GREAT DEPRESSION

The news regarding the proposed stimulus plan is depressing.  The president has said: 

” failure to act on an economic recovery package could plunge the nation into a long-lasting recession… if we don’t move swiftly to put this plan in motion, our economic crisis could become a national catastrophe.  Millions of Americans will lose their jobs, their homes, and their health care.  Millions more will have to put their dreams on hold.. [it would be] inexcusable and irresponsible to delay this economic recovery legislation..  The bill before Congress isn’t perfect, but it is absolutely necessary…”

So let me see if I got this right, The federal government is choosing to spend my children’s money on pork to solve a perceived problem.  The money has to be spent now!  We don’t have time to debate the fundamentals of what the money is to be spent on or how it will be spent or look at long term effects.  We are told a select group of government hired economist have shown, using models allegedly adapted to our current situation, that we are headed for a great depression if we don’t act and act big.     

Does anyone besides me see the massive problems with this string of underlying assumptions?  Lets look at the first assumption in this chain.  They have assumed that they are the only ones capable of solving this problem.  The current package is the equivalent of giving just shy of $3000 to everyone in the country.  Why not do that?  At this point I would rather give$3000 to some not paying taxes in stead having a group of politicians come up with a nonpartisan spending package.  A package that includes giving $1B to CDBG,which would directly flow to ACORN.  Or give $4B to Rezko like slum lords for renovations.  After the President’s failed experience in Chicago, I am surprised to see stuff like this in this stimulus package.  I don’t understand why no one has a problem with this unfocused redistribution of wealth.  Just give us our money back!  So what if we pay off credit cards with it, half of us will become more comfortable buying that new car or HDTV.  The other half will actually pump it back into the economy.  It looks to me like the President wants to use this crisis to pump money back to all those that helped him get elected.

The second assumption is that we don’t have time to debate the fundamentals.  I hear Obama stomp his feet and imply that because he won the election he has an referendum to do as he pleases when he pleases.  I guess this includes picking and choosing who he listens to.  Have you noticed that the actual group of “sky is falling” economist are never named.  The model they are using is never mentioned nor the assumptions for their predictions.  I had a great visiting professor in a Sloan course named Dr. Ralph Katz .  He said and I have always found it to be true, “If there is one thing you know absolutely for sure, its that a prediction or estimate will be wrong.  How wrong is a function of the knowledge and competence of the estimator.”  Well I have a great deal of uncertainty given that it appears to me that the administration has failed show “transparency” here.  It also does not help that the bailout funds, yeah remember those, have been absurdly mismanaged.  The government doesn’t know what nearly half that money is being used for.  It also does not help that the congressional budgeting office (CBO) has said that a such an unfocused stimulus (spending)  package will actually hurt the economy .  Why are we in such a rush.  I feel like someone is trying to sell me a $800B+ used car.  What’s an extra two weeks to sort things out?  Any bells going off out there?

The third and perhaps most important assumption and error with President Obama’s rhetoric regarding the stimulus package is that he thinks “…a stimulus bill, is a spending bill.  What do you think a stimulus is?”  What an ignorant statement!  You don’t stimulate the economy by moving money around, which is essentially what this bill does.  Stimulus implies that by spending, or better yet investing, a higher economic output is achieved.  I know of no example of this but imagine that government money could be used as a catalyst to foster private investment and thus inspiring higher economic output.

We are having a horrible bill RAMMED down our throats by a bunch of political rookies.  If you don’t know what is in this stimulus plan then you are not fulfilling your patriotic duty to stay educated.  cIn the first three weeks all I have seen from the administration is disarray.  They call press briefings and are late, they nominate tax cheats and lobbyist for cabinet positions and recant campaign promises of transparency.  Well America you asked for change, now you got it.  Open wide and get ready to eat whatever Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the administration are serving.  Oh yea, and keep a journal so you can explain to your children why they must endure the same experience.  Wouldn’t this be considered taxation without representation… that’s another post.  The only way I can stay sane is to think that if enough people get up off their mental couches and look at this, we can assist our rookie politicians.  Or are there just that many stupid, brainwashed, lazy, or subsidized people out there.

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Binh’s Growth

As we approach the point Binh has been with us longer than he was in Vietnam, I have been thinking about his development.  Binh’s first doctor visit in the US revealed he was below the 3rd percentile for vietnamese children.  This was obviously very alarming.  Our pediatrician in Boston referred us to the international adoption pediatrician Dr. Lori Miller at Tufts international adoption clinic.  She explained the importance of getting him back on track and some suggestions how.  As a small kid in grade school, Binh’s growth is something I have been watching.  We don’t really have much data about Binh until he was about 6 months of age, but beyond that we have monthly data points.  I decided to see how Binh was tracking with respect to other South East Asian Boys.  I found he most relevant height and weight data for Vietnamese children here.  I used the height data in the chart below.  The weight data actually lags the height data, which makes sence considering you usually grow in height before you add mass.  Using the growth charts located at the link above, I made an excel spreadsheet to plot the 3rd percentile and 50th percentile lines.  Then I simply added Binh’s line to the chart and the results are heart warming and encouraging.  The horizontal axis (X) represents time in months and the vertical axis (Y) represents height in inches.  A polynomial data fit was used to smooth the line so that it would be more representative of his actual growthbinh_height_inches The cool thing is that you can probably guess when we adopted him.  Just in case there is any question, we adopted him just days before his first birthday.  It appears that he began to grow just before the 12 month point but that is actually a function of the polynomial fit.  In reality his growth start just about the day we got him.  There are many opinions about why many adopted kids make the big leap shortly after adoption.  I found this really cool handout by Dr. Julian Davies and the center for adoption at the University of Washington.  It talks about the immediate post adoption growth spurt as well and most of the other big pre and post adoption issues.  Regardless, I like to think that it’s half better nutrition and half love!  I think the second little bump in the chart at the 21 month point is where we started giving him Pediasure daily.

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He has become such a joy in our lives.  I could not imagine our family without him.

So mad I could laugh

A couple of days cago Char was gone with a friend so it was just the kids and I.  We were back in Binh’s room playing on the floor having a good time.  Then all the sudden… Wham!!!  Something hit me in the head so hard I didn’t know where I was for a minute.  The only thing that cued me in to what happened was the fact that the toy that struck me was a battery powered Curious George and was laughing.  Well, I had been playing with Binh so I turned an grabbed Ava by the arms and said No! you don’t throw toys!  That hurts people, blah, blah, blah.  Well the whole time she was making faces similar to the one in the picture below.  She would methodically go from the “Oh” face to the “who0s” to the “Eek.” dsc_0474 As I really tried to drive home the point that you should never throw things at people I realized that she was just being silly.  It became harder and harder to keep a straight face.  Finally, I gave up and just laughed.  Wow, that hurt.  I can appreciate her skill for getting out of trouble.

Reference

In order to determine how well we are doing under President Obama we must have a reference of where we were on 19 January.  We were at roughly 7.2% unemployment,  oil was selling at about $40, interest rates are in the 5s, and we have been relatively safe from terrorism for the last 4 years (duration chosen to coincide with presidential term).

bigThe pic is a snapshot of the dow over a period around the inauguration.  The DJIA was around 8275 or so just before the opening bell on the 20th of January.  There is no time to mention every metric one could find to mark the state of the union but you get the picture.  We must know where we are in order to determine if we are doing better or worse in the future.

Just out of curiosity, do you know anything about the first actions of our new executive?  You can read a little about two of them here.  When you actually drill down into each of the orders and memorandum he signed, it does not appear they actually direct immediate change but do signal to others, both in and outside our boarders, where he would like to go with respect to  Guantanamo Bay and abortion.  He also instituted new limits on lobbyists and froze the salaries of some aides and attempted to improve transparency in government.  More words than anything with real teeth at this point.

Country Boys Can Survive

Ava routinely instructs us on what music to play while in the car.  Some of her request would raise eye brows and her latest is no different.  I made a CD about 10 years ago with a couple of Hank Williams Jr. songs on it.   Like other CDs we burned off Napster, they were unlabeled and got mixed together with the other favorites.  The CD with Hank got moved into the car and arbitrarily played.  Now, about 50% of the time we get a request for “Jr.”  Char and I wonder if she thinks Jr. is the same Junior on Veggie Tales.  Needless to say we have been listening to Country boy can Survive fairly frequently.  Considering the subject of the song and the context of our world today (Stock market down, etc.) got Char and I talking.  You know, if the world really started falling apart, it would be the country boys  that survived not the intellectual, politician, stock broker, sports star, college professor, actor, singer, music writer, or celebrity.  Don’t you find it funny that the majority of the people the county admires are so dependent and would be the first to starve if civilization failed.  My grandparents and parents for that matter all had gardens at one point or another.  My grandfather had a great relationship with 3 or 4 of his neighbors.  Each planted a garden and each focused on a group of vegetables.  My grandfathers was corn, green beans, squash and Potatoes.  The 3 to 4 would get together 4 times a year around the seasonal harvest times and trade / share.  Everyone ended up having a nice variety of produce for the year.  Don’t you find it interesting that many look down on country folks and think of them as backwards when in all actuality they are the only people that are self sufficient in this country.   

Busy and Growing

It’s been busy at work.  At least twice a year, each ship program undergoes a review during which the program managers provide the contractor feedback on how they see things.  Half of those reviews usually involve monetary adjustments reflecting the contractors fulfillment of the contract.  Next week is one such review so everyone is busy preparing to defend their positions.  Everyone in shipbuilding is trying to get better and sometimes adjustments are painful but in the end will produce savings.

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Meanwhile, Ava and Binh have been growing.  As you may have read on Metaphase, Binh is now on the growth chart.  At last measurement he was in the 5th percentile.  After that milestone I began measuring him using a yardstick and making marks with dates.  We measured him in early December and then again about 25 days later and he had grown a hair over half an inch.  He has gone from 2 teeth in April to a full mouth now.  We are pretty exited about that. 

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Ava’s imagination is really growing.  She makes up big stories with incredible detail.  She makes up new names for her dolls and parents depending on her mood.  For example, if she calls Char “Mini” then you must respond, “Yes, Daisy.”  I think that is because in a cartoon over Christmas, Mini and Daisy are ice skaters and Daisy is wearing a crown.  Of course, Ava must be the one that wears the crown.  She may pretend to be Larry of veggie tales by calling you Bob or  call you baby meaning she is the mommy.  Gotta stay on your toes around her.  Don’t make a mistake!  She is not shy getting you straightened out.  Her new big words of the week are hillarious, connected and painful.  

Most of all the pictures we have been taking around here have been with Char’s new camera.  I think she has a great eye for photography.  I am pretty exited about what having a new camera will do for both capturing our special moments and some of the macro photography she is working on.  I will post some pics next go around.

Happy New Year – Now lets turn some things around

Last year was a rough one and this year is loaded with tough decisions for our legislators.  One thing is for certain, they must do better than last year.  I read an editorial a couple of weeks ago complaining that congress did little more than rename a bunch of post offices.  Just out of curiosity I decided to go to Thomas and search all bills passed by the 110th congress to find out just how much real work was done.  The first thing I learned is that they passed less legislation than those before and of the bills passed in 2008, very few actually made a difference.   I find it a little hypocritical that Congress would spend so much time grandstanding and complaining about CEO bonuses then turn around and vote themselves a raise.  A raise for what I ask?  For passing less legislation, less relevant legislation, spending less time in DC?  All while their constituents are loosing jobs or taking pay cuts.   If congress were held to the same standards they attempt to hold “big business” to would they get a raise?  One would expect that considering the country is still at war and in an economic crisis that they would be a little busier.  From what I remember, of the 350 bills or so that made it into law, over 150 were naming buildings, streets or waterways, over 50 were fixing minor technical problems with prior bills, and 20 had to do with minting special coins.  I could only find 50 or so that actually made a difference to a significant number of people.  If you added up all the congressional salaries our tax dollars pay and divide that by the number of real bills passed you will get a representation cost per bill.  In order to get an actual number you would have to make a number of assumptions that we may or may not agree upon.  Regardless, I’ll bet you that a CEO of a major corporation and the board of directors would be fired for similar performance.  Well, there is a bi-annual review coming up in less than 2 years, hope they turn things around.