Monday, June 30, 2008
Officials with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have informed Bernanke about a plan that would have been unheard-of in the past: a general examination of the US financial system. The IMF's board of directors has ruled that a so-called Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) is to be carried out in the United States. It is nothing less than an X-ray of the entire US financial system...While the American in me is naturally offended at the idea that the international banksters are going to march in here with their Gucci briefcases and their funny European accents to tell us how to run the place, I'm also bemusedly interested in what they're going to say about the operations of the idiot Fed and that den of thieves that is Wall Street Finance*.
But there seems to be one guy who apparently does not share my curiosity:
For seven years, US President George W. Bush refused to allow the IMF to conduct its assessment. Even now, he has only given the IMF board his consent under one important condition. The review can begin in Bush's last year in office, but it may not be completed until he has left the White House.I suspect he already knows what it will say and would rather have that flaming bag of dog crap left on his neighbor's porch than his own.
* Though in some ways it's like the Cosa Nostra giving pointers to the Crips. Even though you want to hear the advice, you don't necessarily want it to make them a more effective organization.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thankfully, we as a nation have moved past the point where the banning of weapons in the hands of regular people is blatantly used to keep the Negro in his place in America, as it was used to keep the Irish in his place under British rule and the Briton in his place under Roman rule. We have instead moved to where the banning of weapons in the hands of regular people is because we recognize they are imbued with magic.
There is a strange theme – an assumption, really - that runs through the arguments of modern gun control advocates, and that is that more guns inexorably lead to more crime and fewer guns to less crime***. You can see it in the straightforward conclusion of author Fran Dorf (“The net effect will be more guns, more death, and more grief”) and in the more nuanced statements of President-in-waiting Barack Obama, who in reaction to the decision contrasted the right to bear arms with “keep(ing) our communities and our children safe.” Obviously, guns are magical devices that, by their very presence, make communities unsafe. It’s not just magic, it’s bad magic.
That guns are bad magic is the underlying reason for keeping schools safe through the ritual of banning toy guns, drawings of guns, stories containing guns, and pieces of paper folded in such a way as to resemble guns. As jabbing pins into a voodoo doll transfers the action to the person of whom the doll is a replica, so banning replica guns banishes the bad gun spirits, restoring the emotional tranquility necessary for the education of young minds. And it works because school administrators wield powerful magic of their own, I guess.
Gun rights advocates often assert that their political opponents are simply afraid of guns, that they are caught in a cycle of fear wherein their fear of guns leads to avoidance which leads to ignorance which leads back to fear. And there is some truth to that, or at least to its corollary: those taught to safely use guns as children seldom fear guns. On the flip side, there enough Carl Rowans**** in the world to conclude that some gun control advocates just like guns so much that they don’t think anyone else should have any.
In truth, there is a certain amount of magic in guns, and it's good magic. Guns are levelers, enabling the weak to stand up to the strong and the lowly to protect himself against the mighty. It is no coincidence that the end of the armored knight followed closely behind the introduction of the handgun in Europe.
It is even less so that the words “All men are created equal” were written only after the widespread availability of personal guns made them so.
*And if the Supreme Court treated the Second Amendment like the First, we could all own battleships, too.
**"Be it enacted, etc. that if any negro, mulatto, or free person of color shall wear or carry about his or her person, or keep in his or her house, any shotgun, musket, rifle, pistol, sword, dagger, or Bowie-knife, unless he or she shall have obtained a license therefor from the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions of his or her county, within one year preceding the wearing, keeping, or carrying thereof, he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and may be indicted therefor." (see State vs. Newsom, 1844) You can bet that, like DC, they weren’t giving out licenses either.
***This juxtaposition is supported by the fact that the crime rate in Vermont, which allows concealed carry without a permit, is far higher than that of Washington DC, where there have been no handguns for 30 years. Wait, what?
****The Chicago Sun Times columnist who, after years of calling for handgun registrations and bans, defended his home – well, more or less - with an unregistered handgun.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Next up: a professor who took a full six minutes announcing her credentials and then said, "I used up my entire pension supporting Hillary. I went to 13 states and knocked on doors. I want everyone in this room to write in the name of Hillary Clinton on the ballot when they go to vote and …"I've always wondered why people who go to the trouble to enunciate all the letters that follow their names so consistently demonstrate that whatever money was spent to acquire them was wasted*. It's a lot like the scene in Office Space where Peter announced that if he had a million dollars, he would do nothing. "You don't need a million dollars to do nothing," his wiser, blue-collar neighbor told him. "Just look at my cousin: he's broke and don't do shit."
If you're too stupid to have a pension, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by simply not earning one in the first place.
* Assuming they are supposed to represent learning rather than status. I realize that I may be wholly incorrect in this assumption.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Federal Reserve policymakers open a two-day meeting Tuesday looking for a new message to keep inflation expectations in check, without having to boost interest rates, economists say.The truth is that it doesn't really matter what Bernanke does this week. Rates are too low, below even the 'official' inflation rate, much less the actual inflation rate, meaning that real interest rates are already negative - banks are already getting paid to borrow. The dollar is in the tank, oil is going crazy*, and worst of all, European wines are getting expensive. Gold is back on the north side of $900 an ounce. While it may provide "shock value" that lasts a day or two, changing the Fed funds rate a 1/4% this way or 1/4% that way will make no difference to the real problems the Fed has created. None.
The US central bank headed by chairman Ben Bernanke finds itself in a tough spot, with the US economy teetering on the brink of recession but signs of price pressures that are heating up dangerously.
The Federal Open Market Committee, set to announce a decision on Wednesday around 1815 GMT, is widely expected to hold the federal funds rate steady at 2.0 percent.
Ben would have to raise rates by 2 or 3 full percentage points to make a difference - in other words, he would have to undo everything he has done as chairman. And that's not going to happen, because the banks and the stock market would both collapse, and the Fed probably would as well.
So what's left is talk. Using magic words to ward off price increases that are natural effects of what Helicopter Ben has done and continues to do. "Crafting a massage," as the article says, without actually doing anything different. We're going to use words because talking is easier than doing.
Ben is like a parent who "counts" - "Timmy, I'm going to count to three and by the time I get there you'd better stop hitting your brother with that bat. 1... 2... 2 1/2..." The children of counters have nothing but contempt for the desires of such parents**. As soon as the market figures out that talk is all the Fed has, then even its talk will be considered similarly worthless.
And that's when things really get fun.
* a full 50% over my off-the-cuff danger number of $90 per barrel . I do think it's ready for a wicked pullback soon, maybe all the way back to $90, at which point everyone will breathe a sigh of relief that the problem is over. It's not.
** I had a three-step process as well that I explained to my children: "First I'm going to ask you, then I'm going to tell you, then I'm going to make you. It is completely up to you to decide at what point you'll do it, but make no mistake, you will do it." We seldom got to the third step.
Monday, June 23, 2008
James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming...While the article doesn't say, one should not be out of line in assuming that the penalty for "high crimes against humanity" would be the same as is usually handed out for regular crimes against humanity. Those words are carefully chosen, no doubt, to convey exactly that message.
His sharpest words are reserved for the special interests he blames for public confusion about the nature of the global warming threat. "The problem is not political will, it's the alligator shoes - the lobbyists. It's the fact that money talks in Washington, and that democracy is not working the way it's intended to work."
If that's the case, this would not be the first time that those who claim* to believe in the will of the people show that they are willing to kill those people who show a will of their own. For their own good of course.
* Actually, I'm sure he does believe in democracy, or at least thinks he does, so long as people vote the way he tells them.
Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism.One of my favorite short stories - and possibly Heinlein's best - is called "Year of the Jackpot." It's a cute little tale about a mild-mannered statistician from Los Angeles who spends his free time charting the bizarre yet seemingly unique occurrences taking place around him. As the waves line up and the charts go parabolic, he realizes that something is about to change, and it may not be good*.
Horatio Alger, twist in your grave.
The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche is under assault. Eroding it is a dour powerlessness that is chipping away at the country's sturdy conviction that destiny can be commanded with sheer courage and perseverance.
Trends can go on for a long time - longer than most doom-saying chartists expect - but they cannot go on forever. So looking at our own charts, whether the US current account deficit (above), the national debt, the unfunded liabilities of government, or the purchasing power of the dollar, draws one inexorably to a similar conclusion: something is about to change, though my traditional American optimism tells me it may not be all bad**.
But the AP article ends with an interesting quote: "maybe this is what the 21st century will be about — a great unraveling of some things long taken for granted." I think the main one will be the collapse of debt-as-money and the messianic government that inevitably grows once all financial restrictions on the endless desires of the voters are removed. Hopefully it will be followed by the adoption of one aphorism Heinlein was fond of: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
* Since the sun explodes at the end, it turns out he was correct.
** For example, the collapse of the dollar and the American economy is not going to cause the sun to explode, nor should it bring killer earthquakes or droughts. So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
WIKIPEDIA and other online research sources were yesterday blamed for Scotland's falling exam pass rates.Of course Wikipedia is occasionally inaccurate - while I use it myself it is primarily to find sources. So are the works of 'researchers,' especially when dealing with controversial subjects. So are newspapers. Everyone has bias, and it is unfortunately too easy to downplay or exclude information that is embarrassing to one's case or shows one's opponents in a positive light*. It's good that the article addresses the fact that students ought to be skeptical about what they read online. They should expand that skepticism to include everything they read**.
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said pupils are turning to websites and internet resources that contain inaccurate or deliberately misleading information before passing it off as their own work.
The group singled out online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which allows entries to be logged or updated by anyone and is not verified by researchers, as the main source of information.
That's not really a problem; it is simply a fact of research. The real problem lies in that innocuous little phrase, "passing it off as their own work." It's not their own work, and it's no consolation that students are passing off inaccurate information*** as their own rather than more accurate. Blaming Wikipedia in this case is a lot like complaining that the car you stole broke down before you could make a clean getaway.
* One is certainly not going to get an accurate overview of the Climate Progress debate (or even the evidence) reading Al Gore. You are going to get the evidence that supports his thesis. That is is how science is done.
** This line made me laugh out loud: Boasting over two million articles, Wikipedia is used by about 6 per cent of internet users, significantly more than the traffic to more authorised sites, such as those of newspapers.
*** It might be a little consolation, however, that it is easier to catch cheaters who use online sources.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Two former managers at investment bank Bear Stearns have been arrested in New York over the collapse of the bank's hedge fund last year.Finance-based, late-stage state capitalism is so filled with crooks and charlatans that if the FBI arrested them all, it would immediately solve NYC's traffic problems*. The odds are pretty good that these two are among them. They ought to be charged with something just for living in New York.
Reports say Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin will face charges in connection with their management of hedge funds that collapsed in June 2007.
The bank's hedge funds bet on the high-risk sub-prime mortgage market in the US before it collapsed...
If charged, the men would become the first Wall Street executives to face criminal charges related to the US sub-prime mortgage crisis.
And even if they are guilty of no more than failure, the arrest does illustrate the advantage of having 80-botrillion vague and contradictory laws on the books: when it comes time for the angry mob to get somebody, that person will always have done something against one of them at some point**.
That means that as more and more of these cockroach-infested banks and brokerages fall before the laws of mathematics, taking with them the life savings of millions***, and as those millions take up straw torches to protest the fact that their lifestyles of borrowed abundance are falling correspondingly, there will always be plenty of scapegoats upon whom they can vent their rage.
These usually-deserving victims will be marched before politicians in solemn, televised hearings, indicted by prosecutors with an eye towards a better job, and castigated by talking heads to the great amusement of the mob.
And all of this serves one very important purpose: to deflect attention from those who are really responsible for the problem in the first place.
UPDATE: Wow, nice headline. And I thought I was being too melodramatic.
* And there would be no one left at the Fed but janitors.
** And even if they haven't, a prosecutor can take the Giuliani approach and throw so many vague charges at them, threatening centuries in jail time, that the average person will plead guilty to something and surrender everything they own just to walk away with the rest of his life.
** Either through outright default or the inflation the Fed will create to "save" the system.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
ASHLAND, Ore. - A woman seen frequently in Ashland riding topless on her bicycle says she plans to be in Ashland's Fourth of July parade free and independent of all clothing but a hemp G-string. The Chamber of Commerce says that's contrary to the rules for the family celebration. She says she'll sue if she can't parade as she wishes.This article caught my attention not because there's anything unusual or even edgy about a lunatic progressive* using nudity as some sort of a protest**, but because I mistakenly read the dateline as Ashland, Wisconsin, and I couldn't imagine such a thing happening there.
Nor could I imagine them electing this guy:
City Council member Eric Navickas said he's on Moss's side.I'm pretty sure anyone with that firm a grasp on non sequitur*** is in line for a Congressional seat someday. I just want to know what all the progressives are going to have to talk about when President Obama expands the war to Pakistan.
If she can't be in the parade, Navickas said, it would be "an interesting commentary on our society that we're willing to tolerate dead bodies through our aggressive foreign policy from the war, but not healthy, naked bodies."
* But I repeat myself.
** Not against taxes as in the case of Lady Godiva, but against societal strictures or bourgeoise morality or something. Yawn. 1969 called - they want their slogan back.
*** unless there's a float with dead Iraqi children or something. The article didn't really say one way or the other.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
[Jesus making wine] seems like a valid argument until you research the use of the word wine in the Bible and delve into the history of wine-making. This leads me to my second reason—it turns out that what we consider to be wine today is not nearly the same as what was considered wine in Biblical times ... Because the process of distillation was not discovered until hundreds of years later, the wine in Biblical times had nowhere near the alcoholic content as it does today. If you are interested in contrasting alcoholic contents then and now, I encourage you to do your own research, and I think you will be surprised by the outcome.I'm a winemaker and a Christian. Even so, I usually don't point out the historical and biblical errors of prohibitionist Christians* except in one instance: when they encourage people to research after showing that they have done none themselves. And in this case it's obvious SCF has absolutely no idea what she's talking about historically for one simple reason: wine is not distilled. Wine has never been distilled. It doesn't matter when the process of distillation was discovered because it is completely unrelated to the creation of wine**. And while that may seem a simple case of historical ignorance, the problem is that it is foundational to both her case and her exhortation.
That small - by which I mean huge - oversight aside, and with the historical observation that we simply don't know with precision the alcoholic content of ancient wines*** and so really cannot make the comparison she suggests, I will offer up the olive branch and grant that with the addition of refined sugars and using modern refinements in bottling, we can possibly create a wine with a higher alcohol content today, adding as much as 5% to the ~10% that occurs naturally. Then I will take it back by saying that if there is one irrelevant factor in a biblical discussion of wine, it is the level of alcohol in the drink. Why do I say that? Because of the manifold biblical admonitions against drunkenness that the entire prohibitionist case rests upon. The wine in the bible, whatever its alcohol level, had enough alcohol to make one slobbering drunk. It doesn't matter how much there was, it was enough to merit God's admonition against drunkenness. And make no mistake: it is the drunkenness that is the biblical issue, not alcohol.
Which SCF handles thus:
Other people like to use the argument that the Bible does not actually condemn drinking itself, but rather drunkenness****, so what harm will one or two drinks have? Well, my response is that you won’t have to worry about being drunk if you never take that first drink, will you?The Bible is against adultery, and you'll never have to worry about committing adultery so long as you never have sex, right? Prohibitionism is exactly what is demanded of the Christian who finds he cannot stop drinking at a reasonable point, just as there are those who refrain from all sex for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake (Mt 19:12). But it is just as silly to call for universal abstentionism based on a fear of the misuse of alcohol as it is to call for a universal chastity based on a fear of the misuse of sex*****. Both are gifts of God to be enjoyed with his blessing and within his prescribed limits.
The occasion of Canaan's curse (Gen 9) is also the symbol of Abraham's blessing (Gen 14) because it is not the thing in which sin resides; sin is wholly an attribute of people. Wine is a simple, natural product: crush grapes - which often contain yeast on their skins naturally - in water and so long as it is protected from oxygen, you will get alcoholic wine. Every time. In 2000bc just as in 2000ad. There is simply no license, biblically or historically, for treating them any differently from a moral perspective.
* If I did, this blog would contain little else.
** distillation is used to create liquor, like whiskey, rum, or brandy. The closest wine comes to distillation is when it is mixed with brandy to make port.
*** Hypatia of Alexandria failed to leave us her notes. But she was "hundreds of years later" as well in any case.
**** Mostly because it does.
***** Although I admit, the results would not be nearly as catastrophic for humanity.
Friday, June 13, 2008
DUBLIN: In a stunning setback for efforts to reform Europe's unwieldy institutions*, a senior Irish official said Friday that voters had rejected a revised European Union treaty designed to change the way the bloc governs itself and presents itself to the world.Don't think for a minute that this is the end of the EU. In 2005, French voters spat in the faces of their leaders by overwhelmingly rejecting the treaty, whereupon their leaders made some changes and passed it without re-asking the voters. The Dutch did the same, and the same thing happened to them. It is interesting that wherever the treaty has been presented to voters, it has been consistently rejected. And it has been just as consistently passed over the heads of those same voters. The voters got the wrong answer.
If that outcome is confirmed in official results, it will mean that the 27-member bloc will be in turmoil, its latest attempt to reform stymied by less than one percent of its population of almost 500 million.
I noticed this trend when I lived in Kansas City, which could show even the EU a thing or two about ballot initiatives. Sales taxes, bond issues, all manner of proposed financial malfeasances that were defeated on the ballot would re-appear time after time: so long as the voters got the wrong answer, the politicians needed to keep asking the question.
So why even vote? It's a question I get all the time once people realize that I would vote for neither Obama nor McCain even were they the only person on the ballot. "Why vote for someone who's destined to lose?**" Well, because even if Bob Barr doesn't win, there are plenty of politicians and proposals that still need to be voted against. There are judges; that's like 15 "no" votes right there. There are constitutional amendments, there are taxes and bond issues***. As as the Irish have showed, sometimes the voters win. For a while.
Here's a little secret: if you defeat everything the politicians propose, the legitimate functions of government go on anyway. The courts are open. The soldiers get paid. New ideas are generally the politician's way of saying now that the important stuff is done it's time to build monuments to themselves.
That's why it's important to vote: it's an exercise of my civic duty to throw sand in the gears of such 'progress.'
* a euphemism for subsuming independent nations beneath a totalitarian, super-bureaucracy based in Brussels.
** I didn't realize voting was like betting on horses. When I ask if they will pay me for a correct pick on place or show, they look at me all confused.
*** There might even be a creationalist to put on the state school board, which is the equivalent of voting 'no' on everything the state school board proposes over the next 4 years.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
CNBC - The Federal Reserve's leading inflation hawk told CNBC that interest rates will have to rise soon in order to bring inflation under control.And Mr. Kohn:
CNBC - Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn hinted that the central bank is inclined to leave rates steady despite rising inflation worries among US consumers.I certainly don't envy Bernanke. Not only is he down to four people on what is supposed to be a seven person Fed Board of Governors, the Democrats are stalling on three replacements*. The few people he has left are not only at odds with each other, but often with him as well. He's also in a bit of a pissing match with the head of the ECB, who is pretty tired of importing American inflation. And from underneath he has regional Fed governors publicly criticizing the Fed's alphabet soup of lending facilities.
But his real problem is not people but mathematics. If he raises rates, he kills off any chance of saving the housing market**, if he does not, the destruction of the dollar will accelerate. He cannot do both, and now seems forced to choose between two bad ends. Having traded most of the Fed's assets in exchange for financial toxic waste, he also faces a rapidly-approaching end-game in his plan to save big, stupid investment banks.
But fear not, there is a course of action that doesn't demand any such hard choices:
The Fed is hoping tough talk on inflation will do the job of moderating recent price increases, giving it room to avoid raising interest rates as the economy remains fragile.The audacity of hope. It works every time.
* They are pretty sure President Obama is going to making those appointments.
** He should raise them anyway.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
That would have proved a poor decision. The tree is now about 8' tall, and yesterday I picked more than a gallon of cherries from it, with plenty left on it for another round once they ripen.
And sometimes if I'm in the back yard, it quivers even if there's no wind. I think it's just very afraid the bobcat is coming back.
BANGKOK, Thailand - Long-tailed macaque monkeys have a reputation for knowing how to find food — whether it be grabbing fruit from jungle trees or snatching a banana from a startled tourist.Now when I read the headline*, I thought that a bunch of monkeys had broken into Bass Pro, liberated a few flyrods, and were, you know, fishing. Like with tools. And bait. Instead we have 4 monkeys in 8 years observed reaching into the water, pulling out minnows, and eating them. I'm not sure that really qualifies as fishing any more than making hamburgers qualifies as hunting.
Now, researchers say they have discovered groups of the silver-haired monkeys in Indonesia that fish.
Groups of long-tailed macaques were observed four times over the past eight years scooping up small fish with their hands and eating them along rivers in East Kalimantan and North Sumatra provinces, according to researchers from The Nature Conservancy and the Great Ape Trust.
The species had been known to eat fruit and forage for crabs and insects, but never before fish from rivers.
"It's exciting that after such a long time you see new behavior," said Erik Meijaard, one of the authors of a study on fishing macaques that appeared in last month's International Journal of Primatology. "It's an indication of how little we know about the species."
How is this any more amazing than picking a banana off of a tree or eating a beetle found under a stump? A hungry monkey sees something that might taste good, he reaches out and grabs it, he puts it in his mouth. If it turns out that it does taste good, he has learned something, and does it again. What is amazing to me is the sheer number of monkeys who have not yet learned that fish tastes good.
Are we running out of significant things to write scientific papers about? Or perhaps it's an indication that the pressure to publish is so intense that every 'discovery**,' no matter how mundane or unsurprising, must be documented, published, and breathlessly trotted out so the rest of the world can go, "If that's an indication of how little we know about the species, obviously you need more money. Have another grant."
I suspect that qualifies as fishing in some sense as well.
* "Scientists find monkeys who know how to fish."
** Defined as something a monkey does that no other monkey-watcher has written about yet.
Monday, June 09, 2008
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- On the first day of what is to be a two-week economic tour around the country, Barack Obama said Monday he thinks lawmakers need to inject another $50 billion immediately into the sluggish U.S. economy...This is how it started last time, but I think it was John Edwards calling for $25 billion in infrastructure spending, then Hillary upped that to $50b in unemployment, then Obama piped up. Finally we got George W. Bush outdoing them all by simply sending out checks for about $150b, or 6x the size of the 'big spending' John Edwards.
He said specifically that he supports expanding and extending unemployment benefits, as well as a second round of tax rebate checks.
Since that worked so well, Obama wants to spend $50b this round*. That means by next week, Bush should be readying plans to print up another $300b** for us so we can spend ourselves even richer.
* Is the first round over already? All I've bought with my helicopter money so far is a chainsaw. I hope I don't have to give the rest back or anything.
** While simultaneously bragging about his Strong Dollar Policy. The rest of the world must just laugh at us all the time.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) - Al Franken won a resounding endorsement for the U.S. Senate on Saturday from Minnesota Democrats, quickly dispatching with concerns about jokes that offended some and promising a tough challenge to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.
Minnesota is a place of strange politics. They don't have Republican and Democratic parties, they have the DFL (Democrat-Farmer-Labor) and the IR (Independent-Republican) parties. They've had a former pro wrestler as governor, elected as a member of neither of those parties. And they have a primary election after the parties nominations so the voters are perfectly free to, and occasionally do, put someone completely different on the November ballot.
When I was there a couple of weeks ago, I heard rumors that 2-time AWA Southern Heavyweight champion Jesse "The Body" Ventura was thinking about getting in the race, which right now is slated to be between the moderately funny Franken and moderately Republican Norm Coleman, the guy Jesse beat to become governor a few years ago*. And I was thinking, why does the rest of the country have to put up with politicians when Minnesota gets to elect people who are at the very least entertaining**? There have to be other states that can follow Minnesota's lead here and give the people what they really want.
So here are a few recommendations for my fellow voters. If we can't make the Senate wiser, at least we*** can make it more fun.
New York: other than the fact that he's dead****, Henny Youngman would be a perfect senator. I can just see the eyes of the other senators rolling when for the hundredth time he yields the floor by saying, "Take the balance of my time ... please." Followed by violins, of course.
North Carolina: Whoooooo! Can there be any doubt that Nature Boy Ric Flair would make a great senator? The day he hits Harry Reid over the head with a folding chair is the day C-Span II is worth watching.
Ohio: If someone wants to send a Muslim to Washington, they can certainly do better than Minnesota's Keith Ellison. DC-born Dave Chappelle gets the nod here, although his Black White Supremist bit might cause some to implode in a fit of liberal angst-confusion.
California: Carlos Mencia, baby. Mocking idiots from the Senate floor would be a marked improvement over collecting them there.
Colorado: Even though neither of them currently***** live there, Matt Stone and Trey Parker are naturals. If they presented animated shorts of the other senators during otherwise uneventful subcommittee hearings, that would just be icing on the cake.
There are a ton of other people who we need in Washington, too: Gary "whachutalkimbout, Senator?" Coleman, that chick with the diaper from NASA, Michael Jackson, Jenna Jameson.
After all, if we are going to be a nation of bread and circuses, the least they can do is make the circuses worth watching.
* Along with Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III. Having a metrodome named after your dad is not enough to get you to the top in Minnesota.
** Admittedly, they're not the ONLY ones. Georgia sent Cooter to the House, as Iowa sent Gopher and California sent Sonny Bono. But they were bit players, buried in with 431 black holes of entertainment and Cynthia McKinney.
*** these recommendations are for others, as the home front, unfortunately, comes up short. All of Kansas' most famous people are safely dead. Carrie Nation, Wilt Chamberlain, even Charlie Parker. But if West Virginia can send Robert Byrd, we ought to be able to send Wilt Chamberlain. So long as he promises not to sleep with Barbara Mikulski. On second thought, Gayle Sayers it must be. We just can't take that chance.
**** Strom Thurmond was dead for a decade and a half. That never stopped him.
***** Like Bobby Kennedy or Hillary Clinton were from New York.
Friday, June 06, 2008
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Harare, Zimbabwe - A senior government official in Zimbabwe Tuesday suggested a monthly minimum wage of Z$100 billion, saying more and more workers had been driven into poverty by hyperinflation and other economic hardships.Talk about solving the wrong problem. Zimbabwe has for all intents and purposes regressed to a pre-colonial, starvation-and-plunder economy. They have 300,000% inflation*, driven solely by the government printing press. They have 80% unemployment, indicative of a division-of-labor that has flat-out collapsed. I would be willing to bet that most of the 20% who are employed work for government or the army and are being paid in that new money.
The country is going through its worst economic crisis in history, with inflation at more than 300,000 percent, 80 percent unemployment and widespread shortages of food and other basic essentials.
National Incomes and Pricing Commission chairman Godwills Masimirembwa said current monthly minimum wages of an average Z$6 billion were grossly insufficient to meet even basic living expenses for workers.
"The current situation for workers needs urgent intervention. It is disheartening to note that some employers are still awarding salaries not enough to meet some basic food needs," he said.
So what does the government do? Stop the presses? Of course not, that road must be ridden to the end**. Instead, they propose "intervention" in the few remaining businesses to make them pay even more for the little labor they are using. It won't make any difference in the least. Then again, it is not designed to solve the problem, but to deflect the blame.
The beauty of Zimbabwe's example is that it is different only in speed from our own. There as here, the problem is not that wages are too low or that prices are too high, but that the continual destruction of money impoverishes people by forcing prices up. We like them need to continually legislate higher wages because the government's own monetary policies have ensured that what was once an acceptable wage is now insufficient.
When the US minimum wage was established in 1938, it was set at $.25 an hour, then considered an acceptable wage***. Next year it will be set at $7.25, an increase of 2,900%. Yet there as here, government will argue about the rate, completely ignoring the real reason it is no longer buys what it once did.
The political solution, there as here, is for the government to blame and cajole and punish businesses for not paying "enough" to workers, to pass laws making them pay more, and to generally 'intervene' in their affairs in the interest of fairness, which at long last means they make it impossible for anyone to work and for most to eat.
* Significantly higher than ours, even if we were to measure it properly.
** Actually, this is the end. All that's left to do is conquer France.
*** Or in the parlance of modern progressives, a "Living" Wage. As I proposed a couple years ago, we need a Living Large Wage of $1,000,000 a year. The Progressives were not buying it. Someday, they'll be screaming for it.
So apparently now Saturday is the day Saint Hillary officially admits what everyone else already knows. We shall see; I'm sure she's under tremendous pressure to do exactly that, so like releasing her tax records*, she will submit to it like a cat submits to a bath while she plans her next move.
But going through the motions of contritely donning a Si Se Puede lapel pin is not the same as actually helping Obama win. It's not even the same as not undermining him. She can do that just as well from inside his campaign as out.
* Which in the end made no difference anyway; she might as well have taken my advice and told everyone to get lost. But she stopped taking my advice long ago.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Despite the daylong talk that she might concede, Clinton, in her speech, said she had not decided what to do. She thanked the voters for hanging in "even when the pundits and the naysayers proclaimed week after week that this race was over" -- ignoring the fact that the selfsame pundits had just declared it over for good. And they seemed puzzled afterward by what MSNBC's Chris Matthews called the "surreal" moment. By then, Fox had agreed that Obama had wrapped it up.Because Obama is not allowed to have thunder, pure and simple. If Hillary can't have it, no one can.
The cable talkers were consumed by reports that Clinton had told New York lawmakers she would consider the No. 2 slot, although campaign spokesman Jay Carson says she merely offered to do whatever it takes to help the party. But the door was clearly left ajar. "Why do it today?" asked Fox News anchor Shepard Smith. "Why, on Barack Obama's day, steal his thunder?"
Obama is an extremely weak nominee. I can't remember any other nominee that has managed to lose his way to victory the way Obama has. Maybe Walter Mondale did on his way to losing 49 states in 1984. What did Hillary win, 4 of the last 5 races and about 7 of the last 10? A lot of Democrats are suffering from buyer's remorse.
In fact, Obama is probably the weakest possible nominee the Dems could have picked, given that all they have to do is not screw up and they will have Republican heads rightly handed to them in the fall. But his inexperience, his radical friends, and his loudmouth wife all provide plenty of opportunities for Obama to toss the White House to back to the GOP. Joe Biden or Chris Dodd, boring as they are predictable, would have nearly guaranteed a Democratic sweep in the fall.
Which brings us back to Hillary. By fighting on even after the numbers said she couldn't win, she weakens Obama. By fighting to change the rules in regards to Florida and Michigan delegates, she weakens Obama. By leaking that she would accept the VP slot, she weakens Obama, who must now either publicly spurn her - alienating the Termagant Brigade he so desperately needs for the fall - or take the bait and settle into his new job as Assistant to the Vice President. Despite all the noise about doing what is right by the party, Hillary will do what is in Hillary's best interest, and she will do so with a shockingly blatant audacity.
We should not be surprised that Hillary is further weakening her own party's nominee, purposely and methodically. In fact, based on the Clinton history we should expect it. But it is kind of funny to see press professionals who have covered the Clintons for two decades genuinely confused by it.
* They will either lie when it is completely unnecessary or they will sabotage something or destroy someone in their way.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Why does the Catholic Church ban women's ordination? Because Christ chose only men for his apostolate, the pope says.Far be it from me to defend the Vatican's hiring decisions - I'm not Catholic and don't particularly care how they organize their church. I'll do things differently if I ever become Pope*. But I think in this case they are biblically correct and our friend Heidi is playing fast and loose with definitions, the foremost being "apostle."
...Jesus also selected women apostles. In fact, Jesus selected Mary Magdalene for his original apostle. At the tomb scene, Jesus deliberately did not appear to his male disciples, including Peter and John; he waited until they left before appearing to Mary Magdalene (John 20). Then he commissioned her to tell his followers he had appeared, making her the primary witness to the Resurrection. This transformed her into the unique role of first apostle, the earliest person sent to tell Jesus' followers he had risen from the grave. If Jesus could entrust a woman with the status of primary apostle, why can't the Vatican?
One elephant in the room she ignores is that when the Bible refers to "The Disciples," or "The Twelve," or any group of titled** people, it is always a group made up exclusively of men, e.g., "when the hour arrived, Jesus sat down with the twelve apostles" (Luke 22:14). Not "twelve apostles," but THE twelve apostles, direct objects, the main ones. You can read their names in Matthew 10, where "his twelve disciples" are named. Mary isn't one of them, but is counted among "the women" (c.f. Matt 28:5, Luke 24:24) who assisted those men.
After Judas' untimely demise, the remaining apostles chose one to take his place, "They cast lots and the lot fell upon Matthias, so he was numbered with the eleven apostles." (Acts 1:26). Again, direct objects, THE apostles, and there's no room for Mary. In fact, while Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary the mother of John Mark are mentioned by name in the chapters following, Mary Magdalene falls out of the pages of the Bible as soon as the first Easter is over. Strange treatment indeed if Mary is the "primary apostle."
Fast forward to Acts 6:3, when there a food distribution problem arose between "Greek" Jewish Christians and "Hebrew" Jewish Christians, and the Twelve chose some people to help out. Peter said, "Brethren, choose from among you seven honest men, wise and filled with the Holy Spirit, whom we may appoint to this task." Again, they are all named (and titled, c.f. Acts 21:8), and again they are all men. A few decades later, in his first letter to Timothy (2:11), Paul even went so far as to say that all the teachers in the church (at least those who taught men) ought to be men. I'm sensing a pattern here.
The appearance of Junia's name is admittedly a potential exception:
Even the Apostle Paul commended a female apostle. In Romans 16:7, he commended the woman He HJunia (later translated into a man "Junias" during the 13th century) as prominent among the apostles.In this case, we have a greeting tucked in the back of the book of Romans reminding the believers there to "Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles..."
What are we to make of this? The problem is that we can't make much of it at all. We know nothing more of "Junia" than the name in this verse. But Greek Language scholar Daniel Wallace notes that due to the structure of the Greek here it is more likely that Paul is saying that they were known by the apostles than that they were themselves apostles. Either way, the verse is vague; we certainly cannot draw enough from it to overthrow the testimony of the verses that are clear.
It is probably true that Mary was the first person to whom Jesus appeared*** - in that sense she was "primary." It's also true that there were female prophets in the early church: Philip, one of The Seven chosen for mess hall duty, had four such daughters (Acts 21:9). But what is not true is that any of them were considered apostles or held any kind of authoritative position in the church. Chalk it up to culture or even the fact that men wrote the New Testament if you must, but when the Catholics in this case claim they are relying on the bible for authority, they are on solid ground.
* Mostly I won't have a Pope at all, which is rather self-defeating I know. I'm at peace with my internal contradictions.
** By "titled" I mean non-descriptive: "the apostles" or "the twelve" is titled, "the men" or "the women" is descriptive. "The church" is collective, another issue altogether.
*** If we skip the young man who was already in Jesus' tomb when Mary got there (Mark 16:5) - in his case we just don't know who he was, what he saw, or when he saw it.