7/31/2005

wish list wishing

I went to check my Amazon account because I have some new DVDs coming and wanted to see their estimated ship date. Since Doug was so kind as to replace the poker chips he was taking (after all, they were his) with the set from my wish list, I also checked my list to remove the poker set. Well Jodi was asking me what's on it and then proceeded to tell me that seasons of Friends and Gilmore Girls should be at the very top.

That does not a DVD collection make.

7/30/2005

gettin' sappy

The last twenty minutes or so of the Fellowship of the Ring really gets ya when you've got a couple of the friends you've made over the last few years leaving town. They just keep the sad departures coming.

7/29/2005

something is terribly, terribly wrong

I got home before 5:30 tonight.

Yay :)

7/28/2005

enough about my life

It's time for some more political stuff.

(P) I have been accused of being a policy wonk, and the alleger was worried I would be offended or take insult :) I did appreciate the show of concern, but there's no need for it. If the descriptor does not apply to me, I'm really not sure who out there would qualify as a policy wonk.

So here's my unorganized, not focused, lacking all themes, drive an English major nuts rundown on what's been happening while I've been off wishing my roommate a good last few days in StL.

1) Heat waves have been killing people from the East Coast to Arkansas. These can't possibly be related to global climate change, though, so no need to worry.

2) The AFL-CIO's meeting is actually having real drama. Could it be that labor wants to be a national player again? I was just beginning to enjoy the low salary, long hour, no health insurance lifestyle preferred by our corporate aristocracy. Of course, the politicians who allow this are uniquely exempt from the conditions. POTUS has a cool health plan and takes ridiculous vacations!

3) The Bush Administration is doing everything it can to make it look like there is a huge scandal unfolding. I don't know what Mr. Rove and Libby and McClellan and Fleischer et al have been up to the last couple years, but they're sure acting like they have something to hide. Actually, they're acting like they have a lot of somethings to hide. Throw in questions about what Condoleeza Rice and President Bush and Vice President Cheney knew and didn't know, did and didn't do, and it gets even more interesting.

4) When you cross energy firm greed with Tom Delay political corruption, you need even more powerful comparative adjectives to describe the incredible degree of scale the absurdity of the Energy bill is. Most recently, $1.5 billion got added, unprecedentedly, after the bill had gone through committee. Our tax dollars essentially will go to an energy consortium in Tom Delay's district that will give the money to members of the consortium, and Congress wasn't even informed of the Amendment.

5) The Italians are actually investigating real criminals. Oh, scratch that; the 19 warrants they have issued are for US spies who illegally kidnapped and then rendered for torture a suspect from Italian territory. Oops. The CIA station Chief there has actually gone silent.

6) We are getting more confirmation that military lawyers strenuously objected to civilian leadership guidelines allowing systematic torture techniques from Cuba to Iraq to Afghanistan and elsewhere.

7) Some newspaper editors pulled a Doonesbury cartoon for using a legitimate nickname employed by President Bush for his advisor Karl Rove. It's a good thing we have people to protect us from the truth, particularly when it happens to be entertaining at the same time.

8) The White House was just a tad disingenuous when they hoped people would think Supreme Court nominee Roberts wasn't a member of the radical Federalist Society--he, uh, can't remember if he was ever a member. In fact, he actually turned out to have served on a steering committee for the organization. But no worry, people will forget about the slight deception in a few days. Oh, and people won't care that the White House is withholding documents normally provided publicly for important nominations. It's not like the guy is interviewing for a lifetime position or anything. Again, there may be nothing wrong with him, but it sure makes you wonder what on Earth they are trying to hide that they fear wouldn't stand up to public scrutiny. What an incredible lack of trust in us, the citizens of our country, the people for whom they work.

9) CAFTA's gonna be law. Woohoo, more legislation that neither institutes real free markets nor provides real worker and environmental protections.

10) A small minority of control-freak religious and conservative leaders continue to try to thwart the will of the American people to promote stem cell research.

11) Secretary Rumsfeld visited the troops in Iraq for the ninth time. Of course, the security situation is so bad it also happened to be the ninth time he did it as a surprise. All those permanent concrete bases we're building against the will of the Iraqi people look like they're gonna be real safe.

12) The Network of Social Progressives got started with their conference out at Berekeley. Accepting religion always seems to be the task that most stretches the willingness of some liberals, particularly those on the coast, to be tolerant of others different from themselves. It'll be interesting seeing what happens with them.

A dozen sounds good for now.

I can't believe Doug is leaving in two days now. And Adrian and Lauren not much after that.

7/26/2005

new glasses!

Yes, that is the most exciting thing of the day. Doug packed up some of my cups and apparently has no intention of getting them back out. So Jodi was out at Target and picked up some stuff. Went a little nuts, though, as we now have ice cube trays that spell "ice" and a new spray bottle for getting Cookie, among other things.

On another note, as if Nelly showing up on CMT wasn't enough to show that commercialized music is all becoming the same, a country song by Keith Urban was #2 on 98.1's countdown tonight while I was driving home from work. They're not exactly the Toby Keith, Alan Jackson kind of station.

7/25/2005

short version

Alright, you get the short version now, and I'll post a longer version later. This way, those of you that don't really care about me can know all you need without the messy details of my life. Ok, that didn't come out quite the way I intended, but too bad, I don't feel like editing right now.

The weekend actually turned out pretty well. We drove down to Steelville, canoed 6 miles, I got a terrible earache, got sunburned, went to Kobe steakhouse, and saw The Island. Which, by the way, was pretty good. It was a scifi channel miniseries given a Hollywood action budget. Throw in a blonde character's charming dumbness, and what can go wrong?

Also got to play a little devil's advocate with Adrian and Lauren about human cloning. Adrian said something really interesting, that part of humanity-and thus part of the ethical problem with cloning-is having genetic uniqueness. I hadn't heard that argument before, and I intend on exploring it more deeply. My gut reaction was that it's simply a product of cultural forces, not something deeper, but I am rather ignorant about the concept. (For example, we are taught very early that we are all "unique" and have unique DNA and unique fingerprints and so on. That wreaks of Western self-centered competitive individualism. Don't get me wrong, I happen to like that. But it doesn't mean other perspectives are wrong.)

7/22/2005

insane weather update


The above picture is an update on how insane an idea it is to be out on the river tomorrow. Doug wants to kill us all. The high for Sunday, FYI, is even higher.

(R) And somewhat related, who on Earth at Apple thought it would be a good idea to have OS X save screenshots as PDFs and not allow the user to change that. Dumbest idea ever, considering PDFs aren't very useful if you aren't a professional graphics shop, in which case you are probably using specialized software anyway. Did the programmer dude responsible for that feature feel the need to justify his existence, so he decided guess what, I'll change the code from JPEG to PDF to show I've been doing something to earn my paycheck. No one will figure out it's locked into the OS (in Panther) until long after they've bought it...it's the perfect plan.

iPhoto can't even recognize the "picture". You have to go into Preview, export the file as a picture you can work with (.jpg, etc), and then you can open it in iPhoto or some other app that's designed, you know, to open pictures of various types except, of course, PDFs. Bizarre.

Give me back my JPEGs!!

it is very hot

I am starting to doubt the wisdom of going out on a river all day tomorrow. It is freakin' ridiculous out there. But it's Doug's last weekend before his family comes up here, so I will invariably end up doing whatever it is he wants to do. And related to that, Adrian and Lauren, I think you're going to like what I got for your going away present :)

So at work, we have this budget that will never end. I swear as each day goes by, we make more changes than can be done in a day, getting farther behind as we go. If only I was still being paid by the hour...

This seems like a good random time to throw out that it is frustrating being a Royals fan.

7/21/2005

roommate fun

So we might be going on a float trip this weekend before Doug leaves for Oakland. Ha, check it out. I crack myself up.

Anyway, we hadn't heard from our new roommate in awhile, and it turns out we may be just the two of us for the first few weeks in August. This apartment will seem really big if that happens.

If you haven't noticed, Charles and I are having a fun conversation about our criminal justice system and whatnot.

├žiao

7/20/2005

at least I saved some money

Yeah, so I'm back from being AWOL. Partly, I wrote another long response to some financial questions from Alex, but largely I was just busy. I'll post it sometime soon.

Last night was fun; two recently graduated Clayton seniors took Brian and me out to the Cheesecake Factory. And then Brian and I stood out in the Galleria parking lot forever chatting about politics. I really shouldn't do that on a worknight. I was so tired this morning that I didn't have time to make my lunch, and I forgot to grab my wallet. (Fortunately, I didn't get pulled over. Although, somebody stole my tags, which isn't cool, and somebody hit my bumper and drove off but didn't leave a note, so now I have this huge scratch that is very visible on my back bumper. It's very annoying.) So, my lunch was literally a granola bar and some oreos I had stashed in my desk.

There is a good article from the American Prospect's website about the ridiculousness of our prison system. Normally, either the fact that something is morally wrong or the fact that something is a huge waste of money is enough to get people to do something. But it is really amazing that the way our criminal justice system currently operates is both, yet if anything the trend is one of aggrevation, not amelioration.

7/16/2005

woohoo, 60 minutes of exercise

Granted, it was walking, but that lets you enjoy the scenery more. I figure at a 15 minute mile pace, that's four miles. Not too shabby compared to, well, the nothing I could have done.

Alas, now on to the less fun parts of the day.

congrats yo

Yeap, shocker here, another Truman engagement. Congratulations Kelli and Nick!

And we just went to see Wedding Crasher tonight, how appropriate.

Oh, and dumb as it looks, it is actually quite funny. What other movie could pull off the line "raped at midnight" so hilariously?

If you're reading this Eric, I'm not actually looking for a reply to that question.

7/14/2005

you go senator

Props out to Senator Talent for introducing the Combat Meth Act at the national level. I mean, what would society be like if just anyone could buy cold medicine? And since people only get sick near pharmacies during pharmacy hours, it won't matter that you can only buy it from a pharmacy that's open. It's really good for the economy, too, between the cost savings that drug companies will enjoy by getting drugs sent back to them from shops that don't have pharmacies to consumers not being bothered by pesky taxes they would have had to have paid if they had been able to buy some Sudafed. Oh, and it's good for the pen and paper producers since the law now requires pharmacists to record who buys what when.

No kidding; I heard it on the local news. I'm just shocked they bothered investigating the law that much. It's probably because they like being able to lead with stories about meth houses that blow up. It is kinda cool that some fly-over state known for its cow towns and weird pizza boasts some of the largest production of a major illegal drug in the world. We be gettin street cred yo.

You know what makes it even better? Later in the broadcast they had a story about a meth house!

i can admit when i'm wrong

Well, sometimes at least. And this is one of them. My roommate turned on the post-show get together for the WB's Beauty and the Geek, and it really is funny. Bravo to the casting directors who got those 7 guys and those 7 girls. Kinda scary, actually. That's what reality TV should be.

I can't believe I'm approving of a reality show.

And one on the WB, no less.

I'm going to go take my medication now.

7/13/2005

this is uncanny

I'm walking down the aisle at the grocery store when lo and behold, I swear I run into the black dude from Friday. What are the chances of that! I'm not good with faces, so it's possible he just looked a lot like him, but he sure looked a lot like him.

Small world.

Have you seen the email going around about the police officer whose kid died from inhaling a can of pressurized gases? It sets it up by going into his experience with drugs and youth and then describes his shock that his kid got into a drug he didn't know about. You can read a version going around here. Somebody at my work forwarded it to all of us, and I found it pretty interesting.

I hadn't heard about Dust-Off in particular (a brand of pressurized gas used for things like blowing dust out of computer components), but the more general problem of inhalant abuse is very widespread, particularly among younger children. This is a good website for background info. In short, this is another way that our drug laws are ridiculously absurd and arbitrary. Some of the most dangerous chemicals produced in the world a 10 year old American kid can buy at the store. And since these are dual use (ie, they have legitimate nonrecreational purposes that are legal) most people don't think twice about having these chemicals in the home. That's why younger children go for them. There is no need to go to a drug dealer, and mommy and daddy aren't going to question very seriously why the kid has the product.

Let me say again, putting chemicals in your body that don't belong there is bad. But this is the kind of thing that shows you society can't simply legislate away drug problems. You have to teach responsibility (which is the responsibility of parents, not government) and treat medical conditions that arise. That requires good families (and churches and communities) and healthcare, not prisons and counterproductive government interference in the market. And of course, tragedy will still happen, but such is the nature of living. There's no need to compound the problem. Or to put it differently, the THC in marijuana is a lot safer than many of the other chemicals found in the home.

7/12/2005

why umbrellas?

Driving home from work yesterday it was raining pretty hard, but that didn't stop a few souls from running through the park anyway. Rain is actually a lot of fun to run through on a warm day. But there were two girls out walking who had brought umbrellas. Now, it's pouring outside; this is the remnant of hurricane Dennis. So if you're going for a stroll of any length of time, you are going to get soaked regardless. Plus, they were in jogging pants and shirts, not anything that would be harmed if it got wet anyway. So it really seemed an odd sight these two strolling through the park in the storm with their umbrellas.

(P) You know what else is odd? How easily the echo chamber on the right has transitioned from assaulting Clinton defenses to participating in hairsplitting games themselves. Are they seriously expecting the detail regarding whether or not Karl Rove specifically gave the name of Valerie Plame to reporters to matter? In a legal setting, it may, due to the extremely high burden placed on the prosecution in cases dealing with knowingly leaking classified information.

But that's the purview of the grand jury; we may never know those details. The primary point, as a few writers have been explaining, is how on Earth did Karl Rove, a political adviser, obtain classified information regarding, of all things, an undercover CIA agent specializing in weapons of mass destruction? How did that information get from the professionals to the politicians? Who initiated that process?

The second point is why has the Administration all of a sudden radically altered its public commentary on the issue? President Bush repeatedly emphasized he would not accept leaks and anyone involved would be fired. The Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, repeatedly offered specific denials that top White House officials were involved in any way. And yet, once it became public knowledge that Karl Rove had in fact been in communication with reporter(s) before Bob Novak cited his two anonymous sources, the Administration went into supersecret mode. All of a sudden they won't comment on an ongoing criminal investigation.

It makes you wonder if maybe this is a serious criminal investigation after all. It also makes it very hard not to be cynical. What other possible explanation besides a cover-up at the highest possible level explains the forceful, almost boisterous, manner in which denials were issued and leaks were disapproved of until incontrovertible proof became public? Now, reporters can't get a word out of the Press Secretary.

Finally, it makes you wonder what the people driving President Clinton's impeachment were whining about. His conduct with Monica Lewinsky/Paula Jones/Whitewater (it's hard to understand exactly how Special Prosecutor Ken Starr got all that power in the first place) never broke any laws, and it certainly didn't undermine national security. And in the legal language utilized under the original Paula Jones suit, blow jobs weren't sexual relations. The hairsplitting currently underway by the radical right's propaganda machine about whether Karl Rove actually used Ambassador Wilson's wife's name makes President Clinton's statement that he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky seem downright reasonable.

Could it be, perhaps, that the propaganda machine undermining the Clinton presidency wasn't acting on principle at all, but rather in a cold, calculating manner designed to gain unlimited power? Nah, that couldn't be it. These people don't believe that a dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier. They believe in freedom and democracy.

7/10/2005

the smell is still there

That's right, we cleaned up about 16 hours ago. But as I walked in from church today, the kitchen still smelled distinctively of smoked meat. Now that is a good weekend.

7/09/2005

i forgot how long pershing is

If you haven't been to my neighborhood, that's a street that runs parallel to Forest Park's northern edge. It's a nice route to take back out of the park, over the metro and passed some big apartment buildings. The reward, though, is the best part. Just before getting back to De Boliviere, there's a nice little fountain perfect for cooling off hot feet. Not quite as nice as the one up at Jewell, but good enough all the same. As a sidenote, it was obviously a good day to be out as several joggers of the female persuasion were taking advantage of the park's scenery. (The only thing better than a runner, of course, is a soccer player, but that's a post of its own.)

Speaking of outdoor fun, I took Kelly to get her bike this afternoon, which means that the six month ordeal of hearing from her about how great it would be to get a new bike is finally over. Hopefully it meets her expectations!

I also got confirmation on a hunch from yesterday. As I was leaving with Doug to go shopping for meat (we're smoking today-come at 6:00) a guy came up to the car with a gas can and a sob story about running out of gas by the Amoco station up on Delmar at Goodfellow. I wasn't in a hurry so I told the guy to jump in, and I drove him up to the station. I keep change in my car for parking meters and people who ask for money. It was kinda funny, because the guy was trying to guilt-trip me into giving him more, as in "my '77 Cadillac needs at least $5 worth of gas just to get it going". My bin is deep but a little narrow, so it takes a bit of manuevering to get change out of it. And this is where the guy gives the game away (as if his story about having relatives he had just visited in Atlanta and not being from around here yet knowing the neighborhood streets better than I and wearing a Cardinals cap didn't give it away). He gets impatient with me grabbing change, realizing that when I said I had some change he could have that I meant it literally. So now, instead of "I need more money", it's "ok, thanks man" as he opens up his door. Ingrate :) But I do sympathize. Whether it's for alcohol or a drug debt, paying in dimes and quarters is probably a little annoying. Poor guy. It means the homeless dude who's always asking for money on the exit ramp from 40 east to Grand north isn't going to get anything for awhile.

The thing is, he got me a little with his story due to two details. First, he had been carrying a gas can. If he wasn't out of gas, that's dedication. Second, he let me drive him up to the gas station. Either he had walked all the way down from there, or he was going to have to walk all the way back. Again, that's dedication. He earned a few dollars.

So this morning, while I'm heading over to the park, another black gentleman, about the same age and similar style of dress, stops me. Now, my favorite part of this is the culture clash. Here I am in sandals, a pair of Gap jogging shorts, and an old raggedy t-shirt listening to my iPod, and the guy expects me to have money. Where, exactly, would I be hiding my wallet? The guy of course has to get right in my face because I'm not ignoring him; I really just can't hear him. So I take my left earpiece out and ask if he needs something. And guess what? He tells me a story about needing gas money because his car ran out of gas near the Amoco station at Goodfellow and Delmar. Gee, where have I heard about that station recently? These guys are almost as good as the scalpers who work baseball games. By the way, if you've never watched a group of scalpers work, some buying, some selling, some watching, try it sometime; it's fascinating. Well, if you're into business operations and the function of grey and black markets and such. If you prefer softcore porn and artificial drama, go watch MTV's the Real World Austin.

Enjoy this, my last in the series of blogthing quizzes.

You Have A Type A- Personality

A-

You are one of the most balanced people around. Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want. You rule at success, but success doesn't rule you.

When it's playtime, you really know how to kick back. Whether it's hanging out with friends or doing something you love! You live life to the fullest - encorporating the best of both worlds

7/06/2005

gaining momentum

I made this a separate post because it didn't really fit with my other musings about the Fourth of July weekend.

(P) I think the impeachment movement is starting to get pretty strong. Veterans for Peace came out with an interesting press release over the holiday weekend; you can get the PDF here.

I still handicap it at less than 50/50, but the trend line is headed in the right direction. Plus, the President is not going to be making any allies this summer. There will be a nasty fight just to keep his chief adviser out of jail. More people are realizing every day that death and dollars ain't worth building an Islamist theocracy and autonomous Kurdish state in Iraq that happen to let us build huge military bases. Oh, and there are some Americans that are actually shocked that the United States mistreats prisoners. I had a very interesting argument with my dad this weekend. He contended that Kerry should have pounded Abu Ghraib hard during the debates, and I agree. But my point was that it is a perfectly reasonable extension and enlargement of our already very horrible prison system (the key difference being that Iraqi prisoners are valued much more highly by their fellow Iraqis than American prisoners are by their fellow Americans). Bush governed a state that executes retarded people, while a man named Lane McCotter was handpicked by Attorney General Ashcroft to go train people at Abu Ghraib. Mr. McCotter resigned under pressure from Utah's state correctional system due to, among other practices, leaving a schizophrenic in a "stress position", tied to a chair, for 16 hours. He was naked. And he died. Welcome to the America nobody likes to talk about. My point to my dad was that people will follow strong, bad leadership over no leadership. We know deep down in places we don't acknowledge that what happens to US prisoners all over the world is probably wrong (and we certainly would object vehemently if they tried to do that to one of our own friends or family), but we justify it by saying hey, they must have done something bad to get caught, and they deserve what's coming to them. But very few Democratic leaders are willing to acknowledge the elephant in the room. The problem is systemic, not isolated cases, and that requires structural solutions, a global vision. "Shut it down" and "withdrawal now" sound nice, but they're not leadership. They don't change the fact that there are hundreds of countries with a US military presence or millions of Americans behind bars. The Bush Administration has proposed global ideas, both figuratively and literally. And that's where the debate should be. Maybe it's in our best interest to put an American military base in literally every country on the planet. Maybe it's not. Maybe torture is wrong. Maybe it's not. Maybe the very richest people should own the country. Maybe they shouldn't. But it's clear what tactics and strategy the Administration prefers, and people like that.

But more and more, they don't like him and the policies he represents. And it's in the midst of falling poll numbers and more Democrats willing to challenge the whole thing and not just little pieces that the real fun begins. It seems pretty clear that the Administration wants a radical nominee to the Supreme Court who will get the nod for ideology first and dedication to the law second. (That's not to say people shouldn't or can't disagree over the law. It just means those disagreements should be based on the law, not a desired and predetermined ideological outcome.) I think the Democratic leadership will find that it really is easier to get elected and do things when they do what their voters want and not what their largest financial contributors want.

More and more, I think voters will start discussing impeachment. By this time next year, I predict that the President will be missing the silence.

longest line ever

No kidding, my ice cream melted while I was waiting to check out at the grocery store. In particular, I'd love to ask the manager why three of the four self-checkout lanes were closed. Isn't that the whole point, that when you understaff your store people can at least do all the work themselves? But whatever.

Speaking of taking forever, my sister does not know how to hurry when something's important. You see, my family came into town for the Fourth of July, so some good times with my parents and little sister. They even bought baseball tickets, very cool. Although the Cardinals totally rip you off when you can't go down to the stadium. Four $12 tickets cost my dad $65 to actually get his hands onto. Anyway, the point of this is that they were giving away t-shirts. This didn't seem to phase my sister, who didn't bother to hurry through dinner or walk at even a reasonable pace on the way to the stadium (we actually left her behind a stoplight accidentally at one intersection when we crossed and she didn't make the light). Needless to say, we didn't get there in time for a shirt. However dumb that is, it still bugged me. Family is good at that. At least the two girls I ended up sitting next to didn't get them, either, so that gave us something to complain about. That and the fact that Marquis (the pitcher, who happens to be on my fantasy team) was the best hitter of the evening.

Our cat is not getting used to her nails being cut. Still; it's been like a year! Oh well, she is crazy and I think will always be so.

Should I be at all confused or concerned about the results of this one? Seriously, who wants to be in the head of a female?

Your Brain is 66.67% Female, 33.33% Male

Your brain leans female
You think with your heart, not your head
Sweet and considerate, you are a giver
But you're tough enough not to let anyone take advantage of you!

risk mania

Doug and I stayed up way too late last night playing an epic game of Risk. It was great until I had to get up this morning.

Alex emailed me about banking and command-economies vs. free markets, and I intended to give a brief reply, but instead I kept writing, so I thought I'd just post it so you can decide for yourself whether I'm a soulless suit or a silly socialist.

You ask two sweet questions my friend, and a third one implicitly, for that matter.

I'll start at the second paragraph. Electronic funds are really cool. We essentially have the physical currency world and the electronic one. "Money" gets moved around among the worlds and between them (EFT and ACH are two acronyms you may have run across using a bank). For example, my employer does a direct deposit to my demand account every other Friday and Hartford Mutual Funds puts an ACH hold on the first day of every month to move funds from my demand account and place them in my Roth IRA. No currency changes hands, but the "money" moves from the Commerce account my work uses through my account at Bank of America to the Roth IRA being held for me by US Bank National invested in Hartford's Aggressive Growth Allocation fund.

"A dollar" in your checking account and "a dollar" in your savings account and "a dollar" in your wallet are tantamount to the same thing, but they aren't the same thing in practical terms due largely to your access to it and the ability of it to be monitored. For a few examples, there is enough drug residue on most bills in circulation in the US to link someone to a drug crime, banks are not obligated to give you your money when you request a withdrawal from an account that is not a demand account (a savings account is not one), banks are obligated to report cash transactions of $10,000 or more, and there are even provisions in the Patriot Act requiring financial services employees to report certain kinds of transactions if the kind of payment involved is suspicious. The $10,000 limit is something that Rush Limbaugh had a little fun with; he couldn't just take out all the money his housekeeper wanted to keep his drug habit quiet because if he had, the Feds would have been automatically alerted, and well, our police state is just as interested in telling people what sort of economic transactions are acceptable and what are unacceptable as most any other police state that's ever existed. And of course, taking out just under 10k repeatedly is also illegal. That's how money laundering gets people. It's really kind of amazing, when you think about it. The federal government has decided that, under some circumstances, merely exchanging your own electronic funds for physical currency that you also own is so bad you should be put in jail. But I won't ramble too much on this stuff, it's more for your implicit question.

This website has lots of definitions associated with banking and money hyperlinked together you can explore. There are people who spend their whole adult lives studying banking and financial services, so you can learn as much as you have time to read.

Your first paragraph is a classic question of public policy and philosophy and even religion; it's probably the single thing I find most intriguing about economics. How does society allocate scarce resources? Money is a tool for exchange, but at the end of the day it's not the trade itself.

The reason you are frustrated about ideological treatises [in the textbook Alex has] is that to go much deeper into economic theory essentially necessitates ideology. The reason is that economics requires a huge number of assumptions, and the assumptions themselves are a main source of disagreement. (Unlike, say, gravity. No matter what the American and Soviet militaries may have thought about each other, when they built airplanes they used similar assumptions about the effect of gravity on a fighter jet. Both sides thought attributes such as "faster" and "not crashing" were good.) But when (intellectually honest) people discuss economics, there are legitimate differences in what "gravity", "faster", and "not crashing" mean, let alone whether they are good or bad.

The reason this is frustrating is that many of the people who shout the loudest about such things are being (intellectually) dishonest. "Free trade" should mean the unfettered ability of private individuals to exchange items between them on their own terms. Usually, however, it really means the unfettered ability of large organizations to do what they want regardless of what "citizens" or "voters" or "consumers" want. When I read Adam Smith, I obviously don't read an authoritarian command-driven state. But I also don't read an authoritarian corporate state, which is in effect what we have been becoming for some time. Competition, perfect information, the protection of property rights, costless bargaining, and more require the state to be larger than any single company or group of companies. Not to mention the US Constitution, which despite what some on the aristocratic right would prefer, is still the law of the land.

One of the things that the "free marketeers" who aren't really for free enterprise but actually want an odd cross between feudalism and fascism cry wolf about the most is the inefficiency of government. What's ironic is that the large corporations that define much of the workforce are actually more bureaucratic; they literally have become states themselves. It's a PR move, a power play, devoid of merit. Scale economies are what make centralization beneficial, not whether that centralization happens in "the private sector" or "government"; competition is what makes firms add value to society, not the fact that they are "private". Two excellent examples are pharmaceuticals and insurance. Drug companies spend more money on marketing and earn more in profits than they spend on R&D. If we are going to have a regulated drug economy (both illicit and prescription) then what is the point of allowing drug companies to waste billions of dollars bribing doctors and doing aggressive direct-to-consumer marketing? The point, of course, is that executives of drug companies want to make lots of money, and politicians like drug money. But that's not what they say; they say they support the free market and don't want government to interfere. Of course, the volume discounts negotiated by the Canadian government show how ridiculous it is to claim drugs couldn't be cheaper. In the insurance world, who would you guess has the lowest administrative costs offering old age and disability coverage for people of various ages and health? It's the Social Security Administration, of course. Something like 1.5% administrative overhead, unheard of in the private sector. That's why national health insurance will happen; it's just a question of when. Insurance companies spend a lot of money weeding out unhealthy applicants and litigating claims. Irrespective of the moral issues involved, it just makes sense to have a Health Insurance Administration or some such name insure all American citizens from birth to death. (Note, this is not the same thing as national health care, a very different proposition.) National health insurance means that general tax revenues pay for a part of a doctor's visit or teeth cleaning or surgery, not that the government itself provides the doctors or hospitals or medical equipment. The distinction between who pays for something and who provides something is an issue that many on the right love to blur.

Your implicit question is why we don't give people a basic education in all this. I think it's pretty simple, actually. It's not that these issues don't affect people or aren't important. There just isn't much incentive to make people knowledgeable. The ideal consumer is civicly uninclined and doesn't ask too many questions. Governments and prosecutors love the ability to freeze people's assets regardless of whether they have actually been convicted of a crime. (Except for the very rich, of course; they are allowed to threaten national security. I'm not kidding. Their secretive, and illegal, offshore accounts are the reason Congress stopped its drive in late 2001 and early 2002 to have better financial tracking. And Senator Kerry has unparallelled experience from his days investigating the contra scandal and BCCI.) There's not really a constituency or special interest pushing for economic literacy. Unfortunately, I think, some of the best education advocates on the left are instinctively hostile to concepts like free trade, private enterprise, and ownership without really thinking through what troubles them. And on the right, there is the inherent contradiction between the "free" market and the materialistic corporate plutocracy that too much eduction causes people to question. Either you trust people to make their own decisions, or you don't. And trust is the key issue here. Our monetary system only works because people trust it will work.

Alright, I gotta go to bed now. If you want to annoy an economics professor, ask him if we have a free market and then proceed to ask questions about the specific ways that the government overrides the market (agriculture, drugs, asset forfeiture, patents, etc, etc). Or contest each assumption about a perfectly functioning market and ask why government shouldn't address those market failures. My impression is that a lot of economists love discussing the theoretical world more than the real one.

Your reward for making it through all that is another quiz. What a surprise. This one is nice and flattering, to boot.

You Are A Good Friend


You're always willing to listen
Or lend a shoulder to cry on
You're there through thick and thin
Many people consider you their "best friend"!

7/02/2005

good times from back in the day

We went to see War of the Worlds. It was pretty good, but I think everybody else liked it better than me. I'm awake because I have a long weekend for once and I intend to use it, but they all wanted to go home, so I'm sitting here watching Cheers and catching up on my email.

And what do you know, but Cliff made a global warming joke! Apparently that sucker's been good for a generation of laughs and keeps on kickin'. Ice caps melting, seas rising, east coast flooded, the whole shebang. They clearly didn't have access to the same rigorous science that the modern world presently enjoys, though. How quaint.

Also, today (well, by now, I guess technically yesterday) I officially cease being a well-paid contract employee and become an underpaid nonprofit employee. It's good news, I think.

I have a couple more quizzes left, and since I'm sure it made your June so enjoyable, I'll continue until I get through all of them. I found this answer so intriguing I had to post it and, like the music one, I may need someone to interpret exactly what it means. Of course, that's assuming I didn't lie on every other question in the first place.

Your Passion is Purple
Sophisticated and classy, you're a bit picky about sex. You're more likely to be turned on by a fancy hotel room than a dirty flick. Sex is fine enough, as long as it doesn't mess up your hair. For you, sex is more about power and favors than actually pleasure.