Thursday, May 31, 2012
The joke is old but it endures because it is so often so true:
Q: What's the difference between the Boy Scouts and [insert organization here]?
A: The Boy Scouts have adult supervision.
Today's iteration is the diff between the Scouts and the New York Times, whose editors probably spurted their midday red-wine aperitif through their noses as they chortle-typed out this headline describing President Obama hosting former President G.W. Bush for the emplacement of Bush's official White House portrait:
Gerard Vanderleun, whence the image, comments,
That's all too typical of the kind of grunting insect-level hate and passive-aggressive threat the girly-men of the Times have descended to over the years. I've written Lander to ask if it was himself or his editors who dreamed up that headline. Either way, it's the kind of dumb punk move that is only too typical of the Times. I doubt I'll receive an answer, but if I do I will relay it.Yeah, good luck with that.
The never-ending cycle of nanny government comes together in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban large sugared drinks in New York City.I have a theory that by enmeshing us in countless petty regulations, the statist rulers are deliberately doing two things:
1. Operantly conditioning us to accept and acquiesce to increasing, and increasingly minute control of our daily lives by the ruling class.
2. Obscuring by countless petty rules the fewer, but much more far-reaching and major regulation of Americans and the way we live to achieve this goal: to render a deep, permanent change in the way we the people conceive of ourselves in relation to the State apparatus.
They are moving toward a society in which that which is not forbidden is required, as Alexis de Tocqueville foresaw 170 years ago:
The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.Their goal is to nudge, lead and coerce Americans into ceasing to consider themselves the sovereign authority of the country. Instead, the state shall be sovereign over us.
Related: "How Democracies Perish"
What's Really Behind Europe's Decline? It's The Birth Rates, Stupid - Forbes:
Southern European countries, especially Spain and Greece, suffer from birth rates so low that they are not even close to being able to maintain a steady population. This is true for almost anywhere in Europe, but northern Europe's countries have highly-educated and highly-skilled populations who compensate for their low birth rates by high productivity and liberal immigration policies.
The problem the "Club Med" countries face is that their economies are weak, not diverse and they offer little reason for skilled or educated immigrants to come there. And so,
Without a major shift in policies that favor families in housing or tax policies, and an unexpected resurgence of interest in marriage and children, Spain and the rest of Mediterranean face prospects of a immediate decline every bit as profound as that experienced in the 17th and 18th Century when these great nations lost their status as global powers and instead devolved into quaintlocales for vacationers, romantic poets and history buffs.
Long before that happens, today’s Mediterranean folly could drive the rest of Europe, and maybe even the world, into yet another catastrophic recession.This does not bode well: "Money flies out of Spain."
(Reuters) - Spaniards alarmed by the dire state of their banks are squirreling money abroad at the fastest rate since records began, figures showed on Thursday, and the credit ratings of eight regions were cut.
Spot market prices for petroleum are plunging and have gone well below $90, $88 on Wednesday, slightly back above $90 this morning. This has been great news at the gasoline pump for us. So how low will oil go?
There is more than one type of petroleum in the world, of course. Oil from one field is not chemically identical to oil from another, though of course the difference is not very great chemically speaking. But it is great enough for oil buyers to make the distinction. The major differences are in the raw oil's specific gravity (measured by its relative density to water) and its sulfur content.
Though oil is pumped over much of the world, there are two major benchmark prices, those of West Texas Intermediate and Brent North Sea. Like most any other commodity, there are trading funds that track those two benchmarks. A fund called US Oil, or USO, tracks WTI and the fund BNO tracks Brent. These are 1X funds, meaning that they are designed so that their price moves track as closely as possible the moves of the oil spot prices on a direct ratio. There are other funds that track at 2X or even 3X ratios.
Here is the Google chart for USO and BNO together over the last month.
Now there is something interesting about the price spread between USO and BNO. WTI oil is sourced and refined in the midwestern US, from Texas to Canada. Its price reflects mainly domestic American demand. Brent oil, however, reflects supply and demand all over Europe, which also sources its oil from other parts of the world, mainly the Middle East.
When BNO is priced at a large spread higher than USO, it generally means that buyers' concerns over Mid East volatility is fairly high; they fear future turmoil there may reduce or disrupt supplies. Despite what appears to be an increasing spread in the chart above, the spread is actually much lower than it has been for a long time. As recently as March there was a 50-point gap between the two price points. Here is a longer time frame chart:
In the main the decreasing spread is due to higher wellhead outputs in North America. Compare 2011's production with this year's:
User demand is also decreasing because of slackening economies and consumer spending. One result is that oil contango, raw oil in storage, is rising even as gasoline and distillates in inventory are falling:
Total petroleum inventories this year are well ahead of last year's at this time of year ("well" ahead, get it? I crack myself up) and much higher than the five-year average:
I think that prices will continue to fall, though I am neither brave nor informed enough to predict a bottom. However, some oil market analysts say that $60/barrel is not out of the question. I do think we will see $80 by mid-summer.
"Why are oil prices tanking?"
"America is floating on oil"
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Obviously, no one in New York's treasury offices saw this coming.
(Click image for larger view.) Or maybe they did see it coming, but didn't care since the objective of raising taxers on the
Jason Furman, deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council, said, “Our goal is to have a progressive tax system.”When I was in the Army, we used to say about our battle plans, "The enemy gets a vote." That is, the enemy will always do what he thinks is in his best interests, quite independently of what we want him to do.
Furman added that the tax was never intended “to bring the deficit down and the debt under control” (contradicting a past claim made by the president). The goal, according to Furman, is to establish “a basic issue of tax fairness.”
New York's rulers forgot the civilian-side equivalent of that rule. When you raise taxes on people, people take measures to avoid paying those taxes. "The people get a vote," and not just at the ballot box. Those New York former taxpayers voted with their feet. But not to worry - it surely won't be long before New York emplaces an sizable exit tax on New Yorkers moving their accounts out of state.
Our culture, such as it is, is swayed by sound bites. “If two people love each other, how can that be wrong?” “It’s someone’s right to do what they want, if they love each other. It’s not hurting you is it, so what’s your problem?”See also my 2004 WSJ op-ed, "Save Marriage? It's Too Late - The Pill made same-sex nuptials inevitable." This piece was reprinted by several Catholic journals.
Trying to explain natural law to people who pipe TV directly into their bodies intravenously is an exercise in futility. And most people in our country have IVs in each arm.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
For students, piece of advice No. 1 is: Don’t go into debt. When I went to law school, back in the ’80s, I turned down free rides at a couple of excellent schools to go to Yale Law School, even though it meant taking on a lot of student-loan debt. I’m not sure I’d advise anyone to do the same thing today, even to go to Yale Law, the undisputed king of the law-school rankings — and I’m positive I wouldn’t make a similar tradeoff for many other places, even Harvard Law.True for undergrad schools, too. As anyone who has helped son or daughter with a college search recently, as I have in the last year (daughter graduated from high school last Friday), sticker shock is endemic. Georgia Tech runs more than $40,000 for non-Georgia residents; their idea of financial aid was for me to borrow $37,400 of it. When I called the financial-aid office to plead, the nice lady I talked to said that they do not give financial aid to non-Georgia applicants (though she did not put it quite so baldly).
Wake Forest offered us $46,000 per year in scholarships and grants. Sound like a lot? It is a lot - but it still would have left us with almost $13,000 to come up with. Sorry, I am too old to take on that kind of debt times four years.
Wake Forest (my alma mater, btw) underscores the real reason there is a higher-education bubble: I cannot see how a baccalaureate degree from the school could possibly be worth almost a quarter-million dollars. Not all bachelor degrees are created equal. Wake is very much a liberal-arts school, probably one of the best such schools in the world.
And good luck getting a job to pay off the commensurate student debt with that degree in medieval German literature.
Wake's law school and business school have proven excellent investments for later return - but as even law professor Glenn Reynolds points out in the Post piece, law schools have been fudging their criteria for post-graduation success for some time and a JD degree pretty much guarantees nothing any more. As one partner-track attorney told me recently, a job-seeking, newly-minted attorney needs to have a diploma from one of the top ten (not ten percent, ten) law schools in the country, and have graduated in the top fourth of his/her class, to even be considered for interview by most law firms. Don't have that? So sorry.
College payments have to be evaluated the same way as any other spending, by present value and eventual worth. Fewer and fewer top-tier schools can pass that test, another example of the death throes of Blue Model organizations.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Sunday, May 27, 2012
The most reasonable thing to do when battle begins is to run away, not stay and fight. Were they truly willing to die for their country? I don't think so. There's an old story that goes back probably to the Civil War of the young soldier whose commander asked him, "Are you willing to die for your country?" The young man answered, "Certainly not. But I am ready to die, unwilling."
Read the rest.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Charlie Ergen, chairman of DISH Network Corporation and EchoStar Communications Corporation:
So many graduation speeches, you’ll hear about following your passion. Well, if I had done that, I would be dealing Blackjack in Vegas right now. So, that is not what worked for me.
The traditional hymn of both the Royal Navy and the US Navy was originally penned as, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." I posted the history of the hymn and its subsequent versions here. Here is the version we will use this Sunday. Verse 2 and 5 are my authorship.
These are Power Point slides saved as JPGs, background image is set at 50 percent transparency.
|USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, photo by Donald Sensing|
|Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day 2007. A young woman|
weeps for her slain fiance.
|The U.S. Marine Memorial, Washington D.C.|
|US Air Force F-15 fighters' "missing man" formation, in which the lead pilot |
ascends heavenward rapidly to memorialize comrades who died.
|The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Mo., noontime Memorial Day 2009, |
photo by Donald Sensing
These are Power Point slides saved as JPGs. Each background image was set at 50 percent transparency. The text is from The Book of Worship for United States Forces (1974). See more information here.
|Arlington National Cemetery|
|National Cemetery of the Pacific (the Punchbowl), photo by Donald Sensing|
|Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery|
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Today is the anniversary of the sinking of HMS Hood, a battleship blown up and sunk in 1941 by the German battleship Bismarck during the brief Battle of Denmark Strait.
So sudden and catastrophic was Hood's sinking that only three men survived, leaving behind 1,415 shipmates who never went home. It was Britain's greatest single loss of the war.
Along with HMS Prince of Wales, Hood engaged Bismarck and its battle-cruiser escort, Prinz Eugen, after a lengthy pursuit. Hood, dating from 1916 and never much modernized, was outclassed by the new and very modern German ship. Bismarck's main battery of 15-inch guns achieved a very high muzzle velocity, essential for its advanced armor-piercing ammunition. Shortly after the battle began, such a shell plunged deep into Hood's interior, detonating internal stores and causing an immediate, catastrophic explosion.
Motion-picture crews aboard both Bismarck and Prinz Eugen captured the moment. The better view was from Prinz Eugen (battle film begins at 1:50, Hood's sinking is soon after the two-minute mark.)
Prince of Wales, heavily damaged, soon retired. However, British shells had struck Bismarck, causing heavy oil leakage. The German task force commander, Adm. Gunther Lutjens, released Prinz Eugen to raid independently and ordered Bismarck to make for France for repairs. However, the Royal Navy mounted an intensive effort to locate Bismarck and finally sank it on May 27. Of its complement of more than 2,200 men, only 114 survived. Many German sailors were left to drown by British vessels, who ceased rescue operations after lookouts spotted a German U-boat nearby.
Wikipedia explains what the Royal Navy's board of inquiry concluded caused Hood to sink:
The Royal Navy conducted two inquiries into the reasons for the ship's quick demise. The first, held very quickly after the ship's loss, concluded that Hood's aft magazine had exploded after one of Bismarck's shells penetrated the ship's armour. A second inquiry was held after complaints were received that the first board had failed to consider alternative explanations, such as an explosion of the ship's torpedoes. While much more thorough than the first board, it concurred with the first board's conclusion. Despite the official explanation, some historians continued to believe that the torpedoes caused the ship's loss while others proposed an accidental explosion inside one of the ship's gun turrets that reached down into the magazine. Other historians have focused on the cause of the magazine explosion. The discovery of the ship's wreck in 2001 confirmed the conclusion of both boards, although the exact reason why the magazines detonated will forever be a mystery as that area of the ship was thoroughly destroyed in the explosion.Other notes:
One of Hood's survivor's story is here. An account by the HMS Hood Association is here.
To this day there is dispute whether a U-boat actually was present after Bismarck's sinking, report of which caused Royal Navy vessels to cease taking on German survivors. No subsequent sighting was made. However, a U-boat did shortly rescue three German sailors from the water. Was it the submarine reported by British lookouts? No one can say.
German survivors and some naval historians insisted that not even the Royal Navy's very powerful task force, firing on Bismarck from May 26-27 with heavy cannon and torpedoes, sank the ship. Though Bismarck was rendered a flaming wreck, its surviving sailors insist the ship sank because its captain, who died, ordered it scuttled as part of his order to abandon ship. In 1989 famed sea explorer Robert Ballard found Bismarck sitting upright almost 16,000 feet under water. His explorations showed that much British naval fire was ineffective and that the overall condition of the wreck supported the claim that it was scuttled rather than sunk by British fire.
Prinz Eugen survived the war and was taken as a war prize by the Royal Navy, who handed it over to the US Navy. After serving as a target ship for American atomic-bomb tests in the Pacific's Bikini Atoll, the ship was towed to Kwajelein Atoll where it ultimately turned turtle and sank, where it remains today.
In 1960 a British studio released Sink the Bismarck, a very good film about the pursuit and sinking of the ship, though its representation of Adm. Lutjens seems a bit two-dimensional. Its representation of the Battle of Denmark Strait is well done:
Still photos taken from Bismarck of Hood's sinking overlaid atop the Nazi radio announcement of the victory are here.
One of the most stunning film sequences of World War 2 combat action was taken from an aircraft of the capsizing and detonation of another British battleship, HMS Barham, stricken by torpedoes in the Mediterranean on Nov. 25, 1941. This ship's aft magazine exploded four minutes later. Barham's catastrophic end must have been very similar to that of Hood, though not as lethal; "only" 859 sailors died.
When the "great recession" hit in September, 2008, it seemed that an era had ended. Since the 1980s, if not before, a pro-market consensus had governed economic policy-making and constrained political options in the advanced countries. For three decades serious politics had been about relying upon markets rather than the state to generate growth and, to that end, extending the reach and remit of market forces. The "great recession" revealed the costs and consequences of such views and such policies and seemed to prove them wrong, or so many of us concluded. It was the end of "neoliberalism", a moment to rethink the role of government in the economy and to reassert the state's responsibility for growth and welfare; it was an opportunity, in short, for parties and movements of the left to regain the initiative.
It did not happen.Well, I'd say it did happen to a fairly significant degree in the United States. The author goes on to say, however, that "parties on the left side of the political divide, embattled even before the recent crisis, have languished since its onset."
Gee, what possibly could be behind the brand-new, White-House-originated directive to the IRS to settle for 25 cents on the dollar for large-scale tax delinquents?
This is a time limited offer! So act before midnight tonight! Okay, not midnight tonight, but a day about two weeks before election day.
As Yogi Berra once, said, "It's too coincidental to be a coincidence."
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Couch potatoes everywhere can pause and thank Eugene Polley for hours of feet-up channel surfing. His invention, the first wireless TV remote, began as a luxury, but with the introduction of hundreds of channels and viewing technologies it has become a necessity.However, as I commented there, I was a kid in the 1960s, my mom's TV had remote control. She could change channels without arising from her seat.
Just ask anyone who's lost a remote.
Polley died of natural causes Sunday at a suburban Chicago hospital, said Zenith Electronics spokesman John Taylor. The former Zenith engineer was 96.
She simply called out, "Hey, Don! C'mere and change the TV to channel 4!"
And that was that.
Harvard Law “journal of the legal left” attempts to silence anti-Holder protest website - Legal Insurrection
Since the Left cannot win a battle of ideas, it resorts to force.
I noted in, "Death throes of a Blue Model Church," on the (non-)results of the recently-adjourned
General COnference of the UMC,
As [Methodist] Bishop Willimon puts it, "The Methodist Federation for Social Action received new life, the [General] Board of Church and Society went home unscathed by reform" and pretty much every other entity of the church maintained an even strain. (For the record, if I were king I would completely close down the General Board of Church and Society, which is the Marxist wing of the UMC and the religious arm of the Democratic National Committee. But fact is, so non-influential of public life has the UMC become that not even the Democrats pay attention to us anymore.)Why is the UMC, on the whole, so socially ineffective? Why are its socio-political pronouncements not taken seriously? Very simply because we continue to show that we are not serious people. I bring you, United Methodists: Afghanistan Better Off Under Taliban:
For at least 50 years, the United Methodist Church, America’s third largest denomination, has been unable to effectively apply traditional Christian teachings to issues of war and peace. The resolution called “Seeking Peace in Afghanistan,” originating with the New York-based United Methodist Women’s Division, and approved by the recent governing General Conference of the 12 million member global denomination, continues this sad tradition.
Ostensibly the resolution puts the church on record for peace in war torn Afghanistan. But actually it demonizes the United States, itself a 50 year tradition in United Methodism, while ignoring the evils of the Taliban and al Qaeda. And it materialistically assumes that peace can be purchased with ever more U.S. dollars. It never cites radical Islam, a chief cause for strife in Afghanistan, perhaps because liberal United Methodist elites cannot conceive of anyone taking traditional religion any more seriously than they do. ...
The resolution inevitably rehashes the canard that the U.S. “devotes almost the same amount of resources to military spending as the other 95 percent of the world combined,” as though the world would be safer with less military spending by the U.S. and relatively more by other nations. And it vacuously urges: “May we find the courage to join with Afghans and neighboring Pakistanis and all who seek to transform today’s glut of swords into plowshares.” Who are these elusive partners for peace? They are unnamed.Of course they are unnamed. The Religious Left always thinks simplistically and always assumes that everyone actually longs for the same things it does. Read the whole thing.
Mitt Romney on NATO: "Reinforcing alliance's military might is vital"
This piece is hopelessly backward looking. We need to de-link our national security from NATO starting, oh, six years ago. While I find almost nothing to commend Obama on concerning defense, that he has started moving our security concerns' locus toward Asia is exactly right.
The problems is that Europe faces no credible threat for which NATO is the answer.
See my explanation here.
Furthermore, Europe's native birth rate has fallen off a cliff so that many Euro countries are well into what demographers call a demographic death spiral, where the birth rate is so low that it is effectively impossible for it to recover. See here. So the question is begged (and the Europeans have no answer): If Europeans won't have children who will grow up to be soldiers to defend their countries, why should American women bear children to grow up to defend Europe?
NATO is literally pointless militarily and the USA should withdraw from the military alliance, though intelligence sharing and the like will still do us well.
Monday, May 21, 2012
Did you know that the United States' production of crude oil is the world's third largest? We lag behind only Saudi Arabia and Russia. And this is true even though our domestic production has dropped since 1973's 9 million barrels per day to today's 5.7 (or so) million bpd.
But production has not dropped because we have run out of oil. "Peak oil" was way off target when it came to peaking of recoverable reserves.In fact, the Energy Information Administration forecasts that by 2035, US production of liquid fuel at 10 MBPD will be more than half the world's total, and the US could produce almost 15.5 MBPD if it wanted. (Not all of this liquid fuel will be petroleum based.)
So far in history, the US has produced 194 billion barrels of oil. There are 22 billion barrels of reserves, plus an estimated 135 billion barrels of undiscovered but technically recoverable reserves. Estimates of both known and undiscovered "sub-economic" resources are 800 billion barrels.
This country is simply floating on oil, especially when you include its continental shelves. The Gulf of Mexico alone has an estimated 48 billion barrels of oil yet to be located.
And so chart number one, showing where the oil is and how much:
And this explains why so little oil is being pumped from the continental shelf areas:
So what is wrong with this picture? The answer presents itself.
All data from:
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Google says it can track every seagoing vessel in the world in real time:
Like its nascent project to map the ocean floor, Google's new technology to track ships on the surface takes advantage of prior investments by others. In this case, it's the Maritime Automatic Identification System, known as AIS, a system of transponders installed in all legitimate seagoing vessels that periodically transmit their position to avoid collisions even when the crews can't physically see each other due to darkness or heavy weather.But AIS can be turned off aboard ships, so this is not really the security threat it might appear to be.
AIS signals are only designed to be detectable up to 20 nautical miles away, but researchers led by Greece's University of the Aegean developed larger, land-based antenna that can pick up the signal over greater distances -- but that still only picks up vessels relatively close to shore. From overhead, however, the two satellites Google is using can detect ships anywhere on the ocean.
Mortimer Zuckerman of USNews peels away the fictions built into the Dept. of Labor's announcement of an 8.1 percent unemployment rate.
There is a little-known category of job creation called the birth/death model, a seasonal adjustment in which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) arbitrarily adds jobs for net new companies it thinks are starting up and creating positions. Last month, the BLS made the assumption that 206,000 jobs were created in this category based on the companies that it thinks, but really can't prove, have just started up and essentially are invisible to government labor surveys. This is an imprecise, controversial guesstimate based on historical extrapolation. One must be skeptical, since this figure of 206,000 rose from 172,000 in April 2011 despite the obvious decline in economic activity this spring and the general lack of financing for start-up companies.I doubt that this imaginary computation started under the present administration. Read the whole thing.
Embed attempt (frame should be wide enough to center the text; a flash front ad will disappear after a few seconds):
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Oh, this just cracked me up over at American Digest:
Steyn's piece is here. One wonders whether Oklahoma Plain Crabs are similar to Prairie Oysters.
Speaking of ancestry, I have never before revealed online that I am a Mayflower descendant. Someday I will post here one of the recipes handed down from my forebear William Bradford - the traditional Plymouth Colony recipe for Chicken Fried Rice with Water Chestnuts and Bamboo Shoots.