Saturday, April 18, 2009

The forgotten man

I finished the first book that I bought for my new kindle, it was
The Forgotten Man by Amity Shales. It was a really fantastic book and
even though it was written from 2001-2006, it seems like the author
wrote the story with the events of the past year in mind.

The main theory of the book is that most of the new deal ideas didn't
shorten the depression and in some cases prolonged it and led to the
even deeper recession within the depression of 1937. Much of the problems
of the depression were caused by the uncertainty and experimentation of
the Roosevelt administration.

Many of the problems from the thirties are being echoed now, the false starts and various Tarp plans would seem to me to be the worst thing we can do. The treasury needs to make a plan and clearly outline what it is, then implement it in a transparent way so that businesses can predict
what is going to happen. This whole idea of get the evil rich people is counterproductive.
Say what you like about the rich, maybe wealth does trickle down or maybe not, but I know
that poor people don't create any jobs.

As seen during the new deal if you raise taxes so that the government will get the rewards
of any positive result while the "rich" pay for any downsides, the rich will sit on their ass
and buy government bonds.

Here's a good quote from the Kindles text highlight feature:

"New Deal was causing the country to forgo prosperity, if not recovery. The wealthy, after all, were in a position to take risks with new ventures precisely because they were wealthy—they could invest in several projects at once. Under the new 1935 law, a very wealthy man would see more than three-quarters of any profits from new ventures taken by income tax. Any loss, however, would be the same man’s to bear. This man would try to hoard his capital and wait—thus coming to fit the very stereotype of the idle rich man the New Dealers were hoping to propagate."

And here is why engorging the government with a stimulus probably won't help much:

"The problem in 1937 and 1938 was not that the New Deal was mismanaging or helping or punishing one sector of the economy over the other. It was, just as even Democrats now knew, that it was competing with the private sector, and frightening it. The solution to the depression within the Depression was not anything either of the two squabbling sides in the administration was contemplating. If Roosevelt wanted the economy to thrive in peacetime, he had to call off the competition."

On the other hand, it's easy to see that Bernanke studied the depression, continuously dumping
money into the economy is an effort to prevent the deflation that led to such misery as money
dried up, leading to barter and a scrip economy. A similar scenario would be much worse now,
because we have nothing to barter. A good percentage of the people still lived on farms in the
'30's, our over-extended "flat" suburbian economy where we are importing peaches from panama won't last 2 weeks without actual money.

I highly recommend the book.


My lovely wife bought me a kindle for my birthday and so far I like it.
I can see that if we were in the usa it would be super wow, free wireless
access to at least wikipedia if not more, automatic delivery of newspaper and
magazine subscriptions and downloading books you buy right away without a computer.

Here in europe it's still pretty good as a book reader. To get a book or magazine one
has to download it to a pc, then copy it to the kindle as if the kindle is a memory stick.
My only quibble with that setup, is that they used a non-standard mini-usb connector
on the Kindle. Why do that when I already carry a couple of miniusb cables, now I need

It's pretty cool as a book reader, it allows you to read books with one hand and only
takes a short while to get used to not reading on paper. The battery life is pretty fantastic,
it stays completely charged on standby, and judging by the depletion rate it has around
a 20 hour battery life (at least). My favorite thing about reading with the kindle is it
remembers where you left off in every book, no bookmarks needed, no folding pages over
on a corner (I hate when people do that), and it saves me that time of flipping a page or two
to find out where I left off.

I'm looking forward to going to the usa in the summer to try it out on the net too.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Earthquake in italy

The Milan newspaper Corriere della sera (evening runner?) has an english edition
on the web that has more earthquake details:

RACE AGAINST TIME – Yet again for rescue workers, it is a race against time. As the hours tick by, hopes of finding more survivors under the rubble are fading. So far, more than 100 people have been pulled from the wreckage. Digging continued without interruption through the night at L’Aquila, and in neighbouring municipalities, despite the dozens of tremors that punctuated the darkness. The most violent, which came at 1.15 am, registered 4.8 on the Richter scale. At 2 am, twenty-three hours after the earthquake hit L’Aquila, Marta, a 24-year-old student from the province of Teramo, was rescued from the rubble.
What a terrible way to spend holy week, living in tents or in their cars.
The office is collecting things to send down there but another coworker pointed out
this way to donate:

If you have an Italian mobile phone number, you can send a sms to the following number 48580. You will give one Euro to Protezione Civile.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Recursive history and the matrix

it was 10 years ago this month that "the matrix" came out, which was
a super fantastic movie whose premise scared the crap out of me, mostly
because I have enough recursive dreams that I don't need the floating
in a tank dreaming about a computer program story to get weirded out.

I started in the oilfield in '91 and got laid off the same year as the price of
oil ramped up then crashed due to the gulf war. When I was working and the
layoffs started, I had simultaneous nightmares about working offshore and
about being laid off, so when I did get laid off it was sort of a relief.
Then, after not getting a job for 3 months, I was having nightmares about not
finding a job, but was also having nightmares about being back offshore being
worried about being laid off. The obvious scenario was when I was rehired, and I was
offshore and I had nightmares about being jobless, but dreaming about being offshore, and I would just wake up and say "what the heck?".

Since then, whenever there is a downturn and layoffs start, I have circular nightmares
where I'm dreaming I'm unemployed dreaming that I'm offshore, or variations of
that theme until my subconscious looks like one of those infinitely reflecting bowling
alley mirrors.

Since layoffs are started my subconscious has already started cranking
out freaky dreams, but now the difference between 1991 and now is so drastic that
what was a nightmare about being unemployed has become a dream of lost youth,
sort of a "oh my god I dreamt I had worked offshore for 17 years and then I got laid
off" only to wake up and find that yes I'm 42 and not 24. Holy Heck!

Just give me the freaking blue pill already.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Earthquake in italy

There was a big earthquake down south in L'aquila just east
of Rome this morning. Yahoo news says more than 100 people
died and I'm afraid it will be more. That city is like Assisi where we
went 2 weeks ago, a medieval city made of large stone bricks. what
a frightening place to be in an earthquake. Since it hit at 3:30 am,
people never had a chance.

Strangely enough there was a tremor here at 10 pm. It was a short and
sharp temblor that started with a vibration that I thought was a truck passing,
then a sharp motion that was unmistakably an earthquake, I started to run
down the hallway but by the time I moved 10 steps it had stopped.
That was less unpleasant than the earthquakes in Bogota where we were
6 stories up, and the earthquake steadily built, but luckily stopped before it was

I wonder where we can live where there are no earthquakes, floods, hurricanes,
tsunamis or meteor strikes.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Obama speaking in Strasburg

I'm watching obama's speech at the nato meeting in Strasburg.
It looks like he's using a teleprompter, but it's still a painful speech to
watch. he pauses and stops sometimes as if he's forgotten his place.
I know how he feels, if I'm giving a presentation and I forget what I'm supposed
to say with a particular slide, that is one of the worst feelings in the world

The idea that he's a great speaker is a load of crap.

Now he's doing a town hall. Why? what freaking office is he running for
in Germany. Stop running for office and appoint people to all the spots in
government then govern!
First question seemed to be what are his goals.
-make globalization good for all
-reduce nuclear stockpiles
-reliable health care system for the usa
- usa to take the lead on a new approach to cannot expect poor countries
to be partners on climate change if our carbon footprint is many times bigger than the average indian person. we have to lead by example.

[one of the things I truly dislike about obama, he constantly denigrates the usa]

next question - all children around the world without rights and are hungry, what is your
strategy to deal with this situation?
-feeding the hunger(sic) and educating the children isn't charity, a pandemic (sic) can get on a plane and go to the west, we have to provide health care, we have to increase our commitments.
we should promote democracy everyplace we can and civil societies that will allow countries to be successful.

is this crises an opportunity to restructure industry in an ecological way ?

- we passed a large stimulus package, we doubled the amount of renewable energy,
retrofitted government buildings, high speed rail...I'm jealous of european high speed rail.
reduce our carbon footprint and achieve our goals.

what do you expect from the french and european countries on the war on terror?
- In the last 7 or 8 years we 've had a lot of tension with our european allies and I want
to work much more effectively, yada yada. after 911 europe responded as true friends saying
'we are all americans'. all of us had an interest in preventing that kind of vicious act. but
after that initial nato engagement we got sidetracked by iraq. Even though i'm now president
and w. is no longer president, al queda is still a threat. ....

it is true that we have to change our behavior and show the muslim world more respect and
change our policies towards the isreal-palestinian conflict.
- usa is changing plan in afganistan, not just a military strategy in afganistan, offer basic services and uphold the rule of law.
"europe should not expect the usa to shoulder the burden alone, this a joint problem and requires a joint effort". in dealing with terrorism we have to uphold our values, that's why I closed guantanomo. abu graib wasn't a good policy.

last question "your name in hungarian means Peach, have you regreted running for president?"
- some times during the campaign and some times during the last few months it was heavy.