Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 Book List

Due to the overwhelming number of comments on the previous list, I will endeavor to continue the list for 2014.

> Jon Meacham: American Lion; Andrew Jackson in the White House (It is fortunate for us that the man who could have been our Caesar was so dedicated to popular liberty and bank busting. The personal turmoil throughout this administration is astonishing and may have helped limit the already expansive increase in executive power. Long, long read.)
> G. J. Myers: A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 (Truly a masterpiece representation of the the first World War. Extensive provision of context, welcome portraits of the men who changed the war, and an unyielding sense of the weight of the subject)
> Peter L. Bernstien: The Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation (Having an even greater impact then even the transcontinental railroad, the project that made New York an economic triumph. Delightful work on an oft neglected subject matter.)
> Alexander Rose: American Rifle: A Biography (Rifles. Industrial Development. Personal machinations of inventors, soldiers, acquisition officers. generals. industrialists. Recommended for anyone with an interest in firearms or military development. 
> Paul M. Barrett: Glock (Lightweight history of a pistol that changed the face of the worldwide firearms industry)

> Isaac Asimov: The Currents of Space (Asimov brings a sci-fi who-dun-it. Fun and engaging)
> Douglas Adams: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Hilarious and unrelenting in surprise)
> Douglas Adams: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Funny and continues the humor)
> Douglas Adams: Life, the Universe, Everything (moments of hilarity, too oft a story lost)
> Neal Stephenson: Snowcrash (Clever conceits, a collapsed world run by 'franchise city-states', skateboarding delivery teens, enormous virtual reality engagement, Sumerian myth, the Holy Spirit as an information virus transmittable from humans to virtual reality, a world spanning monopoly on the internet run by a renegade Pentecostal, an Aleut man with a hydrogen bomb... fun concepts which require enormous suspensions of disbelief to overcome chronic biblical mis-information. Audio version was dull. may be better in paper. Tremendous tounge-in-cheek humor. Frustrating characters due to thin thought processes. Unbelievably contemporary for being 22 years old, worth a looksee for sci-fi readers)

In Process:
> Amity Shlaes: Coolidge
> Larry Correia: Hard Magic: Book 1 of the Grimnoir Chronicles 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

2013 Book List

As is readily apparent to all who enter, I have been unable to maintain a consistent presence on this blog.
That is likely to continue into the future, as my wife and I have begun to spend more time in ministry together and I am no longer at a university living the leisurely life of blogging from the classroom.

However, there is one joy in life I would still like to share and discuss. Books. This is the ongoing list of the books I've worked through this year, and it will be updated as the pages turn on.  No particular order, there may be parenthetical notes in regards to a work.

***** Five Star: (Unmitigated recommendation from this blogger)Richard Adams - Watership Down (A genuine classic that encourages the mind and soul. World-building on par with Tolkien, with rabbits rather then Hobbits)
David McCullough - John Adams (Virtuoso work by a solid historical author. Worth every minute. You can all have your Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, and Madison. Me? I'm pining for  Adams, a man exemplary in character and consequence in his own time. A lasting test of his mettle? His son John Quincy, marking John Adams as one who could straddle the line of Family and Country and succeed)

> Issac Asimov - The Robots of Dawn (disappointing social commentary thinly disguised as a robot whodunit, a rare Asimov miss )
> Stanislaw Lem - Solaris (A Polish work of 52 years past, translated. Excellent)
> Vox Day - A Magic Broken & Wardog's Coin & The Last Witchking (Compelling novelettes in a intricate fantasy world)
> Lars Walker - Hailstone Mountain (Off the beaten path Nordic fantasy from the perspective of a priest. Enjoyable.)
> Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles (He doesn't so much write as paint with words. Compelling short form science fiction)
> Ray Bradbury - Dandelion Wine
> John Steinbeck - Cannery Row 
Alstair Reynolds - Revelation Space (Listened on Audible. Difficult to follow, not recommended)
> Richard Adams - Watership Down (A genuine classic that encourages the mind and soul)
> Vox Day - A Throne of Bones (Rome, Elves, Orcs, Dragons, intricacies to rivet the attentive reader)
> C.S. Lewis - The Screwtape Letters (Putting this on the 'Must Read to finish Homeschool' list)
> Larry Niven - Rainbow Mars (Science fiction of men and sundry martians that never left me quite enough rope with which to catch on)
Frank Herbert - Dune Messiah (disappointing following the masterpiece that is Dune)

Non Fiction:
> David McCullough - John Adams (Virtuoso work by a solid historical author. Worth every minute.)
> George Daughn - If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy: From the Revolution to the War of 1812 (Comprehensive and accessible. A rare and noble feat.)
> Luigi Zingales - A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity
> Michael Lewis - Moneyball: The art of winning an unfair game (Baseball. Economics. Personal stories.Remarkable work)
> Michael Lewis - The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game (Football. Economics. Personal stories. Remarkable work)
> Matt Chandler - The Explicit Gospel (As good as hoped for, good for thinkers)
> Andy Staley/Bill Willits - Creating Community: Five Keys to Building a Small Group Culture
> James Wesley Rawles - How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It (With no limit on the budget, apparently no problem can not be surmounted)
> James Bradley - The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War (This rocked my view of 1890-1910 America & Teddy Roosevelt in a sharply negative direction)
> Kevin Dedman - The Ultimate Treasure Hunt
> Amy S. Greenberg - A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico (Executive abuse of power leading to invasion of a sovriegn land. Echos of today)
> Giles Milton - Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Or the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History 
> Andy Staley - 7 Practices of Effective Ministry
> Cook's Illustrated - The Science of Good Cooking (Delicious and informative)
> Nathaniel Philbrick - Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, A Revolution (High quality narrative nonfiction of Boston in the years surrounding the start of the War for Independence)
> Mike Dash - Tulipomania (Because flowers and market mania without inflationary monetary policy)
> E. F. Schumacher - Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (Useful first half, not so much the second half)
Malcolm Gladwell - David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Stories and lessons learned of how the quick and nimble destroy the slow and ossified)
> Rob Goodman - Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar 
> Michael Lewis - The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
> Jon Krakauer - Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Is Rand Paul Still Talking?

A worthy question.

As of now, yes. 5:38 strong.

Get it done Mr. Paul.
“I will speak today until the president responds and says, ‘No, we won’t kill Americans in cafes. No, we won’t kill you at home at night,’”

"Are you going to just drop a hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?"

UPDATE: Fillibuster still going  at 11:33.

H/t Gino:


To conclude, from The Hill: “They think the whole world is a battlefield, including America, and that the laws of war should apply,” Paul said in an interview on Fox News about McCain and Graham, who had described Paul’s comments about drones as “ridiculous.” “The laws of war don't involve due process, so when they ask you for an attorney you tell them to shut up. That's not my understanding of the way America works,” Paul told Fox. “I don't think the laws of war apply to America, I think the Bill of Rights do and I think it's a disservice to our soldiers that our senators up there arguing that the Bill of Rights aren't important."

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nuclear Wildcard

In his 2002 State of the Union Address, George W Bush warned Americans about the looming threat of the contemporary ‘axis of evil’. This trio – Iran, Iraq and North Korea - was ostensibly engaged in the headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc on the west. In the aftermath of 9/11 and in the early days of combat in Afghanistan, Americans were eager for the next target of our indignant fury.   Within 14 months, combat operations would begin in Iraq, tearing apart the first of the three ‘axis powers’.

Fortuitously, we have not yet engaged or invaded Iran or North Korea. North Korea has continued to execute a strategy of being the crazed knife-wielding hyena of the East Asia. To placate the beast, we have and will continue to offer it food while maintaining the DMZ along the border. This is how Clinton, Bush, and Obama  maintained the peace. With Iran, we have  perceived the continual threat of nuclear armament for years on end. Subsequent predictions should the Persians develop weapons for the atomic age have conjured apocalyptic scenarios of a world without Israel and gasoline at $12 a gallon. While we have intentionally avoided official diplomatic discussions with Iran, we protest that it is Iran who is the aggressive power in the Middle East. It is politically convenient to ignore the reality that we have invaded two neighbors and control by military might nearly 60% of the borders in contact with Iran. In the face of such naked aggression on our borders, any nation would seek a more capable military response.

The solution for Iran has not yet come to pass, although it is debatable that such a solution is the responsibility or prerogative of these United States. It is unlikely that our solutions for North Korea and Iran will involve a land invasion reminiscent of Iraq. In simple terms, the financial and emotional wherewithal for a ground invasion and occupation of yet another nation does not exist. Military strategy in the near future will require different tools, tools developed and escalated within the past decade of military operations.  

Rémy LeBeau Knows Whats UpIn our rampant imperialism with boots on the ground, we have developed an unprecedented level of air superiority. A decade ago, drones were the infants in the arsenal of the west; today they are entering their adolescence. The military tools now seen in the Predator and Reaper drones, when combined with precision munitions, are capable of striking an enemy without endangering a pilot. This is a blessing, as combat operations retain a keen edge of destruction without becoming life threatening to military personnel. It is a perfect storm of superiority and safety in opposition theatres.

This risk free application of force has become the terrible vice of drone warfare, and in turn, our foreign policy. The tactical reality is that there is almost no cost to the US when autonomous missile throwers are employed. Economics imparts the wisdom that ‘there is no free lunch’; there are costs associated with all actions. One clear cost is the damage wrought on the ground by the ordinance. This is intentional, although properly controversial. A cost that is far more difficult to account for is the United States’ loss of moral standing in the world. The hearts and minds of people matter, as actions and preferences are born from people’s beliefs.

Terrorism is one consequence of desperation, the killing of innocents to draw attention and make a point. It is not a consequence of living among sand, nor is the result of raising goats rather than cattle. Terrorism is a tactic employed to provoke a response and affect the hearts of the enemy. The ostensible mastermind of the 9/11 attacks did not see the breaking of the towers as an end, but as a means to an end. Bin Laden believed that when the US retaliated and began to destroy the lives and families of Muslims, they would join his jihad against the United States. Our invasions fit the historical US pattern of invasion, occupations, withdrawals, and intermittent air strikes; we have returned to the very tactics so strongly decried by those recruiting new terrorists. In Afghanistan alone, there has been a 72% increase in drone air strikes in the past year.

Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Niger, Somalia, Mali and others are now active theatres for US air strikes. These strikes frequently create collateral damage. At the very least, they are annoying to those who live nearby. In a primitive society, this is a god-like power, to strike across borders from the air without consequence. These people are not primitive; they are well aware of who bears responsibility for the bombings. It has inflamed opinion against the US. It will bring on additional action against the US. It will spur the very hearts and minds of those whose tacit opposition to the jihad we so crucially depend on.

George Friedman said it well, "A military strategy to defeat the jihadists is impossible. At its root, the real struggle against the jihadists is ideological, and that struggle simply cannot be won with Hellfire missiles.”

Pakistan is rightly opposed to US actions: our invasion of their borders, our assassination teams sent in without permission and our continually escalating air strikes by drones. According to Gallup, 92% of those polled in Pakistan are now opposed to the US leadership in Pakistan. The single nation on earth which lays claim to being both Muslim and a genuine nuclear power is the sovereignty we have violated with reckless abandon. The democracy of Pakistan is on shaky ground, propped up by the US, which is detested by the population. It is no far-fetched proposition to see a future in which the nuclear weapons of Pakistan are deployed against the west in retribution for the wrongs committed in the name of preempting terrorism.

In a poker game where cards represent nations, and the cards showing nuclear threats are Iran and North Korea are on the table. The card of Pakistan still sits in the deck. History and God deal many wildcards over the course of time, and Pakistan could be the next one. If such a deal comes, we will look once again in wonder and anger and ask, “Why do they hate us?” The answer will be found in our actions, our vice, and our imperial hubris that led us to believe that there could be no consequences to rampant bombing of individuals the world over.

Liberties and the constitution are sacrificed for security upon the altar of political expediency. Once again, we will see the Military-Industrial complex fully primed for a war financed by continual deficits. It is glory and it is pain to see from within an empire behave as an empire, but better perhaps to be within then without. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Has a good lesson to teach on the dangers of printing money to solve a government budget deficit.
I've been sitting on these pictures for a while, but this story seems like a good one to bring them up with.
In 2008, Zimbabwe reached 231 Million Percent Annual inflation. Here is the result:

 Even more distressing? 
The national accounts of Zimbabwe total up to $217 following payroll last week.  

Lesson? A government cannot simply create more money to exit economic recessions, deficits, or liquidity traps. The current financial world has not yet reckoned with the potential for rampant inflation of the US dollar, but the time will come. Inflation is more rampant in an environment of economic growth, it is the boom not the bust which brings the destruction.  This lasting doldrums of the past four years has suppressed price inflation, although cracks still appear in the ceiling. See, gas prices rising consistently without obvious changes in supply or demand. 

To allay this gloom, recall an American electorate which as a long history of rejecting inflationary government measures. The Continentals, Greenbacks, and the Bimetallism of Williams Jennings Bryan were all cast upon the ash heap of history. We will either remember that crafting new monetary units from the ether results in hardship for the poor, or these current United States will cease to exist. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Culture that is Germany

BBC News:
"The man drove up to a Hell's Angels clubhouse near Munich, wearing only a pair of shorts and carrying a puppy.
He dropped his shorts and threw the dog, escaping on a bulldozer from a nearby building site."

The best introduction to an article which is perhaps the best news story ever written.  Germany is a far more interesting tourist destination today then it was a week hence. 

Artistic representation of a hurled puppy

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gino On Firearm Restriction

This is an excellent excerpt from another 5 star blog post over at In Shredz.
"But nobody needs one of these rifles, right? They are not practical for civilian use, they are just killing machines, right?
Guess again.
Forget that scenario of warrior patriots standing up to defend their freedom from military forces. I'm not going there here.
Instead, I can tell you what happened in Los Angeles during the riots 20 years ago. The rioting quickly spread, so fast, so far, so violent, so out of control, that vast swaths of a very large city were abandoned by all forces who's job was to provide law, order and protection to the citizens."

The entire post is eminently readable and will provoke one to thought. Its also an angle which has been unfortunately drowned out in the cacophony of Left/Right media discussions. The possession of firearms to maintain domestic security is not directed merely at deer (Cuomo!), or at any specific standing administration (you know who you are) but also at the terror that comes when a mob rises up. In historical context, this has been a very quiet time for populist or violent movements, but America is no stranger to sudden and violent uprisings. 

The Culture that is Ireland

The County Kerry Council in southwest Ireland passed a measure on Monday that allows rural drivers to legally drive while under the influence of alcohol.The council voted 5-3 - with 12 absent and seven abstaining - to issue special permits to individuals who live in rural areas and wish to drive home on remote countryside roads after consuming two to three alcoholic beverages." - YahooNews

I put this under 'America has many problems, but this ain't one of them' category. At least we require a quorum to make decisions effecting law. 

By far the best comment:
"This is quite surprising.
I had no idea drunk driving was illegal in Ireland."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Fed and Prices

The consumer price index over time in the US, note the creation of the Federal Reserve, and the subsequent change of pace. Also note the subsequent change of increase when the gold standard was completely removed from the US Dollar in the early 1970's. H/t ZeroHedge

Increasing prices as related to an increasing currency without a commensurate increase in wages? Check.

A currency increase unrestrained by any backing requirement? Check. 

A currency quadrupled in quantity over the past 10 years and not yet reflected in this chart? Check.

Dire consequences to follow? History says, Check. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Financial Interest And Citizens

Cheaper Than Dirt .223 Rifle, Empty 12/24/12
10 Round .223 AR-15 Mag, Bullet Trap Inc, 12/27/12 Cost: $75.
Academy Sports .223 Rifle, Empty 12/27/12

Cheaper Than Dirt 9mm Handgun, Empty 12/24/12
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the national political climate has taken an apparent shift from toleration of an armed citizen to open mockery of a free citizen being armed. It has apparently troubled more then a few, as stores which I have never seen an empty ammo shelf have become the norm. 

Within hours, the national outcry for the reinstatement of the 1994 Abridgement of the Second Amendment Assault Rifle Ban swept the internet and media outlets. The result? A run on the existing supply of such rifles, and a rapid increase in the private holdings of such rifles. To wit, the result of intoning increased control of fire arms is to increase the number of fire arms in private hands, and to drive the existing supplies of ammunition off the shelves and into the closets of private citizens. 

Anecdotal evidence from a local gun show on 12/22 was compelling. The doors opened at 9am, we arrived and stood in line from 8:45am to 9:15am to even enter the show floor. After 11:30am, I was no longer able to locate a dealer of ammunition selling .223 Rifle at any price. 

Equally of note, the AR-15 style rifle has become exceptionally difficult to locate and purchase. At the show we visited, most vendors began the day charging double the previous going rate for rifles, with many rapidly increasing prices until selling out within only a handful of hours. 

The standard magazine for these rifles holds 30 rounds, and were priced with a 800% increase from the price a month previous. Supply and demand functioned efficiently, these prices reflect a selling of magazines in 3 days equivalent to 42 months of sales.The picture above of the magazine priced at $75 is representative of a magazine with 1/3 the capability for 8 times the price of the standard magazine in the beginning of November. In essence a cost growth of 2400% as a result of a few words spoken in public. The short run inelasticity (Inflexible, difficult to increase supply in the short run) of the quantity supply is seen by rapid increases in prices as the retails cope with very elastic (increasing quickly in the short run) demand.

An AR-15 rifle is known to the industry as a 'Sporting Rifle' and has a more tactical look and feel then does a traditional hunting rifle. To those who do not understand the tools they seek to condemn, these are frequently referred to as 'Assault Rifles'. The fear and hysteria surrounding these implements is such that before anything approaching clarity was available regarding the Sandy Hook story, officials were decrying the presence of an AR-15 style rifle without regard for the facts regarding it's use, or even the legality of its presence on the school grounds. 

 Really, it is almost as if Diane Feinstein and her compatriots have a large financial interest in increasing the sales of all arms makers and ammunition manufacturers. Think about it, millions of extra rounds of ammunition purchased in the past year for non-combat departments of the Federal Government were done with some cause.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Hobbit

In the early months of 1999 my mother hauled her two boys to the Grapevine Public Library. While I was busy casting about the children's book section, she went out of her way to pull a large, dully colored book down from the shelf and force me to hold it and look at it. While I gaped in impatience at the cover, she explained that although she had never read the book or the author, it was a book I would probably like.

As mothers tend to be, she was correct in her assessment. After all, I had plowed through CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia nearly six times.Taking her consultation into account, and with all the skills of discernment I possessed,  I looked at the book with the map with a lonely mountain and the desolation of Smaug, decided it was silly, and returned it to the shelf. Thus ended my first interaction with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.

Accelerate now to the end of 2006. I had read the account of the Baggins adventure twice, the companion Lord of the Rings thrice. I still reckon on the four part cycle by Tolkien as one of the finest reads on my shelf, and relished the movies by Peter Jackson.
Enter 2012, as the Hobbit receives a three movie rendition of its own and audiences across the United States visited beloved Middle Earth yet again, enthralled by the deeply human story of the Halfling struggling amidst all the joy and terror and perils this fantasy world can offer.

The movie represents the book quite well. Tolkienoids will appreciate the inclusion of the musical numbers which were often notably absent from the LOTR trilogy. Continuity folks will revel in the inclusion of Ian McKellen reprising Gandalf the Gray. Purists will adore the time lovingly spent in Bag End, the lines of the script taken straight from the quill of Tolkien, and the dedication to a properly blown smoke ring. Young and old alike ought to be entranced by Smaug, the Kingdom Under the Mountain, the Goblin kingdom, the Trolls and the Eagles.

In fact, there is something in this movie for everyone to enjoy. It is long. It is obsessed with the world of its creation. It does bear obvious foreshadowing and superfluous additions to the story. Regardless, The Hobbit remains enjoyable and even memorable, which is something many films, sequels, and prequels fail to achieve. (Here's looking at you Lucas!) Do yourself a favor and spend a few more hours in enthralled by Middle Earth.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How to Watch Netflix: Last Train Home

Last Train Home is a documentary crafted by Lixin Fan and released in 2009. Fan follows three years in the life of a family swimming in the annual labor migration of the Chinese industrial revolution. In many respects, this family presents a non-typical image of modern China. Courtesy of the barbaric One Child policy, the fertility rate of the Chinese mainland has fallen 6 births per woman in 1970 to a low of 1.4 birth per woman in 2010. What is also notable, the first born is a daughter. For variety of reasons, this is not as common as it statistically should be in china. (Freakonomics: Misadventures in Baby Making)

Father and Mother are Zhang Changhua and Chen Suquin, both among the 130 million textile workers who live and work and eat and breathe the factories of Guangzhou (near Hong Kong).Despite the low wages earned in the factory, they are able to save enough Yuan each year to more than offset the earnings of their agricultural options at home.  Meanwhile, their children are raised in the agricultural homestead by their grandmother. Last Train Home begins as the parents near the end of their fifteenth year of migrant labor. They work to save enough to send both children to school.  Each year, they return home to celebrate the Chinese New Year, duration of one to two months. On each occasion it is an ordeal of immense proportions to journey home by the trains which navigate the Chinese countryside.  Fan does a fine job capturing the scope of humanity which travels at this time, comprising nearly 130 million souls headed back home at the same time. To miss the train going home is to miss home entirely for the year.

The first born is Zhang Qin, a daughter of high school age who appears to have nothing but distain for the efforts of her parents and her grandmother. Her coming of age story unfolds with remarkable alacrity and feeling throughout Fan’s work. Her younger brother is struggling academically, and the reasons develop over the years as well. There exists a powerful tension between the three generations, as the young and old clash over ideals and lifestyles. Distance and time spent apart remain enormous obstacles to overcome, and like all families in history, there is no final conclusion to the joys and struggles of life.

The obvious question is never asked, but I will address it here after finding my own answer. Why would this family not move to the city? Due to the hukou of the Chinese political system, the farmer families are unable to access public services beyond their district. The hukou status grants government services to people, provided they remain in the proper place granted to them. These include education, medical care, housing, and pensions. To move into an area where the hukou is not applicable is economic suicide. Wealthy city dwellers are unwilling to debase their hukou benefits and refuse to grant a change in hukou status to migrant families. In consequence, a population comprising nearly 40% of the United States migrates hither and yon on a yearly basis.  

Last Train Home is presented only in Mandarin with lively and responsive English subtitling. Before this begins to daunt, consider this: It is rare that you will devote your entire attention to what is on a screen before you, because you can simply turn away and listen to the audio whilst your mind cleverly fills in the void. Not so in Mandarin with English subtitles, as the subtitles require constant attention.
Use your Netflix for good tonight, this is highly recommended viewing. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Redistribution and Times of Tempest

In a nation racing towards insolvency at the speed of a falling falcon, the state of Pennsylvania is worth a look. But first, some reality.

The redistribution of wealth by government entities has two consequences which are seldom discussed. First, the wealth must be removed from the hands of citizens who possess it. In our national system this means taxing people with income and profitable investments. Second, the confiscated wealth is utilized to encourage individuals without income or profitable investments to retain such vocations. In our rational world, we punish that which is productive and reward that which is not. Even bypassing the moral arguments against theft of wealth by the power of guns, this is a miserable set up and provides negative incentives to both parties of the transactions. 

Take note of the following graphs from the Department of Public Welfare of Pennsylvania in conjunction with the American Enterprise Institute. 

Exhibit A: The income curve of a Pennsylvania family of a single mother and two children. The red line indicates the level of earnings. Blue bars indicate net earnings and are representative of take home pay and benefits following Federal and State taxes. Notice that while a progressive tax rate is active, it is in all cases better to increase earnings. 

Exhibit B: The income curve of a Pennsylvania family of a single mother and two children. Note the remaining red income line and the blue area of net income. Note also the stark level of redistributed wealth. The dashed horizontal line is important, as this individual earning $29,000 per year will rationally refuse any increase in income, unless such income were to exceed $69,000 per year.

Exhibit C: The outcome of increased redistribution of wealth. The programs we collectively call welfare are not the only source of redistributed income, wealth producers are subject to an additional form of exploitation.  Government employees are paid from this same pool of forcibly collected wealth. At this very hour there are only five privately employed wage producers for every 4 individuals collecting from this sour pool of redistributed wealth. For a look at the growth of government employment in comparison to the growth in private employment, look at slide 14

Clearly there is room for disagreement on the role of government and the level of employment under the banner of the government system, but there ought be no dispute that every dollar used to pay the wages of government employees is that which stems from taxation or excise. My umbrage is not with the individuals who have rationally chosen work within the government apparatus, but with the apparatus as it exists and from where the resources for it's existence are derived. 

Can it happen here? Will the motor continue to turn? Have we passed the event horizon

Big questions with no easy answer, and the sky continues to darken uncomfortably. It was without error when Romney declared 47% of the electorate would be firmly opposed to a candidate who even pretended to rearrange this acrimonious construct. We may be watching as that 47% swiftly surpasses the 50% mark over the coming two years. The political firepower simply does not exist on a national level* to reduce the spending on these any policy. The rational and expected action of an elected official at this time is to encourage redistribution of wealth just as Senators of Rome pursued headlong the panem et circenses politics of the republics latter days. 

The time is past and present to remedy this insult to human dignity. We must no longer sanction the punishment of the productive on behalf of the collective society. Equally important is to restore the hope that comes when an individual is capable of improving themselves. It is implausible to believe that a single mother with receive a promotion from $29,000 a year to $70,000 a year. Short of that pay rate, she is told that her most valuable place in society and for her children is to earn less then $30,000 year. In the desire to provide for a low income family at the expense of others, we have managed to strip away hope and pride and desire for personal and professional improvement. 

Irrevocably and predictably our solution falls once again upon the shoulders of the individuals who make the teeming mass of people we call Americans. Will the hearts and minds of the people change to alter the course we are set on? Human history is rife with societies who have quibbled over the gold on a sinking ship, but of equal abundance are ships righted in times of tempest. May God be with us.

*(Ryan, Gowdy and Paul notwithstanding)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Watch Netflix

You have Netflix. You have an Instant Queue sitting full of shows and movies yet unwatched. The time has come to stop scrolling past these artifacts of interests past and watch something new with an eye for learning.

Introducing  Food, Inc, a 2008 documentary by Robert Keener on the state of food in these United States. The promotional tag line goes, “An unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry.” At 94 minutes, it is an easy and informative watch. It earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, along with other critical accolades.  

Food, Inc is compelling and engaging. Keener clearly had an agenda when putting this film together. However, he does not cloud the delivery of his message: the food we consume is far from what we imagine it to be. As we drift farther away from an agricultural lifestyle, people no longer understand what food is, where it comes from, and how it is processed.  Keener faults the handful of multinational corporations creating and delivering the food supply. These are the consequence of the fast food industry’s titanic purchasing power, as driven by consumer demand for cheap, fast, and filling food, regardless of nutrition provided. The result is a food industry sacrificing safety for the sake of cutting costs with little advocacy on behalf of the consumer.

Most of the documentary discusses problems which are well identified, but they are only symptoms. It is apparent to a viewer who watches and thinks about what is being said that the root cause tying all of the symptoms together is that of agricultural subsidies. Corn, wheat, and soybean crops are heavily subsidized by the US Federal Government. The way this works is a price floor, where there is always an absolute minimum price that a farming corporation can sell his grain for to the US government. The cost of production has diminished from where this price floor is set that farming corporations have incentives at all times to increase the production of corn.

Suddenly, the supply of corn vastly outstrips traditional demand and prices fall. When these prices are low enough, livestock producers begin to purchase corn to feed animals not designed to subsist on corn. Eventually this leads to health issues in the livestock, but it is still cost effective to medicate the livestock with antibiotics and maintain the corn based diet.

All of the problems identified in Food, Inc can be traced back to the root issue of subsidized cereal grains, this American Hydra of unintended consequences. So long as this economic reality exists, the Sisyphean task of providing government oversight to ensure food safety will be unsuccessful. Keener actually does a fine job demonstrating how powerless the FDA is in the food industry, and inadvertently showcases why a trust in government to protect people is a vain faith.

Go on, use your Netflix and Amazon Prime for good tonight.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Gift List for Leaders Of Liberty

Christmas Gift List for Leaders Of Liberty

Look at it
Christmas is coming, and you have people to give to. Some of those people are even politically oriented, with a penchant for the liberalism of the enlightenment.
This list is for you, for them. I have personal experience with each item on this list, and not a bad apple in the bunch. (No, this is not the list for myself)


The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition 
 F. A. Hayek, a man under appreciated in economics and political theory. Sure to be loved.

A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World
How individuals trading across borders made life better and worse, and why the world is as rich as it is today on account of increased trade.

 Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom
Ron Paul, an man under appreciated in political theory and the Republican party. If you are like myself in 2008, you are unable to fathom why there are so many who love this man's principles so dearly. This book will help illuminate why. (Then when you finish with it, it makes a great Christmas gift for someone who is already oriented to liberty)

On Liberty
John Stuart Mill, a man possibly over appreciated in economics and in political academics. Nevertheless, this is a classic of the genre, a rational exposition of liberty which should be read at least once.

The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man Who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold
Liberty and revolutions against tyranny are no mere american function. This is the story of John Cooke, a lawyer tasked by the revolution of 1649 to lead the prosecution of King Charles the I. It was the first time that a king would be tried in a court of law for Tyrannicide, the crime of killing those whom he was tasked by God to defend. It is also notable that John Cooke was a devout christian, and this story pulls no punches in acknowledging his faith, and the role of the christian faith in the establishment of the short lived English Republic.

Generation Kill
Evan Wright, an embedded reporter with a US Marines Recon battalion in the first months of the Gulf War in 2003, unparalleled look into the faces on the ground. Not for children. To run a simile  think Band of Brothers but for this generation.

End the Fed
Ron Paul again, with a book that will make any one interest in the expansion of liberty sit up and think.

The ESV Study Bible
There is no man who has done more for the cause of the individual then Jesus Christ. This is the definitive book about him, and rife with notes and maps and cross references to help with study. I use this myself.

Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand, this is a book both fascinating and controversial. It will find a permanent place in a home, but is also not child friendly.

Fahrenheit 451: A Novel
It is no secret that this book is adored by this blogger. Of all the prominent dystopian novels. Bradbury crafted the best, an onrushing torrent of wit and verve and wisdom packed inside of a story which has become cliche due to the numerous and frail derivatives of it we must deal with today.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
The moon is communist. The moon wants freedom. The computer achieves intelligence. Let the revolution begin, and forget not: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Firefly - The Complete Series "Firefly! I love Firefly!...Although that is one thing we will probably not let our kids watch until they are eighteen." - Jenny. Don't fret, its the best network TV series. Ever. Science Fiction and western and libertarian thought all rolled into one marvelously scripted bundle of joy.

Other Goodies: 

Silver Dollar coins. this was given to me by my Oklahoma Uncle when I earned the Eagle Scout award, and it has been on a key ring ever since. Ironic that 6 years later I would be pining for a return to a metallic currency and a cessation of the fiat currency.

Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife with Secure-Ex Sheath
Because men who value liberty also value knives. This one is fun to hold, fun to use, fun to throw, durable and a great value.

 Leatherman 831206 Style? Cs Keychain Multi-Tool
It's not TSA compliant, and it sure is handy to have on a key ring. Jenny carries it everyday and is quite happy with it, particularly the scissors.

  Panasonic RPHJE120K In-Ear Headphone, Black
To listen to Dvorak and MacMaster and these here listed podcasts.

These are free. These have no commercials. These are informative. These will make you smarter if you listen. Do so while you have some free time this December.

Russ Roberts, professor or economics and a guest discuss a given topic for roughly an hour a week. Recently discussed are the topics of Healthcare, Economics Price Gouging, John Locke, Public Pensions, Geographic distribution of voting, Education and the Internet. All personally recommended.

No Agenda
Crackpot and Buzzkill, media assassins. No formal political training required, these are two men who have a conversation about the news, the media, and the smoke and mirrors we call the news. It's twice a week, roughly 2 hours each, and no commercials. Unique in that it is listener supported, enough so that it provides full time income for both me. No Agenda just passed the 5 year mark, and I have been a follower for that entire time. Recommended, but bear in mind it is considered PG-13.

Hardcore History
This man produces stellar historical narratives that can take 40 minutes to complete, or 5 2 hour shows. I have never once listened to an episode of Hardcore History over the past 4 years and felt like it was a waste of time. The common sentiment upon reaching the end of the show is: "WAIT!! DAN, THERE IS MORE TO COVER! DON'T STOP NOW!!"
Dan Carlin doesn't stop, he just comes back with another episode worthy of your attention.
The current series is on Genghis Khan and his conquests, other topics include the Fall of Rome, the Eastern front of WWII, and the effect of hysterical fear on the courses of history. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Inflation Blues

Pandora does, on occasion, bring forth wonderful music specifically for my ear.
Behold, BB King and the Inflation Blues

Now you take that paper dollarIt’s only that in nameThe way that buck has shrunkIt’s a lowdown dirty shame
That’s why I got the bluesGot those inflation blues'Cause I have
Mr. President, please cut the price of sugarI wanna make my coffee sweetI wanna smear some butter on my breadAnd I just got to have my meat
When you start rationingYou really played the gameAnd things are going up and up and up and upAnd my check remains the same

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Elections 2012, or "Was That the Event Horizon?"

Following the 2008 election I posted the following, ripe with all the wisdom contained in the mind of a first time voter:
"I attribute this election lost to a lack of conservative energy, and rightly so. The GOP betrayed its principles, and is paying a heavy price for it."
While there is some truth to this, I am sickened by the reality that GOP betrayed few of its principles. With the exception of the Reagan anomaly, the Republican Party has long held for an expansionary government role in the lives of Americans. 

There is despair in the camp of classical liberals.  The results of this election drive home a point seldom acknowledged. Our people no longer desire opportunity, but handouts. Our people no longer desire responsibility, but to be coddled. Our people no longer care for accomplishment of the difficult, but for the contrived comfort of welfare. 

Yesterday was a reflection of two voices trumpeting near identical ideologies. The increase of scope and magnitude of the federal government is only celebrated and never disparaged.
Absent are the days of Cleveland: "Though the people support the government; the government should not support the people.”
Coolidge's maxim lies cast aside: "Collecting more taxes then is absolutely necessary is nothing more then legalized robbery".
Kennedy is lionized yet ignored: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

How have we come to this?

The answer lies in a concept I have not yet fully developed, but I will proceed to venture forth with it due to the hour we are in. The expansion and regression of the recognition of individual human liberty is directly correlated with the level of individual worship of Jesus Christ. The state ought not present God to a people, nor should the state attempt to be God to a people. Faith and a relationship with the creator is an individual choice, independent of the collective. The eloquent consequence is an increased understanding that the individual is primary on earth, for man will not be held to account for the sins and righteousness of his brothers, but for the heart and actions. Individual responsibility is the keystone, and no amount of control, distortion or substitution by the state can alter this fundamental reality. 

This mindset has escaped the greater part of our citizenry over the past century. More work is needed to locate the roots, but my hunch is that it lies in a partial combination of a failure of Christians to love and in the malignant structure that is public education. Scriptures were cited and frequent references to the Almighty were a feature of so recent a president as JFK in his inaugural address. Such a speech would be decried today as excessively Christian, bleeding over the separation of church and state. We have come so far from a communal understanding of a Christian faith that it is now terrorizing to the nation to hear it spoken. This is beyond politics and the rhetoric of the parties; this is an issue of historical import centuries in the making. A people can change greatly in a short period of time, as a Jonathan Edwards should remind us.

Mankind has a proclivity to seek answers larger then ourselves, and if the answers are not sought by faith, they tend to resolve as a demand of the state. It was not on the behalf of God that the contemporaries of Samuel demanded Saul.
Our contemporaries who vote have done likewise, further demanding the rise of what will rightly be called socialism in the pursuit of a false deity to answer their needs.

The placement of trust and hope in the actions of men will lead to despair, so let us not put our trust for the future in men, for men perform miserably.