Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Environmental hypocrisy

Differences between Bush’s Crawford Ranch and Al Gore’s Nashville home:

Bush’s one-story, eight-room, 4,000-square-foot ground-level house has 25,000 gallons of rainwater storage, gray water collection from sinks and showers for irrigation, passive solar, geothermal heating and cooling.

Gore’s 20-room home and pool house devoured nearly 221,000 kilowatt-hours in 2006, more than 20 times the national average of 10,656 kilowatt-hours. In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Another step towards dictatorship

So it looks like Venezuela continues its path towards dictatorship. No more editorials making jokes of Chávez.

Now here in the US, the country where civil liberties are being exterminated by Bush (also know as “The Devil”) the situation is a little different. Yesterday I watched the new George Lopez special on HBO, and among all the jokes about how the Mexicans actually own the US, George Lopez talked about a new acronym he invented specially for Bush: FTP. That is Fuck That Puto.

If what you want is newspaper's Bush bashing, you can check today’s Doonesbury, Pat Oliphant, Sargent and Tom Toles.

I am only talking about the NYT, of course.

More blacks in jail than in college?

I was cleaning up my old CDs today and found this (I know the lyrics are terrible but the music still rocks).

One of the songs says that “At this moment, there are more blacks in jail than in college”.

I thought that sounded odd, so I decided to Google it. Here is what I found:

There are more than twice as many blacks in college than in jail. Even more interesting, in the 16-44 age range, percent college enrollment for Blacks exceeds White non-Hispanics by 12.8% to 12.6%.

Ah, I also learned that Kerry used this same false argument in his 2004 campaign. Surprise, surprise.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is this really a matter of choice?

A life is a life

A life is a life. Whether you call her a baby or a lack of choice, it really doesn’t matter.

It’s hard to be a right-winger

Besides all the political stances that define an “American right-winger” (which are somewhat loose but basically consist of pro market/low taxes + strong military + some level of social conservatism) there are some personal characteristics that I see in common amongst all of us.

These personality traits are in many ways what makes so complicated for us to deal with lefties. Much more than it is for them to deal with us.

For example, let me talk about a mundane situation where these issues become clear: playing soccer.

1- Impractical behavior

I am not an especially talented player. For me this means that I need to run faster, tackle harder, play defense more often, etc, to compensate my flaws and consequently help the team to win. You’d think this is common sense but it’s not so. First of all, people don’t seem to be able to recognize their own capabilities. Worst, they don’t want to acknowledge what needs to be done based on that reality. So nobody wants to play defense. Nobody wants to run more than the best player in the team. When you complain and try to point out these things, you’re an ass.

Why do they do that?

When I talk to them after the game, the most usual answer is: I just want to have fun. It doesn’t matter if we lose. It doesn’t matter if we could win! When I point out that by winning we would have more play time, and that well, winning is fun, they just basically say that “winning is secondary”. How can you say that you are against having fun? Again, you are the annoying one, the one that can’t relax.

Now, let me tell you a secret: if all you really wanted to do is just to kick the ball around, you could do so! The reason people divide in two teams, put on different jerseys and keep a score is to compete. And notice that for me what really matters is not actually wining but doing everything you can to win! If you do all the right things and the other team is somehow better, good for them. Maybe you can even learn something to make you better.

I suspect that the real reason to use this “I just want to have fun” excuse is that you can always fool yourself that if you really had done your best you could have won. A classic cop out.

That’s a feeling I can’t stand.

2 – Lack of effort

When I started to play with these guys I suggested that we could meet once or twice a week for practice.

I was pretty much ignored.

Even though you know that professional players practice all week for a game, and almost everyone accepts that one needs to get some training (either college or some other type of education) to perform an intellectual job, these people think that amateur players don’t need to practice.

Not because they don’t have time or something like that. They just thought it would be boring.

One day, after a loss to a team we had defeat previously, I pointed out that I’ve seen that other team practicing several times and that it was clear that this was the reason they’ve got better.

You can guess the response I got.

3 - Be satisfied

Not being able to dribble like Ronaldinho may sound like a disability to many. For me, it’s just part of life. If everyone was special nobody would be. I am not saying it wouldn’t be nice to be able to have that ability. All I am saying is that I fully understand that I don’t.

When you tell another player that, in a certain situation, he should just kick the ball to the stands, most of them get very offended. “Are you saying I am not good enough?”

Why people get so offended when we compare certain things but not others? If a 7ft tall guy tells me he is taller, should I be offended?

I think the underlining problem is that liberals in general want to “have a dream”. Not in the sense of reaching your full potential but reaching something impossible.

They don’t think is “fair” that certain people are better (yes, Ronaldinho is not just a different player, he is better) and all the implications that come from that like hard work, smaller rewards, etc.

Leaving polls aside, my anecdotal experience is that only about 20-30% of people are “right-wingers”. About the same percentage are hard-core liberals, but from this remaining 40% more people trend to the liberal side.

This means that it is pretty hard for me to find a soccer team that thinks like I do. So I have to either shut up and put up with the libs, or go back to play tennis.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Amillia Sonja Taylor, born Oct. 24 after just under 22 weeks in the womb

She is not ready to go home yet. But she will get there.

22 weeks. That is 5 months and a half for those of you in Rio Linda.

But remember: She wasn’t really a live human being before the doctors moved her out of the womb. This is all a big misunderstanding.

UPDATE: She actually went home today.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The classic cycle of gun control

Gun laws that constrain the law-abiding

"Gun crime has doubled since they were introduced. Young hoodlums are able to acquire handguns - either replica weapons that have been converted, or imports from eastern Europe - with ease. With no dedicated frontier police, our borders remain hopelessly porous. The only people currently incommoded by the firearms laws are legitimate holders of shotgun licences, who are subjected to the most onerous police checks.


But more is required. In particular, the ludicrous inhibitions placed on the police when it comes to exercising powers of stop and search have to be lifted. So must the post-Macpherson burden of political correctness, which makes any police officer think twice before challenging a young black man on the street. There is a wider failure here."

(via Proverbial)

Monday, February 19, 2007

"The 1/2 Hour News Hour"

President Rush


Saturday, February 17, 2007

The classic cycle of socialism

Chávez Threatens to Jail Price Control Violators (assinantes UOL: Chávez ameaça prender quem violar controle de preços).

How many times has the world seen this?

How can there be people who still believe this kind of stuff will somehow work?

The only question here is whether Venezuela will follow the hard line path (of the USSR, Cuba and tutti quanti) and start using violence to “make the system work”, or if it will take the more soft approach and slowly crumble like Brazil and so many others.

I’d bet on the former.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Everything that goes around comes around

"There are numbers that help put Warren Buffett's remarkable $43.6 billion charitable pledge of 2006 in perspective:
- It's close to the GDP of Slovakia.
- It's about the market value of McDonald's.

And one comparative figure is especially relevant as we present our annual list of the top donors in the United States: Buffett's boffo moment nearly equals the total donations recorded in the Slate 60 for the previous six years combined—$44.9 billion."

See The 2006 Slate 60 - The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the last year.

Also, check out this Bill Gates interview with Charlie Rose.

Goddamn capitalists.

It’s never enough

So it looks like Bush got what everyone believed was impossible: A deal to shut down North Korea's nuclear reactor in return for aid.

Bush’s point was always that a deal could be reached but it would be through the six-party talks and not by a 1:1 US-North Korea negotiation. He also believed that by taking a hard line and cutting aid, Pyongyang would eventually have no option but to back down.

He was right in both counts.

But for the press (i.e. left) good is never enough. The new thing now is that actually Bush has changed his mind! He never really wanted a deal. All the pressure was just to justify another war. And so on.

These are such blatant lies that if you have the patience and read all articles, even liberal publications (like this Time article) say otherwise.

Another funny thing the press is doing is to try to show that, even though Bush has morphed into this diplomacy champion, conservatives have not. You can even find headlines like this: Conservatives alarmed by North Korea nuclear pact.

Of course conservatives are worried. They were worried when Clinton got the same deal 12 years ago. That doesn’t mean they don’t want a deal. It only shows that they understand that North Korea is still an enemy and you should be alert and try no to repeat your mistakes.

But for the pacifists this deal is the real thing. So why isn’t the press hailing Bush like they did Clinton at that time?

It is very hard for me not to get upset with this kind of bias.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More about the "War on the Middle Class"

"The rich are indeed getting richer (the bastards). As Steven Lagerfeld points out in the Winter 2007 issue of The Wilson Quarterly (not yet online), those 130,000 households at the very top of the earnings pyramid have increased their share of pretax wage and salary income from 2 percent in 1973 to just under 7 percent in 2004. Folks in the top 5 percent of households--those making more than $166,000--have seen their inflation-adjusted annual income jack up by a hefty two-thirds since 1970.

But everyone is getting richer. In real dollars, every quintile has posted significant annual increases over the past 35 years, ranging from $3,000 for the lowest quintile to $13,000 for the middle quintile to over $25,000 for next-to-highest one. And the individuals in those quintiles change all the time, something even The New York Times, which wrings its hands on class matters like an obsessive-compulsive, admits. Urban Institute economists Daniel P. McMurrer and Isabel V. Sawhill estimate that between 25 percent to 40 percent of individuals switch quintiles in a given year and that "rates of mobility have not changed over time." Research tracking individuals in the lowest income quintile in 1968 found that 23 years later, 53 percent were in a higher quintile and that half had spent at least a year in the top income quintile.

More important, basic indicators of wealth and opportunity drive home the reality that the middle class' place at the table is pretty secure--maybe not the best seat in the house, but arguably better than ever. A historically high 70 percent of Americans own their homes (see table 956). And two-thirds of high school graduates go on to college (up from half in 1970) [see table 265]. That wouldn't be happening if the U.S. was fast turning into the Brazil of the North.

But don't expect the "vanishing middle class" storyline to itself vanish. Pols and pundits will use scare stories to drum up business and push minimum wage hikes, tax breaks to pay for the wage hikes, prescription drug coverage, and on and on. We in the middle class like the attention (and the more-than-occasional entitlement). More to the point, there are more of us and we've all got more to lose than we used to. Which also means we've got even more to worry about."

More here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Best post of the day

From the Free Exchange:

"BEHAVIOURAL ECONOMICS has been embraced enthusiastically by the left, because it challenges the model of the rational decision-maker. If people systematically make errors in their decisionmaking, then doesn't that open up a need for the government to step in and fix things?

I've never quite understood this argument, of course; where are we getting the human beings who make the decisions for the government? Do they come out of a different pool from the ones who flunk the basic rationality tests posed by the behavioural economics? In fact, as public choice theory shows, government has a whole set of special decision-making problems that can make the normal human mistakes of those decision-makers even worse."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Be afraid

Entrevista da hillary para a ISTOÉ. Money shot:

"ISTOÉ – A sra. foi várias vezes ao Brasil. Caso seja eleita presidente, como será sua relação com esse país?

Hillary – De fato, fui ao Brasil e fiz muitos amigos. Trata-se não apenas de um aliado importante dos EUA, mas também de um parceiro que deve ser consultado mais vezes. Quando eu era primeira-dama, já havia conhecido um pouco dos programas brasileiros para energias alternativas. Desde então, venho citando estes exemplos como coisas que poderiam ser incentivadas e abraçadas pelos americanos. Precisamos formular uma política de aliança e troca de experiências bilaterais neste setor. Há muito mais. Vi programas nas áreas de alimentação, habitação, saúde, preservação, enfim, várias iniciativas brasileiras que devem ser apoiadas pelos EUA e até consideradas medidas de interesse nacional americano."

Oh boy.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

10 Most Economically Literate Members of Congress

Here is the complete article.

6 Republicans and 4 Democrats. Mostly unknowns. No surprises there.

The one thing I could not believe is that old Barney Frank shows up on the list. And they say he is “scary smart”! I mean, the guy is completely crazy, has an incredibly annoying lisp and is one of the most pompous politicians I’ve ever heard.

The funny part is that he claims to believe in “free-market principles, checked with protections”. “Capitalism plus”, as he calls it. Yeah right.

Now, if you want to have a good laugh watch this:

For those who don’t understand why the Republicans are asking about an exemption for American Samoa, here is a quick summary:

The new Democrat controlled congress allowed an exemption to the new minimum wage bill for the pacific Island of American Samoa. So while every other company in any part of the US will be required to pay at least $7.25 an hour, American Samoan companies will be free to pay whatever they want. The average wage for workers in American Samoa is $3.60 an hour.

Why is that?

Well, maybe the answer is StarKist Tuna, which owns one of the two packing plants that together employ more than 5,000 Samoans, or nearly 75 percent of the island's work force. StarKist's parent company, Del Monte Corp., has headquarters in San Francisco, which is represented by Mrs. Pelosi. More interesting than that, there is some controversy around whether Pelosi’s husband owns $17 million in Del Monte stock.

Call me biased, but there's something fishy going on here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bring on the warmth

Maybe it won't be so bad

Interesting how this latest UN report about global warming changed the way some people see the problem. Check out this article from Newsweek:

"Don't be fooled. The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution.
Considering this reality, you should treat the pious exhortations to "do something" with skepticism, disbelief or contempt. These pronouncements are (take your pick) naive, self-interested, misinformed, stupid or dishonest. Politicians mainly want to be seen as reducing global warming. Companies want to polish their images and exploit markets created by new environmental regulations. As for editorialists and pundits, there's no explanation except superficiality or herd behavior.
Since 1850, global temperatures have increased almost 1 degree Celsius. Sea level has risen about seven inches, though the connection is unclear. So far, global warming has been a change, not a calamity. The IPCC projects wide ranges for the next century: temperature increases from 1.1 degrees Celsius to 6.4 degrees; sea level rises from seven inches to almost two feet. People might easily adapt; or there might be costly disruptions (say, frequent flooding of coastal cities resulting from melting polar ice caps).
What we really need is a more urgent program of research and development, focusing on nuclear power, electric batteries, alternative fuels and the capture of carbon dioxide. Naturally, there's no guarantee that socially acceptable and cost-competitive technologies will result. But without them, global warming is more or less on automatic pilot. Only new technologies would enable countries—rich and poor—to reconcile the immediate imperative of economic growth with the potential hazards of climate change.”

Wow. That’s Newsweek(!) basically saying what many skeptics (like yours truly) said all along: We don’t know enough, there is no way to pay for cutting huge levels of CO2, and our best bet must be around new technologies.

Now, there is another side of the debate which is not even being considered yet: the fact that if global temperature rises mildly, let’s say on the low end of current projections, we might be actually better off! There will be a lot of new land to be used for agriculture, less spending on heating, and so on.

I agree that this is all speculation at this point but so is all the end of the world scenarios that will give Al Gore the Nobel Prize.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Yes, we have populists too

First, the facts:
Ford Motors hit by record $12.7 billion loss in 2006.
Exxon Mobil Posts U.S. Record Annual Profit - $39.5 Billion


Anyone who lives in the US can tell you why Ford is losing money: Because cars from other companies are better. It is that simple, and since Honda and Toyota have now several plants in the US that “unfair competition” excuse used in the 80s is kind of fading out.

How about Exxon? Do people really understand why they are making that much money? I don’t think so. Most important, people don’t understand who gets that profit.

I couldn’t find the numbers for 2006, but for 2005 (when profits were 36 billion)Exxon Mobil paid $7.2 billion in dividends to shareholders, and $18.2 billion in stock buybacks. Besides that, Exxon Mobile employs more than 100 thousand people.

It is also true that Exxon’s executives get a lot of money (Lee Raymond got a $400 million pay off) but to think that 39 billion just went into the pockets of a few fat cats is really a fantasy. Exxon is a public company and its stock is part of a lot of retirement funds.


You would think that Americans are actually be happy that a local company is at least making money in the energy business, since most of the oil revenues end up in the hands of some anti-American dictator anyway.

You would also think that if the government had anything to say about these two companies, Ford would be the focus. After all, isn’t it the government's job to help people in trouble?

Ah, not exactly.

Here is what Hillary said a few days ago:

"I want to take those profits and put them into an alternative energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy alternatives that will actually begin to move us toward the direction of independence."

What better way to improve our energy situation than take all incentives from energy companies right?

By the way: Exxon’s exploration and capital expenses for 2006 were $177 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion over the 2004 total. The company also projects it will average about $20 billion in capital expenditures through 2010, and has some 60 projects lined up during that time.

That's a lot more than the 39 billion Hillary wants to steal.


Here is the last piece of information:

US Budget to Reach $2.9 Trillion.

That is almost 79 times Exxon’s profit, and of course, it is at the end dependent on the big chunk of revenue coming from the taxes on all those oil profits.

Man, I really hate these little games people play.

Friday, February 02, 2007

How about that empire eh?

Nearly 70 percent of all federal expenditures in 1954 went to buy rockets, rifles, radar, and nuclear warheads and to pay the salaries of Americans in uniform.

If you measure it another way, military spending in 1954 accounted for 13 percent of the total U.S. economic output (gross domestic product, or GDP).

Today it accounts for about four percent of GDP, a decline of 70 percent since 1954.

In 1954, 3.3 million Americans were serving on active duty in the military. That compares to 1.4 million on active duty today, a 57 percent decline in personnel since 1954.

A telling silence

Até a pinky imprensa brasileira admite que Chávez esta matando a democracia na Venezuela. O tom desses artigos é um tanto "pacífico" but hey, beggars can't be choosers.

Agora, aonde está a revolta do povo? Procuro algum sinal de preocupação nos blogs daqueles com "consciência social" e não acho nada. Procuro uma manifestação de rua, de estudantes brazucas a bleeding heart democrats, e não vejo ninguém...

Now can you imagine what would be happening if we had a socialist democracy being turned into a capitalistic dictatorship? Can you imagine the editorials, the first page headlines, the UN outrage, and most of all, the huge rallies full of celebrities and politicians from many different countries?

Democracy is just a tool for socialists. It is easy to forget the many lessons taught by the great USSR experiment.

Honestly, I don’t understand how capitalism has survived this far.