Monday, November 22, 2010

The Tooth Fairy and Economic Realities

I visit a few different economic forums on a regular basis. One of my favourites is - I love that it provides articles on the micro including technical analysis and articles that focus on the macro which range from the psychology of trading to geo-political issues. I like that they have an active membership and that membership consists of divergent economic and political views. I have a learnt a lot there. Of course because it is an open forum, there are some viewpoints and comments I disagree with or find offensive. But, what the hey, I can always ignore those comments or respond to them.

But there are a few posters I just don't understand. Those are the posters that assume that this is just a temporary financial crisis and things will return to normal. Hmmm ... I don't think so. Just today Ireland is applying for an IMF/Euro bailout which will reward the insolvent banks for their bad behaviour (by propping them up) and penalize the middle and working classes by increasing their tax burden and cutting social services. Portugal and Spain are next. After that - the USA?

In any case - the Tooth Fairy. Recently, I had the opportunity to look after my 7-year-old neice and 4-year-old nephew for a week while their parents were out of town. I actually think I did a pretty good job - no cuts or bruises, kept them fed and somewhat clean and no major meltdowns with one exception.

The major meltdown came when the 7-year-old lost a tooth. Just listening to her and reading between the lines, I saw that she was questioning whether the Tooth Fairy was "real" or not. But she still wanted to believe. And somehow in her mind, she recognized that because her parents were away, the Tooth Fairy might not come - she likes science and thinks logically ;)

In the end the Tooth Fairy (moi) did come and delivered a little more than usual. My neice still is questioning but I think she has decided to extend and pretend for a little while (at least until she redeems all her baby teeth for cash).

I do see some parallels with some economic commentators and my niece. Children do not like change even though they are continually growing and changing - I think it is human nature. Some adults would like to see the economy go back to pre-crisis conditions  - or insist that it already has ... but ... I think we will need to grow and change whether we want to or not. When I look at all the data, logic tells me that we are in a sea change and may be in for stormy times ahead and to not look at, or plan for, those changes would be irresponsible.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bill Moyers Article - Highly Recommended

I came across a recent article by Bill Moyers which I highly recommend. The article is based upon notes for a speech delivered as part of Howard Zinn Lecture series at Boston University. In it, Moyers describes the current US governing system as a plutocracy or plutonomy and provides the historical context that shows how this state of affairs has come about. One fact I found especially interesting was Karl Rove's early fascination with Mark Hanna to whom the following quote is attributed:

"There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can't remember what the second one is".

In the Moyer's article he describes increasing profits at Harley-Davidson mostly due to job cuts:

"Another story in the Times caught my eye a few weeks the one about Connie Brasel and Natalie Ford. The headline read: "Industries Find Surging Profits in Deeper Cuts." Nelson Schwartz reported that despite falling motorcycle sales, Harley-Davidson profits are soaring - with a second quarter profit of $71 million, more than triple what it earned the previous year. Yet Harley-Davidson has announced plans to cut fourteen hundred to sixteen hundred more jobs by the end of next year; this on top of the 2000 job cut last year."

And just today I saw this story posted on CNN (November 4 2010): Harley-Davidson to build bikes in India

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mid Term Elections: I Have Been thinking about this post for the last week

Just finished work and have not yet turned on my tv to hear about early results but I'm guessing I know where it its going to go. Bloodbath!

And it isn't that voters are voting for Republicans over Dems - voters are fed up with a two party system that supports corporate institutions over all else. Good article from Bruce Krasting about the failure of the democrats on understanding the issues.

On the other front, yeah the GOP has pushed millions in dollars for the tea party candidates and co-opted them - not at all what the original tea party represented:

Spiraling debt, dollar debasement, income disparity and lack of personal wealth - no wonder people are mad!

At this point not offering solutions just observing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Monster: : How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America--and Spawned a Global Crisis

Great read - I plan on buying this book but here is an excerpt (long). I like that this writer is putting some human faces on the whole financial meltdown.

by Michael W. Hudson, The Center for Public Integrity

Bait and Switch

A few weeks after he started working at Ameriquest Mortgage, Mark Glover looked up from his cubicle and saw a coworker do something odd. The guy stood at his desk on the twenty-third floor of downtown Los Angeles’s Union Bank Building. He placed two sheets of paper against the window. Then he used the light streaming through the window to trace something from one piece of paper to another. Somebody’s signature.

Glover was new to the mortgage business. He was twenty-nine and hadn’t held a steady job in years. But he wasn’t stupid. He knew about financial sleight of hand—at that time, he had a check-fraud charge hanging over his head in the L.A. courthouse a few blocks away. Watching his coworker, Glover’s first thought was: How can I get away with that?

Read the rest of the excerpt here...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mortgage Gate 101

As a few know, I do follow the markets and most recently, one of the primary causes of 2007-2008 crisis is once again peeking out from under the rug. Peeking may not be the right word - it is gathering momentum - more like a tsunami. And it is important because it could bring down a few big banks and therefore the market. And like it or not, the U.S. is still the dominant player in the global economy so what happens there will affect you regardless of where you live.

The mortgage mess (that had been swept under the rug in 2008) is unravelling on several different fronts. I saw an article today alluding to two fronts but I think they are at least three.

First, the front that has gotten the most ink from the Main Stream Media (MSM) has been that individual home owners may have been improperly foreclosed upon because banks have forged documents such as affidavits and in some cases even signatures. Bigger than that is that the banks didn't follow the law which requires them to transfer the original paper (more on why they couldn't do that later). Some commentators have tried to pass this off as sloppy paperwork but it is fraud. There should not be two different standards - one for individuals and one for corporations.

The second front relates more to the origination of these loans and may be the most damaging. Banks sliced and diced these mortgages and stuck them into these complex financial products - mortgage backed securties (MBS). Luckily I found a great vid that cuts to the chase and explains what the banks did at a high level:

Why is this big - these loans were sold to mutual funds, pension funds and foreign institutions under false pretenses. A few of these third parties have already started lawsuits and I'm sure more are to come. For some reason the word fraud once again comes to mind.

The third front relates to local and state taxes. The fact that these banks didn't legally transfer all the paper work means they may have been skipping out on paying local taxes and fees.

A tsunami is the correct word - I'm not making any predictions except I think we are in for stormy weather for the next few months.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You will take my healthcare from my cold dead hands ...

You will take my healthcare from my cold dead hands ...

I haven't written for a while and was going to do an update on the global economic situation including some explanation of the whole fraudclosure issue - fun!

But then I noticed that MarketWatch was running a special report on Canadian healthcare. Headlines include

Canada at the crossroads
Limited opportunities
The long wait

Reading the content of these articles and some of the comments pissed me off. Typical Canadian health care bashing (yes we are all commies!)  I finally had to register to post a comment (yes I was a little angry):

As a Canadian who has lived in the US,, experienced the hell of an HMO and soon after decided to pay the extra fees for a PPO (because I could afford it as a single person) and also saw many, many not covered at all - not going to happen in Canada.

As you noted - your initial article said that the majority of Canadians, regardless of complaints about wait times, etc, would not give up our current system - so please move along and figure out what you are going to do about your bankrupt banks. I knew I should have shorted BAC!

I thought for sure I would be trashed - actually pretty sure my comment will be - but .... I was heartened by the first response to my comment:

couldn't have said it better. I don't give a rats behind what the US thinks of the Canadian system. If you don't like socialized medicine keep using your system, it seems to work really well (!) 

Regardles of what the republican media says EVERY comprehensive health care study done since the 70's has shown that Canada's system ranks near the top in quality (usually just behind Sweden, Norway) and almost always ranked higher than the US. Read the last 10 years worth of OECD reports on health care if you want non-biased numbers based facts. 

It works well, the majority people like it, and it is cost effective.

Why is Marketwatch running this story now? I would like to know why the Canadian Health Care system and all its woes is being featured on Marketwatch when there are so many more interesting domesstic stories to look at.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Catching Up

I haven't posted for a while for a number of reasons - mostly work-related. Now, that it is fall, I'm looking forward to catching up. And there are tons of things I want to write about. I am going to start posting at least twice a week but for now ....

Will catch up soon -:)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Better than Expected

Though many economists say we may be in a recession, headed for a double dip or already in a depression, the stock market has been on a tear. It seems the market can rally on anything. These days a headline like  "Mukluk Sales in July Better than Expected" could send the market up a point or two!

Reading the mainstream financial news you see phrases such as "better than expected" all the time. I have even seen the market rally on "not as bad expected".
I do sometimes  wonder ..."expected" by whom?  There is a diversity of opinions among economists, market watchers and even government economists as how to interpret economic data (more on that later).

This morning the market rallied because there was jobs data released that was Better than Expected!  The US is still losing jobs but the initial claims for unemployment came in by 27K less than expected. And the market rallied.

But for anyone who looked a litte deeper - they might find a fly in the ointment. It appears that nine states (including a few of the worst off) did not provide real data on employment - the government made estimates. The fact that this data point was not released with the official figures at first surprised me (I think I'm past the stage of being shocked) and .... then it didn't. But it did.

Back to spin and "better than expected". So is the spinning of economic data a conspiracy to keep us peons from panicking (hey I'm reading Under the Dome right now), lack of decent financial journalism or just a willing ignorance? I do not know.

However, I conducted an ad hoc experiment using Google news (I firmly believe Google does not manually manipulate their news coverage but there is an algorithmic bias there - popularity feeds into popularity). I took the phrases "worse than expected" and "better than expected" and ran them through Google News Search with the terms "economy", "economic" and "employment" and recorded the number of news articles returned for each. The results are somewhat telling:

Better than Expected Worse than Expected
Economy 87.37% 12.62%
Economics 82.97% 17.02%
Employment 83.22% 16.77%

It looks like there is a bias ... but for now I will refrain from speculating as to where that bias is coming from.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Up North

I recently used this expression with some San Francisco co-workers. I don't think they got it or thought it was funny (odd funny).

But for many Canadians (especially those born in Ontario), the meaning is clear - Escaping congested Southern Ontario and going north even for a weekend. But, there is North and then there is North.

My brother-in-law loves the outdoors and has recently written about his latest adventure with family at their cottage, which is pretty far north. (And as usual, it is an incredibly well-written post with great visuals).

I have been up to their cottage numerous times but couldn't do it this summer. But I will never forget the first year I was there - outside propane-fueled shower - it was fun! Really!

A number of years ago I picked up my nephew to take him up to the cottage. I looked at a map beforehand and realized we would be very close to the southern tip of James Bay .... So I planned a slight detour to a lodge near Moose Factory . The only way into Moose Factory is by rail or air so I parked my car in Cochrane, Ontario and we took the Polar Bear Express north. We stayed at Cree Village Ecolodge and had an awesome time. We lucked out and met with some travel writers who invited us for a customized day trip to James Bay and then back for a traditional Cree meal. It was incredible. And it was fun introducing my nephew to some new foods like venison ....after dinner photo:

The few nights we spent there were quiet (I took advantage of that to introduce my nephew to a new game called poker). And one night we were woken up by something outside our window - the northern lights.

I love that my nieces and nephews are experiencing these Northern realities. Very, very cool!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Economists make the strangest bed fellows...

Yeah I know that the quote should read that politics make "the strangest bed fellows" but given our current economic reality, I really do think that economists make the strangest of all bed fellows.

I recently came across a post from a blogger that easily and succintly summarizes why the Canadian economy is doing better than the U.S. economy and why economic conditions in Canada will support that effort:

Eh Canada.

I had to think hard about linking to him. Why? After all of my years in the States I still believe in a few fundamentals - namely public education and a social safety net. And consumer protection against the excesses of banks or lending institutions. And this blogger and I may share some views on the economic reality but we are very far apart on political issues.

This blogger is not only conservative but I think he is a Libertarian and dare I say it - a tea partier.

However, he has just made the case for me - governments can be pro-business AND provide social services.

I lived in the States for eight years. You do get used to the hockey jokes but it always drove me nuts when people would focus on the socialist nature of the Canadian government without looking at the numbers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The US Gov has lost all credibility on the BP oil spill

I have posted before on the BP oil spill and the U.S. government's apparent complicity in a cover up, which seemed to have much more to do with getting the story out of the news than with any meaningful attempt to deal with the crisis. Recently, the White House claimed that 75% of the oil had been removed from the Gulf either through natural processes or clean up efforts. A number of independent scientists disagreed - see here for example. And now, it turns out that a government researcher admits that he lied about the amount of oil left in Gulf.

One wonders what else they have lied about....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Easy for a Camel ?

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God - yeah right!

From a very young age, I suspected the above quote. I also was suspicious regarding "but the humble will inherit the earth."

Why - seemed like a great way of discouraging change and/or innovation in a closed system.

I have lately seen a plethora of online articles purporting to sing the values of family togetherness, enjoying the recession and making do with less (the recession has helped family time). I agree that family is good but the latest articles strike me a bit as propaganda.

It appears that the powers that be are shifting responsibility from the corporations and government onto the individual - who is going to shafted for a disproportionate piece of the pie. And that is not right.

Not reported in the MSM is real poverty- means making decisions regarding what you are going to eat that day (and in the US what medications you will use) - not whether you can afford camping versus a cottage. And I'm wondering why all these stories are coming out now.

Sorry but lets look at the stats. Less income means lower health care outcomes, lower education and more crime. The humble do not inherit the earth.

The fact that certain main stream media outlets are promoting this meme (story) in the new economic reality bothers me a lot.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Doodling on the phone


This is something I've always done while on the phone and I have absolutely no understanding as to why. But apparently I'm not alone. Do a search for "doodling" and "phone" on Google. Some psychologists suggest that it helps improve concentration. But I think there is more to it. Maybe our brains haven't caught up with technology yet and while on the phone we try to compensate for the lack of seeing each other face to face?

I had a long talk yesterday with a dear friend who is going through some hard times and this was my doodle while talking to him.

Are there any other doodlers out there?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Are the American People Obsolete?

Interesting article from Salon - Are the American People Obsolete?. In it the author discusses whether the ruling elites still need the American working and middle classes and speculates on possible outcomes.

I believe that the world economies are going through major structural shifts that will have consequences for social and political institutions, but am not sure what those consequences will be. While I don't think we will end up in a Mad Max scenario, I think the future could look a lot different than any of us may imagine.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Brother-in-law's Latest Fishing Adventure

Today I'm linking to my brother-in-law's fabulous post about his latest back country fishing adventure - a great narrative and some super pictures. Even if you are not into fishing, it is worth a read. And I absolutely agree with a comment early in the post - we are fortunate to live where we do.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ant with Cheddar Cheese Popcorn

I have been on vacation lately and yes off the grid. But am gearing up once again.

I took this amazing photo of an ant pulling a huge piece of cheddar flavored popcorn and invited the three kids who were around to take a look. Their ages: 3, 5 and 6.

The outcome for the ant was not good.

The 6 year old (a girl) wanted to watch what happened with the ant. But the 3 and 5 year old boys had other ideas. The two boys went postal on the ants with their soft swords yelling "kill, kill, kill". It was mayhem for the ants!

Disclosure: Ants were hurt in the research for this blog post.

Update: Re-reading the post it occurred to me that some readers might believe I was suggesting that little boys are natural born ant killers and little girls are not. Though I do believe gender differences are apparent at an early age (I once gave my niece a truck as a gift - I won't do that again!) I think the difference in ages was most at play with this incident.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Not a cool young dude

On the way home I was checking out the news and found out that the young dude who was in charge of doling out the initial bank bailout funds is now suggesting workers cut back on their social security for the good of the country! This is too rich (literally and figuratively). The U.S has just seen the biggest tax payer bailout of the financial industry ever and now the Wall Streeters want middle class tax payers to take even more of a haircut by agreeing to a reduction of their social security income - something they have paid into all their working lifes? Another huh?

I can't do justice to the saga of social security in the U.S. in this short post but I do have a few questions I plan to look into. One is when the nomenclature describing social security described as an "entitlement" program first appeared, with "entitlement" having several negative connotations. Second when did this entitlement program become "unfunded" and what caused the program to become unfunded.

The Huffingtonpost piece does give a lot more background information.

I think I will file this one under unbelievable.

Trying to think of something more positive ....

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dangerous things you should let your kids do

Gever Tulley has written a book called 50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do. I haven't read the book yet but came across a talk he gave when the book was in progress. It resonated with me on a number of levels.

When I compare how children are being raised now with my own childhood - I got the better deal. It probably is a function of when I was born and where I grew up - but we did have an awful lot of freedom to explore our environment without adult supervision. Most days in the summer I would be gone by 7 am and only come home for lunch and dinner. And what did we do? We played games, we built things (sometimes using knives), we put on plays, we did start a few fires, we ran lemonade stands, we harassed the neighbours, we pretended, we fell down and picked ourselves up and we learnt how to interact.

I think it is great that parents are more involved these days but I think it is also important to give children the space to explore the world and learn to deal with it on their own.

H/T Drew

How much space do we need?

A friend fowarded this video to me about a guy living in a tiny house and it got me thinking- how much space do we need - my conclusion is not a lot. I've lived in a number of different cities over the past years with vastly different housing options. In the past, choosing a housing option has been a function of my income * housing costs * safety. But I have found that having a bigger house or apartment means that I tend to buy more stuff - nature abhors a vacuum.

When I first lived in Montreal in the 80s, rental apartments were dirt cheap. By the time I left they were getting a little more expensive. My last place in Montreal was a 3 and 1/2 (trois et demi) with a garden. Next was upstate NY were rents were so much cheaper so I moved into larger places and ended up buying some furniture to fill up those spaces.

Next stop was NYC - I had to get rid of a lot of the "stuff" I had accumulated because I could only afford a studio. Living there I realized that I don't need that much space. What I do need is a room of my own (if sharing), ready access to outdoors via a balcony or a backyard and enough space to accomadate visitors (think blow up mattresses). And on the nice to have side is separate sleeping and kitchen areas.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Spin Zone - Gulf Oil Seep is a Natural Occurrence - LOL

I think once again spin is in full effect. This morning I heard on the news that the U.S. government had discovered leaking from the top of the well and a seep from the sea bed as well as some gas bubbles. At one point, when I was eating my toast, the CBC reported that the US government was so concerned they had ordered BP to open up the well head. Which BP refused to do.

Now the story coming out of the NYT is that this seep is a natural one? Yes there are natural seepages in the Gulf of Mexico but there is no way the government would have reacted they way they did unless there were some grave concerns. But twelve hours later and we are into the spin zone.

And a while ago, there were a few lone voices who suggested that suggested that seepage from the sea bed might be a bigger concern than the authorities were admitting. One was Matt Simmons who has worked in the industry for thirty years. A few days ago he called the well integrity test absurd. Another journalist called it a fool's errand.

So for five minutes this morning there was some real news and now we are back in spin. It bothers me because as I mentioned in an earlier post, this could be a game changer.

And it also bothers me that I think I'm seeing a battle between BP and the White House - and BP seems to be winning.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Around the same time Douglas Copeland was publishing Generation X , Peter Strauss and Neil Howe were publishing Generations. The Strauss and Howe book interprets history as a repeating pattern of interplay between the generations and makes predictions based on those generational dynamics.

The Strauss and Howe theory is interesting - their historical interpretation is spot on in a number of cases. But I have some misgivings. One is that their interpretation means human kind will be endlessly repeating the same dynamics ad naseum with similar results. I tend to believe in evolution and believe we can change. A second issue is that their model does not take the rate of change into account, which has been accelerating for the past few hundred years.

I fall somewhere on the cusp as to whether my birthdate makes me a boomer or a Gen Xer. Culturally and politcally, I am much more aligned with the Gen X camp than the boomer camp. I definitely prefer the Clash over the Beatles. If I had a vote, I would have voted for Obama over McCain (might be regretting that a little bit now though)

But recently I found out that one social scientist was positing a new mini generation Generation Jones that straddles the cusp. Mmmm kind of works.

So who are we ?. I guess time will tell.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Scary movies

Scariest movie ?

For me the first was the Wizard of Oz which I saw when I was around 4 or 5 - most of my nightmares over the next couple of years involved flying monkeys in the hallway.

Next - my parents messed up. Visiting relatives in Chrystal Beach, they took us kids to a drive in. I think they expected all the kids would sleep but I didn't. When we got home, my brother and I sat up in bed, looked at each other and yelled "Vampires". This was repeated numerous times. Much later when I was an adult I found out that the vampire movie that scared me so much was a campy Polankski film The Fearless Vampire Killers .

The Exorcist - last time I watched I did have to check the door to make sure it was locked.

Most Stephen King movie adaptions suck but there is something about the Shining - redrum anyone

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gumby and Economics

For some reason, which I haven't been able to figure out yet, the embedded video only seems to be working in Chrome but not IE or Firefox - bad Google! So I'm replacing the embedded video with a link .

A friend recently posted this awesome Gumby cartoon and my first thought was that this satire at its finest. But then I realized that this was a cartoon from the early 80s - no satire intended but maybe a bit of forshadowing of the current economic crisis?

Gumby and Pokey notice a sign for free food if they are willing to go through the mirror (US consumers?)

They go through the mirror and the blockheads kick in the mirror (maybe Goldman Sachs?) I would suggest Matt Talbi's excellent article on Goldman Sachs if you want more background.

In any case Gumby's world gets a little out of whack.

Best lines:

"It amazes me to think we would get something for free"

"How will we ever put it together ...."

In the end Gumby and Pokey are saved by by a mad scientist maybe more on that later :)


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Are Night Owls Smarter?

For some reason, a short 2009 article on the correlation between IQ and sleeping habits has been circulating the blogsphere. Having long been a night owl, I like these findings! The article reports the following:

Bedtimes and wake-up times for Americans in their 20s by IQ

Very Dull (IQ < 75)
Weekday: 11:41 P.M.-7:20 A.M.
Weekend: 12:35 A.M.-10:09 A.M.

Normal (90 < IQ < 110)
Weekday: 12:10 A.M.-7:32 A.M.
Weekend: 1:13 A.M.-10:14 A.M.

Very Bright (IQ > 125)
Weekday: 12:29 A.M.-7:52 A.M.
Weekend: 1:44 A.M.-11:07 A.M.

Of course the fact that this study is limited 20 somethings introduces a huge bias. It would be interesting to see if this correlation holds in other age groups.

And I'm not really sure about the IQ < 75 demographic - wouldn't most of them be institutionalized and have and enforced bedtime - not being facetious but that is getting close to functionally impaired.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Learning a new language

I haven't been able to post much lately because I've been totally immersed in learning a new language for querying multi-demensional (OLAP) databases. It isn't as difficult as it sounds. It involves understanding the structure of the database and understanding the underlying syntax, which is much simpler than learning a foreign language.

Right now my learning is self-directed. If I need to take a course or buy a book my company will support that. But I have been thinking a little bit about how I learn something new.

Years ago as a student I was living in a house with a piano and I wanted to learn how to knock out a few notes. A friend decided to take my education in hand and set out to teach me. What he did was teach me a few basic building blocks and then gave me something really hard. His premise was that if you learn a hard piece, going back and figuring out the rest of the building blocks will be easy. And he was right.

To this day, I do employ his strategy when I need to learn something new. So with this new language I learnt the basic syntax and commands and then tried to deconstruct a very complex query and keep going back and forth.

I'm not sure what the point of this post is except that I think educators need to challenge students at an early age. Looking back - the teachers I gained the most from were those that expected the most.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I probably won't be able to post anything substantive over the next few days because of other obligations. So I thought I would share my favourite commercial - it is old and I'm sure most have seen it already but what the heck:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stimulus Spending versus Deficit Cutting

There is an ongoing debate in the States regarding the best way to deal with the economic downturn, slump, recession or depression (and it has been called all of those things). The debate centers around stimulus spending versus deficit cutting. I'm going to lay out what I see as the basic issues in what I hope is non-technical language (official disclaimer - I'm not an economist).

Today Krugman is saying spend, spend, spend - clearly in the camp of more stimulus. And his arguments do make sense. The US is in the possibly worst downturn since the thirties. And he argues that the only way to recovery is to get businesses hiring and people working which necessitates a stimulus package . I kind of agree with that.

On the other hand, some are correctly noting that the US deficit at the end of June is unsustainable. Give or take a few billion dollars it is now around 13 trillion dollars. The deficit hawks argue that more stimulus means kicking the problem down the road so future generations will have to deal with it - rather than taking on the pain and dealing with it now. I kind of agree with their arguments as well.

Complicating matters is that the corrupt "To Big To Fail" banks were handed a get out of jail and get out of debt card for free. (That is a whole other blog post or probably deserves its own blog!)

In terms of worst consequences - I don't know. Travelling down the Krugman path means increasing government debt, a bigger tax burden for future generations, potential sovereign default (unlikely but not impossible) and/or bond vigalentes (much more likely - think of what happened to Greece - the cost of servicing your debt gets so high you can no longer do it and are forced to institute draconian austerity measures).

Not stimulating the economy risks anemic growth, falling GDP, falling tax revenues and continued high employment and a full blown depression.

I think the fiscal authorities in the US are literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. And I don't think they are up for the job. (Sorry Timmy)

I'm not an economist but know from experience that in some cases there is a third way (or fourth or fifth) once you move beyond thinking outside a certain framework. I think it is time for some hard questions (continual exponential growth as a model for companies or governments never made much sense to me - what happened to slow but steady dividends?) and some innovative thinking.

What is happening in the Gulf of Mexico

So a few weeks ago CNN's Anderson Cooper told us that jounalists and photographers were being denied access to some public beaches and parks while trying to report on the gulf oil spill. Now he reports about a new law that makes it illegal to be within 65 ft of booms, clean up boats or clean up crews. If charged you could face a felony conviction and be fined $40K - huh?

I understand (even thought I may not like) BP's attempt to understate the damages. In our capitalist society, their first duty is to their shareholders. Given that any culpability (money paid out) will be directly linked to the extent of the disaster, it is in their best interests to obfuscate and understate the scope of the oil gusher.

However, what I don't understand is why local, state and federal governments are aiding BP in their objectives. The gusher in the gulf could be a game changer - a black swan event when the US economy is already extremely fragile. And then there are the potential health risks to clean up workers and people living in the area which are not yet known.

There are many questions that need to be answered and keeping media at bay is not a step in the right direction.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What is bothering me most about the G20 Clusterf*ck

I'm trying to figure out what is bothering me most about what happened a few weekends ago in Toronto - the constitutional abuses that took place or the public reaction to those abuses. That those abuses took place I think will be proved and hopefully we will put in safeguards that they don't happen in the future. I'm not sure but I think what is bothering me more than the abuses is that most Canadians think whatever happened was justified .

On Canada day, one woman in a group I belong to from Hamilton, (and who seems to be pretty smart -thanks Gail) posted the quote from Diefenbaker below.

"I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind."

I don't know very much about Diefenbaker but I like this quote.

Feeling nostalgic for an online community

I had a really weird experience lately. I was home for a family get together and looked at my now 16 year old nephew. He was so big, so tall and so much a teenager. And I did have a feeling of nostalgia run over me but it surprised me that the nostalgia I felt was for a gaming community we both used to belong to.

When he was a kid around 9, his parents were concerned about his involvement in this online gaming community. I investigated the game, which turned out to be Runescape and for the next few years spent a fair amount of time there.

What happened is that we started playing together. We were living in different countries and discovered this was a great way for us to stay in touch. We would meet up in Runescape and hang out - no other phrase describes it. Sometimes we would go fishing together, sometimes mining when we needed cash or help each other out with quests. And sometimes we would go up to the "Wilderness" - PVP - usually we got slaughtered and lost everything but it was fun!

I will never forget my nine-year-old nephew yelling at me across the auction room: "Auntie mary don't sell it there - you are going to get ripped off. I know a much better place." And he did

So yes, looking at him, I did feel a little nostalgic but it was also for a virtual place that we both loved. And that was a little weird

Hello World

Good enough. Every first programming course starts with a program that writes out Hello World and for the person tackling that language for a first time, it can be very satisfying when they finally get the computer to output that phrase or some variation of it. This is my first post and I will probably need some time to figure out my way around here but I think I managed to output Hello World.

In terms of the the title "Virtual Realities" - I wanted at title that reflected both my interest in virtual and social worlds as well as my interest in the so-called real world of politics and economics. It think I need to do a little more research on the etymoloygy of the word virtual. I know it can denote "real" as in "that was a virtual flop" but also is used to denote something that only exists in cyberspace such as "virtual memory". I will probably post more on this later ....