WC Varones

Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools

Reform Social Security now!

Pat Toomey on the Social Security black hole:
I’m going to save you the trouble of reading all 218 pages of the Social Security Administration’s “2007 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees” by summing up the dizzying details in six words: Social Security is still going broke.

...

The benefits of personal accounts over the current system can be illustrated with a numerical example. Let’s take a hypothetical 25-year-old male earning $32,000 a year with average wage growth. Under the current system, he will receive $2,780 per month when he retires, or a measly -0.72 percent return on his contributions (according to the handy calculations of the Heritage Foundation). Now imagine that our hypothetical worker invests the retirement portion of his payroll taxes in a bundle of stocks and bonds, earning a modest 4.9 percent return. When he retires at the ripe age of 67, he will have an account with his name on it worth $1.1 million, or $9,546 per month, ready to be spent on that cabin in the mountains he always wanted.

So the debate over Social Security comes down to one simple question: Would you rather have $2,780 a month in your retirement or $9,546 a month?

The funding crisis highlighted by the 2007 report presents us with an opportunity to fix our broken retirement system. But patching up Social Security with an old rag and a hastily sterilized needle will have us back in the same situation ten years down the line, and the worse for wear. Fixing Social Security means not only funding it, but creating the best retirement system possible given our limited resources.

Of course, the Democrats will oppose personal accounts, and will no doubt resort to the same kind of demagoguery they used in 2005 to sink any attempt at reviving the proposal. If Republicans are serious about achieving real, market-based Social Security reform, they will have to effectively communicate to the American people that the only real solution is personal accounts, while the boogeymen are the politicians who don’t trust the people enough to make their own decisions.

Impeach at the Beach pics

Another beautiful Global Warming day at the beach in San Francisco.




Sporting the Gitmo orange with pride.




What would Gandhi do?










V arrives.




Or is that V?




Bush and Cheney make an appearance.







Full of holes. Get it?







The photographer's helicopter.




Filling in the peace sign in the O.




Groovy tunes by a band apparently called Saoza.


UPDATE: Aerial pictures here and video here.

Critical Mass

It's the last Friday of the month in San Francisco... see you at Critical Mass!

Hell freezes over

I never thought I'd have anything nice to say about Barney Frank, but this is refreshing:
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank on Wednesday said he will introduce a bill this week to lift a ban on online gambling.

"Why anyone thinks it is any of my business why some adult wants to gamble is absolutely beyond me," Frank told a community bankers group conference.

Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he will introduce the legislation on Thursday.

Internet gambling in the United States was effectively banned last October when President George W. Bush signed legislation outlawing gaming financial transactions.

While Reuters tries to blame the ban on President Bush, it was really the work of the disastrously incompetent Senator Bill Frist, who sneaked the ban into a port security bill.

I said at the time that Frist was driving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of poker enthusiasts away from the Republican Party. The typical online poker player is male, independent, intelligent, educated, and decidedly not socialist -- in short, a huge block of swing voters who ought to lean Republican. Frist rejected these people in favor of campaign donations from gambling interests. Barney Frank is picking up Frist's fumble.

Free money

Don't say ol' W.C. never did nothing for you.

Suze (despite the ditzy spelling, it rhymes with "floozy," not with "cooze") Orman is a cheesy huckster who lied about her bio, but she's teamed up with TD Ameritrade to give you free money.

The plan goes like this: open an account, deposit $50 every month for 12 months, and then TD Ameritrade will give you $100.

Click here to sign up. Use 701 as the promotion code.

Let's set her up with Alec Baldwin

Soccer mom, angry at daughter's poor play, throws her out of the car on the side of the freeway.

Back to the Beach

Another Beach Impeach this Saturday. See you there!

Viva Las Vegas

Las Vegas. The name conjures up the image of miles and miles of vacant spec houses for sale. At least that's what you see if you go for a drive off the strip.

LV housing slump worsens
Prices plummet as existing-home inventory hurts new-home sales


The price of new homes has tumbled nearly 10 percent this year, the inventory of existing homes has reached an all-time high and bank repossessions accounted for a greater percentage of existing home sales in Las Vegas, according to the March housing statistics.

The ongoing weakness in the housing industry was reflected in numbers released Tuesday by Larry Murphy of SalesTraq. The housing research firm reported the median price of new homes sold in March was $308,471, down nearly 10 percent from $341,990 in December.


Against my advice, Old Zeke recently put in an offer $30K below asking price on a Vegas home. The sellers and realtors jerked around with him for a while, so he walked away. The sellers ended up coming back, begging to sell at Zeke's offer price. No deal. A couple months later, that house is still on the market... at a reduced price.

John Doolittle, betrayer of the Reagan Revolution

I've been opposed to Rep. John Doolittle (RINO- Calif.) since learning last year that he has a sleazy arrangement where he pays his wife a percentage of all of his campaign contributions.

Today, OpinionJournal chronicles Doolittle's fall, most recently culminating in Abramoff-related FBI raids.

As a libertarian/conservative, I don't feel any kinship with or responsibility for Doolittle (who got a 46% rating from the Club for Growth, worse than many Democrats).

But the Doolittle saga is a warning to Republicans: you've still got rats in your own house. Clean your own house before going after the Democrats.

Bonds 5, Bus 0

Steroid-fueled cheater Barry Bonds hit his fifth home run of the season on his way to making a complete mockery of baseball's career home run record. He still has not been hit by a bus.

Economics degree in five minutes

All you need to know:



Thanks to Housing Panic.

No subprime bailout!

Some common sense from the San Francisco Chronic:

Dumb: Buying a house you can't afford with no down payment and a loan whose monthly payments will explode in a few years.

Dumber: Lending money to people who can't afford a traditional mortgage, especially when they have lousy credit ratings and don't substantiate their income.

Dumbest: Bailing out dumb and dumber, especially with taxpayer money.

How to revive your fading celebrity

Like this.

Ask and ye shall receive

Bush: Be sure to question odd behavior.

OK. What's up with not firing Alberto Gonzales? Why do you pronounce "nuclear" like a friggin' retard? What was the deal with nominating Harriet Miers and Heckuva Job Brownie?

Father of the Year

Alec Baldwin:
An enraged Alec Baldwin unleashed a volcanic tirade of threats and insults on his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, calling her a "thoughtless little pig," and bashing her mother Kim Basinger...

After Ireland failed to answer her father's scheduled morning phone call from New York on April 11, Alec went berserk on her voice mail, saying "Once again, I have made an ass of myself trying to get to a phone," adding, "you have insulted me for the last time."

Switching his train of thought, Baldwin then exercised his incredible parenting skills and took a shot at his ex-wife, declaring, "I don't give a damn that you're 12-years-old or 11-years-old, or a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the ass who doesn't care about what you do." The irate Baldwin went on to say, "You've made me feel like s**t" and threatened to "straighten your ass out."

"This crap you pull on me with this goddamn phone situation that you would never dream of doing to your mother," screamed Baldwin, "and you do it to me constantly over and over again."

Before hanging up, Baldwin warned the child, "You better be ready Friday the 20th to meet with me."
Here's the audio.

From the "Let's Not Jump to Conclusions" department

The Prince of Papers, Now a Frog

As a college student ten years ago, I fell in love with the Wall Street Journal. A black-and-white broadsheet sans frivolity, it was the keeper of reporting and editorial standards that put all others to shame. Alas, times have changed.

On a flight out of New Mexico on Friday, I had a chance to read my colorful, downsized copy front to back—and learn afresh what degradation has befallen this paper.

In the lead article, we get the inside scoop on the fall of Don Imus. “The reaction moved at warp speed as the Internet circulated his racist words to millions of PC screens,” the authors tell us. And regarding the press conference featuring the Rutgers basketball players: “Without a hint of professional polish, their remarks came across as heartfelt.”

Racist? Heartfelt? Is the front page still for news, or did the trio of female reporters (dunder-headed ho’s, as Imus might put it) somehow hijack it for their editorial purposes? Tell you what: you folks stick to the facts, and let us decide what’s racist and what’s heartfelt.

Later in the article, we learn what “a American Express spokeswoman says.” Well what did the copy-editor say? Was it the same guy who edited the story on the departure of Monster’s CEO? (“Mr. Pastore’s couldn’t be reached for comment.”) Or the Naomi Schaefer Riley column on the Taste page? (“The problem is not their own dependency but their willingness to let other depend on them.”) And for good measure, on the banner atop the front page: “Record Home? A $125 Million Listing in L.A. W1.” The story is actually on W8.

I once adored you, you mangled beast.

I love it when a plan comes together

How you liking that gold and gold miners we've been buying?

Gun control at work

Just last year:

A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly.

House Bill 1572 didn't get through the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety. It died Monday in the subcommittee stage, the first of several hurdles bills must overcome before becoming laws.

The bill was proposed by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, on behalf of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Gilbert was unavailable Monday and spokesman Gary Frink would not comment on the bill's defeat other than to say the issue was dead for this General Assembly session.

Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."


Or maybe not. I'm sure those students being methodically executed in locked classrooms felt better that self-defense wasn't allowed on campus.

Linked from AIR.

Frisco nights

Off to see Willie Nelson at the Fillmore. Scalp a ticket if you can.

Feed my Frankenstein

Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.

When the kids turn out to be flesh-eating zombies or Children of the Corn or Damien or something, don't say I didn't warn you.

Good night Kurt Vonnegut

Good night to a long-troubled libertarian at heart. May Kurt Vonnegut rest in peace.

Super pig?

I don't know how to react to this story...either this guy is the law-and-order pig of all pigs, or just an honest guy who shouldn't be a pig at all. Thoughts?

Ye olde English humour

This from Wikipedia:
A 1924 entry in Evelyn Waugh's diary states that an English High Court judge presiding in a sodomy case sought advice on sentencing from Lord Birkenhead. "Could you tell me," he asked, "what do you think one ought to give a man who allows himself to be buggered?" Birkenhead replied without hesitation, "Oh, 30 shillings or £2; whatever you happen to have on you."

Your War on Drugs

Hey, it gives fat, lazy, and stupid cops something easy to do: harass kids for growing tomatoes.

Economy still cranking

From today's WSJ:

The unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage point to 4.4% last month, matching its lowest level since May 2001. Average hourly earnings increased six cents, or 0.3%, to $17.22. That was up 4% from a year earlier, suggesting wages remain an inflation risk.

March's payroll gain exceeded Wall Street expectations of a 142,000 rise. Economists had expected a 4.6% unemployment rate and 0.3% rise in wages.

The jobs data should ease fears that a recent soft patch in data will turn into a more severe economic downturn. Gross domestic product grew 2.5% during the fourth quarter, and recent data including weak housing and business investment suggest growth could be below 2% in the first quarter.

However, with the jobless rate at six-year lows and wages on the rise, consumers should remain well supported in coming months. Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of GDP, so even modest growth there can offset sizable drags in other sectors.


The article is mostly right, except that consumer spending will be hit soon by the end of the housing ATM. The low unemployment and high wage inflation makes a near-term rate cut very unlikely, meaning more pain for housing speculators and cash-out consumers.

This is an amazing unemployment picture, though, thanks both to the Bush tax cuts and the easy Fed. Too bad the Democrats will be crushing the economy (and tax revenues) by letting the Bush tax cuts expire.

We're Number 1 !!!!

I was looking for an update to the University of California corruption scandal, so I googled "university of california scandal".

Imagine my surprise when little ol' W.C. Varones came up #1 on Google search!

Things you would have foreseen if you weren't the dumbest economist on Earth

U.S. Economy: Services Expansion Unexpectedly Slows:
U.S. service industries grew at the slowest pace in almost four years in March, leaving the economy more exposed to slumps in manufacturing and housing.

The Institute for Supply Management's index of non- manufacturing businesses including banks, builders and retailers slid to 52.4, lower than economists anticipated.
Services? You mean the group that includes realtors, mortgage brokers, and homebuilders? Why would anyone think they would be hurting?

Shocker

Someone named "Bambi Francisco" may not be a serious journalist with impeccable ethical standards.

Will wonders never cease

Vapid socialite Arianna Huffington has a coherent thought:

The Other War: Democratic Candidates are Deafeningly Silent on the Drug War.

Disney: Fairies welcome to Fairy Tale Weddings

It's about time.

Disney opens Fairy Tale Weddings to gay couples.

A man after my own heart

I probably wouldn't be this guy's patient, but I'd be his friend.

Fun with telemarketers

I ripped this off from the 1980s comedy, "The Dream Team," but it's still fun:

[Pick up call from unknown number]
Zeke: "Pronto?"
Telemarketer: "Hello, may I please speak with Zeke?"
Z: "No hablo ingles."
T: "Ah...puedo hablar con Zeke?"
Z: "Sorry, I don't speak Spanish either."
[Hang up.]

Canada Needs a Punch in the Nuts

...for banning this ad, a funny promo for the Toronto Blue Jays, featuring Frank Thomas. Seems the Nanooks of the North don't like the overtones of child abuse.

Aging gazillionaire tries to keep the rebel image alive

Keith Richards claims to have snorted his father's ashes.

More for the rest of us

Jewish? Sorry to hear it.
Marijuana is not kosher for Passover, a pro-cannabis advocacy group says, advising Jews who observe the week-long holiday’s special dietary laws to take a break from smoking the weed.

I don't think Christians have to give it up during Lent, do they?

From AlarmingNews.

Your Party of the People at work

California's petty tyrant legislators don't like the term limits imposed on them by a majority of voters in 1990. They already have gerrymandered districts making it impossible to lose re-election, so the only thing standing between them and an unaccountable, lifetime office is term limits. So they've deceptively put a watering-down of the limits on the next ballot.

Can't fool the people? Career politicians have a back-up plan: get the California Supreme Court to throw out the people's will.

The sleazy peerage-for-lifers behind this plan, Ron Calderon and Fabian Nunez, can be reached at (916) 651-4030 and (916) 319-2046. Publicly or privately, the other Democrats in the legislature support this as well, so feel free to look up a few more of them and give them an earful.

San Francisco in spring

It's the beginning of tourist season in San Francisco.

I've shot three so far.

Bill Gross on the housing bubble

In this month's commentary, Bill Gross hits the nail on the head and gets what Ken Fisher missed:
It will not be loan losses that threaten future economic growth, however, but the tightening of credit conditions that are in part a result of those losses. To a certain extent this reluctance to extend credit is a typical response to end-of-cycle exuberance run amok. And if one had to measure this cycle’s exuberance on a scale of 1-10, double-digits would be the overwhelming vote. Anyone could get a loan because shabby credits were ultimately being camouflaged within CDOs that in turn were being sold to unsophisticated foreign lenders in need of yield as opposed to ¼% bank deposits (read Japan/Yen carry trade). But there is something else in play now that resembles in part the Carter Administration’s Depository Institutions and Monetary Control Act of 1980. Lender fears of potential new regulations can do nothing but begin to restrict additional lending at the margin, as will headlines heralding alleged predatory lending practices in recent years. After doubling over 18 months between 2005 and the first half of 2006, non-traditional loan growth has recently turned negative, and lenders’ attitudes are turning decidedly conservative as shown in Chart 1.


Bulls and bears argue over websites as to the percentage of all lending that subprime and alternative mortgage loans provide but while important, the argument obscures the critical conclusion that tighter lending standards and increased regulation will change the housing outlook for some years to come. As past marginal buyers are forced to sell their home to prevent foreclosures, so too will future marginal buyers be restricted from buying them.
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