Saturday, March 31, 2007

Castro Still Alive and Misguided

It helps to be fabulously rich if you want to cheat death for a few thousand days. Fidel Castro is back in public view and he is outraged! He accuses the Bush Administration of using food as an imperial weapon against the hungry masses of the poor.

Fidel bashes bio-fuels: Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in his first editorial since largely disappearing from public view due to illness last year, charged US demand for biofuels directly hurts the world's poor. … "The sinister idea of converting food into combustibles was definitively established as the economic line of foreign policy of the United States," he wrote. The remarks came in response President Bush's meeting this week with the heads of the big three automakers in Washington.

Needless to say, some capitalist pigs disagree. Investors Business Daily retorts.

Hunger: Where Is The Scorn? There's never a shortage of dictators to hurl abuse at the U.S. for its food policies. But they have no right to do it. Marxism, not freedom, is the world's foremost creator of hunger. … Cuba's communist dictator Fidel Castro on Thursday denounced the U.S.' production of grain ethanol as 'sinister' and a coming cause of ecological catastrophe and global starvation.

By the way, all three Marxist states claim food is a right for all. But the hunger their people suffer is in fact just another monstrous instance of state failure. In all three, private property is outlawed and expropriated. … Where is the U.N. report denouncing North Korea, Zimbabwe or Cuba for policies that create mass starvation, all because they refuse to permit any free-market activity even if it means saving their citizens' lives?

The sad part is that Castro is actually correct that the ideology driven environmentalist push to return human society to biofuels is in all probability going to be harmful to nature. Using surface organic material to replace subsurface inorganic energy sources is absolutely not going to be good for all the wee creatures. The answer to hunger is the overthrow of dictatorship followed by the restoration of property rights and uncorrupted commerce.

Friday, March 30, 2007

WEAC – Iranian Style

Kenneth Timmerman writing for Front Page Magazine is convinced Iran is deliberately trying to provoke a military confrontation with the west.

The Next War? One week before the kidnapping of the British hostages, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards weekly newspaper, Sobh-e Sadeq, published these incendiary remarks from Reza Fakr, a writer said to have close links to Ahmadinejad: “We’ve got the ability to capture a nice bunch of blue-eyed blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks. Iran has enough people who can reach the heart of Europe and kidnap Americans and Israelis.”

The only bottom line that counts for them is the perpetuation of their regime. They believe that by attacking Britain and America they can rally their supporters, rally the faithful beyond Iran. … But what’s clear is this: Ahmadinejad and his faction want war. They believe that war with the West is their ticket to victory.

The timing of this most recent provocation is still being debated but Arab online daily Asharq Alawsat draws attention to the fact that the Mullahs are having real problems with a large group of government workers.

Outbreak of Teachers’ Demonstrations in Iran: Aside from the issues relating to workers, students and women, the most important issue last month has been the demonstrations staged by members of the Teachers’ Guild Association [Kanun-i senfi-yi moalleman] across the country. … Their foremost demand is that the teachers’ salaries must be adjusted to equal that of other public-sector employees, furthermore adding that if the government’s low budget is the reason behind this inequality then it should look into allocating what is expended in other fields to be granted for teachers’ necessities.

From an Islamic standpoint, teachers are esteemed as highly as prophets, it is a travesty that they suffer such difficult circumstances where they are pushed to protest in the streets in an attempt to solve their financial problems. Such is the situation in Iran while in other countries teaching is among the highest-earning jobs.

Yes … even in Iran the teachers consider themselves underpaid and are demanding government spending be shifted from other programs in order to reestablish teaching as a high income occupation. I wonder if the theocrats believe Allah will save them from advanced western weaponry - but worry the Almighty actually is on the side of organized education workers.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Very Clever Stall For Time

I’ve been trying to come to up with a probable reason why the Iranians would deliberately seek and seize British hostages. The internet discussion seems to be zeroing in on internal economic problems within the Islamic Republic and I don’t doubt the ruling theocracy fears the threat of internal rebellion. Still, while the leadership of Iran holds dangerously wrong beliefs, they are not stupid adversaries.

If you recall, hostage taking is the trigger setting off the Israeli – Lebanon War last summer. The Mullahs use their proxy forces Hezbollah and Hamas to provoke a response from Israel. The response is probably more violent than desired, however, in the end world opinion forces Israel to cease fighting before clearing Hezbollah from its border, or engaging their Syrian enablers directly. The Iranian backed Army of God survives and Iran gains valuable understanding about some specific tactics, but more importantly, about the overall response of the western powers. Their experiment demonstrates that western willpower is far more likely to extinguish violence than to allow violence to destroy enemies.

Now finding themselves faced with the increasing probability of a military conflict they know they will lose, the Mullahs may be counting upon setting up an early and most likely time limited skirmish with the west. They know they will be defeated in part and may be attempting to keep ‘the part’ as small as possible. United States or British bombings within Iran will be used to try and bolster reflexive internal support from the population. Most importantly though, a quick and limited flare up buys time after the dust settles, during which the political leadership of France, Britain and the United States will turn over.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Unity – Chavez Style

The march towards complete authoritarianism continues in Venezuela as Hugo Chavez pushes forward to create his Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela. Unified meaning autonomy is not an acceptable option.

Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela: Chávez invited those political parties that support the Bolivarian process, such as the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), PODEMOS, and Fatherland For All (PPT) to join forces with all pro-Chávez forces to form the revolutionary socialist party. He assured that the new party will be completely democratic and humanistic, but warned that those parties that decide to stay out of the party would end up victims of "reformism" or "dogmatism."

Caracas resident and Berkeley graduate student George Ciccariello-Maher provides the ‘academic take’ on the unfolding revolutionary organizational dynamics.

Against Party Bureaucracy: In recent weeks, it has become clear that three of the major parties constituting the Chavista coalition will not immediately dissolve themselves to pave the way for the construction of the unified socialist party (PSUV) that president Hugo Chávez has demanded be created to usher in the next phase of the revolution. These "dissidents" include the Homeland for All party (PPT), the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV), and the broad-based social-democratic party PODEMOS.

Their refusal has created a political firestorm of sorts: Ismael García, head of PODEMOS and perhaps the most openly critical of the president's proposal, refused to be forced into any "single line of thinking."

My advice to Ismael Garcia: do not change your name to Trotsky and do not go to Mexico. Our Berkeley insider goes on to point out that Chavez is utilizing a strategy where “the "promoters" and "battalions" will essentially "go to the people" in the Maoist sense of the phrase, in order to educate and prepare them to construct the party themselves”. In other words, the new politics will be built by the people after the people are educated about how to build the new politics.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The One Hundred Dollar Pill

The LA Times runs a story about the extremely high cost of recent cancer therapies approved by FDA. The reporters focus on dollar cost per month of additional life from some of the newest approaches to fighting malignant diseases. Is it worth eight grand a month for five or six more months with a terminal illness?

Setting a price for putting off death: The drugs' sky-high costs compared with their relatively small health benefits have sparked arguments among policymakers and medical professionals about what to do with the growing number of people who are depleting their life savings on the drugs or, worse, who can't get them at all. … Last year, cancer deaths fell for a second straight year. ... But those gains have to be taken in context of what else the money spent on cancer treatment could have been used for, said Peter Neumann, director of the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk at Tufts-New England Medical Center. "In terms of the cost of a life saved, it's possible other areas of medicine, like better disease prevention or better cardiovascular care, may be more effective."

Longevity and money are the foci around which the coming political debate about healthcare will pivot. Proponents of increasing government control of health spending will take examples of $35,000 per year treatments and play to the emotions described by the following economist.

The Marginal Cost and Marginal Benefit of Cancer Drugs: More generally, to me life is not just another good to be allocated by the price system and it bothers me that how long you live may depend upon how much wealth you manage to inherit or accumulate. I don't know for sure how to fix this problem, but there is a part of me that believes that where life and death is concerned, everyone, rich and poor alike, should have access to the same care and treatment options.

The MSM can not be trusted to explain why it is very good that 'state of the art' therapy starts expensive before eventually becoming widespread and affordable. Modern medicine is the result of a remarkable balance achieved in western capitalistic economies. Risk and investment are protected and rewarded for limited periods of time, after which the proven treatments are opened up to market competition. Future generations benefit because the pursuit of knowledge pays off. GlaxoSmithKline's Tykerb is going to cost about $100 per pill. It is not going to be that price forever, but it needs to be that price right now if the public wants business to keep trying to find ways to defeat cancers.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Real ID Histrionics

The Capital Times covers a Madison protest march this weekend including this quote from one of the organizers: “If you don't give me an ID, how will you know who I am?” - Alex Gilles, political secretary for the Immigrant Workers Union. Ok – I understand that question. Now understand what I want to know about you from a government issued ID is if you are a citizen.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation: To begin implementation of Real ID, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed Act 126 in March 2006. Act 126 will take effect April 1, 2007. Both the federal REAL ID Act and Wisconsin Act 126, once implemented, will require applicants for a driver license or identification card to prove they are in the country legally.

The South Central Federation of Labor has thrown its support behind the drive to repeal the coming citizenship status requirements on government issued identification. The various leftist opponents to the federal Real ID Act have a prepared list of hypothetical inconveniences and inefficiencies, but they do not address the central question. When did it cease to be the government’s obligation to differentiate between citizens and visitors?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Green Bay Road Trip

Early spring is a blessing. A flock of Cedar Waxwings are feasting on berries that survived the winter. It is a good day for a road trip to Green Bay. One of my Packers sweatshirts is worn out and the replacement needs to come from the Packer Pro Shop in Lambeau Field. I explain to Lola the fabric needs to have been permeated with the aura of the stadium, something no $8.00 Oshkosh Outlet Mall overstocked piece of cloth will ever have. She thinks its all spring fever.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cieslewicz Policy Failure

Madison’s Inclusionary Zoning Program is an accomplishment claimed by the Cieslewicz administration. The plan to mandate ‘affordable housing units’ in new construction is adopted in January 2004. The Developer Guidelines (pdf) outline nines steps, each with a controlling city department, required to build housing units in town. Two years later, developer Terrance Wall reviews building permits and concludes Mayor Dave and the socialist kids achieve the complete opposite of what they desired.

How Inclusionary Zoning backfired on Madison: Inclusionary Zoning, Madison’s well-meaning program to increase the supply of affordable housing, has had a starkly perverse impact on the local housing market: Vacancy rates have declined and rental rates have increased, producing exactly the opposite effect that IZ advocates wanted.

Why? Because IZ has scared away apartment developers from Madison. … In the pre-IZ period of 2001 to 2003, developers built 3,257 housing units (of all types) in Madison, compared to only 1,954 units from 2004 to 2006. That’s a 40% decrease in the IZ era.

Only two market-rate rental buildings with IZ units have been built, and both were for student housing. The other new apartment buildings have either been exempted from the IZ requirements or paid a fee in lieu of providing affordable units. Think about that: No non-student, market-rate apartment projects with affordable IZ units were built from 2004 to 2006.

Madison’s Inclusionary Zoning ordinance has, in the end, proved to be little more than a political charade that has not only failed to accomplish its objective, but has worsened the local housing market. It is a do-gooder mandate gone bad.

The conceit of socialism is the belief that the few can out think the many. Economy by decree simply doesn’t work without total control, and doesn’t work long term even with pure tyranny. The housing market in Madison was just fine until progressives thought they could improve it with their well intentioned rules.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Political Ulterior Motives

The cleanest energy is energy not used at all.” The Democrats are overplaying their hand because the complete facts will simply not support claims the present is unnatural and the future disastrous. Denying facts is a sure sign of ulterior motives.

Why Did Global Warming Become a Moral Matter? The liberals always claimed that such behavior - allowing moral considerations to trump factual ones - was the ultimate evil. But apparently, even this "ultimate evil" becomes "acceptable strategy" if the cause is justified. This is "liberal moral relativism" taken to a whole new level.

But what ulterior motives? UW Madison Professor Joel Rogers is a leading intellectual in the progressive movement. A strong supporter of John Edwards last election, Rogers and his Bascom Hill think tank COWS plan political strategy for the socialist movement. Success depends on fusing unionism and environmentalism into a united voting block.

Unions See Greenbacks in 'Green' Future: According to studies by the Apollo Alliance, which has outlined a 10-point plan for energy independence and jumpstarting the renewables sector, dollars invested in clean energy create more jobs than those invested in traditional energy sources. Renewable energy is simply more labor intensive.

All that's needed are incentives at the federal level, and America will be well on its way toward what some call a "third industrial revolution." "This is like the transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy," says Robert Borosage, president of the Institute for America's Future, a progressive think tank.

The most optimistic point out that, because decentralization is inherent to renewable energy, an equitable distribution of wealth is built into the new energy paradigm. "The sun shines, the wind blows, there's biomass everywhere," says Jeremy Rifkin, author of "The Hydrogen Economy." And making heavy machinery such as wind turbines far from where it's to be used simply won't be cost-effective. Neither will transmitting energy over long distances. That means jobs will be more evenly distributed as well.

The real impetus for this market is most likely to come from top-down regulation on a national scale, a measure President Bush has so far rejected, but which many see as inevitable. "Everyone sees carbon regulation down the line," says Kate Gordon, a senior associate with the Center on Wisconsin Strategy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Understand the take home message. Renewable energy is simply more labor intensive so if the industrial revolution can be reversed through top down government regulation, then there will be more unionizable jobs to control. This coming Wednesday, Rogers outlines his plan at the Wisconsin Historical Society in a talk called How Global Warming Can Save Democracy. The socialists are serious about winning control of the United States, so it is wise to seriously contest their plans.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Spring Sunshine Time

While millions of dollars of research grants have been spent studying plant food, the Japanese have been trying to learn more about the primary heat source in the solar system. Hinode, a space telescope launched in 2006, is changing our understanding of the sun. H/T The Strata Sphere

Dazzling new images reveal the 'impossible' on the Sun: "Everything we thought we knew about X-ray images of the Sun is now out of date," says Leon Golub from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. "We've seen many new and unexpected things. For that reason alone, the mission is already a success."

It appears that turbulent magnetic fields serve to loop heat back into the corona, the outermost layer of the sun, creating a surface that is “far hotter” than the inner core. The chaotic frenzy covering the star is nothing like the relatively stable magnetic fields of our home planet which occasionally shift and drift. Oh by the way, NASA is also suggesting the sun may have something to do with the climate.

Back in Wisconsin, the astute minds of the Fort Atkinson City Council unanimously resolve to save the planet by switching to bio-diesel and partially heating buildings. Does anyone in Fort Atkinson get the irony of “saving” nature by burning plants rather than rocks? Riddle me this City Hall: Why did the deforestation of Jefferson County stop with the invention of the internal combustion engine? Bonus Points: Explain the conservation of matter and energy without saying sustainability.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gore Hypocrisy Rallies Wall Street

At 2:30 PM EST, the U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee lets Al Gore pontificate for half an hour before taking a few questions. By all accounts (and there is video all over the internet) Sore Loserman implores, pleads and calls upon others to immediately act with moral courage. Are you ready to change the way you live?

When the well practiced emotional appeal is finished, Senator James Inhofe asks point blank if the former Vice President will to take his own personal energy ethics pledge.
Personal Energy Ethics Pledge: As a believer: that human-caused global warming is a moral, ethical, and spiritual issue affecting our survival; that home energy use is a key component of overall energy use; that reducing my fossil fuel-based home energy usage will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions; and that leaders on moral issues should lead by example; I pledge to consume no more energy for use in my residence than the average American household by March 21, 2008.
Without the slightest pretense of humility Gore Refuses!!!! He rambles about being carbon neutral since he pays top dollar for green energy and purchases carbon offsets, but in the end he never agrees to change his own affluent lifestyle before the 2008 Presidential election. Let me be very clear, the political globalwarmists do not behave as if they believe their own words.

At 2:00 PM EST, the DOW Jones Industrial Average nudges into positive territory for the first time today. A bit later, at the same time as Al Gore is demonstrating his complete and total hypocrisy on camera, the market surges 144 points up on its way to a 159 point close. Coincidence? Simultaneous events must be related, right? Industrial activity and melting glaciers, ergo, cause and effect. It’s thinking so easy even a caveman can do it.

There are skeptics saying the market is actually reacting to the March Federal Open Market Committee press release and that Al Gore’s behavior is a minor contributing factor, if it is a meaningful contributor at all. Asking anyone to believe the skeptics, of course, would be like expecting the public to believe the Sun warms the Earth.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Evolution Myths

Jim Endersby at Timesonline reviews two books on Charles Darwin and addresses some misconceptions that exist in the current discussion of evolution. H/T John Hawks

Evolution myths: Not only did Darwin fail to shatter a universal faith, the Origin’s appearance was actually greeted with enthusiasm by some churchmen. When the Revd Charles Kingsley (of Water Babies fame) wrote to thank Darwin for his complimentary copy of the Origin, he noted that although he’d not yet had time to read it, he had already “gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of Deity, to believe that he created primal forms capable of self development” as it was “to believe that He required a fresh act of intervention to supply the lacunas which he himself had made”.

Natural history was a popular pastime for country clergymen (the ministry, indeed, had been Darwin’s planned career, until the Beagle opportunity came along) and those, like Kingsley, who spent their spare time gathering seaweeds or butterflies, were primed to see the force of Darwin’s arguments.

It seemed that Darwin had done for beetles and pigeons what Newton had done for planets; replacing a hands-on deity (who seemed to be forever tinkering with the ill-designed machinery he’d made) with an exalted conception of a divine artificer who had devised natural laws so delicately balanced that they would run forever.

I have never understood creationists who believe there is product without process.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Progressives Against Electricity

In response to a mayoral debate question about the proposed new electric line American Transmission Company is planning for the growing west side of the city, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz says he is not convinced the city needs more electricity. In his charming ‘aw shucks’ style, he in essence says to the assembled business community that substantial economic growth can be achieve through energy conservation and a few solar panels.

Mayor Dave and his puppet Mistress Kathleen Falk are dead serious about fighting expansion of the south central Wisconsin electric grid. Their motion to stall the project is filed with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

137-EI-101 The City of Madison, Wisconsin, and the County of Dane, Wisconsin, by the undersigned counsel hereby petition the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (“PSC” or “Commission”), pursuant to Wis. Stats.196.02, 196.26 and 196.28 and PSC 2.07, Wis. Admin. Code, to establish a docket to conduct and supervise an independent study to examine the need for a number of transmission lines proposed to be built in Dane County by the American Transmission Company (“ATC”). The study should examine how increases in energy and demand requirements can or should most efficiently be met.

The Dane County Progressive Democrats do not want economic growth they can not completely control. Even as they are mouthing words like Small Business Growth: Key to Economic Success, their actions demonstrate the fact they have an absolute philosophical hostility to a private sector well supplied with resources and making business decisions for business reasons.

The opposition has their Stop ATC website up and running. The Talking Points detail how to describe ATC as “a privately held monopoly that has the right of eminent domain” that “will profit ANNUALLY from their construction projects”. Just to be clear, ATC is privately held in large part by the same public companies in the pension funds and 401(K) holdings of Wisconsin citizens in both the public and private sector. Prosperity through energy starvation! What a concept.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

One And Done

Well, that was not fun. Still, the Wisconsin Badgers gave us a season like none before and it was wonderful run of games. Speculation is a pointless activity but sports, like all entertainment, is probably enhanced by the ephemeral analysis of what if. What if Drew Neitzel doesn’t hit six threes? What if Brian Butch doesn’t hit the floor wrong at Ohio State? What if a group of very young men aren’t told by the national media they are the best of the best?

Jason Chappell, Kammron Taylor, Alando Tucker – 30-6 – Great Job! Thank you.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Oshkosh West Division 1 Champs

It’s March Madness so kudos to incoming UW Madison shooting guard Tim Jarmusz for scoring exactly one half of Oshkosh West’s points in their Division 1 Championship victory over Milwaukee Vincent. In one of these freak stats from High School basketball, Jarmusz scores every Oshkosh point in the first half of the game.

Future Badger power forward Kenton Nankivil finishes his prep career with a 16 point - 10 rebound effort in a classic overtime loss to Milwaukee Vincent. Madison Memorial has the lead with seconds to go when Vincent’s Marvin Fitzgerald takes the inbound pass, splits two Memorial defenders at the foul line and launches the game tying bucket at the buzzer. The kid will have this wonderful memory forever and the rest of the story becomes history.

Friday, March 16, 2007

2007 Round One

Walking, not only away from the television but completely out of the room to escape the horrible images, is completely justifiable. How is it possible for our top echelon college basketball team to score only nineteen stinking points in one half? 19!!!

Badgers Fashionably Late: On Friday, when the second- seeded Badgers fell behind by 18 points during the first half of their first-round game against 15th-seeded Texas A&M- Corpus Christi at the United Center, coach Bo Ryan made a point to remind his team of the Richmond game. "Coach Ryan said we're not going to get 10 points back on one possession, let's grind it out," UW senior forward Alando Tucker said.

How is it possible to go from 19 points in twenty minutes to 57 points in twenty minutes against the same opponent? Sometime during the halftime break the light bulb must have flicked on: every single team in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament can beat you. The Badgers may have been hoping for an effortless victory after the hard fights against Illinois, Michigan State, and the Greg Oden entourage. Hopefully the free pass mentality is now completely vanquished. I have watched enough college basketball to know this team has the ability to win the tournament. Ability, however, is only one factor.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Thrill Is Gone

Money can’t buy you love. The democrats are showing signs they are thinking about a separation. While nobody is at fault, the thrill of Hillary has gone stale.

Hillary: The Frontrunner is Backsliding: She will have more money than God when all is said and done. And if wresting campaign funds from fat cat Democratic party donors was all it took to win the nomination of her party, Hillary Clinton would undoubtedly be the runaway favorite.

The activist left have carved stone tablets declaring the liberation of Iraq unjustifiable, period. I can’t believe I am saying this but – to her credit – Mrs. Bill Clinton has refused to don sackcloth and ashes. She is resisting calls to renounce her initial support for the overthrow of Saddam’s evil rule. In what remains of her conscience, the former first lady understands why Bush reaches his decision to take the battle where the battle needed to go. The progressives, however, will never forgive anything less than absolute repentance.

Senator Inevitable: The watershed election of 2006 confirmed that Bush and the conservative order are in collapse. That inspires Democrats to embrace a far more ambitious sense of what's possible. Senator Clinton, the brainy policy wonk conscientiously calculating her next move, suddenly seems miscast for an era when Democrats are on offense and bolder ideas are back in play.

When The Nation declares: “Nothing personal. But Hillary Clinton is the past” it dooms her individual quest for the summit. She will retain her organization of supporters but a large percentage of the base really want to move away from the unprincipled pragmatism of the legacy years.

More importantly, I suspect a large percentage of the normal population is also bored with the character she plays on TV. Her one remaining chance of re-capturing the fascination of the habitual Democratic voters could be adopting the unfortunate child of the late Anna Nicole Smith. I’m sure Hillary still has the power to get a judge somewhere to rule against any presumptive father, and then she could give the kid to some village. The Nation continues:

A more poignant comparison is with Senator Edward Kennedy, another inheritor of the family mantle. After his older brothers were killed, Teddy Kennedy was propelled by legendary expectations that he would someday run for President and restore the Kennedy name to the White House. When he finally did run but lost his party's nomination Kennedy, ironically, was freed to fulfill his real talent as a legislator and become the courageous and savvy liberal lawmaker of lasting fame. If Hillary should lose in '08, perhaps she will be liberated too.

Yeah, that’s good too. Hillary drives Bill across a rustic little bridge when unexpectedly … yadda, yadda, yadda … legislator extraordinaire.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Unassisted Private Sector Correction

Crash, burn, gone. The subprime mortgage market collapses and the tremors shake up the stock market. Mark Gongloff of the Wall Street Journal covers the basics and Bob Ivry of Bloomberg speculates about far reaching consequences for the housing economy.

Falling Shoe Zone: Well, that was ugly. … It was the second-worst day for the market in nearly four years, after the meltdown on Feb. 27. Financials took it on the chin, with the Dow Jones Financials Index falling 3% on the day. … About a year ago, we wrote a Trading Shots column wondering whether the Fed was going to create a financial train wreck with its rate-raising campaign. … Maybe this subprime fiasco is that meltdown.

Foreclosures May Hit 1.5 Million in U.S. Housing Bust: The spring buying season, when more than half of all U.S. home sales are made, has been so disappointing that the National Association of Home Builders in Washington now expects purchases to fall for the sixth consecutive quarter after it predicted a gain just last month. ``The correction will last another year,'' said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's in West Chester, Pennsylvania. ``Fewer people qualifying for mortgages means there will be less borrowers, and that will weigh on demand.''

The mortgage industry makes money by selling loans to secondary market investors. To make more money they need to sell more loans and to sell more loans they need to approve more borrowers. In other words, the lenders wanted to expand the pool of eligible borrowers so that is exactly what they did.

New loan products are designed and priced specifically for individuals with bad credit, limited finances, or for speculative purchases. The math works perfectly as long as the borrowers make the payments. This last month however, defaults reach historic levels. The busted speculators simply walk away while over leveraged households just run out of money. The institutions that purchase bundled packets of loans for the long term income stream are not happy as default dwindles the cash flow. Two weeks ago – the day of the 416 point DOW drop – one of the big players cries ENOUGH!

Freddie Mac Announces Tougher Subprime Lending Standards: February 27, 2007 Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE) today announced that it will cease buying subprime mortgages that have a high likelihood of excessive payment shock and possible foreclosure.

Within hours, all of Wall Street follows suit and suddenly – poof – the entire private market for subprime loans vanishes. Mortgage companies instantly find themselves stuck with worthless assets. If you have nothing to sell, you have no money to lend. For some it is time to close up the shop and go find other work.

Now that the shoddy addition to the housing market has crumbled, the speculation about the remaining market begins. Two Views on the Mortgage Mess finds optimists and pessimists at the same paper. A larger danger lurks in congress where politicians dream of rushing to the aid of poor constituents loosing their homes. It could be taxpayer Bail Out time!

1st Helicopter Drop Now Being Organized: U.S. lawmakers will have to consider providing aid to about 2.2 million subprime mortgage borrowers who are at risk of defaulting and losing their homes, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said today. … The market has now taken care of subprime lending (or rather is in the process of doing so) and any bills Congress passes at this point are just going to cause additional distortions. ... It's high time Congress spares us the Dudley Do-Right Charge in favor of letting the market take care of it. But no! Congress never learns.

The market is doing what markets are supposed to do – cease to reward bad business decisions and high risk financial behavior. Life is full of hard lessons and experience is a wonderful teacher. Now if we can keep the government from interfering, the healthy aspects of the economy will adapt and keep going.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Emotions Subside - Facts Linger

Over the weekend I watch The Great Global Warming Swindle produced by independent British television. The case against the politicized lie of dangerous man made global warming is laid out in BBC-like documentary style, where staid academics explain why sunshine, wind, clouds and water are important and carbon dioxide is not. I recommend finding the 75 minutes to view it. Planet Earth is comfortably adapted to living within the atmosphere of a star.

One of the scientists is now upset that his expertise in oceanography is used to discredit his belief in human induced atmospheric change, but the commentary at Little Green Footballs points out the filmmakers only use his interviews as evidence consistent with other research. It is hard to conceive that being praised and referenced could possibly be offensive - unless hostile peer pressure or threats are factors.

Climatologist and UW Madison PhD recipient Roy W. Spencer prepares a serious ‘global warming primer’ for the educated public: Global Warming and Nature's Thermostat. Observations of nature can be explained without the assumption that modern human activity is a contributing factor. Or that living a modern lifestyle makes you bad.

The Big Green Propaganda Machine is fully operational and the DANEgerous Link Roundup covers the push to force society back towards primitive conditions. The great irony is the driving force comes from the socialists who have high jacked the ecology movement as a way to gain political power. Individuals who truly cherish nature should stand at the forefront of preserving our modern oil based industrial economy.

Oil: Protecting the Earth from Renewable Energy for 148 Years: In the environmental Dark Ages before the discovery of oil, man’s energy needs had to be extracted from the living world. Whole continents were deforested in the quest for firewood. Priceless wetlands were strip-mined for peat. Bees were robbed of their wax to make candles. Even when millions were starving, valuable animal fats and plant oils were rendered into fuel to illuminate the homes of the rich.

Alas, it appears those times may soon return as environmentalists, politicians, and the media push for man’s energy needs to be met once more by the limited capacity of field and fjord. But for one brief moment in man’s planet-killing history, oil was there to carry the burden that man would have otherwise hoisted upon the bowed back of nature. Just look at what oil did for the whales.

Eco-socialists leaders are profoundly anti-freedom, anti-wealth and in ways that probably arise from inner self-loathing and doubt, anti-human. The Green followers are riding the high emotions that come from being continually told they have truth on their side, so it is very important to continually resist their misguided desires with facts. In time, emotions subside but facts linger.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Working on a Cure For Cancer

The Wisconsin State Journal writes about a Madison start up company with a promising approach to both identify and destroy cancer cells. The process involves a molecule called CLTR-404 that cells transport inside themselves after injection. The trick is the drug containing radioactive iodine is metabolized by enzymes in normal cells and disappears. Many types of cancerous cells, however, are missing this phospholipase so the drug accumulates in the diseased tissues, eventually killing the malignancy.

Cellectar: Siemens, the powerhouse German company whose products range from hearing aids to refrigerators, created a special, mouse-sized scanner for the UW cancer center. It arrived just before Christmas, and has given Cellectar a true "inside view" of its test mice. The $1 million machine takes a CT (Computed Tomography) image and a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan and combines them into a single, very high-resolution image, Weichert said.

"It'll cost $40 million at a minimum to develop this molecule" and bring it far enough along in clinical tests to submit a new drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Clarke said. Getting it to market - if it works - can cost hundreds of millions more.

Clarke's goal is to get the application filed within seven years; maybe four or five years, if it proves to be as effective in humans as the early animal studies indicate. "But I don't think we'll see its full potential for a decade," Clarke added.

Studies on this compound begin 15 years ago. Now after $7 million of venture capital funds and a custom built $1 million dollar tiny little mouse scanner, this promising therapy is probably only $200 million more dollars and a decade of research away from being approved for treating the general public. Only in this distant future, if the approach actually works to extend lives, then the company begins earning the investment back through sales.

At that time, unless there is a sea change in the philosophy of the Democratic Party, emotional do-gooder politicians, like Judy Robson, will want government to set the price of therapy. Simultaneously, cynical manipulative politicians like Jim Doyle will engage in inaccurate populist pandering about excessive profits in private industry. The miracle of modern medicine is not an accident. Those individuals in power who knowingly want to tamper with the formula for success need to be called out as fools and liars if necessary.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Shadow Cabinet Polls Are Open

The progressives have put up a site where we democratically disenfranchised common people can have actual input into who should hold positions in their fantasy shadow government. Since uncontrolled speculative polling is all rage, why not pretend citizen and resident input will be considered in progressive America?

Progressive Parallel Administration: The Backbone Campaign, Progressive Government Institute, and a coalition of grassroots organizations have initiated a process to empower citizens to nominate, comment on, and rate progressive leaders to serve as a virtual Progressive Parallel Administration. We want to demonstrate that the progressive movement is not merely an oppositional, but also propositional movement, and that we are not content running campaigns, but preparing to run the country.

At the moment, Dennis Kucinich is the lead candidate of the 17 challengers for the proposed Department of Peace. This new cabinet position has both foreign and domestic responsibilities including: "address the root causes of war and intervene before violence begins”. I suppose this means good applicants have the ability to see the future so the doctrine of preemptive intervention can be applied.

Wisconsin’s own Russ Feingold is up for Secretary of Agriculture, Attorney General of Justice and US Trade Representative - but can probably land any spot he really wants. Hillary Clinton is on the list for both Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services, apparently a consolation prize from the true progressives who really don’t want her in the top spot. Interestingly, Bill Clinton is nominated for Secretary of State which is both an intriguing and disturbing thought.

UW Madison Professor Joel Rogers is on the list to Chair the Federal Reserve. For those not familiar with the head of the tax funded UW Madison think tank COWS, Mr. Rogers wants all of America to reflect his idea of a neighborhood. Last election, Joel Rogers strongly supports John Edwards and the working drafts of the Democratic plans for the country are largely spelled out at The Boston Review which he helps edit.

Finally, I give Governor Jim Doyle my highest rating in the Attorney General category, just in case he may be looking for a pardon and a new position in the near future. As Dennis Kucinich says, it’s nice to be nice to the needy.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Property Rights are the Common Good

Widespread corruption and a lack of judicial independence, among other factors, put Wisconsin toward the bottom of a new global property-rights index released Tuesday.

Ok, the quote from La Russophobe is actually about Russia but find and replace with the dairy state doesn’t make the statement too far fetched. The Kathleen Falk branch of environmentalist Democrats may be beaten but they are far from dead, and the DNR still believes the whole state belongs to them.

The Washington DC based Property Rights Alliance releases their inaugural 2007 International Property Rights Index (IPRI) and post-communist Russia isn’t much different from Soviet Union Russia in terms of legal protection of private ownership. The big finding is, surprise, surprise, surprise, the more protections, the more affluent the population. Like all lists there is room for debate about the Rankings (pdf file). For example: is it really true you have a better chance retaining assets in Nigeria than Venezuela?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The AFL-CIO Calls For Defeat

The AFL-CIO officially calls for American Defeat in Iraq. After a few rounds of drinks in comfortable Las Vegas suites, the Executive Council goes on record calling for the cut and run gambit as a way to honor our soldiers.

End Our Military Involvement in Iraq: The president insists we must succeed militarily to establish the conditions for a political settlement. In fact, the reverse is true: Unless there is the political will to stop the violence, there can be no military solution. As such, the U.S. presence only encourages the factions to continue their warfare and serves as a magnet for foreign interference. What is needed is courageous political leadership from the Iraqi government and from the governments of neighboring countries, in a concerted effort to surmount their own considerable differences and to avoid a growing, destructive war which threatens lives and interests across the region.

The union bosses demand the removal of our military from “harm’s way”, which simultaneously concedes there are dangerous warriors in Iraq and denies that the true job of a soldier is precisely to block the efforts of the violent. Good speeches and meetings with the neighbors – yeah, that’s the ticket. Political courage is all that is needed against suicidal killers. Those big bosses sure must believe their bank accounts are safe even if Iran takes over the region.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Midwest Jihad Connections

In a reminder that it takes money to fight the enemy, a Federal Indictment goes after five individuals accused of raising Jihad money in the very heartland of our country.

5 sent money to Iraq: Five associates of a Missouri-based Islamic charity were indicted on charges that they illegally sent money to Iraq, the U.S. attorney's office announced Wednesday. The five men, associated with Columbia-based Islamic American Relief Agency-USA, are charged in a 33-count indictment that alleges they stole government and public money and falsely represented their fundraising goals to the public.

MissouriNet: The Agency was an Islamic charitable organization that was officially formed in 1985 and closed in October of 2004 when it was identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist organization.

The Islamic American Relief Agency is not the only ostensibly charitable organization closed by the Treasury Department. About a year later Ohio based KindHearts is also put out of the charity business. Wisconsin blogosphere readers will remember last summer when candidate J.B. Van Hollen speaks about terrorist fund raising in Wisconsin and is greeted with reactions ranging from Polite Reserved Skepticism to Oh Yeah - Prove It to Liar Liar Pants on Fire. Maybe U.S. Attorney’s actually have some insight about the bad guys.

December 18, 2005: Kind Hearts for Terror: How can the United States allow Zufiqar Ali Shah, the ex president of the Islamic Circle of North America, and president CEO of the Universal Heritage Foundation, who has been linked to Jose Padilla, Sheik Abdur Rahman Al Sudais and Jerusalem Mufti Ikrima Sabri, to fundraise and control millions of dollars in donations when it was recently revealed that funding for earthquake victims had found it's way to the Kashmiri separatist terrorists aligned with the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

May 16, 2006: Zulfiqar Ali Shah: When the Toledo charity KindHearts was shut down this past February, for raising millions of dollars for Hamas, the group’s leaders got off scott free. One of those leaders was KindHearts’ President, Khaled Smaili. Another was KindHearts’ South Asia Director, Zulfiqar Ali Shah. Unlike Smaili, who has remained virtually silent since the closure, Shah has continued to bask in the spotlight. He now sits in his new digs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Religious Director of a large Islamic institution and the toast of the media.

Milwaukee is still part of Wisconsin and additional information about KindHearts and Zulfiqar Ali Shah can be found here and here. At the risk of offending multicultural sensitivities I do believe it is fair to say that all charities are not morally equivalent.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Atkins Wins the Stanford 365

Atkins is dead, long live Atkins. Obese America now has more ammunition for the endless debate about weight loss. Let’s discuss it over lunch.

Atkins Pounds Other Popular Diets in U.S. Test: The low-carbohydrate, high-protein Atkins diet has nabbed first place in a yearlong, U.S. government-funded study of four popular weight-loss regimens.

Atkins low-carb diet is best weight-loss friend for women: The carbohydrate-slashing Atkins diet gained new scientific support Tuesday after a controlled test of four popular regimes showed Atkins followers losing nearly twice the weight of the closest competitor. The results of the Stanford University study over one year showed the Atkins program solidly trumped other diets and produced no significant metabolic side effects among women.

The Atkins diet is simply the premise that if you want to burn off fat, then don’t give metabolism alternative fuels. Of course, the scientific 'consensus' of the last couple decades is that fat is inherently bad and must be avoided. When skeptics point out there must be some evolutionary reason fat tastes good and is cherished and stored by the body, they are simply dismissed as 'dangerous fat' deniers. Milk, butter, cows bad –organically grown unmodified ancestral genetic stock whole grains good. I doubt the health police and the food courts will let this precedent stand unchallenged.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Carry Trading is the Culprit

What is borrowed must be returned. This seems to be the explanation for the recent turmoil in financial markets. Apparently a lot of people have been playing a money game called “carry trade”.

Currency Carry Trade: Here's an example of a "yen carry trade": let's say a trader borrows 1,000 yen from a Japanese bank, converts the funds into U.S. dollars and buys a bond for the equivalent amount. Let's assume that the bond pays 4.5% and the Japanese interest rate is set at 0%. The trader stands to make a profit of 4.5% (4.5% - 0%), as long as the exchange rate between the countries does not change.

In an attempt to revive their economy, Japan has literally been lending money at no charge to borrowers eager to take the cash. Everything is fine and dandy as long as currency exchange rates stay essentially constant. The rest of the world, however, is actively adjusting interest rates to keep inflation in control and Japan is not immune to the effects.

What is the carry trade? However, monetary authorities throughout the world are now midway through a process of normalising interest rates, which had been slashed to support growth after the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, says the Financial Times. Britain is furthest down this track, with interest rates steady at 4.5% and inflation at 2%. The US is not far behind, with nominal rates already matching the UK and set to go higher. The tightening cycle in the eurozone may be put on hold, but not for long. Japan is a laggard – it is just approaching the “starting line”, with the country only just returning to steady growth, which might (or might not) lead to a halt to monetary easing in April and an end to zero interest rates by the end of this year. An end to Japan’s zero interest rate policy might lead to yen appreciation (low interest rates usually mean a weak currency), and so an end to those benign, “no brainer” conditions that have justified the ‘carry trade’ and been so supportive of other asset classes.

As the Yen suddenly strengthens last week a lot of money traders find themselves in tenuous situations. Gloom and doom emotions sweep through financial institutions where loosing money is not career enhancing.

Goldman Sachs warns of 'dead bodies' after market turmoil: Jim O'Neill, the bank's chief global economist, said investment firms playing the "carry trade" had been caught on the wrong side of huge leveraged bets against the Japanese yen. "There has been an amazing amount of leverage on currency markets that has nothing to do with real economic activity. I think there are going to be dead bodies around when this is over," he said.

Investing long term with borrowed money is always risky but not as risky as short term gambling from a leveraged position. Still, most financial institutions are controlled by serious sober banker types and Bloomberg finds evidence that all is not lost. The storm surge battering the markets may end up being less damaging than first feared.

Yen Snaps Three-Day Gain: The yen snapped a three-day rally against the dollar and the euro as Japanese stocks rebounded from five days of losses, suggesting investor risk appetite may return.

If the governments can resist stepping in to help, the world may yet avoid one of those poverty enhancing recession things. One thing for certain is that the situation is still fluid.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

No Smoking In Church

At the risk of ridicule, a few British bureaucrats are simply doing their job.

Churches told to put up No Smoking signs: Health chiefs are spending thousands of pounds ordering churches to put up signs banning smoking. The decision has left religious leaders bemused because, they say, no one smokes in places of worship anyway. … The Department of Health said: "Churches will be included in the ban as they are enclosed public spaces. Signs will be prominently displayed at all entrances."

The population has agreed that government has the duty to guide the population away from potential dangers to individual health. These civil servants are only trying to make sure that the path to a healthy life is well marked. I wonder how long before someone calls City Hall in Madison to complain about unmarked church doors? H/T The Brussels Journal

Saturday, March 03, 2007

New Communists Love Profit

Spiegel Online publishes a lengthy article looking at the rise and present condition of the Chinese economy. The Chinese Communist Party comes to understand that the answer to poverty is wealth and that creating wealth requires profits. The details of how they implement their new understanding involve obtaining (by any necessary means) the knowledge of the western world, then enticing the money of the western world into China. It also requires The Communist Party preserve their absolute unchallenged control of the country.

Red China, Inc.: The nine men -- who constitute the Standing Committee of the Communist Party's Politburo, the most-powerful political body in the Middle Kingdom -- meet in the southern section of this refuge. Their discreet meeting is businesslike. The group's members were not elected by the people and they are not interested in being observed while governing.

With their country, which amounts to a gigantic, low-cost factory, they have already managed to accumulate more than $1 trillion in foreign currency reserves. In theory, at least, the communist People's Republic of China, has now joined the United States, the global capitalist superpower, in deciding the fate of the world's leading currency.

The explosive growth of the Chinese economy has essentially been pure 'make money' pragmatism, where the government clears all barriers to proposals they approve and bail out failures when they occur. It involves tolerating some private ownership of obedient small business operations while continuing to prohibit private ownership of land. Workers are in abundant supply and by law can not go on strike. It also requires a Party apparatus so large and unwieldy that size alone predisposes towards inefficiency and corruption.

Corruption also runs rampant when it comes to building new neighborhoods, factories, airports and highways. Communist Party officials have the power to award contracts, and they utilize their power to fill their own pockets. Researchers at the State Council, the Academy of Social Sciences and the Communist Party's central university determined that of the 3,220 Chinese with assets totaling more than €10 million, 2,932 are relatives of senior party officials.

The Politburo is engineering what they call a "social market economy with Chinese characteristics" in pursuit of a "harmonious society." This last week the United States stock market experiences the worst sell off in the last four years. Maybe it is a good time to remind everyone that 91% of the new multi-millionaires in China are relatives of the most powerful communists and those funds are not sitting idle underneath some mattress.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Actions vs. Admonitions

Our kindred neighbors the British also have a Freedom of Information Act and Biased BBC Blog has a link to the official BBC reply confirming their staff flew 125 million air miles last year. That is one pretty big carbon footprint for the exuberant cheerleaders of the dangerous global warming advocates. A Daily Mail columnist picks up the story as one of the increasing examples of hypocrisy within the growing business of selling antidotes to successful modern society.

Stephen Glover: This is not a case of sinners who have repented urging us in the ways of righteousness. These people are asking us to do what they refuse to do themselves.

What is the explanation for the startling contradiction between theory and practice on the part of these people? We could settle for the charge of hypocrisy I have already mentioned. The zealots reason with one part of their brains, and act with another. They may think that they are so important that they should be exempt from the restrictions which they thrust at the rest of us.

There is a further possible explanation - that these zealots do not believe in global warming as unreservedly as they appear to. Even accepting the natural human tendency towards hypocrisy, it is hard to believe that so many true believers in global warming could act in total opposition to their most deeply held convictions.

Actions speak louder than words. The false theory of dangerous man-made climate change long ago shifted from concern for the environment to lust for wealth and power. This is the right time to keep constant attention on the globalwarmists and their allies in the Democratic Party. Remember that Massachusetts v. EPA has been argued before the United States Supreme Court and if the coming decision declares carbon dioxide a pollutant, then the EPA has a green light to pursue any and all sources of combustion. In a very literal way, it could establish a legal basis for oversight authority of every breath you take.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Progressive Notice of Judicial Activism

Is the Capital Times coming out against judicial activism? Short answer: no. The paper of record for the progressive government movement, however, does run a well written column by Daniel Kelly exhorting resistance to the continuing power grab by the black robed elites.

Let's not tolerate judicial activism: Judicial activism corrodes our form of government in two significant ways: It turns the law into an unpredictable guessing game, and it saps our confidence in the judiciary's neutrality.

In a remarkable example of this activism, the court recently struck down a statutory cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice injury cases. The cap may or may not be a good idea, but the reasoning the court employed was chilling. It decided the Legislature's effort to reduce out-of-control health care costs was not likely to succeed. Fair enough the court is free to express its thoughts on the topic. But then it said that if the law is not likely to work, it is unconstitutional. Using this brand-new constitutional analysis, the court took to itself the power to dispose of any law it does not like.

The court also uses this activism to surprise us with new laws. In another recent case, the court decided that any company that has ever manufactured lead-containing paint can be held liable for lead poisoning, even if there is no discernible relationship between the company's activity and the plaintiff's injury. The court then made this new law effective against activity that had ceased over 30 years ago. Apparently, even if our actions conform to the law today, we could be penalized for them tomorrow should the court so choose. This unpredictability is entirely inconsistent with the rule of law.

The timing of this piece in the immediate aftermath of Annette Ziegler's impressive vote total in the Supreme Court primary strikes me as suspicious. The entire progressive government movement has always relied on judicial activism to achieve their agenda. The editors may claim they are merely providing balance for articles like Vote for anyone but Ziegler, but it is also plausible the progressives are thinking ahead and preparing grounds to be outraged if the court somehow tips back towards the right way of dealing justice.