Oregon Coast

The rumors are true.  There’s a detailed Oregon Coast website at OregonCoastTravel.net, which is the official website of the Oregon Coast Mile by Mile guide that showcases the entire Oregon Coast from California to Washington.   Highway 101 is the spectacular 363 mile National Scenic Byway and the only road along Oregon’s Coast.   Oregon Coast Travel has a feature where you can see the mileage for every point of interest along the entire Coast highway which is how the Oregon Coast Mile by Mile printed guide is designed.   You can also search the coast by city from Brookings to Astoria, including small cities as well as the tourism “hot spots” of Bandon, Lincoln City, Newport, Gold Beach, Canon Beach, and more.

Cannon Beach on Oregon’s Coast
Originally uploaded by keepitsurreal

Bailout Blues + Red Ink = Spending Revolution Needed.

Washington does not understand why taxpayers are so angry about the bailout.   Some pundits are calling this ignorance, but I think to the extent *anybody* can predict things taxpayers know pretty much what is going on here, and realize there is major hardship ahead whether or not the bailout moves forward as proposed, as a modified bailout, or does not happen at all.    Some of this is already reflected in the stagnant broader markets we’ve seen for the past few years, and some reflected today in the Dow’s drop of about 700 at the close.  But this is not a meltdown, suggesting to me that the rumors of total market meltdowns have been at least somewhat exaggerated.

Paul Samuelson noted today in an excellent article that we are basically seeing the bankruptcy of modern economics:

Our leaders are making up their responses from day to day because old ideas of how the economy works have failed them. These ideas were not necessarily wrong, but they’re grievously inadequate at the moment

The American experiment was spawned in large part as a revolution against military-inspired spending taxation from Britain.    Few today realize that the taxation levels of the 1770’s were so tiny by today’s standards that they would not raise a modern eyebrow, let alone spawn any kind of spending revolution.

Over the past 230 years times have changed and we now expect Government to tax us at what the founders would have seen as enormous and totally unacceptable rates, and spend *even more* than they take in, leading to a deficit so large it is in my view of greater economic concern – far greater – than the current recession (which will be getting a lot worse, bailout or not).

What would restore most taxpayer’s confidence?    Massive Government spending *cuts*, not massive Government spending as proposed in the bailout.

For most of the modern era Washington’s response to problems has been massive debt spending, pushing problems forward to future generations who’ll have to pay down our debt.   The Bailout was a similar response unless you accept the optimistic notion that all of that 700 billion will come back after the toxic assets were sold off by the Government.   Most likely based on my take some but not all will come back.

Wen Jiabao interviewed by Zakaria

Wen Jiabao is the Premier of China, making him one of the most influential international figures of this generation. Today on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS – one of the best shows on TV, we are hearing from Wen Jiabao on several topics of extreme relevance to the global community.

I can’t compliment Zakaria enough for a journalistic style that does two things I’d argue are necessary to get *access to people* while at the same time getting real rather than canned insights. First, he’s polite, which gets access and creates a relaxed atmosphere where real dialog can take place. Second, he asks the *big* questions in a way that brings us real insights into the thinking patterns of the key political and thought leaders he interviews.

Rather than summarize things here I want to link to CNN’s GPS page where I think they will post the interview, because anybody with an interest in where things are going should be paying very close attention.

Much of the current debate in this country about China (as well as many things) takes a sort of cartoon form, where people are stuck on oversimplifying a handful of complex talking points like China’s economic relationship to the USA and China’s Tibet policy (which in my view could largely be solved by shifting treatment of Tibet to an autonomous region like Hong Kong, a relationship that is working fairly well).

Asked about the prevailing economic philosophy who did Wen Jiabao quote? None other than Adam Smith, suggesting that the free hand of capitalism should be balanced by Government regulations to keep things fair and orderly (FYI he’s right that Smith was an advocate of some regulation and application of “morality” to free markets – a historical point often lost in debates here over free market virtues).

What’s Wen Jiabao reading? Stoic Marcus Aurelius apparently is one of his favorite philosophers, a thoughtful but sometimes ruthless Roman emperor who advocated social responsibility and internal progressive social reforms even as he persecuted wars and treated some dissenters ruthlessly.

ASUS eeePC 901

The EeePC 901 from ASUS looks very impressive based on the specs.   I’ve been using the original eeePC for several months and my two main concerns have been keyboard size (which I’ve become used to) and screen size (still a bit small for quality browsing).    Otherwise I’ve been impressed with the light weight, small size, and fairly error-free operation with the one exception of an early flash memory failure that required a reconfiguration and lost me 100+ Hong Kong photos.     Still, for $400 this unit was an amazing bargain compared to the 1500 or so I would have spent for a full blown Ultra mobile laptop in this weight class.

The new eeePC unit probably solves the screen size issue with a 9.1 incher vs the 7 inches and I assume a slightly larger keyboard.    The 3.75G access could really be a boon for those in areas where that will be supported, assuming a reasonable cost by providers.

I’m anxious to hear from folks who get this unit.   The mini Dell looks good as well, but if ASUS has created a comparable machine I’d be inclined to go with them over Dell based on my experiences with each company.

ASUS Press Release

Bailing out the Bailout?

Like most Americans I’m angry and confused about how suddenly a crisis of economically biblical proportions has suddently lept to the top of the political agenda.   This is especially galling because only a month ago the Bush administration was – pretty much to a person – telling us that the economy was in good shape.

It strains my credulity to think they didn’t know the credit problem pot was about to boil over, and in my cynical moments I think they probably just hoped they could stave off the crisis until Jan 2009.

But hey, I’m to blame and so are you and so are the legions of people who watched real estate rise and fall and foolishly assumed that near-catastrophic devaluations in houses of trillions of dollars would not lead to the enormous problems we now face.

Solutions?    As tempted as I am to agree with Ron Paul who is basically arguing for no bailout and letting market forces revalue the whole mess, I’m thinking we need to go ahead with a staged bailout where investment of our tax money is tied to measurable successes in terms of the credit markets.    If the Paulson plan is the right answer we do not need to spend $700,000,000,000 before we know it’s working.   I think Congress should approve some modest amount for Paulson and tie subsequent spending to *immediate* market improvements.    I want the banks and others (including individual mortgate holders) who will benefit from the bailout to *make major changes* and *absorb major risks* that it seems the current plan simply passes along to future taxpayers aka “our children”.      If I understand Paulson and Bernanke correctly they’d say this type of partial bailout plan won’t do enough to work – that we need to restore corporate confidence to the extent they loosen up credit and re-oil the engine of US economic prosperity.  That may be true, but I’m not convinced anybody can reasonably predict how any of this will shake out.        Clearly these clever boys totally and miserably failed to predict this problem would happen in the first place, so it’s tempting to apply the “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” rule and ask for a whole new game with new players.

McCain to Obama: Suspending Campaign – Let’s Work Together!

Over at President Picker blog I also gave my take on the amazing decision from John McCain to suspend his campaign, pull out of the Friday Presidential Debate, and head to Washington to work on the fiscal crisis which is looming very large.

On balance I think this is probably a sincere move by McCain, though it would seem to me that if he *really* wanted a fully non-partisan approach he should have negotiated this surprise action with Obama.    I think I’m cynical enough to think the McCain campaign saw this as an opportunity to dodge some bullets while at the same time doing the right thing in working on the fiscal crisis – a problem either Obama or McCain will immediately inherit as they rise to power in January 2009.

Now, Obama is left looking like a follower if he simply accepts this huge change to the campaign plans or looks disinterested in the crisis if he refuses.    This is a strategically untenable position which is why Obama, in my view, needs to counter-propose something along similar lines and McCain needs to accept.  This balances the political advantages and brings us back to solving the second greatest economic challenge in US history.

The megabillion bailout better be transparent

Most of us are still trying to wrap our heads around the fiscal crisis also known as the US banking system.   I’m listening now to the Bush economics crew (Cox, Paulson, Bernanke)  in their congressional testimony.

It is too early to analyze how we went from an economy these guys were describing as healthy to an economy these guys now say is teetering on the brink of economic collapse, but it’s very clear now that the Bush adminstration, and to a lesser extent a clearly incompetent “do nothing” congress, have over the past several years failed to prevent the worst financial crisis since 1929.    Completely reckless Government spending and irresponsible fiscal policy were present during this debacle and it’s tempting to blame the problems on Government’s failure to prevent Wall Street from excesses that were totally predictable – namely always trying to turn a buck and fighting regulations that would inhibit profit making, regardless of the long term effects on the economy.

Ron Paul has what to me is the most thoughtful take on the situation to date, though it seems there is now a near consensus among economic experts that failing to do the bailout will lead to catastrophe.   I have not heard enough to make an informed decision, but I am very concerned that there will not be enough transparency in this process.

I want *every dime* of my tax money accounted for in this process.  I want information on *every salary* of everybody I’m bailing out, and I want CEOs held fully accountable even if that has some short term problems with stability.   Accountability matters.

Google Phone Coming … Today

The widely anticipated debut of the Google Smart Phone is today.   The phone will be made my HTC, sold by TMobile, and run by Android the open source operating system.    Offering free email service to all subscribers, It appears Google and Tmobile are going after the blackberry market more than iPhone which sounds like a clever plan to me.    Apple users are very loyal and very unlikely to move away from their beloved iPhones.    Blackberry and Treo users will be looking closely at the new phone and I think in many cases happy to move to a better phone (me certainly included as a Treo user).

More from PC Magazine, including some Google Phone pictures