Saturday, December 31, 2011

Making Bouillabaisse Tonight

I've got at least four blog posts in my head, but it's 3:30PM here in San Diego and I plan on making Gulf Coast Bouillabaisse* tonight, so I need to get started. Rather than try to do too much and botch the posts, I'll just say,

Happy New Year!

I'm very grateful for the good friends I've found through this blog and others on the Internet. It's been a wonderful year here in the Catican and we all wish you the very best in the year to come. God bless you all.

* - Here's the cookbook for my recipe - it's filled with great stuff: Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans

Cheezburger of the Day

Friday, December 30, 2011

Why I Love Wolves

... not the animals*, the English Premiere League team**.

First, there are a few things you must know. At the end of the season in the 20-team EPL, the bottom three teams are sent down to the minors and the top three teams in the minors are promoted to the EPL. That would be like seeing the Washington Senators sent down to AAA and the Albuquerque Dukes moved up into MLB. It makes the season exciting on both ends of the standings. The Wolverhampton Wanderers, aka Wolves, are a terrible team. Last year, they finished with the same record as the #18 team, but had a one goal advantage in goal differential, a goal they scored in the last minutes of their last game, a game they lost. Only through the most ridiculous of circumstances did they manage to stay in the EPL.

That's Wolves all over. They'll get their brains beaten out by a mediocre team one week and the next they'll beat Manchester United. Their games are filled with inexplicable, boneheaded blunders and logic-defying, preposterous heroics. Last weekend was the perfect Wolves game.

They went into Emirates Stadium (Arsenal's home field) to play Arsenal. They'd never even tied there before, much less won. They had lost their last 6 away games and it looked to be a total stomping of Wolves by an Arsenal squad that was absolutely on fire. What happened? Well, they gave up a breakaway goal to Arsenal in the first 8 minutes in a positively stupefying mental breakdown. And then ... well, dig this***:

In a wacky 5 seconds of pinball craziness, Wolves managed to score and tie the game. I loved the look on the Arsenal keeper's face. You can just see him thinking, "You have got to be kidding me." Wolves had almost no other scoring opportunities and the other 89 minutes, 55 seconds of the game was a marathon of impossible melodrama as Wolves thwarted attack after attack after attack. Wolves tied mighty Arsenal, 1-1.

Glorious. Simply glorious.

* - Well, I like the animals, too, so don't get me wrong.

** - I love EPL soccer. I've skipped blogging about it up to now, but it's just too much fun not to share. I'll try to keep these posts as interesting as I can.

*** - Despite the fact that the highlights are available for free on, they don't give you an embed option and the EPL is crazy serious about hunting down and stamping out highlight videos on YouTube. The Arsenal fan who posted this one to DailyMotion recorded it from a Spanish-language broadcast. You can see the official EPL highlights of the game here. I'm not sure how long that link will be good.

Who Took Away The Insulin?

Walter Russell Meade, in a lengthy piece about the Eurodebt crisis, links to an NYT article describing the human cost of the Greek austerity measures. Here's the quote he lifts.
The free clinic here opened about a year ago to serve illegal immigrants. But these days, it is mostly caring for Greeks like Vassiliki Ragamb, who was sitting in the waiting room hoping to get insulin for her young diabetic son.

Four days earlier, she had run out of insulin and, without insurance and unable to pay for more, she had gone from drugstore to drugstore, pleading for at least enough for a few days. It took her three hours to find a pharmacist who was willing to help.

“I tried a lot of them,” she said, gazing at the floor.
There will be plenty more stories just like this one. For years, the socialists have screamed about the greed of the wealthy and the corporations. They slandered anyone who opposed new social programs as being heartless and cruel. Well, the money is gone now because they couldn't be bothered making sure the money was earned before it was spent.

And so is the insulin for Vassiliki's son.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheezburger Of The Day

The Help

Last night, my wife watched The Help. (I watched Wolves vs. Arsenal upstairs.) I saw a tiny bit of The Help and in the little bit I saw, the rigid, narrow-minded, rich, white, married, Southern mom talked about how she read that being gay could be cured. I wanted to puke.

I just can't take another drop of gay-rights moralizing at any level. I feel like it's jammed down my throat constantly. I'd be much more interested in some movies or TV shows about this.

I'm not holding my breath. Hollywood hates people like me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

But I Still Eat Bacon

... and cook with bacon grease, despite the fact that science has shown that it's not good for me. And I'm even a (lapsed) scientist!

Sam Harris has written a book on how science can determine moral values.

I'm sure it can. The question is: Will anyone listen? Knowledgeable people thought the Facebook Revolution in Egypt would lead to enlightened self-rule, too. That didn't turn out so well. People don't always behave in ways that are rational to the academic world.

Moral codes are only as good as their enforcement mechanisms. That goes for Greeks avoiding taxes and Mafia goons breaking the knees of people who don't repay loans. I'm sure Mr. Harris has argued coherently and has whiteboards full of flow chart diagrams, but unless he's found a way for the powers that be to agree with him, he's just another guy in a coffee shop pounding away on his laptop generating moral codes for himself and a few thousand readers. If he does it in the wrong country, he's just another guy in prison.

The Hitler Blade Has Struck Again

Long ago I blogged about one of our Cuisinart blades that ought to be melted down and formed into little statues of Hitler because it gashed me so often. Well, it did it again. I keep it with the other Cuisinart odds and ends in a plastic water pitcher. I went to use the pitcher and somehow the blasted demon-blade leaped up at me and sliced the end of my left middle finger. That was a few days ago and it still hurts.

I hate the thing.

The blade and a Hitler statue. The resemblance is uncanny.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cleaning Algae Off The Bottom Of A Birdbath

We've got a stone birdbath where the bottom is unsealed, either from manufacture or age. The bowl of it looks like this.

The algal growth has gone into the stone and is impossible to remove with cleansers or bleach. Looking it up on the web, it seems as though the best way to deal with this is to sandblast it clean and then give it some kind of epoxy coating like you'd use on a garage floor.

Updates as events warrant.

Cheezburger of the Day

The Problem In One Photo

From the Puppy Blender's post on the higher education bubble comes a perfect statement of a problem that bedevils the West.

It's kind of late to be asking this question after you've borrowed the money, don't you think? Note that this image applies equally well to Greece, Illinois, Social Security and any number of municipalities.

Somewhere, we lost the ability to grasp the concept of earning what we consumed. There's a cure for that.

Update: The photo is even deeper than you might think. It's easy to understand why she's yelling, but what's remarkable is that she is yelling at us. She either thinks it's our fault or she wants us to do something about it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing you joy and love as we celebrate the ultimate inflection point in the history of Man.
In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life: and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Don't Think We're Paying You For This

The smaller of the Catican Guards slacking off.

December Sun Cat

It's been a little chilly here in San Diego, but then there are days like today where the sun is shining and if you've got a nice coat of black fur, you can find a place to get toasty warm.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Some Christmas Swing

... from Louis Armstrong. Crack open an Abita Turbodog beer and enjoy some serious trumpet playing from the master!

By the way, the song was written by Steve Allen of all people. I knew he designed race cars, computed lunar orbits for NASA, advised the UN and hosted The Tonight Show, but I didn't realize he wrote music for Louis. That dude had some serious creative juices, cats and kittens!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Roger Corman Made Movies About Stuff Like This

The Ooze From 5,000 Fathoms starring Ward Bond and Barbara Payton!

A Very San Diego Christmas

Surfers at Sunset Cliffs today.

Reflected Warmth

Good friends of ours have a daughter who just returned from 15 months in Ecuador where she served with Heart's Home. Here's the scoop on what they do:
Heart’s Home is an inter­na­tional Catholic non-profit orga­ni­za­tion that works to pro­mote a cul­ture of com­pas­sion around the world through a range of chari­table and cul­tural efforts.
There's lots more here. Here's a photo from where they live and work in Ecuador borrowed from their website.

We contributed financially a tiny bit to the effort, but we reaped tremendous benefits from her work. The reflected radiance from her love and kindness far away warmed us through her parents. We went out to breakfast today and her father spoke of her return home with tears of pride and joy in his eyes. I'm still smiling, thinking about what she did and the difference she made in people's lives.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

Does Politics Kill Creativity?

I've been noodling around the web today, looking up things that hinder creativity. It appears that negative emotions are bad for your imaginative side. Since political discussions are invariably negative, wouldn't focusing on politics seriously damage your creativity?

It's A Tiny Bat And I Couldn't Stop Watching It

H/T: Wannasmile.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

Saying No To A Tablet

... for now.

For the last few months, I figured that #1 on my Christmas list would be an Android table like the Samsung Galaxy. I walked past them at Costco a week or so back and took a long look at them.


I've got a killer laptop that's got the performance (and size and weight) of a Lamborghini. It's got a 17" screen, a 1 TB hard drive and an i7 processor with full Adobe Creative Suite 5 installed. The tablets have a 10" screen. That means as long as I'm willing to stay seated with my laptop and not prance around the house, I can browse over to and watch Newcastle thump Wigan on a screen almost 3x the size of the tablet.

It's all about mobility vs raw power. Is the ability to pick up your Internet device and wander around like a gypsy more important than the ability to pick out the greenery in the teeth of the Wigan keeper as he grimaces, download the video and play with it in Adobe Premiere? Mind you, I'd have to pay $450 for the privilege of gypsification. In the end I had to say no. I could think of lots more interesting things to do with my $450.

Do I want this or a Prius?

Monday, December 19, 2011

For Ligneus, Tim and Dean

I just figured out how to work the Blogger comment spam thingy. I found lots of your comments stuffed in the spam folder while plenty of marsupial sex toys comments got through. Sorry about that! I went through and published all of the unjustly spam-accused comments of yours and went back to October and marked a bunch of the creepy comments as spam.

Contemplating A Change In Christmas Gift Giving

At our house, we have 6 people in the immediate family and two grandparents on hot standby. We have three birthdays within 30 days of Christmas. The combinatorics of Christmas alone give us a need for 8*7=56 gifts at a minimum, not including stocking stuffing and multiple gifts between spouses and from parents to kids. Add in the three birthdays and you get to 77 gifts required.

All of us have plenty. We try to make Christmas lists, but there's usually not more than one or two things that we're just dying to get. The end result is lots of stress and bother. The lists are quickly exhausted and freestyling becomes difficult when the thing we all need the most is more free time together.

Over on Facebook, I proposed a Feline Christmas. We stay home, eat delicious foods and lay quietly. I posted that as a lark, but quite a few people liked the idea. Last night at a friends' house, a family Christmas vacation was suggested. This morning, driving in to work I considered the possiblity of a secret Santa program where we each draw two names out of a hat and buy for those people. That would mean each person would have two things to open on Christmas, inter-spousal gifts and stockings not included.

If you've got a take on this, I'd love to hear it.

Update: The thing I'd like to do the most is to go to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and have a family volunteering excursion where we all go spend time with people who need it. Unfortunately, shopping is taking the place of both of these things.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Plankton Model Of Human Life

John Rosenberg, blogging over at Discriminations, posts an ironic essay, Why Not A Marriage Tax? Here's a tidbit.
With the unwitting help of Ruth Marcus, liberal Washington Post opinion writer, I have a suggestion for you: revive and increase the marriage tax.

“The marriage gap presents a real cost,” Marcus writes.
If current trends hold, within a few years, less than half the U.S. adult population will be married. This precipitous decline isn’t just a social problem. It’s also an economic problem.

Specifically, it’s an income-inequality and economic-mobility problem. The steadily dropping marriage rate both contributes to income inequality and further entrenches it.
That’s because the educated and rich are marrying more and getting richer; the uneducated and poor are marrying less and falling further behind. “Family structure,” Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution told Marcus, “is a new dividing line in American society.”
John makes some great points, but allow me to suggest that he's missing the underlying assumption which is the most amazing part of all.

When people talk about these inequalities, they imply that marriage and education are things that just happen to us. Just as plankton has no way to influence the tides, we are driven along by forces too large for us to control and these forces lead us to learn and get married. Each of us has a doom laid upon us, a doom we cannot escape. That's the entire basis for our social spending. We don't seek to reward some behaviors (self-denial) and punish others (hedonism). Instead, we treat the symptoms of these behaviors as if their sources were a complete mystery.

Hey, plankton isn't even aware of the tides.

Is this all there is to our lives?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

If You Constantly Complain About Politicians

... then you've probably given them too much to do. Here in the US, handing them $3.5T at the national level might be a smidge high.

Like almost everyone else on the planet, Jeffrey Sachs, writing at The Guardian, laments the poor quality of our political leaders.
The year 2011 will be remembered as the year of failed summits. Governments proved themselves time and again to be failures at addressing the growing crises engulfing the world, whether the eurozone debacle, climate change, or budget politics in the US and Europe.
So the folks we elected haven't managed to find a way to give us everything we want for free, stop all wars and control the weather. It all seems so simple. If only we had the right people in charge, these things wouldn't trouble us and we could go back to watching TV.

Peter Drucker, in one of his books on management, said that if your plan requires above average people to succeed, it's probably not a good plan.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The New England Primer

or, "Things Aren't As Static As They May Seem."

I recently bought myself a copy of The New England Primer. It's a book that was widely used to teach reading and English comprehension in schools both public and private up to 100 years after the establishment of the US Constitution. Every page has a reference to God and/or Jesus. It is as much catechism as it is reading instruction.

We've spent a good deal of time and effort over the last 50 years attempting to purify ourselves of every vestige of religion in our governmental affairs. Los Angeles recently redesigned its official crest to remove a tiny cross that apparently stained the thing with subtle attempts to convert you to Christianity. "Separation of church and state" is invoked like a magical incantation whenever any tiny blot of faith is found in public places.

It was not always thus.

Reading The New England Primer, it is absolutely impossible to come to the conclusion that our current obsessive compulsive disorder for removing religious symbols has any basis whatsoever in the actual Constitution. The people who wrote it, debated it and signed it and then produced case law based upon it for 100 years allowed their children to be taught with this book. Unless you're going to make the case that they were too busy holding truths to be self-evident to notice that little Hezekiah or Constance were being instructed with a catechism book, there's no historical basis for our mania at all.

Instead, you pretty much have to make the argument that you believe the Constitution is a living document that must be reinterpreted by each generation, informed by the culture of that era.

If that's the case, what prevents us from turning around and going back to claiming that crosses here or there or Bible study in public schools is perfectly OK?


What a beautiful ad. Try it in HD and full screen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Can You Tell If You Falsely Believe Yourself Free?

Our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings have the photo below in this post. (Read the post. It is most excellent.)

I'm sure Goethe was a fine fellow, but this quote doesn't make much sense. How would you know if your view that you were free was false? If you continually test the hypothesis and the data causes you to deduce that you are indeed free, what difference does it make if you are somehow not free? In all the ways that matter to you, you are free.

I think Goethe had washed his tonsils with one too many steins of beer when he thought this one up.

Meanwhile, Back In The Real World

Italian bond rates continue to climb while European politicians debate new and increasingly complex governmental structures to deal with the fiscal crisis. It's kind of sad, really. Raised in a stew of secular progressivism, the leadership of Europe is utterly unable to cope with the concept of earning money to pay their bills and people taking responsibility for their own lives. The idea that government is just an inefficient conduit for taking money from one person and handing it to another has been obscured by their worship of the State as a force for moral good.

Meanwhile, the inexorable freight train of financial doom continues to highball down the tracks.

You can put all the governmental regulations and organizational process documents in front of it you want. It ain't stopping.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Cat-thedral

As an early Christmas present for our Maximum Leader, we got her a new piece of furniture so she can relax in comfort and splendour in our family room, watching over her subjects and providing guidance. It's called the Cat-thedral and she took to it right away. The Catican Guards can now provide their services at a properly respectful distance.

What is thy bidding, Your Serene Furriness?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blogging From My TV

My Logitech Revue recently updated to the new version of Android and it's got an improved version of Chrome and lots of great new apps. It doesn't turn my TV into the big beast PC that is out in the Catican, but it's good enough for text blogging and surfing the web. The Twitter app on it is pretty nice, too.

I recently moved all of my music up into the cloud on Google Music an the Revue has an app for that as well. I love it. There's a couple of my favorite apps - Google Listen for podcasts being one - that aren't yet available, but all in all, this is much closer to the vision of every screen in the house, from the big TV to the tiny smartphone, having the same capabilities.

Sadly, Logitech has shut down their Revue production line. They lost a ton of money on the release of the thing, something like $100M. I think shutting it down was a mistake. I might even see if I can pick up another one on the cheap. Sony is still in the game with Google TV, though, so the concept lives on even if Logitech is getting out.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Cautionary Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who lived with her two dogs in a castle of ice. She was beset day and night by a terrible ogre who would not suffer her to leave the castle. It was terrible, especially when the smaller of the two dogs kept peeing on the carpet in the great hall.

One day, a handsome prince and his cat rode to rescue her. We're talking really handsome here, Harrison Ford in The Empire Strikes Back handsome. So anyways, the handsome prince and his cat rode to the ice castle to do battle with the ogre and rescue the princess.

The combat lasted most of a day until the ogre tripped over the cat who was sprawled out on the ground, snoring loudly, and the handsome prince was able to slay the ogre by smiting him on the head with a hardbound copy of Volume 18 of the Federal Register while he lay prostrate. And that's not prostate, it's prostrate. We looked it up.

The princess was overjoyed. She and the prince were married that day in great pomp and splendour. The cat was given a large bowl of tuna and the reception party was kept very quiet so as not to disturb her as she slept it off. Something was done with the dogs to keep them under control, but we're not sure what. We think it had something to do with Percocet.

That night, the princess and prince retired to their bedchamber in the ice castle. The princess stole all the covers and the prince froze to death.


Friday, December 09, 2011

On Internet Celibacy

So I spent a week (mostly) refraining from partaking of the fruits of the Internet. Facebook, Twitter and my favorite blogs and news sites were avoided. I peeked once in a while, but never more than once a day for a few minutes. Here's what I picked up from the experiment.

Pro: Increased concentration! At the suggestion of a friend, I'm listening to Your Brain At Work. It's a pretty good book discussing the mechanics of brain activity as it relates to things you try to do in the course of a day. Your brain can only juggle a few items of data at a time and trying to hold disparate ones simultaneously makes a hash of everything. Keeping my Droid away from me and not thinking about blog posts made all of my other activities and relationships richer and deeper.

Con: I think my IQ dropped 20 points. How in the world do people who don't read the web know anything at all? The San Diego Union, covering the Euro debt crisis, told you little with the exception of one very nice front page article today. Lots of other big stories were just completely ignored. Not being able to interact with the authors and other readers was weird. I felt like most of the article was missing because there wasn't a comment thread at the bottom.

Conclusion: Discipline will pay off! The web is just too good to miss. So is the rest of the world. Each needs its place and each needs time where you concentrate on just it. When you leave your computer, leave it completely. I'm also going to avoid surfing the web on my phone as much as possible. It's a great alternative to have when there is absolutely nothing else to do, like when you're in a waiting room where the TV is playing daytime rubbish, but for the most part, I'm going to put the thing down and leave it alone.

There were quite a few other observations, but these were the biggest of the bunch.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Link Of The Month

I can't beat this one, so it's the only I'm posting today. It's awesome. Click. Read.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Week Of Celibacy

... no, not that kind of celibacy. Internet celibacy. I've decided to take Sunday night to Friday* off from the Internet. No Twitter, no Facebook, no reading the blogs or blogging. I've got a great post scheduled for tomorrow, so be sure to come on back for that, but as of now, I'm personally done.

I've read that our use of the Internet makes our relationships shallower, so I'm going to spend the week really being with the people around me. I've frequently found myself thinking about things I've read on the web, planning out a blog post in my head or wanting to surf Twitter or the blogs to see what's going on, all while I'm with friends or family.

I'll still get up early, I'm sure that habit won't go away. Instead of blogging, I'll do the prep work for cooking delicious dinners - a daily, sensual treat for the woman I love.

Hey, I'm not that celibate. ;-)

* - Yes, I know this is not an actual week. However, Saturday is the Newcastle game on and I'm not about to miss it.

Overthinking Things

Janet Daley, writing at The Telegraph, has a decent analysis of the latest bits of Eurocrisis. Buried in her otherwise interesting column is this.
In truth, it is almost impossible to understand the European dilemma because it is so arcane – so weighed down with historical accretions and ideological obscurantism – that it has become impenetrable even to the principal players in what is turning into a tragedy of monumental proportions.
Actually, it's not that hard to understand at all. It's pretty simple, really.

They spent too much.

They promised too many people too many things and relied on an economic model that valued consumption and borrowing over production and saving because they thought they were being compassionate. They weren't being compassionate and they should have figured this out about a decade ago when it became obvious that their spending was unsustainable.

The Problem With Believing In Historical Evolution

... is that it depends on everyone thinking like you do.

Marx's historical imperative had the world inexorably moving towards a classless society by way of a few million dead bourgeoisie. The people were killed, but history failed to cooperate. The Obama Administration had Egypt moving towards an enlightened, progressive democracy by way of getting rid of their dictator and then getting rid of the military. After all, the only thing holding back those hip Facebookers was the evil dictator and the reactionary military.

Fantasy, meet reality.
CAIRO—Islamist parties captured an overwhelming majority of votes in the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections ... A hardline religious group that wants to impose strict Islamic law made a strong showing with nearly a quarter of the ballots, according to results released Sunday...

The High Election Commission said the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party garnered 36.6 percent of the 9.7 million valid ballots cast for party lists. The Nour Party, a more hardline Islamist group, captured 24.4 percent.
My math says that's 61% for the Islamists with the even more Islamist hinterlands yet to vote. That would mean the hipsters picked up at most 39%. So much for being on the right side of history.

It was a fair election and he lost. Maybe next time, we could actually try, you know, like understanding the people we're dealing with rather than fitting them into our own personal fantasies.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

"The Nation" Magazine Is Suffused With Violence

So I finally clicked on the links I gave in the last post. The one that took me to The Nation showed me this.

Fists, target sheets with bullet holes, no time to pull punches threats, accusing people who disagree with you of waging war, the thing is just filled with angry, violent imagery and rhetoric.

I think it's time progressives just shut up about right wing violence and hate.

Two Essays

... from today's Real Clear Politics feed.

Gingrich's War on Poor Children - Charles Blow, New York Times

Rick Perry's War on Women - Jordan Smith, The Nation

I have to admit, I didn't read either of them. I just liked that they were both in the feed on the same day.

Friday, December 02, 2011

On Writing A History Book

At work, I'm part of a small team contracting out the effort to write a history of our organization. We recently interviewed a fellow who had written other such books and in the conversation, he mentioned how important it was to research it fully and make sure the book was accurate. If living witnesses to the things recounted in the book found errors, the book's public reputation could be easily destroyed.

It reminded me of the sections in The Case for Christ where Lee Strobel researched contemporary objections to the New Testament, particularly the parts that were written soon after the death of Christ and found no contradictions to the major components of the narrative.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

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 si 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.


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.


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


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. " 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.


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.


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


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, I got a bit better at my selections and transforms. Enjoy.

Ahhhh. Much better. Now Italy is saved!

Cheezburger of the Day


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='' 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.