09.28.07

Makes me proud

Posted in at 13:58 by RjZ

A year or so ago I took a trip to Portland, Oregon with the primary goal of trying all the local beers. There were pretty sites and charming towns, but make no mistake, our number one priority was beer. Well, who knew, I didn’t have to go very far after all. The Beer Institute, an industry trade group reports that Colorado is the U.S. leader in beer production! It doesn’t hurt our statistics much that Coors is based here and that Anheuser Busch has a large facility near Fort Collin’s but the number of craft brewers Colorado has to offer is the more exciting story.

I’m glad to live in the brewing capitol of the nation, even if they didn’t have to count Vermin Brewing in the statistics. They should be sure to call us if Colorado falls short next year!

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09.26.07

I’m jealous

Posted in Society at 7:46 by RjZ

And I am not an economist. So really, you should stop reading now because the following is surely uninformed and biased by my sour grapes. I am worried about the future of the U.S. economy. I forecast winds of a nasty storm all blowing in the same direction and none of them are very good for the future.

Three deficits
U.S. Americans have built up record highs in all three forms of debt. The current administration has not only done nothing to limit it’s spending, but in fact has built up the national debt to its record high. Our national debt is likely greater than the number of bytes on your hard drive.

We’re buying a lot of things we don’t make too. Cars, toys, clothing, shoes, we seem awfully hungry for cheap things made somewhere else. (I think it’s great that we can do this, but it’s also really difficult to see the real cost of our actions.) The trade deficit is also hovering around all time highs.

Finally, we’re buying all this cheap stuff with credit cards and home loads. Individuals have record high credit card debt and the collapse of the can’t-do-math home loans represent huge amounts of unmanageable secured debt as well.

The problem with this is that when investors from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and above all, China are looking around deciding where to invest their extra cash and considering ‘emerging markets’, the ‘Eurozone’ or hopefully, USA incorporated, many of them are looking at our debt to earnings ratio and thinking twice. That’s gonna hit the stock market at some point. Which is unfortunate because….

Boomers and their kids
Boomers discovered the stock market at least a couple of decades ago. Fueled by extra time, extra income and easy access to easy trading their influx of investment may have contributed to the stock market swings of the .com and telecom era. They’ll do OK though, don’t fret about them. They’ll retire and start withdrawing all that cash they’ve earned. Boomers did so well in the booming stock market that many will probably even have some left over to leave to their kids. All the while, they’ll be spending money on boats, travel and retirement homes which isn’t going to be too bad for the economy, but they’re not investing anything in any new growing businesses either.

What ever’s left over, boomers are likely to leave to their kids. Lucky kids of boomers. They’ve been pretty protected from the growing threat that is life in America (halloween parties instead of trick or treating comes to mind) and now, when their parents finally pass away, they’ll get a nice lump sum for their retirement. Quite the legacy. Some of them, I’m thinking Paris Hilton, will spend the money like blood squirting from a coronary artery, and some will see the opportunity and build great new businesses with this unexpected seed money, but the majority will do the best they can and basically spend the money for better houses, cars and clothes. They’ll make ends meet and live a little larger, but pitifully few of them have will have the experience or the discipline to do what their parents did and grow that money. They’re not likely to have this discipline, after all, because their parents made a concerted effort to shelter them from it.

So, we’re in debt, investors will think twice about choosing the USA for their money (don’t believe me? check out the value of the dollar which essentially represents a stock market certificate in USA inc.) boomers are withdrawing money and their kids are too young to even think about retirement, so they’re likely to spend it. It’s a recipe for short term gain and long term pain.

My only proposal to solve the problem is to educate the lucky boomer kids who are receiving the inheritance now about retiring and investing. I don’t see how it would work, but it might help. Any (other armchair) economists out there think I’ve got this right?

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09.20.07

Politician’s moral compass

Posted in Society at 11:46 by RjZ

According to a University of Minnesota study, U. S. Americans have identified atheists as the most mistrusted minority.

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

A Gallup poll ranked atheists at the very bottom, below Catholics, Jews, blacks, married for the third time, 72 years old and even homosexuals in response to the question: “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be …, would you vote for that person?”

Why don’t Americans trust atheists to be president? Is it because they’re a bunch of Satan worshipers? Surely a few Americans feel that way, absurd as it is. Atheists no more believe in Satan than they think a giant mystical panda created the universe. More likely it’s because voters are concerned that Atheists, without the guidance of a higher power, have no morals of their own.

But does belief in a higher power really mean the candidate shares your morals? Who really has more reliable morals? The person with no moral compass of his own who must refer to a book, even a really great and popular book, to determine right from wrong? The person who doesn’t doesn’t trust his own notion of good or evil but relies upon the interpretation of a religious leader for guidance? Couldn’t we be better served by someone who knows in his heart what is right, good, just and fair and has had the wisdom to analyze his experience and studies to construct a world-view that is consistent. Americans seem to assume that religion gives a person morals, but ask yourself; do you need religion to tell you that pedophilia is abhorrent, (the Bible is ambiguous on the topic) or do you just know it is?

Voting for someone based on his claimed religious beliefs gives you absolutely no idea what he’s likely to do anyway. Religion’s moral compass spins in almost every direction you can imagine. The Ten Commandments neglected to forbid slavery! Is it alright to kill or not? Eye for an eye, but turn the other cheek. Should we be the judge or leave it to God? Should we save unborn life but kill criminals? Moreover, do devout religious people commit fewer crimes or avoid fewer scandals? You can find just about every opinion or behavior supported by religious dogma and worse faith isn’t the slightest guarantee that the believer actually follows the doctrine in any event. I won’t even bore you with the countless examples of the faithful going astray. It’s pretty clear that what one says, particularly what a politician says, doesn’t guarantee how he will act, and religion doesn’t seem to be an effective indicator.

Or maybe not. Imagine a politician who had the courage to describe how his morals come from experience and observation and not from a higher power. Of course, he is committing political suicide, but one thing is sure, he’s the most honest politician you’re likely to ever hear speak.

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