Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Here's Barney

And everybody’s favorite, Barney Frank, comes to Bill Lockyer’s rescue with The Municipal Bond Fairness Act. Because its all about fairness. If the credit rating agencies are giving government bonds risky ratings, the force of law to increase government bond ratings is justified, you see.

The credit rating agencies are, you see, discriminating against government agencies. Bill and Barney are buddies.

As far as I can tell:

1. Governments operate under less stringent accounting standards than private enterprises.
2. The credit rating agencies take this into account and issue lower ratings for a set of government numbers than they do for a set of private numbers (this practice must be ended by H.R. 6308).
3. Governments want to take past rates of default into account, instead of future projected rates of default into account.

H.R. 6308 was introduced to committee last month.

Update: My link to the legislation doesn't work. Google H.R.6308.

Meet Bill Lockyer


Brick Oven presents Bill Lockyer, Treasurer of the State of California:

… if California, the most-populous U.S. state, had top credit ratings, it might save more than $5 billion over the 30-year life of $61 billion in yet-to-be-sold, voter- approved debts. California has spent $102 million on municipal bond insurance in the last four years, he said.

This Bill says:

“If I stopped shaving, I’d grow a beard.”

Anybody want to buy some California bonds? Cheap?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Housing Bottom, Kind Of

I thought that Brick Oven was wrong after the TV headlines, but I was mistaken.

The market has bottomed in areas without rapidly growing Hispanic populations. The following Cities had month-over-month price increases:

Denver
Atlanta
Boston
Minneapolis
Charlotte
Portland
Dallas (rise attributed to the oil industry)

These are the cities with greater than a 2% month-over-month price decrease:

Phoenix
Los Angeles
San Diego
San Francisco (1.97% drop)
Washington DC
Miami (7% drop)
Las Vegas

Real estate prices in rural America are rising. As the Price Schiller Index lags by three months, Brick Oven stands by its conclusion. Just invest in land far away from illegal immigrants. Hispanic immigrants, while generally decent people, will reduce real estate prices to those in non-resort Mexico areas, which are low.

The value of land is proportional to the IQ of the population. That is why land costs more in Japan than in the US. It is also why there is no value in Zimbabwe real estate.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Masterpiece Theater, Redux

Tonight’s literature selection is excerpts from Problems Facing Our Socialism, a work penned by the Harvard-trained scholar, Barack Obama Senior. We will conclude tonight’s reading with a segment from his namesake son’s speech, given before largely silent crowds who had come to see a rock concert in Berlin.

The stage is yours Barack:

Can one deny that the African, while not pleased with the system, did not covet the high place given to the European and Asian?

At present, many highly qualified Africans are employed by commercial firms and are given very pompous titles. This is done only publicity. If one were to go into the workings of these companies, however, one would find that they actually have no voice in the companies which give them these high titles. Key positions should be Africanized.

They are given public relations work which is the only high position an African has held in commercial firms and this understandable, or they are made directors in name but lack knowledge about the company’s workings so that they are rubber stamps of what is decided.

How can this go with the government’s knowledge without her taking a positive stand by seeing to it that real Africanization is taking place? Certainly foreign commercials firms are not going to push this enough unless the government takes a positive stand.

It is true that there is lack of skilled man power in the country, but I would rather that benefit of the country by giving them responsible positions in commercial firms as is being done in public bodies. The government are not yet qualified but should also see to opportunities to do something for the country.

Yet one who has read Marx cannot fail to see that corporations are not only what Marx referred to s advanced stage of capitalism but Marx even called it finance capitalism by which a few would control the finances of so many and through this have not only economic power but political power as well.

Theoretically, there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100 percent of income. Assuming that development and the achievement of a high per capita income is a benefit to society as a whole I do not see why the government cannot tax those who have more and siphon some of these revenues into savings which can be utilized in investment for future development, there by reducing our reliance on foreign aid.

One need not to be Kenyan to note that nearly all commercial enterprises from small shops in river Road to big shops in Government road and that industries in the Industrial Areas of Nairobi are mostly owned by Asians and Europeans. One need not to be a Kenyan to note that most hotels and entertainment places are owned by Asians and Europeans. One need not to be Kenyan to note that when one goes to a good restaurant he mostly finds Asians and Europeans, nor has he to be a Kenyan to see that the majority of cars running in Kenya are run by Asians and Europeans. How then can we say that we are going to be indiscriminate in rectifying these imbalances? We have to give the African his place in his own country and we have to give him this economic power if he is going to develop.

And here’s junior:

"In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more -- not less…But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together…The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sheila C. Bair

Sheila is a lawyer who has spent her life in academia and Washington DC. She married a guy named Cooper and did not take his last name. She was recently placed at the FDIC. I bet she can’t cook. In her new position, she just said:

“The blogs were a bit out of control.”

Which, of course, they are supposed to be. TV is supposed to be too. And the print media. But don’t be sad, cause one out of three ain’t bad.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

National Australia Bank

We are now way beyond sub-prime. NAB says that it is suffering a 55 per cent loss on American housing loans – an event that has never happened in the history of a developed country in recent memory. This is an unprecedented event and means that the cost of bailing out the US financial system is now far beyond the highest estimates.

The Business Spectator must not read Brick Oven. We’ve said for a year that prices will be down 30%, the banks had $10 trillion in mortgages, and will thus lose a large percentage of $3 trillion as homeowners walk away from upside-down loans. The $1 trillion number is not credible. It is not that complicated.

This statement from the National Australian Bank could trigger more bank failures next week.

Dumb Attention Whores Lose House

Dave and Kathy Bain adopted thirteen kids and made the cover of USA Today for doing it.

Turns out she quit her job to spend more time with the kids and he is a part-time civil servant. They moved into a 3,400 s.f. house in 2007. They now are being foreclosed upon and are in the news again as poster-child housing victims.

Kathy asks:

"Here I am with 12 kids at home that I need a home for ... I need this size of house," Kathy Bain told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "It's hard for me to ask for help, but I need some guidance on where to go from here."

At the risk of sounding insensitive Kathy, give most of the kids back and return to work.

I’d like to have four children before hanging it up. It will be harder to afford them now that I’m being asked to pay for these idiots.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Different This Time

For what it’s worth, here’s Wikipedia on the Depression. There are similarities with modern times:

1. A credit bubble in the 1920s.
2. Bank failures.
3. Tightening of credit among the surviving banks.

But there are differences. And those differences will make things worse.

1. The Depression was due in large part to too much stuff. Food prices fell during the Depression. This time we will be facing food shortages, especially in urban areas, as costs rise with the price of liquid fuel and fertilizer.
2. The US was racially homogeneous in 1929. The majority of black people lived on rural farms. This led to a greater sense of community and willingness for shared sacrifice. See Los Angeles today in the good times for a modern datapoint. People are killing each other over tennis shoes. Just wait until they get hungry.
3. Peak Oil. Although a severe economic downturn will temporarily mitigate the price impacts of Peak Oil, there is a baseline amount of oil that is necessary to sustain our biomass.
4. Urbanization. People have moved away from the food supplies.
5. The loss of the industrial base. We have become a dependent people, both in terms of things and skills.
6. There was no such thing as government social programs in 1929. Today they make up 70% of the federal budget and people have become dependent.
7. The Depression took years to unfold. With the advent of computers and centralized everything, a modern event could unfold in weeks. If you think about it, if the right combination of forces decided to wage economic warfare on the US, it could unfold in minutes.

A friendly reminder to plan ahead. It actually could be a good time for engineers. We’ll need to rebuild our country.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Somewhat Confused

"In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more -- not less…But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together…The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand."

I think this guy is saying that we have to give more of our paychecks to other countries. He has a poor sense of situational awareness. His poll numbers are down.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

John Jay

Brick Oven agrees with John Jay.

With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.

John Jay helped found Columbia University. He is not pleased.

Peter R. Orszag

A federal rescue of troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could cost taxpayers as much as $25 billion, Congress' top budget analyst said Tuesday.

BS. Freddie and Fannie have $5 trillion of the country’s worst debt. Prices are down 30% from the peak, and it is entirely possible that F/F’s portfolio’s average is worse than that. The taxpayer will be on the hook for trillions. This act will likely be found by some court to be criminal when the smoke clears.

The picture is of Peter R. Orszag, the man responsible for the $25 billion figure. He is on record stating that there is a better than even chance that no money will be necessary. Funny how Congress wrote a blank check.

The Pickens Plan, Part 3

The Federal Production Credit for wind power is 1.9 cents per kilowatt-hour and is set to expire on December 31st. Pickens has ordered 1000 megawatts of wind turbines. The federal benefit would provide Pickens with $19,000/hr in federal benefits, or $166 million per year.

More important is the value added if the federal government exercises eminent domain and condemns land for transmission lines. The value of this is easily in the billions.

I had previously speculated that 33% of electricity could be generated by wind. I reduce this percentage to 20% based on Denmark’s experience. Denmark has 15% of it’s electricity generated by wind and is beginning to have problems. Wind can stop for days at a time. Our wind would be spread over a wider region than Denmark, accounting for the extra 5%.

The Pickens plan would not benefit our country. Our resources should instead be going into nuclear power and electrified rail systems. Nice blondes though.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Pickens Plan, Part 2

T. Boone Pickens has invested $2 billion of his own money in windmills. He is before Congress seeking tax benefits for his investment. More importantly, he is asking Congress to pass legislation to exercise eminent domain for vast swaths of land for power transmission lines from the wind belt to populated areas.

I see his actions as those of a businessman. His $2 billion investment would probably triple or quadruple in value if he gets what he’s seeking. More power to him (ha).

But wind power cannot solve our problems unless we are willing to live with part-time electricity. The economy that we depend on cannot exist with part-time electricity.

The answer is nuclear power, not wind. There needs to be a ‘fast-track’ permitting process that shoves new plants, built on federal lands, down the throats of communities. I don’t think our current form of government can accomplish this.

So hang on.

Conspiracy Theory #23j8i

Henry Paulson ran Goldman Sachs, when the investment bank originated massive numbers of the collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that have brought the banking system to its knees. When the CDOs went bust, Goldman Sachs was not holding the CDOs. Goldman Sachs remains a highly profitable investment bank.

The CDOs would be subject to buy-back at face value if they were proven fraudulent, which they most certainly would be in court. Goldman knew the CDOs were toxic, as is evidenced by the fact that they were not holding them when they went bust. This would come out in discovery. Paulson would be under oath. A buy-back would bankrupt Goldman and subject it’s leaders to personal legal liability. Possibly criminal.

Paulson was installed as Treasury Secretary around the time that the nature of the CDOs was discovered. He was installed, in my opinion, to prevent the lawsuits. If the taxpayers picked up the tab, Goldman would not be sued by the other investment banks. That’s the deal as far as I can tell.

If the man is successful, he may end up taking down the global economy. Which may or may not be a good thing.

Henry M. Paulson.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Better Image People


We’ve got a better picture Harold, now we’ve got to keep him quiet.

Update #1:
I "did not anticipate, and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii’a community the militias standing down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment would have been correct."

Update 2: Um Uh Um Um Uh Uh Uh Um Um We are bipartisan Uh Uh Um Uh Uh. Israel is a friend of Israel.

Obama is not used to being criticized. He will not handle this well (‘don’t make fun of my ears’). He will become defensive in future speaking engagements, which will be minimized. He will then do something revealing, when that happens Brick Oven will define it as Obama’s Jack Nicholson Moment (“JNM”).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Marching On

I believe that history will look kindly on Ron Paul. Here’s a talk from Thursday.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Matthew Simmons

Matthew Simmons is a smarter oilman than T. Boone Pickens. Agricultural real estate is an undervalued commodity. But there is also lots of good land that is covered with trees, including about 1200 acres adjacent to my home.

I was trying to figure out how our predecessors cleared tree stumps without gasoline. I ran into a guy at a bar who had done it as a kid.

1. Don’t cut the stump down to the ground. Cut it 5 or 6 feet from the ground.
2. Attach a chain to the top of the stump and pull it with a horse, or whatever.
3. Keep hacking away at the roots opposite of the horse until the stump is overturned.

A summer project is to figure out some winch mechanism that would allow a human to apply the force to take down a tree stump.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Pickens Plan

The Pickens Plan is a good effort at forwarding the national debate on energy. But the Brick Oven Plan is much better.

Windpower is flawed in that when the wind stops blowing, the power stops flowing. With hydroelectric power, if the river periodically stops flowing, its not a big deal because the energy is stored behind the dam, and can be released as necessary. But there is no current method to ‘store’ the amounts of electricity that is being proposed. Battery technology is mature technology, and advances on the scale that would be necessary are unlikely.

Pickens is probably counting on averaging out wind over the wind belt, to reduce the conventional power plant backup requirement, which probably stands at 90% today. I can’t see it being reduced below 67% though.

The Pickens Plan does not address transportation fuel, only electrical power to cities.

The Brick Oven Plan is better because:

1. Nuclear power plants do not require backup conventional power stations.
2. The electrification of our nation’s railways divorces a significant percentage of transportation needs from liquid fuels.
3. Taking Iran’s oil will nearly triple our proven reserves anyway.

We just need a government with the stones to say yes to the Brick Oven Plan. Even if only to items #1 and #2. The Pickens Plan, while seemingly well-intentioned, will not address our problems.

I hope Pickens’ intention is not to get new government subsidies for an investment he has already made, to increase his rate of return. I hope his purpose is patriotism.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Plan

I whine too much. In place of whining, this post presents a plan. I do not believe that our current form of government is capable of executing this plan, but the next one might be looking for ideas.

1. Immediately begin work on 150 nuclear power plants. Locate them on existing federal lands. Arrest and deport people who protest.
2. Electrify the nation’s railways.
3. Seize all of the islands in the Persian Gulf and lay claim to the underlying oil.
4. Build airbases on the islands and sink anything that comes close. Respond to attacks by laying claim to and taking oil in the sand.
5. Place a 20% tariff on all imported goods.
6. Deport all illegal immigrants and their children.
7. End welfare and make future social spending unconstitutional for government entities.
8. Limit voting rights to those Citizens holding $10,000 worth of American real estate equity.
9. Declare Islam a 'corrupt organization' in accordance with the RICO Statutes.

Think this is mean-spirited? I think it beats the likely alternative.

Hero's Welcome

The one in the middle caved in a 4-year old girl’s skull with the butt of his rifle.

The one in the middle caved in a 4-year old girl’s skull with the butt of his rifle.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Potato Blossoms

A friendly reminder that 3,000 square feet of potatoes will provide 2,000 calories per day over the course of a year. One acre feeds around fourteen people. If you like bacon, six pounds of potatoes earns you one pound of pork.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Guy's Right

"The mistakes made with excessive credit at artificially low rates are huge, and the market is demanding a correction. This involves excessive debt, misdirected investments, over-investments, and all the other problems caused by the government when spending the money they should never have had. Foreign militarism, welfare handouts and $80 trillion entitlement promises are all coming to an end. We don't have the money or the wealth-creating capacity to catch up and care for all the needs that now exist because we rejected the market economy, sound money, self reliance and the principles of liberty."

-Congressman Ron Paul

Conflict Resolution

A (warning) graphic FBI PowerPoint presentation about the limitations of .40 S&W ammunition. A Pennsylvania police department has two conflicts where ten or more .40 S&W rounds fail to incapacitate the bad guy. The penetration was only 1 inch.

The officers credited their 5.56mm firearms with conflict resolution. Brick Oven recommends 7.62-39 rounds for conflict resolution* instead of the 5.56mm. They are cheaper and bigger.

* ‘conflict’ meaning self-defense

Waiting for the Shine to Wear Off

I mentioned a band called Coldplay after hearing one of their songs on a cross-country, referring to the song as ‘complex rage’. Ten bucks later, their latest CD is excellent. Buy it.

The first song is an instrumental that gives you goose-bumps if you’re in the right mood. The second song refers to London cemeteries. I have no idea to what the third song refers to so read the lyrics yourself and try to figure it out.

Just because I’m losing
Doesn’t mean I’ve lost
Doesn’t mean I’ll stop
Doesn’t mean I would cross

Just because I’m hurting
Doesn’t mean I’m hurt
Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserved
No better and no worse

I just got lost
Every river I tried to cross
Every door I ever tried was locked
Oh and I’m just waiting till the shine wears off

You might be a big fish in a little pond
Doesn’t mean you’ve won
‘Cause along may come
A bigger one

And you’ll be lost
Every river that you tried to cross
Every gun you ever held went off
On and I’m just waiting until the firing stopped
Oh and I’m just waiting ‘til the shine wears off

Oh and I, just waiting ‘til the shine wears off
Oh and I, just waiting ‘til the shine wears off


Excellent album. Well done Coldplay.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Meet the Fannie Mae Directors

Brenda Gaines graduated with a degree in government work from a third-tier university. Following graduation she went to work for the City of Chicago where she seemed to specialize in giving away city housing benefits. She also has experience giving away federal housing benefits.

Corporate America then snapped Ms. Gaines up, where she excelled at satisfying EEOC requirements and providing diversity for corporate photographs. She was placed in support positions and then managed a credit card outfit under the supervision of Citibank. I am unable to find any financial results from Diner’s Club during her tenure.

Between her oversight activities as Fannie Mae Director, the organization that raised its percentage of new mortgage exposure from 37% to 70% in the last two years, and the other corporate boards on which she sits, she is willing to give you a speech. Honorarium requirements are not disclosed.

She has too many plaques, certificates, ribbons, and awards to list here. She occupied a position that was supposed to say 'no'.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Conspiracy Theory #7h(ii)

Camouflaged Bank Run.

Evidence:

1. This New York Times article, among hundreds of other articles, that does not mention the fact that for the first time, there are no assets in the banks other than government IOUs.
2. Somebody has taken $170 billion out of the banking system in the last year. Money continues to flow out of bank ‘reserves’.

Someone has put the word out to keep quiet this very significant withdrawal of money from the banks. It could be the government trying to avoid a panic. But if so, it is BS. The government should not be covering for insiders who are taking their money out while Mr. & Mrs. Smith get hung out to dry.

The New York Times makes the following statement:

“The nation’s banks are in far less danger than they were in the late 1980s and early 1990s.”

What do they base this statement on? Why did they make it? Stinky stinky.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Albert Einstein

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
-Albert Einstein

Einstein was a smart guy, but he must not have been familiar with the AK-47. It will outlast the sticks.

And the stones.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Freddie Mac

On September 29th, 2007, when Freddie Mac stock was trading at $60/share, Bill said this:

Freddie Mac: "Hello Congress, we’re upside down and need money."
Congress: "Hello Securities Market, we’re going to need two trillion dollars."
Securities Market: "Hello Congress, we’re going to need 15% interest."
Congress: "Hello Freddie Mac, we don’t have the money."*
Freddie Mac: "Hello Congress, we warned you about this, you should have raised our lending limits."


Freddie Mac is currently trading at around $4/share. It’s in the news today.

* Update: Call me stupid. Congress doesn’t have to go to the credit markets, especially when credit markets no longer exist. The solution is simple-just print more money.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Foreign Investment

Our Muslim friends now own the Chrysler Building. The reason that that concerns me is because I’ve read the Qur’an. But that’s where we’re at. This particular sale is fine with me; see the opinion on urban real estate from two days ago. The domestic reaction to the Chrysler Building sale is of interest to me because of a small family investment we have in a foreign country. International money and national interest are not one in the same.

The textbook theory is that the foreigner is held hostage to the nation-state selling a portion of itself. If I, or the Arabs, or the nation states from which we hail misbehave, (or the Gods to which we pray?), the foreign investments would be nationalized, and returned to the indigenous population. The theory has its limits however.

There are countries that are largely owned by foreign investors and, if the SHTF, the foreign interests would no doubt step in and take over the security apparatus. In other countries (China, Russia, Japan), the state remains strong and foreign investment is unquestionably held hostage.

Foreign investment is still held hostage in America, although to a much lesser extent than it was ten years ago. There are strong forces that would like to put global interests in the driver’s seat. James Madison and 280 million firearms say that they won’t be successful. The most likely outcome is very similar to the Arab nationalization of Western oil assets in the 20th Century.

Perhaps the Chrysler Building will see future use as a homeless shelter. Maybe a jail.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

$170 Trillion*

It’s spooky that nobody is talking about this. The questions are:

(1) What does one do with $170 trillion?; and
(2) Who loaned the banks the money?

I think we can all figure out #2. More to come on #1.

*Update: This graph indicates ‘billions’ on the left axis, which may be the correct unit. But this differs from the Federal Reserve data, which states that bank reserves have swung in the trillions. I don’t know which is correct. To be continued.

* Update II: I meekly and humbly admit an error in my math [goddamn calculator batteries, slam, slam, slam, ricochet]. The correct unit is billions. My apologies for bad information.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Leaving New York

Through the generosity of others, we were able to spend an enjoyable week in and around New York City. I was given the unexpected privilege of an opportunity to make a sales pitch to a ‘mogul’ businessman who has been on the cover of magazines. My presentation was made in an office flat that, I was informed by him, is valued at tens of millions of dollars.

I also got to sit in on a sales pitch by others. It was a ‘upscale’ internet proposal that associated the Home Shopping Network with ‘Midwestern tastes’, and sought to provide something closer to the image of Obama for more sophisticated shoppers. In any case, I am now only separated from a bunch of famous people, including Christie Brinkley, by three degrees. I am thankful to have been given this eye-opening experience.

And I remain convinced, now more than ever, that when the SHTF, national leadership will come from the lands of the Home Shopping Network. It sure won’t come from SoHo; morning coffee here costs $12.50. New York is a city completely dependent on liquid transportation fuel for its basic needs. I feel uneasy here.

Bill hereby rates urban real estate a ‘strong sell’.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Getting Closer, Part III

For a year or so, Brick Oven has been stating that banks will take a $3 trillion hit on the housing market downturn (30% of $20 trillion equals a $6 trillion loss; of which banks probably own half, or $3 trillion).

We’ve since tracked loss projections which started out at $300 billion (Goldman Sachs), then $1 trillion, $1.3 trillion was mentioned last month. And now, drum roll please…

$1.6 trillion.

The spooky thing is not the $3 trillion though; the spooky thing is the fact that ‘non-borrowed’ bank reserves have gone from $40 trillion to minus $130 trillion. Thus $3 trillion is less than 2% of whatever is happening. The housing market appears to be a smoke screen for something bigger.

$3 trillion is three months worth of GDP and is a game changer. $170 trillion is fourteen years worth of GDP and resets everything.

Be ready.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Food Aid

‘Industrialized Countries’ is PC for countries with high IQ indigenous people. Population numbers of indigenous natives in these countries are steady or slowly falling. These indigenous natives are acting responsibly.

The rest of the world is adding 75 million people per year to the earth and is (surprise!) finding it difficult to feed everybody. This is of course the problem of the responsible people of the world.

The responsible people of the world should take the following two moral positions:

1. Self-sufficient families should be able to have as many children as they please.
2. Food aid to dependent people should be tied to mandatory sterilization after the birth of the first child.

The alternative to this sensible policy is warfare and famine. But since Robert Zoellick does not have the strength or foresight to insist on these simple moral positions, warfare and famine is what we’ll get.

Add Robert Zoellick’s name to the list.

The Hamptons II

Ever since college, I’ve enjoyed going out for early morning coffee at McDonald’s or an equivalent fast food restaurant to get a jump on the day. I can’t do that in the Hamptons because chain restaurants seem to have been banished from town.

So I’ve been having my morning coffee at a fashionable place called Simon’s. I’ve got to pay $2 for a coffee refill and they don’t open until 6am. There are several flags adorning the fa├žade of Simon’s, amongst which include the multicolor diversity flag and the flag of the United States. The United States flag is physically lower.

Fair enough. It is what it is, and Simon has a business to run. He does make excellent food.

There is an interesting dynamic I can see at work in this community though. The majority of physical work here is done by Hispanics; most of whom I think are illegal based on my observations of groups of young Hispanic men going to church together.

There is an unstated understanding in the Hamptons. Democrats driving the German cars with the multi-million dollar houses constitute one segment of society, and the largely Mayan-looking hedge-clippers another. But there is no effective social firewall.

Yesterday at Simon’s, a Hispanic family came in for doughnuts. The two young sons were both sporting plastic assault rifles and ran around the place pretending to shoot at people, with the approval of the father. Simon wasn’t pleased, but nobody said anything. On weekend nights, packs of brown people congregate downtown near, and sometimes in, designer clothing shops.

God help us if the Hampton daughters begin to believe what they are taught in school and date Mexicans. It would be like Dirty Dancing times a thousand.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Music

There was a time in Bill’s life when he was transitioning out of a stint in the military into the roll of a start-up businessman. I had learned in college that the guy playing the musical instrument had a huge advantage when competing for women and subsequently learned to sing and play guitar.

These skills helped pay the bills during the transition period. We really had a good band. It was me, a bass player who had been dismissed from the Marshall Tucker Band, and another very good guitar player whose claim to fame was doing some studio work with Elvin Bishop and penning a song about the seduction of a woman who had passed out on the carpet.

I bailed people out of jail, spent time in criminal court, had my equipment confiscated by the DEA, and had a knife pulled on me. The musical career ended when the owner of the Chinese Restaurant sold my PA system to some migrant Mexican onion pickers to help make ends meet. I eventually got the money back. The life-lessons of playing lounges have been very valuable to me since.

Which brings us to the state of modern music. When we were doing our thing ten years ago, the old guys didn’t want to hear Turn the Page or Peaceful Easy Feeling; they wanted to hear Silver Wings or Sit Here and Drink (songs I subsequently learned to love). Whenever I do some cross-country driving, I try to listen to the new music coming out.

At the risk of sounding like the old guys from a decade ago, it sucks. But I think that it may suck in a different way. Seger, and the Eagles, and the Dead, and even Nirvana had perspectives on life that they expressed through their music. Just like the musicians who preceded them on the stage. It seems to me that most modern popular music centers around sensory pleasure from sex acts. That and simple rage.*

I see the state of American music as a symptom of the status of our democracy.

*I heard one song from Coldplay and they may be an exception. The song seemed to include complex rage. I intend to purchase their CD and review it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

Write America’s National Anthem on a sheet of paper, from memory. Do your best and don’t cheat. Then click on ‘comments’ to see how you did.

Reflect on the words that Francis Scott Key gave us 194 years ago that became our National Anthem only 77 years ago. Reflect on those same words after a few adult beverages later this evening.

Go forth and be vigilant.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Don't Doubt Me


On December 29th, 2007, Bill said this:

I have deep respect for Warren Buffett. I like it when a billionaire lives in his small house in Omaha, drives a domestic sedan with a license plate ‘thrifty’, and denounces the tax havens the rich enjoy.

But he’s lost it.


Brick Oven subsequently went on to recommend gold, ammunition, and real estate in free and relatively stable Central American countries. All three of these picks have increased in value since.

Today, Bloomberg said this:

It must be a bear market because even billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has slumped almost 20 percent since December.