Assorted Links 7/13/09


Goldman Sachs Loses Grip on Its Doomsday Machine: Jonathan Weil

  • Drafting Effective Federal Legislation and Amendments, July 29, 2009
  • Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, July 30, 2009
  • Advanced Federal Budget Process, August 3-4, 2998
  • Advanced Legislative Strategies, August 5-7, 2009
  • Cyber Can Kill SAMs – “[That’s right. All those arguments about the F-22 being absolutely necessary because of its unrivalled effectiveness may be a lot less important than the plane’s supporters thought. On top of that, one industry expert at the Paris Air Show said that the F-35 has a requirement that it be able to take out triple digit SAMs while the F-22 never did. That’s not to say the F-22 isn’t capable of it. It just means the plane wasn’t designed to do it.]”
  • The Empire Strikes Back – Kohn Warns Congress on Meddling in Fed’s Affairs – “Our hero, Ron ‘Skywalker’ Paul, has managed to gather sufficient support to overthrow the Evil Empire widely known as the Fed.

    In a brazen attempt to beat back our hero, the Empire has taken its case directly to Congress, seeking more power to rape and pillage the populace under cloak of secrecy.

    The Washington Post picks up the story in Sith Lord Kohn warns Congress on meddling in the Empire’s affairs.”

  • Detroit Public School System Ponders Bankruptcy – “the pension time bomb has finally gone off”
  • California IOUs to be shunned by big banks after today – “People holding California state IOUs — including taxpayers, vendors and local governments — will soon have a tougher time redeeming them, as most major banks are standing firm on a vow not to cash the vouchers after today [July 10, 2009].”
  • California Division of Forestry Not Paying Bills, Vendors Demand Cash or Credit Cards Upfront – “Regardless of how California balances its budget, if it does not include pension reform, the state will be back at crisis level within a couple years, if not sooner.”
  • How California’s Schools Brought the State to its Financial Knees – “California is in budgetary hell because of a massive collapse in the productivity of its public schools. If the public schools had just maintained the productivity level they enjoyed in 1974-75, taxpayers would now be saving $36 billion annually. That’s $10 billion more than the deficit the state is currently facing.”
  • The University of Phoenix’s Roots – “So, the man [John Sperling] whose fabulously successful [University of Phoenix] is anathema to academics was an academic himself, one whose favorite memories are of his life as a graduate student at Berkeley, where he and his friends hung out in cafes and argued about ‘theory, fact, and fiction.’ But academia spurned Sperling once he decided that average people should have a chance at an education, too. He had to enter the marketplace in order to achieve that.”
  • Weekly wrap: Bullet point dramatizes crisis – “How bad is the state budget crisis? So bad that Mississippi is limiting state troopers to one box of ammunition per year. … In California, epicenter of the budget mess, the strain on state resources is likely to mean sharply higher state college fees and fewer spaces for students. … Tiny Vermont is the exception to budget woes buffeting most of the states–so far.”
  • The City’s Finances, Part 1: Life in Taxopolis: After the financial meltdown, Mayor Bloomberg’s “luxury product” has become unaffordable. – “Rather than using its surpluses to return to the tax-cutting of the late 1990s, however, the city let its swelling budget soak them up, creating a much larger budget baseline. During Bloomberg’s first six years in office, from 2002 through fiscal year 2007, the city’s budget increased by nearly a quarter after inflation. New York now spends about twice as much per capita as the average of the nation’s ten largest cities.

    Fueling the growth were huge increases in education outlays, now a hefty $20,000 per pupil–more than in many tony suburban districts. Employee costs have also risen rapidly and unnecessarily. The average annual compensation for a city worker, including salary and benefits, is an eye-popping $106,000. Since 2000, the city’s per-worker pension costs have increased more than sevenfold, from about $2,500 annually to north of $20,000. Rich contract deals negotiated between the unions and city hall, as well as porcine benefits packages bestowed by state legislators in Albany, have pushed these costs way beyond what similar workers earn in the private sector and way beyond what is necessary to attract qualified workers to city government.

    Now the bill is coming due, and the crippled finance industry won’t be paying it.

    The bottom line is that since New York no longer has a fabulously wealthy business community as its customer base, it cannot remain a luxury product. It will need to appeal to less well-heeled businesses–if not quite the equivalent of Wal-Mart shoppers, then perhaps something like the moderate-income customers who patronize that New York landmark, Macy’s.”

  • Even Less Sunlight Before Signing – “Since the White House announced its new sunlight policy, nine additional pieces of legislation have been signed into law by the President and yet, as of yesterday, not one had been posted on the White House web site.”
  • Scott Moore: Bailout Art
  • Where Have All the Gas Pumpers Gone? – “Does anyone really think a kid with a paper route should earn a wage high enough to support a family?

    The only way to increase wages is to increase worker productivity. If wages could be raised simply by government mandate, we could set the minimum wage at $100 per hour and solve all problems. It should be clear that, at that level, most of the population would lose their jobs, and the remaining labor would be so expensive that prices for goods and services would skyrocket. That’s the exact burden the minimum wage places on our poor and low-skilled workers, and ultimately every American consumer.

    Since our leaders cannot even grasp this simple economic concept, how can we expect them to deal with the more complicated problems that currently confront us?”

  • Brown Manure, Not Green Shoots – “With the current rate of job losses, it is very clear that the unemployment rate could reach 10% by later this summer–around August or September–and will be closer to 10.5%, if not 11%, by year-end. I expect the unemployment rate is going to peak at around 11% at some point in 2010, well above historical standards for even severe recessions.
    . . .
    Also, concerns about unsustainable budget deficits are high and are going to remain high, with growth anemic and unemployment rising. These deficits are already pushing long-term interest rates higher as investors worry about medium- to long-term stability. If these budget deficits are going to continue to be monetized, eventually, toward the end of next year, you are going to have a sharp increase in expected inflation–after three years of deflationary pressures–that’s going to push interest rates even higher.”
  • Westside Los Angeles: The Ultimate Prime and Stagnant Real Estate Market. Comparing March and May 2009 Data. Gear up for the Foreclosure Storm. $17.5 Million Foreclosures happen when you let WaMu and BofA Play Together. Digging into the Housing Shade of Palms. – “I find it hard to believe that there is still a sizable contingent of anti-math folks that believe this entire global credit mess was created by subprime borrowers. They think that poor people in the inner city somehow led to $13.87 trillion in household wealth being wiped off the balance sheet. Try telling these people that some $1 trillion in subprime loans does not equal $13.87 trillion in wealth destruction. The reality is much of this is a distraction from their puppet masters on Wall Street and the true crony-banking machine. Now moving back to the Westside you can rest assured the likes of WaMu, Countrywide, and IndyMac made plenty of maximum leverage loans that will end horribly in the next 6 to 18 months. … As you can see from the tiny number of sales in the Westside that there are still people buying in the Westside who still believe in the pagan god of real estate. Yet many will be stunned when the Alt-A and option ARM wave strikes. I have never seen such a massive pent up wave of problem real estate and this current pattern is very similar to what occurred in 2007 with the subprime bust.”
  • Beware William Tell’s Second Arrow – “Last year, Washington tried to impose a $780 million fine on the Swiss for their refusal to enforce U.S. tax laws within their own country.

    Next week, the Regime intends to press its claims in court — that is, in its own courts — in the hope of forcing the Swiss to turn over confidential information on some 52,000 Americans who have private accounts protected by Swiss law.

    To their eternal credit, and the benefit of those who cherish freedom everywhere, the Swiss are responding to Washington’s imperial bullying with the equivalent of William Tell’s laughter, augmented by an upraised middle digit.

    Earlier this year, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) began a campaign urging their fellow citizens and elected leaders to resist Washington’s imperial blackmail. After the Swiss government capitulated in late February to Washington’s demand to pay a $780 million fine and disgorge the names of Americans who had opened private banking accounts, the SVP — the nation’s largest political party, which combines traditionalist populism with enticing hints of libertarianism — angrily demanded the repatriation of Swiss gold stored in the Swiss National Bank in the U.S.

    The party also demanded a ban on the sale of U.S. commercial and government bonds in Switzerland (a sound proposal, if only because the sale of fraudulent financial instruments is a crime), an end to the Swiss government’s role as a diplomatic intermediary between Washington and various national governments disinclined to act as U.S. colonies, and a refusal by Geneva to help Washington free itself from the tar-baby it created at Gitmo by taking in detainees freed from the detention facility.

    Not everything about the SVP is entirely commendable, but in mounting this pressure campaign it was acting squarely in the noble tradition of William Tell and Henri Guisan.”

  • “Asia’s Rise Is Unstoppable.” – “Given Asia’s relatively low per capita income, its growth rate will indeed outpace the West’s for the foreseeable future. But the region faces enormous demographic hurdles in the decades ahead. More than 20 percent of Asians will be elderly by 2050. Aging is a principal cause of Japan’s stagnation. China’s elderly population will soar in the middle of the next decade. Its savings rate will fall while healthcare and pension costs explode. India is a lone exception to these trends-any one of which could help stall the region’s growth.”
  • Priming the Pump for $20/Gal. Gas: Interview with Chris Steiner – “I think the future of renewable energies is obviously very bright, and very much linked to the price of gas. Obviously everyone was feeling really good about these when gas was $4.50 across the country. Interest as far as venture capitalists has ebbed, but it’ll pick up again. I think we all realize that the price of gas won’t stay at $3 forever.”
  • A Sponsorship Scandal at The Post – “The Washington Post’s ill-fated plan to sell sponsorships of off-the-record ‘salons’ was an ethical lapse of monumental proportions. … Today, Atlantic Media Company, owner of the Atlantic and the National Journal, hosts sponsored, off-the-record gatherings similar to what The Post was proposing.”
  • Pope Obama? Hardly. – “Once an expression of and aid to unity in the face of a dominant protestant culture, Catholicism is now the dominant denomination and cultural mobility has eliminated much of the cultural significance. Arguments about what defines Catholics beyond the ecclesiastical are increasingly hard to make.”
    We enjoyed this comment: It’s interesting to me how many American Catholics, like Gov. Townsend, seem to believe they speak for other Catholics. If you don’t like what the Catholic Church teaches, then you’re not a Catholic – you’re a Protestant.

  • The Tyranny of Mark Levin’s “Liberty” – “What the Old Right criticized as liberal, Wilsonian globalism is now considered mainstream conservatism, as defined by the most popular pundits who speak for the Right. Non-interventionists, and foreign-policy realists, who oppose utopian efforts to impose democracy militarily are often denounced as ‘liberals.'”
  • The Student Loan Crisis – “Middle and high income students have access to highly subsidized loans, which has increased their ability to pay ever-increasing tuition fees. In turn, this has incentivized colleges to spend exorbitant amounts of money to improve their ‘prestige’ in order to attract these students and the revenues that follow.”
  • Why The New Webcasting Rates Are A Death Sentence For Webcasters
  • Goodbye, fructose – “Add to this the data that show that fructose increases uric acid (that causes gout and may act as a coronary risk factor), induces leptin resistance, causes metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes), and increases appetite, and it is clear that fructose is yet another common food additive that, along with wheat, is likely a big part of the reason Americans are fat and diabetic.”
  • If A Diet Is Bad For The Teeth It Is Also Bad For The Body – “The correlations between dental diseases and systemic disease, he adds, provide indirect support for those researchers who have suggested that Alzheimer’s disease and pancreatic cancer are due to an abnormal blood glucose metabolism.

    The hypotheses on dental diseases as a marker for the diseases of civilization were postulated back in the mid-20th century by two physicians: Thomas Cleave and John Yudkin. Tragically, their work, although supported by epidemiological evidence, became largely forgotten, Hujoel notes. This is unfortunate, he adds, because dental diseases really may be the most noticeable and rapid warning sign to an individual that something is going awry with his or her diet.”

  • 30+ Useful Websites You Probably Didn’t Know About
  • Skadden’s Robert Bennett to Investigate Marion Barry Contracts

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