two people. I especially dig the super-slow-mo video effects.



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Monday, April 05, 2010

Tommy can you hear me

If a guy came up to you and started laying down a cogent, rational argument that creating a system in which giant taxpayer funded bailouts were necessary to keep the economy (barely) afloat would result in continued economic doomsday spiral, some of you would call him a crazy, racist, extremist Tea Bagger.

But you would be wrong. He's actually one of the more respected, clear thinking personalities to come out of the fecal tempest that was the economy over the past two years.

And he happens to be from Kansas City.

No, it's not me (but that's a good guess). It's none other than Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and he's not a Tommy-come-lately to criticizing the system that resulted in the megabailouts we saw last year. He reiterated his criticism in a recent speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In a 1999 speech on financial megamergers, I concluded that, "To the extent these institutions become 'too big to fail and ... uninsured depositors and other creditors are protected by implicit government guarantees, the consequences can be quite serious. Indeed, the result may be a less stable and a less efficient financial system."

More than a decade later, the only thing I can change about that statement is the government guarantees are no longer juts implicit. Actions during the financial crisis have made this protection quite explicit.
The speech essentially chides regulators and legislators for paying lip service to reforms without actually doing anything. Democrats have controlled the entire government for over a year now, dangling a shiny new fake health care reform act in front of the public so that we would forget about the causes and effects of the biggest financial meltdown in a generation.

Hoenig has specific recommendations that the D.C. crew can ignore, including allowing failing banks to fail (duh) and requiring maximum leverage and loan-to-value ratios.

These are all reasonable and obvious (in my opinion) reforms. Unfortunately, the chance of them being implemented is about the same as me buying the next Justin Bieber album.

Why? Well I'm glad I asked that. The problem is that despite all of the rhetoric about hope and change, there's no benefit in these reforms to the people who run the government right now.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Metamorphosis

So I'm heading back to the office the other day after taking care of a few lunch-time errands.

Ever cognizant of my surroundings (as one must be when the government agents and dwarf assassins are out to get you), I observed what I thought was one of the most ingenious concepts for a pest control/exterminator business ever (and I've seen a lot of concepts for pest control/exterminator businesses).
Of course! A bug killing business that pays homage to the author of one of my favorite German surrealist man-becomes-cockroach stories, The Metamorphosis.
"When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. He was lying on his back as hard as armor plate, and when he lifted his head a little, he saw his vaulted brown belly, sectioned by arch-shaped ribs, to whose dome the cover, about to slide off completely, could barely cling. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes."
Now that's an exterminator with a sense of humor and a good grounding literature. Just the kind of guy I want going after my silverfish!

So I maneuver closer to get around to the side of the truck. There must be a phone number on there somewhere. Anyone with the marketing savvy to name an exterminating company after Franz Kafka surely would know enough to put the phone number on the side of the truck.

That's when I saw the critical detail that painted me as a total sucker. A line of copy under the logo on the side of the truck read "Available at the Johnson County Library."
Of course. This isn't some pest control professional with a penchant for marketing. It's a new mobile billboard for the local library.

Well, touchรจ librarians. You got me. Who knew a run-of-the-mill lunch hour errand trip could be so entertaining. I wonder if the library stocks any books about gullibility.

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