Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Next Up: Fed Chairman

If you think SCOTUS nominee, Harriet Miers, is an impacting issue; wait until the next Federal Reserve Chairman is announced.

Dr. Alan Greenspan was reappointed to the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to a full 14-year term, which began February 1, 1992, and ends January 31, 2006. Reagan appointed Greenspan after Paul Volker unexpectedly resigned in June, 1987 and Greenspan
took office on September 1, 1974. He cannot be reappointed. Voker did an excellent job as Fed Chairman and helped set the stage for the economic growth during the 1980's. A new Chairman must be appointed by President Bush and the consequences can be tremendous.

The Federal Reserve Board has four significant purposes in their mission:
  • conducting the nation’s monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates
  • supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation’s banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers
  • maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets
  • providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions, including playing a major role in operating the nation’s payments system
How they execute their policies can range from creating havoc with the economy to providing smooth water for the economy to sail peacefully. All Americans should be interested in this appointment because they can adjust the federal funds rate which affects interest rates for consumer and business borrowing. This has a ripple effect through the entire economy and impacts inflationary trends.

We need a steady hand at the helm of the Federal Reserve Board and one who works in concert with the President on economic policy. One only needs to think back to August 15, 1971 when President Nixon went against the advice of his economic advisors and imposed wage and price controls. Then chairman Arthur F. Burns and
Paul W. McCracken, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, strongly advised against following the Congressional testimony of Professor John Kenneth Galbraith who urged the imposition of wage and price controls.

President Nixon's New Economic Program included wage and price controls as part of a sweeping package. It took years to recover from this economic disaster.

Our economy cherishes stability and any new chairman will be tested. The immediate test will be in the bond market and then the stock market will follow. A solid chairman is essential to avoid disruption in the economy. There seem to be few people that are anticipating or preparing for this new appointment. I believe the time is now to begin the discussions. We cannot afford a stealth appointment as has occurred with the latest SCOTUS nominee.

Here are a few potential candidates.

  • Ben Bernanke, who took over as chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers this year after having served as a Fed board member. He would not be very good.
  • Harvard economics professor Martin Feldstein, who was CEA chairman during the Reagan administration. He is very outspoken but would be okay.
  • Former White House economic advisor, Lawrence Lindsay has been mentioned and he would be disasterous. The economy would be in for a wild ride and even a move to New Zealand might be considered.
  • Columbia University professor Glenn Hubbard, Bush's first CEA chairman. He pushed through the 2003 tax cuts and the economy would be off to the races under Hubbard. He is a terrific pick and my favorite.
This appointment is critically important and we cannot afford any missteps. Everyone should become informed of potential chairmen and let the White House and their representatives know their reasoned opinions.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The winds are howling

After Katrina and Rita, the biggest winds are complaints from government officials, especially the 'loyal opposition' and 'victims rights' groups.

The critics keep complaining that the Feds should be more effective at evacuating major cities in the U.S. Just like fire drills, the only way to significantly improve is to practice.

Any major metropolitan areas willing to practice? Should only take a few days and a few billion dollars. How about Chicago? New York could use the practice as could Washington DC. Evacuating LA could be insightful. How about Seattle, Miami, or Atlanta? No, perhaps, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia or Minneapolis. Some of these mayors need to step up an volunteer for the good of the country.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Singularity is coming, soon.

Singularity is coming, evidently soon.
Singularity is the point at which machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence. Our brains and our bodies will merge with our machines. There is a new book due out next week that will explain this and the consequences in great detail.
The Singularity Is Near portrays what life will be like after this event— a human- machine civilization where our experiences shift from real reality to virtual reality and where our intelligence becomes nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful. In practical terms, this means that human aging and pollution will be reversed; world hunger will be solved; our bodies and environment transformed by nanotechnology to overcome the limitations of biology, including death; and virtually any physical product can be created from information alone. The Singularity Is Near also considers the social and philosophical ramifications of these changes, and is certain to be one of the most widely discussed and provocative books of 2005.

This [computing] power increase, combined with the predicted growth of nanotechnology—robots the size of red blood cells inserted into the body—will make possible, within two decades, complete scanning of the human brain. By then, computer hardware should be capable of running accurate software models of human intelligence. By the end of the 2020s, computers will pass the Turing Test, simulating a living person well enough to fool an interrogator. At that point, Kurzweil believes, a genuine synthesis of the strengths of human and machine intelligence becomes possible: pattern recognition and inference on the human side, large memory with instant recall and easy data-sharing on the machine side.

Freed from the built-in limitations of the brain, machine intelligence will then be able to use nanotechnological design to far exceed human intelligence. But at the same time, nanotechnological implants can be used to augment human brains, creating a hybrid intelligence unlike anything previously known. Ultimately, Kurzweil predicts, the predominant component of human intelligence will be non-biological, and more of our experiences will take place in virtual reality than in the physical world. Human-machine intelligence will saturate the immediate vicinity of the Earth, and eventually grow to fill the universe. Kurzweil backs his predictions with numerous citations of other experts, and while some of the arguments are dense, the book repays close attention.

You can order it at Amazon,
What's interesting is that this guy is not just another crackpot or science fiction writer, he is an inventor and futurist.

Should make for interesting reading.

I need all the help I can get. I just don't know if I can wait that long. ;-)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Swirling Questions Around Hurricane Katrina

1. Why wasn't the plan followed?
Interesting that the detailed plan web page now has this message:

Access Denied

Either you are not currently logged in, or you do not have access to this tab page within the portal. Please contact the portal administrator to obtain access.

2. What happened to the access to the detailed evacuation plan?

3. Why did this happen?

4. Why was the Red Cross kept out?

Acess (sic) to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local
authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot
enter New Orleans against their orders.
5. What did they do with all that money they received?
Army's engineers spent millions on Louisiana projects labeled as pork

6. Why didn't they fix the problems exposed LAST YEAR?

Ivan exposes flaws in N.O.'s disaster plans
05:09 PM CDT on Sunday,
September 19, 2004.

7. Why such looting during such a catastrophe?

A Perfect Storm of Lawlessness

8. How could FEMA overlook this assistance?

9. What has the Orleans Levee Board been up to?

In December of 1995, the Orleans Levee Board, the local government entity that oversees the levees and floodgates designed to protect New Orleans and the surrounding areas from rising waters, bragged in a supplement to the Times-Picayune newspaper about federal money received to protect the region from hurricanes.

"In the past four years, the Orleans Levee Board has built up its arsenal. The additional defenses are so critical that Levee Commissioners marched into Congress and brought back almost $60 million to help pay for protection," the pamphlet declared. "The most ambitious flood-fighting plan in generations was drafted. An unprecedented $140 million building campaign launched 41
Why did the city fail to take advantage of what Amtrak says was its offer to take a couple hundred passengers on its last train out of New Orleans?

It's too hot!

Summers just seem to be longer and hotter. Hurricanes are more frequent and more deadly. Must be global warming.

Then again, maybe not.


New Orleans could just be a blip on the radar screens of disasters. What is being done to the worst potential flu threat since the 1918 epidemic?

Scientists have long forecast the appearance of an influenza virus capable of infecting 40 percent of the world's human population and killing unimaginable numbers.

The havoc such a disease could wreak is commonly compared to the devastation of the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million people in 18 months. But avian flu is far more dangerous. It kills 100 percent of the domesticated chickens it infects, and among humans the disease is also lethal

An H5N1 avian influenza that is transmittable from human to human could be even more devastating: assuming a mortality rate of 20 percent and 80 million illnesses, the United States could be looking at 16 million deaths and unimaginable economic costs. This extreme outcome is a worst-case scenario; it assumes failure to produce an effective vaccine rapidly enough to make a difference and a virus that remains impervious to some antiflu drugs. But the 207,000 reckoning is clearly a conservative guess.

Preventing this catastrophic outcome will requires months of preparation and planning. Are we prepared? Read more here or here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Vacation Wonderland-Switzerland

A 'must visit' place in Switzerland is the small town of Lauterbrunnen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Mass Transit Mantra

P.J. O'ROURKE writes today about the mass transit fiasco.

There are just two problems with mass transit. Nobody uses it, and it costs like hell. Only 4% of Americans take public transportation to work. Even in cities they don't do it. Less than 25% of commuters in the New York metropolitan area use public transportation. Elsewhere it's far less--9.5% in San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, 1.8% in Dallas-Fort Worth. As for total travel in urban parts of America--all the comings and goings for work, school, shopping, etc.--1.7 % of those trips are made on mass transit.

Then there is the cost, which is--obviously--$52 billion. Less obviously, there's all the money spent locally keeping local mass transit systems operating. The Heritage Foundation says, "There isn't a single light rail transit system in America in which fares paid by the passengers cover the cost of their own rides." Heritage cites the Minneapolis "Hiawatha" light rail line, soon to be completed with $107 million from the transportation bill. Heritage estimates that the total expense for each ride on the Hiawatha will be $19. Commuting to work will cost $8,550 a year. If the commuter is earning minimum wage, this leaves about $1,000 a year for food, shelter and clothing. Or, if the city picks up the tab, it could have leased a BMW X-5 SUV for the commuter at about the same price.

We have a light rail TROLLEY being constructed in the Phoenix area. Here are some of the FACTS that the developers do not want anyone to know:

1. TROLLEY transit is 40 TIMES the cost of road transit! The tax cost per person mile of travel via roads is $0.06. The tax cost for light rail is $2.75. This shows that when the quantity of service is taken into consideration, moving a person via light rail costs 40 times as much in taxes as moving a person by road. The costs are as reported by MAG, Valley Metro and ADOT.

2. The Valley Metro Section 5309 report shows quite clearly in table V-2 on page V-3 that the incremental cost of the new start light rail system is $12.49 per passenger trip. This figure is arrived at by posing a baseline case without light rail that has a cost and ridership projection. Then light rail is added and the added cost and added number of transit riders are projected. The added cost ($105,889,931 per year) divided by the added riders (8,475,748 per year) = $12.49.

3. Pollution INCREASES with the ‘mass’ transit TROLLEY system! Valley Metro’s environmental impact statement shows that adding light rail will increase the number of hours automobiles spend in traffic. This means more engines running more hours, burning more fuel and emitting more pollution (see table S-9 on page S-18).

4. The TROLLEY also is projected to increase pedestrian, rider and vehicle accidents due to the rail line route in existing streets.

5. When you lay the tracks and the inevitable shifts in neighborhoods and demographics occur, the tracks must then be removed, or left unused. Then new tracks must be laid, if the system has not gone bankrupt in the interim. Bus routes can be changed on a moments notice.

6. Proponents of the TROLLEY insist expansion will be determined by the SUCCESS of the initial segments. However, they NEVER specify precisely what the SUCCESS criteria are.

This is definitely a case where the money trail needs to be followed.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Random Facts

Age Disparities

Interesting median age demographics for countries around the world.

Median ages:
U.S.-36 years
France-38.6 years
Japan-42.3 years
Mexico-24.6 years
Iran-23.5 years
China-31.8 years
United Kingdom-38.7 years
Germany-41.7 years
Saudia Arabia-21.2 years
Iraq-19.2 years
Afghanistan-17.5 years
Australia-36.3 years


What are the implications?

Social Security Numbers

What do the first 3 digits of the SSN stand for?
  • Place of Birth
  • Geographic Region
  • Date of Birth
  • Random Number
The Answer

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Preparing for driving instruction for teenage daughter.

Humphreys Peak in Flagstaff, AZ 12,633 ft.

In the beginning

Everyone has to start somewhere; here is my starting point.