Friday, February 26, 2010

Future Shock

Very high winds, rain. A tree snapped in two and took out the power and cable (incl. Internet), hence no post today. I ran on the bunker on the generator all day, so my defenses were tight.

It just came back on in time for me to watch the last few ends of the gold medal women's curling. That was luck.

I suppose with Barry's EPA being the climate (and hence power) Nazis, I'll better be ready for these more often.
Back Monday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big Evil Funds - a reprise.

A "Best of Bunkerman" Post - the FIRST ONE !

Originally posted Sunday, January 14, 2007, this post explained the concept of the market actions explained by a bunch of animals nicknamed "beefers". My modification since then would be to include the piranhas, too - those beefers and beefer-like Wall Street financial institutions that feed on others in the markets, particularly their own customers. Goldman, Sachs is the Prince of Piranhas.

***Reprise begins***

Big Evil Funds

To understand stock and commodity markets, you need to know who are the important participants. Today the principal ones are index funds, hedge funds, Street proprietary trading funds, mutual funds, the active public, and the inactive public.

For fun and because the classification works in explaining market activity, I group hedge funds, active trading mutual funds and the Street proprietary trading operations together as the Big Evil Funds. Long Term Capital Management was one, as was Amaranth until they blew up; Janus of the 1990s was one, too. I'll going into the "evil" appellation later.

For now, imagine a large group of wild elephants at a water hole. They drink & drink & drain it, then they stop around in the mud for awhile to decide what direction to go to find another water hole. At some point they decide which way to go, and they are off in a stampede to another water hole. If they get there and it's small or dry, they stomp around more & then go off in another direction. You can see the metaphor at work.

The action in the stock & commodity markets since the first of the year is a fine example of the big evil funds at work. I call them "beefers" - derived from "Big Evil Funds" shortened to BEFunds, hence "beefer" - since "beefer" has humorous secondary meanings. Besides being a country term for cattle - hence the herd stampeding, etc. - see the Urban Dictionary for more.

Early in the year they rolled into tech stocks & out of energy. then after a few days - as they realize tech water hole was too small - they all barge out of tech & mill around. Some barge into retail, some back to energy. Always they are searching for more water. The press daily comes up with nonsense about the "market" thinking one thing and then another. Trying to put reasons on this action is silly - it's just beefers searching for a trend, milling around, stomping in the dust. Don't get confused by trying to rationalize this kind of action.

***reprise ends***


A bounce. I did nothing. The Green-Red rule came close to being triggered, but not. It's not a bright line rule. The the markets slightly trigger it, but look sluggish at the time, I let it ride a bit.


More bloviating and lying. Or not ? Here's a quote from FT: "he planned to press ahead with his plans to overhaul the healthcare and financial regulatory systems and introduce a cap for carbon emissions, all policies that business has criticised to varying degrees. ... 'We need businesses to support these efforts,” he said, adding that it was “not about being anti-business or pro-government; it’s about being pro-growth and pro-jobs.' ”

That part is true. he wants to draft (or recruit ?) big business into a crypto-fascist state to rule over the common man. In Nazi Germany, industrialists had a major role in both bring the Nazis to power and in running the state. Part of fascism is its satanic marriage of big business with totalitarianism government.


I have to thank a reader and oft astute commentor known a Sun Boy for this idea. He thought it mocking when made yesterday, but I recognized the value of reprising good, old posts from a few years ago for the thousands [ ;) ] of new readers of this blog. And some days I have nothing original to say after three years of daily posts. [Daily here means business days, plus a few weekends.]

Word of the Day

"Irrefragable" - adjective [$10]
Irrefragable means 1. (of a statement, argument or person) unanswerable, indisputable.
Sentence: The statement by Bunkerman that, 'credit defaults swaps and beefers were the core of the Panic of 2008', is an irrefragable truth by virtue of the facts of the AIG debacle.


Sorry, I used that one last week. I forgot to put its card into the "used recently" pile :((

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Word Wednesday

As usual on a Wednesday, nothing is happening.

Every day that I post, I also put up a "Word of the Day". Most - almost all - of these words are ones that I ran across reading books at some time. When I see a word used in a book that I don't know, I look it up in a dictionary. Then I put it onto a 4x6 index card with the meaning and sometimes with the quote as it appeared in the book with proper citation This particularly helps for unusual words; having the original usage really helps one understand the meaning better.

This study method is one that I started in high school about 40 years ago. I still have some of those old index cards. My handwriting was surely a lot better then. At that time I had decided I needed to improve my verbal skills. Another motivation was listening to the old television show "Firing Line" with William F. Buckley. He had an enormous vocabulary that he used orally.

An old term for a word that is not common, but does appear occasionally is a $10 word. For fun, I value the words that are put into my card file with a system having bit more precision. Here's the system:

$10 word - a word that you need a normal dictionary to find the meaning. A normal dictionary costs about $10, which correlates nicely with the word value.

$100 word - a word that you need an unabridged dictionary to find the meaning. An unabridged dictionary costs about $100, hence that higher value.

$1000 word - a word that one needs the Oxford English Dictionary [OED] to find the meaning. The OED covers about five feet on my bookshelves with large volumes about 12" high. My copy of the OED cost about $1,000.

$10,000 word - a word that is not even in the Oxford English Dictionary, usually arising in a specialized field. The word value correlates with the cost of a yearlong course in graduate school. Often I have to "google" those words or use

By the way, if you just "sort of" know the meaning (perhaps from context), BUT can't precisely define it in your mind, the word is at least a $10 word. Sometimes I'm surprised when my contextual understanding is a bit off.

Reading the writings of good writers, especially nonfiction, will bring lots of new words to your attention. One very fruitful source of good writing and new words are the works of H. L. Mencken.

My card file now has about 1,000 words and I'm still adding.


A fall yesterday. The usual suspect is the drop in consumer confidence. Perhaps that's the excuse, but with the jobs situation and its trend, S&P over 1100 seems high to me. I'm holding my puts and waiting.

Word of the Day

"Cacoëpy" - noun [$1000] rare. [ca-'co-e-py with a long 'o' and long 'e']
Cacoëpy means bad or erroneous pronunciation; opposed to orthoëpy. Hence cacoëpistic is the adjective.
Sentence: Cacoëpy is a word that often is an occurrence of its own meaning by cacoëpistic pronunciation. George W. Bush could not say "nuclear" without cacoëpy - he always say nu-cu-lar. I guess that was his least damaging mistake.

By the way, the two dots over the 'e' mean - in English - that the letter is pronounced separately and not part of the diphthong. Those are often left off in modern printing, but appear in older books and in dictionaries sometimes. Marks like that are called diacritic marks and this particular one is called a trema or diaeresis in the English language. [In German the marks mean something else]. A word I saw recently in a book printed in 1922 was naïve, which properly needs the diacritic marks to indicate its pronunciation. One runs across lots of these in foreign languages.

These marks can be made on my computer by holding the Alt key down and typing the proper numeric code on the number pad. ë is Alt-0235.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Septalingual Exercises

No, boys, this is NOT a post out of the Kama Sutra or any other sex manual. This post is about languages - seven of them. I'm studying six of them to try to become "literate" and have some simple speaking skills; that's the goal for now and it's reasonable. The six foreign languages are French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Latin: all the major languages of Europe that use the Latin alphabet. I speak English, that is, American, making seven. Reading and writing is a lot easier for me than speaking. Listening comprehension is easier than speaking, too. I've been doing this now for nine months for all six and have made very good progress. I started French earlier, hence am much further along in it. Spanish lags since it's confusing vs. Italian, and I like Italian better.

But I can now often grasp the gist of the headlines in their major newspapers (except for Poland - one cannot "guess" the meaning of Polish words). The news in these nations is really quite different that in the US. I suppose that's no surprise to many, but when one gets the Obama propaganda day-in, day-out, the understanding that most people in the world couldn't care less is actually refreshing.

Today the lead headline in Il Tempo (Italy) is about Iran accusing the government of Italy of being under the influence of the US in connection with nuclear policy. It's a typical lie from the Iranian dictatorship, but that headline sure adds to one's perspective about the issue of Itan obtaining nuclear weapons. Europe is in range (now), NOT the US.

In Germany, it's the Luftansa strike.

In France, LeMonde leads with problems with air traffic control.

In Spain, it's the economic crisis.

In Poland, it's the Olympics. Poland has a very accomplished woman in cross-country skiing who has won two medals.

Another way I get some enjoyment from all this work is to work out how to write (say) simple phrases into all seven langauges. That's a bit of fun and the bonus is that intriguiing connnections appear between these Indo-European languages. You've seen my septalingual "I am doing nothing" quite often in the Markets section of this blog.

Here's another one: In Roman times during a triumph, a slave would ride in the chariot of the honoree and and as the crowds were cheering wildly, he would whisper in the grandee's ear, "you are not a god". This was to remind the fellow just that - he was a man and could fall from grace like any man. Well, of course the slave spoke Latin.

Here is the septalingual "You are not a god".

Non es deus.
Sie sind kein Gott.
Vous n'est pas un dieu.
Pan nie jest bógiem.
Lei non è un dio.
Usted non es un dios.
You are not a god.

Another one, more appropriate for this winter, is "It's snowing" ->

Il neige.
Pada śneig.
Nieva OR Está nevando
Es schneit.
It's snowing.

By the way, the language order is NOT the same in both examples.

As I improve, I intend to incorporate more "worldly" information in this blog.


This week's "Economist" magazine has a cover asking what's wrong with American politics. Walter Lippmann would understand. The American voter is making a fundamental error in how he/she chooses his/her representatives. The voter either lets positions on issues dominate and influence him/her, or worse, lets the "bring home the bacon" slogan guide the choice. BOTH are wrong. The common voter has little information that could possibly permit him/her to make a rational choice on issues, and the latter selection style is simply swallowing the pitch of a mountebank.

The correct method is to vote for the most honest person with good principles.

Be bipartisan - vote for honesty. Don't vote for liars, anyone corrupt in any way, or for slime who are trying to buy your vote. He's paying you to bend over so he can have his way with you.


I bought more puts yesterday. My speculative 1-2-3 Fund is now effectively 200% short. I don't like recent unemployment claims and Obama's jobs "death star" is now alive again. That's very bad development. Now I wait.

Word of the Day

"Abjure" - verb [$10]
Abjure means 1. to renounce upon oath; 2. to reject solemnly; 3. to abstain from.
Sentence: If most of the American voters would abjure voting for any candidate not very, very honest, the nation's problems could be solved rather quickly. But ....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Celebrate Washington's Birthday !

Today is Washington's birthday and if any person in the United States deserves a celebratory day, it is George Washington. Without his devotion to the nation, his steadfast leadership and his vision, there can be no doubt but that the American Revolution would not have succeeded. And not only that, the Constitution of the United States would not have taken the form that it did, which created a republic that still stands over 200 years later. Not only was the United States the first modern constitutional republic, it still stands. Washington also set precedents as President that still stand. Imagine, when he was inaugurated as President, he alone comprised the executive branch of the nation.

He also showed his devotion to the core philosophy of the United States, "that are men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" arranging for the slaves of himself and his wife to be freed upon the demise of himself and his wife with proper support for their lives, education and retirements. [Legal reasons prevented earlier grants of freedom.]

Washington lived through extraordinary times and accomplished extraordinary things. In ancient times, no doubt he would have been elevated to god status by the Romans, like Julius Caesar. The Greeks would have talked of his godlike nature. We don't do that, but can we just celebrate this day qua his birthday ?

Book of the Week

On a prior post of Washington's Birthday I mentioned a magnificent pair of volumes on Washington's life, viz. All Cloudless Glory: The Life of George Washington by Harrison Clark. Those books are superb in using original sources of Washington's letters and writings as the basis of the book; one reads Washington's own words and sees his character ... and humor.

For this week, I select a classic book on him, The Life of George Washington, by John Marshall, the famous Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall knew Washington personally, having served on his staff during the war and later knew personally of the political strife that occurred in his terms as President.

The book is well-worth reading and is available from many sources, including a fine hardcover edition from Liberty Press, which I own.


Still holding my puts; I will add the last slug of this speculation at some point.

Word of the Day

"Evince" - verb, transitive[ $10] used often in Marshall's "The Life of George Washington".
Evince means 1. indicate, to make evident; 2. show that one has (a quality)
Sentence: Washington's refusal to be drawn into the growing partisan strife in the nation in the 1790s evinces his singular strength of honor and devotion to the entire nation. We surely could use someone with his principles today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Beginning of the End

That is how one must understand the Fed's decision yesterday afternoon after the markets closed to raise the discount rate 0.25% to 0.75%. That rate is now 50 bps over the target fed funds range of 0% to 0.25%, which a more normal level. Before this, the Fed's actions were more passive, simply letting announced special lending programs to lapse. Those expirations were the end of the middle phase of the emergency Federal Reserve programs. There's a bit of overlap as the Fed programs to buy mortgage securities has a few weeks to run. To me, that overlap is the surprise of this discount rate rise. Why now and not in April ?

Yesterday's unemployment claims number stunk again. Wal-Mart showed a sales decline and a larger comparable store sales decline. The PPI inflation numbers were poor, but the PPI is a really poor clue for inflation. There just is no apparent reason to raise the discount rate now.

Unless they perceive that rate's low prior level as a temporary funding measure like the other lending programs. Perhaps. If so, they are trying hard to get all the emergency programs ended by the end of March. Then they will have flexibility to start withdrawing liquidity and raise rates.

My guess is a small rate rise sometime in Q3.

I see no good reason to be bullish at these levels. Jobs are poor. A fed rate rise looms later this year. The stimulus spending was wasted and generated no follow-thru due its poor structure. Horrible tax hikes for sole proprietors loom. Obama is trying to generate bandwagon for more tax hikes. He's not doing anything to cut spending - so much of Federal spending is wasted. States and municipalities must cut spending, especially on employee pay, benefits and yes, retiree benefits. Why should any municipal worker get to retire early ? If the private sector requires retirement at age 65, then the public sector should, too.

All this is going to cause social unrest as those now lying in feathered nests will have to get used to a plain bed, the same as the common man sees. This election in November is going to bring much of that into the glaring light.


He continues to play the mountebank. "Tell' em what they want to hear". He's truly a man of no principles or independent thought or vision. A speech. That's what the pre-election book said about him and its being proven true. Sighhhhhh. The public chose badly.


I bought quite a few puts on SPY yesterday. [SPY is an ETF that tracks the S&P 500 - its puts are rather liquid, even for long strikes and in the money strikes.] I saw the recent decline as an "A" wave - a five wave Elliot Wave down pulse and the ensuing rally as a "B" reaction wave. That means another "C" wave down - a significant five wave move down. My target area is S&P 1000. The puts were bought in my 1-2-3 Fund - that's what I call my speculative accounts.

I'm checking for Krypto Fund for re-allocations. It's run by the numbers by my dog, Krypto, using a computer spreadsheet.

Word of the Day

"Loth" - verb [$10]
Loth means disinclined, reluctant, unwilling. A spelling variant is "loath". Both are pronounced the same, with a short 'o'. The 'th' can be a normal 'th' like moth or the 'th' in loathe, which is bit extended as in 'the'.
Sentence: I am loth to have any long exposure to equities beyond the Krypto Fund target allocations, as I envision a few months of market pain to find a level for growth into 2011 IF some issues get resolved, principally, a cut in government spending.

Lincoln used this word in the final paragraph of his first inaugural address, which is how it came to be added to my card file.

Btw, please keep this word of the day distinct from "loathe". Loth is pronounced with a short 'o'. 'Loathe' has a long 'o' and extended 'th' as in 'the'.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Breeding Stupidity

Dog breeders who select physical traits such as color, body shape, fur, and facial characteristics to the exclusion of behavior and skill characteristics WILL, over a shorter time than one would guess, breed dogs that have emotional and behavioral problems and that may be stupid.

Here's how it works. Genes undergo mutations all the time. If a gene for producing a thinner face and head is preferred by breeders to the exclusion of other traits, dogs with that trait will reproduced without limitation. And then all the natural mutations that would normally cause a dog with inferior traits to have less chance of breeding, such as stupidity, will be passed on and on. Over time, a huge proportion, or all, of a breed will have those poor traits, and no or few dogs will have good, working copies of the gene for corresponding good traits.

This is why organizations such as the AKC which focus such attention on outward physical "conformation" in looks are bad for the animal's biological health.

Collies are a good example. I will quote here from this week's "Book of the Week" which I am now reading. This particular example of bad breeding is confirmed by a friend's experiences over 50 years owning collies.

"Breeders have made collie faces thinner and thinner, for example, leaving less and less space inside the skull for their brain. A dog needs a nice, wide skull to house its brain, and if you look at old paintings of collies from the beginning of the twentieth century that's what you see: Lassie with a broad, flat forehead.

"By the early 1980s collie heads had gotten so narrow that [a person] ... who grew up with a collie on a farm in the 1950s and 1960s ... couldn't recognize the collies in her neighborhood as belonging to the same breed as her childhood pet. ..."

"The problem isn't just the reduced space for the collie's brain; it's also the weird shape of the skull. I would expect to find that the progressive narrowing of their faces has distorted collie brains anatomically. But whatever the cause, their intelligence has gone down so far that I call collies brainless ice picks. It's a horrible thing to have done to a nice beautiful dog."

There no doubt are some smart collies now, probably produced by responsible breeders concerned with the health of the dogs. But many, many breeders care only about the money and use the AKC titles to charge more for their pups. And they are not tracking whatever health and behavioral problems of the pups as they move out to customers.

Another example: AKC standards and practices - mostly "physical traits" are producing border collies that cannot herd sheep. Incredible ! The raison d'etre for the breed is not being preferentially selected for further breeding. The AKC-focused breeders like a nice, fine coat, but many of the dogs are afraid of the sheep. It's a disgrace repeated all over the nation.

Not all AKC breeds might be being destroyed. For example, in some hunting dogs I suppose the breeders, while getting AKC designation, mostly sell the pups to hunters. And if they can't hunt, then the breeder finds out and has to stop that blood line or lose customers from poor "word of mouth" publicity.

However, when a breed becomes "popular" such as border collies, most buyers aren't sheep ranchers. That let's the AKC-induced poor trait multiply on and on and destroy skills.

By the way, both Sky and Krypto are Kelpies from Australia from and that breeder IS still involved in raising sheep. Their principle customer base is huge sheep ranches. They breed for skill. Looks are irrelevant and kelpies can have many colors and body shapes can vary quite a bit. Sky is powerfully built, muscular make with a "red" coat; Krypto is much more delicate with a black coat with some brown markings. And Krypto is one of Sky's biological aunts. Both have much instinctive sheep herding skills and are very smart. The Kelpie is NOT an AKC recognized breed.

Book of the Week

"Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. This book is superb - the principle author, Temple Grandin, is a widely published expert on animal husbandry and behavior. The book contains quite interesting information on animal behavior, feelings and communication, as well as a lot of fine insight in first level management of operations. She has both remarkable person insight into animals and an extensive background in animal science that she draws on for the book. The book has considerable notes and a large bibliography to support her writings.

I am about 1/3 through it, but have leafed through and read a number of later sections. I recommend it highly.

Word of the Day

"Prehensile" - adjective [$10] an old, old one from the card file - my hand writing must be from when I was 17 in high school.
Prehensile means 1. adapted for seizing or grasping especially by wrapping around (e. g., a prehensile tail); 2. gifted with mental grasp or moral or aesthetic perception.
Sentence: The prehensile tail of monkeys evolved by natural selection over millenia, likely to improve survivability in forests.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Same Old ...

The problems with Greece debt has brought to the forefront the same old "root cause" of the Panic of 2008 and all the problems that arose in that financial crisis.

The root cause is the colossal sums sloshing around in hedge funds and the Wall Street "investment" banks that facilitate their antics.

Look at the FT article today:

Here are some excepts if you can't get it all: "A few weeks ago, a distinctive delegation was spotted in the financial quarter of Athens: bankers from Goldman Sachs were escorting a high-powered team from the investment group run by John Paulson, the American hedge fund guru, around meetings with Greek officials and analysts ... "

"That is partly because of the manner in which hedge funds and others are perceived to be betting against the euro in general, and the debt of economically “peripheral” countries such as Greece in particular, by using derivative instruments such as credit default swaps ... "

"Goldman burst on to the Athens scene in 2002 by arranging a massive swaps transaction aimed at reducing the cost of financing that country’s public debt, which had reached a level that exceeded annual gross domestic product. The deal involved some €5bn ($6.8bn, £4.4bn) of off-market cross-currency swaps linked to outstanding Greek debt, where bonds denominated in yen and dollars were swapped for euros. Because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan, it helped Greece to meet European Union deficit limits while pushing repayments far into the future."

In simple words, it was a financial scam to defraud "real" bond investors of necessary information. Who make hundreds of million (billion ?) facilitating the fraud ? GS.

Who created the subprime mess ? The Wall Street investment banks did, and the hedge fund provided money for the equity and lowest rated tranches. Of course, BOTH then shorted the securities they were selling to real investors. Their swaps and positions in phony indexes such as created by Markit and derivatives on those gave them a huge, unregulated sandbox to play their games.

And they created all those phony collateralized debt obligations (CDO) - some concocted out of swaps alone - and the credit default swaps on those. All that was done to have a hidden playroom for their proprietary trading arms and their co-conspirators, the hedge funds. Nothing was regulated or reported accurately.

And what is DC doing ? Ooops I means RC = Racketeer Central. Nothing. Most are busy collecting bribes and payoffs (oops, I mean campaign contributions) from hedge funds and Wall Street as payoffs to slow and complicate efforts for real reform.

Ban all credit default swaps. Stop proprietary trading operations in ANY financial institution with any governmental licenses for anything. Bring back openness and expose all "swaps" to disclosure and require real cash collateral to back open short positions in those. And regulate all large hedge funds; limit lending to them. They are dangerous to the common man.

Word of the Day

"Incontinent" - adjective [$10 for precise definition]
Incontinent means 1. unable to control movements of the bowels or bladder or both; 2. lacking self restraint (especially in regard of sexual desire); 3. (followed by 'of') unable to control.
Sentence: In the long term, the greed inherent in Wall Street and hedge funds make them terminally incontinent of their leverage and risk. Without real regulation, they will blow up again. That old "Liar's Poker" metaphor of a "Big, swinging dick" fits their incontinence (definition #2) perfectly, too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fundamental Rights of American Citizens

Here’s a sentence from a new blog I’ve begun to read regularly: “National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair confirmed in Congressional testimony that ‘Being a US citizen will not spare an American from getting assassinated by military or intelligence operatives overseas if the individual is working with terrorists and planning to attack fellow Americans.’ “ [ see ]
An account of the testimony in more detail is at

This is not merely hypothetical. The Washington Times story indicates that Obama in fact gave such authorization: “... disclosed President Obama had personally authorized a Christmas eve drone attack against Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen in Yemen who is chief cleric for the terrorist group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Awlaki is thought to have survived the attack.”

For completeness, note that this fellow is a bad guy: “Al-Awlaki was in contact with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who tried and failed to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day... Al-Awlaki was a former imam at a Falls Church, Va., mosque where Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the officer accused of killing 13 of his fellow service members at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, is said to have attended sermons and sought his advice over e-mail.”

I wonder from where Obama and Blair can claim to have such power? Perhaps from the authorization for the War on Terrorism? Here’s the relevant paragraph from the Congressional joint resolution in the War on Terrorism: “That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

Or from the Treason clause of the Constitution ? Article III, Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

To understand the nature of this claim of power, let’s first explore two extreme cases, then the more general situation.

Case A: Suppose a naive American citizen is known to be simply riding in a vehicle with Osama bin Laden [cf. John Walker Linde]. Does his presence act as a shield against any drone missile strike upon bin Laden ? Nope, that vehicle is a legitimate combat target. He’s collateral damage.

Case Z: Suppose an American citizen is carrying arms in an assault on an American outpost in Afghanistan. Can a US Army sniper take him out ? Yup, no problem. Again, he’s in a combat zone actively working with the Enemies of the US making War on US forces. Afghanistan and its Taliban sheltered Al Qaeda. They are legitimate targets.

Notice the similarity in Cases A and Z: the American citizen is in the combat area of operations and is connected (innocently or not) to Al Qaeda or its then protectors, Afghanistan and its Taliban.

Treason has very, very specific requirements in the Constitution put there due to the huge abuses by monarchs in Europe. The founders knew about those and wanted to prevent such under the US Federal government. Not even John Walker Lindh was convicted of Treason. And if the “terrorist” is NOT connected to Al Qaeda, then the War Resolution does not apply. There are LOTS of terrorists and terrorist groups not connected to Al Qaeda.

What about Alwaki ? Let’s accept the press accounts for the sake of analysis. He wasn’t in Afghanistan and wasn’t carrying arms. The government says he’s active in Al Quada. The Treason clause seems to apply as he is “adhering to their [US] Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” But that Section has specific requirements to prevent abuse: “No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.” The War on Terrorism Resolution also seems to apply, IF he truly is IN the organization known as Al Qaeda. IF Alwaki came to the US or could be brought here, there is no doubt but that a trial for Treason would be correct. If he’s not, then perhaps the combination of the two makes the attack to kill him in Yemen with a missile strike proper. But you can see this case goes down a risky path. The actual facts matter, and without a trial or hearing, can one be sure of the facts ?

If the specific case does NOT fit either of those two grants of power, then the Fifth Amendment must apply: The Fifth Amendment says in part, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; ... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ...”

US Citizenship does not diminish when one goes abroad. This was settled definitively after the Civil War in connection with other nations’ claiming naturalized US citizens born in England, for example, as still British citizens and subject to British law regarding treason. All our rights with respect to the US government continue in undiminished anywhere. There is no added constitutional power over US citizens when they are in foreign lands.

“ In ancient times, being a Roman citizen guaranteed a man certain rights; Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul, used those rights to protect his life on several occasions. Should being an American citizen give one any less protection? “ {from ]

What was true for Rome and Roman citizenship is true for the US and US citizenship.

Cicero’s great work, De Officiis (On Moral Obligations) has as its essential theme that “no immoral act can ever be expedient”. [from Famous Romans, CD lecture course from The Teaching Company, Notes, Part 2, page 10].

In the Bolshevik Revolution, immoral killing that was thought to be an ‘expedient’ way to defend the revolution and Bolshevik government corrupted the persons in power and led to a culture of death and oppression. The firsthand account of Angelica Balabanoff documents this. See her “My Life as a Rebel”, a recent Book of the Week. She knew Lenin and Zinoviev before and after the revolution and was a Bolshevik herself. The culture of using killing as a short term ‘expedient’ eventually led to Stalin and the horrors of his regime. The “Star Wars” metaphor applies: Going down the path to the dark side is very dangerous. In the long term, the ‘expedient’ killing destroyed the revolution as its Socialism became Fascism. Similar ‘expedient’ killings occurred in the French Revolution leading to disaster for France.

The US is not in a revolution – it’s condition is a polar opposite. Does that make apparently ‘expedient’ measures less risky ? Or even more questionable ? When chief 9/11 terrorist Osama bin Laden and many of his chief lieutenants still alive and operating, why are the rights of US citizens being diminished ? If government is failing, then correct that problem: get Osama bin Laden first. Then assess the situation. Otherwise government’s OWN failures are being used as an excuse to reduce citizen’s rights. That is not acceptable.

As I’ve argued elsewhere [this blog, October 27, 2009], the world is not absolutely 100% in one state: almost all situations require “some A and some B”. Aristotle similarly argues in Nichomachean Ethics that every virtue is a point of excellence between two extremes (A and B). In this situation, simply killing any person deemed a “terrorist” anywhere is one extreme (A); going purely by US criminal law standards is another extreme (B). The correct action – both moral and expedient – is likely a combination of A and B, somewhere between the two extremes.

Secret assassination orders on US citizens abroad is a very, very dangerous path. We’ve experienced unconstitutional, illegal assassination orders in the US in recent decades. Usually the persons receiving such illegal orders disobey. But not always. We must carefully find the optimum point of virtue to defend the freedom of the nation and its people without losing our liberty in the process. And once found, we must adopt it as a habit and process.

Word of the Day

“Expedient” – adjective & noun [$10 regarding precise definition]
Expedient means (adjective) 1. advantageous; advisable on practical rather than moral grounds; 2. suitable, appropriate; (noun) a means of attaining an end; a resource.
Sentence: “Cicero argues that there is ultimately no dichotomy between expediency and morality.” op cit.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Whither Now ?

The elephants are still stomping in the mud at their drying waterhole. I've been hiding in a palm tree overlooking it to avoid getting stomped. My last two trading forays ended flat and poorly. The question is, whither will the world economy go now ? Up, sideways or down ? Or will it go in different directions in different places ?

News today is not encouraging. From FT: "Germany’s economy ground to a halt at the end of last year, dashing hopes that its rebound would help lift activity across continental Europe.
Gross domestic product in the fourth quarter was flat compared with the previous three months, according to the country’s statistical office. That was weaker than expected and suggested that the ending of government emergency support measures – including subsidies for car purchases – had a greater impact than feared."

China announced higher bank reserve rates this AM to slow lending. Futures dropped on that news.

The US Congress is discussing another jobs bill. I guess that's a tacit admission that last year's 'stimulus' bill mostly wasted the money. That's no surprise to readers of this blog.

A friend sent me a headline from Australia on a jobs bill there. That nation seems to cleverly combine jobs with long term benefits to a key industry. They are funding heritage projects around the nation. These are good programs because they not only provide good construction jobs to preserve historic places, but those very places are important tourist sites. Thus a good local industry gets long term benefits, too. The US did something like this in the Depression.

Here's the link ->

DC, ooops I mean RC (aka Racketeer Central) has been so corrupt for so long that simply doing the right thing is foreign to the lifers there. They just do what's expedient. Or do something phony hidden by lots of propaganda. Or run their rackets of lobbyist payoffs and earmarks (aka bribes) for supporters.

The US economy is going to have to start standing on its own very, very soon. In March the Fed will cease buying home mortgages. That will be an acid test. Rates will surely go up. How much ? More importantly, will sufficient funding be available ? I wonder ...

Hence my choice to stay safe in the trees. The elephants are stomping around hard, the mud and dust fills the air. For my speculative funds, I'll wait until I can envision a sustainable trend - when the elephants move out, I'll climb onto their backs and ride to the next waterhole.

My long term funds, managed by my dog, Krypto, made some substantial purchases of equities, gold and silver in recent days (all posted here). Her asset allocation moves often are rather timely. So I'm leaning to thinking the long side will proved the next big move. But when ?

For now: Je ne fais rien. Ich machte nichts. Nic nie robię. Estoy haciendo nada. Non faccio nulla. Nihil facio. I am doing nothing.

Celebrate Lincoln's Birthday !!!

I'll be doing that this evening and again on Sunday at the Lincoln's Birthday Brunch of the Department of Massachusetts, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

"President's Day" is such thin gruel compared to Lincoln's and Washington's Birthdays. I stick to the original holidays.

Word of the Day

"Irrefragable" - adjective [$10]
Irrefragable means 1. (of a statement, argument, or person) unanswerable, indisputable; 2. (of rules, etc.) inviolable.
Sentence: It's an irrefragable truth that the US Congress is now dysfunctional. Why ? The wrong people are being elected. For decades, voters chose the expedient path, viz. a person who 'brings home the bacon', rather than an honest person. Voters: be bipartisan - vote solely for honesty and good principles !

[hehe, I love it when my Word of the Day stumps the Google spellchecker :-)) ]

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Over the years I've become fond of rum as an evening cocktail before dinner. One problem I've had has been finding high quality rums - rum is a bit late in targeting the premium market. Understanding the different types and reading the labels to find good rums for experimentation has been difficult. Labeling laws in rums are very weak in most nations. After learning a good bit of French, however, I've had a lot of success and write about my results and recommendations here. The style follows my earlier writings on all spirits liquor and on Scotch [see posts of May 29, 2009 and July 27, 2007]. I break the recommendations down by price range. All these rums are stocked in my bar in the "Sword Room" of the bunker.

The best rums in my opinion are made from sugar cane juice, not syrup or molasses. They also are aged in wood casks or distilled in wood pot-stills.

Highest - the best rum I've ever had is a 1970 Clément Rhum from Martinique, "Trés vieux Rhum agricole pur Martinique; vielli en futs de chene". This costs about $230 per bottle, but was exquisite, like a cognac with a rum flavor. Mrs. B purchased this for me after lecturing on a cruise in the Caribbean in the mid 1990s, so it was likely aged 20+ years. The French decription means, "very old, pure Martinique farm rum, aged in oak casks". Martinique has strong labeling laws that are similar to French wine labeling laws.

"Rhum agricole" means farm rum, meaning it is made on the farm with fresh sugar cane juice squeezed at the proper time. Also, "vieux" means "old". Look for those words in rums from French speaking countries.

High - Rhum J. M., a rhum vieux agricole from Martinique also. My particular bottle purchased last week was a 1997 vintage aged 10+ years costing $50. This is 96 proof, so adjust your drink accordingly. This rum is excellent, with a fine flavor that's not oppressive.

Moderate - the Original British Navy Pusser's Rum. About $22/bottle. This is made according the standards and formula of the grog served by the "purser" on British Navy ships for centuries. The quality is very high, and the rum is a blend of four rums all distilled in wood pot stills (instead of metal) for added flavor.

Low - Mount Gay Rum, Eclipse, from Barbados - a golden rum. Costs about $16/bottle, this rum has good flavor and is very mixable.

How to Drink It

My preference is straight rum on ice with a slice/wedge of lime. I let the ice melt a bit to cut the bite of the alcohol. Hence for Rhum J. M. with its high proof, I let the ice melt a bit longer. Then I just sip it. This lets me enjoy the flavor of the fine rum at its peak without excessive dilution.

Don't let conventions push you to drink the rum in some way that doesn't maximize your pleasure for yourself. That is part of the Epicurean philosophy: live simply, but enjoy some things at their best.


Doing nothing. Looking. Thinking.

Word of the Day

"Jocose" - adjective [$10]
Jocose means 1. playful in style; 2. fond of joking, jocular.
Sentence: This blog often is written in a jocose style that might be a bit too subtle sometimes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Perfect Fried Egg

The Epicurean philosophy urges one to have a simple life, but also enjoy some of fine things the world offers. That attitude reminds me of an interview I saw around four decades ago of Jack Benny. Jack Benny was a great comedian from the vaudeville era thru the radio era and then thru the early years of television. He had traveled around the nation entertaining and had eaten at many small and large establishments. In his travels he enjoyed finding places that had the best offerings of simple foods. In the interview he talked awhile about a diner or small restaurant somewhere in the Mid West that served the best ham and eggs he had ever eaten . His delivery was exquisite. What in prose might seem bland could be hilarious when Jack Benny said it.

This example shows us that "fine" need not be expensive. One can create foods that look and taste marvelously without spending a C note. The World's Finest Martini recipe posted here does that for cocktails. Yesterday I made what I like to call The Perfect Fried Egg. This is not the world's best. I might have claimed that once, but on a train tour of Scotland on The Royal Scotsman a few years ago I had a couple fried eggs that were so tasty I have to forego claiming I can top them.

Start with the best eggs you can find. I use fresh eggs from a local farm laid by happy, free range chickens fed with organic feeds. (I think this is where the Scottish eggs have the advantage.). Spray your skillet with Pam or some antistick spray. Put some olive oil (extra virgin !) in the pan and set the heat at about medium.

Test the temperature by putting a drop of cold water into the oil. When it pops vigorously, the oil is at the correct temperature. Crack the eggshells one at a time and put the eggs into the oil. This takes a bit of practice and requires a good wrist action for a clean crack. Sprinkle some black pepper on them. Now wait.

When the white is not quite fully cooked, carefully flip the eggs over. Start counting off seconds once the first egg has been flipped. In my "humble" opinion [;)], over medium is the best. The yolk is cooked to being mostly thick, but only very slightly solid. This required 35 seconds being "over", no more, no less.

When 35 seconds have elapsed, take out the first egg flipped and put it onto your plate, then take the second egg out. Voilà ! You now have two Perfect Fried Eggs.

By the way, the perfection is in the manner and result of the frying. If you have better eggs, you'll beat mine. And it's a matter of taste. If you really like runny or solid eggs, you might think these substandard. But as for your taste ... I can't possibly comment. ;-)


A good rally. I wonder if this in an intermediate bottom. Those Krypto Fund asset allocations to stocks have been a good sign of that in the past. The sellers seem to have dried up and few sellers were uncovered lower on recent probes. But then, the question is, What to buy ? I have few ideas now. I need to do some research.

Word of the Day

"Ipsedixit" - noun [$10]
Ipsedixit means an assertion made but not proven.
Sentence: These ipsedixits that I make for my recipes, such as The World's Finest Martini and The Perfect Fried Egg, are done facetiously to provoke thought and comment.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Humor Can Show a Bit of Truth

Often one hears that good humor needs to contain a kernal of truth to click. Today I'll turn that around to extract some truth from a very humorous Super Bowl ad. The ad that caught my attention is the one Audi made that features the Green Car and Green Police (courtesy of an environment-climate web site that Mrs. B reads) ->

The ad is a parody, but is riveting in showing how the logical extension of extreme green rhetoric would lead to a gestapo-like "green police" intruding on all aspects of our lives. And it's true in parts: some communities DO search trash on occasion. The ad keeps its humor as the green gestapo works - the green cop on the Segway looks like the Mall Cop in the recent comedy movie. But California is installing have smog sensing devices roadside to ferret out "polluting" cars [see]. Can stops to search be far away ?

But think about the ad: what does it finally show ? A fellow driving an Audi A3 TDI diesel getting a compliment and free pass, stepping out of the line for searches. What is the message ? Buy our car and you'll be exempt from the oppression. The car has a base price of about $30,000, meaning it will probably cost $35-40,000 when they add in the various option packages, charges, taxes, etc.

Did you know that the median disposable income for households is a bit under $45,000 in the US ? That is just a bit over the cost of the "green" car. It's obvious that the bulk of the people - the common man - can't afford this paragon of greenness for family transportation. It's even less affordable when you include the fact that two cars are necessary for a two-earner household that IS the median lifestyle in the US.

The upper middle class can. And of course the ruling class [aka the rich & powerful] can. The fanatical environmental movement doesn't care. They want to impose regulations that will prohibit and ban broad aspects of the life-style of the common man and require one to use expensive and time-consuming devices and practices. After all, to them, you're just a serf living on their manor. And they want the traditional "by your leave, master" humbly said before you do anything.

Watch that ad again and see the future as the fanatical green movement does. It's no joke. Someday if they get their way, you'll be using an outhouse in the backyard, freezing in winter and frying in summer, and riding to work on a bicycle in the rain; that is, IF you have a job. As for those electronic devices you like, such as games, TV, the Internet - forget them. They use power. The ruling classes like this: they can use their wealth to avoid all those impositions and it keeps the common man in his place.

The environmental movement needs to re-organize and add reason to its practices and proposals. Kick out the fanatics. Recognize the huge progress made since 1965. Cars are enormously cleaner now. Recognize the very high marginal costs of further improvements. Is that money wisely spent ? Lots of poor people need help. Education of the young in college is very expensive. Are scarce resources best spent extracting another milligram of pollution from cars ?

Most so-called "green jobs" are subsidized and not lasting. They produce something no one would freely buy at a fair price. They take scarce resources better spent elsewhere and direct them to the projects that are simply placebos.

Don't let the ruling class use environmental rules to impose aristocratic practices. As the commercial humorously shows, the ruling classes will use their money to get out of the queue. The human mind is the greatest tool. Let's use it to develop slowly green policies and practices that truly work. And maintain our fraternity with our fellow man.

Book of the Week

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English by John McWhorter. This very readable book goes far beyond the usual focus on similar words by looking at grammatical structures, too. Why does English NOT have inflections - endings - for most noun and verbs ? Why do we conjugate the verb, "drink" as drink, drank, drunk ? Why do we say, 'I am swimming' and not the simpler, 'I swim' for the present tense. The book shows how old Celtic, the Vikings, proto-Germanic and old Indo-European all had influence on our English. McWhorter also wrote "The Power of Babel" which covers all human language and for which there is also an excellent lecture series on CDs from the Teaching Company.


Ditto yesterday. Je ne fais rien. Ich machte nichts. Nic nie robię. Estoy haciendo nada. Non faccio nulla. Nihil facio. I am doing nothing.

Is GOOG morphing into Mister Softee ? They seem to trying to copy good products of others to get some income beyond the core business, as Microsoft has done for years, with little success. Playing catch-up ball usually fails in business. That's one reason I sold that stock around $620 a few months ago. They were just copying the iPhone. Now they are copying Facebook and Twitter. But why trust GOOG ? They just want your private info to sell you ads. Not for me.

PS: Ooops. Krypto wants me do buy some VWO to get the emerging markets allocation up to the standard. I shall obey this AM. Good doggie, Krypto, you are a super fund manager - here's your fee, a fine dog biscuit.

Word of the Day

"Solecism" - noun [$10]
Solecism means 1. a mistake of grammer or idiom; a blunder in the manner of speaking or writing; 2. a piece of bad manners or incorrect behavior.
Sentence: The fanatical greenies are trying to redefine the lifestyle of the common man as a solecism, just as the political correctness crowd has tried to control common speech.

Monday, February 8, 2010

DC = RC ?

That's the symbolic way of asking, "Is Washington DC racketeer central ? To give credit, a friend gave me this intriguing metaphor which under analysis seems to be more than a metaphor.

What is a racketeer ? A person who commits multiple, perhaps serial, crimes which might be minor in some sense (perhaps non-violent at first). In this case we mean crimes against the common man. I'm using "crime" here in a broad, general sense, not necessarily unlawful now, but an immoral, or amoral, unethical behavior. And of course "Racketeer Central" is a place with a very high concentration of racketeers who work together - in this case to loot the people.

Focus on what happens in DC now in the current and past 100 years. As Walter Lippmann pointed out in 1922 in his exquisite book, "Public Opinion", the DC politicians simply don't have any knowledge of the issues they address. They are elected from districts and states under democratic elections, but the voters don't have much real knowledge of the issues either. Elections are won by sloganeering, patronage and favors paid to supporters.

The politicians get information on issues from lobbyists of industry or lobbyists from so-called public interest groups. The politicians in turn pass laws that favor the industries or "public" interest groups. The industries get favorable tax laws, favorable industry rules and even government contracts. The "public" interest groups get contracts that hire their people and rules or laws that favor their supporters (such as trial lawyers, etc.).

Who pays ? The people. What do they get in this exchange / bargain ? Nothing of net positive value. Aristotle in Nichomachean Ethics expressly calls this type of unfair transaction, unjust.

Here's a specific example from the current debate on ObamaCare. [This is from my friend.] ObamaCare was created by politicians in DC and legislative staffers with information and urgings from health and drug lobbyists. It would require individual people to buy health insurance policies - for their "protection". And not just any policy or a policy they really like. A policy approved by bureaucrats picked by DC. That "protection" is designed to provide profits for drug, medical device, health insurance and other health industries. If a person declines to buy or prefers something else, he will be fined. If he doesn't pay the fine, he gets thrown in jail or loses his home.

Sounds like a mafia protection racket, no ? How do the politician racketeers collect ? From campaign contributions from the industry. Why do you think in the recent Massachusetts Senate election campaign that the Democratic candidate raised large sums in health industry lobbyist ?

A racketeer running a crime syndicate pays off local police, judges and politicians to let him run his rackets as he sees fits (within limits of bad press). He then extracts extortion and protection racket money from the common people - usually the poor, the working class and weekly organized middle class people and businesses.

In racketeering, both the crime syndicate and the corrupt police and politicians are racketeers; after all they are working together to loot the people. In DC style racketeering, it's the lobbyists and their industries, the politicians and the entrenched bureaucrats who are the racketeers. The same group pays, viz. the common man, the people.

The racketeers in DC use propaganda to fool the people, whether it's government sponsored, or distributed by sycophants in the media or industry paid commercials. Al Capone gave out chickens to the poor, holiday dinners and very large tips to all sorts of people. This bought him good publicity as being generous. The current practice in State of the Union speeches is to highlight some beneficiary of a government program. Sound familiar ? Who notices if 10,000 entrepreneurs are run out of business by oppressive rules.

The answer is yes, DC = RC.

What can be done ? Voters must vote only for the most honest candidate regardless of party. And cease giving any credit for "bringing home the bacon": they are paying for a whole pig and receive just bacon bits. Demand honesty and make no exceptions.

And for information, legislators and the executive branch MUST stop relying on lobbyists. Use nonpartisan, independent research. If it's not available, commission it.

In Memoriam

Late Saturday night a bright white star, Spica, affectionately called Spikie by us, blinked out quietly. For almost 16 years, our best friend. She is missed deeply.


Je ne fais rien.
Ich machte nichts.
Nic nie robię.
Estoy haciendo nada.
Non faccio nulla.
Nihil facio.
I am doing nothing.

Word of the Day

"Qua" - conjunction [$10] from Latin, ablative feminine singular for of qui, 'who'
Qua means in the capacity of, as being.
Sentence: Voters must stop evaluating legislators qua godfathers to dole out favors and protection, but accept only honest people with good principles.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Sign ?

Washington DC gets a mountain of snow dumped onto it. Surely the ancient Greeks would say that's a sign and punishment from the gods for the colossal hubris in DC that politicians or man can control or influence the climate.

And for me, could I have schadenfreude* in seeing DC get over two feet of snow ... ? With respect the politicians, greenie lobbyists and climate change bureaucrats, that's a big 10-4 ! :-)

But for the common man, nope. I've been in storms that laid down that much snow. It can get bad, especially if one loses power. In built-up areas, there just isn't anywhere to put the snow. I hope they hunker down and help each other cope.

Word of the Day

"Schadenfreude" - noun [$10]
Schadenfreude means enjoyment derived at the misfortunes of others.
Sentence: see above.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Hot, Hungry Black Hole

That's the big black hole at the center of 1H0707-495, which is an active galaxy far, far out in space. This post is a bit different from the usual fare here, as this blogger is responding to request by a commentor known as "Sun Boy" for Mrs. B to write about this topic. She didn't write this, but did point me to the sources. I know a little bit about the subject, so knew what questions to ask.

For a jocular nickname, let's call 1H0707-495, "Bubba". Why Bubba ? Well, it's very heavy, about 3 to 5 million times the mass of the Sun, and hungry. Imagine a real life Bubba with a big belly at McDonald's eating some double quarter pounders with cheese. Our galactic Bubba "eats" bigtime, too, swallowing matter at the rate of two Earths per hour. That's a lot !

Bubba is heavy, but really quite small. The radius of Bubba itself is about 9 to 15 million kilometers. For a comparison, the radius of the orbit of the planet Mercury around the Sun is much larger - 58 million kilometers. The diameter of the Sun itself is 0.7 million kilometers. [OK: a kilometer is 0.6 miles]. That means Bubba compacts the mass of 3-5 million Sun's into a "ball" with a diameter just about 80 times larger.

Bubba attracts matter with its gravity, which near it's "edge" is so strong the even light can hardly escape. The mass of Bubba curves space so much that light almost curves back onto Bubba. Over it's edge, the light cannot escape.

As gaseous matter is drawn to be swallowed by Bubba, it gets heated by compression. As Bubba is rotating quite rapidly, the gaseous matter forms a disk, sort of like how a dancer's dress will swill around to the horizontal. There is no centrifugal force along the axis of rotation, so the matter compresses into a disk. All that matter is still being drawn into Bubba's pie hole. It gets hotter and hotter, eventually so hot that it emits X-rays. That's how Bubba is seen.

Here's a good source for information on Bubba:

That article mentions a theoretical limit on how much matter that Bubba can swallow. Why is there a limit ? As the matter is drawn to the "edge" of Bubba, the matter's gravitational energy is converted to heat and then to radiation. That radiation has a pressure and the compressed gas has a pressure, too. As matter is drawn into Bubba at greater and greater rates, the force of those pressures eventually balance the gravitational attraction. This produces a theoretical limit. However, that might not be the practical limit due to other considerations: streaming, the flat accretion disk, magnetic fields, etc. It's actually a very complex calculation.

Why does streaming matter ? Easy, think of a highway with everyone staying in lane and going fast. Then suppose a bunch of boobs start to change lanes to exit. That can break the streams of cars and cause a jam. Magnetic fields can confine the gas to create streams where more matter can flow.

Well, that's enough for now.


Another big drop. The Green-Red rule and paying attention to the fundies save me big time. I'll swing the bat again soon.

Krypto has some re-allocations on order: putting cash to work in GLD, SLV and the European ETF, VGK. This cash was waiting for better prices on TIPs, but I'll put it to work now.

Word of the Day

"Revenant" - noun [$10]
Revenant means a person who has returned, esp. from the dead.
Sentence: There is no matter revenant from a black hole, except for quantum processes near the edge that can permit some particles to escape slowly from it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Command State ?

The Ruling Classes in DC seem to have decided to grab powers that were never contemplated in the US Constitution. I mean the power to order the people - you, each person - to do whatever the ruling classes desire, or suffer punitive fines. This is a positive order to command an action / behavior, not a subsidy or prohibition.

The instantiation* of this seizure of power is the mandate in ObamaCare that each person MUST buy health insurance or suffer a fine.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Congress has no power to order States to do positive actions; Congress gets its way by subsidies or threat to withhold other funding. Such rulings were based on the Tenth Amendment, which states that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Notice that "the people" have an equal status in this Amendment.

Where else does the US Constitution permit the Federal Government to command the people ? I can find only in its right to raise armies, viz. draft people into the military. There is plenty of power to regulate and restrict activity, but that's NOT the power to give you orders to do something which you may not wish to do. There is power to tax in several places, but imposing fines for not doing something is not a tax.

One can find strong evidence that contrary view holds, viz. that the Federal Government has no powers to command the people except through a military draft.

The 13th Amendment in part states, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Is not a command to do something a form of involuntary servitude ? What else could it be but that power of a Baron to command his slaves or serfs to do work. There is no exception here for a general or implied power of the United States to command the people.

The Third Amendment states, "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." This was put into the Constitution because of centuries of abuses by English kings in forcing the people to quarter soldiers [here, "quarter" means to house and feed]. The kings did that either to avoid asking parliament for funds, as King Charles I did in the English Civil war, or as the English Parliament did in 1765 to force the colonies to pay for the support of British troop, and not the English people. That abuse was cited in the Declaration of Independence and led to the Third Amendment.

I see no logical conclusion but that the individual mandate in ObamaCare is unconstitutional and an abuse of power.

That doesn't mean that I don't support a universal health care benefit in the US. My blog post of October 21, 2009 specified the right way to provide this. You can find it in the Blog Archive on the right, but here's a direct link:

My view on how to raise the money has changed, however. See my blog post of November 24, 2009; here's the link:

If Congress would do the right thing, it could solve the three largest problems facing America: lack of jobs, budget deficits, and access to health care for the people. If Congress did this, I'm sure they would go down in history as the greatest Congress since the 1st Congress. But their current path is to go along the path of King Charles I and King George III in seizing more power and oppressing the people.


Waiting. I was a bit disappointed in the ISM Services #. Jobs in the US will mostly come from services, so that sector need to get a lot stronger.

PS: Sold the spec longs out. The crappy jobs number made the decision for me. If I hadn't, the Green-Red rule would have told me to sell anyway. Small net loss. Standing aside for now.

Word of the Day

"Instantiation" - noun [$10] noun, from "instantiate" = verb [$10]
Instantiate means to represent by an instance; (alternate) to represent (an abstract concept) by a concrete or tangible example.
Sentence: See * above.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Uses of Wealth

Herein I reprint a blog post from Sunday, August 19, 2007, with a current update and application.

*** Reprint Begins ***
The private enterprise system and private property [aka that Marxist term "capitalism" that I dislike] fantastically motivates people to create wealth. Some create great wealth. Here's a quote from Thucydides that sparked my thinking - perhaps I first read it referenced in Erasmus' "Praise of Folly". The quote is from the famous oration of Pericles.

"We cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy; wealth we employ more for use than for show, and place the real disgrace of poverty not in owning to the fact but in declining the struggle against it." [note 1]

Other than Bill & Melinda Gates, who among the modern mega-rich emulates the beneficence of Andrew Carnegie who donated everything to create libraries in multitudes of small towns in America, including my home town? [See below for a couple other examples] Following Pericles, his great wealth was quickly used to increase the intellectual capabilities of the entire nation. It was not hoarded in trust or a foundation to perpetuate the glory of the donor. The Gates Foundation has a fixed time limit to spend - use - all the money.

Modern rich and powerful people lobby to eliminate the rule against perpetual trusts, so they can create a new de facto nobility [not de jure as no titles can exist in America thanks to the Constitution, Article I, Section 9]. Named foundations are created that, barring stupid investments, last forever as independent institutions. Their independent boards of trustees over time can completely diverge from the donor's wishes - only the name is perpetuated. The Ford Foundation is the quintessential example.

And then I read Bill Gross in the WSJ, August 4-5, 2007 issue, page B4: "... now is the time, long overdue in fact, to admit that for the rich, for the mega-rich of this country, that enough is never enough ..." and "... "A thirty million dollar gift for a concert hall is not philanthropy, it is a Napoleonic coronation."

Much of the mega-rich seem to just want more, or to be able to brag about their "returns", hence the current infatuation with hedge funds. Or the money is spent in great shows of extravagance. Many modern mega-rich emulate dukes & princes in the past courts of Europe in their opulent parties, colossal mansions, and vast landholdings. Or endowing events and groups with the primary purpose of creating a perpetual edifice inscribed with the donor's name. Or donating to universities for fund named endowed professorships or named institutes therein. Younger scientists - those actually making most of the discoveries ... get little.

Is using the funds for increasing the capabilities of the human race ever a consideration?

1. Citation: Great Books, Vol. 5, Thucydides, page 397, section 40.

*** End Reprint ***

Almost 30 months have past since that post. Unfortunately, it seems I had few readers among the rich then. Warren Buffet is giving his billions to the Gates Foundation, so maybe he did. I found an example from the recent past and a more distant example that were done prior to that post.

My original post contained an example of a gift that establish an institute to help advance the frontiers of mathematical knowledge. Last month I learned of a large gift that helps advance the humanities. Heiress Ruth Lilly gave $100 million to endow The Poetry Foundation. [NB: Its name is NOT Lilly, showing some humility and true generosity.] The foundation runs Poetry magazine and funds numerous poetry programs nationwide and provides prizes for new poetry. It is a bit controversial, as some think the money could have been better used - of course that will depend on the trustees [see]. Perhaps. Maybe a time limit to distribute the funds would be a good idea. But at least it's not another named building. Btw, I subscribe to Poetry Magazine.

Recently I realized that historic preservation is another place that perhaps the wealthy could put their wealth to a fine use in the manner of Pericles' charge. In my hometown over 40 years ago a local wealthy man endowed a foundation to restore a historic section of the town and ensure it was maintained and preserved, as well as providing programs for modern people to understand the way of life that existed circa 1840 in Ohio. [Note: the name of the benefactor is nowhere excessively displayed, showing humility that Pericles would approve.]

This particular development has been quite helpful to the local economy, too. The tourism provides a fine boost for local jobs. At a time when government funding for historic preservation is under pressure, perhaps rather than send money to some university to endow some named chair for a grey eminence (and not a younger scholar), persons seeking to do something good with their wealth might consider historic preservation in their own communities. If well-designed, these provide economic help to the communities as well and cultural value.


Waiting, holding. I have no preconceived targets for this speculation. I'll just follow the trend and news. The Green-red trading rule applies now.

Word of the Day

"Ekphrasis" - noun [$10,000] from a Greek word of same spelling, meaning "a description"
Ekphrasis means the use of language to describe, or to speak on behalf of, a silent work of art.
Sentence: Poetry provides many examples of ekphrasis, perhaps the most famous being Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Smoking Gun Appears

A article appeared in the WSJ of January 29, 2010 that had an innocuous title: "Slowdown in Warming Tied to Less Water Vapor". Anyone without a scientific interest or interest in global warming might have skipped it. The article itself makes excuses for why the hugely expensive climate models failed to forecast the fact the recent cooling. "Climatologists have puzzled over why global average temperatures have stayed roughly flat in the past decade, despite a long-term warming trend. New research suggests that lower levels of water vapor in the stratosphere may partly explain the anomaly."

"The study, appearing in the journal Science, points out that the concentration of water vapor in the stratosphere has dropped about 10% in the past decade, triggered by unexplained cooler temperatures at certain high altitudes above the tropics. The study concludes that in the last decade the decline in water vapor slowed the rate of rising temperatures by about 25% ..."

Here's a well-hidden fact: water vapor - not carbon dioxide, is the dominant "greenhouse gas". Water vapor accounts for about 30 times the warming of carbon dioxide. Surprised ?

The climate modelers ASSUME that water vapor has no independent changes and is in permanent equilibrium. That means they can mostly ignore it in their calculations and simply treat it as being perturbed a bit by other "forces" like carbon dioxide.

Here's a metaphor: The elephant and its tail. Watching the elephant's tail can tell you where the elephant is going and one could build elaborate "models' to forecast the movement of the tail, perhaps based on the number of flies landing on the elephant's back. And it might work for awhile. BUT when that elephant turns, that model would collapse and be completely wrong.

Water vapor is the elephant and carbon dioxide is the tail. Remember, water vapor produces 30x more greenhouse warming than does carbon dioxide.

What else does the facts of the article prove ? That water vapor is NOT in permanent equilibrium. That means a core assumption of the climate models is WRONG. The entire house of claims that humans cause global warming is built on sand. Unless a model independently and correctly forecast amounts water vapor in the atmosphere at all levels, it will simply be wrong when used to make claims of warming in the distant future.

How can a model that is wrong for the most recent decade be used in any rational sense to make forecasts about future trends ? It simply is nonsense to use it for such. Anyone doing do is a mountebank and charlatan, selling solid gold watches for $1. Willing buyers are chumps.

Another analogy: Imagine a stock market model that missed the tech stock crash of 2000 and the Panic of 2008. Who would use it for forecast stock price levels now ? No one.

Don't expect the scientists to trumpet this. They want their grant money to continue in the huge amounts they've gotten for years.

Book of the Week

"New England's Riotous Revolution" by Robert Ellis Cahill. This is a superb little book, fun to read and provides insight on the initial years of the American revolution at the street level. The book is quite short at 67 pages and is cheap (I paid $4.95), but reading it is like finding a small purse full of gold coins. ISBN 0-916787-12-5.

To quote the author: "This little book was prepared not only to give you an insight into the true character of the heroes and villains active in the early stages of the American Revolution, but to introduce you to some of the characters who got little or no publicity then or now, yet played a vital part in the rebellion - and to provide information on some of the hilarity and hardships experiences by the average Yankee as he struggled for freedom in enemy-controlled New England."

Find it, buy it and read it. You'll love this book.


Good rally. I'm waiting now. Speculative longs are FCX, BHP, MT, all green now.

Word of the Day

"Surd" - noun & adjective [$10]
Surd means (adjective) 1. (Math) (of a number) irrational; 2. (Phonetic) (of a sound) uttered with the teeth and not the voice (e. g. f, k. p. s. t); (noun) 1. (Math) a surd number, esp. the root of an integer; 2. (Phonetics) a surd sound.
Sentence: (from Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann, page 186 of 1997 paperback edition) "Coercion is the surd in almost all social theory, except the Machiavellian. The temptation to ignore it, because it is absurd, inexpressible and unmanageable becomes overwhelming in any man who is trying to rationalize human life."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Right about Water

We are all bombarded by screeching about "conserving water". And the ruling classes in DC pass laws mandating devices like toilets that can work poorly for every home in the US. This one size fits all mentality in DC really disturbs me: it's an imperial attitude. They rule, we must obey, even if the 'rule' makes no sense for us. Why push these mandates on so many places that don't need them ? This is the same imperial attitude by DC that screens old, infirm air passengers and children to the same standard as persons having many markers in common with almost every air terrorist since and including 9/11. "They" simply refuse to use the brain as a tool.

Back to water. From my post of November 19, 2009:

Rain falls from the sky for free. This is a true statement. evaporation caused by the Sun creates water vapor that circulates in the atmosphere, eventually condensing out and falling as rain. All free. The Sun provides the external energy and the Earth's gravity and rotation provide the forces for weather circulation.

Water is almost never truly destroyed. It's simply used in physical processes (e., g. washing, cooling, etc.) or chemical processes (e. g. plant photosynthesis). However, even for the chemical processes, when looked at as an entire system, the net gain or loss of water is practically zero. Why ? Water is an exceptionally stable molecule. If broken apart by energy in one process, another process tends to re-form the water molecule, releasing energy.
[End of quotes]

My town here in Massachusetts was forced by the state to impose water restrictions in the summer. The town is rather rural, and draws its water from shallow wells; the entire town uses septic systems, meaning that almost every single molecule of water drawn from the wells and used by the people is returned to the watershed. The water comes from the wells, goes to the homes and is used in their showers and toilets and washing machines and goes into each home's septic system back to the ground. Even water used for sprinkling lawns and plants goes back into the ground, like rain. A complete, renewable cycle.

Sounds soooo green, no ?

It is. But the State doesn't care. A much larger city next door pumps water from upriver to us, and uses the water and then dumps the waste water into the sea. The water is lost from the natural watershed. So you would think it would be forced to treat the water and return it to the watershed. That would be rational.

Nope. They have even fewer water restrictions than us. More votes, I guess.

I wrote some letters to the local newspaper complaining. There's an excerpt [I've changed the name of my town to 'Anytown']:

"The allotment for each 'Anytown' resident is 65 gallons per day of water to be in compliance with the state Department of Environmental [Protection] regulations.” Let’s see what that means for a rural community like 'Anytown'. For a home with a two acre lot and an average year, the rain falling from the sky for free and that recharges the groundwater is approximately 2,378,000 gallons per year. A two person household’s state allotment is 47,450 gallons per year. So the allotment is just 2% of the water the household’s land contributes. Remember, in 'Anytown' our septic systems return almost all that household’s use back into the groundwater. Actual water taken from the watershed is practically zero."

The local officials understand this and agree, but that doesn't matter. We get oppressed by the same mandates from the State regarding watering and toilets and all that other garbage.

Government that doesn't think just doesn't work. It acts stupidly and hurts the people. Government should do the RIGHT THING, and stop being expedient and treating every situation uniformly.

Aside: Some places to have water problems. Los Angeles, for example. All those people living in a natural desert. I wonder what LA does with its waste water ? My guess is that it flows to the sea. Why not treat the water and return it to a watershed somewhere, like the Central Valley ?


I bought some BHP Friday and added a bit to MT. I'll keep making small moves like these over time and price points. These are trades for a bounce back. I'm not that bullish, but the beefers seems a bit too anxious to dump their stocks and go short. I'm just trying to hit a single or double with these trades. No base stealing.

Word of the Day

"Catachresis" - noun [$10] plural - catachreses.
Catachresis means an incorrect use of words.
Sentence: Many slogans of the environmental movement are catachreses and pure propaganda: "Save the Earth", for example. The earth has suffered such colossal natural disasters that would make anything puny man can do seem like the proverbial molehill compared to Mt. Everest. The next Ice Age will put modern civilization to an test unlike no other perhaps within 1,000 years. Unfortunately, so far governments show no capability to act rationally.