Thursday, August 29, 2013

Death + New Life

My son and I are jetting away for Labor Day weekend. We are going back to my home state in order to see extended family and meet my new niece. The little guy is the star of the show now, as I am just the remote king bringing the crown prince for an official duties visit (I'll be godfather for my niece). Everyone is pumped as he has not seen that side of the family since last August. We have news ourselves, as our family shall expand by one. That arrival is scheduled for January of 2014. We will be watching the clock because it will mark a very full previous year.

Last fall we decided to start the family expansion process up again. Fortunately, we are a fertile duo and very quickly the stick said 'pregnant'. It is a cool rush when that happens. Holy crap, the spark of life! We were pumped because it would be an August baby, which after having a winter baby sounded great. We discussed boy names since we have a girl name ready. I was talking to my wife's stomach, giving the kid orders. We were becoming emotionally invested and attached. It's k-selection behavior in real life. We waited a couple of weeks to tell our parents on Christmas. I called my grandfather on Christmas Eve. He has been depressed since my grandmother died. He said, "now there can be two Notre Dame linebackers in the family" (my son is going to be a linebacker per gramps). The pregnancy was going well, and my folks came out in January for my son's birthday and baptism. My wife had a momentary odd thing happen during that joyous weekend of events, and to play it safe, she called the doctor. They scheduled a sonogram for the following Monday. After my relatives left, we went to the doctor's office on Monday. Immediately, we knew. No heartbeat, no movement. Baby did not make it.

Nothing prepares you in life for that. It's a sledgehammer deep to the gut. It floored my wife. During the drive home, I reminded her that when we got home a 2 year old would be ecstatic to see us. He was. It helped. Still, it was awful. As the dad, pregnancy does not feel real until that first sonogram. Your body isn't carrying the child. When you see that kid, it hits you that it is real. If the sonogram is week 10, you'll see fully formed fingers and toes. It's wild, and you might switch to pro-life right there. To have a sonogram reveal a miscarriage is an on the spot life lesson. Don't take anything for granted. Love what you are given. They say these cliches for a reason. It's true and can center you in awful moments like a miscarriage. It will cause you to blame yourself or evaluate what you've been doing. You go over everything, looking for the mistake. It's horrible. I'm a believer and was I pissed. Anger's a part of dealing with the pain, but it wouldn't shake my faith. January was cold, and winter was incredibly long this year.

As the husband, you have to be mentally and emotionally strong because it's your wife who has to physically deal with everything. If marriage is a Cirque du Soleil of two performers propping up each other, that is one of your moments to carry the emotional weight in an awkward fashion. Don't be afraid to talk to friends about it when you're ready. When my wife did, the stories came out of the woodworks. When I did, my friends reminded me of what I have with my son. You don't feel like a failure as much, and learn that miscarriages are common. You learn why families have a five year gap between siblings or why some families had just one kid. You may discover you might have had a brother or sister if not for nature. You also can think with a clearer mind about what the doctor told you in a small room when your emotions were raging (or you were shell shocked) and your one thought was to get the hell home as fast as possible. The doctor said, "This is common. You had a perfect pregnancy the first time. It was not your body, but this baby that didn't make it." You process it.

I stuck to work, writing, reading and going to the gym. I was patient. I told my wife we could try again when she was ready. My brain had done the math on how many more kids we could have. What if that lost child was our girl? Once my wife was physically ready, we got back to it. We started trying on a Monday, and she was pregnant on Friday. God finds a way to get you back. This time is different. All that blissful ignorance is gone. Every slight oddity made us nervous. Did things feel normal or sick and tired enough? My wife and I won't be relaxed until that baby is delivered, and then the normal parenting worries will begin just like everyone else. This week we had the halfway or "spot the gender" sonogram. This baby was more chill that our son was at this point. This baby was a bit more coy. This baby is also a girl. God willing, next January, my choreographing ballerina wife will get an assistant. Just when I thought I was out, I'm sucked back into the annual dance recital. That's why I had the son first. Watch out for little sis at school and joke along with dad at recitals. I live a blessed life. It gets me through the dark moments because they are only moments.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria + the G20 Conference

Everyone is leaking something. Saudis and Russians are leaking a meeting they had (note that the Saudis control Chechen terror cells, like the same that the Tsarnaev bomber went to?). The US keeps leaking what they will do to Syria or countermeasures if Syria and/or Iran steps to USA's intervention in Syria's rebellion civil war, that Qatar, the KSA and the USA fostered. China does not support enlarging the Syrian conflict. They hold over a trillion US Treasuries, so they matter. Might America be bluffing to redirect the Syrian's military concentration for a short while? They might. If they are paying attention to the calendar and see the G20 conference set up for next week, they may want to reconsider a strike on Syria for just a couple more weeks.

The G20 nations have been agitating for a new Bretton Woods, which is serious stuff. China has even thrown out using the SDR as a new way to order the framework and conduits of international trade. Just yesterday, the BRIC nations stated that they are near a $100 billion contingent reserve agreement. This will help them with liquidity, volatility and risk in our US dollar system. The initial size is $100 billion. The New Statesmen does not mention this in its what to look for article on the G20 event. Might be a good setting to announce that CRA. Besides normal conference platitudes and hopes, Vladimir Putin has made anti-bail in remarks this year, so the next phase in the megabank handling may be rolled out. With some of America's creditors on hand, why would the US start a fight those same creditors do not want to see or are supporting the other side? These are some of the same foreign creditors who sold $57 billion in Treasuries in June.

The US has remarked that the Syrian air defenses are stout but beatable. They may limit the US to missile strikes at first. Writers have noted that it would take a few days to level their air defense network. Discussing so openly the possibility of a strike gives the Syrians time to strengthen defenses and place offensive missiles in proper spots. US satellites can watch this. It also distracts the Syrians from pounding the rebel forces that they have been beating steadily in recent months. Right up until the gas attack, the Syrian regime had been winning the PR war with rebels cutting out hearts and eating them or destroying what is left of Christianity in Syria. This week long rush could all be a probe, gauging the opposition's patron's strength and ties to Syria. Considering this administration's track record in the Middle East, that may be granting them too much creativity.

Perhaps it is too rosy of a view of China, Russia and the foreign creditors of America, but war is not just about how awesome our military firepower is. The Tet Offensive of 1968 revealed that the American television camera was more powerful than the US military. The Suez Crisis ended not so much from military measures but from the US threatening to ruin the pound sterling. The Chinese and Russians may be US antagonists currently or strategic competitors, and slowly but surely they are attempting to tip the financial playing field to position themselves in Eisenhower's spot in the mid '50s. The American financial system is running on puffery, promoting a shadow recovery and producing illusory gains. Spectacle events like the G20 offer nations or alliances to publicize their moves. The US cannot afford chips at it's petrodollar hegemony and hyperpower status right when it needs to flex its muscles for the Mob Empire.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How a CEO Screws Over Workers

How do you set up and foster an orderly run society? There are social and cultural aspects. We live in the age of the almighty dollar. As we walk further down the neo-feudal path, it is probably good to look at how a select few or even just one executive can allocate resources that contribute to America's growing income inequality. The age old question of would you cheat if you knew you would never be caught would be a great indicator for how one would act in this realm. It comes down to incentives and aligning interests with different pools of individuals. The other factor at play is consequences.

StanCorp Financial Group is an insurance firm that was a mutual company up until the late 1990s when it became a publicly traded corporation. Anytime a company switches from a private or mutual set up to a publicly traded firm the company already compromises who its interests are aligned with as shareholders suddenly become a customer. Any firm that switches to publicly traded suddenly sends its CEO, COO, CFO or all of them out to Vanguard, Franklin Templeton, Fidelity, state pension investment corporations, etc. to sell their firm to those investment companies. It's not for index mutual funds but for the active firms. You pick a pitch: value or growth, and start selling. On top of shareholders, one becomes beholden to the people who rate your company as a buy or sell. In our FIRE economy, you become a piece that the investment firms add to the mix for their proprietary trading. Executives start playing to that crowd.

Executives start seeing their compensation packages involve options. They have an incentive to juice the stock to exercise options. Bonuses tied to company performance can still exist, but the stock options are tied to how the stock does, so asset inflation is part of the game. Management teams still have to answer to the board of directors, which is why severing the tie between the CEO and Chairman of the Board duties is a great way to exert some control over CEO machinations. If not, you can have what happened at StanCorp happen at your firm. A lot of good people work there, but they are just cogs in the machine compared to CEO J. Gregory Ness.

In 2011, Standard outsourced IT and chopped off 130 jobs. In 2013, they laid off 100 employees, and that number is even higher due to force outs and resignations in their distribution network. StanCorp admitted that the business climate was tough and earnings were poor. Their primary business is employee benefits insurance, and when the economy is not adding jobs and not handing out raises their book of premium isn't growing. Even worse for StanCorp is that their book of business is heavy on municipal, state and education groups. If you work for a state or local government west of the Rockies, you most likely have life or disability insurance with Standard. Their block is running so-so, and we still have not seen the end of municipal cuts. When funding gets bad, how much more block erosion will they see? It is a rough outlook, and their operating income has taken a hit since 2011. They have to cut back but not everywhere.

As a publicly traded firm, you can see their executive compensation. Since 2010, it has nearly doubled. In January of 2013, they said they had to lay off 100 employees because of the business environment. They simultaneously had increased executive compensation by $6 million from 2011 to 2012. Over $4 million went to their CEO Mr. Ness alone. How many employees does that buy back? Looks almost 1 for 1 doesn't it? A wash. He had a large non-equity (stock) bonus in 2012. This was in a supposed down year. If he has an equity based bonus this year, well good for him that the stock has jumped 50% year to date. His compensation package and agreement were likely hammered out when he took the job or in previous years. This is a common excuse.

It is also a sham. CEOs like him can get away with it because they are also the Chairman of the Board. He is not going to discipline himself. There are no consequences. The incentive is for him to loot while he can. If expenses need to be cut amongst the little people, and that is who they let go, to maintain the proper net income despite him jacking up his pay, so be it. A lay off signals to Wall St analysts that you're serious, so the stock goes up (good for you) and that stock rise might be a target in your comp plan triggering a bonus (good for you). The human capital can be replaced easily in your eyes. When Charles Murray writes about Belmont and Fishtown having such separation that there is no common tie, this is a consequence of that unraveling. The stratification of American society and financialization of the American economy create the conditions for these decisions. Thousands feel the effects of one man's greed.

Theory: ESPN Had Collins is Gay on Ice

Small tidbit involving the short bus that is sports media and coordinated events. Recall the hoopla that the sports world and mainstream media had for Jason Collins coming out? First active gay athlete! He's black and gay! It felt a bit over the top and phony. The timing seemed a bit interesting with it coming at the start of the NBA off-season and during one of the media's pre-Supreme Court decision pushes for gay marriage. A reader of Bill Simmons emailed him about his spot on prediction of a player coming out of the closet and Simmons put it in his mailbag. The innocent tidbit might tip a media watcher off to the background work on the Collins coming out media event.

From ESPN:

Q: A mailbag reader emailed you asking when the first American athlete comes out. Your response: "Great question. I think it will happen within the next 30 months. It will be someone who isn't a superstar but a recognizable player — like a third starter in baseball, or a swingman in basketball (no pun intended) — and someone who's closer to the end of his career. I think it will be basketball or baseball. Someone SHOULD do this. They'd become an icon in the gay community and much more marketable/famous. It's a smart career move."
This exchange happened on Nov. 23, 2010. [Jason] Collins came out on [April] 29, 2013. If you said a more conventional timeframe I wouldn't have e-mailed you. But exactly 30 months? Who says "30 months" in response to anything?
Let me play amateur detective and conspiracy theorist rolled into one. This was not the only time Simmons pushed the idea that an athlete should come out. He would cite endorsement opportunities as the big upside. Simmons even mentioned how Mark Cuban thought it'd be a good, marketable thing. There is a quid pro quo vibe to it all. Collins was going to use ESPN for a guilt trip contract, and the media would use Collins as a gay panda, rubbing it in black's faces, too. Look at Collins' contract history. He was signing one year contracts. ESPN's extensive network of reporters and sources have tabs on what is going on, and might have sent feelers out to a gay player or two's agent. Back scratching. The odd thing was Simmons' prediction of baseball or basketball. Those sports have the smallest teams so fewer players to choose from probability wise, and clubhouse cohesion may be a factor in coming out.

Still amazing in the hunt for the first gay athlete that the media missed a pretty obvious one right in the New York City area. Kerry Rhodes was a very successful defensive back for the NY Jets. Weird how the media teased NYers with the idea that a NY baseball player was gay for years in the late '90s/early '00s, but overlooked Rhodes. He was also telegenic, and could have been a good spokesman for their crusade. How'd they miss him? It might be because he doesn't really change stereotypes. He is a media hound, loves the camera, loves jewelry, has made forays into acting, and is a bit of a dramatic show boater at times. He might not have been the hulking macho figure that they would want to break stereotypes like a 6'10" NBA center. Once again, the media kept insinuating Mike Piazza was gay even after he was engaged to a Playboy playmate. Maybe access journalism is at play here. Maybe Rhodes wanted it squashed and silenced, but Collins needed the media for one more million dollar deal.

When Simmons predicted 30 months it took him right to the end of an NBA off-season. An opportunistic NBA player would want to roll that out for a guilt trip contract from the league. Look at Collins' stats and playing time. Collins was signing one year deals and was a stiff back up center at 30. There is always a new 6'10" hungry and younger journeyman to draft or sign cheaply every year to bump old Collins off the bench. Collins or his agent probably reached out to ESPN with the thought that the guilt trip contract could be an ace in the hole. Each April Collins could use the coming out story if he felt he needed it for a contract and get great press. He might have wanted one year too long though as his body is a bit used up. Collins and ESPN overplayed their hand with fans because in a nation where countless fans overlook the criminal behavior of their team's role players who the hell cares who they fall in love with?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ruling the Skies Syria Edition

Looks like the war machine gets another round at the buffet. Is it the Kosovo strategy? The Libya strategy? Lobbing some cruise missiles? The US is not as confused with Syria as it is with Egypt, but our friends in the KSA and Qatar want action. Clear, public American opposition does not matter here, as the elite control the levers of power. They have planned it for years. We're being told no boots on the ground, but hey, isn't that what al-qaeda remnants are for? This will come down to a no-fly zone, missiles and other air warfare. The important thing is ruling the skies. America has ruled the skies for decades. To do anything in the air requires our permission and must be done by an ally.

Qadafi tried using helicopters and planes on the rebels trying to overthrow him, but we said no. That is not fair. We broke Westphalian concepts with that intervention, but that's not new. Saudi Arabia used tanks and choppers against protesting hordes, but that was deemed acceptable. The Russians have put up enough barriers to US intervention in Syria for two years, so we had to find a way around it. Chemical weapons! This can be a pretext for a no fly zone, missile strikes and the standard menu for our powerful air force and navy. There is another country that has made airstrikes outside its air zone without a peep from US authorities. Israel.

Israel has bombed Syria in 2007, Khartoum in 2012, and multiple strikes recently on Syrian missile depots, including a strike in July of 2013 on a Yakhont missile depot. Israel did not take credit for the first two, but ahem, everyone who matters knows. The nation with a giant satellite network in space would certainly know. No reprimand. No scolding. The US does not lift a finger to argue. By performing these strikes and not being punished, Israel reveals America's allegiance. This will haunt America as long as we play broker in the Middle East. The Yakhont strike might be different though.

Yakhont missiles are antiship missiles. The Russians kept their promise from a few years back to deliver missiles, and did so in spring of 2013. Israel used the excuse that the missiles could be transferred to Hezbollah to use against Israel. Seeing that Hezbollah is being well taken care of by Assad in his attempt to hold onto Syria, why on earth would Hezbollah use those missile systems on Israel now? They would not, but Syria could use the Yakhont's and their 100+ mile range to strike at supply ships, carriers and other surface ships of a NATO force. Israel was pitching in for the anti-Assad coalition with that strike. America could not do it directly, and having many missiles knocked out prior to placing one's assets in the region would be desirable. Uncle Sam can pat Israel on the head and no appreciatively.

That depot and however many missiles from that recent shipment that were destroyed are important. Fred Reed is right about the oddity of the US having a huge military now. He misses the American Mob empire requirements, and he misses the importance of ruling the skies. Knocking out Libya's air capabilities skewed things in the steadily supplied rebels' favor. Remove the sky from the theater and it removes the greatest advantage any incumbent force has on upstart rebels. Declaring who can fight in the skies is one of America's greatest powers. Assad has taken notes.

Assad saw Qadafi's fate. He's been ruthless and far quicker to call on his main patron, Russia. What happens if he's down and close to out? Think Assad fires dozens of Yakhonts at whatever US carrier or destroyer within range? How many can an Aegis system withstand? What happens to American prestige if they lose one destroyer or a carrier? How does the American public react? After lip service to our veterans, the average American sees no tangible negative consequence to our elite's warmongering. Makes a lot more sense now for Israel to have destroyed those Yakhonts. Tilt the playing field for the US. Sometimes the Don does you a favor, and sometimes the Don calls upon you to pay that favor back. He watches and rules the skies. Don't you forget.

Society's Labels for Men

If a man likes working out, he's a narcissist.

If a man with grey or no hair buys a sports car, he's an old man, struggling with a midlife crisis.

If a man buys an SUV, he's an overcompensating loser.

If a man isn't married by 35, he is a little boy afraid of commitment.

If a man won't marry a single mom, he won't man up.

If a man works 50 hours a week, he's a workaholic.

If a man plays video games after age 22, he's a man-child.

If a man likes dating younger women, he is an immature creep that can't handle a woman his age.

If a man drinks during the workweek, he might be a drunk.

If a man gives a woman unwanted attention, he's a creep. If at work, he's fired.

If a man doesn't pay for a date, he's a cheapskate.

If a man is home when his daughter has a sleepover, he's a molestation threat.

If a man likes thin, feminine women, he's a brainwashed size-ist.

If a man has a deep, meaningful friendship with another man, he's a closet case.

If a man wants his lower earning wife to stay home after she has kids, he's a patriarch limiting the freedom of women to be themselves.

If a man buys a slightly smaller than expected engagement ring, he might not be right for you.

If a man discourages promiscuous behavior and values chastity, he is a slut-shaming oppressor.

If a man likes the look of 18 to 21 year old women, he's a borderline pedo.

If a man treats you like a lady, he is a pal, buddy and good ol' friend.

If a man works hard with adult pursuits and can't keep up with the latest pop culture, he's an out of touch doofus.

If a man has sex with other men, he's a fabulous accessory for young women to treat like a chihuahua.

If a man fights for custody of his kids, he's a second class citizen.

If a man wants to cut his dick off, slap a wig on and destroy his male identity, he's a courageous, perfectly healthy, and mentally well adjusted saint.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Documentary Roundup

Movies seem to suck right now, but documentaries are in a nice upswing. Documentaries currently have some tailwinds at their back. Technology for filming, editing and lighting has become cheaper and of a higher quality than the old film days. Professors and experts are more than willing to show up for screen time to add the 'was featured in' tag to their resume and for billing appearance fees. Like reality television, if you make a hit or have a wide effect, it can be done on the cheap so political activists can find willing patrons. There are still distribution choke points, so is the product available good?

After seeing the American Indians used as the guilt object in the poorly done "American Meth" documentary like an Ethiopian child in an '80s hunger ad, I looked up the story on the spread of meth at one western reservation. How did a crew of three Sinaloan gang member enter a remote (check NY Times census map for Riverton, WY) and normally private American Indian reservation to sell meth? Easy, they got Indian girlfriends.

A documentary available through streaming called "13%" discusses the whys behind black overrepresentation in HIV infections. It was terrible but had better production values than "American Meth". HIV has spread like wildfire because of family silence, oppressive religious attitudes, ignorant doctors and Reagan. With how much they hammered on blacks suppressing discussion of unpleasant things, maybe Hollywood should start black jokes instead of WASP jokes re: avoiding unpleasant subjects. No mention of attitudes towards unprotected sex, sexual behavior or rates of intravenous drug use.

Human Zoo TV is in effect for "Wake Up". The documentary makers completely side with this innocent guy who was very religious growing up but moved to the big city and then one day woke up seeing angels and demons. His religious parents are awkward with him with the big revelation. He passes tests for brain disorders and is not declared schizophrenic. Smells entirely made up, except for the codependent girlfriend. Best part was subject talking to an MD. MD asks him about what he sees. Subject starts describing a demon right behind the doc and the doc's aura. Subject starts crying. Weird how when the subject first walked in the room he didn't say, "whoa, man, your aura is really bright and there's a freaky demon behind you". Quite the opposite, he acted calm right up to the doc's question. This was pretty comical and painful to watch.

"Hungry for Change" explores the problem with food, nutrition et cetera in America. This is one of maybe 70 similar documentaries available on Netflix. One nice thing about this doc was that the interview subjects did not look down on commoners. A steady message was that eating good is part of orienting your entire life to being better and wanting more. Another message was that it is easy once you're committed to it. Some politically incorrect snippets with one of my favorites being the older female interview subject who said in the midst of a rant (paraphrased) "maybe you're depressed you're a middle aged woman with cats".

Last but not least is "Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox". Ever use the stuff? It's pretty good and has a wacky label. The label is the work of Dr. Bronner. Guy was nuts. He did hit the right note for the right audience at the right time. He made all natural soap with his one world one religion nonsense on the bottle and pitched it to hippies. He also lied about being in a concentration camp (that was his parents), because in reality, he was in the loony bin. He abandoned his kids, but his family carries on with the business. He of course has one son who didn't feel loved and that son now tours the country talking about good business and worker relations, spreading the message and legacy of his dad. Cheaper than therapy. The film was very entertaining between contemporary scenes and archived film of Dr. Bronner.

Let's see: the horribleness of the drug war, blacks are victims and have no control over their decisions, negative view of religion, pro-healthy eating, and pro-hippie/anti-corporations with a dash of Holocaust. The Netflix documentary section in a nutshell.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

They Predicted Warehouse Robots

The robots working this 1950s advertisement's warehouse are a bit more humanoid (they have heads) than the ones we have today. The concept is the same. In our infancy of thinking robots, we still had a drive to make one in our image even if modified similar to the belief that God made us in his image. Instead, we have the reality of today's robots that are machines suited for specific tasks. The humanoid ones are developed by DARPA, Honda's Asimo and the potential makers of sexbots. With how many men work in warehouses, one has to wonder where they thought people would be working in the future?

Oh that's right. We used to think humans would be in space in large numbers. It was the final frontier waiting for us as the deserts and jungles of the west were before the cold vacuum of space. At least we can hitch a ride with the Russians for space station trips.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stupidity or Pure Partisanship

I shouldn't pick on Fats Yglesias, but I can't resist. Sometimes it's his economic and financial stupidity or his mix of aspy, wimpy behavior. Sometimes it's how he perfectly encapsulates the stereotype of the effeminate Northeast liberal, Harvard educated liberal and agnostic Jew (they say, "I'm culturally Jewish but not religious"),  looking like a pyramid shaped slob that I used to pick last in quad football games in college. Cornell was full of them. Yesterday, it was him posting this on why we should tax churches followed seventeen minutes later by this on the rise in college costs. The great thing about him is that he is so blindly a propaganda swallower and writer for the progressives that he doesn't see the connection despite formulating the blurbs most likely simultaneously. Religions and universities both are non-taxed entities. Because of who he is, what side he is on and where he is writing, you already know he's going to propose a financially harmful thing for the outside the state organization while excusing the excesses of the cathedral piece.

Absolutely no analysis is done on the dramatic increase in college costs that outstrip every other expenditure while the return on the expenditure has dropped. Galbraith called university spending consumption and not investment for a reason. What is the purpose of college in the modern world? It's not a comfortable living space for four years or even scholastic enlightenment but to receive an education that will get you good employment and prepare you for integration into the job market. Think the product is better now because of wifi + bigger dorms? Bunk. He mentions wifi multiple times, yet how many majors benefit from wifi use by students? How much of the wifi is for downloading porn and music? America has seen massive increases to college with a crappier product. How many teaching assistants educate students now? What job prospects do students have now compared to 10, 20 or 30 years ago and what is the debt load they have to pay off to get the ticket to the good life? Much worse, yet costs keep rising. On top of that, so many students get churned out through the diploma mills that the value of the degree is greatly diminished. Plus, these colleges are three dimensional, political propaganda advertisements. Yglesias doesn't dare mention simple collective bargaining issues at schools that bump up costs, employee benefits, administrative bloat or God forbid, think unconventionally about why our Ivy alma maters could jack up costs 10 years ago. Universities do this all tax free, which he fails to mention.

In a somewhat light hearted way, he throws it out there that all churches should be taxed. It's not the first time. Buildings, books, etc. are just for private entertainment and do not improve soul saving (per his agnostic view). Seventeen minutes after that, he discusses how college tuition and costs have climbed but the standard of living for a student and experience has improved so it's not inflation per se. He mentions wifi and wifi and well nothing else. This is the problem of the secular, progressive nitwit: he's lost the possibility for spiritual development and saving. Religion is too hokey and superstitious. Religion is about soul saving and about community. These are people one share's a faith and belief system with so, non-soul saving items are important. Replacing a church built 75+ years ago has an effect on the flock. Not just in a new space for worship but what normally goes into the design selection, fundraising and the act of completing the church. I belonged to a church that built a new building as a teen. The coolest part was when the priests discussed what pieces of the old church they would incorporate and bring to the new church.

Beyond spiritual and community based reasoning, this comes down to money. Operations are not taxed, btu this helps all of those bastions of progressive thought, the universities. Paying no taxes makes fundraising for new buildings much easier. That is the main point. The liberals want to financially harm the churches. Marginal churches would close if forced to pay taxes. Destroy or corrupt from within centers of power outside the state's control. The leftoids forget that the other side of Jesus' render unto Caesar statement is that you give to God what is God's not man. God should have your devotion, your faith and your love. Not a simple politician. Not the bureaucracy. Marx and his munchkin descendants of the 21st century are right to attack organized religion as it is a reservoir of resistance to progressive Universalism. It may not act it, but the people who line the pews and engage in the ceremonies and rituals are the reservoir. Power lies in the believer not the 501(c)(3). Strength is in the souls who worked on Notre Dame for two centuries, not the stones. Yglesias and his ilk (journalists, not Jews) will never understand that.

Totally ripping off Chuck Ross, let's rework Yglesias' blurb on churches to schools.

I would go one further. Let's tax colleges! All of them, in a non-discriminatory way that doesn't consider conference, focus or level of scholastic rigor. There's simply no good reason to be giving large tax subsidies to Harvard, Yale, Williams, Swarthmore, Emory or Georgetown around the corner from me. Whichever university you think is the one true university, it's undeniable that the majority of this college-spending is going to support false doctrines. Under the circumstances, tax subsidies for universities are highly inefficient.

What's more, even insofar as tax subsidies do target the true university they're still a pretty bad idea. The basic problem with subsidized college is that there's no reason to believe that college-related expenditures enhance productivity. When a factory spends more money on plant and equipment then it can produce more goods per worker. But education doesn't really work this way. Upgrading a college's physical plant doesn't enhance the educational capacity of its professors. You just get a nicer building or a grander Spring pageant. There's nothing wrong with that. When I was young I always enjoyed the school plays. But this is just a kind of private entertainment (comparable to spending money on snacks for your book club—and indeed what are college study groups but the younger 50 Shades book clubs?) that doesn't need an implicit subsidy.

Meanwhile, nobody thinks colleges and other educational institutions should silence themselves on the important issues of the day. On the contrary, discussing moral action is at the heart of many scholastic enterprises. And much moral action plays itself out in the arena of politics. So trying to say that colleges should get subsidy when they don't endorse candidates is de facto a kind of subsidy to educational doctrines whose views happen to lack strong partisan implications. So if your university says "abortion should be illegal and spending on the poor should be increased and it's too bad neither candidate supports that" you're golden, but if your university says "abortion should be legal and spending on the poor should be increased so good for Barack Obama" suddenly you're in trouble. That's perverse. Just make everyone pay taxes.

I'll mail this to the GOP so they know how to attack college costs for the everyday voter. They can crumple it up and add it to my proposals on breaking up the big banks. Is Yglesias this stupid to not see the connection or is he just such a partisan hack that it's 24/7 with the progressive blinders? At this point, neither answer is good.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Recommended Documentary "Hot Coffee"

If you are a savvy fellow or gal, you do not need to watch "Hot Coffee". You already understand how consent is manufactured. Hot Coffee is great though because it goes meta. It becomes that which is bemoans. It is propaganda about the evils of propaganda campaigns married to political money. Don't watch it though, tell your friends to watch it. Make sure you discuss it with them after and then point out five or so progressive campaigns that have gone exactly as the documentary describes. This movie will reveal to a wide audience exactly how our political process works with the true molders of public opinion and for what ends.

This is a documentary produced and directed by Susan Saladoff. She is a medical malpractice attorney (political donations). Attorneys are great at crafting narratives in courtrooms, so a heavily edited documentary is not a big leap. "Hot Coffee" is about that little old lady that spilled coffee on herself and got millions. It was a prime example of sue happy America. The entire pitch of the movie is that cases like that were blown out of proportion int he media to get the message out there. Later, political operatives on the right took money from corporations and the chamber of commerce to jump on the primed public to pass tort reform bills. That evil son of a bitch Karl Rove got George W. Bush to do it in Texas, and he nearly did it to America. To soothe the liberal mind, you see former President Clinton biting his lip when he says he is vetoing a tort reform bill and President Obama waving tort reform off. Phew. At least someone in DC is fighting for us.

Right when you see how the system works and are disgusted, they hit you with a medical screw up involving a baby. The kid went from normal to disabled because of a medical screw up. Did the family get $6.5 million? No, they only got $1.2 million. The film brings up other sad stories. There is the good politician that the evil right wing business interests targeted. There is also the young woman who worked for Halliburton who said she was raped (jury disagreed) while working in Iraq and forced to accept arbitration (no mention of Halliburton's legal requirement to be an equal opportunity employer even when in an active war zone). This movie brilliantly explains how we go from the media molding opinion to interests finding politicians to politicians enacting and executing laws. They reveal the entire democratic process for reforms, crusades, etc.

Why? This documentary is the very thing that it is shrieking about. The doc wants you to be against tort reform. In fact, it wants you to support repealing tort reform. It even softens you up with the baby story, which kills any parent. The reason why they made this documentary was for their moneyed interests on their side of the aisle. Lawyers. The lawyer lobby is huge. They dwarf donations by many other industries, and are a heavy hitter industry for campaign donations. Their donations go to democrats 75% of the time. The movie is made revealing all of the secrets for political legislative campaigns because the lefties finally found one that was right wing orchestrated. This documentary skips over gay marriage, health care reform, pro-immigration, pro-civil rights, and every other modern political crusade because those crusades are pet issues of the left. Tort reform hurts lawyers. This documentary reveals how single issue political movements work without any fear that viewers would turn the logic back on them because they are so confident in their power over the megaphone. Low information, functionally illiterate leftists buy the big biz only loves the GOP message, but the Obama era has taught everyone how money feeds both parties. This film maker is arrogant to think this would not backfire on them.

This documentary does hint at a problem facing the left in their pursuit of single payer health care. There is a trick to single payer health care that foreign countries use for malpractice. There is a board and set amounts per the malpractice. No trial. No chance for a jackpot. No chance for lawyers to get a nice fat cut for pain and suffering based on a jury's mindset. Believe me, the coffee case reveals how foolish it is to entrust awards to juries. The McDonald's company did set coffee temperatures too high (still are) per franchise rules. The jury (of old ladies) thought that it was wrong of McDonald's to brush away the 700 prior complaints about spills. They then set the award per two days' worth of coffee sales, which totaled $2.7 million. Stop for a moment. This was twenty years ago. If McDonald's sold $1.35 million in coffee per day and coffee then was $1 or less, they probably sold over 1 million coffees a day. Even if they had 700 complaints in one day, that is a success rate of no scaldings of 99.93%. Bamboozled. Personally, I would have compensated her for her medical treatment and the cost of a nice vacation that would last as long as she was in recovery. Class action lawsuits are entirely different, and beyond the scope of this documentary.

The left and our credentialed mandarins constantly want to pull power and decision making back behind a curtain. Experts should be in charge of everything. That is everything except civil suit awards. The documentary makers want you to think that juries deserve the power to set awards without caps. That is a constitutional right (oh, now it matters). What they want is a jury that a well trained lawyer can work like a speed bag. After all, it is only 20 years since silicone breast implants were burning the souls out of upper middle class white women yet somehow they are safe enough for FDA approved use again. Single payer will probably come if current trends continue another twenty years, but the left is going to have to find a nice, fat carrot to hand over to the attorney lobby. Read your newspaper to see what they may be priming us for with regards to lawyer compensation. Don't watch "Hot Coffee", but recommend it to a friend.

Update: Jamie Leigh Jones, the young woman who said she was raped in Iraq, was found to be lying about the gang rape.

Emigrating? Think Uruguay

I can smell the sweet air of nominal freedom, but I see clouds moving in with a cold front. Things getting ominous here in America. The rich get richer, Wall Street crooks still walking the streets and raking in bonuses, the NSA listen to your calls and read whatever you do or send online, everyone who can collect any kind of data on you sends it to the government, billionaires are pushing for millions of new immigrants and there are millions of protesters in the streets people getting fatter and poorer with each year. Thank God for Iphones. Gadgets and technology mask our societal, cultural and spiritual decline. Our crisis, one that an entire Generation supposedly anted for purpose and meaning (Fight Club expressed this best), is not sparking engagement or activity. Leadership sees this apathy and reacts. The cracks in the system are visible, but the elite pushes for more and more. If you're like me, the idea of emigrating before the cathedral codifies thought crime and the system collapses on itself is enticing. If you are looking for a long term destination, be sure to add Uruguay to your list. It is at the top of mine.

Uruguay is a small nation of 3.5 million people nestled on the South American coast between Brazil and Argentina. The climate is warm, there are over 120 miles of beaches, great scores for corruption (lowest in Latin America (LA)), ranked 9th by the UN in livability, second highest literacy rate in Latin America, and a murder rate equal to the United States (low for LA) with a disproportionate number of murders in one section of Montevideo. The HDI score is high (ranked 51st) just behind European and East Asian nations along with small, developed emirates and islands. The nation is 88-95% of European ancestry, with roughly 25% of people of Italian descent. The average per capita GDP is in the mid teens, and the Gini coefficient is the same as America's (good for LA). Drinking water and sanitation receive high scores from the world econ forum. If you're worried about a super-Catholic nation, Uruguay is pretty secular. Some travel forums call it sleepy, insular, quiet or conservative. If you're moving with a family, doesn't that sound perfect? Does to me.

Outside of Montevideo, most cities are under 50,000 people in size. The banking sector is stable, their electricity generation is secure (+95% hydro) with massive exports to neighbors, but the housing stock is rather meh. The government did just legalize marijuana. The public debt to GDP is healthy. They have a decent hoard of foreign reserves to handle capital flows from Argentina and Brazil. The huge pull for an American should be the low hurdle for immigration. Permanent residency attainment is rather quick. After a 3 year residency period (if married, 5 if single) a second passport and citizenship is possible. The minimum income requirement is only $650/month (pension, dividends, income, doesn't matter where from). There is no investment requirement or proof of X level of net wealth holdings or assets required for the government like other nations require for permanent residency or a passport. You get the same rights as nationals. They have socialized medicine. There's Youtube videos on the healthcare situation in Uruguay, and some better providers cost +/- $200/month. Going back to housing, where and what you live in is important, so that might be your challenge. If you happen to be gay, they just allowed same sex marriage to be recognized. One thing to keep in mind is you just have to learn another romance language if you want to integrate more (Spanish).

Uruguay is appealing to me because of all of the above, I already know Spanish and the ease of my family fitting in physically (wife looks "Mediterranean"). I can grow a thick mustache to fit in better. The income requirement is incredibly low, and compared to other countries' immigration policies, there is no six figure donation to the government for permanent residency. One could hit the $650 monthly income requirement with a fixed income portfolio with a $100,000 principal (think post-QE world). One under the surface thing of note is that their imports are oil, cars, car parts and cell phones. If the currency became an issue, you're not looking at electricity or food problems. The idea of having Argentina and Brazil next door for quick vacations is appealing. Argentina was long on my bug out list, but has since become an economic basket case with +20% inflation and odd, aggressive government policies. Uruguay does not have the economic lunacy of its southern neighbor, nor the murderous multiculturalism of its northern neighbor, Brazil. This is just a contingency plan that hopefully never has to become a reality. It is not paranoid to scope out your top five potential destinations years in advance rather than when everyone is scrambling for a lifeboat or a little hideaway. Expat forums are all over the Internet. Be proactive and keep Uruguay on your relocation list.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Egypt's Red and Blue Empire Confusion

If a Blue-Red American empire proxy war is going on in Egypt, it's nice to take a look at some details.

In 2011, Blue empire Sec of State Clinton talked Blue President Obama into booting Mubarak (red client) for democracy. The US took what was really anger at food prices and construed it into a cry for democracy, using the media, secular Google Egyptian employees and great propaganda "Arab Spring" to grease the wheels. Sec Clinton's right hand woman was Huma Abedin. Huma is hooked up with Muslim Brotherhood connections through her family. Not too hard to understand the source of whispers in White House ears for supporting the MB in Egypt. State knew that the only infrastructure in Egypt of political power was the MB, and could have easily seen that a Islamist party or coalition would win elections. State was fine with overthrowing red client Mubarak for a MB controlled civilian government that could subvert the Egyptian military and become a nice dysfunctional client for the blue empire. The goal is more clients and control.

The Red empire is no slouch. If you have noticed the last 12 years, the Red empire has had a nice run. The Red empire's Egyptian connection is between the military education system as well as firepower. It literally is a client for military goods of the US MI complex. The Red interests give the military and deep state the means of maintaining control, which is why Obama stopping F-16 deliveries was so telling. The US sends roughly $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt, with defense contractors reaping some nice sales. Egypt is the conduit by which our government pays off defense contractors. The Saudis are happy with the coup. The Saudis, UAE and Kuwait all pledged $12 billion total for Egypt. Behind the Arabic curtain, Israel has been supporting the Egyptian military's moves. The Gulf kingdoms are Red clients with all of their (oil) military hardware purchases (oil) and autocratic governments (oil) that resist the US State department. Note that the Qataris didn't send Egypt more aid since they support and fund the MB.

In the Red vs. Blue jockeying, blue has more cards to play. Haven't they won every proxy since 1945? Doesn't team blue win all domestic issues? The US government is suspending more aid to send a message. Egypt won't be getting jets per President Obama. US State undermines any chance Red has of helping the Egyptian military and deep state by citing the Muslim Bro. legitimacy having been elected or constantly mentioning democracy and voting in a country that just started voting roughly 18 months ago. US State even mentioned that banning the Muslim Bro would be a bad move. Blue holds the propaganda megaphone, which Red knows full well is an amazing weapon of war. This is an international example of what we see in domestic British or French politics where the left party partners with Muslims for political power.

The Red and Blue teams are not alone in this complicated cocktail on the Nile. Besides the Gulf kingdoms aiding the Egyptian military, the finest of players are getting into the act. Iran's backing the MB. Looks like Egypt's regional neighbors are taking advantage of chaos to push their interests (with China's technical help) in the Nile region. I've posted before on this, but the Sudanese, Ugandans and Ethiopians have incentives for smuggling arms to the MB to destabilize Egypt. Weaken a negotiating adversary. Vlad Putin might or might not be looking to make up for Obama cutting off the Egyptian military. If US aid is mostly military in nature, why not boost Russian arms exports and give the Egyptian military what they need to crush the Islamists? I'd recommend sending lots of night vision equipment. Egypt is a nation with extremely high population density (see picture) with no one living in the vast deserts. Get night vision and thermal units to stop arms smugglers from the south (Sudan) and west (Libya). The US was running arms across an ocean from Libya to Syria, think crossing a dessert border is too tough for the US?

These are truly interesting times. The confusion and multiple actors involved are pushing Syria (last season's global proxy conflict) aside to the back burner and Iranian nuclear issues (massive GWOT tensions) to the sous chef's smoke break doorway. Is reality and the fear of other potential patron powers pushing a blue empire split on Egypt? Obama won't call it a coup, there is confusion on freezing all aid or not, Sec of State Kerry said the military's action restored democracy, and the NY Times published an op-ed (by a credentialed professor) critical of the Muslim Bro's management, citing the need for stability and government control that might not be democratic. US media outlets have even spotlighted the brutal attacks on Coptic Christians, which they previously hushed up when the MB was in control of Egypt. Sounds like a team in disarray. They migth be playing for time to pick a nice puppet who is just the right amount of Islamist (wasn't that the marketing for Morsi?). Is there something different about Egypt? Egypt has 84 million citizens, dwarfing Syria and mid-2000s Iraq (same for GDP comparisons). Egypt has nicer relations with Israel, which is an informal part of Egypt's blackmail aid deal with the US. Egypt also has the Suez Canal. Randall Parker at Parapundit says the NY Times does not offer enough clues to figure out who will win, but  that might have to do with Blue empire confusion.

My guess is as follows:

Egypt's military will secure order. It will come with US support or with support from Russia/China. Russia more than China will gladly pick up a client who is at the keystone position in Africa, controlling the Suez. The Russians did this with Nasser half a century ago. If it is with Russian/Chinese backing, then the military will have a clearer victory. Breaking from US patronage is difficult, so this is a lower probability event. The fear of losing a client who has such a prime strategic naval position (come on, it's why England was there before the US) will most likely cause the US to come to their senses and let the military crack down as much as they want for order yet allow some Islamists to have a seat at the table. The change in future US aid will hurt the Red empire and help the Blue by substituting simple food stuffs for military equipment, weakening the Red client's dominant force position. Food becomes affordable again but the military gets fewer toys. Islamists will find some power and work the long game. This way, the military stays in the catbird seat, secularists are protected and some Islamists are included in the power structure to guarantee problems further down the road for the Red/Blue proxy conflict to reignite.

It's always about home politics, never about the foreign pawns. A country does not have allies, only interests. If I were a general in Egypt, I'd take my chances with a patchwork of money from the Gulf kingdoms, Russia and China. The Sudanese of the north killed a couple million Christians to the south of Sudan in a civil war, but no one invaded them despite Hollywood and media agitation. It pays to export oil to China. Other African countries rich in resources are learning this, too.

Quick Thoughts on "Network"

Ed Driscoll has a nice essay on the movie "Network". It inspired me to rent it off of Amazon Prime ($2.99). Driscoll does a nice job binding modern political oddities with the fictional aspects of Network. Driscoll's off though on the centralization of so much in our economy. Sorry, Ed, if you read Chris Martenson's essay from earlier this summer, you'd see that just 147 companies own 40% of everything. Beatty's speech in the movie also mentions the recycling of dollars, as the Arabs did have a deal to recycle their oil wealth into US Treasuries and contracts with American firms to give the money back to us. They still do. We've recruited other countries into the system as well (petrodollar + Bretton Woods Two). It's our dollar system. Your ideology is blinding you to reality.

There was no specific corporate purchase of a media company that inspired the development of the movie. The screenwriter was just reporting on the state of television in the mid '70s. Network's message of the corporate take over the news and the drive for profitable news programming was ahead of its time. Murdoch had just bought the NY Post in '76, GE was a few years from buying NBC and Disney wouldn't buy ABC for decades. Chomsky is an idiot about many things, but the ownership of media entities by other corporations is something he properly hammers. It may take decades, but creating alternative institutions to challenge that TV news dominance is what is required. In the meantime, turn on Network and enjoy fantastic '70s film making.

Note: As you watch, you realize Faye Dunaway's hard charging woman in a powerful business position was an anomaly in the '70s (portrayed as a villain) but is a woman you bump into more now (media portrays them as courageous). Here's a great line from her,

"I was married for four years, and pretended to be happy; and I had six years of analysis, and pretended to be sane. My husband ran off with his boyfriend, and I had an affair with my analyst, who told me I was the worst lay he'd ever had. I can't tell you how many men have told me what a lousy lay I am. I apparently have a masculine temperament. I arouse quickly, consummate prematurely, and can't wait to get my clothes back on and get out of that bedroom. I seem to be inept at everything except my work. I'm goddamn good at my work and so I confine myself to that. All I want out of life is a 30 share and a 20 rating."

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Joyce McKinney + Boogie Nights

If you have Netflix, check out Tabloid. My wife selected it,a nd I expected something lame about a sexy, smart chick fighting the system in the '70s. Nope. Just one crazy bitch. In short, a southern belle beauty (yet she was Miss Wyoming) with an IQ of 168 falls for a Mormon. The Mormon goes on mission, she tracks him down in England, kidnaps + rapes him with the help of another guy, he turns her in when given some freedom, she is a British tabloid sensation, and then she escapes to America. The Brits never try to extradite her. Now reverse genders and tell me if a man with the help of a friend could kidnap and rape a woman, be released on bail, flee the country, and never go to jail? Thought so. The British press uncovers a ton of BDSM, sex work, pornographic photos and other salacious news that reveals how fucked up she was. The rest of the documentary is basically her rambling and slowly becoming crazier (agoraphobia).

Personally, I picked up autism vibes from her. Females with autism are rare, but she seemed to fit the bill. She was mentally off at the least. I also like how everyone danced around how she had men all over her, had a weird slave/master relationship with one man (she's the master) with other men paying for her to perform on them, yet she became obsessed with a young Mormon seven or so years her junior. Odd thing. In all her sex work, she never had intercourse with male clients. Odd thin. She always brought her dog, Millie, with her to sex jobs and photo shoots. The documentary moved from being about the kidnapping to just being about her. Completely unexpected. I could have listened to her talk to the camera for 10 hours. She was amazingly delusional. She seemed to believe every word that she said. She had bought her version of the truth so sincerely, that I was inensely engaged with listening to her bullshit tales. This is Masterprole Theater and Human Zoo TV combined for your pleasure. I highly recommend it with a couple of drinks.

Why is she a missing "Boogie Nights" character? It's the '70s. She's a former beauty queen supposedly with an IQ of 168 who does sex work, including freaky BDSM stuff. She gets involved in an international kidnapping case over her obsession with a tall, fat guy. She escapes to California. Becomes a recluse who loves her dog a bit too much, eventually having him cloned. Here's how she fits into Boogie Nights. She's Jack Horner's (Burt Reynolds) daughter from an old marriage that he got into after WW2. He had a child with a woman who performed in his old stag films. The girl was raised in material comfort, was hot, and had Jack's brains. She also was a complete mental case with a porno parent crew. She could have been written in as Jack's daughter who swooped in and out of his life at odd times with wild situations. I envision a scene where she seduces a young Dirk Diggler, ties him up for freaky stuff that he's too stupid to understand, and then she's stopped by Jack before she can perform on him. Like everyone else in Boogie Nights, no matter how clean or good things look on the outside, there's a shattered stain glass of a soul inside.

Caffeine Fueled Tangent: How the hell was there no Boogie Nights HBO series? Start the show in the mid '70s with the spread of Deep Throat and Marilyn Chambers going from a soap model to a porn star (WTF but true). Boogie Nights is really about a family. Jack Horner's hodgepodge, broken misfit family. A potential series tracks the spread and downfall of porn just like the movie did, but you can cover a year or two in a season. Season one can be the recruiting of Rollergirl (her finding her rollerskate schtick) and Dirk leaving his family for Jack's porn family. Add in Amber's custody issues, Reed's goofball routine, Buck + Becky w/'70s black liberation issues, Luis's night club + Jack's house for settings, Jack making mad money with the Colonel and sex and drugs (tasteful nudity) and you have a rocking first season. Season one is fun with hints of darkness just like the film. Progressively turn the show darker with departures both sad (many) and happy (few). Introduce new characters as the storylines evolve (Jessie, TODD PARKER!, Floyd Gandoli). I'd make one character just "the coke guy", then name him in season 3. Jack gets a real daughter based on Joyce McKinney. Sex sells, but producers need to think they can get an award with your drama.

Go ahead laugh, but you know this would be a hit. If Laura Prepon can show her tits (better late than never) and lez out on a Netflix series, we can get actresses looking for a breakout role to do it for Boogie Nights. There's plenty of material within the movie itself as well as the subject matter and time. The movie was 2 hours and 40 minutes long with multiple little side stories that were not teased out but made you think (why was the Colonel arrested?, Dirk's parents, Amber's kid + ex, Becky/Buck's relationship). New story arcs could be Rollergirl trying to go straight and live a normal life but falling back into porn, which happens all of the time. For the gays in Hollywood, you could even add in a hot gay guy, and show Jack film one gay flick for the better money it makes (Beer debate: was Jack gay?). I can see a dark, drug filled disco to afterparty to weird sex sequence between sliding down from peak fame Dirk + some chick in a flimsy deep V neck halter top set to ELO's "Last Train to London" (wait, college?). We're in a '90s/'70s nostalgia cycle (including fashion) with cultural malaise, economic woes, Middle East problems and tribalism back. There has also been enough time for separation from the original role interpretations. We live in a pornified world full of much more barbaric forms of pornography a Google search away. Give me creative control for a '70s series on the early days of porn. It'd beat the daylights out of Newsroom.

Fuck it, I'm turning this into an ebook series in the next few years.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chinese Problems

To ward off any accusations that I am too bullish on China's changing role in the world, here are some links about their problems.

Via Zero Hedge:

The economic paradigm of the last 30 years is coming to an end for China. They have never dealt with issues like what they face now. Oh no, what will the new leadership class do!

China is going through a credit crunch. There is both a liquidity problem and a bad loan problem. How the government decides to handle it will have global consequences.They are not alone.

The Chinese bond market is a mess and their banks own two-thirds the market.

Completely sold out ghost cities. This is a problem when you have a country that saves 40-50% of its income but doesn't offer many investment choices. A smart FIRE economy professional would have parachuted into China and suggested they build Health Savings Account programs for workers since the Chinese social safety net is slowly starting to form (note to self: learn Mandarin).

China's Xi goes more Maoist. No democratic reforms. Aw shucks, they don't get to enjoy the sweet smell of democracy that Iraq, Egypt, Zimbabwe and the West luxuriate in daily. (via Walter Russell Mead)

China to end their one child policy (something I predicted to jump start a consumer economy). (via Telegraph)

Unfit military recruits. Can they build their own aircraft carriers and boost their navy? If they focus on cyber war, finances and gold, they may not need to fire a shot.

Bonus Big Monetary Picture Note: Jim Rickards thinks along lines I've cited that China wants to use the SDR to give the yuan a reserve currency role but not the reserve currency pole position.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Budgeting for Food Stamps

Another eating on food stamps article popped up today. This time it was our local Indy Star with the propaganda. Food stamps, SNAP, is the supplemental nutrition assistance program, and comes in combination with other benefits for our massive underclass. The logic that this is ALL a person has for buying food is a joke. A person on food stamps might work, might receive WIC, might receive SSI, SSDI, section 8 or workers comp. Those benefits are separate from food stamps, so shouldn't there be some scratch for food on top of food stamps? Yes, of course, but that is logical. This is American media, so sentiment rules, facts be damned. To help all of these stunt "I was on food stamps for a week" articles, here is how a single person can budget on the $132 they get a month through SNAP.

5 greek yogurts at Kroger cost $4
Dozen eggs $3
Bag of 6 english muffins $1.25

You can buy a combination of the above 3 items to make 30 breakfast meals for cheap. Try 10 yogurts, 2 dozen eggs and 1 bag of muffins for $15.25.

4 containers of lunch meat $3 container
4 loaves of bread $1-2/loaf

If you're on food stamps, you're poor. This is supposedly temporary though as the liberals always proclaim, so you might have to tough it out. It's not a permanent lifestyle per SWPLs and disingenuous white liberals. A month of sandwiches will cost you $16.

Stouffer's French bread pizza ($3.50 for 2 pizzas)
Box of spaghetti $1
Economy jar of sauce $0.88
Can of vegetables $0.80/can
Economy bag of rice $5
Chicken breasts $10/pack of 3 breasts

There is no wide variety of foods here, but the food is simple, and you can spice it up with whatever sauces or spice you want. A box of spaghetti and big jar of sauce (if frozen) can make 4 spaghetti meals easy. Those are your Wednesdays. Friday night is Stouffer's night, so 2 boxes will cover those 4 nights. Now for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. That is 20 nights. The bag of rice will cover every side starch, and a can of vegetables will last two meals, so 10 cans will do. A women (the journalist) should have half a chicken breast per meal, but let us allow for 5 packages of chicken for $50. All of that together adds up to $72.

Grand total: $103.25. The journalist would have $29 to spare on whatever food they want as a treat that are food stamps eligible monster energy drink, fried chicken, pre-made sandwiches or McDonald's. I'll admit this was easy since my uncle volunteered for a Catholic charity that set up a chart for how to budget for different levels of SNAP funds.

It is possible to live on food stamps. It's also not a bad thing if people on food stamps have to eat limited meals that piss them off, which might give them inspiration to get off food stamps. This is not the point of these political stunts or journalist experiments. Cory Booker did this and blew through his meal allowance with Starbucks (for a pedicure I bet). The entire point of the article is to deflect from fools like in the video here, the nation of fat asses around you on food stamps, and stories of food stamps used for scams. This journalist is engaging in the fraudulent life is hard reporting like in Nickel and Dimed. A priest from the journalist class sinks down to the poor's level to live on their wages and welfare yet never changes their way of living. They still do their lifestyle but with no money, see it not work, then claim the poor can't get by at all. The goal is to get middle and upper-middle class people to see that it is so tough and these programs shouldn't be evaluated for the effects, incentives or outcomes. The poor are a prop in the short sob story in the paper. The government programs need to be kept because these completely innocent poor people with no control over their life have it so rough *sniff sniff*. You need to feel bad for these people or else you're an awful person.

Look, look how weakling journalists can't make it on $132 a month for food only!!! The 2.7 billion 3rd worlders living on $2 or less a day collectively rolled their eyes.

Thanks for linkage Cap.

Death of the West: Viking Whalers

National Geographic had an interesting article on Norway's dying whaling industry and whaling communities. Like the sea mist itself, it is an entire way of life evaporating into nothingness. The breathtaking photos are at another link. The whaling communities are dying from a combination of bigger fishing companies, the oil industry sucking young men away but mostly, the people saying no thanks to that way of life. Permits for X number of whales go unfulfilled. Money is not an issue as they make good money. If they loved the area but didn't want to work, Norway also has a very healthy and wealthy social safety net thanks to being the Saudi Arabia of the North. There are two things the article dances around but appear to have an effect. First, the effect of modernity + consumer culture drawing children away from a way of life that lasted generations. Second, the effect of young women leaving the island. We cannot solve or address any problems because the ideology the media supports will not discuss all factors.

The youth of that region of Norway are pushing back and saying no to the fishing and whaling industry. Why? There are small references to ecogroups sabotaging and terrorizing fishing boats decades ago. Could there be a link to the under 40 crowd saying no to whaling and fishing after those eco-battles? What of the non-stop environmental propaganda? The NatGeo article mentions how there are only 1600 whales hunted a year worldwide (down from mid-20thC peak of 80,000), yet there was recently an American reality TV show called "Whale Wars". Combine this with the propaganda of the big city fulfilling all your dreams, it is not too much of a wonder that Norwegians are saying no thanks and breaking that multigenerational chain. The work is hard, but some men do it, so why have their numbers gone down? The decline is a taper, not a total cut off, so NatGeo, maybe you could explore the space. How could generation after generation fish and hunt for whales, yet the post-'68 crowd runs from it? There have been other social changes and even world wars, but whaling and fishing thrived after short term set backs. The writer doesn't delve into what makes recent history so different.

Completely off the writer's table, and this might be a stretch, but what are whaling and fishing? They are industries that are heavy male. They are location dependent due to where the fish and whales are. Take a peak at the end of the article and in the pictures. Check out the photo of the girl mentioned at the end going off to study and live in the big city maybe to retire when she's older back home. She's a cute girl. She's going to follow her sisters who went off to become a lawyer and doctor. Over/under on total children by all three women at 1.5? I'll take the under. If the young women of an area are running away, the guys will leave as well. It's like local bars. You get girls to show up, which then brings in the guys. Young men aren't going to stick around for a rough trade, which yields good money, if there are few if any cute girls to fool around and form families with in proper ratios. Norway's fertility is 1.77. Marriage is dying, too. The youths must be finding fulfillment in their self actualization and big city jobs. Wrong again.

The whales are there. The fish are there. It's the people. The article does rightly square some blame on larger fishing business firms and the people themselves saying no, but it never gets down to why they are saying no. The small fishing town life is not enough anymore. Yet the lives in larger cities are empty. Family breakdown and social atomization is the expanding problem even in wealthy, healthy Norway. Even the small town folk of northern Norway are susceptible to the call of narcissistic entertainment and pleasure rather than being a part of something far greater and older than themselves. Whaling and fishing worked for Vikings for Christians for centuries. Norse mythology and culture is engaging and poetic enough to still linger on in Hollywood + Americanized versions today in Thor. Norway's whalers withstood busts, depressions, technological advancement and good substitution, but it was no match for progressivism and modernity.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

1960s Perfume Ad

"Finally spritzing that perfume nabbed Mr. Square Jaw. His suit is tailored! Swarthmore professors told me to get a job in the city and work, what a boatload of crap. I don't even have time to do my hair up anymore. I'm stuck buying food in these tight awful grocery stores. Those bastards at Sullivan + Cromwell treat me like shit, and the only associates talking to me are losers who couldn't nab an undergrad at Radcliffe, BU or Simmons when they were at Harvard Law. Did he just ask if I modeled with the Ford agency? Handsome, he has money, but I saw the ring before he saw me. That left hand is firmly shoved in his pocket. The new divorce laws mean if I play my cards right, he'll leave his wife for me. Hopefully he takes it off before we get to wherever he wants to eat. The Oak Room! Keep it together girl. Divorce or no divorce, it's attention and gifts from a wealthier man. I'm on the pill, but my roommate is a drag, so dinner at the Oak Room and sex a few floors up sounds fantastic. Thank you Tweed!"

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Stan Lee Lie on Iron Man

Stan Lee was a pretty awesome comic book creator 50 years ago. Some of the characters he created lasted so long that I read them decades later as a kid. Not really, because I didn't like Marvel. I did like McFarlane era Spiderman and the Jim Lee X-men, but I didn't really get into the others much. The X-men would occasionally get their asses kicked while the Avengers always somehow pulled out the win. Iron Man is the rage now with the successful films, but I did not read that at all. Stan was pretty productive and this was all before cocaine. It's always sad to see old people try to suck up to the young crowd. Mr. Lee is a lying douchebag and for the weakest of reasons with regards to Iron Man, sucking up to liberals.

He was building shit castles when he made the following remark:

I think I gave myself a dare. It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military....So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist....I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him....And he became very popular.

No, no you are being a revisionist right there Stan. That is your spin on Tony Stark and Iron Man after the end of Vietnam and 40 years of post-Vietnam anti-military leftism. Iron Man debuted in 1963. Stan, you may not know this, but some people know the '60s not just from what the TV and movies tells us they were (really '68-'75 was those '60s). Even Mad Men has helped the masses in this regard. In 1963, America's involvement in 'Nam was still mostly special forces trainers and military advisers with our total troop level at 16,000 in Vietnam. Diem was still alive! The Gulf of Tonkin incident was still a year away, and at that time, Americans supported the war. Even funnier Stan, I just spent a day going through May 1965 issues of the NY Times on microfilm, and Vietnam wasn't even the primary foreign policy troop story in the op-ed section or on page one. It was the Dominican Republic's civil war and US intervention in the DR. Three years after you debuted Iron Man, what was a no. 1 music hit, Ballad of the Green Berets. It was a ballad, a ballad, about elite soldiers.

Sorry, you're right Stan. You are the creator after all, not like you'd want to spin a story and recreate a motive. It's not like you were coming up with a tall, dark playboy millionaire >Batman< who would use his money, brains and training to construct cool gadgets + equipment and fight evil >Batman< after losing his parents >Batman< and inheriting the family company and fortune >Batman<. Stan was just pranking everyone into loving the pro-military, anti-communist industrialist. Stan's lying because there was (and still is) a huge reservoir of young men who want to be all the things Bruce Wayne is and does. Adding in a supersuit and making the alter ego a genius engineer/inventor who still gets the ladies only adds to the comic book guy nerd attraction. How many men went into engineering because of our space program? In the early to mid '60s, Lee wanted to have a techie Batman that fought commies. Of course fans loved it! Reworking his history, Stan Lee just wants to appeal to the cool kids of today and the tastemakers who would love the subversion. Iron Man worked because even after Vietnam ended, government corruption was uncovered, the best and brightest were shown to be slow and flawed, there were still millions who wished we hadn't fought those damn Viet Cong with one hand tied behind our back.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Root of Egypt's Unrest

Egypt is going through it's third round of protests. There were the 2011 protests against the tyrannical Mubarak. There were the early 2013 protests against the tyrannical and ineffective Morsi. There are now the Muslim Brotherhood inspired protests against the military led coup/non-coup in August of 2013. All protests get the support of the American media. To recap, these protesters are protesting the will of the protesters who protested the first protesters' will. Looks like the Muslim Brotherhood is taking my advice on inciting violence and lingering around to get invited to the table by the big boys. This will work because eradicating 100% of an insurgency is next to impossible, and it appears the US is sympathetic more to the MB than the Egyptian military (Blue/Red empire divide). Lost in all of this is food. Simple fact of Egyptian life is that if food is expensive, the people will riot.

Let's jump into the wayback machine and check out wheat prices. Wheat went through the same crack up boom of nearly all commodities in 2007-2008 (go to the 10 year chart). That was the same time every idiot was saying peak this and peak that, as if the entire world was running out of every commodity at the same time. It was  monetary phenomenon. The FED can't control where liquidity goes, and in 2007-2008, it went into commodities. The price of wheat skyrocketed from $195/ton to $326/ton by September of 2007 to $439/ton by May of 2008. By January of 2009, wheat prices were back to the low $200/ton. You know what else flared up during late 2007 into 2008 only to subside by January of 2009? Egyptian social unrest and protests. There was a political basis that was boosted by unrest over food inflation. Much easier to wrangle protesting hordes from hungry masses. Carnegie didn't notice the correlation or causation. These protests were swept under the rug in the West as we went through our form of inflation anger (gas and evil Bush). Wheat prices cam down, the Egyptian government cracked down on dissidents, and the Egyptian authorities made sure bread subsidies kept the prices in check.

Hidden from Mubarak and the Egyptian military (and many sane people), Ben Bernanke was warming up the computers for QE 1, 2, 3 etc. QE 2 started in late 2010, and commodity prices responded. Some investors frontran the QE2 and started boosting commodities. Wheat popped up starting in mid 2010, jumping from $157/ton to $279/ton by September. By January of 2011, the price of wheat was back to $320/ton. It got worse. Similar price spike as in 2007/2008. What else started in January of 2011? Hungry Egyptians who couldn't afford food started protesting in the millions. Egyptians spend 38-45% of their income on food (data depends on source). This was no cry for freedom. It was simply peasants wanting to be able to eat and begging for a leadership class that would provide affordable food. That is their social contract. It's been the same since the Pharaohs.

There is no politics involved by the people in the streets. They are just hungry. The politics is in the leadership of the Islamist parties (especially the MB with their foreign funding) and the US State department looking to replace a military hierarchy and Red Empire client with a weak and needy democratic power. The top dog part of the Egyptian social contract is the battle, as are the economic spoils that go to said top dog. The NY Times is silent on the hunger front, which may be for want to portray any conflict as one of man on the street political will and voice. The new struggle over political power is where they want to focus rather than the basic functions of government, which the Egyptian military could handle well as they did throughout Mubarak's reign.

The sinister connection is back to our monetary policies. The Times is also silent on the Wall Street-FED connection to manipulating food prices and toying with consumers both in the first and third world for a daily profit and year end bonus. The origins of this lay way back in the year 2000 with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act and a little quote from Mr. Robert Rubin that commodity traders don't make money in times of stable commodity prices with little fluctuation. Rubin learned this when Goldman bought Aron in the early '80s. He wrote, "the relative stability of commodity prices, improved communications, and increased competition had eliminated the meaningful profit opportunity". They need volatility to make money. Mubarak, stable food prices for third world countries and marginal third world citizens are collateral damage for the boys on Wall Street. Games are played, bonuses are paid. Hey, it's only food.

Anti-Larry Summers Links

The odds on Larry Summers being the next FED chair have passed the odds for Janet Yellen. They both have their flaws and strengths. I just can't see nominating Yellen when she has stated she didn't see the financial crisis coming until it happened. Gee, thanks Janet for your awesome powers of observation while sitting in a position of power. I'm hoping it is not Summers, but he's Rubin's boy. Their relationship goes back to the '80s. Rubin is still running the show (head of CFR/Harvard + major fundraising reservoir on left). Geithner is advising Obama on the FED pick, and Summers hand picked Geithner for roles that were way over his head throughout the '90s. It's a bit scary to imagine Summers in charge of the FED, and here are some reasons why beyond Summers not having a vagina or being an egotistical ass.

Whomever is the next FED chair is painted into a corner by Bernanke's actions and has the Wall Street syndicate pointing a gun at them if they don't get their way. The words and actions of Yellen and Summers can give us clues about their thoughts, but still, they will be reacting to whatever crisis hits after Bernanke's bubble pops.

1. I couldn't find a link to it, but Summers has given plenty of speeches since the financial crisis. At one conference in 2011, he was asked about the threshold that an economy can have for debt (household, consumer, public, external). Summers did not think there was a threshold in 2011. Check out the Americna historic debt levels and compare them to levels in 2011. He saw upside. Message: FED can expand its balance sheet to push credit out for growth. Let's blow up government debt. The FIRE economy built on debt bubbles will continue.

2. Summers is a believer in the idea that in a depressed economy at the zero bound (where we are now due to ZIRP) government fiscal policy can have a huge positive effect on stabilizing the economy (link). Brad DeLong contributed to that one, which is interesting since DeLong recently said "Bernanke defines what the market is". Message: government stimulus programs in ZIRP = growth.

3. Speaking at the CFR in 2009, he wanted to give the FED more powers. The government cannot be an actor in this but should be a free safety (NFL analogy). Quote: "We do not want to be owners; we want to be stewards to structural soundness and nothing more. And that is why we will work to transfer government holdings into private hands as soon as possible." (link Message: Did you see DeLong's quote with the prior paper? It's about power. Let me decide who are the winners and losers. Let me cut deals for government assets to private hands. I'll take assets to the tar pits and let the hyenas bite off what they want for what they want to spend (resurrect PPIP), leaving a rotting carcass behind for Americans.

In short, I suspect a FED chair Larry Summers to expand the FED balance sheet to absorb new trillion dollar deficits in the next downturn and to print money even more if the foreign purchasers disappear from the Treasury market. The debt party will go on, inflation be damned, dollar be damned. Similar to my last post on Summers $50 bil print in '99 bubble for Y2K, when the hell is anyone at a major media outlet going to bring this stuff up?

Is it inappropriate to sleep at meetings? Aspies gotta aspy.