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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Island of Mayor Moreau

June 17th, 2011 - 5:37 pm

Central Falls, Rhode Island provides an example of what happens when a government unit runs out of money, totally, completely and finally. “The major problem is the city, with an annual operating budget of about $16 million, is facing about $32 million in promised after-retirement health-insurance costs in addition to the $48 million in pension obligations.” For a city with 19,000 inhabitants, being in the hole $80 million is serious business, especially when it gets deeper by $4.8 million each year.

They’ve tried everything: a proposed merger with Pawtucket, which itself has budgetary problems, failed. The city’s schools have already received $604 million since 1991 from Rhode Island, only to wind up with the schools are among the worst in the state. Mayor Charles D. Moreau and his councilmen have dug such a hole that there’s no way out. The New York Times says that to hear Moreau tell it, he’s the victim.

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The Well of Holes

June 16th, 2011 - 6:57 pm

Timothy Garton Ash tries out this syllogism. Europe is failing, therefore Germany must save it. Why? Because Europe is self-evidently worthwhile and worth saving. The premise is very convincingly established, even if the conclusion is not.

Like an overladen container lorry labouring up a steep hill, the European project is close to stalling. If it stalls, even the emergency brake may not stop it running back down the hill, out of control, until it jackknifes off the road. Two of the lads are wrestling over the steering wheel; others lie comatose in the sleeping area at the back of the cab. We need a woman to come and sort them out. And her name is Angela.

And it’s not just the comatose passengers. There are more wheels coming off the wagon. Garton Ash continues:

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“Beware of Greeks Taking Gifts”

June 16th, 2011 - 9:48 am

What if Government actually cannot solve the problem? “Greece has warned it will be unable to pay next month’s bills without a 12 billion euro loan installment from the EU and the IMF. … Greece’s leader, George Papandreou initially proposed a unity government but the talks collapsed and now his job is on the line.”

Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Greece’s credit rating to “CCC … the lowest credit rating of any economy ranked”. Germany now insists that it won’t pick up the tab for another new Greek bailout unless all the other members of the EU chip in. That includes Britain, which opted to stay out of the Euro and will now be asked to bail it out notwithstanding. “Cameron and Osborne have often said that the UK won’t participate in any way in the rescue of a Eurozone member state,” said a European commission official. “But it cannot veto this.”

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To Count the Stars And Name Them All

June 15th, 2011 - 3:12 pm

Richard Feynman was once asked, “if, in some cataclysm, all scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?” He answered:

I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence you will see an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.

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What Happened to Recovery Summer?

June 15th, 2011 - 1:24 pm

Recovery summer? It isn’t just conservatives who are looking for it. The Democratic Underground asked in June, 2011 “what happened to green shoots and recovery summer?”

By late 2010 it was clear that “Recovery Summer” didn’t happen. The Economist, writing a postmortem to the year, believed a combination of bad luck and fiscal timidity was responsible for the fizzle. “The story implies that the Fed, by waiting until August to signal a policy change, cost the economy between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs a month for four months. Add to that the sharp decline in state and local government employment in recent months, which could have been reduced through additional federal financial aid, and it doesn’t seem that big a stretch to say that two government policy failures can be blamed for an employment shortfall of close to a million workers.”

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Sign and Countersign

June 14th, 2011 - 11:07 pm

Pakistan has arrested 5 of the informants who helped the US find Osama Bin Laden. Reuters reports “One of the detainees was reported to be a Pakistani Army major whom officials said copied license plates of cars visiting the al Qaeda leader’s compound 30 miles northwest of Islamabad.” Leon Panetta has raised his concerns with the Pakistanis.

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Words To Live By In the Online Age

June 14th, 2011 - 6:21 pm

“There are no girls on the Internet! The Internet is a place where men are men, women are men, and children are the FBI” — author unknown.

“Is Every Lesbian Blogger a Middle-Aged Man?” — Mark Steyn.

“Crotch-Shot Recipient: I Thought It Was Fake”, but it was really a Weiner.

“‘Lesbian blogger’ Who Criticised Gay Girl in Damascus Also a Man” — Daily Telegraph.

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” — Peter Steiner, New Yorker.

“Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant.” — Star Trek, the Menagerie.

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Body Language

June 13th, 2011 - 4:08 pm

What is essential is visible to the eye.

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And the Earth Began to Heal

June 13th, 2011 - 3:03 pm

A planned economy is one “in which the central government controls industry such that it makes major decisions regarding the production and distribution of goods and services … planners decide what should be produced and direct lower-level enterprises to produce those goods in accordance with national and social objectives.”

Planned economies are in contrast to unplanned economies, i.e. the market economy, where production, distribution, pricing, and investment decisions are made by the private owners of the factories of production based upon their individual interests rather than upon a macroeconomic plan. Less extensive forms of planned economies include those that use indicative planning, in which the state employs “influence, subsidies, grants, and taxes, but does not compel.” This latter is sometimes referred to as a “planned market economy”.

So when President Obama announced “details of a program to train 10,000 new American engineers every year” as a program of his jobs council what exactly was he doing?  Was he acting as a spokesman, giving guidance or “indicating” how he thought the economic engine should run?

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“My Whole Day Was One Big Listen”

June 13th, 2011 - 12:41 pm

Long before there was Anthony Weiner, Ray Bradbury knew what would happen. Technology would change us in ways that we never anticipated beforehand. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes, who knew?

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