Saturday, November 3, 2007

Feel the Love, by David Brooks

It's worth watching the debates, just to enjoy something like this.

Feel the Love - New York Times

Move over, Stephen Colbert....David Brooks is pure, undiluted greatness.

Declaration of Faith. A Precise One.

Declaration of Faith
Read every 100th line in the link above. The one that says "Declaration of Faith". Or just read every 500th line. Or if you're in a big hurry, just scroll up and down it a couple of times with your cursor. Marvel at the time that went into this man's amazing web page.

I like to think that I'm getting more open-minded as I get older, despite a tendency to go off on rants when typing.

But this guy isn't giving himself much wiggle room, is he?....If he learns that there's a mistake on that web page, does that make the whole structure crumble? And what about the incredible precision displayed in this Confession of Faith....I declare that the false teachers most threatening to pastors, students, and scholars today are those who call themselves evangelical but denigrate the biblical teaching about God, the Bible, and salvation. Chief among these are David Basinger, Gregory Boyd, Stanley Grenz, Bob Gundry, Robert K. Jewitt, Bill Leonard, Clark Pinnock, Jeff Pool, Richard Rice, John Sanders, and generally the faculties of Wake Forest and Mercer Universities (including Smyth & Helwys Publishing).

Good Lord, we're not just theologizing about good and evil here, we're making creedal statements about freakin' Publishing Companies !

(Disclaimer: This guy attacks a friend of mine on a different Rogue's Gallery-type page of his website. I'm not just picking on a random witch doctor)

So where do we need to stand on The Infield Fly Rule? Designated Hitters from the American League during The World Series? Pass Interference less than five yards from the line of scrimmage?

I declare that the Bible, while written from a pre-scientific perspective, is truthful in all its assertions that have a bearing on the sciences.

Those are some strong words. Someone could easily back him into a corner, and force him to start making silly qualifying statements.

I declare that the "days" of Genesis 1 are of indeterminate length according to normal biblical usage of the word, and that the Bible contains numerous evidences that the "days" of Genesis 1 were long periods of time.

There we go. I bet some wily geologist backed him into a corner and forced that one out of him....

I declare that all preaching should be expository preaching, which consists in proclaiming the meaning of a biblical text and communicating its specific applications to the lives of the congregation.

What about the old "make three good points and then tell a deathbed story" sermons that I grew up hearing? ? Have those been declared an abomination?

Good. They were getting predictable.

I declare that the use of elements other than bread and the fruit of the vine diminishes the symbolism of Christ's body and blood.

Ahhh. The fruit of the vine....the fruit of the vine....we can't just say JESUS DRANK WINE, can we? No. Jesus wouldn't dare drink wine....

I declare that the drink used in the original Lord's supper was common diluted wine, whose content was much more similar to grape juice than to any wine produced today

Now we're getting somewhere. The fruit of the vine means grape juice, not wine....hey, wait a minute....did they have refrigeration in 33 A.D. Jerusalem??? If not, I bet everything was fermented enough to knock you down....

This whole exercise has grown tiresome, but I could do it all night.

I declare that it's almost midnight, and I'm going to sleep.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What if She'd had an Appendectomy?

The Hillary Clinton Effect : has an interview with Hillary Clinton.

This is the best part....
On the most romantic thing her husband has done for her: She hesitates for longer than is comfortable, then she says, “Oh he's so romantic. He's always bringing me back things from his trips. He brought me a giant wooden giraffe from Africa. Oh, he bought me this watch,” she said, holding out her left wrist to show off a Chanel watch, its bracelet made of white cubes shaped like elegant dentures, if you can picture it. “I had dental surgery, and he said it reminded him of teeth.”

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Please, Not Another Farm Bill

Ok, there's another farm bill coming through....cover your wallets and lock up your daughters.

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Please, Not Another Farm Bill

I'm a huge fan of Willie Nelson. Neil Young. John Mellencamp.

These guys supposedly met at the LiveAid concerts for Ethiopia, and decided that it would be good to do a similar fundraiser for American farmers. They eventually started the Farm Aid series of concerts. Here's an excerpt from the Farm Aid mission statement:

Taking Action to Change the System
Farm Aid works with and provides grants to local, regional and national organizations to promote fair farm policies and grassroots organizing campaigns. Farm Aid partners with family farm organizations fighting factory farming and industrial agriculture, while building opportunity for family farmers who produce our food, fiber, and energy. By strengthening the voices of family farmers themselves, Farm Aid stands up for the most resourceful, heroic Americans-the family farmers who work the land.

That's all good and fine. But I bet the phrase "Promote Fair Farm Policies" covers a lot of unfair territory. Some of the Farm Aid money goes to lobbyists. Those lobbyists agitate for things that wouldn't happen in a sane free market. Things like price supports. Trade barriers. Prohibitive Tariffs. Quotas. And all of the other terms for keeping the rest of the world's groceries out of here.

See the Real Clear Politics article above by Victor Davis Hanson above for yet another explanation of why our current price support system makes no sense, especially in relation to America's poor and the world's poor.

Willie, Neil, and Johnny Cougar do a good thing for some of America's small farmers, but not for America, when they put on the Farm Aid concerts. They help the mega Agribusinesses even more. As of today, if you put "Archer Daniels Midland" and "Willie Nelson" into a Google search, you'll get more than 2,300 hits. This number will increase, as ADM has to work harder and harder to keep out competing farm goods. Willie is promoting FarmAid and Biodiesel. His tour bus runs on Biodiesel.

Guess who makes biodiesel?

Guess what countries could make it a heck of a lot cheaper than us?
I know I'm starting to sound like a whackjob conspiracy theorist, but take a look at how much Public Television ADM is sponsoring. What could be more wholesome than Willie and Big Bird?

Ok, I forgot about Willie's weed problem. I can imagine Willie and Big Bird going backstage to roll up a fat one....

25 years ago, Willie and Neil went out of their way to help a lot of struggling people by appearing at LiveAid. Millions of people now wish that they had politely declined.

Photo from MSNBC

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Farewell to Alms

Gregory Clark's new book, "A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World", tackles the problem of why some nations are rich and others are poor.

In 1800, the gap between the richest nations and the poorest was 4-1, similar to the income gap between you and that person who makes, well, four times more than you.

The gap is now 50-1, which is similar to the income gap between you and a Hedge Fund Manager. (The rules of polite discourse require that I go at least 24 hours without mentioning the former Hedge Fund employee John Edwards known as The Carolina Ambulance Chaser.)

Despite the world's increasing prosperity, despite the millions moving out of poverty in Asia every year, the poor are becoming less poor at a slower rate than the wealthy become more wealthy. They're moving up, but why are we moving so much faster? And I have no qualms about lumping you into the "we" category. If you're someplace where you can read this on a computer, you're a wealthy "we".

This is from Robert Sameulson's review of Clark's book:

It's nature versus nurture. One of the big debates of our times involves the causes of economic growth. Why is North America richer than South America? Why is Africa poor and Europe wealthy? Is it possible to eliminate global poverty? The World Bank estimates that 2.5 billion people still live on $2 a day or less. On one side are economists who argue that societies can nurture economic growth by adopting sound policies. Not so, say other scholars such as Lawrence Harrison of Tufts University. Culture (aka "nature") predisposes some societies to rapid growth and others to poverty or meager growth.
Comes now Gregory Clark, an economist who interestingly takes the side of culture. In an important new book, "A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," Clark suggests that much of the world's remaining poverty is semi-permanent. Modern technology and management are widely available, but many societies can't take advantage because their values and social organization are antagonistic. Prescribing economically sensible policies (open markets, secure property rights, sound money) can't overcome this bedrock resistance.

Look at those three items in parentheses....

Open Markets. AKA Free Markets. AKA Places where people aren't starving. (For those of you overseas or over 50, AKA is an American Law Enforcement acronym for "Also Known As")

If there's one lesson that anyone who stayed awake through the previous century should've learned, it's that planned economies don't work. Closed economies don't work. No nation has ever protected itself to prosperity.

But the small number of people who could lose a lot in a free market always tend to outshout (and out-donate) the massive number of people who would collectively gain a far larger amount. Google anything about sugar, cotton, ethanol, or corn prices. You're getting screwed, unless you're one of the lucky producers of sugar, cotton, ethanol, or corn.

Hit the Free Market Rants tab below for more info.

Secure Property Rights. If I've bought something, it should be mine until I decide to get rid of it. That's why people line up to invest in the U.S., where you can buy a percentage of something like a business, and it will remain yours. But the line to invest in Putin's Russia (where he recently nationalized parts of the steel industry belonging to a competitor and critic), well, that line is very, very short. In fact, if you want to invest in Russia, email me. I've got some great North Korean Growth Stocks I'd be willing to make you a deal on.

But hold on a minute....

A Russian-like problem is rearing it's head in my beloved Fort Worth, Texas. Someone named Billy Mitchell recently put up a billboard with the text "Eminent Domain: Stealing What Others Work For".
(Eminent Domain is a fancy term that essentially means "to steal what others have worked for".)

Billy Mitchell was a bit aggravated that the government would allow Oil and Gas interests to take his land for something that provides a higher tax return than Billy Mitchell.

Example number two: a bunch of houses disappeared a few miles to the east in Arlington, TX. The City of Arlington took the homes from their owners. No one had a choice. The homes and apartments were bulldozed, and a new stadium is being built for the Dallas Cowboys. Arlington technically took posession of the land, but the land is now underneath concrete that belongs to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Click here for a great analysis of the stadium problem, as blogged by a Houston lawyer. Click here for a full blown beautifully illustrated rant, a diatribe that should make our blood boil. It's a harangue that would cause us all to drive over to Arlington with torches and pitchforks if we weren't a nation of sheep.

Sound Money - This means that the money of the nation is good, accepted everywhere, and can be swapped for as much stuff tomorrow as it can today.

Nations in chronic poverty have a tendency to solve their problems by printing money. They shouldn't do that. See the collected works of Milton Friedman. When you have a surplus of something, it's value declines. When you have a shortage of something, it's value generally increases. Gerald Ford's "Whip Inflation Now" campaign could have been eliminated by a simpler campaign called "Stop Printing So Much Damn Money".

There's another problem related to "Sound Money" that has less to do with the amount of paper in circulation, and more to do with the amount of debt owed by the nation printing the paper. That's a topic for another day.

At least 4 or 5 days a week, I go to Barnes & Noble or Borders and read all these Economics Geek books so you don't have to. I'm grateful that they supply them on the Open Market. I read them in the coffee bar without paying for them, which is probably a violation of their Property Rights. But it helps me maintain a supply of Sound Money.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Joseph Biden won it.

I just finished watching the last half of the Democratic Presidential Debate. boys... Boys.... BOYS ! ! ! Leave Hillary alone! ! ! Now, Barack, she was picking on you first, but you have to play nice.
Barack, I know you'd be willing to show her all your records.
She's still not going to show you hers.
Hillary, will you show him yours if he shows you his?
Barack, you and John go pick on George.

Let's start with the obvious.
Dennis Kucinich is stark raving mad. I could swear on a stack of DSM-IIIR's (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) that I saw him raving on the corner of Highway 80 and Alta Mere with a "will work for Scotch" sign a few months ago. I think I gave him $5.00 and some Wendy's Gift Certificates.
Kucinich wants to cancel NAFTA. He wants to cancel the W.T.O. - which would be kinda like cancelling OPEC. I don't think he can do it. The war is all about the oil. Dennis says we should impeach now.
I think it was Tim Russert who asked Kucinich about the current tax system loopholes that allow Hedge Fund Managers to roll their commissions into 401K's, or let the money prosper offshore before it's taxed. It's been on the news. It's been in the papers. The man is a freakin' Congressman, and had no idea what Russert was talking about.
To some, it might've looked like Kucinich was just avoiding the question. I'm general manager of a shipping company, and I knew exactly what Russert was talking about. (I can read....) Once again, I'm ready to swear on a stack of straitjackets that Kucinich didn't understand the question.

So Kucinich said we should impeach.

The moderators asked about the situation where foreign kids spend 193 days in school, but the kids here in the U.S. spend 180 days a year in school. (Democrats have always like to measure Seat Time - it's hard to do Seat Time poorly.) He would cut Pentagon spending 50%, give the savings to day care. Free College. Free Happy Meals. A Free Pony in every garage.

All the healthcare problems will go away if we just socialize medicine.

And then we bring actress Shirley MacLaine into the sandbox. Yes, Shirley MacLaine.

Shirley MacLaine, the godmother of Kucinich's daughter, and Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic Congressman from Ohio, saw a UFO over Shirley MacLaine's house. It gave them warm and fuzzy feelings.
That was all discussed in the Presidential Debates. This is what I found elsewhere....

MacLaine also recommended in the 1980s that Kucinich visit New Mexico spiritual adviser Chris Griscom, whom MacLaine featured in her then-best-selling book, "Dancing in the Light," describing how Griscom helped her communicate with trees. Kucinich has insisted that Griscom was not his spiritual adviser but a "teacher and a very good friend."

When the moderators brought up this story, Kucinich helpfully added that Jimmy Carter had also seen a UFO.
Oh. Never mind, then.

There are people in Great Britain, New Zealand, and China who regularly read this blog. Lord, I'm embarrased for my country.

Another thing I wasn't aware of....Has Rudy Giuliani already won the Republican nomination? These people are already running against him.

Bill Richardson did more mumbling and fumbling than anyone else.
Hillary mentioned someone named "Bill" too many times.
Chris Dodd didn't screw up any, but came across as a politician.

Barack Obama is one smart man. He's too protectionist for my tastes, but he made some great points about our 10,000 page tax code, and a building in the Cayman Islands that's the offshore tax shelter/headquarters of more than 10,000 corporations, and he made a lot of the same points that I made here.

Obama, Edwards, and Dodd came out of their corners implying that Hillary was too wishy-washy to be President. Then Hillary caught a question about Illegals getting driver's licenses. She was for it except when she was against it. Tim Russert lifted his eyes from his jowls long enough to detect the non-answer. Obama and Edwards dogpiled her for Double-talk.

Obama did slaughter one question about the frustrations many Americans have with the airline industry. He blamed it on the airlines being de-regulated. Huh? The airlines are deregulated? American airlines can now fly straight from Texas to Beijing, and the government's not going to stop them? GREAT ! ! !

Remember the kid in high school that you couldn't stand, who was always running for student council, and always did a lot of apple polishing for the teachers? He was incredibly superficial and slick and every word he said seemed as if it had been typed, rehearsed, and reviewed by multiple focus groups? Do you remember that guy too? ? ? Well, he grew up to be John Edwards.

When asked about possible high energy prices this winter, The Carolina Ambulance Chaser said he was going to have HIS justice department investigate the oil and gas companies. When asked if people who live in "repeat" disaster areas (like the people who live below sea level in New Orleans, or on the Carolina coast) should have their losses continually covered, covered, and covered some more by FEMA, regardless of the insanity of continuing to rebuild there, Edwards could only talk about heartbreaking needs and taking 700 students to The Big Easy.

John, they wanted to know if it made sense for the government (us) to insure properties that no individual in his right mind (me) would insure. That was the question. You're prob'ly going to hear it again.

John Edwards also did some razzle dazzle on the question of taxing Hedge Fund managers. Because John used to work for a Hedge Fund, didn't he? So John answered that he was p.o.'d that the Democrats had killed the reform bill. He tied it to Iraq. He talked about swapping American jobs for Toxic Chinese Toys. He talked about Wal-Mart, The Beast of Bentonville, not wanting to secure our borders by having shipping containers inspected. He talked about everything but this:

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Tuesday that he worked for a hedge fund to learn more about financial markets and their relationship to poverty in the United States.
Edwards won't disclose how much he got paid as a consultant to Fortress Investment Group, but said he did keep the money.
"It was primarily to learn, but making money was a good thing, too," the 2004 vice presidential nominee said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Fortress Investment Group, founded in 1998, describes itself as "a leading global alternative asset manager" with approximately $35.1 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2006. The company is headquartered in New York with affiliates around the world.
Edwards said it's legitimate to ask questions about whether there is a contradiction between campaigning against poverty while working for a hedge fund that is designed to make rich people richer. He said the job was a compliment to his position as the head of a poverty center at the University of North Carolina.

I think Joseph Biden won the thing. He made some good points about foreign policy. He didn't go off into too many loony tangents. He came across as experienced, like Chris Dodd. He seemed compassionate. He had to score some populist points at the end by slamming Chinese Toys, which are the Scud missiles of this election cycle. He didn't dog-pile Hillary. Maybe he's running for Vice-President.

It took me about an hour and a half to watch the debate, and another hour to type this mess up. The next time there's a debate, I'm going to try to save a few minutes and do a real-time unedited blog. Require myself to hit "post" every time there's a commercial. A raw feed from the mouth of Dennis Kucinich to my laptop, bounced off a UFO to your computer screen.


....And in honor of this sentiment, I'm going to go watch the Democratic Presidential Candidates debate

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why You Are Rich

TCS Daily - Wealth and Nations has a great article about why the world is prospering. Yes, prospering. Disregard, just for the moment, all the statistics about how the top 15% of the bottom 25% didn't prosper as much as the lower 18% of the upper 9th percentile over the 2nd quarter. Bear with me here. It's worth it.

The world is prospering. There are reasons why the world is prospering. People are increasingly being left alone to pursue what they want to pursue, with less and less interference from Vested Interests, Governments, or The Blessings of Socialism.

Here's where it gets interesting. Most people believe that the wealthy should be taxed at a much higher taxation rate than currently exists. I don't care where you live, if you're reading this in English, you probably think that a large number of people are making too much money at the expense of everyone else.

So which percentile is making too much money? The top 30% ? Are they the ones making too much money relative to everyone else? Or do you think only the top 20% is hogging too much of the wealth? Go ahead and get a % in your head.
Then hit this link. Enter your yearly income in dollars, pounds, or euros. This website will show you how many people there are making more money than you do. Wander around the site for a while. Then come back....

If you are reading this Blog in English, chances are you live in a place that has a relatively Free Market. Chances are you have an income that is the envy of the rest of the world. You're doing great. It gets tough sometimes - but much of what we think of as a necessity is really a luxury, and you are dripping with luxuries. The test you just took was based on the exchange rates that were in place as of 2003. A dollar's a dollar. And one third of the world's population lives on two dollars per day. Do you ever wonder why?

I don't believe that the world's economy is a Zero Sum Game. I can win without someone else losing.

So instead of continually harping about redistributing wealth, why isn't there more discussion about redistributing the machinery of wealth? (Like free markets???) In other words, instead of raising taxes, tariffs, or import quotas to make Us as screwed up as Them, why aren't we lowering the barriers to making Them like Us? With all the racket currently being made about foreign oil dependency, why can't we simply make straight-up purchases of Brazilian ethanol? With all the noise about the high cost of food for low income Americans, why can't we purchase foreign sugar at whatever price they'll sell it for?
(Answer: Iowa wheat farmers and Florida sugar producers know how to purchase congressmen.)

Why do we put barriers in place making it difficult for "their" sugar, cotton, and ethanol to compete in "our" markets? (If you have the patience to read the report attached to the "ethanol" link, you can see where our sugar producers have lobbied for a piece of the currently fashionable ethanol action....)

Congratulations. You're rich. I hope you can stay that way.
And may your tribe increase.

More Protection for Multitaskers

A few weeks ago I ran a picture of The Glockberry, a self-defense and communication device for multitaskers. The Glockberry's creator recently emailed me to take credit for his creation.
Jeremy's Status Message: Gun Control

Starting this Blog has allowed me so many Brushes With Greatness....

Jeremy, of Jeremy's Status Message, apparently uses his Blog to let co-workers know when he's "working at home, working at the office, or working at Photoshopping Assault Weapons". When you get a chance, check out the link above for his full array of protection for the active executive.

Here's a smaller sampling of Jeremy's fine work: The Smith & Wesson with GPS capability, to help you find your way and clear your way, while dealing with navigation AND road rage.

Then there's the iMac-10. Judging by appearance alone, it should hold 2,000 tunes, 20 videos, and about 200 rounds.

Many thanks to Jeremy for his service to humanity.