Thursday, January 31, 2008

Follow-up To Smaller Schools

I received the following email regarding my earlier post about Smaller Schools [personal identification removed]:

Enjoyed reading your blog and your perspective on smaller schools. But I must respectfully disagree with your hypothesis, that smaller schools will require more money in staff and support services, larger class sizes and that school buildings will have to be abandoned.

First, please go to and see how they organize a school.

Second, for integration of technology into education as a means to increase learning and change the paradigm of teacher as knowledge source go to

As a requirement for smaller schools, 400 or fewer students, funds shall go directly to the building, not to the district. Site management is also required joining authority and responsibility at the work site -- a successful business model that represents one of the keys to the success of a very large organization, Toyota, and a smaller one, Patagonia (and W. L. Gore before it was sold). Site management also creates the opportunity for innovation in education that District bureaucracies and political committees unintentionally kill.

To improve the chances for smaller school success, and encourage the effective utilization of very expensive capital resources, schools should be run year round (we are no longer a farm based society), classes should be available from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM and teachers allowed to collaborate on the development and delivery of curriculum to achieve a learning goal, not successful content regurgitation (The outcome of NCLB and the AYP compliance).

The new Parker High School in Howell, Michigan is attempting to incorporate some of these innovations. They have a brief PowerPoint presentation on the web that explains them in more detail. This experiment may fail since it depends upon local support and a bureaucracy to survive, and must comply with the pseudo scientific accountability of standardized testing.

Finally, take a small journey into a long ago and far away educational model that was abandoned due to World Wars, economic depression and the tyranny of Fredrick Taylor's misunderstood and myopically applied "Scientific Management"; read a little book, "Totto Chan: The Little Girl at the Window" that, in a humorous and delightful way, describes the educational philosophies of Dewey and Pestalozzi.
My response was:
I appreciate your communication regarding this subject and understand that there may be benefits for at-risk children from smaller schools with less students per teacher.

My points were that:
  1. unless you kept the student-teacher ratio the same, you would increase costs
  2. your administrative staff costs would be higher because you are replicating many times what you do once at a larger school
  3. the facilities would not be comparable in many ways [physical education/sports/libraries] or would be very costly to make them comparable
  4. the talent/knowledge pool among the teachers would be narrower than those found at larger schools with a greater number of teachers
  5. the curriculum itself is unchanged which is a separate and important issue, but may be more limited with a smaller teaching staff
  6. the plan does not adequately address the issue of what happens to the existing facilities as students are removed... more schools mothballed with continuing expense to the districts? [students for proposed new schools have to come from somewhere]
Certainly, students can benefit from more individual attention if class sizes are reduced. So will individual tutoring benefit them. That can be achieve now without the added expense of 100 new schools. Simply hire more teachers.

This effort does not address the overall content of education. I agree that it can address discipline problems and possibly reduce dropout rates. But the arguments that smaller schools are qualitatively and experientially better than larger schools for all students simply does not resonate with my knowledge of larger suburban schools.
If you, dear reader, choose to go to you will see some interesting examples of new educational approaches. I agree that they appear promising.
But compare those shining examples to what you see at large inner city schools and ask if the transition to schools of 400 students or less can be made without the enormous costs I outlined above... far more than simply new facilities. Detroit or Saginaw or Benton Harbor schools are a planet away from educational utopia. org.
The principles of smaller schools, smaller student-teacher ratios, creative use of technology, and practical application of learned subjects can be applied to existing facilities and dedicating the resources toward more teachers, technology, and creative curricula through a university model... while retaining the advantages of more extensive shared facilities.
I would argue that an existing model for high school facilities should be something similar to Lake Orion, Michigan as opposed to a middle school of 400 students. While I believe 1,000 to 1,200 students are more likely to achieve a sense of school "spirit", this high school demonstrates that even larger schools offer much more to the students and community than schools of 400 could possibly achieve... especially with regard to the facilities and the variety of curriculum options... options that realistically address the variety of interests that students have as opposed to trying to interest all students with a limited curriculum and losing many.

Lake Orion High School
495 E. Scripps Road
Lake Orion, Michigan 48360
Todd Dunckley, Principal

The Lake Orion High School is a student-centered facility housing 2200+ students in grades 9-12. Opened in 1997, it has the latest in technology and includes a state-of-the-art auditorium, field house, and natatorium for student and community use. Lake Orion High School was selected as a Michigan Blue Ribbon School and is recognized as a 1999-2000 Blue Ribbon Exemplary School by the U.S. Department of Education. Lake Orion High School offers a broad-based curriculum with numerous options for all students. Specifically in technology, classrooms offer courses for the in-depth study of communication, lasers, robotics, construction, manufacturing, power and energy, and other developing technologies.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cool Breeze

Just remember this
when you are fretting
about global warming
this summer.

Smaller Schools


Warning... this is a long post.

There is little doubt that education failure remains a serious problem in many Michigan [and other states'] urban schools. Facilities are old, classes are often too large, teachers are given responsibility without authority, discipline among students has been outlawed as outdated thinking, and parents' (or parent's) involvement is generally missing.

Michigan's governor has an idea she is promoting: small high schools.

"The plan is based on the idea that smaller is better. High schools with about 400 students are more manageable, students can get more individual attention and the principal knows everybody in the building, Granholm administration officials said." [source]
There may be merit to reducing a school from 2,000-3,000 students to 1,000-1,200. But one must consider that as schools get smaller, the cost per student will rise significantly... if the schools are to offer similar opportunities for the students.

Let's presume that a teacher has 4 classes a day plus some other administrative or extracurricular responsibilities. If the class size presently averages 30 students, then the school of 400 students would have about 14 classes of 25-30 students 4 times a day... in other words, the school would need 14 teachers to keep the proposed cost for teachers the same as educating those 400 students inside a larger school population. Just consider that such a small teaching corp does not provide a great deal of opportunity for an interesting variety of courses.
Where costs are not the same is for school administration, maintenance staff, and facilities costs. These would be increased by some percentage since you can't have 1/5 of a principal, for example.
The next question is: what do you do with those large schools? Detroit has mothballed many of them, but they still require some maintenance and resources, even if they are not used for educating anyone.
Theoretically, students from the larger schools [many of which are now larger because there were insufficient students from schools that were closed] could be fractured into smaller groups and then sent to the mothballed schools. The problem with that idea is that many of those facilities were in need of significant, expensive restoration or renovation... which along with the small student populations were the reason they were closed.
Another alternative is that the present schools could be sold off. The problem is that there are no buyers... scratch that idea. They would have to be bulldozed and the land sold or turned into parks [maybe not a bad idea].
But if the larger schools were simply shut down, then many new small schools would have to be built to replace them... a very costly effort for which the state would have to go deeply in debt... with shaky prospects for enough revenue to pay off that debt without significant tax increases.
Another alternative is to use mothballed elementary or middle schools. Again, they would need restoration or renovation, but the costs might be manageable. There may not be enough of those facilities to meet the Governor's plan requirements... and the facilities might have to be modified for students who are simply physically bigger.

Perhaps what is needed is not a focus on school size, but rather school function. Think of the way education is organized from kindergarten through college.
  • In kindergarten, students stay with one or two teachers all day. Those teachers provide all of the instruction.
  • In elementary school, some small schools may have a single teacher teaching a single grade level all day while larger elementary schools and middle schools have students moving from classroom to classroom for the different subjects... but all students taking the same curriculum.
  • In high schools, students go from classroom to classroom. Students are required to take some "compulsory" courses and then have limited choices for "electives."
  • At universities, students may have a few general "requirements," but the "college" curriculum dictates the requirements and those may be fulfilled in a variety of ways... the curriculum is highly differentiated for each individual.
Perhaps it is time for educators to realize that the present high school education may be archaic for today's world. After all, it is organizationally and content-wise [3Rs etc.] little changed over hundreds of years... even though schools have gotten larger.
Rather than recognizing the opportunities available with larger schools, the educational system forces larger schools to conform to the small school model and wonders why it doesn't work.
Let's get a little creative in our thinking. Instead of thinking of a large high school as a bloated version of a small high school, why not organize it into the university model? Take advantage of the large number of teachers with a variety of interests and skills.
Create small high school "colleges" within the large high school "university."
The archaic way of thinking is that in order to learn to read well, a student must take English courses.
Does it really matter if a student learns to read from Shakespeare's plays or from an explanation of computer programing or the history of automobiles or analyses of various forms of music? And who is to say that disparate curriculum can't be creatively combined; for example, an analysis of history as reflected in period plays?
The level of reading can be age-appropriate and challenging regardless of the subject... and allowing the student to focus on subjects of interest within a "college" may counteract the boredom that drives many students away from the "traditional" high school educational experience.

In four-year high schools, the organization could be changed so that incoming freshman receive the traditional compulsory courses. Then students can choose a "major" [that could be changed once at the end of their sophomore year] where more of their courses fall within the major curriculum... increasing each year until their senior year when all of the courses fall within that "major."

Oh, but that's too difficult! Besides, colleges and universities want "traditional" high school education for a student to be accepted. Do they?
For example, can art be related to history? Are mathematics used in art [ever hear of architecture, ratios, perspective] and is there an artistic element to physics [ever hear of sub-atomic particle tracking or visualizing higher dimensions]? Have there ever been difficult texts about art that require good reading skills? Are computer graphics a form of art?
You can ask the same questions about engineering or computer science or even physical education ["kinesiology" at the University of Michigan] for those students who think that basketball is all that counts.

The present way asks students to learn the basics of physics... boring. The science curriculum alternative might also ask the students who was involved in various discoveries in physics and how they got to that point [history and transfer of knowledge] and what were the ramifications of those discoveries [societal studies, philosophy] and how they changed our ability to interact with our universe [art, medicine, exploration].

The idea is to offer a "well-rounded" educational experience exposing students to many disciplines through an emphasis on a particular discipline versus a "standard" segregated approach.

With some effort and cooperation from universities such as the University of Michigan or Michigan Tech or Michigan State University, suitable "major" curriculum could be established that would prepare high school students for their entrance exams and the rigors or advanced education in fields that actually interest them.
What is too difficult is breaking away from "traditional." Governor Granholm's proposal is just a wish for "the good old days" when schools were smaller and teaching was simpler. Perhaps it is time to try a different model.
How about putting money into changes that might actually make a difference?
Let's model our high schools after universities... not middle schools.
... or we could just have small schools... that's a lot easier and we don't have to think too hard.

Follow-up posts of January 31 and February 1.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Seeking Political Relevance


In academia, it is "publish or perish." In politics, it is "be quoted or be irrelevant."

Yesterday, Sen. Ted Kennedy (MA) made a valiant attempt at being relevant: he publicly endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for the Democrat Party presidential nominee.

WASHINGTON - Summoning memories of his slain brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy led two generations of the First Family of Democratic politics Monday in endorsing Barack Obama for the White House, declaring, "I feel change is in the air."

Obama is a man of rare "grit and grace," Kennedy said in remarks salted with scarcely veiled criticism of the Illinois senator's chief rival for the presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as her husband, the former president. [source]

The irony of "I feel change is in the air" was palpable. That's quite a statement coming from a relic of the 1960s political era who has done little more than occupy space as a memento of the Massachusetts nostalgia for the JFK "Camelot" days.
Kennedy, who is now little more than a caricature of Washington politics... the bulbous senator with a condition mimicking narcolepsy... was smiling broadly and attempting to display enthusiasm. But he came across more like some old football fan who still longs for the "full house T" but feels he has to cheer for the "spread offense" to show that he is still "with it."
The impact of Kennedy's endorsement will be minimal. The Clintons are doing a better job showing why Hillary should not be the Democrat nominee. Nevertheless, this little "I'm for Barack" moment has given Sen. Kennedy the sense of being relevant... and that's enough for him.
Now he can go back to his bottle and overstuffed chair secure in the knowledge that some people still remember who he is... JFK's little brother.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Oscillations and Predictions


I've noticed that frequently the actual weather does not cooperate with weather forecasts. Predicting weather is a tricky business, no doubt about that. You are dealing with jet streams and mixing fronts and traffic conditions on I-75. So it is little wonder that you end up with results like this:

By my calculations, the actual low at about 8 AM was 28° F below the predicted low.
Maybe the low means the low after the high rather than the low before the high. Communicating what is meant is important, too.
Regardless, the point here is that two issue are before us:
  1. Variability [oscillations] make trend determination dependent on starting point
  2. Calculating actual averages and variation from "normal" are dependent on starting point
In this little example, if I choose 7° F as my starting point, the temperature trend for 4 days is clearly upward while the 4-day average is below normal. If I choose 42° F as my starting point, the temperature trend is clearly downward while the 4-day average is above normal.

I've noticed a lot of argument lately about temperature trends...
  • since 1000 BC...
  • since 1200 ...
  • since 1650 ...
  • since 1880 ...
  • since 1930 ...
  • since 1985 ...
  • since 2000 ...
Strangely, they all tell different stories... and they seem to prove that everyone is both right and wrong. We are warming... or not.

I've also noticed that it doesn't matter if predictive models are accurate or represent what really has happened or is happening... we will use them anyway.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

South Carolina Democrat Primary


Global Warming - Duh, No


I realized after receiving a comment regarding yesterday's post that my sarcasm may have been too subtle.

Let me make it clear: more snow and long stretches of cold weather have not convinced me that there is runaway global warming. As I have explained before, my view is that over this past century we have seen a sine wave oscillation of temperatures...

Compare that with monthly high temperature records for the 50 U.S. states...

[I intend to update this for 2007]

Obviously, one can look for an upward trend... or any number of trends... from temperature data, but the fact is that the temperature data is so suspect...
  • different data sources [various configurations of ground and satellite equipment]
  • inconsistent siting [rooftops, parking lots, next to air conditioner condenser units]
  • urban and land use change effects
that it is virtually impossible to observe the claimed impact of global temperature changes.

While it may be cold and foggy here, I'm not in that much of a fog that I mistake this...

for global warming....


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Global Warming Burying Us In Snow


There are many theories about global warming, but the one that clinches it for me is that as the earth warms, there is more moisture in the air and that leads to more snow [which is why global warming causes glaciers to melt in the northern hemisphere and the Antarctic ice to grow... you can have it your way].

Here in Michigan, despite bitterly cold weather for the past several weeks, we have been getting a lot of snow.

So, I guess there is nothing left to do but admit I have been wrong about global warming and... despite others showing that weather stations on the ground have a warm bias and CO2 increases being poorly correlated to temperature changes and climate models having wildly wrong relationship to temperatures the last few years...
it's snowing and cold in Michigan again, so that has to prove that we are experiencing global warming.
Well, I'm glad I finally reached consensus. I just can't save it on my GPS system.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Political Scandals


Ah, political scandals! Yesterday, I wrote about a little sex-scandal in which the mayor of Detroit was involved. Small potatoes....

In a little less than a year, the next President of the United States will be sworn into office. Between now and then there will be approximately 361 days of real nastiness [leap year this year].
A little searching already provides some nasty tidbits. Search as follows: "[candidate name] scandal" .... Headlines below are copied from the source which is linked.

Just remember, there is a difference between an accusation and a truth. Just ask the follower of any of the politicians listed below. Still, if the smoke keeps coming, there just might be a fire.

Examples of the Republican "scandals" [click on the links for the full nasty]

Examples of the Democrat "scandals" [click on the links for the full nasty]

wonder what he's thinking...
  • Hillary Clinton - Wow! I can't pick just one... especially if you combine the search with husband Bill. Just type in "Clinton scandal" and get comfortable.
In the great American tradition... political scandals... I'd have to say that the Clintons win hands down... but we definitely lose.

The rest of the world has opinions, too. Here's one from the Russian news Pravda.
But who can believe anything in Pravda?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Detroit Mayor's Message


Martin Luther King's holiday was just celebrated. One of his famous speeches had the line:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Fast forward about 45 years to 2008 and the city of Detroit. Meet mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Mayor Kilpatrick has had an interesting reign as king of Detroit politics. He has managed to be scandalous without being caught by scandal. Alas, poor King Kwame, caught by your own words... or were they Bill Clinton's? I did not have sex with that woman.

As reported by The Detroit News:
Kilpatrick wrote [Christine] Beatty [Kilpatrick's Chief of Staff]: "I've been dreaming all day about having you all to myself for 3 days. Relaxing, laughing, talking, sleeping and making love."
Well, sexual affairs between political leaders and women attracted to power have been going on for as long as humans have been organized in any fashion, so this is not a big surprise. And given the propensity of Detroit voters to idolize any politician that seems to embrace the popular "culture," King Kwame was certainly not going to be shunned by those voters.

The problem was that his attempts at hiding his trysts were the reason that Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown and a Kilpatrick body guard, Harold Nelthrope, were fired.
They were trying to be men of good character by revealing the affair. Such stupidity. Detroit voters are not interested in the content of one's character, but in the ... oh, I can't write that, can I?
What's the Mayor's message? Maybe something like, "If I was one of those white boys, you could fire my ass, but, hey, I'm cool and this ain't nothin' to get upset about."
Except that this cool dude just cost the City of Detroit about $9 million in lawsuits from his 3 days or so of fun.
We'll have to see how much lack of character can be overcome by the color of one's skin in Detroit. Oh, dear, I wrote that.


Employment Statistics and Meaning


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides monthly data about employment nationally, regionally and by state.

Here are four looks. Care to guess the geography to which these data belong?

Let's start with the last one first with a current unemployment rate of 7.6%.
  • Unemployment rate is fairly steady but quite high
  • Number of unemployed is growing
  • Number of employed is diminishing
  • Total work force is shrinking

  • Heavily reliant upon manufacturing along with tourism and farming

    You are correct if you said Michigan
The next one has a current unemployment rate of 6.1%
  • Unemployment rate is growing and getting uncomfortably high
  • The number of unemployed is growing rapidly
  • The number of employed is relatively steady
  • Total work force is growing at an annual rate of over 3%... lots of people moving in

  • Heavily reliant on agriculture and technology along with tourism and entertainment

    You are correct if you said California
The next one up has a current unemployment rate of 4.7%
  • Unemployment rate is growing quickly, but not too high yet
  • The number of unemployed is growing very fast
  • The number of employed is steady to slightly declining
  • Total work force is growing moderately

  • Heavily reliant on tourism and new retirees

    You are correct if you said Florida
The one at the top of the list has a current unemployment rate of 3.5%... well below the national average
  • Unemployment rate is up for the last month measured, but less than half of the state with the highest rate
  • The number of unemployed is low and up only slightly in the latest month
  • The number of employed is growing
  • Total work force is growing

  • Heavily reliant on the Federal Government and suppliers, lobbyists, and universities/think tanks working with the Federal Government

    You are correct if you said Virginia
What it tells me is that the only growth industry in the U.S. appears to be the Federal Government... and that is probably why the government in D.C. seems so out of touch with the rest of the U.S.
You can decide what this tells you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hang On For The Ride


Yesterday, I said this:

I suspect that in a short time, the stock markets are going to realize that the latest rate cut is a good thing... even if it isn't a cure and is a little late... for the economy, and will react accordingly.

One day isn't exactly the "short time" I had in mind.

I suspect that there will be some "roller coaster" patterns for awhile. So, hang on.


It's The Stupid Economy


We don't hear much about Iraq anymore. Sure, there is the occasional story about some nut who blows himself up and takes a bunch of school kids with him in the name of Allah. But our 8-week attention span has now shifted to the R-word.

After the Asian markets dropped like a rock, the Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, took quick action [after dragging an anchor for 6 months] and lower the funds rate to 3.5%. The result: U.S. stocks dropped like a rock and the world forgot about Iraq or Palestine or some guy living in a cave making home videos.

Early this month before the stuff hit the fan, I asked if history would repeat itself and the economy become the center of the political campaign for a certain senator from New York. Well, duh!

Oh, the market today? Well, it's almost 10:00 AM and

It is the stupid economy.


Hard Getting Going


The picture above is real. It was taken awhile back when we had a 10" snowfall... the second large storm of the year.

Yesterday, I cleared the driveway twice as that beautiful white stuff whipped around. I don't really mind the snow or cold... although I used to hate to commute in the dirty slush that resulted. Now it is just another opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in a different way.
One gets used to the cold or the heat. We keep our home at 67° F during the cold months... and seal off unused bedrooms.
When we have guests, we reluctantly raise the temperature.
It's not about CO2 or saving polar bears... its about being sensible. As long as one is comfortable, it just seems best to keep the temperature differential between the indoors and outdoors to a minimum. It's less of a shock to one's system going between the two environments... and it does save money [not a bad thing either]. I seldom wear a down-filled coat; perhaps when it gets to 0° F I struggle into one. A few layers of clothing, warm hat, gloves, and shoes and I'm set to go.
Of course, a trip to Florida in the middle of winter gets me sweating when the natives are shivering... but I can get used to that, too.
I suspect that our adaptability is not unique among living things. Ducks still hang around our lake cottage when the lake is covered with ice. Those squirrels are active on every sunny, clear day. We are told that nature is the delicate system that will fall apart with the slightest change. My observations... and the fact that life has been adapting to change for hundreds of millions of years... tells me that there are too many people who worry too much.
While it may be hard to get going when the reality of a January day hits you in the face, go out and walk in the snow... it's good in so many ways.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rate Cuts - Are We There Yet?


Last summer, I wrote:

September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course.
The problem was, rather than biting the bullet, the Fed simply gummed it a little. Better late than never? Maybe. We'll have to see.
For many of those who had Adjustable Rate Mortgages that rose quickly through 2005-06, the rates cuts and, eventually reduction in ARM rates may be too late. For those who had plunged deeply into Home Equity loans, they may see some welcome relief.

Will it fix housing and economic problems? At this point, unlikely. It will, however, stabilize the situation and avoid worsening.

As I see it, the recession is already here. It will take a few months for the data to reflect that, but there is enough anecdotal information to understand that is the case.
What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?
I suspect that in a short time, the stock markets are going to realize that the latest rate cut is a good thing... even if it isn't a cure and is a little late... for the economy, and will react accordingly.


Bear Market


More about bears....

On August 17, 2007, I wrote:

As I said on August 13 and today, the Fed is getting nervous, but it is not quite ready to lower interest rates that affect housing or other consumer purchases. Right now it is hoping a bandaid will fix things... it won't.
The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result. [see the history in the right column]
So, we will all sit back and watch several years of investment earnings go down the drain in a whirlpool of frenzy by the Federal Reserve and worldwide markets... as they become very bearish.

Markey and Oil


Yahoo News had an interesting post about how a certain Massachusetts Democrat prefers you to do without fuel and heat rather than risk the demise of polar bears whose numbers have "dwindled" from 8-10,000 to 22-25,000 [that's not a typo].

An endangered polar bear trapped on the ice
with nothing to eat.

Apparently, some Democrats are so intent on countering Bush's so-called war for oil, that they will do anything to deny the U.S. the opportunity to use its own natural resources. That way they can also prove there is an oil crisis.
By the way, how much of the Iraqi oil has the U.S. confiscated [you, know... stolen] since 1990? Anything more than nothing is the wrong answer. But some people are convinced that it's all about oil... and they make it their business to make that their business.
Pity the poor polar bears. Sure.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Site Changes

I've been making some changes to the site layout that, hopefully, you will find to be improvements. Among the changes are:

  • right and left side margins to constrain the page width somewhat
  • picture title
  • "widgets" on the right column... extracts from websites that may be of interest to you
If you have a personalized Google home page, you can add a feed from this site, by clicking on the image near the top of the right column that says, "Get My Widget." The same feed can be added to other blogs or sites.


Another Voice About Government Health Care and the Veterans Administration


Last year, I wrote several times about government health care and the Veterans Administration hospitals. I received several comments that my experiences were not typical and the VA had a model system and was recognized as such.

Well, maybe. But here is another voice... a doctor, who shares my frustration.

I still believe the VA does a lot of good for a lot of veterans. I also still believe the system could be improved significantly. If the VA system is the model of superior government health care, we all might want to think very long and hard about wanting to create a general government health care system for this country.
Good computer systems do not automatically translate into a good health care system... regardless of what a Rand study might indicate.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

5° In Jeopardy


It wasn't supposed to be this cold in Green Bay this morning. Yesterday, the forecast for today at 9:00 AM was -4° F.

The actual 9 AM temperature is:

We'll keep you posted... but it looks as if the football players might have to wear long-sleeved shirts and gloves.
Say isn't -13° the same temperature for the 1967 game?
Forecasting weather for the next day ... or month... is much harder than forecasting what politicians will do... or how the Fed is screwing up.


The temperature did break 0° F today in Green Bay .... all the way up to 1°. Now it is game time and it is -1°. Downright balmy compared with 1967's Ice Bowl.

I've been repeating the mantra "global warming" and so that 3-mile walk I took this afternoon when it was 11° here with 20 mph winds didn't both me at all. I even unzipped my jacket and broke out in a little sweat.
Gosh I miss those real winters before CO2 ruined everything.

They're tough in Green Bay, too. [a little photo from my TV]


Forecasting Heat


The following maps are U.S. temperature forecasts versus normal. The first three maps are for the next 15 days in 5-day increments [which takes us just into the start of February]. Notice the portion of the maps that show below normal. The last map is for the 30 day period beginning January 20. Notice which portion of the map shows above normal for the 30-day average.

Days 1-5

Days 6-10

Days 11-15

30 Days

So just how does that area from Illinois through Pennsylvania go from below average for 15 days to above average for the full 30-days?
Heat wave! You saw it here first! AccuWeather has got to be predicting a heat wave for the first half of February! Well, at least warm enough to offset some bitterly cold weather that's settled in for this first week.
Put the snow skis away and get out the water skis. Get the boats out of storage. Unless you are on the west coast. Sorry about that. Keep the oranges covered out there.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

NFL Records Demonstrate Global Warming


An article at ICECAP about the weather at Green Bay, Wisconsin for the 1967 championship game provides yet another record of the warming trend the planet has endured for the past 40 years.

"The 1967 game, played on December 31 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, remains the coldest NFL game on record. The official game-time temperature was -13F / -25C, with a wind chill around -48F / -44C. The bitter cold overwhelmed Lambeau’s new turf heating system, leaving the playing surface hard as a rock and nearly as smooth as ice. The officials were unable to use their whistles after the opening kickoff. As the referee blew his metal whistle to signal the start of play, it froze to his lips. For the rest of the game, the officials used voice commands and calls to end plays and officiate the game."
When we examine current weather conditions we can see a definite warming... at least 0.6° C:

And the forecast for tomorrow's game at Lambeau Field is even warmer:

To put it in perspective, the long-term trend has been markedly upward for 40 years!

Naturally, I plan to watch the game on my recliner in front of the fireplace... but only because I couldn't get a ticket.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Predicting Is Easy


... because politicians are so predictable.

On January 9, I wrote:

How long until the next Clinton drops the candidate of change spiel and does what the first Clinton candidate did... focus on the specific fear creeping into the minds of the voters?
It very well may be the stupid economy.
The answer, of course, is not very long.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Federal Reserve Tries To Fix Problem It Caused


Last November 14, I wrote:

"The Fed doesn't cause inflation or deflation, but the Fed certainly mucks up the economy from time to time; e.g., lowering Fed rates to 1% which got everyone on the borrowing bandwagon and many into ARMs that were unrealistic... and then rapidly increasing Fed rates to 5.0%+ which, on a relative basis, put the costs of borrowing much higher than people could afford given their commitments at lower rates... all in the name of protecting the nation against inflation when it simply made a mess out of the financial and housing markets."
On January 7, I wrote:
I've summarized what's going on regarding the Fed on my blog, but it boils do to two things: they enabled the housing bubble by making interest rates way too low and then they trapped too many people in financially untenable situations because they raised rates over 4 pp. At the end of last summer I posited that the Fed needed to take rates down immediately to 4%. They took them down gradually to 4.25%, but that simply allowed the situation to fester and make the decrease of interest rates far less effective. At this point, the Fed can do little right. Lower rates below 4% and the dollar crashes; don't lower rates and recession is probably assured. Pick your poison. 4% was the right target; the Fed process was simply inept.
A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.

Anna Schwartz: nna Schwartz blames Fed for sub-prime crisis
Anna Schwartz wrote a seminal text
on the causes of the Great Depression

"They need to speak frankly to the market and acknowledge how bad the problems are, and acknowledge their own failures in letting this happen. This is what is needed to restore confidence," she told The Sunday Telegraph. "There never would have been a sub-prime mortgage crisis if the Fed had been alert. This is something Alan Greenspan must answer for," she says.


According to Schwartz the original sin of the Bernanke-Greenspan Fed was to hold rates at 1 per cent from 2003 to June 2004, long after the dotcom bubble was over. "It is clear that monetary policy was too accommodative. Rates of 1 per cent were bound to encourage all kinds of risky behaviour," says Schwartz.

She is scornful of Greenspan's campaign to clear his name by blaming the bubble on an Asian saving glut, which purportedly created stimulus beyond the control of the Fed by driving down global bond rates. "This attempt to exculpate himself is not convincing. The Fed failed to confront something that was evident. It can't be blamed on global events," she says.


"Liquidity doesn't do anything in this situation. It cannot deal with the underlying fear that lots of firms are going bankrupt," she says. Her view is fast spreading. Goldman Sachs issued a full-recession alert on Wednesday, predicting rates of 2.5 per cent by the third quarter. "Ben Bernanke should be making stronger statements and then backing them up with decisive easing," says Jan Hatzius, the bank's US economist.

Bernanke did indeed switch tack on Thursday. "We stand ready to take substantive additional action as needed," he says, warning of a "fragile situation". It follows a surge in December unemployment from 4.7 per cent to 5 per cent, the sharpest spike in a quarter century. Inflation fears are subsiding fast.

[HT - Greg Mankiw's Blog]

For more, read the summary comments about the Federal Reserve in the column to the right or do a SEARCH BLOG on "Federal Reserve".


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

House Of Cards - Second Verse


I've been having an ongoing email conversation with Bill who has pretty strong opinions about many of the issues which I post here.

Although I am a harsh critic about outsourcing, I believe it is partially a result of bad trade treaties and currency manipulation by major trading nations that literally force U.S. corporations into the practice of outsourcing. Bill is not quite as forgiving.

With regard to the Federal Reserve, I have been fairly unforgiving myself as shown in the summary of quotes in the column to the right.

And with regard to Wall Street and Big Banking, I wrote this a few days back:

"A few years ago, we saw cracks in the financial world with hedge fund scandals. Now we are seeing further cracks with the sub-prime scandal. It seems that the mundane world of banking and investing has gotten caught up in the "get rich quick," high-risk mindset that accepts manipulation of markets as preferred paths to wealth. While there may be big reward with big risk, there is the big downside as well."
All in all though, Bill and I have a pretty close alignment. So I wasn't too surprised when I got this link in an email from him.
I have to say that it was worth my while checking it out... and I believe it will be worth your time as well.
I guess there are others out there with whom I agree. But as I wrote back to Bill:
I'm not sure I picked up the specifics of his solution.
That's always the rub....


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ice LOSS? Think Again


This headline appeared in The Detroit News:

Ice loss spreads faster

Researchers tie climate changes to accelerated melt at Antarctica, raise fears of quicker sea-level rise.

Marc Kaufman / Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- Climatic changes appear to be destabilizing vast ice sheets of western Antarctica that had previously seemed relatively protected from global warming, researchers reported Sunday, raising the prospect of faster sea-level rise than current estimates.

While the overall loss is a tiny fraction of the miles-deep ice that covers much of Antarctica, scientists said the new finding is important because the continent holds about 90 percent of Earth's ice, and until now, large-scale ice loss there had been limited to the peninsula that juts out toward the tip of South America. In addition, researchers found that the rate of ice loss in the affected areas has accelerated over the past 10 years -- as it has on most glaciers and ice sheets around the world.

Oh, wait, there's the obligatory picture of a small chuck of ice with "stranded" animals... this time penguins!!! Gee, I hope they don't drown.

Previously protected ice sheets in western Antarctica are destabilizing, researchers have found, possibly because of global warming. (Frederique Olivier / Getty Images)

I sent the following comment to the newspaper:
The problem with the subject line article [1/14] is that it is factually incorrect.

For the real story about how Antarctic snow and ice cover have dramatically INCREASED in 2007, go to:

The FACT is that the southern hemisphere ice coverage is greater now than any time in the past 28 years:

The article printed in The Detroit News is a prime example of outright lying by those who have uncritically accepted anthropogenic global warming (AWG) and attribute every real or fanciful weather change or event as proof... or simply try to make up their own "truths." [HT Joseph D'Aleo at ICECAP]
It is true that the very small peninsula referenced in the article has had some ice loss. The outright lie is the assertion: "has accelerated over the past 10 years -- as it has on most glaciers and ice sheets around the world." ... unless you don't want to count the ice covering Antarctica as glaciers.
Years ago they called that "yellow journalism." It really doesn't enhance the reputation of the Washington Post or The Detroit News.

Monday, January 14, 2008

This Clinton Not Black Enough


The first Clinton president considered himself the "first black president." Now it appears that the second Clinton seeking the office of President of the United States is considered "racially insensitive"... at least according to half-black, half-white Barack Obama's campaign:

Both New York Sen. Clinton and her husband, the former president, have engaged in damage control this week after black leaders criticized their comments shortly before the New Hampshire primary last Tuesday.

The senator was quoted as saying King's dream of racial equality was realized only when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while Bill Clinton said Illinois Sen. Obama was telling a "fairy tale" about his opposition to the Iraq war.

Former President Clinton has since appeared on several black radio programs to say he was referring to Obama's record on the Iraq war, not on his effort to become the nation's first black president.

At an awards dinner Sunday in Atlanta celebrating black achievement, Michelle Obama said her husband is the person America needs in the White House right now and was critical of anyone who would "dismiss this moment as an illusion, a fairy tale." He is the right candidate "not because of the color of his skin, but because of the quality and consistency of his character," she said.

As evidence the Obama campaign had pushed the story, Clinton advisers pointed to a memo written by an Obama staffer compiling examples of comments by Clinton and her surrogates that could be construed as racially insensitive. The memo later surfaced on a handful of political Web sites.

Obama later called Clinton's accusations "ludicrous," and said he found Clinton's comments about King to be ill-advised and unfortunate.

[source: Yahoo]
We won't go into pots and kettles here, but this has to be the biggest effort of pandering in the 2008 campaign so far.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

House Of Cards


Trying to figure out the economy? The most obvious changes have been in two sectors: industrial and financial.

In the industrial sector, the U.S. continues to dominate, but is not nearly as vertically integrated as decades ago when basic parts... that became basic components... that became basic assemblies... that became finished products were produced in the U.S. The industrial network was based in the U.S. and the jobs pyramid was based in the U.S.

Now, the lower layers of the pyramid have become porous and weak. Towns and cities and states that used to hum along with the machinery of our industries have become shells of their former selves. More and more, we are employed "servicing" each other... selling at Walmart instead of creating tools or parts or new products.
Much of this change has been associated with productivity gains rather than outsourcing to other countries. I suspect the argument for productivity is somewhat overstated, just as the blame placed on outsourcing is overstated. Regardless, the shift to service sector jobs results in wages that are, on average, 8% less than manufacturing job wages.
The average for services, $11.79, was about the same as the overall average and was 92 percent of the average for manufacturing. [source]
If you take 8% more per year from a large sector of employment and add that to the economy, you do get a significant bump.
But the process of moving from manufacturing to service jobs has been going on for awhile, so the economy has adjusted to that. So have individuals who have lost their manufacturing jobs. Less money coming in means less going out or saved... on average.
Of course, if you have adjusted to an economy based on many at the lower levels earning less, then there may be less opportunity for further adjustment when the economy is impacted by sudden problems... especially when those problems are caused at the top.
A few years ago, we saw cracks in the financial world with hedge fund scandals. Now we are seeing further cracks with the sub-prime scandal. It seems that the mundane world of banking and investing has gotten caught up in the "get rich quick," high-risk mindset that accepts manipulation of markets as preferred paths to wealth. While there may be big reward with big risk, there is the big downside as well.
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.” [N.Y. Times]
Is there a connection between lower paying service jobs, finance manipulation schemes, and the looming economic problems facing the U.S.?
Here are a couple of dots . . -- connect them.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

It's All About Global Warming


Yesterday, I posted a couple of tongue-in-cheek items about global warming causing snow to fall in Baghdad and how Asia was getting some needed relief from global warming in the form of bitterly cold weather.

This is the sort of "journalism" that we read constantly... only the authors who point to every weather anomaly sincerely believe they are making the case for runaway global warming.
I could have easily added more absurd items about global warming causing the mountains of California to be covered in dangerous levels of snow or how snow was falling in South America now during their summer. But you get the point.
Everything proves that global warming is happening... whether our logic steadfastly refuses to make the connection or not.
The problem is that weather records cover only slightly more than a century and the conditions and equipment used to record temperatures are constantly changing... perhaps not for the better.

The point of all of this is that from the perspective of the human condition, if there has been global warming, the extent has been so negligible that Baghdad can have its first snow in 100 years, South American can have snow in the summer, California mountains can be buried in snow, and central Asia can have weather so bitter that people are freezing to death in their cars.
The globe obviously has not warmed enough!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Record Cold Provides Welcome Relief


Central, South Asia gripped by bitter cold

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Bitter cold and heavy snow have gripped vast areas from Iran through Central Asia to Pakistan, killing dozens of people and leaving thousands shivering.

Eight people froze to death in Iran after being trapped in their cars, while tens of thousands of other motorists had to be rescued from their vehicles, the BBC reported. Many living in desert areas of Iran experienced snowfall for the first time in their lives.

Frigid temperatures were also reported in Central Asian nations.

In Kyrgyzstan, the government blamed the weather for the deaths of at least 50 homeless people since the start of the year.

In some areas of Tajikistan, temperatures plummeted to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Electricity has already been cut to about four hours day as the country faces reduced energy exports from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the report said.

In Afghanistan, five people died in an avalanche in the western province of Ghor, while eight members of a family were killed in neighboring Herat when a roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow.

Heavy snow also has disrupted life in northwestern Pakistan, where seven soldiers died in an avalanche, the report said.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

Where's global warming when you need it?


Global Warming Causes First Baghdad Snow In 100 Years


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Snow fell on Baghdad on Friday for the first time in memory, and delighted residents declared it an omen of peace.

"It is the first time we've seen snow in Baghdad," said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. "We've seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished," he said.

"A few minutes ago, I was covered with snowflakes. In my hair, on my shoulders. I invite all the people to enjoy peace, because the snow means peace," he said.


... or maybe not.

Federal Reserve To Lower Rates Again


It's all over the news, so I won't bother citing sources. Ben Bernanke pretty much assured everyone that the Federal Reserve will be lowering their rates from 4.25% to at least 4% and maybe 3.75%

This is death by a thousand cuts. I covered all of this a few days ago... it's enough, but too late.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Double Standard


You've heard it over and over and over.... Women are picked on. Women have to do twice as much as a man to get the same recognition. It's an old boys club that women can't join.

Women are just as capable and tough; ask any navy seal or army ranger. Okay, so maybe that's not fair. Men certainly don't have to go through the pain of childbirth.

But when it comes to picking a president, one has to ask this question: if Mitt Romney or John McCain or Fred Thompson started to cry in front of the camera and said how tough it was to be campaigning ... after only three states... would the general reaction been the same as Anne Doyle's:

The Soul of a Leader
Tuesday, January 08, 2008 @ 11:36 AM

Since when is a brief glimpse into a leader’s soul enough to shake our confidence in his emotional suitability for the Oval Office? The honest answer is: never. A rare glimpse into the soul of a strong, seasoned male leader would only reinforce his humanity. He would go up a notch or two in our eyes for being “strong enough” to show a little emotion.

But change the gender of the leader and the rules change instantly. How is it that :45 seconds of Senator Clinton baring a bit of her soul, showing us the emotion and passion behind her presidential aspirations have become a defining moment of her historic campaign?
I read that with extreme incredulity. So I asked my wife the simple question: if any of the men on the campaign trail had cried about the difficulty of the task, would they have elicited such an outpouring of sympathy [and votes]. She just laughed... and laughed... and laughed.
And that male candidate would have been laughed off the campaign trail by the next day.
When it comes to being tough enough, durable enough, confident enough, strong enough to be President of the United States, one has to question the qualifications of a candidate that feels compelled to cry about how difficult it has been to campaign in the first three states [I'm giving credit for Wyoming].

But Hillary's a woman and she needs to be allowed to show her "softer side."
As Bill's wife... maybe; as President of the United States... no friggin' way.
There is a difference between being sympathetic or empathetic and being emotional and weak. Let's not get confused.

Read the comments....

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Will History Repeat?


The first Clinton candidate for president recognized an opportunity and went for it: he saw that people were worried about the economy and jobs and made it the central theme of his candidacy: it's the economy, stupid.

Fast forward to 2008 and the next Clinton is trying to gain traction in her party's nomination process. People are concerned about the economy and their jobs. The stock market is tanking. Home sales have already tanked. Production is down. Spending is down.

How long until the next Clinton drops the candidate of change spiel and does what the first Clinton candidate did... focus on the specific fear creeping into the minds of the voters?

It very well may be the stupid economy.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

January 2009 Administration


Imagine that it is January, 2009 and the presidential elections are over.

Suppose all of the candidates that were involved in the New Hampshire debates had some place in the administration. What would be their positions?
Bear with me....
  • President - Mitt Romney - it's good to have someone who has more than government experience in running things... because no one can actually run the government
  • Vice President - Fred Thompson - he can take all the time he needs with this job, but he'll get things done behind the scenes... gravitas counts
  • Secretary of State - Rudy Giuliani - he doesn't like the pussy footing so let's see how he handles the Middle East... besides, he may be connected
  • Secretary of Defense - John McCain - really, now, who else?
  • Secretary of Labor - John Edwards - true to his roots and he still doesn't have to give up his $400 haircuts
  • Secretary of Agriculture - Hillary Clinton - who knows more about pork?
  • Secretary of Education - Mike Huckabee - if the law says to educate, he will see it happens no matter how high the taxes have to be raised
  • Secretary of Energy [aka Secretary of Dismantling Domestic Automobile Manufacturers] - Bill Richardson - he knows how to do it because he did it even if he couldn't make it happen
  • Secretary of Homeland Security - Ron Paul - no foreign entanglements... or affairs... or landscapers... build the damn wall! and bring home the troops... shut the doors... lock the windows....
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services - Barack Obama - he'll take care of all of us and we'll all feel good about it because he talks sooooooooo sooooooooothingly.
Did I leave anyone out?


Monday, January 07, 2008

January Thaw


We're catching a break for a few days in Michigan. Today the temperature is supposed to reach about 60° F or almost 30° F above normal.

Global warming? Hardly.

Just a typical weather variation for the winter. Actually, it will be about 10° F below the local record for the month of January.
The problem is that next week, the high temperature is forecasted to be well below normal again... and the snow that is melting rapidly will, no doubt, be back.
That's the problem: when winters are warmer we burn less fuel for heating and create less CO2, but when they are colder we burn more fuel for heating and create more CO2. Of course, the CO2 part is a problem only if you really believe that AGW is what made the temperature in Michigan go up to 60° F. ...and you can ignore the fact that it has been colder than normal since the beginning of November ...and you can ignore the fact that there has been way above normal snowfall in many areas, including California which was supposed to have snow-free mountaintops this winter.

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Use the SEARCH BLOG feature at the upper left. For example, try "Global Warming".

You can also use the "LABELS" below or at the end of each post to find related posts.

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CO2 Cap and Trade

There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)