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Willisms

« December 2006 | WILLisms.com | February 2007 »

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 90

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

shrill hill.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
U.S. presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) poses for a photo with supporters as she campaigns at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa, January 28, 2007. Clinton is campaigning in Iowa for the first time since announcing her intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination earlier in the week.
I don't think we are getting the full story here. How about a less suspicious caption, please?.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, February 6. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

beer doggie.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. elliot:

What happens in the kennel, stays in the kennel.

2. Hoodlumman:

Ted Kennedy's dog had long since stopped fetching, sitting or rolling over.

3. DANEgerus Ken S:

Since his advertising career ended, the Taco Bell Chihuahua's life has taken a turn for the worse.

Caption early and caption often. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 31 January 2007 04:52 PM · Comments (31)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 409 -- GDP Growth In Perspective.

America's Ginormous Economy-

Fourth quarter GDP numbers for 2006 (.pdf) are out. The American economy, after the tolls of inflation, grew at a 3.5% rate in the 4th quarter. In 2006, the U.S. economy grew 3.4%.

In current-dollar terms, the American economy is now 13.4872 trillion dollars, after growing by 798.1 billion dollars in 2006.

Not bad.

Just for comparison, according to the latest stats from the World Bank, the economy of the European Monetary Union grew 1.3%, Germany's economy grew 0.9%, France's grew 1.5%, The Netherlands grew 1.1%, Italy grew (or didn't grow) 0.0%, the UK grew 1.8%, Norway grew 2.3%, and Japan grew 2.7%.

Just for reference.

Let's put that 798.1 billion dollars worth of current-dollar economic growth in 2006 into perspective.

America essentially added the entire economy of any of the top ten through fifteen economies in the world, on top of its already-huge economy (.pdf):

tenthroughfifteen.gif

In the fourth quarter alone, America added 164.6 billion in current-dollar dollars. This is equivalent to somewhere between the entire annual economy of Portugal and the entire annual economy of Venezuela (.pdf).

Such economic strength.

Let's hope our new socialist overlords don't wreck this.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: New NCAA Football Clock Rules Are Awful.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 January 2007 04:36 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 408 -- New NCAA Football Clock Rules.

Even In College Football, Policies Have Consequences-

A month or so after the thrilling 2006 Rose Bowl game between Texas and USC, the greatest football game of all time, the NCAA football rules committee met. And what did they do?

They essentially guaranteed that there could never again be a come-from-behind victory like the one engineered by Vince Young in the final moments of the 2005 BCS championship game.

Nothing was broken, but they fixed it anyway.

They (the ones that hate America) passed sweeping clock rule changes (3-2-5-e) to shorten the game for television. You can read the rules yourself here (.pdf).

The gist: the clock starts on the kick of a kickoff rather than when the ball is touched by the receiving team; the clock starts on the ready-for-play signal following a change of possession rather than at the snap; and, the clock starts on the ready-for-play signal after a first down rather than at the snap.

The changes had some major consequences on the game. Bad consequences, if you are a college football fan.

For one, games were shortened, lengthwise. In 2005, games lasted an average of 3 hours and 21 minutes. In 2006, games lasted 3 hours and 6 minutes. More than that, there were fewer plays, thus fewer opportunities for exciting plays, and fewer opportunities to reach significant statistical plateaus. And fewer opportunities for late game comebacks. And so on.

A look at some of the consequences of the new clock rules:

Fewer Plays-

averagenumberofplays.gif

(Nearly 10% fewer.)

Roughly 5 minutes and 47 seconds worth of football game.


Messed Up Team Stats-

teamaveragesclockrules.gif

54% fewer teams averaging 400 yards per game.
41% fewer teams averaging 30 points per game.
63% fewer teams averaging 200 rush yards per game.
129% more teams averaging under 300 yards allowed per game.
163% more teams averaging under 14 points allowed per game.


Messed Up Player Stats-

playeraveragesclockrules.gif

39% fewer rushers averaging 100 yards per game.
69% fewer receivers averaging 100 yards per game.
47% fewer receivers averaging 6 catches per game.
40% fewer players averaging 250 offensive yards per game.
72% fewer players averaging 150 "all purpose" yards per game.
71% fewer players averaging 10 points scored per game.


Messed Up Overall Rushing Stats-

rushingnewclockrules.gif

Roughly 11.5% fewer rushes. About 11% fewer rushing yards. More than 15% fewer rushing touchdowns. The collegiate running game was harmed more than the passing game, if only out of necessity. Running the ball eats a lot of clock, so teams shifted their offenses toward passing. But even passing stats took a hit due to the new clock rules.


Messed Up Overall Offensive Stats-

offensenewclockrules.gif

6+% fewer pass yards per game.
Nearly 11% fewer points per game.
More than 8% fewer offensive yards per game.

Not to mention: fewer pass attempts, fewer completions, fewer pass TDs, fewer INTs, fewer punts, fewer penalties, fewer field goals attempted, and fewer field goals made. On defense, the new clock rules produced fewer tackles, fewer sacks, fewer forced fumbles, and fewer turnovers. In just about every category, the numbers remained fairly consistent each year from 2000 to 2005 but diverged substantially in 2006.

No matter which way you slice it (there are countless anecdotal examples in addition to the stats), the new clock rules harmed NCAA football in 2006, while only saving 15 minutes per game.

My recommendation: Unfix what wasn't broken to begin with.

Go back to the old clock rules. There was nothing wrong with them. They made games exciting. If there's an urgent and pressing need for shortening games, find a way to cut out some commercials, or shorten halftime, or shorten the time between quarters. Or instruct the officials to be sticklers on enforcement of the old rules, prodding the game along without nuking actual football plays in the process. Or something.

When the rules committee meets Feb. 11-14, just give us back our good ole college football.

You can download the entire Excel Spreadsheet I painstakingly worked up from various NCAA statistical pages. The file is still somewhat raw and not entirely organized, but it's still moderately informative.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Ethanol Truth.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 January 2007 01:03 PM · Comments (9)

Quotational Therapy: Part 124 -- Milton Friedman Day.

How To Advance Freedom-

Today is Milton Friedman Day.

miltonfriedmanday.gif

Late in his life, Friedman offered some advice for those wishing to advance freedom. Here was his answer:

I think that the best thing that people can do who want to promote the free market is to talk about the free market, to think about the free market, to write about the free market and to get into arguments.

Good ideas ultimately win in the public square. We just have to be willing to stand up for them.

Incidentally, from the same interview:

I always told my students that if they went to Washington, they shouldn't stay there more than two years or they'll get ruined.

I concur. When I have spent any significant time in Washington, DC, I've constantly wanted to leave. And I've constantly pondered how much money I could make selling a t-shirt like this around town (and around the country):

idontheartdc.gif

Also:

iheartdc.gif

Is this yet another million dollar idea left unfulfilled?

Probably not. But how awesome would it be to see tourists buying up these shirts on The Mall? Or candidates and their staff members wearing these shirts on the campaign trail?


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Sir Ernest Benn.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 January 2007 03:29 PM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 407 -- More Ethanol Facts.

Terrible, This Ethanol-

More on ethanol:

...federal and state subsidies for ethanol ran to about $6 billion last year, equivalent to roughly half its wholesale market price. Ethanol gets a 51-cent a gallon domestic subsidy, and there's another 54-cent a gallon tariff applied at the border against imported ethanol. Without those subsidies, hardly anyone would make the stuff, much less buy it--despite recent high oil prices.

That's also why the percentage of the U.S. corn crop devoted to ethanol has risen to 20% from 3% in just five years, or about 8.6 million acres of farmland. Reaching the President's target of 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017 would, at present corn yields, require the entire U.S. corn harvest.

No wonder, then, that the price of corn rose nearly 80% in 2006 alone.

A graphic of that drastic spike in corn prices:

corncraze.gif

Ethanol: total bunk.

Previous ethanol facts trivia tidbit of the day.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Big Labor Sinks Economies.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 January 2007 11:28 AM · Comments (3)

Quotational Therapy: Part 123 -- Congress: If It Ain't Broke, Fix It Anyway.

Legislation For The Sake Of "Doing Something"-

ernestbenn.gif
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it wrongly, and applying unsuitable remedy.

-Sir Ernest Benn (sometimes attributed to Groucho Marx).

Alternative version:

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it wrongly and applying it incorrectly."

Drastically upping the minimum wage. Toilsome tax hikes and regulations on oil companies. The Fairness Doctrine. Sticking it to "Big Pharma." And so on. Tinkering for the sake of tinkering. We need more politicians devoted to calling "shenanigans" on the natural Congressional impulse toward always doing something. Sometimes, it would be nice to scrap every single law in the entire country and start over-- fresh-- adding back only basics that build on the Constitution's penchant for protecting and advancing liberty.

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Max Baucus.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 January 2007 08:30 PM · Comments (12)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 406 -- Looking For The Increasingly Rare Union Label.

Union Membership Falls... Again-

Some fresh data, from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (DOL BLS .pdf):

In 2006, 12.0 percent of employed wage and salary workers were union members, down from 12.5 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of persons belonging to a union fell by 326,000 in 2006 to 15.4 million. The union membership rate has steadily declined from 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available.

An interesting factoid:

Workers in the public sector had a union membership rate nearly five times that of private sector employees.

Union members, of course, vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, or-- at best-- protectionist Republicans. Thus, each time we expand government, we are entrenching and perpetuating Democratic political power.

Another set of factoids:

State union membership levels depend on both the employment level and union membership rate. Texas (with the second largest number of employed wage and salary workers) had less than one-quarter as many union members as New York (the third largest), despite having over 1.6 illion more wage and salary employees. Similarly, Florida (with the fourth largest employment level) and Minnesota (the twenty-first) had virtually the same number of union members, even though Florida’s wage and salary employment level was three times that of Minnesota.

Okay, that's not exactly clear or succinct. So here's a visual (.pdf):

newyorkunions.gif
vs.
texasunions.gif

NET MIGRATION COMPARISON: 225,766 more New Yorkers moved to other states than vice-versa, from 2005 to 2006.
Texas, meanwhile, welcomed 218,745 more Americans from other states than vice-versa.

Another visual (.pdf):

minnesotaunions.gif
vs.
floridaunions.gif

NET MIGRATION COMPARISON:

4,509 more Minnesotans moved to other states than vice-versa, from 2005 to 2006.
Florida, meanwhile, welcomed 165,757 more Americans from other states than vice-versa.

Economic Performance Indicators-

In the most recent GDP growth rate postings, Texas and Florida grew 4.7% and 7.7%, respectively, while New York and Minnesota grew 2.9% and 1.9%.

Great for Texas, amazing for Florida, decent for New York, and disappointing for Minnesota.

From December 2005 to December 2006 (.pdf), Texas added 213,200 jobs, while New York added 61,200 jobs. Meanwhile, Florida added 212,600 jobs, and Minnesota added 54,200 jobs.

Good for Texas, great for Florida, terrible for New York, and not bad at all for Minnesota.

Honest Question: How many Americans realize that relatively high levels of unionization correlate with relatively poor economic performance?

Sometimes, I think: "a lot... most of them, even."

Other times, I am not so sure.

Political Impact-

While the decline of union members is already showing a moderate pro-GOP impact at the polls, I tend to believe that there is a substantial lag time between fewer union members and fewer union voters.

Why? Well, there are still many former union members (retirees, people who have been caught up in mass layoffs, etc.) out there, and plenty of formerly union-headed families, and they still eagerly pull the union-approved levers at the polls. Especially in heavily-unionized states in the Midwest, Northeast, and along the Pacific Coast. Thus, un-joining a union probably doesn't make your political behavior much different than if you had just stayed in a union for the rest of your life (unless, of course, you are un-joining in protest).

On the other hand, former Republican voters who join unions are typically lost immediately and forever to the Democrats.

Which makes the declining numbers of federal employees under the Bush administration such an important victory for future Republican majorities.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Ethanol Facts.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 January 2007 07:30 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 405 -- Energy Alternatives.

Policies Have Consequences-

Popular Mechanics has some facts on ethanol versus regular gasoline:

A gallon of E85 has an energy content of about 80,000 BTU, compared to gasoline's 124,800 BTU. So about 1.56 gal. of E85 takes you as far as 1 gal. of gas.
onegalloncomparison.gif

So, ethanol gives you poorer gas mileage. Awesome. I noticed this phenomenon firsthand while traveling extensively by vehicle in the Midwest throughout 2006.

And it takes more energy to produce ethanol than gasoline. And is more expensive:

Corn farmers have done a good job of disguising the fact that it still takes more than a gallon of fossil fuel--29% more is the best estimate--to make a gallon of ethanol. In addition, various mandates requiring the use of ethanol significantly increased gasoline prices last summer and led to spot shortages because ethanol can't be carried through pipelines and requires special blending plants. James Glassman, an economist with J.P. Morgan Chase, notes that expensive ethanol was a big factor in the sticker shock consumers encountered at the pump this summer. "We'd probably have retail gasoline prices between $2.30 and $2.40 a gallon if not for ethanol," he told The Wall Street Journal last June, when pump prices were topping $3 a gallon.

So, could ethanol replace petroleum-based gasoline entirely? Nope, not really:

One acre of corn can produce 300 gal. of ethanol per growing season. So, in order to replace that 200 billion gal. of petroleum products, American farmers would need to dedicate 675 million acres, or 71 percent of the nation's 938 million acres of farmland, to growing feedstock. Clearly, ethanol alone won't kick our fossil fuel dependence--unless we want to replace our oil imports with food imports.
ethanolfarmland.gif

That's a lot of acres. Too many acres, really, to allow for "energy independence" or the elimination of foreign oil, without disastrous Mao-esque externalities.

Visiting with staffers from various (typically unsuccessful) Senate, House, and Gubernatorial campaigns throughout the Midwest in 2006, I heard a similar refrain again and again:

"Minnesota is the next Saudi Arabia."
"Iowa is like Saudi Arabia for corn."
"Missouri will be the Saudi Arabia of ethanol."
"Wisconsin is like Saudi Arabia for alternative fuels."
"Illinois has as much energy as Saudi Arabia, but in corn and soy rather than oil."

And so on.

When I would hear this line, everywhere I went, I admit now to bursting out laughing spontaneously, and sometimes the laughing may have been taken as rudeness. Sometimes a dose of startling reality can come off as rudeness, though, when it shatters evangelical levels of false idol worship (corn/ethanol being the idol).

Credit for the idol analogy goes to Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute:

"Right now ethanol is the closest thing to a state religion in this country," said Jerry Taylor, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington. "It's a bipartisan conviction."

But Taylor estimated that federal and state alternative fuel tax subsidies are in the $6 billion to $7 billion a year range - about $1 for each gallon of ethanol produced.

"Most people think the ethanol program reduces fuel prices; it doesn't," Taylor said.

When it comes to ethanol, what on earth is the point? It costs more, powers less, and doesn't eliminate foreign sources of energy.

Popular Mechanics also has a highly engaging graphic on the differences between and among various energy sources (.pdf), for a trip from New York to California. Here are just two of them:

alternativeenergyfactoids.gif

It would be interesting to determine the true costs of ethanol subsidies, including what this means for consumer food prices, including the corrosive toll on vehicle innards, including how many billions of dollars in ethanol handouts could have been used to reduce tax rates, and so on. What I do know-- anecdotally-speaking-- is that it cost me more to fill up in the Midwest than in Texas in 2006, and I had to fill up more often, because of all of the ethanol added to Midwest gas.

UPDATE (Jan. 26, 2006)--

Busting up some myths on ethanol.

Myth: Ethanol reduces air pollution.

A review of the literature by Australian academic Robert Niven found that, when evaporative emissions are taken into account, E10 (fuel that's 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, the standard mix) increases emissions of total hydrocarbons, nonmethane organic compounds, and air toxics compared to conventional gasoline. The result is greater concentrations of photochemical smog and toxic compounds.

Myth: Ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

At best, E10 reduces greenhouse gas emissions by from zero to 5 percent; pure ethanol by 12 percent. The International Energy Agency, however, estimates that it costs about $250 to reduce a ton of greenhouse gases this way, or more than 10 times what Yale economist William Nordhaus thinks is economically sensible given the economics of climate change. Ethanol as an anti-warming policy is what academics refer to as "crazy talk."

Simply astounding, this ethanol snake oil craze.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Mandatory Spending Swamps Discretionary.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 January 2007 03:47 PM · Comments (8)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Sixty-Nine -- Taxes On Benefits.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday or so, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

Taxes On Top Of Taxes.

The American Academy of Actuaries has done some analysis on Social Security reform options (.pdf).

Their conclusions:

We can't permanently fix Social Security by raising taxes and/or cutting benefits alone. Both of those routes are merely temporary patches.

Speaking of temporary patches, let's look at one of the more annoying aspects of the program: taxation on top of Social Security benefits.

So, the government confiscates your money, keeps it for decades, gives you back a terrible return on your money, then taxes you for the privilege.

The American Academy of Actuaries has the data (.pdf):

ssbenefittaxes.gif
Because the dollar thresholds are not indexed, 85 percent of most participants’ benefits will ultimately be subject to income tax under current law. The revenue that could be raised through additional benefit taxation is relatively modest.

What is the point of this program, anyway? Poverty prevention in old age? Retirement pension supplementation?

Social Security is beginning to look more and more like a fatally flawed socialist welfare redistribution regime than any sort of widely popular benefit program worth "protecting."

Jay Ambrose opines:

To fix this popular program, you have to take some political risks. For decades now the demagogic message largely from Democrats has been that the program is fine as it is and that any adjustments will imperil those currently receiving benefits. Tiptoe toward the truth and you may get severely punished, as President Bush found out when he campaigned for individual retirement accounts and other changes. Ambushed by misinformation, fear-mongering and ideological idiocy, he was forced to retreat while opponents took deep bows.

But truth is a stubborn thing, and so it was the other day that Ben Bernanke echoed warnings of the Federal Reserve chairman who preceded him. He said, as Alan Greenspan had, that the retirement of the long-living, baby boom generation would cause a flood of entitlement spending if nothing were done to address Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and that the consequences would be ugly.

He repeated the story that should be old to our ears by now. People over 65 are 12 percent of the population today, and for each person in this age group, there are five younger adults whose taxes can help pay for benefits. Jump ahead to 2030, and people over 65 will be 19 percent of the population. There will be three younger adults to pay the taxes for their benefits. Hang onto current law, and this could mean a deficit in 2030 four times the percentage of gross domestic product of what it is now, which means less money for capital formation, less growth of real incomes and lower living standards.

In short, it could mean economic misery.

Inaction could mean economic misery, but modernizing Social Security could mean unprecedented economic empowerment.

More from Ambrose:

Social Security is the place to start because it is easier to address than Medicare, and a way to get the ball rolling.

Indeed, some otherwise ideologically-friendly folks (like blogger Professor Bainbridge) opposed Social Security reform mostly because "Medicare is a bigger deal." How utterly daft was that line of thinking?

In 2005/2006, we could have changed Social Security in such a way that it would have been a plus for Republicans at the polls, a plus for our economy, and a guideline for future Medicare reform.

A handful or two of dupes within the GOP joined the lot of stooges in the minority and were able to block popular and necessary personal accounts, recasting the entire issue in oldschool demogogic terms, a net political liability for Republicans.

Missed opportunity. Now the stooges are in charge, and it very well may be years before such a grand opportunity again presents itself. In the meantime, the system remains a pillar of Enron-style Marxist dysfunction, rather than a blueprint for further liberty-based entitlement reform.

The clock is still ticking:


Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday or so for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 25 January 2007 02:13 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 404 -- Growing Entitlement Program Costs Make Elections Matter Less.

Mandatory Spending Versus Discretionary Spending-

The latest CBO Annual Budget Outlook is out (.pdf). You may have noticed that the Capital Gains tax relief (15% reduction) passed in 2003 has produced an explosion of Capital Gains tax collections. The American Shareholders Association notes that initial projections, which predicted that the tax cut would "cost" the government $5.4 billion in revenue from 2003 to 2006, were ridiculously wrong:

...the initial CBO forecast (January 2004) forecasted capital gains revenue to be $42 billion in 2003, $46 billion in 2004, $52 billion in 2005, and $57 billion in 2006.

Well in what could now be considered the worst forecast in modern times we find out today capital gains tax collections were actually $51 billion in 2003, $72 billion in 2004, $97 billion in 2005, and $110 billion in 2006. For 2005 and 2006 collections nearly doubled the initial forecast.

Translation = total capital gains tax collections over this period were 68 percent higher than forecasted. But even more important, a loss of $5.4 billion is actually a gain of $133 billion. That is a swing of $138 billion in in just short years since the January 2004 forecast. Oops.

Tax cuts don't "cost" the government anything. Tax cuts, because they empower individual economic freedom, necessarily spur economic growth. A larger economy means more tax revenue.

So, the CBO report is interesting, in that it further vindicates the President's tax cuts.

However, there is another interesting bit lost in the shuffle somewhat, gleaned from the report (.pdf):

mandatoryvsdiscretionary.gif

The CBO clearly isn't great at projections. But mandatory spending already owns discretionary spending, and, unfortunately, there's no reason not to believe the future predictions.

What does this mean for our Republic?

It means that elections matter less as we go forward, because so much confiscation/redistribution is already on auto-pilot, regardless of what our Representatives and Senators and Presidents do.

It also means that elections matter more than ever, because if we fail to elect a reform-friendly government in the near future, our fiscal house is in serious trouble.

Top 5 reasons to reform/modernize our entitlements:

1. Because the programs could and should work better for individual Americans.
2. Because it is fundamentally undemocratic to lock future generations into paying for things designed decades-- or centuries-- earlier.
3. Because freeing our economy from the shackles of terminally-growing entitlement programs means greater global competitiveness.
4. Because failing to reform and modernize our mandatory spending programs means inevitable tax hikes, which would lead to lower standards of living over time. It is morally repugnant to bequeath less-than-optimal standards of living to future generations.
5. Because reform is relatively cheap today, whereas reform in the future will become increasingly painful.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: GM Is Not Arbitrarily Losing To Toyota.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 January 2007 11:44 PM · Comments (0)

Reggie Bush: Cheater.

Yahoo! Sports, the only media outlet covering the rampant corruption surrounding Reggie Bush while at USC, is reporting the existence of incriminating tapes:

A federal investigation into extortion claims by New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush and his family has revealed the existence of taped conversations that could confirm Bush took cash and gifts while he was playing football for the University of Southern California....

According to multiple sources in an ongoing Yahoo! Sports investigation, nearly $280,000 in cash, rent and gifts was allegedly given to Bush and his family....

If the NCAA rules that Bush received extra benefits during his playing career at USC, he could be ruled retroactively ineligible. Since some of the benefits date to the 2004 season, the Trojans' national championship that season could be rescinded. USC could face further NCAA sanctions and Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy could be in jeopardy. The Heisman ballot indicates that an athlete must meet NCAA eligibility requirements to be considered for college football's most prestigious award.

So, $280 grand in illegal benefits.

For Reggie Bush and his family, life is imitating art. Broken down, the litany of benefits is reminiscent of the cheating montage scene in the 1994 basketball movie Blue Chips, where Penny Hardaway's mom received a new home, Shaq got a new car, and Matt Nover's parents got a new tractor-- and a bag of cash.

For Reggie, there was a nice new home for his family. A new car for Reggie. Debts paid off. And what would a college cheating scandal be without tons of sweet moolah?

So how does $280K stack up in the historical context of NCAA infractions?

Well, SMU has never recovered from the "death penalty" it received from the NCAA in 1987... for $61K in illegal benefits spread over about a dozen players.

According to the United States Department of Labor's Inflation Calculator, $61K dollars in 1987 equals $108,253.52 today. Just a visual of SMU's cheating versus Reggie Bush's cheating, in today's dollars:

reggiebushcheated.gif

Should USC receive the death penalty, or worse? Probably not.

Will they even face any punishment? Not at all likely.

Because the illegal benefits came from agents (yes, agents, plural) and not the school itself (and because Pete Carroll runs what seems to be a clean program overall), USC will probably be able to skirt any major NCAA penalties.

Speaking of, Yahoo! Sports has the specific language of some potentially-relevant NCAA bylaws, or you can download the bylaws directly from the NCAA's website.

The language is pretty clear (and redundant) on these issues. Taking more than a quarter of a million dollars in illegal benefits from agents while playing college football would seem to violate several NCAA bylaws. There's not a lot of wiggle room for Reggie Bush and his lawyers here, and even if Pete Carroll and USC had nothing to do with the violations, they could still have to walk the plank for Reggie Bush's sins.

Had the Heisman Trophy voters done the right thing in the first place and picked the clearly superior Vince Young, they wouldn't be facing this predicament (taking Reggie's Heisman back) right now.

ESPN, where are you on this one?

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 January 2007 09:53 PM · Comments (7)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 89

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

beer doggie.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
Benito, a 5-year-old Chihuahua, drinks beer from a bottle in the southern town of Hulst, Netherlands, Sunday Jan. 21, 2007. Terrie Berenden, a pet shop owner in the town of Zelhem created a non-alcoholic beer for her Weimaraner dog made from beef extract and malt, and consigned a local brewery to make and bottle the beer, called Kwispelbier, after the word 'kwispel', which is Dutch for wagging a tail.
Clearly, there is more going on here than meets the eye. Give us the full caption, please.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, January 30. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

pillowfight.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. John in IL:

The new season of "Desperate Housewives" has gone from bad to worse.

2. Hoodlumman:

Martha Stewart is suing those that have begun to leak photos from her prison stint.

3. DANEgerus:

Title IX extreme sports still only draw fans for the Anna Kournakova matches.

Honorable Mention #1 Rodney Dill :

Whack-A-Moll

Honorable Mention #2 ZsaZsa:
Whip me! Beat me! I'm trash I tell you! I'm trrrrrrrrash!...

Honorable Mention #3 McCain:

Honey, you're on my side of the bed again.

All the captioning that's fit to print. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 24 January 2007 03:01 PM · Comments (29)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 403 -- American Companies Can't Win The Auto Wars Without Big Structural Changes.

GM & TOYOTA-

Fact: General Motors stock is down roughly 56% (nearly 41 points) since the beginning of the decade. Toyota stock is up more than 35% over the same time period. Honda stock is up more than 107% over the same time period. Nissan stock is up more than 215% over the same time period.

In the meantime, American car company GM is laying off American workers, while the major Japanese car companies are hiring American workers.

Something is very wrong with GM.

Toyota, et al., meanwhile, are cashing in on General Motors' failures.

Mickey Kaus has some answers:

GM pays $31.35 an hour. Toyota pays $27 an hour. Not such a big difference. But--thanks in part to union work rules that prevent the thousands of little changes that boost productivity--it takes GM, on average, 34.3 hours to build a car, while it takes Toyota only 27.9 hours. ** Multiply those two numbers together and it comes out that GM spends 43% more on labor per car. And that's before health care costs (where GM has a $1,300/vehicle disadvantage).

Indeed, NPR has an informative comparison chart, indicating that the trajectories of GM and Toyota are diverging. An important difference:

healthcaretoyotagm.gif

Other fascinating numbers...

Profitability per vehicle (2005 numbers)-
GM: Negative 2331 dollars.
Toyota: 1488 dollars.

Improvement in production time per vehicle (2003 to 2005)-
GM: 2.5%
Toyota: 5.5%

Average labor cost per American hourly worker-
GM: $73.73
Toyota: $48

Global market share in 2005-
GM: 14.2%, down from 14.6% in 2002
Toyota: 12%, up from 10.6% in 2002

Ironically, these numbers are a lot like the regular comparisons on this website between red and blue states. Or between America and Europe (Toyota being red states and America; GM being blue states and Europe). The new crop of legislators in Congress wants America-- and not just auto companies-- to follow the blue state/Europe/GM plan. We cannot let them succeed, if America is to succeed.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Abortion.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 January 2007 10:04 PM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 122 -- Max Baucus.

All Options On The Table For Thee, But Not For Me-

More Social Security absurdity from Max Baucus, as reported by The New York Times (via Don Luskin):

Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Finance Committee, a critical venue for any Social Security plan, said he too believed the president must give up his private accounts before serious talks could occur. If so, he added, “I’m more than open, if the president is truly willing to look at all options.”

Astounding. Take personal retirement accounts off the table, and Max Baucus might be open to reforming Social Security, but only if President Bush is willing to leave all options (read: tax hikes) on the table.

How does Max Baucus intend to reform Social Security without personal accounts?

A. Raising the cap on payroll taxes?
B. Raising the rate on payroll taxes?
C. Hiking taxes elsewhere while using gimmicky accounting to smooth everything over?
D. Cutting or slowing the growth of benefits?
E. Delaying (higher retirement age) or denying (means testing) benefits for some?
F. Pray for (or, better yet, proactively work toward) abnormally rapid economic growth, which would mitigate the crisis somewhat?
G. Pretending everything is fine; pretend to be working hard on finding a solution?

There are plenty of letters remaining in the alphabet, but not a whole lot of additional options, absent personal accounts. I can see most Democrats and some Republicans going for tax hikes. I can see for some Republicans but very few Democrats going for various sorts of benefit "cuts." Answer 'F' is laughable, considering all the socialist regulations and punitive taxes Democrats are pushing in Congress right now.

Which leaves us with "do nothing," which is really what Max Baucus should have told the NYT reporter.

maxbaucusdmt.gif

Only in Washington can you arbitrarily take THE optimal option off the table, and simultaneously demand that all options are on the table, and pretty much get away with it.

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Mark Sanford.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 January 2007 08:45 PM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 402 -- Public Funding For Abortions.

Closing In On Fifty Million Abortions Since 1973-

On this, the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let's look at some numbers on abortion in America.

From the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute:

Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-four percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.

In 2002, 1.29 million abortions took place, down from 1.36 million in 1996. From 1973 through 2002, more than 42 million legal abortions occurred.

Each year, two out of every 100 women aged 15–44 have an abortion; 48% of them have had at least one previous abortion.

If we estimate that 1.25 million abortions were performed in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, there have been roughly 47 million legal abortions since the Roe decision. Nearly 50 million legal abortions since 1973 means tens of millions of missing people.

Factoring in that nearly half of women choosing abortions are repeat customers (.pdf)...

repeatcustomersabortion.gif

... it is difficult to estimate precisely how many missing people there are in a pro-Roe United States, but it is staggering to ponder.

And these, remember, are the pro-choice numbers.

The Guttmacher Institute also estimates that roughly 1 out of every 7 or 8 abortions is funded not by the person seeking the abortion, but with public funds:

About 13% of all abortions in the United States are paid for with public funds.

If 13% is accurate, that would mean 167,700 abortions in America in 2002 were paid for with public funds. It's difficult to determine whether that number includes health insurance coverage (for public employees, specifically) of abortions, but it seems like that figure might only include abortions paid for with Medicaid funds. Another Guttmacher Institute article claims that 74% of women pay for their own abortions, and even some of them are later reimbursed. In other words, public funding of abortion might actually be quite a bit higher than thirteen percent.

Moreover, while correlation does not necessarily mean causation, this data, also from the Guttmacher Institute, is quite astounding:

Between 1994 and 2000, the abortion rate among Medicaid recipients increased, whereas the rate among women who were not receiving Medicaid declined.

While the rest of America was increasingly choosing life throughout the 1990s, Medicaid recipients increasingly chose abortion.

One wonders what knowledge of nearly 50 million abortions since Roe v. Wade would do to the ubiquitous poll numbers on the abortion issue.

What about knowledge of public funding trends for abortion?

Or knowledge of drastically divergent abortion tendencies between and among races (Black women are almost four times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are 2.5 times as likely)?

Or the spread of 4D ultrasound technology:

fourdscans.gif

Clearly, something has brought down the abortion rate moderately, after the initial post-Roe spike. What was it?

Maybe the self-fulfilling Roe Effect? Maybe Rudy Giuliani?

Whatever the reason, you might want to grab some popcorn and watch NOW-approved Nancy Pelosi attempt to navigate the treacherous waters of abortion politics, especially now that left-wing feminist groups have made it a priority to repeal the 1977 Hyde Amendment (the primary federal measure preventing far more taxpayer funding of abortion). My personal sense is that the pro-life movement has been hibernating for the past few years, lulled into complacency by a pro-life President and ostensibly pro-life Congress. If Democrats choose to actively promote abortion, including increasing taxpayer funds for abortion, it could mean political fireworks-- advantage GOP.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: When Tripling Funding Equals A Cut.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 January 2007 07:50 PM · Comments (5)

Quotational Therapy: Part 121 -- Mark Sanford.

Presidential Darkhorse... Very Darkhorse-

Nothing against any of the current GOP frontrunner candidates for President, but I am growing increasingly concerned that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is not being discussed more as a potential nominee.

Just a mini-bio on Governor Sanford:

He was elected as part of the Republican Revolution in 1994. He actually adhered to term limit promises (3 terms), ran for S.C. Governor and won in 2002, and was reelected in 2006.

Sanford is a true Reaganite. He is precisely the sort of voice the Republican Party needs in the primaries, at the very least. While in Congress, he fought for Social Security reform with personal accounts among other free market initiatives. As Governor, he has been stoic about spending and tax cuts, to the point of irking some of the establishment Republicans in the South Carolina legislature. In a state that resembles states like Michigan or Ohio in terms of its industry, South Carolina has had the good fortune to have a Reaganite in office. While, from 2005 to 2006, Michigan lost more than 65 thousand of its Michiganders to other states, and Ohio lost more than 48 thousand of its Ohioans to other states, South Carolina added nearly 48 thousand folks from other states.

A state with great concerns about "outsourcing" (offshoring, actually) and globalization, much like the American Midwest, South Carolina in 2006 could have easily played host to the death of Mark Sanford's national political viability. But it didn't. Mark Sanford expanded his margin of victory from 2002.

Meanwhile, Mark Sanford could have pandered to or demagogued for or coddled the "they took our jobs" crowd in order to insulate himself from criticism about South Carolina textile jobs going to places India and China. But he didn't. Mark Sanford was actually one of the few consistently free trade Representatives while he was in Congress, and he has never flip-flopped on the issue to score cheap political points.

On the issues, Sanford is as solid as there is a political figure out there. He's well spoken and attractive without being haughty and vain. He has a good looking family, without awkwardly using them as props.

The only knock on him is that he may be too much like President Bush for voters. Don't get me wrong, I still love President Bush. A lot of Americans really don't, though. They are just ready for something entirely new. Sanford has a Southern accent. He looks, physically, slightly like President Bush did while Governor. He might not play particularly well in places like New England, the upper Midwest, and the West Coast, where Republicans would probably like to be competitive for the first time in two decades. In other words, I could see some folks erroneously questioning Sanford's electability, based exclusively on where he is from-- and his accent.

Again, no offense to Romney, McCain, Giuliani, or Gingrich (the "big four"), but I will be very disappointed if Sanford is not part of the 2008 equation at some level.

With that, here are a few quotes from Sanford's 2007 "State of the State" address, delivered this week:

scgovmarksanford.gif
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” And we all know the power to make or walk away from the proposals I will offer is in your hands.

The danger of power lies in the fact that those who are vested with it too often make its preservation their first concern and therefore naturally oppose any changes in the forces that have given them this power.


South Carolina’s Gross State Product is roughly $140 billion a year. That puts us just below Israel, Finland, Venezuela and Ireland in the size of our economy.

It puts our economic size just above the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. It puts us well above places like New Zealand, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Kuwait or Jamaica. The question we all need to ask ourselves is whether or not we see each of our actions as steps toward or against being able to compete economically with other countries.

Finally, as I mentioned in my Inaugural this year, we very much need to focus on getting principles right so that we unleash the power of individual initiative. Nobel Prize winning Economist Milton Friedman once said, “Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of individual ownership.”

To me that means we should not shy away from the idea of actually limiting government’s growth so we move more power and authority to individual South Carolinians - and in turn unleash the potential of individual South Carolinians.


One of the most unsustainable components of our present budget is tied to retiree benefits that were promised but not paid for. In our case, retiree health care benefits are completely unfunded and amount to a $9.3 billion liability. These unfunded promises have an eerie similarity to the unfunded promises of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in Washington.

David Walker is the Comptroller General of the United States of America and is currently embarked on what he calls the “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour.” He argues that America will lose its competitive position in the world if we as a country don’t subscribe to the common sense notion that families and businesses adhere to in matching costs with benefits.


It isn’t just about the sustainability of spending - it is also about change. Think about it - if you really believe that we live in one of the most transformative times in world history, then wouldn’t you want to maximize the part of your economy that will change the fastest? Money in the private sector can be redirected faster than money in the public sector.

More than anything, this whole spending debate is about common sense notions. Most folks tell me they agree with the principal of “first things first” and that it makes sense to pay off money you have committed to spend before you begin new spending. They tell me it doesn’t make sense to grow government faster than people’s ability to pay for it.


I continue to believe passionately that a parent ought to be able to decide what school works best for their child, and as a consequence believe in the need for choice in education and market based solutions to education.

Mark Sanford, ladies and gents. Someone to consider for 2008, if you're not quite enthralled by the current declared crop of candidates.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Martin Luther King, Jr..

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 January 2007 12:38 PM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 401 -- Cancer Deaths Decline

Die, Cancer, Die-

Some exciting news in the fight against cancer in America. For the second straight year, cancer deaths actually fell. Not just the rate (which had been falling already), but the actual number of deaths, even with the population meter topping 300 million late last year.

Very cool. And just goes to show that things are getting better all the time.

A look at death rates for some of the contributing forms of cancer:

cancerdeaths.gif

While reading the article, something struck me as annoying. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I just couldn't tell what was bothering me. But, then I read Instapundit, and it became clear to me. This quote was bothering me, without my even realizing it:

Several advocates and cancer experts said, however, that the good news is tempered by cuts by the White House and Congress in funding for health research that has helped fight cancer.

Cuts?

Here are the National Institutes of Health (NIH) appropriation numbers.

Do you see falling numbers, or numbers going up?

Maybe my math is off, but $28,495,157,000 (2005 funding level) is greater than $27,887,512,000 (2004), which is greater than $27,066,782 ,000 (2003), which is greater than $23,296,382,000 (2002), which is greater than $20,458,130,000 (2001), which is greater than $17,820,587,000 (2000), which is greater than $10,955,773,000 (1994) ... and so on.

And isn't it really lifestyle changes that are driving the death rates down, anyway? More and earlier cancer screenings, less smoking, better foods, more effective sunscreen, healthier behavior, fewer menopause hormones, greater awareness, and so on?

Cuts. Only someone on the government dole could consider nearly tripling funding over the course of a decade a "cut."


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Free Economies Are Good Economies.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 January 2007 10:00 AM · Comments (3)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Sixty-Eight -- Miscellaneous Facts.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday or so, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

Why Reform Last Year Was So Imperative.

Fact: The first Baby Boomers will start to collect benefits in 2008, causing Social Security costs to rise.

Fact The Social Security cash surplus will peak at $88 BILLION in 2008 (in 2006 dollars). Each year afterwards, declining Social Security surpluses will create a bigger problem for the overall federal budget. In other words, the mask comes off, and we'll no longer be able to conceal the warts on the budget.

Fact: If the next President serves for two terms, he will serve through 2017.

Fact: From 2009-2017, the number of retirees receiving Social Security will grow by 23.9%, the number of workers by only 4.3%. In other words, the number of retirees will grow more than five times faster than the worker population.

A visual of that:

growthworkersretirees.gif

Fact: Nobody, even among the most aggressive reformers, wants to touch benefits for America's seniors. Because we missed such a prime opportunity in 2005/2006, the next administration and Congressional leadership will thus find it nearly impossible to uphold that principle without painful tax increases.

Fact: At the end of the next President’s second term (in 2017), Social Security's costs will become greater than Social Security's tax revenue.

Fact: From 2009-2017, the cost of paying Social Security benefits will rise, as a percentage of worker wages, by 17%.

Fact: If we did modernize and reform Social Security today, future Social Security benefits could rise in real terms without raising tax rates or raising the payroll tax cap, now or ever.

Fact: Assuming our next President is a two-termer, early in his second term, it will no longer be possible to maintain solvency without tax increases, even if all future workers’ benefits grow only at the rate of inflation (reminder: they grow faster than inflation). Were reform delayed that long, we must either start to cut benefits in real terms, or taxes must rise.


It's been time for reform. It's too bad there was so little leadership on this issue in the Congress, when we had GOP majorities and a GOP Executive. As of this moment, it's still not too late. By the time the next President is in office, it very well may be.

The clock is still ticking:


Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 18 January 2007 08:04 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 400 -- Economic Freedom Equals Economic Progress.

Policies Have Consequences-

The 2007 Index of Economic Freedom is out. Inside, you'll find a wealth of information, including:

economicfreedomandincome.gif

Not only are economically free economies the biggest and best, they are also growing the fastest:

freeeconomiesfast.gif

The rich get richer indeed.

Again, some questions, answered many times on this blog:

1. What is it about economic freedom that makes economies perform well, while repression makes other economies languish? Or is the correlation just an accident?

2. Who in America espouses economic freedom; who wants more taxes, more trade barriers, and more regulation (less economic freedom)?

3. If policy differences between and among states produce different outcomes, and policy differences between and among nations produce different outcomes, and those outcomes show a consistent pattern...

... shouldn't we emulate those policies producing the best outcomes?

Don't we have a moral obligation to grow the economy?

Isn't socialism inherently immoral?

Please, peruse the Index of Economic Freedom 2007 yourself, and, please, do your part to advance freedom, economic or otherwise.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Big Oil Pays Too Much In Taxes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 January 2007 12:24 PM · Comments (5)

Quote Of The Day

Mike Ditka, who's so patriotic it's corny:

"I'm an American and I'm proud. I don't want to hear all this ol' jumbo mumbo, we're a bad country we got this wrong we got dat wrong, I love the country PERIOD. The good overweighs the bad by far, and if people don't understand that, get the heck out."

Corny? Yeah. Maybe corny is underrated. And hearing some unabashed pro-Americanisms is a bit refreshing these days.

Oh yeah, and Ditka talks about some guy named Obama.

Go BEARS!

(Praise be to AllahPundit for the tip).

Posted by Ken McCracken · 18 January 2007 03:11 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 399 -- Taxes On Big Oil.

Our Domestic Energy Sector: Taxed Too Much As It Is-

We're currently taxing our energy companies way too much as it is (numbers via the blog of The Tax Foundation):

profitstaxesexxon.gif

And yet, the ad wizards America just elected are set to raise taxes on "big oil" (and consumers, too), using language like "rolling back oil subsidies" and "eliminating tax cuts and loopholes."

What subsidies? What loopholes?

What country is this?


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: There's A Reason People Are Choosing Red States.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 January 2007 10:50 PM · Comments (4)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 88

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

pillowfight.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
Polly Esther (L) gets slugged by Betty Clock'er during an elimination match in the Pillow Fight League (PFL) at a late night event in Toronto, January 12, 2007. Betty Clock'er, who defeated Polly Esther, will challenge the current champion Champain for the title in the league's first live event in the United States in New York City on January 19.

Har har . . . you believe THAT caption? Tell us what's really going on there.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, January 23. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

fun in the snow.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. Rodney Dill :

The entire regiment failed to stick the landing.

2. sgtFluffy:

Sadly,...Extreme Army Snow Angels never caught on

3. elliot:

Kamikazis on the rocks.

Honorable Mention #1 Assistant Village Idiot:

At nightfall on the day of the "Mexican Food Experiment," Colonel Chong was summoned before the camp commander.

Honorable Mention #2 DaveD:
... in addition, our men are trained to be accepting of using the field latrines under any type of weather condition.

Honorable Mention #3 onlineanalyst:

And the Red Rockettes glare
Sunstruck and half-bare
Gave proof they're not poofs
With their feet in the air

Captioning helps keep the dream alive. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 17 January 2007 02:25 PM · Comments (14)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 398 -- Migration.

People = Long-Term Political Power-

These numbers, sorted by the internal migration (moving from one U.S. state to another U.S. state) column, mostly speak for themselves.

From the United States Census Bureau:

internalmigration2005to2006.gif

Two questions, previously answered on this site:

1. Why are Americans moving from certain kinds of states to other certain kinds of states?
2. What do these trends mean for the future of political power?


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Manufacturing In America.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 January 2007 08:58 PM · Comments (8)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 397 -- Manufacturing Gains.

Historically Strong Manufacturing Period, Overshadowed By Anecdotal Stories Of Outsourcing-

The overall economy has now grown for 62 consecutive months, and after a one month decline (following 41 straight months of expansion) in the American manufacturing sector in November, December saw manufacturing in the United States expand again:

pmi.gif

Tom Blumer of BizzyBlog notes that the past three years or so have been good for the American manufacturing sector, rather than the "outsourcing" (offshoring, really) doom-and-gloom we see in any given story in the establishment media.

Here is an interesting trivia tidbit:

Every long period of manufacturing expansion in the past 60 years has been followed by several at least seven months of contraction. But the most recently ended expansion was followed by only one month of contraction before manufacturing moved into expansion mode again...

BizzyBlog has more specific numbers to peruse.

The manufacturing expansion we just had (2003-2006) was the fourth longest over the past six decades, at 41 consecutive months. The one-month contraction in November of 2006 was also very, very small, at 49.5 (above 50 is expansion, below is contraction).

Now, if we could just get big labor to be a bit more reasonable, particularly in places like Michigan, we could really see American manufacturing take off.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Memo To Our New Socialist Overlords: There's No Need To Raise Taxes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 January 2007 05:45 PM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 120 -- MLK On America.

America Is Freedom-

mlkbirminghamjail.gif
We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom.

— Martin Luther King, Jr: "Letter from the Birmingham Jail," April 1963 (source: "Martin Luther King's Conservative Legacy").

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Oops, I Voted For Corruption.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 January 2007 02:18 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 396 -- Deficit Elimination Draws Nearer Without Any Tax Hikes.

Receipts Continue To Outpace Outlays, Yet Again-

Fiscal Year '07, in Federal Budget terms, is only three months old, a quarter of the way finished. But, just like the past couple/few years now, there is already a marked trend worth noting.

The federal budget deficit is shrinking, as robust tax revenues flow in faster than before the President's tax relief.

Here are the numbers (.pdf):

The government took in $573,524 million in the first three months of FY07, versus $530,210 million in the first three months of FY06. That's an increase of 8.17%.

The government spent $653,925 million in the first three months of FY07, versus $649,592 million in the first three months of FY06. That's an increase of 0.67%.

fy07vsfy06.gif

Indeed, many programs saw actual spending declines over the first three months of FY07, compared to the first three months of FY06. The primary contributors to increased spending were Medicare (by 24,037 million dollars), Social Security (by 8,202 million dollars) and National Defense (by 12,663 million dollars).

Increased spending on just Social Security and Medicare, in other words, was close to three times larger than increased spending on national defense (.pdf):

ssandmedicarevsnd.gif

In the short run, we're doing great. We'll have federal budget surpluses by sometime near the 2008 presidential election (actually, July 2008). Over the long run, however, the picture is not so special.

The entitlement tsunami is headed our way. The first ripples are already evident. We need leadership in Congress to get federal budgets, over the long haul, under control.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Case For A Do-Nothing Congress.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 January 2007 03:30 PM · Comments (4)

Quotational Therapy: Part 119 -- Reckless, Unintended Corruption Is Still Corruption.

Troubled By Your Own Vote-

By now, you may have already heard that the Queen of Corruption, Nancy Pelosi, got caught-- red-handed-- doling out crooked favors to a large corporation:

On Wednesday, the House voted to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour....

However, it exempts American Samoa, another Pacific island territory that would become the only U.S. territory not subject to federal minimum-wage laws.

One of the biggest opponents of the federal minimum wage in Samoa is StarKist Tuna, which owns one of the two packing plants that together employ more than 5,000 Samoans, or nearly 75 percent of the island's work force. StarKist's parent company, Del Monte Corp., has headquarters in San Francisco, which is represented by Mrs. Pelosi. The other plant belongs to California-based Chicken of the Sea.

Okay, typical. Not all that shocking. Pelosi clearly gets that the minimum wage can hurt certain businesses. But raising the minimum wage is what the unions wanted, so that's what the unions will get.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle:

"I was troubled to learn of this exemption," said Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican. "My intention was to raise the minimum wage for everyone. We shouldn't permit any special favors or exemptions that are not widely discussed in Congress. This is the problem with rushing legislation through without full debate."

Okay, sure. Rushing legislation through is generally a bad idea. Most legislation, though, rushed or not, is a bad idea.

The real problem, in this case, at least, is not rushing legislation through without full debate. It's that Representative Kirk, ostensibly a Republican, would vote for wage controls by government edict in the first place. The problem is that so many Republicans joined so many Democrats in voting for poor public policy, simply because it polls well. The real problem is that Mark Kirk put his trust in Nancy Pelosi and her party, the most corrupt collection of characters in the history of the United States Congress, by just about any measure.

markkirk.gif

Some advice: be thoughtfuller.

Representative Kirk, you are part of the problem. Try harder next time. And, please, no more after-the-fact excuses for why you are a failure at your job.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Churchill On Wartime Christmas.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 January 2007 02:27 PM · Comments (4)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Sixty-Seven -- Two Percent Is Bigger Than It Sounds.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday or so, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

A Refresher On Key Dates.

Incoming Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, that pillar of Montana moderation, that red state Democrat, was recently asked about when Social Security Reform would be on the agenda.

His reply:

"Oh, I don't know. The trust fund doesn't reach zero until 2042."

Ugh.

Max Baucus, like so many self-proclaimed moderates in politics today, is a coward. He was once considered a potential target for defection from the steadfast Democrat strategy of "just say no to Bush on Social Security Reform" in 2005. Now, he just wants to defer finding a solution until he's not around anymore. Moreover, he doesn't even have his numbers right.

From the Social Security Trustees:

The annual cost of Social Security benefits represents 4.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005 and is projected to rise to 6.2 percent of GDP in 2030, and then slightly to 6.3 percent of GDP in 2080. The projected 75-year actuarial deficit in the combined Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Funds is 2.02 percent of taxable payroll, up from 1.92 percent in last year's report. This increase is due primarily to advancing the projection period, the availability of recent data that led to revisions in key assumptions, and to changes in methods. Although the program passes our short-range test of financial adequacy, it continues to fail our long-range test of close actuarial balance by a wide margin. Projected OASDI tax income will begin to fall short of outlays in 2017, and will be sufficient to finance only 74 percent of scheduled annual benefits in 2040, when the combined OASDI trust fund is projected to be exhausted.

Social Security could be brought into actuarial balance over the next 75 years in various ways, including an immediate increase of 16 percent in payroll tax revenues or an immediate reduction in benefits of 13 percent (or some combination of the two). To the extent that changes are delayed or phased in gradually, greater adjustments in scheduled benefits and revenues would be required. Ensuring that the system is solvent on a sustainable basis over the next 75 years and beyond would also require larger changes.

2042, in other words, should have been 2040. Sure, that's quibbling, but the guy in charge of fashioning Social Security policy changes ought to at least have his dates correct.

Why not use 2017, when Social Security outlays begin to outpace Social Security tax revenues. Or why not use the date that outlays begin closing the gap on tax revenues (later this decade).

Even more, why ignore the fact that Social Security now consumes 4.2% of the national economy, and in just six presidential elections, that number will be 6.2%:

twopercent.gif
In other words, Social Security will eat away 2% more of America's GDP than it does today. That's not two percent of the Federal Budget, but America's entire GDP. 6.2% of 13 trillion (roughly the current size of the American economy) is $806 billion. That's serious money. That's the entire budget of several large governmental agencies, combined.

That's a serious problem.

We can seriously do better.

It's been time for reform. The American people demand it.

The clock is still ticking:


Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 11 January 2007 05:42 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 395 -- Congress Harms America's Economy.

Stock Market Strategies-

Here's some advice for those investing in stocks. First, some historical background, courtesy of a fascinating paper published by the University of Cincinatti's Michael F. Ferguson and the University of Missouri's Hugh Douglas Witte (found via The Club For Growth's blog).

Flash back to 1897, the beginning of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Put a dollar in an indexed portfolio with an even distribution of stocks from each DJIA component:

january1897.gif

Pretend dividends and transaction fees don't exist. Over the next 100+ years (summer of 2000), only invest while Congress is in session. Take the money out and sit on it while Congress is out of session.

Here's what you would have ended up with:

insessionportfolio.gif

Two bucks.

Okay, now let's look at the opposite. Only invest while Congress is out of session. Cash out when Congress is in session.

Here's what you would have earned, by the year 2000:

outofsessionportfolio.gif

Two-hundred sixteen bucks. And a dime.

Amazing, but somehow pretty much intuitive. Wall Street likes stability and predictability. Capitol Hill, filled with so many unstable, unpredictable personalities, usually likes tinkering for the sake of tinkering.

From the Ferguson/Witte paper:

annualizedreturns.jpg

Astounding. "The stock market" subscribes to the "poly-ticks" postulate of political opinion, which holds that the etymology of "politics" is actually "many + blood sucking parasites."

Indeed, just after the Civil War, Judge Gideon J. Tucker of New York noted:

"No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while Congress is in session."

Even popular Congresses are feared and loathed by Wall Street, although the market saw its best gains when an unpopular Congress was out of session.

By the way, the latest Congressional approval rating sits at 32%, with almost no ambivalence in the remaining 68%. Fully 62% of Americans disapprove of our new Marxist overlords on Capitol Hill. Sure, this is a mild improvement from a couple of months ago, but starting out so low is not a good sign for the Democrats.

However, this low Congressional approval may be a good sign for out-of-session investing. Unfortunately, Congress may be in session far more than usual this year, so there may not be many chances for out-of-session investing.

Meanwhile, back in Austin, Texas, the state legislature meets in 2007 for its first regular session since 2005, as Texas' booming economy and population growth both continue to outpace the strong national economy and population growth overall.

Other states-- mostly of the "red" variety-- share Texas' infrequent legislative schedule and enjoy similar results. Fewer, shorter legislative sessions are abhorred by those who would like to see "more results" from their elected representatives and by those who directly depend on active legislatures for their livelihoods, but shorter sessions are the ultimate term limit. These session-shortening rules, typically mandated by state constitutions, are a built-in pro-growth provision that gives "term-limited" states a leg up in the competition for commerce, industry, and people.

America's Founders crafted a limited government, because they understood that a big government leviathan was the greatest threat to liberty. Once upon a time, our nation's limited government propelled commerce and industry with the basics: the building of infrastructure; the stabilization of national defense; the administration of justice.

Somewhere along the line, Congress injected itself into uncritical minutiae (such as Major League Baseball steroid scandals), all while taking over ever-more of the critical functions of human existence (food, clothing, shelter, medicine). It's no wonder that the "out of session" portfolio really only diverged from the "in session" portfolio following World War I, at about the same time Congress drastically expanded its purview into societal affairs.

As stock market results prove over the past 100 years, the American engine of commerce prefers the Founding vision of narrow, specific government to the Poly Ticks vision of a perpetually meeting, eternally involved legislature.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: 2006 Election.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 January 2007 03:28 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 394 -- The 2006 Elections.

The Rock Bottom-

The 2006 elections were the most earth shattering midterm elections since 1994. But just how earth shattering were they, relative to 1994?

Somewhat:

sweepinggains.gif

Not nearly the sweeping mandate that 1994 was. Even the state legislatures saw a major shift in 2006, but, again, not the sort of sweeping mandate seen in 1994.

sweepingstategains.gif

1994 was a bigger swing/surge/sea change than 2006. In some ways, however, 2006 was worse for Republicans than 1994 was for Democrats.

Why was 2006 worse for Republicans than 1994 was for Democrats?

In 2006, the GOP hit electoral rock bottom. There are few, if any, remaining opportunities for Democrats to improve on their totals in 2008 and beyond. After 1994, there were still opportunities for Republicans to expand majorities.

Structural forces buffered total disaster for the GOP, and structural forces will help the Republican Party take back power in the next few election cycles.

Let's define "structural forces" a bit.

"Structural forces" means demographic shifts. It means red states, due to their attractive pro-growth, pro-family policies, are gaining population at the expense of blue states. It means Republican families having more children than Democrat families. It means that all of those reliably Republican seats lost to scandal will eventually-- or, immediately-- gravitate back to their rightful owners. Political climates change day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year. It's difficult to predict how "independent," "moderate," "swing voter" Americans will feel in two or four or more years. Structural forces, however, move like glaciers. They're easy to predict.

Over the past decade or two, structural forces have produced a population that is not nearly as liberal as the one a generation or two ago. Conservatives have had more children than liberals, and contrary to the pop culture image of the hippie/goth/punk teen rebelling against the starchedly conservative parent, most people actually inherit partisanship and ideology from their parents.

In 2006, Republicans-- mostly "moderate" ones-- in the NE and MW lost to very protectionist, very anti-war, very left-wing Democrats. Lunatics, really. And this fresh batch of lunatics is empowering some of the most corrupt and unpopular old guard Democrats for committee chairmanships. It is difficult to imagine Democrats maintaining power for too long, given their personnel.

Another important point:

In many ways, 2006 purged the House of moderates, giving us a far more polarized (both ideologically and geographically) Congress than before. More on this to come, but you can sort of see why Congress might be more polarized than ever, given where the seats were won and lost:

2006massacre.gif

The South includes Foley's seat, DeLay's seat, and Henry Bonilla's seat, lost respectively to the non-sex sex scandal, a judge's disenfranchisement, and 11th-hour redistricting.

In 2006, Republicans suffered most of their losses in the NE and MW, which marked the earlier-than-expected fulfillment of a geographic realignment. After the 2010 Census and Reapportionment, those seats (from states like Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania) are going to be zapped away anyway.

Where are those seats going to go? To states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: AP College Football Poll.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 January 2007 04:49 PM · Comments (1)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 87

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

fun in the snow.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
Members of the Special Warfare Command participate in an annual severe winter season drill in Pyongchang, about 180km (113 miles) east of Seoul January 10, 2007. The special forces carry out the training course every year to improve their member's combat abilities in cold weather and heavy snowfall.

Oh there goes Reuters pulling another fast one . . . give us a real caption, please?

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, January 16. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

medals.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. sgtFluffy:

Later in life, They had to tie Sgt Pepper to a pole to keep him upright during Military Parades.

2. Rodney Dill :

Honest, John Kerry threw them at me.

3. Assistant Village Idiot:

You have dollars? Make me an offer. Special this week.

Honorable Mention #1 Julie:

Look at all the great bling I got on eBay!

Honorable Mention #2 terry_jim:
Bill: ..And this here's what I liked to wear on the weekends at Oxford.
Now, Monica, I bet you could see yourself in this shiny belt buckle. Look a little closer,
closer, closer...

Honorable Mention #3 elliot:

Hey you, yeah you with the magnet. Knock it off!

Captioning never felt so good. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 10 January 2007 12:47 PM · Comments (18)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 393 -- AP College Football Poll.

A College Football Playoff Beckons-

First off, congrats to the Florida Gators on their BCS national championship. Good for them. Although Ohio State dismantled my Texas Longhorns early in the season in Austin, I was never really impressed with OhSU (alternatively, tOSU). On the other hand, despite Florida's impressive dominance over the Fightin' Troy "Illegal Benefits" Smiths, the Gators are eminently beatable. How appropriate that the Auburn Tigers were awarded the Pontiac Game Changing Performance during the BCS national title game for the play that led to their victory over the Gators during the regular season.

If there was ever a year for a college football playoff, this was it. There was an undefeated team (Boise State) that did not even crack the final top four. At the same time, there were 4 one-loss teams, two of which that did not crack the final top five (Louisville and Wisconsin).

Sportswriters and talking heads are even more biased, unprofessional, and prone to error than political pundits, yet they are essentially entrusted with choosing the bowl matchups. Several years ago, the various college football conferences came together to eliminate sportswriter bias via the Bowl Championship Series; the national championship matchup would be hereby chosen by COMPUTERS! Each year thereafter, the formula was tweaked in response to some problem from the year before. The most recent tweak, made in response to Oklahoma rather than USC playing LSU in the Sugar Bowl for the 2003 national title, essentially marginalized and mooted the computers. Thus, polls were important again.

In the meantime, however, the Associated Press withdrew itself from the BCS formula. Yet, any team, even one that did not participate in the BCS title game, voted number one in the final AP poll of the season would have a completely legitimate claim to the national title. After all, that's the "traditional" way the champ was crowned. In other words, without a playoff, there remains a very real chance for split national championships (or possibly less-than-deserving champions) in college football.

Speaking of playoffs and the ineffectiveness of polling, let's look at the AP poll over the past quarter century. How have they done in terms of predictive preseason polling?

Not so swell. Drawing on and updating this guest post on Wizbang, let's look at the AP top five preseason versus postseason polls. If a team was any position, 1 through 5, in the preseason poll, and ended up in any position, 1 through 5, in the postseason poll, it counts as a "correct" choice by the AP.

Since 1980, the pre-season AP poll has never chosen the five teams that have landed in the top 5 at year's end. Never have AP voters chosen even four of the end-of-year top 5 teams.

On the other hand, only once did the pre-season AP poll choose zero of the teams that ended up in the top 5.

Eight times, the pre-season AP poll chose three teams that ended up in the top 5.

Eleven times, the AP voters chose two teams that ended up in the top 5 (including last year - Texas and USC).

And seven times, the AP voters chose only one team that ended up in the top 5 (including this year - Ohio State).

apcollegefootballpoll.gif

Some other interesting tidbits:

*Since 1980, the pre-season #1 won the AP title four times: OU in 1985, FSU in 1993 and 1999, and USC in 2004.

*The pre-season #2 became champs three times since 1980: Nebraska in 1995, Miami in 2001, and Texas in 2005.

*The champion came from outside the pre-season top five entirely 15 times (Florida included) since 1980.

In other words, when the AP releases its preseason college football poll next year, you can almost guarantee that two of the top five teams won't be there by the end of the year. The national champ is also more than twice as likely to come from outside the preseason top five than within the top two.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Economic Freedom Equals More, Higher Paying Jobs & Expanding Populations.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 January 2007 01:08 PM · Comments (0)

Sunday Night Heidi Weimaraner Update: One Year Old.

Heidi just celebrated her first birthday on Friday.

keltybackpack.gif

She's a good girl, with her Kelty backpack.

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 7 January 2007 03:11 PM · Comments (6)

Is 'The Surge' A Bad Idea?

Okay okay, so I don't always need outrage to be motivated to blog.

I guess another reason to blog is when you want to pose a question and see what reaction you get. See, I am not convinced that The Surge is such a good idea. Maybe I can be convinced that it is a good idea however, and I hope someone out there will make the case.

Here is my case against it: the war we are fighting in Iraq is not a set-piece battle where we simply outmuscle the enemy. It seems that the plan behind The Surge is nothing more than throwing more troops at the problem, as if that is the only strategy we are capable of. Naturally, however, President Bush is quiet about exactly how the troops would be used.

I think the historical examples of other nascent civil wars around the globe shows that this war is a marathon and not a sprint - and that it will be won by outlasting the enemy rather than thrashing him in three months or however long The Surge is supposed to last. How long did the Malayan Emergency last? "Only the British would call something that lasted 11 years an Emergency," went the joke, and I think it answers the question. Or to cite another example, how long did the Salvadoran Civil War last?

Moreover, don't you think the terrorists see The Surge coming by now?

The downside of The Surge if it fails is huge. President Bush is being goaded into throwing one last hail mary, and if he doesn't connect, the game is over and everyone goes home, it appears. So, we must have victory according to Congress's dictates within a very narrow timeframe instead of according to military necessity, and we will have lost a very winnable game.

But it isn't a game, is it. And game-winning plays are not what is called for here. Am I right or wrong?

Posted by Ken McCracken · 6 January 2007 07:04 PM · Comments (8)

Blogging Blahs, And Barney Frank Needs To Resign

I have to apologize for the paucity of posts of late. I am in the blogging doldrums, nothing really seems to animate me to write anymore. I usually need to feel some kind of outrage in order to get up and write a post, something I just haven't felt lately.

Until I read about this from Bryan at HotAir.

In this video, Barney Frank says that the federal government's inaction in New Orleans after Katrina is a form of ethnic cleansing:

 

I agree with Bryan - Barney Frank needs to resign from Congress. If you want to know why the atmosphere in Washington is so horridly uncivil these days, Barney Frank and those in the Democratic party who share his vicious ideology are to blame. At long last, when is someone going to be forced to answer for poisoning our discourse? Is any Democrat brave enough and principled enough to dare take Frank to task, and instruct him that his corrosive bile is unacceptable? I would be a breath of fresh air if that happened, but I'd put good money down that Frank will suffer absolutely no backlash from his despicable comments, neither from the press nor from his party.

Remember how rightly horrified Democrats were that some whackjobs on the right accused President Clinton of killing Vince Foster, and others? We now have a Congressman accusing the President of something several orders of magnitude worse: committing genocide against American blacks. Okay Dems, saying Clinton killed Foster was wrong, but saying Bush is committing genocide is . . . okay?

Be consistent, be ethical, and censure Barney Frank at the very least.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 5 January 2007 11:00 AM · Comments (106)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 86

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

medals.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
A man donning Soviet era orders attends a rally marking the 127th birth anniversary of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in his hometown Gori, some 80 km (50 miles) west of Tbilisi.

Are you kidding me? Give us a real caption . . .

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, January 9. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

Winners from last week: 1. Hoodlumman:

Ticket agent: "Window, middle or isle seat?"

Customer pictured: "Yes."

2. elliot:

Hon, while you're at the concession stand can you get me a double cheeseburger, cheese fries, cotton candy, soft pretzel, nachos...and oh yeah a diet coke?

3. Zsa Zsa:

NEWS ALERT! Woman arrested in airport for transporting 300 pounds of Crack!...

Honorable Mention #1 Rodney Dill :

Does this chair make my butt look fat?
No, but the satelite orbiting it does.

Honorable Mention #2 b from t :
Hippobottomus...

Honorable Mention #3 charles austin :

A passenger weights for a delayed flight at Heathrow airport's terminal four in London August 12, 2006.

Captioning is as captioning does. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 3 January 2007 10:03 AM · Comments (29)