Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Freddie Mac Diversifies


Michelle Malkin was a bit upset about this:

Terrific: Bankrupt Freddie Mac hires “diversity officer
via Michelle Malkin by Michelle Malkin on 8/31/10

Taxpayer-supported mortgage behemoth Freddie Mac — yes, the same government-sponsored entity that is sucking $64 billion of your money to stay afloat — is proud to announce that it is squandering more of your bucks on a “diversity officer.” [more]
It seems reasonable that an organization as large as Freddie Mac should look for opportunities to diversify.  What's that... oh, excuse me... that was a "t" in that word.  Okay then, the eyes are getting a bit old.

It seems reasonable that an organization as large as Freddie Mac should look for opportunities to acquire people with a diversity of skills and expertise related to finance and mortgages.  What's that... oh, excuse me.  Forget the skills and expertise part.

It seems reasonable that an organization as large as Freddie Mac should look for opportunities to acquire people with a diversity of political capital.  In order to do that, it may be necessary to ignore the lack of skills and expertise related to finance and mortgages.  Regardless, there probably will be enough "old timers" still working to keep Freddie afloat for awhile... even though they haven't done such bang-up jobs lately.

Fortunately, for most people, there are alternative to doing business with Freddie Mac.  Unfortunately for most people, they are taxpayers who will foot the bill for Freddie's excellent adventure [sorry Bill and Ted].



Taping Cell Phones Together Is A Traditional Way To Pack


2 with ties to Detroit area held in terror plot

Amsterdam detains men on flight from U.S.; feds allege attack trial run


The Detroit News

Two men with ties to Metro Detroit are being held in Amsterdam after one was suspect ed of making a trial run in prep aration for a terrorist attack, federal authorities said.... the charges were so ludicrous that family members “were laughing about (the incident) when we heard it.”.
Heinrich von Oostbergern and William Roger Smith*, both of the Dearborn area, just west of Detroit, were simply on a vacation which is why Oostbergern had $7,000 in cash.  The cell phones were taped together and another cell phone taped to a plastic bottle because they did not want to lose them in their luggage and wanted to make them harder to steal.  And the box cutter and knife were to open mail during their long journey.

Some of you might speculate that this was some sort of "dry run" for using cell phones taped to explosives as triggering devices and the box cutter and knife as some weapons, but that is just totally unjustified speculation.  Why should these men be singled out?  It is clearly some sort of unwarranted *ethnic profiling.

How can people make such ludicrous judgments?



Government Says: Buy A Car Rated Grade A


From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration on Monday proposed labeling each passenger car with a government letter grade from A to D based on its fuel efficiency and emissions, part of a broader effort by the government to promote electric cars and other advanced-technology vehicles.

The new rules, released jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, would be the most substantial changes in 30 years to the familiar price and mileage labels affixed to new cars on sale at dealerships.

Currently the labels must show how many miles per gallon a car gets and its estimated annual fuel costs. Under the rules proposed Monday, new labels would carry a letter grade assigned by regulators.

Electric vehicles and gas-electric hybrids would get the highest grades under the proposed system, while larger, more powerful models such as sport-utility vehicles or muscle cars would get lower grades because they burn more petroleum and pump out more carbon dioxide, U.S. officials said. The labels would also show the difference in gas costs associated with that vehicle and others in the same class.
Grade A Vehicles



Monday, August 30, 2010

Glenn Beck Rally Crowd Size


The Glenn Beck rally at the Lincoln Memorial seems to have generated considerable debate... about how many people were there.  87,000... 500,000... 1,000,000?  Depends on who is doing the estimating.  Crowds in a defined area are often difficult to estimate because of the "density factor."  How many people per square feet actual versus possible.

Here is my best guess... 250,000 using the Michigan Stadium metric... how many Michigan Stadiums full of people.  Using Google Maps with the satellite view at the same scale, you can see that the Rally area was somewhat larger than two full Michigan Stadiums.

Simple as that.



Results Oriented Economics


The Austrian Economics concept of unrestricted free trade is gaining popularity among some.

Great article on an economics professor who seems to have had the same epiphany I did. Mine was in 1972, when George McGovern transformed me from a liberal anti-war type to a libertarian;  his must have been in 1979 or 1980. One by one …. [source]
While most people involved in trade are not economists, they understand that unbridled trade can lead to substantial abuses that rival the substantial abuses of over-regulated trade:
Austrian scholars have made important contributions to economics in recent years. I personally am most impressed by the work of Lawrence White and George Selgin on free banking and other monetary issues, though certainly other Austrians have made significant contributions too. Set in historical context, I also consider the economics of Mises and Rothbard to be a great achievement in spite of my numerous reservations about it. Yet all too large a fraction of Austrian research has not been in economics at all, but rather in meta-economics: philosophy, methodology, and history of thought. Admittedly, much of the meta-economics stems out of the work of F.A. Hayek and his numerous interpreters, whose contributions to economics the present essay did not discuss save by implication. But the students of Mises and Rothbard have done more than their fair share of meta-economics too. Neoclassical economists go too far by purging meta-economics almost entirely, but there is certainly a reason to be suspicious of scholars who talk about economics without ever doing it. Paraphrasing Deng Xiaoping, "One should not talk of methodology every day. In real life, not everything is methodology."[59]
While the substantive contributions of Austrian economists to economics are significant, their sum from Human Action on is small compared to the progress that neoclassical economics has made over the same time period. The ten good ideas listed in section 4.3 are only the beginning of what economists have learned since 1949 - in spite of the large deadweight cost of mathematics and econometrics. Mises and Rothbard certainly produced an original alternate paradigm for economics - and applied this paradigm to a number of interesting topics. Unfortunately, the foundations of their new paradigm are unfounded, and their most important applied conclusions unsound or overstated. The reasonable intellectual course for Austrian economists to take is to give up their quest for a paradigm shift and content themselves with sharing whatever valuable substantive contributions they have to offer with the rest of the economics profession - and of course, with the intellectually involved public. In sum, Milton Friedman spoke wisely when he declared that "there is no Austrian economics - only good economics, and bad economics,"[60] to which I would append: "Austrians do some good economics, but most good economics is not Austrian."  [source]
Given that economics theory is pretty much at the same level as sociology and climatology, these all become entertaining discussions that boil down to belief systems more than "scientific" analysis.  For my part, extreme adherents to Austrian Economics = alarmists stating CO2 causes global warming... when global warming itself is questionable.

Still, I'm open to long term performance results... not short term cherry picking every time there is a down cycle in the economy.

Meanwhile....  Yes, that's the other extreme.  Given that has only had a short time, we can't ascribe its significant success to good theory... or even good practice.



People Of The Government, By The Government, For The Government


Via Attack Machine:

" means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary." George Orwell - "1984" 



Sunday, August 29, 2010

We Are Not Alone; The Crowded Solar System


Via Al Fin.  Just thought you'd find this interesting... and perhaps a little frightening when you think about what is sharing space with us.

The white objects are newly discovered; the green are previously discovered.  The mass toward the center are outside of the "asteroid belt."  Note the time-lapse dates in the lower right.



The Heavy Hand Of The U.S. Government


A letter from an anarchist:

When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
U.S. politicians have, for at least a century, viewed the military as a tool for foreign relations... a reminder that the U.S. has the capability to inflict severe harm when threatened or attacked.  It is an unreasonable position and often leads those who have no such arsenal to adamantly denounce the U.S. for using that tool.
Part of the problem is that the military is supposed to be used in defense of the U.S. and forays into other areas of the world open the U.S. to charges that its actions are not for defense, but for aggression.  From a military point of view, it makes no difference why a battle is being fought... only that there is a battle.  However, the military is directed by politicians who have motives and concerns beyond any immediate battle.
Many enlightened individuals, such as myself,  have drawn the conclusion that the war in Iraq was a mistake.  What happened in the Middle East under the regime of Saddam Hussein is irrelevant.  "It was all about oil."  Certainly, Hussein's grab for Kuwait oil triggered a reaction...  overreaction... from nations heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil.  Obviously, the issues were more far-reaching than the simplistic mantra of "going to war for oil."  It was more than going to war to ensure we were not deprived of our free-trade rights as individuals by a despot who had killed a half-million of his own people to get his way.   
But it was still wrong.  We could have worked out some trade deals with Hussein.  No problem.
[It was a mistake because the U.S. had allowed itself to become energy-dependent on suppliers from a politically unstable part of the world.  It was a mistake because the allure of cheap foreign supplies blinded the U.S. to larger issues than saving a few dollars on trade deals.  The kind of short-sighted thinking that continues to this day elsewhere.  Sorry, I should not interject personal thoughts into this.]
Many have drawn the conclusion that the war in Afghanistan was a mistake.  There was no direct threat from the Taliban... only the harboring of those who were directly responsible for attacks on the U.S.  It was a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend... until the enemy of my enemy became the friend of another enemy.  But those doing the harboring were not attacking us so there was no justification to attack them.
[Nothing is ever as simple as it first seems.]
Does the U.S. have legitimate interests in the Middle East.  No.  Only individual traders and day traders and those, like myself, who hope the price of gold keeps increasing.
From a purely military perspective, the military threat is minimal and the reasons for military involvement certainly do not justify any notion of "nation building."  The military could handle any Middle East based threat without putting one ground troop in place.  That might offend the sensibilities of some, but the reality is that the U.S. military is quite capable of disrupting military operations anywhere at any time without setting one foot in the area.  Sure, there may be political and trade consequences, but that's not the concern of the military.
From a trade point of view, we have no national interests and it is just a matter of individuals making deals.  There is no reason to deploy U.S. forces simply because sources of strategic supplies are threatened.  What's so strategic about Middle Eastern oil?  Individuals can trade with Venezuela.
After all, its just individuals who are trading for Middle Eastern oil who would be affected... and that's just their money, so let them take their losses and certainly don't provide military involvement to ensure that individual trade deals for oil are protected.  Those not directly involved in the Middle East trade deals would simply trade for their oil elsewhere and nothing else would be affected.
So, you see, from a military and trade point of view, there is no reason whatsoever for the U.S. government to be involved.  There really is no reason for a U.S. government.  All we need are individuals who trade freely and deal with bad trade on their own.  That includes all of you.
Yeah, we don't need any Socialist government ruining our lives.  Read the link before you comment... BUT DO READ THE COMMENT.



Saturday, August 28, 2010

Not So Free Trade


Free trade is a hot issue.  There are some who hold the principles of free trade above all else.  There are others who try to define an alternative called fair trade.  There are others who believe the principles of free trade are to be sought in practice, but are cognizant of the manipulation that can and does occur resulting in significant imbalances that can be detrimental to one side of a "free trade" relationship.

The issue is not whether free trade is a good thing [it is].  The issue is whether actual trade is free trade.  It is this second issue that adherents to the god of free trade forget to examine... or at least brush under the rug.  It is presumed that if an international deal is struck at a corporate level that free trade ipso facto occurs.
See, General Motors is profitable because it produces cars in China.  See, Microsoft makes money because it has Chinese operations.
Not so much free trade.  Try sub-optimization.  Yes, some corporations and segments of the economy benefit greatly.  But arguing that cheap goods putting some segments of the work force out of work so that other segments of the work force can benefit... and calling that just the random effects of free trade... is a good thing and frees up less productive resources... ignores the reality of piracy, counterfeiting, currency manipulation, business espionage, and all the other not-so-free aspects of actual trade.  It also ignores the self-imposed hindrances by government that are conveniently forgiven for our trading partners. 

It also ignores the full accounting of the national costs of such trade.

Pogo was right.



Suffocating The Bureaucracy Or A Suffocating Bureaucracy?


From The New York Times via For What It's Worth:

“When you have a head dog, you also have a deputy dog, then a deputy deputy dog, and a deputy deputy deputy dog,” General Punaro said. “The layers are suffocating the bureaucracy.”
Isn't that the definition of bureaucracy?

Thanks, Kathy.



Friday, August 27, 2010



"When you see the economy recovering and equities rallying, the flight-to-quality crowd will start to put the brakes on gold," said Adam Klopfenstein, a senior market strategist at Lind-Waldock in Chicago [source].

Still a little soon to declare that is happening.




Modern Pirates


We like the way you do business.  You spend billions of dollars educating your researchers and engineers and skilled labor.  You invest vast sums creating environmentally "friendly" products and production facilities.  You donate profits to charity and pay corporate taxes.  You put up with politicians who take your money and stab you in the back.  You put up with workers who earn wondrous wages versus most of the workers of the world and then fight you at every turn.

That's why we have been so successful.  We say, "Let us do that for you."  We tell you that we can make your product here with workers that are docile and productive.  We tell you that you don't have to be concerned with bureaucratic agencies that stop whatever you are doing because a frog lives in a sewer nearby or your workers' scaffold can't hold 10,000 lb. men.  We tell you that we can make it more cheaply for you and still deliver most of the quality you need and a fraction of the cost.

All you have to do is build your plants here and show us how to do what you want done.  It is really simple.  It's a win-win.  We win your technology and processes and we win your economic future.  That's why we like you so much.  Oh, sure.  You win some cheap products for awhile... until the last company in your industries goes out of business and you have to print money to keep your workers fed.

Hey, we can't help it if you can't see the obvious.

But the thing we like best about you is that while we are doing this to you, you are blaming yourselves for our ways.  A fool and his gold are soon parted.



Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Slow Unwind Of The Dow Jones Industrial Average


When we talk about the economy, we tend to focus on the near term and the future.  Sometimes it is good to have a longer term look back.

After the "oil shock" decade of the 1970s with the rapid inflation and recession ending in the early 80s, the DJIA went on a two-decade flight.

Now it appears that the last decade has been the beginning of a long glide path downward.  The market seems to be telling us something.


Just saying....



Give Me Your Hip


No, I don't mean hip in the "cool" sense.

J. & J. Recalls Hip Implants
Published: August 26, 2010
A unit of Johnson & Johnson, DePuy Orthopaedics, announced on Thursday that it was recalling two hip replacement implants because many patients required a second hip replacement after the company’s implants failed. [full story]
I just returned from the doctors office.  I can't imagine my doctor calling me up and saying, "Hobble on down here and we'll just take that old hip out."
About 93,000 of these devices have been implanted worldwide, said Lorie Gawreluk, a DePuy spokeswoman.
Ouch! That's got to set back the schedule for these operations just a bit.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Value Of Gold

From The Motley Fool:

Valuing Gold
I’m not surprised people are flummoxed over how to value gold – it’s fairly complex – but saying it can’t be valued is presumptive without deep knowledge of the subject.
What people and even the WSJ miss is they start their valuation with gold and its price, a strategy akin to predicting how high a corn stalk will grow by looking at the seed. Sun, water, and nutrients determine how high corn will grow. Likewise for gold. Gold’s price is the effect, the result, not the cause. Other forces drive gold’s price including its supply, amount of dollars are outstanding, popularity of equities, bonds, cash, real estate, confidence in government & authorities, confidence in the economy, & many other factors. We must examine these forces to value gold.
It’s obvious there are no cash flows to ground a traditional valuation, but that doesn’t mean gold has no value. Even cursory thoughts on gold or other commodities would come to that conclusion. With knowledge of the future anything can be valued, gold included. The question is how well we can forecast the future. And based on analysis of the drivers above, I believe we can determine a range of prices for gold – both an anchor price and a range of likely future prices. [full story]
Value is always relative.  Gold, for example, has some value as a product.  As a product, one can calculate what a "fair market value" might be at any time based on demand, supply, and the cost of extracting, refining, and reshaping it.  Then there is the emotional value... the premium assigned to the price of gold because it is seen as a "safe haven" for wealth.   That's where all of the ads for Gold! come in.  When the economy is booming and people are trying to acquire bigger homes, bigger boats, bigger cars, bigger diamonds, more exotic vacations, etc.; the demand... and price... of gold is rather mundane... more along the lines of a cost-plus pricing.

So, suppose all of the economy-Armageddon stories have some truth to them.  The value of currency is going to fall so the prices of everything are going to rise dramatically.  Today will seem like full-employment.  People will be on the streets and lawlessness will abound.   Gold!


But, if food and fuel and shelter are scarce, will someone be willing to swap those things for a bar of metal?  That presumes that the bar of metal can be used to obtain those other scarce essentials.  Gold may be on the list of things that some survivalists want to have... after a hefty supply of those other essentials and a good supply of guns and ammunition.

Here is one alternative to Gold! if you really believe that everything is "going to hell in a handbasket."

Of course, if world economies improve, then you won't be seeing all of those ads for Gold! because the price will fall dramatically... just as it did in the 1980s.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cash For Clunkers Part 2


Cash for clunkers pulled ahead automobile sales from one quarter to another. Looks as if the home buyer tax credit did the same thing for existing houses.

US home sales plunge to 15-year low
By Alan Rappeport in New York
Published: August 24 2010 15:46 | Last updated: August 24 2010 18:24
Purchases of previously owned homes plunged to their lowest level in 15 years last month as a weak jobs market and strict financing requirements stalled buying activity, heightening fears that the housing market will drag down the US economy. [full story]



The Democrat Party


A rare official spokesperson for the mysterious 'The Tea Party' political party made a public appearance Monday at the State Board of Canvassers meeting in Lansing.
It was the party's lawyer, Michael Hodge.
Mark Steffek, the man who formed The Tea Party and was described by the Detroit Free Press as a former union steward, was not present. However, dozens of grassroots tea party activists did show up, and appeared to be unanimously opposed to Steffek's creation. 
On a vote of 2-2, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers failed to approve The Tea Party political party formation petitions. Hodge said before the vote that he expected to take it to the state Court of Appeals perhaps as early as Wednesday. [full story]
Several conservatives have now come together to petition the Michigan Board of State Canvassers to get approval to form The Democrat Party.  It is expect that there may be some resistance by the Democratic Party on the basis of misrepresentation and an attempt to disenfranchise the electorate.



Monday, August 23, 2010

Unqualified Students Failing To Graduate From College


From The Detroit News.

Black-white graduation gap at WSU worst in U.S.

Wayne defends its efforts; critics say school is too rigid


The Detroit News

Wayne State University is failing its African-American stu dents, graduating fewer than one in 10 while success for their white counterparts is four times higher, according to a report is sued this month.

The graduation gap between white and black students at WSU is the worst in the nation among public universities, ac cording to a report by the Wash ington, D.C.-based Education Trust.

With a new school year be ginning next week, WSU offi cials say they are working to re tain and graduate more stu dents, tailoring their efforts to Detroit students who tend to be less prepared with more finan cial needs. But some observers say there are numerous issues that hinder student success, such as graduation require ments that are onerous, poor leadership and too much focus on research and not enough on students.

“It’s inexcusable,” said Frank Koscielski, a WSU academic ad viser and recruiter. “Wayne State could be and should be the finest urban commuter university in the country. Unfortunately, it has had poor top administrators who wanted to make the univer sity something that it isn’t.”
Interesting.  First the university has to accept marginal students because of social programs and then, when the students fail to be competitive, the university is chastised for not doing enough... such as lowering standards sufficiently... to allow those students to graduate with credentials that they will use to obtain jobs.

No one mentions that many of the WSU students are from Detroit Public Schools which has an abysmal graduation rate itself... and accepts questionable academic work from those who do graduate in order to have some students actually graduate.



Stimulus Slowing Down Business


The Obama administration's much touted jobs stimulus has had the opposite effect on local businesses in one area of Detroit's suburbs:


Construction compounds the challenge of surviving slumping economy, owners say

BY JACLYN TROP | The Detroit News 
Businesses from Southfield to Bloomfield Hills have watched sales plummet since reconstruction began on a 16-mile stretch of Tele graph Road in March, leading some shop owners to complain that the project is threatening their livelihoods.

The state says it does what it can to lessen the economic impact and the inconvenience to motorists as roads are repaired. But driv ers still gripe about the traffic snarls. And mom-and-pop businesses, as well as national chain stores, complain that shoppers are avoiding the area at a time when they are already coping with one of the worst retail environments in decades.

The normally robust lunch business at Hogan’s Restaurant in Bloomfield Hills is off 50 percent, said owner Rick Bochenek. He and other local business owners hope the state can compensate them for lost business. [full story]
Businesses here... and elsewhere... have been scrambling to cover operating costs in this artificially-induced local depression... including using high-interest credit cards because banks have essentially frozen commercial lending.  From The Economic Populist:



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Divided We Stand; United We Fall


Today's Detroit Free Press had an article discussing the various areas that comprise the City of Detroit.  Each area had some "anchor point" [my term] that gave it a particular character.

The story was an appeal to the residents and government to work together to rehabilitate the city around its anchor points.  Here is the problem with that:

A city needs a "critical mass" to be viable.  Right now, Detroit is a "critical mess."  Mayor Dave Bing is attempting to find some combination of projects to ignite investment and growth, but the overriding state and national economic problems leaves Detroit with scant chance of addressing its massive problems through investment.

What that leaves is "divestment."  

SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2009



Saturday, August 21, 2010



A comment on a blog:

Thoughtful point. There is going to be a lot of gloating from those who see public education as disfunctional, and much of that gloating is justified.
Okay... point proven.



A Different English Language


It has been written many times that Britain and the U.S. are separated by a common language.  I think the same thing can be said of Washington, D.C. and the rest of the United States.

  • National guard troops are to be deployed August 1 to help guard the U.S.-Mexico border.  No troops show up.  Washington interprets deployment as getting ready to send troops and guarding as watching what happens, but taking no action.
  • President Obama promises no new taxes.  The Bush tax cuts are set to expire January 1.  Washington interprets tax cut expiration as going back to normal, not increasing taxes.
  • President Obama tell U.S. senior citizens that they will benefit from the new health care plan.  Washington interprets that as a signal to take $500 billion out of Medicare funds for general health care.
  • The jobless rate continues to stay above 9% nationally and just increased.  Washington tells us that it has saved or created almost 3 million jobs.
I can only surmise that Washington, D.C. has been the hub of an evolutionary event in the English language.
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself -- that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. - George Orwell; 1984.



Friday, August 20, 2010

And Four More Years For The U.S. Government To Get Ready For It


U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent
The Obama administration has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year for Iran to complete a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.
Hey, what happened to those "ten years from now" comments?

Disinformation?  Quite possibly.  There is no really good information about Iran's nuclear program.  Is a nuclear weapon only one year away... a pessimistic view... or is it a decade away... an optimistic view?  We'll know for certain when Tel Aviv disappears.



Little Demand And Less Supply


You'd think this was a great time to build a home.  New construction is almost non-existent and remodeling is just so-so.  Prices for materials are falling like a rock.  NOT!

Concrete prices for foundations, basement floors, sidewalks and driveways are up.  Remember all of that stimulus money for highway construction?

Okay that part is understandable.  More than normal demand, so prices react.

Well, how about lumber prices?  No, not down; UP!  As the guy at the wholesale flooring distributor explained... prices started falling so tree suppliers stopped cutting them... sawmills worked through their inventories and then when they tried to get loans to buy more the banks turned them down because the banks weren't lending.  Flooring manufacturers worked through their inventories of raw lumber and then had fewer sawmill suppliers for their new needs.   Meanwhile, exporting nations started clamping down on cutting forests in response to U.S. environmentalists, so the cost of imported lumber has gone up.

Bottom line: flooring prices are up about 50% this year and demand is down.  Put that in your Econ 101 and smoke it.



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Combat Troops Leave Iraq


From The Washington Post:

'Historic end to 7 years of war'
From The Christian Science Monitor:
... leaving behind 50,000 US troops in an unsettled country still struggling to form a government. 
... combat troops... we only said combat....

MSM... spin, spin, spin.



Jobless Job Recovery


The summer of recovery continues without jobs recovering....

Jobless Filings at Highest Point Since November
Published: August 19, 2010
The country got some more disappointing news about jobs on Thursday.
Initial claims for unemployment rose last week to a seasonally adjusted half a million, the first time since November that they have reached that level. [full story]
Now from the White House....



The Missing Ingredient In Education: Discipline


Talk about "discipline" in education and you'll get reactions like "Neanderthal".  Of course, everyone assumes you are talking about "disciplining" children.  But the reality is that the lack of discipline in education has become systemic.

  • Education budgets lack discipline.  Really?  Just compare the cost of a college education to the Consumer Price Index over the past three decades.  Really.
  • Education administration lacks discipline.  Really?  Just look at how much of every dollar spent in the education system goes for overhead... administrative costs.  Really.
  • Education edifices lack discipline.  Really?  The temples to education have become communities in and of themselves as if expensive surroundings are the only means to facilitate learning.  Really.
  • Educators lack discipline.  Really?  Teachers increasingly go through the motions [many because of the rest of this list] while protected by aggressive unions... and the results are apparent.  Really.
  • Students lack discipline.  Really?  Aside from 25 varieties of perceived sexual harassment [24 of which are a normal part of growing up], there is little that the education system allows in the way of addressing behavioral or intellectual discipline.  Really.
  • Parents of students lack discipline.  Really?  Far too many parents rely on the school system to not only teach everything to their children, but to ensure that they do their homework, attend the classes, and not be a disruptive force... to be substitutes or replacements for parents who are "too busy" with their own lives.  Really.
  • The government lacks discipline.  The bureaucracy believes that money solves all problems with education and that positive results can be mandated without considering whether the mandates make sense, the results seen as positive produce unintended consequences, or whether the entire education system itself is seriously flawed.
That's a lot of missing discipline.  Really.  The solution: start from the bottom of the list and work up.  Additional hint: privatization is a red herring... a generalization that "for profit" is always better:
But those are also unreasonable generalizations. The fact is that both public and private schools enjoy success and produce failure. It has little to do with the "for profit" aspect. So, go back and re-read the list of discipline problems.



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

While Isolationists Fret About The "U.S. Empire" China Expands Its Own


With little fanfare, a staggering 750,000 Chinese have settled in Africa over the past decade. More are on the way. [full story]
[click image from 2007 post to enlarge]

In case certain isolationists forgot... Tibet.

Isolationists are still looking for that nation newly acquired by the U.S.  Oh, they don't mean actual geography acquisition?  Influence, that's it.  No?  Perhaps they mean "occupation?"  The U.S. "occupies" South Korea because U.S. military personnel are stationed there? How does that work when the U.S. troops remain there because the South Koreans want them? I guess there is a new meaning for that word.  Rome occupied Britain.  Britain occupied India.  I'm not sure U.S. military bases with agreeing host countries is in the same vein.

Regardless, I tend to agree that permanently stationing troops all over the world should not be a unilateral effort and expense for the United States.  Sure, we have an interest in keeping Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan safe from aggression and extortion by unethical militaristic regimes.  Nevertheless, it should not fall upon U.S. taxpayers to maintain the peace... especially in light of the economic capabilities of those countries to pay for their defense... either by having their own forces built up to the level they feel necessary or by covering a good portion of the expenses of a U.S. supplied force.

I'm pretty sure that fighting a war such as in Iraq, stabilizing a new government and economy, and leaving when requested by the new government does not constitute "occupation"... especially since the U.S. pays for the privilege of staying on in a very restricted area... and, as in the case of Germany, leaves some very valuable developed real estate at no charge.

On the other hand, using manipulative mercantilism to build up coffers to build up the military to support colonization such as Tibet and Africa... that's empire building.

For more reading: China



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Education Or Just Another Spending Program


Most of us take for granted that money spent on education is well spent money.  Unfortunately, the data doesn't support that generalization.  Many studies have come to that conclusion.  I'd urge you to take a look at a very good analysis done by The Heritage Foundation [full analysis] that looks at spending and results and then makes some recommendations. [click image for larger view]

There are a variety of factors affecting school district performance.  Other charts are available in that analysis begin to address those factors.  Here in Michigan, it was obvious long before this study was published that the Detroit Public Schools system is without peer when it comes to failure.  Is it the money? No.  Is it the teachers? Somewhat.  Is it the system?  Definitely.

I'll include the students and families of those students as part of the definition of "the system."  You get the leaders for whom you vote.  Detroiters kept voting for leaders that make Detroit #1... in failure.  Will it change soon.  Not if Detroit's City Council has its way.



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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)