|H/T: Dan Mitchell|
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
WASHINGTON—A drop in auto purchases weighed on U.S. retail sales last month, though underlying figures show that consumers picked up the pace of spending on electronics, eating out and some other nonessentials.The analysis at the end of the article has this to say.
Retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in September from a month earlier, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had forecast a 0.1% rise.
(M)ore recently job creation has stalled and consumer confidence has taken a hit, raising concerns that spending could fall off. The Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan consumer-sentiment index fell for the second straight month in September. This month it dropped again, falling to its lowest level since December 2012.Millions of people losing their health insurance and almost everyone having to pay more than they used to is going to necessarily lead to less consumer spending and less consumer confidence. In an already weak economy that is driven by consumer spending, that sure looks like a recipe for a recession.
Consumer attitudes soured as Washington gridlock worsened, leading to a government shutdown that ran from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16. It's not yet clear if that darker mood will translate into less spending.
These Ivy League, society-reshaping ideas never work out the way they did in the faculty lounge bull sessions.
|H/T: Flopping Aces|
It’s true that the Affordable Care Act isn’t as complex as opponents make it out to be. Basically, it requires that insurance companies offer the same policies to everyone; it requires that each individual then buy one of these policies (the individual mandate); and it offers subsidies, depending on income, to keep insurance affordable.Ah, how much simpler things would be if the government decided to simply own every element of health care. As the fascist Obamacare solution unfolds into a total catastrophe, it makes Krugman long for the communist solution of universal Medicare. How efficient! How just! Everyone covered and it's all paid for by the government.
Still, there’s a lot for people to go through. Not only do they have to choose insurers and plans, they have to submit a lot of personal information so the government can determine the size of their subsidies. And the software has to integrate all this information, getting it to all the relevant parties — which isn’t happening yet on the federal site.
Imagine, now, a much simpler system in which the government just pays your major medical expenses. In this hypothetical system you wouldn’t have to shop for insurance, nor would you have to provide lots of personal details. The government would be your insurer, and you’d be covered automatically by virtue of being an American.
Sort of like the old GUM department stores in the Soviet Union. None of that wretched "corporate greed" getting in the way, just pure, efficient, government-provided goods and services.
The SAT Test Formulation Of The Issue: Government health care is to modern medicine what this is to Nordstroms.
Monday, October 28, 2013
First, he thought if you liked your doctor and health plan you could keep it, only to find out you couldn't. Then he thought the website was going to launch just fine, but it didn't. After that he was peddling a 1-800 number where you can sign up for health care except that you can't. Now we find out he had no idea the NSA was bugging Angela Merkel and other world leaders.
The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn't have been practical to brief him on all of them.Roger Simon has a great post about this today. Here's an excerpt.
They added that the president was briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection "priorities," but that those below him make decisions about specific intelligence targets.
No wonder Obamacare and practically everything else from foreign policy to energy policy is an unmitigated mess. This president and his administration have taken hands-off leadership and leading from behind to unprecedented levels.That's kind of what I was thinking, too. He has lots and lots of meetings and lots and lots of briefings, they just don't seem to contain any actual, you know, information.
What exactly does our president do for a living? What’re we paying him for?
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Surfing around the Interweb tubes, soaking up the excuses for the cataclysmic disaster that is Obamacare, I've come across three general classes of whining.
1. It hasn't been implemented yet. Err, well, yes it has. That's what a roll-out is. It's the start of implementation. Saying that it hasn't been implemented because it crashed and burned upon release is like saying you didn't give our new car a chance, we'd have put the fires out eventually and besides, you don't really need all that molten upholstery on the inside anyway.
2. It was all your idea anyway. This is the position of our favorite little fascist "thinker," Robert Reich. Like the equally demented Paul Krugman, Robert is closer to a minister of propaganda than he is to anything else. From the comments in that post, it's clear Robbie has plenty of cannon fodder in the Obama Youth* to back him up.
3. OK, smartypants, what's your plan? This is the most common and my own personal favorite. It's the "Party of No" accusation. Having failed to deliver on their promises of rainbow unicorns through Obamacare, they now demand that opponents come up with a plan to deliver rainbow unicorns. It doesn't seem to occur to them that, their deepest wishes aside, there aren't going to be any rainbow unicorns. Ever.
|But I want one! I want it, I Want It, I WANT IT!|
Friday, October 25, 2013
Would you be out there buying a new car or new washing machine under those circumstances?
"Obamacare was designed to fail; to fail slowly and incrementally; to fail in a way that would convince people that private, for-profit health insurance companies are the reason why America's catastrophically overpriced and malfunctioning health care system hasn't worked, doesn't work, and will never work. The architects of the Affordable Care Act wanted to 'prove' that third-party private insurance should be scrapped entirely and replaced with a single-payer system: straight socialism.Read the whole thing.
"The ACA was supposed to fail slowly and painfully over the course of two or three or four presidential election cycles (which is why Obamacare's namesake, Barack Obama, saw to it that it wouldn't be implemented until the second half of his second term). When the backlash came, it was supposed to come on some other president's—preferably a Republican president's—watch.
"But instead of failing on schedule, four or eight or twelve years from now—it has failed instantly, upon contact with reality.... Obama, Reid, and all of the other architects of the Affordable Care Act have created a problem for themselves that was designed to be insoluble."
Thursday, October 24, 2013
We've got two of the newer, relatively high-end pocket cameras. One has excellent optics including a 22x zoom. However, you frame the shot by looking at the LCD screen on the back. If the lighting isn't good, that image is washed out and you're essentially firing blindly. I've brought it with me a couple of times in the car for photos of opportunity and struggled with that. I end up backing the zoom out until I'm guaranteed it's going to capture the image I want somewhere in the shot.
My Nikon D60 artillery piece is another thing entirely. You look right through the camera lens with your eye shielded from glare and know precisely what you're getting. You shoot with confidence. It makes a huge difference to me.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
While divorce may be an attractive alternative to murder for hire in most cases, some women do not have the emotional and financial resources to go through a divorce. A contested divorce can take more than a year to resolve. After attorneys drain the couple's finances, the woman will be left with little money to get on with her life. Additionally, a discrete and well-timed hit protects a husband from the pain of discovering that he is no longer wanted. A truly skilled assassin can take his target painlessly in an instant, without any suffering. The end of a marriage can potentially ruin a woman's life, but if her husband can be taken out quickly and cleanly, it can be a new beginning for her.Read the whole thing. I thought it was hilarious.
H/T: Rev. Cary Gordon
http://t.co/m5bQWriUGO @KTcat This must be some more of that "consults with businesses" I keep hearing about. #Peronism #Justicialism
— Dean R. Riehm (@deanriehm) October 23, 2013
Health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some consumers who want to keep what they have and forcing others to buy more costly policies. The main reason insurers offer is that the policies fall short of what the Affordable Care Act requires starting Jan. 1.For the Administration, they could very easily see more uninsured as a result of Obamacare as insurance companies, enforcing the law, terminate policies which cannot be replaced because the exchange websites are broken. For the insurance companies, that's a lot of premiums to forgo.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
In Detroit, 47% of the adult population is functionally illiterate. That number is disputed, but it hardly matters when the real number is almost certainly within 10 points of it. Just what are these people going to do with an insurance policy exchange website?
Monday, October 21, 2013
Even during the Zimmerman trial, when our self-styled "elites" were telling us we all needed to have a conversations on race, there was no hint of racism. If you were visiting from another planet and hadn't been told to look for it, you would have guessed that skin color meant absolutely nothing.
A few weeks back, I served a black man. I don't think he was homeless, but he certainly was in a bad way. He got his bags of food and was about to leave when a homeless Hispanic guy came to the counter where we usually have free bread. We were out of the bread and we couldn't serve the Hispanic dude because he had been in too recently*. The black guy took some out of what little he had and gave it to the Hispanic man. It was natural, it was loving and it was beautiful. It was straight out of Mark 12:41-44.
He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
Watching this happen time and time again, with all combinations of races, it makes me think that racism is a luxury. In a practical sense, our customers can't afford to throw away anything, least of all relationships. Making someone else an enemy or missing a chance to make a friend when you're vulnerable is dangerous.
There's a part of me that says there's something more to it than that, though. Something that doesn't relate to the racism in the title of this post. There's an air of love and kindness to the place that penetrates everyone and leads them to share themselves with others. Maybe that's one of the most important things we provide.
Maybe it's even more than that. Maybe we have Help.
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” - Matthew 18:20
* - We simply don't have the resources to serve anyone more than once every two weeks and have set limits on how many times per year you can come in. We're supplemental food assistance and not intended to be your primary source of nourishment.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Due to other commitments, I only had Saturday available for culinary creativity, so I decided to put on a full Christmas dinner with stuffed goose, Brussels sprouts and roast potatoes. The potatoes were good, the sprouts disappointing and the goose was a calamity.
|It was a calamity, I tells ya! A calamity!|
An underdone delicious golden brown.
Goose is unlike chicken or turkey. There isn't much breast meat and, being thin, it cooked through. My first cuts to determine if it was done showed the breast was ready to go. A guest noted red juices at the bottom and we all debated if that was just what geese did when they were done or if it was still a little raw.
We put it back in the oven for 15 minutes.
When it came out, we emptied the cavity of stuffing. (Geese have enormous cavities for stuffing.) The stuffing wasn't even remotely ready, as determined by a thermometer. The goose's legs were still undercooked, too. Back into the oven for another 30 minutes.
By this time, everything else was ready, dished and served at the table. Some of the guests were seated.
We covered the side dishes and opened more wine and beer. I'm fortunate that the guests were all close friends, accustomed to my culinary experiments, so it wasn't too much of a social faux pas.
When we finally determined the goose and the stuffing to be done, it was brought out, dished up and ... we sliced and served the breast meat and sent the unstuffed bird back into the oven for a third time to finish off those darn legs. By the time the legs were done, dinner was over. Two of the guys pulled the finally-fully-cooked bird out and sampled the legs. They were outstanding, probably worth the price of the bird and the effort. They brought me a piece and it was delicious. Subtle, crispy, fatty, everything I'd hoped.
I've been bitten by this kind of thing before with Cornish game hens. Only that time, it wasn't the stuffing that was the problem, it was the number of hens. Where it takes 4 stuffed hens 60 minutes to cook, it will take 12 hens much, much longer.
In this case, it was the stuffing that got me. The book was just flat-out wrong in the timing. There was no way on earth that bird was going to be ready in 2 1/2 hours and that's a fact. That the stuffing was a huge dud to me (a few guests liked it a lot) tells me to never, ever do that again.
Unlike turkey or chicken, goose is an expensive meat. Mine was $10 a pound, making this a meal you really don't want to screw up. In the end, the meat was good and I might do it again, but I'd never stuff another one.
Oh, and I mucked up the gravy, too, but I'm out of time so you'll just have to imagine what mucked-up goose gravy is like.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Friday, October 18, 2013
So my lovely bride is working a women's retreat this weekend and I've been able to batch* it since Thursday. Thursday afternoon my daughter had her first behind-the-wheel lesson en route to her driver's license. Thursday night, I took the Catican Guards out on maneuvers as they hadn't had any PT in a long time and were starting to rough-house in their barracks.
Today was Catholic Charities and errands, tomorrow is my daughter's soccer and cooking for various people, Sunday is a trip to see my son at college and then a sprint up to the retreat to see the closing of the event and drive my wife back home.
Ahh, relaxing! That's what we bachelors like!
* - Is the shortened, verb version of bachelor bach or batch? It's pronounced "batch."
Thursday, October 17, 2013
GK points out that when we (in our pagan era) talked of dryads and went into the forest to seek them, we did so in the hope of finding them. It was a bit of a lark and a cheerful one at that. When we wanted to make deals with demons, it was a very different thing altogether. It was a much more businesslike proposition, sort of like hiring an attorney. You provided something, expecting performance in return. You explicitly and knowingly did evil in order to get something back from the demon(s). Some child sacrifices in return for victory in battle, perhaps.
Enter Miley Cyrus.
Her performance at the VMA awards was knowingly evil. Repugnant and distasteful and hideous, if you prefer. I'd suggest it was evil. She performed it in front of a crowd she wanted to propitiate and hoped for rewards from them in return.
That it failed to bring her great rewards from them was not because it was evil, but because it wasn't the right kind of evil. It wasn't tasteful evil. Had she styled it differently they would indeed have showered her with praise and acceptance into their ranks.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
In my experience, problems with browser versions (I'm looking at you, Internet Explorer!) are the kind of thing that would take a week or three to fix. Massive architectural failures, user account creation disasters and passing untrustworthy data to downstream servers aren't things you can fix over a weekend shutdown.
|No biggie. We'll have this cleaned up in half an hour, tops.|
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
What if people are poor because they have a tendency to make bad decisions? What if the Bell Curve of intelligence is accurate and there are a lot of folks in the 70-80 IQ range? What if people don't go to the doctor because they're not good at cost-tradeoff analyses or because they're just lazy?
I recently had to visit a local emergency room to deal with an infected elbow bursa sac. The thing swelled up over a few hours and felt like either a broken elbow or like I'd torn some tendons. I was blessed that it was only an infection. A quick poke and drain by the doctor and a tsunami of antibiotics dealt with the problem.
While I was there, I sat in the waiting room and later in the treatment room seeing the same thing I see when I work at Catholic Charities. There were plenty of people who were in a bad way because they made lousy decisions. There was a diabetic with legs missing, a kid with food poisoning from bad tacos and who knows what else. At Catholic Charities, we routinely get overweight people missing half their teeth who opt for the pastries instead of the bread.
One of the keys to Obamacare reducing health care costs in the US is the assumption that people will avail themselves of preventative care if it's available. That's a pretty accurate model of the population with degrees from Brown and Cornell, but much less so among the poor and uneducated. Example: If the "less fortunate" were really good at that kind of planning, would they really have such high levels of illiteracy in places like Detroit? What kind of idiot wouldn't take advantage of free public education*?
If the model of the customer base is wrong, then the whole thing is just a mammoth waste of time. We'll still have people ignoring their health and getting treatment in the emergency rooms, but we'll be doing it with a stifling layer of government wrapping the economy like a shroud.
These brilliant, Ivy League ideas never work out the way they did in the faculty lounge bull sessions.
* - Answer: A common, every day, ordinary idiot.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Alan Pardew of Newcastle is the EPL's second-longest serving manager right now. The league, like most sports leagues, devours managers at a tremendous rate and probably much faster than most. Alan's been at Newcastle for almost three years. Contrast that with the second-longest serving NFL head coach, the Bengals' Marvin Lewis who's been around for 10 years.
|Howay the lads!|
Unlike someone untouchable like Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, Alan has been rumored on British sports talk radio as one of the likely early firings for the season. Despite that, he tells you exactly what he thinks. Certainly not everything he's thinking, but what he does say is done fearlessly and calmly.
If you're a sports fan, the interview is worth at least a few minutes of your time even if you don't watch the whole thing.
Newcastle United Tidbit Probably Only Of Interest To Me: After watching that interview, I now understand why he has the team play such an aggressive style of football, one that has frequently cost them games.
H/T: Ed Harrison at The Newcastle United Blog. Ed is the single most prolific single-topic blogger I've ever seen.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
From this weekend's retreat where I'm working:
A man's leadership starts with his family. Get that right before saving the world.
I needed to hear that. It's easy enough to make commitment after commitment outside the family, each worthy and individually low-effort, but they can quickly add up into a whole that takes you away too often from your chief duty.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
"Leno's measure grew out of an appellate court case involving a biological mother, her same-sex partner and a man who had an affair with the mother while she was temporarily separated from her female lover."
Friday, October 11, 2013
I'm blogging from my Galaxy S3 while working a retreat weekend, so please forgive the reduction in html quality.
Over at our Monestary of Miscellaneous Musings, link available to the left, Dean posted the video of HHS Secretary Sebelius on Jon Stewart's show. Jon asked a few tough questions on the crony capitalism angle and then went full socialist. Whatever.
Had it been me, I'd have shown some ghetto videos and brought up Detroit, Japan, the Obamacare website and the national debt. Seriously, why do these people get to avoid reality? They produce rubbish, their model of the citizenry is all wrong and they're going bankrupt.
The crony capitalism of Peronist fascism is bad, but the accusations are too indirect. I'd go nuclear right off the bat and never let up.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
The incoming Fed chairwoman, Janet Yellen, is a big fan of Weimar and Zimbabwe and fully intends to follow their lead to prosperity. She's been one of the loudest voices on the Fed for printing more and more and more money. If you care to look deeper into the horror that is Janet Yellen, the New York Times has a laudatory profile of her. Here are a few tidbits.
BERKELEY, Calif. — When the economists Janet L. Yellen and George A. Akerlof hired a baby sitter for their son in the early 1980s, they decided to pay more than the going wage. They reasoned that a happier baby sitter would provide better care.Awesome. So she learned that in a fatcat, ivory tower, two-income household she could overpay for occasional, menial labor and that led her to grand theories of business. No need to run a, you know, actual business or anything, she's hired people!
The decision not only attracted a series of excellent sitters, it also inspired the couple, both professors at the University of California at Berkeley, to develop a new theory of the labor market that remains an influential justification for the Federal Reserve’s ability to stimulate job growth.
Ms. Yellen is also a more assertive leader than Mr. Bernanke and appears less averse to conflict. While both encourage open debate and seek to make decisions by consensus, Ms. Yellen has been a more vocal and persistent advocate for her own views. Mr. Bernanke has allowed Fed officials to air their views freely, while Ms. Yellen has expressed concern that the cacophony undermines the Fed’s effectiveness by sowing confusion about the direction of policy.Double awesome. She's authoritarian.
“I think she is fundamentally committed to continuity, that we still have a problem and we still need monetary policy to be doing a fair amount,” said Christina D. Romer, a former chairwoman of Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a close friend of Ms. Yellen. “There’s a toughness there. And I think there’s a toughness to her that there isn’t in Bernanke.”
I look forward to her analysis and response when Japan collapses.
And now, a video from Janet Yellen's babysitter's live-in boyfriend*, someone who is all about the Yellen Theory of Investing.
* - Well, I think that's him. I didn't look too closely. I was mesmerized by the beauty of high-denomination Zimbabwe banknotes.
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
If Google's new search returned wombat photos for every search term, everyone would move to Bing.
If the new version of Microsoft Outlook was a horrid mess, corporations would still buy it because they're run by dinosaurs who don't know any better, but normal humans would move to gmail.
So Obamacare's website is hopelessly screwed up on launch. Almost no one can get through to create a user name and password and if they do, the login credentials don't work. So the techies have found monster architectural errors as servers pass huge numbers of files between each other for every click of the mouse. So what?
Seriously, what's going to happen to the government because it failed miserably?
Monday, October 07, 2013
Just the sort of thing I want my 6-year-old daughter playing with. A dollhouse for the undead that folds up into the shape of a coffin.
I didn't check to see if it had a room where they summon evil spirits and drink the blood of the living.
Sunday, October 06, 2013
Candidate excuse for the greasy NPS weasels: "I was only following orders!"
Saturday, October 05, 2013
First, according to Bloomberg, Japan's got $250B of government bonds rolling over every month this year. That's huge. If, as some have suggested, Japanese investors will start fleeing Japan by simply not renewing maturing bonds, that's going to be a lot of Yen for the BOJ to print so it can buy them. I don't have the figures for the current BOJ printing, but it's nowhere near $250B a month.
Meanwhile, the BOJ, to stem volatility, is increasing the frequency of its bond purchases. Dig this.
TOKYO—The Bank of Japan plans to increase the number of days per month that it buys domestic sovereign debt and reduce the amount of each offer, in its latest attempt to mitigate market turbulence...the bank would release the details of future purchasing operations on Thursday and would plan to make purchases on 10 or more days in June, up from eight in May.So if the BOJ leaves the market for as much as 3 days, the place starts getting jittery. (~21 working days a month, 8 purchase days, works out to roughly one BOJ purchase day every 3.) That's insane. It's like kids who start ripping the house apart if mom goes next door for 15 minutes to chat with the neighbor. Pretty soon mom can only be gone for 10 minutes and then 5 and then she's got to be there all the time and then she's duct-taping the kids to their chairs even while she's there.
I'm not sure I'm looking forward to seeing the population of Japan duct-taped to chairs.
Update: The BOJ is purchasing around $75B worth of government bonds every month which works out to be about a third of the total supply.
Friday, October 04, 2013
Thursday, October 03, 2013
TOKYO—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a long-awaited decision to raise Japan's sales tax by 3 percentage points, placing the need to cut the nation's towering debt ahead of any risk to recent economic growth, as he now focuses on crafting a broader package of measures to address both problems further.Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan, already about to melt down their printing presses, is considering printing money even faster.
Mr. Abe on Tuesday promised more stimulus to cushion the impact of the sales-tax rise on the economy, stressing the nation needs both fiscal consolidation and economic growth to end 15 years of debilitating deflation.
The BOJ pledged in April to inject some $70 billion a month into the economy to meet a target of 2 percent inflation in two years. Some economists have said they expect the BOJ to deliver more easing measures as early as next spring, to keep the nascent recovery on track.Can you push on a rope until you accidentally hang yourself with it?
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
A friend of mine is planning a trip to Pinnacles National Park. Here's what their website looks like today.
|Can you say, "extortion," boys and girls? Of course you can. I knew you could!|
TOKYO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Japanese investors piled into foreign bonds in July, making their biggest net purchase in three years - providing early evidence that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's expansionary policies are having the desired effect.Emphasis mine.
Japanese investors bought 3.482 trillion yen ($36 billion) of foreign bonds in July, the largest amount since August 2010, data from the Ministry of Finance showed.
It also marked the first net monthly purchase since January, as investors sought higher returns overseas after the Bank of Japan launched its massive bond-buying stimulus campaign.
Whatever statist fantasy world the author lives in, this most definitely does not show that Abe's expansionary policies are having the desired effect unless the desired effect happens to be driving all investors out of Japan in a mad rush for the exits. What it shows is that savvy investors are fleeing the Yen, getting into anything they can get their hands on, even manipulated, depressed instruments like foreign government bonds.
Only a desperate person would deliberately buy US Treasuries right now when the Fed is holding rates low by printing money and monetizing government debt. The Japanese investors are fleeing because they know the jig is almost up for Japan and the Yen is going to depreciate. They also know that Japanese Government Bonds at 0.22% are a lousy investment when the Bank of Japan (BOJ) is committed to printing money until inflation hits 2%.
No word on how the BOJ is going to stop the inflation freight train once it hits 2%, crashes through the barricades and hurtles on to much, much higher numbers. In the meantime, anyone who can do basic math and isn't blinded by patriotism or rose-colored glasses is getting out of the country.
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
I've reported this before on the 'Post, but this year it was the same story at my daughter's public high school. only about 10% of the parents showed up for back-to-school night. At our sons' Catholic high school, it was close to 95%.
That nauseating, recurring line in political debates about "hard-working American families, struggling to make ends meet, unable to chase the American Dream blah blah blah" is just a canard. Most of them expect success to fall in their laps.