Thursday, November 18, 2010

These are pictures of the first guitar I built, called "First Attempt", completed in 2005. The top is Sitka Spruce, back and sides are Indian Rosewood. I originally built it with a Bouchet bar; a year or so later I decided it was overbuilt so I took off the back and removed the bar. The guitar sounded much better but had a wolf tone on the 7th fret B on the high e string so I added a smaller sort of Bouchet bar back in, working through the soundhole, glued on top of the braces. This mostly got rid of the wolf note and also helped the treble response. The interior picture shows the current bracing. I am now nearly done with my third guitar. You can see my faithful Takamine C132s in the background of some of the pictures.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

a review of "Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?"

June and I spent the morning up at Powell's book store in Portland yersterday, and I was reading this book (yes, I do buy stuff at Powell's too).

What a fascinating picture of a different way things could be. Geoghegan concludes that 90% of the U.S. population would be better off with the somewhat higher taxes and much greater benefits of a social democracy such as France or Germany. He starts off by recounting the great impression the city of Zurich made on him. Again and again he advises us to look at the travel section to evaluate europe, rather than getting our ideas from the Wall Street Journal. Just walk around a city like Zurich (unfair example? then how about 50 or so other european cities he could name). Then walk a few blocks away from something nice in a great city like Chicago, for instance, where in his words it is "gulag-like". No question, I can't deny it. Believe your eyes, not your economic theories.

Geoghegan spends several chapters describing people he encounters in Paris, such as a rock-band drummer (the arts are subsidized, so this guy has a job). He talks about the feeling of joy and enjoyment of life he can see in the people he talks with.

Then he moves on to Germany and describes how worker-controlled capitalism did not try to break the unions and compete with the emerging economies on wages (a losing battle as the U.S. and Great Britain have discovered) but instead kept wages high and used their highly trained workers to specialize in high-end manufacturing, where they have a very large market share.

The five areas the state addresses in these social democracies:
Education (as in College)
Health Care
Child Care

It does make sense that a collective approach can be much more efficient and cost-effective than having everyone purchase these individually. The trade-off is some independence, or a certain kind of freedom. I do think this has some value, but I feel we have put way too much emphasis on it in the U.S.

In this book Geoghegan has a point-by-point discussion of the pros and cons. This is the conversation we should have been having over Health Care (only one of the five areas).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Did the Democrats overreach?

If you say "yes" simply because you disagree with their policy, then I suggest that you don't understand how our democracy works. There was no violation of the normal operations of government since January 2008, everything was accomplished according to the rules and standard operating procedure for either party. If it is true that the Democrats went beyond their 2008 mandate then they certainly paid for it last Tuesday. There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about this.

If you say "yes" because you're a Democrat and you did not want to see them lose control of the House then I'd like to meet you. I don't think there are very many of these. From what I've observed, most Democrats feel that the Senators, Congresspeople, and President they voted for compromised too much, and got nothing in return and no credit for trying to be bipartisan.

I am talking about the health care bill here, because I view the stimulus bill as something Pres. Obama and the Democrats passed because they felt they had to in order to fend of an immediate 2nd Great Depression. You may not agree with this, but at least concede that they believed this and would not have done it in normal economic times.

Was passing health care worth losing control of Congress and possibly making Barack Obama a one term President (I actually think he is still in a very strong position to get re-elected)? I think if you asked Bill Clinton if he would have traded re-election for passing his health care bill, he would say "Are you crazy? Of course!" This is LBJ-style legislation with an impact that will last for decades to come, in spite of the fixes needed.

The one problem with all this is the economic crisis we are still in. President Obama and his administration greatly underestimated the size of this problem, in spite of their massive action with the stimulus bill. In the last several months I have come to believe that they should have done whatever it took to get a much bigger stimulus and not spent political capital on passing health care. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the health care bill passed, but it's a question of priorities. In my opinion we are now looking at recession/depression for 10 years (at least).

Another question: Do you think it would have turned out any different if the health care bill had not passed? I don't. This election was all about the bad economy and a false perception of big government generated by things like Fox News. Changing some of the facts (like having there be no health care bill passed) would not have altered this false perception since it was not based on the facts anyway.