Friday, July 25, 2008

Barack Obama's Prayer At The Western Wall In Jerusalem

There's been a mini-scandal about Barack Obama's prayer that he left at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Here's a link to the best summary of the retrieval and eventual sale of the prayer that I could find.

There's a tradition of writing prayers on small pieces of paper, and leaving them in the cracks of this wall (the only remaining structure from the temple that was destroyed by the Roman army around AD 70.) I think this is the one that's sometimes called The Wailing Wall, where devout Jews rock back and forth while mourning the loss of their temple. My father took me to Israel in the late 1970's, and going to The Wall is a powerful experience.
Alissa In Wonderland, please help us out with some commentary if possible. Use English, please.

The text of Obama's prayer is as follows: "Lord — Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."

If I have any overlap at all with Senator Obama, it's on theological issues. But I think he was intending for this prayer to be found and published. It has all the marks of being edited, re-written, blanded, debated in committee, and taken to multiple writer's workshops.

Since I have such a deep spiritual kinship with the Senator, please allow me to reconstruct the more honest prayer he may have slipped into the wall before this one.

Dear God,

I can't believe I've made it this far.

Thank you for Michelle and the girls. Thank you for Iowa and South Carolina. Thank you for whatever didn't happen to Hillary at that airport in Bosnia. Thank you for giving her Mark Penn as a campaign manager.

Please keep Osama bin Laden hidden away until after the election, and please don't let him be found in Iraq. Please preserve John McCain's charismatic speaking style. Thank you for Bob Barr.

Lord, I know you work in mysterious ways, but couldn't I have found you through someone besides Reverend Jeremiah Wright? And please, please help me stop having that dream where Jesse Jackson is running after me with pruning shears. I need my sleep.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Cost Is Going Up. Therefore We're Going To Use More???

When the cost of something goes up, all other things being equal, the demand for that thing goes down.
With the cost of gas going up and up, I bet you're driving around a lot less than you were 5 years ago, right?
Do you still keep your home's thermostat on 68 degrees, the way we did back in the 1970's? Or does 75 degrees make more sense, now that we have much higher energy costs?

Here's another scenario. Assume you want to take piano lessons and there are 4 possibilities in your area:
*Lessons from the best teacher in town for $50 per hour
*Lessons from a competent, experienced teacher for $40 per hour
*Lessons from an ok teacher for $30 per hour
*Lessons on piano from an untried teacher for $20 per hour

In this scenario, in a free market, you might give the rookie teacher a try for $20 per hour.
But what if the government put out a decree which stated that all piano teachers, regardless of skill level, regardless of current demand, must be paid $40 per hour? Would you still give the rookie a try, or would you go for the competent, experienced teacher?

In this scenario, is the government really helping the untried teacher by raising the floor on piano lessons? Or are they guaranteeing full employment for the most skilled and experienced piano teachers at the expense of the others? (Look up the origins of the Davis Bacon employment acts when you get a chance. These were our first minimum wage laws, and were designed to guarantee full employment for whites at the expense of blacks. They’ve worked well.)

This is exactly what is happening at the lower end of the wage pool with today's minimum wage increase. There will be another mandated increase a year from now.

A few months from now, start looking for bewildered print and online editorials about increased unemployment among teenagers and low-skilled minorities. The funniest ones will have no sense of irony, and will end with calls for our government to do something about the problem.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Burgers With Bob Barr

There was another Libertarian Meetup called "Burgers with Bob" last night. This one was held in a private residence in Carrolton, a suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth.

Around 30 people attended, and we all got to meet Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr.

Acts 9:21 - All those who heard him were astonished and asked "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on his name?"

I was skeptical going in. Unlike many Baptists, I'm a bit jaundiced when it comes to deathbed conversions. During his stint in Congress, Barr was a culture warrior, and helped craft the Defense of Marriage Act, fought against medical marijuana use, etc., etc., etc. When he was defeated due to redistricting, a few Libertarians saw it as a triumph. Others predicted that we'd miss his small government mindset.

I couldn't believe it when Barr actually won the Libertarian nomination (hit his name on the Post Labels below).

Barr has since apologized for straying from the One True Path. You can read most of his positions on the issues here. With Obama flopping around on the issues like a catfish on the riverbank, Barr seems relatively stable. I got to talk to him off and on for about two hours, and it was time well spent.

Acts 9:26 - When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

Barr answered every question brilliantly. If he hasn't really had a Damascus Road experience, he's learned to fake it pretty well. I guess I'm on board with him. My little family of three people owes somewhere around $100,000.00 of the national debt, and I can't see giving the credit cards back to the people that went on the 60-year spending binge.

So I'm putting the "Join Bob" widget in the blogroll. I've written him a check. But I haven't put the bumpersticker on my beloved pickup yet.

That kind of commitment takes a little more time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Caption This

I need a caption for this picture.
Congratulations to Anonymous, the winner of last week's caption challenge. An anonymous donation of a random amount has been anonymously donated to an anonymous charity, but not in his or her name.
Thanks to Gar for this picture.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Do You Feel Motivated Yet?

On more than one occasion, my friend DG has challenged me to "write something nice about Al Gore".
I've tried and tried. The outline of a nice, nice, nice Al Gore post is waiting in my head. It's centered around the 1993 Gore/Perot NAFTA debates, which you can see in this YouTube clip around the .40 mark. Brilliant.

But every time I get ready to give St. Albert his overdue dose of nice, something unpleasant intervenes.

Here's what did it to me this time:

Christopher Buckley, the son of the late William F., has started writing editorials for National Review. Here's an excerpt:
Remember those wonderful Soviet Five Year Plans? ....that wheat output in (the) Ukraine will quadruple over the next five years?

(Applause! Yay. Lenin! Yay. Stalin! Whoopee! You guys totally rock!....)
Buckley continues, saying that in the Soviet Union there was....

"no Congressional Budget Office pointing out, five years later, the "inconvenient truth" that the Ukraine had produced exactly enough wheat to make one six-pack of blinis. "
He then states that George H.W. Bush (Buckley's former boss) once pledged to balance the budget by the middle of the next decade. We all know how that worked out. Buckley then wonders if people down at the general store even comment on John McCain's goal of building 45 nuclear reactors by 2030 (when McCain will be 94 years old).

He finishes the editorial by stating that....
"sometimes goals are reached. Reeling from the Bay of Pigs disaster, President Kennedy changed the subject by announcing that the U.S. was going to put a man on the moon 'Before this decade is out.' " And what do you know, American astronauts were playing golf in the Sea of Tranquility by the end of the decade. So I'm with McCain. I personally plan to lose 40 pounds by 2030."
I read that editorial about a week and a half ago, keeping an eye out afterwards for politicians throwing out silly goals with arbitrary deadlines.

Nothing happened for a few days. And then, rising from the pack, St. Albert The Goracle of Music City Tennessee had to have a Kennedy moment and get into the National Courageous Goal Business.

Al Gore has challenged us to abandon all fossil fuels within ten years. Yep. 10 years. This is from Canada's National Post:

On Thursday, former U. S. vice-president Al Gore delivered a major address calling on his country to abandon all fossil fuels within 10 years. By 2018, U. S. electricity and fuel should come entirely from "renewable energy and truly clean, carbon-free sources," he said. Tickets to the event encouraged attendees to "please use public transit, bicycling or other climate-friendly means" to reach the lecture hall.
So how did Mr. Gore and his retinue arrive? In two Lincoln Town Cars and a full-sized SUV that sat idling with the air conditioners blasting while the Gore party was inside.
It was 34 C in Washington. Al Gore can't be expected to get into an overheated vehicle after he's worked up a sweat telling others how to save the planet.
If you're trying to make it through a long, long study hall at school, or if you're serving a long, long prison sentence, you can click here to read 9 months worth of me venting about similar stunts commited by The Goracle. I've really tried to get past this. I have failed.

What angers me about this stunt is that it's such a blatant money grab. Kleiner Perkins is going to pay Gore several Tennessee mansions' worth of plunder if he can get enough climate change/energy saving mandates in place. These government mandates, of course, will benefit Kleiner Perkins' alternative energy startup funds.

When Kennedy challenged us to get to the moon within ten years, Kennedy didn't already own large chunks of unreachable lunar real estate and he wasn't hoping to make a killing by selling crater-side condos to astronaut colonists. As best I can tell, Kennedy's family didn't have any investments in the aerospace industry.

Heck, what other Big Hairy Audacious Goals could we shoot for?

McDonald's challenges America to double its Big Mac consumption by the end of this decade ! ! !
Barack Obama courageously challenges the U.S. to elect an African American president by 2008 ! ! !
Betamax double dares you to bring back videocassettes, but in a different format ! ! !

I'm sure there are other ones out there.

Carnival Of The Libertarians #10

Chris at the Counting Cats In Zanzibar blog has recovered his health, and now has the 10th edition of Carnival Of The Libertarians posted.

Please check it out, and wish him good luck in his physical and financial recovery. (See Carnival for details.)

Kevin Colby is hosting the next one. Pick out your best post, go to the widget to your right, and send it to him.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

And By Their Bumperstickers, Ye Shall Know Them

I went to the Tarrant County Libertarian meetup in Grapevine yesterday.
First things first....
The meetup was held at Tolbert's Restaurant. I didn't realize going in that this place was the brainchild of Texas Chili-Cookoff legend Frank X. Tolbert. They had the best chili I've ever eaten. End of story.

They also have some great live entertainment scheduled during the next few weeks, including 3 Fools on Stools, A Hard Nights Day (Beatles Tribute) and plenty of others. I'll be returning to Tolbert's.

The other thing that always impresses me about the Libertarian meetups is that the people who attend are readers, not watchers or listeners. One gets the impression that the attendees generally develop their political opinions from books and newspapers, not Larry King, Lou Dobbs, or Rush Limbaugh. I love talking to these folks.
John Spivey, the Tarrant County Chairman, had some good info for us on the TCCC/Trinity River Vision boondoggle. I'm afraid that if I start diving into that mess it'll take over my life. The $$$'s that John was throwing around were terrifying. As wise investments go, this one is starting to make Alaska's Bridge To Nowhere look like Microsoft in the 80's.

Wednesday night, I'm probably going to go to a Meet And Greet in Dallas for Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr. I want to test the validity of his Damascus Road Experience, and in the unlikely event he's read any of the mad ravings on this site, it might be awkward.

Bumperstickers from Libertarian Girl and Buddy Stone.

Barack Obama Shoots A 3-Pointer In Kuwait

Here's a YouTube video of Barack Obama at a meet and greet for the troops in Kuwait.
The sound quality isn't good, but fast forward to the 2:50 mark and you'll get to see our potential Commander In Chief sink a three-pointer under intense pressure.