I’m glad it didn’t pass

I really am. People should be very suspicious whenever the government wants to give money to businesses. Whether we’re talking about farmers, car makers, or investment bankers, it always stinks. Luckily, people in the “I hate rich people” camp are objecting to it too. It’s an odd combination, fiscal conservatives and wealth redistribution types, but hey, whatever works…

I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to see that is so good in the bailout. People made a lot of money assuming the risk of those bad loans, why are we now considering helping them now that the chickens have come home to roost? It was their call, they should bear the consequences.

I’m not dogging them for taking risks. At some point, if you want to invest, you will have to take some risks. It’s up to the organization to determine how much risk to take. Clearly, wall street as a whole took on too much risk. But not all banks did. That brings me to my next point. People say that we need to do something, otherwise the credit markets will dry up and the economy will grind to a halt. There’s a few problems with that thought, first, contrary to the panicky headlines everywhere, not all banks, not even most banks are having problems. This article from WaPo talks about how many banks are having no problems lending. As a matter of fact, they are “drowning in liquidity” because people are liquidating assets they think are risky (like stocks, more on that in a sec) and putting the money into the banks. Imagine that, there are some banks that are run properly, who would’ve thunk it?

The other problem with the “we have to prop up the credit markets” schtick is that the organizations that lend money to make money have to, well, lend money. Think about it, if the business is in the business of lending money to make a profit, they will have to do something to stay in business. In other words, they’ll figure it out. Even if there is a credit freeze, the industry will thaw itself out.

But what about the stock market? We have to do something to stabilize it!!! Yes, the stock market plunged (that’s the only good word), but I’m of the opinion that it was going to do that anyway what with the mismanagement of all of those banks. Do we really want a “stable” stock market is it requires the backing of all US taxpayers to keep it stable? Really? There was a lot of selling selling yesterday, but remember this, for every sale there must be a buyer. People are willingly buying up stocks. Admittedly, at the right price, but still, people still think there is value in them. There was a predictable bounce today (at least early on when I wrote this), a good trader made a killing yesterday and today… Anyway, unlike the bailout, all of those transactions are voluntary. Investors can examine the risks and invest in what they want.

If there’s one thing that Wall Street does well, it’s salvage jobs. If there is something that is worth money offered at the right price, someone will buy it. We should allow that to happen. Let the companies that screwed up go under and let the people that didn’t screw up (JP Morgan, I’m looking at you) prosper. Yes, there is going to be some turbulence and some pain, but we don’t need to add to it or prolong it by sinking taxpayer’s money into it too…

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Technology

I was only out of this country for a couple of years. Before I left, I was pretty up on the technology that I like, not so much while I was away. I am amazed at the progress that has happened in those two years.

Digital cameras continue to get better and better. DSLRs have more resolution, larger sensors, and now have live view and HD video! I’m still waiting for a small camera with a larger sensor. There’s some interesting prototypes being shown at this year’s Photokina. Hopefully they will see the light of day at some point.

I happened to look at a Crutchfield catalog over at my dad’s place. I used to sell car audio systems after I got out of college and the stuff today is almost unrecognizable. When I sold stuff, tape decks were still pretty popular, now, there are decks without a CD player! It’s all about iPods, flash memory, etc. Add to that satellite radio and HD radio, and you have a real music entertainment system in the car… Any of thise things would be welcome in the vehicle I’m using now. I was driving around and flipping through the radio stations (FM hunting I call it) looking for something to listen to. The best thing I found was “18 and Life” by Skid Row. That was the BEST thing I found… Bring on the large music storage and satellite radio!

There are also things that I’m not as interested in but are just as amazing. Navigations systems, dvd systems, multi-zone music and video.. WOW! I’m wondering what all that will be like once I get another car. It’s exciting to think about.

Caught some of the "debate"

I really wanted to watch a baseball game, but it was requested that we switch to the debate during the commercial. So I only caught bits and bobs, but I was predictably unimpressed. To me, it sounded like this:

“You did X!”
“No I didn’t!”
“Yes you did!”

“You voted for x!”
“No I didn’t!”
“Yes you did!”

MOM!!!! Seriously, it’s all back and forth, with no real substance. Check this out to get a feel for the ridiculous back and forth on both sides. And people still take this politics stuff seriously? Like so many other things involving government, it is impossible to take complicated ideas (and even how someone votes is complicated) into a sound bite. These debates are beyond silly, nothing gets explained, nothing gets solved.

I was also reminded of how much I dislike disagreements. As I watched the debate, I found myself getting tenser and tighter. The same thing happens when I witness an argument (or I’m in an argument), I get frustrated and tense. Sometimes you need to argue, but I don’t think I’m going to subject myself to that on TV anymore. Why raise my blood pressure?

Digital cameras

As you may know, I still prefer shooting on film when “it matters.” There are a variety of reasons, but there is no denying the connivence of digital. I have a little thing from Sony that has really come in handy, but there are some big problems with it. Framing in the sun is mostly a guessing game due to the wildly inaccurate viewfinder and the lcd getting blown out in the sun. There is also the problem of speed, it takes a little time to focus. Of course the itty, bitty sensor in it means that you are going to have pretty noisy pictures unless you use a flash or shoot in the sun (see above).

You can get around all of that by using a digital SLR. Yes, they are larger, but the usual complaint about them is that they are so expensive. Well, that used to be a real complaint, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. The technology has come so far so fast that even SLRs that are a couple of generations back are just fine for fun shooting. Here’s the other thing, digital cameras depreciate like computers.

I’m thinking about getting one of the Olympus SLRs before I go on my next trip. They have some issues, and compared to some of the new cameras, I’m not sure I’d get one. This works in your favor when you look at used ones though. They seem to sell for less than the “big” boys like Canon and Nikon. Here’s the other thing I like about used Olympus cameras, they all have an anti-dust filter in front of the sensor. Not only will this keep dust out of your pictures, it also precludes idiots screwing up the sensor when they try to clean it. For all of you lens geeks out there, there are adaptors that allow you to put damn near any SLR lens on the Oly cameras as well. You can pick up an E-300 kit for about $250, probably even less if you’re patient. That’s pretty freaking cheap for that kind of picture quality.

Yes, the new cameras are better. Yes, the olympus system is a little more limiting than the other brands. But at $250, who cares? It’s a disposable camera (and lens). You get a big step up in image quality for the price of a middling point and shoot. Digital finally makes some sense for me. It’s not going to replace my film cameras for everything (My medium format folders are still smaller and have a unique look) but for a lot of stuff it will… Go take some pictures!

Palin II

OK, let’s try this again. The point that I was trying to get across in my first post about Palin was not that she was being unfairly criticized. There are all sorts of things that I don’t like about her, and there are all sorts of things that many people might not like about her. No, what I was trying to get across was my astonishment at how personally many people on the left are taking the existence of Sarah Palin and people like her.

Seriously, ever since the announcement, I have been getting emails, links, invitations to join facebook groups, etc. all not only in opposition to her, but sneering at her and anyone that may indeed like her. Honestly, I had no idea she was a Pentecostal Christian or is seen as being way off to the right (more on that in a sec) until I made that last post. What I had been made to understand was that she hunted. People seem to be mildly disgusted with that fact, and the fact she hunts moose is seen as ridiculous. I was made to believe, through a series of jokes and snide comments that her daughter is a whore, and that it’s funny because her mom is so worthy of contempt.

It’s this kind of stuff that I was not prepared for, and there’s more where that came from. Not liking her foreign policy experience and worrying that she could become the POTUS is a legitimate concern. What I have been exposed to is not. Usually, it is the republicans getting down and dirty. This time, it is the democrats (and the anti-republicans) that are doing the dissing, and they are dissing a woman!

The theory I put forth in my last post was an attempt to explain this rage. Who knows if it is accurate, but I think it makes some sense. BTW, I keep getting told that Palin is way off the charts right-wing. Of course the people telling me that are from NYC, the DC metro area, LA, etc. Folks, you need to get out of the city once in a while. What you’ll find is that there are an awful lot of people that think she’s what this nation really needs. She would fit right in where I live, she would be considered mainstream. My hint from the last post stands, if you do not like Palin or are worked up into a rage at the mention of her name, you need to understand that there are a lot of people that like her. I’m willing to believe that a certain number of people voting for McCain will do so because of her. They exist in droves and they are not going away…

Sarah Palin

OK, right off the bat, I don’t know much about her. I know she’s not a communist, and she’s not a fascist. She sounds like she’s a little further to the right than some other republicans, but that’s probably why she’s in that party.

So why the post? I am amazed at the level of vitriol directed at her. I cannot remember any other vice presidential candidate being on the receiving end of this kind of abuse. Seriously, she’s the VP candidate. Historically, ignoring assassinations, Watergate, a 4th term, and Cheny (ahem), the VP has had a rather small impact on the usual business of the president. Why the angst?

I have a theory, and democrats aren’t going to like it. BTW, when I refer to democrats, I am also including that much larger group of anti-republicans. I think that most of my friends are actually much more about voting against republicans than voting for any democratic platform. That’s the feeling I get anyway… My theory as to why Palin is getting so much hate is because she’s a woman. Yes, I am accusing the democrats of being sexist.

Think about it, if she were a man that held exactly the same qualifications and beliefs, (s)he would be seen as just another republican. Seriously, she’s not Pat Buchanan, she’s not David Duke. Those people are so far right that they are actually dangerous. She seems to be a pretty mainstream republican.

Here’s my theory, democrats see female republicans as traitors to the cause. Democrats feel that they, not republicans, are the party that is going to bring women into full “equality.” If, as the democratic thinking goes, she would just come to her senses, she would understand that the republican party is the party of old, rich white guys (see McCain, John). This is galling enough, but when millions of women who think like her rally around her, it takes the distaste to a whole ‘nuther level. Those people exist. You are going to have to deal with them and their beliefs, they aren’t going away.

To all of you democrats out there, it would behoove you to try to understand why people like her. Even better, it would be a good idea not to dismiss them as idiots out of hand. From my vantage point, divisive politics doesn’t just belong to the “uncool” party…

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Once again, I saw an article extolling the “record” of national safety after 9/11 under W. “There hasn’t been another attack since he initiated programs like the Patriot act and Gitmo…” Of course I could also point out that I haven’t been mauled by a tiger in that time frame either. Is that a coincidence?

While it is possible that those policies have prevented another 9/11, the identification of cause and effect is far from clear. When you are trying to judge the effectiveness of any given policy, it is important to look at not only if any objective is met, but how likely it is that that particular policy had anything to do with it. You also need to look at the costs involved. That’s not just dollars and cents BTW. You have to factor in the loss of civil liberties, the expansion of executive power, and the damage our reputation has suffered world-wide due to these policies.

“But surely the important thing is that he did something!” Remember, just because government is doing something, it doesn’t mean that it is the cause of any given nicety. The fallacy of “this came before that, therefore this caused that” is alive and well in the political rhetoric, I hope people can remember to look at claims logically…

Anti-goughing bullshit

Just the other night, my mother remarked “People that deliberately raise prices during an emergency should be arrested.” I didn’t feel like getting into it at the time so I just told her that it was a more complicated situation than she was allowing for. Well, here it is a few days later and guess what? Many gas stations around here are running out of gas!

Why do you think that is? “That’s obvious Isaac, there was a hurricane that disrupted the gas supplies.” Yes, that’s true, but it’s only half the reason. There is less gas, but the other important point is that people kept using it at the same rate they always did. The result? No gas.

This is not unavoidable. There is no reason to run out of gas even when there is a supply crunch. Let me try to explain it this way. People kept using gas like they normally do because there wasn’t any obvious sign that there was less gas to go around. If people had read up on the wholesale gas situation, they may have decided to conserve since they knew it was going to be in short supply. Let’s forget the fact that no one reads that kind of stuff, they wouldn’t conserve even if they had. In fact, they would have tried to consume more. Why? Wouldn’t you? If you knew that we were going to run out of gas soon, wouldn’t you try to get some while there were supplies?

So the trick is to tell people that there is less to go around AND make them willingly conserve. How in the world do we do that? RAISE THE EFFING PRICE FOR GOD”S SAKE! High gas prices are not a crisis, no gas is. When you raise the price, people will use less of it. And here’s the real beauty of it, it doesn’t matter why the price is higher, people will automatically conserve in reaction to the higher price. All the information you need to have as far as how scarce something is, or how in demand it is, is reflected in the price. If the price is “high,” you know it is in high demand or there is a scarcity of that thing. People will use less of it with a higher price, and the demand will slack off and the price comes down eventually.

It works really well, that is unless there is government interference in the pricing system. Due to so-called gouging laws, retailers cannot raise the price as far as it should be in order for gas to be readily available. So I hope that everyone that supported this law is happy about having to scrounge for gas. Actually, that’s just a dream, I know full well that those people will never put these two things together…

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Score!

I went over to the localish Apple place and Apple is going to give me a new battery.. tomorrow! I was afraid I was going to have to buy a new one and I got no money right now. Anyway, they came through for me. I was lucky (?) enough to have a battery that had been recalled, so I get a new one!

The place I went to was interesting too. It’s called Connecting Point and apparently they have been an Apple repair center from way back. They still have promo posters for the Newton and the original Macintosh line up on the walls. Anyway, they were nice enough, and I will have a fully functional computer tomorrow!