May 29, 2010
You Had Us At “Robot”
While the United States begins implementing President Obama’s vision of exploring the outer reaches of deep earth orbit, the Japanese have developed a plan to build a $2.2 billion robot moon base by 2020.
You think building a robot moon base would be a complete and utter waste of money?
More like NOT building it would be a complete and utter waste of awesome!
Let’s take a look at how building a robot moon base compares with other $2 billion federal programs:
Advantage: Provides residents of San Francisco a quick way to get out of San Francisco.
Disadvantage: No Robots.
Advantage: Demonstrates that you do not hate the children.
Disadvantage: Robot children don’t need vaccinations.
Advantage: Will ensure that community colleges can reach parity with typical 4-year colleges in terms of bureaucratic bloat.
Disadvantage: You don't need a community college to download software.
And so we wish the Japanese well in their robot moon base project.
I for one, welcome our new robot moon base overlords.
May 27, 2010
Great Moments In Inadvertently Exposing Your True Motivations
From Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity program (pdf):
Benchmarks of Success:
Increase National School Lunch Program participation by 2 million additional children (up to 60% of all students) and School Breakfast Program participation by 3 million additional children (up to 25% of all students) by 2015… In 2009, 56% of enrolled students participated in lunch and 20% participated in breakfast.
Being on the government dole is no longer a bug, it’s a feature!
This edition of “Great Moments In Inadvertently Exposing Your True Motivations” is brought to you by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, working hard to ensure that we have:
“…an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance."
Updated famous scene from The Graduate:
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Redistribution.
May 25, 2010
Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been A Pitchman For Goldline International?…
No one is more concerned about the financial well being of conservative talk show listeners than liberal Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner. That is why he has asked the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission to open an investigation into conservative talk show sponsor Goldline International suggesting its actions are “possibly illegal.”
The Congressman’s passion for protecting conservative listeners runs so deep, he literally has no time left over to investigate popular liberal talk show sponsor, ITM International, which also sells gold coins.
Talk about being willing to "reach across the aisle!
In support of his accusations against Goldline International, Congressman Weiner issued a damning report on the company and the conservatives who help pitch their wares.
For example, the Congressman points out that Goldline sells numismatic, or “collector” coins, for nearly twice the value of their gold content! As Weiner explains:
“Goldline sales representatives aggressively push the sale of numismatic coins (collector) over bullion (pure gold) because the company has the largest profit margin on them and the sales representatives make the largest commission.”
“By selling gold at twice the melt value, the price of gold would need to double for consumers to break even on their ‘investment.’”
"Numismatic coins and rare coins are essentially names for the same categories of coins. They are coins whose value is not only derived from the pure gold content, but also derived from their collector value, due to their scarcity and level of preservation, as opposed to bullion coins, whose value is derived from their precious metals content only."
And so what does ITM conclude from this?
Talk about a rip off.
And never mind coins, how about fine art? Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” recently sold for $106 million. According to Congressman Weiner, that means that you would have to wait for the price of paint to appreciate ten million percent just to break even.
And they say Michelangelo’s David is “priceless?” Not if you’re looking for some marble insets for your foyer it isn’t.
Congressman Weiner further indicts Goldline’s practices by noting that:
“The reason given to customers by sales associates for why they should purchase these more expensive coins is often that if the government ever comes to confiscate your gold, they can’t take your vintage and collector coins. This is in reference to an overturned executive order issued by FDR in 1933 requiring Americans to sell their gold to the government, with an exception for "gold coins having a recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coins," the executive order however did not define special value or collector value, and certainly not collectibles. Nevertheless, telemarketers promoting old U.S. gold coins perpetuate this myth because it makes the selling of high-priced numismatic coins easier.”
This is nothing at all like ITM’s sales pitch.
Oh, not to mention their "immunity from gold confiscation" noted above. But you see there's an important difference here, a higher principle at stake:
Congressman Weiner doesn't like Glenn Beck.
And there's more. Weiner also highlights Goldline’s “hidden fees,” such as the fee they charge if you want to store your gold coins with them.
We don’t know about you, but whenever we buy something, we naturally assume the vendor will store it for us for free forever. That’s just expected these days.
But perhaps most damning of all, the Congressman accuses Goldline of having prices higher than their online competition. You heard that right. Goldline, just like liberal favorite ITM, is a full-service gold seller in which all transactions are handled over the phone. All four companies that Weiner compared Goldline to are internet enterprises that take advantage of online ordering.
Here is a list of other businesses Congressmen Weiner might consider investigating given their “possibly illegal” practice of not being Internet companies:
- Stock trading
- Anything that can be put in a box.
- Everything else.
Let’s just say you won’t be seeing Merrill Lynch rushing to sponsor conservative talk shows any time soon.
The Congressman contends that “Conservative Pundits Profit on Peoples Fear,” by pushing the message “that as an investor you should protect yourself by stock piling gold coins,” and that, "I own it and I think you should too," with gold being "a very safe, solid, and growing investment."
Oh, wait, those last two were from liberal talk show host Ed Schultz.
We have no idea how we could possibly have confused them given how non-investigation-worthy Ed Schultz’s comments are vs. the obvious conservative fear mongering.
Careful readers and those who tend to not start drinking until after twelve, might note that one of our more prominent advertisers here at Planet Moron is Casey Research which has occasionally suggested that gold might be a good investment. In fact, we are often sent editorials from Casey Research that serve as marketing vehicles for their services such as The End of the Gold Bull Market which includes an offer for a free report, “How Do I Know When To Buy Gold,” and How Low Will Silver Go?, which offers a “2010 Silver Buying Guide.” We even receive some of their products and have purchased gold and silver in the past.
But then, we believe gold and silver are safe, solid, and growing investments that can help you protect your wealth. We own them and think you should too...
So, do you think we should we turn ourselves into the FBI now, or wait until Weiner catches up with us?
May 24, 2010
SIDS: Seeing Infinitely Dangerous SituationsIn a startling development, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has unearthed incontrovertible evidence that accidents happen.
Specifically, the commission found that 32 children have died in accidents over the past nine years involving drop-side cribs.
The reasons were many, but seemed to center on caregivers improperly assembling cribs, losing parts, and parts that can break over time as the mechanism ages.
In other words, accidents.
How can we prevent these tragic accidents from occurring?
If you answered, “by properly assembling and maintaining the cribs,” you clearly are not qualified to be a member of the United States Senate.
Because if you were, you’d support New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's proposal:
Check that problem off as “solved.”
Prior to this revelation we here at Planet Moron were under the assumption that accidents had been banned, perhaps by the UN. However this is not the case. In fact, despite the best efforts of governmental authorities, life remains unacceptably hazardous.
For example, let’s say you own one of these death cribs but can’t immediately replace it with a fixed-side crib. You might think, “hey, no problem, I’ll just let the kid sleep with us for a while.”
You didn’t really want to have children did you?
Because, according to the CPSC, 64 children a year die from suffocation while sleeping in the same bed as their caregivers. That’s more than 20-times the death rate from drop-side cribs.
Which is why we now support the outlawing of adult beds. And possibly sleeping.
Also, bathing, as three times as many children a year die while sitting in bath seats, almost always because of caregiver inattention.
And hot weather, given that over ten times as many children a year die of hyperthermia from being left in cars.
And being a boy, which makes you 70% more likely to be injured in an accident.
And being circumcised, the complications from which cause 28 times more deaths than from drop-side cribs.
Before the birth of Baby Moron last fall, we had no idea how dangerous it was to be alive.
But now we know better, and you should too. For the sake of the children, you should move to Canada, sleep on the floor with your dirty unbathed child while one of you stays awake to keep a watch, two if you have a boy, three if he's Jewish.
Barring that, the least you can do is support Senator Gillibrand's effort to ban a popular and convenient style of crib despite the fact that we routinely accept much higher risks with other child-rearing decisions.
Because there is no greater loss, than a politician's loss of a really good photo op.
May 21, 2010
A Penny For Your Thoughts? Wait, What Year Is That? Hey, Give That Back!
The United States mint is looking into ways to make United States coins more worthless.
This has in fact been a long-term project at the mint.
For many years, United States coins were made using 90% silver. However, after 52 years of the Federal Reserve pursuing its mission of “conducting the nation's monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of stable prices,” the price of silver had shot up so high in stability that it made the coins worth more than their face value. To address this problem, the silver was removed and replaced with copper and nickel.
After 17 more years of Federal Reserve-induced price stability, the value of the copper in the Lincoln cent had become so stable that it had to be replaced with something of much lower stability, resulting in today’s zinc penny with a thin veneer of copper.
Unfortunately, the intervening 28 years of skyrocketing price stability has left us in a situation in which now the copper and nickel in the Jefferson five-cents piece is already worth about a nickel, and the zinc in the penny is pushing a half cent. Add in production costs and it costs about nine cents to make a nickel, and two cents to make a penny.
Clearly, the writing is on the wall. The mint must find something of such low intrinsic worth that it will be immune to future moves by the Federal Reserve to pursue price stability.
While the mint is considering such materials as industrial porcelain or aluminum alloys, we believe they need to be more imaginative given the task at hand and suggest:
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s VFW application.
The commerce clause of the United States Constitution.
Your suggestions are, of course, welcome.
May 20, 2010
It Takes Two To Do Other Things Besides Tango
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has identified the true cause of the financial crisis gripping Europe as sovereign states teeter on the edge of insolvency:
The politicians who have made ever more elaborate and unsustainable promises of cradle-to-grave social welfare spending?
Not even close.
The real villains are the people who recognize that politicians have made ever more elaborate and unsustainable promises of cradle-to-grave social welfare spending.
Specifically, Merkel is targeting naked short sellers, who are betting on securities to decline in value, by banning them from shorting securities she’d rather not see decline in value.
You see, unlike the noble public servants who are only trying to avoid personal political ruin by spending money they don’t have, these short-selling speculators are greedily trying to avoid personal financial ruin by selling securities they don’t have.
Which is clearly different.
How is the ban working out so far in keeping prices from declining?
Okay, so that’s not a real confidence builder.
What could Merkel possibly be missing?
She is only addressing half the problem:
Naked short selling is simply selling shares in a security you don’t own on the bet that they will decline in value so that the resulting difference in price can be pocketed later.
But what Merkel is missing is that for every share a short seller sells, there is a buyer on the other side.
Think about that for a moment. Short sellers couldn’t ply their dastardly trade were it not for these rapacious buyers, these speculators making a bet that the shares will increase in value.
It is time we target the real problem and go after:
Long-buyers have infected our markets with a kind of wild acquisitiveness. Always on the lookout for securities that will rise in value, long-buyers have created the very seeds or our destruction by aiding in the creation of an atmosphere in which buyers and sellers are free to engage in arms-length transactions among willing participants at prices agreed to by the parties involved based on available information at the time.
In other words: Chaos.
Come to think of it, trading of all kinds has lead to financial anarchy.
If Merkel really wants to get things under control, it’s time to ban short selling, regular selling, long-buying, pretty much every form of financial transaction absent prior government approval.
As Merkel said herself:
“The lack of rules and limits can make behavior in financial markets driven purely by the profit motive destructive and lead to an existential threat to financial stability in Europe and even the world.”
Rather than have financial markets driven only by the profit motive, we think they should be driven by the political motive instead.
If it worked for the US housing market, it can work for the European sovereign debt market!
May 18, 2010
CONSENSUS WATCH - 5/18/2010
An ongoing series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed at all costs.
Because without Consensus, the public would be permitted to entertain competing hypotheses.
It has been an eventful couple of months since our last Consensus Watch report:
Demonstrating a personal commitment to preserving ecologically sensitive acreage, Al Gore spent $9 million of his own money to purchase a 1.5 acre parcel of land believed to be home to many endangered species, including the green-bellied full-time gardener and the white-gloved live-in maid.
Penn State climatologist, and one of the creators of the famous “hockey stick” historical temperature chart (so-named due to the fact that it was made up) Michael Mann, demonstrated his allegiance to open inquiry and the natural affinity for freedom of expression so beloved by scientists the world over by threatening one of his critics with a financially ruinous lawsuit.
It was revealed that a critically important 147-year New Zealand historical temperature record had been subjected to numerous adjustments to create a warming trend where the actual data had indicated none had existed before. It remains unclear as to when the scientist involved in the data manipulation will be awarded his hard-earned Nobel Prize.
In order to buttress its credibility and address criticism that it had used science that had not been properly peer-reviewed or had been the product of parties with vested interests at stake, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has decided to institute a process by which such science will only be used if it sounds good.
Recent developments prove without a shadow of a doubt that if you choose to use data that demonstrates that the past 12 months were the hottest 12-month period on record while ignoring the rest, you can say things like “the past 12 months were the hottest 12-month period on record.”
Take that, climate skeptics.
And in other news, arctic sea ice is growing, sea levels are not rising, and there is a real possibility we are facing decades of cooling temperatures and shorter growing seasons, increasing the risk of deaths from starvation.
Which is precisely why it is so important that scientists across America have stood up for The Consensus and let their voices be heard despite the relentless assault it has been under from new data. Whether it’s an expert in Mayan Civilization, earthquake risk management, or testing theoretical models for the structure and evolution of collapsing protostellar clouds, they pretty much have all the most relevant fields of climate science covered, including experts in Photoshopping pictures intended to elicit an emotional response.
We don’t know about you, but we’re ready to add $9 trillion in energy costs to the economy for no discernible change in CO2 emissions!
May 14, 2010
Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean…
There are two problems you might encounter if you run around claiming that you think the government has inserted a microchip in your recycling bin to track your household refuse habits.
1) You’ll sound like a lunatic.
2) You’ll alert the authorities that you’re on to them.
And so it was last week that I was reading an article about these new recycling bins in Alexandria, Virginia (bordering our Arlington headquarters) that were going to include microchips in them so that the authorities could track people’s recycling behavior.
As Stacy Herring, Alexandria's recycling coordinator helpfully pointed out:
"If you know who's participating in the programs, you can focus your education and outreach to those who are not participating."
We should emphasize that that does not in the least bit sound chilling. In fact, those goose bumps that just went up your spine were probably from a draft or something. Maybe you left a window open?
Artist’s depiction of Alexandria focusing their education and outreach
If you are like most Planet Moron readers, the terms of your parole require that you wear an ankle bracelet, so you aren’t too concerned about whether or not the government is tracking which bin you tossed the no. 5 plastic shampoo bottle into, but the rest of you are quite possibly concerned with this monitoring program.
Well, hey, what can you do, right? If the people in Alexandria want tracking chips in their blue recycling bins, which bear an uncanny resemblance to the ones we got in Arlington last year, right down to the size, shape, color…
Okay, so our recycling bins look just like the lo-jacked Alexandria ones. I’m sure Arlington County would have notified us if…
“Venishka Hurdle, who coordinates recycling education programs in Arlington, said the county implemented larger, tracking-chip loaded recycling bins last year…”
“Hurdle said Arlington County is collecting data from the bins' microchips, but had not yet used that data to improve recycling outreach and education programs.”
Okay, that’s not super comforting. Not only are they overbearing in their monitoring of citizens’ behavior, they are incompetent at it.
So I decided to check the County’s recycling FAQ to see if I could get some information on these tracking devices. There were many useful entries such as:
“How do I sign up for recycling collection?”
“How do I get a recycling cart?”
“What can I recycle at my curb?”
But oddly, nothing along the lines of:
“Hey, did you put a microchip in my bin to track my recycling behavior?”
“I’m serious. Did you put a microchip in my bin?”
“Are you people out of your freaking minds?”
Well, they don’t know who they’re dealing with. Okay, I guess they do, since they’ve been tracking me. But regardless, it was time to get medieval on my recycling bin.
So I broke out the knife.
Okay, gardening knife. Great for putting a man down AND planting spring bulbs to their proper depth.
That doesn’t sound as badass as I could have hoped.
Regardless, let’s see what we have here.
As it turns out, the practice of placing tracking chips in people’s recycling bins is becoming widespread, from the Washington DC area, to Charlotte, NC to Philadelphia, PA, and across the pond to the United Kingdom and across the world to Australia.
It occurs to us that placing microchips in people’s recycle bins has some important societal ramifications:
People who line their windows with aluminum foil to keep out the CIA mind control rays just became 50% less crazy seeming.
I’ll never be able to watch the dramatic opening credits of the cult-classic big-brother series “The Prisoner” without thinking: “You are number 6… recyclable plastic…”
Michelle Obama’s campaign against sugary soda just got a real boost in the monitoring compliance department.
There remains the question of what do with my microchip card. I had considered making an elaborate show of destroying it here on the blog but Mrs. Moron is afraid I’d be sent to jail. Actually, that’s a pretty common concern of Mrs. Moron, so no need to add to her stress levels.
I had also considered sending it overseas to check just how good their monitoring devices are, or perhaps sending it to Arlington County recycling coordinator Venishka Hurdle with a note suggesting that I believe he’d accidentally misplaced his microchip in my recycling bin.
If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments section. And hurry. This morning was the first time they collected my recycling sans tracking chip so I might be hearing from them soon.
Now, where did I put that aluminum foil…
May 13, 2010
And Don’t Forget To Stand Up Straight And Comb Your Hair You Disgusting Slob
First Lady Michelle Obama has a plan to end childhood obesity within a generation:
This is necessary as her plan involves no actual regulatory action but rather consists of a series of suggestions that break down into five categories totaling 70 recommendations in all (it’s somewhere between “Recommendation 1.09” and “Recommendation 1.10” that you start to realize what you’re in for).
What’s the big rush?
“The childhood obesity epidemic in America is a national health crisis. One in every three children (31.7%) ages 2-19 is overweight or obese.”
“Wow,” you are no doubt saying to yourself, “they do like to round up over there at the White House, don’t they.”
Also, “How can it be that bad? I mean, sure, I’ve been to Wal-Mart, I’ve gotten gas at a New Jersey rest stop, there are some heavy people in this country but that sounds high.”
You should set your skepticism aside. It’s science:
“Obesity is defined as excess body fat. Because body fat is difficult to measure directly, obesity is often measured by body mass index (BMI), a common scientific way to screen for whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. BMI adjusts weight for height, and while it is not a perfect indicator of obesity, it is a valuable tool for public health.”
Not to mention a pretty valuable tool for generating hysteria.
Seeing as this is a matter of life and death, let’s consider some of the real-life adult consequences of having a high BMI number.
How about Olympic gold medal winners?
Half the NBA?
Okay, so there are a handful of professional athletes throwing off the numbers a tad. How about me? I’m no professional athlete. I’m Mr. Average Middle-Age Guy. I buy “medium” shorts. I go to Dunkin’ Donuts every Sunday morning. Sure, I work out regularly, employing a motivational program popularly known among those in my age group as “a desperate fear of dying” but I don’t wear Under Armour to try to look cool, I wear it to try to keep my joints from blowing apart for another week.
However, at just a hair under 5’ 10” and 176 ½ pounds, it turns out I’m a freaking load.
And with summer fast approaching I was planning on maybe trying to add a pound or two of muscle.
To think I came this close to morbid obesity.
Thank you, First Lady Michelle Obama, thank you for saving me from a life of early mortality, type-II diabetes, and not looking like I’m constantly on a hunger strike. Thank you for making sure I don’t allow myself to become a poor role model for children who don’t know what having a weight problem really looks like.
So, what can we do to stem a crisis that has become “life-threatening,” that has reached “epidemic” levels, and that has also already reached a plateau? What can we do for the one-third of us who are suffering from being overweight or possibly being professional athletes or maybe just being passably fit average middle-aged guys?
Among the First Lady’s recommendations is a focus on encouraging new labeling laws and the increasing dissemination of nutritional information.
Let’s take a look at that earlier chart with some of the major labeling laws passed in the last thirty years included:
The First Lady would also like to encourage the creation of incentives for grocery stores to move into underserved neighborhoods.
For those of you new to Washington DC-speak, “creating incentives,” means, “costing you money.”
It just so happens that as a young man I once lived in an “underserved neighborhood,” in Staten Island New York and had to take a bus to do my food shopping. We may not have had Michelle Obama around to create incentives for grocery stores to move into the area, but we did have one thing:
A powerful incentive to work really hard and move our own ass to where there were grocery stores.
The First Lady would also like to encourage schools to change how kids line up for lunch. (Recommendation 3.14)
And encourage the federal government to get families to exercise more. (Recommendation 1.10)
And encourage food distributors to change how they manage their supply chains. (Recommendation 4.3)
And encourage communities to change how they run their farmer’s markets. (Recommendation 4.4)
And encourage the food industry to change their portion sizes. (Recommendation 2.4)
In fact, excluding duplicates, the word “encourage” appears about 65 times in the document.
And yes, “encourage,” in Washington-speak, also means “cost you money.”
She also thinks you should eat more fruits and vegetables, walk or bike to school, eat vegetable hummus wraps while visiting national parks, receive nutritional counseling and pay higher taxes on foods she doesn’t think you should be eating.
But then, this report is focused on dealing with children.
So how come I suddenly feel like I need to ask for permission to have a cookie?
May 12, 2010
Despite seeing to it that we now operate with the largest federal workforce ever, Barack Obama believes the government still isn’t hiring people quickly enough.
To deal with this untenable situation, the President issued a memorandum yesterday intended to streamline the amount of time it takes for federal agency managers to evaluate prospective employees.
By having them hire people who have demonstrated no ability to write and who have lower evaluation scores than others.
That ought to speed things up a bit!
Among the specific changes, the president directed government agencies to:
“Eliminate any requirement that applicants respond to essay-style questions when submitting their initial application materials for any Federal job.”
The time-consuming process in which applicants for federal jobs have been required to demonstrate an ability to comprehend written material, think critically, and respond in a coherent manner was clearly gumming up the works.
It’s much better that, as the President directed, they spend the time developing a cool web site for human resources.
The President also demanded that agencies adopt hiring procedures that:
"Provide for selection from among a larger number of qualified applicants by using the ‘category rating’ approach (as authorized by section 3319 of title 5, United States Code), rather than the ‘rule of 3’ approach, under which managers may only select from among the three highest scoring applicants.”
This will allow managers the much needed flexibility to hire their girlfriends.
AS U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan pointed out:
“We need the best people to make the government more effective.”
Or at least the pretty good people that can be hired really quickly.
If that doesn’t work, the President is looking into possibly eliminating the government intern program in which college students desperate to pad their resumes pretend to work and the government pretends to pay them. This is particularly troublesome to public employee unions since pretending to work is kind of in their wheelhouse.
However, overall, the President’s directive was greeted with enthusiasm. In fact, when it was announced that essay questions including the “knowledge, skills and abilities statements” were being eliminated the assembled audience of government personnel officials “erupted in applause.”
That’s good, right?