Sunday, September 21, 2008

So...what are we getting into here?

So I’ve read the bailout proposal. At the size of a longer blog post, most people will hopefully be able to read the dang thing and think about it a bit, even if our congress doesn’t.

There are two items that strike me about this deal. For one, Congress, and us taxpayers are giving Mr. Secretary, one man (or woman) immense powers and cash, without any restrictions. Is that really a safe way to spend $700,000,000,000? When I spend $700 on, and it comes broken, you better believe I send it back, plus I take a lot of time to research how to get the most out of my money.

…Congress has what, five days?

To protect our ‘investment’ the secretary has these guidelines:

Sec. 3. Considerations.

In exercising the authorities granted in this Act, the Secretary shall take into consideration means for--

(1) providing stability or preventing disruption to the financial markets or banking system; and

(2) protecting the taxpayer.

Secondly; I assume that the plan will be for the taxpayers to buy these mortgages as the Secretary sees fit, and then sell them when the market goes back up again. Well, um...what if it doesn’t go up? But continues to decline in the foreseeable future?

In fact, you could make an argument that this bill and circumstances are set up exactly that way. Right now, the market needs money, so paying more for failed mortgages gives that quick infusion of money, and looks great in the short-term. Over time though, all of those quick sales at higher prices will come home to roost. Yet another bubble that will burst… this one caused directly by the government.

You just know, like everything else government does, in five years time people are going to look at this as a quick-fix mess.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I’m sure if you ask most anyone today, the word ‘bureaucracy’ conjures up feelings of ineptitude and mismanagement. Although most people work within some sort of ordered system (by default a bureaucracy), in many minds the word is almost tied with ‘liberal’ on the negative connotation scale.

I happen to work in one of those long governmental bureaucratic chains, and I must admit, its pretty ridicules. The first time I realized how bad was in 2003 at an environmental conference watching a distinguished EPA speaker. The guy was probably somewhere in federal middle management. Mr. EPA is giving a presentation on new state perchlorate contamination standards, measured in parts per billion… as most scientists would show- μg/L. At least any scientist that has taken an undergrad chemistry course. However, in Mr EPA’s talk, every single slide of his powerpoint has λg/L. We saw it about 50 times throughout his presentation.

For those of you who haven’t taken a college physics course, lambda (λ) is a symbol for wavelength. Nothing to do with concentration. Mr. EPA is talking about state standards (which we have to enact), and using the wrong symbol. Or, taken further, we must invent a whole new way to measure concentration to meet EPA standards.

When called out on it from a member of the audience, he simply said “It means parts per billion.” And brushed it off like somehow we’re the ones who didn’t understand.

And that, in a nutshell, details what’s inherently wrong with bureaucracies. You see, we lowly ‘state’ people couldn’t tell him he was wrong because we’re below him on the bureaucratic totem pole. The only way he would have righted his wrong was if someone from higher up the chain -District Manager or something- would have corrected him.

Does that make bureaucracy inherently bad? Absolutely not. But it does make it overwhelmingly dependent on the abilities and aptitude of those in higher management. That’s why good private sector presidents/CEO’s get paid so much; private companies know how important it is (at least the successful ones do).

On the public side, we’re seeing friends or major contributors of the governor, president, etc. in heads of agencies in which they have little to no experience or qualifications. That inexperience trickles down and permeates the rest of the agency. Then you get what we've got today.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Noah Levi Fields

So on August 30, 2008 my life changed forever. Just as promised by all the other parents out there. After an 'average'(!) labor of about 10 hours or so, Noah came into the world a very healthy boy. Healthy enough to be 9 lbs. 10 oz., with a HUGE head...which Hilary handled like a trooper, I must say. I almost passed out. Anyway, after a little scare about his innards not working correctly (they were just plugged up), we got to take him home. We've had a great time with him at home, and its great to see him do those little things, like focus his eyes, and make funny faces, that I never would have thought were important just a couple of years ago.

Although I was prepared for the total lack of sleep, I never really thought about how much more nerve racking your life is going to get with a child. I remember as a boy doing stupid, dangerous things like playing on farm machinery and getting trapped with the hogs. I never 'got' why mom and dad looked so concerned.

That's changed. I was paranoid about everything those first couple of nights.

Thanks to everyone who sent us food, congrats, and thoughts these past couple of weeks. We really appreciate them!