September 26, 2009

Audit the Fed? Heck, yes

What once seemed like just another in a long list of crazy Ron Paul ideas now has the backing of Barney Frank — regular auditing of the Federal Reserve. After its contributions to the 2008 financial crisis, its lax oversight of its own bailout help, and President Obama wanting to give it even more powers, this is an essential idea.

But, but, but, … the devil is hugely in the details.

Does the audit only include “the Fed,” for example? Or does it cover the 12 regional Feds? After all, it was the NY Fed, under Obama’s worst Cabinet choice, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and not “the Fed,” that was a major contributor to the financial meltdown. If at least the NY Fed isn’t under the audit scrutiny, then it’s still pretty weak tea.
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Philips enters e-book market

Besides hoping to win a $10 million US government prize for the first mass-market ready LED light bulb, Dutch electronics giant Philips hopes that, whatever lights your house, you’re using it to reda your new Philips e-book reader.

On technology, this appears to have all current market entrants beat solidly.

And, Philips says it will have a color text, etc., version out by 2011. Stay tuned.
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Philips eyes LED prize

Leading light bulb maker and compact disc player inventer Philips has thrown its hat, or bulb, in the ring to win a $10 million US government prize for the first mass-market ready LED light bulb.

It’s a tough challenge, and a number of entrants have already been summarily rejected by the government, which has strict standards.

The idea is to get a good bulb in place from the start, which is what did NOT happen with the compact fluorescent light, which definitely gave “made in China” a bad name as part of it.

That said, Philips has a fighting chance of winning, with what it has entered. And, in many ways, if the price is right, an LED would trump a CFL.

Shouldn’t a psychic foresee her own divorce?

I missed this Newsweek profile of Laura Day from a year ago, or I would have been laughing then.

She says her “psychic” business took off … after she got divorced/

And, you didn’t see that coming?

And, any business that still hires you after reading that story deserves all the bad advice and wasted money it gets.
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September 25, 2009

Are we screwed on global warming?

Reportedly, the best latest estimates are that average global temperatures will rise at least 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, even with the best current-level efforts AND the most optimistic pledges to address the issue by governments around the world all being honored. That is according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program.

At 3.5 degrees Celsius, that is WELL above the 2C target of major environmental and climate change organizations.

And, as you can see from the graphic, that's only if we do everything now in the pipeline to address carbon dioxide emissions. More realistically, temperatures will climb 8.3 degrees F, or 4.5C.

The details of what this mean include a six-foot sea rise by the end of the century, an ice-free Arctic Ocean already by 2030, major plant and animal extinctions, and huge shifts in agriculture.

And, yes, huge shifts in U.S. agriculture. If conservative Southern, Southwestern and Midwestern senators can’t support the minimalist Waxman-Markey bill for any other reason, they ought to think about economic self-interest.

Rich seniors boo-hoo about Medicare co-pays

Humana and other health insurance companies are deliberately riling up senior citizens who make more than $80,000 a year, to protest a proposed freeze at that amount as the start to paying higher Medicare premium co-pays.

So wonder someone like Florida’s Democratic U.S. Senator, Bill Nelson, is both running scared and upset.

September 24, 2009

Recession in US? Try Spain

A whopping 3 million unsold residetial properties may lead to 25-30 percent unemployment and massive debt, which,
depending on what the European Central Bank does, could have fallout throughout the European Union.

Evolution - why fall colors are different in Europe, US

Here’s a very simple explainer of why fewer bug problems mean European trees in fall are more yellow, less red.

The latest on Peak Oil

Michael Klare weighs in with the progress in transitioning to other fuels.

Brown: G20 will replace G8

And, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown means that in an official sense, not unofficially. I don’t think he’s quite so right, because the original G7 will debate how much power to give the newer 12 as well as on how to codify Russia’s economic power.

Global warming powers up second El Niño

What does that mean? Well, more years like 2005 — droughts in southeast Asia, more and stronger Atlantic hurricanes.

Coming out gay in Oklahoma – in middle school

A must-read story, both for the self-confidence of kids coming out at this young of an age, but also, the relative amount of non-harassment, even in Oklahoma.

Oil is bubbling up

It’s been a big year for oil; in fact, the biggest year this decade in terms of discoveries.

And, interestingly, not all of the new discoveries are hard-to-get-at deepwater offshore sites.

California has its biggest mainland strike in 35 years.

But, a word of caution. Occidential Petroleum explicitly compared this find in Kern County to some of the newer deepwater finds, saying there’s really nothing else like it on land, at least in the Lower 48 states.

In other words, this isn’t cheap oil.

South suburban Dallas newspaper follies

First, the quasi-newspaper that’s attempting to replace Today? Well, the graphic artist/pagebuilder got a real job, and I don’t think he’s been replaced. And, I don’t think they’ve found someone to fill the very part-time editor’s slot that’s been open since I moved on. (I would have taken a real job soon enough, had the Suburban not gotten huffy about my “three months’ viability” and decided to move on.

As it is, we’re not quite to the three-month mark, and my prediction looks pretty much in the ballpark.

But, that’s not the real folly.

Ellis County’s “favorite” nuttbar/“journalist,” who later decided to inflict himself on southern Dallas County, one Joey Dauben, is in jail in New Hampshire, awaiting extradition to Texas on a variety of felony charges, related, as one would suspect, to his more edgy blogging.

Of course, per his blog, you get the usual, namely, when other people are apparently doing wrong, they’re crooked/chiseling/Communist or some combination of the above.

But, (scare quotes), “When I, Joey Dauben, appear to have done wrong, I actually haven’t. It’s all part of a conspiracy to take me down. Besides, the rules only apply to those other people anyway, not me.”

I’ve actually seen this type of attitude before, in folks like active alcoholics in denial. And, “denial” is probably a polite word for young Mr. Dauben.

A felony criminal record, and the loser, at the federal district court level, of at least one cybersquatting lawsuit and counting, he’s definitely on the less grounded fringes of “libertarianism.”

Assuming he’s tried and convicted (no, he won’t plea to anything, you can bet on that), will he learn from this?

No.

Per his blog, he appears to have fallen close to the family tree, and that’s where he’ll remain, as long as he’s in denial.

Q: How is shooting Joey Dauben different from shooting fish in a barrel?

A: The fish are smart enough to recognize they’ve been shot.

Say good night, Joey.

September 23, 2009

WaPost sits on McChrystal report a day

It’s another suck-up mistake by a bastion of the MSM. Contrary to the Post’s clains, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for some 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan was not so sensitive to national security that releasing it one day earlier would have endangered American troops beyond what the Taiban was already doing.

By that logic, the Post should have sat on it a full year, like the NYTimes did on a much more serious story in 2004-05, a story whose being put on ice may well have influenced the 2004 election.

Hyundai now bigger than Chrysler

Yep, you read that right. With partner Kia, it’s now the United States’ seventh-largest auto seller, edging ahead of Chrysler during the recession — and it’s No. 4 worldwide. How far the Big three have fallen!

In other words, it’s not going away after the recession is done.

And, with more interest in hybrids than any other automaker not named Toyota, that’s a very good thing.

One-quarter of Americans could be irreligious in 20 years

Assuming the trend this survey sees holds true, the right of freedom FROM religion as part of the First Amendment will surely be the next civil rights frontier after gay rights. And, I surely hope so.

And, the growth is not just among elitist Ph.D. whites. Rates of agnosticism and atheism are growing strongly among people with no more than a high school education and among minorities.

Obama the impotent

As more than eight months of Barack Obama’s presidency have passed, The Guardian’s Steven Hill surely speaks for much of Europe’s left of center in labeling The One as “inpotent.” In a Europe more secular than America, I guess the tune “Kumbaya” isn’t recognized. And, in a Europe where parliamentary (or quasi-parliamentary, in France’s case) political systems drive real party differences, the strategy of Kumbaya isn’t recognized, either.

The impotence isn’t just on national healthcare. It’s on financial regulation, that remains more embryonic than Obama’s healthcare policy. It’s climate change legislation that itself could legitimately been pushed through the Senate by the reconciliation process, but wasn’t.

Who can blame the European left for seeing Obama as impotent, even as self-emasculating?

That’s especially true when, beyond national healthcare systems already in place, on new issues such as financial regulation, Europe has answers already ready to offer, as Hill’s column documents, and on both right and left, has taken a stronger stance on global warming.

After questioning just how much, or little, bloodied, Obama really is as a politician, Hill — probably representing a large chunk of European intelligentsia on both sides of the aisle — blames the quasi-undemocratic American political system — and rightly so.

September 22, 2009

Will 2011 be the new 1937?

Jim Jubak worries that all the talk about "green shoots" will lead to a "W" style recession, for reasons similar to 1937 being the second trough of the Depression.

He notes that FDR and his brains trust reacted quickly when they realized they had made a mistake, though. On something like a second stimulus, he said Obama might find it next to impossible, politically, to do that.

And, elsewhere, Jubak argues we do need to at least consider the possibility of a second stimulus, but an actual, targeted, stimulus bill, not pork.

As for all the worry about debt and deficits, Jubak says the private sector should look in the mirror, and that includes businesses, not just households.

Go ahead, McChrystal, resign over A-stan

There’s a report that Afghanistan field commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal will resign if the White House doesn’t sign on the bottom line on his troop increase request.

First thought is, that’s insubordination, this threat being deliberately leaked; if the full story is true, I hope Defense Secretary Robert Gates fires him.

Second is that generals make policy, not politics. Another reason this is insubordinate.

Third, though, is that like on some other issues, President Barack Obama is now officially at the “shit or get off the pot” stage.

On the policy/strategy side, McChrystal has given his estimate of what he needs. And now, Obama has to go beyond “Af-Pak” platitudes.

Bill Clinton does plenty of dishing

For Al Gore, including his 2000 campaign (he said he thought Gore was in Neverland), and plenty of other things, Bill Clinton has plenty to tell in a new book.

US suburbs no place to grow old

Big sprawl, lack of connected neighborhoods and close-in shops mean that older Americans who don’t want to, and often shouldn’t, be driving as much, live in unfriendly places. Despite sneers from some strains of conservatives, New Urbanism is getting a hearing-out in more and more of these suburbs.

Chu: Americans need to grow up on energy

Speaking of Americans’ blithe, careless misuse and overuse of energy, Energy Secretary Steve Chu said:

“The American public…just like your teenage kids, aren’t acting in a way that they should act.” The DOE later spun heavily away from that statement.

What Obama doesn’t understand about online newspapers

Sure, his interview with the Toledo Blade about the future of newspapers was fine and dandy, but his chiding of the public to realize that free online content really costs something to produce is silly.

As long as papers give away online content, people will continue to push for it to be free. That’s why the paywall push, to have broad success, needs broad top-down as well as bottom-up local newspaper support.

And, while Dean Singleton may be fine running Media News, he looks ever more incompetent at the helm of the AP.

That said, I do support Sen. Ben Cardin's bill that would allow newspaper-ONLY newspaper companies (no TV or radio ownership) to go non-profit.

Fear for the future of rural America

No, rural America may not be “ideal” as a place to live. And, yes, some parts of rural America, by insularity, may have caused parts of its own brain drain. But, rural America by no means just shot itself in the foot. And, its future looks downright depressing.

September 21, 2009

Zelaya back in Honduras – who helped him?

The country’s former president, Manuel Zelaya, outsted in semi-legal manner this summer, decided to return home, and not just by dipping a toe across the border.

He’s in the capital, Tegucigalpa, holed up at the Brazilian embassy.

First thought: This was not spontaneous, and why Brazil backed this hare-brained idea, I have no clue. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin said neither his country nor the OAS had any role in Zelaya's journey before taking him in. Yeah, right.

Maybe officially, Brazil didn’t, but there’s plausible deniability factors built into this situation. Like, the difference between “role” and “knowledge.”

Krugman calls Obama out again

This time, it’s to accuse him of a sometimes lackadaisical attitude on financial sector reform, especially the issue of CEO pay.

September 20, 2009

Picturing Odessa


A picture from the one city park here in Odessa, Texas, that has sizeable water in it.

Obama has nerve on Paterson

Isn’t this the pot calling the kettle black? President Barack Obama reportedly sent N.Y. Gov David Paterson a request that he not run for re-election next year — because of low polling numbers.