AndyO Blog

Friday, August 31, 2012

Oahu Day 4: On the way to PCC: Romy's Shrimp Shack - Aug 31

There were two things Brenda wanted to do on Oahu: snorkel in Hanauma Bay and visit the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). So this was the day we visited PCC. 

Along the way, we stopped at Romy's Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp, one of the many recommended shrimp shack's on the island. Upon arriving, we opened our car doors and were blasted by a wave of GARLIC aroma. I've never smelled garlic so strong in my life -- as if they were roasting it in the fields. Brenda was in heaven.

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We joined the long line for shrimp. A sign proclaimed:

This is not fast food. It is good food, as fast as we can make it.

The sign represents an artifact of the sad, fast-food reality that we live in today. People expect McDonald's-level service speed everywhere they go. But as our 20-minute estimated wait time extended to about 40 minutes, I started to question whether good food should really take this long -- especially when you're sweating in the shade past the point of comfort.  

Romy's website explains:

Romy's Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp is one of the "must see" spots when visiting the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Harvested daily, Romy's prawns and shrimps are cooked live for the most succulent seafood on the island. Drop by for lunch or dinner when you are visiting the hot spots of the North Shore.
The food is four-star quality, but the roadside "shrimp stand" atmosphere guarantees a real taste of local culture.

When the shrimp arrived, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. We're so used to having our food killed, prepared, cooked, and packaged, it's a shock when shrimp and prawns show up with the heads intact. I started peeling away. The pitiful, small napkin I received with the meal was soon so full of mustard-yellow shrimp goo that I abandoned the idea of ever taking any pictures of this meal. And, really, why would I want to? 

After eating only one or two of these shrimp (which tasted wonderful by the way), I started to lose my appetite a little. Brenda was undeterred. She even offered to gut a jumbo prawn for me (full of even more guts), which I gladly accepted.

I totally admit it: I'm just a wimpy American male who's used to getting my food on a platter, ready to eat. It's a good thing to experience the messy reality of real food (and I didn't even have to cook it). It's not like this is cheap food. 

So, if you don't mind sweating outside and working a little to get to the delicious food, Romy's is your place.

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posted by AndyO @ 7:47 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Oahu - Day 3 - Shark's Cove and afternoon lunch - Aug 30

Today, we went on our first snorkeling adventure of this trip. We decided to try out one of the most recommended sites on the island, Shark's Cove on the North Shore.

We got up early (well, early for me anyway) and drove about 15 minutes from Turtle Bay Resort to Pupukea Beach Park, where Shark's Cove is located. There we left our car unlocked (as you do in Hawaii), and took our gear down to the beach. Because we didn't want to get anything stolen, we left all cameras, phones, and other electronics at the hotel (which is why there are no pictures). But here's one I found on ShoreDiving.com that shows Shark's Cove from the air. TropicalSnorkeling.com has a great page about Shark's Cove with more photos.

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Groups of divers did their pre-dive checks in the park above the cove, most of them from Japan, Europe, and other countries outside the U.S. We found our way down the steep, rocky trail to the beach. Here, we found slivers of course sand between mounds of volcanic rock. We found a good spot to set up camp and headed out.

I've always had difficulty with snorkeling -- at least on the first day. The combination of the mask and snorkel is a claustrophobic experience. But except for navigating the rocks to get out into the bay, and then getting used to the 75-degree water (which is cold at first), I was snorkeling above some breathtaking underwater scenery in less time than any other trip. Never had I seen so many species of fish in one place. One moment I was floating almost inches above a reef and the next above an abyss of clear, blue water.

And in case you're wondering, there weren't any sharks there in Shark's Cove on this day. From what I've read, they are infrequent visitors.

As the morning hours ticked away, crowds of other snorkelers found their way to the beach and water. This made it nearly impossible to move around in the water without bumping into someone. After two hours of snorkeling and sitting at the beach, we left the crowds.

Lunch at the Turtle Bay Resort

After the post-snorkel ritual of showering, enjoying the view from the hotel, and relaxing, we headed off to lunch at Ola Restaurant at the resort.

This is the kind of Hawaiian restaurant you fantasize about, as you're almost dining right on the beach (you can even eat on the beach if you want). For some reason, after snorkeling I'm always ravenous for a hamburger. We started off with the Seared Beef Poke as an appetizer, which was good -- but had a little too much fat for us (which we told them).

For lunch, Brenda and I split a North Shore Cheddar Cheese Burger and a Grilled Fresh Island Fish. It was all excellent.

After lunch, I'm semi-embarassed to say, I sat around for most of the day (in between calls from our son Cameron with Xbox problems and questions). It was definitely a relaxing day.

As the day wore on, I noticed the searing sensation of sunburn on my neck and back --uncomfortable but not really painful. Brenda came up with the theory that our sunscreen had washed away after our first snorkeling run at Shark's Cove. And since Brenda spent more time in the water than I did (face down, as you do when snorkeling), she was also more burned on her back and legs. 

This was actually the first time I've been burned in Hawaii, and I realized it was one of the first times I'd gone snorkeling without one of those UV shirts. I knew what I'd be picking up before I went snorkeling again.

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posted by AndyO @ 7:41 PM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oahu Day 2: Mighty Mo and reflections on WWII

Our last stop on our Pearl Harbor tour was the U.S.S. Missouri. You have to take a bus to get to the Missouri, as it's moored on Ford Island, an active military base.

As you drive out to the island, there's an announcement on the bus intercom about not taking pictures during the drive. Once you're there, you walk across the dock to the battleship directly ahead of you.

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It was on the U.S.S. Missouri that the Japanese Empire surrendered to the Allied Forces on September 2, 1945. A plaque now commemorates the spot where the surrender document was signed.

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Besides being the location of this historic event, I learned a lot about the Missouri:

  • She was the last battleship built by the United States. With modern aircraft and aircraft carriers, battleships became obsolete.
  • She was decommissioned in 1955 after fighting in World War II and the Korean War.
  • She was reactivated and modernized in 1984 as part of the Navy's 600-ship Plan and went on to fight in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. (I guess battleships weren't obsolete.) 
  • The U.S.S. Missouri Memorial Museum organization must keep the ship ready to go back to sea. (Now the ending of the movie Battleship makes a little more sense.)
  • She barely fits through the Panama Canal and makes horrible sounds as she scrapes through it.
  • The teak deck is in poor shape and is currently being refinished. Here's the difference between the refinished deck (on the left) and the weathered deck (on the right):

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  • She has nine 16-inch guns that can fire a 2,700-pound shell 23 miles.

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But what most surprised me about the ship was its size. When we traveled through the decks below, it felt like a small city, complete with offices, kitchens, computer rooms, bunk rooms, and everything else. Of course the officers' areas have more space.

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Here's a view from the bridge with the Arizona Memorial in the distance.

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Reflections on World War II

Seeing these two memorials together like this kept bringing me back to the same questions about World War II: Why did it happen? Could it have been avoided? 

As I walked around these memorials with many Japanese tourists, I wondered why these people who are now our friends had become the enemy by 1941. After all, the Japanese were our allies in World War I.

To understand why the Japanese attacked, you have to go back to 1870, when it became a modernized nation. With this change came a powerful, modern military. But Japan was also dependent on other nations, as it lacked natural resources. If you don't have the resources you need, you either trade for them or take them from other nations.

Japan began to flex its military muscles at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. They went to war with China from 1894-1895 and Russia from 1904-1905. The result was that Japan became the dominant power in the Far East. They also achieved their objective of creating a larger buffer against future attacks.

The Great Depression pushed Japan over the edge into total militarization and Fascism, similar to what was happening in Germany. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. After international outrage, Japan resigned from the League of Nations.

By 1937, Japan was in a full-scale war with China. As atrocities mounted from Japan's occupation, including the Nanking Massacre, the U.S. supported China with money, fighter pilots (The Flying Tigers), and supplies. When Japan invaded French Indochina in 1941, the U.S. froze all Japanese assets and cut off its oil supply (the U.S. supplied 80% of Japan's oil).

With its back against the wall, Japan became even more aggressive. Plans were made to knock out the U.S. fleet stationed on Oahu. With that fleet destroyed, Japan could continue its conquest across the Pacific, unchallenged.

But beyond an initial victory at Pearl Harbor, it didn't turn out well for Japan. At the end of the war:

  • 2,620,000 to 3,120,000 million Japanese had been killed (military and civilians)
  • Millions of people were slaughtered by the Japanese during their conquests and occupations (the number is somewhere between 5.4 - 30 million, but we'll never really know)

The conclusion I've come to is that wars will happen. Countries (or certain people in them) will want things they don't have (including strategic locations or resources). The invention of the atomic bomb changed the nature of war, as was seen throughout the Cold War. And then terrorism in the 21st century changed it again. Through it all, the military industrial complex has continued to feed the machine.

So all I can hope for is that our leaders learn from their mistakes and we never have a war like World War II again.

Here's a sign I saw in Chinatown in Honolulu that sums everything up pretty well:

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posted by AndyO @ 7:45 PM   0 comments links to this post

Oahu - Day 2 - U.S.S. Bowfin tour and the hidden cost of war

After seeing the Arizona Memorial, we visited two other ships at the park.

Our first stop was the WWII submarine, U.S.S. Bowfin (SS-287). I'd never been on a submarine before and had always wondered what they were like inside (especially after seeing all those movies).

U.S.S. Bowfin

The Bowfin was launched exactly one year after the Pearl Harbor attack, earning her the nickname "The Pearl Harbor Avenger." She completed nine complete tours, and sunk many vessels during the war.

A tour of the U.S.S. Bowfin

The first thing that I noticed was the deck of the submarine actually sits far above the hull of the ship -- so much so that you feel a little uneasy when you walk above it. Pipes and other machinery criss-cross the hull in this space. Here's a photo I took that shows what this looks like:

Under the U.S.S. Bowfin deck

The red rectangle in these blueprints will give you some idea of how much space is below the deck line (note that the deck slopes up).

U.S.S. Bowfin blueprint

Upon entering the sub from behind the Escape Trunk area, we dropped into the forward torpedo tube bay. It was here I began to get some idea of the complexity of this machine. It actually reminded me of a Apollo Command Module or some of the other spacecraft I've seen.

U.S.S. Bowfin forward torpedo tubes 

It was no surprise the submarine was a cramped space, but I was able to move easily through the compartments.

The command area of the sub contains all the dials, gauges, and controls you see in those WWII movies. Here, Brenda and I are operating the wheel that submerges the sub:

U.S.S. Bowfin - Dive! Dive! Dive!

Here's where the crew slept:

U.S.S. Bowfin - bunks

Here's one of the two engine rooms:

U.S.S. Bowfin engine room

Once outside again, I walked up to the conning tower and looked back. I was surprised at how high up the conning tower was, and how big the guns were.

U.S.S. Bowfin - looking aft from the conning tower

The hidden cost

What I sometimes forget when looking at the machines of WWII is that they were designed to destroy the enemy. And while the Bowfin did her job with distinction, I read a sad story about a ship that she sunk that highlights the hidden cost of the war.

On August 22, 1944, the Bowfin sank the Tsushima Maru off the coast of Akusekijima. The Tsushima Maru was an unmarked, unlighted passenger-cargo vessel. What the Bowfin crew didn't know -- and didn't find out until 20 years later -- was that the Tshushima Maru was carrying 826 children. As the Bowfin website recounts:

"They, along with some of their school teachers and a few of their parents, were being transported from Okinawa to the mainland of Japan to escape the anticipated invasion of the Ryukyu Islands. Of those children, 767 were lost; only 59 were saved. Survivors of the sinking were not allowed to speak of the incident under threats of extreme punishment."

In total, 1,484 civilians were killed. To put this in perspective, when the Titanic went down, 1,502 people died. 1,771 men perished aboard the Arizona.

In World War II, it's estimated that between 62 and 78 million people died. Of this total, 40 to 52 million civilians died. Military deaths accounted for 22 to 25 million.

As horrifying as the Tshushima Maru sinking is, this is only one of the incidents that took innocent lives during this war.

Read Kiyoshi Uehara's account of surviving the Tshushima Maru sinking.

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posted by AndyO @ 7:44 PM   0 comments links to this post

Oahu - Day 2 - Pearl Harbor

Today I visited Pearl Harbor for the first time. As a reader of World War II history, I'd always wanted to see the location where the United States was attacked by Japan, where the course of the war was altered. I wasn't disappointed.

The part that we visited today is actually a National Park called "World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument," which contains memorials for the U.S.S. Arizona, Oklahoma, and Utah. There are other things you can see as well, including the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, the U.S.S. Bowfin submarine, and an air museum.

We started with the Arizona Memorial.

Meeting a Pearl Harbor Survivor

After watching a short film that explained why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, you're handed off from the National Park Rangers to the military to ride a Navy launch out to the Arizona Memorial.

The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial

On this particular day, a Pearl Harbor survivor joined us: 95-year old Staff Sergeant Herb Weatherwax. It was incredibly moving to see the respect paid to Mr. Weatherwax by the Navy. He was allowed to enter and exit the memorial first. He received salutes from the Navy personnel, applause from the civilians. He was like a rock star.

Herb Weatherwax at the Arizona Memorial

Herb Weatherwax was there when Oahu was attacked. He heard the explosions, saw the aircraft diving in, watched the destruction. Later on, I read that he went on to fight in the entire War -- both in Europe and the Pacific.

The Arizona Memorial

The memorial itself is built above the wreckage, but doesn't actually touch it. The architect Alfred Preis said of its design, "Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory ... The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses ... his innermost feelings."

Once at the memorial, we walked to the shrine room that honors the 1,771 men who died on the Arizona that Sunday morning in 1941. It's an overwhelming experience to see all those names.

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In another section of the memorial, you look down into the wreckage of the Arizona.

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Oil from the vessel still leaks steadily to the surface, sometimes referred to as "the tears of the Arizona." I was surprised how much oil leaked during the time I was there. I watched several drops rise to the surface and then expand into rainbows before adding to the oil slick.

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Off to one side of the memorial, you see one of Arizona's rusty turrets above the surface.

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On the other side, you see the Battleship Missouri -- almost as if it's standing watch over the the Arizona and her memory. And then it hits you: Here you have where World War II began for the United States and where it ended. 

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After 15 minutes, it was time to get back aboard the Navy launch and head back to the park. This really wasn't enough time for me to reflect on what had happened here all those years ago. But I found the Arizona memorial stayed with me long after I left. 

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posted by AndyO @ 7:43 PM   1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oahu - Day 1

For our 20th wedding anniversary, Brenda and I are taking a trip to Oahu, Hawaii. This is the first week-long trip we've taken without Cameron and Drew, who are enjoying a week with Grandma and Grandpa Olson. (Thanks Mom and Dad for watching the boys, and thanks Cameron and Drew for giving your Mom and Dad some time together.)

Adventures on the plane

Everything started off great. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Had a little extra time to get some breakfast.

Once in our seats on the plane, we were accosted by a woman who said Brenda was sitting in her aisle seat. So Brenda went to the window, and the woman sat in the aisle seat. But then Brenda got curious, because she knew she'd booked the aisle and the middle seat. She figured out that the woman was indeed wrong. So Brenda asked her to move. And the woman made some comment that she was fine on the aisle. But we made her move. She never even said sorry about the mix-up.

Amazing how grown people can act like children sometimes.

Two other interesting facts about our flight:

  • The Seattle Pacific University (SPU) women's volleyball team was on the plane with us. (There were some seriously tall girls in that group!)
  • There were two dogs on the flight. One of them was yapping at the beginning, but then shut up (tranquilizer?).

Other than that, the flight was smooth -- with some turbulence during the last hour. Flying into Hawaii can sometimes be pretty rough, so I was amazed that the pilots were able to set the plane down as smoothly as they did. Even the flight attendants commented on the great landing.

Honolulu

When I stepped out of the air conditioned airport, I felt the a wave of moist tropical heat was both shocking and comfortable. After picking up the rental car, our first stop was the awesome Snorkel Bob's in Honolulu to rent snorkel gear for the week. (Snorkel Bob's always has the most friendly, knowledgeable staff.)

Snorkel Bob's in Oahu

Next, we experienced the legendary Honolulu traffic at 2:00 in the afternoon (although it was nothing compared to Seattle traffic).

The road to Kahuku (the North Shore)

We headed off on highways 63 and then 83 across the island, blasted periodically by tropical bursts of rain. Jagged, prehistoric peaks towered on one side and the ocean on the other.

The road to Kahuku

The road to Kahuku

After seeing a few places offering Island cuisine, Brenda found a place called Uncle Bobo's Smoked BBQ in our Oahu Revealed book.

Uncle Bobo's Smoked BBQ on Oahu

The beef brisket and BBQ sauce was nothing short of heavenly (especially on an empty stomach). Brenda and I devoured it.

Uncle Bobo's beef brisket 

Back on the road, dozens of shrimp shacks beckoned us to pull over once again. We resisted. Around 4:15, we finally arrived at Turtle Bay Resort -- our hotel for the next four days.

We checked in, and went up to our room. There we were greeted with an amazing view:

Room #1 at Turtle Bay

The only problem was it was right next to the pool (and a bar) -- and just wasn't exactly what we were looking for (think rolling ocean waves). The hotel was able to move us to another room that was exactly what we were looking for. Thanks for doing that, Turtle Bay Resort!

Room #2 at Turtle Bay Resort

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posted by AndyO @ 11:01 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

President Obama: Budget and deficit facts (not fiction)

Updated:

4/1/13

  • Corrected and simplified charts that use trillions of dollars

8/25/12

  • Corrected some errors in data
  • Added chart captions and alt-text
  • Edited and added text

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Every day across the web I see people spouting off about how bad President Obama is for the United States, how he's a socialist, how he's on a spending spree unlike anything we've ever seen, and how he needs to be voted out of office in November. "Anybody but Obama!" they cry.

As some friends on Facebook keep posting about how Obama is one of the worst presidents of all time, I decided to take a look at the facts. I'm just an average citizen, with no Economics degree. But after spending some time with the reports, it became quite clear how untrue the the Republican accusations really are (which I always suspected).

It would be great if we could have an honest conversation about the economy, the deficit, and what each party plans to do if they win in November.

This is my attempt to have that conversation.

Obama's spending record during an historic time

We're living through the second worst economic downturn in the history of the United States. Things are getting better, but many people are still hurting. The scary thing is, it could have been much, much worse. If anything's clear now, it's that Obama (and Congress) didn't spend enough on the stimulus package. But that's a different story.

But is he really the big spender that the conservatives says he is? Let's take a look at his spending in this chart (from an article by Marketwatch, which, by the way, you can check at the Office of Management and Budget):

Chart: Marketwatch based on CBO, OMB, Haver Analystics data: Federal spending slowest in decades

Chart: Marketwatch based on CBO, OMB, Haver Analytics data: Federal spending slowest in decades

Yes, it's true; Obama's spending has increased the slowest amount in nearly 60 years. The sad thing is, this isn't necessarily a good thing -- and is one of the big reasons the country hasn't recovered from the latest Depression (yes, I wrote Depression). What's more, spending has actually leveled off under Obama, as you can see in this chart from the same Marketwatch article:

Chart: Marketwatch based on CBO data: Federal spending in trillions of dollars from 2002 - 2013

Chart: Marketwatch based on CBO data: Federal spending in trillions of dollars from 2002 - 2013

According to the same article: "What people forget (or never knew) is that the first year of every presidential term starts with a budget approved by the previous administration and Congress. The president only begins to shape the budget in his second year."

The deficit: Who's really to blame?

The deficit of the United States, at first glance, is something that seems pretty bad. But it's also not something that can be understood in a sound bite.

Since Obama took office in 2008, the federal deficit has gone up 50% (or $5.3 trillion). No matter which way you look at it, $5.3 trillion is a hell of a lot of money. But the thing you have to remember is that Obama started at the level that Bush had set ($4.9 trillion) -- and that the United States' economy produces $15 billion trillion in goods and services each year.

Chart: Increase in deficit (in trillions of dollars)

Chart: Increase in deficit (in trillions of dollars)

Now let's look at this same data as a percentage increase of the total debt from the time a president started his term until the end:

Chart: Percentage increase in deficit by each president

Chart: Percentage increase in deficit by each president

As you can see, debt under GW Bush (#44 as some call him) went up 86% in 8 years. When Obama started his term, GW had increased the debt by $4.9 trillion in those 8 years -- and we were just entering some of the worst of the economic downturn. It's difficult to undo the momentum of that kind of spending. Even more difficult to cut back on spending when that's what actually needs to happen.

But what's really revealing is the percentage increase that Reagan was responsible for: 190%! In the Republican revisionist history, Reagan has been anointed as the greatest fiscal conservative of all time. No, it's not as much total debt as Obama is responsible for -- but Reagan definitely turned the ship in the wrong direction.

As quoted earlier, a president inherits his predecessor's budget during his first year. Let's look at the deficit and spending for each of a president's full fiscal years by each of his terms (and showing all three of Obama's fiscal years, including the estimate for 2012). To be clear, Obama's first full fiscal year didn't start until 2010, even though he took office in 2009.

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Gross deficit in trillions of dollars

What we see is that Bush was responsible for the huge increase in 2009 (with the bank bailouts--which needed to happen by the way). So instead of Obama being responsible for $5.3 trillion, he was actually responsible for $2.8 trillion -- and Bush was responsible for around $4 trillion.

Since presidents hold office during different times in history with different demands on the country, let's look at the deficit, GDP (Gross Domestic Product, a measurement of economic output), and the percent of the surplus or deficit of GDP (adjusted for 2005 dollars):

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Chart: Deficit compared to GDP (in trillions of dollars); deficit shown as a percentage of GDP

While this chart is pretty complicated, it shows some interesting things:

  1. GDP was much bigger than the gross deficit during Reagan's time, and has increased with each president.  
  2. Reagan actually moved the deficit in the right direction during his first term -- toward a surplus, which is what that red line is at 0% -- but then took it the other direction in his second term. 
  3. Bush 41 raised taxes ("Read my lips"), which actually moved the country closer to a surplus, which then happened under Clinton.
  4. Soon after Bush 44 took office, 9/11 happened. But then he also cut taxes and gave a refund to tax payers with the surplus money that had been built up. Once the Depression hit in 2008 and revenues (receipts) disappeared, the increase in the deficit accelerated.
  5. The change in the deficit since Obama's first full budget is flat.

One last chart shows how much the country took in (receipts), spent (outlays), and the deficit as a percentage of GDP:

Chart: Receipts, outlays (spending), and surplus or deficit as a percentage of GDP

Chart: Receipts, outlays (spending), and surplus or deficit as a percentage of GDP

As you can see, spending shot up under GW Bush (44) during the economic crisis and has remained at around the same level since 2010.

Hopefully, this helps you see that Obama isn't the biggest spender in the history of the United States. Far from it. I think if anything's clear, it's that every administration has a hand in shaping the direction of the federal deficit in the short and long-term. Deficits don't necessarily create problems in the short term. As Paul Krugman writes in his new book End This Depression Now!:

There has been a rapid increase in U.S. debt since 1980, but that rapid rise in debt didn't put us deeply in hock to the rest of the world. It did, however, make us vulnerable to the kind of crisis that struck in 2008.

Krugman, Paul (2012-04-30). End This Depression Now! (p. 44). Norton. Kindle Edition.

What I find incredibly hypocritical is the Republican Party's stance on spending and debt. Note that they didn't have a problem with GW Bush spending away -- but when Obama's trying to help pull us out of a Depression, they cry bloody murder. They want Obama out of office, regardless of whether it's their party that's to blame for the fiscal mess.

What happens next?

This depends on who gets elected in November -- because if Romney/Ryan get in, they're going to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Here's why we don't want to do this (from the http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/OutlookSlides.pdf report):

Chart from CBO: Deficits - Projected in CBO's baseline and under an alternative fiscal scenario

Chart from CBO: Deficits - Projected in CBO's baseline and under an alternative fiscal scenario

Take a look at the baseline in this chart compared to what happens if the Bush Tax Cuts continue. That alternative fiscal scenario is what will happen under Romney/Ryan (if they do what they say they'll do).

So, there you have it. The past, the present, and the future. Where we go next is up to the voters. I for one hope that Obama wins, as it appears he's on the right track with the economy.

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posted by AndyO @ 9:09 PM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romney's VP running mate sends clear signal about economic policy

Today Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his VP running mate. I honestly didn't know much about Ryan until today, although I've heard a lot about his budget plans -- as he's the House Budget Committee Chairman who wrote the Republican budget plan.

The Right is hailing Romney's choice as a bold, energizing move for the Republican ticket. The Left is pointing out that choosing Ryan sends a clear signal about Romney's economic policy intentions, with the Obama-Biden camp calling them "The Go Back Team."

What makes Ryan a bold, if not audacious choice, are his controversial budgets. Ryan's budgets, called the Path to Prosperity, according to the New York Times "defined nothing short of a conservative reordering of the nation�s tax and spending priorities for the 21st century."

And Romney has supported Ryan's controversial budgets in the past:

"I think it'd be marvelous if the Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan's budget and to adopt it and pass it along to the president," he was quoted as saying in March 2012.

Based on information from Congressional Budget Office and the House Budget Committee, the Times put together a chart about his plan:

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In addition, the Times reported that the budget (highlighting be me):

Would set a cap on discretionary spending for fiscal year 2013 at $1.028 trillion, which is $19 billion lower than the cap established by the Budget Control Act in August 2011.

Would allow the military budget to grow with inflation over the 10-year period.

Would repeal President Obama's health care law, and like last year's proposal, transform Medicaid into a block grant to the states. Medicare would be changed to offer a menu of subsidized private insurance plans.

Balance the budget? by 2040

New revenues? No

Debt reduction: From 68% of G.D.P. in 2011 to 10% in 2050

For individuals, would eliminate deductions and credits and create just two income tax rates, 10 and 25 percent. Would reduce the top corporate income tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent.

Paul Krugman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Economist, wrote about Ryan in his New York Times column:

So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this flimflam? It's not just inability to do the math, although that's part of it. There's also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there's deference to power -- the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn't point out that its intellectual heroes have no clothes.

But they don't. The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America's fiscal future.

As the media chewed over what Romney's choice in Ryan meant -- mostly pointing out the controversial points in Ryan's budget -- his campaign seems to have gotten a little nervous. They sent out talking points today distancing Romney from his comments and Ryan's budget.

1) Does this mean Mitt Romney is adopting the Paul Ryan plan?

Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.

Who did Romney think he was getting when chose Ryan? I think there are several reasons why Ryan is a good choice for Romney, but Ryan's budget isn't one of them (unless you're a Tea Party member who thinks it's all about spending and the deficit). For Romney to back away this quickly seems like a serious misstep.

After this backpedaling from his most important choice thus far as presidential candidate, I'm really starting to wonder who's advising Romney.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:21 PM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

20 years together: How we found each other

Somehow we find each other
Through all that masquerade
Somehow we found each other
Somehow we have stayed
In a state of grace

- Neil Peart, "Ghost of a Chance" from the Rush album, Roll the Bones 

On August 1, Brenda and I celebrated our 20-year wedding anniversary -- and we've been together for 26 years. That's a long time, in human years (even more in dog years). But it's all flown by so fast. I suppose that's a good thing.

What started out as the two of us has now multiplied to include two boys, Cameron and Drew, and two cats, Rocky and Jasmine. We've stayed in Seattle the entire time, with periodic trips to Europe, Mexico, Hawaii, Canada, and many of the United States. Here's the story of how we met in the classic "boy-meets-girl" style (to protect the innocent).

Looking back now, I'm amazed at how many things had to align for us to come together.

University of Washington, Spring Quarter, 1986

Part I: Boy meets girl in the chemistry building

Boy with shaved head meets beautiful, dark-haired girl with stunning hazel eyes in an English class. The class is held in the Chemistry Library Building. Boy likes girl. Girl doesn't really like boy, as much as he can tell.

Girl finds out the boy is actually on the Crew team. Girl is interested in boy, but at this point the boy thinks she's not interested. He stops his pursuit.

Boy is homesick and depressed. It's his first year at the University of Washington as a freshman. He arrived tied to another girl from his home town, who dumped him after the first quarter. The second quarter, winter, was full of darkness and rain. In the third quarter, spring, he thought things would get better. But they haven't.

On a Friday night, boy goes out with his Crew buddies to try and forget. After a while, the boy goes back to his dorm room in Haggett Hall and sits in the dark. As he usually does when he feels this way, he goes to the pay phone and calls his Mom (collect, of course). He talks about how there's a dance going on downstairs, but he's too depressed to go. His Mom urges him to go, and like all good boys, the boy does what his Mom tells him to do.

At the dance, the boy finds a few friends. The music is loud. It's hard to talk.

Then, as if he's part of some film, the people in the room part. The girl with the dark hair and hazel eyes is standing there as if a spotlight is on her. They're drawn together. She asks him to dance. So they dance.

When the dance ends, a slow dance starts. Madonna's "Crazy for You."

They keep dancing. Then something happens: There's a connection, like electricity between them. After the dance, they talk more. The boy isn't sure if she likes him, but at least she's talking to him now.

Part II: Nothing to lose

By Sunday, the boy is wondering if he should visit the girl in her dorm room. He found out she's next door in McCarty Hall. But the boy is afraid of rejection. All his friends who have listened to him talk endlessly about his loneliness, give him courage. "What do you have to lose?" they ask.

The boy decides he doesn't have anything to lose. For some reason, he grabs a Richard Bach book, The Bridge Across Forever, to accompany him on this quest to find the dark-haired girl.

The boy takes the long, lonely walk to McCarty Hall. He has no idea where the girl lives; there are multiple wings and floors in the dormitory. But he seems to be guided -- like Luke Skywalker with the Force. He finally asks someone if they know the girl, and they point him to the correct room.

He finds the girl in her room. She seems happy to see him. She asks him about The Bridge Across Forever, and they talk about their love of Richard Bach. (Later, she would tell him that she thought he was there to pick up the book from someone else in McCarty.)

After a 15 or 20 minute conversation, the boy says goodbye, and he takes the short, happy walk back to his dorm. After months of walking in rain and darkness, he sees the light.

Part III: Survival of the fittest

Now the boy and girl talk more often -- in class or in the cafeteria. He's pretty sure she's interested in him, but he's been through this before.

One morning, the boy is playing the grand piano in the Haggett lobby just for fun. He's playing the sad piano riff to the Howard Jones song, "No one is to Blame." And though he's never really paid attention to the lyrics, they are appropriate for the moment:

And you want her, and she wants you
We want everyone
And you want her and she wants you
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame

He sees the girl walking up the stairs with a friend. She leaves the friend and comes over to talk to him. They discuss how a few of the Freshmen rowers are getting together that night to watch the Opening Day fireworks. Did she invite herself to come along? Or did he invite her? It doesn't matter.

Later, at the agreed-upon time, the girl shows up at his room. The boy is excited to see her, but he's surprised at how calm he is. They walk down to the Conibear Shellhouse with some other rowers. The plan is to take the Freshman barge out on Lake Washington to watch the fireworks.

But the varsity rowers crash the party. They tell the Freshmen rowers it's not their place to take out the barge. The upper-classman are going to take the barge out instead.

The boy is embarrassed at how his promise of fireworks on the water has fallen apart. They walk back to the dorms with the other rowers. His friends are all talking to the girl, trying to impress her. The boy starts to worry; he can't compete with the other boys, who are faster and stronger than he is in the boats. But one by one, the other boys drop away, until he's standing there with the girl and another rower. 

The boy thinks the other rower isn't going to leave. He thinks he's going to lose the girl to him. But then the girl says something that makes it clear that she wants to be alone with the other boy, and the other suitor leaves.

Like many 18-year-olds, the boy doesn't understand the signals and says to the girl, "I have to go back to my room to wait for my parents. They're coming by tonight."

There's a long silence, and the girl says, "Well, I can come up and wait with you if you want."

He finally knows for sure.

Part IV: "Let's listen to Rush"

Now the boy and girl are sitting on the bed in the boy's dorm room (there's nowhere else to sit). They're talking. He asks if she wants to listen to some music.

She says, "Let's listen to Rush."

At this point in the story, it's important to note that the boy is one of the biggest Rush fans in the world. It is part of his identity. Only one other girl in his life has liked Rush.

Then she says, "I want to read the lyrics."

So they listen to "Tom Sawyer," and he talks about the lyrics.

There's a knock at the door. He expects to find his parents standing there, but instead he finds his ex-girlfriend -- the one who dumped him. When the ex-girlfriend sees the new girl sitting in the dorm room, there's a look of both recognition and disappointment. It turns out the new girl and the ex-girlfriend know each other (they went out dancing with a mutual friend).

The ex-girlfriend never comes by anymore, so clearly something's wrong. The boy is amazed that he actually feels bad for her, as he knows what it feels like when someone's not there when you need them.

She leaves, and he shuts the door.

After a few more Rush songs, there's another knock at the door. This time, it is the boy's parents. They're excited to meet this girl that their son has been talking about. They're relieved that their son seems to have found happiness. It's almost like they know -- the way parents can sometimes tell -- that this girl is the ONE.

After a few minutes, the boy's parents leave, and the girl and boy are alone. They turn out the lights and look out the small window to University Village below. They hold hands. They kiss a little. There's something so effortless about it, the boy thinks.

Somehow we found each other

Happy Anniversary, Brenda!

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posted by AndyO @ 8:22 PM   1 comments links to this post