"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Now You Tell Me

File this under "Never mind."  

Russia’s Pulkovo Observatory: “we could be in for a cooling period that lasts 200-250 years”
Scientists at Russia’s famous Pulkovo Observatory are convinced that the world is in for a period of global cooling.

Girl of the Day - Lila Rose















Lila Rose of Live Action is doing God's work in showing that the abattoir of Kermit Gosnell is the rule and not the exception among abortion providers, particularly those who do late-term abortions.   She has sent pregnant women with 24 week-old "fetuses" into abortion clinics and filmed abortion doctors articulating the utter cruelty and inhumanity of what goes on.   It's shocking stuff, highlighting just how much the euphemism surrounding "choice" and "fetus" and "rights" has enabled what amounts to mass murder of children.

Here she is on O'Reilly last night:



The Jason Collins/Chris Broussard Lesson - Tolerance for Me, But Not for Thee




































NBA player Jason Collins' decision yesterday to come out as gay was interesting on a number of levels, but I guess I have a hard time viewing it as "courageous," the word most often used in the discussions on ESPN yesterday and this morning.  Collins is, according to what I read yesterday, a very nice guy who is very well-liked by teammates and coaches; he comes from a good family; and he's been very successful in his life thus far.   But how courageous is it for a multi-millionaire who will likely retire this year at age 34 with enough money for ten lifetimes to announce his homosexuality?   Lots of regular people who are living paycheck to paycheck are out who put a lot more at risk.

Moreover, in the current climate, with the President and all of the mainstream media, Hollywood, academia, and corporate boardrooms all firmly behind the diversity agenda, including gay marriage, anyone with their eyes open would have predicted that his announcement would be greeted with universal acclaim, and that he would be applauded for his honesty (although he's essentially been dishonest for many years).   Which, of course, it was.

In other words, when there is no downside, why is it courageous?

And, not to be cynical, but there was a lot of upside for him beyond the personal peace of mind.   Brittany Griner, the number one selection in the WNBA, came out a month ago, and apparently four NFL players may come out very soon, so Collins may have had an incentive to come out now.   Again, in the current climate, Collins' being the first male big-sport pro athlete to come out is a lottery ticket winner -- he'll be lauded and feted for the rest of his life as the gay Jackie Robinson, even though Robinson faced actual hatred and vitriol, while Collins will almost immediately have a gig on ESPN or TNT or whatever he wants. 

What really took courage was what Chris Broussard, the ESPN analyst said yesterday, in a friendly conversationwith LZ Granderson, an openly gay ESPN reporter:

I’d like to second what LZ said. “I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is. [ESPN's] L.Z. [Granderson] knows that. He and I have played on basketball teams together for several years. We’ve gone out, had lunch together, we’ve had good conversations, good laughs together. He knows where I stand and I know where he stands. I don’t criticize him, he doesn’t criticize me, and call me a bigot, call me ignorant, call me intolerant.
In talking to some people around the league, there’s a lot Christians in the NBA and just because they disagree with that lifestyle, they don’t want to be called bigoted and intolerant and things like that. That’s what LZ was getting at. Just like I may tolerate someone whose lifestyle I disagree with, he can tolerate my beliefs. He disagrees with my beliefs and my lifestyle but true tolerance and acceptance is being able to handle that as mature adults and not criticize each other and call each other names…
Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I do not think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.

Again predictably in the current climate, Broussard has been eviscerated for his "intolerance," and people have even called for him to be fired for having an opinion that derives from his Christian faith.   (If you really want to see hatred and intolerance, look at the comments on Christianity in the comments section of an article lambasting Broussard in the LA Times.)

So here is where we are today.   It is demanded, not just that we tolerate gays (which Broussard credibly says he does), but that we applaud and celebrate and voice approval of the gay lifestyle.    In other words, we are required, not just to not hate gays, not just to not discriminate against gays, not just to not harass gays, not just to not bully gays... we are now required to not think certain thoughts about gays.   We are now required to not believe certain things about gays.   We are now required to not follow our own religion if our religion is evangelical Christianity, or Catholicism, or Islam for that matter.   Weirdly, if you're Catholic and follow the Catechism, we are now required to not hope for gay men and women to find true happiness through chastity.   We're just not allowed to even think those thoughts or say those things.  

So who exactly is intolerant in this scenario?  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Girl of the Day - Martha Stewart

Apparently Martha Stewart was a model in New York before she became, well, Martha Stewart.  





























This sort of thing changes my opinion of her from a rich annoying woman to....  a rich annoying woman who used to be smoking hot.

President Nicklaus





















President Obama, during his 52 months in office, has played a total of 115 rounds of golf, according to a study by the Government Accountability Institute.   Is that a lot?

Well, a little more than two times a month, or about 25-30 times a year, doesn't sound like that much.   But, that's a lot more golf than I've ever played, and, in my experience, would qualify him as an avid golfer, not a casual golfer.  

More importantly, in my view anyway, he's doing this while he has a very very time consuming and stressful job.   I look at his job as being a job that's equivalent to my having a trial going constantly.   I can't imagine ever playing golf in the middle of a trial.

And, even more importantly, he's doing it at a time when he has two young daughters.   Again, I can't imagine telling my wife that I'm going to bail on her and the kids for six hours every other weekend.   I don't think the Regular Wife would stand for it.   She'd demand (and correctly so) that I spend time with my children.

So, is it a lot?  

Yes, I think it's a lot, and too much.


 

Google Glasses






















Here's a report on Google Glasses that is very very positive about a product that may very soon be as ubiquitous as smart phones.  From what I can tell, the picture feature seems to be the most revolutionary application, enabling the wearer to basically make a record in real time of whatever's happening, without fumbling for a camera.   All he has to say is "OK, Glass.   Take a Picture."   Wow. 

On the other hand, the technological revolutions that people lived through in the first half of the 20th century were all about individuals becoming more able to experience more of the world -- they were directed outward.   The automobile gave individuals vast new freedom and made their worlds much much bigger, while the airplane allowed individuals to see much much more of their world.   The technological revolutions of the 21st Century, by contrast, are directed inward.   The personal computer, the Internet, the cell phone, the tablet computer, and now the Google Glasses, seem to permit the individual to retreat into his own little world of information, just as texting and social media seems to permit people to retreat into the cocoons of their own circle of "friends."  

Maybe.   I could probably make the opposite argument too.   Anyway, who knows where we're going to be in another few years.   I never imagined that I could have all 162 Cardinals games on my laptop, or a worldwide bookstore on a Kindle, or this crummy little blog either.   It's all a blur.


Uncertainty and Economic Recovery - Belaboring the Obvious

In the Wall Street Journal today:

Companies and small businesses... are in good shape and have money to spend. So why aren't they pumping more capital back into the economy, creating jobs and fueling the country's economic engine?
Quite simply, if firms can't see a clear road to economic recovery ahead, they're not going to hire and they're not going to spend. It's what economists call a "deadweight loss"—loss caused by inefficiency.
Today, there is uncertainty about regulatory policy, uncertainty about monetary policy, uncertainty about foreign policy and, most significantly, uncertainty about U.S. fiscal policy and the national debt. Until a sensible plan is created to address the debt, America will not fulfill its economic potential.
Uncertainty comes with a very real and quantifiable price tag—an uncertainty tax, so to speak. Over the past two years, amid stalled debates in Washington and missed opportunities to tackle the debt, the magnitude of this uncertainty tax has gotten short shrift.
Three economists, Stanford University's Nicholas Bloom and Scott Baker and the University of Chicago's Steven Davis, have done invaluable work measuring the level of policy uncertainty over the past few decades. Their research (available at policyuncertainty.com) shows that, on average, U.S. economic policy uncertainty has been 50% higher in the past two years than it has been since 1985. 
Based on that research, our economists at Vanguard isolated changes in the U.S. economy that we determined were specifically due to increases in policy uncertainty, such as the debt-ceiling debacle in August 2011, the congressional supercommittee failure in November 2011, and the fiscal-cliff crisis at the end of 2012. This gave us a picture of what the economy might look like if the shocks from policy uncertainty had not occurred.  
We estimate that since 2011 the rise in overall policy uncertainty has created a $261 billion cumulative drag on the economy (the equivalent of more than $800 per person in the country). Without this uncertainty tax, real U.S. GDP could have grown an average 3% per year since 2011, instead of the recorded 2% average in fiscal years 2011-12. In addition, the U.S. labor market would have added roughly 45,000 more jobs per month over the past two years. That adds up to more than one million jobs that we could have had by now, but don't.

He doesn't mention the biggest drag on job creation -- the looming "train wreck" of Obamacare.   But, other than that, this is right on.   When we talk about business decision-making -- starting a business, growing a business, buying new equipment, hiring new people -- we are talking about a constant weighing of risk and reward.   The higher the level of uncertainty, the more risk to any investment, which means that the reward must be correspondingly higher.   If the reward for starting a business isn't higher -- and why would it be when government regulation and mandates is constantly narrowing the profit margins of businesses -- the decision not to do something will seem more prudent.   And so capital will sit on the sidelines, or in the stock market, rather than in new businesses.   And, as a result, more people will be unemployed for longer.

The Bubble Next Time - Student Loans

The 2008 recession and stock market crash was largely caused by the collapse of the mortgage-backed securities market.   Wall Street, abetted by the government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, had bundled millions of mortgages (and parts of mortgages like the interest components) into securities and derivatives of those securities, without much thought (or with active, willful neglect) of the merits of the underlying loans.   When the default rates for the home mortgages given to substandard borrowers (the so-called sub-prime mortgages) rose, the values of the MBSs collapsed, and almost brought our financial system down with them.

Stupidity can be defined as making the same mistake in the same way twice.   Well, is Wall Street stupid, or are we?

Worried by reports of rising defaults, investors turned up their noses at a new $225 million bond issue by Sallie Mae, the federal agency that packages individual student loans into large securities. The loan company canceled the offering after two weeks on the market. The WSJ reports:
…rising defaults could have crimped the cash flow of the federally backed loans supporting the new securities, because more defaults would mean less excess, or residual, income after holders of the original loans were paid.
What’s more, regulators and lawmakers have become concerned about growing levels of student debt, raising the risk political decisions could alter the bond market for student loans, said Jeffrey Klingelhofer, a portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management. For instance, a program that would allow borrowers to refinance their loans would reduce cash flow, Mr. Klingelhofer said.
Are student loans turning into junk bonds? With something like $1 trillion of student loan debt outstanding, investor skittishness is not good news.

Hmmmm.... government encouraging massive lending to people with little or no income to buy assets of little or no intrinsic value in an inflated market and then hedging those bad bets by creating complicated financial instruments that the market may eventually reject (and sooner rather than later)?   Haven't I seen this story before?  

And don't we all know how it ends?  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Planned Parenthood Poster

Via Ace:




































Back story.  A lib on the Internet recently did a version of this poster as an unfunny rip on the NRA.   I think this version captures the weird totalitarian mindset of the leftist pro-abortion extremes.

Obama at Planned Parenthood

After canceling his keynote address on Thursday night, President Obama showed up at the Planned Parenthood annual convention to deliver "remarks" this morning.   The text is here, if you can stomach it.   I haven't looked at it yet, but I am going to do an experiment to see (a) whether he ever uses the word abortion, or (b) whether he instead uses euphemisms like "women's health," and "reproductive freedom."   I suspect that he won't on (a), and will on (b).  

Let's go!

***

I was right!   (Meaning I correctly noted the crushingly obvious.)

Mentions of the words "women" or "woman" = 36

Mentions of the word "health" = 23

Mentions of the words "right" or "rights" = 10

Mentions of the words "choice" or "choose" = 5

Mentions of the word "abortion"  = 0

Mentions of the word "baby," "infant," or "child" = 0

Oh, my apologies.   He does use the word "children" once.   "We need all the women who come through your doors telling their children, their husbands, and the folks in their neighborhoods about their health care options."

Somehow I think that when the hundreds of thousands of women who come through the doors of Planned Parenthood every year for abortions tell their "children" about their "health care options," that information will fall on deaf ears, because their children, of course, will be dead.

Oh, and by the way, he doesn't mention the words "Kermit Gosnell" either.   

***

UPDATE:  The Regular Son asked me if Obama had used the word "life."   Answer:  3 times.  Each time he was talking about how Planned Parenthood cancer screenings saved a woman's life.   That's a good thing, and I am in favor of that.   Of course.   But cancer screenings aren't the main activity of Planned Parenthood and everyone knows it.   The real "life" issue at Planned Parenthood is the lives of the hundreds of thousands of babies that are ended there.   But he can't talk about that, now, can he?  

These liberal intellectuals are interesting creatures.   They claim to be so "fact-based" and rational.   Yet they can't speak clearly about the basic truth of what goes on in an abortion clinic.   If they said something like "we believe that the convenience and careers of adult women are more important values than the lives of babies," they would be wrong and immoral, but at least they would be honest.   If Obama said something like "the convenience and careers of adult women ar emore important values than the lives of babies because adult women can vote for me and babies can't" he would, again, be honest.... but he would be revealed as a monster.   

Science Be Cool

For us non-scientists, this sort of thing is both daunting and magical:

Dr. Freire and his colleagues put Einstein to the test in a cosmic laboratory 7,000 light years from earth, where two exotic stars are circling each other. One, known as a white dwarf, is the cooling remnant of a much lighter star. Its companion is a pulsar, which spins 25 times every second. Though the pulsar is just 12 miles across, it weighs twice as much as the sun. 
"When you have such a big mass in such a small space you have extremely high gravity," said Charles Wang, a theoretical physicist at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, who wasn't involved in the study. 
The gravity on the pulsar's surface is 300 billion times as great as the gravity on Earth. The conditions there approach the relentless, overwhelming power of a black hole, which swallows even light. 
"We're testing Einstein's theory in a region where it has never been tested before," said Dr. Freire. 
The pulsar and white dwarf pair emit gravitational waves and the binary star system gradually loses energy. As a result, the stars will move closer to each other and orbit faster. Einstein's theory suggests the stars' orbital periods—the time they take to go around each other—ought to shrink by about eight-millionths of a second per year.  
Dr. Freire's and his colleagues used several telescopes to take precise measurements of the two-star system. Their results perfectly matched the Einstein-based prediction.
 
Einstein's theory was published in 1916.   97 years later, using technology he could not have envisioned, a theory that made a prediction about gravity with a precision in the millionths of a second is proven true... again.

"Elegant" is not good enough a word to describe science at this level.

***

And, just for fun, another photo of deep space from the Hubble telescope, this one a stellar-remnant nebula in the constellation Pyxis:

The Woolworth Building

One hundred years ago this April, the Woolworth Building opened in New York.   At the time, and until 1930, when the Chrysler Building was opened, it was the tallest building in the world.   And, as skyscrapers go, a very beautiful building.   It was called the "Cathedral of Commerce" for obvious reasons:

Girl of the Day - Carol Burnett

The great Carol Burnett turns 80 today.   There is nothing like the Carol Burnett show on TV today... nothing like the clean and friendly and confident happiness, the "American-ness" if you will, and nothing anywhere near as funny.   Here's a clip from a funny bit, with the great great great Tim Conway and Harvey Korman:




Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Universe is Bigger Than We Imagine

The momentary, trivial disputes of politics seem very, very small when you look at photographs from the Hubble telescope of deep space.   Here's one of the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy (M83) in the constellation Hydra:

 
 
Maybe the abstract expressionists were onto something.   Reality is strange and beautiful, stranger and more beautiful than we can imagine.

Congress Exempt from Obamacare? I'm Shocked, Shocked!

Politico reports that leaders of both parties are apparently conspiring to exempt Congress (members and staff) from Obamacare:

There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn’t revised, could lead to a “brain drain” on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it. 
The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer — in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers — especially low-paid junior aides — could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.

Tough.

I'm all for people who work for the federal government seeking jobs elsewhere.   Starting with half a dozen Democratic Senators in 2014.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Girl of the Day - Lara Pulver

We're watching the amusing BBC version of Sherlock lately, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the "oh, no, we're not gay" Holmes and Watson.   Holmes' nearest thing to a love interest in the show is the femme fatale Irene Adler, played by British actress Lara Pulver.   Here she is in the show... a rather severe look:




I like her better in civvies:
 
 
 
 


W and Thucydides

Having read Hugh Hewitt's great interviews with Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College for some time, I recently picked up Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.   It's great stuff, filled with political insight and insight into the human beings who act for better and (more often) worse in the political sphere.   And, at least the 1874 translation I'm reading by Richard Crawley, is great.   Military experience is "experience learned in the school of danger."   The Athenians are "addicted to innovation."   Thucydides reminds us of "the vast influence of accident in war," and that, "as it continues, it generally becomes an affair of changes from which neither of us is exempt, and whose event we must risk in the dark."   In his great recounting of Pericles' funeral oration, he describes the fallen Athenians as men, "choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting," who "fled only from dishonour, but met danger face to face."  

Here's another that jumped out at me.   Thucydides writes, "Ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows."

I thought of George W. Bush when I read this.   I think history will be kind to him, certainly kinder than his contemporaries have been.

His Presidential Library opens this week.   I expect his poll numbers to keep climbing as people revisit his Presidency and contrast it with what came before (Clinton) and what came after (Obama).



Obama Chickens Out

President Obama was scheduled to give the keynote address at the annual Planned Parenthood convention on Thursday night.   He probably scheduled it many months in advance, so it might have looked pretty good back in the day when the Democrats' "war on women" meme was ostensibly making headway against Republicans on abortion rights.  

That was before the gruesomeness of the abortion industry became evident in the Kermit Gosnell trial.   Now the President isn't so eager to talk to the nation's largest abortion provider:

Obama backs out of Planned Parenthood keynote address
President Obama has canceled plans to deliver a keynote address at Planned Parenthood’s annual fundraising dinner Thursday night after critics decried his high-profile role at the abortion rights group amid new concerns about the brutality of illegal forms of abortion.
White House spokesman Jay Carney announced the decision to cancel the keynote speech at the gala during his daily press briefing with reporters Wednesday. He attributed the schedule change to Mr. Obama’s desire to spend more time at a memorial service in Waco, Texas, for family members of the victims of the fertilizer plant explosion.
Mr. Carney said the president will still address Planned Parenthood and its supporters Friday morning. Still, the shift to a lower-profile address at a more low-key morning event, rather than an evening gala fundraiser, is significant.
Earlier this week, abortion opponents pressed Mr. Obama to rescind his agreement to speak at the Planned Parenthood fundraiser, considering the gruesome revelations emanating from the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.
Lila Rose, who heads the anti-abortion group Live Action, said the accounts by Mr. Gosnell’s former clinic staff have “shell-shocked the nation.”
“It is incumbent upon the president to reconsider his support for the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood, which last year profited from abortion $87 million committing over 300,000 abortions,” she said Tuesday.

Chicken.   This is the same man who couldn't vote for the Born Alive Protection Act in Illinois.   He pretty plainly doesn't want his own record on abortion (the most radical for any President ever) in the foreground.   You can't answer questions that are unanswerable, no matter how slick a rhetorician you might be.   You can't really explain away why killing live babies would ever be OK and shouldn't be illegal... why it's not murder.   So he runs.

Yadi





















Bernie Miklasz in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch makes this astonishing point about Yadi Molina, the Cardinals great catcher:

I have said it before and I will say it again: there is no player in major-league baseball more valuable to his team on a daily basis than Yadier Benjamin Molina. 
I don’t give a damn if other players hit more home runs, get more attention from ESPN, or are overlooked in the official MVP voting by hopelessly inattentive baseball writers that should know better. 
You want a stat?
Well, here’s a stat:


Since Molina became the Cardinals’ full-time catcher in 2005, the team has a winning percentage of .577 when he starts a game, and a winning percentage of .489 when he doesn’t start a game.

I'm assuming that Miklasz has his stats straight.   But that last paragraph is amazing.   Molina has been at best an average offensive player during his tenure with the Cardinals.   He's better than that over the last 3-4 years, but before that he was below average.   (Four of the six years from 2005 through 2010 Molina had an OPS below .700, and his highest was .749.   His best year during that span for HRs and RBIs was 8 HRs in 2005 and 62 RBIs in 2010.   None of those numbers look like Johnny Bench or Yogi Berra or Mike Piazza.)

So figure him for a 0-1 WAR player as a hitter.   But then the only thing that makes the Cards better when he plays must be (a) the way he calls a game (doesn't show up in statistics); and (b) his fielding as a catcher, including throwing out runners (which largely doesn't show up in statistics because they don't run on good catchers very much, and Molina is the best, so hardly anyone ever tests his arm).   How much is that worth?  

Well, apparently it's worth .088 in terms of winning percentage.    Multiply that by 162 and you get 14.2 extra wins because Yadi is catching rather than the Cards' "replacement" catcher.  

14 WAR.

Maybe the best player in baseball and one of the best ever.  

Hall of Fame?

I say yes.   If Ozzie Smith is in for his fielding, Yadi should be in too.

***

UPDATE:   Just  checked in on the Cardinals day game.   3-1 Cards in the 7th.   Nationals have runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out.   Joe Kelly is struggling and goes 3-0 on the next hitter.   Then he battles back to bring the count full.   On the 3-2 count, the runner goes, Kelly strikes out the batter, and Yadi throws a BB to second for the double play to get out of the inning.   The throw was a laser that was right on the bag; all Kozma had to do was catch it and drop his glove a foot and the runner was out by a mile.

That's why Yadi is the MVP.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

France Legalizes Gay Marriage

Actually, the headline reads like this:

France legalizes gay marriage after harsh debate

Now, maybe I'm crazy, but maybe, just maybe, changing the meaning and importance of a social institution that has lasted for millenia in the face of disagreement from half of your country isn't necessarily wise.   Not that it might not be wise.   Just that it's not necessarily wise.   It's always a little scary to assume that tens of millions of your fellow citizens' long-held traditional beliefs are not just incorrect, but immoral, or irrational, or bigoted.   In a way, that certainty on the part of the pro-gay-marriage Left in itself is a form of intolerance.

But, not to worry:

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told lawmakers that the first weddings could be as soon as June.
"We believe that the first weddings will be beautiful and that they'll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families," she said.

It's all flowers and show tunes and innocent fun!

Oh, and hepatitis.   Can't forget hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Now, again, the RG isn't necessarly adamant in opposing gay marriage, nor am I for discrimination.   The catechism calls us to respect the humanity of everyone, and to show compassion for everyone.   And, as a matter of fact, gay men and women have invariably been nice to me in my life.   I know that's anecdotal, but what the hell.   I wish everyone well and I want everyone to be happy.

What I am against is imprecision in language and Orwellian refusal to confront facts.   The gay marriage movement demands that we treat gay marriage and conventional heterosexual marriage as the same thing.   But the underlying unspoken assumption is that gay sex and conventional heterosexual sex are the same thing.   Yet, at the same time, the U.S. Center for Disease Control has concluded that men having sex with men greatly increases the risks for serious diseases.   So which is it?

We are hectored daily not to smoke, because smoking might cause cancer decades hence.

We are hectored daily not to eat cheeseburgers, because we might become obese, and obesity might cause health problems decades hence.

But we are supposed to ignore and celebrate conduct (male-male anal sex) that can and does cause serious and even fatal diseases, not decades hence, but through an infection that can happen anytime.

Now I'm not for making cigarettes illegal.   And I'm not for making gay sex illegal.   I'm for individuals making their own decisions and government staying out of it.   I'm not even adamant about opposing gay marriage.  

I'm just opposed to euphemism and obfuscation.   And I'm opposed to a momentary majority discovering rights that no one knew existed and then cramming them down on the rest of America just because, at this moment in history, they can.

Oh, and, as a rule, if the French are doing X, I'm in favor of doing Y.  

The Government Protection Racket Looks for New Sources of Extortion Revenue


The Senate is about to pass a bill that would permit states to collect sales tax on Internet sales.   Just another bill that will cause chaos and uncertainty for small business.... good job, Senators.   I guess your reelection slogans will be "Making Sure That No Jobs Get Created On My Watch!"
 
Small sellers with no profits could be subject to audits in dozens of states. Each of the nearly 10,000 local tax jurisdictions could specify a different tax rate. Businesses would also have to figure out how to handle the complexity of integrating as many as 46 state government-supplied software packages into Web ordering systems....
Taxpayer advocates say Enzi's amendment amounts to a multibillion dollar tax hike on American consumers that shouldn't be rushed into law without a single hearing (S.743 was introduced last week). The National Taxpayers Union set up a petition to Congress saying: "I do not want to be made vulnerable to out-of-state tax collectors." Last month, 15 conservative groups sent a letter to members of Congress saying an Internet tax law is "is bad news for conservative principles and the cause of limited government."
They're joined by a coalition called True Simplification of Taxation, which includes the American Catalog Mailers Association, the Direct Marketing Association, NetChoice, and the Electronic Retailing Association. A scorecard (PDF) compiled by the group says S.743 meets only a fraction of 12 important simplification requirements.
 
But it's no surprise why the governing class would want to tax Internet sales... Internet sales are booming:
 
 
Estimated Quarterly U.S. Retail E-commerce Sales as a Percent of Total Quarterly Retail Sales:





The government wants a piece of this action.   Sort of like a protection racket.

No exactly like a protection racket.   If your a small Internet retailer, you now have a gun to your head.   

Nice place you got here.   Be a shame if anything happened to it."  

RoY Alert - Shelby Miller





















Shelby Miller is berry berry good.   My prediction is that he wins the National League rookie-of-the-year this year.   Right now he's 3-1 in four starts with a 2.16 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 25 innings.    Wow!

To give points of comparison, in 1967 at age 22 (Miller's age), Tom Seaver won the RoY, going 16-13 with 170 strikeouts in 251 innings and with a 2.76 ERA.   Twenty years later in 1987, Dwight Gooden was 22 and went 15-7 with 148 Ks in 179 innings and a 3.21 ERA.  

If Miller gets 32 starts he's on pace for 24-8 with 208 Ks in 200 innings.  

I'm just sayin'.

***

On the other hand, by the time Gooden was 22, he had already won the RoY (at 19) and the Cy Young (at 20).   Here's Gooden's stats in that 20 year-old season:

24 wins, 4 losses
1.53 ERA
16 complete games
8 shutouts
268 Ks in 276 innings!!

You will never ever ever see a line like that for a 20 year-old pitcher.   Not ever.   They are too valuable... witness what happened with Strasburg last year.   No one would let a 20 year-old arm go 276 innings.  

Gooden was a sad story.   He had 91 victories, a RoY, a Cy Young, and four All-Star appearances before he turned 24.   If he had pitched another 15 years and averaged, say, 16 victories a year, he would have ended up with 330+ and been a sure-fire Hall of Famer.  A lot of the blame goes to his own choices -- drugs, alcohol, the fast life.   But you have to wonder whether too much success too soon took a toll on both his character and his arm.  

Girl of the Day - Ann Margaret

Fifty years ago in April 1963 the number one box office hit movie was Bye Bye Birdie.   I have to believe that this was why:



What a Cardinal Looks Like

This:





































Not this:


Obamacare Train Wreck Alert!

Let's start with a few axioms, just like we'd do if we were doing geometry proofs.

1. Politicians want power.
2. Politicians want to be re-elected.
3. Politicians only refuse to run for re-election if they know they can't win.
4. Politicians only know they can't win if they have become associated with something the public hates, or something that the public will hate once they know more about it.

Now let's apply these axioms to this story:

Senator Max Baucus (D, Mont.) will retire in 2014 rather than face a tough reelction battle, according to the Washington Post, which cites Democratic strategists familiar with his plans.
Baucus, who helped author the federal healthcare law, is currently serving his sixth term in office. His involvement in the drafting and eventual passage of Obamacare, which remains deeply unpopular, meant that he would have faced a difficult race in 2014 if he chose to run for a seventh term. The Montana Democrat made headlines last week when he referred to Obamacare as a “train wreck.”
 
You think Baucus suddenly realized that the campaign ads for his opponent would write themselves?  

"Baucus... a train wreck for America."

Rats.   Leaving.   Sinking.   Ship.

They know that this is going to be a debacle and they want to get as far away from it as they can.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Girl of the Day - Elizabeth Moss

Mad Men is off to a slow start this year, and I'm not sure that it's going to pull out of it.   There is some potential for jumping the shark, in other words.   (As I've written before, at some point a 40 something year old shallow amoral cheat like Don Draper becomes uninteresting... there's no arc to his character, he's just a jerk.)  

On the other hand, it's always interesting to me how relatively dowdy characters on TV are actually smashing looking in real life.   It may be that both the makeup to make them look dowdy and the makeup to make them look awesome obscure the reality.  

Anyway, Elizabeth Moss has been looking terrific lately.   I wonder when the writers will give her some more interesting love interest as a storyline.








Quick Hits

I've missed blogging the past few days so this will be a catch up post of "quick hits" on the topics du jour.

1. The Looming Obamacare Train Wreck.   Max Baucus, one of the Senate architects of Obamacare, last week called it a looming "train wreck."   That's colorful.   This is more ominous:   Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said he's no longer thinking about making sure it's a "world-class" health care system... now he's just worried about making sure it's not a "third-world experience."   Sheesh!   Now they tell us.  

2.  The Boston Bombers.   Pressure cooker bombs filled with nails and ball bearings.   Radical jihadists from Chechnya invited into the country as immigrants.   But Obama is fuming about the NRA and gun control?   It becomes more and more unclear who he thinks the enemy is.   For some reason he seems to get madder at his fellow Americans, just because they disagree with him on policy, than he does at terrorists.  

3. Gosnell.   The Boston bombing pushed Kermit Gosnell's abortion mill murder trial out of the news only a femto-second after the Left had acknowledged that it was an actual news story when a medical doctor kills live squirming babies in a fetid swamp of an abortion "clinic" in inner city Philadelphia.   the latest testimony of a live baby trying to "swim" in a toilet before being killed is nauseating, both literally and morally.   Let me just say it.... the babies and the mothers here are all minorities.   If Gosnell were white and exhibited such callous neglect of the basic humanity of his patients and their babies, this would have been front page news all along.   In that respect, Gosnell's attorney's idiotic argument that his client is being "lynched" is revolting.... the only thing that might save Gosnell is that he's black.  

4. The Long Perspective.   Meanwhile, the papacy of Pope Francis I continues.   Yesterday he ordained ten new priests, saying to the young men:  "see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practise what you teach."   Exactly so.   He goes on:  

When you celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the world—remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ. You are pastors, not functionaries. 

An old man and true priest calling young men to be true priests.  

By the way, Rocco Palmo's blog Whispers in the Loggia is a must-read about our new Pope.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Girl of the Day - Still More Annet Mahendru!

Small sample size, I know, but every week after the Wednesday night episode of The Americans, I get a burst of hits on my posts with pictures of Annet Mahendru:


























Got to keep the traffic moving.

A Ray of Light

The uncle of the two Boston bombers was waylaid by the media today, and gave what I have to say is a wonderful, impassioned defense of America (while calling his nephews "losers"):

“How do you feel about America?” he was asked. His response: “I say, I teach my children and that’s what I feel myself, this is the ideal microworld in the entire world. I respect this country, I love this country. This country, which gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being and to just to be human being — to feel yourself human being. That’s what I feel about this country.”
 
Here's the whole thing:







I think this gentlemen did his community (the Chechen-Americans and the Muslim-Americans) a whole lot of good with this on a day when many Americans perhaps would otherwise equate Chechen Muslims with terrorism.  

It always bears repeating how small a minority the real Islamist terrorists are among the Muslims in the world, and how often the characteristics of terrorists -- largely unemployed, disaffected, embittered young men, "losers," as his man says -- overlap with the losers who do things like Newtown or Aurora or Virginia Tech.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Song of the Day - Sugar Shack

Fifty years ago in 1963, the longest running number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 -- topping the charts from mid-October to mid-November -- was "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs.   This song was what America was listening to right before the JFK assassination, Dallas, the grassy knoll, "I'm a patsy," and all of the other cultural markers that we now say meant that American had changed forever.





Never.   Heard.   Of.   Them.  

The Train Wreck Feature

Max Baucus, one of the key Democratic Senators who drafted Obamacare, is not happy:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the chairman of the chamber's powerful Finance Committee and a key architect of the healthcare reform law, said he fears people do not understand how the law will work. 
"I just see a huge train wreck coming down," he told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a Wednesday hearing. "You and I have discussed this many times, and I don't see any results yet." 
Baucus pressed Sebelius for details about how the Health Department will explain the law and raise awareness of its provisions, which are supposed to take effect in just a matter of months. 
"I'm very concerned that not enough is being done so far — very concerned," Baucus said.
Train wreck is putting it mildly.   Obamacare entails (a) higher costs for coverage; (b) higher transaction costs (meaning the bureaucratic headaches and time involved) for getting coverage; (c) low penalties for not being covered (the relatively toothless mandate); (d) disincentives for providing coverage (if you're a small business); and, of course, the famous provision that you can't be turned down for a pre-existing condition.   The combination of higher costs, bureaucratic disincentives, and moral hazard obviously means there will be more uninsured under Obamacare, not fewer..... which was the whole point of the exercise.    Add in the utter confusion of the "exchanges" and you have a disaster.   Did anybody at all in the government stop to think that taking the single most aggravating and complicated and confusing bureaucracy in America (the health care industry) and adding another layer (or set of layers) of additional aggravating and complicated andconfusing bureaucracy (the federal government) wasn't going to work very well?   (Note:  I could have stopped the last sentence with "Did anybody at all in the government stop to think?")

It's almost as if they planned it that way.   Not a bug but a feature, as the kids say.   

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Girl of the Day - Olivia Hussey



























When I was nine (in 1968) one of the big movies out was Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet.   I have vague memories of the actress who played Juliet, a seventeen-year old named Olivia Hussey, being on the cover of some teen magazines my sisters had.   I may be making that up... memory is tricky that way.

Anyway, Ms. Hussey turns 62 today.   Tempus fugit, once again.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hypotheticals for Liberals

Hypothetical 1:  A woman arrives at Kermit Gosnell's Philadelphia abortion clinic.   She is 30 weeks pregnant.   She asks for an abortion.   Gosnell performs the abortion of the 30 week old "fetus" in utero by inserting scissors into the birth canal and snipping its spinal cord.   He then delivers the dead baby and discards the fetal remains in the clinic's dumpster.

Hypothetical 2:  A woman arrives at Kermit Gosnell's Philadelphia abortion clinic. She is 30 weeks pregnant. She asks for an abortion.   Gosnell performs the abortion of the 30 week old "fetus" by inducing labor and then, once the live baby is born, killing him or her by snipping the spinal cord.   He then discards the "fetal remains" in the clinic's dumpster.

Hypothetical 3:  A woman arrives at Kermit Gosnell's Philadelphia abortion clinic. She is 30 weeks pregnant. She asks for an abortion.   Gosnell induces labor and then, once the live baby is born, the mother decides she wants him or her.   The mother takes the baby home.   Once she gets home, the mother reconsiders, and kills her own baby by snipping the spinal cord.   She then returns to the clinic and discards the "fetal remains" in its dumpster.  

Write a three-paragraph essay describing your reasoning why some or all of these situations are or are not murder.   Does the location of the killing matter?   Does the identity of the killer matter?   If so, why?

Happy Birthday to Pope Benedict XVI!

























A very warm birthday greeting to Pope Benedict XVI.   What a great man and great scholar... during Lent I read his daily observations, which were very moving, particularly given the circumstances of his giving up the papacy in an act of selfless devotion to the Church. 

The requirements to be named a "Doctor of the Church" include eminens doctrina, insignis vitae sanctitas, Ecclesiae declaratio (i.e. eminent learning, a high degree of sanctity, and proclamation by the Church).   I believe that Benedict will be named a Doctor of the Church within my lifetime, taking his place with Aquinas, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory the Great, Ambrose, and the others.

What Recourse?

Over at NRO today, Victor Davis Hanson, a historian, offers this hypothetical of alternate history:

Imagine if, during the campaign of 2008, someone had written the following: “If Barack Obama is elected president, then each year from now on the federal budget will be a trillion dollars in the red. He will pile up in two terms more debt than all previous presidents combined. Interest rates will stay at near zero; 7.6 percent unemployment will be proof of progress in creating jobs. Record use of food stamps, unemployment, and disability insurance will be hallmarks of recovery. The government will take over health care, and the costs will skyrocket. During Obama’s second term, ammunition will vanish from America’s store shelves in panic buying. Gay marriage will become uncontroversial. Women will be eligible for infantry combat. The only question about amnesty for illegal aliens will be when, not if, it is enacted. States will begin legalizing marijuana.” Obviously, such a conspiracist would have been dismissed as an unhinged nut.


Hanson doesn't ask this question, but perhaps he should have -- is blatant, intentional misrepresentation (a/k/a fraud) to get elected an impeachable offense?   I doubt it.   The democratic process and the give-and-take of campaigning is supposed to identify and weed out the fraudfeasors from potential public office.   But what if it doesn't?   What if the jury isn't allowed to hear the evidence of the candidate's fraud, because the gatekeeper (in court, a judge; in politics, the mainstream media) decides not to permit the evidence to be heard?

Obama lied to us, over and over, to get elected, and then re-elected.   He continues to lie to us.   And there's not a lot we can do about it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Praying for the People in Boston

About all you can do now about the bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon.   Truly horrific... what kind of monster does this?   Innocent people doing something so innocent as running a race.   Who hates us so much to do this?  

I'm really at a loss.

UPDATE:   Here's a link to the video of the actual explosion.   Unbelievably sad and scary.   It's hard to imagine what it must be like for these people to be struggling across the finish line (the timer shows 4:09), which puts them at about a 9:30 mile pace for 26 miles, and then have this happen.  




 

#hashtagworld

The Regular Son and I had an entire conversation today in nothing but hashtags:

RG: #taxdaysucks

RS: #creepingsocialism

RG: #stampedingsocialism

RS: #cowedsquishywashingtonrinos

RG: #gunsammogoldcannedgoodsbottledwater

RS: #atlasshrugged

Girl of the Day - Claudia Cardinale





































A huge star in Europe in the 1960s, Claudia Cardinale is best known to American audiences for her work as the object of desire for the hard men on the Western frontier in Sergio Leone's masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).    A great, crazy film that epitomizes the spaghetti western genre with its long, drawn-out scenes of building tension and extreme close-ups.   Here's a classic clip:


Tax Day

Federal income taxes.  Social Security taxes.   (Both halves, because I'm essentially self-employed as a partner in a law firm.)  Medicare taxes.   (Both halves again.)  State income taxes.  Out-of-state income taxes (because our partnership has offices in other states).   Estimated tax payments for 2013.

That's just today.   And that doesn't count:

Property taxes.  Fees (for instance, I have to get my driver's license renewed next month.)  Tolls.  Fines (Illinois sends you a bill for a fine if you happen to miss a toll).

And those are only the more visible taxes.   There's also relatively hidden taxes like sales taxes and gasoline taxes.   If you travel there's hotel taxes.

And there's the essentially invisible taxes like the corporate income tax and the massive amount of federal and state regulations that make every product or service you buy more expensive.  

All in, I figure that government at all levels takes about 40% of what I make.   Maybe.   It's hard to tell, frankly, and that's part of the problem.  

Meanwhile, I've never taken any federal or state transfer payment for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, or disability.   And, given the current state of the federal debt, it's likely that the federal government will renege on my Social Security and Medicare so I won't get that either.   My children don't go to public schools.   As a law-abiding citizen I put relatively no burdens on the state.  

At some point, people like me might stop being rubes and start wondering why exactly they should be working to support other people's families for five months a year.





The Cardinals' New Alternate Home Uniforms

With St. Louis on the front for the first time since the 1940s, slightly larger birds on the bat, and red piping.   Oh, and Stan Musial's number and signature in a patch on the sleeve.   Apparently they are going to wear these on Saturdays for the national telecasts on Fox.  

In a word... awesome!

























Not that the Regular Guy would want one of these for his upcoming birthday.   No, siree, not me. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Girl of the Day - The Regular Wife!

The Regular Wife probably wouldn't appreciate having her picture posted on the idiot blog, but today's her birthday.   What a great person, what a great Mom, what a great wife!   We have a beautiful, loving home, and it's all due to her.  

Anyway, here she is with the Regular Son at Christmas (he got the height from her):




And here she is with the Regular Daughters (they got their shortness from me):




























And here she is, in a wistful mood (probably thinking she could have done better):




























The Regular Guy punched above his weight class with this one.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Regular Son Comments on the NORK Nuke Crisis


Photographic essay from the Regular Son:


This guy ...



Reminds you of...



But has...



And is well within range of...



And this guy is the leader of the free world...


Girl of the Day - More from Game of Thrones! (Diana Rigg)

Diana Rigg of The Avengers fame joins the cast of Game of Thrones this year, which is about the biggest stamp of approval this side of Judi Dench that the show could get.   Here she is from way back when, which makes me think the 60s maybe weren't all that bad:






































Now, if GoT can only get Gemma Jones (from Duchess of Duke Street)!

Johns Hopkins and the Moving Goalposts of Political Correctness

You may have heard of Dr. Ben Carson, an unbelievably accomplished pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.    He also happens to be black, which matters not at all to his patients, I'm certain.

Dr. Carson has recently forayed into politics, giving a talk at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington where he essentially "came out" as a conservative.   Dr. Carson, you see, believes that traditional values of hard determined work and sacrifice over many years is the recipe for success in life, and he has his own life to prove it, having risen from poverty in Detroit to... well, to being a freakin' brain surgeon.

Unfortunately, Dr. Carson made the mistake of being a confident, accomplished, successful, intelligent, conservative black man, at a time in American history where such men must be ignored or destroyed by the powers that be.   He doesn't fit the consensus narrative of a racist America that keeps black men down, so he must be silenced.

It's working.   Dr. Carson recently made a comment about gay marriage in which he stated that "no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality ... they don't get to change the definition" of marriage.    Because of that statement, and because of pushback by people who claim to have been offended by it, Carson has been forced to withdraw as the commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins Medical School graduation this spring.

Let me say that again:   a prominent black neurosurgeon on staff at Johns Hopkins cannot be allowed to speak at the medical school's graduation because he holds an opinion that the school views to be politically incorrect.

Now, personally, I would agree that it is awkward that Dr. Carson conflated adult homosexuality with man-boy homosexuality (NAMBLA) and bestiality.   They are not the same things, and, in my view, it is a bit offensive to lump them together.   I'm not sure he was trying to lump them together, only to make the argument that the traditional view of marriage shouldn't be changed by anyone, but be that as it may... it was awkward.

But, so what?   Even if he was trying to lump these different categories of non-heterosexual sexuality together, that would only mean that he was expressing a belief (that they are all varieties of deviance) that is actually the belief of all of the major world religions, including Christianity and Islam.   I mean, if you've read the Old Testament, it's almost boring how many times God ends up punishing the Israelites for falling away from their faith, and how many times that falling away takes the form of men lying down with men and beasts.   I might disagree, you might disagree, but it's not exactly a bizarre and unheard-of attitude for Dr. Carson to take.  

And, of course, taking the position that gay marriage should not be allowed and that the definition of traditional marriage should be retained was the position of nearly every prominent politician in America, including President Obama, until less than a year ago.   Is Johns Hopkins going to say with a straight face that they wouldn't have accepted Obama as their commencement speaker two years ago because of his stance on gay marriage?   I don't think so.

The goalposts are moving so fast and the rules of political correctness are changing so fast it's hard to know where we'll end up.   It wouldn't surprise me if someone like Cardinal Timothy Dolan were forbidden from being a commencement speaker at a college or university because of the positions on gay marriage held by the Catholic Church.   Being a Catholic will equate with being offensive, with "hate speech."

Strange times.   You can come out as gay or lesbian and you're celebrated, but if you come out as a conservative or Christian, you'll be vilified.  

Tolerance for me, but not for thee, in other words.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sick on So Many Levels

I'll just quote this article from the Media Research Center and let you draw the inevitable (and sick) conclusions about the state of American civilization:

The Rutgers basketball story continues to transfix the media, and why shouldn’t it? Mike Rice, the disgraced former Rutgers basketball coach allegedly killed a woman and at least seven viable, born-alive babies “by plunging scissors into their spinal cords” in his filthy, macabre “house of horrors” abortion clinic.
Oh wait, my mistake. Rice was fired last week from Rutgers over video of him shoving, kicking and yelling at his players, throwing basketballs at them and – most damning – using “homophobic slurs.” That’s made Rice the most notorious villain in America. And in one week it earned him 36 network news stories clocking in at 41 minutes, 26 seconds of air time on ABC, CBS and NBC.
Now, had Rice been accused of killing a woman and eight babies, he’d be enjoying the same anonymity as Kermit Gosnell – provided the killings were carried out in an abortion clinic. Gosnell is the West Philadelphia abortionist who ran an unimaginable charnel house of a “clinic,” for 30 years. Witnesses testified that he may have murdered over 100 babies outside the womb. Gosnell’s trial, underway for weeks, has featured wrenching testimony and horrific details. And it has received exactly zero seconds of airtime on the broadcast networks.
 
Apparently you can't call a huge athletic college basketball player a "fairy" if he fails to hustle in practice, but, if you had managed to get to him twenty years before, just after he was born, it would have been OK to murder him.   That's American civilization ca. 2013, at least according to the MSM.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

A few years back I had a stretch where I worked on a number of cases involving multiemployer pension funds.   Multiemployer funds or "Taft-Hartley" funds are union pension plans in industries that organize workers in relatively small enterprises into a larger union for purposes of negotiating benefits, etc.    The two big cases I had involved employees at grocery stores across the South, and employees at print shops in the northeast.   Both of the pension plans had essentially the same two problems.

First, the pensions as a whole were structured as a Ponzi scheme where high benefits for the current retirees were only affordable if the union kept growing and getting new members whose contributions to the plan would support the benefits.   If the unions didn't grow -- and, as we know, unions have been shrinking -- the plans fell apart, because there simply weren't enough contributions coming in to support the high level of promised benefits.

Second, the pensions covered up the first problem through the 1980s and 1990s by getting high returns on their investments, and by assuming that those high returns would continue forever.   This is called the actuarial return on investment assumption, and plans would typically assume that they would get 8% or even 9% a year on their investments ad infinitum.   By doing so, they could assume that investment returns would pay for future benefits, and could kid themselves into believing that relatively low and inadequate levels of current contributions would be good enough.   Some plans who were flush with cash at the end of the 1990s even gave themselves "contribution holidays."

What happens when there aren't enough current workers to contribute to a plan, and investment returns go flat?   In the industry what happens is known as a pension "death spiral."

This is a long way around to pointing you toward an important article in today's WSJ by Andy Kessler in which he talks about the problems of pension finances across the country as highlighted by the bankruptcy of the City of Stockton in California:
You can't wish this stuff away. Over time, returns are going to be subpar and the contributions demanded from cities across California and companies across America are going to go up and more dominoes are going to fall. San Bernardino and seven other California cities may also be headed to Chapter 9. The more Chapter 9 filings, the less money Calpers receives, and the more strain on the fictional expected rate of return until the boiler bursts.  
Sadly, the only thing left is to cut retiree payouts, something Judge Klein has left open. There are 12,338 retired California government workers receiving $100,000 or more in pension payments from Calpers. Michael D. Johnson, a retiree from the County of Solano, pulls in $30,920.24 per month. As more municipalities file Chapter 9, the more these kinds of retirement deals will be broken. When Wisconsin public employees protested the state government's move to rein in pensions in 2011, the demonstrations got ugly—but that was just a hint of the torches and pitchforks likely to come.

America as a whole is just a big Stockton, with our Social Security systems and Medicare systems essentially playing the role of the union pension and retiree health plans.   It's a Ponzi scheme based on the assumption of endless consistent GDP growth -- where instead we have stagnation -- and a steady influx of new workers -- where instead we have a barely replacement level birthrate.   We lie to ourselves that a culture of consumption and hedonism and low birth rates can support the retirement promises we've made to ourselves.   But it can't -- there aren't enough young people to work, and there's not enough economic growth.

Torches and pitchforks sounds pretty mild compared to what we might expect.    A society this affluent and this entitled has never before tried the experiment of falling apart in slow motion.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thatcher on the Good Life and How to Live It

What Thatcher knew, what Reagan knew,what the Regular Guy's dad knew, and what all common-sensical regular guys through time immemorial have known, is that living a good life isn't rocket science.   Here's how Margaret Thatcher described it:

"My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day's work for an honest day's pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time; support the police."
 
Anybody really believe that American wouldn't be a better place if we all thought like this?   Instead we have a nation of disability scammers and assorted layabouts; a nation of borrowers, buying ephemeral pleasures today while impoverishing our children and our children's children; a nation of defaulters; a nation of scofflaws.  

Girl of the Day - Rose Leslie

After a small role in Downton Abbey, Rose Leslie is about to play a much bigger role as Jon Snow's love interest, Ygritte, in the third season of Game of Thrones.    A welcome addition.    Here she is in her costume (north of the Wall, where apparently winter is coming).




























And here she is in civvies.













Newspapers = Buggy Whips

This graph tells you about all you need to know about the collapse of the newspaper industry.   A promise (not a prediction)... in ten years you'll have to explain to children what a newspaper was, just as now you have to explain what a "typewriter" was, or a "record."   God forbid if you have to explain what a "book" was.