Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Canada the Envy of the G20

There was an article I saw in Yahoo Finance yesterday that said that Canada avoided the worldwide downturn. Their banks are healthy. The experienced 6.1% growth in the first quarter of 2010. They are enjoying the 12th straight year of budget SURPLUSES! Their employment situation is quite a bit brighter than ours.

How did they do it? First, they controlled government spending (I guess their government-run health care system didn’t bankrupt them – we must be way dumber than they are). Perhaps as important, through common sense regulation they kept their banks under control. They had reasonable capital requirements and did not allow their banks to sell mortgages to Wall Street, thereby maintaining the risk relationship between lender and borrower. Funny how banks are more careful with their lending processes when they have to worry about the loan’s risk. Duh. Banking is supposed to be boring, safe – not some risky casino-like operation.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Country: the Official Music of VODAG?

I’ve never really listened to country music until recently. Just for kicks, I’ve tuned into our local country station the last few weeks and really listened to the music. Wow. Most everything sucks with these people. I’m seriously considering officially endorsing country music as THE music of the voice of doom and gloom. I may even have to make a trip down to Nashville to see why these folks are SO gloomy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why I no longer am a member of the Sierra Club

I was a member of the Sierra Club for years and years. I quit a while ago. They still send me letters all the time with offers to rejoin. I still believe in their overall mission. Actually, I don’t know very many people who do not want clean air, clean water, and some undeveloped land. But I am no longer a member, and will not become a member because they are hypocrites. If you read the Sierra Club magazine, you’ll see a quarter of it (at least) is devoted to eco-travel. They promote sending plane loads of affluent westerners to ecologically sensitive areas of the planet on tours. Last time I looked, planes sucked enormous amounts of fuel and and are not emission-free. Then there’s the fuel and resources used to keep those tourists in comfort once they are there. If they’re serious about saving the planet, they should not be promoting this kind of travel. Sure, the tour operators claim to be ecologically sensitive, but common sense tells me that just leaving the most ecologically sensitive portions of the planet alone is probably the best policy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Nature of Work

"Most (immigrants) are workaholics," Guillen said. "This country can't survive without (them). I'm sorry but a lot of people from this country are very lazy. We aren't. A lot of people from this country want to be on the computer and sending e-mail to people. We do the hard work. We're the ones who have to go out and work in the sun all day long." – Ozzie Guillen – Manager of the Chicago White Sox

I read this quote recently in the Chicago Tribune. Ozzie was reacting to the new law in Arizona. But, it caught my attention because I have often been plagued by the thought that the work I do is pointless, occasionally even damaging. I don’t make anything people physically use. I don’t grow anything for people to eat.

I now develop websites. Before this, I worked on database development. In some cases I can see a direct cause and effect between a website I developed and a businesses’ increased revenue. But often I question the bottom line value of what I do. Occasionally, I am bothered by the idea that all I ever develop is for soliciting money – whether it be for a non-profit or a business. Is that all the internet is about? Just a bunch of billboards?

Why do I care if I’m doing something useful to society or “meaningful”? I finished a book recently: Shop Class as Soulcraft
by Matthew B. Crawford. In it he extols the virtues of working with your hands, as opposed to cubicle-based office work. It’s a good read. Maybe I should have learned how to be a motorcycle mechanic.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Journalism

From “The Death and Life of American Journalism” by Robert McChesney and John Nichols:

“Jefferson: ‘The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.’

… Alas, those words have been spoken so widely in so many different contexts for so many different purposes they have lost their power, if not their meaning. The same person can invoke Thomas Jefferson, and then, incongruously and shamelessly, argue that we must allow journalism to collapse, unless rich people can make money providing it, and suggest that by some mad calculus this is the way of democracy.”

Will our lives be better if the free market declares that because journalism has no profitable business model it should no longer exist? Will our lives be better if the rich and powerful get to act with no checks and balances whatsoever?