June 2011 Archives

Lawrence Lindsey says that America's debt problem is much larger than any budget deal currently under discussion. The first of his three points is scary enough:

First, a normalization of interest rates would upend any budgetary deal if and when one should occur. At present, the average cost of Treasury borrowing is 2.5%. The average over the last two decades was 5.7%. Should we ramp up to the higher number, annual interest expenses would be roughly $420 billion higher in 2014 and $700 billion higher in 2020.

The 10-year rise in interest expense would be $4.9 trillion higher under "normalized" rates than under the current cost of borrowing. Compare that to the $2 trillion estimate of what the current talks about long-term deficit reduction may produce, and it becomes obvious that the gains from the current deficit-reduction efforts could be wiped out by normalization in the bond market.

Printing money (or "quantitative easing") will eventually create inflation, which the Fed will try to fight by increasing interest rates. Higher rates mean that our interest payments will increase, which means that our deficit problem will get even worse. Wash, rinse, and repeat. (Except without the "wash, rinse" part.)

Is the global economic system poised for collapse? Are interest rates and inflation about to annihilate your income and savings? Less dramatically, are new fuel-efficiency standards going to reshape the American vehicle fleet?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) intend to announce the new regulations by the end of September, and the four scenarios currently being discussed range from yearly increases in mandated fuel economy of between 3 and 6 percent. This past weekend, the government told automakers that it is leaning towards a 5 percent increase, which would mean 56 miles per gallon by 2025. But the feds could choose to be even more aggressive; the 6 percent increase translates to a fuel economy standard of 62 mpg.

According to a new study issued by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), adopting the most stringent fuel economy standard of 62 mpg by 2025 could increase the price of a car by $9790 and cause the loss of 1.7 million jobs. CAR says that the only way to meet such a standard would be to have 64 percent of the U.S. fleet be plug-in electric hybrids (like the Chevy Volt), the most expensive technology. According to the study, today's low-hanging fruit--less expensive high-efficiency gasoline engines and conventional hybrids--would not be sufficient to meet the standard, and the range limits of pure-electric vehicles prevented their inclusion. "There's no other distribution of vehicles that would be practical in the market," CAR president Jay Baron says.

If any of those scenarios seem plausible to you, then you should be borrowing money to buy a new-ish reliable gasoline vehicle. That's what I'm doing.

Some Colombian women have started a sex strike to force their husbands to pressure the government to pave the road to their village.

Dubbed the "strike of crossed legs," the women in the town of Barbacoas near the Pacific coast are trying to persuade their husbands to pressure local authorities to properly maintain the main road out of their village which stretches some 35 miles (56 kilometers) before reaching the nearest town. Many husbands of the women on strike, however, said that they would prefer that their wives engage in a hunger strike instead.

Oh yeah, call them fat, that'll help.

(HT: James Taranto.)

James Taranto notes that gays aren't responsible for the decline of marriage.

Deroy Murdock made a good point some years back when he observed, in a column posted at NRO, that "social conservatives who blow their stacks over homosexual matrimony's supposed threat to traditional marriage tomorrow should focus on the far greater damage that heterosexuals are wreaking on that venerable institution today."

Murdock should have written "have wreaked for decades," because the developments we note all long predate any serious consideration of the idea of same-sex marriage. And it must be said that some social conservatives--notably Maggie Gallagher, another frequent National Review contributor--do take a broader view of the subject. As a political matter, however, outside the area of abortion it is hard to find a constituency whose members are eager to subject themselves to greater obligations or constraints in the name of social stability or for the good of the next generation.

Thus for the foreseeable future, civil marriage is likely to retain its character as little more than a financial arrangement. To be sure, many individual marriages are deeply committed relationships. But under a regime that permits either spouse to opt out of the commitment at will, the legal recognition of marriage is mere symbolism.

The people most responsible for the decline of marriage as an institution are the divorced people who didn't value their own marriages.

This is about women, but I think the same goes for men: always ask for a lot more money.

Our process, despite the pay gap, is identical for men and women. We start with phone interviews, and move into a personal and technical interview. Once a candidate passes both of those, we start salary negotiations. This is where the women seem to come in last.

The reason they don't keep up, from where I sit, is simple. Often, a woman will enter the salary negotiation phase and I'll tell them a number will be sent to them in a couple days. Usually we start around $45k for an entry level position. 50% to 60% of the women I interview simply take this offer. It's insane, I already know I can get authorization for more if you simply refuse. Inversely, almost 90% of the men I interview immediately ask for more upon getting the offer.

The next major mistake happens with how they ask for more. In general, the women I have negotiated with will say 45k is not enough and they need more, but not give a number. I will then usually give a nominal bump to 48k or 50k. Company policy wont let me bump more than 5k over the initial offer unless they specifically request more. On the other hand, men more frequently will come back with a number along the lines of 65k to 75k, and I will be forced to negotiate down from there. After this phase, almost all women will take the offer or move on to somewhere else, not knowing they could have gotten more if they asked.

At the end, most of the women I hire make between 45k and 50k, whereas the men make between 60k and 70k. Even more crazy, they ask for raises far less often, so the disparity only grows.

Once they've decided to make you an offer, asking for more money won't make them rescind it.

(HT: Susannah Breslin.)

VDH argues that there are no real socialists.

Who are socialists?

There are none. Only technocratic overseers who wish to give someone else's money to others as a means of winning capitalist-style lifestyles and power for themselves -- in a penultimate cycle of unsustainable spending. When this latest attempt at statism is over, Barack Obama will enjoy a sort of Clintonism, a globe-trotting post officium lifestyle of multimillion dollar honoraria to fund a lifestyle analogous to "two Americas" John Edwards, "earth in the balance" Al Gore, a tax-exempt yachting John Kerry, a revolving-door Citibank grandee like Peter Orszag, or a socialist Strauss-Kahn in $20,000 suits doling out billions to the "poor."

Socialism and leftism in general aren't really about equality or helping the "poor", they're just tools for acquiring power. No one with power or influence actually believes any leftist nonsense.

The Netherlands has made a 180 and decided to reject multiculturalism in an attempt to avoid death by demographics.

The Dutch government says it will abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism that has encouraged Muslim immigrants to create a parallel society within the Netherlands.

A new integration bill (covering letter and 15-page action plan), which Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner presented to parliament on June 16, reads: "The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people. In the new integration system, the values of the Dutch society play a central role. With this change, the government steps away from the model of a multicultural society."

The letter continues: "A more obligatory integration is justified because the government also demands that from its own citizens. It is necessary because otherwise the society gradually grows apart and eventually no one feels at home anymore in the Netherlands. The integration will not be tailored to different groups."

The new integration policy will place more demands on immigrants. For example, immigrants will be required to learn the Dutch language, and the government will take a tougher approach to immigrants to ignore Dutch values or disobey Dutch law.

The government will also stop offering special subsidies for Muslim immigrants because, according to Donner, "it is not the government's job to integrate immigrants." The government will introduce new legislation that outlaws forced marriages and will also impose tougher measures against Muslim immigrants who lower their chances of employment by the way they dress. More specifically, the government will impose a ban on face-covering Islamic burqas as of January 1, 2013.

If necessary, the government will introduce extra measures to allow the removal of residence permits from immigrants who fail their integration course.

If you believe that your culture is worth preserving and you have a lot of people who want to move to your country, then you need to limit immigration and/or take measures to ensure that immigrants assimilate into your culture rather than vice versa. The math is pretty simple.

(HT: Thomas Lifson.)

A commenter on Instapundit writes that middle-class wealth is the new "natural resource" to be plundered by the modern robber-barons in government.

In the 80′s a thought struck me. The extraction of resources and creation of wealth in our country had produced the middle class as a by-product, not as a desired goal. The new “natural resource” available for plunder was now the wealth accumulated by the middle class.

I assumed that robber barons and snake-oil salesmen would arise to attempt this feat, but it never occurred to me that a collusion of our own government, unions and financiers would organize to kill the golden goose. I also never thought the voters would line up in sufficient numbers to be lambs for the slaughter.

I sure love my country. I would never do to her what this collection of S.O.B.s has done.

I’m hanging on to hope that we can ride out this storm. I think we can.

Great perspective. Thieves go for where the money is.

Update: The clerks have betrayed us.

So-called "experts" continue to be confounded by our slow economic recovery.

The economy's continuing struggles aren't just confounding ordinary Americans. They've also stumped the head of the Federal Reserve.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told reporters Wednesday that the central bank had been caught off guard by recent signs of deterioration in the economy. And he said the troubles could continue into next year.

"We don't have a precise read on why this slower pace of growth is persisting," Bernanke said. He said the weak housing market and problems in the banking system might be "more persistent than we thought."

I'm neither surprised nor confounded. There are three primary causes for the slow recovery:

1. Regulatory uncertainty. Everyone is anxious over the expansion of regulations under the Obama Administration.

2. Out of control debt and spending. We can see what debt is doing in other countries, and it's scary to see that our leaders have little capacity for serious cuts to spending.

3. Structural changes due to technology. Some of the jobs just aren't coming back, ever -- and it isn't clear that the displaced workers are capable of filling the new jobs that are being created.

Quick, someone nominate me for Fed Chairman or SecTreas!

(HT: LM.)

James Richard Verone is a very sympathetic case, but certainly we as a society can't allow a person to rob a bank to get free prison healthcare.

A couple of months ago Verone started weighing his options.

He considered turning to a homeless shelter and seeking medical help through charitable organizations.

Then he had another idea: commit a crime and get set up with a place to stay, food and doctors.

He started planning.

As his bank account depleted and the day of execution got closer, Verone sold and donated his furniture. He paid his last month’s rent and gave his notice.

He moved into the Hampton Inn for the last couple of days. Then on June 9 he followed his typical morning routine of getting ready for the day.

He took a cab down New Hope Road and picked a bank at random — RBC Bank.

Verone didn’t want to scare anyone. He executed the robbery the most passive way he knew how.

He handed the teller a note demanding one dollar, and medical attention.

“I didn’t have any fears,” said Verone. “I told the teller that I would sit over here and wait for police.”

Let's assume that the story as presented is true. (I'm moderately skeptical of its veracity.) Obviously this is an unsustainable and undesirable strategy, and society has a strong interest in preventing others from following this same course. Several ideas present themselves:

1. Taxpayer-subsidized healthcare for everyone, not just prisoners.

2. No taxpayer-subsidized healthcare for anyone, including prisoners. This issue highlights one of the major problems with using imprisonment as our primary form of punishment: a prisoner is a total drain on the economy. I'm already on record opposing imprisonment for non-violent criminals.

3. Charge Verone with some sort of fraud-like crime that reflects his true intent.

(HT: Marginal Revolution.)

It looks like Congress is actually working to reduce federal spending in conjunction with raising the debt limit, and that's a good thing. Republicans -- finally? -- seem to be grasping the proper nuance of their "no new taxes" pledge.

Revenue is another major obstacle. Many Democrats say they could never vote to gut programs that help low- and middle-income families unless the wealthy are also forced to sacrifice. Democrats argue that Republicans should at least join them in eliminating corporate tax breaks that benefit major oil and gas companies and chief executives with private jets.

Senate Republicans have shown some openness to that approach, voting last week to eliminate tax breaks for ethanol blenders. But House leaders remain opposed to targeting credits and deductions without also overhauling the tax code and lowering rates. In the Biden talks, Republicans have so far declined to consider eliminating even certain temporary tax breaks, such as those for Puerto Rican rum and NASCAR tracks, that have been repeatedly lampooned by watchdog groups.

Many of those tax breaks should be eliminated -- they are based on political favoritism and they distort the economy. However, these tax breaks need to be eliminated in such a way that they don't increase revenue for the government. Every dollar raised by eliminating a tax break should be returned to taxpayers via lower rates. Republican voters should accept the elimination of these tax breaks as long as the money is returned rather than spent. Such a result should not be viewed as a breach of the "no new taxes" pledge.

Obama's declaration that we are not engaged in "hostilities" in Libya may create a new doctrine of war: the "sucker punch" rule!

The administration’s logic has been criticized by some academic experts. They said it amounted to an argument that a battle, if won handily enough, does not amount to a battle.

“If I just sort of sucker-punched someone, and they doubled over on the floor, I think we would say that I was involved in a hostile action, whether or not they were able to land a punch or a blow in response,” said Saikrishna Prakash, a law professor at the University of Virginia.

I can't to see this defense used in court.

Abortion, the great bastion of women's rights, has led to the slaughter 163 million baby girls. What an incomprehensible tragedy and a terrible stain on humanity.

In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that's as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.

Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China's and India's populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120.

What is causing the skewed ratio: abortion. If the male number in the sex ratio is above 106, it means that couples are having abortions when they find out the mother is carrying a girl. By Ms. Hvistendahl's counting, there have been so many sex-selective abortions in the past three decades that 163 million girls, who by biological averages should have been born, are missing from the world.

All of humanity should be ashamed and horrified.

The Atlantic has some fascinating pictures of humanity underground.

The WaPo editors say that Obama's position on Libya is "fatuous".

THE OBAMA administration’s depiction of its Libya venture as too halfhearted to be covered by the War Powers Resolution contains an unfortunately large dollop of truth. President Obama’s commitment is sufficiently halfhearted to undermine the NATO alliance. It is sufficiently halfhearted, and confused in its statement of purpose and its connection of ends to means, to give Moammar Gaddafi hope that he can hang on. It is not, however, so halfhearted as to justify the administration’s evasion of its legal duties under the war powers law. ...

We supported Mr. Obama’s decision to join NATO allies in the U.N.- sanctioned effort to keep Libyan strongman Gaddafi from slaughtering his people. The president is right to sustain the effort until a regime less dangerous to its own people is installed, and he would be wise to heed U.S. allies and join in the effort more robustly. But it strikes us as fatuous to argue that the United States is not engaged in hostilities, given that the NATO bombing campaign could not be taking place without active U.S. support.

"Fatuous" is the perfect word: "–adjective 1.
foolish or inane, especially in an unconscious, complacent manner; silly. 2. unreal; illusory."

If Obama were a Republican the Democrats would be apoplectic.

In addition, the hypocrisy of the liberal establishment is stunning. For years, progressives, such as Mr. Obama, railed against President George W. Bush. He was denounced as a “fascist” dictator and compared to Adolf Hitler for his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Bush lied, people died,” went the slogan. Yet, regardless of whether one supported those campaigns or not, Mr. Bush received congressional authorization. Ironically, it is Mr. Obama who is behaving like a political thug.

Althouse says that Obama himself can't believe what he's saying.

It seems like SecDef Gates doesn't believe it either.

The New York Times has reported that top lawyers for the department of Defense and Justice told the administration that the resolution did apply to the mission in Libya. Instead, Obama accepted a different point of view, which was offered by his own White House counsel as well as other members of his legal team.

Gates, who is stepping down as defense secretary at the end of the month, said he would defer to Obama for legal definitions. But, he added, "I'm confident that he would not make judgment along these lines if he were not confident that he was acting in a constitutional manner."

You could read a book between those lines.

Tom Blumer says that these five simple words explain what's going on in our economy: "Machines Are Exempt From ObamaCare".

On June 10, Catherine Rampell at the New York Times presented what she thought was a seemingly inexplicable and troubling conundrum, which this column will clear up:
Spending on equipment and software has risen 25.6 percent in the last seven quarters, while companies’ aggregate spending on employees has risen only 2.2 percent.

Somehow, capital spending is growing faster and labor spending is growing more slowly than has been the case in almost every previous recovery on record.

Just wait till the lefties convince the machines to unionize....

David Axelrod assures the world that supporting Obama is still cool. Despite Axelrod's obvious credentials, the claim of coolness is generally self-refuting.

Should Anthony Weiner and Eric Holder form a presidential ticket in 2012?

(HT: Instapundit and Robert Sbisa.)

Forget global warming... it looks like the sun is sending us into a mini ice age!

What may be the science story of the century is breaking this evening, as heavyweight US solar physicists announce that the Sun appears to be headed into a lengthy spell of low activity, which could mean that the Earth – far from facing a global warming problem – is actually headed into a mini Ice Age. Average magnetic field strength in sunspot umbras has been steadily declining for over a decade. The trend includes sunspots from Cycles 22, 23, and (the current cycle) 24. Credit: NSO/AAS

Ice skating on the Thames by 2025?

The announcement made on 14 June (18:00 UK time) comes from scientists at the US National Solar Observatory (NSO) and US Air Force Research Laboratory. Three different analyses of the Sun's recent behaviour all indicate that a period of unusually low solar activity may be about to begin.

The Sun normally follows an 11-year cycle of activity. The current cycle, Cycle 24, is now supposed to be ramping up towards maximum strength. Increased numbers of sunspots and other indications ought to be happening: but in fact results so far are most disappointing. Scientists at the NSO now suspect, based on data showing decades-long trends leading to this point, that Cycle 25 may not happen at all.

...

As NASA notes [1]:

Early records of sunspots indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were seen on the Sun from about 1645 to 1715. Although the observations were not as extensive as in later years, the Sun was in fact well observed during this time and this lack of sunspots is well documented. This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the "Little Ice Age" when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes. There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past.

During the Maunder Minimum and for periods either side of it, many European rivers which are ice-free today – including the Thames – routinely froze over, allowing ice skating and even for armies to march across them in some cases.

Quick! Burn more dead dinosaurs!

Update June 17th, 2011! The Bank returned my $375! Yay!

I need to refinance my house and began working with Southern Missouri Bank at the beginning of April. As a part of the process they had my house appraised. Over the next two weeks I sent them a ton of paperwork and acted in complete good faith, but nothing moved forward on my refi because of delays with one of their "investors".

April passed.

May passed.

At the very end of May the representative working with me said that it would take another three to four weeks to satisfy the "investor". The representative told me that if I needed to move faster I should consider going with another lender, and I agreed. A house refinance shouldn't take three months to process.

At the beginning of June I received a receipt for $375 from David Lurvey, a vice president at SoMoBank, charging my credit card for the appraisal from the beginning of April. I emailed the refi representative and David Lurvey asking about the charge and was told that since I "chose" not to refinance with them I had to pay for the appraisal.

I wrote back and included Ben Morgan, the president of SoMoBank. I told them that the reason I didn't stay with them is because they were dragging their feet and not processing my refinance in a timely manner. Their problems with their "investor" were not my fault, and it was the representative herself who suggested that I try working with someone else. I got no response, to that or any other attempts I've made to contact the decision-makers at Southern Missouri Bank.

The purpose of this blog post is to name and shame David Lurvey and Ben Morgan of Southern Missouri Bank, the two men who screwed me out of $375. I worked with them in good faith, and they not only took my money but are also so arrogant that they won't even respond to my emails.

Don't trust David Lurvey, Ben Morgan, or Southern Missouri Bank.

Update June 17th, 2011! The Bank returned my $375! Yay!

Zombie has a disheartening look at how ideological brainwashing has ruined public education. Like him, I'm not against the concept of public education, but I'm becoming convinced that the current implementation is so broken that the slate needs to be wiped clean.

But as I walked around the rally in San Francisco, and later scanned the pictures taken by Ringo at the L.A. rally, I found myself thinking uncharitable thoughts about the protesting teachers: I hope your funding gets cut even more! Your demands are futile because the state is bankrupt anyway and there’s no more money to give; but even if the economy were to eventually recover, I would still want to see funding for public education slashed to a minimum.

Horrors! I was taken aback by my own thoughts. How could I be so cruel? What evil right-wing influence was making me think this way?

And then I looked around me and realized: It isn’t the right-wingers who are making me think these awful thoughts: It’s the teachers themselves at this very rally who have forced me into it!

Lots of discouraging pictures at the link.

It looks like the printing press rebellion against Tim Geithner has been put down Geithner bills are finally in circulation!

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails: “Hi Glenn. I loved seeing this post. We bought the ‘tax cheat’ stamp a long time ago and it languished on the shelf. Finally, a few months ago, those Tim Geithner one dollar bills started appearing in our change. EVERY ONE that passes through this house gets stamped. I’m glad the stamps are getting noticed. Let a million red stamps bloom!”

MORE: Another reader emails:

I’ve been looking forward to my first Geithner Federal Reserve note for the more than two years since the very second I read about the “Tax Cheat” stamp idea.

I had checked regularly and had never seen one here in California’s Central Valley – until I read today’s post on Instapundit.

I checked my wallet, and to my delight, there were five not-yet-marked Geithner one dollar notes.

Five new ones. A straight. All five in numerical sequence.

Wham, wham, wham, wham, wham.

I’m going to have to start looking at dollar bills.

Get your TAX CHEAT! stamps and join the civil disobedience!

I just watched a few minutes of Congressman Anthony Weiner's apologetic news conference and it was one of the most humiliating things I've ever seen. It was a "high quality" apology in which he accepted responsibility and explicitly admitted to the online relationships he had developed over the past three years and to lying to cover them up. He said all the right things and seemed sincerely contrite, in my opinion. I bet some commentators are saying that it's all an act, but my gut tells me that Weiner is sorry for what he did and has learned a valuable lesson that is often difficult for those who are used to getting away with things.

So now we're told that if we don't like the Obamacare mandate then we can simply earn less money.

[Neal Kumar Katyal, the acting solicitor general] responded by noting that the there's a provision in the health care law that allows people to avoid the mandate.

“If we’re going to play that game, I think that game can be played here as well, because after all, the minimum coverage provision only kicks in after people have earned a minimum amount of income,” Kaytal said. “So it’s a penalty on earning a certain amount of income and self insuring. It’s not just on self insuring on its own. So I guess one could say, just as the restaurant owner could depart the market in Heart of Atlanta Motel, someone doesn’t need to earn that much income. I think both are kind of fanciful and I think get at…”

[Judge Jeffrey] Sutton interjected, “That wasn’t in a single speech given in Congress about this...the idea that the solution if you don’t like it is make a little less money.”

Wow, I really hope that President Obama runs with "Earn Less Money!" as his new campaign slogan. That'll be a winner. Though, it's hard to imagine how everyone earning less money will help our economy grow.

Hey, maybe all those "unexpectedly" unemployed people are just taking Obama's advice?

(HT: Gateway Pundit and Instapundit.)

Uh oh!

Anyway, the story is so stupid. It's obvious to everyone that Weiner sent the picture to the girl. I think the matter would have disappeared over the weekend if he hadn't issued such an implausible denial.

Real or fake? I call "real", just because... why fake it?

How about this one?

(HT: Wired.)

I've written before that low-level government employees are paid far too much, and executive-level government employees are paid far too little, and now there's more proof: 77,000 federal employees are paid less than the governors of their states.

More than 77,000 federal government employees throughout the country — including computer operators, more than 5,000 air traffic controllers, 22 librarians and one interior designer — earned more than the governors of the states in which they work. ...

But Beth Moten, legislative and political director for the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents 625,000 federal employees, said the bigger problem is the amount of money that contractors can collect. She said contractors can be reimbursed up to $693,000 toward salaries for their top five executives, and even more for other employees doing government work.

“So the government’s paying $700,000 and more for contractor salaries, and Sen. Coburn worries about the pay of physicians who care for wounded soldiers?” Ms. Moten said. “If those governors want to make more money, they should either become contractors or try applying to medical school.”

Wrong. Obviously doctors need to be paid competitive salaries... but so do governors and other government executives. I'm sure there are compensation experts who could come up with better numbers, but here was my idea:

As a starting point, lets bump the President up to $20 million per year. Cabinet secretaries, Congressmen, Senators, Supreme Court Justices, Joint Chiefs: $10 million. Top generals, department heads: $5 million. Work down from there. Low-level employees should match their private sector counterparts (in pay and pension) and should be easier to promote and fire.

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