January 31, 2013

Blaming “austerity” for most recent slowdown

Filed under: Economics, Government, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:47

David Harsanyi discusses the named (by the mainstream media) culprits for the unexpected drop in US fourth-quarter GDP:

So, U.S. consumer confidence unexpectedly plunged in January to its lowest level in more than a year. The U.S. economy unexpectedly posted a contraction in the fourth quarter of 2012 — for the first time since the recession — “defying” expectations that economic growth is in our future.

If the economy were as vibrant as President Barack Obama has told us it is, a belt tightening in a single sector of government surely wouldn’t be enough to bring about “negative growth.” But one did. Unexpectedly. No worries, though. Pundits on the left tell us that this contraction was good news — possibly the best contraction in the history of all contractions. The White House blamed Republicans and, I kid you not, corporate jet owners because — well, who else? But mostly, the left is bellyaching about the end of temporary military spending and a brutal austerity that’s enveloped a once great nation.

There’s a small problem with that argument. There is no austerity. In the fourth quarter of 2012, Washington spent $908 billion, which was $30 billion more than it spent in the last quarter of 2011 and nearly $100 billion more than it spent in the third quarter of 2012. Taxpayers took on another $400 billion in debt during the quarter. If this is poverty, can you imagine what robust spending looks like?

As always, for “austerity” to take the blame, there’d actually have to have been some austerity to start with. The US government certainly hasn’t been practicing austerity over the last four years.

Talking secession … again … and again … and again

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:28

Paul Wells has a few thoughts on secession:

The reason we have spent nearly 40 years debating the effect of referendum results a few points this side or that of 50 per cent is because we have all known for nearly that long that any separatist “victory” in a referendum will be a close thing. If there ever were such a vote, 50 per cent plus a bit on a confusing question, then a sovereignist Quebec government would run into difficulties that don’t have much to do with the text of the Clarity Act and would not be eased by Tom Mulcair’s attempted compromise.

The Supremes sing the hits better than anyone. In their opinion on the Secession Reference, the top court got everyone excited with Paragraph 88, which identifies (Andrew Coyne and many others have said it “invents”) an “obligation on all parties to Confederation to negotiate constitutional changes to respond” to “the clear expression of the desire to pursue secession by the population of a province.” Every six weeks ever since there has been an op-ed in Le Devoir invoking the “obligation to negotiate” as Quebec secessionists’ trump card after a future third-time-lucky majority referendum vote.

It would be so lovely if somebody read more than one paragraph. Having discerned an obligation to negotiate where few had seen one before, the Supremes then ask the obvious question: “What is the content of this obligation to negotiate?” That’s a hell of a question, and since it comes precisely one paragraph after the one that gets everyone so excited, it’d be swell if a few people followed what comes next. The justices promptly “reject two absolutist propositions.” The first is “that there would be a legal obligation on the other provinces and federal government to accede to the secession of a province, subject only to negotiation of the logistical details of secession.” To anyone who says a Yes vote must lead to secession on Quebec’s terms, “we cannot accept this view.” Make the Yes vote as big as you like — Quebec could still not “dictate the terms of a proposed secession to the other parties: that would not be a negotiation at all.”

[. . .]

So a secession attempt would be just about infinitely more complex than the conventional wisdom usually assumes. I haven’t even considered the near-certainty that local secessionist, purely dissolutionist, or U.S.-annexationist movements would pop up across Canada if Quebec began a secession attempt. But surely governments of good will can overcome dissent? Well, maybe, except that the last time Canada’s governments attempted a coast-to-coast set of constitutional amendments — the Charlottetown process of 1992 — the unanimity and best efforts of every head of government in the land wasn’t enough to ensure passage.

There’s a powerful narcotic quality to any conversation that mentions the “Charlatan Accord” for most Canadians over the age of 40: you can see eyes glaze over and lids get heavy the instant that process enters the discussion.

The “clean” side of archaeology

Filed under: History, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:11

BBC News has an interesting segment on how digital technology is changing the field of archaeology:

Archaeologists may not need to get their hands so dirty any more, thanks to the kind of digital technology being pioneered at Southampton University.

Its ‘µ-VIS Centre for Computed Tomography’ possesses the largest, high energy scanner of its kind in Europe: a ‘micro-CT’ machine manufactured by Nikon.

Capable of resolutions better than 0.1mm — the diameter of a human hair — it allows archaeologists to carefully examine material while still encased in soil.

Using visualisation software, archaeologists can then analyse their finds in 3D. This keeps the material in its original form, and postpones any commitment to the painstaking process of excavation by hand.

Video of the machine in operation at the BBC News site.

Randy Moss is not the greatest NFL receiver … but he could have been

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Judd Zulgad agrees that Randy Moss was a great wide receiver during his career in Minnesota, was even better in New England, but he was not the best ever:

Randy Moss declared this week that he believes he is the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game.

Moss is wrong. He’s not.

That honor belongs to Jerry Rice and from there the debate about who is second can begin.

But in giving ESPN and sports-talk shows invaluable fodder to discuss during Super Bowl week, one has to wonder this about Moss: Will he wake up one day long after his NFL career is over and realize that he could have been the greatest receiver to have played if only he had elected to apply himself.

There are no denying Moss’ talents.

Moss, who at 35 is spending the twilight of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, served almost immediate notice upon his arrival with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998 that NFL teams had made a mistake by passing on him 19 times in the first round of that draft.

In his rookie season, Moss helped to redefine how we thought about the wide receiver position.

[. . .]

Cris Carter might not have been beloved by the media, but he tried his best to mold Moss into a professional in 1998. Moss arrived back in Minnesota for a tumultuous month in 2010 and did far more damage than good in numerous areas, including when it came to Percy Harvin’s development.

Moss attempted to point out Wednesday the quality of quarterbacks that Rice had to work with during the majority of his career. What Moss failed to mention is that he spent three-plus seasons with a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Tom Brady and broke Rice’s record by catching 23 touchdown passes in 2007.

Guess who ruined the relationship between Moss and the Patriots? It wasn’t the football team. Rice bounced around late in his career because he wanted to hang on too long. Moss began to bounce around during the prime of his career because he had become a pain.

Moss, like Brady, should go into Canton, Ohio, on the first ballot when he’s eligible — it looks like he wants to stick around for at least one more season — and he should go down as a receiver who helped change the NFL as we know it.

What he won’t go down as is the greatest receiver of all time. For that, Randy Moss has no one to blame but himself.

Powered by WordPress