Monday, December 26, 2011

No Takers

This is an interesting article that tries to set out the idea that the 'lost decades' in the Japanese economy are a lie.  The author writes:
I feel so strongly about all this that I have more than once over the years challenged the principal proponents of the "lost decades" story to a debate. I first tried in 1998; and then again in 2002. On each occasion there were no takers.
He appears to make a strong case, but a little scratching reveals that the reason no one will debate him is the same reason that no one will debate his former boss (Pres. Carter) about little green men.

He starts the debate with two questions, one about the size of the Japanese trade surplus and one about the value of the Yen versus the Dollar.  Unfortunately he measures the size of the trade surplus in dollars, somewhat over-inflating the value that he's trying to represent (to the extent that a trade surplus/deficit is a meaningful measure to begin with).  As for the value of the Yen versus the Dollar, he is able to snag a more shocking number by writing the article at a time when the Fed is aggressively debasing the Dollar (something which all Americans are aware).  However,  Wikipedia has the full story.  Although the dollar is certainly down from where it was in the early eighties, it's not completely out of it's trading "band" that it has followed for the last twenty years:



However let's face it, measuring one's economy against the U.S. is hardly tough work.  Several commentators have made the case that U.S. itself has had more than a lost decade since many economic measures are back to the late nineties.  The other chart that measures the Yen against a basket of currencies tells the tale even more explicitly:


Here we have the Yen trading in roughly the "band" that it has since the late eighties.  This means that oranges to oranges, the Yen has sunk versus real world purchasing power along with other fiat currencies.

The other evidence used by the author is that of his own personal experience.  This has the sound of a "no one I know voted for Nixon" kind of journalistic justification for one's views and really isn't evidence of any sort.  Better evidence would be what the Japanese economy would look like without their outsized government spending.  Just like the U.S., the Japanese government has spent more and more money to mask the true state of their economy.  The only reliable number I could find on the 'net was 7.4 percent, which would be a pretty big contraction if it was pulled (the article also mentions that the U.S. is at 10.3, which is something happy to consider as well).


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Printing Coins

ZeroHedge notes that the Treasury is moving away from 'minting' dollar coins.  It seems that a large percentage of the coins have been landing back at the Treasury because no one wants/needs them.  The best suggestion I see around this is to mint dollar coins that actually carry some 'melt value' rather than a small, metal, inconvenient version of a dollar bill.

(What I'd heard, but am too lazy to verify, is that coins are, or at least can be, issued directly from the Treasury and so are a small, but competing money supply with the Federal Reserve notes that we all know and love. Counting into this is that every FRN is issued as debt (i.e., I get a car and the bank gets $20,000 in FRNs on the promise that I'll pay back $28,000 FRNs) whereas coins are actual American money free of the tyrannical hold of the banking class, for what that's worth (not much)).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Facebook

I can't take one more minute of pretending that I care about Facebook and people asking me if I'd read stuff on it that was posted months ago.  What's worse is the stuff that I post there is even more worthless than the stuff I post here, which boggles the mind!*  Anyway, I've nuked my account and don't care to be back on.

That is all.

*Like Facebook birthday greetings.  If you do not get a birthday card from me, that means that I forgot to send you something worthwhile, which is a general failing of mine.  However, if I post a Facebook birthday greeting, that means that I did remember to do something worthless, which is even worse in my mind.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hoochyana

Mission successful!
I was able to brew up about seven gallons of hard pear cider in this last run:
This will get added to what I have left of my last batch of pear cider, the couple bottle of beers that I have left, and the two or so gallons of hard apple cider that I have bottled. It sounds like a lot, but myself and Dr. DrinkingBuddy had no issue knocking out a gallon and a half of the stuff in an afternoon (a Browns game may be a requirement for such copious driniking).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pearl Harbor Day

Nothing makes me happier on Pearl Harbor day than to have my Japanese Uniqlo clock back on my blog!

A funny story on the radio this morning came from a sports announcer who told how moving it is to go to the Pearl Harbor memorial.  His story started out "First you get on a boat to go to the memorial, and you will be the only non-Japanese person in the boat...".

He was harsh about it, but I took it as further proof of the complete insanity of the whole affair.  No one can picture going to war with Japan now and at least as far as I can surmise, no one could picture going to war with them before the war (thus the complete surprise of Pearl Harbor).  In the current era anyone can picture unfortunate circumstances that would land the U.S. in a war with the likes of Russia or China, but getting attacked by Japan back then would, in the current day, be something along the lines of Brazil launching a surprise attach on Florida; a real "WTF!?" moment.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Poor As Cover For Rich Looting

From Glenn Reynolds, Megan McArdle notes:
Runs on financial markets, as far as I can tell, do not righteously limit their damage to rich jerks who didn't need the money anyway. In fact, the people who suffer the worst from a rapid contraction of the credit markets are the poor. They're the ones who actually end up hungry and on the street when companies start failing and they can't get jobs.
What kills me is that when a manufacturing shop is shut down it's all "well that's the way it goes in the free market, sorry sucker!", but when a bank is on the outs all the sudden the bankers need subsidies for their jobs because the poor might get hurt!  Never mind the fact that the poor will pay in taxes, inflation and a crappy job environment to keep those monstrously inefficient enterprises alive.

Anyway, does it ever occur to these press types to question why a run would occur?  It's not magical.  It's caused by people doubting that a bank will be able to pay them back because the crooks that run the bank have A) over-leveredged it with B) bad assets.

Along those lines, Denninger notes that Bank of America may have constructed their banking division in such a way that the taxpayer will get boned via the FDIC AND depositors won't get paid back when if the bank goes under.  Riotous fun bunch those bankers!

UPDATE: Lots of hope in Europe that they'll be able to get the central bank to print Euros to cover up the mountain of bad debt over there.  Part of the issue that they're having is the slow motion bank run going on in especially the peripheral countries.  They need to ask themselves what's worse though: a run on the banks, or a run on the currency?  One destroys the economy, the other destroys a nation...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Imperial Tunes

Steyn Notes on the stories about strip searched grannies and other TSA horrors:
US airport “security” serves no serious purpose except to accustom free-born peoples to behaving like a compliant bovine herd. America is now a land where 85-year old grannies are strip-searched without probable cause. You’re extremely naive if you think that, once government acquires a taste for that, it will remain confined to the airport.

Indeed.  Where is our GOP Congress or the GOP Presidential candidates on everything from corporate bailouts to our inept, overbearing security state?  Unfortunately they're either nowhere, or actively supporting the outrages, such as by voting overwhelmingly for crap like SB1867:
At issue is Section 1031 of the National Defense Authorization Bill (SB 1867) which would authorize the use of military force against any individual who has “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
Such as being a wheelchair bound grandmother or a teenager with a picture of a gun on her purse or under-groped kids getting off a train, etc.

Apparently Republicans don't mind the actions of Emperor Nerobama, they just don't care for the tune that he is playing on his fiddle.