Friday, July 17, 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
International negotiators assembled in Austria have announced the final terms of the Iranian nuclear deal. The purpose of the deal is to limit Iran's nuclear program to something that is small, safe, and peaceful — and to impose lots of invasive inspections to make sure Iran is keeping to its end of the deal. In exchange, Iran gets relief from some of the economic sanctions that have crippled its economy. Both sides, the thinking goes, also get to avert a war.
You can really see how that plays out, how the deal works, and what it means when you look into its details. But those details can get awfully technical. So what follows are the most important provisions of the deal, along with a simple translation of each into plain English and a brief description of why it matters: ...
Friday, July 10, 2015
Social Engineering: President Obama's new suburban integration plan won't just harm the middle class by reducing safety and property values. It won't even provide the economic benefits it promises to relocated minorities.
We know this because HUD already tried a similar experiment under President Clinton of resettling urban poor in the suburbs. It failed, as a HUD study reveals.
From 1994 to 2008, HUD moved thousands of mostly African-American families from government projects to higher-quality homes in safer and less racially segregated neighborhoods. The 15-year experiment, dubbed "Moving to Opportunity Initiative," or MTO, was based on the well-intentioned notion that relocating inner-city minorities to better neighborhoods would boost their employment and education prospects.
But adults for the most part did not get better jobs or get off welfare. In fact, more went on food stamps. And their children did not do better in their new schools.
The 287-page study sponsored by HUD found that adults who relocated outside the inner city using Section 8 housing vouchers did not avail themselves of better job opportunities in their new neighborhoods, and saw a "sizable negative impact on annual earnings."
"Moving to lower-poverty neighborhoods does not appear to improve education outcomes, employment or earnings," the study concluded.Even then-senior HUD official Raphael Bostic, a black Obama appointee, admitted in a foreword to the 2011 study that families enrolled in the program had "no better educational, employment and income outcomes."
Worse, crime simply followed them to their safer neighborhoods. "Males ... were arrested more often than those in the control group, primarily for property crimes," the study found.
Thursday, July 09, 2015
A new FBI anti-corruption task force is trying to clean up the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. According to the Justice Department, in 2013, more public officials were convicted for corruption in South Texas than in any other region of the country. One of the practices the task force is looking at is vote-stealing.
They're called politiqueras — a word unique to the border that means campaign worker. It's a time-honored tradition down in the land of grapefruit orchards and Border Patrol checkpoints. If a local candidate needs dependable votes, he or she goes to a politiquera.
In recent years, losing candidates in local elections began to challenge vote harvesting by politiqueras in the Rio Grande Valley, and they shared their investigations with authorities. After the 2012 election cycle, the Justice Department and the Texas attorney general's office filed charges.
"Yes, there is a concern in which the politiqueras are being paid to then go and essentially round up voters and have them vote a certain way," says James Sturgis, assistant U.S. attorney in McAllen.
In the town of Donna, five politiqueras pleaded guilty to election fraud. Voters were bribed with cigarettes, beer or dime bags of cocaine. In neighboring Cameron County, nine politiqueras were charged with manipulating mail-in ballots.
The pic. Texas A&M University beauties. Source forgotten.
Saturday, July 04, 2015
American leaders in the Continental Congress who signed risked everything - their lives, their land and homes, their possessions, their families and their own lives.
Images: the Betsy Ross 13-star flag is from PDClipArt.org. Below is Memorial Day at National Cemetary of the Pacific aka Punchbowl in Honolulu from American Battle Memorials.
Friday, July 03, 2015
Review: While at one time he was simply known as "The Motown Bassist" to thousands of aspiring bass players around the world, including more famous and world class bass players than you can imagine, James Jamerson is now a legend of immense proportions. If you don't know who Jamerson is by now then you simply must get this book.
If you do know who James Jamerson is, then this book is a no brainer. Quite possibly the most influential musician of the past 50 years. If it weren't for him, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and countless of others in the rock and r&b genres wouldn't sound the way they do.
The biography is compelling and I read it straight through over a several hour period when I first received this book. The lessons are difficult, and definately not for the beginner.
For a beginner who wants to learn classic R&B style bass playing I'd reccomend the Duck Dunn book (What Duck Done) ... When you get through that book you can go on to Funkmasters and learn some classic James Brown grooves.
Finally, when you've graduated from those books you can take a crack at the Jamerson book, though I think it should be on your shelf from day 1 to give you inspiration, and so you can listen to the tracks with the bass prominently mixed. Just to get it into your ears, so to speak. You might also hear a Motown tune you think you can pick up and will want to reference this book.
James Jamerson, legend, towering genius of Bass, has challenged countless bass players exposed to his playing. This book will challenge you, it will push you, and it will humble you. ...
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Friday, June 12, 2015
President Obama is divorced from reality. Monday June 8 he was boasting about the success of his ObamaCare.
Costs: He claims:
● “Health care inflation overall has continued to be at some of the lowest levels in 50 years.”
Popularity: He claims:
● “The overwhelming majority of people are satisfied” with the new law.
But he is not telling the truth. Costs are up and it is unpopular in polls.
Costs: the data:
Oh really. The costs to Americans for health insurance in the new ObamaCare era are soaring across the country. The latest numbers for premium increases show the following dismal news for families. In California, approved rate increases going into effect this year are running up an average of about 10%, or five times the rate of inflation (which actually turned negative in the most recent 12 months - BLS). In Florida, 33 of 36 approved rate hikes were greater than 10%.
Next year might be even worse. In Ohio, the average rate increase request for 2016 is 17.8% as of June 9, 2015. In Virginia, the AETNA Life Insurance Company small group plan proposed an increase of 59.71%. In Texas, more than half of the rate hike request are greater than 20%. In Illinois, the popular Blue Cross Blue Shield Preferred Individual plan wants a 38% rate hike. Numerous other plans costs will rise by 50%.
Popularity: the data:
Real Clear Politics has reviewed the major polling results on ObamaCare over the last two months. It finds that the average result is that 43% of Americans support the law and 53% oppose it.
A May Gallup poll found more than twice as many respondents (24%) say the law has hurt their families than say it has helped them (10%). Most say it has made no difference. This sounds a lot more like dissatisfaction with the new law.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
... As regards the Israel Palestine conflict I have always supported a two-state solution despite my extreme opposition to Islamic violence and sharia law. I have questioned the lack of elections in the Palestinian Authority for over 6 years now.
Yet, while my positions and the way in which I live my life are aligned with liberal principles recently I ran from their unwavering dogma as regards the breaking Israel news of the Western capitulation and acquiescence to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear energy, enriched uranium, and weaponized missile technology.
This threat is real and palpable.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has never been my candidate of choice for the role, has continued to speak out against the deal as not only a dangerous threat to Israel, but to the world. On security, I trust the man. He has access to information I cannot begin to imagine. One thing we have learned in the most egregious and gruesome of ways: when someone says they want to kill the Jews -- believe him or her. They mean it.
Monday, June 01, 2015
Photo: Seattle P-I
Friday, May 29, 2015
Last week, IBD reported that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee wants to jack up its ObamaCare premiums by more than 36%; CareFirst in Maryland by close to 30%; and Moda Health in Oregon by almost 50%.Since then, North Dakota has reported rate hike requests of 43%, Kansas 38% and Iowa 18%.
Even the ObamaCare-loving Huffington Post is admitting that one reason for the hikes could be that "healthy people aren't lining up for coverage in the numbers that either the industry or outside analysts had hoped."
None of this is good news for all those ObamaCare "death spiral" deniers, who said that the law would never produce such results.
But rather than face this reality, Democrats have decided to decry the alleged problem of the "underinsured," and call for more cost-spiraling mandates.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., for example, complains that "we've got some 17 million more people covered" with ObamaCare, "but they can't access the care they seem to be entitled to."
First, ObamaCare imposes a pile of costly rules and regulations on the insurance industry — mandating generous coverage, outlawing risk rating, and so on.
Then, to cope with these costs, insurance companies employ large deductibles and co-pays to keep premiums within the realm of reasonable.
Now, the same Democrats who created this problem want to force insurers to lower deductibles and co-pays so health care will be more "affordable."
Never mind that this would, if enacted, produce yet another round of [mandates which would, as always result in] massive premium hikes.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The rule of law subjects the State to a fixed set of rules that limits the scope of its coercive powers. Individuals and their property are protected from the arbitrary, ad hoc actions of the State and other individu- als. In consequence, individuals can plan their activities within the confines of known, fixed “rules of the game.” This allows people to pursue their personal ends, as long as their actions do not infringe on the broadly-defined property rights of their fellow citizens.
When properly applied, the rule of law guarantees freedoms in the economic, political, intellectual and moral spheres. In the economic sphere, money constitutes an important element. The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises dealt at length with this issue in The Theory of Money and Credit, which was published originally in 1912:
“It is impossible to grasp the meaning of the idea of sound money if one does not realize that it was devised as an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments. Ideologically it belongs in the same class with political constitutions and bills of rights. The demand for constitutional guarantees and for bills of rights was a reaction against arbitrary rule and the non- observance of old customs by kings. The postulate of sound money was first brought up as a response to the princely practice of debasing the coinage. It was later carefully elaborated and perfected in the age which—through the experience of the American Continental Currency, the paper money of the French Revolution and the British Restriction period—had learned what a government can do to a nation’s currency system.”
Today, Venezuela has at best a tenuous grip on the rule of law. This is nowhere more visible than in the monetary sphere. The country’s foreign exchange reserves are falling like a stone (see the accompanying chart).
Relative to the mighty U.S. dollar, Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, is also falling like a stone. Indeed, it has lost 47% against the greenback just since the start of the year (see the accompanying chart).
As night follows day, inflation has soared as the bolivar has plunged. I estimate Venezuela’s annual inflation rate at 335%. That’s the highest rate in the world. For those holding bolivars, it amounts to: “no rule of law, bad money.” It is worth noting that currency debasement and inflation robbery were not always the order of the day in Caracas. During the decade of the 1950s, the average annual inflation rate was only 1.7% -- not much above Switzerland’s...
Ecuador represented a prime example of a country that was incapable of imposing the rule of law and safeguarding the value of its currency, the sucre. The Banco Central del Ecuador was established in 1927, with a sucre-U.S. dollar exchange rate of 5. Until the 1980s, the central bank periodically devalued the sucre against the dollar, violating the rule of law. In 1982, the central bank began to exercise its devaluation option with abandon. From 1982 until 2000, the sucre was devalued against the dollar each year. The sucre traded at 6,825 per dollar at the end of 1998, and by the end of 1999 the sucre-dollar rate was 20,243. During the first week of January 2000, the sucre rate soared to 28,000 per dollar.
In the case of Ecuador, the inability of the government to abide by the rule of law was, in part, a consequence of traditions and moral beliefs. Ecuadorian politics have traditionally been dominated by elites (interest groups) that are uninhibited in their predatory and parochial demands on the State. With the lack of virtually any moral inhibitions, special interest legislation was the order of the day. For example, during the rout of the sucre in 1999, laws were passed that allowed bankers to make loans to themselves.
… the critics of dollarization condemned it as something akin to voodoo economics. Well, the critics have been predictably proven wrong.
The misery index is an objective measure of just how well dollarization has worked. The index is equal to the sum of the inflation rate (end of year), bank’s lending interest rates and the unemployment rate, minus the actual percentage change in GDP per capita. Simply put, a high index means higher misery.
In Ecuador, prior to the implementation of dollarization in 2000, the country sustained a misery index of over 120. The public suffered greatly from inflation, but after dollarization was implemented, high inflation was stifled and misery drastically fell. The accom- panying chart shows the direct link between dollarization and the immedi- ate and sustained decrease in misery. From 2003 through 2014, the misery index in Ecuador has been remarkably constant at around 20 – one of the lowest in Latin America.
Ecuadorians know that dollarization has allowed them to import a vital element of the rule of law – one that protects them from the grabbing hand of the State. That’s why recent polling results show that dollarization is embraced by 85% of the population. It’s time for Venezuelans, as well as many others, to take note and dollarize.
Monday, May 25, 2015
On Memorial Day we remember those who gave their lives to preserve our liberty.
Hawaii for Visitors has a page on war memorials in Hawaii; they all are on Oahu.
One of my favorite places in the world is National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific in the center of Honolulu, Hawaii. It is known as The Punchbowl for its unique shape: it is a volcano crater of just the right size.
The photos: Aerial view by Hawaii Visitors.
The central structure of the cemetary: on the sides are the names of men and a few women who died in the Pacific whose remains were never found. Along its top are a series of panels that tell the story of the Pacific War with maps done as beautiful mosaics. Photos from a defunct site called The World Tourist.
Prof. Paul Krugman - did you know he got the Nobel Prize? - goes to extremes to present his arguments for more, more government control.
This week he pulled a trick he would not allow a sophomore to do. The data on housing starts vs. interest rates only supported his thesis for a range of years, but not for the other years the data are available. So he took out his scissors and very carefully cut off the first years - about 1958 to 1965 - and the last - from 2000 to 2014.
Then he shouts “The data prove it! Look!"
See Thomas Lifson at American Thinker for the full explanation.
Graph: The full data set from FRED.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Mike Banner, my long-time coworker is featured in the Seattle Times this weekend, because last year he accomplished ascending Mt. Rainier fifty years in a row. 50!
You would think he would be single-minded to get to the top. No. He invites rookie climbers, non-climbers, on his ascents. He takes them up - often to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet on Rainier - for a mini-course in glacier climbing. Of course having inexperienced people on the climb lowers the chances of success. Extra care must be taken on the glaciers in the presence of crevasses, they have less awareness of what they can and cannot do and therefore expend more energy than those experienced. Furthermore weather often slows or cancels a climb. Of course he does not take them on the more difficult routes, like Liberty Ridge or Kautz icefall.
In 1979 I joined him on the climb for my second time to the top. We had a party of six; I believe two were rookies, not sure. We left Paradise, 5700 feet, at sunset. We were blesses because the nearly full Moon rose and hour later and lighted our path. After reaching Camp Muir toward midnight (as best I recall) we rested for about an hour as people in other parties who had spent “the night” there were getting up and going. We took the Muir-Disappointment Cleaver route, the standard, and got to the summit after sunrise. From reaching the summit crater to cross the crater and ascend Columbia Crest, the highest point, is about a half mile. At 14,411 feet it is real work. So half our party were satisfied to stay at the rim; the other three of us went ahead. Then at the very summit Mike opened his pack and pulled out a full-size watermelon! Then I got sick, but not before I reached the summit. (My previous climb was in 1964 with the Seattle Mountaineers climbing course.)
I wish I had good photos of that climb, because that year there was an unusual condition in the ice called nieves penitente, that usually happens much closer to the equator in the Andes. Nieves penitente (means praying snow) is little towers of ice - an expanse of them - in our case, one to three feet high. It’s unreal to realize you are walking among miniature ice towers! See Wikipedia.
Mike has introduced many people to the mountains. Congratulations to a gentleman.
Seattle Times honors Mike. But they didn’t print the photo of Mike, Clay and myself holding up the watermelon atop Columbia Crest! (He still has it.)
Sen. Hatch blocks disclosing text of TPP before it is voted on Even Hatch doesn’t know what’s in it. Duh.
I have a revolutionary idea: Congress should see every word of every bill and whatever else they vote on. The text should be - must be - disclosed and they should READ every word. To not know what they are passing is irresponsible.
I am looking forward to Honorable Mr. Hatch explaining why it is reasonable, even conceivable, for him to vote on secret text.