Saturday, February 7, 2009

Government Stimulates Itself

First off, I cannot believe someone would have the cajones to ask if Harry Reid was confident that this bill was big enough. I remember only a short time ago when people were up in arms about TARP's $700 billion price tag. Now people are wondering if this is enough? Are you serious? TARP hasn't done much thus far, so why do you think this bill will be any different? It's just a melange of pet projects and partisan pork. The point of a stimulus bill is to create jobs, spur investment, and strengthen the economy. All this bill seems to do is make a feigned or even superficial effort to address stimulus, all the while really just throwing most of the money at projects that are entirely irrelevant. Senator Inhofe's recent press release confirms my unease:

February 6, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), issued the following statement tonight after the announcement of a compromise on the Senate stimulus bill.

"While I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues to bring down the price tag of this bill, the fact is we still face a trillion dollar spending bill. Making it worse, the bill is 93% spending and only 7% stimulation. Over the past few days I have fought to include more in the way of real stimulus through higher percentage of infrastructure and defense spending, while working to cut much of the typical government waste often found in a bill of this size. Yet Democrats have blocked these efforts.

"The good news tonight is that the American people are catching on to the fact that this is the largest spending bill in history and are becoming more and more vocal in their opposition. My offices in Oklahoma and Washington DC have been flooded with emails, phone calls and faxes overwhelmingly opposed to this trillion dollar legislation. They can rest assured that my vote remains an unwavering ‘no.'"

Here's real stimulus.

(If only this cartoon were what the government was really doing. As it turns out, they're fanning themselves with money while pelting the bull with loose change.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Talking about the Issues: Monkey Touching to Utensil Violence

This is a great video clip from a live show the Flight of the Conchords did in New York City. And it brings up some very sensitive and important issues. For one, monkey touching - when is it okay? Is it a new pandemic? And how can it be stopped? Another one: Why are kids calling each other names like 'Jork'? What is a Jork? And then of course the most serious issue: utensil violence. We use them every day, and now they have become a ubiquitous tool in gang fights and even simple domestic disputes like "Why did you drink my milk?" or "Why don't you ever look at me when you tell me you love me?"I'd like to start with the monkey touching issue. I've heard new statistics from some very reputable journals that say monkey touching is on the rise. In some zoos, like the famous Bronx Zoo, and even the world famous San Diego Zoo, strange bald patches are showing up on their monkeys. It seems to be more frequent with Spider monkeys and Tamarins, but zoo keepers are concerned for all of their primates. The public is divided on the issue with some people claiming that the monkeys invite the touching with their provocative howling and throwing of feces. Others believe the monkeys are being victimized. I for one and ambivalent to monkey touching. It just seems to be another way of self-expression, and I'm not going to weigh in on who touched who first.

The second issue is equally interesting, if not a little more disconcerting. As many of us are well aware, American English vernacular has been spiraling for years now. If I were to say that there was a paucity or dearth of refinement in vocabulary and word selection, it would be an understatement, and, most people would not even know what I was saying. This ties in with the trend of young kids calling one another 'jork.' Jork, as most people know, is just an unintended spelling error of the word 'jerk' which was perpetuated in online chat rooms and on instant messenger because no one knew any better. However, jork has been given a life of its own. It can also mean "someone who likes to drown bags full of cats in the Seine" or "someone who likes their toast done only on one side and becomes introverted and sadomasochistic if they don't get it just right" or "someone who eats decomposing leaves." So, as you might have guessed, calling someone a jork is indeed very unflattering. And, in many cases, leads to domestic abuse in the form of utensil violence.
This last issue of utensil violence is probably the most boggling of all the trends. Some criminals who ordinarily would have preferred a hand gun or a switch blade have turned to knives, forks, spoons, and the occasional spork to carry out their misdeeds. Some believe that this is happening more and more due to the current economic climate. With rising unemployment, businesses going broke, and weapons prices going up, criminals and would-be criminals have had to scale down their budgets and use the more accessible and primal tools that they find in the silverware drawer. The results are mixed, with some criminals and angry spouses reporting that they are satisfied with kitchen utensil performance during violent acts, swearing they'll "never go back to guns," and others saying they felt emasculated and even debased having to use a spork to rob a bank or keep a sibling in line. The climate of violence and abuse is changing, in some big ways. As utensil violence becomes more everyday, the risk of Tetanus, Lock-jaw, and not being able to pass through metal detectors due to lodged utensils increases.
All of these issues are important. I hope it has cleared up any misconceptions. Now the choice of what to do with this information is up to you. Or as Captain Planet said:
"The Power is YOURS!"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

For Real Stimulus

Sometimes when you read this blog you chuckle. Other times I hope you think. Other times I hope you get confused. But today the blog is going to touch on some important stuff that most people should know. I got this article from Investment Business Daily. I think it was published either the fifth or the ninth (sorry, I cannot make out my grandmother's handwriting on the copy she sent me). I am in no way claiming this as my own work, but I am taking the time to re-write it on this blog verbatim for all of your benefit. Read on.
"Economy: Congress is ready to ram through a half-baked stimulus package costing as much as $1 trillion. But if it's stimulus we need, why not make it effective stimulus - tax cuts, say, instead of wasteful spending?

The massive new spending program that is being pushed by the congressional Democrats emboldened by their newly enhanced majorities may come up as soon as Tuesday, when they return from their holiday breaks.

Unfortunately, they've picked the least effective way to give the economy a boost. Those who argue for hundreds of billions of dollars for infrastructure projects and "green jobs" have it all wrong. We've tried those remedies before and found them wanting.

In the 1930s, for instance, we went on an infrastructure binge, building new roads, dams and schools; electrifying the rural south and enlarging our ports, among other major tasks.

Granted, some infrastructure improvement was called for. But all the activity didn't pull the country out of depression - not by a long shot. Unemployment averaged 17% in the '30s, and it wasn't until 1941 - the start of World War II - that GDP returned to its 1929 level.

Japan followed the same Keynesian game after its real estate bust of 1989. To the applause of many American liberals, hundreds of trillions of yen were spent on infrastructure, raising outlays on big projects from 6.5% of GDP in 1990 to 8.3% in 1996 - even more than contemplated under Obama's plan.

That didn't work either. The 1990s were a "lost decade" for Japan's economy, and the country is still stagnating. Its infrastructure boom did have one lasting legacy however: Japan is now the most heavily indebted nation in the OECD.

If President Obama and his fellow Democrats get their way, the U.S. may soon be trudging down the same path. Next year, reckons budget expert Stan Collender, the defecit may hit $1.3 trillion, or 8% of GDP, as Congress tries to spend its way out of recession. That's roughly $13,000 for every taxpayer.

Shouldn't we at least expect some big bang for our bucks? If so, and although it's not popular with his party, Obama might want to re-think his aversion to tax cuts. They'll actually work.

How do we know? Because they have in the past. In the '20s, '60s, '80s and again this decade, new presidents also faced grim economic conditions. Each time, the president - be it Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan or Bush - cut taxes. And each time the economy boomed.

McKinsey & Co. estimates total losses of $1.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion due to the credit collapse. But this can be reversed by making the underlying assets profitable again. The fastest way to do this is to cut taxes on businesses and entrepreneurs, which will immediately lift the rate of return on assets and thus their value.

This in turn will bring more investment, more hiring and more income - all things that Obama has said he wants.

We're not making this stuff up. According to research cited by former White House economist Greg Mankiw, the economy expands by $1 to $1.40 for every $1 spent by government. But if you cut taxes instead, you really get results.

Mankiw cites a major study of tax cut changes dating back to 1947 showing that each $1 of tax cuts brings $3 in added GDP. This study is particularly significant because one of its authors, Christiana Romer, is Obama's chief economic advisor.

Simply handing blank checks to Congress and the White House, and letting them pass an ill-considered stimulus plan with little transparency and no checks on spending is a very bad idea. 

No stimulus would be better than a bad stimulus. And the only stimulus that's been shown to really work is cutting taxes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Metaphor of the Pet Fish

Try to pull a life lesson or sophisticated metaphor out of this:
At the beginning of this semester my brother agreed to take care of three guppies when a girl he hardly knew said her landlord wouldn't let her have them. So, we, or should I say I, ended up caring for these fish. I kept their tank clean, changed their water, fed them, and did all the normal fish care essentials. Unfortunately, I had to leave for winter break. While I gorged myself in holiday dinners and moped around my parent's house, the fish were back at school, all alone. I told a friend of mine to feed them and water my plants, and thought not much of it.

Then I returned. One of the fish was dead. Another was doing strange acrobatics and water Tae Bo that led me to believe he was also near the end of his days with us. A few days later he died. They were of course given their due respect with a proper fish burial, involving a net and a toilet. So now I have one fish. He has remained chipper, and one might even say "plucky." He eats well, swims well, and seems to enjoy being the king of his domain. 
So I suppose my question is this: Which fish are you? 

Are you like my last remaining fish who held on with faith until after the master returned and still lives in harmony on his fish throne?


Are you the fish who died before his return?


Are you the fish who held out long enough to see the master, do some stupid tricks to either save yourself or impress me, and then die shortly thereafter?

I have a dream of using the bathroom in freedom

Generally, I try not to be too crude or dumb sounding when I write this blog, and, I hope this post is no exception. However, just now I decided to share something that might be a bit crude. I have lived off and on in a rented place for all of my college experience. There are many things I will miss about college, the places I've lived in, people I've met, etcetera. However, there are some things I will certainly not miss upon graduating from BYU and leaving rented housing. One such thing is not being able to use the bathroom because a room mate has conveniently read my mind and snuck in right before I was able to make it there. It makes no difference how badly I needed to use it. My palm reading, tarot card reading, or bathroom fortune cookie always screws me over.

On more than one occasion I have forgone my morning shower. On more than one occasion I have had to go on campus to do my business because all the bathrooms were occupied at home. On more than one occasion I have had to leave my wet bath towel on my bed in my room because the second I left the bathroom someone charged in and locked it. Bathroom freedom has almost reached mythic status in my life. It seems I can only attain it at the hours I least need it.

But I have dreams. They say everyone does. My dream is to be able to use the bathroom whenever I need to go. My dream is to be able to shower on demand. My dream is to be able to walk into the bathroom with the fresh smell of anything but what I am typically subjected to (I would settle for gasoline or mild skunk). In my dreams the bathroom is a special place. It is a sanctuary of sorts where I am king of the porcelain throne, and no one objects. My subjects are full toilet paper rolls and clean lids, and some appropriate bathroom literature. 
But for now it is but a dream.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

25 Reasons I will not play the '25 Things about you' game

Some of you in the blogosphere and facebook may be aware, or may have already succumbed to the temptation of playing the '25 things about you' game. It's sad. Most of those 25 things were probably things you should have kept to yourself and close friends, instead of posting them all over your blog or facebook. I refuse to make a list and tag people like so many of those ridiculously annoying email chain letters that say, "Send this email to five friends and your crush will like you, send it to 15 and your crush will love you, send it to all your friends and you and your crush will be married within the week." But, I do have the time, patience and wherewithall to post 25 reasons why I will not post 25 reasons.

1. I never do anything embarrassing.
2. When things happen to me that are cool and I share them, other people feel bad because they realize that their existence is meaningless.
3. I have eaten things I shouldn't have, and I have no regrets, but I refuse to be told that I have to have any of the eskimos removed from the shark I ate.
4. I was not fat as a child, and I'm sorry if you were. See a therapist.
5. I'm too busy doing unimportant things to read your list, so I'm not going to guilt other people into reading mine.
6. I like the same music as you, have all the same favorite foods as you, and am actually your identical twin.
7. Lists of 25 are not divisible by 3. That's unacceptable.
8. I am running out of ideas and I'm on number 8. Now imagine doing it yourself.
9. I am pretty sure most of the lists people write are chock full of exaggerations, BS, and things to make others laugh, and, I hate laughter. It's the worst.
10. If you thought stepping in dog poo was bad, think about how hard it is to clean BS off your eyeballs after reading it. 
11. Every one of the 25 things on my list would be easily made into a screenplay for a blockbuster.
12. Billy Idol told me not to make the list.
13. I like chicken (This reason is more relevant than you know).
14. In the list of contract violations in my hiring agreement for being a Teacher's Assistant, the 25 list thing is number two after sexual harassment. 
15. This '25 things about you' game is the first step into entering a social networking cult closely affiliated with worshipping dolphins and eating only halibut.
16. I like halibut too much to resist its smelly innuendos and fishy pick up lines.
17. Making lists of 25 things about yourself increases your chances of getting a brain tumor, pancreatic cancer, marfans syndrome, and the heeby jeebies by 700 percent.
18. This list is sufficiently self-indulgent. Another one would cause my implosion, and we don't need another black hole.
19. Lists usually get progressively boring as you read them (for example, see this reason)
20. I care about you enough to ask you to stop before you unnecessarily defame yourself in front of millions of people online from Singapore and China (They also use the lists to pick out who would make a better slave to kidnap).
21. Predatory Walmart greeters will stalk you if you make one of these lists.
22. You will be labeled as a spammer for the rest of your life, even if you don't like spam and have never been to Hawaii.
23. The children will cry.
24. You will never get to return to Narnia.
25. You will choke on oatmeal when no one is around and the Walmart greeters dressed in nothing but Walmart bags will put stickers all over your face.