Wednesday, August 31, 2011

House fever

I shifted my point of view up to Newark and Fremont, and found that housing prices there are far more affordable than in the South Bay and Peninsula. Of course, there's a reason for that. It's a PITA to get to the South Bay and Peninsula (where the jobs are) from up there. You are forced either onto I880 or CA84 to get anywhere that high-tech jobs are, and I know from experience that those are painful unless you are riding a motorcycle and can lane split and use the diamond lanes. Although things are a bit less painful now that the Mission Blvd overpass is complete and the freeway no longer necks down there. And it'd be a great excuse to buy another motorcycle ;).

Still, *with* taxes and insurance a 3 bedroom house with 2 car garage can be obtained up there for roughly the same as my rent on a 2 bedroom duplex with 1 car garage (once you count up the tax deductions). E.g. on a $300K home, rent, mortgage, and insurance comes to about $1950, and then factor in the tax deductions and it comes out to *less* than my current rent (hint -- 28% tax bracket, and most of the early years of a mortgage are tax-deductible interest, PMI, and property taxes). Hmm. Not bad, assuming the neighborhood isn't full of meth-heads and gang bangers :).

-- Badtux the Sorta-house-huntin' Penguin


Mostly playing this because it makes me remember when I was a young peguin, the rare Louisiana Swamp Penguin, roaming South Louisiana on my little one-cylinder 500cc motorcycle. I've been most of the places that Mary Gauthier mentions in this song. This is "The Sugar Cane", and describes one of the things that happens every year right before cane harvesting time, which is to catch the fields on fire to burn off the leaves and branches, leaving the canes themselves with the juices still inside to be harvested. The smoke is bad for you, BTW. Not because it has anything toxic, it's just the particulates in it that can clog your lungs up. Still, it's hardly on par with, say, your typical oil refinery, when it comes to pollutants -- oil refineries will give you cancer.

-- Badtux the Wistful Penguin

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Limited government vs. democracy

Libertarians have objected that they're not anarchists -- they don't want to eliminate government, they just want limited government.

Some thoughts.

  1. If the majority of individuals do not support the actions of the government, the only way to impose those actions upon them is at gunpoint.
  2. The majority of individuals in America have decided that they like a large number of so-called Big Government programs like OSHA, Social Security, and so forth.
  3. Thus the only way to do away with Big Government is by overturning democracy and forcing the elimination of those programs at gunpoint.
It's all a matter of, who decides?. In democracy, the majority decides, and the majority in America over the years have decided they want and like Big Government. Every time there is a disaster or crisis, the cry "there ought to be a law!" goes up, and lo and behold, shortly there is.

In Libertopia, a minority that wants limited government decides, then imposes their will upon the majority at gunpoint. Because that's the only way you can impose a limited government upon people that want Big Government -- at gunpoint, by preventing them from electing their own to office. By, in effect, becoming the Ayatollahs of Libertopia.

Even the founder of the Libertarian Party, David Nolan, admits that only 16% want the limited government that Libertarians advocate. Meaning that the only way to do it is at gunpoint -- the Pinochet way, complete with helicopter flights over the ocean where dissidents are pushed out of aircraft after their stomachs are slit open so they won't float back to the surface where they could be found. Now, what do we call a minority imposing a government upon people at gunpoint? You might call it tyranny, I suppose, or fascism. You think? And lest you think I'm being a bit hyperbolic, Libertarians have a long history of applauding fascists like Pinochet who impose limited government at gunpoint.

How many thousands would have to be killed to impose Libertopia upon America? Libertarians never seem to answer that question. Apparently they believe the magical Liberty Pony will deliver Libertopia upon a population where the majority don't want it, and magical unicorns will shit sparkle rainbows that convert everybody to the Libertopian religion. But that's not this reality, where the majority simply aren't buying the limited government sparkle pony -- just look at the approval ratings for Social Security and Medicare, the epitomy of Big Government programs, both of which are astonishingly popular (roughly the same 16% that David Nolan mentions above are the only ones who want Social Security and Medicare eliminated, if you do the surveys). In short, the notion of Libertarians winning a majority in a democracy are zero... which, of course, is why the Libertarian Cato Institute recently hosted a debate stating that Libertarianism is incompatible with democracy and has appointed one of Pinochet's ministers to a major position in their organization. Because in the end, Libertarianism simply isn't compatible with democracy, because in a democracy the people, not a small elite, decide the limits of government -- and the people have, by and large, decided they want a government decidedly NOT limited.

-- Badtux the Democratic Penguin

Thoughts on baby strollers

I'm *still* not getting these gigantic baby SUV's that clog up everywhere that mothers go nowadays. WTF?

What I can't understand is how my mother could get by with a folding stroller and a diaper bag slung over her shoulder, and nowadays they need these fucking *BABY SUV's* the size of a friggin' Ford Excursion. What, modern mommas are too good to carry a diaper bag slung over their shoulder? Oh wait, I got it. Back in my era, kids were kids -- mommas popped'em out 'cause that's what mommas do, but once the kid was fully toasted, that was pretty much it, you got tossed out the door to play outside with occasional diversions to eat, sleep, and attend K-12 school until you were old enough to ship off to college and got the fuck outta of the house so Poppa could resume shagging Momma 24 hours a day without having your punk ass around cluttering the place. Nowadays, kids are goddamn *status symbols*, to be pampered and treated like friggin' queens and kings and dressed up and shit and have every second of every day of their life programmed for them and protected like gold from Fort Knox. And of course nothing's too good for Baby. A folding stroller and a diaper bag? Heavens no, the Jones have a baby SUV, that's what we gotta have too!

And look. Some of those little motherfuckers in those baby SUV's look like they're old enough to be in grade school. Fuck, some of'em even look like they're shavin', you almost expect to see their high school diploma prominently displayed on the side of their fucking Gerber Mega Excursion with its 35 inch tires and 457 cubic inch V8 belching fumes as Momma runs your butt down in the middle of the grocery aisle with her three tons of evil, evil, baby SUV. Not like back when I was a kid, when if you were big enough to toddle along on your own two feet you damn well toddled along on your own two feet and if you decided you didn't want to, well, tough titties, kiddie, you got dragged the fuck along until you decided you didn't like getting dragged along and came to your senses. Nowadays, I guess parents would get busted for child abuse if they did shit like that. Any wonder we got a buncha spoiled fat little bastards growing up today?

Of course it ain't got shit to do with the kid, who doesn't give a damn because he'd rather examine his boogers and lick cotton candy off the pavement anyhow and couldn't give a shit whether he's being pushed around in a folding stroller or in a baby SUV, it's all me, me, ME on the part of the parents. Dumbasses. Siiiigh. WASF (We Are So F'ed).

And there ends my rant about baby strollers, now we can get back to discussing the rest of the stupidity that is modern-day America :).

-- Badtux the Misanthropic Penguin


Steve Earle, with the song he considers to be the best song he ever wrote -- simple, poignant, sad. It's been a couple years since I had it on the blog, so time to play it again. This version has EmmyLou Harris on it. And this is "Goodbye".

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Michelle Bachmann and the Message from God

Michelle Bachmann opened her crazy trap and opined that the recent East Coast earthquake and hurricane were a message from God.

Dear Michelle: If God is omnipotent enough to send an earthquake or a hurricane to "send a message", why can't He just send an email or an IM or even a Twitter tweet? What, the keys on these keyboards are too small for His big giant omnipotent God fingers or something? But... but He's GOD, right? He can just *create* him some little fingers to press the keys if he wants to, right? I mean, you're sayin' that He can create the world, and dwarfs, and everything else in it, but He can't even send a fucking TEXT MESSAGE?

Lame, dude. Just sayin'.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thought Experiment Part 2

Okay, so yesterday, we hired some scientists to do some studies examining claims by the makers of RM and PM, each of whom said that the other's product was bad for you. So our scientists did a bunch of hard work and found out that a) RM was causing hundreds of deaths per year, b) most of those deaths (roughly 80%) were of children, and c) RM had no advantages over PM, which didn't cause any deaths during the study period. So what's the next thing to do?

Well, our scientists then did an educational program where they convinced most of the vendors of RM to switch over to PM, pointing out that the product liability issues would be horrific if they continued selling RM. Most of the vendors of RM looked at the studies that our scientists had done, realized that they'd be toast if they got hauled into court, and switched to selling PM instead. This was made easier by the fact that it took only one piece of equipment to convert RM into PM so they didn't even have to change suppliers or anything, they just added that one piece of equipment to their processing plant and they were done.

But there were still children dying from sales of RM, mostly from fly-by-night vendors who had no assets and thus didn't care that they might get sued if their product made people sick. Rarity made RM more expensive (though it required less equipment to produce!), and thus more profitable, and there are always people willing to jump into a market selling harmful substances if they can make a buck doing so, especially if they still have all those old long-discredited studies showing that RM is good for you and manage to trick people into buying it as a "healthier" alternative to PM. If adults did this to themselves, that's one thing. Just call it evolution in action, yo. The problem was that 78% of the people dying from RM were children. So what now?

Well, I suppose we could say, "RM people, you can sell your stuff, but you have to put our warnings on it and include our studies with it." But the RM people would just slap a label on it saying "this was forced on us by those evil PM people, here's our *real* studies at our web site proving our product is good!" And some people would believe it. And since we have this devotion to something called "free speech", shutting up their false claims is problematic.

Or we could stop the RM people from selling RM. That would require hiring men with guns to enforce it, because RM is profitable. But it'd result in fewer dead children.

After a number of people whined that an outright ban on selling RM would be unconstitutional, a compromise was reached: Only interstate sales of RM would be outlawed. If a state wished it to be banned within its own boundaries, that state would have to pass local legislation doing so. Thus raw milk continues to sicken and sometimes kill children every year despite having no (zero) health benefits over pasteurized milk and significant health risks. But people keep buying it because it's "natural". Just like cyanide. And arsenic. And death. And we have to protect people's right to kill their children with it because, well, because it's Freedom(tm), I guess. But at least now the death toll per year can be counted up on the fingers of your hands, rather than being like our family cemetery from the first half of the 20th century, where the tiny little graves and tiny little headstones outnumber the adult ones.

And therein ends this exercise in Libertopian thought vs. reality, which tends to be messy and have those inconvenient little things like bodies of dead children. And by being non-Libertarian tens of thousands of children are alive today who would otherwise be dead. That's something I think about every time I hear a Libertarian whining about "onerous government regulations" and "Big Brother government". You're still free to buy your own cow and drink all the raw milk you want even in states that outlaw the sale of raw milk... you're just not free to sell this dangerous substance across state boundaries. Just like you're not free to sell arsenic-spiced toothpaste and other such dangerous substances across state boundaries. Bummer, eh, how that eeeeevil government is takin' away your right to kill other people!

-- Badtux the Lessons Penguin

A most fabulous jihad

Rick Santorum, R(Dog-on-Dog), complains that gay activists are conducting a most fabulous jihad against him. Poor little Ricardo, oppressed by those wicked, wicked gay people... you gotta watch out for those drag queens and leather boys, they got claws, yo. Case in point: Teh Santorum Jihad  iz just FAHbulous!

'Nuff said ;).

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Fine with that

Sharon Van Etten, "One Day" off her 2010 album Epic.

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A thought experiment

Let's say there's two substances, I'll call them RM and PM. The vendors of PM say that their stuff provides all the benefits of RM, but without the possibility of death. The vendors of RM say that their stuff isn't very dangerous, and provides some benefits that PM doesn't provide. Both provide scientific studies (paid for by the respective vendors) that "prove" their point.

Now, I'm not a scientist. How do I evaluate these claims and come to a reasonable conclusion? Oh wait, I know, I can *hire* some scientists! These hired scientists could look at the published studies and conduct their *own* studies, could perhaps look and find out exactly how many of the people who use RM die, vs. whether they're healthier in other ways than people who use PM. Because the scientists that I hire are not in the pay of either PM or RM, they are more likely to tell me the truth, instead of telling me what their employer wants them to say. But wait... I'm not rich. How can I afford to hire my own scientists?!

Wait, I know, I'll get together with a bunch of *other* people and we'll pool our money together to hire scientists! But... what if we find out that RM is killing children? We'd have to just publish our results for free, or else be complicit in the deaths of children. But if we have a moral duty to publish our results for free, what is the motivation to join our group to pay these scientists? I go to Joe Sixpack and ask him to toss in some money to help pay scientists, and Joe says he's kinda short, so he's just going to wait until we publish the results for free. I go to Droopy Dwarf and ask him to toss in some money to help pay scientists, he says he prefers using his money to buy gold and is going to just wait until we publish the results for free. Nobody wants to pay scientists because they all want someone *else* to pay for it, then they want to freeload! So at that point, I'm baffled -- clearly this scheme won't work if it's possible to freeload because everybody's going to want to freeload, but we can't say "we'll do the study but keep it secret" because if we find out that RM is killing children, then we'd be complicit in the deaths of children. If only there was some way to make everybody who benefits from the study pay for the study so that there's no freeloaders. That's the only way to make it happen. Now... what could we call such an organization? Oh wait.

Now, here's my question to the Libertarians: Given the freeloader problem that I mention above, where morally it cannot be justified to keep secret information that some substance is killing children, yet if we publish to everybody, nobody wants to pay... how do we fund this organization of independent scientists (let's call them the "Center for Disease Control" just to pick a name out of hat) without forcing everybody who benefits from their work -- which is *everybody* -- to pay for it? If taxation is slavery, are the deaths of children whose lives would be saved if we knew RM killed children just "collateral damage" in Libertopia? Because as much as I try, I can't figure out any way other than government to deal with the freeloader problem and get this study of whether RM is dangerous funded. I.e., every "libertarian" solution I come up with ends up with dead children (presuming RM is dangerous to children, which we'll presume for the purposes of this exercise). The only solution I can come up with that works for finding out that RM is dangerous to children is the liberal solution, where everybody is forced to pay taxes to get the study financed.

Next up: We join together and create a government and direct this government to collect taxes to pay for this study, and this government study then finds that RM is dangerous to children. What happens next? That's a subject for tomorrow's post...

-- Badtux the Basics Penguin

I hate bathtubs

Just sayin'. Cleaning the damned things is such a PITA. At least now that I've put the shower snozzle on a hose, I can move the thing around to rinse off the chemical shit. But the tub itself is defeating me. I tried every chemical in my arsenal, even toilet bowl cleaner, and not a damn one seems able to dissolve the brown sludge on the bottom of the thing even with help from a scrub brush and a brillo pad. Yeah, it's an old cast-iron tub and it's worn out, but that's not the issue here, both it and the sink (also cast-iron) seem to have sucked the goo into their pores and refuse to look clean. Sigh!

I have a killer headache. Too many chemicals, methinks. Before you ask, yes, I got ventilation out the yazoo -- this was a pretty hot day in the Silly Cone Valley (got up close to 90F), and the fans are pushing air through from the north windows (the cool side of the house) to the south windows (the warm side of the house). Or maybe it's just annoyance...

-- Badtux the Cleaning Penguin

Snarky Feminist

Christine Kane, "No Such Thing As Girls Like That". Made me laugh, especially the part about the thong and cat hair getting into places they shouldn't be :).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Hells Angels don't play

You want to put their name on merchandise? You're asking for it, buddy. 'Cause they're gonna hurt you, bad. No no, they won't send an enforcer named Tiny over to, err, "convince" you. Worse than that. Way, way worse than that. They're going to sic some real vicious people on you, people so vicious that you're gonna wish you were dead by the time they're through with you. No no, not the Mafia, the Mafia is pussy cats by comparison. No, the Hells Angels are gonna sic... their lawyers on ya.

The horror, oh the horror!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


How come every time I go to Costco, I seem to spend $200? It seems like a law, or something. Granted, I only go to Costco once every six to eight weeks because I *HATE* going to Costco, I *hate* the inevitable lines, I *hate* the full parking lot with all the crazy drivers trying to run over you, I *hate* all the crazy Asian ladies inside who'll run right over you with a cart brimming to the top if you dare get between them and whatever bargain item they're going after... the place is a bloody *zoo*. So when I go there, I stock up on mass quantities of whatever I need, so I don't have to go back there for a while. Like 96 cans of tuna. Hey, a penguin needs his fish, yo.

Err... I guess I just answered my own question :).

-- Badtux the Shopping Penguin


The laundry room, five minutes ago. The Mighty Fang is looking at me, like, "yeah, I'm on my warm vibrating catalounger again. So?"

Yes, I've been washing a lot of clothes this week. What happened was that I noticed that most of my sheets were worn out, so I went and got a couple of sets at Ikea. So I open a package, toss the sheets and pillow cases into the laundry basket, then accumulate clothes on top of it until I have a washerful. Add in a load of towels (and pair of jeans) in the middle, and that's three washloads over the past four days, one per day, skipping yesterday.

What I don't understand: It's pretty warm today, around 85F. The laundry room is even warmer, and steamier. WTF is with that cat and heat?!

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Okay, so *not* punk

It's been a few days since I scheduled yesterday's video, and I got out of my punk mood. So here, have some dream pop:

Trespassers William, "Lie In The Sound" off their 2002 album Different Stars.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, August 26, 2011

Excellent advice

Governor Secaucus Fats(R-asshole) sez, "Get the hell off the beach. Use common sense and get to safety as soon as possible." And he's absolutely right, for one of the few times, like, ever. You New Jersey twits who have never lived through hurricanes don't have a clue, yo. This Hurricane Irene that's bearing down on your butts is a bitch. Like, a really killer. Just sayin'.

Governor Christie now officially graduates from my list of Republican Lizard People to my list of just plain assholes. The difference is that lizard people inherently are alien sociopaths, while assholes are human -- they're just, well, assholes.

-- Badtux the Common Sense Penguin

Standing dent

"The Dents" is a popular name for a band. This particular version of The Dents were a sometime Boston punk band started in 2003 by Jen D'Angora and Michelle Paulhus that, uhm, they really thrash. Just sayin'. They appear to have one album, Time For Biting, released in 2005. This particular song isn't on it but is representative of the general sound.

BTW, I've listened to about 4 hours of crappy bands to schedule this last week's worth of music videos. Hope you appreciate it, because I need some earwash. Time to see if I can find any more punk that thrashes :).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Not impressed

Black cats are notoriously hard to photograph, and The Mighty Fang is no exception. Especially difficult is the fact that his size is deceptive. His proportions make him look smaller than he really is. In this photo, the dryer looks small and the cat looks normal-sized. That's actually a *giant* warm vibrating catalounger err dryer -- so large we not only had to take the door off to get it into the laundry room, but also take off the trim moldings on the sides of the doorframe. But TMF makes it look small. Huh.

-- Badtux the Giant-cat-owned Penguin

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Busy Agenda

That mighty supervillain The Gay Agenda has apparently been really busy lately. First, according to the anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage (NOM), The Gay Agenda caused the East Coast earthquake earlier this week. Whoa! That's really... really. I guess The Gay Agenda caused the earthquake by whipping out his Gay Gun of Gayness and really pounding his sidekick, Pink Triangle Man (see below):

So anyhow, earthquakes apparently never happened in NOM's universe back in the days when America discriminated against gays. (Erm... New Madrid. Just sayin'). So then Pat Robertson weighs in and says the cracks in the Washington Monument are a sign from God. Unlike, apparently, the damage to the National Cathedral, which is just an accident.

I am eagerly awaiting what these folks are going to say about Hurricane Irene coming ashore somewhere on the East Coast. Presumably that's going to be The Gay Agenda's fault too. Talk about one heckuva blow job!

-- Badtux the Rude Penguin

Rocking girl

The Paybacks were a Detroit rock band fronted by Wendy Case and active from 2000 to 2006. You think of Detroit, you think of guitars and head-bangers, and yeah, they definitely rocked out. I figured we needed a palate cleanser after all the bluegrass and such that I've been playing recently :).,

This is "Black Girl" off their 2002 album Knock Loud. And, uhm, yeah, they do :).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The new nigger-knocking

Looking at the right-wing insistence that the poor aren't really poor because the poor aren't starving to death and dying in the streets in mass numbers, I was initially baffled. Over 40 million Americans receive "food stamps" via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That's over 13% of Americans. And the eligibility requirements for that program are high -- for example, if you are a single male, you basically aren't eligible. Over 50 million Americans are enrolled in Medicaid. That's around 17% of the population of the USA. And again, the eligibility requirements for that program are very stringent -- e.g., if your car is worth more than $2,000, forget it, no Medicaid for you, and single men aren't eligible period -- so this undoubtedly underestimates the number of poor people. And finally, thanks to Social Security propping up the incomes of older Americans, a larger percentage of the young than the old are poor -- 20% of children are being raised in poverty.

Given that we have close to 20% of Americans requiring monthly food assistance and medical assistance to keep from starving to death or dying of treatable illnesses, the notion that they aren't poor doesn't pass the laugh and giggle test. Yes, our poor have it better than the poor in Somalia thanks to these government programs that keep them from starving to death or dying of treatable illnesses... but do right wingers seriously submit that receiving food and medical assistance makes you somehow NOT poor?

But of course, the whole point of this exercise, for the oligarchs who run the GOP, has nothing to do with facts. It didn't occur to me until this morning what's going on: It's that old game of the New Confederacy, NIGGER KNOCKING, where Southern politicians competed to tell poor white trash, "You may be poor, but at least you're not a NIGGER! And we're going to keep those niggers in their place!" The point being that if the oligarchs could keep one class down further than the white trash, then they didn't have to address the lack of educational opportunities, lack of healthcare, and lack of adequate housing amongst poor whites. Because if a white man complained about his status, he was told "hey, look, you have it better than niggers at least!"

And of course Somalis and Mexicans are the new niggers in this scenario -- two nations basically destroyed by the United States or its proxies, kept down just like the black population of the New Confederacy prior to the Civil Rights Act. And now the poor white trash are being told "hey, you're not rich, but look, at least you're not a MEXICAN!" As if that somehow makes them any less poor, the fact that some other group of people has it worse than them.

Will it work? Well, it worked in the New Confederacy for generations -- by keeping the blacks down, the oligarchs who ran the New Confederacy managed to avoid the sort of investments in human capital that turned places like New York and California into thriving engines of innovation. Will it work today? Well... I haven't seen that poor white trash have gotten any smarter. After all, that's the oligarch's plan, as it's been for generations -- to keep the majority of their constituents so poor, working so hard, and so undereducated that they'll buy whatever drivel the oligarchs are handing out. So why *wouldn't* it work?

Or as JzB is fond of saying: WASF.

-- Badtux the Once-poor(*) Penguin

And yes, it sucked big time -- I much prefer my current situation where I'm in the upper quintile rather than the lower quintile.

Hard truths

Austin singer-songwriter-musician Carrie Rodriguez packs a wicked fiddle. This is "Absence" off her 2008 album She Ain't Me.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

H/T to some other blogger on my blogroll, let me know who you were 'cause I done forgot 'cause this video sat on my browser for occasional replay for several days.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Haunting of Penguin's Iceberg

If you were going to be haunted by a ghost, whose ghost would be your worst nightmare?

My selection: Milton Friedman. As I tried to sleep at night, he'd be nattering on about how public schools are socialism and should be abolished. As I showered in the morning, he'd be droning on about why Social Security should be privatized. When I got home in the evening and was trying to cook dinner, he'd be nattering along about how local regulations banning trans-fats in fried foods were Big Brother and a violation of people's right to kill themselves eating substances that they don't know are in the foods they're eating.

My guess is that I wouldn't last more than a few days before having a nervous breakdown. The cops would catch me running down the street, throwing random objects at something they can't see while shouting "Shut up! Just *SHUT UP!*" and I'd be in the loony bin faster than you can say "penguin".

Now, granted, there's other candidates. Like the crazy ex-girlfriend. At least Milty's ghost would never ask, "does this sheet make me look fat?" But still, I can't think that she would be any more annoying dead than alive... and unlike live Milton Friedman, who I could simply tune out by shutting my door in his face or turning the TV off when he appeared on one of the stuffed shirt shows, dead Milton Friedman could walk through walls. The horror, oh the horror!

-- Badtux the Irreverant Penguin

Do not stare into those eyes, for if you do, the insanity shall swallow you whole!

Quote of the day

There is a mass delusion in whitebread suburban America that they are the real America, and that they are being oppressed by high taxes to pay for poor minorities, even though the reality is actually the reverse: urban centers pay the bills for parasitic suburban lifestyles, which are ultimately unsustainable socially, fiscally and environmentally. -- From Digby's Hullabaloo.

-- Badtux the Appreciative Penguin

Willow locusts

Crooked Still, "Locust in the Willow" off their 2010 album Some Strange Country. Nice fiddlin' going on there...

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, August 22, 2011

Inflation, deflation, and buying a house

As you may recall, I aborted my plan to buy a house last year because a) the housing market was still FUBAR, b) prices were still going down, and c) Deflation looked like a real probability, meaning that the value of any house I bought would be declining from the moment I bought it even if the housing market got un-FUBAR'ed. So what's happened in the year since?

  1. California is still officially a "distressed market", but there's no longer a "distressed market" premium for mortgage insurance. Instead, the mortgage insurers simply require a very high credit score. (Not a problem for me, my credit score was 780 *before* I paid off my last credit card). This means that PMI is now 0.67% rather than 0.96% for a 5% down loan, which puts conventional loans back into play (at .96% an FHA loan was a better deal).
  2. The backlog of short sales is starting to break up because banks have resumed foreclosures. A house I looked at last year as a short sale was finally foreclosed on and is now for sale as a REO. (It still sucks just as badly now too, which is another issue).
  3. Banks are now starting to accept conventional loans again for their REO's rather than accepting cash-only offers for far below what they could get if they sold it to someone who needs a mortgage. They still prefer someone who has 10% down but if you have more than 5% but less than 10% you're still in the game, unlike last year when they weren't interested in talking to you.
  4. Some of these REO's are even halfway decent, unlike last year, when every REO I came across was utterly trashed with holes in the walls, gutted interior with no cabinets or bathroom fixtures, and so forth.
So the housing market here in the Bay Area is starting to show some signs of a return to functionality, though it's not there yet -- there's still a lot of short sales that have been on the books for eons because the banks are refusing to accept reasonable market-value offers for the houses. And really, given that they get paid more servicing fees if they foreclose than if they handle a short sale, who can blame them? Blame Fannie/Freddie/etc. who set up their servicing contracts that way, and Washington for not fixing things legislatively, not the banks servicing the loans, who are just doing what banks do if you set up the incentives that way.

So, am I buying a house right now? Well... no. The reason is simple: I'm not seeing inflation, and without inflation, buying a house makes no (zero) sense because it means my debt will, instead of decreasing in real value over time, will instead *increase* over time. Remember, monetary deflation is the same thing as debt inflation. Without monetary inflation to reduce the value of my debt over time, it makes no sense to pump $40,000 cash into buying a $400,000 home (a typical suburban 3-bedroom home here in the Silicon Valley), because you'll never make the money back. You would need six years of 2% inflation to be able to recapture your investment in the home, and what I'm seeing is instead deflation.

At which point I hear you say "but... but... quantitative easing! Monetary base!" But as I pointed out, only money in the hands of people willing and ready to spend it actually counts as money insofar as the economy is concerned. Money under mattresses -- or stashed in the Fed's electronic vaults -- basically doesn't exist as far as money is concerned. So what's the supply of money actually in people's hands doing? Well... err.... Wal-Mart reports nine quarters of declining sales. And their competitors aren't doing a whole lot better. Uhm, not well, in other words, because if there isn't enough money for people to shop at Wal-Mart for cryin' out loud, people don't have money in their hands. And if money is under a mattress somewhere rather than in people's hands... well.

So, what's going to get me off the ledge and jumping into the housing market again? I need to see some inflation. Some real inflation, not producer price inflation caused by monetary deflation (a phenomenon which I discussed last year). Until I see that, it simply makes no sense to buy a home... and so my money will sit under a mattress, making me part of the problem, not part of the solution. Funny how what's good for the individual is bad for the economy. Paradox of thrift indeed, huh?

- Badtux the Thrifty Penguin

False equivalencies

One of the things the right wing likes to do is false equivalences. This ties into the so-called media's propensity to report on "both sides" of a story even when there isn't another side. If the Flat Earth Society held a press conference, our lame-stream media would dutifully report "the Flat Earth Society today presented scientific proof that the Earth was flat. Other opinions differ." Err, except it's not an opinion, the Earth is *round*. Or at least sorta ovaloid.

So anyhow, a lot of us have pointed out that the Teabaggers and their poster child, Michelle Bachmann, are, to put it bluntly, batshit crazy. I mean, what else can you say about people who go around ranting "keep your government hands off my Medicare"?! So the teabaggers fire back and say that calling them crazy is exactly the same as calling Barrack Obama a nigger.

Uh, excuse me? Err... yes, Barrack *is* black. And that matters... why? In the meantime, the fact that Michelle Bachmann is nuttier than a bag of peanuts does matter. Saying that President Obama has curly hair is focusing on something irrelevant to his ability to perform the duties of the Presidency. Saying that Michelle Bachmann has crazy ideas utterly divorced from reality is focusing on something very relevant indeed to her ability to perform the duties of the Presidency. To say that calling attention to the color of the President's skin is exactly the same as calling attention to Michelle Bachmann's tenuous connection with reality is like comparing the fact that Charles Manson is a murderous creep to the fact that President Obama has big ears. The former fact -- that Charlie is a deranged lunatic who wants to kill people -- is quite important in making a decision about what his proper fate should be. The size of the President's ears... uhm, what does that got to do with anything?

Yet the Republican Party commissars keep spitting out these false equivalencies, and the lamestream media dutifully reports "Democrats claim that Michelle Bachmann is crazy, while Republicans point out that Obama has dark skin" as if those are equivalent statements. They're not. One statement directly addresses Bachmann's fitness for office. The other is irrelevant to anybody except racists and bigots. And you'd think that people would quit falling for these false equivalencies, but, alas, 50% of all people are below average, and average ain't so smart nowadays...

-- Badtux the Equivocal Penguin

Walking repair

Adalita Srsen, formerly of now-defunct Australian rock band Magic Dirt, has done the one-name thing that seems de rigueur for female singer-songwriters nowadays. Of course, given that her last name is one of those names that lacks sufficient vowels to be pronounced correctly by anybody who's not Polish, you can't really blame her for jumping on the fad.

This is "The Repairer" off her self-titled 2011 album Adalita. This video is just her walking around in the springtime Australian countryside at the beach. Given that she's 39 years old, I'm not sure why they did this, it's like they're treating her like some teeny-bopper to show off her body. Okay, so she looks good for a 39 year old woman. And, uhm, yeah?

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Glibertarian solutions

Government should not be in the business of protecting people from themselves. If people want to go swimming, they should take responsibility for their own safety and make sure they have sufficient training and experience to handle it. If they die... well, just consider it evolution in action, right?

Oops, sorry about that, was just chanting Libertarian mantras there for a moment. But that same logic is used by glibertarians to lobby against OSHA, so it's not an unfair comparison. The Glibertarian screed goes "government should not be involved in setting workplace safety standards, workers should take responsibility for their own safety and make sure they have sufficient training and experience to handle it. If they die... well, just consider it evolution in action, right?"

My grandfather lost his hearing because there was no OSHA when he was young and the sawmill put him right by the planer with no hearing protection. I suppose he should have known that he was going to lose his hearing if he worked the planer, but how was he supposed to know that? As far as I know, nobody teaches in school that if you are around loud noises all the time you'll lose your hearing -- especially not in 1928, when schooling in rural Louisiana was rather rudimentary, basically reading, riting, and rithmetic, even speling was somewhat optional. It took OSHA coming in and forcing employers to post signs and provide earplugs that protected the hearing of later generations of sawmill workers... not to mention the limbs and lives saved by forcing sawmills to put protective guards around blades and belts to prevent most of the ways that you could get your hand or arm stuck in the works while feeding or guiding lumber through the process. At which point the Glibertarian response is, "well, the workers knew the job was dangerous when they took it, and if they couldn't deal with the danger, they should have taken another job." Uhm, yes, they knew it was dangerous. It's still dangerous, occasionally someone does something stupid and manages to hurt himself. It's just *less* dangerous today, in ways that workers had no control over previously. Because a worker not only would not have had power to add all the protective guards around gear, he wouldn't have even known that such protective guards existed, thanks the the policy of our industrial elite of keeping our plebes stupid and easily led. At which point the Glibertarian sneers, "it's their own fault for not taking initiative to educate themselves", at which point we're done because we've basically established that dead bodies, like, give Glibertarians woodies and shit. Alrighty, then!

-- Badtux the Glib Penguin

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cat rule #521: Everything's a toy

Yes, even a watermelon.

-- Badtux the Cat-watchin' Penguin

Daddy issues

This is Australian band Magic Dirt, with "Daddy" off of their 1994 EP Life was Better. Magic Dirt was active from 1994 (with the release of this EP) to around 2009 when co-founder , Dean Turner died of cancer.

The lead singer, Adalita Srsen, has gone on to start a solo career. I wonder what her songs sound like?

-Badtux the Music Penguin

From a Twiscussion

badtux99: @grumpyhistorian @KelliMarshall Historians are grumpy because they're always watching us repeat same mistakes over & over, right?

grumpyhistorian: @badtux99 @KelliMarshall That's part of it. Though our ability as a species to develop new forms of f*ck*ps is, honestly, deeply moving.

Not much I can add to that.

-- Badtux the History Penguin

Saturday, August 20, 2011

More trail bread

Last time I mentioned trail bread, it was baked bread -- hardtack or a baked soda bread. Today I tried to fry bread -- bannock -- to see how well that'd turn out. So I took 1 cup of whole wheat flour, one tablespoon baking powder, one tablespoon sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and mixed just enough water into it to make a dough, then patted out two patties, let them rest for a couple of minutes while I got the cast iron fry griddle nice and hot, and then fried away until they were nicely brown on both sides. You tell me what you think:

The texture is typical of a whole wheat soda bread. Whole wheat flour has stuff in it that results in whole wheat breads typically being less "fluffy" than white bread, and that is true here too. Still, the texture is quite acceptable, it is not chewy, just a little denser than you might be accustomed to from looking at yeast-based breads that have more time to rise and shine (baking soda is fast acting so it simply doesn't have time to puff things up a lot before it runs out of poop). *And* this particular kind of bread would fry well over a campfire, just pack the dry mix into a plastic zip-lok bag, add water and flatten out your patties, toss onto lightly-oiled frypan, voila. Of course, I don't suggest going backpacking with a cast-iron griddle even though cast iron is *the* right way to fry things ;). But even an aluminum skillet should work okay as long as you get it hot before you toss the patty into it.

So therein ends my experiment in whether it's possible to fry bread over a campfire with nothing but dry ingredients and water. The answer: Yes. It's a bit denser than yeast-based bread, but it's still quite edible, and will complement your rehydrated bean dish just fine.

-- Badtux the Cooking Penguin

Percussive Hallucination

Kaki King from her spy album, Junior. This is "Hallucinations From My Poisonous German Streets". She steals her lap steel lick from "Gobi" and adds some drum and bass and lyrics for a song that's mysterious and dramatic. Listen to Jordan Perlson's ad-libing on the drums near the end... he's friggin' *beating* those suckers!

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gaffes don't matter

The left wing blogosphere and twittersphere is abuzz with the news that GOP Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann today warned of impending attack on US by Attila the Hun and his Horde. Or some long-defunct nation, anyhow.

Thing is, this kind of gaffe doesn't matter to Michelle Bachman's base, who would be puzzled about the whole thing. Soviet Union, Russia, whatever, it's all just somebody "over there" to them, and everybody knows that all them furriners hate America and want to kill us, right? You have to remember that her base are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know...

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Shorter me from yesterday

Real GDP declined by over 12% from 1945 to 1947 due to the collapse of government spending at the end of WW2. It took until 1951 for real GDP to rise back to 1945 levels again.

Those are facts, easily verified from the Bureau of Economic Statistics web site. Anybody who seriously states that our men and women came home from WW2 to prosperity and that this disproves Keynesian predictions of economic decline with the decline of government spending at the end of WW2, simply is either lying or an idiot. We had two years of *serious* recession (12% GDP decline ain't a picnic), then four years of recovery before GDP recovered to its 1944 level -- i.e., SIX YEARS of the economy struggling because of the collapse of government spending at the end of WW2. If six years of the economy struggling is prosperity, then my name is Richard Milhous Nixon. Just sayin'.

-- Badtux the Economic History Penguin

Not the Beach Boys

This is The Black Angels, "Bad Vibrations" off their 2010 album Phosphene Dream. This is a live set where you can see just how rudimentary their stuff really is -- it's only the reverb that makes them sound sort of like a cross between The Doors and the Velvet Underground.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, August 18, 2011

WW2: The economic aftermath

One of the things that annoys me about right-wingers is their historical revisionism. For example, they claim that Keynes predicted a recession at the end of WW2, and instead we had a booming economy. Well, yes, we did -- *AFTER* the recession of 1945-1947. The recession Keynes predicted.

The aftermath of WW2 was quite interesting, actually. FDR's administration, via rationing, convinced the majority of people to put their money into war bonds rather than into consumption during the course of the war. This was an effort to explicitly deal with the inflationary nature of government spending because these war bonds were payable *AFTER* the war and their maturation dates were staggered out so they couldn't just be all redeemed on the day peace was declared. FDR's administration also passed the GI Bill to deal with the returning servicemen by taking them out of the workforce and putting them into school or vocational training instead, in order to reduce unemployment after the end of the war. The net result: the economy *did* enter a serious recession in 1946 as GDP plummeted by over 10% due to demobilization and the drastic cut in government consumption of goods and services (so much so that it was assumed that Truman was toast and had no chance of being re-elected in 1948, much as Churchill had been kicked out in Britain for much the same reason -- it's the economy, stupid!), but by filtering off so much of the workforce into college and vocational training, unemployment was much less than during the Great Depression, meaning that those who were in the workforce didn't see the drastic collapse in their wages that happened during the Great Depression.

Furthermore the drastic hyperinflation predicted by the right-wing did not happen because the war bonds came payable at measured rates, meaning there was a lot of pent-up demand due to the WW2 rationing, but people couldn't just take the thousands of dollars they'd saved during WW2 and go buy and drive up prices way high, they had to wait for their war bonds to mature. The net result of all this is that as the former servicemen exited college and vocational training, they found jobs waiting for them fulfilling the demand that the now-maturing war bonds were unleashing and the economy slowly rebounded, though it took until 1951 before it reached 1945 levels again. By November 1948 the economy was clearly on the rebound, unemployment was at 4%, and the American people rewarded Truman with another term in office, and by the time the first generation of GI Bill college grads left college in 1951 the economy was clearly booming despite the mild recession of 1949 that occurred as the war bond stimulus started dying out and people started exiting college and looking for jobs. Then kick in the Korean War spending and Cold War spending in the rest of the 1950's and you see why the economy entered the period of greatest economic growth ever in this nation's history -- demand for goods and services was high, thus businesses hired to meet that demand, thus unemployment was low, and the victory of the Keynesian economics approach appeared complete.

Of course then came the 1970's and stagflation, which the classicists used to claim that Keynesian economics had been "discredited", but that's another story.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin


Look, Austin singer-songwriter Scott H. Biram's stuff ain't newgrass. It's CRAZYgrass. Just sayin' ;).

This is "Judgement Day", off his 2009 album Something's Wrong/Lost Forever. Available from iTunes, and as far as I can figure, that's the only place you can get it.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Paul Krugman risks losing his audience

I mean, if Krugman gets any more depressing, his entire audience is going to go out and hang themselves. Probably why he made his own attempt at humor -- suggesting that a fake alien invasion be staged to unite everybody and get full employment.

Krugman is, of course, being sarcastic about the quality of our current leaders, who seem to be unable to respond to current economic problems like, oh, 1/5th of our children being raised in poverty or 1/5th of our population unemployed or underemployed, and instead engage in kabuki theatre of no import. He's implying that our so-called "leaders" are so stupid and so detached from reality that they'd actually believe the threat of alien invasion and react accordingly. What was hilarous was reading the right-wingers who thought Krugman was actually being serious. You have to read Krugman regularly to "get" his sense of humor, which is very, very dark. If Krugman was any more hangdog, young children would break into tears as he walked by, and dogs would howl in dismay at his passage.

It seems like at least half of Krugman's blog posts could be summarized with a GIF of him banging his head against the wall. There's this constant "Why am I surrounded by idiots?" tone. I know how he feels. Siiiiiiiigh!

-- Badtux the Krugman-watchin' Penguin

Just some punk-ass newgrass

The .357 String Band is a newgrass band from Milwaukee. This is "Raise The Moon", off their 2006 album Ghost Town. Watching their live videos is hilarious, here are these scruffy punk-looking types with tattoos and such coming on stage, you figure, "there's the roadies come to do the set-up", and... they start playing. And they play this song faster live than they do on this album version! (Only reason I didn't put the live version here is that the vocals get all muddled live, sigh).

This band is so obscure that they don't even have a Wikipedia page, and while they've released three albums, none of them are in print. But they're *smokin'* those bluegrass instruments and bringing the kind of attitude that bluegrass originally was -- i.e., as a rebel updated version of traditional Americana.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Supporting our troops

Pentagon budget-cutters looking at ending military retirement. You'll walk away from your military service with the same worthless shrinking 401(k) to be stolen by Wall Street as the rest of us have. Which means people will put in their 20 years... why?

As with all attempts to take pensions away from public employees, the end result is going to be no (zero) cost savings. College-educated public employees currently accept wages approximately 20% lower than they could make in the private sector with their education and experience because of the expectation that they'll get a pension at the end of their service. Military "lifers" stay in the military, accepting far less money than they could make in the private sector, because they expect that pension at the end of their service. Take away that pension, and you'll have to pay them far more to stay, or else risk losing critical expertise, because the "lifers" are the institutional memory of the military, the propagators of a military culture that has proven to be extremely effective at killing lots of America's enemies with relatively little loss of American life. Destroy that military culture, and you destroy the military -- you end up with the sort of barely organized rabble that is a typical non-American military (otherwise known as TARGET PRACTICE if they dare take on the U.S. military).

In short, this is a bad idea on top of a bad idea, and just another example of how our Republicans in office (including Republican Obama) mouth platitudes about supporting our troops, but when the rubber hits the road.... uhm... not so much. But hey, yet more taxpayer money needs to be funneled to defense contractors for yet more jets that don't fly and other such nonsense... ignoring the fact that what makes our military so effective is its people, the advanced weapons are just the icing on the cake. But hey, we have CEO presidents now, who like the CEO's who destroyed American industry believe people are fungible... SIIIIIiigh!

- Badtux the Military Penguin

California highway

Yesterday I noted that one of James Vincent McMorrow's songs sounded sort of like the band America. So here we go, with one of their most famous songs, "Ventura Highway", off the 1972 album Homecoming. Just a little trip in the Wayback Machine.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, August 15, 2011

More scenery

Just because I can.

-- Badtux the Relaxed Penguin

Why should you care about unemployed?

Okay, you have a job. Others don't. They're hungry. And you say, "so what? What's it to me?"

Thing is, I keep trying to tell folks, human beings don't just starve to death without doing something about it. Usually something that the "so what?" folks aren't going to like. And now we have proof -- actual data showing that if you condemn a large segment of your population to starve to death, the inevitable result is violence, unrest, and eventually revolution, typically followed by a draconian dictatorship that is, as you might think, rather bad for business as well as being rather nasty to live under.

I mean, I shouldn't have to even point this out. Every system of religious morality on this planet holds that we are our brother's keeper, and that if our brother is in need, it is our religious duty to do whatever we can to help. Every long-term system of non-religious morality also insists upon such a duty to care for our fellow man. It is only the newbie "greed is good" lizard people philosophies that insist that if a man is hungry, the correct thing to do is to kick his feet out from under him and laugh at him. But the thing is, these newbie "greed is good" philosophies never seem to last long for a simple reason: reality just doesn't work that way. See paragraph 2, above.

Caring for our fellow man isn't just the moral thing to do just because some religious book says so, in other words. It's also the right thing to do because reality says so. Yet some delusional morons insist that kicking the unemployed while they're down is the right thing to do, because even though there's four unemployed people for every job opening, kicking the unemployed will somehow make the Austerity Fairy swing his magic wand and create jobs. Eh. Youse guys and your Austerity Fairy. Bah humbug.

-- Badtux the Caring Penguin

Ugh. Me austerity fairy. Bend over. Ugh.

A machine

James Vincent McMorrow, "This Old Dark Machine" off his 2010 album Early In The Morning. He's an Irish guy from Dublin. Folks compare him to Bon Iver and such, but this particular song reminds me more of the 1970's group America.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Back from nature recharge

Regular posting resumes tomorrow. After all, the Iowa straw poll happened, which is always a reliable source of hilarity.

-- Badtux the Relaxing Penguin

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Offline until Monday

Don't worry, I haven't fallen off the edge of the world. I'm just taking a brief break from civilization. There will be no posting (not even music) until Monday.

-- Badtux the Recharging Penguin

Jesus loves the little children

This I know, for his joystick tells me so:

see more funny videos, and check out our Yo Dawg lols!

Who knew that Jesus was a Catholic priest?

I can hear the conversation between the product manager and the engineer:

PM: "We need something for the religious market."
E: "How about a light switch cover?"
PM: "I like it!"
E: "I'll make it so you can turn Jesus on."
PM: "What do you mean? How do you turn Jesus on?"
E: "With a finger, of course."

Jesus loves you… he really does.

I am so going to Hell, Michigan, one of these days :).

- Badtux the Heretical Penguin


Me: “I’ve been reading in the newspaper about all the looting going on. It’s a disgrace!”
RWNJ: “Amen, brother. They need to put all those looters in jail!”
Me: “No, jail’s too good for them. We need to bring back the gallows and hang’em all! The nerve of those criminals, stealing people’s properties, destroying everything that people have worked for in their entire lives, taking every bit of money that people ever had!”
RWNJ: “Forget about hanging, that’s too easy for them! Let’s flog’em all, then hang them upside down from a cross until the crows peck their eyes out and they die!”
Me: “Yeah! That’ll teach those bankers!”
RWNJ: “Uhm… wha?”

All snark aside: There's been a fair amount of discussion about the criminality of the current looting/rioting going on in Britain. But whenever you start talking about the causes of the looting, Brits go all Sgt. Shultz on you, "I hear nothing, I hear nothing, nothing!" and accuse you of making excuses for criminals.

Uhm, no. No more than I am making excuses for tornadoes when I describe why tornadoes happen. In both cases, if the conditions are correct, the tornado -- or the rioting and looting -- happens. That's reality. You may whine about reality, you may wish for something different, but reality simply *is*.

And what is reality: Well, it has little to do with current austerity measures which are at best a spark laid into tinder that long predates it. The UK has long had a very stratified society, as you would expect of the only major European nation which still possesses an active royalty. The Thatcher administration pretty much fixed those stratifications in stone by destroying the labor unions and imposing strict classification schemes upon the schools, wherein children are filtered into different tracks early on in their school career based upon how middle class they are err excuse me "standardized tests" which just *coincidentally* measure things that only middle class kids would know. Combine this with the fact that the upper classes go to private ("public") schools that provide a much different education from that provided by the government schools, and the end result is the UK has the worst social mobility of the 20 developed countries in the OECD. If you're born poor in the UK, there's over a 50% chance that you will die poor in the UK. And in certain neighborhoods it's even worse than that. In heavily minority communities there is basically no hope, no future, nothing to lose. There is no respect for the law because there is no respect for them from the law -- for example, over 300 people have died from police beatings over the past ten years without a single British police officer convicted of a crime, meaning that all they see of the law is that it beats them down and kills them. And when there is nothing to lose, when there is no respect for the law, all it takes is a spark, a single spark, and then all hell breaks loose.

At this point comes the tsk tsking, "no, it's not so!" All I'll point out is that these riots don't occur in places like The Hamptons where people have a lot to lose if they riot. These riots occur in the roughest areas where there is nothing to lose. You don't have to believe me. Use your own bloody eyes, for crying out loud. Do you see middle and upper class youths out on the streets looting and rioting? No? Exactly.

So what to do? For Britain to fix the issues that led to this rioting would require either a) a time machine to go back and un-elect Margaret Thatcher and her fixing of the class stratification in Britain into stone, or b) much hard work resolving those issues today, which would require Brits who are not of the lower classes to admit that class is a significant issue and that opportunity must be provided for all or the results will not be good. But in my experience talking with ordinary middle-class Brits about class, the typical reaction is “tosh, you know those lower classes simply lack the drive / intelligence / whatever to succeed.” Apparently the Netherlands, Norway, etc. have more intelligent lower classes? That’s all I can conclude based upon such comments.

Now, in the article above about OECD statistics regarding social mobility, look at who is 3rd from last on that list. Yeppers, the land of (little) opportunity, the United States, which isn't much above Britain on the social mobility scale. Our elites have been doing their own bit of social stratification here in the USA, attempting to create an aristocracy of their own, and apparently feel that Americans are too timid, too cowardly, too... bought... for there to be unrest here like there is in Europe right now. But their current actions, such as the unwise application of the Austerity Fairy's magic Wand of Proctology Job Creation that magically creates jobs out of application of said rough and jagged wand to anal regions of a most unwilling citizenry (or so the Austerians say, even though it has never happened), risk creating a large number of people who have no hope, no future, nothing to lose from rioting. And once that happens all it takes is a spark...

- Badtux the Class Penguin

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A dream

Emmy the Great has a new album out (Virtue), and I'll be listening to it shortly. But while looking at her recent videos, which include a *lot* of new songs (good ones too) that didn't make it onto the album, I came across this mock lament for all the mothers who dreamed their daughters would marry Prince William...

-- Badtux the Unserious Penguin

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Okay, disappointed by my last attempt at some sort of trail bread, I regrouped. I decided it needed some baking powder to give it at least a *little* loft, and since I wasn't going to haul it for more than a week, I didn't need it to be perfect hard-tack dryness, so baking it hard as a rock wasn't necessary, and I could make it a bit thicker. So I patted out a rough square, gave it a single whack with the roller to even up the top, trimmed the edges and turned them into two round biscuits off to the side, scored the resulting loaf with a pizza cutter, replaced the cookie sheet on top of the glass cutting board where I was doing all this, flipped it all over, remove plastic wrap from the top of the resulting loaf and two biscuit patties, let it rest for a few minutes while I cleaned up all the dishes I'd dirtied (the mixing bowl, the measuring cups, etc.), popped it into the oven at around 380 for 20 minutes on side 1 and 15 minutes on side 2, and... success. The resulting biscuits taste fine, they're crunchy on the outside and dense but soft enough to eat on the inside, and hopefully they'll survive being squished into a backpack better than regular bread or biscuits or crackers despite not being hard as a rock.

Oh yeah, the rough recipe:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspons baking powder (Clabber Girl brand)
Roughly 1 cup water

Mix to a stiff dry dough, adding water slowly. Pat out to a rough square roughly 1/2 inch thick, a *single* whack with a rolling pin to even out the top, trim the edges and make a biscuit or two out of them to the side, then use a pizza cutter to score the resulting loaf into roughly 12 squares. Let rest, then poke some holes with a fork like a saltine, but not all the way thru. Flip the resulting loaf and biscuits over onto an ungreased non-stick cookie sheet, and poke more holes with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes on one side, then 20 minutes on the other side at around 375-400F. If you're going to eat within a week this should get them hard enough, if you want something for long term storage, then back off the heat to about 285F and bake until dry all the way through.

Next up: Figure out some way to make trail bread actually *on the trail* from its individual components. The problem is that it requires baking. I'm wondering if my grandmother's hot water fry bread might work better, that's corn meal, flour, and baking powder, with hot water added, patted out and then fried in bacon grease or other oil. That'll work for car camping pretty easily, but oil is heavy and in short supply if you're backpacking. I guess corn tortillas could be done even more easily, since they're just masa flour and water rolled flat then cooked on a griddle for 40 seconds per side with no oil or grease required except what's seasoning the griddle, but corn tortillas don't go all that well with many of my favorite trail foods. Oh well, I guess I'll just pre-make trail bread...

-- Badtux the Cooking Penguin


Another sad and beautiful song from the Devics. This is "You Could Walk Forever" off of My Beautiful Sinking Ship. Which appears to be out-of-print at the moment, though available from iTunes. And their former website, , has been hijacked by a domain hijacker who will infect your computer with a virus if you go there. Siiiiigh.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Know your fairies

You've already met the Free Market Fairy, who solves all economic problems via waving of her (his?) magic wand that sprinkles Free Market Fairy Dust over everything:

Well, meet today's fairy, the Austerity Fairy, who creates jobs magically via application of the Austerity Wand (being held):

I don't think I need to tell you where said Austerity Wand is actually applied to the general public, good and hard...

-- Badtux the Snarky Economics Penguin

Inflation, jobs, and a failure of governance

Over at JzB's place, we have a long discussion of inflation and why capitalism doesn't work without it. I've touched upon that a few times on this blog, but that's a worthwhile discussion over there to refresh your memory. The conclusion: WASF.

Actually, what it all boils down to, in the end, is two things: debt and jobs. So let's look at debt first. There's two ways to deal with debt -- via direct monetary payments (debt forgiveness or debt amnesties), or via inflation. Of those two, we need inflation anyhow to make capitalism work, so why *not* crank inflation up to 5% or so? That would reduce the real value of debts by 5% per year, and our economy worked reasonably well at 5% for quite some time. Oh, the banksters will scream bloody murder because they recall what happened to the S&L industry, which was stuck with a buncha 30 year 5% mortgage loans at a time of 12% inflation when they had to pay 8% for deposits and a -3% spread means you're out of business sooner rather than later, but crap, the banksters are already down 50% on their mortgage portfolio because of the collapse in housing prices, so it's not as if they're not *already* bankrupt. But that will take years to get housing prices back up to the value of the loans against them, so that brings to mind another thing. If you're underwater: Debt forgiveness of the part of mortgage loans that is underwater, accomplished by the Federal Reserve with freshly printed money. Make it tax deductible or you're defeating the purpose.

But of course none of that works out if people don't have money to spend because they don't have jobs. So let's look at jobs. Actually, it's easy enough to create jobs, if you think out of the box. Infrastructure is just one way, and limited by the number of available construction workers (people are not fungible, an unemployed accountant is useless for riveting steel for a new bridge). For example, if we said "Fuggit, those jobs are gone and they're never coming back, so everybody between the age of 55 and 65, you can now retire with full Social Security payments" (and funded it with freshly-printed dollars buying Treasury bills), that would free up a huge number of job openings as the Boomers between age 55 and 65 suddenly leave the workforce, while increasing aggregate demand as Boomers saving in case they lose their job between age 55 and age 65 (since loss of a job between said ages means you're likely never to have a job again) suddenly have a huge load taken off their back.

And that's just one idea off the top of my head, I can come up with literally dozens of ideas that would create jobs for every unemployed American today, which in turn would result in increased aggregate spending and thus economic productivity. Remember, FDR created 4 million jobs with the stroke of a pen in November 1933, though I understand right-wingers think they weren't really jobs because working for the government is, apparently, slave labor as far as they're concerned. But what's not working is our political system, which has turned into a he-said she-said high school debate club squabble of juvenile whiners trying to score points in some obscene game rather than a serious attempt to tackle the problems of our nation, facilitated by a media which would somberly report "opinions of the shape of the world differ" if the Republicans came out tomorrow and demanded an end to the teaching of that heretical round-earth theory (it's anti-Bible, y'know?).

And that, in the end, is why WASF -- not because government could not theoretically solve the current jobs and debt problems, but because *our* government cannot due to imperial incompetence, stupidity, and hubris.

-- Badtux the Waddling Penguin

Monday, August 08, 2011

Down state

Alt-country rocker Kathleen Edwards checks in from Canada with "In State", off her album Back to Me.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Working my way up to biscuits

That's my next cooking goal. I want biscuits like my grandmother baked -- heavy stout things that could be used as dwarven battle bread, baked in an iron skillet, not the fluffy tasteless things you get from a can. One of those biscuits, sliced open and butter and sausage put into it like a biscuit sandwich, was a meal all by itself, and you could use it to sop up the runny yoke of your egg too while you were at it. I think I'm on the right track if I add baking powder to the basic dough that I made for the hardtack, along with some bacon grease for flavoring. Hmm, reminds me that I need to buy bacon...

Update: looking at a few biscuit recipes calling for milk, I just remembered granny's secret ingredient: Buttermilk. Urk!

-- Badtux the Baking Penguin

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Today I fixed the self-cleaning function of my oven. It was a quite simple fix, actually. Pop two screws off, and the entire front falls off the oven. When that happened I saw the problem immediately -- a shield that covers the front window when the oven is cleaning had jumped its track. I loosened up the track, put the shield back on track, tightened the tracks slightly closer together this time (because of normal wear and tear of a 20 year old oven), lifted the shield again, and it pushed the lever that had prevented the cleaning knob from operating. Put everything back together, figure out how to activate the self-cleaning function of the oven (no manual for a 20 year old oven!), and... success! A couple hours later I wiped ashes off the bottom of the oven. Nice and clean, no noxious chemicals involved (other than the natural gas my utility burned to generate the electricity that powered the self-cleaning cycle, heh!).

Next thing on my list was to attempt to bake hardtack. Getting the consistency of the dough correct is the most important part here, it has to be damp enough to stick together into a ball, but not so damp that it turns into a sticky mess. Yes, I put too much water my first attempt :). So next thing is, you're supposed to roll the ball of dough that you just got nicely damp into a flat square and cut it into squares. Uhm... you do know that if you roll a ball flat, it rolls into a *circle*, right? How are you supposed to cut *that* into squares?! So I plopped it down and tried to sort of shape it into a squareish thing before attacking it with the rolling pin. It ended up looking more like one of those ink blots that the stereotypical psychiatrists use in the jokes. I finally said Fuggit and cut it into squares and, uhm, "other" shapes (heh!) with a pizza cutter.

Anybody got advice for me on how to roll a ball of dough into a square? Oh yeah, the crackers. They're baking in the oven right now. It'll be interesting to see how they turn out.

* UPDATE * They're out of the oven now. The thin pieces overcooked. The thicker pieces taste like very dense saltine crackers, with a nice bready taste to them that the fluffy store-bought crackers don't have. They'll get harder after they finish cooling, at which point the only way to really eat them will be to dunk them in soup. If I can just figure out how to get that #$%@# dough the right consistency and thickness and rolled out consistently so I can slice it well into squares... hmm. Let's see, and if I want a slightly fluffier version, there's this other variant of the recipe that adds baking powder....

-- Badtux the Cooking Penguin

A rough diamond

Ray Wylie Hubbard "The Messenger" off of his 1994 album Loco Gringo's Lament. Ray ain't young no more, and never got no fame or fortune, and he had some rough times in his life, but he is a Texas treasure and y'all down there in Texas take care of him, y'hear?

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Quote of the day

I think the [S&P] downgrade is mostly a statement on our dysfunctional/majorly failed Congress, and they're right, but having it come from that thievery-enabling outfit is like getting a lecture on the virtue of marriage from Newt Gingrich.


-- Badtux the Quoting Penguin

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Holey Cat

"Fate of the Human Carbine", off the 1996 album What would the Community Think by the band Cat Power with its original lineup. Steve Shelley is notably absent, though Tim Foljahn's guitar definitely comes in strong at the end. This is a cover of a song by Peter Jefferies. The original version was almost a chant / drone. Chan brings angst and drama to the song.

After this album was released, Chan retired from the music industry to shack up with Bill Callahan, yesterday's musician, in a house in the country. She proclaimed she wanted to have his babies. She drove him nuts with her neurotic behavior, and he went touring instead. She got bored sitting around the house alone, and went off and recorded another album instead. They never did manage to make it back to that house, though they each released musical serenades to each other that seem to indicate that there were no hard feelings involved, just an acknowledgement that it just didn't work.

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Q: What does the S&P downgrade of U.S. debt mean?

A: Not much. Prices are set by the market, not by S&P. All S&P did was point out what everybody already knew -- that the Teabaggers in Congress are willing to hold the good faith and credit of the USA hostage to getting their way. And S&P didn't even get their math right while doing so.

So: Will this affect sales of U.S. Treasuries or the interest rate paid on Treasuries? Uhm.... no. If you're someone looking to park a few million dollars worth of retirement fund, where are you going to park it other than U.S. Treasuries? Greek public debt? ROFL! I suppose you could buy German sovereign debt, but there's not enough of that to fill demand and it's denominated in Euros, not dollars, which adds a currency exchange cost to the transaction. For better or for worse, Treasuries appear to be the only even reasonably-safe debt instrument available in quantity to buy right now. Furthermore, the only place you're going to see a teabagger 16 months from now is going to be in a pride parade, not in Congress, so investors looking at the long term will basically ignore the teabagger contribution to our economic woes and behave as if adults will be elected to Congress in 16 months. Given that, you'll still have just as many buyers flooding Treasury auctions... which will continue to keep interest on Treasuries low.

So anyhow, if the teabaggers retain control of the House next election, *then* you'll see people moving out of U.S. sovereign debt. But that's a big -- and unlikely -- "if".

BTW, this also explains why Germany is forcing austerity measures upon Greece and Spain that virtually guarantee default on their sovereign debt. By driving money away from the sovereign debt of those two nations, Germany drives its own borrowing costs down because where else are those Euro buyers going to go? Russia? ROFL!

- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Friday, August 05, 2011

Truth cat

I must admit that I'm featuring this video mostly because of the fat cat, who behaves much like my own fatties :).

This is Smog (Bill Callahan), with "Truth Serum" off his 2003 album Supper.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

The sad reality

The sad reality of life for a cat-owned penguin:

I get to sleep in that little area on the right where the pillows are piled.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The right wing and lying liars

But I repeat myself.

Latest nonsense I've heard is the right-wing talking point, "FDR turned a recession into a Depression." Uhm, what the fuck? A recession is a minor decline in GDP for a short period of time. A depression is a *major* decline in GDP for a *long* period of time. So what did GDP do between 1929 and 1940? Let's look:

Jesus fucking Christ, under Herbert Hoover GDP pretty much *HALVED* between 1929 and 1932! The small blip in 1938 after FDR tried to balance the budget looks downright *tiny* by comparison. And, uhm, in case you can't tell -- FDR took office basically in April 1933 (4 months into the year), and the economy under FDR went *UP* every year except for that tiny little blip in '38. Unlike the economy under Herbert Hoover.

Next up was, "but the Depression was caused by Hoover spending like a drunken sailor rather than balancing the budget." Really? Let's look at federal spending between 1920 and 1940:

So yes, Hoover *did* increase spending a little -- about as much as Obama increased spending, actually -- but the deficits Hoover ran in 1931 and 1932 were primarily because of a collapse in tax revenues. Tax revenues declines from around $4B in 1930 (at which point Hoover is running a sizable surplus) to under $2B in 1932. Pretty much what you expect from the fact that GDP declined by around 50% too -- if the economy is half the size, you'll collect half as much money. Duh.

So anyhow, anybody who can look at those two graphs above and say that FDR made the Great Depression worse or that Herbert Hoover caused it via excess spending is either dumber than a box of rocks, or a dishonest hack. Sorry. That's the only two answers to that question.

-- Badtux the Snarky Economics Penguin

*Graph #1 is from Wikipedia. Graph #2 is my own graph from OMB data available from a number of locations, plotted using the Mac "Numbers" spreadsheet program.

Gothic weight

Some Southern Gothic from The Handsome Family albeit set in California. "Weightless Again" from their 1998 album Through The Trees.

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

And in Libertopia...

people are starving. Because, see, in Somalia -- Libertopia, which hasn't had a functioning government in twenty years -- there is no government to protect farmers from having their crops confiscated by local thugs with guns ("warlords"). There is no government to buy food from overseas or accept food aid from overseas then oversee its distribution to people who need it. So while food does make it into the country or gets grown by the local people, it gets confiscated by whoever the local warlord is and distributed only to his supporters. Combine that with drought, and you have disaster.

Libertarian theory holds that government is not necessary, that all functions of government could be privatized with no loss of services that people like, paid for voluntarily by people rather than via extracting money at gunpoint in taxes. "Taxation is slavery!" is the Libertopian chant. But without taxation, you don't have a government. And if you don't have a government, what you have is... Somalia, where the only people who are truly free are the thug warlords who terrorize the populace and steal what little wealth they have at gunpoint. Because, see, thugs have a big advantage over people like you and me. They *like* violence, while violence makes normal people queasy. So thugs will *always* have the advantage over ordinary people in Libertopia. *Always*. That's just reality, and you can no more change that than you can change the fact that you get wet if you stand out in the rain with no umbrella or clothes on.

-- Badtux the Reality-based Penguin