Thursday, March 31, 2011

Insanity Reigns

It's come down to this. I have nothing to say. And what can one say to insanity? It's the equivalent of shouting at a brick wall. Friends, the world's gone insane.

We act like what we say, what we believe, somehow makes a difference. But nobody's listening. We can't sway people anymore, not with logic anyway. Not with emotion either... We are numb. Who are we supposed to believe anyway? Politicians? Clergy? Columnists and commentators? The TV news? Our friends and co-workers? Ourselves. Everybody is full of shit anyway.

There was a time when this life made sense. It was good. Somewhere along the line that changed. Now nothing can be counted on. What was up yesterday is down today. What was in last week is out this week. Who can keep up? Who cares?

Maybe it's just me, but I doubt it. Maybe it's a bad dream and I'll wake up one day and everything will be OK. Maybe there's a nice man in a white coat waiting for me with with a new jacket with strings that tie in the back. Ha Ha, Ho Ho, Hee Hee!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Sad State of the Economy

We risk losing an entire generation of human advancement due to the mismanagement of our monetary system...

Craig Willms - blogger

I think it's safe to say
that people from all walks of life are at a loss to adequately explain the reasons we have such a sustained economic mess. I watch CNBC nearly everyday only to see the talking heads spew one thing one day and another the next. Obviously the political class is too self-serving to actually offer explanations beyond platitudes and sound bites. Liberals offer only higher taxes, higher spending and stifling government control as the answer to everything. And the conservatives? They are currently in scare monger mode when it comes to debt and taxes (and a whole host of social decay issues).

There are some who think government spending is out of control - this is only human nature when we see the terrifying numbers associated with our national debt - believing basically that the Federal government is sucking all the oxygen out of the economy. Others believe that only government spending can spur the economy back into growth. Who's right?

Unemployment is chronically high. State and local governments are (actually) broke. We've seen energy and food costs soar while being told that inflation is not actually happening. We watch our personal wealth circle the drain as the value of our homes and 401k's go south. Why?

Where are the solutions, where is the leadership?

Currently we have people like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) chairman of the House Budget Committee looking to cut billions from future budgets in an apparent austerity movement. We have Fed Chairman Bernanke pumping billions into the Treasury in an effort called QE2 (Quantitative Easing Round 2) in order to keep the government and the banking system flush. We have Democrats and liberals resisting any budget cuts either out of genuine concern for the "disadvantaged" or just to oppose the Republicans.

Are these really solutions?

First, I guess we have to define the problem. For the longest time we heard that companies aren't hiring because of the uncertainty created by the President Obama/Speaker Pelosi agenda. Even I buy this to a certain extent, but it can't be the significant cause of this horrible economic malaise. Productivity is up but the current workforce has not becomes slaves to the job. If it were true then the average number hours worked would have increased since 2007 and they haven't. The current average is 34.1 hours. This is nearly 2 percent lower than the 34.7 average in December of 2007, the month the recession officially began.

The economy is operating far below its potential largely because of a lack of demand caused by a precipitous loss of financial and housing wealth, which obviously results in less consumption. But it's worse than that. The bigger problem is a worldwide lack of demand threatens to push the world into a global depression. The price of oil may be just the straw that breaks the camel's back. Here we have to rely on Saudi Arabia to save us by jacking up their production and thus stifling the speculators who are currently mucking things up.

Of the largest economies only China looks strong right now, but I wonder if China is really just a house of cards. In truth China needs external demand more than anyone. Both Japan (even before the earthquake) and Germany are net exporters who can afford their domestic austerity movements. Is the U.S. actual going to enter a austerity phase too or is the Republican bark much worse than it's bite? And is it wise? I'm just not sure.

Listening to Congressmen declare that America is broke is annoying and it's disingenuous. The Federal government is not broke. However, many of the states are broke because they, unlike the Feds, can't just "print money". Since the U.S. is an issuer of a sovereign currency that's not tied to anything it literally can just create money out of thin air. If the U.S. government was broke the bond raters and the markets would be acting quite differently. Yeah, inflation is a concern, but when aggregate demand is so low inflation is not a factor.

So, yes, there is still faith in the U.S. monetary system, but is it actually possible to have the Federal government spend our way out this? If so why didn't the stimulus package have much of an effect? We all know why - don't we? To say it was poorly managed is an understatement, most political paybacks are poor jobs programs.

Conservatives and old school supply-siders believe that a large cut in federal spending will reduce the government's stranglehold on the economy. I think everyone agrees that the deficits are way too high, but drastically cutting federal spending in the current climate will simply decrease demand, just the opposite of what we need.

There are those who believe Obama didn't go high enough with the stimulus. What's needed now is huge increases in both public and private spending to spur an increase in demand and therefore create jobs. When people have jobs they will want houses...

Honestly, I don't know who is right. Emotion says these outrageous deficits and Federal overreach is beyond frightening, but there is a certain logic to priming the pump. If businesses and private sector can't or won't do it - someone has to, right?


(and yes, I quoted myself, it's my blog)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Who knew insurance was so funny...

It started with Geico I think. It was either the cute little lizard or the cavemen. The question is when did selling insurance become so funny?

In today's ultra competitive world of insurance to be successful you need a differentiator. Decades ago an insurance company only had to show it was large and strong and most importantly it had to be trustworthy. An insurance company had to be solid like the Rock of Gibraltar, as sturdy as the majestic elk or some such immovable object. Now, just being stalwart and at the ready is not enough - you have to be funny.

It's an ad executive's dream. These are clients with lots of money that fill the commercial airwaves with hundreds of 30 second spots everyday. Geico, a company I had never heard of before the little green gecko, was ahead of the game with several effective campaigns before the others got off the ground. Though I quickly grew tired of the cavemen spots the first few were very funny. The little Geico Gecko is always pretty good, I don't cringe or feel the desire to change the channel when he pops up. Some of Geico's other campaigns make me want to shoot the TV. All I can say is the wee wee pig was about as much as I could take.

Progressive, another company I had never heard of, jumped in with Flo the perky insurance sales-floor clerk. They rode this one for a long, long time and have largely succeeded it keeping it funny. It too is starting to wear thin. There are people who truly hate this woman - I've read somewhere the real life actor has had death threats.

Obviously these ad campaigns have been effective. The proof is probably in their respective bottom lines if you so inclined to do some homework, but all the proof you need is to see that the big boys are all trotting out funny ad campaigns of their own.

Perhaps my favorite is Mayhem. This ad campaign is so clever and downright funny that I have become "friends" with Mayhem on Facebook. Allstate, which is one of the biggest and most well known companies in the country, has a hit. Mayhem, if you haven't seen it is the personification of the trouble that awaits drivers out in the cold cruel world. The commercials can be downright hilarious.

Nationwide has their "World's Greatest Spokesperson" bit that is also clever and fresh. Statefarm went the serious route with young modern male singing the praises of a company that's bigger than both Progressive and Geico combined. Statefarm has supplemented those commercials with funny spots where the insured simply sing the famous company jingle "Like a good neighbor Statefarm is there" and an insurance man pops in out of thin air. These can be quite funny, but ultimately not sustainable like the little Gecko guy. Farmers recruited the actor J.K. Simmons to guide us through the courses at Farmers University. Some of these spots have been pretty good because J.K. Simmons is pretty good.

Don't surprised to see even more dull and stuffy insurance companies going the comedy channel route in the future. Me, I personally don't use any of these companies as the choices we have as insurance consumers is legion. This super competition keeps the rates low and that is good thing. I for one don't mind quick, funny little commercials, it's when 14-15 of them get shoved into a 3 minute space that gets me spitting at the TV.


The Snows of Kilimanjaro and other lies

Even though Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" has been repeatedly discredited I still hear assertions from the film thrown out as absolute truth. One such is the notion that the dwindling snow cover on Mount Kilimanjaro is a direct result of so-called global warming. Gore will show disturbing time-lapsed images of the the mountain losing the very snow cap that makes Kilimanjaro a stunning visual as juts out of the African savanna.

The inconvenient truth is that there is no evidence that temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro are any higher than they have been for decades. If Gore was interested in the truth he would show time-lapsed photos of the African landscape that surrounds the mountain. What you'd see is massive deforestation over the decades. This deforestation reduces the moisture available to fall as snow in the higher elevations. Without new snow the very natural process of sublimation proceeds apace. Sublimation, the process of a solid turning into a gas, is the real reason the snow cap on Kilimanjaro is disappearing.

None of this is denying climate change since we "deniers" understand that climate change is real and perpetual. As Al Gore says, this is not a political issue, it's a moral issue. It's the alarmists who are immoral. The alarmists simply lie. They lie not only to enhance a political agenda that sets out to denude advanced Western cultures in preparation for an eventual one world government, but mostly they lie to line their own pockets. Al Gore's carbon trading scheme is the scam it seems, but heady scientists scratching for billions in government grant money with cooked science is just as immoral. How is it moral to destroy what Western culture has built in some il-conceived Utopian quest? Padding your wallet by shaming the populace into believing they are responsible for destroying Mother Earth is despicable.

One truth is that energy use equals power and wealth. The culture that uses the most energy (in the wisest way) will be dominant and rich. Al Gore, President Obama and the progressives have made it a goal to strip the United States of easy access to cheap power and by extension the path extinguish our wealth. Despite what he says, no one can examine Obama's actions before or after the horrible Deep Water Horizon incident and say he hasn't been categorically, systematically denying the U.S. the ability to discover and develop domestic energy. He has actually called for the destruction of the American coal industry.

In a time when good paying jobs are scarce domestic energy development would (literally) pump billions of dollars into local and state economies. Modern nuclear power, which has been deemed imminently safe here and abroad, gets lip service and nothing more. So is the President really interested in good jobs?

The green energy paradigm Obama urges is a canard, it's window dressing. It is the illusion that he is doing something about energy and jobs. Windmills are a joke. Solar power is just not ready and ethanol is anything but cost efficient. Spain's il-conceived green economy instituted years ago in a socialist-utopian fog has produced 20% (official) unemployment. All of these alternative energy solutions may provide useful supplemental energy provided the national energy backbone is robust.

There's nothing wrong with the continuing and even urgent development of promising alternative energy solutions. The end of the oil age is inevitable and desirable in the long run. What is happening now is self mutilation, cutting off our nose to spite our face. The Global Warming lies regarding human causation and the categorization of carbon dioxide as a poison only serves to make regular everyday people poorer. The cost of essential energy takes money out of the family budget and gives it to foreign dictators. This is what is truly immoral.


Friday, March 04, 2011


I'm down for the count. I'll be back to posting on semi-regular basis soon. I'm dealing with some health issues... Hope to see you all soon.