What's in a Town?

I had a funny conversation this past weekend that reminds me how different the fifty states are from each other and how those differences shape our language and thought.

A friend of mine mentioned that he was headed to Massachusetts this spring break to visit his girlfriend, who recently moved to Duxbury. After telling him what a lucky guy he is to be traveling to Mass, I told him that Deluxebury is “two towns below my town”.

At this point, both he and another kid in the room looked quizzicly at each other, laughed, and replied, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” It just so happens that both of these guys come from Indiana, where towns can stretch for miles and miles and miles. I was clearly implying that Duxbury is close to Scituate. However, saying “two towns south” back where their from doesn’t exactly tell you much about the location of the town. If anything, it means that you better be preparing for a road trip...

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Bloomberg

So I’m struggling through a 150 person Comparative Political Systems lecture at the moment, admittedly surfing the web as my professor rambles on and on about subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic of the class.

Anyways, check out
the following article from the Wall Street Journal. It’s short and will only take a few minutes to read.

Over the past weeks and months New York State and NYC’s tax revenues have been falling quickly as the stormy financial market cuts earnings and spending. So, what do you do when your city, which already taxes its residents at sickening European-esque tax rates, notices a shortfall? Tax the rich, of course! That’s the knee-jerk reaction of most liberal politicians.

However, Mayor Bloomberg (no friend of low taxes, by the way) kindly reminded such politicians the other day that 1% of the city’s residents pay an astonishing 50% of the city’s taxes. So, a mere 40,000 or so people pay 50% of all the city taxes. Bloomberg has finally realized that nothing is forcing these people to continually be robbed blind by New York City. Indeed, these people could quite easily relocate to nearby New Jersey (yuck), Pennsylvania, Connecticut, or even warm Florida (0% state-local tax rate) instead of shelling out 10.5% in NYC. Raise taxes even more and the departure of even a few of these wealthy residents will wipe out any tax gains realized by the tax increases.

I hate to break it to some of these closeminded city politicians, but there’s more to budget deficits than raising taxes...
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Greenspan at Economic Club of NY

Few people have had their reputations crash as quickly and drastically as former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Poor Mr. Greenspan was once hailed as an economic genius, holding onto his post through both Democratic and Republican administrations. Today, however, his name has tumbled even further than the queasy stock market as critics point to his easy-money Federal Reserve policies as the catalyst for the greedy personal and corporate borrowing and lending habits that gave birth to this mess.

Despite his possible failures as Fed Chairman, one cannot deny his economic knowledge and experience. Realizing this, I was glad to see Greenspan’s level headed
comments at the 401st meeting of the Economic Club of New York. There, after noting that this economic debacle is a once-in-a-century event, he stated that the government must fix the financial system as a whole before taking on stimulus spending and tax cuts, which are in danger of being squandered in the ongoing panic and confusion. For proof of such waste one only needs to look at the billions of “bailout dollars” irresponsibly spent without safeguards under the Bush Administration. Additionally, is anyone surprised that General Motors and Chrysler are back with their pockets open looking for a combined $35 million more? I’m sure not.

Finally, Greenspan reminds us that we tend to act recklessly in times of alarm and are liable to cause long term damage to a system that has worked for centuries because of a rare, cyclical bump in the road. “We need not rush to reform. Private markets are imposing far greater restraint at the moment than would any of the current sets of new regulatory proposals”, says Greenspan. A wise, level headed statement indeed.
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Long Weekend

It’s the end of a long weekend here at Georgetown, which is lucky for us because many schools like Loyola Maryland didn’t have President’s Day off. The Naval Academy had the long weekend too, so I had a visitor in town who kindly reminded me and Rich that we’re pathetic for having seen so few of the Washington, D.C. sites and attractions in our three years here. Thus, we became tourists for the weekend.

On Saturday we went to the Natural History museum and then the American History museum, which was just recently reopened after two years of extensive renovations. The Star Spangled Banner exhibit at the American History museum is pretty impressive and deserves a visit. We didn’t end up having time to check out the Newseum, unfortunately. I’ve heard it gives a great behind-the-scenes view of the most recent presidential elections, so I hope to get there someday soon.

On Sunday we saw
The International down on K Street (not bad) and then walked around both the National Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University. Both of these are impressive churches that rival their famous European counterparts in size and grandeur, but I was especially impressed with the Basilica, where the Pope gave mass earlier in the school year. I can’t imagine the work that went into designing the walls and ceilings of the Basilica made of millions of tiny, colorful tiles. Finally, we ended our tourist efforts at the famous 2 Amy’s Pizza on Wisconsin Ave, which Rich assures me is the closest to real Italian pizza that you will find in the U.S. I actually had a second dinner for the bank at Mie N Yu on M Street later that night, which features Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food and was apparently voted “best bathrooms in D.C.” recently (in case you’re wondering, they were pretty cool).

Overall, a good weekend.

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And now for a few song and video recommendations, since I’ve been criticized for my lack of suggestions recently:

-Renegades of Funk- Rage Against the Machine
-God Love Her- Toby Keith

(How’s that for some diverse music tastes?)

And here are a few videos that are good for a laugh:

“Iran So Far” - a SNL skit
“Sneezing Panda” - a personal favorite
“Charlie Bit My Finger” - 82 million YouTube views

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Bailout

Is it wrong to be against something without knowing the full details of it?

That’s what I’m asking myself these days about the huge financial stimulus package being sent through Congress. At almost 1,000 pages long, I’m sure not very many people fully understand the package. And I’m not quite sure I believe those who claim to understand it anyways.

So, why am I against it? Principle. On principle, I’m against the idea of a bunch of drunken politial spenders potentially squandering almost a trillion dollars that will burden myself and future generations for years and years to come. The nature of the legislative system rears its ugly head in times like these, as congressmen face the enormous challenge of balancing
the good of their respective legislative districts with the good of the entire United States. Hundreds of politicians swayed by the pressures of reelection and special interests cannot be trusted to put together any sort of package to get us out of this mess.

Am I offering any type of solution? Admittedly, no. However, at this point, I honestly ponder the potential consequenses of the wait for natural, cyclical economic recovery versus a potentially wasted $800 billion and wonder which might be worse.
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Update

It’s been quite a while since I last blogged. Hope no one was holding their breath!

Not that I’m important enough that anyone should care what I’m doing this semester...but I’ll fill everyone in anyways.

I’ve received a new position at the bank and my weeks have been filled with meeting after meeting preparing for transition on March 1st. On that date each year a new board of directors moves in, while new executives are chosen to lead the seven departments and former tellers, recently replaced by new hires, officially begin to move into their respective departments. So, we’ve been holding meetings and strategic planning sessions to prepare for the next year and interviewing for positions each weekend. I’m looking forward to the transition phase dying down so that I can get a little of my free time/sanity back.

Classwise, this semester is much easier than last semester. I talked to my dean a few weeks ago and, much to my surprise, found out that I only need to take four classes each semester for the rest of my Georgetown career instead of the normal five. I’m still shocked that I’ll be able to double major and minor taking so few classes, but I guess APs from B.C. High and studying abroad last summer put me ahead of the game. Can’t complain there! Besides only taking four classes, I didn’t get into any of the finance classes I signed up for (a mixed blessing), which certainly helps with the workload. Taking Advanced Financial Mangement (AFM) and Principles of Investments (POI) concurrently killed me time-wise last semester. So, I spend my time in Comparative Political Systems, International Relations, Global Logistics, and Productions and Operations Management. The first two classes are intro government classes that I really should have taken freshman year, but skipped in order to take more interesting higher-level gov classes instead. But, I also recently learned that I need those intro classes to get my government minor. So, that’s where I am. The other two are technically operations and information management (OPIM) classes, but the Global Logistics one overlaps with my International Business major and the other is just a general business school requirement.

International Relations (IR), despite being filled with annoying little freshman, is by far my most interesting class. My professor, Dr. Victor Cha, is apparently the leading voice in the U.S. on North Korean relations and was President Bush’s leading advisor on the subject. He left Georgetown between 2004 and 2007 to become the Director of Asian Affairs on the National Security Council and often recounts incredible first-hand stories of negotiations between North Korean leaders and Western powers over nukes in the country. Besides his fascinating experiences and background, he’s an entertaining lecturer who often breaks down complicated international relations theories and dilemmas with his kids’ stick figure drawings in Powerpoint slides. IR is my only class on Mondays and Wednesdays, so they’re generally pretty good days.

Alright, that’s enough about my semester for now. I’m about to go watch LOST and then go for a quick run. Goodnight!
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