Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Keeping Scary Stories in Perspective

Warren Meyer who writes Coyote Blog puts together a 55 minute Windows Media Video that covers the evidence leading intelligent people to point out that carbon dioxide is not a problem humans should fear. It is worth viewing by anyone concerned about the way fear mongering about climate change is being utilized for political ends. There are a lot scary stories being told but the truth remains that nothing bad is happening to the climate from fossil fuel prosperity.

Happy Halloween. Don’t believe every horror story you hear. After all, if carbon dioxide can’t prevent your beer from getting cold in the fridge what kind a wimpy demonic killer force can it really be?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Successful Handoff

It appears that the dream of the Clintons has been achieved in Argentina as the current President bequeaths the office to his wife. Almost exactly a year before America decides how to handle our power couple, it is worth examining how events emerge and play out to our South. Of course with any comparison, the differences are as important as the similarities.

Argentina: Kirchner after Kirchner: The power-couple's presidential-transfer plan has worked to perfection. … It was widely expected that Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would become the first woman to be elected president of Argentina in the election of 28 October. What was less anticipated was that she would achieve this in the first round by far exceeding the required 10 percent margin of victory over her nearest rival. In the event, her 45 percent share put Kirchner - wife and political ally of the current president, Néstor Kirchner - more than twenty points ahead of the second-placed candidate in a field of fourteen,

Although the result means that there is no need for a second round, and the 20-point-plus difference with Carrió is impressive, a closer look at the results at electoral-district level presents a far from triumphalist picture. … Señora Kirchner lost in all the major urban conglomerates. … If Cristina lost the cities, she won in the traditional bastions of Peronism: remote provinces, often with under half a million inhabitants each, where Peronist governors of various hues unashamedly use state resources to install clientelistic networks that have long proven entrenched and unbreakable.

She shares her husband's hatred of the press, which far exceeds a "normal" politician's reluctance to face those with uncomfortable questions. Her husband has ruled by decree, riding roughshod over congress and exhibiting ignorance of the checks-and-balances guaranteed by the constitution. Cristina too may now rely on a subservient congress, to push legislation through steamroller-like.

So it appears well financed and tightly controlled “clientelistic networks” provide the votes allowing this authoritarian inclined husband and wife team to retain their domination of elective government. One big difference is that in America the control of votes is more an urban rather than a rural tradition. Still it is probably not too soon to be vigilant for signs of vote fraud.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mile High Magic

Wow. I have no idea how hard it is to play good football at the professional level. As a schmuck watching on the tube, I'm furious at the penalties, furious at the wasted scoring opportunities. Then bam, miracle finish. Gilding on the legend. Favre going awh shucks at the post game podium, it was only single safety coverage after a bite on play action. Then, “I always thought I could throw the deep ball well”. Then, “You know, it don’t get no better than the end of that game”. 6-1 in an unforgiving league. Wow.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Got Virus?

You know what is odd about Madison? Maybe that’s too general a question. You know what I think is ironic about Madison? If you want to build another conventional power line the environmentalists will fight you every step of the way. If you want to build ANOTHER Biosafety Level 3 containment facility for work on extremely lethal biohazards in the middle on the city, no one so much as picks of a picket sign.

Flu lab set to open: UW-Madison’s $12.5 million Institute for Influenza Viral Research, nearing completion at University Research Park, will have a collection of safety and security features the university hasn’t seen before.

The institute contains lab space classified as Biosafety Level 3-Agriculture, a standard higher than any other lab at the university. BSL3-Ag is near the top of the federal government’s four-level scale for labs involving infectious agents.

Only a few BSL-4 labs, in which workers don space suits with self-contained breathing devices, exist nationwide. Several labs at UW-Madison, including some of Kawaoka’s lab space in the veterinary school, are BSL-3. In those labs, researchers wear gloves and masks and work under cabinets, and the air is specially filtered.

The BSL-3 Ag designation carries additional requirements, such as extra air handling systems, showers upon leaving the lab -- and in the case of bird flu research, no contact with birds for several days.

I suppose it’s all about what’s on the agenda. Stopping coal fired power plants miles way is a top priority public safety issue, but storage of Ebola and Avian Bird Flu virus in the middle of town - no big deal. After all, Herpes and AIDS are everywhere and no one cares the least little bit. Believe me, if it was Wal-Mart going into this property there would be outraged citizen meetings raising hell about how the development hurts neighborhood property values, but since it’s only lethal germ storage - not a peep.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Jesus Salas Resigns

Apparently Governor Jim Doyle’s signature on the replacement Wisconsin budget has angered one University of Wisconsin Regent to the point of quitting. In his resignation letter, Jesus Salas includes a blistering condemnation of the Governors abandonment of the migrant community. Jessica McBride has an excellent break down of the accusations and refutes them, easily, one by one.

Mr. Salas was appointed to the UW Board of Regents by Governor Doyle in 2003 as a reward for years of work in the labor union movement. The Wikipedia history covers his early activism in the 1960’s. Yes – those 1960’s.

Wikipedia: Obreros Unidos (1966-1971) was an independent agricultural labor union founded in Wisconsin in 1966 by Mexican American civil rights activists Jesus Salas, Francisco Rodriguez and many more, originally Texas-based farm workers from the small town of Crystal City. The union took root after a march from Wautoma, Wisconsin, to Madison, Wisconsin that state's capitol to protest the working conditions of the thousands of annual Mexican-American migrant workers who traveled from Texas to Wisconsin each year.

Wisconsin Labor History links to Struggle for Justice, a photo-pamphlet with images from 40 years ago. The Oshkosh lady on page 7 holding TWO boycott grapes signs may very well still be showing up for protests. Such was the life changing power of the 60’s. Salas is now an old man and may be taking this latest deflation of his hopes as a sign it is time to step away from the struggle. It is also a reminder that the issues of immigration are nothing new and justice requires both a foundation in and adherence to the rule of law.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Government Health Care Horror Stories

Kate at Small Dead Animals quotes some personal stories about the wonders of England’s National Health Service submitted in response to a article in The Spectator.

Small Dead Animals: "Unfortunately, 30 months ago I was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had my bowel removed. On arriving at the hospital the day prior to the operation, I went to the toilet. No soap or hand-wash. Spoke to nurse. Yes we know we will get some tomorrow when the cleaner is back!!!!! The patient in the next bed informed me he had said the same the day before. Basic hygiene. After the operation, excrement from a spill from a colostomy bag was left on the floor for 2 days until the next bed patient’s daughter brought in disinfectant to clean up."

"Many days I watched the nursing auxiliaries bring his food in and place it temptingly on his table at the foot of his bed, often out of reach. After what seemed a relatively short time they returned and noticing the full dishes commented that he must not be hungry! He couldn't reach the food. When I complained they left it there but no-one came to feed him so I and his friends fed him. On very few occasions did any of the nursing staff attempt to feed him (they may have when I was at work. I visited him every evening for 3-4 hours). Had it not been for myself and his large group of friends visiting and feeding him I believe he would have received little or no food at all. As a result he didn't last very long."

The source article by Melanie Phillips is a critique of the change in nursing standards.

The retreat from Scutari: Last week, I wrote a column in the Daily Mail about the scandal of dirty hospital wards which were killing patients through the superbugs they were breeding. While I said the way the NHS was run had much to do with this problem, I pinned much of the blame on the profound change that had taken place over the past two decades in the training of nurses, who were no longer taught Florence Nightingale’s dictum that the core of good nursing was maintaining patient and ward cleanliness.

Nursing has changed dramatically from the Florence Nightingale origins, in large part because medical care becomes good. Modern health care is now primarily therapeutic and secondarily palliative. The days of the physician doing all the treatment then leaving the staff to deal with the chores of convalescence are long gone. The fact that deplorable sanitation exists within the National Health Service is really more a function of the way monopoly decays internal standards and efficiencies. In some real sense, it is competition keeping American hospitals clean.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

To Bury or Raise

Vikki Kratz of the Isthmus has been covering the electrical upgrade needed for an expanding Dane County. The project has been challenged at every step by environmentalists including Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Fortunately enough adults understand you can't have an economy with “living wage” jobs without dependable electricity. So as the project moves forward the challenges turn towards aesthetics and the price of beauty.

Why won't ATC bury the lines?: Burying transmission lines — even at voltages as high as 500 kilovolts — is an industry trend worldwide. "Typically, they just get buried and left there," says Ian Hiskens, a professor of electrical engineering at UW-Madison. "No one really thinks about it too much." Yet American Transmission Company adamantly opposes burying any part of the 345-kilovolt line it wants to build in Dane County.

“… in the U.S., it typically costs $10 million-$13 million per mile to bury a 345-kilovolt line. In Europe, the cost for undergrounding lines drops to $6 million per mile. (An overhead line costs between $2 million and $6 million per mile.) In an analysis submitted to the state Public Service Commission (PSC) last week, ATC said it would cost between $21 million and $28 million per mile to bury the cable along the Beltline.

One of opponent of above ground lines tosses in this quote: “Do we want to be the last place that's just got these god-awful overhead lines?" The aesthetic destroying nature of overhead wires is a point I kept making against the misguided trolley system, but there is a difference between webbing and linage. I’m not yet convinced that the beauty of the beltline is worth preserving with huge increases in my electric bill.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

See A Penny Pick It Up

Unable to impose financial discipline on themselves, the government of Wisconsin decides to increase spending both tax dollars and borrowed money in hopes this unprecedented run of prosperity continues. When the rich people start to worry, however, the rest of us may want to take notice. From a pdf courtesy of the International Monetary Fund, the storm clouds on the horizon may be closer than they appear.

Assessing Risk to Global Financial Stability: Financial risks have increased and underlying conditions have worsened since the April 2007 Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR). The period ahead may be difficult, as bouts of turbulence are likely to recur and the adjustment process will take some time. Uncertainty about the final size of losses, and when and where they will be revealed, will likely continue to keep market sentiment and conditions unsettled in the near term.

The global financial markets are completely fused. This means financial shocks that originate anywhere in the world reverberate almost everywhere in the world. Local economies structured to live within their means will survive difficult times better than those winging it on blind faith the future will somehow pay the bills. After all, you never know where trouble is going to come from.

Is Russia's Economy Collapsing? : Dictator Vladimir Putin announced a wave of Soviet-style price fixing. It's been announced that Russia is facing double-digit consumer price inflation for 2007, and prices may be rising at double that rate on the small basket of foodstuffs and other items that are readily affordable to the mass population, which works for an average wage of less than $4 per hour. It's quite shocking to think that G-8 member Russia needs to resort to the tactics of Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe in order to stave off short-term panic, simply making price rises illegal -- as if that was a way to solve inflation that the other G-8 members never thought of.

Oh well, life goes on and tomorrow is another day. The sun will come out tomorrow. See a penny, pick it up … yadda, yadda, yadda.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More Of The Same For Our Own Good

I don’t doubt the intent of medieval medicine was to benefit the patient. The problem is the practitioners are largely bound by prevailing beliefs and a limited set of techniques. One of the most common interventions being the bleeding of the patient in hope of returning the body to healthy balance. Bleeding as therapy survives for a thousand years because the patient often survives and those who perish are doomed anyway.

This evening the Republican controlled Assembly passes a new Wisconsin State Budget with large increases in borrowing, taxes, fees and spending. The bleeding of the public for the benefit of the public continues. The House vote is 60-39 sealing the victory. The Senate follows 18-15 on a pure partisan vote. Look at this anyway you want, but the Republican Assembly allows the same old same old expanding government trick to continue forward. They have convinced themselves the patient is healthy enough to survive more liquidity losses. The affluent enclaves will probably be fine. The people suddenly confronted with the demand for half a days wages simply to register the car that gets them to work may feel the pain a bit more.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Magic Fails MGIC

Milwaukee based Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation (MGIC) has the following warm fuzzy feel good blurb posted on their website.

MGIC Investor: Revenue growth, credit quality and productivity. It is these three factors that are the foundation of MGIC's historical performance. The depth and experience of MGIC's leadership helps MGIC management make prudent decisions regarding where and how to compete for mortgage insurance in today's marketplace. Curt Culver and the company's executive management average nearly 20 years of experience each in the private MI industry.

I love the “prudent decisions” phrase because it contrasts so completely with the statements of Chief Executive Curt Culver last week.

MGIC: "The books of business written in 2005, 2006 and most of 2007 will be difficult books financially. These books feature weaker underwriting, and will play out in an environment of deteriorating real estate values. In fact, we modeled an approximate 10% nationwide decline impacting these books. The declines are even more extreme in various MSAs. Frankly, the loss side has hit us much harder and more quickly than we could have ever anticipated. From the loss guidance estimates, we have seen revised from our industry, as well as a number of mortgage originators who are no longer in business, it was not anticipated by many. The ramp-up of loss performance relative to delinquencies, the severity and the cure rate deterioration in California and Florida has been at speeds not seen in previous books of business.”

So thank you for the prudent decisions as MGIC joins the 52 Week Low Club today. “Down to $20.09 from 52-week high of $70.10”. Just another real world example that fiscal irresponsibility is not sustainable. In other Wisconsin news:

Wisconsin State Journal: The 2007-09 budget agreement announced late Friday by Gov. Jim Doyle and legislative leaders would leave a potential shortfall of $889 million in the following two-year budget running from 2009 to 2011, a spokesman for the governor said Monday.

Budget hawk Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, said he won't support the compromise budget because it leaves the state vulnerable to a downturn in an already shaky economy. "We are continuing credit card budgeting," Ellis said. "We are facing a staggering fiscal crisis that may develop."

SUSTAINABLE. The Democrats love that word when it comes to insisting people change their lifestyles. It is time us general public types start insisting our elective representatives change their lifestyle and start producing work that is financially sustainable. We will not escape the harm coming from this spending way beyond our means.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Demand A Veto Free Signing

Late Friday, Wisconsin announces a budget compromise and many people have posted thoughts on the agreement including Governor Doyle, and political bloggers Owen and Steve. Wisconsin is operating under the prior budget but the announcement means an updated tax and spend plan will go into effect, if the deal passes a vote scheduled for Tuesday. Regardless of the details in the compromise, Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch should not bring this up for a vote before obtaining a ZERO VETO AGREEMENT from the Governor.

In November 1930 Wisconsin enacts a partial veto by constitutional amendment and it is the most powerful veto of given to any United States Governor. It is a tool that can be used for slight administrative alterations or for wholesale rewrites of legislative intent. In the 2005 budget process, Doyle uses the power to completely alter the intention of the budget passed by the legislature. This is a track record which absolutely should not be ignored.

WisPolitics Budget Blog July 2005: Doyle, up for re-election next November, used 139 vetoes and a 33-page veto message to tell potential voters that his version of the two-year spending plan is the more responsible way to go. … “The end result is a budget that much more closely resembles the one I submitted in February than the one passed in the dead of the night by the Legislature.”

This willingness to use the veto to put personal politics in place of legislative text is a serious concern. Because of this history it is foolish to bring this compromise budget to a vote Tuesday without a signed ZERO VETO AGREEMENT with the Governor. If the Republicans pass this budget without a binding agreement insuring the budget gets signed “AS IS”, then they deserve the blame when Doyle alters the compromise after the fact.

The Republicans can’t make Doyle do anything, but they can force him to take public positions with political implications. They need to keep playing the political game till the last possible moment. By making the demand for a veto free signing they force the Governor into one of three options.

1. Agree and he voluntarily surrenders his veto weapon for the good of the state.
2. Agree then renege thus providing another example of his corruption.
3. Refuse and insist on a veto overide process making him the budget obstructionist.

If this is the best deal the Republicans can reach, then let’s make sure this is the best deal we get. Mike Huebsch and Reince Priebus need to demand a veto free signing from Jim Doyle. It does not take political courage to request a reply and one thing is certain, if you don't ASK you don't GET.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Teachers, Guns and Schools

Safety comes from the ability of people free of malice and hostile intent to stop those individuals intent on harm. It is not a hard concept. Two recent articles on guns and the safety of students question why some people don’t understand what safety means.

Teachers Packing Heat? Good intentions do not necessarily make good rules. What counts is whether the laws ultimately save lives. Unfortunately, too many gun laws primarily disarm law-abiding citizens, not criminals. Banning guns from schools seems like the obvious way to keep children safe. But a teacher, Shirley Katz, in Medford, Oregon, is proposing the exact opposite and is stirring up debate across the nation.

The benefit from concealed handguns on multiple-victim public shootings is particularly large. Examining all the multiple-victim public shootings in the United States from 1977 to 1999 shows that on average, states that adopt right-to-carry laws experience a 60% drop in the rates at which the attacks occur, and a 78% drop in the rates at which people are killed or injured from such attacks.

For multiple-victim shootings, the biggest factor determining the amount of harm is the length of time between when an attack starts and when someone with a gun can stop the attack. The longer the delay, the more are harmed.

There’s A Reason They Choose Schools: It is encouraging that college students themselves have a much better grasp on reality than their politically correct elders. During the week of October 22-26 Students For Concealed Carry On Campus will stage a nationwide “empty holster” demonstration (peaceful, of course) in support of their cause.

School officials typically base violence-prevention policies on irrational fears more than real-world analysis of what works. But which is more horrible, the massacre that timid bureaucrats fear might happen when a few good guys (and gals) carry guns on campus, or the one that actually did happen despite Virginia Tech’s progressive violence-prevention policy? Can there really be any more debate?

Being harmless does not protect you from being harmed. Wishing the world is a safe place won’t make it so. It’s amazing how far politics has drifted away from common sense.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kurdistan Reaches a Decision Point

The Kurdish region of northern Iraq is the greatest success in the ongoing positive transformation of Iraq away from dictatorial tyranny. The region, however, harbors a Kurdish separatist group known as Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) whose presence is a barrier to the progress. Their use of terrorist tactics in neighboring Turkey has our NATO ally ready to send military troops across the border in retaliation.

Talabani to PKK: Era of Che Guevaras over: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said in remarks published yesterday that the PKK should leave northern Iraq and join the political process in Turkey. "The PKK should now understand that the world has changed and that the era of Che Guevaras is over,"

Incursion may ravage Southeast’s economy: As the Turkish Parliament passed a motion this week granting permission to the government to send the military into northern Iraq to crush bases of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the business world has been considering the economic consequences of a possible military incursion into northern Iraq, where Turkish construction companies have realized $2.5 billion worth of business in the past two-and-a-half years.

EU says ‘terrorists,’ European press says ‘freedom fighters’: It has been a long time since the European Union officially designated the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization, but the European press is still hesitant to attach the “terrorist organization” label to the PKK.

US Foreign Policy Blogger Pundita reflects on the tensions in terms of their effects on the larger United States goal of creating a peaceful civilian controlled society in Iraq.

No to mission drift: Keep your eye on the ball. Whether in Burma or Iraq's Kurdish north, the US must walk a fine line when pushing the American model of democratization, else we stumble into the George Soros model for dealing with threats to globalization: balkanization, whereby the world is chopped into so many small antagonistic territories that transnational investors and companies don't have to deal with powerful national governments. The Soros model leads the world straight back to tribalism.

No matter how good an ally the Kurds, they must remember that it was the US, not they, who toppled Saddam's regime. … Iraq's Kurd government in Iraq needs to accept that they are Kurds second and Iraqis first. The US has no place pandering to tribalism anywhere in the world, but especially in Iraq.

The last thing we need at this moment is for a slowing of vital supplies due to a war breaking out between Iraq's Kurds and Turkey. Tehran would not hesitate to capitalize on the chaos by making a huge amount of trouble in Iraq's south, thereby catching the US military's supply lines in a pincer movement.

Progress crosses one bridge at a time and this bridge is next up on the journey.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The French President Announces His Divorce

A mere five months after winning the election the first family of France splits.

Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy split: It's finally official, and it appears Nicolas Sarkozy decided to announce this on the most politically fortunate day possible. In a press release from the Elysee, the Sarkozy's announced their separation "by mutual consent." Not to make political hay out of a very personal decision, but this was certainly the way to do it. Sarkozy has managed to distract the entire media from the current transport strike, which the BBC reports some unions may be extend for another 24 hours. Then again, if he dosen't make any statements in person soon, it could look like he's hiding in the bunker. As Le Figaro points out, this will be the first time that a French president is also a bachelor.

On a side note, Ségolène Royal who lost the election to Sarkozy announces her separation from long time partner Francois Hollande just a month after the defeat. Being a mutually happy power couple must be a very hard act to maintain. This of course raises the unnecessary gratuitous question of how long will Mr. Bill be allowed around after Hillary’s inauguration? After all, there is Presidential divorce prescedent now. Stare decisis Bill, bye, bye.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The American Revolution is an Ongoing Task

A couple keen observations from A. J. Strata today. Is the NY Times “ethically bankrupt”? I’d have to say yes. Is the American public dissatisfied with both political parties? Hell yes.

Morgan Stanley Sells Entire New York Times Stake: Morgan Stanley, the second-biggest shareholder in New York Times Co., sold its entire 7.3 percent stake today, according to a person briefed on the transaction, sending the stock to its lowest in more than 10 years.

Voters unhappy with Bush and Congress: Bush's job approval rating fell to 24 percent from last month's record low for a Zogby poll of 29 percent. A paltry 11 percent gave Congress a positive grade, tying last month's record low.

In A.J.’s words: “You must be screwing up if nearly 90% of the country believes you are”. He is speaking of the Pelosi/Reid congress. Do you really believe the American public hates America? This infighting aristocracy is what happens without term limits on power seekers. No matter how many times The Times spews lies to induce self hatred and dependency, most people are hard working and like it here. They only want our screwed up government to get their act together without destroying what is great about our country. I’m raising a toast to throwing all the bums out and I doubt I’m drinking alone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Sub-Prime Summer VI

Technology Review has a lengthy two part series on the financial turmoil this year and I believe it supports what I have been saying since the first ripples in February. The root cause (to use Madison lingo) is not excessive Greenspan liquidity or immoral mortgage lending behavior. The root cause is Wall Street geeks using computer models to gamble with borrowed money.

The term “Quants” historically refers to back room technicians doing the math homework for the upfront traders and brokers. When sophisticated computer programming hits the back rooms, however, the lure of big money attracts top tier mathematicians using their numerical expertise to create complex number games. As in all things, however, if you don’t understand the reality in the source of the numbers on an Excel spreadsheet, then crunching can make you believe in false realities.
Part I: The Blow-Up : On Wednesday, August 8, not long after the markets closed, 200 of the smartest people on Wall Street gathered in a conference room at Four World Financial Center, the 34-story headquarters of ­Merrill Lynch. .... They didn't look like Masters of the Universe; they looked like members of a chess club. They were "quants,"

No one quite knew why, yet, but the market's odd behavior would turn out to be closely linked to the work of the quants. In addition to creating arcane financial products, quants have been pushing the frontiers of computer-driven trading systems, and not enough of those systems were working the way they were supposed to--or, to put it more precisely, the way they were supposed to work turned out to be counterproductive in volatile times like these.

Part II: The Blow-Up : "The products are getting an order of magnitude more complex," says Berman. "Things change slightly, and get correlated where they weren't correlated before." Or, as he put it a little less gnomically, "You can't make it without understanding it, but you can buy it."

Beneath all this beats the great hope of the quants: namely, that the financial world can be understood through math. They have tried to discover the underlying structures of financial markets, much as academics have unlocked the mysteries of the physical world. The more quants learn, however, the farther away a unified theory of finance seems. Human behavior, as manifested in the financial markets, simply resists quantification, at least for now.

Models of reality make really great games and tremendous special effects for entertainment. Algorithms for manipulating input data sets, however, are not crystal balls into the future. If the financial markets are well behaved through the end of November it should mean the big institutions have learned their lessons about blue sky microprocessor promises. Or in other words, the realization that access to lots and lots of numbers does not make you smart.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Russia and the Next President

The November/December issue of Foreign Affairs features essays by Presidential candidate John McCain and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. These lengthy think tank position papers are the most reliable indicators of how the individual who wants to lead the United States, views the relationship of America to the rest of the world. Publius Pundit makes the following observations about how the two aspirants view Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

John McCain: Boot Russia out of the G-8. ... "A decade and a half ago, the Russian people threw off the tyranny of communism and seemed determined to build a democracy and a free market and to join the West. Today, we see in Russia diminishing political freedoms, a leadership dominated by a clique of former intelligence officers, efforts to bully democratic neighbors, such as Georgia, and attempts to manipulate Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas. We need a new Western approach to this revanchist Russia. We should start by ensuring that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia".

Hillary Clinton: By contrast, Hillary Clinton says in the same publication that while Russia has screwed us on Kosovo, Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltics, Iran, democracy and, well, just about every which way, that's not such a big deal because "Putin has used Russia's energy wealth to expand the Russian economy, so that more ordinary Russians are enjoying a rising standard of living." That's what Chamberlain said about Hitler. Thanks a lot Hillary -- brought to you by the woman whose husband gave us the KGB presidency in the first place.

The true Hillary believes it is the duty of government to control the economy for the benefit of the population. It sounds so good in theory. The devil is in the details of using power to define good and then forcing the standards upon the people. The process simply, demonstrably does not work to benefit the whole of society. McCain is dead meat in the Presidential race but, like Newt Gingrich, he should be utilized to help defeat the well financed worldwide socialist surge to capture the American Government.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Red Rover Red Rover

The 2005 season ends with the Green Bay Packers emerging victorious in only three competitive games. Two wins at Lambeau against New Orleans and Detroit (in overtime) and one at Atlanta. A January 1st, 2006 victory over a “going through the motions” Seattle team tacks a fourth W next to the dozen L’s. Even Minnesota coaching lightweight Mike Tice figures out the Packers Defense falls apart against four receiver sets. The single combined General Manager and Head Coach Position was a very stupid organizational decision and the full horrors of the consequences are apparent to everyone. Mike Sherman gets the boot January 2nd.

Now six weeks into the 2007 season the Packers have five victories and only themselves to blame for the single loss blemishing their record. The media coverage has rightfully focused on what Brett Favre is doing or not doing but the foundation for this success is the defense. Today’s triumph over Washington, much like the Week 1 victory, is proof Ted Thompson actually knows what he is doing in building the team these last two years.

In theory, you don’t need any Offense to win games. Special Teams and Defense can put points on the board. GB Game 6 Stats When a good defense keeps opponent scores low, a serviceable offense that someone like Aaron Rogers can run may be sufficient for long term success.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Biofuel Dependence Dangers

There is no doubt in my mind that carbon dioxide is innocent of any crimes against nature. The same natural world constructed from the chemical ability of carbon dioxide and water to link atoms into complex molecules. There is also no doubt that history will ultimately record Al Gore as a minor political heir with no accomplishments, other than a slavish devotion to the money and fame he receives as an advocate for a false science.

Even as the political elitists and one world government seekers are trading complements and award checks, there are realists in both the UN and social justice movements beginning to be concerned about the harm biofuel dependence will impose on the multitudes living outside the fancy mansion grounds.

UN rapporteur calls for biofuel production moratorium: GENEVA, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food Jean Ziegler demanded on Thursday an international five-year ban on producing biofuels to combat soaring food prices.

Ziegler, a Swiss national, said the conversion of arable land for plants used for green fuel had led to an explosion of agricultural prices which was punishing poor countries forced to import their food at a greater cost. "232 kg of corn is needed to make 50 liters of bioethanol," Ziegler was quoted by the Swissinfo website as saying. "A child could live on that amount of corn for a year."

Agro-fooling ourselves: Deforestation diesel. A recent study in the journal Science found that existing forests could absorb nine times more CO2 than the production of agrofuels could achieve on the same area of land. According to Renton Righelato, co-author of the report, the ‘mistaken policy’ of targets and incentives is fuelling deforestation.

Sugar-cane and soybean farming in Latin America and the growth of palm oil plantations in south east Asia are among the major culprits, with the demand for these crops now accelerated by their cultivation for fuel use. ... ‘The palm oil prices are going through the roof because of their use as biofuel and this, one of the poorest countries in the world, is cutting down its trees to supply the market.’

This has both economic and environmental impacts. Monoculture plantations not only threaten what remains of global forest cover, reducing biodiversity, but they also subject local populations to a new wave of plantations.

Politics is about the pursuit of power. Science is about pursuing an accurate understanding of the existing world. Social justice is about preventing unnecessary suffering within human populations. If science and social justice combine to insist that politicians be restricted within the bounds of truth, justice and (dare I say) the American way, both man and nature will benefit. This starts with understanding the globalwarmists are wrong.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dem Convention Schedule Found?

Could someone have lost the preliminary draft of the 2008 Democratic National Convention schedule? Maybe. Maybe not. It really does not matter, however, because 'fake but accurate' is the standard for fairness adopted by the left. I’m stealing this in it’s entirety from DANEgerus.

7:00 pm ~ Opening flag burning.
7:15 pm ~ Pledge of Allegiance to the U. N.
7:20 pm ~ Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

7:25 pm ~ Nonreligious prayer and worship - Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton
7:45 pm ~ Ceremonial tree hugging – Darryl Hannah
7:55 pm ~ Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

8:00 pm ~ How I Invented the Internet - Al Gore
8:15 pm ~ Gay Wedding Planning – Rosie O’Donnell
8:35 pm ~ Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

8:40 pm ~ Our Troops are War Criminals - John Kerry
9.00 pm ~ Memorial service for Saddam and his sons - Cindy Sheehan and Susan Sarandon
10:00 pm ~ "Answering Machine Etiquette" - Alec Baldwin
11:00 pm ~ Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

11:05 pm ~ Collection for the Osama Bin Laden kidney transplant fund - Barbara Streisand
11:15 pm ~ Free the Freedom Fighters from Guantanamo Bay - Sean Penn
11:30 pm ~ Oval Office Affairs - William Jefferson Clinton
11:45 pm ~ Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

11:50 pm ~ How George Bush Brought Down the World Trade Towers - Howard Dean
12:15 am ~ "Truth in Broadcasting Award" - Presented to Dan Rather by Michael Moore
12:25 am ~ Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

12:30 am ~ Satellite address - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
12:45 am ~ Nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton - Nancy Pelosi
1:00 am ~ Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

1:05 am ~ Coronation of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
1:30 am ~ Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

1:35 am ~ Bill Clinton asks Ted Kennedy to drive Hillary home.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Smart Money Doesn’t Bet on the Dying

More signs of the dead tree media moving towards being simply dead media.

24/7 Wall Street: Major newspaper groups will report their September revenues within the next several days. The market does not seem to be anticipating much in terms of good news.

The New York Times (NYT) is trading at $20.10, less than a dollar from its 52-week low.

McClatchy (MNI) trades at $19.70 against a 52-week low of $19.28.

Journal Register (JRC) is changing hands at $2.73 with a 52-week low of $2.33.

Gannett (GCI) trades at $45.26 against a 52-week low of $43.63.

As September numbers and Q3 earnings come out, watch for new lows.

This does not necessarily mean the desire for hard new is moving to blogosphere. Publius Pundit comments on an internet battle of words between Michelle Malkin's Blog and Ezra Klein's Blog, but if you check the visit numbers even for Michelle who resides at the apex of the internet media, the audience is at best a couple hundred thousand readers world wide.

The public is, by and large, busy dealing with the problems of daily existence. Their mental focus is almost entirely on work, family and friends. When they do find time to turn their attention towards entertainment, the printed word is way down the priority list. Television is still the media that matters for shaping public opinion.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

British Court Finds Inconvenient Inaccuracies

Environmentalist organizations have nothing to do but spend tax free dollars putting out media pieces like: Greenpeace urges kangaroo consumption to fight global warming. Advancing an agenda is the definition of activism. The one thing I notice in the usual nonsense deriving from the false belief that carbon dioxide creates environmental problems is this one sentence:
"The world is currently on track to experience runaway global warming with average temperatures soon to exceed 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels", Dr Diesendorf said.
This is the first time I have heard the phrase “runaway global warming” recently. Even true believers that human activity is meaningfully contributing to the theoretical increase of total atmospheric ambient energy, have ceased painting mental imagery of unstoppable rising temperatures turning Earth into Venus. Those computer programs were so bogus even the United Nations dropped that prophecy last century.

Besides, “runaway” temps reaching 2 degrees higher? As out of control scenarios go, that’s pretty lame. (cue the spooky music) BEWARE THE DANGER of extending the biodiversity of the tropics slightly into the middle latitudes! Weak. The only individuals still using this 'planet on the verge of combustion' style of preaching are those pursuing a primary interest in returning the world to “pre-industrial” conditions.

It is against this background of never ending non-profit activism that the lovely wonderfulness of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth getting smacked down in the British Courts needs to be appreciated. Kent school governor Stewart Dimmock initiates legal action in response to distribution of the film to the British schools, as an education tool. In his words: "The film contains blatant inaccuracies. It's a political shockumentary, it's not a scientific documentary." Well said, Mr. Dimmock.

High Court Judge, Mr. Justice Burton agrees. He rules the film can not be presented to school children without also telling the children the film contains many inaccuracies, and explaining to them there is no consensus among scientists about any causal relationship between man and atmosphere. The film will still be playing in the classroom but at least the teachers are formally warned to tell the children that some adults believe Gore’s Academy Award should rightfully have been for science fiction.

The details can be found the in reports from the BBC (Gore climate film's 'nine errors') and Daily Mail (Judge slams Al Gore's 'alarmist' climate change documentary). Nice to see there are adults in England willing to call shenanigans on blatant attempts to use the school system for political indoctrination.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Living Wages and Losing Money

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz worked very hard for a city owned swimming pool and it has been informative to watch him back down from his initial enthusiasm over absolute government operational control.

City pool needs private splash: The mayor's city budget, unveiled last week, seeks to hire a private vendor to run the concession stand at the city-owned Goodman Pool on the South Side. … The pool is losing money largely because it pays excessive wages to mostly entry-level, teenage workers. The pool workers fall under the city's "living wage " law, meaning they earn about $11 to $12 hour to sell soda and hot dogs, teach swimming lessons and serve as lifeguards. Other cities with pools in the Madison area offer market-rate pay starting at $6 to $7 an hour and peaking at $10 to $11 an hour.

City officials pledged to make the Goodman Pool self-sufficient when approving its construction in 2005. The goal was to cover all operating expenses with income. … Last year 's deficit totaled about $136,000. City officials were optimistic they could cut the annual shortfall in half this year. But it now looks like the 2007 deficit will be much higher than the $71,000 the city projected back in July.

Government is not and should not be business. The failure of socialism is the incorrect belief that regulation and production can both be optimized under one central authority. Mayor Dave, socialist at heart, may be forced by reality to admit that legislated wages are detrimental to long term operational requirements – IN THIS UNIQUE INSTANCE – but I seriously doubt a single specific will dampen his unbridled desire to control the revenue flow of anything government can punitively regulate.

Monday, October 08, 2007

More Vinehout Style Dem Lying

The Democratic Party selects a Maryland family to be the face of the political battle to maintain and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP). First the sob story of receiving healthcare and surviving. Then after the care is given, realizing the providers want the bills paid.

Baltimore family joins health care showdown: Bonnie and Halsey Frost say the federal health insurance program enabled them to afford medical care for two of their children who were badly hurt in a traffic accident. … Had it not been for a federal health insurance program tailored for working families such as hers - ones lacking the income to purchase private health insurance - Frost is certain that she and her husband would be buried under a mound of unpaid medical bills.

The Frost family has a combined annual income of about $45,000, said Bonnie Frost. She and her husband have priced private health insurance, but they say it would cost them more per month than their mortgage - about $1,200 a month. Neither parent has health insurance through work.

How horrible that these POOR people are billed for treatment provided. They don't have health insurance! But wait, the internet community proceeds with the work the Main Stream Media won’t do. Exactly like Wisconsin Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, the Frost Family decides not to purchase health insurance because it would crimp their affluent lifestyle.

The "Not So Poor" 12 Year Old Who Rebutted Bush on SCHIP Veto: Graeme Frost, who gave the democrat rebuttal to George Bush’s reasons for vetoing the SCHIP Bill, is a middle school student at the exclusive $20,000 per year Park School in Baltimore, MD. His sister Gemma, also severely injured in the accident, attended the same school prior to the accident meaning the family was able to come up with nearly $40,000 per year for tuition for these 2 grade schoolers.

What the article does not mention is that Halsey Frost has owned his own company "Frostworks", since this marriage announcement in the NY Times in 1992 so he chooses to not give himself insurance. He also employed his wife as "bookkeeper and operations management" prior to her recent 2007 hire at the "medical publishing firm". As her employer, he apparently denied her health insurance as well.

The current market value of their improved 3,040 SF home at 104 S Collington Ave is unknown but 113 S COLLINGTON AVE, also an end unit, sold for $485,000 this past March and it was only 2,060 SF. A photo taken in the family's kitchen shows what appears to be a recent remodeling job with granite counter tops and glass front cabinets. One has to wonder that if time and money can be found to remodel a home, send kids to exclusive private schools, purchase commercial property and run your own business... maybe money can be found for other things.

The advocates for government control of medical finances will be merciless in playing the guilt game to achieve their goal of subordinating the individual to the state. Those of us understanding that personal responsibility is the foundation of American achievement need to be merciless in exposing the hypocrisy of those attempting to be parasites on society.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Complacency Gets You Beaten

Packers v Bears - again. When the Packers open the game with a 7 play 83 yard touchdown drive of such beautiful efficiency and execution, the undefeated perfection adorning their season seems completely justified. Even when the Bears Tillman single handedly forces two lost fumbles from rookie receiver James Jones, the failure of the Bears offense to turn them into points on the board appears to legitimize the both the inept Chicago offense and the vastly improved Green Bay defense. The Packers proceed to roll out 341 moving the ball forward yards by halftime, but take only a 10 point lead into the locker room.

Brian Urlacher will later say that yardage doesn’t win football games, points do. Something changes during the mid-game break because the Packers come out like they spend the time gloating over their individual stats, while the Bears find the willpower to start playing like a team that reached the Super Bowl only eight months ago. When, with four and a half minutes left in the Third Quarter, Urlacher intercepts a bonehead Brett Favre decision at the Packers 19, the tide of the game is completely turned. The Green and Gold play the rest of night with the dazed realization they reached the moment when they could seize control of their division and they flinched. GB Game 5 Stats.

So where is the silver lining? It may emerge from a new grounding in reality for this very young team and their extremely aged player coach. If the sting of having given away a victory to the kids next door drives complacency out of the upcoming efforts, that will be helpful. If it keeps the phrase, DON’T BE STUPID, in between Favre and his arm, a lot of good things are still possible for this now 4-1 football team.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Congrats P & A

An old friend finally gets himself married today. His Mom tells us the Bride is “a notch above the other one” and we all start running down the entire list silently in our heads. Then we get together to agree on which stories are best not retold in the presence of any people who were not there. The reception is in Wisconsin Dells at the Kalahari and all I can say is BOYB because at $10 per cocktail, those resort folks are not there to help you live the High Life.

Friday, October 05, 2007

This Should Frighten Free People

Anyone who does not understand the Democratic Party of Wisconsin wants to turn our state into the Massachusetts of the Midwest, simply is not paying attention. Those of us who don’t want our lifestyles mandated to us by the government really need to pay attention to events in the land of Kennedy and Kerry.

Doc, what's up with snooping? They’re watching you right now. They counted every beer you drank during last night’s Red Sox game. They see you sneaking out to the garage for a smoke. They know if you’ve got a gun, and where you keep it. They’re your kids, and they’re the National Security Agency of the Nanny State.

I found this out after my 13-year-old daughter’s annual checkup. Her pediatrician grilled her about alcohol and drug abuse. Not my daughter’s boozing. Mine. The doctor wanted to know how much you and mom drink, and if I think it’s too much,” my daughter told us afterward, rolling her eyes in that exasperated 13-year-old way. “She asked if you two did drugs, or if there are drugs in the house.”

Thanks to guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics and supported by the commonwealth, doctors across Massachusetts are interrogating our kids about mom and dad’s “bad” behavior.

And that information doesn’t stay with the doctor, either. Debbie is a mom from Uxbridge who was in the examination room when the pediatrician asked her 5-year-old, “Does Daddy own a gun?” When the little girl said yes, the doctor began grilling her and her mom about the number and type of guns, how they are stored, etc. If the incident had ended there, it would have merely been annoying. But when a friend in law enforcement let Debbie know that her doctor had filed a report with the police about her family’s (entirely legal) gun ownership, she got mad.

Universal Healthcare is about giving the government primary responsibility for the physical well being of all the people under the jurisdiction of their Nanny State laws. Do you really believe the do-gooders are going to simply let their most vulnerable subjects live in dangerous conditions? Remember that police are only one part of a Police State. --- H/T Joe Martin.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More Vinehout Stupidity

Back in July, Rick Esenberg and Boots and Sabers and Asian Badger are among the many sources that observe that State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D) is publically selling a disingenuous sob story.

Her tale of woe involves having to pay the full medical charges for their son’s appendectomy because they previously made the decision to go without health insurance. The trouble is while this husband and wife Illinois Professor couple, who decide to become Wisconsin “farmers”, are claiming health insurance premiums would take too much money from their meager budget, they somehow find a way to contribute nine thousand dollars of their money to Kathleen’s political campaign.

Ever the Democrat, Kathleen Vinehout is out with a press release which begins with the damning assertion: “Not having a budget is not an option”. Perhaps Ms. Vinehout is still stuck in her Illinois government daze because here in Wisconsin the government always has a budget. Perhaps Nurse Ratchet should inform Ms. Vinehout how the rules work in this asylum. It’s not hard to understand. Everyone continues to get what got last year and since everyone survives last year, there is every reason to believe survival will continue. Maybe the perceived hardship factor goes up because spending desires continue while income remains stagnant, but so sad, too bad. Welcome to the reality of the citizens.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Congratulations, Your Credit Limit is Raised

I’m sure the Party of Government, those Republicans and Democrats with primary and possibly exclusive loyalty to their own reelection, just don’t care how much the financial irresponsibility of the present harms the future. Hell, the government owns the money printing presses. The Heritage Foundation looks at our congressional representative’s latest weaseling out of the hard adult decisions by increasing our credit card limit.

Increasing the National Debt Limit: In a flurry of business to close out the fiscal year, Congress raised the debt limit by $850 billion to $9.815 trillion. Without this move, the federal government's credit card would have maxed out on October 1 with an outstanding balance of $9 trillion. This staggering amount, also known as the national debt, is equal to $29,700 per American or $78,680 per household.

The total debt has two parts. The first part is debt held by the public, which is owed to individuals, corporations, the Federal Reserve, and state, local, and foreign governments that purchase bonds and other Treasury Securities. The public debt makes up $5.1 trillion of the overall debt. The second part is debt held by the government, which represents money that was borrowed by the government from surpluses in the Social Security Trust Fund and other government accounts. Government debt makes up the remaining $3.9 trillion of the total national debt.

I do admire this hubris. The government has an IOU for $3.9 trillion dollars it borrows from itself. It is ok to try this at home. Simply grab a piece of paper and write I owe myself $3.9 trillion dollars. Do you feel rich now? Time for the baby boomers to make their peace with inflation because there ain’t no real assets invested to pay the upcoming entitlement bills. I wonder how long it takes to print out 10 Trillion intricately designed counterfeit resistant pieces of fancy paper.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Sub-Prime Summer V

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan speaking in London today throws out some thoughts on the subprime mortgage mess in the financial markets, and appears to point his finger directly at the big rich companies, rather than the people with bad credit history and the firms loaning them money. H/T Dad29 (who isn’t convinced Greenspan is totally sane).

Greenspan defends subprime: "Subprime mortgages were and are risky, but they are worth it," Greenspan said, adding that is better to have a larger property owning class with a vested interest in the system. "I'm terribly concerned that we would cut back on the availability of subprime that has enabled a very significant increase in mortgages among minorities in the United States," he added.

Greenspan Sees `Rethinking' on CDOs: "The Wall Street firms were under real pressure to supply asset-backed securities, and the Wall Street firms were pressing the lenders to give them more raw material,'' Greenspan said today. "Credit standards just went straight down, and applications for subprime mortgages soared. The consequences of that are evident.''

Looking back over my thoughts about the financial turmoil beginning this February, I tend to agree with the former Chairman. Both the subprime market and mortgage backed securities (MBS) exist prior to the lending lunacy peaking in 2005. The driving force is not an unprecedented surge in people wanting money combined with a simultaneous altruistic impulse warming the cold hearts of underwriters. The impetus for relaxing lending standards is an increasing demand from Wall Street for high yield bonds. Bonds utilized in leveraged derivative structures to squeeze out pennies from the yield differences.

Wall Street demand causes the increasing supply of substandard lending and well intentioned Federal anti-discriminatory legislation allows lenders to abandon traditional underwriting and credit standards to meet this demand. In other words, if Wall Street yield v. yield gamesmanship doesn’t get out of hand, then Main Street lending practices don’t get perverted.

So, I blame corporate greed as the primary source of this problem, and because the problem is greed there is no need for political action to disrupt the cruelly efficient way the market place acts to correct excesses of this timeless temptation.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Monday Night Out

Tonight is Red Stick Ramblers night at the High Noon Saloon. Lola and I catch them twice in Bristol, Tennessee a little over a year ago and vow to attend any place these Louisiana boys show up locally. If that means a Monday night show in downtown Madison, so be it.

It is the bands first trip to Wisconsin and they don’t know what to expect from a weeknight show in a town that none of them have ever been before. What they get is about a hundred people and an active dance floor. The dual Cajun fiddle mastery of Linzay Young and Kevin Wimmer form the acoustic heart around which the band drifts into zydeco rhythms and south delta blues and dirt poor country melodies of the bayou.

The big world always has lots of problems, so every now and then it is perfectly proper to welcome in autumn with some live music and a couple taps of Capital Brewery Oktoberfest as a reminder that life is pretty good.