Monday, November 29, 2010

Quiet Events

Quietly Accept Events as they Occur
Don't demand that events happen as you would wish them to. Accept events as they actually happen. That way peace is possible. - Epictetus

It would be appropriate to have a quiet blank entry now but I'll push ahead. :)

I need to re-edit Nudging part 1.  Tons of mistakes in there and after all, it is the first part of my preface towards my grand economic theory.  And it's awful, but I'll try to edit some life into it when I get time. Time has been running a little off kilter because...

Thanksgiving occurred and it was a very good one. I truly enjoyed my family.

Meanwhile I bought one Black Friday present for myself which I hope is not coming my way in duplicate for Christmas. I bought a Sony Ebook Reader. The pocket edition is really the perfect size and I have been reading like crazy ever since. I found this program named Calibre that is just what I would expect from the open source community. It awesomely organizes ebooks and even downloads free news feeds from the likes of Business Week, USA Today, etc.  The open-source literary community is obviously putting some time into transforming free content from the Internet into format friendly e-magazines and e-newspapers.

As I librarian I should have realized that an ebook reader would be fantastic, but I'm usually slow to accept new things. Yet I am awed by how wonderful recent events have been.  Shhhhhh.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nudging (Part 1) : A Preface to Michaelnomics

 "Nudging" is a term used to describe certain ways of laying out webpages to push the webpage user in a desirable direction. It is sort of like the mother elephant nudging along the baby elephant. She does it delicately but with brute force, all that is at her disposal to influence her child. Perhaps this is similar to the mother bird nudging her chicks to the edge of the nest and giving that one small tiny push that makes all the difference. In the hands of family and friends nudging can lead to a desireable outcome that is good for all. In the hands of society, nudging has a fairly good reputation as well. In the business model moral values while in existence are really superceded by the value of profit.

The first time I noticed nudging was on a site owned by the company RealNetworks. In the early days of the Internet, this company's product "RealPlayer" was the bee's knees. Some people said if you had enough speed (we now call it bandwidth) you could even stream music. Perhaps there would be a day when you might even stream video, but that seemed quite a longshot on our dial up connections, as slow as they were in the beginning.

Real "Audio" Player (video being a pipedream) was a freebie program. RealNetworks knew there was a limited number of people who would purchase things on the Internet, so the question was how to make that profit? Later versions of RealPlayer eventually included extra features that carried a price tag. However, people being like they are mostly chose the free version. Then came a nudge or two. When someone clicked on "download the free version"  they got a page telling all about the non-free version with extra features. The page talked all about these features and had a large button to download it. Somewhere down in the corner was a very small "download the free version."  Later another page was added, are you sure you don't want the Real Player Deluxerooski, and again, now in a different place on the page was the nondescript and small "download the free version." Customers must have mostly included people who weren't very good at the Internet and thought they must pay and clicked on the Deluxerooski Switcherooski button which was the only one they could find after being promised something free.

Another company that did the same thing was WinZip. This program and RealPlayer have competition with Microsoft and their great dreams of extreme profitability are toast. When confronted with a monopoly, most companies can't compete effectively. RealPlayer had the right idea in the beginning. Expand your Internet customer base by offering something free that they learn to depend on.  Once your name is widely known, then you can look into the profits. Timing was critical here. Perhaps they nudged a bit too soon or too hard, but Windows Media Player and Adobe Flash have basically taken over.

Nudging, while being effective and much more prevelant, is usually very subtle. Nudging as a concept is really quite expansive as I'll point out sometime later. But don't often see major companies using the obvious old fashioned nudge. But one major company that I often use shines out as three card monte on the boardwalk nudger: PayPal. Friendly little PayPal is an "e-commerce business" now owned by E-Bay, that friendly little company that arranges contracts between buyers and sellers of used and new items. Here we find our friend "Mr. Nudge" hard at work deciding whether we should pay through a bank draft (which I had to set up to get an account) or a credit card. PayPal nudges in a hard way towards my bank account. They don't have a familial concern over their customer's use of credit, they are concerned that PayPal must pay extra for this type of transaction.

So the nudging starts. First they use defaults carefully. Everytime I pay for an item I must remember that the PayPal will default to my bank account, no matter what my last choice was. Paypal does not give me a choice of a "preferred method of payment" they choose my preferred method of payment for me. After I choose "another payment method" and choose "credit card" a screen pops up that tells me of the wonders of using my bank account. Until about a year or two ago, these advantages included a statement that my transaction would be guarenteed by PayPal (PayPal's main draw). It was worded in such a way that it did not exclude the possibility that my transaction might also be guarenteed if one used a credit card. It just hinted. I see that while the nudging has continued this particularly egregious nudge has changed and the statement now says the transaction is guaranteed either way. (Actually it seems that it would be doubly guaranteed using a credit card because of the ability to dispute charges through this second company.)

While they took away this fudgy nudgy statement about guarantees, they substituted button colors. A button color that is universally known to be nonfunctional is gray, especially when next to a button that is blue or bright. The phrase "grayed out" is used to describe buttons that are non-functioning. Usually a button is grayed out if you have previously done something to disable the choice. For example, you choose pickup truck earlier so "sedan" is now grayed out below. Or you choose "none of the above" so the other buttons above are grayed out so you cannot now choose them. You must have guessed by now, "pay with credit card" is grayed out on the final choice menu as if it is for some reason, not an option. However, clicking on the button will indeed make it work.

Other techniques, these used by charties, described:
Nudge Your Users in the Right Direction

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


"Within our control are our own opinions, aspirations, desires, and things that repel us. These areas are quite rightly our concern, because they are directly subject to our influence. We always have a choice about the contents of our inner character." - Epictetus
So, I went for a walk. I listened to some music. I feel much better now.

There is a part of my walk that I have missed because I did not usually go far enough down a street that was often noisy with cars. Today there were not many cars, and I listen to my music louder now because my ears are better and seem able to handle a normal volume again. So I decided to go a little farther. Past the part where I would normally turn back was a park. It was about the size of a house lot but too narrow for a house and backed up against a stream.

It is a nice park dedicated to the memory of someone and it was just a little farther down the road.

For No One

Excessive celebration in the endzone! There seems to be a little too much partying over the sorrows and discomfort of others to suit me. Lately, it seems to surround me everywhere I go. I also want justice in the world, but justice doesn’t require a party over the result to be effective. It seems to undermine humanistic and religious values not to feel sorry for the person who is facing capital punishment. Among the many who are disliked  is a woman I know who does indeed have character faults. Others seem to despise her. They get all excited when something happens to just about anyone that they take a disliking to. I just see this woman as a person, flawed in different ways than I am flawed.

Sometimes the partying I see is for something as silly as a game. Take football as an example - I’ve actually seen people excited that the quarterback of the other team was limping off the field, going to the hospital with an uncertain fate before him.  My enjoyment of sports peaked somewhere between the 3rd and 10th steroid scandal however others see rivalries and traditions that are more important than their own humanity at times. And I know I’m guilty of the same kinds of things, if not in this way then in some other way.  Perhaps it is a matter of degree and perhaps not. But I’m tired of the partying over inane things.

I’m still reading George W. Bush’s book. I’m reading between the lines as much as possible so it makes the book twice as long. :) At one time George talks about the unconditional love of his parents. He tells of the incident where he killed his little sister’s goldfish by pouring vodka into the bowl, and how his parents still loved him. Reading between the lines takes me in all kinds of directions and I ponder things for a long while. I wonder what age he was exactly. Was he a minor with vodka or a young man with no insight whatsoever?  And why would he pick this incident, with others surely to choose from, to illustrate his parent’s unconditional love?

It all seems sort of funny that he would write about this until I remember the moment that I learned the depth of my own parents’ unconditional love.It was something similar in situation and I wouldn't even think about posting it here. It changed my life, I guess the goldfish changed his. Why I have been drawn to read this book is beyond me. Two years ago I would have thought it was the last thing I would have wanted to do. While I did have a fascination with Richard Nixon and Watergate when I was young, President George W. Bush was a hated enemy until I started reading this book. Now I see him as just not presidential material. The problems he caused happened not because of his ideas but the ideas he took from others and the inhumanity of Americans who cheered him on. He was merely a leader. The fact that justice is not done and he is not in jail for his crimes rankles me more than a little. But I don’t think I would be partying if he were suddenly tried and convicted either.

I don’t know. I’m just tired of the partying. And I'm happier to be near the people who love me, failure or success.

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: some things are within our control, and some things are not.” - Epictetus

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I found two things interesting this week. One was the timing of the release of President George W. Bush’s book Decision Points. For many reasons, it was understandably timed for release after the election. I am certain the revelations would not have affected the "Change at any Cost" election we just witnessed. But it would have been a little fun reminiscing during the election cycle about John McCain’s 2008 announcement that he was suspending his campaign to attend a White House meeting on the economy (somewhere around the time his money was stretching really thin because of his major mistake with public financing, if I remember right.) It turns out that President Bush had not even planned such a meeting and apparently learned about the upcoming necessity for one from McCain's announcement.

However, the specter of President George W. Bush wouldn’t have phased this election cycle. But it is honest good natured fun seeing the former President back on TV still with no context from the "History" that someday is to save his reputation. Even after a blockbuster rejection of the Democrats, President Bush still has quite a wait for historians and economists to be swayed by time and perspective. Meanwhile the wonderful mistakes and gaffs are back on TV like a new season of America's Funniest Home Videos. Reviews of the actual book seem to portray the former President as a bit down on himself.

Certainly, using appropriate timing, it will be a while before I can get around to reading the book, because I couldn't imagine buying it and supporting the former President financially. I don’t even want to check it out from a library for fear that someone would actually buy the thing if they couldn’t get hold of it fast enough to suit them. That being said, I’m actually looking forward to reading it with the same youthful fascination I had for President Nixon and the Watergate Scandal. Somehow in my later years, I am feeling more like my younger years. Nothing in politics is really too seriously disturbing to enjoy understanding at great depth after the fact. I knew every twist and turn of the Watergate saga when I was young.

I did get to look through an advance copy of Decision Points a couple of weeks ago and of course I immediately turned straight to the pictures like any well-read person would know to do. Perusing the pictures would lead anyone to wonder just where all these "presidential" looking photos came from? Either the media was actually biased, including Fox News, in presenting us with a silly looking President or the pictures selected in the book required a staff of hundreds who must have combed through millions of pictures taken by the White House photographer and elsewhere. The portrayals are really flattering to the guy. I have a whole new historical perspective on... photography.

The second thing that interested me this week was the timing of the Federal Reserve Board’s "QE2" on the day following the election. QE2 might otherwise be known as bailout 2. This apparently followed bailout version 1.5, or I must be losing track of the bailouts. QE2 formerly stood for the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. This luxury cruise ship cost $80 MILLION in 1969, and unless I’m figuring this wrong, would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $450 BILLION today using inflation adjustment. The Fed’s "QE2" is $600 BILLION, even more room for deck chairs. But the Fed's "QE2" stands for Quantitative Easing 2. I’m sure there are equally understandable reasons why this QE2 thing was timed for the day after the election, because the Fed is basically nonpolitical in their attempts to make our lives better through monetary policy. Apparently, according to some article I read, there are "market watchers" (which would include me and even my Aunt Mina when she goes to the grocery store) who believe that the Fed will end up pumping in 1.2 TRILLION dollars to make this QE2 effective enough to extract us from this continuous disaster I like to call the Great Bush Recession. I'm guessing this figure might be accurate. Perhaps there will be QE2.1, etc. but I personally think as a market watcher that perhaps it might be more like QE3.1 that will need to hit the store shelves before we'll see the financial operating system stop blue screening so much. I'll ask Aunt Mina what she thinks the next time I talk to her.

As usual, I’ve written entirely too much already so I’ll summarize:

1) QE2 costs $600 billion which is no small sum even compared to the earlier bailouts, and may no doubt boost the economy so we can finally claw our way out of the Great Bush Recession.
2) President George W. Bush, the "decider in chief" who authored the "decision points" that led us to this endlessly endless recession, feels it’s safe to come out of the woodwork now and make a few million for his own bank account.
3) Very little press coverage accompanied QE2, and certainly very few articles explaining what we need to know: the relationship between how much money we MUST pump into the economy and how bad the recession actually must be to need all these money infusions. I guess President Bush feels safe because the media is happy to see him, so they don't have to report about important and ratings deficient stories. Timing again.
4) Inflation will inevitably follow all this QE stuff because we are, as my Dad might have put it, printing vast sums of money.
5) Inflation was really a mind blower between 1969 and 2010 as witnessed by the HMS Queen Elizabeth 2. Wait for the Fed's QE Vista and QE XP. If they are needed... I hate to think about the amount of inflation we will need to pay for it all since we have now abandoned taxes as a payment form.
6) We never get tired of tax cuts and vote for particularly "promising" politicians. We effectively pay these taxes through recessions, our 401k’s, bailouts, and inflation. What politicians giveth, reality taketh away. There actually is a fixed "quantity" of money to "ease" with and it comes from somewhere. And the future is closer than our children.
7) I'll be glad I won't be reading about the "changey thing" in my email anymore. I know this cute phrase will stop being emailed to me because voters who send this stuff didn't even care if some of the weirdest of the Tea Party members got in there. CHANGE was what they wanted, with very little logic applied. They now OWN the "changey thing." All this is sadly written tongue in cheek because the emailers never own up to anything despite their other emails on taking personal responsibility. Yep, I'll keep getting emails asking how the "changey thing" is going.
8) Finally, I went to the grocery store in the middle of writing this and sure enough, my wife is correct that I can make something political out of things as ordinary as salt shakers. Two songs played while I was running my collected loose change through one of those coin counting machines to receive an Amazon gift certificate to help pay for Christmas. The first song went: "Please Mister please, don’t play B17." With this post unfinished and in my head, I was still thinking about QE2 and President Bush. Please Mr. Boehner please, don't don't play the same damned tune again. And the second song in the Kroger's grocery store? Good Timin’ by Jimmy Jones. What are the chances? I couldn't believe my ears. I listened carefully to the lyrics over the noise of spinning coins so I could Google what song this was when I got back to a computer, or at least a computer whose function wasn't just to spin coins into little holes and issue gift certificates. Thus I hyphenated the original title of this post when I discovered the name of the song. But, I need to start summarizing a little earlier don't you think? This thing is ridiculously long. My timing is way off.
"Who in the world would've ever known
What Columbus could do
If Queen Isabella hadn't hocked her jewels
In fourteen ninety two"
- Good Timin’   (Ballard and Frederick)
Correction: I found not two but three things interesting this week. Well timed coincidences seem more like supernatural events to me. When the well timed coincidence is about "timing" itself, it gets really metaphysical.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Decision Points

The universe has always seemed to revolve around me. It might seem nonsensical to you but never in my experience was there an incident that was NOT something witnessed by me, something I learned about, or something that I had a direct hand in. If a tree fell in the forest, and I didn't see it, become aware of it, or chop it down myself, then I'm not so sure it happened.

I know I've just alienated everyone else who might feel that they are the center of the universe. Just be forewarned that I'll find it hard to accept your evidence secondhand. While I have surmised I must be the center of the universe for quite some time (maybe since I was about 2 days old or so) the idea of an alternate universe hadn't occurred to me until recently.

The television show Fringe taught me about this idea of an alternate universe. Just to explain the concept: in one episode of Fringe, Walter, the main character, has invented a sort of framed pane of glass through which he can view the alternate universe. In this alternate universe as seen through the glass, the Hindenburg disaster never occurred. So from a New York City balcony, Walter can see dirigible type airships docking at the top of the Empire State Building, just like they were meant to be had there not been a great tragedy. Walter can even see the alternate universe Walter.

Now I am absolutely positive another Michael exists out there in another universe that revolves around him. This "alternate universe Michael" leads a slightly more peaceful life than I do. For instance, last week no one came running up to him saying "THE BIG CLOCK IS WRONG!" He never had this happen, yet I did. Looking up to the oversized clock that covers pretty much the entirety of a wall where I work, this BIG CLOCK was indeed wrong.

Oh, I know you're thinking "Daylight Savings Time." Throughout my life, people have informed me of this "Daylight Savings Time" thing and they usually remind me exactly at the times I need to know about it. How lucky is that?  However, this entirely different phenomenon that effects the BIG CLOCK is decidedly not our universe's Daylight Savings Time. There is no weather guy reminding me, no supervisor telling me not to be early or late to work, no cute morning news show making jokes about why I might need another cup of coffee, and most importantly no one warning me beforehand that the BIG CLOCK might just be WRONG the next day. This shows no signs of being the Daylight Savings Time I have become used to.

The answer, of course, lies in the fact that we live in a universe where George W. Bush was elected to the presidency. Perhaps in our universe Ralph Nader didn't die in an exploding Ford Pinto before he could run as a third party candidate, as might have happened in the alternate universe. Perhaps it was a butterfly flapping it's wings, or butterfly ballots, or some really odd thing that led to another, etc etc. that eventually caused a mistaken election outcome. In any event, a long sequence of strange occurrences and high level decisions have now led to, among other more important things, a different Daylight Savings Time. But, the BIG CLOCK doesn't see it. It stands steadfast in the alternate universe that it was made for, time passing it by, so to speak. It doesn't waste it's time changing itself on our mistaken universe's schedule, while it does change time on the appropriate alternate universe's schedule. So the statement "THE BIG CLOCK IS WRONG" has become a quadrennial event in my life. Alternate universe Michael never even bothers with his BIG CLOCK while I have to change mine 4 times a  year, that's 2 times when the clock changes with the alternate universe schedule and 2 times when it refuses to change with our universe's schedule.

Now, I could sense from the beginning of this post, your doubtful nature: "What an egotistic buffoon this guy is!" Oh, how I often wish you were correct! If only the universe revolved around alternate universe Michael's BIG CLOCK, the reality that slipped through our collective grasp. However, with President George W. Bush's book coming out, the BIG CLOCK faces me as a monument to the Decision Points leading to our current shared disaster, Decision Points that followed our other more heart rending shared disaster.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Breaking the Cafeteria Line

My wife often says I could find something political to talk about when confronted with something as ordinary as a salt shaker. In my defense, though, I would probably talk more about economics in relationship to salt shakers, with a little politics mixed in.

Honestly, in my last post I had set up a segue way into my daily walk which I planned to discuss at as much length as I could muster. This would firmly extract me from doing three political posts in a row. How cool is the blog thing anyway? I can talk to myself without fear of many people hearing. But, as it happens, the day after the nightmare election, as you might expect, something happened. Although it did arrive from left field, or more accurately right field.

On this decidedly inauspicious day, I found myself sitting at a meeting where my cafeteria plan would be discussed. This particular cafeteria plan, for those who have not had the pleasure, doesn't concern salt shaker disbursement among the cafeteria tables. It is a type of employee benefit the IRS allows in which taxes from payroll checks can be avoided by deducting medical expenses before wages are taxed. Medical expenses are therefore not taxed and your paycheck rises. You have to estimate your medical expenses for the upcoming year and be right about your bet. While my father had a little bookie experience,* I did not gain enough knowledge to cavalierly miss this meeting.

While minding my own business and trying to ignore the election, the representative of the company that administers the cafeteria plan begins talking about the changes due to health care reform. It went something like this "You see, those silly politicians wanted to make you think they were paying for all the billions of dollars that health care reform is going to cost us by making cuts. And in the process of doing that, they made this ridiculous requirement that over-the-counter medications should have prescriptions. What you have to do is call your doctor and have him send in a prescription. So if you take aspirin for heart disease, then you must get a prescription. Isn't that the silliest thing you ever heard of?"

You see, the place I live is not very liberal and I took it all with a grain of salt as the usual popular local wisdom (but keep in mind my feelings about grains of salt.) Then later in the presentation he discloses that he puts his own gym membership fees on the cafeteria plan because of a prolapsed mitral defibrillating coronary artery thingie. So, he naturally had his doctor write a prescription for daily exercise which he could use to have his gym membership covered in his cafeteria plan (excercise being apparently unachievable anywhere but in the gym of his choosing.) Politics had now darkened my doorstep while my eyes rolled upwards accompanied by a little twist of my neck for emphasis. I guessed he had seen it, this being a rather small room. And I thought I should later chat with him, hopefully politely and not with my salty attitude. I told him of a few concerns I had with the political nature of the presentation and the rather obvious substitution of the phrase "silly politicians" for "Democrats." I guess not knowing if I might be someone important he agreed that was probably a point well taken. I was no one important, though. I said I understood the idea that he did not want his company to be blamed for the new rules, but he might do this in a slightly less incendiary fashion.

See if you find this as fascinating and revealing as I do. An employee must be lucky enough to have an employer, and beyond that, have one who wants to go to the trouble to sponsor the cafeteria program to participate in this "government handout program" [using the Tea Party edition of Funk and Wagnell's thesarus to find this phrase.] So employees who are in those minimum wage jobs or work for themselves or don't have a job or have crappy employers, etc., do not receive this extra government subsidization of their medical expenses. However, the representative was complaining about the idea that I, being a lucky subsidized person, might have to type numbers into my cell phone to call my doctor and tell him I needed a prescription for my Tylenol PM. Prescription drugs I understand, health insurance premiums I understand, but I balk somewhere between Epsom Salts and Exlax. This attitude would probably be similar to any conservative person unless..... they are getting the money themselves and it's not going to those poor people. Government money used to encourage the use of condoms for poor people. Henny Penny, the sky is falling! **  But subsidize our own condoms, yeah, that seems ok. How dare they try to save money  by taking away my discount on Oil of Olay.

After the presentation one guy with a distinctively conservative demeanor walks up to talk to the representative (this after I have spoken my piece quietly and as unobtrusively as I could muster) and says something like "Yeah, those politicians! I mean look here. Sunburn treatment is covered but suntan lotion isn't. I mean, go figure." My mind was thinking up a response but due to my wife's sage wisdom I was lucky enough not to say "Yeah, I bet you could find some really great 50 dollar suntan lotion in the tanning section of this guy's government subsidized gym. I can't see any reason why the government should want to save money and deny me my Surfer Joe's Gnarly Ultimate Browning and Muscle Defining Lotion. I mean, dude! Those politicians just don't 'get' us surfers! Gimme 5." My eyes said it all, though, as the representative snuck a few peeks at me standing in silence in deep thought pondering the irony.

1) A 1976 Democratic, I guess, program to help people with their medical expenses.
2) A company that makes money off of this rather liberal law or "bleeding heart law" to which this company probably owes its very existence.
3) A company representative that complains about health care reform when spending is reigned in a little, to the point that I have to pick up my telephone and ask for a prescription for my Oil of Olay moisturizing cream needed for my "dry skin" condition.
4) Poor people who don't get subsidized and might not even have health care insurance that this little savings might help pay for.
5) Gym memberships covered if you have the right doctor, or are lucky enough to find one who understands us middle class folk.
6) My discomfort at sitting through this political part of his presentation that in the representative's own words is important because "everybody wants to know about this."

I mean, honestly, salt has added iodine! It's necessary to my health because iodine isn't found in many foods. Why isn't my salt shaker subsidized?

*joke for Ike
** Rumsfeld edition of Funk and Wagnell's Dictionary of Political Phrases

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Arianna on the Game, and Robert Reich on Going Forward

Arianna Huffington:
Keeping in mind that I don't remember Arianna complaining about taking up health care first, she has always been against all the compromises. I do feel this Monday morning quarterbacking is pretty darned good. :)   Going forward, I'm not sure what an attitude of no compromise would result in.  Could go either way, and certainly would mean gridlock. I'm not sure Americans would realize so quickly that gridlock did them in since they already feel done in.

I think Arianna does hold on to some mistaken notion that all Democrats are actually liberal and it would be easy to get things through Senate any old time we wanted to. Compromise didn't get any Republican votes, but how many conservative Democratic votes were necessary to overcome the now 60 vote barrier in the Senate?

Robert Reich:

This article makes lots of sense on going forward. I like the idea of explaining things over and over until people actually understand it.  Voters are truly on the island of Lost changing their minds so rapidly it makes your head spin. Think of the fall in Bush's aproval ratings from the 90's to the 20's. Think back to just two years ago when voters recognized the recession was actually owned by the Republicans.

I'm not sure the economy will be so anemic in 2012 with all the plasma the Fed is now pumping in. It seems like inflation, at some point, will be the menace and it plays right into the hands of the Republicans as well. Not only does it handily help to balance the scales for all the tax cuts but it portrays the Democrats as big spenders. Of course, spending was and is the only way out of the Great Bush Recession. The pattern seems to be that the Republicans spend tons of money on wars, tax cuts and just stuff, but their followers don't recognize the actual loss of money. Republicans effectively hide the economy with tax cuts (apparently not akin to spending) and borrowing (again not recognized as spending) until the inevitable recession hits. The Democrats pick up the pieces with real and obvious spending. The Republicans blame the Democrats for all of the spending.

I don't envy the job of actually explaining the economy to the voters. The Great Bush Recession is taking our jobs and now inflation is taking money out of our pockets because few of us realized we needed to actually pay for wars and things.

I think I'll go for a long walk and forget all of this for a while.

Thanks, Ike, for the second link.

The Daily Grind

To begin with, everyone who knows me knows I am very liberal and a former admirer of Jon Stewart and his comedic and political accomplishments, but I had an attack of nonpartisanship when Jon Stewart held his rally in Washington, DC, after his less than stellar interview with President Obama.

Stewart’s trademark, the unveiling of hypocrisy, has always seemed a little less important to Stewart than telling a joke. After all, it’s a comedy show and there is the ratings pressure of having the show daily. Stewart’s facts need a little glossing over now and then. Even the most ardent Daily Show viewer has known those moments of discomfort when the facts were portrayed inaccurately to achieve a laugh. All is well and very funny when one feels hypocrisy has actually been exposed. But when the viewer knows the facts and doesn’t use Stewart as his or her primary source for news, it becomes easier to see the reality of the situation. Stewart has preconceived stereotypes of the people and institutions he criticizes. While the typecasting is often brutally accurate, the actual facts are malleable.  Stewart has his own unique brand of hypocrisy.

Jon Stewart cannot actually believe he is somehow above the fray simply because he criticizes everyone else.  Rush Limbaugh often used that logical fallacy (that he was not part of the media he was criticizing) on a daily basis. To listen to him meant you believed Limbaugh wasn’t really part of the media at all. And what is the difference between Stewart’s criticism of everyone in the “cable” media and Fox News’ homage to Rush Limbaugh in the form of “all media is liberal?” It’s all from the same mold. Stewart must know he has affected the voting populace and even governmental decision making, know that his fake news appears no different from Fox's made-up news, and he must surely realize he too is on cable.

In the spirit of, I guess, being “fair and balanced,” Stewart apparently sees very little difference between Keith Olbermann’s show, and the blatant factual misrepresentation and political maneuvering of Fox News. Fox’s views are very clear and based on preconceived stereotypes and that familiar daily grind and ratings pressure. Both CNN and MSNBC have some actual journalistic values and ethics that Stewart doesn’t seem to admire or encourage. Stewart’s idea - that Fox stupidly represents the right, MSNBC stupidly represents the left, while CNN stupidly represents the boring – is simplistic and sadly easy to remember. The “media” is the new whipping post to replace George W. Bush. If you are a regular viewer, you will remember how Jon Stewart’s first attempts to make jokes at the expense of the newly elected President Barack Obama were met with loud groans from his live audience. I think the audience’s response was similar to mine: “Is there no end to this negativism and why are you still here, again?”

The answer as to why he is still here apparently lies in a mission of pointing out that we should not trust anyone on cable for our news. It is all a little reminiscent of the character Howard Beale from the movie Network: “Turn off your TV sets now!” Turn my cable show off now. His Washington get-together didn't vigorously encourage voting as one might expect. I think I heard a reference somewhere but not from Stewart. Unfortunately, Jon Stewart has wasted his moments on the national stage, the one with the White House as a backdrop and the one with the President himself. Two years after Jon Stewart had a major hand in awakening a generation of voters to the realities of the day, he appears irrelevant and hypocritical to me. That is very sad.