Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ah, that hit the spot...

Had a pork and vegetables rice plate at the local Vietnamese restaurant for lunch today. One doesn't appreciate a working gut until you had to do without one for a few days...

- Badtux the Satisfied Penguin

Further update: Got that Activia yogurt today. Strawberry variety. The verdict is... bleh. Thus far the most palatable has been the mixed-berry Yoplait, where the various berry flavors helped hid the chalky nasty taste.

Rainy day blues

It occurs to me that I have not had a song up here by the lovely and talented Emmy the Great recently. So I went off to browse her videos, and found this one of her being recorded with a handi-cam, with nothing but her guitar and voice, in a park in Spain. This is her sad song "MIA", from the First Love CD (in a slightly more produced/polished version, of course, without wind blowing hair into her mouth!).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, April 29, 2011

What a poser!

The Mighty Fang poses for the camera...

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Color television

This is Austin band The Black Angels with "You In Color", off of their 2008 album Directions to See A Ghost. Whoa, creepy psychedelic rock from Texas...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Gus Hall of the Republican party

Gus Hall, the long time Stalinist leader of the Communist Party USA, had a hobby of running for President. He did it regularly, like Metamucil for the body politic. In the end, it was a running joke, "oh, it's a Presidential election already? Let's see if Gus Hall is running... YES!" I expect any time now to find Zombie Gus Hall on the ballot again, because death can't keep a good joke down.

So now Ron Paul takes up Gus Hall's mantle and basically announces he's running, again. I suppose it's fitting. After all, Gus Hall was an ideologue who placed his ideology over any attachment to, like, actual reality. And Ron Paul is an ideologue who, if actual reality contradicts his ideology, chooses his ideology over reality. Two peas in a pod, really. Alrighty, then!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Yo Pat, where are ya?

Pat Robertson is famous for saying that natural disasters are a "punishment from God". He said that about Katrina, he said that about the Haiti earthquake, and so forth. Glenn Beck similarly loves saying that natural disasters are "messages" from God.

So today I eagerly await their pronouncements on the tornados that flattened portions of the South this week. Waiting for them to say these tornados were a punishment from God in three... two... one...

Oh WAIT A MINUTE, I forgot, it's only a punishment from God if it's DARKIES getting flattened, not if it's good god fearin' WHITE folk! Sheesh, what was I thinkin?

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

People like this stuff?!

So upon advice of medical professionals, I am now on a daily dose of yogurt, the kind with "active and live culture". I have just one question:

People actually like this stuff?!

Chalk. Bleh. Sour chalk with fruit and sugar (I'm doing the Yoplait, which I'm told was the most palatable). Bleh.

-- Badtux the Bleh Penguin

Slow trespassing

Trespassers William with their song "Different Stars", off their 2004 album of the same name.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Long-term parking

Guess what happens if you park a trailer on a city street for a week or so and don't happen to inform the neighborhood busybody about it? Yessiree, it gets towed. Some folks named Head On Photos parked their trailer on my street. No beef off my back, I figured it was a company run by one of my neighbors but didn't bother checking it out. But the neighborhood busybody lady of course got annoyed after the trailer just *sat* there for almost two weeks with no sign of moving, she *did* check it out and apparently nobody copped to owning the trailer (or if they did cop to owning the trailer, copped an attitude about it), and she called the cops, who promptly red-tagged it for violating the 72 hour limit. I noticed the tag today, it has a date sometime tomorrow on it as the deadline. So sometime tomorrow, no more trailer on my street.

Point, point... if you are starting a new business and want long-term parking for shit like that, rent a space somewhere, don't just dump your junk on some residential street and expect it to be there weeks later when you come back for it. DOH! And it ain't even all that expensive, compared to having to pay towing and impound fees when your junk gets towed. Place where I store my junk, you can rent a trailer storage space for $100/month, which is a helluva lot cheaper than the impound fee's gonna be.

So it goes. I dropped'em a line that their trailer was red-tagged, no idea whether they'll get the trailer before traffic enforcement comes back again and calls the tow service. This doesn't bode well for the future of their business, though, if they fuck up simple shit like this...

-- Badtux the Helpful Penguin

That birth certificate thang

Obama releases his long-form birth certificate.

Will the release of this document change the mind of birthers? Of course not. World Nut Daily already doubled down on the crazy and announced, "Even Hawaii birth won't make Obama eligible". Other birthers like Oily Taitz swiftly followed suit. Because no document in the world will ever make Obama eligible to be President in their eyes, because no document in the world will ever turn Obama white.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Southern Gothic

Trailer Bride, "Hope is a thing with feathers", off the 2003 album by the same name. Still trying to decide what I think about the rest of their output, but this is a cool song and a cool video.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The end game

I think it's not a secret that I think something has gone way wrong with America, and that things are not going to turn around until utter national disaster has happened and there simply is no choice. Let's look at a few reasons why I think that:

  1. A broken media. But this is always been true. What is new today is the phenomenon of crapflooding -- flooding people with so much information from such a wide variety of sources that they are unable to pick out the grains of truth from the flow of utter crap flooding our airwaves and our media. Searching for truth in the babbling cacophony that is our modern-day media is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, it's there, but carefully hidden under piles of reeking money feces. Back in the days when there was one or two major newspapers in any given town and three networks, it was much easier to dig out those little shards of truth hidden in all the utter crap.
  2. Apathetic narcotized population. As long as they have a job (no matter how much they hate it), as long as they can come home and watch their narcotic television shows and play their narcotic video games, they're happy. They don't vote, they don't research the candidates when they do vote, they can't name who their Congressman or Senators are, hell, half of them probably would agree with you if you told them that President Reagan should resign because he's getting too old to be President.
  3. A broken political system. The political system has gone astray from any attachment to reality and devolved into a freak show of cowards and babbling lunatics, incapable of spending much attention on any real problem or accomplishing much beyond wasting space and air. Given the previous entry, it seems unlikely this will end anytime soon.
  4. A broken social infrastructure. Ironically, the evangelical Christians are probably the only group in America that still has a working social infrastructure, one where they know their neighbors, go to church every Sunday and greet the people on either side of them in the pew by name, help each other in time of need, and donate significant sums of money to charitable causes that they agree with. Most of the rest of America is no longer like that. Most of us don't know our neighbors, have no groups of people with common cause that we meet with on a monthly basis to share and have community with, have no sense of community. We are isolated in our homes, with only our televisions and our computers as our friend. This is no way to organize a society, this is a way to create a society of sociopaths -- which is what it's doing.
  5. A broken *physical* infrastructure. Conspiracies by auto makers from the 1920's onwards accompanied by racism in the late 50's to late 80's led to the explosion of suburbs, the collapse of cities, and the utter ruin of most fuel-efficient mass transit systems. Efficient electrically-driven light rail systems were the norm in most American cities prior to the 1940's, and even many small towns prior to the 1940's had heavy rail service connecting them to the rest of the nation. Today, for most of America, the only way to get from here to there is by automobile. The thing is, the automobile is not a sustainable system. It is not sustainable environmentally, it is not sustainable on a per-capita infrastructure basis (requiring acres upon acres of land for nothing but its physical housing in shopping areas and homes and a highway capable of carrying 100,000 automobiles per day takes up ten times more space and requires ten times more maintenance than a rail line capable of carrying 150,000 riders per day), and it is not sustainable spiritually, leading to sterile suburbs where nobody knows anybody and where you can't do anything because anything you could do -- shop, attend plays, whatever -- is somewhere else. Yet America's infrastructure today is built around the automobile, and the hurdles to re-urbanization are formidable. For most Americans, you will take their autos from their cold dead hands... a prediction that will, sadly, likely come true.
  6. A broken educational infrastructure. America's educational infrastructure has always been creaky. This has never been a nation that worshiped intellectuals or cared much for intellect. Americans prided themselves on being a nation of doers, not a nation of thinkers. But today's schools prepare students neither for thinking nor for doing. Unless, by "doing", you mean "bubble in pointless bubbles on endless Scan-Tron cards". And then these students hit the universities, which themselves are under attack, confronted with endless budget cuts because the lizard people need their tax cuts after all...
Thing is, all of these reinforce each other. The end result is going to be an America that every year is a little poorer, a little meaner, a little more vicious, until at the end we tear each other's throats out like a pack of rabid dogs goaded to violence while our lizard overlords smile on from their walled estates protected by armed guards, secure in the fact that they can jet out by helicopter and private plane to their estate in the south of France or in Panama if things get too hot here. I don't know what the nature of the end game is going to look like, but in the end there's going to be a tenth of the population, maybe, either huddled together for self-protection in the ruins of our cities like the ten thousand people who huddled in the ruins of Rome in 500 AD (a city which only 100 years prior had held over a million people), or out on the land working as subsistence farmers perhaps on the estates of our new lords, or what. But there's going to be a lot of dead people, and a society that comes out of it that is utterly unlike our current one, which is an evolutionary dead end that simply can't survive because, as with the dodo bird, it has gone down an evolutionary dead end that can't survive contact with outside reality. Maybe somehow the survivors will put together a better society, will re-urbanize, will re-build the infrastructure of community and nation, will create something afresh that is worthwhile. Or it could turn out to be a feudal nightmare. But our current existence will end.

So anyhow, that's my read of the future. I hope I'm wrong about the body count before things hit bottom. But I doubt it. I seriously doubt it. Winston Churchill once said that Americans always do everything wrong until there is no choice but the right one. Thing is, there's a *lot* of wrong choices that can be made between now and then... and most of them end up in complete and utter national disaster, with something better emerging only from the ruins at the end after a lot of dead bodies...

-- Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin

This blog is endorsed by President Obama

I now await my very own call from a Presidential staffer complaining that I'm using the seal of the executive office to endorse something or another. I can hardly wait! After all, that's probably the only way I'll ever get to talk to a Presidential staffer, or anybody in power other than some lowly intern who isn't allowed to talk to anybody powerful, right?

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Note #1: This blog is ANTI-commercial. As in, if you tried to donate money or *anything* to me for running this blog, I'd reject it out of hand. No ads, no solicitations, *nothing* that might imply that I might ever see one red cent out of running this blog will *ever* be posted here, for reasons clear and simple: so that nobody can ever call me and accuse me of using their trademarked name or seal for profit.

Note #2: This blog is not, in fact, endorsed by President Obama, as a cursory read should make clear. The title is sarcasm. S-a-r-c-a-s-m. Look it up in the dictionary, you guy wearin' mirror shades indoors with a black suit. I know it's a big word, but you're a big boy, right?


Kathleen Edwards, "Run" off of her 2008 album Asking for Flowers.

A little harmonica makes all Americana better. Even if written and sung by a Canadian.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, April 25, 2011

The lizard people's war on children continues

I once wangled my way into one of the Houston Republican Party get-togethers back during the early 90′s and figured out just what they were the moment one of the prominent members started talking about how he was tired of paying his tax money to educate other people’s children (this was a short while after complaining about how he could not find good employees for his business), how public schools were socialism and how people who could not afford to send their children to private schools, as he did, simply shouldn’t have children. I interjected, “but the children didn’t choose to be born, why should they be punished for what their parents did?” He simply sneered “they should have chosen richer parents then.” There was nothing I could say to that, since the man was obviously deranged. You would not know this man, who prefers to stay behind the scenes, but you would know the man he got elected as a Congressman from Houston, a man by the name of Tom DeLay…

They are not only sociopathic scum, but they are utterly deranged, living in an alternate universe where there is no cause and effect relationship between cutting education and not being able to find good employees for your business, an alternate universe where children choose what parents they are born to and thus foster children clearly chose to be born as what they are. The fact that these utter psychopaths are running our nation, more or less, is chilling. Yet: Every single one of these lizard people, these sociopathic scum, got elected by the majority of voters in his or her district. Every… single… one. Does that say that the majority of American voters are evil? Are idiots? Are brainwashed fools? I don’t know, I just don’t see any hope for America. I mean, who would vote for people who propose that we send foster children to school in rags (presumably so that *our* children will know not to associate with them)?

Oh yes, the latest outrage in the lizard people's war on children... homeless woman arrested for THEFT for crime of enrolling her child in school. Because, you see, she didn't have a permanent address in the school district. Or anywhere, for that matter, which is why the federal McKinney-Vento law protecting the right of homeless children to an education was written in the first place, which basically says the school district can't expel homeless children for not having a permanent address in the district. But that didn't stop Republican Mayor Richard Moccia of Norwalk, Connecticut. If you cannot stop the children, he reasoned, then arresting the parents would get those unseemly homeless kids out of the Norwalk schools lickity-split.

Lizard people. Emotionless, empathyless, cold-blooded, with no morality other than greed and avarice. Lizard people. Any person who would arrest a homeless parent for enrolling her child in school is lower than knee-high to a caterpillar. And a *majority* voted for these lizard people! Whether through stupidity or evil…. doesn’t say much for America and Americans. Either we’re too stupid as a nation to continue to exist, or too evil.

-- Badtux the Maudlin(*) Penguin

(*)Who, perhaps fortunately for his liver, is currently unable to drown his sorrows in herring sauce due to recovery from recent stomach disorder, sigh.

A song for the lizard people

And the album version if you're having trouble understanding the lyrics...

Yesterday's post about the evil GOP lizard people who want to punish Michigan's foster children by forcing them to go to school in rags got me depressed, so I moved today's music post forward in time and did this one instead. This is Tom Morello and Boots Riley, Street Sweeper Social Club, with their song "100 Little Curses". Enjoy. Or not. Siiiiiigh!

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Say hello to Rosie

No no, not the ramblin' rose. Rosie the ROSEMARY. That little splotch of green near the foot of the step, between the rose bush and the new back fence.

Don't laugh. Imagine that little splotch of green being six feet tall and four feet wide, which is going to totally happen, if not overnight. Rosie's going to take up that corner quite nicely, thank you very much!

-- Badtux the Gardening Penguin

Back to the future

During the 1870s, powerful financial syndicates controlled the railroads and the coalfields. Coal companies had begun to recruit immigrants from overseas, luring them with "promises of fortune-making". Herded into freight trains by the hundreds, these workers often replaced English-speaking miners who, according to George Korson, "...were compelled to give way in one coal field after another, either abandoning the industry altogether for other occupations or else retreating, like the vanishing American Indian, westward..."[18] Frequently unable to read safety instructions, the immigrant workers, "...faced constant hazards from violation of safety precautions, such as they were. Injuries and deaths in mine disasters, frequently reported in the newspapers, shocked the nation."[18] Twenty-two thousand coal miners worked in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.[12] Fifty-five hundred of the mineworkers in the county were children between the ages of seven and sixteen years[19] who earned between one and three dollars a week separating slate from the coal. Injured miners, or those too old to work at the face, were also assigned to picking slate at the "breakers" where the coal was crushed into a manageable size. Thus, many of the elderly miners finished their mining days as they'd begun in their youth.[20]
-- From Wikipedia article on the Molly McGuires

One wonders, based upon stories such as Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale(MI) forcing foster children to buy all their clothing at used clothing stores and the continued GOP jihad against Social Security and Medicare, whether the GOP pines for the days when children between the ages of seven and sixteen years earned their keep as virtual slave laborers. Are there no workhouses? Are there no coal mines to put these greedy foster children into? And those old welfare whores sucking off the government Social Security teat should just be tossed back onto the open market. Let them sort coal in the coal mines! Sheesh!

Of course, the blatant unfairness of punishing foster children for something they had no part in creating (you think foster children want to be foster children?!), or of taking away the Social Security retirement that people paid into and worked for during their entire working life, simply makes Republicans guffaw. Fairness, they say, is something losers talk about. Buck it up, they say, life's not fair. Why, if you work really hard in life, if you study hard and do everything you're supposed to do to get ahead, you could even become a personal servant to the rich and powerful, and be allowed to lick their shoes clean every evening!

Uhm, yeah. Ok. Alrighty then. So here's a song for the GOP...

-- Badtux the "Even the mighty fall" Penguin

Update: Bryan at Why Now is equally horrified... see our discussion of the lizard people there.

Happy Easter

-- Badtux the Somber Music Penguin

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The flow of funds

So the question is, given recent actions by the Federal Reserve, are we facing any risk of inflation right now? The definitive answer to this question is in the flow of funds data released by the Federal Reserve on a quarterly basis. So let's look at what's happening...

So let's start on Page 1 of this report, the overall summary. What it shows is, starting in 2008, a massive increase in the Federal debt... but a massive increase more than offset by an equally massive *decrease* in consumer borrowing. In short, if we're talking about debt as the engine of money creation as is popular with the MMT crowd, less money is being created today than was the case in the period 2001-2007.

Okay, so we can get that striking conclusion from page 1 without going further, but let's go further. One principle of economics is that money which is under a mattress somewhere essentially ceases to exist as far as the economy is concerned. The banking system has the world's biggest mattress. If there's more money flowing out of banks into the economy, we may face inflation. If there's more money flowing into banks than out of them, we have a problem with monetary deflation (which, remember, may not be the same as price deflation due to the issues of wage stickiness and price stickiness, which tend to result in production decreases a.k.a. layoffs, hours reductions, and factory closings rather than price decreases when a mild to moderate amount of monetary deflation occurs). So let's look at total loans by commercial banking on a flow of funds basis, table F.215 on page 48, which shows that bank lending last quarter grew by... -340.1 billion dollars. Indeed, looking at mortgages, consumer credit, everything in that table, it looks like we're on the precipice of a massive *deflationary* event. Well, except for the fact that the U.S. government's massive borrowing largely offset this massive decline in bank lending. Indeed, banks are no longer increasing the amount they have on reserve at the Federal Reserve, instead the data shows they're buying Treasuries instead.

So the conclusions I can draw from the flow of funds data regarding the possibility of inflation are:

  1. The economy still sucks, and it sucked more in 2010 than people are willing to admit. If the economy didn't suck, banks would be lending, not contracting their lending.
  2. We are at the precipice of a massive deflationary event. The only thing preventing that right now is massive borrowing and spending by the Federal government. Take that prop away, and we're in Great Depression 2.0.
  3. People harping on about inflation are full of shit. This money they claim is being printed willy-nilly, the flow of funds data shows is ending up un-printed as the monetary multiplier continues its free fall to unity as bank lending continues its precipitous decline. The asset price bubbles we're seeing today are the same ones we saw *before* the Great Recession, and are a result of tax policy that encourages asset bubbles, not inflation.
There's lots more that can be said from the flow of funds data, but I'm still a bit tired, so I'll let others do that...

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin


This is Australia-via-UK band Howling Bells, with "Velvet Girl" off their 2006 self-titled album.

Juanita Stein can be my velvet girl anytime, thank you very much!

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Health update

All seems to have settled down, no symptoms since this morning. Just tired. About to settle in for another nap, hopefully after that I'll be able to resume normal blogging... lord knows there's enough hilarious things happening in the world to blog about.

-- Badtux the Recovering Penguin

Friday, April 22, 2011

Still flat

The diarrhea came back around 5 AM, after apparently having taken a nap while I slept, and I've been running a fever of about 101F off and on all day long. I did manage to eat some easy-to-digest food during the day but no idea if it actually got absorbed. Looking at the symptoms -- runny watering diarrhea (but not bloody), fever, started 5 days after I ate something questionable -- it appears that the likely culprit is e. coli, but a relatively mild variant.

So I've spent most of the day either flat on my back in bed, or running to the toilet. SIGGGHhh! At least I'm not vomiting or nauseous... thank the Great Penguin for small favors, eh?

- Badtux the Flattened Penguin

The human condition

Lisa Germano's album Geek the Girl was dark, dark, dark, dark, dark. She plumbed depths of the psyche that left you emotionally bombed. As a result, as with most of Lisa Germano's albums, sales were low. It was simply too painful to watch her perform these songs, much less listen to them repeatedly.

This is her song "...of love and colors" off of Geek the Girl. You will hear what it's about when you listen to it. I would say "enjoy", but I'm not sure that's the right word for listening to one of Lisa Germano's songs...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flat penguin

Picked up some stomach bug, been either on the throne or flat on my back all day long. Entertain yourselves.

--Badtux the Flat Penguin

When Sonic Youth were youth

This is a performance in 1988 of "Silver Rocket", off of 1988's Daydream Nation. Twenty years later, in 2008, Lee Renaldo had gone gray, Steve Shelley had filled out into a typical middle-aged chunky Midwesterner (not fat, but definitely not a slender youth anymore), and Kim Gordon still looked good but was obviously middle-aged. Thurston Moore, on the other hand, still looked like he was 12 years old. And their recent music is great. Not as noisy as their 80's music, but with a musicality they could not have managed in the 80's. I'll have to program some of it for contrast...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Health care reform

Left: The Free Market Fairy prepares to wave her(his?) magic wand over the health insurance marketplace.

I have two choices for health insurance at work:

  1. A major national insurance company with a reputation for "losing" your claims forms and not paying doctors. If you get sick, you'll end up being tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket and likely have to declare bankruptcy. That's if you survive -- if you need something really expensive where doctors won't even start treatment until they've gotten pre-approval from an insurer, good luck.
  2. A major regional HMO which avoids paying for expensive treatments by simply not doing them and hoping you die before the appeals process with the state insurance commission is complete and the courts force them to provide the contracted-for treatment. They have calculated that, for example, the cost of treating leukemia (roughly $1M) is far higher than the amount of premium income they get from a typical employer group, so even if your employer threatens to move their entire company to a different insurer, they just shrug and say "Go ahead, we're still ahead of where we'd be if we paid for your employee's leukemia treatment."
These are the companies that PelosiReidCare is forcing me to have insurance with. (I call it PelosiReidCare because Obama had nothing to do with it, other than signing the final bill). Apparently the best health care plan for me is, "don't get sick." Wish me luck :(.

Soo.... why isn't the magic free market fairy (see left) not providing me with health insurance that actually, like, pays for the healthcare I need if I get sick? Two reasons:

  1. Health insurance is inherently anti-capitalist. Health insurance is to capitalism what kryptonite is to Superman. In capitalism, businesses make money by providing services. In capitalism, for example, a restaurant makes money by cooking food and serving it to you. If they didn't cook food and serve it to you, they would make no money. Health insurers, by contrast, make money by not providing service. The more health care they don't pay for, the more money they make. In short, health insurance simply is incompatible with the profit motive because it profits by not providing service.
  2. Health insurance is largely provided by employers as a benefit, rather than purchased by individuals (less than 7% of all health insurance is individual policies), and employers buy the cheapest insurance, not the best. The HMO above is not-for-profit but was formed by employers to keep their health care costs down, and still pursues that mission with a vengeance. The only way private insurers can compete with an HMO that was formed to deny as much care as possible is to, duh, deny as much care as possible.
In short, the entire system was set up to systematically deny care, not provide care, and this is what PelosiReidCare enshrined as national law. I would gladly pay to buy into Medicare and Tricare like my mother and stepdad (military retiree) receive. They get the care they need when they need it and don't have to worry about dealing with insurance companies trying to deny care. But PelosiReidCare give me no option to do so, which is why when the GOP runs against "ObamaCare", it's getting resonance amongst those who don't pay much attention (who haven't figured out yet that the GOP's health care plan is "don't get sick, and if you do, die quickly"). Forcing people to be part of a system that is inherently broken is never going to be popular, no matter how much people said they wanted "the current system, just a bit improved" back when Pelosi and Reid were doing their polling to decide what PelosiReidCare would look like...

-- Badtux the Healthcare Penguin

Hurt love

Devics, "Stretch Out Your Arms", off of their album The Stars at Saint Andrea. Yet another sad, beautiful torch song from Sara Lov and Dustin O'Halloran... Sara Lov was born a generation too late for her calling. Just sayin'.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bond vigilantes

So S&P gave a "negative" rating to U.S. Treasuries because of all the teabaggery going on in the House of Representatives. YAWN. S&P is the same outfit that said that a bundle of liar loans guaranteed to go bad was an AAA-grade mortgage-backed security, remember? And the teabaggers as usual whine that continued deficit spending during a depression will cause bond vigilantes are going to show up right now, any moment now, to drive the interest rates on U.S. Treasury securities up into the stratosphere. So what's happening there? This penguin went off to and found.... THIS:

This week Month ago Year ago
One-Year Treasury Constant Maturity 0.24 0.23 0.44
91-day T-bill auction avg disc rate 0.060 0.095 0.145
182-day T-bill auction avg disc rate 0.110 0.150 0.220
Two-Year Treasury Constant Maturity 0.77 0.61 1.05
Five-Year Treasury Constant Maturity 2.22 1.95 2.57
Ten-Year Treasury Constant Maturity 3.51 3.29 3.85
One-Year CMT (Monthly) 0.26 0.29 0.40
One-Year MTA 0.295 0.307 0.421
The interest paid by Treasuries was low a year ago, and is even lower today. No bond vigilantes in sight. None likely to ever be in sight, since the Federal Reserve would step in thanks to that ultra-modern invention the PRINTING PRESS (invented fairly recently -- in 1440 -- recent in geological time, anyhow!) and print money to buy Treasuries if there were ever any risk of not selling out an issue for a reasonable price and thus a bond vigilante would be shooting himself in the foot betting on a rise in interest rate on Treasuries. But I'm sure the bond vigilantes will show up any minute now to bid up the costs of U.S. Treasuries. Right after they finish petting their pink unicorns under their cotton candy trees, eh?

-- Badtux the Snarky Economics Penguin

Lush blast

British shoegaze band Lush with "Superblast", off their album Spooky.

Uhm, yeah, yesterday was bluegrass, today is shoegaze. And your point is? :).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, April 18, 2011

Net importers wealthier than net exporters

What is wealth?

Some folks believe that wealth is pictures of dead people on pieces of toilet paper. Other folks believe that wealth is shiny metal. But neither is true. Weath is stuff.

Now I hear you saying, "but if I had millions of dollars, I'd be wealthy!" Uhm, and what would you do with that millions of dollars? Would you put it all in a big room and roll around in it like Scrooge McDuck? "I'd buy a new house", you say? "I'd buy a new car", you say? Yes. Because the money itself isn't wealth. What you buy with the money is wealth. Money has to serve as a temporary store of value because of the time lag between trades -- i.e., you trade something to someone in exchange for money (if you're an ordinary working slob, you trade your labor for money, generally), and then at some point after you receive your paycheck, you spend it on food and rent and such. But the operative word is temporary. In a functioning capitalist economy, money that sits under mattresses turns into lumpy mattress stuffing from the perspective of the economy, not money. Which, as I've previously pointed out, is why capitalism requires inflation -- to drive money out from under mattresses (where it would be losing value) and into the real economy where it can be used to facilitate trades of goods and services, which is the whole reason money was invented in the first place.

Now I hear you say, "but... but... billionaires! They have lots of money!" Well, actually, no. The average billionaire could not put his hands on more than a few hundred thousand dollars at best on short notice. What billionaires have is lots of stuff -- they own corporations, they own government bonds, and yes they own houses and cars and stuff but mostly what they own is the building you go to work in, the tools you use for whatever your employment is, the banks that lend you money at 29% interest that cost them 1.5% interest to borrow from the Federal Reserve window... if you wanted a million dollars from a billionaire, he'd have to go out and sell stuff to get his hands on that much money. Which just emphasizes that it's not the million dollars that is wealth -- it's what that million dollars bought (the stocks, the bonds, the businesses and physical assets) that is the wealth. Otherwise the billionaire would have never traded that million dollars for that stuff in the first place.

So anyhow, one of the canards of "conventional common sense" is that it's bad that the United States is a net importer rather than a net exporter. Being a net importer is called "running a trade deficit" and spoken about as if it were as evil as the satanic love child of Stalin and Pol Pot. But... but... the United States ends up with more stuff that way, i.e., becomes wealthier as a nation by being a net importer!

So why does "conventional wisdom" say that net importers are "bad"? It's because they conflate money with wealth. They confuse the instrument used to facilitate the trade of real wealth in a market -- money -- with the actual wealth that is being traded in a market. A net importer ends up with less money from a series of trades than a net exporter, meaning that a net importer thus has "less wealth" if you're an idiot and think money, not stuff, is wealth. But since stuff is wealth, and since we have a printing press and can always print more money as needed, the fact that some money went overseas and never came back is no big deal -- we just print more for the next set of trades.

Of course, this presumes that people overseas are willing to send us more stuff in exchange for more freshly printed dollars that never come back buying exports from us. It also presumes that the resulting imported wealth is not offset by a reduction in locally-produced wealth due to rising unemployment taking productive assets (workers) out of the market. It also presumes that in fact people overseas are not running a tab on us and getting ready go all Ottoman on us. But given that our trade is being conducted in dollars, not in foreign currencies (the problem the Ottomans had -- their debts were denominated in foreign currencies), we can handle even that situation by simply printing more dollars... though after doing so, if we want to borrow we'll get charged *huge* interest rates to compensate for the risk that the lender is taking that we might default by printing money. So it goes.

But at the moment we're nowhere near that point. The world economy is dollarizing because oil is denominated in dollars, and right now there seems to be no shortage of states willing to trade goods for pieces of toilet paper with pictures of dead people on them. We get "stuff". They get fancy toilet paper. How is that not a good deal for the United States? Other than the effect upon employment, if imports supplant local production, with resulting possible social disorder... but we have mechanisms for dealing with that too, though the teabaggers may call those methods "socialism". So be it.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Smokin' grass

No no, not *that* kinda grass. BLUEgrass. Duh.

I almost expect to see smoke comin' off these folks' fingers as they smoke through "Sunny Side of the Mountain". This is Mountain Heart, with some traditional bluegrass.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Excess spending"

You hear a lot of, "we need to cut all the excess spending before we raise taxes!" from the right-wing. But what are they REALLY saying?

As I pointed out earlier, we are currently taxing America at the same rate as in 1950, though more of that is being paid by individuals and less of that is being paid by corporations than in 1950. But clearly we're spending more today than we were spending in 1950. So: What's the "excess spending" over 1950?

So I head to the figures. U.S. GDP in 1950 was $297.3B, while government spending was $70.3B, or 23.6% of GDP. For 2008 (last year for which I have actual figures), U.S. GDP was $14T while government spending was $5.3T, or 38% of GDP. So where are the big differences?

The first one is, of course, HEALTH CARE. Government spending on health care was 906/14T in 2008, or 6.5% of GDP, while government spending on health care was $2.7B/297B in 1950, or 0.9% of GDP. The vast majority of that difference is Medicare and Medicaid. So eliminate Medicare and Medicaid, and you get U.S. government spending down to 32.4% of GDP.

Next, SOCIAL SECURITY. In 1950, the vast majority of America's elderly did not qualify for Social Security because they had retired without sufficient years in the system. In 1950, Social Security and other government pension programs for the elderly were $1.4B/297B, or 0.47% of GDP. Today, that's 839B/14T, or 6.37% of GDP. Eliminate Social Security and cut all other pensions back to 1950 levels, and you get U.S. government spending down to 26.5% of GDP.

In short, SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE ARE THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE INCREASE IN U.S. GOVERNMENT SPENDING SINCE 1950. When consevatives talk about "excess spending", what they're *really* saying is "eliminate Social Security and Medicare". Conservatives are proposing the Soylent Green solution to the problem of the elderly consuming 9% of our national GDP for their healthcare and 6.37% of GDP for Social Security. Just turned 65? Report to a pet food factory for processing, citizen! That’s the conservative solution — they believe that if you’re no longer employed/employable in the private sector, you’re now a “surplus asset” to be disposed of. They have no empathy, no compassion, no conscience, and become very upset typically when you even mention those words in their presence, claiming that they do possess those qualities. Well, I suppose they do… for some definition of the words “empathy”, “compassion”, and “conscience” in some alternate universe, where undoubtedly the unicorns are pink and cotton candy grows on trees… but not in this universe, of course, where they blithely propose the premature death of millions of elders by condemning spending on elders’ healthcare and Social Security pensions as “excess spending”. So it goes.

-- Badtux the Numbers Penguin

Note: The expenditure numbers above cannot be directly compared to the tax numbers of the previous article due to the prior article omitting Social Security payroll taxes as taxes. In a further issue I'll try to add all those numbers up and show you where we are and what has to be done to match income to expenditures...

Late Caturday colonization blogging

The Mighty Fang was cruisin' for a bruisin' by setting up shop on Mencken's bed:

Mencken, meanwhile, was napping on his living room bed, which once was my chair but no more:

Eventually Mencken came back to the bedroom and kicked TMF off his bed. But TMF found a new bed to colonize:

-- Badtux the Immobile Penguin

Back from the desert...

The Tuxjeep was pining for the desert. Saw a lot of jackasses out there. No, no, not a convention of Republicans.... *THESE*:

So anyhow the cats seemed happy to see me. They rushed to the door to greet me and... err, no. They're cats. They were in exactly the same position as in the previous cat video, and didn't budge an inch when I came through the door other than to roll their eyes at me :).

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Three Interpretations

The original, by Brother Claude Ely, a Pentecostal preacher:

Johnny Cash's interpretation, which slows a joyful praise song into a mournful dirge:

And finally, Aoife O’Donovan and Crooked Still, which give it a bluegrass turbocharger treatment, speeding it up until it's at dance tune pace:

Three interpretations of "Ain't No Grave" by three totally different artists. Same words in each case, but the presentation makes it mean entirely different things... just one reason why poetry and music are *not* the same, even if the lyrics to many songs do work as poetry.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lions and Tigers oh my

Asobi Seksu, "Lions and Tigers" off their 2006 album Citrus.

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, April 15, 2011

The cats' bedroom

This should be the last of the cat *videos* for a while. Next Friday I'll be back to cat *photos*, which I'm sure are far less obnoxious ;).

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Land of lies

Great Northern, "Telling Lies", off their 2007 album Trading Twilight for Daylight.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I feel safer

Everybody knows that a six-year-old girl can be a terror. That's why I feel safer that the TSA has protected me from the horror of a six year old girl terrorist by carefully examining this young lass to make sure she wasn't carrying a bomb in her crotch. Because everybody knows that six year old blond girls are dangerous and that their crotches could hide any number of evil things, so as long as TSA agents follow proper procedure (which they did), why, it's just keeping us safe, right?

Thank you, TSA, for protecting me from six year old blond terrorist girls! Our nation praises you for your diligence in this matter!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Nude nerves

This appears to be an appearance on a television show in France during Cat Power's one European tour with the original lineup of Chan Marshall, Steve Shelley on drums, and Tim Foljahn on second guitar. Chan's beloved Silvertone guitar was held up in customs somehow so she had to borrow a guitar, and this Flying V was the closest to the twang of the Silvertone that her European friends could dig up. Chan seems a bit tentative at the start of the song, standing in a bright spotlight with an unfamiliar guitar in her hand. By the end of the song she's totally into it, and even if you don't know what the song is about (and nobody knew for over ten years, early Chan was cryptic to a fare-thee-well), you've been on an emotional journey.

Cat Power, "Nude as the News", off the album What would the Community Think.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

The Great Wall of Santa Clara

The fence guy came and put up this *gigantic" fence in my back yard -- I hadn't put in any plants because I assumed they would tear up any landscaping that was in the way, and I was right. This is the view basically out my back window right now. I used to be able to see the top of the back windows of the house behind me, now it's completely hidden all the way to the rooftop.

Now to figure out what to put in that strip between the pavers and the fence... this is, alas, the north side of the fence, so it stays in shade most of the time. Greens, I suppose. Sigh! I do know what's going into the corner by that step though -- that's where the rosemary bush will be.

-- Badtux the Fenced-in Penguin

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reality vs. the right wing

  • Reality: Health insurance for a 61 year old man costs over $2,000 per month, or $24,000 per year. And more expensive for every year over that.
  • Paul Ryan's universe: An $8,000 per year voucher for everybody age 65 and older will suffice to buy them health insurance on the free market. And a pony.
  • Reality: Health insurers prior to the passage of Medicare in 1965 had no desire to provide major medical insurance to the elderly and basically the only way you could get health insurance in 1963 if you were elderly was if you were retired from a job with a major corporation and got it as part of your pension plan. Insurers make their money when insurance isn't used. The elderly (who are approximately 13% of the population) use half the healthcare used in America, because they're engaged in the process of dying (duh), and thus aren't a profitable market because you can't charge them enough to make a profit (because they use half the health care but do *not* earn half the income because, well, they're in the process of dying, duh!).
  • Paul Ryan's universe: Health insurers are eager, eager I say, to provide health insurance to the elderly for the bargain basement price of $8,000 per year, because they're just nice people and are charities, not major corporations with stockholders demanding massive returns on investment!
  • Reality: The United States is the wealthiest nation on the planet, wealthier than every nation that provides top-quality health care to every single one of their citizens.
  • Paul Ryan's universe: The United States is an impoverished third-world backwater which cannot afford to provide health care to every American, so those Americans who aren't rich will just have to die. Sorry, they're just surplus population, so they're going to have to make room for their betters. Just a fact of living in a third world nation where nobody has any money and everybody lives in mud huts and the only doctors are witch doctors and the only medicines are whatever herbal remedies you can find in the country side, y'know?
There's only one question I have left after making up this list: What color are the unicorns in Paul Ryan's universe?

Alrighty, then!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

150 years ago...

(Former) Major General W.T. Sherman had resigned his position at the Louisiana Military Academy (later known as LSU) and, after a brief meeting with Lincoln in Washington where he concluded that Lincoln was clueless about the nature of the upcoming war, which he was sure was going to be long, bitter, hard-fought, and bloody, was working for one of his relatives in Missouri running the St. Louis Railroad, a streetcar company. On April 6 he had received a telegram asking if he would come to Washington and go to work as chief clerk and Assistant Secretary of War in the War Department. His telegram in reply was short, sweet, and to the point: "I cannot accept". In a longer letter following afterward he explained that he had a family and an obligation to them, and did not feel that Washington D.C. was the place for him.

Then of course on April 12, the War of Southern Treason started as South Carolina secessionists fired upon U.S. soldiers using weapons seized from U.S. arsenals. At this point Sherman started re-thinking his decision, especially after the pro-Union governor of Missouri offered to put him in charge of the Unionist forces in Missouri... but it would not be until May 8 that Sherman changed his mind and dispatched a letter to Washington saying he was ready to serve in a position commensurate to his last rank in the military but for three *years*, not for some bogus three *months* because the war would take a minimum of three years to win (it actually took four), and on May 14 his offer was accepted and he was placed in charge of a new regiment, the 13th Infantry, which was then in the process of being formed.

No Southern homes or businesses had been burned yet. I am eagerly awaiting the time, three years from now, when I can 150-year-live-blog Sherman burning Atlanta then slashing and burning his way to the sea.

-- Badtux the History Penguin

Counting blessings

The title song of Lucinda William's new album that came out last month, "Blessed".

Something is going on with Lucinda. She sounds drunk now even when she's sober. Hopefully not something that's fatal...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today, 150 years ago...

the South committed a massive act of treason against the United States of America. They did this in defense of slavery. You do not need to take my word for it. Their own secession convention said so. Their own Constitution said so -- in quite explicit terminology. To quote Article 1 Section 9: "4. No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed." That is, slavery was enshrined in the Confederate constitution as an inherent part of what it meant to be a Confederate. If you wanted to abolish slavery because the ownership of other human beings is inherently evil and abhorrent to all civilized men, you weren't a Confederate -- period.

After General William Tecumseh Sherman taught the South the error of their ways, Southerners started claiming that the war was about "state's rights", not about slavery. But if that's so, why does the Confederate constitution explicitly prohibit states from banning slavery within their borders? The "state's rights" thing came about after the war, the secession conventions were mostly silent on the issue, instead containing rant after rant about how the evil North wanted to take their slaves away from them...

Finally, the notion of states with an existence apart from the Federal government would apply to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, which existed before the Federal government. It could even apply to Texas, which was an independent nation for a short period before joining the United States. But it most certainly could not apply to Florida, which was bought from Spain for $5,000,000 in cold hard cash, or Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, which were bought from France for $15,000,000 in cold hard cash, or indeed Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, or Tennessee, which were ceded to the United States as territories when the U.S. won the American Revolution and never had any independent existence before that. Those states were effectively purchased with the costs of the American Revolution, which was around $70 million dollars. If those states wanted to be independent at the very least they would have been required to reimburse the Federal government for the expenses incurred in purchasing them from foreign powers in the first place.

But of course no such proposal was ever made on the part of the Confederacy, because it wasn't about states, it was about slavery, and pretending that it was about states wasn't part of the early existence of the CSA. They were quite explicit that it was about slavery... they didn't pretend, they stated it flat out. For example, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens. In 1861, in Savannah, Georgia, Stephens bluntly declared that slavery was "the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution." He said the United States had been founded on the false belief that all men are created equal. The Confederacy, in contrast, had been "founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural moral condition."

And that "great truth" stated bluntly by Stephens is what's behind the veneration of the Confederacy today amongst white Southerners. Sure, it's about heritage -- a heritage of bigotry and hate against black people. So for the next four years we have to put up with those insufferable bigots claiming that they are not, in fact, bigots, because they're only celebrating their "heritage" of hate, not hate itself. Personally, I'm waiting for April 26, 2015 -- the 150th anniversary of the surrender of the final Confederate army, that of General Joseph Johnston, to General William Tecumseh Sherman. We need to dig up ole' Willy and put him to work again on the South, methinks, just on general principals, maybe if we burn the place flat down to the ground again and built it back from scratch, we can bring civilization to a place that's not had it in the lifetime of anybody living, with the exception of a few pockets of sanity like Austin (which we'll allow to stay unburned). The rest... burn, baby, burn! Yeeehawwww!

-- Badtux the History Penguin

Daring to dream

Sara Lov, "Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming", from her album of the same name. Well, except this is the EP version, which has slightly different backing (piano, no strings).

Warriors come in all shapes and sizes...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

The most depressing poll of the year

A plurality of Mississippi Republicans think interracial marriages should be illegal.

But hey, no racism in the Republican party, nosirree! Alrighty, then!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Cue the penis jokes

Which is why I think poor Ai Weiwei is going to die in some hellish Chinese prison. Can you see the average American getting interested in the fate of someone whose name resembles what males use to urinate out of? C'mon. We're talking about a people so bovine and stupid that they elected Republicans last year, despite the fact that Republican policies have been reducing the average American's standard of living for the past 30 years!

-- Badtux the HISF(*) Penguin

(*)He Is So F***'ed

Monday, April 11, 2011

A waste of time

Do you have some of those "wheel locks" on your wheels that have a serrated set of teeth on the outside that a "key" fits over to allow you to remove the wheel? Guess what: Those things are nothing but a waste of time. They certainly won't stop anybody from removing the wheel if they have access to tools. I know, because I just did it.

So I go to rotate my tires, head into the console to get the wheel key, and... err... no key. And no idea where it went. I cleaned the car out so I know it's nowhere on the floor of the car, but it's not in the glove compartment, console, nor in the coin cup, the map pocket, or the door pockets.

What next? Well... first I tried hammering a 16mm socket onto the head of one of these things. It went on okay, but didn't bite deep enough and stripped out. So next thing I did was hammer a 5/8" socket onto the head of one of these things and... success. Removed it like it was intended to come off that way. Getting the 5/8" socket off the "wheel lock" took a large bench vise and two large prybars, but if I were intent on stealing the wheels I would have just brought a handful of 5/8" sockets with me... not that anybody is going to steal rusty steel wheels in a size that fits almost no vehicles anyhow, sheesh!

So anyhow, now I've replaced these so-called "wheel locks" with lug nuts from my stash of random junk (what, you don't have a stock of random stuff like lug nuts, tie rod ends, and so forth? Sheesh, next thing you tell me is that you don't even have a torque wrench!). So I'm good to go tomorrow on rotating my tires. But sheesh, what a PITA.

-- Badtux the Wrenchin' Penguin

Dream red head

Dream pop / indy band Blonde Redhead with their song "Black Guitar" off their 2010 album, Penny Sparkle.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Dumb ideas

Texas Republicans pass bill raising speed limit to 85mph. (H/T)

The Interstate highways in Texas were designed to 75mph standard. Neither the sight lines, the road surface, nor the width of the lanes are appropriate for 85mph. You might say, "what's 10mph?". Well, I've driven 85mph (gasp! I broke the law! But I'm not telling you *when*, the statute of limitations has expired I'm sure). 85mph feels subjectively *much* scarier than 75mph. Any imperfection in your tires starts making itself known as vibration in the steering. Your tires start skipping off of imperfections in the roadway because your shocks can no longer respond fast enough to keep them on the road, and things start getting a bit loosy goosey for that reason too. Not as much so as at *95*mph, where things start getting quite terrifying in a standard automobile even on a deserted stretch of pavement with no other cars around, but still, the speed limit gets raised to 85mph in Texas, there's gonna be a lot fewer Texans around.

Wait... I'm sayin' that as if it were a BAD thing. Clearly, we must look at the bright side of life! Fewer Texans means less influence of Texas on national politics, which clearly is a good thing, right? ;)

-- Badtux the Python-channellin' Penguin

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where the music comes from

Spent much of the day viewing videos of very young people playing and singing very old songs from the Appalachian tradition. None of them are really good enough for this blog -- yet -- but they will be someday. And likely by that time they will be doing their own originals as well as traditionals -- originals which will invariably be influenced by whatever is currently on the air as country, pop, and rock, but which will have that traditional influence also to move it beyond whatever the current flavor-of-the-day is.

I am firmly of the opinion that innovation comes from having a firm grasp of what has come before. Only by knowing what has come before can you boldly go where no one has gone before. Otherwise you end up sounding like a derivative of only what little you *do* know. So if you are a musician and all you know is post-Beatles pop and rock, or, worse yet, only post-Nirvana pop and rock, everything you do will sound like a derivative of the Beatles or Nirvana. That's not because you set out to sound derivative, it's because that's just how things work -- where you end up depends upon where you started. If you started in Hawaii and started driving, you aren't going to end up in Los Angeles no matter how far you drive.

I don't think it's an accident that the Rolling Stones started as a bar band for playing American blues, not as a rock band. By steeping themselves in that tradition far removed from the then-current state of rock and pop, they ended up creating a new sound that was far edgier than any of their contemporaries. I mean, "Paint It Black". I cannot imagine someone whose sole exposure to music was girl bands and Donovan writing "Paint It Black" or "Sympathy for the Devil". Just not happenin'. But they'd stood at the crossroads themselves, so...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Knowing grass

This is newgrass band Crooked Still, with their song "Half of What We Know" off their 2010 album Some Strange Country. Aoife O'Donovan gets semi-apocalyptic on us...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The biggest problem faced by science

Top scientists, hounded by paparazzi, call for stronger laws protecting their privacy.

Because Americans have such an abiding respect for intellectual pursuits and such an overwhelming preference for science over superstition, top scientists have been hounded by paparazzi trying to get the latest scoop for the tabloids. They've discovered their trash bins ransacked, they've had paparazzi pose as potential grad students doing campus tours, it's been just an awful situation altogether.

Of course, it could be said that this is just a natural consequence of the fame and wealth that these scientists chose when they decided to pursue four years of undergraduate study in science, then four years to get their PhD, then a minimum of two years of post-graduate studies, then a decade moving from adjunct position to adjunct position all around the country prior to landing a tenure track position, then finally qualified for tenure due to the brilliance of their research and political connections with the tenure committee, but really. Oh sure, they chose this life, but even the rich and famous deserve to have a bit of privacy!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Yeah, I came up empty today. But the World's Most Reliable News Source(tm) came through for me!)

A lament of the heart

This is an early Hope Sandoval demo from 1990, likely one that was sent to Capitol as part of the demo collection that got Mazzy Star signed to Capitol. Nobody's sure what the title is or why it has never appeared on any of Mazzy Star's albums or her own solo albums, all that we know is that it is... haunting.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, April 08, 2011

Proof found that rational markets theory is wrong

The world's most accurate news source has uncovered proof that Eugene Fama's "Rational Markets Theory" is wrong. To quote the world's most reliable news source:

According to experts, the Connecticut-based franchise Edible Arrangements, which arranges skewered pieces of fruit into displays vaguely resembling floral bouquets, has defied all modern economic models, expanding continuously for the past decade despite its complete lack of any discernible consumer appeal.

"In theory, the market should have done away with Edible Arrangements long ago," said American Economic Association president Orley Ashenfelter, who added that one of the crucial assumptions of capitalism is the idea that businesses producing undesired goods or services will fail. "That's how it's supposed to work. Yet somehow, despite offering no product of any worth whatsoever, this company not only makes payroll every week, but also generates strong profits."

Asked for a statement, Professor Fama said "I have equations proving my theory is right! Who cares about that 'reality' stuff anyhow?" When last seen, Professor Fama was riding off on a pink unicorn in search of cotton candy trees...

-- Badtux the Snarky Economics Penguin

How to (not) drink water

The Mighty Fang apparently thinks the way to drink water is to let it drip on your face, then lick it off as it rolls down your chin.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

The problem with violence as the solution

During the 1970's, a sociopath by the name of Lenny Murphy spent his childhood bullying people and threatening people with knives, as well as likely doing the other activities favored by young sociopaths such as torturing and killing varous neighborhood pets and such. As usually happens with sociopaths of that such, he became a serial killer.

But it was Northern Ireland, and the Troubles, and Lenny Murphy joined a Protestant militia, the UDA. So, for a time, Lenny Murphy's ghastly murders were not only tolerated but condoned, as long as he and his gang of vicious cronies chose Catholics as his target for ghastly murders. The trail of dead bodies left in their wake earned them the moniker "The Shankhill Butchers." It was not until some years later, after Murphy expanded his list of dead bodies to include fellow protestants, that his fellows in the UDA leaked his movements to the IRA, which assassinated him in 1982. But the majority of the rest of his gang still walk the streets of Northern Ireland today, unpunished.

I consider this song by The Decemberists to be as much a warning to the rest of us as a warning to children, a warning that when things turn to violence, it is not ordinary people who come out on top -- it is violent sociopaths like Lenny Murphy who kill without hesitation and with not a qualm afterwards. Something for Libertopians to think about, methinks...

This is "The Shankhill Butchers", off of the Decemberists' album The Crane Wife.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Why I Quit Teaching, Part 2,423,973

8 year old boy goes on rampage, tries to stab teachers with sharp object, must be subdued by police who pepper sprayed his ass to get him to drop the sharp object he was threatening to stab police with. And the mother says the cops should have "talked the boy down" like they did "the other two times". Excuse me? Your little angel has had the cops called on him not once, not twice, but THREE times (and believe me, schools do *not* call in the cops on a whim, because it's way bad PR), and you're whining that your little angel got pepper sprayed when he threatened to stab cops?

Dude. Just... dude. That is one mother in serious denial. The kid doesn't have "anger issues". The kid has *PARENTING* issues. As in, he ain't gettin' none. I never did shit like that in school for one good reason -- if I had, the principal would have called my father, my father would have rushed right down to the school, grabbed my ass right there in front of the whole fucking world, and whupped my butt until I was a sobbing heap on the floor. And I knew it, so I pretty much stayed sneaky when I felt like being disobedient, rather than disrupting the whole fucking classroom. Hiding a car magazine behind my open textbook to admire the trim lines and sexy bulges was the limits of my disobedience, 'cause if I'd done shit that caused my father to get called to school.... oooh boy. Not something I wanted to think about *at all*.

So anyhow. I never had a kid come at me with a weapon. I had a couple kids get in my face, but homey don't play that and they didn't go further than that 'cause they knew I didn't give a shit anymore and didn't know what I'd do if they took it further. I definitely encountered plenty of "special" kids though. Who generally had "special" parents, as in, parents who believed their kid's shit didn't stink and that if the kid was misbehaving, it was 'cause the school was being mean to him, not 'cause he was a mean little shit who beat up 1st graders for their lunch money. So anyhow, back to the kid and pepper spray. Just the other day, a cop around here got sent to the hospital when he got stabbed two times by a young kid like that. When the cops get called into a situation, the first responsibility of the cops is to assure the safety of the bystanders. The second responsibility of the cops is to assure their own safety. Then, and only then, does the safety of the perp come into the equation. And if you're the perp, like this kid, you learn a valuable lesson at that point -- that if you come at a cop with a sharp object, the *least* they will do is pepper spray your ass. Frankly, if the kid had been a teenager they probably would have tasered him on the spot and not even bothered with the pepper spray, you got a kid threatening you with a sharp object, your job as a cop is to end the situation right then and there as quickly as possible before anybody can get hurt. Which is exactly what the cops did here -- they ended the situation, and nobody got hurt. The pepper spray made the poor innocent little angel's face burn? Oh WAHHH!

The sad thing is that now the kid's been transferred to a "special" school. As in, the money that could be used to educate EIGHT kids whose parents give a shit about their child's behavior is now being used for this "special" kid. And now you know why our schools have budget problems...

-- Badtux the Former Teacher Penguin

Look, honey, I found 7,000 votes!

Wisconsin discovers 7,000 votes for GOP candidate. Said votes had apparently been "accidentally" left on a county recorder's personal computer, and "accidentally" discovered during the canvassing process.

Hmm... I seem to recall another election where something of the sort happened... Box 13, anybody?. I guess the question is whether the registration book was signed in alphabetical order in the same handwriting, or they got several different people to sign it when they schlupped Box 13 up to Wisconsin ;).

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Naughty Girl

Gillian Welch, "Miss Ohio". Hey, after featuring another newgrass artist with a big voice, I couldn't leave Ms. Welch out of the proceedings, could I?

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Obamination

So assorted firebaggers and all-around curmudgeons are upset that our two party system means that any vote not for Obama is a vote for an insane Republican. It appears that their anger is with arithmetic. Any first-past-the-goal electoral system with a strong executive elected by popular vote (well, close enough in the case of the USA) will naturally devolve into a two-party system over time via simple arithmetic — if it takes 50%+1 votes to absolutely *guarantee* that your candidate becomes President, clearly the only way to guarantee that is a coalition of what would be multiple smaller parties in a parliamentary system into one big party that can obtain 50%+1 votes. So you can blame our founding fathers, who wanted to make George Washington our King but George Washington didn’t want to be king so they got him to grudgingly accede to being an elected President for four years at a stretch, for the current situation. If not for that desire for an imperial Presidency with George Washington as President, we likely would have a parliamentary democracy like most Western democracies and not be in this situation (though parliamentary democracies do tend to devolve to two major parties and a few smaller ones over time, unless proportional representation is instituted, which causes its *own* problems).

Regarding Obama, I didn’t want him to be the Democratic nominee in the first place because he was clearly the most conservative of the Democrats in the race and the last thing America needed was eight more years of conservative rule in a time of economic hardship. But look. Teddy Kennedy thought primarying Jimmy Carter would be a good idea in 1980. If he didn’t win the nomination, at least he could force Carter leftward. Well, that turned out well — Teddy ended up helping elect Ronald Reagan and helped bring in thirty years of disastrous Republican rule of America. Carter wasn’t a particularly good President, and neither is Obama, but still. Huckleberry the Christian Taliban? T-paw? Michelle Bachman? Caribou Barbie? A man who wears magic undies? You *really* think one of that gang of clowns, goons, cretins, and all around creepy people would make a better President than Obama?

This is turning out to be another one of those McCain-Obama elections where I held my nose and voted for the sane conservative vs. the insane radical lunatic moron (and senile sidekick). I’m certainly not sending any cash Obama’s way. But I’m not insane, and I’m *not* going to vote for one of the insane clown posse that is the Republican Party — and the math says that any vote that’s not for Obama is effectively a vote for the Republican candidate. Firebaggers may rail about the laws of arithmetic, but they are what they are, pi is the infinite series starting at 3.1415 regardless of how much they wish it were something clean and simple like “3″.

- Badtux the Mathematics Penguin

Dreams of growing up

Yes, I've featured Sarah Jarosz within the past week or so, and usually don't repeat myself so swiftly. What can I say. I've been watching a number of her videos and interviews on YouTube. What's interesting is that a) Sarah Jarosz managed to get a #1 hit album (albeit on the bluegrass charts) while looking like a normal person, not like a slut or a willowy blonde (or red-head), and b) most young people who experience that kind of success at a young age turn out to be a neurotic mess (see previous video), but I've been watching a number of her videos on YouTube, and Sarah is anything but neurotic -- she interacts with her audiences, she performs her songs, when she's interviewed she seems refreshingly down to earth and, well, normal. Maybe it's because her stuff is marketed as "bluegrass" that she can avoid all that music industry bullshit, but she seems to be a genuinely nice young normal person who happens to have quite a bit of talent. So much for the whole tortured artist thing, I guess...

So anyhow, this is "Edge of a Dream", which appears to be a song about growing up and that strange transition from teenager to adulthood that you're supposed to make when you hit that magic 18th birthday. It's on her album Song Up In Her Head, which was recorded in 2008, when she was 17 years old. And it's just her, a guitar, and her voice. No place to hide if you have no talent or if you're a neurotic mess...

BTW, according to, Sarah Jarosz's new album, Follow Me Down, is coming out on May 17. A lot of things have happened in her life since 2009 -- she's graduated high school, gotten a Grammy nomination, moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory of Music, spent a while away from home. It will be interesting to see what effect this has had on her music. Given how well-grounded she seems to be, I suspect any surprises will be pleasant ones.

All of which is to say that I think this is one of my more pleasant finds of all the new music I've presented to you over the past four years. There's others that I enjoy on a more visceral level. Scout Niblett's noisy guitar-driven deranged tunes, for example. But Sarah Jarosz has the whole package and is only at the start of her career...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Art in a time of imperial collapse

It seems odd, but nothing seems to inspire creativity more than the collapse of everything you've known all around you. Look at the collapse of the great empires of the past, and you will find great art.

You'll notice that I've not had any shortage of music videos to post here. What gets posted here is only a small percentage of what I come across, there is a lot of good stuff out there in all kinds of genres. Despite the wailing from the music industry about its death, music itself is not dead at all, it has simply retreated to small venues punctuated by day jobs, with the exception of assorted pre-fab acts like Justin Beiber and assorted has-been dinosaur acts playing stadiums. Well, and Lady Gaga, but she's a pre-fab act too, just one that had a hand in fabricating the act.

But then, I guess this is to be expected in a time of imperial collapse, when our entire world seems to be collapsing around us, when our dreams have shriveled and shrunk into tiny barren things that pine for the water of someone else's dreams for just a few moments of our pathetic little lives...

-- Badtux the Pondering Penguin

FAA makes Free Market Fairy scowl

Everybody knows that the Magic Free Market Fairy will keep airplanes from dropping out of the skies because, well, airplanes dropping out of the skies is bad for business and thus the free market fairy's magic fairy dust will just, like, automatically keep them up in the sky, yo. So the FAA ordering inspections of all older 737 airliners just makes no sense.

Ignore those cracks in the airframes, people, Chicago economist Eugene Fama says that markets are perfectly efficient and will take care of that like, well, magically! Who needs government regulators to force inspections anyhow? According to Fama, the market would naturally weed out executives who have only short-term profit goals and reward executives who care about the long-term health of their corporations and thus who would not skimp on maintenance today for immediate profit at the expense of future profit after planes started falling out of the sky. Also according to Fama, unicorns are pink and cotton candy grows on trees. And he has equations to prove it. Which means it must be true.

Alrighty, then!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

The American Dream is dead

American Dream Declared Dead As Final Believer Gives Up

Well that's that, then. When America's most reliable news source weighs in, that's all she wrote.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


Myth busting

One of the most abiding myths of pop music was that Laura Nyro's appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival was a disaster and she got booed off stage. Laura herself was a bit neurotic and she wasn't satisfied with the performance, but as you can hear, people are clapping and the closest thing to a boo is some guy shouting "Beautiful!".

This is the tail end of her song "Wedding Bell Blues" and then her song "Poverty Train". The latter is at a too-slow pace, you can see her at the beginning seeming to take a step back towards the band hired as her backing for this performance to remedy that then thinking better of it and slowing down her own performance to match, which might be one reason why she thought it was a disaster.

Okay, so I featured this video four years ago with much the same commentary. I didn't realize that until after I did a Google search for "Laura Nyro Monterey" to find out what year that was, and my prior posting popped out. So it goes, I think most of my readers weren't here four years ago anyhow :).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, April 04, 2011

All I need to know, I learned from the Holy Book

It occurs to me that I have been remiss in not commenting upon Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House subcommittee on issues related to U.S. policy in Africa, who stated regarding U.S. intervention in Libya, "Where does it stop? Do we go into Africa next? I don’t want to sound callous or cold, but this could go on indefinitely around the world."

Just to refresh your memory, here is Africa, with an arrow pointing at Libya: Note which continent Libya is on :).

Bryan at Why Now points out that Congressmen have staffers who are supposed to brief them on stuff like this. But that presumes that the Congressman is interested in listening to a briefing. In the case of Republican Congressmen, they already learned everything they need to know from the Holy Bible (or the complete works of Ayn Rand, same difference, it's all religion), so they feel no need to listen to briefings about these heathen secular "fact" thingies. Besides, everybody knows that black people came from Africa, and the Libyans being shown on television look more like Mexicans than like black people. Surely Libya can't be in Africa if the people there don't have a complexion at least as dark as President Obama's, right?!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

The American Lifestyle

Saw this on another blog I frequent, and had to snag it. This is Edie Brickell on her new self-titled album, with her song "Pill".

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, April 03, 2011


Did some more work on my Jeep today. More details on that at the Moto-Tux link, it's way too technical for this blog.

Today is "clean out your garage" day in my neighborhood. This is when you take all the junk that has accumulated in your garage over the past year that was too big to put into the garbage bins and put it out by the side of the street to be picked up by the city. I put the crappy plastic chairs and table plus three pallets out by the street. The gleaners were out in force, in old trucks, in vans, and in crappy old cars, going through all the piles and grabbing anything that looked useful. The plastic chairs lasted about 5 minutes. The table was ignored until I put the legs on it and turned it upright, it lasted about 2 hours. The pallets are still there, I guess the gleaners have plenty of wooden pallets.

Most of the gleaners were of course Hispanic, this being California. But there were old men and women. There were younger middle aged men. There were all sorts. An elderly man and woman pulled up to the next door neighbor's pile, and extracted a pair of worn-out dress shoes. The old man tried them on. They fit. He walked off in them.

It makes you wonder about the story of how this elderly couple ended up going to piles of junk by the street looking for shoes. Unfortunately, in the current economy, I suspect it's an all-too-familiar story...

In the future there will be two kinds of people: The filthy rich (the top 1%), and the rest of us, who will make our living as gleaners upon whatever junk they've thrown out. Perhaps I should have been making an effort to talk to some of the people gleaning stuff off my street and get some tips, given that I was looking at the future of America, and indeed probably my own future at some point, right outside my front door...

-- Badtux the Ruminant Penguin

Growing up

This is a youngster from Texas who's been making some waves in the Austin scene. Her name is Sarah Jaffe, and this is her song "Better than Nothing". She has an album out, but most of the recording is muddy on it (this one is the exception). Be sure to catch her live if you happen to be 'round Texas parts though, y'all.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Naturalized immigrants

The above attractive-looking flowers are Mayweed Chamomille, an invasive Mediterranean plant now edemic on the Pacific coast. They are the bane of farmers because they spring up wherever the soil is disturbed -- like, say, in my back yard, or in a wheat field -- and have rather nasty-smelling (and tasting) foliage. They're officially a "nuisance plant".

The above clover-looking plant with lots of yellow flowers is Bermuda Sorrel, another invasive naturalized immigrant native to South Africa. They're very hard to get rid of, short of removing the top four inches of soil and replacing it altogether, because they make lots of little bulbs.

Both of these are living in the shadow of a fence that's about to be replaced, thus why I haven't done anything to it this year, because the workers are going to trample all over while they're putting in the new fence. Besides, I was curious about what would come up if I left it alone, whether there would be any wildflowers. Well, yes... but not native ones. Oh well!

-- Badtux the Non-gardening Penguin