Saturday, July 7, 2012

Heat Wave Caused By *Man-Made* Climate Change?

Heat Wave Caused By *Man-Made* Climate Change?
The media have worked themselves into a frenzy covering the record 2012 US Heat Wave. Sensational headlines can be found everywhere, even on the conservative Drudge Report, whose top story today was "From Boil To Broil". Not surprisingly, the pastors of the Church of Man-Made Global Warming have been preaching that this period of extreme weather is evidence of man-made global warming. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are in the congregation: A recent survey (.pdf) conducted by Yale University concluded that 69% of Americans believe that recent extreme weather has been caused by global warming, and, according to Gallup, 60% of Americans believe it has been caused by influenced by "human activity" .

One record heat wave doesn't make a trend, and even NASA, a government agency whose funding is partially tied to climate change research, admits that the world has cooled since 1998. But, assuming the planet is warming, does that necessarily mean that humans are the cause? Of course not. In 2007 the green movement-sympathising National Geographic admitted that melting polar ice caps on Mars puts the prospect of man-made global warming into question. And this week the Daily Mail reported that a lost kingdom lies beneath the North Sea, evidence that sea levels rose dramatically during a period in which man clearly had little impact on global temperatures. In the article, Dr. Richard Bates of the University of St. Andrews, who created an exhibit of artifacts excavated from the submerged land, gave an outstanding quote regarding man-made global warming:
People seem to think rising sea levels are a new thing, but it’s a cycle of Earth's history that has happened many, many times.
The current heat wave may or may not be caused by global warming. But even if it is caused by global warming, that doesn't necessarily mean it's caused by man-made "climate change".

Friday, July 6, 2012

Documentary Chronicles Struggles Of The Long-Term Unemployed

Documentary Chronicles Struggles Of The Long-Term Unemployed
An independent director recently filmed a documentary about the struggles of the long-term unemployed in suburban Long Island. The film reveals the contrast between daily life in the town of Levittown, N.Y, the archetypal American suburb, a place where the word "poverty" previously had no meaning, and the struggles of residents of the town who have looking for a job for up to several years. One person's account: "Having cancer was easier than being unemployed."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Embarrassing History Of The Pledge Of Allegiance

The Repressed History Of The Pledge Of Allegiance
As you celebrate Independence Day, remember that the Pledge Of Allegiance was written during the Progressive Era by a Christian Socialist named Francis Bellamy. Bellamy opposed capitalism and advocated theocracy in America, and he created the pledge as a component of "patriotic education" in public schools. The Bellamy Salute associated with the pledge was adopted by the Nazi Party, who admired its imperialistic Roman origins.

Under-Reported Barclays Story Reveals Two Hidden Bigger Stories

Under-Reported Barclays Story Reveals Two Important, Hidden Stories
Barclays agreed to a $453 million settlement with British and American regulators to resolve accusations of rigging the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor. This is very significant, as Libor is the benchmark for interest rates on nearly every loan: mortgages, student loans, everything. The scandal has cost CEO Robert Diamond and COO Jerry del Missier their jobs, which is big news. But there are two hidden bigger stories.
The first hidden story is that Barclays was just one of several players in the rate rigging conspiracy. You see, in order to rig its *offered* rate, the bank had to conspire with other banks. And conspire they did, with some several mega banks around the world. From BloombergBusinessweek:
U.S. and U.K. regulators found that Barclays “systematically” attempted to rig the London interbank offered rate, Libor, and the euro interbank rate starting in 2005. The two-year probe, which involves regulators on three continents, has touched as many as 18 financial institutions, including Citigroup (C), Deutsche Bank (DB), HSBC Holdings (HBC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS). A dozen firms have fired or suspended traders in connection with internal probes looking at whether their employees tried to manipulate Libor.
The number of willing participants in the scheme suggests that the financial crisis did not sufficiently purge the banking industry of its unscrupulous players. Indeed, Bloomberg published Monday a story entitled There’s Something Rotten in Banking.

The second hidden story is that the settlement has opened the gates to a flood of lawsuits from institutional investors. (It would be nice to see class action suits from ordinary people who were foreclosed on or defaulted on their student loans, but that's not going to happen.) Justice for the common man aside, the complicit banks are going to get hammered, and that's going to badly hurt the financial industry as a whole, which is already one Eurozone default away from implosion. From Bloomberg:
“We expect that the cost of lawsuits related to Libor manipulation will dwarf the fines imposed on Barclays,” said Sandy Chen, a banks analyst at Cenkos Securities Plc in London, who is “penciling in multi-year provisions that could run into the billions.
Hopefully, the media will cover these bigger stories in greater detail as they develop.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Massive Blackout: Obama's Stimulus Did Little For Infrastructure

The fact that millions of Americans are still without power is just the latest evidence that America's infrastructure is crumbling despite Obama's uber-Keynesian "economic stimulus" plan. Of course, very little of the nearly $1 trillion stimulus went to infrastructure, outside of "green energy" initiatives that have either gone nowhere or have increased the cost of electricity. So now we pay more for power, only to see charts like this:

Massive Blackout: Obama's Stimulus Did Little For Infrastructure

Sunday, July 1, 2012

More Government Meddling, More Mortgage Disaster

More Government Meddling, More Mortgage DisasterI've said it before: Disruptions of the natural relationship between supply and demand almost always lead to disaster. Milton Friedman hammered home this point throughout his career, but modern politicians and economists seem to have forgotten (or never paid attention to) his wisdom.

This week, The Washington Times revealed that tax cheats have received $1.4 billion in mortgage assistance from the government ($1.53 billion when factoring the proportion of that amount that the Government borrowed or printed). From the Times:
Tax cheats were given $1.4 billion in government-backed mortgage loans under President Obama’s economic stimulus, and the government doled out at least an additional $27 million in tax credits to delinquents who took the first-time-homebuyer tax break, according to a government audit released Wednesday.
Under government rules, delinquent taxpayers are supposed to be ineligible for the mortgage insurance program unless they have reached a repayment agreement with the Internal Revenue Service. But the Federal Housing Administration didn’t have the right controls to weed out bad applications, said the Government Accountability Office, Congress‘ chief investigative arm.
That meant FHA insured $1.4 billion in mortgages for 6,327 borrowers who collectively owed $77.6 million in unpaid taxes, or an average of more than $12,000 each.
The auditors said that as a category, the tax cheats had foreclosure rates up to three times as high as other borrowers, which meant the delinquent taxpayers exposed the government to even greater risks.
What strikes me about this article is that the beneficiary tax cheats had such high rates of foreclosure. By assisting a group of people who clearly had no business owning a home (foreclosure rates up to three times higher than the historically-high), the Government has put the housing market (and, by extension, the economy) at greater risk. This is just one of several boondoggles Washington has created to "help" the housing market recover.