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Michael Gracie

Saving ‘Sea Kittens’ One Guide Provided Cartoon At A Time

Scott Carles (a.k.a. Cutthroat Stalker) recently pointed us to a new study that says fish feel pain. I’m not sure who gave out the grant money to quantify and publish this information, but I’ve got all kinds of inside dope I’m willing to disclose if it means a little cash. I’ll even mash together some statistical analysis that proves what everyone else already knows is in fact a fact. Just pay me.

Of course fish feel pain, but that squirm or croak you hear pre-release shouldn’t be mistaken for killing, and if you handle the fish right you can both shorten/inhibit the fish’s ill feeling and give it an undeniable chance at survival going forward. I’m sure everyone who has spent a decent amount of time on the water has caught a fish with another fly in its mouth – that’s proof that fish can be released to fight another day, and without going on some kind of fast.

Scott also asked for everyone to throw in their two cents regarding fish, pain, and catch and release – he’s trying to develop an intelligent rebuttal to PETA’s inevitable abuse resultant from the ‘study.’ IQ and fly fishing prowess don’t necessarily go hand in hand – regarding your author you can immediately throw both out the window. So I’ll shoot for perspicuity, in cartoons borrowed from the now retired Emo Guide Service:

Fish Are Happy With Their Insides In
fishliketheirinsidestoremainonthein

Fish Drown Out Of Water, So Get ‘Em Back In It
putitbackinthewater

Fish Aren’t Your Dog’s Squeeze Toys
squeezerbad

Lay Fish Down Nice, Like Back In The Water
laythefishdownnice

Additional wisdom from Emo can be found here.

MG signing off (to learn how to draw like Emo)

US Government launches bold plan for pensioner genocide

“Screw you, AARP” – Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner, March 18, 2009

The AP wind up:

With the country sinking deeper into recession, the Federal Reserve launched a bold $1.2 trillion effort Wednesday to lower rates on mortgages and other consumer debt, spur spending and revive the economy. To do so, the Fed will spend up to $300 billion to buy long-term government bonds and an additional $750 billion in mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues wrapped a two-day meeting by leaving a key short-term bank lending rate at a record low of between zero and 0.25 percent. Economists predict the Fed will hold the rate in that zone for the rest of this year and for most — if not all — of next year.

The decision to hold rates near zero was widely expected. But the Fed’s plan to buy government bonds and the sheer amount — $1.2 trillion — of the extra money to be pumped into the U.S. economy was a surprise.

Surprise, surrprise, surrrprise.

You heard that right, boys and girls – the government is now exchanging its debt for money that it prints, and buying bonds from wholly-owned subsidiaries in exchange for yet more cash. Never has anything struck a resemblance closer to taking money out of the right pocket and sticking it in the left. I guess the Chinese weren’t particularly impressed with the government’s assurances.

A premonition from Guy Kawasaki that may just be humor, but might not be too far from becoming reality:

Going down to the casino to eat. May cost me $500.

The bullishness at the printing press may put a temporary halt to the wealth destruction we’ve become accustomed to, but creating $1.2 trillion out of thin air has a high probability of turning inflation worries into nightmare.

If you thought you were now retirement-poor as a result of the decimation your IRA/401k endured in the last few quarters, imagine what already retired folks who live on fixed incomes are going to think when a loaf of bread costs $15. What home value they have left, now being extracted in bulk through the magic of reverse-mortgages, is being used to pay jacked-up supplemental insurance premiums and co-pays.

If universal coverage doesn’t wind up killing them, now starvation will.

Housing fraud: your countertops are really made of popsicle sticks!

Only in hyper-litigious America would you find people claiming that they were fraudulently induced into signing a mortgage because the lender “failed to disclose to borrowers some fact about the borrower’s own financial situation.”

Tanta of Calculated Risk dishes out the money quote:

The Popsicle Index is the % of people who believe a child can leave their home, go to the nearest place to buy a popsicle or snack, and come home alone safely. For example, if you feel that 50% of your neighbors believe a child in your neighborhood would be safe, then your Popsicle Index is 50%. The Popsicle Index is based on gut level feelings of the people who have intimate knowledge of a place, rather than facts and figures.

I’m pretty sure that I feel that at least 50% of my neighbors believe that granite countertops are like a retirement account you can put hot pans on, but certain ugly facts and figures keep intruding on the conversation.

I certainly see fraud here – those granite countertops were obviously built from popsicle sticks – someone should sue the appraiser.

Zero Sum Game

I was recently involved in a somewhat petty, but nonetheless interesting and evolving debate. While out with a friend for an afternoon of lunch and gadget browsing, we decided to run into BestBuy. An hour later, after perusing big screen plasmas and stereo systems the size of lunch boxes, my companion decided to buy a new alarm clock. You know, one of those GE models with the big buttons on the top, and the huge red LED dsplay.

Well first I asked why they needed that? The reply was that the old one just didn’t work quite right after the last storm. It seems not so recent electrical activity had knocked out the power, and that the clock had not awakened the owner as it should. I soon uncovered that despite these instruments being battery powered (in backup), the owner sometimes failed to change said batteries, so the outage reset the clock time. I then asked why not use your cell phone alarm to wake – it is kept by the bed at night, as the land line is in another room? A Nokia phone is my alarm clock of choice, on the road, and at home. Well, I would just forget to set it. But you have to set the alarm every night anyway, heh? Well, yea, but alarm clock is so much easier. I see.

The user forgets to replace a battery, and blames the device. Another device sits in the quiver, perfectly capable of performing the task, but that is simply not convenient enough. So, we buy an item to replace one which likely works perfectly well. Nevermind the fact that we now leave the old item for the landfill.

Too often, we look at a purchase as solving a problem, a need. We justify that purchase in our heads, back and forth, to buy or not to buy. Most often, we buy. A new “this” to solve “that” problem. I am as guilty as anyone. My latest idea is an Apple notebook to solve a big problem I have….not being able to type this entry while lying in the comfort of my bed. How ridiculous.

Now, many say “Well buying stimulates the economy!” Sure it does. “You sit there denoucing spending, so you must be a socialist, or worse, a communist.” Not so. In fact, I am as capitalist as they come. I invest in private ventures that create new jobs. My retirement account is full of growth stocks. I speculate in the equity, debt and commodities markets, which provides liquidity, albeit small, to those markets. But no, I do not give in to the hype.

What hype, you ask? The hype is that consumer spending accounts for 2/3rds of our economy, and that participation benefits us all, so we must participate. “We must buy products, because that creates jobs! Who cares where the jobs are, your spending helps a lot of people out!” Sounds a little socialist to me. I’d rather buy some distressed corporate bonds, put my faith in management to turn the situation around, and reap the benefits. “But I am not a financial genius”, you say. “I don’t have time to invest.” What you aren’t then, is a thinker, and what you don’t have time for, is thinking.

No, saving and investing is not clipping coupons. It is entirely more difficult to invest, even if just on gut instinct, than to buy a new television and decide that is you contribution to our economy. You certainly will reconsider, when that newfangled electronic gizmo is obsolete or on sale at half price a week later. And that brings me to my final point.

The wealthy in the US invest in financial assets – they provide capital. That capital provides the means for production, and the contribution appreciates in value. The wealthy become wealthier. Meanwhile, the tiers below continue to purchase assets that are not only unncecessary, but often useless. Those assets depreciate in value. In the case of that new TV or laptop computer, obsolete in a few years. Worse yet, that new car, worth 70% of its purchase price the moment it pulls out of the dealer. The rich often (more often than you might think) live modestly, and get richer. The rest of us live frivolously, and get poorer.

Sounds like a zero sum game to me.
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