moldybluecheesecurds 2

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

To the 94 who flip-flopped: you suck

Of the 94 Democrats who flip-flopped on FISA, 83 received PAC contributions from the three telecom giants, according to MAPlight's research, some as high as $29,500 for Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. Other notables in the top ten include Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel ($28,000) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ($24,500.)
Hat tip to MinnPost, nod to MAPlight, the bird to Pelosi, Emanuel, and the 81 other chickenshits who traded campaign contributions for immunity for illegal phone taps.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Things that make me pissed #6

Pity-me item-wanted Craigslist cheapskates

This guy wants an Airport Express 802.11n wifi base station. He wants it for $35 (instead of the $180 retail price) because:
"I'm looking for this for some one (sic) else. He's out of work and can't afford much."
Cry me a river. If you are out of work, you don't need a $200 router. You need a job.


P.S. What is it about June and things that piss me off? All previous pissed list items were posted in June 2007...

Oil: on the other hand, we're not producing as much

Congress is holding hearings on oil speculation, the process where big institutions and individuals bet on the price of oil via the futures market. The issue, of course, is the sharp spike in oil prices in the past year. My previous post links to Paul Krugman's argument, that speculation is not a big factor.

On the other hand, a lot of folks are pointing fingers at the recent deregulation of oil commodity trading, at the end of the Clinton administration:
Several changes over the past decade have relaxed the agency's oversight of commodities markets. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) allowed energy commodities for the first time to be traded on deregulated "exempt commercial markets," meaning exchanges exempt from CFTC or any other U.S. government oversight. This law was a departure from the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936, which had confined commodities trading to CFTC-regulated exchanges.
I'll let you decide for yourself. Here's a chart I threw together with oil prices ($/barrel, normalized for the falling value of the dollar v. the Euro), oil stocks (days supply in OECD countries), and the supply margin (world oil supply minus demand). All oil price, supply, and demand data is from the EIA. The dollar-Euro exchange rate is from FXHistory.

The supply margin has decreased in the past four years. But is it enough to have driven the price up over double in 12 months?


Monday, June 23, 2008

Oil market - speculative nonsense?

Economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman has been tackling the issue of high oil prices and he soundly debunks the notion of speculator-driven oil prices.

Any effect [of speculation] on the spot market has to be indirect: someone who actually has oil to sell decides to sell a futures contract to Joe Shmoe, and holds oil off the market so he can honor that contract when it comes due; this is worth doing if the futures price is sufficiently above the current price to more than make up for the storage and interest costs.

As I’ve tried to point out, there just isn’t any evidence from the inventory data that this is happening. (emphasis mine)

So there's no hoarding. And to boot, spot prices (what people actually are paying for oil based on supply and demand) have been higher than futures prices. In other words, it's supply and demand.

RIP George

When you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.

"In the Bullshit Department, a businessman can't hold a candle to a clergyman. 'Cause I gotta tell you the truth, folks. When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims: religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told.

Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man -- living in the sky -- who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!

But He loves you.

He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!"

Friday, June 20, 2008

Good questions on Iraq for Senator McCain

Courtesy of political writer Eric Black:

  1. If, as you hope, U.S. troops will be in Iraq for 100 years, what will that do to the perception that the U.S. seeks to dominate Middle East? Given the widespread dislike in Iraq and in the Arab world for the U.S. occupation of Iraq, what would the 100-year bases do to the standing — among its own people and among its neighbors -- of an Iraqi government that would reach such a long-term basing deal? Are you concerned about that?

  2. Your reference to the long-term U.S. troop presence in Germany, Japan and Korea is designed to illustrate that U.S. troops can be present in foreign bases without facing daily combat or casualties. My question is: How soon and at what cost in blood and treasure do you believe that the situation in Iraq — specifically the situation regarding the safety and normalcy of U.S. troops in Iraq — will resemble the situations in Germany, Japan and Korea?

  3. Your stay-until-victory policy (we'll leave for another day the question of how, precisely, to describe and define "victory"), will impose more costs, new costs, in blood and treasure...what might those additional costs be, in lives lost and lives shattered and dollars extracted from U.S. taxpayers and damage to the U.S. reputation in the world, before the situation of the U.S. military in Iraq resembles the situation in Germany?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Truth about Barack

From Slate, hat tip to Shadoweyes:
Here are many things people do not know about BARACK OBAMA. It is every American's duty to read this message and pass it along to all of their friends and loved ones.

Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times. Even in the shower.

Barack Obama says the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE every time he sees an American flag. He also ends every sentence by saying, "WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL." Click here for video of Obama quietly mouthing the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE in his sleep.

A tape exists of Michelle Obama saying the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE at a conference on PATRIOTISM.

Every weekend, Barack and Michelle take their daughters HUNTING.

Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.

Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It's upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups.

There's only one artist on Barack Obama's iPod: FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.

Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.

Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.

Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.

Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.

Barack Obama buys AMERICAN STUFF. He owns a FORD, a BASEBALL TEAM, and a COMPUTER HE BUILT HIMSELF FROM AMERICAN PARTS. He travels mostly by FORKLIFT.

Barack Obama says that Americans cling to GUNS and RELIGION because they are AWESOME.

Compost your plate?

There's been a number of companies that have introduced tableware that can be composted instead of landfilled, but the problem has often been that the materials break down with heat. In other words, your compostable coffee cup starts to biodegrade as you use it.

Solution? Water and leaves.

This company makes compostable flatware that be reused, refrigerated, and microwaved! And it takes about three months to compost.

Hat tip to Triple Pundit for the story.

Good energy policy: efficiency pays back 2 to 1

From wind power to biofuels, there's a lot of time and money spent on replacing our carbon-emitting fossil fuel power sources with renewable and green ones. But the cheapest and most effective way to save the planet (and money) is energy efficiency. And a new study finds that for every dollar states spent on energy efficiency in the past 15 years, it paid back two.

Support energy efficiency standards, it may be the easiest way to save the planet.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Road rage and bumper stickers: it's a territorial thing

The more personalized your automobile, from steering wheel covers to bumper stickers, the more likely you are to commit road rage.
“The number of territory markers predicted road rage better than vehicle value, condition or any of the things that we normally associate with aggressive driving,”
Marking one's territory. Sounds like we should watch out for other "markers," too.

Does free trade lead to lower prices?

Maybe.

I'm no economist, so I found this analysis of free trade to be enlightening.
When a country opens up to trade (or liberalizes its trade), it is the relative price of imports that comes down; by necessity, the relative prices of its exports must go up! Consumers are better off to the extent that their consumption basket is weighted towards importables...

...And in the U.S., the Wal-Mart effect has to be qualified to take into account the fact that the relative price of the goods that the U.S. exports (including for example agricultural commodities) is higher than it would have been absent trade.
So cheap things at Wal-Mart make food more expensive. Unless you just use the credit card, that is:
Of course, if you are running a huge trade deficit like the U.S., you can have cheaper prices all around—for all to go on a consumption binge as long as the party lasts.
The last thing I found interesting was that globalization advocates tout the economies of scale in large-scale production, but Rodrik puts the kibosh on that:
Scale economies raise a whole set of new conundrums (which is why I had stuck with the standard comparative advantage story). In particular, since scale economies are not compatible with perfect competition, we find ourselves in a second-best world with all kinds of strange possibilities.
In other words, free trade can give us cheap imports (Chinese lead toys), but may make our exports more expensive, especially if we stop having trade deficits.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Only $30 million for our energy future?

The U.S. spends $30 billion a month on oil imports, but only ponied up $30 million (with an 'm') to research plug-in hybrid cars, our best chance to reduce our reliance on oil.

Hmm. Nothing to do but count the days.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bring back the socialists

Paul Krugman has a column today on food regulation, and how we need to get back to the socialism of real food and drug regulation. He notes that a number of powerful, vociferous, and neolithic conservatives have tried to beat back effective regulation of the American food supply, leading to recent scares over American beef, spinach, tomatoes, peanut butter (and let's not forget things like lead toys).

Thus, when Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate, was asked about his ultimate goal, he replied that he wanted a restoration of the way America was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over. The income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.” (emphasis mine)
Republican Congresses have steadily cut FDA funding and, with it, oversight.

Perhaps even more important, however, was the systematic appointment of foxes to guard henhouses.

Thus, when mad cow disease was detected in the U.S. in 2003, the Department of Agriculture was headed by Ann M. Veneman, a former food-industry lobbyist. And the department’s response to the crisis — which amounted to consistently downplaying the threat and rejecting calls for more extensive testing — seemed driven by the industry’s agenda.

As Krugman says, let's bring back the socialists.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The SUV is dead

Gas is $4 a gallon and the SUV is dead.
Industry watchers predicted sales of passenger cars would surpass those of trucks within in a couple of years. Instead, it happened almost overnight...Need more proof the SUV is a goner? Ford's venerable F150 pickup ended its 17-year-run as the best-selling vehicle in America last month, dethroned by the Honda Civic and three other Japanese sedans.
Good riddance.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Getting over 100 MPG!

An Ontario blogger got to borrow a plug-in hybrid Prius over the last week and he regularly got over 100 mpg! Driving on electricity is the way to go!

Friday, June 06, 2008

A phrase I hope to hear more

I had a slim hope I may have thought of it first, but according to Google, I'm only second.

"We're on more tangents than a high school geometry class."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The silliness of athletic "recovery" products

Despite the sleek runner in the TV ad and the bold claims on the crinkly package, special "recovery" food for athletes often takes advantage of unfounded science to make itself a market. It truth, regular old food (fruit, bread, juice) is more than enough to provide the nutrition the working body needs.

I like my pre-ultimate frisbee PBJ and my special "carb-loaded" beverage (read: beer) for afters.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

If not Hillary, then McCain?

I read through many of the comments on HillaryClinton.com and am dismayed to realize how many writers claim that they will vote Republican if Hillary is not available.

Really?

I understand the indignation at being asked to quit before the race is over. But once you lose, it's time to exit gracefully and support the winner.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Should Hillary quit?

There's a great debate in the blogosphere, among political pundits, and the other 1% of America interested in the Democratic primary race. The arguments are generally:
1. She should drop out because it's numerically unfeasible for her to win
2. She should drop out to unify the party
3. She should drop out because women should defer to men

I'm an Obama supporter, so from the "I want to win" perspective, I'd like Hillary to give up.

But let's be honest here - most of the quit advocates are Obama supporters. So here's an analogy:

In 2000, Democrats could have contested the Florida results, but the Bushies quickly labeled the Democrats "Sore Loserman" and the media picked it up. How did you feel then?

What's wrong with a contested convention with the race this close? I think we can pound McCain no matter when we select the nominee.