Thursday, July 21, 2011


This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately:  how to be consistent between my long term vision of what I want for my life, and the short time things I want to do now. 

When I sold the shop, I was very clear on my purpose.  I wanted to be home with my family, to take care of them and my home, and to enjoy things that I had set aside because I was "too busy."  I am a horrible balancer--that is something that I see now!  On vacation last fall, I realized how much I truly love and LIKE my kids, and that M is two-thirds of the way to leaving home.  The others will be hard on his heels.  How did that happen?!  Days turn into months and years while I'm not looking.  I turned to my home life resolving to be mindful of the days.

For the most part, it's been great.  We have had a fun, jam-packed summer.  But I do find little inconsistencies creeping when I need to get chores done before we go play, but then I sit down to read, or check someone's blog, or knit one more row.  And pretty soon an hour is gone.  Or a morning!  And that kind of thing bugs me.  I think it is just fine to read or knit, but I want to do it on purpose.  Maybe this post should be titled "Intentionality."

Anyway, I need to be packing!  We are headed on a very fun (I hope) vacation, and we are all looking forward to hanging out together and eating lots of lobster and ice cream.  I've been mulling this idea of acting consistently with my aim for our home, and I think I will welcome the change in perspective.

Monday, July 18, 2011


We spent the weekend on the lacrosse fields watching J and his team.  We didn't even get the initial schedule for the tournament until two days beforehand, so I was in deep denial about actually spending the entire weekend watching ten- and eleven-year-olds run around with sticks.

During the first two games, our boys played like they'd only practiced once in a couple of weeks.  Which, in fact, had been the practice schedule.  Hmmmm.  Terrible ball skills, no catching and weak throwing.  They lost the first two games by a combined 15-3, or thereabouts.  Pretty miserable.

Since our team was at the bottom of their bracket, we had to stay around for a 4 p.m. game to see if we could come back and play in the elimination rounds the next day.  On the good side, they won!  On the less-good side, we had to come back the next day (an hour away) for an uncertain amount of play.  Well.

J got really sick that night.  So sick that I won't say anything else about it.  His mama (that would be me) wanted him to consider staying home the next day but he would have none of it.  Back to the fields.

First game of the day...they won!  A close, back-and-forth game, fun to watch.  Who were these kids?  Why were they only showing up halfway through the tournament?  So we played again.  We jumped out to an early 5-1 lead, with a wicked attack combination that scored three quick goals.  But the other team figured that out, battled to an 8-8 tie, and forced us into sudden-death overtime.  We lost...but still had to play one last game for the third place medal. 

We were down quickly to a better team.  We kept them close but couldn't touch them for a while.  Then one of our boys found a way to score three quick goals, tying things up.  One last goal with 53 seconds left...J's team won!  Third place felt very sweet after the struggles of the earlier games.

No more thoughts (although I have them) on kids' sports.  Just going to let my sweet boy bask in the glory of a hard-won medal:

And basking in the glory of a hard-earned medal IS what it's all about.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Regarding the debt limit.

I looked at actual numbers this week, to see if what I believed squared with the numbers.

What I believed:  That George Bush spend a LOT of money.  Wars (justified, I thought for the most part) and also ridiculous "compassionate" uses of my money, like a freakishly complicated Prescription Drug program for seniors, the now-notorious No Child Left Behind, even steel tariffs.  And TARP.  Lord, don't get me started on TARP.  But I also believed that Barack Obama spent even more.  Mind-blowing amounts on things like Cash for Clunkers, first-time homeowner support, and my very own car company.

I found this:

See the line with the dots?  That is debt limit as a percent of GDP.  Even though GDP was growing over those years, the debt limit was pretty much a stable percent of GDP.  It bumps up in 2008.  That was TARP.

But what happens in 2009 and 2010?  Spending blows up.  There is no end in sight to the spending.

Over and over I heard how this debt limit problem is another Bush issue.  But it simply isn't.  We went from about $5 trillion in 2000 to about $10 trillion in 2008.  That is all Bush.  But we now stand at $14.6 trillion, an increase of $4.6 trillion in only 30 months under Obama.

And now, as our "professional political class" negotiates a new debt limit, our President can only propose tax increases.  They have not offered one spending cut.  Not one.  Do you see that?  Nothing.  I have scoured the news wires and can only find references to tax increases and loophole closures.  In fact, there are only new programs just waiting to be implemented.  Just this week Kathleen Sebelius offered the new guidelines for insurance exchanges.  This proposal will involve the creation of at least fifty new regulatory agencies.  This is only one depressing example.

But it is Saturday night, I've spent all day at the lacrosse fields and it's time to rest and be ready for a full day of it tomorrow.  Sleep well, and let's all take a Sabbath rest from the news tomorrow.

Edited to add:  Of course Victor Davis Hanson says it all better today here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Here I am...

with a President who apparently thinks he governs a nation of first-graders.

I happen to LIKE peas, and I'd be happy to eat them.  Carrots, too.  And, yes, even broccoli.

He also thinks the other elected members of government are more childish than his own girls:
I wonder...have you ever had a co-worker, much less a boss, speak to or about you in this way?  I have not, and frankly can't imagine a situation where that would happen.  So, is our President trying to get laughs from the press pool (which he does)?  Because there really is no other reason to be so ugly toward his fellow elected officials.

Remember, these are supposed to be three CO-EQUAL branches of government.  Our President might have the bully pulpit but he does not occupy the superior branch of government.

Maybe he is starting to be concerned about the election in 2012.  After all, this just came out today:

Of course, we don't care.  If it isn't concrete and right in front of us, we really won't think about it.  All these numbers, they're really meaningless.  Right, David Axelrod?  Just like a bunch of first-graders.

Oh, and another one of Obama's advisors doesn't think we can be trusted with our own money anyway:
Last week, Energy Secretary Steven Chu made the case for the incandsecent bulb ban last week claiming, “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.”
I don't know about you, but if I choose to waste my own money on a great pair of shoes, or a boat, or LIGHTBULBS THAT ACTUALLY GIVE GOOD LIGHT, I think that is my own business and no one else's.  (Except my husband's, of course.)

A palette-cleanser:

Okay, I'm feeling better now.  We are actually having a lot of fun this summer and I'll share some of that, too.

...Jokers to the [East]

And I continue to be Miss Merry Sunshine...

East:  As the Western world has muddled through the last few years of recession/depression/stagflation, China has been admired for their vitality.  Spectacular growth, and huge investments in infrastructure.  Except that, well, maybe it isn't.

Back in 2009, the Chinese government loosened lending restrictions on banks, with the intention of re-igniting the economy.  It worked!  Kind of.  Local governments took on massive debt, because they could, and embarked on infrastructure building like crazy.  This helped heat up China's GDP.  Of course, other unsavory characters, of whom there are many in the local Chinese governments, also used money to speculate in the stock markets and other business ventures.  Local governments planned on paying the money back mostly by selling off land.  It looked like a sure thing, because China has been in a land-craze for a couple of years now.  However, as more real estate has come on the market to pay back the debts, the price of it is going down.  So local governments are on the hook to banks for billions and billions, and their major source of cash for repayment is drying up.  The banks only recourse will be to go to the Chinese government, which has promised to back up these loans.

NONE of these loans are booked as part of China's debt!  And an offical audit, just completed, may have understated the outstanding local debt by 3.5 trillion yuan.  That would be a 30% increase over the audit's total of 10.5 trillion yuan.  Even the lower number is 27% of China's GDP.  (The comparable number in the U.S. is about 20%.)

What does this mean for us?  Well, we all know that China has been the biggest purchaser of United States bonds.  However, if they have troubles at home and need to cover these delinquent local debts, there won't be nearly as much for them to buy our bonds with!  Financing our bloated, out-of-control government will become more of an issue, driving interest rates up.  Tax rates may go up as well, as our elected officials scramble for additional revenue.  (Unfortunately the scale of our debt dwarfs our ability to repay.)  Finally, the Fed may try a third Quantitative Easing, which entails printing money, then using that money to buy our own bonds, thereby swamping our economy with even more dollars and adding to the inflation.

On the other hand, this guy (who knows a heck of a lot more than I do, maybe), thinks that maybe this won't be such a bad deal for America:
Why does China's debt matter to its central government in Beijing, and why does it matter to Americans and others outside China's borders?
Americans probably wouldn't be hurt that much. Some people worry that if there's a debt bubble that somehow bursts, then China will redeem its large holding of U.S. Treasuries to bail out Chinese banks. That is a possibility. I think that if that were the case, others would snap up those Treasuries. Interest rates may go up a little bit, but probably not by that much.
Don't worry...there's news at home, too.

Clowns to the [West] of Me...

This is the second downer post.  I kept starting it but then it would spin off into too-long-land.  I finally decided to break it up into two posts.

West:  Have you been watching Greece?  Melting like an ice-cube on my deck (98 and sunny today).  The Greek government, feeling rich as they joined the EU, decided to increase the benefits paid to various "deserving" layers of society and bureaucracy.  Check here for some unbelievable examples, including bonuses for showing up at work on time or using computers.  Greeks have always had a culture that didn't emphasize actual work so much.  Once they got to link their currency to the harder-working Germans (and others in Northern Europe), well, why not spend all that?  And then, who's to say we don't make big fat promises to pay later, too, because the money's going to keep rolling on in.

Except that it didn't.  A slowing economy, extra debt from the 2004 Olympics, and ever-increasing payments from the government have come home to roost.  Greece no longer has the money to pay back its loans, in Euros or drachmas or clams or any other form of payment.  So the other countries in the EU are having to figure out how to make Greece settle up on their obligations.  The International Monetary Fund is also in on the negotiations.

Dry, so far, which is why you don't hear too much about it.  But Greece is merely the first tentacle of Leviathan of our economic problems.  Here there are a couple of things to watch for. 

First, not many Greek bonds were sold to American holders, so there is not much at stake in the U.S. should Greece go under.  However, lots of credit-default-swaps WERE sold by American banks on Greek bonds.  Tons, really.  (A CDS is a complicated name for "bond insurance.")  The CDS only pays if the Greeks default on their bonds.  The problem is that the CDS doesn't usually apply to a systemic collapse such as this.  So watch to see who seems to be coming out ahead in the Greek debt negotiations.  A "hard" landing will fall on the Germans, mostly, and also the rest of the EU, but a "soft" landing will mean huge payments from American banks. Payouts from American banks mean less money available to lend, should our recovery ever start.

Second, watch Portugal.  Portugal, while lovely, is not on the same industrial level as Germany, or Spain, or even Greece.  And they've spent like crazy, with Spain financing most of it.  As Portugal stumbles, the EU is not in a position to step in with further assistance.  The contagion has spread to Italy, as well.  Here is the bond yield in Italy.  Remember that higher yields are a reflection of, among other things, higher risk:

You know, I feel very said about the Casey/Caylee Anthony murder trial outcome, but it shouldn't have dominated our news like it did.  The problem is that it is much easier to program trial coverage than to discuss hard things like the economy, especially when it seems so far away.  I get it.  But we should demand more from our news coverage.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

What a wonderful day!

 Enjoy your friends, family, and our wonderful Country.

We'll be getting candy at the parade, and then eating, and swimming, and eating, and swimming, and then watching fireworks.

And we'll do this.

(Man, the kids are getting big.  They are in middle and elementary school now!)