March 14, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM

ONE CHILD-SIZED SERVING (via The Other Brother):

Homemade Shamrock Shake (Re, 3/14/12)

makes one serving

1 cup vanilla ice cream
1/3 cup milk
4 drops of peppermint extract
3 drops of green food dye

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


Before Wolves May Be Hunted, Science, Faith and Politics Clash (JAMES GORMAN, 3/14/12, NY Times)

Once again, science, religion and politics have become entwined in a thorny public policy debate. This time, however, the discussion is not about abortion, birth control or health insurance mandates.

It's about wolves.

Specifically, a bill in the Wisconsin Legislature to authorize a hunting season on wolves. The State Senate has approved it, and the Assembly is set to consider the bill on Tuesday.

Hunters approve of the season, and Republicans are all for it, as are some Democrats. Wildlife biologists have a number of criticisms and suggestions about the bill involving how, when and how many wolves should be killed.

But the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Game Commission, which represents 11 tribes of the Ojibwe (also known as the Chippewa, or Anishinaabe) in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, opposes the hunt on the basis of religious principle and tradition.

In written testimony presented to both legislative houses, James Zorn, the executive administrator of the commission, said, "In the Anishinaabe creation story we are taught that Ma'iingan (wolf) is a brother to Original man."

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM

Imelda May On World Cafe (World Cafe,  March 14, 2012)

Imelda May began her affair with rockabilly early on in life -- by the time she was 9, she'd already begun to emulate Elmore James and Billie Holiday. In 2007, after years of singing in clubs, May stole the spotlight with Love Tattoo. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 PM


They're both wrong: Neither Obama nor the Republicans have the right strategy to turn the recovery into a full-fledged economic revival (JOSH BARRO, 3/14/12,  NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Last year's debt ceiling negotiations produced a deal that is scheduled to produce $2.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. Meanwhile, the George W. Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of December, which would mean an extra $2.8 trillion in revenue.

However, it is widely expected that Congress and the President will intervene to stop many of those gap closing measures, just as they have done in the past. Obama remains committed to making permanent the tax cuts that apply on incomes below $250,000, which is about 80% of the total. Republicans want to make all of the cuts permanent, and all of the GOP presidential candidates want to cut taxes even further than that.

Those would all be major fiscal mistakes. In retrospect, the Bush tax cuts were never affordable, and today the long-term budget gap is a much larger threat to the U.S. economy than excessively high tax rates. Some prominent economic voices from the right and left, including Alan Greenspan, Peter Orszag and Mayor Bloomberg, have called for letting all the Bush tax cuts lapse. They are right, and the President should heed their advice.

On the expenditure side, the main threat is that Congress and the President will agree to undo the "triggered" cuts that will take about $100 billion a year out of the federal budget, due to last year's debt supercommittee deadlock. These triggered cuts don't start until 2013; if growth is strong between now and then, Congress should maintain them, though it should feel free to tinker with where they fall -- and, particularly, to cut Medicare more and discretionary spending less.

Washington's dirty secret is that everybody there wants to cut Medicare. No wonder: It's where the money is. But because Medicare cuts are politically toxic, the parties spend more time attacking each other's Medicare plans than discussing their own.

Republicans want to introduce more private competition and hold traditional Medicare to no more cost increases than in the private sector. Democrats want top-down controls on traditional Medicare spending.
Some members in each party want to narrow the scope of the Medicare benefit, for example by raising the retirement age and further means testing the program.

The one nice thing about the Medicare fight is that all of these are good ideas, and there is no reason they can't be combined as a cost-saving compromise. An aggressive program to save money in Medicare -- starting today, not in 10 years -- would have the added benefit of lessening the need to collect more tax revenue and deeply cut discretionary spending programs.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM


Want to Improve Goldman Sachs? Convert it Back into a Partnership (Avik Roy, 3/14/12, Forbes)

There is a huge difference between Goldman Sachs, the partnership, and Goldman Sachs, the publicly-traded entity. If you're a partner at an investment bank, your incentives are long-term-oriented. You're going to be a partner for decades, and you know that you stand to be best rewarded by maintaining the loyalty of your best clients. This incentive, in turn, leads you to want to take pride in your work, as something that is about your clients, rather than about short-term moneymaking.

On the other hand, Goldman the publicly-traded entity is owned by its shareholders, who demand quarterly profits. A bank that is oriented towards quarterly profits is going to put short-term financial incentives above the long-term interests of its clients. When it comes to investment banks, not all profit motives are created equal.

Goldman's 1990s partners did just fine. At the time of the Goldman IPO, the largest partnership interest belonged to Jon Corzine. Corzine converted his 0.9 percent partnership interest into $305 million. But Goldman's clients were not as well-served by the change.

Goldman wasn't the first major investment bank to convert from a partnership into a public company. Indeed, it was one of the last. It was John Gutfreund, the former kingpin of Salomon Brothers, who pioneered the conversion of investment bank partnerships into public corporations. Indeed, one can make the case that one of the primary causes of the financial crisis was Gutfreund's innovation. "No investment bank owned by its employees would have levered itself 35 to 1 or bought and held $50 billion in mezzanine C.D.O.'s," observed Michael Lewis in 2008. "I doubt any partnership would have sought to game the rating agencies or leap into bed with loan sharks or even allow mezzanine C.D.O.'s to be sold to its customers. The hoped-for short-term gain would not have justified the long-term hit."

So what can be done about this problem? The stock left-wing answer is: tax the rich. If you reduce bankers' profits, the thinking goes, you reduce their ability to be rewarded by their greed. But eliminating greed is impossible, whether in bankers or painters. The more thoughtful question to answer is: how can bankers' self-interest be realigned with that of their clients and the public? And that answer, necessarily, involves moving back to the partnership model.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


The rise and fall of the House of Assad (George Jonas, Mar 14, 2012, National Post)

The Syrian sunset is proceeding on schedule. I wonder if Bashar al-Assad and his pretty wife, Asma, realize that their days are numbered. It's hard to see how they wouldn't, but the capacity of human beings for self-delusion is limitless and, of course, miracles do happen.

It would take one to save this couple. Just to escape with their lives will be miraculous, unless steps have already been taken to ensure the safety of Mrs. Assad, the British-born daughter of a London-based Syrian cardiologist. Bashar's chances of salvaging the family business, a bloody dictatorship he inherited from his father, Hafez al-Assad, are slim to none.

Fighting has now spread to the city if Idlib in the northwest, where the Syrian army's tanks and artillery are poised to repeat the massacres of the city of Homs. Having the stomach to massacre his own people is necessary for a dictator's survival -- look what happened to Egypt's Hosni Mubarak -- but it's not sufficient. Look what happened to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. For survival, tyrants need the spirit of the times and supportive friends. But the Arab world has turned its back on the Assad regime, along with the alphabet powers, the U.S., the UN and the EU.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


Far more Christian than Muslim migrants worldwide, Pew study says (Tom Heneghan MARCH 8, 2012, Reuters)

Christians far outnumber Muslims as migrants around the world, including in the European Union where debates about immigration usually focus on new Muslim arrivals, according to a new study issued on Thursday.

Of the world's 214 million people who have moved from their home country to live in another, about 106 million (49 percent) are Christians while around 60 million (27 percent) are Muslims, the study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said. [...]

"Many experts think that, on the whole, economic opportunities - better jobs and higher wages - have been the single biggest driver of international migration," it said.

"At the same time, religion remains a factor in some people's decisions to leave their countries of birth and their choices of where to go."
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Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Conservative Models (John O'Sullivan, March 14, 2012, National Review)

Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, offers a very different approach -- but one that makes good sense in the Canadian context: He underpromises and overdelivers.

Conservatism was seen until recently as a doomed philosophy in a Canada permanently governed by a large and ideologically sprawling Liberal party with brief intervals of power granted to a "Progressive Conservative" party that, as its name suggests, was like a schizophrenic confined in a state asylum.

Harper has been described (by an admirer) as "Canada's Nixon" -- a cerebral politician who quietly calculates the steps necessary to gain his objectives and then, having also calculated the opposition to them, methodically sets about achieving them.

The objective of replacing both the Liberals and the "Red Tories" as governing parties by a genuinely conservative party was surely too ambitious even for a Nixon. There must have been many disappointments, second thoughts, and adaptations along the way. Still, that is what has actually happened, and Harper was a leading player at every stage of the game.

He first set about undermining the Tories by helping to found a rival conservative party, Reform; then he amalgamated Reform with rump Tories to form the Conservative Party of Canada; next he led the CPC into minority government on a "softly, softly" program of moderate reform; finally, last year, he gained a clear majority and made the CPC the natural party of government in an election in which the Liberals fell into third place.

This is an impressive record by any measure. Still, conservative Canada-watchers such as Mark Steyn, David Frum, and indeed me have sometimes suggested that Harper's gradualist conservatism in government was so gradual that it was unlikely to shift Canada rightwards -- to a smaller state or a more self-reliant society or a more patriotic national self-image -- to any real extent.

After six years, social conservatives do feel let down -- though not very far down, since they had modest expectations of a political leader who has avoided issues such as abortion and embraced conventional views on immigration. For other conservatives, however, that judgment looks questionable in ways large and small.

Building on the earlier budget-tightening of Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, Harper has cut the size of government to one of the smallest in the advanced world. Canada's tax burden is now similarly low, at about 31 percent of GDP. And its budget deficit, though somewhat higher as a result of the 2007-11 world recession, is on course to disappear by 2013. Overall, Canada's economy is one of the freest, according to the Heritage Foundation's index.

The other side of Tony Abbott (PAUL KELLY, 10/01/12, The Australian)

There are three truths about Abbott. First, he has a conservative set of values that he champions yet his policy outlook is highly flexible and pragmatic (witness his famous changes of mind on multiculturalism, hospitals, carbon pricing and paid parental leave, among others).

Because Abbott is seen to stand for enduring values he gets away with multiple policy switches with impunity.

Second, unlike leaders of the past generation Abbott is not defined by economics and does not wear free-market economics as his badge. This is a sharp break from Paul Keating, John Hewson, Costello and even Howard. If Abbott wins, it will become a departure point for Australia. Abbott told me back in 2003: "I have never been as excited about economics as some of my colleagues." An understatement.

Throughout his life, Abbott's social philosophy has been paramount. He is a libertarian in neither personal nor economic terms. Abbott has never hidden this truth, declaring that while many Liberals stress the "individual" and "choice" his message is always "individuals as part of the social fabric".

For Abbott, it is society, family and community that count. Individualism must always be seen within society. This is the powerful legacy of his Catholicism. It has been apparent at each stage of his life, trainee priest, journalist, community volunteer and MP.

It is what makes Abbott a different Liberal leader and what makes the Abbott Liberal Party different. Such philosophy is likely to be popular with the public but hardly encouraging to free-market reform.

Third, Abbott is a community based politician rather than an inside-the-beltway policy wonk. He is bright enough and arrogant enough to think he doesn't necessarily need to genuflect before the latest policy advice or conventional wisdom (think carbon pricing or mining tax).

Abbott is a natural populist and has materialised into something Labor never imagined - a potent threat to its voting base.

The only basis for seeing Abbott as a radical lies in the fusion of his populism and social values. The feminists preaching his infamy are clueless, with Abbott easily batting away their attacks: "Am I worried about the extent of abortions and family breakdown today? Yes, I am worried. Do I intend in office to legislate against abortion and family breakdown? No, I don't." With this formula he projects his values yet claims immunity from imposing them.

Where Labor was convinced Abbott would narrow the Coalition's appeal, the opposite has happened with Abbott widening its appeal, a point verified by applying this test in terms of regions, class and values.

The Coalition is strong in the resource states of Queensland and Western Australia, much of NSW, manages to hold its own in the southern states.

Analysis by class shows Abbott is stealing the working-class vote through his persona and ability to re-mobilise the so-called Howard battlers. On values, Abbott embodies the large-scale transfer of the Catholic vote from Labor to Liberal. This is symbolised not just by his Democratic Labor Party origins but by the December 2009 Liberal leadership contest involving Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey, each of them Catholic, a situation inconceivable in the Menzian Liberal Party and testimony to the widening of the conservative net.

For all our enchantment with our own exceptionalism, what's most notable about politics across the Anglosphere is how similar we all are.
Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Mitt Romney may win some, lose some, but moral victories in Deep South keep him on top (THOMAS M. DEFRANK, 3/14/12, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

It's not often that a politician enjoys the luxury of winning even when he loses. Mitt Romney finds himself Wednesday morning in that rare and enviable position. That's because Romney exceeded expectations in both Alabama and Mississippi.

Yes, it's certainly true Jabba the Hutt would win those states in the fall as the Republican nominee. But Romney showed surprising strength in a region totally alien to his persona.

Let's face it -- a guy who desperately needs a tutorial on Southern cuisine (it's not kosher to call them "cheesy grits") shouldn't be competitive in Dixie, but he was. That bodes well for Romney.

Moreover, he padded his above-the-pack delegate totals, buttressing the belief of his advisers -- and leading party professionals -- that it's all but impossible to catch him.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM


Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs (GREG SMITH, 3/14/12, NY Times)
I truly believe that this decline in the firm's moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm's "axes," which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) "Hunt Elephants." In English: get your clients -- some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren't -- to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It's purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client's success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.