Back to Germany & Sick

There’s nothing worse than being sick except for being sick and in another country…

Coming home week before last and mid-Atlantic, I felt a little ill. Thought it was just some turbulence and change in air pressure. Nope – that was the beginning of a full-fledged sinus infection. I spent last week pumped full of antibiotics and sleeping whenever possible. Of course, a little bit of work in there with expense reports and preparing for this trip took up the rest of the time. Thus, no posting.

Felt much better just in time to fly back to Germany. Of course, I probably wasn’t 100%, but then I felt better than before. Setup for a relapse… Nuts…

Fortunately, Germany is on holiday tomorrow, and no one will be in the office on Friday. So maybe I’ll have a chance to comment on the latest saga with Obama’s quest for the Presidency and read what everyone else has written. But you know, I really wanted to visit Paris this weekend…

Debate Fallout?

As has been well publicized, Senators HRC and Obama debated (again) on ABC last Wednesday. Surprisingly, the moderators asked some tough questions. The next day, Senator Obama criticized the moderators for spending the first part of the debate asking personal questions instead of questions dealing with issues facing Americans. What Senator Obama should realize is this simple reason for these questions needing to be asked is this:

The character of the candidate is an issue that is of interest to Americans. After all, the character of the candidate aspiring to the Presidency is important. Would you, the American voter, want a person of poor character leading this country?

Senator Obama fails to realize that character does matter, and that Americans are looking at who he associates with, what he says, and what he does. Associations with people give glimpses into the person’s character, and the people that Senator Obama has around him has not given a stellar endorsement of his choice of friends & associates. Some of the comments that he (and his wife) have made during speeches has not endeared him to his targeted audience. Last, actions and comments over items such not wearing the American flag nor placing his hand over his heart during the playing of the National Anthem calls into question his sincerity of his patriotism.

All of the above, while seemingly trivial, are important in delving into the character of a person that is wanting to lead this country. Answering these types of questions without a script or preparation shows what a person is really made of. Is he or is he not a person that has what it takes to lead the greatest nation currently on the face of the Earth?

We already know what to expect of Senator HRC, and know the depths of her character by her actions the last time she was in the White House. Now it is time that Senator Obama spends some time under some bright lights and reveal his true character.

The Democrat’s Dilemma

The Democrats are in trouble. Obama says something that HRC jumps all over. Obama defends his position then attacks HRC for something she said. HRC defends and starts the whole circle of political attacking & defending all over again. And the media gleefully reports every misstep & gaffe.

And in their quest of trying to secure their Party’s nomination, they are hurting their Party’s chances for winning the Presidency.

What is happening is that every turn of the circle, each candidate tears the other down for not being in touch with the average American, not having enough experience, being on the wrong side of the issues, not having a defined position, not being patriotic, having the wrong people as supporters, etc., etc., etc. More is being revealed about why these candidates should not be elected to the highest office in the land.

And this is being reflected in the delegate and super-delegate counts. For all intensive purposes, this is a statistical dead-heat. Neither candidate is apparently able to secure an overwhelming lead nor a majority of delegates. Now each side is trying to court delegates and super-delegates, which according to the rules of the Democratic Party, is permitted. Delegates elected by the primaries and caucuses are not obligated to vote for the candidate they were selected for. So far, there hasn’t been a massive defection of delegates or super-delegates to either candidate.

And this brings up another problem for the Democratic Party. Should neither candidate secure the required number of delegates, then it is up to the Chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean, to select the Party’s candidate. That’s right – one person. It will be his decision and his decision alone to determine the most electable candidate for his Party. And guess what – again, according to the rules of the Democratic Party, he does not have to select either of the front-runners! He can select anyone!

Talk about not being represented by your vote!

So here’s the situation as I see it as well as some of the political pundits: Each group is massive and almost fanatical in their support of their respective candidate. If Dean selects Obama, then the risk is that the HRC supporters will either not vote or defect to the Republican Party. If Dean selects HRC, the risk is that Obama supporters will do the same. The problem is that if either support group defects or stays home, then the Democrats will not have enough votes to win the White House. And if Dean selects a third candidate (like past Democratic candidate Al Gore), then there is the real possibility of mass defection and overall revolt.

Will it come down to Dean making this selection? I think that is going to be the case despite the following:

There is a report here in Europe that Al Gore and ex-President Jimmy Carter are going to ask HRC to step aside. To which I say fat chance – there is no way that HRC and that fund-raising machine is going to quietly step aside unless there is some massive incentive for her to do so (and I can’t think of anything for HRC to give up a shot at moving back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).

Nor do I think that Obama will step aside. He’s rolling along just fine, and he has stars in his eyes to be the first African-American to be elected President.

So the drama continues, and the mud continues to be slung. And in the meantime, the Republicans are taking notes and trying to solidify their base.

Good – I don’t like either Democratic candidate for President or dog-catcher…

The EU and Global Warming

Ran across an article titled “A Foolish Overreaction to Climate Change” in the Financial Times (a European publication) in which Lord Nigel Lawson discusses the economic impact (or suicide) of the EU in embracing Global Warming at all costs. The article is below:

Over the past five years I have become increasingly concerned at the scaremongering of the climate alarmists, which has led the governments of Europe to commit themselves to a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, regardless of the economic cost of doing so. The subject is such a complex one, involving science, economics and politics in almost equal measure, that to do it justice I have written a book, albeit a short one, thoroughly referenced and sourced. But the bare bones are clear.

First, given the so-called greenhouse effect, the marked and largely man-made increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere has no doubt contributed to the modest 20th century warming of the planet. But what remains a matter of unresolved dispute among climate scientists is how great a contribution it has made, compared with the natural factors affecting the earth’s climate.

The majority view among climate scientists, as set out in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is that “most” of the slight (0.5ºC) warming in the last quarter of the 20th century was “very likely” caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions. On that basis, and relying on computer models, its “best guess” of the likely rise in mean global temperature over the next 100 years is between 1.8ºC and 4ºC.

These projections were made, incidentally, before the recent acknowledgement that so far this century there has been no further global warming at all – in spite of a continuing rapid rise in carbon emissions.

Be that as it may, the IPCC goes on to estimate what the impact of the projected warming would be. It does so on the explicit basis of two assumptions. The first is that, while the developed world can adapt to warming, the developing world lacks the capacity to do so. The second is that, even in the developed world, adaptive capacity is constrained by the limits of existing technology – that is to say, there will be no further technological development over the next 100 years.

The first, distinctly patronizing, assumption is almost certainly false. But even it were true it would mean only that, should the need arise, overseas aid programmes would be tailored to ensure that the developing world did acquire the necessary adaptive capacity. The second is self-evidently absurd, not least in the case of food production, given the ongoing developments in bio-engineering and genetic modification.

It is, however, on this flawed basis that the IPCC reckons that, if the rise in global temperature over the next 100 years is as much as 4ºC, it would be likely to cost anything between 1 per cent and 5 per cent of global gross domestic product, albeit much more than this in the developing world and less in the developed world.

Even if that were so, what would it mean? Suppose the loss to the developing world were as much as 10 per cent of GDP, then – given the IPCC’s economic growth assumptions, on which its emissions assumptions, and hence its warming assumptions, are based– it would imply that, by 2100 or thereabouts, people in the developing world, instead of being some 9.5 times as well off as they are today, would be “only” some 8.5 times as well off – which would still leave them better off than people in the developed world today. This, then, is the scale of the alleged threat to the planet – based, to repeat, on the IPCC’s grossly inflated estimate of the likely damage from further warming, arising from its absurdly gloomy view of mankind’s ability to adapt.

Indeed, given that warming produces benefits as well as costs, it is far from clear that for the people of the world as a whole, the currently projected warming, even if it occurs, would cause any net harm at all. By contrast, slowing down world economic growth, by shifting to much more expensive non-carbon sources of energy, would be massively costly, as Dieter Helm, Britain’s foremost energy economist, has recently spelt out.

That is one good reason why the sought-after global agreement to cut back drastically on carbon dioxide emissions, embracing China, India and the other major developing countries, is not going to happen. But two very real dangers remain.

The first is that the European Union, which already has the bit between its teeth on this issue, will severely damage its own economy by deciding to set an example to the world. And the second is that it will seek to limit that damage, as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and others are already urging, by imposing trade barriers against those countries that are not prepared to accept mandatory cuts in their emissions.

A lurch into protectionism, and the rolling back of globalization, would do far more damage to the world economy in general and to the developing countries in particular than could conceivably result from the projected resumption of global warming.

It is high time this folly ended.

Lord Lawson was the UK’s chancellor of the exchequer, 1983-89. His book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, will be published by George Duckworth on Thursday

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Lord Lawson brings up many points that many others (besides me) have that defy common sense. Among them:

  • If Global Warming is so important, then why should developing countries be given a free pass not to cut back or develop other less or non-polluting means of industrialization?
  • To embrace Global Warming without facts and only assumptions is a recipe for economic disaster.
  • Global Warming may not be happening as the “experts” are predicting.

The proponents of Global Warming are looking to impose their “reality” upon the rest of the world. In doing so, they are in the position of causing great economic harm to the world’s economy. Considering the latest blow to the American economy (which is rippling across the world as well), this is not what is needed.

While I agree that more environmentally friendly sources of energy should be developed, I disagree that Global Warming should be the sole reason for doing so. Such sources should be developed because it would be economically feasible to do so, not because the sky is falling.

Is there a real need for developing this technology? Yes, I believe there is. The dependence of the world on the Middle East for the majority of its energy needs is almost reason enough for developing energy efficient technology and the development of alternate forms of energy. While there are many different opinions on what is the right technology to pursue, no one seems to dispute this need.

Lord Lawson said it best in regards to the blind worship at the alter of Global Warming It is high time this folly ended.

The Mortgage Crisis

I will state up front that I’m not a financial whiz, nor an expert in the area of economics. However, it just seems that a lot of the problems with the current mortgage crisis is self-inflicted.

Much has been made of people not being able to make their house payments. The causes that I hear about the most is 1) loss of job; 2) mortgage payments rising due to an adjustable rate; and 3) unscrupulous lending practices.

The first cause there isn’t a whole lot that the borrower can do except keep trying to find a job. Unemployment benefits only last so long, and unless the borrower has a decent savings account, foreclosure can come fairly quickly.

Losing a job that feeds the family and puts a roof over one’s head is devastating, especially if losing the job is not the borrower’s fault. Trying their best in finding another job under these economic conditions is stressful, especially in Michigan. Jobs are not easy to find, especially ones that will pay that mortgage.

The second cause is the borrower knew that their rate could adjust upward. To sit and scream that their once low rate skyrocketed is simply stupid – didn’t they know that this could happen? And on top of this is that some of these borrowers bought too much house, and with the current economy, cannot pay for nor sell.

The last cause is one that I believe broke the camel’s back. Lenders that were looking for a fast buck made loans that the borrower could not afford in the long run, were a high risk, or omitted facts about the loan itself. From what I understand, most of these loans were made with an adjustable rate that started out very low – lower than a fixed rate mortgage – and then increased dramatically after the lock-in rate expired (usually after two or three years).

There is a story that I saw on CNN about an elderly lady who refinanced her house because she needed money to take care of her 32-year old retarded daughter. The lender’s representative did not report her income correctly on the forms, overstating the amount on at least one form. The mortgage rate was adjustable. It sounded as though the loan was a second mortgage. The amount that this lady paid per month (and was told to pay per month) did not include property taxes, and worse yet, she is on a fixed income. Bottom line is that her real payment (with taxes) is more than what she was paying before taking out the loan. She is suing for relief from the mortgage company stating fraud and improper procedures in an effort to keep the house that she has lived in for over 22 years. Of course, she is using a publicly funded attorney to plead her case…

While this lady has a case, it makes me wonder if she knew what she was signing. If you are signing your name to a bunch of documents, shouldn’t you look them over to make sure that the information that they contain (including your personal information) is correct? And if you don’t, do you have a legal recourse to negate your own legally binding signature that states or implies that you know what you are signing?

In today’s legal and social world, the short answer is yes. The concept of personal responsibility for one’s own actions is fading fast. More and more we are told that if we screw up, someone (usually the government) will make everything better. Congressional hearings and passages of resolutions targeted toward “mortgage relief” is another step down that path of the nanny-state care system. But who really pays for this relief? That answer is you, the hard-working taxpayer. And this is where I have my heartburn.

Now before someone calls me a cold-hearted bastard, I do believe that some help is needed for those hard-working people that are caught between a rock and a hard place. But I do not believe that the tax-payer (other hard-working people) should pay for that relief.

Companies that make these bad loans due to questionable practices should provide the relief. Company officers that rubber stamped the loans and received millions of dollars in bonuses while their companies tanked should be held accountable, give up those bonuses, and help clean up the mess they helped create. They had the authority and responsibility not only to the company they ran, but to the borrower they sold the mortgage to.

But I cannot neglect the nagging thought that the real responsibility of the mortgage crisis is the consumer, the person that took out the loan to begin with. Yes, everyone should shop around for the best loan at the lowest cost. A loan with an adjustable rate will have that rate increase – that is to be expected. It will not stay at that low, low rate. But to expect a bailout when everything hits the fan because of one’s own stupidity is, well, stupid.

And now because of a perfect economic storm, people are losing their jobs, losing their houses, losing their savings, and things are not going to get any better anytime soon. And more and more people are looking to government for the solution. And that’s crazy.

In some respects, government is partly to blame for this situation. No, this is not a Republican or Democrat problem, it is a government problem. Policies enacted from both parties concerning trade, business, and tax structures have accumulated over the years to cause the current economic situation that now faces both the American business and the American people. Furthermore, it has encouraged the notion that “Uncle Sam” will be there in case something bad happens. All one has to do is look at the stranded victims of Hurricane Katrina to know that government is not going to help everyone in times of crisis (at least in a timely fashion).

It is time for the average American to wise up and realize that their success is not dependant on government, but it is dependant on themselves. That means taking responsibility for themselves and their actions which includes making wise decisions. That is a foreign concept to some people, and that is a shame.