current events commentary

This Icelandic volcano is going to provide much needed cover for the global warming scientists and allow them to officially switch from a warming mode to a cooling mode. Last year’s mild hurricane season and the so far mild tornado season has been giving them heartburn trying to explain how a more energetic climate is consistent with obviously milder weather. With the volcano they’ll be able to crank a new factor into their models and start acknowledging that, guess what, it’s cooling off and their reputations are thus salvaged.

I had to chuckle last night when it was announced that criminal charges were either coming or being contemplated against Goldman Sachs for selling risky investments and at the same time selling insurance to protect against risky investments and even taking a position against some of the investments they were selling. First, nobody is going to jail from Goldman unless they can find some stooge willing to take the fall for a bundle later. If you take a census of big wigs in the financial management of the country – I mean inside the government – you will find loads of Goldman alumni. In fact I’m not sure you can have a senior position in Treasury or with any of the Fed financial agencies without having done time at Goldman. So expect lots of smoke and zero flame. In my opinion, the people that should be raked over the coals are not the folks selling risky investments, but those in a fiduciary position buying them; for example, the financial managers of pension funds where the really killer losses occurred. They call bonds paying ultra high interest rates Junk bonds for a reason. The most unseasoned investor knows that when you’re buying instruments paying double, triple or way higher multiples of the CD rate, you’re playing with fire. So in my mind, when a pension fund manager or someone managing public funds takes a position in risky investments, that’s bordering on criminal.

Another interesting article in the paper was that UF won the National College Bass Fishing Tournament this year – the first year for the event. The season consisted of 40 events country wide culminating in Lake Loudoun outside Knoxville. There were 25 teams in this final event including Auburn, Ohio State, and Oregon. How sweet is that. So Florida officially owns Ohio State with national wins in football, basketball, and now bass fishing. A trifecta; a hat trick; a turkey.

And while on the subject of college athletics – I heard on the tube that Rollins College took 7th place in the Playboy annual party school competition. Something fundamentally wrong with that. What next, Stetson???

Believe it or not, I’m actually ok with some of Obama’s plan for NASA. I’ve never been a big fan of NASA so getting them out of short range space travel is fine with me. But I think the only way you get private enterprise in the loop is for the gov’t to commit to wanting to use the space transporter a certain number of times over a certain time interval and willing to pay $X for that. I don’t have a clue what numbers make sense. Is it 10 trips a year for the next 10 years at $40M per trip??? Do they need to move people or just cargo? With that info, Boeing or Lockheed or whomever will turn the crank and see if it makes sense. Can the development expense be amortized over the customer’s commitment? Is there really a market outside the US Gov’t which can change priorities every couple of years with each new election cycle? Let NASA look at the big picture of putting a permanent base on Mars or something of that magnitude. A plan to land somebody on an asteroid in 2030 is a fairly lame goal unless the asteroid were made of gold or something valuable. Not that landing on an asteroid is easy, just that asteroids have no sizzle as a 20 year goal. When you think about it, we let private contractors design and build all of our military gear. There’s not any question about whether or not they’re as well equipped to do it as the military itself so why is NASA any different than DOD? My concern is that if NASA’s goals and objectives are all these 20 year out projects, nothing will ever get completed. In the high tech world, 20 years is an infinity of time and midway or a quarter of the way through project of that length, we’ve gone through a couple of generations of technology and trying to mesh new techniques with ones that were current when the project was started. Put on top of that the fact that over the course of a 20 year project the political body has turned over a couple of times with each changing wanting to put their mark on the future. The only reason we got to the moon when we did was that the timetable was set relatively short. The only reason the feds were able to pull off an interstate highway system is that it was nominally low tech and done at a fever pitch with clear, definable goals.

Last news commentary – watched a special the other night on how Detroit is collapsing. Went through all the history of how great it was and how nasty and broken it is now. Tell us something we don’t know. Detroit never recovered from the race riots in the 60’s which about burned it down. And the reason they’ve never recovered is that the UAW and other unions have such a grip on Michigan that it became a place for businesses to avoid. And they did. So when non-unionized auto manufacturing took up outside Michigan, it was all over. The new mayor, Dave Bing of basketball fame, has a plan to shrink the city. Tear down all the boarded up, blighted neighborhoods to create a giant green field for new starts. I think that might work so long as the mind set of the folks still living there can adjust or move away to Cleveland or something. I think the job of making Detroit a clean livable city without the corruption and crime it’s famous for is not too much different than remaking Afghanistan. So good luck Dave.

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