Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Untwisting Bloomberg's Economic News: 4th Try

This one comes almost complete from Our Man in Academia, Special Agent "Dr. Paul"

Bloomberg's article has been updated 4 times (as of now) since originally published. Copy of original article posted here.

Headline Now Reads:
U.S. Consumers Spent Average of 3.5% Less on Shopping (Update4)

Dr. Paul's Report is as follows.....

Article by Cotton Timberlake and Tiffany Kary - Bloomberg News In the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, November 26
Headline - Section C:
"US Consumers Spent Less on Holiday Shopping"

Number of store visits UP 4.8%
Sales Thursday UP 8.3%
Sales Thursday and Friday combined UP 7.2%

The Article's Message:

Average spending DOWN 3.5% ($347.44)

Dr. Paul's Evaluation of the Article:

I don't understand how the combination of the following "facts" presented in the article add up to the 'headline'

1. "U.S. Consumers spent 3.5 percent less during the post Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend than a year earlier, as retailers slashed prices to lure customers grappling with higher food and energy costs." [This is the reporter 'talking']

2. Page C1 - end of second paragraph: "Store visits increased 4.8 percent."

3. Page C3 - "More than 147 million consumers visited stores over the weekend…The average amount spent last year was helped by increased sales of HD TVs,” NRF spokesman Scott Krugman said.

4. "It's the saturation of HD TVs into the market, and the retailers recognizing that consumers will be more conservative this year and focusing on lower-priced merchandise," he said. [This is the EXPERT talking]

5. Page C3 - last 2 paragraphs:

6. "Sales on the day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday because it was the day that retailers traditionally turn a profit for the year, ROSE 8.3 PERCENT from a year earlier to $10.3 billion, Chicago-based research firm ShopperTrak RCT Corp. said"


7. "Combined sales for Friday and Saturday ROSE 7.2 percent to 16.4 billion, the firm said Sunday."

Dr. Paul's Conclusion:



Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Webomator

No, Mr Schenck... I don't want your stereo next - I just want to spread the word

Bradley W. Schenck is IMHO an extremely talented artist in several media who has (for lack of a better term) ‘a nest’ of websites for different purposes. I've appreciated his work for years. His art includes some absolutley fabulous ‘Retro Future’ and Celtic Art stuff – and a lot of it is for sale .


Sidebar: I would show a sample from his site, but since he took the trouble to 'right-click' protect (humorously) a lot of it, I just bypassed the protection to save copies to my desktop as a point of honor, and then honored his desire to see his stuff NOT proliferate unattributed (in the future) by almost* immediately destroying that which I had lifted.

*Almost' = I DID e-mail a graphic to the Instapundit in the hope that he might spread the word far wider than I can.

My saved links to his stuff were ancient; carried forward from at least two computers ago. After just now dragging them up and exploring them a little more than usual, I found he now has a blog as well. It looks like as good a place as any to start to explore his universe: visit Webomator now!

Disclaimer: I have no direct or indirect affiliation with Mr Schenck other than an affinity for his artwork and doubt very much we would see eye-to-eye on too many issues of the day. But no matter that he probably would not consider doing an "Appeasement Never Solved Anything" T-Shirt for me -- I still think the guy is THAT talented, and more people need to know about him.

I'll be linking to his blog in my 'favorites' soon.

I'm Ironman

I'll jump on any band wagon as long as it's meaningless and fun and doesn't involve dues.

So I'm "Ironman" (just like Eric at Classical Values?)

Your results:
You are Iron Man

Inventor. Businessman. Genius.

Iron Man
Green Lantern
The Flash
Wonder Woman

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

OK. I'm comfortable with the fact that I'm a little more Hulk and Superman and a lot less Spiderman than Eric. Dare I take comfort in the fact I'm a lot less Catwoman and Wonderwoman? Or should I be concerned that I'm a lot more Supergirl?

(I think Dr Helen would probably find how we feel about the score is a lot more important an revealing than 'how or what we score')

I'll take the Libertarian quiz later. If it doesn't conclude I'm a "Personal Responsibility" Libertarian (ie GENUINE Conservative Republican) I'll know it's a sham. (Insert Maniacal Laughter Here)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Clueless Stanford Law School Dean

That’s not TOO redundant is it?
Paul Mirengoff at Powerline has put up a recent series of interesting posts that questions whether Stanford Law School is in compliance with the Solomon Act which (as described in Powerline):
…requires schools receiving federal funding to give access to military representatives for recruiting purposes, and to treat military recruiters in the same way they treat all other employment recruiters
Powerline has now received correspondence from the Dean of the Stanford Law School that puts up a rather weak case against the military’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy among other things, but the most telling point in the whole e-mail from the Dean gets picked up by Scott Johnson at the end. Johnson notes the Deans’ statement:
“[N]o other employer has a rule precluding some students from obtaining employment for reasons wholly irrelevant to their ability to do the work. The military's recruitment policy tells a segment of our community, for reasons that have no bearing whatsoever on their willingness or ability to serve, that they cannot do so because some other people fear or hate them for who they are.”
Johnson first notes that the Dean Kramer is “attributing phobic motives to those who disagree with him” but he then immediately skips forward to the ‘legal aspects’ of the issue (the legal-eagle that he is) and properly points out that is not just ‘recruitment policy’ but the LAW OF THE LAND.
I want to not get into the policy-law distinction though and go back to the ‘phobic motives’ point.

What caught my eye in Dean Kramer’s description was NOT the embedded ‘phobia’ canard at the end. What struck me was the absolute cluelessness of what the military is about and the lack of awareness of the argument behind not permitting open homosexuality in the military. The argument against homosexuals openly serving in the military is the SAME standard by which ALL types of conduct in the military is measured: social activity and behaviors MUST not adversely impact good order and discipline.

Perhaps as a simple civilian, Dean Kramer is unaware that putting on the uniform involves more than just ‘doing a job’ 9 to 5 with 'billable hours': even JAGs may find themselves bunked in a Combat Outpost at some time in their career.

Actually, I covered this a while back when Peter Pace was being attacked over his thoughts on the subject so here’s an excerpt of that earlier post , because the Dean seems like he might need a good example to help him think things through:
...the real issue is this:Until separate sleeping and hygiene facilities that are provided in every possible field situation can be reasonably guaranteed to be equal to a female’s vis-à-vis heterosexual male and vice versa -- how will (insert name here)’s sense of personal privacy and freedom from harassment be protected? Doesn’t (insert name here) have as much of a right to not be quartered with a homosexual of the same sex as (insert name here) does to not be quartered with a heterosexual of the opposite sex? (And isn’t all this PC gender-speak lovely?)

When I run into ignorami spouting off about things military when they are totally ignorant of what it means to actually be IN the military I want to run their nose up and down my sleeve so they can count the bumps 'till they bleed. (The only thing worse is someone who should know better and still engages in WILLFUL ignorance. They get both sleeves. )

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ted Kennedy Fun at Ann Althouse

Althouse: Ted Kennedy is unhappy with Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

I don't normally read the comments beyond Ms Althouse's post, but this time around there's some fun going on in the comments section. Evidently she has a regular(?) visitor, a 'Christopher', who takes exception to the mere mention of Uncle Ted's Driving School's safety record.

'Chris' actually begins defending the indefensible via a poor imitation of Taranto's now famous reminder: "Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment"

I honestly don't know why people just don't talk over and ignore his (Chris') hissy fits, but they keep trying to talk to the boy....and as they say: "hilarity ensues."

"Where Y'all From?"

I get that a lot here at home...

I don't usually go for these online quizzes, but this one brought out my curious streak. I'm a Texan. My Mom was a San Antone girl with Texas roots back to the days of the Republic and who had never left the state until she married my Dad. My Dad's Mother was a West Texas Girl (believe it: there is a distinct sub-group) and she met my Granddad in Texas. I lived in North and South Texas for about half my school-age years, and have been back home now about 5 years, after trying to get back ever since I retired from the Air Force.

But because my Father was first in the military and then a 'Migrant Aerospace Worker', between my childhood and adult lives I've also LIVED in Oregon (Born there - a Texan born 'overseas' as it were), Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Connecticut, California, Colorado, Nevada, Alaska, Arizona, Utah, and Iceland. I've visited Canada, Europe, and the Carribbean and have actually visited every state except Hawaii. Everywhere I've gone in the States EXCEPT the South, people usually assume I'm a local (But after five years my "Y'all" is starting to come naturally again).

THIS is what happens when you live everywhere:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Northeast
The West
The Inland North
The South
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

You sound like you are from anywhere.

My Wife is just as bad or worse. Born in Maine into a career Air Force family, she slips from one speech pattern to another as easily as anyone I've ever seen or heard. We visited my folks in England in the early 80's and everyone thought we were Canadian at first. After a month in the 'Shires', I think everyone we met assumed I was a Canadian who had married a Brit.

I do love answering local friendly cashiers who seem to doubt my Texian origins and who frequently ask us "Where are Y'all from?". I usually have to throw in a few gratuitous "Y'alls" and "fixin' to's" to convince them that I really am a local boy.

The only downside I've experienced as the oldest child and the only one who followed my Dad's 'Aero Bracero' ways, is I sometimes have to ask for a translation from my siblings who haven't moved around nearly as much or as far.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The “COST” of Iraq War?

If you want to think that way, how about we consider the net economic benefit of “cost avoidance”?
H/T Instapundit

I contemplated spending some time debunking the Democrat talking-point memo masquerading as a report on the cost of the “Iraq War” when the news broke yesterday, but decided to write about something else, thinking that the Dem’s analytical basis was so lame that someone with much greater readership would chop it down to size – and today I was proved correct.

James Pethokoukis at US News & World Report takes the Democrats to task today for failing to consider the costs of containing Iraq in his blog:

Should we then assume that by not waging the war, Uncle Sam would be a trillion dollars to the better? That would be a questionable assumption, a product of a sort of "static analysis" that assumes if you change one critical factor, all the rest stay pretty much the same. Professional futurists, like the ones at the Big Oil companies, know better than that. They give clients a range of scenarios based on different values for different variables. And that is also what three economists at the University of Chicago's business school did in 2006. They looked at the costs of not going to war with Iraq back in 2003.
Mr. Pethokoulis then points out, the U of Chicago study examined the costs of CONTAINING Iraq (emphasis mine).

Advocates for forcible regime change in Iraq expressed several concerns about the pre-war containment policy. Some stressed an erosion of political support for the containment policy that threatened to undermine its effectiveness and lead to a much costlier conflict with Iraq in the future. Others stressed the difficulty of compelling Iraqi compliance with a rigorous process of weapons inspections and disarmament, widely seen as a critical element of containment. And others stressed the potential for Iraqi collaboration with international terrorist groups. To evaluate these concerns, we model the possibility that an effective containment policy might require the mounting of costly threats and might lead to a limited war or a full-scale regime-changing war against Iraq at a later date. We also consider the possibility that the survival of a hostile Iraqi regime raises the probability of a major terrorist attack on the United States.
That last sentence was the key one for me and we’ll get back to it in a moment. Pethokoulis’ analysis continues:

Factoring in all those contingencies, the authors find that a containment policy would cost anywhere from $350 billion to $700 billon. Now when you further factor in that 1) a containment policy might also have led to a higher risk premium in the oil markets if Iraq was seen to be gaining in military power despite our efforts to box it in, and 2) money not borrowed and spent on Iraq might well have been spent on something else given the White House's free-spending ways, it's easy to see that doing a cost-benefit analysis on "war vs. containment" might have left administration officials with no clear-cut economic answer.
Mr. Pethokoulis parenthetically provides a link to the House Republican reply to the Democrats ‘defective report’. The response is too soft on the hard numbers to my way of thinking – but that is OK, considering it is a ‘quick-turn’ response to a Democratic sneak attack. Mr. Pethokoulis closes by pointing out that others have reminded us that the cost-benefit isn’t all that important in the scheme of things via a 2006 reference to the Becker-Posner Blog.

So how can we think about the VALUE of taking Saddam out?
With the status quo being what it was in 2001, what were the chances that Saddam would have been passive in the wake of our success in Afghanistan? Does not the fact that Zarqari moved into Iraq after he was treated in Iran for injuries received in Afghanistan, or the fact that Saddam had allowed/supported the training of thousands of terrorists leading up to the invasion of Iraq perhaps indicates that Saddam was anything BUT passively standing on the sidelines?
Finally, the fact that we have spent the last 4 or so years killing an increasing number of foreign radicals that came to Iraq AFTER we freed it from the Baathists MUST be recognized by any rational mind that if we can kill or capture a radical Islamist in Iraq, they won’t be able to do evil in the United States.
So, can we provide some reasoning to logically characterize the economic BENEFIT of taking Saddam down in Iraq? Of course!
I was going to take a stab at it but a funny thing happened while researching the problem tonight. There is already an analysis out there! One that we can use to give us a feel for the cost avoidance we’ve accomplished to-date with the war in Iraq and our subsequent ‘nation building, as a CRITICAL PART of the Global War on Terror(GWOT)--something the Left would like to ignore and have the rest of us to forget.
The analysis pre-dates the latest Iraq War and was produced by Professor Looney with the Center for Contemporary Conflict (CCC), a ‘research arm’ of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey. It is titled: “Economic Costs to the United States Stemming From the 9/11 Attacks”.

Using the professor’s assessment of the impact from the 9/11 attacks, we can easily see the value of successfully preventing further attacks on US soil. Now I admit this approach is based on the belief that the terrorists WOULD stage such attacks if they were capable of doing so. This is an idea that does not require any imagination to accept, but I would argue requires a seriously fantastic imagination to deny.

Professor Looney estimated that the 9/11 attacks cost the United States approximately $22.5B in direct costs in the short term, but added to that in indirect costs based upon the impact of 9/11 on the economy:

Immediately after the attacks, leading forecast services sharply revised downward their projections of economic activity. The consensus forecast for U.S. real GDP growth was instantly downgraded by 0.5 percentage points for 2001 and 1.2 percentage points for 2002. The implied projected cumulative loss in national income through the end of 2003 amounted to 5 percentage points of annual GDP, or half a trillion dollars (emphasis mine).
So rounding down to easy numbers, we have the cost of the 9/11 attacks estimated at “half a trillion dollars” over a two year period. Taking an extremely conservative approach, and ignoring the compounding effects of multiple attacks on the US economy, we can see that every attack similar to 9/11 that is prevented since that time is worth 1/3 of the total cost that the Democrats claim to-date. Ergo, all we would have had to have accomplished in the GWOT so far was to keep Al Qaeda and their ilk too busy to carry out three lousy follow-on attacks and the War in Iraq is a big-time money-saver!

Add a little more realism to the assumptions by factoring in the compounding effect that repeated attacks of possibly even smaller scale or lesser success might have on the US, and the War in Iraq becomes a freebie! At least, that’s how it would look to any moron who actually thought the cost of doing the right thing was in any way as relevant as doing something because it WAS the right thing.

Hey! This is the second post in a row that I get to close with:
As the old saying goes: "Too many people know the price of everything but the value of nothing".

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Last Defense Support Program Satellite Launched

We always hear about when things go wrong with defense programs but we never hear loud, astonshed, awe-filled exclamations when things go better than we have a right to expect.

This week the US launched its last DSP satellite: DSP 23.

How well have the DSPs performed? From the article linked in the Topic of this post:

The launch of DSP 23 extends the service of a satellite constellation that has been the nation's eyes in the sky for nearly four decades, providing warnings of tactical and strategic missile launches, nuclear detonations, and other technical intelligence. DSP satellites have operated four times beyond their specified design lives on average, and Flight 23 is expected to serve well into the next decade....

DSP satellites set a high standard for performance. The satellite's longevity has provided an extra 162 satellite-years on-orbit to date, the equivalent of delivering 30 to 50 additional satellites (without the cost of the launch).

While the performance of the first ones launched, beginning in 1970, was a national secret, and very little was known about how the progam matured throughout its development, we will no doubt continue to endure a steady stream of hand-wringing and whining over the DSP follow-on: the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS).

As the old saying goes: "Too many people know the price of everything but the value of nothing". Think of DSPs and SBIRS as preventing national blindness.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I Always Regret Not Asking the Question

When I had the chance. Dang.
From 'Powerline' here.

One of my biggest peeves with the 'Bush is Evil' crowd and Left Wing Democrats has been the constant drumbeat (focus-group driven no doubt) that "mistakes were made" and that the President/members of his Administration "won't admit that mistakes were made". The drumbeat has died down somewhat with the ongoing successful efforts in Iraq, but I think the calm is more because the focus-group politicos feel they got the most mileage out of the strategy than because they changed their mind or think it was ineffective.

NOW I find out that Victor Davis Hanson will have an essay coming out in the Claremont Review of Books on a subject near and dear to my heart. As posted at Powerline:
Our friends at the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here) advise us that the upcoming winter issue promises to be one of the best yet, with essays by Victor Davis Hanson on the inevitability of mistakes (but not victory) in warfare...
When I attended the 25th Hurley History Seminar last month, I was torn between asking Dr Hanson a long, multi-part question on this subject (or possibly one other question/suggestion on my mind) or focusing on what other people were asking or saying. I elected to stay silent and observe.

I guess after the next edition of the Claremont Review I will know if I should have asked him something to the effect of:

Dr. Hanson:
The constant pressuring of the President to 'admit mistakes were made' seems to me to be a "lose-lose" situation for the President. this situation is infuriating to me, and I would think be for anyone who understands such concepts as "fog of war", "friction", and "imponderables" in history. You have discussed and debated this war with many of its critics. Do you believe the pressure to admit mistakes is born from some kind of post-modern philosophical retardation that causes people to believe that ALL mistakes are preventable so therefore even decisions or actions that become known to be in error ONLY after the fact, must still be the result of flawed reasoning - a 'mistake'? To rephrase the question: Are the critics who demand an 'admission' generally ignorant of the fact that some things like the detailed course of a war are 'unknowable' beforehand? Or do you think most critics are simply being willfully ignorant to suit their politics?

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda.

The other possible question/suggestion I had, concerned an alternative or additional strategy for dealing with the inevitable "Well I'd like to think we (humanity) has changed for the better" kind of argument without logical support for the argument that Dr. Hanson seems to always get when he points out (usually with effective examples and analogies) that mankind has not fundamentally changed over the last few thousand years. -- A post for another time perhaps?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

James Miller Revisited

Remember Fallujah?

The LA Tmes is 'revisiting' this photo and Marine today.
I got into a little e-mail dustup with an MD over this pic back when it was first making news. The doc had posted someplace that he (paraphrasing here) was greatly alarmed over the young man's use of tobacco and was concerned that it didn't send the right message to the youth or public at large.

I pointed out to the MD that he had absolutely ZERO perspective and insight as to what really were the different relative threats in this young man's life at that time. I'm pretty sure I quoted Chesterton. I wonder what that doc thinks now?

Good Luck James Miller.
Don't give up. Get Well.
God Be With You.

Kudos to Mr Sinco for not forgetting Miller. Even though I'm sure we'd disagree on a lot of things, the merits of helping a friend in need isn't one of them.

And an extra-wide combat boot up the a$$ to the LA Times editors for the obvious agenda piece on Veteran's Day.

Update in response to Commenter: I unfortunately can't claim to have been civilized at first ( I am a retired Senior NCO after all) . I was so pissed off initially that I hit him hard with this photo accompanying the text. Civility came later after I calmed down.

Remember Veteran's Day

Read Austin Bay .