Archive for February, 2008

 

Why I Hate Beaureaucrats

Friday, February 29th, 2008

So many with jobs they don’t deserve, who can’t be moved by their elected officials:

But it’s over now. I got a call Wednesday from a Pike toll collector. He was apoplectic that Deval’s guy Alan LeBovidge had given the Herald the story about the gun-totin’ toll takers.

I told the guy, what’s your bitch? He only took back the Pike’s own .38’s. He didn’t confiscate any toll collector’s throwdowns, did he? But the hack was steamimg.

“That little bleep sucked up to us during the campaign, and now we’ve figured it out – he wants to get rid of us too, just like Romney. Well, bleep him – he’ll be gone soon enough, when the terrorist takes him to Washington.”

The terrorist – that was his quaint nickname for Obama.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the classlessness.

Read Howie Carr.

(via Deval Watch)

 
 

Barack Skywalker Vs John McVader

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Gerard Baker voices something that has been nagging at me for some time:

The problem is that there’s a danger that the presidential contest between Mr Obama and Mr McCain will become not a debate but a silly battle of conflicting icons. You can be sure that, in the eyes of the rest of the world, and much of America, if Mr McCain wins it will be not because of his superior experience or the quality of his ideas, but because America is irredeemably racist.

Instead of being the welcome break with America’s recent past that he truly is, he will be painted as a continuation of it. Worse, that that, he will have won by vanquishing Hope and Peace. He will be for ever The Man Who Shot Bambi.

That will be truly tragic. If Obama loses to McCain, it won’t be because of race. These two men have a lot of debating to do before November, and who knows how it will all turn out. Both men appeal to the center. And at least for McCain, his vice-presidential pick will be enormously consequential for him. Frankly, this will be the first election in a long time where substance will be what really decides the election. It will be tragic should America pick McCain based on substance, and the world calls her racist as a result.

Read Gerard Baker.

 
 

Looting Main Street To Pay Wall Street

Friday, February 29th, 2008

This is about as explicit an admission as you’re gonna get:

First, Fed Vice Chairman Don Kohn declared that, while inflation was worrisome, the Fed now views recession as the more urgent danger to fight. Then on Wednesday, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress that the Fed will do whatever it takes to stop the credit squeeze from becoming a recession. That’s about as close as a central banker will get to saying that he’s thrown price stability to the wind. If inflation rises — as it now surely will — then the Fed will worry about that later, after the economy is safely past the credit crunch.

So there you have it. The Fed is going to print more money, thus devaluing yours, and hand it to banks so they can get out of the hole they’re in. They are literally going to take from the regular working schmoe out in normal America and give that money to bankers, who incidentally continue to pay out bonuses and dividends.

It’s completely infuriating. I predict that the first candidate to pick up on this (and condemn it) will become the next President. And yes, I know Ron Paul was out there, but he was too anti-war for the Republican party, and the problem wasn’t clear enough in most American’s minds to be capitalized on. It still may not be, but by November, LOOK OUT!

Here’s to hoping Steve Forbes can talk some economic sense to John McCain, or Goolsby to Obama.

Read the whole thing here.

 
 

Happy Leap Year!

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Happy Leap Year Everybody!

Some famous leap-year birthdays:

  • Richard Ramirez
  • Tony Robbins
  • The Eastern Orthodox Pope

Read more here.

 
 

MEAD!

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

It’s making a comeback:

You might know mead from Beowulf—it’s what the characters got soused on.

Mead is so old-school that its advocates claim it as the world’s first alcoholic beverage. (Their line of thinking goes like this: Rain-diluted honey attracted wild yeasts. The fermented liquid then attracted a human, who drank it and felt less unhappy.) But the recent interest in fermented honey has morphed it from an esoteric item that only a few bearded Dungeons & Dragons players indulged in to a small yet legitimate commercial enterprise. There are now more than 100 meaderies in the United States, like Rabbit’s Foot Meadery and Mountain Meadows Mead. For the ambitious, there are DIY mead-making books, complete with archaic spellings (see The Compleat Meadmaker). Is mead, last popular around King Arthur’s table, poised for a comeback?

Apparently so. I considered quitting my job and trying to open a meadery some time ago. Not sure why I didn’t do it. I also want to start my own small apiary in my backyard, but my wife vetoed that idea. Maybe I’ll start making mead again once I get my kitchen redone and things settle down around teh house some.

The article is ok, but concludes with the idea that mead sucks. Take that with a grain of salt. Mead that tries to taste like honey does suck (super-sweet mead), but that’d be like trying to make wine that tastes like Welch’s. Kinda wrong.

Read more here.

 
 

Reader & Short Links

Thursday, February 28th, 2008
 
 

William F. Buckley

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

1925-2008
William F. Buckley
RIP

(link from Drudge)

UPDATE: More from Reason.
And more from Radley Balko.

 
 

Salt Is Good Food

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Salt is an essential requirement for life. No animal can live without it. It is the only rock we eat. For the preponderance of human history, salt was one of the most valuable things on earth, difficult to mine and necessary for long-term food storage. Today, thanks to industrial mining and refrigeration respectively, salt is not nearly so valuable.

So it turns out there’s some limited evidence that for people with hypertension, reducing one’s salt intake can help alleviate high blood pressure. Naturally, this makes salt a dangerous substance that should no longer be listed as food by the FDA!!!!!

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to remove salt from the list of foods it categorizes as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), but taking salt out of food is not as easy as it might seem, ingredients firm DSM told FoodNavigator-USA.com.

The FDA has launched a public consultation on whether to remove salt’s GRAS status following repeated petitions from interest groups highlighting the alleged danger of salt consumption.

The results of that consultation – and the FDA’s final decision – will not be known until later this year, but this has not stopped the issue from hitting the headlines.

A recent article in USA Today highlighted the massive increase in salt intake among Americans as a result, mainly, of excessive consumption of process foods, in which salt is widely used as a flavor enhancer, a texturizer and a preservative.

“If salt were taken off the GRAS list, manufacturers could be subject to limitations on the quantity used in the production of food,” the paper noted, adding that the FDA held a hearing on the issue last November.

I have no idea where one goes to protest such idiocy, but this really has to be stopped. Historically speaking, controlling salt controls our lives, because it’s an essential nutrient that we’re all dependent on for our lives!!! This is why ancient dictatorships throughout history sought to control the flow of salt and/or tax it. Because with it they controlled life. Ghandi, remember, lead his protests against the British monopoly over salt production. It was such a big issue that it made the country revolt against British rule. This is serious stuff here folks.

If anybody has information out there I’m anxious to hear it.

Read more about the salt ban here.
Read John Stossel on salt. (surprise: he says it’s not bad for you).
and read a great book on the history of Salt.

 
 

Media Lies About Military Robots

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I caught this article over on Drudge about military robots, and lost it when I read this [emphasis mine]:

Increasingly autonomous, gun-totting robots developed for warfare could easily fall into the hands of terrorists and may one day unleash a robot arms race, a top expert on artificial intelligence told AFP.

“They pose a threat to humanity,” said University of Sheffield professor Noel Sharkey ahead of a keynote address Wednesday before Britain’s Royal United Services Institute. [...]

The first three armed combat robots fitted with large-caliber machine guns deployed to Iraq last summer, manufactured by US arms maker Foster-Miller, proved so successful that 80 more are on order, said Sharkey.

But up to now, a human hand has always been required to push the button or pull the trigger.

It we are not careful, he said, that could change.

Military leaders “are quite clear that they want autonomous robots as soon as possible, because they are more cost-effective and give a risk-free war,” he said.

That’s an out and out lie. I have a close friend who is an engineer, designing robots for the military. And he says that though the engineers would like to have the ability to let the robot fire autonomously, it’s the military brass who insist on looping a human into that decision making process.

So what could motivate this clown to assert the exact opposite? I couldn’t find anything on the guy’s home page or Wikipedia page to indicate his political leanings or any long standing sort of activism. But I did find his Guardian article on which this AFP piece appears to be based:

But fully autonomous robots that make their own decisions about lethality are high on the US military agenda. The US National Research Council advises “aggressively exploiting the considerable warfighting benefits offered by autonomous vehicles”. They are cheap to manufacture, require less personnel and, according to the navy, perform better in complex missions. One battlefield soldier could start a large-scale robot attack in the air and on the ground.

That sounds like a bad inference and a quote taken out of context. The Guardian doesn’t provide a link to the US National Research Council piece that is quoted (natch) nor do they even say who that council is (I’ve for one have never heard of them).

So I guess it’s hard to say whether or not this is just publicity seeking from a loudmouth professor, or some sort of anti-military agenda (though he does want an international agreement banning robots from making lethal decisions). Whatever it is, it’s bunk.

 
 

Housing Bubble and Inflation

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Holman Jenkins gets it right:

The truth today is that politicians are rushing to prop up house prices not to rescue the poor from the ignominy of renting, but to get past the next election without affluent voters having to confront a realistic decline in the market value of their main assets.

Most of these homeowners are still above-water in their home equity; though job changes or the prospect of job changes may make them sensitive to current market prices, many are not in need of selling.

In the meantime, drawing out the correction prevents the market from finding a bottom. It prevents owners and shoppers alike from having confidence to judge what houses are worth. It bails out lenders and investors who incautiously or fraudulently financed home purchases for speculative buyers, which can only encourage more of the same behavior in the future.[...]

A more honest use of taxpayer money at least would be to buy up houses at foreclosure auctions and demolish them, especially in neighborhoods likely never to recover. The true fillip to “social stability” right now would be to nip in the bud the blighted, suburban slums of the future.

I am seriously pessimistic about the economy right now. The market is not being allowed to correct itself, and we are all paying for the banks mistakes via the hidden tax of inflation. Speaking of which, here’s David Ranson:

Markets look forward, while government surveys of the cost of living are a rearview mirror. A little “indicator analysis” shows that commodity prices, far from reverting quickly back to the mean, are early-warning indicators of the future CPI [Consumer Price Index]. Last year’s large increases in energy and food imply that consumer-price inflation is going to be much closer to today’s “headline” rate of 4.3% than the “core” rate of 2.5%.

Why does this matter? The accompanying graph shows how rapidly the purchasing power of income declines from an ongoing inflation of 4%. After nine years, an income of $100,000 is worth only $70,000. After 17 years its purchasing power has been cut in half, and after 30 years by about 70%.[...]

But worse may be yet to come. While commodities like energy and food are leading indicators of the CPI, precious metals like gold are, in turn, leading indicators of energy and food. It’s sobering to note that precious-metals prices this year are running more than 30% ahead of where they were a year ago.[...]

There is a remarkable parallel between annual CPI inflation and the cumulative change in the price of gold measured from eight years before. A similar graph could be plotted for silver, and the parallel can also be seen in cross-section by comparing countries over time with varying degrees of currency instability.[...]

But taken as a whole, the relationship suggests my following rule of thumb to estimate CPI inflation at any time: Divide the percentage change in the gold price from eight years in the past by 80, and add three. This rule of thumb has largely worked over the past several decades. In the last eight years the price of gold has risen 225%. The rule therefore comes out with an answer that puts inflation a lot closer to 6% than 4%.

From reading these two articles in succession, I would infer that the Federal Government’s policy (and I suppose by extension the Federal Reserve’s) is to inflate the currency to bail out banks, and preserve home prices in relative dollars, while hoping nobody notices their income dropping and their real purchasing power dropping like a stone. Real nice.

Anybody have any good ideas about where to invest?

UPDATE: More from Robert Samuelson [emphasis mine]:

The more upsetting figures are those for the last three months. In this period, the full CPI rose at a 6.8 percent annual rate. Without food and energy, the increase was still 3.1 percent. Medical services were up 5.1 percent, women’s and girls’ apparel 7.3 percent (again, at annual rates). Inflation is accelerating.

Price increases of individual items can have many immediate causes: poor harvests for food; OPEC for energy; uncompetitive markets for health care; corporate market power for drugs. But persistent inflation — the general rise of most prices — has only one cause: too much money chasing too few goods. It’s not a random accident. The Federal Reserve regulates the nation’s supply of money and credit. The Fed creates inflation and can control it.

Since August, the Fed has been under enormous pressure to ease money and credit. It has. The overnight Fed funds rate has fallen from 5.25 percent in early September to 3 percent now. Politicians are clamoring for the Fed to prevent a recession. Banks and other financial institutions want cheaper credit to enable them to offset losses on subprime mortgages. There is fear of a wider economic crisis if large losses erode confidence and, by depleting the capital of banks and other financial institutions, undermine their ability and willingness to lend and invest.

Unfortunately, the Fed shows signs of overreacting to these pressures and repeating the great blunder of the 1970s. Underestimating inflation then, the Fed repeatedly shoved out too much money and credit in a vain effort to keep the economy near “full employment.” Now, switch to the present. Again, the Fed has underestimated inflation. It expected the economic slowdown to suppress inflation spontaneously. But so far, the lower inflation hasn’t materialized in part because, outside of housing, there hasn’t been much of an economic slowdown.[...]

If most of those excesses aren’t given the time to self-correct, we may be trading modest pain today for much greater pain tomorrow. Trying to prevent a recession at all costs is a fool’s errand that could ultimately backfire on us all.

Will anybody listen???

UPDATE 2: Yet more from Larry Kudlow.