Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Have No Idea What This Means

... but the markets are reacting like it's a major sugar rush.
The European Central Bank, U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the central banks of Canada, Japan, and Switzerland are all taking part in the operation, which is designed to "enhance their capacity to provide liquidity support to the global financial system."

The ECB said in a statement the central banks were making it cheaper for banks to get U.S. dollar liquidity when they need it, starting next Monday. They are also taking steps to ensure banks can get ready money in any currency if market conditions warrant by establishing a temporary network of reciprocal swap lines.

The ECB said the central banks have agreed to reduce the cost of temporary dollar loans to banks — called liquidity swaps — by a half percentage point. The new, lower rate will be applied to all central bank operations starting on Monday.
Yay! We're saved! The loans are all paid off and ... wait a minute. Nothing happened.

Frankly, I think Berlusconi growing a beard would have more long-term effect.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Not Sure I Like Disqus

For a while, I was considering ditching Blogger comments and moving to Disqus. I just commented on a friend's blog and felt like I had to go through a retina scan to do so. All I wanted to do was leave a little smile for the guy, not go through a TSA body cavity search.

Maybe now that I've done it through Disqus once it will remember me and it will be easy from now on. I hope so.

(Really, it wasn't that bad. I'm just being a grump because my roast chicken is fighting with me.)

Cheezburger of the Day

European Optimism

... would seem to be misplaced.

The latest attempt to save the Euro calls for national budgets to be reviewed by bureaucrats in Brussels. How adding another and more ossified strata of regulations and oversight to an already crushingly burdensome process is going to save the EU is beyond me. And just how is detection and enforcement going to take place? Are they going to have an all-new set of bureaucrats to monitor tax collection levels in Milan? If it's low, do civil servants in Brussels cancel the public playground expansion efforts in Naples? And who pays for these new civil servants?

When the only tool you have is socialism, every problem looks like it needs another layer of central management.

Meanwhile, Italy continues to sink.
Italy again had to pay investors yields averaging above 7% at its government bond auctions Tuesday, as the euro zone's third-largest economy continues to borrow at costs that forced Greece, Portugal and Ireland to seek external bailouts.

The auction of up to €8 billion in bonds over a range of maturities saw Italy paying a yield of 7.89% on three-year bonds and 7.56% on 10-year paper. Both marked new euro-era highs. That Italy had to offer higher yields on shorter-dated bonds at Tuesday's sale underscores how investors want to be compensated for the risk attached to the country's near-term fiscal outlook.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Diving In The Kelp Beds

Yesterday, two of our boys and I went diving in the kelp beds off of La Jolla Cove. We took along the Kodak Playsport and I did some filming. I got a little bit of worthwhile footage which I rough cut into the video below. Lots of lessons were learned.
  • If you're going to swim, swim. If you're going to film, film. Don't try to do both. You don't enjoy the swimming and the filming comes out too bumpy to use.

  • The Playsport worked great. It was easy to start and stop and the display was clear. I could always tell what was going on with it, even with the mask.

  • Our deepest was about 35-40'. The camera never failed. I smeared its ports with silicone just to be sure it wouldn't leak and was easily able to peel the silicone off after we got home.

  • You have to be careful how you hold the camera. The way I was holding it, I sometimes unwittingly zoomed the thing all the way in. My thumb was on the zoom control. I kept having to zoom back out.

  • Dedicate some time to filming. Don't shoot until you pick a spot and settle down. Then film with nice, slow, calm sweeps. There will be plenty of cool things to see.

  • If no one else is diving and the swells are huge and the tide is in so there is almost no beach and only cliffs, it might be a good idea to postpone the dive. It was pretty brutal coming back in and struggling to the stairs to get out of the surf zone. Whew!
In any case, here's the video. I took it in 1080p, but edited it and converted it to 720p. The hi-res, full-screen version might be worthwhile. Enjoy!

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dear John Maynard Keynes: The Long Run Has Now Arrived

The IMF is warning Japan about its debt.
TOKYO—The International Monetary Fund warned in a new report that market concerns over fiscal sustainability could trigger a "sudden spike" in Japanese government bond yields that could quickly render the nation's debt unsustainable as well as shake the global economy.

The fund's Japan Sustainability Report, released on Wednesday, was a sihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifgnal to Tokyo policy makers that the international community is already worried about fallouts from Japan's potential fiscal problems, after debt problems in some European economies evolved into a Continent-wide crisis.

Japan's public liabilities amount to roughly twice annual economic output—a ratio worse than that of any other industrialized economy, including turmoil-hit Spain and Italy.
No country has done more to "stimulate" it's economy and "invest" in its future than Japan. Aging, debt-ridden Japan. If you thought it was a bad idea to loan money to those wacky Italians, then it might be bad idea to loan it to those sober Japanese, too.

Fortunately for the Japanese, their debt is almost entirely held within Japan. They're not in any trouble unless there's some kind of jump in the number of retirees who need to take their savings out of the government bond market to live on.

Oops.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Politicians Are To Blame For Our Problems

Look, it's really simple. We've given them an easy job. All we asked them to do was to fulfill all of our wants and needs and at the same time deliver economic growth and freedom while maintaining peace. The only reason Eurosocialism and secular progressivism is crashing and burning all around us is because we've got lousy politicians who only care about themselves. We just need the right people in charge and we'll soon have green jobs, a cooling planet, free college educations for all, open borders, plenty of jobs and unicorns riding steampunk airships.


How hard can this be, anyway?

Note: The original illustration came from here, but the site doesn't seem to be functional any more.

Why Thanksgiving Rocks

Our Monks Miscellaneous Musings have the details. I must say, I prefer Thanksgiving to Christmas, too.

If You Don't Want German Bonds, Why Would You Want Euro Bonds?

So earlier this week, the Germans were unable to sell all of their debt at auction. Around the financial world, experts correctly labeled this as a catastrophe. There is still talk about creating Eurobonds or a European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), but the failure of the German debt auction would seem to have ripped that fantasy to shreds.

Both the EFSF and the Eurobond is every country in Europe teaming up to back their collective debt. When you loan these guys money, they're going to pay you back. Well, err, someone's going to pay you back. Italy's a bit short right now, so maybe Portugal can cover the payment. They're having riots against austerity? Well, how about France? They're losing their AAA rating and are cutting their budgets in a panic? OK, well, we all knew it would come to this, let's just get Germany to write you that check.

Oops.

Eurobonds and the EFSF are essentially weaker German bonds. If the real, 100% pure, solid-gold German bonds are tanking, why in the world would you buy diluted German bonds?

It's Eurogeddon: Jeremy Warner over at the Telegraph has a must-read piece on the topic.

In Portugal, the civil servant unions are demanding a return to Disneyworld. Or something like that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Something Else To Be Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi! Jacob the Syrian Hamster here with a heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving for all and sundry! I'm not sure who sundry is, but I hope they have a great holiday.

Here in the Theocracy, we're thankful for so much. Mostly we're thankful for our loved ones, the people that God has given us to share this journey of life. After the little girl in the house made her high school soccer team, we went to Adoration at St. Therese and said a Rosary. As we prayed, we realized it was that sharing of the journey for which we were thankful. Ups and downs, successes and failures, we're blessed to have had the chance to give our love to the people in our lives.

And we're blessed to have readers like you! We're almost at the 500,000 visits mark and we're deeply thankful for all of you. Have a very happy Thanksgiving and we hope to see you again on this blog real soon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yikes

This doesn't look good.
FRANKFURT—A German government debt auction drew some of the weakest demand since the introduction of the euro, signaling diminishing investor appetite for even the safest euro-zone assets amid Europe's worsening debt crisis.

The German government was able to sell only €3.644 billion ($4.92 billion) of the €6 billion in 10-year bunds on auction for an average yield of 1.98%.
Germany couldn't find buyers for all of its bonds?

My take: I think this is a vote of no confidence in the Euro, not Germany. If you bought German bonds, they would be denominated in Euros. If the Euro takes a dive, then a 2% return on the bond won't be nearly enough to make up for the loss due to the currency. Germany is getting dragged down by the toads in the Eurozone.

"May Your Road Be Rough"

Every week, I get together with my Cursillo groupies at a local Denny's for beakfast to chat about what's new in our lives and faith. Last week, while we were eating and talking, I noticed a black man asleep in a corner booth. He was sleeping sitting up, with his chin on his chest. My neck hurt just watching him. He wasn't dirty or unkempt as you might expect of a homeless man, but he was clearly not having a good day.

When breakfast was over, I stopped by and asked him how he was doing. In an African (I can't place it any better than that - sub-Saharan Africa) accent he told me he was doing OK. We talked a little about sleeping sitting up and how uncomfortable it was. He smiled and agreed, but didn't share his woes with me. Instead, he said with a smile, "In Africa, we have a saying. 'May your road be rough.'"

I guessed the end of the saying. "...so you may learn strength for life?"

He smiled and nodded. A great, big, beautiful smile, too. I said goodbye and God bless and walked over to the cash register and while paying for our group breakfast, I bought him a $20 gift card. I had the waitress deliver it after I left. I figure that made him smile again. It was a small reward for sharing a beautiful saying about accepting hardship with grace and courage.

Update: Here's another blogger who has a bit more on the saying.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

St. Therese Sunset

I caught this one from the parking lot of St. Therese church. I left it large in the original so it might be worth a click. Enjoy!

Rising Interest Rates Are A Moral Backstop

... to our failed self-denial.

The Europeans are facing rising borrowing costs. In a moral sense, this is mathematics enforcing what they as a society could not - the denial of desires. They wanted socialized medicine, so they took it. The wanted plump retirements, so they took them. Like children whose parents have given up on discipline, they've grabbed everything for themselves. Now the stern hand of the market is coming down on them to restore the discipline they threw away in a frenzy of selfishness that they claimed was "compassion."

We're experiencing the same thing here as municipalities go bankrupt, national super committees fail to agree on even the most modest of restrictions and states face massive budget cuts.

Scarcity is the natural order of things and you can only throw self-denial away for so long before external realities force it on you again.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

Robert Reich: Running On Intellectual Empty

Robert Reich is a brilliant economist. At least that's what I've heard. He's some kind of guru for the left, but I have to admit I'd never read his work. I finally broke down and read this.

I'm not going to bother to excerpt it. It's pretty horrible. Here's a summary: "lather, rinse, repeat." Don't cut spending because it will increase suffering, cut the military and raise taxes on the rich. The logic against cutting spending is that unemployment is over 5%. Of course, when unemployment was under 5%, he didn't want to cut spending, either. I presume there's some kind of aggregate demand basis for this, but if that's the case, why cut defense spending? That's aggregate demand, too. Dittos for raising taxes on anyone.

Anyway, no matter what, don't cut social spending.

There. That's it. That's the logic. It doesn't matter what's going on, we need to spend, spend, spend.

In news that would seem trivial and unrelated to someone of Robert Reich's massive mental powers, the US now has something like $61T in unfunded liabilities. Those are entitlements we've promised to people in the future, but don't even have plans to think about considering to discuss the start of talks to ponder how we will pay for them. But don't cut them, either.

Sigh.

Here is a picture of some grass. It has the same intellectual heft as Robert Reich.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What The World Has Been Waiting For

A time-lapse sunset cloud evolution set to the theme song from Mannix.



KT: Jacob, you left in a pair of studio crescendos at the end, totally unrelated to the theme song.



Jacob: Oops. Sorry about that.

Don't Blame The Teachers

My daughter, having moved from a Catholic school to a public school this year, has had her first encounters with illiterate peers. Some of the students in her pubic high school cannot read without extensive help.

About two or three times a week, we get automated phone calls from the school district that give us her teachers' current assessments of her work. From the sound of it, the teachers must be filling out standard forms for each student and then the district has a text-to-speech computer that makes the phone calls.

Last week, her English teacher called me personally to talk about her progress. There was something going on that he wanted me to nip in the bud - she was texting during class. It took us about three phone calls to finally connect, but the teacher never gave up trying to talk to me. That was a lot of effort on his part for something that was pretty minor.

The school has a decent website where you can find your child's grades, down to each assignment. When my daughter doesn't turn one in, we usually get an automated phone call from the district's computers letting us know.

And yet, for all of this, there are plenty of kids who can't read or get a lousy education. It seems to me that the majority of the fault lies with the parents. I can't see how spending more and more money on education is ever going to fix this.

Hmmm.

Internet Explorer Just Updated Itself On My Laptop

... and it changed my homepage to MSN and my search provider to Bing. Thanks, guys. For a minute I'd thought that I knew what I liked, but now that I've had you jam your hideous products down my throat, I can see that I was wrong!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Debt Is Not An Infection

As the European debt crisis has unfolded, I've been consistently amazed at the use of the "contagion" model for the problem. We've been told by all kinds of authorities that if the Greek debt problem could be resolved, the contagion wouldn't spread to other countries, as if a loss of confidence in a sovereign's ability to repay their loans was a kind of infection, spread by visual contact. I see that Greece can't pay it's debts, so I'm going to sell my Portuguese bonds.

Does that work at your house? If you and your neighbor each owe Citibank $150,000 on your credit cards, does resolving his crisis solve yours? Heck no! You're screwed, pal. Get ready to move into a studio apartment after selling everything you own.

When the austerity wave hit France recently, that must have been the end of the contagion model. I haven't heard much of it lately. The big deal to me is not that they've ditched the thing, it's that they ever grabbed onto it in the first place. How intellectually bankrupt do you have to be to treat debt like an infection? How morally bankrupt do you have to be to do so in order to keep handing out wads of borrowed cash to public employee unions and people on the dole? Their world view is clearly wrong and yet even as it fell apart right in front of them, they came up with one more preposterous model to save it.

I wonder what their next model will be.

These are bacilli, not bonds.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oh For Heaven's Sakes

Click here.

Fear In Europe

Long-time members of the Feline Theocracy, our College of Cardinals over at No Pasaran have a recent post describing austerity measures being enacted in ... France. Not Spain (where bond yields are kissing 7% today), Italy or Portugal, but France. What's even more amazing is how they're reacting.
(Reuters) - Budget cuts that might once have sent French people marching into the streets look set to pass in silence as anxiety about debt and deficits, long non-issues in free-spending France, loom large in voters' minds ahead of a presidential election.

Just a year ago, unions staged spectacular protests against a two-year hike in the legal retirement age, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of demonstrators over many months, and in some places blocking access to fuel supplies.

The reaction was much less explosive this week after Prime Minister Francois Fillon unveiled France's second round of belt-tightening in just three months, intoning that the "hour of truth" had come to defend France's triple-A credit rating.
I read a few German, Greek and Italian news site translations from time to time and the mood seems serious, but the tone is measured and even. The public is less sanguine. Judging by the muted reactions to these budget cuts and the slow-motion bank runs in progress, the Eurosocialist on the street is scared to death. Some idle speculation, based on nothing and probably dead wrong:
  • In the old days, each government would have blamed the others and armies would be being mobilized. Luckily, modern Europeans are such pansies that we need have no fear of that.

  • As Mark Steyn loves to point out, a large portion of the Muslim population in countries like France are on the dole. I wonder what's going on in their ghettos right about now. Nothing good, I'm sure.

  • If they hadn't killed off all the Jews, they'd probably be blaming them, too.

  • An old programming friend of mine used to say that if you ditch your software development process when your project is in crisis, then it was the wrong software development process. Similarly, it's interesting that the progressive, socialist model is being universally ditched by all of these countries. All along, compassion was a luxury good that had almost none of the positive effects (like wealth creation) ascribed to it.
There. That's enough wild speculations for now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Illiteracy

This year, my daughter is going to a public school. She went to a Catholic school from Kindergarten to 8th grade and now she's a freshman at the local public high school. Some of the kids in her classes can't read. She's never seen this before. She can't understand how illiterate students managed to advance to the next grade and in to high school.

The problems of social promotions are so obvious to her as to defy explanation.

She Made The Team!

If you've been following this blog, you'll know that my daughter's been working hard to make her high school soccer team. The last cut list came out today and she made the team. Hurrah! Here in the Catican, as you might expect, we will be celebrating with sobriety and devout, quiet prayer.

Like this.

Edward Gibbon Nails It 220 Years Early

The five marks of the Roman decaying culture:
  • Concern with displaying affluence instead of building wealth;

  • Obsession with sex and perversions of sex;

  • Art becomes freakish and sensationalistic instead of creative and original;

  • Widening disparity between very rich and very poor;

  • Increased demand to live off the state.
Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One Down, One To Go

My daughter made the first cut for her high school soccer team. There's one more tryout session today and then the final cuts are tomorrow. Prayers are welcome!

Shaft The Banksters! (And Yourselves!)

Banks are pretty simple institutions. Once they finish foreclosing on the orphanage*, they lend your deposits out to your neighbors using something called fractional reserve banking. Fractional reserve banking means that for every dollar of actual deposits they have, they can lend out some multiple of it. This is called the Deposit Creation Mulitplier. Let's run through a simple example.

Greedsville Bank has some deposits. By regulation, they have to have 20% of the value of their loans in assets (20% arbitrarily chosen). That means for every $1 they have on deposit, they can lend $5. Jason, Britney, Michelle, Tasheka, Eduardo and Jabrielle all want to go to college, but they can't afford it. They decide to take out loans. Jason goes first.

Jason takes out a loan and gets a degree in Bisexual Performance Art. When he graduates, he discovers two things. He can't get a job and Greedsville Bank is all over his sorry rear end trying to get money from him. The banksters are at it again! Well-schooled in economics by his university professors (particularly the ones who taught the Transgendered Studies classes), he decides to strike a blow for the masses and refuses to pay the banksters their blood money.

Greedsville Bank has to write off his loan as a loss. When they write off his loan, it comes out of their deposits. The loss of his loan means there are 5 loans they can't make in the future because those reserves are gone. Britney, Michelle, Tasheka, Eduardo and Jabrielle go to the bank and ask for loans and are turned down. They realize that it's the bankster greed at work, man! This is totally uncool! They gather up their sleeping bags and go to the local city park and protest. After 2 months of sleeping in self-created filth, Britney gets raped, Michelle contracts Tuberculosis, Tasheka overdoses on Heroin, Eduardo is robbed at gunpoint and Jabrielle is arrested. It's a big win for The People!

Meanwhile, Greedsville Bank still isn't able to loan anyone the money because Jason didn't pay them back.



* - This is a very dated reference. Thanks to more than 1 million abortions per year, we no longer have orphanages. Instead, we have full employment at Topf and Sons dumpsters full of body parts. Margaret Sanger FTW!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Better Berlusconi Beard

After I posted it a few days ago, I spent some time brushing up on my Photoshop skills. Using training from lynda.com, I got a bit better at my selections and transforms. Enjoy.

Ahhhh. Much better. Now Italy is saved!

Cheezburger of the Day

Unreal

Click here.

Elections Are Overrated, Part II

It just hit me what the Italians are doing by circumventing elections and picking Mario Monti to be their new prime minister. They're naming a fall guy unassociated with any of the major parties. If the public goes bananas about necessary austerity measures, they can all blame him and claim they had nothing to do with it. It's brilliant!

Update: Dittos for Greece and their new PM, Lucas Papademos.
With his experience as a former ECB vice president and above the fray of Athenian politics, Papademos’s arrival has been hailed both by Greeks and by EU leaders who had lambasted the country’s failure to enforce tax payments, sell state firms, raise taxes and slash public jobs, wages and pensions.
"Above the fray of Athenian politics" means "he's not one of our boys, blame someone else for all this nasty austerity stuff."

Last Night's Dream

So last night, I dreamed I was in a small meeting room where I was helping a young man film something. I don't remember what it was, just that we had a camera on a tripod and the contents of the camera case all over the table. A group of people then came in to hold a meeting. The place got crowded and every time someone tried to move around, you had to turn sideways to let them by. I got cranky and wondered when they were going to leave. Eventually they left and a new crowd came in with even more people.

When I woke up, there was a cat and two dogs on the bed in addition to me and my wife. You couldn't turn over or move much at all. Gaaahhhh!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

Der will be vengeance!  Sharp clawed vengeance!

Soccer Tryouts Update

Yesterday, my daughter went to her high school soccer tryouts. Despite the fact that it was raining, she was eager to get going. Having done some reading on how to prepare for tryouts on the web, we went early and stopped at a local park to get in 100-200 touches before the tryouts. Once we were out on the grass, going through her basic skills, the rain ceased to matter and we just had fun.

She didn't want me hanging around, so I dropped her off at the high school and went back home to make dinner, after stopping at our local church for a little boost from You Know Who. The tryouts went from 5-8 and I got back to the stadium around 7:40 and saw the group running gassers. After 2 1/2 hours of working out, the coaches had them sprint 100 yards and then jog back. The varsity girls were there as well as JV and my daughter ran around 25th out of 45. If that was anything to go by, she did fine.

When tryouts were over and I was driving her home, she said she thought she did really well. On one of her past weak points, one-on-ones, she thought she killed it, beating her opponents almost every time. If that's true, it's a huge step up from the past when her ball-control skills have been poor. Up to now, she's been more of a hockey goon kind of soccer player, playing defense with a wild ferocity. If you know soccer, picture Joey Barton, only with less restraint.

The best thing of all was the way she talked on the way home. She wanted it. She wanted to be better, she wanted to be faster, she wanted to excel at something concrete in life. As a parent, that's my deepest desire, that she want to be really, really good at something. She won't play socer professionally, but learning how to master anything right now is worth its weight in gold.

We talked about the competition as we drove. She said many of the girls hadn't played soccer in a while, so their skills were a bit rough, but some could outrun her. She said she really wanted to get faster and vowed to work even harder on her hill sprints. When I told her she could run track in the spring and chances were good they accepted anyone on the track team, she was all over it.

And that, my friends, is what I want as a parent. Not soccer, not success, not victory, but desire and dedication driven from within. It's been a long road getting here. There were plenty of times I had to provide the drive and be Ogre-Dad, forcing her to work out and demanding she work harder. I don't think many kids are born with that, I think parents have to keep pushing until the benefits become obvious and the kids get going on their own. To see it start to take hold is a wondrous thing.

When we got home, before we got out of the car, I told her that no matter how the tryouts ended, she was a success. She lapped it up with a big smile. But she still wanted the make the team. A lot.

Put down the Facebook updates, we're going to the field. You need to work on collections!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Parenting, Soccer Tryouts and Goals

As I write this, my daughter is preparing for her soccer tryouts later this evening. She's a high school freshman and for a long time, her goal has been to play ball in high school. She's had a few strikes against her in life and despite years of club soccer, making the team isn't a slam dunk for her. She's a little stressed about the tryouts.

I'm ready to run in circles, screaming.

Way back when, I recommended the book, Goals!. I've been through its process several times and in so doing, I've modified my goals as a parent from helping my kids succeed to helping them learn how to make good decisions. Similarly, I've been praying about these tryouts and at first I wanted her to make the team. I realized that was the wrong thing to desire, if that was all I desired. Instead, my hope is that I am able to provide good guidance to her, to help her grow into a loving and helpful woman, regardless of how the tryouts turn out. The tryouts are just an event in life, something to help her become the best version of herself.

Of course, if she kicks booty this evening and makes the team, that wouldn't be so bad, either.

<a href='http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/premierleague/story/newcastle-v-everton-follow-it-live?videoId=88da0481-d4e8-4b29-ada9-9e007336f1d8&src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='PL Highlights: Newcastle/Everton' >Video: PL Highlights: Newcastle/Everton</a>

My advice to her going in to the tryouts is to relax, knowing that whatever happens, she has done everything she could have done to get ready for this. She can take pride in her preparation and effort, no matter the result. Oh, and try to score a goal like Ryan Taylor did in Newcastle's win over Everton.

Update: Did I mention it's raining like crazy? Awesome.

We've Seen This Before

The WSJ has a front-page story today, Europe Pulls Back From The Brink. Here's a tidbit.
Greece and Italy—whose fiscal and political crises have set off ever-bigger scares among global investors—took concrete steps toward budgetary austerity Friday, helping soothe markets for the moment.
We saw this kind of thing time and time again as Greece lurched from one rescue to the next, but with each rescue their bond rates ratcheted up. The rates would jump up, the rescue would come and the rates would fall back, but not as far as they rose. Inexorably, Greek rates went into the stratosphere while one rescue after another was heralded as the one that would save them all.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Elections Are Overrated

The Italians, having moistened their pantaloons as they watched their bond yields blast off, heading for who-knows-how-high, are taking things seriously. First, they want a new government, but they're not too interested in waiting to see what the population wants.
(ANSA) - Rome, November 11 - Emma Marcegaglia, the head of industrial employers' confederation Confindustria, on Friday pleaded with Italy's politicians to agree on the formation of a national unity government headed by Mario Monti.

She said the alternative to an emergency government led by the former European commissioner, snap elections, would be dangerous given the financial crisis enveloping the country...

"There are no alternatives (to an emergency government) because a three-month election campaign would ruin the country."
Meanwhile, the Italian parliament is throwing old folks and whole government agencies off a cliff in order to save the country.
(ANSA) - Rome, November 11 - An austerity package paving the way for Premier Silvio Berlusconi to hand over the reins of command passed from the Senate to the House Friday as Italy gathered momentum in addressing its debt crisis.

The package, which contains EU-mandated moves on pensions, liberalisation, administrative cost-cutting and slashing red tape, was passed by 158 votes with 11 nays.
"Liberalisation" means selling off government assets such as whole agencies and their jobs. "Slashing red tape" means removing regulations and regulators.

If socialism worked, wouldn't they be doing more of it now that there's a crisis and not less?

Here, an Italian socialist tries to get the attention of a passing capitalist, hoping he'll stop by and help out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Am I Missing Something?

Was this supposed to be attractive? I get that fashion is sometimes over-the-top and avant-gard and all, but this looks like the woman has completely lost her mind.

Link Of The Day And Matthew 25:40

Here's the link. Here's an excerpt:
At one of the stops, a group of young men and a woman came in. They must have been in their twenties, or early thirties at most. As soon as they walked into the train (it was filling up at that point), they start being completely obnoxious. They literally start making fun of the homeless guy, pretending that they are spraying themselves with deodorant, and pretty much being the worst examples of humanity that they could possibly be. They start loudly making fun of everything about this homeless man. They loudly make fun of his weight, his smell...treating him like he has no dignity whatsoever. They start laughing raucously and some other passengers start joining in with the laughing.
Matthew 25:40: Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'

Enough Is Enough With OWS

They've now got a TB outbreak in Occupy Atlanta.
The Fulton County Health Department confirmed Wednesday that residents at the homeless shelter where protesters have been occupying have contracted the drug-resistant disease. WGCL reports that a health department spokeswoman said there is a possibility that both Occupy Atlanta protesters and the homeless people in the shelter may still be at risk since tuberculosis is contracted through air contact.
The Occupy barnyards ought to be shut down immediately. This isn't a matter of free speech any more, it's a matter of public health and safety. I know no one in power wants to be all Squaresville and make the kids end their sleepover, but enough is enough with this.

If Tuberculosis isn't enough to make us clean out these man-made disasters with fire hoses of Lysol, then what is?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When It Hits The Fan, Socialists Turn To The Greedmongers To Save Their Skins

Dig this.
After yields on Italian government bonds soared above 7% on Wednesday, President Giorgio Napolitano unexpectedly announced that he had named Mr. Monti, a former European commissioner, as senator for life. By bestowing an honor reserved for just a handful of other Italians in the upper house of Parliament, Mr. Napolitano made it easier for Mr. Monti to take up a government post, even though he isn't an elected official...

The moves were aimed at reversing what seems like an unstoppable decline of faith in Italy. On Wednesday, investors sent Italian shares into a tailspin and drove up yields on government bonds maturing as soon as 2013 to levels unseen since 1997...

That Mr. Napolitano, a former member of the Italian Communist Party, has sponsored a free-market economist shows how serious the head of state was in seeking the fastest way to take market pressure off his country.
Emphasis mine.

Huh. I'll bet that two years ago, Mr. Napolitano was telling everyone who would listen that Mr. Monti was a greedy, plutocrat, racist homophobe. Now that the progressives have turned Italy into a economic basket case, it's time to bring the greedmongers back to save the day.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I Resemble That Remark!

Click here.

How Fast Was The Italian Meltdown?

It was so fast that the Italians haven't even had time to riot. I'm not being flippant or snarky here, either. This has all blown apart so fast that the populace hasn't reacted yet.


Rates on Italian bonds. Note that this chart, only a few days old, is woefully out of date. The upper bound on the graph is well below the current bond rates of 7.4% or whatever they are right now.

Italian Bonds Break 7%

Oof.
Italian bond yields have now surely passed the point of no return. With 10-year bonds now yielding more than 7.3% and rising, it is hard to see how Rome can possibly stop this dangerous spiral. The mother and father of all bailouts looks inevitable if Italy is to avoid a catastrophic default: it has more than €300 billion of debt to refinance in the next year alone. But who is going to provide the money to keep Rome afloat?


Mach schnell mit der Druckerpresse!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

And Now On To The Main Event., Italy.

Greece is saved! Or maybe not. At least the banks that hold worthless Greek debt are saved. That's what matters there. At least for 2011. For 2012 and beyond, Greece and the rest are doomed, but Eurosocialism was never about the future, only about the present.

Greece was a sideshow and everyone knew that. The chain of frantic bailout efforts and "austerity" budgets was not about Greece, it was about Spain and Italy. The typically short-sighted theory was that if the Eurosocialists could convince bondholders that Greece was going to be OK, they wouldn't panic about Italian and Spanish debts blasting out of orbit and heading for Neptune. That was never going to work for reasons that are becoming all to obvious.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote this:
You can't have the kind of debts (Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy) has with (olive oil, sardine, tourism, lousy Italian cars) income. This is like a runaway freight train and the bondholders and European Central Bankers keep getting surprised every time the thing smashes through another flimsy barricade.
The last barricades are coming up very soon as Italian bonds are getting killed. Whether Greece was "solved" or not means nothing to bondholders who are deciding that the market for their allegedly convertible Italian securities is rapidly drying up and it's time to unload the things. It's not the number of Italian bonds the Italian government is trying to sell, it's the total number of Italian bonds up for sale and with an overall debt of $2.6T, there's a lot of Italian bonds out there waiting to be be thrown onto the market. More and more people aren't waiting.
With Italian bond yields surging higher, analysts said Italy is at the brink of being unable to afford to borrow in the public markets.

Less than two weeks after European leaders unveiled an agreement that was designed to bolster confidence in the region, the yield on Italy's 10-year debt drew close to the 7% mark, a line in the sand of both practical and psychological importance to the market...

"I don't know if 7% is the upper limit, or if it's 6.9% or 7.25%, but I do know [Italy] can't go on for very long having these kinds of bond yields," said Gabriel Stein, director at Lombard Street Research in London.
The MSM is watching the fate of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Will he resign? Will his allies stick by him? Will he grow a beard? It doesn't matter. Socialized medicine, free college education, massive pensions, a huge government workforce, it's all gone. We're watching the final days of Eurosocialism no matter what. Even if they fix things in 2011, they'll return to the same problems in 2012, 2013 and on until it breaks down for good.


Silvio Berlusconi now has a beard. We're saved!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Long Beach And Los Angeles After A Rain

I spent last Thursday night at the Long Beach Courtyard. I was visiting my son, who goes to CSULB, and on Friday morning had to drive back to the LA Convention Center for BlogWorld. It rained Thursday night and Friday morning was spectacular. Here's a photo I took from my room at the Courtyard before I left. Note that you can see the mountains in the distance. The mountains! From Long Beach! The smog was all washed away. I deliberately left the image large so you could make out the details. Click on the image for the big version.


Driving in to LA on the 110 was breathtaking. When the smog has been washed away and there are big, puffy clouds in the sky, the LA skyline is beautiful. Set against the backdrop of the mountains in the north and east, the skyscrapers were clear and bright and beautiful. It was one of those moments when everything comes together to give you something wonderful to enjoy. I really wanted to stop and take a photo, but I was in a hurry to get to the conference. I probably should have pulled off and found a way to do it, but I chose the conference over the photo opportunity. Oh well.

BlogWorld LA 2011 - Google+ For Business

The first big keynote talk of the Expo was Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan describing how they used Google+ and comparing it to Facebook. In short, they both love Google+. They're of the opinion that it will be bigger than Facebook. Yes, Facebook has all the people now, but Google+ has Google behind it and in the end, that's going to be a big deal. Major points from their talk:
  • Facebook is for friends and family, Google+ is for people who share your passions. It's more community-centered.

  • A good way to use Google+ is to search it for keywords related to your hobbies and passions. That will reveal plenty of others in your field.

  • Surprisingly, Guy Kawasaki does not use circles in Google+. Circles are what allow you to group your connections into subsets based on topic or location or whatever you want. With the people that I know, it is the primary reason to move to Google+, but he doesn't use it at all. Instead, he uses it in one, giant stream.

  • Guy said the technology was going to be used in unanticipated ways. For example, there was recently a Google Hangout where a group got together to cook online. That's an interesting idea.

  • Social networking in general allows you to get to know people before you get down to business. (That's been said many, many times before.)

  • Guy and Chris hated avatars. They think you ought to have a photo of yourself and not something wacky. Like a cat.
Both Guy and Chris are atypical users. Most of the audience probably couldn't relate to them - I know I struggled with that. As soon as they got on Google+, I'm sure they immediately picked up 10-30,000 followers. I'm on Google+ and I'm not sure of the value of the thing, but after this talk I'm going to spend some time searching for folks with my interests and seeing where that leads.


Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Blogging Has Really Gone Mainstream

... you can tell because this year's BlogWorld in LA was dominated by corporate bloggers and social media experts. For most of the people I talked to, it was their first time at a BlogWorld Expo. Many had their own blogs on the side, but almost everyone I met was working for a company in the public affairs or marketing department doing the company blog or Facebook page.

It's good to see that blogging has become so accepted, but it made for a pretty subdued conference. It might also have had something to do with the fact that the event was held in LA instead of Vegas.

More later.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Courtyard Is Better Than Marriott

... because it gives you the same things a Marriott does, but without all the pretension.

I'm up in LA for Blogworld Expo and the first night, I stayed at the LAX Marriott (LAXM). I always stay within the Marriott chain in order to save rewards points and the LAX hotel was the closest to the LA Convention Center that still had vacancies. Big mistake.

I drove up, missed the self parking turnoff and got jumped by the valets. $37 later, my car was parked. Self-parking was something like $29 so I was paying either way. Gahhhh!

The hotel itself was gorgeous, but I don't care about gorgeous. Here's all I want:
  • Internet

  • In-room coffee

  • Two beds - one to sleep in and one to throw my stuff on
I checked out the next day and went down to the Long Beach Courtyard (LBC). I was going out to dinner with my son who is at CSULB, so the place was convenient enough for me. Here's how the two compared.

LBC had a carafe for the in-room coffee meaning it brewed two cups. LAXM brewed a single serving into a paper cup. Advantage: LBC.

LBC had free Internet. LAXM charged $11. Advantage: LBC.

Both had two beds. Advantage: Even.

The LAXM had high ceilings, but while sleeping, surfing the web and blogging, that means nothing to me. The LAXM was in better shape, but while doing the aforementioned activities, I don't really notice the ratty carpet in the elevators or the aging paint on the hallway walls. Since I'm not interested in bringing some chick back to my hotel room, I don't care if it's a little shabby. I just want the hotel to be in a safe part of town with basic amenities.

I don't need my hotel to be near my meetings, either. I have this crazy box on wheels called a "car" that makes distances seem like nothing. If I listen to 10 minutes more of Mark Steyn's After America while driving to the conference, that's fine with me. I'm not coming home to kids or cat or dogs or wife, so getting in a little late at the end of the day means nothing. As far as locations go, what I really want are photo opportunities after working hours so I can post interesting shots on the blog.

Resolved: From now on, I'm staying at Courtyards in interesting locations.

Blogworld Between Sessions

I clamped my camera to a door handle in a hallway outside of the session rooms at Blogworld LA and ended up with this video. Enjoy!

G-20 Decides Not To Invest In Toads

The Euros hunt for a sugar daddy to keep their infantile social welfare states alive had better move on to Mars and Saturn because the people of Earth aren't interested in throwing mountains of money down their particular rathole.
Europe emerged Friday from the two-day Group of 20 industrial and developing nations summit with precious little to show. No G-20 country committed to help seed the euro zone's bailout fund, and the nations resolved only to continue talking about providing additional firepower through the International Monetary Fund.
Price: $400B Value: $0 Buy today!

Here's a fun little excerpt about Italy.
One small step emerged: Italy, the focus of substantial worries in European debt markets, agreed to permit the IMF to monitor its progress with fiscal reforms. IMF inspectors will head shortly to Italy and will report regularly on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's efforts to reduce Italy's huge debt burden, which is second only to Greece's in the euro zone.
And now, a hypothetical foretaste of where we're headed here in the US, an excerpt from a WSJ article in the not-too-distant future.
One small step emerged: America, the focus of substantial worries in global debt markets, agreed to permit the IMF to monitor its progress with fiscal reforms. IMF inspectors will head shortly to the US and will report regularly on President Barack Obama's efforts to reduce America's huge debt burden, which is second to none.
If you thought living under our government was problematic, just wait until you live under our government living under the IMF. Sovereignty is yours only so long as you can pay your bills.

Cheezburger of the Day

Dangerous tuna

Thursday, November 03, 2011

At Blogworld

I've been blessed to be able to attend all of the Blogworlds since the beginning and this year I'm in LA for the 2011 Expo. In the past, I've blogged right from the conference sessions, but this year I'm going retro and am not bringing my laptop. For one thing, I didn't get many hits on my posts and for another, my new laptop is basically a Lamborghini, both in speed and size. I don't want to sit with a sports car on my lap all day, so it's not coming into the buildng with me.

Instead, I'm going to be That Weird Guy Over There Who Clearly Doesn't Get This Whole Blogging Thing and will take notes with pen and paper. I'm bringing my camera, so I'll get some shots, but I'll wait until tonight to post them and my takes from the day's sessions here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

An Idea Whose Time Has Come - Capping Loan Payments

President Obama feels the pain of the poor college students who have taken out six-figure loans and are now expected to pay them back. Here's his proposal.
That’s why we’re making changes that will give about 1.6 million students the ability to cap their loan payments at 10 percent of their income starting next year.
I like this idea and think it needs to be extended to other areas as well. How about these:
  • We will give you the ability to cap your tax payments to 10 percent of your income.

  • We will give you the ability to cap your house payments to 10 percent of your income.

  • We will give you the ability to cap your car payments to 10 percent of your income.

  • We will give you the ability to cap your credit card payments to 10 percent of your income.
I think this will get America working again. After all, if we do this, I can afford a $2.5M home, a Lotus Exige and $350,000 in credit card debt. Talk about throwing the economy into high gear! Pass this bill, Mr. Heartless Republican Plutocrat Homophobe Racist!

A Lotus Exige. We can't wait!

A Little More On That Greek Referendum

Two caveats. First, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, quoted below, likes apocalyptic scenarios and dislikes the EU. Second, it's possible that the Greek Parliament may find a way to stop the referendum on the debt deal before it goes much farther. Having said that, Ambrose made some good points in his column yesterday afternoon.
The spokesman of French president Nicolas Sarkozy ... said the move was “irrational and dangerous”. Rainer BrĂ¼derle, Bundestag leader of the Free Democrats, said the Greeks appear to be “wriggling out” of a solemn commitment. They face outright bankruptcy, he blustered.

Well yes, but at least the Greeks are stripping away the self-serving claims of the creditor states that their “rescue” loan packages are to “save Greece”.

They are nothing of the sort. Greece has been subjected to the greatest fiscal squeeze ever attempted in a modern industrial state, without any offsetting monetary stimulus or devaluation.

The economy has so far collapsed by 14pc to 16pc since the peak – depending who you ask – and is spiralling downwards at a vertiginous pace.

The debt has exploded under the EU-IMF Troika programme. It is heading for 180pc of GDP by next year. Even under the haircut deal, Greek debt will be 120pc of GDP in 2020 after nine years of depression. That is not cure, it is a punitive sentence.

... The Greeks were made to suffer IMF austerity without the usual IMF cure. This was done for one purpose only, to buy time for banks and other Club Med states to beef up their defences ...

(L)ike the Spartans, Thebans, and Thespians at the Pass of Thermopylae, the Greeks were sacrificed to buy time for the alliance.
I would argue that the cause of the credit crisis has been a societal one - a belief in a secular Santa Claus. If you voted the right way, the government would shower gifts upon you, gifts that came from ... from ... from, well, from somewhere. Perhaps it was magic. In any case, you didn't have to work and save, you could just have what you wanted. Sort of like that magic piece of plastic you carry around that lets you buy whatever you want, only with many fewer and much smaller bills sent to your door.

The dream of every OWS protestor. Magical money.

So the Greeks have been getting a good, old-fashioned caning for doing exactly what the rest of Europe, the US and Japan have been doing for decades. We're teaching them a lesson and looking on them in scorn for having done it faster and more flagrantly than we did. Why shouldn't they call a referendum? Why not flip all of their creditors the bird and go back to the drachma?

You don't think we're going to pay our creditors back, do you?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

George Papandreou Doing The Sensible Thing

On one side, the EU is jamming more austerity measures down Greece's throat and on the other side, there are riots going on in Athens to protest the budget cuts they are already experiencing. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has done what any sane national leader would do in his case. He threw in the towel and asked his citizens to make the choice. Washing his hands of the whole affair, he's letting the people of Greece figure out how to get out of the mess that they themselves voted to get into over the last several decades.
LONDON—Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou's call for a referendum on a freshly minted bailout package rattled European officials and global markets, sparking warnings that the move could force the collapse of the Greek government and push the country into a destabilizing default on its sovereign debt.

The decision opened a rift within the ruling Socialist party, with one lawmaker resigning from the party in disagreement with the referendum and another one calling for early elections.
There's a rift? Like Papandreou cares. Right now he's probably more concerned with his offices being burned down when the police finally get tired of holding back the rioters who are protesting paying back the money they all knowingly borrowed.
Fears that the euro-zone plan could unravel if the bailout program is rejected at a Greek referendum or force new elections rattled global financial markets with stocks and the euro plunging, and 10-year Italian bond yields rising perilously close to their highest levels since the euro's inception.
Well, shucks, the rest of the Eurozone is in a bad way. I'm not sure that's keeping the Greek PM up at night. If they didn't want to be in trouble, they should have stayed solvent. Instead, they've all followed Greece down this particular rathole to one extent or another. It's not the Greeks' fault that the Italians have borrowed themselves into insolvency.

Good on ya, Mr. Papandreou.

Investigating Events 2,000 Years After The Fact

I just finished listening to Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. Lee was an atheist who was an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune when his wife converted to Christianity. Using his investigative skills, Lee set out to prove that Christ, or at least Christ's divinity, was a myth. The result was the most compelling and complete case for Christianity I've ever heard. From historical accounts, archaeology, psychology and much more, Lee pursued the topic and found more and more evidence for Christ. I spent a little time noodling around YouTube and found this brief summary by Lee.

Enjoy. And then check out the book. Religion aside, I learned a lot about the different disciplines he applied to his work. His work is so compelling and so complete that I think I'm going to stop reading theology books for quite a while and go back to philosophy, fiction, business and science. After you read Lee, there's not a whole lot left to read.