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.