I am writing from the atrium of the "World Finance Center" in downtown
NY. Free wifi, and out the eastern window I can see the cranes
that are working on the hole left by 9/11, on the west is the Hudson
and boats at a marina.
Data roaming charges for mobile phones are
unbelievable. I have canceled the service. I suppose the
logic of those charges is "lets make a killing on the schmucks before
they realize what we are doing". My logic of course is "How
different can it be to the costs incurred at home? It is not
worth doing the sums against the likely extra cost that everyone warns
about." Well it would have been. Normal mobile (cell) in
Australia is $20/mo and in 4 days in USA I have incurred roaming
charges of $200. Cheaper to do without those GPS and maps that
the HTC-Android incur. If I need data I find a free wifi place.
I am at present staying with a friend in Battery City on the SW end of
Manhattan. Her unit is high up with views over the Hudson, with
the Statue of Liberty off to the left. The World Trade Centre is
a few hundred meters East, and is rebuilding rapidly.
I saw three men working on the road. Two of them had jack hammers
going flat chat, the third was working flatout with a shovel. We
really should offer them a holiday over to Australia to demonstrate
their technique. In Australia that job would be done by at least
six workers, one on a jackhammer working half the time, the shovel
worker taking up the other half, and three others directing traffic,
and a sixth to supervise. Result? Our six men take four
times as long to do the job that those 3 men do. So Australian
council workers use eight times as many man hours as Manhattan council
workers to do the same job. I suppose the Manhattan council
workers must be paid eight times as much. They would be on about
$600,000 per annum.
NARRATIVE ON QE2
The world Recession that started in October 2008 came about because of
sequence of events.
The recession would not have developed if the Chinese
massively purchased US bonds, so causing the Chinese currency to fall
in value against the US dollar. The purchase of bonds would have
been harmless (safe)
if the investment corporations that sold those bonds had not onlent the
money to dodgy borrowers.
Instead they should have bought only treasury bonds, and (when that
market saturated) should have lowered the bond rate to negative if
necessary. The Swiss charge money to hold funds. The US
should do the same when there is an abundance of cash.
- The Chinese (mostly) devalued their currency by
massively purchasing US bonds.
- The big corporations needed to onlend that
money, so they made
Throughout this provocation the US government has maintained integrity
by not printing money.
With QE2 (The second round of Quantitative Easement) all that is
changing. QE2 is inflationary. The Chinese (and the
bandwagon that have joined up with
them) are left with two
I personally believe that the Chinese will choose the
second option. The choice is stark, and the Chinese are pragmatic.
- Dump the dollar. Oops. The USA
really does not
need to import much. They are mostly self sufficient. So
what they will achieve is an even greater devaluation of the US dollar,
and a consequent devaluation of all those dollar denominated bonds that
the rest of the world holds. Every man and his dog will start
competing with those (now expensive) imports from what were formerly
- Spend up big on US goods and services while they
cheap. That is actually a very good idea. The rather
obvious choice is to send students to the USA to be educated. The
more important lesson that those students would learn is the culture of
the USA. That they might bring home revolutionary ideas of
government is probably a long term benefit.
Like Clover Moore is doing for Sydney City, the Mayor of NY is
developing cycle tracks all over Manhattan. And New Yorkers are
using them. No helmets, no lights at night, no bells (a legal
But it does not end there. Pedestrians and cars treat traffic
lights like "advisories". A driver confronted with a red
light and no traffic will just drive through. Pedestrians watch
for a break in the traffic to cross. Like drivers, pedestrians
treat traffic lights
And the real beauty is, the police totally ignore all those
infringements. A driver going through a red light does not get
challenged, so long as he is not doing something stupid or dangerous.
But the weather! When I arrived from Sydney about 4th October it
was sunny and warm, much like Sydney. Three weeks later and the
weather is like Sydney on a cold midwinter day.
I have been born without the "sport watching gene". New Yorkers,
like most Australians, have it to a surfeit, and watch sport in the
pub. Baseball is the favorite at the moment. I think NY is
playing off against Texas. When not glued to the TV they can be
lured into politics.
Down at the pub I meet the local drinkers. Most seem to be
employed in downtown Manhattan. One works for the Federal
Reserve, another for a stockbroker. Another for an entrepreneur
who publishes a business newsletter. Still another is a
lawyer. Another an art gallery director.
None of them is impressed with the current administration. The
general feeling is that the Fed has lost the plot. Some consensus
on having treasury offer safe transaction accounts to all and sundry,
and removing the need for banks. Then let the banks sink or swim,
but not save them any more.
Is a $10 bus ride (or a >$100 train ride) from NY. The
central market is dominated by Amish food outlets. From their
reputation and my testamentary experience they serve quite fresh,
wholesome food. Prices for liquor and food are lower than in
NY. It is a friendly town.
A further $15 bus ride from Philly gets you to downtown Washington.
In NY "downtown" is the south end of Manhattan, and is the business
district. "Uptown" is the northern end of Manhattan, and is the
commercial (shopping) and residential district. I suspect that
this description (Downtown=business, uptown=commercial) is applied to
all US cities, regardless of the relative locations on a map.
Downtown Washington is a bit south of the geographic centre of
DC. The feel of the buildings is distinctly "Federal".
Accommodation is expensive. As everywhere in the USA, I found the
people in Washington to be friendly.
I had booked on Vaustralia. About an hour out of LA my
neighbor broke a glass. The staff cleaned up, and noticing I had
my sandals off, insisted that I put them on so I would not get cut on
any glass not cleaned up. I refused, because traveling in shoes
for extended trips is something I do not do. I was told I would
be taken into custody on arrival at Brisbane. I offered to write
an indemnity, but that would not do. I put on my sandals, and
wrote a complaint to Vaustralia management. Watch this space for
a report on what action they take.