Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Abercrombie and Fitch are now marketing push-up bras for 8 year olds, presumably because they believe that people will buy them. Charlie Sheen, star of the hit show Two and a Half Men wasn't criticized for living with strippers and porn stars and allowing his kids to be raised by them, he was criticized when his drug habits got in the way of his performing.
And the government is supposed to do what exactly to stop crime, child abuse, high school dropouts and all of our other social ills?
Los Angeles Police Department officers manning sobriety checkpoints will no longer, as a matter of department policy, impound cars driven by unlicensed drivers. That is unless the unlicensed driver is a United States citizen or lawful resident, in which case he can say adios to his car for 30 days, as authorized by California law.The cops will impound the citizen's car, but not the illegal's. That's because the illegal is a member of the disadvantaged class and class warfare is what it's all about.
You'd think this would be a matter for outrage, but why bother? The end of the class warfare mentality is near as our progressive friends are finding that all the marching, chanting and teach-ins can't clip a few zeroes off the debt levels their "compassionate" policies created. The cops and all the rest of the government workers and policy makers have been living in a cushy fantasyland for decades where their lives are easy and safe. Once they get slammed a few times with layoffs and pension cuts, let's see how many treats they hand out to the protected classes.
Every fine not collected, every benefit given out is a wad of cash taken from their pockets. The illegals are just another tribe of cannibals who will have to fight over a dwindling food supply.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
March 29 (Bloomberg) -- Portugal and Greece were downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, which said the European Union’s new bailout rules may mean that both nations eventually renege on their debt obligations.Bankruptcy is what happens when you can't pay your creditors and people use words like "renege on their debt obligations." Insolvency is when you're spending more than you make. From the looks of things, Portugal is both bankrupt and insolvent. Writing off debts solves the bankruptcy problem, but they're still going to need to slash social services spending to deal with the insolvency issue.
S&P cut Portugal for the second time in a week to the lowest investment-grade rating of BBB-, three steps below Ireland. Greece’s rating fell two grades to BB-, three levels below investment grade.
All those protests against austerity bought nothing at all. Mathematics will always win in the end. Spending your morning lying in bed with an ice pack on your head and drinking Alka Seltzer is all well and good, but it doesn't mean you can pop open the Ron Rico rum in the afternoon.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Update: My bar was set pretty low. All I wanted was a little clarity on whether or not he was going after Gaddafi. Having read more of the speech and read more of the reactions, I can see that most of the flaws in the operation haven't changed, but that's what you'd have to expect from this guy. He's never going to be a great strategic thinker in anything.
I've spent a little more time perusing the web for analyses on what we're doing in Libya and why we're there in the first place. The best explanation is that the "International Community" told us to go. They're the ones he consults, not the American Congress. Obama is more interested in what the UN has to say than his own country.
From the Telegraph:
Obama accepts the notion that an American imprimatur on military action is distasteful – running the risk of fuelling anti-Americanism. He seems reluctant to try to persuade nations that America is a force for good, perhaps because he is unsure of this himself ... Obama really does believe in the “international community” and the intrinsic goodness of the UN.From Slate:
(A) regime's level of violence against its citizens obviously doesn't drive our military decisions. Nor does the use of air power to slaughter civilians. What has drawn us into Libya but not Syria is the last thing Clinton mentioned: "The world has not come together" to call for action in Syria or the Ivory Coast. Fatalities and air power don't matter unless they produce international support for intervention.In short, Obama doesn't trust you. Your motives are impure and left to your own devices, you Americans would do bad, possibly imperialist things. If he wants to make a moral decision, he must turn to the UN and the "international community."
"Each of these situations is different," said Clinton. "But in Libya, when a leader says, 'Spare nothing, show no mercy,' and calls out air force attacks on his own people, that crosses a line that people in the world had decided they could not tolerate."
The key phrase isn't no mercy or air force. It's they could not tolerate. Not we, but they. We're outsourcing our standards for intervention.
Can we please make the dude the head of the UN and get him out of here? Maybe if he was offered the job, he'd leave.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to depose Gaddafi. The guy is a nut and a tyrant and a genuinely bad dude. The problem with the whole affair is the lack of clarity in the stated purpose of the operation. A quick and dirty perusal of Wikipedia shows that the three primary members of the anti-Gaddafi alliance have a military consisting of more than 2,010,000 people and 7,290 aircraft of all types, not counting the aircraft in the US Army and US Navy.
Gaddafi has almost no chance of shooting back at us in any meaningful way, so long as we stay up in the air. We have overwhelming power that can act with impunity and we're clearly using it to depose the guy. So why are we talking about no-fly zones? Why are we talking about saving civilians? Why have we come up with dozens of contradictory explanations as to just what this is - taking sides in a revolution against a tyrant? There's no fig leaf here at all. We look like cowards, saying one thing and doing the opposite and it's obvious to everyone.
Tonight President Obama is going to give us a speech telling us what we're doing in Libya. If he says anything other than, "We're getting rid of Gaddafi," then it's nonsense.
When I watch student protests in Portugal or Illinois and I see them chanting against basic math and basic economics, it makes me realize what a huge impact the education system has had on their thought processes. The issues at play aren't difficult to understand. In a free society, businesses have the ability to flee tax and regulatory oppression. Social spending comes from profits. You can't lower profits and raise social spending without ending up insolvent and bankrupt, yet our students can't grasp this simple concept.
Seriously, think about that for a minute. Here are the equations involved:
Profits * Tax Rate + Borrowing = Government SpendingThat's it. That's all there is. If you raise taxes and increase regulation, profitable people and businesses may leave. If you borrow money to pay for social programs, your debt-servicing costs will crowd out the programs you want to support. How is it possible that after a decade or so of "education" our students can't comprehend those two simple equations?
Government Spending = Government Programs + Debt Servicing Costs
I'm not a big fan of bashing the education industry. I'd argue that poor test results and low graduation rates are more the result of the breakdown of traditional morality and the nuclear family than poor teaching. This one, however, is completely the fault of the education establishment. These people are flat-out morons when it comes to the trivially simple equations that govern spending. The students taught by these idiots go on to vote, leading to forehead-smackingly stupid results like those in Illinois. At least if parents could use vouchers to send their kids to private schools, they might learn basic economic math from someone other than the brain-dead progressives in the NEA.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Closer to home, Illinois has the same problem as Portugal. Illinois' businesses have nowhere near the profits to support their massive public sector spending. Instead of taking the austerity tack and reducing spending to match income, they decided to raise taxes. Now one of their largest companies, Caterpillar, who employs over 23,000 people in Illinois, is threatening to leave.
In January, the state's General Assembly passed a (Governor) Quinn-supported bill imposing a four-year increase in income taxes designed to reap $6.8 billion in added revenue and help the state balance its budget. The legislation raised the flat rate for personal income taxes to 5% from 3% and for corporate taxes to 7% from 4.8%. In 2015, both taxes are set to decline but remain above the prior rate.This isn't something new for either Portugal or Illinois. Both have been losing businesses for quite some time as they've favored social spending over profits. Some pundits are making the comparison between Illinois and Portugal, but they're making the mistake of placing Portugal farther along the evolutionary scale of such developments. In fact, Illinois might be ahead of Portugal. Consider these facts:
(Caterpillar CEO) Mr. Oberhelman enclosed letters (in his own letter to the Illinois governor) from governors or other officials in Texas, Nebraska, Virginia and South Dakota, all citing the recent Illinois tax increase and urging Caterpillar to invest in what they described as more business-friendly environments.
"If Illinois doesn't want your business, Texas does," wrote Rick Perry, the governor of that state.
The governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, wrote: "In Nebraska, we balance our budget by controlling spending, not by raising taxes."
An official in the South Dakota governor's office chimed in: "In South Dakota, you make a profit, and you keep your profit."
- Portugal just had a parliamentary vote against austerity; Illinois had a public election against austerity months ago.
- Portugal's borrowing costs have been rising; Illinois is already paying one of the highest rates in the US.
- Portugal is still able to pay their bills, albeit with borrowed money; Illinois has hundreds of creditors who are no longer being paid.
- Portugal can solve some of its problems in the very near term by nationalizing businesses that threaten to leave; Illinois doesn't have the nationalization option.
- Portugal can appeal to the European Central Bank who has shown the willingness to print money to cover government debts in order to save the EU. Illinois has no such leverage with the Fed.
Update: An Instalanche! Yay! Thanks, Glenn.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
"And that’s why building this international coalition has been so important because it means that the United States is not bearing all the cost. It means that we have confidence that we are not going in alone, and it is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions that are important not only to us, but are important internationally."Emphasis mine.
I'm not sure if there's anything left to say any more. Which angle do you take with this? The naievete? The incompetence? The gullibility? The ignorance? The smug and smarmy moral superiority?
Obama needs to be the head of the UN. Seriously. Get him out of here and put him in a spot where he can pontificate and preen and pose, where he can live in his land of make-believe that he's actually accomplishing something with his vapid speeches.
Bonus point: Given that China and Russian do not have our best interests at heart, why did they abstain from voting on the UN resolution about the no-fly zone? Could it be that their geopolitical strategists are better than Obama's and they saw this as a disaster in the making?
Friday, March 25, 2011
As a part of the world's continuing fixation on the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, Bloomberg is reporting that there may be a crack in one of the containment vessels. Some workers have suffered severe radiation exposure.
“It’s very possible that there has been some kind of leak at the No. 3 reactor,” Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman at the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said in Tokyo today. While radioactive water at the unit most likely escaped from the reactor core, it also could have originated from spent fuel pools stored atop the reactor, he said ...While we worry about possible future deaths due to radiation, it's a good bet that real people are dying real deaths right now due to a lack of electricity. For example, in the areas without power, what are the people who require dialysis doing? I'm sure you can think of plenty of other examples of lives threatened because of prolonged power outages, particularly in an area where transportation is problematic.
Two plant workers were hospitalized yesterday with radiation burns after stepping in the water, which was found to have radiation levels 10,000 times higher than water used in reactor cooling, Nishiyama said earlier today.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle has said that the snap decision to temporarily shut down seven nuclear reactors in Germany in the wake of the disaster in Fukushima was motivated by campaign tactics ahead of state elections this weekend.No, no, no, this was motivated by Science!, just like the need to stop our use of incandescent light bulbs so we can make the temperature of the Earth go down.
It's hilarious watching politicians take preposterous positions to show concern for non-existent threats.
Installing a stable, liberal democracy seems out of the question. Here's the side we're (sort of) supporting:
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
An alphabetized spice cabinet. No, really. There's nothing worse than groping around for the right spice when you're cooking. I've got about three times as many as those shown here, but I recently rearranged them so the ones I use most commonly are arranged and easy to find. That makes me smile.
Today's men, she argues, see no good reason to grow up. In days of yore, they knew they were expected to provide for a family; today, single parenthood is accepted and one-night stands are celebrated. The culture at large doesn't expect much from men; neither, it turns out, do women. When it comes down to it, why not slack on the couch?
Portugal faces a parliamentary vote against its deficit- cutting plan that may push the country toward a European Union bailout...The European dream favored the who in favor of the what now? What was that you said? It sounded like the natives are growing restless because the rich are getting too many benefits at the expense of the poor. Here, let me read that again ... yep, that's what it said.
“A seismic shift in attitudes is taking place across Europe,” Bill Blain, a strategist at Newedge Group in London, wrote in a research note. “In the face of growing resentment across the continent for a European dream that seems inordinately in favor of the few rather than the many, Europe’s elites may be wise to glance across the Mediterranean for a reminder of what happens when the people say enough is enough.”
Well, maybe they're right. Maybe the system of cradle-to-grave social safety has helped the rich are get richer. Or maybe it's been helping the poor stagnate as wards of the state. Whatever. It's broke now because the number of Euros they spend is more than the number of Euros they earn. Subtraction is tryanny. There's only one thing left to do.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
We're not trying to depose Gadaffi*, we're not trying to help him stay in power, we're not trying to help the rebels and we're not concerned with what the place looks like if they win. All we want is to see that the game is played cleanly.
With the participants practically indistinguishable from the air.
With civilians being hard to identify when lots and lots of them are armed and shooting.
This is the perfect mission for the Obama Administration. We keep our hands clean, we don't really get involved, we pass moral judgment on both sides, but we exhibit no understanding at all about how things actually work.
* - I'm about to give up trying to find the correct spelling of his name.
Monday, March 21, 2011
President Barack Obama, speaking in Santiago, Chile on Monday, defended his decision to order U.S. strikes against Libyan military targets, and insisted that the mission is clear.It's like watching Barack Obama take Geopolitics 101 in real time. Dude, there's a midterm tomorrow. Have you studied?
And like a parade of Pentagon officials the past few days, Obama insisted that the United States' lead military role will be turned over—"in days, not weeks"—to an international command of which the United States will be just one part.
The only problem: None of the countries in the international coalition can yet agree on to whom or how the United States should hand off responsibilities.
(A)dministration officials and military leaders came under a barrage of questions — raised by members of Congress, outside experts and reporters — about the parameters of U.S. participation and the operation’s goals, especially if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi does not capitulate.
“There have been lots of options which have been discussed, but I think it’s very uncertain how this ends,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged on CBS’s “Face the Nation.’’
Mullen, who appeared on five television talk shows, was pressed repeatedly to define the mission and its objectives. “I think circumstances will drive where this goes in the future,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.’’
Sunday, March 20, 2011
My daughter is on a club soccer team. Last year, as homework, she was asked to watch at least two World Cup games each week. We got hooked. We now subscribe to Foxsoccer.tv where we can see every English Premier League (EPL) game. They store the games and make them available for two weeks, so you can watch your favorite team play when it's convenient for you. I got to following Newcastle after consulting with an online friend of mine who is a big EPL fan. We decided on Newcastle because their colors are black and white, just like our Maximum Leader's.
Really, who else could we have chosen?
BENGHAZI, Libya—Col. Moammar Gadhafi's forces Saturday penetrated deep into Benghazi and heavily shelled the rebel capital's residential neighborhoods, threatening to snuff out the month-old Libyan revolution...It seems to me that the no-fly zone puts the evolution of the situation into slow motion. Gadhafi would be best served to ruin as much of Benghazi as possible before the thing takes effect and all of his armor is destroyed. If he was really smart, he would wreck the power, sewage and water systems first. After that, the no-fly zone would work like a siege.
Col. Gadhafi's forces, deployed some 100 miles south of Benghazi on Friday afternoon, launched a rapid two-pronged armor assault from the south and the west overnight, outflanking rebel defenses. By Saturday morning, regime tanks, some of which witnesses said were later disabled or captured by the rebels, reached a key bridge less than two miles from the rebel headquarters in a courthouse on Benghazi's Mediterranean corniche.
Here's another one for you. With both sides employing armed pickup trucks and the jets having no reliable spotters on the ground, how will they know who is who in the streets of Benghazi?
And another: who runs Benghazi? I mean, who provides essential services? Were the dudes in the water department Gadhafi loyalists who have been taken out and shot? Did they switch to the rebel side? Are there people left who know how to make things work or is the place devolving into pre-industrial conditions?
Without Allied ground forces to put a stop to the mutual slaughter, how is this going to end with anything other than a nasty and prolonged infantry war?
Saturday, March 19, 2011
The secret of becoming a writer is that you have to write. You have to write a lot. You also have to finish what you write, even though no one wants it yet. If you don't learn to finish your work, no one will ever want to see it. The biggest mistake new writers make is carrying around copies of unfinished work to inflict on their friends.
I am sure it has been done with less, but you should be prepared to write and throw away a million words of finished material. By finished, I mean completed, done, ready to submit, and written as well as you know how at the time you wrote it.
Friday, March 18, 2011
I'm writing this on my Droid while on a short vacation in Paso Robles, so please forgive the short content and terse style.
After Gadaffi's forces captured the last town, a large number of refugees were reported streaming towards Benghazi. A cease fire is as good as a siege. Just what will it be like in Benghazi two weeks from now with lots of refugees and rebels, all cut off from their normal supply lines in Western Libya? A no fly zone helps this in what way?
What will the local grocery store look like on, say, Tuesday of next week?
Thursday, March 17, 2011
March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc.’s iPhone worked slower loading websites 84 percent of the time in a test than phones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system, according to a Canadian software company.
I would argue that it is possible to be a deficit panda: to simultaneously worry about the debt and believe in an active and compassionate role for government. In fact, I would argue that worrying about the debt is required of those who believe in such a government role.Amen, Ruth, although I would suggest that moral prudishness is the first-order solution to poverty and the government is a second-order solution. That is, without prudish behavior, the government is, at best, a band-aid on a large, deep wound. Still, a safety net saved from the depredations of interest payments on a preposterous debt is something we can all cheer.
Failing to deal with the debt will hurt everyone, but the neediest will suffer the most. The economy-wide consequences of doing nothing - higher interest rates, slower economic growth, lower standards of living - will hit hardest those least well off. Meanwhile, the budgetary reality of mounting interest costs will eat away at the government's ability to provide a reliable safety net.
Whatever our disagreements, her article is worth reading in toto.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said Wednesday finance ministers and central bankers from the G-7 countries—the U.S., Japan, the U.K., France, Canada, Italy and Germany—would discuss ways to support Japan's response to the crisis, including the potential purchase of Japanese bonds.So the Euros, who are bankrupt, will buy Japan's bonds because Japan is bankrupt and facing more expenses just a few months after Japan, which is bankrupt, bought European bonds because the Euros are bankrupt.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Longtime and beloved friend of the blog, Foxfier, our Precentor of Measurements, showed me this story of an amazing rescue in Japan.
The sound of a baby’s cry amid the rubble seemed so impossible that soldiers searching a tsunami-smashed village dismissed it as a mistake.Japan is filled with amazing rescue stories, but this one is particularly surprising. I wouldn't think a 4-month-old baby could last that long. She must have had Help.
But it came again. And they realised they had not been hearing things.
They pulled away wood and slate, dug back thick oozing mud – and there was the child they were to describe as a ‘tiny miracle’ ...
One of them picked her up in his arms, wrapped her in a blanket which had been handed to him and cradled the child as his colleagues crowded around, not believing that someone as young as this had survived when all hope had been lost.
The tiniest survivor was cold and wet and crying, but she is believed to have suffered no other injuries. Why she did not drown remained a mystery.
But the soldiers were somehow able to trace her overjoyed father, who had been taking refuge in his wrecked home with the rest of his family.
For more WOGs, a description of why we WOG and an opportunity to join the WOG Squad, see this post.
March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. engineers at a nuclear plant restored water to safe levels, helping drive down radiation after residents within 30 kilometers (19 miles) were ordered inside to avoid contamination.Almost any other country dealing with either one of those two problems would have been completely crushed.
Water supply at reactors No. 1 and No. 3 stabilized and radiation readings at the front gate of the plant dropped to a level that isn’t “harmful to the human body,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said this afternoon in Tokyo.
Elsewhere, our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings has photos and videos.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Time was running out for Libya's revolution last night as Muammar Gaddafi's forces routed rebels in the east of the country, driving them into retreat from the town of Brega under a rain of rockets and shells, and opening up the road to the principal opposition stronghold, Benghazi.The US Navy.
With western countries paralysed by disagreements over military intervention, the exhausted and terrified rebel army piled into pickup trucks with machine-guns mounted on the back or towing anti-aircraft guns and raced away from a sustained assault by rocket launchers and artillery to which they were ill equipped to respond.
Maybe Obama is waiting for just the right moment to strike, but it sure doesn't seem like it. I hope I'm wrong. The whole thing is bizarre. The combat is all going on right on the coast. Libya's only threat to our carriers would be from submarines and they don't have any that can put out to sea. All this chatter about no fly zones is just silly. If you used our Naval air power as ground attack for the rebels, Gaddafi would lose almost instantly.
Portugal, western Europe's poorest country, is producing the best-qualified generation in its history, thanks to big investments in education.Socialist central planners in Portugal did exactly what they wanted - spent more on education and social programs - and they've ended up with no jobs, no growth and no money. They should have spent more time with Milton Friedman and less time with Karl Marx. Sadly, they've taught their children to turn to politics for answers.
But after a decade of feeble economic growth and a huge debt burden that has forced the government to enact crippling austerity measures, Portugal's economy can't deliver the opportunities that trained young people are seeking.
Once that crowd is done chanting and they go home, they'll have ... what? They're still looking for collective answers.
"People's well-being has taken second place to financial matters," said Luis Santos, a 28-year-old out of work since graduating from Lisbon University three years ago.Well, Luis, it's like this. You're responsible for your well-being. You always were. Handing that job over to someone else has never worked. The socialists acted out of kindness, but that kindness was misplaced. The only sustainable and effective way to help others is to do it yourself.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Hang your heads in shame, Dean and B-Daddy. Schiller has you dialed in, make no mistake. I recommend you atone for your sins by drinking some Old Milwaukee.
Update: It didn't take long for the Keynesians in the MSM to come out.
After Japan copes with its massive human and financial loss, the country will have to focus on rebuilding. That will take billions in private and public funds, a stimulative effort that, grimly ironic though it may be, will generate some level of stimulus and recovery.Sigh. The money to rebuild will have to come from somewhere. Individuals are going to liquidate assets to pay for the damage done to their lives by the disaster. The Japanese government is going to have to borrow or liquidate holdings (Japan owns $800B or so of US Treasuries) to pay for the reconstruction. Alternately, the Bank of Japan will simply print Yen and hand it out leading to inflation.
"Obviously the human toll is the most important thing," said Nicholas Colas, chief investment strategist at ConvergEx in New York. "Generally afterward you get a big rebound in economic growth. Rebuilding creates a lot of jobs for a lot of people and a lot of new wealth creation."
Given the state of Japan's finances - a national debt equal to two full years of the entire nation's earnings - this is not going to lead to growth or jobs.
Update 2: Japanese government bonds are held almost entirely within the nation of Japan. That might be something that companies and individuals liquidate in order to get operating cash as they recover. That could be the start of a very ugly run on Japanese bonds.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
A group of ethologists -- animal behaviorists -- have demonstrated that these mites migrate through our homes in crowds. They like the occasional communal road trip, and they follow each other using some signal, perhaps chemical, to chose the route more traveled.Since mites naturally travel in groups, you can herd mites. This raises the natural question: can you get an NEA grant to host a mite-herder poetry festival? If so, here's my submission:
The clouds hung low after the rain swept throughYou're welcome.
My jumpsuit hung loose from my skin
The mites had been restless as had my crew
(The vacuum had backed up again)
I called to Dispatch and asked for a break
The Man said no go for you:
"The Finklegarbs' house is an arthropod lake
(Remember to take off your shoes)"
Minced garlic in a jar. When the recipe calls for garlic, this stuff makes life so much better! Instead of stripping and chopping garlic cloves, you just measure it out of the jar. The taste is great, too.
We're running a $1.5T debt, the Fed is printing money in a way they have never done before and we're paying for a Cowboy Poetry Festival. There's delicious irony to all of this as ably pointed out by Mark Steyn.
Once upon a time, the cowboy embodied the rugged individualism of the frontier. In Harry Reid’s world, he embodies dependency without end. To “preserve” the “tradition,” it is necessary to invert everything the tradition represents: From true grit to federally funded grit.Cowboys, those tough hombres, those loners of the prairie, those self-sufficient wranglers of cattle need a government handout so they can recite poetry.
Man, I'll bet the lace on their underwear really itches under their chaps.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) slammed the Republicans' budget proposal on Tuesday as 'mean-spirited' and complained it would eliminate money for a cowboy poetry festival that brings tens of thousands of tourists to Nevada.It was hard to know which way to go on this one. First, do you play off the fact that the Federal Government is sponsoring cowboy poetry festivals or do you go with the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist?
“The mean-spirited bill, H.R. 1, eliminates National Public Broadcasting," said Reid in a floor speech. "It eliminates the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts. These programs create jobs. The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist.”
For me, I had to come down on the side of mass vaporizations. There's nothing like a good phaser hit.
I'll start the series with two quotes from my inspiration for this series - the astronomer Johannes Kepler.
It is a right, yes a duty, to search in cautious manner for the numbers, sizes, and weights, the norms for everything [God] has created. For He himself has let man take part in the knowledge of these things ... For these secrets are not of the kind whose research should be forbidden; rather they are set before our eyes like a mirror so that by examining them we observe to some extent the goodness and wisdom of the Creator.... and ...
I wanted to become a theologian; for a long time I was unhappy. Now, behold, God is praised by my work even in astronomy.We're not big on astronomy here at the 'Post, but we love to explore and photograph and think about the world God created for us. Each new discovery is a glorious wonder placed there like a surprise birthday gift, something marvelous to be unwrapped.
The tsunami video below gives an idea of the scale of the thing. Big cars bob around in the water like corks.
Say a prayer for these people. It's a good bet that things will get worse before they get better.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Alumni Converge on State Capitol to Deliver MessageLet's see, the state is $26B in the hole and the UCs are being asked to pony up $500M. The UCs don't want to pay that much. Since the money is going to have to come from somewhere, where will that somewhere be? The email doesn't say.
to Legislators About Importance of University of California
Alumni from all 10 University of California campuses participated in the 2011 “UC Day” at the state Capitol to deliver an important message: UC’s excellence, accessibility and affordability are a driving force in California’s economy, but are critically threatened by the proposed $500 million budget cut.
Ultimately, however, the devil gets his due or at least the central bankers run out of mathematical room to lower real yields below commonsensical floors. Today’s negative real yield on 5-year TIPS (Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities) is perhaps reflective of a market that has lost its fundamental value anchor. A century-long history of average 5-year real yields would point out that bond investors in Aaa 5-year sovereign space have demanded and received a real interest rate return of 1.5% instead of today’s -0.1%. We are being shortchanged, in other words, by 160 basis points from the get-go, a “haircut” that is but one of four ways that governments attempt to escape from an over-levered national balance sheet.Bill has decided to sell all Treasuries out of his bond fund, the largest bond fund in the world. The reason is that the interest on Treasuries is below a level worth investing money. I maintain that the low interest rates and money printing have less to do with boosting the economy than it does with making sure the government can borrow all the money it needs. If it weren't for the Fed loaning $600B or so to the government, the deficit wouldn't be so big because the government wouldn't be able to find any lenders. PIMCO's investment decisions bear this out.
Bill Gross makes the point that this transition from the Fed concentrating on maintaining interest rates to the Fed concentrating on feeding (printed) money to the government has wrecked the accepted standard against which other investments are measured: the Treasury. Bill's not just some nutty blogger with an opinion, he's the manager of the world's largest bond fund. He's doing more than writing about it, he's selling the things and telling everyone else to do the same.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
The Middle East is erupting in revolutions, a major ally has been overthrown, Europe's debt crisis hasn't gone away, Japan's is on the way, US servicemen are being shot in airports by jihadists and our Secretary of State feels it necessary to write this commentary in Bloomberg.
If we invest in women’s education and give them the opportunity to access credit or start a small business, we add fuel to a powerful engine for progress for women, their families, their communities and their countries. Women invest up to 90 percent of their incomes on their families and in their communities.It's like this crew never left their college dorms. The world might be convulsing and American leadership a total void, but the Obama Administration is still in college, having a bull session led by some ancient hippy.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
The number of temporary healthcare reform waivers granted by the Obama administration to organizations climbed to more than 1,000, according to new numbers disclosed by the Department of Health and Human Services.Widespread, large scale corruption is a hallmark of economic fascism. When financial decisions are made by politicians, that's who you sell to.
HHS posted 126 new waivers on Friday, bringing the total to 1,040 organizations that have been granted a one-year exemption from a new coverage requirement included in the healthcare reform law enacted almost a year ago.
I went to one of the UCs. I've been receiving emails from them asking me to make phone calls in support of their budgets. Support their budgets from what? Raids by other departments as the funds draw down, perhaps?
Yesterday, as my son watched the morning news over a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats, we saw the KUSI news anchor rail against state employees' huge pensions. In the LA Times there was a recent article about a renewable energy zealot who had fleeced their community colleges out of millions.
Not all of these stories are motivated by a desire to make sure the others get cut first, but you can be sure that some are. If I was an activist for the Head Start program and I worked at a newspaper or a TV studio, you can be sure that my ideological allies would be feeding me story leads to make their rivals at the public trough look bad. That's how it works in a society where income is dependent on politics. In addition to hiring lobbyists to influence legislators, you whisper in the news media's ear to get the voters to call their representatives.
When there's not enough food being harvested from outside sources, your nourishment has to come from somewhere.
Monday, March 07, 2011
At our church, my wife and I serve as Eucharistic Ministers, as described here. Nearly every time I do it, something happens that chokes me up. I always intend to blog about it, but because our Sundays are usually full of things to do, I don't make it to the keyboard until Monday morning and by then I've forgotten. I'll try to do better in the future as these tiny anecdotes are such a big part of Catholic life.
Yesterday, I was giving out the Blood of Christ. An elderly couple who had sat directly behind us and greeted us with great affection came to take the chalice from my hand. Their hands were shaking with palsy so badly that I was worried they might spill the wine all over the floor. When they got to me, they held hands and in that warm and loving grasp, they damped the shaking of their bodies so they might drink.
I'm sure that the remainder of the people who took the cup from me wondered why I had tears in my eyes. It was as lovely a thing as you might hope to see, a snapshot from years of holding each others' hands. It might have started when they were bashful, pure-hearted lovers in grade school and continued through the joys and trials of a life together to arrive at the point where I got to witness it in a fleeting moment before the altar.
On the western side of the Central Valley, the effects of arbitrary cutoffs in federal irrigation water have idled tens of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land, leaving thousands unemployed. Manufacturing plants in the towns in these areas — which used to make harvesters, hydraulic lifts, trailers, food-processing equipment — have largely shut down; their production has been shipped off overseas or south of the border. Agriculture itself — from almonds to raisins — has increasingly become corporatized and mechanized, cutting by half the number of farm workers needed. So unemployment runs somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.There was an arbitrary cutoff of water? Why was that?
Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no different from what I have seen in the Third World. There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards.
ttoes, blogging at Responsibility - Freedom Demands It, points out the mechanics of the situation.
The Delta-Mendota canal and others were built to move water from the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers south to cities and farms in Central and Southern California. The huge water projects in the Central Valley were paid for over many years by State and Federal tax dollars, many, if not most of which, were produced by the richness of the California Agriculture. As a result of the water projects, in particular the Delta-Mendota and Friant-Kern Canals (both completed as part of the Central Valley Project in 1951), farmers had the water they needed to produce much of the bounty of California’s huge agricultural output. Today the canals are administered by the Federal Government (Bureau of Reclaimation).The Federal Government, under pressure from environmentalists, cut off the irrigation water promised to the Central Valley farmers in order to save the Delta Smelt. The end result: massive poverty and unemployment. So, in order to save tiny fish, social services are being cut and Catholic parishoners are asked to donate more because jobs have been lost and tax revenues are much lower.
There's a solution to all of this, of course, one that lives in your cupboards. It's called a Saturday Night Fish Fry.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Saturday, March 05, 2011
I just perused my favorite political blogs. Meh. Driving around, I listened to the first 25 minutes of the Ricochet podcast before turning it off to listen to Journey to the Center of the Earth.
My conclusion: Real life is more fun than politics.
Friday, March 04, 2011
Yesterday morning I got an email from Audible announcing the release of Jules Verne's classic novel read by the wonderfully talented Mr. Curry. I'm certain I didn't even bothered to finish reading the entire email before I'd spent one of my Audible credits to buy the thing. In a twinkling, it was being downloaded to my Droid 2 and I spent my drive time yesterday listening to one of my favorite actors read one of my favorite authors. Sublime!
Oblique to the theme, my son is a big fan of the TV series Psych. He turned me on to a particular episode where Tim Curry plays a judge on a TV talent show who is getting death threats. Tim's character is an even more flamboyantly obnoxious version of Simon from American Idol and the results are hilarious. Here are a few, inadequate snippets.
"This car makes me want to weep and then die." LOL!
The seemingly small thing is that the battles in the states, while summoning emotions from all sides, are not at their heart emotional. Yes, a lot of people are waving placards, but it's also true that suddenly everyone's talking about numbers; the numbers are being reported in the press and dissected on talk radio. This state has a $5 billion deficit; that state has projected deficits in the tens of millions. One estimate of New Jersey's bill for health and pension benefits for state workers over the next 30 years is an astounding $100 billion—money the state literally does not have and cannot get. The very force of the math has the heartening effect of squeezing ideology right out of the story. It doesn't matter if you're a liberal or a conservative, it's all about the numbers, and numbers are sobering things.The Democrats, particularly the president, and the unions are fighting math.
(In a battle with Governor Chris Christie over benefits, the New Jersey) teachers union decided, in an epic political drama in which arithmetic is the predominant fact, to ignore the math.Assume for a second that Wisconsin Governor Walker is the worst politician in the history of Man. Assume that he's incapable of making his point with the voters. It doesn't matter. Eventually, he will be replaced by a competent politician and the math will still be there. The Democrats can at best only find a temporary escape from defeat because the force of the argument is numerical, not ideological.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
(T)here is something deeper here than just favor-selling and vote-buying. There is something that almost amounts to a twisted idealism in the Democrats' crusade. They are fighting, not just to preserve their special privileges, but to preserve a social ideal. Or rather, they are fighting to maintain the illusion that their ideal system is benevolent and sustainable.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
March 2 (Bloomberg) -- Baseball player Barry Bonds lost a bid to show jurors nude photos of his former mistress in Playboy at his March 21 perjury trial, while a judge said she will let allow testimony from Bonds’s private doctor and other players who took steroids.Sigh.
Can we go back to a time of elegance and grace, please?
Obama performs best on a stage that permits the grandest sweep. He rises to the big occasion, from his inspiring introduction to the public in his 2004 Democratic convention speech to his healing words in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings.Ruth has got the guy dialed in pretty well. She lists many of his equivocations and failures to lead and is seeing a very disturbing pattern. Unfortunately for all of us, she's not likely to see a change over the next two years. The dude is a progressive academic, not a leader. He'll be big on stroking his chin and lecturing to us in a superior, patronizing tone, but leading, not so much.
The president has faltered, though, when called on to translate that rhetoric to more granular levels of specificity: What change, exactly, does he want people to believe in? How, even more exactly, does he propose to get there? "Winning the future" doesn't quite do it.
Buckle up, Ruth. It's going to be quite a ride for you. Mostly downhill.
How The Democrats Could Have Avoided Caving In To The Republicans And Their Wild Attacks On The Poor
There is no FY2011 budget for the United States, thanks to a deliberate dereliction of duty by the Pelosi / Reid legislature. All of the talk of a government shutdown that is going on now would have been avoided, had they executed their primary job - passing an annual budget. Now they're "caving in" to Republicans.
Senate Democrats conceded Tuesday that House Republicans won round one of the budget fight, but they are vowing a bigger battle later this month ...If they'd just passed a budget, they wouldn't be fighting to protect their favorite programs' funding in continuing resolutions now. Pathetic.
(L)iberals worry that Democratic leaders will roll over and accept another deal on Republican terms in an attempt to bolster the reelection chances of vulnerable incumbents in red states.
They fear a reprise of last December when Obama and Republican leaders agreed to a tax-cut deal that was widely panned by the left.
By and large, GOP leaders want to keep negotiating short-term deals as part of a strategy to put pressure on Democrats and win concessions such as they did this week.
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Meanwhile, the revolutionary conflagration sweeping the Middle East has oil at or above $100 a barrel. Both of these events, printing money and an unstable source of petroleum, are inherently inflationary.