Mustard

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Because I hate ketchup…

 

Holy shit, did things ever get weird.  2+ years.  4 jobs (give or take).  9 months with a pregnant wife, culminating in 1 amazing daughter (Penelope Jean, born October 2014).  Too many bills and too little income.  A handful of therapy sessions.  A smattering of inspiration, the occasional epiphany, and a near-infinite supply of irredeemably stupid ideas.

And, of course, nowhere near enough time to reflect on (or write about) any of it.

Not an excuse, mind you.  More like a bridge back to writing.  I can’t catalog everything that has gone into the past couple of years, but I can guarantee it has changed me irrevocably, and I’m certain it’s going to show (as if the Dad joke in the sub-head didn’t give me away already).  Possibly more confident, probably more desperate, and ultimately more invested than I’ve ever been in pushing myself and the world to get better.

Put plainly, I don’t have a choice now.  Or, more accurately, I’ve made my choice and there is no turning back.  “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” as the good doctor Hunter S. Thompson used to say (you know, before he killed himself, and then Johnny Depp shot his ashes out of a cannon).  I have to improve myself before I can improve things around me, and allowing the destructive and anti-social ideas at the top of the heap continue to stay there is not an option.

I have to do what I can to fight systemic stupidities, because I suddenly understand in a way I didn’t or couldn’t before that the consequences of flawed thinking will be passed to the coming generation, whether they deserve it or not.  It’s easy enough for me to be cynical and misanthropic about humanity and it’s future in a generalized form, but putting a face on it, specifically her face, blows the windows out of that abstraction.

So, I find myself driven not only to ensure the usual food/clothing/shelter/attention that every parent tries to provide, but also feeling a tremendous responsibility to further engage with political and social institutions and start pushing them toward better ideas (usually in opposition to their natural tendencies under current conditions).  I was never particularly good at either one of these things before, and why I suddenly seem to think I can manage to juggle both with the day-to-day requirements of parenting is completely beyond me.  Turns out very little about parental instinct is rational.  Go figure.

But who knows?  I have to think that if my perspectives could shift this drastically on the fulcrum of a single event, other aspects I’ve come to take for granted may be capable of a similar change.  The only way to know for sure is to try, and like I said, it’s not as though I still have a choice in the matter.  The ramifications may be dire, but that doesn’t mean my reasoning isn’t sound.

The Great Debate

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

Economist Kenneth Rogoff – photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

 

 

OK, I’m kind of punting on this post, just so you know.  I’ve been ludicrously busy with other developments this past couple of weeks and haven’t had time to do much writing of my own.  Hopefully that will be changing relatively soon, but in the mean time, please allow me to direct your attention to some excellent writing by someone else:

In addition to being a remarkably prolific writer (some of his articles take me upwards of an hour to get through!), William K. Black is a criminologist, a former banking sector regulator, and an associate professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.  He shows up in a lot of places online, but almost everything he does also winds up on the blog New Economic Perspectives.  His book about the Savings & Loan crisis, called “The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One,” is an excellent account from the trenches of the fight over financial deregulation in the 1980s.

This article of his isn’t too long, and it’s a good blow-by-blow of one of the more heated debates in modern economics.  I can’t say I’m a fan of any of the economists in the piece, but the plain fact is that their viewpoints have a lot to do with shaping US and international economic policy, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.  With any luck, you’ll find it informative and only minimally painful.

Rajan Calls Krugman “Paranoid” for Criticizing Reinhart and Rogoff’s Research

Please, enjoy!  And, as always, let me know what you think.

Quick Final Note:  On balance, New Economic Perspectives (and the Econ Dept. at UM-KC in general) is closely aligned with a (relatively) new framework for post-Keynesian economic policy called Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT.  MMT generally exists well outside the boundaries of the mainstream economic debate, though a recent NYT hit piece on economist Warren Mosler suggests that might be changing (first they ignore you, then they ridicule you…).  That said, one of the dirtiest secrets of current mainstream economic thought is that most of it is based on commodity-backed currencies that (at least in the U.S.) don’t actually exist anymore, and while I’m not really an expert on MMT, I’ll give it credit for any attempt to acknowledge and correct that particular issue.  The point, for now, is that UM-KC and Mr. Black have a dog, even if it isn’t in this particular fight.

Meet the Screed…

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Aubrey Plaza in “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” (Universal)

 

It’s come to my attention that I probably don’t post anywhere near often enough.  I think this mostly stems from a hyper-perfectionist tendency that borders on obsessive (also a common AD/HD feature, though probably tied more to co-morbid depression and anxiety), and the fact that I just suck at setting aside writing time probably doesn’t help.

My old friend Aaron (Thanks for lunch, BTW) made the point that frequency and brevity are both essential parts of blogging, and most of the literature I’ve found on the subject agrees whole-heartedly.  In that interest, I’m setting out here to post without my usual prep and polish time.  It’s not like there’s any shortage of topics I can cover;  I guess I’m just trying to get used to the idea of throwing up posts that are more opinion- and reaction-based, even if they end up being less than my usual standard of unrealistic quality.  (That is, of course, assuming you see any quality there in the first place.)

I’ve still got a big NSA-related piece in the works, but it’s grown in scope considerably along the way.  Hopefully the matter will still be in people’s minds by the time I finish.  At any rate, I suppose the Agency itself will be reading, so I’ve got that going for me…

#DTA!   ; )

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Here’s a quick update on the housing story from a couple of months back.  The incredible Yves Smith from (also incredible) Naked Capitalism has some data on the Phoenix area that took me a few tries to swallow:

Reader Scott sends us further confirmation by e-mail from his buddy George N, which he took from the website of Silver Bay Management Company:

 

Take a look at the number of houses for rent in Phoenix…The snap shot above was taken today [July 22nd] off of their website.

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The following is a snap shot I took on March 18, almost exactly 4 months ago.

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How the hell can they be making any money when there are so many empty houses cooking in the desert sun?

 

Just in case you had any doubts about the scale of stupidity at work here, several other markets (Vegas, Atlanta, parts of Texas and Florida) are displaying similar dynamics.  I mean, God for-fucking-fend some of that cash find its way to the parts of the economy that might actually need it!  Unfortunately, this is both a cause and consequence of the highly uneven wealth distribution in modern America, and that isn’t getting any better.

The big thing a lot of people forget about market mechanics is that they derive their accuracy (in terms of capital allocation) from aggregate intelligence.  Or, if you prefer English, that basically means that markets are “smarter” when they have more individual investors making decisions.  A hypothetical market made of 100 investors with $100 each is significantly more useful than a market of 10 investors with $1000, even though it’s the same size.  Squeezing out small and mid-sized investors may make the remaining companies wealthier and the investment process more “efficient,” but it also makes the market dumber in aggregate, and more likely to produce shitty overall outcomes.

Now, can anybody guess which way we’ve been headed for 30+ years?  All that Reaganomics and Objectivist philosophy is catching up with us, and the nation’s economic brain is rotting in its skull as a result.  How much uglier are we willing to see this get before we start demanding a better strategy?

(false) Start

"Story of my life, man..."

“Story of my life, man…”

“Sister Mary Francis!  What the hell happened in here?!”

— Benny the Cab, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

This was supposed to be a blog on living with adult-diagnosed ADHD.  I’d had some additional blogs planned for a couple of other topics (namely, politics and economics).  Maybe, at some future juncture, I’ll re-partition my writing so that those disparate topics find their own spaces to call home, but for now, I only think I can produce enough content to support one of these things.  If the slew of scattershot ideas starts to get to you, I apologize.  You see, I have ADHD, and my brain isn’t particularly good splitting and grouping thoughts in a conventional way.  Instead, my thought process winds up looking like an out-of-proportion splatter-painted nightmare, like Pollack meets Picasso meets PCP.  Somehow, I’d imagine a non-curated blog of my various thoughts and concerns is going to come with a similar disorienting quality.

That said, I’ll at least try to tag things so it’s easier to filter just the posts you want.  Might take some practice;  your patience and any feedback you may have is greatly appreciated…

Alright, what say we get into this thing?  I suppose an introduction is in order.

Hello, my name is John, and I’m a bit of a lunatic.  Maybe “lunatic” is a strong word.  I’m what a mutual friend would politely describe as “an odd duck” after a mildly-traumatizing blind date.  I’ve never quite been all there, and I’m finally starting to work out a bit of why.  A strong mix of Predominantly-Inattentive ADHD and chronic depression is apparently a recipe for a particularly strange and sorry existence.  Don’t worry, I’ll save the sad details for therapy sessions.  Suffice it to say, things needed to improve.

And in all honesty, I think they have in the last few months.  I’ve picked up several new strategies for dealing with day-to-day challenges, and started to dig down to the roots of some of my more peculiar and damaging neuroses.  While I think it is a stretch to imply that potential readers would care much about me personally, I do think the story is interesting, surprising, and maybe even a little informative.  With some luck and persistence, I might be able to spin it into something readable, maybe even enjoyable…

But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  If you happen to find yourself with a powerful urge to learn more about ADHD, its non-hyperactive variant, or its surprising relationship to depression and highly self-destructive patterns of behavior and thought, stop back from time to time.  Or, you know, if you want to know what a barely-college-educated carpenter-cum-grocery-clerk thinks about econ or politics…

Let me put it this way:  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past months and years, it’s that you almost never find the difficult answers, the ones you really need, in the obvious places.  Give me a chance;  I might just surprise you.  I do it to myself all the time.