A government of dunces

Obamacare faces immediate corporate blowback:

One of the “cute tricks” passed with Medicare Part “D” (by George W. Bush) was a “tax credit” for corporations who provided health care to retirees from their firms. This too was a distortion – an intentional one put into that bill to “buy off” some key Reps and Senators to insure passage of Medicare Part “D” (the biggest boondoggle and scam in the history of the Republic – until President Obama signed this piece of crap legislation.)

But this legislation repeals that little ditty in the Medicare Part “D” law. Remember, the Democrat talking points were that this bill would “lower your costs” and “make health care more affordable.” It was also called a “jobs bill” – that is, that this bill would create jobs.

Within hours corporations announced intent to recognize the repeal of this exemption – via 8Ks filed with the SEC. This was not a surprise – Caterpillar had warned the Administration, as had other firms, that the bill as written would increase their costs and that they would have to recognize those forward costs.

Securities laws require firms to disclose material changes when they are realized – which in this case means when the bill was signed into law, since they had already analyzed the bill and it’s impact. Legally, these companies are obligated to file the 8Ks disclosing these charges.

The Administration and Democrats generally ignored these folks when they warned of this impact before the bill was passed…. Well, the corporations weren’t lying, and now the 8Ks are flying. Caterpillar has announced an intent to take a $100 million non-cash charge, John Deer $150 million, and AT&T a whopping $1 billion.

We are indeed amused. Obama won’t prove to be the worst president ever, as Wilson and Lincoln almost surely have first and second positions locked down, but he is definitely one of the most comedic. And I suspect that he’s still only scratching the surface of his potential.

No mention of the real problem

Which is, of course, those crafty creationists:

Traditional science experiments ‘disappearing’ from schools
Almost all science teachers and lab technicians said they were now being prevented from staging certain practicals in biology, chemistry and physics lessons, it was claimed.

The study – by Science Learning Centres, a network of teacher training colleges – said more than two-thirds of staff admitted axing experiments because of a lack of space in the curriculum. Four-in-10 blamed the demands of exams and assessment. According to the study, some 28 per cent of teachers had been forced to drop classroom practical because of bad behaviour among pupils, while one-in-10 cited health and safety fears.

The amusing thing is that the self-styled defenders of science who are so vocal about so many unrelated issues don’t give a damn about the state of scientific education. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers are FAR more concerned with preventing creationism from being taught as an alternative to time + chance + natural selection (probably) + magic stardust/aliens than they are with the fact that students are increasingly being taught scientific history rather than science.

Answering questions

What is your favorite color?
Straw blonde.

What is your quest?
To finally play Fifth Frontier War. This maywill require finishing the VASSAL mod. I’ve got the map and infantry counters done, now I just have to finish the spaceships.

How do you manage your time with all the activities you are engaged in (reading, writing, gaming, soccer, family, work)?
I work in exceptionally fast bursts, punctuated by long periods of doing little more than reading. I drop the sports, writing, and gaming whenever necessary. Also, I have essentially eradicated my social life since I find that I tend to prefer solitary pursuits these days.

Who’s your second favourite Ilk after me of course?
Bane.

What is your IQ?
Over the so-called “genius” threshhold. Some people can’t seem to figure out that the 132 IQ Mensa requirement (Stanford-Binet) is a floor, not a ceiling.

Why do you hate science?
I don’t hate science. I have great respect for the scientific method, although I am cognizant of its conceptual and practical limits. The problem is that my contempt for scientists who dishonestly make use of bait-and-switches wherein they appeal to the authority of the scientific method without actually utilizing it in any way is often mistaken for a dislike of science by the modestly intelligent.

Why do you hate socialism?
Because it is an economic absurdity built on a false premise of value, an ideological monstrosity constructed upon the worst aspects of human nature, and a form of societal organization that is both intrinsically inefficient from an economic perspective and reliably dangerous from a political one.

Why are you a racist?
It depends upon how you define “racist”. There is no question that there are divergent human populations; the genetic science is settled in this regard and only a scientific ignoramus would deny that race, in the form of a genetically homogeneous groups of homo sapiens, exists. But to acknowledge the existence of racial diversity is not tantamount to a belief in general racial superiority. Each race has various strengths and weaknesses. None are intrinsically superior on average; the relative superiority of one race in comparison with another completely depends upon the metric selected.

Why are you a sexist?
Because I don’t believe sexual equality exists, or ever has existed, in any material, spiritual, or legal form. And it never will exist.

Why did you leave the US?
Because I anticipated that it was going to go through some very difficult times in the near future and I didn’t want to be around a bunch of deluded and disappointed people in the process of discovering that they were not, in fact, the most wealthy, most powerful, and most free people on the planet. My philosophy is that it is best to leave Rome before Alaric arrives.

Why Italy?
First, collapse would be redundant. Second, the food is good and the weather is nice. Third, I always wanted to learn the language.

If planning a visit to Italy, what places do recommend and what places should be avoided?
Go to Rome, Venice, and Verona. Avoid Milan and Florence.

What are good times of the year to visit Italy?
In the early spring or late fall. But I hate crowds, especially crowds of tourists, so I’m quite happy to have to wear a jacket in order to be alone in a piazza. Also, my tolerance for cold is higher than most.

At what age did you embrace your Christian faith?
27.

Do you think Brown is right, that the Permanent Portfolio always makes sense?
No. No investment philosophy always makes sense. Stocks can take 30 years just to break even.

If you and Chuck Norris got into a fight, who would win?
At our respective peaks, Mr. Norris. I might have a shot today since I am younger and closer to my peak speed and strength.

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
Seven.

Can God create a rock so large that He is unable to lift it?
Yes.

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you draw near?
Upon visiting the shrine of St. Frances of Assisi in the winter of 2001, I realized that the pattern of the trees in the grove were planted in an unusual way that suggested hermetic purpose. After eight months of close daily observation, I discovered that the shadows they cast spelled out a certain word on the autumnal equinox. Speaking that word at sunrise on a particular date gave me the gift of Gramarye. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of testing it with a extraordinarily loquacious starling and now that many of the birds around the world know I can understand them, the little bastards simply won’t leave me alone.

Is Alex Jones your mentor?
No. I’m not a fan of radio talkers.

Have you ever gamed a Japanese invasion of the west coast ~1942?
Not per se. I have played War in the Pacific, the computer game published by Matrix Games, but I didn’t try invading the West Coast.

What is your favorite caliber handgun?
.40 caliber. No particular reason, I just don’t like 9mm and I’m accustomed to forty.

If one of your feminist critics decided they wanted to have sex with you anyways, would you? That is if you weren’t married and said feminist was HOT. Would you? And by hot, I mean swedish bikini blonde hot…

Hypotheticals are irrelevant; as it stands I already have Norwegian bikini blonde hot. And having recently visited both Stockholm and Olso, I can state with assurance that Norwegian is much hotter. So, no.

My daughter just started playing soccer and I’d like to know where you learned so much about the game. What can I do to learn enough to be useful to her development in the game?
Playing it for 25 years. Go join a rec team and learn how to play it. It’s a simple game and it’s not hard to pick up on the tactics even if your technical skills are hopeless.

When does the next installment of Summa Elvetica come out?
I have to write it first. I have no idea.

Blue Hurricane or Amaretto Sour?
I have to go with the Windex. It’s the umbrellas, you know. But I’ll take a proper Sex on the Beach with Chambord, chilled but sans ice, over either.

Why do we like a person we’ve never met, so much?
It’s the charming combination of total arrogance with a complete unwillingness to take myself seriously. Humanity isn’t merely flawed, it is ridiculous.

Favorite books?

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. A Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein.

How many comments do you have to delete from people who have no business commenting in the first place? Are there ever idle threats?
About three or four per day on average. Not really. The sort of commenter who gets himself banned is much more given to claiming martyrdom and superior debate skills than issuing threats.

Why do you hate?
Because I feed on the dark side of the Force.

How do you conceptualize God?
A model builder sitting outside a globe of space-time and checking it out from time to time when He feels curious. I find it hard to imagine that God is as completely consumed with interest in His Creation as many atheists and Christians assume. I’m not claiming He’s indifferent or completely hands-off, I’m just saying that it’s possible the Deists were not entirely off-base.

Holden Caulfield, misunderstood genius, or spoiled brat prick?
Spoiled brat prick. He desperately needed a beat-down or three.

More to come as needed….

Dante’s Inferno XIV and XV

http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/widget/v2/?id=109151&bgcolor=c1d4ee&fcolor=2b405b&tcolor=2b405b

Next week’s reading is cantos XVI and XVII

They know they’re losing

When you’re losing, change the language:

“NPR News is revising the terms we use to describe people and groups involved in the abortion debate. This updated policy is aimed at ensuring the words we speak and write are as clear, consistent and neutral as possible. This is important given that written text is such an integral part of our work.

On the air, we should use “abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s)” and “abortion rights opponent(s)” or derivations thereof (for example: “advocates of abortion rights”). It is acceptable to use the phrase “anti-abortion”, but do not use the term “pro-abortion rights”.

Digital News will continue to use the AP style book for online content, which mirrors the revised NPR policy.

Do not use “pro-life” and “pro-choice” in copy except when used in the name of a group.

So, an “abortion rights supporter” is not “pro-abortion rights”? How does that make any sense? However, I do generally agree with the move away from the pro-life / pro-choice dichotomy. Most abortionettes are not uniformly pro-abortion, they primarily support it in the case of black women or when a baby inconveniently stands in the way of obtaining that all important degree in Starbuck’s managementWomen’s Studies or Walmart receptionistSociology. And “pro-choice” was always stupid. It was as about as reasonable as describing Hitler as “pro-choice” when it came to Jews.

Anyhow, it’s a pretty transparent to cast the anti-abortion movement as anti-rights. Because all rights are good, after all. Personally, I tend to view the two sides as “abortionette” and “decent, civilized human being”. The ironic thing is that it’s usually the ignorant pro-infanticide crowd that attempts to portray the opposition as paleolithic. But if there is one thing that archeology has taught us, it is that pre-Christian societies viewed it as a parental right to murder unwanted children, especially baby girls.

Wanktankery-doo

Not being a Republican, a conservative, or a wonker, I am completely unconcerned with who happens to work at the various Washington wankfeststhink tanks. That being said, I hardly think it’s astonishing to learn David Frum has continued to travel along the leftward path trod by David Brock and others before him.

With Mike Allen’s account of his exchange with David Frum, we apparently have David’s version of his departure from AEI: Donor pressure forced AEI president Arthur Brooks to fire him. “But the elite isn’t leading anymore,” David is quoted as saying. “It’s trapped. Partly because of the desperate economic situation in the country, what were once the leading institutions of conservatism are constrained. I think Arthur took no pleasure in this. I think he was embarrassed. I think he would have avoided it if he possibly could, but he couldn’t.”

I have known and liked David and Danielle Frum for many years, and what I am about to write will end that friendship. I regret that. But his statement goes beyond self-serving. It is a calumny against an organization that has treated him not just fairly but generously…. I also think that for David to have leveled the charge that Arthur Brooks caved in to donor pressure, knowing that the charge would be picked up and spread beyond recall, knowing that such a charge strikes at the core of the Institute’s integrity, and making such a sensational charge without a shred of evidence, is despicable.

Merowr! Despicable calumny… that’s excellent. This tempest in a teapot should be good for a few amusingly overheated columns over the next few weeks, to say nothing of random sideshots over the years. Having read a pair of David Frum’s books and interviewed him, I think he’s an interesting thinker who is about as genuinely and deeply conservative as Lady Gaga. Frum is one of those unique political analysts whose superior ability to recognize a problem is inversely proportional to his ability to recommend a reasonable solution to it.

I don’t see much value in the wank tanks anyhow. Begging copious donations from a lot of people in order to give it to a few people who have never accomplished anything material in their lives to sit around and think grand thoughts strikes me as an excellent way to kill a lot of trees without producing anything of value. I haven’t seen any evidence that the wank tanks have a better track record for putting out significant books than the average non-fiction publisher. As for the American Enterprise Institute, I see they’ve got something like 13 Fellows who supposedly pay attention to the economy and U.S. monetary policy, precisely none of whom were capable of figuring out that perhaps keeping interest rates near zero just possibly might cause an investment bubble that could perhaps have some small effect on the economy.

(rolls eyes) Seriously, what in the name of Milton Friedman are you doing if your entire job is to pay attention to monetary policy and you don’t even know what obvious effect certain monetary policies will have on the economy?

On "helping" indebted homeowners

Karl Denninger correctly points out the obvious about the latest Obama sleight of hand on housing:

Absolutely none of the attempts made thus far have had a damn thing to do with helping Americans, and this “new program” is no exception. They have all – each and every one – been aimed at one and only one thing – allowing banks and the GSEs to lie about the “value” of the home loans they hold.

The essence of this economic mess was a credit bubble. Nowhere was it bigger in the impact on the common American than in residential real estate.

Every action since this crisis began related to housing has acted to prevent the market from clearing. Holding loans and houses above market value – the price where they will clear in a free and open market – has been done for one and only one purpose – to allow banks and GSEs that are radically underwater – that is, INSOLVENT – to pretend they are not.

This latest plan to use TARP money to subsidize those who own homes with mortgages that exceed the value of their homes is actually nothing more than another bank subsidy. Washington is giving the banks something for nothing; the “cuts” envisioned on the second mortgages will actually have the net effect of temporarily creating some value in an otherwise worthless unsecured loan. As Denninger points out, the plan does not represent a cut in loan value from 100% to 15%, but rather an increase from 0% to 15%.

It’s just more extend-and-pretend. And like all the previous efforts to prop things up, it’s going to fail too. Remember, the primary reason banks so desperately want to prevent foreclosures is because they want to avoid being forced to revalue the loans presently inflating their assets.

On a tangential note, consider the intriguing implications of the following comparison of interest rates:

4.78% 30-year Treasury Note
4.99% 30-year mortgage

In other words, Federal Debt is priced as being nearly as risky as a home mortgage in a market where a significant number of mortgages are underwater or in default.

The FAQ

Like everyone else, I get tired of answering lots of similar questions on a regular basis, so it’s long past time to put together an FAQ to which I can point curious parties in the future. So, here’s your chance to ask a few that may or may not make the list. As always, I will ignore questions that I deem to be overly personal and those that concern friends and family.

Another atheist myth

Densa’s inability to understand the implications of comparing a large population to a small one got me thinking about some of the other myths about atheism. One of the many misapprehensions of the New Atheists is that the rapid growth rate of godlessness over the last 20 years will have grand ramifications for American society. And yet, the example of various former atheists such as CS Lewis and Anthony Flew indicates that atheism is nothing more than a transitive state for many individuals. The implications of this philosophical transience are often forgotten even when shifts in religious identification are being discussed. For example, the 2008 Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey is often cited to show that there is a national trend away from religious faith.

“Overall, 3.9% of the adult population reports being raised without any particular religious affiliation but later affiliating with a religious group. However, more than three times as many people (12.7% of the adult population overall) were raised in a particular faith but have since become unaffiliated with any religious group.”

That sounds like conclusive proof that lots of people are abandoning their religious faith, although a closer reading reveals that 36% of those “unaffiliated” people consider themselves to be religious. But even if we take the numbers at face value and assume that a loss of religious affiliation is tantamount to a loss of faith, the statistics don’t actually show what they are usually cited as showing.

Consider this. That 3.9% of the population that was raised without religious affiliation and eventually found one represented more than half of the 7.3% of the population that was raised without an affiliation. That means that the retention rate of the non-affiliated was only 46.6%! Whereas that seemingly impressive 12.7% who abandoned their childhood affiliation represented less than 14% of the religious affiliated population. So, religious affiliation has a much better retention rate at 86.3%.

The retention rate is even worse for the full blown atheist population. 60% of those raised atheist abandon atheism; 0.5% of the population was raised atheist and 0.3% of it left atheism. And while 1.4% of the population became atheist, the fact that nearly all of the nation is not atheist means that the non-atheist population has a retention rate of 98.6%, which is nearly 2.5 times better than the atheist retention rate of 40%. Therefore, the perceived rapid growth of atheism is nothing more than an artifact of the atheist population’s statistical insignificance. Even the dying Episcopalian church has a better retention rate than atheism does and the fact that 75% of atheist households contain no children under the age of 18 merely underlines the fact that atheism would be in decline if it were not already such an insignificant portion of the population.

Anyhow, it appears that this may call for the addition of another slide or two to the Against the New Atheism slideshow.

Adios 401k

With all of the unfunded public pension liabilities that are so rapidly accruing, there is virtually no chance that the federal government isn’t going to transform the 401k plan into a centralized pay-out-as-needed one like Social Security:

One of the nation’s largest labor unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is promoting a plan that will centralize all retirement plans for American workers, including private 401(k) plans, under one new “retirement system” for the United States. In effect, government pensions for everyone, not unlike the European system and regardless of personal choice.

For those who have more than the median 25k in their 401k, I suspect the penalty for early withdrawal may eventually be seen as cheap at the price.