Monday, 12 November 2012

09:24 – We did a Costco run and dinner with Mary and Paul yesterday. Neither of us needed very much, so it was a short run. We picked up a fresh supply of Coke for me, a couple of things I needed for kits, some stuff Barbara needed, and an extra couple or three weeks worth of canned food.

I can make a good excuse for my incorrect prediction that Romney was going to win in a landslide. Around here, it sure felt like the Democrats were in deep trouble. While the Democrats made gains or at least broke even in most of the other 49 states, North Carolina turned sharply right. This was the only battleground state won by Romney, but that was the least of it. We elected a Republican governor, replaced several Democrat US representatives with Republicans, and flooded the North Carolina house and senate with Republicans–it’s now almost 2:1–giving the Republicans a veto-proof majority in both houses. Republicans also dominated the other statewide races and at the city and county levels. Finally, the Republicans control the state supreme court, all of which makes North Carolina among the reddest of the red states. Don’t expect gay marriage or marijuana to be legalized here.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina government is busy burning down our nearest state park. They started an (un)controlled burn on Thursday at Pilot Mountain state park, intending to burn less than 200 acres. The fire has now burned more than 800 acres and is still not under control. It’s supposed to rain this evening and tomorrow, so perhaps that’ll help.

I’m working on kit stuff.

10:56 – Hmmm. The fustercluck in Greece continues, with no resolution in sight. Basically, the problem is that Greece is completely bankrupt, with huge outstanding debts, and no one wants to pay for them. The Troika–the EU, the ECB, and the IMF–are now bitterly divided on this issue. The IMF insists that it will not kick in any more money until Greece’s debt is somehow made “sustainable”. Meanwhile, the EU and ECB categorically refuse to take losses on the Greek debt they hold because their electorates, primarily the German people, would crucify them for doing so. So, the situation as of now is that the IMF is refusing further funds and the EU/ECB is refusing further funds. Neither of them is willing to budge.

The IMF has the whip hand. Their debt is senior to that held by the EU and ECB. So, at this point, the most likely outcome is that the IMF will walk away, leaving the EU and ECB holding the bag. The EU and the ECB are unlikely to throw good money after bad. It seems likely that the Greek debt that comes due this week will be paid off by an accounting trick. The ECB can allow Greek banks to increase the percentage of Greek bonds on their books, allowing the Greek banks to purchase the worthless bonds that Greece will issue to rollover those coming due. But in reality that translates to the ECB lending Greek banks yet more money that will never be repaid, so the question for Germany becomes whether it’s worth throwing away a few billion more euros to buy just a little more time. That’s the same situation Germany has been facing, and so far they’ve decided to throw away the money each time the situation has arisen. What Germany (Merkel) really wants is to put off the crash until she runs for reelection next autumn, but that’s becoming increasingly costly. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Merkel finally decided to bite the bullet and say enough is enough. If that happens, Greece goes completely belly up this week. If Merkel decides to pay one more time, Greece will totter on for a few more weeks.

Here in the US we have the upcoming so-called “fiscal cliff”, which the MSM describe as moderate tax increases coupled with dramatic spending cuts. In fact, it’s no such thing. It’s large tax increases coupled with spending increases that will be smaller than they might otherwise have been. No one, including the Republicans, is talking about actual cuts in spending. Why bother. They’ve dug us into a hole so deep that there’s no getting out of it. Might as well just continue digging. Our economy can’t get deader than dead.

The government figures on debt are even less trustworthy than their figures on inflation. I don’t even bother to keep track of what the government claims our debt is. Something like $17 trillion IIRC. In reality, as I’ve said before, if you calculate our debt honestly, including off-budget items, unfunded commitments, and realistic demographics and NPVs, our actual debt at all levels must exceed $100 trillion. I’ve seen credible figures claiming it’s well over $200 trillion. As Everett Dirksen famously said, “a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money”. And we’re talking about debt levels four or five magnitudes higher. A billion dollars is more than $3 for every US citizen, man, woman, and child. A trillion dollars is $3,000 each. The $17 trillion the federal government admits to is more than $51,000 each. The real debt is almost certainly at least $300,000 per citizen and may be twice that. The obvious outcome is that those unfunded commitments aren’t going to be honored. Or they’ll be honored at face value with grossly inflated dollars. Either way, it’s not going to be pretty.

I’m working on kit stuff.

14:26 – For those of you who don’t read the comments…

It all makes sense now: Gay marriage legalized on the same day as marijuana makes perfect biblical sense. Leviticus 20:13: “A man who lays with another man should be stoned.” Our interpretation has just been wrong for all these years.