Prague Twin

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Kid is Getting Bigger

I figured it was time for a new picture, even though I'm still not blogging

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Why I'm Not Blogging

Any questions?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Iran and Al Qaeda: Friends or Foes?

Perhaps some of you remember the run-up to the Iraq invasion when virtually every speech that Bush gave mentioned "911" and "Saddam Hussein" in the same breath. Now, he never said that Saddam Hussein was in anyway responsible for 911, but he skillfully, masterfully muddled the two together in speech after speech. After a while, polls showed that a full 60% of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of 9/11.

I don't think there has been a recent poll on this question, but the last time I heard, it was still at about 50%.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because of this. Yep, that is right, "al Qaeda and Iran are among the greatest threats to America." Doesn't that sound like they are in a group together somehow? How about this quote from the article...

(It) can live in peace with its neighbor, enjoy strong economic and cultural and religious ties, or it can continue to arm and train and fund illegal militant groups which are terrorizing the Iraqi people and turning them against Iran.

Arm and train militant groups which are terrorizing the Iraqi people? Not al Qaeda, of course, but if you didn't know that, it would be easy to make the leap. Here is another quote to help you make the leap...

Bush said Iraq was "the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century: Al Qaeda and Iran."

Converging? Not squaring off, but converging. The two greatest threats: al Qaeda and Iran. As if they are on the same I-hate-America team. Two wheels on the "axis of evil" teaming up to kill you and your family.

I have to hand it to his speech writers: this is brilliant. They have tied al Qaeda and Iran together in the minds of millions with this one. Of course, the years of repeating that "Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism" followed by "al Qaeda is the worlds most dangerous terrorist organization" is a requisite part of this well-planned scheme to dupe America into making this connection. The seeds have been sown so well, and now it is time to reap the harvest.

So here is the question: Does this new round of rhetoric indicate that we are getting very close to bombing Iran?

As a follow up: Will the media once again be culpable for helping to dupe the American public for failing to point out that there is no connection between the two?

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to a balanced budget

Those of you who know this blog also know that I track the public debt as a proxy for the budget deficit. You see, the budget deficit doesn't include the wars in Afghanistan and and Iraq, and it doesn't include the interest that is paid to finance the public debt. There are a lot of other things the deficit figure doesn't include, but those are the big ones. Wouldn't it be great if we, as individuals or in our businesses, didn't have to count things like interest on our debts or "emergency" expenditures even eight years after their inception? That is exactly what the government does. But I digress.

The point is, I track the total amount the government owes each fiscal year and compare it to the previous year. Then I do the math. The difference is, in my mind, the true budget deficit. That figure has been roughly half a trillion dollars a year since Bush II took office. In 2006 it was $574 billion. Then, in 2007 it dropped to "only" $501 billion which left the total public debt at just over $9 trillion at the end of the 2006/2007 fiscal year which ended at the end of September.

Considering all of the back-patting the administration has been doing regarding "record tax revenues" and "halving the deficit" one would expect that six months into the 2007/2008 fiscal year we would be seeing some improvement. Hardly.

In fact, the public debt has increased by $430 billion in just the first six months.

The debt is out of control, and nothing can stop it now.... or can it?


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Question (I've stopped numbering them)

It was about six months ago when our good friend no_slappz asked me rather pointedly what my market view was. If I recall correctly, the Dow was at about 13,000 or a little higher having come off it's peak of about 14,000. I had already said that I expected the dow to stay in the 12,000 to 14,000 range until the end of the year with high volatility (incidentally, I also predicted the Fed to stay on hold for the rest of the year and about that I was obviously dead wrong).

I told no_slappz that I would hold my market view neutral until the end of the year at which point I would change it to negative. He criticized that this was a reactive view and was not forward looking. I never did figure out what he meant by that.

What we've seen since the beginning of the year has certainly been negative. The sub-prime liabilities that we were assured would be "well contained" have begun to affect nearly every major financial institution. My theory all along has been that one can't have it both ways. On the one hand we were told that the "risk has been spread" so that no one person or institution would get hurt too bad, while on the other hand the problems associated with sub-prime mortgages were "well contained." Well, the former has turned out to be true. Everyone will feel the effects of this problem before it is over.

So here is the question: are we closer to the beginning or the end of the current problems in the credit markets? Have we nearly hit bottom, or is the worse yet to come?


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Question #3

Has al-Qaeda in Iraq been "routed" as Sec. of Defense Robert Gates claimed last month, or are they "here to stay."

As a follow on, has "the surge" been successful or does the Iraqi's "failure to make sufficient progress" mean that "the surge" will be remembered only as a lull in violence, much like the early part of 2005?

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Question #2

If an independent contractor (say in Iraq) is paid to be an armed escort for a private person or company, and he does not wear a uniform, does he have Geneva convention protections? To put it more simply, couldn't an opposing force consider him an "illegal combatant?"

Hopefully some of my righty friends can clear this up for me.


Monday, January 28, 2008


Ok, here is a question.

Does anyone besides Hillary Clinton and John McCain have a chance of winning their respective parties nomination?


Thursday, January 10, 2008

This Blog Is Out of Service....

.....for the time being.

I'll be by your blogs once in a while. As far as excuses go, well, mostly school. I made it through statistics, but I'm still ass deep in Finance, IT, and now Cost Management.

Oh, and my wife is 5 months pregnant.

Did I mention I work full time too?

Honestly, I don't see myself blogging much for quite some time.

I really enjoyed it while it lasted.

Take care,



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Just a Quarter?!

The Dow dropped nearly 300 points today on the news that the Fed lowered it's target rate and discount lending rate by 25 basis points each. Now, doesn't the market usually rally on a rate cut? Sure, unless they were expecting more. Clearly, traders wanted a full half a point cut to 4.0%.

Here is what I don't get. If market valuations are at near record highs (fact) and the credit crisis is just a media invention (what my detractors say) and the housing market isn't really that bad (same as the credit crisis) why is it necessary for the Fed to aggressively cut rates?

If the "experts" don't believe that a recession is around the corner, why should the Fed even have to cut rates at all?

Today's market reaction to the Fed cutting rates by .25% reminds me of a little brat screaming that they didn't get what they wanted for Christmas.

But I suppose that Fed just isn't in that much of a hurry to debase the dollar. Net Foreign Purchases coming soon!


Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Well Timed Post

The last post was definitely well-timed. It is a week old, and since then we have had a slew of articles on the subject come out. I honestly couldn't have planned it better if I'd known.

Early in the week we got the story that the CIA destroyed videotapes of suspected terrorists being interrogated. There will be an investigation which is pointless since the tapes are gone. Reports suggest that illegal activity by CIA operatives are on the tapes, or were on the tapes before they were destroyed. But here is what they might have shown. Seriously, those of you who endorse torture NEED TO READ THIS!!!!!

Now we get the follow-up report that Congressmen and women were briefed on the tactics (presumably those caught on tape) and did nothing to stop the CIA. In fact, some reportedly encouraged even harsher techniques. Was this a coincidence? Doubtful. This is clearly an attempt to spread the blame across party-lines which is fair enough. While it was probably the Republicans on the committee who wanted harsher tactics used (just a guess here) the Democrats remained silent or tacitly approved because in 2002 that was politically expedient.

And while we are spreading blame, let's not forget President Clinton's "ticking bomb scenario" that is now being used everywhere to endorse torture.

Sure, Republicans are more sadistic than us "lefties" (if nothing else, I think the comments from the last post proved that), but the Democrats don't stand up for the ideals they say they believe in unless it happens to be politically convenient at the time.

I'm still trying to figure out which is worse.

Well, one small point in the Democrats favor: the one member who did express concern when briefed on these tactics was, in fact, a Democrat. Yes, Rockefeller raised concerns despite being legal bound to silence. Good for him. Too bad there are so few like him in Congress.

So while they leave a lot to be desired, the Democrats efforts to stop the CIA from torturing people beat out those who are racing to destroy our values out of a combination of fear and sadism.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Not In My Name, Please

In the post below, I had called into question the fact that all of us who were raised in the states (even those like Jeb who went to private schools) had to recite the pledge of allegiance every day. I don't think it is detrimental necessarily but just kind of ironic and weird. When I explain this to Czechs, they usually look at me dumbfounded: they would expect this kind of thing from their old communist masters, but not in a "free" country like the U.S.

I found it very interesting that the detractors who are all Republicans to the best of my knowledge (feel free to correct me on that) generally felt that my light criticism of this practice was groundless because the U.S. stands for the greatest ideals ever to grace the planet. I would generally agree with that last part, but I feel that only lends credibility to my argument that being forced to give the pledge is at least ironic.

One of the ideals that I think is particularly poignant is the idea that all people have certain rights, irrespective of what they are suspected of. Pedophiles, ax-murderers, pension-fund plunderers, and animal torturers are all afforded certain rights. The crimes they are accused of are presented to them clearly. They are given a trial, and even when convicted, cruel and unusual punishment (i.e. torture) is strictly forbidden. As much as I would personally like to hang these people up in the square by meat hooks until they slowly die, I understand that this is not possible if one wants to live in a civilized society.

Another one of those ideals is captured in the first Amendment to the Constitution. The press, by virtue of that grand ideal, is allowed to report almost anything.

So when I read a story like this one I can't help to point out the irony that the same people who believe so strongly in the ideals captured by the Constitution, are ready to cast those ideals away in the name of security. They not only think that a terrorist suspect (suspect mind you, not convict) can be tortured, held indefinitely without trial and without any charges being brought against them, but that the press is treasonous for even reporting that this is going on.

I don't have anymore sympathy for a terrorist than I do for a pedophile, but civilized people should refrain from torturing either of them.

Is that really too much to ask?

As an American citizen, I am calling on my government not to endorse, or abet the torturing of anyone no matter how horrible the crime of which they are accused of is.

As an American citizen, I ask that we live up to the ideals that once made us the most admired nation, and people, on earth.

Won't you join me in that, all of you?

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Today at work we had a conversation about clocks. One of my employees wants to put clocks above the doors to the office, and I mentioned that we had the same when I was in school. In fact, I explained, the clocks were connected to a central system so that the moment they struck three, the bell would ring. The ladies in the office, chuckling, said, "we didn't have money for such a system." They went on to say, "but we did have a picture of our president in every classroom." Of course, we had no such thing, but we did have a flag in our room that we had to pledge allegiance to every morning. At that point, I described the drill, complete with the hand over the heart.

I pledge allegiance, to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the republic
for which it stands
one nation, under god
with liberty and justice
for all

They looked at me dumbfounded and asked, "that is in a democracy?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Wow, you guys are crazy."
"You never had to do anything like that?" I asked.
The answer came, "no, of course not."
"Do they still do that?" they asked.
"Honestly, I don't know," I answered.

It struck me as strange that in a country living under the dictatorial regime we knew as Russian communism, no cult of nationality was practiced such as the one I was forced to practice every school day for at least 12 years. While we talked about how brainwashed they all were, we engaged in a practice which now, looking back, seems to me absurd and nationalistic, by comparison they lived in relative freedom.

So I ask you, do kids still have to recite the pledge of allegiance?

If so, can you think of any other country that has a similar nationalistic practice in place?

I can't.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Recap of the 17th

While the evening was reserved for celbrating freedom, others used this day for advancing their own agenda. The socialists organized 2,000 people who rallied against the proposed radar base outside of Prague. Students complained that the transformation has been largely botched. And the Nazis ironically chose this day to mourn the death of free speech after being snubbed in their bid to march through Prague's Jewish Quarter to "celebrate" Kristallnact.

So they really ran the gamut, from opportunistic socialists to ill-informed students, to simply misguided radicals.

It is clear that while it is important to look back, this country has a lot of looking forward to do.

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