Tuesday, December 27, 2005

From The Links

Picture This.

You maintain a blog and you write your stuff on it. Inserting pictures, graphics, etc.. Things that you find interesting enough.

But really, your knowledge about the technical aspects of maintaining a blog has been quite limited.

But weren’t you sys-admin for many years? True, but for the most parts your responsibilities leaned more on hardware and operating systems.

Anyway, you like the way some blogs, some very popular and well-visited ones, structure and present topics to their readers. A number of them simply collate or round up randomly current topics from different blogs, with the use of a sentence or two as commentary, and of course, linking to the actual blogs themselves.

Imagine blogs that simply enumerate a list of other blogs and the topics they are discussing, with the not so magical use of links or more appropriately, hyperlinks. Pretty much acting like a gateway portal.

But what’s amazing is that in many instances the portal itself commands wider and more popular readership than the blogs being mentioned and linked to. Think Drudge Report? Or Instapundit?


Sufficiently enough that I too want to try it, even without benefit of prior instruction or research on how to do this in the most efficient and expeditious manner.

And why not.

So here goes, after visiting the many favorite links on this blog.

Larry Kudlow, CBNC TV host and noted economist from the Reagan years, paints a sunny picture of the Japanese economy in his blog, entitled Rising Sun and Nikkei. Larry’s optimism is quite infectious and provides a bit of sunshine during these gloomy times, if the the MSM reports are to be believed.

Indefatigable Michelle Malkin, author of a couple of booksellers and stellar blogger for the conservatives, continues her defense on terrorism policies of the administration that are in constant assault by the more incendiary rhetoric of the liberals. For somebody so petite and looking so fragile, Michelle has over time shown the stamina and power unmatched by any on the other side.

Consummate economist, Donald Luskin, for his part, never lets a hand down when jousting with nemesis, Paul Krugman, bemedalled Economics professor and NYT columnist mainstay. A must-read for any serious student of Economics. Many lessons to learn from and also on learning ways to sharpen one’s analytical processes.

And from a small group of bloggers joined together by the common bond of language, BisayaBloggers, here’s an entry of yours truly, which is nothing more than a reprint from this site.

And from one of my favorites, PowerLine, maintained by three powerhouse lawyers, here is yet another revelation why mainstream media cannot be trusted. If it is not the Washington Post, which else, but the New York Times? Mark this too as another negative mark for MSM.

NationalReviewOnline, a gathering of some of your media eagles from Peggy Noonan, Larry Kudlow, Victor Davis Hanson, to Donald Luskin. One could spend a day going through its entries.

Now who hasn’t heard and read about Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit guru? Need I say more. Take a visit and be thrilled.

Wall Street Journal’s answer to on-line journals, Opinion Journal, brings you some of the most interesting opinions on the net. Heard about James Taranto or John Fund. Well, read them there and be informed.

The Weekly Standard’s Billy Kristol writes about paranoia in America liberalism while Fred Barnes contends with Micro Economics.

Roehlano Briones, doctor of Economics, tries to figure out if culture matters in economic perfomances. Know what his rational choice is.

And of course, Markos of Daily Kos with his cadre of Kossacks will not let the fire down in their continuing siege against all causes conservative, especially against the current occupant of the White House. This time they write about Bush’s reading habits.

Early birthday greetings to Elvis, born January 8th. The legend lives on.

TV Host Lou Dobbs has not updated his site for a while. But still do visit.

Defense and Security writer Bill Gertz writes about what the US has put on Chinese firms trading with Iran.

Victor Davis Hanson writes about Abe Lincoln and his policies as they relate to the current wars and terrorism.

Jay Rosen of PressThink shares some insights.

Lovers of New York City and its history, do not miss to visit James Lileks’ archives.

Wretchard of the Belmont Club, writing from Down Under, asks the question: Who is a journalist?

From the Philippines, Dean Jorge Bocobo of Philippine Commentary, writes about where the future leaders of the US are to be found. And mentions rotound US president William Howard Taft, who has the very distinct honor of having headed two branches of government, as President and as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Joseph Phillips, actor, writer, and lover of cooking and Western films, writes about family values.

And from merry England, Albion’s Seedlings writes about cartoons and iguana on the wall.

Get your unedited political news from RealClearPolitics. You can’t go wrong.

Funny-named LittleGreenFootballs focuses on middle-eastern issues, Islam, and of course, the Dan Rather “fake but accurate” incident. Comments are allowed ; however, only those registered can do so. Unfortunately, registration is already closed. Too bad.

Drudge Report screams:
Hurricane insurance losses $57.6 bln Largest on Record.

Pamela aka Atlas contemplates on her 5th place position as favorite conservative blogress diva. Thinks Malkin should win.

Want to be a TV pundit? Jack Shafer of Slate writes on how to become one.

The Fourth Rail’s Bill Roggio responds to the WaPo post on the military’s information operations.

And finally, Michael Yon asks the question: Montage or Mirage?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Season's Greetings To One And All

May you all have a White Christmas instead of a Blue Christmas.

Let Silver Bells ring on the Little Town of Bethlehem.

Some Sketches

Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.

Another blast from the past

After a while, one inevitably finds that the best sketches are those that use the least number of lines.

That appears to be the secret of having natural talents.

Thus, devoid of those natural gifts, I find myself terribly burdened on how to create a good sketch with the least amount of lines, and of course, time.

I always fail miserably, though still passably encouraged to try even harder.

Some Sketches

Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.

What a few lines can reveal.

Personally, the most appealing cartoonists are those who with a few straight or curvy lines can create the most life-like images of their subjects.

Some Sketches

Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.

Pretty little miss all dolled up.

Well-chiseled and deeply-set features are easier to recreate. Thus Caucasian features come out more easily than Oriental features.

Unless, one's talents are prodigious and varied. But then, we assume that the greater numbers of those who try to sketch only have the minimum of nature's gifts.

Some Sketches

Originally uploaded by avnerijr.

Little boys are hard to do.

Creating the smooth and fine lines needed for children's features are quite difficult. One can't help admire the talents of those little known artists who inhabit the throw-away remnant spaces in the many malls of the old homeland.

Some Sketches

Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.
A blast from the past.

Some Sketches

Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.

A window through the eyes.

Sharp and clear pictures are the easiest of imitate. One simply duplicates whatever details of the features one can distinguish.

Once read in a sketching book manual that sketching is not about duplicating the real images, and it mentioned the impressionists.

Probably holds true for real artists.

But what about us non-artists?

Some Sketches

Click Image To Enlarge
Originally uploaded by avnerijr.

During some lazy afternoons, boredom becomes the lonely hunter.

What better way than to put charcoal pencil on paper and do some sketches.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Personal Look At The Current US Economy

Having now lived a total of 4 months since the start of this year in the old homeland, two points of personal observation stand out markedly in the local scenes.

First is the frenzied and incessant discourses both in media and among educated and interested local residents of the hot-button political flashpoints that have mesmerized the collective consciousness of a nation, gripped in some kind of political addiction that stubbornly refuses to be shaken off. Wherever one strays, or whatever printed materials one can come across locally, or whatever one sees or listens to on cable TV or radio, the riveting topics are about the many egregious manifestations and ramifications of politics as conspicuously played out both locally and nationally.

Next is the almost desperate and hopeless tone of the somber discourses on the state of the Philippine economy, ironically not in the usual areas of GDP, productivity, dollar reserves, etc, since their figures are quite encouraging, but more on the areas of pervasive poverty and ignorance which have cast a very large and ominous pall on the collective moral soul of the entire country. The various partylist causes and protests are a good representative, avowedly all done in the name of the poor and dispossessed. And by association, in the name of the ignorant masa, who it would appear can easily be led into causes that at first blush lack depth and careful study.

But I have observed with some degree of consternation and wonder how it is that these same sources, both media pundits and local educated elites, can discern so much about local politics and the adverse social conditions brought on by flawed economic policies and practices, yet are almost functionally illiterate about the current state of the US economy.

Many media pundits and many of my relatives and local acquaintances are both very articulate and incisive about local economics and usually have sufficient intellectual capital to make reasonably informed judgments on the politics and its practices of other countries, most especially the United States. The same sources are never at a loss of scholarly comments and opinions about the political actions of leaders of other nations and their local impacts.

Yet one can surmise from their commentaries and other public statements that at the very least, they are most disinterested in the US economy, though fully cognizant of how interdependent the US economy is with the rest of the world.

Ironically, one could probably surmise with some certainty that the US economy and the way it works is the primary reason why many of our compatriots can find the resources and energies to move heaven and earth to try to land a visa to the US. I doubt that US politics ranks high in the reasons for emigration.

When media pundits in the local press blurt out the cliched comment when asked about their incendiary kibitzing on US affairs that, when the Pentagon sneezes, the rest of the world shakes, it is precisely its allusion to US politics wittingly and unwittingly having worldwide repercussions.

Yet the state of the US economy and its economic policies may just be as crucial or maybe even more, as any of its political maneuvers in impacting the rest of the world, both for good or bad.

Given the above, maybe detailing some concise facts about the current US economy may aid open the gate for more serious and thorough reading and learning by the locals of an economy that from all comparative analyses works, albeit warts and all; and more appropriately, an economy that "when it sneezes, the rest of the world shakes".

First and foremost, one sterling quality of this economy which many knowledgeable persons ordain will continue to carry the US through centuries and any bumps along the way, is it free markets. Considered among the freest in the world, it has garnered many enviable records along the way. To mention one, since 1991 it has registered positive GDP growth, and in decent percentages for most periods but surprisingly vibrant in some instances. This, amidst most unusual and costly times, formidable vicissitudes that could easily stagger and down any economy of lesser caliber and resiliency.

The march to progress of this economy is also reflected in ways that benefit its consumers:

Reports of increasing labor productivity among other things could gauge the overall status of the workers within this economy.

With the above, we have been shown that overall household wealth is up.

And aligned with the above, we also have been shown that per capita consumer spending is up.

Leading to the concluding data that the number of rich people in the country has also been raised significantly.

But for the coming year, now only a notch away, this lumbering behemoth faces some tough concerns on the domestic front. The more important ones are enumerated below.

The US Housing Market - Soaring prices of houses in the entire country but more pronounced and unbelievably astronomical in some hotspot areas like California, New York, and Florida, have gone unabated for many years now. Many are now judging this as a bubble, ready to burst any time now. Without a doubt, the added equities on houses have fueled more consumer spending greatly boosting overall economic activities. If indeed this is a bubble, what would happen when it bursts? Many possible dire effects are easily identifiable.

Job Insecurity - While at present unemployment is down at 5%, considered full employment level by many, there continues a growing reality of job insecurity. A very real or possible consequence of globalization, which has spawned outsourcing.

Downward Trend for Real Wages - While labor costs indices continue to show increases, real wages have actually been stagnant. Funny but inflation is being kept down by keeping track of and trying to hold down labor costs.

Public/Private Pensions - The baby boomers are ready to retire in masse. And social security could go bankrupt if not reformed.

The Health Care System - Does not cover enough citizens and rising costs have to be controlled to continue to be affordable.

This economy then has to respond to the following pressures occasioned by the above and by forces extraneous to it:

Rising Competition From the East - China and India. Economies of both are growing in leaps and bounds. Soon they will be on the same size levels as many of the big economies of the world like Japan and some countries in the European community. We have seen how the unprovisioned surges in oil demands of China have wracked havoc on world crude prices. Even the Internet, which respects no geographical boundaries, is a major threat.

Shortfalls in Pension Funding - The day of reckoning is sooner than anybody thinks. Proposed SS reforms were shelved because of strong opposition, especially the part on "private accounts".

Global Financial Markets - To be competitive this economy will have to keep costs down,

Health Care Costs - Skyrocketing costs will have to be curbed.

Some possible recommendations to keep this economy going on its merry path.

Continued Good Monetary Policies - A new Fed chief will take the helm come January. One re-alignment move this new chief will have to confront is the mistaken notion that the Fed is the elixir of all the nation's economic ills. Because it is not. Other major branches of government will have to share the burden, in such areas as runaway expenditures, reckless fiscal policies, etc.

Better Graduates (High School) - To be competitive with the rest of the world, the US will have to revisit its education programs and determine how they match up with the rest of the world. Outsourcing is both friend and foe.

Somehow health-care costs will have to be held down and/or brought to affordable levels, or at the very least better allocation of available health services will have to be implemented.

Prudent ways will have to be found on how to adequately fund pensions, both private and public, without necessarily running to the ground those companies that have to carry them. Tax hikes? Prudent ones, maybe. And reforms to the present SS system will have to be re-introduced and passed before they are too late.

And lastly, government's borrowings as percentages to GDP appear to still be sustainable over the short haul. But over the long term, more borrowings especially from foreign sources will have to be curtailed, since they may not be tenable. Those trillions of dollars in instruments held by foreign countries like Japan and China may not in the long run bode well for the interests of the US. Government deficit spending is primarily accountable for the ballooning public debt.