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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Now On Public Display

For those who love to immerse themselves in such research, this is good news:
Black Civil War military archives given to Hampton
Associated Press

Hampton, Va. (AP) -- Historian and author Bennie J. McRae Jr. has donated his archives chronicling the military experiences of black men and women during the Civil War to Hampton University.

Along with the service of black soldiers and sailors, the collection chronicles the histories of men and women who served as spies, guides, scouts, nurses and cooks in the Union Army.

The collection will be accessible to historians, researchers and the public. [link]
If it weren't for the fact that Hampton is somewhere just this side of Hong Kong, I'd love to spend a week poring over these records.  A fun time, I have no doubt.

Maybe they'll put the collection on tour and come to Bland some day ...

Quote of the Day

From Charles Krauthammer:
Ah, the airport, where modern folk heroes are made. The airport, where that inspired flight attendant did what everyone who's ever been in the spam-in-a-can crush of a flying aluminum tube - where we collectively pretend that a clutch of peanuts is a meal and a seat cushion is a "flotation device" - has always dreamed of doing: pull the lever, blow the door, explode the chute, grab a beer, slide to the tarmac and walk through the gates to the sanity that lies beyond. Not since Rick and Louis disappeared into the Casablanca fog headed for the Free French garrison in Brazzaville has a stroll on the tarmac thrilled so many.

Who cares that the crazed steward got arrested, pleaded guilty to sundry charges, and probably was a rude, unpleasant SOB to begin with? Bonnie and Clyde were psychopaths, yet what child of the '60s did not fall in love with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty?

And now three months later, the newest airport hero arrives. His genius was not innovation in getting out, but deconstructing the entire process of getting in. John Tyner, cleverly armed with an iPhone to give YouTube immortality to the encounter, took exception to the TSA guard about to give him the benefit of Homeland Security's newest brainstorm - the upgraded, full-palm, up the groin, all-body pat-down. In a stroke, the young man ascended to myth, or at least the next edition of Bartlett's, warning the agent not to "touch my junk."

Not quite the 18th-century elegance of "Don't Tread on Me," but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.
"Don't touch my junk," Washington Post, November 19, 2010

Muddling Through Success

I can remember describing a former employer this way:  It was a relatively new company that made fantastic profits on breathtaking sales volume, but with leadership that wasn't all that sure about how it had done it.  It had just done it.  It was only when the company brought in "experts" to determine for that leadership how it was doing it, and how it might do it even more effectively, and more profitably, that the company, having adopted the recommendations of the "experts," and having hired an army of staff to implement the recommendations, went bankrupt.

Sometimes you can just get too scientific about the business you're in.

I was reminded of that circumstance by this:
The Central Importance of Statistics
By Megan McArdle, The Atlantic

One of the enduring mysteries of the Chinese economy is, well, all the enduring mysteries about the Chinese economy. Which is to say, good statistics are very hard to come by. The other day, I spoke to an economist who said that after a long period when wages lagged economic growth, they were finally moving in the other direction, growing 30% a year.

For wages to be growing that much faster than the economy, something else must be growing slower, and I endeavored to find out what that something was. Were profits growing more slowly? No, they were growing faster than ever.

What about the government's share? No, also rising.

Could this be reflection of the inflation rate? Assuredly not, he said. These were real figures, not nominal.

Which leaves us with something of a mystery. As he admitted when I, convinced I was not understanding something, pressed him: "The figures," he said, "don't always agree."

The lack of good economic statistics often makes it hard to know what's going on here. It's tempting to measure progress by the breakneck pace of construction, which you can see, rather than the pace of economic activity, for which you have no good measurement. [link]
The Chinese are doing everything right.  As best anyone can tell.  Though how they're doing it is a mystery.

Expect them to do not-so-well when the "experts" figure out how they're doing it.
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?

Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Hugh Fennyman: How?

Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.
And sometimes the explanation for success doesn't go any deeper than that.

* From "Shakespeare in Love".

A 'Come To Jesus' Moment

The owners of the rabidly anti-gun Christian Science Monitor (and its parent company, the Christian Publishing Company) must have had sleepless nights when they read this in its Friday edition (even if it was shown as an aside):

"(FBI reports show gun violence in the US has declined, surprising those criminologists who saw the combination of the 2009 gun run and high jobless rates as a recipe for a spike in gun crimes and violence.)"

See "Andrew Traver: Is Obama's choice for ATF chief an 'antigun zealot'?"

My guess is the only "criminologists" who were ever consulted on the subject were to be found in the editorial boardroom of the Christian Science Monitor.  But no matter.

They now understand what normal people in this country knew would be the case all along.

I can't tell you how much this warms the cockles of my heart.

My Take On The GM IPO

Everyone in the investment community is orgasmic over the General Motors initial public offering that began on Wednesday.  So excited that they bought up all of the 478 million common shares that were up for grabs and, along with a group of preferred shares that went on the block at the same time, handed GM a tidy 20.12 billion smackers.

Wow.

But wait.  You can count on this - all those investors will remain atwitter - Gung ho! - Full speed ahead! - Happy days are here again! - until the day comes - soon - when they'll all start selling their shares and pocketing the cash. 

They're now sitting back and waiting to see how high the price of GM stock goes, before they start dumping it.

That's how this stuff works.

Under different circumstances a fundamentally sound company would make for a great long-term investment.   And GM stock was, for decades, a wonderful long-term investment. 
But no longer.

Let's face it: The new GM ain't a whole lot different from the old union-strangled GM.  It's just shed some of its more easily shed baggage (like its contracts with suppliers and its idled/abandoned plants around the country).  Couple the UAW problem with the fact that the company is an accounting basket case, and you've got the makings of a mess that is going to bring about a lot of disappointed investors.

Well, some disappointed investors.  Those who get stuck holding the bag.  After the shrewd investors pocket their profits and move on.

I give it four months.

Then watch what happens to this Wall Street dream-come-true.

- - -

For a different insight, see "Suckers, Found!"  I don't see the investors as being suckers at all.  They know what they're doing.  It's those who buy into GM from this point forward who are the real suckers.

So Who's Going To Replace Morgan Griffith?

Some will say that he was so indispensable to the House of Delegates that nobody could replace Mr. Griffith. But here's an excellent possibility. From a press release:
RPV Announces Nomination of Greg Habeeb in 8th District Special Election

Speaker of the House of Delegates Bill Howell and Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins issued the following statements this evening after Greg Habeeb was declared the Republican nominee for the House of Delegate District 8 Special Election to fill the term of Congressman-elect Morgan Griffith:

"I know that Greg Habeeb will be a strong leader who will work hard for his constituents and all Virginians in the House of Delegates. He understands that our top priorities must be to promote pro-growth policies that create jobs and bring real opportunity to every person, find ways to responsibly reduce the size of government, and fight to keep Virginia the best place in America to live, learn, work and raise a family. By electing Greg Habeeb as the next delegate for the 8th District, the citizens of Roanoke and Salem will be sending a proven and effective leader to Richmond and I look forward to working with him in the next General Assembly session." - Speaker Bill Howell

"I want to congratulate Greg Habeeb on officially becoming our Republican nominee in the 8th House of Delegate's District. Greg is someone that people in Salem and Roanoke will be proud to have working for them, because I can't think of anyone who will work harder to bring jobs to the Roanoke Valley, fight to reduce the size and scope of our government, and find ways to keep Virginia a great place to live. Greg will be someone that, regardless of party, will always do what is right for the people of the Roanoke Valley" - Chairman Pat Mullins
For more information on Habeeb, go here.  And on where he stands on the issues, go here.

The 8th District would do well to have him serve them.

And the alternative is a Democrat ...

Works For Me

Although I'm sure the liberals in this country would have some kind of problem with it:
A great alternative to body scanners at airports

The Israelis are developing an airport security device that eliminates the privacy concerns that come with full-body scanners at the airports.

It’s a booth you can step into that will not X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have on you. They see this as a win-win for everyone, with none of this crap about racial
profiling. It also would eliminate the costs of a long and expensive trial. Justice would be swift. Case closed!

You're in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion.  Shortly thereafter an announcement comes over the PA system.  "Attention standby passengers — we now have a seat available on flight number XXXX. Shalom!"

Hats off to the Israelis!!!!
And hats - along with every other piece of clothing and most body extremities - off to those Muslims who are still trying to slaughter innocent American women and children.

On the Lighter Side

Prepare to smile:
When Obama died, George Washington met him at the Pearly Gates. He slapped him across the face and yelled, "How dare you try to destroy the nation I helped conceive?

Patrick Henry approached, punched him in the nose and shouted, "You wanted
to end our liberties but you failed."

James Madison followed, kicked him in the groin and said, "This is why I allowed our government to provide for the common defense!"

Thomas Jefferson was next, beat Obama with a long cane and snarled, "It was evil men like you who inspired me to write the Declaration of Independence."

The beatings and thrashings continued as George Mason, James Monroe and 66 other early Americans unleashed their anger on the radical, socialist, leader.

As Obama lay bleeding and in pain, an Angel appeared. Obama wept and said, "This is not what you promised me."

The Angel replied, "I told you there would be 72 VIRGINIANS waiting for you in Heaven. What did you think I said?" ....."You really need to listen when someone is trying to tell you something!"
You have to admit that it was cute.