Archive for April 2013

A Few More Good Quotes

Here are a few more good quotes from around the web.

This is from The Immoral Minority: A convenient thing about their religion is that it always seems to give them someone to blame if their god has abandoned them – the gays, the atheists, etc. They don’t believe in that science stuff, that would raise too many questions about what they believe. Nah! Blame the homosexuals and unbelievers instead. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It is amazing to think about how much of the dogma of these religions is devoted to keeping the gravy train going for those in charge of them.

Here is one from the Economix blog on the New York Times: It seems as if the only people that matter in this country are corporations. They get to break the laws on environmental and workplace safety, treat employees like widgets, and pay virtually no taxes. And then they complain about the poor state of education, bad infrastructure, disloyal and lazy employees as if they had nothing to with these things. It must be nice to live in Wonderland all the time.

 

 

All Russians Can Go To Hell

Ever since the Cold War ended, I have tried to keep an open mind about Russia and Russian people.

Heck, even during the Cold War, I tried to keep an open mind about the Russians. I was taught that “Russian” does not equal “Soviet”. But it was a messed up country before Communism, and it is a messed up country afterwards.

A lot of the Russians I have met here in the USA struck me as snakes. They are thieves who do not trust each other. There are a lot of countries that are dragged down a rathole by another country. The Russians have dragged themselves down a rathole again and again, and brought other countries with them to boot.

And then the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. Yes, those guys are Chechen, not Russian.

But there has been a lot written and said about Russia in the past week. Russian intelligence. Russian counter-terrorism. Russian this. Russian that.

And now Vladimir Putin is trying to say “We told you so.”

I generally avoid vulgarity, both on this blog and in general. This will be an exception.

Vlad: You and every Russian on this planet can go fuck yourselves.

You people are the cause of Chechen terrorism.

The Chechens were not radicalized until after they fought a war against Russia. They were radicalized even more after the second.

I am not clear why the second war happened. Some say that it may have been partially instigated by some Russian politicians to win elections. (Think of when the USA invaded Iraq: not too long after an election.)

The first war was a war for Chechen independence. Perhaps Russia should have just let Chechnya go. Russia did not fight a war to stop Ukraine from becoming independent.

Or Georgia. (They were already independent by the time the 2008 conflict happened.)

Or Estonia.

Or Lithuania.

Or Latvia.

Or Belarus.

Or Armenia.

Or Azerbaijan.

Or Moldova.

Or Khazakstan.

Or Kyrghizstan.

Or Tajikistan.

Or Turkmenistan.

Or Uzbekistan.

That’s 14, in case you weren’t counting.

I did some Googling. Some have speculated that Russia doesn’t want to let Chechnya go since they don’t want Russia to break up any further, or they want a buffer against Turkey.

Why should either of those be Chechnya’s problems?

First off, Russia is a large country, and Chechnya is a small country. Sometimes small countries next to large countries are not completely independent. The small country is usually influenced (if not controlled) by the larger country.

On the other hand, Russia might be wrong if they think that the Chechens would make allies with the Turks. It seems to me Chechens want to be independent of everyone. Plus, Turkey is part of NATO. I don’t think they would unnecessarily drag the rest of NATO into a conflict.

So it looks like Russia traded a bad problem for a worse problem. Not too smart.

And if they are sticking with Chechnya because of pride or to look strong, I say perhaps the world would be a better place if people tried to act intelligently instead of trying to look tough. Why should other people have to die so Vlad can think he’s a tough guy?

On top of that, one of the events of the past few decades that has done more to radicalize Islamists is the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. If that had not happened, perhaps 9/11 would not have happened. Perhaps the 2003 invasion of Iraq would not have happened. But the Russian invasion did give the world al-Queda.

Some people are now saying Putin has gone from being a “menacing autocrat” to a “far-sighted ally.” I think he is a “menacing autocrat” who is not only short-sighted, but is now gloating over the fact that other countries are dealing with his bad decisions.

I can see why GW Bush liked him.

Image from Wikipedia

 

Fitness and Emergencies

The big news tonight is the explosions (probably bombs) that went off at the Boston Marathon this afternoon. I saw it on TV at work. There were a lot of responders running around, bystanders all over, it looked pretty chaotic.

Ever since 9/11/2001, there has been a lot of talk about disaster preparedness. I think that fitness is a big part of this. If something bad happens, you need to get away from it. I know this sounds obvious, but I think a lot of people forget about it.

In the 2000s, I was working for a large corporation in downtown Chicago. We were on the 18th floor. There were a few large people who complained about potential drills (which I don’t remember ever doing; guess who was in charge of coordinating the drills). They whined about having to go down 18 flights of stairs. Not whining about going up stairs against gravity. But whining about going down.

Going down is the easy way. If you cannot go down stairs without hurting yourself, you are in serious trouble.

In December, 2004 there was a fire in the LaSalle Bank Building in the Loop. I was still at work in the next building when that happened. It was all over the news. I thought one person died, but according to articles I found on the web, there were no deaths. But there could have been. A disaster can happen any time. I heard a lot of stories of people who were out of shape in the World Trade Center in NYC who thought they would not be able to make it.

Granted, if you are right in front of a bomb that goes off then you are hosed, even if you are a world-class decathlete. But being fit will help you recover from injury, and also help you stay calm while you get to safety. It could lessen your chance of injury so the responders could spend time on people who are more seriously injured. It will not make you invulnerable, but it will reduce your risk.

I know this is a bit rambling and incoherent. I have been planning for some time to write about this, but I felt that perhaps it was time to state this idea now. I may revisit it later.

Thoughts On Austerity

So austerity has been in the news a lot lately. A lot of gold bugs, glibertarians and conservatives push it as a solution to a sluggish economy. I think that they push it because they are either jerks, pay little attention to reality or cause and effect, or some combination of the two. Sometimes these people are called “Austerians”, since they push austerity and subscribe to Austrian economics.

It sounds like a good idea: There is a lot of debt, so governments should cut back on spending. The problem is that nobody else is spending. Keynesians, like Paul Krugman, say that governments should spend more. Austerians think that Keynesians think that governments should always spend through roof, when in fact if you ask the Keynsians themselves they will tell you that they only favor deficits when nobody else spends money. I think Krugman portrays his side more accurately than the other side portrays him. Plus, like many, I am amazed at all the conservatives who only seem concerned about government spending when we have a Democratic president.

The Austerians have been predicting that we will have an economic disaster (hyperinflation, much higher unemployment, contracting GDP) for quite a while. Yet even though their predictions never seem to come true, they never change their predictions. As Krugman said of Rep Paul Ryan, his “complete lack of self-reflection is nonetheless something wondrous to behold.” Maybe things will get really bad. But a lot of people seem to predict disaster no matter what happens.

Then there is Zero Hedge, who think that always predicting the ever-imminent collapse is itself proof of knowledge. In one of their articles, they write “we are generally of the opinion that it is in any case impossible to decide or prove points of economic theory with the help of economic history”. That sounds like a fancy way of saying: We just make this stuff up.

A critic of Austrian economics is that it is “economics without math or models”. The Wikipedia page states that “Critics generally argue that Austrian economics lacks scientific rigor and rejects scientific methods and the use of empirical data in modelling economic behavior”
It seems to be true for whoever wrote that Zero Hedge article. If you don’t use history to prove your economic theory, then how can you know if your theory is correct? Then he says that austerity can work because it is working in the Baltic nations. So maybe the just look at the present and ignore the past. But that still doesn’t seem too bright. You should base your predictions on as much data and knowledge as possible. And if you’re just going to make stuff up, why can’t other people do the same thing?

Maybe it’s working in the Baltics (which may be due to the fact that in some of those countries about 15% of the population has emigrated), but it’s not working in the UK. In fact, there is now talk of a triple-dip depression in the UK. Why is the austerity crowd taken seriously? How many times are they going to say, “Just wait! My predictions will come true any day now! Really!”

 


Austerity not working:
http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/01/26/britain-faring-worse-in-great-recession-than-they-did-during-great-depression/
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/the-greater-depression/
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/destructive-austerity-usa/
http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/martin-bashir-exposes-great-republican-hoax
http://www.americablog.com/2012/02/austerity-dragging-down-portugal-as.html
http://www.businessinsider.com/scott-walker-jobs-record-2012-5
http://www.americablog.com/2012/05/wsj-expresses-doubts-about-austerity.html
http://www.americablog.com/2012/05/austerity-hampered-uk-economy-shrunk.html
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/27/1094768/-The-Republicans-are-unfit-to-govern
http://crooksandliars.com/john-amato/austerity-creates-highest-unemployment-

Job Report Proves Austerity Fails–GOP’s Path To Depression

http://www.businessinsider.com/to-save-the-british-economy-david-cameron-will-have-to-do-the-hardest-thing-for-any-politician-to-do-2013-2
http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2013/03/why-does-anyone-listen-to-paul-ryan.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/martin-wolf-on-david-cameron-2013-3

http://www.businessinsider.com/george-osbornes-comments-about-cyprus-2013-3

http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-fast-the-economy-is-deteriorating-in-britain-2013-3
http://www.businessinsider.com/2013-uk-budget-2013-3

Another government falls due to austerity
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/02/20/uk-bulgaria-government-idUKBRE91J09H20130220
http://firedoglake.com/2013/03/22/howd-that-work-out-for-you/
http://www.businessinsider.com/uk-economic-protests-outside-prime-ministers-house-2013-3

Image generated by Memgenerator. And, yes, I now realize it should be “Y U No..” instead of “Y U Not..” Y U No give me brake?

2013-03 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for March, 2013.

The dividend income for March, 2013 was $360.85. The income for 2013 through the end of March was $719.36.

The income for March, 2012 was $294.68, and the income for 2012 through the end of March was $792.26.

A lot of companies brought January and in some cases February dividends foward in December, so I think that the yearly comparisons will not be too good for a while. I also sold some stocks. Most of the stocks I sold pay out in April, so the April totals will be lower than last year.

Here are the stocks:

  • AFLAC Inc: $18.01
  • American States Water Co: $18.60
  • Black Hills Corp: $12.64
  • Bemis Co Inc: $16.21
  • ConocoPhillips: $33.78
  • Intel: $10.84
  • Vectren Corp: $18.90
  • Sonoco Products Co: $18.99
  • Chevron: $19.41
  • Emerson Electric Co: $21.11
  • Questar Corp: $8.87
  • Exxon Mobil Corp: $32.36
  • Johnson & Johnson: $19.83
  • 3M Co: $8.07
  • Walgreen Co: $15.08
  • Archer-Daniels-Midland Co: $11.82
  • Dover Corp: $7.70
  • Consolidated Edison Inc: $17.03
  • Valspar Corp: $13.07
  • RLI Corp: $17.04
  • Eaton Corporation: $21.49

Image from Wikimedia