Friday, July 3, 2015

That Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

Ain't no use to looking' down. Ain't no discharge on the ground.

Star gazers this week we're thrilled with the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, the brightest lights in the heavens following only the Sun and Moon. Because the planets orbit the Sun, they appear from the Earth to move in the heavens. Thus, the five visible planets plus the Sun and Moon, which total seven, marks a totality, and a lucky number. Also, the number of days in a week.

Since the planets move on the orbital plane of the Solar System and at different speeds, they appear periodically to align in the evening sky, sometimes to usher in a new age such as the Age of Aquarius. Nowadays, with social media, these alignments, or "conjunctions," are occasions to share images from amateur to professional quality through social media. In the accompanying photo, taken by an enthusiast in the Philippines, Venus is the bright light, and Jupiter, much more feint but still visible, is just atop it.

At this website, we'll share the explanation of this Venus-Jupiter conjunction, as presented by Phil DeCastro, a meteorologist with Fox 11. Hopefully, the explanation doesn't spoil the magic of it.

Milton Friedman Rebuts the Pope's Economist

The latest wunderkind of the socialist left is Naomi Klein, author of Shock Capitalism and Capitalism versus the Climate. She is a secular Jew and, like other secularist and atheist left-wing intellectuals, part of Pope Francis' team of advisors on economics and climate change.

"Northern Europeans:" We're #1 through #16


As the Southeast Conference is to football, northern Europeans are to prosperity.

Northern European nations - the English, Germanic and Scandinavian countries of Europe, and former colonies with large percentages of their population from northern Europe - rank #1 to #16 in the latest edition of the Legatum Prosperity Index. The index considers eight broad measures of prosperity, including the economy, safety and health, personal freedom and something called "social capital."

In order: #1 Norway, #2 Switzerland, #3 New Zealand, #4 Denmark, #5 Canada, #6 Sweden, #7 Australia, #8 Finland, #9 Netherlands, #10 United States, #11 Iceland, #12 Ireland, #13 United Kingdom, #14 Germany, #15 Austria and #16 Luxembourg.  

In the next tier of countries are several jurisdictions from east Asia, specifically Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. We would also like to recognize the United Arab Emirates, the highest ranking country in Middle East - Northern Africa; Uruguay and Chile, the highest ranking countries in Latin America; and, Botswana, the highest ranking country in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Anatomy of a Greek Tragedy


The media reports panic buying, shortages, black markets and rationing of basic food stuffs and fuel in Greece on the eve of their referendum on the latest bailout proposal. Banks limit ATM withdrawals to €50 per withdrawal. Pensioners are paid only €120 per month (versus an average monthly benefit of something like 600€). Since the start of the financial crisis, 2 percent of the population of Greece has emigrated; more than half to Germany and UK, including many young professionals. 

In the just released U.S. monthly labor report, 5.3 percent of the labor force was unemployed. In Greece, the most recent figure is 25.6 percent. Among young adults, the figures are 12.2 percent in the U.S., 49.7 percent in Greece.

Greece has been offered €120 billion in the latest bailout proposal from the IMF and the creditor nations of Europe, in return for measures designed to reduce the budget deficit and possibly one day to resume payments on its what remains of its foreign debt after several write-downs. No! says the radical left-wing Syriza Party. No more austerity! You must lend us more money that we won't ever pay back, or else! 

Let us take a look at how Greece has wound up in such seriously bad shape. "Convergence criteria" for the Eurozone includes a budget deficit of no more than 2 percent of GDP, although a temporary suspension was allowed to deal with the Crisis of 2008. As you can see, Greece never met the criteria. Furthermore, it's annual deficit since the crisis has been averaging double digits.

Now, let's look at the United States. As you can see, following the Panic of 2008, we were on the road to perdition ourselves.  Annual deficits jumped to the double digits. But, following that, they have been coming down. Not that it has been easy. For all their short-comings, the Republicans in Congress have had a positive effect in the face of an Administration desirous of increased spending. Today, with continued fiscal restraint, we have the prospect of bringing the budget into balance. With reform of our tax code and welfare system, overhauling Obamacare, easing up on business regulations, and unleashing America's enormous natural resources, we could have a big booming economy. But that will require a change in the White House.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Monthly Labor Summary: enjoy your malaise sandwich


The unemployment rate fell again, to 5.3 percent, continuing its downward trend of the past several years. And, similar to the trend of the past several years, the unemployment rate fell mostly because people dropped out of the labor force. As Samuel Goldwyn might put it, the unemployment rate has been falling because people are staying away in droves.

223,000 jobs were, in net, created last month; but, 519,000 of them were part-time jobs. Meaning almost 300,000 full-time jobs were lost. But, that's o.k., because with Obamacare subsidies, food stamps, Pell Grants, housing vouchers and the EITC, who wants to work full-time anyway?

And, while jobs were up, the number of people employed went down. This was because self-employment shrank by 407,000. This too is o.k., because as Democrats keep reminding us, businessmen don't build that.

Regarding those unfortunate enough to be working, hours worked and wages adjusted for inflation remained flat.

Libertarian multi-millionaire businessman/economist Jim Rogers: Greece should just go ahead and go bankrupt, start over

From Eric Dondero: 

Jim Rogers, worldwide traveler, author, investment adviser is a longtime friend and benefactor of Congressman Ron Paul. He comes from the Austrian school of economics.

Green Freak: Cats


First, it was circus elephants. Now, race horses. What’s next? Cats?

Among the early great advances of mankind were the control of fire, the fashioning of clothing, and the domestication of animals. With these advances, humans were able to spread across almost the entire globe, including very inhospitable places, and to dominate everywhere. Mixed-species hunting teams, consisting of dogs and men, were able to track and kill almost any game. And, back at the village of the humans, where were the women and children, cats suppressed the vermin. But, exclaim the Greenies, what about those cats!

In a recent study, three co-authors estimate the annual kill by cats in the United States, of birds and mammals. Up to 4 billion birds and 22 billion mammals. The greatest “anthropogenic threat” to wildlife in the country (“anthropogenic” because we humans introduced them to the continent). Something has to be done about this carnage, they say.

In a competitive environment, all species live at the edge. Populations with natural predators, wind up with enough predators to keep their numbers in check. The number of predators, in turn, is checked by the supply of their prey. Without human control of the environment, almost all animals are constantly engaged in the search for food while avoiding being killed and eaten.

But, to take seriously the eco freak-out at the slaughter of wildlife by cats, consider that female mice bear 5 to 10 litters per year, each having 5 or 6 young. For convenience, we’ll say 6 litters of 6 young, 3 of which are female and 3 of which are male. If the cats weren’t killing so many mice, and if starvation for lack of food weren’t a problem, then, in one year, we’d have up to 16 quintillion mice, and the entire land surface of the country would be covered four deep in mice.

Ted Cruz auditions for Simpsons (pssst …. don't quit your day job)