Friday, January 23, 2009

Geezer Misses Blogger Dinner

One of the signs of the ageing process is that you stop paying attention to modern culture. You don’t know where the hangouts are anymore. For me, this happened about 20 years ago, before I moved to Reno. The announcement for the Blogger Dinner just said it would be at the Imperial Bar. No street address was given. Six months ago, I would have just looked in the phone book, but not now. Oh no. I’m a new/social media kind of guy now. I’m up to date. I’m connected.

So, I googled Imperial Bar Reno, and the first one on the list said it was on 4th Street…4th Street? That seemed like an odd place to have a dinner, even by blogger standards. So, I checked the website. I thought it said they serve tall cans there. That’s got to be it. This was going to be an interesting evening.

So, there I was, your friendly neighborhood, mild-mannered Republican, cruising up and down Reno’s notorious Red Light District. I think we can all be thankful that Jerry Falwell did not live to see this day come to pass. One good thing to come out of the experience though, was that I now fully realize just how dark 4th Street is after the sun goes down. It’s very dark. It’s Vincent Price Movie dark. It could definitely use a few more lampposts, like say, one every 4 or 5 blocks, just to get the process started.

A little game I like to play whenever I’m looking for a place I’ve never been before is to count the number of u-turns I have to make before parking the car. Five or less is considered good; two or less is excellent. I stop counting at six. I can say with absolute authority though, that I managed to turn the wrong way on a one-way street only once all evening. There was no traffic, and no cops around, so it doesn’t count. No harm, no foul is the general rule there.

Hopefully there will be another dinner next month. Maybe that announcement will contain a street address as well, like 150 N. Arlington for instance. Or, I could just revert to my old fashioned ways and look in the phone book.

What Dollar Devaluation Looks Like

This morning brings another eye-popping chart from Shadow Stats.

This chart is designed to track M3 (total wealth), since the government stopped in 2006. This time it's the M1 money supply (circulating currency) that concerns me the most. When the government sets the prime rate at 0%, literally giving money away, this is the inevitable result. The gap between circulating currency and wealth is the amount of devaluation.

The dollar is best defined as a storehouse of wealth. When it is given away for free, then what is it really worth? Our soon to be Treasury Secretary is likely to follow the pattern. Since he "forgot" to pay his taxes (cue laugh track), and having blown a perfect opportunity to head off the bank crisis as Chairman of the New York Reserve Bank, there is little hope that he will change anything. By re-inflating the false-wealth bubble, the government is proving Lincoln's adage that some of the people can be fooled all of the time.

And before I'm done; A hearty thanks to Senator Ensign, from those of us about to lose what little wealth we have left, for rolling over and playing dead in the Senate confirmation hearings yesterday; way to go along to get along. It's enough to make me wonder if the good Senator has a hoard of silver ingots stashed under the floorboards of his mansion.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Burning Carbon to Reduce Carbon Burning

The Drudge Report links to a Times On-Line article this morning, about the British government's new super computer. They will be using the computer to predict weather patterns, monitor global warming, and help reduce CO2 emissions. The real problem, of course, is that Britain produces most of it's electrical power from fossil fuels. The super-computer will...
"...emit 14,400 tonnes of CO2 a year,” said Dave Britton, the Met Office’s chief press officer. This is equivalent to the CO2 emitted by 2,400 homes – generating an average of six tonnes each year.

Meanwhile, Dennis, commenting from Abiline, Los Estados Unidos says...
Simple solution: move the computer to France where 80% of electrical energy comes from nuclear power plants as compared to fossil fuel. This will reduce the carbon footprint of the computer by a factor of 5.

A factor of 5 would reduce the carbon footprint down to 2,880 tonnes of CO2/year, or the equivalent of 480 homes in Britain. Even better, if the British would build a nuclear power plant near the computer, the carbon emissions would be close to zero. They could measure global warming and support 2,400 plus homes relatively carbon free. Environmentalism would do much better if the experts would drop their ideological purity, and think outside the box at least once in a while.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Republican's Hope

There has been much written lately in the press and in the blogosphere about Herbert Hoover and FDR. Many comparisons are being made between then and now. It is mostly meaningless ideological point scoring. A few facts are in order, such as the federal deficit under Hoover rose every year he was in office. If you’re a Democrat looking for a do-nothing Republican president, Calvin Coolidge is a much better choice. However by doing nothing, he sat and watched his country rise up from a post war recession into one of the greatest periods of growth then seen, so keep an open mind.

Here’s another fact: FDR campaigned on a “balance the budget” platform in 1932. It wasn't until after he was elected (and before the inauguration) that he set about creating programs on a massive scale. The bank collapse of late’32 and early ’33 was a phenomenon that neither he nor Hoover had anything to do with. And just for the record: when Social Security was instituted, and the retirement age was set at 65, the average life span of an American man was 63. It was medical science operating in a free market that transformed what was meant to be a cash cow for the Treasury into a constantly bankrupt retirement plan.

There are some interesting coincidences between then and now, but the simple fact is we are in uncharted territory. We are in the wilderness, with no Indian guides, no footpaths and no rivers to follow. The only real similarity is that the experts, both then and now, don’t have any answers. Vox Day sums it up with a quick look at the 4 major economic schools, and their inability to solve the current dilemma:

The Marxian model breathed its last breath in the early 1990s. While the Keynesian model is seeing a revival in the misguided enthusiasm for public works spending in the United States and United Kingdom, a second transmutation of a severe recession into a great depression should kill it off for good. The Monetarist model is already on its last legs; the failure of the Fed to inflate its way out of the current crisis should suffice to finish it off. Even the Austrian theory, without question the most useful of the four economic schools, is poorly suited to account for the problems presented by exogenous factors.

The downturn in the stock market wasn’t just people losing money; it was people getting the hell out. It is said that there is $13 trillion in private capital parked offshore in Caribbean banks. God only knows how much is in Switzerland, or a thousand other places. Americans have plenty of money. What we don’t have is trust in the rules of the game, or the fairness of the referees. Restore the trust, and the players will return.

My hope for the next few years is that the rulebook will be rewritten, not just added to. I hope those in positions of responsibility will act responsibly, and for the good of their country. When the new rules come up for consideration, the rulers will need to write them with the good of the ruled in mind. For that to happen, they will need to trust us- the marketplace, we the people. Even Silent Cal could get behind that.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Carbon Footprint

When it comes to the global warming debate, call me skeptical. Not making a huge mess is always a good idea, but environmentalism is more political than scientific. One thing that bugs me as much as anything is that tight-fisted, miserly Republicans, like me, don't get nearly the credit we deserve. The thermostat on my water heater is as low as it will go. I turn off lights, shut down the furnace, walk to the bank and grocery store, I've never been to Kyoto, and on and on, just to save a few cents.

Wandering around the internet this morning, I found a Harvard physicist who has calculated the carbon footprint of a Google search (7 grams of CO2). This led to the Carbon Footprint Calculator. I see several problems with the calculator, which I'll get to, but apparently I generate 15.41 tonnes of CO2 a year. The American average is 20.4, which means, among other things, I can Lord it over, and act superior, towards roughly 75 % of my fellow Americans. The bad news is that we're all supposed to get down to 2 tonnes per year worldwide in order to save the planet. According to the calculator, I would have to live outside, stop driving, as well as stop eating.

Living in my little hole-in-the-wall apartment generates 3.9 tonnes of CO2 a year. This must have more to do with where I live than how I live. The overwhelming majority of electrical generation in Nevada comes from burning coal, and not the "clean" kind either. Driving my car 10,000 miles a year generates 4.27 tonnes of CO2.

I took an airplane to Las Vegas 2 years ago that produced 0.28 tonnes of CO2. But here is where I became suspicious. Had I flown 1st Class instead of economy, I would have produced 0.42 tonnes. Does sitting up in front make a difference? It's the same airplane, right? Are 1st Class passengers a bunch of tubbies or something?

It was the section called "secondary" that really gave it away. It's heavily wieghted to vegan's who grow their own vegetables. There's also a thing about not buying packaged products of any kind. OK, a lot of things have too much packaging. But, how would one go about selling crackers without putting them in a box? How about toothpaste; are we going to have to scoop it out of a bin and deposit it in our canvas bags?

There is a lot we humans do that just has to be the way it is. Add to that, we each do the same things in different ways. I don't see a computer program that could possibly figure in all the human idiosyncracies, much less predict the weather.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Ultimate Internet Dating Trainwreck

This is the story of an incredibly dumb young lady who matches up with an equally oafish young man on an internet dating site with predictable results. And then, she ADVERTISES IT!?! A 200 plus comment thread so horrifyingly funny that, as appalling as it is, I couldn't turn away.

Thanks to Vox Day.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Social Media Social

I've been debating whether or not to attend the Inaugural Semi-Bi-Monthly Reno Blogger Dinner. I made lists of why I should go and why I shouldn't go. The only reason I shouldn't is that I'll probably be the oldest guy there, and old guys are inherently creepy. But, there are several good reasons to go. The top 9 reasons why I RSVP'd for the Semi-Bi-Monthly Reno Bogger Dinner are...

9)It forces me to put on my pants and go outside.

8)I haven't had a decent meal in a month.

7)Barring a decent meal, at least I can eat something other than the usual crap.

6)I might get a clue as to why Twitter is such a big f*kin deal.

5)Since Mr. Jerz isn't going, I can get in on the latest dirt when they talk smack about him.

4)I'll find out if the Tall Can TV crew really does drink that mislabeled port-a-potty water.

3)If anyone from the Nevada New Media shows up, there could be a really righteous food fight.

2)Mixing with young people keeps the mind active, and besides, they might think I'm "one cool dude".

...and the number one reason to go to the Semi-Bi-Monthly Reno Blogger Dinner is...

1)Ah hell, why not?

I hope to see you there.

E!! Is Back

E!! The True Conservative Story is back, and with a vengeance. I'm glad she's on our side. It's a good illustration of the problems "spreading the wealth" creates.

Progressives would do well to remember that Robin Hood was a thief. The Sherrif of Nottingham, for all his mean-spiritedness, was essentially righ to throw him in jail.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Finally Some Good News

I've been meaning to write about a book I read over the summer called Ahead of the Curve by Joseph H Ellis. It's by far the best book on the economy and the business cycle that I've ever read. Mr. Ellis was a retail analyst at Goldman Sachs for 30 years. In his book, he uses charts that measure different parts of the economy that go back to 1960. They track year-over-year percentage differences. Everything is measured the same way over the same time period, and measured against each other, so you can see how one part of the economy affects the other.

The book was written in 2004, but the really nice thing about that is the charts are constantly updated here. According to Mr. Ellis, the first sign of a recovery after a recession is an upturn in real wages, followed by consumer spending. Real wages are defined as the buying power of the dollar. With falling commodity prices it makes sense that real wages would be rising. Rising unemployment is a trailing indicator and therefor meaningless as an indication of recovery. The real wages versus consumer spending chart is here. Notice the green line at the extreme right of the chart.

We're still at least 2 months away to know if this really means anything. Real wages need to keep rising in order for consumer spending to turn. But, it's the first good sign I've seen in a very long time.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Weird Weapon

Does anybody know what kind of weapon this is? I though it might be a cluster bomb, but it looks like something new. Did we sell this to the Israelis, or did they think of this themselves?

It's no cluster bomb.

Photos courtesy The Drudge Report.