Thales of Miletus, Olive Oil, Tulip Mania of 1636 and the Chicago Board Options Exchange

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 30th, 2013

History 101

Thales of Miletus was able to Predict a Bumper Crop of Olives

Italian restaurants will have a bottle of olive oil on the table.  The more authentic restaurants.  That give you a taste of old Italy.  Where they give you bread to munch on while you wait for your food.  We pour a little olive oil on a plate.  And dip our bread in it.  And enjoy that Mediterranean flavor.  Something that some of us may believe the Olive Garden brought to the dining experience.  But olive oil actually predates the Olive Garden.  We probably started eating olives for the first time around the 8th millennium BC.  When our Neolithic ancestors were still using stone tools.  Someplace in ancient Greece.

Olive trees grew all around the Mediterranean Sea.  And the Mediterranean people probably started using olive oil around the 4th millennium BC.   That’s 4000 BC.  Awhile ago.  We began to produce olive oil commercially somewhere around 2500 BC.  And began trading this luxury good.  We ate it.  Used it in religious rituals.  In medicines.  And fuel for oil lamps.  Among other uses.  As demand grew we planted more trees.  And brought in large harvests at the end of the growing season.  And took the olives to the olive presses.  And waited for our turn.  To pay the pressman to press our olives into oil.  And during a good growing season you could find yourself waiting quite awhile.

But who has time to wait?  If only we could figure out some way to avoid that long line.  Well, as it turned out, if you were smart you could.  As Thales of Miletus did.  A Greek astronomer, philosopher and mathematician.  As well as a pretty good weather forecaster.  For he was able to predict a bumper crop of olives one year because of favorable weather.  Which would make those olive presses busy at the harvest.  So he went to the olive press owners and reserved time on their presses for a nominal down payment.  So when the harvest came in he would be at the front of the line.  If he was wrong about his forecast he would give up his nominal deposit.  And walk away.  As the press owners didn’t care whose olives they were pressing they were glad to take his money for this right to buy press time later.  They had nothing to lose.  And when Thales prediction proved true and there was a bumper crop of olives those options to buy time on those presses became very valuable.  Those anxious to get their olives into the presses were glad to pay him for those options.  To buy his right to be first to buy press time.  Which he did.  Getting quite wealthy in the process.  As well as proving a point.  Rational thinking had real value.  They could use philosophy to make life better.

As Tulip Prices continued their Meteoric Rise the Speculators entered the Market to Get Rich Quick

And the option was born.  You can use them to speculate about the price of something in the future to make a lot of money.  And you can use them for hedging risk.  Such as farmers do.  They enter contracts with people to sell their crops at a set price.  Which protects the farmer if there is a bumper crop and prices fall.  Those who didn’t enter an options contract will only get the market price for their crops.  And have an unprofitable season.  While those with options contracts will be able to sell their crops above the market price.  And have a profitable season.  But if there are droughts that reduce the harvest prices will rise.  Which protects the buyer.  As he is able to buy below the market price.  At the price in the options contract.  While those buyers without options contracts will have to pay the higher market price.  Thus entering a contract hedges risk for both buyer and seller.  One party may do better than the other if there is a large swing in price.  But neither party will suffer a bad loss.  So whatever happens in that growing season they will be around for the following growing season.  But the speculators, on the other hand, can suffer great losses.

Tulips were big in the 17th century.  The affluent adorned their homes with these beautiful flowers.  And they soon became a sign of affluence.  Today people go to the affluent shops on Rodeo Drive and buy the latest in high fashion to show off their wealth.  In the 17th century they planted tulips.  People were impressed with what they saw.  And soon had to have these wonderful flowers themselves.  Causing a great surge in demand for tulips.  Which tulip growers rushed in to meet.  But the supply couldn’t keep up with the demand.  So tulip prices soared.  Soon, growers (sellers) and wholesalers (buyers) start entering options contracts to hedge their risks in the volatile tulip market.  As tulip prices continued their meteoric rise the speculators entered the market to get rich quick.  This speculation grew into such a frenzy that people would even mortgage their homes to raise money to buy tulip options.  Waiting for the big payday when they could exercise those options.  And buy tulips at one price.  Then resell them at a higher price.  A much higher price.  The demand for options grew so great that an options market opened.  And people bought and sold tulip options.

All good things must come to an end, though.  As must speculative bubbles.  And that happened in the Netherlands in 1637.  For there comes a time where buyers simply refuse to buy anymore tulips at those high prices.  And when they stopped buying people with vast amounts of tulips to sell began to panic.  And started lowering their price.  As other sellers started doing.  When interest in buying tulips fell supply began to exceed demand.  Sending the tulip price into a freefall.  With falling tulip prices no one was buying options contracts.  Because the market price was falling so fast that it would fall below the price in those options contracts.  And when they did ‘fall out of the money’ those options contracts became worthless.  And all that money the speculators poured into the options market was lost.  People lost everything.  Even their homes.  Sending the Dutch economy into a nasty recession.

With the Advent of the Internet it’s Never been Easier to Buy and Sell Options

Stock options were a way to get rich quick.  And what made them so attractive to speculators was leverage.  A small investment could turn into great riches.  But that leverage worked both ways.  And it could take that small investment and turn it into a great loss.  Should the price move in the wrong direction and fall when you have a contract obligating you to buy at a higher price.  And with the tulip mania of 1636 investors were getting a little gun-shy of options in general.  Causing the volume of options trading to fall in London.  Concerned of the speculative nature of options London made options trading illegal in 1733.  A ban that remained until 1860.

Russell Sage inaugurated options trading in the United States in 1872.  These were over the counter (OTC).  There was no central stock exchange.  Or standardized options format.  Which made the trading difficult to say the least.  Brokers placed ads in financial journals for their respective buyers and sellers.  And waited.  For someone to read the ad.  And call.  Then haggled over the price a bit.  Signed a contract.  And then waited until the expiration date of the option.  Or placed another ad in some financial journal.  To find someone else to buy the option.

Then things started changing in 1935.  The SEC granted a license to the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) as a national securities exchange.  And in 1968, CBOT finally did something with that license.  They created the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE).  Which standardized and organized options trading.  One Nobel Prize later to Fischer Black and Myron Scholes for their “The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities” we had a ‘scientific’ way for valuing stock options.  And with the advent of the Internet it’s never been easier to buy and sell options.  Allowing some to hedge risks easily.  While others live dangerously.  And speculate.  Trying to score big.  Before they lose everything trying to get rich quick.

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Stock Options

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 29th, 2013

Economics 101

It takes a Lot of Time to Design, Develop and Bring to Market a Radical New Aircraft

The number one cost airlines have is fuel.  So anything that can reduce fuel consumption can cut an airline’s costs.  Aircraft manufacturers are aware of this.  And want to incorporate new fuel-saving technology into their aircraft.  Because that’s what airlines want.  And if you can give the airlines what they want they will buy your aircraft.  But sometimes new technology can be a little temperamental.  Everything doesn’t work as expected.  And sometimes problems that come up can take a long time to engineer through.  Like it did for the Boeing 787 Dream liner.

Boeing did everything they could think of to squeeze every last ounce of weight from the 787.  One thing they did is well known.  Thanks to a problem with it that caused the grounding of the entire 787 fleet.  The lithium-ion battery.  But that’s not the only weight-saving innovation of the 787.  They added Dual Electronic Flight Bags in the cockpit.  So pilots don’t have to bring bulky and heavy books aboard.  They went from conventional pneumatic architecture to more-electric architecture.  Eliminating the engine bleed air system and associated pneumatic system components.  Reducing weight and improving efficiency.  Which reduced fuel consumption.  They used simple trailing edge flaps.  Not slotted flaps.  Letting them use smaller flap track fairings (those canoe-shaped things underneath the trailing edge of the wings that operated the flaps).  Reducing drag.  And fuel consumption.  They used bigger engines with higher bypass ratios (the amount of air pulled into the fan disk but NOT used for combustion).  Increasing engine efficiency.  Reducing fuel consumption.  The use of composite materials decreased weight.  And the use of one-piece barrel sections eliminated additional joints, fasteners and splice plates.  Reducing weight.  And fuel consumption.

These and other innovations result in a fuel savings of 20% over similarly sized aircraft.  This is huge.  Which is why airlines are ordering this airplane.  But such a radical change in aircraft design comes with a lot of risks.  As the problem with the lithium-ion battery has shown.  And it takes a lot of time to design, develop and bring to market a new aircraft.  Especially one that is radically different from other airplanes.  So the decision to put the aircraft company on this course was a very risky decision.  And one that took a lot of guts.  Because so many things can go wrong.  Leading to cost overruns.  Which can delay promised delivery dates.  And Boeing had their share of those bringing the 787 to market.  Which they have worked through.  Will it be worth it?  As long as airlines want to save on fuel costs, yes.  And no problems arise that they can’t overcome.

Stock Options get Risk-Averse and Cautious CEOs to be Bold and Take Risks

These are big decisions.  Decisions that lead to great successes.  Or great failures.  Some so bad that they can bankrupt a company.  Someone has to be responsible for these decisions.  That one person sitting at the top of the corporation.  The CEO.  It is the CEO who has the ultimate say on the direction of the corporation.  And with this one decision all the resources of the corporation are marshaled together to take the corporation in this new direction.  Incurring great costs that will be on the books for years.  Making it hard to change course until these great investments pay off.  If they pay off.

These are the things CEOs have to deal with.  Not just at Boeing.  But throughout corporate America.  CEOs have to make these singular decisions that can have consequences for years to come.  Where it may take years to see if that one decision actually pays off.  There are few CEOs in the labor force.  So few can imagine the stress these people work under.  And in that pool of CEOs there are only a few that have the Midas touch.   Who can consistently take great risks while making all the right decisions.  Board members desperately want these CEOs.  Offering very generous compensation packages to lure them in.  And to keep them once they have them.  This crème de la crème of CEOs may make the big bucks.  But in exchange for that fat paycheck they do something few others can.  They make shareholders rich.  And they love making these owners rich.  For they love the thrill of the job.  Relishing that high-stress environment.  Where every little decision has great consequences.  Thriving under the kind of pressure that would leave most others whimpering in their beds.  Curled up in the fetal position.  In a pool of their own tears.

But not every corporation can get one of the crème de la crème.  They may have a great CEO.  But one that suffers from a major CEO character flaw.  Being averse to taking big risks.  Who instead wants to be a little more conservative.  And a little more cautious.  Shareholders don’t like overly cautious CEOs.  Because the people getting rich are doing it by breaking away from the pack.  By doing something different.  Abandoning convention.  Trying something bold.  And new.  Bringing something brand new to market that no one knows anything about.  But once they learn about it they can’t live without it.  This is what shareholders want.  Not cautious and conservative.  So to light a fire under these CEOs they came up with a new way to compensate them.  To appeal to their greed.  By letting them get rich if they can make that next great thing that sends the stock price soaring.  And the key to their greed is the stock option.

Stock Options provide a Powerful Incentive to bring Great New Things to Market

The CEO that creates the next big thing everyone will want to buy will send sales revenue soaring.  And with great sales revenue comes great profits.  Increasing the value of the company.  Which, in turn, makes the stock price soar.  This is what shareholders want.  A soaring stock price.  So to encourage the CEO to give them what they want they tie the CEO’s interest to their interests.  By giving the CEO stock options.  Making the sky the limit.  For the more the CEO increases the stock price the greater the CEO’s compensation.  Thus encouraging the CEO to try something bold and new.

A stock option is a right to buy a share of stock at a fixed price in the future.  Say the current stock price is $70/share.  The board of directors gives the CEO the option to buy, say, 500,000 shares of stock at $80/share up until some date in the future.  Creating a strong incentive for the CEO to raise the stock price.  The greater the CEO raises the price above $80 the greater his or her compensation.   Let’s say the CEO was bold and took a great risk.  And it pays off.  Sending the stock price soaring to $110/share.  When the CEO exercises those options he or she will buy 500,000 shares of stock from the company at $80/share.  The company gets $40 million in new capital to help finance further growth.  And the CEO will sell those 500,000 shares at the current market price of $110/share.  Pocketing $15 million.  And the shareholders, of course, get what they want.  A higher stock price.  Everyone wins.

Now let’s say that nothing spectacular happens.  And the stock price only rises to $75/share.  Because it’s below the ‘strike price’ the CEO will let these options expire.  The CEO profits nothing from these options.  But doesn’t lose anything either.  But what happens when the stock price falls because of that bold, new direction?  Causing the corporation to lose value.  As well as the shareholders.  But the CEO?  Again, the CEO will let those options expire.  And will lose no money.  Which is one of the benefits of stock options.  It got those risk-averse and cautious CEOs to take those big risks that got shareholders rich.  As there is no downside risk for the CEO.  Which is both good and bad.  On the one hand it encourages risk taking.  But on the other it encourages risk-taking.  Some CEOs will take excessive risks as they have nothing to lose.  Some will even cook the books to boost the stock price so they can exercise those options.  So it’s not a perfect system.  But they do provide a powerful incentive to bring great new things to market.  Which is what shareholders want.  And will take great risks themselves to get it.

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One of the Boston Marathon Bombers spent 6 Months in the Epicenter of an Islamist Insurgency

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 28th, 2013

Week in Review

After the Boston marathon bombing all we’re hearing from those on the left and in the mainstream media is that it was a terrorist attack.  And probably not related to the bombers’ religion.  Islam.  Even though the bombers were ethnic Chechens.  Who lived for a time in Dagestan.  Where Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, lived for 6 months last year.  But what does that mean?  It’s not like Dagestan is a hotbed of Islamist extremism (see Two militants shot dead in Russia’s Dagestan by Alexei Anishchuk posted 4/24/2013 on Reuters).

Security officers shot dead two suspected militants in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, the epicenter of an Islamist insurgency, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee said on Wednesday.

Moscow is struggling to quell the persistent attacks by Islamist militants more than a decade after it fought two separatist wars in the adjacent republic of Chechnya.

Well, I guess that’s exactly what Dagestan is.  A hotbed of Islamist extremism.  Nay, the epicenter of an Islamist insurgency.  Where Tamerlan lived for 6 months.  And from some accounts wanted to stay in Dagestan.  The epicenter of an Islamist insurgency.  Just so he could spend time with his mom and dad.  Apparently.

At least this was what those on the left and in the mainstream media would have you believe.  Because they can’t say things like ‘Islamist extremism’.  ‘Muslim terrorist’.  ‘Islamist militants’.  Or ‘radical Islam’.  For one it doesn’t fit the narrative.  President Obama killed Osama bin Laden.  Winning the War on Terror.  And when you won that war you can’t refer to your vanquished enemy as if they still exist.  So that’s one reason.  Another reason is that the American left just hates Christianity so much that they want to show nothing but tolerance to Islam.  Because Islam hates Christianity, too.

And then there’s that other reason.  President Obama was going to kill them with kindness.  Sort of like FDR with Joseph Stalin.  Who was going to make Stalin like him.  And once he did FDR was going to turn on that FDR charm to get whatever he wanted from him.  (Ironically, it was Stalin who got everything he wanted from FDR).  Which was what President Obama was going to do.  For he was sure the only reason why radical Islam was attacking America was because of George W. Bush.  Bush made the Islamists hate America by acting so tough and mean to them.  So President Obama was going to show them the softer side America.  (The side that didn’t have drones raining down death on the occasional innocent bystander).  A George W. Bush-free side of America.  And turn on the Obama charm.  It just couldn’t fail.  And it would have worked, too, if only it hadn’t failed.

Islamists hate us.  And want to kill us.  Case in point the Boston Marathon bombing.  This despite Osama bin Laden being dead.  And President Obama’s charm.   In fact, they don’t respect President Obama.  They respect George W. Bush.  But not president Obama.  Because tough and mean they respect.  But displays of weakness?  They look at that with contempt.  Which is why terrorist activity increased during the Obama presidency.  Because they just don’t respect a man dripping with weakness.  And you just can’t drip more weakness than when you go out of your way so as not to offend the people trying to kill you.

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President Obama’s Bad Economic Policies are Pushing the Economy Underground

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 28th, 2013

Week in Review

Proponents of cuts in tax rates and less costly regulatory policies say it will encourage rich people to keep their money in the country.  Investing in plant and equipment.  Instead of investing it overseas.  Giving business the capital they need.  And the profits investors seek.  And history has proven this theory.  Proving that tax and regulatory policies drive the decision making process.  For investors.  Employers.  And workers (see $2 Trillion Underground Economy May Be Recovery’s Savior by Mark Koba posted 4/24/2013 on CNBC).

The shadow economy is a system composed of those who can’t find a full-time or regular job. Workers turn to anything that pays them under the table, with no income reported and no taxes paid — especially with an uneven job picture.

“I think the underground economy is quite big in the U.S.,” said Alexandre Padilla, associate professor of economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “Whether it’s using undocumented workers or those here legally, it’s pretty large.”

“You normally see underground economies in places like Brazil or in southern Europe,” said Laura Gonzalez, professor of personal finance at Fordham University. “But with the job situation and the uncertainty in the economy, it’s not all that surprising to have it growing here in the United States.”

Estimates are that underground activity last year totaled as much as $2 trillion, according to a study by Edgar Feige, an economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

That’s double the amount in 2009, according to a study by Friedrich Schneider, a professor at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria. The study said the shadow economy amounts to nearly 8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

Some workers in the construction industry prefer doing side-work rather than going into business themselves.  Because they don’t want to deal with all the taxes and regulatory costs.  So they do work through word of mouth.  At discount prices.  Because they aren’t paying union wages, health care, payroll taxes, insurances, etc.  They get their buddies to work for them under the table at discount wages.  Which they don’t mind.  Because they keep every cent they earn.  Paying no payroll taxes.  Or income taxes.  Money under the table is pure profit.  Gross pay that remains gross pay.  Allowing them a lot of purchasing power at a reduced wage.

Working under the table means people earn little compared to other jobs.  But because it’s tax-free and regulatory-cost-free employer and employee can both earn less and still have enough purchasing power to make it worth their time.  And during bad economic times everyone is trying to get by on less.  Which they can do if they cut out the taxman.

“The jobs are in service industries from small food establishments to landscaping.” said David Fiorenza, an economy professor at Villanova University. “Even the arts and culture industry is not immune to working off the books in areas of music and entertainment.”

It also includes firms that hire hourly or day construction labor, information technology specialists and Web designers. Many who have a job that doesn’t pay enough take another one that pays under the table…

A report from ADP Research Institute states that many employers, especially in low-wage businesses such as retail and food service, plan to reduce workers’ hours to less than 30 a week to avoid having to offer health benefits through Obamacare (or pay a fine).

“This type of regulation could put more people out of work and into an underground economy,” McHenry said…

“Those working and not paying the taxes puts the burden on those who pay the tax,” added Fiorenza. “Taxes could be lower if the government where able to capture the underground economy instead of raising taxes on those currently paying the various income and payroll taxes…”

“People are running out of patience when it comes to finding a job and losing income,” Gonzalez said. “So it’s not that surprising to have workers take jobs that are in the shadow economy. But it’s a sign of how bad things are and how we have to get the real economy moving again.”

It was the high taxes and regulatory costs that pushed these people into the underground economy.  If the Obama administration would cut taxes and reduce costly regulations—especially Obamacare—people would move back into the regular economy.  For the regular economy will have pay and benefit packages that workers can’t get working under the table.  And if they can get that working a normal 40-hour week they’re not going to want to spend their nights and weekends doing side work.  For life is too short.  And all work and no play isn’t good for our wellbeing.

People don’t like paying high taxes.  They don’t like having to work a second job under the table because of the tax bite out of their primary paycheck.  Or because that’s the only work they can find because of bad economic policy.  That makes hiring people bad business because of the costs.  This is why we have an underground economy.  Because of the redistributive policies of the Obama administration.  That President Obama is using to change America into a European-style social democracy.

Europe is rife with shadow economies.  As employers and employees try to escape confiscatory tax rates.  And brutal workplace rules.  That have pushed the economy underground in many areas.  So it is no surprise that when we adopt European policies that we should get European results.  The whole point of the European Union and the Eurozone was to replicate the American economy.  A large free-trade zone that fostered great economic activity.   Making the United States the number one economic power in the world.  And here we are.  Adopting the worst Europe has to offer.  The same policies that have plunged the Eurozone into a sovereign debt crisis.

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Fisker Automotive may be going the way of Solyndra

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 28th, 2013

Week in Review

The Obama administration bet big on Fisker.  Sure that they could make the green car the Obama administration envisioned.  An upscale sportier version of Government Motors’ (GM) Chevrolet Volt.  Which isn’t selling well.  But it is selling better than the Fisker Karma.  But that isn’t saying much (see Floundering Fisker faces grilling over U.S. government loan by Deepa Seetharaman and Ayesha Rascoe posted 4/24/2013 on Reuters).

Fisker Automotive Inc, which has not built a vehicle since July, has the potential to succeed and repay nearly $200 million in government loans if the “green” car maker is able to find the right “financial and strategic resources,” according to former CEO Henrik Fisker.

Problems with the parts suppliers, delays in regulatory approval and recalls of its flagship Karma plug-in hybrid sports car were among the issues that dogged the automaker over the last few years, Fisker plans to tell lawmakers during a congressional committee hearing later on Wednesday…

The hearing comes as the automaker verges on collapse. Among the key questions is whether Fisker’s prospects were strong enough at the start to warrant the DOE’s backing, which helped trigger a flood of private financing for Fisker.

Fisker’s failure to make a payment on the DOE loan on Monday is the latest of its troubles. In recent weeks, Fisker has fired 75 percent of its workforce and hired bankruptcy advisers…

The DOE’s early public support helped open doors for Fisker, which sells the $100,000-plus Karma plug-in hybrid sports car. Fisker has raised $1.2 billion in private funds to date, according to SEC filings…

Fisker never received the full $529 million loan. It tapped $192 million before the DOE quietly decided to freeze Fisker’s credit line in June 2011 when it became clear that Fisker would not meet performance milestones as part of the loan agreement…

In the confidential “information statement” sent to shareholders in December 2011 and obtained by Reuters, Fisker said it “will not meet certain financial covenants and project milestones” required in the DOE agreement, including earnings, net worth and certain financial ratio targets.

Fisker’s troubles come after a string of green technology flops, including last year’s bankruptcy of Fisker’s lithium-ion battery supplier, A123 Systems.

Forecasts in 2009 for the sale of hybrid and electric vehicles far outstripped subsequent demand.

Forecasts outstripped subsequent demand?  Hmmm.  Let’s see if we can figure out why demand is weak for the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid sports car.

The Fisker Karma is a luxury sports sedan.  A 4-door.  With room for 4.  Because of the large battery that runs down the middle of the car providing room only for 4 bucket seats.  Making this a subcompact.  And what range does that massive battery give you?  About 32 miles.  After that you’re running on gasoline.  Which can take you to a top speed of 125 mph.  And can go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.  This is what you get for $100,000-plus.

Now compare that with a Chevrolet Corvette.  A 2-door, 2-seat sports car.  With a top speed of 190 mph.  And can go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds.  So if you’re going through a mid-life crisis and want something to impress the ladies with you can get all of this for about $50,000.  And they can’t understand why actual demand outstripped their forecasts.  Here’s a guess.  You can get a lot more car for less elsewhere.  If driving electric is more important you’ll probably buy one of the tinier hybrids and save yourself about $50,000.  If speed and power is more important to you you’ll probably buy something like a Chevrolet Corvette.  And save yourself about $50,000.

This is the problem with electric cars.  You get so little car for what you have to pay that only the most wealthy and diehard environmentalists are going to shell out that kind of money.  And there just aren’t a lot of those out there.  Which is why private investors didn’t invest.  Until, that, is, the federal government invested.

Once the government chose to subsidize Fisker then private investors found their courage to invest, too.  Figuring that with the government assuming some of the risk their investment was now less risky.  As they probably saw the future where a bunch of rich Hollywood types would have a Fisker in the garage.  To take out on special occasions.  To show that they cared.  But there were so many problems bringing this car to market that even the government bailed on it.  And for them to do that you know that there must be problems at Fisker.  Making these private investors rue the day they followed the government into this company.  Instead of staying out of it based on their original analysis.

Any company that has something to sell that the people want doesn’t need government money.  For if private investors see a good thing they will invest.  But when they don’t the government does.  Because no wise investor will.

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No Money for White House Tours but Plenty of Money to give Illegal Aliens Food Stamps

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 28th, 2013

Week in Review

The sequester has hit America hard.  A reduction in the growth of future expenditures has caused the White House to stop public tours of the people’s house.  And it caused the furlough of numerous air traffic controllers.  Leading to long lines at airports.  And cancelled flights.  That just shows you how painful a cut in the growth rate of future expenditures can be.  They caused cuts in actual current spending.  Because there is just not an extra dime the government can spare to keep the White House open for tours.  Or to keep air traffic controllers at their jobs.  But there’s tons of spare cash lying around for this apparently (see Shocking US government leaflet tells Mexican immigrants they can collect food stamp benefits without admitting they’re in the country illegally posted 4/26/2013 on the Daily Mail).

A Spanish-language leaflet that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided to the Mexican Embassy in Washington advises border-crossing Mexicans that they can collect taxpayer-funded food stamp benefits for their children without admitting that they’re illegal immigrants.

Underlined and in boldface type, the document tells immigrants who are unlawfully in the United States that, ‘You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children.’

The Agriculture Department says SNAP benefits are only to be distributed to U.S. citizens and other legal residents. On its website, it acknowledges an education ‘partnership’ with the Mexican government, but insists that its aim is to help educate only ‘eligible Mexican nationals living in the United States’ about nutrition benefits for which they might qualify.

Judicial Watch obtained the Spanish language leaflet through a Freedom of Information Act request. An attached email dates the document to March 2009, just months after President Barack Obama took office.

In an email, a spokesperson for the SNAP program told The Daily Caller, which first reported on the leaflet, that “non-citizens who are unlawfully present, are not, nor have they ever been, eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits…

And in a March 2012 communication, Judicial Watch said, the USDA asked the Mexican Embassy to approve a letter addressed to that country’s 50 consulates. That letter encouraged staff at those Mexican diplomatic missions to learn in another webinar how to encourage more of ‘the needy families that the consulates serve’ to enroll in the SNAP program.

Judicial Watch said Thursday that the 2012 document did not discriminate between legal US residents and illegal immigrants.

So Americans can’t visit the White House.  And can’t get on an airplane because the sequester cancelled that flight.  But we can have illegal immigrants who are non-citizens in the country unlawfully sign up for food stamps.  Kind of tells you where the administration is when it comes to immigration reform.  Instead of controlling the border they’re telling them to come on up.  Free food stamps for everyone.  But you may not be able to catch a flight once you’re in the country.  Or visit the White House.  For these costs are too great to include in the current budget.

Is it me?  Or is there something wrong with that?

Why are they doing this?  Simple.  These aren’t illegal aliens waiting for a pathway to citizenship.  These are future Democrat voters.  And President Obama wants them voting in U.S. elections as soon as possible.  For with only about 20% of the population identifying themselves as liberals while some 40% identify themselves as conservative they have to buy as many votes as they can.  And they’re hoping these soon-to-be citizens will remember who their benefactor was when they enter the voting booth.  To tip the balance of power towards the Democrats.  So they can enact their liberal agenda the majority of the people don’t want.  That’s why.

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Employers aren’t hiring College Graduates because of their Worthless Degrees

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 28th, 2013

Week in Review

Going to college is a special time in a young person’s life.  For it marks their entry into the true world of partying.  Where life on campus is nothing but a party.  And these parties are so good that people actually rank colleges by their partying greatness.  To help students choose the right school for their partying needs.  For no student wants to go to the local community college.  And still live at home.  I mean, what fun is that?

No.  They want to go to another state.  Out from underneath the disapproving eyes of their parents.  Who are more times than not footing the bill.  And no doubt remember what they did while in college.  And sigh.  But they hope and pray that their kids will take some time from their partying to study.  So they can get a good job when they graduate.  Which isn’t easy in a bad economy.  Especially when, it appears, these kids spend more time partying than hitting the books (see Job Picture Looks Bleak for 2013 College Grads by Mark Koba posted 4/26/2013 on CNBC).

NACE [National Association of Colleges and Employers] said employment areas with the greatest demand for this year’s graduates include business, engineering, computer sciences and accounting.

One reason there may not be so many grads hired is that many employers don’t believe college graduates are trained properly.

A survey of 500 hiring managers by recruitment firm Adecco, found that a majority—66 percent— believe new college graduates are not prepared for the workforce after leaving college. Fifty-eight percent said they were not planning to hire entry level graduates this year, and among those managers hiring, 69 percent said they plan to bring on only one or two candidates.

“Too many students are graduating with a weak background in science and math,” said Mauri Ditzler, president of Monmouth College…

A frequent mistake graduates make that keeps them from getting even an interview is spelling…

This is sad.  For you don’t even need to know how to spell to spell well.  For there is a button on all word processors and email editors.  It’s a remarkable button.  If you click on it something magical happens.  It checks your spelling.  Pity our college graduates aren’t learning this in college.  Or that they are just too lazy to click on it.

So what is Mom and Dad getting for all that money they spent sending their kid to college?  Which can be anywhere around $165,000 per kid for a 4-year degree out of state.  In truth few parents can pony up this kind of money.  So students make their way to the financial aid department on campus.  And borrow enough to buy a house.  In exchange for a degree that their college told them will lead to great riches.  And they did that with a straight face.

The reason employers aren’t hiring a lot of college graduates is because of the degrees a lot of them are getting.  And they’re not the hard ones.  For that would get in the way of all their partying.  If you look at the undergraduate degree programs for any college in a warm climate with a good party reputation you will see degrees in academic fields like African-American Studies; American Indian Studies; Anthropology; Art History; Communication; Comparative Literature; French & Francophone Studies; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies; Musicology; Philosophy; Poetry; Women’s Studies.  Etc.  A degree costing a student about $165,000 in student loan debt.  Require little science and math.  And isn’t likely to land you a job interview for someone looking for someone with math and science skills.  Which is who a lot of employers want to hire these days.

These colleges are heaping enormous amounts of debt on our kids.  For a degree that can never earn the kind of money that can pay back that student loan.  And this mounting student loan debt will probably be the last straw that will bankrupt the country.  For it already exceeds a trillion dollars.  And it grows still.  Money that went to these universities and colleges.  Providing generous pay and benefit packages.  And some very nice perks.  Living in the fantasyland of a college campus.  Shielded from the real world.  Some in higher education are acquiring great wealth at the expense of our children.  And the future financial wellbeing of our country.  As our kids will struggle to pay off these loans.  And when they can’t get a job in their field of study they’ll end up taking a job some place they didn’t need that $165,000 degree to get.

This is a tragedy of epic proportions.  Sooner or later government will have to force these colleges to put their money where their mouth is.  To make them accountable.  Before they bankrupt the country.  For anyone paying for college with a student loan they need to enroll only those students who can complete a program with a degree that has true market value.  Who can graduate and get a job with a pay level commensurate with their degree.  If the number of students who can’t falls below, say, 90%, then the college has to start refunding tuition.  For a job poorly done.  It’s only fair.  For they are the only ones who get paid so well for doing such a terrible job.  Giving their graduates degrees with no true market value.

Critics will scream this is not fair.  For we will lose the richness of our culture by not having degree programs in all those other fields that don’t have true market value.  But a degree with no market value is a worthless degree.  And if these worthless degrees are so important to the culture of the country then let the students who want them pay for these degrees with their own money.  And have the college charge less for them if they don’t have true market value.  For if a degree doesn’t have any market value why in the world are they charging $165,000 for them in the first place?

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People Under 21 are too Young and Immature to Drink, Smoke or Vote

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 27th, 2013

Week in Review

You can join the military when you’re 18.  But you can’t drink alcoholic beverages.  Or, if Mayor Bloomberg gets his way, smoke (see NYC bill would raise smoking age to 21 by Tom Howell Jr. posted 4/22/2013 on The Washington Times).

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and top health officials touted a bill on Monday that would increase the smoking age from 18 to 21 as a way to prevent younger generations in the five boroughs from taking up the habit.

“Too many adults smokers begin this deadly habit before age 21,” Ms. Quinn said in a news release. “By delaying our city’s children and young adults access to lethal tobacco products, we’re decreasing the likelihood they ever start smoking, and thus, creating a healthier city.”

Officials cited estimates that said that raising the smoking age to 21 would cut the smoking rate among 18- to 20-year-olds by more than half and reduce the rate among 14- to 17-year-olds by two-thirds.

So anyone under the age of 21 is not mature enough to make an informed decision about smoking.  As these people will not consider the long-term consequences of their actions.  Choosing recklessly to harm themselves in the long run.  And causing a greater burden to society.  Well, everyone knows smoking is bad for you.  Even these 18, 19 and 20 year olds know it’s bad for you.  They have to with all of the PSAs.  Not to mention the warnings on cigarette packs.  Yet they make a very poor decision and choose to smoke.  So maybe the mayor is on to something here.

If a person is too young and immature to choose wisely when it comes to smoking perhaps they’re too young and immature to choose wisely when it comes to something else.  Like voting.  If we’re raising the smoking and drinking age because anyone under 21 is too young and immature to choose wisely then we should raise the voting age, too.  For they are either too young and too immature to drink, smoke and vote.  Or they are old enough and mature enough to drink, smoke and vote.  You can’t selectively choose what people are old enough and mature enough to do.  If people are too young and immature then they are too young and immature.  Whether it be for drinking, smoking or voting.

Of the three the longest lasting consequences for choosing poorly has to be with choosing poorly in the voting booth.  So if they’re raising the legal age of anything it should be for voting before drinking and smoking.  For people killing themselves by drinking and smoking won’t bring on a sovereign debt crisis.  Pour money into unwise green investments.  Or pass job-killing legislation like Obamacare.  But voting for the wrong people will.  So clearly we shouldn’t let people who are too young or too immature vote.  We should make these people grow up and become responsible first.  Like we do before we let them drink and smoke.

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Brutal Knife Attack in Britain demonstrates Fallacy in Gun Control Argument

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 27th, 2013

Week in Review

The political left blames an epidemic of gun violence on law-abiding people owning guns.  Creating a gun culture in the United States.  Where any kid can go out and buy an assault rifle without a background check.  They say this is the reason why people are walking into grade schools, universities, movie theaters and high schools, shooting unarmed people.  It’s the guns.  Not a failure of our mental health system.  Where the political left has made it more difficult to commit someone who is a danger to themselves or to the public.  And they don’t blame violent videogames.  Or societal decay.  Where people have little empathy for others.  Which is why they can spend hours killing people in videogames.  Or walk into a room full of innocent and unarmed people and start shooting them.

According to the left none of this would happen if only we got rid of our guns.  Like Britain did.  Where even the cops don’t carry guns.  Making for a peaceful and loving society.  Where the people would rather link their arms together and sing Kum Ba Yah than harm another living soul (see Pictured: The horrific arsenal of kitchen knives used by 20-strong gang to hack teenage boy to death in front of commuters at Victoria Station by Leon Watson and Amanda Williams posted 4/26/2013 on the Daily Mail).

The 15-year-old had his life cut short at Victoria station in central London when he was chased and killed by the gang of youths.

Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane yesterday blamed the ‘blitz attack’ on Facebook and Blackberry’s messenger service which allowed his killers to organise themselves.

He said the teenagers had lost touch with reality because of violent computer games.

He told the Times: ‘You’ve got people playing computer games where they’re shooting and stabbing people. Where is the real world for them? There is a blurring between the real world and this false computer world…’

Sofyen [Belamouaddenw] was stabbed nine times in the body and suffered wounds to his heart, a lung and major blood vessels…

The attack was the horrific end of a minor confrontation the day before in the fast-food area of Victoria mainline station between pupils from the two schools, in which a youth received a bloodied nose…

Sofyen died after being chased by about 20 pupils across the Terminus Way concourse and into the Underground station.

A youth led the charge with a Samurai sword. Others were armed with a flick knife and a Swiss army knife, machetes and screwdrivers.

Apparently guns aren’t the only thing that cause people to kill other people.  If these people were in Chicago they would have used handguns.  And one wonders if they had no handguns in Chicago would they use knives?  Like they do in Britain?  Probably.  For not having guns didn’t stop these people from killing this 15-year old boy.

Obviously with an attack this brutal there is a societal decay in Britain just as there is in the United States.  People are somehow losing their empathy for other people.  And have no problem in harming them.  Or even killing them.  And if it isn’t guns causing this what is?  Is it coming from playing videogames?  Perhaps.  Either from that or from watching movies.  Television.  Or from listening to rap music that glorifies violence.  They’re learning it somewhere.  For no one is born that way.

If horrific acts of violence can occur even without guns then gun control is not the answer.  Guns are only a tool a sick or depraved person chooses for his or her heinous act.  If a gun isn’t available they’ll just pick up a knife.  Or some other weapon.  We need to determine what is causing this societal decay.  So we can address the root cause of this rise in violence.  Is it a breakdown of the family?  The lack of a father figure in these kids’ lives?  Abortion?  Which teaches kids there are no consequences in life.  And there is little value to human life.  Or is it Liberalism itself?  Which attacks conservatism.  Our faith.  And our traditions.  Leaving our kids to grow up in a world void of a moral authority instructing them to be good.  So they end up being bad.  For doing whatever you want is more fun than sticking to the straight and narrow.

The left blames conservatives for a gun culture that creates gun violence.  While it is far more likely that it is the left’s relentless assault on our faith and traditions causing the societal decay that allows someone to more easily harm another living soul.  So perhaps instead of gun control we should be legislating against liberals.  Preventing their harmful influence on the general public.  That results in acts of violence.  For these people aren’t born this way.  They’re learning this behavior from liberals.

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The Problems in the Eurozone may Influence Scottish Voters in their Independence Referendum

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 27th, 2013

Week in Review

During the Roaring Twenties the American economy was giving the economies of Europe a run for their money.  The Europeans, accustomed to running the world for so long, looked at the economic prowess of America with concern.  And began to talk about a United States of Europe to compete with the economic juggernaut across the pond.  But when Calvin Coolidge chose not to run for a second term the progressives got back into power.  And Herbert Hoover put an end to that surging economy.  Causing a stock market crash.  And throwing the country into recession.  Which FDR turned into the Great Depression.

So there was no United States of Europe.  But there would be a European Union one day.  And after that, a currency union.  The Eurozone.  To compete against the economic prowess of the United States.  But a currency union without a political union.  Without a single fiscal and monetary policy to support that currency union.  Which turned out to be a problem.  For without that political union the currency union was only as strong as its weakest state.  In the Eurozone that state was Greece.  Whose unrestrained government spending caused a debt crisis that threatened to bring down the entire Eurozone.  Unless the other members stepped in to bail out Greece.  Which they have.  But the crisis hasn’t gone away.  For the central governing authorities can only ask Greece to cut their spending.  Which there is a lot of opposition to in Greece.  Putting a lot of pressure on the Euro.

Greece isn’t the only problem.  There was Ireland.  Spain.  Portugal.  And Cyprus.  All sovereign nations.  Sharing a common currency.  Making it all but impossible to maintain a uniform fiscal policy throughout the Eurozone.  Like they can in the United States.  Because the United States of America is a political union.  With one central government.  One central fiscal authority.  And one central monetary authority.  Making it hard for any one state to undermine the currency.  (Though California is making a valiant effort.)  Which is the problem they’re having in the Eurozone.  Many of the states are threatening to undermine the common currency.  Making a very strong case against future currency unions without a political union.  Which is something they are considering with an upcoming referendum on Scottish independence (see UK says “no clear reason” to let independent Scotland use the pound by David Milliken posted 4/23/2013 on Reuters UK).

The euro zone’s experience of countries sharing a currency but not a government shows there is no clear case for an independent Scotland to use the pound, the Treasury said on Tuesday.

The nation of 5 million will hold a referendum on September 18 next year to decide whether to split from the United Kingdom, at the instigation of the Scottish National Party that runs the country’s devolved government.

Pro-independence campaigners want Scotland to keep sterling, at least in the early years of independence, and then to decide later whether to switch to its own currency.

But in a report on Tuesday, the Treasury said there was no clear case for the United Kingdom to agree to a formal currency union with an independent Scotland, which would have an economy of a similar size to New Zealand’s…

“The recent experience of the euro area has shown that it is extremely challenging to sustain a successful formal currency union without close fiscal integration and common arrangements for the resolution of banking sector difficulties,” it added.

Scotland and England have a long history.  Not all of it good.  But if we’ve learned anything from history it is that large economic blocs do better than smaller counties.  As the United States demonstrated.  And as the Eurozone tried to duplicate with their currency union.  But as that experiment showed us a currency union without a political union is a recipe for disaster.  If Scotland breaks from the United Kingdom they will have to go all of the way.  And leave sterling.  Which will make independence more difficult.  Having to set up a new currency with everything else they will have to do.  (Such as dealing with separating their military forces from the UK’s.  And providing for their own defense.  Or forming a military union with the UK.  Which will tie them closely to the UK.  Something many Scots no doubt will consider before voting in the referendum.)

Of course if they do and they devalue their new currency it would make their exports cheaper to those nations with a stronger currency.  But that weak currency will make anything they import more expensive.  As Scotland exports and imports a lot of stuff they won’t get a clear advantage in devaluing their new currency.  So they may peg their new currency to sterling.  The next best thing to keeping sterling.  Which will tie them closely to the UK.  Something many Scots no doubt will consider before voting in the referendum.  Perhaps choosing to stay in the UK.  As Quebec chose to stay in Canada in their past referendum.  Who had less in common with the rest of Canada than the Scots have with the UK.  For they don’t even speak the same language.

They could join the Eurozone.  But recent events in the Eurozone does not make that option as appealing as setting up a new currency.  Or staying a part of the UK.  It would probably be best for the rest of the world if Scotland remained part of the UK.  For the world will need at least one strong reserve currency.  As the Euro is making itself less attractive by the day.  The U.S. dollar may hit the wall soon with the amount of debt the Americans are racking up.  And the Chinese are likely to go the way of Japan before the decade is out.  And have their own Lost Decade with all their malinvestments.  The ultimate cause in the fall of state-capitalism.

Now the UK has its problems.  But their decision to stay out of the Eurozone was clearly sound as a pound.  And pound sterling may grow even more attractive as a reserve currency as these other countries continue to rely on easy credit and debt to pay for their burgeoning welfare states.  And/or their malinvestments.  But one thing the UK is doing that none of these other bloated states are doing is making real cuts in spending.  Even in their venerated NHS.  Giving the UK the edge in responsible governing these days.  And really making a strong argument against Scottish independence at this time.  Even for those who hate England.  For it is better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don’t.  Especially during uncertain times.

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