Monday, October 31, 2011

Please Mr. Bernanke

Dear Mr. Bernanke:
I'm getting close to retirement age, and I sure could use some interest on my savings so that I have enough money to retire.  Can you let me earn some interest please?
Thanks,
Gene
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fed Policy

I've watched a variety of Republican candidates for President as well as many others attack the job the Fed is doing, and attack Ben Bernake.  And I really don't want to defend either - I think they are doing a lousy job and have punished savers and retirees at the benefit of the over-leveraged and private equity businesses.

However, fiscal policy has been a disaster for the last dozen years.  Bush II had a terrible fiscal policy, and Obama has just made it worse. Congress has been hopelessly irresponsible.  It seems to me that anyone who has served in Congress recently has no credibility criticizing the Fed.

All considered, the Fed has done a decent job considering how horrendous fiscal policy has been.
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Irony

Gordon Ramsey screaming at someone that they need therapy; Tim Geithner lecturing Europeans on their sovereign debt; 85% of the Occupy Wall St crowd protesting the lack of jobs actually have jobs.

I've awakened in a post-irony alternative universe.

Leaving Iraq

Senator Lindsey Graham (and some other Republicans) was hammering President Obama for leaving Iraq.  Senator: first, we are broke: we can't leave troops everywhere - we can't afford it.
Second, what are we worried about  - a renewal of a shooting war between Iraq and Iran?  Why would that be bad for American interests?
If it does, a pox on both their houses.
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

RIck Perry

Apparently Rick Perry, or members of his campaign, have been whining that Romney has had all this time to prepare and he isn't being judged fairly because he hasn't had enough time.

Sorry Governor, if you weren't ready, you shouldn't have gotten in.  You won't be given a lot of prep time as President if you are elected either.
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Arturo Fuente

Just enjoyed an Arturo Fuente cigar.  I'm not sure just what size it was - it was the longest cigar I've ever smoked.  A double-Churchill?  Anyway, I smoked it for two hours and there was still 7 inches left when I gave it up.

Not the finest Fuente I've ever smoked, but a second-best Fuente is better than most other makers' product.  Nice smoke.
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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ponzi Scheme

Memo to Rick Perry, Rush Limbaugh, etc.  Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme.
I'll admit that it has many of the earmarks of a Ponzi scheme - e.g. it is largely dependent upon new participants to fund the prior participants.  However, Charles Ponzi didn't have the benefit of the ability to tax and print money.  Our government has both.
Now, they may be paying us in fiat money worth only a fraction of today's dollar, but the ability to tax prevents SS from being a Ponzi scheme.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver

I read all the original Ian Fleming James Bond novels quite literally decades ago. I haven't read any of the subsequent books in the series by other authors. Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver has garnered a lot of publicity and, for some reason I can't really explain, I decided to give it a try.


This is not your father's, err, my James Bond. He has been transported to 2011. He actually has some sensitivity. And Mr. Deaver decided to create a back story: James actually had parents, with their own secrets. There are inter-agency conflicts between the various branches of the British spy network. But there is still the Q branch helping out with gadgets, now including tricked-out mobile phones, and Bond's service still is in the assassination business. In keeping with the late Mr. Fleming's original novels, the settings have a travelogue character about them, with this book jumping from the UK to the Middle East to South Africa. Deaver does a reasonable job describing the scenes in South Africa, even if the world is much smaller today than when Fleming was penning novels and describing the settings that most people were unlikely, at the time, to ever see. (Some say the novels were autobiographical, some say about others he knew, and some say were just that, novels). Anyway, the setting isn't quite as essential to the plot development as it once was.

The original novels usually centered on an enemy worthy of the UK's espionage capability and Bond's skills (SMERSH; SPECTRE). That eventually made them unbelievable - how could something like that exist anyway ? - and the cinema versions became spoofs and parodies as the cars and gadgets became unbelievable. At least we thought the bad guys were too fantastic. Then along came Idi Amin, Kim Il Jong and Saddam Hussein, skimming millions or billions while subjugating, if not starving, their own population. Suddenly, the idea of whack jobs with nuclear weapons, cholera, smallpox or whatever doesn't seem so outlandish after all.

In Carte Blanche, Bond battles Severan Hydt, mogul of a waste processing and disposal business. Hydt has some rather unusual personal habits creating an evil persona. He is out to exploit some technology to make himself even richer and more powerful. Like Goldfinger, Hydt has associate/protector, with a controlled temperament and carefully developed personal combat skills that Bond must face. Finally, the book is a bit like a detective novel since there are some false leads and an important plot twist.

I won't say I'm hooked on a new Bond series, but it was set up well enough that I'll likely try the next installment.