Saturday, January 17, 2009

7 Things You Didn't Know About Me

Pete Wann at Cowtown Chronicles has tagged me with an online meme called "7 Things You Didn't Know About Me". He's written a list of 7 things we didn't know about him, he's linked to 7 other bloggers who are supposed to do the same. Then I'm supposed to link to 7 other bloggers, and next thing you know, we've got this Amway pyramid of links and traffic going back and forth to each other.

Here are my 7 things.

1. On the top of my left ear, I have a feature called "Darwin's Point". According to The List Universe, "Darwin’s point is found in the majority of mammals, and humans are no exception. It is most likely used to help focus sounds in animals, but it no longer has a function in humans. Only 10.4% of the human population still has this visible left-over mark of our past.

My grandmother called it "The Howard Mark", after the branch of the family that all had wolf bumps on their ears.

2. I played acoustic guitar for an earlier incarnation of this group while I was in college, and we were able to do a European tour every couple of years. One night in an Austrian restaurant, I stood up and loudly sang "Dixie" for a group of bewildered locals. There was a very well-dressed couple being honored in one of the back rooms, and they and their friends were not amused by my performance of a Minstrel Show Battle Hymn from The War Of Northern Oppression. The next morning, I discovered that the Guests Of Honor in the next room were the Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein. All I can say is that alcohol was involved. (But I've sung "Dixie" for royalty !)

3. In Pete's list of 7 things, he mentions that he once made an ass of himself in front of noted Fort Worth actor Bill Paxton. I've never done that. But I once accidentally set someone else up to do so. Yes, with noted Fort Worth actor Bill Paxton. What are the odds? It's a long, long story.

4. I was born with an undescended testicle.

5. I don't smoke, except for the occasional cigar with the Libertarians at Pop's. But I once had a group of nicotine-addicted employees who claimed they needed more than two minutes for a "quick smoke break". To prove them wrong, I once smoked a Marlboro Light down to the filter in less than 15 seconds. Not recommended.

6. I've made five work-related trips to China. Thanks to multiple sets of flash cards, at one point I could recognize more than 500 characters in Mandarin Chinese. Now that we have another manager over there full time, I've forgotten almost all of them.

7. Thanks to the mind-expanding trips to Asia, I can eat or drink almost anything and enjoy it. The only two things I don't like and refuse to consume are pickles and iced tea.

And now I'm supposed to tag 7 more people with this thing. (The goal is to send traffic back to Pete's site, via my link, and then I'm supposed to go whoring for 7 more links back to my site.) Since I tagged all my Usual Suspects via an earlier meme called "The Anti-Library", I'm going to try something different.
I'm going to tag the bloggers who, according to Google, have made the most popular use of the word "antidisestablishmentarianism". Just to see what happens.

1. I'm tagging the good people at "Flippin' Kites", who marvelled at seeing antidisestablishmentarianism used in a real live sentence....

2. And I'm tagging the Atheist Bible Reading And Forum. They have an actual video about antidisestablishmentarianism, and once you've watched it, you'll never, ever forget it. It's incredibly effective. (heh, heh, heh...go there. You'll be glad you did. Seriously. Go there. Watch the video. Let me know if you watched the video. You'll walk away knowing EXACTLY what antidisestablishmentarianism means.)

3. For something completely different, asks the question "Antidisestablishmentarianism, or not?"

4. A Staunch Calvinist at Reformation 21 has a post simply titled "Antidisestablishmentarianism". It seems that Rowan Williams, an archbishop in the C of E, is actually contemplating disestablishmentarianism.

5. David Keen at The Wardman Wire has the most in-depth analysis of Antidisestablishmentarianism you'll ever surf through. No stone is left unturned.

6. Andrew King, of Downed Robin fame, has yet another post entitled "Antidisestablishmentarianism". This guy's pretty entertaining, stating that "That old tease, Archbishop Rowan Williams, has titillated New Statesman readers with the enticing prospect of thew Church of England finally getting its lardy butt off the gravy train and being disestablished, not before time."

7. Finally, Boondoggle has a short piece entitled "Antidisestablishmentarianism Out Of A Beard". Polly Toynbee, states Boondoggle, knows what the longest word in the English language is.

So there are 7 bloggers tagged, and all 7 bloggers have written pieces about whether England should or shouldn't have an established church. If any of them link back to me with their 7 things about themselves, much less blogroll me, I'll be amazed.

Oh, one other thing I should've put on my list.....

8. When I was very, very young, my mother taught me how to spell and define "antidisestablishmentarianism".

We knew him waaaaay back when....

Cheers and high praise are in order for my friend, agent provocateur, and co-hymnologist Dr. Ralph.

Just one year ago, he was content to sound off on a few technical and political opinions every month.

But his comments on these pages in praise of truly gawdawful government-funded art are now so well known, British bloggers are now name-dropping him in posts about Czech "Art" on Australian websites.

Dr. Ralph is now a worldwide phenomenon.

And we knew Dr. Ralph when he was just an intern.

The Browncoat Libertarian has been struck down ! ! !

I got this email today from John Spivey, The Big Daddy of the Tarrant County Libertarian Party....

I just wanted to let you know that John S. of the Organizers of this Meetup group, a District Rep for the Texas State Libertarian Executive Committee (SLEC) and the Secretary for the Tarrant County Libertarian Party is in the Intensive Care Unit of Harris Methodist Southwest Hospital with a life threatening case of pneumonia.

John also blogs as The Browncoat Libertarian. He and I represent State Senate District 10 on the SLEC. He's a great guy. If you haven't made it to one of his Libertarian Meetups at Pop's Safari bar, you've missed a treat. Now, back to Spivey's email....

Currently, his condition is classified as 'critical' and he's on a ventilator. This situation came on very quickly and I was surprised to hear this since we rode together to the SLEC meeting just last weekend and he couldn't have been better. However, a few days ago, I received an email from him saying he'd be out of commission as he was in the ICU with Pneumonia. It appeared he was getting better, but for unknown reasons, things took a bad turn yesterday.

He'll be on mechanical ventilation for probably at least a few more days and therefore won't be able to receive any visitors. However, I'm sure John and his wife Jackie will appreciate your moral support, kind thoughts, prayers and anything else good that you've got in your heart! I've thrown it out there to do whatever may need to be done (errands, whatever - anything) during this time. So if anybody else is willing to help out where needed, let me know. Again, I'm sure that would mean a lot to them to know that we've got their back.

We're pulling for our good friend and chief voice of liberty in Tarrant County, John S. Jones! Keep fighting, brother - - We need you fighting for freedom and helping to guide our organization!!

At this point in the email, John Spivey gave out his personal cell phone number, which I'm sure Mr. Spivey doesn't want broadcast to the seven continents.

John Spivey

John, we all hope you get better soon. I'm giving you one more day to rest, and then I'm going to Harris Southwest and sneaking a cigar underneath your ventilator.

Everyone, please leave your best wishes to The Browncoat Libertarian in the comment field below, or even better, hit the link above to his site and leave them there.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Theoretical Question, Part 2

Here are my thoughts on The Theoretical Question in the previous post.... and if you want to see more comments, I cross-posted it on Reddit, where it has kept my hit counter whirring nicely.

Let me begin with a story from a George Mason University economics professor named Russell Roberts:

"After Hurricane Isabel hit Washington D.C. in September 2003, one of my students whose husband was a contractor told me how disgusted her husband had been with the high prices people were charging for generators. Surely a contractor would want a backup energy supply, I said. Surely he had paid the high price. No, she explained, he already had a backup and had been considering buying a second backup. But at double the regular price, he passed. Someone else got that generator and I got a richer understanding of higher prices."

That encounter with a student was the genesis of Roberts' latest book, "The Price of Everything". The book begins with a hurricane. One store leaves prices alone and sells out. The other store doubles prices, which automatically acts as a rationing mechanism, but there's a near riot at the checkout line. Some university students stage a protest a few weeks later, but then....well, I hope you'll read the book.

It's not the best-written book I've ever read, but when I finished it I immediately turned back to page one and plowed through it again.

Do you every wonder why the shelves in our supermarkets are full? Ever wonder why countries afflicted with the blessings of communism had supermarket shelves that were mostly empty? Ever wonder why we don't have to wait in long lines for gasoline, or endure rationing like we did in the early 1970's? Ever wonder why the minimum wage in Cuba is somewhere near $14.00 (PER MONTH !!) ??

Do you want to know how to ensure that more people will die during a famine? Legislate artificially low prices. Want to keep people from delivering water to drought stricken areas? Put anti-gouging laws into place.

Do you ever wonder why we can simply go out and buy our basic necessities?

It's because our (somewhat) Free Market Economy allows prices to go up when there's a shortage, and decline when there's a glut. We don't have an idiotic Flashlight Czar (yet), setting flashlight prices all over the country based on hours of darkness, hurricanes, or electrical problems. People can charge whatever they want to for flashlights. Therefore, when you really, really need see in the dark, somebody out there is probably willing to sell you a flashlight.

So, according to Professor Roberts, not only was the Big Store doing the right thing economically when it doubled its prices after the hurricane, it was doing the right thing logically, socially, and morally.

Once again, the book is called The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity, by Russell Roberts.
Professor Roberts also blogs at Cafe Hayek, which I wish was read daily by everyone eligible to vote.

A Theoretical Question

A hurricane hits the Gulf Coast. Supply chains are disrupted, and will likely remain that way for days.
The Home Depot store in the hardest-hit area doesn't raise its prices immediately before or after the hurricane. Their shelves are quickly emptied.
Let's say that another retailer called "Big Box", located next door to Home Depot, doubles The Price Of Everything in their store. They still have many of the items (like flashlights, batteries, diesel generators, etc.) that are in high demand after a hurricane. Big Box keeps the high prices in place until the replenishment system returns to normal.

People are outraged. Shortly after the storm, customers arrange a protest.

With which store should the customers be angry?

After you've had time to think about it, click here for more info on the origin of the question....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Government Regulation: Do we need more pounds or more pages?

Here's Samizdata on "The Myth of Unregulated Global Capitalism". Check it out and get back to me.....

They don't even bother mentioning the Community Reinvestment Act, The Federal Reserve, that Fannie and Freddie are quasi-government entities, or that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd's fingerprints are all over the warnings that were tossed in the trash. (Well, Samizdata is a British site. But I thought I should mention those things too.)

Here's Reason magazine, on the same subject:

Since Bush took office in 2001, there has been a 13 percent decrease in the annual number of new rules. But the new regulations' cost to the economy will be much higher than it was before 2001. Of the new rules, 159 are "economically significant," meaning they will cost at least $100 million a year. That's a 10 percent increase in the number of high-cost rules since 2006, and a 70 percent increase since 2001. And at the end of 2007, another 3,882 rules were already at different stages of implementation, 757 of them targeting small businesses.

Overall, the final outcome of this Republican regulation has been a significant increase in regulatory activity and cost since 2001. The number of pages added to the Federal Register, which lists all new regulations, reached an all-time high of 78,090 in 2007, up from 64,438 in 2001.

So.... the people who are wanting more regulation of our supposedly unbridled Free Market Economy.... Are you wanting more pounds of regulations? More pages? Or something more specific that says if you put your money down at the blackjack table, you can only win? Something that will punish your enemies and reward your friends?

Ron Paul Is Pissed !

Hat Tip to Liberty Maven.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The New Workers' Paradise

Here's the scariest thing you'll read all day: Cuba is no longer The Workers' Paradise. Washington D.C. has taken its place. Here's The New Republic on Pete Rouse, Obama's current Senate chief-of-staff, and soon to be White House senior advisor.

A legendary workaholic in a town where the competition for that distinction is fierce, the (unmarried, childless) Rouse is said to have little time for outside-the-office distractions. There's his occasional Friday night out for an Ivy League hockey game and the one week of summer vacation in August. But, beyond that, Rouse is all about the job. "Pete Rouse is always working," e-mails one fan/colleague. "The first one in the office and the last one to leave."

Here's commentary on Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, who will soon be in charge of Homeland Security:

Hearing of Napolitano's appointment, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declared his fellow chief executive perfect for the post because she has "no family" and "no life" and thus can "devote literally nineteen, twenty hours a day" to the job. Rendell's remarks were derided in some quarters as sexist.....In fact, Napolitano's intense job focus and unmarried status have, in the past, spurred whisper campaigns about her sexuality, prompting the governor to quip that she's not a lesbian, "just a straight, single workaholic."

Here's a charming anecdote about Obama's soon-to-be senior advisor Valerie Jarrett:

Back in the summer, Jarrett recalled to me how, at one point during her tenure as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's deputy chief of staff, she was lectured by Daley's wife, Maggie, for working too hard. "She told me, 'You have got to take one day a week off to be with your daughter.' I said, 'I can't do that.' And she said, 'The mayor doesn't work on Sunday, why should you?'" Jarrett's compromise was to start taking Laura along to weekend work functions.

We know these people. We've read about them. We know their stated goals. And unfortunately, they're all going to be working very, very hard.

May God have mercy on us all.

pic from here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Will The Circle Be Unbroken?

First, there was the Community Reinvestment Act. Uncle Sam required banks to make loans to people who ordinarily wouldn't qualify for them.

These loans became known as Subprime Mortgages. You may have heard of them, especially if you've stopped living under a rock or if you finally decided to leave the monastery. There was plenty o' money to be made on Subprime Mortgages, since the banks could charge slightly higher interest on these loans and there were the written and unwritten guarantees that Uncle Sam would intervene if too many people defaulted on them (an assumption that was later proven to be correct).

This created the towering house of cards (or game of Jenga) that eventually collapsed, leaving a lot of investors holding houses that are now worth....not a lot. They were built on the assumption that there were plenty of people who could afford them. It's gonna take a while for the market to clear.

But that's ok. The Government has stepped in with your money, and is propping up the system.

Now, in an effort to guarantee full employment for Government system-proppers, here's this gem from the January 12, 2009 issue of Time magazine.

In an effort to enable Americans to buy cars again, the U.S. Treasury bought a $5 billion stake in beleaguered auto-financing company GMAC and offered to loan up to $1 billion to shareholder General Motors. GMAC, which has drastically tightened loan criteria in recent months, said it would immediately begin lending to consumers with lower credit scores.

Did you get it? Huh? Did you see it? Want to read it again?

In an effort to enable Americans to buy cars again, the U.S. Treasury bought a $5 billion stake in beleaguered auto-financing company GMAC and offered to loan up to $1 billion to shareholder General Motors. GMAC, which has drastically tightened loan criteria in recent months, said it would immediately begin lending to consumers with lower credit scores.

But there's a reason that GMAC hasn't been making those loans in the past, right? Aren't these loans the GM equivalents to Subprime Mortgages? Let's look at those two sentences again.

In an effort to enable Americans to buy cars again, the U.S. Treasury bought a $5 billion stake in beleaguered auto-financing company GMAC and offered to loan up to $1 billion to shareholder General Motors. GMAC, which has drastically tightened loan criteria in recent months, said it would immediately begin lending to consumers with lower credit scores.

How can the good people at Time magazine type that drivel without further commentary? The U.S. Treasury is as broke as the 10 Commandments, and it's making 6 billion dollar loans to GMAC, which is about to go broke, so GMAC can make loans to people with lower credit scores?

If everyone with a low credit score would now offer to loan money to the U.S. Treasury, then the The Circle Would Be Unbroken. You could all get rich by guaranteeing loans and defaulting on each other. The Treasury, to GMAC, to You, to The Treasury, to GMAC, to You.

Not one penny of your own money will be at risk.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dilbert on education

Here's Scott Adams (Dilbert's creator) with predictions on changes in education:

In California we're facing a severe budget deficit, and this will demand cuts in education among other things. I can imagine a future economy where everyone is home schooled over the Internet, and the average result is an improvement. With the Internet you could leverage the best teaching methods to the entire country. No one gets the bad teacher or the disruptive class. There are no bullies and no cliques.
Obviously you can see lots of problems with this approach. We assume that kids gain a lot from the social interaction of being in school. And of course personal attention from a teacher is important. But we have enough home schooled kids in the world to test that theory. My guess is that as long as home schooled kids have friends in the neighborhood, and siblings, they socialize just fine. The social skills can be learned on sports teams and at Girl Scouts. And I suspect a parent can give better personal attention than a teacher with 20 students.
Poor kids don't have computers and Internet connections. But subsidizing them would be far cheaper in taxes than sending them to school. And suddenly everyone would get the same quality of education.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the Aggie how much of her college education could have been done on line. She ruled out her Physical Education elective and her Labs for Chemistry and Animal Science. Everything else could've been done via the Internet.

You'd still have to have traditional teaching formats for writing. Maybe art and music. Overall, it would be a massive win for the kids.

But think of the massive loss of government power and control that we'd have. Think of how bored you were in some classes, waiting on everyone else to finish reading one page while you had to sit. And sit. And sit.

Think of the subjects where you were slower than the majority, and needed extra help. Is anyone willing to say that Algebra II couldn't be explained somehow, somewhere online, in a way that even the slowest student could catch it?

Look at what the government spends per student. Look at what the private schools spend per student. Surely we can find a way to enter the 20th century (not a typo) and do better than this.