Saturday, April 12, 2003

They're still protesting the War in Iraq, and demanding that we "bring our boys home". Wasn't that the reason Saddam thought he won the first time?

We pulled out of the region and gave Saddam time to drag his people through another decade of torture and misery.

We've learned the lesson of History, better than these protestors have. They're still stuck in that Vietnam loop. I wish someone would tell them what year it is...

Friday, April 11, 2003

I've got to get this word out! (found over on Winds of Change) It turns out that there is a direct link between the (late) Saddam Hussein's regime and the son-in-law of Prime Minister Jean "Cretin" Chretien.

Never mind the alleged links to Halliburton (which seems to be kinda falling by the wayside since Halliburton decided to bow out of any oil development contracts in Iraq), this is big stuff!

Long story short: The oil company with the biggest ties to Saddam's regime has been france's TotalFinaElf, who was waiting for a potential $20 billion development contract with Saddam once the UN sanctions were lifted. (That's not the amazing part.)

The biggest share-holder in TFE has a son. That son is married to a very nice lady, who "just happens" to be the daughter of PM Chretien. That same PM Chretien who has said that he doesn't want to send forces to support the Coalition of the Willing. Not that he has much in the way of military strength to spare, but still...

To quote WoC:
Let's see if I've got this straight: TotalFinaElf's largest shareholder is a subsidiary of Montreal's Power Corp, whose co-chief executive is Jean Chretien's son-in-law, Andre Desmarais. Mr. Desmarais' brother, Paul Desmarais Jr., sits on the Total board.

For months, the anti-war crowd has insisted that "it's all about oil," that the only reason the Iraqi people were being "liberated" was so that the second biggest oil reserves in the world could be annexed in perpetuity by Dick Cheney and Halliburton and the rest of Bush's Texas oilpatch gang. Instead, it turns out that, if it is all about oil, then the principal North American beneficiary of the continued enslavement of the Iraqi people is the family of the Canadian Prime Minister -- that's to say, his daughter, France Chretien, and his grandchildren.

I'm not alleging "Undue Influence" or anything, but when you consider that france has been throwing its bantam-weight influence around to stop the U.S. and her allies at any cost, it just seems that Canada could be just a little more circumspect in the corruption sauna in which it is immersing itself.

We won't forget any of it.
You know, I've gotten into a discussion of basic economics with some guy who apparently believes that it is wrong for one group of Iraqis to be selling water to others Iraqis in the city of Umm Qasr.

While looting is not a good way to carry on (even though it is almost inevitable), it is also an inevitable reaction to a breakdown in law and order, and happens whenver the police are incapable of preventing it, either through a breakdown in communications (such as during the New York blackouts) or through a power vacuum (as is happening in Baghdad). People see the opportunity to "re-distribute the wealth" and maybe they'll get lucky and they'll improve their lives at the same time.

But that is not my point. It may get dry in places, so if you have no interest in learning the nuts and bolts of economics, feel free to check back later.

First a few simple observations.

  1. All Economics is barter. All of it, without exception.
  2. Profit acts as an encouragement to work harder or faster or better than your competitors.
  3. Money is just a simple way to conduct multiple trades.

People tend to think of economics (when they bother) as some absolutely complicated phenomenon that can only be understood by the heart attack candidates on the trading floor of NASDAQ and the NYSE, and those ivory-towered theoreticians who teach it, one dry phrase after another. Their awareness of economic factors begins and ends with the Dow Jones numbers regurgitated on the nightly news.

They never bother thinking about it as a living thing that reacts to events not because it would normally do so, but because all those Type "A" personalities thinks that it should. Look, the fact that a bomb goes off in Jerusalem should have no bearing on whether a particular stock's value should change, but it does. Why? Because every other time a bomb has gone off in Jerusalem that same stock's price has dropped (completely missing the fact that it was their own shift in perception that made them think it would be worth less than it was before that bomb went off the first few times). "If 'A' happens, sell shares of stock 'B'..." These guys should talk to Pavlov.

Look, let's take the simplest example: A man needs a box of widgets from the store. He goes to the store and buys them. But how does he do that? (Don't you roll your eyes at me, youngster, I'm making a point here...) He gives them money, right?

But what is money? Pretty pieces of colored paper and shiny bits of metal, nothing more. How do you get this money? You perform a task for your employer, with varying degrees of efficiency. In return for your labor, he gives you all of these pieces of paper. If those pieces of paper were nothing more than your employer's IOU, you wouldn't be able to trade that IOU for the widgets, right?

You perform a task, spending your time and effort to do that task, and you don't get those pieces of paper, what would you do? You'd go to the next guy and perform those tasks for him to get those pieces of paper. But why those pieces of paper? Why not (say) a shiny rock you found in your front yard? Here's the kicker. If all parties to the transaction accept the terms of that transaction, you could buy a car with a five-pound bucket of sand. (Unfortunately for those of us who want a new car, not many car dealers would be willing to make such a trade, because they want to make a profit on those cars.)

But suppose you wanted to avoid the middleman, and you went to the store owner and said, "I need that box of widgets, but I don't have any of those shiny bits of metal. I can, however, dig holes for you." If the store owner needed a hole dug badly enough to "trade" you for the time and effort of digging holes, then you dig a few holes, the store owner gets what he wants, and you get to walk out of the store with your box of widgets, which is what you want.

The catch there is that not many people will accept direct labor for their goods and services (how many people need a hole dug for them, after all?), so you have to find another way to do it. However, the system created a way to do it. You have found a man who needs lots of holes dug, all over the place. He's willing to trade you a piece of paper in exchange for a full day's labor. You can take that piece of paper down to the store and they will give you anything you want off their shelves (up to a certain limit - the value of all those holes you dug) in exchange for that piece of paper. (They will later take that piece of paper to someone else and trade it for more supplies to re-stock their shelves.)

But you want to be able to go to more than one shop, and maybe get a little choice in what flavor of soup you eat for supper. Sounds reasonable, so instead of a single piece of paper, he gives you several pieces of paper with funny colored printing on them and a bunch of little pieces of metal. Each place you go, you can trade a specific number of these little pieces of paper for whatever you want them to do, whether it is to provide you shelter from the elements, or food to feed you and your pet parakeet, or to get someone to cut your hair. It's all a trade, every bit of it, but little pieces of paper are easier to carry around than your shovel. Or whatever the tools of your trade happen to be.

This is where the second point steps in... You are working hard, and trading as efficiently as you can (finding the lowest "prices" for what you need), and even managing to have a few of those pieces of printed paper left over at the end of the week. After a few weeks you can take the excess down to the local store and trade them for a really nice meal (a steak, rather than soup and a bologna sandwich) or a box you can plug into the wall to watch pretty pictures and listen to the sounds. Of course, you have to work a little harder to dig more holes to get the electricity to make the box work. But there are only so many hours in the day, and you're working as hard as you can.

You can try finding a second job digging holes, your employer can start giving you more pieces of paper for your efforts (as a gesture of appreciation for your working so hard to dig his holes for so long - a "raise"), or you can think of a way to dig holes faster with the same effort (become more efficient). The extra pieces of paper you get for the increased efficiency is your "profit", and can be used to get all kinds of shiny new stuff. Your employer has more holes for the same amount of time, so he can do whatever he does with all those holes (and isn't it weird that they're all gone by the time you show up again in the morning?), so having more holes means he is being more efficient, from the point of view of the people who are willing to trade their own pieces of paper for their very own hole, and so he has a profit incentive, too.

Money is just a simple way to carry around all that labor in your pocket (and credit/debit cards are just a modern affectation).

But all transactions are barter. Every single one.

If confidence in a nation falters (as we're seeing in Iraq right now) and there is no one to say hoe much the printed papers will buy, then people are going to realize tjhat wealth lies not in those pieces of paper, it lies only in what those pieces of paper can be traded for. If the perception is that the pieces of paper aren't worth as much as they used to be, then it takes more pieces of papers to get that same box of widgets, and the 'price' goes up. To such drastic levels in some cases, that the Deutschmark had plummeted to such worthless levels that it was rumored to take a wheelbarrow full of them to trade for a loaf of bread.

If an item is in high demand (everybody needs that better mousetrap), then it becomes more valuable than the pieces of paper, and it (again) takes more of those little pieces of paper, and the price goes up. (Supply and Demand)

Try this as a mental exercise: The next time you cash your paycheck, realize that you are actually trading your skills and abilities for those pieces of paper, which you can then trade for other goods and services that you may need later on. The next time you buy groceries, realize that you're not "buying" and he's not "selling", you are indirectly trading your efforts and expertise for that food by using the middleman of "money".

If you remember nothing else, remember these things: Money is the universal indicator of value received. The more value, the more money received. And all trade is a barter. The rest will fall into place.

Enough for ECON101. Good morning.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

I just can't stop smiling today. In the last few hours, reports of a nuclear stockpile about 15 miles south of Baghdad (with radiation readings "off the scale - definitely dangerous to human life") and a mobile bio-lab (concealed behind a false wall in a vehicle mocked up to look like a SAM site support vehicle.) captured by our Marines just vindicate our actions with every passing moment. The freeing yesterday of about 150 kids from a children's prison was enough to give me pause. These weren't kids that had mugged a little old lady for her welfare check. They had been imprisoned for not joining the Iraqi equivalent to Stalin's "Young Octobrists" or Hitler's "Hitler Youth".

Let me repeat: They were put into a CHILDREN'S PRISON because they didn't want to support the despot. Yeah, but we're the police state, right?

International ANSWER is allegedly arranging an Anti-War rally in San Francisco for this upcoming Saturday. Did they not get the memo? The war is over, and we've won. The Iraqi Ambassador to the UN has said, "The game is up" and admitting that he cannot contact the Hussein government for instructions. The combat may still be going on, but only because there isn't a government in Iraq capable of surrendering to us anymore.

I want to see Janeane Garofalo crawling up to the White House over broken glass, like she promised Bill O'Reilly she would once WMDs were found. Her exact quote: "I would be so willing to say, "I'm sorry". I hope to God that I can be made a buffoon of, that people will say, "You were wrong. You were a fatalist". And I will go to the White House on my knees on cut glass and say, "Hey, you and Thomas Friedman were right… I shouldn't have doubted you"…

That was on March 6th, 2003. The clock is ticking, but I'll be over here, not holding my breath...

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Good morning, Gentle Visitors. My blogging and visiting will be extraordinarily light today. I'm hurting pretty bad, and it hurts to move my hands, thus no "urge" to type, at least for right now. Give me a few hours, and I'll take a few pain pills, and poke around to see what can be seen.

The great news I see on the TV is that Iraqis are cheering in the streets and elbowing each other out of the way to shake the hands of our soldiers. Of course there are those who are not quite so happy, but there are always malcontents that will be unhappy at the most enjoyable and beneficial experiences. If you were to go down to the street corner and hand out solid gold bricks to everyone who passed by, there would be those who would complain because of the weight.

I guess there are those people who (in the words of the old Navy saying) "ain't happy unless they ain't happy..."

I'll be back in a few hours...

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Shamelessly swiped from a friend over on another site...

100 Reasons Why It's Great to Be A Guy

1. Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.
2. Movie nudity is virtually always female.
3. You know stuff about tanks.
4. A five day vacation requires only one suitcase.
5. Monday Night Football.
6. You don't have to monitor your friends sex lives.
7. Your bathroom lines are 80% shorter.
8. You can open all your own jars.
9. Old friends don't give you crap if you've lost or gained weight.
10. Dry cleaners and haircutter's don't rob you blind.
11. When clicking through the channel, you don't have to stall on every shot of someone crying.
12. Your ass is never a factor in a job interview.
13. All your orgasms are real.
14. A beer gut does not make you invisible to the opposite sex.
15. Guys in hockey masks don't attack you -- except during hockey games.
16. You don't have to lug a bag of useful stuff around everywhere you go.
17. You understand why Stripes is funny.
18. You can go to the bathroom without a support group.
19. Your last name stays put.
20. You can leave a hotel bed unmade.
21. When your work is criticized, you don't have to panic that everyone secretly hates you.
22. You can kill your own food.
23. The garage is all yours.
24. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
25. You see the humor in Terms of Endearment.
26. Nobody secretly wonders if you swallow.
27. You never have to clean the toilet.
28. You can be showered and ready in 10 minutes.
29. Sex means never worrying about your reputation.
30. Wedding plans take care of themselves.
31. If someone forgets to invite you to something, he or she can still be you friend.
32. Your underwear is $10 for a three pack.
33. The National College Cheerleading Championship.
34. None of your co-workers have the power to make you cry.
35. You don't have to shave below your neck.
36. You don't have to curl up next to a hairy ass every night.
37. If you're 34 and single nobody notices.
38. You can write your name in the snow.
39. You can get into a nontrivial pissing contest.
40. Everything on your face stays its original color.
41. Chocolate is just another snack.
42. You can be president.
43. You can quietly enjoy a car ride from the passenger seat.
44. Flowers fix everything.
45. You never have to worry about other people's feelings.
46. You get to think about sex 90% of your waking hours.
47. You can wear a white shirt to a water park.
48. Three pair of shoes are more than enough.
49. You can eat a banana in a hardware store.
50. You can say anything and not worry about what people think.
51. Foreplay is optional.
52. Michael Bolton doesn't live in your universe.
53. Nobody stops telling a good dirty joke when you walk into the room.
54. You can whip your shirt off on a hot day
55. You don't have to clean your apartment if the meter reader is coming by.
56. You never feel compelled to stop a pal from getting laid.
57. Car mechanics tell you the truth.
58. You don't give a rat's ass if someone notices your new haircut.
59. You can watch a game in silence with your buddy for hours without even thinking, "He must be mad at me."
60. The world is your urinal.
61. You never misconstrue innocuous statements to mean your lover is about to leave you.
62. You get to jump up and slap stuff.
63. Hot wax never comes near your pubic area.
64. One mood, all the time.
65. You can admire Clint Eastwood without starving yourself to look like him.
66. You never have to drive to another gas station because this one's just too skeevy.
67. You know at least 20 ways to open a beer bottle.
68. You can sit with your knees apart no matter what you are wearing.
69. Same work.... more pay.
70. Gray hair and wrinkles add character.
71. You don't have to leave the room to make an emergency crotch adjustment.
72. Wedding Dress, $2000; Tux rental, $100.
73. You don't care if someone is talking about you behind your back.
74. With 400 million sperm per shot, you could double the earth's population in 15 tries, at least in theory.
75. You don't mooch off others' desserts.
76. If you retain water, it's in a canteen.
77. The remote is yours and yours alone.
78. People never glance at your chest when you're talking to them.
79. ESPN's sports center.
80. You can drop by to see a friend without bringing a little gift.
81. Bachelor parties kick ass over bridal showers.
82. You have a normal and healthy relationship with your mother.
83. You can buy condoms without the shopkeeper imagining you naked.
84. You needn't pretend you're "freshening up" to go to the bathroom.
85. If you don't call your buddy when you say you will, he won't tell your friends you've changed.
86. Someday you'll be a dirty old man.
87. You can rationalize any behavior with the handy phrase "F*#k it!"
88. If an other guy shows up at the party in the same outfit, you might become lifelong buddies.
89. Princess Di's death was almost just another obituary.
90. The occasional well-rendered belch is practically expected.
91. You never have to miss a sexual opportunity because you're not in the mood.
92. You think the idea of punting a small dog is funny.
93. If something mechanical didn't work, you can bash it with a hammer and throw it across the room.
94. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet.
95. Porn movies are designed with your mind in mind.
96. You don't have to remember everyone's birthdays and anniversaries.
97. Not liking a person does not eliminate having great sex with them.
98. Your pals can be trusted never to trap you with: "So... notice anything different?"
99. Baywatch.
100. There is always a game on somewhere.

Heh, heh...
It's Tuesday again, so that means it's time for This-or-That Tuesday!!!

Who is:

1. Sexier (female)...Pamela Anderson or Jennifer Garner?
Jennifer Garner, in that "girl-next-door" kinda way. Pam looks like she hasn't yet figured out that she is a slut.
2. Sexier (male)...Ben Affleck or Matt Damon? Matt Damon. But only because he played an excellent Angel of Death.
3. The better piano player...Billy Joel or Elton John? There's only one Piano Man... Billy Joel.
4. Funnier...David Letterman or Craig Kilborn? I'd say Craig Kilborn.
5. The dumber cartoon cat...Stimpy (of *Ren & Stimpy*) or Tom (of *Tom & Jerry*)? Tom seemed pretty sharp, so I'd say Stimpy.
6. A better news anchor...Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather? Neither. I want Shepard Smith.
7. A better TV chef...Emeril Lagasse or Jacques Pepin? I've never heard of Pepin, so I'd say BAM! Emeril.
8. The trashier talk show host...Maury Povich or Jerry Springer? "Jerry, Jerry, Jerry..."
9. The worse fast food burger joint...McDonald's or Burger King? Schlotzsky's.
10. Thought-provoking question of the week: Only a handful of U.S. Presidents have been considered to be *great* Of the following two, which one do you consider to be greater...Franklin D. Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln? Why? Lincoln. He accepted that there was a greater need to hold the Union together than to leave the status quo. FDR tried to stay out of the war until he had no choice (Pearl Harbor).

That's all for this week, so moooove along, nothing to see here...

Monday, April 07, 2003

So now we have confirmed the death of Chemical Ali. We have our officers taking showers in Saddam's personal bathrooms. We have captured several key sites throughout Baghdad, and have been steadily blowing up statues of Saddam (including one big one of Who's-Sane on horseback. We've captured the parade grounds where Saddam used to review his troops. We're finding hints of chemical weapons. Iraqi citizens are rising up and killing the fedayeen (35 of them found dead, so far, with a certainty of there being others...)

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Minister of Information is giving out statements that we're just making all of it up.

Pardon me while I slip into my "Doctor Evil" mode..... Riiiiiggghht.

They were giving a tour of Saddam's palace, showing off the beautiful artwork, and the solid-gold faucets and gleaming woodwork. But it's all made up so that we can just "pretend" that our forces are coming and going at will. Hell, Kuwaiti TV is saying that American tanks are roaming around Baghdad, but this Information Minister (who must have been a used flying carpet salesman in a former life) is still denying everything. He reminds me of that ROTC guy at the end of "Animal House" who keeps screeching, "ALL IS WELL!!!!!!" while the rioting crowd surges around him...

Hey, Mohammed? "Denial's not just a river in Egypt, pal..."

Sunday, April 06, 2003

We've got military cargo planes landing in Baghdad. We've bombed "Chemical Ali's" house, and positively identified his chief bodyguard's body. (Ali, who got his nickname from gassing thousands of Kurds several years ago, is nowhere to be found, but a 1,000-pound bomb doesn't leave much for forensic pathologists to identify.)

Russian envoys have gotten themselves killed in a cross-fire, without any explanation as to why they were still in the city 15 days after the fighting starts, and three days after we take the airport.

Meanwhile, the UN is meeting to discuss how they are going to divide the corpse of Iraq, never catching on to the fact that the biggest dog on the block is busy dividing it up with its allies. That's an $80 billion "shot in the arm" (that France, Russia, Germany, and Syria won't see a penny of, if the Republican majority in both houses get their way, and since it passed the House with a 414-12 veto-proof majority, it sends a strong message to those nations).