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Thursday, May 18, 2006

70,000 Bottles Of Beer On the Wall

A guy in a townhouse in Ogden Utah had 70,000 empty beer cans in it as reported on ksl.com. A realtor discovered the mess. Cans were piled up everywhere.

The resident had kept a low profile and was always on time with his rent. Apparently the smell was so bad that someone tipped off the realtor.

The cans were recycled for 800 dollars, an estimated 70,000 cans: 24 beers a day for 8 years.

While the report acts like this is some kind of record, I am reminded of my college dorm. I shared a dorm suite with 9 other guys.

I estimate we emptied about 80 cans a night which adds up to around 400 beers a week (excluding weekends and beer brought in by visitors and kegs). Assuming school was 40 weeks or so, we would have amassed 16,000 beer cans and bottles per year. Over 4 years of college that would reach 64,000 cans and bottles. In the 8 years it took this guy to hit 70,000, we would have reached about 130,000 cans and bottles. Of course, we threw them out every few months.

I do not see the Utah guy's collection as anything special.

What If History

"Way back when in '67, I was the dandy of Gamma Chi..." as begins "Hey 19" by Steely Dan.

I was 12 then and would take my 2 weeks allowance of $4 and browse the book section of a local candy store for 2 hours until I finally chose 3 or 4 books to bring home. I still have the Dostyevsky paperback of "The Possessed" from then. It cost 75 cents.

Now as an adult I do the same thing even though I have an unlimited source of money through credit. However, with a mortgage and 2 young children, i still hunt for book bargains.

I must tell all of you that Borders has for $9.99 a large hardcover of "What If". I just began reading it and it is a page turner. It is a collection of alternate history essays written by many eminent historians. They look at important battles or moments and surmise how the world may have turned out had the outcome changed. Many important moments of history turned on issues like weather and dumb luck.

I recommend this purchase to all.

NJ Poll- Bush Still Better On National Security

In a poll of NJ voters taken May12-14, here are some interesting results:

4. Do you approve or disapprove of President Bush's overall job performance? Approve 29% Disapprove 63% Undecided 8%

7. Do you approve or disapprove of President Bush's handling of the war on terrorism? Approve 46% Disapprove 45% Undecided 9%

What is telling (and read the rest of the poll here) is that while the overall job performance of the President tracks the percentages of other polls publicized by the press, we see a split on his defense of the nation roughly equivalent to the 2004 presidential election result---meaning a slight win for Bush. Donning my Dick Morris cap, with terrorism the major issue of our time, as the decidedly blue state of NJ still favors Bush's handling of security, it looks like the nation may not be so favorable towards Democrats in their defense credentials.

That is why Hillary will have to continue to act hawkish despite the pacifism of her supporters.

O'Reilly and "The Folks"

One of the best blogs is Soxblog. His comparison of Bill O'Reilly and Britt Hume is excellent (for you liberals, they work on that right-wing Fox News that everyone but you are watching). I liked this assessment of O'Reilly who is the self-appointed spokesman for the Folks (not Keith):

There are moments when you watch O’Reilly and can’t believe what an intelligent and fair conversation he’s just led. Of course such times are the exception. O’Reilly’s true genius, and the reason why he’s so popular, is he speaks horse-sense that 80% of the public will agree with and yet no one else of his prominence is saying.

O'Reilly gives you his opinion and does let his guests speak. Often provocative, it is a great watch that often has me close to throwing a pillow at the TV screen. (For you liberals, that is an act of violence that shows my propensity for support of aggresive action against nation-states and individuals who want to destroy my country).

Senators Against A Border Fence

Here is the list of heroes or cowards depending on where you stand on the border fence. The list of senators refusing to vote for this measure (thanks to Hugh Hewitt):

Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Sarbanes (D-MD)

I see 3 or 4 presidential hopefuls who have just blown their chances with that vote. Who is serious about security?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stock Tips

John Stossel discusses the uselessness of purchasing stocks based upon recommendation made by TV touts. While the stock market will generally rise over time, the "get rich quick" claims of stock brokers and analysts are no better than throwing darts at the stock listings in the news paper.

Back in 1985 I did just that. I followed a number of stocks that I chose by closing my eyes and pointing to various sections of the NYSE listings. I combined those with the intentional "purchase" of some famous blue chip stocks (like GE and IBM). I followed the ups and downs and tracked my mythical purchases of 100 shares of each company. Over 6 months my stocks rose in value by an aggregate of 13%. I was a Wall Street genius!

Meanwhile, just out of law school and needing to pay off school loans for both undergraduate and law degrees, I invested no money in the stock market. I paid off the loans, paid rent, saved and went out to dinner a lot (mostly slices of NYC pizza). Later, I was at an insurance company where I could have invested in a 401K plan. I abstained as I needed to continue paying off those school loans and save for a house. Smart move? Very.

The retirement investment plan required you to purchase the Company's own stock with a matching purchase by the Company. Many of my cohorts placed 5-10% of their salary into the company stock. When the stock's value dropped to below 3 cents per share, I had many unhappy co-workers. I had been given 18 shares along the way. I told my new wife she was marrying me for my stock portfolio. It was worth almost 50 cents.

Now, I am invested in a 401K with a diversified stock mutual fund. I am gung-ho about the future of the stock market. With all legal waivers that I am no financial manager and blah, blah, blah, my guess is that the Dow will hit 13,000 within a year or so. Long-term it will reach that and go higher over the next 20 years of my working and investing life.

But here is real solid advise without the legal waiver: By the time someone on a cable business show touts a stock, everyone on Wall Street has already reviewed the data and the stock has probably reached its height or nadir for the time being. What they are telling you is yesterday's news.


Within 1 hour of publishing the above prediction, the Dow dropped 100 points.

Does that make my point?

Increase Legal Immigration But Close The Borders

For me the immigration issue boilds down to security in the post-9-11 world we have been forced into. I cannot ignore the extant jihad being pursued by factions of the Muslim world (and largely uncriticized in the rest of the Muslim world). Therefore, while the economic arguments and libertarian themes of open borders have a strong sway on my intellect (and were dispositive arguments in my support for the Dubai ports deal and the Chinese purchase of Unocal), the ability of terrorists to enter this country and remain undetected by lax immigration laws and enforcement overcome my natural leanings.

Michelle Malkin explains how illegal immigrants were involved in 9-11 events. She looks at the assistance provide the hijackers that flew the jet into the Pentagon. It is eerie how openly they can act without detection or repercussions.

On the other hand, I would support increased and streamlined legal immigration. I am persuaded that the influx of immigrants is a massive net gain for the US and its economy. Not only do we need the best and the brightest but we also need the uneducated and poor. But as has been said of the Consitution I can apply to a libertarian open borders policy, my support for libertarian principles is not a "suicide pact".

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stupid State Tax Tricks

Low taxes does for national economies (see US performance versus Europe and certain European countries like Ireland against other European countries like Germany) as it does for state economies.

In the WSJ, writers Lawrence McQuillan and Hovannes Abramyan compared the tax rates in the 50 states and write in 'Live Free or Move' :

In 2005, per capita personal income grew 31% faster in the 15 most economically free states than it did in the 15 states at the bottom of the list. And employment growth was a staggering 216% higher in the most free states. It hasn't been a "jobless recovery" in states that have adopted pro-growth tax and regulatory policies.

But the tax hike governors like John Corzine see budget problems believe that raising taxes will increase their revenues. Supply-side economics proves Corzine wrong again.

In 2005, the 15 states with the most economic freedom saw their general fund tax revenues grow at a rate more than 6% higher than the 15 least free states, despite their lower effective tax rate. Instead of blowing a hole in state budgets, lower tax rates rewarded productivity and risk-taking and allowed the economy to grow. As the economy expanded it also generated more revenue for the state Treasury as capital and people flowed in. Census data shows an astounding 245% difference in net state-to-state migration rates in 2005 between the freest states (net inflow) and least-free states (net outflow). "Live Free or Move" is fast becoming the national motto.

California as the highest marginal tax rate in the country. Phil Angelides is a candidate who vows to raise that rate from 10.3% to 12%. Let's hope he wins and we can revisit their economic perfomance a few years later. It is no fun to watch stupidity in action. I live in Jersey.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Dots Are The Point!

I think by now all Americans agree that there are terrorists in the world who want to kill Americans. We may disagree on their motives and some of us even see justification in their acts. I want to survive so I tend to ignore the motivation angle and merely seek the death of as many of them as possible. Or apprehension before their act of terrorism.

Part of the apprehension process involves the gathering and analysis of information. It is what Mark Steyn calls unoriginally "connecting the dots". But he asks whether those screaming about the NSA program regarding collection of telephone call data actually believe that the dots exist.

Writes Steyn:

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) feels differently. "Look at this headline," huffed the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The secret collection of phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. Now, are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al-Qaida?"

No. But next time he's flying from D.C. to Burlington, Vt., on a Friday afternoon he might look at the security line: Tens of millions of Americans are having to take their coats and shoes off! Are you telling me that tens of millions of ordinary shoe-wearing Americans are involved with al-Qaida?

Of course not. Fifteen out of 19 of the 9/11 killers were citizens of Saudi Arabia. So let's scrap the tens of millions of law-abiding phone records, and say we only want to examine the long-distance phone bills of, say, young men of Saudi origin living in the United States. Can you imagine what Leahy and Lauer would say to that? Oh, no! Racial profiling!

Those who do see dots or are willing to avoid them for the sake of a privacy right are the dangerous ones in our midst. They have yet to be mugged by reality even after 3,000 bodies were incinerated on 9-11.

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