Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Code Editors

What I want in a code editor or IDE...
- Fast: no slow down when I open files or type. Also if it takes longer than 30 seconds to open a project, it's too slow
- Project navigation: hot key for opening files, tree control for browsing folders and packages
- Debugging: integration with the debugger, including breakpoints, stepping, etc.
- Source control: integrates with my source control tool, checks out edited files, adds new files
- Formatting

Nice to have, but not necessary...
- Unit testing: integrates with JUnit and/or TestNG so I can launch unit tests from within the IDE
- Code completion
- Syntax highlighting
- Error highlighting
- File templates
- Open source

What I DON'T want in a code editor or IDE...
- Build tools
- Fancy plug-in structures that allow the IDE to become whatever some hacker wants
- That includes plug-ins designed for different languages
- Having to troubleshoot exotic errors in order to get basic things like source control and unit testing to work

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Insurance Anti-Trust Legislation, Addendum

If this keeps up, Nancy Pelosi will soon propose compensation caps for tort lawyers!

Insurance Anti-Trust Legislation

What an amazing opening for Republicans who want insurance companies to be able to compete across state lines. The approach writes itself: Democrats want to repeal anti-trust protection for insurance companies? Great! While we're at it, let's eliminate state regulation and open up the playing field so insurance companies can truly compete nationwide. Now we're talking real health insurance reform!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Norman Borlaug and Jimmy Carter

Funny coincidence: at a time when Norman Borlaug and Jimmy Carter are both in the news, there's a new paperback version of Starved for Science, Robert Paarlberg's book on biotech in Africa. Borlaug and Carter both wrote forewords for the book.

Underwater Banks

Jack Shafer tweets an MSNBC article on underwater banks. After Q2 '09, only 3.6% of FDIC-insured banks had troubled loan values exceeding capital and reserves. But that number has been increasing steadily since 2007.

Guess the crisis isn't quite over.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thin-film Solar

So this is very cool.


It's not enough to make solar a replacement for base generation, but it should definitely help with peak summer production in warm U.S. cities.

Some additional realities:
- According to NREL, Nanosolar has the most efficient printed solar cell--at 16.4 perecent.
- No mention of small scale production. They seem to be focusing on metro scale and up.
- They're currently only producing 1MW worth of cells/month. But they say it'll be easier to go from 1MW to 100MW than it was to go from zero to one. Even so, it'll probably be a while until we see real economies of scale.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Baloney Hits the Fan

Remember when Pres. Obama said he'd negotiate without preconditions? That it was wrong to punish other nations by refusing to negotiate with them?

Mark Landler of the NY Times reports...
But even before Thursday’s vitriolic statements from North Korea, American officials said they were more focused for now on inflicting pain on North Korea than on luring it back to the bargaining table.

“We are not interested in half measures,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We have no desire to pursue protracted negotiations that will only lead us right back to where we have already been.”
Now, to be fair, the part about inflicting pain may be a paraphrase. But the indicators are clear: the Obama administration will not negotiate with North Korea until...when? North Korea grows up?

Is that not a...precondition?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sotomayor and Ricci

Insta links Stuart Rothenberg on Ricci:
Liptak later reported that "according to court personnel familiar with some of the internal discussions of the case, the three judges had difficulty finding consensus, with Judge Sack the most reluctant to join a decision affirming the district court. Judge Pooler, as the presiding judge, took the leading role in fashioning the compromise. The use of a summary order, which ordinarily cannot be cited as precedent, was part of that compromise."

But if that's what happened, it might be difficult to square the panel's action with the 2nd Circuit's Local Rule 32.1(a). That rule provides that panels may rule "by summary order instead of by opinion" only "in those cases in which decision is unanimous and each judge of the panel believes that no jurisprudential purpose would be served by an opinion (i.e., a ruling having precedential effect)."
Out of all the Sotomayor critiques, including the kerfuffle over the "wise Latina" remark, this strikes me as the potentially most damaging. It gives the 2nd Circuit judgment a whiff of coverup, and as we know, it's the coverup that brings you down.

But if this is the most damaging critique, I think she still has a very good chance of being confirmed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Roots of the Lending Crisis

Kenneth Anderson at Volokh Conspiracy links a WSJ op-ed by Stan Liebowitz on zero-money-down mortgages. Liebowitz writes...
What is really behind the mushrooming rate of mortgage foreclosures since 2007? The evidence from a huge national database containing millions of individual loans strongly suggests that the single most important factor is whether the homeowner has negative equity in a house -- that is, the balance of the mortgage is greater than the value of the house.
Anderson later updates his post with a response from Barry Ritholtz, who argues that while 100% LTV mortgages are a problem, subprime and alt-A mortgages are still the real culprit. He summarizes thus...
A more comprehensive 40,000 foot view would note that 100% LTV is a symptom of the larger problem of a) abdication of lending standards, caused by b) enormous demand for securitized loans, enabled by c) rating junk as AAA, in order to satisfy the demand for higher-yielding, non-junk paper, all of which traces its roots to d) Greenspan’s ultra low interest rates.

(via Insta, David Bernstein)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Presidential Experience

Mark Steyn gives a great summary of the rise and fall of Gov. Palin's White House aspirations.

But at the end of his post, he notes...
National office will dwindle down to the unhealthily singleminded (Clinton, Obama), the timeserving emirs of Incumbistan (Biden, McCain) and dynastic heirs (Bush). Our loss.
(On a side note, I'd point out that those categories are not mutually exclusive. Bush, though an heir, was also pretty singleminded. Sec. of State Clinton, though very singleminded, wouldn't have a breath of a chance at the Presidency if she hadn't inherited it from her husband.)

So where do we find qualified men and women to fill the office of President?

I just finished re-reading the second volume of William Manchester's The Last Lion, a three-part biography of Winston Churchill. An absolutely fabulous book, with many general insights into government and politics.

One fact jumped out at me this morning, before I'd read Steyn's post: Churchill filled virtually every possible ministerial position before 1932. When he became Prime Minister in 1940, he had served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (twice), Home Secretary, First Lord of the Admiralty (twice), Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Air. The only major office he hadn't held was Foreign Secretary.

What an amazing record of experience! Exceptional even by British standards. Where do American politicians gain this sort of experience? I can't think of the last U.S. President who had previously served in a cabinet position. I thought it might be FDR, but I looked it up, and he was only Assistant Secretary of the Navy. (I'm discounting the office of Vice President, since it rarely yields real power.) Besides Roosevelt, the only President I know that held high-ranking Federal office would be the senior Pres. Bush, who briefly served as Director of the CIA in 1976-77.

Imagine if Pres. Obama, or Pres. Bush had had some experience in a cabinet-level position. I wonder if either of them would have survived it to become President.

I further wonder if Sec. Clinton's White House ambitions will survive her tenure at State.

(h/t Instapundit)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So Much for the Carter Comparisons

Back in the 70's, Pres. Carter drew criticism for undercutting "friendly" Latin American dictators like Chile's Pinochet and Nicaragua's Somoza. He earned even more criticism for transferring control of the Panama Canal to Panama. Taken all in all, I don't believe the criticism was justified. I think the United States should promote democracy. Sometimes this means making common cause with dictators (see e.g. Stalin, WW2) but U.S. support for Pinochet and Somoza had been pretty egregious. Keeping them in power did nothing for U.S. influence in the region. Ortega and the Sandanistas hurt Nicaragua far worse than they hurt the U.S. Also, transferring control of the Canal helped defuse charges of Yanqui imperialism in that country and in the broader region. In my opinion, Carter's Latin American policy was a net good.

Now comes Pres. Obama, who agrees with Venezuela's Chavez and Cuba's Castro that Zelaya must be reinstated as Honduran President, even though Zelaya was clearly maneuvering to install himself as dictator-for-life.

I never thought I'd want Pres. Obama to be more like Pres. Carter, but here's an instance where I do.

(h/t Insta and Fausta)

Presidental Tracking Numbers

Via Instapundit, I see Rasmussen is reporting that "31% of the nation's voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-three percent (33%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -2."

They also link this handy chart of the trend in Pres. Obama's approval rating...

What explains the drop in approval? Have the Republicans been more effective than anyone realizes? Has the press turned on the President? Republicans have decided not to attack the President directly, so that can't be it. While there are some in the national press beginning to question the Administration's policies, we haven't seen any questioning comparable to what Pres. Bush experienced.

So maybe the progressive agenda isn't as popular as the President thought? Or maybe it's not the agenda, but the aggressive manner in which the agenda is being pushed?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why I Didn't Vote for McCain

Jeff Zeleny and Helene Cooper of the NY Times report...
“[Pres. Obama] should speak out that this is a corrupt, flawed sham of an election,” Mr. McCain said in an interview on NBC’s “Today.” “The Iranian people have been deprived of their rights. We support them in their struggle against a repressive, oppressive regime.”
How does he know the election is corrupt? Has he revealed some source of information that the rest of us don't have? Also, he seems to assume the protesters want full-on revolution: how does he know that?

Bottom line: I'm not happy with much of Pres. Obama's policies, but when it comes to temperament he's light years ahead of Sen. McCain.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What Do They Know?

The Iran election protests are everywhere.

Remember Eason Jordan's "The News We Kept to Ourselves"? Here's what I want to know: what do the major news agencies know about Iran and the ruling regime that they haven't reported? Are reporters from these agencies tracking the regime's behavior now, and if so are they reporting it? All of it?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Salt Lake Board of Realtors April Report

Reproduced from a report prepared by the Salt Lake Board of Realtors. It looks like the link will go dead soon, thus the reproduction.

Show Full Post

Salt Lake County Sales Activity Trend Report
Report Date: Monday, May 25, 2009
Time Period: April 1, 2009 through April 30, 2009
Area(s): 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111

Price Class Single Family Home Sales Condo Sales * New Listings
2 Brm
or Less
3 Brm 4 Brm
or More
$0 - $49,9990101011
$50,000 - $74,999000033
$75,000 - $99,9993126429
$100,000 - $119,999397191448
$120,000 - $139,9997168311599
$140,000 - $159,999611304724157
$160,000 - $179,9991122296225231
$180,000 - $199,999735297112189
$200,000 - $219,99943438768175
$220,000 - $239,99912341655176
$240,000 - $259,99911829489131
$260,000 - $279,99921232461144
$280,000 - $299,9992101931299
$300,000 - $349,99902058785159
$350,000 - $399,9990844521121
$400,000 - $449,999041923163
$450,000 - $499,999001212062
$500,000 - $749,9991231340116
$750,000 or Over0088099
Total Units482264367101292,112
Average Price$179,315$223,802$299,656$267,375$174,456$310,578
Dollar Volume$8,607,130$50,579,335$130,650,076$189,836,541$22,504,939$655,941,783
*Figures in the "New Listings" column are based upon the listing priceof each property. All other data is based upon property's selling price.

Days on Market
1 - 30261
31 - 60153
61 - 90113
91 - 12087
121 or Over208
Days on Market is calculated by counting the days between the Listing Date and the Contract Date (the date the home goes under contract).
Financing Type
Lease Option1
Selling Financing9
Utah Housing1

This information is deemed to be reliable, however WFRMLS does not guarantee accuracy.
This report generator ©1999 Wasatch Front Regional MLS.

Housing Inventory

Utah State government enacted the Home Run program in March, which offers $6000 to buyers of newly constructed homes, in an attempt to draw down the inventory. How's that working out?

According to Jack Healy of the NY Times, nationwide sales are up but inventory is up even more:
The National Association of Realtors reported that the inventory of unsold houses, townhouses and condominiums rose to 3.97 million in April, the highest level since November. At the current rate of sales, it would take 10.2 months to exhaust those unsold properties.
The Deseret News has nothing on the NAR report. Lesley Mitchell of the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Utah home prices are depreciating, but has nothing on inventory.

Unfortunately the Salt Lake Board's statistical reports don't show inventory numbers either. But the monthly report* for April shows 839 units sold, with 2,112 new units listed. I think it's safe to assume that Home Run has struck out, and that if the State Legislature really wants to draw down inventory, they need to expand the program to include existing homes, as a way to draw additional buyers into the market.

(* I'm not sure that link will continue to work. I'll see if I can post a copy of the document.)

(UPDATE 6/15: Yup, the April report got replaced with the May report. It'd be nice if the Salt Lake Board would post archived copies of the report.)

Shurtleff Officially Runs

Reports Reid Wilson and Aaron Blake in The Hill. They point out Bennett isn't quite as vulnerable as Chris Cannon:
Even a Shurtleff campaign poll leaked to The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday showed Bennett with a 71 percent favorable rating among delegates to the nominating convention. Among those delegates, Bennett holds a 38-31 lead.
I'm hoping that the challenge alone will do some good, forcing Bennett to reevaluate his career.

Housing Investment

Brett Arends has an interesting article in the WSJ on long-term home values:
Since 1987, when the Case-Shiller index of 10 major cities begins, it's risen from an index value of 63 to 151. Annual return: Just 4.1% a year. During that period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices rose by 3% a year. Net result: Home prices produced a real return of just 1.15% a year over inflation over that time.
I use 4% to do my personal long-term financial planning. I didn't have any specific reason for that number, the local newspaper suggested the ROI had been 6% for my area and I wanted to be conservative. Maybe I wasn't conservative enough.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wind Dependability

Randall Parker at Futurepundit does some heavy lifting on the North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) 2009 Summer Reliability Assessment:
...on page 52 of the PDF file I espy mention how in the US Midwest in one one grid region at peak demand time (hot summer afternoon) the worst case they've seen with wind generation was only 2% of nameplate capacity. That's pretty bad.
That's just one region, and it's probably a worst-case scenario, but...ouch.

(h/t Instapundit)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oh Please Oh Please Oh Please

Robert Gehrke of the Salt Lake Tribune reports:
In his third term in the Senate, Bob Bennett finds himself in unfamiliar and unfriendly waters, roiled by public frustration with Washington and with at least two sharks circling, believing the Republican senator might be vulnerable.
YES! Sen. Bennett needs to realize he hasn't represented his constituents very well. He needs to recognize that the health care legislation he's sponsoring runs counter to conservative values. He champions earmarks and rejects accountability. Having sold out to the financial industry, he supported TARP before he opposed it.

Time for him to go.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Housing Starts Fall Again

Martin Crutsinger of AP reports:
A modest rebound in single-family home construction in April raised hopes Tuesday that the three-year slide in housing could be bottoming. But with the supply of unsold homes bulging, foreclosures rising and prices falling, no broad recovery is expected until next spring at the earliest.
You know, it's funny: we saw articles yesterday (Bloomberg) reporting that Q1 housing starts would rise, and this would provide further evidence the recession has bottomed out. But today's crop of articles make little mention of recession.

Nor should they. This little episode shows two areas where reporters need to do a better job:
1. Stop giving so much emphasis to predictions, especially in a volatile climate like the current financial crisis and recession.
2. Separate fact (housing starts gained/fell) from analysis (the economy has therefore recovered/bottomed out/worsened).

UPDATE: Lucia Mutikani of Reuters reports (emphasis mine):
New U.S. housing starts and permits dropped to record lows in April, while retail sales fell last week, according to reports on Tuesday that tempered optimism the nation's recession was drawing to a close.
Here's how she led yesterday's article, predicting good housing start news:
U.S. homebuilder sentiment jumped to its highest level in eight months in May, a private survey showed on Monday, supporting views that the three-year housing slump might be close to an end.
So Monday she thinks the recession will end soon, based on a prediction of increased housing starts. The next day, the prediction turns out (somewhat) inaccurate, and...she tempers her optimism.

Check out this graf from today's article, near the middle:
Analysts said that while the decline in starts suggests the recession has yet to run its course, it should help the housing market work through a huge stock of unsold existing homes and lay the foundation for a recovery from a three-year slump.

"This is essentially a good thing. It means supply will eventually come back in line with demand. Home builders have adopted an appropriate risk aversion stance," said Joseph Brusuelas, an economist at Moody's Economy.com in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Why didn't she report this yesterday? As long as there's a "huge stock of unsold existing homes", who in their right mind thinks housing starts are going to significantly improve?

Also missing from today's or yesterday's article is any acknowledgment of the impending wave of foreclosures due to hit the market this month or next.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Treasury to Regulate Derivatives

Good, someone needs to regulate them. Anne Flaherty of AP reports Pres. Obama wants Treasury to take the job. This was a major flaw in 1999's Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which partially repealed 1933's Glass-Steagal Act. The Glass-Steagal part was fine, removing the barrier between retail and investment banks. Turning the Fed into a "superregulator" overseeing all financial transactions was also a good move. But explicitly exempting security swaps and their derivatives was a very, very bad move. Equally bad was the decision to leave out tighter mortgage standards.

Sen. Gramm and Pres. Clinton have defended GLB, saying it didn't have anything to do with the current financial crisis. They're wrong. By refusing to restrict lending standards, and by refusing to regulate credit default swaps and their derivatives, the stage was set for both the biggest financial boom in recent memory and also the biggest disaster.

So regulation is overdue. But there are some questions to ask before proceeding. First, why Treasury? Why not the Fed? Second, how will this affect securitization? Much of the financial world depends on securitization: slow it down and you slow down global finances. (BTW, I'm not saying that's necessarily bad.)

Third, do we really need to regulate all derivatives? The melt-down sprang almost exclusively from consumer loan derivatives (the notorious credit default swaps and CDO's). I haven't heard that other derivative types (commodities, equities) have caused nearly as much of a problem.

(h/t Insta, who doesn't like the thought of Geithner being in charge of this.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Couldn't Happen to a Better Guy

Senate strips Sen. Specter of committee seniority.

Wonder what this does to his election prospects.

Update: John Hinderaker says and asks the same thing, only better and earlier.

More: WaPo reports Specter could recover his seniority next year after midterm elections, but there are no guarantees, and Specter's office isn't responding to questions.

I predict Specter will still win reelection. He's a master survivor, he'll find some way to spin the controversy. He'll be a model Democrat and will continue to send the bacon home to PA.

And Senate Majority Leader Reid comes out the clear winner: he's got a filibuster-proof majority and a former Republican as an indentured servant. Will Pennsylvanians really accept that? I wouldn't, but conclusive medical tests have proven I'm weird that way.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Increase Target Elevation

Brooks Barnes of the NY Times reports:
A lack of hit movies is starting to hit home at the Walt Disney Company...

The normal ups and downs of the volatile movie business account for some of the decline. Last year’s results were buoyed by juggernauts like “Enchanted” and “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” and “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets.”
Enchanted is a fine movie, but "juggernaut"? Along with Hannah Montana and National Treasure? Ugh. If Disney makes better movies, it'll be because they've actually elevated their sights, not because they've made more over-marketed, underwritten duds like Hannah Montana and National Treasure.

Also interesting to note Barnes didn't mention Wall-E, Disney's real 2008 blockbuster. Oh, and as for the "normal ups and downs", I predict Disney will be just fine after Up is released this month. Hmm, I wonder if Disney is considering promoting John Lasseter to head all their movies, not just animation.

Rangel Is Rich

AP reports Pres. Obama wants to eliminate tax deferrals for overseas profits. Not sure, but if it goes through I believe the U.S. would be the only developed nation with such a law.

Meanwhile, Rep. Charlie Rangel had this to say about the proposal:
For too long, our tax laws have rewarded companies that invest and keep their money overseas and turned a blind eye to the use of tax havens by the wealthy.
This from the same dude that put his money in the Dominican Republic, and didn't even pay taxes on it there, let alone in the U.S.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Test In Which I Figure Out Tables In Blogger


A ha! The issue is line breaks. Blogger is adding BR elements when I enter a hard return. So the secret is to not put any hard returns in the table's html.

Easiest way to deal with it is to write the html first with hard breaks, such that the table structure is good, then remove the hard breaks.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Web Comics and Mondays

I don't buy into that "Monday Blues" thing. At all. Weekends are every bit as busy as week days, so the shift from Sunday to Monday isn't that big a deal.

Given that, look at the posting schedules for web comics. Here, I've prepared a handy chart of the web comics I read regularly...
See a pattern? Every web comic posts on Mondays! Why is that? I understand why the dailies (Sheldon) and week-dailies (PVP, Evil, Starslip) would all post on Monday, but why the others?

Seems like a traffic opportunity to me: someone oughta start posting a weekly on Tuesdays.

(BTW, I couldn't find a good way to add links to each line in the table, so here they are...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bank of America, Merrill, and Questions

Apparently I'm not the only one wondering about those revelations that Bank of America was pressured into buying Merrill Lynch.

But my questions are pretty basic compared to what's being asked now. Donald Luskin and others are starting to wonder if TARP might not be altogether illegal.

(h/t Insta)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Who Is James Wood?

He's director of the University of Utah Bureau of Business and Economic Research. SL Trib articles have quoted him twice in the last month.

First he told Rebecca Walsh "What we don't know is how many people [the Home Run program is] going to bring into the market that would not otherwise be in the market." Then he told Lesley Mitchell that Daybreak is unique. "It's a true mixed use project, where you have a range of residential options as well as commercial choices," he said.

I think he's right about the Home Run program. Handing out $6000 checks won't do anything to stimulate new home sales, it just diverts buyers from existing homes.

The Daybreak comment sounds like paid testimony. Daybreak isn't the first mixed use project in Salt Lake, and it's not even a particularly good one.

Bank of America: Stable or Not?

This Bloomberg article confuses me.

  1. Federal regulators didn't like BoA's earnings and dividends, worrying BoA wouldn't be able to raise capital.
  2. Regulators suggested cut their dividend from $.32 to $.05 per share.
  3. The Fed pressured BoA to buy Merrill-Lynch, which they did in December.
  4. BoA lost $1.79B in Q4 '08.
  5. Merrill lost more than $15B.
  6. I don't know how much of that gets attributed to BoA's books, but it must be more than $1.79B.

It looks to me like BoA was on track to profit in Q4, and the Merrill acquisition pulled them down. If so, then BoA didn't really need a bailout at all. So some questions:

  1. If regulators were worried about BoA's stability, why pressure them to buy Merrill and take on more instability?
  2. If BoA hadn't bought Merrill, would they have needed any TARP money?
  3. Why not just prop up Merrill directly? I understand the desire to appear "capitalist", but nationalizing Merrill strikes me as less intervention than TARP.
Clearly I'm missing something.

Marriage Abandoned

HotAir's Greenroom has a compilation of several posts on the subject of marriage. The takeaway:
for my fellow Christian conservatives: we haven’t got a moral leg to stand on. Our divorce rate is identical to the national average. We allow our churches to be used as elaborate stage sets for bridezilla productions, often with just pro forma premarital counseling or sometimes none at all. When our fellow church members get divorced, we do not counsel them adequately. We fail to create a culture of marriage in our youth and twenty-somethings. We have shown massive disrespect for marriage. When we demand others respect it, it’s not surprising that we’re not taken seriously.
That's pretty strong, but I think it's on target.

I've often made a similar point, that you can't condemn gay sex as a sin and then wink at fornication and adultery. Who you choose as a partner isn't the issue. The commandments forbid sex outside marriage. I can see where this might be an argument in favor of gay marriage, but the commandments also include "multiply and replenish the earth."

If two lovers want to formalize their relationship, I've got no problem with that. If they want to tell people they're married, that's fine too. But I don't believe it's marriage, and I don't think I should be forced vis-a-vis state or Federal law to accept it as such.

Editing Posts

It's getting harder and harder to resist editing old posts. Take this para for example...
When you consider the number of collectors you have to build, as well as the number of power lines, solar looks a lot less environmentally attractive. The space-based solution goes a long way to neutralizing that issue.
Not as clear as I would like. I'd edit it this way (which I'm sure I'll want to re-edit in the future)...
When you consider how many collectors and power lines are really needed, solar looks a lot less environmentally attractive. The space-based solution goes a long way to overcoming this issue.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

If Anyone Still Doesn't Understand the Tea Party Protests...

...this is what they're about.

And judging by what I see on Fox, CNN and MSNBC, there's a lot of pundits out there who only think they understand the protests.

Attention all journalists and pundits: just because you found a few citizen protesters who couldn't express their views in front of a camera doesn't mean they don't have good reason to protest.

Attention Fox news: stop gravy training. We all know you don't give a crap about real politics, you only care about advertising revenue.

Friday, April 17, 2009

UML on Linux

Why is it so hard to find a decent UML diagram tool for Linux? Dia is difficult to use. ArgoUML's class diagram is okay, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to add a type to objects in the sequence diagram. And it's unhelpfully weighted down with namespaces, named collaborations, and packages. I don't care about that stuff, I just want to draw a simple diagram.

Visio isn't that hot either, but it used to be, before MSFT got their mitts on it. Why can't I have something like that? I suppose it's because I haven't written it for myself yet.

Salt Lake Tea Party Round-up

I've got a number of photos to post from the Salt Lake Tea Party protest at the Federal office building. But Notoriously Conservative has already posted his here. He's also posted videos of Bishop, Chaffetz, and Shurtleff addressing the crowd.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Solar Power from Orbit

So beamed solar power has been discussed for a while, but it's never been more than science fiction. It still hasn't happened, but according to MSNBC.com it's looking...imminent.

Sounds like a great technology to me, but with some caveats. The collectors would be very high efficiency (no atmosphere to deal with), but the capital expense must be enormous. Especially since they'd need to be deployed higher than most satellites (I would guess near or higher than geosynchronous, which is ~38000km), otherwise they'd suffer the same nighttime occlusion that plagues earthbound solar collectors.

Oh, and while collection would enjoy high efficiency, transmission would still have to deal with atmospheric effects. Also, transmitting megawatts through the atmosphere is bound to have side effects (I would think the heat bloom would be substantial), but maybe they've got a solution for that.

Edit: Meant to quote this...
Unlike ground-based solar arrays, space satellites could generate power 24 hours a day, unaffected by cloudy weather or Earth's day-night cycle. The capacity factor for a ground-based solar is typically less than 25 percent. In contrast, the capacity factor for a power-generating satellite is expected to be 97 percent, Marshall said.
That's the issue that virtually all solar power promoters elide. They focus on max power production, and ignore the average, not realizing that the nature of solar power and Earth's curvature require you to provision two to three times as much solar generation as you would coal- or gas-based.

When you consider the number of collectors you have to build, as well as the number of power lines, solar looks a lot less environmentally attractive. The space-based solution goes a long way to neutralizing that issue.

(And yes, I realize the article says solar's capacity factor is less than 25 percent, suggesting you'd have to build four to five times as much solar capacity. That would be true if power consumption were uniformly distributed over the 24 hours in a day. But power consumption falls significantly at night, meaning nighttime areas wouldn't be drawing as much, requiring less power capacity.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Google Addresses the Newspaper Industry

Apparently I wasn't the only one confused by yesterday's attack on Google and other news aggregators. WSJ reports that Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, addressed the Newspaper Association's annual convention today:
Mr. Schmidt noted that Google has a multi-million dollar deal to host AP content on its pages. He added that he was "a little confused by all the excitement" in the media following the AP announcement on Monday. Mr. Schmidt, however, did not directly address the AP's initiative.
How could he directly address it? It didn't include any concrete proposals. If anything, it was an acknowledgment of how far behind the times newspapers have fallen.

I'm not sure I want Google owning any more of the news business than they currently do, but newspapers should pay attention to Schmidt's message. They need some deep thinking on how their business will evolve onto the web, and they need it soon.

Mortgage Delinquencies Up Again

Reuters reports 7 percent of mortgages are more than 30 days past due, as reported by Equifax. The article doesn't mention the other credit agencies.

Equifax also reports 39.8 percent of sub-prime mortgage have fallen past due, up 23.7 percent from year.

Whoa, wait a minute: forty percent of sub-primes are delinquent?! And that's up 24 percent from last year? That means one in six sub-primes were delinquent in Q1 '08. How was this not a major problem? Why didn't we hear about it? How could anyone think sixteen percent delinquency was anything but a bad risk? And yet the GSE's, Countrywide, AIG, and the rest of the financial industry were trading derivatives of these loans as AAA investments!

Is anyone asking about this now? In all the talk about financial regulation, what's being done about sub-primes?

Edit: Fixed a spelling error in the title (grr).

Democrats May Be Smarter than Republicans

A.P. reports Roger Pearson, Democrat from Connecticut, is considering a run against Sen. Dodd in 2010. Pearson is unhappy with Dodd's handling of the finance crisis. He also has some sharp things to say about Dodd's ethics.

Pearson hasn't announced an official run yet, and it's far too soon to tell how well he would do in a primary against Dodd. But if he does defeat Dodd, then you have to give Connecticut Democrats credit for being smarter than Alaskan Republicans, who re-nominated Sen. Stevens amidst his recent corruption scandal and after he had been indicted. Stevens' case is now being thrown out, but it's good he lost his re-election bid: he's among the most corrupt scumbags that ever walked the Senate floor. Had Alaskan Republicans been principled, they would have replaced Stevens much earlier. Or if they had even been smart, they would have replaced him in 2008, and would have had a much better chance of holding that seat.

(h/t Insta)

Monday, April 6, 2009

A.P. vs. Web Aggregators

From the New York Times:
The Associated Press said on Monday that it will demand that Web sites obtain permission to use the work of The A.P. or its member newspapers, and share revenue with the news organizations, and that it will take legal action those that do not.

Associated Press executives said the policy was aimed at major search engines like Google, Yahoo and their competitors, and also at news aggregators like the Huffington Post, as well as companies that sell packaged news services. They said they do not want to stop the appearance of articles around the Web, but to exercise some control over it and to profit from it. The A.P. also said it is developing a system to track news articles online and determine whether they were used legally.
I'm confused: Are they talking about Google News or the Google search engine? Are they saying the snippets in Google News, HuffPo, and Yahoo News infringe A.P.'s copyright?

And this sounds interesting...
One goal of The A.P. and its members, [Sue Cross, VP of A.P.] said, is to make sure that the top search engine results for news are “the original source or the most authoritative source,” not a site that copied or paraphrased the work of news organization.
I see two ways to read that. Either she thinks Google and Yahoo should be the top-level news producers, or she thinks the news aggregators should modify their indexing algorithms to somehow favor the "news origination" site. I think that means she wants Google News, for example, to be able to somehow identify which news organization (e.g. NYT, WaPo, Podunk Daily News, etc.) originally broke the story and give precedence to their online article. The news aggros might not mind doing that, but does the A.P. even know which organization broke the story, and do they have the source URL? I'm guessing not.

Or is she saying Google's main search engine should weight source organization url's? If so she's crazy. Search engines by definition are site agnostic: a web site is a web site.

Meanwhile, aren't these source organizations already getting paid? Don't you have to pay A.P. to print or post any article? And as part of the deal, don't you have to print the byline? So people already know where the article came from, and can either link through to the source or search for it in (you guessed it) Google?

Alright, I'm still confused.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Summers Overlooks "Frightening" Trades

Really interesting article at TPM about Iris Mack, a former quantitative analyst at Harvard Management Corp., which manages Harvard U.'s huge endowments. She didn't like the way HMC's money managers were trading derivatives, and complained in writing to then-Harvard President Larry Summers. She was accused of making unsubstantiated accusations and subsequently fired. He now serves as Director of the National Economic Council, and provides key economic advice to President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner.

(Edit: h/t Insta.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Return of the One Man "Filibuster"

Jonathan Chait, in an otherwise good TNR article, shows he doesn't understand Senate procedure as well as he thinks he does...
During the same time period, the Senate has developed a new, anonymous one-person filibuster called a "hold."
He's talking about unanimous consent. From the Senate's own glossary:
unanimous consent - A Senator may request unanimous consent on the floor to set aside a specified rule of procedure so as to expedite proceedings. If no Senator objects, the Senate permits the action, but if any one Senator objects, the request is rejected. Unanimous consent requests with only immediate effects are routinely granted, but ones affecting the floor schedule, the conditions of considering a bill or other business, or the rights of other Senators, are normally not offered, or a floor leader will object to it, until all Senators concerned have had an opportunity to inform the leaders that they find it acceptable.
In other words, what Chait terms a "hold" is really just an objection to a motion for unanimous consent. That objection can be easily overridden with a regular motion and a regular vote.

Senate leaders have been using unanimous consent to pass more and more legislation. Chait's problem is that a few Senators, led by Sen. Coburn of Oklahoma, have noticed that this procedure is being used to pass stealth pork: pet spending bills that they don't want debated on the Senate floor. Sen. Coburn and his allies have been reviewing each motion and objecting to the more egregious stuff, thus preventing their passage via unanimous consent. Some have characterized this as a filibuster, but as noted above it's easily overridden: the non-unanimous bills need only be presented on the floor for a straight vote (at which point they become subject to debate and, possibly, a real filibuster, but that's another discussion). In fact, Majority Leader Reid got frustrated with Sen. Coburn objecting to his pork, and bundled several bills into the so-called "Coburn Omnibus", planning to ram them through a floor session. Republicans banded together to filibuster the bill, and it failed, but if the bills hadn't been such obvious pork they probably would have passed. (I believe some of the more widely-supported measures were in fact reintroduced earlier this year and passed, but not by unanimous consent).

Eliminating the so-called one-man "filibuster" would gut the nature of unanimous consent. Imagine what it would be like if the Senate leadership could make any motion and, without debate or even a floor hearing, pass it over the objection of any Senator.

I don't think that's what Chait had in mind. He should study up on Senate procedure before calling for any more reforms to the uanimous consent rule.

"Home Run" Follow-Up

We had two couples looking at the house last week. Both seemed very interested. One couple in particular liked our features: open layout, two-car garage, great location, decent size yard. They, and the other couple, bought newly constructed homes.

Atta boy Gov. Huntsman. And thank you State Legislature. Mission accomplished: you diverted a buyer from an existing home to a newly constructed home. You saved another fat cat construction company from going out of business...for about one week.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Home Run" Housing in Utah

On March 19, Utah Gov. Huntsman signed SB 260, authorizing 1600 "Home Run" grants to new home buyers. The state will pay a $6000 grant to those purchasing a new home. The grant is paid at closing, and is only applicable to newly-constructed, never-occupied homes. Total cost of the program is $10 million, paid out of Pres. Obama's federal stimulus package.

How will this help the economy? The idea is to encourage home buying while clearing the glut of new houses. Once the glut is clear, developers will start building again, thus employing all those out-of-work construction workers.

Some problems with this plan...
1. Whether or not the plan helps buyers is premised on the notion that a $6000 grant will lower home prices. How do we know that will happen? What's to stop sellers from raising their prices, and simply using the grant as a hollow sales incentive? Car manufacturers have been using "rebates" for years to the same effect: jack up the invoice price and offer a rebate to fool the suckers into thinking they're getting a good deal. The plan seems to have plenty of safeguards on the buyer side of the transaction, but hardly any on the seller side. It's plausible that the plan won't help buyers much at all.

2. Six thousand seems like a lot, but when it comes to home prices it's really not. First, it's paid at closing. I don't know if it can be used for down payment or closing costs. But even if it is, it won't reduce the monthly mortgage payments. That's the critical factor in home affordability, since income-to-debt ratio is the major risk component. You may have more money in your pocket after closing, but the bank's not going to care about that, and it won't affect your monthly payments one bit. This means the plan will do nothing to increase the number of buyers.

3. What it will do is shift buyers away from existing homes to new homes. While the $6000 grant won't affect monthly payments, it will reduce the overall cost of the mortgage. Given two otherwise equally attractive houses, the $6000 will invariably tilt the buyer towards the new home, leaving existing homeowners stuck.

4. The glut was caused by overleveraged builders who needed to keep building (and selling) to stay in business (see for example the Traverse Mountain, Suncrest, Daybreak, and Eagle Mountain developments). They ignored falling indicators and kept building, gambling that the economy would return to "normal". They lost, and got stuck with unsellable inventories.

5. Given the opportunity, they'll do it again. As smart as they may be, these are not wise people. Good businessmen don't waste millions planning an 8000 unit development without a fallback plan. These are not good businessmen.

The market is forcing these companies out of business. That's a good thing. As they go out of business, the empty homes and lots will be forced into auction, where they will be sold at cut-rate prices. Catch that? Prices on the oversupply will fall all by themselves, and the inventory will clear itself. At that point the only builders left standing will be the good businessmen. They'll be more than happy to provide whatever new homes are needed at that point.

Granted the oversupply will continue to exert a downward pressure on prices. But that's good, since the market as a whole has been irrationally overpriced for years, and needs a correction.

This plan attempts to prop up new home builders at the expense of existing home sellers. To sell their homes, existing homeowners will have to lower their list prices to compete with the subsidized new home prices. But few buyers will be savvy enough to see the difference--how can anyone, let alone a new buyer, truly determine the absolute price value of something as subjective as a house? Buyers will thus be lured away by the prospect of a $6000 check, and existing home sellers will be left on the market.

And yet the plan will ultimately fail at its primary objective. It will NOT stimulate new home construction. The foolish home builders are going out of business. $10 million in subsidies won't keep them afloat, and will instead be passed on to their creditors. The smart home builders, who have the wherewithal to survive, will raise their prices and pocket the difference, waiting for the recession to end before committing to new home construction.

It's clear to me that this plan is 100% corporate welfare. It's sponsor, State Sen. Scott Jenkins of Weber, lists on his official conflict of interest disclosure "Construction industry" [sic]. And according to the Salt Lake Tribune, it was Clark Ivory, CEO of the state's largest homebuilder, that originally suggested the plan.

Full disclosure: my home has been on the market since November. I've lowered the price once, and I'm considering lowering it again. With this new plan in place, I will almost certainly have to lower the price or risk being on the market for many more months.

Dodd Under Fire

A combination of scandals have rocked Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). He's looking less and less likely to survive his reelection campaign next year.

But it's important to note that prominent Republicans on the Senate Banking committee are likely to have many of the same problems. Since 2003, the ranking Republican, Sen. Shelby of Alabama, has received over $90000 in campaign contributions from Citigroup, and thousands more from Price Waterhouse, JPMorgan, and other financial institutions. He's also received $37,500 from Cerberus Capital Management, which is a private investment company (i.e. hedge fund).

The second ranking Republican, Sen. Bennett of Utah, has since 2003 received over $200,000 from financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, American Express, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and, most notoriously, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In fact, Sen. Bennett is the 7th largest recipient of Freddie Mac donations for 2008.

Dodd's problems have been largely of his own making. But many of those problems would have gone unnoticed without journalistic digging. Who knows what would happen if journalists started digging at Shelby, Bennett, and others? If Republicans really want to shed the corruption label, they need to clean house, starting with some of their most senior members.

(h/t Instapundit for the Dodd links)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG and the Financial Bounce

The DJI bounced up again today, almost to 7400. Financial stocks, including Citigroup and Bank of America, continue to do well.

As far as I know, Citi and BoA haven't accounted for their success. For all I know they could in fact be following a high-risk path to profitability.

But I just thought of another explanation. We know AIG made billion dollar payments to domestic and foreign banks. Neither Citi nor BoA have been mentioned as counterparties, but this BusinessWeek article does list Merrill Lynch, which is now part of BoA. The article goes on to point out that much of these payments will likely be passed on to other domestic banks.
Adam Lerrick, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, argues that viewing AIG's counterparties as the final beneficiaries of the government bailout is overly simplistic and probably not correct. It would not be unusual for the banks named in the report to have turned around, Lerrick says, and written a second round of contracts with yet other banks, quite possibly different U.S. players such as Merrill Lynch. In today's financial system, Lerrick argues, it would be impossible to be certain that the taxpayer bailout didn't eventually come largely back to supporting other U.S. firms.
If that's true (and I have no reason to doubt it), then I wonder how much of the financial sector's recent profitability derives from these AIG payments, which come from taxpayer-funded bailouts? And if these payments are driving Citi's, BoA's, and others success, can that really be called a profit? Or is it just "give a bank a bailout, and they'll profit for a quarter"?

AIG Outrage

Jim VandeHei covers the uproar at AIG's management bonuses. He thinks White House and Congressional outrage rings hollow, considering how long the bonus plan has been publicly announced (more than one year). He doesn't mention the billions of dollars AIG has paid to foreign banks, nor the billions paid to troubled domestic banks like Goldman Sachs (h/t Instapundit).

This spontaneous outrage reminds me of a Johnny Miller story I heard. Miller was playing in a local pro-am. An amateur golfer in his group was struggling, and every time he made a bad shot, he'd explode with obscenities. This went on for a while, and eventually Miller stopped the outraged amateur mid-rant, and told him, "Look, you're just not a good enough golfer to be that angry."

Are the President, Treasury Secretary, and Congress good enough to be this angry? I don't think so.

Update: Eliot Spitzer points out Goldman's and other banks' double bailout, and then asks some very good questions.

Safety, Danger, and Attention Span

Glenn Reynolds has a good review of Tom Vanderbilt's latest book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). The main point is that added safety features can make us behave more dangerously. He follows a tangent and raises a very interesting point:
This approach could be taken beyond the world of personal transportation. We’re in the current financial mess in part because things that were actually dangerous—from subprime mortgages to risky financial instruments that no one fully understood—felt safe and ordinary. Modern financial markets, with computers, regulations, deposit insurance and bond ratings, felt as routine and as smooth as that four-lane highway in Spain, causing a lot of people who should have been paying attention to doze off. Investors might have been more careful if it had felt like they were driving down a twisty mountain road with no guardrails, especially since we really were engaged in the financial equivalent of high-speed mountain driving, only without the discipline of fear.
I wonder if there isn't some way to make government and the economy feel more dangerous without actually making it more dangerous? Or would this just be like someone setting their clock ahead 10 minutes to avoid being chronically late?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

7-year Old Girl Gets Her Organs Back

USA Today reports the surgery took 23 hours.

Would national health insurance pay for this? Would it really? The McNamaras had to search long and far to find Dr. Kato. Every other doctor told them the tumor was inoperable. On its face, the operation had to be incredibly risky (and expensive).

If national health insurance would pay for this kind of procedure, how would that reduce the cost of health care? Can you reduce health care costs and still keep the miracles?

(h/t Althouse)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Citigroup's Bounce

Citigroup has apparently turned a profit [WaPo] in the first two months of the current year. Binyamin Applebaum of the Washington Post has an interesting follow-up article detailing Citigroup's long history of risk-taking.

Question: The market reacted positively to Citigroup's profit news, but how does anyone outside Citigroup know that those profits are sustainable? Prior to last year, Citi profited while engaging in what is now known to be excessively risky transactions. How do we know they're not engaging in even more risky transactions, trying to gamble their way of their current crisis? Even if their January and February profits were legitimate, what risks are they willing to accept to push their stock price even higher? Is anyone at the Fed, SEC, or Treasury Dept. watching this?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bennett Votes to Keep Earmarks

From a NYT blog...
Nine Republicans voted with Democrats against Mr. McCain’s amendment: Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Robert Bennett of Utah, Christopher Bond of Missouri, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Dude needs to go.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Finally Someone's Serious About Solar

Solar power has a major drawback: it only works part of the day. In most locations, energy production drops significantly after a few hours, and vanishes entirely at night. This means solar can only be used during the day, and therefore cannot be used for primary base generation. There are two strategies for overcoming this problem: store excess energy for use during off-peak hours, or transmit excess energy from areas in peak hours to areas in non-peak hours. Neither strategy has been very feasible--batteries are inefficient, and global(!) transmission lines are prohibitively expensive.

So this is cool: Store solar heat in molten salt. It's not a slam dunk solution, but it's definitely better than anything else anyone's come up with.

(h/t JustOneMinute)

Monday, March 2, 2009

DJI below 7000

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished below 7000 for the first time since 1997. In other words, according to the market, the current crisis has wiped out most of the productivity gains of the dot com era. Way to go bankers, way to go.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Down Payment" on Universal Health Care

Pres. Obama proposes $634 billion for health care reform. No details in this particular article.

This is gonna be tough to oppose. He's ramming it all together as a single budget. If Republicans balk at the whole bill, they'll be accused of obstructionism and undercutting the economy. If they try to excise the most offensive spending (in particular the so-called health care reform), they risk having two or more Senators peeled off as they were for the stimulus.

Nailed It

Joel Stein gets it...
A lot of optimistic people bought houses near the historic height of the market, say November 2005, for absurdly high prices, say $1.12 million, in places like the eastern Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles. These people are very, very sad. Trust me on this. But the sudden drop in housing prices hasn't made it any harder for these people to pay their loans. That's because your home's value is utterly irrelevant until you want to sell it — the same as your baseball cards, Hummel figurines or casual encounters. (See pictures of Americans in their homes.)

The only people affected by plummeting real estate prices are the ones who bought a house that cost more than they could afford, hoping for a spike in value so they could sell at a profit or take out a new loan based on an increased value. Their home wasn't just a place to live; it was an investment they thought they could liquefy at will. If we're saving these poor souls from the 26.7% drop in their investment, we should give twice as much aid to everyone who has lost approximately 50% in the stock market since its peak.

Edit: His little asides are amusing (I wonder who bought that East Hollywood mansion?), but they undercut the message.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sub-Prime Loans Redux

From the Wall Street Journal...
Existing borrowers who may not qualify for Fan/Fred refinancing can still receive loan modifications that move their mortgage payments down to 31% of monthly income. In either case, no effort will be made to verify that recipients of aid were truthful on their original mortgage applications. Given that mortgage fraud skyrocketed during the housing boom, and that the Obama Administration intends to assist up to nine million troubled borrowers, we can say with certainty that the unscrupulous will be among those rescued.
In fact, the program encourages mortgage servicers to keep the payments low only for five years, after which rates will rise. During the housing bubble, these were called "teaser" rates. Modifications also may extend the term of, say, a 30-year mortgage to 40 years, but still leave the borrower underwater. Research at Credit Suisse suggests that borrowers without equity are not a good bet to stay current. What research cannot answer is how many people will seek assistance when they are told that a new federal program is available to cut their mortgage bill.

No doc loans? Check. Teaser/adjustable rates? Check. 40-year loans? Check.

This plan perpetuates the sub-prime loans that triggered the crisis!

Is there any way to keep these borrowers in their homes without a sub-prime? If not, why are we trying to keep them in their homes? That's just kicking the problem down the street!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Housing Plan Newspaper Coverage

Both the Times and the Post have stories on President Obama's housing bailout plan, but neither of them fronts it on their home pages. Instead they're fronting stories on, among others, Pres. Obama's upcoming Canada trip, stem cell funding, and Senator Burris. All important stories, but are they really as important as the housing bailout?

Monday, February 9, 2009


Google needs to blacklist Scribd. The site is unusable, and yet it consistently shows up high in Google search results.

When I search Google, I'm searching for web sites, not PDF's.


From the New York Times, this para caught my attention...
This “tug and pull,” as Mr. Axelrod called it, has presented a challenge because the president is intent on getting his arms around the enormous problems facing the nation. The political instincts that served Mr. Obama well in his campaign faced new tests after he conceded last week that he had made a mistake by pushing the nomination of Tom Daschle to champion health care.

So Pres. Obama wants to understand the nation's problems, but doesn't have time because he has to go stump for the so-called "stimulus". One might say (simplistically) that he's selling solutions rather than solving problems.

This is what has always scared me about Pres. Obama: that in any real crisis, he would rely primarily on his personal charisma rather than any fundamental problem-solving ability. Granted charisma is a fine asset, and can be used to foster cooperation and unity. But that's not what's needed now. Pres. Obama allowed Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to drive the stimulus bill, and their incompetence ruined it. Now the President is stuck selling a lemon. Can he do it?

I hope not.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Krugman on Health Care

Says the laureate...
The whole world is in recession. But the United States is the only wealthy country in which the economic catastrophe will also be a health care catastrophe — in which millions of people will lose their health insurance along with their jobs, and therefore lose access to essential care.

Has he never heard of COBRA? The program that lets the unemployed keep their health insurance for eighteen months or until they find a new job?

Or is he ignoring it in a bald attempt to advance a political agenda? Either way he doesn't look too intelligent, let alone persuasive.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kennedy Withdraws Her Name

Says Andrew Malcolm.

Good. But it would have been better if Gov. Paterson had rejected her immediately and publicly.

(h/t Insta)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sens. Bennett and Hatch Oppose Further Bailout

Matt Canham of the SL Trib reports Hatch and Bennett both oppose releasing the remaining $350B of TARP, even though they both supported the program last year. Says Bennett...
I strongly supported the economic rescue plan in October because we were facing a total collapse of the world's financial markets within days; it was a true emergency and we averted that collapse. Now, there is not the emergency we had before.

How does he know TARP prevented collapse? Last I checked, no one knows how the money was actually used.

Meanwhile Treasury Secretary Paulson says the remaining $350B is needed for "bank capital programs" (Reuters). Bennett stood by Paulson when TARP was originally passed, why isn't he standing by him now?

I smell politics.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cost of Savings

I don't know who Sudeep Reddy is, but this para he wrote doesn't seem very bright...
For individuals, an appropriate saving rate depends largely on circumstances. Those nearing retirement, of course, have the biggest incentive to save. Everyone else should have six months to a year of liquid savings in case of job loss, say personal finance experts.

So until you're near retirement (55? 60? 64?), you only need to save twelve months' worth of cash. Wow. I really hope those "personal finance experts" are just Mr. Reddy's drinking buddies, and not real professionals giving that advice to real people.