02.25.09

Who cares if Keynes was right or wrong?

Posted in Society at 15:04 by RjZ

I almost never read anything this particular bit of business spam piles in my inbox, but the title intrigued me. A religious guy, talking about product, design and the economy says “I blame religion?” Had to check that out. His point, it turns out, is that we have to do something more than just throw money at the economic problems we’re facing. I would argue that nobody said that was all we would do, it’s just the first thing the government is doing.

My big question isn’t the faith that things we’ll get better, but the denial that economic crisis we’re facing is just a bubble bursting. People generally assume this crisis isn’t natural, painful, fluctuation, but rather something that needs to be fixed to get us back where we were. Meanwhile future generations will suffer taxation without representation. It’s great for me; I’ll get the benefit of an administration trying to fix this economic downturn at the expense of the future. But what if efficacy of Keynesian economics isn’t really the question, but rather that there is nothing to fix at all?

Isn’t it possible that, despite the gnashing of teeth, inflamed house prices and unsupportably cheap credit were never really sustainable and that, once yet another bubble burst, we’re being returned to where we belong in the first place? Many will suggest that this could be avoided with sufficient regulation. Perhaps, but it’s just as likely the bubble would have burst somewhere else instead. After all, that’s essentially how things looked in Japan a decade earlier. We learned from their failures and didn’t make those mistakes; we made new ones of our own.

I didn’t buy a house I couldn’t afford, and I will basically be screwed when it’s value drops 15% like houses are doing around the nation. But we’re not even sure if all of the stimulus package efforts will even have the intended results although it’s certain future generations will pay and pay for it.

An option that no one seems willing to discuss is that we shouldn’t necessarily be doing much at all about this crash. If it’s real and normal for our capitalist system to suffer some variation, then we’ll have to accept that ups and downs are painful for some, and sometimes for many. Is the correct strategy to try to avoid these ups and downs? The only sure result from this plan is that we reward individual success but to socialize failure and mismanagement.

So many complain about government gridlock that it’s not surprising that government only feels effective when it’s doing something: right or wrong. Should we be surprised that no one will stand up and admit that maybe this really was just a burst bubble?

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02.19.09

If spending is the only option

Posted in Society at 16:12 by RjZ

Like many people, whether they call themselves libertarians, or are (understandably) uncomfortable associating themselves with a bunch of gun nuts, I don’t trust government all that much. I expect people to do what they can to take care of themselves and see no reason why some small group of elected officials would be better entrusted to that task than the people themselves.

As a result, I often subscribe to the “starve the beast” theory of government. The idea is that we can make government, that is, the beast, smaller by limiting its nutrition: money. In light of recent events, I think I may have to give up on this plan. The beast is so large, and people love the handouts so much, that there may be no effective diet anymore. First, Bush spent $700 billion on poorly managed bailout funds, and now Obama has signed up for another $800+ billion. Amazing.
Far from being a tax-and-spend liberal, Bush was a don’t-tax-and-spend ‘conservative.’ Obama is stacking up to be the same, offering huge spending programs coupled with tax cuts. At least his spending will go for something other than missiles…but where does the money come from?

If we’re going to spend all this cash, so much that the next generation, and the one after that, will still be paying on it, then shouldn’t we be getting something for it? As well as starving the beast, which looks ineffective, although perhaps we’ve never really tried it for real, tax cuts are supposed to stimulate the economy. The idea goes like this: let’s give money to the people so that they will spend it on things that they decide is best rather than having government decide for them.

I certainly like that concept but it has a few obvious flaws. First, individually, people aren’t likely to get together and build something for future generations to enjoy and profit from. After all, that’s who they borrowed that money from. Regardless of our intentions, it’s hard at $8/week (that’s what our tax cut is shaping up to be) to gather enough people to go out and build a bridge or a museum. Governments tend to be better at this sort of thing, simply because the money is pooled together for bigger projects. Secondly, it assumes that people will actually spend the money wisely. Here too, I am glad to trust individuals alright, but how can we expect people to spend $8/week? The incremental influx of cash appeared to have limited effect when Bush tried it last year, and if it drives people to Wal*mart, because that’s all they can afford, then all we’re really doing is sending the money to China for cheaper goods.

I can’t say I share the opinion that it was a good idea to spend more than a trillion dollars, but given that the nation seems so bent on doing just that, I can’t agree with the tried and not true conservative approach of tax cuts (the don’t-tax-but-spend-anyway method). Perhaps we ought to have something to show for all that cash.

Or do we want to tell the next generation that back in 2008 and 2009 we spent over a trillion dollars and mortgaged their future; but hey, we were able to afford a flat screen television or a GPS for the car. I hope they’ll be understanding.

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02.13.09

Take a deep breath

Posted in at 15:03 by RjZ

It was bound to happen. One minute American hero, one ridiculously insignificant oversight later, and your image is being used to promote head shops around the nation. I doubt it will have much impact on his career if Mile High Pipe and Tobacco get’s to have a little fun at Mr. Phelps expense, but Kellogg’s withdrawing their sponsorship might have more effect.

Micheal Phelps AdvertisementIt’s pretty silly too. If I had to guess, Mr. Phelps is probably a pretty healthy guy and quite a reasonable role model, even if he does take a hit from a pipe during a party now and then. Didn’t our Barack Obama admit he inhaled? “That was the point ” he said in an interview.

Does anyone really care whether Mr. Phelps smoked pot? If our hero-in-chief can do it, I am sure a swimmer can get away with it. Kellogg’s apparently wants to make a statement about how moral and willing to joust with windmills they are. That’s what I think about when I have my cereal…did the guy on the Wheaties box ever do anything I wouldn’t like? The thing I want to know is did Mile High pay for that image?

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02.11.09

I was lured in by the beer

Posted in Triple Bypass at 16:33 by RjZ

Last week’s training

Tuesday: more trainer time.

Wednesday: commute to work. My toes were numb. Later, I bought “CalienToes”. Has to be the best product name ever.

Thursday: In order to avoid the cold toes, I rode during lunch instead. A flat 15 mile loop and at a pretty good pace. I thought I was ready for the Saturday ride.

Saturday: What could possibly be the downside? “Saturday Cycling Series. Come and meet us at the Avery Tap Room for a group ride the first Saturday of each month.  These rides are slow paced and typically run in the 35 to 45 mile range.  All those who partake in the ride are welcome to a free pint or two at the Tap Room after the ride. Next Ride: Saturday, February 7th at 11 AM. Departs from the Avery Tap Room” (emphasis added)

Beer after a ride sounds like pretty good motivation to me. If only it were just that simple.

What exactly is “slow paced?” I’ve already whined that much of my training is really to improve my own pace so to keep up with, well, pretty much everyone else, but slow paced sounds promising, right? Thing is, it’s only February. It’s so early in the biking season that plenty of folks haven’t even gotten back in the saddle yet. Apparently, the only folks hardcore enough to even be riding in the winter are the same people who have all four hours of the 2008 Tour de France video playing in front of the roller trainers in their basement or never really stopped riding over the winter. Or they were dumb enough to sign up for some ride they can’t really handle. True enough,there was another one of those at this ride, but he’s one of the guys I signed up with to do the Triple Bypass. All told about 30 folks showed up for this ‘easy’ ride.

Well, “slow paced” is not 12 mph (19.2 kmh). Actually, it was a quite civilized 16 (25.6) or so. That’s just fine in a large group like this. The problem comes when these race-team riders hit a hill and nothing changes. No slowing down, just plowing up the hill at the same speed everyone has been relaxing at all along. I survived a hill or two, but I was tired already. A small group of women was left behind pretty early in the ride. For the life of me I can’t see why I didn’t just hang back with them. Beer and girls? That seems way better than my plan.

Instead, I stayed in the group, and on and on they pedaled, chatting with each other and enjoying the early season ride. I just wanted…to… let…up…just a bit…for just a moment.

So I did. And off they went. I caught up with a small group of riders who must have decided on the same plan, because the main group was no where in sight. We got back back to the tasting room about a half hour and 20 or 25 miles sooner than the rest of the group. The tasting room was buzzing with guests enjoying the free samples. That’s when it dawned on me. I didn’t need to ride 40 miles to get a free pint at the Avery Tap Room. They give ‘em to everyone who walks through the door. Go there and get one yourself. Mmmm, beer. Or, if you’re really dumb, join me for the next ride. Yeah, I’ll probably try again.

Saturday: 52 miles, including the ride back and forth to the tap room from home, but hey, beer.

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02.04.09

Financial advice

Posted in Liberty at 11:32 by RjZ

Here’s a bit of financial advice. If your money or investments are in a bank that is receiving federal bail-out money, find another bank. That’s easier said than done right now, but I predict there will be a few popping up in near future. Among other bad omens, President Obama has decided to cap salaries for banks getting federal aid. I can see his point and it’s a populist move that I am sure will earn him favor but some unintended consequences are that any bank with a salary cap won’t be able to attract and keep the best people.

Here’s how it goes; if you’re on the board of a bank and the CEO retires, or gets hit by a car, how do you attract a new one just as good as the last? The other CEOs are already getting the top salary you can offer, so there’s no reason for them to leave their current positions and help you out. As a result, you get less than top quality executives at a critical time. Is this the best way to handle U.S. citizens investments? What sounds like a good idea has the unintended consequences of making sure we don’t have the best people watching over our money.

The good news is, once those smart folks can get their hands on some capital, which, admittedly, isn’t easy just now, they’ll start their own investment institutions, free from this government regulation, and also free to attract the best and the brightest. Investors looking to maximize their money after such a painful recession will flock to them, and the Obama administration’s plan won’t even have accomplished what it was intended to do in the first place-keep people’s money safe by regulating banks.

The fact is, government has to either control every single thing, a plan we’ve seen doesn’t work in places like, say, the Soviet Union, or we leave a loophole for clever people to get around the regulations and they don’t help in the first place. I wish we could have been avoiding credit default swaps and bad home loans in the past decade; it sure would have helped out my money, but if it hadn’t been these problems, it would have been something else.

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02.02.09

Building up a base

Posted in Triple Bypass at 17:45 by RjZ

Oh, six months or so to go…looking great.

Thursday and Friday: trainer time. ‘Bout and hour one day and 30 minutes the next. I hope not to keep too much track of trainer time. Seems embarrassing somehow.

Saturday: Mike’s loop, 24.48 miles at an average speed of 14.06 mph. Mike’s loop is a relatively flat loop but hey, it was windy and I was coughing up a lung as I recover from China. I actually had to push just to keep this speed up and I am glad I was riding with fellow Triple Bypass riders because I wouldn’t even have pushed that hard if left to my own devices. Still, that’s pretty slow. Did I mention it was windy?

Monday: Lunch loop, running, (alright, jogging), 3.15 miles at 9:56 pace. I do this during lunch now and again (maybe more in the future, and that terrible time is actually not so far off of typical for me. Which is good, because my lungs hurt pretty bad breathing in all the cold air.

One of my colleagues is an avid runner and cyclist. He insists that this is exactly what I should be doing: exercising through the phlegm. But it sure isn’t pleasant. I can hardly take a deep breath even now as I write this hours later. What do you think? cough my way to fitness or not?

Meanwhile, I am not worried about my times and speed right now; I am ‘building up a base.’ It just remains to be seen how long I can keep that excuse going.

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