24 November 2009


I went to the American Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium (now folded into something called the Rose Center for Earth and Space) for the first time in decades. I was not impressed. In my view the changes that have taken place are not for the better. To begin with there are exorbitant charges for special exhibits of dubious value. We bought a pass for everything, but that was of limited use since you have to tell them the specific time you want to go in advance, even for less-than-crowded walk-through exhibits.

For me the sense of mystery and wonder is gone. That could be my age, or more likely the way things have been redone. Other things haven’t been updated so you find interesting gemstones with obsolete place names like “West Germany” and “Zaire.” There is a lot of build-up for the space show in the planetarium. You get on line, then take an elevator to a room where you wait around until the relatively brief show starts. I remember walking with awe through dark halls of star walls to get there as classical music played until you entered the room with the old projector. Then the show was about astronomy; now it is generically about everything and nothing. The digital screen over the rotunda offers great possibilities but the show, purporting to be a "Journey to the Stars" was pretty mediocre.

There’s another section that is supposed to deal with with the origin of the universe narrated by someone obviously reading a script they don’t understand. It is a large spaceship-like circle that is also digitally projected, but it only lasts a few minutes and is largely wasted. Then you stroll down a walkway with small indications and nonworking screens that are supposed to be indicative of all the eons since the origin of the universe. It is less than awesome. Incomprehensively there is nothing about astronauts and human space travel except for a few incidental photos on a hallway wall. The Rose Center is a total waste of space.

The real trouble is we’ve seen all this before done better on science, nature, and space shows on television every week. Given that, the museum ought to offer something special, but regrettably it doesn’t. It somehow manages to make the wondrous routine. If you’re planning a trip to New York City you can skip this. You won’t have missed much.

17 November 2009


Every day the dollar continues to decline against other currencies. There are some who think this is good because it increases exports, but there are downsides as well. The government is pursuing a weak dollar strategy to the long-term detriment of the country as well as the rest of the world. The decline is caused by increasing debt and a balance of payments deficit. This is before the government goes further in the red with health care and other spending schemes that will only exacerbate the situation.

A weak dollar is not in anyone’s interest. First it means a decline in living standards relative to the rest of the world, second imports and travel become more costly, third it generates currency instability throughout the world, and fourth it makes each one of us lose wealth because our assets and income are worth less. This is what usually happens with high inflation, which we don’t have yet, but is almost inevitable down the road if deficits continue to pile up.

This is the classic state solution to debt- inflate the currency so that dollar debt holdings are worth less and easier to pay off. This does not just screw the Chinese who are holding massive amounts of dollar debt, but any citizen who has savings or lives on a fixed income. This is beneath the dignity of the United States, but under the present course it will happen. This will end the dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency because its stability cannot be counted on. We will lose many of the advantages that come with reserve status, and it will represent an overall decline in American strength and influence.

A strong, stable dollar is in everyone’s interests. We need a reliable and predictable standard of value that we can trust in. Unfortunately the government has an ongoing interest in inflating currency because it is easier than the pain involved in cutting spending and reducing debt. But once the world loses faith in the dollar the government will be reduced to the constraints usually born by third world countries. So it is that the President of the United States this week was the recipient of humiliating lectures on fiscal responsibility from Asian countries.

07 November 2009


While unemployment rises to 10.2% this administration and congress are obsessed with health care and cap and trade legislation instead of the economy. The latter in fact will lead to an economic train wreck costing an untold number of additional jobs. In foreign affairs while Iran and North Korea threaten a nuclear nightmare the administration is advocating nuclear disarmament at a decidedly inauspicious moment. The US is in the curious position of being to the left of France, Germany, and Britain for the first time. Never have the government's priorities been so warped. Left-wing ideology rather than reality is triumphant.

It is now clear that this is the most radical government in the history of the United States. Although Obama gives the impression of soothing moderation in his pronouncements and demeanor, what he actually is doing is completely different. The congress, the House in particular under Nancy Pelosi is even worse. They are pursuing a radical restructuring not only of government, but of society, based upon faulty assumptions, and in spite of the public’s opposition. The outcomes of these policies are likely to be disastrous. On the bright side it is increasingly likely that there will be a shift in 2010, hopefully in time to put the brakes on all of this.

04 November 2009


I receive daily Email news aggregations from a number of conservative sources. Unfortunately many also bombard my mailbox with ads for really dopey products, which are written to be persuasive but ought to be suspect to anyone with half a brain. There are two types- health and financial products.

The health claims are totally off the wall although written to sound convincing. Any time alternative health cures deviate from mainstream medicine they should be greeted with a high degree of skepticism. A cursory search on the Internet will usually yield contrary information from reliable medical sites or user testaments that the product doesn’t work as advertised. These are the sorts of things one would expect from new age weirdos, not conservatives.

The financial “advice” is even more insidious to the extent that the proponent has probably loaded up on the new hot stock they are urging everyone to buy. Such promotions are based on the other idiot principle; that someone else will buy what you own at a higher price until it eventually crashes and the last person winds up losing their investment. We also hear gold being constantly promoted in television commercials by people who own gold. If they can induce enough people to buy in the price will increase and they will benefit. I don’t propose to give financial advice here but to my mind gold has already had a big run up. If enough people buy gold the price will rise but eventually hit a point that is at odds with reality. Nor do I suggest that one ignore the real danger of eventual high inflation due to government debt and not invest defensively, but there are always alternative commodities and investments.

I find it offensive that these organizations are using subscriber lists to lure the gullible into risky if not dangerous situations. It undermines their overall credibility and is an inappropriate abuse of subscriber trust.