Monday, October 27, 2008


If I should ever get married, and if I should have a child, and if it should be a boy... then I imagine I'd have a strong preference to name him Isaac. I know when I was a kid, I heard the story about Sarah laughing when Abraham was told that she'd have a son at their age, and as a kid I always imagined it as a jovial sort of laugh. But being 30 and just as single as always, I think I understand the laugh better as the sort of cynical laugh you use to try and mask your deep disappointment when dreams go unmet, and someone suggests that after countless years of living with that disappointment that everything will change. I know if someone told me that the scenario above were going to happen within a year, I'd laugh too - in just the way I expect Sarah laughed.

And so, should it ever actually happen, I like the name Isaac as a reminder that sometimes God can make the laughably impossible possible. For now, though, all I have is the laugh.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Do you have a lead-lined tape-dispenser? Maybe you should.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Freedom and Purpose

It is for freedom that Christ set us free. You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Comedic Gold

Flaming Squirrel Blamed for Northern California Wildfire

REDDING, Calif. — With southern California fighting wind-driven flames and spot fires breaking out across northern California, firefighters have fingered at least one arsonist: an unlucky squirrel.

Redding firefighters say the squirrel set off the blaze when it shorted out a power line, caught fire and dropped into dry vegetation.

Battalion Chief Gerry Gray says it took 18 firefighters and six fire engines to fight the fire that started behind a Redding restaurant.

The fire briefly threatened a home before it was contained Monday.

Redding Electric Utility spokesman Pat Keener says about 200 customers might have noticed their electricity flicker when the squirrel shorted out the high-voltage power line. But the incident did not cause a power outage.


I've probably gotten at least 1 call every other day for at least 3 years proclaiming "This is the second notice that the factory warranty on your car is about to expire, or may have already expired..."

By my estimate, then, I have gotten around 500 such "second notices." I usually swing from being irritated by the interruption posed by such calls, to being amused at just how many second notices I've gotten, and back again.

Today, the response is amusement.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


It is still a novel thing for me to have my opinions regarded seriously, whether at church or at work. I suppose when you end up becoming a leader, that's what happens... but I'm rather cemented in the idea that "Hey, it's just me talking here."

How did it happen?

In short - neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have a good answer. In longer form, here's the most accessible, reasonable, data-based explanation I have seen yet. It takes the form of an imaginary testimony and a written statement before Congress.

From the imaginary testimony:

I reject the two main partisan narratives of this crisis. The Left wants to blame deregulation motivated by free-market ideology. It is true that poorly-conceived regulation was a major factor. However, the blindness of key regulators reflected not ideology but ordinary bureaucratic information loss. The knowledge that existed inside Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Treasury, and the Federal Reserve did not flow up to the leaders of those organizations.

The Right wants to blame overly-aggressive lending to minorities and low-quality borrowers, promoted by Congress and regulators. While it is true that many loans were made that should not have been made, the problem was not the color of the borrowers' skins or the content of their credit reports. The problem was low down payments and a large proportion of mortgages for what the industry calls non-owner-occupied homes or investor loans, and what ordinary people would think of as speculators.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The last week is probably a good time to reinforce the message "Store up for yourself treasure in heaven..." with the modern caveat "where no plunge in the stock market, however deep, can in any way diminish it."


I wouldn't be surprised if Senator Obama gets 400 electoral votes in November. The shame is, I have yet to hear him put forward a convincing explanation for the economic crisis that will shove him into the Presidency, as his only line that I've heard is "it's because of deregulation," which the more I read looks both true and woefully false. The truth is that a lack of transperency (which regulation could have addressed) is a part of the problem, but another problem was misguided regulation - that is, the specific initiatives pushed by both parties to increase homeownership among people that couldn't afford homes the traditional way.

That push spawned (1) the subprime loans and (2) the rapid surge in home values that were key elements in the precipitation of this crisis.

Misguided regulation remains, for me, a huge part of the cause of the crisis. So please, forgive me if I feel a sense of dread about what could follow in the next 4 years as someone who is crying for more as-yet-undefined regulation gets enough political capital to do just about anything his heart desires.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Dean Heller's "Nay" Vote

Representative Dean Heller, whose Congressional District includes Reno, voted against the Bailout Bill in the House both times he had the chance. I heard him on the radio today saying it was because the bill won't address what went wrong, and it won't fix the problem.

That is a valid opinion, if he knows what went/is going wrong... and what it would take to fix it. I'd like to hear his opinion on those points - if you know that this won't address the root cause, then I'm assuming you also know what the root cause is. And if the answer is "the government telling banks to lend to more minorities," then I'll know he listens to too much talk radio.

Friday, October 03, 2008


My take, in short:

1) Is this bailout plan ideal? No. Cf. Wooden Arrows.

2) Should we reject it? No. The risk of a multi-year Depression is real, because there is a serious problem in the markets right now.

3) Credit. That's the story. The state of California can't get short-term loans. Businesses who use commercial notes to even out cash flows between large projects can't get loans. Without credit, the economy grinds to a halt like a gasoline engine with sand instead of motor oil.

4) The Credit crunch is the result of a lack of trust and transperency in the business community right now. Banks are under-capitalized, because no one knows if any of their mortgage-backed securities are worth anything. Banks then are more unable to make loans, which limits the ability of other under-capitalized banks to get short term loans when they need to come up with more capital.

5) The point of the bailout is twofold - Restoring some confidence to the market, and providing more capital so that there isn't a self-reinforcing chain of failures by a number of banks.

6) The Bailout was not perfect - probably far from it. But freezing credit kills companies on the edge - and not just huge financial giants that deserve what they get, but small local companies just trying to make it from one project to another. One reason I desperately loathe the now-commonplace Wall/Main street description of the issues is that it creates an illusion of isolation, where the two really are intimately aquainted. Anyone wanting to punish those smarmy scoundrels will, in the end, be stabbing the blue collar guys whose jobs rely on those scoundrels indirectly in the back.

7) Big thing to fear: the floodgates are open. How can any politician reject $7 billion in deficit spending in the wake of something like this? If in times of tight credit people are busy investing like crazy in US Treasuries to the exclusion of other forms of reliable debt, we're going to see the treble effects of crowding out (with the wave of new deficit spending), an increasing debt burden (national debt: now over $3,000 for every man woman and child in the US), and a depreciating dollar all at once. Blarg.

The State of the Economy

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

CARSON CITY -- Unemployment in Nevada will jump to an average monthly rate of 8.6 percent next year and remain at that rate in 2010, state economists told the Employment Security Council on Thursday.

"This is sobering news," Employment Security Division Administrator Cindy Jones said after economists on her staff made the prediction.

The forecast came on the same day an economic analyst told another state panel that Nevada is in a recession and the outlook won't improve in the short term.

"The recession is already here, in our opinion," James Diffley, director of the U.S. Regional Services Group of Global Insight, told a the Economic Forum. "We have been arguing all year Nevada is in a recession."

The Economic Forum, made up of five private citizens, must tell Gov. Jim Gibbons by Dec. 1 how much money he can spend on the 2009-11 state budget. Thursday's meeting was the first for the panel to start preparing those projections.

If Nevada's unemployment reaches 8.6 percent in 2009, it would be the highest rate since 9.7 percent in 1983. The state's jobless rate in August was 7.1 percent, the highest in 23 years.
Bill Anderson, the state's chief economist, made the jobs predictions as he pointed out that Nevada two years ago had unemployment rates of just over 4.0 percent and led the nation in job creation.

Anderson and economist David Schmidt said the state economy has been sputtering because of the crash of the real estate market, the decline in home values and the reluctance of residents to spend what money they have.

Anderson said that in the past, employment jumped dramatically after the opening of each megaresort in Las Vegas, but this isn't happening anymore. The City Center project on the Strip is expected to employ 12,700 people when it opens in November 2009, but the state's jobless rate will increase even with this project, he said.


More at the link...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Only In Washington

The Bailout... for toy arrows?

From the Senate Bailout Bill... by way of Calculated Risk.


(a) IN GENERAL.—Paragraph (2) of section 4161(b) is amended by redesignating subparagraph (B) as sub301 paragraph (C) and by inserting after subparagraph (A) the following new subparagraph:

"(B) EXEMPTION FOR CERTAIN WOODEN ARROW SHAFTS.—Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to any shaft consisting of all natural wood with no laminations or artificial means of enhancing the spine of such shaft (whether sold separately or incorporated as part of a finished or unfinished product) of a type used in the manufacture of any arrow which after its assembly—
‘‘(i) measures 5⁄16 of an inch or less in diameter, and‘‘(ii) is not suitable for use with a bow described in paragraph (1)(A).’’.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to shafts first sold after the date of enactment of this Act.