Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good Lord, Have Mercy! Did You SEE This!!?? (plus, Professor Mojo's Scary Crystal Ball Prediction)

Bad News For The Bailout - Forbes.com:
(S)ome of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.
"It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number." [emphasis added]
The government can't even figure out how much money they supposedly need, and so they make it "a really large number" and get both major parties' leaderships to run around yelling, "Doomsday!" Is this hubris, sheer stupidity, or both?


History can be cyclical. Scarily, I see pieces falling into place for a major global war in 10-15 years, if not sooner. This is largely predicated on the belief that America will enter a severe economic crisis, that interventionist politics will prolong the crisis, and that America's lack of attention to foreign affairs in the interim will permit the rise of at least one major nation-state enemy who will directly and forcefully challenge American power, up to and including a military assault/major terrorist attack (with ensuing claim of responsibility). The ensuing war will permit the government to expand even more forcefully. Hayek argued as much in Road to Serfdom. Orwell in 1984 picked up from there.

Monday, September 29, 2008

And They Listened! (Maybe...)

Today the House defeated the bailout package, with a large number of defections from the Democratic leadership's official line. Republicans, too, refused to support President Bush in the matter.

The medicine is going to be bitter. Unemployment is going to continue to go up. There will be some panic movement of money on Wall Street. People tend to forget that Wall Street isn't significantly more intelligent that Main Street, and is prone to sheep-like behavior as much as the next mob. But if the government intervenes, it only sets the stage for the next bailout, plus it gives it more excuses to intervene where it has no business.

But probably, they will try again before the week is out, probably with enough pork and special favors to sway the swing voters.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Calling J.P. Morgan

Calling J.P. Morgan. I have refrained from commenting too much on the proposed/pending governmental bail-out, because either way it goes, things are going to be rough. I would point out that it was Woodrow Wilson, fearful of the power of magnates such as Morgan, who brought the Federal Reserve System into being as a way of reducing the influence of private actors. Ironically, increasing numbers of economic historians are pointing to the Fed as making the problem worse instead of better, particularly in regard to the Great Depression.

Still, I want everyone to repeat after me:
1. The FDIC is stable and secure, as is the FSLIC.
2. There is no need to hide money under the mattress.
3. Pulling money out of the bank will only make things worse if everyone does it.
4. This problem only exists because stupid banks made stupid loans to stupid people.
5. The government did not help anyone by encouraging banks to make aforesaid stupid choices.
6. The government will only be encouraging this sort of behavior in the future by bailing out the stupid banks.
7. The government is full of stupid people of both major parties, so putting them in charge could would make things even worse.
8. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

In Memoriam: Paul Newman

Paul Newman has died. Truly one of the finest Hollywood had left.

Over a round of hold'em (yes, my break is over, and yes, I have been winning), we began discussing Newman's career and lamenting that no one could fill his shoes. One of my colleagues disputed that, saying that Matt Damon could pull off Cool Hand Luke. Perhaps, I intoned, but not Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and certainly not The Sting. This led to a wide-ranging speculation on who could fill what roles in which movies. Here are a few that I came up with:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I may someday vote for a Democrat --but not this year, and NEVER for any clown who says this

Ben Smith's Blog: Biden garbles Depression history - Politico.com:
"When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed," Biden told Couric. "He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'"
Sweet Mary McGillicuddy!!! Whomever he plagiarized this time wasn't worth copying!

That's okay. Obama is going to channel FDR once elected and we can relive it all personally --with Biden being relegated to the role of Cactus Jack Garner (only less influential).

Hey there, all you greasers... It's time for Sha Na Na!!!

Sha Na Na: Founders of the Modern Conservative Movement --go read it. I'm serious. Dip dip dip dip dip dip dip dip bow....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wanna See Where Our Beach Cabin Used To Be?

(Image courtesy of the NOAA)
Download the picture and look for the "red square" near the highway towards the right-hand border. That is the red concrete slab for Bryan Wolf's Trading Post --which had long-since been burned down but the slab is still very recognizable. Look seaward and slightly to the left of that new tidal inlet: that's where our beach cabin once stood.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike Aftermath

Today I learned the tricks of the roofing trade: your butt is a useful third foot when it comes to steeply-pitched roofs. I helped my neighbor repair his roof (tarping) and it was a challenge. We had to make steps out of 1x3's as we went, then we ended up hauling up the ladder and using it (in a very non-recommended manner) to lower ourselves down a steep pitch to hammer boards. Don't tell Mrs., this will make her yell at me for being Less Than Prudent. ("But Mrs., you gave me the ladder for Christmas!") Also, when you take up the steps, go back and fill the nail holes with roofing tar. It's a Good Thing. His roof is far worse than mine: he lost the entire ceiling of his upstairs playroom when the sheetrock collapsed from water weight. We got his done, and then we got mine done. And then it was Happy Hour.

Power is still on here and probably will be for the duration. Many of my friends now have power, but that's a drop in the bucket for the area. My campuses took moderate to severe damage, and we will probably be taking the whole week off. The people in SE Texas are reliving all of their Rita nightmares in full Technicolor, only worse.

My family used to have a beach cabin in Gilchrist. Used to. Satellite imagery shows the entire town has literally been wiped from the face of the Earth. Not even a slab remains of the foundation. In fact, if I read the image correctly, there's now a tiny tidal inlet there now. I'm glad we took the Wee One earlier this year.

Insurance adjuster called me back today, yay! With luck I'll have on-site assessment within a week.

Running local joke: we should all get our FEMA checks, road-trip to New Orleans, and spend all our money on booze and gambling, while criticizing the locals for not being "understanding." It's OUR turn now, damnit!

Friday, September 12, 2008

I like Ike, you like Ike, everybody likes Ike For President (but not for an extended visit)

Family Mojo is hunkering down in place in the face of the biggest storm to hit this part of the Gulf of Mexico (in terms of sheer surge) since Hurricanes Carla and Ivan. We are well out of even the 500-year flood plain, so no worries there. Our location is slated (as of this writing) to experience winds around 70mph but probably not much higher. There is a distinct possibility that we will lose power for at least 24 hours once the storm makes landfall.

I have put a brisket on the smoker overnight, and we are well-stocked on all other provisions, including canned baby formula. We have less than $500 in groceries in the fridge, so even in the event of an extended outage, I'm not all that worried. Plenty of hard liquor, too. The Cap'n has a generator, so if we lose A/C for more than two days, we will likely go camp over there.

UPDATE: We lost power at 8:30 Friday night, just as we were bathing the Wee One. The weather wasn't even bad yet, save for some wind. What we now think happened was that Centerpoint Entergy shut down our grid as a pre-emptive against blown transformers. A long and scary night with howling wind ensued, punctuated by Mrs. waking me at 3:30 ( we were downstairs on the air mattress) with "Omigod the roof's leaking!" Sure enough, I went into the attic while the 70+ m.p.h. wind blew just the other side of my roofing, and there was water coming in. A few pots and pans later, I went back to bed.

The morning: shingles shingles everywhere, some of them are mine! We lost a handful of shingles, but not many, though there is an exposed patch of roofing plywood visible. The water did damage the ceiling, but most of that was wind-blown rain coming in via the soffit. We lost water pressure around noon, and we were contemplating leaving on Monday. HOWEVER, after a recon trip to soak up some vehicle-induced A/C, we arrived back at the homestead and the instant we walked in the door, the power came back on. Centerpoint's gambit apparently worked: once the main transmission lines to our vicinity were proven sound, they re-initiated service.

And I've even managed to already finish my online registration for FEMA! God Bless America!!!

UPDATE II: Mrs.'s Parents came to spend the night to take advantage of the A/C. As we were debating breakfast this morning, everything went dark again. This on top of a new round of rain that (while the power was on) allowed me to take a really good look at the leaks in the roof. It's not super-bad outside today, so I spent a lot of time reading Scottish history. And then, just as Mrs. and I were debating what time to head down to her folks's place (irony: theirs came back on as ours went out), the lights returned. I'm staying here to guard against mischief while she and the Wee One go down there to spend the night.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yet Another Reason I Have Long Since Quit Taking Seriously The NYT

The Gray Lady Experience:
The New York Times editorial board scoffs at Sarah Palin and her qualifications to be Vice President. In its lead editorial, the Gray Lady states that Palin has no “national or foreign policy experience” and is therefore unqualified to be “standy president”. For some reason, they don’t seem troubled at all about Barack Obama’s complete lack of foreign-policy experience or his short three years in the Senate, two of which he’s spent running for the top job...

And on experience, the Newsbusters note that the Paper of Record doesn’t bother checking its own. In a July 1984 editorial, the New York Times wrote a stirring defense of finding running mates from outside the established political class, especially to find a woman to join the ticket — and wondered why mayors didn’t get more interest from presidential nominees...
[Quote from June 1984 NYT Editorial]
Presidential candidates have always chosen their running mates for reasons of practical demography, not idealized democracy. One might even say demography is destiny: this candidate was chosen because he could deliver Texas, that one because he personified rectitude, that one because he appealed to the other wing of the party. On occasion, Americans find it necessary to rationalize this rough-and-ready process. What a splendid system, we say to ourselves, that takes little-known men, tests them in high office and permits them to grow into statesmen. This rationale may even be right, but then let it also be fair. Why shouldn’t a little-known woman have the same opportunity to grow? We may even be gradually elevating our standards for choosing Vice Presidential candidates. But that should be done fairly, also. Meanwhile, the indispensable credential for a Woman Who is the same as for a Man Who - one who helps the ticket.
They're right: such sage words must obviously only apply to Democrats. Republicans can't pick people like that.

LookitUp: what do Sarah Palin and Teddy Roosevelt have in common?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Some of my favorite quotes by Margaret Thatcher

"Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country."

"Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and importance, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction."

"Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy."

"I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left."

"I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end."

"I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph."

I bet if Thatcher had been an American, she'd have gone to Alaska and shot her own moose.

(courtesy of eQuotes)

Hurricane Watch Again

Looking at the latest model runs for Hurricane Ike, I am not happy. The models are slowly moving westward, pushing the eventual recurvature of the storm well into the Gulf of Mexico. I had planned on calling for my POD to come back from the storage depot so we could begin arrangements, but I am putting that on hold until I have a clearer picture of what's what.

I did a quick Google trying to see if anyone had done analysis for which model has been the most successful over the last five years in predicting landfall from 96 hours out, given the parameters of a storm originating outside the Gulf of Mexico, passing between Florida and the Yucatan and into the Gulf in the months of September and October. Now I know 96 hours out is a large uncertainty, but I'm curious as to which model has done the best job all the same. I'm sure some wonk in the energy analysis section of a major Wall Street fund has this, if not some PhD candidate at a major meteorological school. Upside: many drilling rigs will not have fully restarted production and will be in a position to resecure and evacuate in short order.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Why Does Campaign Experience Count?

The Volokh Conspiracy - Why Does Campaign Experience Count?:
Th[e] argument seems a bit tautological: A candidate who runs for President has sufficient experience to be President because he ran for President. Any candidate who runs a successful campaign is qualified due to that success, and that a candidate's lack of experience will be cured if only we support him or her so they can campaign long enough to be qualified. It also suggests that any candidate that has not imploded by November is, ipso facto, qualified for the job.
Last night I watched Part IV of John Adams on DVD. McCullough's portrayal of Washington is that of a man deeply sensible to his role in history, howbeit reluctant --he honestly did not want to be President. The man whispered when he took the oath of office because he did not want to seem proud (nb not just actor's prerogative, that's how it went down). Washington exhibited gravitas, a virtue sorely lacking in today's politics. To be qualified for President because one basically "wants" to be President --this would have been anathema.