Monday, May 31, 2010

Lord Haw Haw is Back

... and he works for CBS.

Last night, we watched the 60 Minutes piece on the Gambino boy (such a nice, clean, articulate young man! It's a shame those people got in the way of his bullets!) and then the follow-up 60 Minutes extra segment on Afghanistan. It was a real eye-opener.

Back in 2007, when I used to travel a lot and had to watch Airport CNN because I couldn't escape it, I found an eerie connection between CNN and Lord Haw Haw, the British citizen who voluntarily worked for the Nazis doing propaganda broadcasts.
He would interview Allied POWs, give lists of dead Americans and report the nightly count of Allied bombers shot down. Of course, he worked for the fascists, but then again, a good argument could be made that Wolf Blitzer does the same. This site has a collection of archived broadcasts from Lord Haw Haw. It's chilling to listen to them and then watch CNN.
Last night's 60 Minutes bit on Afghanistan was the full Lord Haw Haw. It started with war dead, then followed a bomb removal crew as it trundled along some Afghan roads, focused primarily on the bombs they didn't find and the times when the bomb detection trucks themselves were blown up and then the segment closed with interviews of the soldiers where the only thing discussed was whether the mission in Afghanistan could succeed.

The answer from the soldiers as told to you by the CBS editors who picked which raw video material would make it onto the show: the mission can succeed only if you define success as coming home. In a war where the only way to win it is to outlast your enemy, having the press on the other side is fatal. When your own press is telling you how many B-17s the Luftwaffe shot down, how the bombing raids missed their targets and talking to POWs in Germany who want their families to know they're being well-treated and they just want to come home, you're totally screwed.


Hey, look! It's another CBS salute to the "fallen heroes" of the Allied air forces!

In another dispiriting development relative to Afghanistan, Der Spiegel is reporting that as soon as Obama announced that we had a time limit on the Afghan surge, our European allies, never the steadiest bunch, all started edging towards the door. Now they're ready to bolt.
When Washington starts withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, its NATO allies in Europe will quickly rush to the exits. A power-sharing arrangement between Kabul and the Taliban is a less than ideal solution, but it is the only realistic option if the West pulls out.

No matter how many times President Barack Obama and his senior officials tell the world that the Americans will not be pulling out of Afghanistan in just 13 months time, most Afghans believe that the US endgame is already well under way. The same is true for governments of neighboring countries known for their interference and influence-seeking in the Hindu Kush.
Given a resolute president like George W. Bush, these developments could be weathered. Given one that flounders in the face of something as relatively straightforward as cleaning up an oil spill, these would seem to doom us in Afghanistan. Until last night, I was an optimist about the Afghan campaign. Now, not so much.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Link of the Day

I'm 6 months late coming to this one, but you really ought to visit this bit from our Poet Laureate. Beautiful.

The Tagline Reminds Me of an Old Parish Priest of Mine

Hey, it was a pretty rough parish. Those donut and coffee gatherings after the 9 AM Mass sometimes got out of hand, particularly when they ran out of the chocolate ones.

On Deepwater Drilling and San Diego Development

I enjoy reading and listening to Charles Krauthammer. He's a clever and wise pundit with a knack for saying things clearly. Having said that, he's got this one wrong.
Here’s my question: Why are we drilling in 5,000 feet of water in the first place?

Many reasons, but this one goes unmentioned: Environmental chic has driven us out there. As production from the shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production. (President Obama’s tentative, selective opening of some Atlantic and offshore Alaska sites is now dead.) And of course, in the safest of all places, on land, we’ve had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Yes, environmental restrictions have made drilling elsewhere off-limits, but even if those places had been available, we would still have been drilling in deep water. Just like the development that turned San Diego from a sleepy, little Navy town in the 1970s to a major metropolis today, oil companies will drill anywhere and everywhere they are allowed. They make money drilling for oil, so they do it as much as they possibly can.

In the late 70s and early 80s, San Diego constantly dealt with issues associated with growth. Developers wanted to build more homes, malls and business parks and the locals wanted to keep San Diego the way it was. Every time a development project came up, the same argument took place and, for the most part, they ended up in favor of the developers. Open space was devoured in favor of more building. No matter what a particular developer had been given in the past in terms of building allowances, they wanted more and they were always aggrieved when they were (always temporarily) denied permission to bulldoze and pave. There was no such thing as "enough."

So it is with the oil companies. To blame the environmentalists for this disaster is a huge mistake. Like the developers, the oil companies will drill everywhere you let them and any time they aren't permitted to do so, they'll cry out about how put upon they are.

In hindsight, drilling at 5000' seems to have been a pretty stupid idea without proven technology to seal off a blowout, but the decision to do so was independent of decisions to block off Alaska or shallow ocean waters to drilling. You can't blame the environmentalists for this one.

If they thought there was oil beneath your swimming pool, they'd be trying to drill there, too.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Maximum Leader Cheezburger

Apparently, the can opener is broken  I have located the tools so you can fix it

British Conservatives Don't Get It, Either

The Tories are in charge! Yay! British schools are saved!
The new British government has made a start implementing its 'free schools' policy. What will this mean for our education system? Simon Wilson reports.

What are the Lib-Cons doing?

They are cracking on with implementing Tory school reforms, which survived the coalition talks all but intact. First, the government announced this week that it will fast-track an Academies Bill through Parliament aimed at boosting the number of schools that operate outside local authority control. Under Labour, academies were largely focused on improving standards in the most difficult areas. In future, academies are more likely to be the highest-achieving schools, many in affluent areas. In time, however, the new education secretary, Michael Gove, wants to give every school in England (other parts of Britain run their own systems) the chance to opt out.
It's charter schools and competition for the British. Good luck with that. In reality, it's all about family structure. If your kids are coming from a broken home, they're starting with a massive handicap. Broken homes have half the labor force and half the earning power of traditional, nuclear families.

If two companies are making the same number of shoes, the one with half the labor force and half the cash is going to produce lower quality shoes almost all of the time. It's the same if you're making cars, wedding cakes, mobile homes or kids. You can have all the competition you want and all the efficiency you want, but the end result is going to be the same. You lose.

If you're going to embrace personal freedom at the expense of personal commitment and responsibility, at least have the decency to own the results.


Modern conventional wisdom says there is a combination of funding levels and educational reforms that can take these children and educate them properly to produce productive, successful citizens. We've spent 45 years looking for that sweet spot. You'd think we would have found it by now.

Friday, May 28, 2010

What Inexperience and Incomptenece Look Like

I never thought the blame given to President Bush after Katrina was very fair. It was a colossal natural disaster and humans being human, some agencies made mistakes in the immediate aftermath. Similarly, I've thought that the criticism of Obama over the Gulf oil spill was a lot of political opportunism and totally unfair. That's what I felt two weeks ago.

5 days is a lot less time to react with coherence and sophistication than 40. In 40 days you can do an awful lot and a competent organization ought to do it with purpose and planning. The Obama Administration has neither of those things and yesterday's press conference showed it. Peggy Noonan, Our Holy Ambassador to the Court of the Mainstream Media, has an outstanding piece today with this tidbit.
The original sin in my view is that as soon as the oil rig accident happened the president tried to maintain distance between the gusher and his presidency. He wanted people to associate the disaster with BP and not him. When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble. When you try to dodge ownership of a problem, when you try to hide from responsibility, life will give you ownership and responsibility the hard way. In any case, the strategy was always a little mad. Americans would never think an international petroleum company based in London would worry as much about American shores and wildlife as, say, Americans would.
Belgium can work this way. Belgium is small enough so that their leaders can claim that mighty outside forces are at work and tiny Belgium is impotent to stop them. The US cannot work that way and having a president who won't or can't take charge of situations is fatal to his presidency, which is Peggy's point.

Over at our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings, Dean had the same initial reaction that we did and is coming to a similar conclusion.
Because of the fact that most criticism of this nature tends to be cheap political grandstanding, we are no more apt to blame the Katrina aftermath on Bush than we are to blame Obama for the Gulf/BP oil spill response.
Katrina was fumbled at first, but eventually the Bush Administration got it right. The Iraq War was fumbled for a while, but eventually the Bush Administration got it right. In both cases, President Bush took command of the situation and provided forceful, determined leadership. President Obama, in the stimulus bill debate, in the health care debate and now in the Gulf oil spill, has consistently tried to maintain an Olympian detachment from the proceedings.

Which is exactly what you'd expect from someone with no executive experience.

Say what you will about him, but President Bush came to office with plenty of executive leadership experience and never flinched from taking charge of a situation.

Update: Dean links to this Karl Rove piece with this bit in it.

On May 8, Louisiana sent a letter to BP and the EPA begging BP not to use dispersants below the surface of the water. Subsurface use of dispersants keeps oil slicks from forming. But when it doesn't come to the surface to evaporate, the oil lingers below, gets into underwater currents, and puts at risk fisheries that supply a third of America's seafood.

On May 13, EPA overruled the state and permitted BP to use dispersants 4,000 feet below the surface. Then, a week after BP released 55,000 gallons of dispersants below the surface, EPA did an about-face, ordering BP to stop using the dispersant and to "find a less-toxic" one. Louisiana officials found out about this imprecise guidance in the Washington Post. BP refused, EPA backed off, and Louisiana's concerns about their marine fisheries remain.
This is what inexperience and incompetence look like.

Sending 1200 Racists to the Border

President Obama is sending 1200 National Guardsmen to our border with Mexico to beef up protection there. Once they arrive, will they engage in profiling? If not, what will they be looking for? Swedes, maybe?

Jeeze, the National Guard? He might as well have sent the Klan.

A Backlash Against the SEIU

... that leads to violence? Maybe. Dig this - at the very least, watch the first minute or so where they show the video of the event.


Synopsis for those who don't want to watch the whole thing: The nation's larges civil service union, the SEIU, owes BofA about $100M. Last week, they took 14 buses and sent about 500 people up to the front lawn of a BofA executive to scream and yell. The cops did nothing to stop it and when questioned, are giving a bunch of nitpickery in response. It looks positively Venezuelan.

This one is a little scary to me. Since the cops aren't going to protect you, you have to protect yourself. Dogs? Guns? Counter-protests? What happens when 500 Tea Party types show up on the front door step of an SEIU boss' house?

And how did you like those lame excuses? The Maryland cops get notified, but can't get there in time for 14 buses full of protestors to disembark, organize and begin chanting? How long does it take 14 buses full of people to do anything?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Les Phillip Rocks


Check him out here.

Hooray for the Varsity Team!

Dig this.
President Barack Obama last week fired his intelligence chief, Dennis Blair, without an immediate successor teed up. People familiar with the matter said the White House had expected Mr. Blair would stick around until a replacement was found. Mr Blair declined.
Who needs executive experience when you've got hopenchange?

Roubini is Wrong

... but not by much.

I love listening to Nouriel Roubini, the economist professor from NYU who called the crash correctly. He's a voice of reason and his opinions are always well-considered. Having said that, as I've listened to him and other economists talk, I've come to the conclusion that Nouriel is sometimes just as culturally blinded as the rest of them.

When faced with the issue of the Greek debt crisis, Nouriel correctly points out that the Greeks are insolvent. Their wages are too high to be competitive, so economic growth is unlikely until that falls. Their government budgets are way out of whack and if they cut them, it will probably lead to a recession. All kinds of havoc will ensue. And that's where his analysis ends.

There's another side to the equation, one that afflicts us here in San Diego as well and that is over regulation. In Greece, as I understand it, you need approval from 11 (or is it 17?) government entities to start a business. Growth by human creativity is impossible because the government strangles it. Here in San Diego, we considered building an addition on my wife's old home instead of moving. The building regs were such that it was impossible, no matter how reasonable it was. We couldn't work anything out with our neighbors, either. Instead, the government told everyone what to do with conflicting, confusing and monstrous regulations on every phase of the effort. So we gave up that idea and our potential contractor lost business.

The Greeks (and we here in California) have an untapped source of revenue - their citizens. If they placed less power in the hands of the government and more in the hands of their people, they could, without changing budgets or wages in any way, increase economic growth instantly. The fact that even a brilliant sage like Nouriel doesn't make that a central point of his talks or essays indicates just how indoctrinated our society is in the religion of government omnipotence.

My building permit was denied, my truck was cited for improperly inflated tires, my children were seized by the government because I let them play with a BB gun and the cross on my front lawn was taken down by court order, but I'm still happy! They let me keep my old dental work, pending further review!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is Gen Y That Different?

While perusing Bloomberg this morning, I came across this little tidbit that wonders if Gen Y is really that difference from previous generations. Here's the main point.
I was delighted to catch up recently with one of my teachers, and found her as passionate about educating children today as she was three decades ago, when I was in school. We had a great conversation, but I must admit to a sense of disquiet as I heard her opinions about the next generation.

Gen Y's desire to learn is lower than that of preceding generations; it doesn't have big dreams or huge aspirations; and the pursuit of instant gratification has compromised its values, she felt.
I agree with the premise that this generation is different, but I'm not sure it's worse. My first reaction is to say it's simply dreadful, but that's my first reaction to almost everything and should be taken with a grain of salt. To me the difference comes from attention spans and that comes from the entertainment available to us. Here's my example.

When I was in junior high, there were no video games. Pong hadn't even come out. My friends and I amused ourselves by making Civil War ironclads from cardboard and aluminum cans and then holding naval battles in our back yard with a BB gun*. We researched the ship designs, experimented with construction techniques, learned how to treat deep cuts from ragged pieces of Coors cans after cutting them with tin snips and made cannon muzzles from tiny pieces of aluminium coiled with a needle-nosed pliers. The project lasted for weeks as we researched, built, shot and refined the process again and again.

Video games eliminate the need for that. We weren't intellectually superior, we simply had no choices. To me, the changes are all about attention span. And if we had to have longer attention spans, we had nothing on previous generations.

"You should see the cool new video games, Dad!" "I've got one right here for you, honey. I carved it out of wood with a knife and painted it with pigments made from clay."

* - The number of modern rules this violates is almost without count. First off, one of us had to take the side of the racist Confederacy. Second, we used an actual gun. Third, we used tools and building materials that could hurt us and used them without supervision! The list goes on and on.

Jungle Predator


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Giving iTunes Another Try

A while back, I downloaded and installed iTunes. The results were unpleasant as the thing went and converted all my wma music files to mp3 whereupon Mozy spent two days trying to back them all up. At the time it was all quite unnecessary. Now, however, what was once undesirable has become needed as my Droid thirsts for mp3 music files instead of wma.

Pardon me for a bit while my PC occupies itself for a good while converting and backing up files.

Update: Hmm. The stupid thing wants to convert them to aac files instead of mp3. What a waste. Still, it does have a good podcast feature.

Monday, May 24, 2010

After Review, It Was Discovered That Our Posture Was Supine

This is surreal.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said North Korea's military actions against the South have placed Northeast Asia in a "precarious situation" and that the U.S. was intensifying efforts to de-escalate regional tensions while still deterring Pyongyang.

Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration was initiating a review of the U.S.'s military and economic posture towards Kim Jong Il's government to ensure the safety of its regional treaty allies, South Korea and Japan.
Umm, the NoKos just torpedoed a South Korean Navy vessel and killed a bunch of sailors. We're responding by reviewing our posture. If there's any doubt about what will happen once Iran goes nuclear, this should pretty much put an end to that.

Update: From the comments on that WSJ article: "We're obviously not talking enough. Gotta talk longer and faster." Outstanding!

Fuzzy

Our salvias have fuzzy, purple flowers. I like them very much. I left the originals fairly large and I think they're worth a click.


Cheezburger of the Day

How to Tell if You're Financially Screwed Up

... your financial statements look like this (you'll need to click on it).

Image from Der Spiegel.

Taking Greece as an example and making it personal, assume you make $50,000 a year. Greek-sized debt means you owe $65,000 on your credit cards. If you get to that point, you've made some colossal mistakes in the way you've handled money. It's not something that's open for debate, either, it's just totally wrong. You need make a major change in the way you operate with money in every respect.

I don't understand the writers who talk as if the Euro can be saved with some modifications or how this might not end so badly for Europe in general. If a friend came to you with a problem like this, you wouldn't suggest that they if clip a few coupons and cut down on the Starbucks and everything will be fine. Problems like this show that their fundamental mental model of finances is totally wrong.

Socialism works until you run out of other people's money. They've run out. It's a failure. What else can you say about this stuff? I know I'm a broken record on this subject, but when presented with facts like this and then analysis pieces that mumble and beat around the bush trying to preserve the status quo, I end up totally flabbergasted. It's like seeing a house on fire and listening to family inside discuss whether or not they should fight the fire with a single bucket half full of water or just use some Dixie cups filled from the sink.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fear Can Make You Lie

Education has long been one of the major power bases for liberals. What students are taught in high school and college has a major effect on how they vote in their first elections. The thought that social studies curricula might be changed is frightening to the liberal power centers like the Washington Post.

Q: What is the Primary Component of Infantry?

A: Infants! If you're not having any now, you don't get to march your infantry all over Europe later.

Victor Davis Hanson and Theodore Dalrymple, both writers that I usually quote with flushed cheeks and a rapid heart rate, are yelping about rising German nationalism and are drawing parallels with the Wehrmacht's misadventures in the last century. That's a bit of misplaced paranoia. For the modern Wehrmacht, there's no "wehr" there. Germans aren't having any kids - their birth rate is well below replacement even before considering battlefield losses - so there's no chance at all of German militarism returning.

Calm down, boys.

Reading is Swell!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Protecting My Little Girl


H/T: Kelly, our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands.

Going Down for the Last Time?

The Greek crisis has a dimension that only Mark Steyn is pointing out.
In Greece, the arithmetic is starker. To prop up unsustainable welfare states, most of the Western world isn’t “printing money” but instead printing credit cards and pre-approving our unborn grandchildren. That would be a dodgy proposition at the best of times. But in the Mediterranean those grandchildren are never going to be born. As I pointed out in my bestselling hate crime America Alone four years ago, Greece has one of the lowest fertility rates on the planet—1.3 children per couple, which places it in the “lowest-low” demographic category from which no society has recovered and, according to the UN, 178th out of 195 countries. In practical terms, it means 100 grandparents have 42 grandkids. Greek public sector employees are entitled not only to 14 monthly paycheques per annum during their “working” lives, but also 14 monthly retirement cheques per annum till death. Who’s going to be around to pay for that?
Even assuming the Greeks manage to somehow quell the riots and enact austerity measures, they still won't have any economic growth because they're uncompetitive. And if they manage to do that, they're still screwed because you can't support 100 retirees with 42 workers. Sounds like post-Christian Europe is not the place to be now or in the future.

Maybe they could reverse this whole slide by approving gay marriage. That would solve so very, very much!

Links of the Day

B-Daddy has a slightly different take on the "Draw Mohammed" controversy. Elsewhere, our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands makes the following point in an excellent post of his own.
In fact, despite claims to the contrary, the prohibition against depicting Mohammed did not arise until the 16th or 17th century.
I hadn't known that. Still, I'm inclined to side with those leaning towards respect rather than challenge. I'm just not a big fan of supporting disrespectful libertines who want to have societal permission to mock and attack everything.

Proud Native Americans

So the other night we watched the movie Thunderheart on TV. It's a decent yarn about murder and skullduggery on an Indian reservation. Here's the trailer. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube if you want.


Throughout the movie, various Indian characters make speeches about being proud Native Americans and respecting the Old Ways and blah blah blah. Of course, they're all waving guns around (not quite so Native American, those) and as soon as someone gets shot, they sprint for the nearest clinic to get treated with not quite so Native American medical technology. They're constantly jumping in cars to drive to this or that part of the reservation so they can talk to each other about how proud they are of the Old Ways.

What it really comes down to is the Old Ways are like a costume they put on to play "Let's Pretend" when they can find the time following their dinner which was prepared using an electric stove. It kind of reminds you of the Mexicans who flee their country as fast as they can and then yap about how this land is really all part of Mexico. (Does that imply that they'll soon be heading for Canada?)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I Didn't Like Draw Muhammed Day

Way back at the start of this blog, in my very first post, I discussed why I was not supportive of the Dutch cartoonists who drew mocking images of Mohammed. I'm going to reprise that logic here, very briefly.

If it's OK to draw images of Mohammed with a bomb on his head, then it must be OK to stick a crucifix in urine and call it "art". It isn't. I have more in common with the Moslem world than I do with the nihilistic moral relativists that infest our popular culture. While I'm against many of the teachings of Islam, I respect their commitment to self-denial and rejection of the libertine lifestyle the West has embraced to it's own regret.

Mocking Moslems is a mistake.

Over at our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings, Dean has other thoughts.

If I Was the Governor of Arizona

... I'd take the illegals I found with my new law and bus them to the nearest border town, be that another state or another country. If, for example, I rounded them up in Phoenix, I'd ship them off to El Centro, CA. I'd drop them off in front of the social services building there. It would be humane since I was not making them return to Mexico, which, as we all know, would be an act of racism. Once there, San Diego and Los Angeles could work with El Centro to make sure the illegals got everything they needed. Arizona wouldn't have to foot the bill and we Californians could be smug and self-righteous.

This is analogous to the old joke about the two hikers who are being chased by a Grizzly Bear. As they're running, one says to the other, "We can't outrun a Grizzly!" The other one replies, "I don't have to outrun the Grizzly. I just have to outrun you."

In essence, all Arizona needs to do to reduce the economic burden of the illegal aliens is to make Arizona less attractive than California, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico. After that, who cares?


Next stop, the Federal Building in San Diego on Pacific Highway! Everybody will get a pen as they leave so they can immediately apply for governmental assistance! Yay!

Oh No

This is bad. Very bad.
Officials in the U.S. and Europe concerned about the euro's decline are cautiously talking about a policy tool they haven't used in a decade: intervening in currency markets...

Marco Annunziata, chief economist at UniCredit in London, figures the euro would have to fall to about $1.10 in a week or so to prompt policy makers to act. Such a fall could shake markets globally, boost interest rates in Europe, and threaten to undermine a global recovery.

In a currency intervention, central banks buy large amounts of a weak currency in exchange for a strong currency, in hopes of reversing the weak currency's decline...

Ted Truman, a former international economics official in the Clinton and Obama Treasury departments, said that "it's right for authorities to be thinking about possibly protesting" the fall in the euro via intervention.
This is printing dollars and then shredding them and then setting the shreds on fire. This is insanity. The Euros tried this two weeks ago with their trillion dollar blast aimed at halting the Euro's decline and it hasn't worked. It hasn't worked because the scale of the intervention is all wrong, despite what seemed like the monstrous size of their effort. The global economy and investment pool dwarfs what the central banks can do, short of moves so large that they turn money into meaningless scraps of paper.

In short, the Euro is worth no more and no less than people are willing to pay for it. All the Central Bank machinations in the world can't change that. The Eurosocialists have wrecked the place and people are taking appropriate action because of it. The last thing we want to do is get in the middle of this.

Please, let November come quickly so we have a chance to get some grown ups into the decision making process.

Good news: The article goes on to say that the Fed is not considering this. Of course, up until the weekend before they did it, the European Central Bank adamantly swore it wasn't going to buy government bonds, either.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jobs Come From Profits

... and we hate profit. It's a mark of evil greediness. And racism. Lots and lots of racism.
In a troubling sign for the U.S. labor market, the number of workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly surged last week to wipe out most of the recent declines.

The Labor Department said in its weekly report Thursday that initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 25,000 to 471,000 in the week ended May 15. Economists who were surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had predicted claims would fall by 4,000.

The previous week's level was revised upward as well, to 446,000 from 444,000.
The Euros have hated profit for a long time.
NEW YORK—The euro dropped Thursday, surrendering gains from a day earlier, after talk of intervention to stem the common currency's rapid decline was increasingly seen as far-fetched, and investor concern once again focused on the spreading euro-zone debt crisis and the ramifications for global growth.
So just how's that massive printing press attack on the speculators going?

Bacon Makes Everything Better

You can tell because if you take the name of any recipe and add the phrase "wrapped in bacon" to the end of it, it sounds even more delicious. Such as:
  • Black pepper-garlic crusted tenderloin wrapped in bacon

  • Caribbean chicken with pear and cranberry chutney wrapped in bacon

  • Jamaican jerk swordfish with orange-mango salsa wrapped in bacon

  • Sauteed alligator medallions in dijon mustard sauce wrapped in bacon
See what I mean?

Mmmm. Bacon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cheezburger of the Day

Who Needs Electricity When You've Got Smug Self-Righteousness?

This is awesome beyond words.
The Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott the state of Arizona over its new immigration-enforcement law, and now the Arizona Corporation Commission has responded. Gary Pierce, one of the commissioners chosen in state-wide elections to the utility regulation panel, notes that Los Angeles gets about 25% of its power from Arizona producers.
Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,
I was dismayed to learn that the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott Arizona and Arizona-based companies — a vote you strongly supported — to show opposition to SB 1070...

I received your message; please receive mine. As a state-wide elected member of the Arizona Corporation Commission overseeing Arizona’s electric and water utilities, I too am keenly aware of the “resources and ties” we share with the City of Los Angeles. In fact, approximately twenty-five percent of the electricity consumed in Los Angeles is generated by power plants in Arizona.

If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation. I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands. If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.
It's all good. Hollywood loves to remake the classics. The good stuff starts around 7:00 in this clip.

Update: Our Arizonan Official Artist weighs in on this as well.

Meredith Whitney

... is wonderful. Dig this.













This is an outstanding video. Meredith gives a brilliant, easily understood discussion of what's going on right now in terms of the financial regulation being discussed and the problems with European banks.

As an added bonus, she's kind of cute. :-)

H/T: Mish.

Added Bonus: Here's Meredith's op-ed from the Wall Street Journal that discusses this further.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's Google Up To?

In a previous post, we saw the Microsoft is aimed at the corporate world with a vision straight out of 2006. After briefly researching that, I spent some time scoping out keynote speeches by Google CEO Eric Schmidt and decided that this one was the best of the lot. It's over an hour long, but the first 3-10 minutes tell you the theme. The opening music video is really worth watching.


Google is all about freedom and mobility. Free software, open source code, free operating systems and open platforms for developers. At another site, I saw that while Google gives the Android OS away for free, Microsoft charges $25 per unit for Windows Mobile.

Android is the second best selling mobile OS on the market right now, behind Blackberry's and ahead of the iPhone.

Deep in his talk was something else I didn't know that was particularly exciting. Whereas Microsoft's Steve Ballmer talked about how the cloud "would be" important in the future, Google is doing it now. When I speak into my Droid to do a Google search, my voice is captured and shipped up to Google's cloud computers where the world's best voice-to-text algorithms running on monstrous machines decode what I said and that phrase is shipped back down to my Droid along with the search results. It all happens almost instantly. It's not that my Droid has or even needs the processing power to do speech-to-text, it's that it is connected to Google's cloud infrastructure where fantasmagorical power resides.

Now that's pretty cool.

Apologizing for Arizona

Over at our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings, Dean has posted a pretty good summary of the apologize-for-Arizona-to-China imbroglio. The whole thing is appalling, but if you look at it from the multiculturalist, moral relativist point of view, it all makes sense.

Here's the logic behind the apology, as best as I can make it out. China killed 60-80M people under Mao. There hasn't been a significant break in the ruling party in China from then to now. All cultures are equally valid and none is better than another. Arizona is trying to keep illegal aliens out. Since all cultures are equal, then Arizona's law must be as bad as Mao's slaughter. Ergo, we need to apologize to China for the unspeakable horror that is Arizona.

I had a polemic worthy of Dean's granted title of "Favorite Scold" half written in my head, but I just don't have the anger in me to finish it, partly because I'm trying to get away from the anger and move more towards explanation on this site. Suffice it to say that the San Diego officials who are boycotting Arizona are pandering morons.

Hmm. I'm starting to get angry over that...

Cheezburger of the Day

The Cool Thing About Legalizing Drugs

... is that this site could be made much, much bigger! Outstanding!

H/T: Bradley Wright.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ghost House

... on Marye's Heights at the Fredericksburg battlefield. It's worth a click.

Yikes.

I didn't write down the name of the house, but it's right on top of Marye's Heights, so I think it's the Marye House.

Timidity

... thy name is squirrel.

We saw this fellow on the Fredericksburg battlefield. He must have thought we were Civil War sharpshooters.

Still Crazy After All These Years

... about 4000 years, to be exact.

The Greeks, at least those represented by their government, still have a hard time looking in the mirror. Instead, they're doing what losers always do, looking for someone else to blame for their problems. For socialists, that's always easy - it's either racism or bankers.
May 16 (Bloomberg) -- Greece is considering taking legal action against U.S. investment banks that might have contributed to the country’s debt crisis, Prime Minister George Papandreou said.
If only he could have found some racist bankers to blame! But hark, what is that I hear? Yes, it's the siren song of "Racism!" If you wait long enough, it will come.
Papandreou said many in the international community have engaged in “Greek bashing” and find it easy “to scapegoat Greece.” He said Greeks “are a hard-working people. We are a proud people.”
Ahh, the phrasing of the race baiter. "A proud people." Dude, before you talk about pride, you might want to do something to be proud of. Blowing all your money on a binge of smug, socialist self-gratification isn't it.

Mothers Against Debt

... produced this.


They've been blogrolled as well.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bet on Snapdragons in Haste

... and repent at your leisure. The Zinnias are blowing the Snapdragons away right out of the gate.

The best of the Zinnias.

The best of the Snapdragons.

No worries, though. The betting windows are still open. You can place your bet as many times as you'd like, up to once per day.


Which Top Fuel Dragster Seed Racing Team Will Be Ready To Plant First?
The Snapdragons
The Zinnias
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Back Bay Rabbit

While in Virginia Beach last week a friend and I took a short hike around Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The weather was wonderful and the park is beautiful. This particular little fellow was rather tame and let us get close to get a good shot.

"I'm used to paparazzi!"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chris Christie Rocks

Gov Christie calls S-L columnist thin-skinned for inquiring about his 'confrontational tone'

Steve Ballmer, Living in the Past

I've been spending some time trying to understand what Microsoft is doing relative to Google, Apple and Adobe. I keep thinking that they've got some kind of master plan that isn't obvious, but is clever and futuristic. Then I run across videos like this one.


I apologize for the wacky editing. Focusing on his lips? Weird. In any case, the thing that jumped out at me was his verb tenses. The Internet "will be" the central content delivery system. The user experience "will be" multimedia. This was filmed on March 19, 2010 and he's gloating about keeping up with his son's basketball game via Twitter and then talks about how it "will be" a way to connect and communicate.

What planet is he living on? I just downloaded MLB AtBat for my Droid. It gives me video highlights of every baseball game and has one game a day on live video feed. It comes right to my phone which isn't running a single shred of Microsoft code. My friend has had it for a while and it was already on my son's iPhone. I was behind the times. And if I was behind the times, Steve seems to be living in the year 2006 or something.

The more I dig into this, the more Microsoft seems like a dinosaur.

Why You Need to be Self-Reliant

... as a person, a family, a company or even a nation. Dig this tidbit from a Der Spiegel article wondering if the EU bailout will work.
EU leaders apparently decided that half-hearted gestures were no longer enough. Many economists had accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of dragging her feet too much during the Greece crisis. Now, however, they are marveling at the sheer size of the bailout plan.

Still, there are risks. "No one knows if the bulwark has been solidly constructed," Enderlein warns. Should push come to shove, it is still unclear whether the figures announced will actually materialize. "Many details are still unclear," Enderlein says. "Political majorities could fail to materialize, and the financial wiggle room of the rich euro-zone countries is limited."
This calls to mind what I'm trying to teach my children and why. Among other things, I'm trying to teach them three basic principles for life.
  • Get and stay married.

  • Get good at something you like to do that is valuable to other people.

  • Spend less than you earn.
Broadly speaking, if you do those things, chances are pretty good that you won't be in the same spot as Greece or the protestors at UC Berkley. You won't be dependent on others. The Der Spiegel article gives you a window into just how the decision process of those "others" works. It's all compromise and wrangling. They're trying to help the nations and banks that have failed, but at the same time they're playing their own games. The aid package is not designed solely for the rescue of the failed organizations.

The only person that will develop plans dedicated solely to your (or your family's or your business' or your nation's) success is you. Externally developed plans will have hidden motives and clauses and consequences, intentional or not.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Is Microsoft Up To?

I love Adobe Creative Suite. I want the very latest version. I love my Motorola / Google Droid. I can't wait for the next OS push where I'll be able to use Flash. All of my computers run Microsoft. From years and years ago.

I haven't bought a new Microsoft product in years and I don't see the need to do so. Adobe Creative Suite 5 has me drooling, but Windows 7 or the latest Office leaves me cold. What's the point? My XP machines and Office 2003 can do everything I want. While I eagerly await the latest from Adobe and Google, I couldn't care less what Microsoft does. Wondering just what their plan was, I searched for keynote talks from MS Convergence 2010. Here's one of the videos I found.


So Microsoft will allow you the same features as a wiki, only you'll have to pay for it? That's not very exciting. Since all I want to do with my word processing is create basic documents and then move on to something more interesting, all of the wondrous features of Word 2007 or Word 2010 don't interest me. I'd rather just use the wiki, particularly since a wiki gives me what I really want - a document that lives on the web. Word gives me a file on a hard drive somewhere.

I watched a few more videos and it became obvious that Microsoft has aimed itself firmly at the corporate world. Unfortunately, it's tools are from a software architecture model that dates back to 2003. I want things that either build be a beautiful, effective web presence or create apps and widgets for mobile devices. Documents on a hard drive? Sorry, but I've got all I need.

Compassion™ in California

California hated businesses who made profits so it taxed them heavily and some of them left. California hated farms that used water, so they stopped giving the water to farms, sent it to the ocean instead and some of the farms have closed down. California hated everything that even vaguely threatened theoretical damage to the environment so it passed strict regulations and some more businesses left. California passed generous welfare laws and so the indolent stayed. And now?
In January, the governor said California may have to eliminate entire welfare programs, including the main one that provides cash and job assistance to families below the poverty line
Compassion™, California Style!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why I'm an Optimist About the US

As I've watched the European debt crisis grow, I've gained increasing optimism for the future of the US. Here's why.
  • First off, where else are you going to go if you want to invest? Say you're a fund manager and you're looking for a place to stash your cash. The US is the place to be. Europe has shown it's addicted to spending and is on the path to ruin. With a debt load about double of Greece's and population decline, Japan only looks healthy. China's got a housing bubble to beat the band. Brazil is great, but their economy is still relatively small and prone to wild swings due to foreign investments. The US is the place to be.

  • The party of the ravening parasites is going to get obliterated in November. The Democrats' only chance lay in the possibility of a global recovery. Europe is crushing those hopes on a daily basis. President Obama has been the perfect leader for these times. An unabashed econofascist with huge majorities, he's followed the course prescribed for decades by liberals and the result has been ... monster deficits and anemic growth.

  • The Republicans are being changed by the Tea Party. There are many reasons to hope that the old borrow-and-spend Republicans are on their way out and will be replaced by sanity. See also: Utah, Republican insurrection of.

  • The Internet is changing the way national politics is played. It's a decentralizing force that takes power away from the organizations that have led us here. The Tea Party is a creature of decentralization.

  • When you stop and think about it, we're just one Margaret Thatcher revolution away from being in really good shape. Sell GM, Chrysler, Fannie, Freddie and all the rest, roll back ObamaCare, cut regulations and voila! things aren't so Peronist any more. It's very doable.

  • We still have liberty and a dislike for government in our DNA. In a recent interview, Mark Steyn made the point that in Greece, they're rioting for more government spending. In the US we're in the streets marching for less.
There. That's my first cut on why I'm an optimist. In the short run it's because there's nowhere else to go. In the long run it's because whether President Obama and his historically illiterate comrades want to admit it or not, there really is such a thing as American exceptionalism and it's based on rugged self-reliance.


Besides, who wants to argue with Fozzie Bear?

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Hooray! The European Central Bank is going to print a trillion dollars and hand it to various people! We're saved! Buy!

Wait a minute. Did we actually do anything? No? Sell!
May 11 (Bloomberg) -- The euro lost all of yesterday’s gains on concern the $1 trillion bailout will hurt European economic growth. Stocks fell, paring the MSCI World Index’s biggest advance in a year. Chinese shares entered a bear market...

The European Union’s unprecedented bailout package is unlikely to be a “long-term solution” for the region, Marek Belka, the director of the International Monetary Fund’s European department, said in Brussels yesterday...

“The euphoria of 24 hours ago has passed,” Derek Halpenny, European head of global currency research at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in London, wrote in a report today. “We are in little doubt that steps taken will offer the euro little support and the aid package does not change the fact that Spain and Portugal in particular will still have to undergo further painful austerity measures.”
Wages in southern Europe are still too high, government are still pouring way too much money into entitlements and regulations are still strangling business. The rescue package is just so much fiscal sugar and caffeine.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thanks for the Comments


... but I'm on the road this week and I'll have a hard time replying to comments until I get back to the hotel late at night. I've done a poor job responding in general lately as I prepared for this trip. Having said that, I read the new comments voraciously throughout the day. I love hearing what you have to say.

The EU Goes Nuclear

I'm in Virginia Beach on travel so I won't be posting much this morning, but I had to note this.
May 10 (Bloomberg) -- European policy makers unveiled an unprecedented loan package worth almost $1 trillion and a program of bond purchases to stop a sovereign-debt crisis that threatened to shatter confidence in the euro. Stocks surged around the world, the euro strengthened and commodities rallied.
Translation: They will be paying government debts with money printed out of thin air. There wasn't much else they could do, given the size of the problem. Having done this, a couple of questions come to mind.
  • What was the point of the Germans blowing $40B on the Greeks or whatever the total was? It just got washed away in a cataract of printed money.

  • Unlike the EU / IMF bailout of Greece, there don't seem to be any strings attached to this one. It's just print and spend, baby.

  • Never bet against a government's desire to survive. They will do anything to keep spending money and retain power.

  • See also: Zimbabwe, rampant inflation currency of
Maybe the entitlement society isn't so dead after all. We just found a motherload of painless budget-goosing cash!

This will work, right?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A Little Margaret Thatcher for the Week

"The problem with socialism is that eventually, you run out of other people's money."

H/T: Hot Air.

A Variation on a Nick Stellino Seafood Recipe

One of my favorite cookbooks is Nick Stellino's Mediterranean Flavors. Almost everything in it is fantastic. My wife's favorite dish from it is North African Mussels and Clams. You need a little extra time with that one because the clams need to bathe in salt water for at least an hour to spit out their silt. Well, we didn't have the hour nor could I find the clams last night, so I substituted shrimp and mushrooms for the clams.

The result?

Much deliciousness!

Trying to Hold Back the Tide

... is a waste of time. It just flows around you because you're so small and the ocean's so big. So it is with trying to stop currency devaluations. And yet, the Euros are making noises about trying to do just that.
May 8 (Bloomberg) -- European leaders agreed to set up an emergency fund to halt the spread of Greece’s fiscal woes, seeking to prevent a sovereign debt crisis from shattering confidence in the 11-year-old euro.

Jolted into action by the sliding currency and soaring bond yields in Portugal and Spain, leaders of the 16 euro countries said the workings of the financial backstop will be hammered out before Asian markets open late tomorrow European time.

“We will defend the euro, whatever it takes,” European Commission President Jose Barroso told reporters early today after the leaders met in Brussels.
They have tens of billions of Euros to commit to the battle. Once. The money flows are constant and in the same amount. Like a sandcastle melting away in the waves on the beach, whatever they commit will dissolve in short order.

For decades, they built a house of cards by creating one entitlement after another and now it's all falling apart. The best thing to do would be to limit the damage and learn from the events.

Elsewhere, Mish points to an NYT article where Nick Sarkozy of France is shaking his tiny fist in impotent rage.
During a late-night meeting at European Union headquarters, the leaders described the debt crisis as “systemic,” but President Nicolas Sarkozy of France insisted that the bloc could defend the euro by directly attacking speculators.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr. Sarkozy vowed to “confront speculators mercilessly” and warned them that they would soon “know once and for all what lies in store for them.”

Carn sarn it! If them spek-a-lators come 'round here, I'll give 'em a blast or two from old Bessie!

Naptime in the Catican

Friday, May 07, 2010

Societal Events are like Earthquakes

... a lot of pressure builds up over a long period of time while it looks like nothing is happening and then WHAMMO! the Earth moves. That's what the European financial crisis is. It's an earthquake that's been building for a long time.

Worth Reading

... is this comment on the feasibility of using water to store energy from solar and wind sources.

(Don't tell Van Jones.)

Links of the Day

... come from several sources.

Secular Apostate has some suggestions for Jefferson Davis, albeit a few years too late.

B-Daddy has a positive spin on the riot police being called out to defend the world from grandma.

The thoroughly racist blog, Legal Insurrection, has a post that will chill you to the bone. As we all know, "hot dogs and banjos" is just racist codewords for "watermelon, fried chicken and singing hymns in the field while picking cotton." If you think it's bad, read the post. It's worse than you can imagine.

And speaking of racism, there's another standard, run of the mill racist post over at our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings. Go ahead and wave the flag of racial injustice, you sickening creeps.

Our Pater of Prowling has thoughts on ... dogs.

Go for the coffee, stay for the edible art! Our Grand Inquisitor has the story.

Finally, our Missionary to the Frozen Northern Wastelands is in favor of eating cameras. No, really! Check it out!

All Snarking Aside

... it's been a pretty instructive week. Here's what we've learned (or re-learned) from the week's events in Europe.

  • Entitlements make people irrational. The Greeks are destroying their own country after having run up unpayable bills giving themselves goodies they couldn't afford. They're behaving like addicts whose drugs are being taken away.

  • Government interventions in the financial markets take care of small-to-medium problems, not big ones. The Euros and the IMF rolled out a Greek solution larger than anything previously discussed and it was washed away within hours.

  • Spain is screwed. Every event this week was bad news for them.

  • By extension, European banks are screwed. A Greek default would be painful, a Spanish default will be terminal for many of them.

  • Smart money is getting out of Europe. Where it's going is the subject of another post.

  • The Bush team of Bernanke and Paulson are looking smarter every day. Faced with a similar problem, they went to the nuclear option immediately and got a mountain of cash so large that it actually lasted beyond the crisis and left some available for all kinds of earmarkery later. Whatever waste and fraud occured at the end of the TARP money, the contagion was stopped stone, cold dead.

  • The Euros have only one option left and that's the Bush option - the central bank is going to have to print Euros and buy up everything yucky. They're still fighting this notion, but they've not yet seen Spain falter.

    • Addendum: This only works as a one-shot fix. Before you start down this road, you've got to be sure that the people you're rescuing will show fiscal restraint, otherwise this becomes just so much financial heroin. Permanent Greek (and Spanish and Portugese and Italian) budget cuts are a prerequisite for a EuroTARP.

  • Things move faster than governments can react. On Monday Greece was bailed out and by Friday the place was a wreck and money was leaving even faster than before. In between, government officials made ineffectual statements and got run over by the markets.

  • The entitlement society is D-E-A-D, dead, dead, dead. It may thrash around a bit more, but it is dead. Here in the US, we'll continue to get Obama and Waxman and Frank and Pelosi pitching for more and more entitlements, but as wreckage and ruin spreads across Europe from demographic decay and socialist entitlements, only those who believe in compassion™ with religious faith will continue demanding more.
There. That's a start. Comments?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Future of Compassion™

... is seen in Greece today.


Remember all of the "rights" we've been told we have? The right to a free education, the right to free health care, the right to job training? How about all of the things we needed to do for the poor? Free housing, aid to families, welfare to everyone, increased spending on teachers and all the rest? Well, that's because the people who wanted those things were filled with compassion™. If you argued against those things, it's because you were greedy and heartless. You were probably a racist as well.

Well, good thing for us the compassionate people won the arguments. It's a wonderful thing to behold, all of this compassion™. Something to take your breath away.

Especially if you're on the receiving end of some tear gas cannisters.

By the way, the Dow was down as much as 998 at one point today. It's just another fringe benefit of having so much compassion™.

Cheezburger of the Day

The World's Worst Job

... right now is held by Nikolaos Kanellopoulos. He's the head of Greece’s National Tourism Organization.
Nikolaos Kanellopoulos, head of Greece’s National Tourism Organization, will lead a committee to monitor the country’s image as a holiday destination and booking levels, according to an e-mailed statement from the Athens-based tourism and culture ministry today. The committee will also keep the media informed.
Suggested new slogan: Come to Greece today! Enjoy warm beaches, beautiful ruins, great food and watch exciting sporting events! Now's the perfect time to come - it's the height of the rioting season!

Using the Nuclear Option in the Face of Protests

Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the European Central Bank (their version of the Fed), is denying that they're considering deploying the nuclear option. That's where they print buckets and buckets of Euros and pay off various national debts with them. Well, whatever he wants to say, that's where this is all heading. Greece certainly can't pay for all of the compassion™ it's bought over the years, nor can Portugal, Spain or Italy. In the absence of buying debt, they're going to have to end up kicking the weaker states out of the EU and printing buckets and buckets of Euros to rescue the banks who were stupid enough to lend money to those countries when it was obvious they could never pay it back.

Either way, the nuclear option will be deployed.


Here we see a rational, well-considered opinion piece by Greek socialists.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Time to Cut and Run

If I was Angela Merkel, I'd be taking Nouriel Roubini's advice and bailing out on the Greek bail out. I'd also be looking at how to get out of the EU. Forget whether or not the Greeks leave the EU, I want out now. I'd be husbanding my resources to salvage my banks as the Greek and Spanish debt defaults wash over them and rob the German citizens of their life savings.

The only other possibile solution would be for the European Central Bank (ECB) to start printing unbacked Euros and covering Greek, Spanish and Portugese debt. That would prevent bank failures, but the resulting debasement of the currency would effectively rob the Germans of much of their savings as well. My bet is that they'll go this way because it would take too much effort to escape the EU.

What Happens When Your Schools Fail You

Even though Catholic schools have sheltered them from the worst the American education system has to offer, my kids have been taught lots and lots about white male oppression and global warming, but very little about economics or American exceptionalism. With that in mind, watch this Reuters video from Greece. There's a 15-second ad at the front of it, but it's worth waiting through the ad to watch the video.


Greece needs tourism dollars because shipping isn't coming back any time soon.

A 2-year chart of Dry Shipping (DRYS), a good approximation for the health of shipping globally.

In the video, young protestors are throwing Molotov cocktails at the cops and attacking them with clubs. They've trashed the streets of the city. The nation is insolvent, their treasury bankrupt and they're working to damage what little they have left. No one who understood how things really worked would do this. Only people educated in the William Ayers / Jeremiah Wright school of thought would think this was a good idea. These young Greeks think this is a good idea.

Let's personalize this to make it more understandable. Say you're 22 years old and living at home. Your mom loses her job and your dad's hours are cut back. The family can't make their house payments. Credit card collection agencies are starting to call. Your response is to ... tip over the kitchen garbage can and set it on fire, attack your older brother with a broom handle and slash the tires of the family car? How hopelessly screwed up would you have to be to do that?

My goodness, if you did that, you'd be as big an idiot as the kids at UC Berkley.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Earn Money Today the Shouting Way!

... well, shouting and occupying TV news studios in a mob during a broadcast.


If this doesn't bring the country more money, nothing will!

Kostas Papantoniou Is About To Get His Wish

Kostas Papantoniou is no revolutionary*, but the 59-year-old's determination to stand up and fight the Greek government has grown considerably in the last few weeks. Papantoniou, who is deputy head of the civil servants' union ADEDY, has a picture of Che Guevara hanging on the wall next to his desk. It features Che's famous slogan: "Hasta la victoria siempre" ("Until the everlasting victory").
Everlasting victory? Right on, brother! Stick it to the man, just like Che Guevera!**

This is what Everlasting Victory looks like. Go team!

* - Dude runs around with Che slogans and he's not a revolutionary? Just what does a revolutionary look like? The mind boggles.

** - Che liked to stick it to men with bullets in the backs of their heads. He preferred sticking it to businessmen, artists and intellectuals, but in a pinch, he might have plugged our buddy Kostas. Purely by accident, you understand, but that's OK. After all, we're out to earn ourselves Everlasting Victory!

One of the Greatest Rewards of Blogging

... comes when you get a weird link from an odd source. Dig this.

I can't read the language and I don't know what they're talking about, but they've linked to one of my stranger posts.

I love it.

Financially-Induced Morality

Well, that didn't take long. The glorious bailout of the Greeks, announced with trumpets and fanfare, led to a sell-off in Greek bonds. Let's leave that for a while and move on to a more human side of the crisis with a little fiction set about 6 months in the future.


Adelpha Constintapolous has been seeing a cute boy, Nicos Papandreu. Being the very modern sorts, they've been sleeping together. After all, why not? Only prudes don't, you know. But there's been a few complications. Adelpha got pregnant and Nicos, feeling hemmed in by the responsibilities of fatherhood, hasn't been coming 'round any more. Abortion is an option, but Adelpha's animal, maternal instincts overwhelm her ability to reason with cold logic and the baby is kept.

Enter the financial crisis. Budget cuts by the government in Athens, forced upon them, no doubt, by American financiers and greedy international speculators, are drastically reducing child support payments. Adelpha is starting to think about having to pay for baby formula and clothes and diapers. There are practically no Euros to be found anywhere in the house. Mum and Dad try to help, but their wages have been cut, too. Adelpha is screwed, both literally and figuratively.

Adelpha's friends see this and take note. Their own boyfriends start to look like liabilities and risks rather than exciting opportunities for pleasure. One of Adelpha's friends, Nabila, is naturally quite risk-averse. She tells her young man that the days of free noogie are over. She'd better see a ring on her finger and soon or someone's going to get some very cold receptions.

The financial crisis gets worse instead of better. In the newspaper, the headlines scream about Spain, Portugal and Italy going under. Those greedy bankers are wrecking the world! The European Central Bank prints Euros like there's no tomorrow, but the Euros don't go as far as they used to. Some banks fail and some of Adelpha's and Nabila's friends lose their life savings. The government steps in to help, but they can only afford to pay pennies on the dollar.

Soon, Nabila is not alone. One by one, the girls in their social circle clue in to the new reality. They're taking all the risks and there's no one around to support them if they find themselves in a family way and their beaus take a powder. Suddenly those hip, American sitcoms they used to watch (with Greek dubbing) aren't so funny any more. Scrounging for money changes their outlook on life.

Maybe they even start going to church again. Who knows?

Monday, May 03, 2010

How to Escape an Integrated Product Team (IPT) Meeting, Excuse #2

Excuse #2 - My legs have fallen asleep. They have a tendency to snore. I believe I should leave the room so that they don't disrupt the meeting.

Explanation here.

Remember, Greece's Two Main Industries are Tourism and Shipping

... when you read this.
MAY DAY protests in Greece turned violent yesterday as youths in gas masks and hoods set fire to vehicles, smashed shop fronts and threw molotov cocktails and rocks at police in an explosion of fury over austerity measures they claim will hurt only the poor.

Tourists were cut off from their hotels as thousands of communists, civil servants and private-sector workers converged on a main square in Athens to vent their rage at the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Emphasis mine. So we're going to help the poor by wrecking one of the only two industries that can conceivably prevent a governmental default which will terminate welfare payments to the poor.

Thanks, guys. I hadn't understood that until now.

The Days of Greek Compassion are Over

Over the weekend, the Euros came to a decision to bail out Greece. The total amount is supposed to cover about two years worth of lending and comes to around $150B. The IMF has the largest load, followed by Germany, France, Spain and Italy, not necessarily in that order. The requirements on the Greeks are quite strict and are forcing large, unpleasant budget cuts on the Greeks almost none of which will land on the Greek military as there is practically no military in Greece at all. It's all going to hit civil service pay, retirees and welfare.

The days of Greek compassion™ are over. I would bet that they've ended in precisely the way Greek capitalists predicted - bankruptcy. The poor, the elderly and the disabled have all been torpedoed by their erstwhile political saviors. The ravening parasites in Greece have finally killed their host.

Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order, on the bailout and its potential aftermath.

  • Spain and Italy joined in the bailout? Where are they going to get that money? They're just a few months (weeks?) away from the same fate. All Germany did was to raise the price of the Spanish bailout by the amount Spain donated.

  • If I'm one of the idiots still holding Greek bonds, I'm selling them now. Prices will stabilize for a bit now that there is a big sugar daddy to buy the things. Nouriel Roubini pointed out last week that the IMF and the Germans will automatically become senior bondholders through this action, so any private individual holding Greek bonds will get paid off last in the event of a default.

  • In a way, this bailout just holds the exit door open for investors for a little while longer.

  • The bailout includes money for Greek banks because there's been a run on their deposits as well. If I still had money in a Greek bank, I'd get out while the gettin' was good.

  • All of which will leave the Germans holding the bag. The IMF has no money that it doesn't get from nations around the world.

  • The conditions of the bailout are familiar. Cut spending drastically, privatize government-owned businesses and cut regulations.

  • Is anyone in Washington watching this thing implode? Has anyone asked President Obama about this? Does he show even the tiniest glimmer of comprehension?

  • This was supposed to stop the contagion. So let's say you hold Spanish bonds and this has just happened. Do you feel better or worse about your holdings today? What has changed in Spain that makes you want to stick around? Has their ability to service their debts changed in any way?

  • This action will probably stabilize Spanish, Portugese and Italian bonds for a time as well.

  • ... giving you a chance to sell yours at as small a loss as you can manage and get out of town!

  • When markets collapse, governments don't have enough money to stop the fall. The scale of investments is way off. $150B may seem like a lot, but it's dwarfed by the total capitalization of the bond market (plus stock market plus bank deposits). If just a moderate percentage of private investors decide to get out while the door is open, that $150B will be vaporized in short order.
There. I didn't mean to be so pessimistic, but the thoughts built on themselves as I went along. These kinds of government bailouts all seem to follow the same trajectory. A brief moment of hope and a slight uptick and then the fall continues. The Euros are betting that the size of this is sufficient to stop the slide, but that $150B, which is actually spread over two years, could vanish pretty quickly if investors decide to take the opportunity to flee.

And of course, unaccounted for in all of this are the Greek lefties, doing what they do best -

- demanding someone else pay their bills.