Pretty burnt out

30 03 2012

Mentally, physically. That time of the semester. That time of my college career.

You have no idea how many "needle on empty" stock photos there are. It's like its own genre of photography

Got to rest up and wrap up my ISI essay. Need a vacation, or something. On the plus side, I did get to attend a colloquium with historian Gordon Wood this morning at Northwood University. So that was worthwhile.


Great motorcycles, tons of inspiration

29 03 2012

I don’t speak German, but based on the pictures (and intuitive website design), it seems like Berlin-based Urban Motor is doing some pretty great things to classic boxer-engined BMW motorcycles.

You can tell these guys know what they're doing because it never seems like they're trying too hard.

The “McQueen” is especially inspiring. I’m thinking about going a similar direction with my old Honda CB750K, which runs great but needs some serious cosmetic work.

I think I first saw Urban Motor’s fine work a few months ago at BikeExif, which is a neat site featuring excellent photos of some pretty slick motorcycles. The Urban Motor “R100RS” made the front page a few days ago as well.

Don't say you can't improve a classic

Between the Packard and the motorcycle, I can’t wait to get back in the garage. Good thing I graduate in a month.

Youth on the Hook for ObamaCare’s Failures

27 03 2012

As the Supreme Court battle over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – a.k.a. ObamaCare – heats up, it’s worth taking a moment to remind that the paltry benefits the program has already begun to dispense will be rapidly overshadowed by its unsustainable costs.

In a new editorial, the Michigan Review appeals to the sensibilities of younger voters, noting that the long-term burden of ObamaCare represents is not worth the up front goodies the legislation seems to provide:

Some aspects of ObamaCare are designed to win the support of the younger generation. Notably, a provision of the law that went into effect in September of 2010 allowed children to remain under their parents’ health care package until they reach the age of 26. This is a boon to college students and recent graduates grappling with loan debt and a tough economy, not to mention the rapidly rising cost of health care coverage (a trend only exacerbated by ObamaCare itself).

In a perverse way, the current generation has earned this substantial perk. After all, we’ll be paying into a decrepit and unsustainable Social Security system until some time after the Sun burns out; we might as well take what we can get in the present. Still, those taking advantage of expanded coverage should recognize the handout for what it is: a cynical attempt to buy support for ObamaCare by frontloading benefits and pushing expenses into the future. The goodies – like “free” healthcare for twentysomethings – come at the cost of increased taxes and intrusive mandates just a few years down the road.

Young voters should not fall into the trap of accepting short-term benefits in exchange for a dramatic expansion of government power and a vastly increased national debt. It’s a bad deal in the long run, and if the cost increases and diminution of choice that has already occurred just two years after the passage of ObamaCare is any indication, it will have all been for naught.

You can read the rest in the latest print edition of the Michigan Review or catch it all online.

Student loan debt chickens come home to roost

26 03 2012

As college costs continue their upward spiral and students rack up ever more loan debt in pursuit of the almighty degree, a handful of perspicacious pundits have warned that we are in the midst of a higher education bubble that will inevitably follow the same destructive course as the housing bubble. Well, the next financial tsunami may finally be on the horizon: over a quarter of all student loan debt payments are now 30 days delinquent. With outstanding student loan debt recently reaching the watershed $1 trillion mark, that means that about $270 billion in student loan payments are overdue.

In any sane era,$270 billion in late payments would set off some serious alarm bells. But we’re not in a sane era. With a national debt nearing $16 trillion, it’s probably going to take a few more zeros tacked on to that figure to get anyone to sit up and take notice.

There is one other mitigating factor that is helping keep the markets calm: many of those loans are federally guaranteed. In other words, they’re guaranteed by the US taxpayer. If borrowers default, or are forgiven by government fiat, we’re all on the hook. Don’t you wish you had stuck around campus for an extra year or two?

As if on cue, calls for student loan debt forgiveness have already begun. Michigan Congressman Hansen Clarke recently introduced the “Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012,” which would provide “full loan forgiveness for current borrowers who have paid the equivalent of 10% of their discretionary income for 10 years or who are able to do so over the coming years.” Read the rest of this entry »

Missing the point: Consumer Reports doesn’t get Jeep

25 03 2012

Really need to get back on the wagon as far as daily posting goes…I’ve got a lot of content but not a ton of time to commit it to writing. I’m also working on an Intercollegiate Studies Institute essay contest entry due at the end of the month, so there’s that. Topic is Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

Anyway, on a completely different note: I’ve frequently cited Consumer Reports, along with Good Housekeeping and Underwriters Laboratories, as excellent examples of market-based, objective testing and certification services that are more efficient – and far less burdensome to the consumer – than government standards agencies.

But sometimes, reviewers are a bit too good at what they do. Take automotive reviews. Their exactingly applied objective standards may apply to the commuter-oriented appliances we call “economy cars,” but they lack the perspective necessary to understand the appeal of standout, exceptional vehicles with a long tradition or an enthusiast following. Read the rest of this entry »

What happened to all the Che shirts?

22 03 2012

To top off a remarkably unproductive afternoon, I decided to watch the 2008 film The Baader Meinhoff Complex. The timing was great, because I expect that we’ll be covering the film’s subject – West Germany’s Red Army Faction– next week in my European History class.

Anyway, I liked film well enough. It didn’t glamorize the lives of the its terrorist subjects, and instead showed the “revolutionaries” for what they really were: attractive, trigger-happy narcissists with delusions of grandeur.  If only the College Republicans were that interesting.

It was hard to think over the film’s relentless speechifying and machine gun fire, but there was one thing that jumped out at me for some reason: one of the RAF members was wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, I think while robbing a bank or gunning down some unfortunate member of  bourgeois society. Read the rest of this entry »

Making sense of the Millennials

21 03 2012

By nearly any measure, American twenty-somethings – the so-called “Millennials” –  are among the richest individuals to have ever lived. All in all, we don’t have much to complain about.

Yet rather than recognizing our remarkable fortune as a blessing to be preserved, many Millennials have come to view our relative wealth as a human right without ever having tried to understand that wealth’s root causes. We have romanticized struggle without ever having known true privation. This has lead to a never-ending series of spectacles that no doubt seems bizarre – even paradoxical – to older observers.

We inject ourselves into geopolitical dramas that most of us cannot even pretend to understand, Tweeting our solidarity to individuals in countries we could not find on a map. We organize movements against corporate greed on Facebook before showing up with an iPhone in one hand and a Starbucks in the other. We’re more eager than ever to promote a “green” lifestyle – for everyone but ourselves.

As a recent survey notes, “young Americans of today are individually less interested in the environment and in conservation than those of 40 and 20 years ago.  They are also less civic-minded in general.” You’d never know it if you believed the hype behind the social media campaign for justice du jour.

In light of this, it would be simple enough to dismiss the Millennials as a generation of spoiled, angst-ridden, hypocritical permanent adolescents. But a quick glance at the individuals we have been instructed to admire is illustrative: Billionaires who beg for higher tax rates. Far-left documentarians who live in the lap of luxury. New York Times columnists who use the free press – once the most tangible representation of our First Amendment rights – to advocate for Chinese-style totalitarianism. Read the rest of this entry »