Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Holy shit, I agree with Mitt Romney

Of course, my free market tendencies are why I'm not registered as a Democrat.

The point about the $2000 less car per car is a good one.


My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ. I consistently test as INTJ, though I'm low J and low to moderate I. Huge on NT.

So I ran my blog through this site that purports to tell you your type from your blog.

It yielded:

INTJ - The Scientists

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it - often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be physically hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communicating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use concrete examples. Since they are extremely good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

I wonder how it works? I'm guessing words to pictures ratio, words per post and the kinds of words and topics used are good predictors. Probably easy to get a count of my use of "think" vs. count of my use of "feel". But the I? I have few comments = has few friends? I'd love to see how it does with other sites... Heather, you're getting tested. :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Evidence that unions are crushing Detroit

Nice to get the data to show what we all know to be true: Unions are crushing the US auto makers with high labor costs.

This is apples to apples, folks: All plants are in the USA.

And in the thread, folks are arguing that both sides agreed to the contracts, so they're fair. Two points on this:

  1. It may have been a fair deal, but it may also have been a bad decision. And companies that make bad decisions deserve to go under. Agreeing to supplier contracts that give you a higher cost basis than your competition is a bad decision. It also shows you may be a poor negotiator, as others seemed able to get a better deal than you did for the same input to production.
  2. Unions are labor monopolies. They become the sole provider of labor in a geography, usually after you've invested millions in building a plant in that geography, and you can't easily move your plant, so you have to negotiate with a monopoly. Think cable broadband in the US: Only one provider in your geography, you're not going to move house, so you accept the cable company's terms. Doesn't mean it was equitable, just the best you could do under the thumb of a monopoly.
So I still think we should offer the firms no bailout.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fourteen words

From the LA times:

"Liberty Counsel, which has fought same-sex marriage, also filed papers with the California Supreme Court today and urged the court to reject the lawsuits. The Christian legal group said the court should protect the democratic process.

"The people of California have spoken by affirming traditional marriage, " said Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. "It is time to move on. Fourteen words that reaffirm the historic and common sense definition of marriage are not a radical revision to the Constitution."

So, if you only use a few words, it's not a major revision to the Constitution? I wonder how many "minor" revisions I can make with just 14 words?

Citizens are free to drive at any speed on any road at any time. (14 words)

All property within California is now owned by the state. Private ownership is abolished. (14 words)

Non-white people are not fully human and have no more rights than animals. (14 words)

California is a free and independent nation no longer part of the United States. (14 words)

Seems there's a lot we can accomplish with "minor" amendments, like like creating a free for all on the roadways, abolishing property rights, secession form the Union, and clearing the way for slavery. All very minor changes to the Constitution, really. Affirmations of traditional values. Common sense.

For 15 words, you can say this:

The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Minor, really.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why I've given my Catholicism the finger

And why we need to revoke churches' tax exempt status, which is predicated on the condition that they stay the fuck out of politics.

My to-do list is getting long:

1) Overturn prop 8 in CA
2) Abolish the electoral college for presidential elections
3) Revoke tax exempt status for all churches in the U.S.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Retirment savings wiped out? No sympathy from me

Had a quick chat with a teammate this morning at the boat house. He was talking about pulling all his investments out of stocks, into more conservative vehicles, like CDs. I didn't tell him directly that I thought this was closing the barn door after the cows had gotten out, but I did tell him I had just put some cash into stocks.

My thinking is that things can't get much worse, and that even if they do, by the time I'm retiring, things will have gotten a lot better. Look at every crash in the last 30 years. 1980, 1987, 1990, 1998, 2001, 2002. Generally, things got about as bad as they were going to get right away, then recovered, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. I could be wrong, but I can't imagine the DJIA dropping far below 8000. Granted, it may take a while for things to start moving up, but I'm happy to get the chance to buy in at 1997 levels. It's like I get to take my mid career earning power, and invest at prices only available after I first graduated. Score.

Of course, I'm hedging a bit, and will wait another 6 months before moving any more into the market. Just prudent dollar cost averaging. I think this is a buying opportunity, not a time to run and hide.

This friend said something about his concern for 50 and 60 somethings who'd seen their retirement savings get crushed in this market downturn. My response was that if people a few years from retirement had most of their money in risky instruments, they deserve what they got. The most basic personal finance texts on Earth all tell you that risk is fine for long term investments, and short term things belong in safe vehicles. As you get close to retirement, you're supposed to move from risky stocks to safer stocks to bonds and CDs. You can choose not to do this, of course, and try to get a higher return. You just risk the losses. And call me a heartless capitalist, but I think you have to accept the losses with the gains when you take a financial risk.

Second, this is why God made limit orders. If you're going to own equities outright, put some limit orders to sell if the values slide. You don't have to watch it every day, and if the market melts, you get out. If you're a big enough grown up to buy stocks, you're big enough to manage them. Or buy a damn mutual fund and shut up.

Third, if you're 50, you're fine. You just have to wait to 60 to retire. Again, if you were planning on retiring this year, why the hell were you in stocks? If you were planning to retire at 60, don't worry. 10 years is a long time. Things will come back.

My friend, being of European heritage, thought that the government ultimately bears responsibility for assuring folks financial stability in old age. I agree in a limited scope: We have Social Security, which is effectively welfare for old people. You can retire and live on it, but not thrive. Old people who can't work and didn't save won't starve. That's the safety net. If you want a high standard of living in retirement, you have to earn that yourself. If you don't save, or invest foolishly, and have nothing, you don't get to cry to the government to buy you a condo in Boca. And if you took on more risk than you ought to have, and lost, don't look to the government for a bailout. That goes for business and citizens alike.

I'm getting a bit fed up, frankly. I don't expect Social Security will exist for me, since the Boomers are going to bankrupt it. So I'm planning to handle my own retirement. I still have not bought a house, because prices were insane. I didn't get a loan I couldn't afford, because I knew I couldn't afford it. I don't have credit card debt, because it's smarter to hit yourself in the face with a shovel than to pay 17% interest on eating out. I really don't like seeing my tax money go to subsidize other people's poor financial decisions. I'll pay for roads and schools and bridges and police and science research and the Space Shuttle. I'm not paying to reward the lemmings who all ran off the cliff together.

Granted, some limited government intervention to keep the economic shift from moving too fast is fine. But folks are going to have to reap what they sow. The free money from Uncle Sam needs to be bundled with enough pain so that only those truly in dire straits will take it. Uncle Sam needs to get his loan shark on.

GM wants money? Uncle Sam becomes the number one debt holder, the equity gets wiped out, the contracts are nullified, the management and directors replaced, and we start over. Same for the financial firms.

You want Uncle Sam to cover your mortgage? For every percentage of your purchase price he covers, he gets twice that in equity. So if you ask for a loan worth 25% of what you paid, Uncle Sam owns 50% of the equity. When you sell, 50% of the appreciation goes to him. Don't like it? Don't take it.

This nation of whiners pisses me off.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

GM makes their case

While they argue the benefit to the government in taxes is more than worth the expenditure, I think they assume that no one gets a new job. It also assumes that the taxes from money spent through GM wouldn't materialize as taxes when that same money is spent elsewhere in the economy. Although they don't get specific on how they calculate their tax benefit.

They also seem to argue that if the government helps them through this one tight spot, they'll be great. They're on the comeback trail.

I still don't buy that. Yeah, sometimes an entity in a weakened state would make it, except for that unforeseen thing that hits it at just the wrong time. But the unforeseen thing is hitting everyone, and if it thins the herd a bit, the herd's overall fitness goes up. Gene pool = improved. If famine breaks out just as you're getting over the flu, sorry, you're toast, and probably deserved to die because your immune system sucked.

And while one in 10 jobs may be connected to the automotive industry, it's not true that 1 in 10 Americans becomes jobless without GM. Dealers can sell other cars. Parts makers can make parts for other firms. Advertising companies can make commercials for other car companies. No big deal. I'm not saying it wouldn't, in the short run, cause some economic pain. But in the long run, it's a good thing.

But here's their case, in case anyone wants to hear it.

I wrote my Congress woman on the auto bailout

Dear Representative Woolsey,

I'm writing to urge you to continue your opposition to federal bailouts of private firms, this time in the case of the US auto industry.

While I recognize the desire to keep people employed, free money from the government can only postpone the inevitable, not promote the transformation required to make these firms truly globally competitive.

Yes, the tightening of the credit market has raised the cost of servicing their operating debt. But if the US auto makers were creating products people wanted at prices people were willing to pay, they wouldn't be in tough shape. If this were truly about only the global economy and global economic crisis, all global car manufacturers would be suffering. They're all capitalized similarly, they all compete in the major world markets. The US firms are faring worst because of their own incompetence.

Instead of innovating and adapting to shifts in global demand, they've continued to rely on cheap gas and sales of more profitable, massive vehicles in the US in order to turn a profit, all while fighting increases in federal fuel efficiency standards that would have compromised this approach. The smaller, fuel efficient cars they produce for European and Asian markets aren't sold here. The UAW has extorted above fair value wages, making the companies' products unable to profitably compete on price with those from companies whose employees' wages are more commensurate with their skill and economic value creation levels.

This institutionalized selfishness and refusal to adapt to a changing world and changing demand deserves to go under, or be dramatically reforged into something appropriate for the 21st century.

Our Bankruptcy laws and processes are adequate to this task.

Let's not subsidize failure and weakness. Please oppose all efforts to put these dinosaurs on life support.

I'm sure you'll consider both the desires of your constituency as well as the best interests of the nation when choosing a course of action on this issue.

Thank you for your service.


Ken is a verb
Your district, CA

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"I don't believe in your religion, but also, I do"

This is just darn weird. The Jews are upset that the Mormons are posthumously baptizing dead Jews as Mormons, to save them.

So if they're Jews, and don't believe in the divinity of Jebus, and don't think the Mormons have it right, then what power do they think the Mormons' ritual has?

Jews: Hey, your religion, silly words and splashing about of water are meaningless, since their supposed power arises from ideas that are totally wrong.... What are you doing? No! Don't dump that water on that guy! Stop.... Oh, Great! Now Moishe's a Mormon.

Mormons: Jebus only likes you if you're Mormon. He's all about exclusivity.

I suppose there's a level of intellectual consistency here, though, that I should respect. If you're going to believe in the supernatural, why discriminate? Seems you have to believe in all of it or none of it. I've long had a hard time with folks who believe Jesus rose from the dead and cured the sick, that prophets foretold things to come, and that we have souls, yet think faith healing, clairvoyance and hauntings are bullshit. Or those who think the magic words uttered by their priest imbue wafers with magical properties, yet the magic words uttered by other priests don't imbue other things with magic properties. As has been said before, if you don't believe in Zeus, Thor, Shiva, Aphrodite, or Odin, why not put Yahweh/ Jehova/ Allah on the list? What's the difference? Why not go all the way? Just one more god not to believe in, and you're free.

I'm surprised the Jews in question aren't also worried about Voodoo curses, bad Karma and unbalanced Chi. Believing in everything gives you a lot to worry about. Especially meddlesome Mormons.