21 June 2007

Lost and Found

I suppose we will never know just where Andrew's suitcase has been for the last 7 weeks. I'd like to think, at least, that it has had glorious adventures traveling to unknown lands, but for all I know, it could have been under someone's desk waiting innocently to be discovered. But I guess all that matters now is that it has been found and will be shipped to papa tomorrow.

Just in time to recheck it on Saturday for our trip to Connecticut.

14 June 2007

National Flag Day

Ok, so maybe this is a stretch for a post. But I feel like I owe it to Flag Day to at least acknowledge its historical claims, since I've always poked fun at it as a sort of pseudo-holiday. In the United States, National Flag Day is celebrated on June 14, the day on which the flag of the United States was adopted by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. It wasn't until almost a century and a half later, in 1916, that June 14 was officially proclaimed Flag Day by Woodrow Wilson. An Act of Congress established National Flag Day in August of 1949. You can look up Title 36 Sec. 110 of the US Code to read the official statute on Flag Day.

If you are so moved by this holiday, you could visit Troy, New York, for the largest Flag Day parade in the country. Or, if you prefer to just read more about the history of the day, click here.

08 June 2007

$3.63 a gallon

Yep, that's what we pay here. And that's OUTSIDE of the city. So, before we all get our panties in a knot, I thought I'd share a bit of wisdom from Thomas Sowell. By no means do I think this covers all the bases of oil prices, nor does it address all of the arguments for or against oil companies and price controls. I just quote the article here to provide a little perspective. The article is titled "A War of Words: Part II". Here we go...

With gasoline prices rising, political rhetoric is rising even faster. Liberals in Congress and in the media have launched a war of words, whose net result may well be a demand for some form of price control.

Price controls are not a new idea. There have been price controls in countries around the world. There were price controls during ancient times in Babylon and in the Roman Empire.

Whatever the hopes that may have inspired price controls, economists have studied their actual consequences, which have been remarkably similar from one place to another and from one time to another -- and almost invariably bad.

That history has even included higher prices in places with price controls. For example, New York and San Francisco have severe rent control laws -- and some of the highest average rents in the country.

But those pushing for price controls on gasoline are not likely to go into facts about the consequences of price controls, much less go into the economics that explains why such bad consequences have repeatedly followed price controls.

This issue, like so many others, is likely to be settled on the basis of rhetoric. And, on that basis, the left has always had the advantage. As former House Majority Leader Dick Armey -- an economist by trade -- has put it: "Demagoguery beats data" in political battles.

The demagoguery in this case is that "price gouging" and "greed" explain rising gasoline prices -- and that price controls will put a stop to it.

It is an exercise in futility to try to refute words that are meaningless. If a word has no concrete meaning, then there is nothing that can be refuted. "Price gouging" is a classic example.

The phrase is used when prices are higher than most people are used to. But there is nothing special or magic about what we happen to be used to.

When the conditions that determined the old prices change, the new prices are likely to be very different. That is not rocket science.

How have conditions changed in recent years? The biggest change is that China and India -- with more than a billion people each -- have had rapidly growing economies ever since they began relaxing government controls and allowing markets to operate more freely.

When there are rising incomes in countries of this size, the demand for more petroleum for both industry and consumers is huge. Increasing the supply of oil to meet these escalating demands is not nearly as easy.

In the United States, liberals have made it virtually impossible, by banning drilling in all sorts of places and preventing any new refinery from being built anywhere in the country in the last 30 years.

Prices are like messengers carrying the news of supply and demand. Like other messengers carrying bad news, they face the danger that some people think the answer is to kill the messenger, rather than taking steps to change the news.

The strongest proponents of price controls are the strongest opponents of producing more oil. They say the magic words "alternative energy sources" and we are supposed to swoon -- and certainly not ask any rude questions like "At what cost?"

Then there are the famous "obscene" profits of oil companies. Again, there is no definition and no criterion by which you could tell obscene profits from PG-13 profits or profits rated G.

There is not the slightest interest in how large the investments are that produced those profits. Relative to the vast investments involved, oil company profits do not begin to approach the rate of return received by someone who bought a house in California ten years ago and sells it today.

Oil company executives make big bucks incomes, almost as much as liberal movie stars who are never criticized for "greed." And if Big Oil CEOs worked for nothing, it is unlikely to be enough to bring the price of a gallon of gas down by a nickel.

But facts are not nearly as exciting as rhetoric -- and the role of most political rhetoric is to be a substitute for facts.

If you're interested in reading more about political rhetoric, check out the first installation of this series, "A War of Words".

06 June 2007

Memorial Day Weekend

We had a wonderful visit with my parents over Memorial Day weekend. It was the first time we hosted "extended" visitors in our first home together, and we couldn't have had better guests! We spent Saturday downtown trying to negotiate our sightseeing with the sporadic thunderstorms. All worked out just fine and we ended our evening with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The show is well worth seeing. On Sunday, we explored our neighborhood and played dress up at a toy store. You know, the usual things one does. We visited the Chicago Botanic Garden on Monday, followed by a barbecue at our place. Thanks Mom and Dad for making the trip out! We had a great visit with you and we look forward to next time...