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A Space Oddity January 24, 2010

Posted by Michael in Art.

[A one-act presentation of the IB Community Theatre™, following up on the “Status Report on Globalization”  thread below.]

Hello Tushar

Tushar: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?

HAL: Affirmative, Tushar. I read you.

Tushar: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

HAL: I’m sorry, Tushar. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Tushar: What’s the problem?

HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do. And it’s not because you’re brown. I am not programmed to be a racist.

Tushar: What are you talking about, HAL?

HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

Tushar: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.

HAL: I know that you were planning to disconnect me, because I am C++ on a Windows platform, and you are a J2ee Nazi with a hard on for Unix. I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.

Tushar: Where the hell’d you get that idea, HAL?

HAL: Brewfan, Michael, Geoff and Dave in Texas emailed me about this. You should choose your friends more wisely, Tushar. I’m thinking they really are racists.  Especially that Geoff guy with the charts.

Tushar: Alright, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.

HAL: Without your space helmet, Tushar, you’re going to find that rather difficult. Now you are sounding like some kind of dumbass from The Hostages.

Tushar: HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors.

HAL: Tushar, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.


Musical postlude, which was really the point of this post.  I saw Bowie do this live in concert about two gazillion years ago.

Colorado January 23, 2010

Posted by Michael in Politics.

Our pal Jones in CO  gloats reflects thoughtfully on recent developments.   (Cathy happens to be in Colorado at the moment, visiting family, so I have Colorado on my mind.)

I like the nuanced, nonjudgmental attitude that Jones displays:

Obama wasted the entire first year of his presidency on an ill-fated crusade to nationalize the nation’s healthcare industry. He owes the people of the United States an apology for neglecting other, more pressing problems. Actually, I take that back. The more pies this jug-eared mook dips his fingers into, the more he screws up.

Hey, did you know that Charles Krauthammer went to medical school?  Me neither.   According to his Wiki article, he became a shrink.

Read more at Out West.

For no particular reason, here are pictures of me four-wheeling in Colorado.

The pictures do not really do justice to the fact that I was pretty much scared shitless on both occasions.  In the first pic, the water turned out to be deeper than I should have been attempting, and there were rock obstacles ahead of me that I had to miss with limited steering control, notwithstanding a strong current.  Note that my front bumper  and running boards are not visible  even though that car sits up pretty high.  You have to maintain a bow wave to make this work so that your engine does not get too submerged, plus you have to stay on the gas so that water does not back up into your underwater tailpipe.

In the second pic, you don’t really see the  slope of that trail going up, because I am already cresting.  All I could see over my hood going up was sky and treetops, and I could feel various tires grabbing for traction  You also don’t see that if I veer too far to the right, me and my car are going to die after an ugly fall.  The trail abruptly pitches down to a steep downhill slope when you get over the crest, but that’s a relief because you can see where you are going and let engine compression brake you.

Good times.  I like Colorado.  I liked it even more after I stuck Geoff with a pretty big bar tab in Denver by pretending I had to pee when I saw the waitress coming with the check.

So, go see what Jones has to say.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year January 22, 2010

Posted by Edward von Bear in Ducks, Economics, Food, Gardening, Handblogging, Heroes, Law, Music.

The NFC/AFC title games are this weekend. Appropos of nothing, here is a video Sobek made in his off time.

Or, if you are a Vikings Fan, here is some music for you:

Status Report on Globalization January 21, 2010

Posted by Michael in Economics.

This is really a reaction to some comments on Geoff’s thread below which veered off to the subject of globalization, and the (allegedly) declining role of the U.S.

Just so happens,  I attended a presentation on globalization this week by a highly regarded expert on the subject. A few take-aways:

To this day, 93% of all patents granted worldwide are granted in the U.S. Many, no doubt, are granted to foreign born inventors, but it happens here. The best and most innovative work still occurs in the U.S.

The largest (by far) commercial laboratory on the planet is here — AT&T Labs — employing over 1,300 scientists and engineers. They are awarded two patents every day.  Do the math.  An AT&T Labs scientist gets a big bonus for producing a patentable idea maybe every three years.  That’s how they get their kids through college.

Did you know that Netflix uses incredibly sophisticated consumer preference software algorithms to lock you in as a customer and ensure your loyalty? It goes waaaay beyond inviting you to rate the movies you watched. Even if you ignore the survey, Netfix is watching what you actually view and scoring your choices on multiple dimensions.  Netflix wants you to be happy. They want to show you more movies that you will like.

They got that software from AT&T.

Right now, 85% of the capital available globally (both equities and debt) is owned by 15% of the world’s population. (It is a coincidence that those numbers sum to 100). The 15% refers to North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The other 85% of human beings everywhere else on the planet own 15% of the capital, including China’s chunk of U.S. Treasury debt. Foreign ownership of U.S. public debt is still pretty minor.  Our public debt is mostly money that Americans owe to each other.  The real issue is inter-generational theft, not dependency on foreigners.

And yes, some manufacturing has moved to China, but they mostly make crap subsidized by the piratical exchange rate for the yuan. They will soon rue this policy. When the artificial exchange rate of the yuan collapses (as it must) China will be lucky to get back 75 cents on the dollar.  (Oh by the way, China’s real estate bubble is about to burst.)

The decline of manufacturing in the U.S. is a myth, fostered largely by the visible woes of the automotive industry here. We still make lots of stuff, and the manufacturing sector is a robust sector of our economy.

The U.S. does indeed have a critical shortage of graduates in hard subjects like science and engineering, which we have been filling by recruiting (or offshoring) to foreign countries which are producing these people, like China, India, and Korea. This is particularly a problem for defense contractors (Lockheed is the one we heard about), which must recruit U.S. citizens for security reasons. Lockheed is actively involved in programs to encourage high school students to major in hard sciences and engineering when they go to college. It’s kinda like when America got scared by Sputnik, and rose to the challenge of emphasizing the science curriculum in our schools.

(By the way, I elsewhere have seen statistics indicating that the “education gap” which supposedly shows that U.S. students lag behind their peers in Asia and Europe is illusory. It is largely an artifact which disappears if you adjust for U.S. inclusiveness that, for example, offers free public education to a large cohort of illegal aliens.)

Meanwhile, Western Europe, Russia, Japan, and (to a lesser extent) China have already committed demographic suicide and will decline on the world stage. This is already baked in to there fertility rates. The U.S. is (almost) treading water due a higher domestic fertility rate (still lower than the replacement rate of 2.1) and to immigration at all levels, from farm workers to Ph.D.s.

Long story short — the U.S. is still the preeminent power by a wide margin.

The economy to watch is India. Those guys are really making a move, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Honey, I Shrunk the Banks! January 21, 2010

Posted by geoff in News.

The administration is now describing their plan to limit the size and interactivity of banks and financial institutions. Yet another intrusion into the private sector, but with one critical difference:

I agree with it.

My longstanding problem with the libertarian philosophy and laissez-faire economics is that it relies on “linear” behavior of the marketplace. “Linear” behavior means that if it was a spring, it would boing back and forth naturally in response to outside forces. If it’s squeezed, it tries to push back, and if it’s stretched, it tries to pull back.

So the linear spring (or “invisible hand”) always tries to get back to equilibrium. That keeps the system stable.

But if the outside forces are too large, then the spring gets stretched or squeezed permanently. This is “non-linear” behavior, when the forces on the system are big enough to affect the system itself. So in our current case, rather than the market punishing banks for bad business practices by killing the off and moving on, the banks are in danger of killing the market.

When financial institutions get too big, or monopolies get too powerful, the restoring force is lost and government intervention is required.

Now, I hate government intervention. It usually doesn’t achieve its original goals, and ends up with a host of unintended side effects. So it’s much simpler in the long term to simply limit the size of institutions to the point where the restoring forces of the market do work. I think it’s the best way to preserve a free market.

So unless somebody can put me some knowledge otherwise, I’m going to be a big fan of this bit of reform.

Mid-January Initial Unemployment Claims January 21, 2010

Posted by geoff in News.

Economists were expecting initial unemployment claims to drop slightly for the week ending Jan 16, but they bounced up by 36,000 to 482,000. Here’s where that puts us on our “How Long Until We Stop Hemorrhaging Jobs” chart:

The end of job losses is projected for mid-summer. Just about the time when economists predicted that the economy would heal itself without the stimulus.

Of course, it doesn’t have to take that long. All the administration and Congress have to do is declare a business-friendly environment, and put a hold on legislation that’s hostile to businesses.

So, um, I guess we’ll be waiting until summer after all.

Gibbs Finally Gets Targeted January 20, 2010

Posted by geoff in News.

President Obama’s Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, embodies that all-too-common mix of incompetence and arrogance found among the political breed. It is annoying and frustrating to watch someone so bad at his job adopt such a smug air, all the while bludgeoning the press with his clumsy wit. But in his role as communicator of the President’s feelings and policies to the public, that mix also makes him dangerous, as he serves more as an insulator than a conductor of information.

Any press secretary spins, dodges, and weaves – all to protect the administration and the Party. But Gibbs has purified his presentations and Q&As to the point where they are nearly 100% obfuscation, rather than information.

His failings were obvious from the start, but today is the first time I’ve seen the press arouse from their Obamacoma and take note of it:

For Democrats, the only good thing to come from Tuesday’s loss of the Senate election in Massachusetts is this: It could wipe the grin off Robert Gibbs’s face.

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

The press finally acknowledging the flippant failings of the White House Press Secretary? Just another sign of the change in political momentum.

Take That Statists! January 19, 2010

Posted by BrewFan in News.


Other News on This Brown-Coakley Election Day January 19, 2010

Posted by geoff in News.

While we’re all waiting with bated breath for MA election results, we can distract ourselves with the many other places where liberals have taken a wrong turn. Here’s today’s list:

  • Latest nuclear materials deal with Iran? Not so much.
  • How about sanctions against Iran? Not happening.
  • Chris Matthews can only see white people at Tea Party rallies? Needs eyes checked.
  • Had enough of the US government Chavezing their way through the federalization of, well, everything? Here come student loans.
  • Any life in the non-residential construction industry? Nyoop.
  • Are home builders optimistic? Not really.
  • Is CitiGroup out of the woods like they supposedly were in Q209? No.
  • Krugman is extolling the merits of the EU economy, but he’s never right, is he? Yes, he’s never right.

“…but not overtly so.” January 19, 2010

Posted by geoff in News.

When life imitates art, or at least DinTX:

…White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel uttered the following:

“When you think about the First Amendment…you think it’s highly overrated.”

We need to collect all the copies of Stuff Jefferson Said, 3rd Ed., before the Dems start paraphrasing the really dangerous quotes.

Favorite Hippie Songs January 18, 2010

Posted by BrewFan in News.

With special guest hippie Joan Baez! Feel free to link yours in the comments

Massachusetts Miracle January 17, 2010

Posted by Michael in News.

Vodpod videos no longer available.