Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hip Waders Welcome

Why is it that out of the hundreds or thousands of songs that you hear on the radio growing up that you gravitate to a handful? Why do you seek out and buy only certain albums? Why is it that when I borrowed some cassettes from my older brother while growing up that Freeze Frame by J. Geils Band hit me hard while the rest were either glancing blows or complete misses? Why is it that lonely music appeals to me, that minor keys feel like home?

What was going to be a post on Freeze Frame and how it impressed me greatly in my tender years, what with it's rich textures, massive bass lines, and sophisticated pop compositions has instead become a kind of typical musings on why we like certain things. Do you hear music that your parents like and because they play it often or talk it up and kids want to please their parents so then you start to like that kind of music, albeit the youthful version that incorporates the same musical DNA? Or is it that a thousand ears pass your ears and the ones that fit your genetic predisposition are the ones that grab you, the ones that you go out and buy?

I'm personally inclined for the latter.

My home is a kind of experimental lab where two test subjects are not under the direct influence of half of their genetic sponsorship and have not been since near toddlerhood (and pardon the heady lingo as they have been known to read this blog). What I've noticed is that certain "foreign" predispositions can show up that can be tamed or encouraged, but predispositions that are so uncannily similar to parentage long gone that the only explanation is genetic.

So how much of ourselves is really ourselves? Yes, we have free will and our decisions are our own. Everyone is dealt a specific hand of cards and it's up to you on what you do with them. It's the whole idea of one man being given ten talents, another five and yet another just one.

That's all I have. I should get back to my exciting work. Did I choose this line of work or did it choose me? Sorry, there I go again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

To take your mind off any worries, here's my talented daughter Brooke singing with her backup band, thr Fort Wayne Children's Choir.

Onward Ho!

Didja like the kittens? Me too.

Next up, in my reading of New Deal or Raw Deal by Burton Fulsom Jr., are the massive programs that were created in the New Deal. You know, those amazing programs put in place by the brilliant FDR and his Brain Trust that pulled us so quickly out of the Great Depression. Or made it last for another seven to ten years. Not sure there...

The big one was the NRA. No, not those gun-totin' freaks who believe in a little something called the Second Amendment, but rather the National Industrial Recovery Act (the "I" was dropped due to a shortage of vowels). The NRA was an attempt by the Federal Government to set prices and wages so that people were paid fairly and that companies didn't go out of business. Good intentions, right?

Here's what happened.

The large businesses in each industry were told to get together and decide between them on what would be fair. Did they ever! What is fair to a large and bloated business was suddenly discriminatory to the small and innovative businesses. A classic case was the owner Community Dry Cleaners in Cleveland. Their business was further from the center of town and they used lower prices to get customers. Under the NRA this was illegal - everyone had to charge the same price. The owner of the business was fined and sent to jail. If you want some laughs just look into the rules of this terrible legislature (for instance the NRA said that when you bought a chicken you could not pick out the one you wanted, the same went for candied yams).

There were over 500 regulations that made it extremely difficult to figure out what the government wanted you to do, let alone how to legally do it. Sounds like the current tax code.

The unintended consequence of the NRA is that prices went up more than wages. Competition went way down as small businesses were forced out of existence, sometimes at the loaded end of the law. This made output go down so there were less goods, plus higher unemployment.

The NRA was so destructive and horrible that it was ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court a mere two years after it was passed into law. That was a 9 to 0 ruling. When does the Supreme Court ever fully agree on something?

Not to be undone FDR still tried to pass the NRA is smaller forms, telling Congressmen not to be alarmed if it seems unconstitutional. One biggie was a bill that tried to regulate the coal industry. The result? Over 350,000 prices for coal based on size and shape and sexual orientation. Coal ended up costing so much that gas and electricity use skyrocketed and parts of Pennsylvannia nearly went bankrupt. Hmmm... bankrupt the coal industry. Where have I heard that before?

The NRA makes me think of Laurell and Hardy: "That's another fine mess you've gotten us into."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Depressing Historical Fun!

More on Morons

This week, the causes of the Great Depression.

Even to this day "scholars" cannot fully agree on what caused the Great Depression, often because an objective analysis would contradict their political biases and being objective costs extra. However the big three reasons that frequently bubble up is the massive debt from World War One, high tariffs and bad policies by the Federal Reserve.

War Debt - The United States incurred tens of billions in debt fighting the first world war. Of this approximately $10,000,000,000 (ten billion, in case you don't feel like counting zeros) went AS LOANS to European countries to help them rebuild.

High Tariffs - The Smoot-Hawley (Smoot... heh) legislation wanted to help keep American dollars here in America and help American employees. BUY AMERICAN was the slogan of the day (sound familiar to any recent massive stimulus bills passed lately?). This made European goods cost more and enabled American producers to raise their prices. For example, hip waders from Europe (the leaders in hip wader technology) used to be $7 and American hip waders were $8. Suddenly the tariffs make the superior European hip waders $10 thus enabling American hip wader makers to increase their price of their inferior hip waders to $9. Whaddareya gonna do? They had you over the proverbial barrel (which also cost more, though proverbs were still free). The consumer is now paying more and receiving less quality goods.

As a response to our high tariffs, the European markets increased tariffs on U.S. goods so American goods were not selling as well overseas. Tariff. It's a good word not used near enough these days. Anyway, the ticked off Europeans also reneged on their promises to pay back the ten billion in loans for rebuilding after WWI. Oh, and since many of the products used in U.S. manufacturing came from Europe (products which now cost more to import due to the tariff) things cost more to produce and sell. A double whammy against the consumer!

Federal Reserve - In a misguided effort to help things out the Fed raised interest rates, making it more difficult for businesses to get the short-term loans required to run a business. They also stopped giving out free toasters. A liquidity (and toast) crunch, eh? Again, another ominous foreshadowing of today.

Less money in peoples pockets due to higher prices, companies failing because they can't get the short-term loans needed for daily business leading to more and more people out of work and...

I'm not saying we're heading into another Great Depression. There are many signs that we're already coming out of it - higher home and car sales, businesses starting to turn profits again, etc. However this does not count on what will happen once Obama's Federal Government starts messing with things in an effort to "help" in the same way that FDR "helped" despite his complete ignorance of practical economics and modern electronics.

Like like Obama, FDR proposed massive increases in spending while promising to cut government by 25% and to balance the budget. At least Obama knows how to use his Crackberry. Some say he's durned near addicted to it. I'm glad we have a President with an addictive personality.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Horrible Presidents of our Past : A Series

I'm reading a book on FDR and the New Deal as a kind of antidote to the indoctrination I received in public schools. We all know this highly extolled president and how he was one of the "best presidents of this past century" and yada yada yada. What I have read so far is that he was the son of wealthy parents who had no business knowledge, parents who inherited their wealth (on his mother's side via illegal opium sales) and consistently made bad investments. FDR continued this trend, doing very poorly in his economics courses as well as legal courses, ending up with a paltry C+ average at university but managing to pass the barr exam. He continued to leech money off his mother while making horrible investments (his money was on a fleet of dirigibles as opposed to those newfangled aeroplanes) and running for various public offices. His strength was in politics and he often got by on his charisma alone. He married his cousin, as well all know, had a three year affair with his wife's secretary, contracted polio and then lived on a houseboat for seven or so years rarely seeing his wife or five children. Translation: He abandoned his family.

While on the campaign trail in the late 1920s he stated that he wrote the Haitian Constitution. Or invented the Internet. Then he denied that he said it.

On a completely unrelated note, I just spoke with my neighbor who returned from a month in Singapore where he was able to get an unfiltered view of how much of the world sees our new President (a President who by his own admission isn't all that keen with this whole economics thing). While much of the world is more liberal/left-leaning than the United STATES of America and were previously championing Obama, the general consensus a mere two months after he has taken office is that he's screwing things up and but bad. They wouldn't care so much except that it's dragging down their economies as well.

The parallels I'm seeing is that, if you click on the "Economics with Charts" link just a bit to the right you'll see how things are starting to turn around. Home sales are creeping up, used car prices are up which often leads to more new car sales, some firms are starting to turn profits, which is all to say that things might be starting to turn around. Until, as in the Great Depression, these bailout plans start to do their work and the rules therein begin to restrict the American spirit. Some say that FDR made things better during the Great Depression but the numbers show otherwise... but that's another post for another day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Too Much Blessings

We suddenly found ourselves needing to be in the market for a used van i.e. Melynda's very dependable car up and tore it's engine apart. After looking around we realized that we hadn't asked God to provide a dependable and affordable minivan.

He provided two.

Van A) 2001 Honda Odyssey, 112,000 miles, new timing belt at 100,000, very well maintained with all the papers. The van was being sold in North Manchester by an almost-retired lawyer for his daughter in Illinois. We loved the van, hit it off with the lawyer and his wife (yeah, I don't normally fraternize with lawyers but this guy was actually on the up and up and a steadfast member of his local Lutheran church) and gave him a certified check. Melynda drove it home and almost before she was out of North Manchester the check engine light came on. It was the transmission, a problem the 2001s are notorious for having. We called the lawyer up that night and he offered to take the van back and return our check. Since then he has offered to sell us the van minus the cost of a new transmission so that the transmission warranty would be in our name. We were very happy to have found this van below the Kelly Blue Book price.

Van B) 2004 Honda Odyssey, 73,000 miles, newer tires, new transmission at 57,000 miles, extremely well maintained with all work done by the dealer. So well maintained that I think the owner makes Felix Ungar look like a slob, as in seat covers and deluxe floor mats. We think that he's the kind of guy who buys a new car every few years whether he needs one or not, but still seemed like a very nice and honest fellow, for a Buckeye. This one is the EX model with power side doors and a few other extras (Van A is the LX model), plus it seemed just a wee bit tighter/more solid than the 2001. At nearly twice the cost of the 2001 it's still under Kelly Blue Book but would be an even larger loan from my 401k in these uncertain times.

Of all the Odyssey vans Consumer Reports rates the 2004 as the best year. 2001 is comparable with an excellent engine but a poor transmission rating... which would be nullified by the new transmission. Both vans are great buys. We were 100% happy when we bought the first van and would have been even more thrilled if, when we bought it, it had a brand new transmission under warranty. Are we greedy to want Van B? Since we plan to keep it for at least a decade is Van B the better long term buy?

Anyone? Anyone?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Contrast and Compare

The brilliant orator can't work without a safety net. In fact news reports say that he doesn't (can't) give even small speeches without his teleprompter feeding him his lines. Teleprompter malfunctions last summer revealed the true colors of this genius, a stuttering, stumbling buffoon who cannot live up to the hype.

Two questions:

1) How would the media have treated this if it were Bush who were addicted to teleprompters? They crucified him for him less-than-stellar deliveries. It's at least encouraging that the fawning major media has seen through their rose-colored glasses enough to write such a story. I would have expected more from a Harvard graduate, but maybe that explains why Obama hasn't released his college grades.

2) Remember when Palin's teleprompter malfunctioned during her acceptance speech? She didn't miss a beat and gave one of the most impassioned speeches of the campaign. That's MOXY! That's a woman who's firing on all cylinders! This speech was worlds better than when the McCain campaign muzzled her in later with their list of forbidden subjects.

Full Story

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Thank you, oh thank you Mr. Obama for the reduction in Federal Tax in my payroll! Some people I work with have an extra $30 in their check this pay period.

I however got $0 extra.

This is because I take the maximum deductions and pay $0 in Federal Income Tax (though I still pay 7.65% for Social Security/Medicare). Thanks to the Bush Child Tax CREDIT I pay no Federal/National Income Tax so once you calculate what I owe and subtract the child tax credit I owe nothing. So, Mr. Obama, thanks for nothing. You have not managed to buy my vote by potentially giving me $15 a week in my check while increasing my gasoline, electricity, and natural gas costs 50% through Cap and Trade programs. But that's another rant for another day.