May 30, 2012

"How big and ugly is the lie?"

WRM, Bloomberg Sings The Pension Blues:

...That is for a seven percent return; some pension funds are still assuming eight percent, a figure which Bloomberg calls “absolutely hysterical” and “laughable.”

We’ve been warning readers for some time at Via Meadia that the politicians and union leaders in this country have been engaged in a systemic lie of epic proportions. How big and ugly is the lie?

Very. Private pension funds assume a standard of 4.8 percent return on their pension funds. As the Times notes, governments also use various tricky accounting loopholes not available to private companies to hide their liabilities. As far as we can make out at Via Meadia, if you tried to run a private pension fund the way unions and government-appointed trustees run public ones, you could go to jail for fraud.

But while lies can win elections, they can’t pay bills, and as the unsustainable commitments to municipal and state pensions come due, services will be cuts, taxes raised and benefits to retirees will be slashed as reality sets in.

Already New York City pays more than $7 billion (and more than a tenth of its total budget) towards pensions to retired workers; cutting the assumed return from the absolutely hysterical current level of eight percent to the laughable level of 7 would add almost $2 billion more to the annual bill. To make a sensible and conservative long term assumption like the one used by most private companies would cost about $4 billion more. (Walsh and Hakim identify another $2 billion plus in liabilities due to rising life expectancies and growing disability claims among public sector workers and retirees.)

This means that fully funding its pension obligations in a responsible way would mean cuts of $6 billion per year from schools, firefighting and police on top of the $7 billion they already get.  Note to retirees: that isn’t going to happen. Voters won’t stand for it — and they shouldn’t. It’s not fair and it’s not sustainable, and it’s not right.

Today we are seeing what happens when Big Lies come unglued: all over Europe people who believed those sweet delicious stories politicians told them about their pensions and their futures are waking up to one horrible shock after another. Somehow we’ve come to the point in this country also where it’s considered “liberal” and “progressive” to lie like rats to the voters and to government workers about how solid their futures are.

Listen up, blues. The mother of all wedge issues is knocking on your door: when the pension crunch comes, who will you throw to the wolves: the retirees, the unions and the producers of government services — or the schoolchildren, the poor and the consumers of government services?...

"Who will you throw to the wolves?" Probably the children, since these are "liberals."

If I were running the circus, I'd verify my gut suspicion that this crazy cancerous government growth started roughly around 1980. I think that, for thousands of governmental units, the line on the charts of increasing wealth and population ran at roughly the same angle as increasing government spending and size... until about 1980. Then the lines diverged, with government growing at a steeper angle. Now we come to the crunch.

And then, if I were in charge, I'd pare it all back. Back to whatever it would have been if those lines had continued to run together. And I'd ruthlessly favor the young over the old. they are the future.

San Francisco is so blankety blank broke. It's heartbreaking. A few years ago our pension fund was claiming about 1billion of unfunded pension liability, assuming 7% growth. The Adachi Commission made an assumption of 6% growth, and said the unfunded liability was really 6 billion! I was appalled. But it's got to be tons worse than that. Nobody is earning 6% now. And pensions are only part of the problem; the are huge health-care liabilities. There's no possible way to avoid a catastrophic crash.

But the really interesting question is, for me, is that this has been developing for decades! And this is a city inhabited overwhelmingly by liberal Democrats. Which is to say, the people who favor government. There is no effective Republican Party, no evil Republicans oppressing the poor. So it's their baby. Their playground. And they have sat there and watched a governmental slow-motion train wreck......     and done nothing.

What does this mean?




Republicans, not so evil

Posted by John Weidner at 9:33 PM | Comments (3)

May 28, 2012

“I claim we got a hell of a beating.”

This isn't precisely a Memorial Day-type blog-post, but I like it. From Jay Nordlinger, a letter from a reader:

...Dear Jay,

. . . My father told me something long ago. He was a war refugee, arriving from Hungary in late 1941. He settled in Boston and began a medical career. Shortly after moving to Boston, he went one night to the movies. A news reel was played. It featured General Stilwell making his famous comment, “I claim we got a hell of a beating.” The audience cheered.

Dad’s first reaction was sheer terror. He was sure the police would storm the theater and arrest the projectionist for showing the news reel, and the entire audience for cheering an American defeat. That most certainly would have happened in Admiral Horthy’s Hungary. But nothing happened, except that the movie was shown after the news reel.

At the end, there weren’t any police at the theater, and my dad went home relieved. But he was confused. In the following days, he thought a great deal about what had happened at the theater. Until that point, he was absolutely convinced that the Axis would win the war, and that someday the Wehrmacht would invade the U.S. The Germans had of course been winning everything up to then, and, to a newcomer like Dad, the U.S. in early 1942 did not seem strong or serious enough to resist the Germans.

But it finally occurred to him that we were in fact quite strong — far stronger than the Germans — and serious as well. General Stilwell’s full statement had been, “I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake it.” The cheering was in response to the call to get our act together and retake Burma.

Dad told me that from then on he never had any doubt about our eventual victory, or about how fortunate he was to have come to the U.S. when he did....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2012

Hmmm. Which Pope does this remind me of?

Newman, writing on the Popes... (Rise & Progress of Universities - Chapter 11)

...Old men usually get fond of old habits; they cannot imagine, understand, relish any thing to which they are not accustomed. The Popes have been old men; but, wonderful to say, they have never been slow to venture out upon a new line, when it was necessary, and had ever been looking about, sounding, exploring, taking observations, reconnoitring, attempting, even when there was no immediate reason why they should not let well alone, as the world would say, or even when they were hampered with difficulties at their door so great, that you would think that they had no time or thought to spare for anything in the distance.

It is but a few years ago that a man of eighty, of humble origin, the most Conservative of Popes, as he was considered, with disaffection and sedition upheaving his throne, was found to be planning missions for the interior of Africa, and, when a moment's opportunity was given him, made the most autocratical of Emperors, the very hope of Conservatives, the very terror of Catholics, quail beneath his glance. And, thus independent of times and places, the Popes have never found any difficulty, when the proper moment came, of following out a new and daring line of policy (as their astonished foes have called it), of leaving the old world to shift for itself and to disappear from the scene in its due season, and of fastening on and establishing themselves in the new...

Pope Benedict is in his eighties, and is still suprising us.

And here, from the same piece, a picture of a really classy Pope in action...

...What were these outer barbarians [the English] to Gregory? How could they relieve him or profit him? What compensation could they make for what the Church was then losing, or might lose in future? Yet he corresponds with their king and queen, urges them to complete what they had so happily begun, reminds Bertha of St. Helena, and what St. Helena did for the Romans, and Ethelbert, of the great Constantine; informs them of the satisfaction which their conversion had given to the Imperial Court at Constantinople, and sends them sacred presents from the Apostle Peter. Nay he cannot keep from talking of these savages, apropos of anything whatever, for they have been running in his head from the day he first saw them in the slave market; and he makes the learned Church of Alexandria the special partner of his joy upon this contemptible victory.

The Patriarch Eulogius had been telling him of his own success in reclaiming the heretics of Alexandria, and he sends him a piece of good news in return:—"As I am well aware," he says, "that in the midst of your own good deeds, you rejoice in those of others, I will repay you for the kindness of your tidings by telling you something of the same sort." And then he goes on to speak of the conversion of the English, "who are situated in a corner of the world," as if their gain was comparable to that of the educated and wealthy persons whom Eulogius had been reconciling to the Church. Nay, lest he should take too much credit for his own success, and grow vain upon it, he attributes it to the prayers of the Alexandrians, or at least of their Bishop, all that way off, as if the Angles and Jutes were anything at all to the city of the Ptolemies! "On Christmas Day," he says, "more than 10,000 of them were baptized. I tell you of it, that you may know, that, while your words avail for your own people, your prayers avail for the ends of the earth. For you are by prayer where you are not, while you manifest yourself by holy labours where you are."
Posted by John Weidner at 4:52 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2012

So, will Al Gore and company be pleased?

As reported by Andrew Montford, FT says Shale gas slashes US carbon emissions:

The shale gas boom in the US has led to a big drop in its carbon emissions, as power generators switch from coal to cheap gas.

According to the International Energy Agency, US energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, fell by 450m tonnes over the past five years - the largest drop among all countries surveyed....

This is a good test of whether the people who claim to care about man-made global warming actually do.

Stop global warming sign covered with snow

Posted by John Weidner at 6:15 AM

May 22, 2012

Well, he is like Jesus. Because...

Michelle Obama: 'This President Has Brought Us Out of the Dark and Into the Light' | The Weekly Standard:

...Michelle Obama made a remarkable claim when talking up her husband, President Barack Obama, at a campaign event earlier today in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I am so in," Michelle Obama said toward the end of her remarks. "I am going to be working so hard. We have an amazing story to tell. This president has brought us out of the dark and into the light."

The crowd of nearly 450 folks applauded as the first lady likened her husband to a Jesus-like figure....

...They both have the same middle initial.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:15 PM

May 18, 2012

I think this is hilarious...

Elizabeth Warren in a mock-Ken Burns style documentary!

Of course those who I really want to heap scorn upon are the slime-animals of Harvard. Pompous frauds. It is a delight to see them revealed as the phonies they are, pretending to care about minorities, while using "affirmative action" to hire another white liberal lie themselves. Liberals are the real racists. If a real redskin applied for a Harvard faculty position, they'd suggest that there were openings in the Facilities Maintenance Dept..

Posted by John Weidner at 7:23 PM

May 17, 2012

A work of fiction...

Charlene recommends: Part One — The Fiction and Non-Fiction of Obama, by Glenn Beck:

...With this in mind, Glenn Beck dedicated his Thursday evening broadcast to reviewing the staggering array of inconsistencies, embellishments and “manufactured lies” perpetuated by the president over the course of his political career.

“His life is complete fiction,” Beck said. Let’s review the non-fiction version before we go any further:...

Me, I don't think Obama actually exists. He's a sort of golem or shadow thrown up by the unconscious wish fulfillment needs of the nihilist left. One of these days he'll just go "Poof," and vanish and leave everyone scratching their heads and wondering if he was really here at all...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:11 PM | Comments (5)

May 13, 2012

The "ears of the heart"

Regio Dissimilitudinis....

"...For Benedict, [St Benedict of Nursia] the words of the Psalm: coram angelis psallam Tibi, Domine - in the presence of the angels, I will sing your praise (cf. 138:1) - are the decisive rule governing the prayer and chant of the monks. What this expresses is the awareness that in communal prayer one is singing in the presence of the entire heavenly court, and is thereby measured according to the very highest standards: that one is praying and singing in such a way as to harmonize with the music of the noble spirits who were considered the originators of the harmony of the cosmos, the music of the spheres.

From this perspective one can understand the seriousness of a remark by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who used an expression from the Platonic tradition handed down by Augustine, to pass judgement on the poor singing of monks, which for him was evidently very far from being a mishap of only minor importance. He describes the confusion resulting from a poorly executed chant as a falling into the "zone of dissimilarity" - the regio dissimilitudinis. Augustine had borrowed this phrase from Platonic philosophy, in order to designate his condition prior to conversion (cf. Confessions, VII, 10.16): man, who is created in God's likeness, falls in his godforsakenness into the "zone of dissimilarity" - into a remoteness from God, in which he no longer reflects him, and so has become dissimilar not only to God, but to himself, to what being human truly is. Bernard is certainly putting it strongly when he uses this phrase, which indicates man's falling away from himself, to describe bad singing by monks. But it shows how seriously he viewed the matter. It shows that the culture of singing is also the culture of being, and that the monks have to pray and sing in a manner commensurate with the grandeur of the word handed down to them, with its claim on true beauty.

This intrinsic requirement of speaking with God and singing of him with words he himself has given, is what gave rise to the great tradition of Western music. It was not a form of private "creativity", in which the individual leaves a memorial to himself and makes self-representation his essential criterion. Rather it is about vigilantly recognizing with the "ears of the heart" the inner laws of the music of creation, the archetypes of music that the Creator built into his world and into men, and thus discovering music that is worthy of God, and at the same time truly worthy of man, music whose worthiness resounds in purity."

From "The Origins of Western Theology and the Roots of European Culture," address to Representatives from the World of Culture, Sep 12, 2008

Posted by John Weidner at 2:23 PM

May 12, 2012

Things could be tons worse here... Three cheers for political inaction... and fracking!

Stop global warming sign covered with snow

Lawrence Solomon: Green power failure | Climate Realists:

.Global-warming-related catastrophes are increasingly hitting vulnerable populations around the world, with one species in particular danger: the electricity ratepayer. In Canada, in the U.K., in Spain, in Denmark, in Germany and elsewhere the danger to ratepayers is especially great, but ratepayers in one country -- the U.S. -- seem to have weathered the worst of the disaster.

America's secret? Unlike leaders in other countries, which to their countries' ruin adopted policies as if global warming mattered, U.S. leaders more paid lip service to it. While citizens in other countries are now seeing soaring power rates, American householders can look forward to declining rates.

The North American exemplar of acting on the perceived threat of global warming is Ontario, which dismantled one of the continent's finest fleets of coal plants in pursuit of becoming a green leader. Then, to induce developers to build uneconomic renewable energy facilities, the Ontario government paid them as much as 80 times the market rate for power. The result is power prices that rose rapidly (about 50% since 2005) and will continue to do so: Ontarians can expect power prices that are 46% higher over the next five years, according to a 2010 Ontario government estimate, and more than 100% higher according to independent estimates. The rest of Canada may not fare much better -- the National Energy Board forecasts power prices 42% higher by 2035, while some estimates have Canadian power prices 50% higher by 2020.

The story throughout much of Europe is similar. Denmark, an early adopter of the global-warming mania, now requires its households to pay the developed world's highest power prices -- about 40¢ a kilowatt hour, or three to four times what North Americans pay today. Germany, whose powerhouse economy gave green developers a blank cheque, is a close second, followed by other politically correct nations such as Belgium, the headquarters of the EU, and distressed nations such as Spain.

The result is chaos to the economic well-being of the EU nations. Even in rock-solid Germany, up to 15% of the populace is now believed to be in "fuel poverty" -- defined by governments as needing to spend more than 10% of the total household income on electricity and gas. Some 600,000 low-income Germans are now being cut off by their power companies annually, a number expected to increase as a never-ending stream of global-warming projects in the pipeline wallops customers. In the U.K., which has laboured under the most politically correct climate leadership in the world, some 12 million people are already in fuel poverty, 900,000 of them in wind-infested Scotland alone, and the U.K. has now entered a double-dip recession.

The U.S., in contrast, will see power rates decline starting next year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, dropping by more than 22% by the end of the decade and then staying flat to 2035. Why the fall? Mainly because the U.S. will rely overwhelmingly on fossil fuels in the years ahead, not just coal, which dominates the current power system, but increasingly natural gas, which is expected to account for 60% of all new generating capacity in the future. Thanks to fracking, the U.S. effectively has limitless amounts of inexpensive natural gas to add to its limitless coal....

Turbine in flames

Posted by John Weidner at 5:25 PM

May 10, 2012

Stevenson on Pepys...

(You almost certainly already know this, but Samuel Pepys' name was pronounced "peeps." I remember feeling awkward as a youth when my dad corrected my pronunciation. The Bezan was a dutch-built yacht. King Charles II, who Pepys served for much of his life, was the main inventor of yachting as a sport. The Hope is a stretch of the Thames below Gravesend.)

Portrait of Samuel Pepys

...The whole world, town or country, was to Pepys a garden of Armida. Wherever he went his steps were winged with the most eager expectation; whatever he did, it was done with the most lively pleasure. An insatiable curiosity in all the shows of the world and all the secrets of knowledge, filled him brimful of the longing to travel, and supported him in the toils of study. Rome was the dream of his life; he was never happier than when he read or talked of the Eternal City. When he was in Holland, he was 'with child' to see any strange thing. Meeting some friends and singing with them in a palace near the Hague, his pen fails him to express his passion of delight, 'the more so because in a heaven of pleasure and in a strange country.'

He must go to see all famous executions. He must needs visit the body of a murdered man, defaced 'with a broad wound,' he says, 'that makes my hand now shake to write of it.' He learned to dance, and was 'like to make a dancer.' He learned to sing, and walked about Gray's Inn Fields 'humming to myself (which is now my constant practice) the trillo.' He learned to play the lute, the flute, the flageolet, and the theorbo, and it was not the fault of his intention if he did not learn the harpsichord or the spinet. He learned to compose songs, and burned to give forth 'a scheme and theory of music not yet ever made in the world.' When he heard 'a fellow whistle like a bird exceeding well,' he promised to return another day and give an angel for a lesson in the art. Once, he writes, 'I took the Bezan back with me, and with a brave gale and tide reached up that night to the Hope, taking great pleasure in learning the seamen's manner of singing when they sound the depths.'

If he found himself rusty in his Latin grammar, he must fall to it like a schoolboy. He was a member of Harrington's Club till its dissolution, and of the Royal Society before it had received the name. Boyle's Hydrostatics was 'of infinite delight' to him, walking in Barnes Elms. We find him comparing Bible concordances, a captious judge of sermons, deep in Descartes and Aristotle. We find him, in a single year, studying timber and the measurement of timber; tar and oil, hemp, and the process of preparing cordage; mathematics and accounting; the hull and the rigging of ships from a model; and 'looking and improving himself of the (naval) stores with' - hark to the fellow! - 'great delight'...
---Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted by John Weidner at 9:51 PM

May 9, 2012

Oddball meditation...

I was just talking to my son the classicist, and he expressed curiosity about if some Marines were sent back in time to fight the Spartans, who would win.

I said that was a boring question. If spears are used, the Spartans obviously win. If firearms, the Marines win. The really interesting thing would be to send both groups to the 17th century, to duke it out with muskets and pikes.

My initial thought is that the Spartans would have the advantage. Pike work was, I think, trickier than musketry, and Spartan hoplites would grasp the concept right away. As an instance, here are some modern chaps handling pikes. (Re-enactors of the English Civil War.) Not too impressive, eh?

Pikemen, reenactors of the English Civil War

For the historically challenged, the matchlock musket of the 17th century fired slowly. Two or three shots a minute if you were skilled. And the musketeer was almost helpless in defense. A horseman could just ride by and cut him down. So the pikemen formed a bristling wall of points, mostly to protect the shooters. There was an intricate dance needed to bring the musketeers forward to shoot, then move them back among the pikes when danger approached. And to move the whole assembly across the battlefield without losing cohesion. (All this was made obsolete by the invention of the bayonet.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:38 PM | Comments (2)

May 8, 2012

This is pretty good...

What Lugar's loss could mean for a Pres. Romney :

...As I wrote earlier this week, a lot of pundits have been prematurely writing the obituary to the Tea Party, but Mourdock's victory demonstrates that the movement still has a lot of power. Tea Party activists will be tested again in Texas, where they hope to nominate Ted Cruz and Utah, where they hope to dump veteran Sen. Orrin Hatch in favor of conservative Dan Liljenquist. 

Mourdock's victory not only means that this particular Senate seat is likely to be more conservative (assuming he goes on to win the general election in this traditionally red state), but it also puts Republican Senators everywhere on notice that no seat is safe anywhere in the country. Any elected Republican that doesn't pursue a small government agenda once in office risks suffering the same fate as Lugar. Had Lugar hung on, then a lot of people would have dismissed the Tea Party as a passing fad from 2010. But now it's clear that the movement has been underestimated once again. Tea Partiers have a lot more staying power than skeptics expected.

With the Republican presidential nomination going to the ideologically malleable Mitt Romney, supporters of limited government have recognized that their best hope for advancing the conservative agenda rests on the ability to elect as many principled conservatives to Congress as possible. That is, lawmakers who will be willing to fight for smaller government even if it means standing up to a president of their own party. The more victories the Tea Party racks up, the greater the chance that Romney will be forced to govern as a limited government conservative if elected, even if his natural inclination is to migrate to the left....

The good thing about having a "malleable" president is that he will presumably be malleable in our direction too. Of course "malleable" usually tends Leftward, because that's the direction of nihilism and cowardice. But ..

Posted by John Weidner at 9:33 PM

May 3, 2012

We've seen this fraud so many times...

Delingpole, gotta love the guy!

There's a great scoop in The Australian today about more lying climate scientists making stuff up.
CLAIMS that some of Australia's leading climate change scientists were subjected to death threats as part of a vicious and unrelenting email campaign have been debunked by the Privacy Commissioner.

Timothy Pilgrim was called in to adjudicate on a Freedom of Information application in relation to Fairfax and ABC reports last June alleging that Australian National University climate change researchers were facing the ongoing campaign and had been moved to "more secure buildings" following explicit threats.
Needless to say the University did everything it could to prevent the investigation, arguing that the release of the climate scientists' emails (why am I getting an eerie sense of deja vu here?) "would or could reasonably be expected to...endanger the life or physical safety of any person". But doughty Sydney blogger Simon Turnill appealed against this stonewalling drivel and won. And here's what was revealed when the 11 relevant emails were eventually released. Ten of the documents "did not contain threats to kill or threats of harm."

Of the 11th, the Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said: "I consider the danger to life or physical safety in this case to be only a possibility, not a real chance."

No wonder the university was so keen to keep things quiet. Contrary to the claims of the "climate" "scientists" - widely reported, of course, in the left-wing media - there had been no death threats whatsoever. Yet their vice-chancellor at the time - now the Australian government's Chief Scientist - Professor Ian Chubb decided to move them to "more secure buildings" without, he now admits, having read the emails to see whether these threats actually existed.

Maybe it's time someone did an FOI to see whether the UEA's dodgy and discredited Phil Jones really did get any of those "death threats" he claims to have received after Climategate and which allegedly drove him to consider suicide....

It reminds me of the good old days of the Iraq campaign. Remember how lefty politicians, when challenged on their appeasing policies, would whimper, "How dare you question my patriotism!"

Posted by John Weidner at 6:50 PM