Monday, December 31, 2007

Diary Note

The fire in the hearth is kindled at sundown. Lola asks if 2007 has been a good year. I reply it has been fine. We have lamb chops for dinner with a bottle of Seghesio Barbera. Turning the televisions and computers off, we play music till midnight and feed wood to the flames.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

13 - 3 and More To Come

This is wonderful. The Green Bay Packers finish the 2007 Season 13-3 with a win over the Detroit Lions. It is everything Coach McCarthy can want in a season ending game. Brett Favre leads the team on three touchdown drives on the first three possessions. He then comes out for good two plays into the 2nd quarter, after successive completions to newly returned veteran TE Bubba Franks. Backup QB Craig Nall then takes the reserves to a final 34-13 victory. The GB Game 16 Stats make the case this is a disciplined team with a depth of talent.

RB Ryan Grant and CB Will Blackmon are knocked out of the game with injuries, but afterwards both insist they are not serious and expect to be ready for the first playoff game January 12, 2008. The Packers rest several key starters and with the extra bye week, the team will be at optimal readiness to contend for the Super Bowl. In his post-game conference, Brett Favre says “At times we played pretty good football but once the playoffs start, at times doesn’t count”.
Coach McCarthy: (Did the Chicago loss shake your team's confidence?)
I'd like to say that it didn't affect our confidence. I think it punched us right in the mouth. It was a good wake-up call. The most important thing about a wake-up call is how you respond to it. I really liked the way our football team responded today. That's what you're looking for, a decisive win at home, great crowd, perfect day at Lambeau Field. It's an excellent way to finish a 13-3 season.
"Perfect Day at Lambeau Field" -- I have to agree. This has been a special season, and no matter what happens going forward it has been a remarkable story that none of us can honestly say we saw coming.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

WEAC Loves Frankenstein

I don’t expect much high quality reasoning from the Wisconsin State Journal, but to their credit, they have chosen to advocate the repeal of Wisconsin’s Frankenstein Veto.

Union bigs should hit the books: WEAC suffers the dubious distinction of being the only organization in the state to register this year with the state Ethics Board to lobby against Senate Joint Resolution 5. The resolution, heading to voters for final approval this spring, will rein in the most outlandish veto power in the nation -- the notorious "Frankenstein" veto.

The Republican-run state Assembly voted in overwhelming and bipartisan fashion to abolish the "Frankenstein " veto. The Democratic-controlled Senate voted unanimously for SJR 5 with a 33-0 vote. Every major newspaper in the state has editorialized in favor of SJR 5. Good government groups including Common Cause in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign have endorsed it.

But the stubborn and short-sighted teachers union continues to resist. Gov. Jim Doyle used "Frankenstein " vetoes to ignore the Legislature 's will and steer hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state aid to public schools two years ago. In the union 's collective mind, the ends justified the means because, at least for now, they got theirs.

Senate Joint Resolution 5: The proposed constitutional amendment prohibits the governor, in exercising his or her partial veto authority on appropriation bills, from creating new sentences by combining parts of two or more sentences of the enrolled bill.

Backing away from centralized authoritarian government is probably going to require a series of small steps and restraining the scope of the Governor’s veto is one desirable goal. It doesn’t surprise me that WEAC leadership is reluctant to discard a tool they know can be used to their advantage. One can hope, however, that rank and file teachers can sense the irony of teaching children the legislature makes laws and the administration carries out the work of government, while supporting the de facto legislative powers the Frankenstein Veto confers to the administration.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Pre-Apocalyptic Winter Wonderland

I believe the University of Wisconsin when they say Madison’s annual snowfall averages 35 inches. I also believe when the Wisconsin State Journal says about this much snow has been deposited on the town this month alone. According to the story, this is the second time this decade Capital City has a years worth of frozen water dumped on it in a month.

Snow: That brings December's total to 32.2 inches, nearly surpassing the second highest snowfall on record of 32.8 inches in 1987. The record for December snowfall in Madison was set in 2000, when 35 inches fell. There is about a 50 percent chance of between 1 and 3 inches of snow on Sunday night and Monday morning.

Which begs the question, are these events yet more manifestations of human activity over heating the world? Even some people in the press are beginning to ask the question:

Has global warming stopped? The fact is that the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 as well as every year since 2001. Global warming has, temporarily or permanently, ceased. Temperatures across the world are not increasing as they should according to the fundamental theory behind global warming – the greenhouse effect. Something else is happening and it is vital that we find out what or else we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly.

The article then gives a very nice summary of the dangerous human made climate change story being pitched to the untrained public. It is the kindergarten version understood by the vast majority of our politicians. (H/T Dad29)

In principle the greenhouse effect is simple. Gases like carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere absorb outgoing infrared radiation from the earth’s surface causing some heat to be retained. Consequently an increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases from human activities such as burning fossil fuels leads to an enhanced greenhouse effect. Thus the world warms, the climate changes and we are in trouble.

In reality, the greenhouse effect is not simple. It is a complex interaction of water vapor and a few other molecules with segments of the electromagnetic spectrum. Carbon dioxide is a minor player that rapidly absorbs the limited band of radiation it can absorb. Contrary to the Gospel of Gore, an increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has very little effect on temperature.

Furthermore, to be technically correct, the energy “retained” is retained for a short period. Heat always dissipates and only the rate of dissipation can be affected. The whole “we are in trouble” scenario depends entirely on the false logic that summer is harder on living things than winter. It seems like I keep writing variations on this story and I suppose I will keep writing until this harmful misunderstanding of nature is squelched.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Killed

Murder for political gain may be the third oldest motivation behind passion and revenge. There is something understandable, yet still condemnable, in individual retribution for an individual wrong. Killing for the purpose of achieving dominion over a population is a magnitude more serious and the assignation of the former Prime Minister and current candidate sends ripples of anxiety throughout the worldwide political community.

Round up of the news at: Michelle Malkin, Gateway Pundit and Jihad Watch.

Local reactions are captured at:
All Things Pakistan - Benazir Bhutto Assasinated,
Metroblogging Islamabad - Benazir, Pakistan & Now
The Pakistani Spectator - Benazir Bhutto's Profile.

So what should we make of this latest use of suicidal homicide for Earthly gain? First, it needs to be understood that Benazir Bhutto was from a long tradition of Third World autocratic families playing ruthless power politics. Second, her affluent life was decidedly predisposed to the luxuries of Western culture, and thus against the purist Islam of much of the Pakistani population.

Mark Steyn: She was beautiful and charming and sophisticated and smart and modern, and everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be - though in practice, as Pakistan's Prime Minister, she was just another grubby wardheeler from one of the world's most corrupt political classes.

Andrew McCarthy: The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war where, for about half the population, the only thing more intolerable than Western democracy is the prospect of a faux democracy led by a woman — indeed, a product of feudal Pakistani privilege and secular Western breeding whose father, President Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, had been branded as an enemy of Islam by influential Muslim clerics in the early 1970s.

Leftists Who Love Her: Benazir Bhutto and Hillary Clinton have strong ties. Bhutto has hired Clinton campaign staffers. See this for some Bhutto background on corruption and political ties here in the US. It’s no wonder the Clinton campaign has been silent on the matter of Pakistan and Ms Bhutto.

As much as anything the events of today serve notice on all those who aspire to govern the United States that the 'War on Terrorism' is going to remain near the top of the agenda. The Jihadist movement in the Islamic world is finding shelter in Pakistan and they will defend their stronghold. Their belief in the absolute truth of Islam is not compatible with the Western world, and will remain a lethal danger no diplomacy will resolve.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

An Annual Recap

I stopped trusting the “traditional” media a very long time ago. I think it followed my understanding that there is no objectivity in the perception of activity. As the calendar year winds down the annual ritual of reflection winds up. A list for thought from the Business & Media Institute: The Media’s Top 10 Economic Myths of 2007. It is possible to find gloom and doom if you seek it out. It is probable that biased perspectives produce biased reporting.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Returning the Favor

Winter storm warnings and travel advisories cover the upper Midwest as the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears prepare to play football, outside in the blustery gusts of late December. The GB Game 15 Stats lists the game time temp at 16 degrees. Nasty 22 mph winds in Soldier Field make both long snaps and short passes a game of whiffle ball. The Bears are poised to take advantage of every mistake by the Packers and they blow the Wisconsin boys away in a 35-7 victory.

Every business has the company line and the workforce reality. No player in the NFL is going on record as saying 'we went through the motions because that was all we needed to do today', but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Last year the Chicago Bears were headed for the Super Bowl and rolled over letting the Packers win the last game of the season. Today the Packers return the favor. All the high ideals of competition aside, the Bears need a win, the Packers don’t, and everyone on the field knows it. The message is sent when the Bears pound the football downfield on 18 plays over nearly eleven minutes on the first drive of the game.

Preparing for this match, Coach McCarthy holds the practices inside because he thinks it is more important to keep the precision in the reps, rather than experience the reps in the probable game conditions. In hindsight he is probably correct. The Green Bay players know they have the cherished first week bye in the playoffs, and truth be told, most of the team would rather deal with a second road game in Dallas than yet another bitter cold contest at Lambeau. Brett Favre will tell you, no one really enjoys playing when the wind chill is eighteen below.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is Time Slowing Down?

It’s a theory being presented for evaluation. Tick Tock becoming T i c k T o c k.

Free Republic: Spanish scientist suggests that the universe's end will come not with a bang but standstill - that time is literally running out and will, one day, stop altogether. Professor Jose Senovilla, of the University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, has put forward the theory as a rival to the idea of "dark energy" - the strange antigravitational force that is posited to explain a cosmic phenomenon that has baffled scientists.

It was noticed ten years ago that distant stars - the ones on the very fringes of the universe - seemed to be moving faster than those nearer to the centre, suggesting that they were accelerating as they shot through space. Dark energy was suggested as a possible means of powering that acceleration. The problem is that no-one has any idea what it is or where it comes from.

Professor Senovilla's theory does away altogether with dark energy. Instead, he says, the appearance of acceleration is caused by time itself gradually slowing down, like a clock that needs winding. He takes the basis for his idea from the superstring theory, which suggests that dimensions of time and space can move around and change places. His suggestion is that our solitary time dimension is slowly becoming a new space dimension.

While the theory is outlandish, it is not without support. Prof Gary Gibbons, a cosmologist at Cambridge University, believes the idea has merit. "We believe that time emerged during the Big Bang, and if time can emerge, it can also disappear - that's just the reverse effect," he said.

The Professor does bring up the issue that all calculations of cosmic observations depend on the assumption that time remains a constant throughout the universe and this is a big assumption, a matter of faith actually.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Cold Winter Night in Wisconsin

Global warming is now and has always been the scary fairy tale needed to frighten people into a retreat from the modern economy. It is digital fiction programmed into computers and edited, not by scientists, but rather by government appointees to the United Nations. The farce has gotten so out of hand that scientists world wide are now fighting back hard. H/T The DANEgerus Link Round Up.

U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called "consensus" on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.

Here in Wisconsin the early hard winter this December is severe enough that ice bends buildings to their breaking points and follows a February where record blizzards obliterated all previous snowfall totals. Yet here in Madison, enclaves of people sincerely believe humanity has already pushed the environment Past The Tipping Point so “it's no longer possible to prevent catastrophic climate change”.

Of course the activists flying around don’t believe the end is near. The political use of apocalyptic prophecy is entirely about gaining control over people and wealth which is why the personal car is a primary target for regulation. Nothing quite demonstrates the complete subordination of private enterprise like unnecessary and unrealistic mandates enforced by stiff fines. Some European automakers are beginning to see the clear and present danger looking them in the eye.

Germany Cries Foul Over EU Plans to Cut Car Emissions: Germany has attacked European Commission proposals to cut car C02 emissions limits, saying they unfairly hit the country's auto industry. The measures are intended to curb global warming. Under the plans, automobile manufacturers would have to reduce carbon emissions produced by their fleets of passenger cars to an average of 120 grams per kilometer by 2012. Currently, new cars emit some 160 grams on average. Should they not comply to the guidelines, automakers are to face steep fines. With several commissioners dissenting, the European Commission -- the EU's executive arm -- agreed on a four-year phase-in period from 2012 for the fines.

Before we consent to even more restrictions on free thought, free enterprise, free markets and free movement, it is time to confront the ghost story justification behind the demands for these increasing government intrusions. What is needed is an Innocence Project for carbon dioxide. The molecule is not guilty of any of the charges against it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bush Signs Our Energy Bill

Good Lord this country is run by idiots to the point it is almost funny. Think of any sitcom, for example Three’s Company, where a faulty understanding leads to a series of inappropriate yet totally serious actions by the various characters, as they attempt to deal with the consequences of the consequences and still save face. Today, a bipartisan effort to save our planet, our country and the desired cash flow of a thousand business dreams is signed into law. Welcome to the age of sitcom legislation.

Bush Signs Energy Bill: President George W. Bush today signed legislation aimed at cutting U.S. dependence on overseas energy by setting tougher mandates. … The new law is "a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil, confronting global climate change, expanding the production of renewable fuels and giving future generations of our country a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure," Bush said before signing the legislation at the Department of Energy in Washington.

Without getting into the details (read the links) the gist is that our government leadership steps forward to impose by mandate the changes they fear the free market won’t deliver. The whole package is a series of “Thou shall NOT do this” and “You MUST do that” commands to the economy. The smoke and mirrors are all about saving the consumer money and working towards energy independence, ignoring the fact the American consumer is the best value shopper on the planet and denying the world’s resources to the national population is antithetical to the public good.

Coyote Blog: I don't see how anyone of any political stripe can see this as a good bill. Its just stupid in so many ways. Yes, I understand as a libertarian, my energy bill would look like: 1. get out of the way.

Michelle Malkin: You know the energy bill that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law today? Tucked into the legislation is a provision that mandates the phase-out of the 125-year-old incandescent bulb in the next four to 12 years in favor of a new generation of trendy, supposedly energy-efficient Gorebulbs.

National Center Blog: For the past four decades, food prices have remained fairly stable, lagging far behind inflation. But as the USDA reports, food prices this year are soaring, rising twice the rate of inflation - the highest annual increase in over a decade. … What's driving record food prices? Federal policies mandating more food for fuel are a big factor.

What are our politician’s goals for America? Foreign made light bulbs, burning food for fuel and forcing personal transportation to become either more dangerous or more expensive. One might expect the environmentalist vanguard to be ecstatic. Wrong.

EPA Denies States the Right to Fight Global Warming: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stunned the nation today by denying California and 17 other states the right to proceed with regulations that would reduce global warming pollution from new automobiles. … EPA denied California's waiver, saying that new CAFE standards in the recently authorized energy bill would suffice to reduce global warming emissions from new automobiles.

I guess those people at EARTHtimes thought Washington DC decision making is based on logic and sound principles. Fools.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Caroline Glick on Being Rational

The Main Stream Media have become undeniably less shrill about the physical bombs and bullets war against Islamic Jihadism, as the U.S. military increasingly finds ways to deter the perpetrators while respecting the non-violent populations. A cynic might suggest that items that don’t advance the agenda don’t make the agenda. Jerusalem Post writer Caroline Glick is keeping up the voice of warning that currents of hatred still flow through the Middle East and offers her theory on the difference between the ways the West understands the situation.

Who's being rational?: THE SEPTEMBER 11 attacks on the US intensified a dispute that had been brewing since the end of the Cold War about the definition of rationality. The two warring factions in the debate, which has raged throughout the free world, can be referred to as the rationalizers and the rationalists.

The rationalizers include politicians like Olmert and Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and security and policy apparatuses like the CIA, the State Department, the Foreign Ministry and their counterparts in Europe. The rationalizers define rationality as susceptibility to foreign pressure and willingness to be appeased. According to this view, if your antagonist is willing to negotiate with you, then he is rational. And since he is rational, he is capable of being appeased. And since he is willing to be appeased, he isn't really your enemy.

For rationalists, it is rational for a state's policies and actions to reflect and advance its values, aspirations and beliefs. As a consequence, it is essential to understand and confront those beliefs, values and aspirations. Just as the rationalizers' views are attractive because they place all the power to determine issues of war and peace in the hands of Western nations, so the views of the rationalists are unattractive because they assume that the free world cannot alone determine the course of events. It cannot influence a society's adherence to jihadist beliefs and aspirations. The most it can do is take actions to prevent jihadist societies from acting on their beliefs.

None of us are in position to understand the way the confrontations of the last six years will shape the future. Like many others, I believe it was necessary to confront and defeat the activists of aggressive Islam and I’m hoping the acute flare up of violence is being suppressed as those willing to commit mass murder against innocents are eliminated. I also realize that the repression of action is a long way from the conversion of thought.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our Tax Favored Funds at Work

Sierra Club attorney Bruce Nilles is a wicked person. I’m not sure wicked is the ideal adjective for the harmful actions of a shrewd mind that has been dangerously misguided, but it strikes me as more appropriate than not. This demonization of coal is predicated on the scientifically false belief that carbon dioxide has the potential to create catastrophic environmental damage.

A season to fight coal: In the last four years, local Sierra Club attorney Bruce Nilles has stopped 58 coal-fired plants from being built in the United States. … He is in the process of fighting 54 more coal-burning plants in America.

It all comes down to global warming and there is a lack of federal action on the issue, Nilles said Thursday from the Sierra Club's local office on the eighth floor of 122 W. Washington Ave., just off of the Capitol Square. "These coal plants are preventing us from stopping the acceleration of global warming and instead investing in clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar," Nilles said.

The Sierra Club is the leading example of how John Muir’s preservationist desires have been perverted by environmentalist beliefs that humanity is a threat to the very existence of the natural world. Carbon dioxide is a minor greenhouse gas playing a small limited role in planetary thermodynamics. There is no reason the serious exploration of the environment becomes obsessed with CO2 other than the fervent desire to find a way to resist the increasing spread of a prosperous humanity. The larger question is how American business reaches the point where they are easily cowed by the wealth of a 501(c)(4).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Putin Decides What To Do

The next President of Russia will be Dmitry Medvedev. In the historical style of the powerful, the powerful hold a meeting and current President Vladimir Putin announces his successor. There will be voting because the international press will expect another act in the democracy theater the Russians have been staging.

New Prince, New Dangers: When Putin announced yesterday that he supports First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to succeed him next March, the country's bureaucratic and political elites fell over themselves to be among the first to affirm their loyalty to the newborn prince. But the outward show of unity does not mean the transition problem is resolved.

The news in this is that Putin will not relinquish power, but is willing to wield it without the artifice of official title. Some observers are calling Medvedev a placeholder, a harmless figurine for public appearances. Someone from the “family’, like the Godfather going with Fredo because in this version, Sonny and Michael are girls and can't play the game.

A Mafia Nation: The key problem, Ryabov added, is that Putin has created a system that works poorly without him, since he is the only one who can balance the competing Kremlin clans. "With such countervailing forces, the system cannot regulate itself," Ryabov said. "It cannot resolve these conflicts through two-sided negotiations. An arbiter is always necessary and this is the role Putin is playing.

Putin Picks His Heir: "The Kremlin has long said that Medvedev is like the adopted son of Putin, who only has two daughters. Putin has treated Medvedev like a son," Kryshtanovskaya says. "This is a person who is practically like family to Putin. He is a dependent, manageable, and obedient person who doesn't have his own approach or point of view."

Oh Look, it's the Little Bear: The idea that anyone in Russia is strong enough to serve independently as "president" while Vladimir Putin sits "below" him as prime minister, giving orders to Putin when necessary and dismissing him if the nation's interest called for it, is so ludicrous that the mere suggestion of it offends the intelligence of a turnip.

Lest anyone doubt these gambits are the result of an ambitious young man with a drive to lead the surviving population of the grand communist experiment, the ‘candidate’ himself puts those thoughts to rest.

Dmitry Medvedev: Speaking to reporters at one of his recent press briefings, Medvedev dropped a very meaningful phrase while answering one more question about his presidential ambitions: “I am a part of the state machine.” Some might view this as a sign of a lack of character. But others might view it as an honest acknowledgment of a man who does not want to pretend to be something he is not.

Much like the Chinese, the heirs of the KGB legacy are no longer truly concerned about anything as petty as academic theories of enlightened leadership. Russia is flush with oil wealth and the big bosses are never going to voluntarily release their grip on that much money.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The New Medicine Reality

Life and death is the ultimate personal experience. City Journal has a lengthy article about how the uniqueness of each individual threatens the group approach of government care for everyone. Assaults upon the community from the outside need to be countered by entirely different tactics than resistance to the effects of time in our internal biochemistries.

Cherry Garcia and the End of Socialized Medicine: This great etiological shift—from the medicine of us versus germs to the medicine of us versus us—upends everything. Disease and its cures now depend on factors too fragmented for conventional insurance pools to contain, too costly for public treasuries to underwrite, and too divisive for public authorities even to discuss, much less manage. The era of big government is over in medicine, too. Within a decade or two, a charismatic president will deliver on the promise to end health care as we know it. What then? Science will discover, competition will supply, patients will choose, and freedom will deliver better medicine and far better health, at lower cost, to many more people.

The difference between medicine’s old simplicity and its new complexity is rooted in molecular biology. … By scrutinizing differences in our chemistry, biochemists can now disassemble glut-and-gene diseases into molecules that can be exposed long before they morph into plaques, clots, tremors, tumors, occluded airwaves, clogged arteries, and failed muscles. Breast cancer used to be a lump; now it’s at least four genes, two of which, when paired, make a tumor almost certain. Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to four genes.

Perhaps the irony lies in the fact, that our success in communal efforts to improve health with public sanitation, adequate nutrition and effective therapy for infectious disease lead to the false belief that all problems of disease require communal solutions. As our knowledge of the unique individuality of health gains precision, it erodes the legitimacy of mandating group think strategies. It might even get to the point where individual responsibility is again valued over the need for true charity freely given, and true charity over handouts acquired by the power of taking.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Winter Football

In the press conference after the Green Bay Packers 38-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau field, the first thing Brett Favre starts talking about is the cold. The GB Game 13 Stats have the game being played in 18 degree windless cold and Favre says the cold gets colder as the afternoon goes on. He then talks about starting the game with numbness in two fingers, from the hit knocking him out of the Dallas contest, and ending the game with numbness in every finger. Yeah, the weather outside is tough. It's part of the unique legacy of this team and their fans.

PackersNews: Mark Murphy is scheduled to become the Packers’ next president in January, but he showed up at Lambeau Field on Sunday to get a sneak peek at his new team. Instead of watching the game from the warmth of an indoor suite, Murphy and his wife braved the elements and sat in the stands. It’s another indication Murphy plans to be a man of the people.

This is a complete team victory. The return of Charles Woodson to the secondary brings the defense to back to normal after their substandard mistake filled outing at Dallas. The unit allows Oakland only 10 first downs the entire game, and two of those come from Packer penalties. Cornerback Will Blackmon returns one punt for a touchdown and scores a second TD by falling on a fumbled Oakland punt in the end zone. Ryan Grant continues providing an effective running attack to balance a passing game in which all members of the receiving corps are productive.

Now 11-2 on the season, the victory seals the NFC Central Division Title and assures the Packers a place in the playoffs. I suspect Coach McCarthy will remind the team they have yet to clinch a first round bye, and admonish them for being assessed more penalty yards than the Raiders. Photo: Dan Powers/The Post-Crescent. No NFL team should ever be penalized more than the Raiders.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sub-Zero Expands Out of State

If you are a Wisconsin based manufacturer wanting to expand your business, what thoughts cross your mind in the decision process? There are so many factors to consider.

Sub-Zero/Wolf to build dishwasher factory in Kentucky: Madison-based Sub-Zero/Wolf is getting into the dishwasher business with a new manufacturing plant in Kentucky. The luxury kitchen appliance company didn't mean to dis the Madison area in locating its new 200,000-square-foot facility on 45 acres in Richmond, Ky., corporate marketing manager Paul Leuthe said. It just ran out of room for expansion at its Fitchburg site, where its companies Sub-Zero Inc. and Wolf Appliance Inc., acquired in 2000, make high-end refrigeration and cooking units. "We like Dane County, we like Madison," Leuthe said.

Sub-Zero expands to Kentucky: Leuthe said the company has maxed out space at its 65-acre Fitchburg site and decided to expand elsewhere. The company bought 45 acres in an industrial park in Richmond, located south of Lexington in central Kentucky, and expects to break ground on the 200,000 square-foot building next spring. … "The fact that we went to Kentucky is saying nothing bad about Wisconsin" Leuthe said.

This all sounds like the Corporate PR equivalent of saying: it’s not you honey, it’s me. Of course Kentucky tosses in financial incentives and there is the plausible justification of being physically closer to the parts suppliers but in the end, the love of Wisconsin emotions are not enough to overcome the good business judgment calculations.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hope Now – For Favorable Tax Treatment

Money is when you put a dollar into the vending machine and you get back two nickels, a dime and a bag of peanuts. Finance is when you package a large group of loan contracts and make the income stream tax free. The rich who want to exploit us and the rich who want to manage us are not concerned about money, but they are united in their desire to remain rich. Today our political leaders give us Hope Now --- it’s a website.

Atlanta Journal: Help with mortgages: The fine print. The plan announced Thursday by President Bush applies to subprime residential adjustable-rate mortgage loans that have an initial fixed-rate period of 36 months or less and that: were originated between Jan. 1, 2005 and July 31, 2007; are included in securitized pools of mortgages; and have an initial interest rate reset between Jan. 1, 2008 and July 31, 2010.

The government says they are willing to let specific things happen on some loans within a narrow window of time. What things? Well the government is willing to let the loans try not to default. You may think the government is concerned about the welfare of misguided borrowers in over their heads in debt. You would be wrong. These actions are all about tax law for beneficiaries of the mortgage payments.

Tanta: First, REMICs … One of the qualifying requirements of REMIC status is that the underlying pool of loans is “fixed.” … If at any time the trust starts taking actions that can be interpreted as “actively managing” the underlying pool, the REMIC status is in jeopardy.

The takeaway point: … whether securitizations “allow” modifications is based not on a question of what verbiage is or is not in the PSA, but rather on an interpretation of what is or is not required for REMIC tax treatment or off-balance sheet accounting.

Is it all kind of anemic after all the build-up? Yep. Does it mean contracts are now invalidated in the U.S.? Not as far as I can see; in fact, I'd say the contracts were the part of this that got the most thorough protection. In my reading of this, giving a deal to a borrower almost seems incidental.

The government actions are in essence a clarification that loan servicers can take advantage of the verbiage within mortgage contracts to “mitigate” the potential for default, without those actions being interpreted as management of the securitized loan pools - for tax purposes. Underneath the façade about saving the family home, this is really all about tax law. Warms the heart don’t it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Big Brother Time Out Plan

Hillary Clinton and George Bush agree on one point. Contract law can be scrapped if there is political gain to be gained by discarding the rule of law. On second thought, this is also the shared thinking on immigration law. Hillary Clinton and George Bush agree on two points. Michelle Malkin sums it up succinctly: “Behold the bipartisan politics of entitlement”.

Bloomberg: Federal regulators and U.S. lenders agreed to freeze interest rates on subprime mortgages for five years to stem rising foreclosures, said a person familiar with the measure.

The freeze may apply to mortgages issued between January 2005 and July 2007 that are scheduled to reset between January 2008 and July 2010, said a person familiar with the plan. Borrowers whose credit scores are below 660 out of a possible 850 and haven't risen by 10 percent since the loan was sold will be given priority. Those with scores above 660 will be more closely scrutinized to determine whether they are eligible or must continue making payments under existing terms, said the person.

The details are not fully released until tomorrow but any freeze is government interference into the mechanics of a freely entered contract. Any freeze applied selectively based on external eligibility factors is a bad precedent for the rule of law over private transactions. Bad Judgment Joe gets a big brother time out with real dollar savings, while Prudent Peter gets to move immediately onward to higher monthly payments.

Michelle Malkin: Instead of letting lenders and subprime mortgage-holders suffer the consequences of their actions, politicians and grievance-mongers are riding to the supposed rescue. In a supreme irony, the very same champions of the needy in the Democrat Party who complain constantly about the lack of “affordable housing” are now fighting tooth and nail to keep housing prices high…

… Let’s boil this down to fundamentals: Why should the rest of us have to shoulder the burden because some buyers made poor choices, overextended themselves and bought more house than they could afford? Why should other business owners bear the costs of lenders’ failed bets? And why are falling home prices such a catastrophe to be “fixed” in the first place?

The ultimate mortgage industry Ubernerd Tanta is still waiting to see the details but states: “So far, I'm prepared to believe assurances that this will not involve taxpayer subsidies”. I am less willing to extend the benefit of the doubt that tax money won’t come into play, but this is a secondary point. First and foremost, long term decisions depend on the law honoring the good faith in contract agreements. This willingness to tamper selectively in the name of the public good highlights the lack of faith our political class truly have in the ability of the marketplace to work out excess without assistance.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gentry Liberals

The current political divide is beginning to resemble a split between the rich who want to exploit us and the rich who want to manage us. Like many gross oversimplifications there is still a grain of truth left when the obscuring tangle of details is stripped away. Q and O commenting on an LA Times article states the obvious --- Democrats: The Party of Truman is No More.

The Gentry Liberals: But what kind of liberalism is emerging as the dominant voice in the Democratic Party? Well, it isn't your father's liberalism, the ideology that defended the interests and values of the middle and working classes.

Today's ascendant liberalism has a much different agenda. Call it "gentry liberalism." It's not driven by the lunch-pail concerns of those workers struggling to make it in an increasingly high-tech, information-based, outsourcing U.S. economy -- though it does pay lip service to them.

Rather, gentry liberalism reflects the interests and values of the affluent winners in the era of globalization and the beneficiaries of the "financialization" of the economy. Its strongholds are the tony neighborhoods and luxurious suburbs in and around New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco and West Los Angeles.

Gentry liberalism is not an entirely new phenomenon. Its intellectual roots can be traced to historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s 1948 book, "The Vital Center." … Schlesinger was suspicious of the traditional liberalism of President Truman, who baldy appealed to the basic interests of returning middle- and working-class veterans of World War II.

In "The Vital Center," Schlesinger dismissed both the then-largely Republican business class, as well as mainstream Democratic politicians like Truman, because he thought they were too craven in their appeals to middle- and working-class interests. He believed that government should be in the hands of "an intelligent aristocracy" -- essentially men like himself -- whose governance would be guided by what it considered enlightened policy rather than class interests.

As QandO point out, LA Times authors Joel Kotkin and Fred Siegel are decidedly on the left side of the seating chart and their story eventually drifts into the mildest rebuke of the environmentalist obsessions crowding out the focus on the needs of the people. Their larger point, however, is well taken. The smug superiority of intelligent aristocracy drips off the modern day Democratic Party. Their nanny state insistence on bans and mandates is in stark contrast with their historical drive to improve the lives of the average citizen by creating a prosperity rewarding freedom, hard work, responsibility and discipline.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Madison’s Politically Correct Street Mess

The weekend storm with a nasty mixture of snow and ice made quite the mess. This is Wisconsin and with the experience of countless winters past, the citizens and public servants dutifully went out and cleaned it up. As with all human activities, some places did the job better than others. In Madison, they pretty much did everything badly.

Fraley's Daily Takes: Six inches of snow 48 hours ago should not leave the roads of Madison in such terrible shape. … Madison streets superintendent Al Schumacher is quoted in today’s Wisconsin State Journal as saying most of the main roads should be “really good” today. He’s right. They should be. But they aren’t.

For some reason the plow drivers in Wisconsin’s second largest city are not capable of clearing out the left traffic and left turn lanes. As if that weren’t dangerous enough, there are places on East Wash where an entire lane is coated with three inches of ice. Salt may not be environmentally friendly. But how friendly is a street strewn with disabled cars and injured citizens, Mayor Dave?

Capital Times: Madison streets Superintendent Al Schumacher was taking a lot of heat today because of roads that resemble cow pastures, but he said the alternative was super-slick roads with many more accidents. "The streets are not good," Schumacher said this morning. "It was a difficult storm."

The environment also has a lot to do with salt-free side streets. "We don't salt every single city street for a reason," Schumacher said. "We want to protect our groundwater and our lakes." Similar conditions hit Madison in February, when a late winter storm dumped the same mix that we experienced Saturday. It took about two weeks for all streets to be cleared then, but Schumacher hopes roads will be back to normal sooner than later.

Having been through a number of Madison storms and I am willing to cut the workers some slack in the big ones. Right now, however, the city streets are in exceptionally poor condition even given the magnitude and mixture of the frozen onslaught. The fact our neighboring communities are in much better shape is a reflection not of the task, but rather the dedication to the task.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s primary allegiance is to his environmental convictions. The needs of the citizens and residents of our city continue to be secondary priorities of his administration. The decision not to clear the mass of snow from the roads prior to the watery mixture freezing into immovable hazards may have come from the streets department, but only because the Mayor finds these conditions acceptable.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The People of Venezuela Reject Tyranny

Socialist Hugo Chavez writes a series of constitutional changes that serve his personal desires and places them for a public referendum vote. Ever the toadies of the authorities, the stooges at Reuters dutifully report the early official musing of the officials.

Reuters 8:44 PM EST: CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appeared headed for victory on Sunday in a referendum on allowing the leftist to rule for as long as he keeps winning elections, three government ministers said, citing early data.

As the hours pass and the officials fail to proclaim victory from the highest roof tops, a bit of doubt begins to sneak into the observers.

Gateway Pundit: Doing the Marxist Slide -- Venezuela Votes on Chavista Rule ... Update: CHAVEZ WINS! ... Update 2: Maybe Not?

The resident bloggers are supplied information saying the tabulations are a rebuke to the President and speculation in the comments is that those in power are “negotiating” the results. Negotiating because authoritarian personalities despise rebukes. The internet buzz is the vote tally is NO: 6.534.648 vs. SI: 5.864.560 (Dif: 670.088 5,4%).

Venezuela New and Views: This has got to be a first, carrying over two days a post ... Nothing new yet. there is an intense militarization at the CNE. What are they afraid of? Or is it a coup already under way to refuse to recognize the NO victory.

Caracas Chronicles: Quico says: Multiple sources inside CNE now confirm it. Chávez's constitutional reform proposal has been defeated at the polls. An official announcement is imminent.

Reuters 11:00pm EST: CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was in a tight vote on Sunday in a referendum on scrapping term limits on his rule, and the opposition called on the leftist leader to accept an unprecedented defeat if he loses.

Caracas Chronicles: Venezuela rejects authoriarianism. It's a historic day.

There are reports of fireworks across the country. It is a rockets red glare kind of night.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Venezuelan Freedom at the Precipice

Sunday, Venezuela under the rule of Hugo Chavez, holds a referendum election. It is essentially a yes or no vote on a new constitution for the country. A piece of paper written by Hugo Chavez granting himself, or any subsequent president, expanded powers. No one knows how the results will be reported tomorrow because there are suspicions the actual votes will be as ephemeral as stage lighting.

Wall Street Journal Online: Polls show most Venezuelans are also opposed, but a genuinely fair vote may be impossible. The President's electoral council controls the voter rolls, the voting machines and the ultimate count.

The American Thinker: Unlike previous "elections" which were monitored by foreign observers ... this referendum will not have any oversight. Venezuela did not invite electoral observers from the Organization of American States or the European Unions to monitor the voting. This clears the way for Chavez and his allies to fabricate the referendum's outcome.

Ecrisis: Jimmy Carter wants you to know that Venezuelans face a dilemma on 12-2-07: to vote or not to vote on Chavez's "constitution." Carter informs us, "Numerous sectors, both supporting and opposing the current administration, have questioned the process that led to calling the referendum. Among other aspects, it has been argued that no clear rules were issued; inequitable access to the mass media has prevailed; and not enough time or opportunity was allowed to hold a mature and responsible debate about the proposed reforms. Various sectors underscored that, given the extensive nature of the proposed reforms; a Constituent Assembly was called for rather than a referendum. … Jimmy Carter calls this a "dilemma." We call it criminal.

To be fair, the Chavista’s believe the powers to the Presidency are being given way too much attention when the reforms are all about social and economic justice.

Gregory Wilpert: in the process of focusing on the centralizing aspects of the reform, most observers willfully miss the ways in which the positive aspects of the upcoming reform have the potential to make Venezuelan political life more in tune with the interests of the country's mostly poor majority.

In one of the greatest departures from the 1999 constitution, the reform proposal introduces a new level of government, the "popular power". … The popular power represents the "lowest" level of government, in that it is the organization of communities in forms of direct democracy. … The opposition has tried to twist the meaning of this article, claiming that it lays the groundwork for dictatorship because it supposedly means that the authorities of the popular power are named from above, since they are not elected. This, however, represents a willful misunderstanding, as the popular power is supposed to be the place where democracy is direct, that is, unmediated by elected representatives.

Ok. No elected representatives at the community level. Only direct democracy where the community voices their communal wishes in community gatherings. How can thuggery possibly distort the enlightened compromises of communal consensus?