Thursday, October 29, 2009
Jimmy Carter's term, repeated. With a Vengence.
Are we really about to go through that? Victor Davis Hanson makes a good case for it:
All Falling Down . . .
[...] Why the pessimism? I think there are a few truths that transcend politics and remain eternal. In life as a general rule, debt has to be paid back, and with greater pain and anger than it was to borrow it. Bullies do not respect magnanimity, but tragically interpret it as weakness to be exploited rather than to be admired.
Hoping that something good comes true —like being self-reliant through solar and wind—does not make it true; neglecting the riches at hand to dream about greater riches that do not exist is adolescent. Radical Islam hates the West, not because of what we do or say, but because of who we are: a dynamic, mercurial culture that challenges all the protocols of a traditional, tribal and religiously fundamentalist society.
Diplomacy is a tool to lessen, but not eliminate, tensions—a way to conduct foreign policy, not a foreign policy in and of itself. [...]
He reviews point by point, on every front, the similarities with the Carter years, and why this is likely to be worse. He ends it by saying that he hopes he's wrong. I hope he's wrong too, but... I remember the Carter years. And what I see now, well... read the whole article. And prepare, as best you can.
Letting Banks Fail "Gracefully"
The Myth of Too Big to Fail
When it comes to banking, size isn't the only thing that matters.
[...] When the news of Wachovia's failure first reached Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chair Sheila Bair, she wanted to liquidate the bank and cut into the pocketbooks of its investors -- as she had done with Washington Mutual, the largest U.S. bank failure ever, a few days prior. But Tim Geithner, then president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, argued strenuously for Bair to invoke her agency's "too big to fail" exception and spend more money to cover the costs of the bank's sale. He worried another collapsing bank would only intensify the financial panic at a time when the government's hands were tied. (While the FDIC can liquidate a commercial bank like Wachovia, the Fed doesn't have the tools to shut down financial institutions, only the ability to prop them up with loans.)
Geithner, now the Treasury secretary, made the right decision at the time, but it was a terrible precedent to set. Sending the message that the government won't let large banks fail in a crisis gives them an unfair advantage over their smaller competitors. Worse, if bankers are rewarded for success and insulated from failure, there is little incentive for prudence and smart management -- the problem of moral hazard.
Of all the Orwellian phrases to arise from our financial crisis -- "troubled assets," "stress tests," "capital infusion" -- "too big to fail" is perhaps the most hated and least understood. Many populists and progressive economists have called on the Obama administration to bust up the banks and make them smaller. "Just break them up," economist Dean Baker argues. "We don't have to turn Citigroup and Bank of America into hundreds of small community banks, just large regional banks that can be safely put through a bankruptcy."
The administration hasn't pursued that course of action, in part because of the political power of the banks and in part because breaking them up isn't as easy as it sounds -- it is hard to know what the right size for a bank is, especially in an increasingly global financial market. Further, the importance placed on the issue of size is deceptive: The problems that caused the 2008 crash also had to do with leverage, liquidity, and the complex connections between banks. The banks tied themselves into knots neither they nor their regulators could untie.
"The problem we have had isn't that institutions were too big -- it was that there was no uniform way to let them fail without causing an absolute market meltdown," Arthur Levitt, the widely respected former Securities and Exchange Commission chair, told the House Financial Services Committee in September.
If we want to clean up the financial mess, we have to realize that the size of institutions is a secondary problem. We must also accept that some facets of our current system are here to stay. Shrinking the financial sector will be slow going, so we're best off watching it more closely, forcing institutions to put stronger safety nets in place, and, most important, helping them fail gracefully when they make mistakes.
Perhaps the kind of restrictions that progressives wanted to put on the initial bailout loans -- strict compensation limits, firing existing management, and even more stringent rules -- should be codified so they will be clear if and when bailouts are needed again. The goal would be to penalize executives, not institutions, so the people at banks have the incentive to perform.
Regulatory reform is not just about providing new structures and tools. Reform is also about putting in place politicians and regulators who are willing to take the banks to task. The administration's proposed approach to the problem of systemically risky institutions would require the secretary of the Treasury to green-light any response to their failure, whether that response is bankruptcy, government-assisted liquidation, or even another bailout. That means direct political accountability to the president instead of the "Republic of the Central Banker" that we saw in 2008 as the Fed single-handedly undertook massive efforts to protect the financial system without any checks on its power -- or its spending.
Looking back on last fall's argument between Geithner and Bair over what to do about Wachovia, it's clear that Bair was right in principle -- using federal money to keep bad banks alive isn't a good idea. Geithner was right in practice -- letting another bank fail would have only intensified the financial panic at a time when the Fed didn't have the right tools to solve the problems further bank failures would cause. What we need is a rulebook that doesn't force regulators to choose between those two approaches. We need a system designed by someone like Tim Geithner -- and run by someone like Sheila Bair.
This was an interesting article. It's about creating a system that allows banks to fail gracefully when they screw up, to suffer the consequences for their bad decisions, but without dragging down large sectors of the economy with them. This article was about finding solutions to achieve that, not partisan bickering. I appreciated that.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
New Ubuntu 9.10 available Thursday
Here are a few links that could come in handy for it:
Preparing for Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)
Is there anyone around who doesn't know that the next release of Ubuntu Linux, 9.10 (Karmic Koala) is due out tomorrow? I doubt it, and even if there were they wouldn't be reading this, so I'll just forge ahead.
I don't intend to add my voice to the chorus singing the praises of the new release. What I would like to do is take a quick look at a few simple things that can go a long way in making the upgrade easier. [...]
10 easy steps to secure your Linux machine
Whether you use a single desktop or manage a lab full of servers, with the various threats we all face from hackers these days you simply have to make sure you're running a secure ship.
Running Linux gives you some inherent protection from attack, but you still need to take adequate steps to thwart any attempts that people might make to compromise your system.
Here are 10 of the best courses of action that you can take. [...]
I'm hoping to download Ubuntu Friday when I'm in the office.
How long until "Microsoft Linux"?
The GOP: a Political Vehicle, or an Ideology?
It needs to be the former, not the latter. From Neal Boortz:
REPUBLICANS VERSUS CONSERVATIVES
Have you been following this House election in upstate New York? The Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava has some stiff competition, and it isn't from the Democrat candidate. It is from Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman. Republicans Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty have thrown their support behind Hoffman in what is turning out to be a clash of principles ... what does it mean to be conservative versus Republican?
This Scozzafava woman has some positions that don't sit all that well with the Republican base. Truth is, she's probably running as a Republican only because that area has a history of voting Republican in congressional elections.
But wait until next year. The midterm elections of 2010 may be our last chance to save this Republic. No .. .I'm serious. With the anti-capitalists we have running the show right now the time is short. It may be next year ... or never. Watch the Republicans though. Despite what's at sake, Republicans are going to engage the idiotic abortion litmus test. Candidates are going to be judged primarily on whether or not they want to use the police power of government to force women to continue with pregnancies they want to terminate. This one question will be the beginning and the end of all deliberations as to whether or not to support particular Republican candidates. Makes sense, doesn't it? The future of this country is at stake and these abortocentrists are going to be doing the work of the Democrat party.
Bold emphasis mine. It's ironic how conservatives can actually help Democrats get elected, by sandbagging Republican candidates who don't pass the "litmus test". Conservatives and Democrats, working together to defeat the GOP.
Arguing over who is "good enough" is politics, part of the political process. But is it also sometimes a luxury? How much time do we have, right now, to fight within our own party? I suspect Boortz is right; time is running out. I've posted before about Democrats who want to permanently marginalize the GOP, as a stepping stone to actually eliminating them completely.
Instead of tearing down the GOP, conservatives would serve themselves and their causes better to get involved in their local GOP, and stop trying to dictate to other localities the candidates they should choose. Applying Red state standards to our Blue state candidates usually means a victory for Democrats (as it did here in Oregon). Thus our party grows smaller.
The GOP is a political vehicle, not an ideology. It's time to car pool, not fight over the steering wheel and try to kick each other out of the car. Flexibility and diversity of opinion in our party can a strength; it can be the difference between the GOP's survival, or it's perishing like the dinosaurs.
A long lament about Republican errors
Christian moralizing as a party platform
The Republican Winners, and Their Message
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Windows 7. How good, and for how long?
From a former Microsoft employee:
Linux is the future, even after Windows 7 release
[...] Software is hard, and Microsoft has many thousands of smart and experienced developers. Its problem is this: Microsoft is greatly hampered by backward compatibility and old code. Having seen lots of codebases inside and outside Microsoft, I conclude that one of the best things the Macintosh and Linux have going for them is that Microsoft has so much baggage that it could be an airline.
I haven't run Windows 7 (I'm still debating which of the 20 editions to install) but I've spent several hours reading about it, and while the list of new features is reasonably impressive, and the reviews are generally positive, the most important aspect is the fundamentals. Will it have sufficiently patched the bugs that Microsoft couldn't get to in Vista's six-year development cycle? Can it run well on machines with a mere 1 gigabyte of RAM? Will it work with the vast array of hardware that is the modern PC industry?
If Apple is threatened by Windows 7, Linux is much less so. Linux runs on the same inexpensive PC hardware, has a robust worldwide community of programmers, less baggage, a better development model, and can be acquired for free.
Many of the benefits of Linux are subtle. It doesn't come with any nagware. The default media player supports both many formats including QuickTime and Windows media. Likewise, the instant messaging program supports 16 different protocols. The GUI is more customizable. But the best feature of Linux is something that neither Windows nor the Macintosh have: a rich set of free applications, installable with one click: [...]
Windows sure isn't going to disappear anytime some. But you have to wonder how long their business model will last, and what that will mean in the long run.
Meanwhile, someone's found a Windows 7 flaw they consider to be serious:
UPDATE: Less than 24-hours on and a potential Windows 7 Achilles' heel surfaces
I don't consider it to be all that serious; but then I don't use WM or OE. For some who do, the lack of those features might be a deal-breaker, or at the very least, an annoyance.
The next Ubuntu launch (9.10) is coming Oct 29th, and IBM and Canonical are promoting Ubuntu as a cheaper alternative to Windows 7. Only time will tell how successful that will be. But I must say, it's nice to have choices.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The Argentina example: are we heading there?
Argentina's Kirchner Targets the Press
As the state-run economy hits the skids, the government responds with a crackdown on the free press.
One way a president can boost poll numbers in a bad economy is to wrest control of the central bank and start printing lots of pesos. There's nothing like cheap financing to restore the market's enthusiasm for buying all sorts of stuff—from stocks to houses—already on sale at fire sale prices.
The great reflation will make people feel rich again. A weak currency will also be a short-term boon to exporters, whose profits can then be taxed at ever higher rates. Complainers can be denounced for their greed.
Of course this perpetual motion machine will eventually conk out and when it does, a government that expects to survive will find it necessary to silence its critics. Just ask Argentines, who are living all of this in real time.
After more than five years of heavy state intervention in the economy, Argentina is again sliding into recession. Double-digit inflation is spiraling north and the government is running out of money. In response, President Cristina Kirchner is cracking down on the free press. Argentines are wondering if their democracy will survive.
The story of how Argentina got here is important to recall. The economy was flat on its back after the 2001-2002 collapse of "convertibility," the monetary arrangement that pegged the peso to the dollar. A demoralized nation was looking for a savior.
It thought it found one in Néstor Kirchner. He became president in 2003 and set about to restore the state-run economic model of Juan Peron; the market, he maintained, had failed. Mr. Kirchner took control of the central bank. He demonized the private-sector and investors. Using price controls, subsidies and regulation he made himself a Robin Hood to the masses. The legislature granted him extraordinary powers.
The economy bounced back as one would expect after a harsh contraction, and in 2007 his wife was elected president with 45% of the vote.
Now the illusionists are losing their touch. Not only is the economy going sour, but according to polls, the nation is growing intolerant of what many consider to be the first couple's abuse of power. [...]
Read the whole thing. I wouldn't say that it's exactly like what is happening here in the USA, but there are numerous parallels. Many. You have to wonder how similar the results will be, too.
I read about a book recently that sounded interesting, it's written by an Argentinian author, Fernando Ferfal Aguirre, about how he and his family survived the economic collapse Argentina has gone through:
The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse (Paperback)
My book is a Modern Survival Manual based on first hand experience of the 2001 Economic Collapse in Argentina. In it you will find a variety of subjects that I consider essential if a person wants to be prepared for tougher times: -How to prepare your family, yourself, your home and your vehicle -How to prepare your finances so that you don't suffer what millions in my country went through -How to prepare your supplies for food shortages and power failures -How to correctly fight with a chair, gun, knife, pen or choke with your bare hands if required -Most important, how to reach a good awareness level so that you can avoid having to do all that. These are just a few examples of what you will find in this book. It's about Attitude, and being a more capable person and get the politically correct wimp out of your system completely.
I've posted before about other books that deal with currency collapse scenarios. While interesting, those books can be heavily theoretical. Aguirre's book is based on actual experience, which I think gives it added authority. So often, experience is the best teacher. Here is one of the comments about his book, posted at Amazon.com:
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book for Ordinary Preppers, May 7, 2009
By Faith "Faith" (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
If you are considering buying this book, you are probably looking at the current economy and worrying about the future. You want to know how to protect yourself and your family from the effects of this downturn.
If you read other survivalist books, you start to think that it's useless to prepare. They make you think that you have to be a sharp-shooting tactician who can improvise a hand grenade using peanut butter and Band Aids. This is not true, as Ferfal explains in his book.
Ferfal is an ordinary person (with a wife and two kids) who is living through the day-to-day struggle of a failed economy, with all of the attendant crime and struggle. He gives advice that real people can follow. The book covers home security; personal security; Depression-proof jobs; basic defense techniques for ordinary people; what to buy in advance; legal issues and (my favorite section) advice from his wife. The site I bought it from allows you to preview the Table of Contents.
I am an ordinary wife myself, with minimal self-defense skills, no tactical training, and no "live off the land" knowledge. I found this book useful, informative and helpful, and after I read it I added many things to my shopping list that other "survivalists" never seem to mention.
A minor caveat: English is Ferfal's second language, and his writing reflects it. (The book is self-published, and it seems that he did not have an editor.) The writing is easy to understand, but sometimes amusing (he types "embrace yourself" instead of "brace yourself," for example.) Ferfal also uses cusswords sometimes; he explains why in the book. Neither of these caused me any pain, but you are warned.
The site at Amazon.com let's you read the index and several pages into the book as well, where Aguirre describes what happened when the collapse came. Fascinating reading.
At $25.00, the price is a bit steep for 252 page paperback, IMO. But if he really is self-publishing it, perhaps he has to charge that much. Anyway, read the sample pages and decide for yourself if it's worth it. I'm still thinking about it, it's on my Wish List.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Does Linus Torvalds Endorse Windows 7?
Does Father of Linux Favor Windows 7?
[...] The photo, posted by Chris to Picasa, offered this narrative: "Since Microsoft tried to torpedo the success of the Japan Linux Symposium by launching their Windows 7 product that same day right across the street, we decided to make some fun of Microsoft. We dragged Linus to their big promotion booth. One of the sales guys took only a minute to get Linus sold on it as you can see in the picture. At least that's what he thought. He obviously had no clue who he was talking to. But in the end Linus did not buy a copy..."
Linus seems genuinely happy about something in the picture ... what does he know that Microsoft doesn't know?
There is more about the photo here:
Windows 7's latest fan: Linus Torvalds
[...] However, what I do think is significant here is that Linus has a sense of humor, and has no interest in being caught up in the Free Software nonsense where one of the major sticking points in their ideology is a hatred of “Unethical” software companies in which Microsoft is the poster child — and in utter contempt and protest the products they release, which includes a recently started campaign against the “Sins” of Windows 7.
Do I actually believe Linus was endorsing Windows 7? No, he was in town for the Japan Linux Symposium. But it shows he has a clear sense of humor, understands tolerance, and knows how to lighten up when his Free Software counterparts are frothing at the mouth during one of the most important software launch days in Microsoft’s history.
So is Linus Torvalds the latest entry on the Free Software Foundation’s and Richard Stallman’s “Traitors” list for daring to appear in front of a pile of Windows 7 boxes without lighting them on fire first? [...]
One of the things I've always liked about Torvalds is his tolerance and sense of humor.
More about Linux and Windows 7:
Will Windows 7 Change Our Minds About Microsoft?
[...] The question is, after more than 30 years of bluster, hype, deception, cluelessness, and an inexplicable lack of humility, has Microsoft really changed? Or has it just hired better marketing consultants? [...]
What Windows7 could mean for Linux
[...] So the bottom line for Linux on Windows may be simple: Windows7 is probably Microsoft’s best OS yet and will therefore slow the move the Linux in the short term, but the limitations built into Microsoft’s development stack show it to be a dead end that will leave Microsoft marketing magnificent visions of its unfolding future while quietly figuring out how and when to abandon that code base for something else - and because that something could very logically be Linux it might be time for the Linux community to start paying a lot more attention to legacy interoperability with Windows.
Linux vs Windows 7
[...] As you should be able to tell from the scope of the features we've discussed, Windows 7 marks a significant point of maturity in the development of Windows, and is what the much-maligned Vista should have been three years ago. There's still a distinct lack of innovation, but the improvements to system stability and performance are what's going to matter to most users. And most users of Windows are businesses. They're not interested in eye candy, Twitter integration and hardware acceleration. They just need Windows to be a sober working environment that doesn't get in the way of helping people work.
And this is where Linux can make a big difference. There's nothing in Windows 7 that Linux can't do, and in most cases, do it better. Our machines are quicker and more efficient. Our desktops are more innovative and less static. Our apps are more powerful, cheaper and less partisan, and Linux security has never been better. But best of all, we have complete control over the future of Linux, and it's success or failure at the hands of Windows 7 is in our hands.
Utopian Socialism and the damage it inflicts
The Dangerous Return of Utopian Socialism
Jeffrey Sachs is senior economist at the UN and author of the bestseller "Common Wealth" and the controversial Time essay "The Case for Bigger Government". In a recent interview in the Brussels newspaper De Tijd Jeffrey Sachs blames “unbridled American market capitalism” for the financial crisis and pleads in favor of the Swedish social model as an alternative. His ideological argument is revealing for the dominant utopian-socialist mind at the top of the UN.
The Swedish social model, which Sachs would like to introduce, has not the only the largest Size of Government of Western World, but also the weakest economic performance of the OECD. In 1970, Sweden still was the fourth wealthiest nation in the world. Thirty years later, Sweden had fallen to rank 17 with catastrophic social consequences. In the meantime the U.S. consistently managed to remain the second or third for more than half a century. So there is not much socio-economic wisdom to be learned from the Swedish Social Model.
Sachs also argues that "unbridled capitalism" is the cause of the current crisis. The reality is that during the last twenty years central planning progressively intruded Western economies who now bear the burden of governments spending 40% to 55% of GDP. Entrepreneurs face ever more crippling restrictions, licensing schemes, quotas and price and quality controls. Businessmen endure tens of thousands of pages of new rules and regulations each year, all written in a lawyers slangy that totally undermines the legal certainty of the free market and which transformed business into a gamble on the next political caprice and on judicial interpretations of the legal jargon. Size of government, computerized control and dirigisme has now reached a level plan economists of the Soviet Union could only dream of. Not the capitalistic system failed, but excessive dirigisme is to blame for the crisis. [...]
The article also looks at and factors in Monetary Policy, the New Monetary system, Kyoto and Emission rights, and the Market oriented Alternative. Utopian socialism is the culprit, not capitalism.
In another article, George Handlery sums it up well:
[...] Government directed and politically inspired planning and democracy do not mix well. Those condemned by government pressure or their self-inflicted errors to drink the mixture of political power and economic dominance are likely to choke while ingesting it. The foul taste comes about because the plan will be misguided and because its correction will prove to be more than difficult. That will be because concentrated political and economic power will lack the checks and balances that the ability to correct errors presumes. Political power will be devoid of checks and balances because the difficulties of the economy to deliver its promises will create a resistance that will have to be suppressed. Furthermore, the separation of economic and political power is a precondition of lived liberty. Once this separation of powers is undermined, the resulting centralized power will become openly tyrannical. That will happen because dictatorship will be possible and, due to various deficiencies, most necessary.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The Free Market CAN Fix Health Care
Yes, Mr. President: A Free Market Can Fix Health Care
In March 2009, President Barack Obama said, "If there is a way of getting this done where we're driving down costs and people are getting health insurance at an affordable rate, and have choice of doctor, have flexibility in terms of their plans, and we could do that entirely through the market, I'd be happy to do it that way." This paper explains how letting workers control their health care dollars and tearing down regulatory barriers to competition would control costs, expand choice, improve health care quality, and make health coverage more secure.
First, Congress should give Medicare enrollees a voucher and the freedom to choose any health plan on the market. Vouchers would be means-tested, would contain Medicare spending, and are the only way to protect seniors from government rationing.
Second, to give workers control over their health care dollars, Congress should reform the tax treatment of health care with "large" health savings accounts. Large HSAs would reduce the number of uninsured Americans, would free workers to purchase secure health coverage from any source, and would effectively give workers a $9.7 trillion tax cut without increasing the federal budget deficit.
Third, Congress should break up state monopolies on insurance and clinician licensing. Allowing consumers to purchase health insurance licensed by other states could cover one-third of the uninsured without any new taxes or government subsidies.
Finally, Congress should reform Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program the way it reformed welfare in 1996. Block-granting those programs would reduce the deficit and encourage states to target resources to the truly needy.
The great advantage of a free market is that innovation and more prudent decisionmaking means that fewer patients will fall through the cracks. [...]
Precisely! The current healthcare system is hamstrug with government regulations that prohibit the free market from working. The free market hasn't failed healthcare; it hasn't had a free hand to work.
The part of the article I've quoted here is just the beginning. If you follow the link, there is a PDF file with the entire policy analysis in detail.
All this could be done without creating TRILLIONS of dollars of debt, and without creating new government programs that can't be sustained.
The "Public Option"; what it really means
The Public Option Deception
[...] more than one critic has wondered aloud why Democrats don’t just give up on the public option – which is opposed by every Republican – in order to reach a more bipartisan outcome. What exactly is so important about the public option anyway? And why do Democrats in particular seem so wedded to the idea?
There is a simple answer to these questions, but it’s an answer you’ve likely not heard from any institution in the mainstream media. The truth is that the public plan is a carefully devised scheme, a sneaky strategy, to deceive American voters. It’s a political marketing ploy designed to move the nation to a single-payer system – like the one in Canada – over the next decade. The public option is the Trojan horse. On the outside it’s all about “choice and competition”, but once it has been dragged within the walls of American medicine it’s true nature will become evident. By that time, it’ll be too late.
You want proof? We’ve got plenty. [...]
And there is plenty of proof. But what good is it, if people don't hear about it?
The latest strategy the Dems are considering, to push it through, is to change the name, to Medicare for everyone, because "Medicare" is a familiar word that doesn't scare people. The Dems don't care what the name of their Trojan Horse is, as long as they can sneak it in.
Permanantly Marginalize the GOP?
Is it working? If the Dems have their way, it will:
Obama strategy: Marginalize most powerful critics
This is the first of a two-part look at the marginalization of the GOP. Tomorrow: GOP officials fear that the party's image is being defined increasingly by boisterous conservative commentators.
President Obama is working systematically to marginalize the most powerful forces behind the Republican Party, setting loose top White House officials to undermine conservatives in the media, business and lobbying worlds.
With a series of private meetings and public taunts, the White House has targeted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest-spending pro-business lobbying group in the country; Rush Limbaugh, the country’s most-listened-to conservative commentator; and now, with a new volley of combative rhetoric in recent days, the insurance industry, Wall Street executives and Fox News.
Obama aides are using their powerful White House platform, combined with techniques honed in the 2008 campaign, to cast some of the most powerful adversaries as out of the mainstream and their criticism as unworthy of serious discussion.
The campaign underscores how deeply political the Obama White House is in its daily operations — with a strong focus on redrawing the electoral map and discrediting the personalities and ideas that have powered the conservative movement over the past 20 years.
This determination has manifested itself in small ways: This president has done three times as many fundraisers as President George W. Bush had at this point in his term. And in large ones: Beginning with their contretemps with Limbaugh last winter, Obama’s most important advisers miss few opportunities for public and highly partisan shots at his most influential critics.
It’s too early to tell if the campaign is working, but it’s clearly exacerbating partisan tensions in Washington.
“They won — why don’t they act like it?” said Dana Perino, former White House press secretary to Bush. “The more they fight, the more defensive they look. It’s only been 10 months, and they’re burning bridges in a lot of different places.”
White House officials see things differently. They see an opportunity to corner critics of the president’s policies, especially on health care and financial regulations, and, in the process, further marginalize the Republican Party.
Privately, officials have talked with relish for months of the potential to isolate the GOP as a narrow party of white, Southern conservatives with little appeal to independent-minded voters.
This won’t happen overnight, but a combination of demographics — especially the explosion of a Hispanic population that has been voting for Democrats — the near-extinction of Republicans in the Northeast and the steady rightward drift of the GOP’s grass-roots activists at least makes it a plausible goal.
By design or not, nearly every Republican whom Obama has nominated for a White House job — Ray LaHood for Transportation, Judd Gregg for Commerce and John McHugh for the Army — represents an area Democrats can take back if the sitting Republican is gone. None is from the South.
So is the strategy working? White House officials point to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll to argue the answer is emphatically yes. Only 20 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Republicans, the lowest in 26 years of asking the question. [...]
Of course, the "Uber" conservatives who want to kick all the "RINOs" out of the party are playing right into the hands of this strategy. I've heard Leftists talk about this during the many years I lived in San Francisco.
They would say that the best way to destroy the Republican party is to first marginalize them. The best way to do that, is to encourage the most shrill and intolerant among the GOP to take the lead, and make them as visible and publicized as possible; make them the "face" of the GOP, to drive away moderate and independent voters.
It's a strategy they've been using for a long time, with the help of the MSM, most of whom are Democrats. And it looks to me like it's definitely working.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Groovy Interior Decorating of the 70's
In 2007 I did a post about Amusing Interior Designs of the 60's and 70's, based on a page of photos from old interior decorating magazines published on a Flickr site created by "Miss Retro Modern". Her commentary, and the comments left by her visitors, were as amusing as the photos were.
Well, Miss Retro has updated her site with some more "groovy" pics of interior design, mostly from the '70's. Below are some samples of 10 of my favorites. Some comments from the site are included below each photo.
From Miss Retro Modern's Your Swingin' Pad:
Exotic Enclave for a Colour-Keen Teen
Where can we buy that wallpaper?!
[I'm sure there's plenty of it that never sold.]
If only I could get my eyes uncrossed...
Vertigo-inducing wallpaper. Fun.
"Restraint" was not a word that was often uttered in the 70's.
Nor was the word "understated."
Bunk Beds Make Sharing Fun
"Mommy! Where are our beds? We can't see them!"
I would totally trip over those chairs. Daily.
Wow, another incredible floor. I think I would trip over the floor.
i didn't even notice the beds! bunk beds? what bunk beds! this one kinda hurts the eyes...but i do like the wall behind the beds, looks like a bunch of granny squares or hankies...which would make it easy for the snot nosed kid who lived in this room
man, what did these kids do that would deserve this kind of treatment???
oh. the seizure room. how nice.
Fun Things To Do With Fabric
Dear Lord! Who could get rest in that room?
I really can't get into that 'my bedspread matches my wallpaper' thing!
prints in moderation people!
Throw a few stains on the carpet and I swear that's the last cheap motel I stayed in.
looks like mom forgot to take her meds again
Mushroom Hell: It IS Possible
I never imagined there would be a time when I called a halt on the mushrooms in a decorating scheme ... but that time has come.
I'm disappointed, the carpet doesn't match the drapes (and tablecloth).
Wow, that's overkill, even for me.
Jeez, that is the room that half an hour after it is finished you realise you cannot live with!
Attack of the Magical Shrooms.
What's for dinner?
Why, cream of mushroom soup, of course.
With stuffed mushrooms!!
A Private Bower for Baby
For those times when you need to put baby in the crazy corner.
You know that your crazy corner is too crazy when you can't even SEE your mobile.
there is a mobile in there?
I think it's a great way to induce Charlotte Perkins Gilman Syndrome for the little lass.
This certainly explains those of us that grew up in the 70s...
Turn Your Bedroom into an Exotic Tent!
My, isn’t that restful!
turn it into an "exotic tent" and then go on an acid trip!
oooh, where is my migraine medication?!?
I will never understand all of these decorating guides that foist busily patterned bedrooms on everybody. Who could sleep in here?
I could definitely jump out of bed in the morning in this room...to get away from it!
Ohh, this reminds me of the hotel I stayed in while in Turkey!
Is it fireproof?
If ignited, it could make the Hindenburg look like burp in a gas barbecue.
For the Tuned-In Teen
Not sure what that white thing in his mouth might be, but it looks t'me like those young'ns are about to tune OUT!
Good thing they've got all that popcorn.
Popcorn and a mattress on the floor. The makings of a great weekend.
ouch,my eyes are burning!
I like that the popcorn is in a giant brandy snifter and the "children" look like they're in their 30's.
Those wiggly things on the wall are unnerving. They're like giant anemone fingers, ready to sting unwary sitters-by...
The Raggedy Ann and Andy Room
Anyone else would need to be in a straight-jacket to stay here for very long.
That bed is just so ... grim. It looks hard and uncomfortable -- as if it's a place for punishment where you sit and your butt grows numb as you contemplate the creepiness of Raggedy Andy's hat.
are the yellow slats where they tie your wrists and ankles with the sheepskin retraints? and why is it only on one side? what if little timmy falls off that side of the bed? maybe that's the torture! bwahahaha! he fell of the left side last night!
A decorating suggestion for those who truly despise their children.
I tend to agree with Sharon's analysis. One does rather expect a camera-pan over to a corner, where Rod Serling, his hands folded in front of him, is standing , making some - sort of metaphorical commentary. My first-impression on seeing this, actually was, "not only would this work as children's room, it would be even better for an insane asylum!"
A Room for a Young Liberationist
OK, now this is just creepy
Creepy ... and yet I kinda love that yellow shag carpet.
The letters F, N, and U are not on the wall....No fun?
The fun is on the carpet!!
What a relief to have found the fun.
A Room Any Lady Bunny Would Love
The rabbit deserves better.
How bout that table.
Ikea should sell them.
As for the kid, that could only be a result of heavy sedation.
I find the child frightening. But I do love that carpet!
yipes! "now i lay me down to sleep...i pray the Lord my soul to keep:...and hope that the scary chair babies don't try to steal me in teh night!
It seems like everyone was taking drugs in the 60's... and by the 70's, this was the result of their burned-out brain cells.
One could argue that decorators were more bold and adventurous back then, more willing to experiment. To be truthful, I actually DO like some of the bright colors and even some of the groovy patterns. But the way they are combined in some of these photos... what were they thinking? WERE they thinking?
Most of these are supposed to be children's bedrooms. You really have to wonder how this affected the kids who grew up in them.
Follow the link for more groovy decorating photos with catty commentary.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Windows 7: possible pitfalls to watch for?
I've heard mostly good things about Windows 7, from people who have been using the Beta Version for months now. Much has been said about how it's a considerable improvment over Windows Vista. Yet are there things we should be wary of? Here is a review that looks at both the pros and cons:
Windows 7 Review: Seven Reasons Windows 7 Could be a Success/Failure
I got my first look at Windows 7 this week and my initial reaction was "so far, so good."
"So far" being the key phrase of that statement.
New operating systems (Microsoft officially releases Windows 7 on Oct. 22) are almost always an improvement, and will almost always generate some sort of enthusiasm or buzz within the first couple months.
But until the user sits down and gets a feel for what a new OS is all about (outside the VirtualBox), you're not going to understand the product's deficiencies ... or its notable improvements.
The reality being you need at least 4-6 months under your belt before you can conclude how successful an OS is for you. And that's the bottom line, how successful is this system to you and your work environment? [...]
The author then makes the case that some of the people who are praising Windows 7, are the same people who praised Windows Vista before it was released. Fair enough.
So how should we judge it? What should we look at when we consider it's worthiness? He offers us seven reasons why Windows 7 could be a success, and seven reasons why it could be a failure. Read them and see what you think.
Here is another review:
Windows 7: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
If you have ever climbed up a sand dune you understand the meaning of the catch phrase,
two steps forward, one step back.
If you are a Microsoft Windows user, or you are in the 85% of Mac users who also own a Windows PC (according to NPD Group's 2009 Household Penetration Study) then you have also been subject to the truth of this proverb.
I am not going to harp on Vista, which seems to be the new favorite pastime of many tech bloggers, I am going to acknowledge it as an important stepping stone to Windows 7. Windows 95 and XP were solid steps forward and Vista was the step that sunk back. Windows 7 has taken the next step forward and that is good for all of us, even if it did piggy back on some features of our other favorite operation system.
Starting off, Windows 7 has made the appropriate increases and decreases. Windows 7 decreases the install time and the boot time so now you can start working as soon as your pop-tarts are done microwaving. It increases your battery life by monitoring and trimming down energy sucking background activities. This allows you to actually watch more than one episode of Lost you pirated (Ed. note: Oops, did we let him say that?) without having to plug in.
Windows 7 decreases the amount of memory that it take to open new application windows. This is fantastic for those of us who multitask e.g. Working in Photoshop, snooping google for images, listening to Pandora, and Instant Messaging your mother who just discovers what IMing was.
So, Windows 7 is full of cool interface additions and eye catching shininess that pass as productivity enhancements. However, the true test will be over time. It will take rigorous testing to prove that Windows 7 is as stable as XP and as speedy as it seems.
First Microsoft must prove that Windows 7 is actually an upgrade before the majority of the business sector will jump in. It is about time that Microsoft delivers a solid OS and stops being the leading factor for hair loss in America. [...]
The main point I seem to get from many of these reviews is, that Windows 7 is basically Windows Vista with a lot of the problems fixed or improved. It's not radically different from Vista, merely improved.
I expect for many that will be enough, but only time will tell how well it is received, and if it becomes as popular as XP was in it's hey-day.
Is Obama about to sign away our Sovereignty?
It sure sounds like it, if Monckton is right:
Lord Monckton’s warning to America
Lord Christopher Monckton, former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, spoke at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN last week on the UN Climate Change treaty scheduled to be signed in Copenhagen in December 2009. He was hosted by the Minnesota Free Market Institute.
Minnesota Majority posted the video of his speech, entitled “Is Obama Poised to Cede US Sovereignty?” [...]
Obama will sign it. Pretty much any of the Democrat leadership would. Monckton maintains that it will not be reversible, and that we must stop it now. How can we stop it, with a Democrat majority running everything?
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Will the EU force Britain to accept the Euro?
Is an attempt being made to split the Anglo-American Alliance, by collapsing the dollar? Connect the dots. From two separate articles:
France Condemns Czech President Over EU Treaty
PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy criticised Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Thursday for failing to sign the European Union's Lisbon Treaty and said there would be repercussions unless he fell into line quickly.
In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper, Sarkozy also said the fact that Britain had not adopted the euro single currency would make it difficult for former Prime Minister Tony Blair to become president of the 27-nation bloc.
Some European leaders, including Sarkozy himself, have suggested Blair would be a strong candidate, but a number of smaller countries have come out against the British politician and the French president sounded doubtful about his chances.
"The fact that Great Britain is not in the euro remains a problem," Sarkozy said.
As the US dollar continues to weaken, euro and the yen have surpassed the dollar as the favored currency by central banks:
The demise of the dollar
[...] Ever since the Bretton Woods agreements – the accords after the Second World War which bequeathed the architecture for the modern international financial system – America's trading partners have been left to cope with the impact of Washington's control and, in more recent years, the hegemony of the dollar as the dominant global reserve currency.
The Chinese believe, for example, that the Americans persuaded Britain to stay out of the euro in order to prevent an earlier move away from the dollar. But Chinese banking sources say their discussions have gone too far to be blocked now. "The Russians will eventually bring in the rouble to the basket of currencies," a prominent Hong Kong broker told The Independent. "The Brits are stuck in the middle and will come into the euro. They have no choice because they won't be able to use the US dollar."
Chinese financial sources believe President Barack Obama is too busy fixing the US economy to concentrate on the extraordinary implications of the transition from the dollar in nine years' time. The current deadline for the currency transition is 2018.
The US discussed the trend briefly at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh; the Chinese Central Bank governor and other officials have been worrying aloud about the dollar for years. Their problem is that much of their national wealth is tied up in dollar assets.
"These plans will change the face of international financial transactions," one Chinese banker said. "America and Britain must be very worried. You will know how worried by the thunder of denials this news will generate."
Iran announced late last month that its foreign currency reserves would henceforth be held in euros rather than dollars. Bankers remember, of course, what happened to the last Middle East oil producer to sell its oil in euros rather than dollars. A few months after Saddam Hussein trumpeted his decision, the Americans and British invaded Iraq.
Well I really doubt there will be an invasion this time. Europe wanted a weaker America, so they can advance their own plans. It looks like they are getting what they wanted. But how far will it go, and at what cost to us? Hastening the collapse of the dollar, to force Britain to accept the Euro as their currency?
Note I said "hastening", not causing. The causes for the weakening dollar have more to do with the actions of our own government, than anyone else. How long before it's too late to turn that around? Or is it already too late?
Iran's Guards get Suicide Bombed
And of course, they blame the US:
Suicide bomber attacks Iran's Guards, kills 31
Reporting from Cairo and Tehran - In a brazen attack on Iran's military elite, a suicide bomber today killed five Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders and 26 others at a gathering of tribal leaders in a southeastern province near the Pakistan border that's known for drug running and religious extremism, according to the official Iranian news agency.
The assault was carried out by a lone man who reportedly disguised himself in tribal dress and detonated an explosives belt at a gymnasium in the city of Pisheen in the Sistan-Baluchistan province, a harsh land plagued by heroin smuggling and ethnic animosities. At least 28 people were wounded in the carnage, images of which were broadcast across a stunned nation.
Iran state-owned Press TV reported that a simultaneous second bombing targeted another group of Revolutionary Guard officers traveling in a convoy near Pisheen. There were no numbers on casualties, and the report could not be independently confirmed.
State media said the Sunni Muslim militant group Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, which operates along the Iran-Pakistan border, claimed responsibility for the attack. The organization, part of a regional Sunni insurgency in Shiite-dominated Iran, has for years killed and kidnapped Iranian soldiers and police officers.
Iran's post-election unrest also may have inspired today's bloodshed. Jundallah had vowed to take revenge on the Revolutionary Guard for cracking down on protestors marching against the disputed June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The peaceful opposition movement led by vanquished presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi never associated itself with Jundallah, but some analysts suggest the group had plotted the attack to exploit the political turmoil at a time when the Revolutionary Guard is tightening its hold on the country.
"It was a measure to show that IRGC is susceptible and penetrable. A suicide bomber infiltrated a gathering that was supposedly held under tight security because of the presence of the high-ranking IRGC commanders," said Mashaallah Shamsul Waezin , a political analyst in Tehran. "And, secondly, the timing was important because IRGC is associated with the heavy crackdown against post-election protesters, so the terrorist attack can be an intensified echo of public opinion."
The Revolutionary Guard and hard-line politicians blamed "global arrogance" for the bombing and said the U.S. was funding and arming Jundallah and other militant groups to overthrow the Ahmadinejad government. The accusations came the day before officials from the U.S. and other world powers were to meet in Vienna on Monday with Iranian delegates over Tehran's nuclear program. [...]
The Iranian theocracy blaming foreigners is predictable. But they have a lot of internal turmoil being generated by their own actions, and I expect their troubles are only just beginning.
And speaking of Iran's internal problems, Iranian blogger Azarmehr has an interesting post, comparing the pre-revolutionary political trials conducted by the Shah, with the trials happening under the current theocratic Theocracy:
Political Trials under the Shah and in Islamic Republic
Most notable is the coerced, scripted confessions.
Solidarity with Hengameh
Five Death Sentences Now
Our Brother Has Nothing to do with MeK
Thursday, October 15, 2009
HP uses it's Compaq brand to aim for a larger share of the low end PC and "Netbook" market
When HP acquired Compaq, they used that brand as their low-end computer line. But what is new is, that they are going to start offering even lower-priced computers, including full-blown laptops at Netbook prices:
HP jump-starting Compaq brand with ultra-cheap machines
[...] Today the company is announcing the rollout of a line of ultra-inexpensive PCs, both laptops and desktops, with extreme budgets in mind.
Consider first the Compaq CQ61z (pictured), a 15.6-inch laptop with an AMD Sempron CPU, 2GB of RAM, DVD burner, 160GB hard drive, and discrete graphics. Running Windows 7 Home Premium, the machine costs a nearly unfathomable $399. That price point probably sounds familiar -- it's the usual cost for your average netbook, which in comparison offers a tiny screen, minimal hard drive, and an ultra-low-power Atom CPU.
With the $400 laptop's arrival, Compaq wants potential buyers to ask: Why not jump up to a much larger and more capable system for exactly the same price? I'm having a hard time seeing any reason not to. Seriously, it even has a numeric keypad.
Even better bargains abound for desktop shoppers. The attractive Compaq Presario 4010f has similar specs (with a 250GB hard drive) and starts at just $309 after a $100 rebate.
Both systems are available on Windows 7 launch day, October 22. [...]
I bought a Compaq desktop computer a few years ago, that I've not been real impressed with. It seems to have heat-sink problems. I've gotten some advice on how to repair it, but it's daunting; one mistake, and it's ruined.
Perhaps I damaged the heat-sink by adding a 2nd hard drive without upgrading the power supply first; I don't know. But because of this problem, I would be cautious about buying another Compaq desktop.
On the other hand, we have a Compaq laptop that been a very durable trooper. I've found that there isn't a lot of difference between HP and Compaq laptops, mostly the differences are only model numbers and styling. If this laptop turns out to be the same, it could be a really good deal. I'll wait for the reviews.
New HP Compaq Notebook and Desktops: CQ61z, 4010f and 500B
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The euro and the yen have surpassed the dollar as the favored currency by central banks
From Neal Boortz:
HOW'S THE HOPEY, CHANGEY, SPENDY THING WORKING OUT FOR YA?
When Barack Obama was elected, he and the Democrats insisted that we could spend our way out of this crisis. Remember that? Remember the $787 billion stimulus bill that needed to be passed IMMEDIATELY in order to start our economy on its way to recovery? Yeah ... the bill that was essentially written by hard-left, anti-capitalistic activist groups like The Apollo Alliance. Well more than six months later, we have unemployment creeping up on 10%. And we have this ..... from Bloomberg:
President Barack Obama's effort to lead the world economic recovery by spending the U.S. out of its recession is undermining the dollar, triggering record commodities rallies as investors scour the globe for hard assets.
Did you hear that, folks? Isn't that just wonderful? Isn't that just the type of change you voted for? All of this spending ... all of this printing of money ... all of these government dreams and schemes and bailouts .... they are starting to affect America. Big time.
The dollar went into "crisis mode" earlier this week when the euro and the yen surpassed the dollar as the favored currency by central banks.
Thank you Oh Great Chosen One ... the American dollar on the back bench. That's the type of change we voted for, isn't it?
Then we get reports like this from the New York Post:
After printing up trillions of new dollars and new bonds to stimulate the US economy, the Federal Reserve chief is now boxed into a corner battling two separate monsters that could devour the economy -- ravenous inflation on one hand, and a perilous recession on the other.
"He's in a crisis worse than the meltdown ever was," said Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital. "I fear that he could be the Fed chairman who brought down the whole thing."
Bringing "the whole thing" down! Even MORE change you can believe in!
Don't you see what has happened here, folks? Obama has succeeded in weakening America. Low interest rates, flooding the economy with money by simply printing it, a mounting pile of debt. So now ask you again ... how's this hopey, changey, spendy thing working out for ya? Better yet, how is it going to work out for your grandchildren?
I keep hearing on from the MSM that the recession is over, yet unemployment continues to rise. And that continues to affect what could otherwise be a recovery:
HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT ADDS TO THE DEFICIT
Speaking of unemployment ... that, too, is having an impact on our massive government deficit, which is currently $1.4 trillion in 2009. This makes perfect sense if you think about it.
High unemployment means two things: more taxpayer dollars spent on unemployment checks and less tax revenue. This will cost the government about $100 billion a year.
I bring this up for one reason and one reason only. The Democrat solution to this is to throw more money at the unemployed ... to extend unemployment benefits. In the meantime, they wish to increase taxes on the very people who would be able to create jobs for these people .. to get them off the government dole. Creating jobs, not spending money, is the solution.
There. How hard was that?
I don't see anything being done to create jobs, only things being done to cripple, limit and restrain those who can, could and would create jobs.
If you think that a 1.4 TRILLION dollar deficit is bad, consider that our national debt is pushing 12 TRILLION dollars, and climbing:
U.S. NATIONAL DEBT CLOCK
Our situation is becoming increasingly unsustainable, as we continue to do exactly the wrong things to get out of the hole our government is digging us into.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Has US Currency already "collapsed"?
A post I did a while back, "What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?", has been getting more hits and rising up in my site meter. I found out it's been linked to at Ask.com, regarding the search words "currency collapse". I went to that page, and there were many interesting links to that topic. Here are a few that I found informative:
How Does a Currency Collapse? and the U.S. $?
When a currency loses the confidence of its people, its fall becomes exponential, as has happened to the Zimbabwe $, where in 1982 one U.S.$ equalled 1 Zimbabwe $. Today around Z$200,000 buys one U.S. $ if you can find someone idiot enough to sell one for the Z$.
In day-to-day terms, the smallest note in Zimbabwe a Z$500 is the size of a U.S.$. The price of a single-ply sheet of toilet paper is more expensive at around Z$867.
The U.S.$ is nowhere near there, but clearly the U.S. Administration has no plan or even desire to rectify the U.S. Trade deficit. Consequently, we are seeing a growing number of Central Banks turning to the Euro for its reserves and away from the U.S.$.
Whilst most observers and particularly U.S. observers like to have tangible facts and numbers with which to mathematically gauge the present and the different possible futures, a collapsing currency situation is not as neatly gaugeable. Indeed it is driven in stages of ‘confidence’, which are rarely measurable in advance.
For instance we see today the move of the Pension and other long-term funds into the gold E.T.F. one finds there are no mathematically measurable factors with which to measure the pace of change to these funds. Yes, the number of ‘Road-shows’ the World Gold Council does affects this move to some extent, but how do you measure the spread of that knowledge and resulting investment in the E.T.F.s outside of that? How does one measure the forces causing uncertainty and falling ‘confidence’.
It is an emotional progression, one that moves in lurches as particular incidents destroy confidence limb by limb. In such a climate a steady degeneration of confidence lead to an effect we shall call a "plateau - cliff" process.[...]
Read the whole thing. See the steps of the "process". See the graph. Yikes.
Then James Turk does an interview with Moneychanger.com. Turk maintains that our currency has already collapsed, that we are already in the "process", and it just hasn't reached critical mass yet. The interviewer argues forcefully against Turks assessments, but Turk holds his ground, answering a lot of good questions by the interviewer. Here's a sample:
JAMES TURK ON THE DOLLAR’S COMING COLLAPSE
Moneychanger Since, at least the New Deal and the succession of Roosevelt and all his monetary/inflationary tricks, people have been predicting that the dollar would collapse. Aren’t you ashamed to come along 70 years later and predict again that the dollar is going to collapse?
Turk By any logical interpretation the dollar has already collapsed. Today’s dollar only purchases five cents of what it purchased in the 1930s, ten cents of what it purchased in the 1960-70s, and maybe 50 cents of what it purchased in the 1980s. So inflation has already brought the dollar to an ongoing collapse. The sound money people have been warning about this through the decades: the dollar is no longer an effective form of currency.
That raises another question: will the dollar’s problems become more severe? That’s where it becomes a bit more troublesome in terms of projecting and looking at the future. Can this decades-long situation continue, or must it end in some cataclysm? In our view it must come to end in a cataclysm, and that’s what we lay out in the book.
Moneychanger But isn’t the word “collapse” misleading? The people who mange the dollar, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, have managed the collapse from 1934 until 2004, 70 years, so that the economy did not collapse along with the dollar. Can you really call that a collapse? Also, what’s to prevent their managing it a bit longer, through this decade? Even if it loses (as I expect) at least 75% of its value in this decade -- and it’s already lost nearly 30% from February 2002 to March 2004 -- it still won’t disrupt the economy too terribly.
Turk Let’s look at the first part of that question, the claim that the economy hasn’t collapsed. You’re widening the point that I was making earlier about the dollar collapsing in terms of purchasing power. When you bring the economy into the discussion you have to ask yourself another question. Are people better off now than they were 20-30 years ago? Looking at real wealth and adjusting for the dollar’s debasement, people are less wealthy today than they were 20-30 years ago. Incomes are lower today than they were 20-30 years ago, partly because the dollar’s been debased, partly because people take home less money after taxes. By any logical measure, I don’t think people are as well off as they were in the 1960s or 1950s when the dollar problems weren’t as severe as they’ve become in recent decades.
But there’s more to that question: we’ve created a debt mountain, a debt bubble. Bubbles always pop. We mortgaged our future trying to maintain standards of living by debasing the currency and borrowing. This is unsustainable and will ultimately bring about the dollar’s collapse.
Moneychanger But the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have managed the collapse. That’s what they do. They are crisis managers. They exist to manage the debasement of the dollar so that this infection does not give the whole economy a fever resulting in death. Would you agree?
Turk Yes, and as a clear result of their managing an unsustainable situation, we have less and less freedom. The Patriot Act just presents the latest example. Look at US financial history. They continue to erode and encumber our freedom. Why? Because they recognise that the present system is not sustainable and they are trying to keep the bubble in the air.
Moneychanger You claim the present system is not sustainable. Allan Greenspan says it is. George Bush says it is.
Turk Well, are they going to tell you that it’s not sustainable?
Moneychanger No, but they have 70 years of success to argue on their side. What makes it different this time? In the dollar’s darkest hours of 1980, when gold hit $850 and silver $50 and they pushed interest rates over 20%, well, yes, it’s a crisis, but we’ll muddle through this one, too. They’ve been muddling through since 1934. What is to prevent their muddling through this time? What specific things will make the dollar collapse this time? By “collapse” I don’t mean “erode” or even “erode quickly”, but I mean collapse in the sense that currency collapsed in Germany in 1923 or Argentina in 2002.
Turk That is exactly what I envision for the dollar. To answer your question we have to consider both supply and demand. In recent decades demand for the dollar has been, more or less, fairly consistent. As the financial bubble has been inflated and the Debt Mountain was built, people have continued to demand the dollar. They still use it for their day to day transactions. But what happened in Argentina and in Germany in the 1920s? Eventually, in a very short period of time, people realised that the hollow promises they were using for currency weren't worth what they had previously valued them to be. Then began the flight from the currency. The demand for those currencies dropped dramatically. In a long-term time frame, you could say almost overnight, but it was really over a period of weeks and months. People moved out of that currency as quickly as they could into other alternatives.
Demand for the dollar will ultimately drop for essentially the same reasons that demand for the Argentine peso and the Reichsmark dropped: they were fiat currencies oversupplied to the market.
Today far too many dollars are sloshing around the global economy. All it takes is a little break in confidence, then people quickly understand that the dollar is not worth the paper it’s printed on. There are a lot of hollow promises backing your dollar. That will lead to the flight from the currency that will ultimately bring the dollar down. But it’s the same outcome for every fiat currency. That’s the point that Americans don’t yet get. There is no logical reason why the dollar should end any differently than any other fiat currency.
Moneychanger But help me see the unseen. In 1923 Germany the people had already suffered through the inflation of World War I. They had seen their currency lose value as prices rose 800%, they had caught on. That “catching on” was necessary to precipitate the flight from the currency.
In Argentina in the decades of the 1980s and 90s, they had three different currencies, if I’m not mistaken. It may have been four, I can’t keep up with it. All Latin America has a century-long tradition of monetary instability. In the U.S. the last two generations have grown up without seeing gold in circulation, the last generation has grown up without seeing silver in circulation. Since 1971, the whole world has been on a fiat standard. Every currency has been inconvertible, backed by nothing. So why would American confidence break now? They don’t know anything else. They have only known a regime of inflation and ever-depreciating dollars. What will put the idea in their mind now that they have to flee out of dollars?
Turk What will trigger the flight from the dollar? We can’t really predict that. It could be some geopolitical event, some domestic financial event, a bankruptcy of Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. We just don’t know what the specific trigger will be.
Look at the overall picture of what the dollar is today, and ask yourself a question. Do I want to prepare for this coming event by moving assets out of dollars into other alternatives – other currencies, precious metals, tangible assets. Never mind asking what specific event will starts the flight.
Where we stand today in this country is not unlike where Russians stood in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. If you had possessed the terrific foresight to say that in two years the Russian Rouble will collapse and the Soviet Union will be history, the average Russian would have just laughed at you. And you know what he would have said? “The government will never let that happen.” Exactly what Americans say today.
“The government will never let that happen.”
But the reality is that the market is bigger than the government. Truth can be hid for only so long, and we have been hiding the truth. We’ve been creating illusions of prosperity, while in reality we’ve been consuming infrastructure and building a debt mountain. The Debt Mountain is ultimately going to be the problem that causes the dollar to collapse. [...]
Turk claims that a sound currency was written into our constitution, and he predicts the American people will demand that we go back to it. And that we have not had a sound currency since 1934.
Also, this interview was made in 2004. Yet he predicts some things that have since happened, or are happening now. Do read the whole thing.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Lunar crashes: No plume, just ... data.
Moon crash: Public yawns, scientists celebrate
WASHINGTON — NASA's great lunar fireworks finale fizzled. After gearing up for the space agency's much-hyped mission to hurl two spacecraft into the moon, the public turned away from the sky Friday anything but dazzled. Photos and video of the impact showed little more than a fuzzy white flash.
In social media and live television coverage, many people were disappointed at the lack of spectacle. One person even joked that someone hit the pause button in mission control.
Yet scientists involved in the project were downright gleeful. Sure, there were no immediate pictures of spewing plumes of lunar dust that could contain water, but, they say, there was something more important: chemical signatures in light waves. That's the real bonanza, not pictures of geyser-like eruptions of debris, the scientists said.
The mission was executed for "a scientific purpose, not to put on a fireworks display for the public," said space consultant Alan Stern, a former NASA associate administrator for science.
Scientists said the public expected too much. The public groused as if NASA delivered too little.
The divide was as big as a crater.
The key is not in photographs but in squiggly lines that show those complicated light waves, Colaprete said. Once they are analyzed — a task that may take weeks — the light waves will show whether water was present at the crash site.
"It wasn't a dud. We got a gold mine of data," said Kaku, a professor at the City College of New York and host of "Sci Q Sundays" on the Science Channel. If those squiggly lines show there is ice just under the surface of the moon, it would make the lack of pictures worth it, he said.
"Ice is more valuable than gold on the moon," Kaku said.
For about a decade, scientists have speculated about buried ice below the moon's poles. Then surprising new research last month indicated that there seem to be tiny amounts of water mixed into the lunar soil all over the moon, making the moon once again a more interesting target for scientists.
But a discovery of ice later this month would not be quite the same as seeing promised flashes through a telescope. [...]
NASA should not have hyped it up so much. Data that may only be weeks or months away is boring to the public.
I hope they do find water. If they don't, then our back-to-the-moon program could be scrapped.
Obama's Nobel. Is anyone really surprised?
Neal sums it up nicely:
So ... you want to know what is going on here? I mean, come on! Barack Obama, president for what, nine months now? And he gets the Nobel Peace Prize?
Hopefully you weren't all that surprised.
Let's work through this thing. First - you have to come up with a definition of "peace." There's a Nobel Prize for physics; one for medicine too. In virtually every culture and every country in the world you define "physics" and "medicine" pretty much the same way. Not so for "peace." During the post World-War II the Soviet Union defined "peace' as "an absence of opposition to world Communism." As long as nobody was challenging their communist expansionism they felt we were all at peace. Let some country; The United States for instance, challenge their plans for world domination and ... no more peace.
For me any definition of "peace" must have a component dedicated to freedom. You can, after all, live a life of peace in a jail cell, so long as there isn't someone there to stir things up. You're not free, but peace reigns.
Now ... to Obama and the Peace Prize. I take you back again to that Pew Research poll conducted in Europe last year. Almost 60% of Europeans who responded to the poll wanted America to be less powerful in world affairs. That's not an uncommon sentiment - right up until the time some other country is threatening to kick some international tail.
So ... along comes the Nobel committee. Can we reasonably assume that this committee reflects much of the European attitude? I mean, they're not exactly headquartered in Boise. They look at the nominations before them, and there's PrezBO! Now what has Obama done in the past nine or so months? Why, he's given the Euro-weenies just exactly what they wanted! Now we have a United States with a weaker presence in world affairs! Russia and China are striving for military domination. Obama backs off the American promise of a shield against Iran's missiles for Eastern Europe. Then we have the Arab states reportedly working to replace the dollar as the petroleum trading currency. Today there are suggestions that Obama is just going to declare that the Taliban are too entrenched in Afghanistan for us to possibly prevail there - a prelude to a cut and run. Does any of this sound like a projection of strength? Of course not. America is projecting feel-good, hopey-changey weakness at every turn.
This was a message to Obama. Europe likes your style. You're giving us exactly what we wanted --- what we asked for. You're weakening the United States; for us, the key to peace.
Oh ... and don't forget the slap in the face for George Bush. Bush is in office for eight years. He responds strongly to the attacks from terrorist Muslims. He frees iraq from a ruthless dictator and his rapist sons. He projects American strength .. and Europe hates him for it. So ... the Nobel committee comes along and delivers a slapdown.
For those who define peace as an living free of threats to your natural right to be free ... this just isn't your day, is it?
Well ... at least this will give Newsweek a reason to put Obama on the cover again.
The Peace Prize is funded by European arms manufacturers. Mabye they figure a weak America will be good for their business. No American "peace through strength" to get in their way.
"Nobel observers shocked by unexpected choice"