Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nuclear weapons in Japan? Not now.

One of the most important consequences of the tsunami tragedy in Japan has received no attention. Japan's nuclear hawks, who have dreamed of converting the nation's civilian nuclear and space satellite programs into a military missile capability, have received a crippling setback.

This is significant because, depending on their size, Japanese missiles with nuclear warheads would cancel out the military superiority that China, North Korea and even the United States now have over Japan.

Former prime minister Taro Aso has frequently called for a national debate on whether Japan should have nuclear weapons.

Japan was one of the last countries to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, and finally ratified it six years later only after the United States promised not to interfere with Tokyo's pursuit of independent reprocessing capabilities in its civilian nuclear-power program.

When the U.S. first circulated drafts of the projected treaty in early 1966, Vice Foreign Minister Takeso Shimoda told a news conference that "Japan cannot agree to such a big power-centered approach, implying as it does that the nuclear powers would not be required to reduce their capabilities or stockpile, while the non-nuclear powers would be barred in this treaty from having nuclear weapons."
Lifting limits on nuclear

Shimoda's comments reflected the widespread sentiment in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that Japan should not foreclose its nuclear option, and that it was time for the Japanese public to get over the trauma of Hiroshima.

Japan did finally ratify the treaty in 1976 after protracted negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.S. The IAEA accepted a safeguards agreement that limited its inspection to "strategic points" in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Equally important, the Nixon and Ford administrations gave assurances that the U.S. would not interfere with Japan's acquisition of plutonium and its development of an autonomous fuel cycle. Under the 1968 Japan-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement, the U.S. provided the enriched uranium used in Japanese reactors. Japan had to get case-by-case U.S. approval in order to have the resulting spent fuel reprocessed in Europe and to build its own reprocessing facilities and breeder reactors.

As Japan had feared, once it ratified the treaty, the U.S. promptly reneged on promises not to interfere with the plutonium program. Invoking the 1978 Non-Proliferation Act, the Carter administration pushed Japan to abandon its plans for an autonomous nuclear program and to rely instead solely on U.S.-supplied uranium to operate its reactors.

U.S. constraints

As Japanese Ambassador Ryukichi Imai has recalled, "It was a bitter irony for us that American officials were telling us not to produce plutonium at the very time that the U.S. was optimizing its nuclear weapons."

Japan successfully resisted American pressures during the Carter period. Then President Reagan went even further than Nixon and Ford to accommodate Japanese wishes, agreeing in 1987 to a revised nuclear accord that gave blanket American approval in advance for Japan to reprocess U.S.-origin spent fuel during the ensuing 30 years.

This accord comes up for renewal six years from now, time enough for the United States and Japan to reassess how to make Japan's reactors safer, whether so much dependence on nuclear energy should continue to govern Japanese policy, and whether the U.S. should continue to encourage such heavy dependence given the lessons of the present tragedy.

Facebook, Twitter can't stop poisoned links

Facebook and Twitter appear stymied about how to slow a rising tide of poisoned web links seeping into all popular social networks.

A survey last December found 40% of social network users encountered malicious attacks, a 90% increase from April 2009, according to antivirus firm Sophos.

Meanwhile, a recent experiment by network security firm Dasient underscored just how easy it is for anyone to create a new social network account, then use the fresh account to circulate malicious links all across the service.

Social network denizens exacerbate the problem since most tend to click blindly on items, "The faith users put into social networks is providing an enormous universe of opportunity for nefarious actors," says Anup Ghosh, chief scientist of browser security firm Invincea.

Cybercriminals aim to trick you into clicking on a link that will give them full control of your PC. They can then scam you into purchasing worthless antivirus protection or filling out sketchy online surveys. They can even steal from your online financial accounts.

With 500 million members Facebook is by far the largest social network — and the No.1 target.

TECHNOLOGY LIVE: How cybercrooks spread poisoned Facebook links

"Facebook is a very enticing playground for bad guys," says Carole Theriault, senior consultant at Sophos. "It is no surprise that surveys have shown an increase in malware activity on the site."

Facebook spokesman Frederic Wolens says protecting users has long been a top priority for the company., Facebook filtering systems "have been very effective," he says, "and despite constant attacks, our data show that the vast majority of people on Facebook have never experienced a security issue on the site."

Twitter did not respond to interview requests for this story.

The experiment run by Dasient paint a different picture. Researchers set up new accounts at 11 leading social networks and found that none stopped them from posting links pre-loaded to deliver a type of malicious program that swiftly infects PCs. What's more, nine of the 11 networks tested failed to fully block links listed among Google's compilation of known poisoned websites. "The social networks we tested have some work to do on their malware countermeasures," says Neil Daswani, Dasient's chief technical officer.

In this backdrop, the scale and creativity of attacks continues to escalate, with Facebook and Twitter emerging as the top targets "because their high volume of usage ensures huge amounts of traffic," says Aryeh Goretsky, researcher at antivirus company ESET. The more traffic, the higher the odds of seeding an attack that goes viral, he says.

One recent large scale attack revolved around a Facebook posting purportedly carrying a link to a video of pop singer Miley Cyrus. doing something lewd. Clicking on the link instead led to a series of additional links that connected the victim's PC to premium rate text-messaging service and began spreading the Miley Cyrus posting to the victim's friends.

"Cybercriminals prey on our natural curiosity to view sensational content," says Jamie Tomasello, security director at messaging security firm Cloudmark.

In another caper, the user must complete a simple verification test to view an enticing video, for example, a whale that the Japanese tsunami smashed into a building. One click activates Facebook's "like" button, which results in reposting the original message to other Facebook users.

Antivirus programs cannot stop malicious code spreading in this fashion because the bad programs are operating as part of the Facebook application. Users should always "think before you click," Goretsky says.

Additionally, Facebook and Twitter face an uphill battle blocking poisoned links because criminals can easily determine if their links are being filtered and have proven adept at quickly switching to fresh links, says Gunter Ollmann, research vice president at network security firm Damballa.

"Bypassing Google's Safe Browsing list and similar technologies is trivial," says Ollman. "While public awareness of the threat has been increasing, the capabilities of the attackers has been increasing at an even faster rate."

Of hubris and humility: McCaskill, Dooley mistakes offer lesson in shedding political liability

Two Missouri Democrats got caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar in recent days, one perhaps innocently, one not so much. In their differing responses lies a tale of character.

First, there is the case of St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, who thumbed his nose at voters by hiring the 27-year-old son of his top campaign fundraiser for a $70,000-a-year sham job. Then, when asked about it, he refused to answer any questions and, worse yet, shoved an aide out to take the bullet. The aide, county operations director Garry Earls, compounded the problem by providing weak and contradictory explanations.

Contrast that with Sen. Claire McCaskill, who sent Missouri Republicans into a state of political ecstasy when she announced via a conference call Monday that she and her husband were $287,000 in arrears on personal property taxes on a private plane. Ms. McCaskill already was under fire from Republicans for using taxpayer dollars to pay for flights on the plane, including at least one flight that had a political, not public, purpose.

Unlike Mr. Dooley, Ms. McCaskill came clean. She apologized for using the plane and for not paying the taxes. She said she was sick to her stomach for days. She wrote a big check to repay federal taxpayers and another to repay the county.

It was quite the mea culpa.

Both Democrats deserve the drubbing they’re getting this week in the court of public opinion. But it’s also instructive to compare their responses to controversy.

Mr. Dooley could learn a thing or two from Ms. McCaskill. In many ways, his mistake is much worse than hers, because he’s not only misspending the public’s money, but he also is refusing to account for how the money is being spent. The Post-Dispatch’s Paul Hampel last Friday reported on the many problems with the hiring of Mike Temporiti, a son of Mr. Dooley’s top fundraiser and political adviser, John Temporiti:

• The job wasn’t posted and nobody was interviewed.

• The county is in a hiring and salary raise freeze.

• Mr. Temporiti’s qualifications for the made-up job of “tax abatement compliance officer” are unclear. So, too, is the need for the job.

• And if there is a job to be done, the county’s revenue department already has more than a handful of attorneys on staff who could do it.

Mr. Earls said he’d become acquainted with Mike Temporiti last summer when both were doing volunteer work on Mr. Dooley’s reelection campaign and that the two had discussed the need for someone to monitor various tax abatement programs in the county.

How utterly prescient of them. By sheer coincidence, on Nov. 30, four weeks after Mr. Dooley’s re-election, the Post-Dispatch reported that some large companies, including the St. Louis Cardinals, were not fulfilling the agreements that led to various tax abatements.

“Charlie came to me and he said, ‘How do we do this?’” Mr. Earls said. “And I said. ‘Good point,’ because I had been reading the same article.”

Luckily, Mr. Earls knew just the guy, who just happened the be son of Mr. Dooley’s largest fundraiser. And this guy was willing to leave his job at a law firm and take a $15,000 pay cut to work in the exciting field of tax abatement compliance.

If Mr. Dooley hopes to regain an ounce of credibility with the voting public — and reassure county residents of the integrity of his office — he knows what he has to do: Get rid of this job.

We have no ill will toward Mike Temporiti. He can’t help it if his father, a former state Democratic chairman, has raised millions of dollars getting Mr. Dooley and other Democrats elected. The elder Temporiti is well-known for being willing to throw his weight and connections around.

According to the county charter, Mr. Dooley has the right to appoint some employees outside the merit system. Mr. Temporiti is the 47th such employee, including executive staff, department heads and assistants. But even the department heads go through a confirmation process. To suggest that Mr. Temporiti’s job is important and then not seek the most qualified candidate is bad government.

The biggest disappointment with Mr. Dooley is not so much that he hired the son of a party bigfoot. That’s hardly news in the world of politics. It’s that he chose to obfuscate the reasons and, when caught, didn’t deal straight with the public.

But Ms. McCaskill, the veteran of many rough-and-tumble Missouri political battles, knows a liability when she sees one.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, after dejectedly admitting that she and her husband had failed to pay St. Louis County personal property taxes on their private plane, Missouri’s senior senator was asked about the potential political fallout.

“This is not good,” Ms. McCaskill said.

No, it is not. Not paying taxes on the plane takes the story into the stratosphere. The toughest thing for the Missouri Republican Party to do now will be to remake the banners for the 2012 race they already had been printing.

“AirClaire” is so last week.

The story started as a trickle on March 9, when the national political website Politico broke the news that Ms. McCaskill had been paying a company that she and her husband own for various flights. In fact, the practice might have saved taxpayers some money, but, because it looked bad, Ms. McCaskill reimbursed the federal treasury $88,000.

A few days later it developed that at least one flight had a political purpose, as compared to a public one — bad news for a politician who has made government ethics a signature issue.

But owing back taxes? That one’s hard to spin.

Ms. McCaskill didn’t even try. She has the ability, rare among politicians, to admit a mistake and to do so in plain, unequivocal language.

“There are people I could blame for this, but I know better,” Ms. McCaskill told reporters. “I take full responsibility.”

Ms. McCaskill went so far as to tell reporters that in a difficult conversation with her husband, she persuaded him to “sell the damn plane.”

Mr. Dooley should take note, but his arrogance in this affair doesn’t suggest that he will. But the good news for taxpayers is this: At least with Ms. McCaskill’s $287,000, Mr. Dooley can pay Mike Temporiti’s salary and benefits for about three years.

Here’s an idea: In his spare moments, of which there will be many, Mr. Temporiti could go to the airport, count corporate jets and check them against tax rolls.

Sales of new homes plunge to record low

WASHINGTON — Sales of new homes plunged in February to the fewest in records dating back nearly half a century, a dismal sign for an already-weak housing market.

The Commerce Department says new-home sales fell 16.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 250,000 homes. It's the third straight monthly decline and far below the 700,000-a-year pace that economists view as healthy.
Story: New homes become a bad deal in weak markets

The median price of a new home dropped nearly 14 percent to $202,100, the lowest since December 2003. New home prices are now 30 percent higher than of those being resold.

Builders have struggled to compete with a wave of foreclosures that has lowered the price of previously occupied homes. High unemployment, tight credit and uncertainty over prices have also kept many potential buyers from making purchases.

In Ishinomaki, news comes old-fashioned way: Via paper

Wally: I wonder what will happen when they shut down shortwave, and AM radio? :)

ISHINOMAKI, Japan — Nobody tweeted or blogged or e-mailed. They didn’t telephone either. Bereft of electricity, gasoline and gas, this tsunami-traumatized town did things the really old-fashioned way — with pen and paper.

Unable to operate its 20th-century printing press — never mind its computers, Web site or 3G mobile phones — the town’s only newspaper, the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun, wrote its articles by hand with black felt-tip pens on big sheets of white paper.

But unlike modern media, the method worked.

“People who suffer a tragedy like this need food, water and, also, information,” said Hiroyuki Takeuchi, chief reporter at the Hibi Shimbun, an afternoon daily. “People used to get their news from television and the Internet. But when there is no light and no electricity, the only thing they have is our newspaper.”

While recent political ferment across the Arab world has trumpeted the power of new media, the misery in Japan, one of the world’s most wired nations, has rolled back the clock. For a few days at least, the printed and handwritten word were in the ascendant.

After writing and editing articles, Takeuchi and others on staff copied their work onto sheets by hand for distribution to emergency relief centers housing survivors of Japan’s worst-ever earthquake and deadly tsunami that followed.

“They were desperate for information,” said Takeuchi, who has slept in the office for the 10 days since the tsunami flooded the ground floor of his house.

With electricity now restored to about a third of the northeast town’s 160,000 residents, Takeuchi’s newspaper has put away its pens and started printing. Internet access is still not available. Monday’s printed front page cheered a “miraculous rescue drama” — the story of an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson plucked from their ruined Ishinomaki home Sunday.

Down the coast in Sendai, a once-thriving city of more than 1 million, the digital juggernaut has also come to a halt. “In conditions like these, nothing has power like paper,” said Masahiko Ichiriki, president and owner of Kahoku Shimpo, the city’s main newspaper. With most shops shut, people can’t buy batteries to power radios.

The collapse of the region’s electrical system has shut down Sendai’s computers and television sets, but Ichiriki’s Sendai newspaper has published throughout. It even put out a single-page flash edition on the evening of the tsunami.

Information-starved residents, said the proprietor, “depend on our newspaper for a lifeline.” It not only provides news about a catastrophe but also mundane, vital information: which shops have food, which roads have been cleared of rubble, which banks have cash and which branches of a popular liquor store have reopened.

In Ishinomaki, which is smaller than Sendai and suffered more damage, the Hibi Shimbun didn’t publish for two days after the tsunami. One of its six reporters was swept away in his car while returning from an assignment. He survived and, after several days in a hospital, is back at work.

Takeuchi, the chief reporter, was in the office when the earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m. on March 11. He had just finished work on that day’s edition, which featured a front-page article about Ishinomaki’s “hidden charms” and officials’ promises to improve hospital and other facilities.

The quake shook the newspaper’s two-story building so hard that fluorescent lights fell from the ceiling and filing cabinets skidded across the floor.

The first handwritten edition, prepared March 13, featured a pledge to “try and get information as accurate as possible.” It reported on the arrival of rescue teams from across Japan and on the extent of the ruin. Houses and businesses along Ishinomaki’s waterfront were destroyed. More than 30,000 people took refuge in shelters. “We now know the full extent of the damage,” read a headline.

The next day, the paper wrote the names and ages of 34 area residents whose bodies had been identified. It also reported on a robbery in a supermarket, a sign of the town’s desperation.

But the paper has tried to lift rather than dampen people’s battered spirits, Takeuchi said. “We look for things related to hope. This is our philosophy,” he said. The paper stopped publishing the names of the dead because “the number just kept growing.” More than 1,300 corpses have been identified.

All of these efforts have helped fill that void left by the absence of electronic media.

“Living with no electricity or water and not much food is hard enough,” said Yutaka Iwasawa, 25, of Ishinomaki.“But the worst thing was that there was no information.”

He said he missed e-mail and surfing the Web.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

John Galt’s Lonesome Libertarian Lament

I am the very model of a modern major industrialist
You people call me selfish, but I prefer ‘objectivist”
The looters and the moochers, they try to take what is mine
To share my genius with others, I’m afraid I must decline

I’m very well acquainted, too, with things that should be taxable
But I will not pay my fair share and on this I am intractable
Push me just a bit too far and I’ll head to Gulch of Galt
Your world will start to fall apart and it will be your fault

Your world will start to fall apart and it will be your fault
He’s packing up his bags and he’s going to Gulch of Galt
You people are annoying and it’s harshing his gestalt

I’m very good at integral and differential calculus
Sometimes I get my numbers wrong, I think I’ll blame it on gastri-atis
You people don’t deserve me, I will not share my brain
So I’m leaving Moocherville on my private choo-choo train

He’s leaving Moocherville on his private choo-choo train
He does not like the likes of you, on his parade you will not rain
He’s not a social butterfly, on this he must abstain

It’s not that people don’t love me, I don’t want to be a brag-ag-art
I’ve got a bitchin’ girlfriend and her name is Dagny Tag-ag-art
We have a lot of rough sex, that girl she loves to bone
But when it comes to orgasms, she has to reach hers on her own

My philosophy is workable, they call me Libertarian
I actually have no talent so I write for Reason Hit & Run
Were I to leave for Galt Gulch, I’m not sure that I’d be missed
So in the meantime I’m a mouth piece for a wealthy industrialist

In the meantime he’s a mouth piece for a wealthy industrialist
It’s really not his first choice but he is a realist
Thank God he has a good idea whose ass he is has to kiss

I am the very model of a modern major industrialist
You people call me selfish, but I prefer ‘objectivist”
The looters and the moochers, they try to take what’s mine
To share my genius with others, I’m afraid I must decline

What has the Internet Done for the Economy?

The puzzling spread of the commercial Internet could explain wage inequalities

(Wally: when only the big winners can survive, and crush all the little guys. The internet lets the big guys in, and kills you like Wal-Mart killed local retailers))

Gun Safety

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. • A southern Missouri sheriff and several weapons experts are examining the safety of classes required to obtain a concealed weapons permit after the accidental shooting death of a man during the class.

Glenn Seymour, 63, accidentally shot himself in the chest earlier this month in Douglas County while trying an advanced firing technique with a weapon he wasn't familiar with using.

"I think we're looking at an issue of the course of fire he was teaching," Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase told the Springfield News-Leader. "Is it consistent with where these folks were in their training? ... In a concealed carry class, you're dealing with a lot of people who have little to no training."

The Springfield News-Leader reported that Seymour was right-handed, but was practicing drawing a semiautomatic 9 mm handgun with his left hand, taking the safety off and shooting.

Paul Richard Williams, who was teaching the class, called Seymour's death a "tragic accident."

The skill Seymour was learning when he died is not required to get a concealed weapons permit in Missouri. The state calls for instructors to cover such topics as basic marksmanship and safe storage of firearms at home during the eight-hour class.

County sheriffs oversee concealed carry training in Missouri, approving lesson plans and individuals instructors.

Degase stressed that while Seymour's death was accidental, he is reviewing whether Williams should continue teaching such courses. Degase said a previous sheriff approved Williams as an instructor.

Peggy Siler, the co-owner of Ozark Shooters Sports Complex in Walnut Shade, said she had never heard of the technique Williams was teaching being used in a class to get a concealed weapons permit.

Dan Smith, a firearms instructor in the St. Louis area, said the skill Seymour was learning when he died is only found at "very, very advanced levels of training.

"That's not what the Missouri conceal carry class is about," Smith said.

The Big Idea: The internet as a distraction machine

New York Times writer David Carr was walking down a street in Austin, Texas, with his wife when he saw actor Rainn Wilson pop up wearing a superhero costume.

His first instinct: I have to tweet about this.

“I didn’t engage with her about it. It was like how quickly can I get away and tweet this,” he said at a panel discussion on online distraction at South by Southwest Interactive on Monday. “I didn’t want to discuss it with her - I just wanted to tweet it out.”

Carr’s panel discussion, called “I’m so productive I never get anything done,” essentially turned into a self-help group for the plugged-in bloggers, live tweeters, life streamers and mobile developers at this quirky technology conference here.

There was no consensus on whether or the not the internet is making our lives worse, but there was a general sense in the overflowing room that people who use the internet constantly need to unplug once in a while – out of respect for each other if nothing else.

“When people are out and they’re amongst other people they need to just put everything down,” said Anthony De Rosa, who works for Reuters and runs a popular blog called SoupSoup on Tumblr. “It’s fine when you’re at home or at work when you’re distracted by things, but we need to give that respect to each other back.”

Carr wondered aloud whether SXSW has turned into a conference of people who are in close proximity but who never speak because they’re too busy tapping on their phones.

We’re “alone together,” he said.

Molly McAleer, an internet personality who goes by “molls” and who spends 18 hours a day in front of a computer, said she actually gets annoyed with people who try to talk to her while she’s starting into the screen of her smartphone.

“I’m like, ‘Why are you trying to have a conversation with me when I’m reading?’”

Several panel attendees stepped up to the microphone to reveal similarly self-aware and sort-of embarrassing details about their oversaturated digital lives.

One woman said she can’t stop checking her smartphone while her she’s watching her kids at the playground. She asked the panel for advice.

“I’m horrible about that,” Carr said.

“I do that to my dog,” said McAleer.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, offered a sort of antidote to the overall woe-is-the-Web theme of the discussion.

The internet is only distracting if you give into it, he said.

“I’m not being anti-tech or anything like that but I don’t have too much trouble cutting it off - not when I think about it,” he said.

States kick grandma to the curb

For mental health, bad job worse than no job

With unemployment still high, job seekers who have been discouraged by a lack of work might be inclined to take the first opportunity they're offered. That will help pay the bills, but it could cause other problems: A new study suggests that some jobs are so demoralizing they're actually worse for mental health than not working at all.

The findings add a new wrinkle to the large body of research showing that being out of work is associated with a greater risk of mental health problems. In the study, which followed more than 7,000 Australians over a seven-year period, unemployed people generally reported feeling calmer, happier, less depressed, and less anxious after finding work, but only if their new jobs were rewarding and manageable. 10 careers with high rates of depression

"Moving from unemployment to a poor-quality job offered no mental health benefit, and in fact was more detrimental to mental health than remaining unemployed," says the lead author of the study, Peter Butterworth, Ph.D., a senior research fellow at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University, in Canberra.

The study was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Butterworth and his colleagues analyzed data from an annual survey in which participants described their mental state, their employment status, and -- or those with a job -- details of the working conditions that they enjoyed (or didn't enjoy, as the case may be). The survey respondents were asked how strongly they agreed with statements such as "My job is complex and difficult" and "I worry about the future of my job." 8 types of work-related stress

The researchers focused on four job characteristics that are closely linked with mental health: the complexity and demands of the work, job security, compensation, and job control (i.e., the freedom to decide how best to do the job, rather than being ordered around).

Unemployed people who found a job that rated well in these areas reported a substantial improvement in their mental health. By contrast, newly employed people who felt overwhelmed, insecure about their employment, underpaid, and micromanaged reported a sharp decline in their mental health, including increased symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even those who couldn't find a job fared better.

This last finding was "striking," Butterworth says. "This runs counter to a common belief that any job offers psychological benefits for individuals over the demoralizing effects of unemployment." Depression in the workplace: don't ask, don't tell?

Although certain types of jobs -- such as working in a customer-service call center -- are more likely to be downers, the working environment tends to have a greater impact on mental health than the job description itself, Butterworth adds.

Managers are especially important to employee well-being, says Robert Hogan, Ph.D., an expert on personality in the workplace and a former chair of the department of psychology at the University of Tulsa. "Bad bosses will make anybody unhappy," Hogan says. "Stress comes from bad managers."

Policy-makers should address the impact that the workplace has on mental -- and not just physical -- health, Butterworth says. "In the same way that we no longer accept workplaces that are physically unsafe or in which employees are exposed to dangerous or toxic substances, there could be a greater focus on ensuring a more positive psychosocial environment at work.",,20428990,00.html

Sunday, March 6, 2011

No Control For Further Housing price drops

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- That big sucking sound you heard last week? That was the air being taken out of the housing market by a slew of bad reports followed by some dire predictions by an industry bubble-spotter.

On Tuesday, we found out that home prices were near their post-bust lows. Two days later the government reported that January saw a double-digit dip in the number of new homes sold.

Then Robert Shiller, the Yale economist and co-founder of the S&P/Case-Shiller home price indexes, dropped this bomb: "There's a substantial risk of home prices falling another 15%, 20% or 25%," he said.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Heinlein, Rand, And Gambling

With all the screaming about public and private, am I my brother's keeper, et al, the followers of extreme libertarian/anarchist philosophies have something in common.

They are gamblers who want to believe that they can never lose. Bad luck always happens to someone else. They are better and smarter than everyone else, so they deserve to win. And, keep all winnings. Losers deserve whatever happens to them.

Right up to the point where their own luck runs out. Then, if they lose, they've been violated by an unfair system, and deserve to have the losses they are responsible for socialized (make everybody else pay).

They, in short, are sociopaths. Self-centered, greedy gamblers.

They deserve no sympathy, or place in public decision-making.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Appetite Returns, Coughing Remains

My appetite is improving. The persistent cough is still bad enough to keep me rounded off from work for today. Feeling a bit stronger, as well. Endurance still down.

Scruffy still wants long walks. I'm still lucky to make the end of the driveway. Rats.

Going for more water. The bronchia are still irritated.