Friday, April 30, 2010

The Best.

Chet Baker.

Chart of the day.

From Investors Business Daily.

The other day in Springfield Illinois.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What the Tea Party Movement is Really About.

Most commenters dismiss the TP as a nuisance deserving only to be ignored. Some go a little farther. David Brooks fears the TP because, as he notes, some TPers are independents, not Republicans, and their few percentage points are enough to swing lots of elections. Noam Chomsky fears the TP because he sees in it the germ of an American Nazi party that is only waiting for its charismatic Hitler to emerge and destroy the world with military power that, unlike Germany’s in 1939, is unchallengeable.

Here’s what the TP itself really fears, in an inchoate way that for most of its members doesn’t rise to the level of clear understanding, but is still intuitively very powerful: the US is embracing central planning as a governing theory, as fast as our legislative processes will allow.

Central planning has a long record of failure, but Americans have always believed that we know how to succeed where others can’t. That leads to the hubris of people like Barack Obama, who says “YES WE CAN!

Read the whole thing.


Risk-Pricing, Goldman Sachs and Congress.

Maybe Goldman sold investors some rotten eggs. Maybe not. So what? Goldman argues that it is being "railroaded by Congress for performing a normal market function—pricing risk and providing investment opportunities for grown-up investors," which strikes me as precisely right. It is a central tenet of the federal securities laws that you're allowed to sell rotten eggs, so long as you disclose that they're rotten. So long as Goldman fully disclosed all material facts, the fact that Goldman thought the securities being sold were "shitty," as one scatological email reference by an unwise trader put it, is not a breach of the securities laws.

More here.

Japan Forces Bureaucrats to Defend Spending.

TOKYO — Seeking to bring its spiraling debt under control, Japan has undertaken an unlikely exercise: lawmakers are forcing bureaucrats to defend their budgets at public hearings and are slashing wanton spending.

Sounds like something we should copy.


The Insurance Mandate in Peril.

A"tell" in poker is a subtle but detectable change in a player's behavior or demeanor that reveals clues about the player's assessment of his hand. Something similar has happened with regard to the insurance mandate at the core of last month's health reform legislation. Congress justified its authority to enact the mandate on the grounds that it is a regulation of commerce. But as this justification came under heavy constitutional fire, the mandate's defenders changed the argument—now claiming constitutional authority under Congress's power to tax.

This switch in constitutional theories is a tell: Defenders of the bill lack confidence in their commerce power theory. The switch also comes too late. When the mandate's constitutionality comes up for review as part of the state attorneys general lawsuit, the Supreme Court will not consider the penalty enforcing the mandate to be a tax because, in the provision that actually defines and imposes the mandate and penalty, Congress did not call it a tax and did not treat it as a tax.

More here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Airlines' golden age wasn't so golden.

If you think about air travel 50 years ago, you probably envision smartly dressed businessmen reclining in big, comfy seats and enjoying elaborate meals. Meanwhile, attractive young stewardesses fawn over their customers -- the legendary "coffee, tea or me" days. Those days weren't, however, as glamorous as you might imagine.

I have a copy of TWA's flight schedule from June 1, 1959. The first jets were being introduced into the fleet, but the vast majority of flights were still on propeller-driven aircraft. There's an ad in the timetable for TWA's low coast-to-coast "excursion fares." Los Angeles to New York was only $168.40 roundtrip, if you traveled Monday through Thursday in Sky Club Coach class. That bargain is roughly equivalent to $1,225 today, before tax.

These fares weren't valid on the fastest aircraft, so you had only two options, neither of which went nonstop. There was the 10:10 a.m. departure from Los Angeles that arrived in New York at 11:41 p.m. that night or the 7:55 p.m. departure that arrived at 10:56 a.m. the next day -- more than 12 hours in the air. This was on a Lockheed Constellation, which, while beautiful, bounced you around in the weather at about 20,000 feet, far below the 35,000 to 40,000 feet you'd cruise at today. Even when the weather was good, that trademark prop vibration left you feeling like you were sitting on a washing machine for hours after you landed.

So what exactly was so good about the old days? The service was excellent, and the meals in First Class were quite indulgent. But in Sky Club Coach, the timetable noted, "Box lunches must be purchased at airport before departure." As in most cases, memories get better with age. Today, you can fly across the country in less than half the time for less than a quarter of the inflation-adjusted price, and you can watch TV or surf the Web along the way.


Carlsberg Brewery Workers Strike in Denmark After Bosses Tell Staff They Can Only Drink at Lunchtime.

The money quote:

He added that the company's trucks have been fitted with alcohol locks so that drivers would not be able to drink too much and drive.


Dead Dogs: Breed bans, euthanasia, and preemptive justice.

Nowadays, dangerous-dog hearings decide if dogs live or die. Vicious-dog law, or what some simply call “dog-bite law,” usually precludes any legal challenge—especially if the offending animal happens to be identified as dangerous simply because of the breed.

In May 2005 animal-control units began to round up all pit bulls within the Denver city limits. Dogs were taken from their homes and put down regardless of their disposition or demeanor. Last summer the New York City Housing Authority issued a ban on pit bulls (also identified as American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers), rottweilers, and Doberman pinschers—“all of these either full breed or mixed breed”—or any other full-grown dog over 25 pounds in all public housing. So New York, the most urbane of American cities, now boasts the harshest public-housing dog regime in the country. What Gladwell described a few years ago as “a generalization about a generalization about a trait that is not, in fact, general” anticipated the undesirable, if not toxic, effects of unfounded prejudice.

In May of last year, Judge Burke F. McCahill of Loudoun Circuit Court in Virginia ruled legal Loudoun County Animal Care and Control’s current “No Adopt Out” policy. That meant that any abandoned dog identified as a “pit bull,” even if judged temperamentally sound by animal-behavior specialists, had to be euthanized rather than adopted. In the past three years, more than 200 dogs have been put down in Loudoun County. McCahill ruled that “a Citizen’s right to own a pit bull is entirely different than a citizen’s right to adopt.” So if you already possess a pit bull you can keep it, but anyone who wants to acquire one from a shelter is prohibited from doing so.

Today’s pit bull bans tell us more about ourselves than about the breed: about the rituals and the illusions that have become necessary to our survival.


Democrats at the Edge of the Cliff.

Something unique happened in the first Obama year, about the last thing the Democratic Party needed: The veil was ripped from the true cost of government. This is the ghastly nightmare Democrats have always needed to keep locked in a crypt.

Before the Internet, that was easy. Washington, California, New York, New Jersey—who knew what the pols were spending? The Democrats (and their Republican pilot fish) could get away with this. Not now. Email lists, 24/7 newspapers, blogs, TV and talk radio—the spending beast is running naked.

Read the whole thing.

The Myth of Lady Jane Grey.

The traditional story runs like this: Lady Jane Grey was born in 1537, the daughter of Henry VIII's royal niece, Frances, and her husband, Harry Grey, Marques of Dorset. The stout, bejewelled woman in a double portrait by Hans Eworth is still used to illustrate Frances's nature. "Physically she bore a marked resemblance to Henry VIII," notes Alison Weir, a best-selling historian, in her book "The Children of Henry VIII". Here was a woman, "determined to have her own way, and greedy for power and riches," who "ruled her husband and daughters tyrannically and, in the case of the latter, often cruelly."

So Jane grew up an abused child, beaten regularly by her unloving mother. In 1553 the 15-year-old Jane was forced (beaten again) to marry the 18-year-old Guildford Dudley, son of the principal figure in the King's Privy Council, John Dudley. Frances believed the marriage would promote Jane as heir to the dying Protestant King Edward VI. Weeks later Edward did indeed bequeath Jane his throne, in place of his Catholic sister Mary Tudor. Jane was obliged to accept, though she protested through tears that Mary was the rightful claimant.

On July 10th 1553 Jane was processed to the Tower as Queen. The red-haired, red-lipped, smiling girl was so tiny, the story goes, that she wore platform shoes to give her height. Nine days later Mary Tudor overthrew Jane, imprisoning her in the Tower from where she had reigned. Tried and convicted of treason, she remained a prisoner, hoping for pardon, until her father led a failed rebellion against Mary. Although she had nothing to do with the rebellion, Jane was beheaded on February 12th 1554, an "innocent usurper". She was only 16.

The myth is encapsulated in Paul Delaroche's 1833 portrait of Jane, bound and dressed in white on the scaffold (pictured above), a painting with all the erotic overtones of a virgin sacrifice. (Nancy Mitford startlingly told Evelyn Waugh that this image was the source of her adolescent sexual fantasies.) Seemingly unmoved by the execution of both daughter and husband, Frances was remarried within a month to a boyish 21-year-old servant named Adrian Stokes. She lived only for pleasure.

But what factual basis is there for believing Frances was a monster?

More here.

How Corrupt Is the World Food Program?

How pervasive are the problems at the World Food Program, the largest hunger relief agency in the world and the United Nations agency responsible for food aid? It’s a $2.9 billion question—the amount of direct aid disbursed by the WFP. A significant part of its budget comes from U.S. contributors, and USAID coordinates some of its work through the WFP.

It’s been a month since the leaking of a scathing evaluation of WFP’s Somalian relief program written by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia. The body, created by the UN Security Council, alleges that three Somali businessmen who held about $160 million in WFP transport contracts were involved in arms trading while diverting the agency’s food aid away from the hungry. A New York Times report also claimed food was being siphoned off by radical Islamic militants and local UN workers.


Inside the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

The gold you see in the vault of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York attracts more than 25,000 visitors a year. It is the world’s largest accumulation of gold and belongs to 36 foreign governments, central banks and official international organizations. Only a very small portion of this gold belongs to the U.S. government. The Federal Reserve Bank does not own the precious metal but serves as guardian for the nations and international organizations that choose to leave their monetary gold reserves in the Bank’s custody. It is estimated that the gold in the vault represents a significant portion of all the monetary gold that has ever been mined.

The gold stored at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is secured in a most unusual vault. It rests on the bedrock of Manhattan Island—one of the few foundations considered adequate to support the weight of the vault, its door, and the gold inside—80 feet below street level and 50 feet below sea level.

Lots more here.

Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, and Lester Young.

A Complete List Of Bad Things Attributed To Global Warming.

It seems hardly a day goes by without some new outlandish claim that some misfortune or other is caused by Global Warming. Well, somebody has compiled a list.

The list is here.

Not Content to Merely be Nuclear Rivals, India and Pakistan Compete Over Silly Walks.

h/t Ace.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hitler Reacts to Youtube Taking Down Downfall Parodies.

I can't seem to make it fit on my page properly. If you're having problems seeing this, double click on the video and it'll take you to Youtube where it should display least until they take this one too.

The Global Domino Effect.

Just the other day the wife remarked on the absence of cucumbers in the local grocery store. We speculated that it might be caused by the mass grounding of aircraft in Europe-the idea being that even if the cucumbers were coming from say Mexico, the plane that was supposed to pick them up is stuck in Finland. Sure enough:

(CBS/AP) While the volcanic ash cloud covering parts of Europe continues to wreak havoc for airlines - costing the industry more than $1 billion as of Monday - grounding most of the continent's air travel for several days has had a ripple effect extending far beyond Europe's borders.

The following is a collection of international anecdotes demonstrating how the ash cloud has done more than hit airlines' bottom lines and inconvenienced air travelers.

• The lack of refrigeration facilities at the airport in capital of the West African nation of Ghana has been a big blow to pineapple and pawpaw farmers who sell to Europe because of the lack of flights. As of Tuesday, no cargo flights have taken off yet.

• In Africa, a group of five people from Sierra Leone and Liberia had to abandon a fact-finding trip to the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in The Hague.

• In Kenya, thousands of day laborers are out of work because produce and flowers can't be exported amid the flight cancellations. Kenya has thrown away 10 million flowers - mostly roses - since the volcano eruption. Asparagus, broccoli and green beans meant for European dinner tables are being fed to Kenyan cattle because storage facilities are filled to capacity.

More here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Spanish Ulcer.

Looking back over his life from St. Helena, it wasn’t the failed invasion of Russia that loomed large in Napoleon’s mind, but rather the Siege of Cádiz.

Monkey Business in a World of Evil.

In early September 1939, just after World War II began, the Reys — a husband-and-wife team of German Jews living in Paris — sought refuge at Château Feuga, an old castle owned by some friends in southern France.

At such a time, Hans A. Rey wrote in a letter, “it feels ridiculous to be thinking about children’s books.” But that is what they were doing, prolifically, including a book about a monkey named Fifi, who later became known as Curious George.

When suspicious villagers reported the strange couple in the old castle to the authorities, gendarmes searched the place for expected bomb-making material, but the studio with pictures of the mischievous monkey convinced them of the Reys’ innocence.

Apparently, Fifi/George served much the same function when, in more serious straits in June 1940, his creators fled Paris on bicycles Hans Rey built from parts. As Louise Borden described in her 2005 picture book, “The Journey That Saved Curious George,” they left two days before the Nazis entered Paris and rode 75 miles in three days. Their four-month journey on bicycle, train and boat led them to Lisbon, then to Rio de Janeiro and New York, the drawings offering proof of their occupations when they sought American visas.


The Party's Over: China's Endgame.

The dominant narrative about China today is that it will, within a few short decades, become the preeminent power in the international system. Its economy, according to the conventional wisdom, was the first to recover from the global downturn and will eventually go on to become the world’s largest. Geopolitical dominance will inevitably follow.

How did this notion of Chinese supremacy gain hold? The answer is nothing more profound than statistical extrapolation. China was destitute when Deng Xiaoping grabbed power in December 1978. Since then, the country has averaged, according to official statistics, a spectacular annual growth of 9.9 percent. This rate, if carried forward, gives China the world’s largest economy in a few decades—2027, to be exact, according to a now-famous Goldman Sachs estimate.

So will ours be the Chinese century? Probably not.


5 reasons why the Tea Partiers are right on taxes.

When I started studying economics the US was much richer than Western Europe and Japan, but was also growing more slowly than other developed countries. They were still in the catch-up growth phase from the ravages of WWII. But since Reagan took office the US has been growing faster than most other big developed economies, and at least as fast in per capita terms. They’ve plateaued at about 25% below US levels, when you adjust for PPP. This is the steady state. … ]

Why is per capita GDP in Western Europe so much lower than in the US? Mankiw seems to imply that high tax rates may be one of the reasons. … So I think Mankiw is saying that if we adopt the European model, there really isn’t a lot of evidence that we’d end up with any more revenue than we have right now. … Of course the progressives’ great hope is that we’ll end up like France. But Brazil also has high tax rates, how do they know we won’t end up like Brazil?

Der Spiegel on Climate Change.

One of the conclusions of his famous statistical analysis of the world's climate is that the average temperature on Earth rose by 0.166 degrees Celsius per decade between 1975 and 1998. This, according to Jones, was the clear result of his research and that of many other scientists.

"I am 100 percent confident that the climate has warmed," Jones says imploringly. "I did not manipulate or fabricate any data."

His problem is that the public doesn't trust him anymore. Since unknown hackers secretly copied 1,073 private emails between members of his research team and published them on the Internet, his credibility has been destroyed -- and so has that of an entire profession that had based much of its work on his research until now.

Those who have always viewed global warming as a global conspiracy now feel a sense of satisfaction. The so-called climate skeptics feel vindicated, because Jones, in his written correspondence with colleagues, all of them leading members of the climate research community, does not come across as an objective scientist, but rather as an activist or missionary who views "his" data as his personal shrine and is intent on protecting it from the critical eyes of his detractors.

The article is here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chicago Tea Party, April 15 2010.

Well my daughters and I just got back from the tea party. The weather was perfect and turnout was good...the plaza was more or less full. It was a very nice time. Lots of interesting, pleasant folks (even the ones on the other side...mostly).

One of interesting things was the emphasis on children. A lot of folks came up to me with my daughters in the stroller and said something to the effect of "those girls are why we're here".

An early arrival. My daughter Hannah thought his wheelchair was fascinating. He was a very good sport about it.

One of my favorites.

Chicago's finest.

The always civil opposition. They seemed to think we were all from the suburbs. When I pointed out that I lived two blocks away, they told me I should "get the fuck out of their city". Nice.

More evil "Teabaggers".

I need to get one of these t-shirts.

Couldn't agree more.

Hannah and Emma Stajduhar..."Evil Teabaggers".

Neither pro or anti-tea party...but very pro-Yoda.

Does anyone besides politicians disagree?

Some traders who come over from one of the exchanges.

Typical all-white tea gathering.

No gays either.

Friendly debate between protesters and counter protesters.

Only a matter of time.

Lot of kids.

The cement truck drivers were honking in support.

Good advice.

More friendly, lefty counter-protesters.

Yep...more racists who hate Obama because he's black.

Protest babes.

The mainstream media.

The not-so-mainstream media.

Tinfoil hat crowd. Amazingly the girl standing next to him appeared to be with him.

This was the only sign I saw that mentioned Obama's race in any context whatsoever. If you think the sign is racist...well you're over-sensitive.

At Cardozo's pub on the way back home. Free iced tea for tea party folks.

Happy Tax Day!

There's a Tea Party today over at Daley Plaza at noon. I'll Be heading over to take some pictures and have a post later today with all the skinny on the event.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Good Advice

by Frank L. Visco

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

1) Avoid alliteration. Always.
2) Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3) Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
4) Employ the vernacular.
5) Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6) Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7) It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8) Contractions aren't necessary.
9) Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10) One should never generalize.
11) Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
12) Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
13) Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14) Profanity sucks.
15) Be more or less specific.
16) Understatement is always best.
17) Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
18) One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19) Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20) The passive voice is to be avoided.
21) Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
22) Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
23) Who needs rhetorical questions?

Jimmy Kimmel Comes Out For Gun Rights-In Starbucks

I like Kimmel’s choice of the Beretta 92.

Dennis Prager: Where Do Jews and Christians on the Left Get Their Values?

Leftism, though secular, must be understood as a religion (which is why I have begun capitalizing it). The Leftist value system's hold on its adherents is as strong as the hold Christianity, Judaism and Islam have on their adherents. Nancy Pelosi's belief in expanding the government's role in American life, and therefore her passion for the health care bill, is as strong as a pro-life Christian's belief in the sanctity of the life of the unborn.

Given the religious nature and the emotional power of Leftist values, Jews and Christians on the Left often derive their values from the Left more than from their religion.

Now, of course, most Leftist Jews and Christians will counter that Leftist values cannot trump their religion's values because Leftist values are identical to their religion's values. But this argument only reinforces my argument that Leftism has conquered the Christianity and the Judaism of Leftist Christians and Jews. If there is no difference between Leftist moral values and those of Judaism or Christianity, then Christianity is little more than Leftism with "Jesus" rhetoric added, and Judaism is Leftism with Jewish terms -- such as "Tikkun Olam" ("repairing the world") and "Prophetic values" -- added.


The Knowledge Problem

Economist Friedrich Hayek explained in 1945 why centrally controlled "command economies" were doomed to waste, inefficiency, and collapse: Insufficient knowledge. He won a Nobel Prize. But it turns out he was righter than he knew.

In his "The Use of Knowledge In Society," Hayek explained that information about supply and demand, scarcity and abundance, wants and needs exists in no single place in any economy. The economy is simply too large and complicated for such information to be gathered together.

Any economic planner who attempts to do so will wind up hopelessly uninformed and behind the times, reacting to economic changes in a clumsy, too-late fashion and then being forced to react again to fix the problems that the previous mistakes created, leading to new problems, and so on.

Market mechanisms, like pricing, do a better job than planners because they incorporate what everyone knows indirectly through signals like price, without central planning.

Thus, no matter how deceptively simple and appealing command economy programs are, they are sure to trip up their operators, because the operators can't possibly be smart enough to make them work.



Matthew 28 (New King James Version)

He Is Risen

1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door,[a] and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

The Women Worship the Risen Lord

9 And as they went to tell His disciples,[b] behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

The Soldiers Are Bribed

11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[c] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.[d]