Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to Make the Poor Poorer

... give them things and expect nothing.

I was listening to the Dennis Prager radio show the other day when he came up with this gem of a concept. As parents, we reward our children, to a great extent, based on performance. A child who gets A's and does their chores is treated differently than a child who gets F's and refuses to help. As a society, our social programs do not make such a distinction. We all know what the results would be if we failed to differentiate between behaviors in our kids, but we don't use that wisdom in policy.

Over at the UK Housing Bubble blog, they've posted a video wherein a British government official has just toured some blighted town and, while shocked at the terrible things she's seen, goes on to discuss how the residents will be further rewarded by the British taxpayer.

If this is anything like one of our own blighted areas such as Oakland, East St. Louis or New Orleans' 9th Ward, the residents have paid for nothing. The rest of society has provided them with housing, food, clothing, transportation, police and fire services, hospitals, a postal service and on and on and on. In exchange for those rewards from us, they've wrecked the place.

This is exactly what you'd get if you did this in your own family. In a hypothetical family situation: If I rewarded my son's A's the same as my daughter's D's, I would end up with a lot more D's. If I rewarded my daughter's cheerful help the same as my son's laziness, I'd get more laziness. In the end, I'd have kids that laid around all day eating junk food, watching TV and not studying.

Whoa! Did that just describe the British and American underclasses or what? Let's see if the statistics agree. The Gini Index is a measure of income inequality. If you've got a big difference between rich and poor (an unjust society!), the Gini Index will be larger ...


As the Great Society programs gave more and more rewards to the poor without regard for performance, income inequality got worse. As the sexual revolution progressed and no expectations were made of parents to get or stay married, income inequality got worse. It's exactly what you would see in your family.

There was greater income equality in the bad old days when people were prudes and dorks and fascist warmongering red-baiting chauvinist tightwad capitalist pig-dogs.

So where do we go from here? What's the solution? Why, national health care, of course! More rewards regardless of performance! How will we pay for it? By taxing the productive! If we keep trying it hard enough, it's bound to work.

Just like it would in your family.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Hurrah for the WatchMinder!

My daughter has ADD. She is a Russian orphan who spent the first 15 months of her life with very little human interaction until I went over and adopted her. During those first months, the two hemispheres of your brain are making connections and without stimuli, the connections aren't nearly as numerous. This is probably the cause of the ADD, but that's just my theory.

In any case, she and I have spent the last several years tracking down all of her mechanisms of failure at school and stamping them out one by one. For her, it has come down to a combination of a poor vocabulary and a failure to write down her test schedules. Up to now, most of her tests have seemed like pop quizzes as she's forgotten to write down the test schedule the teachers put up on the board. When she takes the tests, many of the questions are gibberish to her because she doesn't understand the words and hasn't studied.

We're working the vocab issue with 3x5 cards and she's nearly got that one licked. The WatchMinder and a written end-of-the-day list is solving the test problem. Here's the blurb from their website:
The WatchMinder2 is a programmable vibrating reminder watch that looks like a standard sports wristwatch - the watch vibrates and a reminder message discreetly appears!
Here's what the thing looks like.

It's wonderful. We created a little message that just says "LIST" and she came up with a list of things she needs to do at the end of each school day. The WatchMinder buzzes her arm about 10 minutes before the end of school and she knows to go through her list. Since the list includes "write down upcoming tests," there will be no more pop quizzes!

Hurray for the WatchMinder!

I had begun to despair of finding a solution to this problem. In the past, I had sworn off vacations for myself and spent all of my annual leave in dribs and drabs picking her up right as school let out to help her write this stuff down. It got harder and harder to do this, so we really needed to find a solution that she could do on her own. This looks like just the thing.

We're both very excited about her future in school now. Her grades have always fluctuated wildly - some tests were As and Bs, some tests were Fs. It all depended on whether or not she studied for them. She wants to do well and never complains about the extra work. She's taken to reading in a big way and has finally caught up with her peers there. This last step has just been killing us and we may have finally solved it.

Thanks, WatchMinder!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sorry About the Tone of the Blog

Every day I want to change the tone of this blog. I'm getting tired of these endless "Holy @%#^*&, did you see this? This is insane! We're all screwed!" posts. But then I come downstairs, get my cup of coffee and sit down and find out that we've just taken over GM and handed it over to the UAW or we're $2T in debt or we're starting some new game show program where thousands of dollars will be given away to every contestant (person making under some nominal income). I then proceed to beat my head against the keyboard and the typical post comes out.

Sorry about that.

Why GM Couldn't Be Allowed To Go Into Bankruptcy

... because no bankruptcy judge would have divided things like this:
The GM bondholders own $27 billion and they’re getting 10 percent of the common stock in an expected exchange. And the UAW owns $10 billion of the bonds and they’re getting 40 percent of the stock. Huh? Did I miss something here? And Uncle Sam will have a controlling share of the stock with something close to 50 percent ownership. And no bankruptcy judge. So this is a political restructuring run by the White House, not a rule-of-law bankruptcy-court reorganization.
This means that each Union dollar was worth almost 11 times what a bondholder dollar was worth.

Why do I get the feeling that I'm soon going to have to apologize to my really wacky buddies on the right who thought Obama was a fascist all along? If this starts happening with the banks, I might be inclined to do so.

It's a Good Time to get Started on a new Global Currency

Dig this chart from Brad Setser:

If you were China and you wanted to start a new global currency based on a basket of currencies wherein the US Dollar was just one component, now might be a good time to start putting that into motion. In the past, China's holdings were such a massive percentage of the total number of Treasuries that selling them to move elsewhere would cause a run on the dollar and kill their remaining holdings. Now that the Obama Administration has gone completely mad and spending is totally out of control, China's exposure to loss due to sale is dropping rapidly. With the dollar still relatively highly valued, it would be tempting to start rotating out of it and into a more diverse set of currencies.

Once you'd done that, as the world's biggest creditor, you could make a good case that your particular mix of investments is the world's new currency. The dollar would no longer be king and all banana republic spending would start having banana republic results.

Oh, by the way, did you know that China's been buying gold? It's not much in the grand scheme of things, but I wonder if they're already moving in that direction.

How to get Moar Edumacation for Your Contry

... just do what the UK did - blast spending into orbit! After all, look what it did for test results!

The mind-blowing thing here is how ham-handed this all is. Test scores nearly tripled in this time frame? Are you kidding me? This just screams grade inflation. They didn't even bother to try to conceal it. Someone (or a whole lot of someones) were getting bonuses based on test scores.

Personally, my favorite is the 33% jump in boys' scores in the last few years.

H/T: UK Housing Bubble.

Health Care for All!

... is actually your problem.

Keith Hennessey answers a question Kelly posed in a comment a while back. Why is the budget deficit rising in the out years? Well, one reason might be the monstrous increase in health care funding as the president's plans really get rolling. That $634B he's got in his budget is, get this, just a down payment.

Holy Toledo.

I don't get this at all. Why isn't your health insurance your problem? Given that the vast majority of people between the ages of 18 and 25 don't need health insurance - they don't get sick and don't require office visits, why can't we say that with a high school diploma and 7 years to get your life in order, you can find a way to get yourself health insurance?

We'd all be a lot better off if we did this. Anything that leads to more personal responsibility is good, anything that leads to less is bad.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Death Sentence for High Value Targets?

So we're not done with all the torture memo stuff, but something occurred to me the other day. All these legalisms could lead to soldiers killing the captured terrorist leaders rather than handing them over for detainment.

If you happened to capture some global terror leader and you had seen the last several released, wouldn't you be encouraged to just kill them then and there? What's the point of capturing the guy if they're just going to be released again? What if you knew no one behind you was going to get any decent information out of the guy because he was going to be given soft pillows and 3 square meals a day?

Here's a related thought: During World War II, we illegally imprisoned Japanese-Americans, people who were actually American citizens. When will we be starting the trials of the people who OK'd that one? Many of them may still be alive. Isn't that worse than pouring some water on a terrorist scumbag?

Cheezburger of the Day

Starving Spain, Part IV

The theme of this series: Our massive spending binge will suck all of the capital out of global markets, starving other countries who are in desperate straits themselves, such as Spain. The previous post is here.


Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, admittedly an alarmist, has a column today on there not being enough money in the world to pay for all the stimuloids and wild spending binges going on all at the same time.
The world is running out of capital. We cannot take it for granted that the global bond markets will prove deep enough to fund the $6 trillion or so needed for the Obama fiscal package, US-European bank bail-outs, and ballooning deficits almost everywhere.
Who will get hurt firstest and worstest? Why, the very countries Obama seeks to emulate - a bunch of profligate Euro-socialists.
Commerzbank said every European bond auction is turning into an "event risk". Britain too finds itself some way down the AAA pecking order as it tries to sell £220bn of Gilts this year to irascible investors, astonished by 5pc deficits into the middle of the next decade.

US hedge fund Hayman Advisers is betting on the biggest wave of state bankruptcies and restructurings since 1934. The worst profiles are almost all in Europe – the epicentre of leverage, and denial.
Europe is the epicenter? I blame George Bush!

This single example from Japan is being replayed in different versions all across aging, overspent, secular humanist Europe:
Japan's $1.5 trillion state pension fund – the world's biggest – dropped a bombshell this month. It will start selling holdings of Japanese state bonds this year to cover a $40bn shortfall on its books. So how is the Ministry of Finance going to fund a sovereign debt expected to reach 200pc of GDP by 2010 – also the world's biggest – even assuming that Japan's industry recovers from its 38pc crash?
Into this vortex of money-sucking debt strides our Boy King, throwing trillions of dollars around that do not, in fact, exist. His spending spasms will use up the global investment money that countries like Spain are counting on. The backlash ought to be something to behold.

H/T: Paul Kedrosky.

Martha Washington Geraniums

I took this one with my Blackberry while walking along the boardwalk in Mission Beach. The camera doesn't have a macro setting and I held it pretty close to the flowers. I think the slight blurriness gives it kind of a "painting" feel.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sad News About Our Maximum Leader

As regular readers know, I'll be getting married in about two months. There's a countdown for it on the right hand sidebar. The date is still approximate, but that's another story.

My fiancee has two kids and I have two kids. We found a wonderful 5BR house in Tierrasanta and bought it. Unfortunately, my fiancee, though she loves our Maximum Leader, is allergic to cats. No problem, I thought - we'll just make her GarageCat and let her come in and socialize with us in the evenings. She loves the outdoors and with a cat door in the garage, she'd be quite happy.

Yesterday we found out from our neighbors that not only does the area have coyotes, since the last set of wildfires, the coyotes roam the neighborhoods even during the day. They told us that the average lifespan of any kind of outdoor cat is about 7 days. As much as I love having her around me, it's just not worth either closing her up in the garage all day and night or giving her the death sentence that goes with being outdoors.

After 10 or so years together, I've got to find her a new home.

Can't I just stay here? It's very comfortable.

The UK Points the Way!

OK, lefties, here it is! A sign of things to come for the US from our friends in the UK. Here, we see cheerful members of the Politburo New Labor government chattering on about how this government agency and that government agency are going to come together and solve our economic problems. Isn't it marvellous? Just look how well it's working already!

Me, I'm hoping for a multi-level agreement in my town soon!

H/T: UK Housing Bubble.

Link of the Day

... is this one. Hilarious!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

On Religion and Hypocrisy

I'm Catholic. I'm also a hypocrite as are all Catholics. Of course we're hypocrites. That's the point. We believe in fixed standards of behavior and we are imperfect individuals. Hypocrisy comes with the territory. This dawned on me while attending Stations of the Cross this Lent. From the Ninth Station of the Cross, Jesus Falls a Third Time:

As an adult, I often feel I should have conquered my weaknesses by now. I become discouraged when I'm confronted by the same problems over and over again. Sometimes I get weary ...

Help me think of the cross you carried. Help me continue to hope that I can make the changes in my life I need to. You didn't give up. I can have the strength to get up again as well.
I'd rather be a hypocrite than jettison fixed standards of behavior.

The Best Magazine Cover of the Year

H/T: Infectious Greed.

Barack Obama's Inverted Universe

Here is what Obama sees when he looks into a mirror.

It has to be. Dig this.
April 25 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said he is committed to imposing fiscal discipline on the government and called on Congress to pass a law requiring any new spending be matched by higher taxes or cuts elsewhere.

Obama, in his weekly radio and Internet address, said that while his initiatives to confront the economic crisis have deepened the country’s debt, his administration will “demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent.”

“All across America, families are tightening their belts and making hard choices,” Obama said. “Now, Washington must show that same sense of responsibility.”
Now take a look at this.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Tax the Rich!

... and you can get into some serious trouble.

Thanks to Democrat demagoguery, we now have an incredibly unbalanced tax base. The top 10% of all earners pay 65% of all taxes, but woe betide those that suggest this is not sensible! Tax cuts for the rich and balancing the budget on the backs of the poor are things only hateful greed-mongers would suggest.

Unfortunately, when your tax base consists of just 10% of your population, if enough of them decide to go John Galt and slow down or stop their earning, you get things like this.

The economy contracted by 6% or so in the last quarter of 2008. At that rate, you'd expect to see about a 6% drop in tax revenues, not the 17% we see in reality. Tom Blumer over at Pajamas Media has more, but the essence is this: we've exposed ourselves to these kinds of swings in tax revenues by narrowing our tax base to fewer and fewer people.

The Obama deficit is going up, up, up.

Bank Earnings are Window Dressing to Avoid Government Control

Jim Jubak has the details.

Here's his original take on the recent bank profits. The profits were due to accounting tricks and changes in rules.

Perez Hilton Get His

This is just fantastic.

E-coli is Pretty Cute!

... I might get one for my daughter. Dig the picture of the little guy:

ThinkGeek has turned all of your favorite microbes into plush. cuddly toys! There's gangrene, sleeping sickness, head lice and lots more. Check it out.

H/T: Marginal Revolution.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Gratuitous Bob Newhart Post


Scipio on Obama in Latin America

Blogging amigo Scipio has penned a wonderful post about Obama's trip to Latin America. Having lived there for 14 years himself, he has some fun anecdotes like this one.
I endured many a rant from anti-Americans during my years spent wandering about in Latin America. Almost all were civil and some were in good fun. One sticks out concerning the obliviousness of the speaker. She was an educated, middle class Costa Rican and a true to life Latin American idiot. She railed against the usual suspects: US imperialism, America not signing the Kyoto Treaty, George Bush, the Republicans, American culture, capitalism and so on. You know the spiel. It is the same nonsense spouted by Ortega and Chavez last week. Anyway, while mouthing off she was wearing Levis and Nikes, speaking in perfect American English, her dentists and doctors were US trained, she owned a US-built car, she had a US bank account, she worked at an American school overseas, she was paid partly in US dollars, she had a US visa, she spent her vacations in the US and she sent her two children there for college.
Read the whole thing.

A Cool Google Gadget

Dig this:

Pretty cool, no?

There are no Rules

... and Jennifer Rubin's on to the whole sorry charade. Apparently, anyone participating in the effort to remove toxic assets from the banks will be placed under the same rules that restrict the banks now.
Really, at this point any CEO who agrees to do business with the government should be fired. If he signs up with the government, he in essence is turning over control of his company to political operatives who bounce from position to position like ping pong balls. Public opinion squawks, they jump and the rules are different. This is the worst form of statist intervention — lawless and unpredictable. It operates outside any published regulatory regime or statute and without regard even for a gentleman’s promise. No business can operate successfully this way; the entire financial sector of our economy certainly cannot.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Perez Hilton vs. Miss California

This man

attacked this woman

in public and deliberately humiliated her in front of millions of people. He did not restrain his verbal agression against her in any way.

According to our enlightened elites and intellectuals, we are supposed to side with the man. What is wrong with that?

Britain is in Trouble

... and I blame George Bush!*

UK Housing Bubble has an amazing graph that shows that most of the UK mortgage industry from 2008 was based on garbage loans. And I do mean most. Meanwhile, Mish has a short post describing the budget deficit in the UK. It's jaw-dropping. Or it would be if it weren't for Obama's budget deficit which makes the UK's look puny.

* - err, maybe not.

The HP TouchSmart PC

I was just noodling around the Interweb Tubes when I came across a link describing this.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tongue Twister

Referring to yesterday's post of the Significant Otters, I pose this question to you:

"Is the further otter's father fatter?"

Try saying that question 3 times fast.

How To Turn The US Into The Roman Empire In One, Easy Step

... let Iran get the bomb.

After Iran gets the bomb, they will start replicating it and handing it out to terrorist proxies who will start using it. Since the things will be untraceable and be operated by non-state actors it will be almost impossible to find someone to punish and destroy. Instead, there will be a series of blasts destroying cities or large chunks of them followed by hopeless detective work to root out an ever-pixelating set of terrorist entities.

One city and then another and then another will be blown away until America or some combination of super powers finally comes to the conclusion that the only way to stop this will be to control every square inch of the Earth's surface.

End result: The Roman Empire, ca. 2020.

Emily Post on LSD

UK Housing Bubble has a post describing a new job within the British government, Coordinator for Respect.
Naturally, the initiative required the appointment of a "coordinator for respect", along with a generous salary of salary "somewhere between £75,000 and £159,000."

A coordinator wasn't enough. The UK also needed a "Respect Taskforce", along with a mountain of home office reeducation literature. The objective of the initiative was a "transformation of British manners".
Can't you just imagine the agony that must accompany each and every communication from that office? Every last possible meaning from every sentence and every word would have to be reviewed time and time again to prevent anyone from ever taking any offense from any component. It would be like Emily Post on LSD.


Monday, April 20, 2009


From Cheezburger:

UC Santa Cruz

... had one of the requirements established by my son in last week's college tour trip.


With that determining factor established, we could move on to other, less important ones.

It turns out that 17-year-old boys have different criteria than their fathers. In any case, UCSC was a decent enough school. The requirements to get into some of the other science and engineering schools along the coast are outrageously high. My alma mater, UCSD, would never have let me in had I applied today with the grades I had in high school.

Obama Humors Ortega and Chavez

... and everyone else on his continuing World Apology Tour 2009. The guys at Powerline have the story, but are missing a key part of the strategy in Obama's grovelling in front of Danny Ortega of Nicaragua and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, murderous lefty thugs both.
After receiving Obama's homage, Ortega:
...delivered a blistering 50-minute speech that denounced capitalism and U.S. imperialism as the root of much hemispheric mischief. The address even recalled the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, though Ortega said the new U.S. president could not be held to account for that.
Once again, Obama assumed the position:
"I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old," Obama said, to laughter and applause from the other leaders.
I think I understand the plan. The concept, as I understand it, is to let the other side rant and rave all they want, listen attentively, show care and concern and then get involved in a discussion of substantive issues without yelling back at them. Instead of arguing and defending ourselves, we're accepting the tongue-lashings so that the discussion doesn't begin with everyone already angry.

That makes sense so long as the status quo is fine with us. Obama's genuflections to such swine will be interpreted as support in their countries. Opposition groups to Chavez and Ortega will see this as a lack of support for them. Chavez and Ortega will see this as a chance to ratchet up their own oppressions.

Meanwhile, Chavez supports narco-terrorists in Columbia, fighting against our ally. It seems counter-intuitive to me to begin a negotiation with an enemy like Chavez by agreeing to his formulations of the problem. When the real negotiations start we will either have to repudiate them or go along with this whole US Imperialism theme. One way makes Obama seem disingenuous and the other leads to caving in.

Chavez gets a big laugh at home by giving Obama Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

It Looks Like a Shower Curtain to Me

Time Magazine, in another hard-hitting essay, drools over Michelle Obama and what she wore on the World Apology Tour 2009 stop in Europe.

Honestly, it looks like she stole the shower curtain from the hotel bathroom and wrapped it around herself. Of course, if she had, Time would drooling over that, too.

I hadn't planned on posting about this, I just came across this photo as I was clicking around the Interweb Tubes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Dig this.
Strong banks will be allowed to repay bail-out funds they received from the US government but only if such a move passes a test to determine whether it is in the national economic interest, a senior administration official has told the Financial Times.
It's all about siezing and maintaining power.

Thank You, Peter Schiff

He's got a good piece over at Seeking Alpha today. Here's the money quote for me.
This brings up an oft-repeated, but oft-forgotten, point: government does not have any money of its own. It only has what it takes from the rest of us. If individuals repay their debts, but their government takes on additional debt, we are all simply swimming against the tide. All forward progress is lost as private debt is replaced by public debt, which must be repaid by private individuals. Whatever gains individuals hope to achieve are negated by the higher taxes or increased inflation necessary to repay their share of a larger national debt.
There is no government debt, only debt the government takes out in your name. You've made no progress at all if you to pay down your $15,000 credit card debt while Obama adds $15,000 of debt onto you through overspending. Remember, when he borrows that money, you borrow that money.

Another Sign of Paper Profits at the Banks

Bloomberg is reporting that durable goods orders probably fell in March.
April 19 (Bloomberg) -- Orders for U.S. durable goods and home sales probably retreated in March after rebounding the previous month, showing any economic recovery will be slow to develop, economists said before reports this week.

Bookings for goods meant to last several years fell 1.5 percent, the fifth drop in six months, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey ahead of a Commerce Department report April 24. Combined sales of new and existing homes likely decreased to a 5.02 million annual rate, down from a 5.06 million pace in February, other figures may show.
It doesn't look like those bank profits from JPM and WFC aren't coming from real world investments.

On the other hand, I'm beginning to understand the operating principle here. The concept is to let the banks make paper profits by borrowing short from the Fed and lending long to the Treasury. The money is all coming out of our pockets, of course, since that's where the interest on the federal debt comes from, but it's propping up the banks and keeping them from bankruptcy.

On yet another hand, you've got the government refusing to let the banks pay back their TARP money even as the banks are begging to do so. The government wants to wield more and more power over the banks, having bought interests in them through TARP.

That might be the eventual end game here for the Democrats. If they allowed the big banks to go under, their assets would be consumed by solvent banks not under the thumb of the government. If the Obama Administration and the Democrats in congress want to continue shoving big banks around, their best choice is to prop up the existing ones they already control and keep them alive.

That's a scary thought. That means this whole rally and the preservation of the banks is just a way for the Federal government to extend its reach into the banking industry.

What is the Source of the Banks' Recent Profits?

Over at The Baseline Scenario, there's a great post delving into the most recent quarterly report of J. P. Morgan (JPM). They reported a profit just like Wells Fargo did and the result was another bounce in the market. JPM is a bank and an investment firm. They make money by lending and investing in companies and then sharing in the profits as those companies expand. There is no expansion going on right now. None. So what happened? How did JPM record a profit?

As far as I can tell from the post, they made money borrowing short term from the Fed at 0.5% and then buying longer term Treasuries that paid about 3%. Here's their chart of fixed income investment results.

Check out that monstrous bounce from last quarter to this quarter where they went from a roughly $1.5B loss to a $4.5B gain. That's a $6B swing in three months on fixed income investments.

Can you think of any event in the real economy that would lead a bank to register a $6B gain in three months? I can't. The bank results that are being released right now are just screaming to me that this is a giant paper scheme to make money. It's all fake money since it's being printed by the Fed. There's nothing real here at all as far as I can tell.

The market bounce is real enough, though. Whatever the source of the cash, the banks are making money and people are diving back into investments. I just can't see that this is going to last. It looks like the gigantic government-created bubble.

When Obama talks about not building our future economy on the same pile of sand, he's talking total nonsense, however. This is nothing by sand all the way down. But then again it's Barack "the days of borrow and spend are over" Obama. Nothing he says has any basis in the real world anyway.

It's a surreal time to be alive, no?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Not Happy With My Planet Earth USB Microscope

It's supposed to be a microscope for your PC. Instead, it struggles with focusing on objects and takes blurry pictures. The picture below is a blade of grass at 300x magnification. Meh.

The thing was on sale for practically nothing at Amazon after Christmas. It was worth a try, I guess.

Apparently, it's the optical chip on the USB-connected eyepiece that is the real culprit. Looking at the blade of grass through the standard eyepiece, not connected to the computer, it gives you an adequate view, but it still really struggles with focusing. I've already got a good microscope so this one is going right into the trash.

I've always wanted a computer-connected microscope so I could do microbe-blogging, but I clearly need to keep looking for one.

Soon, We Will All Have Health Insurance

... but only some of us will have doctors. Here's what one had to say about the situation.
More and more of my fellow doctors are turning away Medicare patients because of the diminished reimbursements and the growing delay in payments. I've had several new Medicare patients come to my office in the last few months with multiple diseases and long lists of medications simply because their longtime provider -- who they liked -- abruptly stopped taking Medicare. One of the top mammographers in New York City works in my office building, but she no longer accepts Medicare and charges patients more than $300 cash for each procedure.
Controlling costs by limiting payments while increasing the number of people covered leads to ... longer and longer waiting lists. Eventually, the government will have to force doctors to see these patients through some kind of patients' rights legislation. After that, the only way doctors will have of controlling their practices will be to quit.

Who is John Galt?

Color me Skeptical

... about the run up in stocks. I just don't see what the underlying, real reason is for the jump. In terms of the real economy, the news is still very gloomy. Housing starts and building permits got killed last month. Shipping is still falling. Commodities aren't going anywhere. Mortgage defaults in San Diego are still rising. It seems like the "green shoots" are all coming from the banks. Wells Fargo claimed to have made a profit in the last quarter, but Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil dissected the report and found mysteries where none should exist.
The most closely watched measure of a bank’s capital these days is a bare-bones metric called tangible common equity. While the term doesn’t have a standardized definition under generally accepted accounting principles, it typically means a company’s shareholder equity, excluding preferred stock and intangible assets, such as goodwill leftover from past acquisitions.

Measured this way, Wells had $13.5 billion of tangible common equity as of Dec. 31, or 1.1 percent of tangible assets. Yet in a March 6 press release, Wells said its year-end tangible common equity was $36 billion. Wells didn’t say how it arrived at that figure. Nor could I figure out from the disclosures in Wells’s annual report how it got a number so high.
Hiding the source of these numbers is against SEC rules. Where did they come up with $23B in 3 months, tripling their common equity? Spooky stuff, if you ask me.

Do Insects Wear Jodhpurs?

These little guys seem to.

These pants are jodhpurs, in case you didn't know.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thank Goodness That's Done! Now We Can Start Spending Again!

Bawney Fwank, (D - Crack Cocaine), is considering legislation that would have the Federal government back California's debt and the debt of other cash-strapped states.
Facing what could be the largest cash flow problem in state history, California officials are asking the federal government to back billions of dollars in short-term loans the state must seek in July.

"We're going to need cash-flow borrowing the likes of which California has never seen, at a time when market and economic forces are stacked against us," said Tom Dresslar, spokesman for state Treasurer Bill Lockyer. "That's a recipe for calamity."
Yay! Is this the lending that the President has been trying to get going again? I sure hope so. It sounds terrific!
A spokesman for the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., confirmed that Lockyer had met with Frank in late March, and that Frank was in the process of drafting legislation designed to aid states and local governments with problems similar to California's.

"There is something in the works," said spokesman Steve Adamske, "and that should be drafted by the end of this month ... there are several ideas being considered."

One idea is that buyers of RANs issued by states and local governments would be able to resell them to the federal government. The funds would come from the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, the $700 billion program that buys assets and equity stakes from financial institutions.

Cheezburger of the Day

Link of the Day

Go here. You'll love it.

Tax Facts Minus One

Here's a great video from Reason TV, but it left out one key statistic, the one that drives all the rest. First, the video.

The key statistic is this. The top 10% of all producers in the country only have 10% of the votes. The bottom 90% have 90% of the votes. The public can vote itself money taken from the top N% ad inifinitum, so long as N is some number below 50%.

Of course, now that the Democrats have discovered crack cocaine in the form of the Fed simply printing money, all of this yakking about taxes is beside the point.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mornings Are Overrated

... well, except for really early in the morning. Our Maximum Leader's approximate morning schedule:

0300 - Explore outside

0400 - Snacks

0500 - Water from the tap

0600 - Back to bed!

Turn out the lights. I'm exhausted!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

We're Right on Schedule to Print $1T

Brad Setser has the early 2009 data on our biggest lender, China, and the news isn't good for those who want to borrow and spend.
(T)he pace of growth in China’s reserves clearly has slowed. Quite dramatically. Reserve growth — counting all of China’s hidden reserves — has gone from nearly $200 billion a quarter (if not a bit more) to less than $50 billion a quarter. Indeed, reserve growth over the last several months, after adjusting for valuation changes, has been smaller than China’s trade surplus.

The flat part at the end of the curve is China's ability to lend money to us. That's going away. All of their money is already loaned out. Unless their reserves start growing a whole bunch and soon, we're going to be printing the money we spend. Once the Democrats see how easy it is to hand out cash that they can just print up, there will be no stopping them.

Err, I guess there's no stopping them now, is there?

Never mind.

Cat Trick

This video was taken and then sent to me by a friend on Twitter. Mugsie is trying to get the last few yummy bits from the bottom of a yogurt container. I loved it!

It's Time for College Tours!

I'm taking my boy up to UC Santa Cruz and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo over the next two days to see what we think of them.

My criteria: Is the school recruited by employers?

His criteria: Is the surfing good?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's Raining Again

I took my daughter and a friend to Sea World today, but it ended up rainy and cold. Well, drizzly and cold, but this is San Diego and if we even get a single drop of rain, we all panic and drive our cars off the road. In any case, it made me think of this song. Enjoy.

Sexism Defended

Last night I finally finished Theodore Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass. It's a treasure trove of anecdotes, none of which I will share here.

How was that for a bit of verbal misdirection?

Many of the anecdotes deal with women getting savagely beaten by their boyfriends. It was a commonplace thing in the hospital where he worked. Dalrymple describes how it became so ordinary. Since men are bigger and stronger, in the absence of protective fathers, cultural restraints or police intervention, they could get what they wanted by force and violence. The lack of cultural restraints had done away with both protective fathers and police intervention. The women were left to their own devices. It never ended well for them.

I used to study kung fu. At my school, we had one female instructor. She was a black sash, something we had very few of at our school - it was very, very hard to advance. I asked her once if she ever sparred with the guys. She said no, she would just get creamed because women don't have the same muscle mass as men. It was said in a very matter-of-fact tone by a woman at the height of martial arts prowess.

One of Dalrymple's themes is that the delusional theories of intellectuals make their way into society and end up doing great harm to people living life at the bottom. Equality of the sexes is one such idea. Every time I've seen modern movies where the heroine is in the middle of combat, proving herself just adept as the men around her, it has bothered me. Now I know why. It's not just total nonsense, it's dangerous nonsense.

By preaching total equality for the sexes, we have created a fantasy world where women do not need men to protect them. In our movies and all through our popular culture, this is a common theme. We now even have women's boxing on TV, something that is utterly repulsive.

Since we've decided that women do not need men to protect them and the sexes are totally equal, men are freed to do as they please. In the underclass, what they please is to use force and violence to satisfy their urges and whims. Biology being what it is, women end up dominated and pregnant.

Party on?

Here, Sir Lancelot defends a lady from a knight who is trying to abduct her. Later, she whips out nunchucks and gives them both a good beat down.

Or maybe not.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Kudos to President Obama!

All of the predicitions from right wing pundits that Barack Obama would try negotiating with the Somali pirates turned out to be wrong. Instead, he OK'd the Navy's request to shoot the pigs. Well done, sir.

Theodore Dalrymple: Life at the Bottom

I've almost finished this book and I'm thoroughly engrossed by it. As it describes his experiences as a doctor working in a hospital in one of the poorest urban areas in England as well as a nearby prison, I'm not sure I could use the phrase enjoying it, but I can at least say it's engrossing. Here's the Amazon link if it seems interesting to you: Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass.

I'll go into greater detail later, but Dalrymple's book has the one thing traditionalists need in order to be able to make their points in today's politically correct world: an underclass that is white. Whereas American sociologists like Charles Murray pour over US data and compare black America with white America because the census statistics make it easy to do so, Dalrymple's experience in Britain is the racial inverse. In his impoverished neighborhoods, the self-destructive behavior is dominated by whites and the immigrant Pakistanis and Indians struggle to maintain some semblance of civilization.

Combining Charles Murray with Theodore Dalrymple gives you a pretty good look at the behaviors and intellectual constructs that have destroyed so much of society independent of race. I highly recommend the book.

Let's Make a Deal With Iran!

Roger Cohen, desperately clinging to an unwarranted job with the soon-to-be-bankrupt NYT, writes that Barack Obama has a chance to make a deal with Iran, unlike Darth Vader Cheney. First, he interviews Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who has failed at restraining nuclear proliferation around the world.
Instead of building on Iran’s Afghan help in 2001, exploring an Iranian “grand bargain” offer in 2003, or backing 2005 European mediation that hinged on the U.S. agreeing to sale of a French nuclear power reactor, “We got Darth Vader and company saying Iran was in the axis of evil and we have to change this regime.”
Iran, vowing to coat Israel in a sea of liquid fire is reasonable while the US, bringing peace, democracy and freedom to Iraq is run by Darth Vader. And thank you, Mr. ElBaradei! Next, Roger launched into a little historical analogy that seems to indicate he needs remedial education classes.
Imagine if Roosevelt in 1942 had said to Stalin, sorry, Joe, we don’t like your Communist ideology so we’re not going to accept your help in crushing the Nazis. I know you’re powerful, but we don’t deal with evil.

That’s a rough equivalent on the stupidity scale of what Bush achieved by consigning Iran’s theocracy to the axis of evil and failing to probe how the country might have helped in two wars and the wider Middle East when the conciliatory Mohammad Khatami was president.
Err, for that analogy to work, Roger, wouldn't Iran actually need to be fighting on our side? You know, like not sending commando teams and weapons into Iraq to kill Americans? I don't know, a nation ruled by a tyrannical, apocalyptic cult might not be the best one suited for joining the nuclear club. Personally, I wouldn't want such a neighbor of mine even owning a slingshot. I don't think we'd have a lot to gain by joining with them in anything. What would a bargain with Iran look like? Something like this, probably.

Hey, they only nuked Tel Aviv! We managed to negotiate with them until they decided not to obliterate Haifa. Until next year.

Arch de Triumph

After successfully patrolling her extensive territory (she walked out the front door, sniffed around for a bit and then walked in through the side door), our Maximum Leader arches in triumph!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Unplugging for the Weekend

This blog has been updated daily since February 11, 2006. Lately, I've taken to posting four times a day. I've thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it and learned quite a bit. After I publish this post, however, I'm unplugging from the Interweb Tubes until Monday. I'm not tired or out of ideas or lacking focus or energy. I just feel like doing it.

Thanks for your continued support, comments and toleration of my rantings. If you need a blog-reading fix, may I suggest some of the ones on my sidebar? They're quite good.

Have a blessed, safe and fun Easter weekend. See you on Monday!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Some Thoughts on Wells Fargo

Today, Wells Fargo (WFC) announced that it had much better than expected profits in the first quarter.
April 9 (Bloomberg) -- Wells Fargo & Co., the second- biggest U.S. home lender, reported a record first-quarter profit that beat the most optimistic Wall Street estimates, sparking a rally in bank shares on speculation that the industry’s slump has ended.

Net income rose 50 percent to about $3 billion from $2 billion a year earlier, the San Francisco-based lender said today in a preliminary earnings report. Profit of about 55 cents a share was more than double the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
It seems counter-intuitive than a bank so thoroughly dependent on the home mortgage business could see a big boost in profits at a time like this. On other blogs there are accusations that WFC was cooking the books. That sort of thing happens all the time as losses are shifted this way or that in time, but I couldn't figure out why they would do it now.

Then I recalled how the CEO of Wells Fargo had been yelling about how restrictive the government was being because they had accepted TARP funds. He claimed that WFC had never needed those funds and that the government was changing the rules after the funds had been accepted. My bet is that WFC is trying to attract bond investors so they can pay back the TARP money and get away from government control as fast as possible.

It's just a thought.

Cheezburger of the Day

Do you Know the way to Kumasi Ghana?

... sung to the tune of Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

I just got an email from Barrister Malami Mulumba that went like this:
I am Barrister Malami Mulumba Obaseki a personal attorney to Mr.A.Sing ,a national of your country, who used to work with Gold Field Development Company here in Kumasi Ghana herein after, shall be referred to me as my client. On the 21st of April 2008,my client, his Families were involved in a ghastly motor accident along Kumasi-Aburi Express road Unfortunately, all occupants of the vehicle lost their lives. Since then I have made several inquiries to locate any of my clients extended relatives this has also proved unsuccessful.
I love the use of the word "ghastly", but I don't know where Kumasi Ghana is. Does anyone? I suspect it borders Shamistan and Fraudtopia.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Link of the Day

... is this one from Mark Steyn. Awesome. Here's a taste.
Europeans often ask, "Why do Americans need those big cars?" The short answer is: Because Americans have kids and Europeans don't. So Italians and Spaniards and Germans (and Japanese) can drive around in things the size of a Chevy Suburban's cupholder because they've got nothing to put in them.
Read the whole thing.

Unleash the Hounds on Michelle Goldberg!

I've been trying my best to reduce the Snarkiness Quotient on this blog, but in this case I need to turn off that concern and have some fun.

Michelle Goldberg, you are hilaaaaaaarious! Every time I think of the article linked on your name, I'll laugh. Truly, you're a benefactor of all mankind. Here are the money quotes from Michelle's brain dump.
In America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, the deeply stupid but very popular Mark Steyn predicted “the demise of European races too self-absorbed to breed.” Demographically, he wrote, “the salient feature of much of the ‘progressive agenda’ – abortion, gay marriage, endlessly deferred adulthood – is that, whatever the charms of any individual item, cumulatively it’s a dead end.”
Followed by this one.
Given this sort of rhetoric, it’s tempting to dismiss concerns about demographic decline as an anti-feminist race panic. The thing is, though, rapidly declining birth rates really are a problem, especially for the sort of generous welfare states that liberals love. I have a whole chapter about this in my new book
So Mark was deeply stupid until she discovered that he was right all along. Now all of a sudden, she's discovering that she can't pay for all of those goodies she wants to hand out because there aren't enough productive people to Michelle and her parasite friends to latch on to and suck dry.

The column is a host for three ideas. First, BUY MY BOOK! IT'S THE GOOD ONE, NOT LIKE THAT DUMMY MARK STEYN! Sorry, dear, I forgot to include the link to your book in my excerpt. Darn the luck!

Second, I AM TOO A LIBERAL! DON'T ATTACK ME BECAUSE I AGREE WITH THAT NEANDERTHAL STEYN! The gratuitous, dimwitted attack on Steyn is there just so Michelle can keep up her progressive bona fides. She doesn't actually support the claim, she just calls him names and wanders off. She's years behind Steyn in recognizing the problem and yet she considers herself superior.

Lastly, we have this: MY IDEAS HAVE FAILED BECAUSE WE HAVEN'T TRIED THEM HARD ENOUGH! Michelle is an imbecile. She is incapable of statistical analysis or any kind of data analysis for that matter. In her column she claims that the traditional family is not the solution. Poor Michelle, she needs to spend more time in prison. A lot more. There she will find out just what the lack of a traditional family does. Despite the fact that her beloved Euroweenies are failing doing just what she recommends and every social pathology strongly correlates with her suggestions, she wants more, more, more.

And Michelle, if prison is too icky for you, why not visit Oakland? I hear it's lovely this time of year.

The Defense Hawks Have it Wrong

The Obama Administration has released its defense budget plans and they're slashing programs right and left. The F-22 is gone, Future Combat Systems is gone and the Navy will drop below 10 carriers. There's a Wall Street Journal editorial today decrying these cuts, but attributing them to the wrong reason.
In the 1990s, defense cuts helped pay for increased domestic spending, and that is true today. Though Mr. Gates said that his decisions were "almost exclusively influenced by factors other than simply finding a way to balance the books," the broad list of program reductions and terminations suggest otherwise. In fact, he tacitly acknowledged as much by saying the budget plan represented "one of those rare chances to match virtue to necessity" -- the "necessity" of course being the administration's decision to reorder the government's spending priorities.
No, no and no. This is all wrong. When you're planning on printing a trillion dollars to pay for your spending, there are no budget cuts necessary. This has nothing to do with the budget at all. Like everything else this administration does, the reasons are in their actions, not their words.

Obama's Mystical Apology Tour in Europe helps point the way on this one. We're disarming the US because he thinks we're evil. Period. If you still don't believe me, recall the immortal words of his pastor of 20 years.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Link of the Day

... is this one from Frank J describing why we still need newspapers and can't do everything with the Internet and laptops. Here's one reason.
While you could enclose a fish in a laptop, it’s an inconvenient way to carry them and it might damage the fish.

Cheezburger of the Day

Cat Ambush

On Sleeping In

I've not been blogging as much lately because I've been sleeping in. I kind of like it. In the past, our Maximum Leader would wake me at 4AM and I'd just go ahead and get up. She's now waking me at 3AM. I get up, go downstairs and open the cat door for her (we're still under raccoon siege) and then go back to sleep. My insomnia seems to have fled. I think it's a combination of good things relaxing me - my upcoming marriage, my kids being happy and the fact that we're just about to buy a nice house for our blended family.

I'll find a way to resume normal blogging in the near future.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Cat, Reclining

Cheezburger of the Day


Our catnip plant has contracted aphids. Horrible creatures, those. Since the primary use for the catnip is to intoxicate our Maximum Leader, we can't use the standard chemical weapons against these evil fiends. Instead, I opted for predatory overkill. I bought a container of live ladybugs, over 1500 of them according to the label, and dumped them on the little catnip plant. I then put a plastic box over the plant, but gave it plenty of open space on the bottom so air could get in, figuring only a few of the ladybugs would escape. I left the predators there for 36 hours. When I took the box off last night, there wasn't much left of the aphids. The ladybugs having done their work, were allowed to fly off as they pleased.

In the process of executing Operation: Kill Those Hideous Aphids With 1500 Ladybugs, I shot some pictures of my valiant army marching across the catnip plant. This one in particular struck me because of the contrasts and richness of the greens. I think it's worth clicking on the image for the bigger version. Enjoy!

Note to Tim Eisele: I linked to your ladybug category page, but I couldn't find anything on aphids. Did I miss it?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Isn't This Extortion?

Dig this post from our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings.

An Obama Administration cabinet meeting outside of a Wells Fargo branch office.

Investment Advice From Jim Jubak

... goes hand-in-hand with my previous post on financing the deficits by printing money. Jim is an investment columnist for MSN and not prone to wild-eyed ranting. Here's an excerpt from his latest column.
In the long run, however, make no mistake: The dollar's days as the world's reserve currency are numbered. And we have no one to blame for the dollar's demise but ourselves ...

U.S. investors should take a clue from the Chinese. There's no reason to flee dollar-denominated assets en masse. But do make sure that your portfolio contains a big dollop of stocks and bonds that represent currencies other than dollars and that are backed by things such as copper mines and molybdenum deposits that will hold their value even if the dollar depreciates and U.S. inflation soars somewhere -- 2011? 2012? -- not too far down the road.
Read the whole thing. And if that investment advice is taken to heart, what do you suppose will happen to US stocks?

The Math Behind Funding the Deficit

... shows we're going to print about $1T more money this year at the Fed. It's a pretty straightforward caluclation.

First, let's assume that the Obama estimate of the deficit is only slightly off and after he and his boys thrash about with a few more spasms of spending, we've only got a deficit of $1800B. Who is going to be the lender that gives us this cash?

First, let's turn to the rest of the world. They love Treasuries, right? Well, they can love them to the point where they sleep with them like a security blanket, but they're not going to be able to buy very many because their reserves aren't growing at all. In fact, it looks like they'll be able to loan us only about $200B.

Next we have Social Security. In the ultimate Ponzi scheme, your Social Security taxes fund the program and then the excess flows into the hands of Congress where it is spent on important things like subsidies to beekeepers and PBS. Social Security normally buys over $100B worth of Treasuries. This year, due to the loss of revenue because of unemployment, the surplus will only be about $18B. Not much help there.

Lastly, let's assume we all become thrifty and we save our money. The US economy generates about $13T. If we go wild and save 5% of our income, we're looking at saving $650B. Let's assume that in a wave of patriotic fervor, we put it all into Treasury bonds. Here's where that leaves us.

Deficit ($1800B)
less foreign central bank investments ($200B)
less Social Security surplus ($18B)
less domestic savings ($650B)
= unfunded portion of the deficit = $932B.

We are going to have to print about a trillion dollars to feed the Federal government. 7% of our economy will come from money that is simply created out of thin air. With a little thought, I'm sure you can see how this is a pretty conservative estimate. A few more bailouts, a cash injection here or there to a struggling company, state and local bonds and stocks getting some of those savings investments and you're looking at an even bigger print run at the Fed.

China, India and Brazil, all strong up-and-comers, have said they would like to see something other than the Dollar used as the currency of the world. China in particular warned the Obama Administration twice, once before the Stimuloid Porkgasm™ was passed and once before he unveiled his mind-boggling budget. They asked him to reign in spending. After he flipped them off with acts of Herculean profligacy, they're moving to stop using Dollars in their international transactions.

The result is best summed up in a comment from econoblogger Gregor.
If an emerging market was printing money to fund inward flow shortfalls, a Sudden Stop would soon follow.

The notion that the USD is the reserve currency of the world is a much less fixed/structural reality than many people realize.
If you don't believe this, ask yourself how many Zimbabwean bonds you bought last year. They were offering pretty attractive rates, you know.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Anssi Vanjoki of Nokia at Web 2.0 Expo

Anssi Vanjoki gave an outstanding keynote talk at Web 2.0 Expo discussing Nokia's vision for the future of mobile computing. First, context and location will dominate future innovations for a while. The integration of GPS, high-performance computing, a lot of memory and crowd-sourced information will change the way we use the mobile phone. In fact, it won't be a mobile phone any more, it will be a mobile computer surrounded by an ever-present Internet.

Second, Nokia is doing some amazing things with display technology that you'll have to see in the video. A description in prose won't suffice. If the technical and business part of this video isn't interesting, fast forward to about 10:00 and watch the promotional video Nokia put together.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Douglas Rushkoff Spoke at Web 2.0 Expo

... because Ward Churchill must have been busy.

Doug gave a keynote speech that lasted 18 minutes and surprisingly did not end with him ingesting mind-altering substances, though the preparations may have included that. He ranted about how the masses could rise up and use the new transparency given them by blogs and Twitter and wikis and so forth to unveil the corrupt monopolistic practices of evil corporations and the utterly irrelevant concept of currency and overthrow the old order.

Two thoughts came to mind. First, one of my favorite companies, Diamond Offshore, manufactures and leases gigantic offshore oil rigs. They look like this.

As much as I love blogging, I can't see any way they're going to overthrow corporations that make complicated, modern, huge pieces of machinery.

My other thought was a suggestion for Doug and the folks in the room who were tweeting their approval.

Our Drug of Choice

... is catnip. I bought this guy as a tiny sprig at Petsmart, brought it home and planted it in the biggest pot I had with the best soil I could buy. It's growing like a weed and delivering the goods.

Now we rock and roll all night and party every day!

No, not a Peronist

I was going to compare Obama to Juan Peron, but that doesn't seem to work. Juan Peron was too successful.
Accelerating emphasis on an economic policy centerpiece dating from the 1920s, Perón had record investments made into Argentina's infrastructure. Investing over US$100 million to modernize the railways (originally built on a myriad of incompatible gauges), he also nationalized a number of small, regional air carriers, forging them into Aerolíneas Argentinas in 1950. The airline, equipped with 36 new DC-3 and DC-4 aircraft, also counted with a new international airport and a 22 km (14 mi) freeway into Buenos Aires. This freeway was followed by one between Rosario and Santa Fe. Perón had mixed success in expanding the country's inadequate electric grid, which grew by only a fourth during his tenure. Argentina's installed hydroelectric capacity leapt from 45 to 350 MW during his first term (to about a fifth of the total public grid), while also enchancing fossil fuel availability, inaugurating Río Turbio (Argentina's only active coal mine) and the 1949 completion of a gas pipeline between Comodoro Rivadavia and Buenos Aires.
Nope, the comparison doesn't work at all. Had Peron been given a choice between endless square miles of windmills and a couple of nuclear power plants, Peron would have built the nukes.

Oh well. Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Feminists Unclear About Irony

I was just riding BART on my way to SFO to go home from Web 2.0 Expo. Sitting in one of the seats was a woman who seemed to be grading college papers that addressed a series of essay questions about feminist issues. Oblivious to everything except her papers, she missed the ongoing scene around her as men rose and gave their seats to women who got on at each stop.

There were at least ten such incidents and Ms. Professor missed them all.

Web 2.0 Expo - A First Take

Since the wireless LAN at the Expo wasn't working until the afternoon, all I've got is my Twitter stream taken on my Blackberry for the early sessions. Rather than struggle blogging that on my laptop, I'll wait until I get home and can use my much more comfortable desktop PC to transfer the info. Until then, here are a few quick takes.

Blogworld is better. Much, much better. The speakers here are talking about Web 2.0 and as such, they are mostly talking about the tools and how they are changing the world. At Blogworld the speakers are talking about what they do - economics, politics, fighting in Iraq, sports - and the narratives are much more compelling. All of these Interweb Tubes things are tools. It's OK to hear about how you dug a foundation, but it's the finished museum of modern art you constructed that's really cool.

The theme here is cloud computing. Your network appliances are now commoditized and the really interesting things are happening in the cloud (read: Internet). Facebook is Facebook whether you get there from a clunky XP machine or a sleek, new iPhone. The integration of cloud applications is where innovation lives.

With the exception of the Microsoft Touch Table. That thing is just unreal. Microsoft is here with a huge booth and a touch table. I'll try and get video of a demo today. I want one.

For me, the highlight of the day was seeing a tweet from our Maximum Leader up on the screen during the Q&A session of the Open Enterprise 2.0 talk.

A little tuxedo cat makes an important point.

Unlike Blogworld where Twitter was used extensively for audience feedback and participation, Web 2.0 Expo has really been hit or miss with it. Mostly miss. It was used in only one of the sessions I went to. The rest all used microphones in the audience for Q&A.

More updates later.

Can the Fed Finance a Recovery?

... and if so, what is a recovery?

There's no question the market is moving higher. We're off the lows of SP500 around 690 and are still going up. I don't see what it's based on. All of the growth is coming from the Fed printing money to cover government pledges and spending. Is that a recovery? At some point in time, don't you actually have to build or do something to earn money and grow? Here is what I'm seeing:

Brad Setser has come out and said that foregin central banks will not be able to finance much of our 2009 debt. That's in the face of the biggest deficit of all time and that's before the new bank bailout plan begins. All of that debt will have to be financed domestically. That's got to end up with the Fed printing money to cover it.

Speaking of which, Jon Markman is highly dubious of the bank bailout plan as are others. It looks like a gigantic transfer of wealth from taxpayers (read: much higher deficits) to bondholders and banks.

The Obama Administration and the Democrats in congress are planning to transfer wealth from profitable companies like Exxon into known losers like solar and wind. Dittos for the health care plan which is just an open-ended stream of money flowing out of ... the Fed? Nowhere is there any sign that the profitable and productive will be taken care of. Growth comes from these people, not the parasites that ride on them.

So just where is this recovery going to come from? The only player who can "grow" is the Fed. Is that really a recovery?

As of right now, I am clearly wrong in my thinking. The markets are telling us that a recovery is on the way (at least for now). I just don't see the mechanism for it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Obama Makes the Right Call on GM

... but I don't think it will last. He's recommending bankruptcy for the big beast.
April 1 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama believes a quick, negotiated bankruptcy is the most likely way for General Motors Corp. to restructure and become a competitive automaker, people familiar with the matter said.
Really, that's the only way to deal with this monstrosity. That's what we should have done with all of these corporations that failed. We should have let them all go under and have had the Fed supply low interest rate loans for survivors to pick up the pieces. None of the banks or auto makers or any of the rest should ever have come under the control of the government except in a very temporary bankruptcy process.

This wisdom isn't going to last, though. In the end, we'll all get stuck with another bill that can't be paid. I can't imagine that a president who thinks he has money for health care is going to put any kind of pressure on the labor unions to reduce their financial load on GM. Instead, my bet is that he will simply transfer GM's obligations to the workers over to the government. That means you and I will cover their debts.

The current crop of politicians, particularly the Democrats, show no understanding of just who pays the bills and how fragile their economic foundation is. Instead, they keep piling obligations on top of the productive, profitable members of society and ignore their needs completely. This is the exact opposite of what Peter Drucker always recommended. He said you should starve the failing parts of your business and feed the growing parts.

While the decision to have GM go through bankruptcy is a good one, there's no sign at all that Obama and the Democrats are capable of taking the correct next steps. They continually go in the anti-Peter Drucker direction. In an argument with Drucker on one side and Obama on the other, who would you choose?

Cat Noir

I liked the way this photo played out - a black and white Maximum Leader with jail cell shadows across her looking like a scene from a 1940s detective movie.

She loves me deeply, this I know. Cats aren't as dramatically expressive as dogs, but you can see her express it in her subtle, feline way. When I'm sitting at the computer, I look up and she's on a chair nearby staring at me. She's been there for a while, just drinking in the sight of me. No sounds, no movement, just intently watching what I'm doing. When I come home at night, she sometimes comes halfway across the street to greet me. When I'm folding laundry in the bedroom, she lays on the carpet nearby. A few words spoken to her elicit a purr, delighted stretching and rolling around on her back.

It's a complex, soft and quiet kind of love.

"A dog, I have always said, is prose; a cat is a poem." - Jean Burden

Heading off to San Francisco

... going to the Web 2.0 Expo to see what there is to see. I'll be blogging from there and sharing my favorite bits. If you have anything you'd like me to find out for you, send me a tweet.