Monday, September 29, 2008

My Take on the Economic Bailout Package and Its Failure

Despite having gotten most of my personal issues off my chest yesterday, I don’t feel too challenged to write with interest about the big news of the day: the rejection of the economic bailout plan by the House of Representatives.

I hardly know if today’s vote against the plan is the bailout’s ultimate demise. Surely, it will again rear its ugly head and, hopefully, it will be just as thoroughly slammed back down. My foresight lacks in such matters and I have been relegated to the classroom and library for most of the day. And in both locations, I have managed to mostly advert my attention from any matters not involving school work. Because of this, I currently fail to be privy to the predictions of the media analysts and experts.

However, I surely hope that the bailout is gone for good.

I was under the impression that the duty of our elected officials was to be the medium through which the voices of their constituents were heard within government. I find myself grasping for the right term to describe this setup. I think it’s called, “democracy”.

Having spent 24 years living under the impression that this democracy concept was being implemented here in the United States, imagine my surprise when I discovered that a large spectrum of officials, Democrat and Republican, in the Legislative and Executive both, were pushing for the successful ratification of this bailout package despite overwhelming calls for the contrary from most of America. Some members of government even acknowledged the disapproval of the American people in regard to the bailout, while still finding ways to see it pass.
That doesn’t seem right.

I, like many other Americans, am not in favor of this bailout. I call myself a Republican and would assume that most Republicans, by nature, would be opposed to this plan as well. However, I have recently found my association with the GOP fading. I am probably more of a Libertarian at heart. But I am at the very least currently a disenfranchised citizen.

I do think, however, that most officials in Washington fail to fundamentally understand why Main Street, USA opposes this plan. Personally, I oppose government’s hand directly manipulating entities that may very well work soundly in a more liberated system. But my fear of developing socialism isn’t the fear of the common citizen. I think that most Americans oppose this bailout plan for one simple reason:


Sure, I have heard chicken little tales of complete economic collapse, but political fear-mongering has been so commonplace in recent years that I have found myself feeling akin to witnessing the boy who cried wolf too often.

I urge government officials to inform me - inform America, and please do so with some sense of bipartisan intelligence - the real consequences of failing to pass this bill.

It’s almost like there is no one left to trust. I can’t imagine the one person whom could address this issue and explain what our economy faces that I would truly believe. I don’t know if I wouldn’t be better off asking a Magic Eight Ball.

And, therein lies the problem.

If our elected officials and the economic experts that parade on their behalf can not convince me and my peers of everyday America of pending financial doom, then we will surely be satisfied to allow the system to independently work out its kinks, allowing the cards fall where they may. Most in government grew up too lavishly to understand this term, but perhaps the economic system in America and the big institutions that dominate it (and are now failing) need a little “tough love” for the greater good of all. Sure, times may be tough temporarily, but those of us living in reality realize that tough times are often necessary to stymie the development of what some of us fear most: moral hazard.

I love the free-market. But I will be the first to say that deregulation may have helped stimulate the mess in which we currently find ourselves. But I will add that in a truly liberated system, deregulation would have never been required in the first place.

I wonder: What would Milton Friedman advise in these troubled financial times?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My World...


I write to you from the library at the University of South Florida. As of late, this has been my home away from home. Actually, it is more the case that I am at home at the library and periodically get the opportunity to visit my apartment.


I am in the first semester of my senior year and have tackled a course load much heavier than any in the past. My two majors both require senior seminar classes. I am taking both this semester. The international studies seminar requires a final twenty page paper. The religious studies seminar has a fifteen page paper requirement. I am also enrolled in Beginners’ Hebrew, which - oddly - I have not only found interesting, but have also shown some proficiency for. I am also beginning my senior thesis, required by my honors program. I am very excited about this project and will speak more about it below, in tonight‘s conclusion. Finally, I am enrolled in a political science elective. The class, titled “Modern Political Theory”, actually focuses on political philosophy. And the adjective “modern” got lost somewhere in between class title and class material. Despite the class being misidentified, I enjoy it very much.

Which is sort of the story of this semester.

I have been quarantined in the library by the burden of work, and despite my first-time-ever proactive take on coursework, realize that at the end of the semester I am going to be running haggard. Despite all this, however, I really couldn’t be happier. I have learned to enjoy studying and have really learned to love college. Much like my time in high school, I am only realizing how great of an experience this is as it draws to close. And, as I have no idea (and I emphasize, “NO”) what I will do after I graduate, I am being tempted to extend my education. People joke about being “professional students”, but seriously - if I can play this out by attending graduate or law school, why not, right?

(personal) INDECISION 2008

Of course, all isn’t “mets-su-yan” (dropping some Hebrew on ya!). I stood on the very precipice of finally attending the Army’s Special Forces Assessment and Selection class and, at the last second, turned away. Those whom have followed know very well how dear I held the possibility of becoming Special Forces qualified. I was excited to attend the two-week class, and by all indications, was set to do very well. About a week before shipping to the class, I got a case of “cold feet”. I became hesitant to miss a substantial amount of class here at the university. A big factor in my decision to withdrawal from Special Forces qualification was how well I was (and am) doing in my Hebrew course. During my freshman year, I had taken Arabic and failed miserably, receiving my only collegiate grade lower than an “A”. At that point, I decided that I failed to demonstrate the aptitude for mastering a foreign language. But this Hebrew professor is teaching in a method understandable and pacing the class at a rate that I can manage. Why disrupt a good thing?

Back to the topic at hand: Special Forces. So I just quit. I don’t need to sugarcoat my decision. I looked at the opportunities that I had before me and I chose to follow the path offered by the university. And, by doing so, I withdrew from the Special Forces program. But I would rather not use the word, “withdraw” or any derivative thereof, for fear of being labeled wrongly. I have no shame in admitting that I quit.

But here is where it gets weird…

I have but one regret. And that regret has nothing to do with a missed opportunity. My only regret is that I rejoined the National Guard in the first place and now have some remaining obligation. Because, oddly, the second that I decided to withdrawal from the Special Forces program - the instant the email was sent indicating my intention to quit - I felt relieved rather than disappointed. For about six years, I have dreamed of becoming Special Forces qualified and then, within the matter of a few nights - if that - the fire simply became extinguished. I can think of one person who exhibits indecisiveness and spontaneity as great as I (hint: my sister). But this even has me baffled.

I want nothing to do with Special Forces; no desire to be in the military. I am sure the change in attitude is related to my life away from the National Guard going as well as ever, but the level of my disinterest in service right now is so fully complete.


But, as it is hitting me now, I suggest we look at this philosophically (perhaps the wrong term). My change of heart has probably been motivated by several factors. One, though, that I can not deny is a general feeling of worldly discontent. This is an odd feeling for me. Throughout my experience in college, I took pride in being a bit more stoic than others. I have my ideology and I am still not too old to relieve myself of dreams of changing the world. However, I never felt the need to be rebellious for rebellion’s sake. I rarely spoke up in class when conversation turned to matters political or religious despite my interest. I chose to not do so because I felt that most others that had, were doing so only to hear their selves speak. I am not sold by hype, and I don’t rally to causes. I am the anti-movement kid.

But that’s changing. Always politically-minded, I have felt a recent turn towards nonchalance. Two presidential candidates present themselves and neither really excites me and one scares me completely. Warren Buffet warned that our country’s economic system was near collapse and then hedged a five billion dollar bet that the government would prop it back up. He was right and devastatingly so. The very administration that I backed in the face of monumental opposition smacked me upside the head by thumbing its nose at the Constitution. And, now, like never before, I feel that I am living in a country that is running contrary to my fundamental beliefs. I have this odd swelling of inner revolution. And, with that inside, it is much more difficult to express externally a desire to serve.

And there’s so much more. Recently, I have had such a great feeling of independence. I think that I am currently feeling what others experience when they first arrive at college, for the first time free from their parents’ oversight. Having never really had that experience, somehow I am convincing myself that I am having it now. And, really, I think it is because I am so happy with my current situation. This independence that I feel is total. Seriously, I feel for the first time obligated to no one. For example, I have always worked out because I enjoy physical activity. But, in the back of my head, I knew that I was also working out to fulfill requirements necessitated by the Special Forces program. This is no longer true. I work out because I want to. And that is the sole reason. And should I feel no desire to work out; I have no requirement to do so. Even my current excessive study habits are borne of my own desire and not some demand that I feel from my professors. Every day I wake up happy in being able to do whatever it is I want to do. I feel no social pressures, no rules, no obligations - just independence. And it is awesome.

I feel like I am having an “Office Space” moment. To those whom haven’t seen this move (and should be embarrassed to have missed it), the turning point of the film is when the main character is hypnotized by an occupational therapist only to awake the next morning with not a care in the world.

The night that I decided that I was going to withdrawal from the Special Forces program was monumental. It was also like I was choosing to live life on my terms and mine only.


There’s final thing that I wanted to mention and I briefly broached the topic in the introduction: my senior thesis.

I am really excited about this project and hope to share its progress here. The entire thesis will take two semesters to complete. I am studying past cases of genocide. My goal is to classify symptoms common in the origins of these past cases of genocide. The completion of this goal will allow for the production of a practical model. This model will describe different conflict types and then the symptoms that commonly occur in those conflict types before the occurrence of genocide sets in. By having such a model in hand, experts may be better able to identify future emerging cases of genocide before they fully bloom.

I feel that this is a pretty significant endeavor, but I am really excited about producing a useful tool. Much of college is dedicated to research only practical in the expanding one’s own body of knowledge. I hope that my model is real-world useful in preventing future cases of genocide.