Thursday, June 29, 2006

Welcome to Wal-Mart

At the beginning of the week, I started to read an exchange of views on the evils and benefits Wal-Mart. It began as a proimising debate between free-market principles and corporate responsibility, but has degenerated into whining about a lack of appropriate welfare - both from coporations and the government.

You know, I've never really believed much in the liberal media bias, but this article sure makes me wonder. This isn't a discussion of opposing viewpoints, this is a Marxist and a Leninist squabbling over how best to redistribute my earnings to the physically-, mentally-, whatever-challenged army of Wal-Mart greeters. Thanks, but no thanks.

Here's the best way to solve the "Is Wal-Mart Good For America?" debate: SHUT UP. Just keep driving past the teeming masses in front of each Wal-Mart, jostling for parking spaces, and wait until the free market sorts it out. As usual, by the time the "intellectual" debate rages at its highest, the market has just about solved the problem already.

If, in fact, as Barbara Leninreich claims, that the employees are so poorly paid that they can't afford to buy the $7 polo shirts their employer sells...if Wal-Mart employees are such a large part of the target demographic of sales that their poverty will actually hurt Wal-Mart's business more than raising wages would (circular logic, anyone?), then Wal-Mart will adapt or die. Problem solved!

Certainly, something is going on. Wal-Mart isn't rebranding their stores across the country, trying desperately to recapture the higher-end shopper that has defected to Target, because they hope to pay their employees, they're doing it because their stock price hasn't moved up in seven years, because their same-store sale increases have dropped precipitously.

So as Wal-Mart starts to upgrade its product (ie: stop forcing its suppliers to sacrifice quality for price) they will need to upgrade their sales force as well to attract the high-end shopper.

Free market trumps corporate responsibility...again.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The party of integrity

Remember when the Republicans tried to impeach Clinton for getting a blow job in the Oval Office? They demanded that integrity be restored to our country's highest office.

Their latest victory in the war for integrity includes cheating gerrymandering redistricting the grand old state of Texas to give the Republicans 6 more seats in the House of Representatives. Instead of a Democratic edge in the Texas delegation of 17-15, Republicans now enjoy a 21-11 lead. This plan, brought to you by Mr. Integrity himself, the now-resigned Tom DeLay, was upheld by the largely Bush-appointed Texas Supreme Court.

A party with so much "integrity" shouldn't have to resort to cheap tactics to retain control of Congress. But rest assured that your average American is intelligent enough to see through these bold manipulations of the system and will vote to correct these wrongs in November.

Or they'll forget all about it, glued to their TVs to watch the next riveting David Blaine special. Hard to tell.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

We've got the purest balls of them all

I was going to blog about Purity Balls, but really this article does such an excellent job making fun of them, any attempt to improve upon it would be futile. Here are some teaser quotes:

Premarital sex is evil. Female sexuality must be, as ever, contained, repressed, shoved deep down lest it tempt men to sin like gleeful pagans licking ice cream from the pierced nipples of the devil. Girls do not know how to handle their own genitalia and therefore must be taught -- by their fathers, no less -- how to dilute their sexual power in order to attract a sexually unqualified, God-fearing husband. You know, same as it ever was.

Look, the plague of sexual incompetence plagues our land like a plague. It infects our schools, our popular culture, our presidential administration. The right endorses wanton sexual stupidity (and all ensuing miseries, drug addictions, divorces, stresses, gun fetishes, online porn obsessions) through failed abstinence programs, STD misinformation, refusal to support quality birth control and the relentless repetition of lies about sin and depravity and a shocking ignorance of the transformative spiritual power of sex.

And also, in the spirit of always being several months behind pop culture, I finally mixed Mentos and Diet Coke for the first time today. It works.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I choose stupid

An excellent article on George W. Bush, anti-intellectual by choice.

Georgie is not a man incapable of thought. He was not born without a capacity for intelligence. No, W. is a man who chooses not to think. He is a man who does not take time to research the details, does not consider his options carefully, does not take advice from others. He "listens to Jesus" or "goes with his gut", making decisions quickly, and then displays "conviction" by sticking to his decisions in the face of all reason.

It's not because he's daft. It's because he's lazy. And because he despises those who are more successful than him.

Does this sound familiar? It should, because George W. Bush is 75% of America. The vast majoriy of anti-intellectual, mouth-breathing, can't-wait-til-the-next-episode-of-Survivor slugs out there identify with this man. Like W., they sneer at the hard-working, the intelligent, the successful. They despise anyone who is above average. They long for the easy way out, and the lack of personal responsibility that comes with being told what to do by someone else. They may not admit it, but they look at W. and they see themselves.

So get ready, because I don't believe that W. is an aberration. I think he's just the first of many anti-intellectuals that will sit in our highest office. George W. Bush is democracy in action. He's what the forefathers were trying to prevent when they created the Electoral College. He is everyman, and therein lies our destiny.

And so we go on with our lives
We know the truth, but prefer lies
Lies are simple, simple is bliss
Why go against tradition when we can
Admit defeat, live in decline
Be the victim of our own design
The status quo, built on suspect
Why would anyone stick out their neck?

Fellow members of
Club "We've Got Ours"
I'd like to introduce you to our host
He's got his, and I've got mine
Meet The Decline

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


This weekend I accomplished something that has meaning only to me - I shot a 77 on a par 72 golf course (that's 5 over for the math challenged.) My previous best score was a 79 - and that was on a par 71 course (8 over). Some of the highlights included:

  • Starting hole #1 with a double-bogey. I played the final 17 holes at +3.

  • Finishing the front nine at +5. I was even par on the back nine.

  • Petrified that I was going to Mickelson the last hole, I drove the ball 330 yards, chipped onto the green, and sank a 20-foot birdie putt to finish the round.

I was not especially sharp, but I was consistently solid. I hit one poor shot on the back nine - a short duck-hook drive on a par 4 that hit a tree and stopped 200+ yards from the green. I recovered beautifully, chasing a 4-iron down a slope and into the middle of the green. I three-putted once for bogey, but otherwise made every putt I needed on fast, undulating greens.

If this is anything like my last great round, I'll play very good golf for two weeks and then completely forget how to swing a club for about a year.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Movie Review: X-Men - The Last Stand

Surprisingly good. I enjoyed it as much as, if not more than, the first X-Men flick.

It's a comic book movie, so if you are expecting an air-tight plot or believable action, then it will disappoint you. But if you're satisfied with good special effects and standard super-hero battles, then it will exceed your expectations.

The plot keeps you guessing (at least if you're not a fan of the comic book, and don't know the story ahead of time) and the ending is actually satisfying. I'm not sure how long the movie was, but I was disappointed that it was ending...I wish it had lasted a bit longer...and that's not something I say often.

One of the more interesting conflicts in this series is between Wolverine and Magneto. Wolverine, the hero of the X-Men, is 100% helpless against the bad guy, Magneto, because of the metal grafted into his skeleton. Magneto could turn him inside out at any moment, but time and again chooses to spare him. This gives the villian significant more depth and complexity than usual comic book evildoers.

Spoilers to follow...

There's a twist on your standard morality play here...Magneto, while perhaps more extreme than necessary, is actually right. The humans offered the mutant "cure" as a voluntary procedure, but then made weapons equipped with it. The president says "I fear for democracy when a single man can move cities with his mind", clearly displaying a desire to impose this "cure" on all mutants. The "Office of Mutant Affairs" turns out to be a token agency, granted no real powers, and left out of the government information loop. And at the end, after the X-Men defeat Magneto's army, the human soldiers open fire on them anyway. If not for Jean Grey, recruited by Magneto, (indirectly causing the death of Dr. Xavier) then all of the X-Men would have returned to pure human form.

So yes, the X-Men were heroes, they won the day. But without Magneto, they'd be regular humans, at best. Surprisingly, this point is underplayed in the movie itself.

And the X-Men has romance too. Nothing says "I love you" like admantium claws thrust into your heart.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Last night was my first rematch against the idiot I got suspended for clotheslining a few months ago.

He was up to his old tricks, picking on the same girl he got physical with last time. I felt like my hands were tied though - I knew the refs were watching me closely. I played physical with him but within the rules (mostly.) We had concurrent minors once when things got a little heated, but otherwise no fireworks.

I beat him for a goal, tying the game at 4. I let out a primal yell and stared him down after scoring, but he had his share of good plays against me as well. Twice he managed to screen our goalie in spite of my stick in his lower back. In the end, his team got the last laugh (again) with a 6-4 win.

The highlight of the evening was clearly when he was chasing me from behind, while one of his teammates was closing in on me from ahead...I sidestepped the contact, and the two of them collided violently. Idiot Boy was unconscious for a few moments (or perhaps he was just very comfortable with his arms spread-eagled and his nose pressed up against the floor.) And while I've never made fun of an unconscious person before, I did get in a few satisfying jabs about the Keystone Kops before he came to.

I topped off the night with yet another loss in my other hockey league - this time 7-2 - although I did manage to score a goal again.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Market Whiplash

Midday yesterday, the DJIA was down a whopping 170 points...then suddenly in the afternoon it did a complete turnaround and finished up nearly 8. For my own personal portfolio, this was a swing of $1000 in a matter of hours.

What was the reason? Wasn't the reported acension into heaven and subsequent servicing by celestial virgins of Zarqawi, since that was known when the market opened. The only news item that corresponds with this turnaround is Bush's announcement that the economy is better than we think it is! (Us stupid Americans, we obviously can't tell when our wallets are full or empty, we need our glorious leader to inform us that we're wealthy.)

What semi-intelligent person doesn't see through this self-serving political announcement? Has Bush ever made another type of announcement? How can people investing large sums of money in this market be less than semi-intelligent?

It's scary. Jim Cramer says it's an excess of speculation in the market, and I don't know enough to argue with him. These momentum players aren't buying stocks on fundamentals, macroeconomic or company-specific. They are simply trying to catch part of the "move", in whatever direction that move is going.

Usually action like yesterday, on high volume, is indication of a bottom. I'd like to think that's what we've seen. But with all this speculation, who can really tell? These weak holders need to get washed out for a real base to form, and there hasn't been nearly enough blood in the streets to wash them out.

So what to do? Continue to be really selective with your only companies with solid earnings as they come down, and buy small amounts. Looks like the pain is far from over.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

God and lions, part two

In an interesting (and original, I admit) twist on the God-saves-believer-from-the-lion's-den story, a man in Taiwan apparently tried to convert lions to Christianity. He then put up both arms and shouted "Come bite me!" Luckily for us all, the lion obeyed.

And our great nation's moral fabric continues to tear, as the senate failed to pass a gay marriage amendment. Now our most sacred institution is threatened by the immoral blah blah blah...I can't even continue this nonsense with a straight face. Now a dude that smokes baloney will be able to get the same tax breaks and insurance coverage as me. Oh no! Forget terrorism, crime, disease, and global competition...the world's going to hell in a handbasket when gay people have spousal rights. Thank God for W, he's looking out for us all.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

It's a zoo out there

Looks like God isn't in the business of saving folks from lions anymore. After Daniel, he decided that trick was old hat.

Now, I'm not saying this disproves the existence of God...hell, if I was God, I'd have let this guy die too. Probably in a more spectacularly painful way, but it's nice to know that me and God are at least on the same page.

Limping around today after hurting my hip in a hockey game last night. It's been a brutal season for both teams, but we did manage a 6-2 victory with only five skaters.

Stocks are kicking my ass as well...I sold Movado and Marcus Corp. last week, for very modest gains, just to raise a little cash in what is truly a sickening market. I'm still overinvested and looking for ways to lighten up. Some real bargains are being created each day, but I've got no money to take advantage.