Looking carefully at that which is unseen.

Monthly Archives: October 2011

Thinking about: Housing “investments.”

Listening to the Brian Wilson Show is always grounds for thought, especially during some of the intro commentary which is clipped out of previous shows. Recent comments in regard to the President’s plan to allow people who are “underwater” on their mortgages to refinance, but remaining under water. Brian commented that it did nothing to improve the homeowner’s net worth, and my reaction was “so what?”

Here’s the problem, though. There are two ways to view a house in this modern economy. The first, older method, is to view a house as “the place where you live and keep your stuff out of the rain.” Viewed as such, does it really matter what your mortgage versus nominal value ratio is? If the house was worth 1,000 dollars a month to you as a place to live, what has changed? Unless you have some sort of weird clause in your mortgage or note that requires you to make up the difference with your lender, who cares? Unless you’ve lost your income (which has no relationship to whether you’re under water on your mortgage or not), the value to you, per month, shouldn’t change.

Those who care are, obviously, the ones in the “modern” view of a house, that it is not a place to live in and keep your stuff out of the rain, but rather an asset, part of your net worth, and if your net worth goes down, you’re boinked. Not that the walls are any duller or the roof any less solid, but suddenly you’re into negative numbers territory. And, more importantly, that credit line that you’ve been using to live beyond your means through the Naughties is likely dried up and now you’re going to have to look at some serious retrenching. Bill paying. Austere living. Second jobs, maybe. Disgruntled spouse and children. All of the things that tend to go into divorce, as it were.

The problem is that nobody seems to have bothered to tell Americans that investments are a risk. A gamble. And that past performance is no guarantee of future performance. The value of your stock – or house – is not guaranteed to go up, regardless of outside influences. Ask any Dutch Tulip Investor. Eventually the party comes to an end, the credit cards are maxed, and life gets rather grey and grim for awhile. Though I’m told that “economics doesn’t work like that on the national scale,” nobody’s ever convinced me that that assertion is anything other than wishful thinking. Bills have to be paid – or defaulted on. After the slate is clean, a new story begins.

Wiping the slate, though, can get pretty nasty.

Got popcorn?

Thinking about: Democracy

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on lunch. Politics, which is how democrats determine who gets to be a wolf and who gets to be a sheep, is nothing more (and nothing less) than ritualized war, where the snoutcounters (thank you, Harry Turtledove) believe that since 51% should be able to beat the crap out of 49%, therefore the 51% should get their way.

Representative democracy, such as the US has today, is simply the 51% deciding on specific individuals to do their pillaging for them, rather than having the courage to do it themselves. They hide behind a claim that “we won the election, therefore we get what we want, just like the law says,” without having the historical awareness that the US was intended to be a republic, not a representative democracy. Losers in elections always claim that the winners should be bound by constitutional rules (more on that in a bit), but as soon as the worm turns and the losers become winners, that attitude vanishes like the morning dew and the new winners proceed to run roughshod over the new losers.

America was founded as a republic. In theory, winners and losers are bound by the Constitution, a document that is the operator’s manual and limiting rules for the running of the nation. Unfortunately, the people who interpret and enforce those rules are the very ones who have a vested interest in ignoring the rules. Paper chains simply do not hold Leviathan in check for very long when Leviathan has his normal fuel of human greed, envy, and lust for power. This is, of course, the reason that two centuries ago republics were seen as quaint political entities, doomed to failure. And only the truly blinkered can look at America today and conclude that it has not failed as a republic. Given the wealth of the land, the industriousness of the people for some time, and historical good fortune America managed to do well for quite some time as an oligarchy/representative democracy. Unfortunately, those factors are diminishing and so we have America in the 21st century, a nation running out of everything. Including time.

The thing about political entities is that while they can substitute for war, war can also substitute for politics. America is running out of resources, but is filling up with various groups who are fighting harder and harder for pieces of what’s left (rather than working to build more). This is a classic sign of a nation in a downward spiral, with the only questions remaining being “how soon?” and “how hard?”

Got popcorn?

Word of the Day: pander-zombies

As discussed by Kelley Vlahos, here.

The extremely thoughtful Ms. Vlahos is commenting on the ongoing drumbeat of attempts to demonize the Occupy X movement in its various incarnations. There’s a touch of sadness over the fact that the mainstream media is covering OWS with far greater depth and admiration than it ever gave to the anti-war movement, but one needs to remember that the purpose of the MSM is generally to support the existence and purposes of The State. The anti-war movement is purely anti-state, and as such is not something that the court intellectuals of the MSM are comfortable getting on board with. OWS, however, offers the potential for the State to appear to ride to the rescue of the 99%, thus burnishing its street cred with boobus Americanus. In reality, no such thing will happen and the naifs of OWS will find themselves discarded like used kleenex after the State has gotten its use out of them.

OTB: Fixing the economy

Or at least patching it up a bit, by getting more money flowing into the commercial economy from individuals, with six simple words:

“Student loans are dischargeable in bankruptcy.”

Now, clearly, contracts are fairly sacred to libertarians, so suggesting that a contract for a repayment on a loan be voidable as a matter of law may seem, at first blush, to be anathema. However, most student loans are nothing more than unsecured debts and perhaps making them dischargeable in bankruptcy (again, they were before) would make creditors a bit more chary in regard to lending some kid $100,000 to get a degree in underwater basket weaving. This is not to say that colleges couldn’t continue to offer such degrees, but the market would likely be relatively slim, and schools would need to begin offering more substantive courses in order to attract students who could pay. Or cut their costs such that part time pay-as-you-go would-be aquatic basket weavers can still obtain their life’s ambition.

Furthermore, if schools begin offering degrees in math, science, engineering, and so on, lenders are still going to need to look at just how likely a borrower is to obtain employment (and thus repay the loan) based on his likelihood of being hired after. If Downstate U.’s engineering program graduates are unable to assemble an Airfix model without close supervision, lenders aren’t going to be willing to advance much to a student who is paying for the arguably worthless degree from that institution.

Thinking about: Politics as usual

Jim Bovard, in a recent column, asks: “Is the Republican Party on a suicide mission, hellbent on nominating someone who will perpetuate almost all the failed policies of the past?”

To which I replied, and wish to expand a bit:

No, the Republican party is on time, on target, with its mission of increasing its power in regard to establishing the Daddy State. As opposed to the Democrats who tend to want to increase their power to establish the Mommy State. Both sides are willing to trade off being in charge back and forth so long as each gets its preferred increases ratcheted up while in power – while paying lip service (or, at best, nibbling around the edges) of the changes the “opposing” party put into place during its time in the driver seat. It’s simply two horses yoked to the same cart of “increasing state power,” or two wings of the same bird that’s flying south to Statism for the season.

And naturally the mainstream media, as part of the power structure, is decidedly supportive of the cart, the bird, or whatever metaphor you’d care to choose – and really loathes anyone who’s looking to upset the system. Which is what Ron Paul proposes to do. It’s also why there’s a constant drumbeat against candidates who espouse TEA party views, or any other candidate who’s not keen on helping tow* the statist line. The MSM loves a bigger state because, combined with the gnat-like attention span of boobus Americanus, it gets to play kingmaker to a large degree, and it cherishes that power. Perhaps “is addicted to” would be a better choice of words than “cherish,” though the two do go hand in hand.

There is also an element of self-preservation for the MSM. A small State, engaged in little more than protecting people’s (negative) rights and providing a bit of national defense (on our own soil or coastal waterways) would not offer the powermongers in and out of the media the chance to self-aggrandize, and the possibilities of profit by supporting that system and aiding in that aggrandizement are fairly minimal. Lower profits means nobody buys ads (or Senators) and without ads the MSM would be going under.

So, in short, expect the system to keep spiraling downward until there’s nothing left to be sucked out of the system by the various political leeches. Then the real fun starts.

Got popcorn?

*I know it’s “toe the line.” It’s an intentional play on words.

Hardyville Tales by Claire Wolfe is in print!

Shameless advertising for a good friend. Go here and get your copies. Get copies for your friends. Get copies for your friends’ friends. Heck, get copies for your dog and cat.

Thinking about: Obama as FDR

Lew Rockwell recently wrote: “No, Obama is not FDR. This is not the New Deal. The public will not be browbeaten as it once was. The polls show a vast lack of even a modicum of confidence in political leadership, the failures of which are all around us.”

Which makes me wonder. Has boobus Americanus simply become so inured to the idea that the dotgov will “take care of him,” regardless, that he’s just not subject to the fear that FDR used to push his proposals through? It used to be that if you didn’t work, if you didn’t have resources, you’d … well, you’d die. In the cold. And the dark. Of starvation. If the grue didn’t get you first. But today you can continue a relatively pain free (in the sense of not dying in the cold and dark of starvation) with some effort. And you can watch TV in the meantime. So what incentive is there to go out and get a job if that job is just going to be some form of sitting in a cubicle or asking, “Do you want fries with that?”

As a theory, this works right up to the time that the money trough runs dry. At which point the folks who have been living day-to-day on dotgov largesse will likely find themselves in the cold and dark. And hungry. Without resources except an overwhelming sense of entitlement. At which point all bets are off and the fear that FDR talked about may be the least of our national worries.

Got grue repellent to go with your popcorn?

Thinking about: Logical fallacies

There must be some sort of name for the logical fallacy that involves a form of “If A, then B. B, therefore A” which doesn’t take into account that C, D, E, π, or neg0ne possibly the cause of B. I’m just too lazy to look it up.

Take for example the ongoing prootwaddlelike debate over the weather on the ball of rock we call home. Seventy five percent of the planet is water, we have a very active star (notorious for having “warm” as a component of its existence) that we circle around, and no end of other galactic debris which infests the neighborhood. I’m sitting in an office which has at various times over the years been under sheets of ice a mile high and a sub-tropical swamp, all of which happened long before my time.

And yet I am assured, by scientists who were, in the ’70s, predicting a new ice age, and in the oughts were predicting catastrophic global warming, that we are now suffering “climate instability” and that that instability can ONLY be due to human interaction with our local mudball. The same species of human being who can’t tell me for sure whether to take shorts or a raincoat for next week’s picnic can nevertheless assure me that my driving a car is going to plunge the planet into … into something, that something being both Bad and TBA at a later date.

Ever notice how the people who insist that there are too many people and humanity is destroying the planet never seem to want to volunteer to get off the thing first, for the good of ol’ Gaia? That the Disaster du Jour always seems to be just more of an excuse for them to have power and money? Go dig up some notes on court intellectuals for further reading on the topic.

In the meantime….

Got popcorn?

Thinking about: History repeating

Let’s add some disparate bits of information together, just for fun:

1. Allegedly a breakdown of the Eurozone due to the departure of one member (not naming names, but its initials are “Greece”) would “be horrific”; and

2. A breakdown of the Eurozone would allegedly also lead to war; and

3. We all know what happens when a nation that joins a voluntary union of other nations then tries to leave that union against the wishes of other members of the union.


Is this the now-for-then equivalent of the Confederacy stocking up on rifles, powder, and shot?

Got popcorn?

Thinking about: Thinking small

The New York Times asks, in pertinent part:

If China, for instance, sends killer drones into Kazakhstan to hunt minority Uighur Muslims it accuses of plotting terrorism, what will the United States say? What if India uses remotely controlled craft to hit terrorism suspects in Kashmir, or Russia sends drones after militants in the Caucasus? American officials who protest will likely find their own example thrown back at them.

Perhaps a better question would be: “What if Mexico sends killer drones into the US to hunt down the men responsible for funneling thousands of rifles into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels?” After, of course, the Mexican president signs an executive order declaring those men “enemy combatants.”

Yo. Gander. Got sauce?