Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who killed the electric car? - Why it was Barack Obama, in the garage, with a lead pipe.

Driving to work this morning, I heard that the near-bankrupt General Motors was underwriting National Public Radio, but that they were rolling out a new generation of "green" vehicles.  Surely this was pandering to the NPR-style audience and/or Congressional benefactors since GM makes almost all their profit on pickup trucks and SUVs.  Sure enough, even the Obama administration couldn't pretend that GM's heavily-advertised Chevy Volt is a white elephant, uneconomical to the vast majority of Americans.
Taxes are for other people - When Tim Geithner and Tom Daschle got knocked for failing to pay taxes, some conservative wag noted that Obama's secret plan was to nominate tax cheats for cabinet positions and then collect on the lost revenues.  Oops...they did it again.
Out of gas - Very little has changed since this 2005 Business Week article appeared: "Why GM's plan won't work...and the ugly road ahead."

Extra - Here's a great review from McArdle: "Whither GM?"

More - Hoystory: "GM = Government Motors"

Monday, March 30, 2009

General Motors gets another chance they won’t take

Here’s Jim Manzi with “Detroit’s predictable failure

In regard to GM, the government will provide 60 days of operating financing, and give them another shot at developing a plan for viability. In effect, they get a two month stay of execution. If the administration lives up to these words, we would have a temporary intervention, but get out of the awful business of managing commercial enterprises via government quickly.
The crunch, of course, will come upon the expiration of these new deadlines. The current administration can get away with punting on tomorrow's deadline without losing all negotiating credibility because they didn't make the initial deal. But if they let these companies off the hook again, it's hard to imagine management, unions or bondholders taking any future threats to let the companies go under very seriously.
Frankly, I don’t see why GM and especially the UAW unions would believe any threats from the Obama administration. By forcing out Wagoner, Obama has taken ownership of the General Motors mess and he's telegraphed that there's no way he’d allow bankruptcy. Since that’s off the table, the GM honchos aren’t going to put their heads in a noose and the unions similarly aren’t going to make concessions that enrage their blue-collar base. They’ll wait for another bailout or a solution forced on them by the government. But you'll never hear the "B" word.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why did Constantinople get the works?

That's nobody's business but the Turks.
Amazing Race update – The Thais that bind

The six remaining teams start out in India and head to Phuket, Thailand where they need to find a King Kong-style statue somewhere. (Pssst…it's at the zoo.) Many of the teams go to the same travel agency before heading to the airport. Therefore everybody's on the same flight to Phuket. Well, OK. Once in Thailand, teams show passersby the picture of a gorilla hoping they'll know where to go. Mel & Mike's taxi driver seems to think it's at the beach, so they're off-course.

Once at the gorilla, teams must have their picture taken with a tiger and then participate in a show where an elephant walks over people. The guy handling the tiger for the picture only has one arm (and a limp?) so some of the Racers are nervous. I'm impressed when Mark & Michael respect the culture and do a proper wai to the elephant trainer. Meanwhile, Mel & Mike are way lost.

After the zoo, teams head to a shop where they have to choose from a hundred drawers until they find the next clue. This is just a sheer luck kind of thing and the clue they find is the Detour: 100 Barrels or 2 Miles. Teams may either prepare 100 barrels for a fishing boat, or pull a rickshaw to a local park. Team Mighty Mites complete the rickshaw run fairly quickly as they trade off pulling the cart. Before they leave, however, they hide the bicycle pumps to inflate the tires of the rickshaws to hamper the other teams. They make it to the next clue which directs them to the Pit Stop at a Buddhist temple. Once they arrive at the Pit Stop, Phil announces that they are "the first team to arrive" and NOT that they are "Team #1." It turns out that hiding the air pumps was an illegal step as was allowing a taxi driver to lead them to the next stop; they incur a 30 minute penalty at the mat for each infraction so they're sitting around for an hour.

Back at the Detour, Victor drops his rickshaw and runs to the park but he needed to park it at a marked area. The teams doing the rickshaw task are really winded. Back at the fishing wharf, Mel & Mike are picking up the pace on Kisha & Jen.

At the mat, Phil announces that Team Esquire is the real Team #1, followed by Team Ginger. Team Mighty Mites serves out their 60-minute penalty and they're announced as Team #3. About 10 seconds after Margie & Luke are announced as Team #4, Margie collapses from heat exhaustion. The Amazing production crew converges on her with water and a plastic patio chair.

Back at the fishing boats, Kisha & Jen finish ahead of Mel & Mike and head to the Pit Stop. There's the typical TAR creative editing to suggest the race is a lot closer but Team Sistahs arrives next to the mat. Mel & Mike bring up the rear and they are eliminated from the Race.

Team standings:

#1 – Team Esquire – Tammy & Victor
#2 – Team Ginger – Jaime & Cara
#3 – Team Mighty Mites – Michael & Mark
#4 – Team Say What? – Margie & Luke
#5 – Team Sistahs – Kisha & Jen
#6 – Team White Guys – Mel & Mike – PHILIMINATED

Next week – Karaoke.
The sun'll come out tomorrow - It's race day and every event at Martinsville Speedway, from qualification to the truck race, has been rained out this weekend.  But not today!  The green flag for the cup race drops at 2pm.

Or, as I like to say: blue sky, rednecks, green flag!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Debt without end

Weekly Standard: "Obama's fuzzy math"

But the news on the red ink front is much worse than the president or even the CBO's budget report suggests. If all of Obama's "transformational" policy objectives--from global warming taxes to universal health care to doubling the Department of Energy's budget--are enacted, the debt is likely to increase from about 40 percent of GDP today to close to 100 percent of GDP by 2018. The ten-year debt is likely to be at least $6 trillion higher--or more than one-half trillion of higher deficits a year from now until forever--than the Obama budget projects.
These are uncharted levels of debt for the United States--though not for such high-flying nations as Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico. This hemorrhaging of U.S. government debt will be happening at precisely the time when, in a rational world, the government would be running surpluses, in anticipation of the retirement of some 80 million baby boomers who will soon collect multiple trillions of dollars of government benefits from Medicare and Social Security.
As the Violent Femmes sang, add it up:

Here are the unhappy totals: the debt is $6 trillion higher from 2010 to 2019 than Obama's forecast. In no single year over the next decade, even when counting the Social Security trust fund surpluses, does the budget deficit fall below $800 billion. The interest on the national debt rises to $850 billion a year by the middle of the next decade, which will be the largest single expenditure item in the budget--eight times more than we now spend on education and four times more than we spend on homeland security. Federal spending remains well over 25 percent of GDP and in some years creeps closer to 28 percent of GDP under the Obama budget, which ironically enough is entitled "A New Era of Responsibility."
As Milton Friedman has pointed out*, there's nothing easier in the world than spending other people's money. But President Obama's budget takes spending other people's money to a whole new level: now we're spending money lent to us from the Chinese and passing the bill onto kids who haven't been born yet.

Hey, they should have voted.

Footnote* alert – I wanted to post this YouTube video of Milton Friedman but the quality is terrible. So I'll just copy the quote:

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.
Soon to be much, much more than 40%, Uncle Miltie.
Quote of the day – From the Boston Globe: "Our biggest concern is an ice jam in the river just 10 miles north of Bismarck, which we're hoping does not dislodge. . . . An ice jam is kind of like my teenage daughter. Sometimes there is just no way to predict what they'll do next." - Bill Wocken, a Bismarck, N.D., city administrator, on the flooding in his city and Fargo

Friday, March 27, 2009

Detroit's black hole - NYT: "U.S. expected to give more financing to automakers" Sure, why not, we've got plenty of money.
Changing the rules in the middle of the game - Charlotte Observer: "Banks are now eager to repay TARP - Many that have taken government money are dismayed by changing rules and public outrage."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Class warfare, first last and always

Here's Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard:

President Obama insists he's a free-market guy. But you have to wonder whether he understands how a free economy really works. His policies and his words--especially what he said at his press conference this week--suggest his sense of what makes economies grow and how people are affected by government policies is surprisingly weak.
Although it's a minor part of Obama's budget, the idea of putting a cap on the deductibility of charitable contributions from the wealthy is downright un-American. At its heart, the effort suggests that the government is better able to distribute funds than millions of citizens. In a roundabout way, that was the idea behind the 1990 "luxury tax" to take money away from the wealthy before they could spend it.

Great idea:

In 1990 the Joint Committee on Taxation projected that the 1991 revenue yield from luxury taxes would be $31 million. It was $16.6 million. Why? Because (surprise!) the taxation changed behavior: Fewer people bought the taxed products. Demand went down when prices went up. Washington was amazed. People bought yachts overseas. Who would have thought it?

According to a study done for the Joint Economic Committee, the tax destroyed 330 jobs in jewelry manufacturing, 1,470 in the aircraft industry and 7,600 in the boating industry. The job losses cost the government a total of $24.2 million in unemployment benefits and lost income tax revenues. So the net effect of the taxes was a loss of $7.6 million in fiscal 1991, which means the government projection was off by $38.6 million.
With the yacht industry crippled, the luxury tax was repealed in 1993 by a sensible Bill Clinton. On the other hand, neither candidate Obama or president Obama has shown much tolerance for real economic results as long as he can ride the populist wave.

Related – Another "bad" group is targeted: "Proposed taxes on oil companies will be paid at the pump." By you, that is.

And thisAmerican Thinker: "Class envy has been a defining staple of the left for centuries, from the frenzied mobs leaping around the French guillotines to the Soviets to, well, the new masses circling AIG executives today." (H/T Maggie's Farm)
A (small) opening for Republicans in Massachusetts

The Bay State has had a long string of Republican governors, possibly because many citizens view a GOP executive as the only check on an overwhelmingly Democratic Beacon Hill. Now that Governor Deval Patrick's poll numbers are way down, maybe a Republican candidate can bring sanity back to the Massachusetts government:

A wave of voter disgust at business as usual on Beacon Hill has swamped Gov. Deval Patrick, dealing the first-term governor a devastating credibility blow that leaves his re-election hopes shaken, a new 7News poll has found.

Only 34 percent of those surveyed in the poll conducted for 7News by Suffolk University say the governor deserves re-election, while a stunning 47 percent say it is “time to elect someone else.”
Less Big Dig and cronyism, more Yankee fiduciary common sense.
How embarrassing – Reuters "Blundering Afghan suicide bomber blows up 6 militants": "A would-be suicide bomber accidentally blew himself up on Thursday, killing six other militants as he was bidding them farewell to leave for his intended target, the Interior Ministry said."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jocks don't like stocks

That's my more exciting title to this great Sports Illustrated article: "How (and why) athletes go broke"

In a less public way, other athletes from the nation's three biggest and most profitable leagues-the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball-are suffering from a financial pandemic. Although salaries have risen steadily during the last three decades, reports from a host of sources (athletes, players' associations, agents and financial advisers) indicate that:

- By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

- Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.

- Numerous retired MLB players have been similarly ruined, and the current economic crisis is taking a toll on some active players as well.
The usual suspects are represented (divorce, usually because of infidelity, rapacious agents and hangers-on) but one interesting aspect was this: many athletes don't invest in traditional securities because they're too abstract. Instead, they buy cars or jewelry or nightclubs because they seem tangible. Soon they're pawning their championship rings.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Press conference fever

Too busy with chores tonight, but I had to comment on this one line from President Obama's presser:

Finally, the most critical part of our strategy is to ensure that we do not return to an economic cycle of bubble and bust in this country. We know that an economy built on reckless speculation, inflated home prices and maxed-out credit cards does not create lasting wealth. It creates the illusion of prosperity, and it's endangered us all.
Two things. First of all capitalism is, by nature, a cycle of boom and bust so I think Obama is shooting for permanent malaise. The theory of capitalism's sinusoidal behavior was observed by Soviet economist Nikolai Kondratieff who showed that free markets will always bounce back. This did not go over well with his Communist bosses:

Kondratiev was a Soviet economist, but his economic conclusions were disliked by the Soviet leadership and upon their release he was quickly dismissed from his post as director of the Institute for the Study of Business Activity in the Soviet Union in 1928. His conclusions were seen as a criticism of Stalin’s intentions for the Soviet economy; due to this fact he was sentenced to the Russian Gulag and later received the death penalty.
Must. Resist. Krugman. Joke.

Second thing: criticizing Americans maxing-out their credit cards is a ballsy thing to say considering Obama's budget will add over $9 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Gitmo as a recruiting tool – fact or fiction?

Here's President Obama on "60 Minutes" last night:

"[Gitmo] hasn't made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment. Which means that there is constant effective recruitment of-- Arab fighters and Muslim fighters against U.S. interests all around the world."
The "war on terror is breeding more terrorists" line has been accepted as gospel among the anti-war crowd. But is it true? This NPR report hints that Al Qaeda is having trouble finding new recruits for jihad:

For months now, counterterrorism officials have seen signs that al-Qaida has been looking for new and innovative ways to recruit terrorists, including a new manual that has surfaced on the Internet.

Researchers at West Point recently stumbled on the 51-page manual while they were visiting a jihadi chat room, called Ecles. It's a Web site that allows members to have interactive discussions, post videos and download manuals. Ecles is the second most popular jihadi chat room on the Web, and al-Qaida often posts things there. Because of that, it is a place counterterrorism analysts track regularly.

So when the West Point analysts discovered a step-by-step primer called "The Art of Recruiting Mujahedeen," it got their attention. On one level, the manual might be an early indication that al-Qaida is trying to identify new sleeper terrorists. On the other hand, the book is so basic it seems to suggest al-Qaida is getting desperate for new members.

Brian Fishman, the head of research at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, says he was struck by the remedial tone of the book. At the end of a chapter, for example, there are questions to judge both the recruiter's progress and the recruit's.
There's no verifiable way to gauge the success of Islamo-fascist recruiting so let's file this under: I report (an NPR story), you decide.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quote of the day: we're broke

It's Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) on the Obama administration's fiscal policy:

"The practical implications of this is bankruptcy for the United States," Gregg said of the Obama's administration's recently released budget blueprint. "There's no other way around it. If we maintain the proposals that are in this budget over the ten-year period that this budget covers, this country will go bankrupt. People will not buy our debt, our dollar will become devalued. It is a very severe situation."
This is coming on top of warnings Gregg has made in the past about the massive unfunded liabilities of entitlement spending and the tax burdens that will be passed on to future generations (H/T Gateway):

I keep telling my kids that when credit card companies send offers urging you to "treat" yourself to a vacation or a new toy, you still have to pay that money back. At the very moment in American history when we should be bracing for unsustainable levels of entitlement spending, the White House is pushing a fiscal policy where the budget deficit never drops below 4% of GDP.

Extra - WSJ: "Obama sticker shock"
Amazing Race update – India again

Teams started out from Russia and headed to Jaipur, India. It seems like every season of the Race stops by in India and, if you're a fan of "poverty porn" the Race doesn't disappoint. The taxi drivers drive primarily by horn; gas seems to be a secondary concern. Some of the Racers are overcome with emotion at the destitution.

At a village, teams find a sacred tree where a telephone sits. They dial the number and they're told to go to a parking area or something. There it's the Roadblock: one team member must feed and water a group of camels. Team Esquire arrives first and Victor shovels camel feed and hauls water to fill a trough. Mike, the older half of Team White Guys, is having a lot of trouble in the heat. Tammy & Victor head to the next clue just as Team Drinkcart is pulling up. Because they came in last on the previous leg, Christie & Jodi need to perform an extra task at some point, so they're running far behind.

At the next stop, it's the Detour: Movers or Shakers. Teams may either transport a bicycle loaded with barrels, or join an Indian dance troupe and dance for tips. Team Esquire decides to dance in the streets and beg for rupees. Meanwhile, back at the Roadblock, Mel is the only Racer following the clue correctly and using baskets to transport camel feed. Team White Guys is the next team to head to the Detour just as Team Esquire is heading to the Pit Stop at Jaigarh Fort.

Team Drinkcart hit their Speedbump: they must decorate an elephant. That is, they must paint the trunk of an elephant for some kind of ceremony. Well, OK. They must complete this before the Detour, so things aren't looking good for them. Still, it looks like Team Mighty Mites took a long time doing the "Movers" Detour.

It's a fairly close race to the mat, but Michael & Mark pull it out and Christie & Jodi are eliminated from the Race.

Team standings:

#1 – Team Esquire – Tammy & Victor
#2 – Team White Guys – Mel & Mike
#3 – Team Sistahs – Kisha & Jen
#4 – Team Say What? – Margie & Luke
#5 – Team Ginger – Jaime & Cara
#6 – Team Mighty Mites – Michael & Mark
#7 – Team Drinkcart – Christie & Jodi – PHILIMINATED

Next week – Wild animals in Thailand.
If it's Sunday, it's Jeff Jacoby – The Boston Globe's token conservative pokes fun at Joe Biden, and that's a great way to start his column: "Things have been worse."
Not a bad idea

There's a pushback in Massachusetts' over Governor Patrick's proposed 19-cent gas tax. I like this counterproposal in a letter to the editor to today's Boston Globe:

Need revenue to maintain roads and bridges? Want to make driving safer at the same time?

Tax cellphone calls from moving vehicles at 25 cents a minute!

We might need a little help from the techies to implement this, but if the cellphone companies know the duration and location of the call, they can compute the average speed, and tax calls from phones going faster than 5 miles per hour.
I can see those ACLU crybabies getting into a huff about tracking people, and then the police will figure out how to ticket people for speeding. Hmm. Now that I think about it, it's an awful idea.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

No common touch - Michael Wolff: "Barack Obama is a terrible bore."
Where did my rights go?  I had them just an election ago - Powerline asks "Are we a banana republic?": "If the Pelosi bill is actually enacted into law (which I still think is doubtful) and upheld by the courts, there is no limit to the arbitrary power of Congress. In that event, we have no property rights and there is no Constitution--no equal protection clause, no due process clause, no impairment of contracts clause, no bill of attainder/ex post facto law clause. Instead, we are living in a majoritarian tyranny."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Jazz hands - Tonight I caught a great concert with my son's trumpet teacher.  Here's the link to his band's YouTube page: Music in Our World.  Check 'em out.
Madness, sheer madness - WashPost "U.S. Federal Deficit Soars Past Previous Estimates": "Deteriorating economic conditions will cause the federal deficit to soar past $1.8 trillion this year and leave the nation wallowing in a sea of red ink far deeper than the White House had previously estimated, congressional budget analysts said today."

What does the future hold for America? As I've argued (repeatably) we already can't afford the projected expansion in entitlement spending, but nobody has the political will to make necessary reforms. Now we're facing systemic $1 trillion deficits for the next decade, at least.

What does the future hold? An America where our sovereignty is handed over to the banks and foreign lenders who will now make the policy decisions because our government was unable to. The Chinese government is going to dictate terms for us the same as a bankruptcy judge. Man, I give up.

Related - Maggie's Farm: "Government run by fools."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pointless extra-constitutional grandstanding

I agree with every word Tom Maguire says here on federal legislation to pander to Americans' anger grab back the AIG bonuses:

I deplore this confiscatory tax aimed at whoever Congress is mad at today. Right now it's AIG and Fannie Mae; later it will be Merrill and Citibank, and eventually it will be defense contractors, profiteering oil executives, or whomever the Congressional Dems single out as their whipping boy du jour.
Judd Gregg is quickly moving up the charts as the only adult in Washington:

Two of those difficulties, lawyers say, lie in Article I of the U.S. Constitution -- a section stating Congress cannot pass any "Bill of Attainder" or "ex post facto" law.

A Bill of Attainder is an act of the legislature that singles out and punishes a group or individual without trial. An ex post facto law retroactively changes the legal consequences of an act.

"It's a Bill of Attainder. It can't be done," Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., told FOX News when asked about proposals in the Senate to tax AIG.
In other words, this whole kabuki theater is has no basis in the Law. It makes you proud to be an American.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This doesn't look good - Time: "Treasury learned of AIG bonuses earlier than claimed."
Tomorrow's scandal, today!

AIG is so five minutes ago. Let's move on to the latest government-supported financial entity with inept executives grabbing big bonuses. WashPost: "Top Fannie Mae Executives Each Get $1M Retention Bonuses"

Fannie Mae, the federally run mortgage finance giant, plans to pay four top executives $1 million or more in bonuses as part of an employee-retention program.

The bonus plan prompted the company's federal regulator to defend compensation decisions the government made when it took over Fannie Mae in September. It comes as American International Groupis facing public outrage over $165 million in bonuses it awarded last week.

Fannie Mae, which suffered $59 billion in losses last year, has requested $15 billion in taxpayer assistance, and has said it expects to need plenty more.
Don't worry Fannie Mae, the kids are driving us home after the party.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hooray - I just submitted my final take-home exam for my class.

Seven classes down, three to go.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Roland Burris and AIG to America: drop dead

Remember all the three-day outrage over Illinois Senator Roland Burris' admission that, yes, he had been solicited for campaign contributions from former governor Rod Blagojevich, despite previous denials?  Well, Burris ain't goin' anywhere and nobody is pushing him out.

Now - it seems to me - AIG is adopting the same "pound sand" attitude.  George Will said it best on Sunday's edition of "This Week": the federal government deemed AIG "too big to fail" so now what are we going to do?  Where's the government's leverage?  Instead, you're going to watch AIG grab their bonuses and, if you don't like it, go suck an egg.

More - From Polipundit.
Shocker: Massachusetts' health care system bankrupts state

From the Corner:

Having promised lavish subsidies for expansive health insurance, it seems state officials in Massachusetts have finally begun to admit that their health-care reform program, passed in 2006, is unaffordable for the state’s taxpayers.
The New York Times (!) suggests the plan took the path of good intentions by forcing health care coverage now and worrying about those pesky finances later:

To make it happen, Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, made an expedient choice, deferring until another day any serious effort to control the state’s runaway health costs.

The day of reckoning has arrived. Threatened first by rapid early enrollment in its new subsidized insurance program and now by a withering economy, the state’s pioneering overhaul has entered a second, more challenging phase.

Thanks to new taxes and fees imposed last year, the health plan’s jittery finances have stabilized for the moment. But government and industry officials agree that the plan will not be sustainable over the next 5 to 10 years if they do not take significant steps to arrest the growth of health spending.
Next stop: price controls, which have always been successful since the dawn of time.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Amazing Race update – Is it cold in here?

We're down to seven teams and everybody has to pile into the Trans-Siberian Railroad for a long ride further east through Russia. The train has sleeper cars so we see everybody sacked out in too-small bunks. The next morning, there's some banter and everybody's looking at deaf Luke in a new light since he U-Turned Amanda & Kris in last week's leg.

Once in Novosibirsk, teams take taxis to some school where it's the Detour: Russian Bride or Russian Snowplow. Teams may take a manual-transmission car to find a Russian bride and then drive her to the church across town; or they may learn how to drive a Russian snowplow successfully through a training course. The four-speed car, called a Lada, goes through fits and starts as everybody tries to get directions to their respective Detours. Most everybody takes the snowplow but Mel & Mike try to find a Russian bride in one of those Soviet-era apartment buildings a quarter-mile long; nevertheless, they seem to find her pretty quick.

Back at the snowplows, a frustrated Team Ginger can't seem to communicate with the snowplow trainers because they don't speak English. They speak Russian, imagine that. This Detour doesn't seem to require much skill since the trainer essentially tells the Racers how to drive. Team Esquire finishes first and head to the next stop: the Bibliotekah, which is the largest library in Siberia. Team Sistahs is bringing up the rear due to stick-shift problems.

At the library, it's the Roadblock: one team member must participate in a foot race while stripped down to "skivvies." It's a 1.4 mile run to the Pit Stop. The women get some whistles and honks from cars; the men not so much. Luke seems to enjoy himself jogging through the sub-freezing weather. He finishes first and Team Say What? takes first place.

Team Drinkcart and Team Sistahs are both bringing up the rear and they're having trouble getting around town. It looks like Kisha burnt out the clutch on their junker and they're stuck in the middle of the road. Meanwhile, the directionless Team Drinkcart charters a cab driver to go to the Roadblock and they'll follow behind. Nevermind: back from commercial, Team Sistahs is on the road again.

Kisha & Jen get to the Roadblock first and, since they're athletes, it looks like they're going to outpace Christie & Jodi to the mat. The Team Drinkcart runner Christie is wearing thong underwear which needs constant blurring by the TAR editors. She arrives last but this is the first non-elimination leg for this season. At some point in the next leg, Team Drinkcart will have to perform an additional task – a Speedbump – before they can continue the Race.

Team standings

#1 – Team Say What? – Margie & Luke
#2 – Team Esquire – Tammy & Victor
#3 – Team Ginger – Jaime & Cara
#4 – Team White Guys – Mel & Mike
#5 – Team Mighty Mites – Mark & Michael
#6 – Team Sistahs – Kisha & Jen
#7 – Team Drinkcart – Christie & Jodi – NON-ELIMINATION LEG

Next week: India again.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Taxpayer money, schmaxpayer money - WashPost: "Bailout king AIG still to pay millions in bonuses"

In AIG's defense, not one of those senior executives lit a big cigar with a $100 bill, drained a snifter of brandy, and then drove out to the Hamptons to open up the summer house.

OK, they all did.
Thank heaven those kids can't vote

Mark Steyn has today's must-read with "The Brokest Generation." Here are the choice excerpts:

Because, as politicians like to say, it’s about “the future of all our children.” And the future of all our children is that they’ll be paying off the past of all their grandparents. At 12 percent of GDP, this year’s deficit is the highest since the Second World War, and prioritizes not economic vitality but massive expansion of government. But hey, it’s not our problem. As Lord Keynes observed, “In the long run we’re all dead.” Well, most of us will be. But not you youngsters, not for a while. So we’ve figured it out: You’re the ultimate credit market, and the rest of us are all pre-approved!

This is the biggest generational transfer of wealth in the history of the world. If you’re an 18-year old middle-class hopeychanger, look at the way your parents and grandparents live: It’s not going to be like that for you. You’re going to have a smaller house, and a smaller car - if not a basement flat and a bus ticket.

I mentioned a few weeks ago the calamitous reality of the U.S. auto industry. General Motors has 96,000 employees but provides health benefits to over a million people. They can never sell enough cars to make that math add up. In fact, selling cars doesn’t help, as they lose money on each model. GM is a welfare project masquerading as economic activity. And, after the Obama transformation, America will be, too. The young need to recognize that this is their fight. They need to stop chanting along with the hopeychangey dirges and do something more effective, like form the anti-AARP: the association of Americans who’ll never be able to retire.
The federal government has been on auto-pilot for forty years as more and more of the federal budget moves from discretionary spending to entitlement spending. This has limited budgetary maneuverability so that when we have a recession – since we can't scale back on spending – we're forced to borrow more money. This level of borrowing wasn't insurmountable after World War II because America was still a relatively young country (median-age wise) with many workers, supporting a much-smaller federal government (e.g. before Medicare, fewer retirees on Social Security.) The problem with our debt now is that the situation is exactly reversed: America is an aging country with fewer young workers supporting a Brobdingnagian-sized government.

Maybe one silver lining in the past is that most of the federal debt was money we owed ourselves; that is, money borrowed from domestic banks. Now China holds $1 trillion of U.S. debt, meaning they can make demands we would have ignored in the past. Bit by bit, this is how American power and freedom is parceled away.
One of my favorite Futurama lines

"My ridiculously circuitous plan is one-quarter complete!"

Friday, March 13, 2009

The common thread from Red China's leader to Warren Buffett

Everybody's concerned about America's new heights (depths?) of debt. NYT: "China's leader says he's worried over U.S. treasuries"

The Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, spoke in unusually blunt terms on Friday about the “safety” of China’s $1 trillion investment in American government debt, the world’s largest such holding, and urged the Obama administration to offer assurances that the securities would maintain their value.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of finance ministers and bankers this weekend near London to lay the groundwork for next month’s Group of 20 summit meeting of the nations with the 20 largest economies, Mr. Wen said that he was “worried” about China’s holdings of United States Treasury bonds and other debt, and that China was watching economic developments in the United States closely.
Sounds like somebody's been hanging out with former Commerce secretary-designate, New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg:

In his opening statement, Gregg politely called the administration’s budget forecast a lie.

"The argument that it cuts the debt in half in four years is, ahh, is truly spurious," he told Geithner.

"The argument that this budget doesn’t have tax increases [on everyone] is, I think, an 'Alice in Wonderland' view of the budget," he said.

He challenged the budget's math on cutting the debt: "When you take the deficit and quadruple it and then you cut it and half, that’s like taking four steps back and two steps forward. That's not making any progress; you’re still going backwards."
And here's Warren Buffett on the plan to throw money everywhere:

I don't think anybody on December 7th would have said a `war is a terrible thing to waste, and therefore we're going to try and ram through a whole bunch of things and--but we expect to--expect the other party to unite behind us on the--on the big problem.' It's just a mistake, I think, when you've got one overriding objective, to try and muddle it up with a bunch of other things.
It's hard to believe I once flipped out over a half-trillion dollar deficit when deficits for the next decade will rarely fall below that level even if you accept Obama's delusional growth estimates.
Big Orange prevails at 1:12 a.m. after six overtimes - I'm not a big basketball fan, but this was an epic battle.  Syracuse beats UConn 127-117 after the second-longest game in March Madness history.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ironically, Dutch terror suspects disrupt concert by The Killers - National Post "Seven arrested for Amsterdam bomb threats": "Dutch police arrested seven people on Thursday on suspicion of threatening to blow up several buildings in an Amsterdam suburb, including a furniture store and a concert hall, authorities said."
Two words: "no teleprompter" - Washington Whispers reports that Barack Obama may be the first President since Grover Cleveland to skip Washington's annual Gridiron Dinner.

Joe Biden, who never runs out of things to say, will attend in the President's place.

Extra - More from Wizbang.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Walking after midnight with dot-matrix printers

I have to work on my take-home exam so I'll leave you entertained by this 1997 commerical by AT&T, starring a young Larisa Oleynik cyber-flirting with her boyfriend.

Ah, only twelve years ago, when dial-up and clickety-clack keyboards were the norm.  And is that a Polaroid camera?  It's like ancient history.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Flicks with Micks - Boston Globe: "Irish film picks for St. Patrick's Day."

I'd have to say my favorite Irish film is "The Commitments" about a Dublin band singing American soul music.  Excellent soundtrack.
Et tu, Warren Buffett?

Reuters: "Vaunted Obama message machine is off-key" (HT: Wizbang)

When billionaire investor Warren Buffett says President Barack Obama's economic message is muddled and undermining public confidence, it's worth listening.

Buffett, an informal Obama adviser considered a financial seer on Wall Street, told CNBC on Monday the message has to be "very, very clear as to what government will be doing."

"And I think we've had, and it's the nature of the political process somewhat, but we've had muddled messages and the American public does not know. They feel they don't know what's going on, and their reaction then is to absolutely pull back," he said.
The markets rebounded today on news that Citigroup isn't broke yet.
Too big to fail - Pajamas Media: "The Idiot's guide to destroying the economy"

Monday, March 09, 2009

Instead of a laser beam of focus, a kaleidoscope of spending

Here's Jennifer Rubin with "Then how are we to recover?" (HT: RCP)

It is curious indeed to have a single crisis this enormous, one which was in large part responsible for the candidate's victory, and have such a lackadaisical attitude toward solving it. You would think every policy move, every "summit," and the budget itself - which is a blueprint for the administration’s agenda - would focus on that singular mission: economic recovery. The fact that the administration is running off in a dozen different directions suggests they have either not the inclination or the know-how to address the most critical issue of our time.

No wonder the markets are in a funk.
Last week it was snubbing the Brits. Today it was cloning. Wednesday is time for Happy Hour at the White House. Meanwhile, some are taking notice that the Obama administration seems to have no clue how to address the banking crisis:

The markets hate uncertainty and lately it's all the White House delivers.

But, hey, let's talk about Rush Limbaugh now!

Extra – Here's Robert Samuelson: "Confidence (too little) and uncertainty (too much) define this crisis. Obama's double talk reduces the first and raises the second. He says he's focused on reviving the economy, but he's also using the crisis to advance an ambitious long-term agenda."
Separating science from politics, starting....now! - The Minuteman beat me to this one: the science behind the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain has been "settled" for decades.  However, Obama pandered to Nevada voters during the presidential campaign and helped out his Senate buddy Harry Reid (D-NV) to essentially kill the nuclear industry in America.  Funny how that works.
He called it - Matt Hoy predicted a NY Times flip-flop on the correct use of the filibuster.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Take a wild guess - WSJ: "Who pays for cap and trade?"
Amazing Race update – Cold strategy in Siberia

So this past week I was in my dentist office and there was an article in Entertainment Weekly about The Amazing Race. For one of the "surprises" this season, host Phil Keoghan revealed that, after one leg, two teams "scream at each other for 45 minutes." In tonight's intro, there's a foreshadowing of a "Blind U-Turn" where one team can force another to do a task but – unlike Races in the past – the punishing team doesn't have to identify itself. Conflict dead ahead.

The eight remaining teams need to fly from Romania to Siberia, Russia. This is a super-long flight connecting through Moscow and heading straight east. Everybody's bunched up at a hydroelectric dam which opens the following morning. Once there, teams just go to the next clue at a church. There it's the Detour: Stack or Construct. Teams may either stack a pile of firewood (quite high) or build a set of wood shutters and then install them onto some Siberian homes. The "construct" seems the better choice (to me) but teams start stacking firewood and we learn that "haste makes waste" as stacks start collapsing. Team Mighty Mites immediately gives up on their stack and head to the other Detour; Team Sistahs finish first and head to the next stop.

Kisha & Jen head to the Blind U-Turn but choose not to U-turn any other team. They then go to the next stop which is an amusement park and the Roadblock. One team member must travel down a bobsled and complete a course in less than four minutes while remembering seven letters on the course. At the bottom, the bobsledding Racer must rearrange the letters to spell the name of a famous Russian playwright: CHEKHOV. Lots of teams have trouble with this.

At the blind U-Turn, Margie and Luke marked the team of Amanda & Kris. They are not amused and now they have to go back and stack the wood they abandoned at the Detour. Team America was already running in last place so this extra task puts them irredeemably behind and they are eliminated at the Pit Stop. No yelling this week.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Drinkcart – Christie & Jodi
#2 – Team Sistahs – Kisha & Jen
#3 – Team Esquire – Tammy & Victor
#4 – Team Say What? – Margie & Luke
#5 – Team Ginger – Jaime & Cara
#6 – Team White Guys – Mel & Mike
#7 – Team Mighty Mites – Mark & Michael
#8 – Team America – Amanda & Kris - PHILIMINATED

Next week – Lots of skin.
Wrong wrong wrong OK, kinda right

I looked under my Snapple cap today and there read Snapple Fact #147:

Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic.
This makes absolutely no sense. I can't conceive any possible way in which the sun could rise in the west and set in the east, no matter where you're standing in Panama or Chile or anywhere.

Update: Dr. Weevil explains in comments: "Check the map: Panama is twisted, so part of the Pacific coast faces east, and part of the Atlantic coast faces west. I doubt there's one single point in Panama where you can see the sun rise from the Pacific and set in the Atlantic, but there should be points where you can see one or the other." Like KT Tunstall, suddenly I see.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Canary in the Wall Street coalmine - Economist "The fall of Bear Stearns": "The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 will probably go down as the single most spectacular event in the humbling of Wall Street. But it was the near-collapse of Bear Stearns, six months earlier, that first exposed the fragility of America’s seemingly mighty investment banks, perched atop mountains of debt and dangerously reliant on short-term funding. And it was Bear that brought the first serious reminder, after years of excess, of Walter Bagehot’s dictum that if you have to prove you are worthy of credit, your credit is already gone."

Friday, March 06, 2009

So Megan purchased a grill at Home Depot - But now she doesn't want it, and feels that the credit card company knew she might not want it, but irresponsibly lent her the money for the grill anyway, so it's really their fault.  You can see where this is going.
Perspective on the homeless cell-phone guy - T-Steel at Moderate Voice has some on the homeless and pre-paid cell phones.
Obama goes all-in - The Times (UK) "Barack Obama bets the farm in a $4 trillion poker game": "The President believes he can change US politics for a generation.  If he's wrong he could bankrupt the whole country."

Exactly my fear: where is the evidence that this level of government spending had a proof-positive effect on improving this or any economy?  And even (through luck or design) if it does, we're leaving future generations a huge pile of debt, one that will crowd out capital and drag on the economy for decades.

Related - WSJ: "Obama's radicalism is killing the Dow."  Investors don't like what they see.

More - Charles Krauthammer has "The great non-sequitur"

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The United States now has no energy policy

Word on the street is that President Obama has killed funding for the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, which essentially eliminates any future contribution of atomic energy to support America's growing power needs. There are two important reasons why this is a short-sighted, political decision that will harm the energy and economic security of this country.

First, the United States currently gets one-fifth of its energy from nuclear sources. However, almost all of these power plants are over thirty years old and the older ones will be phased out in the decades to come. There is no way to maintain this energy source without a safe place to deposit nuclear waste, so we're about to lose 20% of all of our electricity. Remember when California was in a panic – and paying through the nose – for electricity because they refused to build power plants? Get ready for that scenario, nationwide. The only viable option to replace those nuclear power plants are coal-fired plants.

Which leads to my second point: Obama, the Greens, and the Democrats might as well pack up their "save the earth" show. Aside from hydroelectric, nuclear energy is the only reliable energy source that emits no greenhouse gases. Mother Gaia is going to be upset if we replace all those clean nuclear plants with power plants burning sooty rocks. In fact, burning coal releases more radioactivity (from isotopes in the ore) than a nuclear power plant does in a hundred years.

During the presidential campaign, Obama said he wants to bankrupt the coal industry while Ted Kennedy does everything in his power to block a wind farm off Nantucket Sound. It appears that the secret of Obama's energy policy is to choke off production while passing on the added cost to average Americans.

Extra – Background on nuclear from Heritage.

More – Timothy Noah makes an ass of himself on Slate:

Global warming has caused some policy experts to call for a revival of nuclear power, whose expansion halted after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Currently there are 20 applications for new reactors under active consideration at the NRC. As recently as 2007, there were none. Nuclear plants are indeed vastly preferable to coal-fired plants from the standpoint of carbon dioxide emissions. But you can't just take into account the waste that power plants don't create. In shuttering Yucca Mountain, Obama makes it extremely likely that nuclear power in the United States will continue its long, slow, and extremely welcome death.
Well it would be great if power plants didn't create any waste at all but the main difference is this: nuclear waste is tightly contained, controlled, and safe when encased in lead; the waste from burning coal includes greenhouse gases and soot which are spewed into the atmosphere. Which would you prefer, Noah, to run Slate's servers? Or, like most environmentalists, you want the tofu but don't want to process the soy beans?

And before I start getting messages from the tree huggers insisting that Obama's "doubling" of renewable energy will save us: according to the Department of Energy, energy from non-hydroelectric renewable sources accounted for 3% of all energy generated in this country. You'd have to double the renewable contribution three times to equal nuclear and – oh I don't know how many times – to equal coal's 48%. Even though, you'd better hope the sun keeps shinin' and the wind keeps blowin'.

Even more - Q&O: "The coming tax on everything."
What's good for Viking Pundit is good for America - Megan McArdle: "GM is toast"

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Out-of-control spending - Harvard professor Greg Mankiw on government spending as a percentage of GDP: "To this day, we have yet to come to grips with how to pay for all the government created during [the post World War II era] - a problem that will become acute as more baby boomers retire and start collecting the benefits promised."  That sounds familiar.
I got nothin' tonight - Enjoy these pictures of women trying out to become a New England Patriots cheerleader.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

AIG's secret bailout partners

Before our daily meditation on the AIG bailout, a word from Charles de Gaulle (maybe):

The graveyards are full of indispensable men.
Somehow, the collapse of AIG will create a black hole which will end life on Earth as we know it. So says Fed chairman Ben Bernanke:

But he said, "We really had no choice" but to prop up the company because the consequences of failure could be disastrous.
No choice! The fear in Washington is that if AIG collapses, it's going to drag a lot of AIG creditors and partners down with it. But, since they all played roulette with credit default swaps, why should they be shielded from risk? Furthermore, as the new majority stakeholder in AIG, could we at least know the names of these partners in crime?

This strikes me as a completely legitimate question. After all, the reason A.I.G. is being propped up is that the government fears that if the company defaulted the counterparties would suddenly be faced with tens of billions of dollars worth of unacknowledged losses - and they would go bust. It would make the Lehman fiasco look like a garden party. As Nouriel Roubini put it on CNBC recently (I’m paraphrasing): It’s not a bailout of A.I.G.; it’s a bailout of the counterparties?

What’s more, a fair amount of what A.I.G. was doing was pretty sleazy behavior, using credit default swaps to help banks evade regulatory capital requirements. And yet when newspapers like this one have requested the information, they have been ignored or turned down.

The answer, as I understand it, is that A.I.G. views these as “confidential transactions,” and the government (as per usual?) is going along with that rationale. One government official told me that if the federal government divulged the names of the counterparties it would amount to a violation of the Trade Secrets Act - unless the counterparties agreed to it, which they never will.

Pretty unsatisfying, isn’t it? Gobs of tax money is going to bail out unnamed companies - and yet we aren’t allowed to know who they are, and are supposed to take it all on faith. You know those awful cases you read about every once in a while where a child dies in a troubled home - and then the state health department won’t divulge any information out of “privacy concerns”? This strikes me as the financial equivalent of those cases. As excuses go, it sure is convenient.
Enough is enough. AIG is not indispensable and taxpayer wallets aren't bottomless.

Also - WSJ: "AIG's black box"
Remember those taxes only paid by top earners?

Get ready for more stories like this:

Also drawing fire is [Obama's] proposal to start taxing industries on their greenhouse gas pollution -- a move sure to raise consumers' electric rates.
First of a long series, I'm sure.

Flashback - This guy said that Obama's cap-and-trade scheme would cause consumer's energy bills to "skyrocket."  What a hater.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Obama's secret tax revenue plan - Step #1 - nominate person who owes taxes.  Step #2: Profit.
Apropos of nothing, there's a new episode of "Intervention" on tonight - Reuters "U.S. rescue efforts may risk double-dip recession": "U.S. companies, consumers and communities may grow so addicted to government financial help that cutting them off could trigger another recession soon after the current one ends."
Editorial integrity - Hoystory notes that the NY Times' position on Senate filibusters shifts with occupants of the White House.  Surprising, I know.
Now that's forecasting! - Greg Pollowitz on December 18th, 2008: "Anyone want to bet on a snowstorm hitting D.C. on March 2, 2009?"

Tim Blair has the history of global warming protests with Coldest Warmenist Protest.  A global warming march is like a rain dance for snow.
Back to the future

Is this statement in Timothy Geithner's future?

"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong . . . somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. . . . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot."
Via Mona Charen, that was FDR's Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau, testifying to Congress in May 1939. (HT: Patterico)
Here we go again, part 2, um four – AoSHQ "AIG Bailout #4": "Tomorrow (that is, Monday), AIG is expected to announce the single largest value loss of suffered by a company in a single quarter. The announcement will be made concurrently with the announcement of AIG's latest bailout from Treasury. This will be the fourth AIG bailout."

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me...ah, here's some more money.

Remember when AIG was "too big to fail"? Well, what if there's nothing to prevent it from failing no matter how many life lines we throw? There seems to be no bottom to the crisis and no other solution than to shovel more taxpayer money into this Titanic.

Extra - Minuteman: "AIG Round Four"
Here we go again, part 1

The Massachusetts state constitution stipulates that everybody in the Bay State pays the same income tax rate. But Beacon Hill needs money! What to do...what to do...

Here's an idea: Change the state constitution so we can tax our wealthiest citizens, those who make at least $250,000 per year, just a little bit more when times are tough.
Taxing the rich! Who says liberals are out of fresh ideas? I like this response:

Here's a good idea, what say that every family earning more than $250,000 per year, move out of state and take their business and skills with them. That would make the kind of state Democrats crave - a welfare state.
More taxes! Boston Globe: "Logan parking costs may soar - Governor proposes adding $2 'carbon fee' to lot, garage rates." Because everybody loves flying so much these days, they won't mind another fee.

Related - Tigerhawk notes that businesses are fleeing/failing in New Jersey thanks to high tax rates. NJ is the worst state for entrepreneurship and Massachusetts is #44.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Amazing Race update – Gypsies, tramps and Phil

Here's another week with a West Coast NASCAR race that has to compete with the start of the Amazing Race. Well, I'll try to flip back and forth.

The nine remaining teams started out from Salzburg and find their way to Bucharest, Romania and a gymnastics studio. Tammy & Victor hit their connections in perfect sync and take what appears to be a significant lead. Whoops! Spoke too soon: the flight that Team Esquire is on has "issues" and has to return to the airport. They miss the next earliest flight and now leave five hours later with a bunch of other teams. That's bad luck. Brad & Victoria roll the dice on a flight through Amsterdam but they miss their connecting flight.

Once at the gym, it's a Roadblock: one team member must do some gymnastics. The funny "aren't they uncoordinated?" music starts and the Racers don uniforms to go through their motions. Kris of Team America looks good and finishes first. Teams now have to head to Brasov, Transylvania but it looks like everybody's bunched up at the train station. The next morning, everybody's on the train except Brad & Victoria who are still stuck in Amsterdam and are almost certainly going to come in last on this leg.

Once in Transylvania, it's the Detour: Gypsy Moves or Vampire Remains. Teams may either move a gypsy camp down the road or drag a coffin through the woods and impale some wood onto stakes (in honor of Vlad the Impaler). Victor leads Tammy down the wrong path to the Vampire task by following markers for a trail and not for the Amazing Race. They're way up a mountain in Romania. Meanwhile, after moving the gypsies, it looks like Kris lost his fanny pack with Team America's passports and money. Eventually they find it and head off to the Pit Stop.

A pan flutist waits at the Romanian Pit Stop where Mel & Mike come in first. Back at the Detour, Tammy & Victor are so far up the mountain, they're going to need oxygen masks soon; nevertheless Victor insists they're on the right path. Tammy isn't buying it, for good reason. Could Brad & Victoria catch up?

Nah. Tammy & Victor finally figure out they're going down the wrong path and eventually complete the Vampire Detour. Brad & Victoria finish in the dark and are eliminated at the mat.

Team standings:

#1 – Team White Guys – Mel & Mike
#2 – Team America – Amanda & Kris
#3 – Team Sistahs - Kisha & Jen
#4 – Team Say What? - Margie & Luke
#5 – Team Mighty Mites - Mark & Michael
#6 – Team Drinkcart - Christie & Jodi
#7 – Team Ginger - Jaime & Cara
#8 – Team Esquire - Tammy & Victor
#9 – Team Something - Brad & Victoria

Next week – Siberia.
Immobile automobiles - Here's a stunning photo gallery of unsold cars around the world.  (HT: Megan.)
Jobs that involve taking green from your wallet - City Journal "The green jobs engine that can't": "There may be legitimate arguments for taking dramatic steps to fight climate change. Boosting the economy isn’t one of them."