Charles Oliver - Econ/Media-Boy
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Charles C. Watson - Science/Tech-Boy
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Ron Campbell - sushi-bait.
Click here to email.

Even a blogger needs to eat. This blog is primarily Charles' hobby. But if he is intent on continuing to woo the Hooter's waitresses in Chatanooga he needs something that pays.... wings don't come free you know. Here's a link to his day job where he works the education beat and, assuming he can't annoy enough people that way, is sometimes allowed to write opinion pieces.

Need perspective? Watson offers readers all they could possibly eat. For a unique view on current events, namely how they look from orbit, here's Chuck's Real-Time(ish) Satellite Imagery of Areas of Interest. Whenever it strikes his fancy, and there's good telemetry, Chuck will process and post near real-time images of locations in the news. Eminently engrossing.

Wanna get into the head of a Japanese salaryman? Why, for Chis'sakes?! Well, assumin' you do, feel welcome to check out the on-line journal of Campbell's English class. Everyday, a group of disaffected salarymen are required to spill out their inner-most thoughts about life, the universe and everything in broken English. Amazingly prosaic.

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Shoutin' across the Pacific
Chiizu taberu koufuku shiteiru saru ga kangei-saremasen.
Saturday, May 31, 2003
Sorry I Haven't Blogged Lately. I've been swamped, but with the school year over now, maybe I'll have more time. I started a long post about the big arrest today, then I realized it was Eric Rudolph who'd been arrested while rooting through a garbage can in rural North Carolina, not Eric Roberts, and I didn't have anything to say about that.

I've been catching up on some reading today. Thanks to Domenic for pointing out this article on fascism. It's fascinating how conservatives are today tarred with the brush of fascism when, in fact, it was a movement of the left. As David Ramsay Steele points out:

Before turning 30, Mussolini was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party, and made editor of its daily paper, Avanti! The paper's circulation and Mussolini's personal popularity grew by leaps and bounds.

Mussolini's election to the Executive was part of the capture of control of the Socialist Party by the hard-line Marxist left, with the expulsion from the Party of those deputies (members of parliament) considered too conciliatory to the bourgeoisie. The shift in Socialist Party control was greeted with delight by Lenin and other revolutionaries throughout the world.

From 1912 to 1914, Mussolini was the Che Guevara of his day, a living saint of leftism. Handsome, courageous, charismatic, an erudite Marxist, a riveting speaker and writer, a dedicated class warrior to the core, he was the peerless duce of the Italian Left. He looked like the head of any future Italian socialist government, elected or revolutionary.

In 1913, while still editor of Avanti!, he began to publish and edit his own journal, Utopia, a forum for controversial discussion among leftwing socialists. Like many such socialist journals founded in hope, it aimed to create a highly-educated cadre of revolutionaries, purged of dogmatic illusions, ready to seize the moment. Two of those who collaborated with Mussolini on Utopia would go on to help found the Italian Communist Party and one to help found the German Communist Party. Others, with Mussolini, would found the Fascist movement.

posted by Charles at 10:05 PM

Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Dirty Work. I've just found out that my Reason colleague Jacob Sullum will be on The O'Reilly Factor tonight to talk about his new book on drug policy. I guess a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do to flog a new book, but I'm not sure that an appearance on O'Reilly will really generate more sales.

I saw another Reason colleague, Bob Poole, on the O'Reilly show a few days after the 9-11 attack to talk about airport security. O'Reilly constanrtly cut him off with emotional outburts, didn't want to hear any facts and didn't want to hear any specifics about making things better. And O'Reilly basically agreed with what little he allowed Bob to say. I can't imagine any healthy debate coming out of Jacob's appearnace.

posted by Charles at 3:41 PM

Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Sendai Quake 2nd Update
The injury total has gone above 100 with only 12 people reported as seriously injured. Still no reports of deaths, which is simply amazing.

The magnitude estimates have been revised down somewhat to a weak 6.0 on the Japanese scale or a 7.0 on the Richter scale. There have been over 200 aftershocks in the 18 hours following the quake, nine of those registering 4.0 or greater.

A number of buildings have been damaged but I haven't heard anything yet about any high-rises being evacuated.

posted by Ron at 5:04 AM

Monday, May 26, 2003
O Lordy... it's the Big One!
About six hours ago my old home of Sendai got hit with a massive earthquake.

They rated it as either a strong six or a weak seven... and that's on the Japanese scale which tops out at seven. In Richter terms it was probably a good 7.2 or 7.5. You can see updates from the Japan Meteorological site here. The map pages are updated in real-time with the latest quake in the country appearing on the first page. Use the back arrow key in the frame to cycle through the four or five good (magnitude 4+) aftershocks they've had since then.

So far there have been no reports of deaths but the TV reports are saying over 80 people were injured. More amazing still is that there have been no major mudslides even though we're in the middle of the rainy season and the Tohoku area is littered with steep cliffs covered in loose soil. Nevertheless the quake was strong enough to cause elevators in a few of Tokyo's major skyscrapers, 190 miles to the south, to automatically shut down.

About five years ago Sendai replaced all the gas meters in the city with ones designed to shut off in case of a magnitude 3+ quake. Looks like the program paid off; there's been just one propane fire in the city and that was probably caused by a home that was using a separate tank.

Still waiting to get word back from friends in the area how their homes and businesses fared.

UPDATE: A couple of landslides were reported, one in Ishinomaki, north of Sendai and another in Iwate Prefecture. Seven people were injured in those.
The official estimate now is that it was a 7.0 on the Richter scale but because it was situated so deep (about 30 miles under the sea floor) Sendai got off lucky even though the epicenter was only 12 miles off-shore.
And lastly (and no surprise to Charles or Chuck), I'm an idiot. Living in Japan I've become infected with the salaryman's tendency to overestimate length by a factor of two. Tokyo is 190 miles south of Sendai, not 350 as earlier mentioned.

posted by Ron at 11:58 AM

Greatest Country Songs of All Time? At a used bookstore I recently found a copy of "The Book of Lists" by Irving Wallace and his kids Amy Wallace and David Wallechinsky. Published in 1977, it became a bestseller and spawned several sequels.

One of the many lists in the book was contributed by Johnny Cash. It was his personal selection of the 10 greatest songs in country music. They were

1. I Walk the Line
2. I Can't Stop Loving You
3. Wildwood Flower
4. Folsom Prison Blues
5. Candy Kisses
6. I'm Movin On
7. Walking the Floor Over You
8. He'll Have to Go
9. Great Speckle Bird
10. Cold, Cold Heart

posted by Charles at 12:04 AM

Saturday, May 24, 2003
Good Toliets make Good Democracy
From Pravda (in english) (in Russian). Maybe that should be our new "header" (translated in to Japanese, of course).

posted by Chuck at 5:35 PM

Blogger problems
Had some problems with blogger last night. Sorry about the mess.

Domenic Anghelone opines that the multiple weird message posts last night and blogger problems are a result of offending Rod Serling. He may be on to something.

Just to be clear about the post last night, what's funny/surreal to me isn't Islamic scholars discussing human rights (I may not agree with their conclusions, and it showed some cultural arrogance, not that I ever do that, but it really was interesting and informative), just that it was on Syrian state TV.

posted by Chuck at 7:36 AM

Friday, May 23, 2003
Islam and Human Rights seminar on Syrian TV
[begin twilight zone theme]
So I'm working late, waiting for some hurricane simulations to finish, and starting channel surfing. What pops up but a discussion of human rights on Syrian TV between a moderator and two scholars of islamic law and history. It's pretty interesting stuff. Part of the discussion seems to be that one can only discuss human rights and politics in Arabic, because other languages are not equipped to discuss these complex subjects. The rest is pretty much standard stuff - that universal human rights are only possible under Islamic law, all rights spring from obligations in the Quran, etc.. They are now arguing that the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights is based on an incomplete interpretation of Islamic law, and that two more declarations are needed, one on orphans. I didn't quite follow the other.

Actually makes a lot of sense after a few Mountain Dews and 16 straight hours of coding in Fortran95 . . .
[OK, where's Rod?]

Bit of background for those not familiar with Islam: the Quran is not "translated" in the sense that the Bible is. Only the original in Arabic is considered authoritative. What we call "translations" are referred to as "interpretations". This presents a much cleaner scenario than, say, Christianity, where we can't even agree on the number of books in the Bible, much less what they mean after translation in to different languages by people who have differing, often conflicting, agendas. Islam only needs to argue about meaning in a single language!

posted by Chuck at 10:10 PM


posted by Chuck at 10:09 PM

Did SARS come from outer space?
This article on BBC discusses the possibility. I think this is really unlikely - and probably even a joke (as noted).

posted by Chuck at 10:11 AM

In the "rather be lucky than good" department . . .
Interesting story that the sandstorm at the beginning of the Iraq war saved a bunch of Marines by uncovering a minefield.

posted by Chuck at 7:09 AM

Thursday, May 22, 2003
Dixie Chicks. Was the audience last night booing their politics, that FUTK t-shirt Natalie Maines wore or the faux Mohawk hairdo she sported?

posted by Charles at 12:29 PM

Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Aiming at New Zealand and hitting U.S. consumers. There's no good way to spin this. either the U.S. is childishly refusing to negotiate an important treay simply to spite New Zealand for its opposition to the Iraw war, or its cravenly giving in to special interests at home.

Either way, it's just another examply of George W. Bush abandoning free trade. Remind me again why those who believe in the free market are supposed to support him.

posted by Charles at 11:05 PM

Dressing Up. If anyone is interested in what sort of dress code Whitfield County finally adopted, they banned t-shirts.

posted by Charles at 11:02 PM

Monday, May 19, 2003
Who's to blame for the Columbia Disaster?
I often toss out ideas here to play "devils advocate", and to see what the reaction to various viewpoints will be. Normally, you have to pay me to get my real opinion on a given subject (I am, after all, a consultant!), but since I've been asked about this a lot, and it's about the only subject (outside my family) that I truly emotionally care about, what follows is what I really think:

As I write this the Gehman comission is finishing up their studies and reports on the cause of the loss of the shuttle Columbia, and has released their working scenario. The final report will say some harsh things about NASA management, note how the system can be duct-taped back together, and the shuttles will fly again, probably mid to late 2004. But the report will not do the one thing that I will now do in this post: formally point the finger and blame, by name, the person responsible for this tragedy.

The Space Transportation System (STS), commonly called the "space shuttle", is a terrible design - it was created by comittee to fit a budget rather than a system designed to perform a mission. The politics behind the Shuttle are a classic case of pork barrel politics, bad engineering, Nixonian evil, and congresssional scheming at its worst. See "Challenger, A Major Malfunction" by Malcom McConnell for an excellent summary of this sordid story. One significant basic cause of the Columbia disaster, as the Challenger disaster before it, is that the STS is quite simply a bad design caused by a lack of funding and, almost as important, a lack of clear direction for and within NASA.

In my opinion, we should scrap the shuttle and design a modern system. STS was obsolete before the first orbiter was built. We could design and build a new advanced manned spacecraft in about the same time it will take to throw together a fix for the current system, with a much better end product, if we would just make the commitment. There was tremendous work done on "hot structures" that avoided the use of fragile tiles as far back as the early 1960's, as well as systems with escape modes in all phases of flight. The X-20/DynaSoar project, for example, was one golden opportunity for a partially resusable system that died in the graveyard of politics - but the knowledge is still there. Materials and propulsion technology have improved - although not as much as they should have. However, we could quickly design and build a modular two element system: a man rated, safe launch and entry system, combined with a heavy lift capability for large unmanned payloads - something like the Energia/Buran system the Soviets tested. A serious effort, with serious money, could do it right, in a couple of years. But we won't - too many careers and companies (and therefore congressional pork votes) depend on the existing STS flying. In addition, NASA today is a risk averse, hidebound bureaucracy. The Spirit of Apollo is just that: a ghost stalking the halls, reminding us of what we once were. To be sure: there is still some innovation, and a surprising number of people in the system who care about exploration, but the overall NASA structure is rigged against these people accomplishing anything. Many, such as this writer, have become frustrated and bitter, but the talent is still there. If the national will manifested itself in a clear goal and the money to get it done was made available, we could have reliable transportation to LEO, a real space station, lunar colonies, and travel to Mars in a decade or less, for not terribly much more than we are spending now.

As for those of you who think the private sector should take over the space business, I have some sympathy for that position, but feel that as with most initial exploration, goverments will probably break the trails because of the perceived high risks and costs. But the question still must be asked: Why doesn't the private sector do more in space? Risk is one reason, but in my view the biggest reason is the horrendous red tape and government regulation involved. Take Rutan's experimental suborbital system that will be flying later this year. Aviation Leak estimates the program will cost $20 to $30 million to develop and test. Rutan extimates that the cost of certification, which would be required in order to accept paying passengers, would cost $100 to $300 million - five to ten times program costs! - therefore, they have no plans to pursue certification. He asks, "How can you amortize that?" So much cost for goverment regulation is obscene. Sadly, it is typical in modern engineering efforts of any kind. Again the problem isn't the science or engineering, it is the politics and willpower.

I promised to point the finger and I will: who's to blame for our lack of a space program, public or private? You are. You have the space program you deserve. If you stopped your whining and got off your pathetic, miserable asses to demand realistic funding and serious goals for NASA, or less government interference in the private sector (pick one or, better yet, both), you'd have a real space program. But you haven't done that. So unless you've badgered your political candidates at all levels to develop a real national space policy, rather than the current half-assed side show, it's YOUR FAULT. If you aren't constantly harassing your elected officials to reduce regulation, and making them pay a price when they don't, it's YOUR FAULT. Quite frankly, you disgust me - you pay more to see second rate sci-fi movies with bad acting, and spend more on space related computer games, than you are willing to pay to explore the real thing - how absurd is that?

So, ultimately, why did Columbia fail on re-entry? The same core reason Challenger exploded, ISS is an over budget waste-of-time kludge job, and there are no humans beyond LEO forty years after Gagarin and 30 years after the last Apollo flight. Because you don't care. Would there still be disasters in a serious space effort? Of course. But at least they would be about pushing the envelope and exploring the universe, rather than "death by politics" on our own front doorstep.

posted by Chuck at 12:53 PM

I'm Normally Opposed To Foreign Intervention. But this is the final straw. The U.S. must step in, and quickly, to overthrow the Venezuelan government and install a leader who will not cripple the economy.

posted by Charles at 12:44 PM

Sunday, May 18, 2003
Update to the Japan SARS story.
The doctor in Taiwan has been diagnosed with SARS. Before he left for his trip he had treated two other confirmed sufferers, both of whom have since died.

So far two Japanese, each from a different hotel that this man visited, have developed fever but they seem to be recovering. It should be noted the doctor himself arrived in Japan with a fever, took medication and his fever broke by the time he returned home... before he started showing signs of a full-blown infection. You know, in China they shoot you for crap like this.

posted by Ron at 7:41 AM

Saturday, May 17, 2003
Salary-Man Blog. Ron, I've been reading the online journals of your students. First of all, if Kit Fujita speaks English as well as he writes it, it's time to send him to Australia or England.

Second, what did the Lakers ever do to Japan? Come on, I know everyone hates a winner, but calling them "evil"? Okay, maybe Shaq deserves it, if only for his "music" career. But it isn't fair to tar the rest of the team.

posted by Charles at 12:17 PM

What Caribbean medical school did you get your degree from?
Looks like I'll get a chance to put my friend's theory that SARS is mostly pernicious to race-specific infectees (i.e. east Asians) to the test. The TV here is reporting (and here's a link in English) that a Taiwanese doctor has been quarantined with SARS-like symptoms... but not before he could complete a six day, whistle stop tour of southern Japan.

The doctor, who seriously needs to rethink his chosen profession, arrived in Osaka on May 8th. He reportedly had a fever at the time he arrived in the country but, despite there being an on-going epidemic affecting SE Asia and fears of easy transmission and that the first signs of infection are a fever and flu-like symptoms and that he is a doctor and should have been acutely aware of these facts as well as of his own condition and his obligation to protect others..... he elected to continue his tour along with his 27 member group to 5 different prefectures in Japan.

Let me just say this, "asshat." Thank you.

One of the stops was next-door in Kagawa prefecture (Takamatsu city to be exact). The news reports are speculating that he did infect several Japanese during the stay and the national government is currently trying to coordinate with area hospitals in an attempt to review patient records over the last week and locate possible SARS cases that could have been misdiagnosed.

In the meantime the panic is only starting. Mikiko is due to lead a troup of young school kids on a hike tomorrow in a remote part of Kagawa prefecture. This morning five mothers had already called the gym to cancel. This is a hiking trip, in the forest, 85 miles away from Takamatsu. How long before they start beating the dogs and cats to death like they are in Peking now? How long before Tokyo Gov. Ishihara can get them to round up 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation Chinese nationals and force them to be repatriated?

And while I'm on the subject of publicly-endorsed xenophobia just let me link to this. It's a banner published by a local police department and posted in post offices, shops, train stations, etc. It says, "Warning! Recently many bad foreigners have come to our country. There have been many repeated cases of purse-snatching! - Nakano Police Dept." (emphasis theirs)

Now I know "bad foreigners" (furyou gaikoku-jin) is code for east Asians (spec. Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and Vietnamese) but I'm working on the "...but I didn't speak up because I wasn't..." level of self-preservation in bringing this to my friends' attention.

posted by Ron at 12:24 AM

Thursday, May 15, 2003
Under a Raging Moon
There is a total lunar eclipse tonight for observers in the Amercias. You can watch the inside of my closed telescope dome live online here. I say closed becuse we will probably be having a thunderstorm during the event.

posted by Chuck at 5:37 PM

If it's too good to be true . . .
Not that they are the most reliable source, but BBC sums up what is wrong with the Pvt. Lynch rescue story. The DoD has done a masterful job of managing the media in the Iraq conflict. Maybe too good - the backlash may be painful, but I suspect in the US the backlash will be muted for fear of provoking a hyper-patriotic public.

While many foreign sources are too anti-american, the US media has and is doing an absolutely horrible job of providing honest coverage on Iraq.

posted by Chuck at 9:14 AM

Wednesday, May 14, 2003
I Didn't Even Like The Film That Much. Who am I? murder
You are Michael Sullivan from Road to Perdition.

Which famous film murderer are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

posted by Charles at 9:27 PM

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Movie Time. A British researcher says she has determined the formula for the perfect feature film: 30% action, 17% comedy, 13% good vs. evil, 12% love/sex/romance, 10% special effects, 10% plot and 8% music.

But she has not discovered the formula for the perfect feature film. She doesn't say anything at all about mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or gettin' drunk.

posted by Charles at 7:14 PM

Possible detection of Saudi explosions
Put an image online that seems to show thermal anomalies in Riyadh last night. Not much to see but a couple of smudges, but still interesting - must have been fairly big blasts. I wonder if this is the beginning of the much awaited revolt against the House of Saud.

If so, we may shortly have another Afghanistan or Iran to deal with. It is important to realize that the people of Saudi are as radical and ready for a fundamentalist regime as Iran was in the late 70's. We can, of course, toss them militarily as easily as we have Iraq and Afghanistan, but Saudi Arabia presents a special problem. A radical Saudi would be much more dangerous to deal with than Iraq or Afghanistan, due to the holy sites (Mecca being the real flash point). The Islamic world might sit by and watch us dismantle Iraq, Afghanistan, or pretty much any other country, but Saudi?

posted by Chuck at 10:05 AM

Monday, May 12, 2003
Life "off the reservation".
The blogs "fourth man" (Domenic Anghelone) sends this link to Sgt regarding the rather lax morals many (most?) military members and spouses have during deployments. I agree that it is a major scandal, but also results from the stresses of military life combined with the natural tendencies of the type of person who chooses the military life. From my Air Force experience, my guess is a 50% infidelity rate is probably about right, with the caveat that while there are a lot of wild stories about TDY's that are true, there are also quite a few of them have been "beechwood aged", if you know what I mean . . .

Not a lot to add, other than that I think it does have a big impact on operations, especially now that women are in operational deployment roles. Example: from what I've heard, of the 500 women on the USS Abraham Lincoln (the carrier the POTUS visited), 10% had to be medvac'ed due to pregnancy during the deployment, and an additional 10 to 20% are pregnant but did not require evacuation before the ship returned to port. That's a 20 to 30 percent casualty rate. Since women are still only a small part of the crew (10% if I remember correctly), it's not too bad, but still got to hurt operations, especially if you throw in the disruption caused by the competition to be the father of these kids.

posted by Chuck at 9:11 AM

Sunday, May 11, 2003
Bad science, Bad statistics, Bad politics
No doubt last week was a bad one with respect to tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. But was it a record setter? Hard to tell. It is important to realize that most tornado statistics are based on visual identification of the funnel cloud, or identification of the damage. Radar and other remote sensing just can't positively ID them as of yet. Here is where it gets tricky. If you look at the tornado stats, you find that in any given cluster of counties with similar climate, the frequency of tornados is directly proportional to population. In other words, the stats aren't very useful because of observational bias.

Another problem is political. A bad thunderstorm can cause just as much damage as a tornado (due to high winds from intense downdrafts). But a community won't get a disaster declaration if it was "just" a thunderstorm - even for if it caused worse damage than a small tornado. So there is a lot of pressure to identify an event as a "tornado", even if it wasn't.

posted by Chuck at 11:09 AM

Saturday, May 10, 2003
Looking for Work? Here's a job that might appeal to some of our readers.

posted by Charles at 8:22 PM

SARS Again. Once more, I offer this article with no comment.

posted by Charles at 8:20 PM

Finally Saw X2, X-Men United. Not bad, not bad at all. In addition to the comic book, it also drew obvious inspiration from "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan." And if you are going to take something from a Star Trek film and a Star Wars film those would be the ones. There's also a bit of "Silence of the Lambs" in there.

Hugh Jackman is still physically wrong as Wolverine. He's a head taller than Logan is supposed to be, and he's built like a runner, while in the comics, Wolverine looks more like a stumpy little bodybuilder. But despite that, he carries off the role well.

Ian McKellen is great, as usual.

But I wonder if people will give Rebecca Romjin-Stamos the credit she deserves for her performance. Her Mystique is a terrifc creation: perverse, funny and cocky all at once. Whether it's the X-Men movies, the underrated "Femme Fatale" or her recurring role in "Just Shoot Me," she's never been less than great in any role I've seen her in. But when you look like she does, people may not notice that you can actually act.

The movie also gets my vote for "best use of a boy band" in a film so far this year.

posted by Charles at 5:36 PM

Two Cheers for the ECB. The European Central Bank takes a lot of lumps from economists and financial analsyst, but Doug Noland contends that Wim Duisenberg seems to be smarter than Alan Greenspan.

The Greenspan Fed this week sank to further depths of misguided central banking, and our dollar suffered accordingly. Our savings and our foreign Creditors savings are being devalued, in an unjust and futile attempt to remedy the ills from past incompetent monetary management. And while the Fed is surely tickled that they retain the awesome power to so easily manipulate both the marketplace (long-term interest rates) and public discourse (deflation talk everywhere), monetary policy is nonetheless impotent to remedy the true ailment.

The fundamental dilemma today is that the Greenspan Fed and Wall Street continue to work diligently (and shrewdly!) to sustain unsustainable Bubbles. There remains an unprecedented speculative Bubble running out of control throughout the U.S. Credit market (leveraged holdings of agencies, mortgage-backs, corporates, Treasuries, etc.), with consequent liquidity effects. There is likewise an unparalleled Mortgage Finance Bubble, fueling destabilizing housing inflation, over-consumption, and severe distortions to the nature of lending, spending and investing throughout the entire economy. The outcome is ballooning financial sector leveraging (exponential growth in non-productive Credit/fragile debt structures), on the one hand, and massive Current Account Deficits and ballooning foreign liabilities on the other. And, closely related, we are in the midst of an historic “Structured Finance” Risk Intermediation Bubble (The GSE’s, Credit insurers, derivatives markets, Wall Street firms, hedge funds, etc.). These are categorically Bubbles because they will implode the day additional Credit and speculative excess is not forthcoming. The Great Experiment that went terribly berserk will definitely not be suppressed by more and easier “money.”

Today, the Fed’s egregiously inflationary monetary policy can only exacerbate – and in no way rectify – these historic Bubbles. And, as we know, these powerful financial Bubbles have over time come to impart extreme deleterious effects on the U.S. Bubble economy. As the governor of monetary stability, the Fed remains hopelessly lost in a quagmire nurturing disastrous Credit and speculative excess. There is no mystery surrounding dollar weakness and ongoing vulnerability. The Fed obstinately refuses to admit its mistakes or cut its losses, and I fully expect the sinking dollar to incite unpredictable inflationary manifestations.

The bursting of the technology and stock market Bubbles (nurtured by the Fed’s acquiescence of extreme financial excess as well as reckless New Paradigm blather) should have been the first leg of the requisite extensive financial and economic post-Bubble adjustment process. Regrettably, the Fed’s aggressive “activist” response to the bursting of the equity Bubble was a derelict accommodation (patronage) of the greater Bubbles engulfing the entire Credit system. The 525 basis point rate cuts and resulting extreme speculative and mortgage lending excesses, while exacerbating financial fragility and economic vulnerability, have done little more than suspend the imbalanced U.S. Bubble economy at tepid growth rates. We may be in a post-stock market/technology Bubble environment, but we are firmly in the midst of a much grander and problematic financial fiasco.

Nowadays, the Fed has about run out of interest rate bullets and is increasingly desperate. The risks, both financial and economic, are myriad and great. Manifestly, the imbalanced U.S. Bubble economy is sustained only with unrelenting Credit excess. Yet such financial and economic Bubbles are acutely susceptible to rising rates – a traditional market response to aggressive “reliquefication,” surging demand for borrowings, and a plunging dollar. So the Fed and Wall Street have cleverly concocted the Deflation Bogeyman, that terrible scourge (recall the Great Depression!) that must be fought and conquered at all cost. Never mind that excessive money supply expansion has been for years unrelenting, that households are taking on new debt at a record pace (double-digit mortgage growth!), that Credit availability is today ultra-easy for most borrowers (consumer, government and, increasingly, businesses), that government deficits are exploding, that our current account deficit is at an alarming 5% of GDP and growing, that import prices are up about 7% y-o-y, that the CRB commodity index is up 19% in twelve months, that gold is up 13%, that energy prices have been surging along with insurance, healthcare, tuition, and housing, and that general consumer price inflation is on an unmistakable rise.

Don’t be fooled. This issue in the U.S. today is anything but “deflationary” pressures that would succumb to the sword of additional monetary stimuli. The Fed has boxed itself into the corner of the above noted Bubbles. It’s inflate or die, postpone the day of reckoning at all costs, and hope for a miracle. It’s also negligent central banking of historic proportions.

And my former graduate school prof George Selgin explains why deflation isn't always bad.

posted by Charles at 10:30 AM

Thursday, May 08, 2003
Prom Season. I thought Bill O'Reilly was the only person upset about those kids in Taylor County who decided to have a whites only prom But it turns out that Andrew Sullivan thinks it's awful, too.

Look, if anyone thinks that the spirit of Lester Maddox lives on in Georgia, let me assure you it's not as bad as you might think.

Here's a simple truth: White kids and black kids dance to different music, especially in rural south Georgia. That's it.

The whites only prom is actually a private party that isn't officially sanctioned, not a separate prom. If the kids who organized it had been a little more media savvy, they would simply have said "We're going to have a party, and we're going to play a lot of Garth Brooks and Brooks and Dunn, and everyone who likes that kind of music is invited." They'd never have had a problem. Instead, they were just a bit too honest about who actually would be there.

I remember my proms 20 years ago now in rural north Georgia. My class was 90% white. White people chose the band. White people helped choose the song list, and to be blunt, the black kids really weren't that thrilled with the selections. Actually, given that the nights were heavy on REO Speedwagon, disco-era Rolling Stones and England Dan and John Ford Coley, I wasn't too happy either. If the black kids had organized a party with a lot of Commodores, Parliament and Cameo music, I might have gone to that. But that's another story.

posted by Charles at 9:14 PM

Flying in Jets
So the Dem's are upset about President Bush flying an S-3. He's was a pilot; and although I've never flown jets (I'm still a single engine prop pilot) I can't blame him. In fact, Let the word go forth: I promise you that if I am ever elected president, Marine One (the helicopter used by the President) and Air Force One will sit unused on the runways, or possibly used to ferry the press around. I will only fly high performance jets, and will fly them myself. W may fly Vikings, but I will only fly supersonic aircraft. In fact, AF1 will be a SR-71. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Why be president if you can't play with the hardware?

posted by Chuck at 11:10 AM

Another Perfect Storm. Regular readers of this blog know I have two great loves in life: professional wrestling and kicking Bill Bennett when he's down. Here's something that combines both from former pro wrestler the Ultimate Warrior. (BTW, his legal name now is the Warrior.)

posted by Charles at 8:34 AM

Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Possible Enterprise Spoilers. When this series first debuted, I was mildly optimistic about it. The first season was passable, not great. but it was probably the best first season of any of the Star Trek sequel series. But things quickly went downhill.

Now, the series seems to have lost all creative energy. And what do Star Trek writers do when they runs out of ideas? I'm not going to tell you, but a seasoned Trekker should be able to figure it out within three guesses. And now any sort of meta-continuity is blown completely to hell. The latest episode creates so many logical inconsistencies with "future" series that it isn't even funny.

posted by Charles at 8:38 PM

Tuesday, May 06, 2003
The Masked Politician
I'm shocked and stunned that Charles and Ron haven't commented on this!.
A masked, Japanese Politician (The Great Sasuke) refuses to be unmaksed while serving in the prefectural assembly. Picture is worth 1k words - go see the link. N'uff said.

posted by Chuck at 1:15 PM

Bennett and "morals"

Morality and ethics certainly are not my field, but it's pretty hard to resist commenting the Bill Bennett matter. I try to live by a set of (sometimes obscure, but nonetheless real to me) principles. Everyone has discrepancies between their behavior and their principles - it's part of being human and imperfect. The trick is to minimize the difference, and not put yourself in positions where the differences matter. I don't think these failures should detract from the message, and charges of hypocrisy against "moral authorities" are often just an excuse or rationalization for bad behavior.

As for Bennett, I find the glee amongst his detractors distasteful, but I also find his defenders on pretty thin ice.

If ever there were a vice that, while in some respects legal, has long historical ties to organized crime, it is gambling. As I have heard the discussions among conservatives about this, the anti-drug ads about "drugs sponsoring terrorists" comes to mind. The link between gambling and the Gambino's is probably far more direct than between any terrorist actions and some dude buying a joint. Thus, it could well be argued that some poor sap wearing "cement slippers" is partly Bill's fault. Money he spent on gambling could have been used for charity, or buying a yacht (which would create legitimate jobs), or something else.

So he has a serious problem in my view - and should use the three "C's" pilots are taught to use when lost: climb, communicate, confess.

posted by Chuck at 11:32 AM

It Lives.
While "major combat operations in Iraq have ceased", fires and smoke plumes have not..
Put an image of Korea, as well as Ron's Roost, on Sat/Blog.

posted by Chuck at 10:31 AM

More on Bennett. Did anyone catch the statement on Bennet from the Concerned Women for America on NRO: Concerned Women for America commends our friend Bill Bennett’s bold move to cease gambling despite an absence of personal conviction. Emphasis mine.

And my pal Virginia Postrel reminds us she unearthed an even bigger Bennett scandal some time ago.

posted by Charles at 10:04 AM

Monday, May 05, 2003
If You Can't Handle It, Don't Do It. To me, those may be the greatest words of moral guidance Bill Bennett has ever uttered. I haven't blogged on this before simply because I ddidn't think I have that much to add to what Josh Marshall and Jacob Sullum and especially Michael Kinsely have to say. It's amusing to see Jonah Goldberg and other conservatives fall all over themselves trying to defend Bennett, though.

Here's one thing I can add to the story. One of the very first things I ever did for Reason involved Bennett. High Times had run a story claiming that Bennett had downed a few alcoholic beverages, gin and tonics if my memory is correct, at some anti-drug luncheon.

I called Bennett's office to get his response. Of course, I was never able to talk to Bennett personally. His spokesman kept asking me why I was even asking about a High Times story. He kept lecturing me on the source of the story, and I kept asking him if it was true.

Finally, the guy said that he wasn't going to comment on that particular story, but he could say that gin and tonics, or whatever it was, was Bennett's favorite drink, and he has been know to enjoy them. Then he hung up.

posted by Charles at 3:32 PM

Sunday, May 04, 2003
At Ron's Request. I mentioned this article to him, and he said I should post it. I really don't know what to make of it.

posted by Charles at 8:04 PM

Oh, they're protecting the queen. Just a quick update from what I could understand of tonight's news. The Panawave cultists/researchers are said to be spreading huge white sheets over the road, trees and hillsides in an effort to protect their leader from EM waves. Didn't get her name nor is there a recent photo of their guru but NTV found a wedding shot from 1955 with the lady in kimono. And hey, 50 years ago... she was a babe.

In between apologizing for one of their reporters killing a security guard in Amman by trying to take home a cluster bomblet as a souvenir (Just cause the prez ends hostilities it doesn't mean all the munitions are turned off.), The Mainichi Daily is offering daily updates in English if'n you're interested.

Please tell me that explosion got some mention in the news in America. One of the Mainichi Shinbun's reporters was, like all other journos it seems, trying to take a little memento with him back to Japan. At the Amman airport a security guard picked it up to examine it further and it detonated. Today the chief editor of the paper was laying a wreath at the site and will probably be offering yen to the family later. The Jordan story is particularly ironic because the reporter in question, Hiroki Gomi, was pretty much the Robert Fisk of Japan. Not in a literate sense, but as a photojournalist Gomi's pictures focused on the daily suffering of the civilians, but only that which was attributable to the war. The implication was the US that was visiting unjustified hell on these poor, confused people who simply would be fine if left alone.

Just a couple of examples: here's one story on the human shields who had come to Baghdad. The general gist of the story is how noble these foreigners are how they seek only to prevent war as well as poisoning of the water due to depleted uranium shells. Here's one that could have been written by the Iraq Ministry of Information, a report from a grade school in Baghdad populated with cute, adorable kids... no translation is needed but there's one provided in the story that tells you all you need to know. And finally there's this. The headline reads something like (remember I'm not good at idioms), "From the top down, everything in every Baghdad town has changed. But was peace really captured?" The photos tell you Mr. Gomi's assessment. (And yes, the captions only refer to deaths that happened as a result of the war. No mention of Saddam's jails. No mention of the thousands of tortured or missing. No mention of the discovered mass graves...)

BTW - "gomi" in Japanese also means "trash." The irony is too easy.

posted by Ron at 8:40 AM

Saturday, May 03, 2003
D*mn Bloody Third World Country
Don't get upset: I'm not about to trash some poor foreign victim of western imperialism, I'm refering to the State of Georgia, USA.

I've traveled in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. I've been shot at with rifles, grenades, mortars, car bombs, missiles, and various other destructive devices, and came through OK. I've avoided Malaria, Dengue, and all sorts of nasty bugs. I've at worst gotten a little sunburn and very rarely "disgestive disturbances". But now it looks like I may have contracted the West Nile Virus right here in this festering fever swamp on the coast of Georgia called Savannah. As far as tropical diseases go, it's not bad for most people in good shape - actually, its like the flu with fever, body aches, headeache, but none of the nasty stuff like nausea, coughing, etc. But still, the irony isn't lost on me.

Waiting for the blood tests . . .

posted by Chuck at 3:52 PM

This Explains a Few Things. According to this test and this test, I have Asperger's syndrome.

posted by Charles at 12:58 PM

Satellite Blog
If you're bored, stroll over to Sat/Blog, my new "satellite blog". This thing grew out of the Iraq War posts (which was like blogging in a weird way). This is where I'll post any interesting satellite images I run across during my working days. Oh, and take the polls (and we know how painful that can be).

My stupid political, military, foreign policy and technical commentary will remain here. I know you are thrilled by that . . .

posted by Chuck at 11:27 AM

Friday, May 02, 2003
Rocky Day. By now, everyone has seen this story about the climber who cut off his own arm and then rappelled down the side of a mountain after he was pinned by a rock.

He now becomes one of the legendary tough guys, right up there with Hugh Glass.

It's a good thing this guy is tough because he surely isn't smart.

He went climbing alone, apparently without telling anyone exactly where he was going and when he would be back. He seems not to have had a cell phone, much less a phone with GPS. And he came back without half of one of his arms.

posted by Charles at 11:10 PM

This week's non-news story. One of the major bloggers (sorry can't remember which one now) noted that the war must certainly be drawing to a close as the past three or four days have been replete with non-news making non-events and human non-interest pieces. (The linked slide only missing the identifier "Area man replaces bathroom tile and wall paper" to make it more Onionish than the Onion.)

Part of this trend included the recent story that a 'silent crisis' exists among our nation... a cultural and genderal weakness is killing men. Men are dying five years earlier than women on average because they won't go to the doctor as often as they should.

Well,,, duh! Not going to the doctor is not the cause of this condition... not seeking medical treatment is indicative of the situation. Men are stupid. Ask any man. We'll admit it. It's a wonder more of us don't die before 20. If you are a man, and about half of you are, think about every dumb-ass stunt you pulled before your 21st birthday. How many of us have been pulled over by the police for riding on the top of a car after final exams? How many have, under the effects of alcohol, participated in the indiscriminate discharge of firearms from a moving vehicle? How about running your car into a brick wall after trying to "burn rubber" with your father's 1977 Oldsmobile? How many of you can honestly claim you didn't, at least once, try a hit of LSD, washed it down with a bottle of Yoo-hoo and spent the rest of the evening trying to bend sections of your college apartment wall with your mind while fearing the inevitable advance of the "chocolate meanies" which you knew were living under the floorboards?

OK, so I speak from personal experience. But a quick glance at some of the winners of the Ig Noble who earned their fame through slightly more life-threatening acts than regression analysis will bear out my point... if it's something dangerous, foolhardy and/or offers returns of limited to no value, you can be sure it was done by a man.

George Goble (man) of Purdue University, for his blistering world record
time for igniting a barbeque grill-three seconds, using charcoal
and 3 gallons of liquid oxygen. Not surprisingly the process left the grill itself as nothing more than a lump of carbonized metal. BTW- George has recently had this section of his web page, where he offered detailed instructions and streaming video of experimental runs, pulled by his university; a great loss to science.

Robert A. Lopez (man) of Westport, NY, valiant veterinarian and friend
of all creatures great and small, for his series of experiments in
obtaining ear mites from cats, inserting them into his own ear,
and carefully observing and analyzing the results. [Published in
"The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,"
vol. 203, no. 5, Sept. 1, 1993, pp. 606-7.]

Theodore Gray (man) of Wolfram Research, in Champaign, Illinois, for
gathering many elements of the periodic table, and assembling
them into the form of a four-legged periodic table table.

Troy Hurtubise(man), of North Bay, Ontario, for developing, and
personally testing a suit of armor that is impervious to grizzly
bears. [REFERENCE: "Project Grizzly", produced by the "National Film
Board of Canada.]

Not to get into Dave Barry territory here but the same genetic impulse that drives rams to thunder across the plain at top speed and slam heads with another ram doing the same is deeply wedded into our own makeup. Men take risks with their lives because that's what nature tells us to do. Risk improves our ranking among other males. Risk is sexy to women. Risk makes us feel more alive and gives us a better chance to procreate. Going to the doctor flies in the face of millions of years of evolutionary programming and selection, as does moderation and forethought.

Why did I go for a 35 mile bike ride yesterday with no helmet or sun-block? Because I'm a man... I'll live forever... the sun will not burn me as it burns other pasty white men. And that's why I leave this here as I have to go reapply aloe to my forearms.

posted by Ron at 11:23 AM

Thursday, May 01, 2003
Some Years I Don't Understand this Country When you think of cult rituals, and if you're anything like me you find yourself doing so with alarming frequency, you tend to think of cat-guttings, cross-burnings, evocating the minions of Satan or making 'smores. But Japan's latest doomsday-cult has busied itself with elctromagnetic-wave researching and geodesic dome building... in addition to taking sections of public highways hostage.

For the past few days in the run-up to this year's Golden Week holidays, the morning news reports have been about a group of individuals out on a remote highway in Gifu prefecture that have locked the road down. According to the group they are conducting 'electromagnetic wave' research and therefore can't allow anyone to come into the area. Such reseach seems to involve the use of refrigerated trucks, people clad in bio-chem suits, the covering of trees and roadside guardrails with white sheets and hostile confrontations with hoards of Japanese media (last Friday featuring a phalanx of reporters being confronted by an equal number of 'researchers' armed with mylar covered 2 meter by 1/2 meter refelective shields).

For FIVE days these people have been holed-up on their little bend of the road. For FIVE days the local authorites have done nothing to clear them out and open the highway to traffic. It's taken a week of constant live reportage to move the national police into action and they're still treating this gang of nutballs with kid gloves.

Hello? This in a country where a similar band of psuedo-scientific, religious fruitcakes decidied to hasten the apocolypse by releasing sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system??!! What does it take to set off a warning in this country?

This group, called the "Panawave Laboratory," has been rightly identified by the national media as a cult. They've been active in the country for awhile and have a history of squatting in public places under the cover of "conducting research." Besides the fact that all of their equipment lends itself very well to the creation and testing of nerve agents and biotoxins the group has recently refused to leave their current locale because one of their members is "seriously ill."

I don't know anymore about these guys than what I've seen on TV, but the major problem here it seems is the inability of the local police to act against these kinds of groups. Japan needs to seriously think about revising it's Homeland Security protocols in light of growing wacko cults (Panawave is just one of many) and the very real threat of North Korean agents who operate in the country.

(A side thought: Japan has been without a religious component to its culture for some time now. It is a secular state with no serious religious traditions (at least none that really resonate with the people). Sometimes it almost seems the country is crying out with a true spiritual need.)

posted by Ron at 8:28 PM

Licking Lichtenstein. Thanks to Domenic for pointing out this article I've been to Lichtenstein only once and for a very brief time several years ago, so I really don't know what to make of it. But I'm always skeptical of claims made by libertarian monacrchists.

posted by Charles at 10:23 AM

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