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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

This is why we can't have nice things around here....

Warren Meyer, the blogger at Coyote Blog, runs a seasonal business. If I worked at a seasonal business, I'd recognize I would be out of work for part of the year, and, if necessary, take another job during the off season.

It seems, though, that some of Meyer's employees don't see it that way.

Unemployment insurance is a disaster for a seasonal business like mine. As background, most of my employees are retired, and don't really need to work. They work for me in the summer, and then frequently take the winter off. Unfortunately, some of the more unscrupulous ones will file for unemployment over the winter, telling the state office they are looking for work (usually a requirement) when in fact they have no intention of working. I had two employees last year for whom I received a notice of their unemployment filing the very same day they called me to tell me what a great time they are having over the winter fishing in Mexico.

The sense of entitlement inherent in government welfare programs (in fact, they are called entitlements) is a large reason behind this exhibited behavior. Before these programs existed, of course, it was very difficult to live like a leech. If you could work, you worked, and any assistance received by your family, church, or countrymen was temporary. The government lacks the ability, currently, and I suspect lacks the will to enforce this type of morality with its entitlement programs.

For every government program that is designed to help people in need, there will be people who view it as something they deserve. And until that attitude changes, we shouldn't be considering more government entitlement programs. And when we do, we should anticipate any estimated costs for these programs to be off by a considerable margin.

Open-minded liberals in the music industry

It's hard to think of a more liberal industry than the entertainment industry. So this question posed to Billboard Magazine's Fred Bronson struck me as interesting.

Dear Fred,

I was looking through the Billboard charts hoping to find Scissor Sisters' "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" on the Hot 100.

Nada. It was on the Bubbling Under chart at No. 2 and I believed it would jump into the Hot 100. Unfortunately the following week I couldn't find it either on the Hot 100 or in the top 10 of Bubbling Under. What a disappointment!

Though Scissor Sisters are huge in Europe, they are still almost ignored in the United States.

Even such a radio-friendly song as "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" receives no radio play in the United States.

We will see how they do with their second album; hope they will be at least top 20. What do you think about their future in the United States? Will they ever have a breakthrough like they had in Europe?


Jenya Kachalin
Kiev, Ukraine

Dear Jenya,

I think the Scissor Sisters have the same problem garnering radio airplay in the United States that the Pet Shop Boys have had. Both have been categorized as "gay bands" and there is enough homophobia at radio to keep them off the airwaves.

That's just a personal opinion, of course. Some acts simply don't translate from Europe to America, even if they are U.S.-born, like Anastacia, and it has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

The followup:


Your opinion on "gay bands" got me thinking about some of my favorite groups and their success in America vs. Europe. The Pet Shop Boys and Erasure are two of my all-time favorite bands. While both have had some success here in the states (PSB more so than Erasure), it still puzzles me how much more success they have had in their native countries.

To my knowledge both lead singers were "out" to the public when they were having their biggest hits in the late '80s and early '90s. Why is it that England and Europe seem to not care about sexual orientation and America seems to be so hung up about it? Have there been any "gay bands" that have had success in the United States in recent years?

Nick Oswald
Muscatine, Iowa

Dear Nick,

I don't think we can resolve why America is hung up about sex (or sexual orientation) in the confines of Chart Beat Chat, but it's an issue that bears scrutiny in other forums.

Most Chart Beat readers can name a number of artists who have publicly discussed their same-sex orientation who continue to sell albums, including Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang and Rufus Wainwright. They may not be receiving airplay on top 40 radio stations, but that may not (or may not longer) be their goal.

George Michael has continued to sell records in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, but his U.S. fortunes faded after being arrested in Beverly Hills.

I'm not one to attribute to malice what can be attributed to a difference in taste. Something happened after Pet Shop Boys and Erasure had their hits. The 80's ended. Some people (not me) grew tired of the 80's sound, and I suspect the decision makers in popular music felt that way. Thus, we saw lack of support for the excellent synthpop of these two bands (though Erasure did have a surprise hit in 1993 with Always). Suddenly, country, hip-hop and rap, and later grunge grew to be the official face of American music, aided by SoundScan technology, which meant record sales couldn't be misreported. Pop wouldn't return until the late 90's, with the much-reviled boy bands and barely-legal girl singers.

The example of George Michael is illustrative. The main reason for his decline was probably his public feud with his record company. George Michael didn't want to be the sexy idol from Faith, he "wanted to be taken seriously." More than five years passed between his albums. Very few people can sustain a career over that large a gap. (Meat Loaf, I'm looking at you.)

And you thought Zero Wing was bad....

All Your Bsae Are Belong To Us?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Deficits as far as the eye can see....

What do you think of President Clinton's economic policies? Like those disappearing deficits? Want to give him full credit?

Well, recently, I found a couple of contemporary articles that might refresh your memory.

Remember Clinton's first economic proposal? It was more spending. $16 billion of new spending. And his tax increase? Lots more spending came at the same time. Spending reductions? Rejected. And what spending ended up getting cut in the end? Military spending.

And what did contemporaries think? From the CBO:

In July 1996 the CBO announces that the Clinton deficit-reduction honeymoon is over. After 1997, the Clinton baseline outlook steadily deteriorates in every year for the next decade. Then the government's finances implode. Runaway entitlement expenditures -- particularly for Medicare and Medicaid -- ravage the budget. The CBO predicts that unless transfer payments are curtailed the nation faces a future of "unsustainably high levels of federal borrowing," with the national debt ascending relentlessly from 60 per cent of national output today, to 150 per cent by 2025.

Either the CBO is incompetent, or the falling deficits were unexpected.

On the subject of taxes, did tax cuts (two under Reagan) drop tax
revenue? Did tax increases (two under Bush and Clinton) increase

The Left is now again busy trying to rewrite history to suggest that the Bush 1990 and the Clinton 1993 tax hikes contributed mightily to the decline in the deficit. The top marginal income-tax rate has risen by 50 per cent -- from 28 per cent in 1989 to 42 per cent this year. Yet federal revenues grew faster in the 1980s with Reagan's substantial across-the-board tax cut than during the 1990s with these two giant tax hikes.

Overall real federal revenues (1982 to 1989) grew by 24 per cent during the seven-year period after the Reagan tax cuts took full effect. But (as currently forecast by the Congressional Budget Office) overall federal revenue growth from 1990 through 1997 will be only 18.5 per cent. If federal revenues had grown in the 1990s at only the pace they did after the Reagan tax cuts, federal receipts in 1996 would be almost $50 billion greater and the deficit would be one-third smaller.

Income-tax receipts after adjusting for inflation rose by 16.3 per cent in the seven years after the full Reagan tax cut. Income-tax receipts will have climbed by 16.1 per cent in real terms in the seven years since 1990.

And here's another article, talking about how wrong liberal Keynesian economists were in the 70's. It's an impressive list, almost like Beta, Milli Vanilli, and Boo.com put together.

You can have your own opinions, but you can't have your own facts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The great danger. Nuclear weapons? Hurricanes?


The local newscast featured yet another dire prediction. Kids are too fat. They won't live as long as their parents. I've heard this kind of thing before.

Of course, obesity presents such a problem because people are living long enough that obesity matters. People die less at birth, less from childhood diseases, less in the workplace, and survive more from diseases and conditions like cancer and heart attacks. That's good, and barring some new super-disease or release of the smallpox virus, I think that will continue.

And I can think of a miracle drug or two that could greatly stop obesity. I'd love to see a drug that safely speeds one's metabolism without side effects, so that everyone could be that person everyone hates, the person who can eat anything and not gain a pound. But perhaps more realistic is a drug that gives one a feeling of satiety, that turns off the brain's declaration of hunger. It'd be easy to stick to a weight-loss diet if one never felt hungry. It's probably the only realistic way one could survive on the Calorie restriction diet, recently cited as a potential key to massive longevity gains.

One final observation. My generation is taller than my parent's generation. The baby boomers didn't have the extreme poverty and Dust Bowl conditions of the Great Depression, where starvation was a real risk. Nor did they live through World War II, when people gladly endured Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays to sacrifice for the war effort. No, the Baby Boomers lived through boom times, when food was plentiful. So what makes later generations grow up taller? Is it possible that the Baby Boomers didn't actually get enough to eat?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

So true...

I do appreciate this recent McDonald's commercial:

Hey, guy from work I don't really know!
Guess we have to be polite and talk, but I just want to go eat breakfast.
I'll act like I'm late.
Oh, great!

However, I don't like the billboard advertisement for McDonald's coffee:

Let us add the cream and sugar.

That's not something I consider a selling point. One of the things that stood out when I first went to Starbucks was the small table with cream, sugar, plus shakers of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and cocoa. Allowing me to flavor my coffee as I like is a strong selling point.

Another reason to hate Eliot Spitzer

From the Actuarial Outpost, it's because he snagged a hot wife.

Amusing comment:
Poster 1: How did such an ugly guy get such a hot wife?
Poster 2: He threatened to sue her if she didn't marry him.