“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Dithering With the Housing Mess

The previous administration failed to recognize the obvious ramifications of rampant foreclosures and falling house prices. All they had to do was take a drive through any American suburb and notice the absurdity of everyone trying to live in a mansion. It was obvious that a disproportionate amount of investment went into housing.

Economists knew that Americans were not saving money but instead were using the allusion of ever rising house prices as a method of savings. Government was even worse. Money, denominated in ever greater rows of zero's was borrowed from the Chinese to finance the absurdity of waging a democracy crusade to the Islamic world.

The foolishness and self delusion started to come undone over a year and a half ago. The small trash fire has become a conflagration that is scorching the world financial system. Bush and company deferred to the bankers and their zealously held conviction that they were seeing a market correction. They were wrong.

It is way past time to tell the bankers to shut up and fix the housing mess whatever it takes. The Republican solution of lowering everyone's mortgage to 4% is a logical place to start. Give bankruptcy judges the personal real estate cramdown option and shove it down the banker's throats where it belongs. The mere threat of it will give them some old time religion.


Bond market calls Fed's bluff as global economy falls apart

Global bond markets are calling the bluff of the US Federal Reserve.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Telegraph
Last Updated: 7:22PM GMT 08 Feb 2009

The yield on 10-year US Treasury bonds – the world's benchmark cost of capital – has jumped from 2pc to 3pc since Christmas despite efforts to talk the rate down.

This level will asphyxiate the US economy if allowed to persist, as Fed chair Ben Bernanke must know.

The US is already in deflation. Core prices – stripping out energy – fell at an annual rate of 2pc in the fourth quarter. Wages are following. IBM, Chrysler, General Motors, and YRC, have all begun to cut pay.

The "real" cost of capital is rising as the slump deepens. This is textbook debt deflation. It was not supposed to happen. The Bernanke doctrine assumes that the Fed can bring down the whole structure of interest costs, first by slashing the Fed Funds rate to zero, and then by making a "credible threat" to buy Treasuries outright with printed money.

Mr Bernanke has been repeating this threat since early December. But talk is cheap. As the Fed hesitates, real yields climb ever higher. Plainly, the markets do not regard Fed rhetoric as "credible" at all.

Who can blame bond vigilantes for going on strike? Nobody wants to be left holding the bag if and when the global monetary blitz succeeds in stoking inflation. Governments are borrowing frantically to fund their bail-outs and cover a collapse in tax revenue. The US Treasury alone needs to raise $2 trillion in 2009.

Where is the money to come from? China, the Pacific tigers and the commodity powers are no longer amassing foreign reserves ($7.6 trillion). Their exports have collapsed. Instead of buying a trillion dollars of extra bonds each year, they have become net sellers. In aggregate, they dumped $190bn over the last fifteen weeks.

The Fed has stepped into the breach, up to a point. It has bought $350bn of commercial paper, and begun to buy $600bn of mortgage bonds. That helps. But still it recoils from buying Treasuries, perhaps fearing that any move to "monetise" Washington's deficit starts a slippery slope towards an Argentine fate. Or perhaps Bernanke doesn't believe his own assurances that the Fed can extract itself easily from emergency policies when the cycle turns.

As they dither, the world is falling apart. Events in Japan have turned deeply alarming. Exports fell 35pc in December. Industrial output fell 9.6pc. The economy is contracting at an annual rate of 12pc. "Falling exports are triggering a downward spiral of production, incomes and spending. It is important to prepare for swift policy steps, including those usually regarded as unusual," said the Bank of Japan's Atsushi Mizuno.

The bank is already targeting equities on the Tokyo bourse. That is not enough for restive politicians. One bloc led by Senator Koutaro Tamura wants to create $330bn in scrip currency for an industrial blitz. "We are facing hyper-deflation, so we need a policy to create hyper-inflation," he said.

This has echoes of 1932, when the US Congress took charge of monetary policy. We are moving to a stage of this crisis where democracies start to speak – especially in Europe.

The European Central Bank's refusal to follow the lead of the US, Japan, Britain, Canada, Switzerland and Sweden in slashing rates shows how destructive Europe's monetary union has become. German orders fells 25pc year-on-year in December. French house prices collapsed 9.9pc in the fourth quarter, the steepest since data began in 1936. "We're dealing with truly appalling data, the likes of which have never been seen before in post-War Europe," said Julian Callow, Europe economist at Barclays Capital.

Spain's unemployment has jumped to 3.3m – or 14.4pc – and will hit 19pc next year, on Brussels data. The labour minister said yesterday that Spain's economy could not "tolerate" immigrants any longer after suffering "hurricane devastation". You can see where this is going.

Ireland lost 36,500 jobs in January – equal to a monthly loss of 2.3m in the US. As the budget deficit surges to 12pc of GDP, Dublin is cutting wages, disguised as a pension levy. It has announced "Rooseveltian measures" to rescue the foundering companies.

The ECB's obduracy has nothing to do with economics. It fears zero rates as a vampire fears daylight, because that brings the purchase of eurozone bonds ever closer into play. Any such action would usher in an EMU "debt union" by the back door, leaving Germany's taxpayers on the hook for Club Med liabilties. This is Europe's taboo.

Meanwhile, Eastern Europe is imploding. Industrial output fell 27pc in Ukraine and 10pc in Russia in December. Latvia's GDP contracted at a 29pc annual rate in the fourth quarter. Polish homeowners have had the shock from Hell. Some 60pc of mortgages are in Swiss francs. The zloty has halved against the franc since July.

Readers have berated me for a piece last week – "Glimmers of Hope" – that hinted at recovery. Let me stress, I was wearing my reporter's hat, not expressing an opinion. My own view, sadly, is that there is no hope at all of stabilizing the world economy on current policies.


  1. Have we made any changes in the Fannie and Freddie loan practices yet? Which were brought to us first by the democrats. Are we still making loans to people that haven't a prayer of repaying? Should we say, as a matter of national policy, here, here is a home for you, and your newborn 8 children, on top of your first six, that have been implanted in your womb? What is our housing policy, and who pays?

  2. Does an American have a birthright to a suburban home? Just asking, perhaps it would be a good policy if we did that. Should the government and sociey provide us a place to live?

  3. Great way to sop up the excess housing remains from the burst bubble, al-Bob.

    If it proves to be insufficient, why not extend the right to undocumented Americans, or better yet, give them priority over us mere citizens, ala the Dream Act.

    ...since we'll be providing these needy residents a place to sleep as well as stay and play, we'll call it the WetDream Act.

  4. Why would subsidized Mortgages be a good thing?

    Are we still in favor of a government policy that results in an excess stock of overpriced houses?

    Whit and I are in
    The market is the best way to find equilibrium.


    whit said...

    In my part of Florida (north), the most obvious effect of the burst is the slowdown in home sales. Foreclosures are not a big issue but time on the market has lengthened. Asking prices have remained too high but price reductions are beginning to kick in as sellers let go of their unrealistic expectations.

    Of course, the new home market is dead in the water.

    The big problem I see going forward is that unless the once overheated and still overpriced market is allowed to correct (which could take many years) we'll be stuck in the doldrums.


    Doug said...

    That's still the case in a lot of California:
    Prices still above 2003 levels, and no more economy to support them, as more and more productive people give up and head for saner pastures.
    At least Florida's government isn't THAT Bad.


    whit said...

    We have a problem.

    On one hand, we want to stimulate the economy...promote consumer spending and the housing market.

    On the other hand, we're already deep in debt and our houses are overpriced.

    Bad as the medicine may be, the market is the best way to find equilibrium.
    Government intervention will only delay or ultimately make worse the problem.


    Doug said...

    That's what Governments are For.

    (Music by Whitney, natch)

  5. Remember, some here were quick to jump on the original TARP Bandwagon to prevent the eminent downfall of Western Civilization.

    Instead, we handed the Dems and our Marxist President the opportunity to bring in socialism on a silver platter.

    The markets have responded as we should have expected.

  6. Damned fine lookin Ship btw.
    Looks invincible.
    Not to mention unsinkable.

  7. Rufus said...
    "Again, this is a pretty good, "classical" recession.
    It won't be worse than the 82' downturn; but it won't be as benign as the 01' recession, either.
    I think the 2010-2011 recession will be more dispiriting.
    So what's the big whups?

  8. (Employing 'Rat's tactics for the first time, but not against the beleaguered Miss Trish.
    I got my standards.)

  9. That boat looks like it's in need of some good rabble rousin.

  10. Can't have thing gittin dull.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. It looks as though we're going to get another trillion dollars in stimulus/spending from Obama's bailout. I believe I heard Larry Summers say it was to create a "Green Economy" and build schools.

    No housing market solution that I know of.

    We're being had.

  13. I saw $50 Billion for housing somewhere.
    Deuce writes about $600bn of mortgage bonds.
    Anybody tried to do some math on these figures?
    My envelope scratches came up with $500 per household from that 50 billion if there were 100 million households.
    Guess it's time to google how many mortgages there are, and etc.
    How many in default.
    How is that 600 billion being disbursed?

  14. As socialized as California is, Steyn says that Quebec, with 8 million people, has a govt payroll for as many "workers" as CA does for 30 million!

  15. Good that people can grow:

    "Ms. Boyea was unhappy with Ms. Gillibrand’s sudden change of heart, after being appointed to the Senate, on issues that had won her re-election in November. She liked the voting record that had earned Ms. Gillibrand a 100 percent rating by the National Rifle Association (Ms. Boyea’s husband owns several firearms). She approved of Ms. Gillibrand’s hard line against illegal immigration and her opposition to gay marriage. “I’m Catholic,” Ms. Boyea said.

    But Ms. Gillibrand has softened some of her positions in the weeks since her appointment. She declared her support for gay marriage, not merely civil unions. She assured Latinos and Asians in New York City that she would work to enact a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. And she let Senator Charles E. Schumer, who had enthusiastically supported her selection, reassure downstate voters that she would “evolve” on gun control, too.

    To which Ms. Boyea, one of many Republicans here who voted for Ms. Gillibrand in November, offered this rebuke:
    “I don’t believe you should say things just to make yourself sound better.
    Don’t follow.
    If you’re going to be a leader, then lead.”"

  16. Canada knows Green, doug.

    What to do, as in Afhanistan, depends upon the GOAL.

    Is it to centralize the financial businesses under a nationalized management scheme, or is it to end the depression?
    If the former, the Federal Socialists are going down the correct course, if it is the latter, we're being had, as whit says.

    From the beginning and continued through the present the Federals have lied about the purposes for which the 'rescue' funds were for.

    Whic indicates, at least to me, that this entire 'crisis' has been utilized as a power grab by the usual suspects.

    Not letting the crisis go to waste, the Socialists are consolidating their power, in the Federal Reserve and now the major banks, as well.

  17. Angelo Who?

    After months of delay, Senator Christopher Dodd has offered a fuller but less than satisfactory account of the V.I.P. mortgage loans extended to him by a key player in the subprime mortgage crisis. Mr. Dodd, the banking committee chairman who oversees remedies for the continuing financial crisis, denied any ethical wrongdoing or “sweetheart deals” in the $781,000 house refinancings he got through the Countrywide Financial Corporation.

    Last summer, a former Countrywide executive disclosed the V.I.P. program and estimated that it could save Mr. Dodd more than $70,000 across the years of his loans. The senator denied any Angelo friendship or cut-rate favoritism in what he said seemed a mere courtesy service, and he promised a detailed accounting.

  18. The only real question, when the Federal Reserve limited the growth of the money supply, in the 18 months prior to September '08, did they do it to create the crisis, or were the 'best and the brightest' just dim bulbs that did not realize the impact of their actions?

    Were they just stupid, or corrupt to the core? Being as how 'smart' these fellows are reputed to be, it seems that corrupt is the more likely cause of the effects, rather than stupidity.

    This is further exemplified by their refusal to address the housing meltdown, even now.

  19. Frank Rich, at the NYTimes writes an interesting piece:
    Slumdogs Unite!

    Putting Daschle and Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary in the same boat of cheating rascals.

    Even before the revelation of his tax delinquency, the new Treasury secretary was a dubious choice to make this pitch. Geithner was present at the creation of the first, ineffectual and opaque bank bailout — TARP, today the most radioactive acronym in American politics. Now the double standard that allowed him to wriggle out of his tax mess is a metaphor for the double standard of the policy he must sell: Most “ordinary Americans” still don’t understand why banks got billions while nothing was done (and still isn’t being done) to bail out those who lost their homes, jobs and retirement savings.
    Citigroup had one highly visible asset that Lehman did not: Robert Rubin, the former Clinton Treasury secretary who sat passively (though lucratively) in its executive suite as Citi gorged on reckless risk. Geithner, as a Rubin protégé from the Clinton years, might have recused himself from rescuing Citi, which so far has devoured $45 billion in bailout money.

    Key players in the Obama economic team beyond Geithner are also tied to Rubin or Citigroup or both, from Larry Summers, the administration’s top economic adviser, to Gary Gensler, the newly named nominee to run the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a Treasury undersecretary in the Clinton administration. Back then, Summers and Gensler joined hands with Phil Gramm to ward off regulation of the derivative markets that have since brought the banking system to ruin. We must take it on faith that they have subsequently had judgment transplants.

    Obama’s brilliant appointees, we keep being told, are irreplaceable. But as de Gaulle said, “The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.” You have to wonder if this team is really a meritocracy or merely a stacked deck. Not only did Rubin himself serve on the Obama economic transition team, but two of the transition’s headhunters were Michael Froman, Rubin’s chief of staff at Treasury and later a Citigroup executive, and James S. Rubin, an investor who is Robert Rubin’s son.

  20. 81. Unsk:

    You know Buddy from your description of the warnings ignored, a lot of the blame should fall on Bush. He consistently backed mealy mouthed moderates and liberals no matter what, but would quickly sack a conservative who raised any kind of a ruckus. Bush seemed always afraid of vigorous debate and effectively submarined conservatives who wanted one. In that kind of environment, it’s no wonder that big problems were consistently swept under the rug. Ya sure he raised the issue a few times, but never forcefully. He never expended any political capital fighting Fannie and Freddie like he did for immigration reform or Social Security reform.

    Changing the reserve requirements from 12 to 1, to 30 or 40 to 1 without a big debate, ( and there obviously wasn’t one) just fries me.

    To my dumb way of thinking, the S&L crisis was really about the same thing; the feds let S&L’s exist with lesser reserve requirements than Banks long after the S&L’s Reg Q advantage was long gone. So the crooks got to be like kids in a candy store with the S&L’s. Same thing happened with Fannie and Freddie. History kinda sorta repeated itself but in unfortunately a much bigger way.

  21. Amazing article, coming from Frank Rich.
    Too bad they didn't do that kind of reporting earlier on.

  22. As for trish, doug, I did get her those safety glasses, after all.

  23. No takers on her tuna, as yet.

  24. When I first got married, we were living in a duplex. I remember a lot of pressure from the wife "get a house, get a house" which I was finally able to do. That was the only pressure she really put on me. Most people want to have their own house, it's normal.

  25. And some want Real Estate Empires, like you and Trump.
    That ain't normal.

  26. Man, that fire was somethin else, al-bob.
    Puts even the Oz killer to shame.
    Says some valley's burned Hiroshima equivalents in 2 minutes!

  27. Deeper yet in Clearwater country, Jim Girard and his logging crew first tried to outrun the fire, then - realizing there was no hope - sought refuge in the main river.

    Girard dropped into the deepest hole he could find, brushing against one of his crew as he doused himself with water. Not until after the fire front passed did Girard realize that it was not a man next to him in the river. It was a bear.

    Another ranger who ran for the Clearwater with his crew was nearly knocked over by a bear doing the same. There were, in fact, dozens of stories of bears, cougars, deer and elk bolting through camps and into creeks, their fear of man less than their fear of the approaching flames.

    In the Clearwater, the wind and flames pulled into their fold fires already burning at Monumental Buttes, 49 Meadows and Old Camp de Miserie. In hours, at speeds barely imaginable, the fire crossed 1.9 million acres of the Nez Perce and 2.5 million acres of the Clearwater, burning all of the Clearwater's headwaters from Weitas Creek up through Kelly Creek and across the Bitterroot Range, 15 miles down on the Montana side. Next in its path: the immense white pine and cedar forests of the St. Joe wilderness, where two troops of soldiers and 1,800 men were already fighting fires, not knowing what was headed their way.

  28. w/o wolves, the leaf eaters would cut down the fuel loads, right?

  29. What's needed is jobs. Green jobs. Green infrastructure will increase money flowing into the US economy and decrease money flowing out. In a way, it's a very clever take on protectionism.

  30. 'Twas a big mother, al-Doug, the biggest.

    w/o wolves, the leaf eaters would cut down the fuel loads, right?

    Don't really know about that, but they seem to do better in clear cut or burned areas. Dad said the elk hunting was better after the fire, than before. All that brush grew up to chomp on.

  31. Of course I am open to alternate suggestions, however right and wrong has nothing to do with it. It is about survival. My plan is not without precedent.

    The original GI bill covered about 18 million Americans out of a population of 150 million. It included a four year college education for free, a guaranteed 100% government loan to start a business, and lo and behold a 100% guaranteed mortgage with no money down,at a 4% interest.

    The outcome: the strongest economic powerhouse the world has ever seen. I dare say it would not have been passed by the esteemed patrons of the bar, but here are the facts.

    "It has been heralded as one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever produced by the federal government—one that impacted the United States socially, economically and politically. But it almost never came to pass.

    The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights—nearly stalled in Congress as members of the House and Senate debated provisions of the controversial bill.

    Some shunned the idea of paying unemployed veterans $20 a week because they thought it diminished their incentive to look for work. Others questioned the concept of sending battle-hardened veterans to colleges and universities, a privilege then reserved for the rich.

    Despite their differences, all agreed something must be done to help veterans assimilate into civilian life.

    Much of the urgency stemmed from a desire to avoid the missteps following World War I, when discharged veterans got little more than a $60 allowance and a train ticket home.

    During the Great Depression, some veterans found it difficult to make a living. Congress tried to intervene

    by passing the World War Adjusted Act of 1924, commonly known as the Bonus Act. The law provided a bonus based on the number of days served. But there was a catch: most veterans wouldn't see a dime for 20 years.

    A group of veterans marched on Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1932 to demand full payment of their bonuses. When they didn't get it, most went home. But some decided to stick around until they got paid. They were later kicked out of town following a bitter standoff with U.S. troops. The incident marked one of the greatest periods of unrest our nation's capital had ever known.

    The return of millions of veterans from World War II gave Congress a chance at redemption. But the GI Bill had far greater implications. It was seen as a genuine attempt to thwart a looming social and economic crisis. Some saw inaction as an invitation to another depression.

    Harry W. Colmery, a former national commander of the American Legion and former Republican National Chairman, is credited with drawing up the first draft of the GI Bill. It was introduced in the House on Jan. 10, 1944, and in the Senate the following day. Both chambers approved their own versions of the bill.

    But the struggle was just heating up. The bill almost died when Senate and House members came together to debate their versions. Both groups agreed on the education and home loan benefits, but were deadlocked on the unemployment provision.

    Ultimately, Rep. John Gibson of Georgia was rushed in to cast the tie-breaking vote. The Senate approved the final form of the bill on June 12, and the House followed on June 13. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law on June 22, 1944.

    The Veterans Administration (VA) was responsible for carrying out the law's key provisions: education and training, loan guaranty for homes, farms or businesses, and unemployment pay.

    Before the war, college and homeownership were, for the most part, unreachable dreams for the average American. Thanks to the GI Bill, millions who would have flooded the job market instead opted for education. In the peak year of 1947, veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions. By the time the original GI Bill ended on July 25, 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans had participated in an education or training program.

    Millions also took advantage of the GI Bill's home loan guaranty. From 1944 to 1952, VA backed nearly 2.4 million home loans for World War II veterans.

    While veterans embraced the education and home loan benefits, few collected on one of the bill's most controversial provisions—the unemployment pay. Less than 20 percent of funds set aside for this were used.

    In 1984, former Mississippi Congressman Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery revamped the GI Bill, which has been known as the "Montgomery GI Bill" ever since, assuring that the legacy of the original GI Bill lives on, as VA home loan guaranty and education programs continue to work for our newest generation of combat veterans.

    In 2008, the GI BIll was updated once again. The new law gives veterans with active duty service on, or after, Sept. 11 2001, enhanced educational benefits that cover more educational expenses, provide a living allowance, money for books and the ability to transfer unused educational benefits to spouses or children."

  32. I'm sure not against all social programs. I'm the guy that wants to build up the middle class. I'm just not sure about this trillion dollar deal. Maybe it will work out.

  33. I'd like to comment, but someone will have to tell me what he said. When a guy named "Ambrose" starts quoting Latvian GDP, and "Spanish" unemployment I go into a Coma.

    But, let me say this, the ten year was too low. All interest rates were. A ten year up around 3.25% to 3.50% is a Good Thing. I means money is going somewhere, productive.

    Don't let the "scribblers" spook you, boys. The Scary, end of the world, stuff is behind us. From here on out it's a fairly garden-variety recession.

  34. Over the Hills and Far Away

  35. Let's have a vote on the original GI Bill, and see if it passes.


  36. And, for Crissake, don't let the Right-Wingers scare you. GDP runs about the same under Democrats as it does Republicans; and the Government is going to collect between 18%, and 19% of GDP regardless of Who is in charge (or whatever their tax regimen.)

    Also, Deuce brings up a good point: A lot of these social programs work.

  37. A lot of these social programs work.

    Ja, they do. When I was farming full time, I took advantage of the farm programs, and they helped me out.

    On the other hand, it's ridiculous that my cousin who is rich as Rockyfeller still gets payments big time for sitting on her ass.

    I'm for programs that give people a hand up. These farm programs can turn into the biggest welfare program of them all.

    They should be targeted only to working farmers. Said it once, and I say it again. Only working farmers should be getting help from the government.

    Working farmers.

    Not farm managers.

    I also realize there is some problems setting up a program like that. You'd be amazed at some of the entities the farm payments go to. The way it's been done is they just look at the land, and not who owns it, or need, is my understanding.

    The local volunteer fire department probably would qualify, if they had five acres of farm land.

  38. I think the farm programs made some real sense back in the day, to help people get a grip.

    And, they make sense today too, in the sense of establishing a floor of crop income that you can make a sane budget around.

    And keeping the farmers farming, trying to get away from boom and bust.

    But they shouldn't go on and on to people that don't need them.

    There has been a little effort in that regard, but it don't amount to much, and the levels are so high, you still qualify even if you're rich.

    Well, that politics.

  39. The French and the Japanese subsidize their farmers to a much greater extent than we do here. I don't know about the rest of
    Euroworld, or the Russians, where I don't even know if they know who owns the land nowadays.

    I was reading last year, I recall, about the state of affairs of land ownership in Russia. They were working up some national bill, trying to make sense of things.

    Who owns the land, after you
    've killed all the farmers, communized it, then that collapses...who the hell owns the land now?

    Well, they were working on it but I don't know how it came out, or if anything has been resolved.

    I quess Putin probably owns most of the land, in a way.

  40. Q&A: Energy Independence, Obama and Canada's Oil Sands

  41. It's not generally recognized that Russia has over a hundred million acres of really good "black dirt," most of it lying fallow.

  42. Here We Go Again
    J.G. Thayer - 02.09.2009 - 6:28 AM
    Amazing. Yet another Obama appointee apparently has tax problems. Pardon me, usher, but I think I’ve seen this movie before.

    This time it’s White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. It appears that the former congressman found a handy way to save money. Most members of Congress find themselves having to support two households — one in their home district, and one in or around DC. Some members, in the past, have ended up sharing apartments or town houses. Emanuel took that one step further: he moved into the home of his colleague, Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), staying there for five years. Rent-free.

    To most people, this is “imputed income” — non-financial gifts or compensation that should be reported to the IRS. Emanuel and DeLauro defend their conduct by saying that House ethics rules permit “hospitality between colleagues.”

    Apparently they are not familiar with the old aphorism that “guests, like fish, start to smell after three days.”

    And no, there was no impropriety or hanky-panky going on. Representative DeLauro is happily married to one Stan Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg, by the way, is not a lobbyist. No, he’s the next best thing in DC — he’s a pollster. And, by wild coincidence, Greenberg’s polling company (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research) lists both Emanuel and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (which Emanuel headed) as clients.

    Let’s see… a Democratic representative gets free housing from a pollster who enjoys some very lucrative contracts from both that representative and a very influential group said representative heads up? Why, I’d never even suggest some kind of a quid pro quo arrangement.

  43. weasels they all appear to be yet we seem to think Cheney's relationship with Halliburton was just fine...nope, no conflict of interest there.

  44. I'd betcha all of trish's tuna in olive oil that Cheney did not have tax problems nor any other sort of off sheet income reporting avoidences.

    His history with Haliburton was fully and publicly vetted and he and Mr Bush won the election, regardless.

  45. Mat,

    Your enthusiasm for greenness reaches for perfection at the expense of effectiveness and cost-optimization. Even we go green as fast as possible, we still need petrolium-based products for decades. To create jobs and enhance the infrastructure we should be building the right thing.

    For the $1 TRILLION in the stimulus package, we could build all the nuke plants needed to power North America for the next hundred years and be operational in 5 years.

    We wouldn't be needing to convert the land (hundreds of thousands of acres) with "alternatives" like solar panels and wind turbine farms. Nuclear is thousands of times less destructive from a land use perspective. And many such facilities can double as desalination plants.

    And, clearly we need cheap, plentiful power sources if electric cars are to ever make a difference.

  46. true that rat, though he has managed to keep the details of his meetings with the energy companies early on secret. Still, even though the relationship was stated on the balance sheet, conflicts abound.

    Dennis Perrin supplied an interesting link to a youtube video of an interview with Richard Seymour who has a book out titled "The Liberal defense of Murder". The interview reflects some of our earlier discussion on Samantha Powers and what the Obama administration may do in Afghanistan. It is worth 8 mins. of your time to watch IMHO.

    It is a couple of posts down the page.

  47. Geoffgo,

    Don't get me wrong; I'm Not anti-nuclear (actually, I don't know enough about it to be either "pro," or "con.") However, I've noticed that the, currently proposed, projects are getting priced pretty high. It's looking like about $0.35/kw.

    I think we can probably beat that price with renewables. I'm Not saying, however, that we shouldn't build some nukes for "base-load."

  48. geoffgo,

    I'm all for nukes, as long as Thorium fuel is used and the technology is not subverted towards building atomic weapons. But I'm also very keen on cost comparison, and I know for a fact that when you add up all the costs, using nukes (or oil for that matter) is by far the most expensive and least thought out solutions. (Watch for developments in Sweden).

    As far as Solar not making efficient use of land, that is an urban myth. Solar infrastructure takes the same amount of land to deliver the same amount of energy as does the fossil fuel industry that it should replace. That is a fact. Furthermore, Solar and Wind can be used as distributive energy solutions, thus encouraging responsibility for energy consumption, energy conservation, efficiency, sustainability. And that is a good thing.

  49. Hey Bobal,

    As a working farmer what kind of health insurance do you have? Was there a government program for it or do you just buy it like an independent business person?

    I ask because I ran across this on another blog and it strikes as a pretty steep cost, and hence drag, on trying to run a small business and similarly could be problematic for independent working farmers:

    "My wife and I (just the two of us) work in our video business.Well we just got our renewal paperwork (for April 1) and our already very expensive (in my view) health insurance is going up 36%!! We have a Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan here in NH - $2,000 deductible (for each of us). The price - for the two of us - currently is
    $978/month going up to $1,336/month. If we end up having to pay the 2,000 (each) deductible, for the two of us that would be just over $20,000 a year!!!!!!!!!!! This is a group plan, so our individual health is not causing this price or price increase - plus we both have no real issues for being in our low/mid 50s."

  50. geoffgo,

    Re: Wind. Last year the U.S. started to exploit this resource in earnest, with 50 percent growth, to reach 25 GW of capacity.* That's 25 average sized nuclear reactors in little more than 2-3 years. And we're just starting to rev up.


  51. Mat,

    Solar and wind are not renewable energy sources. It's dark a lot, with a couple of volcanic eruptions darkening the skys, the productivity of the solar array suffers greatly. And, climate change could cause the wind farm to become a complete a waste.

    Nuclear is renewable and on-demand power. And, they can be built everywhere; ie, no geographic limitations.

    And, to your last point Mattie, we may need those nuclear weapons, so it would be foolish to restrict our defense. Will our enemies be verifiably abiding by your nuclear-free demands?

  52. Solar and wind are not renewable energy sources. It's dark a lot, with a couple of volcanic eruptions darkening the skys, the productivity of the solar array suffers greatly.

    Same for agriculture.

  53. And, to your last point Mattie, we may need those nuclear weapons, so it would be foolish to restrict our defense.

    If we haven't used them yet, I'm afraid we will never make use of them. Might as well save the money and decommission them, we have a bunch of faggots in the media, military, and government, and I don't see things a changing.

  54. Nuclear is renewable and on-demand power.

    Heheh, Ok.
    Same for oil, I guess.

  55. We have a bunch of faggots in the media, military, and government..

  56. Ash, I've always had my own private coverage with Blue Cross for myself and the family, except for some years when the wife was working for the State of Idaho and they had a poicy for the family. These days, like most people, according to the lady at the Blue Cross office, I have the catastrophic coverage, the high deductible. Even that is spendy. On the other hand, the docs are mostly good, though I don't go often. I had a colonoscopy a little while back, and I highly recommend that for anyone over fifty. They found two little growths that would have killed me sooner or later.

    That would be some work, wouldn't it, looking up people's assholes day after day?

    But he was a nice fellow and gave me a picture of my asshole, too, the first one I've ever had!

    I thought of using it for my picture here, but don't know how to scan or download it:)

    I can send you a copy if you wish:)

  57. Of course, my coverage didn't cover the colonoscopy, had to pay that myself. I expect to only collect on my health insurance when I'm on my death bed, just like my life insurance.

    Until then, it looks like I'm basically paying for the Mexicans, like everyone else.

  58. At least somebody gets something out of it.

  59. I had my first scope last summer. It came up clean so I don't need go for another 5 years. The scope part I didn't find too bad - the purge prep wasn't pleasant though. Nice lady doctor did it and I didn't pay a dime (welllll, paid through my taxes but I didn't have to whip out the wallet on the day).

  60. In defense of Haliburton, they are about the only company that can do what they do. And I quess they do alot of stuff.

    Lordy, does everyone have tax problems except me?

    I'm clean as a whisle, cause I don't want to argue with Uncle Sam.

  61. Man, that purge was something, shit all night long.

    We be brothers, you and me, Ash.

  62. Rufus,

    Please don't get me wrong either.

    A) we need all the readily available alternatives to foreign energy. But let's characterize "sporadically alternative," for precisely what it is - an augment to the grid.

    B) another Manhatten Project could produce $0.05/kwh power. It's not like the USN hasn't been diligently building smaller, cheaper, cleaner, safer reactors for the last 30 years. I'm talking a quantity discount here - how much for the first 500 units?

    C) I don't think it's a good idea to "put food in one's vehicle." Depending how things go, we might need to eat it.

    D) On-demand means we can use it for desalination at night, offpeak. And, the country may need much more power at night, given how many more of us will be burning the midnight oil, going forward.

    (Sell it in place of "designer bottled water" if you want to offset the cost, I mean at $1/bottle the oceans offer unlimited inventories that are supposedly going to need lowering [see AlGore rants]).

    E) And this infrastructure would be ours, much less susceptible to any foreign manipulation.

    In fact, it is the absolute fastest way to devalue oil, and with it those regimes who use energy as a weapon. Look the way I see it, if we can get 2X-3X the mileage out of e-cars, we'd all switch within 10 years. End of our ME problems, wrt energy blackmail and influence peddling by our politicians.

    Of course the sheiks and the rest of the crooks would have to keep lowering their price/barrel to try and make us quit such a CRUSADE; so we'd benefit from cheaper energy during our transition. Then maybe a car-buying stimulus would be quite helpful.

    I'm just trying to put what could be done effectively with a TRILLION dollars into some perspective. We fought WWII for half. Hey spend a coupla hundred large (in this case the largest ever) on the other alternatives too.

    It is inconceivable to me that absent legal fees and environmental and siting issues (all artificial barriers) that nukes cost $0.35/kwh; but at least it's a fixed cost, if/when oil goes back to $145+, or the Gulf and/or the Straights gets closed. And, if that happens, whose Navy will have to guard those chokepoints?

    That 35 cent pricing reflects a problem of current market scarcity. Start building them on every military reservation all across the US (they're already well-guarded sites), and you'll see dramatic reductions in energy costs. BTW at some point, all this construction to the howls of our own oil and gas producers.

    If we're going to spend over a trillion dollars, then the effort at least ought to promise a breakout strategy that gets us where we need to go.


    I favor green as much as anyone should. In fact, I got seriously excited about solar arrays 3 years ago during a consulting gig with a leading solar provider; however when I learned from the physicists in charge that the solar array (even with 2009's latest technology) can never recapture the energy needed just to produce it, the glow wore off. Most of the current crop of alternatives will have to be subsidized forever, which makes for poor investment opportunity, because the rules can change and the subsidy during the coming price war between foreign oil producers and Americans committed to energy independence.

  63. That's what they told me too, come back in five years.

    If my memory were any good, I could tell you about some new innovation in the colonoscopy business, that's not invasive. Something about doing it with chemical tracers and scanning, or something.

    But, my memory is shot.

    We may not have to put up with the roto-rooter much longer.

  64. "Solar and wind are not renewable energy sources. It's dark a lot, with a couple of volcanic eruptions darkening the skys, the productivity of the solar array suffers greatly."

    Mat said: "Same for agriculture."

    Exactly Mat. Nukes can power green houses 24/7, and supply the hydration as well.

    Oil can be pumped 24/7, no matter the climate.

  65. You see there, Ash, that's the difference between American and Canadian medicine.

    I got a picture of my asshole, and you didn't get one of yours.

    Private Enterprise!

  66. Ah Lord, Obama can't find an honest man.

    It get's downright embarrassing after a while.

  67. LOL! I think my dad got a movie of his but they didn't offer me anything other than the pleasure of watching it happen in real time. I was pretty doped out but I remember them burning a benign polyp - my foggy memory of it was it was kind of Star Wars like with the thing going up in a puff of smoke.

  68. It was my realtor talked me into going, but when he did it, they put him on a bed, on his knees, wide awake, ass up in the air, and probed away.

    With of course a little goofy juice.

    With me, they knocked me completely out. Stuck a line in my arm. I didn't feel a thing. The worst part being, sitting on the can all night. It was really easy after that.

    I'm kind of surprised you were awake.

  69. The Con Artists Have Taken Over the Asylum
    Andrew Breitbart - Big Hollywood

    Can we all agree that the “hope, “change” and “transparency” part of the Barack Obama media carnival is officially over, and it’s finally time that we start holding our new president accountable?

    Consider the tale of the ubiquitous “Hope” poster that helped get Mr. Obama worshiped, inoculated and elected — and the anti-capitalist street artist who “created” it.

    Shepard Fairey last week was sued for copyright infringement by the Associated Press, which claims he stole photographer Manny Garcia’s work and made it the basis of the iconic off-red, white and blue posters whose signed editions are being sold on eBay for thousands of dollars.

    Chinese, Latin American and former Soviet Communist artists may also have a claim against Mr. Fairey, whose style is brazenly ripped off from the propaganda campaigns of totalitarian states. If regimes that murdered tens of millions of innocent human beings can be so revered and redeemed, can the swastika be reappropriated, too?

    Mr. Fairey’s previous “street art” sensation was “Obey” posters that littered urban America for a good portion of the Bush administration. Mr. Fairey was artistically positioning someone to cleanse the body politic of corruption and cynicism.

    “The whole concept of ‘Obey’ was getting people to question their obedience,” Mr. Fairey told Wired magazine.

    Yet Mr. Fairey and his fellow artists are now part of a seemingly endless artistic vanguard pledging obedience to their new leader. Those who codified the slogan “dissent is patriotic” now march lockstep with the new president, no matter what he does, and use their elevated place in society to cast an evil eye on those who question his early blunders.

    ---Full article in the Washington Times

  70. I have a lot of questions to ask about that one, Deuce.
    I should get them all together and you could do a post on it for the betterment of mankind.

    (fair use as it applies to photos, etc)

  71. F...!
    I'm getting my First Ream Job this Month!

    ...wife got it from both ends.
    I drove her home.
    Luckily I had something from Radio Shack in a plastic bag.
    She grabbed it and used it.
    (even took my item out first!)
    ...I'll return to this pleasant subject sometime after I've had my coffee.

  72. Yeah, I was awake, sort of. Doped me up pretty good and had me lie on my side with my knees tucked up a bit and a monitor within in my field of vision. I started watching and then fell asleep I think. I woke up a bit when she said "there is one" and I saw it get burned. She said right away that it was benign but they'd do a biopsy as a matter of course. They then wheeled me into a recovery room where I lay about for a little while as the dope wore off. As I left the hospital my stomach didn't feel so hot - they'd mentioned I might have a bit of gas, boy, they weren't kidding. After a spell of 'passing wind' I felt ok and ready to have something to eat after the required fast and purge. My procedure was in the morning so I got to fast and crap all day without spending the night on a crapper. As trish would say, thank god for the small things.

  73. You're going be shittin' your guts out for about eight hours, al-Doug, buy toilet paper now!

  74. I started watching and then fell asleep I think.

    Well, it's not like watching "Gone With The Wind", afterall.

  75. Geoffgo, I can't argue with you about nukes. I think we ought to do some, also, if, for no other reason, to "keep our hand in."

    I don't know what type solar array that was, but solar, today, should have a reasonable payback period. I know Wind's is Very short.

    Anyway, I'm "flexible" on the whole thing as long as we quit sending all of our money off-shore for shit that we can do without.

    Oh, we don't really eat field corn, and, man, we've got scads of it. No prob, believe me.

  76. What gets me about the nuclear debate is, like here in Idaho, it comes down to a bunch of court suits, and a vote of the local county commissioners.

    How are we ever ever going to get anything done, if we have to go through all this each time around?

  77. Doug, it is worth getting the scope done. I've got a buddy, young (just 40) with terminal Colon cancer. Ugly ugly ugly.

    The scope part is pretty easy but the purging is unpleasant. The worst part for me was having to drink loads of (about a gallon I think) of this not good tasting liquid. The being cleansed was interesting - I read of folk who do it regularly just to clean themselves out - not my cup of tea but a day of fasting and a totally cleansed colon is a ...unique experience.

    It is one of the few totally preventative cancer treatment procedures around. It can stop the cancer super early from what I've been told.

  78. You know about these, 'Rat?

    Big Arm rancher was first in U.S. to own an Oberlander

    BIG ARM - Like everything else he does to earn a living, Bob Ricketts says being a breeder of a rare type of horse you’ve probably never heard of wasn’t his idea.

    “None of my businesses are my fault,” says Ricketts, best know for his Three Dog Down comforter store in Polson
    (“Sorry, we’re open!” reads the sign in the window)
    Three Dog Adventure Tours.More of this story

  79. 74. Unsk:

    Rush Limbaugh just said on the radio (west coast time) that the stimulus package includes provisions that would set up a Health Care/ Medical Records ‘coordinating council” that would direct Doctors on proper treatment and would apply a cost benefit analysis on your life and whether your life is worth treatment for x y z disease or condition. He quoted Tom Daschle’s book on the subject which influenced major provisions of the Stimulus bill to limit care particularly to Seniors. To quote Gov. Lamm of Colorado ‘ Seniors have a duty to just die and go away”.

    Who said Obama wasn’t a lying marxist?

    Rush quoted from an article by Betsy McCoy on the Stimulus package.

    I look forward to informing seniors I know who voted Obama on what their guy wants to do to them.

    The Obama Medical Plan: Euthanasia.

    As a guy that's getting to be a 'Senior' and can legally park in our 'Seniors Only' parking spaces here, this concerns me.

    I think that I don't want to live to be 98 and a half, like my dear aunt, but I also know, having tended her for years, that much can be learned from that, and that her words "Well, I love you Bob" , with emphasis, Well, I love you Bob" at the end of her life will always remain with me, and makes me think, love really is stronger that death.

    This Obama fellow, he is really screwed up, he wants to kill those that survive an abortion, and bump us older folk off.

    Who, I ask, who really does that remind you of?

    There is something very deeply wrong with Obama.

  80. It sounds like Dennis Miller gets one every year.
    Don't know if he has a family history, or what.

  81. Yeah, get it done, Doug, it's the best.

    You owe it to yourself, your wife, and your kids.

    Try to have a sense of humour about it:)

  82. The greatest neighbor I ever had, the Jersey Milkman, figured he'd outlive his dad's age.
    When he was a year younger colon C took him.

    ...all that cream, ice cream, and high butterfat milk probly didn't help.

  83. Mat,

    Thanks for the Google map link to the Victoria fires in prior thread. It helped explain it to my relatives back home.

  84. Missed the conversation. At what age should you test for colon cancer?

  85. First I've heard of that horse breed, doug.

  86. Nukes can power green houses 24/7, and supply the hydration as well.

    Yes. Too bad all the engineers will be reduced to shadows on the floor.

  87. Sam,

    Glad I could be of use. Maybe one day Geoffgo will feel the same. :)

  88. They told me, 50, Sam, but Ash has a friend dying at 40.

    The thing that got me in, was my realtor saying, about a guy he knew, the doctor saying, if you had just come a year ago, I could saved you.

    Get one, it's spendy, but you'll feel better after, knowing your ok.

  89. The scale-back — part of the company's new efforts to cut expenses — stems from the U.S. Department of Energy's failure to approve a $2 billion loan that USEC applied for, said company president and CEO John K. Welch said.

    The facility has been under construction for almost two years, and Welch said he hoped the federal agency would have made a selection late last year.

    "We are committed to the project and will continue moving forward with its deployment because we believe this project can build shareholder value. This is a first step, intended to conserve cash while seeking to minimize the impact on the project and the hundreds of jobs we expected to create in 2009," Welch said in a statement.

    Plans Fuel Cutbacks

  90. Mat,

    Re: colon scoping had it done twice. I'm with you 100% on that.
    It's your stand against the most magical discovery in mankind's history that disturbs me. You're a Luddite. France powers 80% of its energy demands with problems in 30 years.

    I brought up a couple of reasonable objections to the way we're approaching other types of alterntative energy; you don't answer them, you just throw out shiboleths about shadows on the floor.

  91. It's your stand against the most magical discovery in mankind's history that disturbs me. You're a Luddite.

    Heheh, Ok.

    Sorry, Geo, we've moved beyond 1950's technology. And you are aware that soon full spectrum solar panel will be coming to market? Day, night, you'll be able to draw electricity from these. Also, I'm quite a stickler for cost. And I don't see how nukes can compete on that front. But as I said earlier, I'll be watching Sweden for developments on that front.

  92. Planning Victory in Afghanistan
    Nine principles the Obama administration should follow.

    Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

    This essay does not provide a plan or a strategy for success in Afghanistan. It provides, rather, a set of guidelines for thinking about how to develop one, and for evaluating plans articulated by the administration, its generals, and outsiders. Ultimately, a plan for winning in Afghanistan has to be developed in Afghanistan, just as the plan for winning in Iraq was developed in Iraq. It is a truism that any plan must involve not only the U.S. and allied militaries, but all relevant civilian and international agencies, and must deeply involve the Afghans themselves at every level. Our military and civilian leaders understand that truism. We have failed to date in accomplishing the objective not because we haven’t known that we must, but because it is very hard to do.

    But hard is not hopeless in Afghanistan any more than it was in Iraq. The stakes are high, as they always are when America puts its brave young men and women in harm’s way. President Obama has an opportunity in the difficult challenge he faces. So far, he appears determined to try to do the right thing. He deserves the active support and encouragement of every American in that attempt.

  93. Welcome, Geoffgo, another pro-nuker.

    I need the help, fending off my friend Mat.

  94. Sweden Says No to Nuclear Negativity
    There also, thankfully, is one small kicker: Sweden says it won't pay for new nuclear development. Could they possibly be looking at Finland's ill-fated Okiluoto nuclear project - years behind schedule and 60% over budget?

  95. I need the help, fending off my friend Mat.

    Heheh. Try garlic. :)

  96. however when I learned from the physicists in charge that the solar array (even with 2009's latest technology) can never recapture the energy needed just to produce it, the glow wore off.

    That's nonsense.

  97. Geo,

    My objection to nukes is that it leads to weapons proliferation. The US Europe China Russia, have been completely irresponsible in this regard and cannot be trusted. My feeling is that this technology and the industry upon it is reliant needs to wither and die. That's my political view. But on top of that there are also environmental and economic objections, which I don't think can be met either.

  98. Poverty of Imagination

    Venturing out each day into this land of strip malls, freeways, office parks, and McHousing pods, one can't help but be impressed at how America looks the same as it did a few years ago, while seemingly overnight we have become another country. All the old mechanisms that enabled our way of life are broken, especially endless revolving credit, at every level, from household to business to the banks to the US Treasury.
    Peak energy has combined with the diminishing returns of over-investments in complexity to pull the "kill switch" on our vaunted "way of life" -- the set of arrangements that we won't apologize for or negotiate. So, the big question before the nation is: do we try to re-start the whole smoking, creaking hopeless, futureless machine? Or do we start behaving differently?
    The attempted re-start of revolving debt consumerism is an exercise in futility. We've reached the limit of being able to create additional debt at any level without causing further damage, additional distortions, and new perversities of economy (and of society, too). We can't raise credit card ceilings for people with no ability make monthly payments. We can't promote more mortgages for people with no income. We can't crank up a home-building industry with our massive inventory of unsold, and over-priced houses built in the wrong places. We can't ramp back up the blue light special shopping fiesta. We can't return to the heyday of Happy Motoring, no matter how many bridges we fix or how many additional ring highways we build around our already-overblown and over-sprawled metroplexes. Mostly, we can't return to the now-complete "growth" cycle of "economic expansion." We're done with all that. History is done with our doing that, for now.
    So far -- after two weeks in office -- the Obama team seems bent on a campaign to sustain the unsustainable at all costs, to attempt to do all the impossible things listed above. Mr. Obama is not the only one, of course, who is invoking the quest for renewed "growth." This is a tragic error in collective thinking. What we really face is a comprehensive contraction in our activities, especially the scale of our activities, and the pressing need to readjust the systems of everyday life to a level of decreased complexity.
    For instance, the myth that we can become "energy independent and yet remain car-dependent is absurd. In terms of liquid fuels, we're simply trapped. We import two-thirds of the oil we use and there is absolutely no chance that drill-drill-drilling (or any other scheme) will change that. The public and our leaders can not face the reality of this. The great wish for "alternative" liquid fuels (bio fuels, algae excreta) will never be anything more than a wish at the scales required, and the parallel wish to keep all our cars running by other means -- hydrogen fuel cells, electric motors -- is equally idle and foolish. We cannot face the mandate of reality, which is to do everything possible to make our living places walkable, and connect them with public transit. The stimulus bills in congress clearly illustrate our failure to understand the situation.
    The attempt to restart "consumerism" will be equally disappointing. It was a manifestation of the short peak energy decades of history, and now that we're past peak energy, it's over. That seventy percent of the economy is over, especially the part that allowed people to buy stuff with no money. From now on people will have to buy stuff with money they earn and save, and they will be buying a lot less stuff. For a while, a lot of stuff will circulate through the yard sales and Craigslist, and some resourceful people will get busy fixing broken stuff that still has value. But the other infrastructure of shopping is toast, especially the malls, the strip malls, the real estate investment trusts that own it all, many of the banks that lent money to the REITs, the chain-stores and chain eateries, of course, and, alas, the non-chain mom-and-pop boutiques in these highway-oriented venues.
    Washington is evidently seized by panic right now. I don't know anyone who works in the White House, but I must suppose that they have learned in two weeks that these systems are absolutely tanking, that the previous way of life that everybody was so set on not apologizing for has reached the end of the line. We seem to be learning a new and interesting lesson: that even a team that promises change is actually petrified of too much change, especially change that they can't really control.
    The argument about "change" during the election was sufficiently vague that no one was really challenged to articulate a future that wasn't, materially, more-of-the-same. I suppose the Obama team may have thought they would only administer it differently than the Bush team -- but basically life in the USA would continue being about all those trips to the mall, and the cubicle jobs to support that, and the family safaris to visit Grandma in Lansing, and the vacations at Sea World, and Skipper's $20,000 college loan, and Dad's yearly junket to Las Vegas, and refinancing the house, and rolling over this loan and that loan... and that has all led to a very dead end in a dark place.
    If this nation wants to survive without an intense political convulsion, there's a lot we can do, but none of it is being voiced in any corner of Washington at this time. We have to get off of petro-agriculture and grow our food locally, at a smaller scale, with more people working on it and fewer machines. This is an enormous project, which implies change in everything from property allocation to farming methods to new social relations. But if we don't focus on it right away, a lot of Americans will end up starving, and rather soon. We have to rebuild the railroad system in the US, and electrify it, and make it every bit as good as the system we once had that was the envy of the world. If we don't get started on this right away, we're screwed. We will have tremendous trouble moving people and goods around this continent-sized nation. We have to reactivate our small towns and cities because the metroplexes are going to fail at their current scale of operation. We have to prepare for manufacturing at a much smaller (and local) scale than the scale represented by General Motors.
    The political theater of the moment in Washington is not focused on any of this, but on the illusion that we can find new ways of keeping the old ways going. Many observers have noted lately how passive the American public is in the face of their dreadful accelerating losses. It's a tragic mistake to tell them that they can have it all back again. We'll see a striking illustration of "phase change" as the public mood goes from cow-like incomprehension to grizzly bear-like rage. Not only will they discover the impossibility of getting back to where they were, but they will see the panicked actions of Washington drive what remains of our capital resources down a rat hole.
    A consensus is firming up on each side of the "stimulus" question, largely along party lines -- simply those who are for it and those who are against it, mostly by degrees. Nobody in either party -- including supposed independents such as Bernie Sanders or John McCain, not to mention President Obama -- has a position for directing public resources and effort at any of the things I mentioned above: future food security, future travel-and-transport security, or the future security of livable, walkable dwelling places based on local networks of economic interdependency. This striking poverty of imagination may lead to change that will tear the nation to pieces.

  99. Mat,
    Must it be organic garlic?

  100. Mat - "But on top of that there are also environmental and economic objections, which I don't think can be met either."

    Such as?

    And, is there some new dynamic that keeps green projects from cost overun?

  101. And, is there some new dynamic that keeps green projects from cost overun?

    Yes. They take a fraction of the time to complete, and are dead simple when compared to building nukes.

  102. Such as?

    Well, let's start with proper disposal of the current batch of radioactive waste. When you worked thru that without using taxpayers dollars, we'll talk about new construction and what that will cost.

  103. Mat's gonna be more of a free-agent in Canuckistan than docs here in the gulags:
    (stick w/paper as long as you can, Mat,
    ...but you already know that.
    ...i'll file online when they use my cold dead hand to do it)
    Porkulus on Drugs

    One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”

    Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.

    New Penalties

    Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)

  104. The Euros do it the right way Mat:
    Our Greenies have us back in the Carter era.

  105. The Euros do it the right way Mat:

    Yes, in some Polynesian island. While blowing up the evidence.

  106. Maybe Sonia will Auto-Clone!!!

  107. Saturday Post: The Inevitable Rise Of Cockroach Media

    CES in Las Vegas was made more tolerable because of the good company of fellow journalist blogger Paul Mooney. One late night we were discussing the media industry, an occasional favorite topic of mine.

    We were discussing how the economic situation was going to accelerate the broad disruptive trend within the media industry.

    Less advertising would lead to a faster rate of job losses, and lower revenues for most, if not all media companies, and that also includes many newer media companies, Gawker Media for example. Simply put, it's not a good time to be in media--mainstream or newstream.

    More recently, the Wall Street Journal cut 25 newsroom jobs.

    Here is part of a memo to staff from Robert Thomson, Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal:

    It is obvious to you all that we are in the midst of an unprecedented economic downturn. We are also in the midst of an unprecedented increase in our readership, in print and online, but a precipitous decline in print advertising revenue has forced a close examination of our structures and of our costs.

    It points to a curious anomaly within news organizations, that readership is often rising but revenues are falling.

    And the reason is that advertising is less expensive online but news creation costs remain the same. The cost of being in the news business isn't being covered by online advertising revenues.

    Media companies such as Google and Yahoo can sell online advertising at low rates and cover their costs but Wall Street Journal and other news organizations cannot survive without shrinking their productive resources, which can create a downward spiral of less content, and less revenue.

    When journalists lose their jobs it's tough because they also lose their publishing platform. They lose their byline, they disappear from public view, and that makes it more difficult finding a job. And even when better economic times return, the majority of journalism jobs won't ever return.

    In Las Vegas, Paul Mooney and I were thinking that we are in a better position than many of our colleagues in the media because we don't have far to fall. As long as we can keep the lights on, and maintain an Internet connection, we can still keep publishing during bad times, and worsening times. If you lose your job at a news organization you lose your public persona--a journalist that isn't publishing isn't.

    We joked that we represent a new type of media: cockroach media. Paul is from New York where cockroaches can be formidable in their ability to survive the harshest environments. He says, "I've given cockroaches some of my best hits and they still manage to crawl away."

    Cockroach media will survive this economic downturn a lot better than old and new media companies. And cockroach media should do well once the inevitable upturn comes around.

  108. Best Air-Filtering House Plants According to NASA!

  109. Dubious Dubai Redefines Long-Term Parking
    by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 02. 9.09

    dubai flat tire car photo
    timesonline: Abandoned SUV

    They have a parking problem in Dubai: people are abandoning cars by the thousands at the airport as they leave. Evidently careers based on real estate and investing are in tatters and the expats are abandoning mortgages and car leases in droves. They are often leaving the keys in the ignition, the ownership on the dash and letters of apology as they skip town- under sharia law you don't get a lecture or a bad credit rating for bad debts, you go to jail.

    dubai dusty car photo

    Sonia Verma of The TimesOnline describes the scene:

    When the market collapsed and the emirate's once-booming economy started to slow down, many expatriates were left owning several homes and unable to pay the mortgages without credit.

    "There were a lot of people living the high life, investing in real estate and a lifestyle they couldn't afford," one senior banker said.

    Estimates are that the population of Dubai will drop by eight percent and property values will drop by sixty percent.

    This isn't TreeHugger Schadenfreude, nobody is happy watching the misfortunes of others, whether is is the Dubai expat, the unemployed master of the Universe or the laid off auto worker. But you didn't have to be John Maynard Keynes to see this one coming

  110. In 2008 the global Islamic financial services have felt the impact of credit crunch and consequently Sukuk issuance has more than halved and the value of the equity funds has fallen. according to IFSL’s Islamic Finance Report.


    Sir Andrew Cahn, UK Trade & Investment’s Chief Executive Officer said: “Despite its origins overseas, Islamic finance has found a natural home in the UK. Though no sector is immune to the global financial crisis, Islamic finance has shown great resilience.

    It is important we continue to work with our Islamic finance partners to maintain our position as the leading western centre for Islamic finance service providers.

    Islamic Banks

  111. Keep wondering if the Victoria fires were lit by terrorists. Be easy to do.

  112. Sam said...

    "Missed the conversation. At what age should you test for colon cancer?"

    Yes, like they said above 50 is the usual starting age but earlier if you have family history. My Dad had polyp's removed that weren't benign so they started me a tad early.

  113. Were they doing it for political 'gain'? Seems to be mass murdering arsonists so far...

  114. Scientists say Australia, with its harsh environment, is set to be one of the nations most affected nations by climate change.

    Victoria state has ordered a Royal commission of inquiry, which has sweeping powers, to probe all aspects of the bushfires, including causes and also a review of bushfire safety guidelines.

    Officials say the golden rule of surviving forest fires is to evacuate early or fight to the bitter end, but experts say that it appears many victims panicked and fled at the worst time. Some were incinerated in cars as they tried to outrun the flames.

    Crime Scene

  115. Investigators in China have sent the long list of victims and the details of their individual losses to the Korean police.

    One way of easing the suddenly rising antipathy toward Korea among the Hailin people is to invite their community leaders to Daegu, for example, to show how sorry Koreans feel about the incident. We are afraid that there may be other similar cases of job fraud involving Korean "brokers."

    Cooperation with Chinese law enforcement authorities is essential to eliminate such brazen crimes, which victimize the poorest people in Chinese society.

    Ugly Korean

  116. Sima Golosofsky and her daughter Chana Veinerman said they had started out this election campaign by favoring Likud, but after the party forced Moshe Feiglin into a low spot on its Knesset list, they decided to support the National Union instead.

    Even though Golosofsky, like Lieberman, is originally from the former Soviet Union, she said she feared that in the end both Lieberman and Netanyahu would divide Jerusalem.

    Only the National Union, the two women said, would take a strong stand on retaining control of the West Bank.

    Netanyahu and Lieberman

  117. While the Munich Security Conference brought together senior leaders from most major countries and many minor ones last weekend, none was more significant than U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. This is because Biden provided the first glimpse of U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama.


    Consider Iran. The Obama administration’s position, as staked out by Biden, is that the United States is prepared to speak directly to Iran provided that the Iranians do two things. First, Tehran must end its nuclear weapons program. Second, Tehran must stop supporting terrorists, by which Biden meant Hamas and Hezbollah.


    The most interesting — and for us, the most anticipated — part of Biden’s speech had to do with the Europeans, of whom the French and Germans were the most enthusiastic about Bush’s departure and Obama’s arrival. Biden’s speech addressed the core question of the U.S.-European relationship.

    Foreign Policies

  118. had lunch with Barb today. she has a client at voc. rehab. was working for Albright and Sons on the IHTC/Campus Crest project. Seems Albright and Sons hasn't been paid so they stopped work in Moscow. Don't know when they will get back to work.

    e-mail from my wife, who lives the door down from me:) so we don't bug each with our sleep habits....

    this is a totally schadenfreud post...

    Campus Crest came by my way, and the wife looked them up on the internet, and went to the trouble of reading some of the comments at some meeting back east, and said, they're crooks. Which they might be.

    Anyway, this is the picture of what they are up to. Seems like they may be dead in the water. I used to farm that land, and there was an old well there from grandfathers days.

    If Campus Crest has gone bankrupt, my cousins company is shit out of luck, cause how can you get money out of a bankrupt? They can sue them till the cows come home, they won't get a dime. Plus, they've ruined the farm.

    Albright and Sons is a good firm, started by old man Albright three generations ago.


    The depression has hit Moscow.

  119. Old man Albright, he don't give a shit about Chicago, he wants to be paid.

  120. You can't farm that fucker no longer, that's what bob says.

  121. This comment has been removed by the author.

  122. Bad loans at Japan's 121 banks ballooned a sharp 889.0 billion yen during the six-month period to Sept. 30 to 12,294.0 billion yen, the Financial Services Agency said Tuesday.


    Breaking down the 12.3 trillion yen bad-loan tally, the agency said the total of bad loans at Japan's top nine banking giants swelled 425 billion yen to 4,191.0 billion yen with that at 110 regional lenders rising 406.0 billion yen to 7,952.0 billion yen.

    The 110 lenders include 64 regional banks and 45 second-tier regional banks.

    12.3 Trillion Yen

  123. Each will include a resort-style swimming pool, 24-hour gym, fire pit, tanning booths and clubhouse.

    Jesus Christ, and here I thought the reason to go to school was to read books!