Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Wing And A Prayer

Does Rick Perry have any ideas for fixing things other than praying the problems away?  Is God going to get uninsured Texans health insurance?  If Perry passes a tax cut and prays for increased revenues, will God violate mathematics and common sense, and answer his prayers?  The Republican primary will be an interesting (and scary) race.

The Departed

I watched the movie last night.  It is a pretty good play off of Whitey Bulger's career and legend.  It has some great lines in it from Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin, but my favorite is from Matt Damon railing about firefighters after losing a rugby match (definitely NSFW):

I don't think there are any real insights coming from the quote, it just sounds to me like something an average cop would say if he was in that situation, albeit with a little more wit than the average cop might show. The history part cracks me up.

Mansfield's Shawshank Economy

All Things Considered featured a piece on Thursday about Mansfield, Ohio, and the tourists it draws as the location for the filming of Shawshank Redemption:
The 1994 prison drama The Shawshank Redemption is a Hollywood rarity, in that it wasn't shot in Hollywood. The filmmakers didn't use New York or Toronto either. Instead, Shawshank was filmed almost entirely on location, in and around the Rust Belt city of Mansfield, Ohio, about halfway between Columbus and Cleveland.
This summer, as we explore the places where iconic American movies were filmed for our series "On Location," we've discovered that often, long after the cameras are packed up and the crew goes home, a film can leave an imprint on a town.
In recent decades, Mansfield has fallen on hard times. Westinghouse, the Tappan Stove Co., Ohio Brass, and Mansfield Tire and Rubber have all closed plants in Mansfield since America's heavy manufacturing boom went bust. The latest casualty: the local General Motors plant, which closed just last year. All in a city of fewer than 50,000. But at least one closure has brought with it a strange bounty.
After nearly a century of use, the Ohio State Reformatory closed its doors on New Year's Eve 1990. The massive prison on the outskirts of Mansfield is a combination of three architectural styles: Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne. If that doesn't mean much to you, let me put it this way: It's gorgeous — and terrifying. Which may explain why Hollywood thought it would make a perfect Shawshank Prison.
This is one of my all-time favorite movies.  I can relate how people will visit movie sites, as I have stopped twice at the Dyersville, Iowa location for the movie Field of Dreams.  Mansfield, like any part of Ohio which isn't a bedroom community in a metropolitan area, has struggled with manufacturing job losses.  It's good to see something positive happening there.

Deep Field In Whitney Handicap at Saratoga

Bloodhorse via ESPN:
The handicap division has taken its lumps this year for not being especially deep, but its competitive nature has led to one of the more intriguing recent editions of the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap, which drew a large field of 11.
The 1 1/8-mile Whitney, which shares top billing with the Grade 1 Test Aug. 6 at Saratoga, includes grade I winners Giant Oak, Morning Line, Rail Trip, and Tizway, but it was Flat Out who was made the lukewarm 4-1 morning-line favorite off of his dominating Grade 2 Suburban Handicap victory July 2. Mission Impazible and Apart, second and third, respectively, in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, are also major contenders. The Whitney, a "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Classic, will go to post at 5:44 p.m. EDT.
Preston Stables' Flat Out won the Suburban Handicap by 6 1/2 widening lengths for his first graded stakes victory. Trained by Scooter Dickey, the Florida-bred son of Flatter has worked twice since that win at Monmouth Park and shipped to Saratoga Aug. 2. He will break from post 1 under Alex Solis.
"The post position doesn't make any difference to him," Dickey said. "I like my chances and the horse is doing well. He arrived there yesterday and went around the track this morning."
Flat Out finished sixth in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in his previous start.
The winner earns a spot in the Breeder's Cup Classic, and the race will be on Versus, with the broadcast starting at 5.

A View From Abroad

A Der Spiegel editorial questions what similiarities exist between Europe and the U.S. (via nc links):
America has changed. It has drifted away from the West.
The country's social disintegration is breathtaking. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz recently described the phenomenon. The richest 1 percent of Americans claim one-quarter of the country's total income for themselves -- 25 years ago that figure was 12 percent. It also possesses 40 percent of total wealth, up from 33 percent 25 years ago. Stiglitz claims that in many countries in the so-called Third World, the income gap between the poor and rich has been reduced. In the United States, it has grown.
Economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, has written that America's path is leading it down the road to "banana-republic status." The social cynicism and societal indifference once associated primarily with the Third World has now become an American hallmark. This accelerates social decay because the greater the disparity grows, the less likely the rich will be willing to contribute to the common good. When a company like Apple, which with €76 billion in the bank has greater reserves at its disposal than the government in Washington, a European can only shake his head over the Republican resistance to tax increases. We see it as self-destructive.
The same applies to America's broken political culture. The name "United States" seems increasingly less appropriate. Something has become routine in American political culture that has been absent in Germany since Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik policies of rapprochement with East Germany and the Soviet Bloc (in the 1960s and '70s): hate. At the same time, reason has been replaced by delusion. The notion of tax cuts has taken on a cult-like status, and the limited role of the state a leading ideology. In this new American civil war, respect for the country's highest office was sacrificed long ago. The fact that Barack Obama is the country's first African-American president may have played a role there, too.
There are a lot of good points in here.  We are definitely having difficulty in this country agreeing about what is the path we should take to improve our current condition.  It is interesting hearing an opinion from outside of the country, but I'm afraid the message won't make much of an impact here.  Nothing riles up an American like hearing a foreigner criticize us.  That's one of the reasons we have so many problems.   Belief in American Exceptionalism is pretty standard in many parts of the country, and admitting that we might not be the best at something is unacceptable to many folks.  I hate to tell them, but we aren't the best at very many things these days, other than being fat and wasting too much fossil fuel-based energy in our lives.  It isn't a good place for us to be, and the upcoming Republican campaign for president will highlight that effectively.

Atomic Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima

August 6, 1945.  It was followed by the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9.  No atomic weapon has ever been used in hostilities since.  Thank God.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cutting Government Investment

Kash Mansori makes a statement I agree with:
The very basic and (I thought) uncontroversial notion that the government can make useful investments in the nation, that it can do things to help make the economy stronger and more productive, has been thrown out the window in the US recently. And the result, I fear, will be a decidedly smaller, meeker, and poorer future for this country.
I think we are bound for that.  Too many people assume government can do nothing right.  They may struggle to get going in the right direction sometimes, but government investment in research ends up paying off massively.  The assumption that all government spending is wasteful will hurt us going forward.

Risk of Recession in Germany?

Edward Hugh says maybe. (via nc links)

Employment Report

Calculated Risk, last night:
Tomorrow the BLS will release the July Employment Situation Summary at 8:30 AM ET. Bloomberg is showing the consensus is for an increase of 75,000 payroll jobs in July, and for the unemployment rate to hold steady at 9.2%.
I'll take the under.  I'll be impressed if it is over 40,000.  We'll see how the markets react to that.

Update: I lost. 117,000 is not bad.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Church vs. Ayn Rand

America magazine calls out Paul Ryan for listening to a very bad novelist and trying to stiff the needy.

IRS Analysis of The Great Recession

The Awl:
The IRS did an analysis of the 2009 tax year, and some interesting and not surprising things happened! • More than 3% of households that had job income in 2007 had none in 2009.
• America's average household income fell 13.7% from 2007 to 2009.
• Two million fewer people filed tax returns from 2007 to 2009.
Wow, those are some bad numbers.  13.7% is a big decrease, although that would include capital gains, which pretty much didn't exist in 2009.

Chasing Females Sends Males To An Early Grave

Again and again across the animal kingdom, males die younger than females — a consistent, puzzling pattern of premature expiration that new research suggests may be the unavoidable biological cost of impressing the ladies.
An emblematic example of the trade off is seen among houbara bustards, a large Middle Eastern bird with exuberant male courtship displays. Males age faster than females,  and biologists found that exceptionally exuberant males age fastest.
The measure of aging was, appropriately, declining sperm quality.
“It is the males that invest most effort into extravagant sexual display that experience this spermatogenic ‘burn-out’ at an earlier age,” wrote researchers led by biologist Brian Preston of France’s University of Burgundy in an August 1 Ecology Letters paper.
Makes sense to me.  I'll refrain from commenting further.

Early Trial-By-Media

August 4, 1892:

Lizzie Andrew Borden (July 19, 1860 – June 1, 1927) was a New England spinster who allegedly killed her father and stepmother with a hatchet on August 4, 1892, in Fall River, Massachusetts, in the United States. The murders, subsequent trial, and ensuing trial by media became a cause célèbre. Although Lizzie Borden was acquitted, no one else was ever arrested or tried and she has remained a notorious figure in American folklore. Dispute over the identity of the killer or killers continues to this day. The fame of the incident has endured in American pop culture and criminology.

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

War Crimes Watch

McClatchy, via nc links:
A U.S. citizen and Army veteran with a horrific tale of abuse in Iraq can keep pursuing his case against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others, a federal judge has ruled.
In a pointedly detailed 47-page opinion, U.S. District Judge James Gwinn declined the Justice Department's bid to dismiss the complaint filed by a man known only as John Doe. Though the facts have not been  tried, the alleged abuses are serious enough to overcome Rumsfeld's invocation of qualified immunity. Noted Gwinn, in the decision issued Tuesday:
"...a reasonable federal official would have understood conscience-shocking physical and psychological mistreatment—including temperature, sleep, food, and light manipulation—of a United States citizen detainee to violate the detainee’s constitutional right to substantive due process."
The individual known as John Doe had been working as a civilian translator for U.S. Marine Corps intelligence-gathering efforts in 2005. For reasons that are not immediately obvious, but which  presumably related to suspicions about dual loyalties, investigators seized Doe and tossed him into jail at Camp Cropper for nine months. There, he claims, guards...
exposed him to extreme cold and continuous artificial light, blindfolded and hooded him, woke him by banging on a door or slamming a window whenever they observed Doe trying to sleep, and blasted heavy metal or country music into his cell at intolerable volumes.
Doe was eventually cut loose without being charged with a crime, but he reportedly remains on a U.S. government watch list.
I am pretty sure John Doe is a brown person, so Republicans can feel safe that this won't happen to "real Americans."  I don't feel so confident.  Hopefully, this and other cases come to trial, and Rumsfield, Bush, Cheney and Co. have to pay the piper for being sadistic cowards and war criminals.

The Raid To Kill Bin Laden

The New Yorker has an excellent piece covering the preparations for the raid, and the raid itself (h/t Ritholtz).  As a person who likes Joe Biden, I enjoyed this section:
In the Situation Room, Obama said, “I’m not going to be happy until those guys get out safe.” After thirty-eight minutes inside the compound, the two SEAL teams had to make the long flight back to Afghanistan. The Black Hawk was low on gas, and needed to rendezvous with the Chinook at the refuelling point that was near the Afghan border—but still inside Pakistan. Filling the gas tank took twenty-five minutes. At one point, Biden, who had been fingering a rosary, turned to Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman. “We should all go to Mass tonight,” he said.
It took a lot of guts for the President some call a black Jimmy Carter to go ahead with a special forces raid so reminiscent of the failed Iran rescue.  When that helicopter crashed, Robert Gates must have been getting a sense of deja vu.

The Cost of the Bush Tax Cuts, Ctd.

Chuck Marr (via Mark Thoma):
The congressional “supercommittee” that the debt limit deal establishes to recommend more deficit-reduction measures not only can consider revenue increases, but must consider them if it’s going to produce a balanced plan.  Here are five reasons why:
  1. President Bush’s tax cuts are a significant contributor to projected deficits, as this well-known chart shows. Letting the tax cuts expire would save up to $3.8 trillion over the next decade, including the savings on interest payments on the national debt.

    Moreover, claims that we must extend the tax cuts to avoid seriously harming the economy are incorrect.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that extending the tax cuts would be the least effective of all spending and tax options that CBO examined for boosting the weak economy and creating jobs.  CBO also pointed out that permanently extending the tax cuts without paying for them would, on balance, weaken economic growth in the long run because of the large increases in deficits it would produce.
$3.8 trillion in a decade sounds like more than $380 billion a year, but it definitely is a very large amount.  If the Bush tax cuts went away, we would be stuck with those burdensome tax rates which caused the government to actually decrease the amount of debt held by the public.  I can't believe anybody is taken seriously when they say they are going to balance the budget without raising revenues.  Not going to happen.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Black Sox Ban

August 3, 1921:
 Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis confirms the ban of the eight Chicago Black Sox, the day after they were acquitted by a Chicago court.

Some Economic Facts To Keep In Mind

From ProPublica:

  • The amount of state budget spending that comes from the federal government : about 1/3, or $478 billion in 2010

  • Percentage of Americans' total personal income that comes from federal funds : almost 20 percent

  • Spending cuts in the proposed budget : at least $2.3 trillion over a decade from 2012-2021

  • Things will get worse before they get better.
  • Gambling and Government

    While I was wandering through downtown Detroit, I went through Greektown, and saw several blocks of revitalization around the Greektown Casino.  It made me wonder.  Why can a casino stimulate development in an area where government probably can't?  Why would people willingly come to downtown Detroit to throw money away, when they'd never want to pay taxes to the government?  I assume it is because they think they can hit it big, and they have fun trying.  Therefore, since 46% of people don't pay any federal income tax, but they have to file a return to get a refund, why not offer a huge raffle for these folks?  Say, $100 for a chance to win one of 50 $1,000,000 prizes?  You would only need 500,000 people to participate to break even.  The best part of the whole deal would be listening to the winners bitch about having to pay taxes on the prize.  Or, maybe even more interesting, a giant 50/50 raffle.  How big would that pot be?

    Detroit, Down But Not Out- Part 2

    I headed down to the Renaissance Center and took a couple of pictures.  Here's Windsor, the home of what my former boss called the most impregnable line of national defense installations ever built-an array of casinos, bars and strip joints which would ground any invading army to a halt:

    Here's a couple views of the Renaissance Center:

    As I headed in the direction of the stadium, I came across the Wayne County Building, featured prominently in recent Chrysler ads:

    The Future of the Islanders

    Katie Baker at Grantland:
    Long Island residents on Monday voted on a special referendum to authorize the issue of a municipal bonds that would finance the construction of a new arena. Still reading? Good! This vote was important, because facility would have replaced the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which was built in 1972 (and shows it.) The vote was expected to either breathe new life into the building's main tenant, the New York Islanders, or effectively deliver a death sentence for hockey on Long Island.
    Nassau voters rejected the bond, which would have raised household taxes by a modest amount. That puts the future of the Islanders franchise in doubt. Because you might not have been closely following Long Island municipal issues already, here’s five things to think about after Monday’s vote.
    The article says that potential new homes for the Islanders are Brooklyn, Kansas City and Quebec.  With Winnipeg getting a team back, it would be interesting to see hockey return to Quebec.  Anyway, as bad as the Islanders have been in the last few years, I still think of the 4 Stanley Cups at the beginning of the 80s when I hear the name.

    World's Worst Charity Campaign

    Idiots.  Via nc links.

    Tea Party Historical Ignorance

    Sarah Churchwell, via the Big Picture:
    Mottos are supposed to express a philosophy: in so far as the Tea Party can be said to have anything so exalted as a philosophy, their motto is quite telling. They are one of the most inaccurately named movements in American political history, but that inaccuracy is itself emblematic of the party's adamantine ignorance. Any American schoolchild can tell you the motto of the historical Boston Tea Party from which they take their name and – they mistakenly believe – their inspiration: "No taxation without representation."
    Impatient with those extra two words, evidently, the Tea Party has truncated this proposition to something simpler: "No taxation." Never mind that the US has among the lowest levels of taxation in the developed world, matched only by Mexico and Chile (are these the nations the Tea Party would like to emulate?). Never mind that the nation's actual Founding Fathers were perfectly prepared to pay taxes – they just thought those taxes should purchase them a democratic voice in their own government.
    The motto that came out of the Constitutional Convention was not "In God We Trust": it was "E Pluribus Unum," out of many, one. The phrase "In God We Trust" emerged from the American Civil War, but it wasn't put on US currency until the Cold War, in 1955. The following year, the same year he signed the Civil Rights bill into law, Eisenhower made it the nation's motto.
    In other words, In God We Trust is an act of revisionist history and retrospective religiosity, reinserting religion into our national history. But the attempt to create one from many has led to Civil War more than once (the American Revolution was a civil war), and parts of the South regularly seceding (the South and other states threatened to walk out of the Constitutional Congress, did secede in the 1860s, and revolted again in 1944, with the so-called 'Dixiecrats.')
    I don't understand the tea party stance that we can't ever raise taxes.  That makes no sense. 

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Where The Yahoos Are

    There are enough loony Congresspeople in the Midwest, I can't imagine how bad it is in the South.  Via the Dish.

    U.S. Housing Bubble Versus Canada and Australia

    Realty Bubble Monitor, via the Big Picture:

    Wow, things are going to be ugly in Australia and Canada if those things pop.  I wish them the best, but I'd be considering selling, if I owned a home in either country, even though the top might be in down under.

    "Wasteful" Government Spending

    After weeks of listening to politicians talk about wasteful government discretionary spending, I wanted to note this article from the Kansas City Star in April, when we had our last budget fight:
    Dr. Rajaram believes that in part that jump is coming from genetic trait released in 1991 by the Wheat Genetic and Genomic Resources Center at Kansas State University. It includes a gene that provides resistance to leaf rust, a disease that has devastated wheat since Roman times.
    Since 1984, K-State’s wheat center has led a global effort in conserving and researching more than two-dozen wild wheat and goatgrass species, including more than 12,000 strains. More than 30,000 samples from the collection of wild wheat relatives, genetic stocks and improved genetic resources have been distributed to scientists in 45 countries and 39 states in the United States, free of cost or intellectual property claims.
    Fifty improved wheat strains incorporating more than 50 novel disease and insect-resistant genes were developed, and many have been deployed in agriculture. In the Great Plains, this bounty of genes is protecting wheat crop from rust and viral diseases; and in the eastern United States, from the destructive Hessian fly.
    These innovations have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the U.S. economy and protected the environment from pesticides that would otherwise be needed to protect genetically susceptible crops.
    Back in the motel room, as the night progressed, CNN announced a breakthrough in budget negotiations; a government shutdown was averted and $78 billion chopped from the 2011 budget. It was surreal to watch because one of the eliminated programs from the budget was funding for the wheat center, which annually received $90,000 to $350,000 from 1984 to 2009, and $1 million in 2010.
    The center’s craftsmen who conserve and fashion genetic tools and genetic resources for the world’s wheat industry had been disabled. Nobel laureate Borlaug’s words ring in my ears, “you cannot build world peace on empty stomachs.”
    Cutting government spending in basic scientific and agricultural research is just plain stupid.  All that research combined wouldn't pay for 4 months of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  When the Republicans won the 2010 elections, they started up a website to allow citizens to vote on government programs to eliminate.  One of the first chosen, the National Science Foundation.  I happened to have two former college roommates who have received NSF grants.  Both are brilliant, and the idea that such spending is wasteful is foolish.  The Republican war on science is just plain stupid, but so are some Republicans.  We are eating our seed corn, or in this case, seed wheat.

    States Which Get More Federal Spending Than Pay Taxes

    From the Economist, via Yglesias:

    I should forward this to my friend and college roommate who is a Tea Party member and Sandia National Lab employee out in New Mexico, but I don't have the heart for the argument right now.  Damn moochers (said realizing I receive farm subsidy payments).

    Former Intel Chief: End The Drone War

    Dennis Blair on the drone war, one of the Bush policies which Obama supersized (via nc links):
    The reconsideration of our relationship with these countries is only the start of the overhaul Blair has in mind, however. He noted that the U.S. intelligence and homeland security communities are spending about $80 billion a year, outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet al-Qaida and its affiliates only have about 4,000 members worldwide. That’s $20 million per terrorist per year, Blair pointed out.
    “You think — woah, $20 million. Is that proportionate?” he asked. “So I think we need to relook at the strategy to get the money in the right places.”
    Blair mentioned that 17 Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by terrorists since 9/11 — 14 of them in the Ft. Hood massacre. Meanwhile, auto accidents, murders and rapes combine have killed an estimated 1.5 million people in the past decade. “What is it that justifies this amount of money on this narrow problem?” he asked.
    Seriously, we waste hundreds of billions of dollars, allowed torture of detainees, allow ourselves to be physically searched at airports and have our phone calls and emails monitored, and for what?  Who the hell is afraid of dying in a terrorist attack.  I am sure not worried.  This September 11 will mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and it is high time for this country to stop wasting resources and sacrificing civil liberties because we are cowards.

    Are There More Jobs In The South?

    Maybe, if people in the North have given up looking for work while people down South continue to, but otherwise, things don't look too good down there:

    Getting Things Wrong

    People who have come across this blog realize I often get things wrong.  Brain Pickings features 5 books about error and the science of being wrong (h/t Ritholtz).

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Detroit, Down But Not Out-Part 1

    My quick trip to Toledo and Detroit was nice.  In Toledo, I got a hamburg and hot dog at the original Tony Packo's, then met up with my college roommate and took in a Mud Hens game:

    The park is much like the field in Dayton, and both are named Fifth Third Field.  The food at Tony Packo's was also good.  The Mud Hens won 5-2.

    The next morning, I drove up to the Henry Ford Museum and took a tour of the Rouge plant.  I'll post separately on that, because that deserves a little more space.  That was the first time I've been inside of an assembly plant, and I thought it was really cool.  So much stuff was going on at one time, I was on sensory overload. 

    After that, I drove into Detroit, where I stopped by the Michigan Central depot and took a couple of pictures:

    After that, I stopped down the street at the site of the former Tiger Stadium, now Ernie Harwell Park:

    Local County Fair To Sell Beer

    The Miami County Fair will sell beer this year:
    The Miami County Agricultural Society has joined a group of about 20 other fairs in Ohio with its decision to sell beer during the 2011 Miami County Fair.
    According to Diana Thompson, the Piqua representative of the Miami County Agricultural Society, the decision was made at a recent board of directors meeting. However, the board has been quietly discussing it since the end of the 2010 event, she said.
    Thompson said with ever-increasing costs to put on the week-long event, coupled with the drop in ticket sales from the 2010 fair due to the heat, the board had to begin to look into ways to increase revenue.
    "It wasn't a decision we made lightly. It really is about budgetary concerns," Thompson said. "That's why many fairs are going in this direction."
    She said after speaking with managers at several other fairs - including Auglaize County where beer has been offered for more than 100 years - the board feels more comfortable with its decision.
    This sounds good to me.  I'll have to go out there and buy a couple from them.  I'm sure some older folks will be upset, but I like the concept.

    Double Dip Recession

    Right now, people are claiming the budget deal will cut GDP 0.4% or more.  I would think that as the economy is already slowing down, GDP predictions have been wildly optimistic, Europe is a basket case and state budget cuts are just starting to kick in, we'll be looking at a double dip recession starting this fall.  Welcome to the Not-So-Great Depression.  We're less than 4 years in, but it will be a long time before things get better.  Deleveraging is a bitch.

    Balanced Budget Amendment

    Calculated Risk explains why this is a dumb idea that sounds good to the man on the street:
    On a personal note, I think most Americans (and most politicians) do not understand the U.S. budget. This reminds me of the housing bubble - it seemed obvious to many of us, but most Americans (and most politicians) missed it completely. As an example, the "Balanced Budget Amendment" is obviously bad policy, yet politicians aren't ridiculed for supporting it. Immediate cuts with a 9.2% unemployment rate are bad policy, but that appears to be what is going to happen. I wish I was a better writer ... but I'll try to explain why these are policy mistakes in the months ahead.

    Update: here is what I wrote in the comments:
    I get really frustrated with politicians comparing the Federal budget to a family budget. The government does not have a capital budget, so if they spend money on R&D or roads, that is just included in the budget.

    If a family buys a car with 5 year financing, they usually just budget the monthly payments. If they budgeted like the government, they'd have to include the entire purchase of the car the year it was bought (same with a house - they'd have to enough to pay cash to buy the house).

    Some people compare to the states too. Hey the states are supposed to have balanced budgets. But states have separate capital and operating budgets. I think people just don't understand....
    A politician can say "We should have a balanced budget". It sounds good, but why aren't they challenged about operating vs. capital budgets? And about business cycle spending (obviously revenue falls during a recession - and spending increases)?

    What they really want is a balanced operating budget over the business cycle. You can't put that in the Constitution. It requires effective government and constant vigilance.

    Of course in 2001, when the politicians were concerned about paying off the debt too soon, that nonsense went mostly unchallenged too. Very frustrating.

    I need to think about how to explain it. "Balanced budget" sounds so good, and is so wrong.

    This is pretty important, but don't expect do-nothing populist hack politicians like Jim Jordan to answer questions like this.  They like simplified idiocies which make it sound like they are proposing real ideas when they are only giving themselves more excuses to vote against normal governmental procedures.

    Easy Predictions of the Day

    Jim Jordan will vote against the debt ceiling compromise (Update: Even though the Republicans won this hostage situation, hands down).  Also, the sun will set this evening.

    A Day Off Up North, Maybe

    Civic Holiday is the most widely used name for a public holiday celebrated in parts of Canada on the first Monday in August, though it is only officially known by that term in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Manitoba. It is a statutory holiday in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, but not in Manitoba.
    The date of the Civic Holiday is historically linked to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834, but was chosen primarily for its timing: between Canada Day and Labour Day there were no recognizable holidays, one of the longest stretches on the Canadian calendar without a holiday. (In terms of statutory holidays, the winter stretch between Family Day and Easter is occasionally longer, but unofficial holidays such as Saint Patrick's Day and Valentine's Day are observed during that time.) Thus, this holiday was placed roughly halfway between Canada Day and Labour Day; it is celebrated under numerous names in the jurisdictions it is recognized. In many communities, however, Emancipation Day celebrations are also held, specifically commemorating the abolition of slavery in Canada in 1834.
    The holiday is known by a variety of names in different provinces and municipalities, including British Columbia Day in British Columbia, New Brunswick Day in New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan Day in Saskatchewan. In Alberta, Heritage Day is an "optional" civic holiday, having been downgraded from a statutory holiday following the introduction of Family Day in 1990. The holiday is celebrated as Natal Day in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, but is not an official holiday in either jurisdiction.
    In Ontario since 2008 the holiday is officially observed as "Emancipation Day"; however many municipalites have local names as well, such as Simcoe Day in Toronto (Caribana is held this holiday weekend), Mountie Day in North York, Colonel By Day in Ottawa, George Hamilton Day in Hamilton, Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, Founders' Day in Brantford, McLaughlin Day in Oshawa, Alexander Mackenzie Day in Sarnia, James Cockburn Day in Cobourg, Peter Robinson Day in Peterborough, and John Galt Day in Guelph, as well as numerous other names in smaller municipalities. Although a work holiday is given to employees of the federal and many municipal governments, the provincial government has not defined this day as a statutory holiday and it is not mentioned in either Ontario's Employment Standards Act or Retail Business Holidays Act.
    The holiday is not generally observed in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, or the Yukon, except by federal employees. In Newfoundland, the Royal St. John's Regatta, which usually occurs on the first Wednesday of August, effectively displaces the Monday holiday even though it is only officially celebrated as a civic holiday in St. John's.
    Maybe it would be simpler to call it Day Off in August, at least where it is a day off.  That is complex.  I do like that the hoiday is called John Galt Day in Guelph, not after the fictional inventor in Atlas Shrugged, but after the Scottish novelist and founder of the city of Guelph.  Seems like a good name for a holiday.

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    NASA Photo of the Day

    July 25:

    Milky Way Over Abandoned Kilns
    Image Credit: Tom McEwan
    Explanation: What's that below the Milky Way? Historic kilns. Built in the 1870s in rural Nevada, USA to process local wood into charcoal, the kilns were soon abandoned due to a town fire and flooding, but remain in good condition even today. The above panorama is a digital conglomerate of five separate images taken in early June from the same location. Visible above the unusual kilns is a colorful star field, highlighted by the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy appearing along a diagonal toward the lower right. Many famous sites in our Galaxy are visible, including the Pipe Nebula and the Dark River to Antares, seen to the right of the Milky Way. The origin of the green mist on the lower left, however, is currently unexplained.

    The GOP's Alternate Reality

    at Politico, via nc links:
    If you listened only to conservatives, you would think that the health care law was some sort of fascist takeover — though the leading GOP presidential candidate implemented a nearly identical system in Massachusetts. Many features of the plan were hatched by the conservative Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) put forward a plan approved by the House Republicans to turn Medicare into a system similar to Obamacare. Somehow, for Republicans, the private sector can do no wrong. When it does wrong, it’s not the private sector that did it.
    This level of core duplicity goes back to the founding of the modern conservative movement — the New Right and the neoconservatives in the 1970s. Many of these influential neocons were ex-Trotskyites, schooled in the political organizing tactics that included deception and propaganda as basic tools for political control. It has proved a fabulously successful political strategy: The political spectrum has moved far to the right in both parties — with the significant exception of gay rights.

    What is striking today about Republican control of Congress is how reality is just not relevant to governing.
    It also brings up blaming the entire financial crisis on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  I think the idea that tax cuts create jobs and increase revenues should also be mentioned.  We have gotten to the point where the "wingnut Wurlitzer," as the folks at Balloon Juice refer to it, has been so effective in repeating the same untrue talking points that many people can't be convinced with clear data that their dearly held beliefs have no root in actual fact.  Try to correct a conservative friend's chain email by sending them a debunking by  They will likely tell you that Snopes is liberal.  They've gotten an email telling them this is true.  I never was able to convince Grandpa that Target isn't a French-owned company, even after I told him it used to be Dayton-Hudson Corporation, and has never been purchased by another company.


    I had a nice 33-hour trip Friday and Saturday to Toledo and Detroit involving baseball, food, drink, industry and catching up with a college roommate and his boys.  Pictures and information will be posted later.

    Debt Ceiling Discussions

    This weekend I talked to four people from different backgrounds at different times, and the debt ceiling debate came up.  All of them favored deep cuts, but all of them also recommended tax increases or the elimination of tax credits and deductions.  Two suggested raising the cap on taxable income for social security.  Based on this very limited sample, I would extrapolate that Republicans will lose more over this battle politically.  When regular folks are suggesting that taxes need to go up, they probably need to go up