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Showing posts from 2010

Our Math Problem

Image via Wikipedia Our leaders, our political pundits (sadly including many of our conservative talk show hosts) and most especially members of Congress seem to have difficulty with math - and we have a major math problem.

While the focus is on the deficit - and that certainly is important - what really matters is the total debt. Let's look at the important numbers. The Federal Reserve yesterday released U.S. Household Net Worth. The sum of all the assets of all the household in the U.S., less the credit card, mortgage, auto loan, etc. debt is about $55.9 trillion. Since stocks and bonds are ultimately owned by individuals, that represents all the companies, certificates of deposits, houses, land, gold, jewelry, timber, automobiles, guns, baseball card collections, art, oil wells, farms, ranches, camp grounds, office towers, apartment buildings, malls, pensions, boats and motorcycles in the country.

On the other hand, the accumulated U. S. debt is $13,800,000,000,000. That is $13.…

When Logic is Abandoned p2

I received some comments from Professor Kim on my previous, when Logic is Abandoned, post:

Food for thought.

I'm confused. My job for the past 20 years has been to identify the best segments or targets to market my products against. Once identified, often using demographic data such as gender, age, household size, or income, I would then discriminate and send certain offers based on consumer profiling. I would not send offers for petfood to men, nor promotions for bridal gowns to older women. You see, we know that it is ridiculous, inefficient, and wasteful to send the wrong offer to the wrong person. So....using past data we profile. And based on the profile, we determine if you are somebody who will receive a marketing message or not. Profiling is at the heart of what marketers do. We call it segmentation, but it is essentially determining the likelihood of different groups to want your product or service.

I believe it is only responsible to segment / profile. And I say this as …

When Logic is Abandoned

I remember clearly when I realized my government was going to abandon logic.  Not long after the passage of some anti-discrimination laws, the insurance industry lost an important trial.  An insurer was charged with discrimination on the basis of sex, because life annuities paid less per month or year for women than men.  Court ruling: clearly discriminatory.  But the data on life span is abundant, robust, and unchallenged.  In the U.S., women, measured by average length of life, by the median, or any distribution measure one can use, live longer than men.  Over their life then, they would receive just as much.  Logic and math didn't matter however.
That was clearly a portent.  The lemming -like behavior of TSA is Exhibit #1.  First, a whack job gets some explosive Nikes made up, and now, we must all go barefoot through security.  Now, because some nut case wrapped his penis with C4 and tried to use his underwear as a fuse, we all can get our crotches felt up.  Well, if it keeps m…

The Conservative Dilemma

According to the Office of Management & Budget, the deficit is trending to $1 trillion, 171 billion.  While the accumulated debt is $13 trillion 727 billion.  That's $13,727,000,000,000.  So, while the new House Republicans are talking about $100 billion plus of cuts, they really should be talking about $500 billion to matter.  The with a lot of breaks, perhaps tax revenue will grow to get to a break even.  However, to pay off the debt requires a surplus in the range of $250 billion for 55 consecutive years.

I don't see how that happens without a lot more tax.  Otherwise, us Baby Boomers are taking it in, and our grandchildren get the bill - it is way to big for just our children...

The Responsibility of the Conservative Citizen

In the wake of the Republican Party winning a majority in the House of Representatives, what is the responsibility of the Conservative Citizens who elected them?
Slightly over four years ago, the Republicans began the slide that resulted eventually in the election of a first term Senator from Illinois to the Presidency, along with significant majorities in both chambers. I was making long drives frequently at that time, and remember my violent reactions to whiny-assed Republicans appearing on Sean Hannity's radio program, proclaiming how much worse things would be if we didn't re-elect them.  My reaction was that, since they had failed miserably and completely, they couldn't run on a record of accomplishment.  Instead of making progress on immigration - an issue of importance to conservatives - they had engaged in internecine fights over which proposal was more like amnesty.  Abandoning free market principles, they supported tariffs on Canadian lumber and steel from multip…

James Madison Veto

The Nov. 3rd Wall St. Journal printed President James Madison's veto message from 1817.  One of the Founders and writers of the Constitution wrote "The power to regulate commerce...can not include a power to construct roads and canals..."
I wonder what Mr. Madison would think of earmarks?
Already we are hearing noises that perhaps Defense appropriations should be exempt from a suspension of earnarks.  I don't think so.  There is nothing convincing that we can trust our elected representatives.  Until we have our confidence in their reliability restored, I see no reason to assume they will spend additional defense money wisely.
And I think the military knows they can leave out essentials and keep the fat in, because Congress can be counted on to add to the budget.

Visiting editor

A guest commentator on Morphsview.  Dr. Kim wishes to remain anonymous.  As a marketing professor at a large university, the good doctor is a rare thing - a conservative.  As such, Dr. Kim must be undercover a certain amount of time to avoid punitive administrative responses.

A comment from Dr. Kim on Andrew Klavan's editorial:

Interesting article. I really think it's simple. Obama swept into office totally on marketing (window dressing). He had no "product" -- no results, no past, no history, etc. So....he won almost solely based on speeches. Now he has to govern and he both product and marketing.

And what do we know about marketing?

The marketing needs to match the product (think KMart as an example of a failed product/marketing match). When you overpromise (marketing) and underdeliver (product) you will fail. When you say one thing (marketing) and do another (product), you will be discovered. And....when you have a bad product that people don't like (think Ne…

Money-grubbing Conshohocken

Thursday night I went to downtown Conshohocken PA to the Great American Pub.  Now, I know that Whitemarsh Township, which includes at least some of Conshohoken, is rabidly anti-business.  And I certainly suspected that Conshohocken shared that elitest view; desiring to become an upscale residential area.  However, it didn't occure to me that it is anti-consumer business as well.

While having dinner, I got a parking ticket.  Not for a parking meter issue, or for parking in a no-parking area, but for not backing-in.  Now there may be a sign announcing that, but it was dark and I didn't see it.

So, I'll pay the fine to you money grubbing weasels with your too-clever parking polices.  But there are a lot of places to go in the greater Philadelphia area, and you won't see me in your restuarants any time soon.

Constitutional Authority

Listening to news and talk radio on a long drive, I heard a couple of very interesting things.  First, apparently the last bill passed by Congress before the recess ordered television stations to not broadcast commercials at louder volume than the underlying program.  Now, I find that television behavior annoying, and my late father used to get infuriated over it.  But, I can't imagine where the constitutional authority for this stems from.

And, again some regulator decided that street signs must include upper and lower case letters, not just capitals. New York city has over 200,000 street signs, and the cost to change is $27,000,000.  Everything about this seems squirrelly, from why all caps isn't just fine, and how the Feds have the power to regulate those details..

Musings While Smoking a Rocky Patel Signature

Lit up a nice cigar. There is a lot to think about.

President Obama sounded off about Ahmandinejad's speech to the U.N.  "Hateful".  "Offensive".  Wow - who knew?  I thought Mahmoud was just a furry little demon.  Anti-Semite speech?  Shocking that he would do that isn't it?

Republicans release The Pledge to America.  No mention of foregoing earmarks.  In fact one leading Republican apparently called it a right of democracy.  The Republican Party was formed from disparate pieces of Abolitionists, Whigs and other generally disaffected groups.  We might be witnessing the dissolution of the Republican Party and the formation of a Conservative Party...

I tried to set up a profile in Spoke - because when I Google others, Spoke always comes up on their list, generally with stale info.  Definitely the case for me - the info there on me is out of date.  Set up a new account there and when it sent  me a confirmation, it rejected the confirmation.  Not a good start..…

Gurka Beast

Just smoked a Gurka Beast. And in a way it is indeed a beast - I'm not sure what the ring gauge is, but if it were any fatter I'd would have had to cut it in half lengthwise and smoked it that way. But, it turned out to be a great smooth smoke. The dark oily wrapper turned out to be a little sweet. It was perfectly rolled and burned evenly throughout. Draw was smooth.
Nice smoke.

10 Downing Street Houston TX

I was in Houston recently, and went to 10 Downing St, which is a first-class cigar bar. The place was hopping! Not too many of those left in the U.S. as the PC police eliminate what they don't approve of (and my last remaining vice - a good cigar). As they say "God Bless Texas".
Excellent drinks and a fine selection of premium cigars - I didn't see a mongrel brand in the humidor.
I enjoyed one of the most famous Arturo Fuente's: the Hemingway Best Seller, a little robusto, with great mild flavor.
Cigar prices are high, but there is clearly a lot of overhead to cover in a place littered with leather club chairs. One proviso, even with industrial air purifiers everywhere, the volume of smokers in there was overwhelming them. There is outdoor seating, which will work some of the year, but certainly not all summer in Houston.
Still, definitely on my keeper and recommended list. Related articles by ZemantaLondon Gardens Where Smoking Is Encouraged (

Million Dollar Quartet

Pam & I saw Million Dollar Quartet at the Nederlander Theatre last night. It is based on a real event at the legendary Sun Studios in 1956, when Elvis Presley, Carl Pekins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis were all in the studio at the same time.
If you are of a certain age, and remember the early days of Rock n' Roll, you will likely love this show. Since I grew up in Memphis listening to Dewey Phillips' Red Hot and Blue radio show, (Dewey was the first person to play Elvis on the radio), I know the Sam Phillips/Sun story, and I'm familiar with all the music and I had a blast. The cast is incredibly talented, with Levi Kreis' version of Jerry Lee Lewis stealing the show. Christopher Ryan Grant played Johnny Cash, and did an amazing job. He sounds just like the late Mr. Cash, but perhaps a little better. Terrific rendition of Folsom Prison Blues.
I was surprised at how accurately the Southern accents, and Southern dialect, were delivered. Looking through the Playbi…

To Big To Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Here is the companion review to On The Brink by Hank Paulson.

Andrew Ross Sorkin has a huge bestseller in Too Big To Fail. While Hank Paulson's On The Brink gives the Washington Insider view, Sorkin provides the details from inside the banks, and investment banks, as well as some tidbits from inside the various agencies trying to prevent a second Great Depression.
I know there are skeptics about the need for TARP, TALF, etc. If you are a doubter, read this book and see just how close we came to a financial market collapse. If you already understand how close we came, you'll still find this a great read.
The origins of the near-collapse center on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government -sponsored entities that underwrite and purchase mortgages. Sorkin largely glosses over that as old news from the perspective of this book, choosing instead to give the reader a front-row seat on efforts to save Lehman, rescue Wachovia, stave off the collapse of AIG with its financial tendrils…

So This Is What It Comes To...

Yesterday, I flew Continental from IAH to PHL. In a middle seat. On a 100% full flight. The kid behind me must have either kicked my seat back, or open and closed her tray table, oh, seven or eight thousand times.
Continental served lunch, which is exceptionally rare, so I probably shouln't whine about it. But it was a turkey dog in a blanket.
But the weirdest part was my trip to the lav. I was delayed while two flight attendants scrubbed-up like surgeons. What had they seen or touched? I'm still wondering...Related articles by ZemantaContinental Tries Out Self-Boarding ( posts 2Q profit on big jump in revenue (

On The Brink by Hank Paulson

Just completed Henry "Hank" Paulson's On The Brink, his account of the financial crisis, the origins of the recession, and his actions as Treasury Secretary. There are two popular books on this topic,: this one and Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big To Fail. In this review I'll concentrate on Paulson's. When I write the review on Sorkin's, I'll make some comparisons.
While I followed the financial crisis closely and had strong opinions of what the appropriate government responses were, this book clearly illuminated much more. In both the popular media and the blogosphere, one can find many criticisms of the various programs undertaken by the government to attempt to stem the tide of financial failure that was sweeping through the market. I would speculate that the majority of that criticism comes from conservatives, which is unfortunate. The information seems overwhelming to me that the country barely escaped a second depression. Find any account of the ban…

Whither Housing?

Doug Kass of Seabreeze Investment Management said on Kudlow (CNBC) a few nights ago that his pick for a surprise was a rebound in housing starting this fall. Generally, I've found that Kass is a pretty good trend reader.
But Gene Epstein, also very good, has a long piece in the latest Barron's which basically says that demography is against a housing rebound for the next five years....
While this kind of conflict makes it tough for regular investors to take a position, the worst is that they could both be wrong...
Related articles by ZemantaDoug Kass: Market Has Made Low For Year, This is The Bottom (

Shirley Sherrod

This sad episode was reprised on all the Sunday current event talk shows. I thought we had moved passed all this kind of nonsense. But it is still possible to call someone racist and trigger both predictable and surprising responses.
Just one thing I would recommend to the news organizations: when you are looking for someone to comment, don't dust off Jesse Jackson. If you are looking for a minister, let me give you another choice: T.D. Jakes.Related articles by ZemantaHeartwarming Racist Sherrie Sherrod: Andrew Breitbart Would Like To Put All Blacks Back Into Slavery (

JP Morgan Chase

My little falling-out with JP Morgan Chase continues. In the last segment, I had put my Chase credit card away, because, I was put on credit hold/fraud alert because of a $7 charge I made. Details: the card is a United Airlines affinity card - e.g. the user gets United Airline mile credit, and the charge was for one of those little box lunches on a United Airlines flight.
Seemed like a little much to me. Since I'm a JPM shareholder, and I think Jamie Dimon, JPM CEO, has done a great job, I dropped a note saying that it would seem to me that their fraud procedures ought to undergo a review; it doesn't seem too logical to me to put an alert on a frequent flyer using his frequent flyer credit card on a flight.
Anyway, I just received a customer service scorecard, asking if my problem had been satisfactorily resolved, signed by Chip somebody or other.
Well, no Chip: no one did anything; I never heard from anyone until I got your survery...

Why we can't have a new stimulus plan

Double dip recessions are rare things. Even a slowdown immediately after a recession is unusual. But job creation coming out of this one is painfully slow. While there are lots of reasons, here is a key one.
Historically, housing got creamed in a recession. Interest rates rose going in, choking off housing activity. Then interest rates were cut, housing gradually recovered and helped employment. A lot.
Think of how many skilled trades are involved in building a house. Plumbers. Electricians. Carpenters. Cabinet installers. Roofers. Landscapers. Wallboard hangers. Carpet layers. Tile layers. Bricklayers. Concrete finishers.
Then there are the manufacturers and suppliers of pipe, kitchen and bath faucets, lighting fixtures, roofing shingles, lumber, toilets, sinks carpet, concrete, bricks,conduit, circuit boxes, windows, doors, insulation, air conditioners, water heaters and so on.
Well, in this recession there is no housing rebound, so the millions of local trade workers and manufacturing …

More cigars

Thanks to Don Mills, I'm trying some new smokes, and so far they are all fabulous. Just finished a Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary in the Champagne wrapper. While I enjoy an occasional powerhouse like the Fuente Opus, generally my tastes run to the milder end of the spectrum.
This new Perdomo Champagne absolutely fills the bill. When I finished smoking it, I immediately went online to check the box price. If you are in Memphis/Germantown, check out the Tobacco Superstore and tell Don I sent you for a little extra special deal.

Rocky Patel Sun Grown

Had a Rocky Patel Sun Grown blend cigar. It was a gift, so I'm not exactly sure what size it was; somewhat smaller than one normally expects from a Churchill. Absolutely delicious. It has become one of my all-time favorites. I smoked it and sipped a glass of Sterling Merlot for a very relaxing evening.
Burned completely perfectly from light to finish. Drew smoothly. Good taste throughout. All complete winner and 100% recommendation.

Oil Spill

Look, President Bush didn't deserve the opprobrium he received over the response to Hurricane Katrina, and President Obama doesn't deserve the bad rap he's gotten over the Gulf oil well blowout.
He's not a chemical engineer or a trained submersible operator. He can't fix the problem.
Cut him some slack.

Masonic Service

We attended the funeral service of Gene Grace yesterday. Gene was a gentle man, who moved easily among individuals from all walks of life. He was a skilled craftsman, making and restoring furniture or anything made of wood. He leaves a wife and a large family behind.
He was a Mason, and honored that tradition with a Masonic graveside service. If I have ever witnessed one before, I don't recall it. The speaker recited the Masonic words, which reminded me of Shakespeare. First, because the language and wording is elegant,purposeful and poignant. Second, because it was a singularly long soliloquy. If the presenter missed even one word, it was undetectable, and I sincerely doubt that he did miss a word - he was flawless with not so much as a single "ah".
I'm sure Mr. Grace was proud.
RIP Gene Grace

Cold Fusion

Twenty-one years ago, two professors Pons & Fleishmann, announced that they had created some kind of nuclear reaction, but at low tempature. It caused a world-wide reaction. This is the promise of endless cheap power. The stuff that powers sci-fi spaceships and even planets.
Unfortunately, other labs had difficulty reproducing the results, there were all kinds of accusations, and the professors went on to different things (I've lost track). I guess these scientists can be much more vicious than I would have known; look at the climategate email string of scientists who were ready to off guys with an opposing viewpoint).
Anyway, it turns out that some labs and scientists around the world have continued to work on this, and it looks like something real was happening. Perhaps something at the quantum level, where the normal world vanishes and even Einstein was puzzled. On my permalinks is to lens-cagr where developments are reported. I periodically check in to see what is new…

Vote Them All Out?

I've been wondering whether we should start a movement to vote out all the incumbents and start fresh. New Congressmen and Congresswomen with no ties to lobbyests and new viewpoints. I could get excited about Representatives who are MD's, CPA's, engineers, math professors, economists, programmers...basically anyone who understands math or science. Clearly the current crowd is math challenged and incapable of getting tax reciepts and spending within the nearest trillion or so. I don't know, maybe engineers and programmers are too logical to subject themselves to the election process.
But I'm going to continue to wonder about it.

Republican Strategy Survey

Just received one of those bogus surveys from the fundraisers. This one has a cover letter from Senator John Cornyn, who I generally believe to be a good guy. The survey is designed to infuriate (in this case conservatives; I'm sure the Dems have a version too) with questions like "I do not believe our healthcare system should be socialized". These things must work, or they wouldn't keep sending them.
I sent the good Senator a reply, noting that I'll resume making contributions when the Republicans take a "no earmarks" pledge. (Sadly, I've given up on either party being willing to make the tough decisions to actually balance the budget).

Healthcare Tax Credit

We've been treated a shocking level of incompetence and ignorance, as a ranking Member of Congress bloviated about the tax -related writedowns that companies just took. Companies offering health care to retirees and others that qualified for a tax credit are required to adjust the carrying value of tax assets and liabilities when the law changes. Congressman Henry Waxman (D. CA), showed his ignorance of the SEC rules and ineptness at finding out how the process works.
If you are Waxman, wouldn't it be easy to wander over to the room where the committee that budgets the SEC meets, and do a little checking? Presumably not, one being consumed with the task of summoning those miscreant corporate officers in for a major public humiliation. Or,couldn't you have a staffer call the SEC? I mean, it is a government agency after all.
If you've ever read an 8K (which is the document these companies are legally required to file within days of such an event) or a 10Q or 10K, you…

Michael Steele and the RNC

In the company I work for, we've been cutting costs for two years. No one has received a raise since early in 2008. Bonuses went to zero. We fly coach. Recently, travellers from the east to west coast have taken some one-stop or plane changes to be more thrifty. We are staying in Hampton Inns. We haven't seen a 401(k) match in a long time.
I don't say this to draw sympathy. Many companies are in the same boat, and people are generally happy to have a job. But apparently it is high tide and green grass at the RNC. I used to send them the occasional contribution. Lately, I've been sending a note back for every solicitation I send asking candidates to take a "no earmarks" pledge. I've given up on fiscal sanity and a balanced budget, and would now settle for our elected representatives to just stop abusing us.
Now it has come out that RNC folks hang out in expensive strip joints, fly on private jets and take limo's. Fine if it is on your dime, but don't…

Praise for the President

My recommendation for all conservatives is that when the President does something right, he should get commendation from our side. In my view, he has been on a hot streak: visiting the troops in Afghanistan, opening up some coast line to drilling and talking up nuclear power. Former President Bush could have opened up the coast line seven or eight years ago - and we would be getting some of that oil right now.
Good job Mr. President.

Letter From Senator Robert Casey of PA

I believe that the U.S. must get serious about construction of nuclear power plants. The electric car is real, and the batteries must be charged somehow. Dependence on foreign oil must be reduced. And we need some jobs.
All of that speaks to building nuclear power plants. President Obama deserves high praise for extending credit to The Southern Company to construct additional nuclear plants. But, accompanying news is that it will take the NRC 12-18 months to approve the plans. That is silly. What are they doing now? Can't be many blueprints of proposed plants waiting on review.
I wrote Senator Casey a letter, recommending that he get the NRC in a hearing room and tell them they've got a month to approve it.

Here is his reply:

Dear Mr. Morphis:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your views on nuclear energy. I appreciate hearing from all Pennsylvanians about the issues that matter most to them.

The United States currently generates around 20% of its electricity from n…

What's the Matter With Democrats?

Thomas Frank wrote a piece in the Wall St Journal Wednesday with that title. His answer: they embraced globalization, which enabled companies to outsource/offshore all the good union jobs, crushing the Democratic Party's core union/workingman membership.
Interesting theory, but I believe it is off the mark.
When I grew up in the South, the Democrats were clearly the party of the workingman. John Kennedy, stumping for votes in West Virginia coal mining country. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, creating the National Labor Relations Board, etc. Republicans were the party of John Lindsay, Nelson Rockefeller and Preston Bush. Wealthy country club members with Ivy League education.
So I share Mr. Frank's point of view of the origins. But not of the cause of the detour.
The Democratic leadership have converted en masse to the Religion of Environmentalim. As a result, they willingly sell out workers to (possibly) preserve some life form we would otherwise have no interest in protecting…

President Obama / Nuclear Power

Score one for President Obama for stepping up and offering a multi-billion dollar loan to Southern Co.s to build a nuclear power plant. I believe: 1) it is crazy that we are as dependent on offshore oil as we are; 2) Tesla has proved that Americans will buy an electric car if it is cool; therefore 3) we will need a lot more electricity.

I'm sure this is not popular with a lot of his core constituincy. It is a long-overdue move, and one that former President Bush never stepped up to. When the opposition makes the right move, we should commend them on it.

Good move Mr. President.

Record Conference Wins University of Memphis

Despite John Calipari's defection to Kentucky - causing a freshman star to go pro and two prize recruits to change schools, The University of Memphis set an NCAA record number of consecutive conference wins with 52, breaking KY's 56 year-old-record of 51 from 1950-1954.
Congratulations to the team and new coach Josh Pastner.

VA Clinic mistreats prostate cancer

Philadelphia VA Medical Center has admitted that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigated and found that a stunning 97 of 114 vets treated for prostate cancer received incorrect dosages, or that the radioactive seeds were actually implanted in the bladder rather than the prostate.

I'm not looking forward to national health care myself.

For a long time it has been my opinion that the Fed's should demonstrate exceptional care for our vets before that start trying to handle anyone else's health care....


Abdulmultallab appeared in court today and pleaded innocent. That prompted me to contemplate what would make someone so angry that he would wrap his **** with high explosives and light a fuse.
So, to get even for some imagined ill, he was going to set off an explosion beginning with blowing his **** off. I can't really imagine that training class, much less the pep talk at the end.
Trainer: "So, Abdul, this is how you wrap the ingredients around your **** like this, see? And you put the fuse here, like this, see? Got it? Then you light it up - you won't even feel it, it will be so quick"
Abdul:" How do you know that - looks like you still have your ****?" "And, if I'm gong to be greated by 72 virgins, won't I need my ****?"
Trainer: "Be a man Abdul - blow the back of the airplane seat off with **** parts!"
Abdul: "Where's my ticket? I'll teach them a lesson - I'm going to set my **** on fire!"

Colt McCoy

When tempted to despair about the state of the country and ongoing failure of both parents and our educational system, along comes Colt McCoy. Working and training for the better part of his young life, he gets injured a few minutes into the biggest game of his career, a shot at the collegiate national championship for his Texas team, and the last game of his collegiate career.

No one would have blamed him if he had shown anger and depression in his postgame comments. Instead, in one of classiest displays I've ever seen, he congratulated winning Alabama for their effort, thanked his team for their never-say-die spirit, and spoke highly of the freshman who stepped in after his injury.

Best of luck in everything you do young man. But I don't think you will need any luck.