Monday, December 22, 2008

Independent Video Game Designers

There's a lesson here:

"...Perhaps just as important, independent games shifted from quirky distraction to viable business model. With digital distribution taking off on all three consoles, small teams crafting small, innovative games captured more and more of our gaming dollars...." ("Top 10 Games of 2008" Wired (December 22, 2008)) [emphasis mine]

'Nuf said?

Bank Bailout Scandal? Maybe - But Think Before You Decide

I found these headlines in a Google 'news' search. They're really op-ed, but that's another matter.

  • Bank bailout funds flow into executive compesation
  • $1.6 Billion of Bailout Went to Pay Top Execs
(That one headline really did read "Bank bailout funds flow into executive compesation" - maybe the author had good reason for that alternative spelling.)

Bank Bailout Scandal? Maybe, But We Don't Know That Yet

Those headlines make it look like over a billion dollars of American taxpayer money went into the pockets of top bank executives. So do the stories:
  • "Bank bailout funds flow into executive compesation"
    (December 22, 2008)
    • "You'll be happy to know that a hefty chunk of the $700 billion bailout designed to help banks in order to stabilize the economy has, at least indirectly, flowed into the coffers of top executives...."
  • "$1.6 Billion of Bailout Went to Pay Top Execs"
    Dollars and Sense ("the magazine of economic justice")
    (December 21, 2008)
    • "According to a study by the Associated Press, $1.6 billion of the federal bailout funds went into the pockets of top bank executives. Even institutions that have cut the salaries and bonuses of top corporate officers have awarded massive compensation packages, despite having logged billions of dollars in losses...."
The December 22 piece is honest, or accurate, enough to say that the $1.6 billion dollar figure is from 2007 - and let the reader remember that the bailout was in late 2008. The December 21 op-ed is, simply, wrong.
Review and Reality Check
The "$1.6 Billion" figure is from an Associated Press article, published yesterday: "AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs." What the Associated Press found was that bank executives got $1,600,000,000 in pay and perks: in 2007. That's before the federal bailout.

Lies, Assumptions, and Due Diligence

I have no idea why the authors of those two op-ed pieces were so inaccurate. It's possible that they weren't aware that what they wrote wasn't true.

The Associated Press headline might give an impression that bailout funds were part of those $1.6 billion dollars of compensation. This may help show how easy it is for "$1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs" to become "$1.6 Billion of Bailout Went to Pay Top Execs."
  • AP study finds
    $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs
    (Associated Press)
  • $1.6 Billion of Bailout Went to Pay Top Execs
    (Dollars and Sense / D&S Blog)
Lies and Assumptions
Sometimes a person might write something that isn't true, but isn't intentionally lying. Assumptions are powerful things: if you 'know' that bank executives are going to steal the bailout money; and you read that they got $1.6 billion dollars; you're likely to assume that the money they got was from the bailout funds.

Someone who made associations like that might not consider the possibility that the billion-plus dollars were spent before the bailout was planned: and not read past the headline.
Due Diligence
The term has a precise, legal, definition: "A measure of prudence, activity or assiduity, as is properly to be expected from, and ordinarily exercised by, a reasonable and prudent person under the particular circumstances" (Mortgages, Ltd., Arizona). I think it can be used to describe the reasonable process of doing a little research before 'buying into' claims or ideas.

A Word of Advice: THINK!

I don't used all caps very often, but this warrants it. If you're running a business, you can't "trust your feelings," even if your name is Luke.

Facts are big, hard, heavy things with sharp edges. If you walk around with your mental eyes closed, you'll get hurt.

What do I Think About the Bank Executives?

It's too early to tell. The massive failure of so many financial institutions clearly indicates that something went wrong. You might call that a 'well, duh!' deduction.

I'm no financial expert, but I see at least two possible causes that make sense.

First, claims that investment banks made too many loans that were too risky could be true.

Second, although it's discussed as a possible outcome of the present crisis, I think that well-intentioned efforts at making it possible for just about everybody to own a house may have been part of the cause of the housing loan problems.
Housing Loans: Realty and Reality, a Personal Look
When I bought the house we live in now, I spent a long time negotiating ways to pay for it. I had worked the numbers, and knew both how much money we had, and how much we could pay over time. I was shown offers that looked very, very tempting - and would have allowed me to keep the house for months, maybe years.

But, each time, when I worked out what would happen as I complied with the proposed agreement, I lost the house.

I finally found an arrangement that allowed me to buy the house, and keep it. But it took time and a lot of thought. Not everyone has the background and willingness to go through that process.
Back to the Bank Executives
Loaning money to people who can't pay it back isn't a good idea: whether you do it of your own will, or are forced to do so by a well-intentioned set of federal regulations. It looks like quite a few major American financial institutions were doing just that.

And, it didn't help that the top executives were getting ridiculously large pieces of the financial pie.

I simply don't know if the debacle is the result of fraud, incompetence, greed, other factors, or some combination. There aren't enough published facts yet: not that I've seen.

Related posts: News and views:

The Town's Hardware Industry: A Parable

On the surface, this is the story of a small town's need for hardware. But, reading between the lines, you may discern a message about a major American industry, presented with the subtlety of a pile driver.

Saving the Town's Hardware Industry

The town had three hardware stores: Bud and Bubba's Hardware and Bait; Central Tool and Hardware; and Abe's Tools. They provided a wide selection of products. You could get an 8-track stereo for your convertible, aluminum siding kits, and all the parts needed to build your own bomb shelter.

People who worked for one of the Big Three hardware stores were the envy of their neighbors. Over the years, they'd negotiated their way into top-rate pay, health coverage, and retirement plans.

Bud, Bubba, Abe, and Waldo, the fellow who ran Central Tool, weren't doing too badly, either.

Now, if you wanted an exhaust fan for your bathroom, you'd be better off talking to Ralph. He had a small stock in his garage, and could have just about anything else shipped in.

You'd call Lacy if you needed an electrostatic filter, and Pat for something like a USB cable.

One day, the Big Three hardware store owners noticed that they were running out of money. And had been for a while. So, they went to city hall and told the town council that they needed money. Lots of it. It wasn't just for them, they explained, it was for the Town Hardware Industry.

Without the Town Hardware Industry, the town's economy would collapse, they said.

The oldest and wisest member of the council, who had seen 8-tracks come and go, told Bud, Bubba, Abe, and Waldo that they shouldn't get one cent of the town's money. And, that the town would be better off getting its hardware from Ralph, Lacy, Pat, and all the other townspeople who had been paying attention.

And so, the town council sent Bud, Bubba, Abe, and Waldo away, empty-handed. The Big Three owners retired to private resorts on the lake country, some of their employees went to work for Ralph, Lacy, or Pat, and some opened their own little hardware stores.

And the Moral of this Story is -

Do I really have to say it?

Related posts:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bank Bailouts, Bloated Bonuses, and Common Sense

The federal government's earmarked around $700,000,000,000 dollars, given by American citizens, to pull an assortment of financial institutions out of the hole they dug for themselves. The Big Three automakers are getting a wad of cash, too.

Happily, there do seem to be some conditions attached to Uncle Sam's generosity with other people's money. However, I think that America's leaders, in government and business, have missed vital points of economic theory:

  • A business is supposed to take in more money than it spends
    • Spending more than you make leads to trouble
    • Wasting money leads to trouble
  • Goods and services provided by one business can be provided by another
Enough of Economics 101.

$1,600,000,000 on Executive Perks?!

Never mind Big Three executives flying in individual corporate jets: Executives of banks that are getting bailed out got a tidy little $1,600,000,000 in salaries, bonuses, and other perks in 2007. Okay: salary isn't a "perk," but the numbers are still, well, impressive.

"Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

"The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines." [emphasis mine] (Associated Press (December 21, 2008))

Feeling Good and Doing Good: Not the Same Thing

Although a tiny fraction of the bank bailout was done with my money, I've never personally made it possible for people to keep their jobs for a little while longer. My guess is that it feels good. And, there's probably a sort of warm glow that comes with 'saving the American automotive industry.'

Nice feelings are fine, but to do any practical good all that giving has to come with changes in the way banks and the Big Three do business. Big changes.

Executive Compensation and Bribery

It's not very often that I agree with Barney Frank: my take on how the world works comes through in blogs like Another War-on-Terror Blog and A Catholic Citizen in America.

This time, though, Mr. Frank made a good point about monumental perks that executives get. He said that the billion-bucks-plus bonuses bribed executives " 'to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place.

" 'Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can,' said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. 'We're told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!' " (Associated Press (December 21, 2008))

I have nothing against managers and higher-ups getting more than someone at the front desk or on the assembly line. But I have trouble believing that the average bank executive was worth $2,600,000 a year. Particularly when the bank was emulating the Titanic.

The Big Three Automakers and The American Automotive Industry: Not the Same Thing

This isn't 1953, when the president of General Motors said that he "thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa." Even then, a moderately garbled version of what Charles Wilson said was used as an example of corporate arrogance.

Today, I think it's time to take a look at GMC, Ford, and Chrysler: and the American automobile industry. And remember: the Big Three are three huge, and now desperate, companies. They've dominated the American automobile industry for a very long time. But, in my opinion, they are not the American automobile industry.

The American automobile industry is that part of the American economy which makes, distributes, maintains, and repairs cars.

I've compared the Big Three to three 800-pound gorillas. Right now, they're sitting on the American automobile industry like it was a pile of bananas. Not surprisingly, it's a little hard for smaller companies to compete.
A Detour, About an 'Un-American' Car
The Big Three aren't the only American companies involved in making cars. Nevada's Hybrid Technologies makes a power plant for the MINI-E, an electric car that does 0-60 in six seconds, with a top speed that exceeds the speed limit here in Minnesota.

The MINI-E isn't a purely American car. The running chassis is made in England. But the rest is assembled in Mooresville, North Carolina, and although I haven't confirmed it, my guess is that most of the people who work at that plant live in America, and buy their groceries in Mooresville.

My point is that a company doesn't have to be in the Big Three to make cars.

Time for Real Change

I don't doubt that if the assets of any or all of the Big Three automakers were sold off, there would be some very real stress. As I wrote before, it's not likely that Americans will stop buying cars, or needing to have them maintained.

And people who worked on an automobile assembly line for one company might be work for another company. They might even be able to learn new procedures.

As for the executives who drove the Big Three into the ground, it might be worth the money to pay them off, let them enjoy an ill-deserved retirement, and let entrepreneurs who know how to build and sell cars take over.

Related post: Background: In the news:
1 Opinions about the American Congress, from Another War-on-Terror Blog:

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Spear Phishing" - New and Improved Spam

Maybe "improved" isn't the right way to describe "spear phishing," a new and personally focused sort of spam.

CNNMoney described this new wrinkle in annoying (and possibly dangerous) email: "Unlike traditional spam, most of which is blocked by e-mail filters, personalized spam, known as 'spear phishing'" messages, often sail through unmolested. They're sent in smaller chunks, and often come from accounts the criminals have set up at reputable Web-based e-mail services. Some of the messages are expertly crafted, linking to beautifully designed Web sites that are bogus or immediately install malicious programs...."

These messages could look legitimate, since they may include personal data that the spammers have mined: like where you went to school, your mother's maiden name, or where you do your banking.

Part of the idea is to trick business owners into, for example, giving data about their

  • Google (or other) advertising accounts
  • Bank accounts
There's even something called "whaling," where an email to an executive claims that the business is under investigation by the FBI. I suppose that a panicked exec might be less than cautious.

How to Avoid Being Spear Phished

It boils down to three words: Don't be stupid. "Imprudent" might be a nicer word than "stupid."

There is pretty good advice in several places: including Microsoft and SANS Technology Institute (Which refers back to Microsoft's resource).

Some major points I found are:
  • Don't send sensitive information in response to an email - no matter who seems to have sent it
    • Call (don't email) the presumed sender, to make sure the request is legitimate
    • 'Trust, but verify' applies here
  • Don't click links in an email that asks for personal or financial information
    • Never
    • SANS T.I. says to put the Web address in your browser window instead - Microsoft has some advice about how to avoid bogus URLs

It Couldn't Happen to Me - Five Dangerous Words

I've been spammed, and phished, and fielded quite a few bogus phone calls. The experience has given me an appreciation for how easy it is to get fooled. One of my kids has called me "paranoid," for the way I insist on verifying a message before believing it. Much less responding to it.

Well, maybe so. I prefer terms like "cautious."

In the news:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Online Software Training: This Resource Looks Promising

Depending on what your skills are, how valuable your time is, and a number of other factors, it makes sense to:

  1. Pay someone with graphics or coding skills to get a job done
  2. Do the job yourself
  3. Have someone else pay you for the use of your skills and time
Except for Option 1, though: you need to have the skills a task demands. Thanks to a rather eclectic resume, and a sticky mind, I've picked up a pretty broad set of skills. But there's still a lot to learn, when it comes to digital media.

That's where comes in. I was introduced to it today, and was told that it provides everything I need for learning how to work with graphics, HTML coding, and using software from 3ds Max and Access to Xcelcius and ZBrush 3: even Windows Movie Maker.

Their "About Us" page says: " is an award-winning provider of educational materials, including Hands-On Training™ instructional books, the Online Training Library®, CD- and DVD-based video training, and events for creative designers, instructors, students, and hobbyists...."

It costs $25 a month to have access to the Online Training Library®, but from what I've seen, it could be worth the money for someone who needs to learn new skills, fast.

The online training is a set of videos, organized by topic: sort of like attending a series of how-2 seminars. For someone like me, a visual learner, this looks good.

Advertising, Product Placement, and Psychology

If a scientist is right, the trick in marketing is to show the product often, but not too often: and not get the conscious mind involved.

I did a micro-review in another blog:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Recession's On, Game Sales Up: Let the Bad Times Roll!

There's a lesson to be learned here: "November video game sales near $3 billion" (Associated Press (December 12, 2008)). That's up about 10% from last year at this time.

Not bad for an economy in crisis.

The data comes from a market research outfit called NDP. Someone from the company said that it's

  • A broad range of games produced
  • Games are relatively cheap stay-at-home entertainment
Industries thriving - or at least staying afloat - in bad times is nothing new. A professor of history recalled that the Great Depression gave some businesses a boost:

"One-third of Americans were below the poverty line, yet some industries actually managed to make a profit at the beginning of the 1930s as the public looked for a way to escape. If Americans couldn't find work, at least they could go for a drive, have a cigarette, or go to a movie. Correspondingly, sales of oil, gas, cigarettes, and movie tickets all went up."
(H102Lecture 18, American History 102: Civil War to the Present (Stanley K. Schultz, Professor of History; William P. Tishler, Producer) (© 1999 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System ))

Escapism: It's Good for Business

I read someplace that movie ticket sales going up during economic bad times wasn't a given any more. I believe it, but that doesn't mean that the Depression Lesson isn't still valid.

Back in the 1930s, nobody had video games. Duke Nukem was decades in the future. Kirby was a brand of vacuum cleaners. If you were going to escape, you'd go for a drive, smoke a cigarette, or go to a movie. Maybe all three.

That was then, this is now.

People have more ways of getting away from real-life stress now: video games; and the medium you're using right now: the Internet. Actually, the thirties saw an equivalent to today's video game micro-boom: Monopoly became paradoxically popular while real-life tycoons were selling apples out of a box. (There seems to be more to the game's history than that. See "Monopoly History.")

But, Escapism Is Bad, Right?

One thing I learned in college, back in the seventies, was that Escapism was bad - unless you were following Timothy Leary's advice to "Turn on, tune in and drop out."

I think a friend of mine, who shared my interest in role-playing games, had a better approach: 'Building castles in the sky is fine: but when you try to collect rent, you've got problems.' The point is, a little 'escapism' is a sort of intellectual and emotional R & R. So, with some reservations, I'd say -

Escapism is Fine: As Long As Someone is Paying You For It

I'm not wasting time, being upset about the global economic crisis and the collapse of the American automotive industry (the Big Three, anyway).

I'm trying to figure out what I can do, to help people relax, escape, or learn, while they're not taking a Caribbean cruise or flying to Aspen. 'Let the bad times roll!'

Friday, December 12, 2008

So the Big Three Collapse: Is That a Problem?

There may be Americans who don't know that the Big Three automakers in this country are ready to fold. But my guess is that they don't watch the news, or get out much.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that, if General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler go bankrupt, unemployed auto workers will be thrown out of their homes, Big Three executives will have to cut back on their trips to Starbucks, and the American economy will collapse.

There's a bit of truth to that.

  • America makes more cars than any country
    • Except Japan
  • The automobile is an important part of American culture
    • Although not what it was in the fifties
      • Laptops, anyone?
  • A whole lot of people are employed by the Big Three
  • A whole lot more people's living depends the spending habits of auto industry
    • Line workers
    • Executives
    • Everybody in between
I don't doubt that there would be a lot of trouble and personal hardship, if GMC, Ford, and Chrysler go the way of the Taylor Aerocar; the conservation-minded Enger; the advanced hybrid Owens Magnetic; or the Zimmerman.

On the other hand, I find it hard to believe that Americans will stop buying cars, trucks, and other machines to get them from place to place.

Yes, quite a few will start buying imports. My guess is that they'll buy them from dealerships that are in America - so some of the money will go right back into the local economy.

I have trouble believing, though, that nobody of the several-hundred-million people who live in this country doesn't want to open an automotive design and assembly company, and have the brains and background to do it.

It's been a long time since a new automotive company has had a chance to get started, with three 800-pound gorillas sitting on the American car market.

Time for a Real Change?

I know what it's like to be laid off. It happened to me over two years ago, and that's not the first time I've lost a job. That's not something I'd wish on anyone.

But, maybe it's time for GMC, Ford, and Chrysler executives to get their golden parachutes, consign some of the existing products to automotive museums, and make room for people who have plans that will work in the 21st century.

There's no question that some people who've worked on the same production line for years - or decades - will have a rough time adjusting. On the other hand, entrepreneurs may soon be able to employ a huge number of very trained people with years of experience in automotive assembly - and (I hope) an ability to learn.

The down side is that, right now, it looks like getting financial backing is going to be tricky.

Real Change in America: It's About Time

It's been a century, since America's automotive industry took radical innovation seriously. Most of the early-1900s startups didn't last long. Many, from the ABC to the Zentmobile and the enigmatic Zip, only lasted a few years. But, while they were around, people were paid to make the cars - and some of the new ideas were successful.

American has tried having an automotive industry that's a sort of three-way monopoly. Maybe it's time to try something else.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Proper British Journalist Adam Smith / Steve Zacharanda and the Morning After

The last time I looked, 125,489 people had visited Adam Smith AKA Steve Zacharanda's interview on YouTube.

He's the 'proper journalist' who announced plans to start his own magazine, declared that he was plagiarizing articles from the BBC, and resigned: very rudely.

The next morning, he didn't remember a thing. Then he saw the video and got a message from his boss, telling him to call the office.

I plan to get back to this, some time on Monday. Right now, I've got some family business to attend to.

More, at:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Barack Obama: Interesting Times for Small Business

America's 2008 presidential election didn't turn out the way I'd hoped.

Barack Obama won the popular vote by a comfortable (for him) percentage, and walked away with the electoral college. Barring catastrophe, he'll be president for the next four years. Maybe eight.

I can't say that I'm looking forward to that, but this is no time for hand-wringing.

Small Business and the Obama Presidency

I'm far enough below Obama's various 'tax-em' income thresholds to be (relatively) safe. Inheritance tax, though, will probably be another issue.

Everyone who's trying to run a business can, I think, expect:
  • More regulations, sensible and otherwise
  • More
    • Taxes
    • Fees
    • Forms to fill out
And, since it looks like employers will have their taxes and regulatory expenses increased, they'll have to lay off workers, or cut wages - and aren't all that likely to hire new people.

Which means that ordinary folks won't be spending as much - even if Uncle Sam throws out the occasional bonus for breathing.

And, enterprises won't be buying each others' goods and services. Which means more cutbacks.

But, you know this already.

Adjusting to President Obama's America

I said 'no hand-wringing,' and meant it. The fact is, the next four years aren't likely to be boom times.

Some businesses may do well under the new administration. Obama's taste for huge outdoor events may create a sort of micro-boom for caterers and related businesses. At least, in the Washington, D.C., area.

And there may be a growing demand for services and consultants who can give practical advice for how to deal with regulatory changes du jure.

My business, so far, has been entirely online. That's good news, in a way, since I don't have the worries that brick-and-mortar businesses will have.

On the other hand, I'm an online publisher. If the Obama campaign's blacklisting of a Florida television station and removing non-adulatory reporters from the campaign plane are a sign of things to come, we're in for exciting times.

I was on college campuses in the seventies and eighties, and experienced political correctness. As an outsider. Another era of having to keep up with the latest shibboleths won't be fun, but I'd manage. And, I'm keeping a weather eye for changes in what 'freedom of expression' means.

Paranoid? Hardly. But, having experienced the tail-end of the conformist fifties, and a later decade's tender sensibilities, I have some idea of how far human silliness can go.

Barack Obama as President: it Won't be Boring

Ten years ago, Minnesota elected Jesse "The Governor" Ventura as Governor. We had a colorful four years, while he was in office. Barack Obama isn't Jesse Ventura, but there are parallels: "Barack Obama: America's Jesse "The Governor" Ventura? "> (Another War-on-Terror Blog ((November 5, 2008)).

Previous posts on this topic:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama Campaign Boots Reporters: This Should Concern You

If you want an America where people aren't allowed to make too much money, where you never read about people criticizing the government, and where the news is full of happy articles telling citizens what a fine job the president is doing: I'd say Barack Obama is the candidate to vote for.

Me? I'd rather take my chances with John McCain.

The Obama campaign's removal of unsupportive reporters from "Change We Can Believe In" concerns me. (More at "Barack Obama Campaign Plane Boots Selected Reporters" (Another War-on-Terror Blog (October 31, 2008).)

Previous posts on this topic:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rickshaw Ban: It Seemed Like Such a Nice Idea

About two years ago, Richshaws were banned in at least parts of India. Human-pulled ones, anyway.

This high-minded move was intended to end an inhumane and demeaning job. It also put a lot of rickshaw pullers out of business. Not to worry, though, they were going to be "rehabilitated." ("Rickshaws, ban highlight India's contradictions" (Chicago Tribune (October 18, 2008))

I've gathered that at least some of the foot-powered rickshaws were used by men who couldn't afford a motorized rickshaw.

The guys who have been "rehabilitated" in India were entrepreneurs, providing a service with resources they could get. Okay: pulling a rickshaw isn't as glamorous as being a high-power corporate lawyer. But, it's a way of making money.

By now, quite a few of those entrepreneurs are probably nice, safe, inoffensive employees - and not likely to rock the economic or social boat.

I ran into this while researching a post for another blog: "Bad Day in Guwahati (or Gauhati): Bombs, Fires, and Dead People " Another War-on-Terror Blog (October 30, 2008).

Obama's Half-Hour Infomercial - Really Smart Marketing

That 30-minute infomercial that the Obama campaign put on before the World Series shows what some media savvy and a whole lot of money can do.

From a marketing point of view, it may not be as crazy as it seems. My first reaction, hearing what Obama and all planned to do was that the Obama team had lost its collective marbles.

I pictured a scene playing out, all over America: baseball fans, eager and excited about watching the pre-game show; turning on their TVs; and, instead of the expected discussion of the season that was and the game that would be; they get a half-hour advertisement, telling them why they should vote for Obama.

Quite a few of the baseball fans I've known over the years would turn from neutral to hostile over being denied their programming.

Looks like I was wrong.

So far, there's been no continent-wide roar of protest.

In fact, CNN's coverage of the Obamathon concentrated on its historic significance. Nobody's bought this much air time, this late in the campaign, before. Ross Perot did something like it, back in 1992, we're told, but that was much earlier in the campaign.

From CNN: "...'It's evidence, if you needed any, that the Obama campaign has more money than there is ad time left to buy,' said Evan Tracey, director of the Campaign Media Analysis Group. 'This is flexing the muscles.'

"Tracey estimates that it will cost the campaign 'in the $4 to 5 million range -- at a minimum, $3.5 million.'

"But, he said, spending the money is a 'no-brainer' for the Democratic presidential hopeful.

" 'The strategic brilliance of this for Obama is that he is going to consume about 24 hours of the news cycle,' Tracey said. 'It boxes [John] McCain in, takes the oxygen out of the room.'..." [emphasis mine]

Looking at the advertising that way, it makes sense. Besides the World Series audience, Obama's getting about a day's worth of free publicity from the news services.

I have to admit it: buying all that air time, on all those networks, was a smart way of spreading the campaign money around.

I'm still very concerned about Obama's repeated assurances that he wants to "spread the wealth around."

In the news:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Marxism: It Looks So Good on Paper

Barack Obama's views have been characterized as Marxist. Just because

The Obama campaign's blacklisting of a television station that asked Biden to respond to the idea that Barack Obama is a Marxist, but that didn't keep people from wondering.

Obama's response to his "spread the wealth around" and "redistributive change" statements getting discussed is, basically, 'Marxist, Schmarxist: can't we all ignore this?'

Barack Obama a Marxist? Not Exactly

I still won't say that Obama is a Marxist, but he does seem to like the ideas of Karl Marx. And Marxist professors. And Marxian economics.

One of news articles I found about the (redistributive) change candidate's philosophical roots said:

"Obama's affinity for Marxists began when he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles.

" 'To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully,' the Democratic presidential candidate wrote in his memoir, 'Dreams From My Father.' 'The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists.' "
(FOXNews (October 28, 2008))

Obama supporters and the Obama campaign have, as far as I've seen, shown the good sense not to say that the quote is a lie. Their line will probably be that it was taken out of context. That's almost true, but not quite.

The young Barack Obama was struggling with what I'll call ethnic identity. Obama explained that he didn't want to ingratiate himself to white people, and did want to identify with blacks. ("Urban Legends Reference Page") gives quite a bit of information about a claim that an "E-mail lists racist passages taken from Barack Obama's books." Snopes demonstrates that Barack Obama is not, by Snopes' standards, racist.

The extensive passages from "Dreams of My Father" do, however, seem to show that the young Barack Obama was very intent on establishing his own identity: And that doing so involved not ingratiating himself to white people, seeking out Marxist professors, and showing loyalty to the "black masses."

Judging from what Barack Obama said to Joe the Plumber, not much has changed.

But, I won't say that Barack Obama is a Marxist, strictly speaking. He does seem to be a college professor who admires the economic theories of Karl Marx, and thinks that it would be nice if somebody was forced to give money to black people: to make up for what happened in the 18th and 19th centuries.

That makes him an American college professor, but not necessarily a Marxist.

Do We Really Want Redistributive Change?

As I wrote yesterday, Reparations look good, as long as you're on the receiving end. And don't look too closely on what it does to the people who write your paycheck, and those of your neighbor.

Russian leaders, from about 1927 to 1991, made what I think is an earnest effort to apply Marxian principles to the real world. It didn't work out quite as well as some had hoped.

In my opinion, it makes no sense to penalize people for being productive, and reward those who aren't. And, like it or not, people like Bill Gates and Ted Turner have earned the money they acquired: by finding and developing new ways of providing goods and services.

I'll grant that some CEOs and other management types are overpaid: and I find "golden parachutes" disgusting.

Again, I see no sense in rewarding people who are not productive. Particularly if they're the ones who drove a company into the ground.

(Don't) Look For This in the News

I'll be surprised if these little matters will wind up on the front page of The New York Times:
  • Obama's preference for Marxist professors
  • His opinion that one of "the tragedies" of the civil rights movement was its failure to bring "redistributive change"
  • His more recent statement that it's a good idea to "spread the wealth around"
  • The Obama campaign's blacklisting of a Florida television station for asking embarrassing questions
But it could happen. Barack Obama's interest in Marxism didn't seem to strike a chord with most news services. But, the Obama campaign's blacklisting of a television station for asking the wrong question might.

In the news:
I read, and gave what I believe to be a reasonable paraphrase, of the relevant paragraphs of "Dreams of My Father" quoted on However, don't just take my word for what Obama wrote.

For one thing, I had to leave out many details, and did not attempt to mimic Barack Obama's tone.

There are substantial passages from "Dreams of My Father" at that Snopes page. I suggest searching for the paragraph that starts with the words "To avoid being mistaken for a sellout".

Better yet, buy "Dreams of My Father" online. I'm going to see if my budget will let me.

America in Recession! Global Crisis! Hanging Chads Selling for $2 each!

You've seen the headlines: America is in a financial crisis, pulling the whole world into a whirlpool of economic chaos.

Meanwhile, people are buying little scraps of paper at $2 per piece.

We can't be that bad off.

Remember the "hanging chads" snafu in the 2000 Florida presidential election, when claims were made that Florida voters couldn't understand the ballots and/or figure out how to use the machines?

Florida's embarrassment was a Republican political consultant's profit.

Not because Bush won.

Jim Dobyns has been selling the Votomatic III voting machines that proved too much for so many Floridians. He found a warehouse full of the things on eBay.

Now, he's selling the chads themselves. In lots of 10, for $20 per lot. I won't buy the things, but quite a few people are likely to pay for these pieces of history, at two dollars per chad.

I Love This Country!

I think there's hope, as long as some guy in Florida can pick up a warehouse-full of obsolete voting machines being unloaded by someone else, sell most of them, then turn around and sell little scraps of paper at $20 per bag. With only ten scraps in each bag.

In the news:

Florida: Hotbed of Hate or Land of Opportunity?

Florida hasn't been getting quite the sort of publicity it did in 2000, when the Florida presidential ballots added "hanging chad" and "pregnant chad" to America's vocabulary. But the sunshine state has been getting more attention than usual lately.

One of the three more-or-less serious threats to Obama's life came from the Sunshine State:

On the silly side, there's that "Obama Half-Breed Muslin" sign in a Barefoot Bay, Florida, front yard. That is, it would be merely silly, if so many people didn't
  • Believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim
  • Feel that this was a bad thing
I don't think it helps that Barack Obama doesn't have an "American" name. Like Johnson, or Schmidt, or Hong.

Coming from another direction, there's Representative Alcee Hastings. He warned Florida Jews about Sarah Palin: "Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don't care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks." (I'm not making that up.)

If Dallas is the "City of Hate," is Florida the State of Malice?

Quite a few people, including editors of The New York Times, have decided that Dallas didn't kill JFK after all. And, I don't think that some crazy white guys and Representative Alcee Hastings are typical Floridians.

Florida, the Land of Opportunity: and Obsolete Voting Machines

People in Florida, in common with all Americans, are allowed to think of ways to make money: and try out their ideas. They're even allowed to profit from their successful efforts. For now, at least.

For example, after the 2000 Florida election and the month-long wrangle over voting machines, ballots, and the voters who allegedly couldn't figure out how to use them, Florida decided to scrap its Votomatic III voting machines.

That left some guy with a warehouse-full of the things. He auctioned them off on eBay to some other guy, who turned around and sold them, one at a time, as collectibles. But that's a topic for another post.

More-or-less related posts:

Barack Obama: Lack of "Redistributive Change" Was Tragedy of Civil Rights Movement

Does Barack Obama really want to redistribute wealth in America?

Apparently, yes. He said as much in a 2001 interview on Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ.

Obama's words, in part: " of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement, was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change, and in some ways we still stuffer from that...."

"2001 Obama WBEZ Interview Redistribution Wealth Warren Court"
YouTube (October 27, 2008) (repackaging of January 18, 2001, interview)
video (4:17) [audio recording with video embellishments]

"Redistributive Change:" An Idea Whose Time Has Come - And Gone

Large-scale redistribution of wealth has been tried.

In the early years of the 20th century, the idea of taking wealth from people who had a lot of property, and giving it to people who didn't, was quite popular in some circles. As of the eighties, when I ended my last stint in college, it still was on American campuses.

Russian leaders made an earnest effort to make "redistributive change" work, from 1927 to 1991. (I'm not counting the 1917-1927 transitional period.) The experiment didn't work out quite as well as some had hoped.

Maybe Barack Obama believes that he'll do better at achieving "redistributive change."

No, I don't think Barack Obama is a 'commie.' I do, however, think that he has some wonderfully idealistic notions which work much better in the faculty lounge than in the real world.

Previous post on this subject:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama Assassination Plot Stopped

This is going to be in the news for a while: two white nitwits planned to assassinate Barack Obama.

Wearing white tuxedos.

You can't make up this sort of thing.

More at:

In the news:

"Spread the Wealth Around," "Change," "Redistributive Change" What's the Big Deal?

"Joe the Plumber definitely asked the wrong question, when he prompted Barack Obama to say, " 'I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody,' " earlier this month.

Ask the Wrong Question, Get Blacklisted: Biden, Obama, WFTV, and Marxism

That "spread the wealth around" remark got people wondering about exactly what sort of change Barack Obama wanted. It's not such a long walk, between "spread the wealth" and "redistribute wealth." An interviewer gave Senator Joe Biden an opportunity to clarify Obama's position recently: "...How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist, if he intends to spread the wealth around?"

Senator Biden called the question "ridiculous," said that the top one percent of earners in America are "good, decent American people" - and delivered a number of the Obama campaign's talking points.

Then the Obama campaign blacklisted WFTV, the television station that did the interview.

I don't blame them one bit. Barack Obama almost certainly wishes that the whole "spread the wealth" thing would just go away. And that won't happen if interviewers keep asking the wrong questions.

"Redistributive Change" for America

Considering what happened to WFTV, I doubt that many news services will care to ask Barack Obama or Joe Biden to clarify Senator Obama's disappointment with the lack of "redistributive change" in the civil rights movement.
Marxist? No: Good for America? Doubtful
I don't think that Either Barack Obama or Joe Biden are Marxists. They certainly don't fit the stereotype: someone running down blood-drenched streets, with gore from dead capitalists on their knives.

Joe Biden described the rich in America as "good, decent American people," and I believe him. And Barack Obama's desire for "redistributive change" quite clearly does not involve violence.

However, Barack Obama did say that he saw " of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement, ... was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change...."1 [emphasis mine]

No violence there. Just arranging for "redistributive change."

That sounds a lot like reparations.

Reparations: Sounds Good

Reparations looks good, as long as you're on the receiving end. Sometimes it's justifiable.

Sometimes, not so much. The American 'race reparations' that I've read about apparently boil down to forcing people who look a little like 18th and 19th century plantation owners to give money to people who look a little like slaves who worked on the plantations.

Reparations, Common Sense, and Blaming the Scythians

About half my ancestors were in Norway until well after slavery was abolished in America, but it's a fact: I look a little like the plantation owners. I've got the same genetic melanin deficiency.

The other half were Irish, which brings up an intriguing possibility.

I've got no complaints, but my life hasn't been all beer and pretzels. I've lost jobs, had trouble finding jobs, and gotten laid off. Someone must be to blame.

Maybe I should demand reparations from:
  • The English
    • There are a number of Irishmen who believe that the English have ground the Irish under the heel of oppression for centuries. And, considering British history since the time of, say Henry VIII, they have a point. (The typical attitude of the English toward the Irish encouraged Jonathan Swift to write "A Modest Proposal.")
    • 'Obviously,' English oppression is responsible for my eclectic employment record. And the English must pay!
    • The problem is, it's quite possible that some of my Irish ancestors were English Catholics who were deported. That would explain all those "Richards" in the family.
  • The Vikings
    • The Irish and the English were both mistreated by the Vikings, about a thousand years ago: Lindisfarne, and all that.
    • Which has me paying myself again. I'm half Norwegian.
  • The Romans
    • Norway, the part that wasn't under ice, wasn't in the Roman Empire: but part of the British Isles were.
    • I'll demand that the Italians pay me, for what their ancestors did to my ancestors.
It doesn't have to stop there.
  • Ancient Rome had trouble with Greece
  • Greece had trouble with Persia
  • Persia had trouble with Scythia
As if it weren't complicated enough already, some of the Scythians may be my ancestors: Norwegians and Celts came from somewhere, you know.

But That's Different!

I'll probably get comments about how I just don't understand what it's like to be discriminated against. Okay, my experience isn't the same as someone who is black, Chinese, a woman, seven feet tall, or four-foot-eleven. I can't even be sure that quotas and affirmative action helped me learn so many different skills.

The point is that, like it or not, blaming someone else for something that their ancestors didn't do isn't all that productive in the long run. Not all whites have ancestors who wore white linen every day and drank mint juleps on the veranda.

"Redistributive Change?" Been There, Tried That

Redistributive change sounds like a great idea, and has been tried before. On paper, it looks pretty good: as long as you're one of the redistributors, or one of the early recipients.

And, it's been tried. Russia made a good effort at spreading the wealth around, for most of the 20th century. Somehow, it didn't work out quite the way that idealists thought it would.

No: I am not calling Barack Obama a commie.

I think he's a Harvard Law School graduate, with ideas that are fairly common on American campuses, and a very idealistic young man.

I also think that America does not need a president, no matter how charming and eloquent, who believes that the lack of "redistributive change" in the civil rights movement was a tragedy.

Related posts: News and views:
1 Excerpt from "McCain to Attack Obama for Public Radio Comments from 2001:"

" 'But,' Obama said, 'The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, as least as it's been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can't do to you, says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn't shifted.'

"Obama said 'one of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement, was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change, and in some ways we still stuffer from that.'

"A caller, 'Karen,' asked if it's 'too late for that kind of reparative work economically?' And she asked if that work should be done through the courts or through legislation.

"'Maybe I’m showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor,' Obama said. 'I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. The institution just isn’t structured that way.' "

Am I a Partisan?

Actually, I'm half-Norwegian. The rest is Irish, mostly.


Many business owners don't discuss politics, or let their political views be known. That's often a good idea. We deal with people who have a wide range of views, or no strong views at all. There's no sense in shocking or offending them. After all, their money's good, whether they're Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Progressives, Libertarians, Marxists, or Nazis.1

On the other hand, this is a blog about starting a small business, and doing business in America. Politics affects business. So with the American presidential election just over a week away, I'm starting to write about the candidates.

An earlier post, "Joe the Plumber Asked the Wrong Question" (October 25, 2008), got several comments. One of them was from that very prolific correspondent, Anonymous.

Anonymous ended a somewhat cryptic set of remarks and/or questions with this:

"Are you a Partisan?

"Should they give their view......? If any party did not give their views, send it to their supporter to question them...."

That got me thinking: Am I a Partisan?

"Partisan" means quite a few things. It's a pike with a long, rather fancy, double-edged, tapering blade. That sort of partisan hasn't been used much, since the 17th century, and obviously I'm not a stick with a knife on the end.

Anonymous probably meant "partisan" as it's more often used: "zealot, drumbeater (a fervent and even militant proponent of something)".

On the other hand, Anonymous capitalized Partisan, which means it's being used as a proper name. There isn't any country called Partia, of course. Or Partania, for that matter. And, I'm not a member of the Texas Partisan Rangers. (That would make me really old, wouldn't it?)

On the other hand, I can get zealous about some things. Facts and common sense, for example.

Yes, I Care About What Happens to America

I've started writing posts for the blog that discuss the American presidential election, and the candidates. I'm far from unbiased. I live in America, and who gets to sit in the oval office's big chair for the next four years makes a difference.

I'd be crazy if I wasn't biased.

Do I "Belong" to Any Political Party?

I've received pubic assistance, and have voted for Democrats. That doesn't make me a Democrat.

I've started my own company, and have gone to Republican conventions, up to the state level. That doesn't make me a Republican. (Actually, it does, as far as being qualified as an observer at the polls.)

The Democrats I voted for seemed to be the best candidates. I got involved in Republican politics because issues I am concerned about were being discussed. But I am not a partisan Democrat or Republican.

I suppose you could call me a partisan American. I think there's a reason (besides welfare) why, for over a century, so many people have been trying to break into this country: instead of the other way around.

America is far from perfect, but it's a place that's gone from "Irish Need Not Apply" to having an Irish president: and will, almost certainly have a president who's black, a woman, Polynesian, or whatever group you're rooting for.

But, I hope that the first black president isn't Barack Obama.

Not because he's When Barack Obama started getting national attention, I was cautiously enthusiastic about the charming and eloquent junior senator. Until I started learning details about his 'lets all stop this bickering and just get along' vision for America.

I've been posting about the American presidential election for several months on another blog. A post that'll give you a general idea of my views is "Monkey Pirates, Jews, and Zionists? Get a Grip!" (Another War-on-Terror Blog (October 14, 2008)).

Not Democrat, Not Republican, What Do I Believe In?

Americans who have values and opinions about social and economic issues are generally divided into groups, like:
  • Conservative
  • Democrat
  • Liberal
  • Progressive
  • Republican
  • Whig
  • Tory
What the groups are, and how they are defined, has changed a bit in the last two centuries. Although I am "conservative" in many ways, by contemporary American standards, I'm not exactly "a conservative."

I'm Catholic.

I base my views on what some of the best minds of the last two millennia have had to say about what people do, what they should do, and why. I've started a blog, A Catholic Citizen in America, to discuss my ongoing attempt to apply thousands of years of accumulated wisdom to the America of Disneyland, Wal-Mart, and Paris Hilton.

How Could Anyone Possibly Not Want Barack Obama as President?

This blog is about business, so that's what I'll concentrate on here.

I'm nowhere near being a bloated capitalist oppressor of the proletariat. I doubt that I'll ever be in the same class as Matt Drudge and Ted Turner. On the other hand, I plan to continue growing my Small World of Websites.

And that means that I'd rather have someone with McCain's views in the White House, than Obama, whose desire to redistribute wealth is starting to emerge.

And that's a topic for another post.
1 Marxists? Nazis? People with these views need groceries too. Not that I'm at all comfortable with either group's beliefs.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Biden Interview about Barack Obama Campaign: ACORN, Redistrubion of Wealth, Marxism, and Other Impertinent Questions

Barack Obama's campaign has canceled all interviews with Florida TV station WFTV. " best for the duration of the remaining days until the election," as the Central Florida communications director for the Obama campaign put it. (Orlando Sentinel (October 25, 2008))

If you're following the campaign, you've probably heard or read that the WFTV interview was "unprofessional." I'm inclined to agree, although not for the reasons that Obama followers would give.

I started writing about Joe Biden, the Obama campaign, and WFTV's interview, this morning. I see that it's now a bit on the long side. Here are the headings: I hope that helps you find your way around.

Joe Biden and Some Impertinent Woman in Florida

Like Joe the Plumber, WFTV's Barbara West asked Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden the wrong questions. Quite a few of them.

Senator Biden didn't, in my opinion, get very "angry." Annoyed, yes, but not what I call angry. And, I can understand Joe Biden's annoyance. Senator Biden was in North Carolina, helping to get out the vote, and had taken time from his busy schedule to do a video interview with some television station in Florida.

The WFTV interviewer, Barbara West, didn't seem to understand how these things are done. She wasn't giving him questions that introduced the favored talking points of Barack Obama's campaign.

In fact, she asked a few questions that were downright awkward. A couple of examples:
Obama and ACORN
The WFTV interviewer asked about the Obama campaign's connection to ACORN.

Joe Biden replied, in part: "We have not paid them one single penny to register a single, solitary voter."

West was somewhat unprofessional, in my opinion, in not challenging Biden's statement, or at least insisting on a clarification. (I'll get back to that.) Perhaps she did not have time.
Barack Obama Wants to Spread the Wealth Around: Is That a Problem?
This is where I think Barbara West began to stray furthest from America's journalistic conventions.

She asked Biden about Barack Obama's 'spread the wealth around' explanation to Joe the Plumber: "Sentator Obama now famously told Joe the Plumber he wanted to spread his wealth around. A gallop poll showed 84 percent of Americans prefer government focus on improving economic conditions and creating more jobs in the U.S., as opposed to taking steps to distribute wealth. Isn't Senator Obama's comment a potentially crushing political blunder?"

Biden's reply started: "Absolutely not. The only person who spread the wealth around has been George Bush and John McCain's tax policies...." [!] [verbatim from video]

I see Joe Biden's response as an attempt to pull the interview back to a conventional sequence of openings and talking points.

This is another error of West's part. Obama did not say he thought it was a good idea to "spread his wealth around" - Obama said "...spread the wealth around...." Not just Joe the Plumber: everybody who makes too much money.
Spread the Wealth Around, Redistribute Wealth: What a "Ridiculous Comparison"
I suspect that an 'unprofessional' question about Obama's 'Joe the Plumber' conversation and Marxism is a major reason why the Obama campaign doesn't want Barack Obama, Joe Biden, or anyone else from the Obama camp, talking to WFTV.

Here's a transcript of that part of the interview, taken from the WFTV video:
  • Barbara West:
    "You may recognize this famous quote: 'From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.' That's from Karl Marx. How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist, if he intends to spread the wealth around?
  • Joe Biden:
    "Are you joking? I-is this a joke?"
  • Barbara West:
  • Joe Biden:
    "Or is this a real question?"
  • Barbara West:
    "That's a question."
  • Joe Biden:
    "Hahaha. He is not spreading the wealth around. He's talking about giving the middle class an opportunity to get back the tax breaks he used to have. What has happened, just this year, people making one point four million dollars average, the top 1 percent: good, decent American people, are going to get a new 87 billion dollar tax cut, a new one, on top of last year. We think the people should be getting that tax break are not continue to redistribute the wealth up. We think middle class taxpayers should get a tax break. That's what we think. It's a ridiculous comparison, with all due respect." [!] [verbatim from video]
Joe Biden is very clear on this point. In his opinion, it's ridiculous to ask about the philosophy of Karl Marx, in the context of Barack Obama's stated opinion about the distribution of property.

Obama did not use the word "redistribute" when he spoke to Joe the Plumber. Barack Obama said, "I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," as noted in another post.

I gather, from Senator Biden's response, that in his mind "spread the wealth" and "redistribute wealth" are two entirely different ideas.

(Back to the top)

No Wonder the Obama Campaign Blacklisted WFTV

I may be just a bit unfair in my treatment of the West-Biden interview, but not by much. I've brought up Biden's response to three of the questions in the interview:
"We have not paid them one single penny to register a single, solitary voter." - Joe Biden.

This is, precisely as stated, probably true. The $800,000 that Obama's campaign gave was
  • Paid to an ACORN subsidiary, not ACORN itself
  • Intended to register many voters: not "a single, solitary voter"
At least, that's what CNN reported earlier this month.
Spread the Wealth Around
I think Biden took the correct stand here, from a strictly pragmatic point of view. Barack Obama has stated, in public, that he thinks it's a good idea to"spread the wealth around." The American public doesn't, by and large, want to be penalized for being successful. Under these conditions a strident, simple denial, followed by a counter-claim, was one of the few options Biden had.

And, Joe Biden's statement that Obama "is not spreading the wealth around" is, as far as it goes, true. Barack Obama is still a very junior Senator, and is not President. Yet, anyway. He has not been in a position to have a large effect on American policy.
Spread the Wealth, Redistribute the Wealth: a "Ridiculous" Comparison?
As much as I sympathize with Joe Biden's and Barack Obama's evident wish that the 'Joe the Plumber' conversation would go away, this comparison isn't as ridiculous as Senator Biden seems to think it is.

The difference between "spread" (distribute or disperse widely) and "redistribute" (distribute anew) is real, but it's a subtle distinction.

Again, denial and counter-attack was probably Joe Biden's best option.

But, since Barack Obama has said, "I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," asking if Obama favors a Marxian redistribution of wealth is hardly "ridiculous."

Impertinent, unwanted, intrusive, embarrassing, yes. Ridiculous, no.

(Back to the top)

'We Are Not Accustomed to This Treatment'

I think that Joe Biden and Barack Obama reasonably expect that television interviewers will ask tough, probing questions. Of the other candidates. Like this example from the Situation Room on CNN.

Drew Griffin had pointed out that conservatives were "being hard" on Sarah Palin:
  • Drew Griffin:
    "...'I can't tell if Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, or all of the above.'"
  • "Sarah Palin:
    "Who wrote that one?"
  • "Drew Griffin:
    "That was in the National Review."
Here's what the National Review actually published:
  • "Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for vice president, it's sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward, or — or, well, all of the above."
No, despite Mr. Griffen's statement, The National Review doesn't think Sarah Palin is stupid. I wrote more about that interview in "Sarah Palin is 'incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, or all of the above' " (October 22, 2008).

Now, that's the sort of hard-hitting interview we're used to.

(Back to the top)
The West-Biden interview:

YouTube (October 25, 2008)
video (4:45)

Related posts in this blog: Related posts another of my blogs: In the news and views:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Democrat and Halloween:" Cartoon With a (very sharp) Point

I don't usually do this sort of post on this blog, but "Democrat and Halloween" was too good to pass by. It's a one-panel cartoon.

Three kids in (non-politically correct) Halloween costumes are at the door of a house. The man at the door says: "Look how much candy you have! I'm going to take half and give it to the kids too lazy to go trick or treating for themselves!"

If you're not appalled, disgusted, and offended by that line, you'll probably enjoy what one of the kids is thinking, and the rest of the cartoon.

Joe the Plumber Asked the Wrong Question

I'd been wondering why, after we learned that "Joe the Plumber" wasn't "Joe," and wasn't quite a plumber, news and the blogosphere didn't erupt in a firestorm of outrage.

This bald plumber from Ohio had, after all, tricked Barack Obama into making a clear statement about Obama's economic philosophy.

By posing as himself, Joe the Plumber lured Barack Obama into saying "I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," an unscripted statement that was entirely too easy to understand.

Oh, No, Joe! Say It Ain't So!

News leaked out, last week, that "Joe the Plumber" was really Samuel J. Wurzelbacher: and that he wasn't a licensed plumber. Not in Toledo, Ohio, anyway. After the revelation that Barack Obama had been ambushed by a 'right-wing zealot working under an assumed name,' there wasn't anywhere near the amount of fuss I expected. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places.

Someone probably found out that the "J" in Samuel J. Wurzelbacher stands for "Joseph."

The full name of "Joe the Plumber" is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher.

So, Joe the Plumber would rather be called Joe than Sam: So what?

Joe the Plumber: Person of Interest

When Joe the Plumber, AKA Joe Wurzelbacher, AKA Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, presented himself as a plumber who wanted to buy the business he'd been working for, Barack Obama explained: " 'I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody,'" and that "Joe" would be okay, personally.

John McCain and his campaign have been claiming that Obama wants to redistribute the wealth. Obama says, 'do not!'

I suppose it's a matter of semantics.

Whether it's "spread the wealth around," or 'redistribute property,' Joe the Plumber got Mr. Obama to state his economic philosophy: simply and directly.

And quite a few Americans are savvy enough to realize that penalizing people for being successful isn't part of the American dream.

That makes Joe the Plumber a person of interest for quite a few people who honestly believe that society would be better if people who make too much had their property confiscated by a wise and benevolent federal bureaucracy.

Joe's Virtual Proctology Exam

Somebody's been feeling around in Joe's records. Data about his driver's license was pulled from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles not long after the debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.

Three times.

(Turns out, Joe owns an SUV. You might have known that he'd be one of those people.)

So far, although we don't know exactly who nosed around inside Joe's records, we do know where the digging was done. The data was accessed by accounts assigned to the:
  • Office of Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers
  • Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency
  • Toledo Police Department
Without, apparently, any official reason.

Professor Rogers holds the Michael E. Moritz Chair in Alternative Dispute Resolution at Ohio State University's Moritz College. She's filling in as Ohio's Attorney General until the November election. She just happens to be a Democrat1.

The Ohio Attorney General's office is investigating the unauthorized access.

It'll probably take a while. At least one of the leaks was from a "test account" given to the attorney general office's information technology section. That doesn't narrow it down as much as you might think. Apparently, the test accounts are shared with, and used by, other "law enforcement-related agencies," as the Columbus Dispatch put it.

One thing is for sure, officially, at least. Mr. Wurzelbacher's information wasn't accessed from inside the attorney general's office. A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said so.

Sam Joe Wurzelbacher isn't at all happy about this (officially) unauthorized snooping. " 'It upsets me greatly, to be honest with you,' Wurzelbacher told FOX News' Neil Cavuto on Saturday. 'For a private citizen to ask a question of his elected leaders and then turn around and get a proctology exam, that's just kind of wrong.' " (FOXNews (October 25, 2008))

I think Joe the Plumber has a point.

Joe the Plumber for Congress?

It could be "Joe the Congressman" after 2010. Mr. Wurzelbacher's thinking about running for office. I'd say that the citizens of Ohio could do a lot worse.

Views: In the news:
1 Interim Ohio Attorney General Rogers' political affiliation isn't discussed much. Ohio's Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, said he didn't know that Professor Rogers was a Democrat when he appointed her, so that should settle the matter.

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