Monday, November 24, 2008

Having our cakes and eating them too with an early Bush resignation

Interesting column by Gail Collins in Nov. 22 New York Times calling for an early resignation of President Bush.

Of course Cheney would have to resign also, otherwise, under the constitution, we'd just get President Cheney until Obama's inauguration on January 20Th. If both Bush and Cheney were to resign, Nancy Pelosi would be next in line as Speaker of the House.

Wow. Maybe we're spoiled, but we'd be able to have our cake and eat it too. We'd still make history with the first woman president, Nancy Pelosi, while also getting the first minority president Obama in January.

Are we too spoiled to make choices or what?

Yes, choosing between a potential first woman president, Hillary Clinton, and a first racial minority in the Democratic primaries was hard, but maybe we can have it all.

Pelosi till January 20Th and then Obama. We can't wait, let's do all these "historic firsts" now.

Of course there is a lot of impatience about the economy as well, but even Gail Collins, who wrote that column, admits Obama, himself, might not like the idea of such a hasty transition. It would certainly mess up what is looking to be a very orderly and well orchestrated transition.

Be patient, January 20Th isn't that far off.

The idea is still intriguing however. Intriguing not so much for the economy, but for historic significance.

When it comes to the economy, no president wields a magic wand. Solutions are really up to the people. The same people who would like to have their cakes and eat them too.

Just a few short years ago, the economy was promising. Promising too much.

Rising house values and retirement portfolios seemed to be creating wealth out of thin air. Many folks were able to retire early, from selling a house, for instance. For a lot of upper middle class and the wealthy, things were quite rosy, even under that dreaded Bush administration.

Well, it wasn't sustainable.

All these promises of wealth in retirement plans, house values and so forth rely on a robust economy. A robust economy to pay the bills. Mortgage payments from people buying into the housing spiral at the bottom, rent payments and economic activity needs to keep flowing so values in those 401Ks can continue to amount to something.

When the economy slows down the dreamland of worth can't be maintained. In short, that's because the jobs don't pay enough to make high mortgages or rent payments. Goods and services don't sell fast enough to keep up that level of economic activity.

This is especially true if our economy has to slow down in order to combat global warming.

Even an Obama Presidency can't wave the magic wand and bring back those unrealistic expectations that so many people have become accustom to. Especially the unrealistic expectations of upper middle class and, of course, the wealthy.

I just read that the president of Washington State University, in Pullman, has offered to cut his own salary by $100,000. Now he's down to a salary of something like $635,000 per year. Wow! but at least it's a step in the right direction. I never fail to be amazed at how much wealth people think they need.

What we can expect is a change in thinking. A paradigm shift toward more "community good" and less "personal greed."

We have new , exciting and greener technology to look forward to also, if we're willing to implement it.

Telecommuting anyone?

We'll also need more patience and a bit of slowing down in the rat race we call our economy.

Looks like it isn't the end of the world to wait till January 20Th for Obama. Patience is a virtue that's been lacking in our recent "go, go" past.

Gee, maybe I'm asking for too much? Being too idealistic?

Think about this, I just heard on the radio that the transition was even longer when power shifted from Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt back in the depression days of the 1930s. People had to wait till March for Inauguration Day and that transition was rough.

Inauguration Day was constitutionally moved up to January in 1937. No wonder we're a bit spoiled now, not that many people, who are alive today, remember that era.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chrysler cartoon idea back, I think, in the early 1980s

I remember a cartoon from (I think) Newsweek Magazine sometime in the early 80s during news of Chrysler loan guarantee.

It showed a battered old airplane labeled "Detroit auto makers" headed out on a bombing run to sink ships with cheap foreign auto imports on board.

The bombs were landing on oil tankers instead.

That's as if to say, "Detroit was shooting itself in the foot raging against imports."

Now, it looks like that cartoon idea is good to ponder again. Detroit automakers are even, themselves, realizing how cheap oil imports have made it harder for US auto companies to tool up for smaller more fuel efficient cars. Yes, the American market still goes for the big cars, when fuel is cheap. Safety is one reason. Rural living and the craze for light trucks is another.

Turn on that country and western music.

Maybe there should have been tariffs on cheap oil imports all along. Then the US economy could have planned for more fuel efficiency. Things like solar energy and more compact city planning would have been done also.

America was spoiled by cheap energy. Flooded with cheap oil imports.

On another note, good to see a web clip about auto executives traveling in expensive private jets to ask for money on Capital Hill. One executive blurted out something like, "got another meeting to get to in Detroit."

Maybe they should be doing more teleconferencing.

Name calling

A deputy leader in Al Qaeda is in the news calling President Elect Obama a house negro.

Of course they would say something negative.

A few Republicans, in the US, might say something negative also. They could call him "Obummer" as in "bummer," I guess.

President Obummer.

The city of Bremerton, in Washington State, has sometimes been referred to as "bummertown."

Maybe I shouldn't give right wing talk radio any ideas. Nor the hate groups such as Al Qaeda.

Aside from name calling, Obama has the potential to be a good president.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Planet seen


It may look dumb, it's just the period, but give me a break. Look carefully. Don't be in too big of a hurry.

Astronomers are excited that they've seen a few dots they think are planets orbiting other stars. It's a historic step.

Up until now, they have inferred that there are planets around stars, but they haven't seen the actual dot yet. Now they've seen the dot.

In the past, there were some ways to infer evidence of a planet, for instance the light from a star dimming at regular intervals as an orbiting planet passes between the star and Earth partially blocking the light.

That's the "you make a better door than window" scenario.

I've heard that phrase when someone's blocking the view. A planet can dim light from a star when it's between it's star and observers on Earth.

There are other ways to infer that planets are out there as well.

The so called "stellar gravitational wobble" technique, for instance.

I could try and get more technical, but I don't want to loose you. There's plenty of good explanations in Astronomy Magazine and other on-line publications.

Still, it's worth noting that a few dots have now been seen which they think are imaging planets directly.

That's a historic step.

One dot seen by the Hubble Space Telescope near one of the stars it sees. Another set of dots (more than one planet) seen around another star which is viewed by the giant Keck Telescopes in Hawaii.

Just when we might think our world is going to hell in a hand basket, our ingenuity is still capable of interesting discoveries.

In the future, even more awaits to be learned if we don't rip our own planet apart first in war. Let's use our minds for discovery rather than conflict. Our minds are capable of great questions.

Monday, November 10, 2008

When bond holders become bag holders

There's an old phrase that says if you lost out you're "left holding the bag." One could say that if bonds default, they turn into bags.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Car company problems

Like a bucking bronco, the price of gas rises and falls with supply and demand. It takes car companies several years to change the product line. Bigger cars? Smaller cars? Gas prices change in months.

When fuel is cheap, markets in USA (at least) tend to favor bigger cars for safety. Expensive fuel brings smaller vehicles into popularity.

Maybe there should be a tax on imported oil. Put a floor on the price so it doesn't drop below a certain point and pull the rug out from under automakers who are now, possibly, trying to tool up for smaller cars. A floor on the price of imported oil would also help domestic energy and alternative energy production here in USA.

OPEC is thinking oil is too cheap now. Oil is cheap while our economy is in the dull drums. OPEC is trying to limit production to raise the price of oil. Well, it could further kill the goose that lays their golden eggs and put world economy even further into dull drums.

We could intervene with a price trick of our own. A variable tax on oil imports. That would raise the price and keep the money in USA, not going to OPEC. Maybe that money could then be used to bail out automakers, since it looks like the government is bailing them out anyway.

If oil prices go up, the tax can come off.

I'm not a big fan of bailing out old automakers, but maybe that money could be used to support alternative energy.

A lower speed limit might create more permanent demand for smaller vehicles. It's safer going slower so people might not demand being surrounded with so much steel during times of cheap energy.

Energy is fairly cheap, while economy is in dull drums. If economy picks up, energy prices will rise. In the recent debate between vice presidential candidates, Sarah Palin talked about "heating up the economy" at one point. Yes, I thought "global warming."

Heating up alright.

Well, that's old news now. Hurray for Obama. I hope he is an innovator.

Too bad energy still puts a kind of ceiling on economic growth. Limited energy, resources, space on Planet Earth.

We need to strive for quality of life rather than just economic growth. And/or we need to define economic growth in new ways.

More nuclear power?

Solar and wind, of course.

I ride my bicycle.

I may not have much money, but quality of life is there, most of the time.

Maybe obesity is USA's biggest economic problem. Obesity is not just in physical shape. It's also all the excess baggage. Personal debt, obligations, overhead, bureaucracy, whatever.

Car companies are like slow moving dinosaurs. Slow moving as energy markets change within months. Really cars are kind of dinosaurs.

We need more agility.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Family time

Too bad California voted to ban gay marriage again. I'm not a big fan of marriage anyway, but if folks want it, I believe in equality between homo and heterosexual people.

Really, who want's marriage?

Commitment? It may be overrated.

I'll marry thousands of cute guys who pass through my life. My family is a large community. I'm tangent to many.

Most people probably don't know what tangent means.

So to those who oppose gay marriage, how about promiscuity as an alternative? I say this, sort of jokingly.

The Mormon Church was accused of pumping money into California's anti gay marriage initiative. Prop 8, it was called.

I also hear radio ads from the Mormon Church saying spend lots of quality time with the family. If you want a good family, take the time.

That message, I kind of like. Another argument for shorter work weeks?

Who has the time to spend with family? People are too busy working and commuting to support the family.

It's the contradiction of capitalism versus relationships and so called family values.

Speaking of capitalism, I guess the Prop 8 battle cost more money (spent on both sides) than any other race short of the presidency. $80,000,000?

One talk show host said it was a waste of money over semantics.

Money that could have been spent supporting health care access for low income people, food banks or something. I favor gay marriage.

Celebration of 2008 election

Lots of people celebrating in the streets of downtown Bellingham the night after the election. Hurray for Obama. Also glad to see Washington State Governor Gregoire reelected. In Seattle, voters approved a plan to extend the light rail. Sad to see that California voted a ban on gay marriage.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A downside of trickle down

Some economists say, "what's good for the wealthy is good for everyone." Trickle down jobs, good, services, tax revenue.

Like saying, "what's good for General Motors is good for America."

Could be an element of truth to this, but there's also bad that trickles down.

When the Joneses make more, there's the stress of keeping up with the Joneses.

When billionaires price out the millionaires, where will we go when the millionaires price us out?

Real estate bubble.

Another problem is the brain drain theory. Universities, government agencies and the like end up paying their top executives more, fearing that the so called talent will move on to much higher paying positions in the private sector.

Salary leapfrogging to higher taxes and tuitions.

One also must ask, "are the CEOs actually more talented and sensible than the rest of us?"

These days, that's a good question.

Here's another question. Are most CEOs just trying to lead us into a bigger, faster rat race?

A few nights ago, I heard a discussion on the BBC about a steady state economy.

A steady state economy versus a growth economy.

Steady state still means quality of life and technology can improve, but we just aren't consuming more stuff, building bigger houses and working more hours.

Population growth must also be reduced to create a steady state economy.

I'm sure a lot more can be said about this.

They were also talking about a concept called a "Green New Deal." Interesting thinking.

Sounds better than the bigger faster rat race, to me.