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March 2010

"Parents Choosing More Unusual Baby Names Now"

Research hypothesizes ". . .  it is an indication of our culture becoming more narcissistic."

Great, just what we need now.

  • About 40 percent of boys received one of the 10 most common names in the 1880s, while now fewer than 10 percent do.
  • For girls, the percentage with a top-10 name dropped from 25 percent in about 1945 to 8 percent in 2007.
  • Similar results were seen for the top-50 names. About half of girls received one of the 50 most popular names until the mid-20th century. Now, just one in four have these names. . . .

The results held even when the researchers accounted for immigration rates and increasing Latino populations, which could bring relatively less common names into the mix.

Straws in the wind (part one)

Pay more for less.

Higher taxes. (Excuse me: "revenue enhancements" and fees.)

"States Seeking Cash Hope to Expand Taxes to Services".

In the scramble to find something, anything, to generate more revenue, states are considering new taxes on virtually everything: garbage pickup, dating services, bowling night, haircuts, even clowns.

"Here Come Higher Taxes: Goldman On Imminent Tax Increases".

You didn't think China would fund America's insane spendorama for ever, did you[?] Here's Goldman on the second, and much more relevant, part of Obamacare and the stock market reflation trade: tax rates going through the roof.

Charles Krauthammer: "The VAT Cometh".

We are now $8 trillion in debt. The Congressional Budget Office projects that another $12 trillion will be added over the next decade. Obamacare, when stripped of its budgetary gimmicks -- the unfunded $200 billion-plus doctor fix, the double counting of Medicare cuts, the 10-6 sleight-of-hand (counting 10 years of revenue and only 6 years of outflows) -- is at minimum a $2 trillion new entitlement. . . .

Hence his deficit reduction commission. It will report (surprise!) after the November elections.

What will it recommend? What can it recommend?

New York Post: "New York's phantom taxes: City squeezes residents another way-—by hitting us with nearly $900 million in fines."

The cash-starved city is socking New Yorkers with a massive ticket blitz in a bid to pump an extra $80 million into its depleted coffers, records show.

Reluctant to raise taxes publicly, the Bloomberg administration is pursuing a “stealth tax” — launching an unprecedented squeeze on Big Apple residents and businesses, cracking down on parking, health, safety and quality-of-life infractions with a vengeance, the data shows.

The ongoing blitz has worked so well that City Hall bean counters expect to rake in a record $884 million in fines by the end of this fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.

But accompanied by sharply reduced government services.

"Budget Deficit Makes Committing Felonies Way Easier".

"'Devastating' layoffs loom in school districts statewide".

"L.A. school unions agree to cut days from academic calendar".

"Hospitals Under the Knife".

The nation's largest public hospital system plans to slash its work force—including doctors and nurses—by about 10% over two years as government aid drops and the number of uninsured patients jumps.

"Postal Service Moves Toward Five-Day Delivery".

"What Do Detroit, the Postal Service, and Health Care Reform Have in Common?"

Theodore Dalrymple: "The Fix Is In".

Americans would do well to ponder a recent admission by a former British minister in the Blair government. On March 2, the Guardianreported that the ex-minister, now Lord Warner, said that while spending on Britain’s National Health Service had increased by 60 percent under the Labour government, its output had decreased by 4 percent. No doubt the spending of a Soviet-style organization like the NHS is more easily measurable than its output, but the former minister’s remark certainly accords with the experiences of many citizens, who see no dramatic improvement in the service as a result of such vastly increased outlays.

More--sigh--next Monday.

Business tactics

A very interesting argument that Southwest Airlines's "bags fly free" is "pure marketing genius".

By inspiring customers to check bags, aircraft can be loaded and unloaded much faster than if passengers carry bags onto the main deck and put them in the overhead bin.  Anyone who has been on a fully loaded jet recently knows it can take 15-20 minutes just to get the passengers off the plane. The bigger the jet, the longer this takes.  Time spent on the ground means time not in the air.  Airlines only make money when the jet is flying.  By encouraging passengers to check bags and by operating a homogeneous network, SWA can turn flights faster and thus create more profit for the airline.

(Interesting follow-up discussion here.)

HolyJuan explains the secret of the Good Seasons Italian Dressing Cruet.

Finally, a blogger argues that the movie industry is about to blow a signficant opportunity.