Thursday, April 22, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Wunch

English has these unusual group names:
  • A pride of lions
  • A gaggle of geese
  • A covey of partridges
What do you call a group of bankers, especially if you are from either Britain or Australia? Why, a "wunch of bankers," naturally...


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Congress shoots self in foot, lacks medical coverage for wound

According to the New York Times, it appears that members of Congress and their staff are suddenly without medical insurance, directly as a result of the Health Care bill that was rushed through in March.
"The law apparently bars members of Congress from the federal employees health program, on the assumption that lawmakers should join many of their constituents in getting coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges."

But the research service found that this provision was written in an imprecise, confusing way, so it is not clear when it takes effect. Tradition says that the bill took effect when President Obama signed it three weeks ago, while new insurance does not have to be available until 2014.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

No beer other than at lunch? Down tools, lads!

According to the Daily Mail, Carlsberg Breweries staff in Copenhagen have walked off the job because management has taken away privileges which included the right of delivery drivers to drink three beers a day outside lunch hour.

Shipments of Carlsberg have been suspended, and the Confederation of Danish Industry has agreed to look into the dispute, along with Trade Union 3F.

Wikipedia reports the following about allowable Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in Denmark:
0.05%, imprisonment if over 0.08%, zero if involved in an accident

Friday, April 09, 2010

The biggest obstacle is wishful thinking

I always enjoy the research, opinions and insights of Maxed Out Mama.

She appears to have a background in banking at a level that requires facility with facts, trends, details and analysis. In today's (April 9 2010) post she guides us through an assessment of China's effect on oil prices, Walmart's sales trends, and the likelihood that whatever is happening in Greece will repeat on a grander scale in (much much bigger) Italy within two years.

Then she sums up her concerns like this:
The US has a hard economic - and thus social and political - adaptation ahead of us, and almost all the interests that should have been trying to plan for it have instead been trying to fool people into thinking that we don't.
This, I think, is my deepest concern with Western Civilization. We expect our leaders to tell the truth, our journalists to seek the truth, and our advisors to create strategies for us based on truth. Instead we get global warming alarmism and blandishments as to the state of the economy, to name just two of our current pathologies.

The green movement requires little of its adherents, but it expects the targets of its hostility to remain in business locally paying taxes and attempting appeasement. It slides away from any attempts to connect it with consequences such as malaria deaths from the banning of DDT.

The financial system runs on faith. The whole fractional-reserve banking system requires people to not show up en masse asking for the cash that they left at the bank. Ever.

On this blog I have attempted to point out simple facts, such as the relentless debasement of our currency. One would think that our economic advisors would have information like this to inform their strategies for managing our wealth.

I support Maxed Out Mama's viewpoint. There are destructive trends afoot, and we are not made healthier by our ignorance of them.

Protect yourself, by living within your means, by hedging against financial losses caused by either inflation or deflation, by recognizing that our health care system will increasingly fall short of our collective needs and figuring out how to improve your personal odds, by arming yourself with facts against alarmists of all sorts (even me!), and by figuring out how to be of greater service, however you fit into the world.

Chances are that the average westerner has seen the peak of civilization as we know it. From here, debts become due, unsustainable systems fail, and reality intrudes.

God, I hope I am wrong. Dear reader, tell me that I am, and why.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Government of its employees, by its employees, for its employees

It seems to me that Maggie Thatcher's comment that 'the trouble with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money' is coming true before our eyes.

Arnold Schwartzenegger's economic advisor David Crane writes in the LA Times "Today's unfunded liability is next year's budget cut to important programs."

California sits on a $500 billion pension liability with huge political consequences and, beyond those, fundamental challenges to the viability of the state of California. The mess is worse because California has done what we could imagine every government is doing, hiding the truth of its financial situation so as not to have to take the unpopular steps of actually dealing with it.

Don't think this is just California's problem. From sovereign countries (Iceland, Greece) to average little counties (eg Jefferson in Alabama) and municipalities the schemes of easy money and complex financing are unraveling.

Whether the pipers that lent the money are actually paid or not is an interesting new theme. Iceland won't pay what it owes, China has declared many of its debts inoperative because of the unregulated derivatives behind them and Greece is mulling over its options. So the all-powerful Goldman Sachs of the world are suddenly dependent on government money, the printing of which makes everyone poorer so that GS can be made whole.

When your local firehall closes, and your child's teacher loses her job, and your father-in-law's pension check stops coming, and your income tax refund does not reach you, you may feel a bit grumpy watching your tax money go to bailing out a well-connected financial institution that pays billions in bonuses to the managers that sold all this unmanageable debt in the first place.

This is the reality of US politics: the system is not sustainable and the powers behind it are trying to keep themselves whole financially with other people's money. Depriving individuals of their entitlements creates front page stories of misery with a very short individual half-life but with daily examples. In the back pages and the business sections there are vague allusions to keeping the banking system afloat because it is the lifeblood of the day to day economy, and "too big to fail" has implications for whether there will be food on the grocery store shelves in your neighborhood next week.

What a mess. I still think that restoring the system to some form of balance will bring discomfort and misery on the scale of the 1930s.

Live within your means, and expect to be taxed beyond them.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday 2010

Somehow, one instance of this routine public act of Roman torture led to events that changed the world.

Argue theology all you want (preferably not here, but go ahead if you must...) History, Architecture and Music remind us that others have been profoundly moved, for reasons that even cynics like me can not explain.

Global Warming: New Records Set by Copenhagen

Deutsche Bank reports that the Copenhagen talks resulted in "the highest number of new government initiatives ever recorded . . . in a four-month period", according to the LA Times.

The Times article went on to say that this gives the planet a fighting chance to keep predicted warming under 2 Celsius degrees.

In news which refers to actual cold temperatures as opposed to predicted warm temperatures, parts of Britain have been battered by a deadly late winter storm.

Clearly these new government initiatives are working already.