Tuesday, November 25, 2008
However, since I'm in a thankful mood, being off work and out of class for the next 5 days, I'd like to step outside the express elevator to hell for a couple minutes and celebrate the spirit of the Thanksgiving season as it was envisioned by people who went through a far worse hell than we are about to*.
This season, I'm thankful to God for family and friends, for the ability to travel (or our words to travel) vast distances to connect with them.
I'm thankful to God for our material abundance. We have the richest poor people in the world, we have an obesity problem prior generations could only dream of, we have so much food most of us don't even know how to cook.
I'm thankful that, legitimate libertarian complaining aside, we live in a nation of laws, where property rights are mostly** respected. I'm thankful that when companies lay claim to mineral wealth, the government doesn't take it and kick them out, that I can pass my wealth to my children, that through investment and hard work I can give them every advantage.
I'm thankful for the accumulation of knowledge, for the CD and the printing press and the book, that if I need to learn something, it's at my fingertips. I'm thankful for the accumulation of capital, that if we need to build something, in America we have the tools to build it.
I'm thankful for the American spirit, which ironically is at its best when times are worst.
I'm thankful that I live in a quiet place, a safe place, a place where I can raise my family and do what I please; where we can homeschool our kids and go to a church that meets our needs and that needs us, where we can lie together on a huge trampoline and admire the handiwork of God in the night sky.
And most of all, I'm thankful that there is a God who loves us, who teaches us, who calls us to duty and love and service, and who loved us and served us by his own example.
The original pilgrims came to this land to seek out a place where they could worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. And I am thankful that they left that land to me.
* Of the original 18 adult women who landed at Plymouth Rock at Christmas, 1620, 4 were alive on Thanksgiving, 1621.
** Many of these things are qualified to a certain extent, but I will do my best not to sprinkle this with almosts and mostlys.
My husband and I are both conservative Christians who are totally committed to being prepared. Our problem is that we have encountered other conservative Christians who believe that manna will literally fall from Heaven if famine comes upon the land. I was personally told by my former pastor that I was "stupid" for storing food and owning guns. He also told me that by being prepared I was demonstrating a "lack of faith in God". He told me that God would provide for me in the form of manna falling from Heaven if disaster ever struck.I have to admit that SurvivalBlog's answer is more thorough, more insightful, and frankly more respectful than mine, so I suggest you read his first.
This story, unfortunately, is extremely common within the conservative Christian church*. My husband and I have come across people like this over and over again. Other than telling these people that manna falling from Heaven was a one time event, quoting Scripture like Proverbs 14:8, and reminding them that even Noah prepared for disaster by building the ark - how do my husband and I deal with people like this from a Christian perspective?
That said, my answer is a little different. You see, I know those people have faith. And I know that they know that God wants them to eat. And I know that they know that God wants them to rely on Him completely and that there is nothing they can do themselves that will add to God's providence for them**. So I ask, why wait for disaster, is God not the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8)?
So since God will feed them, with no work or foresight or preparation on their part, I recommend that they don't go to the grocery store, don't open the fridge, and for goodness' sake don't turn on the stove*** when they get home from work tonight. These are acts of faithlessness.
Instead, I suggest that they lie on their backs in the yard with their mouths open and wait on the Lord. "God doesn't want you to starve," I would say, "so surely he will provide manna from heaven in response to such an act of faith. Will not the ravens feed thee as they fed Elijah (1 Kings 17:4-6)?"
Then, if God does not reward your
* My take, from a completely non-psychologist's point of view, is that people do not store food because they believe in magic, in this case, that stored food causes famine. Oh, it's not in the economic sense of removing goods from the marketplace - storing food in times of plenty simply means there will be more for those in need later. Rather, it is the same magic a 4-year-old summons when he hides his eyes to make you disappear: storing food for bad times is a conscious and purposeful acknowledgment that bad times are possible; storing food means you might need it. Therefore the way to avoid bad times is by steadfastly refusing to do anything that might admit them as a possibility. It's not faith in the eternal God, but in eternal prosperity.
** Which is why he said, "A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and are punished." - Prov. 27:12
*** In fact, sell them both and give the money to the poor (Matt 19:21).
**** and where manna mysteriously failed to fall from Heaven.
(hat tips: Magruder, Mitzibel)
Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of* American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday.I shouldn't have been surprised to read this news today:
Nov. 25 (CNBC) -- The U.S. Federal Reserve, in another massive life-support intervention for the U.S. financial system, Tuesday announced a $600 billion program to buy mortgage-related debt** and securities and a $200 billion facility to buy consumer debt securities.But I won't be surprised when this news comes in tomorrow:
Nov. 25 (Financial Times) --[Obama] gave few further details of the wide-ranging stimulus plan he proposed at the weekend but said it would be "of a size and scope that is necessary to get this economy back on track".The only question remaining is how much suffering they will inflict before they realize that the solution to a debt crisis is not more debt. Even if you double or triple your smoking, it will not cure your lung cancer***.
Democratic leaders and economists have said the package, aimed at creating or saving 2.5m jobs in two years, could cost $500bn-$1,000bn.
* "on behalf of" being a euphemism for "looted from," of course.
** The absolutely astonishing thing here is that Bernanke has just implemented Paulson's aborted Plan 9, except that this time it was not deemed necessary to go through Congress. That raises the question of why they went through Congress the first time. Truly these people have no idea what they are doing.
*** Though I suppose there is something to be said for keeping up the effort. When one relative's lung cancer was discovered, he asked the doctor if he needed to quit smoking. The doctor told him that if he enjoyed it, he might as well keep doing it. At some point action ceases to affect outcome.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
You can't blame your adviser for not foreseeing the severity of this downturn before it occurred. Nobody's crystal ball is that clear. But an adviser, or at least a good one, is supposed to help you create an investing strategy and retirement plan that can see you through a variety of economic and market scenarios.It's disingenuous in the extreme to claim that those professionals who failed to see this problem coming bear no blame for advice based on their lack of foresight. If you claim to be an expert, if you show off a little paper license that says you're an expert, and if you take money from people for your expertise, then it is your fault for not foreseeing it*, because plenty of people did and gave very good reasons for why it had to happen. It's absolutely foolish for a market professional to not understand that markets are a two-way street.
However, now that we see the other way and may be seeing it for a while, and while that's doubtless a bad thing for mutual fund-owning Joe Retiree, it's a good thing for anyone under the age of about 50.
The probability is that someone who's planning to retire in the next 20 years or so is in his peak earning years. If he really expects to spend 20 or 30 years living off what he's accumulated in his working life, this is the time in which he will be able to do the vast majority of that accumulating, and he will do so over the next couple decades. He will probably save and invest far more from this point going forward than he has accumulated thus far, no matter his prior returns.
That will be the best time of all to buy stocks, because not only will he have the most free money, it will be at a time when he can get the most stock for every dollar invested. It's not just contrary investing - which phrase is completely trite and overused - but common sense, like buying extra canned peas when they are on sale. It's hard to save money if nothing ever goes on sale.
* It's a lot like this one commercial for diet pills that my sons and I used to make fun of all the time, in which a serious, doctor-looking chap reassures the concerned that it's not their fault that they're fat. Well, if it's not their fault, whose fault is it**?
** Don't look at me. While it's my fault that I'm fat, I'm not taking the blame for them.
Friday, November 21, 2008
You just knew PETA was gonna go nuts.
If it illustrates anything, it's the whole absurdity of the "traditional" turkey pardoning*. It was original when Truman did it six decades ago. Now let's just say that the idea of pardoning a turkey before sitting down to a turkey dinner is more than a little silly.
* Rather she should have strangled, gutted, and plucked it herself, and then laughed at all the vomiting reporters who think meat is grown on styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic.
I have to admit right now that I completely underestimated the historical significance of Obama's election. The events of the next 4 years should be truly breathtaking.
I'm sorry I can't write anything else right now. As this not-yet-born administration descends into a mockery of its own campaign slogans, I find that I'm simply laughing too hard to type.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Bankruptcy could allow automakers to slash their retirement benefits, similar to what has happened in the airline industry.You gotta feel for Mr. Masters. Born in the depths of WWI, he grew up during the Depression, spent 3 decades screwing bolts onto cars, and at more than 90 years of age, obviously relies on what he worked very hard for, his pension, to get him by.
Retired General Motors worker Roy Masters, 91, says he's earned the pension and benefits he receives from the automaker.
"I worked there 30 years and then through a few strikes to get what we've got," said Masters, who worries that he'll lose his benefits if GM files for bankruptcy.
"It'll make it a lot difficulter," he said. "I won't have near the income and the benefits."
On the other hand, you gotta realize that, assuming Mr. Masters started at GM at 25 and retired at 55 like so many of his generation, he has been drawing income for more years than he worked. And he's not alone: a scare video released earlier this week outlining the plight of the big three contained two important numbers: the big three collectively employ 239,000 workers in the US. They also support 775,000 retirees and spouses of retirees, three times as many non-workers as workers.
These are impossible numbers.
It doesn't matter if Congress loans the companies $25b, fully twice their current market capitalization. It doesn't matter if they develop a car that runs on hope and emits rainbows. All that matters is whether they can make enough money to pay three non-workers for every one worker. All that matters is whether they can pay Mr. Masters 40 years of not working for 30 years of working. They cannot, and they never could. Those costs are the underlying reason American heavy industry is bankrupt.
It's not George Bush's fault or Barack Obama's fault or Congress' fault. It's GM's fault and Mr. Masters' fault, the result of a couple of strikes resulting in promises from the company to pay three people to not work for every one who does, to pay him longer for not working than he ever worked. Now Mr. Masters relies on the keeping of these impossible promises, afraid that math is catching up to GM and to him, because he has nowhere else to turn.
Just like the rest of America. Only they don't know it yet.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Somalia's increasingly brazen pirates are building sprawling stone houses, cruising in luxury cars, marrying beautiful women -- even hiring caterers to prepare Western-style food for their hostages.I remember reading an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it book a few years back where the author, after discussing the probable effects of complete monetary and social breakdown, recommended that the reader buy a small sailboat and then just sail port to port trading for all the stuff he needs and generally staying out of the way as the nations burned themselves to the ground.
And in an impoverished country where every public institution has crumbled, they have become heroes in the steamy coastal dens they operate from because they are the only real business in town.
"The pirates depend on us, and we benefit from them," said Sahra Sheik Dahir, a shop owner in Haradhere, the nearest village to where a hijacked Saudi Arabian supertanker carrying $100 million in crude was anchored Wednesday.
That guy was an idiot. One with a nice boat, I'll bet, but still an idiot.
Piracy has always flourished just on the outskirts of civil society, from the Greek islands in the time of Caesar* to the Barbary Coast in the time of President Madison to Somalia today. When the sea is uncontrollable from the land nearby, it immediately becomes a place of predation, a place of pirates. I expect that as Africa returns to barbarism over the next 2 decades or so, it will not be just the coast of Somalia that suffers** from such predation.
Society will move in one of two ways as a result of the ongoing breakdown of our monetary and trade systems. It will either centralize*** or it will decentralize. If it decentralizes, if it devolves, if areas on the fringe of society return to the lawless, non-national places they have been for most of their history, then ubiquitous piracy will become a new and more permanent reality.
Piracy is not, as Fox News suspects, "the new face of terrorism;" it is simply the old way of doing business on the high seas. And it is very bad thing for authors with mason jars full of gold coins on their tiny sailboats.
* According to Plutarch, a young Julius Caesar was once captured by pirates and held for ransom for about a month. After his release, Caesar returned to the pirates' lair with some soldiers and captured and then crucified the whole lot of them.
** Technically, the coast of Somalia benefits from it, but you know what I mean.
*** There is no doubt governments will attempt this route. Personally, I very much doubt that it will succeed.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
TOPEKA | The news about Kansas’ state budget grows more alarming by the day, and that means residents should prepare for potentially painful cuts in state services.I'm not sure if the retiring Republican is saying that adults will "rightfully" be brought to tears because politicians and their lampreys deserve to be in tears* or because the stress of trying to do all the same things with less money will drive these drama kings and queens beyond their ability to control their emotions**. If tax increases are really not on the table, however deep the cuts are they will be good news for most Kansans.
Because of declining tax revenue, Kansas faces a $1 billion deficit in next year’s budget, on top of a more than $140 million shortfall in the current budget year.
The state is legally required to balance its budgets, so lawmakers will have to make cuts. Raising taxes is another option, but no state leader has suggested that...
“There will be grown men and women brought to tears over the budget crisis that’s coming,” [State Rep. Kenny Wilk said]. “And rightfully so. It’s going to hurt.”
That said, there seems to be something missing from Governor Gilligan's approach, in all fairness mirrored by the Republican legislature as well: they are all trying to figure out how to do the same things with less money. Why, instead, don't we figure out what we don't need to be doing and then just not do that stuff?
Here's one really stupid idea right off the top of my head: let's figure out every place that Kansas law and federal law coincide, from drugs to wages, and simply repeal the state law. There is obviously nothing to be gained from a state perspective by having duplicate laws*** - it just means throwing people in state prison rather than federal. If we let the Feds fund all these things that they seem to want to do anyway, our governess would not have to go hat in hand for federal money to pay for them****.
* my opinion.
** But whatever, it'll be fun to watch anyway. Maybe we'll be lucky and get both.
*** Other than the ability to get around the Constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy, I suppose.
**** The irony of this situation is almost beyond my ability to mock. Here we have Kansas, like California, going to Washington for money because it's too painful for us to raise taxes. So rather than taxing state citizens, who are already suffering, for the money, we'll just have to extract it from federal citizens instead, pay the federal gatherers and sharers, then ship the remainders back to the states, where it's needed. Makes perfect sense, right?
ATTLEBORO - A 74-year-old blind woman has been told a lien will be put on her South Attleboro home if she doesn't come up with a penny she owes on an outstanding utility bill...I mean, those letters are created by a computer, so there's obviously no alternative but to have staff manually go through the letters, right?*
City Collector Debora Marcoccio said the bill was sent out along with more than 2,000 others as the city tries to recoup outstanding balances before resorting to putting liens on property.
A computer automatically printed the letters for any account with a balance remaining, and they were not reviewed by staff before being sent out, Marcoccio said.
"It would be fiscally irresponsible for me to have staff weed through the bills and pull out any below a certain amount," Marcoccio said. "And what would that amount be?"
But it's the last question that's the hardest, since obviously Marcoccio has no idea and expects that it will produce an insoluble conundrum for anyone else as well. The real answer is, "the lowest number that will keep you from getting your name in the paper."
If you still can't figure it out, then just pick a nice, round number like $4.71.
* Not that that's actually a problem, either. As one who prints thousands of letters with balances on them every year, often in huge batches, I can attest that it does not take very long to look at a significant number of them.
Monday, November 17, 2008
UPDATE: All the speculation that's fit to print:
In the hours and days since Obama's victory, many of his exhilarated supporters have been, shall we say, in the mood for love. And though it's too soon to know for sure, experts aren't ruling out the possibility of an Obama baby boom...So "experts aren't ruling out the possibility" that young liberals are so hopped up on hope that they have decided to have kids after all. The next thing you know they'll become scout leaders or reminisce about the good old days when Reagan was president.
"On election night, my husband had managed to down a bottle and a half of wine in celebration and he was all about making an 'Obama election baby'," Abbi Whitaker, 32, of Reno, Nev., told NEWSWEEK. "He thought it would be the coolest thing."
OK, so maybe that's not going to happen, but it would be kind of ironic if a bunch of urban DINKs drunkenly started a baby boom and accidentally created a generation of children to pass their country to rather than not-breeding their way to societal extinction as seemed to be both their fate and their fervent desire.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
But it's not misleading because the numbers are inaccurate*, but because 1929 is so close to the "bump" that most people just glance and think, wow, that huge rise in debt caused the Depression and that means another one's coming.
But if you take a close look, you'll see that the huge bump was the Depression. The reason for the bump was a rapid reduction in GDP which caused the ratio of debt-to-GDP to spike. For the first half of the graph, the spikes and troughs are as much a function of changes in GDP as anything else** - the Depression caused the spike, rapid economic growth in the 50s brought the chart to its lowest point.
The important number on the graph, though it does not look like it, is 1973. From the point Nixon closed the gold window there has been nary a downward bump, but rather an acceleration of debt, even at a time when GDP has been consistently rising. In short, we are going into increasing debt at an increasing rate. The G20 solution? Increase the rate of debt accumulation.
I'm sure that'll work out just fine.
* though I'll admit the vertical scale could be done better.
** Except the downward late Depression spike - that was due to massive repudiation of debts. Coming soon to a theater near you.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
|Government Entity||Sum in Billions of Dollars|
|(TAF) Term Auction Facility||900|
|Discount Window Lending|
|Loans to buy ABCP||108|
|(TSLF) Term Securities Lending Facility||225|
|(MMIFF) Money Market Investor Funding Facility||540|
|(TARP) Treasury* Asset Relief Program||700|
|(FHA) Federal Housing Administration||300|
|Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac||150|
3.8 trillion dollars, over $4t if you count last spring's helicopter money, and we're not even officially in a recession yet.
On a completely unrelated note, I received permission from the lovely and gracious Rogue* today to convert most of one of her rose beds into a vegetable garden. Not sure what I'll plant there yet, however.
* I thought the original name was "Troubled Asset Relief Program," but I guess they had to change it when they decided to socialize the banking system with that money instead.
** We've been married 22 years as of today, so she was in a pretty good mood. I will never understand women.
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- World leaders unveiled a set of sweeping plans on Saturday aimed at tackling the ever-expanding economic crisis, but as expected they sketched out an agenda for more work in coming months and another meeting early next year...The "sweeping plans" included all the usual suspects: more regulation, haranging CEOs over excessive pay*, and identifying future bailout candidates. But as expected, they did absolutely nothing to deal with the bedrock, underlying monetary problem: a hodgepodge of paper currencies racing each other to worthlessness in pursuit of trade advantages. In fairness to the participants, it would be nearly impossible for them to reach agreement on anything of substance with President Obama not present but waiting in the wings. On the other hand, the participants are still looking in the wrong place for the problem**.
G-20 leaders said they would meet again by the end of April to review the progress on the initiatives announced Saturday.
It's ironic that the conference was informally dubbed "Bretton Woods II," after the original post-WWII conference that established the US dollar, then tied to gold, as the basis of the world monetary system. A dollar tied to gold with other currencies tied to the dollar served as a faux gold standard and provided a significant measure of financial stability. However, since Nixon suspended convertibility in the 70s, every currency has been a free-floating vaporous apparition, a paper representation of value manipulable by politicians whose primary concern is re-election***.
But there is a good reason politicians are ignoring the volcano and focusing instead on brush fires set by the lava: a gold standard - even a faux one like Bretton Woods - limits the amount of money they can create and therefore the free lunches they can consume.
So instead they have agreed to cut rates and fire up the helicopters worldwide in a last-ditch effort to "stimulate demand****," to try to get bankrupt borrowers to borrow more, sated consumers to consume more, and insolvent banks to lend more. They can do nothing else. Once money became debt, it would have to be created in ever-increasing amounts just to pay the interest on itself. For the current system to survive, that particular tree must grow to the sky.
After all, we're going to need a lot of paper very soon.
* which, while a legitimate issue for shareholders, is neither the business of government nor useful in dealing with the crisis.
** A mirror would be very helpful about now.
*** The vast majority of the world's derivatives, $600+ trillion dollars' worth of what Warren Buffett called "financial weapons of mass destruction," are simply bets on what the politicians will do in pursuit of that goal, a situation which did not exist - could not exist - while currencies were tied to gold.
**** We're all Bernankians now.
Friday, November 14, 2008
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Three major American cities buffeted by the global financial crisis are requesting at least $50 billion in federal funds to help pay for infrastructure improvements, pensions and short-term borrowing...Rather than spend 1000 words on more entities lining up to have money printed on their behalf, the picture is sufficient. But I picked this article because there are two bits of good news that illustrate where this crisis will hopefully lead us before it's over.
The first is that, "Because of the credit crunch, cities are essentially unable to borrow in the private capital markets to meet their pension obligations..." That's incredibly good news because there are no good reasons for a city to borrow money to meet pension obligations rather than taking them out of current funds. If cities cannot meet today's obligations today, then they need to reduce those obligations today. Politicians love to defer costs and hard choices*; the current credit crisis is removing that option.
The second is that, "The economic contraction precipitated by these twin crises is forcing us, and mayors all over the country, to dramatically reduce programs and services for millions of residents." Good, though I suspect that "dramatically" is a bit of drama itself, like "draconian" budgets cuts that result in a higher budget. The picture can again serve for 1000 words that might otherwise be inserted here.
It appears that the era of big local government, if not over, is at least drawing down, and that cities and states, rather than going further into debt funding recurring, everyday "programs and services," are going to be forced by the markets to make do and maybe even to (gasp) pay down their debts**. In the long run, that's a very good thing.
* Government debt is merely the accumulation of prior hard choices not made when they should have been.
** I challenge thee, Huck, for the crown of the Kingdom of the Run-on Sentence.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush today urged leaders of the world's biggest economies not to abandon free-market capitalism as they seek an escape from the financial crisis, calling it the "best system'' for delivering growth.Haha ha hahaha haha haha hahaha ha hahahaha haha hahaha ha haha hahaha haha ha hahaha hahaha hahaha hahaha hahahahahaha hahahahahahahahaha.
Oh, stop, it hurts.
"This is pure marxism. Co-opt the youth and set them loose."And while I can't say I disagree with much of the sentiment, there is also one recurring theme that illustrates the fly in the conservative ointment:
"Obviously, this blithering idiot has never heard of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution..."
Compulsory non-military service is involuntary servitude prohibited by the 13th amendment.
"The military draft is based upon the Constitutional authority to raise an army and navy*.And the problem is, in short, that the Thirteenth Amendment, which conservatives say prohibits non-military conscription, certainly does not authorize military conscription:
Exactly what provision of the Constitution mandates service outside the military escapes me..."
- Jack of Va
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."...so their complaints that Obama is finding emanations and penumbras ring a bit hollow, because if the Thirteenth Amendment means the government can't force you to serve against your will, well then by golly that's just what it means. But so long as the conservatives assert that the government has the right to compel people into military service, there is simply no constitutional argument against that same government compelling them into non-military service.
-- Amendment XIII
This is going to be a continuing theme throughout the next decade or more of Democrat rule, and conservatives had better get used to it, because powers conservatives have given to the government - whether spying powers or kangaroo courts or simply a vastly expanded payroll - or not removed from government when they had a chance - like Selective Service - liberals are going to use, and in ways conservatives do not like.
It serves them right.
* No, it's not, any more than a power to conscript random people into road-building work gangs could be based on the congressional power to establish post roads. However, even if it were the case that the power to raise an army originally included the power to force individuals into involuntary military service, the Thirteenth, being an amendment, supercedes that power.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology -- contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.At one time I thought I was the only one who used the word 'infantile' to describe the Democrats*, but I've been seeing it more and more. Their approach to public life and government almost perfectly mimics the dependence, low time preference, and lack of understanding displayed by the chronologically-challenged, and such an approach could not remain hidden forever - especially now that they are in charge of the whole enchilada stand.
But there is one place where the divine Miss Paglia is mistaken: the idea that today's liberals are going to wake up from this at all. This episode of unleashed rage, of blind hatred**, is not some temptation that liberals succumbed to in a moment of electoral weakness, but rather it is who they are: it is who they were in the 1960s, it is who they are in 2008, and it is who they will be in the 2040s should the nation still be functional enough to support such a dysfunctional slice of society.
On a tangentially-related note, I have added a new link under Required Reading published by the Saint Louis Federal Reserve Bank that asks the question, "Is the United States Bankrupt?" I won't spoil the ending for you***.
* Unfortunately, this is not a partisan rant, even though Camille is talking primarily about Democrats. To the extent that I have come to despise the GOP, it is in direct proportion to the extent that they have taken on the actual "core" Democratic values of centralization, socialism, and irresponsibility.
** I have never heard so many "sophisticated" people say things like, "I don't like McCain, but I really hate Palin," and mean them.
*** If the math turns out to be too hard (and it is hard), just do a search on the word "foregone." It appears one time, in a very important sentence which will tell you everything you really need to know.
UPDATE: Quick, everyone act surprised:
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson backed away from buying troubled mortgage assets with the $700 billion bailout fund, favoring instead a broader use of the money, including more capital injections into financial institutions.So, I guess it turns out that the Plan 9 was unnecessary* - I mean, if they're not going to buy crappy burritos with the money today, and they haven't bought the burritos yet, then there never was a need to do so. And that's probably a relief for Paulson, because there are a lot of fun things out there to spend all that money on.
The announcement marked a major shift for the administration, which had talked only about purchasing troubled assets as it lobbied Congress in October to pass the massive bailout bill.
And it's pretty convenient, because as soon as the next wave of the crisis hits (I'm thinking late 4th quarter or early 1st) there will still be plenty of bad bonds out there to allocate more money for. Ya think Congress will fall for the same trick twice?
* In addition to being so incredibly stupid that I question how either Congress or the financial press could have ever thought it was anything other than an excuse for Paulson to loot the Treasury.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
FORMER Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has welcomed Barack Obama's victory, saying he would bring "perestroika" to the United States, it was reported today.Given that Gorbachev's liberal reforms helped end the cold war like Custer's foresight helped end the fighting at Little Big Horn, it's a little disturbing that he sees Obama bringing that same kind of economic success* here. Perestroika was great for the USSR. Back when it was a country.
"I am very happy. Two or three years ago I said America needed perestroika, and this was greeted with cheers in the US," Mr Gorbachev was quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency as saying, using the term for his 1980s liberal reforms that helped end the Cold War.
* Not that there would be no advantages to Soviet-style organization. I mean, just think what a nice bout of food shortages could do for the American obesity epidemic.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Apparently Bloomberg News made the mistake of taking them at their word and asked the Fed and Treasury to reveal just how much has been lent to whom, and for what collateral.
So far, both have refused, and have found an ally in Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank*, who said that
...the Fed shouldn't reveal the assets it holds or how it values them because of "delicacy with respect to pricing.'' He said such disclosure would "give people clues to what your pricing is and what they might be able to sell us and what your estimates are.'' He wouldn't say why he thought that information would be problematic...In short, if the Fed and Treasury lose a bunch of taxpayer money, that's too bad. Telling the truth about what kind of crap is being accumulated on the nation's balance sheet is too "problematic."
"If the risk is that the Fed takes a little bit of a haircut, well that's regrettable.'' Such losses would be acceptable, he said, if the program helps revive the economy.
While Blarney says it opaquely, others - like
"You have to balance the need for transparency with protecting the public interest,'' Talbott said. "Taxpayers have a right to know where their tax dollars are going, but one piece of information standing alone could undermine public confidence in the system.''In short, telling people where their money is going is detrimental to confidence. The only way people can have confidence in their elected officials and the financial system is to keep them in the dark about those officials' actions. If they tell the truth about what's being done with their money, people will panic.
Does anyone still harbor even the smallest doubt that this whole thing is going to fail spectacularly?
* Quick, everyone act surprised. The Democrats are supposed to be different.
UPDATE: lest you think that nationalization of companies means the looting of the taxpayer ceases,
Fannie Mae reports brutal third-quarter results:
Fannie Mae, the largest provider of funding for U.S. residential mortgages, on Monday said it lost a record $29 billion in the third quarter...Freddie, which probably has the same problems - since it has the same business model - has not reported yet.
Further losses for the company this quarter mean the government may have to inject billions of dollars of capital to help the company maintain routine operations.
And AIG, the government's $85 billion, then $120 billion insurance project, seems to be a little more expensive even than that:
Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- American International Group Inc. got a $150 billion government rescue package, almost doubling the initial bailout of less than two months ago as the insurer burns through cash at a record rate...Remember when taxpayers were going to make a profit on AIG? That was awesome.
Taxpayers will take on the extra risk to give Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy more time to salvage AIG.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Nancy Molitor, a clinical psychologist Wilmette, Illinois, started seeing some post-election despair even before the final results came in. Some of her patients wondered what they would do with their time in the absence of polls and campaign coverage.One thing that was rather funny about this article was the admitted possibility that Obama supporters might become cynical because he can't live up to their demand for change - I mean, we are supposedly moving toward a post-racial and even post-partisan America, "the dawning of a new era of hope and positivity*." How else is someone who seriously expects that the election of Obama is going to result in us eating rainbows for breakfast every morning supposed to react when the One turns out to be a regular old Chicago machine politician with a cabinet full of Clinton administration retreads?
"This lady is in her 80s, and she told me she's never in her life been excited about a campaign as she is about this campaign, and she knows it's filled this void in her life," she said.
However, for someone who's supposed to be good with the mentally, well, people with issues, Molitor shows that she does not understand them a bit:
Anyone who feels depressed, hopeless or powerless after the election should realize that they as individuals have the ultimate control over their everyday lives, she said.Unfortunately, that is *exactly* what they want a candidate to do. Didn't Obama promise to personally create millions of high-paying jobs? Isn't Obama going to ease budgets by giving everyone** more money? Better health care? A more secure retirement? Isn't he going to comfort the afflicted, align the planets, and sew up the hole in the ozone with golden thread?
"The president is not going to find you a job; the president is not the one who manages your individual budgets," she said. "If people want changes, they can do that in their day-to-day lives. They don't need a candidate to do that."
America elected him because we don't want to make those changes ourselves. We want to do the same things we've been doing and have it yield better results. In short, we don't want to have to worry about buying gas and paying our mortgages. We have helped Obama, now we expect that he will help us.
I suppose the inevitable failure of reality to conform to those campaign promises might create a few cynics. Count me as one who will be waiting for the new arrivals with chili dogs and beer. For a reasonable price, of course. TANSTAAFL, babe.
* Yes, one Law.com blogger wrote that, but I won't embarrass him by giving out his name here.
** Well, everyone except the greedy, selfish, and unpatriotic, defined as people who make more money than you.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- President-elect Barack Obama called Nancy Reagan on Friday to apologize for a remark about seances he made during his first news conference earlier in the day.That sure didn't take long, did it? It's going to be interesting to see if and how long it takes for Obama to get a reputation as a guy you can't let off the teleprompter. Anyone who has watched him over the last year and a half knows this is a consistent problem, and it's only going to get worse the more opportunities he has to say things that are stupid and hurtful*.
When a reporter asked Obama if he had spoken with any ex-presidents since his election on Tuesday, he responded that he had spoken to all former presidents "that are living."
"I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances," he said.
However, I was actually pretty impressed that this article cleared the record a bit, because although Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer when planning her husband's itinerary, there were two first ladies who are alleged to have held actual seances in the White House: the wife of his favorite president, Mary Todd Lincoln, and the woman he defeated for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton**.
Obama could have made fun of either of them. But I guess it's considered more sophisticated to mock Nancy Reagan.
* Maybe Joe Biden, who holds a PhD in Verbal Ginsu himself, could help him improve his off-the-cuff skills.
** In true Clinton style, however, the White House announced at the time that Hillary calling up and speaking to the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt was "not a seance." Apparently it's a Tupperware Party.
Friday, November 07, 2008
CHICAGO – As the first African-American president has been elected to the White House, Barack Obama will leave his former position as Illinois senator.And here's another fact, accidentally revealed when Senator Obama was asked about the BCS:
"I am fed up with computer rankings," said the man who would be elected the first African-American president 24 hours later.What stories like these (and there are a million of them) have in common is that their context has nothing to do with race - any senator who won would have to be replaced, not just a black one* - and occasionally it's just popped in as the last line of a story, as if it had to be said and the journalist was just not sure where to put it.
In our newfound giddiness to point out Obama's race every time we talk about the new president, I can't help but recall an excellent article by Thomas Sowell, called "Mascot Politics," which noted that:
For people on the Left, however, blacks are trophies or mascots, and must therefore be put on display. Nowhere is that more true than in politics.Those who were so loudly sure that America was the kind of place that would never elect a black guy president - and muttered darkly about "the race issue" that never really came up in the campaign** - seem completely unable to contain their self-congratulations now. We must be really great people after all. I mean, just look how black our president is.
The problem with being a mascot is that you are a symbol of someone else’s significance or virtue.
It seems that a black president is a fashion accessory no true progressive can be without this
* In these articles' defense, however, I had not heard anywhere else that Obama was even black, much less the first black president. Had they not included this extraneous information, it might have remained a closely-guarded secret.
** Most regular people do not spend their days obsessing about race, so it is up to newspaper columnists to tell us, for example, that "socialist" is really code for "horrible awful negro."
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Like Jim Cramer, whose advice for Obama's 100-day plan includes:
...take the remaining $400 billion from the TARP program and buy 1.3 million homes outright. Then either give the homes away in return for 5% interest loans and minimum down payments, or pull an FDR and burn the excess supply.FDR's Agricultural Adjustment Administration, or AAA, was composed of super-geniuses who, in order to keep farm prices from dropping during the Depression, paid farmers not to plant, slaughtered piglets, dumped milk down the drain, and plowed perfectly good crops under. So in the last period in our history where there was a real chance that someone might starve, the government was purposely destroying food in order to keep prices high. Genius.
That's the same genius Cramer exhibits. "'Excess supply" is a euphemism for perfectly good homes, so the solution to a crisis driven by bad assets* is to spend billions of dollars destroying perfectly good assets. Cramer deserves a Bud Light commercial of his own.
But while Cramer is an occasional genius, his head writer Cliff Mason manages to surpass him nearly every day**. His reasoning for why young people should support Obama's tax hikes on the wealthy is a gem, and it runs this way:
Usually when people make the argument that higher taxes on the wealthy will cause more highly-skilled workers to do less work, they act like that's a bad thing. Not me. Those jobs are held by older workers, and they need to be vacated to make room for my generation. If you're part of the millennial generation like me, you should want high-earners to be taxed at a higher rate, so they'll retire and you can take their jobs...In essence, Cliff's argument is that high enough taxes on the rich will make their jobs not worth doing, so they will retire. Then we who are left behind can move into those same jobs that are not worth doing. And later we'll get the tax rates reduced so we can get rich, too. Genius, right?
I mean, hasn't the way to national prosperity always been to have your "highly-skilled workers" doing no work at all, while those workers who are less competent*** carry on as best they can?
* Like FDR, Cramer misunderstands the problem as falling prices.
** Perhaps that's why he writes for Cramer and not the other way around.
*** pretty much by definition.
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank said Monday that fewer prospective homebuyers will qualify for mortgages as a result of the financial meltdown, calling that trend a positive byproduct because "tens of millions" of people are not suited to own homes.I don't know if the results of the housing experiment are so obvious now that even liberals can't deny them, or if the fact that the Democrats are completely in charge has caused them to grow up, but whichever it is, this can only be considered good news. In fact, it's such good news that I had to check to make sure that the Belmont Citizen-Herald wasn't just some Massachusetts version of the Onion.
Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank said the market will likely encourage a large increase in affordable rental housing. Answering critics who said he was working to deny low-income people access to their own homes, Frank said, "I'm not denying them the right to own a home, circumstances are."
“We made a mistake as a society in promoting homeownership as a universal achievable goal,” he said.
Democrats have for a long time labored under the impression that "circumstances" don't deny the poor anything; only greedy capitalists do that. And the GOP, in their backward Marxist way, assumed that putting people in a house of their own would transmogrify them into Ward and June Cleaver, complete with country club memberships and 2.5 future young Republicans. It was inevitable that as soon as they got together to ensure that everyone could own* a home, there would be a bad end.
That end is here, and it is heartening to see at least one politician** is recognizing that it was brought on by politicians trying to give everything to everyone. It would be nice if the rest of them could learn that lesson before they mess up something really important, like health care.
* Read: rent from the bank instead of another person, and at a rate subsidized by other taxpayers.
** And one who, being a Democrat, matters.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
so a friend told me at work that her pastor told her to get out there and vote and whoever won then it was prophesied that they should win and that is why they did.I should think that would be a good reason not to vote. I mean, last time I checked, God didn't need my approval to carry out his prophesies. And I certainly wouldn't want to find myself voting incorrectly. It's not a good idea to get in God's way when he's trying to vote.
(hat tip: Rogue)
What is Jesse Jackson going to do with the rest of his life? He'd make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts.
The Democrats need to stop pretending they are going to be bi-partisan. The voters have given you a mandate and the power to implement your dreams. No more blaming George Bush.
What happened to the Republican dirty tricks machine that stole elections via corrupted voting machines? It seems the GOP runs that operation about as well as they run the Treasury.
Kansas is a weird state. Not only did McCain win here by 15%, I have a new Republican congresswoman and a new Republican state senator. My pro-life, pro-gun Democrat state rep was re-elected by a wide margin.
John McCain has to be relieved. Pretending to be a conservative 24/7 surely took a heck of a toll on him.
Vox's prediction notwithstanding, I was so confident of an Obama victory that I already deleted all my John McCain pictures. I sure hope I don't need to talk about him again.
The measurement of how important race remains in our nation and culture will be measurable by how much fun of Obama comedians can make. If he kills The Daily Show, we'll have to go back to electing incompetent white guys. Some things are too important to live without.
* In fact, now that it's done, I hope we can stop talking about this.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
HARRISBURG, Pa.—Recently a woman walked nearly seven miles from her Cameron Street home to the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area shelter to give up the 7-year-old pit bull she had raised since it was 8 weeks old.We generally don't think of pets in America as a luxury item. Sure, there are probably millions of dogs and cats that earn their keep chasing skunks and eating mice, but there are many more millions that serve as nothing short of replacement children for boomers who were too busy to have any of their own. Hell, boomer towns even allow them to eat at restaurants*.
The distraught woman told shelter officials she was being evicted and couldn't keep the dog, Humane Society spokeswoman Kelly Hitz said.
The female pit bull has since found a new home. But animal rescue workers in the midstate say the economic crisis that started on Wall Street and spread to Main Street has now hit the backyard doghouse...
As the current
That gives me an idea. There's been a lot of concern about shipping in the last few years, basically that too many ships come here full and go back to China empty - the Chinese are providing us with what we want, but we are not sending them anything they can use. But the Chinese allow dogs in their restaurants, too.
Extra Dogs. Chinese Restaurants. I'm starting to see a potential solution here...
UPDATE: seriously, you've gotta click on "Allow" above and read the comments on that story. Swear to God I didn't see them before I posted this.
* What's the world coming to, the next thing you know we'll elect a black guy president.
** Nor $200 for a matching XXL version for the other end of the leash.