Archive for November, 2008

Economic Something or Other

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

I read an article today that made me feel much better about what the Federal Reserve is currently doing to help the economy. In short they are doing two things:

  • Dropping loads of money into the economy to fight deflation.
  • Lending directly to non-bank entities

As some of you may recall this second point is something I suggested in my No Bailout post. The lending programs the article briefly mentions are exactly what the Fed should be doing right now. They are well within the Fed’s role as the lender of last resort. The Fed’s job, when facing deflation (a problem economists don’t really know how to solve directly) is to increase the money supply so drastically as to create inflation (a problem economists solve on a regular basis). Since the usual means of increasing the money supply, lending to banks, isn’t working because the banks aren’t lending, its perfectly reasonable to lend directly to others.

The other news this week is that Citibank accepted a bailout from the treasury. This is particularly unfortunate for me as I am both still against the bailout, as enacted, on principle and I am a Citibank customer at some level. I think the treasury’s approach to the bailout is all wrong. The only point of the bailout should be to get us, as an economy, through the shortage of credit until new credit suppliers can enter the market (which requires high interest rates). The goal should be to allow creative destruction of badly managed credit suppliers and only prop up the one or two best managed (as determined by least likely to go bankrupt), and we do that only because we need some credit in the mean time. It seems that the treasury’s idea is to prop up everyone. It may, hopefully as a customer, be the case that Citi is one of the two that should be propped up, but clearly AIG is not. AIG failed early (and often) clearly indicating it should be let die; even now, there still is no reason to throw good money in after bad.

The other bailout, the auto bailout, I’m totally against that as well. The situation with the auto companies is not at all like the banks. First and foremost there is a shortage in the credit market and a surplus in the auto market. The other big difference is that not all car companies are going to fail. The large foreign companies, Honda and Toyota show no signs of failure. This means that the public interest in having companies producing new cars will be served regardless of how the big three American companies do. I argue that there is not a public interest in American car companies existing compared to car companies in general, as that would imply a nationalist impulse that has no place in a worldwide capitalistic system. Since the public interest is served by spending zero public dollars, there is no reason to spend public dollars.

Many argue there is a public interest in protecting jobs, that is true, but misspoken. There is a public interest in having jobs. Protecting existing jobs is a bad idea; it decreases the rate of increase of the standard of living. If GM were to fail, all of a sudden there would be opportunity to start a car company in America and stand a chance a new entreat. Also, the other companies remaining in the market would be less likely to fail. If we were not in a credit shortage people would line up to replace GM with their own ideas. These new companies would still need parts suppliers, and dealerships and all the rest of the infrastructure. This will take time, years for sure, but its not like there won’t be others to produce cars and consume parts in the meantime.

Given the credit shortage it is hard to start a new business right now. That means markets can not properly respond to the long term pressures that they face. That is the problem we must solve, and are working to solve. We need to solve the credit shortage in order to allow new players to enter markets, then the market will resolve any problems in the auto or other industries.

This Newsweek story provides examples of past American industries that have undergone creative destruction. Despite coming at the topic from a more pragmatic, less theory and market driven it echos my main idea regarding the automakers.


Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

My dad told me recently, since the election, that he was yet to see this change that “has come to America.” I disagree, but not because I see a grand change to the country, but a small change in myself. I noticed myself reading Ron Paul’s article on where the GOP should go on CNN today. I have agreed with some of his ideas before, and I’m interested to see if he can lead the GOP out of the culture war and into libertarianism, because I think I could support something like that, and I’d like to see it happen. I caught myself, a life long democrat, a bit surprised. You see, now things are scary.

Now, for the first time in my adult life I’m politically without a safety net. I turned 18 during Bush’s first term in office. I had no say in that first contest, and could not be blamed, but already I could cite “I told you so” in my defense. Anything, and everything Bush did wrong was tempered by the fact that he was the other guy, and it was the guy the other people chose who was being so stupid, power hungry, disrespectful of the rule of law and the constitution, ineffective, and wrong. Through it all there was a tinge of rude laughter, “I told you so.” I saw a video during the campaign of a female republican pundit who claimed again and again that no one could see the disasters of the Bush presidency ahead of time. On each issue she broached, I made note that I had seen it coming. Save for the financial crisis of the current year, I did not see that coming, but I don’t attribute it to Bush in any meaningful way either. To be clear, I didn’t see it all in 2000, but I saw it all before it happened.

Now things have changed. If Obama screws up I can not hide behind my cynicism as I have advocated publicly for him. If he leads the country down the wrong path then I am partly to blame. It’s a small part, but it leaves some small part of me looking for the next idea to hide behind. But I can not; I have only to sit in a metaphorical corner crying “Oh shit, what have I done” should he make the wrong choices. That or take solace in the belief that the other guy would have done no better. That doesn’t seem like a message of hope, it is a fear of failure. When all there is, is hope, the fear of failure is small, when a beacon of hope arrives the chance of failure comes with it and the tinge of fear that we won’t be able to make the change is itself a change.

No More Buffy

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

After about six months I’ve finally fished all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am not saying that with exasperation, more pride. There is a big fat check mark next to that spot on the pop culture checklist for me now. I’m already using my Buffy fanship it to solidify two friendships! I also understand why it is such an enduring show. It has likable characters and an upbeat humor about it while also not lacking in the suspense (as Anya would say). It is not dark like a horror movie, which would surely have been the death of it.

As a postmortem I must admit that my favorite character was Anya, the former vengeance daemon who dated Zander. She was crude, direct, vengeful, greedy, and had an irrational fear of bunnies which they kept with until the end. I don’t think that I would find a real person with these qualities very enjoyable, but she was so much fun in the show. Willow maybe a close second. I much appreciate her story of a quiet girl really coming into her own, but that story was weakened significantly by the doubts she developed in the last season. So much for the strong Willow, back to the cowardly weak one from before it seemed.

I think that I will give Angel a try next. I wasn’t ever a huge fan of the show, but if I’m ever going to watch it, now is the time. Before, I leave the buffyverse behind for one of The West Wing, Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek Voyager, or Xena, which are all somewhere on my to watch list.

Election Something on the Way

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

I’ll have something to say on the election, I just don’t know quite what it is yet, something along the lines of On Being a Millennial. Also, It seems that my North Carolina prediction is on the cusp of coming true, if they ever call that darn state. But really, my prediction was that Ohio would continue to fail and that North Carolina was way around that problem. Which, is not what happened, and for that I offer big Thank You to Ohio and to all my friends and family there. Also, Indiana, I really, I just didn’t know you had it in you, you’ve blown my mind (and it was good). While I write an actual response to the election I ofter you this image, from digg, described as the “Saddest Picture You’ll See All Day:”


North Carolina has finally been called, for Obama, as predicted! Also, I was thinking, whichever Gilmore Girls writer decided to have Rory follow Obama on the campaign trail as her fictional post college job, good show.

Halloween Inspired Dream

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

I don’t tend to remember my dreams very often, so when I do I get excited and write them down as quickly as possible. Then I decided it might be fun to let my subconscious lose on the net. Anyways, this may be a fun story, but um don’t try to read too much into it:

We were at some sort of huge mall complex. So huge that it has a green line like, light rail in the parking lot, that sort of just goes around to all the different buildings. It circles the parking, not the building, there are multiple buildings, but all around the central parking. It is night. I am on the train. I am not headed anywhere in particular. I have some friends with me as I am not alone, but they do not feature prominently. I am wearing my Halloween costume, it may be Halloween, I’m not sure, but it is perfectly normal for me to be wearing it. Other people may, or may not be in costume. I am on the train when costume attacks the attention of a blogger girl who is clearly a hybrid between iJustine, and this girl who was dressed as sexy Darth Vadar at the party I was at last night, but she is not wearing the Darth Vadar mask, or the over sized sunglasses iJustine often wears. She has a fancy bound notebook which reinforces the blogger thing, which is not a costume. She writes her blogs/ takes notes in it. We talk over many stops, this mall place must be huge because we don’t go around in a circle, and it’s a long time. Now waking the conversation escapes me, but its engaging and eventually she’s snuggling me like a cat which feels great in her silk costume. (Ok clearly I thought this girl had a great costume)

Shortly after a large frat boy type, clearly not yet a man, gets on and sits down. In the train car there are doors that can section off different parts (unlike the green line). The doors must be left open (and tucked into the walls) at all times so the driver can see the whole train car and watch for misconduct. The frat boy’s costume or whatever involved showing off his boxers way too much, and makes it problematic for him to keep his pants on, but while hes sitting it’s not a problem, and while crude it is not out of place. He has a friend who sits across from him who does not feature prominently. After a few stops he starts to fiddle around with some things. He does so discreetly, the driver can’t see, but I can. I am sitting closer to the front of the train and the driver than he is. He is on the other side of one of the doors. At the next stop he pulls one of the doors half out and begins rolling a joint behind it, possibly out of view of the driver. This is ballsy, in my mind, and stupid, but befitting his character. (I guess maybe this is on my mind due to the decriminalization of marijuana ballot questions coming up, who knows, there was not any pot at the party, that’s for sure.) He gets pretty far along with his joint rolling, possibly done, and may have handed it clear across the aisle to his friend, but he makes a lot of motion getting to the materials to make another one in his mostly not on pants. He begins rolling, but at this point we’re at a stop and the driver notices. He comes rushing back to put a stop to the illegal activity and takes the two boys off the train and to the mall police immediately. Leaving the rest of us on the train, with nothing to do.

This is the end of the line. The track stops, sort of, it just goes under some legally parked cars. It does eventually stop beyond them, without looping. The driver failed to properly park the train, so it begins to roll forward. Slowly at first, but then fast enough that we notice. The train has emptied more now but my friends and the blogger are still on it now wondering what to do. First how to stop it for our own sake. I take charge since I’m wearing my Redline costume with a T logo, and this is essentially the green line, its certainly operated by the T, and the costume makes me most qualified. We’re futzing around in the divers area, we find the throttle, but its all the way off. We can’t figure out what you have to do to put it into reverse. We try pulling backwards, but it won’t budge. We need to also hold a button or something. We’re getting closer to the cars, about one car length back it dawns on me. Break peddle! I lean over to look for one, it is there, and I begin to push it with my hands. It is really hard to push with my hands, but we’re maybe starting to slow down. We plow into the first of the parallel parked cars, leaving a large dent on the bumper. It in turn hits the next one and a chain of bangs is heard, but we’re slowing. Possibly due to the collision or maybe my breaking efforts. Eventually a occupied parked car moves to avoid being part of the fender bender and the bangs stop. The train is literally going like 3 miles an hour or less here, so its all in slow motion, not intentionally slow, actually slow due to the speed involved. Before hitting anything else we come to a stop.

Having witnessed the crash (the train is perfectly unharmed) some of the observers come running over to help. Most of them are gawkers. One of them is a girl who apparently works for the train line. She is most helpful. She knows how to operate the train and make it go backwards. She backs up the train back to the last stop, which is maybe 100 feet back on the track. She applies the parking break. She is emotionally wrought. Apparently it is her job to take care of the trains at the end of the line, but she was goofing off and now there is property damage. This is a bad night for her now, but she keeps a light spirit. With her, we leave the train, we head to her boss to make a report. He is in a kiosk sort of back around the last curve before the stop. Maybe 200 yards away, but his view of the last stop is hidden by a mall building. There is grass over by the kiosk. We must have made the report, and we’re all milling about in the grass, keeping the T girl happy, and generally having a fine little time. She is not losing her job, she thinks me the hero, I bring up how incapable I was at actually stopping the train. I cite how long it took me to think of a break peddle and then my inability to actuate it for some time. Despite my objections she has described me as the hero to her boss, who later comes out with some sort of rewards sheet where you circle the reward you’d like. It has a bunch of logos and names of famous people you can meet and other sponsors who’ll give you free stuff, none of which I’ve heard of at all. Eventually I notice in the right side middle of the page is the American League Baseball logo. Its a free trip to an AL game, which somehow guarantees that it is a Red Sox game, despite that their logo is not present. It’s unclear if they will be good seats, but I select that. At this point I wake up and the dream is over.

And that’s the story. I definitely want to goto a sox game, I didn’t make it again this year, so free tickets qualify as a happy ending

Halloween 2008

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

This year’s Halloween was a lot of fun. I went to a party hosted by Mary, a new friends of mine whom I met through another new friend of mine, Sparky. They were both on the hike in the blue hills a few weeks back. After Paul told me about his awesome Dr. Horrible costume I decided that I needed to get creative this year. My old stand by priest outfit never did me much good, and it is definitely lame. After some significant brainstorming on the way to a Wednesday Night Dinner at Pho Pasteur in Chinatown I came up with my idea. I would go as the Red Line (the subway line serving Cambridge). I dressed in all black, the priest outfit actually, and pinned a red ribbon from my feet along my legs and back, over my shoulder and onto my arm for the line. I marked and labled each spot. I think it came out pretty good.

I was greeted at the party by an Obama pumpkin, and a scary Sarah Palin pumpkin, among many others. I didn’t carve a pumpkin this year. I went upstairs and found a room full of good costumes. Mary was a tropical bird, which after a short demo I was able to guess; apparently, I was the only one to guess right all night. There was also a girl with a green double ended triangle over her head which I deduced, after some pause as being from The Sims. There was Able Lincoln and his girlfriend sexy Darth Vadar (in combat boots). There was a Mormon (with biblical flash cards), a fairy godfather, Colonel Sanders, and Whitney made a convincing butterfly, even if she doesn’t think so. The best costume at the party was a guy who came with a home made KISS costume, including home made 6 inch platform boots. The party was fun, the highlight of my night was schooling Mary in Wii Tennis, Bowling, and Golf before she came back and beat me by a slim margin in golf.

Biking to Get Somewhere

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Last Wednesday I took my bike out for it’s first real trip. One where biking was being used a transportation, not a Sunday morning jaunt. It felt good, until I got home and my legs were like mush. The stops on the trip are Wednesday night dinner at Midwest Grill in Inman Square and then Government Center. The ride to Inman wasn’t too bad, which is good because its hard to get to Inman any other way, but next time I need to go to government center I’m just going to lock up the bike and hop the T both ways. Here’s the map of my travels that night:

View Larger Map

Dinner at the Midwest Grill was expensive. It was $31 after tax and tip, which is the most I’ve ever paid for a Wednesday Night Dinner. We do try to keep things on the inexpensive side. The Midwest Grill does not offer midwest type food, but rather is apparently a Brazilian BBQ type place. Brazillian BBQ is similar to Mongolian in that there is only one thing on the menu and it is all you can eat. The difference is that instead of concocting bowls of yummy goodness, you load up a plate with sides. Once you’ve got your plate you sit down and waiters come around to your table with various types of meat on two foot long skewers. They cut you off a piece and you enjoy while waiting for the next waiter to come by with something else. It was an interesting experience. I would go back, if there was any chance in hell that I’d ever be able to eat enough that my $31 would seem like a good deal. Of course, I paid $35 for dinner on Friday, and ate less, so I don’t know why I feel like I got such a bad deal, but I do. Part of that may have been the service. We had a table of six men, but on every single item a nearby table of 4 with two women got first dibs and larger better cuts, we always got seconds. It seemed unfair, but there was little we seemed to be able to do about it.