San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wearing My First Tuxedo

I had never worn a tuxedo prior to a week ago.  I don't take any particular pride in that fact, one way or the other.  When I got married I married a very sensible Welsh woman who did not believe in spending money we didn't have.  Since at the time we got married we barely had two nickels to rub together we agreed to have a small wedding party and to wear the nicest clothing we already owned to our wedding.  Everything went just fine and we are still married to boot.
About a month ago a businessman that I work for offered me a strange proposition.  I have been cleaning this company's offices for several years now and this generous man has given me many things over the years but nothing quite like what he offered that day.  He offered to give me and my wife an all expenses paid evening at a debutante ball.  Not even knowing what a debutante was I had to tell him I would think about it and get back to him.  I rushed home and asked my wife what a debutante was and why I might want to attend a ball with them.  She got a good laugh out of that.
As we explored the offer we discovered that the event was called Le Bal de Ballet and it is "an elegant and enchanted evening, and the signature fundraiser of Denver Ballet Guild.  In order to support Denver Ballet Guild’s dance outreach programs, Le Bal de Ballet was introduced in 1969.  The program presented young ladies from Denver area families to Denver society.  Then in 1988, young men were added and introduced as Young Men of Distinction.  Still carrying on this great tradition, young men and women are honored in their senior year of high school for their achievements in leadership, academics, community service, sports and participation in the arts."  As it turned out the man's son was a high school senior and a "Man of Distinction."  He had purchased a table in support of the Colorado Ballet and his son.  He was asking for our help to fill out the table.  We gladly obliged.
The plan was to go to the reception for the debutantes and their escorts followed by a dinner and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.  Since this was a black tie affair the men were required to wear tuxedos.  My benefactor generously paid for my tuxedo rental, which cost more than the suit I was married in,  as I picked up my tuxedo package and prepared for the evening.  My wife looked stunning, she always does, in her glamorous evening gown, also paid for by our benefactor.  I am told I cleaned up pretty well myself after I figured out how to install the studs on the shirt and the cufflinks on the shirt cuffs.  Fortunately the bow tie was a clip on and I was spared the indignity of spending hours searching the internet for directions on how to tie a bow tie.  The shoes were the shiniest things I have ever seen in my life.  I expected them to be terribly uncomfortable to wear but they fit well and didn't hurt my tender Welsh feet one lick.  We hopped into our 2004 Toyota Corolla and headed downtown to the Sheraton ballroom for the evening.
I had planned on using valet parking since it was raining lightly and my wife was not up for a mile or so walk in high heels from the usual parking lot I use when I go downtown.  It is far enough away from downtown to be cheap and also far enough away to count as my aerobic exercise for the day.  Much to my surprise I discovered that the valet parking was closed.  I dropped off my wife at the entrance and circled around downtown for about an hour looking for cheap parking.  I later learned that the valet was closed because the debutantes were being shuttled from the building that houses the ballet to the ballroom in horse drawn carriages.  They were using up the valet space.  Good for them, I thought.
We gathered at the ballroom and, after sipping cocktails with the other participants and generally milling about like rich people are frequently portrayed doing in the movies, we were granted access to the dining and dance hall.  After we were seated the Bels de Ballet arrived, each escorted by their fathers.  After that the Men of Distinction were introduced, each escorted by their mothers.  After all of the debs and men had been introduced they gathered on the dance floor and the band struck up a waltz.  Apparently all debutantes and their parents know how to waltz.  It was really quite amazing sitting there watching a hundred or so people moving in perfect harmony with the music.  It reminded me of many other scenes in the movies where everyone is moving in perfect harmony.  The fathers looked very proud of their daughters and I could see how such an event could be quite memorable for those who engaged in it.  Unfortunately that was the last pleasant moment of the evening.
After the waltz everyone took their seats and it was time to eat.  While waiting for the waiter to serve our table I noticed two Men of Distinction sitting at a table across from me.  They were both handsome young men and they were holding hands under the table.  I am sure they were trying to be clandestine about it but it was more than I wanted to see.  Why did they have to ruin the evening, especially while acting as escorts to the Belles, by expressing their homosexuality in a public fashion?  I turned away and faced the wall instead.
As the evening wore on things got a bit rowdier.  The older folks filed out the back of the ballroom while the younger folks began to dance a bit more frenetically.  My wife and I did not dance.  The band did not play a single Welsh tune and I did not have the resources to bribe the band leader so we sat and chatted, while drinking some very good wine and eating some very tasty deserts, while the dancing continued.  It was then we noticed a disturbing pattern of behavior.  Many of the Belles were going from table to table, where the patrons had already left for the evening, and were gathering up unfinished wine bottles and drinking them to the dregs.  By the end of the evening many of the debutantes were noticeably intoxicated.  Many of them had to be helped from the ballroom and into the elevator where they could go up to their room and sleep it off overnight.  It was all terribly depressing.  What had started as a glamorous evening had degenerated into a drunken homosexual orgy.  As we drove home we made a mental note to politely decline the offer if it was even granted to us again. The whole thing was just too painful and sad to watch.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

PERA Is An Example Of Political Keynesianism

Yesterday I posted to this blog about how career politicians are all Keynesians.  It makes perfect sense from their perspective.  Allowing for the true idea of an independent free market that is responsible for all of the economic goods that are produced in this country leaves them feeling mighty impotent.  In order to buy votes and curry the worship of the sheeple living in this land they adopt and propagate the Keynesian idea that government is the source of all economic growth.  Only one day has passed since I wrote that post and I already have a perfect example of what I was describing.  Let me tell you about it.
PERA is the Public Employees Retirement Association.  I suspect most states have a PERA that is responsible for the future retirement benefits of state government employees.  PERA in Colorado is an extremely generous retirement pension that far outstrips the promised future benefits from Social Security.  State government employees do not participate in federal Social Security so they count upon PERA as their Social Security substitute.
I have known several people over the years who dedicated their lives to working for Colorado state government in one form or another.  Mostly they were career government school teachers.  They have told me about their expected PERA benefits and I have always been amazed at how much money they are about to receive when they retire, especially when I compare it to my expected returns from federal Social Security.  As a result of the huge payouts they have been promised, state taxes rarely are sufficient to fund the future promise to pay those benefits.
According to the Denver Post, "PERA is funded at about 64% and is facing a $26 billion funding gap -- about the same as Gov. John Hickenlooper's proposed budget for the entire state.  A measure that would allow the state to issue risky pension-obligation bonds would have taken funding levels closer to 70 percent or 80 percent, PERA says.  That measure died on the Senate floor in May."  So there you have it.  State government employees are being promised the moon but they are only being currently funded at about two thirds of what is needed to deliver on those promises.  Who do you think is going to eventually cough up the cash to cover those shortfalls when they come due?  Right!  The taxpayers.  There is no conceivable way that PERA beneficiaries would agree to take a reduced benefit so the state of Colorado will have to pass a tax increase to pay the future pensions of state government employees.  To top it all off, I am yet to meet a state government employee who did not whine incessantly about being overworked and underpaid.  Government employees do not live in the real world.
In order to deflect the criticism that is coming their way for grossly overpaying retirement benefits to state employees, PERA representatives have concocted a hair-brained Keynesian economic theory about the benefits they are paying and will pay future retirees.  The Denver Post reported that, "Colorado's Public Employees' Retirement Association released a study Monday saying that the $3.5 billion in annual PERA retirement distributions impact the state economy to the tune of a whopping $5.2 billion.  This is due to the 'multiplier effect' -- the spending of retirees' dollars in their local economy, according to the study....Boulder based Pacey Economics was commissioned by PERA to do the study....The report estimates for every dollar paid to retirees, about $1.70 is put back into the economy.  And, it says, 29,350 jobs are sustained statewide due to the more than 90,000 retirees who spend more than $3.5 billion paid annually in PERA distributions."
Did you catch the Keynesianism in the above report?  It is just another version of the ridiculous doctrine which declares we can spend ourselves to prosperity.  If the report is true then it necessarily follows that wealth is created by consumer spending.  And if some consumer spending creates some wealth, then more consumer spending creates even more wealth.  Since PERA beneficiaries are taking the huge sums of money that are being taken from the taxpayers and given to them, they are allegedly creating as much wealth as a gigantic profit seeking corporation might.  One PERA representative actually stated that retirees spending their PERA money is the equivalent of a new business coming to town.
I think any rational and sane person who does not work for the government or draw a government retirement check can see that if $3.5 billion in PERA benefits creates $5.2 billion in economic growth, why do we stop at a measly $3.5 billion?  Let's double the amount being paid to the retired government employees and thereby double the economic growth.  Indeed, why should we stop at a mere doubling?  Let's tax 85% of the money earned by Colorado citizens and give it to PERA retirees.  The resulting economic growth will be mind boggling.  We will all be wealthy beyond our wildest dreams.  All we have to do is give all of our money to the government and then let them distribute it to their favorite people.  The "multiplier effect" will then come into play and we will all soon be billionaires.  Who knew that managing the economy for everyone's benefit could be so easy?

I Just Found Out I Am Transracial!

Have you been following the story about the very white woman who has been pretending to be black for so long she was able to rise to the position of Chapter Director of the NAACP in Spokane?  She was outed by her parents who described her as "Caucasian by birth, with Czech, Swedish, German and a trace of Native American ancestry."  Her name is Rachel Dolezal and she is my newest hero, or heroine, or human being I admire, or whatever it is you call people you respect in these non-sexist days.
Rachel apparently spends a lot of time in tanning booths in order to get her skin as dark as possible.  She was born blond but she colored (I am not using that term in a racial fashion so relax) her hair and then frizzed it (once again, I am not a racist).  Here is her picture:

the internet this morning is the bizarre story of Rachel Dolezal ...

I was watching the nightly news last night when a report came on about her stepping down as Chapter Director.  She issued a statement and granted an interview in which she said that she has always identified with black people.  As proof of her condition she offered up the story that as a little girl she would pick the black Crayon over the pink one.  She claims to have raised two black children but somebody probably ought to check that story out.  But the most significant part of the interview was when she had to defend herself in light of a fairly serious legal charge.  Let me tell  you about it.
In 2002 Rachel filed a lawsuit against Brown university for discriminating against her because she is white.  Here is what the Washington Post reported about the incident, "Dolezal’s lawsuit against Howard, a historically black university, alleged that the university denied her a teaching assistant job, further employment and a scholarship because she was white. The lawsuit also claimed that Professor Alfred Smith, chair of the Art Department, specifically kept Dolezal from serving as a teaching assistant one semester and removed some of her artwork from a student exhibition because of racial prejudice."  She ended up losing the lawsuit and was forced to pay several thousand dollars in legal fees. Maybe that is when it occurred to her that if you can't beat them you might as well join them.  The next thing we know Rachel is black.
This is what Rachel looked like before she turned black:

 

Rachel has declared that she so identifies with black people that she actually is one of them.  During the interview mentioned above she finally came out and admitted what I believe we all had already figured out....she is transracial!  Hallelujah!  We have another category of transpeople to worship every time they decide to come out to us.  Rachel will no doubt be the first of a long list of Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes who will now be emboldened to come out and declare their transracialness.  No longer will white basketball players have to hide the fact that they can jump.  They can now proudly declare their blackness.  No longer will black golfers have to pretend to be black.  They can proudly declare that they are white and that their ancestors belonged to the country club while Jefferson still owned slaves.  What a brave new world we are about to enter.
You may wonder why I describe Rachel as my hero.  I guess it is time to admit it.  Sometimes, very rarely actually, but on occasion, when the mood strikes me and I can benefit financially from it, I become a Scot.  My features are close enough to those of the Scots that I can pass for one if I need to.  I can eat haggis with the best of them and Scotch whiskey saturated with peat is easy for me to sip.  Up until now I thought I was just being disingenuous and exploiting a situation for my own financial gain.  Now I realize that I have a serious condition that the world must accommodate.  I am transracial and proud of it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why All Career Politicians Are Keynesians

There are three generally recognized schools of economic thought in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika:  the Keynesians, the Monetarists and the Austrians.  As far as I am concerned the Monetarists, for reasons I will not describe today, are just a sub-group of the Keynesians so I lump them both together here.  Austrians, which I consider myself to be a member of, and Keynesians, which every single career politician is by default, have nothing in common.  At each point of economic doctrine the Austrians and the Keynesians see things differently.  Let me give you a couple of the most important points of disagreement.
Keynesians believe that economic growth is the result of consumer spending.  You hear this all the time in the popular media.  Since all government economists and almost all media outlets are committed to Keynesianism, every time a new Gross Domestic Produce number is released we are all told that "consumer spending is 2/3rds of GDP you know."  If various indices of consumer spending are rising the government economists joyfully clap their hands and tell us the economy is growing wonderfully.  On the other hand, if those stupid consumers decide to save their money rather than spending it, career politicians inform us that they need to intervene in the marketplace with "stimulus" to keep things going since we are too dumb to see how important it is to spend all of our money on shiny things.
If Keynesians were right about this point it would be possible for you to increase the net worth of your family by spending more and saving less.  Even the dumbest stupid idiot in the world knows that is not possible.  I guess that makes career politicians dumber than even the dumbest stupid idiot in the world. Austrians know that economic growth ultimate comes from savings and investment.  The economy can grow only when capital is employed and consumers make the conscious decision to delay purchases until the future in favor of investment and savings in the present.  The resources that are invested and saved are made available to entrepreneurs who use them to create new goods and services.  The entire process of creating new goods and services, as well as the end result of that creative process, all contribute to economic growth.
Keynesians believe that the best way to stimulate consumer spending, and thus stimulate economic growth in their system, is to increase the money supply.  Give more money to people and they will spend more.  The more they spend the more the economy grows and the richer we all become.  So in the Keynesian universe the answer to every problem that does not exist is to increase the money supply.  You need look no further than this graph to see that Keyneians dominate all economic positions in government:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fredgraph.jpg?hires=1&type=image/jpeg&chart_type=line&recession_bars=on&log_scales=&bgcolor=%23e1e9f0&graph_bgcolor=%23ffffff&fo=verdana&ts=12&tts=12&txtcolor=%23444444&show_legend=yes&show_axis_titles=yes&drp=0&cosd=1980-11-03&coed=2015-06-01&height=445&stacking=&range=&mode=fred&id=M2&transformation=lin&nd=&ost=-99999&oet=99999&lsv=&lev=&scale=left&line_color=%234572a7&line_style=solid&lw=2&mark_type=none&mw=2&mma=0&fml=a&fgst=lin&fgsnd=2007-12-01&fq=Weekly%2C+Ending+Monday&fam=avg&vintage_date=&revision_date=&width=670

The money supply in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika has grown from less than $2 trillion in 1980 to over $12 trillion today.  That is more than a six-fold increase in the supply of money.  And what do we have to show for it?  Where is all of the economic growth it was expected to create?  Did the economy expand six-fold as we were told it should?

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fredgraph.jpg?hires=1&type=image/jpeg&chart_type=line&recession_bars=on&log_scales=&bgcolor=%23e1e9f0&graph_bgcolor=%23ffffff&fo=verdana&ts=12&tts=12&txtcolor=%23444444&show_legend=yes&show_axis_titles=yes&drp=0&cosd=1980-01-01&coed=2015-01-01&height=445&stacking=&range=Custom&mode=fred&id=GDPC1&transformation=lin&nd=&ost=-99999&oet=99999&lsv=&lev=&scale=left&line_color=%234572a7&line_style=solid&lw=2&mark_type=none&mw=2&mma=0&fml=a&fgst=lin&fgsnd=2007-12-01&fq=Quarterly&fam=avg&vintage_date=&revision_date=&width=670

Real GDP has slightly more than doubled during the time the supply of money expanded six-fold.  If increasing the money supply creates economic growth, why did that technique not work in this case?  The answer is simple.  Increasing the money supply is nothing more than the act of counterfeiting, whether it is done by the federal government or a guy named Guido in a basement somewhere.  Only the dumbest stupid idiot in the world would believe that if the amount of money in the economy were to double overnight everyone would be twice as wealthy.  All that has happened is a decrease in the value of the previously existing money, in this case a decrease of 50% would take place if the total supply was doubled.
These two examples, spending our way to prosperity and creating economic growth via inflation, are enough to prove the amazingly gross stupidity of Keynesianism.  No family unit anywhere in the world believes the things the Keynesians tell the government.  No family unit believes it can become more wealthy by spending.  No family unit believes that counterfeit money makes it better off.  But career politicians are the dumbest, most stupid and idiotic people who have ever walked the face of the earth.  So quite naturally they believe what the Keynesians tell them.
Let me tell you why career politicians believe the Keynesian lies.  Obviously career politicians do not want to appear to be any more stupid than they actually are.   So if they decide to believe something so bizarrely wrongheaded as Keynesian economics there must be a reason for it, and indeed there is.  Career politicians believe Keynesianism because it allows them to act as the economic saviors of the world.  Keynesianism calls for elitist government economic planners to step up and do exactly the right things at exactly the right time to guide our economy to strong economic growth.  Austrian economics recognizes that individual players in the free market are responsible for every economic good that exists in this envy-filled land.  Austrians recognize that politicians can do nothing but hinder economic growth. Politicians hate that fact and will do anything they can to obscure it.  If  the Austrians are correct, and they are, there is literally nothing for politicians to do when it comes to the economy.  Since politicians largely get elected based upon the promises they make to do things in the economy, it would be unlikely for us to expect them to admit that they are economically impotent.  Quite naturally they adopt the lies of Keynesianism in order to further their careers and expand their political power.
What is more interesting to me is why the ignorant citizens of this sad land also believe in the doctrines of Keynesianism.  Once again we do not have to go far to find the answer.  Since the bottom 51% of the population is living off the wealth and income of the politically unprotected top 49%, an economic system needs to be created that will justify that act of theft.  Keynesianism proudly steps up to the plate when envy needs to be institutionalized.  Profit seeking entreprenuers are demonized and propaganda constantly spews forth from the halls of government informing us that we all must pay our fair share.  The fair share, of course, means that the rich minority will pay all of the bills because they do not have enough votes to do anything about it.  By voting for career politicians who promise to make us all rich by means of Keynesian smoke and mirrors it is possible for envy-filled voters to justify the act of theft by believing what the career politicians tell them about economic growth ostensibly being created by government action.  Those who are rich are in that position because they have received the benefits of previous government action, so we are told, and now it is their turn to share a piece of the pie government programs created and pay the tax bills for all future government actions which will make the less fortunate rich beyond their wildest dreams.  It does not work, of course, but utility has never been a means test for government programs.


Monday, June 15, 2015

The Slippery Slope That Is Greece

I check the stock market every day.  Usually I will go to cnbc.com to find out what happened in the stock market by the close of business each day.  At cnbc.com I am always treated to the reason for why the stock market did what it did that day.  One day last week the market was up about .5% and I was told that it was because of Greece.  The next day the stock market was down .5% and I learned that was due to Greece as well.  At the end of the week the stock market ended mostly flat and I was instructed that was a result of Greece.  I tuned into the website this morning to see that the stock market is sharply down, .82% on the S & P 500, and guess what?  Today's opening drop is also attributed to Greece.  Wow, I thought to myself, Greece must really be an economic powerhouse to be able to impact the SDA stock market so dramatically day after day.
A couple of years ago we went through a similar period of time. Maybe you remember it.  The crisis in Greece made daily headlines and the stock market went through wild swings of value on a daily basis.  I remember wondering how such a small country in a far-away place could so dramatically impact the stock markets of the Socialist Democracy of Amerika.  I awakened this morning to this headline, "Dow drops 150 points into the red for the year as Greece weighs..."  Well there you have it.  The SDA stock market is negative this year because of something that is happening in Greece.  Who would have thunk it?
All of this got me to thinking....why is Greece so important to the economy and stock markets of the SDA?  So I did a little checking into the matter and here is what I discovered:
 
  • The total market capitalization of SDA stocks is $18 trillion.  The market capitalization of all stocks in Greece is $45 billion.  That means that the total market capitalization of all Greek stocks equals .25% of the size of the SDA stock market.  It is hard to see how even the utter annihilation of Greece could have more than a tiny impact upon the economy and stock markets of the SDA.
  • A 1% drop in the SDA stock market represents a loss of $180 billion in total equity value.  A 1% drop in SDA stocks is equal to four times the total value of all stocks sold in Greece.  So even if there is a direct correlation between Greek stocks and the SDA, which there is not, then a total destruction of Greece should result in a one time 1% drop in SDA stock values.  
  • Next I thought about the nature of SDA exports and imports.  Maybe Greece controls SDA stock markets because it is such an important trading partner.  The SDA exported $773 million worth of goods to Greece in 2014.  The SDA  imported $1 billion worth of goods from Greece in 2014. In 2014 the SDA imported $1.6 trillion worth of goods from around the world.  Greek imports therefore represented .05% of all SDA imports.  Also in 2014, the SDA exported $2.3 trillion worth of goods worldwide, making Greece a receiver of .04% of all SDA exports.  So much for my theory that Greece is an important trading partner.
  • Maybe Greece is important to SDA stock markets because it is an economic juggernaut.  I went in search of Gross Domestic Product numbers in order to find out.  What I discovered is that the GDP  of the SDA is $18 trillion.  The GDP of Greece is $238 billion, or 1.3% of the SDA GDP.  It is hard to see how a country with an economy roughly the size of 1.3% of the SDA economy could ever have an economic impact upon the SDA.
  • I concluded that the complete annihilation of the Grecian economy would equal 1.3% of the US GDP and 1.3% of the total US stock market capitalization. Clearly Greece is irrelevant when it comes to economic issues.  I have to look elsewhere to find out why events in Greece so dramatically impact SDA stock values.
As I pondered economic reality it suddenly occurred to me that I was looking in the wrong place for answers about how Greece can dominate economic news and cause wild swings in value in SDA stocks.  I realized that the stock market goes up and down on a daily basis primarily because of the activities of the day traders.  Day traders, often using sophisticated computer programs to try and guess the future direction of stock prices, are responsible for determining the direction the stock market will go each day.  And, being what they are, day traders don't give a hoot about economic fundamentals or the real world.  All they care about is their predictions about the sentiments of other day traders for the next hour or so while the stock exchanges are open for business.   When day traders believe that other day traders are going to be selling, they will sell.  Conversely, when day traders believe that other day traders might be buying, they will buy.  They try to be one step in front of each other. 
How do the day traders come to their conclusions about the sentiments of their fellow day traders?  They scan economic and financial news outlets and try to guess what item is going to be the object of obsession that day.  They often get stuck in a rut and the same news ends up determining what they are going to do for weeks.  A month or so ago the day traders were obsessing about bonds.  Every day the stock market would go up or down by a percent or so and the reason given for the daily change was always the same....bonds.  At various times day traders have obsessed on gold, oil, platinum, OPEC, Iraq and political events in Argentina as they seek to read the tea leaves spread out before them and make their trades for the day.
I will let you in on a little secret.  Day traders are idiots.  They understand nothing about economics and most of them end up losing money in the long term.  Despite myriad of technical charts about the stock market they have no idea what is going on in the real world.  They are like a pack of dogs, running around sniffing each others bums in a vain attempt to figure out who might do what next.  Unfortunately for those who do not understand these things, news about what the day traders believe is what makes up 95% of the daily financial news.  That means that 95% of what spews out of the mouths of financial reporters and financial news networks is worthless.  Don't believe what you hear from the pundits.  Don't believe what you hear from the air-headed financial news reporters.  They have no clue what is going on and what they do believe is happening is so far removed from the real world it is laughable.  Let me assure you, beyond any possible doubt, even the complete annihilation of the geo-political area known as Greece would not have any long term impact upon the value of your stock holdings.  So when you hear about how things in Greece are going to drive us all to financial ruin, go out and play a round of golf and work on correcting your slice.  That is a far more valuable way to spend your time.