The Firemen of the Internet

The Virgin Queen is judged unworthy by Google:

Being a penniless student, one of my constant readers advised me to check out Google’s Adsense program to see if my site would be approved and perhaps make a few dollars. I didn’t investigate very thoroughly, just put in my application and waited for a response — I got one all right.

My site was rejected. I quote from the email: “We regret that you are not able to participate in the Google Adsense program due to the racially insensitive material located on your website.”

I find it ironic that the Left always loves to scream about censorship, while the only people to actually do any book-burning and censoring for the last two centuries are leftists.

Blog Star

Fluffy Blog elects not to play pinata this week:

It was the summer after I graduated from high school, the world was at my feet, and between June of ’89 and July of ’90 the nine of us were inseparable. Quite literally our group formed one night in the Mullet Man’s cul-de-sac. I had never met half these guys before and I was sure I’d be treated like an interloper. See, Mullet had gone to a Lutheran prep school with these guys and had grown up around them. Mullet, the enigmatic Lurch, and I had formed a fast friendship in class at Bear Creek High and they were anxious to introduce me to the boys. So we met at Mullet’s house in preparation for a Friday night out. My apprehension was abated when Marky Mark shook my hand, tossed me a beer, and made me feel as if I’d been part of the group all along. It was like slipping on an old pair of comfortable shoes. What happened that night was a true cosmic convergence. It was perfect.

Our trip to South Padre Island for spring break in ’90 was one of those mythical road trips that have become a right of passage for every American male. We all piled into Q-Tip’s green & white ’65 Ford F100 pickup, Leonardo’s ’88 Nissan pickup, and my girl friend’s Jeep Wrangler. We left on Thursday night and got to our hotel around 6 p.m. on Friday. The drive took us through west Texas, which incidentally is like driving through the bowels of Hell, and we were praying Tip’s POS would hold together until we got to South Padre. One memorable night we went to this bar (I think it was Tequila Frogs but don’t quote me) and mainlined tequila (ever after pronounced ta-kill-ya) for a few hours. Afterwards Tip, Mullet Man, Hop-along, Hollywood, and I broke out the golf clubs and played midnight nude golf on the beach. Marky Mark, the Whiner, Lurch, and Leonardo headed back to the hotel to sleep of their bender. Once we got bored with smacking around a golf ball we went exploring and found a golf cart that belonged to one of the hotels. Being the drunk and butt naked dumbasses we were we decided to abscond with our new mode of transportation and drove around for a while. Somehow we found a pier and proceeded to drive the cart into the water. Laughing and flailing we scrambled back to shore, put our now soaking wet clothes back on, and stumbled back to our hotel. Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico is a golf cart with our names on it.

There were those nights spent playing Risk and shooting the s**t until the wee hours of the morning. Poker night in Leonardo’s garage was always something we looked forward to. We’d get our paychecks on a Friday afternoon, cash them, and assemble at Leo’s and play poker until dawn. Lurch showed up to vainly try to recoup past losses, Mullet Man loved the pizza we got from Beau Jo’s, and Tip always started the peanut war. Lurch threw parties that were legendary. These were the type of party where you sleep where you fall and his back yard always looked like the Jonestown Massacre. Hollywood would host impromptu pool tournaments that usually degenerated into a giant smack talking festival. Mullet’s mom always cooked the bomb ass dinner for us and the look on his father’s face was priceless as the nine of us ate him out of house & home. He was always found later in front of the TV muttering something about how we all had hollow legs to be able to eat that much that quickly.

Marky Mark and Q-Tip grew up to become fire fighters and will always have my undying respect. Marky Mark has three daughters while Tip’s first kid was born about a year and a half ago. Mullet Man is still a serial monogamist and went into the real estate business with his dad. Funny, I always thought he hated the man. Lurch is now pulling down a mid six-figure salary at Charles Schwab. Leo lives in Fort Collins and works for Hewlett-Packard. The Whiner is an investment consultant and does some estate planning. Hop-along does part-time modeling, or so he says, and God only knows what else. Hollywood is married, has a kid, and works for Invesco.

My most vivid memory of these guys was July 2, 1990. We had all gathered at Mullet Man’s for a barbecue and beer. It was your average low scale get together with us and the women folk. Nothing significant happened…other than it was our last night together.

The next night, July 3, I was driving to Lake Granby to meet up with the boys for a night at some cabin and 4th of July golf tournament the next day. It was raining cats & dogs and visibility was crap. I rounded this bend on Berthoud Pass and came up on a gas tanker that was backing across the road with no running lights on or signal flairs. I had no time to stop and my Honda Civic T-boned the tool box underneath the tank. I broke my neck and have been in a wheel chair ever since. I was nineteen.

I haven’t seen Mullet, Leonardo, Hop-along, or the Whiner since Marky Mark’s wedding in ’91. Q-tip and I try to go to at least one Bronco game a year and I saw Hollywood about five years ago. I ran into Lurch at our ten year high school reunion.

I’m not trying to preach about friendship or to teach some kind of all encompassing universal truth. This also isn’t meant to be some cheap, not-so-subtle tug at the heart strings or a heavy-handed plea for sympathy. This post is simply a tribute in a very public forum to youth and eight old friends. Gentlemen, wherever you are let me say thank you and take care.

Mailvox: the loan trap

An older reader emails a cautionary tale:

Back in the 90’s I had several gold and platinum credit cards. I had a typical mortgage on a typical house. I had a good paying job with decent benefits. I had savings in the bank and was “investing” in a 401,000. I actually owned my Chevy suburban. My family was living the typical American dream, nice home, good cars, delivery pizza twice a week, etc., etc.

Then the job went away. It didn’t go down the street, it went overseas. But, I had years of education and training in electronics, computers and math, so another job was just a few resumes away, no problem.

During the time it took to send out 473 targeted resumes, the bank wanted their mortgage payments and the bills kept rolling in. At first, the payments came out of savings. Unemployment benefits mostly handled daily living expenses, and the savings would be replaced when a new job was found.

It takes very few mortgage payments to wipe out a modest savings account, and unemployment benefits disappear quickly. No problem, all the credit cards were sending blank checks with the monthly bill, so I started paying the mortgage with those credit card checks. Again, no problem, the credit cards would be paid back when the new job arrived.

It dawned on me (finally) that it was not just my job that had been exported, it had been the bulk of the industry. American IC chip foundries, IC chip manufacturers, IC chip designers … almost all gone to the Asian rim. I am told that in the process, we lost 3.5 million good paying jobs in America’s IC chip industry in less than 36 months.

It takes very few mortgage payments to Max out a credit card … try it sometime.

So here I was, no decent job in sight, savings gone, cards maxed, unemployment benefits used up, but the bills (of course) never skipped a beat.

So, we got a second mortgage on the house. That kept the bank and the credit card boys happy, along with food on the table… until it was gone.

Still stupid to the extreme, I was still clutching to the idea that a decent job was out there to be found. To stay afloat, my wife and I jointly decided to cash in the 401,000 for living expenses. Try to guess how much of the money we lost doing that.

Tell you what I finally found. A job in the paint department of a Super Walmart for six bucks an hour, NO benefits but workmen’s comp.

The house is gone. The Chevy suburban is gone. The credit cards are gone. The savings are gone. The 401k is gone. Our credit rating is tanked. The only thing we have now is Social Security, which allows us enough money for a one bedroom apartment in the “older” part of town, and we are driving an eleven year-old car with almost 100,000 miles on it. When it blows up, we walk.

My point?

I see many other Americans in exactly the same cycle as we were.

It would be easy to offer post-facto criticism of this man’s past decisions, but instead of people wasting space attempting to derive a smug sense of superiority by posting how they haven’t imitated him, I’d prefer to focus on some of the important lessons to be learned here.

First, an immediate lifestyle response to a reduction in income is REQUIRED. English novels from the nineteenth century were filled with the sad ends of those poor, short-sighted souls who were foolish enough to spend their capital; they may have been fictional but were salient examples to bear in mind nevertheless. Wealth derives from capital, ergo it must never be spent except in extreme emergencies.

Second, it is always easier to find a job if you have a job. Any job. It is quite common to make the mistake of thinking that if you don’t “waste time” working at an inferior position, you’ll be able to devote more time to job-hunting. That may be true, but the problem is opportunity cost and the subconscious message that unemployment sends to prospective employers.

TPAM, an attorney, took a floor job selling computers at Computer City after he was encouraged to leave the first law firm at which he worked over his reluctance to artificially inflate his billable hours. Not only did this job cushion the blow of his reduced income, but the computer knowledge he gained there gave him the leg up he needed to get a job as first a contract lawyer at a multi-billion dollar company, which eventually led to his becoming a director there. The fact that he was willing to take a “lesser” job did not harm him at all in the eyes of his prospective employer, instead it sent the message that he was a man who didn’t shirk from doing whatever needed to be done.

Another friend, a pretty MBA with a somewhat rosy-glassed approach to life, spent two fruitless years looking for the perfect job in New York. When I needed someone to fill in for a data entry position for three weeks, I called her and she took the job, more as a favor to me than anything else. In her next interview, the guy was impressed with her international experience and consulting contacts – however limited they were, she had more than the other applicants – and hired her to set up and run their London office.

Third, if you have a mortgage and lose your job, and you don’t get an equivalent job within two months, immediately sell the house and switch to rental accomodations. You can always get back into debt to buy another house, but a reluctance to take immediate steps in a vain attempt to preserve your lifestyle uninterrupted can mean losing the house, the capital and the lifestyle.

Fourth, credit is a killer. Debt kills perfectly profitable companies, it puts relationships under incredible pressure and it simply isn’t worth the ability to live beyond your present means. I know a number of wealthy people who spend more time worrying about their ability to maintain their lifestyle than they do enjoying it; a beer on your humble porch is much better than a bottle of Crystal a hotel balcony in Paris if you can’t afford to pay cash for the latter.

There will always be stories in the glossy magazines about how people have made zillions through leveraged investments. But the far more numerous stories about houses lost, bankruptcies, and relationships broken under the pressure of debt are seldom heard because they simply aren’t as sexy.

If you live within your means, you may not live a terribly exciting and glamorous life, but unlike the Joneses, you will be unlikely to eventually have cause to regret it.

Going down, Mr. Tyler?

From Editor & Publisher:

The average circulation decline among 684 US daily papers is averaging 1.9% in the past year. In some places it is catastrophic. This is the biggest drop in the last five years. And no one is forecasting a turnaround yet. In case it hasn’t occurred to anyone, that means fewer slots for Newspaper Guild workers. Media credibility is in the toilet, even if the Koran isn’t.

The Manchester Guardian’s Peter Preston explains where the circulation is going—-“the defectors are packing up and moving out of newsprint: to broadcasting in tiny measure (though radio and TV news are losing customers, too) but overwhelmingly to the Net.” And it isn’t the Right or the blogosphere that are doing this to us, although that is what the MSM would prefer to believe. We are doing it ourselves.

If the most basic tenets of Journalism 101 are now no longer important enough for the media itself to honor and defend against their own members who violate them, where is the professionalism and the authority that is our main claim to writing the indispensable “first draft of history” – much less its value for sale? And if we lose sight of that irretrievably, who needs us? There are bloggers out there today with more credibility than Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, Eason Jordan, and Linda Foley combined, and their audiences are growing.

But they’re professionals! PROFESSIONALS! Yeah, well, I don’t recall seeing any journalists drafted on ESPN this spring. Lawyers, however loathesome they might be, are professionals. Doctors are professionals. Veterinarians are professionals. Journalists? I don’t think so.

It’s a trade, not a profession. Otherwise, Dan Rather, Linda Foley and a whole host of similarly truth-challenged individuals would have lost their ability to practice some time ago.

Only four years late

Paul Krugman writes in the NYT:

Remember the stock market bubble? With everything that’s happened since 2000, it feels like ancient history. But a few pessimists, notably Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley, argue that we have not yet paid the price for our past excesses. I’ve never fully accepted that view. But looking at the housing market, I’m starting to reconsider.

In July 2001, Paul McCulley, an economist at Pimco, the giant bond fund, predicted that the Federal Reserve would simply replace one bubble with another. “There is room,” he wrote, “for the Fed to create a bubble in housing prices, if necessary, to sustain American hedonism. And I think the Fed has the will to do so, even though political correctness would demand that Mr. Greenspan deny any such thing.”

As Mr. McCulley predicted, interest rate cuts led to soaring home prices, which led in turn not just to a construction boom but to high consumer spending, because homeowners used mortgage refinancing to go deeper into debt. All of this created jobs to make up for those lost when the stock bubble burst.

Now the question is what can replace the housing bubble.

Nobody thought the economy could rely forever on home buying and refinancing. But the hope was that by the time the housing boom petered out, it would no longer be needed.

But although the housing boom has lasted longer than anyone could have imagined, the economy would still be in big trouble if it came to an end. That is, if the hectic pace of home construction were to cool, and consumers were to stop borrowing against their houses, the economy would slow down sharply. If housing prices actually started falling, we’d be looking at a very nasty scene, in which both construction and consumer spending would plunge, pushing the economy right back into recession.

That’s why it’s so ominous to see signs that America’s housing market, like the stock market at the end of the last decade, is approaching the final, feverish stages of a speculative bubble.

Roach has been saying this for years. So have I. But if Paul Krugman is finally starting to figure it out, we must be on the verge of something interesting and probably nasty.

Then again, perhaps this is simply the first sign that I’m incorrect.

Bane on the dangers of height

Quoth Bane:

“I hate fighting a short man. If I have to, I drop into a horse stance, to lower myself to their level, and I watch my knees. I never attempt to dominate from height, rather, from mass.”

Height can get you in trouble. The Perfect Aryan Male has five inches on me and long arms to boot, but if I could slip inside his jab, (which was always tricky), an uppercut would seriously discombobulate him. His mother still hasn’t let me forget the time I almost broke his jaw; in general, smart taller guys learn to respect the uppercut.

One short guy with whom I used to spar regularly had a particularly nasty weapon in the repertoir, an uppercut kick that you never, ever saw coming. I always preferred to trade kicks with him in a side stance until something opened up rather than go face-to-face and end up taking the ball of his foot in my gut, or worse, my chin.

He was frighteningly tough too. A very good barefoot waterskiier who could do tumbleturns and deep water starts, he wiped out rather spectacularly on TPAM’s boat one summer afternoon. When he climbed back on the boat with blood trickling out of one eye and a leg laid open to the bone, his first words were: “Maybe I’ll drive for a little while, who’s next?”

It took a little persuasion, but we finally managed to talk him into letting us take him to the hospital, if only to stop him from bleeding all over everything.

Vote until you get it right II

M Chirac is expected to react to a French “non” by promising to listen to the people before making a second attempt at ratification.

He and other “yes” campaigners have said repeatedly during the campaign that there is no “Plan B” if the treaty is rejected and that there would not be a second referendum.

But one option being discussed in senior diplomatic circles is for candidates in the French presidential election in 2007 to promise to ratify the treaty in parliament rather than by referendum.

Remember this when you’re told how important your vote is, how you don’t dare “throw your vote away”. Democracy is a sham; it exists only to provide cover and protection for the ruling elite, who took the lesson of 1789 to heart. The ruler that does not at least appear to bow to the will of the people will fall.

But when it comes to what the elite considers truly important, they’ll cast off the pretense in a heartbeat in order to get the necessary business done.

DC next, please

The Blogger Blaster sends word of arrested legislators in Tennessee:

**UPDATE*** The FBI has the Tennessee State Capital surrounded. No one is allowed in or out. Tennessee is currecntly under siege folks. My dad just crossed the state line and he reports that there are 20 state troopers at the line… and apparently its happening all over the state. Troopers are stationed at the stateline on both I-24 and I-65. Draw your own conclusions folks. My gut says they are tryin’ to prevent legislators from fleeing the state.

Continuing with McCain and company would be nice. Arrested so far:

Sen. Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga
Sen. John Ford, D-Memphis
Sen. Kathryn Bowers, D-Memphis
Rep. Chris Newton, R-Cleveland

Apparently three more were arrested as well.

False dichotomy

At a time when the Army and Marine Corps are struggling to fill their ranks, many conservatives are determined to limit the ability of women and gays to contribute to the war effort. Are they more concerned with winning culture wars at home or winning the war on terrorism abroad?

Even as women have taken on roles once reserved for men, the disastrous consequences predicted by naysayers have not come to pass. In 2000, the late Col. David Hackworth wrote: “What the British longbow did to the French army at Crecy in 1346, the failed military policy on gender integration has done to the U.S. armed forces at the end of the 20th century: near total destruction.” Yet in the last five years, “near total destruction” has been the fate not of the U.S. armed forces but the Taliban and Baathists they have battled.

Far from being crippled by the presence of women, the military has found that female soldiers can perform some jobs that men can’t, such as searching Iraqi women. As long as standards are not compromised to allow women into jobs beyond their physical capacity, I don’t see why we should reverse the trend toward greater opportunities for women.

The short answer, of course, is that conservatives wish to win the culture war at home while winning the so-called war without hampering the military with divisive, low-quality elements that will destroy unit morale and reduce operational efficiency.

Women in the military are a complete disaster. The finest aviators can’t land on carriers without killing themselves, the mechanics can’t even carry the tools they require for their jobs and they regularly make use of the pregnancy option to render themselves undeployable. The last sentence is particularly ironic, as almost every element of Army training has been severely compromised in order to avoid having to eliminate 90 percent of female recruits.

Hackworth’s point is still spot-on. The USA has defeated a third-rate military without an Air Force. So what? Defeating Israel – which no longer allows women in combat units – or the numerically superior People’s Liberation Army might support this joker’s point, but when you’ve got tactical and numerical superiority, air supremacy and a three-generation technological lead, you should win even if your combat troops are Girl Scouts.

Chopping the cedar

Ramesh Ponnuru freezes Richard Cohen solid, then smacks him with a hammer:

He thinks that the president’s event with families who had adopted “unused” embryos and raised them as children was emotionally manipulative. I suppose we should go back to the sober, rational debate we were having with pictures of disease-stricken celebrities.

His only argument is a version of the naturalistic fallacy: A lot of human embryos die because they fail to implant, therefore they weren’t alive in the first place. In other words: because they die naturally, it’s okay for us to kill them deliberately. Because tsunamis happen, is it okay to slaughter Asians?

An excellent and concise dismissal. Wish I’d managed to put it that precisely myself.

And actually, I think political discourse via celebrity is a perfectly reasonable way to go about it in a culture where Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton are considered major news stories by the media and public alike.