28 June 2010
George Will on questions for Elean Kagan, here and here.

Very, very excellent questions.
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25 June 2010

These are not your children

These people -- it's never satisfactory for them just to warn parents, and (HORRORS!) let parents decide whether to buy their children Happy Meals which include toys. Of course, they have warned parents; but parents (darn them!) insist on buying Happy Meals for their children. Since the parents won't stop buying, the only alternative is to make McDonald's stop selling the offending product, the product, that is, which offends the Center for Science in the Public Interest, not the parents.

It used to be that parents warned kids to run away from strangers offering candy, but companies have made an end run by laundering their perfidy through electronic media. Now kids absorb countless commercials touting premiums based on their favorite characters -- Shrek, Batman, Barbie, Beanie Babies, etc. -- and, surprise, surprise, ask their parents to take them to McDonald's. Consumer-marketing guru Adam Hanft said, "Happy Meals proved that you could actually 'brand' a meal and make children harass their parents for it."

The Federal Trade Commission has reported that fast-food companies--with McDonald's by far in the lead--spent $360 million in 2006 on toys to market children's meals. In the same year, fast food restaurants sold more than 1.2 billion children's meals with toys to children ages 12 and under, accounting for 20 percent of all child traffic at those restaurants. It should be no surprise that companies employ the practice--it works.

As one reads the article, one gets the impression that, for Jacobson and his ilk, the only market players involved are restaurants like McDonald's and children, where the children are the consumuers. The parents? Oh, those are the people who are "pestered" by the children into talking them to McDonald's and are, apparently, impotent in resisting this pestering. Some of us -- neanderthals, no doubt -- would say this marketing to children via toys works because -- and only because -- parents allow it to work. Jacobson knows better. It's McDonald's; and they've got to be stopped.

Granted "kids absorb countless commercials...and...ask their parents to take them to McDonald's" and that children can be motivated to harass their parents for a product. But the question remains: Who is in charge here? As Bill Cosby might say, "These are not your children!" (I can't tell you what my mother would tell Michael Jacobson.)

I recall the last time I attempted to pester my parents into something. I was about seven years old. Not only did I not get what I wanted, but my pestering was so aggressive I got something I most certainly did not want (but was told I asked for) -- and I got a lot of it!

The children may "pester" and "harass" but Mommy and Daddy are the push-overs who drive the little whiners to McDonald's. Mommy and Daddy are the ones who spend their hard-earned dollars on Crappy Meals. Why doesn't the Center for Science in the Public Interest sue the damn parents? I'll tell you why: McDonald's has more money.

23 June 2010

And the law is irrelevant, of course

If a judge blocks a moratorium on off-shore drilling it presents a set of simple legal questions:

(1) Does the President of the United States have the Constitutional authority to stop off-shore drilling? (And, if so, in which article or amendment are we to look for this authority?)
(2) If the POTUS does have this authority, then under what circumstances is he legally authorized to do so?
(3) Do the circumstances under which the present moratorium was placed meet the Constitutional criteria?

Judge Martin Feldman has blocked the moratorium, asserting that it fails legal muster. Thus far the media are more concerned with Judge Feldman's oil holdings rather than the legal questions presented. In this article, Michael Kunzelman is pleased to inform us that "Feldman's financial disclosure report for 2008...shows holdings in at least eight petroleum companies or funds that invest in them, including Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig...." Kunzelman is kind enought to go on to report that it is not clear "whether Feldman still has any of the energy industry stocks."

I'm sure Kunzelman thinks he's a brilliant guy, but the fact is his sub silentio argument is that Feldman's argument is one he holds only because he probably owns oil stock. But this sort of reasoning, if it can be called reasoning, is logically fallacious. Specifically, it is called a Bulverism. It's the "You assert P because you are a Q" sort of argument, meaning, tacitly, of course, that P is false. Kunzelman writes nothing -- and I mean nothing -- about any legal argument the judge may have had. Pathetic.

Note: Judge Feldman's ruling simply "prohibits federal officials from enforcing the moratorium until a trial is held." A trial? What a travesty of justice! Oh! But wait! What's this?

No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law....

I think that's in the Constitution somewhere. I could be wrong. But I'm not.

This moratorium constitutes the deprivation of the liberty of oil companies to engage in their business. Due process of law? A trial? With a jury sitting as finder of fact? Good heavens! What next? Rule of law?

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22 June 2010
Once upon a time many thought generals criticizing presidents was good for democracy. Now, it's a threat to civilian control of the military.

The alibi of tyrants

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants. ~ Albert Camus

It is easy to believe the story that the purpose of the $20 billions in "escrow" taken from BP is to make sure that BP meets its liability. But this is due to ignorance. The fact is, BP is already in process of meeting its liabilities. Soon after the spill, BP announced that it would pay all justifiable claims resulting from the oil spill. It opened 25 claims offices. As of June 15, it had approved initial payments that amounted to $63 million, and was expected to rise to $85 million by the end of the week, to businesses claiming $5,000 or more in damages. So it wasn't that BP had merely said it would meet its obligations. It was already doing so when the shake-down occured. BP created its own fund, appointed its administrator, and determined staffing with a view to ensuring only qualified persons, businesses, and governments would be reimbursed for losses. There was no need for this action.

Then, of course, there is the law. No provision of either the U.S. Constitution or the U. S. Code authorizes the executive branch to take this sort of action. Even if an escrow account was needed, such accounts are supposed to be managed by the judiciary. Well, until now anyway, in the United States I used to know.

Someone commenting on this said this action was necessary in order "to make sure BP pays up front, since we know damn well they will try to use every trick in the book to funnel their wealth to their shareholders or executives when the check comes due for the incredibly expensive disaster they've inflicted on us."

This extra- constitutional, extra-legal action was necessary for our welfare. Never mind that there has been no trial. No finder of fact has found for any plaintiff, assessing BP's liability for anything. The executive branch, according to this commentator, must punish BP for a crime "we know damn well" they will commit.

Of course...

Thus, an oil spill is such a crisis as requires suspension of the rule of law.

The point of this "escrow" account isn't to make sure that people get their money. The point is to make sure they get it from Obama. Remember these ladies?

And this one?

When the time comes, the right people will remember that they got their money -- Obama money -- from Obama, not BP. That is priceless.

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16 June 2010
Governments never lie about anything, especially inflation

Dividends? Retirees don't need no stinking dividends

When I was growing up, table talk could be a boring experience because most of the talk, dominated as it was by my parents, usually involved business, especially finance. I've learned to be grateful for it, especially when listening to politicians.

Of course, it's also the reason I think people like Nancy Pelosi are ignorant. Not because I don't like her policies. Quite the contrary, in fact. I don't like the policies because I believe them to be rooted in ignorance, an ignorance which is a function of both illiteracy and innumeracy.

Take, for example, a report I recently heard on the radio that she believes BP should not pay its stock-holders dividends. Maybe they shouldn't. But her reasoning is the most simplistic crap my parents trained me out of before I'd graduated high school.

BP should not pay dividends because it made $17 billions in profits last year. Actually, it was $16.58 billions. Close enough though.

One of the things my parents taught me about business finance, and understanding profits, is that some amount of money is "a lot" or "a little" only in comparison with some other amount of money, the two amounts being percentages of each other. Pelosi thinks $17 billions is a lot of money because she's comparing it with the thousands of dollars needed by victims of the oil slick. In fact, it represents only a 6.74 percent profit. Yes, I said only. In business, that's not very much. It is $17 billions, in comparison with $246.1 billions in revenue. That $17 billions represents what is left of the $246.1 billions when all the bills are paid.

This isn't to say BP doesn't have a liablity. It is to say that whatever Pelosi thinks BP should pay, and to whomever she thinks it should be paid, it should be paid because it is owed. It should not be paid just because she thinks $17 billions is a lot of money. It isn't. It's a paltry 6.74 percent profit. The company I work for didn't make $17 billions in profits last year. But it did make about 12 percent in profit. Profit is about the percentage of revenue, not the raw dollar amount. And neither the raw dollar amount nor the percentage have any bearing on liability. Would Pelosi entertain the notion, if BP's profits on $246.1 billions were only $1.7 billions, that they could then pay dividends? We know better than to believe that, I think.

I doubt Nancy Pelosi knows, or cares, to whom much of these dividends will go. No one can like everyone on the list, but some of my favorite stockholders are Ameriprise Financial, Capital Group, Prudential, TIAA-CREF, Standard Life, and the State of Texas, among others.

You might want to check your retirement fund. Make sure it doesn't (still) have any BP stock among its holdings.
10 June 2010

What's really offensive about POTUS's use of "ass"

Some are offended at the President's use of the word 'ass'. Frankly I don't find it offensive at all. It's one of my own favorite words, as, for example if I were to say something like, "The POTUS is an ass." But never mind that just now.

It's not even offensive to me that he is looking for assess to kick. What is offensive is the general direction he's looking for this ass. This is a man who cannot call terroritists, well, terrorists. He's reluctant to use the word "enemy". He's not looking for any terrorist ass to kick. He's not looking to kick any Taliban ass. He's not looking for any Hamas ass to kick. He's not looking for any Hezbollah ass to kick. And he most certainly is not looking for any illegal immigrant ass to kick -- not that I have a problem with that one. (If anything he's probably more interested in kicking some Arizona governor ass.)

That is what is really offensive.

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04 June 2010

Nancy Pelosi loves the Word

This video has been making the rounds on Facebook:

Since she loves the word so much, let her hear from it:
Hear the Word of the LORD, you who cant love for The Word. "This is what the LORD Almighty says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in prosperity. But do not trust in deceptive words and say, 'This is the Word of the LORD, the Word of the LORD, the Word of the LORD!' If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods then I will let you live in peace. But as it is, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense and offer prayers to a god of your own understanding and then come and stand before Me, Book in hand and say, 'We are safe'-safe to do all these detestable things? Has this Word, which testifies to Me, become a stamp of approval to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD." ~ Paraphrased from Jeremiah 7.
03 June 2010
This reminds me of something I was saying here. It may be that, as Eland puts it, "Tea Partiers are right-wing Obama-haters rather than liberty-lovers. And like their icon Sarah Palin, they seem proudly ignorant of history." But they probably can more easily be transformed into the sort of liberty lovers Eland and I would like than leftists can be.

About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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