Friday, October 31, 2008

Question 3 Debate Rewind

On Monday, the Sterling Democratic Town Committee hosted a debate on ballot question 3, which proposes to ban greyhound racing in Massachusetts. Christine Dorchak, chairwoman of the Committee to Protect Dogs argued in favor of the measure; John O'Donnell of the Massachusetts Animal Interest Coalition spoke against it. I was the moderator.

The video has been posted to Google Video.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

National Election Predictions

Here is my guess at the electoral map. I think my Obama vote might be a state or two on the low side (or at least I hope so):


Senate: Democrats 56, Republicans 42, Independents 2 (Dems pick up 6 seats)

House: Democrats 265, Republicans 170 (Dems pick up 29 seats)



Can you tell where the Obama campaign filmed this commercial, released today:

Hint, look for these:

It's becoming widely accepted that John McCain's last desperate chance to win the election on Tuesday is by somehow winning Pennsylvania. Obama's campaign is so detail oriented and so complete, that they even film their commercials in the most important state and include nearly subliminal images that only a Pennsylvanian (or a road geek) would notice.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No on Question 2

After reviewing the arguments on both sides of the question—both by checking out their websites and hearing their arguments at the Sterling debate—I have come to the conclusion the right vote on Question 2, which would decriminalize the possession of marijuana, is a no vote.

In my mind, all of the discussion about whether or not a yes vote would save the state money, or contribute to a rise in teen marijuana use, or make the job of police easier or harder is ancillary fluff. The question should be decided on this basis: is the current penalty for marijuana possession too harsh and if so, is the new proposal the right way to remedy the issue.

The answer is no.

Question 2 would change possession from a criminal to a civil offense. The proposed penalty has been likened to a speeding ticket by both proponents and opponents, where the offender would be issued a citation for $100 and sent on their way.

If people arrested for possession of marijuana were routinely incarcerated and or fined excessively then perhaps the law would need to be changed. But that is not the case. First-time offenders have their cases continued without a finding and stricken from their records if they remain clean for a probationary period. That seems fair. Repeat offenders face stiffer penalties, but as long as we are dealing with the possession of an illegal drug—and the proponents of Question 2 insist that they are not working toward making marijuana legal—that also seems appropriate.

In its place would be this $100 ticket. To put that in perspective, if I were stopped for driving 40 mph down Main Street in Sterling, I’d pay more in fines than if I were stopped walking down Main Street in Sterling with enough marijuana to make eight or nine cigarettes. The possession of an illegal drug is more consequential than that.

(I realize that traffic laws and drug laws really don’t have much to do with each other and that there are probably many examples of criminal and civil penalties that look out of balance in comparison to each other, but since both sides use the “speeding ticket” shorthand, I find it an appropriate comparison).

The one area where I agree with the Question 2 proponents is in the area of CORI reform. The proposed change would exclude marijuana possession charges from a CORI background check. Proponents argue that people applying for a job or a loan should not be hampered because they have a mark on their criminal record for simple marijuana possession. I concur and strongly back a reform of the current CORI system.

But I do not think CORI reform should be approached in an ad hoc manner, with this new law affecting this class of offenders, and another new law affecting another class, and so on. The legislature should approach CORI reform systematically and comprehensively. It should not be undertaken one issue at a time through a series of ballot referendums.

Question 2 is not an appropriate response to the issues of marijuana use and CORI reform. It should be defeated. Vote no on Question 2.



I think I've become paralyzed by information.

As the election gets closer, I find myself glued to Google Reader getting the latest update from this newspaper or that blog on the state of the presidential race. You'd think that with so much going on I would have no shortage of things to write about. But it seems like every time I flag an item as something I want to share, a dozen more news items pop up and I just have to check to see if Barack Obama has widened his lead or if Sarah Palin has said something foolish...and whatever it was that I was going to blog about is no longer at the front of my mind.

I've got a whole list of things I want to comment on before the election, but there is always something else to read or some other video clip to watch.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Question 2 Debate Rewind

A week ago Thursday, the Sterling Democratic Town Committee hosted a debate on ballot question 2, which proposes to lower penalites for the posession of marijuana. Whitney Taylor, chairwoman of the Committee for a Sensible Marijuana Policy argued in favor of the measure; Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early spoke against it. I was both the moderator and the best-coiffed participant.

The video has been posted to Google Video.

We've got two more forums coming up. We will be discussing Question 3, which would ban dog racing, on Monday, October 27 at 7:00 pm at the 1835 Town Hall. On Tuesday, October 27, we will be hosting a forum on Question 1, which would repeal the state income tax, at 7:00 p.m. at the Chocksett School auditorium.


Friday, October 17, 2008


Last week, I logged my 35,000th visitor. Other milestones:

1,000: July 31, 2006
5,000: October 21, 2006
10,000: February 1, 2007
15,000: June 24, 2007
20,000: October 20, 2007
25,000: February 24, 2008
30,000: June 18, 2008
35,000: October 8, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain's Transplant Folly

Perhaps the worst moment for John McCain last night was this answer he gave when talking about his health care plan:
Now, 95 percent of the people in America will receive more money under my plan...except for those people who have the gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies that have to do with cosmetic surgery and transplants and all of those kinds of things.
Immediately when he said that, Michelle looked at me and asked "He thinks people should have to pay more for transplants?" She said it before I did, but I was thinking exactly the same thing. What kind of out-of-touch do you have to be to suggest that someone who needs a life-saving organ transplant should only have it covered under a "gold-plated Cadillac insurance policy" that would cost more than what 95% of Americans can afford?

Catching up on the reviews from this morning, I've seen some suggestions that he was talking about hair transplants, which makes sense because he joked in the last debate about needing those and he coupled the reference with cosmetic surgery.

But there are millions of people who have had a life-saving organ transplant or have a transplant recipient in their family (I have two relatives who have had kidney transplants, for instance). For those people, McCain's answer was jarring. I read a lot of commentary so I was able to get a better idea of what he was talking about, but I wonder how many others heard his answer the way I did and questioned what would have happened to them or their loved ones had McCain been in charge when they needed an organ transplant.


The steady Barack Obama and the lurching John McCain

If there has ever been a photo that so perfectly captured the difference between two campiagns, this one is it:


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

McCain-Obama Round 3 Live Blog

Well, tonight's debate will either be one for the ages, or the most inconsequential debate ever. I'm hoping for the latter. Scott and I will be blogging live, starting at 9:00.

As usual, Scott is in blue, I am in red. And we're off...

9:01 -- I'm watching this on CNN, which is filled with a billion graphics. There are literally twice as many graphics on CNN's debate than there are when I play Call of Duty 4. That doesn't seem quite right to me. CNN has 6 pundits that will be adjusting little graphs depending on how they think the debate is going. So, in other words, they are live blogging too, only they are using color coded flash cards instead of all those pesky, confusing words. That pretty much sums up the difference between nodrumlins and CNN.

9:02 -- That and 4 million viewers. I'm on NBC, because they seem to show lots of split screens.

9:03 -- McCain could hardly even spit out Obama's name. Not off to a great start.

9:04 -- Fannie and Freddie! Drink!

9:05 -- McCain just got a +2 on Martin's dial. His half-elf must have equipped his Dagger of Ogre Slaying.

9:05 -- McCain's left hand/arm is shaking. For what that's worth.

9:06 -- On CNN, Obama's hair is really shiny. It looks kind of like field turf in HD, though.

9:07 -- Both of them are wearing their bracelets. Obama has been looking right at the camera. McCain apparently got the message, as he was looking right at Obama as he spoke.

9:08 -- McCain is flailing, and it's only 9:08. He's blinking like Joba Chamberlain in the bug game last year. It's probably all those lights in his face.

9:11 -- McCain certainly has a hard time attacking. He looks uncomfortable at it.

9:13 -- Isn't Joe the Plumber one of the guys Astrid brought to Game Night? <--- nodrumlins inside joke.

9:15 -- Does Obama seem a little defensive or off his game? I'm not sure what it is...maybe I'm just paranoid.

9:16 -- The "uncommitted voters of Ohio", who also have their own graph, seemed to really like what Obama just said; their lines almost went right off the top of the chart and pierced Martin's color coded debate bubble. That would have been cool. Now the Men are almost going off the top of the chart as McCain talks, but the women are down in the middle. Damn men, am I right, ladies?

9:18 -- Eliminating a tariff won't be a program cut. It will be another tax cut. McCain seems very angry. He seemed mad that Bob Scheiffer kept on him.

9:21 -- The "I'm not President Bush" line was a good one. Obviously rehearsed, but still a good one.

9:21 -- I think Martin might have passed out on his joystick; he's got McCain at +10 and -5 and Obama at +15 and -4, for an Obama lead of 11 to 5. Meanwhile, someone named Gergen, has them tied at 1 each. Both McCain and Obama, though, are beating the Red Sox by 8.

9:24 -- I hope Obama brings up the Keating 5. DO IT! Go for the juglar! Knives out!

9:25 -- He won't.

9:26 -- McCain won't look him in the eye and say it to his face. Bringing up John Lewis is putting it on a tee. He shouldn't go there.

9:27 -- I have no idea what McCain is talking about, with this Palin killing children thing. I'm not sure it's a good idea to introduce this idea to a viewing public that hasn't heard of it, especially coming from McCain's mouth.

9:29 -- Obama hasn't been doing as well with the undecided people of Ohio since it moved away from the economy. But, you know what? Screw Ohio. I'm so over Ohio it's ridiculous. They can float that vast wasteland into the ocean and sink it for all I care.

9:30 -- Thank you Oil Can Boyd.

9:31 -- Here's a new bailout idea -- we'll trade Ohio straight up for Iceland.

9:33 -- Obama could have been better on this. He seems to be goading McCain into talking about Ayers. I wonder why.

9:34 -- There goes McCain looking into the crowd again for support.

9:39 -- This part is going on too long for Obama, though I thought he did a good job of calmly dismissing all of it. I am a bit biased here, but frankly, I think McCain is flat out lying. I can tell because his pants are, in fact, on fire.

9:40 -- What did the dials think?

9:41 -- The current scores... let's see, need to do some math... carry the one... Begala has Obama up 8-5. Bennett has them tied 3-3. Castellanos has McCain ahead 16-15. Bergen has Obama ahead 2-1. King has them tied 8-8. And Martin has Obama ahead 28-3. The commissioner from Reno has Sugar Ray ahead 110-108.

9:43 -- Michelle: Sarah Palin "sure is not a role model for me...Give me a [expletive] break."

9:44 -- I'm not sure that's true; Michelle told me the other day she wants to name the baby Fenway Banknorth.

9:46 -- I wish Obama had taken the bait and talked about McCain as "erratic" by pointing out that he has had about five different economic positions in the last two weeks.

9:48 -- McCain thinks we can reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil in the next four years by building 45 nuclear plants? Is he nuts?

9:48 -- Castellanos just gave McCain +1 point and -1 point at the same time. The role of Castellanos tonight is being played by Harvey Dent.

9:51 -- McCain just called himself a traitor! "I am a free traitor"! Wow, there's the moment. Game over.

9:52 -- ...oh, wait. Nevermind.

9:52 -- I don't think McCain does himself any favors when he is sarcastic.

9:54 -- These guys can debate trade treaties with Peru and Columbia every day for the next three weeks, as far as I'm concerned. That discussion won't move one voter.

9:55 -- Obama said "midwestern" and Ohio voters went off the charts. Good, they recognize when someone is talking about them. Someone give them a treat. Next debate we're going to work on recognzing shapes and colors. So they can understand the CNN coverage.

9:57 -- How did the Toledo reference go over?

9:58 -- I wonder if the Bruins won.

9:59 -- They are behind 3-2 late in the third.

9:59 -- They're behind 3-2. That's one of the graphics on CNN.

10:00 -- And we're back to Joe the Plumber. Look, the only plumbers I want to hear about are named Mario and Luigi.

10:00 -- Was Joe the plumber the guy in that Kevin Costner movie where there is only one undecided voter in a tied race, or something like that?

10:03 -- F*** JOE ALREADY!

10:04 -- McCain just told Joe that's he's rich. You know that guy is going to try to collect on that promise.

10:05 -- He also just suggested transplants and cosmetic surgery were in the same class of medical procedure. Tell that to Ron the not plumber, you mean old bastard!

10:06 -- Well, for McCain it's in the same category. His first wife had to have cosmetic surgery, so he got a spouse transplant.

10:08 -- Back to George Bush's "Elections have consequences" clap trap.

10:09 -- Isn't that the Levitra slogan? Or, wait, that's something slightly different.

10:12 -- Mmmmm. Melba snacks.

10:14 -- Dodgers are rolling over. Weirdly, I'm pretty sure I saw Varitek and Ortiz in their lineup tonight.

10:16 -- How do the dials look? McCain seems to have been slipping as the night goes on.

10:17 -- About the same, mostly. Scores right now are Obama 13-4, McCain 8-4, McCain 28-24, Obama 3-1, McCain 15-13 and Obama 38-22. In other words, three of the pundits are Republicans and three are Democrats. Pretty useless.

10:20 -- Did McCain just propose a program where soldiers can become teachers when they leave the armed forces without taking certification exams? I honor the troops as much as anyone else, but I don't think they ought to be teaching without training. That's a ridiculous proposal.

10:22 -- Dad: So if they don't know math, they're going to teach them how to become a dragon gunner?

10:23 -- Watching this on CNN is maddening. I feel like I am steering a Submarine.

10:26 -- Bruins forced a shootout. Salvaging one point is a pretty good result.

10:28 -- McCain doesn't sound like he practiced his closing. Not a strong finish at all.

10:28 -- McCain has some serious choppers. When he goes into that sarcastic grin and laugh, he bears an eerie resemblance to Todd McFarlane's Violator.

10:29 -- Someone violated Todd McFarlane? How tragic. I hope he reported that to the authorities.

10:30 -- McCain just did a great Tim Conway impression when he stood up. Hilarious.

10:33 -- Probably a draw. I thought McCain was harsh, but that's the way he is. Obama seemed a little too reserved. I thought he missed a couple of opportunities to hit McCain, but he's most likely just trying to run out the clock.

10:36 -- The pundits seem to be calling it a split. They seem to agree that McCain was very good early but that he slipped midway through, allowing Obama to catch up. Anyway, I'm done. Later, internets.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Presidential Debate #2 -- Live Blog!

Tonight! Nashville! Live! Blog!

As usual, Scott will be blogging in blue, my commentary will be in red, and John McCain will be an old curmudgeon.

8:58--I'm scrolling through the channels heading for NBC and it strikes me that it doesn't much matter how desperate the economy is, as long as we're spending all of our free time watching Dancing with the Stars and The Biggest Loser, aren't we screwed anyway?

9:02 -- Speaking of which, Misty May Treanor blew out her achilles on Dancing With the Stars. Don't the Patriots get a supplemental pick for that?

9:00--And the idea that anything good is going to come out of a debate where the questions come from people who don't yet have an opinion on the candidates is ludicrous. What have these folks been doing for the last 16 months?

9:02--Oh Good, Tom Brokaw just gave me permission to cheer or boo.

9:03 -- Isn't that Rod Steiger?

9:06--I think I'd be really uncomfortable if I were the guy in the front row when McCain (or Obama) is essentially standing in my lap.

9:06 -- By the way, I am watching tonight on ABC, where they will be later interviewing a group of college students. First question: which member of High School Musical is hottest?

9:07--Did McCain just propose to directly buy back bad mortgages? Wasn't he against that last week?

9:08 -- By the way, Mom just announced that she would be more comfortable voting for Tina Fey than for Sarah Palin. Which... yeah, me too, actually.

9:09 -- You've been doing God's work there.

9:10 -- Warren Buffett is not going to be anyone's treasury secretary. What a stupid question!

9:10 -- I think he meant "Jimmy Buffet".

9:11 -- During Obama's last discussion of middle class tax relief, Mom said "That's fine for the middle class, but what about the lower class?" WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!

9:11 -- Where did they find an undecided black voter?

9:14 -- Where the hell did John McCain just walk off to? Hey old man, your chair is the other way.

9:14 -- He was illustrating the hike that some people took when Freddie and Fannie were going under. Which I think took place in "Archie's Pal Jughead" #107.

9:17 -- Hey, that was Cindy McCain and Lindsay Graham in the back row. Now, if they are undecided voters, McCain is in worse shape than I thought.

9:17 -- Uh oh. Obama just mentioned other countries. That will lose 50,000 votes.

9:18 -- They're continuing over in Section F. Nice, that's where I parked.

9:18 -- That woman has huge baubles.

9:19 -- Yes. Start making the comparison between 2000 and 2008. Don't forget to point out that the Dow is lower now than it was then.

9:20 -- I'm actually kind of torn, here. The Bush Administration has been very good for the Boston Red Sox. Do we really want to risk changing the mojo now? Do we want to go back to the days of Jose Offerman?

9:22 -- I liked the sidelong look that lady in the front row gave McCain as he sidled up the rail. You know she was thinking, "one more step, buster, and I'm going to sock you, you creep".

9:23 -- Tom Brokaw used the entire one minute discussion time to ask his question. Clamp it you old windbag!

9:24 -- Was McCain doing an acrostic on that pad? You know there's something wrong with the question when the candidates have to take notes during it.

9:26 -- $3.80 for a gallon of gas in Nashville? Reason #246 not to live in Nashville.

9:27 -- There's a .43 tax that goes to help subsidize Vince Young's therapy bills.

9:28 -- Oh sure, a 78-year-old asking a question via the least one septuagenarian in tonight's debate knows how to use e-mail.

9:29 -- To be fair, though, her actual question was "what does this button do?"

9:30 -- "Of course we can attack both problems at once. We're Americans! What does he think this is, Kenya or something?"

9:30 -- McCain: "We're not rifle shots here, we're Americans." What? Huh?

9:31 -- Obama is rambling. He doesn't seem particularly comfortable. Actually, he looks more comfortable when he's listening to McCain that he looks when it's his turn to speak.

9:33 -- Brokaw's follow-up question was 33 second long!

9:34 -- Obama does seem a bit distracted. He's probably worried about missing Dancing with the Stars and Biggest Loser.

9:36 -- Look at that doughboy in the front row. I hope he gets to ask a question.

9:36 -- And McCain makes a Herbert Hoover reference. He just locked up Edith Bunker's vote.

9:38 -- McCain's entire answer on taxes was a lie. Glad to see Obama come back to it.

9:40 -- I know the crowd has been coached not to mess up the debate, but they look comatose. The robots in the Hall of Presidents are more animated than this crowd.

9:41 -- Michelle: "Did McCain just say that reforming Social Security is not that hard?" Me: "Yes."

9:43 -- Is Joe Lieberman his running mate or something? McCain brings him up in every other answer.

9:43 -- Mrs. Obama sitting behind the questioner. I wonder if she's been tempted to slip someone a question.

9:44 -- "Senator Obama says nuclear power needs to be safe or somthing like that..." Silly Obama. Nothing says safe like nuclear power. Just ask the Russians.

9:45 -- McCain looks like he's at summer camp writing to his penpal. He seems really pleased with what he's jotting down.

9:45 -- He's writing with a Shaaaaaah-pee!

9:48 -- Form a Manhattan Project to develop energy? Do we still have that many Nazi scientists?

9:48 -- Tom Brokaw just asked if we should build 100,000 garages across the country. Now that's a man in touch with the issues of the day.

9:50 -- The camera panned back so they could get McCain in the shot, right as he was giving a "choke a bitch" gesture with his hand to someone in the crowd. Nice.

9:50 -- McCain just waked across across the stage to get an answer from Lindsay Graham in the back of the hall! The guy can't even rely on his own notes, he needs help from his lackey in the crowd!

9:54 -- That's seriously crossing some state lines. So if I'm in Tennessee and I want to see a more qualified doctor, I just hop in my car and go to Arizona? Man, I hope I don't need a prescription.

9:54 -- Dude, no one is going to travel from Tennessee to Arizona to see their doctor. Georgia, maybe.

9:55 -- Michelle: He shouldn't try to tell jokes. He's terrible at it.

9:56 -- Interesting that McCain is giving Obama a hard time about "mandating" coverage when Hillary Clinton was criticizing him for NOT mandating coverage when they were debating during the primary.

9:59 -- Obama had a fantastic answer about health care, but he probably shouldn't be using Delaware as an example of what's wrong with the banking industry, seeing as his running mate has been called the "Senator from MBNA."

10:04 -- Obama seems to be hitting his stride. He's had a very good last 10 minutes. And now Brokaw is breaking the momentum with an interminable question.

10:04 -- MST3K crowd shot: pasty... pasty... pasty... beefy... pasty...

10:05 -- Yeah, if Gallup did one thing right with this representative sample, they accurately portrayed the relative heft of the American people.

10:07 -- McCain: "...and during the Boxer Rebellion, I stood up to my idol McKinley and warned against American intervention".

10:09 -- Section F is the clear winner tonight. Everyone gets a two-liter of Pepsi.

10:09 -- If McCain mentions Lieberman again, Section F gets free fries from Wendy's.

10:10 -- Is the debate being held on the old Let's Make a Deal set? Are they going to wheel out a mystery box any time soon?

10:11 -- Wait, I thought Reagan was his hero?

10:14 -- There's nothing worse than being green behind the ears.

10:15 -- "I know how to get him. I know how to get bin Laden." Then why don't you tell us? Why should we have to wait for you to be president? If you know how to get him, shouldn't you, you know, share that information?

10:17 -- That almost smacks of Reagan and the Iranian hostage crisis. As soon as he gets elected, they magically get released. Is McCain suggesting that if we want bin Laden to be caught, we just need to elect him, and the next day Pakistan will mysteriously present him in chains?

10:18 -- That's "McCain hero Reagan" to you.

10:20 -- I hate the term "petro dollars." Sounds like a Exxon credit card rewards program. Earn enough petro dollars and get a free car wash in Moscow.

10:20 -- Am I going to have to rent Eastern Promises to understand this section of the debate? Help me, Aragorn!

10:22 -- What's up with the goober in the trucker hat in the back of the section? Hey bud, if you're going to a forum with the next president of the United States wash your friggin' hair and make yourself presentable.

10:24 -- Stop yelling at Joe Sixpack, dude.

10:26 -- John McCain keeps bringing up this "League of Democracies." Where I come from, we call that NATO. I don't think we need another one.

10:26 -- I'm getting pretty psyched. It's almost time to hear from the ABC student council. This is going to be so entertaining and informative!

10:28 -- Yeah, I don't like this League of Democracies crap either. The last thing I want is for American actions to be vetoed by Aquaman.

10:31 -- I really think Obama would have been better served by answering the "What don't you know" question directly. That one shouldn't be that hard.

10:32 -- I think McCain is bonking this one worse, though. "I don't know what's going to happen" isn't really reassuring from the President.

10:33 -- Maybe. But you can go from that to "I may not know what's going to happen" to "I know how to
deal with the unexpected." (Not that McCain did).

10:34 -- Me: Did he just say "comrade"? Dad: He was indoctrinated when he was in prison.

10:37 -- Apparently Kodak sponsored tonight's debate...looks like every one of the audience has identical disposable cameras.

Well, I thought McCain won. Not by much, just a little. I don't think it changed much, though. Obama will still be up 5-7 points at the end of the week.

I thought Obama edged it out. McCain just seemed to be making stuff up towards the end. But what really matters is what the student focus group thought.

I'm not even watching ABC, but I can tell you what they thought. You'll have a couple of 20-year-old guys with wire-rim glasses and no hope of having a girlfriend saying that McCain won and that Obama is a Muslim terrorist. A couple of young ladies will be concerned about Darfur and global warming, and generally wringing their hands. And a couple of others who think Obama is going to save the world.

The students, by the way, are being wrangled by Charlie Gibson, who seems to be on the brink of doddering. I'm pretty sure I saw at least one dodder from him. First student interviewed: Brittany Fiffick, who is still undecided. Seriously? Still undecided? Here's an idea: let's change the voting age to 30. The general consensus from the undecideds is that they are now leaning slightly towards Obama. But you know what? Who care what any of these knobs have to say.

And with that, I think I'm done. Peace out, internets!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Well, in that case I'm for it!

While I've been trying to figure out the need for the $700 billion bailout, I got a chance to take a look at the bill itself. Among the add-ons and sweeteners built into the 451-page bill is this crucial item:


(a) IN GENERAL.—Paragraph (2) of section 4161(b) is amended by redesignating subparagraph (B) as subparagraph (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).’’.
By all means, why didn't someone tell me about this before? I'd have been all for it! And to think I questioned the bill...


Wall Street Crisis: I don't get it

I admit it. I don’t get the Wall Street crisis. I’ve been trying to get my head around it for a couple of weeks now, and I just don’t understand it. I realize that doesn’t make me any different from most Americans—and sadly, most of our leaders in Washington—but that still doesn’t make me feel any better about it. I don’t like not understanding what’s going on around me.

I keep hearing that our entire financial system is on the brink of meltdown because of tightening in the credit markets. It’s much harder to borrow money now than it was a month or a year or a decade ago. That part I get. What I don’t get is why that is a killer to the financial system. I keep reading and hearing sentiment like this and I have a hard time understanding:

And the cost of borrowing in dollars overnight rose the most on record after Congress rejected the bailout plan, putting a chokehold on the global financial system. The ability to borrow is critical for businesses to maintain daily operations, such as payroll, or finance inventory purchases.
The part I’ve highlighted both scares and befuddles me. I have always thought that payroll was sacrosanct. It seems to me that a company that is healthy to begin with should never have to borrow money to meet payroll. Why would any business conduct its affairs so close to the margins that it needs to borrow money just to pay its workers? How creditworthy is an organization that needs to tap into credit just to meet its most basic obligations? It seems to me that lending money to businesses to meet payroll is just putting off inevitable failure.

I need someone to explain to me why spending hundreds of billions of dollars so that failing banks can prop up failing companies is a good thing for the economy. Wouldn’t we be better off in the long run if we allowed credit to tighten and forced business back onto a solid footing of capital instead of credit?

Where the Boston Globe piece above looks at the effect of the crisis on businesses, I’ve also seen some analysis of the effect the credit crunch is starting to have on consumers. Time magazine broke it down in a number of ways:

There are cracks on Main Street, but whether or not you see them largely depends on where you stand. Just ask anyone who wants to buy a house with a subprime mortgage — they're not all evil, but these days they are exceedingly rare — or with a jumbo loan, which now carries an average rate 1.2 percentage points above a regular mortgage.
This isn’t indicative of a crisis to me. Part of the reason we are in this mess (and I think it’s a smaller part of the reason than some would have you believe) is that lenders were giving loans that were too big to people who didn’t have the means or the credit history to pay them. I don’t see that a tightening of the subprime market as a problem, it’s a correction.

So a jumbo mortgage is running somewhere around 7.5%. If a home buyer wants to purchase a house valued at $540,000 (assuming 20% down), they are going to have pay a higher rate. But historically, those buyers are still paying low interest rates. Assuming that the writer is correct that a jumbo usually runs .25% higher than a conventional loan, the average jumbo rate would have been above 7.5% every year from 1972 (when Freddie Mac began tracking conventional mortgage rates) until 2000. From April 1973 to March 1993, the average conventional mortgage rate was at or above 7.5% for 240 consecutive months.

The problem isn’t that credit isn’t available; it’s that people with bad credit can’t get it and that people with lots of money can’t get it cheaply. Just because the mortgage market has been loose on one end and cheap on the other doesn’t mean that a change in the market is a crisis. It’s just a change in the way we’ve been doing business since the end of the millennium. If you had told someone in 1998 or 1988 or 1978 (especially ’88 or ’78) that we would be in a crisis because people who couldn’t afford loans couldn’t get them and that jumbo loan rates were creeping above 7.5%, they’d have passed out from laughing at your definition of “crisis.”

The Time article continues:

Now, about those credit card offers. You may not feel it, but there are fewer of them going out — 1.1 million during the second quarter, down 17% from the same time last year, according to Synovate, a research firm that tracks direct mail. Who's being ignored? Well, subprime borrowers (no surprise there), but also anyone who doesn't make a lot of money: 52% of households with an annual income of less than $50,000 received at least one offer in the second quarter, compared with 66% of such households during the same period last year.
Again, this seems like the definition of better business. So people who have bad credit or have low incomes are less likely to get credit cards? This is not a crisis. Besides, over half of those sub-$50,000 earners are still being offered credit. It doesn’t appear that the credit card industry is tightening its belt too much. Perhaps the third quarter numbers will show sharper declines. Even so, offering less credit to people who can’t afford it isn’t a bad thing.

Finally, a note on car loans, again from Time:

…you're probably not going to get [an auto loan] unless your FICO score is north of 700, whereas six months or a year ago, a score as low as 620 would have gotten you behind the wheel. "Some of this just represents moving back to standards that were in place five or six years ago," says Paul Taylor, chief economist at the National Automobile Dealers Association. "But if you're a customer, not getting credit you could've gotten a year before looks like a credit crunch to you."
And that’s the point. The credit markets are moving back to where they were, when there was at least a shred of responsibility. The credit crunch isn’t a “crisis,” it’s a “correction.” It only appears to be a crisis because America has become addicted to easy credit at all levels.

Somehow we’ve come to the place where our financial system is entirely dependent on borrowing money we don’t have to buy things we can’t pay for from businesses who have borrowed money to stock their shelves and pay their workers from banks that are failing because they have lent too much money to people who can’t pay them back.

And now we want the government to borrow $700 billion to lend to those banks to prop up this system for who knows how long until it fails again.

Do you see why I don’t get it?



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