Is There Anybody Out There?

Between being busy with grad school, becoming a father, and spending a lot of time on Twitter, I didn’t have much time to keep this venerable old blog going. To be honest, though, I didn’t have much desire to either. I’m sure I’ll come back here some day, but I felt the need to start with a clean slate. So…

You can now find me blogging, sans pseudonym, at Strike the Rootmy new constel! :)

The Importance of Maybe

Yesterday, Susan Cartier Liebel (of “Build a Solo Practice, LLC”) posted a Taoist parable about the importance of keeping your perspective from getting too narrow. Here it is:

There once was a Taoist farmer. One day the Taoist farmer’s only horse broke out of the corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbors, all hearing of the horse running away, came to the Taoist farmer’s house to view the corral. As they stood there, the neighbors all said, “Oh what bad luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”

About a week later, the horse returned, bringing with it a whole herd of wild horses, which the Taoist farmer and his son quickly corralled. The neighbors, hearing of the corralling of the horses, came to see for themselves. As they stood there looking at the corral filled with horses, the neighbors said, “Oh what good luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”

A couple of weeks later, the Taoist farmer’s son’s leg was badly broken when he was thrown from a horse he was trying to break. A few days later the broken leg became infected and the son became delirious with fever. The neighbors, all hearing of the incident, came to see the son. As they stood there, the neighbors said, “Oh what bad luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”

At that same time in China, there was a war going on between two rival warlords. The warlord of the Taoist farmer’s village was involved in this war. In need of more soldiers, he sent one of his captains to the village to conscript young men to fight in the war. When the captain came to take the Taoist farmer’s son he found a young man with a broken leg who was delirious with fever. Knowing there was no way the son could fight, the captain left him there. A few days later, the son’s fever broke. The neighbors, hearing of the son’s not being taken to fight in the war and of his return to good health, all came to see him. As they stood there, each one said, “Oh what good luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.”

According to Taoism, the true significance of events can never be understood as they are occurring, for in every event there are elements of both good and bad. Furthermore, each event has no specific beginning or end and may influence events for years to come.

Thoughts on the Bailout and Credit Cards

Unsurprisingly enough, credit card defaults are on the rise. This industry is marked by less oversight and more shadiness than the mortgage industry, which is saying something. Now American Express is asking for a government handout, since AMEX depends on banks’ buying securities backed by credit card debt in order to make money. Banks, of course, are trying not to choke on the credit cards debts they already have without incurring more, which leaves AMEX begging Uncle Sam for money.

But let’s see here: if Uncle Sam helps out AMEX, it allows AMEX to float more credit card debt. Is this what our economy needs? Maybe credit card debt should dry up a little bit, especially since Americans abuse cards so badly. Sure, an illiquid credit securities market may make it harder for some Americans to refinance or consolidate some credit cards, but that is still no substitute for paying the bloody cards off and not incurring more debt, and ready access to new credits cards will probably just make it easier to avoid making the hard decisions.

In short, having the federal government go with more deficit spending so that Americans can get into more credit card debt sounds like a perfect recipe for destabilizing our currency and economy even more. No doubt it will be wildly popular on Capitol Hill for that reason.

Neighborhood Walk

Today my son and I participated in the Rust Belt Bloggers’ Neighborhood Walk. I pushed him around a section of Squirrel Hill and took pictures at most intersections and few other places.

map of route

photo set

Change

Over at the New York Times, Sam Tanenhaus has written a helpful analysis of the two major parties’ positions. Here is an excerpt, citing Michael Gerson:

“The issues that have provided conservatives with victories in the past — particularly welfare and crime — have been rendered irrelevant by success,” Michael Gerson, the Bush speechwriter turned columnist, wrote last week. “The issues of the moment — income stagnation, climate disruption, massive demographic shifts and health care access — seem strange, unexplored land for many in the movement.”

In fact these “issues of the moment” have been with us for years now, decades in some instances, but until recently they were either ignored by conservatives or dismissed as the hobby-horses of alarmist liberals or entrenched “special interests.”

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