Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Best of Intentions

Shoot.

I had the best of intentions. Really, I did. I got to work around 6:30 this morning cranked out some of the stuff I had on back log, held all my important meetings, made it a 6pm soccer game and got home in time to grill steaks and vegtables for dinner with the family at 9. Quite a day.

Then I logged on to The Pursuit of Happiness and there was one new comment! How great is that? I do a post about the fact that I've got nuthin' and somebody actually bothers to give me a comment. "How nice" I thought.

So I opened my comment section and there before my very eyes was not some happy words of encouragement, but rather something else. Something dark, forboding and threatening.

An attorney threatening me with a lawsuit.

Even worse, this certain attorney, by his own admission, has been known to pack heat in situations of conflict! How alarming is this? I'm a simple family man, never hurt a sould in my life (as long as you don't count that man I shot in Reno - just to watch him die). Well to say the least I was shaken....shaken to my very core.

Why I was so upset, that that steak that wonderful boneless ribeye that I had consumed amidst the fawning love of my supportive family did a flip in my tummy. And that just ain't right. Because, you know, I cook a mean steak.

Oh I've been to Ruth's and Morton's and all the other guys, but I got to tell you folks, all I really need is some decent beef a hot fire of hardwood charcoal and my handy, dandy double wide grilling spatula.

The key to a great steak is very simple. First, you've got to let the meat get to near room temperature before you grill. This time of year one hour out of the fridge is more than enough warming time. Secondly, the master of the grill knows to not be shy with the salt and pepper. Give each side a healthy shake and your taste buds will salute the greatness that is you. Finally always remember the two step cooking process; Step one char each side of your steak for 2 minutes over a very hot flame and the execute Step Two by moving the meat to the indirect side of the grill and cover until you reach your desired done-ness - between 5 and 7 minutes in my experience.

People bow down, angels sing and a special post is reserved for you in the hall of the grilling greats.

As for maniacal and possibly armed attorneys, I've got this advice: If they stop by with that crazy eyed look, hand them a beer, feed them a steak and watch the savage beast subside.

Of course if that doesn't work, make sure your shotgun is nearby!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hanging On

It's busy here at the Pursuit household. We've got a graduation a week from this Friday, we're trying to clean up construction dust but are still waiting for the bathroom counter which, amazingly is holding everything else up at this point, short work week this week, next week, and the week after that, and a lot of stuff at work to do. Which is another way of saying;

I got nuthin.

Sorry, but I'm tapped out tonight. I'll guarantee a quality post for Wednesday night.

That, by the way, is the Pursuit Rock Solid 100% guarantee which is not available anywhere else but here baby.

Friday, May 26, 2006

This Weekend's Rockin' Tune: My Fave Band Ever

Does it get any better than the Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde? I suppose there is a misguided soul out there who might disagree, but for me, this is the top. I can't tell you when I first heard the Pretenders but I can tell you when they really registered for me.

It was somewhere around 1981 on U.S. 65 between Chicago and Indianapolis. I was driving my pal J and I back to school in B-Town, and he had this over played tape of Chrissie, James Honeyman Scott, Pete Fardon and Martin Chambers. The deal was simple; I drove and got us there safely and Jim ensured we had a good time and kept the music rockin'.

The Pretenders classic debut was all we needed to Rock. I won't go into the musicality of this disc, if you don't know, then all I can say is get thee an education. The riffs, the beats, that sexy, sexy voice were so new and profound. Nothing had ever sounded like the Pretenders up until that point, and to this day they remain an original. The Songs on the disc are timeless and sound fresh a quarter century after they first ripped through the atmosphere of my Gran Prix; Precious, The Phone Call, Space Invader, an update of The Kink's tune Stop Your Sobbing, Private Life, and the brilliant Mystery Achievement. We played that tape over and over, never missing the chance to yell out "Fuck Off" when the right moment in Precious came up.

Of course, there was also today's song, Tatooed Love Boys. A terrific little diddy, it sums up all that made the Pretenders great. A unique sound, the groovy beat, and Chrissie's snotty attitude; "I shot my mouth off and you showed me what that hole was for".

Enjoy.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Fat Old Wrestling Coach



I could never figure out how ole Denny became Speaker of the House. For those of you unfamiliar with Denny's curious rise to power, it is an interesting story; Ex High School wraslin' coach, gets himself elected as Congressman, lives in obscurity for a couple of years, ascends to third highest office in the country.

Impressive? Yes. Curious though, is the word I'd use for it. For one thing, it has never been clear to me what the man did to gain the office. Surely there were others more qualified, and undoubtedly there were those who would have seemed more prepared for the job. But when push came to shove - and lets remember that Denny came to office after Newt and Congressman Livingstone were shoved aside - there was our boy from Illinois.

And life has been good in Washington for Denny. Never a svelt gentleman, he seems to have spent a good amount of his time as Speaker gamefully attempting to wrastle the title of "Corpulent Congressman" away from Gerry Nadler. I've presented two pics above; the first shows ole Denny when he first ascended to the post and the second in a more recent photo when he was apparently threatening to "Crush David Dryer's head like a rotting melon". Ok, I made that last part up.

Still, one could look at those photos and say Denny has spent some serious feed time at the public trough. Looking at those pics, its awfully hard to not think of Newt's contract with America and the simple principles it espoused. I'm not sure what happened to those revolutionary Republicans and their principles, but I think there is a real good chance that Denny might have crushed them with his enormous ass.

I'm not saying the guy is corrupt, although being from Illinois alone should be more than enough to cast doubt on any politician's integrity. But, combined with his behavior in recent days around the Jefferson case.......well let's just say I'm saddened, but not surprised at how poorly this man is representing his state and country.

"The Republicans: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss"

Almost fits on a bumper sticker.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Of All The Crazy Ideas!

Well, here is the worst idea ever: “Hey gang! Let’s turn the democratic process into a gambling operation to increase voter turnout!” I sat in stunned disbelief as I read this article today and wondered how any reasonable person – one who in this case is a Dr. – could possibly suggest such an inane idea.

But for Dr. Mark Osterloh suggesting isn’t good enough. Oh no, not for Dr. Mark, no sireee. Dr. Mark is a man of action! A man who stands behind his ideas, and no matter how incredibly stupid they may seem to us common folk, Dr. Mark has cold hard cash ready to promote is hair brained scheme!

It’s extraordinary really; the degree that some people will go to in the seemingly self defeating effort to out themselves as idiots. They hunt publicity, spend their money and come up with some of the craziest crap ever conceived by the human mind. This idea of Dr. Mark’s in my view, qualifies for idiot vision of the year.

And it’s only May.

Well done Dr. Mark!

And what is the good Dr. proscribing for the greatest democracy in the history of the world? Why voting/lottery of course. I suppose we could call it Voto! The basic idea is this: In Arizona, Dr. Mark suggests that every person who votes in an election be granted and entry in a drawing to win $1,000,000. Once the election is over, a winner will be named and the cool mil will be paid out of the Arizona unclaimed lottery prizes pool.

Obviously, only a population of idiots could be convinced to go along with such a scheme, but in a state that has enough unclaimed lotto money to finance this ridiculous proposal I suppose anything is possible. Perhaps the most incredible aspect of this whole idea is that it wasn’t spawned in the nation’s most squalid swamp of a hellhole; Florida.

There are so many down sides it is almost impossible to catalogue them in one post. First I suppose we have to start with the idea that getting people to vote who can’t be bothered to put the corn chips aside and waddle down to the voting both is a good idea. Let me be clear. THESE PEOPLE SHOULD NEVER BE ENCOURAGED TO VOTE. Oh yes, it’s true that if they insist on voting the constitution gives them the right, but let’s face it, all we really have to do to ensure the integrity of the electoral process is to be sure that Springer has a good fight on. I have little doubt that we can work some sort of deal with Jer..

Secondly, why in the world would we want to tie the most honored practice of citizenship to a tawdry, addictive affair? Oh sure, not everyone…or even a majority of people get addicted to gambling, but a good number do none the less. Good Lord, if we allow Dr. Mark to pull off this idiocy, you just know that he, or some other mouth breather will be back suggesting that we hand out shots for every successfully cast ballot. Where will the lunacy end?!

I can hear it now, “I’m candidate X and I approve of this add. Gambling or drinking problem? Call 1 800 STOP BET or 1 800 NO SHOTS”.

Still Dr. Mark is proud of his plan. When most normal people would hide their faces in shame for coming up with such a bad idea, Dr. Mark apparently believes he is a man of uncommon vision! Towards this end, the good Dr. has committed $200,000, American, to bringing his insane vision for the bastardization of the electoral process to fruition.

I have no idea how somebody, purportedly with a post graduate degree, could come up with this hair brained scheme. Although, come to think of it, the truth is that we really don’t know what Dr. Mark is a doctor of, so perhaps we should be careful in assigning credibility to what may be very dubious credentials. After all there was that day in college when I proclaimed myself, the “Doctor of Smooth”, and perhaps the good Dr. Mark has come up with a similar designation of distinction. I mean, a guy that would spend 200 hundy on a wacky voter-gambling idea might just be the same kind of guy to announce his self designated doctorial status. So before they go any further I’m strongly suggesting that the good people of Arizona - and by good people I mean to exclude the 185,903 lunatics who have already signed the petition to get this nightmarish proposal on the ballet – might want to be sure they know who they are following. Of course I have no way of knowing, so we’ll have to assume he is legit.

The bottom line is that this plan must be stopped now. If we fail it is very possible we’ll see the likes of Vito Corleone elected governor of Arizona. No doubt Don Pedro will be Lieutenant Gov., and I can just see the Queen of Spades as AG.

And then you’ll know what will happen next don’t you? That’s right. Bill Clinton will take up residence in Phoenix, and chase “that hotty” all over town!

The Worst President Ever?

I’ve been hearing a lot of foolish talk lately about how George W. Bush is the worst president in the history of the United States. Most recently, I’ve seen the linked ABC.com posting about the John Edwards interview is which he suggested that Bush was “worse than Nixon”. For the most part I’ve chosen to ignore these statements as the fevered rantings of the left. No great fan of Mr. Bush myself, I must say that anyone who believes he is the worst president ever has either gone absolutely nuts, or wasn’t alive during some other recent administrations.

My problems with Bush stem from two areas critical for presidential leadership; Budget control over Congress’ natural impulse to spend, and leadership of the country. On these two points I think Bush has been awful and at best inconsistent, respectively.

Government tax receipts, particularly in the past two years of the Bush presidency have responded exceedingly well to the Bush tax cuts. Receipts are higher than they have ever been, a fact not at all shocking to supply siders, yet the budget deficit has ballooned beyond the point of acceptability. While I’m not going to go all Sully on you and proclaim the demise of the Union, or imminent financial collapse, the fact is that too much is being spent on programs that lock in future growth in spending and create structural problems with controlling spending. From my conservative viewpoint, Bush gets a “D” at best.

Leadership though is where Bush has been a particular failure. It was a while back, but Tom at the Functional Ambivalent made the accurate observation that Bush is a guy who is real good at starting things, but lacks the follow through and energy to finish the job. He was perfect for responding to the 9/11 attacks, and initiating our original response, but when it came to leading the country over the long term, and most importantly, responding to the attacks from the disloyal left, he simply didn’t have the desire.

This, more than anything else, is what accounts for both his low approval rating and the battle weariness of conservatives in this country. We were and remain ready to fight the good fight, but when day after day rolls by with no Whitehouse leadership in responding to some of the most outrageous of claims from the left, we wonder why we should post our capital for a man who has tired of risking his.

So we have the situation that we now find ourselves in; daily attacks from the left claiming that this president is the worst of all time, when nothing could be further from the truth. Ironic, since the left seems to see a lie in everyone’s statements but their own, don’t you think?

Still, let’s examine the charge and see if we can find any truth in these claims. We all know that President Bush was left with a country that was in pretty bad shape after eight years of the do-nothing Clinton Presidency. North Korea had been given money to build its nuclear program, China was becoming increasingly aggressive towards the U.S., a second intifada was underway against Israel, Iraq was shooting at our jets patrolling the “no-fly” zone, and Osama was attacking U.S. interests around the world with virtual impunity. The economy was in recession, the stock market had experienced one of its greatest bubbles (and subsequent crashes) ever, and unemployment was on the rise. People joked that whoever won the election between Gore and Bush would wind up the real loser considering the mess that needed to be cleaned up.

Sure enough, once Bush took over the trends that started under Clinton continued and Bush had to begin the process of repair. North Korea became increasingly aggressive, China shot down a U.S. Military plane and held it’s crew hostage, and then there was 9/11 – the attack instigated by the man Clinton wouldn’t go after.

After five years of Bush, things are by no means perfect, but are they better? I’d suggest the answer is a resounding yes. North Korea has been silenced and China is making less noise about attacking Taiwan. The Taliban is gone and Al Queda is on the run throughout the world. Since 9/11 there have been no attacks on American soil. The economy is as strong as it has ever been, with unemployment figures that are lower than the average achieved in the Clinton administration, and stock market values that reflect reality. Iraq is no longer run by a madman who harbors terrorists and shoots at our pilots, but instead is a country experimenting with democracy and fumbling its way toward a better future as is Afghanistan.

Have there been problems along the way? Without question. There are those who have issues with the tactical plan for securing Iraq, but except for a select few, not many of these folks seem to have any solid ideas beyond the old, “we need more troops” canard. Most amusingly, some the most vociferous of critics, including our boy Andy, have never even bothered to take a trip to the country and take a look at the situation on the ground for themselves!

I’ve run on long enough here, so I won’t bore you with some of the details of the truly bad presidencies of my lifetime, but trust me; Bush doesn’t even qualify for the worst of the past 40 years. Allow me to remind you of some of the low points; Bay of Pigs, Berlin Wall, Cuban Missile Crisis, Gulf of Tompkin, Wage and Price Controls, Whip Inflation Now (WIN), Iran Hostage Crisis, “A Great Malaise”, Appeasement, Afghanistan.

Come to think of it, George Bush is actually one of the better Presidents.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

How Not To Rob A Funeral Home

In fact why would anyone want to rob a funeral home, although if you read between the lines here, there is a very strong chance that robery was the last thing on this young man's mind. A guess maybe you could say he was "dead tired".

Ba dum bump.

I'm here all week.

Try the veal.

Via Vodka Pundit......... kind of. Congrats to the talented Mr. Green

Saturday, May 20, 2006

This Weekend's Rockin' Tune: Lose Yourself


I remember the first time I saw Eminem. It was several years ago when he mad an appearance on SNL. There was certain amount of controversy around him at the time, I believe stemming from some sort of dispute with Elton John of all people. At any rate, Mrs. P and I thought it would be good yucks to see this goofball make a fool of himself on national TV; we had nothing better to do.

Well, Eminem came on and we were all ready for a good joke, but something happened. This guy came on and he was compelling. We grew silent, starred at the screen and just watched the performance. After he was done, we remained quiet for a moment, turned to each other and said, "whoa". I guess you could say he had one shot with us and definitely did not blow it.

I don't like all his stuff, but I think Lose It is a terrific little diddy. I made it my Rockin' Tune of the Weekend this week in honor of Jodie Foster. In case you weren't aware, Jodie closed her lunatic rant of a commencement speech this week by rapping part of this song. If you can find the tape, it is definitely worth a look. Then come back here and see the original.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cookin' With Pursuit


Well I was going to wine blog tonight, but today was just one of those days.......I'm going straight to the hard stuff!

In my never ending quest to feed the beast though, I did want to post tonight, and I've got so much on my mind I don't know exactly what to blog about. Mexico suing the U.S.? Mocking the leftys over their fear of religious folk, and even making a new name up for it? How about the ongoing hope on the left that Karl Rove has been indicted? Oh I'm primed for any one of these folks but the.....ideas.....just.....keep.......coming........to........fast........can't.......take.........it!

So, I'm going to rest those things and return to one of my true loves: Food.

You see, this past Mothers Day I hit for the cycle baby; Grilled Sword Fish in Alder Smoke with a Roast Tomato/Chipotle Salsa, Grilled vegetables and Polenta. I'm not lying when I say the family vibrated with glee while consuming this meal. Wanna do it yourself? Here's how:

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs Swordfish steaks
Alderwood chips (if you don't have alder use a light smoke wood)
Any kind of slightly spicy fish rub.

Three tomatoes
Four cloves of garlic unpeeled
1 can of chipotles en adobo

Two red peppers
One Vadalia onion

1 C Yellow cornmeal
20 0z chicken broth
20 oz water
(these two liquid measures are approximate, make the polenta so that it is like pudding)

Here we go.

30 minutes before you do anything take fish out of the fridge and apply olive oil with a brush on both sides and then rub (lightly) on both sides. Also begin to soak the wood chips in water. Turn broiler on

When broiler is hot put tomatos in and roast until one side is black and then turn over and do the other side. When done remove from oven and let cool. While tomatoes are broiling roast garlic on the stove top until partially black on a couple sides and nice and soft. Remove, cool and peel. Peel tomatoes. Put the peeled tomatoes and their roasting juices in a Cuisanart and pulse until smooth. Throw in garlic and let 'er rip until smooth. Throw in on Chipotle and two tablespoons of adobo sauce and let 'er rip again until smooth. Pour sauce into a pan and cook until it darkens and thickens to a sauce consistency about 10 minutes, add salt to taste. Careful! It's spicy.

Light charcoal (use gas and I disown you)

While Charcoal is getting ready, combine water and broth and heat on stove to just shy of boiling. Don't let bubbles form. Maintain at this temp.

When charcoal is ready put it all on one side of the grill, and coat the pepper and onion mixture with olive oil and kosher salt. Place on non-coal side of grill and roast until soft and slightly charred on the sides; about 15 minutes. Remove, cover, and store in warm place.

Take swordfish steaks and put on the coal side of the grill for 1 to 1.5 minutes. Just long enough to get grill marks. Flip to other side. Do not cook the fish in this step, you just want to color it a little.

Next move the fish to the non-coal side, throw the wood chips on the coals and cover the grill. I left them in for 15 minutes which I thought would be way too long, so you might want to go less, but they were just losing the pink in the middle when I pulled them so be your own judge.

While fish is roasting in that wonderful, wonderful smoke, go inside, fire the water/broth up to a boil (you may want to do this before you put the fish on so its boiling when you return) and drop the cornmeal in when it is boiling. Pour evenly and slowly wisking constantly so that you don't get lumps and cook. If it gets too thick add more water, slowly. Cook for about 5 minutes and turn off when you get the right consistency. Cover.

Go out, remove the fish.

Plate the fish on individual plates. Surround each serving with a 1/2 inch ribbon of the sauce, put the polenta to one side and then cover each serving of fish with some roast vegetables. Serve with some crusty bread and a hearty white wine and you've got a meal.

Note: Not the real picture of mine above. Mine looked better.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Breakin' The Law, Breakin' The Law!

Well leave it to the nut job wahabis. Just when you think they've got the lunacy bases pretty well covered they find some new depth of insanity to plumb. King Abdullah - and lets pause for the moment to reflect on how far down the bar must be lowered for this dufuss to become a king - has decreed that pictures of women must not be published. I found this out at my pal the Functional Ambivalent's place, but in what can only be interpreted as a desperate cry for help, he links to an old woman in pants!

So, once again, it is up to me to set things right in the world. Don't want women in pants my dear King? Well look up there! Or here, and here and here and here!

Heh. Got him good eh?

Oh, and Tom, I'm thinkin' this might be for you. Actually, that really works for me too.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Let's Buy Mexico: What About All Those New Voters?

Prior to my decent into the sonic nightmare that was the Spring Band Concert I had been providing you, my loyal and decent readers, with a visionary proposal for solving illegal immigration. I think it is safe to say that you will hear no such brilliance emanate from your President tonight, and instead will suffer the same “gassy platitudes” of the whole “we’re a country of immigrants, built on hard work and strong values etc…”

Which is why I probably should be President, but you know, who has the time?

So, on with my third and final installment in the “Let’s Buy Mexico” plan. When we last left my proposal I was anticipating the very valid objection of what in the world we would do with millions of new voters skewing the electoral process. This is really the most problematic aspect of my plan and must be addressed if we are to achieve anything approaching success. I mean after all, these folks voted for Vicente Fox!

As I mentioned before, my thoughts here are strongly based on an article that I read in the early ‘90’s by Walter Mead. In “Let’s Buy Siberia” Mr. Mead addressed this very issue from a “what do we do with all them Ruskie voters point of view”. Here, I thought Mr. Mead came up with a wise answer: We don’t let them vote!

Well that wasn’t exactly his solution so before you write this idea off, I’ll admit to a little hyperbole there. Obviously we have to let our knew Mexican voters vote, but we have to do so in a way that doesn’t “water down” the voting power of the existing blocks in the U.S. Mr. Mead’s proposal that I’ll alter here for my Mexico idea is that we keep Mexico as a separate legal entity from the United States – effectively a wholly owned subsidiary.

In fact, the correct way to do this, and the one that might also be the most palatable to Mexican citizens is that instead of buying Mexico, we lease it for a very long time.

The correct model for this type of ownership structure is the Hong Kong model. In that case the U.K had control of Hong Kong on a 99 year agreement after which time the island was returned to mainland China’s control. For Mexico we could structure a similar deal. In this case, the U.S. would execute a capital lease (remember your accounting my fellow MBA’s?) for 99 years. During this time Mexico would function with all the benefits of U.S. legal possession and operate under a U.S. legal and political system, but continue to maintain a separate government. The Mexican military would merge with the U.S. military so that the full land mass of the U.S. would be protected by the joint military, and all infrastructure would be built to the same standards. At the end of the lease Mexico would revert to the control of its citizens, except that we would structure in a “buy-in” provision should they want to join the U.S.

In only this way do we get the benefit of our buying Mexico without the bloating effects of tens of millions of new voters. And make no mistake the benefits would be huge. The opening of a free market for the flow of labor and goods would result in profound improvements in the conditions of both countries. It is a great lesson of history that teaches us that where man is motivated by economics, politics or opportunity, laws and the best efforts of those who try to stand in the way will be nullified by the sheer force of the will of the people.

Make no mistake; we are witnessing an ongoing “black market” in labor that is the result of a need that exists on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. To try to stop it is like our efforts against so many other black markets; It is futile and we simply end up criminalizing otherwise law abiding citizens, while continuing to fail in our prevention efforts. Temporary worker programs such as that which the president will propose tonight are fine as far as they go, but remain difficult to administer, and in the end remain self deluding options for those who prefer denial to the real solution.

Let’s buy Mexico then! The flow of people into this country tells us that the demand is there, and this proposal’s implementation will change the troubled unidirectional flow of traffic across the border into a healthy back and forth of commerce and ultimately wealth for all.

Question

Was it my TV or was President George wearing a cream color shirt tonight? Was he trying to be kinder gentler or something?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My Ears, Dear God My Ears!


I know I promised you all that in tonight's post I would address how we deal with the sudden influx of voters when we buy Mexico, but I plumb didn't have time today. Keeping the wheels of commerce well oiled occupied my day, and a special horror known only to parents of middle schoolers was visited upon me tonight: Spring Band Concert.

I will spare you the cacophonous details, but suffice it to say I sat in slack jawed amazement as I witnessed the specter of the talentless being led by the insane. Harsh you say? Clearly you haven't had the experience then. Those of us with experience know there are two absolute truths about middle school. First, no matter how long the band practices they always manage to discover new degrees of bad. Second; every school band leader in America is to one degree or another, insane. It might have something to do with dealing with Truth One above as a professional hazard, so I suppose I should be sympathetic. However, in my view, anyone who insists on throwing my child's lack of talent back in my face for a full hour and a half, deserves whatever fate results - you'll get no apologies from me.

As I sat there tonight some sort of self preservation mode kicked in, and in a bizarre turn of thoughts I found myself wondering, "What would Andrew Sullivan write, were he to attend this concert". As Mr. Mike used to say on SNL, I think it would go something like this:

Who needs taste when you're the Band Teacher? Some of us parents have long been worried by the Band Teacher's contempt for melody and harmony in her legitimate efforts to teach our children music. And we've been dismissed and criticized for it. But the more you know, the more troubling it gets. In all this, trust in the Band Teacher's tonal appreciation is important. That's gone. For good reason. You don't abandon recognizable songs, enable talentless hacks, declare the band above the proscribed timing, pile up countless misplayed notes to undermine the art and beauty of song ... and then take pains to protect the band members' self esteem. This Band Teacher, already eager to perpetuate mass hearing loss, needs more scrutiny. It may require replacing her with the Choral Instructor this fall to give it to her.

I wonder where I got that from.....hmmmm.......

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Buying Mexico: Not As Hard As You'd Think!

Yesterday I reviewed some of the reasons why it is in the best interests of Mexico and the United States for our country to purchase our southern neighbor. We could discuss the reasons at length, but there is no more compelling justification for why this must be done than a simple trip across that very border.

Moving south into Mexico one is struck with how quickly prosperity turns to poverty. Although no real geographic advantage is afforded to the U.S border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California, one could be excused if they were to think there was some awful disadvantage to Mexico’s location in North America. The reality, of course, is the exact opposite. By virtually any measure Mexico has the happy advantage of bordering the world’s most successful country, and this fact alone should provide outsized advantage to Mexico relative to other locations. Just as real though, is the sad truth of how one country’s government can so utterly fail its own people.

We must buy Mexico.

Before we go further, I should mention that the inspiration for this series posts (beyond the idiotic demonstrations of the preceding week), is an article by Mr. Walter Mead that appeared in Esquire Magazine somewhere in the early ‘90’s titled, “Let’s Buy Siberia!” I’ve Googled high and low for a copy and have been unable to find it, but I do believe that the model described by Mr. Mead serves as a decent proxy for what I am talking about here. If you can locate it, it’s a worthy read and I sure would appreciate a copy.

As I said in yesterday’s preview to today’s post, buying Mexico seems to be a difficult proposition, but I suspect that from a financial point of view it really is not that daunting of a challenge. True, there are cultural concerns on both sides; fear of the unknown for both sets of citizens and a general preference for the status quo, but I think these can be overcome if we get the numbers right.

The numbers, of course are daunting. Mexico’s current GNP of $700 billion would command a hefty price tag. To come up with a price (attention Mexico this is for illustrative purposes only and not an offer to purchase. Mr. Pursuit, Pursuit Worldwide Inc., and its employees shall not be held responsible for any offer implied or otherwise) I’ve employed some basic present value analysis. My assumptions are as follows:

Our investment horizon is 20 years (value after that is the result of new owners’ efforts)

Mexico GNP remains flat at $700B during this period

Discount Rate: 6%; admittedly high, but this is buy no means a risk free deal

Popping these numbers into my handy Excel spreadsheet I’m coming up with a value for Mexico of approximately $8Trillion. Whew! That’s pretty rich for an underperforming country, but don’t go all weak kneed on me and suffer the vapors – lets think this one through. Yes, I admit this would require an extraordinary expansion in our public debt but we must remember that unlike so much of our existing publicly held debt this issuance would actually be paying for value producing assets! In fact, our payback on existing GNP alone would only be a little over 11 years, not so bad.

Of course, I have not factored in any negotiation on this deal and I’d recommend that we low ball these guys because my guess is that Mexico is a buyers’ market. Think about it; how many countries out there would have an interest in purchasing Mexico? Certainly the U.S. is one and others might be Spain and Brazil, after which interest falls off pretty fast. Given that group, Spain is really the only other country that might be able to pull off such a deal, but the truth is that this is extremely unlikely.

In other words, it’s good to be the deep pockets guy when you’re on offense and the happy result is that I think we can negotiate this baby down to $5trillion, which still represents a fine deal for the sellers since the benefits for Mexico would be profound:

We would pay off all of the country’s externally held debt of $174B

A majority of the remaining purchase price would be used to upgrade public infrastructure

A cash rebate would be paid to Mexico’s 105 million citizens.

The legal system would be brought up to par with America’s system

The government would be reformed into a two party system with American style checks and balances

The U.S. greenback would provide a stable currency, controlled by the Fed

This is just the beginning; the economic benefits that would accrue to ordinary Mexicans would change life as they know it today. To estimate the impact we only have to look at NAFTA’s impact to see what complete removal of the border might accomplish from an economic point of view.

Since NAFTA passed over 10 years ago the economic landscape of Mexico and the U.S. has changed substantially. Trade between the two countries has tripled to an annual number of $252B. Over the past ten years American manufacturing output has increased 41% as compared 34% during the ten years preceding NAFTA. Worker productivity has been positively impacted in both countries and Mexico’s economy has become more market based than it was prior to NAFTA.

Still, more can be done, and by purchasing Mexico we’d accomplish this feat with one simple act. Annual U.S. investment in Mexican manufacturing now stands at $1.9B. This compares unfavorably to both the $230B we invest annually in our domestic manufacturing base, and that which we invest in other countries. Eliminating the border between the two countries, and establishing greater legal standing to private property rights for both Mexican and U.S. entities would have the affect of multiplying this investment substantially. U.S. companies and private individuals would be encouraged to allocate their capital as efficiently as possible in both locations of the newly expanded U.S. providing real jobs and opportunity for all. As we all know, while it may be truth that sets you free, access to capital and efficient investment are what make that freedom a beautiful thing.

The question is how much opportunity can we create and how do we measure the impact this change would have on Mexico? For the answer I suggest that we look north to Canada. While not a perfect analogy Canada does have the benefit (for analogy purposes) of sharing a border with the U.S., and having an economy that is based on both natural resources production and manufacturing. It does have a modern financial and service sector as well, which represents the future of how Mexico would develop as the economy grew and became more sophisticated.

There can be no question that Canadians have done marvelous job of taking advantage of their co-location with the U.S. and the fact is that over 90% of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border! Our businesses trade easily, our cultures mix, and investment in goods and services is efficiently allocated between the two countries. Sadly, for a variety of reasons, Mexico hasn’t faired so well and the results are found in some startling GDP numbers.

Compared to Mexico, Canada’s GDP per capita is approximately three times that of Mexico’s; $31,000 annually compared to $6,700. Canada has achieved this mark and become the worlds 7th largest economy because of its solid support of private property, its stable currency and predictable governance. With the purchase of Mexico it is not unreasonable to expect that the U.S. would implement the same reforms with similar results over the course of our 20 year investment horizon.

And the results would be astounding. Were Mexico to simply move into line on a per capita basis with Canada – ignoring “normal” growth and population expansion, Mexico’s GDP would increase to $2.3T annually making it by today’s numbers the fifth largest economy in the world ahead of countries such as the U.K., France, Italy, and yes, Canada itself. Remember though, that we would be making Mexico a full member of the U.S. with all the benefits of our legal system, currency, and stable government; something Canada does not have access to. Is it therefore reasonable to think that Mexico might do better than Canada under these relative advantages? It certainly is possible.

Now I’m on to you folks, because I know what you’re thinking: “Well yah, but that growth would just come out of America’s hide and net, net we’d be worse off and they’d be better off. No difference in total”. Shame on you people! Take two Milton Friedmans and call me in the morning! Everyone knows, or at least those with a modicum of sense know, that global economies are not zero sum games. That is, we all know that just because someone wins doesn’t mean that someone else will lose.

Growth is growth baby, and what we would be accomplishing with our Mexican buyout would be providing the Mexican people with an opportunity to realize their full potential. We would be investing capital, making the allocation of that capital more efficient, with the resulting benefit being that Mexican growth would come from their adding increased value to the global economy! The idea that they somehow would be stealing this growth from the U.S. or any other country for that matter is contrary to everything we know about modern economic theory. In fact, given the increased allocation of capital and the addition of a new, fast growing segment of the domestic U.S. market, it is quite likely that we’d see growth rates in the U.S. expand as well.

The beauty part is summed up in two words people: Value Creation. Gosh, I’m almost weepy just thinking about it. Say it with me: Value Creation. Why is that so beautiful? Well yes we would be making the lives of each and every Mexican better but as wonderful as that is that isn’t really it. No, the beauty part is that Mexico, since it would now be part of the U.S., would be increasing in value as part of the United States of Blessed America! In other words, all that new value would be taxable and serve as a source of debt repayment on the five trillion that we borrowed to do the deal!

In other words, we didn’t just buy Mexico; we accomplished a leveraged buyout deal utilizing the lowest cost of capital in the history of mankind! We’d be friggin’ geniuses! Future generations would marvel at our skill and foresight.

And it just gets better. Anybody want to guess the demographics of the Mexican population? That’s right, they’re skewed towards youth. 30% of the population is under 14 and a full 94% are under 65. This matters because we need young workers with long lives ahead of them to help support our baby boom generation in retirement.

Gracias Amigos!

There was a time in America when we thought about expansion. Thomas Jefferson took advantage of Napoleon’s financial problems and executed the Louisiana Purchase and Americans everywhere talked excitedly about our “Manifest Destiny”. The purchase of Mexico could be every bit as important as Jefferson’s coup, and perhaps more so. We just need to summon the courage and determination to make it happen.

Tomorrow: Yes, but what about all of those voters?

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Today I Solve Illegal Immigration

It seems to me that there comes a time in every great crisis when the sheer force of human events demands an answer. People of all backgrounds are called upon to stand and deliver and most shrink away and try to hide from responsibility. Some people though respond to the challenge. They recognize problems as opportunity in disguise, and come forth with novel solutions that boldly define the future course of human events.

Today’s illegal immigration issue in the U.S. is one such problem, and I, your good buddy and host, am one such man.

Let’s buy Mexico!

Yup, you read that right. Now is the time for bold moves, for a country as great as ours to seize the day and chart our future course. We have a problem and there is only one peaceful solution, and that solution is to recognize reality and give the people of Mexico what they really want: their own little piece of the American Dream.

I know, I know, this is a completely nutty idea when first considered – believe me, I said to myself, “Gosh Pursuit, have you gone nuts?” All I ask is that you hear me out. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Buy Mexico? Why that would mean expanding our borders, adding a huge number of economically disadvantaged citizens, expanding the gulf between rich and poor in our country, completely re-working the political dynamic along ethnic, economic and geographic lines! It will never work!”

Ah, my panicky friends, I do not deny that the proposal is complex and fraught with risk, but need I remind you that so is our current path? Currently we have millions of undocumented aliens crossing our border every year. We don’t know who these people are, we don’t what they are doing, and yet we provide them with social services, we offer their children who are born here citizenship, and on the darker edge of the issue, some of us exploit their vulnerability. Viewed in isolation, purchasing Mexico does indeed seem risky. Viewed in the context of reality, it becomes, perhaps, an alternative worth examining.

So let’s examine it. First let’s look at what we know. There can be no argument that the country to our south, despite a population of good, hard working people is, by any measure, an economic and social failure. Despite sharing a common border with the most technologically and economically advanced country in the history of man, Mexico has been chronically unable to achieve any level of success that approaches that of the U.S. Numbers do not lie:

o Mexico’s economy is the 9th largest in the world with a GDP per capita of $6,884

o Yet this wealth is not shared broadly as evidenced by the fact that 53% of its people have an annual per capita income of less than $720

o The CIA Factbook lists 40% of the population as living below the poverty line, although the preceding statistic would suggest this is low

o Unemployment is officially listed as 3.9%, however at least 25% are listed as “underemployed” and U.S. border crossings suggest the problem is much worse

o Growth in GDP per hour has been flat for the last decade, and the gap with the U.S. has been widening for the last two decades (since Carter left office)

o Mexico ranks last in terms of educational attainment of OECD countries

I could go on and on, but you get the idea and none of this comes as a particular surprise. Every American is well aware of the numbers of Mexican citizens that are in our country working to make a better life for both the families that they have brought here, and the families that they send money to back home. While we welcome legal immigrants to this country with open arms, and are grateful for their work in making our lives easier, it is troubling to know that these people from a country separated from ours by nothing more than a legal border have so much less opportunity at home.

I think it is reasonable to assume that were opportunities in both countries similar, Mexican citizens would prefer to remain home and enjoy the land into which they were born. Or, more importantly, were opportunities equal citizens of both countries could move freely across borders trading goods and services, working in markets that most highly value their services, and enjoying the fruits of both of our great cultures. Were our countries on a more even basis Americans would view Mexico as something more than a land of vacation resorts, cheap labor, and illicit drug production.

The problem though, is that the economic imbalance with Mexico not only is not new, it is also getting worse, much worse. As a result we cannot expect the problem to correct itself, and waiting for the Mexican government to serve in its own people’s interest is by all evidence a hopeless cause. The fact remains that we cannot expect to solve illegal immigration from Mexico until the economies of the two countries offer similar opportunities to those looking for work. All the walls, Minuteman projects, border guards, and army patrols in a free world will never keep out desperate people searching for hope in the U.S.

This is why the current debate in Washington confounds me. Our leaders are arguing over various forms of a policy that will lead to the same ultimate end; illegal Mexican immigrants will be granted some sort of citizenship, or road to citizenship for having broken the law to get here. Mexican citizens from similarly desperate backgrounds seeing this, will be even more motivated than before the deal to find a way to get to the U.S. In ten years, we’ll engage in the same debate once more and the circle will become complete.

So something more must be done and the truth is that there is really only one answer:

One way or another we must buy Mexico.


Tomorrow: Buying Mexico; Not as hard as you’d think!

Monday, May 8, 2006

When Two Worlds Collide

On Friday, as I was driving back from the airport my phone rang.

“It’s Cinco de Mayo!”

“Yes. Yes it is.”

“We should get Mexican!”

“Um, ok, why?”

“To celebrate!”

At this point the conversation could have gone one of two ways. First, I could have pointed out that as Americans we really do not have anything to celebrate and further to the point, celebrating a foreign country’s sole military accomplishment (which, naturally, came against the French) really seemed to be a bit contrived. Alternatively, I could go along with ruse, knowing that a fine meal washed down by overly sweet alcoholic concoctions made with Mexican barking juice couldn’t be all that bad.

“Phone in the order, I’ll pick it up on my way home!”

When I arrived at my local Mexican joint the scene was remarkable. As I think readers are aware I live in the whitest of white locales. The Mexican population of our fair town increases quite dramatically each day during the spring, summer and early fall at 7a.m., and recedes again at approximately 3:30. Down the road about a half mile is another town. In this town the population flows are the exact inverse of those in my town and unsurprisingly there are a couple of very good non-chain Mexican restaurants.

It was into one of these places that I went last Friday to collect our dinner. As I said the scene was remarkable. The place was absolutely jammed with happy families from both towns celebrating the holiday. What a country, huh? I mean here we were the most successful country in the history of the world. We started the week with a ridiculous mass demonstration for “immigrant rights” and were ending it with mass celebrations for the independence of the mother country of these very same protesting immigrants!

Look, I’m not completely na├»ve so I will not for one moment underestimate our fellow citizen’s ability to contrive a reason for the consuming of mass amounts of tequila at the end of a hard week, but still you really have got to be impressed. There, in that restaurant, two cultures otherwise divided by skin color, ethnic background and economic circumstance came together as families for the purpose of having a little fun. Does this happen anywhere else in the world? I doubt it.

I walked in the door Friday night with a smile on my face. There are those who will diminish this experience as nothing more than an artificial moment built off of a fake holiday. “Why I bet those people don’t even know what they’re celebrating” these folks will bluster, and on that point they may technically be right.

Where they’re wrong though is in understanding what was really going on. In that room, as in thousands of rooms around the country last Friday Americans of all ethnicities were finding out what assimilation is really all about. Citizenship doesn’t come with the crossing of borders or the passing of tests. It is not built on protest marches or pledges of allegiance. Citizenship is about coming to this country, working hard and making your own way in this world. It’s about learning that to be a true American one doesn’t have to give up their past so much as they must share it with their new friends and neighbors. Through these individual experiences we build a common history that links us all together, and together we point this country towards our common future.

Tomorrow: I solve illegal immigration.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

I've Gone Crazy; I Blame Bush

Talk about pulling a "Full Sully", Andy does himself proud! Check out this little exercise in self delusion from our excitable boy:

"It seems my description of him as not being a "crazed lefty" was wrong on at least one count. But then this administration has turned many previously sane, moderate people into those who want to scream at the dishonesty and incompetence of their own government."

Good News: Andy admits he is fallible.

Not So Good News: He has his ready excuse waiting.

To be candid, I really wasn't even going to link to this since it is pretty much par for the course in the world of Sully, but Jeff Goldstein actually adds some facts to the discussion which I was too lazy to do, and as is typical of the stuff over at Protein Wisdom, does so in a beautiful, amusing and unsparing way.

So, I post, link and hopefully you can be entertained.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

The Black Keys

I"m really beginning to like this feature at the Pursuit of Happiness. See, I'm continually plagued by hearing a song on the radio, thinking "gosh I really ought to download that" and then when it comes time to do my downloading thing, I forget all the rockin' tunes that I wanted!

Now though, because you people mean so much to me, I actually take time to make a list so I can decide exactly what I'd like to feature as the weekend's selection. Me, working for you, working for me. Kind of a beautiful circle of life thing.

Today's tune is from a fairly new to me band that I'm ashamed to say came to my attention through a Range Rover commercial several (perhaps a year) months back. I'm sure you've seen it, a big ole Range Rover is driving over rocks and hills and stuff and the great tune "Have Love, Will Travel" is playing in the background.

This, of course caught my attention for two reasons; first the song is just fantastic. Bluesy rock that has the power to melt your face (apologies to Jack Black). Second, while great the song in the context of the commercial simply makes no sense.

"Have Love". Ok, I've got that part "Will Travel". No! No I won't travel! If I've got love, and I'm out there in the wilderness with a Range Rover I can assure you I will find something much better to test that Range Rover's suspension than drive over rocks!

As it turned out, the commercial version of the song was done by The Sonics (great name, that) but by the time I figured this out, I was already hooked on The Black Keys. Sorry guys. So I wanted to share the Black Keys' little diddy, "Have Love, Will Travel" with you today, but sadly I couldn't a video for it. I did find 10a.m. Automatic though, and it is nearly as good, so enjoy.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Into The Heart of Darkness - Again

God I hate this state. I mean I really hate it. It would be so easy to just cut it off, call it a third world country and get on with life.

Yet normal Americans from every corner of the country flock here for reasons that escape my ability to understand. Some come here for Disney World, some for spring break. Others just don't know any better, and most incredibly, some actually decide to spend the final years of their life on this planet in this God forsaken wasteland.

In Florida.

The mind reels.

Still, here I am once again. In had no way to avoid this sojourn to America's cultural back water. Some of the greatest brains in my business are here for the next two days, and I need to be here to glean whatever bits of wisdom I can. Happily, I'm staying here, and I must say for a hotel located in a squalid hellhole of a state, this baby ain't bad.

Tonight after I arrived I dined in the courtyard restaurant and had a delightful meal. Shrimp cocktail, Austrialian Barramundi roasted in a wood burning oven, goat cheese polenta and a couple glasses of white burgundy certainly eased the pain of being in Jethroville.

While the shrimp disappointed, the Barramundi in particular was a real delight. It was butterflied, roasted and served with a pickled corn chowder relish type thingy that worked well together. Now one must ask the question, "why, if you're in Florida would you order a fish from Australia?" Well, the truth is that as much as this violates my basic principles of eating local, my waitress was quite insistant that I go with the Barramundi. Ussually I reject such suggestions as just another lame attempt to move something that ain't movin' well on the menu, but tonight seemed different.

The thing is that when I'm on business trips I often find myself dining alone and I've learned a couple things. The primary of these lessons is that when you go into a restaurant alone, the service staff tends to bond a little bit with you. Now don't get me wrong because I do not like the whole, "My name is Chuck and I'll be your server tonight" thing and generally you wouldn't catch me in such an establishment unless I was stranded in a town where TGI Friday's was considered fine dining. I expect my wait staff to be professional, efficient and most of all properly solicitous. Still, when you dine alone, a good waiter will go a little extra mile to take care of you.

Tonight was no different. As a result I trusted my waitress' opinion and was well served as a result. My only mistake? This weekend the hotel is hosting the Wine Spectators' Food and Wine weekend. What's wrong with that you ask?

I leave Friday afternoon.

The Teeth Were Bad Enough....Now This?!

I could deal with the bad teeth. I mean the truth is we Americans are undoubtedly obsessed with personal appearance and our cultural tradition of slapping braces on every child prior to their 11th birthday has probably reached unhealthy proportions. Really, who cares if a person's teeth are a little crooked? Certainly our English brethren don't.

But this my friends is beyond the pale.....or the bowl as it turns out. Words fail me, so I'll let London's mayor, "Red" Ken Livingstone inform you:

"London Mayor Ken Livingstone lifted the lid on his toilet habits, saying Tuesday that he hasn't flushed in 15 months, according to wire reports.

Livingstone said there was "no earthly reason" to bother if there was just urine in the bowl.

The mayor urged Londoners to waste less water when getting rid of their own waste, advising gardeners to fill up a bucket and hurl it on the plants as the region around London suffers its worst drought in a century.

"If we continue to waste the amount of water that we do, London will run out of water," Livingstone, 61, said."


Red Ken, seen above keeping his kidneys full of liquid, raises a few questions along with those lattes. The first, and frankly most disturbing one is this. Why, after 15 MONTHS is his bowl only full of urine? I don't want to get too personal here, but have his bowels completely shut down? If so, I recommend he take advantage of that marvelous English public health system we always hear about!

My guess though is that Red Ken's bowels are working just fine. Look at that face. I'm not clear on when the picture was taken but he sure seems happy. If he were in the midst of a 15 MONTH BOWEL STOPPAGE I'd expect to see more of a grimace, if not some good old fashioned writhing in pain. We've all heard of the stiff British upper lip, but come on, the man is human after all.

So I suspect something else is awry here.....something very liberal. Ken is nicknamed "Red" Ken for his supposed liberal leanings after all. Lets think, what do we know about liberals, hmmmm........

Well we know they like big government solutions right? Probably not much to go on there. Ok, well we know that they love mis-guided environmental policies, and while this certainly is one such example, it still doesn't explain the Case of the Missing Poop. Hmmmm.....what could it be.

Ah ha! Liberals believe in sharing! The old from each as he is able to give, to each as they need right? Well, I think if we talked to some of Ken's fellow Londoners they'd tell us that the man is full of.........well lets just say he is full of "it". Ok? So, he certainly is able to give, and my guess is he is "giving", in locations that are not his own bathroom!

Imagine the horror then of being this man's friend. Cue dream sequence music.......

"Honey, someone is at the door, who is it".

"Why it's Ken again dear"

"What's he want at this bloody hour"

"Says his toilets stopped again"

"Again?"

"Yes, again. He want's to borrow ours oh dear, and he's got the Times with him"

"Well alright then, but perhaps we should suggest he try something other than bangers and mash for lunch".