Sunday, March 27, 2005

Format Change

Some of the directories in my collection of community web sites (like shopping) just weren't fitting well in a hierarchical tree; So I am trying a new format for these directories. Right now my idea is to use a format with subdirectories listed in a navigation block at the top of the page for directories with a small sub tree or that are cleanly delineated (like arts). I would then use a side bar navigation for directories with complex subdirectories.

I am not sure if mixing navigation structures that will work very well. But the sites are largely about experimentation. The side bar navigation is a lot easier to write in pure CSS format. A two column navigation bar is easiest to implement with a two column table.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Good News

Gas guzzlers are losing market share to fuel efficient cars (Yahoo). That's great news for the US economy. Bad news for auto makers. There is indication that the shift to fuel efficient cars might be a structural trend...which is even better news.

Sadly, the auto makers will respond in the self destructive manor of dramatically reducing prices on SUVs to sell the current stock rather than the more sane option of simply holding back inventory and production. Meanwhile the demand for smaller cars seems to be on the rise. I suspect Detroit will hold back production on fuel efficient cars to jack up the price.

There are two ways to respond to a structural drop in demand. You can lower prices or cut production to try and spur demand. Too often companies try to respond to the market only by lowering their prices which can destroy their profit margin. I suspect we will see Detroit flood the market with SUVs until they undermine their market and the market forces a cut back in production.

The nature of an open society

This Ben Sargent political toon has it correct. A group of mask politically activated terrorist looking Arabs are huddled in a corner conspiring. There leader is spouting the plans for the next phase of the revolution: The Caption reads:

"The Beirut Street Demonstrations went so well, brothers, we're ready for the next phase of the struggle...

* Ahmad, you'll write a stern letter to the editor...

* Karif, a hysterical phone call to talk radio...

* Farid, a really sarcastic blog... "

Yep, Mr. Sargent has it right. The ideal is a messy world with people having widely divergent ideas. The deal is that once you have millions of people actively working and developing their own little opinions of the world, you erode the potential for a central authority to dictate policy.

Occasionally one or two blogs might accidently stumble on a good idea, worth pursuing. The real value of the discordant chatter of a free press is that people think. Oddly, Mr. Sargent forgot to add a line about drawing political cartoons for papers.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Debt Build Up

I was reading a page on the mythological balanced budget of Bill Clinton. There's seems to be a great deal of literature dedicated to building a myth that the Democrats are some how fisically responsible and their evil Republicans are not. My experience is that neither party is fiscally responsible, and prefer the word dysfunctional to evil when describing US politics.

Clinton inherited an economy that was the envy of universe. The information revolution that coincided with Clinton's presidency generated more money than the government expected to take in. This resulted in several momentus events. The first was a decrease in the rate of increase of the deficit. Achieving a second derivative ranks among the greatest goals ever achieved by any politician in political history.

However, when I look at economic history. It seems that achieving this second derivative was more a matter of the economy outpacing expectations than leadship. The second thing that happened was that Congress submitted a "balanced budget." The catch, of course, is the US did not live with its budget. The Debt to the Penny Page by the US Treasury doesn't show a year since 1960 when the debt did not increase.

The "balanced budget" was almost more of a set up than an indication of financial restraint. Budgets are forward looking. This budget had the assumption that the stock market bubble of 2000 and the Y2K spending frenzy would continue. Both were false assumptions.

Comparing the first four years of Clinton to the first four years of Bush shows Clinton's debt rising from $4,064,620,655,521.66 to $5,224,810,939,135.73. This is a 28.5% increase. The first four years of Bush show $5,674,178,209,886.86 in 2000 rising to $7,379,052,696,330.32 at the end of the fiscal year in 1994. This is an increase of 30.0%.

Neither figure is acceptable!

I think George Bush has done a horrible job on the deficit. His tax cuts weren't real. To be real, the tax cuts would have to come from cuts in spending.

Neither party shows great resolve toward debt reduction. Comparing a 28.5% increase in the deficit with a 30.0% increase in deficit simply shows that neither party making any headway against uncontrolled deficit spending.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Energy Prices

Mar 6, 2005 — WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Energy prices are "way, way too high" and act as a headwind against growth, but the U.S. economy has so far powered through the higher costs, Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Sunday.

"These higher energy prices act like a tax on the economy. They are way, way too high," Snow said in an interview on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."


It is amazing that a Treasury Secretary has so little clue about how the economy works. The market sets energy prices. The market is a collective manifestation of our desires. When we waste our precious resources, as the Bush Adminstration encourages, then the price of gas goes up. Bush's oil buddies get richer, but the society as a whole gets poorer.

Supply and demand drive the price of oil. It is not some secret hidden tax. Demand is the primary driving force in the current energy price increase. Since total oil reserves are fixed, Bush's push for accelerated production of oil only transfers wealth from our children to our SUVs. The only part of the equation that we can control is demand. Intelligent conservation translates directly into wealth. SUVs and Humvees translate directly into national poverty.

The price would go down if we could get people out of this insane notion that driving big SUVs is somehow patriotic. Each person using their resources wisely is patriotic. That is what makes the US strong. The delusion that going into debt for a big SUV or pickup weekens the finances of individual families and wastes resources. The SUVs are far less a patriotic option than those who chose to conserve.

The oil price jump shows that we live in a real world with a functioning market that reflects the choices we make. The natural response of a market to supply and out of control demand is not a tax. One could make an argument that the subsidized accelerated develop of oil resources in the US is a future tax that Bush is placing on the children of this nation, the current peaks and valleys in the market are just the way that markets behave.

Leadership would involve a president crawling out of the pockets of the oil barrons and encouraging people to conserve. Instead, Bush will make the case that we have to take oil reserves from our children and use them today so that we can drive big cars. This is nonleadership.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


I was listening to a conservative babble on about how our boycott of French wines and that horrible liberal Chirac are taking root. Apparently French wine sales in the US are down 20%, and this is a cause for celebration.

I find such things quite amusing. First, Chirac is a conservative. The reason we are at odds with Chirac is that he is one of those icky neocons who worship Machiavelli. Chirac's gig is that either the EU must dominate the US or the US will dominate the EU. The reason the French find fault with every breath taken by an American is that a modern conservative France is playing the age old game of punishing thine enemies and rewarding thine friends.

The sad thing is that Rumsfeld and Bush play that same game.

American conservativism is actually a strange game. Like all labels, the term applies to a broad spectrum of beliefs. A large portion of the conservative population holds libertarian ideals of limited government, personal responsibility and so forth. These people are conservative in that they are trying to preserve the liberties at the foundation of the US. I've heard this group called "Classical Liberal."

In this regard, the hostility between US and France could be labeled as a conflict between a liberal US and conservative France.

Perhaps the real reason that US Conservatives so thoroughly despise Chirac is that Chirac is a reflection of their own conservatism. Hegel presents a world where nations hate other nations in their quest to dominate the world spirit. I suspect that many in the EU see a game where the EU and UN must either be dominated by the US. Straussians in the US would see a world where the US must dominate the EU and Mid East or the US will be dominated.

Anyway, the supposed boycott of French wines is a really silly thing. The French wine industries is one of those few remaining industries that still has a large number of small family owned businesses. The only result of such a boycott is to consolidate the small businesses out of the traditional french wine market. A more successful tack in the war between American and French conservative would be to support small French businesses which are more in tune with the classical liberal version of conservativism held by most Republicans.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Yes, I am a stats addict. Show me a field of numbers and I will be enthralled for days. I figured that building community directories was a nice mindless little community service to perform while trying to figure out the ins and outs of the web. This way, I can get my monthly statistics fix while claiming to be doing something worthwhile...helping people learn about their community. The stats do show a few interesting things: For example, I've discovered that lots of people in Provo are interested in crafts. I get about 16 people a day in that directory. People in Salt Lake have a strange interest in malls.

Anyway, my little web empire had 632614 page views last month from 123400 sessions. I suspect most of the page views were from robots. The big important news is that the take from advertisements jumped up to $980.74. I am getting close to breaking that elusive 1k mark. The big jump in commissions came from some unusually large purchases from the Sears Home Center link on (If the big items get returned, then my take for the month will fall by a couple hundred dollars.)

I started this web thing with the intention of making content sites. I quickly learned that the sites I wanted to design could not pay for themselves. Playing the stats game, I think I am getting back to the position to where I will be able to do what I originally intended to do...make advertisement driven content sites.