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US Economy is growing but October 30, 2009

Posted by hslu in Economics.
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US Economy is growing but

 

The U.S. economy grew 3.5% in the third quarter of this year.

 

It was a great news but how much of that 3.5% were from the cash-for-clunker program and the $8,000 tax incentives to first time home buyers?

 

I am not sure people felt like it though because there were still 521,000 new jobless claims filed last week.

 

I guess the federal government has to borrow more money to keep the economy afloat because fewer people are buying these days.

 

I wonder what the fourth quarter will be like. Many economists predicted a 3 increase. We’ll see about that. Are you buying more gifts this year?Are you buying more expensive gifts this year?

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Health care reform will cost you October 30, 2009

Posted by hslu in 5584, Health Insurance.
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Health Care reform will cost you

Yes, you, the younger people who are starting to make more money.

With willing participation by the national media, Pelosi yesterday unveiled the public option of the House version of the health care reform bill. I believe the passage of the bill will lay the ground work for a single-payer system similar to Medicare down the road for the United States.

It will eventually become the largest department of the United States.

Long before the single payer system is in place, the public option will have problems universal to all government-run programs.

Problems specific to a single payer health insurance program are:

·        Cost over-run. There is simply no debate on this. Period!

·        Younger people have to bear the burden of higher costs because Medicare, like social security, is a pay-as-you-go system. You will pay through your nose over your working life just to take care of older people. shall I mention social security too?

·        Increasing premiums, federal budget deficits and national debt.

·        Fraud.

·        Waste as people view the government-run health insurance system an entitlement. Yeah, A Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, please! Big-size the fries and my drink. Add a large size chocolate shake. Why not! Other people are paying for my heart by-pass.

·        Rationing of services to older patients will be necessary

·        Lower doctor-to-patient ratio as fewer and fewer doctors are willing to enter the field and as more patients flock to the hospital and doctor’s offices

·        As doctors get to pay less by the system, they will take more patients to make up for the lost fees which leads to deteriorating services

·        Slow adaptation of newer technologies and new drugs due to budgetary concerns

·        Elimination of incentives to drug companies and device makers resulting in diminishing of medical-related research and development. Life expectancy in the US will decline in time as progress in life-saving drugs and devices stop coming out of these companies..

·        Socialism of the United States

·        Large government

·        More power to the politicians

US to Leave Afghan October 29, 2009

Posted by hslu in Energy, Global Affair, Politics.
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US to Leave Afghan

 

I believe that the Unites States will eventually leave Afghanistan because it could potentially become another Vietnam. This will happen sooner than later. There is simply no public interests in a 20-year nation building project with dead US soldiers. The current president made the war in Afghanistan (as opposite to the war in Iraq) a big issue during the presidential campaign. He gets stuck with his war now.

The problem to the White House becomes much more open with McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops. As more US soldiers dying there, the enemy is getting stronger by the day. The White House is dragging its feet because the president and his anti-war sponsors are trying to devise a plan to get out of that country without being seen by Muslims as a paper tiger.

The current administration is going through Soviet experience in Afghanistan and I bet they do not see any light at the end of the tunnel for United States either. High tech weapons can not substitute soldiers in a war like that. But is United States willing to sacrifice more of its young soldiers for a war with ill-defined purpose?

Someone at the table must have raised this question too: “Why should we stay there if there is no oil in Afghanistan?”

It was busy at TGI Friday October 25, 2009

Posted by hslu in Restaurants.
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TGI Friday at Tysons I

I’ll let you in on a little secret if you promise not to tell anyone else:

According to a reliable source (a waiter, actually), TGI Friday at Tysons I had its busiest day ever on Saturday (10/17) a week ago.

It made $33 K that day. That’s a lot of dough considering the sorry state of the national economy. Unemployment rate in Fairfax was not much better than the national average which stood at 9.8%.

I am guessing that the average bill was probably around $40 to $50: a three top with three entrees ($25 to $30) plus three to five drinks including two or three alcoholic drinks ($15 to $20.)  In other words, it had roughly 700 guests going through its door that day. The restaurant had probably 240 seats which meant the 15 to 20 waiters and waitresses had turned the table 3 to 3.5 times.

Tips was probably around $3,500 to $4,000 to be shared among two shits of waiters, waitresses, food runners, bar tenders and hostesses.

Can anyone add some color to this story if you have any insider information?

TGI Friday October 25, 2009

Posted by hslu in Restaurants.
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TGI Friday

We go to TGI Friday at Tysons I about once every four to eight weeks. We go there to rewind after a day’s work and to relax. I usually pick up Bao around 9:30 PM, go back to the restaurant, close and drive to Tysons around 9:40 on Weekdays and around 10:20 on weekends.  Their food was so so at best but we like the ambiance, the football games on TV and the tall beer to wash down the food. We also like the bar area because it is a good place to see and to be seen.

We just came back from there about an hour ago. I was so impressed with the hamburger I had there that I have to write something about.

The hamburger I had was Friday’s Triple Stacked burger with french fries. The Triple Stacked  burger had two cheeses: sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack mixed with red pepper pimento. It was then topped with a generous amount of ham, two stripes of bacon,  pickles and more cheese served in a toasted bun.

My burger was soft, juicy and oily like what a burger is supposed to be. The beef patty was slightly red in the center just the way I liked it. The ham was tender and smoky. A few slices of pickle added a little zest to the meat. The bun was soft and warm unlike what I used to have at TGI Friday before.

All in all, it was one of the best hamburgers I ever had especially the first few bites. It was a good combination to mix ham and beef patty together which I didn’t expect at all.

Photo0030

I do have to warn you though: the hamburger was greasy and dripping with juice. You certainly don’t want to eat it very often. A burger between Bao and me once every four to six weeks is about just right for us. We’ll increase the intake of rabbit food and walk a few more minutes on a treadmill in the next few weeks to compensate for the excess we had tonight.

Balance! Balance! And balance.

Here is that 半 I was talking about.

Leaf Net October 24, 2009

Posted by hslu in Fish Pond.
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Fish Net

After a disastrous fall last year in which the bottom of the fish pond accumulated a lot of leaves, I decided to do something about it this year.

Last year, although we took out a lot of leaves from the pond, many still sank to the bottom which may have damaged water quality and caused some of my largest fish to die over the winter.

Last Tuesday, I put a custom-made 20′ x 25′ leaf net (~$90) over the fish pond and it is already doing its job today. The rain and wind had caused many leaves to fall and I am glad that I did it in time to give the fish some protection.

You may not see it in the picture but believe me it is there. westen pest control 125

Chinese Yuan – Is it undervalued? October 24, 2009

Posted by hslu in China, Economics, Global Affair.
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Chinese Yuan – Is it undervalued?

Mr. Krugman of the NY Times suggested in his op-ad that Chinese Yuan is undervalued because it is pegged to the US dollar. As US dollar losing its value on the world market, Chinese Yuan is also headed lower.

He suggested that Yuan should strengthen and the United States should do something about it. A lower Yuan helps China exporting its goods to the world. At the same time, Krugman failed to point out, consumers all over the world also benefit from lower inflation.

His comments stemmed from Treasury Department’s assessment of Chinese monetary policy in a report to Congress last week. The report declared that China is not manipulating its currency but expressed “concerned” of Chinese government’s action.

The timing of the report was most intriguing because the YS president is about to visit China and he didn’t want to offend China which holds more than $800 billion of US treasury notes.

There are several points that I found interesting:

  1. I believe the US is now in a much weaker position economically against China compared to what it did in mid-1980 against Japan. Mounting national debt and blooming federal deficits boxes the US in a corner which is hard to get out in the near future. Since the deficit is expected to get worse in the next few years under current administration’s push for a bigger government, the US has to kowtow to China to avoid further decline of the US dollar. In mid-1980, the US, with coordinated efforts from other developed countries, forced Japan to strengthen its currency through what was called the Plaza Accord. The rapid rise caused in part the collapses of its stock market and asset values pushing Japan into two-decade long recession.
  2. The president is about to visit China. The beta male mindset of the current president dares not to offend its host before the visit which resulted in the language of the Treasury Department report.
  3. Chinese Yuan is pegged to a combination of currencies including the US dollar which Krugman conveniently failed to point out in his article too.
  4. Why should China raise the value of its currency when it is facing rising unemployment and troublesome social unrests? China knew what the US did in the mid-1980 to Japan and has gradually allowed it to rise in the past two years or so. I think China has learned the lessons and will raise the value of Renminbi on its own terms no matter who is making the noise; Nobel Price winner included.
  5. A weak nation will also lose out to the demands of a stronger nation. This is the norm instead of an exception in the world of global economic war and politics. Every nation in the world should protect its own interests but in reality some countries win while others lose the battle in the process.
  6. A crucial question Krugman failed to ask in his op-ad is who is responsible for a weak US dollar in the first place? He knows that the answer is the United States itself. The current administration does not care about the mounting unemployment rate and the ill-conceived stimulus package failed badly to create jobs promised by the president in January 2009. At the same time, he, with support of Pelosi and Reid, pushes his social agenda, increase the size of the government and ran up government debt to as far as eyes can see. It is none other than the reckless action of the president which is responsible for a weak dollar.
  7. I believe that the United States actually likes to see a weak US dollar because the export sector is the only sector that is showing any sign of life in the current economy.

I think it is unavoidable that the United States will gradually see China as a rival instead of a strategic partner. It may have already happened behind the scene in the corner offices of Pentagon and in the war room of the White House after China’s impressive showing of military capability at the celebration of China’s 60 year Anniversary earlier this month. With second-class naval fleets, China is by no means a military threat to the US. What the US is concerned about is that sooner or later China will pose a threat to the US a decade or two later.

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China has money and I have every reason to believe that its leaders will use it wisely such as the development of advanced technologies in the fields of outer space, weaponry and first-class naval fleets.

The United States is living on borrowed funds and will sink the nation deeper into a rat hole. However, the United States is still the strongest nation in the world but it is dying a slow death which will take decades to complete. Spain, France and Great Britain all had their time under the sun. For 60 years, the United States has enjoyed the unprecedented prosperity since WWII. However, the baggage is catching up with them fast. Once the economy shows any signs of recovery, interest rate will go up and the US will pay much more interests to debt holders such as China and Japan. Well, the United States can always crank up the printing press. The question is whether the other nations will continue to buy it in the future.

Maybe Mr. Krugman should devote some time to address this issue.

Washington Post on Deeds October 23, 2009

Posted by hslu in Politics.
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Why was Washington Post so Honest in the Deeds story?

I am shocked to read the Washington Post story on Deeds today. It cited unnamed senior officials that, if Deeds failed to win the VA Governor election,  Democrats at the national level will blame Deeds for the failure.

The Post said that these Democrats are laying the groundwork to shield the president from being viewed as losing support in the state which for decades has voted Republicans in previous presidential races until last year.

Why was Washington Post so honest in this shocking report? This was unlike the Post I knew. I thought the Post is in the pocket of the Democratic Party and White House and will never say anything bad about a democratic president and the liberal Party. Was it because someone else was to report this and the Post had no option but to make it public before everyone else?

Well, ever since I joined Mobil I dislike politics and this story hasn’t changed my mind of how I view it at any level and place: The US, Taiwan, and China.

I guess they are all cut from the same cloth just like what Chinese would say in this situation: 天下乌鸦一般黑 “tian1 xia4 wu1 ya1 yi1 ban1 hei1” which literally means “crows are as black as any other in the world.” Some people will twist what’s so obvious in order to make themselves look good.

Nuclear Weapons October 22, 2009

Posted by hslu in Energy, Politics.
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Nuclear Weapons

Xiao forwarded me an article on Newsweek about nuclear weapons. The article sugested that the reason that we haven’t had another World War after WWII 64 years ago was because many nations have nuclear weapons capabilities. These nations would not start a war because they could not win.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/214248

Here is my thought:

Nuclear weapon is a deterrent as pointed out by the Newsweek article. However, it doesn’t guarantee a regional nuclear war won’t happen.

There are many murder/suicide tragedies and mass murder/suicide incidents in the US along. These people were willing to give up their own lives just to make a point or to express their hatred towards others. Of course, we have suicide bombers from muslim nations which defies reasoning by any standard. But sadly our world is filled with people like this.

Having nuclear weapons is not the only reason as suggested by the article, why the world hasn’t had an WWIII in the past 65 years. If these nations wanted to, they could start WWIII using conventional weapons and leave the nuclear weapons as a last resort or a back up. There hasn’t been a WWIII because these nations have learned their lessons from the previous two wars: it is too high a price to pay just to fight a conventional war.

The threat of nuclear war is somewhat remote now because the world is more or less at peace. Natural resources are still widely available. Crude oil is still plentiful. Poor countries in Africa and southeast Asia are too poor to make any difference. Middle East nations with abandon fossil fuel deposits are reasonably happy because they can exchange their resources for US dollar. The US has no option but to buy crude oil from other countries because the US is running out of domestic oil supply.

Let’s quick forward to 30 or 64 years from now when the majority of crude oil supplies are from a handful countries in the Middle East, Russia and Venezuela. Alternative energy will help in rich countries. But for poorer nations, it will not be able to replace crude oil because they couldn’t afford it. China, by then the largest economy in the world is fighting every steps of the way with the US for the last drop of crude oil supply. The economy of many nations will be stagnant because of high crude oil prices. Every government in the world is in danger because they couldn’t feed their citizens. Inflation will be in the low double digits. Basic staples like rice and wheat are scarce and many people are out of work. They are hungry all the time and they may have access to nuclear weapons.

What’s going to happen then?

Besides, rich countries, like the US and France, have a lot more to lose than poor countries such as Indonesia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. If people in poor countries are hungry but rich nations are still pretty well of, what guarantee do we have that they won’t use their nuclear weapon to make not too unreasonable demands?

What if we quick forward 100 years from now? Will nuclear weapons still a good deterrent?

Chinese has this saying:

槍桿子出政權 “qiang1 gan3 zi1 chu1 zhen4 quan2” or guns= power.

When KMT was fighting the Communists in the 1940’s, guns and artilleries were the weapon of choice. Now, the weapon of choice 64 years from now is a cruise missile with multiple nuclear warheads.

You might call me cynic. But, I still suggest that the world will not have peace until husband and wife of every family in the world stop arguing about differences in their daily life. The world will not have peace until religions no longer exist. The world will not have peace until we all speak a common language. The world will not have peace until we are all equals.

Heard in White House October 21, 2009

Posted by hslu in Politics.
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Heard in the White House

What shall I do?

“Didn’t we already have 60,000 in Afghan?”

“Yes, Mr. president.”

“So why did McChrystal ask for 40,000 more? Didn’t he know Moveon.org wants to bring some soldiers home now?”

“We’ll have Gates shut him up.”

“That damn McChrystal dare to pressure me from London. To hell with McChrystal and his speech! For god’s sake, I am his boss.”

“Mr. president, he gave me a black eye. We’ll put him on the black list. We’ll fire his ass and tell him to take the early retirement package.”

“I can’t cave in to his demand. Putin will look down on me. I’ll see the Chinaman next month. Besides, I just got a peace prize. I can’t send in that many troops. What if they take the prize away from me? Too bad, I can’t keep the money.”

“Mr. president, we all know you are an alpha male.”

“Good. I’ll send in 2,000. McChrystal got his increase. That’ll shut him up. Moveon.org won’t give me too much trouble and I am sure Soros will keep sending his money my way. The Oslo boys won’t take away my prize. Let’s face it; they are in a tough position too.”

“That’s a smart decision, Mr. president. I’ll have Olbermann and Matthews send out a trial bloom tonight.”

“Good job. But, what about Joe six pack? Will they be upset about my decision?”

“No, Mr. president. They got their hands full. We have them exactly where we want them to be: the unemployment line.  They’ll worry more about where their next paycheck comes from instead of Mullahs.”

“Hmm, you are right. If the average Joe is out of work, he’ll appreciate the unemployment checks we send to him. More power to us Democrats.”

“Yes, president. He’ll vote Democrat in November. Republicans likes to put him to work. We’ll give him a check. He’ll stay home and vote Democrat.”

“That’s a great observation.”

“Thank you, Mr. president. Is there anything else you want to talk about?”

“Not really. Btw, our soldiers are dying out there.”

“Yes. They are. Mr. president. But the numbers are still small. It’s not a problem yet.”

“Good. Let’s me know when it is about to become a problem. What’s for dinner?”

“Kobe steak. Sir.”

“Good.” I am hungry now.”

“Thank you Mr. president. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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