29 March 2009

Tubac Arizona

I'm sitting in an art gallery waiting for a free concert by the Tubac Singers. Have no ideas what to expect. Waiting for the girls to conclude their shopping, as if such a thing was possible.
Earlier, outside, a guitarist played What child is this? Almost like he knew I was coming.
Typical community choir, leading off with "Lullaby of Broadway" and followed by "Black is the colour of my true loves hair".
This morning spent in Nogales, Mexico. Bought a crucifix from from a young girl with baby in tow. Perhaps 16 years old. Only vendor I didn't dicker with.
Photo was taken outside Tucson. It is spring in the desert.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

25 March 2009

Imagine no possessions - but remember John Lennon always made money for his partners

Are there any long term good things that will come of the current economic unpleasantness? Is this suffering for naught, or will something be learned, a wrong course corrected?
Perhaps. The Congress seems to be making the point quite clearly that one does not want the United States as a business partner. There is a real dark and twisted side to being in league with a government to run a business. My industry knew this and is teaching a hard lesson to the rest of the country as one company after another scrambles to return government "help" that came last fall.
The roots of this problem are many but the seeds were planted decades ago in various forms of government intervention in the economy. The government decided that it was important for people to be homeowners. This certainly sounds good and for years I thought it made sense. The United States created government agencies to either offer homes loans or guarantee them so that private businesses would extend loans to those they would have otherwise rejected, or charged a premium rate.

I do not believe anymore that home ownership has much to do with living a good life. Certainly a very smug comment from a homeowner. I realize millions of non-homeowners would be glad to trade places with me. While it is certainly very pleasing there are many other possession that can bring equal satisfaction, though material possessions have their limits. I realize in hindsight that I own my home in part because the United States encouraged me to. Left to my own devices I might have chosen a different way to spend my money.
You don't find the American dream in the signing of mortgage papers. You find it most clearly in the heart of a teenager and that true independence they long for as no one else does. They cry out to make their own decisions, decide their future for themselves, not be told what to do, and follow their own desires. This pure independence gets watered down as you get older but in the teenager it is a God-given rage against intervention in ones life by others. Encouragement or gentle pressure to make a particular decision can be as bad as forcing one.
Owning a home is great, but so is owning a rare piece of art, a silver plated hookah, a first edition of Les Miserables, a 1965 Mustang, or a new John Deere combine.

Shouldn't it be people who decide what is important to them? Why use tax dollars to favor one industry over another, whether it's home builders, colleges or windmill makers? What did we get from decades of pro home-ownership policies? What happened when government tax policy diverted dollars from what people might have pursued on their own? What businesses were not started and what books were not written?
When government picks the winners and losers in economic competition, it is rarely correct. It is swayed by the moment. It has no soul, no passion, no creativity. It doesn't know what is best. It only knows how to survive. Which explains why it is usually at its best when under actual physical attack, wartime. Only then, when its survival is threatened, does it come closest to making decisions clearly and in the best interests of all.

21 March 2009

Who is John Galt?

A bill passed Congress this past week that, if it becomes law, will tax a portion of my pay at 100%. Pay I have already recieved and put to good use for the benefit of my family, my friends, my church, myself. Oops. What was I thinking?

I have a friend who is a member of the united states congress. He puts it this way, “To continually reward executives of failing companies with million-dollar bonuses is bad enough, but to do so while receiving taxpayer dollars is criminal,”. What Congress knows, that the public does not, is the bill is not aimed toward one company but toward the compensation structure of millions of citizens.

So i'll add failed executive to the list of things i've been called. I'm one of the bad guys, lock me up. It's March. I'll watch basketball while Atlas shrugs.

15 March 2009

$12.50 invested perfectly

Sometime in 1999, probably on a Saturday and probably at Walmart, a dad and his six year old daughter purchased a large cardboard foldout map of the United States. On each state was a circle to hold its commemorative quarter.
I asked her, " do you know how old you'll be when this is all filled up?" and told her she would be sixteen. Her eyes lit up and she probably jumped and clapped as though there was something magical about this book. Just fill it up with quarters and you'll be sixteen.

Over the years we placed them in one by one. Some coins held more interest than others, like those for states that held special meaning to her and our family... Summer days in Tennessee and Virginia, her home state of Missouri, Christmas at her grandparents homes in Arkansas and South Carolina. Usually with each quarter came two questions. Dad, have you ever been there? Have I ever been there? As one of the official historians of the first few years of her life, I was a natural one to ask. At that early age a better question might have been, "will I ever go there?" The answer would have been, "probably so".

So much has changed in the filling up of that book. Her oldest sister was a college freshman and is now an attorney with a career in environmental work. Her big brother was a seventh grader and is now out of college and starting his career in St. Louis with an investment firm.
Two days ago we filled up the book. Like magic the six year old has become a sixteen year old and is a high school sophomore and budding artist. The house in St. Louis is now a bigger house in Minneapolis. The young frisky dog is now the old grumpy dog. Her grandfather is gone but her two wonderful, but aging, grandmothers remain. Her father and mother have more grey hair.
50 quarters, 50 conversations, 50 thoughts about places traveled and travels to come, 50 dreams, 50 moments between a dad and daughter, some special some not, all gone.

Time rolls on...........

05 March 2009

Freer Trade

It's a worn out cliche, we don't learn much from history. Perhaps because we do not stop to think that issues we are dealing may not be modern, but ancient. It's not that we don't learn from history, we just don't think about it. We are no smarter than our forbears. I would be challenged to think of a truly new, truly unique, world problem.

A version of the following idiocy could have come from our current or recent houses of congress, or presidents, of the United States....

"In A.D. 22 the emperor Tiberius lectured the Senate that the habit of luxury and the appetite for Eastern exotica had provoked a hemorrage of Rome's money "to alien or hostile countries". Buying imported goods was nothing less than "subversion of the state" "

Spice - Jack Turner

01 March 2009

At the edge of the World

Garfunkels Restaurant, Heathrow, Terminal 4, 10am

Layover of four hours to close a wonderful trip to Cape Town, South Africa. My first trip on Virgin Airlines, business class.
Also this connection marks my first time in the mother country. Odd that it has taken so long. Many would say this one doesn't even count, since I'm only changing planes. My first impression is favorable as the Brits have passed the crucial test, they can make a very good cup of coffee.
Cape Town opened my eyes once more to the wonders of this world. Less than 24 hours ago I stood at the Cape of Good Hope and saw the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. I had fish and chips at the town of Fish Hoek with friends. I have friends, good friends all over the world and its one of the many blessings of this life. The day was also an investment in these friendships and brought us all a bit closer together.

In Green Market Square I bought too many trinkets and did my best to work prices down to the level where buyer and seller could walk away with some sense of dignity. Managed to get most home in one piece. The people were warm and friendly and with a distinctive laid back style that helped put the pressures of this day and these markets in perspective.

Regarding Virgin - they go pretty far to try and pamper you and make you feel special. Nothing like the Asians but definitely a cut above the US majors. The problem is, you have to go for the pampering. If you don't want it, you quickly become an outcast and get ignored by the wait staff. Sir, do you want some pajamas? No. Sir, would you like me to make your bed? No. Sir, would you like dinner, No (It was after midnight and I just wanted to sleep). After those three nos, I was personna non grata through the rest of the flight. No breakfast, no hot towel, no drinks, nothing. The one time during the night I asked for coffee, the waiter proceeded to make some instant. Instant coffee! In business class! Never again.
But enough whining, for yesterday I was at the end of the world......