Archive for June, 2009

On Ambition: “And Then You Die” (June 29, 2009)

Posted in On [Traits/Characteristics], Society on June 29, 2009 by

. . .

X     “They don’t tell you that this is what life is all about.  You work hard to get into the right preschool and then work hard to get into the right kindergarten and then work hard to get into the right grammar school and then work hard to get into the right middle school and then work hard to get into the right high school and then work hard to get into the right college and then work hard to get into the right law school and then work hard to get the right judicial clerkship and then work hard to get into the right law firm and then work hard to be a junior associate and then work hard to be a senior associate and then work hard to be a junior partner and then work hard to be a senior partner and then you work hard and then you die.”

Y     “Hardly works for me.  I’m getting out.”

. . .


. . .

G     “I am happy.  What do you mean I’m not happy?”

B     “You’re not happy.”

G     “Who are you to tell me I’m not happy.”

B     “I’m me.  Reminding you that you’re not happy.”

G     “I am happy.”

B     “I once told you that I would never lie.  I never did; I never will.  I am comfortable sitting here playing Carl Rogers.  Isn’t that what you really want.”

G     “No, I want you to tell me I am happy.”

B     “You are happy.”

G     “You’re lying.”

B     “I’m lying.  Keep at least one eye on the road and look at it this way.  We don’t have to play games or maintain fronts.  Our circumstance provides me and even you with tremendous freedom and opportunity.  I am free to offer observations the last guy did not touch after what . . . some eight months. There was no percentage in him being bluntly honest with you.

G     “Or apparently in being honest.”

B     “From what I see, there are only two of us in the car.  You only have to fool yourself and me.  I only have to fool myself and you.  That offers great promise and potential.  Late at night it may dawn on you that I simply do not care to fool me or to fool you.”

G     “Hypothetically, how could I not be happy?  Look at what I’ve done.  Look at what I’ve got.”

B     “Look at this car.  What happened to ‘Small Is Beautiful’.”

G     “This car is beautiful.”

B     “It isn’t efficient.  It isn’t small.  You abound in toys and bound from one diversion to another.  You stay busy and distracted so that you don’t have to pause and reflect.”

G     “No I don’t.  Modern life is busy.  Look at everything I have to do in a day.  You just don’t understand.  I am very successful at what I do.”

B     “You have done well and done good.  Why don’t you keep driving.”

G     “The car? Why? Where?”

B     “Anywhere, somewhere, nowhere.  Why not head West for one hour.  I’ll drive back and you can sleep.  You can saunter through the day tomorrow.  You know there was a time when it was a great joy to watch you breath while you slept.”

G     “To do what exactly?”

B     “Anything, something, nothing.  To stay up past your bedtime.”

G     “That is so irresponsible.  I have to get up early.”

B     “When you are finally honest with yourself, it may be too late.”

G     “Just who are you to tell me whether I am happy.”

B     “I’m me reminding you that you really want to be happy.  And you deserve to be happy.”

. . .

[With a nod to Montaigne’s Essais.]

Bumper stickers of the week:

She who dies with the most toys, . . .

She who dies with the most joys, . . .

Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.  Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.  Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun.                                               Ecclesiastes 9, 7-9

If I had it to do over again, I would go into the office more often.

. . .

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha!  He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.

“The Men Who Don’t Fit In”  The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses © 1940 by Robert W. Service.  (Reprinted without permission which will be sought in due course.)

Housing Revisited (June 22, 2009)

Posted in Case-Shiller/S&P Index, Depression, Economics, Greenspan, Housing, Recession on June 22, 2009 by

Four years have past, four summers, with . . . the housing market continuing to deteriorate.  The cover of the June 18 – 24, 2005 edition of “The Economist” depicts a falling brick with the words “House Prices” on it and leads with an article entitled “After the fall.”  The article and earlier articles in the magazine were prescient in warning about the explosive rise and pending collapse of house prices.  In conclusion, the article notes:

“Of course, by the time American prices begin to fall, probably sometime next year [2006], they will not be Mr. Greenspan’s headache.  He will have retired and someone else will be in his job.  If weaker house prices push the economy towards recession, the awkward truth is that America’s policymakers will have much less room to manoeuvre than they did after the stock market bubble burst.  Short-term interest rates of only 3% leave less scope for cuts.  In 2000, America had a budget surplus.  Today, it has a large deficit, ruling out big tax cuts.

The whole world economy is at risk.  The IMF has warned that, just as the upswing in house prices has been a global phenomenon, so any downturn is likely to be synchronized, and thus the effects of it will be shared widely.  The housing boom was fun while it lasted, but the biggest increase in wealth in history was largely an illusion.”

In the last few weeks, when someone applied for a building permit to construct a 12 by 16 foot shed, too many commentators were ready to proclaim the housing crash ended.  Few seem to realize that the housing market is just starting to crash.  The infection is now impacting families with reasonable fixed-rate 30-year mortgages and long-term ties to their communities who are losing their jobs and will soon lose their homes.

Until housing prices drop to at least the extrapolated historical levels of a bench mark such as the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the decline in prices will continue.  The Federal Funds Rate is zero which eliminates the primary tool to shape economic events.  The Fed is creating other gimmicks to stimulate the economy that are unwise, unwarranted and unfounded in law.  More later.

Bumper stickers of the week:

Still pushing hard on a string

Everything that goes down does not necessarily go up

Less Government Regulation Series: Motorcycle Helmets (June 15, 2009)

Posted in Less Government Regulation Series, Society on June 15, 2009 by

There is something invigorating about open cockpit flying even if only in two dimensions.  Hitting the open road is liberating and rewarding; hitting the open road is also debilitating and punishing.  Donning a “brain bucket” or “skid lid” should be as natural and normal as wearing one’s Schott or Langlitz jacket.

Too many young guys transition in a few seconds from tandem wheels fore and aft underneath them to parallel wheels port and starboard on their sides.  So many of those who are injured are young and reckless and unaware of their mortality or crippled mortality.  We need them to be active in our society.  We need them to ride a motorcycle not roll a wheel chair.

Those who actually ride a chrome pony seem to have more credibility on the subject.  Those who care for those who are injured on motorcycles also have a say and some insight.  Talk, really talk, to the kids who have been mangled and burrow beneath and beyond the macho and the veiled rationalizations and defenses.

Should it be an individual choice?  Sure would like it to be an individual choice.  Too many people who don’t have the best judgment or even a handle on their own affairs are quick to tell others what to do and how to live.

Regulation of motorcycle helmets is done at the state level.  There are many different laws.  Should there be federal regulations?  There are a lot of federal regulations.  If I were God for a day:  The filthy, nasty, officious State should require everyone to wear a motorcycle helmet as a matter of law.  And I do hate to be told what to do.

The majority of motorcyclists who would not release the clutch lever without first sporting a helmet are rationally and passionately opposed to mandatory helmet laws.

Bumper stickers of the week:

Watch for motorcycles

Ride to live; Live to ride


The Play For Our Age (June 8, 2009)

Posted in Economics, Health Care, Housing, Society on June 8, 2009 by

The play to define and describe our generation is set in a mock up of a blighted and unkempt McMansion surrounded by an unlandscaped dirt yard.  The first floor is exposed on the stage, the basement is below and out of sight, and the second floor is partially revealed.  Each floor is stratified by age – the grandparents hide upstairs, the parents cope on the first floor, and the children/grandchildren exist in the basement and escape through their own side stairwell.

No generation can afford to live in the cave alone.  The grandparents cannot afford any end-of-life convalescent care and must pass away at home.  The parents transition from periods of employment to underemployment to unemployment and back.  The kids cannot find steady employment and work part-time and odd jobs to contribute some rent.

The dialogue revolves around and keeps returning to the elusive American Dream and the ever-present American Reality.  (Insert here:  Witty and mordant asides, pithy and painful dialogue and trenchant and truculent commentary.  Use incidents, comments and details to reveal and elucidate Truth.)

[See the “e-ssay” dated April 24, 2006 entitled “McMansions and the (Extended) Family of Tomorrow.”]

Bumper sticker of the week:

Life in the land of the freeway and the home of the Wave

The Humongous Gamble (June 1, 2009)

Posted in Debt/Deficits, Economics, Spending on June 1, 2009 by

Consider this obscenely gross and simplistic survey of recent presidents and the economy.

Reagan – pawned the future of the children.  (“Deficits don’t matter.”)

Bush II –  pawned the future of the grandchildren.  (Encouraged deficits and the Debt to grow unchecked.)

O’Bama – pawning the future of the great grandchildren.

The economy and the budgets limped along during the Bush (“Read my lips”) I administration and grew at a promising but unsustainable and unsustained rate during the Clinton administration.  O’Bama genuinely believes that he can pull off the “Great Hat Trick” and rescue the futures of three generations of children by spending federal money and stimulating economic growth.  There is not enough unused productive capacity.  The numbers simply do not add up no matter how you add them.

Bumper sticker of the week:

Watch Inflation Next