Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And these guys want to "fix" our economy.

The GOP program is clear. Low taxes and more religion will lead to prosperity. So why then are the highest levels of poverty in the country in the south, where they are working that program? See picture, which is from the census department and I lifted from the NY Times Economix blog.

Tom Friedman on the "Tea Kettle Movement"

Not much time to write lately, sorry.

The other day I was explaining to my class how the Tea Party movement is mostly based on ignorance, and that if they were in charge of the country we would be heading into Great Depression II. But Thomas Friedman has a great take on it in his NY Times column today. Here is a quote that sums it all up:

The issues that upset the Tea Kettle movement — debt and bloated government — are actually symptoms of our real problem, not causes. They are symptoms of a country in a state of incremental decline and losing its competitive edge, because our politics has become just another form of sports entertainment, our Congress a forum for legalized bribery and our main lawmaking institutions divided by toxic partisanship to the point of paralysis.

These guys won't solve anything. In fact, it appears they think America was a better country 100 years ago. It wasn't. Workers had no rights, monopolists ruled the business world, the poor stayed poor and the rich stayed rich. OH, and the tax burden sat mostly on the poor. Great plan Tea Party.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More on the War on Drugs

I have written many times about the utter stupidity of our War on Drugs. It starts with the very idea of declaring war on an unspecified group of inanimate objects, the waste of money and human capital involved, and the violation it causes into the rights of individuals.

A few years back, Portugal decided to decriminalize drugs. Instead of a rise in drug use, there was a decline across the board, as well as a lower instance of AIDS in drug users. This news is based on a study conducted by the the Cato Institute. You can read the story about it in Time HERE.

Perhaps some day the old politicians who still think being "tough on drugs" is the only way to get elected will take their heads out of their asses.....or, at least die (apparently politicians never get so old they need to retire!). Meanwhile, our wasteful and destructive "war" continues.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Freakonomics, The Movie

I am not making this up: "Freakonics the Movie" is opening this week. And in keeping with their idea of capturing real data to figure out how people will behave, they are having screenings around the country at which you pay what you are willing to pay to see it. Great will get them publicity, and yield some data.

I won't be able to make it to the screening in Denver tonight, but you can be sure I will be seeing it soon, as we must vote with our dollars for more economics movies. If this succeeds, perhaps Hollywood will pay some attention to the brilliantly funny romantic comedy screenplay I have written called "The Ticklish Economist".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Politicians and the Economy

When it comes to the economy, the President is like the quarterback of a football team: He gets too much credit when things go well, too much blame when things go badly (you may notice the Buffalo Bills, who have an offensive line that is a complete joke, have decided to change starting QB's next week!). Every President in the 20th century who did not get re-elected had a recession to blame for it.....or, got blamed for a recession (or, in Hoover's case, depression).

Republicans are now putting the blame for our current stagnant economy on Obama, who entered office 15 months into the worst recession since WWII. Obama wants to blame Bush, of course. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan proudly took credit for strong economic growth that occurred during their time in office, ignoring the incredible technological advances that had much more to do with it.

The fact is, there is no magic joy stick in the Oval Office that the Prez. uses to drive the economy. There is really very little he can do in the short term. In fact, he needs the help of Congress to do as little as Obama was able to do, which was the stimulus, which, by the way, did not fail. Had we listened to the GOP, things would be much worse, which is what they wanted so that they could blame Obama for an even worse economy.

Always remember, politicians care first and foremost about getting and keeping power, and helping the people who put them there once they get it. The Tea Party's anger at insiders is deserved. It is too bad they have taken the road of promoting ignorance over reason and good policy, and will make things even worse if they get their knuckleheads elected. The GOP is glad to use their ignorant rage to get back in power, where we can expect more of the same crap we got in the first 6 years of the 21st Century. That will fix everything!

I was motivated to write about this by THIS STORY from the Economix blog of the NY times, discussing how economic events that politicians have no control over effect elections. Remember, if you are unemployed, or you don't have as much money as you want, it is always the fault of someone else!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What was wrong with my high school?

We all know that in every high school, the jocks are big dumb jerks who stuff the wimpy smart kids in their lockers or stuff their heads in the toilet. It must be true in every high school, because it happens in every movie and TV show.

So what went wrong at Clarence Central High School in the early 70's? The best athlete in the history of my school was Mark Murphy, about whom you can read THIS STORY FROM TODAY'S BUFFALO NEWS. Murph was the classic 3 sport star, all Western New York in football, basketball and baseball. He went on to play 8 years in the NFL.

The story was sent to me by my friend Budd Bailey, who, by tradition, should have been the guy getting shoved in the locker. In high school Budd was a math wiz and wrote for the school paper, a brainy, skinny kid with coke bottle glasses. One of Budd's good friends was a guy named Phil, who is about 5 feet tall and dressed like he was 40 when he was 16. In Hollywood, Murph would have been stuffing Budd in his locker with one hand while giving Phil a wedgie with the other.

But that didn't happen. In fact, Murph was, and still is, friends with Budd and Phil. In fact he was friends with most of the smart kids, me included, even though he was a year ahead of me in school. And the best athlete in my class, Kevin "Ace" Chase, was the same way. But there is an easy explanation for this: they were also good students, and so where in the same advanced classes as the people that show biz would have them harassing. But is wasn't just Murph and Ace. In fact, I don't recall any bullying done in my high school by the athletes. Nor, where the athletes in my school particularly dumb.

So, what went wrong at my school? In fact, I should probably have been one of the guys stuffed in his locker too. I played sports but I sucked, and I was a real wise-ass. But the worst thing any big jock every did to me was when Chris Bailey (no relation to Budd), a lineman in football and heavyweight wrestler, picked me up a foot in the air by my underpants. But that can hardly be called bullying, as I had done something to him to deserve it, and he wanted to make the point that I should not repeat my activity. Point taken.

Maybe it was because John Hughes hadn't made any movies yet, so nobody in my school knew how we were supposed to behave. Or, maybe it's just that a lot of schools are like this, but Murph, Budd and Phil all being friends would make for a crappy movie. But I can tell you one thing for sure: don't throw calcium at Chris Bailey's feet to watch it fizz while he is showering!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A few things on my mind.

FIRE: The fire near Boulder is almost completely contained, and some people are now allowed back to their homes, if they are fortunate enough to still have one. Last count was 169 destroyed by the fire, but it is likely that number may not yet be 100% accurate. My friends who live in the area have yet to be able to go home, at least as far as I know, and as of Friday did not expect it until some time this week. They have been told that their house is fine, but the fire was close enough to melt their greenhouse and torch their wood pile, both right near the house.

There is a great story in the Boulder Daily Camera (who knew they still employ reporters?) about what made the fire so destructive. It was not a huge wild fire compared to others that have happened here in Colorado in terms of area burned, but the most destructive in terms of homes destroyed. Turns out the mountains right outside Boulder are some of the most densely build forest area in the country. With downtown Boulder situated right at the foot of the mountains, you can live 5 miles up in the woods, and still be only a few minutes from town. Pretty cool, until fire time. Also, of course, a century of fire mitigation has kept forests around the country from burning as nature intended, and they now are more densely treed and full of low lying fuel.

Oh, and today when I went for my bike ride this morning, I saw a plume of smoke from directly north of town. I rode up a hill where I could see the growing smoke was coming from about 20 miles north of Boulder. I hear on the news right now that it has burned 600 acres, and people are being evacuated.

We need rain, and in true wacky Boulder fashion, some folks did a rain dance on the Pearl St. Mall on Friday night.

WHAT AILS AMERICA: If you read this blog often, you know I am a big fan of Thomas Friedman, the NY Times Columnist and author. He is the anti-Glenn Beck. Instead of appealing to emotion and ignorance, he uses logic and real thought to talk about the world. So, while idiots like Beck and Palin are sure that if we just pray and keep saying what a great country we are, everything will be fine, Friedman talks to smart people who are actually analyzing our problems. He'll never get his own talk show, because he is not screaming crazy. But PLEASE READ HIS COLUMN TODAY!. It is brilliant and frightening in its accuracy. His main point: we suffer from a loss of values like hard work and sacrifice, and expect our leaders to give us something for nothing.

Meanwhile, the political season is upon us, and the ignorant just can't understand why Obama hasn't just fixed the economy. As if any President has that short term power.

ROCKIES: On a more fun note, I went to the Rockies game last night. Not a great game, but during the game Kip asked me if Jason
Giambi wasn't once a Yankee, and if that meant I still hate him. I explained he was our guy now, so we will forgive his transgression of signing with the devil. As I am writing this, Giambi just hit a walk-off HR to give the Rox their 10th straight win. I love that guy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More on Getting Burned, but not by forest fire

Economists who study sports facilities pretty much agree that publicly funded stadiums are a bad deal for taxpayers. Politicians and team owners disagree, and people are suckers for bullshit, so these things keep getting built.

So, I'm sure my dad will enjoy this article about the fact that New Jersey taxpayers still owe a bunch of money on now torn down Giants Stadium. My friend Art, whose business depends on taxpayer naivete probably won't. Here's a key quote:

With more than four decades of evidence to back them up, economists almost uniformly agree that publicly financed stadiums rarely pay for themselves. The notable successes like Camden Yards in Baltimore often involve dedicated taxes or large infusions of private money. Even then, using one tax to finance a stadium can often steer spending away from other, perhaps worthier, projects.

More About the Fire

Above are some pictures sent to me by my friend David, who lives in the white house you can see in the first picture (you can click on them for better view). Fortunately for my friends, their house is still standing, as is the Gold Hill Inn and Blue Bird Lodge, the historic structures in downtown Gold Hill where we perform our murder mysteries.

The fire rages on, the bombers fly overhead every few minutes, and the air smells a bit smokey. Best news is no injuries have yet occurred.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fire Over the Hill

In the 17 years I've lived in Boulder, there have been quite a few wild fires in Colorado that received national attention. I often get emails from friends and relatives wondering of those fires are any where near me, and fortunately the answer has mostly been "no". About 8 years ago there was a small fire on the other side of the mountains from me that blew smoke into my house for several days. And early last year there was a brush fire on the north side of Boulder (I live on the south) whose flames I could easily see from my neighborhood.

Yesterday I was driving home from running some errands about 11am when I noticed a large plume of smoke coming from what appeared to be the mountains just west of downtown Boulder. As the day went on, the plume got bigger, until it was visible from all over the Denver metro area. Fortunately for my neighborhood, the wind was blowing the smoke north of us, but Kip was swimming on the north side of town, and had ashes falling on her in the pool around noon. Latest reports this morning are that 3500 acres have burned. Last night, I could see the flames from my neighborhood, and the area had an orange smokey glow over it. And the wind changed, so I awoke in middle of the night smelling smoke.

This fire poses no threat to my home, but it does to some friends of mine. The little town of Gold Hill, where I perform in murder mysteries during the summer and fall, is right in the middle of the area evacuated by the fire. And my friends Dave and Maggie who run the company that puts on the murders live in the town, and have been evacuated. Maggie said the fire was on the ridge near their house when they left, and they seem to believe their house will not be there when they go back.

It makes you think. If you had about a half hour to grab stuff from your house and run, what would you take? And what would you do if it is gone? I'm hoping this is a question my friends won't have to answer.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Our Upside-Down Food Policy

I have written about this before, but THIS DENVER POST STORY motivated me to write again about our crazy food policy. In a nutshell, we have subsidies for foods that are bad for us, but not the ones we should be eating. Simple economics tells us we should be doing exactly the opposite. If something is bad, you should tax the hell out of it (not make it illegal, which, as we have seen from our drug policy, is also expensive and stupid). And if we want more of something, we should subsidize it, as we do with education.

So, we grow lots of corn, and eat lots of beef and pork fed with the corn. And we sweeten our food with corn, instead of sugar, because we subsidize the corn, and have quotas on sugar imports, making corn syrup cheaper than sugar. Not that sugar is any better for you, but it is all so insane. We should be taxing pork and using the money to subsidize broccoli and melons.

How crazy is our policy. Well, you need only look at the picture on this post to see. Our money goes in exactly the wrong direction to what we should eat.

Why aren't the Tea Partiers angry about this?