Thursday, December 31, 2009

Real Class in the NCAA

I watched the Arizona - Nebraska bowl game last night. Arizona's coach showed great class. When Nebraska had showed its defense deserved it, Arizona's coach gave the Huskers a chance to get a shutout; a huge deal in major college football.

Arizona had a high powered offense, but Nebraska's defense had completely shut it down. With only a few minutes left in the game, Arizona's offense had only been on Nebraska's side of the field two or three times and hadn't scored. Nebraska led 33-0.

With just over a minute to go, Arizona had moved inside the Nebraska ten yard line. Arizona had a fourth down, three yards to go, on the eight yard line: easy chance to kick a field goal and put some points on the board before the game ended.

Instead, Arizona went for a first down, giving Nebraska a chance to get the shutout.

What a classy move. We could use a lot more of that.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Reason for the Season?

What a wonderful winter day … Everyone is in the season of celebration.

Because it’s Christmas? No … Because it’s the Solstice.

While Christians celebrate Christmas, the season belongs to everyone. Most pagan and every major religion has a celebration surrounding the Solstice:

Christians – Christmas
Jews – Hanukkah
Buddhists – Bodhi Day
Muslims – Ramadan
Hindus – Makara Sankranti

The Christian celebration of Christmas on December 25 is really a celebration of the Solstice. In a brilliant move, early Christians set their celebration days on the same days as existing Roman holidays.

What do eggs and bunnies have to do with the execution and resurrection of the Jesus? Nothing … Eggs and bunnies are part of the celebration of birth surrounding the spring equinox. Early Christians pegged their celebrations to the existing Roman holidays, partly to hide from Roman authorities and partly to bring pagans into their religion. It was especially fitting for early Christian leaders to match the resurrection with the celebration of rebirth. Brilliant.

Biblical scholars are in general agreement that the star patterns and weather conditions in the story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem align with September, not December. So, early Christian leaders decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus along with the Solstice. Roman pagans were already celebrating Christmas and didn’t even know it.

So, what’s the point?

Happy Holidays

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Senators Want a Longer Healthcare Bill?

Following my entry asking our legislators not to waste their time reading the entire healthcare bill, Senator Mike Enzi now wants a longer bill. Apparently Enzi hasn’t been able to break any furniture with the current bill. Apparently, he wants the Senate to waste more time.

Relax Mike, you’ll find some other way to waste time instead of passing this legislation. Go read the Washington Times and the Drudge Report, twice. Take a run, or at least a brisk stroll, if you’re healthy enough; due to a lack of preventive care, many aren’t. The budget bill will be along soon and you can hurl that across the room, if you can lift it.

See Republicans now arguing that the Senate health care bill isn’t long enough.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thank You for Purposely Causing a Recession

Memo to the President
From Rush Limbaugh
Re: Thank You for Purposely Causing a Recession

Mr. President, I recently claimed, on my radio show, that you are causing a recession on purpose. While I made this outrageous accusation tongue-in-cheek, it has come to my attention that I am actually right. So, I wanted to write and thank you for your efforts in this regard.

Sir … Thank you for purposely moving our beloved country from a second great depression to a mere recession. If not for your courage and understanding of Keynesian economics (unlike my former heroes Ronald Reagan and George W Bush), even I may have lost my job … not that it’s actually work : )

Please keep up the good work and do whatever needs to done to move our economy forward. I’ll handle the outcry from my obsolete Liaise Faire brethren for you.

Rush Limbaugh

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Don’t Want My Congressman to Read the Entire Healthcare Bill

Do Repbublicans have to actually break a podium or table by slamming down the text of the healthcare reform bill before someone asks why they’re so obsessed with the number of pages in the bill?

Shouldn’t a bill that would reform one sixth of the economy of the United States be 2,000 some pages long? If you can write a plan on a bar napkin, an insurance executive would only need the time it takes him to finish his beer to devise a way exploit it.

Personally, I don’t want my legislator wasting her time by reading the entire bill. If I wanted her to read the entire healthcare reform bill, wouldn’t I want her to read every page of every bill, every amendment to every bill, and every position paper produced in the Congress? Has any legislator actually read the hundreds of thousands of pages that come across his desk each year? God, I hope not.

The only way to read that much would be to lock yourself away in a room for the year. Since most of these documents are rather technical and outside of any one congressman’s expertise, he couldn’t understand everything he’s reading and wouldn’t have time to learn enough about the subject matter to vote intelligently. He’d be better off going to lunch with someone who is an expert on the pending legislation.

Would I expect a congressman on the transportation committee to read and fully understand the healthcare reform bill? NO. But, would I expect a congressman on a healthcare committee to read and understand the bill? DAMN YES. At the very least, I expect our congressmen to hire staff who can understand the legislation. The only reason to demand that every congressman read every word of every bill is to stop all progress in the Congress ….

So, Congressman … DON’T READ THE BILL. Speak with healthcare committee members, discuss it with your staff, talk to your constituents, decide how you want to vote … and VOTE !!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Republicans Winning the Battle to do Nothing

Congress’s public ratings are in the dumps. So are the President’s. Why? Because they aren’t getting anything done. With large majorities in both the House and the Senate, the Government should be making great progress, but the Democrats are clearly failing to get their work done, aren’t they?

No. The Democrats aren’t failing, the Republicans are preventing action. Since 2007, the Republicans in the Senate have operated a perpetual filibuster. Individual Republicans have put meaningless holds on legislation and the President’s nominees. The Republican caucus refuses to allow anything to go forward without multiple cloture votes, including a bill to extend unemployment benefits that finally passed 98-0. So, nothing can go forward.

In the 110th Congress was forced by the Republicans to hold twice as many votes on cloture than any other past Congress (and they had a Republican president).

In the past, the filibuster was reserved for highly controversial legislation. Holds on nominees were reserved for clearly unqualified candidates. Just this year, however, Republicans placed a hold on the President’s nominee for ambassador to Brasil to hold up unrelated Cuba policy. A hold was placed on legislation benefitting veterans just to hold it up. Yesterday, the Senate confirmed its first of the President’s nominees for the federal bench. Why? Because a Republican put a hold a moderate candidate just to hold it up.

Why are Republicans putting up a wall in front of everything? This is Gingrichism at its worst. Do the math. If the voting public is mad at the Congress, we’ll want to ‘throw the bums out.’ With sixty percent of the bums being Democrats, the Republicans will lose less than the Democrats. A primary part of Gingrichism is that if both sides lose, but the other side loses worse than yours, you’re still the winner … and to hell with the damage you’ve done to the country.

Don’t be fooled … It’s not the Democrats doing nothing; it’s the Republicans forcing nothing.

Please see Legislative Pileup Looms in the Senate. published following this post.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Annoying Lies by Omission

Anyone flying recently knows how annoying carry on luggage has become. Why is everyone carrying on? Because the airlines are charging for even the first checked bag.

Today, the USA Today rightly opined that the airlines should charge for carry on luggage rather than the first checked bag. Darryl Jenkins, an airline economics analyst, wrote in his opposing opinion that the airlines charge for checked luggage in order to lower the weight of the plane and reduce fuel costs.

Nonsense. Unless my physics professor lied to me, whether that first bag is in the cabin or the cargo hold doesn’t change the weight of the plane. What charging for the first checked bag does is increase boarding and deplaning times, raise the stress level on the plane, and encourage passengers to act rudely toward each other and the flight staff. Oh, and charging for the first checked bag allows the airlines to lay off baggage handling staff.

The airlines don’t mention the human resource part of the equation, but it’s the major factor. The largest cost of most any endeavour is labor. The more people you can lay off the greater the corporation’s profit. If their customers are outraged, but not enough to forego buying the next plane ticket, that’s ok.

Call your airline. Tell them you want to check your bag, that you want a level of decorum on your next flight, that they need to correct this outrage before the next bag-hurling fight breaks out.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Capitalism is Socialism

Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism …. isms everywhere. We frequently use these terms to denigrate each other, but do we really understand what they are? Were the Soviets communists? Are we capitalists? Before we start yelling at each other, we need some definitions we can work with.

Capitalism is not the opposite of socialism, but rather a form of socialism.

It’s easiest to explain this through a comparison with political systems. First an important distinction: Political and economic systems should not be defined by their goals, but by their methods. We’ve seen many leaders who came to power with altruist goals, but ended as brutal dictators. A dictator is a dictator no matter his goals.

Political and economic systems must be defined by decision making; who makes the decisions. Using the commonly held concept of left and right, we will look the ends of the scales. The ends of the scales are just theoretical systems, but we need to understand the limits.

The left end of the political scale is Democracy: All political decisions made by the people as a whole through an equal ballot. The right end of the scale is the king, a Monarchy: One man makes all of the political decisions.

Under Democracy, everyone in the United States would vote on whether to repair the pot hole at Sixth and Green streets in Champaign, Illinois. At the other end, the king would decide. Neither of these ideas could really work, so we have modified systems. In the United States, we’re a Republic: The people, as a whole, elect a small number of leaders who make the political decisions. The Soviet Union was a Plutocracy: A small self-perpetuating group of leaders who made all the decisions.

Economic systems are analogous to political systems. They’re based on who the decision makers are.

The left end of the economic scale is Socialism, the economic form of Democracy: All economic decisions are made by the people as a whole through an equal ballot. The right end of the economic scale is the same the right end of the political scale, the king: One man makes all of the economic decisions.

Again, the ends can’t really work. We can’t rely on the population to decide on what automobile to produce, how to price it, how to market it, etc. So, we have modified systems. The Soviets had a Plutocratic Central Control Economy: A small number of self perpetuating leaders making all the economic decisions. Of course, when this small group is wrong, the results can be catastrophic. The Soviet Union collapsed, in large part, due to horrible decisions made by a few people that destroyed the entire economy.

In the United States, we nominally use a self perpetuating economic system we call Capitalism: Economic decisions are made by the people as a whole through an unequal ballot. Unlike pure socialism, each person has as many votes in capitalism as he has dollars, with each dollar representing one vote. If a product is popular and at the right price, people will pay (vote) more for it, and the product perpetuates. A lack of purchases causes a product to disappear.

Under capitalism as in socialism the people make decisions as a whole. As properly defined by the methods of decision making, capitalism is a form of socialism.

Communism (Marxism) is a marriage of democracy and socialism: All the people, through an equal ballot, make all the political and economic decisions. Of course, such a system can only work for a small cooperative group such as a monestary.

Fascism (Totalitarism) is just like the king. Fascists act like kings, but come to power through revolution rather than succession.

There is a danger lurking in our capitalist system. Central control economies inevitably fail. Too few make decisions for too many, so when the decision makers are wrong, their decisions have too great an affect on the economy.

When insufficiently regulated, power in a capitalist system coagulates. A few develop overreaching decision-making power. The system converts from capitalist to a Private-Sector Central Control Economy. An unelected, self perpetuating, group make the critical decisions. Private-sector central control can be just as dangerous as public-sector central control.

The auto industry is a great example of central control. The basic theories of capitalism mandate hundreds of auto manufacturers, rather than the few that we have. Functional markets must have so many players that decisions made by any one cannot affect the market as a whole. Poor decisions made by the few players in this market have the auto industry on the brink.

If the people want greater regulation, such regulation fits with capitalism. On the left side of the scale the people determine what form their economic system should take.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Update: Serbs Ordered to Pay for the Mosques

Bosnian Serb authorities have been ordered to pay Muslims $42 million for the destruction of 16 mosques in the city of Banja-Luka during the 1992-1995 war.

As posted earlier, (Karadzic's Destruction of Bosnia Lasts Long After War), Bosnian Serbs destroyed every mosque in the Serb controlled city of Banja-Luka. Banja-Luka is now the capital of the Republika Srpska autonomous region of Bosnia-i-Hercegovinia.

The Srpska Republika News Agency quoted the Islamic Community's lawyer Esad Hrvacic as saying that "For us, what is far more important than material compensation is that for the first time Republika Srpska has taken complete responsibility for the destruction of the mosques."

The most prominent of the mosques, built in 1579, the Ferhadija Mosque was on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and is being rebuilt.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Against the War in Afghanistan? Are You High?

Afghanistan is NOT Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was a tantrum by a group of megalomaniacs. The invasion of Afghanistan, however, was not by choice. It was necessary to protect the United States and the united nations. This war against the Taliban needs to be concluded even if it means extending the war into Pakistan.

A recent CNN poll showed that a majority of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan. We’re nearing the isolationist fervor we exhibited between the world wars, which ended in the disaster of the Nazi aggression and genocide in Europe. Afghanistan is not altogether different from Europe of the 1930s.


Since we seem to have forgotten, let’s start with a brief history of modern Afghanistan.

Following centuries of possession by foreign powers, Afghanistan finally emerged with a progressive secular, but pro-soviet, government in the 1970s. The United States decided to covertly fund the Mujahidin to annoy the Soviets. In 1979, the Soviets invaded to prop up the Soviet-leaning Afghan government. The United States then funded and trained the Mujahidin to fight a proxy war against the Soviets. After nine years of occupation, the USSR pulled out. Unfortunately, the United States similarly pulled out, leaving behind a horrific civil war. The Taliban came to power in 1996.

The Taliban government created an extreme Wahhabi version of Shariah law where women were to be illiterate baby producing machines. Women who were educated, showed any part of their bodies (even their eyes) in public, or were even found outside of the home without their husbands were publicly executed.

The Taliban supported and were supported by Al Qaida and Osama Bin Laden. When Bill Clinton managed to kick Bin Laden out of the Sudan, the Taliban gladly gave him room for his training camps. The ‘9/11’ hijackers were all trained in Bin Laden’s Afghan camps.

Although Al Qaida has been in hiding since the beginning of the Afghan war, the Taliban is reemerging as a power in the Waziristan regions of Pakistan.


The Taliban, one of the worst regimes in modern history, is regrouping; the weak (if not dysfunctional) Pakistani government has the bomb; opium production is at an all-time high; and civil war rages in the Khyber wastelands. The Asian people are as desperate as the people of 1930’s Europe and they have a leader: Bin Laden. Pakistani militants assassinated Benozir Bhutto, seiged Mumbai, and protect Al Qaida. Al Qaida and the Taliban intend to take down western civilization ….

So, how in the hell can you be against the war?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Love When Professionals Pick Up On My Posts

I Love When Professionals Pick Up On My Posts
This morning's USA Today includes an editorial called "In Defense of Earmarks - 'Pork' in Congress feeds the people," written by Ross K. Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University.

Nice pickup Ross.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

There’s Nothing Wrong With Pork

Many rail against ‘pork’ and ‘earmarks’ in government spending, but there’s just nothing wrong with either one. They say pork is wasteful spending and earmarks hide spending. Not true. The problem is in the definitions.

‘Pork’ is nothing more than Federal spending on local projects, or more to the point, spending on projects that have a location. There aren’t many projects that don’t have a location. All spending on bridges and roads, military bases, hospitals, etc. have a location. Even spending for the IRS has a location; they’ve got to put their personnel in an office, after all.

An ‘earmark’ is a directive, instructing a state how to spend congressionally appropriated money. Congress can’t get a bridge repaired unless it tells a state to use money for the project.

What is wrong with pork is when congressmen use undue influence or cave to lobbyist pressure in allocating money for projects. Complaints about earmarks surfaced when congressmen began inserting earmarks into comprehensive spending bills at the last moment, hiding the spending until it’s too late.

Even lobbyists are valuable and necessary when kept in their place. No congressman can actually be an expert on every issue before Congress. Lobbyists inform and educate. How could any person, on his own, understand the complexity of providing our world with energy while protecting it from energy? The problem is when congressmen stop listening to both sides of an issue. But when excessive campaign contributions push a congressman to take direction from a lobbyist or even allow the lobbyist to write legislation, lobbying must be curbed.

Now let’s stop flying off the handle over misused terms. Pork is necessary; earmarks are necessary; and even lobbyists are necessary. We should call congressmen on their misuse of legislative tools, not their necessary use.

Posted on CNN today: Earmarks: Myth and reality

Rational discussion of earmarks from President Obama: Obama calls for overhaul of earmarks

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Political Math and the Stimulus

The Media is giving the Republican Party a pass on its arguments against the ‘stimulus’ package. Instead of accepting the Republican arguments, the Media should look at the political math behind the Republican’s apparent push against the stimulus.

The political math shows that the Republican argument against the stimulus is a sham. Republicans have a laser focus on the 2010 elections and their approach to the stimulus is based almost entirely on regaining the majority in the Congress

There are basically two possible votes on the stimulus coupled with two possible outcomes of the package. The package will either succeed or fail. Republicans can either vote for it or against it. Thus, assuming Democrats for the stimulus, there are four possibilities for Republicans:

1. Vote for the stimulus : Stimulus succeeds

Result: Status quo. The entire Congress gets credit and the balance of power remains as it is.

2. Vote for the stimulus : Stimulus fails

Result: Status quo. The entire Congress gets blame and the balance of power remains as it is.

3. Vote against the stimulus : Stimulus succeeds

Result: Democrats pick up a few more seats. This is risky, but if it fails, the Republicans merely start campaigning for 2012.

4. Vote against the stimulus : Stimulus fails

Result: Republicans pick up seats. Enough to retake control?

Voting for the stimulus package cannot possibly help the Republicans regain control of the Congress. Thus the political math requires Republicans to vote against the package no matter what’s in it.

Please contact your favorite media outlet and ask them to cover the political math.