Daily Archives: July 4, 2012

California has the same size economy as France and seems determined to match it as it shrinks


California dreaming

California wants to seize mortgages from lenders under eminent domain law.  Our Supreme Court opened this door in, appropriately, 1984, in the Midkiff case and last week’s ruling pretty much removed all doubt that we’re now a nation of politics, not law. Maybe they’ll call this a tax, just to make Justice Roberts happy.

A handful of local officials in California who say the housing bust is a public blight on their cities may invoke their eminent-domain powers to restructure mortgages as a way to help some borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth.

Investors holding the current mortgages predict the move will backfire by driving up borrowing costs and further depress property values. “I don’t see how you could find it anything other than appalling,” said Scott Simon, a managing director at Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco, a unit of Allianz SE.


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Well good

We’ve run out of other people’s money!

The sooner France falls, the better. There’s no hope that our own Hollywood cabana boy will learn a lesson from a socialist collapse but the spectacle might just catch the attention of US voters.

Taxes on foreign property owners to double.

Punitive taxes on French nationals, French corporations. Huge hikes in dividends taxes and capital gains.

Restoration of the 35-hour work week (plus those six-week vacations).

Hollande says the rich must pay their share as France battles to cut its public deficit from 5.2 percent of GDP last year to an EU limit of 3 percent in 2013 despite a stagnant economy and rising debt.

“We are in an extremely difficult economic and financial situation,” Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told a news conference. “In 2012 and 2013, the effort will be particularly large. The wealthiest households and big companies will have to contribute.”

The budget followed a grim assessment of public finances on Monday by the state auditor, which warned that 6-10 billion euros of deficit cuts were needed in 2012 and a hefty 33 billion in 2013 for France to avoid a surge in public debt dragging it into the centre of the euro crisis.

One of the highest state spending levels in the world has raised France’s debt by 800 billion euros in the last 10 years to 1.8 trillion – equivalent to 90 percent of GDP, the level at which economists say debt starts to hinder economic growth.


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Bread upon the water

Gravy boat

As in dough. Navy, under pressure from the Obama administration, powering an entire aircraft fleet with soy sauce at a cost 700% greater than conventional fuel. With more R&D projects on tap.

Oil independence in time of war? A notable goal, but if that’s what’s got the White House worried (and i’s not – this is about rewarding politicians with ties to the “green” fuel suppliers) then perhaps the Keystone pipeline would be a more efficient use of – private – dollars. Or, if the government really can’t help itself and has to spend public dollars on research and development schemes, why not work on nuclear power plants for even the smallest ship?


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Never forgive, never forget

Black folk celebrate their victimhood this Fourth of July. Boo hoo – long past time to get a life, you morons. Tell your tale of woe to Mexicans, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Jews, Irish, Poles, Scots, Haitians, every single group that has come penniless to this country, been oppressed, overcome that oppression and succeeded. Why? The key to personal success is to stop whining, suck it up and go to work. Getting  an education is helpful too.


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Quell surpise: Former Enron Advisor Paul Krugman diddles the numbers to “prove” his point

Iceland (defaulted on loans) great, Lithuania (austerity budget) bad, according to the Walter Duranty of economic prize winners. But to reach that result, he had to play games with the start date for his comparison. Apples to apples, Lithuania good, Iceland bad.

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Just wait for solar storms or an enemy attack

Solar Storm

1.37 million still without power on East Coast.

“The storm came in with no warning, no one had time to prepare,” Gregg Edeson, a partner in the global energy section of PA Consulting Group and a former utility lineman, said in a phone interview. “The lightening in these storms went after the transformers which affects a wider area than trees falling on power lines.”

It’s not just crazy Newt Gingrich who’s been warning about this for years, but lots of pretty rational sounding scientists. There are ways to beef up our electrical transmission system to minimize the danger (several proposals for doing just that were included in the then-unspent “Stimulus” fund) but nothing’s been done and probably won’t be.

One day, 1.37 million people without power for two weeks is going to seem like chump change. Google “EMP solar storms” for a vast collection of articles on this subject, if you need anything to worry about over the holiday.

UPDATE: Hell, even the NYT acknowledges the threat.

[2009] The electric grid, which keeps beer cold, houses warm, and city traffic from turning to chaos, depends on about 2,100 high-voltage transformers spread throughout the country.

But engineers in the electric business and officials with the Department of Homeland Security have long been concerned that transformers are vulnerable to disruptions from extreme weather like hurricanes, as well as terrorist and computer attacks and even electrical disturbances from geomagnetic, or so-called solar, storms. One such storm, in 1989, blacked out the entire province of Quebec, and this week, a transformer fire of unknown origin blacked out parts of Boston.

And while replacing transformers is not technically difficult, it is a logistical and time-consuming nightmare that can take up to two years.

UPDATE II: Reader “John” sends along this link: The Canadians learned from their experience and have done something about it.

On March 10, [1989] a strong wind left the Sun, heading for Earth. On March 12, the first voltage fluctuations were being seen on the Hydro-Québec transmission grid. The System Control Centre was doing what it could to maintain stability. However, on March 13 at 2:44 a.m., the Earth’s magnetic field was fluctuating violently. The grid’s protection system was triggered, and a blackout occurred in less than a minute! The province was submerged in darkness for more than nine hours.

Hydro-Québec strengthens its grid

Shortly after this blackout, Hydro-Québec organized a task force to analyze the events and propose corrective measures. The following measures have since been applied:

  • Recalibration of protection systems and raising of the trip level. This tactic has proven effective, seeing there have been very intense magnetic storms since 1989 but they have not caused any problems.
  • Establishment of a real-time alert system that measures disturbances on the power grid during magnetic storms.
  • Modification of power system operating procedures. In the event of a disturbance, Hydro-Québec reduces power flow on lines and direct-current interconnections, and suspends all major switching operations.
  • Installation of series compensation on power lines to enhance grid stability. This measure has been very effective in mitigating the impact of magnetic storms.



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(Second hand) fishing report

Aboard the “HMS Half-Ass Bay”

My usual crew: “Ricky the Muskellunge” , “Bad Trip Money Bags” and “Luigi the Lip” fared out without me this weekend in Luigi’s skiff (hey, someone in the quartet has to hold down a job) and claim they laid into the bluefish, catching a slew of 12-pounders (before you scoff at them catching mere minnows, remember that you need a big boat to catch big fish – they did the best they could within their limitations).

Anyway, the success of this clown trio is proof that the fish are still in the Sound. Put on your water wings and go get’em.


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Worse than a heart attack

I’d rather have paid full price

I’ve now experienced both and I can attest that, for driving home an awareness of one’s mortality, receiving an unsolicited Senior Discount at Dunkin Donuts does an even better job.
Anyone can have a heart attack; you have to really look old, at least to a young whippersnapper, to get a senior discount.

Damn, I was feeling pretty perky before that happened.


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