Saturday, May 31, 2008
I particularly liked the part about how the One destined to bring America hope by the bucketload is merely "an inadequate black male" and how he wouldn't even have been running if Hillary wasn't a white woman* - I guess John Edwards, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd are all white women, because if I remember correctly, they ran for a while, too. Watching the Beast that FDR built devouring itself along the lines of race and sex is not only the height of irony, it's a pretty good show.
Seriously, a person should have to pay for this much entertainment. On second thought, I'm sure we will, one way or another.
* Shame on Obama. He should realize that equality means you have to let the girl win.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Speaking of bullets... (which I did, yesterday)... and the supply nightmares associated with... what with the doom and gloom of Wolfwalker, Canoneer #4, Kevin, et.al., regarding the pending collapse of the Republic, and the fear by El Borak, Terry and others of the overall collapse of civilization, a fair number have expressed the desire to retreat to the Castle, break open the Arms Room, and fort up...Last New Year's or thereabout it was my distinct pleasure to meet John of Argghhh and his lovely wife, and as is my habit in real life* I did not speak about matters economic. A party is a party and ought to be treated as such. So I'm not completely surprised that he has drawn that conclusion about me, knowing of my views on economics and the like only what's written here.
But as I often say, I don't like to be the bearer of bad news, and I'm not always being facetious when I say it. I realize that constantly barraging readers with dark news is liable to give one the reputation of a chicken little**, and I can live with that though on occasion I like to put all that in perspective. This is one of those occasions.
So what is going to happen? Is the republic going to collapse? Is civilization finished? Is it time to polish the guns to protect our hoards from the hordes? Not remotely. What we are going to suffer is simply what we have earned - cosmic justice if you will - but it is not likely in the short term to bring the end of anything other than the notion that we can all get rich selling our homes to one another. So here, in bullet-point form, is El B's economic expectation for the immediate future. Be warned, it's mostly based on the remote past***:
- "Things" are going to get more expensive.
- Other "things" are going to become less expensive.
The first two will go down for a couple of reasons. First, credit will be tight. If they can't borrow the money, 99% of people can't buy a house or a car. They will just have to make due living with mom or driving an old car. Second, people don't buy houses and cars anyway, they buy house payments and car payments. With less discretionary income, they will be able to afford smaller payments, and therefore lower-priced cars and houses. A 1-lb bag of rice is the same as any other, but a house is not the same as another house. The days of the McMansion are over. But that's ok; no one bought them anyway, they simply rented them from the bank for a while.
Furniture and clothing will go down in price because a) you don't have to have them new, and b) America is filled with storage bins filled with not-new clothing and furniture. It will all be available at cut-rate prices so people can buy food and gas.
- America's relative power in the world is going to decrease.
- The poor are going to get screwed.
- Political "solutions" are going to make the problem worse.
- America's economy will be transformed.
The first reason is that we have geographic isolation. No one can invade us. Perhaps Russia or China can kill us with ICBM's, but no one can move sufficient troops to conquer us, and no one has marched their troops on our mainland since 1814. That will not change.
But the second reason is that we used to grow things and make things. We stole every technological innovation the British came up with, added plenty of our own, and put our immigrant population to work: long hours, low pay, exports. The result was capital accumulation, the tools to efficiently build things that people needed, and that lasted from the middle of the Industrial Revolution until 3 decades after WWII****. There was a reason Americans got paid more to do the same work as the Chinese: our tools made us more efficient.
But in this last generation we have transformed our economy into one where most people either work for government or work for a company that moves money around. An economy must rely, bottom line, on people making things for other people to wear or drive or eat; one that relies on an ever-expanding debt currency to purchase those things from overseas must change. It will. But that may take a long time and cause a lot of interim pain.
- Politics is going to get ugly.
This, to me, is the most dangerous of any of the points. Poverty is the natural state of mankind: if we become poorer, we'll survive, and we can still live free, peaceful, meaningful lives without three cars or a vacation home at the lake. But so is despotism. When democracy demands political solutions to economic problems, it always provides power to individuals who seek power for other ends.
Democracy plus trouble equals Sulla, Napoleon, and, yes, Hitler; if we cannot rule ourselves, we will be ruled by those who live to rule. If we demand that someone mold our world for us, that person will direct our lives, and this wonderful project we have called self-government will die because we judged it too much trouble to bother with. We will kneel down to lick the hand that feeds us, and Sam Adams will be remembered only as a beer.
Is that the end of the world? No. The end of civilization? No. The end of what differentiates America from China, from Zimbabwe, from Rome? Maybe.
It will take a long time, longer than I expect to live; old habits die hard and it was the better part of a century between Marius's dictatorship and Octavian's empire. But the long run eventually arrives and if you take the road to hell you'll eventually get there. If you don't want that to be your grandkids' destination, it's important to choose a different road, at least for yourself and your family, while the choice is still yours to make.
* which brings up one weird thing I've noticed recently about this blog: of the consistent commenters, I know all of the women in real life and for reasons other than this blog. I have corresponded with many of the men but met barely a handful of them. The weird thing is that the women come here even though they know me. I will never understand women.
** Which is another reason I generally avoid this in real life: I don't spend as much time on this as would appear just from reading. But I don't think there's a lot of value in telling you that my cherries are ripening and Rogue picked a few heads of broccoli tonight while I was mowing the lawn.
*** Come on, did you really expect anything else from a history major?
**** And it was a double bonus because, since we were geographically isolated from the fighting, all their factories were knocked down and they had to buy from us. Needless to say, those halcyon days have passed.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
NEW YORK (AP) -- Several leading child welfare groups Tuesday urged an overhaul of federal laws dealing with transracial adoption, arguing that black children in foster care are ill-served by a "colorblind" approach meant to encourage their adoption by white families...For those few of you that don't know, I'm a white foster dad with two black daughters, and so at least to a small extent I'm sympathetic to the argument that there are special problems that come with that. I suspect that because a) they are young, b) they are cute, and c) they are girls, we probably have not incurred the kind of racism we would if they were, say, teenage boys.
Of the black children adopted out of foster care, about 20 percent are adopted by white families. The Donaldson report said current federal law, by stressing color blindness, deters child welfare agencies from assessing families' readiness to adopt transracially or preparing them for the distinctive challenges they might face.
"There is a higher rate of problems in minority foster children adopted transracially than in-race," said the report. "All children deserve to be raised in families that respect their cultural heritage."
Sure, we've had people tell us, in all earnest, that it's ok to have black friends so long as they don't enter your home, and we've had occasional nasty glares* at the grocery store. As a couple who entered the foster system looking to adopt bi-racial kids, were were prepared for that and expected that. And I frankly don't know that my kids' social lives will be any different if they have white parents or black at home; they'll still be black, living in the same town Gordon Parks once swore he'd never return to (he eventually did and is buried here) because of the ill-treatment he received as a young boy**.
That said, I have a few very significant problems with proposals that seek to take into account race or assign special training before black kids can be placed in a white home, because such training is superficial at best and liberal gatekeeping at worst.
I've been through MAPP classes, the classes that all foster parents and would-be adoptive parents have to take before they can work with state agencies. Rogue is even a certified MAPP trainer. So I think I can say with some authority that they are of limited utility and one will learn far more in a month with foster kids than one ever did "preparing" to get them. I really question the value of any training given by my white social workers on how to raise black kids. Far more valuable is asking a black friend for help with hair care, skin care, and other issues that I as a white parent have never had to deal with.
The second problem is with the phrase "cultural heritage," because it presumes that if you are black, there is something wrong with you taking the majority culture as your own. I guess it means that unless white parents provide rap music, saggy pants, and an unpronouncable name, the kids will never be 'authentic' or something. If you are born black, you are to be permanently, culturally segregated from the majority of your fellow citizens. It's not considered a problem if you're a Korean kid or a Chinese kid or a Romanian kid - I guess there aren't enough of them*** to worry about it - but if you're black, it's black culture for you, buddy. And you can't be named Buddy, either.
But that's not the main problem. As the article notes, black kids already languish longer in the foster system than white kids. That's a system that wounds them, whether it tries to or not, and the longer they remain in the system, the more psychological and emotional damage they accrue. Kids in the system are never settled, they are never secure, they are never "home." And if there's one thing that foster kids need, it's a home, whether mom or dad pays any attention to their "cultural heritage" or not. Anything that throws up roadblocks to getting kids adopted - especially if it allows idealistic, young, childless social workers to act as gatekeepers to keep kids from getting adopted - is going to destroy more kids than will ever be helped by having parents whose skin tone is acceptable within a politically-correct margin of error.
* though more to my wife than I. When she's alone she's seen as a white mom with black kids, when we are together, we're seen as a white couple caring for black kids. They are two completely different things.
** On the upside, it's amazing and heartening how quickly a white couple can be accepted at the "black table" at any event when they show up with black kids. The girls are not mascots (hat tip: Snoop) but they are occasionally keys that can open pretty stubborn doors.
*** Or enough racially-conscious social workers of their particular skin hue, yet.
Image blatantly stolen from Adopt-a-Negro, where you can pick one for your website and never have to put up with social workers checking your CD collection for fiddy.
Monday, May 26, 2008
The International Energy Agency has ordered an inquiry into whether the world could run out of oil in four years' time, it was reported yesterday.One of the most frustrating problems with reading the press - any press, even that in London - is that words do not mean what you expect. That opening paragraph from the UK Herald's business section is not only ludicrous on its face, it's a complete contradiction of the rest of the story. Ignore it.
The second paragraph is a little better:
The IEA has concerns about what might happen in 2012, when demand for oil, boosted by the rapid growth of the Chinese and Indian economies, is expected to have reached 95 million barrels a day. Global supply at that point is projected at only 96 million barrels a day. Such a thin margin would be vulnerable to any sudden supply crisis in volatile countries such as Nigeria, Venezuela or Iraq, now estimated to have overtaken Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil nation.It's a little better than the opener because rather than "running out of oil*" the story at least admits that we will be pumping more oil than at any time before. But it's not all that much better because it's based on no better numbers than the IEA's silly chart on the right that shows best-case, worst-case, and middle-case oil prices going forward from just last year. We have already surpassed by 30% what the price of oil was supposed to be, in their worst-case scenario, about the time I'm slated to become a great grandfather**.
And so as much as I appreciate all the hard work the good folks at IEA do for us, I hate to be the bearer of bad news: 2012 is not the problem, because we will likely never reach the kinds of numbers the IEA is talking about for that year.
Like their price projections, the IEA's production projections are rubbish. From their own site we can see that total worldwide production in 2004 was 72.22m bpd (million barrels per day). 2005 was 73.65m bpd. 2006 was 73.47m bpd***. I don't have a number for 2007, but based on prices, I suspect we have not opened the taps significantly since then.
How, then, do we get from today's just-under-75 mbpd to 96 mbpd, a 30% increase in production, in three short years? We don't. It's as simple as that. Not going to happen. If $130 oil does not turn on the taps, nothing will or can turn on the taps, and it's just quite possible that we are seeing as much oil as we are ever going to see.
That's a critical point: we are not 'out of oil.' We are not even 'running out of oil.' We are pumping as much as we have ever pumped. But a second critical point is that it's quite possible that what we are seeing is all we'll ever see. That's what Peak Oil is: it's not the end of oil, but the end of cheap oil in ever-increasing amounts. And it's the beginning of permanently expensive oil, in slowly-decreasing amounts, no matter the price.
On the other hand, it's possible that everything I said here is "quite simply tosh." That would be nice. One can at least accept the Pollyannas' current production figure of 86m bpd with the hope that we could have a 15% increase in 3 years.
And maybe we can design an SUV that runs on hope? That would be awesome.
* Which to most people means, you know, running out of oil.
** I really sometimes wonder if the government knows what it's doing with these numbers, you know?
*** Which, you might notice, is actually lower than 2005. That can't be good.
But as I was reading the list and the descriptions of the hideousness thereof, I thought, I wonder if chicks have a similar list of "Guy Movies"? Not a list of bad action movies per se, but a list of movies that chicks hate but that guys think are great?
So I looked at my collection of "guy movies" and tried to figure out what my wife hates. Not Commando or Die Hard. She loved True Lies, too. Not anything of the horror-comedy genre (e.g. Tremors, Eight-Legged Freaks, Evolution); she's fine with all that. She doesn't dislike sports movies; she'll watch The Waterboy and Caddyshack, and has even suffered through The Replacements a few times. It's not even, surprisingly enough, cheezy old Sci-Fi; she quite liked "the Day the Earth Stood Still."
And then I found them: she hates poorly-made movies featuring overgrown monsters (e.g. Empire of the Ants, Night of the Lepus, Piranha) and anything overdubbed from Chinese where guys can run up walls. And she hates Heavy Metal. Especially Heavy Metal.
Are those, then, the worst Guy Flicks of all time?
* Ok, so I saw like 2 minutes of "Dirty Dancing," but in my own defense, I was tricked mercilessly. I saw Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey and I was like, "Weird, I don't remember this part of Red Dawn..." I was horrified at what then transpired, but simultaneously relieved that what was happening was indeed not in Red Dawn.
** I did once see Stone Cold Steve Austin standing atop his truck yelling, "I'm the king of the world." That was pretty funny.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Cars promoted as eco-friendly were criticised yesterday for pumping out up to 56 per cent more carbon dioxide than the manufacturers claim.What? People cashing in on global warming* hysteria? Well, besides Al Gore, I mean.
Three models, including the Honda Civic hybrid, performed so badly in tests that their environmental claims were dismissed as a gimmick.
A further five vehicles, including Volkswagen’s Polo BlueMotion, hailed as Britain’s greenest car when it was claimed that it emitted less than 100 grams of CO2 per km (g/km), failed to match the claims made by their makers.
Road tests were carried out by Auto Express magazine, which accused manufacturers of attempting to cash in on concerns about global warming.
I'm sure hybrids are all well and good and probably a net gain, all things considered**, and any number of engineers have sniffed that hybrids are at best a 'transition' technology anyway - one that might not solve the problem it claims but can lead us to something that does.
But I can't escape the feeling that for many hybrid owners the actual test results don't matter, because environmentalism is not primarily about the environment. In the words of the aforementioned almost-president:
The climate crisis offers us the chance to experience what few generations in history have had the privilege of experiencing: a generational mission; a compelling moral purpose; a shared cause; and the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict of politics and to embrace a genuine moral and spiritual challenge.In other words, it's not about doing as much as about feeling a part of something important.
* I'm sorry, "Climate Progress"
** Once one adds in such drawbacks as increased cost, reduced acceleration and control, acid spills as a result of accidents, and danger to rescue workers that they will be electrocuted trying to pull you out after you get blown off the road by big wind. And good luck finding spare parts.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Tuesday allowing the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices...That'll teach other countries they can't flout American laws and get away with it.
The bill would subject OPEC oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, to the same antitrust laws that U.S. companies must follow.
"...what I have also said is that I will be willing to engage in direct talks with Cuba," said Obama. "Now, I know that John McCain likes to characterize this as me immediately having Raul Castro over for tea. What I've said is that we would set a series of meetings with low level diplomats..."Why not invite Mr. Castro over for tea? Tomorrow?
"John McCain essentially wants to continue George Bush's policies of not talking to leaders we don't like..."
The Republicans on this issue are a lost cause. The fact that a complete embargo of Cuba since John Freaking Kennedy was president has not brought about the desired results does not bother them. McCain says that continuing half a century of ineffective policy is tantamount to "giv[ing] hope to the Cuban people*." What he means is that 20 years after Reagan beat Soviet communism to powder, he still judges it to be a winning political issue.
But where McCain proves to be as dense as he is pig-headed, Obama proves himself to be gutless. Embargoes impoverish people. Regular people. Powerless people. They are leverage applied by strong states on weaker ones to make life so miserable in the latter that the people rise up and overthrow the government. But little people starve in the meantime. And Obama is fine with that, because it's better than being called soft on communism or something.
If Obama wanted to bring real change** to Cuba, he would unilaterally suspend the embargo and every limitation on trade with Cuba. If McCain wanted to give hope to the Cubans living in Cuba, hope that they could improve their material lot in life rather than relying on Castro to give them their daily bread, he'd do the same thing.
Neither of them will make meaningful*** changes to the Kennedy Johnson Nixon Ford Carter Reagan Bush Clinton Bush policy, even while bleating about how much change they will bring to Washington.
UPDATE: At least Bush is breaking the old Bush policy, while vociferously denying he is doing so, by "allowing" Cubans in the US to send cell phones to their relatives in Cuba. Hey, it's a start. One cheer for El Presidente'!
* Namely, the Cuban people living in Miami, who make up a significant bloc of voters in a very important swing state.
** He doesn't, which is why none of his "big ideas" challenge or even examine the underlying reasons for any existing policy; they simply paw around the edges looking for photo opportunities.
*** A "series of meetings with low level diplomats" is not meaningful. It's merely employment for young Ivy-league lawyers who want to run for office someday.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
John Sidney (no foolies) McCain III was actually born in the Panama Canal Zone, which under Article I of the Constitution makes it questionable whether he is even eligible to ascend to the office he seeks. Again.
But Hoary has never been one to let the Constitution get in the way of his ambition, which explains how his name headlines the legal abomination known as the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law, parts of which were correctly found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, while the rest incorrectly passed constitutional muster when 5 justices were accidentally given copies of the Constitution that omitted the First Amendment. The great constitutional scholar George Walker Bush (pbh) repeatedly noted its blatantly unconstitutional provisions before signing it into law.
Said constitutional scholar defeated Hoary the last time he ran for President, after Hoary turned on Republican kingmakers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who issued competing neo-papal bulls declaring that Hoary was actually Satan in a thinning grey wig, all but sinking his GOP primary aspirations. Hoary has since kissed Falwell's ring and said decrees have been rescinded following Falwell's remark that Second dwarf Bitchy is even scarier than Hoary. Hoary is generally considered to be the favorite for the 2008 GOP nomination, mostly because no one has ever heard of his major (if such a word can be applied here) opponents.
Hoary receives most of his moral authority to speak on issues of national importance due to the fact that his A-4 jet was shot down over North Vietnam and he was held as a prisoner of war for 5 1/2 year in the Hanoi Hilton. However, most voters do not realize that, as the oldest man ever to seek the GOP nomination, Hoary's pilotary excellence was displayed much earlier than VietNam. It is a little-known fact that Hoary was shot down seven times by Manfred Albrecht Freiherr Von Richthofen (founder of Manfred Mann's Earth Band) over Germany in September, 1917, and was held as a POW in the infamous "Berlin Best Western" for 18 months before being traded to France for a truckload of used surrender flags*. It is also generally believed that the Jules Verne story "The Mysterious Island," wherein a wayward group of Union soldiers land their tattered balloon on an island populated by fabulous creatures created by Captain Nemo, was based on Hoary's exploits as a pilot in the War of Northern Aggression. Hoary has long been coy about discussing what he calls "The Family Jules," citing a personal promise to President Lincoln that certain Union troop movements would remain secret until his death. Since Hoary is now 213 years old, generations of historians have passed waiting for him to reaveal the reason General Lee was able to retreat with his entire army following Antietam. And while "personally opposed to slavery," Hoary claimed at the time that he would not seek the overturn of Dred Scott "in the short term."
Hoary is also the only US Senator to appear in an R-rated movie filled with "nudity, raunchy humor, and filthy language" after holding Senate hearings to berate movie executives for pitching R-rated fare to children**. Thankfully, he was not the one whose boobs were exposed for the audience's admiration.
America may be ready for a lot of things, but not that.
* It is also a little-known fact that Hoary has been shot down and captured in every American conflict since the War of 1812, when he was imprisoned at the Battle of New Orleans. He was mistakenly shot out of an alligator after his cannon melted down. Don't let the name fool you, it was actually 1814.
** He claimed that he only took part in the movie because it would "impress his kids."
Columbus — Georgia Republican Party chairwoman Sue Everhart said Saturday that the party's presumed presidential nominee has a lot in common with Jesus Christ.Hmmm... so she's 'not trying to compare McCain to Jesus Christ.' I wonder if was the 'John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ' part that caused so much unnecessary confusion?
"John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross," Everhart said as she began the second day of the state GOP convention. "He never denounced God, either."
Everhart was praising McCain for never denouncing the United States while he was being tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
"I'm not trying to compare John McCain to Jesus Christ, I'm looking at the pain that was there," she said.
John McCain: like Jesus Christ, older than His dad.
The European Central Bank on Thursday voiced its "high concern" at growing evidence that banks are exploiting its efforts to unblock the frozen funding markets by using its liquidity scheme to offload more risky assets than it envisaged.It was so obvious that only a PhD could not see what would happen.
Yves Mersch, a governing council member, said the ECB was now "looking very hard at whether there is not a specific deterioration of collateral" which the central bank is accepting in return for funds.
He was speaking amid signs of some banks creating low-rated assets specifically so they can be traded for treasuries at the European Central Bank...
The problem* to be solved was that banks seemed to be unwilling to lend money to one another, because the proliferation of toxic waste subprime bonds meant those banks did not know what kind of collateral they were accepting in exchange for short-term money.
The solution that the ECB and the Fed** came up with, I kid you not, is that they would trade, for a period of 3 days, then for 28 days when that didn't work, then for "some months" when that didn't work, government securities to banks in exchange for AAA-rated bonds. In other words, Central banks said that, in order to get banks to trust one another, we'll provide them with collateral that other banks can trust.
But the central banks never considered what they were getting in return for their government bonds. They were getting crap: subprime bonds, bonds backed by oft-delinquent credit cards, special bonds filled with junk no bank wants created specifically for dumping on the Fed. They received everything that the banks were dying to get out of their own inventory, and the banks dumped that junk with full knowledge that the ECB and the Fed are completely unable to undo the trades. It won't end at 28 days or even after "some months," because that throws the banking system right back to the gulf from which the Fed and the ECB now claim to have rescued it. Those bonds have new owners***.
It's the financial equivalent of the Mariel Boatlift: the port is open and the prisons and insane asylums are being unloaded onto the shores of a central bank or two stupid enough to accept them all.
UPDATE: In an article aptly titled, "What a Deal: Trash for Treasuries," CNBC says "It's working." Except for that little bit of risk that the taxpayers may end up on the hook for the whole scheme, safely tucked away on the second page: "Such a possibility may be farfetched — let us hope it is." I don't know about you, but I think the audacity of hope ought to be the basis of all of our economic policies.
* except that it's NOT a problem at all, but a consequence of central banks dragging interest rates too low. Banks will lend to anyone so long as the interest rate compensates for the additional risk.
** whose holdings are represented in the above chart. I seriously suggest you click on it to see the full-size version. Then contemplate the destruction of its asset quality that has occurred in just the last 2 months. Everything but gray represents crap that is all but worthless - in the financial world if you can't sell an asset, and you can't use it for collateral, and you can't eat it, it's worth nothing.
*** You. Congratulations. Well, you may not own them, but you'll get to pay the losses anyway. That's got to be some consolation.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I got a note last night from my editor at Lawrence.com. Now Phil is actually one of my favorite people in the world whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting personally. He sends me real checks on occasion and is always more interested in making Lawrence.com interesting than in ensuring that it reflects his own personal views*. He's a true professional, and has been supportive of Safe in the Fire Swamp from the beginning.
So anyway, he's trying to correct something of an imbalance on his site. Lawrence being Lawrence, there are plenty of trendy, hipster Democrats on the site, and there are a few libertarians**, but there are damned few partisan Republicans. And so he asked me if I knew of any potential bloggers who are "outspoken Republicans with thick skin... who can make a decent case for McCain."
Against Hillary? Sure. Against Obama? Absolutely. But for McCain? Wow. I'll admit, I'm stumped.
* which, not surprisingly, are significantly to the left of mine. He and 6 billion other people on this planet alone.
** and you(se) know who you(se) are. Troublemakers.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Inflation pressures eased a bit in April despite the biggest jump in food prices in 18 years.It's like magic: if you exclude the prices of things that are increasing at double-digit annual rates*, prices are "well-behaved." Hell, they probably even bring an apple and put it on your desk before cleaning all the erasers.
The Labor Department reported Wednesday that consumer prices edged up 0.2 percent last month, compared to a 0.3 percent rise in March.
The lower inflation reflected a flat reading for energy, which helped offset a 0.9 percent jump in food costs as prices climbed for many basic items, from bread and milk to coffee and fresh fruits...
Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, showed prices well behaved in April, rising by just 0.1 percent, compared to a 0.2 percent gain in March.
But wait! Like Huck says, what's a joke without a punchline:
That reading should ease concerns at the Federal Reserve that the sharp increase in food and energy prices this year would lead to broader inflation problems.The one thing in the economy that everyone needs**, food, is already shattering budgets here and causing protectionist laws, the forcible shut-down of futures markets, and foot riots elsewhere. But at least we can all rest assured that's not going to lead to broader inflation problems.
* .9%/month x 12 months = 10.8% annually. And that's just what they admit to. It's probably closer to double that in the real world.
** it's a lack of this item that has from time immemorial driven the migrations of howling tribes of barbarians, caused entire societies to die off like bacteria in a petri dish, and forced men to literally devour one another. But hey, the price of RAM is going down. No worries.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Multivariate regression analyses found that controlling for other factors, Women dentists worked on average 4.8 fewer hours per week than men (p-value < .05).The calculated p-value of less than alpha .05 means that the null-hypothesis is rejected because it is more than 95% likely that the sample means do not represent equal hypothesized true population means*.
I also learned this semester that male dentists are dentistas, just like the ladies.
Now, on to the Peloponnesian War! Athens sucks. I hope they lose.
* Don't worry, I don't intend to ever write anything like that again.
Uh let me answer that for you - another man. I don’t care what you think on this one Bill, I truly believe that most women are paid % less then men for the same work. The reason some people still don’t therefore hire women instead of men is b/c there are still employers (mostly in the private sector) who do not like/trust a woman for the job. That is, in part, because we (the younger women) can get pregnant. And that is a huge loss to employers, in terms of time and benefits. But I have seen study after study that shows that women’s salaries, for the same jobs, are almost always below men’s. There has to be some reason for that…… Unless you think ALL the studies are skewed?Now either my response didn't make the Snoopian cut or it got lost in his spam filter, so I figured I'd take the opportunity here to expand on it a bit.
Jeanne Sahadi (CNNMoney) did a really good piece a few years back that illustrates the limitations of what she calls the 76-Cent Myth, that stat thrown around that says women only earn 76 cents for every dollar a man makes. Well, it's a true and valid statistic, but it states only that the median income of all working (34hr/wk) women is 76% of the median income of all working men - with complete disregard for any other factors, from the type of job worked to overtime worked to the number of years someone has been in a specific job.
In fact, it's a perfect example of a number that everyone knows and everyone has a solution for but actually tells you nothing about anything. It is used far more for heat than light.
But there is a very useful number buried within the article, an informed opinion about what actual percentage of that raw numerical difference is due to discrimination:
- Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research: 25-33%
- Gary Thornton of HR management consulting firm Thornton & Associates: 10-15%
Now Mrs. Snoop brings up a very good point in her comment, which we will take to be that (or a big part of that) discrimination:
That [reticence to hire women - El B] is, in part, because we (the younger women) can get pregnant. And that is a huge loss to employers, in terms of time and benefits.I'm not sure it's a like/trust issue as much as it is a recognition that there are likely to be non-salary-related costs associated with hiring women, especially young ones, and that can't but help be reflected in salary. In short, if Jill makes 90% what John makes, but was gone 10% of the year on paid maternity leave, did she get equal pay for equal work?***
But it's not just maternity leave. Moms are more likely to be primary caregivers for kids, so they take more days off with sick kids, more trips to the doctor with them, are less able to work weekends, have to be at the sitter's at 6 and so can't stay late.
Even when kids are not a factor, a woman is significantly more likely (MSNBC) to be absent from work for other reasons than a man. Which is one reason why a man with kids at home will work an average of 1/3 more hours than a woman with kids at home (BLS Statistics). In fact, a man with kids at home will work more hours than one without.
As Mrs. Snoop mentions, this is "a huge loss" to employers for hiring women, and that huge loss as is much a cost of employing someone as is salary.
Therefore while 'discrimination' may be an unresolved issue somewhere in the 2-8c per dollar range, it likely reflects the reality of equal pay for equal work: when a man and a woman have exactly the same job title, they are not working the same number of hours at it over the course of a year****. In what way is that equal work?
And if it's not equal work, why does it qualify for equal pay?
* Whom you all know here under a different moniker.
** The rest is due to legitimate differences in jobs taken, or even if the jobs are the same, experience levels. As Snoop noted, (though he was not trying to support my point): "Women NOW make up 58% of college graduates and nearly half of the labor force..." (Emphasis mine). The fact that they NOW make that up means that they did not in the past, which means that there are relatively more women entering today and relatively fewer that have been there a long time, right? When do you make more money, when you are just entering a job, or when you have been there a long time?
*** The answer is 'yes.' What she did not get was equal pay for holding an equal job title.
**** As in this NIH study of the work habits of dentists. Preliminary conclusion? "Our analysis suggests that the ongoing increase in the number of women dentists should be considered in dental workforce projections because gender has a significant relationship with hours worked." In other words, with women dentists you need more of them to service the same number of patients, not because they are not competent, but because they simply don't work as much.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Do not watch this video if you are offended by bad language. There's your warning, don't come back complaining. It's bad*, but I suspect the video is pretty close to what's really going on about now...
And Jozum, a special warning for you: put the drink down before you click on it. Seriously. Unless you really do need a new monitor.
* Just like the real thing.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
May 8 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House voted to bring back the steel penny, saying it would be cheaper than the current practice in which the government loses money on every penny it makes because of rising metal prices.Y'all will have doubtless noticed that it's been a while since I've banged on the fact that because it now costs more than a penny to make a penny and more than a dime to make a nickel*, it was only a matter of time before we changed the makeup to make them just as worthless as the rest of our coinage. But while the House has now passed a bill to make that happen, the Senate and El Presidente oppose it for the moment. But this President has 8 months left, so like Old Petya in Clancy's Red Storm Rising, no one really listens to him anymore. It will happen, it's inevitable. The only question is whether "hoarding," by which I mean people saving the last of the real money in America, will cause shortages in the mean time**.
The chamber approved legislation directing the U.S. Mint to begin producing, within the next nine months, pennies made of copper-plated steel -- not the zinc-copper alloy currently used. The measure, passed on a voice vote, also recommends phasing in steel nickels over the next two years...
But while inevitable, it is illustrative in a funny sort of way. The mint loses, what? $100 million a year on coinage? That's about one-tenth of 1% of what we just borrowed from China to give ourselves in rebates on the taxes we already spent on other things. The first-year interest alone on that money covers about a quarter century of money lost on mintage. But it's nice to know that Congress is looking out for our financial well-being, anyway.
I wonder what they'll do when the price of iron, which has already doubled in the past year like seemingly everything else, makes these pennies uneconomic. Maybe we can figure out a way to make coins out of election promises. There's no shortage of them, and they sure aren't going to be used for anything else.
* The issue, of course, never went away, but once you've said it, what's to gain from saying it over and over?
** for the record, I doubt it, but I would not be surprised by it; I've been doing my part to make sure it happens for a couple years now.
Friday, May 09, 2008
Well, actually she does play. But it wasn't long ago that she was banned from doing so, especially online. When she was 7, however, she and the boys and I were all at the bookstore, which has a game room* right off the kitchen, in between my office and the warehouse. And she knew she was not supposed to play, but let's just say that she's a kid who tends to forget the things she's not supposed to do.
Her brothers, on the other hand, are world-class Halo players. A few years back, when Poggin was in high school and T-Lu in junior high, they attended a tournament at PSU. Though assigned to different 2-man teams in different brackets, they completely destroyed the college boys and ended up playing each other in the finals. Then they split the prize money, as per prior agreement. They're scary good. But sometimes they too forget the things that Squeaker is not allowed to do.
So as I was walking from the office to the warehouse, I was pretty annoyed to hear Squeaker's voice coming from the game room, calling out some kid online - "Oh, come on now, you ain't got no chili. What about that, punk?" - in her loudest, most annoying 7-year-old girl voice. It was obvious there was some online Haloing going on, and just as obvious that she was the one doing it. I did the dad thing and stomped into the room, only to bust out laughing.
There sat the boys on the couch, controllers in hand, absolutely destroying two random guys online. And there was Squeaker between them, with the headset on, pretending absolutely convincingly that she was the one doing all the damage.
It's little wonder that the other team got so frustrated after about 10 minutes of such abuse that they just quit the match. If I thought I was getting my butt kicked that bad by a 7-year-old girl, I'd find something else to do, too.
* Actually, it's the homeschool room, complete with bookshelves and desks and networked computers. But it also has a couch, a really nice TV, and every game system I've ever heard of other than Pong.
If Obama wants to try to scoop up some of Clinton's pesky white lady demographic without sharing the ticket with the woman responsible for his back full of knives he could hardly do better than Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius is a very rare and precious thing: a female democratic governor of a red state...Indeed. Not that he's going to waste something as precious as the Veep slot on Kansas' 6 electoral votes, I suspect. The way red/blue electoral math works, if Obama has a real shot at winning Kansas under ANY circumstances, winning Kansas will be completely unnecessary. That said, Something Awful's commentary is more insightful and closer to reality than about 95% of the political reporting on regular news sources. It's like The Daily Show for people who can read.
And one simply has to appreciate the sheer, audacious beauty of an article that spells out the one upside of Obama picking the Lizard Queen thusly:
...Obama gets to weld the tender cyst of Hillary's outrage-fueled biddies to the underbelly of the hopeasaurus.How will Obama ever resist that temptation?
Blaming 9.5 percent surge in cost of sales, Inbev* earlier today announced an unexpected drop in first quarter profits and said it is hiking beer prices across the world to help offset inflation. The maker of Stella Artois and Beck's is not alone, and industry insiders say this may only be the first taste of price hikes.It seems that everyone is trying to "hike prices to offset inflation" these days, an activity that is as silly and counterproductive in the collective as it is necessary for the individual. Setting aside the proper definition of inflation** in deference to the popular one - rising prices - it is quite obvious that we all cannot offset rising prices by raising prices, because the farmer raising prices to cover his increased costs results in the brewer who buys his grain raising prices, which results in the beer the farmer drinks going up in price, which offsets any increase in his standard of living from raising his prices in the first place. Yet if he does not raise them, he quickly falls behind.
"Prices have gone up 4.3 percent since the turn of the year," said Brewers Association director Paul Gatza, "It wouldn't surprise me if that goes up even further."
I think the government needs to give us a lot more money so we can live with all this inflation.
* The largest brewer in the world.
** an increase in the supply of money. The word comes from the idea of inflating, blowing up like a ball, the total supply of currency in circulation.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
One in particular stood out, a recipe for a 5-gallon batch that requires 12# of rhubarb. But it wasn't the size of the recipe that caught my eye, it was the accompanying warning:
* My mother has agreed to provide the secret to me in exchange for my youngest daughter and a draft choice to be named later.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
HILLARY Clinton has continued to raise the populist rhetoric in a pitch to blue-collar votes, vowing on the eve of crucial Democrat primaries in two states to smash the OPEC "cartel"...Oh, it's a beautiful thing that not only has America taken upon our shoulders the noble burden of deciding what manner of governments the nations of the Middle East shall have, we will now determine how much oil those nations must pump, process, and ship, and at what price they must offer it to us. I'm just certain that someday, somehow, they will thank us for sharing our wisdom with their benighted selves.
"We're going to go right at OPEC," she told supporters in Merrillville, Indiana. "They can no longer be a cartel, a monopoly that get together once every couple of months in some conference room in some plush place in the world, they decide how much oil they're going to produce and what price they're going to put it at."
Napoleon said it best when he said, "If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing." He was also correct when he said*, "In politics stupidity is not a handicap."
* Yet I think it applies less to politicians than to the people who believe them.
OK, you gun nuts, what's wrong with the above Hillary campaign piece? When you see it, you'll laugh out loud. Maybe.
On a completely unrelated point, now that the Lizard Queen is claiming to be the love child of Charleton Heston and Ted Nugent, it might be wise to take a trip in the Wayback Machine, to the long-ago year 2000, when said Hillary was running for her current, um, job:
- "I believe we need a comprehensive plan to stop gun violence, and it is one of the reasons I am running for the Senate," the first lady said.
- Mrs. Clinton... added that she supports proposals that would require the licensing and registering of all new handguns purchased in the United States. "We license drivers before they get behind the wheel to make sure they can drive safely. We register cars to make sure someone is responsible for every vehicle on the road. But we don't do the same for deadly weapons," she said.
- If elected to the Senate, Mrs. Clinton said she'd work with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) on her bill that would require prospective gun buyers to first obtain a gun license by passing a background check and a safety course exam. The bill would also establish a national registry to record all gun sales.
- Mrs. Clinton also announced her support for the creation of a "ballistic database" for all new guns, requiring gun makers or sellers to fire guns before sale and send that "ballistic fingerprint" to law enforcement. "What we would have is a national database of these images that law enforcement officers could use to quickly track down the origins of guns found at their crime scenes and the criminals who use them," Mrs. Clinton said.
- The first lady reiterated her support to require trigger locks on handguns, to hold adults responsible for their children's use of guns*, to raise the youth handgun ban from age 18 to 21, to limit gun sales to one per month per adult and to have the Consumer Products Safety Commission regulate guns.
* Here she is mostly correct. Every parent should make sure their children know how to load, shoot, and clean guns. I'm not sure the government is the best enforcer of that, however.
Monday, May 05, 2008
You Belong in Generation X
You fit in best with people born between 1961 and 1981.
You are fun, laid back, and very independent.
You are willing to take risks and live your life however you see fit.
You are casual, accepting, and friendly. You see everyone as your equal.
(hat tip: Heartless Libertarian)
Congratulations to Rebel Nun*, who will receive her bachelors from the University of Hawaii next week at the age of 20. I'm not sure if she pulled off the double-major in English and Chinese or not; there was some question about transfer credits from KU. But I am very proud of her either way.
Congratulations to Poggin, who will graduate Summa Cum Laude from the local Juco the same day and who just came home from their annual awards banquet with plaques for Outstanding Senior**, Outstanding Musician, and Outstanding Vocal Musician, and who held a 4.0 GPA all the way thru. Not bad for a kid who never set foot in a classroom until 2 years ago***.
Congratulations to T-Lu, who in a few weeks will graduate from the same private, accredited, online high school his brother and sister "attended," despite just turning 17 last week. He completed 4 years' worth of class completely by himself in about 2 years.
Congratulations to Squeaker Annie for bringing home a first-place medal in the local Catholic Religion Bowl, even though we're not Catholic (she attends the local Catholic school, however). After graduation next week, she'll spend the next month or so in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and maybe Canada, and will (we hope) spend much of her next year in Hawaii. It is truly the opportunity of a lifetime.
Finally, congratulations, and most of all thanks, to the lovely and gracious Rogue, who made it all possible. After dedicating to the education of her children more than a decade that could have been spent in [sarcasm] a far more personally-satisfying career [/sarcasm], she will be walking the aisle with Poggin and has been accepted to the Kelce College of Business at PSU. And even though recovering from bombing junior college in her first attempt 25 years ago, she now has a higher lifetime GPA than I. Felicitaciones, Quedida.
* All names changed to their customary nicknames so should their friends read this blog, they'll know who the heck I'm talking about. For those of you who don't know my kids, their names are not particularly relevant anyway.
** I'm not sure how that one works, actually, since he'll enter PSU this fall as a junior.
*** And it is here to where I will relegate my obligatory social commentary concerning homeschooling. Obviously my childrens' lack of socialization has scarred them in a way from which they shall never recover. At least I can only hope.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Saturday, May 03, 2008
The last thing Marti Tracy wants to do on a Saturday is clip coupons. But last month the 34-year-old Bowie resident felt she no longer had a choice. She'd already given up organic meat and decided to buy organic milk only for her 2-year-old son, not for the whole family.How can one not be sympathetic to the plight of this federal government HR drone? She can no longer afford single packets of crackers, but must suffer with boxes where the crackers are packed together like Irish in a Boston settlement house. She has given up eating only the finest baby cows, dew picked and flown from Seattle, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose*, and now has to eat regular old hamburger like a commoner. Can you hear the violins? Me, neither. Weird.
Tracy and her partner also stopped buying the cereals they like in favor of whatever was on sale; stopped picking up convenient single-size packs of juice, water or crackers; and, in order to save gas, stopped going to multiple stores. "I find the whole thing a huge hassle, but I've reached a tipping point," said Tracy, a government human resources specialist...
You know, there are going to be plenty of hard-luck stories before this is all over. And the press will doubtless be filled with them, not just because they are news but because they provide the traditional warm-up for the Progressive national anthem, "Why Isn't The Government Doing Anything About This?" But the Washington Post is not off to a very auspicious beginning if they expect people in flyover country to do anything but laugh at stories like these. Are they really that out of touch? Or is it a double-ironic commentary on how little actual suffering there is in America?
* "Don't you even take the bones out?"
Friday, May 02, 2008
I had to laugh last week when I was reminded of this video by my foster daughters, aged 1 and 2, absolutely devouring most of a box of fried chicken*. So deep questions arise because of the man MikeT rightly calls "the great philosopher Dave Chappelle" and his little skit:
- Is it racist to believe that something is true just because it happens to be a stereotype**?
- Is it racist to laugh at something that happens to be a stereotype when one finds occasions where it is true?
So then, is Dave acting similarly racist? So long as we are applying the same standards, yes. Do I care? Not remotely. In fact, I think Chapelle's white guy impressions are funny as hell; the same with Mencia's Asian impressions. I guess I'm not one who finds that kind of attitudinal racism to be very high on the totem pole of sins.
But it appears that that's not really racism at all. According to "Why do Black People Love Fried Chicken?" a mostly-uninteresting little tract of personal opinion written by Nashieqa Washington, MBA:
Of the many definitions of racism, most require that the racist be in a position of power/influence or that they have an innate sense of superiority based on race. [Therefore, Blacks cannot be racist because] Blacks have never been in a significant position of power over any other group." (p.19)The second definition is the is the traditional one; racism has been actions based on a belief in racial superiority. The first one is politically-motivated liberal claptrap, as Reginald Denny, any rookie teacher in an inner-city high school, a Korean shopkeeper in South Central LA, or a white farmer in Zimbabwe would probably testify. One cannot say that blacks as a group have never had any power anywhere over any other group. Well, you can say it, I suppose: everyone is entitled to their own opinion, just not their own facts.
But ignoring the group-think and liberal silliness, maybe Dave's chicken man is racist because the whole conversation boils down to a white guy trying to put Dave "in his place" because he's black, and the stereotype is simply a convenient tool with which to do that. In that case, it didn't matter whether Dave wanted the chicken, what mattered was that Dave was black and the white guy was saying, "I am better than you because I'm white. And everyone here will back me in a fight if you have a problem with that." That, of course, would be racist under any definition.
What does it all mean? Hell if I know. But I do suspect I'm going to keep giving my daughters fried chicken and laughing at Dave Chappelle. And, of course, ignoring MBAs. Which I do anyway, as a matter of habit. All stereotypes about MBAs are true.
* For the record, my natural and adopted kids love fried chicken too, but racist or not, "White kids love fried chicken" just isn't a stereotype and so I never even thought about it when they were growing up.
** In other words, do we have to pretend the opposite? All stereotypes, good and bad, are true to some extent or other. Most of them are mostly true often enough that we can use them to mentally organize items in their context in our world, which is how they become stereotypes in the first place.
*** And I have no doubt that Dave would have been able to tell. We can all tell when people don't like us, and after a lifetime of experiencing people not liking you because of your skin, it's probably not very difficult to discern it at a glance.