March 2006 Archives

March 31, 2006

Paraphrasing William F. Buckley

I thought this would be a fun excercise;

Given (1) an article written by William F. Buckley, posted recently to, produce (2) a point-by-point paraphrase of (1) which (3) does not include any subjective judgmental statements on my part, such as "William F. Buckley is a fatuous turd."

Let's see how far we can get with this.

(1) Okay, here's the original article link; ici

Actually, this is already pointless as I realize there will be a new article there by next week, but you get the idea.

(2) Alrighty, here we go;

-I would like to discuss the case of Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert in Afghanistan who was nearly executed for his beliefs.

-The two options for the United States are; smuggle Rahman out of the country or convince the Afghani government that it is not necessary to kill a person for apostasy.

-However, the situation is tricky because the Afghani government is really just Hamid Karzai, our friend, so option two is pretty much out since the rest of Afghanistan follows the rule of The Shariah, not the rule of Hamid Karzai.

-Afghanis should think about all the American lives that were lost to secure their freedom, and be ashamed they can't even protect this guy from being killed for his belief in Christ.

-Rahman is free today on a technicality.

-The next time this happens, the U.S. should find a way to convince Afghanistan that its not okay to execute Christian converts.

(3) Success!

Well that was an interesting experiment. I have proved, I guess, that it is possible to let Buckley's turd-ness speak for itself, without interrupting to editorialize.

Reading just the paraphrase above, I feel less like I want to slap William F. Buckley, more like I do want to discuss a few questions that he raises, namely;

What options does Buckley think the United States has available to "convince" Afghanistan of anything? I mean, he does imply at the end that we should DO something. What, invade again? "I think these Afghanis are a rawther ungrateful bunch, we should do something about it!" Okay, well, what do we do about it, if not send in more troops to take forceful control? How well did that work last time, do you think? Are you throwing up your hands at the hopelessness of this approach yet, Mr. Buckley? Do any other tactics occur to you?

In my opinion, at worst we should pull completely out of Afghanistan and leave Afghanis to govern themselves. THAT'S AT WORST, meaning there will clearly be very negative implications of such action, including no doubt the deaths of many apostates, as well as the "congealing" of anti-American sentiment into highly motivated terrorist groups. AT SLIGHTLY LESS WORSE the United States is in a position to lead an international effort to improve conditions for the people living in Afghanistan, including providing enough food to eat and providing enough education and resources for people to begin to support themselves. If this is happening now, I don't see coverage of it in the press.

March 28, 2006

Great Depression Redux

I read this in my college textbook today, a passage describing the decade prior to the Great Depression;

"In the United States, industries had overexpanded, boosting productivity by some 40 percent during the 1920's, but consumers did not have the money to buy the goods thus produced. Too much wealth had fallen into too few hands. Worker's wages had fallen far behind inflation, and farmers were bankrupted by chronically low crop prices. The stock-market collapse added to the momentum. Furthermore, consumer debt rose by 250 percent during the 1920's. A decentralized banking system had allowed banks to divert more funds into speculative investments. Still other factors in the Depression were an unregulated and shaky corporate structure as well as a high tariff." The Press and America, 9th ed., p 301

I'm no economics major, but if you're saying these are the problems that led to the Great Depression, then let's apply that logic to today, point by point, and see where it takes us;

Point 1: "Industries had overexpanded."
I would point to the U.S. housing industry, which contains today "more than $3 trillion in illusory wealth," representing a bubble which just simply must "pop" soon.

Point 2: "Too much wealth had fallen into too few hands."
We've all heard "the rich are getting richer," there's plenty of commentary on the subject, and a just-for-instance graph for ya here. Incidentally, even William F. Buckley acknowledges this to be true but doesn't think it's a problem, just the "market doing its work."

Point 3: "Worker's wages had fallen far behind inflation."
Again, lots of evidence here, I would direct the curious towards, which among other things links to "The longest sustained labor slump since the Great Depression."

Point 4: "farmers were bankrupted by chronically low crop prices."
I don't think we can look today at the economic importance of farming in the same light as 1929. However, all American goods and services are at a distinct disadvantage today due to the high U.S. dollar, a fact which has the same implications. Why buy an American widget when a Chinese widget is cheaper by half? We currently import $450 billion a year more in foreign goods than we export, which if you listen to a real economist is a dangerous and unsustainable situation to be in. Note; we did not get here by accident, which among other things is why I am angry with Clinton about NAFTA.

Point 5: "The stock-market collapse added to the momentum."
Now George Bush and others will tell you that our economy has recovered from the stock-market crash of 2000, but the recovery has been weak, and is partly a product of the "astounding" run-up in housing prices. If, IF, the housing "bubble" crashes hard in the U.S., the financial fallout may be far worse than in 2000. The U.S. government is already over $8 trillion in debt today, so how is the FDIC going to bail out mortgage lenders to the tune of $3 trillion (our illusory housing wealth figure)?

Point 6: "consumer debt rose by 250 percent during the 1920's."
Today, we are a "nation of debtors." Last year, the American savings rate was negative for the first time since 1933. Today the "ratio of consumer debt to household income [is] at near record levels."

Scared yet? Hold on, we're almost done;

Point 7: "A decentralized banking system had allowed banks to divert more funds into speculative investments."
By definition, a housing bubble is "speculative." Consider the "reverse mortgage" and "interest only mortgage," so prevalent in today's market, which are essentially bad investments by banks; as interest rates rise, we may see record defaults on loans that never should have been made in the first place.

Point 8: "Still other factors in the Depression were an unregulated and shaky corporate structure [...]"
Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen... these firms are cliches by now, but soon can we add Fannie Mae? Cripes!, a quick check of the Fannie Mae homepage turns up a March 13th, 2006 link to their filing of form 12b-25 with the SEC - they are delaying their 2005 Annual Report for various reasons including "certain accounting matters" and "certain key business and market issues that have affected the company"!? ... Here we go ... ?

Point 9: "[...] as well as a high tariff."
... Okay, well you got me there. If by "tariff" a "tax on imported goods" is meant, then tariffs on technology and luxury goods is low in the U.S. today, although tariffs on things like shoes and clothing are still relatively high.

So are we headed for the Great Depression II?

On a personal note, its hard to say exactly why I am such a persistent and vociferous pessimist on the economy, but it has something to do with a desire to be "always right," and an overdeveloped fear of being taken for a sucker. Over time, I realize more and more these feelings are not always productive. But that's okay, I'm enjoying who I am and where my interests are taking me today. End personal note.

Now Where Was I

Yep, still home sick. Let's see, what to blog about today;

You know Gothamist is getting to be a big deal when somebody spontaneously brings it up in your Journalism class. I'm halfway through the Spring 2006 quarter of ENG 18.17, History of Journalism, at Brooklyn College, and yesterday my friends' community weblog was used by a classmate as a counterexample to the "cultural homogenization" of newspapers in America. I'm not sure I follow that logic - granted I wasn't even really paying attention to the discussion until the word "Gothamist" - but I was amused by my professor's horrified expression in response. Apparently blogs still aren't "real news" to some, but let's let that slide for the moment. Suffice it to say I'm proud of my friends' success in getting their brand out there, and also oddly a little jealous. Anyway; nice work, guys!

Also, while I'm typing;

I'm looking forward to some seriously tasty homemade pizza tonight, courtesy of my early morning dough preparations and our lovely pizza stone - with which it is so easy to bake perfect crust. Yum!

Cat Names Once Again

Do we really need more cats? Rumor has it there are already two around here somewhere, so the answer is "no."

That doesn't stop me from naming a bunch of new ones;

Kwang Duk Ho

Those are the top five so far, but c'mon, I bet we can do better;

Har Mar
Ancillary Funktshun

The story today is I'm sick and staying home from work.

Furriness Quotient ("Few-Queue" for Short)
Get - Your - Tail - Out - Of - My - Drink - Please - Again

Okay, so, to sum up, SAMOLOGY COMMENTS ARE WORKING again, but I'm not approving any attached to this entry that don't have at least ONE new cat name for my collection.

That's the game we play today.

Go to town.

March 22, 2006

Make Your Own Cat and Girl

Well I never thought I'd see the day, but there it is right there; Cat and Girl Creator It will be hard to out-obscure Dorothy Gambrell, but here's my first try; Sweet. Now get crackin', I want to see your Cat and Girl, too. This would be great if we could do it for (to?) Garfield. And then in another way, it would be great if we could do it to Bloom County. Someday.

March 15, 2006

Stalk This

I am highly enamoured of the new Gawker Stalker feature, head on over there - let's keep those celebs under constant surveillance! However I just emailed Gawker inquiring about when they will start accepting pictures directly from a cell phone - with a decent Java applet (and corresponding server api on the Gawker end) you could just whip out the phone, snap a pic of the unsuspecting celeb, type a brief message and hit "send." Bam! It goes right on the up-to-the-minute map for anyone to peruse. We can all see where this is going...

Housing Threedux

What I am hearing is that in 2005, almost half of the people who bought a house in this country put 0% down (1). There's only one way to get a house with 0% down I'm aware of, that's by taking out a very bad loan - an "Interest Only" or the slightly less bad but still dangerous "Variable Rate" loan. Don't even talk to me about those "negative amortization" loans, where the interest actually gets added to the principal for the first 5 years! So you have one of these loans, and now let's say in the next 5 years your house doesn't appreciate in value, or worse it loses some value. At the same time, interest rates are rising and so's your monthly payment. Well you'd like to sell the place and get out of this situation - after all, now your home is worth less than your outstanding loan balance, and its only getting worse. But guess what, the market is already starting to flood with bank foreclosures that are selling for a fraction of their original retail value. Why would anyone pay what you paid for your house, when they can spend half as much for your neighbor's house instead? And you're saying perhaps half the homebuyers in this country are in the same precarious situation right now? Who's responsible for this impending catastrophe!? I have some names for ya; Bxxx Exxxxxx, CEO, Quicken Loans Dxxxxx H. Mxxx, President and CEO, Fannie Mae I'm sure these guys are pleasant in person, and swing a mean golf club. But "irresponsible lending," in the name of helping good American people get ahead in life, is something I'd like to hear them apologize for. I'm not holding my breath.

March 10, 2006

Gamespot New Look

This is new-ish; I guess the new thing at Gamespot is to sell the entire page as a billboard, with the "content" to weave betwixt. Kinda 1984, but nonetheless I sorta like it.

March 8, 2006

Color Ignorant

Here a pretty good example of how colorblind I actually am; Color Blindness Check I can see a "25" in the upper-left figure, and absolutely nothing else in the remaining figures. Apparently 12-20 percent of white males, and virtually no females, have the same problem. Actually its not a terrible problem, except at work when I have to determine which router is not working by comparing the red and green lights. They all just look kinda yellow to me. So I have to ask for help.

March 1, 2006

That's About Right

My blog is now the #1 search result for "define ascerbic." Unfortunately, nothing there regarding "wit."