September 2007 Archives

This has been a hard lesson to learn, but as an investor with a long time-horizon I'm beginning to love the bear.

If you're like most investors, you cheer for the bull. This makes sense if you need to cash out your stock investments in the next 3-5 years. Table: Windows of OpportunityBut otherwise, you've got it all wrong—you need to start pulling for the bear.

Why? Because during the investing phase of your life, you're going to be a net buyer of stocks for many years to come. You want your monthly investing dollars to stretch as far as possible, acquiring as many stock and stock fund shares as you possibly can. And that happens when prices are down. ...

You like it when you can get bargains on clothes, electronics, furnishings, cars, vacations, and houses. Nobody cheers when those things cost more. Similarly, you should also like it when you can get bargains on stocks.

So, learn to love the bear! The truly long-term investor realizes we need more of them. There have been only ten in the past 40 years. ...

In fact, that's what we may be experiencing right now, but it's too soon to say for sure. At its lowest point to date, the drop has been only 9.4% from the July high. The selloff may already be over and the bull market about ready to resume (drat), or perhaps the market will yet fall -10% to -19% into that mini-bear territory and present a fine window of opportunity for buyers (yes!).

If it's the latter, don't fret and moan along with your friends (who thus reveal their short-term way of thinking despite protestations to the contrary). Enjoy the fact that bargains will continue to be available in the coming months. Eventually you'll be the richer for it!

I was buying into the latest correction and have made more than 6% gains on those purchases just over the past few weeks.

More interesting than whether or not you need a permit to land on the moon is the question of who would prosecute (or define) crimes committed on the moon? If a non-military member of a lunar expedition decides to steal another's watch, what legal recourse is there?

(HT: GeekPress.)

Robert Reich (Bill Clinton's secretary of labor) has made available an excellent chapter about "the conflicted consumer" from his new book Supercapitalism. As Mr. Reich points out, we're all more than mere consumers, being each also an investor and worker.

The awkward truth is that most of us are two minds: As consumers and investors we want the great deals. As citizens we don't like many of the social consequences that flow from them. The system of democratic capitalism in the Not Quite Golden Age struck a very different balance. Then, as consumers and investors we didn't do nearly as well; as citizens we fared better.

What's the right balance? Are our gains as consumers and investors worth the price we're now paying for them? We have no real way to tell. The old institutions of democratic capitalism, and the negotiations that took place within them, are gone. But no new institutions have emerged to replace them. We have no means of balancing. Our desires as consumers and investors usually win out because our values as citizens have virtually no effective means of expression -- other than in heated rhetoric directed against the wrong targets. This is the real crisis of democracy in the age of supercapitalism. ...

These issues of economic security, social equity, community, our shared environment, and common decency were central to democratic capitalism as we knew it in the Not Quite Golden Age. They were -- and still are -- concerns to us in our capacity as citizens. But as power has shifted to us as consumers and investors, these issues have been eclipsed. We've entered into a Faustian bargain. Today's economy can give us great deals largely because it punishes us in other ways. We can blame big corporations, but we've mostly made this bargain with ourselves.

After all, where do we suppose the great deals come from? In part they come from lower payrolls -- from workers who have to settle for lower wages and benefits, or have to get new jobs that often pay less. They also come from big-box retailers that kill off Main Streets because they undercut prices charged by independent retailers there. They come from companies that shed their loyalties to particular communities and morph into global supply chains paying pennies to twelve-year-olds in Indonesia. They come from CEOs who are paid exorbitantly; from companies all over the world who wreak havoc on the environment; and, in some instances, from companies that pump out violence or porn or nutritionless foods and beverages.

You and I are complicit. As consumers and investors, we make the whole world run. Markets have become extraordinarily responsive to our wishes -- more so all the time. Yet most of us are of two minds, and it is the citizens in us that has become relatively powerless. Supercapitalism is triumphant. Democratic capitalism is not.

I don't really see the situation as a "crisis". The fact of the matter is that we get what we want; even though we loudly proclaim our desires for "economic security, social equity, community, our shared environment, and common decency", our actions speak louder than our words. The irony is that we're either ashamed to revel in our avarice or too greedy to follow through on our altruism, and neither condition is likely to be fixed through public policy.

(HT: Bernardo.)

My former Senator, Barbara Boxer, sent me an email yesterday about reducing Los Angeles' traffic problems. One possible solution is conspicuously absent from her suggestions.

This study of urban mobility also concludes that there is no one magic solution to America’s congestion problems. However, as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I am working every day to find solutions to our nation’s transportation woes.

One of the ways to help ease Los Angeles’ traffic congestion is to make alternatives to single car travel more feasible. To do so, people need to be able to get to work, school, and home easily and quickly, without ever starting their cars. And progress is being made in Los Angeles.

Every year, more public transit lines are either operating or under construction in Los Angeles, which means that more residents of Los Angeles will have the option of using public transit. The Gold Line East Side Extension will bring service to East Los Angeles. I secured a federal appropriation of $70 million in the Senate funding bill to help this construction effort. The Expo Line construction that is now underway will extend service from USC and the Crenshaw area to Culver City. And in the long term, I am very excited that it may be possible to extend the Red Line from Union Station, along Wilshire Boulevard, all the way to the ocean. Think of the cars that will be taken off the freeways when all of these projects are complete.

Alternatively, think of how many more cars our cities could support if we built more freeways!

Here's a sad story linking money and divorce. I really feel sorry for people who live their lives like this.

FOR years, Michele Kleier, a real estate broker on the Upper East Side, knew why one of her most persistent clients was calling even before picking up the phone.

The client, a former high-ranking fashion executive and perpetual volunteer at her children’s private schools, was checking the price she could get for her nine-room co-op in a prewar building. When the market reached a high, she told Ms. Kleier, she planned to divorce her husband, sell the apartment and live on her share of the profits.

Last year, Ms. Kleier delivered the long-awaited news: Manhattan luxury apartments were at a peak. The client went through with her plan. Now the woman calls from her new condo in California, raving about the weather and the distance from her ex-husband.

“She felt that she couldn’t walk out on him until she had the money to move away and buy something on her own,” Ms. Kleier said. “The real estate market allowed her to buy her freedom.”

I guess many people deal with situations in the way that seems the most immediately easy, and when divorce seems easier than working through marriage issues they split.

Is there anything someone could say to you for which you'd kill them on the spot?
Free polls from

One of the great failings of our education system is the protracted adolescence that apparently extends into the college years for so many students. The interesting aspect of the Colorado State "f*** Bush" mini-"controversy" isn't that some unsophisticated undergrad used the F word, but rather that anyone thinks this situation is some sort of revolution in free speech or the discussion thereof.

College Republicans at Colorado State University collected more than 300 signatures calling on CSU's Board of Student Communications to fire Editor in Chief David McSwane. ...

On Friday, The Rocky Mountain Collegian ran a four-word editorial that read: "Taser this . . . F--- Bush." National radio talk shows, CNN and MSNBC have since buzzed with debate about free-speech rights and the bounds of propriety. ...

But senior journalism major Rachael Martin defended the paper. "I agree that he didn't need to use the f-word," said Martin, who described herself as a Republican.

"But look at what it's done. It's had college students all around the nation talking about freedom of speech for the first time. By no means should he be fired."

Real World to College-Fantasyland: Your observations are not profound, your debates have all been had before, and your controversies are generally uninteresting and insubstantial. And our university system should have taught you that by now. If you want to prepare yourself to someday make a substantial contribution to human civilization, then instead of fomenting insipid debates about shallow, meaningless issues you should spend your time learning from the debates and discussions of the past.

Isaac Newton famously wrote, "If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." Our education system needs to teach our students about the giants of the past and help them climb up on their shoulders. Instead, every student is taught to stand alone, deluded into thinking that the world has never seen the likes of their intelligence and rationality and that their every stray thought is a profound revelation of universal truth.

Talk less. Listen more. If you're extremely blessed you may someday have even one single thought that's worth broad dissemination for the betterment of humanity.

The House of Representatives "easily passed" the "Expanding American Homeownership Act of 2007" -- a massive giveaway of public money to people who bought houses they couldn't afford.

The House easily passed this bill that will give the Federal Housing Administration the authority to assist struggling homeowners in making their mortgage payments. This is a significant attempt by Congress to remedy the sub-prime mortgage crisis that has resulted in thousands of delinquent payments and foreclosures. The White House agreed that this bill would provide much needed assistance to homeowners but was concerned over what it considers excessive spending. The bill will move to the Senate for a vote.

Hey, I want some free money too! I guess I'd better stop being financially responsible. Idiocy.

The fact of the matter is that lenders and borrowers who are bailing out should go out of business or lose their homes. They made bad decisions, and not only shouldn't they be rewarded but they should be allowed to fall out of the marketplace. If there was some demonstrable fraud then the injured parties should recover from the perpetrators, but I see no reason whatsoever that our tax dollars should be handed out to anyone involved.

It is my decidedly non-expert opinion that the United Auto Workers union leaders called a strike to pave the way for future concessions to General Motors. The UAW knows that they're going to have to help GM cut costs, but the union leaders don't want to look weak; the strike is just a show for the benefit of union members who wouldn't be willing to compromise if they didn't see it as their only option.

I think Peggy Noonan's "now he tells us!" criticism of Alan Greenspan is right on the nose. The money-graphs:

The book has merits--it is blessedly lucid on how the Fed works and how Fed-heads think--but there is within it a great disconnect. I was thinking about this when I got a note from a former U.S. senator who groused about "the phenomena of high-level public officials 'bravely speaking out' after they have left office." He scored Mr. Greenspan as "perfectly free to have spoken out about the need for the President to veto more spending bills on numerous occasions when he was testifying in public." My correspondent says Mr. Greenspan's "total silence" while in office does not exactly qualify as "bravely speaking out."

The former senator has a point. It can be summed up as: Now you tell us? It doesn't take courage to speak clearly when no one can hurt you. It takes guts to be candid when candor can earn powerful enemies.

U.S. government officials owe the people who pay them, and who have raised them high--that would be the American taxpayer--real-time wisdom. They owe us their best thinking. Sometimes this is uncomfortable. But that's the price you pay for the car and the honors and the security detail and the special U.S. Army jet that flies you home, alone, across the Atlantic, on the day after 9/11.

Mr. Greenspan was reappointed for a three-year term by President Clinton in 2000. He allowed himself to be painted as a supporter of the Bush tax cuts in 2001. He was reappointed by President Bush in 2003. Mr. Bush is now deeply unpopular. Mr. Greenspan, retired and selling a book, has discovered Mr. Bush's deep flaws. The timing is all so convenient.

I'm less qualified to comment on Jim Cramer's accusations of poor interest rate manipulation, but they sound reasonable when you like up the facts like he does.

What was Bernanke saving us from? What caused the mess that forced him to take drastic action, not one of those itty-bitty quarter-point interest-rate jobs? How about a chaotic, frozen, dysfunctional economy fueled by defaulting mortgages based on irresponsible teaser rates that his predecessor pushed hard and often for every prospective home buyer to take, including those who could ill afford them? Where’s that in the book? And then, after hooking millions of unqualified buyers to take low-interest teasers that would reset in two years, Greenspan gaffed the borrowers with fourteen straight interest-rate hikes that put the reset mortgage rates out of reach for all but the wealthiest. Those vicious and, I believe, foreseeable resets—foreseeable if you are going to set the rates, as Greenspan did—are causing a national wave of defaults the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Great Depression. And why did Mr. Prudent champion these reckless teasers almost as heavily as the endless Ditech and Countrywide television pitchmen who buried us in these adjustable-rate nooses did? Because he needed to work his way out of the dot-com crash by stoking the housing market. And what had caused the dot-com bubble? That would be the low margin rates that fueled ridiculous speculation in junk stocks—rates controlled by, you guessed it, our lovable hero, Alan Greenspan. At any given time the author of The Age of Turbulence could have prevented, well, the Age of Turbulence, by simply raising margin rates, by discouraging the use of exotic teaser mortgages, and by encouraging regulations that would have ended the travesty of giving money to speculators to flip houses. But Greenspan, an acolyte of libertarian Ayn Rand, disdains regulations. Instead, he seemed to like the power and mystery of endlessly taking rates up and down, disrupting the whole economy instead of managing discrete stock-market or house-speculation bubbles. Just a little regulation could have avoided both of those bubbles, with no need to overstimulate and then wreck the overall economy with crushing rate increases like the ones with which Greenspan stuck Bernanke.

Hindsight is 20/20 and all that; I think Ms. Noonan's observation that our public servants aren't willing to share their honest opinions in real-time is more important than dissecting specific policy decisions from the past.

I started eating breakfast about a year ago because of all the supposed health benefits I'd read about, but the only effect the extra meal had on me was weight gain. I only had a piece of fruit or some small bit of carbs, but I discovered that once I ate I was hungry all morning until lunch, when I'd overeat.

I was never hungry in the morning before, but I forced myself to eat breakfast because of all the hype... now I'm quitting again. Unless I prime the pump with breakfast I don't really think about food at all until lunch time, when I eat a reasonable portion. I haven't eaten breakfast for several weeks now, and I feel much better for it and I'm losing weight.

I think Bill Clinton is probably right in recommending that our leaders get more sleep.

Clinton also recommended, as Political Radar notes, that the presidential candidates get more sleep.

"I do believe sleep deprivation has a lot to do with some of the edginess of Washington today," he said, "And if we can find a way for them and their challengers to run for elections without making them go out five nights a week for this endless hunt for funds. ... I think America would be better."

I know lack of sleep can make me cranky!

The primary difference between enemies and opponents is that the latter need to be given a fair hearing, reasoned with, and respected, whereas the former simply need to be defeated. Failing to treat Iranian President Ahmadinejad as their enemy demonstrates that Columbia University is either delusional, misguided, or itself an enemy of America rather than just an opponent.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accepted an offer to speak next week at Columbia’s World Leaders Forum, the University announced Wednesday.

The appearance of Ahmadinejad—widely criticized for espousing anti-Semitic views and condemned for apparent human rights abuses—will mark the head of state’s first-ever public engagement at a U.S. university and seems certain to fuel heated protest on and beyond Columbia’s campus.

University President Lee Bollinger announced the decision to invite the leader in a statement Wednesday evening.

“It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas, or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas,” Bollinger said. “It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices. To hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.”

There's no doubt that Columbia doesn't "endorse" Ahmadinejad's views, but by giving him a forum they elevate him from enemy to mere opponent, which is either a grave mistake or an inadvertent revelation of Columbia's own relationship with America.

It's a serious thing to label someone or some group an enemy rather than just an opponent. I'm very much against active or passive efforts to stifle free speech by one's opponents, be they political, ideological, religious, or economic, but enemies are a different matter entirely.


Indian Chris points out that Columbia University welcomes Ahmadinejad to its campus but only begrudgingly allows American military recruiters access because of the "punitive financial coercion" of the Solomon Amendment.

I just ordered a Nintendo DS Lite and I'm looking for some game recommendations. I don't always trust the reviews on the major game sites....

My wife told me about a man who rescued a baby deer and raised it as a family pet has had his deer seized and threatened with death for lack of a permit that was arbitrarily denied.

Had he been a hunter, and had the mottled white doe that tumbled down a hill into his rural Oregon driveway six years ago been an adult, Jim Filipetti could have ponied up $19, applied for a deer tag and gunned the animal down. He could have butchered the deer the state now knows as "Snowball," mounted her head on the wall and moved on with his life. Story continues below ↓advertisement

But Filipetti chose to raise the injured fawn as a pet, spending thousands of dollars on veterinarian bills to treat her deformed hooves, ...

There are permits available to rehabilitate or otherwise care for wildlife, and Filipetti is seeking one, but the state has only agreed to issue 16 such licenses, and they're all spoken for, Hargrave explains. Still, because this was an "exceptional case" (read: exceptional public pressure) it looks as if Filipetti will be reunited, at least with Snowball, since she's incapable of surviving on her own.

Look, it's just stupid to spend all this public money worrying a guy about his pet deer. Maybe this "exceptional public pressure" will serve as a warning to bureaucrats around the country that they should err on the side of leaving the rest of us alone.

My brother sent me a link to a really cool invention that enhances your senses with virtual whiskers.

Ever wanted some cat's whiskers or insect antennae? Probably not, but check out this head-mounted haptic device developed by researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan. It lets a wearer "feel" their surroundings from a distance, roughly as if they had several long whiskers sticking out of the head. At least, that's what the researchers say.

A series of infrared sensors positioned around the device act as invisible whisker or antenna sensors. When these detect an object, a small motor vibrates on the appropriate side of the wearer's head to alert them.


A brilliantly simple idea that will find a myriad of applications.

I made some minor stylesheet and formatting changes earlier this morning. I added a category link to each post, and made the title of each post a link to the individual archive. The date-stamp has also been moved from the bottom to the top. The category archives (which I doubt anyone ever visits) have had post bodies removed in favor of titles only. Any opinions?

Via Voice of the Martyrs here's a little taste of what the South Korean missionaries who were taken hostage in Afghanistan faced during captivity.

UPDATE: Korean Hostages Told Convert to Islam or Die – British Broadcasting Corporation On September 12, South Korean Christian aid workers held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan for six weeks, reported being beaten and ordered at gun point to convert to Islam, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). According to the BBC, the former hostages told a press conference they were made to work like slaves while in captivity. Jae Chang-hee told reporters, "We were beaten with a tree branch or kicked around. Some kidnappers threatened us with death at gunpoint to force us to follow them in chanting their Islamic prayer for conversion. I was beaten many times. They pointed a rifle and bayonet at me and tried to force me to convert." Jae Chang-hee added, "We lived like slaves. We had to level the ground for motorbikes, and get water and make a fire." BBC reported that Yu Jung-hwa said she thought she was going to die. "The most difficult moment, when I had a big fear of death, was when the Taliban shot a video. All 23 of us leaned against a wall and armed Taliban aimed their guns at us, and a pit was before me. They said they will save us if we believe in Islam. I almost fainted at the time and I still cannot look at cameras." Recalling how Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu was led away to his death, the BBC said Han Ji-young, in tears, added, "Bae didn't even look at us when he was leaving the room. He only said, 'Overcome with faith.'" Continue praying for God to touch the lives of these believers as they deal with their experience in Afghanistan. Pray God comforts the families of the two that were killed. Pray the testimony of these Christians will draw non-believers into fellowship with Him. Deuteronomy 28, Psalm 91

It's humbling to realize that despite our safety here in America, Christians are still the most persecuted group in the world. Christians face death and imprisonment every day for their faith, and for trying to share it.

I hated it when I picked it, but for whatever reason I took it and now I'm stuck with it. Changing a domain name seems to cause Google to forget all about you. Sigh.

Don't forget that it's talk like a pirate day. I'm normally more enthusiastic. Ar!

I just learned from Bernardo that Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series, has died. I had no idea that he had a chronic illness that was hindering his writing for the past few years, and I'm saddened to hear that he has passed. The fantasies he wove brought me many hours of joy, excitement, and wonder. It's especially sad to me that he must have been terribly disappointed to leave his world-renowned series unfinished.

There might be more information at Robert Jordan's blog, but the server is unresponsive at the moment, probably due to overwhelming traffic. Here's's obituary. Man, this is really terrible.

Ok, so you're on the new OJury and need to make a decision about his current case. Let's say that all the evidence suggests to you that OJ did everything that's alleged, but there's no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that there were guns present, and the items being "stolen" may have actually belonged to the Juice. You're also pretty confident that a different defendant in similar circumstances would have been prosecuted very differently, and in particular the kidnapping charges seem to you like overreaching.


What's your vote as an OJ juror?
Acquit on all charges -- the Juice must be loose!
Convict only on charges you believe were proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Convict on any charges you think are likely to be true based on the evidence before you.
Convict on all charges regardless of evidence as a form of delayed justice for the murders he committed 13 years ago.
Free polls from

For the past couple of months there has been a deluge of "pay off your loans early!" ads on the radio and television. Maybe I missed them, but I don't remember such a strong push in this direction even a year ago. My theory is that lenders are behind the movement and are eager for borrowers to pay of low interest rate loans from several years ago so that the money can be reloaned at higher rates to new borrowers.

Seems you can hardly turn around without reading more good news from Iraq. I love seeing the pictures.

I've said a bazillion times that teachers' unions (not teachers) are the biggest hindrance to our public education system, and here's a perfect example: teachers at LA's Locke High School voted to approve a proposal to tun the school under a charter instead of under the regular LAUSD. That school has been a debacle for years -- when I lived in Los Angeles Lock High School was a public laughing-stock for under-performance, corruption, and ineptitude. However, when even the teachers are ready to change direction, you can count on the local teachers' union (the UTLA) to impede progress and eagerly sacrifice thousands more children on the altar of money and power.

The Los Angeles Board of Education voted Tuesday to turn over one of the city's most troubled high schools to a charter school organization, marking the first time an outside group will run a traditional public school in Los Angeles.

Leaders of the teachers union said they would file a grievance to block the transfer on grounds that the decision violates the teachers' labor agreement and state law.

The board's 5-2 decision to hand control to Green Dot Public Schools in the fall of 2008 followed an impassioned debate among board members, supporters and opponents that lasted more than three hours. ...

"Today is about historic accountability," said Bruce Smith, an English teacher at Locke who gathered signatures for the Green Dot petition. "Finally a day of reckoning has come. . . . Real change is coming to Locke High School." ...

Charters are public schools run independently of school districts. They are free from some traditional constraints, including collective-bargaining agreements. Unlike most charters, Green Dot is unionized, although not by UTLA, which argues that it must be the union at Locke.

I'm amazed by the courage shown by the Los Angeles Board of Education, but I'm also incredibly encouraged. If a city as leftist as Los Angeles can see reality clearly enough to throw off the shackles of the United Teachers of Los Angeles and really make a move to help their students, then similar change can happen elsewhere as well. Despite my respect for most individual teachers, I honestly believe that most teachers' unions are sociopathic organizations that are interested in nothing but money and power... and they're willing to cripple our students to get them.

Here's on-the-scene reporting of the hearing via

The anti-charter speakers are made up of a small cadre of angry Locke teachers plus a bunch of UTLA union officials including union president, A. J. Duffy who weres his very snazzy, trademark, two-tone shoes, and insists the Green Dot petition is breaking the law.

“I’m not backing off,” Duffy stage whispers to UTLA VP, Linda Guthrie, after he leaves the mic.

Guthrie herself makes an impassioned pitch against the conversion. “If you do this,” she says, “you’re going to send a message throughout this district, that the district is unable to heal itself.”

“Well isn’t that the point?” mutters one Green Dot supporter. In truth, Guthrie has inadvertently brought up the outcome that many Locke transformation advocates are hoping for. Based on personal conversations, I know that Santee teachers are watching the Locke process closely trying to decide if they want to go charter too— as are several schools in the valley.

“If we get Locke,” says Steve Barr a few minutes later, “I think we’ll eventually get Jefferson.” In some ways, Jefferson and Santee are more pressing cases that Locke. Certainly, Locke is a perennial low scorer in the district (of the 1318 ninth-graders that enrolled at Locke in the fall of 2001, only a terrifyingly low 332 managed to actually graduate in spring, 2005. And only 143 of those getting diplomas had the right credits to apply for admission to the University of California and/or California State University systems). Sadly, however, Santee and Jefferson’s scores—and graduation rates—are worse.

Isn't it ironic that the leftist "liberals" are now the power-hungry establishment, and blinder to their hypocrisy than their younger selves would ever have imagined?

As the last “YEA” vote is cast—I think it was by Richard Vladovic—wild cheering erupts immediately.

When the cheering subsides, Duffy and other union officials say that they’re going to sue to stop the conversion. “This isn’t over, not by a long shot,” yells UTLA regional coordinator, Mat Taylor, as he stalks out of the auditorium.

(HT: Kausfiles.)

Alan Greenspan must read Master of None because he echoes my explanation of why it's reasonable to fight over oil, specifically in Iraq. This stuff is pretty basic... countries have been fighting for access to important natural resources for as long as civilization has existed. President Bush et al. might have been wise to explain this to America rather than relying so heavily on the WMD that Saddam Hussein was very likely to have been building (but that haven't been found).

I just learned something that's completely logical but still incredibly funny. Here's the set-up: you buy a house for $200,000, but its value drops to $150,000 as the housing bubble bursts. Your variable interest rate mortgage payments continue to grow making your house unaffordable, so you default. The bank takes your house and writes off the $50,000 you still owe them. The punchline? The $50,000 that the bank writes off counts as taxable income for you! Have fun paying your top marginal rate on $50,000, Mr. Homeless!

(HT: Instapundit.)

Citibank is offering a new Citi CashReturns credit card that offers 5% cash-back on all purchases for the first three months. That's a huge amount of money. If you charge $2000 per month and normally get 1% back, you could get $240 extra in your pocket during the promotional period. I'm getting one.

(HT: My Money Blog.)

I don't see why some people -- including many conservatives and the Bush Administration -- are so reluctant to admit that the war in Iraq was partly about oil. It's a strange twist of history that the majority of the world's cheap oil sits under tyrannical, Islamofascist countries... but that's how it is.

We need oil to live, therefore we need these tyrants to be cooperative. Being a generally peace-loving people who would rather make deals than wars, we tend to do what we can to buy the oil we need. Unfortunately, the people who sell the oil are somewhat insane, unpredictable, and tend to overestimate their importance.

If there weren't oil under the Middle Eastern deserts, we wouldn't be fighting a War on Terror because the terrorists wouldn't have the resources to threaten us. They'd be living in tents in the desert, tending their camels and sheep. If we had stolen/conquered the oil fields instead of buying the oil, we'd be similarly safe. For better or for worse we didn't, so here we are.

A war for "oil" is really a war for modern life. Modern life requires energy, and right now energy requires oil. (Maybe it won't in the future, which will be great.) Oil means cars, trucks, trains, planes, electricity, plastic, rubber, lubricants, and countless other products that our civilization requires. Some might argue that our society would be better without these things, but they'd have a hard time convincing a majority of Americans.

So the war in Iraq, and the War on Terror more broadly, isn't just about oil, but it's partly about oil, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. It might sound selfish, but civilizations are supposed to be selfish -- you can bet the Islamofascists are selfishly working to destroy us, and if we aren't willing to stand up for ourselves then who will?


Eric at Classical Values beat me to it. Alas, I'd echo his final thought...

I try to be patient, but reading these things makes me tend to lose all patience, because it's such a steady barrage. Writing blog posts does not make it stop. The best I can do is attempt to find humor in it.

Researchers in North Carolina have discovered a strain of mice with blood that can cure cancer in other mice. They don't know why it works yet, but if there are humans with similar cancer resistance a simple blood transfusion could be capable of curing cancer in the recipient.

A universal treatment that would work against any type of cancer has always seemed like a far-fetched fantasy. But now researchers at Wake Forest University have made a discovery in mice that might one day lead to a "magic bullet" against human cancers if it proves to be true in people. Several years ago, the researchers identified a rare strain of mouse immune to high, usually lethal doses of cancer cells. Now they have shown that not only are these mice cancer-resistant, but their immune cells are also capable of curing normal, non-resistant mice of any type of advanced cancer.

As reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lead researcher Zheng Cui and his team injected white blood cells from the cancer-resistant mice into normal mice with aggressive cancers that should have killed them in two to three weeks. Instead, their cancer disappeared.

There are a myriad of potential advances against cancer, and I won't be surprised to see the disease cured in my lifetime. Heck, if we can cure depression through electroshocks to the brain, why not cure cancer with a blood transfusion?

(HT: Instapundit.)

Update 070917:

More about "Granulocyte InFusion Therapy" tests in humans.

A few days ago I bought a 1976 version of the board game Diplomacy off eBay because I remember playing it in junior high and having a lot of fun. Last night I had a few people over and played it again for the first time in years, and it was even better than I remembered! The only shortcoming was that we had six players instead of seven, so Italy was out of the game and the board was a bit skewed because of it. I'm definitely looking forward to playing again, though, and it seemed like everyone really had a good time.

For lots of information and strategy, check out the Diplomacy Archive.

Here's a rather pessimistic view of the prospects for software engineers/programmers in America over the next decade or so. I personally don't buy it.

In their latest Occupational Outlook Handbook, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that employment of software engineers and system analysts is expected to increase 'much faster than the average' through 2014 (here, and here). In contrast, employment of programmers is expected to increase 'more slowly than the average,' with outsourcing given as one of the major reasons why ( However, from the stories I read from American programmers on the Net, the profession is lost. Is the government wrong, or lying, then, when it implies that software engineers and system analysts can expect to have a good future? As an American, am I a fool if I decide to undertake this for a living?

Maybe I'm naive, but everyone I talk to seems to agree that outsourcing software appeared more promising than it actually was. Outsourcing to another country can be useful in some circumstances, but neither India nor China is a bottomless pit of brilliant engineers. Their costs are rising, and their available talent pools are drying up.

What's more, as these countries get wealthier they'll begin to consume more of the products that engineers create. Demand might be trailing behind supply at the moment, but the percentage of potential engineers is no higher in India or China than in America -- and it's probably much lower due to nutrition, education, disease, and poverty. The potential consumers of engineering products, however, are vast.

Finally, engineering products tend to increase quality-of-life in a scalable way. Life will get both better and cheaper... and eventually we humans will earn very little money and need even less because robots will do all the work!

(HT: Nick.)

A pretty cool technique that allows you to "burn" saltwater using radio waves. Here's a video: turning saltwater into fuel.

An Erie cancer researcher has found a way to burn salt water, a novel invention that is being touted by one chemist as the "most remarkable" water science discovery in a century.

John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn.

The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.

Rustum Roy, a Penn State University chemist, has held demonstrations at his State College lab to confirm his own observations.

The radio frequencies act to weaken the bonds between the elements that make up salt water, releasing the hydrogen, Roy said. Once ignited, the hydrogen will burn as long as it is exposed to the frequencies, he said.

From the images it's clear (ha) that the flame isn't entirely hydrogen (since hydrogen burning in oxygen appears as a clear flame and is invisible to the naked eye) -- maybe some of the salts are also burning? The article also doesn't mention that the radio waves required for the technique require more energy to generate than is released in the reaction. Still, with further research we could have an abundant new source of fuel on our hands. (Or a megaweapon capable of destroying the earth.)


Never forget.

Since I tore a tendon in my right ring finger playing basketball several years ago I made a conscious decision to avoid playing strenuous sports, especially any with significant physical contact. Some may consider this to be wimpy, but it seems like a reasonable decision to me considering the life-altering injuries many of my friends have sustained because of their sports activities in high school and beyond.

My friends are not high-level athletes like Kevin Everett, but their collective inventory of broken bones, torn muscles, back problems, knee problems, ankle problems, and messed up fingers convinced me that playing sports isn't generally a worthwhile endeavor. I've got friends in their 20s who can't lift their arms over their head without pain and who can't walk a mile without knee braces, all because they like tossing balls around. No thanks!

My knees are stressed from running for a decade, but I stopped that and bought an elliptical machine instead. I love it, and it's easy on my joints. I also work out with free weights, but I avoid quick movements or anything likely to cause injuries. I'd like my body to stay usable and healthy into my old age!

As a corollary, I've got a lot of respect for Tiki Barber's retirement from the NFL. It takes a lot of willpower to change direction in life, especially when the costs and rewards of your current position are so high. However, Mr. Barber recognized what football was doing to his body and decided he'd like to leave while he was still intact. Smart man.

Stabbing the Hydra Ramadi-s.jpg

A drawing by an Iraqi child illustrating the evisceration of the Al Qaeda hydra by an Iraqi sword and American muscle.

Based on the... underwhelming title of the new Indiana Jones movie I'm going to assume that all the good domain names were taken.

(HT: Film School Rejects and BM.)

I'm astounded that American troops are just now building a military base in Iraq near the Iran border! Holy crap, shouldn't this have been done like five years ago?

BARDA, Iraq -- The Pentagon is preparing to build its first base for U.S. forces near the Iraqi-Iranian border, in a major new effort to curb the flow of advanced Iranian weaponry to Shiite militants across Iraq.

The push also includes construction of fortified checkpoints on the major highways leading from the Iranian border to Baghdad and the installation of X-ray machines and explosives-detecting sensors at the only formal border crossing between Iran and Iraq.

Sounds like it's easier for the Iranians to carry weapons into Iraq than it is for me to get on a plane! Why don't we "redeploy" the bazillions of lounging TSA employees from our airports to the Iraq-Iran border?

I hope our society can take a hint from the Russians and avoid tiptoeing so close to the edge of extinction.

A Russian province is readying for "Family Contact" day -- unofficially being called "Conception Day" -- in an effort to boost flagging birth rates, officials said on Monday.

The special day for encouraging procreation was dreamt up by the governor of Ulyanovsk province, Sergei Morozov, who this year awarded prizes ranging from a television to a Russian-made all-terrain vehicle for giving birth on Russia's Constitution Day on June 12.

President Vladimir Putin has made fixing Russia's ongoing population slump a national priority.

This Wednesday's event is timed precisely nine months ahead of next year's Constitution Day so that mothers "ideally should give birth on June 12," said a spokeswoman for the administration, speaking by telephone to AFP.

A series of concerts and exhibitions are being organised to promote family values and employers are being encouraged to grant a discretionary day off, said the spokeswoman.

"The purpose is to improve the demographic situation and support family values," she said, adding that a four-year programme of building and improving kindergartens was under way to support families.

Russia's birthrate isn't just below replacement levels, it's barely half that.

President Vladimir Putin last week defined the crisis as Russia's most acute problem, and promised to spend some of the country's oil profits on efforts to relieve it. He ordered parliament to more than double monthly child support payments to 1,500 rubles (about $55) and added that women who choose to have a second baby will receive 250,000 rubles ($9,200), a staggering sum in a country where average monthly incomes hover close to $330.

On Monday, young women at the Family Planning Youth Center, a nongovernmental clinic for northwest Moscow, said they liked the sound of more money, but suggested that Mr. Putin has no concept of their lives. "A child is not an easy project, and in this world a woman is expected to get an education, find a job, and make a career," says Svetlana Romanicheva, a student who says she won't consider babies for at least five years. She hopes to have one child, but says a second would depend on her life "working out very well." As for Putin's offer, she says "it won't change anything."

Russia's birthrate, falling for decades, has plunged in post-Soviet times, to just 1.17 in 2004 from 2.08 babies per woman in 1990 - far below the 2.4 children required to maintain the population - according to the Federal State Statistics Service. The average rate from 2000-05 in the US, by contrast, was 2.0, according to UN figures, while Mexico, for example, weighed in at 2.4 and Italy at 1.3.

Take note America!

Northrop Grumman has released a comic book to illustrate the use of its various unmanned aerial vehicles. Seems somewhat childish on first-glance, but I've read through countless use case documents and this is by far the easiest one I've ever seen to comprehend.

(HT: Bernardo.)

Mark Steyn relates a sad story about homemaking for one: Martha Stewart's only daughter paying $27,000 per month trying to conceive a child at age 41.

As National Review’s in-house demography bore, you’d expect me to find in a successful single woman’s $27,000 fertility treatments the flip side of the Afghan baby boom I mentioned last issue. Just as Europeans preserve old churches and farms as heritage sites so Martha has amputated the family from family life, leaving its rituals and traditions as freestanding lifestyle accessories. So okay, let me nudge the argument on a bit. Today many of the western world’s women have in effect doubled the generational span, opting not for three children in their twenties but one designer yuppie baby in their late thirties. Demographers talk about “late family formation” as if it has no real consequences for the child.

But I wonder. The abortion lobby talks about a world where every child is “wanted”. If you get pregnant at 19 or 23, you most likely didn’t really “want” a child: it just kinda happened, as it has throughout most of human history. By contrast, if you conceive at 42 after half-a-million bucks’ worth of fertility treatment, you really want that kid. Is it possible to be over-wanted? I notice in my part of the world there’s a striking difference between those moms who have their first kids at traditional childbearing ages and those who leave it to Miss Stewart’s. The latter are far more protective of their nippers, as well they might be: even if you haven’t paid the clinic a bundle for the stork’s little bundle, you’re aware of how precious and fragile the gift of life can be. When you contemplate society’s changing attitudes to childhood – the “war against boys” that Christina Hoff Summers has noted, and a more general tendency to keep children on an ever tighter chain – I wonder how much of that derives from the fact that “young moms” are increasingly middle-aged. I wish Miss Stewart happiness and fulfillment, but she seems a sad emblem of a world that insists one should retain time-honored traditions when decorating the house for Thanksgiving but thinks nothing of re-ordering the most basic building blocks of society.

I just ordered a new advanced programming keyboard for work that should increase my productivity by 1000%. Later in the month, though, I'm going to have to revert to my pirate keyboard.

I've long anticipated the unveiling of the countless skeletons in the Clinton closet, but I'm vaguely disappointed that they're coming out now rather than after Hillary wins the Democrat's nomination. There are a myriad of misdeeds in the Clintons' past, and I predict they will eventually undermine Hillary's campaign for the presidency.

Based on Michael Lewis' definition I most certainly am "poor", but I can't help but feel that there's a nugget of truth in his tongue-in-cheek complaints about how poor people ruined the housing market.

So right after the Bear Stearns funds blew up, I had a thought: This is what happens when you lend money to poor people.

Don't get me wrong: I have nothing personally against the poor. To my knowledge, I have nothing personally to do with the poor at all. It's not personal when a guy cuts your grass: that's business. He does what you say, you pay him. But you don't pay him in advance: That would be finance. And finance is one thing you should never engage in with the poor. (By poor, I mean anyone who the SEC wouldn't allow to invest in my hedge fund.) ...

Call me a romantic: I want everyone to have a shot at the American dream. Even people who haven't earned it. I did everything I could so that these schlubs could at least own their own place. The media is now making my generosity out to be some kind of scandal. Teaser rates weren't a scandal. Teaser rates were a sign of misplaced trust: I trusted these people to get their teams of lawyers to vet anything before they signed it. Turns out, if you're poor, you don't need to pay lawyers. You don't like the deal you just wave your hands in the air and moan about how poor you are. Then you default.

I think the central thesis of his comedy is correct: both the lenders and the borrowers were foolish to expand the sub-prime mortgage market. Credit scores mean something, and both borrowers and lenders ignore them at their peril.

(HT: Instapundit.)

I'm on pins and needles waiting for the next release of Dwarf Fortress. It's going to allow 3d fortresses, realistic fluid flows, and all sorts of new professions and skills... argh... hurry up!

I'm disgusted by the perspective on private money that underlies this New York Times article about taxes and charitable giving.

The rich are giving more to charity than ever, but people like Mr. Broad are not the only ones footing the bill for such generosity. For every three dollars they give away, the federal government typically gives up a dollar or more in tax revenue, because of the charitable tax deduction and by not collecting estate taxes.

The government doesn't "give up" money when they don't collect it as a tax! My marginal tax rate is 40%, but the government isn't "giving up" the other 60% of my income! It's exactly the reverse: we taxpayers decide how much we want to spend on government, and we sacrifice towards that end a portion of the money that rightfully belongs to us. The default position of that money is my pocket, not some government coffer.

Elaborating in an interview, Mr. Gross [a billionaire who is against the charitable tax exemption] said he did not think the public benefits from philanthropy were commensurate with the tax breaks that givers receive. “I don’t think we’re getting the bang for the buck for gifts to build football stadiums and concert halls, with all due respect to Carnegie Hall and other institutions,” he said. “I don’t think the public would vote for spending tax dollars on those things.”

And I doubt "the public" would vote to spend the 60% of my income that Ikeep the same way I decide to spend it. So what? It's not "the public's" money, it's mine!

It disgusts me that so many Americans apparently believe that the money they earn goes first to the government, and then that by government benevolence the person who actually earned the money and created wealth gets to keep some small portion of it. I believe this attitude exists in large part because of our system of income tax withholding, which should be abolished.

(HT: Reader beesforfree.)

Amidst an otherwise interesting article about how to debunk a myth, the Washington Post tosses a few context-less grenades at the Bush Administration and the War on Terror.

... But the new psychological studies show that denials and clarifications, for all their intuitive appeal, can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths.

This phenomenon may help explain why large numbers of Americans incorrectly think that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in planning the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi. While these beliefs likely arose because Bush administration officials have repeatedly tried to connect Iraq with Sept. 11, the experiments suggest that intelligence reports and other efforts to debunk this account may in fact help keep it alive.

The only link the Bush Administration has made between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 is that our invasion of Iraq is part of a greater Global War on Terror. No Bush Administration official has ever claimed that Saddam Hussein was involved in planning 9/11, but both the attack on the World Trade Center and the invasion of Iraq are part of the same overarching conflict. The Washington Post pathetically mischaracterizes the most important issue of our time to score cheap political points.

And then at the bottom of the story is a control that lets you add an Iraq War body count to your blog!


I doubt the authors of the psychology paper the article was ostensibly about were happy to see their research hijacked.

The instructions for Google Earth Flight Simulator, built right in. (HT: Nick.)

A brief article about growing new heart valves from bone marrow stem cells. Astounding.

Few people read the British journal Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society, but the current issue contains details of the research by a British research team led by Sir Magdi Yacoub that may end the scourge of heart disease as we know it. ...

Unlike rigid artificial valves that just open and shut, these valves are living tissue that responds to events and changes shape as required. The heart can pump freely and unobstructed by a foreign object. There's no need to replace valves as children grow older — indeed, no need to replace them ever.

According to the World Health Organization, some 600,000 people will need replacement heart valves by 2010, and Yacoub's team may have found a way of providing them. "The ultimate goal," Yacoub said, "is to produce an 'off the shelf' product which will not produce an immune response from patients." Such tissue solves the rejection problem common in transplants and in use of artificial valves. Patients often require a lifetime of drugs to prevent post-op complications. ...

So why haven't you read about this in the newspaper or heard about it on the evening news? Perhaps because it didn't involve embryonic stem cells, or federal funding thereof, or even the election of a Democrat, like John Kerry, whose 2004 running mate, John Edwards, promised he would help people rise up out of their wheelchairs.

Aside from not producing any significant therapies, embryonic stem cells research is literal vampirism.

(HT: Instapundit and NewsBeat 1.)

One unfortunate side effect of our convoluted legal system is that even the police don't know how to follow the law. In summary:

Michael Righi was arrested in Ohio over the weekend after refusing to show his receipt when leaving Circuit City. When the manger and 'loss prevention' employee physically prevented the vehicle he was a passenger in from leaving the parking lot, he called the police, who arrived, searched his bag and found he hadn't stolen anything. The officer then asked for Michael's driver's license, which he declined to provide since he wasn't operating a motor vehicle. The officer then arrested him, and upon finding out Michael was legally right about not having to provide a license, went ahead and charged him with 'obstructing official business' anyways.

I always refuse to show my receipt when leaving a store. It's a matter of principle, and I salute Michael Righi for taking a stand.

(HT: Nick and Slashdot.)

A Navy security failure has allowed the top secret propeller of an Ohio class nuclear submarine to be revealed on the internet. Hopefully the blame will fall squarely on the military security services -- where it belongs -- and not on the satellite mapping company that inadvertently took the pictures.

A photograph of a sensitive piece of Navy technology — the propeller of a ballistic-missile submarine — now appears on the Internet, thanks to commercial efforts to photograph and map all corners of the Earth by aircraft and satellite.

The Navy goes to great lengths to conceal the design of its submarine propellers, but the aerial photo now on the Internet clearly shows the blades. A wider view of the photo shows a second Ohio-class submarine in the water nearby.

Those "great lengths" are supposed to take satellite surveillance into account. Is there any internet user who doesn't know that satellites are flying overhead mapping everything? Classified equipment is supposed to be handled in a secure environment... commercial mapping companies aren't the only people with surveillance satellites, you know.

This breach is worse and far more consequential than the Air Force temporarily misplacing five nuclear warheads, but I bet it will get less attention.

I'm not sure how efficient planned cities are, but as long as they're planned by private developers and not government agencies then I've got no problem with them. From reader JV are two South Korean projects under development; first, a city built around robotics.

If South Korea can really been seen as a look into our future, it looks like our future will be full of a lot of robots.

That's because South Korea is planning to build "Robot Land," an industrial city built specifically for the robotics industry. It'll have all sorts of facilities for the research, development, and production of robots, as well as things like exhibition halls and even a stadium for robot-on-robot competitions. The $530 million project should get underway sometime in 2009, which means we should see our own robot city here in the States around 2013.

I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords. It'll be interesting to see what kind of innovations spring from this "city". Presumably the infrastructure will be designed to facilitate robotic navigation and perception of the environs.

Second is a city build around people... browse the site to see the difference between this development and other mixed-use industrial districts.

Built on 1,500 Acres of reclaimed land and soon to be connected to Incheon International Airport via a new bridge, Songdo is the most ambitious undertaking of its kind. Currently under construction, this Master Planned city will an unsurpassed Quality of Life - including a 100-acre Central Park, International School, International Hospital, Ecotarium, and Museum amongst its many amenities.

The city's plan includes fifty million square feet of office space - including a landmark 65-story Tower and Convention Center, thirty million square feet of Residential Space, ten million square feet of Retail, five million square feet of Hotel Space and ten million square feet of green space. Because of its central location within the Yellow Sea Economic Basin - which comprises an economically active population of more than 200 million with a GDP of USD 1.3 trillion - Songdo will act as the business hub for multinational companies in Northeast Asia.

(HT: WaziWazi and Engadget.)

All too accurate... Action Item: Professional Superhero.

At a higher level, it's fascinating that very often economies of scale result in localized waste.

What frustrates me most about Islam's creeping subjugation of the (classically) liberal West is our failure to recognize and confront the ongoing demographic war. We're used to winning demographic wars by default, and the shooting wars have pretty much followed suit. The West's falling birthrate and apathy towards cultural evangelism has ceded momentum to Islam, which is now in ascension despite desperate poverty, rampant nihilism, and general depravity.

Unlike shooting wars, demographic wars don't depend on maneuvering armies, vast wealth, or superior technology, which are America's strengths. After 9/11 we realized that our declared enemies were serious about destroying us, but it's taken a while to fully appreciate how crippled our culture is due to our malignant Left. We're basically incapable of waging a demographic war: we don't have many children, we aren't interested in changing other cultures to conform to ours, and we're very reluctant to even defend ourselves in the face of Islam's cultural onslaught.

For example, Saudi Arabia has built and is funding hundreds of mosques and madrasahs across America, but owning a Bible in Saudi Arabia is punishable by death. The Left preaches tolerance, but tolerance can only work when it's reciprocated -- otherwise it's a suicide pact. Our government certainly doesn't need to pay to build churches in Saudi Arabia, but it should be working furiously to get our citizens the same freedoms there that their imams have here.

America had to fight shooting battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, but that's only half the war. The other half will be fought demographically, and no matter how many shots we fire we won't win the war unless we have children and are willing to proudly spread our civilization. This is an important discussion to have, because I really want our culture to win and I feel like our leaders and elite won't even admit that we're in a fight.


Happy Labor Day!

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