Adapting to the ecumenical move toward early-Church renewal, The United Methodist Church's General Board of Discipleship has announced that all New Testament readings in UMC worship services must now be read in the original Greek.
Retired Bishop Ewan Whaddarmie protested in a letter to the Board that the New Revised Standard Version "was good enough for the apostles and it's good enough for me," but to no avail.
The GBOD says that churches that have paid 100 percent of apportionments for the last 15 years can purchase this at 5% off list to help members learn Greek.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Actually, polygamy is already legal in Canada, but it will soon be made officially so, rather than implied. And no, the polygamy test case does not involve Muslim immigrants, but native-born Canadians. David Warren explains.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Church World Service reports,
The most severe drought in a decade is fueling a grave food crisis in Afghanistan that now threatens millions of people with food shortages and possible starvation, reports Church World Service and ACT International. ...
"Life continues to be difficult for all Afghans, but the tens of thousands of displaced Afghans and returnees from Pakistan and Iran are particularly at risk," says Marvin Parvez, Asia and Pacific regional coordinator for Church World Service.
"In Afghanistan, the heroin trade, suicide bombings and the 'war on terror' has put the humanitarian agenda on the sidelines," says Church World Service's Parvez. ...
Based on UN estimates, some 2.2 million tons of cereal grains need to be imported into the Afghanistan this year just to meet basic needs. Commercial imports were expected to supply 1.5 million tons. But, in the current situation--marked by high prices and the smallest wheat harvest in years--any meaningful commercial imports of food and agricultural inputs are unlikely. The bulk of the nearly one-million-ton shortfall will need to be met by the international donor community.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
There was a little girl,I thought of this ditty when I read Londoner Brian Micklethwait's lament on the deterioration of Britain at the hands of Labour Party Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
[W]hat matters to me is not whether Brown is now a doomed and hopeless failure, for clearly he is. But how much more of my country will he quadruple-mortgage? How much more of my country's earth will he scorch? And, later, how much of the Labour Party as a whole will he take with him into the history books and nowhere else? Not that much more, not that much more, and the more the better, is what I am now hoping (against hope) for.But, he says, don't forget that the sorry state of Britain's economy started under Brown predecessor, Tony Blair.
But actually, the whole Blair "political achievement" made it possible for Labour to break Britain with a ferocity and completeness that has no parallel in recent British history. The more we trusters trusted Labour not to scorch Britain's earth, the more earth they were able actually to scorch, and this scorching, of course, continues. ...The problem is that Labour didn't even live up to the standards of the little girl with a curl. For when "we thought things would be better this time, they were actually worse," says Brian, and when they were worse they were horrible.
The point is not just that Brown has been and is still a catastrophe. That's a given. The point to ram home, now and for as long as his name is ever remembered, is that Tony Blair was also a catastrophe, and arguably a much bigger one.
There was a party called LabourYeah, Longfellow I'm not.
that promised Britain not to forsake her.
But when it was good
it was awful
and when it was bad it was horrid.
Gerard Van Der Leun posts a photo of his then-newly-married mother, taken in 1943 or 1944, that he scanned and then started to software-clean "dirt, scratches and smudges" on the photo that had accrued over the years.
What he found was astonishing.
Friday, March 27, 2009
This is such a great idea that I am astounded no one has ever thought of it before. ADDI blog says. "Because of illegal hunting, The Bengal Tiger have drasticly reduced in umbers by 95% since 1910. Please don´t shoot! [sic]"
But if someone does pop a cap at Tony here, fat lot of good it will do. You see, Tony will be wearing a laminated Kevlar, ballistically impenetrable vest designed especially for Bengal tigers.
What could be simpler?
HT: American Digest.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I know you don't want to tear yourself away from reading Sense of Events just to watch the president talk to reporters tonight. Now you can do both!
How cool is that!
I think the presser could turn out to be a humdinger - let's see whether the lap dogs have remembered they have teeth.
A 93-year-old Japanese man has been certified as the only known survivor of the atom bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi had already been a certified "hibakusha," or radiation survivor, of the Aug. 9, 1945, atomic bombing in Nagasaki, but has now been confirmed as surviving the attack on Hiroshima three days earlier as well, city officials said.Yamaguchi should be entered into Guinness Book of World Records as having the worst luck in the history of the world.
Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on Aug. 6, 1945, when a U.S. B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the city. He suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city. He then returned to his hometown of Nagasaki just in time for the second attack, city officials said.
You may recall that President Obama sent emails out to the enormous email list of supporters he gathered during his campaign, asking them to coalesce into a grassroots effort to persuade Congress to pass his $3.5 trillion budget.
Here is part of the textof his email. Gee, something about it sure seems familiar... can't quite put my finger on it.
My name is Barack Hussein Obama, one of the sons of Barack Obama, Sr., a Luo from Nyang’oma Kogelo, Nyanza Province, Kenya, and of Ann Dunham Soetoro.From the inestimable Scott Ott.
As a result of my recent election to a high government post, I have come into possession of $3,550,000,000,000 ($3.55 trillion of U.S. dollars), that I wish to transfer to various agents in the states and abroad during the years 2009 and 2010.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I have had some email queries about when the old site, hosted at donaldsensing.com, would be back online. (I was compelled to do significant file maintenance on it.)
Well, it's back up now. I went through the archives and deleted corrupt files but also deleted a lot of posts that were not of enduring interest. Over time, I also ported a number of posts from that site to this one.
We all learned in high school science that "correlation does not equal causation." But that doesn't mean that correlations, especially strong ones, can simply be waved away.
So consider this:
"... as foreign aid to the Palestinians increases, so do Palestinian acts of murder. When foreign aid to Palestinians decreases, Palestinian acts of murder correspondingly decrease.
In fact, the more money they receive, the more murders the Palestinians commit, the less money they receive, the less murders they commit – it is practically a 100% correlation.
The graphs and more information are here.Israelis must be grimly considering the news that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is writing checks to Gaza (oh, but not Hamas! Oh, gag me!) for $900 million.
The Other McCain writes,
And the Dan Rather Award For Outstanding Cluelessness in Journalism goes to whatever Fullerton (Calif.) College student wrote this idiotic editorial in the campus Hornet:I'm more forgiving that Other McCain - after all, this is an ed piece in a college newspaper and so shouldn't be credited with a lot of gravitas (full disclosure: I wrote op-ed pieces for my college paper and shudder to read them now). Nonetheless, McCain is correct to point out that the piece is rife with unsupportable assumptions, such as the silly distinctions between "legitimate writers" and the "average Joe," who simply, I guess, isn't bale to put subject and verb together. Oh, my! And we even let average Joes drive, too.A disturbing trend that also effects newspapers is the rise of the bloggers and the steady increase in their following. There are multiple problems with blogs.
It is impossible to decipher whether or not a blog is being posted by legitimate writers, who have been educated in journalism, or the average Joe, who does not know how to properly write a concise, well-thought out article. Without proper editors, blogs allow themselves to be polluted by unimpressive stories and writing.
Many bloggers also have the tendency of ignoring facts to support their own agendas, effectively eliminating unbiased journalism and creating a plethora of questions regarding ethics. If this trend of growing bloggers continues, newspapers may become glorified blogs themselves. Trying to stay informed in a newspaperless world would be an arduous, time consuming task, of scanning through countless blogs to find unbiased, factual news. We must make sacrifices now, to preserve the future of our profession.
But to cut to the quick: I posted a longer essay on the false distinction between bloggers and "journalists" in 2005 at the previous site. I copied and pasted it here, so if you're interested, go read!
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Fair is fair - I have criticized the policies or pronouncements of President Obama when I thought appropriate, but here I call your attention to Toby Harnden's piece yesterday, "Top 10 gaffes by Barack Obama and Joe Biden." I'll not recount them here. Suffice to say that yes, they really are gaffes, which Harnden (a US-based reporter for the UK Telegraph paper) documents by including the YouTube videos thereof. But his fifth entry is this:
A Marine One double. First, on his maiden Marine One trip Obama breaches protocol and makes life uncomfortable for an enlisted marine by shaking the the serviceman's hand as he's saluting his commander-in-chief:Here's the video:
Harnden links to a Foxnews story about how shaking the Marine's hand was a breach of protocol:
When President Obama boarded Marine One for his first flight as commander-in-chief, he decided to break from tradition. Departing from the South Lawn of the White House for a trip to Williamsburg, Va., the new president extended his hand to a U.S. Marine standing in salute at the base of the helicopter's steps.What "tradition" did Obama depart from? The same piece goes on to say that no president, including retired five-star general D. D. Eisenhower, ever returned salutes of military personnel. This "tradition," such as it is, was begun by Ronald Reagan. In fact, I remember reading that Ike explained that saluting was a privilege only of those wearing the uniform.
Even so, it is the height nitpickery to criticize Obama for what this video shows. He did in fact return the salute, and I say (as a retired Army officer) that his return was darn well executed, too. Bill Clinton never did so well. Second, I have witnessed on many, many occasions a general officer return a salute and immediately offer his hand for a shake. I've done so myself, though for less ceremonial reasons than this. I also think it was a nice gesture for a new president to make when boarding Marine One for the first time. I don't expect him to make a habit, though. Were I that young Marine, I would have appreciated it.
Get a grip folks. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms, even severe ones, to make of this president so far. Don't adulterate the impact of legitimate criticisms by making silly ones like this.
We know about the billions of taxpayers' money that went to prop up the failing domestic auto makers. In looking through my archives, I came across this post from May 2005:
A major bonds-rating agency has declared that General Motors' and Ford's credit ratings are now officially "junk." The problem is the two companies' heavy debt load of billions of dollars.Links were good when originally posted. But it seems the writing on the wall was there almost four years ago. In May 2005 GM stock was trading in the mid-$40s, Friday it closed at $3.18. Ford was trading in the high $14 range back then, closing Friday at $2.75.
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services downgraded the debt yesterday to below investment grade, or junk status, causing the automakers' stock to tumble on Wall Street and leading the overall market lower.
Both companies' stocks fell several points yesterday after the announcement, but have slightly rallied today.
However, if you had stuck you're life savings into GM stock on March 6 of this year and sold at yesterday's high (I know, timing, timing, timing), you'd have turned every thousand dollars into almost $2,200, exclusive of trading fees and taxes.
In case you're wondering, no, I didn't.
Categories: business and commerce
Friday, March 20, 2009
Despite all the doom and gloom "back east", this week's cherry blossoms merit review as a sign this year's renewal and the promise of Things To Come.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
updates added at the end
The increasing migration of broadcast and cable TV content to the Internet has been commented on by many others. Some have even written they have given up TV altogether and now do all their viewing on the Internet, perhaps combined with a Netflix subscription for recent movies.
Thus it's no surprise that CBS Sports, which holds the franchise for the men's NCAA basketball tournament, is webcasting the games live on its web site. This is a commercially brilliant move, of course, since it brings the games - and most importantly, their associated advertising - to the tens of millions of office workers who each have Internet access but no TV to view.
As far as I can tell, having watched online some today, the webcasts and the TV-casts are the same. The picture and sound quality are very good and there is an HQ setting to click for what passes for hi-def picture over the web. However, that feature requires some hefty bandwidth to work well.
Speaking of the NCAA tournament, President Obama drew a rebuke from Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski. Obama had said that he expected North Carolina to win the championship and named four teams for the Final Four, Duke not being one of them. When so informed, Coach K. reacted:
“Somebody said we’re not in President Obama’s Final Four,’’ coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a lighthearted moment Wednesday as Duke prepared to face Binghamton in an East Regional first-round game in Greensboro, N.C. “As much as I respect what he’s doing, really the economy is something he should focus on more than the brackets.’’"Lighthearted?" Well, okay, but I know that with Krzyzewski there is nothing lighhearted about basketball. I suspect he was less jocular than media accounts say, a sort of grin through clenched teeth moment.
That being said, Coach K. has a good point. Is this really what we need our chief executive to spend time on these days?
I know The Won is a basketball fan, but jeepers - there is total disarray at Treasury, with even some Democrat Congress members wondering aloud whether Secretary Geithner should withdraw. There are 17 vacant, top-level posts in the department that have little prospect of being filled in the near term (say, before 2012). Does time weigh heavily on Obama's hands? He seems to spend a lot of time making pop-media appearances - a lengthy basketball interview on ESPN last weekend and a daylong trip to California yesterday to tape his appearance tonight on Jay Leno's Tonight Show.
Even the Washington Post recognizes the incongruity.
The economy is in shambles, American International Group's CEO is being grilled on the Hill, and the president is heading to California -- but on WhiteHouse.gov, the top story of the day is President Obama's NCAA Tournament bracket.Obama's default mode is not governing, it's campaigning, which is what these pop-media appearances are. But who's minding the store?
Update: The AP - "Obama in full campaign mode for budget battle"
President Barack Obama, facing considerable resistance in Washington to his budget and stimulus plans, is shifting into full-blown campaign mode, using new and old presidential tools to rally Americans to his side.Holy moly, even the AP agrees with me.
Update: The Anchoress:
When things get hot, when the polling isn’t going right, when he feels unloved, or he needs to be happy, he gets on his big, expensive-to-run Air Force One, with his limos, etc, and he steps before the camera.
Gonna be a long four years.
It's a meme! I've done it again!
Update, 3/20: As it turns out after the first round of games, the Obama Bracket is a bust.
Proving that you don't need Google's billions or the BBC weather centre's resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere.The ballonn reached 100,000 feet altitude and the camera's images are online on Flickr. Here's one.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Chaplains at Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton have been directed by hospice managers not to say the word, "God" when praying in any non-private setting (link).
Hospice CEO Paula Alderson said the ban on religious references applies only to the inspirational messages that chaplains deliver in staff meetings. The hospice remains fully comfortable with ministers, priests and rabbis offering religious counsel to the dying and grieving.The ruling led the Rev. Mirta Signorelli to resign her position.
"I was sensitive to the fact that we don't impose religion on our staff, and that it is not appropriate in the context of a staff meeting to use certain phrases or 'God' or 'Holy Father,' because some of our staff don't believe at all," Alderson said.
Signorelli said that she and other chaplains were told Feb. 23 to "cease and desist from using God in prayers." ...
Signorelli, of Royal Palm Beach, said the hospice policy has a chilling effect that goes beyond the monthly staff meetings. She would have to watch her language, she said, when leading a prayer in the hospice chapel, when meeting patients in the public setting of a nursing home and in weekly patient conferences with doctors, nurses and social workers.
Monday, March 16, 2009
No, this is not a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has been doing pretty well (relatively speaking) for most of the last week. This is a chart of the aggregate, global intensity of hurricanes since 1974. This chart is from Climate Audit website, where we learn that, "Global hurricane activity has decreased to the lowest level in 30 years." Click image for a larger view. The chart displays data using "a well-accepted metric called the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index or ACE for short."
Remember when the "consensus" was that global warming would make hurricanes worse? For example,
According to the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-AR4), it is “more likely than not” (better than even odds) that there is a human contribution to the observed trend of hurricane intensification since the 1970s. In the future, “it is likely [better than 2 to 1 odds] that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical [sea surface temperatures].”And again:
The Effect of Global WarmingFinally:
Two factors that contribute to more intense tropical cyclones-ocean heat content and water vapor-have both increased over the past several decades. This is primarily due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of forests, which have significantly elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. CO2 and other heat-trapping gases act like an insulating blanket that warms the land and ocean and increases evaporation.
[A]re storms getting stronger, and if so, what's causing it? According to a new paper in Nature, the answer is yes — and global warming seems to be the culprit.But now the consensus has evaporated. Last month the NOAA announced,
“There is nothing in the U.S. hurricane damage record that indicates global warming has caused a significant increase in destruction along our coasts.”Original NOAA paper here. To be accurate, the paper focuses on the dollar amounts of hurricane-induced damages rather than the meteorological intensity, but it does specifically rebut the notion that global warming has increased intensities and this increased losses. In fact, hurricane intensities have actually decreased since the mid-19th century:
So why the record low intensities? Climate Audit explains:
During the past 2 years +, the Earth's climate has cooled under the effects of a dramatic La Nina episode. The Pacific Ocean basin typically sees much weaker hurricanes that indeed have shorter lifecycles and therefore — less ACE . Conversely, due to well-researched upper-atmospheric flow (e.g. vertical shear) configurations favorable to Atlantic hurricane development and intensification, La Nina falls tend to favor very active seasons in the Atlantic (word of warning for 2009). ... Through March 12, 2009, the Southern Hemisphere ACE is about half of what's expected in a normal year, with a multitude of very weak, short-lived hurricanes. All of these numbers tell a very simple story: just as there are active periods of hurricane activity around the globe, there are inactive periods, now for almost 3 years.And I'll give them the last word:
Under global warming scenarios, hurricane intensity is expected to increase (on the order of a few percent), but MANY questions remain as to how much, where, and when. This science is very far from settled. ... The perceptible (and perhaps measurable) impact of global warming on hurricanes in today's climate is arguably a pittance compared to the reorganization and modulation of hurricane formation locations and preferred tracks/intensification corridors dominated by ENSO (and other natural climate factors). Moreover, our understanding of the complicated role of hurricanes with and role in climate is nebulous to be charitable. We must increase our understanding of the current climate's hurricane activity.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Michael Barone on the administration's budget component of carbon cap-and-trade. "It would take some $600 billion out of the private sector economy in order to avoid an environmental crisis that is supposed to arrive in -- oh, some time around 2055."
We are dealing here with something more like religion and less like science. We are told that all argument about global warming must end. We must have faith! But it is religion that asks us to have faith; science presents us with theories that can be tested by observation and produce replicable results -- and the results for 2055 aren't in.I've said it before, and I'll keep on saying it. Environmentalism long ago became a religion in its own right. Environmentalism has discarded scientific rigor to embrace something not much different than Leninism, the desire to control the major components of the way individuals live. From there it is a short step for environmentalism to Leninism's successor: Stalinism, the desire to control every aspect of the way we live. That's our future, minus the gulags. We hope.
We are told that we must repent of our misdeeds, for driving SUVs or (unless you're Al Gore or a Hollywood liberal) flying in private jets. And we are told that we must atone for our sins, by paying more for every bit of energy we use and remembering to recycle.
It is religion that asks for repentance and offers rituals for atonement; science suggests ways we can adapt and cope with change. It makes sense to understand how the physical environment may be damaged by changes in climate and to prepare for repairs that may be needed, and we are already doing that. It makes no sense to cripple a struggling economy in order to prevent damage that may or may not occur many years from now.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Remember when earlier this week President Obama's administration announced that it will not use the label, "enemy combatant" to justify detention of persons taken prisoner in the war on terror? Well:
CHANGE:And so new boss's Barack Obama's rehabilitation of George W. Bush continues and continues and continues and continues.The Obama Administration disclosed on Friday that it will no longer claim the power to detain terrorism suspects under the label “enemy combatant,” even while claiming broad authority to detain those who are a part of terrorist networks or who supplied “substantial support” to such forces. The authority, it said, extends to places other than battlefields if Afghanistan, but did not say where else detainees might be seized. . . . Here is the definition of detention authority, without the label “enemy combatant,” that the Obama Administration outlined Friday: “The President has the authority to detain persons that the President determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, and persons who harbored those responsible for those attacks. The President also has the authority to detain persons who were part of, or substantially supported, Taliban or al-Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any peson who has committed a belligerent act, or has directly supported hostilities, in aid of such enemy armed forces.”
So there. Related: Obama Administration Asserts Broad Detention Authority.
Plus this: “It appears on first reading that whatever they call those they claim the right to detain, they have adopted almost the same standard the Bush administration used to detain people without charge — with one change, the addition of the word `substantially’ before the word ’supported.’ This is really a case of old wine in new bottles.”
Also: “Maybe President Bush should just have changed the name of Guantanamo. Then he could have announced that there were no longer any enemy combatants at Guantanamo.”
Friday, March 13, 2009
I might have started something with my post of last week entitled, "Crisis is the health of the state."
We are now living in a permanent state of emergency, according to our Washington overlords. They are not going to waste this crisis, and rest assured there will be many more to come that they won't waste, either. And the only solution we'll be offered will one that regulates our lives at an ever-increasing rate, growing the power of government at our monetary and political expense.Next to get into the act was Jonah Goldberg, whose piece in the LA Times was titled, "Obama's fear-mongering - The president and his aides say they don't want to waste a crisis. That's a cynical way to exploit a national emergency."
The real scandal is that this administration thinks crises are opportunities for governmental power-grabs (It seems writer Randolph Bourne was wrong. It is not war, but crisis, that is the health of the state). ...Then we come to Rand Simberg: "The Strategy Of Perpetual Crisis - That seems to be the Obama game plan," in which he cites the DC Examiner:
Well, now we have the president, along with his chief aides, admitting -- boasting! -- that they want to exploit a national emergency for their preexisting agenda, and there's no scandal. No one even calls it a gaffe. No, they call it leadership.
It's not leadership. It's fear-mongering.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel gave the game away back in November with his observation that:Meanwhile, TimesOnline advises, "It's an emergency: get your act together, Obama."
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. What I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before. This is an opportunity…And this crisis provides the opportunity for us, as I would say, the opportunity to do things that you could not do before.”
Emanuel even helpfully specified the issues where the opportunity would be most helpful to the new administration – “health care area, energy area, education area, fiscal area, tax area, regulatory reform area - things that we had postponed for too long that were long-term are now immediate and must be dealt with.”
Initially, Emanuel’s disturbing words were dismissable as just his own, but the president himself and most recently Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have since repeated variations on the theme. So it is clearly the Obama strategy to use the current economic crisis as justification for his radical agenda.
Call it policy-making by perpetual crisis.
[G]overnment intervention will work only with some degree of international co-operation and that requires leadership from America. Yet despite the mandate won by President Obama, Washington has proved muddled in its economic priorities and indecisive in its financial response to the crisis. ...Meanwhile. at the Department of the Treasury, nobody's home.
Past experience of such international negotiations [as the upcoming G20 summit] shows that American leadership is necessary for reaching any kind of agreement. Which brings us to the greatest risk facing the world economy: Mr Obama's failure to present a credible response to the financial crisis or even to assemble a proper economic policy team. After the British Government's leaked messages of despair about nobody answering the phone at the US Treasury in the preparations for the G20, everybody is now aware that Mr Obama has nominated only two out of 18 deputy and assistant Treasury secretaries. What is less widely recognised is that this decision-making vacuum reflects a deeply worrying feature of US economic policy.
American politicians simply don't seem to understand the existential threat that their economy is now facing. Instead of uniting to deal with a national emergency far more threatening to their way of life than the terrorist attacks of 9/11, they have responded by dividing more sharply than ever into hostile partisan camps. ...
Mr Obama himself seems to have attached a surprisingly low priority to dealing with the financial crisis.
Last word to David Ignatius in the WaPo:
For all the legislative commotion surrounding the economic crisis, we are still living in the equivalent of "the phony war" of 1939 and 1940. War has been declared on the Great Recession, but it's basically politics as usual. The bickering and mismanagement that helped create the crisis are continuing, even though we elected a president who promised a new start.Remember when the president declared that the most serious economic issue facing America was the cost of health care? He claimed that the recession can't be tackled without the federal government taking over health care. But he wanted the government to do that when he started campaigning long before the recession. How convenient that a crsis happened along to justify a government takeover of a massive segment of the economy!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
But will it last? The Dow broke through the 7,000 mark today and kept on going. This chart shot is the reading as of 2:37 p.m. EDT.
As I've said before, it may just be a bubble, and a short-lived one at that, but we'll take any good news at this point.
Update: The Dow closed at7,170, up 240 from yesterday.
This is a Beretta PX-4 semi-auto pistol. In which country can a 15-year-old legally own this pistol, the United States or Finland?
Who'd a-thunk that some European countries have looser gun laws than the United States? In the wake of Stuttgart teen Tim Kretschmer, who shot to death 15 people before killing himself, Germany is considering tightening its gun laws, reports The Age (with the curious headline, for the topic, of "Tough laws not shielding innocent.")
GERMANY will face pressure to examine its gun laws in response to the school shooting near Stuttgart. ...In the US, handguns already cannot be sold to anyone under 21, though rifles and shotguns can be sold to anyone of adult age. As for a "license to buy" a gun, that is essentially what the name-check requirement does.
Germany has some of the world's strictest gun laws. Handguns are on sale only to those 18 or over, with heavier weapons restricted to over-21s. And weapons cannot be purchased legally without a licence.
None of this prevented 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer from going on his shooting spree. According to Spiegel online, the student's family kept 18 weapons at home.
The Associated Press reports on other countries.
Finland announced plans Wednesday to impose stricter restrictions on firearms, including raising the minimum age for handgun ownership from 15 to 20. The proposal was prompted by two school massacres within a year in which lone gunmen opened fire on classmates and teachersThey let 15 year-olds own a pistol? Those gun-crazy Finns! And if this proposal passes, a legal handgun owner can still be younger than in the USA.
Swiss citizens are demanding a referendum aimed at confining army weapons to military compounds and banning private purchases of pump-action rifles and automatic weapons — following a spate of suicides and homicides.You want assault weapons? The Swiss got yer assault weapons right there! With universal military service for men, and something like 90 percent of the army being reservists, Swiss men have for decades been required to keep their military rifles in their homes. Switzerland is one big armory. The percentage of armed households there dwarfs the United States. Guess that might change.
The Portuguese Parliament is currently discussing a government proposal to tighten gun laws, including denying bail to anyone suspected of a gun crime.Actually, that makes sense. Should it be done here?
Ah, but the statist EU had to get into the act, too.
European Union lawmakers proposed tighter gun control across the bloc last year, including guidelines saying that only people over 18 not deemed a threat to public safety could buy and keep guns. EU members have until 2010 to adopt the measures.Whaddya bet that forbidding weapons to people "not deemed a threat" will rapidly move from absence of a declaration of threat to the requirement for a positive, psychological certification of pacificity? I'm just saying . . .
I'll give Jacob Sullum the last word:
As for "mak[ing] it harder for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons," all weapons are dangerous (which is what makes them weapons), and it is virtually impossible, by definition, to identify seemingly harmless people who will one day go on murderous rampages for no apparent reason.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Did a quick overnight trip to Atlanta last weekend to spend a day at Six Flags Over Georgia. March 7 happened to be the opening day of 2009. Wasn't supposed to be, though. The original opening was scheduled to have been a week before, but it was canceled because of the
global warming winter storms that moved through.
Here's a POV video I took aboard the Acrophobia thrill ride - a vertical-drop ride 200 feet tall. Best to click on the HQ button at the bottom of the screen after you click the "play" arrow.
Here's a link to realtime chart of the Dow, which is at 6980 as I type this. Will it break above 7,000? Is a "thousand" mark really the psychological boost that some commentators say it is? Personally, I think so, but I'm not in the biz.
Update: Well, I guess not:
As of 2:24 EDT.
Update: Then again, at close the Dow did end the day up, even if barely under four points. But these days, we'll take what we can get.
Categories: business and commerce
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Thomas Sowell surveys the political-economic landscape and offers an observation to penetrating in its simplicity that I marvel I haven't read it before (and marvel less that I didn't write it, since one definition of "genius" is recognizing and declaring the simple truth when others don't.) Here 'tis:
The same politicians who have been talking about a need for "affordable housing" for years are now suddenly alarmed that home prices are falling. How can housing become more affordable unless prices fall?It's well recognized that a major cause of the now-burst housing bubble was the availability of easy credit, especially for people who otherwise would not have qualified. Mortgage lenders invented new kinds of mortgages to take advantage of lax lending rules. It bears repeating that lax lending became institutionalized in law beginning with the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977. The CRA came about because the job of government bureaucrats is to regulate and their appetite for doing so is never quenched.
The political meaning of "affordable housing" is housing that is made more affordable by politicians intervening to create government subsidies, rent control or other gimmicks for which politicians can take credit.
Affordable housing produced by market forces provides no benefit to politicians and has no attraction for them.
So they turned their regulatory eyes upon the presumed disparity between whites and blacks in obtaining home mortgages and decided that lenders were "redlining" the poor, especially poor blacks, out of mortgages, because of racism. So the force of law was brought to bear to force lenders to write mortgages to less credit-worthy people.
Had the new lending rules stopped there, we'd likely not be in the mess we're in. After all, lenders were not just shoveling money out the door into the pockets of the poor. And the aggregate amount of higher-risks loans to the poor was not very high. Poor borrowers still had to demonstrate employment and the ability to repay; it was the terms of the loans that were relaxed and if poor borrowers overstretched then it was not by a whole lot of absolute money.
Besides, to take advantage in full of the new game, lenders didn't solicit business from the poor except to the degree sufficient to keep federal redlining regulators off their backs. Why? Because the poor are, well, poor. They have no money. No matter how relaxed the lending rules became, mortgages taken out by the poor were never very large. Not much profits for the banks there.
No, just like Willie Sutton, the banks had to go where the money is. For bank robber Sutton, it was the banks themselves. For mortgage lenders, it was the middle middle class and above, and the more above the better.
The real problem borrowers, as it turns out, are not the poor. No, we cannot lay the bubble's bursting at the feet of the poor. The most at-risk borrowers have turned out to be the ones who borrow the most.
Jumbo mortgages, typically loan amounts above $417,000, are defaulting at a rapid pace as the economic crisis affects borrowers at all income levels. Bloomberg is reporting that jumbo mortgages, typically associated with higher income home owners, are becoming the next black hole for the banking and housing industry.And jumbo borrowers moved to delinquency twice as fast as others. The main reason these people are delinquent is because jumbo borrowers are losing their jobs as large companies lay off employees to save money - and the higher your salary is the more at risk your job is.(Bloomberg) — Luxury homeowners are falling behind on mortgage payments at the fastest pace in more than 15 years, a sign the U.S. financial crisis that began with the poorest Americans has reached the wealthiest.
But the relaxed lending rules built up over the past 30 years came to apply to jumbo loans as much as small loans. So a lot of people got jumbo loans who probably should not have. The presumption of both borrowers and lenders during those fat years was that the jumbo borrowers' income would keep rising and so would the market value of the house.
Both presumptions were wrong. But back to Sowell - he's right that it seems incongruous for Congress critters to bemoan the fall in housing prices when their grail for 30 years has been to artificially force exactly that. I'll give Sowell the last word:
Study after study, not only here but in other countries, show that the most affordable housing is where there has been the least government interference with the market-- contrary to rhetoric.
Monday, March 9, 2009
The Right has been saying for years that CNN stands not for Cable News Network, but "Commie News Network" because of CNN's distinctly left-of-center editorial and news slant. But now there is proof! Real headline: "CNN Correspondent Now the Communist Candidate in El Salvador."
As they say, you can't make this stuff up.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
It is often difficult for North Americans to imagine what a terrorist act looks like in terms of their everyday experience. So, imagine you are in traffic at a downtown metropolitan intersection over by your favorite mall or sports stadium. While you are waiting at the traffic light, a backhoe crosses traffic rolling a policecar over and over hell bent for a charter bus. Or maybe the ensemble is heading at you.
Here's what happened last Thursday in Jerusalem.
Arutz Sheva describes the attack:
The footage shows the tractor pushing a police car it had just overturned and the near-immediate response by armed policemen and citizens, who shot the driver dead.
One of the civilian shooters who stopped the tractor terror attack in Jerusalem Thursday is a rabbi/educator ('Ram') at Horev Yeshiva. The security camera footage showed the man pointing his gun at the terrorist although it is not clear if he fired it.
Arutz Sheva says the apparent goal of the backhoe driver was a busload of young women.
The tractor terrorist dragged the police car and smashed it into a metal post and a bus. The bus was carrying a group of girls who had dressed up as 'medical clowns' to a children's ward in a hospital where they were about to entertain the sick children.
So, what would you do?
Categories: War on terror
Friday, March 6, 2009
Especially of the US government since 2001, and most intensively since January 20 of this year. But the cards are now fully exposed on the table. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
... told young Europeans at the European Parliament that global economic turmoil provided a fresh opening. "Never waste a good crisis ... Don't waste it when it can have a very positive impact on climate change and energy security," she said."Never waste a good crisis" when you can leverage it to expand the power of government, that is, of yourself personally. But she continued:
"Certainly the United States has been negligent in living up to its responsibilities," said Clinton, on her first visit to Europe as secretary of state.And never pass up a chance to apologize for your country when you're overseas.
"This is a propitious time ... we can actually begin to demonstrate our willingness to confront this."
Roger Kimball observes:
Who, I wonder, was the political genius who saw the advantages of exploiting people’s sentimental gullibility about the environment for partisan profit? We’ve long known that environmentalism, as the philosopher Harvey Mansfield put it, is “school prayer for liberals.” But I wonder whether even Professor Mansfield could have foreseen what a tool pseudo-environmentalism would be for the radical wing of the Democratic party? The inestimable value of a green, that is, a pink, philosophy is that you can never be green enough. And in pursuit of zero-carbon-emissions purity a government can impose crippling sanctions in order to force compliance. And don’t say Obama didn’t warn you: as I and many others pointed outduring the campaign, he promised that, if elected, he would do all he could to “bankrupt” the coal industry.I've almost grown tired of saying that environmentalism is the true religion of the Left. It is the banner picked up by socialists who finally realized that socialism, by that name, wouldn't sell in this country. But here it is again:
Freeman Dyson wrote that, "Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion." I demur. Environmentalism has not replaced socialism at all. Instead, the old-line socialists, faced with decades of the failure of political socialism, have jumped on the environmentalist bandwagon to keep socialism alive. Environmentalism has become a much better vehicle to achieve a rigid regulation of people's lives than political socialism ever was. After all, the fate of the entire planet is at stake! Environmentalism has already led some British members of Parliament to propose that the government regulate almost every aspect of buying and selling by private individuals. If this is not socialism, it is a distinction without a difference.We are now living in a permanent state of emergency, according to our Washington overlords. They are not going to waste this crisis, and rest assured there will be many more to come that they won't waste, either. And the only solution we'll be offered will one that regulates our lives at an ever-increasing rate, growing the power of government at our monetary and political expense.
So there you are. At bottom, modern environmentalism has discarded scientific rigor to embrace something not much different than Leninism, the desire to control the major components of the way individuals live. From there it is a short step for environmentalism to Leninism's successor: Stalinism, the desire to control every aspect of the way we live. That's our future, minus the gulags. We hope.
This seems an apt time to quote the old liberals' bumper sticker: "If you're not outraged, you are not paying attention."
Once again: I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free.
The White House proposed a bailout plan Wednesday for homeowners. Since Election Day, $3 trillion in wealth has disappeared. We could get it all back in gold during the Winter Olympics next year if we enter Dow Jones in the men's downhill.
It is only fair that in response to "Israeli Apartheid Week", there should be "Hypocrisy Week". Ha'aretz explains:
The original Canadian poster was an advertisement for an annual series of anti-Israel events held on campuses around the world.
It shows a gunship bearing the word "Israel" firing at a kaffiyeh-clad boy holding a teddy bear.
The poster was banned from two Ottawa universities over complaints that it displayed Israelis as child-killers.
The spoof shows the same boy being used as a shield by militants launching rockets at Israel, while journalists film the boy.
It was created by Australia-born David Guy, 54, from Rehovot, and his son's best friend, 23-year-old Guy Gurfinkel from Shoham, who will begin studies at the Bezalel Academy of Arts next year.
"I've arranged the pieces, but Gurfinkel's the real artist," David Guy told Haaretz.
Me? I like the idea. So, I took the week off. Excellent reason to head south and look at stars.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
"I'm asking for your help. I would like to meet an Israeli woman for marriage purposes," Abdullah, a resident of Saudi Arabia, said in a recent letter to the [Israeli] Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.A foreign ministry spokesman said, "[W]e politely answer all of them that with all due respect, the Foreign Ministry is not a matchmaking agency."
"I have heard that the Israeli women are very smart and beautiful," he added. "I'm ready to pay a dowry of camels, herds or even money. Please help me."
But they could follow through, you know:
"Hi! I am Abdullah. I wanted an Israeli bride, for which I paid this camel."
"What I wanted was a woman like this former Miss Israel:"
"But what they sent me was this!"
"That Allah - he is a trickster, no? Oh, peace be upon him."
WASHINGTON -- As a Senate committee debated today whether to create a "truth commission" to investigate alleged abuses of White House authority during the Bush era, President Obama has quietly adopted some of his predecessor's expansive views of the power as commander-in-chief -- especially concerning anti-terrorism policies.And so new boss's Barack Obama's rehabilitation of George W. Bush continues and continues and continues.
Categories: Bush rehab
Those are the words of Brit blogger Cranmer referring to the UK government headed by the same man who addressed the US Congress yesterday. It would be the guy pictured at right, Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Why otherwise are Army personnel being asked if they would be prepared to 'open fire' on UK citizens during civil disturbances?Yes, it smells of conspiracy theory. But remember that Constitutional protections as known in the United States are not known in Britain, even though we and they enjoy many of the same rights. However, there is a crucial distinction. In the US we believe in the divine right of rights themselves, whilst Britain's heritage is rooted in the divine right of kings (or queens). Hence,
Why otherwise are ‘special briefing sessions’ being held to ascertain whether or not members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces would fire on their own nationals?
‘New Labour’ continues to be the most authoritarian government in centuries: it rules with all the infallible arrogance of divine right. Ancient rights have been transgressed, traditions set aside and liberties curtailed. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 is nothing but an ‘Enabling Act’ which gives the government the authority to declare a state of emergency – with no possibility of objective scrutiny or challenge – and thereafter rule by decree. The ‘emergency’ can be declared if there has been an incident, if an incident is occurring, or if an incident is about to occur. ...
On declaring an emergency, ministers acquire the power to make arbitrary regulations for many purposes, including ‘protecting or restoring the activities of banks or other financial institutions’ (that was prophetic) and ‘protecting or restoring activities of Parliament’. Since these regulations bypass Parliament under the Royal Prerogative, the Prime Minister has acquired absolute power to inter alia ‘give directions or orders’, ‘provide for or enable the requisition or confiscation of property’, ‘provide for or enable the destruction of property’, ‘prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, movement to or from a specified place’; and ‘prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, assemblies of specified kinds, at specified places or at specified times’.
The Royal Prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognised in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy as belonging to the Sovereign [monarch] alone. ... There may be situations in which the monarch could choose to exercise the Royal Prerogative without the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Such situations are rare, and generally only occur in emergencies or where existing precedent does not adequately apply to the circumstances in question. [Wikipedia]
Now, the legal processes that Cranmer casts a suspicious eye on may in fact be simple housekeeping matters to tidy up some loose ends in the Royal Prerogative and Parliamentary acts, but he's the man on the spot, not I.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
The Treasury and the Fed have been pumping money into the banks like crazy for the past several months. Everyone knows that. It's called, "monetizing the debt," meaning the governments debt obligations are so high to institutions or nations, such as China, who have bought our Treasury instruments, that the only way we can pay the debt off is literally to print more dollars. Also, the only way to get new dollars into the system, via the various bailout and "stimulus" bills that have become law, is to make, well, new dollars. After all, the government is busted, too - it hasn't had a trillion-plus dollars just lying around, waiting for an economic crisis. Where could the "stimulus" and bailout dollars comes from if not from the Treasury's printing presses? So print they must (see endnote).
This chart shows the increase in the money supply since 1910. Note that even during the ultra-Keynesian years of the Great Depression, the money supply increased relatively little compared to the last 40 years.
Yet even with the piking of money supply in the last year, and most of that in the last several months, inflation - a steady and significant rise in consumer prices - has hardly registered. Why?
The short answer is that the hundreds of billions of dollars the Fed has been pumping into US banks have stayed there. (The long answer, whence I've derived much of what follows, is here.)
Banks' excess deposits have risen several hundredfold. "Excess" means the amount of money banks retain that is more that they are required to hold. Until last September, banks held in excess (and in aggregate) only about $2 billion. Within only two months they held more than $600 billion. So the Fed's been shoveling them money, but they've held on to it.
This is not because bankers are greedy, quite the opposite. Money in a vault is pretty much worthless to a banker. A bank's assets, the "plus" side of its balance sheet, are its loans. Loans represent the profit centers of banks. No loans means no income, no revenue, no profits. For the banks to hoard those hundred of billions of dollars means they cut their profits, not raise them. Why do that? Because they are unwilling to lend money to bad borrowers, which would mean they would lose both the principal and the interest, leaving them in even worse shape than not lending at all.
Because the banks are not making loans at near the pace or amounts they were even a year ago, the money the government is throwing out the door is staying locked up. It's not making it into circulation. And that's why inflation hasn't occurred. Unless the increased money supply gets into the hands of the people - meaning the banks write it out the door as loans - it doesn't matter how much more money is printed. There's no upward pressure on prices and concomitantly no money to pay for it even if there was.
Instead, we have deflation:
How long will deflation last? Eventually, the dam must burst and the money supply will flood from the banks into the general economy. If production of goods and services is outpaced by the money supply, as it almost certainly will, then inflation will return. Considering how much money is in the reservoir, inflation will probably return with a vengeance.
Ah, but timing is everything. When will the economy turn around? First, businesses have to think of their future in rosy enough terms to take on debt again. Then, they have to demonstrate to banks that they are worth lending to. Banks have to be sound enough themselves to be worth borrowing from and must start writing the loans. How close are we to the beginnings of that process?
EricTyson.com explains the meaning of this graph:
Watson Wyatt is one of the world's largest benefit consulting firms so they work with many employers. They regularly survey companies for their future hiring and firing plans. Their just released February survey offers some optimism that the heavy layoffs may soon be ending:Of course, things can still go downhill faster than this research predicts. And by no means does this graph indicate that a new day is about to dawn. But there is also reason to believe that Ben Bernanke could be right: the recession may have ended, at least just barely so, by the end of this year. Maybe, maybe not, but whenever the turnaround comes, true inflation won't be far behind.
"A new update to an ongoing series of surveys conducted by Watson Wyatt, a leading global consulting firm, shows that most companies have already made most of their intended sweeping changes. However, many expect to make further cost-cutting changes this year, such as salary and hiring freezes, and reduced 401(k) matching contributions."
"According to the survey of 245 large U.S. employers conducted last week, 52 percent have made layoffs, up from 39 percent two months ago. However, the number of companies planning layoffs has fallen 10 percentage points from 23 percent to 13 percent. Additionally, 56 percent now have a hiring freeze in effect, an increase from 47 percent in December’s survey."
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Today is 3-3-09, a date that calendar keepers call a square root day. Only nine such dates occur per century. The last was 2-2-04 and the next will be 4-4-16. You can take it from there. This is of no cosmic significance whatsoever, it's just kind of interesting. Maybe.
Monday, March 2, 2009
updates added below
... they wouldn't blow my nose.
How low can it go? I don't think we're close to bottom. I used to think that this was just fearmongering - now I wonder whether it's prophecy.
One thing I am convinced of. I am now 53, and I will not see for the remainder of my life the value of my house return to the level that identical houses in my neighborhood were selling for in 2006.
Once the present administration gets through socializing the economy of this country, I am far from convinced that the DJIA will return to its previous peak, or even close to it, during my lifetime.
Update: Well, I'm not the only one:
"As bad as things are, they can still get worse, and get a lot worse," said Bill Strazzullo, chief market strategist for Bell Curve Trading, who said he believes the Dow might fall to 5,000 and the S&P to 500. ...So I'll get to retire when I'm 90. And this:
"We do feel that things can improve, but it is going to be years before we get back to levels we saw in the markets a year ago," said David Chalupnik, head of equities at First American Funds.
One thing is certain, however: Government is getting bigger and will stay bigger. ...And having started with a graph, here's a couple to close.
If this is what the American people want, so be it, but they ought to have no illusions about the perils of this approach. Mr. Obama is proposing among everything else $1 trillion in new entitlements, and entitlement programs never go away, or in the oddly poetic bureaucratic jargon, “sunset.” He is proposing $1.4 trillion in new taxes, an appetite for which was largely was whetted by the shameful excesses of American CEO corporate culture. And finally, he has proposed $5 trillion in new debt, one-half the total accumulated national debt in all US history. All in one fell swoop.
He tells us that all this is going to work because the economy is going to be growing by 3.2 percent a year from now. Do you believe that? Would you take out a loan based on that?
First, the market since Obama's election (source):
And since the passage of the "stimulus" bill (source):
But back at 1600 Pennsylvania, "we're gonna party like it's (still) 1999."
Sunday, March 1, 2009
The largest increase in the tax burden of American households took place during the Clinton administration. It topped out during those eight years at $20,019 per household.
But George W. Bush deeply cut those taxes, right? Yah, shure - by $72. Yes, that's what I wrote: seventy-two bucks less per year is what we paid in taxes under Bush than Clinton.