Monday, August 31, 2009
There is rising disillusion among liberals and peace activists that a president who built his campaign on his opposition to the war in Iraq now views America's other conflict as a "war of necessity".Now if I was a cynic*, I would opine that the only reason the Democrats opposed Iraq is because, being an unpopular war mismanaged by Bush, it could be used to beat him up. But that made supporting Afghanistan necessary because they didn't want to look like they were questioning their own patriotism as liberals are wont to do on occasion, and besides, Afghanistan was a tiny, winnable war**. Liberals don't hate all wars or even most wars, they hate Republican wars.
Mr Obama has already added 21,000 extra troops to the 38,000 stationed there by George W Bush. In the next few weeks, he is likely to receive requests from the Pentagon for more when Gen Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanisan, submits a report on the progress of the war.
But I think the problem is not so much that this war or that one is winnable or even wise, the problem from a budget and even strategic perspective is that if you give a President an army, he'll find places to use it. Right now our doctrine is that we need enough army to win two and a half wars at the same time. That's insane. Even worse, it's bad for the dollar. The more we use our army, the more we seem to need to use it, because we are trying to project power, yet the more power we project externally, the weaker we become fiscally.
It's not that the army does a bad job, I think they do a fantastic job. But the fact remains that when it comes to projecting force, we have in the last 30 years defeated Saddam twice and Grenada and Haiti once each. We have lost in Vietnam and Lebanon and are in the process of losing in Iraq and Afghanistan. We may be able to beat up on small countries, but just as often our army gets bogged down in them. That's not projecting power, it's simply costing American lives and money.
War has changed, and the way to project power may no longer be to put 100,000 boots on the ground and march them around. You can't hold ground that way. Air power is also overrated; you cannot hold ground without being on it. You obviously can't hold ground with a navy. The solution? Stop trying to hold ground.
Hold water instead.
A lot of people would argue that the only thing holding the dollar up is American force, or at least the credible threat of it. And I don't disagree, but I do think that there is a better and far cheaper way to project that force: by doubling the special forces, eliminating 90% of the rest of the army, and closing all the bases from Korea to Germany to Pakistan. By doubling or tripling the American sub force and taking it out of the Navy flight budget. Americans can project massive force cheaply by owning the seas (that's 2/3 of the earth's surface and lots of its trade) and only the seas. We can and should leave Afghanistan to the Afghans***, Europe to the Europeans, India to the Indians, and simply own all the easy-to-cross spaces in between. Sea power has long been a way to project a lot of power for a little cost. The downside for the king is that there are fewer wars to fight there.
The upside for Americans, their budget, and their dollar, is that there are fewer wars to fight there.
* I know, perish the thought.
** Thus the Russians keep telling us.
*** Or the Russians if they still want it. They did at one time, I think.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Influential economist Paul Krugman says the US will face a severe downturn before the end of the decade unless the $500 billion fiscal [deficit] is rectified...Mish responds, quite reasonably, that
"As I said, deficits saved the world."
But I'm reminded of that line in "Die Hard" where Holly Gennaro confronts Hans Gruber after she finds out that the whole Nakatomi "terrorist" plot was but a clever ruse to steal $600m in bearer bonds. "You're nothing but a common thief," she tells him. Gruber, who has just tried to murder a few dozen innocent bystanders in order to create a diversion, responds, "I am an exceptional thief."
In the same way, Krugman is an exceptional clown.
You see, his change of heart is not a matter of deficits at all - he's only opposed to them when they are the result of tax cuts. When they are the result of massive "stimulus" spending, he's all for them. Because deficits are just a diversion; what is really important to Krugman and those like him is that the government spend more money. How much more? All of it. There is no percentage of the economy that is "enough" for Krugman and his ilk to control.
Krugman has fallen for the fatal conceit that socialists, and especially socialist economists, have suffered from time immemorial: because they think they are smarter than you, and because they think they understand what you want and need better than you, they wish to organize the society in which you live, by force if necessary. As Bastiat noted a century and a half ago:
Socialists look upon people as raw material to be formed into social combinations... To these intellectuals and writers, the relationship between persons and the legislator appears to be the same as the relationship between the clay and the potter...Krugman and the rest of Obama pointy hat brigade presume they are not only far-sighted and philanthropic, they are also immune to the temptations common to mankind - they have no understanding that the will to power is far more dangerous than greed or lust of any of the foibles from which common men suffer. But the history of central economic planning is a consistent history of bread lines and circuses, of riots and inflation and revolution, presided over by men who were just sure that they were smart enough and pure enough of heart to manage all aspects of reality for the good of everyone. That conceit perhaps unique to the marginally more intelligent is indeed a fatal one: fatal to those being experimented upon.
According to these writers ...[w]hile mankind tends toward evil, the legislators yearn for good; while mankind advances toward darkness, the legislators aspire for enlightenment; while mankind is drawn toward vice, the legislators are attracted toward virtue. Since they have decided that this is the true state of affairs, they then demand the use of force in order to substitute their own inclinations for those of the human race.
* the rooster crowed and then the sun came up. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Question - How much is the average distance between Earth and the moon changing with time? Is the moon getting closer or more distant from Earth?I'm no physicist obviously, but this answer seems to bring up more questions*. If the moon is moving away from the earth at 1.5" per year, that means that about 42,240 years ago, it was a mile closer, right? Probably not such a big deal for an object that's some 240,000 miles away.
Answer - During the Apollo mission, Neil Armstrong placed a series of what are essentially mirrors on the surface of the moon. Earth scientists could then bounce a laser off these reflectors and by analyzing the time it takes for the light to come back (accounting for such things as atmosphere and so on) precise data could be made about the moon's distance, it's spin rate, and how fast it is receding from the Earth. Currently it is receding at about 1.5 inches per year.
Btw, the fact that the moon is receding (instead of being pulled in by Earth's gravity) is a strong suggestion that the moon was created during a massive collision.
But here's where my bad math gives me headaches. That the moon has been continuously moving away from the earth is assumed by scientists because they take that as evidence that the moon was created in a collision**. In other words, at some point in the past it was a lot closer, and a lot further in the past there was this collision. And we know this by observing that today the moon is moving away.
But gravity doesn't work proportionally, if I remember right. A little less distance doesn't mean a little more gravity, it means a whole lot more because there's a Distance Squared in the denominator. So you don't have to get the Earth a whole lot closer to get a significant change in gravitational forces acting between them.
Now, that's not a problem unless you are dealing with a lot of years. For example, assuming a constant rate of separation****, one million year ago - just a twinkling in the moon's 4 billion year old eye - the moon would have been about 24 miles closer. 10 million years ago, 237 miles closer. One billion years ago - one fourth the moon's reputed age - the moon would have been 23,674 miles closer but still at 90% of its current distance. Follow?
But that doesn't make gravity 10% more, but almost 20% more (the proportion between 10x^2 and 9x^2). It must have had more outward force to still circle the earth under that greater gravity, yet it had the same mass. It could not have been moving away proportionally faster to offset the gravity, because there's not enough room (make the outward rate 3"/yr and you quickly run out of space). Making the moon circle faster so centrifugal force coincidentally offsets gravity seems a little too convenient: the moon would have to slow at a slowing rate as gravity decreased at a decreasing rate, and I'm not sure I've ever seen that.
So Is there any conceivable way that with even one fifth more gravity, the moon would be going out today at only 1.5 inches per year? If not, how can the fact that the moon is going out now be evidence that it was created in a collision, if when you get nearer the period and location when the collision must have occurred, the physics - a much, much higher gravity - would dictate that we would probably never develop the evidence - a moon moving away from Earth almost imperceptibly - that leads us to believe in a collision in the first place?
On another note, on Monday I had to take that Wonderlic test that NFL guys all have to take. While I am quite relieved to discover that I really haven't killed many brain cells over the past decade, it did remind me why I don't do serious math.
* though I suspect all sciency answers do.
** It is kind of funny how even big ideas like "Where did the moon come from?" are still in flux. When I was in school a few decades ago, we were just sure*** that the moon broke off from the earth leaving the Pacific basin in its wake. They had pictures of it and everything.
*** As sure as we were that dinosaurs were wiped out by mammals eating their eggs.
**** Which I don't in real life. This is just science.
Climate change is, in fact, a regional issue ... rural Midwestern states will face the greatest consequences of climate change. The three that will face the steepest rise in temperature -- Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa -- are farm states whose soil will be significantly less productive as temperatures rise more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit there by 2100...The beauty of mathematical models that predict 100 years into the future - especially those that model something as complex and poorly-understood as climate - is that you're seldom around to be embarrassed by how wrong they are. What's more, you don't have to spend all your time explaining why your year-to-year predictions are so constantly off the mark. Make the prediction really big, really scary, and really far off, and it provides all the upside of political fear-mongering without any of the downside of having to actually be correct about anything.
The two Republican* senators from Kansas, which will be most ravaged by climate change, are unlikely to support legislation addressing it.
I really hope someone is printing off copies of all these projections, however, because I suspect it may only be a handful of years before we're talking about an ice age again**. And we're going to need something to burn to keep us all warm.
(Hat tip: Pifford T)
* And now that our DemGov is gone to Washington, it appears to be nothing but Republicans from now on. Sure we have a new DemGov, but a) he's a former head of the Kansas GOP, and b) most Kansans have never heard of him. There is no one else on the Dem farm team.
** No, I have no reason to believe we will actually get an ice age. But it seems to be a common human activity to project the recent memory into the remote future. Doesn't matter if it's the stock market or the price of a house or the mercury. Besides, aren't we all going to die in 2012 anyway?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The real US unemployment rate is 16 percent if persons who have dropped out of the labor pool and those working less than they would like are counted, a Federal Reserve official said Wednesday.You've got to love that disclaimer, because what he said cannot really be argued with. It's a simple fact that if one chooses the Fed's U-6 Number instead of its U-3 Number as representative of "real" unemployment, then the unemployment is 16%. The reason we no longer use a number similar to U-6 is because ... wait for it ... the unemployment rate would be 16%.
"If one considers the people who would like a job but have stopped looking -- so-called discouraged workers -- and those who are working fewer hours than they want, the unemployment rate would move from the official 9.4 percent to 16 percent, said Atlanta Fed chief Dennis Lockhart.
He underscored that he was expressing his own views, which did "do not necessarily reflect those of my colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee," the policy-setting body of the central bank.
The "colleagues" on the FOMC won't argue with his math, but they would be very embarrassed if more people understood it.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
UPDATE: OK, I just thought this was funny:
We expected a right-wing smear campaign against the late Ted Kennedy, but who knew the Republican attack machine could out-Twitter its progressive rivals? ... evidently there's another vast conspiracy afoot, which has now succeeded in moving the search term "Mary Jo Kopechne" -- the victim of Chappaquiddick* -- ahead of the late Senator...Vast right-wing conspiracies. Man, they are everywhere.
* Technically the victim of the late Ted Kennedy, but whatever.
No dreadlocked revelers smoked celebratory reefers in the streets, no armies of conservatives protested, the Mexican media raised no hullabaloo. Quietly and with little ado, Mexico last week enacted a law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all major narcotics, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and crystal meth. Anyone caught in Mexico with two or three joints or about four lines of cocaine can no longer be arrested, fined or imprisoned. However, police will give them the address of the nearest rehab clinic and advise them to get clean.Of course, it will not be so easy or painless here, mostly because of the American presumption that law=morality. Since we don't approve of people doing drugs*, those who choose to use chemicals not FDA- or ATF-approved need to be thrown in prison where the rest of us can remain safe from their pernicious influence while providing their room and board.
Most surprising was how easily and painlessly the reform slipped into Mexican law...
I suspect that may be coming to an end here for budgetary reasons, and perhaps surprisingly soon. In 2008, states made the easy budget cuts and used up their gimmicks. For 2009 they are making real cuts, though how meaningful they truly are is debatable**. Next year absolute revenues will be down again, across the board, as property tax drops catch up with the falling market and as people shift more of their purchases to downscale and secondary (i.e. garage sale) markets.
Real cuts are coming. That means that states are going to have to make real changes in programs, including that program of social control that locks the chemically non-conforming in metal cages. It will probably start with a gentleman's agreement between sheriffs and prosecutors to simply ignore small caches before some legislator has the guts to simply repeal the penalties***.
If the feds insist on drugs being illegal, a smart and fiscally-responsible state will leave enforcement to them as much as they can get away with.
UPDATE: here we go:
Denver's marijuana policy review panel agreed Wednesday to send a letter to the presiding judge of Denver County Court urging a $1 fine as penalty for possession of marijuana of less than an ounce...* other than those with TV commercials that urge you to "ask your doctor about..."
Tvert said lowering the fine would send a message to police "that it is not worth their time or the court's to issue any more citations."
** Despite the howls, a 3 or 5% cut to most programs will have absolutely no impact on end results.
*** Drugs may have to remain illegal under state law so states can "get federal money," which is a way of taxing their citizens while claiming it as a benefit to them. But the Feds do not require a certain position on the sentencing grid as far as I know.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
UPDATE: right on time*
Figures released by the White House budget office foresee a cumulative $9 trillion deficit from 2010-2019, $2 trillion more than the administration estimated in May. Moreover, the figures show the public debt doubling by 2019 and reaching three-quarters the size of the entire national economy.Quick thoughts: The 10-year cumulative deficit has grown almost 30% in 4 months, yet is almost surely still too low. I don't know that I've ever seen even a two-year government projection that did not swing one way or the other by at least a fourth. It's likely half the real number. I which case I doubt we make it ten years.
The "size of the entire economy" that the debt will be such a large proportion of includes all that government spending**. That means if you back government out and make Gross Domestic Product simply a measure of the things we actually produce domestically - I mean, duh. Only a government economist could argue that government is a product - we will have a debt ratio in the ballpark of perpetual economic powerhouses like Italy and Spain.
The nine trillion dollars that the government needs to borrow simply does not exist anywhere; it will have to be created from nothing.
Someday, interest rates are going to rise. Just getting them back to historical norms of about 7% will double the government's debt payment costs, a cost which is surely not calculated in the White House's numbers***.
Yeah, that's sure to end well.
* meaning two months late.
** A necessary byproduct of GDP=C+I+G+(Ex-Im)
*** Which numbers are compiled by a kindly old lady named Rosy Scenario.
Zimbabwe's central bank governor Gideon Gono on Thursday proposed the introduction of a gold-backed local currency, which was destroyed by hyperinflation and replaced by multiple foreign currencies in January...Since the country abandoned its own currency in favor of a variety of freely-circulating foreign currencies, the inflation rate in Zimbabwe has dropped from 231,000,000% per year to about 12%, which ought to tell them something about money: the only characteristic money must have in order to last is that the government ought not be able to print it*. Money, being a store of value, must have a cost. Being able to print it for nothing simply assures that all money of that type will eventually reach that value. Politicians, be creatures of the free lunch, will ensure that as much of it is printed as is necessary**.
"...what I am calling for is the guarded reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar where such a new currency will be fully backed by credible, tangible and locally available assets, such as gold, diamonds or platinum, among several other possibilities," Gono said.
But what about gold backing? Shouldn't the gold bug be rejoicing that politicians are recognizing that only a gold-backed currency can retain value? Hardly, because it's a fraud, and a preview of the very fraud we can expect here in the US once our own dollar reaches the ObamaCare ICU and people start mumbling about pulling its plug. Zimbabwe is talking about a gold-backed currency for two reasons: they have a lack of circulating media, and the government needs $8.3 billion dollars to spend. There is no evidence that they have $8.3 billion in gold lying around to "back" their currency with.
Therefore the "gold-backed" part, if the promise is even temporarily kept, will sooner or later*** end up just like what happened to this one.
* Aha! ye say, but governments DO print the money Zimbabweans are using. True enough, says I, but it is not THEIR government that is printing it. That means something of value must be traded by someone in Zimbabwe to get it into circulation in Zimbabwe. It is in that sense no different than gold.
** by which I mean, "possible."
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The Republican National Committee is asking a federal court to restore the ability of national parties to raise unlimited amounts of money and to spend it to help elect state-level candidates...It's got to be hell to be a Republican. Seriously. The Republicans used their complete control of the legislative and executive branches to pass far-sighted and progressive laws like McCain-Feingold - laws that have eliminated the influence of money not only from campaigns but from government as well. McCain-Feingold was such a model for the nation, nay the world, that the Republicans rewarded its architect with their party's recent nomination to the highest office in the land.
Republicans say the [McCain-Feingold campaign finance] law violates the First Amendment by preventing national parties from helping state-level candidates.
Now here come the Republicans complaining that this solonic apogee, this zenith of legislative sagacity, is itself unconstitutional*. The appointed courts, they beg, must discard this gift that the Republicans bestowed upon a thankful nation.
But soon they will go back to that same nation and ask once again to be elected, because they've got a lot of really, really great ideas they want to turn into law.
* Even though its problems were admitted at the time**, that didn't stop a Republican president from signing it into law.
** "Certain provisions present serious constitutional concerns. In particular, H.R. 2356... prevent[s] all individuals... from making donations to political parties in connection with Federal elections. ...[W]hen individual freedoms are restricted, questions arise under the First Amendment. I also have reservations about the constitutionality of the broad ban on issue advertising..."
-- GW Bush, upon signing McCain Feingold, which bill he had campaigned against 2 years prior, when he said flat out that it was unconstitutional.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Squeaker Annie and I were watching wrestling on Monday when one of those "Smiling Bob" commercials came on***, this one featuring our famously-endowed hero playing Santa while a whole gaggle of whispering, giggling middle-aged office women queue up to sit on his lap. But I now notice that if you order a box of whatever it is, they will send you a free t-shirt that says "Living Large" on the front, I guess with a picture of the pills you took to get that way. Who would wear such a shirt? Why not just carry a big sign that says, "I think my penis is too small. Would you like to sell me something?"
* It's actually the one right behind the one in which son Poggin used to live.
** Apparently they are concerned that the guy in the apartment will open a window, leap 15 feet to this building, then scurry through it to emerge on the far side. And apparently he didn't, as once no one answered the door, the cops just left. Seriously. It was surreal.
*** Jaley's cue to go make popcorn.
BERNE/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Switzerland will hand over details of about 4,450 UBS AG bank accounts to U.S. authorities, settling a tax dispute that has threatened Swiss banking secrecy, the two governments said on Wednesday...It seems to me that turning over customer records to the IRS threatens bank secrecy in much the same way that a successful career as a stripper threatens modesty. The existence of one pretty much means the other is a facade.
"This announcement today should send a signal ... [that] the IRS is willing to pursue both the institution and the individual," Internal Revenue Service commissioner Doug Shulman told reporters.
But I've always been a little dubious of the value of bank "privacy" and Swiss bank accounts in particular anyway, since if your wealth is on paper it can be tracked, and if it can be tracked, Uncle Sam will find it. Americans who expect that the government of Switzerland will protect them from their own government are a wee bit foolish, IMO. And you know that one about a fool and his money: they both end up in Obama's health care postal system.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
On the upside, if it fails spectacularly enough to put the Vikings in the dumper for the next 5 years, Norse fans may just be able to forget about that Herschell Walker deal.
Haha ha hahaha haha haha hahaha ha hahahaha haha hahaha ha haha hahaha haha ha hahaha hahaha hahaha hahaha hahahahahaha hahahahahahahahaha.
Creating new money to buy government debt is the sort of strategy that's known to destroy economies...
But the difference between the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (one would hope) is that the Federal Reserve will stop before it wrecks the dollar.
No, seriously. We know what we're doing.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Twitter followers are more likely to hear about what people are having for their lunch than read anything actually interesting or worthwhile, according to Pear Analytics.It cannot be a surprise to anyone that the average tweet, like the average dinner conversation, the average blog, the average email, the average tag on Facebook, does not have any real "pass-along value."
Less than one in ten tweets have any real "pass-along value" and more than 40 percent of tweets are “pointless babble,” a study by the research firm showed.
The point is not that people are idiots*, but that as social creatures we do not nor should we be expected to spend all of our communication time passing along information worthy of being passed to others not present. We really don't need to have all that much of it. I suspect the vast majority of the pleasure we get from interacting with each other has nothing to do with the specifics of the conversation anyway, but from simply experiencing each other's company - even their virtual company. What did you talk about over dinner last night?
On the other hand, I do wonder if the numbers would be different depending upon the sex, marital status, or political affiliation of the researcher who is determining whether a random tweet is "pass-along information" or "pointless babble." An hour of television news or a conversation with someone who really, really liked the President's speech is enough to prove that there are a lot of people who appear to have the two confused.
UPDATE: Magruder provides a perfect example of blather passed off as news:
“Experts say a sharp growth in so-called militia groups that helped spawn a wave of domestic terrorism in the 1990s – and are now using YouTube, rock music and the Internet to recruit members and spread hate and fear - shouldn’t be ignored.”Which, while scary enough to make a liberal buy a handgun, actually means something a little less chilling, as interpreted for us by IMAO:
Un-named experts say an unquantified growth in what un-named random people call “militia groups” which may have an had an unspecified relationship to an unspecified number of unnamed crimes between 10 and 20 years ago - and are using modern communication methods that old people find confusing and scary to do unspecified bad things - should have an unspecified degree of attention paid to it.So is it "pass-along information" or "pointless babble"? Inquiring minds like mine want to know.
* Yeah, but that's not the point.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
"If U.S. consumers want to keep consuming despite this temporary shock, they could just sell assets other than their house," Slok said. "...In that sense, I'm still optimistic that we will not get a recession."Now what's worth mocking is not that the head economist at Deutsche Bank was still "optimistic" that we would not see a recession about a month into the biggest one since the great one*, but that Americans are now selling assets "other than the house" and it does not mean what he thinks it means.
In fact, they are selling a lot of them:
As companies fold or shed jobs in the worst recession in decades, a growing number of Americans are saying a fond good-bye to their belongings at garage sales to generate some badly needed cash... Morales said the items being sold off were often acquired when credit was readily available and the American consumer bought early and often...One doesn't have to be a PhD economist working for an international investment bank to completely misread what the reality of people selling assets "other than the house" is liable to mean, but I'll bet it helps.
In the world of Dr. Slok, if you want to buy a new car and your home equity line is tapped out, all you have to do is sell your old TV and Shazam! You immediately have the cash on hand to keep the spendamonium in full force. But in reality, people buying and selling at garage sales is not fuel for new goods market, but a replacement for it. People are selling the things they acquired when credit was easy, not to buy more things, but to keep a few of the other things they bought then. Call it economic triage, if you will.
But while that's a part where Dr. Slok is wrong, it is not the part where he is exactly wrong. Where he is utterly, unbelievably, epically wrong is in ignoring that fact that while sellers of used TVs are not new additions to the pool of buyers of new gadgets, buyers of used TVs are additional net subtractions from it.
A buyer of a used TV or an Xbox or that pair of those striped pajama bottoms where the hole is exactly the wrong height is a person who is no longer in the market for a new one. People who are buying used Xboxes are not paying the Chinese**. They are not at the mall. They are not at Wal-Mart. They are not doing what Americans are supposed to do: consume, consume, consume shiny new things so that those government numbers that tell us how well we were all doing can be fudged with a minimum of effort***. Rather than people selling things other than the house being the savior that will keep us out of recession, it is both a sign and a reason that we will be in this one for a very, very long time.
* or as Eccentrica Gallumbits might call it, "the best bang since the big one."
** As a result, the trade deficit is going down (hooray), but at the same time, that's not giving the Chinese all that money we are expecting them to throw at Uncle Sam so he can give us money to go out and buy more new things form the Chinese. Oh well, can't win them all I guess.
*** That is good news for the creative accounting market, however.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
"Climate change is very real," [Senator Debbie Stabenow] confessed as she embraced cap and trade's massive tax increase on Michigan industry ... "Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I'm flying. The storms are more volatile."I've discovered that eating really ripe cantaloupe can cause climate change and increase volatility, too.
Though I usually feel it most when I'm being sent to sleep on the couch.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Ok, here's the proposed breakup and the rationale:
Tejas is obvious: these are counties that have significant and growing Latino populations who have a lingual and religious affinity with Mexico. Unlike others who draw the same kinds of map, I don't think it would ever join Mexico*, though I do think parts of Mexico would join it.
Dixie is just as easy to draw, being as it is counties where the Black Population reaches or exceeds half of the total. It reaches from the super-white Ozarks in the West along the Gulf coast, across Florida, and up the Atlantic, where it is again hemmed in by mountains. It may include DC, which I'll explain later.
Deseret is interesting, as I was half joking when I said it originally. However, when you have a state that is more than half LDS and a bit of persecution** (or at least a complex), and I suspect we might just have our only North American religious enclave.
Nuevo Miami is problematic, as South Florida is not really black, but it's not really Cuban and not really Jewish and not really white. It really doesn't belong with Dixie so we'll just have to propose it will go its own way.
New England is, well, their own beastie and always has been. I am tempted to throw other John Kerry-loving Atlantic coastal areas in with them, but I suspect their snobbery would keep them isolated. Northern New York, no problem, those folk are all Green Mountain Boys anyway. But Catholic and Italian New Jersey? I think not...
Alaska and Hawaii: last in, first out. Just don't forget to take your nukes with you.
What is not included: One can make a very good case for emawkc's "Pacifica," which is not unlike Joel Gerreau's "Ecotopia." They would have some of the best ports in North America, but would lack the two things necessary to keep them: population and defensible borders. So if they did manage to set something up, I suspect they would not be independent long: you can't fight off even halfway decent soldiers using only Birkenstocks and bong smoke. That said, a more-or-less sovereign city-state like Seattle or Vancouver, surrounded by hinterlands, is conceivable and very possible.
What is left is the United States of America, v3.0, a downsized yet radically conservative version of v2.35 which it replaces. Obviously the capital would have to be moved, as was briefly considered during the first Civil War. The romantic choice is Philadelphia, but the realistic choice is St. Louis, for a number of reasons, but primarily its port. Deprived of ocean access, USA 3.0 has to get its food out somehow; St. Louis, along with various ports on the Great Lakes, would surely rise in importance. At least until Ecotopia was conquered.
Now obviously this whole exercise is speculative, but what would it take to end up here?
The first thing that needs to be said is that I don't think that such a thing would happen so long as the government is able to pay its bills. So long as the credit markets remain open and working, no group could ever acquire the power to hold any land that seceded***. However, if the government manages to break the dollar and cannot pay its bills, then all bets are off. A poor population is a violent and a radicalized population, and with much of America relying on the government pap, if you turn that off there is no telling where we end up. In case you haven't figured it out, this is why the only economic measurements I care about are the price of gold and oil, and the NDX dollar index. The Dow is meaningless and inflation and unemployment numbers are fixed. But those three in combination cannot be fixed for long.
The second thing to be said is that even once the government can't pay the bills, it will still take time before any group manages to push the idea of secession successfully within any geographic area. The South threatened secession for two decades before they did it, New England threatened on and off for longer than that. And that's when everyone believed it was a realistic option. Today it is a last resort and that mindset will take years to overcome.
The last thing that needs to be said is that this is not a pretty scenario. It would result in the destruction by fire of any number of cities and burned-out no man's lands wherever borders happen to fall. That would be the case even if secession was "relatively" peaceful. There will be a sorting process that takes place, just as Pro-union folks were run out of Missouri and Arkansas and pro-secessionists were drummed out of Maryland and Kentucky. That process alone will result in a significant number of Americans eating bugs and straw to stay alive.
A nation at war with itself is usually not a nation that grows things and makes things, though in our civil War the Union managed to progress economically even while the South imploded. I think this time the implosion must come first and will be a cause, not an effect, of war.
Now all this makes another huge assumption that may not be feasible: that "countries" and "nations" survive at all. There is a real possibility that future governance will be provided by structures more like corporations than governments - think "governance" within Epcot Center or a shopping mall or a gated community. But that is a discussion for another day.
* Who would?
** not lately, but just let those polygamists out of the hills and oh, buddy.
*** while it is theoretically possible that Puerto Rico and American Samoa could leave peacefully - though I doubt they will so long as they can remain on the dole - I don't believe any state will be allowed to. They must do so while Uncle Sam is powerless to stop them.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I mentioned before Professor Panarin's prediction of US breakup and explained briefly why his idea that California, for example, would become part of China was ludicrous. But I had not seen his map, which I just ran across and submit for your enjoyment. You'd better hurry, because I'm going to tear it up.
It's preposterous, not because the US would never break up*, because it would never, ever break up upon the lines proposed. Those neat, straight lines ignore the two most important determinants of where the real lines will fall: ethnicity and geography.
The first is the most important, because the world is devolving and it is doing so along the lines of tribe, language, and religion; culture, if you will. Breakups happen when one group that defines itself as a culture or a people gets power and opportunity to withdraw. We saw the ethnic-based breakup of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, we see the Basques in Spain and the Kurds in Iraq to the Puerto Ricans and Quebecois right here in good old North America.
So let's use Quebec as an example, since it is by far closest to really pushing the issue. Language and culture unique from the rest of Canada and an advanced separatist movement. The only question is whether Canada will let them go when they finally decide they wish to. If they do, it cuts Cananda in half geographically, and I suspect the richer western part will find little reason to remain united with the East. Will they join the US? Not a chance. In the US both Guam and Pruero Rico have separatists movements based on exactly the same factors as Quebec. Will we let them go? Well, we should. Then again, we should have let South Carolina go, too. Both Alaska (the AIP) and Hawaii (the Ka Lahui and others) have separatist/independence movements as well. Last in, first out?
But that takes care of 2 pieces of his map, and the easiest two. What about that blue part? No freaking way is Alabama going to become part of Mexico. But I do propose this: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and the top half of Mexico become one nation that is not called Mexico**. The Mexican states will join Texas only after a successful secession from the US, and then mostly because there's no sense having an "international" border that no one respects running through its center. So take that Blue part and slide it west until it hits water.
Doing that uncovers Louisiana thru Georgia and the top half of Florida then on up thru the coastal Carolinas and Virginia, maybe even Maryland, which I think will become another Dixie unlike the first in two respects: it will not be a confederation and it will not be run by whites, but by blacks. Separation, of necessity, heightens cultural and racial stresses, so I expect that in that process we would see a further migration of blacks from the north and of whites from the south. The great de-segregation experiment is over, IMO. Southern Florida, having nothing in common with northern, would itself secede, though I doubt it would join Texas. Cubans /= Mexicans.
I suspect New England would find more in common with the Ustabe Canadians to their north than the farmers to their west, so they may secede as well, but whatever they join will not be called Canada.
That leaves everything from California to West Virginia***, Oklahoma to North Dakota, in one big country with no defensible borders, and yet no cultural reason to not remain "The United States." No cultural reason, but there may be geographic ones and if one is going for broke, breakdown-to-the-last, then it makes sense that these states (or even counties) will break along geographic lines, like the Mississippi or the Rockies. But there's no way of knowing how that falls out, really, except to note the obvious that if China cannot take Taiwan, it cannot hold the Rockies. If Canada is busted in half, there's no way it can absorb Missouri. As much as I like Joel Garreau's "Nine Nations" idea, I don't really think a coastal "ecotopia" is sustainable as a separate entity, and the Foundry would only exist because no one else wants Detroit.
Will the US break up? Eventually. Will large parts of it fall under Chinese influence? Probably no more than large parts of China are today under American influence and for the same reason. But if some small parts do, they are very, very unlikely to include the Mormons of Utah. It's far more likely, for reasons both cultural and geographic, that Deseret would become a reality first.
* It will break up. The next step once we stopped adding states and territories in the 1950s is to begin losing them. Don't worry, it happens to a lot of empires.
** Whatever it is called (Republica del Norte?) it will be called in Spanish, however.
*** with Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio sticking out like a sore thumb.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse...Ezekiel's "Gog and Magog" prophecy (ch 38-9) is an interesting one. And it's not an interpretation unique to Bush that the nation that comes "from the uttermost parts of the north" (JPS) against Israel is Russia; I have a book from the 50s or so that makes the same claim. But what is interesting is that if God says that
Now out of office, Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”
I will turn you [Gog and Magog] around and pull you down, and will force you to come from the uttermost parts of the north against the mountains of Israel... (Ez 39:2)And then God promises that
I will knock the bow from your left hand and the arrows from your right ... And I will send a fire on Magog and on those who dwell safely in their islands. They will know that I am the LORD. (Ez. 39:3, 6)then why would anyone who claims to believe God will do such a thing make any attempt whatsoever to 'thwart" Gog and Magog? By doing so, he's really trying to thwart God.
I'm not sure if Bush made such a claim, but even if his theology was correct*, it seems like a pretty bad idea to get in God's way.
* and I'm not at all sure that it is. When it comes to prophecy, things that are obvious in retrospect are not at all clear in advance.
Friday, August 07, 2009
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.Now I really don't think Obama is creating an "enemies list" or anything of the like* from the emails they manage to collect, but I think the Obama White House's desire to have people turn in forwarded email is indicative of liberals' desire to control the debate, so to speak. It's neither a new failing nor one limited to them - rare indeed is the person who really deep down agrees with the right of people to say out loud something they vehemently disagree with, and few of them seek jobs in Washington.
But what is interesting about this is that it was the Democrats who, back in the day that Tricky Dick really did create such a list, passed a law making it illegal for the White House to destroy communications, and they have used that in recent years to subpoena bzillions of emails and whatnot from the executive branch**. So now not only can they not delete these emails - possibly forcing them to break another law about collecting information about people - with thousands of bloggers posting the email address email@example.com on their blogs they cannot even delete any of the millions of spam emails for penis enlargement they are certain to receive.
If my spam filter gives any indication of what they are in for, there's going to be a bull market in storage media along the Potomac for years to come.
* I'm sure he's already got one. That's one reason every donor's name, address, and occupation is collected under campaign finance law.
** One reason you can be sure that nothing important is written down, unless there is a loophole. And there's always a loophole big enough to drive McCain's Straight Talk Express bus thorough.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Despite the government's top-ten Cash for Clunkers sales list's exclusion of large trucks, two full-size trucks were actually among the top-ten buys and a small crossover SUV, not a compact car, was the most popular overall.So Cash for Clunkers is replenishing America's supply of SUVs and full-size trucks? That ought to make the global warming brigade happy. And the Noble Poor have not yet begun to wonder what they are going to be driving next year, once a million or so low-priced yet working vehicles end up on scrap boats to China. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!
As I mentioned many moons ago, the Democrats' coalition* is so broad that they simply cannot accomplish anything more complicated than drop money from a helicopter on behalf of one part of their coalition without offending** another part.
Of course, they will still do a lot of damage before people realize how inept they are and throw them out again, damage which the Republicans will undo as soon as they get around to abolishing the Department of Education. In other words, never.
The destructive ineptitude of the Democrats, while epic, is more than offset by the fact that the Republicans don't really see it as a problem so much as a campaign issue.
* made up primarily of Granolas, Union thugs, feminists, illegal immigrants, tree-huggers, welfare moms, people afraid of losing SocSec, gays, college students, race warriors, trial lawyers, minwage workers, people afraid to ever leave college, and vegetarians, with a smattering of "my daddy was a Democrat and so am I" Confederate flag bumper sticker rednecks thrown in so they can present a moderate front when they need to.
** Or in the case of the Noble Poor, actively hurting them. I should not be surprised if this time next year the Democrats will be demanding a new "Cash for Clunkers" just for people who cannot afford to buy any car at all in the new, improved market.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
"This is my second time being around Sage*, and he's been a very, extremely talented backup-type quarterback," [vice president of player personnel Rick] Spielman said. "He has an opportunity to come in here and compete with Tarvaris [Jackson], and we feel very fortunate to have two type quarterbacks like that."Yes, every team should be so lucky as to have two backup-type quarterbacks.
* No, that's not my demotivator. It just hurt enough that I was forced to steal it.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Seventy-one percent (71%) of U.S. voters say President Obama’s policies have increased the size of the federal deficit, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.Well, that might be a bit unfair, as it's not hard to believe that 13% of voters are both ignorant enough and honest enough to publicly not know what Obama's policies are, much less the effect they have on the deficit. But I would really like to meet the 15% of people who insist that increasing spending by a trillion or so without commensurate tax increases either reduces the government's deficit or has no effect on it.
Only five percent (5%) say the president’s policies have cut the deficit, and 10% say they have had no impact. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.
It is interesting, however, to watch the spin of even non-partisan pollsters as they try to "defend" Obama:
Obama has initiated a number of big spending programs intended to jump-start the U.S. economy, and the Treasury Department estimates that the federal debt has grown by more than a trillion dollars since he took office. In his defense, the president notes that he inherited both an economic crisis and an already sizable deficit from President Bush.While it's perfectly fair to note that Obama is not responsible for the whole deficit, the fact that he inherited a deficit is irrelevant to whether his policies have increased it. Obama has stated flat out that his policies have increased the deficit, they are designed to do so, and will continue to do so for a number* of years. That might be necessary**. It might even be a good short-term strategy**. But denying that it occurs is like denying rainfall or that Michael Phelps can swim. In a country that intends to be around for a while, no one who is willing to make such a denial should be graced with the appellation "voter." At least if votes are meaningful.
* A really, really freaking big number. Unless the dollar dies quickly.
** It's not.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
LOS ANGELES -- A poster showing President Barack Obama as Heath Ledger's "Joker" character from "The Dark Knight" is creating a stir on the streets of Los Angeles where the image began appearing over the weekend...Maybe Mr. Hutchinson spoke out in a similar manner when Bush was spoofed on the pages of Vanity Fair and I just missed it, but somehow I doubt it.
"Depicting the president as demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery," says [Earl Ofari] Hutchinson, "it is mean-spirited and dangerous."
UPDATE: You just knew someone had to go there:
Obama is in white face, his mouth (like Ledger's Joker's) has been grotesquely slit wide open and the word "Socialism" appears below his face. The only thing missing is a noose.A noose? I haven't seen Batman Whatever, but I'm pretty sure there was no noose. So I guess this fine liberal* gentleman is admitting to us all that when he sees a picture of a black guy, he thinks "noose." Maybe he needs to have a beer with this guy to work out his racial issues.
* and to answer his question, no, liberals cannot take a joke. We know that, ok?
Monday, August 03, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's treasury secretary said Sunday he cannot rule out higher taxes to help tame an exploding budget deficit, and his chief economic adviser would not dismiss raising them on middle-class Americans as part of a health care overhaul...WHAT? But can't he just ask Congress to change the laws of mathematics? I'm sure they'd do it for Goldman Sachs.
During his presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly vowed "you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime." But the simple reality remains that his ambitious overhaul of how Americans receive health care -- promised without increasing the federal deficit -- must be paid for.
It's not just that Obama cannot do and could never do what he promised that's instructive. Anyone with a room temperature IQ* knew that he couldn't. What's instructive is how much time and energy Americans, on TV, in the workplace, across the dinner table, spend debating the minutia of Obama's plan vs. McCain's plan, of Edwards' versus Hillary's. Americans seldom make the leap in logic from "X politician cannot keep his promises" to "Because the promises can't and won't be kept, there is no sense in taking anything he says about the future seriously." The total sum of knowledge one will gain concerning what a politician will do from watching pre-election debates and the like is very, very close to zero.
Far better to stick with the laws of mathematics. America will either go broke through hyperinflation or default. All of the rest of it is just entertainment.
* I don't know what the number is, but I'm sure it's significantly lower than 52%.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
The care with which we are carrying out the provisions of the Recovery Act has led some people to ask whether we are moving too slowly. But the act was intended to provide steady support for our economy over an extended period — not a jolt that would last only a few months.Which is a rather funny admission, since "only a few months" ago he claimed just the opposite:
And, of course, we also came forward with what we're going to talk about today, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an initial big jolt to give the economy a real head start...As he did "only a few months" before that:
The Recovery Act, as we call it, provides a necessary jolt to our economy to implement what we refer as "shovel-ready" projects...Of course, you can't really blame the guy* for trying. We ought to fully expect that if our politicians' promises cannot beat the throw they will simply move the bases. In this sense Joe seldom fails to meet or exceed realistic expectations. The second stimulus package didn't provide any more of a "jolt" than the first one, or at least such a jolt as it did provide** has had few measurable, beneficial lasting effects.
The problem is not that the economy needs a jolt, but that it needs a rest. We have been for so long running on money we didn't earn and buying things we couldn't afford, that we are at the point of pure exhaustion, of flat-out running out of energy, of collapsing in the baseline in front of millions of screaming spectators.
The solution to the exhaustion of an athlete who lives on bundt cake and PBR is not to whack him with a few jolts from the defibrillator*** until he starts sprinting again, but to slow him down, feed him right, and put him on a training regimen that will allow him to get in shape naturally.
Which is why we can expect the "jolt" from the third stimulus package when it comes, and maybe even the fourth, to have exactly the same effects. Well, except that one of them will eventually kill the runner.
(hat tip: Casey's Daily Dispatch)
* and not only because he probably didn't write the words he was delivering anyway.
** I for one will not deny that the government spending a bunch of money can make a lot of people very busy, which is what GDP allegedly measures. I do deny that it will do any lasting good.
*** Much less to use a taser, as the current government insists on using.