Archive for May, 2012


A love letter to plywood

May 26, 2012

Since I just bought a sheet of 3/4″ plywood this evening, I was pleasantly surprised to run across this video at TYWKIWDBI a couple of hours later. (My son and I had gone shopping for a piece to build this.)

June 23rd: This video’s been udpated to the latest version, which adds ~3 minutes to talk about saw safety, kerfs, and the importance of matching Phillips bits to Phillips screws. These seem obvious to me now but I admit that they weren’t all that obvious 30 years ago.


What are they thinking?

May 23, 2012

Here’s a chart from Business Insider for the spot price of oil as of today (I believe). It highlights the fact that the price dropped below $90 per barrel for the first time since last October.

What are those silly oil speculators thinking? They’re driving the price down! And just before the peak driving season in the US?

Somebody ought to give them a clue.


How the sausage was made

May 20, 2012

I’ve been reading Aaron Clarey’s book Behind the Housing Crash. I haven’t finished it yet but I think that anyone with savings or investments in U.S. financial institutions should read it.

It’s a well-told account of how the housing bubble came into being and then popped. Clarey tells the story from his point of view as an analyst/underwriter for commercial loans at a credit union and then at some local banks in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. It’s like a tour of a financial butcher shop.

I think Clarey has a good grasp of financial basics – in part because he confirmed one of my own conclusions about the U.S. markets. I used to wonder about the phenomenal run-up in stock prices over the last 30 years. To illustrate, I recall a friend asking me in the early 80s, “When do you think the Dow will break 1000?” and then in the late 90s I called him and asked, “So, Mike, when do you think the Dow will break 10,000?”

My conclusion was that there was too much money chasing too few investments – that the increasing amount of retirement money was driving the demand up while the supply of equities remained relatively fixed. What else explained a 10-fold gain in the DJIA in less than 20 years? There had been nothing like it in the history of the U.S. exchanges.

My next thought was that maybe this was due to the way the tax code for retirement plans was written In the U.S., tax-deferred retirement savings can only be invested in stock and bond markets.

(What will happen to the price of stocks and bonds as the Baby Boomers start drawing out their retirement money and changing their investment patterns is left as an exercise for the reader.)

So I was intrigued to see Clarey mention this tax law factor himself as a reason for the bubbles of recent history. In particular, he writes about how all the retirement funds in the market drove the dot com bubble and then were a ready market to buy CDOs (bundled mortgages), which was one of the factors driving the housing bubble.

Clarey writes the Captain Capitalism blog.



May 19, 2012

Here’s an attention-getting ad from Gary Johnson’s campaign. It’s pretty well done, I think (and I liked the audio).

I won’t nitpick ‘The People’s President’ claim, though I’m not real sure what that’s supposed to mean. Nor will I ask how ‘the people’ are somehow distinct from ‘them’ (the politicians).


George Carlin on the law

May 9, 2012

I thought this was pretty hilarious, particularly the part about legal traditions and how the State (i.e., police) abuse them.

Via Simple Justice


Johnson-Gray 2012

May 6, 2012

The Libertarian Party picked its candidates for President and VP yesterday at its convention in Las Vega. They’re former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico and former Judge Jim Gray of California.

Governor Gary Johnson and Judge Jim Gray

There are press releases at the LP’s site, of course, but I got the news (and the photo above) from Reason’s Hit & Run, where they’ve been following the LP convention all weekend.

Gov. Johnson started this year’s race running for the Republican nomination before switching to run for the Libertarian nomination. I still don’t understand why Johnson was excluded from the televised Republican debates. Johnson has a pretty impressive record from his two terms as governor of New Mexico, when he earned the nickname ‘Governor Veto’.

So why wasn’t Johnson in the debates? Was his record as a governor somehow less legitimate than Herman Cain’s record as a businessman? Right.

Here’s a campaign ad Johnson published last fall.

Judge Gray is a well-known critic of the Drug War and I’ve mentioned him earlier. He wrote a book about the War on Drugs in 2001. He ran as the Libertarian candidate for US Senate against Barbara Boxer in 2004.

The LP press release about Gray’s nomination claims that he’s ‘the chief proponent of a California ballot initiative called “Regulate Marijuana Like Wine“‘. Here’s his ‘elevator speech’ on that topic.

I think this pair is a good choice for the Libertarians, even though Johnson is (in some senses) a renegade from the Republican party. It gives those looking to avoid the Coke or the Pepsi party a reasonable alternative.


It’s always Free Beer Tomorrow

May 3, 2012

I wish I could say this report at Powerline blog was a surprise. But of course it’s not. It’s Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football all over again.

Senate Votes to Abandon Budget Control Act

Last summer, Republicans in Congress agreed to increase the federal debt limit in exchange for the Democrats’ pledge to cap future spending at agreed-upon levels. The compromise was embodied in the Budget Control Act; discretionary spending was to increase by no more than $7 billion in the current fiscal year. I wrote yesterday about the fact that the Democrats intended to violate the Budget Control Act by increasing deficit spending on the Post Office by $34 billion. The measure probably would have glided through the Senate without notice had Jeff Sessions not challenged it. Sessions insisted on a point of order, based on the fact that the spending bill violated the Budget Control Act. It required 60 votes to waive Sessions’ point of order and toss the BCA on the trash heap.

Today the Senate voted 62-37 to do exactly that. This means that the consideration that Republicans obtained in exchange for increasing the debt limit is gone. Moreover, some Republicans–I haven’t yet seen the list–voted with the Democrats today.

One principal lesson can be drawn from this experience. It happens all the time that Congressional leaders will trumpet a budget agreement that allegedly saves the taxpayers trillions of dollars–not now, of course, but in the “out years.” But the out years never come. Tax increases are rarely deferred to the out years; they take place now, when it counts. But spending cuts? Never today, always tomorrow.

(My emphasis in the final sentences.)

Via Coyoteblog

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