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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