Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Palin - Is she qualified?

It's amazing how many people are claiming that Palin is not qualified to be President - never mind that she's the only one of the four (considering VP and President candidates equally) that has any executive office experience.

McCain has always been in Congress. So has Biden, and Obama's new on the scene. The job of any Congressmen (or Congresswoman) in either the Senate or the House of Representatives is two fold:

1) Legislative: Make Laws, Vote on Laws.
2) Do #1 with respect to the interest of the People of the state and district you represent.

Notice that there is not a single Executive responsibility in there. It is the responsibility of the Legislative branch - i.e. Congress - to make the laws. That's it. It falls to the Judiciary branch to ensure those laws pass the muster (or so to speak), and the Executive branch to enforce them. Each are pretty mutually exclusive - by design so that one group cannot dictate what happens and the people get represented. That's how its designed from the Constitution on out - though you'll never hear it from a Senator or Representative mind you. (They like to think they are more important than that.)

Now they the Legislature does get charge of the budget, which is one way they get to do their "checks & balances" thing. But ultimately, they have no control over the troops or any executive official. Not a single senator has as a Senator made an executive decision; nor can they. Same for Representatives.

However, that is not true when it comes to a State Governor. When a Territory decides they want to join the United States, they must first pass a State Constitution that is based on the Federal Constitution. As such, each state also has a House of Representatives and Senate in its Legislative Branch, a Judiciary branch, and an Executive Branch modeled after those of the Federal level. Guess who is in charge of the Executive Branch? The Governor. No one else.

Does the Governor control troops? To borrow a phrase from Sarah Palin - "You betcha". What troops? The State Militia, National Guard, and other troops that belong to the state's executive branch. Sure, the U.S. President can call on these troops for other needs - i.e. the President can take over the National Guard under certain circumstances such as a national emergency - but at the very least, they report to the Governor.

The Governor also has the ability to pardon crimes, signs the state laws, and oversees the groups that enforce those laws. Same as the President.

Would Sarah Palin be the first Governor to be the Vice President - or if something happened to McCain President? Most certainly not. Both former Presidents Reagan, and Clinton, and the current President were all formerly State Governors; as well as a fair number of former Presidents before them.

So is Sarah Palin qualified to be President? In one word - "Yes".
Is she more qualified than Obama? Most certainly.
Does McCain have to listen to her? Not in the least.

Am I voting for McCain or Obama? I'm not sure yet as I don't really like either one.

Oh, and the polls? Most pollsters know how to ask - or write questions that will be asked - to give an answer in a certain way. So don't ever take poll's at face value; each poll - Republican or Democrat - are aimed to get certain numbers. And they will show what the pollster wants it to show. In the case of Palin, they are probably trying to get the numbers to be against her, against McCain. After all, if they get enough polls to say she's a problem for him - then no matter how much she may actually help him, he won't be able to deny polls that they push through which will hurt, even if they are misleading. It's kind of like a snow ball effect - get enough mass and speed and it'll roll over anything in its path. That's the media for you, especially the pollsters.

What's this come down to? Look at her job. Look at her resume, and be your own judge. Don't necessarily believe what the media is telling you. Check the facts yourself. You don't need to take my word for it either - check for yourself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

D600 and Linux...

So a while back I purchased my old work laptop - a Dell D600. I initially put Win2k on it b/c that is what I had and my wife wanted Windows and it was easy. Recently we got her a new laptop - a nice HP Core Duo system running Vista Ultimate. She's happy; and I've had a little bit of free time.

So I put Linux - specifically Gentoo 2008.0 - on the D600. It took a little work, but nothing I wasn't up to. The install was really smooth - and would have been smoother if I had followed the directions the first time around. (Fortunately Linux is designed well, so while I rebuilt it, I didn't have to go back to the CD and no wireless. So I was able to do more over the wireless!)

So now I'm running a very recent Linux Kernel - 2.6.25. The ATI Video card (ATI Mobility FireGL 9000 Rev 1/Radeon R250) is natively supported with the radeon driver. The wireless (Broadcom 4306, Rev 2) and wired (Broadcom NetXtreme BCM5702X rev 2) NICs are natively supported too. In fact, pretty much everything is natively supported - sound, etc.

The downside, though, is that the ATI drivers don't support the video card any more. However, the open source driver does just fine.

So why am I writing this? Well, mostly to note that the support is now native - at least with Gentoo. In setting up the system, I have noticed that a lot of information on the Net mentions adding patches and other stuff. And really, the only big thing I had to do with Gentoo was the following - and this is only stuff specific to the D600:

1. Make sure to set the 'Dell Laptop' stuff when compiling the Linux Kernel. It's pretty evident in the various menus used to configure the kernel (e.g. make menuconfig).

2. I had to install the Wireless Firmware - which required some special work due to licensing restrictions, which basically consisted of downloading the firmware from a website, extracting it to /lib/firmware, and running a small program (also from the website, though I think Gentoo might have it in Portage too) to align it with the kernel. After that, it was like running any other NIC - though it came up as wlanX instead of ethX - but that's okay.

3. Configuring X was a pain. Mostly because the ATI drivers don't work, and it's hard to know the monitor and video card information on your own. I'll have to post more on this another day - but suffice it to say that it's not too hard to get a well working system.

4. Sound was pretty easy. I've got a pure ALSA set-up; and once Alsa mixer was installed and I enabled the various volumes - especially the 'Headphones' and 'External Amplifier' I got sound without a problem. The "External Amplifier" drives the Internal Speakers. Kind of doesn't make sense - but works very well.

5. I installed a few extra things laptop related - namely 'gkrellm'. Sadly, I can't quite remember all of them. The other thing was enabling the 'dell' USE flag for 'sys-apps/hal'.

6. I use KDE, and there is some information out there regarding using the 'latitude' keyboard. As I said, I paid a little attention during the various build phases and made sure 'dell' and 'latitude' stuff was enabled. And once I set KDE to use the "Dell Latitude series laptop" keyboard layout (Control Center->Regional & Accessibility->Keyboard Layout->Keyboard model), it just worked! Volume Up/Down/Mute just worked!

Needless to say, the year of the Linux Desktop is certainly upon us when it has finally become extremely easy to configure a system and get near full usage out of it, and not necessarily with manufacturer support at that - by that I mean, a number of the parts companies haven't released full specs or helped much with drivers; yet, I still get nearly as much out of it as I do under Windows - likely more since Linux is more resource friendly than Windows is.

(WinXP SP-2 wasn't bad on the system when I had it a while back; but as far as Windows went, Win2k SP4 was the prime for it. Now, I'm sitting quite pretty with a nice KDE 3.5.9 desktop, doing things that Win2k - likely even WinXP - could barely dream of. In fact, soon I'll be sitting pretty doing things that even Vista has a hard time dreaming of once KDE 4.1 or so is more easily able to install under Gentoo - right now, Portage 2.1 is keeping it from getting installed since it needs Portage 2.2, which isn't quite ready yet. Hopefully soon.)

Well any how...the last few weeks have been a dream for me. Oh - and my Win2k installation? I'll likely only be booting it using Bochs or some other emulator that can use the hard drive partition! Or may be I'll finish cleaning it up (getting the photos off of it) and then convert it to more disk space for Linux...I certainly don't need Windows here any more!

Hope someone finds this useful. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

US Energy Independence...

What does it really mean for the U.S. to be "Energy Independent"?

Honestly? You hear it all the time right now with the presidential politics, in the debates, and everything else. But what does it really mean?

To start with - it means that the U.S. would be self-sufficient on its energy needs - as any country should be. That's all there is. Nothing more, nothing less.

So, how do we get there?

Well, that's the hard part. Primarily entirely due to nothing more than politics. Why? Because its politics that keeps us from it; and big spending lobbyists as well.

It's the lobbyists paying the politicians for their interests. For example, the U.S. Congress tried to raise the required gas mileage for the average vehicle to 35 miles per gallon; however, the bill never made it through, namely due to political interests - the big auto makers didn't want to do it as it would be "too costly" for them, so they poured lots of money against it. But it is that exact kind of politics that are keeping the U.S. from achieving energy independence. Why?

Because it keeps driving the need for certain kinds of energy sources higher. For example, the current standard is 25mpg - which typically yields about 400 miles per tank of gas. My Mazda 3s gets between 26 and 32 mpg on its 14g tank - thats between 364 miles and 448 mpg if I were to run it empty. Raising it to 35 mpg on the same vehicle would either raise minimum miles per tank to 490, or lower the size of the tank to about 11 gallons.

Now to put it into a little bit of perspective. Suppose you have to go 1000 miles. At 25 mpg, that's 40 gallons of gas. At 35 mpg, thats 28.57 gallons - or 70% of the fuel consumption. In today's dollar - at nearly $3.75 per gallon - it comes to a savings of $42.85. That also frees up 11.43 gallons for distribution elsewhere.

So what, then, would happen if we increase fuel efficiency to 150 miles per gallon? Or 200 miles per gallon? Or more? We do have the technology; but the auto-makers choose to give us all kinds of things we don't need - like TV's - instead of giving us savings that would really help us.

So how else do we get there?

The other big side of why politics gets in the way of energy independence is that there is a lot of political upheaval over building new fuel refinery plants, or even nuclear facilities.

Why are these important? New refinery plants means the ability to spread the fuel we have further at lower cost. Nuclear energy has the highest return available in terms of fuel to power ratios. Nothing comes close. The only argument against Nuclear is the relatively small amount of waste afterwards. And in terms of safety history, nuclear is by far the safest; with less injuries than anything else. And every instance of a nuclear plant failing - all two or three of them - containment has occurred. (Yes, even Chernoble was no where near what it could have been; and research already shows that after only about 20 years it is already coming back to levels that are safe enough to live in!)

** It doesn't mean we have a nuclear plant in everyone's back yard though! **

Don't get me wrong - we need a very diverse energy plan that includes solar, wind, hydro, and many other forms of energy harvesting. But bang-for-buck, nuclear is the cheapest and cleanest we can get.

Again, to put it in perspective - we can reply "dirty" fuel sources such as coal that have limited resources, which are costly to recover and transport, with other sources of power such as nuclear that can do far better. And when the next safer/cleaner thing comes along we can upgrade the power plants to that too.

BUT that does nothing for the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that traverse the roadways and railways all over the world, over 90% of which use some form of petrol - which is even more limited in quantity than coal.

There really is only one solution for the vehicular side - converting everything to pure electric. The reality, though, is that the conversion is not an overnight process. Most are ranting now about the battery situation - however, Porsche had a 100% electric vehicle around 1915, and companies such as Tesla Motors are figuring out ways around the battery situation. (BTW, Tesla has a really neat method of charging/discharging batteries by treating them like a big network of small batteries.) But should we toss the baby with the bath water, or so to speak?

Absolutely not. What it means is that we need a hybrid vehicle to get there. Toyota brought us the Prius, and several other companies have brought similar vehicles. But they all do it wrong by building two system in-line, instead of building one system that supports the other and for that there is only one real solution - a full electric system that can be supplemented by an alternative energy source.

Now why did I say "alternative energy source" instead of saying a "gasoline engine"? So as not to limit the possibilities. That alternative source will likely be a small gasoline engine - and if we do it right we could recharge the batteries while the vehicle is moving and then shut it off again - but it must also include a way to draw energy from the greater power grid - i.e. a plug-in hybrid.

Sadly, we'll have to wait until at least 2010 for such a vehicle to be done right . The EPA killed it before; hopefully they won't do it again. (Why? Because it meant they couldn't get the test results to be consistent since it could be plugged in, thus the vehicle might have gotten 50mpg one time, and never used a gallon another time.)

Why is this important? Because until it is provided, we cannot centralize our energy generation systems. Until we can plug-in the vehicles there will be no such thing as energy independence. Why? Because we'll still need oil and petrol from other nations in ever growing quantities than the U.S. could ever itself produce.

Of course, once they start selling it'll take about 20 years to replace the vehicles on the road. Why? It'll take about 10 to 15 years to trickle down once it reaches a generally accepted price range, and it'll probably take about 5 years to reach that once it hits market.

But there is hope for making it happen sooner, but only if someone can come up with an economical way to convert existing vehicles to either a pure electric system or a hybrid. Needless to say it can be done - there are a lot of enthusiasts our there doing it right now - but it usually is a very custom job, namely since no one is doing it on large scale. What is needed is someone to pick it up, create a replacement engine that will suite most vehicles and give decent performance (not everyone needs a sports car), and the glue-parts (namely the connections to the transmission) for most vehicles and deliver it at a cost that is not much more than replacing a standard engine.

Why the cost limit? To make it affordable, and that would probably come at about the same point the car companies are able to do it for their current selections - about 5 years out - since it would use much of the same kinds of technology.

But it can't just stop at vehicles. Systems that can be maintained by solar energy such as traffic lights or school zone lights should be. Systems that can be shut off when not needed should be.

And don't forget about "Daylight Savings Time" - it should just be eradicated. It doesn't save us anything (as the recent study of the state of Indiana showed when they converted to it in 2007), and does not make an impact on energy usage - the U.S. is a 24/7 economy. Manufacturing (which is what DST was all about) happens regardless of the clock. If it's not heated, it's cooled (which is more likely nowadays anyway) and that happens regardless of the time of year. People tend to just leave their air conditioner or heaters on; which in the end just uses more fuel though it may save a few dollars a month today.

Then of course there is the big farce that is ethanol. The only reason you hear anything about ethanol is again politics - the farming lobbyists which spend more money on the U.S. Congress than anyone in the world. So despite the fact that 1 gallon of pure gasoline produces more energy than 1 gallon of gasoline mixed with ethanol, which produces more energy than 1 gallon of pure ethanol, we're still force feeding ethanol production through the system - even legally requiring it - despite the fact that it is a leech on the entire fuel system that only drives demand for fuel higher because the vehicle that was getting 400 miles per tank is now getting 200 or 300 mile per tank just because of ethanol. (Of course there are also the other side-effects such as how much more corrosive ethanol is; the fact that it burns hotter and makes engines deteriorate faster, and more.)

Ultimately, there's a lot there. And it will take a long time to do. But it'll only take longer unless we get started on the road to it today. Some are starting. Energy independence - energy self-sufficiency - will be a long and hard road; but it will be more than worth it to get there.

Now if we can only get the politicians in line with the interests of the people instead of the lobbyists...

P.S. Sorry if I seemingly got a little off-topic. Everything there is really on-topic. Hopefully I made it all relate in a way that made sense. Comments, discussion welcome as always.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Update...'s been quite a while and much has gone on. This, however, is just a quick update on me and why the blog has been so empty as of the last few months. It's really rather simple - I've changed jobs and moved, and in the midst of it all I haven't really had any time to write more blog entries. Hopefully that will change soon. In the mean time, enjoy!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Yahoo and Microsoft??? Microsoft Debt?

So Microsoft has offered a bid to Yahoo! shareholders to buy out the Yahoo! common stock - or something of that nature - to the tune of $44.6 billion. Well...first, as a Yahoo! customers I do hope that this DOES NOT go through and that at the very least that the FTC blocks such a buy out from Microsoft. that we have my opinion aside, let's look at the real deal...

Just for your information, my goal here is to get you to think about the situation.

Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo. Why? I don't know. Mini-Microsoft reported the following in his blog:

I'm surprised yet not surprised. Internally, a number of us had heard reasons from Steve Ballmer why a Yahoo! acquisition didn't make sense.

Again, I don't know why Microsoft would be going for it - especially if Ballmer has reasons that it doesn't make sense! Well...I guess it makes sense in that it would (a) eliminate a search competitor, (b) eliminate a video competitor, and (c) gain them some part of Google - Yahoo! has an investment in Google, so this would make that investment Microsoft's.

Hmm....that would be an interesting twist - buy Yahoo! so that it could then take care of its number one competitor (who isn't officially trying to compete with Microsoft) - Google. that might be a reason. One that is worth $44.6 Billion? I don't know.

But let's also consider this. Microsoft does not have enough cash available to actually make the purchase, which means that Microsoft would have to for the first time ever go into debt in order to make the purchase. Anyone know why Microsoft has never carried debt? Because Bill Gates wanted it that way. From the start, Bill Gates ensured that Microsoft had enough cash on-hand to run 2 years without a single sale of any product. That's quite a feat, but it's also the key to Microsoft's success. Why? They could do what they wanted and didn't have to worry about what investors might tell them to do. They didn't have to worry about bankruptcy or any of those other matters. And furthermore, they didn't have to worry about anyone trying to buy them out.

What's that? Buy out Microsoft? When a company isn't doing well financially and it has published stock, then someone might come around and try to buy that stock at an above value price (e.g. the sock is worth $5 so they offer $7) in the hopes to lure enough people to gain a controlling share and then be able to direct the company. This is usually referred to as a Hostile Takeover. Microsoft has never had to worry about anyone doing that because they have always been in good financial conditions.

Well...either Yahoo! has royally pissed off Microsoft, or they have enough financial trouble that they are ripe for such a buy-out and Microsoft is growing impatient with waiting out the talks they have been in with Yahoo! for some time on the subject. No - I don't know why.

But why is Microsoft all of a sudden loosing their patience? Why are they all of sudden willing to go into debt to finance this deal?

To be short, Microsoft is at a big cross-roads right now. Not only are they losing their big leader and founder - Bill Gates, who is retiring to pursue philanthropy with his wife - but they are also facing the stiffest competition they've had in years - probably since the early to mid-1990's - and from Google (you know that "big" search company that Yahoo! owns a share of). Additionally, Microsoft is about to lose everything - or rather, we'll learn just how much Microsoft will lose by the end of this month, and it has everything to do with OOXML.

What is OOXML?
It's Microsoft new formats for its Office Productivity programs, namely Excel, Word, and Powerpoint, and its the default/primary format used by Office 2007. You need special plug-ins for Office 2003 to be able to read it too. But it's more than that. Office 2007's format is a super-set to OOXML, and will always be so. OOXML is just the part of that file format the Microsoft submitted to ECMA for approval as an industry standard, and which has been submitted to ISO to become an international standard for the world. Problem is that even with Microsoft stuffing the ballots, they still lost the initial vote in the fall of 2007. In February 2008 (this month!) there will be a ballot resolution meeting (BRM), and we can expect Microsoft to be trying to stuff that in its favor to. You can find more about that from Bob Sutor who does a great job in covering the topic.

Why is OOXML so important to Microsoft?
Needless to say, Microsoft has a lot at stake with OOXML. If they are unable to get OOXML approved by ISO as a standard (which on technical merit it should not be approved), then the Office Document Format standard will go to Microsoft's biggest Office Productivity competitors, who all back the OpenDocument Format (ODF), which is already an ISO standard. ODF achieved its ISO status by going through the entire, lengthy process; where as Microsoft is trying to ram OOXML through the process as fast as possible - regardless of the cost either to itself or of ISO's reputation. But that's business as usual for Microsoft.

Furthermore, the OOXML spec is centered around Microsoft technologies and issues. For example, there are/were several implementations for how to format a Date-Time value - they were all focused around how Microsoft Windows performs date-time functions, and the bugs associated therein. Another example is the custom drawing specifications used. The spec is riddled with it, and nearly all of them are not complete in their descriptions. As a result, the OOXML spec is over 6,000 pages long, and re-implements a lot of things that ISO has already created a spec for (e.g. MathML) while tying those same things to Windows.

Thus for Microsoft, to lose OOXML is to lose Microsoft Office is to lose Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft Financials
As I stated earlier, Microsoft has never had debt - thanks to Bill Gates. And thus far they haven't needed to as their Windows and Office products yield a billion dollars in profit a month last I heard). And AFAIK, most other products by Microsoft either do not yield any profit whatsoever, or do not yield a lot of profit. So what would it mean for Microsoft to lose Office or Windows? It would mean that the company would need to raise money to continue its business.

What's that Microsoft's business relies on its monopoly status? Yep - that's right. If Microsoft loses Windows or Office (or worse yet - both) then its lifespan will be limited thereafter since it would have to turn the other businesses into things that are a lot more profitable than they are

However, that has been how Microsoft has always been. So what's changing? Bill Gates is retiring. That's the big change. But what does that mean?

Bill Gates retires from Microsoft
One of the biggest challenges a company can face is the retiring of its lead executive, and its founders. In the case of Microsoft that big challenge comes with the retirement of Bill Gates.

We've seen what this can do to a company every time Apple ousts Steve Jobs. What happens? The company tanks after a few years and then ends up bringing back Jobs to save the day. Fortunately for Apple Steve really cares about the company and thus comes back. Apples biggest challenge, therefore, will be when Steve dies and they can't bring him back. That very well may be the end of Apple. (Sad, but we'll see when it happens. Hopefully that won't be for a long time, but it is inevitable.)

Microsoft hasn't had to face that situation yet. Bill Gates has pretty much been in charge since day one. Only in the last 18 months or so has he been taking a more secondary role - but even then, he's still very much been in charge - just differently. Fortunately, if Microsoft has problems it might be able to bring Gates back since he is only retiring and won't be dead.

However, at least from the recent discussions about Microsoft buying Yahoo! the new management feels debt is okay. But can Microsoft risk the debt? Think about it. I think not.

Suppose the BRM goes in Microsoft's favor - then they can rely on the continence of their monopoly on Office Productivity and Windows and they'll be okay. They'll be around in 50 years.

But suppose the BRM doesn't go well for Microsoft, and OOXML is rejected by ISO. It'd only be a matter of time before people start seeking other, less expensive Office Productivity software - and likely only a little longer than that before a greater switch from Windows to other platforms such as Linux or Mac OS X - which are already starting to eat a little (not much) into Microsoft's market share. At which point, they lose the income, and possibly the company there after.

If Microsoft does not take on the debt to buy Yahoo!, then they'll have enough money to perhaps go a few years without sales and then release a new, more competitive product that does support ODF and perhaps actually becomes something people want - instead of using because it's just what everyone else uses and/or they don't have a choice.

But IF Microsoft does take on the debt, then they won't necessarily have the money to do so. Their current AA or AAA rating will quickly sink. All of a sudden those bonds would be worthless.

So the question comes to this - can anyone really afford to buy those bonds if Microsoft were to issue them? Perhaps if you have a lot of money and don't care. But if you really do care about actually getting that money back with at least the inflation rate, then no, I don't think you can really afford those bonds - at least not without knowing the outcome of the BRM and whether OOXML becomes an ISO standard. But we won't know that result until May or June, if I understand things right, as there is a 30 or 60 day period after the BRM for countries to decide what they are going to do - whether they're going to change their votes or not. If the votes stand with no changes, then OOXML will fail to gain ISO support. It will actually take quite a bit of change for Microsoft to get OOXML approved, but they have a chance - I think they need like 7 to 9 votes to change from 'no' to 'yes', and that's only if no one changes from an 'abstain' or 'yes' to 'no', in which case they may need more yet.

Can Microsoft really afford to buy Yahoo! for $44.6 billion? I don't think so at least as OOXMl currently stands with ISO. We'll know better after that issue is resolved.

No - I don't have any inside information with Microsoft. I don't know what they're thinking. This is just my understanding of the events as they are unfolding, and my understanding of business and finances. In no way am I an expert in these fields, but hopefully I've caused you to think a bit about the topics (that was my goal) - whether you are an expert or not.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Economics...'s been a while since I've written anything here. So what has brought me out of the woodworks? The economy.

There are many out there that are talking about the economy, and the idea of a recession, and how this will all be "bad" for the economy. I beg to differ.

According to an article in the "Tribune-Review", reprinted from the Chicago Tribune, entitled "Housing mess turns uglier than it needs to" (by Gail MarksJarvis) , this is the "worst housing slump since World War II". So that's 50+ years of inflating housing prices, inflating the dollar, and more - which really only goes to what I am going to say that much more...

The U.S. Economy is in a big need for a re-adjustment. The prices of goods are too high, and need a correction with respect to the dollar. True, the perceived value of the dollar will remain about the same, but it will strengthen the dollar in the process. This can be done through a forced correction - e.g. a restatement where X dollars is declared to now to Y dollars. The other option, is a prolonged recession or a depression.

What we are seeing in the housing market at present is a recession. People are not buying. Why? It's not simply recent issues with banks and brokers, mortgages, etc - though that is certainly a big factor. It's also the prices - housing prices, gas/oil, goods, etc. It's also a national debt issue.

Since the 1980's the nation has come to rely on debt - not just as a nation, but also for each individuals. While I don't have a reference, I have recently heard that the average personal debt is around $10-12 thousand. That's $10-12 thousand gaining anywhere from 3% to 25% (on average) interest per year. Figuring it at $10k, and 8%, that's $800/year in interest alone for just paying the minimum amount due; fail that and you have a fees add up pretty quickly. Assuming that that is the average over the year, that's $66.67/month in interest alone - plus the $833.34 monthly payment - yielding a total $900.01 monthly payment.

So, let' assume an average income of $40k - which, figuring a 25% tax rate, leaves $30k for use - or $2500 per month. After we subtract out the $900.01 payment that leaves $1599.99 for use. Take out the rent/mortgage, bills, food, gas, etc. and there would be nearly nothing left over at the end of the month to either save or buy extras with (e.g. PS3, computers, music, movies, etc.). What results is either people stall their spending or people go into greater debt. If people are financially wise, then they would first eliminate the debt and then start spending again - but only within their income.

Unfortunately, that is not so easy. Why? As a nation, we have come to be a "having it now" group. We simply can't wait for things. So give people money, and they'll likely spend themselves into more debt. Thus, the President & Congress's proposal to give an early 2009 tax refund ($1200/household, plus $300/child; for those up to a certain income level at which it starts going down) will work to get people spending because (like it or not) the majority will simply spend it. While it will work temporarily, it will not work in the long run. You'll have to keep doing it every year, and every year give a greater amount to keep up its effects. What the economy needs in the long run is for the average citizen to lower their personal debt, for the nation as a whole to lower personal debt, and for the nation to decrease the national debt as well.

Sadly though, the solution only goes back to the same solution as doing a natural occurring (non-forced by gov't) price fix - a prolonged recession, or a depression.

How would these help? First, they would put the country at a whole under an economic hardship. For many, it will mean bankruptcy as they will lose their jobs and succumb to the debt they built up. It'll also mean the rich will get yet richer as they will be the ones to more easily survive without much problem, though it will also bankrupt the "rich" - those who pretend to be rich but in reality are extremely in debt; their life style makes them out to be billionaires, but their income is negative - even if they are making a six-figure income.

This would also mean a lot of "IP" companies (e.g. patent trolls, etc.) will go under. The result will be that commercial software will see very hard times, and there will be a lot more open source products as numerous programmers who just love to program go without work and find projects to work on.

It will also likely mean the dollar will crash. But, in the end, the economy will become stronger for it.

But this is really nothing new. Years go - before we had the centralized Federal Bank, and even during its early years - the economy was very cyclical and adjusted itself all the time. Since the Federal Bank matured, economists have come to believe that we can maintain the cyclical-ness, but do so in an overall positive way. (See any Econ. 101 class.) What this means is that the depressions/recessions will be lessened so that the economy continues growing. This also leads directly to inflation, which results directly from the difference between the dip of the depression and the peak of the grown. (I.e. if it grows by 5 points but only recesses by 3, then there is a 2 point inflation going into the next cycle.) However, in reality, inflation can only be maintained for so long before it must be corrected.

It's the simple natural law - what goes up must come down. What inflates must deflate. Eventually the bubble will burst, and the balloon will be popped - you can only patch it for so long before it becomes just one bigset of patches that will give way and explode.

So, either you can take the bigger effects up front - such as we use to have - or you can take long periods of growth followed by extremely big depressions. Either way, the result will be the same, and life WILL go on.

Personally, I'd rather take the shorter cycles. Life would be a lot easier that way and we'd all learn faster that simple principles of living with less debt as the consequences will be more evident faster, and the dollar will be stronger in the end. It also means things will be a lot cheaper - at least by the dollar figure, and the term "a million dollars" will be something really significant again.