Friday, July 30, 2010

Pessimistic About Optimism

We want to be optimistic, we want to believe things will soon get better for the economy...

According to the latest quarterly AP Economy Survey economists in general have turned gloomier. Weaker growth and higher unemployment seems more likely than a strong recovery. This will probably cause the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates near zero until at least next spring.

Economists, who are second only to weather forecasters in their ability to be wrong most of the time and still keep their jobs, seem not to be bothered by the Fed keeping interest rates so artificially low. Not being an "economist" myself I may be uninformed - or ill informed - but it was these ridiculously low interest rates that got us into this mess wasn't it?

It's a fine line to be sure, low rates help governments fund deficit spending without crippling interest payments and they're a boon to banks allowing the inter-day bank loans to help the balance sheets without introducing risk. On the other hand cheap loans have been a huge factor in the housing and commercial property bubbles which have devastated the economy. Low, low interest is devastating to pensioners and savers who rely on interest income. There is no historic evidence that these kind of prolonged low interest rates will rescue an economy.

In reality interest rates like government deficits are a symptom of a greater depressive force. The real culprit is articulated so well be the estimable Thomas Sowell:

"wonderful-sounding ideas that have been tried as government policies have failed disastrously. Because so few people bother to study history, often the same ideas and policies have been tried again, either in another country or in the same country at a later time-- and with the same disastrous results.

One of the ideas that has proved to be almost impervious to evidence is the idea that wise and far-sighted people need to take control and plan economic and social policies so that there will be a rational and just order, rather than chaos resulting from things being allowed to take their own course. It sounds so logical and plausible that demanding hard evidence would seem almost like nit-picking."

When we pine for someone to take care of us - namely the government - we give up something important and vital, our money and a portion of our freedom. You can go on and say that health care and retirement are just too expensive for any individual to handle alone. This is probably true today. Why is it so expensive? My opinion: government meddling. As Sowell describes these wonderful sounding government remedies usually collapse under the weight of unintended consequences. Subsequent remedies for the remedies create things like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or taxing on Social Security payments.

Government almost never backs off, most often the government doubles down. Medicare is a looming disaster. Evidence that the Medicare system is driving the inflation of medical costs across the board is legend. Does the government heed the evidence and truly reform Medicare while leaving the parts of the health care industry that are second to none alone? No, of course not. They double down and create a law that destroys both Medicare and the best parts of the rest of the system.

The people who are (were) most satisfied with Medicare were those who had Medicare supplement insurance. The new ObamaCare law gets rid of that, of course. Ample evidence that central control of health care systems results in poor quality didn't matter to the elites running the government, come hell or high water their 60 year quest to get control of the health care system was going to happen.

Therein lies the major problem - wise and intellectual elites in power who "know" what's best for the lower classes and the rest of the human dregs below them. They honestly or intellectually believe that if the stupid herd would just follow their plans life would be wonderful. Well humans might as well be a herd of cats. The beauty of the decentralized, chaotic real world is that millions and billions of daily interactions and transactions usually result in a workable system. It's when an artificial power - a government, a dictator, a corporation imposes their "vision" that things turn bad and people suffer, people other than the intellectual elites who are insulated in ivory towers, in corporate boardrooms or the halls of government. They continue revel in their own brilliance while the rest suffer the consequences of their vision.

But as Sowell explains: experience trumps brilliance.

"Elites may have more brilliance, but those who make decisions for society as a whole cannot possibly have as much experience as the millions of people whose decisions they pre-empt. The education and intellects of the elites may lead them to have more sweeping presumptions, but that just makes them more dangerous to the freedom, as well as the well-being, of the people as a whole."

I couldn't agree more Mr. Sowell.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wow! Really?

My wife has a habit of overusing the fad phrase of the day. Usually they are fun or cute or even clever - for a while. Her latest is "chillaxing". Frankly this one is neither fun, cute nor clever. The other phrase of the day is "Wow! Really?". This one is dragged out whenever someone overstates the obvious. Used judiciously this one can be fun and clever.

So when I heard the story of the JournoList, a list serve consisting of several hundred liberal journalists as well as others, which concluded, based on leaked entries that mainstream journalists conspired to protect Barack Obama's candidacy in 2008 my first thought was, wow! Really?

Helen Keller could have concluded that the major media was in the tank for Barack Obama and she is dead as well as being deaf, dumb and blind. I suppose there is a chance that considerate voters believed they were being fed fair and balanced reporting during the 2008 presidential campaign. The McCain campaign was painfully inept, but that does not excuse the news media literally ignoring some of Obama's highly questionable associations and positions.

These journalists checked their objectivity at the door and colluded to give the edge to Obama. If John McCain had been the equivalent of Adolph Hiltler one could understand such action, but McCain was a moderate Republican who had been a war hero and a reasonably honorable man all his life. In fact, based on Obama's associations and positions he could have easily been compared to the less than honorable, budding dictator, Hugo Chavez. To these so-called journalists a war hero and moderate Republican was far worse than any two-bit third world dictator.

Barack Obama would have been a long shot if the media had been as tenacious on his back story as they were on Sarah Palin's. Mrs. Palin was not the best choice for McCain's running mate at the time - it was a blunder (this coming from an admirer and someone who had followed her career long before the summer of 2008). The pile on she endured was way out of whack regarding her experience and qualifications for being Vice President since they easily matched Obama's for being President. This was an undeniable fact.

It seems that considerate voters have had a revelation about the media made messiah. President Obama has achieved some impressive legislative feats with super majorities in both houses of Congress. He has not, however, made a positive difference for millions of jobless Americans, including most African Americans. He has not and is incapable of making Americans feel good about their country. He is a scolder, a finger waver. He engenders no sense of certainty that our businesses or our citizens can rally around to build a prosperous future. In fact, many are uncertain he even wants a prosperous future for this particular country.

What was that you just said? Wow! Really?


Monday, July 19, 2010

No Mood...

...for blogging. I know, I know it breaks your heart, all two of you. I'm bored with the news, bored with politics and I'm super busy at work (and lovin' it).

I suppose as a consequence of the bad economic times and possibly the fear of what's to come in 2011 companies big and small are hunkering down on the hiring of staff, leaving that much more for the fortunate ones to do. According to the tech news many companies are beefing up their technologies and upgrading accordingly - in some cases for compliance reasons but also because recession or not time marches on and equipment gets old.

Staying busy is a blessing, no time to worry about the other shoe to drop.

Please stop by again. This boredom will subside.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No, Apparently, He Can't

For a year we had to see and hear the mindless (pointless) chant "Yes We Can!" from Barack Obama supporters. After 18 months of rising unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, questionable Federal takeovers of private American institutions (with more to come) and constant uncertainty about the Federal reach into the business world the bloom has definitely fallen off the rose.

Nearly 60% of American voters say they lack faith in President Barack Obama, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Public opinion shows a remarkable reversal of what voters said at the start of Obama's term 18 months ago when about 60% expressed confidence in his decision making. Confidence in Obama is at a new low four months ahead of the November congressional elections.

Asked how much confidence they have in President Obama to make the right decisions for the America's future, 58% of respondents said "just some" or "none". Count me in the none group. Bottom line: just 43% of all Americans, including a third of Democrats, said they approve of the job the President is doing on the economy, while 54% disapprove.

What I find amazing is the national major media continues to run cover for him. Well, actually, I'm not really amazed. The amazing part is that any American can believe that they would be so kind to a President McCain or anyone named Bush.

Depending on the unemployment numbers as 2012 unfolds I think we will see a defection even from the slavish media. Many pundits are predicting a rough 2011 economically. Clinton, God bless him, was right about one thing - it is about the economy, stupid.


Friday, July 09, 2010

They Call It God's Country

I'm vacationing in northern Wisconsin (aka God's Country)

Every year since my son began turning into a man we've made a trip to the Hayward WI area. Whether he understands the sheer beauty, the awesomeness of this singular place or not is of no significance. He knows this annual trip is special and that's all he needs to know for now. Tonight the weather is so calm you can see the Milky Way as a reflection on the water. There is nothing finer except for the love of a good woman (goes without saying).

There will be fishing, swimming and grilling - and memories. That's what's important. These are the times his good old days are made of...

There will be a time when he is with his son creating important memories, and he will draw on these days for guidance. All I can do is hope they are fine memories for him so that the next, next generation learns to appreciate what God's country really is.


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Oil is a Miracle not a Curse

It is so hard to listen to otherwise smart people get in a tither over "America's addiction to oil". It is a foolish and uniformed argument that needs to be squashed.

Years before Global Warming was a glint in Al Gore's eye the estimable Sci Fi superstar Arther C. Clarke was scolding us in his futuristic novel "The Deep Range"...

Chapter 23; The Bureau of Mines was also responsible for the hundreds of oil wells that now dotted the sea beds, pumping up the precious fluid that was the basic material for half the chemical plants on Earth- and which early generations, with criminal shortsightedness, had actually burned for fuel.

If an equivalent alternative for powering our cars, ships, airplanes, trains and trucks was sitting on the shelf and being ignored, then and only then would Mr. Clarke's little tirade not be an insult.

Hearing President Obama and then movie star Robert Redford days later scolding Americans for putting gas in their cars to get around left the impression that the alternative was there for the taking and mysterious forces were keeping it just out of reach. The implication was clear, somehow we - the people - are all complicit!!!

The truth is oil is a miracle, it's God's gift to the modern world without which the modern world would never have come about. If cut off from oil now we would driven back into the feudal age. Billions would suffer, and millions would die. Right now - in this day and age - there is no alternative.

If there's anything I agree with these people about is that as a society we should leave no stone unturned looking for an equivalent alternative to oil as a basic transportation fuel. The trouble is if we let these fools have their way they would hamstring us by enacting draconian rules against using the most effective energy source we have at this point in time. Lowering our standards of living and essentially promoting poverty is the worst possible way to achieve the next level. Yes, the end of the oil age has to come for a whole host of good reasons, but shooting ourselves in the head is far worse than slowly "poisoning" ourselves. Yes, we can be assured that the Earth will heal from the disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico. It is beyond terrible, wholly regrettable and probably even criminal, but it's not the end of the world.

In the wake of the Gulf Of Mexico oil leak there have been countless talking heads spouting off about the evils of oil and oil companies (and even about the pre-Obama government). Little has been explained about what a miracle oil is and how much of our modern world is dependent on it - how much we all are completely dependent on it.

Here I compiled a small list of products that require the use of oil - this, as they say, is just the tip of the iceberg:
Artificial limbs
Artificial Turf
Ballpoint Pens
Bearing Grease
Bicycle Tires
Car Battery Cases
Car Enamel
CD Player
CD's & DVD's
Cold cream
Denture Adhesive
Diesel fuel
Dishwasher parts
Drinking Cups
Electric Blankets
Electrician's Tape
Fan Belts
Faucet Washers
Fishing Boots
Fishing lures
Fishing Rods
Floor Wax
Folding Doors
Food Preservatives
Football Cleats
Football Helmets
Golf Bags
Golf Balls
Guitar Strings
Hair Coloring
Hair Curlers
Hand Lotion
Heart Valves
House Paint
Ice Chests
Ice Cube Trays
Insect Repellent
Life Jackets
Model Cars
Motor Oil
Motorcycle Helmet
Movie film
Nail Polish
Nylon Rope
Oil Filters
Paint Brushes
Paint Rollers
Panty Hose
Petroleum Jelly
Plastic Wood
Roller Skates
Rubber Cement
Rubbing Alcohol
Safety Glasses
Shag Rugs
Shaving Cream
Shoe Polish
Shower Curtains
Soft Contact lenses
Sports Car Bodies
Sun Glasses
Surf Boards
Synthetic Rubber
Tennis Rackets
Toilet Seats
Tool Boxes
Tool Racks
Transparent Tape
Trash Bags
TV Cabinets
Vitamin Capsules
Water Pipes