April 18, 2010

Sympathy for a vampire squid

Been catching up with the Goldman's Case. I find Henry Blodget pretty persuasive.

Even if there was material non-disclosure outside industry norms tantamount to guilt in a civil case, the whole thing seems trivial unless part of a much vaster scam. Client (Paulson) asks GS to create a product to short the housing market, client proposes elements for the product, more than half those elements not selected by industry expert (Abacus) to compose the product, Abacus itself goes a billion long the product alongside other deep-pocket sophisticates including GS itself which loses $90m on it, then after the trade goes bad Abacus et al complain to the SEC that Goldman committed fraud by not naming Paulson as a short seller. Bollocks on stilts.

From what I've seen so far this is a purely political case which is wilfully financially illiterate. Matt Taibbi, a left-wing journalist on Rolling Stone, famously wrote:
The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money
but even he thinks this is about politics.

You know, this strikes me as a dumb move even by Obama's standards. The whole liberal project has flourished from the support of Wall Street Jews, many from Goldman Sachs, and Hollywood Jews. I know it's always tempting for demagogues to throw the Jew down the well (Borat reference, but the clip is boring) and Obama's doing his damnedest to throw Israel down the well and I know that the true religion of many American Jews is liberalism, but even they, even the liberal Jews in Hollywood, Wall Street, New Jersey and New York, must start to get what really animates Obama (and Obama's supporters and mentors like Wright and Farrakhan and Sharpton). Obama is trying to play America as tho America were an ignorant crowd of victim culture voters in Chicago. I'm not sure who Obama's friends will be once he's alienated the Jews, the Press, Middle America, Democrats in Congress, the Supreme Court. Blacks don't count since they vote monolithically for Obama already. Hispanics? I don't think so. They're not monolithic in politics and most have conservative family values.

Goldman can win this one and the rest of capitalism, Jewish, Hispanic, black or blue, should line up with them. Also significant will be Obama's increasing isolation. Hey, New York, how do you like who you voted for? He wants to screw your biggest industry, he wants to screw your tax base, he wants to try KSM in Downtown Manhattan for a couple of years. Happy?

Cramer too:

April 16, 2010

Lava saga

I'm scheduled to fly to Iceland a week from now, but all UK flights and many others are halted by the ash blown across from a second, much bigger eruption:

Vulcanologists are concerned about further, giganticker eruptions as the subterranean magma rivers gurgle around from volcano to volcano. I certainly don't want Iceland to blow up entirely before I've been and gone. After all I rather approve of the Icelanders telling the UK and Netherlands "can't pay, won't pay" in relation to their busted banks; they should just pay what they promised on the sticker to guarantee, as they've agreed, not induce further moral hazard by bailing out the improvident.

Here's a shot from my trip 3 years ago of the mountain that's presently erupting:

This is the mid-Atlantic rift shown near the site of the world's oldest parliament:

You'd expect such weird geology to make an island rather numinous. Here's the sort of thing the Icelandic numina get up to:

Now I'm on a roll, so I'll re-post a poem from my last visit:
Rhubarb's a stem and not a fruit,
Prunes and muesli make you toot,
But snorchestras will drown out wind.
Allegedly (I'm not convinced)
Box jellyfish aren't jellyfish and
Greenland is further east than Iceland.
A Minister of Elvish Matters
Defines the routes of roads and detours.
Dottirs and ssons of Irish slaves
Kill foxes, whales, whatever moves,
And there's a certain charm in grimness,
Tax evasion, drunken primness,
Strapping horses, strapping women.
Real men who smell of fish and semen.
Volcanic science,
Car-mangling giants,
Fire and ice,
I think it's nice.

An albatross called Romneycare

Romneycare and Obamacare are the same thing and that thing is socialism. "The individual mandate", ie compulsory health insurance, is an unconstitutional outrage.

Now when you're a conservative governor of a lib-leaning state it's pretty tough to stay ideologically pure, but that's not the standard here. There are some lines that shouldn't be crossed.

Romneycare does have mitigation. There's a profound difference between a state law and a federal law and Romneycare is a somewhat coherent, bi-partisan expression of the will of the voters of Massachusetts rather than the stinking crap sandwich with which Obama is choking an unwilling America, but there's no getting round the point that Romney implemented a technocratic solution to a problem that is primarily and rightly ideological. Moreover judged by technocratic criteria of medical provision and economy, Romneycare run by Deval Patrick and the Democrats is an utter flop:
The system is riddled with waste, and quality of care is uneven. Government health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid threaten future generations with an enormous burden of debt and taxes. Given these pressures, the temptation for a quick fix is understandable.

But, as Massachusetts has shown us, mandating insurance, restricting individual choice, expanding subsidies, and increasing government control isn’t going to solve those problems. A mandate imposes a substantial cost in terms of individual choice but is almost certainly unenforceable and will not achieve its goal of universal coverage. Subsidies may increase coverage, but will almost always cost more than projected and will impose substantial costs on taxpayers. Increased regulations will drive up costs and limit consumer choice.

The answer to controlling health care costs and increasing access to care lies with giving consumers more control over their health care spending while increasing competition in the health care marketplace - not in mandates, subsidies, and regulation. That is the lesson we should be drawing from the failure of RomneyCare.

Adamscare by the way is: No government involvement in healthcare other than as a safety net for children and those who put themselves at risk for the public good. The most obvious outcome will be healthier, happier, richer citizens, but the most satisfying outcome will be that liberals will no longer get to feel good about themselves by giving away my money.

So where does this leave Romney? Is he viable? Yes he is. He's a strong executive when America is sick from communityorganizerocracy, the swing voter doesn't care so much about ideology and every candidate has major difficulties in their record. Those fade if the candidate looks electorally attractive at the national level.

April 15, 2010

A good-looking ticket

I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Romney-Palin, 2012", so I'm glad that Palin seems open to it. Looks, fertility, life experience, sunniness, energy .... versus what? Obama/Biden - desiccated phonies with no experience of business or middle America who apologize for America's past and exude pessimism about America's future; the culture of life v the culture of death.

Bring it on.

April 14, 2010

The Age of Obama

For someone whose boyhood was punctuated by the latest marvel of space travel from Sputnik on, this is pretty poignant. The signatories' names have almost mythical weight:
"America’s only path to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station will now be subject to an agreement with Russia to purchase space on their Soyuz (at a price of over 50 million dollars per seat with significant increases expected in the near future) until we have the capacity to provide transportation for ourselves. The availability of a commercial transport to orbit as envisioned in the President’s proposal cannot be predicted with any certainty, but is likely to take substantially longer and be more expensive than we would hope.

"It appears that we will have wasted our current ten plus billion dollar investment in Constellation and, equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded.

For The United States, the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future, destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature. While the President's plan envisages humans traveling away from Earth and perhaps toward Mars at some time in the future, the lack of developed rockets and spacecraft will assure that ability will not be available for many years.

Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity. America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal.

Neil Armstrong

Commander, Apollo 11

James Lovell

Commander, Apollo 13

Eugene Cernan

Commander, Apollo 17

New New Jersey

I pay property taxes in New Jersey and my youngest children go to public school there. The school's very decent and I'm on good terms with a lovely Ghanaian-American teacher who did a fine job with one of my girls. She's liked me since I read Rikki Tikki Tavi with relish to her class in my weird English accent and I was glad to set up a website for her. She's a major Obama supporter, but I keep my nose clean on that score. The admirable head teacher is discreetly homosexual, so, what with Obama pix in classes, pc prohibitions on Christmas, unionization, overly protective rules against letting children outside in cold weather and so on, there's plenty of scope for societal collapse. In fact the school does a good job overall.

Recently my wife was sent a petition against school staffing cuts by a parent who had voted for Chris Christie. That's the power of socialist propaganda. Governor Christie will need to do a terrific job of communication to overcome this most fearsome special interest - the teachers' union. I was struck by this comment in Powerline:
if he somehow faces down the teachers' union, he may have a Calvin Coolidge kind of sequel in store.
Coolidge was perhaps the best president in the twentieth century and made his name by facing down the Boston police union when Governor of Massachusetts. Here's Christie at work:

If I were stiffing a creditor for trillions, I'd bow too

Here's how it looks from China:
Krugman accused China of "engaging in massive capital export - artificially creating a huge deficit in China's capital account". China is running a current account surplus with the US, which by definition means that China is exporting capital to the US. In my view, the most important reason why China should not run a current account surplus consistently against the US is simply because China is one of the poorest countries in the world, and should not engaging in financing the consumption binge of the richest country in the world.
China is running "twin surpluses" - current and capital account surpluses. It means that while importing capital in the form of FDI and foreign debts with high costs, it exports capital in the form of piling up greenbacks and US treasuries with low yields or no yields at all. By doing so, China has been engaging in a massive wealth transfer to the US. How could Krugman argue that China is "making everyone else poorer"?
The losses incurred in financial transactions between China and the US could be trivial compared with the capital losses China may suffer in the future. China has parked its savings in the US treasures while US fiscal debt ratio has been surging. Following the upcoming structural changes such as aging, China will run down its foreign exchange reserves sooner or later. A very big question for China is: When it needs to redeem its treasuries, can America honor its debt obligations?
History may show that China is the biggest victim of the post-Bretton Woods international monetary system, a system of the dollar standard. Under this system, everything hinges on the integrity of the American government and the Fed, or the speed of their printing press. The American government and the Fed have let down those who have trust in them.
For its own sake, China should stop further piling up greenbacks massively.
Yu Yongding, president of the China Society for World Economics.

April 04, 2010

A smashing idea

Here is a detail of the London Underground Map:

The yellow line is The Circle Line. And that gives rise to this story:

Hadron Collider II planned for Circle Line
By Steve Connor

London Underground is in talks with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) about the possibility of using the 23km tunnel of the Circle Line to house a new type of particle accelerator similar to the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.

Particle physicists believe the existing tunnel can be adapted to take a small-scale "atom smasher" alongside the passenger line at a fraction of the cost of building a new tunnel elsewhere in Europe. They are understood to have approached London Underground with a view to announcing a feasibility study later this year.

Specialist engineers commissioned by Cern have already produced a preliminary report, seen by The Independent, which proposes installing supercooled magnets and collision detectors at strategic positions on the Circle Line. The main collision experiment will be sited at the newly refurbished Westminster Station, directly below Portcullis House, the offices of more than 200 MPs.

Although there are still considerable technical problems to overcome, such as a geo-magnetic "kink" in the circuitry at Edgware Road station, Cern is quietly confident that it will be able to convince London Underground of the merits of the scheme, which should result in the first air-conditioned underground line as a spin-off of installing supercooled magnets below ground.

The idea was initially mooted in the mid-1980s as an alternative site to the 27km tunnel below Geneva but the idea was dropped. Now, with improvements in technology and miniaturisation of the equipment, Cern believes it can build a successor to the Large Hadron Collider within the Circle line by 2020.

It would mean that two beams of protons would be travelling in clockwise and counterclockwise directions at 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light, within feet of Circle line passengers stuck in perpetual immobility.

However, health and safety advisers to London Underground are understood to be concerned about the proposal, and have raised the prospect of a mini black hole being created at Westminster when the two proton beams collide to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang.

A spokesman for London Underground said the proposal is not as foolish as it first seems: "It has merits."

Dateline 1 April 2010

This would be pretty convenient for a member of my tribe who is completing a Physics PhD just up the road from a Circle Line station.

April 02, 2010

Political fragments

I was asked this by a super-intelligent young lady whom I accuse of being brainwashed into her illiberal liberalism:
Btw, I'd be genuinely interested to read your manifesto if you're willing to engage in debate without using ad hominem arguments or suggesting I'm brainwashed.

I'd be particularly interested to hear how your system deals with natural monopolies (air traffic, transport, broadband, post, police, courts, army)
and things that affect the vulnerable (health care for poor children/parents, education) and whether you legislate for and enforce laws around things like farming of animals, insider trading.
So I dashed off this fragment:
Air traffic - not a natural monopoly.
transport - ditto.
broadband - ditto
post- ditto

If you're thinking of the 'pipeline' for broadband, water, power, etc as a natural monopoly then one way to handle it is as it's done now - combination of public regulator and private franchisee monopolist, but it's a technical rather than political question.

Air traffic control may be a natural monopoly and should be state regulated tho privately run perhaps.

Courts should be in the public sector, but have become corrupted by social engineers in the Anglosphere, cf atrocities like Roe v Wade, atrocious for it's substance, yes, but intellectually atrocious as having no basis in law other than an invented right to privacy which is then tendentiously extended to the right of a mother to kill her baby as tho any of the Framers would have contemplated anything of the sort.

Police should be in the public sector probably, tho not necessarily. Again control by social engineers has been disastrous.

Army ditto.

The question is not whether a private corporation runs something, but who appropriately regulates that corporation - the free market or the state. The principle is that all activities should be free from state interference other than enforceability of voluntary contracts.

The exceptions should be few and have compelling ideological or practical justification such as 'the state should have the monopoly of force' or 'children must be protected.'

The reason for that is ideological - freedom is an absolute good - and practical - the government is sometimes useless, but more often worse than useless at effecting good results. It has neither the skills nor the correct motivation. Your suggestion that the answer to that is better government has been so comprehensively disproved in practice and theory, in history and in the present, all over the world and probably on Jupiter, that it takes cognitive dissonance to persist with it.

Children are the reason for society to exist and should be protected consistent with minimal displacement of the family by the state.

Other animals should be protected by law. Factory farming and vivisection should be crimes. How to get from here to there is discussable, but that's what 'there' looks like.

Insider trading is fine providing everyone knows it might happen and there are no voluntary contracts - eg contracts of employment - to bar it. Risks are far more manageable when they are in the open.

I'd add that anybody should be sackable for any reason and there should be no state healthcare other than fallback provision for children and those injured in the front line of military service.

Yes the government should ensure that water is clean and power stations don't blow up.

This will sound ruthless to you, but the outcomes are much better spiritually, politically and practically except IN ONE RESPECT: it doesn't allow liberals to feel good about themselves at others' expense. But that's not a bug, it's a feature.

April 01, 2010

Our local public library in London, SE1

Public libraries were central to my developement. I'd go down every single shelf, picking out books to skim for utterly subjective reasons. The green and red Loeb Classics for example will be in my heavenly library, just because of the Greek or Latin text directly opposite the translation. Anyway it's been decades since I've been in a UK pubic library, so I sidled warily into John Harvard Library (Harvard's founder grew up in Southwark) with a bookish and be-scootered young lady from New Jersey. A few impressions:

1. Staff were helpful, smiley, bright and willing.
2. Enrolment was a doddle.
3. 15 books per member! No call to liberate any folio'd friends.
4. Computerised self-withdrawal system was almost excellent. Just a couple of glitches for 'differently' catalogued items.
5. It was child-friendly up the wazoo! loads of noise, relaxed atmosphere, bright light. That's at odds with my idea of a library as a place of study, but has its plusses.
6. There just aren't that many books.
7. The children's section is passable.
8. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender section is in the Adult section for now and apparently exists due to public demand (I enquired). The demand must be superb since LGBT shelf space = the whole of Science, Technology and Natural History.
9. The public demand for Black History must be even more superb, since that subject's shelf space is 2x the size of the whole of Science, Technology and Natural History.
10. The public demand for Social Science must be superbly superb, since that subject's shelf space is 5x the size of the whole of Science, Technology and Natural History.
11. I couldn't find the Loeb Classics.

I guess I just wasn't made for these times, but a black sense of humour does help along with whisky and Frank Zappa to which and to whom I reach for consolation. I suspect John Harvard would feel the same.