Wednesday, February 23, 2011

UCLA Basketball and Our Decreasing Standard of Living

John Wooden was a great coach who turned UCLA into a basketball dynasty. However, every coach who followed him was never given enough credit at UCLA.
There were two coaches named Larry who were treated as if their assistant coaches were Curly and Moe.
According to UCLA boosters there was no one acceptable to fill Wooden’s shoes. Now, even though they have a great athletic director who goes the extra mile, attendance in Pauley Pavilion has been dropping every year for the last three seasons.  This in a venue where disposition of four on the floor seats was once written into divorce agreements. 
The memories of Wooden’s tenure will soon no longer cripple a basketball program, because even UCLA boosters have to move on.
Soon our nation will have to smarten up and forget about the old days, because our standard of living will probably fall for the next seven years and people must face the concept of deleveraging. Everyone is still ignoring the fact that we thought there was twice as much money in our economy than there really was. When a bank loans out forty dollars for every dollar it keeps in reserve, asset prices go to ridiculous levels and a country’s assumptions get distorted.
Another indication that we have been ignoring the problem came yesterday from Robert J. Shiller whose book “Irrational Exuberance” warned us of the stock market crash to come, and told us house values would drop 30 percent, which they already have.
Shiller said Tuesday that there was a substantial risk of the housing market falling another 15, 20 or 25 percent.
Stock prices have climbed back to the level they were in 2008 and everyone seems to assume companies can keep laying off people to raise revenue without Americans returning to work.
Young Americans will find it tough to choose between Air Jordan’s and a new cell phone. They already are graduating from college with hopes of a job at McDonalds. Our standard of living is going to go down because we play with cheap money we already owe to countries that understood beans didn’t grow to the sky.
We are buying our own Treasury bonds on days when West Texas Crude sells for $100 a barrel and where most people were already using Brent as the standard. (Damn it, why couldn’t I find a Kroner fund?)
But the reckoning will come.
Bernanke uses the mistakes of the depression as the guide to how we must not respond to economic growth.
He has forgotten that the French built the ridiculous Maginot Line because they assumed that the Second World War would be fought like the first one. To that I say two words: “Belgium and Blitzkrieg”
And if I have to choose who to believe, Shiller will always beat out Geithner.  Let’s get ready and deal with the fact we’re not going to be as rich as we were. If you’re having trouble with this, buy yourself a Norman Rockwell calendar and drink the last of the Remy Martin.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's not just the child who suffers

A friend of mine just emailed me from Beijing with details on his baby who was born a couple of hours ago.  Another friend of mine, also Chinese, has a son three weeks old.  Both of these guys have always been responsible so their lives aren’t going to change.
But mine did when my daughter arrived 22 years ago.  All of a sudden, I was really responsible for the life of another human being.  It changed the way I looked at everything.  I would drive around Los Angeles with her to get her to go to sleep. I had everything safety proofed.   She became the one person who I would always love unconditionally.  She made me a better person.
I taught at a university where many students were brought up by single mothers.  One 21 year old woman broke into tears one day in my office, saying “He left before I was born; what’s wrong with me.”
It wasn’t just her life that had been adversely affected; the man who could have been a stronger person evaded his responsibility and never grew up.
Of course, some people, grow up fine, and act responsibly throughout their lives.  But for those who consistently run from responsibility, taking on the rearing of a child can help him learn to face up to his own shortcomings.  But for so many that first step is too hard to take and a child suffers.
Two human beings have their lives diminished, with one always wondering “what is wrong with me?” 

Friday, February 11, 2011

What ADHD really feels like

There are a lot of people who think ADHD is made up. Some of us personally know better. Tommy Babcock is someone who has it and he describes what it feels like to him: 
All the new information I’d taken in since I arrived left me nervous about navigating the rocks and shoals of Ginny’s marriage and dealing with Jimmy’s plans. The train and the ship left me with a need to move about, so the next day I jumped into Ginny’s MG and drove to Ambleside.  This area of Cumberland was cold and bleak in the winter, but Lake Windermere had an attraction in any season. As I drove roads leading towards the coast, I thought about dinner last night and tried to clear my head of the Port, while absorbing Jimmy’s offer. It was an offer that hit me like bathtub gin in a Chicago speakeasy.  I knew it might be the right thing to do. It also might, for a while, turn off that ceaseless inner motor. There often was a runaway railroad train inside that threatened to tear me apart if I couldn’t keep moving. Sometimes all the pushups or miles I’d run couldn’t stop it and I wouldn’t know what to do next. Explorers are oftentimes described as heroes, but I believed men went in search of new lands because they couldn’t handle staying where they were. The men who remained in St. Louis were probably more comfortable in their own skins than Lewis, Clark, and the others who’d followed the Missouri to its source or crossed the Sierras in November. Meriwether Lewis was so haunted by those demons he stabbed himself to death. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

If Washington Was Filled with Daffy,Bugs and Goofy

The best way to look at Washington, D. C. is to view it as if it was an animated feature.  If we could use our favorite comic characters, it would be much easier to explain to people what’s going on in Washington.
There are the obvious choices.  Bugs Bunny would be perfect for Joe Biden because Biden never says anything more important than “that’s all folks.” John Boehner would be played by Goofy, except goofy would break into tears when you said anything about the flag, his career, or big business.
The president and his wife would, of course, be played by Mickey and Minnie mouse, the most stable of all our comic characters.
Then you have the man who just won’t go away, Dick Cheney.  He would be played by Yosemite Sam, except that he would have a big 666 tattooed in his armpit.  You’d see him trying to run down the street pursued by Colin Powell, who is still angry that Cheney’s people lied to him and made him look foolish in front of the United Nations.
Nancy Pelosi would be played by Cruella De Ville, except that Democrats would see Snow White on their screens.
The entire animated feature would focus around two different street barricades, one defended by Republicans and one defended by Democrats.  The entire movie would look like it was filmed from the vantage point of the Goodyear blimp, so we could watch every part of the street by street fighting.
That’s all folks.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Happens to America When We Lose Our Financial Strength

Because I’ve been writing about our seemingly losing race with China in my blogs, I thought I’d write one on how other countries have handled their dethronement. Americans think we are different, but if the Democrats don’t cut spending and the Republicans won’t undo Bush tax cuts, there is no hope our debt won’t grow like a lion cub.    I study Chinese history, but I guess I understand British History the best, so I’ll try to talk about what happened there.
The 20th Century was our century, but for the British it was tough. First they go into a stupid, unnecessary war in 1914 that leaves them in debt and diminished in power.  So many men had died in Flanders’s Field and at the Somme, that it was a country of churchyards and statues to the dead.  But the British, a hardy people, went on hoping that things hadn’t changed.
It was WWII that drove the nail in the coffin. Because Chamberlain and Baldwin didn’t stop Hitler when he took the Rhineland and then Austria and Czechoslovakia, the war left the country bankrupt. I once had some British tourists over and they marveled at the amount of food we served. England has a lot of great people, but their country has been weakened.
Since we won’t bite the bullet, American wages will fall in comparison to other nations. Clothes and food won’t be as cheap. The Wal-Mart-China partnership will raise prices, so American will be facing the choices other country’s citizens already make. Can I afford to have a cell phone and still put gas in my car for a trip? Can I pay for my daughter’s college and afford health insurance? People addicted to shopping will search 99 cent stores instead of Macys.
I love America and believe in the strength of its people. I don’t have the same feelings about our congressmen and women and about our Senators. Everyone is either owned by corporate America or the teachers’ union. They don’t care about our country, just about their wallets. When we can no longer afford to light the Washington Monument at night, they will be well invested in foreign stocks.
We won’t have the international responsibilities we have now. There will be less oil to waste and we too can have little cottages overrun by roses.