Thursday, May 07, 2009

A tidal wave of red ink

It's make or break time for the Keynesians... again:

The Obama administration today unveiled program details of a $3.4 trillion federal budget for the fiscal year beginning in October.

Assuming that the economy will shrink six percent in 2009, this means that federal spending will account for more than a quarter of the national GDP. That's in excess of the 1942 wartime figure of 21 percent. Of course, when it doesn't work, Obama or his successor will need their own war to get the economy out of the depression by blowing the hell out of some future markets.

Harry Truman was a war criminal

And John Stewart was correct to say so, his subsequent retreat notwithstanding. It's no surprise that those attempting to make a national interest case for defending torture should bend the truth so radically in defense of the intentional mass murder of Japanese civilians:

We can all thank Clifford May for having gotten Jon Stewart to say (at least for a while) that President Harry S. Truman was a “war criminal” for, among other things, the two atom bombs that he ordered dropped on Japan.... This began to emerge even before Iraq, George W. Bush, and the issue of “torture,” in the late 1990’s, when the Smithsonian mounted a display of the Enola Gay suggesting the bombing was a matter of race-induced genocide, and forgetting to mention such things as a) the fact that Japan started the war with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, b) the Japanese atrocities against helpless civilians, and c) the thousands and thousands of Allied and American servicemen whose lives had been saved by the end of the war.

Both (a) and (b) are true. They are both also irrelevant. And (c) is simply incorrect. Japan is an island nation and in the summer of 1945 it was completely surrounded by the U.S. Navy, which had roundly defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy and left Japan without any means of obtaining the oil which was required for it to continue the war. There was no need for a costly invasion of the home islands; in fact, there was no need for most of the island hopping that cost so many American lives. And it is not true that the atomic bombings caused Japan to surrender:

"There is little point in attempting precisely to impute Japan's unconditional surrender to any one of the numerous causes which jointly and cumulatively were responsible for Japan's disaster. The time lapse between military impotence and political acceptance of the inevitable might have been shorter had the political structure of Japan permitted a more rapid and decisive determination of national policies. Nevertheless, it seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. "
- The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, July 1, 1946

More importantly, it is also not true that Japan had been unwilling to surrender prior to the atomic bombings, because it is an established and readily verifiable historical fact that the Japanese had offered to surrender on almost exactly the same terms that were subsequently accepted months before the bombs were dropped.

"In an article that finally appeared August 19, 1945, on the front pages of the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Times-Herald, Trohan revealed that on January 20, 1945, two days prior to his departure for the Yalta meeting with Stalin and Churchill, President Roosevelt received a 40-page memorandum from General Douglas MacArthur outlining five separate surrender overtures from high-level Japanese officials. This memo showed that the Japanese were offering surrender terms virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans at the formal surrender ceremony on September 2 -- that is, complete surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. Specifically, the terms of these peace overtures included:

* Complete surrender of all Japanese forces and arms, at home, on island possessions, and in occupied countries.
* Occupation of Japan and its possessions by Allied troops under American direction.
* Japanese relinquishment of all territory seized during the war, as well as Manchuria, Korea and Taiwan.
* Regulation of Japanese industry to halt production of any weapons and other tools of war.
* Release of all prisoners of war and internees.
* Surrender of designated war criminals. "

There is simply no room for debate on this. The historical facts are documented and indisputable. There is no honest, informed defense of the Truman administration's actions. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were completely unnecessary war crimes worthy of being ranked with the Holocaust and other great historical atrocities.

UPDATE: Nathan asked about the contrary "historical evidence" presented by Bill Whittle. The problem with Whittle's attempted rebuttal is that he compounds historical ignorance with illogic, then throws in a substantial amount of irrelevance for good measure. For example, Whittle ludicrously cites the battle for Okinawa and quotes a Japanese military figure in an attempt to prove what a deadly threat that 20 million kamikazes would have posed to the U.S. Navy. He does so in obvious ignorance of the fact that Japan only produced a grand total of 11,100 planes in 1945, 2,000 of which had already been destroyed in the battle he references. Moreover, they had no experienced pilots and no fuel with which to fly their few remaining planes.

The "official policy" quote from the God-Emperor Hirohito was obviously just rhetoric for public consumption since Hirohito had never set military or any other official policy for Japan. "Japan's governmental structure was such that in practice the Emperor merely approved the decisions of his advisers. A consensus among the oligarchy of ruling factions at the top was required before any major question of national policy could be decided." - US Strategic Bombing Survey.

So, Bill Whittle clearly knows nothing of the historical US military reports, the post-war interviews of Japanese government figures, or the MacArthur memorandum. He may be a fine guy - I know Rachel Lucas likes him, but on this subject he is just a talking head with no credibility whatsoever. I suspect he obtained much of his information from this document or its equivalent.

OpenOffice 3.1 is out

The latest version of OpenOffice has now been released and made available for download. I've been using OpenOffice 3.1 for a few days now and it continues to improve. The antialiased charts in Calc are nice and the "subtle highlighting" in Writer is much to be preferred to the relatively garish form it replaces. The upgrade from 3.01 to 3.1 was much cleaner than the upgrade from 2.4 to 3.0; I didn't even have to mess around with the Java aspects to get the Aportis .PDB functionality operational. I haven't tried the PDF import extension yet, but I haven't heard anything about that being substantially improved from the current state I find less than useable. All in all, it's an eminently worthwhile download; if you're still using Microsoft Office, I have to seriously question your ability to handle cost-benefit analyses.

OpenOffice 3.1 New Features List:


- Writer
- Calc
- Chart
- Impress
- Base

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Vote until you get it right

Then there's no need to vote ever again:

THE SECOND referendum on the Lisbon Treaty will be held in the autumn, Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche said yesterday. He added that as part of the process of steering its way out of recession Ireland needed to secure its position within the European Union.

Speaking in Berlin to the German Council on Foreign Relations, the Minister said he wanted to deliver the message that Ireland was coming to grips with its problems and taking decisive action to bring the Government’s finances under control, ensure the health of the banking system and improve competitiveness.

“Part of this determined effort to steer Ireland out of recession involves securing our position within the European Union by dealing decisively with the implications of last year’s referendum result and drawing the necessary lessons from it,” said Mr Roche.

The Irish would have to be insane to approve the European ConstitutionLisbon Treaty in this second go-round. The EU is the cause of their current difficulties; every boom has its bust. One hopes that the Irish are smart enough to beware of Eurocrats waving financial incentives under their noses, but in hard times, desperate people often do foolish things.

Why the Devil has all the good music

Contrary to the news announced on April 9, I was informed today that The Irrational Atheist will not be published in the UK after all. I'm sure you will all be astonished to know that an individual on the pub board of the Christian publishing house concerned felt very strongly that my controversial views on equality rendered the book unpublishable. Because, after all, it's women's rights that are really at the true heart of Christianity and only nice, polite people should disagree with Christopher Hitchens. So long as, you know, he doesn't mind.

Ironically, a very similar thing happened at the publishing house that first pursued and then rejected Spiting Their Pretty Faces: Why No One Wants to Marry Thirty-Something Women when a single, forty-something woman on the pub board took great exception to the subject matter. Can't imagine why. But that's not ironic, you say? Well, perhaps you might agree once you understand that this happened at the same publishing house that is publishing my forthcoming book this fall. The commissar, she is gone.

I suppose I would probably be more disappointed if I hadn't just signed a contract to write a screenplay yesterday. I guess if you can't make it in the hyper-competitive world of Christian publishing, there's always Hollywood.

How to blow $7.5 billion

It doesn't come as a massive surprise to learn that the billions in government money to Chrysler have already vaporized:

Buried in the Chrysler filings was the revelation that US government investments in Chrysler will not be paid back, though the government will probably take an 8% equity interest in Chrysler: Chrysler LLC will not repay U.S. taxpayers more than $7 billion in bailout money it received earlier this year and as part of its bankruptcy filing.

This revelation was buried within Chrysler's bankruptcy filings last week and confirmed by the Obama administration Tuesday. The filings included a list of business assumptions from one of the company's key financial advisors in the bankruptcy case. Some of the main assumptions listed by Robert Manzo of Capstone Advisory Group were that the Treasury would forgive a $4 billion bridge loan given to Chrysler in the closing days of the Bush administration, a $300 million fee on that loan, and the $3.2 billion in financing approved last week by the Obama administration to fund Chrysler's operations during bankruptcy.

Only $7.5 billion for an 8 percent share of a bankrupt company owned by the United Auto Workers in a dying industry? Yeah, these financial whizzes are going to do a bang-up job "fixing" the economy. And just in case you weren't convinced that the economy is doomed...

"Mindful of his predecessor, Barack Obama seems to be trying harder to make sure he hears all sides. On the night of April 27, for instance, the president invited to the White House some of his administration's sharpest critics on the economy, including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz. Over a roast-beef dinner, Obama listened and questioned while Krugman and Stiglitz, both Nobel Prize winners, pushed for more aggressive government intervention in the banking system."

Summers: "Do you think we ought to give Citi and BOA two trillion apiece or three trillion to recapitalize?"

Krugman: "More, more! Spend more!"

Summers: "How much more?"

Krugman: "Um, fiver?"

Stiglitz: "My bearded little buddy is right. Increasing banker bonuses will reduce the wage sluggishness effect, so the more you give them, the less sluggish they'll be and the more loans they'll make, thus jump-starting the economy. It is science."

Obama: "Um, ah, ha ha ha ha ha!"

Summer: "Ignore him, he's just a little punch-drunk after celebrating the Cinco de Cuatro. Fiver it is."

Setting aside the fact that Krugman's sharp "criticism" of Obama is that he hasn't been quite as stupendously wonderful as Krugman believes he has the potential to be, the idea that the architects of the Chrysler deal should more aggressively intervene in any enterprise more complicated than a lemonade stand is risible. In fact, I expect that if Obama, Geithner, and Summers ever did run a lemonade stand, they'd somehow manage to drive away half the customers while poisoning the other half.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Slapping down the Nobeltine

While I don't agree with Melzer's historical prescription - just have a look at Japan's total credit market debt to figure out why - Jonah Goldberg brings our attention to a legitimate "appeal to my own authority" slap-down of an economist who likes nothing better than to do the same:

After I published a piece in the New York Times op-ed page warning of future inflation (see: “Inflation Nation“), Paul Krugman claimed to offer me a “history lesson” on his Times blog (see his post: “A History Lesson for Alan [sic] Meltzer“).

In the piece I argued that no country with rapid money growth, a large budget deficit, and an expected depreciation of the exchange rate has ever experienced deflation, always inflation. He claims Japan’s “lost decade” as a counterexample. It is not. I am very familiar with Japan during this period—I served as honorary adviser to the Bank of Japan and met often with the then Governor Hayami. He opposed using monetary expansion, and I did not convince him that he was making a mistake. In the midst of the deflation, he raised the interest rate to avoid “sloppy” money markets. That was the wrong thing to do as several of us told the Bank of Japan at the time.

When Governor Fukui replaced Governor Hayami, he carried out the policy that I had urged Governor Hayami to follow. He bought long-term bonds. The deflation ended, contrary to the advice of Professor Krugman, who claimed at the time that monetary policy was in a “liquidity trap” and useless.

The amusing thing about Paul Krugman isn't that he's so reliably wrong. It's that he so readily forgets how reliably wrong he was.

Stress and the debt test

Roubini and Richardson explain why the stress tests aren't valid:

he International Monetary Fund has just released a study of estimated losses on U.S. loans and securities. It was very bleak -- $2.7 trillion, double the estimated losses of six months ago. Our estimates at RGE Monitor are even higher, at $3.6 trillion, implying that the financial system is currently near insolvency in the aggregate. With the U.S. banks and broker-dealers accounting for more than half these losses there is a huge disconnect between these estimated losses and the regulators' conclusions.

The hope was that the stress tests would be the start of a process that would lead to a cleansing of the financial system. But using a market-based scenario in the stress tests would have given worse results than the adverse scenario chosen by the regulators. For example, the first quarter's unemployment rate of 8.1% is higher than the regulators' "worst case" scenario of 7.9% for this same period. At the rate of job losses in the U.S. today, we will surpass a 10.3% unemployment rate this year -- the stress test's worst possible scenario for 2010.

The IMF numbers confirm something that I picked up in going over documents from the Federal Reserve and the Bank of International Settlements. While the subprime mortgage bubble may have been the initial trigger for the crisis, it was a very small portion of the much larger credit bubble and the ongoing resolution of the smaller problem will not suffice to solve the larger one.

I took the liberty of modifying an IMF chart which compared the various outstanding loan categories by separating out the subprime loans from 2003 to 2008 based on a Goldman Sachs report. Regardless of whether one looks at outstanding loans or the securities based upon them, it's quite clear that the subprime market is not, and never was, the major part of the problem, much less the totality of it. The fact that the total amount of derivatives is still increasing demonstrates that the financial sector has not exited the casino, but rather is going double-or-nothing courtesy of the taxpayer's backing.

The intellectual poverty of progress

The empirical nonexistence of the myth called "progress" is becoming more and more apparent, even to the mainstream media:

Progress, liberalism and enlightenment — these are the watchwords of those, like Hitchens, who believe that in a modern world, religion has nothing to offer us. Don’t we discover cures for diseases every day? Doesn’t technology continually extend our powers and offer the promise of mastering nature? Who needs an outmoded, left-over medieval superstition?

Eagleton punctures the complacency of these questions when he turns the tables and applies the label of “superstition” to the idea of progress. It is a superstition — an idol or “a belief not logically related to a course of events” (American Heritage Dictionary) — because it is blind to what is now done in its name: “The language of enlightenment has been hijacked in the name of corporate greed, the police state, a politically compromised science, and a permanent war economy,” all in the service, Eagleton contends, of an empty suburbanism that produces ever more things without any care as to whether or not the things produced have true value.

Eagleton is on the right track, but he is logically incorrect to say that the idea of progress is a myth because it is blind to what is done in its name. It is a myth because it cannot reasonably be shown to exist in any material manner. Name a substantive, non-technological metric which supports your belief in progress that does not consist solely of the possession of more knowledge - which is all but inevitable over time - and I can probably demonstrate that any perceived progress is an illusion. In many cases, in fact, it's not hard to show that any change toward the popularly assumed "objective" has been retrograde.

On a side note, the comments are worth reading if one happens to require more evidence of the typical New York Times-reading atheist's ignorance of religion, history, logic, and Christopher Hitchens's debating debacles. Dark Ages! War! Galileo! And Dickie D's got a science degree!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Obama gets it part right

I actually agree with aspects of his broad diagnosis of the Wall Street problem:

Wall Street is not going to play as dominant a role in the economy as regulations reduce "some of the massive leveraging and the massive risk-taking that had become so common," President Barack Obama says. The changes in the role of Wall Street and the huge profits that came from that risk-taking could mean other adjustments as well, Obama said in an interview in this week's New York Times Magazine.

"That means that more talent, more resources will be going to other sectors of the economy," he said. "I actually think that's healthy. We don't want every single college grad with mathematical aptitude to become a derivatives trader. We want some of them to go into engineering, and we want some of them to be going into computer design.... I think it's important to understand that some of that wealth was illusory in the first place," he said."

Where Obama goes awry is that his plan is to attack the symptoms and not the disease. So long as the paper money system exists, the easiest and fastest way to obtain more of it is to play paper games. And some of the policies he is contemplating are certifiably insane, such as his plan to attack tax havens and overseas profits. As the British are learning, all that does is cause your best entrepreneurs to leave the country entirely. Preventing companies from writing off domestic expenses for overseas profits isn't going to reduce the incentive for U.S. companies to base part of their operations in other countries, it's going to increase their incentive to move ALL of their operations elsewhere.

It's also amusing how the US media inevitably mentions places like the Cayman Islands in articles like these, when the real problem is that in comparison with US corporate rates, about half the world, including many European countries, look like tax havens.

The lunacy of lists

I find this sort of thing to be rather funny. It appears that Vox Popoli is rated the #7 Christian Libertarian blog while failing to rank among the top 100 libertarian blogs and websites.

The fact that an Obama suppporter and $700 billion banking bailout cheerleader such as Megan McCardle is on the Top 100 list while neither Ilana Mercer nor I are tends to illustrate the intrinsic problem with this sort of thing. While the Mises Institute is entirely appropriate, when did the conservative Heritage Foundation become libertarian? Given the peculiar definition of libertarian apparently in use there, I'm only surprised that Bill Maher isn't topping the list.

WND column

Europe Closes Early

Years ago, I worked for an American technology company that derived about half its revenue from European customers. It used to amuse me how halfway through every August, the executives would start to panic because their sales were falling short of the projections which invariably failed to account for this month-long, continent-wide break. The executives would breathe a sigh of relief when business activity returned to normal in September, and they would completely forget anything had ever happened by December when they calculated the sales projections for the following year. Eventually, the second week of August would roll around, and the whole process would begin again. But when Europe closes, it's usually just for the month of August.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The health nut

For dinner:

8x Ritz crackers
8x slices of Parmesan Reggiano
1x Champion Nutrition protein shake, chocolate
1x bottle of Italian merlot

And you probably think I'm kidding....

To swing, and to miss the point

The problem isn't the marketing, gentlemen:

Environmental issues consistently rate near the bottom of public worry, according to many public opinion polls. A Pew Research Center poll released in January found global warming last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists. “We know why it’s lowest,” said Mr. Perkowitz, a marketer of outdoor clothing and home furnishings before he started ecoAmerica, whose activities are financed by corporations, foundations and individuals. “When someone thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized argument. When you say ‘global warming,’ a certain group of Americans think that’s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.”

The answer, Mr. Perkowitz said in his presentation at the briefing, is to reframe the issue using different language.

This is such classic left-wing thinking. They genuinely believe the majority of people will cheerfully engage in Holocaust 2.0 so long as "kill the Jews" is properly marketed as "an innovative solution to the very serious problem of global overpopulation." The sad thing is that they believe it because so many of them are capable of falling for it themselves.

The reverse migration

So much for the multiculturalist theory of inevitable, unstoppable, one-way migration:

Consider Ireland's capital, which earned the nickname Dublinski after roughly 180,000 Poles, Czechs and other Eastern Europeans went there in search of work after the European Union expanded in 2004. Now, a stunning rise in the unemployment rate, currently 10.4 percent, is making even the most recent arrivals rethink their plans.

"Since 2000, there has been a resurgence of intra-European migration," said Rainer Muenz, a migration scholar who is head of research and development at Erste Bank in Vienna. "To a certain extent, that's clearly unwinding now."

Between April 2008 and the end of this month, as many as 50,000 workers are likely to have returned home from Ireland, mostly to Eastern Europe, according to Alan Barrett of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin.

Of course, it would be deeply racist for anyone to believe that Mexicans should follow suit and return to Mexico. Poles, Czechs and Romanians may be many things, but it is undeniable that one thing they are not is Mexicans. And since, as has often been asserted by the pro-immigration set, some Mexicans are good for the economy and the nation, it is obvious that more Mexicans would be even better. And therefore, it logically follows that the optimal situation rests upon the maximum number of Mexicans migrating to the United States as soon as possible.

I, for one, am convinced and I will not be satisfied until every last Mexican is happily ensconced within the borders of the United States and the entire nation of Mexico is an empty, windswept land inhabited solely by vultures and gila monsters. Una nación azteca! Sí, se puede!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

"Crash" doesn't quite suffice

While many are starting to believe that the worst is past, I wouldn't put any stock in all the prognostications of recovery later in the year. I recently met a European executive and we spent some time talking economics over several espressos. He told me that steel shipments have come to an almost complete halt around the world. In Germany, for example, the export market has collapsed so completely that not only have orders dropped to 10 percent of previous levels, but their inventories haven't changed much since January.

And this is subsequent to the previous reports of huge declines: "In the European Union, there were production drops of 31.6 percent in Germany, 35.7 percent in France, 35.7 percent in Spain and 39.9 percent in Italy. Brazilian steel production decreased by 39 percent last month from February 2008 totals, and both Russia and Ukraine saw steel output fall by 32.1 percent and 33.6 percent respectively."

Since steel is a leading economic indicator, this bodes very, very poorly indeed for the world economy.

How could this go wrong?

I can't imagine how issuing legal dictates to doctors ordering them to kill people could possibly go awry:

Physicians in Montana could be facing "kill-on-demand" orders from patients who want to commit suicide if a district court judge's opinion pending before the state Supreme Court is affirmed. The case has attracted nominal attention nationwide, but lawyers with the Christian Legal Service have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the pending case because of what it would mean to doctors within the state, as well as the precedent it would set. The concern is over the attack on doctors' ethics and religious beliefs – as well as the Hippocratic oath – that may be violated by a demand that they prescribe deadly chemicals or in some other way assist in a person's death.

Enough with the preludes already! Really, government can be such an infuriating tease at times. I'm sure everyone is wondering when Obama and the courts are going to stop faffing around with unborn children and the useless elderly and get on with the important business of the American Endlösung.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Good riddance

It's hard to imagine anyone, on either side, lamenting David Souter's retirement. And it's telling how few Republicans are even bothering trying to pretend that McCain's appointment would have been conservative; I will be personally disappointed if Obama doesn't name a black lesbian Muslim to the Supreme Court. From Kenya.

Happy International Workers Day

Two guys wished me a Happy Commy Day at the gym yesterday, which made me laugh. Whether they're socialists or anti-socialists, it seems Europeans are much more cognizant of Labor Day's true meaning. On a related note, it's interesting to see the socialist New Statesman echo Daniel Hannan in pointing out the intrinsic left-wing nature of the British National Party:

Public anxiety about immigration may have helped fuel the BNP’s rise, but the party is about more than racism and xenophobia. Under the leadership of Nick Griffin, it has worked hard to develop a full manifesto of policies – a strategy that it hopes will pay dividends by improving its image and broadening its appeal. But who exactly is the party appealing to? A brief skim through BNP manifesto literature brings to light proposals for the following: large increases in state pensions; more money for the NHS; improved worker protection; state ownership of key industries. Under Griffin, the modern-day far right has positioned itself to the left of Labour.

How, one wonders, can the far right position itself to the left of a socialist party? The political spectrum is not a circle; the concept of two wings meeting at the extremes is nonsensical. The reality is that it's just more of the same anti-right propaganda of the sort Jonah Goldberg explicated so thoroughly in Liberal Fascism. After all, when the Left engages in an internecine struggle, both sides usually call the other one "fascist" and "right-wing". And, one of them is even correct, but only in relative, not absolute, terms.
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