Monday, April 19, 2010

Transition Week

This week, I will be transitioning away from taxes and moving on to Census work. I was scheduled to work half-days at my tax office, but a scheduling mix-up means I will be working at the office just up the road from our apartment instead of making a 30-mile round trip every day. Woohoo! I have Saturday, Sunday and Monday off, then start training for Census 2010. It's temporary, but at least I get some of our federal taxes back. Given what I've seen of the locals, I expect to encounter a great deal of hostility. I may be wrong about that, but it seems reasonable based on our experiences so far.

We didn't end up doing much this weekend; the weather was cold and wet. Debbie was working Saturday anyway, so we just stayed in. Sunday we had a bit of a break in the rain, so we scurried out to do some driving around the Brattleboro, Vermont area. We've identified several places we will be going back to visit once the weather improves and the trees leaf out.

The big news, of course, is the volcano in Iceland (I am not even going to try to type the name of the thing), and the havoc it is playing with air travel. I looks like some flights will resume and several test flights with empty planes have been successful. But I wouldn't be planing any trips to Europe anytime soon. I do love the cluelessness of those who insist that something must be because they want it to be. All flights canceled means just that. One wonders how Westerners would fair in a real crisis. So far, this has been merely an inconvenience. And it's all caused by global warming. You knew that was coming, didn't you?

We had a Friday last week, so that means eight more banks implode. Again, at any other time, this would be alarming, but after last year, it almost seems anti-climatic. Foreclosures are also up, but that's also not unexpected. Most banks figured foreclosing last year would accomplish little or nothing in many housing markets. Why bother going to the expense of kicking people out of their house so it can set empty waiting for a non-existent buyer? The fact that they are now following up on non-performing mortgages can be seen as at least a signal that a temporary bottom has been reached.

In other economic news, OPEC promises to "step in" if oil hits $100/barrel again. I'll just bet they will.

It's been an open secret for years that whenever a city installs red-light cameras, they shorten the yellow light in order to increase revenue. In other words, red-light cameras have nothing to do with safety. It was only a matter of time before someone went too far and made it impossible to stop in time for a red light. It's never about public safety; just simple greed.

Anytime the government tries to force people to act in a certain way, it must, by definition, provide perverse incentives. Solar and wind cannot compete with fossil fuel, otherwise, we would be using solar and wind, not fossil fuel. Because solar and wind are viewed as "better", government distorts energy markets to induce people to use them. With perverse incentives, you get perverse outcomes.

In health-care-related news, everyone is shocked, shocked that forcing insurance companies to take every person who applies and charge everyone the same rate will cause rates to increase. The bastards! There oughta be a law! Translate this into auto insurance: What would you expect to happen to insurance premiums if every company had to insure every driver that applied at the same rates regardless of their driving history? Maybe people should think about that while they munch on the latest slow-suicide product to come out of the fast food industry.

And that's probably enough fun for one day. I need to go put some clothes on and get ready for work.


GreatMatt said...

One of my bosses was in the UK last week and got stuck because of the volcano. She ended up driving to France and managed to get a flight out of there over the weekend.

One thing she mentioned, as soon as all the flights got canceled, all of the hotels doubled and tripled their rates. Nice to know that everyone is greedy and not just America. LOL

Ric said...

Never doubt that in any situation, some will try to make a fast buck. I'm sure hotels are experiencing some disruptions in supply chains and what-not that are driving up costs, but some people are just evil.

The last time this particular volcano went off, it kept it up for over a year. And it usually means the second, larger volcano next to it will pop its top soon. This could be an interesting time to live in Northern Europe.