Saturday, December 27, 2008

Big Changes Needed in Detroit

Detroit has had, arguably, the worst record ever. It really is almost amusing if it wasn’t so bad.

Many blame management, but that is only part of the story. Even if they were, miraculously, able to come up with the perfect game plan, they just don’t have the talent to implement it.

So just wiping out the top and calling it a day isn’t enough. But it isn’t really fair to clean out the labor in this is it? Well, if you consider that if management had been doing their job they wouldn’t be getting those huge paychecks anyway, consider it a short-term windfall that they didn’t really deserve anyway.

But it really isn’t their fault, and no one should be blaming them. They were looking out for themselves, just as you would in that position. You always think that you are worth more than you are – its human nature. But there is supposed to be someone there telling you that maybe you just aren’t good enough.

But that is irrelevant anyway, even if you were able to clean the slate at the top and the bottom it will be years before Detroit can really compete again. So what is the answer? To change the rules of the game?

That will have all sorts of unintended consequences. You won’t really want to be on Detroit because the changes may not be enough. But betting on the competition that has been running all over Detroit for years is risky as well. They are, after all, getting some incredible advantages.

And what rules do you change anyway? Give them 5 downs to get 10 yards? Maybe make touchdowns worth 10 points? Or maybe you just spot them an extra 20 yards every possession. How do you make sure that it makes it “fair” and not just giving them an overwhelming advantage in every game?

Wait. This is absurd? You thought I was talking about the Big 3? That would just be absurd.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Easiest Money Ever

And no, I’m not talking about selling a Senate seat.

Large Hadron Collider will destroy Earth.” – Stakes $1000.

Why not make it $10K or even $100K?  Its not like there is going to be anyone around to collect if you are wrong.

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Breaking News: Politician is Corrupt

I was going to write a story about the Blagojevich story pointing out that politicians are only for sale because they have a lot to offer.  But this post says almost exactly what I wanted to say, so I can maximize my comparative advantage (namely driving my daughter to school).

So the big news today is that the governor of Illinois has been caught doing explicitly what most politicians do with more subtlety every single day:  selling off their power to the highest bidder.  I can't help but note that yet another politician is indicted on corruption charges at the very same time we are handing over unprecedented power to the political class as we partially nationalize the banking system and, apparently, the Big Three auto companies.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Glimpse of Life at Home

I’m what you would call nominally agnostic.  I was raised Catholic and was very involved in the church up until college.  I quickly became very disillusioned with organized religion. 

My opinions have morphed slowly over time into thinking that if there is a god, it is impossible for human to know what it is or what it truly wants.  Its possible that some Creator is responsible for our universe.  It is also possible that it is a cosmic accident.  I’m OK with not knowing, it doesn’t really drive my behavior one way or another.

The upshot of all of this is that religion doesn’t have a very active role in my home life.  Both of my girls were baptized in the church, but we don’t attend mass outside of the odd baptism or wedding.  We celebrate Christmas and Easter, but they are family events, not religious ones.

Earlier this week my daughter, Alanna, was working on a homework assignment and I asked her what she was working on.

“I have to write a paragraph explaining whether I would rather live in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance.”

I jokingly asked if I got to be a King in the middle ages to which she rolled her eyes. “No, Dad.  You are the same class as you are now.”

I told her the decision was easy – we would likely be artisans or merchants and life was much better for them in the Renaissance than the middle ages.  She was worried though because non-Christians were killed in that era.

“I’d rather be a slave than dead.”

I pointed out that many that actually could make that choice made the opposite decision, but her statement surprised me.  While we are certainly not actively involved in church, I wouldn’t necessarily describe the family as “non-Christian.”

My wife would absolutely describe herself as Christian and I don’t really discuss religion at home.  My daughters are free to come to their own conclusions on the subject, so I don’t actively try to influence them.  I am not a militant anti-religious person, I think that there are some positive aspects to religion in the community sense.

So I guess I have been successful in not instilling strong religious feelings in my kids – hopefully it leads to being open minded about the subject.  I do wonder sometimes if I have taken the wrong tact and should have instead raised them in a more “mainstream” manner.

I guess only time will tell.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Posted Without Comment

From Gov Perry (TX) & Gov Sanford (SC): 

we'd ask the federal government to stop believing it has all the answers.

The rest is worth reading as well..

Where Is the But?

An interesting Markets in Everything from Marginal Revolution:

Tom Farber gives a lot of tests. He's a calculus teacher, after all. So when administrators at Rancho Bernardo, his suburban San Diego high school, announced the district was cutting spending on supplies by nearly a third, Farber had a problem...

"Tough times call for tough actions," he says. So he started selling ads on his test papers: $10 for a quiz, $20 for a chapter test, $30 for a semester final.

What does it say about me that as I read this post I was expecting to see something about the teacher going to jail or the school board receiving hundreds of complaints from students or some other anti-market reaction?

I would be willing to take a bet that Mr. Farber will be admonished for his entrepreneurship – any takers?

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Throwing Good Money After Bad

Just so we are all on the same page.

The current financial problems were caused by individuals extending their credit beyond the means of which they could afford.

No one really seemed to mind loaning lots of money to people that couldn’t afford it because, if they defaulted, at least you had a house that was constantly increasing in value.

This all collapsed when – lo and behold – housing prices decided to not follow the “never decline” rule and promptly start to decline in value.

This increased the numbers of people that defaulted on loans that they could afford.  Which caused banks that provided too many people too much credit.

Which has, in turn, caused the government to spend trillions of dollars bailing out said banks.

Which hasn’t worked out all that well, because bad banks are, well, bad banks.

So the new plan is – to extend more credit to consumers?

Please, someone tell me why we are hostage to these morons in Washington?  And how do we get them to stop?!

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The Great Depression of 1995

More banks are in trouble since any time since… 1995?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday the list of banks it considers to be in trouble shot up nearly 50% to 171 during the third quarter — yet another sign of escalating troubles among the institutions controlling Americans' deposits.

In the second quarter, 117 FDIC-insured institutions were on the list. Now, at 171, the number of institutions on the FDIC's "problem list" is at its highest level since late 1995.

Can anyone explain why the media and politicians incessantly compare the current problems with the financial sector with the Great Depression when they only have to go back little more than a decade to find equivalent circumstances?  Or go back a little more than two decades to find a situation that is much, much worse.  And who can forget the 70s? (well, I was in diapers at the time, but that’s a different story).

Is it really that bad and we are still on the leading curve?  Are politicians playing it up so that they can make a power grab?  Is the media desperate to paint Bush as incompetence incarnate so they can canonize Obama more quickly? 

How much of the fear and uncertainty is merely a feedback loop and if everyone would stop saying how bad it is thins would start to turn back around?

I’m no expert, but I’m favoring the later.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

All Geeked Out

I’m a gadget/technology kind of guy – occasionally I run across something so cool that I just have to share.

I’m certain that you have seen the commercials with the guy (or gal) that clicks a button on their phone and it identifies what song they are listening to.  Heck, some of you probably have that.

Well, I just found an app for Windows (and Mac) that does the same thing – and for free! – for those of us without the feature on our phones.

I was impressed that it was even able to identify a Vivaldi song off of a commercial.

Tunatic is pretty cool, though probably not as versatile as the phone based apps, is very fast and accurate as near as I can tell.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama Cures Greed

With gas prices plunging to under $2.00 here in the Midwest I can only assume that it is due to the election of Obama as President Elect of the United States of America.

His We Can Do It attitude and lack of ties to the oil industry have forced executives to give up their greedy lifestyles and realize that they can do us all a huge favor by charging less of gasoline.

The era of greed is over and now we can all go about and save the world from the other six deadly sins.

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Just The Kind of Change We Need

Obama is going to push very hard, very fast for healthcare reform socialization.  And he picked a doozy to lead the charge.

Tom Daschle said efforts during the Clinton administration, led by Hillary Clinton, took too long and went into too much detail, giving every interest group an opportunity to find something they didn't like about the plan.

Because those pesky details are a hindrance, the public can’t know what we are giving them, just that we are giving them something.

Daschle …. advises clients on issues including health care, financial services, taxes and trade, according to the firm's Web site.

Health care interests, including CVS Caremark, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, Abbott Laboratories and HealthSouth, are among the firm's lobbying clients.

Why is it that the only time that being in the pocket of ‘Big Business’ is only a problem if you are on the right.  Democrats would skewer Bush for assigning someone like this to a cabinet post. 

But, obviously, politics isn’t common sense and it isn’t about ‘the people’ it is about power.  Now that he has it he can do what we want with it.  The minority party always complains about the abuse of power by the President and they kinda chatter about taking away that power.  But once they have that power, all of a sudden there really isn’t anything wrong with having all that power anymore.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

I’m Pissed Off

Congress, the Administration and damn near everyone are tacitly admitting that the massive lobbyfest that was supposed to be a “bailout plan” is in fact a big giant dud.  Why isn’t this raising screams of protest and anger?  We were told that they “had to do something” and damn fact otherwise the world was going to end.  They lied.  They have spent nearly $350 billion dollars and now they are changing their mind and nothing has changed.

So they passed a bill in about 72 hours – it didn’t work.  Duh.

I’m not surprised but somebody should be questioning why we let them do this.

Why is the press just reporting that they are changing their mind and treating it like the next dumbass idea is bound to work? In reality, they just managed to figure out that they can use the illusion of a bailout plan as pork like pork has never been porked before?

Why do we continue to let these fucking morons plan around with trillions of dollars to just throw into whatever harebrained scheme that may,possibly get them elected?

Why isn’t everyone pissed off?

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sometimes Correlation Does Equal Causation

It is really easy to tell when I’m working on a paper.  I blog more often. 

It’s amazing how easy it is to find other things to do when you are supposed to be doing something that you don’t really want to do.

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Libertarians are Broken

Many libertarian types are convinced that if only they could explain their point of view just right and to enough people the masses would be persuaded that government isn’t really the answer to the nations problem.  Government, they would say, can cause more problems than they are attempting to solve.

Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true.  Politics is a religion and individual’s policy preferences are based far more in emotion than in reason.  One of the primary differences between the libertarian types that I know and those on the left and right is to approach problem solving intellectually rather than emotionally.  I tend to think that this difference in looking at problems is what keeps us marginalized in policy making circles.

This isn’t to say that all supporters of libertarianism are the epitome of rationality.  Quite contrary – there are plenty of nutjobs in our neck of the woods.  In fact, those very nutjobs are deadweight to most of our ideas.  Too many on the left and right think that the primary goal of libertarianism is to legalize drugs so that we can all get high.

In my last post I explained why I think that my daughter’s diabetes is best served by the lack of government intervention.  I have tried over and over and over again to explain to my wife how our lives would be much worse with “universal health care” than under the current system.  And would probably be even better still if the government would just let well enough alone and get out of the way.

But she won’t hear any of it, she is convinced that life would continue as is under government paid health care except we just wouldn’t pay the bills.  And she gets more than a little emotional at my arguments.  She thinks I’m heartless and ignorant.  So I’ve learned to just not talk about it.

The moral of the story is that until and unless the small government advocates can come up with emotional stories to promote our point of view we will continue to be locked out of government.

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Perfect Storm of Market Failure

My daughter, age 10, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of 18 months.  Since that time she has relied on insulin injections to keep her alive.

About three years ago we finally convinced her to start using an insulin pump.  The pump is really an amazing piece of technology; it allows an extremely flexible lifestyle – critical for kids.  When my daughter was on injections we had to keep her to a very regimented diet and schedule.  With the pump she can eat what she wants, when she wants (or not as the case may be).  You will just need to take my word for it when I say that this was a life-changing decision for us.

One of the most annoying things about all of this was my insurance doesn’t cover the pump.  Neither the upfront cost nor the monthly supplies that we need to keep it operational.   So I had to shell out about $1500 on the pump and almost $100 per week on supplies which doesn’t even include the insulin.

We just went to a diabetes event this evening and there is a new model of pump out and it is a huge upgrade.  The pump that my daughter currently uses is about the size of a pager and has a tube that connects to her abdomen and constantly supplies her body with insulin.  The new pump is wireless, it separates the control unit from her site.  If you don’t have kids, trust me when I tell you that getting rid of that tubing is a huge deal.  It also allows her to vary the location of her injection sites which will cut down on the scarring that she will invariably get by sticking a needle in her abdomen every couple of days.

Now the popular narrative would tell you that we are pretty much screwed.  We need this technology to keep my daughter alive.  The supplies are a tie-in with the pump – once we have made that large initial purchase we are stuck buying them from the original manufacturer since they have a monopoly.  I’m certainly too dumb to make these decisions on my own so I’m stuck doing whatever my doctor tell me to do.

So you would expect this advance technology to cost a lot more right?  Say $2000 up front?  Nope.  Oh, then it must be at least $2500.  Sorry, try $800.  Well then they must get you on the consumables!  Missed again – they only run about $75 per week.

The truth is there are several manufacturers of insulin pumps, and even though you only buy a new pump every five years or so, they compete aggressively trying to earn the business of this pretty small market.  And the customer service that they provide is outstanding.  This pump is literally a matter of life and death – so if we have a problem with it we can call them at any time (and this is true of all the manufacturers) and they will overnight a new pump, at no cost, wherever we happen to be.

So to recap, we are using medical technology that is imperative for the health and well being of my daughter.  Someone that I would pay any amount of money for to make her healthy.  We are tied in to buying a monopoly product on a weekly basis.  These are all of the conditions that the left tries to convince us make healthcare so different that markets can’t possibly work.  Yet at the same time, the technology is advancing forward rapidly and getting cheaper!

This is the same set of circumstances that we see in Lasik eye surgery which they write off because eye site isn’t nearly as important as life, right?  Well, what is the excuse this time?  Why is my daughter’s health so different that makes this so different than the rest of the health system?  Because markets clearly shouldn’t be working.

But the truth is markets do work, if you would just let them.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Some Random Thoughts About Obama’s Win

1. This isn’t going to be anywhere near as bad as the right fears and nothing near as great as the left hopes.

2. Confirmation bias is going to prevent the right and the left from acknowledging #1.

3. I think there is a reasonably high chance that Obama won’t be President in 2013.  There is a significant chance that some nutjob will decide they can’t abide a black man in charge of the country.  Or, Obama’s overriding need to “fix it” will delay or completely avoid any kind of economic recovery.

4. At least two Justices will retire in the next four years.  The best thing about Obama’s win last night is that the court will stay balanced for the next decade or so.  This just means that the courts won’t be able to implement a huge shift in Constitutional law for awhile.

5. I am actually a little amazed with how close the election was – Bush is one of the least popular Presidents in recent history and the election still ends up essentially 50% – 50%?  How screwed up is that?  I have to imagine that there is a real opportunity for a different type of candidate out there.  I just wish I was smart enough to figure out what it is.  I would like to think that someone could come out with a liberty, small government agenda and sweep the nation, but I have a feeling that will never, ever, ever in a million years be possible again.

6. I don’t think that we will see any major programs under Obama’s watch – government revenues will be down for a year or three which will prevent any real single-payer health program.  Raising taxes will all but ensure that Obama loses in 2012.  Government control of the economy will likely increase some, but it can’t be as bad as the 30s.  Can it?

7. At least Democrats don’t have 60 seats in the Senate, which should ensure that they don’t anything really stupid.  The Republicans tend to be more intelligent on the economy when they aren’t actually driving the agenda.

8. For those of you that are hoping that an Obama administration is going to undo the worst of the Bush civil liberties transgressions – you are seriously mistaken.  Iraq will probably maintain status quo.  DADT isn’t going to change.  Gay marriage will not become a federal issue. The left will like the use of anti-terrorist laws just as much as the right does.  In short, I don’t see anything positive coming out of the next four years other than putting the right into a timeout may – perhaps – force them to relearn that there are some of us that really give a rat’s ass about  conservative Christian “values” and really just want government the hell out of our business.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Pleasant Thought

At least if your spirits are lifted by schadenfreude.  Half the country is going to feel as depressed by this election as libertarians feel every election.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard. –HL Mencken

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Despair That is Election Day

In my American Presidents class we have been discussing the election week in and week out.  The more that we talk about it the more depressed I get.  Most of the people in class have very strong, emotional convictions on who the right guy is.  And the more they talk about the more it is apparent that they have no fucking clue what they are talking about.

Throughout the whole exercise I feel increasingly morose about the whole exercise.  They repeat the same platitudes and promises that anyone with 30 seconds and access to Google would know to be complete and utter bullshit.

To make matter worse,  I have come to learn that there has never been the utopian Nation of Liberty that most libertarian types insist existed before FDR.  After reading the book on Jefferson, the one President that I was certain was the intellectual father of liberty, I simply learned that he was an opportunist that was more than willing to use the reigns of power to serve his own ends if he felt they were justified.

From fighting an “illegal war” to evil rationalizations on slavery he nearly popped that last vestiges of idealism I had left.  Jefferson is really no different than any of the rest of them.  I then started Sobel’s book on Calvin Coolidge - Coolidge: An American Enigma - it started off really well.  Coolidge is really an anti-politician in so many ways, but in the end he really was an opportunist – fighting for government intervention when it suited him.  That really was the end of it for me.

Now I think that Coolidge would be a vast, vast mountain of an improvement over what we are going to get, the fact is that we don’t really get that choice.  It’s a choice between really bad and pretty catastrophic with the sad truth that I haven’t quite figured out who is who.

I had every intention of walking into the voting booth and just voting on the local referendums, but am now thinking that a vote for some President other than Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum is more likely to register the greatest amount of dissatisfaction.  I know next to nothing about Bob Barr and truth be told I probably would be less likely to vote for him if I did.  But in this world where the answer to every question is “Government” at least he has to be directionally correct.


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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Political Commercials Suck

The Living Room Candidate has every political commercial aired on National television since about 1952.  The early commercials were actually relatively entertaining.  But sometime in the 80s the quality of political commercials, in my humble opinion, declined dramatically.

Maybe its just an effect from actually being familiar with the candidates from this period, but the commercials from the 80s on are unadulterated crap as far as I am concerned.  Any theories on why commercials over the last couple decades are just mealy mouthed crap?

For the record, the best of the commercials is this1968 clip titled “Laughter.”

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Prove Me Wrong

I am SO sick of the election – seriously.  That one promises me this, the other one promises me that – I can’t help but to think “bullshit”.  Obama promises to create jobs by sinking money into special interest bullshit.  McCain promises to save the economy by sinking money into bullshit mortgage bailouts.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know everything>  Truth be told, that’s probably why I’m a libertarian – I couldn’t possibly know everything so let people make their own decisions (and their own mistakes).  But maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Obama can really create jobs.  Maybe McCain can really save us all.  Fine, let’s measure it.

Come up with some real, tangible measures to show that your programs are really doing what you claim they are going to do.  If you are really ambitious, let your opponents come up with some measures that prove that there are real costs to what you are proposing.

Something tells me that you aren’t willing to actually put your ideas to the test – you would rather pontificate and blather.  So I will continue to call it all bullshit, because you are filthy stinking liars and I think that you know it.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

It’s Bush’s Fault

As I sit here to write this the Dow Jones has lost over 20% of its value year-to-date – most of it in the last month or so.  The news is full of doom and gloomy scenarios about how terrible the economy is.  Politicians are telling us how the credit markets are “seized up” and how they – and only they – are going to fix it.

But, for some reason, I have a hard time buying it all.  From where I sit things aren’t really looking all that bad.  I still see people going to the stores buying stuff, I haven’t seen mass layoffs or huge rises in unemployment.  Heck, I am still getting offered credit cards every time I turn around and my friend just closed on a house (and he has average credit at best) – so how are the credit markets “seized up?”

We have to keep in mind that the market isn’t the economy.  It is the collective expectations of the expected value of companies.  We all know that humans are emotional, the market is no better and in some ways worse because it is susceptible to crowd behaviors.

Every time the politicians tell us that credit markets are bad and they need to do something it scares investors.  Every time government agencies act in unison across the globe and do something drastic it scares investors.  What we are seeing right now are investors that are uncertain about what is coming next. 

I’m very scared – but not about the economy, about what the perceived state of the economy is going to force the government’s hand into doming something very, very stupid that will plunge us into another Depression.  Despite

If the Bush Administration would just come out and say, unequivocally, that they still believe in markets.  That there will be no more massive government intrusion into private business.  That things look a little bleak, but it will recover and this isn’t really the end of the world.  If Bush would do all of these things I think we would see an end to the wild swings in the market that have been the norm for the last couple of weeks.

Markets hate uncertainty and at this point we have no idea what they are going to do next.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Which is Riskier?

For the past 20 years, traditional pension plans, which paid benefits based on an employee’s years of service and pay, have been gradually replaced by individual accounts loaded with stocks and more exotic holdings, which provide benefits based on fluctuations in the financial markets. Today, only 18 percent of the work force, at most, including government workers and most private unionized workers, still have old-fashioned “defined benefit” plans.

This transformation has largely been the result of government policies that have encouraged, through tax breaks, the creation of 401(k)-type plans and promoted an approach to investing that favors risky stocks and bonds held in high-fee commercial accounts.

So what happened to all of those defined pension accounts?  They collapsed, the companies that provided them went out of business.  It would seem to me that tying your retirement to the long term success of a single company is far riskier than the success of the market as a whole.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In the History of Bad Ideas

This one has to be up there:

Paulson was in talks with Democrats about their proposal that the government be able to purchase equity in faltering companies as part of the plan, so taxpayers could benefit from future profits.

Giving government further incentive to manipulate, meld, twist and generally distort the market is a bad, bad, bad idea.  Imagine that a company comes along that is better for consumers in every way to one of these “bailed out” companies – Company A.  It will start making more money than Company A, Company A’s bottom line starts to suffer.

Does Congress just sit idly by while its revenue stream is effected?  Will Congress just let Company A slowly perish?  I’m agnostic as to whether saving Company A is the right thing to do.  It is possible that Company A is too important right now to let it just collapse, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.  What sort of distortions will occur if Congress is a part owner in Company A?  Does Congress get to pick the CEO?  Or Board of Directors?  Will there be a quid pro quo?  “We’ll support you as Chairman if you stump for Obama in ‘12”

I can think of nothing more unappealing than giving Congress a vested interest in the running of any specific company – business is too political as it is.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On to the Next Class

I know that many of you have been sitting on the edge of your seat wondering how I fared in my econ class.  Well worry no more, I got an A.

Relieved, I know.

I start my next class today - in fact I'm sitting in the class room as I write this waiting for the prof to arrive.  The class is American Presidents.  As part of the curriculum we are required to read two biographies of two different presidents - one from the 20th century and one from prior to the 20th century.

The book I am reading now is Thomas Jefferson by R.B. Bernstein.  I haven't gotten very far into it, but I've already lost a lot of respect for the man though.  He appears to be an opportunist and a hypocrite - but maybe that is OK.

One thing that strikes me though is Madison's reluctance to add a bill of rights calling them merely a "parchment barrier" to government intrusion into citizen's rights.

Turns out he was right - though I can't imagine that not having a Bill of Rights would have improved matters any.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Government Efficiency

A friend of mine applied for a job with the FAA two years ago and put me down as a reference.

I recieved a questionnaire for his security clearance... yesterday.

Why is it that we want these idiots running healthcare?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Don't Just Tax the Rich

Megan McArdle offers some reasons why we shouldn't place too heavy a tax burden on "the rich." 

High taxes on a narrow base are about the opposite of optimal tax theory.  This is not because economists are mean, cruel people who are primarily interested in serving their corporate overlords, but rather because the narrower the base, and the higher the rates, the more sharply the marginal returns to rate increases diminish.

Take an extreme example.  The top 1% of households, about 1 million in all, have about 20% of national income.  They've also experienced most of the income gains in the last twenty years.  So let's say we want to fund federal operations entirely out of their pockets.  Well, to do so, we'd need an income tax rate of 100%.  Even ardent liberals will surely concede that at these levels, the supply-siders are right, and we'll soon end up with no tax base.

Even a less extreme example--make them pay half the tax burden--ends up with a 50% effective rate on high earners.  And to get a 50% effective rate, you need an even higher marginal rate.  The problem for people who want to load tax increases on these people while cutting taxes for everyone else is that if you actually succeed in shifting the tax burden this way, you'll rapidly end up on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve.

There is another reason too - "the rich" are highly susceptible to changes in the economy.  They have done reasonable well for the last several years because the economy, in general, has done very well.  But when the economy starts to do poorly the rich tend to see some pretty dramatic drops in their income.  Its very much a high risk/reward system.

Do we really want the tax base so highly dependent on these wild swings?  It might be entertaining to watch for a bit, but probably not very good for the overall health of the country.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

More on Diversity

Quite simply, Rep. Cohen will have to accept what the rest of the country will have to accept -- there has been an unofficial Congressional White Caucus for over 200 years, and now it's our turn to say who can join 'the club.' He does not, and cannot, meet the membership criteria, unless he can change his skin color. Primarily, we are concerned with the needs and concerns of the black population, and we will not allow white America to infringe on those objectives.

Doesn't having any sort of "insert race here" club/caucus/fraternity just reinforce the idea that said race is different?

I always kinda found it odd that there were black fraternities, a black Resident Council, a Black Student Union, heck, we even had a couple black only lunch tables in the cafeteria.  Meanwhile the rest of the fraternities, student unions and lunch tables were pretty integrated.  And let me point out quite clearly that this isn't a case of the majority segregating a minority - this is a case of a minority holding themselves apart.

I understand feeling more comfortable with people like you - we all do it.  I even concede that I have no idea what being black is like, I get that.  But holding yourself apart and preventing yourself from meeting and interacting with people that don't look like you is completely contrary to the large university experience.  It's contrary to the concept of diversity (one of the justifications for affirmative action, btw).  And most of all runs counter to the goal of eliminating racism and prejudice.  Blacks and minorities should be seeking to interact with as many people that don't look like them as possible if only to show that they are really just like them after all.

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I know it may be politically incorrect to say so, but why is it that diversity means "anyone except white guys?"

My employer is celebrating diversity month and handled out Diversity Pamphlets to everyone as they walked in the building.  Not a single white person in the whole thing.

There are several posters around the office - not a single white guy anywhere to be seen.

Do whites simply not have any value?  Or are we so alike that we couldn't possibly represent the concept of diversity?

I don't get it.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Truly Creative Capitalism

The true power of capitalism is its ability to take the basest of human instincts - greed and selfishness - and transform them into an engine that generates wealth, innovation and prosperity for the entire society. 

Truly creative capitalism would discover a method to use the powerful forces of self-interest to incent the despotic and authoritarian leaders of the poorest countries to embrace the power of markets.   It will take a wiser man than I to find such a system, but I can imagine how such a system might work.

Perhaps it is a betting-market based on the GDP growth of a nation in which the rulers get a controlling share.  Perhaps the leader would collect a percentage of all taxes generated from business.  Either way, if  such a leader could be convinced that they would become wealthier and more powerful by letting their nation prosper as opposed to simply stealing whatever they wanted a win-win situation might be created.

Without creating the incentives for these authoritarians to make institutional changes within their countries I fear that any effort by the developed nations or Creative Capitalists will simply be throwing good money after bad.  It may help a little today, but shouldn't creative capitalism really be striving to make long term advancements in wealth that only changes in institutions will really achieve?

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fed Prevents Last Failure

The Fed announces new rules on lending practices that, if implemented a decade ago - would have prevented the mortgage 'crisis'.

To prevent a repeat of the current mortgage mess, Bernanke said the Fed will adopt rules cracking down on a range of shady lending practices that have burned many of the nation's riskiest "subprime" borrowers — those with spotty credit or low incomes — who were hardest hit by the housing and credit debacles.

The plan, which will be voted on at a Fed board meeting on Monday, would apply to new loans made by thousands of lenders of all types, including banks and brokers.

Under the proposal unveiled last December, the rules would restrict lenders from penalizing risky borrowers who pay loans off early, require lenders to make sure these borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance and bar lenders from making loans without proof of a borrower's income. It also would prohibit lenders from engaging in a pattern or practice of lending without considering a borrower's ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home's value.

For what it's worth, I actually don't have an issue with the last item.  Much of the mess, as I understand it, was caused by the mistaken belief that housing prices never - or perhaps can't - fall.  Allowing buyers to take out loans without even asking them to state income or asking them how they plan to repay the loan was the worst sort of negligence.

As for the rest, most of it appears to be relatively minor meddling, though I'm not overly thrilled with it.  Of course, the devil is in the details.  What is a "risky" borrower?  And why does the government get to decide whether I have to escrow my taxes or save for them on my own?

The one open question is what will prohibiting early payoff penalties do to the market?  Are these penalties common?  Are they only imposed on certain classes of borrowers?  Will the inability to collect these penalties push rates higher to cover the loss or will additional closing fees be added to collect the penalty from every borrower instead of just those that pay off early?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Does Oil Have an Income Effect?

Given that the oil is an inelastic commodity in the short term given that there are not a lot of substitutes and little opportunities to not consume oil.  Could it cause changes similar to changes in income for other goods and services?

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Principles 9 and 10

I promised to share my views on Mankiw's 10 Principles of Economics and have hit a bit of a roadblock with the last two.  I don't really have much to say.

9: Prices Rise When the Government Prints Too Much Money
10: Society Faces a Short-Term Trade-off between Inflation and Unemployment

I suppose they are true.  It makes sense that they are true.  But in today's modern economy where the people in positions to do something about it does it really matter anymore?

I guess in the sense that you have to cover the basics before you get to the meaty stuff it may.  Can anyone convince me that I am wrong?

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How Useful Is Economics?

My professor insists that it is possible to determine the shift in a demand curve given some change in technology, supply or other variable.

I overstated my case stating that these were guesses (highly educated guesses, I would have been better off saying estimates) and that it isn't possible to 'know' what the new demand curve would be until you could observe it.

What are your thoughts? Is it possible to know what a demand curve will be if you change certain determinants?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More on Creative Capitalism

I was just re-reading Ed Glaeser's essay on creative capitalism.  He talks about several examples of private social entrepreneurship.  But each of these examples are individual efforts or non-profit organizations.

He talks about Herbert Hoover's efforts to feed Belgium after WWI.  But that was a philanthropic organization that raised funds through voluntary donations.

He mentions the National Institutes of Health, a government institution, and points out that the private sector provides the innovation in the medical field because the government is unable to take the appropriate risks necessary to make bold discoveries.

He then mentions Rockefeller's efforts to eradicate hookworm in the south.  The problem is that these are not "creative capitalists" in the way that Gates spoke about in the speech that launched the site.  They are a wealthy philanthropist, profit maximizing firms and a wealthy (oft demonized) philanthropist respectively.

If Glaeser is really making a call to arms for hyper wealthy individuals to do what they can to help the poor why not just come out and say so?  The only connection to capitalism that the first and third example provide is that these individuals were able to create enormous wealth and use their private wealth afterwards to help others.

If this is what creative capitalism really means, there isn't anything to do because this is already the way that capitalism works.

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A Country's Standard of Living Depends on Its Ability to Product Goods and Services

If Standard of Living is narrowly defined as the ability to buy more stuff, I would say that this is generally correct.  Of all of the principles, this one is really the most subjective and could be described another way.

If a benevolent dictator knew no more about economics other than this principle what would happen?  China put a steel furnace in every backyard, if the plan had worked and China had successfully produced more steel than any nation on earth - would that have increased the Chinese standard of living?

Of course not, the standard of living depends on producing quality goods and services that people actually want.  And even that alone isn't enough.  The principle doesn't state it explicitly, but there seems to be an implicit suggestion that producing more stuff will raise the standard of living.  Even that isn't true - standard of living is a very subjective term. 

Say that there are two countries.  Country A is centrally controlled - they somehow figured out to match and even exceed the productivity of the typically laissez faire market, producing 25% more 'stuff' than Country B.  However, Country A also controls every aspect of private life as well, decide which stuff they can buy, how they use it, who they can associate with, when they travel and to where, what their job will be.

On paper, it appears that Country A is wealthier than Country B, but is their standard of living really any better?

I understand what Mankiw is getting at - the more successful the market, the better off its people tend to be.  What would be a better way to state this principle?

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Why Isn't Success Good Enough

There is a very interesting conversation going on over at Creative Capitalism. I haven't made it through everything yet, but what I have read so far is quite good.

Ed Glaeser writes "Mr. Gates’ speech reminds us that while laissez-faire capitalism has worked many miracles, it has never been particularly well targeted towards righting social inequities."

Why focus on the inequities instead of capitalism incredible adeptness in making life better for everyone, including and especially the poor?

There are hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians that have been lifted out of abject poverty within a generation because of the power of capitalism. That is truly astonishing - why isn't this good enough? What hubris is required to think that an individual or individuals could improve upon the spontaneous order of capitalism?

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Governments can Sometimes Improve Market Outcomes

I really, really, really wish that Mankiw had added two words.  "In Theory"

In reality, market failures are defined as "outcomes I don't like" and externalities are defined so broadly as to have no meaning at all.

So yes, government can, in theory, improve market outcomes, I just don't trust the lot of economically illiterate, moral degenerate scumbags currently in office do actually do so.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Markets Are Usually a Good Way to Organize Economic Activity

If only this were as self-evident to everyone else as it is to me.

Look at the economies that are not organized into markets: Cuba, North Korea, the former USSR.  Not exactly places people were clamoring to get into were they?

And look at the examples here in the US: primary education is roundly, and correctly, criticized for being crappy - yet secondary education, which is organized as a market, is the best in the world.  Utilities & infrastructure are state-run monopolies (or regulated to the point that they might as well be) and continue to age, decay and not meet the lowest of expectations.

There isn't really an easy way to get where we are to a market in some of these areas, but I firmly believe that if we could get there life would be much better in many ways.

Instead we have economic illiterates clamoring for the nationalization of the oil industry and increased government interventions in everything from health care to the futures market.

If only politicians had to pass a remedial economics course before taking the oaths of office.

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The Future Price of Oil

Can anyone explain to me the mechanism in which 'over-inflated' futures of oil is causing prices today to rise? 

Or how regulating the 'Enron loophole' would cause "[t]he price of retail gasoline would fall by half, to around $2 a gallon, within 30 days of passage of a law to limit speculation in energy futures markets."

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Manipulation? Really!?

The left is trotting out the accusation that those evil speculators are manipulating oil prices.  They even cart out the evil bugaboo Enron (oooh, scary!) to make it seem more sinister.

This canard was repeated by one of my classmates, to which I responded:

I was just re-reading those numbers.  At 85 billion barrels a day I find it astonishing that anyone, even a government could buy enough oil to make a significant enough purchase to be accused of 'manipulating' the price.


85 BILLION barrels, at the bargain price of $100/barrel that is $8.5 Trillion/day.  How much would someone have to buy in order to affect the price?  1%?  That's $8.5 Billion dollars - for just one day.


The more I think about it the more ludicrous accusations of manipulation sound.

Those numbers are just mind boggling, and if they are within an order of magnitude, anyone that thinks that someone is manipulating the market is a fucking moron.

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Questions about Elasticity

One of the things that I like about amateur interest in economics is that you can make sense of it without getting deep into the math.  Its not that I'm not good at math, but my dyslexia makes memorizing formulas a bit challenging.  (thank god for spell check!)

My arch nemesis in engineering school was the physics of electricity - I had a hard enough time figuring out left from right, never mind getting directions out of it.

ANYWAY, I'm having a hard time keeping elasticity of demand straight.  It would seem to me that if something had a high elasticity then demand would stay consistent regardless of the changes in price.  I understand this is wrong and my issue is just in the way that I think about the word elastic.  (demand will stretch to the price)

Is there another way to think about elasticity that will lead me in the correction direction besides realizing that the way I want to think about it is wrong?

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

We Are All Slaves?

One of my classmates posted this:

Melissa, our assumption is that the United Statutes is a democratic country, on paper maybe, but in reality it's a capitalistic country. The man with the gold makes the rules. In other words, if you are poor you are nothing but a free slave. Slave, because you have no choice but to work for someone else and on their terms.

I stewed and stewed on this for awhile.  I originally just intended to leave well enough alone and ignore such obvious ignorance.  But I couldn't let it stand - responding thusly:

I can think of nothing more democratic than capitalism. The goods and services that are available are chosen directly by the people.

Capitalism drives so much choice that nearly every preference can be accommodated.

Careers aren't chosen for us by a faceless bureaucracy, they are the result of the choices that we make and the preferences that we exercise.

The comparison to workers as slaves is deeply offensive as it makes light the true plight of slavery - looking at the wealth that the average American (indeed even the poorest American) has it is difficult to imagine the American system as anything remotely close to the abject humiliation, cruelty and barren living conditions experienced by slavery.

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Trade Can Make Everyone Better Off

Really, its true - trade can make everyone better off.  A mistake most people make is to look at a slice of time, or a slice of people and ignore the huge effects that trade creates over time.

Yes, the workers at the textile mill that just closed down face a burden, some for a short period, some for a long.  But everyone else (including themselves) have access to cheaper clothing - this makes us better off.

It is very hard to image with any confidence the way things would have been - but would we really be better off without all of those goods that China sells us for cheap?  People get really angry when prices rise, why do they also get angry when prices decline?

Change is hard, but it incrementally gets us to a better place.

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Congress Must Be Doing OK

With an approval rating hovering around 20%, a full 10% under Bush's fantastic ratings - why is everyone so confident that the Democrats are going to expand their margins in Congress?

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

People Respond to Incentives

The other major flaw with most regulation is understanding that people respond to incentives.  They are typically written with a "assuming nothing else changes" mentality.

They raise taxes assuming people's spending habits or even citizenship won't change.  They raise the cost of doing business assuming that businesses will just pay them instead of finding greener pastures.

You can look at nearly any "market failure" as popularly described in the media and find government interventions in the background.  Enron and the re-regulation of California energy markets.  Rising healthcare costs and government subsidies of 3rd party payments.  Executive manipulation of earnings and caps on executive pay (at least the tax deductible parts).  Just look at the tax code could probably come up with a million distortions of behavior - some "good" some "bad."

The world would be a much, much better place if government officials had to take, and pass, a basic economic competence test, if only to learn this one simple lesson.  People respond to incentives.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Rational People Think at the Margin

I have heard more than one person proclaim "if markets worked someone would have figured out something to replace gasoline" or something to that effect.

The truth is there are LOTS of someones trying to figure something to replace gasoline.  In the meantime we are all making small adjustments to our lifestyle and choices to cope with this additional cost to our budgets.

None of these changes are earth shattering - that is what is meant by "at the margin."  We are driving less, we are taking more public transportation, we are buying homes closer to work and we are deferring purchases that we would have otherwise made.

We aren't rushing out to buy a new home just because the price of gas is high - but if we are in the market for a new house, we will take its proximity to work or public transportation into account.  Its the billions and billions of little decisions like this that drive the economy forward.

When a company is looking for opportunities to become more efficient they don't look at redesigning the whole factory.  The look for opportunities to cut a penny here or a couple seconds there.  In the long run they add up to real money/productivity.

This is one of the most glaring failures of government programs.  They don't look to make incremental improvements, it is big bang or nothing.  No politician is ever going to run an election with the slogan "I made collecting taxes 1% more efficient."  So therefore, government never gets any better, it just gets more costly.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Price Of Solicalized Healthcare

Do we really want government to enforce our wastelines? Do football players get exceptions? What about sumo wrestlers?

The report shocked the nation and prompted the government to pass legislation to force the Japanese to shape up. The laws to address what the Japanese have come to call "metabo" take effect this year. They've given the government and employers, long dominant forces in Japanese workers' lives, places at the dinner table in ordinary Japanese homes. They've also sparked a flurry of products to help Japanese keep trim or shed extra pounds.

One regulation, effective in April, requires all citizens over the age of 40 to have their waists measured every year. If a man's waist is more than 33.5 inches or a woman's more than 35.5 inches, they are considered at risk and referred for counseling and close monitoring. The government is also requiring companies to slim down their workers or face higher payments into the national insurance program.

The left will deny that this would ever happen here and then as soon as they had incentive to do this here they would do it. I have no doubts.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Cost of Something Is What You Give Up to Get It

The second of Mankiw's 10 principles, I think that Mankiw intended it to be reinforce the concept of opportunity costs.  It is also important in another way.  The "correct" price of any good or service is the price that was paid for it.

You here a lot of people and pundits complaining that the cost of gasoline is "too high" as they rip out their credit card to pay for filling up their Hummer.  Or complaining that no one wants to buy their house at "fair market value."

This isn't to say that their aren't bubbles or depressed markets, but you never really know for certain that you are in a bubble or under-priced market until its over do you?  After all everyone was convinced that housing prices would never go down and that e-commerce had ushered in a new economy that didn't follow the normal economic rules.

Then reality set in and every figured out that economic rules still apply and we were in a bubble after all. 

Hindsight is always 20/20.

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McCain on the energy 'crisis:'

The Arizona senator called for more energy conservation, saying it was "no longer just a moral luxury or a personal virtue; conservation serves a critical national goal."

Anyone know of a better method to encourage conservation than high prices?

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

People Face Trade-offs

Several of Mankiw's principles have a certain 'well duh' air about them.  This is one of those.  The amazing thing is that when people are forced to make these trade-offs they can get kinda pissed off about it.

I'm not certain what triggers this anger, but people can accept that in order to take that trip to Hawaii they may need to driver that car for an extra year.  Why is it that when you tell them that they need to  put some extra money aside to make sure that a medical emergency doesn't push them into bankruptcy they get all put out?

We face trade-offs from the moment we wake up in the morning (possibly even slightly before that) until the moment we close our eyes to go to sleep.  The most important lesson that people can learn is that government can't just make these trade-offs go away, they can merely move them around a little and hide the true costs of those trade-offs from us.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The 10 Principles of Economics

Mankiw boils economics down to ten principles in his Essentials of Economics textbook which he views as the central, unifying ideas that drive the economy and economic decisions.

He defines these principles as:

1: People face trade-offs.
2: The Cost of Something is What You Give Up to Get It
3: Rational People Think At the Margin
4: People Respond to Incentives
5: Trade Can Make Everyone Better Off
6: Markets Are Usually a Good Way to Organize Economic Activity
7: Governments can Sometimes Improve Market Outcomes
8: A Country's Standard of Living Depends on Its Ability to Product Goods and Services
9: Prices Rise When the Government Prints Too Much Money
10: Society Faces a Short-Term Trade-off between Inflation and Unemployment

Over the next several posts I'm going to provide my views on each of these principles.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Positive Study of Economics

I just started reading my Economics text book for the class I taking this quarter.  So far it is pretty interesting, though nothing ground breaking yet.

One thing that I find very odd is that it spends a not-insignificant portion of a chapter discussing the difference between positive and normative statements.

Why would an economics text go into philosophy in this way?  It almost appears defensive doesn't it?  Or is this just a way to justify the inclusion of opinion into the science?

Anyone have a good theory as to why this is covered in an introductory economics course?

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In Case You Were Wondering

Yes, this was me.

In the comments a number of people think that life in the past would be a piece of cake because we know more science and math.  Here is the reply I left in the comments.

For everyone arguing that knowledge of math and science is the key to success - I think you are underestimating the role of class in these times.

You will probably not know enough conventional wisdom to pass a sniff test in any time before the early 1900's. Also consider how the mainstream viewed certain types of discoveries - eg Galileo.

I don't think that you would be able to burst onto the scene and proclaim some hugely advanced truth - they wouldn't be able to understand it. To even have a shot you would have to walk everyone through the incremental steps to get you to the 'ah ha' moment - and that is only if you can ever get anyone to listen to you.

I personally don't think that a modern American would be able to deal with the vast amounts of physical labor that would be involved:
1) There is no in door plumbing or running water.
2) Electricity isn't available - everything is done by hand: cleaning clothes, carrying water, etc.
3) You will probably not be able to afford meat, at least not much - is your metabolism capable of handling an all starch diet?
4) You will need to walk everywhere you go.
5) You will need to deal with all of the aches and pains we pop pills for today.
6) Pollution is going to be much worse - what effect will that have on your health?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Screw Confucius

I like living in interesting times and I don't believe that there has been a more interesting time than right now.

Some people think that the internet has arrived and is mainstream, but we haven't seen nothing yet.  There will come a day where we view the dot com boom of the 90s as a quaintly as we view the Model T today.

I can only guess at what the future will look like, but my guess is that having a computer at home with your files on it, or your music on it, or your pictures on it, will be a thing of the past.

Now to a certain extent this exists today in various forms. You can share pictures with family and friends through Picasa and similar sites.  You can also pay sites like Amazon or Microsoft to backup your other data outside of your home.  You can even share video at places like YouTube.

Unfortunately, all of these services only provide the barest hint of what I'm talking about.  For one, none of them actually do everything that you need them to do.  For another, they either downgrade the quality of media that you are trying to share or store your data, but don't make it readily available to you.

Live Mesh provides a hint at what I think the future is actually going to look like.  In its current form it is very simple, providing the barest of features.  But even in that form it is quite powerful and in my opinion the biggest thing to come to the internet since Mosaic.

Via this glimpse into the future you can see how all of your data will be available to you anywhere that you can get an internet connection.  You can synchronize the data offline, share it with friends & family.  This limited beta also provides the capability to remote control any of your computers.  They promise that the client will be available to Mac and mobile devices, I hope that they also extend it to Linux and non-MS mobile devices like iPhone and BlackBerry so that the concept of anytime, anywhere, from any device can truly be realized.

You can also imagine how this could be extended to create photo albums, create personalized radio stations or video sites - without the inconvenience of limited quality.  You could create calendars and shared contacts.  You could store ebooks and read them from any device, edit your documents from the web.  On and on and on.  Because it is intended to be a platform, the extent of what can be accomplished is really only limited by the imagination of software designers.

Essentially, I see the need to have 'my' computer to become passe - in reality you will need a computer - because all of your needs will be available in one place, on one site as opposed to the conglomerate of different services that we all use today with data strewn about scores of websites and computers.

These are truly interesting times and technology like Mesh can only make them more interesting.

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I Hate Math

There are two very good (according to me) climate blogs at The Blackboard and Prometheus.  The main reason that I love them so much is that they are "believers" in Global Warming, but they aren't alarmist about it.

They approach the science as, you know, a science and attempt to look at and understand the data.  The other reason I probably like them is because the activist portion of the blogosphere seems to hate them because - well they look at and try to understand the data.

The downside of all of this is I don't get the math.  Not in the least.  I would like to understand, but all of that statistics just loses me.

The pale green solid and dashed curves represent the OLS (ordinary least squares) fit to monthly data from Jan 1975-April 2008, with dashed lines representing 2-sigma deviations for residuals. These bands should encompass approximately 95% of “weather”. The blue represents the 2C/century trend projected by the IPCC; 2sigma uncertainty for “weather” are taken from the OLS fit for 1975-2008 and applied to the IPCC projection. Small ‘+’ and ‘x’ indicate monthly measurements of GMST. The green circle are the 12 month Jan-December averages for each year. The red-outlined orange circle is the current annual average based on data for 2008.

Does that mean we are getting warmer, colder, staying the same or being invaded by aliens?

If anyone would be willing to translate all of the recent talk about falsifying IPCC reports or point me to a statistics for dummies site you would win my undying gratitude and admiration.

And what a treat that would be!

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

When is Forever Not Actually Forever?

A large number of states are targeting unclaimed refunds under unclaimed property laws.

Until the early part of this decade, retailers, manufacturers and the fulfillment companies that processed the rebates for them simply kept the unclaimed money. Now, all but a handful of states are banding together .... They believe consumers are the rightful owners. The upshot is that millions of dollars potentially could wind up in the states' tightly stretched coffers.

At the center of the debate is Minnesota-based Young America Corp., one of the country's top three fulfillment companies.

In a closely watched lawsuit, Iowa Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald is accusing Young America and its clients of not reporting millions of dollars in uncashed checks, as required by unclaimed property laws.

Sounds noble doesn't it?  Shouldn't all of those consumers be notified they have unspent dollars in their pockets?  Fortunately, we have a maverick who is willing to fight for the little guy.

Commerce Commissioner Glenn Wilson, ... now is challenging the ruling and fighting big business on behalf of consumers.

Because this is really all about the consumer, right?  After all:

"In our view, that's your money forever because the company has made an obligation to you," said Iowa assistant attorney general Layne Lindebak.

And what does forever actually mean?  Here is a quick look at how unclaimed property works:

As in most states, unclaimed property laws in Minnesota typically cover such things as abandoned checking and savings accounts, uncashed payroll checks, unclaimed safe deposit box contents, and stocks and bonds. States have three years to locate owners or beneficiaries. After that, the money goes to the general fund, which pays for the bulk of state programs and services.

So forever actually just means three years, then the state can just take your money - you know the money that is yours forever - and use it for whatever purpose they deem appropriate.
If you were paying attention, I cut a couple of words from the first snippet of the article.  Here is the sentence in full:

Now, all but a handful of states are banding together to lay claim to the cash.

Remember, no matter what words are coming out of a politician's mouth, it isn't about protecting consumers - it is about trying to get free money.

Politicians are nothing but bandits and thieves, they will speak to you in honey sweat tones, but that is only to lull you into a false sense of security long enough to pick your pocket.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where My Nightmares Come True

It's been awhile since I've complained about my return to the ultra-liberal halls of university life.  And there is a good reason for that - I haven't been taking any classes.

You see, the last class that I took was intended to prepare me for the rest of my life at DePaul.  We even had to go through the exercise of picking every class we were going to take on campus in order to meet all of the requirements.

We even had to go so far as to select when we were going to take those classes.  I was actually pretty jazzed about the whole thing because I managed to find a bunch of classes that I wanted to take and thought I would get a ton of value out of.  To be honest there were classes I was considering taking that I didn't need because they looked really interesting and would have probably been worth taking anyway.

Then the time came to sign up for the next quarter's classes.  None of my chosen classes were offered.  Fair enough, I had procrastinated a bit in signing up - my classes my have been all full, right?

So this week registration opened up for the next quarter and I logged in on the first day only to find...

Yep - no classes.  It's bad enough that all of the thought and effort that I had put into choosing classes was completely wasted, you should see the choices I have to pick from.

Here is a highlight:
The Psychology Of Cyberspace
Violence Against Women: A Human Rights Violation
Mediasmart-Understanding And Demystifying American Media
Globalization: Winners, Losers And Social Justice
Creative Tools For Social Change - Innovations In Effective Activism
Methods Of Discipline For Today's Children
International Relations: A Cross-Cultural Perspective
Poverty, Policy And The Economy: Poor In The USA
Art In Everyday Things: Books And Paper-Making

Seriously?  Do Universities only exist to indoctrinate students to liberal thought?  There is an introductory economics class (which fortunately uses Mankiw's text) which I will probably take.  But that only gets me through one class - what the hell am I going to take for the rest of my competencies?

My experience thus far is confirming my worst fears - going back to school, especially in this program, may have been a big mistake.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Who Wants This Person As President

Do we really need a morally defective degenerate that can't even pay their bills sitting in the White House?
It’s not just the size of Clinton’s debts that’s noteworthy. It’s also that her unpaid bills extend beyond the realm of high-priced consultants who typically let bills slide as part of the cost of doing business with powerful clientele whose success is linked to their own.

Some of Clinton’s biggest debts are to pollster and chief strategist Mark Penn, who’s owed $2.5 million; direct mail company MSHC Partners, which is owed $807,000; phone-banking firm Spoken Hub, which is waiting for $771,000; and ad maker Mandy Grunwald, who’s owed $467,000....

She owed Iowa’s Sioux City Art Center Board of Trustees $3,500 for catering and venue costs, New Hampshire’s Winnacunnet Cooperative School District $4,400 in event costs, Qwest $24,000 for phone service, various branches of the Iowa-based supermarket chain Hy-Vee $15,000 for food, beverages and catering, and $7,700 to Ohio and Massachusetts branches of the theatrical stage employees’ union, for equipment costs.

If Clinton can't even be responsible during her quest for office what chance do we have that she will respect law and contract once she is in?

Hattip: Dan Drezner guest blogging at The Atlantic