Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday night Good Advice 

You heard it here first...

Or perhaps not.

You either love Alan Sherman, or you have not heard of him.

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Why we run 

A question for evolutionary biologists: Why are humans uniquely suited to long-distance running? Perhaps so that we can run our quarry to ground.

(Warning: Main page NSFW.)

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Buggy whips, eight-track tapes, and typewriters 

Glenn Reynolds links to a story that reports that the world's last manufacturer of typewriters, an Indian company, is closing its doors. Gone unmentioned in Glenn's post is this little curiosity:

The company is now down to its last 200 machines - the majority of which are Arabic language models.

We invite your speculation as to why this is so.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Early to bed, early to rise... 

Notwithstanding the ironically late hour -- I was catching up on a lot of backlogged email -- I actually very much approve of Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule, which seems to put the very sensible proverbs of Poor Richard to good use.

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule

The questions are, I think, the schedule's most important feature and a reflection of Franklin's wonderfully purposeful life.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Oil and moral evasion 

A short flash video that shows you where the oil has come from, over time. It is a graphic reminder that we put money in the pocket of downright evil people -- dictators of the worse sort -- every time we buy a gallon of gasoline. This is one of the world's many complex moral choices that we elide rather than resolve. That evasion used to trouble me, until I decided that it is the only way that a thoughtful person can get through the day.

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Christ is risen 

Happy Easter, everyone.

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Therapy on the go 

Please do not construe this as disrespectful of therapy. There is, however, no getting around that this is good advice.

Be happy

Sort of reminds me of this classic...

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

The power of words 

Saw this nifty ad over at Houston's Clear Thinkers:

I'm not sure I believe that would actually happen, but one would stop to read and think and perhaps in the end reach in to the pocket.

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You probably know your blood type, but do you know your bug type?

In the early 1900s, scientists discovered that each person belonged to one of four blood types. Now they have discovered a new way to classify humanity: by bacteria. Each human being is host to thousands of different species of microbes. Yet a group of scientists now report just three distinct ecosystems in the guts of people they have studied.

Blood type, meet bug type.

“It’s an important advance,” said Rob Knight, a biologist at the University of Colorado, who was not involved in the research. “It’s the first indication that human gut ecosystems may fall into distinct types.”

It seems to me on the basis of no knowledge whatsoever that this discovery could have important therapeutic knock-on effects. Or not. Any microbiologists out there who want to give it a shot?

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Friday, April 22, 2011


If watching and photographing birds is "birding," then what is it if you go in search of whales? My cousin did just that today:

There are fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales living today. Nearly 100 of them are feeding off the tip of Cape Cod this week, and the children and I went out looking for them.

I'd say that is more than a little righteous, man.

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First, kill off all the good writers 

There is a great shortage of good writers in American companies and other organizations. That is a problem for many reasons, not least of which is that poor writing confuses people, and causes them to do or think something other than the author intended. Confusion within or about an organization wastes time and money in a world in which there is precious little of either to waste.

I had thought that all this bad writing arises from some combination of technology -- television, video games, email, texting, and chat -- and the unwillingness of our public schools to demand excellence. It turns out, however, that there is nothing less than a conspiracy in academic circles to destroy writing as a device of organizational effectiveness:

After spending four depressing days this month at a meeting of 3,000 writing teachers in Atlanta, I can tell you that their parent group, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, is not really interested in teaching students to write and communicate clearly. The group’s agenda, clear to me after sampling as many of the meeting’s 500 panels as I could, is devoted to disparaging grammar, logic, reason, evidence and fairness as instruments of white oppression. They believe rules of grammar discriminate against “marginalized” groups and restrict self-expression.

Even noted composition scholar Peter Elbow, in his address, claimed that the grammar that we internalize at the age of four is “good enough.” The Internet, thankfully, has freed us from our previous duties as “grammar police,” and Elbow heralded the day when the white spoken English that has now become the acceptable standard, will be joined by other forms, like those of non-native and ghetto speakers.

Freed from standards of truth claims and grammatical construction, rhetoric is now redefined as “performance,” as in street protests, often by students demonstrating their “agency.” Expressions are made through “the body,” images, and song—sometimes a burst of spontaneous reflection on the Internet. Clothes are rhetorically important as “instruments of grander performance.”

So panels focused on everything but the written word as traditionally understood. Offerings stressed civic engagement, multi-media, sustainability and “eco-composition,” multilingualism, student self-assessment, student extra-curricular experiences, student “engagement,” cross-disciplinarity, hip-hop, Native American traditions and languages, digital storytelling, “queer rhetorics,” “feminist rhetorics,” “visual rhetorics”—and all the usual ethnic grievance communities: Chicano, African-American, indigenous, etc.

The shift to the sub-literate or anti-literate has evolved from the 1960s revolutionary project to dismantle Western civilization through the institutions, primarily educational. The change has taken place incrementally, from the rather tentative early addition of multicultural literature to the established canon; to the mandating that class, race, and gender be studied in composition; to the deconstruction of “Eurocentric” discourse in search of codes that maintain imperialism. Such discourse imposed Western standards through the very elements most would view as laudable: the search for truth in a logical, fair, honest, and ethical manner, the standard codified by Aristotle.

Apparently clear writing in a language that we all agree to use is not, as I had imagined, the foundation of civilization, but rather a tool of oppression. Somehow I doubt that Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the many other wonderful writers among our founding fathers looked at it quite that way. Whatever. If we destroy the utility of our writing we will make our world a much courser coarser place, and in all probability more oppressive rather than less.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Obama administration goes to court to destroy jobs 

While the Obama administration claims that it is doing what it can to create jobs, up to and including appointing the CEO of General Electric to the post of "jobs czar," its actions are quite to the contrary.

Exhibit one: The Obama administration is asking a court to issue an injunction against Boeing for creating jobs in South Carolina because it said that one of its motives was to "avoid strikes." Apparently in the business of creating high wage manufacturing jobs, one can be too candid. We eagerly await the forthcoming bleating from the press about how Obama is attacking freedom of speech (which it obviously is doing in this case, among other things).

Exhibit two: The Obama administration, which has done just about everything within its power to create higher gasoline prices (including advocating for them), has dispatched Eric Holder to find and prosecute criminals in the oil industry who might be responsible for them. Which, of course, is highly improbable in one of the most competitive industries in the world.

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A "keen, dairy-fed intellect" 

Heh. Last season's thrilling yet ultimately tragic football game between Iowa and Wisconsin, recast as a nature documentary...

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A year after Deepwater Horizon, no environmental disaster 

A couple of days ago we noted that predictions of economic disaster following the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico turned out not to be true. Now comes a review of the long-term environmental impact in Time Magazine. There are the usual qualifications about what we do not know yet, but again the theme is that the hysterical forecasts from activists, politicians, regulators, and the media did not come true:

Yet nearly a year after the spill began, it seems clear that the worst-case scenario never came true. It's not that the oil spill had no lasting effects - far from it - but the ecological doomsday many predicted clearly hasn't taken place. There is recovery where once there was only fear. "A lot of questions remain, but where we are now is ahead of where people thought we'd be," Safina says. "Most people expected it would be much worse."

As we approach the anniversary of the spill, Safina's judgment is becoming the accepted wisdom: it could have been worse. That isn't to minimize what did happen in the Gulf of Mexico. Roughly 4.9 million barrels of oil blew out of BP's broken well and bled into the water, with a portion of that crude making landfall along the coastline. Add in the unknown effect of 1.84 million gallons (7 million L) of chemical dispersants, much of which were applied directly to the well deep below the surface of the ocean - something that had never been done before. Even the cleanup might have had an impact on the environment, thanks to the burning of oil on the surface of the Gulf, and the tens of thousands of workers who trampled along the sensitive wetlands of Louisiana, corralling crude wherever they could. Scientists caution that a single year isn't long enough to draw any final conclusions about an environmental insult so huge.

Yet the damage does seem so far to have been less than feared. Take the oil itself: scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated last August that much of the oil had remained in the Gulf, where it had dispersed or dissolved. Many environmentalists attacked the report for underplaying the threat of large underwater oil plumes still active in the Gulf, yet later independent scientific studies indeed found that oil had largely disappeared from the water. Turns out we can thank bacteria. Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; University of California, Santa Barbara; and Texas A&M University traveled to the site of the blown well and found that microbes had digested much of the oil and methane that remained in the water. By autumn, the levels were back to normal. "It's very surprising it happened so fast," John Kessler, an oceanographer with Texas A&M, told me earlier this year. "It looks like natural systems can handle an event like this somewhat on their own."

Read the whole thing, and bear it in mind the next time somebody suggest shutting down oil production because of a spill. If you enjoy modern life -- and I most definitely do -- the occasional mess is part of the price.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Biker George 

George W. Bush is riding hard for America's heroes:

Next week in Texas former President George W. Bush will host a 100 kilometer bike ride with 14 U.S. servicemen and women who were seriously wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dubbed the “Warrior 100K,” the race will take place in Big Bend, TX from April 25-27.

“I’ll be riding across the deserts of Texas with wounded warriors to show the unbelievable character of our men and women in uniform,” President Bush said in a statement. “It’s a 100-kilometer ride in the desert, and it’s not a leisurely ride; it’s a ride to herald people who were dealt a severe blow and said, ‘I’m not going to let it tear me down.’”

And I had forgotten this nice memory from back in the day:
Bush is an avid mountain bike rider who put his Secret Service detail through some grueling workouts during his White House years and rode on his Texas ranch with cycling star Lance Armstrong. The former president took up mountain biking after running proved to be too tough on his knees. Described by some who have ridden with him as “aggressive” and at times “reckless,” Bush had a few biking accidents that left him with scrapes and bruises, including a fall in 2004 during a ride on his Texas ranch and a collision during a 2005 ride in Scotland that sent a Scottish police officer to the hospital.

I'm more road than mountain -- did almost 19 miles this morning before 7:30 -- but I'd love to do more on the trails. George Bush's project sounds like an awesome ride.

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What happened to all the "climate refugees"? 

Once again, the United Nations climate propaganda machine is as wrong as it is inept. Since the United Nations exists to protect its constituents, the mostly autocratic and kleptocratic regimes that rule the one-country one-vote General Assembly, why would anybody believe anything that comes out of that organization? Sheesh, even The New York Times has more credibility.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

A year after Deepwater Horizon, the Gulf economy chugs on 

Perhaps none of you will be surprised to read that a year after the Deepwater Horizon spill, the economies of the states along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico are faring better than just about anybody with an ax to grind "feared":

A year later, many people have suffered economic pain, and unemployment is up along the Louisiana coast. But the number of jobs there has increased, federal data show. In fact, almost a year after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, there is little sign of the economic devastation feared by everyone from the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association to the White House.

Business is looking up across much of the coast. Tourists are returning to the beaches of Florida and Alabama, where real-estate rental companies report bookings returning to pre-spill levels. (Last summer, lodging revenue dropped more than 30%).

Some of Louisiana's coastal counties, called parishes, are collecting more sales-tax revenue, when they had expected double-digit declines.

The problem, of course, is that "everyone from the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association to the White House" had an incentive to predict economic disaster. The White House knew that the economy was going to suck anyway, so blaming as much of the anticipated suckage as possible on BP made all the sense in the world. And, of course, the Obama administration was pushing job-killing anti-drilling regulation, and wanted to inoculate itself against the charge that it was its own reaction to the spill that destroyed the jobs. The oil and gas industry, meanwhile, wanted to avoid that regulation, so it had every reason to warn about the looming economic catastrophe. The mainstream media went along for the usual reason that reporters and editors are not in the business of saying that things are not nearly as bad as they seem. Disasters sell papers and boost ratings, sober reflection and deep cleansing breaths do not.

Props, though, to the WSJ for calling everybody out, even if with the benefit of hindsight.

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April in Princeton: The annual picture 

Long-standing readers will recognize the annual photo of the flowers on Witherspoon Street in Princeton...

April on Witherspoon

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Pictures from the Virginia spring 

I am on a long weekend in Virginia south of the James, riding a bike and enjoying the woods. I took a few pictures yesterday. Regular readers will notice that, apart from the butterflies, they are not unlike the pics I shot the same time last year.

The family home, now owned by my brother...

Country home, Buckingham County

In the front yard, a vast oak, older than the United States.

An oak older than the United States

April woodlands. The green is coming, but still winter enough that you can still see for a distance.

April woodlands

Acres and acres of blue bells!

More blue bells!

Any botanists out there who can identify this? Opening suggestion: A "fiddle head" fern.

Fiddle head!

More later.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lower the drinking age 

Glenn Reynolds argues that the drinking age should go back down to 18, and that the Republicans should lead the charge.

Republicans are supposed to be against mandates aimed at the states, so this would demonstrate consistency. Second, it's a pro-freedom move that younger voters—not yet confronted with the impact of, say, the capital-gains tax—can appreciate on a personal level. Third, it puts the Democrats in the position of having either to support the end of a federal mandate—something they tend to reflexively oppose—or to look like a bunch of old fuddy-duddies themselves.

Principle and politics. If the Republicans in Congress don't pick up on this issue, we're going to have to wonder what they've been drinking.

When I was but a lad of 16, Iowa raised the drinking age to 19 and then 21. I was "grandfathered," but still sufficiently objected to the change that I wrote Governor Robert Ray, who had reversed himself to sign the legislation. Iowa being Iowa, Governor Ray called me at home so we could discuss the issue soberly, as two Iowans would do, after which civil conversation we agreed to disagree.

So my bona fides on this issue go back some way.

That said, I would qualify my enthusiasm for a lower drinking age by pairing it with tougher oversight of teen drivers. Various of the Canadian provinces, I am given to understand, permit drinking at 18 but have a mandatory suspension of the driver's license of any young probationary driver caught with any alcohol in his bloodstream. A good idea, I think, because it teaches the habit of not drinking and driving.

Regardless, there should be no drinking age, or a very low one, to serve minors who are under the supervision of their parents, whether at home or in restaurants. Yes, I believe it should be lawful to buy one's 15 year old son a beer or a glass of wine over dinner.

Release the hounds.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A few notes for travelers 

In Denver just now, going through security, I had to choose between three lines at the TSA checkpoint. The first contained an old woman in a wheelchair, the second had a bunch of seemingly uncontrolled little kids, and the third a man with aluminum crutches. I went with the crutches, but in retrospect the line with the kids moved faster. Both trumped the wheelchair. Obviously.

Who does not know that wearing a quarter ton of chains and other metal festoons is going to slow down the many people behind you in line? We know you love your necklaces and metal belt. Keep them in your bag, and put them on when you are on the other side.

Have you ever noticed that in western airports there are a fair number of middle-aged dudes with big stomachs and even bigger cowboy hats? And why do they refer to their luggage as "gear"?

Yes, you are a dirtbag if you board first and put your bag in a bin over a seat closer to the front of the plane than the one you have been assigned.

Why are the flight attendants of some airlines so much more officious than those of other airlines? United attendants are much more concerned that some electronic device might emit an impulse than the Continental crew, for example. I hope that the former become more like the latter after the integration, but I fear the reverse.

I am looking forward to getting home tonight after nine days on the road, and only wish that my flight were not delayed due to "air traffic control," whatever that means.

There will be drinking.

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March in America: Hot, or not? 

From the government's climate scientists, propaganda by omission.

Of course, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration knows what it is doing here.

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Situational ethics and the debt limit 

This would be hilarious if it were not so typical of our president:

The White House said Monday that President Barack Obama regrets his vote as a senator in 2006 against raising the debt limit — the same kind of increase he's now pressuring Congress to approve.

But it is not just that he regrets it. Barack Obama is asking that we do not believe the argument that he himself made so persuasively less than five years ago:
Congress is forced to increase the debt limit every several years and it often turns political with members of the minority party withholding their votes to extract concessions or direct criticism at the party that controls the White House.

That was the case in 2006 when Republican George W. Bush was president and Obama, a freshman senator from Illinois, declared on the Senate floor: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. ... Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem."

Not only was he fooling the people who voted for him, he was fooling himself.

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Hard times in Springsteenville 

There's trouble in the heartland, a head-on collision smashing in my guts, man:

With the recent closing of Springsteenville’s textile mill, located across the railroad tracks, unemployment has hit an all-time high of 34 percent.

“It seems like there’s always another plant closing down,” Roberts lamented. “Once we stood for a hard day’s work for a day’s pay. But now, these jobs are going, boys. And they ain’t coming back.”

“To your hometown,” the mayor continued. “Your hometown.”

Unemployment is at an all-time high in Springsteenville, and it appears that spirits have never been lower. Most of the city’s workers served their country bravely in the 1960s and ’70s, when, after getting in a little hometown jam, they had rifles thrust into their hands.

“I was sent to a foreign land,” said Kyle Braley, who works on the highway in nearby Darlington County. “To go and kill the yellow man.”

You better listen to me baby: Read the whole thing.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Impish prank of the week 

OK, it has not actually happened, but if somebody were to do this it would be the impish prank of the week. Or maybe the year.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

The hobgoblin of little minds 

Warren Mayer, who proves that the private sector can do it better every day, reports an anecdote from the "shutdown" preparations that speaks louder than any long week of conservative talk radio.

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Sometimes, liberals crack me up 

Being a "blue state" Republican with libertarian tendencies, I have many liberal friends. My friends, at least, are sweet and kind, and not generally the people of Rush Limbaugh's fevered dreams. But sometimes they crack me up. Today's favored Facebook link is a breathless article in Salon by a Los Angeles woman, who confesses that she can't believe that her "best friend is a Republican."

Of my three or four closest friends, only one is manifestly a Republican and he never votes. Another is a libertarian and no fan of the GOP or the nanny-staters, and the others are Democrats. I, however, neither beat my chest nor twist my hanky because I have friends who are Democrats, and no other Republican of my acquaintance, all of whom have good friends who are Democrats would. Has any Republican ever penned a similar such confessional?


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Weather is not climate news 

In the category of "weather is not climate" news that you may not see reported in the popular press, the Planet Earth just concluded its coolest March since 1994. Oh, and older, thicker Arctic sea ice (a measure of the ice cap's durability) is increasing, though still far below "baseline" levels. This continues a trend that has been in place for a couple of years, but which was masked because the government moved the goalposts back in 2009 to make it look as though Arctic ice was deteriorating when it was not.

Meanwhile, snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere remains far above normal (it has been snowing for three days in Salt Lake City, where I write this), and the Gulf of Mexico is warmer than usual. We are told they will combine for a stormy April and May.

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On the Libyan war 

Most of us have moved on to arguing about budgets and such -- all important, perhaps crucially so, to the future of the American republic -- but that does not mean that we should delight in President Obama's unilateral decision to go to war without even the slightest nod to Congressional authority (something George W. Bush never did). Fabius Maximus does not let us forget, and has especially choice words for Obama's Office of Legal Counsel.

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"Obama will lose in 2012" 

It is very difficult to tell whether the angry author of this sharp-edged indictment of Barack Obama's presidency is right-wing or left-wing. The post is interesting precisely because he could be either, and may be neither in any traditional sense.

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Doom and gloom 

An interesting clip of the always stimulated Marc Faber, who dishes on, among other things, the use of monetary policy to keep the average fellow down. A European's perspective, to be sure, but manifestly food for thought.

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Beer: Is there anything it can't do? 

For my money, there is no better beverage after a long bike ride -- or even in the middle of a long bike ride, if, like me, you are not very serious about your training -- than beer. I know other riders who claim they cannot drink even one beer and then get back on, but I'm not one of them. No problemo.

So imagine my delight to read that the science is on my side!

By the time this posts it will be close to noon in the east, so consider factoring this new information in to your plans.

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Proud father moment: Pictures for art's sake 

The TH Daughter is taking photography at school, and graciously allowed me to post some of her favorites.


The Color Purple





More, please.

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Better than Newt 

House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner, seem to have struck a deal last night to cut around $39 billion from the 2011 budget, which has only five months remaining. A shut-down has been averted, and it is more than even Speaker Boehner thought possible a few weeks ago.

Yes, the cuts are trivial compared to the magnitude of the American fiscal disaster, but they are the largest ever in a time of war and larger than half the difference between the parties at the opening bid and ask. The question is how they set the stage for the much larger fight to come over the 2012 budget.

Regardless, the fight seems to have established Speaker Boehner as the real deal -- read this interesting write-up in the Washington Post for more along those lines (including a discussion of the role of the "policy riders," which I certainly was hoping were bargaining chips just as the Defense cuts were to the Democrats). The comparisons to Newt's similar confrontation 16 years ago are quite favorable, and probably do not help Gingrich's presidential aspirations. Bonus!

Perhaps the best indication that this deal is good news for conservatives is that liberals are unhappy, particularly with the Democratic spin:

The substance of this deal is bad. But the way Democrats are selling it makes it much, much worse.

The final compromise was $38.5 billion below 2010’s funding levels. That’s $78.5 billion below President Obama’s original budget proposal, which would’ve added $40 billion to 2010’s funding levels, and $6.5 billion below John Boehner’s original counteroffer, which would’ve subtracted $32 billion from 2010’s budget totals. In the end, the real negotiation was not between the Republicans and the Democrats, or even the Republicans and the White House. It was between John Boehner and the conservative wing of his party. And once that became clear, it turned out that Boehner’s original offer wasn’t even in the middle. It was slightly center-left.

But you would’ve never known it from President Obama’s encomium to the agreement. Obama bragged about “making the largest annual spending cut in our history.” Harry Reid joined him, repeatedly calling the cuts “historic.” It fell to Boehner to give a clipped, businesslike statement on the deal. If you were just tuning in, you might’ve thought Boehner had been arguing for moderation, while both Obama and Reid sought to cut deeper. You would never have known that Democrats had spent months resisting these “historic” cuts, warning that they’d cost jobs and slow the recovery.

Boehner, of course, could afford to speak plainly. He’d not just won the negotiation but had proven himself in his first major test as speaker of the House. He managed to get more from the Democrats than anyone had expected, sell his members on voting for a deal that wasn’t what many of them wanted and avert a shutdown. There is good reason to think that Boehner will be a much more formidable opponent for Obama than Gingrich was for Clinton.

So why were Reid and Obama so eager to celebrate Boehner’s compromise with his conservative members? The Democrats believe it’s good to look like a winner, even if you’ve lost. But they’re sacrificing more than they let on. By celebrating spending cuts, they’ve opened the door to further austerity measures at a moment when the recovery remains fragile. Claiming political victory now opens the door to further policy defeats later.

I am not sure that Ezra is correct about that last sentence, but I sure hope he is.

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A few pictures from the day in Salt Lake City 

I am in Salt Lake City for a couple of days, and got a chance to visit the TH Daughter, who is in fine fettle albeit with newly red hair. We had supper and walked around Temple Square, which I really enjoy. I took a couple of pictures that made the cut.

Us in the flowers, courtesy of a very fresh-faced Mormon boy...

Your Blogger and the TH Daughter

Brigham Young's temple, an awesome sight to behold. At the base, the walls are nine feet thick and built from granite hauled by horses across Utah.

Salt Lake Temple

Assembly Hall (1882), reflected in the windows of the Deseret Book Company across the street.

Reflection of Assembly Hall

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Thursday, April 07, 2011


Who is this "Feckles" guy? Sound a lot like "Mindles"?

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Pre-open "color" 

Securities firm C.L. King's morning "Pre-market color" email contains its usual interesting tidbits. Note the very different attitude of the European Central Bank and the American Fed, as revealed below. European voters are older on average, have less debt, and are more likely to be living off savings than Americans, so they are more opposed to inflation and more in favor of higher interest rates. Everything else being equal (and it is not), these different attitudes, which transform in to policy by the power of democracy, will tend to push the value of the Euro up against the dollar for some time to come.

• As expected, the ECB raised interest rates from 1% to 1.25%, first time in three years, as inflation accelerated to +2.6%, above +2% target

• The acting Portuguese government asked the European Union for financial aid, which is expected to be about 60 to 80 billion euros and involve strict austerity measures

• Moody’s may cut the ratings of 19 UK banks due to regulatory changes that may reduce the ability of the UK government to provide future bailouts

• Bank of England decides to keep interest rates and its stimulus program unchanged at 0.5% and 200 billion pounds respectively

• Bank of Japan decides against a stimulus measure but will offer 1 trillion yen ($12 billion) in low interest rate loans to affected financial institutions

• Cleveland Fed Reserve Bank President, Sandra Pianalto, says QE2 should proceed to completion and that rates should stay low “for an extended period”

• Initial Jobless Claims reported at reported at 382K vs. 385K expected, 388K prior

• Continuing Claims reported at 3723K vs. 3700K consensus, 3714K prior

• Due at 3:00 p.m. – Consumer Credit

U.S. Pre-market

S&P Futures +0.21%
Dow Futures +0.19%
US Futures rise as they shrug off ECB rate hike and absorb mostly positive data on March Chain Store Sales

Overseas Markets

London +0.02%, Paris +0.43%, Frankfurt +0.17%; European markets trade higher as financial companies were boosted by the news of Portugal’s financial aid request
Japan +0.07%, Hong Kong -0.01, China +0.22; Asian markets pared earlier gains after the BOJ decided against any additional stimulus programs


Yen at 85.1835
Euro at 1.4279
CAD$ at 0.9586
The dollar appreciates against the euro as investors tried to consolidate profits before the anticipated ECB rate hike; yen strengthens as some investors believe its depreciation was excessive

U.S. Treasuries

10yr at 3.57%, up 2bp
30yr at 4.61%, up 2bps
Treasuries under a little pressure after ECB rate hike


Crude up $0.11 to $108.94
Investors believe oil prices will continue to rise as demand keeps increasing and supply is unable to keep pace; China raises fuel prices 6%

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I am alive 

Sorry for the silence -- I have been incredibly busy, and my brain is too crowded with other things to write even the poor words that you come here to read.

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Locating the recovery in America's oil production 

Here is an interesting blog post that shows where the recovery in America's domestic oil production is coming from. The author notices, among other things, that the White House is now calling for more domestic production. Notwithstanding that its actions, to date, do not seem to reflect that ambition.

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Three slaves and the lawyer-general: How slavery really ended in America 

The New York Times Sunday Magazine has a great article this morning about the beginning of the end of slavery in the United States, and how a lawyer-politician turned general out-argued a Confederate colonel and invented the idea that defecting slaves were "contraband of war."

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Green corruption 

Lefty regulators continue their gratuitous destruction of American business and employment, again, as is often the case, in California. Behold, an extraordinary story of academic corruption and conflict of interest at the behest of environmental regulators. It makes a mockery of the left's oft-repeated charge that it is the right that "politicizes science."

Yet another great reason to support FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Lunchtime video fun: The futility of soaking the rich 

Why soaking the rich cannot possibly solve our gargantuan national fiscal problem:

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Double good news on the employment front 

The morning's employment report, just across, includes some double good news (unless, I suppose, you are an unreconstructed partisan):

The Labor Department says the economy added 216,000 new jobs last month, offsetting layoffs a local governments. Factories, retailers, education, health care and an array of professional and financial services expanded payrolls.

Private employers, the backbone of the economy, drove nearly all of the gains. They added 230,000 jobs last month, on top of 240,000 in February. It was the first time private hiring topped 200,000 in back-to-back months since 2006 — more than a year before the recession started.

More private jobs (ahead of the "Street" consensus forecast of 206,000), fewer state and local government jobs (BLS press release here). Manufacturing jobs were up 17,000. What could be better? Fewer federal employees, but you cannot have everything.

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