Tonight's culinary music:
Echoes of the 2007-08 financial crisis? - Remember the subprime mortgage bubble in the US in the early years of this century? It led directly to the 2007-08 financial crisis, the echoes of which ...
1 hour ago
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced a “major policy revision” that aims to give bicycling and walking the same policy and economic consideration as driving.
“Today I want to announce a sea change,” he wrote on his blog last week. “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized.”
Mr. LaHood also indicated the department is discouraging “transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians.” [emphasis added]
Not surprisingly, the news had bike enthusiasts excited.
“It is simply the strongest statement of support for prioritizing bicycling and walking ever to come from a sitting secretary of transportation,” said Darren Flusche, policy analyst for the League of American Bicyclists.
Nonetheless, some business groups have expressed concern that giving walking and biking the same policy considerations as other transportation modes, as Mr. LaHood recommended, would impede progress on other fronts.
“Treating bicycles and other nonmotorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe,” warned Carter Wood, a senior adviser at the National Association of Manufacturers. “If put it into effect, the policy would more than undermine any effort the Obama Administration has made toward jobs. You can’t have jobs without the efficient movement of freight.” [emphasis added] ...
It was a great country while it lasted. Nothing tangible lasts forever, not stars, or planets, or people or flowers or birds. Certainly not political systems. We can be certain that the American Republic will have an ending as surely as it had a beginning. But when?
Predicting the future is fraught with risk. In the hundreds of opinion pieces I’ve published over the years, I’ve had some notable success doing so. In 1998, three years before 9/11, I published a column headed, “America’s War on Terror will be long, slow and cruel.” In that column I wrote that terrorists now had the power to destroy large buildings. Pretty prescient, yes, but I’ve made my share of predictions that were completely off the mark.
Emerging trends or sudden events can completely alter what looked to be inevitable. The death of a key leader, a new technology, a natural disaster striking your country—or your opponent’s—all can alter the seemingly-inevitable future.
Certainly the American Republic has been both resilient and flexible since its improbable emergence from the fire of revolution. It survived a terrible civil war, an outcome that seemed highly unlikely at the time. It survived the Great Depression. It led and won the fight against global tyranny in WWII, a victory that may appear inevitable now, but was a damn near run thing at the time. And it faced down the monster of soulless Communism, despite the infatuation of large numbers of our vapid intellectual class with the joys of collectivism, as seen from afar.
And yet, despite this history of resilience and triumph, I think that there is about an 80% certainty that the American Republic will collapse within the next twenty years, and be replaced with something else—perhaps several entities. They will not be models of classical liberal democracy. That this will be accompanied by economic privation, great violence and mass suffering I consider inevitable. That the surviving citizens of the new entity or entities will enjoy anything close to our freedom or standard of living I believe highly unlikely. The Jamestown rule—no work, no eat—will be rigidly enforced.
Each of several challenges facing us is both complex and over-whelming, and we no longer seem to have “the right stuff” to deal with any of them. While we might successfully, though not painlessly, face down each of them individually, their convergence makes the Republic’s survival highly problematic. Americans want the benefits of the good life, but far too many want someone else to pay the costs and make the sacrifices for them to have it. Few are willing to sacrifice their comfort, their cash or their standard of living—never mind their lives—to protect the Republic and the system of political and economic freedom that created the material wealth that is the envy of the planet, far beyond what our grandfathers could have dreamed. Just one example: In WWII, our forces were led by graduates of Harvard, Yale and other leading institutions. Since Vietnam, military services is disparaged and shunned by the elites who benefit the most from our system.
We are victims of our economic success. Fat and comfortable Republics have ever been pray to wolves and barbarians, and, in our case, there are as many inside the gates as outside.
Here are the convergent forces that I believe are likely to destroy the Republic: ...
According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, the term “saber rattling” is defined as:a threatening of war, or a menacing show of armed force.
Some people call it posturing. In the animal world it’s related to establishing “pecking order”. Some people would have us believe that a pecking order is a bad thing, that it’s barbaric, and should be reserved only for the animal world. I disagree. It’s a natural thing that will happen no matter how much people try to suppress it. Pecking order keeps the world in a state of organized cosmos. Every playground has one, every corporate board room, and even the halls of Congress. It’s the way the world works, and without it there would be chaos and unending strife. People have to know who is in charge and who must bend the knee and kiss the ring that rules.
I suppose that’s why firearms are so important. They are the equalizing force, available to all free people everywhere. They tell the 200-pound sexually aggressive male that he must not rape the 120-pound female, who is alone on the street at night with no one around to protect her. The firearm gives her the ability to kill the stronger male.
Firearms tell the sociopath that he must not break into your family’s home at night and kill your family as you sleep. There is always the chance that you will awaken, get your firearm and shoot him until he dies. Dead sociopaths and dead rapists. That’s a good thing, a necessary thing for society to function in an orderly fashion.
Without the right to keep and bear arms, we revert to humanity’s default state of “law of the jungle”, where only the strong survive, where the big rule the small, and where the weak die in a puddle of blood, flesh and urine. We need the firearm and the freedom to use it or our children will live in a binary world of masters and slaves, with no check on immorality, no governor to hold the strong accountable, and no way to protect the weak from the strong.
In a world without freedom and firearms, only the evil will have guns, and they will use them to the detriment and enslavement of good people everywhere. History has taught us that, and it’s a lesson we should forget only at our own peril.
So what does all this have to do with saber rattling, a threatening of war, or a menacing show of armed force?
Look at the present situation in America. Many say we are on the brink of economic collapse. Our elected officials exude an unprecedented arrogance, totally ignoring the will of the people, hell-bent on dragging us into a world we neither want for ourselves nor our children. In short, the pecking order has been established, and it’s 180 degrees out of phase. They are the ruling class and we are subservient to them.
Or are we?
I hear the clank of metal on metal in the distance.
All across the country, Americans are rising up and biting the hand that feeds them. In some cases, the hand is getting ripped clean off! In Virginia, in New Jersey, and even in Massachusetts. The chain is chafing their necks and they want it gone!
The politicians…they ignore us. ...
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – The retirement nest egg of an entire generation is stashed away in this small town along the Ohio River: $2.5 trillion in IOUs from the federal government, payable to the Social Security Administration.
It's time to start cashing them in.
For more than two decades, Social Security collected more money in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits — billions more each year.
Not anymore. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes — nearly $29 billion more.
Sounds like a good time to start tapping the nest egg. Too bad the federal government already spent that money over the years on other programs, preferring to borrow from Social Security rather than foreign creditors. In return, the Treasury Department issued a stack of IOUs — in the form of Treasury bonds — which are kept in a nondescript office building just down the street from Parkersburg's municipal offices.
Now the government will have to borrow even more money, much of it abroad, to start paying back the IOUs, and the timing couldn't be worse. The government is projected to post a record $1.5 trillion budget deficit this year, followed by trillion dollar deficits for years to come. [emphasis added] ...
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) intends to purchase twenty-seven (27) REMINGTON BRAND MODEL 870 POLICE 12/14P MOD GRWC XS4 KXCS SF. RAMAC #24587 GAUGE: 12 BARREL: 14" - PARKERIZED CHOKE: MODIFIED SIGHTS: GHOST RING REAR WILSON COMBAT; FRONT - XS CONTOUR BEAD SIGHT STOCK: KNOXX REDUCE RECOIL ADJUSTABLE STOCK FORE-END: SPEEDFEED SPORT-SOLID - 14" LOP are designated as the only shotguns authorized for ED based on compatibility with ED existing shotgun inventory, certified armor and combat training and protocol, maintenance, and parts.
The required date of delivery is March 22, 2010.
Interested sources must submit detailed technical capabilities and any other information that demonstrates their ability to meet the requirements above, no later than March 12, 2010 at 12 PM, E.S.T. ...
This is the final piece for my AS art course, a flipbook made entirely out of biro pens. It's something like 2100 pages long, and about 50 jotter books. I'd say I worked on and off it for roughly 3 weeks. ...
ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- "One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse," warns anthropologist Jared Diamond in "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." Many "civilizations share a sharp curve of decline. Indeed, a society's demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power."
Now, Harvard's Niall Ferguson, one of the world's leading financial historians, echoes Diamond's warning: "Imperial collapse may come much more suddenly than many historians imagine. A combination of fiscal deficits and military overstretch suggests that the United States may be the next empire on the precipice." Yes, America is on the edge.
Dismiss his warning at your peril. Everything you learned, everything you believe and everything driving our political leaders is based on a misleading, outdated theory of history. The American Empire is at the edge of a dangerous precipice, at risk of a sudden, rapid collapse.
Ferguson is brilliant, prolific and contrarian. His works include the recent "Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World;" "The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World;" "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of The American Empire;" and "The War of the World," a survey of the "savagery of the 20th century" where he highlights a profound "paradox that, though the 20th century was 'so bloody,' it was also 'a time of unparalleled progress.'"
Why? Throughout history imperial leaders inevitably emerge and drive their nations into wars for greater glory and "economic progress," while inevitably leading their nation into collapse. And that happens suddenly and swiftly, within "a decade or two."
You'll find Ferguson's latest work, "Collapse and Complexity: Empires on the Edge of Chaos," in Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council of Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank. His message negates all the happy talk you're hearing in today's news -- about economic recovery and new bull markets, about "hope," about a return to "American greatness" -- from Washington politicians and Wall Street bankers. ...
In the old days, police officers wrote traffic tickers primarily to keep people safe and to prevent citizens from breaking the traffic laws. But in the new Amerika, all of that has changed. Now traffic tickets are primarily viewed as a revenue raising tool for state and local governments. For example, a federally funded ticketing blitz in the state of Virginia resulted in a total of 6996 traffic tickets being handed out this past weekend. This most recent ticketing blitz is part of a campaign code-named "Operation Air, Land & Speed". Last Saturday and Sunday state troopers were ordered to absolutely saturate Interstate 95 and Interstate 81 and to issue as many traffic tickets as humanly possible during those two days. Why? Well, it turns out that the state of Virginia has a 2.2 billion dollar budget deficit that they are trying to deal with, and so they need to find some quick sources of cash. ...
Here’s a fact you won’t see mentioned in the public policy debate over “alternative” energy:
There exists no alternative energy source, no combination of alternative energy sources, and no system of combinations of alternative energy sources that can fully replace a single, coal fired electric plant built with 1930s era technology.
Yet many want to make this group of functionally useless technologies the primary energy sources for our entire civilization.
Most discussions of alternative energy talk only about the cost and reliability of the electricity when it leaves the grounds of the alternative-energy installation. This is called the Point of Generation (POG). However, energy is useless unless you have it where you need it, when you need it. It does no good to have plenty of power in Arizona when your work and home are in Michigan. It does no good to have a roaring fire in July when you’re freezing in January. Therefore, the only real factors that count are the cost and reliability at the Point of Consumption (POC).
All current and forecast alternative energy sources fail miserably at POC. When you look at all the hurdles, redundancies and hypothetical/theoretical technologies you have to invoke to make alternative energy reliable at POC, you see they can’t even come close to matching the 80-year-old coal plant.
An obsolete coal plant using 80-year-old technology can provide power where and when you need it. It can be positioned almost anywhere from the equator to the tundra. (It will even work aboard ships.) It can be positioned immediately adjacent to the point of consumption. It works around the clock and in all types of weather. It can easily store weeks or months of coal reserves in a big pile outside. 99% of its offline time is scheduled and it is trivial to build in redundancy to compensate for both scheduled and unscheduled offline time. For the last 80 years, this type of technology has chugged out the electricity all over the world without pause.
“Alternative” energy sources have none of these attributes. They can only be built in specific locations, and those locations are wholly unrelated to the points of consumption. They can only operate under specific weather/environmental conditions, so they cannot fulfill the when of the point of consumption need.
They operate on nature’s schedule not ours. If we could easily operate on mother nature’s schedule, we wouldn’t need the energy in the first place, because we primarily use the energy to alter natural environmental conditions to keep ourselves alive.
“Alternative” energy is really Weather-Dependent Energy and it has all of the hazards posed by being exposed to the vagaries of weather. Wind turbines only generate power in certain locations, within certain wind speed ranges and only when the wind blows in the specified speed range. Solar panels only generates significant power in certain locations, in certain latitudes, in certain environmental conditions (deserts mostly). It only generates significant power in the daytime, only during certain hours in the day, and random weather conditions like thunderstorms, ice storms or sandstorms can knock it offline completely. (Even hydroelectric power is weather dependent and can be seriously crippled by drought or flood.) ...
For centuries, historians, political theorists, anthropologists and the public have tended to think about the political process in seasonal, cyclical terms. From Polybius to Paul Kennedy, from ancient Rome to imperial Britain, we discern a rhythm to history. Great powers, like great men, are born, rise, reign and then gradually wane. No matter whether civilizations decline culturally, economically or ecologically, their downfalls are protracted.
In the same way, the challenges that face the United States are often represented as slow-burning. It is the steady march of demographics -- which is driving up the ratio of retirees to workers -- not bad policy that condemns the public finances of the United States to sink deeper into the red. It is the inexorable growth of China's economy, not American stagnation, that will make the gross domestic product of the People's Republic larger than that of the United States by 2027.
As for climate change, the day of reckoning could be as much as a century away. These threats seem very remote compared with the time frame for the deployment of U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan, in which the unit of account is months, not years, much less decades.
But what if history is not cyclical and slow-moving but arrhythmic -- at times almost stationary but also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car? What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly, like a thief in the night? ...
President Obama, George W. Bush, a little old lady, and an attractive young blonde girl with large breasts with all sitting together on a train.
The train goes into a dark tunnel. A few seconds later there is the sound of a loud slap.
When the train emerges from the tunnel, Obama has a bright red hand print on his cheek. No one speaks.
The old lady thinks:
Obama must have groped the blonde in the dark, and she slapped him.
The blonde girl thinks:
Obama must have tried to grope me in the dark, but missed and fondled the old lady and she slapped him.
Bush must have groped the blonde in the dark. She tried to slap him but missed and got me instead.
George Bush thinks:
I can’t wait for another tunnel, so I can smack Obama again.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to require state and local governments to obey the Second Amendment guarantee of a personal right to a gun, but with perhaps considerable authority to regulate that right. The dominant sentiment on the Court was to extend the Amendment beyond the federal level, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “due process,” since doing so through another part of the 14th Amendment would raise too many questions about what other rights might emerge.
When the Justices cast their first vote after starting later this week to discuss where to go from here, it appeared that the focus of debate will be how extensive a “right to keep and bear arms” should be spelled out: would it be only some “core right” to have a gun for personal safety, or would it include every variation of that right that could emerge in the future as courts decide specific cases? The liberal wing of the Court appeared to be making a determined effort to hold the expanded Amendment in check, but even the conservatives open to applying the Second Amendment to states, counties and cities seemed ready to concede some — but perhaps fewer — limitations.
The eagerly awaited oral argument in McDonald, et al., v. Chicago, et al. (08-1521) found all members of the Court actively involved except the usually silent Justice Clarence Thomas. And, while no one said that the issue of “incorporating” the Second Amendment into the 14th Amendment had already been decided before the argument had even begun, the clear impression was that the Court majority was at least sentimentally in favor of that, with only the dimensions of the expansion to be worked out in this case and in a strong of likely precedents coming as time went on.
An attempt by an attorney for the cities of Chicago and Oak Park, Ill., defending local bans on handguns in those communities, to prevent any application of the constitutional gun right to states, counties and cities looked forlorn and even doomed. ...
Before District of Columbia v. Heller, the 1939 decision United States v. Miller was the Supreme Court’s leading decision on the Second Amendment. Miller was, to put it mildly, obliquely written. As Michael O’Shea has detailed, the opinion seems mainly concerned with whether the gun in question was a militia-type weapon, which would suggest that the decision is congruent with a well-established line of state right to arms cases (some of which were cited in Miller) that all persons had a right to arms, but that the right only encompasses militia-type arms (and not, therefore, Bowie knives or other arms associated with disreputable brawlers). However, Miller is not clearly written, and over the subsequent seven decades, there was much dispute about its meaning. The disputes were almost inevitable, in that Miller is terse and oblique, and, except for a history of the early American militia, provides almost no explication or analysis.
At the oral argument in Heller, Justice Kennedy noted that Miller “kind of ends abruptly.” In the Heller decision, the Court observed that Miller was “virtually unreasoned.” Many scholars have wondered what Justice McReynolds was trying to do by writing such an opinion. ...
The Colorado State University Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to place students at both of its campuses in harm’s way with a sweeping weapons ban law-abiding citizens will obey and criminals will ignore.
Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden, outraged by the ban, told The Gazette’s opinion department he will undermine it in the interest of student safety.
CSU-Fort Collins Police Chief Wendy Rich-Goldsmith, a relative newcomer to the campus, supports the ban.
“I have told the CSU police chief I will not support this in any way,” Sheriff Alderden told The Gazette. “If anyone with one of my permits gets arrested for concealed carry at CSU, I will refuse to book that person into my jail. Furthermore, I will show up at court and testify on that person’s behalf, and I will do whatever I can to discourage a conviction. I will not be a party to this very poor decision.” [emphasis added]
Though each CSU campus has its own police department, Alderden issues all cops on the Fort Collins campus a deputy sheriff’s commission card. He also runs the county’s jail, which campus police use after making arrests.
Alderden said ban advocates have been unable to cite a single study or statistic to show that students will be safer as a result of a weapons ban. He’s convinced they will be much less safe as a result of the ban, which will leave most students defenseless. The ban establishes the campuses as “soft targets,” meaning armed criminals will have a reasonable expectation their intended victims aren’t armed. ...
The region's county sheriff, Jim Alderden, says if the CSU policy is put into place, he will not jail anyone found guilty of violating it.
"What CSU is trying to pass is a policy," Alderden says. "And their position is that the university policy trumps state law and the U.S. Constitution."
While Barack Obama was making his latest pitch for a brand-new, even-more-unsustainable entitlement at the health-care “summit,” thousands of Greeks took to the streets to riot. An enterprising cable network might have shown the two scenes on a continuous split-screen — because they’re part of the same story. It’s just that Greece is a little further along in the plot: They’re at the point where the canoe is about to plunge over the falls. America is farther upstream and can still pull for shore, but has decided instead that what it needs to do is catch up with the Greek canoe. Chapter One (the introduction of unsustainable entitlements) leads eventually to Chapter Twenty (total societal collapse): The Greeks are at Chapter Seventeen or Eighteen.
What’s happening in the developed world today isn’t so very hard to understand: The 20th-century Bismarckian welfare state has run out of people to stick it to. In America, the feckless, insatiable boobs in Washington, Sacramento, Albany, and elsewhere are screwing over our kids and grandkids. In Europe, they’ve reached the next stage in social-democratic evolution: There are no kids or grandkids to screw over. The United States has a fertility rate of around 2.1 — or just over two kids per couple. Greece has a fertility rate of about 1.3: Ten grandparents have six kids have four grandkids — ie, the family tree is upside down. Demographers call 1.3 “lowest-low” fertility — the point from which no society has ever recovered. And, compared to Spain and Italy, Greece has the least worst fertility rate in Mediterranean Europe.
So you can’t borrow against the future because, in the most basic sense, you don’t have one. Greeks in the public sector retire at 58, which sounds great. But, when ten grandparents have four grandchildren, who pays for you to spend the last third of your adult life loafing around? ...