Enjoying the Day Off

I have the day off work today in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. In between taking care of household chores I’ve been putting off for months, feeding the kids, and unsuccessfully trying to loaf around, I’ve been reading the news. This is almost always a bad idea on a day that is supposed to be relaxing for me, but I do it anyway. I’m just a sucker for punishment I guess.

Anyway, it looks like the rest of the world’s financial markets are less than impressed with President Bush’s plans for juicing the US economy with some tax rebates. Those ungrateful bastards… we give them the privilege of buying our debt by the truckload for the last 20+ years, and then when things get a little dicey, they abandon us. $145 billion may seem like a lot of cash to the ordinary citizen, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $9 trillion in debt the US government has racked up… much of it during the current administration. We may all see some checks coming in the mail, but they won’t be free… the debt will just get added to the tab we’re racking up for our kids & grandkids to pay off sometime down the road.

The Dow was over 14,000 back in October 2007. It’s currently hanging around in 12,100 mark. That means that we’ve lost about 15% of the Dow’s total value in the last 3-4 months (not accounting for inflation). This doesn’t sound that good, but there are some economists who think the Dow is going to drop even further this year… perhaps close to 10,000.

While the housing market correction is gathering most of the big headlines, I’m starting to see more news about the spillover into commercial real estate as well. We have yet to see the bottom of the real estate markets, and I doubt we’ll see it any time this year.

I’d venture into politics today, but I’ve reached my fill of bad news just scanning the financial section. Until we figure out which pair of pro-corporate, statist hacks we’ll be allowed to choose between, I don’t see much sense in spending time trying to figure out the real differences between the candidates. Part of this is because I’m worried that in the end there won’t be many differences between them at all.

On a happier note, I’ve finally made some progress in reducing my pile of stuff. I have had a large book collection for many years… most of them I’d read once and then put away. Over the years, my library has grown to the point that I’ve got probably 10-12 of those large plastic tubs full of books, and it’s been bugging me that I have them but don’t use them regularly. I’ve taken excess books to used book stores in the past, but have always felt the payoff wasn’t worth it; if you’d get 10% of the book’s value, you’d be doing really well for yourself. I’d also spent enough money on them that donating them to the library wasn’t a popular option either. My mother volunteers in a library, and a good chunk of the donated books end up getting sold at ‘friends of the library’ auctions.

What I finally ended up doing was selling my books on Amazon. Anyone can register to sell, and you pay no fees of any kinds unless you actually sell the item. As with anything else, some books will sell better than others. Mass-market paperbacks for the most part aren’t worth bothering with unless you can sell 100’s of them a month from what I’ve seen. I’ve had good luck with history and sports books, and I hear that cookbooks and the like often do well. Anyway, over the last few months I’ve sold ~20 books and made around $200. It’s not fast money, but it’s turning extra crap into cash I can now use on procuring other sustainability-related items without having to tap the checking account, and it gets some excess stuff out of the house at the same time.

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4 Responses to Enjoying the Day Off

  1. matt says:

    This probably shouldn’t be a comment (is personal email better?).

    Have you spent any time trying to understand how it is decided “which pair of
    pro-corporate, statist hacks we’ll be allowed to choose between”? I haven’t spent
    the time I feel I should, but it seems like there is a big filter that happens so far
    upstream that it is nearly invisible. Who applies the filter?

  2. Bart says:

    Hi Matt,

    Your question is fine as a public comment IMO.

    A quick caveat: I’m approaching this from my personal point of view. I’m a somewhat-well-read amateur with my own unique opinions and point of view. Feel free to take in what I’m writing here, but by all means do your own research and make up your own mind. The largest problem we have in the US is the herd mentality, where few people bother to do much thinking about the choices they make at the polling place, or anywhere else for that matter.

    OK… now that that’s out of the way, here’s how I see things:

    My ultimate rule is to follow the money. Presidential elections take a lot of money to run, and none of that money comes with no strings attached. I doubt too many candidates (or their proxies) will go to one of the big corporations, ask for a donation and then promise to tax the crap out of them. So, money talks, and I like to figure out who a candidate is getting cash from. That will give you a pretty good clue as to who’s getting favors to call in.

    Secondly, the leading lights of both parties come from the same places. Look at how many of these folks from both parties come from the upper class, attend the same schools, are members of the same organizations (think CFR & the like). Consider 2004, where the two presidential candidates we had to choose from were millionaires who went to Yale and were members of the Skull & Bones society. They sparred over minor social, economic & foreign policy issues, but had a lot of common ideas as well.

    – When was the last time we saw a presidential candidate from either party that was anti-globalization? Do you remember anyone who’s talked about pulling out of the WTO, or any of the free trade agreements?

    – When was the last time we saw a presidential candidate from either party that advocated raising taxes on the wealthy and big corporations?

    – When was the last time we saw a candidate from either party talk seriously about the problems facing our children & grandchildren with regards to the looming entitlement-fueled debt storm that’s coming?

    Any candidate that *does* talk about these things is either ignored or depicted as a lunatic by the major media. Look at the relative lack of press Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich have gotten so far this cycle.

    Both major parties chase corporation donations and money like there’s no tomorrow. The financial patrons these parties bow to are big corporations, the ultra-wealthy, and large foundations/NGOs.

    I fully believe that there is a dialectic of sorts in play. There is a group of people in the shadows that wield a tremendous amount of power behind the scenes in the US, like most other countries. These people are the leading members of the groups mentioned in the previous paragraph. These people have plans & ideas for where they want society to go, and they help both parties form their philosophies accordingly. Kind of like how sheepdogs work the herd. One goes to the left, one goes to the right, and they both drive the herd in the direction the shepherd wants to go.

    There are quotes out there from people like Jefferson, Disraeli, Eisenhower, Wilson & others about these folks. The people they talk about are the ones that apply the filter.

  3. matt says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply; your writing is much appreciated.

    As I read differing accounts of how decisions are made, “follow the money” seems much
    more convincing than notions like “the flag”, “motherhood”, or “the boogeyman”. Now
    and then I hear of someone applying the money admitting to its influence. (Not so much
    on the receiving end.)

    Systems of influence that try to perpetuate themselves seem to be the most likely to be
    successful. That secrecy might be one of the techniques employed seems to me to lend
    some credence to conspiracy theories. I’m afraid this may sound insipid: I just looked
    up “conspire” and read “to plan or plot secretly”. I’m used to the idea that our government
    isn’t good at keeping secrets, but I suppose that exposing some secrets can help hide
    others. Perhaps that is why I think it is hard to learn what is really going on.

  4. Bart says:

    The system is designed, on some levels at least, to keep people in the dark.

    And you’re right that it’s the ‘systems of influence’ that persist from generation to generation. These cabals survive through secrecy… here’s a great quote from David Rockefeller, describing his work with the Bilderberg group:

    “We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the light of publicity during those years. But now the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supra-national sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”

    This can be found here among other places…
    http://www.onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_2715.shtml

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