Sunday, September 25

Greyhound Bus lines - No Tickets for Illegal Aliens

I first wrote about how to combat illegal immigration here.

It is in the news that Greyhound has had a policy for the last three years that its employees were not to knowingly sell tickets to illegal aliens.

Apparently, this is not just some crazy idea that Greyhound came up on their own, but it is in response to a lawsuit brought against another bus line that ended up pleading guilty to immigrant smuggling.

Of course immigrant groups are pretty pissed about the policy calling it discrimination against latinos. However, it has been in place for the last three years, and there has been no news about Greyhound refusing to serve customers. It is also somewhat hypocritical of immigrant groups since many have come out against legislation requiring identity documents, making it harder to identify those who are legally here and those who are not.*

The US is a huge country. Just getting across the border is often just the first step in the immigrants journey. They need to get to their destination somehow and busses have to be a popular way to get around. Take a look at the news story linked below and read a summary of the policy. It clearly states what the ticket agents are to look for and it does not appear to discriminate at all and appears to target those being moved by smugglers. Smugglers are not the most upstanding of characters and there is even the possible involvement of organized crime. It makes sense to make it difficult for illegal immigrants to move from the border area. This way it is easier to find them. (Try to remember that they are here illegally)

I did find it amusing that smugglers would actually call Greyhound asking if immigration was at the station.

Greyhound cautions employees to screen for illegal immigrants -

Fighting Illegal Immigration is easier than anyone is willing to admit - Fred Fry International

*The US Government is also guilty in this matter. It took over three years for my wife to get her Green Card "In-hand." This is not an exception, but more so the norm. I NEVER want to have to deal with another employee of BCIS. It is by far the worst US Government Agency. But I will save my experience with them for posting another day.

Michael Yon - Reporting from Iraq

Michael Yon have been embedded with US Troops in Iraq for the last eight months. He has been posting his adventures in his online magazine here.

He is currently taking a break, mentioning in his latest post that he is in Qatar, taking the opportunity to re-equip as the unit he was embedded with was now on their way back home to the US.

There is lots to read on his site. I suggest printing out a post or two if you headed out on a trip. If you only have time to read one post, then I suggest Jungle Law, which was posted on 10 August. It is a great description of an attempted roadside bombing on the unit he was with and how they caught the guys attempting to blow them up.

You can see all the bad news being covered in the media. Yon's Online Magazine provides a good view of what is actually going on in the country on the street level.

If yo don't have time to read anything else, then I suggest reading his post about media coverage in Iraq and why you mainly see negative news coming out of the country. (And now, for the rest of the story....)

"The media is an industry; but their business is not to report news. The industry needs a captive audience to beat the bottom line. The product is advertisement." - Michael Yon - 24 May 05

Friday, September 23

HALF of the Katrina Evacuees have Criminal Records!

I am not surprised that states are conducting criminal background checks on evacuees arriving in their states.

What has surprised me, and that is not an easy thing to do, is that about half of the evacuees have criminal records! In one state, a third of them were found to have FELONY Convictions!


No really, what the F... was going on in that city? I know that Mardi Gras is a blast, but come on. There is absolutely NO excuse for this.

Every slum in this country needs to be broken up and its population scattered. It is really for the best. People are trapped in these areas and just assume that the whole country is like their neighborhood. They grew up in high crime areas and this type of activity does not faze them. The police cannot effectively fight crime when half the population in the area is a threat to the law and order of a modern society.

The news harped on the rapes and violence in the Superdome and the Convention Center. Well guess what, with so many people with criminal records, the crime wave that New Orleans accepted was evacuated to the Convention Center and the Superdome with all the residents.

It makes sense really. You have a son who has had a couple run-ins with the police. You know that your son 'did wrong' but you have the opinion that the police are picking on him unfairly when there are more serious criminals that they should be after than bothering with your boy. There goes the trust that they should have in the police. Add a couple white policemen in a black neighborhood (read: Rodney King) and you have created a community where criminal activity will flourish.

In South Carolina, state police checked every evacuee flown there by the government. Of 547 people checked, 301 had criminal records, according to Robert Stewart, state Law Enforcement Division Chief.

The state police in West Virginia said roughly half of the nearly 350 Katrina victims evacuated by the government to that state had criminal records, and 22 percent have a history of committing a violent crime.

You would think that evacuees would be bitter about the background checks. After all, the ACLU is. However, the story interviews a man in favor of the process:

In Middletown, a community just north of Newport, several evacuees shrugged at the prospect of background checks and said they understood the state's desire to learn more about them.

“I would like to know if there's any skeletons in the closet with my neighbors or the community,” said one refugee, 38-year-old Carmen Williams.

I bet he does. He knows how dangerous some of his neighbors can be. I bet few people find it surprising that many, if not most of the poor evacuees will not return back to their old neighborhood. Why should they. They are now in safer neighborhoods. Many are finding good work. Even in Utah, which was in the news for the initial culture shock that that evacuees were having. Too bad there was no follow-up. They have quickly adjusted:

Utah housed more than 600 refugees from Katrina at Camp Williams. Now all but about 100 of those refugees have either gone out of state, or found housing in a Utah community.

If there are no evacuees from Rita, governor huntsman says Utah plans to close the camp Williams evacuee center by next Tuesday. Most of the 100 or so evacuees still living there want to stay in Utah, and will be helped to find housing in the community.

This is more of a solution to the problem of poverty than any program that the Democrats can come up with. Perhaps we just need to go family by family and ask them where they want to move. Perhaps give them a list of jobs they can do. Have them pick one that they are interested in and relocate them there.

States Checking Refugees' Rap Sheets - The Day
Utah Ready To Take Rita Evacuees If Needed -

Wednesday, September 21

President Clinton: Put your Tax Refund where your Mouth is!

In case you have not noticed, there is a project sweeping over the (Conservative half of the) Blogospere called ‘PorkBusters.

The idea is that Bloggers will identify ‘pork’ in their state and contact their congressional representatives in the hopes that they will give up the money for the good of the Katrina effort and the country in general.

So far the most notable results, other than huge support from Bloggers who have identified billions in pork, has been a positive statement from California Representative Nancy Pelosi who is apparently willing to give up millions in funding from the Transportation Bill.

Then there is the reaction from Alaska Congressman Don Young who has a message for anyone who thinks that Alaska should give back the federal funds he won to build two bridges that even locals admit are pretty useless. "They can kiss my ear," and as far as cutting pork from the federal budget:

"That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

I’m glad that your not my congressman.

However, I think this program is missing part of the solution. Enter President Clinton:

"I think it's very important that Americans understand... tax cuts are always popular, but about half of these tax cuts since 2001 have gone to people in my income group, the top 1 percent. I've gotten four tax cuts. They're responsible for this big structural deficit, and they're not going away, the deficits aren't." - President Bill Clinton

This comment by President Clinton is such a load of bull. Everyone knows that the super-rich (Top 1%) hide much of their money from the taxman, much of it out either outside of the country or hidden as foreign entities where they are the ultimate beneficial owner. If this top 1% stopped hiding their income and paid taxes on it, then I bet there would not be such a structural deficit. Who might be hiding their income? Try Hollywood stars and Pro sports stars.

Now lets give President Clinton the benefit of the doubt. From his statement, you appears eager to give up his tax cut. Well I have good news for the former President, he can donate the money back to the Government.

From the Bureau of the Public Debt: - FAQ Pages

How do you make a contribution to reduce the debt?

Please follow these important steps to make a contribution to reduce the debt. Make check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt. In the memo section of the check, notate Gift to reduce Debt Held by the Public. Mail check to -

PO BOX 2188
PARKERSBURG, WV 26106-2188

In the 2005 Fiscal year people donated $792,000 back to the Government. I think 'we' can do much better. We just need to get the word out to the unhappy rich who don’t know what to do with their refund checks.

Gift Contributions to Reduce Debt Held by the Public - Donations by year.

Porkusters Reference
Porkbusters’ Public Grilling 2005: California Has Plenty of Fat To Cut - California Conservative
The Truth Laid Bare - PorkBusters
About Porkbusters - Instapundit - Heritage Foundation

Tuesday, September 20

Predicted: Iran Threatens EU with 'Economic Consequences'

My August 21 post 'Would Europe go to war over oil?' questioned how the EU was going to be able to negotiate with Iran, considering that they were negotiating from a compromised position.

"Negotiating with Iran is no piece of cake as we can all see. Iran has its oil exports that it can hold over the negotiators head. That is a powerful bargaining chip as most of the E.U. Countries import oil from Iran including Italy, France and to a lesser extent, Germany. Europe combined receives approximately 9% of their oil imports from Iran, averaging about 860 thousand barrels/day. In addition, Japan receives approximately 12% of their oil imports from Iran. There are no real alternate sources to replace this oil if Iran decides to turn off the tap if the E.U. negotiators attempt to push Iran on permanently halting their (alleged) nuclear weapon program." - Fred Fry

The main issue I had was that Iran provides 9% of the EU's oil imports. Iran is now threatening that they will use their oil as a bargaining chip. To their credit, the EU negotiators are pushing to send Iran in front of the Security Council. Their push has forced Iran to issue this threat in reply:

"Those countries that have economic transactions with Iran, especially in the field of oil, have not defended Iran’s rights so far," he said. "So based on how much they defend Iran’s national right will facilitate their participation in Iran’s economic field." - Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator

So far this has been prety predictable. How predictable? Predictable enough to guess that the Chinese and Russians would come out against sanctions, which they now have.

A wildcard in all this is the news that North Korea (on the surface) appears to have struck a deal to end it's weapons program. This now leaves Iran standing alone in the Axis of Evil corner without a chair.

OK all you Ameri-haters, how do you feel about Iran ignoring YOUR government's efforts to peacefully resolve the situation?

Under pressure, Iran takes nuclear row to new level - Times Online UK

Long Island Housing Bubble Popping

I first commented about the housing bubble in my post, DC Housing Bubble Popping from 20 August 2005. A month later I see no change in the DC market to change my belief. Two of the houses I mentioned in my original post are now either sold or under contract, but there is one new one added to the market.

This last weekend I went to my parent's house on Long Island. The wife and I were somewhat surprised at how many houses were for sale in the Town of Oyster Bay. There were signs everywhere, including a couple overlooking the Bay. The signs stopped when we got into my parent's town, or at least I thought. When we went out for lunch on Sunday there were 'Open House' signs everywhere.

Why no obvious signs in the village? I suspect that the village has some odd law preventing them. But on Sunday I did see signs posted in windows and in other not so obvious places. I found out that the house across the street from my parents was for sale. I was shocked to hear that the initial asking price of $700,000 was already reduced to $630,000. An open house a week earlier had only two viewers. Two other houses on the block were for sale but have since been taken off the market, unsold.

All of these houses are a block from Long Island Sound, one of them right across from the beach with an unobstructed sound view.

We figure that my parents can sell their house now for about $100,000 LESS than they could have if they had put the house up for sale a year ago. (Not that my Dad would ever sell!)

Popped might be a more accurate description of the housing market there.

Fred Fry as Sean Penn

I had recently posted about Sean Penn's escapades here:

Sean Penn and his Bulletproof Vest - 06 September 05
Sean Penn: Ditches Bulletproof Vest, carries Shotgun 10 September 05

In all the excitement, I completely forgot that at one time I had the honor of being Sean Penn.

Here I am dressed in the green sweatsuit that Sean wore in the movie. (1993)

Here is Sean and Al Pachino waiting for the right light to shoot.

What can I say, everyone was really nice on the set. I also got to spend some time with their 'doubles.' Al Pachino's was pretty funny. Nobody bothered to tell him that he needed a beard so his was nowhere near developed as Al's

Besides the pictures, and salary, I managed to get both of them to sign a baseball cap. It was a great experience, although there was lots of hurry up and wait.

Friday, September 16

To ABC's Surprise, Katrina Victims Praise Bush and Blame Nagin - Newsbusters

In my original post 'New Orleans Victim Claims that City broke Levee, not Bush ' I pointed out that a lease one local was bright enough to place blame where he saw fit, with the local government. At the time I pointed out that people should not get ot close to the mayor or the Governor "until you can see who the residents of the effected area are going to blame." It turns out that I was dead right in giving the warning. Also in this post I commented on how ABC News was failing to maintain the MSM blame Bush message that day.

I followed up the issue in my post 'Question for Where are your Black People?' where I posted the following:

I am waiting to hear from these poor people. I want to know who they hold accountable. Would they really blame the President? Why should they. The Democrats have been telling them that Bush and the Republicans don't care about them one bit for years. They have been told over and over that only the Democrat Party will take care of them. Now we know what that meant. I wonder, did the Democrats intentionally kill off these people to use their deaths against Bush? Horrible thought right. This charge (If someone were to make it) would be no worse than what the Democrats ARE charging the President with.

Now accourding to a post by Newsbusters, ABC has once again failed to maintain the MSM blame Bush mantra by interviewing Evacuees who flat out praise the President and blame, get this, the cit and state government, the Mayor and the Governor. The reportor, as Newsbusters points out, tries to feed them questions to elicite anti-Bush comments but the people don't deliver. They might be poor, but apparently that does not mean that they are stupid. It also partly confirms my statement above.

Not one of the six people interviewed on camera had a bad word for Bush -- despite Reynolds' best efforts. Reynolds goaded: "Was there anything that you found hard to believe that he said, that you thought, well, that's nice rhetoric, but, you know, the proof is in the pudding?" Brenda Marshall answered, "No, I didn't," prompting Reynolds to marvel to anchor Ted Koppel: "Very little skepticism here.”

To ABC's Surprise, Katrina Victims Praise Bush and Blame Nagin - Newsbusters

And since we are on the subject of Katrina and evacuations I might as well mention an evactuation that you did not hear about, the evacuation of the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Literally thousands of workers were evacuated from hundreds of oil platforms by helicopter and boat. The companies did it voluntarily and efficiently. No lives lost and from the looks of it well done. So those who are constantly harping on the need for more big government, how about taking a look at the way private industry handled a difficult evacuation and see how it can be done.

(Of course the oil workers were lifted to New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi....)

Wednesday, September 14

Are Record Oil Company Profits all that Bad?

Those Evil Oil Companies are at it again.

But are they so evil? First off, oil companies in the US are traded on the stock exchange and are therefore owned by their shareholders. So does this mean that the shareholders are evil?

The Oil Companies and their Owners
If you own oil stock like me, then you have enjoyed a decent appreciation in the value of the stock as well as a dividend payment every three months. My oil stocks are probably the most profitable investments that I have ever made. Does this make me evil? Hardly. I might be evil, but not because I own oil stock. Now about those profits:

Watching the news, you would think that these oil companies are just raking in extra profits with no benefit to anyone, and that is just not true.

First, when a corporation makes a profit, it pays income taxes. The bigger the profit, the more they should pay in income taxes.

Then the oil companies pay part of this profit as a dividend to their shareholders. The shareholders then pay taxes on those dividends. The state essentially taxes these profits twice. Sounds like the real criminal is the taxman;

  • Taxing the gas when it is sold
  • Taxing the profit
  • Taxing the dividend

Then if you decide that you have been greedy enough and decide to sell the stock, there are capital gains tax to be paid. So this windfall for the oil companies is probably as big a windfall for the Government.

What happens when the price of oil goes up?
As oil gets mores expensive, people begin to conserve it. At a minimum they try to be less wasteful with it as waste negatively affects the wallet.

Sales of vehicles that waste gasoline go down. It is much harder to not waste gas when you already own an SUV and it is your only car, but the high price of gas will effect those who are considering buying a new vehicle. SUV sales are already down dramatically this year.

As the price of oil goes up, the gap between the cost of oil and alternative energy decreases. The US has a huge supply of coal. But coal is dirty and using it in a clean way is expensive. Now that the price of oil has risen, the additional cost of using coal is less of an issue against using it. The same goes for nuclear energy.

In addition, there are a host of alternative energy sources;

  • Wind
  • Wave
  • Solar

The high cost of oil increases the interest and viability of these alternative energy sources. This of course should have a positive effect on the environment, provided that total consumption goes down, which is not very likely.

There is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget - DeLay

Time to rip the Republican Leadership in Congress.

Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader, cannot seem to find any more fat in the Federal Budget.

Aside for being a COMPLETE IDIOT for just thinking that, he had to come out in public and actually say it where others could hear the comment.

"My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet,"

Mr. DeLay also had to compliment Republican leadership in being able to rid the Federal Budget of Pork.

"Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."

Well that might be true, but as leader, he should be calling in members of congress and taking them to task for budget items they have 'won' for their districts.

Take for example a 'Bridge to Nowhere' that will be built in Alaska with Government funds. The cost to all of us will be $250 million. All this to a state that does not have a state income tax. What else is Alaska getting in Government funds? I bet that Mr. Delay can find no shortage of money going up there that can be used for better things, if no other other than to cut Federal Spending.

Now I do not want to hear that people cannot live up there without this funding from the Government because nobody is forcing them to stay there. They can move south and join the rest of us. This would appease the tree-huggers who want to protect Alaska's nature.

Then we have the current disaster area of Louisiana which as we are now learning gets more Federal money for Army Corp of Engineer Projects than any other state (including California.) Of course we hear in the news that the President cut funding for levee upgrades. What he actually did was cut additional funding. We all know that Mary Landrieu thought the funding for Levees was very important, but still went out to fetch this other pork for her state. As a sign of bipartisanship, MR. DeLay could have asked/discussed with her colleges in the House better ways to use money slated for LA. (This still leaves open the question if the levee upgrades were so important, why didn't the state pay for it?)

I do not need to provide examples for every state. There are plenty of sources on the net that document Pork Spending. A quick look will tell you that there is still plenty being wasted.

So if House Majority Leader Tom DeLay still cannot find any pork to cut from the budget, then I suggest he step aside so that someone who can find pork can replace hiim. From what I heard him say, his job is done. Perhaps this issue just needs a set of fresh eyes.
I bet the Democrats can provide a list of pork to cut. How about a contest where the congressman that finds the most pork wins an Ipod or something?

Alaska's 'bridges to nowhere' add to national political storm - Fairbanks Daily News Miner
Money Flowed to Questionable Projects - Washington Post
Another Omnibus Spending Bill Loaded with Pork - Heritage Foundation

Tuesday, September 13

CARNIVAL OF THE CLUELESS #13 - at Rightwing Nuthouse

The Carnival is a collection of commentary on the clueles things that people do and being the world we live in, there is no shortage of cluebats to write about.

I have a blog entry profiled in the Carnival:

Fred Fry has our first entry in the “Sean Penn for Cluebat of the Year” contest. What possessed this guy – besides a healthy dose of hubris – to go into a hurricane ravaged city in the first place?

Hats off to Rick Moran for the huge effort for preparing the carnival each week.

Sunday, September 11

Glenn J. Winuk - One of Many 9/11 Heros

Today is the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States.

Almost 3,000 people were murdered on that day. Mr. Winuk was one of the victims. He died trying to help others.

From "Haight’s Maritime Items" a daily email summary of maritime news from The Law Firm of HOLLAND & KNIGHT.

Glenn J. Winuk – volunteer - hero

This Sunday marks the fourth year since the death of this firm’s partner Glenn J. Winuk in the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Unlike the innocent victims who worked in the WTC when the terrorists struck or the regular firefighters or police officers who had a duty to respond to the alarms, Glenn volunteered to go to the scene and render assistance. He was an unpaid volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician in his hometown on Long Island. He was in his office a few blocks away when the terrorists attacked. Rather than flee, he appropriated a medical kit and protective gear from a fire truck and went inside the South Tower to render aid to persons in distress. His remains were found six months later. New York State recently enacted a Bill posthumously giving Glenn active status in the Jericho Volunteer Fire Department.

I am from Bayville, NY which is just north ofJericho. Most of the firehouses on Long Island depend on volunteers to man the stations. Mr. Winuk is an example of the dedication of many who work in dangerous professions. Salaries fail to compensate for the risks these men and women take every day. Many more do it without compensation.

Read the Bill from the NY State Senate (click on the picture):


The Glenn J. Winuk Humanitarian Fund

Saturday, September 10

Sean Penn: Ditches Bulletproof Vest, carries Shotgun

I originally commented on Mr. Penn's rescue attire here: Sean Penn and his Bulletproof Vest

This morning the NY Post has pictures of MR. Penn, who is still in New Orleans, participating in the rescue operation, in his own way.

All I can say is that Mr. Penn needs to fire whoever is looking after his image and safety. First, if there is still a danger, what happened to his bulletproof vest? I suspect that it is in the wash. White bulletproof vests soil easily. But dirty vests still stop bullets. You would think that if there is a need to carry a shotgun, then there is a possibility of being shot.

Doesn't this guy have a bodyguard? Leave the weapon to him, and Sean can carry out is rescue work.....

Thursday, September 8

Question for Where are your Black People?

On Thursday 8 September, was outside the White House to protest Bush's handling of the Hurricane recovery effort.

As we all know, the left has been saying that the recovery effort was poor because those that needed rescue were poor blacks. For those not familiar with Washington, DC, it is a city full of black people. The Mayor is black. The Chief of Police is black. One quardrant of the city, SouthEast, is probably DC's equivilent of New Orleans poor neighborhood that is currently underwater. (Undercover cops have been known to take white tourists off the streets and out of the area.) Whites are a minority in DC and there are a large number of rich blacks living in DC.

So you would think that the protest would be packed with black protestors right? Take a look at the picture below of the protestors. I added green arrows marking the black protestors and red arrows marking white protestors:

MoveOn members and supporters march in front of the White House in Washington, DC, in protest of the administration of US President George W. Bush and its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief. MoveOn Washington Director Tom Matizzie said the federal government did not do enough to help the people of the Gulf Coast region after Katrina caused widespread damage and killed possibly 10,000 people. The organization called on the president to 'stop blaming the victims of Hurricane Katrina, including state and local officials, for the poor rescue and relief effort and focus on helping them.'(AFP/Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla) (Yahoo News)

For those who are colorblind, there are no black protestors in the picture. If one wants to judge the strength of's base, I would have to say that it is based moreso in people more interested in spending money in an attempt to make a person (the President) look bad, than they are in helping those they say they are speaking for.

To make the situation even worse, there was a protest at the same time "to demand more US effort to end violence in Darfur in western Sudan." I can only find one picture of that protest (with 4 white people in it) but I assume that there were some blacks there, but none bothered to come over to the other bash-Bush event.

Now there was at least one black protestor. She was flown in from New Orleans. She is a lawyer who had decided to ignore the evacuation order.

To read what happened at the protest, read the following:

When MoveOn rallied at the White House, things didn’t go exactly as planned. - Byron York

...And in addition to problems with the noise, there were problems with the stories themselves. The three women, while they had lost their homes and more, were not the kind of grievously needy victims who have been on television so much lately. They are, after all, MoveOn members, meaning they are involved in Internet activism, which is usually a middle-class pursuit. And they were all able to leave New Orleans; Renfroe elected to stay, while Augillard and Mayfield left town ahead of the storm. Although they had lost much, their stories did not have the impact of many others that have been told in the press.

Moveon and the handlers that organize these events still have lots to learn. For starters, they might want to look at those directly responsible for the evacuation of New Orleans. That won't happen. One reason for the protest was to demand that the President not hold others, including the Governor and the Mayor accountable. (But were all going ot hold the President accountable right?)

The organization called on the president to 'stop blaming the victims of Hurricane Katrina, including state and local officials, for the poor rescue and relief effort and focus on helping them.

I wonder how many on the left are joyous at the new ammunition they have to take aim at the President. Too bad this ammunition is going to cause a good number of political casualties on the left.

I am waiting to hear from these poor people. I want to know who they hold accountable. Would they really blame the President? Why should they. The Democrats have been telling them that Bush and the Republicans don't care about them one bit for years. They have been told over and over that only the Democrat Party will take care of them. Now we know what that meant. I wonder, did the Democrats intentionally kill off these people to use their deaths against Bush? Horrible thought right. This charge (If someone were to make it) would be no worse than what the Democrats ARE charging the President with.


Now I was going to blast Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) but I am no expert on Senate Politics. From what I have seen and heard from her, I wonder how much longer people will be calling her Senator. She sounds like an idiot. DC does not have a Senator. Looking at Senator Landrieu, DC is not missing much.

Wednesday, September 7

Newsflash: Bush Not Running for Re-election!

In case you have not heard, President Bush, has decided against tearing up the Constitution and the 22nd Amendment and will not be running for reelection. Nor will he declare martial law and extend his rule as king.

As we all know, the Press has a hard time dealing with fact, so can someone pass this information to them because they are wasting their time blaming everything on the President. The Democrats will not be facing him at election time.

Strangly enough, the press is giving a free pass to those who most likely will be the Republican candidate for President. This in addition to anyone behaving recklessly who also happens to be a member of the Democratic Party.

If anything can be learned from President Clinton, the Presidents approval rating would most likely rise if the press actually finds a story that actually sticks to the President. (sympathy factor)

Tuesday, September 6

Sean Penn and his Bulletproof Vest

Here we have Sean Penn, trying to prove how easy it is to save people, nearly becoming a victim himself in the process:

US actor Sean Penn bales water out of a boat with a plastic cup as he and members of his entourage make an attempt to rescue stranded people in New Orleans. Efforts by Penn to aid New Orleans victims stranded by Hurricane Katrina foundered badly Sunday, when the boat he was piloting to launch a rescue attempt sprang a leak. Penn had planned to rescue children waylaid by Katrina's flood waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch(AFP/Nicholas Kamm)(Yahoo News Link)

More pictures at Getty Images.

The hand in the picture belongs to the helmsman. There are at least three people in this skiff. You can see the whole boat in the Getty pictures. (I think the helsman abandoned ship because in the picture of Penn rowing, he is not in the boat. They did not need him as they could not get the boat's motor started.)

Now Mr. Penn is the only person I know who has a custom white bulletproof vest. Strange as that sounds, this is not the first thought that popped into my mind. What I did notice was that, for some reason, the other two in the boat ARE NOT wearing bulletproof vests.

Did Mr. Penn expect that he would be the only one that maniacs might want to take a shot at? Did he really expect that he might be recognized by a gunman taking shots at him from a distance? Did he think that he was a target because of his fame, and that his boatmates were not at risk? If this is the case, then Mr. Penn is a jerk for thinking that there was a real risk, got himself a bulletproof vest but was too cheap to buy his assistants a vest for themselves. If this is what he believed, then he should have stayed ashore and provided support from there, instead of risking his boatmates.

Of course he could have offered them vests and they declined because there was no way that they would go out there if there was any risk to themselves and knew that the biggest risk for them was Mr. Penn himself. This however brings into question what Mr. Penn thought he was boating into.

Or perhaps he was simply handed the vest by his publisist, photographer, whoever. If that is the case, then that person should be fired because their wardrobe suggestion makes Mr. Penn look more idiotic than getting into a sinking boat to rescue people who have been drowning for a week.

Now if I was a maniac with a high-power rifle and I was taking aim on a boat with three guys in it, and one of them was wearing a vest, just who would I shot at?

None of them. I would pop a couple rounds through the hull. (Penn's boat did come pre-holed)

I do not think that bulletproof vests are approved floatation devices.

My suggestion to Mr Penn:

Donate to the Red Cross:

American Red Cross

Monday, September 5

New Orleans Victim Claims that City broke Levee, not Bush

Now I am in complete shock after watching ABC World News Tonight this evening.

First, they have an excerpt of an interview with the Mayor, Ray Nagin, where he was asked about accountability. The man goes on to defend President Bush. Something along the lines that he was the victim of what people told him was being done and in reality was not being done and he guessed that the President was a vitim of the same thing.
He did not think that people were telling the President the true situation on the ground, and that was not the President's fault. (I cannot find the story online, damn!)

But that was nothing. Then they did a story about one of the levees being fixed. They interviewed a man who fled to a nearby bridge when it broke. He was asked if he thought a nearby barge had broke the levee. His response was no. He was sure that the city destroyed the levee on purpose, to get the residents of the area.

I don't get it? Who on the left is responsible for staying "on message" at World News Tonight?

There must be more to this then we are all aware of. Not for anything but I would not get to close to the Mayor or the Governor, Kathleen Blanco until you can see who the residents of the effected area are going to blame. As the Mayor said today, "I am sure that there is plenty of blame to go around."

(I am not suggesting that anything other than an act of God and lots of water broke the levee)

Some effects of a devalued Dollar.

During my trip to Finland this last May I met up with a number of my Finnish MBA classmates. During the course of the evening, the topic of the value of the dollar came up. It was almost unanimously agreed (Not including me) that the US dollar is headed for a severe devaluation. It was also agreed that there has been a decent devaluation of the dollar compared to the Euro over the last couple of years. (That is fact)

It seems a strange time to write about the ‘impending’ depreciation of the dollar, especially considering that the value of the dollar has been rising against the Euro, with the recent decline, due mostly to the hurricane. One of my expert friends was explaining that the current rise is partly due to the close of contracts where dollars were borrowed earlier with the expectation that they could be purchased later at a lower rate. Now the dollars need to be bought back and that has increased the demand for dollars with the result of supporting the currency.

The general consensus was that this was a US generated problem but now that I have thought about it, I do not think so. The cause of the problem lies elsewhere. Sure the US Government is a key player, but not the only one. The other key players are the Asian economies that have been buying dollars in order to keep their own currencies devalued. This of course is to support their industries that depend highly on exports to the US, and these exports are highly dependent on their currencies being cheap in relation to the dollar.

There have been a couple of news articles suggesting that Asia just might stop propping up the dollar unless the US institutes reforms. (See links at bottom.) In essence the Asian economies, by keeping the value of their currencies artificially low, have prevented any nature market corrections to take place. China for the longest time has fixed the value of its currency to the dollar. To do so, they buy and sell the two currencies in order to maintain the exchange rate. This has resulted in the buying of large quantities of dollars.

But the ‘fear’ now is that China, Japan, South Korea will stop buying dollars, thereby causing a collapse of the dollar. Alternatively, to prevent the collapse of their foreign reserves, these countries will continue to buy dollars to protect the value of the dollars they already own, stuck in a catch-22, in essence throwing good money after bad. Should we feel sorry for them? I don’t. It was this very activity that enabled growth in each of these countries. Unfortunately, they did not attempt to create a natural balance in the exchange rate, and the growth in their own economies forces them to spend ever more money to maintain the export advantage that they currently enjoy.

But lets pretend that the value of the dollar does collapse. Who might be effected and how?
Here are my thoughts about this:

Firms that have invested heavily in China – At the moment it is extremely cheap to shift manufacturing to China, but what happens if the value of the dollar drops? Technically the value of the factories in China in dollar terms appreciates. However, the factories will lose the market that they were producing products for due to the loss of the cost advantage. Of course they could produce for other markets or even the domestic Chinese market, but I would suspect that there would be a severe manufacturing overcapacity in that case.

Take for instance Play-Doh. In Target a four tub pack of Play-Doh costs under $2. Not bad for a product made in the USA. In Finland the same four tub pack, made in China was selling for €4 (about $4.80.)

There are countless other products that would no longer be imported from China if the dollar depreciates.

The Bond Market – The US has never defaulting on a bond issue and the devaluation of the dollar will not change that. However, as a wise Finnish friend pointed out, that does not matter as the value of the bonds in their own currency will have lost value in direct proportion of the drop in the dollar compared to their home currency.

The guess is that foreign investors will shy away from buying US bonds, especially those that are burned by a devaluation. I agree when it comes to current purchasers who will have seen billions in value of their holdings disappear. Bonds might be a great investment opportunity for new investors, provided that the dollar recovers, which it most likely would over time. Of course current bond investors could ‘average down’ to lower their average cost. But if you’re willing to buy bonds, why not buy stocks instead?

The Stock Market – Can you say CAOS? At least initially the stock market will probably dive at first. The effect will be worsened because the initial drop will hit all those who are playing in the market on margin hard. Many margin players will be forced to sell because they do not have enough money to cover the drop of their portfolios. This will force the market even lower, at first. However, I would think that this would be short lived, at least for better stocks. See the devaluation will create a buying opportunity for foreign investors and those who have money on the sidelines.

Domestic Manufacturing – The demand for products will not disappear with the drop of the dollar. Of course there will be exceptions. As foreign-made products become more expensive it becomes more viable to product ever more products domestically.

American-made products will also become cheaper to foreign markets, creating an export boom.

Inflation - Well this will probably take a good hit especially concerning an increase in energy and raw material prices. The country does have a good record of controlling inflation. Part of this will be tied to the ability to the government to control spending. Not for anything but there is a ton of pork in the Federal Budget. The question will be if they can cut pork, or find a way to spend our way out of this.

Countries that will suffer more than the US – the stories are predicting doom and gloom for the US if the dollar is devalued, but I think the following countries will be much bigger losers if this happens:

China, Japan, South Korea – All are heavy purchasers of US bonds and depend on their currencies being relatively cheap compared to the dollar to power their exports.

Canada – Our Northern neighbor has already been crying foul regarding the recent appreciation of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar. A further drop in the US dollar will surely hurt them. Canada might benefit in one way, the drop of the dollar might stop the steady stream of skilled professionals from Canada to the US.

China – China’s economy is on fire. The drop in the dollar will surely put the fire out.

The EU – As with Canada, some members of the EU, like Germany, have been blaming the decline in the dollar as stifling growth within the Euro countries. On a posting at I had asked what would happen to Europe if these was a collapse of the US economy. One poster replied “Much the same as happened to Finland when the Soviet Union disappeared, taking its trade with it.” (comment here, the topic was hurricane related)

The Housing Boom - A drop in the dollar might actually sustain the housing boom and counteract the signs that it has reached the end of its run. Property in the US would be much cheaper to foreign buyers who would probably take the opportunity to buy up America. This is a good thing to protect home values, unless you have something against selling to a damn foreigner.

Energy and Global Warming – A drop in the dollar might do a world of good in stemming global warming. First by extinguishing many ‘dirty factories’ and second by cutting wasteful use of gasoline in the US. There are already signs that SUV’s are losing popularity. A substantial rise in the price of gas will surely aid in a shift to more economical vehicles as has happened in the past. In an odd twist of fate, the drop in the dollar might lead to an increase in SUV exports. At any rate, a drop in the dollar will make gas more expensive as crude will be more expensive as that is priced in the international market.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. That is better left to an Economist. However looking at the issue, the rest of the world has more to lose than the US if the value of the dollar declines. So what if French wine and cheese will cost more. We do make these items at home. Perhaps its time to try it before its the only products that you can afford. At the same time you can protect the value of the dollar. What you buy decides where your money goes, including to countries taking American Jobs...

Brand Loyalty – Buy American - Fred Fry
Asian Central Banks Play Chicken With the Dollar - Bloomberg, Caroline Baum
Don’t bank on China - Financial Times, John Dizard

"Start at the Front and Work Your Way Back"

There is no shortage of Hurricane Katrina coverage on the news and in the Net. Driving home from work Thursday afternoon I was listening to NPR (despite their constant Bush-bashing) and heard a report from Gulfport, Miss.

At one point the reporter, Melissa Block, interviews a 'dump truck' driver who was there to start cleanup operations in an area where debris was spread as far as the eye could see.

(4 minutes into the report)
“...How do you even know where to start?”

“You start at the front and work to the back...” - Michael

Listen to the interview - Gulfport Takes Stock of Disaster

This is one man with a plan. The man knows what his job is and how to proceed doing it. Now multiply Mr. Underwood by tens of thousands of fellow workers and that makes the base of a strong recovery operation. Mr. Underwood was not alone out there. This report also interviewed a search and rescue dog team operating in Gulfport.

This is just one city of many that were torn to pieces by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans has received the majority of the coverage leading to the misleading impression that New Orleans was the only city needing relief. This is hardly the case. The whole lower Mississippi River Delta area was hit, along with the Gulf Coast as well as parts of Florida. Hopefully, the relief effort for the rest of the effected area will match that provided to New Orleans.

Mississippians' Suffering Overshadowed -

The road ahead is complicated and difficult, but is nothing that the US cannot handle, and handle well. Too many people have died, but I hope that those spared by the hurricane have a brighter future ahead of them.

If you have not given already, you might want to consider doing so:

Who owned all those sunken cars in New Orleans?

We have all seen the pictures of the unused school and city busses in New Orleans. (If not, look here.)

This had me thinking about all those people who "did not have the means to escape" the hurricane because they did not own a car;
Just who owned all those cars now swamped in the flooded areas of New Orleans where they have been pulling people off rooftops and out of flooded streets? I'm not talking about a scattered car here and there. There are scores of cars in those flooded areas.

A man puts his baby on top of his car as he and a woman abandon their car after it started to float when Hurricane Katrina hit the Treme area of New Orleans August 29, 2005. (Rick Wilking/Reuters) (Yahoo News)

Cars sit idle on flooded streets in downtown New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina came ashore on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) (Yahoo News)