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Posts from — March 2013

Rest In Peace – Jams O’Donnell

His real name was Shaun Downey and he lived in Romford, part of Greater London. When he started blogging he was on British civil service, so he used the pseudonym, Jams O’Donnell on his blog, The Poor Mouth.

We had more in common than being owned by cats: our fathers both flew bombing raids over Europe in WWII; we loved Terry Pratchett; we hated McGonagall; we had an interest in the world outside of our own countries; and we appreciated puns.

After leaving government service, Jams/Shaun concentrated on his photography which is first rate, and complaining about the injustices large and small it the world.

He passed away suddenly last Sunday Friday, the 22nd, a week shy of his 50th birthday, but I only found out about it by accident today. Even though we never met in person, he will still be missed.

My deepest condolences to his family for their loss.

March 31, 2013   13 Comments

Happy Easter

Easter Eggs

Update: This is what happens when you have small children – you dye your kitchen.

Yes, the festival of Easter, goddess of the Spring, is celebrated this time of year with the traditional symbols of fertility, the egg and the rabbit, by the people who settled around the Baltic Sea – the Teutons, Slavs, Finns, Prussians, Letts, et al. It is a festival of plenty after the hardships of winter, with the promise of new growth.

Of course, later groups took the celebration and turned it to other purposes, but I doubt Easter minds.

March 31, 2013   9 Comments

A Real News Hole

They are trying to fill it with the belligerent propaganda flowing out of North Korea, but it is sort of difficult when people keep noting that North Korea can’t do most of what it says it is going to do. South Korea is certainly in danger, but that’s about it.

North Korea definitely can detonate nuclear material, but it isn’t certain that they actually have a self-contained, readily delivered nuclear bomb, or are simply doing large scale lab experiments. They certainly do not have anything they can put on one of their missiles, and the missiles cannot reach Hawaii.

Most of this is theater for internal consumption and part of the process of establishing a new leader in North Korea. They have a large army, but it is unknown what kind of condition its soldiers are in given the limited food available in North Korea. They ate their seed a long time ago.

Obama is still pushing to screw up Social Security and Medicare. The FICA tax was doubled under Reagan’s Greenspan Commission, so the policy holders have a hell of a lot more ‘skin in the game’ than the hedge fund managers, as the FICA tax is actually higher for self-employed people than the capital gains tax that the fund managers have been paying.

Any Congresscritter who votes for chained CPI or higher copays for Medicare had better have another job waiting no matter what letter appears after their name. It should be noted that not only are seniors the most likely group to vote, they also dominate the staffing of polling places, and are over-represented on juries.

March 30, 2013   4 Comments

New Marketing Push

A few years ago I wrote about a local whacko, who has turned his property on a major commercial street into an anti-Obama billboard [topped by the obligatory battle flag of the Army of Tennessee.]

Today I went by the main Post Office and on the right-of-way in front of it is some whacko with a collection of anti-Obama signs. If someone doesn’t stay with the signs, they will be gathered up and discarded, so he’s sitting out on the side of the road under a beach umbrella to show how much he hates the ‘Muslim Socialist’ who was just reelected President of the United States, including by the electorate of Florida.

No indication as to what the basis of impeaching Obama would be, but then, there doesn’t really have to be.

March 29, 2013   5 Comments

Friday Cat Blogging

Long Time No See

Friday Cat Blogging

Nom…nom…nom…

[Editor: This is Froggy, although the head of her staff calls her Tiger Lily these days. Months ago she was badly injured, and my neighbor found her and took her into his house. Froggy liked the concept of regular meals and a couch to sleep on so much that she is rarely outside any more. She is doing her best to clean all of the meat off a roast chicken carcass to avoid attracting bugs 😉 ]

Friday Ark

March 29, 2013   6 Comments

They Don’t Give Up

I am forced into agreeing with the editorial staff of my Local Puppy Trainer in their article: A new push for Gulf drilling. They actually looked at the facts of drilling in the Gulf, and the claims of the proponents to come to the conclusion that this is a really bad idea.

They are libertarians and normally overly pro-business, but they have been through some bad times: the bankruptcy of the syndicate that owned them and the Deepwater Horizon disaster. They were personally looking at the possibility of long-term unemployment if the paper failed.

They did what they were supposed do according to orthodox libertarian doctrine and it failed them miserably. They were in much better financial shape before being bought by the syndicate located in Orange County, California, which followed the standard model of putting profitable companies into debt to buy even more companies.

When you are dependent on advertizing and something like the BP oil spill brings economic activity to a halt just as you were starting to recover from the effects of the global financial meltdown, you really don’t want to hear drilling proponents talking about how ‘safe and worry-free’ drilling in the Gulf of Mexico really is.

The surprising thing for me is that they actually fact-checked the claims about the effects of increased domestic oil production and told people flat out that it has no effect on the cost of gasoline. We have had increased production for several years now, and the price of a gallon of gas it staying just below $4/gallon. The extra oil is being exported, not used in the US. Oil from the Alaskan North Slope has all been exported to Asia, not available for use in the US.

Drilling benefits oil companies, not the US, and certainly not Okaloosa County, Florida.

March 28, 2013   Comments Off on They Don’t Give Up

Stuff

So the Defense of Morons Marriage Act is looking like toast after today’s oral arguments, which was to be expected as marriage has always been a state, not a Federal issue. This will clear up a lot of uncertainty for people who have married in states that permit it.

A number of people seem to believe that the Cyprus settlement isn’t going to involve much in the way of Russian money, as the big depositors may have already pulled out their money before the new laws took effect. The ‘troika’ seem to think this was probable and have already sent people to Latvia to tell them that if they accept big chunks of Russian Euros, they won’t be allowed into EU. If I were in Latvia I would be wondering if I really wanted to join.

Cadbury creme eggs are shrinking to an absurd level, as has the Fruit & Nut bar. This should be illegal, as it is certainly immoral. [Note: this isn’t great chocolate, but it is good enough, and I have eaten it for years.]

I’m stilling doing odds & ends at the rehab, while trying to catch up on all of the normal stuff that I do.

March 27, 2013   11 Comments

Let’s Kick Start The Bank Run

CBS provides more proof that the Euro is doomed:

In a 10 billion euro bailout deal clinched in the early hours of Monday morning, Cyprus agreed to dissolve the country’s second-largest bank, inflicting significant losses – possibly up to 40 percent – on all deposits larger than $130,000.

That step, agreed with the other 16 European Union countries that use the euro and the International Monetary Fund, marks the first time in Europe’s 3-year-old debt crisis that large deposit holders – wealthy savers, businesspeople or institutions – will be forced to take losses as part of a eurozone rescue.

The move was hailed later that day by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the Eurogroup of euro finance ministers, who said that forcing losses on banks’ shareholders, bondholders and even large depositors could become the template for future rescues.

However by Tuesday, Benoit Coeure, a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank, bluntly dismissed Dijsselbloem’s idea.

Coeure is dreaming, the finance ministers are still trying to convince people that austerity is working as unemployment rises, so they will use the same model for any bank in trouble, which the big depositors have probably already figured out. The run, the really punishing part of the run, won’t involve queues of people outside of banks, it will take place electronically.

Dijsselbloem had better hope that there are no Dutch banks in trouble, because I don’t think the bankers in Amsterdam are going to be happy with his comments.

March 26, 2013   2 Comments

Equality

I rarely write about abortion or LGBT issues because I have no real standing for an opinion on the basics of the issues involved, i.e. they are really none of my business.

The reality is that the question of abortion is an issue that women need to resolve on their own with whoever they personally want to discuss it with. No one else has any right to stick their nose into this private, medical issue. I have yet to see any real evidence for society to get involved or pass laws concerning abortion. Frankly, no one’s religious beliefs have a place in public laws.

The only reason I’m going to comment on the two cases currently before the Supreme Court is because of a mangled CNN front page headline for the article, Will gay rights infringe on religious liberty?. The questionable headline was along the line of ‘Will churches be forced to perform same-sex marriages?’

Marc D. Stern, the general counsel for the American Jewish Committee, knows that religious groups can refuse to marry anyone they want, for any actual reason by simply claiming it violates their principles. The problems that Mr. Stern is addressing have already come up in the claim of religious freedom over Obamacare.

The rules are simple, you can do whatever you want regarding the way you operate your religion, but once you step outside the church or temple, equality is the law. Nothing other than the core religious acts of a religion are protected from the requirement for equal treatment for all Americans. If you operate a facility open to the public, don’t expect to keep the tax exemption if you discriminate, and don’t expect to receive public money.

From my point of view based on all of the evidence I’ve seen and read about, people are born LGBT. Realistically, who would put up with all of the attendant grief that is visited upon LGBT people by choice? If you look at the reaction of some families when a child ‘outs’ themselves, it doesn’t look like nurture has any role in the situation. Logically, this is something that occurs in humans. With enough time and study we might find out what the mechanism is, but is it really important compared to all of the other things that we need to find out? Some people are left-handed and other people are gay – that’s the way the world is.

Civil rights is not a zero-sum game. Treating people the same doesn’t require taking anything away from anyone else.

Let’s not forget that religion is not inherent, it is a choice. No one is forced to believe in any particular religion, and many people change their religion. There is no logical way to justify giving precedence to a belief based on a personal decision over anyone else’s rights. Believe whatever you want, but don’t expect everyone else to accommodate your beliefs.

March 26, 2013   4 Comments

Replacement Post

This is a new post to replace the Rehab post that is being used to discuss start-ups, computer issues, and other technical stuff. Comments get automatically closed after a month, but the kvetching and problems tend to be longer term.

March 26, 2013   109 Comments

RIP The Euro

Robert Peston mulls over the Cyprus ‘bailout’ in The rescue of Cyprus won’t feel like one to its people.

The bottom line is that the Euros in Cyprus are no longer ‘real’ Euros, meaning that Cyprus has a separate currency that they don’t control. No one is going to bank in Cyprus, and large depositors are probably going to move their money out of Spain and Italy as well.

Cyprus would have been better off exiting the Euro on their own terms, than what was imposed on them. There isn’t going to be any money available for the normal loans that an economy needs to function, so Cyprus is going to go downhill rapidly.

This means that Russia is going to get a great deal on developing Cyprus’s natural gas deposits, and Europe is going to get screwed.

March 25, 2013   4 Comments

Europe Continues Down The Tubes

Apparently some kind of deal has been created for Cyprus to prevent French and German banks from being inconvenienced, but the economies of Europe are caught the death spiral of austerity during an economic downturn.

The latest news for the UK: Fitch says UK downgrade more likely. Moody’s downgraded the UK last month, and Fitch is pointing towards an April downgrade from AAA. The S&P, the third of the big rating agencies, has gone negative on the UK, but hasn’t downgraded it yet. The confidence fairies don’t seem very impressed with the policies of George Osbourne, who has vowed to continue his failed policies right over the cliff.

At Naked Capitalism Yanis Varoufakis, an economics professor at the University of Athens, has a post, While Waiting for Cyprus’ Godot…, in which he notes: “Every bailout agreement, beginning with Greece’s in May 2010, seems less logical and more toxic than the previous one.”

The post consists of notes from his interview on BBC-4 which is now available.

This is point at which you should unload your position in the Euro, and move to something safer, like commodity futures. [Note: anyone who makes financial decisions based on my advice, should start checking out the accommodations at the local mental health facilities. I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the ‘investor class’. Savings bonds are as close as I have come to investments. I have taken stock in payment of debts, but sell it if it ever reaches the value of the debt. Having noted that the value of the stock has next to nothing to do with the value of the company. I don’t waste my time or money gambling on Wall Street.]

March 24, 2013   2 Comments

Oh, What A Tangled Web

The Cyprus solution is not logical. Groucho Marx noted: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” What the ‘troika’ has done to Cyprus is about politics, not finance or economics.

The BBC has a simple Q&A explainer on Cyprus. The basic situation is that the two largest banks are in trouble, the largest second largest, Laika, in the most serious trouble. The troubles were caused by a loss in assets as a result of a local real estate bubble, and, in the case of the largest bank Laika, the ‘solution’ that the ‘troika’ created for bailing out Greece. The Laika had a lot of Greek bonds whose value was cut in half.

OK, the government of Cyprus is struggling, like most governments around the world, from a loss of revenue due to current economic conditions. They were doing great before the Global Financial Collapse. As a result they don’t have the money to bail out the banks on their own in exchange for an ownership stake in the two banks, so they applied to the European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, the ‘troika’ for assistance.

As Robert Peston notes, the solution the ‘troika’ is imposing on Cyprus makes no sense if they are trying to stabilize the Euro. There are signs that the seizure of deposits is causing concern in Spain and Italy, and will certainly cause capital flight in Cyprus, which will bankrupt the other banks on the island that weren’t in trouble to begin with.

If you listen to the ‘troika” and Angela Merkel you might think that Cyprus is a tax haven like the Cayman Islands, and the big Russian depositors are all part of the Russian criminal class. A regular over at Naked Capitalism took the time to research the tax haven claim, and it just isn’t true. Russia isn’t upset about people having accounts in Cyprus, because Russia knows all about them due to a bilateral treaty with Cyprus.

Here’s reality – The ruble, the Russian currency, is not convertible. No one outside of Russia accepts rubles, so the Russian companies that buy and sell in Europe need accounts in European banks. For a lot of reasons they tended to choose banks in Cyprus. Frankly I just can’t imagine any Russian organization opening an account in a German bank, for historical reasons. Given the amount of natural gas that Europe buys from Russia, there is a lot of money involved, and a good deal of it passed through Cyprus, which would certainly annoy the Germans.

This ‘solution’ was clearly designed to take money from the Russian depositors. Next autumn Europeans may discover the cost of this action, because Russia could require payment in dollars and jack up the price for this insult. Vladimir Putin is not a forgiving person. [The irony of using ‘troika’, the Russian word for threesome or triple, isn’t lost on me.]

March 23, 2013   Comments Off on Oh, What A Tangled Web

Friday Cat Blogging

Oh, What A Relief

Friday Cat Blogging

Ahhhhh!

[Editor: JR as just awoken from a nap and is going through a routine of washing up and scratching as the sun heads for the horizon.]

Friday Ark

March 22, 2013   4 Comments