Saturday, July 16, 2011

Watch My Corn Pop Up In Rows

Tim McGraw, along with John Deere pictures:

Cooking the Perfect French Fry

Scientific American:
Inspired by these heroic efforts, Maxime Bilet, Johnny Zhu and the other research chefs (including Young) at our culinary lab in Belle­vue, Wash., explored a variety of techniques for doing better still. The winning combination is simple in its ingredients but quite fancy in its execution. The potato batons are vacuum-sealed with 2 percent salt brine in bags to keep them intact during boiling. They are then bombarded with intense sound waves from the same device that dentists and jewelers use. A lengthy ultrasound treatment at 40 kilohertz causes the surface of each fry to crack and blister with myriad tiny bubbles and fissures.
The cook next vacuum-dries the pretreated potato sticks to adjust the water content of the exterior and then briefly blanches them in oil at 340 degrees Fahrenheit to tighten their network of interlaced starch molecules. After cooling comes the final step: a quick plunge into hot oil at 375 degrees F. Water flashes to steam inside each minuscule bubble on the surface of the fries, expanding in volume by a factor of more than 1,000 and forcing the bubbles to puff up. In just a few minutes of deep frying, the french fries take on an almost furry appearance.
These wonders of 21st-century cooking are unlike any fries you have tried before. A hugely satisfying crunch when you bite through the exterior yields to a center of incredibly smooth mashed-potato consistency.
To me, that sounds like a lot of work.  I can settle for the standard version if necessary.

Buying At The Peak?

Investors are rushing in to buy farm land:
Braden Janowski has never planted seeds or brought in a harvest. He doesn't even own overalls.
Yet when 430 acres of Michigan cornfields was auctioned last summer, it was Janowski, a brash, 33-year-old software executive, who made the winning bid. It was so high -- $4 million, 25 percent above the next-highest -- that some farmers stood, shook their heads and walked out. And Janowski figures he got the land cheap.
"Corn back then was around $4," he says from his office in Tulsa, Okla., stealing a glance at prices per bushel on his computer. Corn rose to almost $8 in June and trades now at about $7.
A new breed of gentleman farmer is shaking up the American heartland. Rich investors with no ties to farming, no dirt under their nails, are confident enough to wager big on a patch of earth -- betting that it's a smart investment because food will only get more expensive around the world.
They're buying wheat fields in Kansas, rows of Iowa corn and acres of soybeans in Indiana. And though farmers still fill most of the seats at auctions, the newcomers are growing in number and variety -- a Seattle computer executive, a Kansas City lawyer, a publishing executive from Chicago, a Boston money manager.
If prices get too high for people around the world to afford food, they will come down.  The speculation in grain and other commodities is rapidly getting out of control.  At some point, we will see a huge crash.  At that point, these farm prices will look as crazy as they are.  Even though I paid $4200 an acre for the farm next door to my house, my internal valuation in $3000.  That's where I think I am assured of making money every year, even when corn is back down at $4.

Tressel's Honesty Problem

Ohio State knew Jim Tressel wasn't quite up front about violations when they occurred:
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was told by the school that he did a poor job of self-reporting NCAA violations years before he failed to tell his bosses that players were selling championship rings and other Buckeyes memorabilia, a cover-up that cost him his job.
In an evaluation of Tressel’s job performance from 2005-06, then-athletic director Andy Geiger rated Tressel “unacceptable’’ in terms of self-reporting rules violations in a timely manner. The coach also was warned in a separate letter that he and his staff needed to do a better job of monitoring the cars the Buckeyes were driving — an issue that would arise again this spring....
The documents were part of a mountain of public records released Friday by Ohio State dealing with Tressel and the ongoing scandal that has sullied one of the nation’s elite football programs.
Tressel received a letter of reprimand from then-athletic director Andy Geiger for giving a recruit a Buckeyes jersey — a clear NCAA violation — before he had even coached his first game.
I'm glad we're finding out about this now.  We should keep in mind that we are talking about last year's highest paid Ohio public sector employee.  One of the next highest-paid employees, his supposed boss, E. Gordon Gee, joked about how hopefully Tressel wouldn't fire him, when he appeared at the news conference in which Tressel was supposed to apologize so they could sweep this scandal under the rug back in March.  Gee should be sent packing also.  This program, like all of college football and men's basketball, is dirty.  This multi billion dollar industry has outgrown its place at universities.  We might soon be back on an even field, as it looks like major violations will be discovered at every major program, and soon many schools will have big scholarship limitations placed on them.

Please, Not Another Texas Governor For President

Justin Elliot highlights a recent speech by current Texas governor and potential 2012 Presidential candidate Rick Perry:
In the most interesting section of the remarks, Perry lists various problems facing America and, instead of offering policy prescriptions, he says he would simply hand things over to the Lord:

I tell people, that "personal property" and the ownership of that personal property is crucial to our way of life.
Our founding fathers understood that it was a very important part of the pursuit of happiness. Being able to own things that are your own is one of the things that makes America unique. But I happen to think that it's in jeopardy.
It's in jeopardy because of taxes; it's in jeopardy because of regulation; it's in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it's time for us to just hand it over to God and say, "God, You’re going to have to fix this." ...
I think it's time for us to use our wisdom and our influence and really put it in God's hands. That's what I'm going to do, and I hope you'll join me.
What the hell does that mean?  What if God wants to raise taxes, will Republicans say no?  If Jesus appeared in Washington this weekend and told John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to pay to Caesar what is Caesar's, I bet they would ignore him and accuse him of using class warfare to attack the rich (I was going to mention Eric Cantor, but didn't think a story with Jesus would be appropriate for him).  But what on Earth is Rick Perry yapping on about.  Doesn't he realize that George W. Bush kind of ruined the evangelical politician who asks God what to do category for a large number of voters?  That shit may work in Texas, but I don't think it will work everywhere.  I'm pretty sure that God doesn't want to clean up the mess Republicans have made in this country over the last 30 years, or He wouldn't have let Republicans win the 2010 election.  I think He's leaving that job for us, because He created intelligent beings for a reason, and He expects us to use our brains once in a while.  As far as I can tell, that would require sweeping Republicans out of power at the first opportunity.


70 years ago today, Joe DiMaggio extended his hitting streak to a record 56 games.  The streak came to an end in Cleveland on the 17th, as Indians third baseman Ken Keltner made 2 great plays to rob DiMaggio of 2 hits.

Here is a post highlighting a Sports Illustrated look at baseball in 1941.

Here is a Kostya Kennedy article from March about the weekend DiMaggio broke George Sisler's AL record hitting streak of 41 games.

Double Dip or Muddle Through?

Edward Harrison, via nc links:
If we see a significant reduction in policy stimulus in the US, along with Europe and China, I anticipate we will see the next downturn by 2012 or 2013 at the latest. Again, this is my baseline case. As I said in March 2008 when the credit crisis was raging, “I expect the likely outcome for the next decade is one of sub-par global growth with short business cycles punctuated by fits of recession”.
On the other hand, austerity-light would be my preferred outcome (more stimulus is not a likely outcome; I assign this lower odds, which makes sense given how the debt ceiling debates have developed). Austerity-light could produce a muddle through scenario, which I am hoping for. That is much more benign for jobs, banks, stocks, and corporate bonds and less benign for Treasuries.
I would put the odds on double dip, only because I think people underestimate the effects of the cutbacks in government spending.  All the people laid off by state and local governments will be a drag on an already painfully slow recovery, which will lower confidence and reduce spending.  Given the trend of the job numbers, I expect that this fall will be the beginning of the new recession.  Actually, I would say that it is really all part of one large depression, but the difference is minor.

Friday, July 15, 2011

More Historic Union Demands

Chicago Magazine looks at drinking on the job, 1880s style (h/t the sister):
1886 through 1888 in particular was a troubled time for breweries and labor, as the threat of strikes hit New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Cincinnati. What was the beef? In Chicago, in 1886, the demands included the length of the working day (ten); wages ($65 a month in the kettle/fermenting room, or about $1500 today); the number of apprentice brewers permitted (hey, they were fighting about intern labor even then); circumstances under which employees can be fired. The usual bargaining agreement stuff, same as it ever was.
Oh, and free beer: "every employee shall have his free beer daily."
After five hours of negotiation—ok, maybe not quite the same as it ever was—the union and the brewers knocked out an agreement, which specified among other things how the men would get their free beer:
"Times for beer shall be: 6, 9, 11, 2, and 4 o'clock, not to exceed three glasses at a time."
That's fifteen glasses a day, beginning at six in the morning. Then again, attitudes towards beer were a little different, as the Tribune editorialized in 1872 regarding the "lager-beer war" (my post here) and the enforcement of Sunday temperance:
Intoxicating liquors are not sold (or only rarely) at the beer-saloons. The records of the past twenty years show that crime neither originates nor results from the sale of beer. The closing of the beer-saloon, therefore, contributes nothing toward the stoppage of crime, while it directly infringes upon a palpable personal right. It is just as foolish to tell a German that he shall not drink beer as to tell an American that he shall not drink coffee, or a Frenchman that he shall not drink claret. Beer is the national beverage of the German. He has drank it daily from youth up. It is the bread and meat of the peasant, and as indispensable to him as water to the American laborer. No question of right or wrong is involved in its use. High and low, rich and poor, children and adults, the Emperor and the peasant, the minister and his flock, priest and bishop, saint and sinner, all use it alike as a habit and a necessity of life, weekday and Sunday, and, to say to the German that his daily beverage is intoxicating in character, and is flooding the community with crimes, is just as absurd and unjust as it would be to say to the American that his use of tea and coffee is deleterious to the public morals, and must, therefore, be stopped.
How about we get back to that?  At least, say, 3 breaks for one beer each?  That seems pretty reasonable.  I also think the comparison of beer to coffee is just ridiculous.  Coffee drinkers are crazy, especially if they don't have their caffeine in the morning.  Beer drinkers are much more calm.  They are right, beer is a necessity of life.

The Disappearing Colorado River

Peter McBride describes the Colorado River delta:
"This estuary used to be one of the largest desert estuaries in North America," McBride says. "It ran to the sea for 6 million years, and the river basically stopped in the late '90s. It used to be 3,000 square miles with lush forests and jaguars and deer. And having walked it ... it's nothing but a cracked, parched arid landscape."
How did this happen? As McBride puts it, too many straws in the water: Near Mexico, the river basically produces the entire lettuce crop for the United States in the months of November and December, and all of the nation's carrots in January and February. "So whether you love the river and fish it and float it, or you've never been to it and you live on the East Coast, you actually eat Colorado River water," McBride continues.
It is amazing that all the river water is gone before it reaches the ocean.  Of course, when you divert a river into aqueducts for hundreds of miles to be used in cities which dump their wastewater directly into the ocean, you can expect such results.  Development in the American West has been so short-sighted, it is amazing.

The Steel Strike of 1959

It began on July 15, 1959, when 500,000 steel workers went on strike:
The strike occurred over management's demand that the union give up a contract clause which limited management's ability to change the number of workers assigned to a task or to introduce new work rules or machinery which would result in reduced hours or numbers of employees. The strike's effects persuaded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to invoke the back-to-work provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. The union sued to have the Act declared unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court upheld the law.
The long-term fallout from the strike:
In the long run, the strike devastated the American steel industry. More than 85 percent of U.S. steel production had been shut down for almost four months. Hungry for steel, American industries began importing steel from foreign sources. Steel imports had been negligible prior to 1959. But during the strike, basic U.S. industries found Japanese and Korean steel to be less costly than American steel, even after accounting for importation costs. The sudden shift toward imported steel set in motion a series of events which led to the gradual decline of the American steel industry.
The steel industry was uniquely at risk for strikes.  The plants required outrageous capital investment and even the threat of a strike required the companies to prepare to shut down the blast furnaces, which would require large amounts of refitting to restart.  The companies generally tried to avoid shutting down blast furnaces at all costs.  After this strike, unions and management each made a number of decisions which led to the noncompetitiveness of the domestic steel industry until the massive downsizing of the industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which devastated Pittsburgh and the Mon Valley, Cleveland and Youngstown, among other places.  And the Rust Belt was born.

The Puzzle of Quantum Gravity

This whole article is way over my head, but the story is an intriguing one (via Mark Thoma):
What is the hottest problem in fundamental physics today? Physics aficionados most probably would answer: quantum gravity. Of all the fundamental forces of nature, only gravity still stands outside the rubric of the quantum theory. The difficulty of quantizing gravity has led to radical theories such as string theory, with its bold predictions of higher space dimensions and parallel universes. It's unclear if these theories are "crazy enough to have a chance of being correct," as Niels Bohr used to say. And too few people know the dramatic early history of this field.
In fact, the field of quantum gravity was born in 1916, even before physicists had properly explained the other fundamental forces, electromagnetism and the nuclear forces. Twenty years later, a young Russian physicist by the name of Matvei Bronstein realized that gravity would be the hardest force of all to quantize. But before he could do something about that, he was swept up in Stalin’s Great Terror and executed at the age of 30.
I don't really follow quantum theory, but it is interesting to listen to explanations of the multitude of dimensions in string theory.  None of it makes sense to me, but it is interesting.  The story of a brilliant physicist who gets swept up in a purge and executed leaves a lot of room to wonder, what if?

The Reservoir War

While I was trying to find out where Antwerp, Ohio was (Paulding County), I came across this historical incident from the Ohio canal era which I'd never heard of:
The Reservoir War was a minor insurrection in Paulding County, Ohio, United States in 1887.
Just east of Antwerp, Ohio was the Six Mile Reservoir of the Wabash and Erie Canal. The reservoir, about 2000 acres (8 km²) in size, had been built in 1840 by damming and diking a creek. It was used to provide water for the canal.
The Wabash Canal was completed in 1843 and the Miami and Erie Canal in 1845, but they only operated for about ten years before they started shutting down. The last canalboat on the Wabash canal made its last docking in 1874 in Huntington, Indiana, but other sections shut down years earlier. For instance, the section through Fort Wayne, Indiana had been sold in 1870, and filled in so the Pennsylvania Railroad could lay tracks.
For twenty years, the reservoir provided little for area residents but a mosquito-breeding ground for the spread of "ague", a local term for what was later recognized as malaria. An effort had been made to have the State of Ohio abandon the reservoir, but the bill failed to pass.
Local residents attempted to cut the dike and drain the reservoir one night in March, 1887, but wet work in cold weather being what it is, they did an incomplete job. Governor Foker issued a proclamation requiring the rioters to disperse, and ordered General Axline with several companies of militia to the site to protect the state's property and preserve the peace. When the militia arrived, however, there was nobody there. Residents of the county were in favor of draining the reservoir, and investigators were unable to discover who had damaged the reservoir.
On the night of April 25, 1887, a band of some 200 men, residents of the county, proceeded to the lower end of the reservoir. They captured the guard and tended to his minor self-inflicted gunshot wounds; nobody else fired a shot. The band dynamited two locks, and spent the entire night cutting the dikes with pick and spade. Although this still did not entirely drain the reservoir, it was mortally wounded. The reservoir and canal were later abandoned by the state.
The band attacking the reservoir wall carried a flag bearing the slogan, "No Compromise!" The seal of Paulding County, Ohio bears this motto today.
I think my favorite part is, "They captured the guard and tended to his minor self-inflicted gunshot wounds; nobody else fired a shot."  The Ohio canal system is pretty interesting.  Irish and German laborers worked under terrible conditions to build the things, and they barely got used before the railroads came in and made them obsolete.  The reservoirs that remain, at least on the Miami & Erie Canal, are shallow lakes, with numerous tree stumps a little below the water line.  It is hard to imagine the workers using shovels, axes and teams of horses to fell trees and haul dirt out of the reservoirs.  It's no wonder some of the stumps stayed where they were.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

German Bank Helaba Blows Off Stress Test

Bloomberg, via Ritholtz:
Germany’s Landesbank Hessen- Thueringen snubbed the European Union’s bank stress tests two days before the publication of results, refusing to give the European Banking Authority permission to publish all of its data.
The bank, known as Helaba, disputes the EBA’s measurements of Core Tier 1 capital, the factor by which banks are said to have passed or failed the tests, because they don’t include some instruments allowed by German regulators. The lender said it passed the exams with a capital ratio of 6.8 percent, counting contractual changes around state funds of 1.92 billion euros ($2.71 billion), not included in the EBA results.
German regulators had already been critical of the EBA. Bafin Chairman Jochen Sanio last month said the EBA lacks “clear, defined corporate-governance structures, which alone could guarantee process legitimacy.”
Helaba’s move “challenges the very validity of the tests” because the EBA “doesn’t have the authority to force anyone to participate” in the exams, James Babicz, head of risk at analytics company SAS U.K., said in a telephone interview.
I don't know much about the Landesbank system, but from what I've read, they have a lot of bad loans out there.  My understanding was that they were deeply exposed to Austria and the Eastern European countries which had tons of bad loans.  I generally don't trust banks who fight about what qualifies as Tier 1 capital.  I tend to think that some doth protest too much.  In other words, they've got something to hide.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  It's not like anyone considers the stress tests, in Europe or the U.S. to be too stressful.

Heat Wave At Pollination

Greed, Green and Grains looks at the 8-14 day temperature forecast, and it doesn't look good for corn trying to pollinate:
We've got about a third of our corn starting to tassel.  There's going to be a lot of stress on it.  I'm sure things are even further along in Iowa and Illinois, but they may have already passed through the critical period.

Sustainable Agriculture and Governmental Regulation

Matthew Cameron reports on a policy seminar at the National Press Club:
As U.S. politicians continued to fret over the national debt, a small group of scientists, policy experts, and journalists gathered at the National Press Club this morning to discuss a truly frightening long-term problem: how to feed a world population that is projected to exceed 9 billion people by 2045. The title of the seminar was “A Greener Revolution: Improving Productivity and Increasing Food Security by Enhancing Ecosystem Services,” and the key take-away was that more effective governance rather than new technology or advanced farming techniques is going to be the chief determinant of whether the world can avoid a catastrophic population crash before the conclusion of the 21st century.
There are a couple unique characteristics of food production that make it particularly dependent upon government regulation. First and foremost, it is an industry that is necessary for human survival. Whereas people can choose whether or not to buy other products based on their economic conditions and preferences, it is biologically essential for individuals to obtain a certain level of daily nutrition from food. Additionally, two of the primary inputs of food production — fertile land and water — are finite public goods that many different people share. Thus, without effective government regulation, there will be severe pressure placed upon these resources as individuals appropriate them without regard for the aggregate impact had by their entire community.
A lot of work will need to be done to make agriculture sustainable.  Today's standard practices amount to mining fertilizer to replace soil fertility which we are essentially mining away in grain production.  Higher and higher yields remove more and more fertilizer.  It will be interesting to see if we find any cost-effective ways to collect and transport nutrients from sewage, which can make up for some of the mined fertilizers.  Sludge application already does this, but the high water content makes it ineffective for very long distances, and most of the population is far from our most productive soils.

Selling Out the Public Domain

At Credit Writedowns (via nc links):
MICHAEL HUDSON, RESEARCH PROF., UMKC: Thanks for having me, Paul.
JAY: So why should ordinary Americans or ordinary North Americans care about what’s going on in Greece?
HUDSON: Because what’s happening in Greece is a dress rehearsal for what’s going on in the United States. Already, a few weeks ago in Athens, the protestors had signs up referring to Wisconsin and the problems here. What’s happening in Greece in the last week is exactly what’s happened in Minnesota with the close-down of government. And the demands of privatization–Greece sell off its roads, its land, its port authority, its water and sewer–is just what Illinois’s been doing, what Chicago’s been doing, what Minnesota’s been told to do, and what American cities are trying to do. So you have an identical strategy being used between Greece and the United States. Greece is the first domino since Iceland. And the financial interests that are looking at this post-2008 debt crisis as a grab bag think now is the chance for us to make our move. Now we can take all this debt that we’ve built up and we can get out of the financial system, we can turn it into direct ownership of property. We can own the Greek islands, we can own the Greek public domain, just like we can own what Minnesota, Chicago, Wisconsin, and California own. And all of a sudden you have a huge virtual foreclosure process.
JAY: Right, because, I mean, the alternative, obviously, would be to do something on the tax side, which is to tax, especially in Greece, where the wealthy practically pay no tax at all. Of course, the American scenario, they pay some tax, but not nearly historic tax rates. But this seems to be one of the prime objectives in the Greek situation is stripping the state of its assets and getting rid of what public ownership there is.
HUDSON: Well, this is what they tried to do in Iceland after trying to make the Icelandic government, meaning the taxpayers, liable for the bank losses that were basically a result of fraud. And that was stopped in Iceland by the president saying, wait a minute, if we’re going to push an economy into a generation of economic depression, there’d better be a vote on it; otherwise, it’s not legal. Underlying international law today is the idea that if a debt is taken on by a country, it has to be taken on democratically. Although the Icelandic Parliament went along with the debt, the Social Democratic Party, the people had voted against it, first of all, by over 90 percent, and then later they voted, a few months ago, against being liable for debts that legally they don’t owe by three to two.
Selling infrastructure is the worst ripoff for taxpayers.  These deals will never save taxpayers money.  They'll get a little money up front, andpay it back in spades over the long term.  Prior to the rise of conservative hatred of government, it was the government (taxpayers) which put up the money upfront, and the long-term savings were realized by taxpayers.  Now the conservatives have managed to privatize those long-term returns.  It is a crying shame.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Who's the Alternative?

Mike Whitney, at Counterpunch (from nc links):
Look; unemployment is over 9% and rising. The states are firing tens of thousands of teachers and public employees every month because they need to balance their budgets and they're not taking in enough revenue. The stimulus is dwindling (which means that fiscal policy is actually contractionary in real terms) And the 10-year Treasury has dipped below 3 percent (as of Monday morning.) In other words, the bond market is signalling "recession", even while the dope in the White House is doing his utmost to slice $4 trillion off the deficits.
Does that make any sense?
Maybe if you're Herbert Hoover, it does. But it makes no sense at all if you were elected with a mandate to "change" the way Washington operates and put the country back to work. Obama is just making a bad situation worse by gadding about in his golf togs blabbering about belt tightening. It's enough to make you sick.
Get with the program, Barry, or resign. That would be even better. Then maybe we can find someone who's serious about running the country.
I'm not sure who that serious person will be.  I have to admit, Obama has been sounding like a Republican for a while, considering how badly the economy is slipping.  But I have to say, if he wasn't there being slightly less bad than today's collection of morons passing for the Republican Party, who would step into his place?  It is pretty clear that at least 45% of the country can't handle anything like a Democrat being in charge of things, and who would they put in his place, Michele Bachmann?  Sarah Palin?  Rick Perry?  To be a part of today's GOP, you have to ignore all facts and approach governance with a faith-based approach.  All evidence shows the Bush administration cut taxes and weakened regulatory oversight, and we didn't get any job creation.  So what's the Republican plan for improving the economy?  Less government spending (while we are trying to recover from the largest recession since the Great Depression), cutting taxes and weakening regulations.  Didn't work before, but let's double down.  What the fuck?  Does that make sense to anyone?  Imagine beating your head against a wall to try to get rid of a headache.  After a while, you just have a bigger headache.  What should you do, quit beating your head against the wall, or do it faster?  Lets not get rid of Obama before we find somebody sane to replace him.  I don't see any candidates among the GOP, and if the nutters think Obama is a socialist what are they going to do if a person comes in and uses fiscal policy to the extent necessary to create jobs.  They'll be shooting people.  Obama's the best option we have until we can clean out the loons in Congress in 2012.  Until then, he is the only thing between us and Crazy Town.  We may end up with entitlement cuts, but anything is better than the Republican alternative, just look to our Republican governors in the Midwest.

How Much Do the Bush Tax Cuts Cost?

This much:
In the end, the most likely tax increase may be the one that’s already on the books. On Jan. 1, 2013, all the Bush tax cuts — on the affluent and nonaffluent alike — are set to expire, which would solve roughly one-quarter of our long-term deficit problem. If Republicans have their way, all the tax cuts will be extended. If the Democrats have their way, most of them will be. (empahsis mine)
25% of the deficit gone, just like that.  Not too bad of a deal, especially since we have seen pretty much zero job growth since the Bush tax cuts went into place.  I would guess that the Republican response would be that we would have lost even more jobs if it weren't for the Bush tax cuts.  Horse shit!  Obama shouldn't have extended the Bush tax cuts without getting the Republicans to raise the debt ceiling, but he thought they were responsible adults who could be trusted.  That is not the case, they are worthless, crooked jackasses.  They have no business being elected, but idiots keep putting them in place.  What have we gotten for that? Destruction of the middle class.  Giant deficits.  Gutting of manufacturing jobs.  Religious nuts trying to start Armageddon.  And a couple of wars. 

Why Do Republicans Hate Government?

Harold Meyerson, via Ritholtz:
Republicans, to be sure, have long waged a war on government, but only now has it become an apocalyptic and total war. At its root, I suspect, is the fear and loathing that rank-and-file right-wingers feel toward what their government, and their nation, is inexorably becoming: multiracial, multicultural, cosmopolitan and now headed by a president who personifies those qualities. That America is also downwardly mobile is a challenge for us all, but for the right, the anxiety our economy understandably evokes is augmented by the politics of racial resentment and the fury that the country is no longer only theirs. That’s not a country whose government they want to pay for — and if the apocalypse befalls us, they seem to have concluded, so much the better.
I know a lot of people will disagree with this, but I tend to hear something similar when I hear people complaining about the government.  It is a lot of talk about waste, and drug testing welfare recipients and such.  The people I hear seem to think a lot of people have it easy at their expense, and the government is funding it all.  From what I've seen, I'd rather go about making my money and paying taxes than be the "lucky duckies" who don't pay any income taxes because they are too damn poor.  I don't want to qualify for food stamps or medicaid, not because I don't want the government giving me something for nothing, but because it means I just don't have much stuff.  I feel much more comfortable not worrying about where the money to pay the rent is going to come from.  I'm confused by all of the people I hear who really can't explain anything about the budget, and really don't understand the numbers involved, but that are really concerned about wealthy people paying too much in taxes.  Don't worry, rich people are doing ok.  They've gotten a better deal on taxes in the past ten years than they have at any time after World War II.  They (including myself) can afford to  pay taxes at the same rates as they did in the 1990s.  That will help relieve the budget deficit.  It won't damage the recovery.  It is really simple, just do it.

The Northwest Ordinance

July 13, 1787.

The most significant act of the Congress in Confederation, it established the procedures for the eventual creation of the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.   It also included a portion of the future state of Minnesota. These procedures set the precedent for the incorporation of new lands to the United States as it expanded.  The Ordinance outlawed slavery in these states forever. 
On August 7, 1789, the newly created U.S. Congress affirmed the Ordinance with slight modifications under the Constitution. The Ordinance purported to be not merely legislation that could later be amended by Congress, but rather "the following articles shall be considered as Articles of compact between the original States and the people and states in the said territory, and forever remain unalterable, unless by common consent...."
The text of the Ordinance after the jump.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jack Bauer, Role Model

This fictional counterterrorism agent—a man never at a loss for something to do with an electrode—has his fingerprints all over U.S. interrogation policy. As Sands and Mayer tell it, the lawyers designing interrogation techniques cited Bauer more frequently than the Constitution.
According to British lawyer and writer Sands, Jack Bauer—played by Kiefer Sutherland—was an inspiration at early "brainstorming meetings" of military officials at Guantánamo in September 2002. Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate general who gave legal approval to 18 controversial interrogation techniques including waterboarding, sexual humiliation and terrorizing prisoners with dogs, told Sands that Bauer "gave people lots of ideas." Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security chief, gushed in a panel discussion on "24" organized by the Heritage Foundation that the show"reflects real life."
John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who produced the so-called torture memos—simultaneously redefining both the laws of torture and of logic—cites Bauer in his book "War by Other Means." "What if, as the Fox television program '24' recently portrayed, a high-level terrorist leader is caught who knows the location of a nuclear weapon?" Even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking in Canada last summer, shows a gift for this casual toggling between television and the Constitution. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Scalia said. "Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?"
There are many reasons that matriculation from the Jack Bauer School of Law would have encouraged even cautious legal thinkers to bend and eventually break our longstanding rules against torture. U.S. interrogators rarely if ever encounter a "ticking time bomb," someone with detailed information about an imminent terror plot. But according to the advocacy group the Parents Television Council (which has declared war on "24"), Bauer encounters a ticking time bomb an average of 12 times every season. Given that each season represents a 24-hour period, Bauer encounters someone who needs torturing 12 times per day. Experienced interrogators know that information extracted through torture is rarely reliable. But Jack Bauer's torture not only elicits the truth, it does so before the commercial. He is a human polygraph who has a way with flesh-eating chemicals.
This is absolutely unbelievable.  What idiot would think that if something is done on TV, it will work in real life?  Maybe a Supreme Court Justice?  What the hell is wrong with these people?  Do they also think that hot girls always marry fat, comical, moronic slobs?  Do they think that 'ER' represents life in America's hospitals?  Hopefully they don't watch 'Jersey Shore.'

A Not Very Calm Twelfth

Riots in Belfast:
A bus was hijacked and driven at police during the disturbances ahead of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations.
Crowds of nationalists also threw petrol bombs and masonry at police during serious rioting in the west of the city.
Fifty-one plastic bullets were fired in response by police in the Broadway and Oldpark areas.
More than 40 petrol bombs were thrown at police, who said crowds of about 150-200 people were involved in the violence at Broadway and about 200 in both the Oldpark and New Lodge areas of north Belfast.
A number of arrests were made.
Police said an ambulance crew was attacked whilst they attended a hoax call in Brighton Street off the Falls Road.
A fire engine had its windscreen smashed by youths throwing bricks and bottles whilst attending a fire at the side of the Glen Road in west Belfast.
Police are investigating reports that gunshots were fired at Broadway at about 0115 BST. There are no reports of any injuries as a result.
Not exactly what I would consider a holiday.  Bad traditions are hard to kill.

All-Star Moment

Pete Rose pretty much ends Ray Fosse's career to win exhibition game:

It's a famous play, but in the end, just dumb. Nobody has ever accused Pete of being extremely smart, or extremely concerned about other people. One mitigating note for Pete, he was playing in front of the hometown crowd, but I think he would have done the same thing in a softball game at the federal penitentiary in Merion, Illinois. He was nothing if not consistent.

The Markets Expect a Good Corn Crop

Des Moines Register:
The USDA’s weekly crop report Monday showed the nation’s corn crop in relatively good shape and making good progress despite a slow planting start. Iowa’s corn is rated 80 percent good to excellent with pollination expected in a timely manner by mid-July.
Private forecasts of the current U.S. corn crop show expectations of yields as much as 11 percent above the 12.45 billion bushels harvested in 2010. Iowa’s crop is expected to rise to as high as 2.6 billion bushels above the 2.1 billion bushels harvested last year.
Hopefully we can share in that good fortune, but I think the spring was just a little too stressful for those of us on the eastern edge of the Corn Belt.  Looks like we may be seeing lower prices in the fall, even with a smaller crop.  We generally don't move the markets here in the periphery.

Welcome Rain

After a week of hot, dry weather, the inch of rain we received overnight was very welcome.  I was beginning to feel we might go a while without any rain, burning up our already stressed crops.  Our early corn is just starting to throw a tassel, so that hits the spot.  If we can continue to get a bit every week or so, we may be able to come out of this season ok, which would be a great blessing after the tough spring.

Naked Capitalism Link of the Day

Today's link: Welcome To Murdochia, at Foreign Policy.  It covers the history of Murdoch's worldwide empire.  I liked this part about his activities in his native Australia:
Murdoch has been an influential presence in Australian politics since the 1960s. He controls the majority of the country's influential newspapers, and a meeting with the tycoon is considered de rigueur for sitting (or aspiring) prime ministers. While left-wing critics paint the country as a "Murdochracy" and note that his rise to prominence has coincided with a rightward shift in the country's politics, Murdoch has, at times, supported leaders from both major parties as it suited his interests.
Murdoch had close ties to former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating, dating back to when they cooperated on Murdoch's acquisition of the Melbourne Herald Sun, now Australia's most widely read newspaper, while Keating was national treasurer. Murdoch was an outspoken supporter of Liberal Party (politically conservative by U.S. definition) Prime Minister John Howard, but his suggestion that Howard ought to step down and his endorsement of Kevin Rudd helped tip the 2007 Australian election.
Murdoch is less close to current Prime Minister Julia Gillard, particularly when it comes to environmental issues, but a Gillard spokesperson was nothing if not diplomatic in describing her country's best-known business export: "Of course we don't agree on everything -- but I think it's fair to say we should be proud he's a product of Australia." 
In Australia, as elsewhere, Murdoch generally seems less interested in pushing a social or ideological agenda than one that benefits Murdoch himself.
That makes it more intriguing that Murdoch hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton.  His willingness to help whichever side seems to be likely to take power makes me think he knew the Democrats were likely to win in 2008, and he wanted to help somebody he thought he could work with.  But then again, ratings went through the roof at Fox News as soon as Obama won, so he would have profited regardless.  I think the U.S. market is so messed up by the religious fervor of the right-wing, that it is a different animal than many other parts of the world.  Murdoch has seemed to back the crazies here nearly continuously because they are so profitable.

Are the Republicans Turning Us Into Japan?

Noah Smith says maybe (via Mark Thoma):
This is my big worry about the current crisis. When I think of what might hold down our long-term growth, I think about political-economic equilibria and the quality of our institutions. What if an economic shock is severe enough to knock a country out of a good (but fragile) political-economic equilibrium - where factions basically agree on the need for public good provision and sound macro policy - and into a bad one, where no one can agree on anything?

Casual observation says that this may be what happened to Japan. A prolonged slump (compounded by macro policy mistakes) was followed by decades of political chaos that have seen prime ministers come and go like fashion trends. Gridlock has led to too-low taxes and massive debt, while trade and immigration policies remain stuck in the past. Now, personally, I think Japan's political institutions were never particularly good, but I also think that what virtue they had proved to be fragile to external events.

Looking at our current crisis over the debt ceiling, I can't help but worry that something similar is happening to us. Our nation needs to raise taxes, but we can't. Our infrastructure is falling apart, but we can't fix it. We seem to have reached a political-economic equilibrium in which the Republican Party, either by filibusters or by cyclical election victories, will always have the clout to throttle spending on public goods and prevent the taxes and health-care reform that are needed to close our own unsustainable deficits – and because Republicans are ruled by primary elections in the South and by Grover Norquist, their incentives will not soon align with the nation’s. As our roads and our health care system deteriorate, I am comforted neither by a long-term log-log plot of U.S. GDP nor by the limited usefulness of New Growth Theory.

Mark Thoma argues that long-term-ism is a basically conservative policy stance, since the RBC people and the "structural unemployment" people urge us to ignore stabilization policy and focus on things like lowering taxes. I don't think that's necessarily true, for two reasons. First, just because the long-term is important does not mean that conservative policy ideas are right. Conservatives' main mistake is to ignore market failures; yes, this leads them to ignore stabilization policy, but it also makes them ignore public goods. Second, just because the short-term is important does not mean that the long-term is not. The same political-economic dysfunction that stops us from implementing timely and appropriate stabilization policy also stops us from rebuilding our roads.
I think he makes a very good point.  The GOP was killed in the 2008 election, yet managed to make a 1990's Republican health care reform sound like Stalin had come back from Hell to take over the country.  Then they managed to convince their poorly-informed base to turn out in force in 2010, when Obama's poorly-informed base stayed home, giving them big wins.  They blackmailed Obama (not that he put up much fight) into extending the Bush tax cuts for two more years when much of those tax cuts should have gone by the wayside.  Now  they demand massive spending cuts but refuse to look at any revenue increases.  Even though revenues are at their lowest level versus GDP since 1950, Republicans say they cannot go higher.  None of this makes any sense, unless your goal is to screw 90% of the populace for the benefit of the 10% who don't need any help....oh, I see.

The Little Depression of 1937

Bruce Bartlett asks if we are about to repeat the mistakes of 1937.  I would say, for the most part, yes:
By 1937, President Roosevelt and the Federal Reserve thought self-sustaining growth had been restored and began worrying about unwinding the fiscal and monetary stimulus, which they thought would become a drag on growth and a source of inflation. There was also a strong desire to return to normality, in both monetary and fiscal policy.
On the fiscal side, Roosevelt was under pressure from his Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, to balance the budget. Like many conservatives today, Mr. Morgenthau worried obsessively about business confidence and was convinced that balancing the budget would be expansionary. In the words of the historian John Morton Blum, Mr. Morgenthau said he believed recovery “depended on the willingness of business to increase investments, and this in turn was a function of business confidence,” adding, “In his view only a balanced budget could sustain that confidence.”
Roosevelt ordered a very big cut in federal spending in early 1937, and it fell to $7.6 billion in 1937 and $6.8 billion in 1938 from $8.2 billion in 1936, a 17 percent reduction over two years.
At the same time, taxes increased sharply because of the introduction of the payroll tax. Federal revenues rose to $5.4 billion in 1937 and $6.7 billion in 1938, from $3.9 billion in 1936, an increase of 72 percent. As a consequence, the federal deficit fell from 5.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1936 to a mere 0.5 percent in 1938. The deficit was just $89 million in 1938.
I think medium-to-long-range budget cuts are ok, but with the states all cutting, federal cuts are just going to further tank the recovery.  If Republicans feel the need to do something to improve the budget situation, they ought to favor a tax increase on the wealthy, as they already have money to spend, and they are they only folks who are bringing in more money than they were two years ago.  Of course that is off-limits to them, so we are stuck cutting government spending on basic research and the needy, which will only hurt the recovery and the country in general.

The Twelfth of July

Orangemen in Northern Ireland are again celebrating 17th century victories today.  Here's an explanation:
Orangemen commemorated several events from the 17th century onwards, celebrating the survival and triumph of their community in the face of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Williamite war in Ireland (1689–91). The first such commemoration was the anniversary of the 1641 rebellion on 23 October, when it was believed that a plot to massacre all Protestants in Ireland had been narrowly averted. The second major day was the birthday of William of Orange, Protestant victor of the Williamite war in the 1690s on 4 November. Both of these anniversaries faded in popularity by the end of the 18th century.
The Twelfth itself originated as a celebration of the Battle of Aughrim, which took place on 12 July 1691 in the Julian calendar. Aughrim was the decisive battle of the Williamite war, in which the predominantly Irish Catholic Jacobite army was destroyed and the remainder capitulated at Limerick, thereafter being exiled to France to fight in the wars of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The Twelfth in the early 18th century was a popular commemoration of this battle, featuring bonfires and parades. The Battle of the Boyne (fought on 1 July 1690) was commemorated with smaller parades on 1 July. However, two events were combined in the late 18th century to switch the Twelfth commemorations to the Boyne.
The first reason for this was the British switch to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, which repositioned the Battle of the Boyne to 11 July in the new calendar, the very eve of the Battle of Aughrim, on 12 July in the old calendar. The second reason was the foundation of the Orange Order in 1795. The Order preferred the Boyne, due to William of Orange's presence there. It has also been suggested that in the 1790s (a time of Roman Catholic resurgence) the Boyne, where the Jacobites were routed, was more appealing to the Order than Aughrim, where they had fought hard and died in great numbers.
The Twelfth parades of the early 19th century often led to riots and public disorder, so much so that the Orange Order and the Twelfth were suppressed in the 1830s and 40s.
The sectarian parades are ridiculously routed to inflame Irish Nationalist passions as much as possible.  Since the Good Friday Accords, the Parades Commission has lowered the tensions some.  It would be nice if these displays passed into history soon.  As it is, I hope for a peaceful passage of this "holiday."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why "Corporations Have $1.3 Billion in Cash" is a Worthless Talking Point

Via Ritholtz, Marketwatch:
9. We are levering up like crazy. Looking for a “credit bubble”? We’re in it. Everyone knows about the skyrocketing federal debt, and the risk that Congress won’t raise the debt ceiling next month. But that’s just part of the story. U.S. corporations borrowed $513 billion in the first quarter. They’re borrowing at twice the rate that they were last fall, when corporate debt was already soaring. Savers, desperate for income, will buy almost any bonds at all. No wonder the yields on high-yield bonds have collapsed. So much for all that talk about “cash on the balance sheets.” U.S. nonfinancial corporations overall are now deeply in debt, to the tune of $7.3 trillion. That’s a record level, and up 24% in the past five years. And when you throw in household debts, government debt and the debts of the financial sector, the debt level reaches at least as high as $50 trillion. More leverage means more risk. It’s Econ 101.
My claim was that corporations were sitting on that cash to be able to pay off debt coming due if we had another meltdown.  They learned painfully what can happen if they aren't able to roll debt over with a new bond issue.  I think that remains true.  They continue to borrow to finance investment, but they have to hold that cash for emergencies.  They won't be spending it anytime soon.

How To Win Rock, Paper, Scissors

Here, via Ezra Klein. as he says, don't use the Bart Simpson strategy:

I can't remember the quote one of my co-workers had from his friend about the game, but it involved hitting you in the head with a rock if you tried to tell him that paper beat rock.

Here's Bart:

Dealing With Deleveraging

The Economist, via Ritholtz:
What can be learnt from these various approaches? It is still early days, but four lessons stand out. The first is that in some extreme cases, when a large debt reduction is needed, orderly write-downs are necessary. The foreclosures on American mortgages have been severe, but they mean that household debt is likely to shrink to manageable levels faster than in, say, Britain, where low interest rates on variable mortgages and a lot of “forbearance” by banks have kept defaults artificially low. At the sovereign level the same logic should apply to hopelessly bankrupt Greece: it needs a debt write-down.
Second, nominal growth is essential to bring down the weight of debt. It is hard to ease the debt burden in a stagnant economy with low inflation. That suggests the pace of public-sector austerity, where possible, needs to be calibrated to the scale of private deleveraging. America’s government, for instance, needs a medium-term plan for deficit reduction, but cutting back spending viciously in the short term at a time of private-sector retrenchment would be a mistake.
Third, the best way to ease the pain of deleveraging is with an export-led boom. Here, progress has been painfully slow. The external deficits of ex-bubble economies have shrunk since 2007, but not by enough—and some now seem to be rising again. There has been too little rebalancing of global demand towards big emerging economies. That will require stronger currencies in emerging Asia and weaker ones in the rich world.
Trying to balance loan writedowns along with deficit reduction will be very challenging.  Money interests don't want loan writedowns and want to slash government spending.  Everyday people want jobs, and can't wait years to get them.  Political interests want to win the next election, and some of them are helped by a struggling economy.  How the sacrifices are spread will determine the future of the U.S. and the world, and it is hard to be optimistic on that front.

Naked Capitalism Link of the Day

Today's link: This Time Really Is Different, at Decline of the Empire.  This post summarizes well the deep-seated problems we face, in a more efficient way than I can express them:
  I've got some news for people like John Mauldin, Barry Ritholtz, Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff—this time is different, but not in the sense you intend. To understand what is happening in the United States, it is necessary to go far beyond an historical survey of financial crises. You must consider the specific historical circumstances that led to the current crisis. Such a review would include but not be limited to the following observations—
  • The United States has been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs for 30 years.
  • Almost all of the income gains made during that time went to the top 10% of wage-earners, with most of them going to the top 1%. Wealth inequality grew accordingly.
  • Health care costs have been soaring all that time.
  • College tuition costs skyrocketed at a pace far beyond the rate of inflation.
  • Households took on more and more debt to replace lost income.
  • We had not one, but two, substantial economic bubbles during the last 15 years. Without those bubbles, how much would the U.S. economy have grown?
  • The private debt to GDP ratio grew and grew, clearly indicating that more and more debt was required to add an additional point of GDP.
  • The Federal Government more and more became the tool of monied special interests.
And so forth. When people endorse Reinhart and Rogoff, we are supposed to understand that the Tough Times we're experiencing now have a well-defined beginning—the financial crisis after the fall of Lehman—and will have a well-defined end—however many years it takes to work through the credit problems. This is utter nonsense. The "historical obversations" I listed above are in fact the root causes of our current predicament.
And in each case, the historical trend has not changed, or has gotten worse. Households now have only slightly less debt than they did before the crisis, but trillions of dollars of housing wealth has disappeared. Health care costs continue to soar, as do college tuitions. Income gains still go to the wealthiest Americans. In short, nothing has changed.
My first steps to address these issues:

1.  Let all of the Bush tax cuts expire, including on dividends and capital gains.  Reintroduce and modify some of the tax cuts or credits targeted to the lower half of the income spectrum.  Bring back a 40% marginal rate on incomes over $1 million, with 45% at $3 million and 50% at $5 million.  Limit deductions on incomes over $1 million.  This will chip away at the income inequality while helping to increase revenues.

2.  Establish a land bank and governmental finance arm to deal with foreclosed properties belonging to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA.  Target low interest loans or rents to the lower and middle classes to provide affordable housing and utilization of existing housing stock.

3. Address immigration reform.  Offer penalties and incentives to encourage illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows and begin the path to legal status.  Some workers may want permanent residency, some may want visas to come in and work seasonally, let's find out what would work.

4.  Analyze the existing freight railroads for traffic congestion and potential for passenger traffic improvements in regional travel.  Investigate commuter public transportation options and improvements in the 50 largest metro areas.  Identify and begin replacement of needed infrastructure, focusing on the central cities in the 50 metro areas.  Provide additional incentives for redevelopment and repopulation in central cities.

5.  Wrap up the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and wind up U.S. support for Libyan rebels.  Cut defense spending, starting with personnel working overseas hired as contractors, they will not be the shadow army we deploy around the world.

That's just a start, and I haven't gotten to overhauling health care and moving to single-payer, or overhauling our energy system.  I should also note that there is a good editorial in Al-Jazeera (yes, I just wrote that) about the myths surrounding Ronald Reagan, which also goes into detail about some of the giant mistakes made in the last 30 years which have gotten us in this mess, and which must be unwound to get us out.

While Republicans Look To Cut Basic Science Research....

....and Obama goes along with them, there's this (Via Mark Thoma):
Fusion energy is created by fusing two atomic nuclei, in the process converting mass to energy, which appears as heat. The heat, as in conventional nuclear fission reactors, turns water into steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity, or is used to produce fuels for transportation or other uses.
Fusion energy generates zero greenhouse gases. It offers no chance of a catastrophic accident. It can be available to all nations, relying only on the Earth’s oceans. When commercialized, it will transform the world’s energy supply.
There’s a catch. The development of fusion energy is one of the most difficult science and engineering challenges ever undertaken. Among other challenges, it requires production and confinement of a hot gas — a plasma — with a temperature around 100 million degrees Celsius.
But potential solutions to these daunting technical challenges are emerging. In one approach, known as magnetic fusion, hot plasma is confined by powerful magnets. A second approach uses large, intense lasers to bombard a frozen pellet of fusion fuel (deuterium and tritium nuclei) to heat the pellet and cause fusion to occur in a billionth of a second. Whereas magnetic fusion holds a hot plasma indefinitely, like a sun, the second approach resembles an internal combustion engine, with multiple mini-explosions (about five per second).
Once a poorly understood area of research, plasma physics has become highly developed. Scientists not only produce 100 million-degree plasmas routinely, but they control and manipulate such “small suns” with remarkable finesse. Since 1970 the power produced by magnetic fusion in the lab has grown from one-tenth of a watt, produced for a fraction of a second, to 16 million watts produced for one second — a billionfold increase in fusion energy.
The editorial goes on to say that other developed nations are moving toward further research while we twiddle our thumbs.  I know, this is still rather unlikely, and the writer is engaged in said research, but it seems like setting aside the same amount of money over 20 years that we spend every three months blowing up Iraq and Afghanistan would be a worthwhile investment.  I would even venture to say that spending, say, 4 times that amount would likely be a good investment.  But Republicans don't seem to like basic science, they like corporate welfare and tax cuts for the super wealthy. 

An Act for the establishing and organizing a Marine Corps

July 11, 1798:
An Act for the establishing and organizing a Marine Corps.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in addition to the present military establishment, there shall be raised and organized a corps of marines, which shall consist of one major, four captains, sixteen first lieutenants, twelve second lieutenants, forty-eight sergeants, forty-eight corporals, thirty-two drums and fifes, and seven hundred and twenty privates, including the marines who have been enlisted, or are authorized to be raised for the naval armament; and the said corps may be formed into as many companies or detachments, as the President of the United States shall direct, with a proper distribution of the commissioned and non-commissioned officers and musicians to each company or detachment.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the pay and subsisteuce of the said officers, privates and musicians, shall be as follows, to wit: To a major, fifty dollars per month, and four rations per day; to a captain, forty dollars per mouth, aud three rations per day; to a first lieutenant, thirty dollars per mouth, and three rations per day; to a second lieutenant, twenty-five dollars per month, and two rations per day; and to the nom-commissioned officers, privates and musicians, conformably to the act, intituled "An act providing a naval armament," as shall be fixed by the President of the United States: And the President of the United States shall be, and is hereby authorized to continue the enlistment of marines, until the said corps shall be complete; and of himself, to Appoint the commissioned officers, whenever, in the recess of the Senate, an appointment shall be necessary. And the enlistments, which shall be made by virtue hereof, may be for the term of three years, subject to be discharged by the President of the United States, or by the ceasing or repeal of the laws providing for the naval armament. And if the marine corps, or any part of it, shall be ordered by the President to do duty on shore, aud it shall become necessary to appoint an adjutant, paymaster, quartermaster, sergeant-major, quartermaster-sergeant, and drum and fife-major, or any of them, the major or commandant of the corps, is hereby authorized to appoint such staff officer or officers, from the line of subalterns, sergeants and music, respectively, who shall be entitled, during the time they shall dosuch duty, to the same extra pay and emoluments, which are allowed by law, to officers acting in the same capacities in the infantry.

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the detachments of the corps of marines hereby authorized, shall be made in lieu of the respective quotas of marines, which have been established or authorized for the frigates, and other armed vessels and gallies, which shall be employed in the service of the United States: And the President of the United States may detach and appoint such of the officers of this marine corps, to act on board the frigates, and any of the armed vessels of the United States, respectively, as he shall, from time to time, judge necessary; any thing in the act "providing a naval armament" to the contrary hereof notwithstanding.
Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the officers, non-commissioned officers, privates and musicians aforesaid, shall take the same oath, and shall be governed by the same rules and articles of war, as are prescribed for the military establishment of the United States, and by the rules for the regulation of the navy, heretofore, or which shall be established by law, according to the nature of the service in which they shall be employed, and shall be entitled to the same allowance, in case of wounds or disabilities, according to their respective ranks, as are granted by the act "to ascertain and fix the military establishment of the United States."
Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That the non-commissioned officers, musicians, seamen and marines, who are or shall be enlisted into the service of the United States; and the non-commissioned officers and musicians, who are or shall be enlisted into the army of the United States, shall be, and they are hereby exempted, during their term of service, from all personal
arrests for any debt or contract.

Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That the marine corps, established by this act, shall, at any time, be liable to do duty in the forts and garrisons of the United States, on the sea-coast, or any other duty on shore, as the President, at his discretion, shall direct.
Approved, July 11, 1798.
A little historical explanation:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Joke For Sunday

Four old retired guys are walking down a street in Mesa , Arizona . They turn a corner and see a sign that says, 'Old Timers Bar - all drinks 10 cents'. They look at each other, and then go in, thinking this is too good to be true.

The old bartender says in a voice that carries across the room, 'Come on in and let me pour one for you!

'What'll it be, Gentlemen?'
There seemed to be a fully-stocked bar, so each of the men ask for a martini. In short order, the bartender Serves up four iced martinis. Shaken, not stirred, and says, 'That'll be 10 cents each, please.'

The four men stare at the bartender for a moment. Then look at each other they can't believe their good luck.

They pay the 40 cents, finish their martinis, and order another round. Again, four excellent martinis are produced with the bartender again saying, 'That's 40 cents, please.' They pay the 40 cents, but their curiosity is more than they can stand.

They have each had two martinis and so far they've spent less than a dollar.

Finally one of the men says, 'How can you afford to serve martinis as good as these for a dime a piece?'

'I'm a retired tailor from Boston ,' the bartender said, 'and I always wanted to own a bar. Last year I hit the Lottery for $25 million and decided to open this place. Every drink costs a dime - wine, liquor, beer, it's all the same.'

Wow!!!! That's quite a story,' says one of the men.

The four of them sipped at their martinis and couldn't help but notice seven other people at the end of the bar who didn't have drinks in front of them, and hadn't ordered anything the whole time they were there.

One man gestures at the seven at the end of the bar without drinks and asks the bartender, 'What's with them?'

The bartender says, 'Oh, they're all old retired farmers from Ohio , waiting for happy hour when drinks are half price.'

NASA Photo of the Day


A Milky Way Band
Credit & Copyright: John P. Gleason, Celestial Images
Explanation: Most bright stars in our Milky Way Galaxy reside in a disk. Since our Sun also resides in this disk, these stars appear to us as a diffuse band that circles the sky. The above panorama of a northern band of the Milky Way's disk covers 90 degrees and is a digitally created mosaic of several independent exposures. Scrolling right will display the rest of this spectacular picture. Visible are many bright stars, dark dust lanes, red emission nebulae, blue reflection nebulae, and clusters of stars. In addition to all this matter that we can see, astronomers suspect there exists even more dark matter that we cannot see.

Naked Capitalism Link of the Day

Today's link: Australia plans to impose carbon tax on worst polluters, at the BBC:
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said carbon dioxide emissions would be taxed at A$23 ($25; £15) per tonne from 2012.
The country's biggest economic reform in a generation will cover some 500 companies. In 2015, a market-based trading scheme will be introduced.
Households are expected to see consumer prices rise by nearly 1%, and the move has been criticised by the opposition.
Critics argue the levy would damage economic competitiveness.
Australia is one of the world's worst emitters of greenhouse gases per head of population.
The country relies on coal for 80% of its electricity generation, and is a major coal exporter.
Under the new scheme set to begin on 1 July 2012, the government plans to include any company that produces at least 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
However, agriculture, forestry and land will be excluded from the levy. Motorists are also to be exempt, except for heavy lorries.
Steelmakers, coal mines and electricity generators will receive compensation to ensure they stay in business. Other tax cuts are planned for consumers.
Interesting.  One more policy taken on by another developed economy, which will be blocked by Republicans in the United States.  It is unfortunate that religious fundamentalists (of which we have plenty) are so convinced that God gave us the Earth to trash, and any attempt to lessen our impact on the environment should be thwarted. 

World War II in Pictures-The Battle of Britain

The Atlantic features the Battle of Britain in Part 4 of a 20 Part feature:

Undaunted by a night of German air raids in which his store front was blasted, a shopkeeper opens up the morning after for "business as usual" in London. (AP Photo) #

Bengal Bouts Alum Mike Lee Wins Fight Saturday Night

From BoxingScene:
Home Depot Center, Carson, California - Lightweight Mercito Gesta (22-0-1, 12KOs) was on fire in his Top Rank debut, dropping Jorge Pimentel (23-12, 17KOs) multiple times before referee Raul Caiz Jr. had seen enough and stopped the fight in the third round.
Former Notre Dame football played Mike Lee displayed some of the qualities that were obvious in his last few fights, some promise but a lot of work needed.  In the first, Lee drops Michael Birthmark with a nice right hand but then regresses in to wild swinging in trying to get Birthmark out of there.  The second he shows decent handspeed and poise but then lets Birthmark back into the fight. The third he finally keeps the pressure on dropping Birthmark with an accumulation of punches.  Birthmark tires from the onslaught as Lee finally finishes him off in the third round. Lee now stands at 6-0 (4KOs) while Birthmark drops to 2-6
Congratulations to Mike Lee.  I'll keep an eye on his progress.  Here is more information on the Bengal Bouts.