Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Succinct Summary of Atlas Shrugged

From Jordan Bloom at The American Conservative:
 The wealthy will eventually get sick of being pushed around — … and will secede, potentially taking out the rest of society when they go. This is a pretty good metaphor for widespread anxiety on the right that we’re close to some kind of breaking point. Atlas Shrugged offers an eschatology to this narrative. It’s a revenge fantasy for people who hate taxes. Unfortunately, again, the real-life wealth creators are far more adept at manipulating government power to maintain their position, and the status quo is more resilient than anyone expects.
What's that?  Reality doesn't quite look as simple as fiction?  From the folks I've seen on Facebook threatening to go Galt, I think the world might actually be a better place if they went.  If only we could get the Sarah Palins and Michele Bachmanns (and Paul Ryan) to go too.

Tell Me Again About Rational Markets

At Oilprice (h/t nc links):
On June the 30th 2009 oil mysteriously jumped by more than $1.50 a barrel during the night, to reach its highest price in eight months, the kind of swing that is caused by a major geopolitical event.

The amazing, true cause of this price spike has now been released by a Financial Services Authority investigation (FSA).

Although not authorised to invest company cash in trades Steve Perkins, a long standing, senior broker at PVM Oil Futures, had managed to spend $520 million on oil futures contracts throughout the night.

On the morning of the 30th an admin clerk called Mr Perkins to ask why he had bought 7 million barrels of crude during the night. Mr Perkins had no recollection of the transactions, and it turned out that he had made the trades during a “drunken blackout.”

By the time PVM had realised the transactions had not been authorised by a client, they had incurred losses of $9,763,252.
Between the hours of 1.22am and 3.41am, Mr Perkins gradually bought 69 percent of the global market, whilst driving prices up from $71.40 to $73.05, by bidding higher each time.

At 6.30am, presumably sobering up and realising what he’d done, he sent a message to his managing director claiming an unwell relative meant he would not be able to make it into work.

Following an official investigation Mr Perkins admitted to having a drink problem, had his trading license revoked for five years, and was given a fine of £72,000.

The FSA have said that they will re-approve his license after the five year period, if he has recovered from his drink problem, although they warned that “Mr Perkins poses an extreme risk to the market when drunk.”
It is nice to know what actually occurs to move our market prices.  Some days you wonder if the traders are drunk.  Apparently, on at least one night, they were.

The Lego Machine

Pointless, but cool:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fitzroy Lodge


Beer And Politics

From National Journal:

Last week, beer poured into presidential politics in an unprecedented way when the beverage's most famous personality - the Most Interesting Man in the World - hosted an Obama fundraiser. You've likely seen him in ads for Mexican beer Dos Equis. His real name is Jonathan Goldsmith.
Some Dos Equis fans were not happy about the fundraiser and expressed their displeasure on the beer's Facebook page, according to Ad Age.
"Mr. Goldsmith's opinions and views are strictly his own, and do not represent those of Dos Equis," said Heineken USA, which imports Dos Equis, in a statement seeking to head off political blow-back.
Clearly, the Most Interesting Man in the World, who "once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels," has created an awkward moment for the brewing company.

It looks like I would fall on the high turnout Republican voters part of that chart.  Not so accurate.  I'm also not sure why a foreign beer company would try to appeal to American consumers by advertising a foreigner as the most interesting man in the world.

Cheap Beer

From The Economist:

That seems a little cheap, but $1 pints on Saturday night are pretty damn affordable.

One Less Member Of The Cup of Coffee Club

Choire Sicha on Adam Greenberg getting one more day in the majors:
Back in May, we wrote about the 974 baseball players who've had only one major league game in their careers. Subtract one! Mr. Greenberg, whose lone Major League at bat involved getting beaned in the back of the head by a 92-mph baseball, has gotten out—sort of. He's been signed to the Miami Marlins for a one-day contract to play against the Mets. He'll donate his pay to "the Sports Legacy Institute, a group that furthers the study of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and others."

Chart of the Day

From Early Warning, Number of Farms In the United States:

I've circled the 4% increase between 2002 and 2007.  Note that the reporter is incorrect that this is the first such increase since 1920: there was a large increase in 1935, presumably due to the effects of people going back to the land in the great depression.  Note also that the 2007 census is just before the great recession and it's possible the 2012 census will show a larger increase given both the recession and, perhaps, an ongoing trend amongst young people of returning to agriculture.

So, we are a long way from Sharon Astyk's Nation of Farmers, but it certainly looks like the giant loss of US farm count in the mid twentieth century has stabilized and perhaps now begun some kind of bounce back**.
Interesting.  What an oh-so-small increase.

True Enemies of Freedom

From Wired:

The Justice Department use of warrantless internet and telephone surveillance methods known as pen register and trap-and-trace has exploded in the last decade, according to government documents the American Civil Liberties obtained via a Freedom of Information Act claim.
Pen registers obtain, in real time, non-content information of outbound telephone and internet communications, such as phone numbers dialed, and the sender and recipient (and sometimes subject line) of an e-mail message. A trap-and-trace acquires the same information, but for inbound communications to a target. No probable-cause warrant is needed to obtain the data. Judges are required to sign off on these orders when the authorities say the information is relevant to an investigation.
In 2001, the DoJ issued only 5,683 reported “original orders.” (.pdf) Fast forward to 2011, the latest year for which data is available, the number skyrocketed to 37,616 — a more than sixfold increase. Though these can be used to track e-mail, the vast majority are used to get information on mobile phone users’ phone calls and texts.
Why can't Tea Partiers and Occupy folks get together and eliminate this intrusion on our privacy?  It seems like something lots of people would realize is a waste of government time and effort.  Come on, does anybody think we can get much useful information from all these searches?  I seriously doubt it.  If they could, the police could just go get an actual warrant.

Who Are We Talking About

Mark Lilla:
Once upon a time there was a radical president who tried to remake American society through government action. In his first term he created a vast network of federal grants to state and local governments for social programs that cost billions. He set up an imposing agency to regulate air and water emissions, and another to regulate workers’ health and safety. Had Congress not stood in his way he would have gone much further. He tried to establish a guaranteed minimum income for all working families and, to top it off, proposed a national health plan that would have provided government insurance for low-income families, required employers to cover all their workers and set standards for private insurance. Thankfully for the country, his second term was cut short and his collectivist dreams were never realized.
His name was Richard Nixon.
That is the opening sequence of Lilla's review of yet another foaming at the mouth, America is being destroyed by that Communist, Socialist, Nazi, Kenyan Anti-Colonialist Muslim Obama books the right loves to rush out and spend $20 bucks on.  The whole thing is worth a read, and maybe, just maybe, some of those folks will realize if/when Obama gets re-elected that they need to get a grip on reality.  Obama is more truly conservative than that idiot George W. Bush, and surely less radical than that other idiot Michele Bachmann.

Joe Biden As Waiter

Bill Barol imagines Joe Biden waiting your table:

Our fish special is halibut with a mango-avocado salsa and Yukon Gold potatoes, and it’s market-priced at sixteen-ninety-five. Sounds like a lot of money, right? Sounds like “Hey, Joe, that’s a piece of fish and a little topping there, and some potatoes.” “Bidaydas,” my great-grandmother from County Louth would have called ’em. You know what I’m talking about. Just simple, basic, sitting-around-the-kitchen-table-on-a-Tuesday-night food. Nothin’ fancy, right? But, folks, that’s not the whole story. If you believe that, you’re not . . . getting . . . the whole . . . story. Because lemme tell you about these Yukon Gold potatoes. These Yukon Gold potatoes are brushed with extra-virgin olive oil and hand-sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt, and then José, our prep guy. . . . Well. Lemme tell you about José. (He pauses, looks down, clears his throat.) I get . . . I get emotional talking about José. This is a guy who—José gets here at ten in the morning. Every morning, rain or shine. Takes the bus here. Has to transfer twice. Literally gets off one bus and onto another. Twice. Never complains. Rain, snow, it’s hailin’ out there. . . . The guy literally does not complain. Never. Never heard it. José walks in, hangs his coat on a hook, big smile on his face, says hello to everybody—Sal the dishwasher, Angie the sous-chef, Frank, Donna, Pat. . . . And then do you know what he does? Do you know what José does? I’ll tell you what he does, and folks, folks, this is the point I want to make. With his own hands, he sprinkles fresh house-grown rosemary on those potatoes (raises voice to a thundering crescendo), and they are golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside and they are delicious! They are delicious! They are delicious!
Pitch perfect.  The man is not just the Vice President of the United States, he is non-stop entertainment.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Knuckle Squad

From MLB:

and from Kevin Kaduk:
Dickey further solidified his place in knuckleball lore by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 at Citi Field for his 20th victory of the season.
With the win, Dickey becomes the first knuckleball pitcher to hit 20 wins in one season since the last Joe Niekro did it for the Houston Astros in 1980. He also became the first Met since Frank Viola in 1992 to hit the mark. Even if he comes up short in the competitive Cy Young voting, it's been a heck of a year for Dickey. He'll get a shot at lucky win No. 21 when he faces the Miami Marlins next Tuesday.
What a tremendous season.

Chart of the Day

From Big Picture Agriculture:

Drought Drives Farmers To Feed Cows Candy

Mike Yoder's herd of dairy cattle are living the sweet life. With corn feed scarcer and costlier than ever, Yoder increasingly is looking for cheaper alternatives -- and this summer he found a good deal on ice cream sprinkles.
"It's a pretty colorful load," said Yoder, who operates about 450 dairy cows on his farm in northern Indiana. "Anything that keeps the feed costs down."
As the worst drought in half a century has ravaged this year's U.S. corn crop and driven corn prices sky high, the market for alternative feed rations for beef and dairy cows has also skyrocketed. Brokers are gathering up discarded food products and putting them out for the highest bid to feed lot operators and dairy producers, who are scrambling to keep their animals fed.
In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to the animals through corn.
"Everybody is looking for alternatives," said Ki Fanning, a nutritionist with Great Plains Livestock Consulting in Eagle, Nebraska. "It's kind of funny the first time you see it but it works well. The big advantage to that is you can turn something you normally throw away into something that can be consumed. The amazing thing about a ruminant, a cow, you can take those type of ingredients and turn them into food."
I'm out of corn right now, I could use some candy.  I'm sure the cows would love them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bigots, Anyone?

From the Dish:

 Where would the Republican party be without the South?  In the dustbin of history where it belongs.  Unfortunately, rural voters in Ohio and Indiana sure help out too.  I'm guessing the fact that Romney trails Obama among working class whites in the Midwest traces back to the auto bailout.

The Case Against Obama

Conor Friedersdorf makes a strong one:
I find Obama likable when I see him on TV. He is a caring husband and father, a thoughtful speaker, and possessed of an inspirational biography. On stage, as he smiles into the camera, using words to evoke some of the best sentiments within us, it's hard to believe certain facts about him:    
  1. Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn't "precise" or "surgical" as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue. 
  2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama's kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done.  
  3. Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security. 
In different ways, each of these transgressions run contrary to candidate Obama's 2008 campaign. (To cite just one more example among many, Obama has done more than any modern executive to wage war on whistleblowers. In fact, under Obama, Bush-era lawbreakers, including literal torturers, have been subject to fewer and less draconian attempts at punishment them than some of the people who conscientiously came forward to report on their misdeeds.) Obama ran in the proud American tradition of reformers taking office when wartime excesses threatened to permanently change the nature of the country. But instead of ending those excesses, protecting civil liberties, rolling back executive power, and reasserting core American values, Obama acted contrary to his mandate. The particulars of his actions are disqualifying in themselves. But taken together, they put us on a course where policies Democrats once viewed as radical post-9/11 excesses are made permanent parts of American life.
Unfortunately, the Republicans are even worse on all these issues and more.  What amazes me is that most Republicans don't realize that based on his actions as President, Obama would have been a Republican in the 1990s.  Obamacare was Bob Dole and Heritage Foundationcare in 1993.  Obama has been no tougher on Israel than Old Man Bush was.  Remember, Bush 41 forced Israel not to retaliate when Hussein was sending Scud missles at them.  I agree with Friedersdorf that all of these actions were very bad, but my main concern in this election is what the folks at Balloon Juice refer to as running up the score.  The Republican party needs crushed, then we can focus on bringing the Presidency back under the Constitution.  I am in support of dismantling the security state and ending the idiotic war on terror.  But a vote for Gary Johnson isn't going to get it accomplished.  A vote for Obama might not either, but it will help pounding a nail into the Republican coffin. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Beautiful Pitch

Cubs Dad won't like it (piss on him), but here's another trailer for Knuckleball!:

Dickey goes for his 20th win Thursday afternoon.

Government Funded Research Helped Develop Fracking

AP, via nc links:
In 1975, the Department of Energy began funding research into fracking and horizontal drilling, where wells go down and then sideways for thousands of feet. But it took more than 20 years to perfect the process.
Alex Crawley, a former Department of Energy employee, recalled that some early tests were spectacular — in a bad way.
A test of fracking explosives in Morgantown, W.Va., "blew the pipe out of the well about 600 feet high" in the 1970s, Crawley said. Luckily, no one was killed. He added that a 1975 test well in Wyoming "produced a lot of water."
Steward recalled that Mitchell Energy didn't even cover the cost of fracking on shale tests until the 36th well was drilled.
"There's not a lot of companies that would stay with something this long. Most companies would have given up," he said, crediting founder George Mitchell as a visionary who also got support from the government at key points.
"The government has to be involved, to some degree, with new technologies," Steward said.
The first federal energy subsidies began in 1916, and until the 1970s they "focused almost exclusively on increasing the production of domestic oil and natural gas," according to the Congressional Budget Office.
More recently, the natural gas and petroleum industries altogether accounted for about $2.8 billion in federal energy subsidies in the 2010 fiscal year and about $14.7 billion went to renewable energies, the Department of Energy found. The figures include both direct expenditures and tax credits.
Congress passed a huge tax break in 1980 specifically to encourage unconventional natural gas drilling, noted Alex Trembath, a researcher at the Breakthrough Institute, a California nonprofit that supports new ways of thinking about energy and the environment. Trembath said that the Department of Energy invested about $137 million in gas research over three decades, and that the federal tax credit for drillers amounted to $10 billion between 1980 and 2002.
Yes, Mitt, WE built that.  Business folks come up with some great ideas, but government research pushes along a lot of advancements which would not be undertaken by folks who intend to make big profits.  Governmental support, whether in research dollars or in supply contracts when products aren't yet commercially viable have funded development for many of the things we take for granted.  Things like the internet.  And Tang.

The PBB Disaster

Detroit Free Press:
The story began with a shipping error that, in 1973, sent the dense, manmade molecule known as PBB into cattle feed supplement. Michigan Chemical -- based in St. Louis, in the center of the state -- was producing both PBB, which was used as a flame retardant sold under the trade name FireMaster, as well as magnesium oxide, a cattle feed supplement sold under the trade name NutriMaster.
Ten to twenty 50-pound bags of PBB made it to the now-defunct Michigan Farm Bureau Services operation in place of NutriMaster. It was mixed into cattle feed and purchased by farmers throughout Michigan.
Within days, cows began growing gaunt and weak. Their hooves grew to ghastly proportions. Abscesses developed, and their hides went thick and elephant-like.
"It didn't make sense," said Dr. Alpha (Doc) Clark, a veterinarian who served many of the region's farmers and still operates a low-slung clinic outside McBain, east of Cadillac. "It was like there wasn't a damned thing we could do."
It took more than nine months for the state to zero in on the cause, even as frustrated farmers watched their herds wither away. Once PBB was identified, the state quarantined more than 500 farms, meaning those farmers could no longer sell their cattle or their milk.
Bills mounted. Angry protests occurred across the state. And countless cattle were shot by their owners.
Lorraine Cameron, a state environmental epidemiologist, said the contamination was devastating.
"The Michigan dairy industry nearly went under," she said.
Eventually, more than 30,000 cows were forced into kill chutes near two state-sponsored burial pits, given lethal injections and buried. They joined with 1.5 million chickens and thousands of pigs, sheep and rabbits. Some of the animals had directly ingested the PBB; others were indirectly contaminated, having consumed food partly made with animal renderings from those directly contaminated.
Wow, that is a disaster I'd never heard of.  What a God awful mess.

Analyzing The World

Business Insider looks at a dozen of the insights in Nate Silver's new book, The Signal and the Noise (h/t Ritholtz).  A couple of my favorites:

The National Weather Service makes one of the best models in the world

The weather — "the epitome of a dynamic system" — has been increasingly predictable due to the National Weather Service's use of modeling on supercomputers. They've halved the average error in a temperature forecast since 1970, and they've been able to cut down the average error in the location of hurricane landfall from a 350 mile radius to a 100 mile radius in a mere 25 years.
Their calibration is as near to perfect as can be expected when it comes to forecast probability: "When they say there is a 20 percent chance of rain, it really does rain 20 percent of the time."

Your local meteorologist is horrible at his job, though

The Weather Channel isn't all that great — Silver notes that when they say there is a 20% chance of rain, it's only rained about five percent of the time. It's because "people notice one type of mistake — the failure to predict rain — more than another kind, false alarms," and the Weather Channel would rather err on the side of not ruining picnics.
But local TV meteorologists take this to an extreme. They're much more likely to overstate the probability of rain — in fact, "when a Kansas City meteorologist said there was a 100 percent chance of rain, it failed to rain one third of the time. "
First off, I never understood why the Republicans push to get rid of the National Weather Service, except that they are too hung up on privatizing everything.  Most of the private weather services just use the National Weather Service's predictions.   I've also never understood why the weathermen put out a 100% chance of rain prediction.  I mean, 80% sounds like it is very likely to rain, and it still gives you 20% of cover your ass insurance if it doesn't.  Why get so bold.  I also really liked the Deep Blue-Kasparov bit.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rural History Bus Tour Starts In Iowa

Des Moines Register:

This landscape — apart from the water sport of the 11-mile-long Lake Red Rock or the quaint Dutch facades of Pella — offers the rural Iowa staples of combines, pickup trucks, convenience stores and water towers. It’s not exactly a tourist magnet.
Or could it be?
Charlotte Shivvers stood at the front of the bus with a microphone and gestured to a deserted farmstead out the windows, calling it a “marker of the biggest historical change in rural Iowa in the last 100 years” — namely depopulation.
This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act, she added, when President Lincoln granted 160 acres of farmland to those willing to till the soil.
Instead of a large brood of burly farm kids, most rural families today tend to raise just a couple of children, she said, “both of whom probably go to California to work on computers.”
Your tour guide, Shiv-vers, 77, is the energetic president of a new group known as the Rural History Buffs of Marion County.“It’s as if we hear a heartbeat,” she said of how the fledgling nonprofit’s mission to “mark the hidden history of rural Marion County” has been embraced by their neighbors.
Welcome to a new frontier in grass-roots tourism, one that blends historical preservation, local genealogy and the sort of idiosyncratic place names that served as a low-tech GPS in the bygone era before smartphones.
I'm a big fan of the lost history of rural areas, and I hate to see so much history die off with the passing of elderly folks, but riding around in the sticks with a busload of old people doesn't look like something I'd want to do on a day off.  Really, every county in the country could be doing this, but the quality of the tour would only be as good as the guide.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

NASA Photo of the Day


Equinox: The Sun from Solstice to Solstice
Credit & Copyright: Tunç Tezel (TWAN)
Explanation: Yesterday was an equinox, a date when day and night are equal. Today, and every day until the next equinox, the night will be longer than the day in Earth's northern hemisphere, and the day will be longer than the night in Earth's southern hemisphere. An equinox occurs midway between the two solstices, when the days and nights are the least equal. The picture is a composite of hourly images taken of the Sun above Bursa, Turkey on key days from solstice to equinox to solstice. The bottom Sun band was taken during the winter solstice in 2007 December, when the Sun could not rise very high in the sky nor stay above the horizon very long. This lack of Sun caused winter. The top Sun band was taken during the summer solstice in 2008 June, when the Sun rose highest in the sky and stayed above the horizon for more than 12 hours. This abundance of Sun caused summer. The middle band was taken during the Vernal Equinox in 2008 March, but it is the same sun band that Earthlings saw yesterday, the day of the Autumnal Equinox.

No Shit Headline of the Day

Fewer modern farmers rely on almanacs for insights

Who would have guessed that massively vague weather forecasts made a year in advance that say something like, "Dec. 3-6, windy, cold" aren't very useful, or that planting and chores done based on lunar phases isn't based on any science or logic?  I always buy an almanac, but I laugh after big snowstorms when somebody tells me the almanac predicted it, but they predicted an even bigger one is coming later in the season.  I usually try to get them to bet on it.  Anyway, we can always count on a story hitting the news wire each year when the new almanacs come out.  At least we can count on some traditions:
 The 2013 edition of the Old Farmer's Almanac hit shelves Wednesday.
"In the early days, I suppose it used to be the main source of information, maybe the only source of information," said Annie Cheatham, executive director of the New England Farmers Union, which gets a copy of the Old Farmer's Almanac every year. "Of course, that's changed a lot with satellite information."
The 221-year-old Old Farmer's Almanac based in New Hampshire — not to be confused with the slightly younger Farmer's Almanac based in Maine — predicts a cold winter in the East, South and Southwest and a mild winter in the Midwest, heartland and West Coast. Summer, however, will be warmer on the West and East Coasts and cooler throughout the rest of the country.
The Old Farmer's Almanac, which boasts a 3.1 million print circulation plus digital versions, is used by all audiences, not just farmers, editor Janice Stillman said.
One of my other favorite bits of folk lore is that potatoes should be planted on Good Friday.  Nothing like using a day which may fall anytime within about a 36 or so day period.  I take that to mean that late March or early April is a good time to plant potatoes, not that I have to plant them on Good Friday.

Gordon Gee Is Extremely Costly

Dayton Daily News:
Gee’s spending is kept out of the public eye because it can be tallied only by examining multiple reports, including the quarterly discretionary expense reports delivered to the trustees and not easily obtainable by others. The Daily News first requested records documenting Gee’s work day, housing, American Express statements, travel expenses, discretionary spending reports and other data in September 2011. The university did not fully respond to the request until August 2012.
Those records show Gee stays in luxury hotels, dines at country clubs and swank restaurants, throws lavish parties, flies on private jets and hands out thousands of gifts — all at public expense.
The Daily News investigation found the university spent more than $895,000 for gatherings at the Pizzuti House, the president’s mansion, between April 2008 and June 2011. That works out to be about $23,000 a month — a little less than the average cost of a wedding.
The university spends tens of thousands of dollars alone branding Gee around his signature bow ties. Since 2007, Ohio State has spent more than $64,000 on bow ties, bow tie cookies and O-H and bow tie pins for Gee and others to distribute, the newspaper found.
$64,000 on bow ties and shit?  I have never understood how that weenie can make so much money being in charge of a state university, or what makes big donors love him so much.  I will say though that I love the Belushi and Ferris Bueller posters in the office, even though I would never want to hang out with that dork.  I don't understand how Ohio Republican politicians can defend his salary and luxury lifestyle, so he must really draw in the big bucks from other rich folks.  I guess its a pretty good gig if you got it.

The Jetsons At 50

Smithsonian Magazine:
It’s important to remember that today’s political, social and business leaders were pretty much watching ”The Jetsons” on repeat during their most impressionable years. People are often shocked to learn that “The Jetsons” lasted just one season during its original run in 1962-63 and wasn’t revived until 1985. Essentially every kid in America (and many internationally) saw the series on constant repeat during Saturday morning cartoons throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Everyone (including my own mom) seems to ask me, “How could it have been around for only 24 episodes? Did I really just watch those same episodes over and over again?” Yes, yes you did.
But it’s just a cartoon, right? So what if today’s political and social elite saw ”The Jetsons” a lot? Thanks in large part to the Jetsons, there’s a sense of betrayal that is pervasive in American culture today about the future that never arrived. We’re all familiar with the rallying cries of the angry retrofuturist: Where’s my jetpack!?! Where’s my flying car!?! Where’s my robot maid?!? “The Jetsons” and everything they represented were seen by so many not as a possible future, but a promise of one.
Yeah, I didn't realize there were only 24 episodes of the Jetsons.  I must have watched them each a shitload of times.

Less Like Zimbabwe, More Like Japan

Noah Smith links to an article about the dire finances of Japan over at The Atlantic, then follows with this:
This prophecy is hardly unique; I have beaten this drum myself. If Japan doesn't change course, it will have a major crisis within the next decade.

If. But what people need to understand is, the Japanese government does have the power to avert a crisis. It is not inevitable.

There is one way that the crisis can definitely be averted: Raise taxes. Japan's fiscal woes can be boiled down to one sentence: Japan has European levels social spending and European levels of aging with American levels of taxation. But this could change; if Japan raised taxes to European levels, crisis would be instantly averted. According to analyses I've seen, this would require raising Japan's taxes from their current level of 32.5% of GDP to somewhere between 40% and 50% of GDP. That's comparable to France or Sweden. Painful, but not impossible.

Now for the rumor (rumor always being a large component in Western analyses of Japan). My sources at the Bank of Japan and Ministry of Finance tell me that domestic Japanese investors are betting that, after all the grumbling and fighting and ending of political careers, Japan's government will suck it up and raise taxes. This, my shadowy sources say, is why pension funds are still willing to put the Japanese people's money into JGBs.

But this story is not really outlandish. It's similar to what we're observing in America right now. U.S. borrowing is at all-time highs, but demand for Treasuries shows no sign of flagging, and most of that demand - more than in the past - is from domestic U.S. investors. Yes, we have shown a reluctance to raise taxes - witness the apocalyptic debt ceiling fight from last year. But if the public really thought the U.S. government was willing to default, domestic Treasury buyers would be heading for the exits. That they are not heading for the exits probably indicates that they believe that when push comes to shove, the U.S. government will suck it up and raise taxes. There are signs that the Republicans are quietly recognizing the necessity of this. At this point, it's just a fight between Democrats and Republicans to see who takes the fall for raising taxes - that's what the "fiscal cliff" is really all about.
Like he points out, the U.S. could straighten up its finances very quickly by returning to 80s level tax rates, taking on the ridiculous mess Republicans call "the best health care system in the world," ending stupid unnecessary wars and tweaking Social Security (maybe by raising the cap on wages subject to taxation).  But half of our politicans have sworn off raising taxes or doing anything that makes a lick of fucking sense.  Eventually these idiots will be sent packing, but only when the pain really sets in in flyover country, and the portion of the 47% in rural areas finds out that the term doesn't only apply to brown people.  I wish there was a quicker and simpler way to fix things, but I'm not seeing it.

Some Sports Notes

Cheers to the Cincinnati Reds.  They won the Central Division for the second time in three years.  Amazingly, they have now won more games than the World Champion Reds of 1990, the greatest baseball season in my living memory.

Also, the Pittsburgh Pirates have collapsed.  On August 8, they were 16 games over .500 and in a quest for their first winning record since 1992.  Now they are 3 games under .500, and appear well on their way to their 20th straight losing season.

Finally, the Big Ten officially sucks.  First off, Notre Dame managed to go 3-0 against the conference this year, which is the first time since 2002 that has happened.  Then you have Iowa losing to Central Michigan, Michigan State struggling with Eastern Michigan, Indiana losing to Ball State,  Illinois getting crushed by Louisiana Tech and other atrocities I can't remember.  A BCS conference team shouldn't lose to any school who's name is "city" State University or "directional" State University.  They should only lose to University of "state name" and "state name" State University for states with at least 6 electoral votes.  There are these exceptions: University of Miami (Fl), Boise State University and the University of Nebraska (five electoral votes).  The Big Ten has been failing this miserably this season.  Right now, the MAC is looking nearly as strong as the Big Ten.  That is pitiful.