Tuesday, June 30, 2009

 

"In God we trust. All others pay cash."

"In God we trust. All others pay cash." That's a wise saying, useful to keep in mind when lending money and hearing excuses.

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"The neoclassical-Keynesian synthesis was like a house built in the 1940s..."

Prof. Mankiw has a good history of modern macro thought, "The Macroeconomist as Scientist and Engineer,". From the May 2006 working paper:
The neoclassical-Keynesian synthesis was like a house built in the 1940s: The new classicals looked at its outdated systems and concluded it was a tear down, while the new Keynesians admired the old-world craftsmanship and embraced it as an opportunity for a major rehab...., The division of economists between new classicals and new Keynesians is not, fundamentally, between the political right and the political left. To a greater extent, it is a split between pure scientists and economic engineers.
 

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The Ricci Case

The Supreme Court's Ricci decision of yesterday is good evidence that Sonia Sotomayor is devious and unjust. Not a single justice supported her decision supporting summary judgement against the white New Haven firefighters without even the dignity of a published opinion explaining why. The 4 in dissent did support summary judgement for the employer, but in a weird, dishonest, way of their own. I suppose they were trying to give some color of support to Sotomayor. But looking into this case, it makes me think Sotomayor and her panelmates should have been impeached for her conduct in it, as clearly intending to evade enforcement of the law. The big issue in contention is whether an employer can truly discriminate against whites because he is afraid that if he doesn't, he will falsely be accused in court of discriminating against blacks. The answer seem to me pretty clearly to be No, and of course any liberal would accept that answer if it were a case of an employer turning down better qualified black applicants because he was afraid that if he treated blacks and whites equally he would be hauled into court on the grounds that he was practicing illegal affirmative action against whites. Liberal judges are result-based.

But we can at least hope that liberal judges will be procedurally fair. There are three ways this case could have proceeded:

1. The Supreme Court rules that the "fear of being sued" defense is valid, and then returns the case to a lower court for that court to find out if employer actually did have a fear of being sued instead of using that as a pretext.

2. The Supreme Court rules that the "fear of being sued" defense is valid, and then grants summary judgement to the employer, saying that it is utterly clear that the employer's motive was fear of being sued and not an illegal desire to discriminate.

3. The Supreme Court rules that the "fear of being sued" defense is invalid, and grants summary judgement to the firefighters, since the city has offered no other plausible defense for its discrimination.

The Majority chose option 3. The Dissenting 4 Liberals chose 2-- which is dishonest. I suppose one could reasonably doubt whether political pressure and desire to promote blacks instead of whites were important reasons, but one cannot say that it is so utterly obvious that the employer's motives were entirely unpolitical and color-blind that a reasonable judge or jury could not find otherwise and there is no need to look at the evidence. As Alito's concurrence says:

[T]he decision below, which sustained the entry of summary judgment for respondents, cannot be ffirmed unless no reasonable jury could find that the City’s asserted reason for scrapping its test—concern about disparate-impact liability—was a pretext and that the City’s real reason was illegitimate, namely, the desire to placate a politically important racial constituency....But even the District Court admitted that “a jury could rationally infer that city officials worked behind the scenes to sabotage the promotional examinations because they knew that, were the exams certified, the Mayor would incur the wrath of [Rev. Boise] Kimber and other influential leaders of New Haven’s African-American community.” 554 F. Supp. 2d 142, 162 (Conn. 2006), summarily aff’d, 530 F. 3d 87 (CA2 2008) (per curiam).
It's noteworthy that Justices Kennedy and Roberts wouldn't sign on to this concurrence. I treat that as a sign they don't dare fight injustice and lying if it's done by important people they need to work with. The dissent goes into detail about Rev. Kimber and the evidence. It's amazing.
Reverend Boise Kimber, to whom the District Court referred, is a politically powerful New Haven pastor and a self-professed “‘kingmaker.’” App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 07–1428, p. 906a; see also id., at 909a. On one occasion, “[i]n front of TV cameras, he threatened a race riot during the murder trial of the black man arrested for killing white Yalie Christian Prince....In 1996, for example, Mayor DeStefanotestified for Rev. Kimber as a character witness when Rev. Kimber—then the manager of a funeral home—was prosecuted and convicted for stealing prepaid funeral expenses from an elderly woman and then lying about the matter under oath. See id., at 126a, 907a. “Reverend Kimber has played a leadership role in all of Mayor DeStefano’s political campaigns, [and] is considered a valuable political supporter and vote-getter.” ...In 2002, the Mayor picked Rev. Kimber to serve as the Chairman of the New Haven Board of Fire Commissioners (BFC), “despite the fact that he had no experience in the profession, fire administration, [or] municipal manage-ment.” Id., at 127a; see also id., at 928a–929a. In that capacity, Rev. Kimber told firefighters that certain new recruits would not be hired because “‘they just have too many vowels in their name[s].’” Thanawala, New Haven Fire Panel Chairman Steps Down Over Racial Slur, Hart-ford Courant, June 13, 2002, p. B2. After protests about this comment, Rev. Kimber stepped down as chairman of the BFC, ibid.; see also App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 07–1428, at 929a, but he remained on the BFC and retained “a direct line to the mayor,” id., at 816a....Petitioners allege, and the record suggests, that the Mayor and his staff colluded “sans the Chief[s]” because “the defendants did not want Grant’s or Dumas’ views to be publicly known; accordingly both men were prevented by the Mayor and his staff from making any statements regarding the matter.”....Reverend Kimber again testified and threatened the CSB with political recriminations if they voted to certify the test results:

“I look at this [Board] tonight. I look at three whites and one Hispanic and no blacks. . . . I would hope that you would not put yourself in this type of position, a political ramification that may come back upon you as you sit on this [Board] and decide the future of a department and the future of those who are being promoted....

Corporation Counsel Ude bristled at one board member’s suggestion that City officials were recommending against certifying the test results. See id., at 215a (“Attorney Ude took offense, stating, ‘Frankly, because I would never make a recommendation—I would not have made a recommendation like that’”)....Soon after the CSB voted against certification, MayorDeStefano appeared at a dinner event and “took credit for the scu[tt]ling of the examination results.”...

Taking into account all the evidence in the summary judgment record, a reasonable jury could find the follow-ing. Almost as soon as the City disclosed the racialmakeup of the list of firefighters who scored the highest on the exam, the City administration was lobbied by aninfluential community leader to scrap the test results, andthe City administration decided on that course of action before making any real assessment of the possibility of a disparate-impact violation. To achieve that end, the City administration concealed its internal decision but worked—as things turned out, successfully—to persuadethe CSB that acceptance of the test results would be ille-gal and would expose the City to disparate-impact liability. But in the event that the CSB was not persuaded, the Mayor, wielding ultimate decisionmaking authority, was prepared to overrule the CSB immediately. Taking this view of the evidence, a reasonable jury could test resultswas not a concern about violating the disparate-impact provision of Title VII but a simple desire to please a politi-cally important racial constituency....

It is noteworthy that the Solicitor General—whose position on the principal legal issue in this case is largely aligned with the dis-sent—concludes that “[n]either the district court nor thecourt of appeals . . . adequately considered whether, view-ing the evidence in the light most favorable to petitioners, a genuine issue of material fact remained whether respondents’ claimed purpose to comply with Title VII was a pretext for intentional racial discrimination . . . .” Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 6; see also id., at 32– 33.

The dissent authored by Justice Ginsburg is rather confused on how it comes out in the end. She says :
Ordinarily, a remand for fresh consideration would be in order. But the Court has seen fit to preclude further proceedings. I therefore explain why, if final adjudication by this Court is indeed appropriate, New Haven should be the prevailing party.
and later

As earlier noted, I would not oppose a remand for further proceedings fair to both sides. See supra, at 26, n.
10.

What she is supposed to be saying in her dissent is precisely whether "final adjudication by this court is indeed appropriate". It is just weird to say that since the Majority says summary judgement for the firefighters is best, she can't say remand is best.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

 

Presidents Bush and Obama and Science

Jonathan Adler at VC has a good post with links on the "War on Science" idea that the Bush Administration was hostile to science and that Obama would be friendly to it. The exact opposite is true, of course.

Two weeks ago, Roger Pielke Jr. marshaled evidence that a government contractor with substantial industry ties may have been responsible for misrepresenting the relevant peer-reviewed scientific literature in an important government report on climate change. This past week, the EPA was accused of suppressing an agency's employee's comments on the EPA's proposed greenhouse gas "endangerment finding" (the official finding that greenhouse gas emissions may threaten public health and welfare). Here again, Pielke finds the parallel with the Bush Administration's conduct instructive.

From an earlier Adler post, reformatted by me: :

One of the best examples of the politicization of science by the "left" — and one of the few that Mooney acknowledges — is the treatment of agricultural biotechnology, and the decision to subject such products to more stringent regulatory review than those developed with other methods. This policy has no scientific basis, as the National Academy of Sciences has stated many times.

Another example would be claims by environmentalist groups that pesticide residues on foods pose a significant cancer risk, a claim which the NAS has also rejected.

A third would be seeking endangered species listings for the purpose of halting development.

A fourth would be efforts to claim asthma incidence (as opposed to asthma attacks) are related to outdoor air pollution, when there is no data to support such a claim.

A fifth would be the EPA's second-hand smoke study, which a federal court found was driven to reach a predetermined result.

A sixth would be claims that the "precautionary principle" is a "science-based" approach to risk, when it actually reflects a normative policy judgment about how to weigh and evaluate risks.

A seventh would be the compounded conservatisms that are embedded into many agency risk assessments, such as those conducted for the federal Superfund program.

An eighth would be molding "ecosystem management" to satisfy non-scientific normative preferences about how land should be managed.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

 

Wilson, Harding, and How to Use Deep Pockets to Look Like a Financial Genius

Scott Sumner has a good blog entry on two subjects:

1. Why Wilson was a rotten President and Harding was a good one.

2. How to have a 99% chance of seeming to be a financial genius like Keynes. The secret is to do double-or-nothing trades for long enough, and to have deep pockets. The 1% chance is that you lose everything, though.

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The Obama Style of Policy

From Arnold Kling, http://business.theatlantic.com/2009/06/the_obama_pattern.php, via Instapundit:
The Obama Administration appears to me to be pursuing many goals, poorly. Here are four:

1) The stimulus failed to meet Larry Summers' famous criteria of timely, targeted, or temporary.

2) The cap and trade legislation maximizes rent-seeking (favoritism toward particular businesses) and minimizes carbon reduction.

3) The proposed financial reforms are mostly cosmetic and fail to address the key issues of housing policy and regulatory capital arbitrage.

4) In championing health care reform, the President stresses the unsustainability of our current system, while insisting that nothing will change (you can keep your insurance, keep your doctor, etc.).

The pattern that I see is one of following the path of least political resistance, even if it means failing to make any significant contribution to solving the actual public policy problem. I cannot say that I am completely shocked by this. It is sort of Public Choice 101.
 

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Friday, June 26, 2009

 

Obama Judge, Dearborn City, Bias against Christianity

From TAS:
A group of Arab Christians wanted to hand out copies of Christian literature on the sidewalks during the annual Dearborn Arab International Festival, which attracts over 100,000 people. The ministry group, Arab Christian Perspective, was denied permission to hand out material on the sidewalk and was told they could only do so from inside a small booth assigned to them by festival organizers. The group sued, and a federal judge has refused to grant their request to be able to offer information on the sidewalks.

This is only the latest example of such one-sided action. Four years ago, a federal judge in Indiana who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to the Seventh Circuit appeals court, David Hamilton, ordered that prayers in the Indiana statehouse could be offered to "Allah" but could not be offered in the name of "Jesus." (This suit was later dismissed by the Seventh Circuit, on which Judge Hamilton will now sit.)

 

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

 

Doulos, Diakonos, Slaves and Servants

"Doulos" is the common Greek word in the New Testament (and Septuagint) translated as "slave" or "servant" or "bondservant". "Ebed" is a similar Hebrew word. "Diakonos" also means "servant", sort of, but not "slave". Since "doulos" is so common, what does it mean--- servant or as slave? From my cursory research, it looks as if the scholars have not sensibly addressed this question, important though it is. Doulos can definitely mean slave. It is less clear, actually, whether Diakonos can mean servant. What is crucial is whether Greek makes a distinction between the following categories: (a) slaves who can be bought and sold, (b) slaves who must follow orders but are not bought and sold, merely inherited, in the normal course of events, (c) paid servants who must follow all orders but can end employment at will, (d) paid servants who cannot leave at will, and (e) people hired for particular jobs who cannot be commanded to do other tasks. If "doulos" means all of these things, then its meaning depends on the context, and it would be misleading to use the phrase "slave of God", for example. Note that it would be useful to know even the meaning of "slave" in Greek. Does it mean a chattel slave, who can be sold at any time, separately from his wife and children? Can a master kill his slave if he wants? If the slave earns wages from somebody else, do they belong to the master? We Americans of 2009 think of our ante-bellum Southern slaves when we think of slaves, but ours was not a typical form of slavery.

Some notes follow.

Kittel, on Google Books, says secular Greek calls the following deacons: bakers, messengers, stewards, assistant helmsmen, and statesmen. The entry is surprisingly small. The "diakoneo" entry is also short. It says Josephus uses the word for "to wait at table," "obey" and "render priestly service". It sounds like "to assist" and "assistant" to me. Kittel on "doulos" is not relevant. It says that the word means "slave", but it doesn't say whether it could also mean "servant". The entry for "pais theou" is interesting. That's where the Hebrew "ebed" is discussed.

Paula Gooder "Diakonia’ in the New Testament: A Dialogue with John N. Collins," has scholarly sources. It says that "diakonos" might mean "go-between", or at any rate not have connotations of menial service. See Collins, John N. Diakonia Re-Interpreting the Ancient Sources. (New York and Oxford: OUP, 1990). See, too: " Diakonia and the New Greek Lexicon (BDAG): John N. Collins, 2001. Unpublished essay commenting on a new revised edition of a Greek lexicon which utilizes the linguistic research found in Collins' Diakonia: Reinterpreting the Ancient Sources (New York: Oxford, 1990). The lexicon's treatment of the diakon- words is the first appearance in a scholarly linguistic text of Collins' findings."

John Macarthur:

"There are six words, at least, for servant, doulos is not one of them. There is diakonos from which we get deacon, oiketes related to oikos, house, a house servant, heis, having to do with one who serves by instructing the young. Huperetes, a low-level, third level, under servant, literally an under-rower, the third level on a galley slave, someone who pulled an oar down at the bottom of a great ship; leitourgos, another kind of service, usually associated with religion; paidiske and maybe misthios that can be translated minister. There are plenty of words for servant, there’s only one word for slave, doulos and sundoulos. Yet in the history of the evangelical translation of the Greek into the English, all the translators consistently have avoided the use of the word."

 

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The Disloyal Press

David Barone points out that the New York Times was quite willing to conceal a news story--- the kidnapping of one of its reporters--- to help itself, but unwilling to conceal other news stories about anti-terrorism techniques to protection the United States.

 

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Does Using Car Air Conditioning Reduce Mileage AT ALL?

Snopes has a good and educational post on car mileage and air conditioning. The air conditioner uses 5 to 30 horsepower, so it might reduce mileage by as much as 20%. On the other hand, driving with your windows down creates drag, which at highway speeds is likely worse for your mileage. The thread also reveals that the gas gauge is driven by manifold intake pressure, rather than direct measurement in the gas tank. The pressure is not all that accurate, apparently, but how inaccurate is not made clear.

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Beverly Hills Only Ninth in Public School Scores in LA County

From Steve Sailer:

Yet, in 2004-2005, Beverly Hills High School was only 9th among Los Angeles County public schools in percent of students scoring at least 1000 on the Math+Verbal parts of the SAT. The top two schools only allowed in students by examination, but BHHS was still merely seventh among neighborhood schools at 62 percent above 1000 (which is easier since "recentering" in 1995) versus 89 percent at San Marino and 80 percent at La Canada, two sedate old money / new Asian satellites of Pasadena. Even Arcadia, a quite modest-looking suburb in the flatlands of the San Gabriel Valley (where my cousins grew up) d0es better than Beverly Hills these days.

 

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The 1960s Birth Cohort That Raised Black Earnings

Via Steve Sailer comes this new NBER working paper:

4. Birth Cohort and the Black-White Achievement Gap: The Roles of Access and Health Soon After Birth Kenneth Y. Chay, Jonathan Guryan, Bhashkar Mazumder

One literature documents a significant, black-white gap in average test scores, while another finds a substantial narrowing of the gap during the 1980's, and stagnation in convergence after. We use two data sources -- the Long Term Trends NAEP and AFQT scores for the universe of applicants to the U.S. military between 1976 and 1991 -- to show: 1) the 1980's convergence is due to relative improvements across successive cohorts of blacks born between 1963 and the early 1970's and not a secular narrowing in the gap over time; and 2) the across-cohort gains were concentrated among blacks in the South. We then demonstrate that the timing and variation across states in the AFQT convergence closely tracks racial convergence in measures of health and hospital access in the years immediately following birth. We show that the AFQT convergence is highly correlated with post-neonatal mortality rates and not with neonatal mortality and low birth weight rates, and that this result cannot be explained by schooling desegregation and changes in family background. We conclude that investments in health through increased access at very early ages have large, long-term effects on achievement, and that the integration of hospitals during the 1960's affected the test performance of black teenagers in the 1980's.

http://papers.nber.org/papers/w15078

 

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Monday, June 22, 2009

 

Inspector-General Link Page

  1. A June 22 WP wrapup, including Amtrak IG Fred Weiderhold's resignation and the Library of Congress IG admonishment, as well as TARP, ITC, and Americorps.
  2. Chicago Tribune June 18 story on all three IG's, including the International Trade Commission IG who was told her contract would not be renewed shortly after a Senator complained about how she was forbidden access to agency documents ( "It is difficult to understand why the ITC would not have taken action to ensure that the ITC inspector general had the information necessary to do the job," Grassley wrote on Tuesday. Less than three hours after the letter was e-mailed to the agency, the acting IG, Judith Gwynne, was told that her contract, which expires in early July, would not be renewed.)
  3. Rasmusen posts.
    1. The TARP IG obstruction
    2. The board of directors and the Americorps IG firing
    3. Links to the 4 key documents on the Americorps IG firing

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Friday, June 19, 2009

 

Some Good Words

SUBSIDIARITY. "Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. " A Romanist term. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsidiarity.

GLORIUMPTIOUS: GLoriously wonderful. (Dahl)

FROTHBUNGLING: Stupid (Dahl)

MUGGLED: COnfused (Dahl-- see Harry Potter too)

TROGGLEHUMPER: A nightmare (Dahl)

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

 

U.S. Attorneys' Terms and Historical Firings

VC had a comment thread with a lot of contradictory opinions on historic US Attorney firings. Wikipedia says

The U.S. Attorney is appointed by the President of the United States[7] for a term of four years,[8] with appointments subject to confirmation by the Senate. A U.S. Attorney shall continue in office, beyond the appointed term, until a successor is appointed and qualified.[9] By law, each United States attorney is subject to removal by the President.[10]
Thus, the following are all true:

(1) U. S. attorneys can be replaced in the first year of each presidential term without being fired, as their terms expire, yet they aren't all replaced the same day because they serve till a new person is appointed.

(2) When President CLinton fired all of the US Attorneys in January 2001, that was a true firing, because he did not end their tenure simply by appointing replacements. Firing them all was within his authority, however, even if unprecedented in recent times.

(3) When Bush fired 12 U.S. attorneys, that was a true firing, but was within his authority, even if it was unprecedented in recent times to fire more than one U.S. attorney appointed by someone of the same party at the same time.

(4) When Bush replaced US attorneys at the end of his first term, that was not a firing, but simply non-renewing.

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Spreading Scandal: The TARP Inspector-General Neil Barofsky

Obama Administration efforts to block the TARP Inspector-General from doing his job date back to at least January 30, when Senator Grassley sent a letter complaining:

It is my understanding that at this time, OMB is requiring SIGTARP to post a proposed letter of inquiry to TARP recipients for 15 days, wait for comments, and then justify to OMB that it has taken into account the public comments in redrafting the inquiry letter. This is unacceptable.

On June 17 Grassley sent a letter with an IG memo attached which is about the refusal of the Secretary of the Treasury to turn over documents to the IG, on the specious grounds that (a) the IG is not in the Treasury, and the documents are covered by attorney-client privilege, and (b) the IG is under the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury, who can shut down any investigating he doesn't like.

Specifically, my office received information that there was a dispute over certain Treasury documents that were being withheld from SIGTARP auditors on a specious claim of attorney-client privilege. It is my further understanding that this disagreement then escalated into broader questions about whether SIGTARP is subject to your direct supervision and direction, which may have been referred outside Treasury for an independent legal opinion.

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Walpin, Stephen Goldsmith, Americorps, and CapitalSource

I was wondering why Republican and former mayor of Indianapolis Stephen Goldsmith strongly supports the apparently indefensible firing of inspector-general Walpin of Americorps for inspecting too vigorously. It turns out Goldsmith is a director of a medium-sized bank, CapitalSource, that was unwise enough to open a big California operation in the summer of 2008. Over the year its stock price crashed from $15 per share to 90 cents per share in early 2009 before coming back up to $4 per share in June 2009. Just on the basis of that, I would guess that the bank is hanging by a thread, and it's a thread made of TARP money [No--see comment below. CS has not received TARP money. But it is still vulnerable to regulators.] that President Obama could cut any time he wants. So we cannot regard Mr. Goldsmith as being an entirely independent actor.

  1. PDF slides from the company itself on Capital Source's financial health. I don't know how to interpret these, but they do give information on loan loss provisions and the percentage of loans that are currently in default.
  2. Monday, May 14, 2007 Former Indianapolis mayor joins CapitalSource "Stephen Goldsmith, who served two terms as mayor of Indianapolis, has been named director of CapitalSource Inc.'s newly created infrastructure finance and investment group."
  3. CapitalSource Bank Opens 22 California Branches Mon Jul 28, 2008
  4. My earlier blogpost detailing the firing, with 4 very good links to primary documents. http://rasmusen1.blogspot.com/2009/06/obama-fires-americorps-inspector.html
Nov. 18. I'm adding info on all the board members. The government list is here. This could tarnish all their reputations. Eric J. Tanenblatt is the one to wonder about. Will he speak up? He would be very important whichever side he takes.
  1. Alan D. Solomont, Chair. Democrat.
  2. Stephen Goldsmith, Vice Chair. Republican former mayor of Indianapolis.
  3. Mark_Gearan, .Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff and Peace Corps Director.
  4. Hyepin Im. Obama appointed.
  5. Julie Cummings (appointed in 2007). Donated to Repu and Dem incumbents both, up to 2002. Then no more donations. Her husband, a Florida real estate developer, donated to Bush in 2004 and to Romney in 2007, but not to McCain. He has his own private company. (Julie Cummings contributions)
  6. James (Jim) Palmer. Bush appointed. $250 to Tom Feeney (R, Flor. in 2005). Orange County Republican, owns an electric car, Christian, runs a soup kitchen.
  7. Stan Z. Soloway Bush appointed. Hillary Clinton donor. President and CEO of the Professional Services Council, the principal national trade association of the government professional and technical services industry.
  8. Eric J. Tanenblatt the partisan and strong Georgia Republican Senior Managing Director (not a lawyer) at a big law firm in Atlanta. Donated to McCain, Romney. Appears to be in no way an Obama stooge.
  9. Laysha Ward, Obama donor. Ward, 40, began her career at Target Corporation in 1991 as stores sales leader for Dayton's department store and was named vice president of Community Relations and Target Foundation in 2003.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

 

Obama Fires AmeriCorps Inspector-General Walpin

Commentor Steve at VC wrote: "Here are pdfs of Obama's letter to Pelosi and Greg Craig's letter to Sen. Grassley.

For additional information, here are the Acting US Attorney's letter of complaint about the IG and the IG's written response." Thank you, Steve! These 4 documents (you need all of them) go to the heart of the matter.

(1) Has Obama satisfied the statutory requirement? The point of such a statute is to force the President to come out and give a reason for the firing so that reason can be publicly discussed. I think it would be unconstitutional to require him to give a good reason-- he should be able to say, "I fired him because he's ugly," if he wants to. But the statute still has bite, because now people can criticize the decision. In this case, we can say, "Obama should not fire an IG just because he doesn't have the fullest confidence in him. He admits that he isn't firing the IG because the IG did anything wrong-- it's just a matter of Obama's own feelings. That's a stupid reason, and we think the real reason is something else that Obama can't defend."

(2) The only reason not to think this isn't a gross scandal worthy of impeachment is the strong approval of two other people: Steve Goldsmith, former Indianapolis mayor, and the acting US Attorney Larry Brown (if we do confirm that the President firing an IG because the IG tried to make sure a political ally was punished appropriately for fraudulent use of federal funds isn't that worthy of impeachment?).

I don't know about Goldsmith, even though I'm from Indiana. Any ideas, people? Commentor Kent Scheidegger said that he knew Larry Brown, and that he is a good guy. Larry Brown is a career prosecutor, apparently, not a real Bush appointee, so we don't know his politics. Mr. Scheidegger, do you know if he's a liberal? Does anybody know if he has local or national ambitions that would be relevant? (becoming the actual US Attorney, for example, instead of just Acting)

(3) Steve's the Acting US Attorney's letter of complaint about the IG and the IG's written response " are great reading on the substance of the firing, because they are pro- and con- documents by the people involved. In particular, read Larry Brown's letter. After reading it, I think more than ever that this is a major scandal, if that's the best attack that can be mounted on the IG.

Brown's complaint boils down to saying that the IG has an opinion on whether criminal and civil violations occurred, the IG thinks the US Attorney's office is being slack, and the IG has made public comment on the case instead of letting the US Attorney keep it under wraps. Whether the IG is right or wrong, I thought a big part of his job was to publicize wrongdoing (though not to prosecute). He has no direct power, after all, just the power to investigate, refer, and publicize. He couldn't even suspend the culprit from getting money from his agency-- all he could do was recommend it to the Americorps political leadership, who made the decision first to suspend and then to unsuspend.

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Obama as Fascist

Tom Smith points out that Obama actually does satisfy most of the characteristics of a fascist (my boldfacing):

Frank Rich warns of hate from the Right, fanned by those who would stoop so low as to call Obamaism fascism.  Well, OK.  Then what would be OK?  Or maybe PC?  "Somewhat worrying corporatist tendencies"? It's that cult of personality plus extreme intervention into the private sector plus demonization of political opposition thing one wants to capture. I'm certainly open to better terms besides "fascist" -- I'm just not sure what it would be.  I agree it's imperfect.  Rather than beat you with the fasces, this movement wants to regulate you, bore you with third rate political theory, dissolve intermediate institutions, and preen its own moral superiority.  Soft Despotism maybe?  Jonah Goldberg's "liberal fascism" is pretty good, but it still uses the F word.

Very astute. One feature Obama emphatically does not have is Nationalism (or its related ethnic pride). But another feature you didn't mention is the relaxation of laws with respect to political allies. We've just heard about Black Panthers being allowed to intimidate voters, and about an inspector-general who was fired for pointing out that a Democratic mayor had broken the law. That's reminiscient of how the Nazis at first relied on the Brown Shirts to beat up regime opponents, rather than making use of the police (the Gestapo came at a later stage of the process).

 

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Global Warming and Time Series Econometrics

Here's a long comment I posted at David Friedman's blog:

"There are better, more general models we can use. e.g. Cohn and Lins use ARFIMA, and report tests that take it into account. ...

As Cohn and Lins said, it may be preferable to acknowledge that the concept of statistical significance is meaningless when discussing poorly understood systems."

That article looks worth reading. It does address the deeper issues of how to test where it isn't clear which hypothesis is the null and where data is limited.

The first step to take isn't all that profound, though. I hope it isn't too boring if I lay out some basic possibilities. Compare these hypotheses for temperature, where we'll call the starting temperature 50 and u_{year} is a mean-zero random shock.

1. STRAW MAN. The temperature is

50 + 0*year + u_{year}

The expected value is always 50.

2. GLOBAL WARMING. The temperature is

50+ B*year+ u_{year}

The expected value is rising at rate B per year, regardless of what happened in the previous year.

3. RANDOM WALK. The temperature is

Temperature_{year-1} + u_{year}

The expected value is the same as last year, so warming and cooling shocks persist forever but there is no trend.

4. MEAN REVERSION. The temperature is

50 + C*(Temperature_{year-1} - 50) + u_{year} with C<1

The expected value is between 50 and the temperature last year, so warming and cooling shocks persist but dampen out to near zero effect in the long term.

5. GENERAL MODEL. The temperature is

50 + B*year + C*(Temperature_{year-1} - 50) + u_{year}

Model 1 has B=0, C=0.
Model 2 has B>0, C=0.
Model 3 has B=0, C=1.
Model 4 has B=0, C<1.

If the first random shock is a warm one, then models 2, 3, and 4 will all show a trend. JPL is wrong because if

Temperature_{year}< 50+ B*year+ u_{year}

that is evidence against GLOBAL WARMING and in favor of Models 1, 3, and 4. (I think this remains true even if temperatures are rising but below trend, i.e. Temperature_{year} < 50+B*year.)

Some commentors were saying that a declining temperature still supports GLOBAL WARMING over STRAW MAN. I think it's true that any temperature over 50 supports GLOBAL WARMING over STRAW MAN, though it will require the estimate of B to be reduced. But a temperature decline is even stronger evidence for MEAN REVERSION or RANDOM WALK.

This matters a lot, because if MEAN REVERSION is true, policies to limit global warming are completely unnecessary, and if RANDOM WALK is true, they are unnecessary at present because temperatures are as likely to fall as to rise any more.

All this is just time series talk, and it's good to have structural models to test. The global warming models of scientists *are* structural models, and they match GLOBAL WARMING best (though I think they have nonlinear trends). But since those models don't explain the vast majority of either temperature or climate changes (they explain zero about the changes before 1900, for example, and pretty near zero about year-to-year changes since then), it's reasonable to try to figure out the properties of the random shocks-- random shocks are really just the "everything else" part of a model.

 

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Friday, June 12, 2009

 

Judge Sotomayor's Lack of Competence

NR has a series of Bench Memos posts which make me wonder whether Judge Sotomayor may not be worse than mediocre in her intelligence and education. See here for example, which quotes her saying that Spanish has no adjectives, and giving an example in which she misspells a Spanish word. There are other examples of that kind of thing in her speeches. Her legal opinions are better, I suppose, but that suggests she relies heavily on clerks to fix up her writing.
 

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Justice Ginsburg's Liberal Hypocrisy

From NR, Ed Whelan:
Kathryn: Your post about Judge Sotomayor’s hiring of law clerks reminds me of the tension between Justice Ginsburg’s employment practices (as of the time she was nominated to the Supreme Court) and her own aggressive support for disparate-impact statistics as evidence of intentional discrimination. In her 1993 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it was learned, much to Ginsburg’s visible embarrassment, that in her 13 years on the D.C. Circuit she had never had a single black law clerk, intern, or secretary. Out of 57 employees, zero blacks.
 

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

 

More Bank Stupidity

The WSJ has a new example of how stupid the big banks are. A Daring Trade Has Wall Street Seething --- Texas Brokerage Firm Outwits the Big Banks in a Mortgage-Related Deal, and Now It's War By Gregory Zuckerman, Serena Ng and Liz Rappaport 1262 words 11 June 2009.

A canny trade by a small brokerage firm in two markets at the heart of the financial crisis has left some of the biggest players on Wall Street crying foul.

The trade, by Amherst Holdings of Austin, Texas, was particularly galling to the big banks because it turned what they believed was a sure-fire profit into a loss.

The burned banks include J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Bank of America Corp. Some banks have reached out to two industry trade groups about Amherst's actions, and the groups are reviewing the transaction, according to people familiar with their thinking. "It's all-out warfare" between the banks and Amherst, said a senior banker at one firm that lost money....

Here's the scheme. Apparently the banks bought credit default swaps for X-C that would pay them X if the securities defaulted. The seller realized that he could pay off the securities, so they wouldn't default, for less than X-C. So he did. The banks could have done that too, paying off the securities directly, but they were too greedy (possibly trying to take advantage of the cds seller, whom they thought wouldn't think of the trick) or stupid.

The trade involved credit-default swaps and securities backed by subprime mortgages. The original securities had been sold by Lehman Brothers and were backed by $335 million of subprime mortgages mostly on homes in California made at the housing bubble's peak in 2005, according to the prospectus.

Following a wave of refinancing and defaults, only $29 million of the loans were left outstanding by March 2009, half of which were delinquent or in default, according to a performance report by Moody's Investors Service.

Believing the securities would become worthless, traders at J.P. Morgan bought credit-default swaps over the past year from Amherst, according to people familiar with the matter. Credit-default swaps act like insurance, paying off the buyer if securities are hit by losses. Other banks including RBS Securities, which is the U.S. investment-banking arm of Royal Bank of Scotland, and BofA also bought swaps on the securities from different trading partners.

The banks had to pay up for the protection, similar to a person buying insurance on a beach house just before a hurricane. They paid as much as 80 to 90 cents for every dollar of insurance, the going rate last fall according to dealer quotes, expecting to receive a dollar back when the securities became worthless over the coming months. Traders can buy credit-default swaps on securities they don't own. At one point, at least $130 million of bets had been made on the performance of around $27 million in securities, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In late April, traders at some banks were shocked to find out from monthly remittance reports that the bonds they had bet against had been paid off in full. Normally an investor can't pay off loans like that but if the amount of outstanding loans falls to less than 10% of the original pool, the servicer -- or company that collects mortgage payments from homeowners and forwards them to investors who own the securities -- can buy them and make bondholders whole.

That's what happened in this case. In April, a servicer called Aurora Loan Services at the behest of Amherst purchased the remaining loans and paid off the bonds.

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Red Wine Temperature and the Half-Educated

An example from PRof. Bainbridge of a not uncommon irony: the half-educated snobs sneer at the practice of the fully educated who know the exact principle, not just the rule of thumb. This comes up in writing style all the time.

In the US these days, of course, you're far more likely to encounter a red wine served at 70+ degrees. At that temperature, the alcohol starts to volatilize and you experience a hot sensation on both the nose and palate. The solution is simple, but requires confidence. Ask for an ice bucket and stick the red wine in it for 10 minutes or so to knock the edge off. You will almost certainly face anything from condescension to non-cooperation. After all, you're dealing with barbarians -- if the staff and management knew anything about wine, they'd serve red wines at a proper temperature. But it's your bottle and you can do what you like. And next time, go someplace where they treat wine with the respect it deserves
.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

 

The Chrysler Balance Sheet Estimate

The Supreme Court really ought to hear this case, on a number of legal issues (not factual). (1) Is the agreement of 90% of the creditors valid if they are under threat by the government? (2) Is a price fair if it exceeds the liquidation value but is a giveaway to the buyer because it is much less than he would have been willing to pay?

If the Supreme Court does not hear this kind of case, these important issues may never be brought up. It is no excuse that the Court is being rushed. These cases are urgent by their very nature, and we are going to see a lot of them, because we are in a recession with government bailouts. And they are cases of great public importance, where there should be lots of input from scholars.

I found the balance sheet estimate, finally, for the Chrysler deal. I've added them to this post as a picture file. This is absolutely central to understanding the legal case and public policy, yet it took a lot of digging and is buried in page 12 of Exhibit E of the undated, unpaginated, 196-page "Declaration of Robert Manzo". No journalist or lawyer shows signs of having read it, either. I think they just looked at a shorter declaration of his where he doesn't go into detail on the numbers.

What's important is the value that NewCo, the new Chrysler company, would take out of the firm in exchange for the $2 billion dollar price it is paying. For the legal case, what matters is the loss of value to the senior creditors, the ones with secured claims. NewCo will take away both assets and liabilities, but since the senior creditors have first claims to the assets, all that matters for them is the value of the assets removed, not the liabilities removed.

The simple answer is that the going-concern value of the New Chrysler assets is $28.5 billion according to the dealmakers' estimate, so $2 billion looks like a lousy price. That could be wrong, though, as I'll explain below.

I will use the estimates for July 1, 2009, the date the new entity would be formed. The assets are quite different for then compared to December 31, 2008, presumably because in the meantime Chrysler is paying suppliers and workers and such. A separate question is whether the senior creditors have been gravely harmed by delay--- it looks to me as if they would have gotten more than $2 billion dollars if Chrysler had been liquidated on December 31, 2008.

Anyway, let's look at what the value of the NewCo assets are on July 1, 2009. The accounting number for "Total Assets" is $28.5 billion (which excludes any assets Fiat brings to the new company, assets that the senior credits couldn't get anyway). The market value could be either higher or lower. If just Fiat were buying the assets, we'd expect the market value to be higher; if just the government and union were buying, it might be lower since they might accept a money-losing deal.

If the assets are really worth $28.5 billion, then the sale of them for $2 billion is a ripoff of the senior creditors. It could be justified only by the argument that the alternative is a liquidation that would yield less than $2 billion.

Let's look closer at the assets, though, to think about the value for either liquidation or going concern. The Manzo report doesn't have details, so we'll have to some guessing. Current assets are the most accurately measured in accounts. They are $7.2 billion. Even if the inventory, valued at $4.3 billion, really could only be sold at 50% off the price of each car, current assets are still $5 billion. On the other hand, there are $5.9 billion in current liabilities-- accounts payable and such. Maybe in order to get the current assets, the senior creditors would have to pay the current liabilities-- I don't know enough about the situation, which is special in bankruptcy. Suppose they do. Then we're at a value of -$.9 billion going to NewCo.

Operating Leases and Gold Key Lease Assets are presumably contracts which the accounts accurately value (that is, they already a have an adjustment for expected bad debts). They're worth $3.9 billion. So we're up to +$3 billion going to NewCo.

Deferred Tax Assets, Intangibles, and Prepaid Pension are probably worth $0, so let's forget about them, and about "Other Long-Term Assets". Combined, those are listed at $4.6 billion, but we'll call them $0. So we're still at $3 billion going to NewCo.

Note that all these items so far presumably would retain their valeu in liquidation. In that case, the liquidation value so far is $3 billion, so even under the Court's legal reasoning, the sale price is too low.

The big item is Property, Plant, and Equipment, at $14.2 billion. These things are usually valued at cost, so the accounts might well be overvaluing them. Also, their value would be very different for liquidation than if they were run as a going concern.

In liquidation, a 90% loss seems a reasonable assumption. Then they are worth $1.4 billion, and the liquidation value is $4.4 billion.

As a going concern, PPE could be worth even more than cost-- as they are in any company that is making a profit as a going concern. To be conservative, suppose they're worth half of cost--- just $7.1 billion. That brings the value of assets as a going concern up to $10.1 billion.

Something important that I can't figure out quickly is whether if Chrysler is to be a going concern it must keep other liabilities such as its pensions. (Also, is Gold Key Lease Debt intimately linked to Gold Key Lease assets?--- are those creditors senior creditors?)

Some other things to think about: (1) What is the value of this deal to Fiat, the government, and the UAW? Does their interest tell us something about whether the balance sheet estimates are too low or too high? (2) What assets are intimately connected with liabilities? (3) What is the impact of the deal on the senior creditors? (4) Why are some assets being left behind in the Old Chrysler? (5) What would the government have paid if necessary to save the deal?

Update: June 11. A comment at HLS Forum: I'm an economist thinking of writing an academic article on an issue in this case: whether the $2 billion price should have been allowed by the judge.

This seems to me crucial. The judge answered "yes" under the reasoning that any price above the liquidation value of about $1 billion was reasonable. He didn't cite any judicial opinions for that reasoning. Was this a case of first impression for that point?

If we accept his reasoning, then whether the other creditors were pressured by the government is irrelevant, since the price they agreed to was reasonable.

I don't accept it. I don't think the Indiana Pensioners were all that clear about it, but here is what their position ought to have been:

1. The legal rule ought to be that a fair price in a 363 sale is a price that a Collateral Trustee acting faithfully to maximize creditor value would get.

2. In a 363 sale, that price is never the liquidation value. If there is a competitive market, it is that market price. If there is just one potential buyer, it is the result of haggling between a Faithful CT and that buyer.

3. The result of such haggling would ordinarily be somewhere about halfway between the liquidation value and the maximum amount the buyer would be willing to pay.

4. In the Chrysler sale, such a price might be as high as $13 billion, halfway between the $1 billion liquidation value and the $25 billion book value of the assets.

5. Since $2B is a lot less than $13B, the Collateral Trustee was not Faithful.

6. The Collateral Trustee not being Faithful is good evidence that the 90%+ agreement by creditors was pressured.

The "fair price" point would seem to be important to lots of bankruptcy cases.

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The Chrysler Bankruptcy

Here's what seems to be going on. There are two values to the assets being sold. One is the liquidation value-- say, 1 billion dollars. The second is the going-concern value-- say, 10 billion dollars. (Both of those numbers are guesses: the Indiana Pensioners might go as high as 2.6 and 25 in their estimates.) The Court used the liquidation value, 1 billion dollars. If that is the value of the assets, then the creditors, getting 2 billion, are better off because of the deal.

The Indiana Pensioners argue that the Court should have used the going concern value, the 10 billion dollars. If the assets could be sold for 10 billion instead, then they and other creditors are hurt by the sale.

There is only one buyer at present-- the Fiat-government-union coalition. A big issue is whether there are other potential buyers. Let us suppose there are not.

Judge Gonzalez argued that since there is one buyer, and without that buyer the company would be liquidated and creditors would get just 1 billion dollars, the 2 billion dollar price is a fair deal.

The Indiana Pensioners argue that Judge Gonzalez should have used the going concern value.

The Indiana Pensioners are closer to the truth. The creditor's manager is supposed to sell the assets for as good a price as he can get. He could liquidate and get 1 billion, clearly a bad option. If he sells, he must negotiate a price. That price is the result of bargaining. It would lie between 1 billion-- the least he would accept--- and 10 billion-- the most the Fiat-government-union would pay. In this light, 2 billion looks like a bad price. The creditor's manager has not done a good job bargaining.

Why didn't he? His incentives create a further problem. He is supposed to be acting on behalf of all the creditors, and he did get over 90% to sign on to the deal. But most of those creditors are banks who exist at the discretion of the government that controls the TARP money and capital regulations. Thus, we would expect those creditors to agree to a bad sales deal in the relatively minor sphere of their Chrysler investments.

There might be an unclarified point of law here. The point is what price is fair for an asset sale by a company in the bankruptcy process. As I just explained, the fair price-- judging fairness by everyday notions or by economic efficiency or by consistency with the rest of the law--- is the price that could be gotten in good-faith bargaining, which is more than the liquidation value but less than the total value, if there is just one potential buyer. (If there were two potential buyers, then the seller could expect to get the total value, due to their competing bids.) This situation is a bit unusual, because there is only one potential buyer, but it must be pretty common to have one buyer who values the assets at a lot more than any other potential buyer, so that bargaining matters.

Document Excerpts and Some links:

Judge Gonzalez:

Finally, with respect to the consenting First-Lien Lenders, the Indiana Funds question their independence in entering into the compromise to allow the sale of the assets free and clear of the lien. Inasmuch as certain of the individual-consenting lenders were recipients of government loans under the TARP program, the objecting lenders seek to portray the TARPrecipient lenders as being intimidated by the government. A compromise that is not based upon business considerations, including an assessment of litigation risks, would raise issues regarding the Administrative Agent’s obligations, if any to the Indiana Funds, under the agreement. Clearly, that issue is not before this Court.

The Indiana Funds seem to be asking that, if the Court finds that they are bound under the governance provisions of the First Lien Credit Agreement, the Court should nullify the consent given because it was brought about by undue pressure by the U.S. government on the TARPrecipient lenders, who voted to give consent to the transaction before the Court. In the first instance, it is not clear that this Court would even have jurisdiction over this inter-creditor dispute. However, the suggestion that the TARP- recipient lenders have been pressured to the point that they would breach their fiduciary duty and capitulate to the settlements presented is without any evidentiary support. It is mere speculation and without merit.

From the Indiana Pensioners brief:
In approving the Sale Motion, the bankruptcy court specifically relied on the alleged liquidation value of the Collateral in its Sale Order and Sale Opinion as support for approval of the Sale....the bankruptcy court stated that, on the high end, an immediate liquidation would generate $800 million, and therefore, “the First-Lien Lenders will receive a greater return under the proposed sale, which reflects the going concern value, than under a piecemeal liquidation.”

As a preliminary matter, the Debtors’ proffered liquidation value is completely faulty and should not have been relied upon as a basis for the court’s decision. It excludes most of the assets that are in fact the subject of the Sale Motion, locks in the financial performance from the worst historical year ever and uses unprecedentedly low multiples....

The bankruptcy court’s reliance on liquidation value was also improper as a matter of bankruptcy law. Remarkably, the Debtors purport to sell their operating assets with a going concern value of over $25 billion, by somehow rely on a liquidation valuation for purposes of paying the First Lien Lenders....

An article says:
On April 30, Manzo submitted to the court a liquidation analysis he had conducted on Jan. 30. On May 21, he submitted a new liquidation analysis conducted May 20. Manzo said his two assessments differ in important ways.

The latest analysis expects that in a liquidation, Chrysler's main secured creditors would recover $1.2 billion at most. In his Jan. 30 analysis, Manzo predicted they would recover between $654 million and $2.6 billion.

Manzo's 166 page report and his May Declaration

A comment I posted at the Credit Slips blog:

There seems to be an important point of law at issue here though: When assets are sold, is the price fair if it exceeds liquidation value, or is it only fair if it is the amount that a good-faith seller could get by reasonable effort at bargaining with the buyer?

The issue comes up when, as here, there is only one potential buyer. Suppose the assets can be liquidated for $1 billion or sold to a single potential buyer who would pay up to $25 billion. Is a price of $2 billion fair according to the law? Does it matter if the majority of creditors who approve the low price are also the buyers in the deal?

The answer seems obvious to me-- no, the price is too low in that case-- but it seems Judge Gonzalez would allow it. His argument would be that if the creditor would get just $1 billion from liquidation, then a price of $2 billion is an improvement, so they cannot object to it by saying that better bargaining could have gotten a higher price.

Note that this is a point of law-- of how a fair price should be calculated-- rather than the question of what the price should be, exactly. Thus, the Indiana Pensioners didn't have to come up with an alternative price immediately-- the judge would say that whether the buyer value was $2 billion or $25 billion or $200 billion was irrelevant--- tho they would on remand if the judge's legal theory was overruled.

And, of course, I don't know whether the $25 billion is the right figure. That's what an earlier comment in this thread was estimating with going-concern value.

 

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Monday, June 8, 2009

 

They Will Indeed ComeTo Take Away Your Children

We are in a police state already, I think. It is a felony to go out for drink at 3 am and leave your child sleeping safely in a motel down the street. Also, they will take away your child if you do that. If you look in the newspaper's comments section, many people approve.

At the same time, recall that it is ok in Bloomington to let your defective baby starve to death, as happened some years ago, commonplace to abort him if he has Down's Syndrome, and pretty much compulsory to expose him to homosexual and other leftwing propaganda at the public school.

From the HT:

A Bloomington man was arrested this morning after police said he left behind his sleeping 6-year-old son in a west side hotel while going out for drinks.

Ryan Kirkman, 29, whose address was listed as the Scottish Inn at 126 South Franklin Road, was preliminarily charged with public intoxication and neglect of a dependent, a class D felony.

Police said Kirkman walked out of the Roosters bar around 3 a.m. at 3000 South Walnut St. where a Bloomington police officer observed him "grab a female around the shoulders and appear to push her to the ground.”

When officers intervened, the woman assured them she that she and Kirkman had just met inside the establishment and that she was with him, according to the police report. It was at that time police noticed that Kirkman might have been drinking, based on his poor motor skills and the odor of alcohol.

He was then arrested on charges of public intoxication, but while sitting in rear seat of the squad car, he said he had left his 6-year-old son in a rented room at the Scottish Inn, police said.

Two police officers were dispatched to the room number given to them by Kirkman, and the child, who was still sleeping, was taken to the police department.

Child Protective Services were contacted and after an investigation, the young boy’s grandmother, who lives in Bloomington, came for the boy when she was alerted. Police did not say where the boy’s mother was.

 

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The Der Sturmer Joke

A German Jew in 1934 was explaining to his friend why he prefers Der Stürmer over the local Yiddish paper: "This paper says we Jews control the media, the economy, the banks, the whole world. Your paper has nothing but bad news."

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Friday, June 5, 2009

 

Traditional American Ham

Bringing Flavor Back to the Ham By HAROLD McGEE in the NY Times is very good.

HAVE you ever placed a vanishingly thin morsel of rosy meat on your tongue and had it fill your mouth with deepest porkiness, or the aroma of tropical fruits, or caramel, or chocolate? Or all of the above?

A really good dry-cured ham can do just that. Not a standard pink, cooked ham, juicy with injected brine, but a raw ham preserved by the application of dry salt, hung up to age for months or years, then sliced paper-thin and eaten as is, uncooked, yet transformed into the intense, silken essence of meat....

I recently tasted dry-cured hams from Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Iowa, and some rival Europe’s best. Their makers are variously determined to revive country ham and to develop American versions of European classics. They have made significant progress by rediscovering the ingredients that made dry-cured ham so good in the first place, when pigs were fattened on the autumn harvest and their meat preserved for scarcer times.

Above all there’s the pig, which should be mature, well fed and free to run around. Muscles of such an animal are packed with the raw materials for creating flavor, enzymes that will catalyze the first stage of that creation, and fat to lend tenderness and moistness.

Then there’s time. It takes many months for muscle enzymes to break down flavorless proteins into savory amino acids, odorless fats into aromatic fragments, and for all these chemical bits and pieces to interact and generate new layers of flavor. And it takes months for meat to lose moisture and develop a density of flavor and texture.

...

Berkshire hams are in scant supply and sold mainly to restaurants. But Edwards’s Surryano is $19.95 for 12 ounces at virginiatraditions.com, (800) 222-4267. La Quercia’s Green Label prosciutto, from a Berkshire cross, is $32.95 a pound for 8- to 10-pound pieces at laquercia.us, (515) 981-1625.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

 

Empathy in Judges

Macaulay on "empathy" from VOl. I of the History of England:

It is creditable to Charles's temper that, ill as he thought of his species, he never became a misanthrope. He saw little in men but what was hateful. Yet he did not hate them. Nay, he was so far humane that it was highly disagreeable to him to see their sufferings or to hear their complaints. This, however, is a sort of humanity which, though amiable and laudable in a private man whose power to help or hurt is bounded by a narrow circle, has in princes often been rather a vice than a virtue. More than one well disposed ruler has given up whole provinces to rapine and oppression, merely from a wish to see none but happy faces round his own board and in his own walks. No man is fit to govern great societies who hesitates about disobliging the few who have access to him, for the sake of the many whom he will never see. The facility of Charles was such as has perhaps never been found in any man of equal sense. He was a slave without being a dupe. Worthless men and women, to the very bottom of whose hearts he saw, and whom he knew to be destitute of affection for him and undeserving of his confidence, could easily wheedle him out of titles, places, domains, state secrets and pardons. He bestowed much; yet he neither enjoyed the pleasure nor acquired the fame of beneficence. He never gave spontaneously; but it was painful to him to refuse. The consequence was that his bounty generally went, not to those who deserved it best, nor even to those whom he liked best, but to the most shameless and importunate suitor who could obtain an audience.
 

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Monday, June 1, 2009

 

Gadgets and Products To Buy

This page will list products I buy.

  1. Sony Micro Vault Tiny USB

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IQ Tests

I'm frustrated. I've been looking around the Web, and nowhere can I find how many items are on the standard IQ tests such as Stanford-Binet or WAICS.

 

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