Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tree


From the Droid.


GMAC Infusion of Cash - No Big Deal

Now that we own toads like this, shovelling cash into them will become no big deal. Meanwhile, your local bank or credit union that didn't play fast and loose with it's money and doesn't have mammoth unions supporting it politically received no such infusion.
GMAC Financial Services is close to getting approximately $3.5 billion in additional aid from the U.S. government, on top of $12.5 billion already received since December 2008, according to people familiar with the situation.

The announcement, expected within days, will coincide with GMAC taking additional steps to absorb losses related to its mortgage operations, these people said.
When you can print money and your budget deficit is $1.5T, what difference does another $3,500,000,000 make?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Droid Photography

Our Maximum Leader on the stairs inside our house. The flash didn't go off for this one, there was plenty of ambient light. The image has been cropped and rotated with Photoshop for the Droid. The distance to the subject was about 4'.

Droid Photography

Momma Daisy, cropped and rotated 90 degrees using Adobe's Photoshop for the Droid, a free app. Photoshop for the Droid has only a few features, but it does the basics - color correction, cropping, rotating, etc. The screen resolution on the Droid is plenty good enough to edit photos.

Droid Photography

Our Maximum Leader, snoozing next to me in bed last night, cropped reduced to 25% of the original. The flash was turned off.

Bodie from the Droid

From deactivated Droid to photoblogging post in under 5 minutes.

A Test Post from my Droid

I'm using blogaway to compose this.  It's getting better all the time.  The Droid keyboard isn't conducive to writing,  but it's better than my old Blackberry . I'm finding I like the screen keyboard better than the pull out one, at least for this.


In any case,  this will never take the place of a regular computer for longer blog posts.

Droid Photography

A platter of sushi, reduced by 25% from the original.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Major League Pessimism

... comes from James Kunstler, via Paul Kedrosky. Dig this:
I don't remember any period in my own longish life, even the Vietnam uproar, when the collective sense of purpose, intent, and self-confidence was so muddled in this country, so detached from reality.
That's a good start. Let's see where it goes.
How dysfunctional is our nation? These days, we lie to ourselves perhaps as badly the Soviets did, and in a worse way, because where information is concerned we really are a freer people than they were, so our failure is far less excusable, far more disgraceful.
Ouch! Is it as bad as all that?
2009 was the Year of the Zombie. The system for capital formation and allocation basically died but there was no funeral. A great national voodoo spell has kept the banks and related entities like Fannie Mae and the dead insurance giant AIG lurching around the graveyard with arms outstretched and yellowed eyes bugged out, howling for fresh infusions of blood... er, bailout cash, which is delivered in truckloads by the Federal Reserve, which is itself a zombie in the sense that it is probably insolvent. The government and the banks (including the Fed) have been playing very complicated games with each other, and the public, trying to pretend that they can all still function, shifting and shuffling losses, cooking their books, hiding losses, and doing everything possible to detach the relation of "money" to the reality of productive activity.
Uh oh. I'm getting a bad feeling about this. How does it end?
The net result will be populations with less income, arguably impoverished, suffering, and perhaps very angry about it. Welcome to reality. Will Washington bail the states out, too? I wouldn't be surprised to see them pretend to do so, but not without immense collateral damage in everybody's legitimacy and surely an increase in US treasury interest rates.
It gets worse. Violence and doom and economic chaos as far as the eye can see! Oh, please. Surely it can't be as bad as all that, can it? Err, how about this from the WSJ:
After two years of crashing banking systems and economic recession, the euro zone enters 2010 with a full-blown debt crisis.

The European Commission warns that public finances in half of the 16 euro-zone nations are at high risk of becoming unsustainable. Governments will spend the next year and beyond balancing the urgent need to fix public-sector debt and deficits -- without imperiling what appears to be a feeble economic recovery. Even the staunchest optimists in Brussels and Frankfurt see a rocky process, with rating firms poised for more downgrades and bond markets meting out daily judgment over how governments are doing.
Gulp.

In all of this, however, the prognosticators don't see human society as a living organism - one that adapts and changes to the world around it. Yes, the world around it is about to get smacked upside the head with a 2x4 of monstrous debts, but I would bet that we'll somehow muddle through. We almost always do.

Budget Deficits and Alternative Energy

Today, I stopped by the blog of my all-time favorite financial guru, Jim Jubak (thanks, Dad!) and found this post.
Just what solar energy companies don’t need—what could be an emerging risk that the existing national electricity grid isn’t up to the task of getting solar-generated electricity to consumers.

First Solar’s (FSLR) December 22 cancellation of plans to build a 150-megawatt solar power plant in the high desert of Colorado points in that direction. In the company’s explanation for withdrawing its application to build the plant the company noted that it is reviewing all of its projects with an eye to factors like transmission capacity.

Could tranmission capacity–or the lack thereof–be emerging as the next bitg problem facing solar energy companies?
This comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with Steven den Beste's posts on the topic of alternative energy sources. Here's a good summary of his thoughts.
In order for "alternate energy" to become feasible, it has to satisfy all of the following criteria:

1. It has to be huge (in terms of both energy and power)
2. It has to be reliable (not intermittent or unschedulable)
3. It has to be concentrated (not diffuse)
4. It has to be possible to utilize it efficiently
5. The capital investment and operating cost to utilize it has to be comparable to existing energy sources (per gigawatt, and per terajoule).

If it fails to satisfy any of those, then it can't scale enough to make any difference. Solar power fails #3, and currently it also fails #5.
The issue with concentration is the one mentioned by Jim Jubak. In order to make use of solar power, you need to build a massive web of transmission lines across a huge amount of land since the power generation is so diffuse. That'a a cost that would have to be paid by the government or imposed by the government on the utilities by law.

On top of that cost, solar power is heavily subsidized by the government. I was building a house about 7 years back and a salesman was trying to get me to buy solar power panels for the roof. The tax breaks and incentives were staggering. If I remember correctly, it was about half the cost of installation. That didn't include all the government subsidies for development and construction of the products. That was invisible to the consumer.

The size of the subsidies is substantial. Dig this bit from the LA Times.
The state's $3.3-billion solar subsidy program has become so popular that the state utilities are approaching the legal limit for how much power they can buy from customers.
$3.3B is a lot of money for a state drowning in debt and that's just one subsidy at the state level. The Federal government has gobs more.

So what's going to happen now that the budget deficits are starting to really bite? California is another $20B+ in the hole this year. Arizona has a similarly huge budget problem. I would think that in the absence of these subsidies, alternative energy is not going to be financially attractive at all.

Invest now, our future is bright!

Monday, December 28, 2009

What a Day for an Instalanche!

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but today I got my second Instalanche. Yay! My hit count has been properly goosed and I've got a big grin on my face.

Unfortunately, this morning was not my typical blogging morning, so visitors don't have much to see. Last night, Bodie the Wonder Dog was up all night hearing phantom noises and leaping out of bed to run downstairs and check them out. Our Maximum Leader slept right next to me until around 3 when she informed me she needed to be let outside and fed. Around 4:30 she was back at the bedroom door, scratching to be let in so she could sleep next to me again. It was loads of fun, but not good for sleep.

I ended up sleeping in and didn't do my normal morning blog routine, so I didn't post anything other than a link. "What could go wrong with that?" I thought. WHAMMO! Instalanche! So here I am with all kinds of visitors coming in to the blog and me with nothing to offer them. It's like inviting lots of people over and serving them warm Cokes and old crackers and cheese.

My big chance at blogging fortune and fame blown. Well, maybe not fortune. :-)

So Beautiful You Wonder If It's Been Photoshopped

Check it out here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reality Is Walking Up To The Front Door

Dig this tidbit showing that our three biggest lenders have stopped lending for now.
Data showed that China, the largest holder of U.S. Treasury securities, maintained its holdings at 798.9 billion dollars in October.

Japan, the second-largest holder of Treasury debt, decreased its holdings to 746.5 billion dollars in October from 751.5 billion dollars a month ago.

Next on the list, Britain decreased its holdings to 230.7 billion dollars from 249.5 billion dollars.
Now check out this bit of info.
The Treasury auctions will start Monday with $44 billion of two-year notes, followed by $42 billion of five-year notes on Tuesday and $32 billion of seven-year paper scheduled for Wednesday.

The volume matches records set in November, when demand was strong and sufficient to lower the government's cost of borrowing in each case.

The success of this next batch is less assured given the timing and longstanding concerns that the government's record-breaking debt issuance—which targets around $1.4 trillion in the fiscal year ending in September—is spoiling the appeal of U.S. assets.
Political arguments will continue in the current vein until reality intrudes.

Selling to the Government

As the State continues to grow under Obama (and as it did, albeit much, much more slowly under Bush), businesses that used to market to us will market increasingly to the government instead.
Major health insurers, which decided early to support key aspects of President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul, are now picking through the Senate's version of the legislation and finding cause for concern.

Big insurers are still hoping to influence some language in the legislation before Congress sends it to the president. But one thing is clear: The initiative is poised to change their industry more than any other sector of the U.S. health-care system, with huge potential to disrupt profitability.
Wouldn't it be really cool if shoe stores went this way? Or maybe auto companies? Like this.

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

Dig this bit of irony from today's San Diego Union.
Once a week, a group of Somali Bantu refugees drives 45 miles from the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego to this remote agricultural valley in North County.

Their mission is to learn local growing techniques and start an organic farming business that can help them support their families.
Someone is teaching Somalis organic farming?!? What kind of odd parallel universe is this? What do you think they did in Somalia, drive their John Deere tractors over to the local Dow fertilizer plant and then harvest the crops with robotic combines and threshers? They came from Somalia, for heaven's sake! All they have is organic farming.

Well, that and lots of weapons.

A spacious 4BR ranch house in Somalia.

Despite the irony, it really is a lovely story.

On Newspapers and Spectator Sports

I don't read newspapers very often. Yesterday morning, I was sitting in our family room, having coffee with my wife* and was reading the San Diego Union. The news story on the front page had something to do with some government budgetary issue. The piece was written like it was a sporting event. There were a few facts and then there were reactions from Democrats and Republicans as if their contests were what mattered. Nowhere in the story did it talk about what the reader was going to face as a consequence of the decisions being made by the government. We had as much to do with what was going on as fans at a football game.

As I read the piece, my reaction to the author's point of view seemed odd until I realized what was going on. I was used to reading blogs like Instapundit and Mish where the blog is focused on what the news means to me. Mish and the Puppy Blender succeed because what they write is aimed at me as a participant instead of me as a spectator. I'm not nearly as concerned with what Harry Reid has to say so much as I am with what Treasury auctions are going to do.

By the way, here are a few facts for you. The Federal deficit will be higher in 2010 than it was in 2009 - about $1.5T. The Chinese have less of a surplus this year than they did last year and have already told us that their purchases of Treasuries will slow down. Last year, the Treasury auctions were greased by the Fed printing $1.1T of money backed by absolutely nothing that was then used to buy $300B of Treasuries and lots of other government debt besides. Mr. Reporter probably doesn't know this or know what it means.

I'm going back to reading my blogs.

* - marrying her was the best thing I ever did. We had a fantastic Christmas.

Update: Instalanche! Thanks, Glenn. I'd suggest that people click around the site, but I'm not sure that would help much. This is a wacky, eclectic blog and I write about whatever comes to mind. In any case, thanks for visiting, all of you. You've made my day. Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pulling off a Bank Heist

This one's for all of you out there who are tired of seeing those banker dudes get monster bonuses and big-time bailouts from all of us taxpayers*.

The house across the street from us is owned by a bank. No one lives there right now. We ran out of space in our trash cans this week, so yesterday I snuck over there and wheeled out their empty trash can to the street to get picked up today. I then filled it with our excess trash! We were stickin' it to The Man, I tells ya! The bank won't know what hit it. By the time those fatcat bloodsuckers get around to checking out their property, the can will be back in its original place. The perfect crime!

Soon to be a major motion picture!

* - Well, actually, just some of us are taxpayers. Over 40% of the population pays no taxes at all, so technically, they're all a bunch of parasites whining about the banks being even bigger parasites.

What Was Your Favorite Gift?

Mine was a Droid. I love it already and have yet to install the blogging app for it.

Our Maximum Leader liked it, too!

I also got Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Way cool! Moar fud blogging on teh way!

How about you? What was your favorite gift to get?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Here's a Christmas present from all of us at The Scratching Post to all of you. My favorite scene from the Marx Brothers' The Cocoanuts. If watching this doesn't make you merry, check your pulse.


I hope you and yours have a happy and blessed day. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Climate4You

An article from The Nation by Alexander Cockburn railing against the concept of man-made global warming turned me on to climate4you.com. Cockburn concludes with this paragraph that sums up my feelings quite nicely.
The battles in Nicaea in 325 were faith based, with no relation to science or reason. So were the premises of the Copenhagen summit, that the planet faces catastrophic warming caused by manmade CO2 buildup, and that human intervention - geoengineering - could avert the coming disaster. Properly speaking, it's a farce. In terms of distraction from cleaning up the pollutants that are actually killing people, it's a terrible tragedy.
See also: China, massive pollution of.

Climate4you is a terrific site, loaded with all kinds of accessible data and graphs. Here's my favorite so far.


This one is pretty damning. Click on it for a better version of the image. The correlation between the lines is marginal at best. In any case, the site is worth poking around in for a while. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It Takes 9 Months to Produce a Baby

... and sometimes just about as long to produce a blog post.

About 9 months ago, good friend Kelly the Little Black Dog posted this set of reference links indicating that abstinence programs are ineffective in reducing teen pregnancies. I responded by claiming that the issue was more the popular culture than it was the education method. That is, abstinence isn't going to work if it's taught 2 hours a week and the rest of the time the kids are bombarded with messages about sex being wonderful no matter when or how or with whom.

Today, while noodling about for statistics on weekly church attendance and social pathologies, I came across this gem. It's an image of a document, so I can't cut and paste, but the gist of it is this.

Regular church attendance seems to bifurcate the population. Either you internalize the message and stay chaste or you become sanctimonious and go hog wild and have as much sex with as many people as you can.

I'm pressed for time right now, but this falls in line with a different study I read about recently, but whose link I don't have time to locate - that people who recycled and lived a hyper-green lifestyle were more likely to cheat and steal. What I think is going on is that you feel like you've banked some good karma and you can spend it on other things. You feel righteous and superior to your fellow humans and don't see a problem rewarding yourself for being such a swell person.

More later, maybe.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Huh?

I just got a phone call. On the other end, a slightly confused young man's voice informed me that he had figured out the problem and he thought he had gotten it fixed. After I told him that this was probably a wrong number, he hung up.

Help a poor rodent out here. What do you think the problem was? What was his fix?

Score One for Diane Feinstein!

Our local newspaper is reporting that Senator Feinstein is trying to put huge ... tracts of land ... off-limits to development. The land is out in the desert and was slated for all kinds of preposterous alternative energy projects.
BARSTOW, Calif. — California Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation Monday that would prohibit development on about 1 million acres of Southern California desert but allow construction of solar and wind farms on "suitable" desert land outside the protected area.
The article linked above is much more generous to the Senator than the one in print today. The print one discusses a whole slew of alternative energy projects that will get the axe because of this. Senator Feinstein, the print article claims, is following the wishes of an independent conservation group that bought the land from private owners with the intent of preserving it as is. When I used to donate to conservation groups, this was the kind of thing I gave money to do.

That's the way conservation should be. The private owners were properly compensated for their land instead of having it stolen through regulation and the courts. Holding it off limits to development is much better than paving the place so they can install enough windmills and solar panels to light 15 nightlights and run a dishwasher. If we want clean energy in abundance, we ought to be building nukes.

Meanwhile, right-wing blogs are sneering at the Senator for not walking the Global Warming walk. Meh.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Palm Tree Sunrise

Taken from my front yard this morning. It might be worth a click.

Surreal

I have to admit that I haven't been following the health care debate much at all. I think that the whole welfare state will meet up with reality in the near future. For example, California's continuing budget crisis is impossible to solve without cuts to handouts. In this environment, we're enacting more entitlement legislation. Whatever.

Having registered that note of indifference, there are some strikingly surreal things afoot. First, Nebraska won't have to pay their portion of the bill.
Nebraskans will get new Medicaid mandates covered by the federal government, most other states will sink under the weight of new unfunded mandates.
Second, hidden in this monstrosity are gems like this.
The health reform Christmas gifts for Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska are well known. But somewhere out there is another good little legislator who got funding for a hospital in their state.

But which senator? Which hospital? It is a health care whodunit.

Somewhere out there in the United States is a “Health Care Facility” “at a public research university in the United States that contains a State’s sole public academic medical and dental school.”

We know this because in the bill Democrats released Saturday morning is a $100,000,000 check for that hospital (presumably there is only one).
After over a year of listening to the big financial companies get pilloried for being, well, big financial companies, we now have a bill which will funnel hundreds of billions of dollars into them while doctors get screwed.
I’m a primary care doctor in YOUR state (Nebraska), and you sold me out. I didn’t slog through 4 years of college and 4 years of medical school and 3 years of residency just to have you hand my career and my patient/doctor relationships over to government lifers ...

Thank you, Ben, for forcing doctors like me to earn less than the repairmen who fix our appliances. Case in point: We recently had our dishwasher fixed. The repairman who came to our house charged $65 just to come and ‘diagnose’ the problem, then charged another $180 to ‘fix’ the problem. You and your fellow lawmakers have fixed MY going rate (Medicare) at $35 per-visit. Thank you for securing such a ‘lucrative’ rate for me! Thank you so much for making me–someone with 8 years of education!–make less than a mechanic or appliance repair technichian.
But those little tidbits are not what make it surreal. This image is what pushes it over the top.

President Obama and Premier Wen Jiabao of China at Copenhagen.
I uploaded a big version, so it's worth a click to get the full effect.

The money being blown both here and as burnt offerings to the Cult of Global Warming is borrowed. It's borrowed from entities who do not play surreal games with finances. That image tells so very many stories, some of which were noted by commenters at Ann Althouse's blog. Here are my two favorites.

From Quilly Mammoth:
In the car biz we would observe salesmen's posture to get an idea how the deal was going. If we saw this we would send in a floor manager. Obama is trying very hard to sell a position that Wen is not buying. He's no longer looking at the customer but is immersed in his pitch.
From Bruce:
Looking at the large version, it seems Wen is indignant and disgusted, but also having some sort of revelation, as if he's seeing something new (it's not good). And of course he's carefully trying to hide all this by portraying himself as in control.

I view this as a highly trained, very talented public official looking down at an undisciplined commoner who's making a long list of obvious mistakes and probably unintended insults. Eegads, he thinks: China talks about being run by ordinary people, but that place really is.
The surreal nature of all of this is that the decisions being made by the progressives are based on a fantasy view of the world while the money they borrow is being lent by very, very pragmatic entities. It's like watching adult con men take money from naive trust-fund kids who don't even know they're being taken. Meanwhile, we're jumping up and down, unsuccessfully trying to warn them.

Very surreal. Very much like a dream.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Home Depot Should Stock Beer

... because then guys wouldn't have to shop anywhere else.

Aisle 6. Next to the power tools.

Cheezburger of the Day

Location, Location, Location

When we moved into this house, I parked my big, blogging desktop machine out in the garage. That's where we thought our Maximum Leader was going to have to live to prevent my new wife from suffering from allergy attacks. Now, just a few months later, our Maximum Leader sleeps right next to me every night and has figured out how to use the doggy door to get in any time she wants. My wife's allergic reactions have been mild if not non-existant.

That leaves my blogging tools out in the garage and me elsewhere most of the time. Photoblogging has become difficult because both the camera and the photo editing software is now out of the way. Spontaneous shots have become unspontaneous and posting photos of our Maximum Leader, Momma Daisy or sunrises/sunsets a thing of the past.

I think it's time to rearrange some furniture.

So where do you do your blogging or blog-surfing?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hiring the Baker Street Irregulars

At lunch after yesterday's soccer practice, my daughter realized that she had left her grandmother's ring somewhere on the pitch*. The pitch being her school's grassy playground, we sped back to look for it. There were still some younger children at the school, waiting for their parents and playing on the field as a part of our after-school program. Recalling the techniques of the great Sherlock Holmes, I enlisted a group of them to help look for the ring with the promise of a dollar for the one who found it.
At this moment there was a loud ring at the bell, and I could hear Mrs. Hudson, our landlady, raising her voice in a wail of expostulation and dismay.

"By heavens, Holmes," I said, half rising, "I believe that they are really after us."

"No, it's not quite so bad as that. It is the unofficial force—the Baker Street irregulars."

As he spoke, there came a swift pattering of naked feet upon the stairs, a clatter of high voices, and in rushed a dozen dirty and ragged little street Arabs. There was some show of discipline among them, despite their tumultuous entry, for they instantly drew up in line and stood facing us with expectant faces. One of their number, taller and older than the others, stood forward with an air of lounging superiority which was very funny in such a disreputable little scarecrow.
We found the ring in record time and I ended up paying each of the little street Arabs a dollar. One tyke, a lad of no more than 7, his face smeared with whatever he had been lunching upon, was particularly keen on where he might find some treats to purchase. I left them in the care of the counselor who assured them that she could turn up something quite delicious while my daughter and I left with a decided air of triumph.

* - The pitch is the soccer field. We soccer experts often use terms like that.

Another Victory for the One!

His speech at Copenhagen has cooled the world and soon the seas will recede!


Meanwhile, the profit-driven gougers of the people have been thwarted by The One as well.
Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Eurostar Group Ltd., operator of high-speed trains between London, Paris and Brussels, canceled all services today due to severe weather conditions in France.

“We are not going to be running any services today because of the continuing weather conditions in northern France,” Eurostar spokeswoman Emelle Mouhaddib said ...

“It’s absolutely unprecedented,” he said. “The knock- on effect on passenger shuttle services and freight shuttle services is huge.”

A Kent Police statement said “Operation Stack” has been implemented on the M20, where 2,300 trucks have been parked on the motorway ...

As much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow fell in southeast England yesterday and temperatures dropped to as low as minus-2 Celsius (24 Fahrenheit) overnight, according to the U.K. Metrological Office’s Web site.
Either that or the whole thing is just a load of manure designed to enrich hucksters like billionare Gore, ensure a steady stream of mammoth research grants to frauds in the Universities and to give the proto-fascists in the EPA a chance to control the economy.

Nahhhhh. It was a freakin' miracle.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Soccer Coaches

I'm coaching my daughter's 7th grade Catholic school girl's soccer team this year. I had decided we would use the 4-4-2 formation and I wanted to teach them the basics of the defense today. We did it for a little while and then many of the girls got hungry and stopped to eat. In all fairness, it was a half day and we were practicing in place of lunch.

When they came back from that, I tossed the rest of the practice plan and just had them play a 7-on-7 game for the rest of the time. They loved it. Everyone had a great time. Nothing was learned, but it wasn't a dreadful experience.

I've decided to forgo trying to teach them anything other than the most basic of plans for the 4-4-2 and instead will let them play scrimmages. It's all about gossiping and hanging out together anyway. We've got scads of really good club players, so it looks like we'll do well despite the lack of discipline.

The Wait Is Over!

Victor Davis Hanson posits this little bit of insight.
We are now in a great waiting game, as regional hegemons, wishing to redraw the existing landscape — whether China, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, etc. — are just waiting to see who’s going to be the first to try Obama — and whether Obama really will be as tenuous as they expect. If he slips once, it will be 1979 redux, when we saw the rise of radical Islam, the Iranian hostage mess, the communist inroads in Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, etc.
Well, wait no more! Iran's made the first move.
Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Iranian forces yesterday entered Iraqi territory at dawn, and occupied well number 4 in the East Maysan oil field, Border Guard General Zafer Nazmi said.

The Iranian forces positioned tanks around the well, which is in the al-Fakah region, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Baghdad. The two neighbors have disputed the border of southeast Iraq for decades.

“They positioned tanks around it and dug trenches,” General Nazmi said by phone from Basra. “They are still there, they raised the flag.”
I recommend blaming Bush followed by an apology. If things get really serious, we should break out the big guns.

Take that, you!

Left Unspoken in Copenhagen

... is the fact that Obama is promising China's money to everyone.

Last year the deficit was $1.4T. This year, it's supposed to be $1.5T. Much of this borrowed money comes from China. When Obama promises subsidies to other nations, he's not committing his own money, he's committing someone else's.
Obama has put $100 billion in climate aid for developing nations on the table in Copenhagen.
Typically, one makes loans to another entity with the intention of being paid back. This is like loaning someone money so they can go hand it out to the homeless junkies downtown. If I were Wen, I'd be pretty ticked off, too.
Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s first closed-door meeting with world leaders in Copenhagen to forge an agreement to slow climate change had a notable absentee: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
The article referenced above says China is refusing to be monitored for compliance to the CO2 limits set in Copenhagen, but I would bet that a great deal of the irritation comes from a creeping sense of dread that all those dollars loaned to the US are going up in smoke.

Meanwhile, our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings have more.
President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.

When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.
The time for talk is over. The time for action is now! Negotiations and voting don't apply during crises like these. It's time the EPA stepped in and did what Congress refuses to do.

There's a word for this.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Only Against The Law If You Get Caught

... and even then, only if someone enforces it.

Dig this.
The latest calculation of the National Debt as posted by the Treasury Department has - at least numerically - exceeded the statutory Debt Limit approved by Congress last February as part of the Recovery Act stimulus bill.

The ceiling was set at $12.104 trillion dollars. The latest posting by Treasury shows the National Debt at nearly $12.135 trillion.

A senior Treasury official told CBS News that the department has some "extraordinary accounting tools" it can use to give the government breathing room in the range of $150-billion when the Debt exceeds the Debt Ceiling.

Were it not for those "tools," the U.S. Government would not have the statutory authority to borrow any more money. It might block issuance of Social Security checks and require a shutdown of some parts of the federal government.
So what? Who's going to do what, exactly, if they just blow off the law? Sort of the way they blew off bankruptcy laws when they stiffed the secured bondholders of GM and Chrysler.

In all seriousness, what happens when there's no one to enforce the laws and the parties involved realize it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

What Happens When You Run Out Of "Adjustments"?

After I put up this post with this chart:

The black line is the adjustment factor used to manufacture warming from data that doesn't show it.

I began to wonder what would happen when they ran out of "adjustments" to make? That is, you can't "adjust" the data endlessly. While you might be able to make a case for one or two jolts to the data to show an increase, if you did this year after year in a short while you'd have to explain why you thought the thermometer in Boise, Idaho was off by 13.4 degrees. The cumulative adjustments would quickly become ludicrous and the whole charade would be over.

In the last 10 years, even the global warming fanatics have had to admit there has been global cooling. Is that due to them running out of "adjustments" to the data?

Meanwhile, Lord Monkton has done a pretty thorough job going through the various frauds and crooks involved in this shakedown. The video's a bit long, but I thought it was worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Odd Thought

Sometimes eccentric people bequeath their fortunes to their pets. I wonder if you could leave your money to a pool of single-celled algae. What do you suppose the court would do? They'd have to appoint a caretaker to the pool. Would they find a local biologist from a university to oversee the pool? Hmmm.

All through my life, they were the only ones I could trust.

Image used without permission from The Microbial World.

Cheezburger of the Day

Irony

My son has a friend who has spent a lot of time becoming a very good guitarist. He's big into the music scene and the related popular culture. Unfortunately, he can't market the skills he spent years honing because his generation steals their music rather than buying it. At least in this respect, popular culture and the moral relativism it espouses is cannibalistic.

Do your own thing, baby. There are no rules any more.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Counting Polies

Well, our experiment with Polytopia has run its course. Quick summary: my daughter did a science fair experiment examining which of four habitats roly polies would like the best: Dry potting soil, moist potting soil, moist local canyon dirt or moist wood chips and leaves. We released 200 polies into the habitat about two weeks ago and yesterday she counted the ones she could find.

As an aside, it's rained like crazy here in San Diego for the last week and although the Polytburo did it's best to put a tarpolyn over Polytopia, everything ended up wet. Having said that, the dry potting soil had stayed dry for a few days after the release of the polies and we hypothesize that the polies crawled around for only a few hours before curling up and going dormant due to the cold weather.

Polytopia's protective shield.

In the end, the count was quite conclusive. She found 50 of the original 200, distributed thusly:
  1. Woodchips: 38
  2. Moist canyon soil: 10
  3. Moist potting soil: 1
  4. Dry potting soil: 1
It looks like the polies headed straight for cover, burrowed in and snoozed. I wasn't too surprised that she only found 50 of them - most of our population were tiny youngsters and given the muddy soil conditions and the visual clutter of the woodchips and leaves, it was pretty hard to find them.

As for the sub-preference of the canyon soil over the potting soil, I think that they chose it because of the decaying wood in the canyon soil. We collected that dirt in an area where workers had been cutting down scrub brush for fire prevention and there was plenty of finely ground wood mixed in with the soil.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Sexual Predator Is Our Safe Schools Czar

Our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings turned us on to Kevin Jennings, Barack Obama's Safe Schools Czar. Kevin Jennings is a predator and monster.
Discuss or teach sexual fetish techniques to a 14 yr. old who isn’t related to you and you will get yourself some jail time and a flag on your home on the sex offender map. Approve the same as workshop curriculum when your name is Kevin Jennings and you get named as the Safe Schools Czar.
There's a lot to this story and much of it is not safe for work. Hot Air has also been covering it as has Gateway Pundit.

Kevin Jennings is not a coincidence. That is, he and the other racists and crazies in the Obama Administration are not some kind of aberration, but instead are the natural offshoot of electing a naive, academic, morally vapid egomaniac as president. The Kevin Jennings story is worse than I could have imagined.

In other news, the EPA has now decided it can regulate the air you exhale. The government now controls the mortgage industry, most of the domestic automotive industry, many of the large banks, is trying to take over all of health care and has just decided it can regulate CO2 as a pollutant.

Words fail me.

H/T: B-Daddy.

Update: My daughter is about the age that Kevin Jennings and his pack of slime were targeting with their sexual fetishes and perversions. The mental image of Kevin teaching her and her soccer teammates about the acts described in the links above makes me sick.

Update 2: Here's a better list of posts from Gateway Pundit. It's like delving into Dante's Inferno.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Your First Clue Should Have Been That He Had Written Two Autobiographies By Age 45

Rich Lowry and Victor Davis Hanson are still pulling apart President Obama's speeches and finding messianic self-references everywhere. Rich:
In Oslo, his Nobel speech contained an admirable vein of realism. But he still dazzled with the obvious - war has been endemic to human history. He awed with the unconsciously egomaniacal - "I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war." (Did he really think that disclaimer necessary?) ...

Obama seems to believe he's the first person to stumble on the concept of the "interconnected world." He often speaks in a professorial manner that treats his listeners as if they are all eager to be lectured in Obama 101, managing to sound thoughtful without any true depth or wisdom.
Victor:
The president said some good things, but unfortunately, his long academic lecture on the nature of war itself had all the characteristics of what we have come to accept from an Obama sermon:

1) Verbosity (4,000 words plus!) and extraneousness (he finally even referenced the world’s farmers); 2) I/me exhaustion (34 times) and the messianic cult of personality; ... 6) reference to his own unique personal story; 7) good-war/bad-war theory of Afghanistan and Iraq; 8) the hopey-changy rhetorical flourish.

Is there a Microsoft program somewhere that writes these things out?
No, there's no software that produces this. Just a guy and his coterie for whom the history of the human race begins on August 4, 1961.

Could You Run a Smelter with Renewable Energy?

This morning I was doing my normal surfing of the Interweb Tubes and I came across lots of posts about global warming. I started to wonder about renewable energy and how you might use it to power things that are mammoth energy hogs like smelters. I did only the most casual of research and came across these two bits of information.

In Iceland, Rio Tinto, an Australian metals company, is setting up a new aluminum smelting plant at HelguvĂ­k. The smelter will require about 1,000 MW to run. In all of California, since 1998 the government has helped develop only 489 MW of renewable power sources.

In other words, a single aluminum smelter would devour the output of twice as many renewable energy sources as have been installed in the last 10 years under the New Renewables program.

This promotional video for Rio Tinto gives you an idea of the scale of the mining,shipping and smelting operations required to produce aluminum.

Again, I haven't done any more digging than this, but I would bet that those government figures on energy production are goosed to make it look better for them. They're probably aggregate peak power numbers which would mean that you might need three to four times as much to run the smelter reliably. If the wind dies down or it's cloudy or, God forbid, both happen at the same time (fog!) then you'd be sitting around with an idle smelter, paying labor costs on workers who were playing cards.

Green jobs? Not so much.

Nope.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Got a Threatening Letter from the ACLU

... because they thought I was trying to enact a polys state.

What should I do?

Cheezburger of the Day

Good News for our Soccer Team

Our superstar forward has improved since last year. She's now been named to some kind of all-California team. I can't wait to see her play against slightly out-of-shape rec-level defenses.

Our star forward at work.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Coaching Soccer

My daughter's rec-level school soccer season is about to start and I'm the head coach.

Deer, meet headlights.

This year I'm going to try to use the Italian flat 4-4-2 system where the outside midfielders will drive the ball up the sidelines and pass it to the ...

Oh, who am I kidding? This year will feature a pack of 7th grade girls gossiping and goofing off whether we're at the games or futilely attempting to practice. This same team won the championship last year because our pack of gossiping goofs had more club-level players than other schools' packs of gossiping goofs. I'm hoping to be similarly saved embarassment through individual heroics.

Volker Lays the Wood to the Bankers

I loved this article. Paul Volker spoke to a conference of bankers the other day ...
As bankers demanded that new regulation should not stifle innovation, a clearly irritated Mr Volcker said that the biggest innovation in the industry over the past 20 years had been the cash machine. He went on to attack the rise of complex products such as credit default swaps (CDS).

“I wish someone would give me one shred of neutral evidence that financial innovation has led to economic growth — one shred of evidence,” said Mr Volcker, who ran the Fed from 1979 to 1987 and is now chairman of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Of course, the same could be said for massive deficits and stimulus packages. It's almost like living within your means and simple loans made with basic return-on-investment caluclations are the best ways to economic growth.

Heresy!

The Black Line Is the Adjustment Factor

Given the way the raw data was "adjusted", any dataset would show growth over time.


More here. It's definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Fiscally Surreal

... and surreal on a few other levels as well.

Yesterday I visited our local public middle school. I posted about their plush front offices and huge staff. The more I think about it, the more surreal it becomes. In a nation where we're borrowing more than a trillion dollars a year and in a state where the budget deficits are supposed to be around $20B again this year, the sight of a state-of-the-art office full of about 20 government employees doing the job that two people in a run-down office do at my daughter's school is beyond weird.

It's as if we're watching Edgar Allen Poe's The Masque of the Red Death be played out before us. The revelers are all having fun in their offices, gossiping and discussing lunch plans and attending meetings in their executive conference rooms while outside the financial Red Death sweeps across the land. (California's unemployment rate is above 12% last time I checked.) They ignore what's happening and the party goes on.

It goes on until ...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Public School

Had a meeting today with some testing folks at our local public middle school. Great Caesar's Ghost, they had at least 4 times the staff as our Catholic school and a front office worthy of Google. And the end result? Worse results.

I think they need more funding.

Monday, December 07, 2009

How the Warmist Inquisition Differs from the Spanish Inquisition

In short, there is no underlying moral code upon which you can call to slow down the purges, attacks, manipulations, lies and threats. When faced with Christian nuts going overboard, one could always draw from the Bible and bring forth hundreds of quotes from Jesus telling them to love their neighbors, forgive others and show kindness towards their opponents. The global warming fanatics have no such foundation and can continue to do whatever it takes to suppress, threaten and distort.

Dig this emailed threat to global warming mouthpiece Andy Revkin of the New York Times from Michael Schlesinger, a global warming fanatic from the University of Illinois.
This is the second time this week I have written you thereon, the first about giving space in your blog to the Pielkes.
The vibe that I am getting from here, there and everywhere is that your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists.
Of course, your blog is your blog.
But, I sense that you are about to experience the 'Big Cutoff' from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included.
Over the past week, I've read plenty of examples of scientists who are now coming out of the woodwork to claim that they, too, have been suppressed. But what of it? Why stop? What is the underlying moral framework upon which you can call to stop the threats? There is none.

Modern science has foolishly wandered off into agnosticism or atheism. With no moral precepts to guide their behavior, they are free to do whatever they can get away with. And a properly chastened Andy Revkin, representative of the MSM as a whole, is willing to let them get away with quite a lot.

With nothing larger than their own egos, their hunger for larger and larger research grants and their vision of being global, environmental messiahs, there's no reason why the ends shouldn't justify the means.

Update: The Wall Street Journal has a terrific piece today comparing skeptics claims with global warming believers. It gives a pretty fair comparison of the two and is moderately convincing in favor of man-made global warming.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

More Soccer, Less Blogging

So yesterday I drove up to Murrieta to attend day one of my daughter's end-of-year soccer tournament. There, I learned two crucial facts.

First, girls will only play for their coach. Ours was at a different tournament near the Mexican border with his other team. His dual commitments placed our team in the hands of our soccer club's very capable head coach, but he wasn't the one the girls had played for all year and the connection just wasn't there.

Second, the middle of our defense has always been weak. They're uncertain when they play and neither of them have big legs - that is, even if they get a clear shot, they can't boom it out of our end of the field. As often as not, they misfire and the ball goes out of bounds for a throw-in for the other team. Without our regular coach present, one of them emotionally threw in the towel and the other isn't good enough to make up for that.

End result: two blowout losses. We haven't had a good season, but when our coach is present, we don't lose by more than one or two. The games are almost always within reach. Not so yesterday.

On a positive note, my girl hasn't had a bad game in about two months. She loves the sport, we practice together on the side (at her request!) and she's steadily gotten better and now she plays a respectable outside midfield. Lots of happiness for her and pride for me. Yay!

I've got to hop in the car and drive up there again, so the blog will lie dormant for the rest of today.

Your Cruise Ship Breakfast this Morning

... will consist of eggs fried in lots of butter, greasy pork links, old coffee and stale, sugary donuts! Enjoy!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Soccer Now, Blogging Later

My daughter has an all-day tournament today. Regular blogging will resume later. In the meantime, stop by this post and leave your entry in our roly poly habitat naming contest!

Friday, December 04, 2009

An Improvement to the Poly Habitat and a Naming Contest

You can find the previous post in this series here.

Our original version of the roly poly habitat featured a fixed roof that did not permit good poly observation or moistening of the soil. The top was just window screening stapled on top. Today we removed the old roof and replaced it with a retractable one, shown in the following pictures. All images are clickable to see better versions.

Here is the habitat with the roof open.


The roof is framed by 1x2 pieces of wood nailed together with finishing nails. I used weatherstripping on the bottom to prevent predators from getting at the body polytic.


With the roof closed, the poly habitat is secure from outside invasion, but gets plenty of air movement.


Here we see a close-up of the roof removal mechanisms. These mechanisms need regular lubrication and plenty of fuel.

And there you have it. A poly habitat with a retractable roof. Now all we need is a name. I'll leave it to you to put your suggestions in the comments.

Link of the Day

There, I fixed it. Fantastic. Just fantastic.

Lambsicles

Two nights ago we made lambsicles for dinner. We'd been introduced to them while visiting the Dover Canyon Winery in Paso Robles. I made them for dinner the night I proposed. They're that good. Here's how you do it. All photos below are clickable.

Get a rack of lamb from Costco. Slice the rack into individual ribs.

Rub the lamb with some brown mustard. Not a lot, just enough to coat it lightly. Next, sprinkle a mix of oregano, salt, pepper and garlic powder on the lamb. I didn't measure these out when I mixed them into a bowl, I just used equal amount.


Grill for 2 minutes on each side.


And now nom until you can nom no more!

Recipe rating: 5 noms out of 5!

Slow Motion Dunkirk

Probably the best characterization of the President's speech on Afghanistan has come from Ed Morrissey.
Obama has decided to fight the war with the proper resourcing, or close to it. But what exactly is the purpose of the escalation? There was no sense of purpose in the speech, no grand sense of mission, save one: getting out...The only sense of real mission I get from this speech is that we’re going to send 30,000 more troops now so we can start evacuating all of them in the summer of 2011. It sounds like a slow-motion Dunkirk...
Having quoted that, I still agree with the President's concepts, if only to get out of the place before all American will is sapped by the endless campaign.

Go team?

Meanwhile, our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings have more.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Roly Poly Habitat

Background here. Previous update here.

I took these two shots last night after dark. I didn't get home until after dark, so this was the best I could do.



The base is a 4' x 4' sheet of 3/8" plywood. The outer walls are 2x4s and the inner dividers are 2x2s. The polies can crawl anywhere they like. The medium in each sub-habitat is up to the level of the 2x2s. The top is window screening stapled down.

The construction is quite good - all outdoor screws, countersunk into the wood. My daughter did 90% of the construction. I did the last 10% because I was faster and we were running out of daylight to get the job done and go on our poly hunt.

What Eats a Jellyfish?

Answer: Some of the most common and important jellyfish predators include tuna, shark, swordfish, and at least one species of Pacific salmon, as well as sea turtles, also known as leatherback turtle.

Me, I'm not going to eat one until I can catch a peanutbutterfish at the same time and make a sandwich.

Fox News* is reporting an invasion of the beasties off of Japan due to warming waters.
This year's jellyfish swarm is one of the worst he has seen, Hamano said. Once considered a rarity occurring every 40 years, they are now an almost annual occurrence along several thousand miles of Japanese coast, and far beyond Japan.

Scientists believe climate change — the warming of oceans — has allowed some of the almost 2,000 jellyfish species to expand their ranges, appear earlier in the year and increase overall numbers, much as warming has helped ticks, bark beetles and other pests to spread to new latitudes.
Finally, check out this video. I had no idea they were that huge.


* - Fox News?!? Someone better tell them their reputation as right-wing hacks is at stake here!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

If You Give a Man a Fish

... he'll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he'll practically drown trying to figure out how to do it.

Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuits

I like to make Southern food when I watch N'Awlins Saints games. On Monday night, I made oven-fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits, with recipes taken off of Cook's and linked to right there.

For the chicken, I used flour instead of Bisquick and I used thighs with the skin on. Thighs with their skin have plenty of fat to give the coating that fried chicken feel without having to use butter or oil for frying. I also set the oven a bit higher, around 450, so I could make the biscuits at the same time. Turning the chicken halfway through like they recommend is crucial, otherwise one site is cooked and other side just has the coating sitting there - it needs the juices and fats running down over it to cook the coating onto the skin.

Just thought I'd share. I wish I'd taken pictures.

A Quick Take on the Afghanistan Speech

I have to say I empathize with President Obama on this one. I think he's doing the right thing. Afghanistan is a mess and always has been. I think the only path to victory would have been to say, "We're in it forever. We will never leave. We will fight the Taliban and AQ every single day for decades. They will be the ones who give up and leave, not us."

Other than that and without a generation or three to remake the local culture, the thing is probably unwinnable.

His endless whining about President Bush is way past its sell-by date, though. He looks like a crybaby when he does it. His grasp of history has always been terrible, so I guess it's too much to expect for him to realize that every president has inherited messes of one kind or another. Still, someone ought to let him know that the pouty little child act isn't very attractive.

The Roly Poly Armada Has Been Unleashed!

200 polies rolled out of our collection bucket late yesterday afternoon into a 4' x 4' habitat we had constructed for them. The habitat has four zones - moist potting soil, dry potting soil, dry local dirt and bark and leaves. It's up to them to choose their favorites.

Unfortunately, we buit the thing for roly poly comfort, not for science. Just how we're going to round up and count 200 rolies at the end of the experiment is beyond me. Lots of them are tiny, too. We may just go with a statistical count - of the ones we found, what percentage were in which habitat or something like that.

Photos to follow.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Cheezburger of the Day

Why the Default in Dubai Didn't Kill the Markets

... in short, the run up in the markets is based on speculators taking advantage of the near-zero interest rates set by the Fed and the mountains of liquidity available in the system.

Over in Dubai, they ran into a debt problem with mortgage loans.
Dubai, the second-biggest of seven emirates that make up the U.A.E., and its state-owned companies borrowed $80 billion to fund a boom in growth and diversify the economy. The global financial turmoil and a decline in property prices hurt companies such as Dubai World as they struggled to raise loans.

The company received financing based on the “viability of its projects, not on government guarantees,” Al Saleh said.

Home prices in Dubai plummeted 47 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, the steepest drop of any market, according to Knight Frank LLC. Property prices may slide further, a survey by Colliers International showed Oct. 14.
Analysts saw this coming for some time and many had warned it would be the start of some kind of chain reaction of doom for the current stock market bubble. That hasn't happened at all.

The collapse of Dubai doesn't change the fundamental reason for the current bull market. It's mostly speculators and gamblers trying to make some money on the run up in prices, fueled by miniscule interest rates and lots and lots of money to borrow. You can see this in the Brazilian stock market and others as well. This rally is not based on economic growth because there is none. Further, if it were based on economic growth, then the recent poor showing by retailers on Black Friday would have punctured it. This bull market is monetary inflation finding a place to inflate. Dubai didn't change that.

So there you have it. I know I said I was enjoying arthropod posts more than money posts, but I figured I could write an analytical one rather than an angry one and that would be fun as well. See, no pictures of politicians or snarky sign-offs!

Yay!

How I Did It

The artwork of our Maximum Leader I posted a few days ago was done in two simple steps. First was a change to black and white

Image->Adjustments->Black and White

followed by the Cutout Filter

Filter->Filter Gallery->Artistic->Cutout.

Now you know.