It's been really cold this week in the US northeast, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's only cold relative to recent years, and that this chilliness was normal for winter around here decades ago. Despite that, it still feels like it was the coldest week in my life, undoubtedly because I don't really remember how cold it was on colder days!
It's been over two years since I wrote a post on the blog. I've been keeping the software up to date, but did little else during that time. With the new year, though, I've decided to revamp the blog with a new theme.
The presumably upcoming vote on raising the debt ceiling is the big news story of the US today. Personally, I think they should just go with an up and down vote, but there is all these messy fights about wanting to attach conditions to the debt ceiling. Despite the ugly political fights, however, I have a feeling that things will go like this:
- The August 2 deadline will continue to approach, with no end in sight to the debt ceiling fight. In fact, Republicans will make increasingly outrageous demands, making it seem even more likely that the United States might default on part of its debt.
- With the huge amount of uncertainty and fears of a default by the United States government, the stock market will plummet drastically near the August 2 deadline.
- Goldman Sachs will make a killing with all the shorts it would have made. Right before the deadline, they will also buy up a whole lot of stock at rock bottom prices.
- In a dramatic vote immediately before the deadline, Congress will agree to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans may or may not be trying to deliberately cripple the American economy for working class people for their own political benefit, but they would never be allowed to actually block the raising of the debt ceiling. Goldman Sachs might like destroying parts of the economy to gather wealth from shorts, but even they might balk from a default which could threaten the wealth of even the incredibly rich.
But what do I know? I'm just a poor, cynical guy with no first-hand experience with the inner workings of any political or financial system, who probably has no idea what he is talking about.
A common criticism against Islam is that there isn't enough condemnation from moderate Muslims when a fundamentalist Muslim does something terrible. (The same sort of criticism can also be made against other religions, notably Christianity.) In my opinion, it's raised a bit too often even when not justified, although sometimes it is, but there's at least one case where the criticism would definitely not apply: a Pakistani governor was murdered by an extremist Muslim for opposing draconian blasphemy laws.
It won't matter if no moderate Muslim ever speaks up condemning this vile act, this is one case where the "moderate Muslims stay quiet" criticism would just earn a bop on the head from me, since it was precisely because he was a moderate Muslim speaking out that got Salman Taseer killed by an intolerant extremist. I may not have agreed with his beliefs, but I respect him enormously for standing up against intolerance. He should not have had to pay the ultimate price for it.
If you're anything like me, you'll be listening to NPR Science Friday every week (although not necessarily on Friday if you listen to it as a podcast like I do). One of the funding sources for the radio program was the NSF; unfortunately, they've decided not to continue their support. The NSF probably have their own valid reasons to stop their funding (like, there's a lot of pressure to cut the deficit, although I personally think that a public radio program promoting science would still be a very worthwhile cause to fund), but this means that Science Friday is facing financial difficulties. And despite being an NPR program, it only gets 10% of its funding from NPR. Fortunately, the program is in no immediate danger of going off the air, but of course, they could use all the help they can get.
I love the show, so I support it. If you're interested in science and have never been a listener of NPR Science Friday, then you might want to give it a listen.