Saturday, February 5, 2011

Subsidizing small farms

Some of the comments are pretty strange.  One attacks GMO corn because they are hybrids and not open varieties.

Ridiculous Wall Street pay

Yves Smith takes down the explanation that traders on Wall Street earn their pay:
This is the usual “heads I win, tails you lose” logic. The rationale for bulging pay packets is that the producers created it, therefore they deserved their cut. But Eckhaus says any bad events are due only to bad luck. Sorry to tell you, but only narcissists and their agents take credit for good stuff and lay the blame on everyone else. Unfortunately, we breed for that in Corporate America, it happens to be a very effective career strategy in large organizations. The New York Times even went so far as to identify “acquired situational narcissism” as a danger afflicting high profile people surrounded by groupies and sycophants.

The Irish bank mess

Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair:
On March 13, 2008, six months before the Irish real-estate Ponzi scheme collapsed, Ingram published a report, in which he simply quoted verbatim what British market insiders had told him about various banks’ lending to commercial real estate. The Irish banks were making far riskier loans in Ireland than they were in Britain, but even in Britain, the report revealed, they were the nuttiest lenders around: in that category, Anglo Irish, Bank of Ireland, and A.I.B. came, in that order, first, second, and third.

Naked Capitalism link of the day

Today's link: How did Imbolc become Groundhog Day? at Care2

Friday, February 4, 2011

Amish Criminals

A story about Amish and shifty Mennonites breaking the law to deliver raw milk. (h/t Conor at the Dish) The start of the article:
Wearing a black-brimmed country hat, suspenders and an Amish beard, "Samuel" unloaded his contraband from an unmarked white truck on a busy block in Manhattan. He was at the tail end of a long smuggling run that had begun before dawn at his Pennsylvania farm.

As he wearily stacked brown cardboard boxes on the sidewalk, a few upscale clients in the Chelsea neighborhood lurked nearby, eyeing the new shipment hungrily.

Clearly, they couldn’t wait to get a taste.

But he wasn’t selling them anything they planned to smoke, snort or inject. Rather, he was giving them their once-a-month fix of raw milk — an unpasteurized product banned outright in 12 states and denounced by the FDA as a public health hazard, but beloved by a small but growing number of devotees who tout both its health benefits and its flavor.
All I can say is, people love farm-fresh brown eggs.  I think they are hard to scramble.  To each his own.

Okay, deep breath

I've kind of gone on a jag today.  Better lighten up a bit.

Why Republicans can't govern

OK, this is only one example of the stupid hobby horses Republicans ride when they are in power, but why would anyone serious about actual governance worry about such stupidity:
As founder of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, Norquist dreams of the day when all 3,130 U.S. counties, parishes, boroughs and independent municipalities have something, anything -- a school, a street, a library -- named for Ronald Reagan.

This president earned it fair and square because "he broke the back of the Soviet Union and turned the economy around," Norquist told Politics Daily. Reagan left office in 1989, publicly announced he was battling Alzheimer's disease in 1994 and died a decade later at 93.

"Every school, road, or courthouse that we name after Ronald Reagan becomes a teaching moment. It will open the door for parents to explain to young children who Ronald Reagan was and to provide a catalyst for learning to those who were too young to remember him in their early years," proclaims the Legacy Project website.
I think it would be appropriate to name the National Debt after him.  Thanks to his leadership, Republicans have determined that tax cuts always increase revenues and never increase the debt.  That is his true legacy.

Update: "he broke the back of the Soviet Union and turned the economy around,"-I don't think naming shit after Reagan is going to turn the economy around today, how about sticking to addressing the economy and lay off of the naming.  Then again, Republican "governance" got us into this, I don't think it will get us out.  Blind luck is our only hope.

Second update: As anyone who attended Warren G. Harding elementary school could attest to, oftentimes buildings named after someone don't heighten that person's legacy, it mainly depends on what that legacy is.

More on beating the lottery

Two posts by Joshua Green.  From the first one:
This story struck a chord because I also figured out how to beat scatchers (to an extent) while working at a liquor store during college, although not nearly as efficiently as Srivastava did and using "math" that was more or less limited to counting the fingers on my hands. The liquor store was in a pretty shady neighborhood that attracted a lot of alcoholics who loved playing scratchers. I think they liked the social aspect of it as much as anything--hanging around the store and bullshitting us as they rubbed off their tickets. Alcoholics are impulse buyers when it comes to scratchers. They'd buy five, scratch them off, and if they didn't win, they'd buy some more. But these were not wealthy individuals. At a dollar a ticket, they could rarely play more than 10. Then they'd mutter, crestfallen, and go collect enough empty cans to buy a 40.

Scratchers are a simple odds game. The tickets come in packs of a couple hundred. Watching alchies scratch tickets all day, you eventually realize that there are a more or less fixed number of winners per pack. You also realize that if the ten tickets just scratched were losers, there's a pretty decent chance one of the next ones will be a winner. So I fell into the habit of buying a couple tickets anytime I witnessed an alchie on a losing streak. I'd scratch 'em off in front of the poor guy, and more often than not, I'd win a few bucks. Occasionally, even $50 or $100. This would drive the alchies absolutely berzerk--which was great entertainment for bored liquor store clerks who make $5 an hour. And every once in a while, you'd go home with some extra cash.

El Rushbo and race

Conor Friedersdorf does an excellent job covering an article on Rush Limbaugh in Commentary, and highlighting Jonathan Chait's response.  Conor's wrap up is great:
In partisan politics, the knee-jerk reaction is to defend whoever on your side is being attacked in the media, whether they're right or wrong. What's happened lately is that Rush Limbaugh makes a remark that is intentionally racially provocative, knowing he'll be attacked in the media for it – the offensive mockery of Chinese dialect is the latest example – and true to form, many on the right defend him, no matter how outrageous his remarks.
Apparently they're oblivious to the problem: the knee-jerk instinct to rally around your ieological ally is problematic in this case because it entails rallying around a racial provacateer who consistently exploits America's fraught relationship with race in order to play on the anxieties and prejudices of his audience.
For all Rush Limbaugh's supposed brilliance and quick-wittedness, he would be terrified to debate a critic in a neutral written form – he knows that stripped of his broadcasting mastery, call screeners, and a medium where flawed arguments drift into the ether without rebuttal, his ideas would be shown for the weak, contemptible, indefensible nonsense that they are. A bully in the recording studio, he is too cowardly to test himself in direct debate on the Web.
It is good to see somebody who leans conservative take on the shameful race-baiting and worthless pontification of Rush.  But one of the quotes from Chait's post stands out to me:
Limbaugh is obsessed with race. In his telling, racism against whites does not just happen here or there, it has overwhelmed -- indeed, completely replaced -- traditional white-on-black racism. "Racism in this country is the exclusive province of the left," he says. In Limbaugh's world, minorities deploy racism endlessly and with impunity against whites, who are hamstrung by out-of-control political correctness. He presents Obama's agenda as the blacks' revenge against White America for slavery and Jim Crow. ("He's angry, he's gonna cut this country down to size, he's gonna make it pay for all the multicultural mistakes that it has made, its mistreatment of minorities.") Even such disparate events as a random school bus fight between a couple kids who happen to be black and a kid who happens to be white reveal, in Limbaugh's fevered mind, a widespread pattern of racial victimization against whites triggered by Obama:
You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, "Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on," and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white.
This attitude is so prevalent amongst people I have conversations with, it is almost unbelievable.  To listen to them tell it, white men in the United States suffer under reverse apartheid.  They are the most repressed ethnic group in this country.  Likewise, when they start talking about Islam in the United States, you would think that Christians are a distinct minority with no religious freedom.  According to them, there are too many mosques in this country already, and we shouldn't allow any more to be built.  Sharia law is going to be put into effect in the US.  Living in an area with nearly no blacks and nearly no Muslims, I don't understand where this idea would come from, if it weren't being blared into these folks' houses on television and radio.  Actually, I realize such ridiculous fears have been around ever since the civil rights era, but I am still puzzled by their persistence.

Today's Dilbert

Unfortunately, I am too dumb to manipulate this so that it is visible. Click here to see it fully.Dilbert.com

More Ohio Politics

I am sure that with Republican majorities throughout state government, concealed carry of firearms in bars and restaurants will reappear as an issue.  Last year, during discussion of this issue, State Rep. Danny Bubp showed just how low the bar is for some one to become a representative (low enough that I could get 30% of the vote in a primary).  He dropped this gem of a quote on the state:
“I want to be able to go as soon as possible into an Applebee’s, and O’Charley’s or somewhere with my weapon. I don’t want to leave it in the car like I do now.” — State Rep. Danny R. Bubp, R-West Union.
I'm sorry, but is this man anticipating a violent conflict at one of our local chain restaurants?   Apparently.  he followed up with this gem:
“If someone goes into a restaurant and gets hurt because they can’t defend themselves, I’m going to be the first to say we should have done this.”
What loony world does this moron inhabit?  I am guessing that West Union, Ohio can't be easily confused with Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Look, I don't really care if a new version of last session's bill passes.  I feel perfectly comfortable strolling into Ruby Tuesday completely unarmed, whether the vigilante in the next booth over is armed or not.  I'm not going to piss my pants because I can't take my gun into the restaurant with me.  But I have a hard time understanding the chicken shits who imagine shootouts in the most boring restaurants on earth.  Do they think they can protect themselves from every possible calamity that may befall them.  Look at the Tucson shooting.  Armed citizens couldn't stop the attack because they couldn't tell the good guys from the bad guy.  Maybe Rep. Bubp should also pass a law requiring bad guys to wear black hats, but unfortunately, bad guys break laws about shooting people, so they probably won't follow that one either.  In the end, I hope that no one with an itchy trigger finger accidentally shoots a person for looking suspicious, like being a black man in a chain restaurant in hick ville.

Maybe the 13th time is the charm

Ok, to set up this story, one must understand that during the Progressive Era, reformers introduced voter referendums to the Ohio Constitution.  Among the issues which can come up for referendum are local zoning changes.  Because of this, a stubborn landowner and his equally stubborn neighbors can inflict this travesty on the world.  Since 1995, a 50 acre property has been rezoned 13 times, and voted down 12 times.  After the most recent rezoning, neighbors have vowed to overturn it again.  The property abuts an existing subdivision which consumes 160 acres.  Look, I don't really care for development, and would like to see land remain in agricultural use, but this case is crazy.  As an impatient and easily angered individual, I would have long ago made known my intention to construct a livestock confinement facility if I were the landowner.  Barring that, I would have made public demands that the neighbors step up and buy the damn land for development prices if they want it to remain as farmland.  A property owner should be able to develop the property if he wants.

Two Minutes Hate

Sometimes, hatred of the Steelers overwhelms musical taste and decency.  This is one of those times.

Employment report, ctd.

Calculated Risk says:
The 36,000 payroll jobs added was far below expectations of 150,000 jobs, however this was probably impacted by bad weather during the survey reference period. If so, there should be a strong bounce back in the February report.

The decreases for the long term unemployed, and for the number of part time workers for economic reasons, are good news - although both levels are still very high. The average workweek declined slightly to 34.2 hours (possibly weather related), and average hourly earnings ticked up 8 cents.

If we blame it on the weather, this was a solid report. And we will know about payrolls in February.
Shows what I know.  What can you expect from a natural pessimist?

Map of shame

Click to enlarge
from Pleated Jeans via Ritholtz.  I am shocked that Ohio is labeled nerdiest.  This site should be all the refutation needed.  All the more appropriate because the statistic behind that is most library visits per person.  Somebody is pulling my weight.  Each state label is explained.  For example:
47. Washington: most cases of bestiality (4 reported in 2010)
http://www.pet-abuse.com/pages/cruelty_database/statistics/state_ranking.php?year=2010&search=go

Naked Capitalism link of the day

Today's choice: The Empire's Bagman at Counterpunch.  I won't say much about Egypt.  I really don't know much about it.  I tend to like the idea of people throwing out dictators and establishing freer governments, but Americans seem to make events like this about us.  We make it sound like Egyptians are risking their lives to be more like us.  Then we start wondering about who we should be supporting, whether one group or another is better for the US and Israel.  I hate to say this, but not everything is about the US and Israel.  What is the most important outcome of this is whats good for Egypt.  Anyway, this article deals with a guy who deals with our strongman ally in Egypt.  This portion hit home:
Obama came to Cairo in 2009, and said, "America does not presume to know what is best for everyone." Those words should have been cast in gold and placed in the portico of the White House. Instead, they drift like wisps in the wind, occasionally sighted for propaganda purposes, but in a time of crisis, hidden behind the clouds of imperial interests (or those of Tel Aviv). America presumes to know, and presumes to have a say equivalent to those of the millions who have thronged Egypt's squares, streets and television sets (one forgets about the protests of the latter, too tired to get to the square, nursing sick children or adults, a bit fearful, but no less given over to anger at the regime).
Maintaining empire is ugly business.  The British were damn good at ignoring all the dirty stuff going on.  It turns my stomach.  Let me stay in my rural community, and not take an active role in it.

Why I love to read Naked Capitalism

I enjoy reading Yves Smith's blog, Naked Capitalism, but have to skip many articles because they get pretty deep in the weeds, and those weeds are over my head (pretty easy given my stature).  But here is a perfect example of what I like about the blog:
Now to Norris’ truly bizarre column, in which he argues that circumstances now are very much like those of 1983, when forecasters were not optimistic about the odds of unemployment falling quickly, when lo and behold, it did.
The problem is that there are some of us who are old enough to remember 1983, like yours truly. And 1983 has about as much resemblance to today as a merely badly out of shape athlete does to one who is in the hospital and is refusing surgery (or in our case, structural change). Even though I do have the bad habit of reacting strongly to nonsense in the MSM (it’s such a frequent occurrence that I should be used to it by now), I expect more from Norris, who has to know better. I sent a short set of comments to a jaded economist colleague who also remembers 1983 well (and has also analyzed that period), with my message starting, “This is complete horseshit and Norris should be embarrassed.” His reply, “Yup. Totally stupid.”
No punches pulled there.  The rest of the post destroys the offending column.  That kind of stuff, whether directed at the media or investment banks or mortgage brokers or anyone else, is informative and enjoyable. Seeing somebody viscerally react to the stupidity and criminality which has plunged us into this mess is cathartic.

Employment Report

Terrible news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 36,000 jobs added in January, well below the 150,000 the market expected. To add insult to injury, the unemployment rate fell to 9.0%, a drop of 0.4%, as more people gave up on looking for work. As state and local governments cut more jobs to close budget holes, and the Republican congress and the President begin slashing spending to close a giant budget deficit fueled by stupid tax cuts and wasteful wars, the economy will pull back to anemic growth, or possibly a second recession.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chug-a-lug

Don't trust investment banks

Michael Lewis:
As he tells Henry Blodget and I and in the accompanying video, Lewis is, in general, highly skeptical of the large Wall Street brokerage business model. “The stock market is not necessarily rigged against individual investors,” he says. “But if you’re listening to what brokers are telling you, they’re shading the odds against you rather than for you.”
Why? The big firms have evolved since the 1980s, “away from servicing the customer and maintaining nice, happy relations with the customer to managing friction with the customer on behalf of the firms’ traders,” Lewis says. Since large Wall Street firms are trading in the same stocks, bonds, and other securities that they’re advising institutional and individual customers about, “there’s an inherent conflict of interest and you’re not likely to come out of it well if you’re on the other side of the desk.”

On South Dakota, the Militia Act and The mandate

Jack Balkin eloquently saying what I tried to say and more:
What is lost in the debate over the individual mandate is that the point of the individual mandate is also civic republican in nature. It requires citizens to make a far less significant but also public-spirited sacrifice on behalf of other Americans who cannot afford health insurance. Individuals must join health insurance risk pools to make health care affordable for more of their fellow citizens. This is a very modest request that individuals not be entirely selfish and that they contribute to the public good in a small way by helping to make health care accessible and affordable for all Americans. Indeed, under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, one doesn't even have to purchase insurance; one can simply pay a small tax instead. And one doesn't have to pay at all if one is too poor to do so or has a religious objection.

The notion that being asked to either buy health insurance and make health care accessible for one's fellow citizens--or to pay a small tax-- is a form of tyranny akin to George III's regime is simply bizarre: it shows how perverted and twisted public discourse has become in the United States. The assault on the individual mandate is really an assault on the public duty to assist other Americans in need, and in particular, an assault on the legal obligation to pay taxes to contribute to the general welfare. The assault on the health care bill is not a defense of liberty. It is a defense of selfishness.
I really don't understand why people who have employer-provided insurance get so upset about the mandate.  If they lose their jobs, they'll still need insurance, unless they want to risk losing whatever property they have.  The mandate just pushes the healthy to get insurance, to help the unhealthy afford insurance, it is something I think the healthy should have, and if it helps somebody else out, even better.

Republicans in 2012, ctd.

George Will features Rick Santorum:
Santorum appears four to six times a week on the Fox News and Fox Business channels, which are watched - particularly the former - by much of the Republican nominating electorate. And for three hours every Friday he hosts William Bennett's nationally syndicated radio program, which also has a mostly conservative audience.
Santorum does not ignore economic issues, but as a relentless ethicist, he recasts those as moral issues: "What is European socialism but modern-day monarchy that 'takes care' of the people?" He is, of course, correct that America's debt crisis is, at bottom, symptomatic of a failure of self-control, a fundamental moral failing.
Is there going to be a candidate who doesn't have a show on Fox News, and will said candidate have a prayer?  I don't see a candidate who tells the American people that we are in this situation because it is their fault making a bunch of headway, no matter how much truth there is to it.  The banks easily hold much blame, have gotten off extremely easily and are back to their thieving ways.  No matter how much column space Will wastes on him, I think Rick Santorum is the Sam Brownback candidate of 2012.

Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes?

Death of 200 steers linked to bad potatoes.  I'm confused.  I blame sweet potatoes.

Porcelain works the best

Kid:   'Hey, you're a drunken posse. Wow! Can I join you?'
Homer: 'I don't know. Can you swing a sack of doorknobs?'
Kid:   'Can I!'
Homer: 'You're in, here's the sack.'
Moe:   'But you gotta supply your own doorknobs.'"
-- "The Simpsons", episode 1F09, "Homer the vigilante"
It sucks that most of the Simpsons clips have been taken off of Youtube.

The buzzards are circling

New York Times Co. reports 26% drop in 4Q profit. Actually, the Times is in much better shape than most.  I was raised reading newspapers, and the inexorable decline is depressing.  I get a good portion of my news online, but I think the newspapers will continue to have difficulty turning the online news into revenue.  I have always been entertained by various newspaper names (The Blade, Post-Intelligencer, Bee), much like the multitude of strange trade union ( Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union) and religious order (Congregation of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) names.  None of these groups is thriving.  But, the Courier-Journal, the Post-Dispatch, the Journal-Constitution and others are a reminder of the last era of failing newspapers.

A lockout or strike in the NFL?

Serious talk.  I don't understand what leverage the owners have.  Nobody wants to watch Jerry Jones do anything other than get his ass kicked, and let's not even start on Mike Brown.  The 18 game season is crazy talk, these players get absolutely pummelled in 16 games.  Seriously, how many running backs last 7 years? Why do the owners deserve any more of the cut?  And finally, more games either means the Bengals will start out 1-10 instead of 1-8, or they'll end up 7-11 instead of 5-11, or both.

Naked Capitalism link of the day

From today's : Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code at Wired.  I liked this portion:
His next thought was utterly predictable: “I remember thinking, I’m gonna be rich! I’m gonna plunder the lottery!” he says. However, these grandiose dreams soon gave way to more practical concerns. “Once I worked out how much money I could make if this was my full-time job, I got a lot less excited,” Srivastava says. “I’d have to travel from store to store and spend 45 seconds cracking each card. I estimated that I could expect to make about $600 a day. That’s not bad. But to be honest, I make more as a consultant, and I find consulting to be a lot more interesting than scratch lottery tickets.”
Instead of secretly plundering the game, he decided to go to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Srivastava thought its top officials might want to know about his discovery. Who knows, maybe they’d even hire him to give them statistical advice. “People often assume that I must be some extremely moral person because I didn’t take advantage of the lottery,” he says. “I can assure you that that’s not the case. I’d simply done the math and concluded that beating the game wasn’t worth my time.”
Also this:

A new day in Ohio

Governor selects first minority for cabinet.  This surely has nothing to do with the pressure he was receiving last week.  Anyway, it is good the governor added a little diversity to his cabinet.  His comment about not looking at the color of the skin, but only looking for the best people doesn't sound good when the only good people he finds are white.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Losers

I looked up what teams had the longest losing streaks in professional sports, to see if the Cleveland Cavaliers will be able to break them, and happened to come across the longest losing streak I had ever heard of, Cal Tech lost 207 straight games in Division III men's basketball.  Here's a list of ten long streaks, including a boxer who lost 88 straight bouts (not me, I retired after 5).  But here's a story putting forth the Washington Generals as the losingest team, and it starts with a Simpsons quote:
Krusty's accountant: "Let me get this straight. You took all the money you made franchising your name and bet it AGAINST the Harlem Globetrotters?"
Krusty the Clown: [miserable] "Oh, I thought the Generals were due!"
Note: The Cavs last won on December 16.

Books

I picked up a number of books in the last few weeks, but one I'm waiting on until it comes out in paperback is Daniel Okrent's Last Call:The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.  I heard him in an interview on the radio, and it sounded fascinating.  Any recommendations?

Make girl scout cookies at home

I'll leave this to actual bakers. From Seattleweekly.

Amish Paradise

Krugman on Beck

Ok, probably too much Beck, but Krugman takes on the hyperinflation crowd.

Ouch

Ok, I stepped out onto the sidewalk, and fell down again.  Nice work, dumb ass.

The Blizzards of 1888

The Schoolhouse blizzard:
The blizzard was precipitated by the collision of an immense Arctic cold front with warm, moisture-laden air from the Gulf of Mexico. Within a few hours, the advancing cold front caused a temperature drop from a few degrees above freezing to −20 degrees Fahrenheit (−40 °F in some places). This wave of cold was accompanied by high winds and heavy snow. The fast-moving storm first struck Montana in the early hours of January 12, swept through Dakota Territory from midmorning to early afternoon, and reached Lincoln, Nebraska at 3 p.m.
What made the storm so deadly was the timing (during work and school hours), the suddenness, and the brief spell of warmer weather that preceded it. In addition, the very strong wind fields behind the cold front and the powdery nature of the snow reduced visibilities on the open plains to zero. People ventured from the safety of their homes to do chores, go to town, attend school, or simply enjoy the relative warmth of the day. As a result, thousands of people—including a significant number of schoolchildren—got caught in the blizzard. The death toll was 235[1]. Travel was severely impeded in the days following.
Followed two months later by the Great Blizzard of 1888:
The Great Blizzard of 1888 or Great Blizzard of '88 (March 11 – March 14, 1888) was one of the most severe blizzards in United States' recorded history. Snowfalls of 40-50 inches (102-127 cm) fell in parts of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and sustained winds of over 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) produced snowdrifts in excess of 50 feet (15.2 m). Railroads were shut down and people were confined to their houses for up to a week.
Over 400 people died from the storm and the ensuing cold, including 200 in New York City alone.

The best ever

Fox, Glenn Beck and the Elderly

There have been a number of posts about Glenn Beck, and how older folks who watch the show are difficult to reason with. Now I can't definitively blame Beck for political misunderstandings in my family, but I have heard two or three other people say that their parents watch Beck and are impossible to talk to.  I personally don't understand how people can believe any of the crazy crap he talks about, but apparently he is a very convincing performer.  Unfortunately, that is exactly what he is, and his performances make him rich.  That is not a good way to contribute to the public discourse.  Watch video at your own risk.


Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo

Naked Capitalism link of the day

From today's links: Here's the Real Cost of Food Inflation in America at Business Insider


Click to enlarge

Thanks for the input...

...but massive winter storms do not disprove global warming/climate change.

Deleveraging and Government cut-backs.

From Calculated Risk:
From Dina ElBoghdady at the WaPo: Low rates prompting more 'cash-in' refinances
In the fourth quarter, 46 percent of borrowers who refinanced their primary mortgages brought cash to settlement to lower the balance on their loans, Freddie Mac said. That's the highest share of so-called "cash-in" refinances since the company started tracking the numbers in 1985.
Some people are doing 'cash in' refis because they have negative equity, others to avoid PMI, and apparently a large number are bringing cash to closing to meet conforming loan limits:
Among them is Amy Rifkind, an attorney who wrote a check for about $70,000 when she refinanced her home ... By doing that, Rifkind and her husband brought down their loan balance below the $417,000 mark and secured a 4.25 percent rate.
The deleveraging is taking money out of the consumer's hands.  It is great for their balance sheet, and very necessary, but added to cuts at the state and local government levels, and potential cuts at the federal level, and we will probably see very minimal growth and very little job creation.

Snowpocalypse

Luckily, it looks like my neighborhood dodged the worst of the winter storm.  The power is out at the double-wide I rent out, but I've got power at home.  I missed a couple of big blue arcs that lit up the sky, and what appeared to be a tree or power pole on fire, according to my neighbor.  The temperature warmed up in the night, and brought most of the ice out of the trees, preventing severe damage when the wind picked up. 

When this not-so-graceful correspondent went out to feed the chickens this morning, I took a pretty good spill on the ice, spilling the chicken feed.  It was probably worthy of a spot in a YouTube montage of wipeouts, but probably couldn't stand alone, unlike the time I was kicked squarely in the junk by a cow (luckily frank, not beans) or the incident when I slid off of the roof of the corn crib while I was painting it.

Once I got up off of the ground, I discovered the ice was blocking the door to the coop, so I had to get out the maul and break it out.  Chalk that up as another design flaw of the coop.  Damn engineers.

Thanks Phil

In the midst of a brutal winter storm across the nation's midsection, Punxsutwawney Phil predicts an early spring.  The article goes on to say, Phil makes Accu-weather look pretty accurate.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Farmers getting pummeled

Also from Ritholtz:

Tonight’s Open Thread: Who are the biggest recipients of Corporate Welfare?
Let’s start with:
Big Oil: $4B
Corn Growers $XX B
Defense
Agribusiness
Banks
The comments aren't too kind either.

A land-use geek battle royale

New Urbanists vs. Landscape Urbanists (h/t Ritholtz):
In their lectures and writings, Waldheim and other landscape urbanists paint the New Urbanists as nostalgically stuck in a conception of city life that ignores the changes brought by the modern service economy, the Internet, and the highway system. Americans have unequivocally demonstrated that they would prefer to live spread out, and the landscape urbanists argue it’s a delusion to believe that one can force the toothpaste back in the tube with zoning laws and design schemes.
“This notion of city center and suburb is a counterproductive differentiation,” said Pierre BĂ©langer, one of the new landscape professors at Harvard. “Cities and suburbs are actually part of urban economies.”
Proponents of the New Urbanism have not been taking the accusations of obsolescence sitting down. In a widely circulated November essay on the website of Metropolis magazine, Duany mockingly cast the rise of landscape urbanism at Harvard as a “classic Latin American-style...coup.” His fellow New Urbanists have weighed in with more substantive critiques that have been equally harsh. One planning professor in Arizona attacked the landscape urbanists for caring more about nature than humans; on the planning website Planetizen, the Portland, Ore.-based urban design theorist Michael Mehaffy published an indictment of landscape urbanism called “Sprawl in a Pretty Green Dress?”
Man, these guys don't play nice.

More on the insurance mandate

Ezra Klein saying clearly what I wanted to say (and much, much more) in my previous post:
To make this more concrete, when an uninsured person breaks a leg and needs hospital care, that care is paid for by the rest of us. It'd be a bit odd for your economic inactivity to cost me money. But your decision to remain without insurance does cost me money, because you're an active consumer of health-care risk and an active participant on a health-care market that affords you certain benefits. When you don't purchase insurance, you've not decided against participating in the American health-care system. You're just not participating responsibly. To quote Mitt Romney:

Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate. But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on the government is not libertarian.

GOP Religion test

Daniel Larison on the GOP primary:
Of course, Southern evangelicals may not be looking for a candidate with Hindu credentials, I told Huntsman. But he insisted that issues like religion are ultimately “just campaign sideshows.” ~McKay Coppins
He does understand that he is going to be running in the Republican presidential primaries, right?
I will be the first to argue that the power of Christian conservatives is not as great as many people outside the GOP seem to think, and I agree that much of what Republican politicians offer Christian conservatives is little more than meaningless symbolism and lip service. However, it is because Christian conservative voters are taken for granted (and more important, many of them feel taken for granted), their main issues are not priorities for the party leadership, and their interests are not served by the party’s agenda that the symbolic appeals and lip service have become so important. Bush won the loyalty of a lot of evangelical voters  identifying with them publicly on a somewhat regular basis, and it was that identification that mattered more than anything else he proposed to do or did while in office*. Many Christian conservative voters know that they’re being had, but they at least want to hear their politicians pretend to share their convictions, and they’re even more enthusiastic when the politicians actually do share them. Let me suggest that a candidate who says that he gets “satisfaction from many different types of philosophies” is not going to get anywhere with very many of these voters.
This doesn't seem like the best way to choose the president.  I guess it is about as good as voting for the guy you'd most like to have a beer with.

Hubris

From Fortune:
For the first time, technology permitted drilling below more than a mile of water, a hostile environment of total darkness, crushing pressures, and brutal temperatures. Sea-floor operations were carried out with remotely operated vehicles, known as ROVs -- unmanned subs with stubby arms that could connect sections of drill pipe or wield tools to cut through steel. Advances in seismic imaging made it possible to locate hidden oil deposits. Drilling in deepwater was risky and expensive; a single well could cost more than $100 million. But the payoffs were huge. The gulf had particular appeal: The U.S. offered a stable democracy, low taxes, and minimal regulation, as well as nearby refineries and an insatiable market.
BP rushed in, acquiring offshore leases, becoming the biggest player there. Over time, the deepwater gulf emerged as the engine of new U.S. oil production. All this was encouraged by American politicians, who cut taxes for offshore drilling and opened up new swaths of ocean for exploration. Meanwhile the government's Minerals Management Service -- the drillers' chief regulator -- operated like a promotional arm of the industry. Just about everybody, it seemed, liked offshore drilling.
Bold mine.  The article is well worth the read.

Mmmmmmmm...

After posting the Johnsonville brats ad yesterday, I thought I ought to look for a video of the Kahn's Big Red Smokey graphic from Riverfront Stadium.  Unfortunately, all I could find was this article:
Walks will haunt no longer, at least not the way they used to. The ghostly graphic with the Scooby-Doo spooky music has gone the way of Pong.
The black and white Charlie Chaplin walk graphic probably also has made its last appearance. Chaplin's leisurely stroll with a cane, spelling out "walk" in cursive, although not haunting, made its point.
And unless the Kahn's Big Red Smokey commercial is lucky enough to be revamped, Reds fans may have heard for the last time this exchange following a play at second base with some kind of tubular meat:
Umpire, trying to make the call: You're ... a hot dog.
Angry manager, charging from the dugout: Yer blind, that's a smoked sausage. Umpire: I call 'em as I see 'em, and that's a hot dog.

The argument then continued until the manager shoved the dog/sausage into the umpire's mouth.
The ensuing "mmmmmmmmm" over the P.A. system left little doubt.
It was indeed a smoked sausage, and everyone knew it.
Of course, the new graphics will be more exciting and eye-catching. But more memorable than Cinergy's? Doubt it. Wonder why?
If anybody can find audio or video of the ad, let me know (updated below).

Thanks to commenter Brian for the link to this:



Update: After jump

Groundhog Day preview

If you happen to wager on whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow or not (I have, and I won), keep in mind that if you take no shadow (early spring), you better get odds.  Phil goes for 6 more weeks of winter 88% of the time.  This "holiday" is just corny enough for me to like, even without a Bill Murray movie involved.  It is a renewal of old German lore recreated in the US, by Pennsylvania Dutch settlers. From wikipedia:
An early American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry,[9] dated February 5, 1841, of Berks County, Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris:
Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans,[10] the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.
As is mentioned above, Groundhog Day shares the date, and some legends of Candlemas (or the Presentation, 40 days after Christmas), and also is thought by some to be tied to Imbolc, or feast of St. Brigid (patron saint of cattle and of chicken farmers) which falls on February 1, and is considered the beginning of spring in Ireland.  This is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  As a person who looks forward to the coming of spring, and planting, I appreciate all the events featuring lights, celebrations and predictions of the end of winter and the coming of spring.  It is a reminder that prior to the industrial revolution, everybody's liveliehood was tied to the weather and the changing seasons and the holidays fell on the astronomically significant days which were tied to the seasons.  This is your useless fact post of the day.

I already have my guns, so OK

Bill would require all South Dakota residents to buy a gun. (h/t Balloon Juice)  Since I already meet the requirements, I'm not sweating this. Actually, my understanding is that the federal government passed the Militia Act in 1792 requiring able-bodied males to pay a fine if they didn't have a firearm.  I always liked that idea, because it fit with the model of the Swiss army, and if the government issued each person a military rifle, it would save me $1000 to buy one.  The Militia Act has already been brought up in the individual mandate discussion, and I think the discussion should probably reach a larger audience.  Thank you, Rep. Wick.

Judges and the health care law

Ezra Klein has numerous posts on the legal analysis of the Vinson ruling in Florida.  This post goes over the weak link in the Judge's opinion.  The summary:
If you want to follow this argument a bit further, Simon Lazarus delves into more detail on the some of the past rulings and statements that Roberts, Kennedy and Scalia would have to wipe away to rule against the Obama administration in this case. The result, he says, would be not just a ruling against the legislation, but a ruling that would "exhume the long-dead and discredited doctrines that the pre-New Deal Supreme Court deployed to overturn laws that prohibited child labor, prescribed minimum wage levels and maximum hours."
My understanding is that many libertarians and conservatives would like to see the Supreme Court return to a limited understanding of the Commerce Clause closer to what prevailed in the past. But until now, the Supreme Court hasn't shown much interest in that project. In theory, they're more persuaded by the precedent they've signed their names to than to the first principles that Vinson invoked in his decision. But in practice, on this particular case, for this particular law? Who knows.
I don't know much about the law and Supreme Court precedent. I am a farmer and an engineer.  But I guess if I were forced to try to explain why the individual mandate is constitutional under the commerce clause, I would go with the concept that since hospitals are required by law to treat patients in emergency rooms, a person who doesn't have insurance and resides in one state will quite possibly end up in another state, where they will end up in the hospital because of some emergency.  If this occured frequently, a state could not prevent people from another state from travelling there and potentially burdening the citizens of their state with the individual's care.  I am sure that is not a workable rationale, but I don't know what other explicit commerce clause arguments would work.

What disturbs me most about this whole issue, is that it lays bare the naked partisanship in our court system.  Two rulings by democratic judges finding the law constitutional, two rulings by republican judges finding it unconstitutional.  It may get decided by one man, Justice Kennedy.  I personally feel the mandate is inherently a republican idea, insisting that it is an individual's responsibility to carry health insurance.  Personal responsibility has always been the calling card of republicans, and pushing people to private health care insurance also strikes me as republican.  It was the heart of Romneycare, and if most individual states went the way of Massachusetts, I think the commerce clause argument would be stronger.  But at the moment, the GOP is freaking out over this and 1990's platform positions are now unconstitutional.  Ezra's speculation that the court may well throw out sheaves of precedent is a fear that I think is very valid.  An outcome like that, following the Citizens United ruling, would lay bare who the activist judges really are, and we would have a country with 310,000,000 people operating under restraints from a time when the country had 120,000,000 people.

Another reason to root for Green Bay

Support Green Bay;Annoy the Rich.  I prefer, Support Green Bay because I hate Steelers fans.  To each his own.  The Packers ownership is definitely unique and charming.  I think that if they are sold, the money goes to the American Legion post, although that may have changed.

Update: According to wikipedia:
Based on the original "Articles of Incorporation for the (then) Green Bay Football Corporation" put into place in 1923, if the Packers franchise were to have been sold, after the payment of all expenses, any remaining money would go to the Sullivan Post of the American Legion in order to build "a proper soldier's memorial." This stipulation was enacted to ensure the club remained in Green Bay and that there could never be any financial enhancement for the shareholders. At the November 1997 annual meeting, shareholders voted to change the beneficiary from the Sullivan-Wallen Post to the Green Bay Packers Foundation, which makes donations to many charities and institutions throughout Wisconsin.

Bohemian Rhapsody on the Uke



h/t Ritholtz

The National Discussion which isn't

I think the discussion of income disparity and middle-class income stagnation will eventually arrive in the middle of the public discourse.  Currently it seems that nearly all this discussion occurs in democratic/progressive circles, while republicans are busy blaming government regulation and taxation for limiting innovation.  I guess I fault republicans for not facing up to the fact that income stagnation has led directly to our current Great Recession, while faulting democrats for ignoring the competition form abroad.  I think a lot more goes into stagnation besides tax policy, globalization and regulation, especially US oil consumption, peak oil and trade imbalances.  I think this post highlights some of the more compelling portions of the democratic income stagnation discussion.  Significantly:
...Median family income was $64,000 in 2007. Had it kept pace with GDP per family since the mid-1970s, it instead would have been around $90,000.

The Joker reflects

Via TNC, an interview in the Daily Mail with Jack Nicholson.  My favorite line, which sums up nearly all of my public life:
He pauses to get straight to the heart of his own theory of life.
‘If men are honest, everything they do and everywhere they go is for a chance to see women.

Naked Capitalism link of the day

This article from Rortybomb.  There are several other good links today, including the one in the previous post.  Since I want to feature some ag discussion here, I figured I would post that separately. Read the whole post at the Rortybomb, but here is the summation:
They thought getting homeownership rates up to 70%+ would secure a permanent Republican majority, the 2005-era dream of Rove and other thinkers on the Right. They looked at the data and saw that suburban homeowners are more worried about tax issues, crime, and tend to vote more conservative on economic issues, and they thought they could let the financial sector do its thing and turn a critical mass of swing voters into suburban bourgeois tax-haters.   There’s an element of the GI Bill and post-war suburbanization in this strategy, which was designed in part by the GOP to get people to the new suburbs and weaken the power of Democratic city bosses.
They actively applauded themselves for attempting this distinctly political project in their magazines.  And then they blame poverty programs and the idea of government when it all collapses.
I think the Democrats also have a hand in this mess, but Republican faith in the wisdom of the markets and love of deregulation along with the investment bank and mortgage broker criminality played a much greater role than Fannie, Freddie and the CRA (read:minorities).

The death of organic foods?

Why You Can Now Kiss Organic Beef, Dairy and Many Vegetables Goodbye. Actually, this came from the NC links, but I'll highlight another one later.  I have to say that I haven't understood the whole organic market in the first place.  While we may not be able to use mined phosphorus and potash indefinitely in the future, I never understood why they couldn't be used in organic farming.  I can't imagine producing large amounts of milk and meat using feed raised without herbicides and commercial fertilizers.  Dairymen have enough trouble getting all their field work done on a daily basis while using herbicides, let alone trying to cultivate all their fields several times.

Why revolution begins in cities

This post by Edward Glaeser is pretty interesting.  From 1566 to today, he highlights how political uprisings and riots are unthinkable without the density of our cities. 
Cities are places of revolution, because urban proximity connects organizers of opposition. Large urban populations create the scale needed to initially overwhelm local law enforcement. The physical barriers that occur in cities make it difficult for troops to maneuver and disperse demonstrators.
And the economic importance of cities means that citywide demonstrations can disrupt the economic heart of a nation. Cities also create the social exchanges between soldiers and citizens, such as the food-sharing between protesters and the military, that can be so fatal for military discipline.
Isolated farms are stable; cities are not. The constant interaction of human energy in dense clusters creates innovations in every area of human life, including politics. Instability is scary, especially for people who already enjoy freedom, peace and prosperity and therefore have much to lose.
This gets to the heart of my explanation of why urban areas tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic and rural areas tend to vote overwhelmingly Republican.  Folks in urban areas can easily imagine being overwhelmed by an angry mob, while rural people really can't fathom such a circumstance.  I think another interesting point made in the article is this:
By contrast, the United States has maintained political stability through countless riots by summoning troops with little empathy for the rioters, like the farm-boy soldiers who surely had little fondness for the urban, often immigrant, draft resisters of 1863 New York.
I think we saw that same dynamic in the aftermath of Katrina.  The book Zeitoun deals with this issue a little bit.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Vacant houses

CNBC:
More concerning than the home ownership rate is the vacancy rate. The Census tables don't tell the entire story, but they tell a lot of it. Of the nearly 131 million housing units in this country, 112.5 million are occupied. 74.8 million are owned, and that's only dropped by about 30 thousand in the past year. 38 million are rented, but that's up by over a million year over year. That means more new households are choosing to rent.
Now to vacancies. There were 18.4 million vacant homes in the U.S. in Q4 '10 (11 percent of all housing units vacant all year round), which is actually an improvement of 427,000 from a year ago, but not for the reasons you'd think.
This seems pretty high, I'd like to see a graph for multiple quarters.

Poor Carson

From the Onion:
CINCINNATI—Claiming that the phone had been ringing off the hook all morning, Bengals owner and general manager Mike Brown told reporters Tuesday that representatives from every NFL franchise had contacted the Bengals organization to insist they absolutely do not want quarterback Carson Palmer. "As soon as the news got out that Carson wanted to be traded, coaches and general managers were just clamoring to let me know what a bad fit he would be for any team wanting to win football games," said Brown, adding that he was also contacted by several CFL teams expressing their uninterest in the Bengals starting quarterback. "Some teams have been hounding me five or six times a day just to let me know how badly they didn't want to see Carson Palmer in one of their uniforms next year." Brown confirmed that at least two dozen teams had offered the Bengals draft picks in exchange for a guarantee that the organization wouldn't try to make a deal for Palmer.

Preparation for Wednesday


This will get the fat guy across the partition dancing.

The Bengals Future

Earlier today, some one mentioned the possibility of Mike Brown moving the Bengals to LA.  My take on that rumor is that there is no way in hell that he would move the team out there and remain the owner, because there is no way he could possibly fit in to LA.  That man is the anti-LA, he'd get laughed out of town.  Plus, he could never bring himself to buy a house out there, he'd cry when he looked at the prices.

Ohio Budget

Governor Kasich's first homework assignment is due in 6 weeks.  I am sure counties, cities, villages, school districts and libraries are waiting with baited breath.  The potential $8-10 billion budget hole was scary enough, without figuring in the governor's promise to put in place the final installment of the income tax cut which was put on hold to balance the budget last year.  Why he is insisting on pushing through that final bit, in the face of the giant deficit, I just don't understand.  Unless the governor privatizes everything he can get his hands on (which I think will only screw over taxpayers in the long haul), schools and local governments will be forced to cut jobs and provide a drag against any private sector rehiring. Cuts in Medicaid will put greater strains on hospitals and nursing homes. Cutting the income tax only makes the problem $400 million dollars worse each year.  March 15 will be an interesting day, but there will still be a lot of haggling before things are finalized June 30.  In the meantime, schools and local governments will be scrambling to figure out how to fill in the holes for any cuts in the local government fund.  That will be a major undertaking, and will probably cancel out the minor improvements we've seen in the private sector.  Good luck, governor.

Why do Republicans hate the NSF?

I hadn't closely examined the spending cuts proposed by Rand Paul, but a reader at The Daily Dish made this comment:
What struck me most about the Rand Paul’s budget proposals were the extremely deep cuts to the National Science Foundation (62% !?).   This is in addition to significant cuts to the National Institute of Health,  the Centers for Disease Control,  abolition of the Department of Energy.  The Rand Paul budget would be a devastating blow to the sciences in the United States of America.
What is striking (and some of this may be due to omissions in the Washington Examiner article) are the choices of things that are not touched:  Agriculture subsidies (direct farm payments are about $20B annually versus $7B for the entire NSF budgets),  subsidies for oil,  gas or coal, etc.   These are things that Paul apparently feels are more important ways to spend money than basic sciences.
Now this isn't the first time that I've seen Republicans proposing cuts to the National Science Foundation.  Is $7 billion a year spent on science research extremely wasteful?  That's about $25 per person in the US.  I mean, $100 wouldn't even get a family of four into Kings Island.  Why is this a target for cuts?  I knew a couple of guys who got NSF grants, and I can say, they were pretty darn smart.  I'd take a risk on investing in what they were working on.  I'd guess we spend $7 billion a year in Afghanistan and Iraq fixing things we blew up.  My recommendation would be to keep investing in the NSF, and stop blowing shit up in other countries.

This brings back memories

Awesome letter to the sports editor

Gil Meche compared to the titans of finance.  Very funny. (h/t Balloon Juice)

Naked Capitalism link of the day

My favorite link for today is Darrell Issa makes life difficult for Obama in the New Yorker.  As is mentioned on the links, it is a must-read, even though it starts out slow.  Auto theft and suspicion of arson make it pretty interesting.

Now I know

So Crate and Barrel is a store and Croft and Barrow is merchandise?  Learn something new every day.

Update: you must take into account that I thought Abercrombie & Fitch was an accounting firm.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Now that is funny

I was standing beside my grandma's brother-in-law at grandma's viewing.  After his brother went through the line, he said to me, "That's my brother.  I may be high-strung, but he's well-hung." I'm still laughing about that.  I also angered my grandpa by saying that America's favorite half-term governor is a moron.

Fallout from the Great Recession

Ezra Klein:
From the inbox:
Some of my work is as a primary doctor at a VA primary care clinic in Southeast Michigan. We are totally overwhelmed right now with people who lost their insurance from auto-related layoffs and are using VA eligibility for the first time. It is totally awful. Think about the job prospects for a high-school educated 50-year-old with 32 years experience with one employer welding a single auto part near Detroit.
These are good people who lived and taught their kids with a perspective on life -- work hard and stay out of trouble to earn a middle class life -- that is now totally wrong. They're essentially unemployable here but sure aren't going to leave friends and family for a job at a Panera in Arizona. I suppose that's the nature of technology and change, but it's pretty brutal in this neighborhood.

Where global warming meets agriculture

Discussion of unusual weather affecting crop production:
Analysts attribute the rise in grain prices to growing demand in both developed and developing nations, along with a number of cataclysmic weather-related events and speculation by investors. An extreme drought and fierce fires last summer destroyed a large percentage of the wheat crop in Russia and Ukraine, while heavy flooding in India and the inundation of 20% of Pakistan damaged significant parts of the grain output of those countries. At the same time, unusually hot and dry weather suppressed production in a number of other key farming areas.
What makes the picture look so worrisome today are indications that the severity and frequency of extreme weather events appear to be on the rise. In the past few weeks alone, several such events point the way to serious supply problems ahead. Most significant has been the unprecedented rainfall and flooding in Australia that put an area more than twice the size of California largely underwater, significantly disrupting wheat cultivation there. Australia is one of the world’s leading wheat producers. Unusually dry conditions in the American Midwest and Argentina have also hinted at future problems in grain and corn output. It’s still too early to predict the size of this year’s grain and corn harvests, but many analysts are warning of a shortfall in supplies, along with sky-high prices.
Where prices are right now, I really want to sell as much as I can.  My fear is that we'll have a terrible drought, I'll have sold more than what I've grown, and prices will be 4 times higher than what I sold for.  But mass starvation is probably even worse than what problems I'd be facing.  Damn you, El Nino and La Nina.

Thanks GE

From this story raising doubt about the likelihood of job growth in the US:
Substantial changes in free trade agreements and the tax codes since the 1980s have incentivized companies to export jobs overseas. And the outsourcing trend is still alive and well. Howard Rosen, a labor economist at the Peterson Institute observed “US companies are investing in plants and equipment, just not in our borders…They are privatizing the gains of globalization.” US companies are “returning the spoils of globalization and technology” to new projects overseas. Another more recent case in point:
Recently, [mid 2009] ATI [an Indiana company} made $30 million worth of investments to buy, convert, and modernize a shuttered factory in economically ravaged Michigan so the company could provide more [wind-turbine] parts to GE as the green economy expands with federal stimulus funding. But a Chinese firm underbid ATI, and the factory faced having to lay off 302 union workers and shutter the plant. In an aggressive bid to keep the factory open, ATI offered to match the price of the Chinese producers. GE once again said they would prefer to buy from China. The ATI plant is now closed, the jobs gone.
That's good to know.

Pro Bowl

Why have an all-star game, but not have any players from two of the best teams in the league?

In Constant Sorrow

Abuse of English in a place other than this Blog

As seen in a fundraiser announcement, 3rd Annual Inaugural "All-You-Can-Eat" Pancake Breakfast.

Naked Capitalism Link of the Day

The website Naked Capitalism carries a post each day providing interesting links in Science, Politics and Economics. I find them worthwhile to check every day, and will post my favorite. Today's favorite is The Tea Party Wags the Dog, by Frank Rich of the NYT. My favorite part:

For all the Republican male establishment’s harrumphing, it couldn’t derail her plan to hijack the party’s designated State of the Union response with one of her own. More Katherine Harris than Sarah Palin, Bachmann is far more riveting television bait than Paul Ryan, the bland congressman officially assigned the Bobby Jindal memorial slot after the New Jersey governor Chris Christie was savvy enough to take a pass. The G.O.P. grandees’ consternation was palpable. Earlier in the day Bachmann had dispatched an e-mail announcing that her speech would be carried live by Fox News. But when the time came, Fox relegated the live feed to its Web site, forcing viewers to scurry to CNN, of all places, and delaying its own television recap until after prime time in the East. Rupert Murdoch’s other major organ, The Wall Street Journal, toed the same line, burying Bachmann’s speech in a half-sentence in its print edition the next morning. By then, John Boehner, seconding the disdain of Eric Cantor, was telling reporters that he hadn’t watched Bachmann because of “other obligations.”
Maybe they tried to ignore her because they know she is crazy?