Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let me ride but don't slow growth

Liking to bicycle ride does not necessarily mean you like higher taxes, higher spending and slower economic growth. Slower growth means less jobs. The cost is too high for the "let's all sell our cars and walk everywhere" philosophy. Less travel means each person has fewer options for jobs. Walking - a job more than 3 miles away is not an option. Cycling - depending on terrain and safe routes, jobs more than 5 to 15 miles away are not an option, except for athletic 20- and 30-somethings or during the summer. I like people to have jobs, so I am very leery of more spending for Ron Sims and his limo. And he requires higher taxes, then higher and higher. There is no limit. Sound Transit is a fraud. They promised a system and the timeline to build it. We would have been touring the Rainier Valley by rail last year on their promises. BUT They shortened the system and lengthened the deadline. Now they claim they are on-time and within budget. That's not true. I don't want their taxes continued indefinitely for more of the same. No on Sound Transit #1 I drive to work 2 to 3 days a week, carpooling about one of those. Washington transportation has spent tons of money on environmental impacts and such. I don't have the exact numbers, but the nickel increase a few years ago had something like 30% or more going for environmental impacts. But how about congestion? Congestion was not a priority. Oh, they changed the wording last year, but not the priority. They want congestion to force us out of our cars, to be standing on the street hoping a bus will come. But not them. Mayor Greg Nickels drives his limo 100 miles a day seven days a week. (Stefan Sharkansky at Sound Politics discovered and documented this.) They can drive, but you can't. Yes on I-985. It's not how I would do it. But I favor an attempt to overturn the priorities and put reducing congestion on top. If the legislature doesn't like Tim Eyman setting the priorities then they have to lead. They had their chances to decrease congestion AND to make it better for walkers and cyclists. But they chose to favor rail and buses to a lesser degree.

Election 2008 in King County, Washington

My recommendations. Top priorities are in bold. Except for president and governor they are in the order in the voters pamphlet. Two updates are marked. President: John McCain - he has commanded a Navy flying squadron and been 100% against wasteful and special-interest spending. Governor: Dino Rossi - he worked across the aisle and built a balanced budget. His opponent broke it and continues to. Initiative 985 - For - It's not how I would do it. But it makes congestion improvement the top priority. A foreign idea to the power establishment. Initiative 1000 - Against - It's not "death with dignity," but playing God. It has no safeguards and requires doctors to falsify death certificate. There is no protection against coercion or financial pressure. I-1029 - Against - This is the SEIU - Service Employees International Untion - forcing thousands of low-paid private workers into their government-employees union. Ignore the quality claims; it's a smoke screen. Update And the training stuff sounds good until you realize it might require YOU to be certified to take care of your own mother and/or father. Congress - 7th district - Steve Beren - Jim McDermott is a fossil who only gets attention when he betrays our country. No accomplishments in 20 years except to destroy the House Ethics committee by lying while a member of it. State Lt. Governor - no preference - Brad Owen is a Democrat whose priorities make Republicans happy. Secretary of State - Write in Stefan Sharkansky - Sam Reed embarrasses us. After the 2004 fiasco he did some to make things better, but more to make them worse. Update Treasurer - Allan Martin - He is endorsed by his predecessor from the opposite political party. Auditor - Bryan Sontag - Another Democrat who make Republicans happy. Attorney General - Rob McKenna - doing a great job. Comm. Public Lands - Doug Sutherland - No one pays attention to this office. But his opponent is endorsed by the bigger government people. Superintendent of Public Instruction - Randy Dorn - His opponent created the WASL and flew it into the ground. Insurance Commissioner - John Adams - His opponent is a long-time politician who saw an open job. 32d District Position 1 - Alex Rion - A libertarian who can explain smaller government, limited spending and taxing. He fled Michigan which caused its own one-state recession with its high taxes and miserable leadership. Position 2 - uncontested - Ruth Kagi is a long-time acquaintance. Judges King Superior Court position 1 - Suzanne Parisien King County Charter Amendment # 1 - Yes - to elect the director of elections " #2 - No - just adds more privileged classes. It even requires three terms for homosexuality. " #3 - Yes "#4 - No - Let the voters decide if candidates are qualified for the office they seek. " #5 - Yes " #6 - Yes King County Charter Amendment #7 - No - Makes it impossible to qualify an initiative. The politicians detest initiatives! " #8 - No - Pretending to be nonpartisan doesn't make you so. Sound Transit #1 - No - Another multi-billion dollar boondoggle. Sound Transit is lying when they say the system under construction is on time and within budget. They had to approve a later deadline and a higher budget, so it could "comply," i.e., appear to comply.


Update: A transparent attempt to prevent Dino Rossi from campaigning. Demo lawyers and a judge tied him up for 5 hours yesterday to make a deposition in someone else's law suit. Read about it. And remember King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas when she runs for reelection. She made this travesty happen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mr. Spock's planet might exist

Ear's to planet Vulcan being real | The Daily Telegraph: THE home planet of big-eared Star Trek legend Dr Spock could actually exist. Experts reckon up to eight worlds could revolve around the star Epsilon Eridani, which Spock's [fictional] planet Vulcan orbits in the cult TV series. Epsilon Eridani is surrounded by two bands of rocky and metal fragments like the asteroid belt that lies beyond Mars in our solar system. And Nasa experts believe if they are there, rocky planets like Earth must be there too. [More planets are giant gas balls like Jupiter and all of Earth's planets past Mars.] It boosts the chance that this new solar system could be inhabited. Nasa expert Marc Kuchner told Britain's The Sun newspaper: "I wouldn’t be surprised if seven or eight planets orbit Epsilon Eridani. One of these could be habitable."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The Muslims say Obama is one of them. New York Post: OBAMA! Inshallah!" - Obama! Allah willing! That slogan, scribbled on walls in Gaza, indicates the hopes that Barack Obama has inspired among Arabs. While Obama has tried to push his origins into the background, his "Islamic roots" have won him a place in many Arabs' hearts. One columnist, Mohamed Al-Menshawi, hails Obama as "the candidate with Muslim roots" and as the "harbinger of solidarity between Americans and the Muslim world." Another, Al-Jazeera's Aala al-Bayoumi, notes: "Had it not been for Obama, Arabs would not even bother to follow the US presidential race." What makes the difference is Obama's "Islamic and African roots."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Boeing 707 50 years ago

The Boeing 707 shrunk the world in 1958. Its first commercial service was a flight from Idylwild Field (now JFK) in New York City to London on October 26. The flight was a big deal. The 112 passengers were feted in a reception before the flight and were escorted to the plane by stewardesses under spotlights. Before jet service flying between the US and Europe was a 12-hour ordeal. There were stops in Newfoundland, Iceland and Ireland. The aircraft were noisy and vibrated. And they flew at lower levels in the weather. So passengers bundled up with blankets and ear plugs. Instead the trip was 7 hours of quiet comfort. (The first commercial jets had noisier engines that were replaced in a few years by quieter "fan jets".) I was surprised to discover that the inaugural flight had to make a stop at Gander, Newfoundland, due to high winds, so it took 8 hours 30 minutes, rather than the much acclaimed 7 hours. It probably came down to the choice of removing 6 to 10 passengers - looks very bad - versus arriving late. [I found this on an internal Boeing Company web page, but can't find it on the public internet.] The 707 was the airplane that changed the world, but it was not the first in commercial service. The British Comet beat Boeing by several years. But it had a truely fatal flaw. In 3 years four of them crashed. It was discovered that the square-cut windows made a point for metal fatigue to start a crack. The cracks led to structural failure and the fatal crashes. The Comet was reintroduced on October 4, 3 weeks ahead of the 707, but its reputation never recovered from the fatal crashes and it failed in the market. It was also much smaller, carrying only 80 passengers versus 112.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Visit beautiful Charlottesville, VA

Our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren live 3,000 miles away in Charlottesville, VA. But almost every time Grandma - my lovely wife - complains about the distance, the response is "but Charlottesville is beautiful." And it is. Beautiful, historic and interesting. The New York Times visited and did "a weekend in..."
ARRIVING in Charlottesville from the lush, rural Virginia countryside, you almost feel like you've stepped back into ancient Rome. The Rotunda, the centerpiece of Thomas Jefferson's design for the University of Virginia, was of course built to resemble the Pantheon and the neo-Classical facades of the college buildings seem to be right out of Caesar's time.
But the town itself is far more cutting-edge than its architecture. As American regional cuisine has gone upscale over the past decade, Charlottesville has been at the center of many changes, with local chefs updating traditional Southern fare by marrying grits, fried chicken and other standbys with French, Asian and other influences. The town's music scene, too, has served up megastars like the Dave Matthews Band and helped to launch the modern roots-rock wave. Even Virginia wine, once more Burger King than Bordeaux, has caught on. Local vineyards that never used to get invitations to competitions now hold their own with the finest of California or France. Even Jefferson would be proud — the third president succeeded at nearly everything, but he couldn't coax a decent wine out of Virginia's soil.
That's a sample. Read about what there is to do in the area of this fascinating city two hours' drive from D.C.

Slow Joe Biden Angered by Tough Questions

Slow Joe Biden is not ready for prime time. He only allows softball questions. Violate it and he pays you back. Tell us again, Joe, how experienced you are - without being proud, of course. Orlando Sentinel :
WFTV-Channel 9's Barbara West conducted a satellite interview with Sen. Joe Biden on Thursday. A friend says it's some of the best entertainment he's seen recently. What do you think? West wondered about Sen. Barack Obama's comment, to Joe the Plumber, about spreading the wealth. She quoted Karl Marx and asked how Obama isn't being a Marxist with the "spreading the wealth" comment. "Are you joking?" said Biden, who is Obama's running mate. "No," West said. West later asked Biden about his comments that Obama could be tested early on as president. She wondered if the Delaware senator was saying America's days as the world's leading power were over. "I don't know who's writing your questions," Biden shot back. Biden so disliked West's line of questioning that the Obama campaign canceled a WFTV interview with Jill Biden, the candidate's wife. "This cancellation is non-negotiable, and further opportunities for your station to interview with this campaign are unlikely, at best for the duration of the remaining days until the election," wrote Laura K. McGinnis, Central Florida communications director for the Obama campaign. McGinnis said the Biden cancellation was "a result of her husband's experience yesterday during the satellite interview with Barbara West."

Friday, October 24, 2008

We can't afford Affordable health care

"If you think health care is too expensive just wait until it's free." I don't remember who said that, but it has been borne out in other areas. The cost isn't just dollars, but our time and the pain of waiting for needed care - long waits. See the Canada experience below. Washington Times - WILLIAMS One of the campaign themes this election cycle is "affordable" health care. Shouldn't we ask ourselves whether we want the politicians who brought us the "affordable" housing, that created the current financial debacle, to now deliver us affordable health care? Shouldn't we also ask how things turned out in countries where there is socialized medicine? The Vancouver-based Fraser Institute's annual publication, "Waiting Your Turn," reports Canada's median waiting times from a patient's referral by a general practitioner to treatment by a specialist, depending on the procedure, averages from five to 40 weeks. The wait for diagnostics, such as MRI or CT, ranges between four and 28 weeks. According to Michael Tanner's "The Grass Is Not Always Greener," in Cato Institute's Policy Analysis (March 18), the Mayo Clinic treats more than 7,000 foreign patients a year, the Cleveland Clinic 5,000, Johns Hopkins Hospital treats 6,000, and 1 in 3 Canadian physicians send a patient to the United States for treatment each year. If socialized medicine is so great, why do Canadian physicians send patients to the U.S. and the Canadian government spends more than $1 billion each year on health care in our country? Britain's socialized system is no better. Currently, 750,000 Brits are awaiting hospital admission. Britain's National Health Services hopes to achieve an 18-week maximum wait from general practitioner to treatment, including all diagnostic tests, by the end of 2008. The delay in health-care services is not only inconvenient, it's deadly. Both in Britain and Canada, many patients with diseases that are curable at the time of diagnosis become incurable by the time of treatment or patients become too weak for the surgical procedure. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to introduce a "constitution" setting out the rights and responsibilities of its health-care system. According to a report in the Feb. 1 Telegraph, "What this [Gordon Brown's plan] seems to amount to in practice are the government's rights to refuse treatment, and the patient's responsibilities to live up to what the state decides are model standards." That means people who have unhealthy habits such as smoking, heart sufferers who are obese or those who fall ill because of failure to take regular exercise might be refused medical care, even though they pay taxes to support government health care. Government health care can become ghoulish as reported in a Jan. 17 Human Events article "Gordon Brown wants your organs" written by Susan Easton. As in the United States, many Britishers die while on the waiting list for organ donations. The prime minister has a solution called a "Presumed Consent Scheme." Mrs. Easton says, "If you don't specifically carry a card saying 'leave my corpse alone' - known as the 'opt out option,' or unless one's family is on hand to object, one's remains are considered fair game for an organ harvest festival." Supporters of the scheme argue that what is done with people's organs after their death should not be up to the next of kin. Such a vision differs little from one that h

Monday, October 20, 2008

OPEC Cheats: It Overproduces By 500,000 bpd

It's a universal truth. In cartels there are always cheaters. They solemnly vow to limit their production. The thinking: "That limits our income. We will produce 5% more." One does it; two do it. Here is a living example. OPEC's actual production compared to their production quota. CARPE DIEM: OPEC Cheats: It Overproduces By 500,000 bpd: "OPEC almost always cheats as a group. They over-produce by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd)." See the chart at the link.

Elect Obama and invite an attack - Biden - Update

Slow Joe Biden made a gaffe*. He was supposed to wait until after the election before he told this truth. Obama will invite a "test," maybe an attack, maybe not. But, having no foreign policy experience and no leadership experience the bad guys will test him. Thanks, Joe. This might be in time to help. ABC Political Radar:
"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy." "I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
* Michael Kinsley explains that a "gaffe in Washington" - now known as a Kinsley gaffe - is when a politician slips and tells the truth he was supposed to be hiding. Update. The New York Post analyzes Biden's truthful gaffe.
What's particularly disturbing is Biden's Kennedy analogy. For those who don't recall, it was a scant five months after JFK became president that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev took his measure. Kennedy had just bungled the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, then went off to a summit in Vienna - where Khruschev determined that the rookie chief executive could be had. Two months later, construction began on the Berlin Wall, precipitating a crisis that nearly led to a US-Soviet shooting war in Europe. And 14 months after that came the Cuban Missile Crisis - when nuclear Armageddon was only barely averted.
More important: What if he makes the wrong decision - as even Joe Biden suggests he might? After all, Obama was wrong about the troop surge in Iraq. And he was wrong in his initial response to Russia's invasion of Georgia - when he urged the victimized nation to "show restraint." And he was wrong when he said he would gladly sit down unconditionally with people like Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - the very people his own running-mate now says are planning to "test" him.

Jamaica puzzled by theft of beach

Police are investigating the theft of a beach. A beach! 500 truck loads = 1300 feet of beach. A major resort was planned for the beach, but plans have been put on hold... BBC NEWS The disappearance was deemed so important that the Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, also took an interest in the theft and ordered a report into how 500 truckloads of sand was stolen, transported and presumably sold.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bill Clinton a prime suspect for starting housing meltdown

He "had good intentions." Lower the standards, so people now unqualified will be able to get loans and buy homes. Who will get the blame? The Australian: We are now sitting in the wreckage of the biggest lending bust the world has ever seen. And there's some merit in trying to pinpoint where it all began. And among the prime suspects is former president Bill Clinton's decision in 1999 to put pressure on lenders to widen the pool of home borrowers in the US. An article in The New York Times on September 30, 1999, laid it all out in what now looks like crystal detail. "In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders," the article, by Steven Holmes, began. "The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets, including the New York metropolitan region, will encourage those banks to exchange home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring. "Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits." It's like listening to a cockpit voice recorder extracted from the tail of some aircraft wreck. The next paragraph notes that banks and mortgage companies had been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called sub-prime borrowers. Why? Because such people "can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates". Don't they say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions? That story, whose first three paragraphs were reproduced verbatim, was all about the US government trying to help. On top of that, the banks and mortgage companies thought they were doing the borrowers a favour because otherwise they would have been hit with higher rates. What has happened now, with a million empty houses in the US and no sign of prices bottoming out, is the logical consequence of ill-considered positive discrimination on one side of the ledger. Latinos and African Americans are the biggest minorities who were talked about in the article, as it later made clear, and as we know they now make up a disproportionate number of mortgage defaulters in the US housing market. There have been instances of people who don't like minorities saying "I told you so" about what's happened, but there's a very strong argument that it would have happened to any supposed beneficiary of rule bending. If the lenders had focused on helping Southern good ol' boys, by some quirk, we'd probably be looking at an army of confused and unhappy Southern ex-home owners having to park their rocking chairs on other people's verandas. The iron rule of commerce that was ignored was that money should always be lent to people who are going to be able to pay it back, regardless of any other consideration.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hawaii Ending Universal Child Health Care After 7 Months

Another bold experiment meets reality and fail completely and quickly.
HONOLULU — Hawaii is dropping the only state universal child health care program in the country just seven months after it launched. Gov. Linda Lingle's administration cited budget shortfalls and other available health care options for eliminating funding for the program. A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan. "People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free," said Dr. Kenny Fink, the administrator for Med-QUEST at the Department of Human Services. "I don't believe that was the intent of the program." State officials said Thursday they will stop giving health coverage to the 2,000 children enrolled by Nov. 1, but private partner Hawaii Medical Service Association will pay to extend their coverage through the end of the year without government support.
It may not have been the intention of the program to provide for those who can afford to provide for themselves, but it works every time. Give something away and people stop paying for it. Duhh!
People respond to incentives. If you provide free health care why would those who can afford it pay? Socialism works, I mean fails, every time. It robs people of their learned instinct to provide for themselves.
Hat tip to Orbusmax. Photo: Diamond Head at sunrise from near the Honolulu Zoo.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We don't want assisted suicide to be legal and encouraged

Initiative I-1000 would make assisted suicide legal. And Oregon's experience tells us that the state would, first, encourage people to use it, then later would almost require it. Old people cost money. In Oregon the state has to balance its budget, but old people are costing a lot of money. So Oregon is denying care to older people and kindly informing them that they can use assisted suicide. But you say the state is not forcing people to commit suicide. But it is by denying them care. But cost is not my main problem. Committing suicide is playing God, literally. No one should be encouraged to end their life before their time. Making it legal surely encourages this crime against God. Coalition Against Assisted Suicide: I-1000 lacks real protection for people suffering from depression and mental illness. People who are diagnosed with a life-limiting illness often become depressed. This depression is usually temporary and treatable. I-1000 does not require assessment or treatment for depression. [I-1000, Section 6]. Because the waiting period is only 15 days, a suicidal "cry for help" could be met with a bottle of lethal drugs, instead of encouragement and treatment. I-1000 harms spouses and families. Under I-1000, a spouse or family member need not be told about the lethal overdose. [I-1000, Section 8]. Families might never know the truth of how their loved one died. I-1000 endangers vulnerable people. I-1000's backers promote it as being about choice and individualized decision making. But as written, I-1000 does not empower patients. It provides an incentive for health plans to cut costs by steering people toward assisted suicide. I-1000 does not provide adequate safeguards to protect women, minorities, seniors and people with low incomes. What's wrong with Oregon's law? Since Oregon passed its law in 1994, physician-assisted suicide and/or euthanasia proposals have been introduced in 21 states, some multiple times. Not one has passed. In Oregon, the state health plan pays for assisted suicide but doesn't pay for some chemotherapy for people with cancer. I-1000 is similar to -- but more expansive than -- Oregon's problem-filled assisted suicide law. Why I-1000 is more dangerous than Oregon's law. I-1000 is written more broadly than Oregon’s law, has less accountability, more secrecy, and contains significantly less protection for everyone except a small group of pro- assisted suicide doctors and bureaucrats.

Posthumous Nobel awarded to Krugman

Where do great economists go when their career is finished? Most to the grave - they do distinguished work all their lives. But not Paul Krugman. After a few decades of break-through work on the importance of international trade he set his accomplishments aside to be the lead attacker for the left. Week after week he tore into every center-right position and person, not with facts and humour, but with acid and misleading. But surely when international trade was under attack he applied his distinguished work to cool the isolationists? No. When during the Democrat debates every candidate renounced North American Free Trade Agreement he was silent. The great economist had ended his work and changed careers. He has been a hack for years. And unaccountable for his errors until the stench grew so strong that even the liberal New York Times had to pull him back a bit. Professor Krugman deserves the Nobel prize for economics. But what happened to the distinguished professor? How did he turn into the liberal hack? Donald Luskin figured it out. Professor Krugman "died."
The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid:
Prior to 2008 the Nobel Prize had never been awarded posthumously. So great minds such as John Maynard Keynes and Fischer Black never received the coveted award. But all that has changed. This year, the prize for economics is going to Paul Krugman, an economist who died a decade ago. To clarify, the person named Paul Krugman, the living and breathing man who will accept the Nobel in Stockholm this December, is merely a public intellectual — a person operating in the same domain as, say, Oprah Winfrey. The living Krugman’s rabidly liberal New York Times column has, for nine years now, traded on the dead Krugman’s reputation as an economist, a reputation that only will be burnished by the award of the Nobel Prize. Yet his column is pure politics, not economics. It is the equivalent of astronomers Mather and Smoot — the 2006 Nobelists in physics — writing on astrology. This living Paul Krugman can’t be the same person as the dead economist. The dead economist wrote eloquently of the supreme importance of globalization and international trade as engines of prosperity. But the living public intellectual remains silent on these subjects when the Democratic party’s nominee for president threatens to abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement. These days Krugman’s liberal agenda always takes precedence over economic principle. He has described himself as “an unabashed defender of the welfare state.” He has declared, “For me, Sweden of 1980 would be ideal.” He has called Barack Obama’s sweeping plan for socialized medicine “na├»ve” because it doesn’t contain enough mandates. He has said that “We should be getting 28% of GDP in [tax] revenue,” when the highest level ever collected, even in wartime, is less than 21 percent. Krugman is entitled to such opinions, whether as a public intellectual or an economist. But there have been serious questions about his journalistic integrity — suggestions that the living Krugman has debased and corrupted the very science the dead Krugman did so much to advance.
A Big Lie
In 1999 Paul Krugman was paid $50,000 by Enron as a consultant on its “advisory board,” and that same year he wrote a glowing article about Enron for Fortune magazine. But he would change his tune. After Enron collapsed in 2001, Krugman wrote several columns excoriating the company. (One featured what may be the most absurd howler in the history of op-ed journalism: “I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.”) In most of these columns Krugman worked hard to link Enron to the Bush administration, and in one he actually blamed Enron’s consultants for the company’s collapse — while neglecting to mention that he, too, had been an Enron consultant.
Caught and tamed!
Daniel Okrent, while ombudsman for the New York Times, wrote that “Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers.” Indeed. But Krugman’s distortions were so rampant, and his unwillingness to correct them so intransigent, that Okrent — no doubt pressured into service by my Krugman Truth Squad column for NRO — did something about it. Okrent forced the Times op-ed page to adopt for the first time a corrections policy for op-ed columnists. That was in 2004. Later, when Krugman flouted that policy, the Krugman Truth Squad went to work on Okrent’s successor, Byron Calame, who pressed for the adoption of a new, more stringent policy in 2005.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Off the Charts - Europe Banks Could Prove Too Big to Fail; or to Rescue

The US is not in bad shape compared to 13 countries in Europe. Wow! Look at the chart: the US's circles are small and small is good here. Click on the chart to enlarge it. The accompanying chart shows the size of national banking systems relative to their countries’ economies, measured in two ways, and also show how well capitalized the banks appear to be, through the latest reported data. In general, higher figures in any of the graphics indicate increased danger. They do not pretend to show what shape the banks are in, but they do reflect the size of the problem each country would face if its banking system did get into trouble. The first two charts look not at deposits but at short-term debt carried by the banks. The banks usually have long-term debt as well. But by its nature, that debt cannot be withdrawn if worries about a bank’s solvency suddenly increase. They also have deposits, but deposits are less likely to flee, at least if deposit guarantee systems are trusted. Short-term debt, on the other hand, matures within a year and may not be available to a bank that is in trouble. The first comparison — the tinted circles — looks at the size of bank short-term debt as a percentage of a country’s gross domestic product. Such figures are not directly comparable, since one is the total amount of income in a country over a year, and the other is the amount owed by banks that may have to be paid over that year. But the comparisons do show relative sizes. In the United States, the banks have total short-term debt that is equal to 15 percent of G.D.P. But in some countries where banking systems have grown to international proportions, the debt exceeds G.D.P. That is true in Switzerland, Belgium, Iceland and Britain. The second comparison — the open circles — looks at the short-term bank debt in relation to each country’s national debt. Again, the relationship is not direct, because a country may have excellent credit that would enable it to borrow much more, but large numbers still raise questions. “Can they guarantee the deposits if the bank owes 3.5 times the national debt?” asked Bob Prince, the co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates, which provided the data. For countries in the euro zone, there is an additional consideration. They do not have the right to print money. That may also be true for some other banking systems, if the liabilities are primarily in currencies other than their own. Those countries could face special problems if they needed to come up with huge amounts of cash to rescue banks. Finally, the leverage ratio gives a rough indication of how risky a nation’s banking system might be. It is the ratio of total bank assets to the net worth of the bank. That could be misleading if the assets are very safe — government bonds, for example, versus subprime mortgage loans — but in general the higher the ratio the smaller the margin of safety. There again, the United States appears to face a relatively small problem, with an average leverage ratio of 12. The figures range up to 52 in Germany. Theoretically, a 2 percent drop in the value of all German bank assets would wipe out the net worth of the banking system. The chart shows the relative size of each country's problems. The dotted circle represents the denominator: for the filled circle it is GDP; for the hollow circle it is national debt.

Soccor player escapes Cuba, seeks asylum in USA

Why would anyone seek to escape from Fidel's island paradise? For freedom and 3 square meals a day. The team's conditions and equipment in Cuba were lousy. Another team player escaped the same day. Defector Recounts Escape - Reinier Alcantara did not believe he would have another opportunity to pursue freedom, so on Thursday night, as he and his Cuban soccer teammates were preparing for a team dinner at the Crystal City Doubletree Hotel, the 26-year-old forward made his break. Sharing details in a telephone interview with The Washington Post last night, Alcantara said he was in the lobby, wearing a casual shirt, shorts and tennis shoes, when he saw the coaches wander into the gift shop. He rode the escalator down to street level and "started running like crazy and didn't look behind," he said through an interpreter who arranged the interview and requested anonymity for political reasons. After sprinting for about eight blocks, Alcantara said he flagged down a taxi and, with the few words of English he knew, told the driver, "Go, go, go!" About a half-hour later, unaware of where he was, Alcantara said he got out at a McDonald's, paid the driver with dollars he put aside, and called a Cuban friend who lived several hours north of Washington. While he awaited his friend's arrival, he found a cheap hotel and attempted to sleep, all the while worried he would be discovered by Cuban officials. His friend called an Atlanta-based contact sympathetic to Alcantara's situation. On Friday, after the three had met for lunch at a diner, Alcantara was driven to Georgia and given a place to stay and money for clothes and other necessities. ...

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal may never live down embarrassing Steyn fiasco

The B.C. Human Rights court embarrassed itself by its trial of Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine. It gave Muslim groups the venue to sue Steyn and the magazine for harassment of their religion. The court found the sense to find no violation, but still made itself look bad. Canada's other equivalent courts wisely turned the Muslims away. Steyn had the good sense to sit in court and watch his trial, but to offer no defense! B.C. Human Rights Tribunal may never live down embarrassing Steyn fiasco:
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has decided right-wing humorist Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine are not racist hate-mongers. How droll. The panel -- chairwoman Heather MacNaughton, Tonie Beharrell and Kurt Neuenfeldt -- released on Friday 37 pages of self-righteous justification for dragging Steyn and the Toronto-based publication through a ridiculous process. The tribunal's week-long kangaroo hearing in June was a waste of public resources and of Rogers Publishing Ltd.'s money, too. This make-believe "human rights" complaint was an attempt by the Canadian Islamic Congress to get publicity by taking on a well-known conservative polemicist and the country's weekly news magazine. It worked. This entire process was an affront to our right to free speech and should send a chill down the spine of every Canadian who wants to express an opinion.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

WWF wastes CO2, but you have to cut back

The rules are different for the eco-royalty: -- Steven Milloy, Publisher:
Move over Al Gore. Swankier carbon charlatanism has come to town in the form of the World Wildlife Fund’s luxury getaway called "Around the World: A Private Jet Expedition." "Join us on a remarkable 25-day journey by luxury private jet," invites the WWF in a brochure for its voyage to "some of the most astonishing places on the planet to see top wildlife, including gorillas, orangutans, rhinos, lemurs and toucans." For a price tag that starts at $64,950 per person, travelers will meet at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, Fla. on April 6, 2009 and then fly to “remote corners” of the world on a “specially outfitted jet that carries just 88 passengers in business-class comfort.” “World class experts — including WWF’s director of species conservation — will provide lectures en route, and a professional staff will be devoted to making your global adventure seamless and memorable.” Travelers will visit the Amazon Rain Forest in Brazil, Easter Island, Samoa, Borneo, Laos, Nepal, Madagascar, Namibia, Uganda or Rwanda, and finish up at the luxury Dorchester Hotel in London. This is the very same WWF that says “the current growth in [carbon dioxide] emissions must be stopped as soon as possible” and that blames Americans for emitting 21 percent of global CO2 emissions even though the U.S. accounts for only 5 percent of the global population. In December 2007, the WWF launched its “Earth Hour” campaign, a global initiative in which cities and communities simultaneously turn out their lights for one hour “to symbolize their leadership and commitment to finding solutions for climate change.” So how does this fantasy trip square with the WWF’s alarmist rhetoric? Using the carbon footprint calculator on the WWF’s own web site, the 36,800-mile trip in a Boeing 757 jet will burn about 100,000 gallons of jet fuel to produce roughly 1,231 tons of CO2 in 25 days — that’s the equivalent of putting about 1,560 SUVs on the road during those three-plus weeks and that doesn’t even include emissions related to local air, ground and water transport and other amenities. The WWF laments on its web site that the average American produces 19.6 tons of CO2 annually, which is nearly five times the world average of 3.9 tons per person. But during the WWF’s posh excursion, travelers will produce 14 tons of CO2 per person. That’s 71 percent of the average American carbon footprint and 360 percent of the average global footprint in a mere three-and-one-half weeks. But who’s counting — especially when you’re in “19 rows of spacious leather seats with full ergonomic support” enjoying “gourmet meals, chilled champagne [and] your own chef.”
What are the rules for the rest of us?
I guess those are the rules when you’re one of WWF’s wealthy donors, but now contrast this with the how the WWF says the rest of us should live our lives. The group’s web site states that “It clearly is time for all Americans to roll up their sleeves, to take steps to reduce emissions, to prepare for climate change, and to encourage others to do the same.” We, the masses, should — nay, must — use compact fluorescent light bulbs, reduce hot water use, turn thermostats down in the winter and up in the summer and use low-flow shower heads and faucets. We should pledge to commute by car pool or mass transit, switch to “green power,” and get more fuel efficient cars. We should make our lives more expensive and less convenient so that the Green elites don’t feel too guilty while jet-setting to exotic locales. Maybe, you’re thinking, the WWF plans to makes its trip “carbon neutral” by purchasing carbon offsets — after all, the group does offer a carbon offset calculator on its web site under the heading “Join WWF in our mission to save life on Earth.” But neither the trip brochure nor the WWF web site mentions that any offsets will be purchased — and there seems to be good reason for that. According to the WWF’s calculator, it would cost in excess of $44,000 to offset the carbon emissions from the jet travel alone. Then there’s the September 2008 report from the General Accounting Office which concluded that the carbon offset market lacked credibility....
On a day trip from Bangkok last year we met a man who works for WWF in Indonesia. I am asking him to explain this.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

SNL spoofs mortgage abusers

Saturday Night Live spoofs President Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank - no spoof needed - the abusers of mortgages. - Two totally unqualified buyers - jobs, etc. Nancy feels their pain and give one of them a hug. - Flippers. They intended to sell in six months at triple the prices, but had to settle for a gain of 10%. - Predatory lenders and George Soros. Posters at the SNL site say this version cut out where the couple thank Barney Frank and congress for blocking congressional oversight, which is true. That's the light-hearted way to explain the subprime mess. Seriously. Here is the article that linked to it: Conservatism Today But there were many people who took out loans that they never intended to repay (when the favorable environment changed). The brilliant SNL parody very accurately displays the Silicon Valley couple that bought condos to "flip" (buying houses and quickly reselling) in a rapidly rising housing market. Unknowingly to the Democrat machine of Fannie and Freddie, these flipper investors were the true catalysts of the meltdown. Without the "flipper investors" it's very likely the Dem's Fannie/Freddie fraud would still be churning unabated. You see, flippers were considered subprime borrowers as well. Those loans were/are grouped in with the low income borrowers. Here's why they are subprime and a demonstration of what happened: Those flipper loans were not conventional loans. The flipper would only need to be asset worthy to qualify for an exotic 0 down ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) loan with no documentation. If they could show a bank account or asset that could potentially cover a default, they could qualify. As long as the market stayed hot and home prices escalated, they were more than OK. The flippers were sought after by the mortgage companies because of the quick turnaround.

Monday, October 06, 2008

12 Reasons Why McCain Can Still Win

Light at Huffington Post. Must be a mistake. Of course he clouds his light with bias, but he does show some light. William Bradley: Huffington Post: * America "turns the page" back to a calmer economic moment, enabling cultural issues to come to the fore. Some say it's just bad luck that McCain is running against Obama in a year of economic crisis. Others think it's poetic justice, since he has mainly supported the Bush/Cheney economic policies. Whichever it is, McCain needs a greater sense of calm in the US economy. It could happen. ** The closed credit spigot is opened. Of course, in order for Team McCain to turn the page away from a pervasive sense of economic crisis, the locked credit market must become decidedly unlocked. Right now, the State of California is in deep crisis, with its usual cash-flow issue at this time of year metastasizing in to potential disaster as the usual lenders turn a deaf ear. This is going on everywhere. Of course, if big financial concerns really want a continuance of Republican governance in the White House, they can start lending money. We'll see how they "vote." ** McCain finds an economic initiative ... other than suspending his campaign to pass the Wall Street bailout bill, earmark reform, and big tax breaks for corporations and the rich. The campaign suspension fell flat, as McCain delivered nothing much and ended up debating Obama last week anyway. Earmark reform, well, hardly any voters know what that bit of Potomac-speak means and it's a drop in the bucket of the federal deficit anyway. The tax breaks? "Joe Sixpack" on "Main Street" sitting around his "kitchen table" -- and each of those are egregious cliches used by supposed populists who don't know many people outside their very own elite bubbles -- doesn't relate to big corporate tax breaks. Schwarzenegger had a big infrastructure program that was central to his re-election campaign. Maybe McCain can do something to stimulate the economy. Or push for a health care program. Something that concretely gets things moving or helps "average people," another pol-speak cliche, with their real lives. ** The debate shifts to national security. McCain, of course, sees himself as a wartime president. And we are at war. It's just not war that is presently playing to his 20th century war hero strengths. But a sudden crisis that people relate to -- not Russia's easy war with Georgia, prompted by McCain's rather gullible friend Misha Saakashvili's predictably backfiring baiting of the bear -- could shift things quickly. This would not be triggered by McCain, a man of honor in these areas. It might be triggered by someone abroard who wants McCain elected, for their own purposes. As with Osama bin Laden's very late move in 2004, which helped stop John Kerry's late surge against President Bush. ** The campaign refocuses on Obama. Clearly, the McCain campaign wants the focus all on Obama, his youth, his relative inexperience, his relatively exotic background, his supposed economic, social and geopolitical radicalism, and his associations with Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, etc. This means a highly negative campaign, waged both by McCain and aligned entities. This is tried and true for the Republicans.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Yes Washington budget has a huge deficit

The fact checkers say Dino Rossi is correct: Christine Gregoire finishes her term as governor with the budget facing a deficit of over $3 billion. Fact checking Wash. gov's race: Budgets, taxes -
SHE SAYS: "Today, we sit on a surplus ... We have literal money in the bank. The projected - and I emphasize the word projected - deficit is for 2011." HE SAYS: "It's like having $800 in your checking account, and you owe over $4,000 come January - you're still over $3,000 upside down." THE TRUTH: Gregoire is cherry-picking the slice of truth that sounds best while pooh-poohing the bad part. Rossi is being more truthful - there's a deficit ahead, and the state's savings won't be enough to cover it. Gregoire grudgingly acknowledged some sort of future budget hole when the Legislature adjourned earlier this year. But she continued to answer questions about the deficit by saying the state had a surplus. Lately, she's 'fessed up a little more, but still emphasizes the deficit is not set in stone. That's technically true. The state's balance sheet shows a general fund surplus of about $87 million, with about $440 million in the Rainy Day Fund - a savings account for emergencies - through the 2007-2009 budget. So we do have "money in the bank." But for practical purposes, it's already spent. If she had to write a new budget for the 2009-2011 fiscal year right now, Gregoire would be facing a big deficit. That's because current state spending, if carried forward, would likely cost about $3.2 billion more than Washington is expected to have by the end of the 2011 fiscal year.
They also address claims of raising taxes and the balanced budget that Dino Rossi and ex-Governor Gay Locke put together.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Plot against Spokane author's novel about Prophet Muhammad

Three men have been charged with plotting to attack the publisher of a controversial novel dealing with the Prophet Muhammad, British police said Thursday. The three - salesman Abrar Mizra, 22; cab driver Abbas Taj, 30; and Ali Beheshti, 40 - were arrested Saturday near the north London home and office of Martin Rynja, who plans to publish "The Jewel of Medina," police said. They were arrested after a fire broke out at Rynja's building, but police have refused to disclose any details. The men were charged with plotting to endanger life and damage property. Beheshti was also charged with possessing a weapon. All three are due to appear in court Friday. The novel by Sherry Jones, who lives in Spokane, Wash., is a work of historical fiction about Aisha, who according to tradition was 9 when she became the wife of the Prophet Muhammad. She later became a political and military leader in her own right.
The book is being released next week. Early to cut short the build up against it!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Yes, Global warming is just propaganda

Nigel Calder's father wrote propaganda against the Nazis during World War II, so he knows what it is. And he is a science writer, so he knows a bit about science Nigel Calder at News Letter (UK) Worldwide interest in my quite run-of-the-mill comment, on the need to debate the manmade global warming hypothesis, is pleasing but not surprising. It confirms that my fellow science writers have miscalculated badly. Most readers don't want endless scare stories about climatic doom, accompanied by authoritarian lectures about their carbon footprints. They're hungry for a variety of opinions. Unfortunately only 1% of the huge number of articles on climate change in the posh London newspapers deviate from the official line of the Intergovernmental Panel. That's not my reckoning. It comes from researchers at Oxford University who complain about the more balanced reporting in the not-so-posh papers, with a deviancy rate of 23%. They say it has 'skewed public understanding of human contributions to climate change'. In other words, kindly abandon the journalistic principle that different points of views should be heard on controversial matters, or else a lot of dreadful people out there (you or me) may not truly believe that climate change is their fault. Yes, you've got it. Man-made global warming is just propaganda. My father Ritchie Calder was a science writer too, but during the Second World War he played a leading part in Allied propaganda against Nazi Germany. He told me quite a lot about the tricks, employed in what was then a good cause. Now I watch them being used every day by the global wamers. For example: exaggerate small facts. A brilliant wartime example came when someone in occupied Belgium was chalking V on public walls. He meant V for Vrijheid, or freedom. But London announced that in occupied Europe people were writing V for Victory everywhere. So people listening secretly to the BBC went out and did just that, to annoy the Germans and hearten their neighbours. The polar bears qualify as a similarly astute exaggeration from the global warming camp. Some years ago, a small family of bears was caught in a violent storm, and drowned. That could have happened a hundred or a thousand years ago. But no, the Disneyesque sob story is put about, by Al Gore and others, that bears are drowning because the Arctic ice is melting. Total rubbish, because the polar bears are thriving. But it's dazzling propaganda. Another technique is to hush up unfavourable news. In wartime that can mean not informing even the bereaved relatives if an important warship has sunk without the enemy knowing. Again the polar ice provides a modern parallel. Last year you were told – shock, horror! -- that Arctic sea ice was at its lowest extent since satellite measurements began. What went unreported was that Antarctic sea ice was simultaneously at a record high. The collusion of my fellow journalists in the deception is disturbing. Although the big freeze in Antarctica was plainly announced in a press release from the US weather bureau, NOAA, not a single newspaper in North America or Europe carried this unfavourable story. My Dad's chief opponent was Hitler's propaganda minister Josef Goebbels. Among many meditations on his craft, he wrote, 'The English follow the principle that when you lie, you should lie big, and stick to it.' And of course Goebbels did the same himself – most wickedly in the case of the Jews. One big lie about climate change is that man-made global warming is proven scientifically. Not so. On the contrary, any objective physicist would say that the evidence is strongly against it. The very mechanism for the supposed greenhouse warming, reinforced by that extra CO2, requires tropical air temperatures to rise faster at high altitudes (6 miles above the ground) than they do lower down. Weather balloons that routinely carry thermometers to those heights and beyond have shown no such trend over recent decades. That negative result was an important element of what I had in mind when remarking, in my comment last Monday, that the scientific evidence is far stronger for a rival explanation of climate change. It's the discovery that the Sun controls the cosmic rays that help to make the Earth's clouds. The supporting observations and experiments are explained in simple terms by Dr Henrik Svensmark and me in our book The Chilling Stars. The biggest lie of all, breathtaking in its audacity, is the insistence that mankind's misbehaviour means that global warming is getting worse. The measurements for August 2008 are just in, and they confirm the world is distinctly cooler this year than last. It's fair enough to argue about whether the Earth's temperature has stopped rising, or merely paused, or gone into reverse. But the key fact is that, despite that indisputable increase of CO2 in the air, the Earth is no warmer now than it was 12 years ago.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Old media avoid Gov. Palin's accomplishments

Bill Dyer does the leg work the main-stream media refuse to do: Bill Dyer posting at Hugh Hewitt's blog In considering Sarah Palin's fitness as a vice presidential nominee, it's absolutely crucial to distinguish between mere tenure in office and actual accomplishments while there. In their televised interviews with her, however, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric have almost completely ignored Gov. Palin's actual record in office. So, too, have most of the old-media sources who've been writing about her. They'd far rather dig through a dumpster or watch videos of a guest pastor from Kenya speaking at a church Gov. Palin has sometimes attended than talk about Gov. Palin's day job as chief executive of the largest state in America. (There's yet another important aspect to her candidacy that the mainstream media has ignored almost as resolutely, which is her courage and determination in campaigning as an underdog reformer, taking on deeply entrenched and ethically challenged members of her own party in Alaska. Arguably that's her most important accomplishment of all, given how much of a cesspool Washington has become. But let's set that aside for the moment.) Gov. Palin is now finishing up her second year as Governor of Alaska. Even added to her years as a city councilman and mayor, or her service as chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, that is not a very long record. But length is only one dimension. How deep is her record? The answer to that question is critically important. Joe Biden has been a senator, as Gov. Palin points out, since Gov. Palin was in grade school, so of course he has a long record. With that seniority has come committee chair positions, first on the Senate Judiciary Committee, then on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But on closer examination, neither as a committee chairman nor a legislator has Slow Joe Biden particularly distinguished himself. His greatest legislative triumph has been in championing revisions to the bankruptcy code that dramatically changed the slope of the playing field to favor his home-state credit card companies in consumer bankruptcy proceedings — an accomplishment much disdained, in fact, by the Hard Left. So what, by contrast, has Gov. Sarah Palin done in her dramatically shorter tenure as a state chief executive? If you only know three things that Sarah Palin has accomplished as Governor of Alaska, it should be these three: 1. Gov. Palin is a proven fiscal conservative who used her line-item veto to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in spending from the state budget. [more details at the link] 2. Gov. Palin kept her campaign promise to revamp the state's pre-existing severance tax on oil & gas production, replacing a structure negotiated behind closed doors by ethically challenged predecessors and the big energy companies with one negotiated in full public view — and then rebated part of the resulting surplus directly to tax-payers. [more details at the link] 3. Gov. Palin broke a multi-year stalemate over the financing and construction of a $40 billion cross-state gas pipeline that will deliver cleaner, cheaper natural gas to Alaska's own population centers (Alaskans themselves pay some of the nation's highest energy prices), while also delivering gas to the energy-hungry Lower 48. [more details at the link]