Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why Quantitative Easing Is A Really, Really, Really Bad Idea

Greg Mankiw, on the economics faculty at Harvard, is completing a book. This isn't news, since this is what he does for a living.

However, he is chasing one final detail--the identity and contact info for the photographer who took this photo in Zimbabwe, the 21st century's most audacious example of what Ben Bernanke and Da'Fed are subjecting us to in the United States.

Given the chaos and violence that overtook Zimbabwe, formerly that idyllic gem of Africa known as Rhodesia, this photographer may well be, well...dead.

It can happen anywhere, even in highly organized and cultured societies like Germany--the place that gave us Bach, Luther, Goethe, Schumann, Brahms--the list stretches on through all the arts and sciences, ended up with everyone wiped out and hauling wheelbarrows of notes to the market for a loaf of bread. Then someone came along and 'solved the problem'--little short guy with a moustache and a lot of pent-up hostility toward anyone who wasn't his kind of Aryan. You know, that guy...

Just because we're American, don't mean we're bulletproof. This really can happen here, and in his grumpier moments, OS suspects that TheClownCircus and WeimarBen are working toward that day. Just sayin'.

OS wishes Prof. Mankiw good fortune on his search.

David Kernell, The Creep Who Hacked Palin's Email In 2008, Is Sentenced

What can be said about a true creep?

A former University of Tennessee student who hacked into Sarah Palin's e-mail during the 2008 presidential campaign was sentenced Friday to a year and a day, with the judge recommending a halfway house instead of prison.

U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Phillips also said David Kernell, 22, should get mental health treatment, based on defense comments Friday that he has had conditions including depression since he was 11.

Kernell hugged family members and friends after hearing the sentence. He declined comment as they left the courthouse with his attorney.

He was an economics major when he deduced the answers to security questions and read e-mail in Palin's private Yahoo account.

The son of a Democrat Tennessee state legislator, this bright boy hacked into Sarah Palin's email account, and boasted of it online.

The defense claimed, and the judge agreed, that the poor boy needed 'mental health counseling', while spending a year and a day in a halfway house. Poor, poor boy. Poor child.

Do we wonder why young blacks his age RAGE against the culture? If they're caught with weed or cocaine, it's off for a long stretch at the state pen, or picking up litter for a year alongside the road in a striped suit.

A politically-connected college student, who created chaos in the life of a Vice-Presidential candidate, and cost how-many-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars? in the effort to shut him down and bring him to justice (complete with a jury trial!), gets the halfway house and a shrink, at taxpayer expense.

This kid leaves the courthouse smiling, recites the apology dictated by the lawyers (Now, remember kid, ya' gotta sell it!), and moves on to the rest of his well-connected life. No doubt the University of Tennessee will quietly welcome him back, and he will find a career in the Democrat party machine.

The black kid who gets out after selling weed will be unemployable, and back on the street.

Moms and Dads: If you plan to send your kid to UT Knoxville in 2012 or so, the creep's name is DAVID KERNELL. He is a felon, he is a creep, and he will be on campus with your child.

Here's his picture. He's the one on the left. He is a creep. He'll be in your child's world, and in yours. Change your passwords regularly, and make sure your kids steer clear of him. He's on the front end of his career.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Deficit Reduction: The Home Mortgage Interest Deduction And More

OS has watched in amusement as both the Hard Left and Hard Right beat their breasts in anguish (sincere anguish, I tell you)over the modest proposals of the panel tasked to examine alternatives for spending reductions and revenue enhancements.

Great breast-beating has occurred over the idea that the home mortgage interest deduction should be eliminated. One would think that the world is about to end, and-let's-all-get-ready-for-Jesus-to-show-back-up, over this idea.

It's really not a bad idea. It takes some of the moral hazard for home purchase off the tax system. It will drive down the purchase price of houses, and help keep mortgage rates low for a long time. It will remove one governmental distortion in the real-estate market, which cannot be a bad thing. It will encourage homeowners to pay mortgages off early, since there is no 'tax reason' for letting that weight hang around the neck. It will curb the practice of the 30-year (or more!) mortgage, which is pernicious. Used to be, most mortgages were 7-to-10 years, max. The idea was pay that sucker off, and not use the house as a personal credit card. We used to buy houses to live in, raise our kids in, and let the estate sell after we were gone. If the estate recouped the purchase price+capital improvements of the house (adjusted for inflation), plus a modest profit, everybody grinned on the way to the bank. That approach created stable neighborhoods, and very few exploding banks. The local Savings and Loan used to fund and hold the mortgages as well. Remember, before the Banksters moved in on us all?

It will raise Mr. and Mrs. OS's yearly tax bill, but not by a statutory rise in the tax tables. The federal government must find a way to both severely reduce spending, and take in more money, both without upending a fragile economy.

But, this is a negotiation, ya'll. Ain't no free lunch for the guv'mint, to be sure.

So, the guv'mint takes away the deduction, and gets some money in the door. In return, they slash three dollars for every dollar they get in from this change in the tax code.

Here's a list of candidates:

The EPA--cut it by 75%--and not a penny toward 'climate-change' regulations. They concentrate on clean-enough water to irrigate farms, and clean-enough air for the metro areas. Period.

The Department of Education. Cut it by 85%. Tell the states they own their school systems, and to figure things out on their own, beginning with making sure that home-schoolers aren't harrassed. No more running a loan-sharking operation victimizing college students, potentially enslaving them. No more unfunded mandates, no more 'grants for this and that', no more, period. Keep an office for the Secretary, who will be a charismatic cheerleader and Congressional butt-kicker, and give him/her a staff of ten folks (about the size of a Congressional staff) to do the job.

Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It goes away, and never returns.

National Endowment for the Arts. Ditto.

That's a good beginning.

OS will gladly move official retirement age to 70 forthwith for a second round of cuts, including the repeal of ObamaCare. Our health insurance premiums just went up 15% this month, with no major change in actuarial bracket, and no dramatic health conditions noted to justify the change.

Eliminate that prescription medicine thing as well, and slash the Commerce Department in half.

Eliminate the capital gains tax, by Constitutional Amendment.

Pass and enforce the Balanced Budget Amendment to the US Constitution. Most states have that in their constitutions, they have every right to expect in the Federal Constitution. We will see de facto secessions in the next decade unless this is addressed.

See how this works? Everybody's gonna have to give stuff up, 'cuz we can't survive as a culture on our present course.

Take away Medicare from 2025 onward, with the proviso that all Obamas, Pelosi, Reid, all Clintons, all Bushes, Dick Durban, Barney Fwank, John McCain, Olympia Snowe, and Sarah Palin all retire from public life immediately, and promise to never run for anything again, or endorse or raise money for anyone else running for anything, from President to local county alderman. Vote them all generous pensions, with the proviso that they all move to places like Tasmania or the Canary Islands. They can work on their suntans, but they have to leave us alone.

WeimarBen and LittleTimmyGeithner resign forever from the Fed and Treasury, and depart the money business permanently. The Fed, if allowed to live, is broken up and its wings are clipped.

Now THAT would go a long way toward solving our problems. We'd have gold at $200 the ounce, and DOW at 18K in short order.

Let OS freely make money, and he'll happily pay taxes to the greatest nation in history.

Raise the taxes, but solve the problems.

Give and take.

In Memoriam--Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Nashville, TN

The announcement just hit the news today.

After serving Nashville for thirty years, Davis-Kidd Booksellers is closing its doors.

Cincinnati-based Joseph-Beth Group, which purchased the business from founders Karen Davis and Thelma Kidd in 1997, today announced the closure of the store, located in the Mall at Green Hills, as it filed a Chapter 11 reorganization petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court at Lexington, Ky.

"Davis-Kidd has been an institution in Nashville. It breaks my heart to have to close this store," said Neil Van Uum, owner of The Joseph-Beth Group, in a prepared statement.

The announcement said inventory liquidation sales will begin in mid-November, continuing until the store closes in December.

Founded by Karen and Thelma in a small location in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville in 1980, back when that part of town was its own small town--brick ranches, everybody in a church, the local public high school, the local private girl's school, the Green Hills shopping center, the locally owned grocery, the little YMCA. Before it was discovered, and the cheap money flooded in, and the MacMansions started going up, and the mall was built and expanded, and the traffic jams of late model cars carrying ladies with lately-reconfigured faces and and other body parts took over...before it became GREEN HILLS!!!, you know?

OS visited on one of its first days in business, and was hooked. It was quiet, friendly, with benches to sit on; and it was obvious the owners loved books, loved their customers, and loved the business they were in. They built it, moved it to larger digs across the street, built it again, and sold it in 1997.

Good for them. The American Dream. OS hopes they made a killing.

The book retailing world is now unrecognizable from those sleepy pre-Amazon, pre-cable news, pre-TalkRadio, pre-internet days. Add a huge recession, stir vigorously.

It was a real whocoodanode situation for the new owners, and only sympathy goes out to them.

And to all of us, who love books, and bookstores with owners who love books and customers.

Here's hoping, as the mess shakes out, that some 20-something with sufficient capital, business savvy, and the same drive as Karen and Thelma will find a winning recipe for book retailing in OS's hometown.

That, by the way, is what the bankruptcy law is for--to wind down failed businesses in as orderly a fashion as possible, and open the door for new ventures.  Someone, please make sure Washington gets the memo, lest someone attempt to revive the expired patient with a transfusion of tax dollars.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day/Veterans Day 2010

OS has a most busy day ahead, and will be brief.

OS has the prospect of this busy day because so many young men and women left everything behind to face down the forces of darkness, especially between 1914 and 1954--let's not forget Korea, on either side of the pond.

OS was a tourist in Cambridge in 2006, and visited as many of the colleges as he could, as were open to outsiders. It was heart-wrenching to see the lists of names on the memorials, in each chapel, to the boys lost in those years. The sheer length of the lists was staggering, given that the colleges are so small, as is the country.

Likewise, to drive through a small Canadian village in the prairie, and see dozens of names on the monument was heartbreaking.

Closer to home, OS's own mother lost two of her best high-school friends, one in North Africa, and one on D-Day. Tom, lost on D-Day, OS suspects, was the love of her young life. She never admits to it, but the mention of his name brings tears of grief even today. She was so very pretty and bright in the 1940's, and the loss killed something inside of her as well. She married a Marine who survived the Marianas Campaign, and was spared Okinawa; and here OS sits, typing away, still attempting to sort out all that history, the tapestry of so many untold stories that shaped him and in many ways bedevil him even today.

My father, now gone these two years, lived a life built around the friendships from his Marine company. He outlived them all, and lived his last few years in profound loneliness. He never would open up and tell his stories, refused the invitations to return to the Marianas with the vets organizations. He could have afforded it, and would have helped him so much.


So, onward to a busy day of meetings and the list of small duties and large projects that define this good life.

Thank you, all of you, if you served the cause of freedom for the US or Commonwealth.
OS hopes to repay by living a life worthy of your example.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Miaow!! Miss Birbalsingh Responds To Yet Another Leftie Ad-Hominem Slap

There's an old lawyer joke in the South:

If'n-ye ain't got the law, pound the facts!

If'n-ye ain't got the facts, pound the law!

If'n-ye ain't got the law nor the facts...pound the table!

The table-pounding is beginning in earnest about Miss Birbalsingh, the lovely, gifted, and eloquent Miss Birbalsingh. The Left's bad dream, who ain't gunna go away.

OS's readers in the States might ask, 'Why should we pay attention to this?' And it's a good question. They're over there, we're over here. And there are some pretty significant differences.

But, there are some significant similarities, and lessons to be learned from our English cousins. They offer some insightful voices we need to heed, like Miss K and Daniel Hannan, who warn us about what may lie ahead if we don't change course.

Likewise, our English cousins study us closely. Their ancestors stayed behind, while ours climbed onto ships to attempt life in an unknown place. Until recently, we've been the envy of the world.

The UK (as well as much of Europe) post-war, officially embraced The Welfare State in many aspects of life, especially in education and medical services. Our academics and elites, in love with all things 'Over There', longed for, and pushed us toward their model.

They're falling apart 'Over There', ya'll. This very morning 40,000 UK university students are responding to the news that their guv'mint is out of money, and tuition fees are about to rise dramatically. They're in London, rioting and vandalizing the HQ of the Conservative Party. Rather warms the heart if you're a British taxpayer, does it not? Those crazy kids, always getting into mischief...

So, back to Miss K.

Yesterday, Ms. Millar, a journalist, decided to vent about Miss K, a teacher, and anyone else who dare contravene the Lefts's orthodoxy:

I have been in two minds over whether to write about Katharine Birbalsingh, the south London deputy head whose scathing attack on state schools was lapped up at the Tory party conference. Over my several decades as a journalist, I have seen several Katharine Birbalsinghs come and go. They emerge from nowhere; catch the media's attention, often because of the way they look. Would she have made the same impact if she had been white and middle aged?

Around 1% of what they say is true; the rest is usually eye-catching propaganda that plays into the prejudices of the audience. In my experience these characters usually inhale too much of their own publicity, get over-promoted and vanish as quickly as they appeared.

Birbalsingh is only one of the players Michael Gove has hired to bolster his flagging flagship policies. Arne Duncan, Obama's education secretary and Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, have also been recruited for more rhetoric about broken systems and intransigent teachers.

Can ya'll say Bitch-Slap? I knew you could!

Miss K, whose feelings are still understandably raw about the whole sequence of events, tries to defend her honor.

My certainty comes from my own experience and that of thousands of colleagues I have met along the way. I have felt so strongly about this that I have put my own welfare to the side and attempted to tell the country what has been hidden from them for so long. I didn’t mean to end up in the newspapers. I just wanted to tell the truth. Who knew what controversy the truth would spark?

I have said it before, but it seems I need to say it again. I used to stand up at assembly all the time and say: “Be like Martin Luther King. Be like Nelson Mandela.” How then could I, when facing the music, not try to do the right thing? I may be unemployed, but at least I know that if ever I get the chance to stand at assembly again, I can hold my head up high.

I want something more for the children of Britain, for the kids I have taught and for the kids I will teach. I didn’t speak out for myself. I spoke out for them.

High time. But Miss K is taking the beating for it, and it obviously hurts.

But, the same story is being played out here. OS follows news from the NEA, the US's largest teachers union. The union pounds two themes: Send us more money, and don't ask any questions about what we do, or what results come of it. We're the teachers, and you taxpayers and parents aren't qualified to have an opinion.

Here's an example of a very recent offering, discussing the teaching of tolerance of homosexuality to elementary-aged children.

This approach has been followed for the past forty years. It hasn't worked, ya'll, in case this needs to be said.

In Tennessee, one factor keeps the unions a bit more in check: The legislature is very friendly to home-schoolers, and it is relatively easy to set up a private school in the neighborhood church. Mindful that families can vote with their feet, and that those families vote in elections, their behavior is a bit more circumspect.

Nuthin' like a little competition to keep ever'body honest...

OS has much more to say, and much more he can't say, but ya'll have been patient enough.

Hang in there, Miss K. Jest remember, folks start pounding the table when they've lost the argument. You got beat up, but you won. The schools on both sides of the pond suck, and the Libs have created the mess.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So, Who Is Paying For The Obama South Asian Victory Lap?

In great part, the US military, that's who.

Isn't it funny how libs who run for office declaring their undying hostility toward 'the military-industrial complex' discover, upon entering office, that Gee-Wally it's neat to be Commander-in-Chief, with alllll those toys to play with and people to order around. One begins to feel, well, god-like. Suits Mr. Obama's ego like a tailored outfit from Savile Row

James Corum continues:

...the president is travelling with an entourage that would dwarf the armed forces of even large nations (US Navy ships deployed, a fleet of aircraft and vehicles, hundreds of advisors) and displaying a level of pomp and ceremony that would have impressed the old Raj, some American newspapers have been noting the cost of $200 million a day. For a president that runs up new spending in the trillions, this is small change. But he will be coming back to face a new Congress. And, after a two-year spending binge, he is asking it to make some major cuts – in the defence budget.

As it happens, the defence budget is the main source of President Obama’s lavish travel budget. When the Congressional committees – after January to be controlled by conservative Republicans – look at his wish to cut defence, they may note that the cost of this latest trip could have paid for a squadron of new F-35 fighters for the US Air Force, or a destroyer for the US Navy, or a whole new brigade for the US Army, complete with personnel and armoured vehicles. Republican Congressmen may note that America could have bought itself some real security in the form of men and equipment for a military worn down by a decade of conflict.

There is a story, repeated often, so it likely has some truth to it, about the unlamented President Lyndon Johnson. This guy was a Texas Democrat machine politician from Day 1, and assiduously avoided military service in the 1940's, even though his colleagues in Congress were resigning and joining the military. He did discover the joys of free air travel and nice billetings in the Pacific theatre, though.

Later, he loved being President, 'cuz it gave him his own army to play with. Hells-bells, this guy was personally calling in airstrikes on Vietnam from the oval office.
Don't get much better than that ya'll--pick up the phone, and the carriers launch the planes, things go BOOM and pilots and people on the ground die horrible deaths. All before lunch.

So, one fine day, President Johnson is ambling toward his waiting Marine helicopter, when the the sentry on the stairs attempts to direct him to the other chopper in the pair that was about to take off. Sez the sentry: 'Mr. President, this isn't helicopter, sir. It's that one over there!'

Johnson doesn't miss a beat. He leans over to the sentry and exclaims over the prop wash: The're allllll my helicopters, Corporal!

Come January, TheOne will hopefully have what his views are about the Taxpayers owning all that stuff.

Those choppers aren't his toys, and those people operating them aren't his chattel.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Plain English, Black Humor: The Fed's QE2 Announcement Translated For The Rest Of Us

This, in OS's humble opinion, is eye-wateringly funny.

(You'll need to click the link to understand...)

An intrepid soul at Slate Labs has created a tool to allow the translation of obtuse, jargon-filled articles, designed to mask the truth from the reader, into Plain English.

The tool itself is called 'Plain English', it's still in development, and the possibilities are breathtaking, if it were to be employed widely.

It works like this: Each original phrase is highlighted. Click the phrase, and the Plain English version appears. Since OS doesn't have the tool, he'll have to just describe it:

(In this example, the latest pronouncement from WeimarBen and the Fed is translated.)

The original phrase is--Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in September confirms that the pace of recovery in output and employment continues to be slow.

The Plain English version is--The economy still sucks.

The translation gets funnier from there.

A few days back, OS noted that candor comes with a terrible price to the one willing to exercise it. That's 'cuz the jargonistas have taken over, and have learned to use language as a means of confusion rather than communication. Then when normalistas (you know, people who have consciences and think that words have meaing) encounter this nonsense and melt down in frustration, the jargonistas calmly look over their glasses, chide normal people for being stupidly ill-tempered, and call security.

We may finally have a weapon with which to fight back! Plain English! Laughter! It's the secret of Mel Brooks' genius--Blazing Saddles and The Producers are both great examples of Plain English humor.

If nothing else, it can help relieve the stress. Hells-bells, ever'body! When the Fed just got through printing up 1.2 trillion dollars out'ta thin air to buy up damn-near ever' mortgage in the country, then decides to throw another 800 billion on the fire, just fer good measure, ya just gotta laugh!

It may well all end in tears, but we gotta keep morale up, one household at a time, 'cuz life will have to go on, on way or t'uther.