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Principles November 18, 2012

Posted by Sobek in News.
69 comments

A coupla days after the election, Andy put up two polls over at Ace’s asking (hypothetically) which plank in the conservative platform we should drop to get more electoral votes, and which plank would be a deal-breaker if it were dropped.  I didn’t vote in either poll (because voting is for suckers), but I have some thoughts on the issue to which I’m going to subject you, via a rambling essay.

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Portal: No Escape November 18, 2012

Posted by Retired Geezer in Entertainment, Movies, Technology.
8 comments

Portal is a breakthrough videogame unlike any that preceded it. The premise was that you had a ‘Portal Gun’ that created two different ‘ teleportation gates’. When you entered one, you came out the other one. You used the portals to solve platform escape puzzles. It’s a pretty fun game for all ages.
Here’s the Wiki:

I have no idea if there is a movie in the works but I just saw this video on YouTube.
It looks excellent.

Looking for Fiscal Policy Advice in All the Wrong Places November 17, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.
2 comments

Let’s say you’re the newly elected President of the United States, and you’re faced with huge economic problems. You’ve got high unemployment, tepid GDP growth, unsustainable long-term entitlement obligations, and the very real possibility of a second recession. And most importantly, at least for the very near-term, you’re facing the infamous “fiscal cliff,” which will happen in less that two months if you don’t do something quickly.

What do you do? What do you do? (/Karl Malden)

Well, if you’re a social worker whose election to President was like the Peter Principle on crack, then you you know you’re going to need to be talking to . . . special interest groups!!

With the so-called “fiscal cliff” approaching at the end of the year, President Barack Obama is holding meetings with various groups, including business and labor leaders, to solicit ideas on how to tackle the nation’s budget deficits.

On Friday, a group of civic leaders became the latest to meet with the president.

“Hey wait a minute,” you say, “‘civic leaders’ aren’t necessarily ‘special interest groups’!” OK. Good point. You make the call:

Per the White House, expected attendees included:

* Peter Berns, The Arc
* Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK
* Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
* Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)
* Deepa Iyer National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
* Ben Jealous, NAACP
* Marc Morial, National Urban League
* Janet Murguia, National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
* Barry Rand, AARP
* Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, MomsRising.org
* Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network (NAN)
* Aaron Smith, Young Invincibles
* Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners

With that crowd, I’m sure he’s going to get some really substantive inputs as to how to balance the budget, resolve the entitlement spending crisis, avoid the fiscal cliff, and salvage the economy. What a waste of time and implicit admission that he’s not really serious about working for this country.

This is the President who claimed that he was really, truly, this time for sure, going to make the economy his top priority. That he was going to lead a bipartisan charge to avoid the fiscal cliff, get the economy back on track, and get people back to work. What’s his real priority?

Making sure the usual suspects get a nice piece of the pie.

No More Twinkies For You! November 16, 2012

Posted by Michael in News.
39 comments

Hostess Brands, an 82 year old company, is headquartered in my home town of Irving, TX.  They also make Wonder Bread (a staple of my childhood), Ho Hos, and Ding Dongs.

Sad to say, they have collapsed, thanks in large part to their unions.   Maybe somebody else will buy the brands, but in the meantime, 18,000 people are out of work.

I’m sure Michelle Obama approves.  She thinks you shouldn’t be eating this stuff anyway.

No, do not eat these union-made poisonous and delicious confections.

Not everyone agrees with Michelle.

Try some arugula instead.

Hostess Brands Inc., the bankrupt maker of Wonder bread and Twinkies, said it will fire more than 18,000 workers and liquidate after a nationwide strike by bakery workers crippled operations.

“Companies in bankruptcy don’t have any margin for error,” Chief Executive Officer Gregory F. Rayburn said today in an interview with Betty Liu on “In the Loop” on Bloomberg Television. “We just didn’t have enough workers crossing the picket line.”  . . .   The decision to liquidate capped a weeklong standoff between the company, once the largest U.S. wholesale baker, and a union that called its proposed labor contract “horrendous.”

via Twinkie Maker Hostess to Shut Down After Strike – Businessweek.

I guess extended unemployment benefits and food stamps look pretty good to some people, compared to the “horrendous” alternative of working for a living.

Speaking of bread, I’ll bet you haven’t remembered this song in awhile:

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It Zigged When It Shoulda Zagged November 16, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.
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[UPDATE: Talked to Ironman over at Political Calculations, and he pointed out that this is pretty much a Black Friday effect, so I’ll stop hyperventilating. You might check out his post on Initial Unemployment Claims at his site.]

Yesterday I was puzzled by the seasonal adjustment applied to Initial Unemployment Claims data. Usually every year has the same sort of corrections, but last year’s correction was +28,984 and this year’s was -27,348. That’s 56K claims that were eliminated by the correction, which kind of seems like a lot.

So to see how unusual this is, I plotted the 2011 and 2012 corrections on top of one another. Now, because the weeks from one year don’t exactly line up with the next year, you expect to see a little difference, but the data is actually very well behaved, with the peaks and valleys lining up exactly with one another.

Until you get to this past week that is:

Seems odd. Next week we’ll see if somehow the Department of Labor prorated its adjustment to balance out the big sawtooth action you can see in the 2011 data. Otherwise I’m going to start suspecting that someone is massaging the numbers for nefarious purposes.

Should be interesting.

Why Do So Many Young Asian Girls Dye Their Hair Red? November 15, 2012

Posted by Michael in News.
6 comments

It appears to be a phenomenon that has emerged in the last 20 years, for which I have no explanation, but you see it all over Asia.

For example:

 

Thanks to Doug for the link.

Initial Unemployment Claims Skyrocket November 15, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.
17 comments

The Initial Unemployment Claims report came out this morning, showing a sudden surge in claims from 363,000 last week to 439,000 this week. A significant amount of the increase is probably due to Hurricane Sandy – we’ll know for sure next week when the state-by-state info comes out (the state reports lag the national reports by a week).

Here’s what the claims data looks like since 2009. As you can see, we haven’t made any headway for almost a year. Welcome to prosperity, Obama-style.

One oddity in the report – make of it what you will. Last year the seasonal correction for this week was +31,000. This year the correction was -27,000. WTH?

Did they just erase 58,000 claims from the data?

Paula Broadwell Didn’t Leak Info! Yay? November 14, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.
8 comments

Sez Paula Broadwell:

“I was embedded with Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan, and it was a little confusing to some of the folks there because I am also a military reservist with a top secret SCI clearance and then some,” Broadwell told an audience at an Aspen Institute event in October.

“I had access to everything, it was my experience not to leak it, not to violate my mentor, if you will,” she said. “He was a very close mentor.”

There’s the obvious “creepy in hindsight” factor to what she said, but I have a couple additional issues.

First, waaaaaaay back when I had a TS clearance, I was told not to tell anybody that I had a TS clearance. Not that I would have gone to jail for letting it slip, but the intelligence agencies felt that broadcasting the fact that you have a high clearance level makes you a target for other countries. I can’t imagine that philosophy has changed – it’s just common sense.

So why is Paula Broadwell announcing her clearance at public forums?

Second, not leaking information shouldn’t be the exception – it’s not praiseworthy, it’s SOP. It shouldn’t have mattered if he was a mentor or an annoyance – you don’t leak any information regarding military operations, classified or not. They call it OPSEC, and it applies to everything the military does.

Finally, even if she was cleared at that level (and why did she have a TS/SCI clearance in the first place? It costs something like $100K for the DoD to process that sort of clearance), there’s no reason she should have had access to classified information, since she had no need to know. I can’t imagine that it was necessary for her biography. So when she says that she had “access to everything,” it’s a little unsettling.

Tytler Update November 13, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.
7 comments

Almost six years ago I posted this quote from Alexander Tytler (which was probably actually not from Alexander Tytler, but whatever):

The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:

from bondage to spiritual faith;
from spiritual faith to great courage;
from courage to liberty;
from liberty to abundance;
from abundance to selfishness;
from selfishness to complacency;
from complacency to apathy;
from apathy to dependency;
from dependency back again to bondage.”

Back in December of 2006 I guessed that we were at the “complacency” stage. Since then I think we’ve fast-forwarded through apathy to dependency.

Only four more steps to freedom.

Value-Rite Bartender November 12, 2012

Posted by Retired Geezer in Handblogging, Man Laws, Sports.
2 comments

We should hire this guy for the next Moron Meetup.

Is that going to be in Texas?

Let’s Go to Mars November 11, 2012

Posted by Retired Geezer in Man Laws, Science, Technology.
3 comments

Screw all this Political BS. Hop on board.

Hat Tip to Purple Haze Trouble.

Microsoft Hands Big Brother the Keys to Your Family Room November 9, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.
26 comments

In a lot of lame sci-fi and horror shows, CRT TVs are used to watch people for nefarious purposes. It’s ridiculous – just because TVs can create images doesn’t mean they can sense them – but somehow the notion of symmetry has some fundamental appeal to both writers and gullible audiences (“it must go both ways: if it can make pictures, it must be able to see pictures”).

But now Microsoft has developed a way of taking us into that world for real, using their popular Kinect system:

One of Microsoft’s latest patent applications is a humdinger. It proposes to turn the Kinect camera into a snitch for movie studios, reporting back just how many friends you’ve got in your living room and what they’re watching. Think that sounds alarmist? Here’s what it actually says: “The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken.” It’s that blatant – a system to spy on private viewing habits.

For those not familiar with Kinect, it’s a user interface for the XBox 360 that can sense your body movements so that you can play games without a controller. Now Microsoft proposes having it watch you when you’re not playing a game, count the number of bodies in the room, send that info back to some licensing server, and determine whether you’re in violation of license rights for the media you’re enjoying.

This is creepy, but it’s nothing like what could happen ten years from now. As camera and image processing technology improve, they could expand their data gathering to include who you are, what you wear, what you eat, what you play, and who you’re making out with on the couch. In fact, I doubt that those technologies need to improve at all – I think all the component capabilities are well within the state of the art. They just need somebody to put them together.

This is the sort of situation where Microsoft could start off by saying they can give you commercial-free media access if you just let them data mine your family. It’s worked online, so why not via your TV? And from there…?