Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Come back, Bill Watterson - Calvin and Hobbes explains how bailouts work.
The Teel thing

For the record: congratulations to Rutgers for winning the Something-Something Bowl, beating North Carolina State 29-23.
The law is the law...except when it's not

An interesting take on the law over at Volokh:

At risk of offending my many friends in the legal academy, I think that law is a shockingly phony discipline. Virtually everyone - liberal, conservative, Marxist, libertarian, or whatever - imagines that the law conveniently agrees with what they favor on non-legal grounds.
In an earlier post, Eugene Volokh wonders if Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Illinois AG Roland Burris can be blocked, either by the Illinois Secretary of State or by the U.S. Senate:

If there's some evidence that Burris's appointment was indeed the result of a bribe or some illegal maneuvering, then indeed the Senate can refuse to seat him. But if there is no such evidence, then for reasons I noted earlier, I think their position is legally unsustainable, given the Supreme Court's Powell v. McCormack precedent.
On the one hand, it appears that the law is clear and the (not-yet-impeached) governor can appoint whomever he wants to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat. On the other hand, it seems reasonable that the legislature has a check on executive power in extraordinary circumstances (e.g. Senator Oprah). The "phony discipline" lies in determining where the extraordinary circumstances begin, I suppose. This sounds like a job for the legal bloggers.

Extra - Red State: "Looking ahead to a Constitutional crisis."

More - John Cole weighs in: "Blagojevich will have his day in court, but for now he is legally the governor, he is legally carrying out his duties, and unless and until the Democrats grab the stones to get rid of him, they should suck it up and deal with his pick." Yes, there's that approach.

And this - Bench Memos: "State law as it currently stands empowers the governor of Illinois to make this appointment. Rod Blagojevich is still the governor. Brazenly shameless this act may be-but constitutionally valid it certainly is."
No double standard here - Do you know who really didn't want to see this story about Vicki L. Iseman suing the New York Times? John Edwards.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Just back from Christmas vacation; spoilers for "Oliver Twist" below

Back to work tomorrow, but for now I want to take note that I finished "Oliver Twist" during my trip. This is a classic? Sure, the writing is superb, the characters as vivid as a Kodachrome picture, and the social commentary is tart. But at some point I'm to believe that Oliver's two random benefactors in the book are 1.) an old friend of his father and 2.) his long-lost aunt. That is one coincidental bridge too far.

It was humorous, however, to find that Charles Dickens' illustrator for "Oliver Twist" was George Cruikshank which became the inspiration for Hermione Granger's cat in the "Harry Potter" books.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

So close - Boston Globe: "Patriots did all you can ask for": "This leaves the Patriots as the first team in the 12-team playoff era to go 11-5 and not make the playoffs."
The Social Security scam - From New Jersey's Star-Ledger: "The Ponzi scheme that Baby Boomers are waiting to cash in on": "The federal government, on the other hand, never tried to make the Social Security system work. The feds didn't invest the money in the market. They took the money that we gave them and lent it to themselves, promising themselves interest. To be paid by themselves."

Friday, December 26, 2008

I enjoy them on my chicken piccata - Wired: "The 7 best capers of 2008" (HT: Fark)
Progress - For Christmas I asked for, and received, a new 16 GB flash drive (the kind that plugs into a USB port). It was only a few years ago, it seems, that I got my first 16 MB drive. Now I can backup my entire MP3 collection.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone

In case I don't get to a computer over the next couple days, let me leave with these words from Abraham Lincoln:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Happy holidays and see you soon.
An annual tradition - NORAD tracks Santa
A tiny piece of good news - Calculated Risk says "Savings rate starting to recover": "It looks like savings from lower gasoline prices is showing up as savings - as opposed to other consumption - and this process of increasing savings is a necessary step towards restoring healthy household balance sheets."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rod Blagojevich's theme song

Two days before Christmas, the Obama campaign releases a report with the passive voice explanation that "no inappropriate discussions" were made with regard to a quid pro quo with Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich for Obama's vacated Senate seat. Although to read the transcripts of the Blago wiretaps, it sure seems like the governor was doing his damnest to get his point across:

One conversation Fitzgerald's complaint described had hinted that the the Illinois governor was frustrated by contacts with Obama or some of his staff.

"Blagojevich said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat," the complaint states, referring to an unnamed person thought to be Jarrett. "But 'they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.'"
So it sounds like Blago was making some transparent demands but he was rebuffed by Rahm Emmanuel, probably with a stony silence. Given the strident and insistent tone of Blago's wiretap transcripts, it's hard to believe that at least one side of the conversation wasn't "inappropriate."
Everybody loves Cheney - Ann Althouse notes that Dick Cheney should be pleased that only 23% of Americans think of him as the worst vice-president ever: "Because it's not as though most Americans have a whole list of ex-Vice Presidents to call to mind at a moment's notice. Most everyone knows Cheney. And then who?"

All this poll indicates is that Americans have a wafer-thin understanding of history. Spiro Agnew, anyone? Aaron Burr? How about John C. Breckinridge who left to fight for the Confederacy during the American Civil War? Please.

Extra - Forgot about John C. Calhoun.
Hope over reality and those who profit

Before you read this Boston Globe editorial about the abysmal graduation rates for students entering college (only 56% have a degree six years later), read this excellent essay from "Professor X" from the Atlantic magazine a couple months back:

There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces-social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students-that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.
Also, on the Corner, Mark Steyn has some thoughts on "Subprime education."
Slow news morning - Why does Fox News have this inane story of "Wii-itis" on it's top page? Silly.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Runner-up quote of the dayFrom the New York Times, on a letter criticizing Caroline Kennedy as a potential Senate replacement: "It should not have been published."  Not, as you might suspect, because it's against editorial policy to criticize Democrats but because the letter was a fake.  Well, it's been five years, so we were due for a new low point at the Times (not to be confused with this low point.)
Quote of the day"We have enough evil already." - Ibrahim al-Ghaith, the religious police chief of Saudi Arabia, on the introduction of movies to the Kingdom.  How very true.
What's all that hey? - I just posted from Google Chrome and my fonts are weird.

I'm listening to: Little River Band Greatest Hits
I'm also: procrastinating because I don't want to go out in the cold and shovel

I think it's time for lunch!
Stopgap measureMickey Kaus reviews the auto bailout and decides that the $17 billion loan is just postponing some serious sacrifice in the future and there will be no appetite among Americans for another cash infusion.

Extra - Jaguar needs help too?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A poll they wouldn't dare take three months ago

Boston Globe: "Grudging support for gas tax hike in poll"

Massachusetts residents are more willing to embrace higher gas taxes to repair the state's crumbling transportation system than any other proposed solution, including higher tolls or more booths at the state's borders, a Boston Globe poll shows.

In fact, higher tolls - as recently proposed by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with Governor Deval Patrick's support - are by far the least popular among an array of suggestions that have been floated to fix the state's transportation woes.

Patrick has called it a bad time, with the economy sagging, to raise the gas tax. House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi has said he would prefer a tax hike, which affects motorists generally, to toll hikes that burden only some.

When those polled were asked to choose between raising tolls on the turnpike or raising the gas tax, the tax won out 48 percent to 42 percent. The feelings about taxes or tolls varied considerably depending on where respondents live - toll hikes were the clear preference of those from the state's west and southeast sections, who are least likely to pay them.
It was sure nice of the Globe to wait until gas prices hit a record low before asking all of Massachusetts how to pay for the near-bankrupt Turnpike Authority and its white elephant, the Big Dig. Apparently the fair thing to do is have all Bay State residents pony up for a public benefit (such as it is) that serves only Boston commuters.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The price is really right

This past week, a winner on "The Price is Right" got his showcase bid exactly right:

Friday, December 19, 2008

No brown M&Ms - The Smoking Gun has Van Halen's legendary concert rider.  The band weren't being jerks; they just wanted to make sure that promoters read the contract and the stage wouldn't collapse.
Look out, Paul and Ringo! - Boston Globe: "$24m in US aid to help wipe out beetles"
Shake your booty - Economist: "Why music? - Biologists are addressing one of humanity’s strangest attributes, its all-singing, all-dancing culture" (HT: Arts & Letters)

All I know is that my Christmas vacation started a couple hours ago, and I'm going to relax with some beer and music, probably Jason Mraz.
The Decider punts - Those are my principles and if you don't like them, I have others: "Federal Government to Loan Automakers $17.4B"

A billion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Albinos unite against 70s funk music

Best post title ever.

A couple months ago, I picked up one of those 1970s funk music compilations from the library (50 cents) and one of the tracks is "Play that Funky Music" by Wild Cherry. Last night I finally gave it a listen and when they got to the line "Play that funky music, white boy" they had dubbed over the "white boy" with a loop of "play that funky music."

Were they concerned about the backlash from white boys? The CD was put together in 1989 which may have been the apogee of political correctness, I don't know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Send the repo men...we're broke

From the DC Examiner "Who will bail out Uncle Sam?"

The United States of America is bankrupt. Don't believe it? Consider this: Federal obligations now exceed the collective net worth of all Americans, according to the New York-based Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Washington politicians and bureaucrats have essentially mortgaged everything We the People own so they can keep spending our tax dollars like there’s no tomorrow.

The foundation's grim calculations are based on Sept. 30 consolidated federal statements, which showed that Americans' total household net worth, diminished by falling stock prices and home equity, is $56.5 trillion. But rising costs for unfunded social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security increased to $56.4 trillion – and that was before the more recent stock market crash, $700 billion bank bailout, and monster federal deficits chalked up in October and November.

"Given more recent developments, it's clear that America now owes more than its citizens are worth," said Foundation president David M. Walker, the former Comptroller-General of the United States who has been trying to warn Americans of the coming financial tsunami for years, to no avail. So, after Uncle Sam bails out bankers, Wall Street gamblers, carmakers and over-their-head homeowners, who'll bail out Uncle Sam?
Readers of this blog will recognize the name of David Walker, the former top accountant in the U.S. government. Just in time for Christmas, it looks like we've crossed over into George Bailey territory:

Mr. Potter: [to George Bailey] Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me "a warped, frustrated, old man!" What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help. No securities, no stocks, no bonds. Nothin' but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy. You're worth more dead than alive!
Whatta mean no bonds? We've got these great T-bills selling at zero-percent interest. What a deal!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quote of the day – WSJ Opinion Journal: "Forcing us to save GM, Ford and Chrysler is to force us to buy what we have already decided we do not want. That's about as un-American as you can get." – reader Paul Cooper responding to "Bankruptcy is the perfect remedy for Detroit."
The Ponzi scheme expert – WSJ: "Put Madoff In Charge of Social Security"
Come-uppance - Capital Commerce: "The 10 dopiest business and economy leaders of 2008": "Not only did CEO Fuld watch Lehman Brothers, the 158-year-old investment bank, go down the tubes, but he reportedly got punched in the face in the company gym." I had not heard that story.
Journalism is easy – You don't even need to look for facts. It's all about the instinct, man!
Ted Kennedy blocks clean, green wind power

The business of energy is dirty and dangerous: oil, coal, and nuclear require the digging through the earth and processing ore. The push for renewable energy is based, in part, on breaking the stranglehold of fossil fuels on our energy security. But all forms of energy – even wind, solar, and hydroelectric – have tradeoffs. For Senator Ted Kennedy, his long opposition to a wind farm off his Nantucket home is, simply put, a selfish effort to preserve his pristine ocean view, energy independence be damned. From today's Boston Globe, here's "An Ahab for Cape Wind":

Senator Edward Kennedy's Ahab-like efforts to kill the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound have taken a new twist. Having failed three years ago to get Congress to give veto power over the project to then-Governor Mitt Romney, an opponent of the wind turbines, the senator is now pursuing a delaying tactic. An aide to Kennedy conferred with staff of the House committee chairman with responsibility for the Coast Guard, who got that service to put off release of a recommendation on the project that is expected be favorable to the wind developers. Representative William Delahunt also worked to postpone the Coast Guard action.
The Cape Wind turbine farm could power three-quarters of the Cape while providing over 600 jobs during its two-year construction. Ted Kennedy's legislative sabotage lays bare the limits of his environmental beliefs.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Less than zero – Well, almost: "Fed May Cut Target Rate to Historic Low"
Free speech is grand – Roger L. Simon makes a salient point: "That buffoon-like shoe chucker - his name is Muntazer al-Zaidi from Al-Baghdadia channel which broadcasts from Cairo - proved it. No matter what happens to al-Zaidi now (and it won't be much if anything), it will be nothing like what would have happened to him if he had hurled a shoe at the president during the previous Iraqi administration of Saddam Hussein."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Car talk - It's going to be a demolition derby on Fox News Sunday tomorrow as Senator Bob Corker (R-Cool Springs, TN) faces off against Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Detroit, MI).
Obama wants to destroy Social Security

Oh boy, oh boy! I'm all geared up for years of demagoguery on America's favorite entitlement program. It looks like our President-elect is polishing up his boot to kick Grandma into the street. At least that's what The Progressive is reporting: "Obama’s pick for OMB puts Social Security in jeopardy"

President-elect Obama’s appointment of Peter Orszag to be director of the Office of Management and Budget has raised the threat level for an attack on Social Security to orange.

While Orszag has taken thoughtful positions on a number of policies, three years ago he came up with a plan for Social Security that would cut its benefits to all workers under age 55 - hitting people harder the younger they are.
The article by a professor at San Francisco State University defines cognative dissonance: on the one hand, he lauds Social Security's universality, but then holds forth that wealthier Americans should pay more into the system, presumably with no proportional benefit increase. Well, soon enough we'll see the clash between campaign rhetoric and fiscal reality.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Facing reality - Megan McArdle has "The death of a bailout": "But I think most people should be able to agree that a company on the verge of bankruptcy, which is losing a ton of money on every car it makes, cannot afford to pay its workers substantially more than the competition, particularly when there is no indication that this labor is any more productive than the competition."

Extra - GM was "burning the furniture to stay warm."
Taxpayers upset they weren't more irresponsible

CNN: "Taxpayers: Furious over homeowner bailouts"

"All these idiots who bought homes they couldn't really afford are going to be rewarded with loan modifications, but what about those of us who didn't make stupid decisions?" asked Jay Black, a CNNMoney.com reader who rents in Queens, N.Y.
Sir, don't you know it's your patriotic duty to bail out your fellow American dummies? Sheesh.
Money man - The front page of today's Wall Street Journal screams: "Top broker accused of $50 billion fraud." That's "billion" with a "B." And now Gateway reports that he was a big donor to Democratic candidates.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Auto bailout dies in the Senate - It's a quarter after 10 (EST) and Harry Reid along with Mitch McConnell are indicating that they will not reach cloture in the Senate on the bailout for the Detroit automakers.

Extra - Is this a fake ad?  I think so.

Update - Not even close for cloture: 52-35 (60 needed).

More - Barbara Boxer is making a fool of herself as usual.

Even more - Dick Durbin, on the other hand, makes some sense.  He notes that Consumer Reports always rates Japanese cars as having much better reliability than American cars; the Detroit automakers didn't really have a good response to this during Senate hearings.

Finally - Ten Republicans voted for cloture, so the vote could have moved forward with 50 of the 51 Democrats.  So says Arlen Specter (R-PA) who voted "aye."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some numbers for review

Mises Economics blog: "Mismanagement at the Big Three"

It was a dead heat. General Motors sold 9.37 million vehicles worldwide in 2007 and lost $38.7 billion. Toyota sold 9.37 million vehicles in 2007 and made $17.1 billion.

That was the second best sales total in GM's 100-year history and the biggest loss ever for any automaker in the world.

For Toyota, that was roughly $1,800 in profit for every vehicle sold. For GM, it was an average loss of $4,100 for every vehicle sold.
Yikes. (HT: Q&O) You know, I don't know how this whole Detroit bailout is going to unfold, but there's one thing that Congress should demand as a condition: everybody in upper management has to go. I mean, look at those numbers! In the spirit of Christmas, put a fruitcake in Rick Wagoner's executive chair - it couldn't possibly do worse.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Well, that's all I'm going to say about poor Flick"

Boston Globe photogallery: "The best and worst holiday movies"

"Bad Santa" - naughty
"A Christmas Story" - nice
I'm from Hawaii and never heard of this "Ill-a-noy" place - John Dickerson on Slate: "Obama's unsatisfyingly vague response to the Blagojevich scandal"
At least Scrooge didn't kick away Tiny Tim's cane

The best bit from today's charge against Blagojevich:

[I]ntercepted phone conversations between ROD BLAGOJEVICH and othersindicate that ROD BLAGOJEVICH is contemplating rescinding his commitment of state funds to benefit Children's Memorial Hospital because Hospital Executive 1 has not made a recent campaign contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH.
God bless us, everyone!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Not so much change - Contentions: "Gitmo won't easily disappear"
Is it over yet in Minnesota? - Well, Hot Air is reporting that they're calling off the search for 133 mythical ballots so it's about over for Al Franken's bid to overturn Norm Coleman's win. After millions of re-counted ballots, Coleman's 238-vote margin is pretty close to the margin on election night.
Peace prize winner says "Kill Mugabe"

So it's come to this. Even Archbishop Desmond Tutu is urging drastic action to save Zimbabwe from dictator Robert Mugabe. From Opinion Journal: "In the land of cholera Africans finally turn against Comrade Bob."

The situation has become so dire that Mr. Tutu, the Nobel Peace laureate and former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, told a Dutch TV station Thursday that African leaders cannot stand by any longer. "If they say to [Mugabe], step down, and he refuses, they must go in . . . militarily," Mr. Tutu said.
Given the lengths – and depths – that Robert Mugabe has gone to hold on to power, it's hard to believe he'll go down without a fight that will lead to more bloodshed. Bishop Tutu's position illustrates how desperate things have gotten in southern Africa.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Amazing Race update – Sprint for the finish

Another season, another finale and I can't help but wonder what the future holds for the six-time Emmy winner "The Amazing Race." I'm always worried that the ratings have slumped and CBS will pull the plug but, if this report is to be believed, TAR is all ready for another season (and soon!):

"The Amazing Race" rarely hosts a spring season. However, this fall's edition featured so many quirky characters and outrageous challenges that the ratings went through the roof.
The show really lived up to all of its Emmys, so the "The Amazing Race" will air a special spring edition starting Feb. 15.
I'm as elevated as Phil's eyebrow.

Well tonight was the season finale for TAR 13 and the final three teams – Nick & Starr, Andrew & Dan, and Ken & Tina – started out from Moscow on the final leg. Team Perky headed out first to the final destination: Portland, Oregon. It looks like everybody is taking the same Lufthansa flight to the U.S. via Frankfurt. Flying arrows! I can't believe Frankfurt to Portland is a direct flight (although once I took a looong flight from Chicago to Paris).

All teams are now heading to a lumberjack camp and the Detour: High & Dry or Low & Wet. Teams must climb trees and swing across like a lumberjack, or walk across a log bridge to get the next clue. Team Infidelity and Team Perky are neck-in-neck climbing trees while Team Bluto has a bad taxi driver and falls behind again. It's possible that these teams may hit a penalty. Nick did not jump to the trapeze to get the next clue while Tina removed her helmet briefly to incur a safety violation (maybe). Both teams are heading to a zip line at the Bridge of the Gods.

Ken & Tina arrive at the bridge ahead of Nick & Starr. They do the zip line and then we get the final challenge: teams must match up pictures from this season of the Race from pictures in 150 clue boxes. For example, if there's a roadblock symbol for leg #3, they need to find a picture from the wrestling roadblock in La Paz. Team Infidelity and Team Perky appear to be very close on this challenge; the Frat Boys are nowhere. Nick & Starr finish first and head off to the next clue in the parking lot.

Teams must now head to the Portland Building and find a green dinosaur and the next clue. The taxi drivers to Portland are driving a little recklessly. Ken & Tina get caught in traffic while Nick & Starr get the next clue. This directs teams to find a food cart from a "country of your last Pit Stop" meaning Russia. Team Perky gets there first and this clue sends them to the place where "magic is in the hole." They ask a local who sends them to Voodoo Doughnuts.

(In the background, I see a gas station with a price of $3.91 for regular unleaded.)

At the doughnut shop, this clue directs teams to the Pit Stop, their final destination, and the million-dollar prize. Essentially it comes down to whether Nick & Starr or Ken & Tina can get a taxi first. With creative editing, it looks like they both get a cab at the same time. As the eliminated teams cheer on it's...

...Nick & Starr first to the mat to win the Amazing Race (no penalties.) They were clearly the dominant team throughout this season and their win is well-deserved. Ken & Tina finish second but they tearfully reconcile their marriage as Ken takes out their wedding rings. Andrew & Dan show up later with the sun lower in the sky.

Final standings:

Team Perky – Nick & Starr – Winners of Amazing Race 13
Team Infidelity – Ken & Tina
Team Bluto – Andrew & Dan

Post-note – My wife noticed that Toni & Dallas, who lost their passports last week, were not among the previous teams greeting the winners at the mat.

See you in February!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Specifics needed - President-elect Barack Obama will be on "Meet the Press" tomorrow and Politico has ten questions for him.
No word on the "Get out of Zimbabwe" cards - From CNN: "Cash-strapped Zimbabwe revealed plans Saturday to circulate $200 million notes, just days after introducing a $100 million bill, Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi said. After the $100 million note began circulating on Thursday, the price of a loaf of bread soared from 2 million to 35 million Zimbabwean dollars." That's a lot for bread.
President Bush tries to destroy the planet again - It looks like the Detroit automakers are going to get a loan: "Several officials in both parties said a key breakthrough on the long-stalled bailout came when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bowed to Bush's demand that the aid come from a fund set aside for the production of environmentally friendlier cars."

Those would be the cars that nobody likes, don't make a profit, and would never sell at all without a federal tax credit.
Cause and effect? - OJ is gone for at least a decade. Friday's stock market soared after he was sentenced.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Detroit CEOs explain the roadmap back to profitability

Jim Manzi on "GM's magical thinking"

However, if GM got the loans, and if we have a decent consumer auto purchase market for the next year or two (how'd you handicap that?), and if GM is able to improve its operations sufficiently, then they could squeak by. The point of this document [GM's bailout/restructuring plan] was supposed to be the presentation of the plan to achieve these operational improvements. But there's no there there. I guess somebody who's never read a real business plan might mistake this document for one, but it's a joke. It's basically a list of assertions of amazing improvements, entirely discontinuous with actual performance to date, that they will achieve. What's missing is any real indication of how they will go about accomplishing this.
Here's an interesting article about how Detroit got addicted to fat-profit trucks and SUVs:
One reason they might have dropped their guard was the irresistible profit margin in light trucks. "The trucks and SUVs had fat profit margins. Even if [the automakers] saw it coming, it would have been hard to shift resources to build more hybrids. The U.S. auto industry has been struggling with a lot of problems for a long time," MacDuffie notes. "They felt that they could not move away from the SUVs and pickups because they needed the profits from those products to cope with the other difficulties they were having. ... Labor and benefits costs were one of the largest problems."
Burned once before in the late 70s/early 80s, American automakers should have re-tooled for smaller, gas-efficient cars. But somewhere along the line, General Motors became the largest national provider of health care, and needed the cash they could only find in honkin' trucks.

Extra - Wizbang: "For one, there wasn't exactly a market for smaller, fuel-efficient cars in the US because, well, Americans wanted bigger ones."

More - Jennifer Rubin: "What are they driving at?"

Finally - McQ: "They don't seem to live in the same world as the rest of us do. And that's what stirs the anger - here we are contemplating, again, rewarding stupidity, mismanagement and failure."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Like driving into a wall

Here's cause-and-effect for you:

[Ford CEO Alan] Mulally's current compensation package will pay him about $22 million this year. Asked last week if he would consider cutting his salary, Mulally told members of Congress, "I think I'm OK where I am."
That was during the first round of Congressional testimony on a bailout for the Detroit automakers. Only after taking their corporate jets back to Michigan did the auto execs realize what a mess they'd made: "CNN poll says 61% now 'dead set' against auto bailout."
Worst government acronym ever

Great Britain's NICE is naughty. NY Times: "British Balance Benefit vs. Cost of Latest Drugs"

When Bruce Hardy's kidney cancer spread to his lung, his doctor recommended an expensive new pill from Pfizer. But Mr. Hardy is British, and the British health authorities refused to buy the medicine. ....

If the Hardys lived in the United States or just about any European country other than Britain, Mr. Hardy would most likely get the drug, although he might have to pay part of the cost. A clinical trial showed that the pill, called Sutent, delays cancer progression for six months at an estimated treatment cost of $54,000.
But at that price, Mr. Hardy’s life is not worth prolonging, according to a British government agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The institute, known as NICE, has decided that Britain, except in rare cases, can afford only £15,000, or about $22,750, to save six months of a citizen’s life.
Reading the article it appears that, in the interest of making drug coverage the same across Britain, NICE unleashes a firestorm whenever they restrict a drug in the interest of pharmaceutical equity.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cape Wind one step closer

The Boston Globe reports today that the Bush administration may give the final federal OK to a wind farm off Nantucket Sound:

The Bush administration is expected to issue as early as Friday a favorable final environmental review of the nation's first offshore wind farm project, clearing the way for Cape Wind to obtain a federal lease to erect 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.
The wind farm has presented a dilemma for largely left-wing residents of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket who support clean energy as long as somebody else makes the sacrifice:

The proposal from a once little-known company has endured years of environmental review, several rounds of political maneuvering by the likes of Senator Edward M. Kennedy and former governor Mitt Romney, and strong opposition from a group of homeowners on the Cape and Islands. They worry that the 440-foot-high turbines, visible on the horizon, would mar their views, depress property values, and deter tourists. But the project has gained momentum as the public's appetite has grown for renewable energy to help forestall global warming.
Hope and change time.

Monday, December 01, 2008

You should sell stuff for more than it costs to make it - And you probably shouldn't change accounting practices from year to year either. Over at Wizbang, DJ Drummond explains why the situation at General Motors is "Worse than you think."

Extra - WSJ: "America's other auto industry."
Where's Plaxico Burress when you need him? - Mickey Kaus on Mumbai: "Nowhere in the NYT story will you learn what American blog readers learned a day earlier when Instapundit (among others) linked to the Belfast story: Police had lots of guns, and no problem seeing who and where the terrorists were, but they wouldn't shoot at them."
Step away from the stock market - Extreme Mortman: "Top 10 funniest political quotes of 2008."