Sunday, July 31, 2011

Agreement reached

Who could have seen it coming?

...There won't be a default, because they'll come to some agreement that prevents it. No one wants it, so it won't happen. Much ado about, well, not nothing, but about something that's not going to happen.
- Me, July 15

Tonight:
Senate leaders will meet with their caucuses Monday morning to present a bipartisan agreement to raise the debt limit and cut spending between $2 trillion and $3 trillion.

Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) endorsed the deal on the Senate floor.

“I am relieved to say that leaders from both parties have come together for the sake of our economy to reach historic, bipartisan compromise that ends this dangerous standoff,” Reid said.

“The compromise we have agreed to is remarkable not only because of what it does, but because of what it prevents: a first-ever default on the full faith and credit of the United States,” he said.

Reid said he would present it to his Democratic colleagues at 11 am and expressed confidence it would pass Congress. Reid said he would have to meet with his colleagues before giving the final green light.

President Obama took the podium in the White House briefing room a short while later to announce that the leaders from both parties in the Senate and House had accepted the deal.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

FTX complete

The soldier and his company have completed the Field Training Exercise which was the last requirement at AIT (Advanced Individual Training). He'll be graduating on Thursday, and shipping for Language School first thing Friday morning...

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Perspective

Apple Now Has More Cash Than The U.S. Government
Here's something to keep in mind as you follow this evening's congressional debate over the debt ceiling.

According to the latest daily statement from the U.S. Treasury, the government had an operating cash balance of $73.8 billion at the end of the day yesterday.

Apple's last earnings report (PDF here) showed that the company had $76.2 billion in cash and marketable securities at the end of June.

In other words, the world's largest tech company has more cash than the world's largest sovereign government.

That's because Apple collects more money than it spends, while the U.S. government does not.



H/T: Jonah Goldberg

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Not taking "yes" for an answer...

There's an old piece of wisdom that one should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. There appears to be a lot of that going on in the House of Representatives right now...
House Republican leaders, four days before a threatened U.S. default and facing stiff resistance within their ranks to raising the U.S. debt ceiling, plan to make a second try at passing legislation that is headed for a Senate roadblock.

Republicans led by House Speaker John Boehner were forced to scrap action on the measure late last night. They are considering a rewrite for a second time this week after face-to-face meetings with recalcitrant lawmakers failed to yield the votes to push it through the House.
Or, "cutting off nose to spite face," if you prefer...

Now it seems to me that I'm as militant and partisan and anti-debt and anti-tax and anti-government spending as anyone out there, but clearly, sometimes you've got to take the best you can get and go with it. It's hard for me to picture any outcomes of the House failing to pass the Boehner bill that are better than any of the outcomes of passing the Boehner bill. You can believe that US debt is too high and that the Boehner bill doesn't do enough to curb spending (both of which I believe, by the way) and still believe that it's absolutely the best case scenario in the current circumstances. Said circumstances include, again, the facts that the Democrats control the Senate and the Democrats control the White House and the Democrats are unutterably opposed to cutting spending and the Democrats are unutterably opposed to not increasing taxes.

I've said this before, but let me say it again:
The financial problems of the United States can not be fixed with Barack Obama in the White House and Democrats in control of the Senate. The financial problems of the United States can not even be seriously addressed with Barack Obama in the White House and Democrats in control of the Senate.
What that means is that the best case scenario here is that the Republicans manage to slow the rush to financial catastrophe without damaging themselves enough to cost the party the chance to win back the Senate and the Presidency 15 months from next Tuesday. It's easy to look at the Boehner bill and say, "No, it's not good enough, it doesn't really address the problems," - and I agree - but what's the alternative? If they don't pass something, and we do end up in technical default (not on August 2nd, but somewhere down the road), the consequences are very likely to be severe. And it doesn't matter how we get to that point - the Republicans lose the media war. We know that up front, going in. The people that get to stand on the sidelines and pass judgment, and spread that judgment as fact, are playing for the other team. We know that. It's a doomsday scenario.

But hey, those firebrand conservatives standing on principle can comfort themselves with their principles as they enjoy minority status during the economic apocalypse that accompanies the second Obama administration...

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

So, can I get my incandescent bulbs back now?

This is actually the second recent story on the issue. I haven't gotten around to linking the first yet, but I'll do it down below.

First, the news out of NASA.

New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism
NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

...

"The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show," Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. "There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans."

...

The new NASA Terra satellite data are consistent with long-term NOAA and NASA data indicating atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by alarmist computer models. The Terra satellite data also support data collected by NASA's ERBS satellite showing far more longwave radiation (and thus, heat) escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than alarmist computer models had predicted. Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than alarmist computer models have predicted.

In short, the central premise of alarmist global warming theory is that carbon dioxide emissions should be directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth's atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth's atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.

Secondly, from a week or so ago, the news out of CERN. To provide some context for it, we look back to 1998, when the experiment was proposed:
A controversial theory proposing that cosmic rays are responsible for global warming is to be put to the test at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics. Put forward two years ago by two Danish scientists, Henrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen, the theory suggests that it is changes in the Sun's magnetic field, and not the emission of greenhouse gases, that has led to recent rises in global temperatures.
(We all remember 1998, right? The hottest year in the history of the world [since record-keeping started all of 100 years earlier]...)

So, they did their experiment, got results, and were promptly warned not to talk about them...
The chief of the world's leading physics lab at CERN in Geneva has prohibited scientists from drawing conclusions from a major experiment. The CLOUD ("Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets") experiment examines the role that energetic particles from deep space play in cloud formation. CLOUD uses CERN's proton synchrotron to examine nucleation.

...

The CLOUD experiment builds on earlier experiments by Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark, who demonstrated that cosmic rays provide a seed for clouds. Tiny changes in the earth's cloud cover could account for variations in temperature of several degrees. The amount of Ultra Fine Condensation Nuclei (UFCN) material depends on the quantity of the background drizzle of rays, which varies depending on the strength of the sun's magnetic field and the strength of the Earth's magnetic field.

But how much? Speaking at a private event attended by El Reg earlier this year, Svensmark, who has nothing to do with CLOUD, wouldn't be drawn. He said he thought it was one of four significant factors: man-made factors, volcanoes, a "regime shift" in the mid-'70s, and cosmic rays.

The quantity of cosmic rays therefore has an influence on climate, but this isn't factored into the IPCC's "consensus" science at all.
Points to draw from these stories:
  1. The science is not settled.
  2. The models aren't good enough to justify a plane trip across the ocean, never mind crippling restrictions and restructuring of the world's economies.
  3. "Climate change denier" is not synonymous with "flat-earther," and definitely not with the much more pejorative "holocaust denier."

So let me share my position again, at least in the short form:
It is a reasonable hypothesis to suppose that there is a relationship between increased CO2 levels and increased temperature on a global level. This hypothesis has not been proven to my satisfaction. I do not believe that the scientific "consensus" is as strong as the warming alarmists would have us believe.
...
Many of the people favoring what may objectively be looked at as anti-Western civilization, "spread the wealth to the poor" policies with regards to carbon have a history of favoring anti-Western civilization, "spread the wealth to the poor" policies at other times in history, for other reasons. Many of the people who are pushing the AGW story the hardest have profited, are profiting, and can be expected to continue profiting from policies and government outlays that are based on their assumptions of short-term climate catastrophe. Many of the people who are profiting from the climate change storyline are living their lives as if it weren't a problem.
...
If you kludge a model with fixed data-specific adjustments to say what you want it to say every time you get new data, as they did at CRU, you can always make it match. A model which matches new data based on kludging it after that data is known, has no useful predictive power for future events...The CRU model was garbage, and it was fed garbage. I would not gamble a nickel based on the output of the CRU model.
...
It is difficult to believe that engaging in economically destructive activities based on the output of a fudged model using an uncertain and non-reproducible data set is a rational course of action.
So, I ask again - can I get my incandescent light bulbs back now?

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Boehner's Plan Is Not Perfect, But It Ain't Bad

Add the always excellent Dr. Thomas Sowell to the Boehner plan supporters...
Now that the Republicans seem to have gotten the Democrats off their higher taxes kick, the question is whether a minority of the House Republicans will refuse to pass the Boehner legislation that could lead to a deal that will spare the country a major economic disruption and spare the Republicans from losing the 2012 elections by being blamed — rightly or wrongly — for the disruptions.

Is the Boehner legislation the best legislation possible? Of course not! You don't get your heart's desire when you control only one house of Congress and face a presidential veto.

The most basic fact of life is that we can make our choices only among the alternatives actually available. It is not idealism to ignore the limits of one's power. Nor is it selling out one's principles to recognize those limits at a given time and place, and get the best deal possible under those conditions.

That still leaves the option of working toward getting a better deal later, when the odds are more in your favor.
Spot on...

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Senate Democrats Promise To Cause Default Rather Than Cutting Spending

The Democrats have sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner warning the House not to bother passing a debt-ceiling bill that doesn't push our financial problems past the next election, because they won't support it. Despite the panic-mongering of the President, and the rest of the Democrats, about the economic catastrophe on our doorstep, if they don't get what they want (increased taxes and this issue pushed past the 2012 elections) they're going to go ahead and push the nuclear button. They say.

I've taken the liberty of correcting the letter, a little bit...

Senate Democrats Promise to Reject Boehner Plan
Dear Speaker Boehner,

With five days until our nation faces an unprecedented financial crisis
[largely of our own making], we need to work together to ensure that our nation does not default on our obligations for the first time in our history [witness us fighting against fiscal sanity during an election campaign]. We heard that in your caucus you said the Senate will support your bill. We are writing to tell you that we will not support it, and give you the reasons why.

A short-term extension like the one in your bill would put America
[Democratic politicians] at risk [of having this discussion again before the election], along with every family and business in it. Your approach would force us once again to face the threat of default [consequences of our profligate spending] in five or six short months. Every day, another expert warns us that your short-term approach [our failure to control spending] could be nearly as disastrous as a default [that we're threatening to force if you don't raise taxes] and would lead to a downgrade in our credit rating. If our credit is downgraded, it would cost us billions of dollars more in interest payments on our existing debt and drive up our deficit. Even more worrisome, a downgrade would [cost us the Senate and the White House in 2012 and] spike interest rates, making everything from mortgages, car loans and credit cards more expensive for families and businesses nationwide. [Despite those catastrophic results, we'll go ahead and cause this anyway if we don't get the taxes we want and a ceiling high enough to last past the next election.]

In addition to risking
[Despite the bill preventing] a downgrade and catastrophic default, we are concerned that in five or six months, the House will once again hold the economy captive [attempt to deal with the budget problems] and refuse to avoid another default unless we accept unbalanced, deep cuts [meaningful and rational restructuring] to programs like Medicare and Social Security, without asking anything of the wealthiest [(which, under our definitions, means pretty much anyone with a job)] Americans [other than that they continue funding the whole thing as they're already doing].

We now have only five days left to act
[but if we don't get our way, we'll force the default]. The entire world is watching Congress. We need to do the right [politically expedient] thing to solve this problem [avoid debating this again in an election year]. We must work together to avoid a default [cutting spending] the responsible way – not in a way that will do America more harm than good [by limiting our ability to use tax dollars to buy votes from our interest groups].

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Dombey and Son

There were other Victorian novelists, and some of them might read similarly in short snatches, but there was only one Charles Dickens. Dombey and Son, published in serial form from 1846-1848, was his seventh full novel (not counting the five Christmas books published between 1843 and 1848, which are all substantially shorter than his non-Christmas works) and is "Dickensian" in every sense of the word. It is populated with the full array of saints and sinners, grotesques and eccentrics, that make up London as seen through Dickens' eyes.
"A wandering princess and a good monster in a storybook might have sat by the fireside, and talked as Captain Cuttle and poor Florence talked—and not have looked very much unlike them."
And they interact in the tightly coupled webs of coincidence that Dickens so often plotted. (If the phrase deus ex machina hadn't originated long before, it might have been necessary to coin it for use in describing Dickens' works.) And the reader can be alternately moved to tears of sadness or tears of laughter, often on the same page.
The Captain immediately drew Walter into a corner, and with a great effort, that made his face very red, pulled up the silver watch, which was so big, and so tight in his pocket, that it came out like a bung.

'Wal'r,' said the Captain, handing it over, and shaking him heartily by the hand, 'a parting gift, my lad. Put it back half an hour every morning, and about another quarter towards the arternoon, and it's a watch that'll do you credit.'
If Dombey and Son doesn't rise to the level of David Copperfield or Nicholas Nickleby or Bleak House, it is still a much better book than The Old Curiosity Shop or Great Expectations (my least favorite, and a book I find myself unable to get through a second time) or Martin Chuzzlewit. If I were to rank the 14 novels1 (excluding the Christmas books for length and Drood for being unfinished), it ranks solidly in the middle.

The Victorian novelist and critic George Gissing apparently considered one of the inadequacies of the book to be the unsympathetic central character. To which I respond that he doesn't know who the central character was. While Paul Dombey is, in many ways, unsympathetic, he's neither totally unsympathetic, nor the central character. If the book were instead titled "Florence Dombey," there would be no confusion on this point.

That's not to say that there aren't inadequacies, because there are. Some of what appear to be inadequacies to us, such as the relationship between Cap'n Cuttle to Mrs. MacStinger, are, I suspect, cultural vestiges, much more accessible and clear to the readers of the day. And it's possible that the primary flaw that I see belongs in that same category. But it is not at all clear to me what the source of James Carker's expectations of Edith would have been. And there is one major development late that may have been intended to surprise the reader, which it entirely failed to do. (It may not have been intended as a surprise, I suppose, but if even if it was, it wasn't.)

Of course, one of the reasons that Dickens is still relevant is that many of the subjects on which he wrote are timeless. Many people today are sure to share Solomon Gills' complaint that "competition, competition—new invention, new invention—alteration, alteration—the world's gone past me." And Mr. Morfin's comment to Harriet that "it would do us no harm to remember oftener than we do, that vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess" is certainly still timely.

In short, asked to describe it, I'd say, "it's Dickens. Maybe not the best Dickens, but certainly good Dickens..." Would I recommend it? Well, do you like Dickens? That's the answer...





1 - I have not yet read Hard Times, Little Dorrit or Our Mutual Friend, so they aren't included in the ranking.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The newest entry for the "art of the possible" files...

Wall Street Journal:
But what none of these critics have is an alternative strategy for achieving anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner's plan. The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.

This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell into GOP Senate nominees. The reality is that the debt limit will be raised one way or another, and the only issue now is with how much fiscal reform and what political fallout.
Yes. Exactly.

They're fighting the good fight, but the only way this gets fixed is with a new President, and letting him blame them for a default is not the best way to get there. Politics is the "art of the possible" and what the country most needs is not possible right now because of obstructionist-in-chief.

So take the best deal which is possible, the Boehner plan or something like it, and live to fight another day...

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Can anyone defend this guy? Seriously?

Keith Hennessey:
Yesterday there was a tentative agreement among Speaker Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and Senate Minority Leader McConnell on the outline of a bill to increase the debt limit and cut spending.

This tentative agreement would increase the debt limit by about $900 B to $1 T, enough to make it into the first quarter of next year, packaged with a bit more than $1 trillion of spending cuts, discretionary caps, and no tax increases. There would be a second debt limit extension next year that would go into 2013, upon action of a joint committee of Congress that would make recommendations for further deficit reduction.

While this is inconsistent with the President’s Election Day demand, a debt limit increase that lasted into next year would be routine based on historic practice.

Senate Majority Leader Reid took this to the White House yesterday and the President rejected it.
Leader Reid left that meeting and said publicly that Senate Democrats would instead pursue a different plan that would increase the debt limit by $2.7 trillion, enough to get into 2013. Leader Reid says his plan would cut spending by at least $2.7 trillion (I am skeptical).

It appears the three key Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle reached a tentative agreement yesterday and the President blew it up.
I've said, several times, that if there's a default, it's the responsibility of one man - Barack Obama. Is there any question remaining in anyone's mind that he's the obstacle right now to getting anything done? Even the Democrats recognize that they're going to have to work around the President to get anything done.

And if you look closely at his words and actions for the past week, what you see is a man campaigning, not governing. Everything he says puts the blame on someone else, and everything he does is aimed at pushing the problems out past the elections in 2012.

Has there ever been a man elected who was less well suited - in attitude, in experience, in ego, in qualifications, in competence, in temperament - for the Presidency than Barack Obama? I don't know enough about James Buchanan to really answer that, but my guess is, "no, there hasn't."

A few more Obama thoughts...

Tony Katz:
After watching the most recent speech from President Obama on the debt and deficit, I can honestly say that there is no depth to which he won’t sink. It is stunning to see the president talk about compromise, when the Administration has yet to put forth its own plan...The president was elected to make hard decisions, yet he is unwilling to make any decision. He is supposed to be a great speaker, but has proven he is a horrible listener. And now, he has gone from speaking to begging….begging America to do what he wants, rather than accepting the idea of “compromise” himself.

Bryan Preston:
Obama Blames Bush, Offers Nothing New. That’s what I saw in President Obama’s speech. Speaker Boehner’s speech struck more of a leader’s tone, noting that neither the House nor the Senate is really the roadblock, but Obama is, and has placed himself to the left and outside the discussion. And, the president still doesn’t have a plan.

Peter Wehner:
It’s been clear to some of us for a while that Barack Obama is a man of uncommon self-admiration, quite thin-skinned, and increasingly consumed by his grievances. Obama has masked these traits pretty well so far, but on Friday his mask slipped more than it ever has. And that is bound to hurt him...Obama’s conduct during the debt ceiling negotiations – from his flip-flops to his irrelevant deadlines to his backtracking on his agreements with various parties – has been so erratic and uneven that his own party has decided the best hope of reaching an agreement is to sideline him...At this juncture, it looks like Obama is the most adolescent, even childish, figure in the negotiations – a petulant man who also happens to be an inept negotiator.

The really scary thing is how many times President Obama opens himself up for strong comparisons to Michael Scott. And not Michael's good side...




"When you need my help because I am ruining everything, don't look at me!"
- Barack Obama Michael Scott, the Oval Office

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Pythagorean, 7/25/2011

A 5-1 week brings them to 7-2 since the All Star break, and 16-3 in the month of July...

  • Tonight, the Red Sox will play their 100th game of the season. This seems a good point to look, again, at the way the season started, and the way that it's gone since. Right now, Boston is 62-37. That's a 62.6 winning percentage that puts them on a pace to win 101 games. But they lost their first six and 10 of their first 12. Since starting 2-10, they've gone 60-27. That's a winning percentage of 69%, and it represents a 112-win pace.
  • So, in the words of Dennis Green, "they are who we thought they are."
  • (And apparently, the "hunger" problem wasn't really a problem...)
  • News of the week - Reddick appears to have replaced Drew in RF on a more-or-less permanent basis. Until he gets hurt or slumps really badly. That looks like the right decision. Whether Drew is completely done or not, Reddick's having a much better season, and Drew's done nothing this year. The Drew-haters can gloat, and keep putting him on those "worst signing ever lists," but he gave them good production for four years and earned what they paid him for most of that time. And I'm sure that when they signed him, they understood that the fifth year might not work. But at least they've apparently got a replacement ready.
  • There was great concern about the catching situation coming in to the season, but they've ended up with a lot of production at the position. Varitek and Saltalamacchia are hitting a combined .249/.322/.433/.755 with 13 HR, and doing a decent job of handling the pitching staff and controlling the running game. It looked like the biggest positional weakness headed into the season, but hasn't turned out that way, as they've gotten significantly better production from catcher than from either corner outfield spot.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - First, I want to make sure that Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.438/.438/.813/1.250) gets an honorable mention. But he only played in four games, hitting near the bottom of the lineup, so only has half of the plate appearances of the top-of-the-lineup guys, which makes it hard for him to really compete for this award. Not impossible but hard. And when you have a week like Jacoby Ellsbury (.462/.483/.846/1.329) just had - again - well, Saltalamacchia has to take his honorable mention and like it. Ellsbury, on the other hand, has developed into the player that they dreamed - not hoped, dreamed - that he'd be. Playing a good CF and hitting .320/.377/.516/.893 with 16 HR, he's going to get - and deserve - MVP votes.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Good performances by both Beckett and Lackey (7 innings, one run) are discounted - significantly - because they came against Seattle. Andrew Miller recovered from his rocky start in Tampa with 5 2/3 scoreless in a win at Baltimore, but walked six. So, despite the fact that this wasn't his best week, this seems the right time to recognize the stellar work of Daniel Bard, who is now unscored upon in his last 24 innings over his last 23 appearances. He hasn't given up a run since May 23 against Cleveland, more than two months ago.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York5.18(2)3.89(5)0.628(1)62375940-3
Boston5.46(1)4.18(8)0.62(2)613862371
Texas4.96(3)4.17(7)0.579(3)59435844-1
Tampa Bay4.16(8)3.86(3)0.534(4)534753470
Los Angeles3.85(11)3.65(1)0.525(5)544855471
Toronto4.75(4)4.59(12)0.516(6)53495151-2
Cleveland4.31(7)4.3(9)0.501(7)504951481
Chicago3.97(10)3.99(6)0.498(8)50504951-1
Detroit4.48(5)4.52(10)0.495(9)505154474
Oakland3.57(13)3.86(4)0.465(10)47544457-3
Kansas City4.33(6)4.82(13)0.451(11)46554259-4
Seattle3.29(14)3.78(2)0.436(12)44574358-1
Minnesota3.84(12)4.58(11)0.42(13)425947545
Baltimore4.09(9)5.24(14)0.388(14)386040582

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Boston10161
New York9765
Texas9270
Los Angeles8775
Detroit8775

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Boston10161
New York9963
Texas9369
Los Angeles8775
Tampa Bay8676

Standings for the week
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
Texas5.33(5)3.17(2)0.722(1)4233-1
Detroit5.5(3)3.33(3)0.714(2)42420
New York5.57(2)3.57(6)0.693(3)5243-1
Chicago3(13)2(1)0.677(4)32320
Boston7.17(1)4.83(10)0.673(5)42511
Los Angeles4.5(8)3.67(7)0.593(6)42420
Kansas City3.83(9)3.5(4)0.542(7)33421
Toronto5.5(3)5.5(11)0.5(8)33421
Cleveland3.17(11)3.5(4)0.454(9)3324-1
Tampa Bay3.14(12)3.86(8)0.407(10)34340
Oakland5.2(6)8(14)0.313(11)23230
Minnesota3(13)4.63(9)0.312(12)26351
Seattle4.83(7)7.67(13)0.301(13)2406-2
Baltimore3.83(9)6.33(12)0.285(14)24240

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Friday, July 22, 2011

"An Honest Budget Debate"

Bravo for Senator Jeff Sessions, for addressing some of the media-fog surrounding the budget and the debt-ceiling debate...
First, I would like to address the myth that the president has a $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The only plan the White House has ever put on paper is his February budget, which doubles our national debt.

The president has never put a single spending cut plan on paper and he has no proposal to slash the deficit. If he does, it’s a closely guarded secret. And if such a secret plan does exist it should be made public this very afternoon. I’d like to see it. I’m sure millions of Americans feel the same.

We also have no debt plan from Senate Democrats. In fact, they haven’t even passed a budget in 813 days.

...

Another myth I’d like to address is the idea that our current budget crisis is the result of two wars and a tax cut. Let’s consider that claim. The total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, over the entire last decade, is $1.3 trillion. Again, that’s over the last decade. This year alone the deficit is expected to be $1.4 trillion dollars. War costs represent only 4 percent of total outlays over the last ten years. The total amount of money spent since the president took office is $8.5 trillion dollars. By the end of his first three years in office we will have added $5 trillion to our gross federal debt. We are borrowing almost half of what we’re spending every single day. In the last two years, non-defense discretionary spending has soared 24 percent. The stimulus package alone—enacted into law in a single day in 2009—cost more than the entire war in Iraq. Annual spending when President Bush took office was less than $2 trillion. Today, it’s almost $4 trillion. It will be almost $6 trillion by the end of the decade.
Read it all, share it with your friends. The media isn't telling this story...

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's not the debt ceiling - it's the debt

S&P says 50-50 chance of U.S. downgrade
Standard & Poor's reiterated on Thursday it sees a real risk that future U.S. government deficits may meaningfully miss discussed targets and that there is a 50-50 chance the U.S. AAA credit rating could be cut within three months, perhaps as soon as August.

The deficit reduction debate is coming up against an Aug. 2 deadline when the $14.3 trillion limit on America's borrowing capacity is exhausted, putting in jeopardy payments on U.S. Treasury debt as well as paychecks for federal employees and soldiers.

If an agreement is reached to raise the debt ceiling but nothing meaningful is done in terms of deficit reduction, the U.S. would likely have its rating cut to the AA category, S&P said.
I've said this (any many others have as well) in various ways and in various forums, but here it is, in as plain a way as I can put it:
The problem is not the debt ceiling. The problem is the debt.
Raising the ceiling without cutting spending does not make the problems go away. It doesn't even make the problems better. We'd be far, far better off cutting current spending to stay under the ceiling than raising the ceiling without significant cuts. We, as a country, can not afford to maintain the spending rates we currently have. The longer we wait, the more we spend in the meantime, the more intractable the problems get.
The problem is not the debt ceiling. The problem is the debt.
The President and the "Gang of Six" can throw all of the plans on the table that they want, but if they don't result in real, visible, measurable changes in the debt trajectory, they don't make any of the problems any better. (To the best of my knowledge, there's nothing in the public record to suggest that the President has offered anything that would contribute to a solution.) Until the problem starts getting better, it continues to get worse. There are no plans on the table that make it better, at least none that the President hasn't sworn to veto.

But the key thing to remember here, as he continues to threaten the elderly with delayed or withheld Social Security checks, as he continues to threaten the capital markets with unpaid bonds1 (that the country will have money to pay), is that the reason that the debt ceiling is a problem at all is because of the debt.
The problem is not the debt ceiling. The problem is the debt.



1 - It is horrifying to contemplate, in this context, the contempt and disregard that this administration showed for secured creditors in elevating the auto-workers above them in the bankruptcy proceedings at GM...

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A little piece of history

Along with Billy Graham, one of the most important individuals of the modern evangelical movement was Harold John Ockenga. "Dr. Harold Ockenga co-founded and first presided over the National Association of Evangelicals, co-founded the Fuller Theological Seminary, and was the first president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary all while serving as Park Street's Minister, a role he defined while occupying the seat from 1936-1969."

And now, Park Street Church has made available the Ockenga Sermon Archive, recordings of sermons preached by Dr. Ockenga over the years, with more than 50 available now, and more coming. It's very interesting to go back and listen to the sermons from earlier times...

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All of the 100 watt incandescent's that I could possibly use for the rest of my life...

...won't equal the "carbon footprint" of this one-day fund-raising trip...

Obama mines riches of Aspen in re-election bid
But those with Aspen ties aren’t done giving. First Lady Michelle Obama will arrive in our fair city a week from today, on Tuesday, July 26, for a luncheon to benefit her husband’s bid for a second term, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The first lady will be hitting up two ski resorts in one day, first stopping in Park City, Utah, for a breakfast before hopping a flight to Aspen. It will be a quick fundraising trip. She will promptly return to Washington, D.C.

If the people who claim to believe in Global Warming1 won't even pretend to behave as if they believe it, why should we?

(H/T: Instapundit)



1 - And the contrary evidence is mounting...more on that later.

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Making it official...

Daily Caller:
A Politico reporter who often penned stories about Sarah Palin and other Republicans has quit journalism to work with the Democratic Party in Arizona, sources tell The Daily Caller.
...in contrast with all of the reporters who remain in the media and work with the Democratic Party...

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Just because I can...

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Secrets of the Budget Talks

Paul Gigot brings us the tale of that vigilant budget hawk, the adult in the room, that rager against the profligate, Barack Obama:
The reality is that the White House offer on spending reforms was much less than publicly advertised, and by the end it even included $136 billion in new spending proposals over 10 years.

A source in the talks laid out for us on Monday the increases that were part of the final White House offer before the talks led by Vice President Joe Biden broke down:
-$15 billion in new general spending that would come from the $30 billion expected to be raised from spectrum auctions;
-$8 billion to bail out the Post Office;
-$33 billion to extend Pell grants for college, as the money for the expanded grants under the stimulus runs out;
-$43 billion to extend unemployment benefits for another 99 weeks;
-$10 billion more for research at the National Institutes of Health;
-And $27 billion over two years for the Medicare "doc fix," to avoid a reduction in payments to doctors that is scheduled to take effect under current law.

[LB: Is that reduction part of what let them claim that Obamacare didn't raise the deficit? Why, yes, it is! Who could have possibly foreseen this? ANYONE WHO LOOKED AT IT!]

None of this is surprising as the spending items fit with longstanding administration priorities.
Yeah, but the budget crisis is the Republican's fault - the White House blames Cantor, the lapdog press laps it up, spits it out...

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Divide and Conquer

Fred Barnes, writing about the debt ceiling negotiations, is not complimentary to the President. (But he does, in the process, pull off the almost unthinkable task of making Joe Biden seem like an adult.) What interests me more, however, is the description of the vilification of Eric Cantor.

Divide and Conquer
The Obama presidency was three days old when the first Obama-Cantor run-in occurred. When Cantor raised a question about a tax credit, Obama declined to argue the merits. “I won,” he said. “So I think on that one, I trump you.” A few weeks later, at a White House summit on entitlement reform, he characterized Cantor as an obstructionist. Obama added, “I’m going to keep on talking to Eric Cantor. Someday, sooner or later, he’s going to say, ‘Boy, Obama had a good idea.’ ”

That day hasn’t arrived. In the White House deliberations, House Speaker John Boehner has deferred to Cantor, just as McConnell has to Kyl. Cantor has argued relentlessly for spending cuts and against raising taxes. When he brought up the possibility of an abbreviated extension of the debt limit last week, the president answered with a lecture. “Don’t call my bluff,” he said. “I am not afraid to veto and I will take it to the American people. .  .  . This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this.”

Even before this clash, the White House had made Cantor its villain-of-the-moment. Democrats and the press joined in the Cantor-bashing. The media were quickly brimming with leaks from the talks aimed at putting Cantor in an unfavorable light and causing friction between him and Boehner. In a Senate speech, Reid said Cantor “shouldn’t even be at the table.” Democratic senator Chuck Schumer of New York also chimed in. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising letter attacking Cantor.

The pillorying of Cantor could have been spontaneous, but Republicans doubt it. Obama grew up in the politics of Chicago, an Illinois Republican noted. “The president views Eric as a greater threat to him than Boehner,” the Republican told me. The treatment of Cantor is “Chicago-style politics​—​destroy him.”

Cantor has survived and emerged safe, sound, and a hero to conservatives and the class of House Republicans elected last year. And Boehner isn’t going to part ways with Cantor. He remembers Obama’s attempt last year to make him the chief villain in Washington. It didn’t work.
Here's the amusing thing. All of a sudden, the President and the vocal Senators all go after Cantor, the media joins in, and I start seeing Facebook posts, with no apparent news hook, no linked stories, calling Cantor a cry-baby and obstructionist. And I didn't know where that came from.

And now I do...

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I don't own hotels and casinos...

... but I'm in complete agreement with someone who does, at least on the current President. Wynn Resorts President Steve Wynn had some things to say on his Earnings Call yesterday:
Well, here's our problem. There are a host of opportunities for expansion in Las Vegas, a host of opportunities to create tens of thousands of jobs in Las Vegas. I know that I could do 10,000 more myself and according to the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors Convention Bureau, if we hired 10,000 employees, it would create another 20,000 additional jobs for a grand total of 30,000. I believe in Las Vegas. I think its best days are ahead of it. But I'm afraid to do anything in the current political environment in the United States. You watch television and see what's going on, on this debt ceiling issue. And what I consider to be a total lack of leadership from the President and nothing's going to get fixed until the President himself steps up and wrangles both parties in Congress. But everybody is so political, so focused on holding their job for the next year that the discussion in Washington is nauseating. And I'm saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime. And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right. A President that seems -- that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration. And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America. You bet. And until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it's not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President. And a lot of people don't want to say that. They'll say, "Oh God, don't be attacking Obama." Well, this is Obama's deal, and it's Obama that's responsible for this fear in America. The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution, and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don't invest or holding too much money. We haven't heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists. Everybody's afraid of the government, and there's no need to soft peddling it, it's the truth. It is the truth. And that's true of Democratic businessman and Republican businessman, and I am a Democratic businessman and I support Harry Reid. I support Democrats and Republicans. And I'm telling you that the business community in this company is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he's gone, everybody's going to be sitting on their thumbs.
Yup. I agree. Well, not about the supporting Harry Reid part, but the stuff about how bad for business and the economy this President has been, absolutely.




(Transcript from SeekingAlpha...)

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Pythagorean, 7/18/2011

Short week, short notes...

  • The weekend started poorly, with Miller's horrendous start, and then Scutaro and Lackey combined to put them in a hole again on Saturday. But, after allowing 10 runs in the first nine post-All Star Break innings, the pitching and defense allowed only two over the next 24, while the offense did enough to dig them out of Saturday's hole and finish off Sunday's classic.
  • Here's the big question of the week - was this a "hiccough" start for Andrew Miller, or the reversion to pumpkin status? It looked frighteningly like the performances that made him available to the Red Sox in the first place. The Red Sox' path to the playoffs is a lot smoother and easier if it was the former than the latter...
  • Josh Beckett has made two starts in Tampa this year, and apparently now finds it conducive to pitching well. In those starts, he's given up no runs and only two infield hits over 17 innings, while walking none and striking out 12. One could forgive the Rays for not being interested in seeing him on the mound there again any time soon.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Obviously, the big hit was the 16th inning single that broke the scoreless tie on Sunday night, but Dustin Pedroia had a great series in Tampa. He played his usual stellar defense, while hitting .500/.529/1.000/1.529 with two HR and lapping the field in the Player of the Week competition.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - There were good performances from several members of the bullpen, including Bard, Aceves and Albers. John Lackey settled and overcame the dreadful defense behind him in the first on Saturday to go 5 2/3 and keep them in the game. But clearly, the Pitcher of the Week is Josh Beckett, with his dominant performance on Sunday night.


AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York5.15(2)3.91(5)0.623(1)57355537-2
Boston5.35(1)4.14(7)0.616(2)573657360
Texas4.94(3)4.23(8)0.57(3)554155410
Tampa Bay4.24(8)3.86(4)0.542(4)504350430
Los Angeles3.81(12)3.65(2)0.52(5)504651451
Toronto4.71(4)4.53(10)0.518(6)50464749-3
Cleveland4.39(6)4.35(9)0.503(7)474649442
Chicago4.02(10)4.09(6)0.492(8)47484649-1
Detroit4.41(5)4.6(12)0.481(9)464950454
Oakland3.49(13)3.65(2)0.48(10)46504254-4
Seattle3.19(14)3.54(1)0.453(11)435243520
Kansas City4.36(7)4.91(13)0.446(12)42533857-4
Minnesota3.91(11)4.58(11)0.429(13)405344494
Baltimore4.11(9)5.17(14)0.396(14)365638542
Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Boston9963
New York9765
Texas9369
Tampa Bay8775
Los Angeles8676
Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9963
Boston9963
Texas9369
Tampa Bay8775
Los Angeles8577
Standings for the week
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
Texas4.25(9)0.5(1)0.98(1)40400
Chicago5.33(4)2(2)0.858(2)3021-1
Oakland5(6)2.75(3)0.749(3)31310
Minnesota4.25(9)3(4)0.654(4)31310
Toronto6.5(1)4.75(8)0.64(5)3122-1
Boston5.33(4)4.67(7)0.561(6)21210
Baltimore5.75(2)5.5(12)0.52(7)22220
Cleveland5.5(3)5.75(13)0.48(8)22220
Tampa Bay4.67(8)5.33(10)0.439(9)12120
New York4.75(7)6.5(14)0.36(10)13221
Kansas City3(11)4.25(5)0.346(11)13130
Los Angeles2.75(12)5(9)0.251(12)13130
Detroit2(13)5.33(10)0.142(13)03121
Seattle0.5(14)4.25(5)0.02(14)04040

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If Debt Ceiling Talks Fail, Treasury Has Options

Been following the news? Heard about the economic catastrophe that's about to befall if the Republican don't acquiesce to President Obama's reasonable requests for increased revenue?

Of course you have. After all, the mainstream press is nothing if not willing and eager to share the White House talking points.

But maybe there's a little more to it all...

Peter Morici, Senior Contributor to TheStreet
It is unfortunate the president and Treasury secretary are spreading around calamity scenarios, because the Treasury really does have options after Aug. 2 if it doesn't scare the markets into panic before then.

The Treasury will still be receiving 55% of its tax revenue and can easily pay the interest on the debt, and should then be able to roll over bonds coming due. For the balance of federal expenses, the Treasury will have to prioritize, but it will have enough money for Social Security, Medicare and Medicare. Some checks may have to be spread out to accommodate discrepancies between payment dates and cash flows, but interest payments are modest enough, relative to the total cash coming in, that those can be met on time.

Selective payment of federal bills is possible -- it was planned for government shutdowns when Congress and the president failed to approve appropriations -- and it can be accomplished again if planned prior to Aug. 2.
So apparently, we don't just run out of money and automatically default on August 2nd. And maybe, just maybe, the President's Social Security threats are just political broadsides aimed at scaring people into opposing the Republicans. And just possibly the media understands that, but agrees with the President so doesn't make any attempt to clarify.

And here's something else to keep in mind.
A downgrade is likely no matter what comes out of current negotiations. Specifically, Standard and Poor's has indicated a $4 trillion deficit reduction package is necessary by Aug. 2 to avoid a downgrade. That simply is not possible given the president's aversion to genuine spending cuts -- evidenced by his failure to table concrete spending cut proposals -- and the insistence on no new taxes by many members of the Republican House caucus.
So what actually happens on August 2? One of two things:
a) Default

b) Partial government shutdown
If the United States defaults in August 2011 on one penny of debt service or misses one Social Security check, it's the responsibility of one man - Barack Obama. A default would have occurred because the President of the United States chose the political course of prioritizing all current spending over the obligations of debt service and Social Security.

In essence, if we default in August, it's because the President chose to continue the cable service instead of paying the mortgage...

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Friday, July 15, 2011

A little perspective, please...

WSJ: The Obama Downgrade
Moody's and the boys are citing the risk of a default on August 2 as the proximate reason for their warning. But Americans should understand that the debt ceiling is merely the trigger. The gun is the spending boom of the last three years and the prospect that Washington lacks the political will to reduce it in the years to come.

On spending, it is important to recall how extraordinary the blowout of the last three years has been. We've seen nothing like it since World War II. Nothing close. The nearby chart tracks federal outlays as a share of GDP since 1960. The early peaks coincide with the rise of the Great Society, the recession of 1974-75, and then a high of 23.5% with the recession of 1982 and the Reagan defense buildup.

From there, spending declines, most rapidly during the 1990s as defense outlays fell to 3% of GDP in 2000 from its Reagan peak of 6.2% in 1986. The early George W. Bush years saw spending bounce up to a plateau of roughly 20% of GDP, but no more than 20.7% as recently as 2008.

Then came the Obama blowout, in league with Nancy Pelosi's Congress. With the recession as a rationale, Democrats consciously blew up the national balance sheet, lifting federal outlays to 25% in 2009, the highest level since 1945. (Even in 1946, with millions still in the military, spending was only 24.8% of GDP. In 1947 it fell to 14.8%.) Though the recession ended in June 2009, spending in 2010 stayed high at nearly 24%, and this year it is heading back toward 25%.
As I've noted elsewhere, I believe that there are going to be "revenue increases" as part of whatever package ends up passing. But when I look at the Federal budget, and the debt, what I see is a spending problem. Not mostly a spending problem - entirely a spending problem. And any solution that doesn't approach the problem from that point of view is not a solution - it's an expansion of the problem pretending to be a solution.

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Thoughts on the debt ceiling

Comments made in response to an article and other comments about the debt ceiling debate...
Unless Republicans and Democrats reach a deal to increase the debt ceiling by July 22, so that a bill can be passed by Aug. 2, the government will probably default, and many believe it'll be economic Armageddon, take two
August 2nd is an arbitrary deadline, and there will be plenty of money in the treasury to cover all obligations.

And there won't be a default, because they'll come to some agreement that prevents it. No one wants it, so it won't happen. Much ado about, well, not nothing, but about something that's not going to happen.
It's crazy not to include revenue increases.
In the first place, the problems are far (far far far) bigger on the spending side than the revenue side, and to include "revenue increases" before some spending discipline is involved is to push the problem further down the road. I think most people understand that revenues are going to have to go up, but the typical result of negotiations like this is revenues that go up now with poorly defined spending cuts at some point in the future that never arrives. They need to address the core issue, which is trillions of dollars worth of future spending commitments that can't be met. The idea that the best they are capable of doing is $2 Billion in cuts is a bad joke.

In the second place, the revenue problem at the moment is largely the result of the dreadful economy. It's easy to say "we need revenue increases," it's not necessarily easy to do. Which rates are you going to raise, and by how much, and how much actual revenue will that raise, and how many more jobs will be lost as a result?
For 2011, revenue is 3.5 percentage points of GDP below the long-term average, and spending is 4 percentage points above it. I don't know if four "fars" are necessary.
2011 isn't the problem. If 2011 were the only problem, there wouldn't be a fight going on right now. The long-term structural debt is the problem, the spending commitments that cannot possibly be met.
1. Warren Buffett: I don't see how a country that skips payments to millions of people [social security] is triple-A.
2. "Standard & Poor’s said there was a “substantial likelihood” it could lower its AAA grade on Treasury debt because of the political battle over the federal debt ceiling and spending cuts. S&P follows rival Wall Street ratings firm Moody’s Investors Service, which on Wednesday put its top-rung U.S. rating under review for a possible downgrade."
They've been threatening to downgrade because of the debt itself - not the ceiling, the raising of which only makes the debt worse - since the first of the year. Moody's, in January, warned about the possibility of a downgrade based on "uncertainty over the willingness and ability of the U.S. to reduce its debt." S&P changed its rating on the US to "negative" in April, because of "very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness."

The idea that everything will somehow be just ducky if only the Republicans will acquiesce to all of the President's desired tax and spending plans and raise that pesky debt ceiling, which seems to be the underlying assumption behind many of these comments, doesn't square with the reality that I see...

And there's no excuse whatsoever for the US government to skip a single Social Security payment in August, and the President's threat to do so is offensive.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

This lie exposes that lie...

As already noted, the Treasury is not going to run out of money to pay Social Security benefits on August 3, so Obama's threat to seniors is both morally bankrupt and fundamentally dishonest. But Investors Business Daily points out how this specific lie from this specific Democrat reveals that all things that all Democrats have said about Social Security over the years have been lies...
In 1960, the Supreme Court ruled that workers do not have a legal right to their Social Security benefits. Congress can cut them any time it wants, which it's done several times. And, because there are no ownership rights, if you die the day you retire after making a lifetime of payments into Social Security, your heirs get nothing.

Indeed, Social Security's only guarantee is that today's workers will get an incredibly lousy return on the huge amount of money they've "invested" in the program.

And what about that Social Security "Trust Fund" the Democrats rhapsodize about? Isn't it supposed to guarantee benefit payments for another 30 or 40 years?

Truth is, the fund is nothing more than an accounting gimmick designed to make the program look healthier than it is. Obama exposed this scam as well by showing that retirees can't trust the "Trust Fund" for anything
.

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Finding a piece of history

This is a fun story...
It was a one-in-a-million discovery. When he was 11, Kevin was riding on a golf cart around his family's beach home neighborhood in Bath, N.C. It was 2006 and Hurricane Ernesto had flooded parts of the Pamlico sound, so there was debris all over the place.

"My buddy and I saw this metal sheet on the ground, and we thought it was a stop sign or something," Kevin recalls. "I turned it over and it was a really old piece of metal, and there was a little stamp on it. I looked closer and saw that it said "Apollo 16.'"

Whoa.

"I heard everyone screaming come outside," Shannon recalled. "We were just stunned. It was the coolest thing that could ever happen to an 11-year-old."
Very cool indeed...

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"Treasury Secretary Geithner is fueling the flames of panic..."

And so, of course, is his boss.

Will the US Be Downgraded? - CNBC
LL: Bottom line is Secretary Geithner wrong in what the Treasury can do?

JF: I am extremely concerned that, by continuing to promote an arbitrary deadline as an actual ‘default’ date, Treasury Secretary Geithner is fueling the flames of panic.
They've got no good cards, so they're playing bad ones. Again...

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Leaving the rhetoric at the door...

Poor Richard's News - Treasury: June tax revenue more than 3x LARGER than Social Security payments
Obama is flat out lying when he says that he’s unsure if Social Security checks will be able to go out on August 3rd. As Marco Rubio said yesterday, the fact that Treasury Secretary Geithner chose that date in the first place was a political calculation. Obama is using scare tactics to frighten weak kneed Republicans like Mitch McConnell into raising the debt ceiling or giving him the power to raise the debt ceiling himself.
Politicians, by definition, play politics. Both sides do it (and Republicans get blamed by the media) and always will. But there's a difference between playing politics to deal with a serious problem (Boehner, McConnell and the Republicans), and playing politics to get your own way (Obama).

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Holder Launches Witch Hunt Against Biased Banks
In what could be a repeat of the easy-lending cycle that led to the housing crisis, the Justice Department has asked several banks to relax their mortgage underwriting standards and approve loans for minorities with poor credit as part of a new crackdown on alleged discrimination, according to court documents reviewed by IBD...In effect, Justice is using private banks to carry out affirmative-action lending, [Former rep. Ernest] Istook says, a campaign he describes as "legal plunder."
Santayana said that "those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it." So, apparently, are those who remember the past but don't have clue one as to what actually happened. And those who remember the debacles of the past as serving their own particular interests.

And no, this isn't from The Onion - it's Paul Sperry in Investor's Business Daily...

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Debt-Limit Harakiri

The Wall Street Journal thinks that Mitch McConnell's plan may be the best that the Republicans can do right now:
This is the political context in which to understand Mr. McConnell's proposal yesterday to force Mr. Obama to take ownership of any debt-limit increase. If the President still insists on a tax increase, then Republicans will walk away from the talks.

Mr. McConnell would then let the President propose three debt-limit increases adding up to $2.5 trillion over the coming months. Senate Republicans (with Majority Leader Harry Reid's cooperation) would use a convoluted procedure to vote for three resolutions of disapproval on the bills. Mr. Obama could veto the resolutions and 34 Democrats could vote to sustain. The President would get his debt-limit increase, but without Republicans serving as his political wingmen.

The hotter precincts of the blogosphere were calling this a sellout yesterday, though they might want to think before they shout. The debt ceiling is going to be increased one way or another, and the only question has been what if anything Republicans could get in return. If Mr. Obama insists on a tax increase, and Republicans won't vote for one, then what's the alternative to Mr. McConnell's maneuver?
I haven't decided yet. I'd rather not see the debt ceiling go up at all. If we have not yet reached the point-of-no-return, we seem to be getting perilously close to it. Allowed the government to keep increasing the debt is deeply, fundamentally bad. On the other hand, default is unacceptable. (When and how that default would occur is not clear to me. While people are talking about August second, there are several sources indicating that there is, or is expected to be, sufficient funding in the treasury to deal with all required payments at least through the end of the month.)

The problem, of course, is that the party on the other side of the negotiating table is fundamentally unserious, and not at all interested in addressing the real source of the problem - the spending which has gone on over the past 10 years, the spending which has escalated over the past four years, and, most importantly, the spending to which the government is already committed for the coming years.

Let me acknowledge, here and now, that tax revenues are going to have to go up to dig us out of this situation. Whether that's through the closing of loopholes, the raising of rates, either nominally (by raising rates) or effectively (by shifting brackets) or miraculous growth, the public debt is going to require more revenue to close than the government is currently getting. But the big problem isn't revenue - it's spending. Until serious attempts are made to get the spending half of the equation improved, I strongly oppose any attempts to raise revenue. The inevitable result of negotiations like the current ones are agreements on tax hikes now and spending cuts in the future, and the spending cuts never actually happen. That's how we got to today, and that's what we cannot afford to do going forward.

And the President and the rest of the Democrats and their sycophantic supporters in the mainstream press haven't the slightest interest in cutting spending (except for maybe the military). That's the source of the problem. As the WSJ editors said,
We've never thought the debt ceiling was the best leverage for a showdown over the entitlement state, and now it looks like Mr. Obama is trying to use it as a way to blame the GOP for the lousy economy.
And if they can't find a way to improve the fiscal situation, McConnell's plan at least lets the Republicans place the blame where it belongs.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Georgia Tech discovers John Galt's motor?

Interesting, if true...
In what is being considered a remarkable accomplishment, Georgia Tech researchers have discovered a way to use the air around us to power gadgets such as wireless sensors, microprocessors and communications chips.

"There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it," says Manos Tentzeris, professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Of course, all of the economics and politics from Atlas Shrugged are playing out in real life right now, so why not?

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A thought for the day

"The difficulty lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones."
- John Maynard Keynes, Cambridge 1902-1906

"Yeah, old ones like Keynesian economics..."
- Lyford Beverage, 2011

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Pythagorean, 7/11/2011

And the All Star break arrives, not a moment too soon, as the Red Sox are losing starting pitchers at the rate of about one per game...

  • OK, that's an exaggeration. But they did have their two best starters come out of games dinged up this week, with Lester's strained lat being more serious than Beckett's hyperextended left knee. Lester headed to the DL, though it's not believed to be serious or long-term. Beckett is not expected to miss any time beyond the couple of innings he might have thrown, but didn't, had he not tweaked his knee on Friday night.
  • Interesting week for Lester, as he's added to the DL on Thursday, and then to the All Star roster on Sunday. Apparently, he was next in line, so when Felix Hernandez pitched on Sunday, leaving him unavailable for Tuesday, Lester got the nod despite not being active and able to pitch. What an honor! As near as I can tell, about 37%1 of all American League players can call themselves "All Stars" this year. Rumor has it that MLB's next innovation2 will be pizza and ice cream and sportsmanship trophies for everyone that doesn't make the playoffs this year.
  • In one more of their "adventures in short starts," Kyle Weiland was thrown out of his first major league start when a sinker didn't sink and Vlad Guerrero swung his hands into it an inning after both teams had been warned. That was just one way in which his actual first start differed from the first start he had long dreamed of making.
  • The Red Sox-Orioles series was a little ... chippy. Let me say first, that Kevin Gregg embarrassed himself. He was clearly throwning at Ortiz, who had done nothing, and he wasn't even doing it well enough to hit him. And leaving the mound to yell at Ortiz on the pop-up was ridiculous. So I'm not letting him off the hook at all. But Ortiz' reaction was an over-reaction, and they'll doubtless start the post-All Star break schedule without him, and it was his own damn fault. Run to first, David, even if the pitcher's yelling at you. Don't take that left turn, directly to a suspension.
  • Bottom line: The Boston Red Sox enter the All Star break on a six-game winning streak, with the best record in the American League, the second-best record in all of baseball (behind the Phillies) and the second-best run differential in all of baseball (behind the Yankees). All of that despite the 2-12 start, despite the pathetic performances from both outfield corners, despite having two or three of their starters on the DL for most of the season thus far. They're also six games ahead of both the Rays and the Angels, who are the two AL teams with the best records of those not currently in a playoff position. So even if they've only got a one-game lead in the division, they're six games up on the WC contenders. With 72 games remaining, they could fail to make the playoffs, but absent catastrophic injury luck (like Beckett and Lester going down, and taking Ellsbury and Gonzalez with them), they're very likely to be playing October baseball. BaseballProspectus Playoff Odds report has them at 98.5% likely to make the playoffs, tops in MLB.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Thus far, Jacoby Ellsbury (.467/.515/.900/1.415 on the week) has been the player that everyone hoped that he'd be. His plate discipline has improved, and with it, his power numbers. And he's done that without losing his speed.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - With no worthy starting performances, I'm going to give out a dual-award this week, to the set-up Dans, Bard and Wheeler, who combined to throw eight innings of two-hit, no-walk, no run ball while striking out eight in seven appearances.



1 - Give or take 35%.

2 - MLB "innovates" by looking to local T-ball leagues for guidance...



AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York5.17(2)3.8(4)0.638(1)56325335-3
Boston5.36(1)4.12(6)0.618(2)56345535-1
Texas4.97(3)4.39(9)0.556(3)514151410
Tampa Bay4.22(8)3.81(5)0.547(4)494149410
Los Angeles3.86(12)3.59(2)0.533(5)494350421
Toronto4.63(4)4.52(10)0.511(6)47454547-2
Cleveland4.34(7)4.29(8)0.505(7)454447422
Detroit4.49(5)4.58(11)0.491(8)454749434
Chicago3.98(10)4.16(7)0.479(9)444844480
Seattle3.31(14)3.51(1)0.473(10)434843480
Oakland3.42(13)3.68(3)0.466(11)43493953-4
Kansas City4.42(6)4.93(13)0.45(12)41503754-4
Minnesota3.9(11)4.65(12)0.42(13)375241484
Baltimore4.03(9)5.16(14)0.389(14)345436522

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Boston9963
New York9864
Texas9072
Tampa Bay8874
Los Angeles8874

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York10062
Boston9963
Texas9072
Tampa Bay8874
Los Angeles8775

Standings for the week
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
Texas7.57(1)3.14(2)0.833(1)61701
Los Angeles4.57(5)2.14(1)0.8(2)61610
Boston6.86(2)4(7)0.728(3)52611
Minnesota5.43(4)4(7)0.636(4)43521
Toronto6(3)4.71(11)0.609(5)43430
Kansas City4.57(5)3.71(5)0.594(6)4334-1
Tampa Bay3.83(8)3.67(3)0.52(7)3324-1
New York3.67(9)3.67(3)0.5(8)33330
Detroit3.29(11)4.14(9)0.396(9)34431
Cleveland4.29(7)6(13)0.351(10)25341
Chicago3.29(11)5.14(12)0.306(11)25250
Seattle2.14(14)3.86(6)0.254(12)25250
Oakland2.29(13)4.14(9)0.252(13)2516-1
Baltimore3.43(10)8.86(14)0.15(14)1607-1

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"Our pitchforks are misdirected..."

Steyn, with a must read...
So, at the News of the World, every single employee is clearing out his desk. But, at the Atlantic Public Schools, at the DEATFBI, life goes on. A curious contrast. The striking feature of Big Government, from Athens to Sacramento, is its imperviousness to any kind of accountability — legal, fiscal, electoral, popular. A media mogul, a bank chairman, an oil executive, a corporate-jet depreciation-claimant are easily demonizable: As President Obama cautioned CEOs a couple of years back, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Red Sox Jeopardy

A: Kevin Youkilis
Q: Who was the only one of the top seven hitters in the Red Sox lineup not to homer in their 10-4 win over the Orioles?


The Red Sox were fortunate, though, taking advantage of a bad call by the first base umpire to take a 4-3 lead in the 4th. Once again, it's a foolish situation for baseball to be in. Before Buck Showalter had even made it out to start arguing the call, millions of people had seen three conclusive replays demonstrating that the call was wrong. It makes no sense for baseball not to hire someone to watch those replays professionally and call down to the umps. Not everything is clear, and so you can't fix everything. But it's silly not to fix the ones that are fixable, as that so clearly was.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

"...Independence Day weekend events in Boston, Friday, July 1, 2011..."

So the Associated Press was in Charlestown on Friday night...

Members of the William Diamond Junior Fife and Drum Corp from Lexington, Mass., march in front of the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned war ship in the U.S. Navy, as part of Independence Day weekend events in Boston, Friday, July 1, 2011.

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Independence Day weekend with our soldier...







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Monday, July 04, 2011

Monday Pythagorean, 7/4/2011

Not many style points accumulated, and it looked and felt kind of iffy, but 4-2 is almost always a productive week, and this wasn't one of the exceptions...


  • Busy week. Little commentary.
  • Many of the Red Sox seemed to feel that Jon Lester was snubbed in the All Star selection process. I think I'm as big a Lester guy as there is, and I don't see it. He's been good so far, but not great, as his 3.43 ERA is not in the top 10 in the AL. He certainly hasn't been as good as Beckett or Weaver or Verlander or Haren or Masterson or Sabathia or Shields or Humber. When you can name eight AL starters who have been clearly better, there's not much of a case to be made that he's been snubbed.
  • Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz are clearly good choices. And I don't have a problem with Ellsbury going either. He's been excellent, and while I'm not certain that he's been one of the three best outfielders in the AL thus far, I'm not certain that he hasn't, either.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Since having his knee examined and medically cleared, Dustin Pedrioa has been on a tear. That continued this week, as he hit .304/.429/.478/.907 with a home run and five doubles.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - The best individual game by the numbers was Josh Beckett's gem on Sunday afternoon, but he also had a bad start, and an eight-inning shutout of the Astros is less impressive than a seven-inning shutout of the Phillies. So the pitcher of the week is Jon Lester, who wasn't snubbed, but was still outstanding in his only start of the week, allowing only two hits and two walks in seven scoreless innings against Philadelphia.




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York5.28(1)3.8(4)0.646(1)53295032-3
Boston5.23(2)4.13(7)0.606(2)50334934-1
Tampa Bay4.25(8)3.82(5)0.548(3)463847371
Texas4.75(3)4.49(9)0.526(4)45404441-1
Cleveland4.34(7)4.15(8)0.521(5)433944381
Los Angeles3.8(11)3.71(3)0.511(6)434244411
Toronto4.52(5)4.51(10)0.501(7)43424144-2
Detroit4.59(4)4.61(11)0.498(8)424345403
Chicago4.04(10)4.08(6)0.495(9)424342430
Seattle3.4(14)3.48(1)0.491(10)414341430
Oakland3.52(13)3.65(2)0.483(11)41443847-3
Kansas City4.4(6)5.04(14)0.439(12)37473450-3
Baltimore4.09(9)4.84(13)0.423(13)344736452
Minnesota3.77(12)4.71(12)0.4(14)334936463

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9963
Boston9666
Tampa Bay9171
Cleveland8775
Detroit8676

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York10260
Boston9765
Tampa Bay9072
Cleveland8676
Texas8478

Standings for the week
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York5.67(1)1.67(1)0.904(1)51510
Los Angeles4.33(7)2.5(2)0.732(2)42511
Cleveland5.17(3)3.67(8)0.652(3)42420
Boston4.17(8)3.17(6)0.623(4)42420
Chicago3.17(11)2.67(4)0.578(5)33421
Seattle2.83(14)2.5(2)0.557(6)3324-1
Tampa Bay3.83(10)3.5(7)0.542(7)33330
Texas5.67(1)5.33(10)0.528(8)33330
Oakland3.17(11)3(5)0.525(9)33330
Toronto4(9)4.86(9)0.412(10)3425-1
Minnesota4.83(4)6(12)0.402(11)24422
Kansas City4.67(6)6.33(13)0.364(12)2415-1
Detroit4.71(5)8(14)0.275(13)25341
Baltimore3(13)5.5(11)0.248(14)15150

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