Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book spinner on the side

...and what those books are.

I've read 8 of these 10, some more then once. If it's up there, its because I personally belive it to be an an eye opener, a perspective re-setter, fundamental for realistic beliefs, or just crazy interesting. So, quick summary for each book is here for your enjoyment, enlightenment, or boredom-at-work-killer.

Freakonomics: The Hidden Side of Everything by Levitt and Dubner
Taking an economist's approach to other issues or conundrums in the world, Stephen Levitt lays out the Chicago School system, the 90's crime solutions in New York, a person's first name and its effect on their life, and the danger of Handguns vs. Swimming Pools. Rife with memorable anecdotes, historical examples and statistical analysis, Freakonomics meanders through a wide range of topics with stunning clarity. It begins and ends with a person's incentive, and how these incentives govern how we collectively act.
I've read this 3 times, and listened to the audio book once.
It's an eye-opener, a perspective re-setter, and crazy interesting. (it'll come in really handy at some boring Christmas party, mark my words.)

Empire of Wealth: An Epic History of the United States by John Gordon Steele
Epic History is a broad, over arching look at a topic, and an Epic History is what Steele has penned. From Jamestown to Independence to agricultural expansion to industrial revolution to civil war to Wall Street to the Depression and through Pax Americana, it is a focus on US economy rather then the military conquests. Such a perspective is seldom presented, and it is pivotally important. I've read this book twice.
It's a perspective re-setter, and a eye-opener

Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell

Being home schooled, this was actually my economics textbook in high school, and I learned far more from it then from my Keynesian nut ball economics book in college. Easy to read, easy to understand, with no charts nor baffling statistics. It's economic fact and theory presented with analogies and historical examples from a personal liberty perspective.
It's a fundamental book for realistic beliefs, and maybe even a perspective re-setter.

My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas
I have not read this, but Gino said too. So, it's probably good. At least a little.

Generation Kill by Evan Wright

Evan Wright was an embedded reporter with the Marine Recon battalion surging into Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Its gritty, its raw, its the war as seen from the back right seat of a Marine's Humvee. Fascinating portraits of men who grew up blasting pixels on video games, now rolling through Iraq, and their 21 day journey of conquest. Riveting in detail and subject, its the finest piece of modern history I have read, and I am doubtful that anything will surpass it for years to come. HBO even made a series off of it, similar to the Band of Brothers.
It's eye-opening and crazy, crazy interesting.

Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Red wing by Marcus Luttrel
I have not read this, but Gino said too. So, it's probably good. At least a little. Probably.

A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William J. Bernstein
An epic history of the world, and how the vagaries of trade formed the world we live in. From the Chinese and the Arab traders, the black plague, Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, British, and now American dominance of the seas, Bernstein has traced a marvelous condensation of world history through the eyes of economic development.
Its both eye-opening and perspective re-setting, and crazy interesting.

Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin
A bed rock book for any budding conservative, questioning moderate, or even the die-hard republican, Levin's Manifesto is a exemplary distillation of conservative ideals.
It's fundamental for realistic beliefs.

The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

This is not a eulogy to the United States, but a celebration of the rise of other nations. Its a prediction about the future, where the US is only one power player, albeit a very powerful one, in a world of regional powers. China, India, Russian, Brazil and South Africa rising the occasion, in a world of peace carved out by the United States. Globalism come to nest, and the benefits to be reaped are enormous.
Its eye-opening, perspective re-setting, and crazy interesting.

General book discussion starts in the comments!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

We the People Stimulus Package

"You did nothing!" being the primary line in this... its therapeutic to listen to.

"Democracy does not repress people, it unleashes them!"

Not a big fan of mandatory 2 years military service nor abolishing the electoral college, but we need more people talking like this in office.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Obama's plan for Fed worries some in Congress

"President Barack Obama's plan to transform the Federal Reserve into a super-regulator ran into skepticism Thursday from lawmakers who worry that the central bank is not the best suited to keep an eye on firms deemed so big and influential that their demise could hurt the economy." Associated Press

This is my first post on this blog so I am going to begin with a brief and elementary discussion of government and civilization in general. In order to be productive as a society it quickly becomes a necessity to divide labor. There isn't enough time in a day for all of us to do everything. Some farm, others teach, plumbers, carpenters, even bankers, etc. There are some industries that help us perform those tasks better but by nature are not designed to be profitable on their own. Here I am mainly talking about defense, fire, and things of that nature. So we pay taxes to pay for the people and equipment to perform those tasks. As a result we end up creating a body of people in charge of distributing those funds and managing those functions. Alas government is born.

The inevitable problem, that seems to build and build over time, is that you can't ever really trust those people to continue to look out for you the common citizen. Ultimately any group in charge of its own funding and size is going to swell. And that is what I am proposing we are seeing at this point. We have a government that has bent the idea of protecting us from war, crime, and nature to the idea that we need to be protected from ourselves. We have certainly had to deal with government corruption but I argue that worse than that are those that truly believe that government is the answer.

Regardless of party our government has backed a wide range of programs that "protect" us from economic collapse and unemployment by leveraging trillions for some of the biggest corporations. Strangely though, unemployment still occurred and was widespread. My hypothesis is that the government bailouts only help the top 5-10% of each company with any consistency and I further contend that they were designed as such. If a big corporation like GM goes under, thousands of people lose their jobs. That is guaranteed and it would be tragic. But the competition would then be rewarded for making smarter business decisions and would ultimately end up hiring some of those people (probably not the top tier though since they made the bad decisions and have huge salaries).

What we have done now has prevented the natural business cycle. We are keeping businesses afloat that made bad decisions and for the most part the well-to-do have kept their jobs and retirement packages. The problem therefore is spread to the entire industry (and beyond). Now everyone must cut production, even the better-run businesses. Blue collar and entry level jobs are slashed. The competition doesn't reap any benefit for their better practices.

You probably get where I am going here. The natural cycle takes care of the hard workers and punishes the brass and the bailout system protects the errant leadership and punishes the lower income workers (punished for not having a massive lobbying group at their disposal).

All that to say that this seems to be the plan moving forward for the current administration; prevent large companies from failing at all costs. Like a resurgence of "mom and pop" operations would be so hurtful to our country. This plan feeds the government ego so perfectly by "necessitating" an army of bureaucrats to watch over all of these invasive programs.

So my question is how do we move past the stage of being upset about this to a point where we can get our country back?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

This Ain't No Rodeo

Bloomberg: " A Chicago ordinance banning handguns and automatic weapons within city limits was upheld by a U.S. Court of Appeals panel, which rejected a challenge by the National Rifle Association.

The unanimous three-judge panel ruled today that a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year, which recognized an individual right to bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, didn’t apply to states and municipalities.

“The Supreme Court has rebuffed requests to apply the second amendment to the states,” U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote, upholding lower court decisions last year to throw out suits against Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Illinois."
Chicago’s law took effect in 1982, Hoyle said. While it allows ownership of long guns such as rifles, they must be registered annually with the city’s police department. Concealed weapons, semi-automatic and automatic weapons are not permitted."

This city ordinance is nothing new, running for the past 27 years in the city. In fact, it astonished me and my brother how gun touchy this area was 2 years ago on our vacation, as we were required to be 18 or with a parent to handle a toy pop gun at the Lincoln Library in Springfield. Come down to Texas, and there is hardly a child in sight who is not running around with a toy gun of some kind in the neighborhood Cabela's.

Putting aside the constitutional implications, here is the practical ramifications of this regulation, demonstrable in the violent crime rate of Chicago when compared to the rest of the nation. (Click to embiggen. Many hat tips and thanks to NeighborhoodScout for collating the data and presenting it in such a fashion. )

Let me break this down in a three simple markers:

Likelihood of a violent crime victim per 1,000 persons:
Chicago: 12.12 Illinois: 5.52 Nation: 4.7
Likelihood of an Assault victim per 1,000 persons:
Chicago: 6.47 Nation: 2.91
Cities in US safer then Chicago:

"When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns"
The old cliche rings true again. But lets put aside the practical ramifications of such government control, because this is clearly not an issue about the people.
This is an issue swirling around the freedom of man to defend himself, and the power of a government to take that right from him. It's not hard to understand upon which side of this issue the city is standing.

Government Motors

"Wall Street Journal: The government-orchestrated shrinkage will cost taxpayers $30 billion, on top of $20 billion in U.S. funds already put into the company. In exchange, the U.S. will own 60% of the new GM. In all, the rescue of the car industry could cost taxpayers close to $100 billion.
GM -- which hasn't made a profit since 2004 -- declared in its filing that it had $172 billion in debt and $82 billion in assets."

Is there an example of a government owned corporation being competitive on a global market?


This then is where generations of incompetence, and a reliance upon the exertions of others to carry society have led us. The bastion of freedom in a dark world, snuffing its own lights of the free market one by one in a perceived maelstrom of 'economic crisis'.

"Chief Executive Frederick "Fritz" Henderson appealed to consumers to "give us another chance."

The government's plan calls for 10% of the new GM to be owned by existing bondholders, while a United Auto Workers union health-care fund will own 17.5%. The Canadian government will own the remaining 12.5%.

Next Monday, after 84 years, GM will cease being part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, replaced by technology company Cisco Systems Inc."

Ah, the words of a true business man. Give us another chance.

Its also good the UAW will own 1/6, and the current bondholders only 1/10. Makes all kinds of buisness sense. But then, what does?