Saturday, June 30, 2007

How Do You Spell American Failure? R-E-G-U-L-A-T-I-O-N

If you knew that a primary source of your problems was over-regulation of your life, would you care? Well, it is. For those of you who already realized this--never give up in thinking that you can get government to stop trying to suck you dry.

We're going to play a word association game. I'll ask a question, and you give me a one-word answer. Question #1:

Why are so many people losing their jobs? Why is it harder for this generation to make ends meet?

Did you guess regulation? Excellent! The New American shows the numbers behind the pain.

The U.S. economy, once a flourishing free-enterprise colossus, is now a dying Gulliver, thanks to thousands of strangling Lilliputian regulatory cords.

“The total regulatory burden on manufacturers is estimated at $162 billion,” the National Association of Manufacturers reported... “This represents an increase of 10.2 percent since 2000,” NAM reported, noting that this burden is a major contributing factor to the continuing loss of American manufacturing jobs to overseas competitors, as well as an ongoing impetus for U.S. manufacturers to move offshore — or perish.

However, the NAM calculations do not begin to tell the whole story of the horrendous havoc that the regulatory state is wreaking upon our economy. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the total federal regulatory burden to the American economy is closer to $1.16 trillion annually!

How come I can't get health insurance? Why is the health care that I get not very good?

Sally Pipes explains why, using the specific example of Mitt Romney and Massachussetts refusing to face the real problem.

Thanks to state-imposed regulations requiring companies to charge the same rates to the sick and the healthy, individual health insurance is not always a good deal in Massachusetts, at least for those who are young and healthy. The result: Many people elect not to purchase health insurance, unless it’s provided at work at a deep discount or as a hidden cost.

The gutsy attack on this problem would be to figure out its real cause. It’s the price of insurance that prevents many from purchasing it, and the price is directly related to the government regulations that decimated the private market by prohibiting companies from charging fair prices for their products. Deregulation of the insurance market is required.

Why is may paycheck so much smaller than I expect every month?

Here is a succinct explanation of largely why.
If you work for an employer, 6.2% of your wages is withheld and your employer deposits the withholding, along with its 6.2% matching contribution, with the government for the social security programs. In 2007, the employee tax and matching contribution stop after the first $97,500 of wages. In addition if you work for an employer, 1.45% of your wages is withheld and the employer makes a matching 1.45% contribution to the Medicare program, making the total withholdings at 7.65% [for both you and your employer].

7.65% + 7.65% = 15.3%. If your salary is $50,000 and the government weren't 'taking care of you', your salary would actually be somewhere in the neighborhood of $54,000 (because your employer could afford to pay you 7.65% more than they currently do). Additionally, you would see about $4,000 more per year in your paycheck (because you wouldn't be being forced to shove it down a rathole).

If you want things to be better, ask government to stop taking care of you. It is a recipe for failure.

Health Insurance: The Politics of the Heart

Some people think that government is the solution for the inequities that currently exist with regard to health insurance and health care. Their hearts are in the right place. But their minds?

Update 7/05/2007: One commenter below suggested that the previous picture for this article (of Hitler and Stalin) was knee-jerk. I've taken some glucosamine and my knee is now feeling better. Besides, I found a better picture--courtesy of

I appreciate Reach Upward for enlightening me on the problems with government-provided health insurance, as well as a few of his commenters who illustrate that they don't fully grasp the problems that are inherent to government.

RU says insightfully:

The underlying premise behind a requirement that each person have medical insurance is that your physical condition is public business. Why is your physical condition government’s concern? Only due to socialism. Since the public pays for a portion of your health care, your health issues impact the public’s pocketbook, so the public can tell you what you must do to minimize their costs.

What government begins to regulate it tends to increasingly regulate as time goes by. While markets improve by innovating in productive ways, government usually takes great pride in innovating in ever the same direction--by making dumb, draconian, unefficient laws even dumber, draconianer, and unefficienter.

One of Reach Upward's commenters responded:

Rather than say that your physical condition is public business, I think it is more appropriate to say that the society benefits when all its members have access to affordable health care. As a nation we would have less disease, a more productive work force, and more competitive businesses if we accepted our collective responsibility for the health care of our citizens.
The commenter has a good point--to a point. We should all have access to affordable health care. But the way that health insurance costs escalate each year indicates that the current mode of insuring against loss of health is not working. To suggest that government can make an improvement in this lack of efficiency is less than observant at how government functions in practice.

Health plans should charge premiums based on risky behaviors. In very few instances they do, such as for smoking, and this may be the reason in those very few instances that some people can't afford health insurance. But if so, these people still have a choice. As it is now, premiums are essentially the same for everyone regardless of behavior, while those who practice unhealthy behaviors (motorcyle racing, homosexuality, smoking, obesity, etc.) use health care services at a much higher rate.

Alternatively, if health insurance coverage were provided only for catastrophic and chronic events, use of health facilities would drop. As it now stands, people are incented by their health insurance to go to the hospital or the doctor (and often do) at the slightest provocation.

Another baleful comment comment to Reach Upward's post was this:

...simply making the government with single payer for all health care costs...does not have any effect whatever on your choice of physician or hospital...

Reality does not square with the yearnings in the breast of some well-meaning individuals. Yet despite the perpetual unyieldingness of the round hole, they attempt time and time again to coax the square peg into it. Before one makes such implications about government benevolence, it helps to study what happens when government gets involved in health care; for example, Canada, China, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. When government becomes the single payer, it alone dictates which items it will pay for, and how much it will pay. As a result, some people wait interminably for the health care that they need (because government won't pay enough for it), while others will never get it (because the government won't pay for it at all), and lots of people die.

Here's another comment:

demand for health care is not based on price. In a normal economic good, demand increases as price decreases. If the price of apples drops, more people will buy apples instead of oranges in a supermarket. Health care decisions are not based on the price level. If you need a new heart valve, you're not going to get a hip replacement because it's cheaper. You're going to get the treatment you need, and do whatever you have to do to pay for it, regardless of the price.

I may have heard of heart valves being compared to apples before, but I can't remember where. I have heard this straw man argument ad nauseum. It tries very unsuccessfully to mask the fact that we don't, for example, need to get an antibiotic every time we get sick. But we do because it only costs $15 and has no effect whatsoever on our specific next-year's premium. Incidentally, there are far more people who get cheap antibiotics when the don't need them than there are people who need heart valves replaced.

Reach Upward takes to task those who compare health insurance with automobile insurance. He's correct in stating that they are very different. But here's one way that people and cars are similar. Preventive maintenance works wonders in both cases. And thus, another behavior that should be rewarded or punished by health insurers: if you don't have your periodic health checkup, your premium goes up.

RU reminds us that a significant number of America's uninsured, for whatever reason, choose not to be insured. Government getting its finger in that pie has some interesting consequences.

Kiplinger's reported that

Individuals who are deemed able to pay for insurance but who opt not to buy it will be hit with an annual penalty equal to half the annual premium cost of a policy. That could amount to thousands of dollars. And companies with 11 or more workers that don't offer insurance to their employees will owe the state a per-employee fee of $295 a year to help offset costs.
Government health insurance anyone? I know a lot of people think they would love it. Hillary Clinton is salivating over it. But not me. It doesn't make sense, because trying to force your heart to do the thinking for you never does.

Brown v Board of Education Was About Racism After All

The 5-4 Supreme Court decision Thursday banning race-based school assignments was the correct decision, after the fashion of Brown v Board of Education in 1951. It doesn't surprise me, though, that Democrat candidates for President of the United States disagreed with the decision, which re-emphasized the ban on racist government control of where children attend school.

It's ironic that people vaunting to become your next president have no clear understanding of the history of one of the most well-known Supreme Court cases in American history--Brown v. Board of Education. Here's a little background:

In Topeka, Kansas, a black third-grader named Linda Brown had to walk one mile through a railroad switchyard to get to her black elementary school, even though a white elementary school was only seven blocks away. Linda's father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll her in the white elementary school, but the principal of the school refused. Brown went to McKinley Burnett, [of the NAACP] and asked for help. The NAACP was eager to assist the Browns, as it had long wanted to challenge segregation in public schools. ... Other black parents joined Brown, and, in 1951, the NAACP requested an injunction that would forbid the segregation of Topeka's public schools.
At issue in Brown was the unconstitutionality of government controlling where people went to school based on race. At particular issue was that,
  • without regard for race, families should be allowed to send their children to schools that were convenient to their neighborhoods.
  • school boards could not provide better school facilities for one particular race over others.

A 5-4 Supreme Court decision (including one black justice) upheld the essence of Brown on Thursday, by specifying that neither could government compel attendance at particular schools in an effort to foster integration.

"Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin," said Roberts, joined by Alito and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. He said the districts in this case were also trying to justify "differential treatment on the basis of race."

A correct decision. Pretty simple. But not, somehow for four Supreme Court justices and not for several candidates for President of the United States.

Unfortunately, black voters have overwhelmingly positive opinions of the two presidential candidates who are trying the hardest to destroy black upward mobility in America--Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton. During a Thursday night debate at Howard University, it was Hillary who outdid Obama in her incitement of a predominantly black audience to hatred of non-blacks and to blaming non-blacks for the problems they faced.

"If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country," Clinton said to the biggest applause line of the night, bringing the audience to its feet.

It seemed to work, as propaganda replaced reasoned logic in "inspiring" the debate crowd at Howard University.

All the candidates decried the Supreme Court ruling earlier in the day that rejected school diversity plans in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., saying it turned back the promise of integrated schools that the court laid out 53 years ago in its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Brown did not, nor could it ever, promise integrated schools. What it did promise, and under the Constitution could promise, was that government would not use compulsion on the basis of race to assign children to school attendance.

But people like Hillary and Obama, who decry the Court's decision, subscribe readily (and contribute) to the race-baiting tactics of the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. For them it's really all about power and control.

So for some liberals, Brown wasn't about freedom of choice. It was a confirmation of their deepest inner secret--that they don't care about the children, but rather that they will use any wedge they can find to destroy relations between the various races in America. All as a means to gain greater government control.

Friday, June 29, 2007

DesNews Self-Defense Editorial is "Shades of" The Three Stooges

Criminals act in certain ways precisely because society has taught its 'peaceful' (read: passive) members to act in certain other ways. When a criminal can count on passivity, he'll keep stealing your stuff. Overlooking this salient point, the Deseret News editorial board today referred to a local incident of self-defense with a weapon as "shades of Dirty Harry".

I went to my daughter's softball game yesterday after work. When one of the other girls came up to bat, her mother offered very clearly the following words of encouragement. "C'mon sweety, you can do it this time! Don't worry about all the other times. You need to swing the bat! If it comes anywhere close, just swing!" The pitcher, who hadn't been pitching all that well, thereafter looked noticeably relieved, and the batter went down on three called strikes.

Talk about showing all your cards to all of the other card players! This is the kind of behavior that criminals--local and international--thrive on. Are you listening, Deseret News?

When Bob Lonsberry of KNRS berated the Deseret News editorial board for a sophomoric editorial in today's paper, I thought he must be joking. So I went and found my newspaper, and there it was. I imagine (with tongue in cheek) that the writing experience went something like this:

Board Member 1 [Pulls a bottle of whiskey from his briefcase, opens it, and takes a drink]: Man this is some righteous stuff. You want some?

Board Member 2 [Taking the bottle and drinking deep]: Oh, dude, that stuff is awesome.

[All board members take drinks all around, until the empty bottle clatters to the floor.]

Board Member 1: Okay, what should we write about for our editorial today?

Here's the story: Two young men have been the victim of car robbery on multiple occasions. They catch the thieves in the act on yet another occasion. Thieves jump in car and drive away. The car sideswipes and mildly injures one of the young men. One young man fires a shot at the tire of the vehicle in an attempt to disable it.

For this they receive the choicest opprobrium of the Deseret Morning News editorial staff. According to the DesNews, the men attempting to defend their property are actually just "buckaroos" from The Hunt for Red October. They are "[s]hades of Dirty Harry". They were "looking for their own 'Butch and Sundance' moment." And best of all, they are scolded so that they will remember next time that "Life doesn't imitate 'High Noon.'"

What if the thieves had been armed? Would we have had a "Shootout at the OK Parking Garage"? And what if the bullet had hit a fleeing bandit or ricochetted into an innocent bystander — as happened in Ogden when a child was killed by a stray bullet from a gang shootout?

The two young men seemed to take pride in what they'd done. They had been the victims of smash-and-grab robberies several times before and had had enough. But mimicking the movies isn't a true route to justice. Police said if the young men had called officers when the silent alarm went off, the crooks would have been apprehended.
It's offensive to compare a defense of self and property to a "gang shootout".

What if the thieves had been armed? I have as of yet not been able to follow the illogic that because the thieves might have been armed that no law-abiding citizen should carry a firearm.

"If the young men had called officers when the silent alarm went off, the crooks would have been apprehended." Promise? The two young men notified authorities moments later. Have the thieves been apprehended yet? Law enforcement is a thin blue line. They cannot defend me with nearly the alacrity that I myself can.

Never--at least in the ones that I have read--has the Deseret News been so off the mark in one of its editorials. It's...shades of The Three Stooges.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Genius of American Religious Diversity: A Hindu to Pray in Congress

I take great interest and delight that America has the religious tolerance wherein a Hindu chaplain can be asked to offer the prayer to open a session of the United States Senate. There are many countries in which something like this could not or would not happen.

America has its share of religious debate and controversy, but it is not debatable that America is a nation of religious freedom. Because of that freedom, America is becoming more religiously diverse. There's no question that America is based on Judeo and Christian values, but that doesn't mean that other religions aren't welcome--they are. As we study other religions in greater detail, we find that they aren't so different from ours as we thought.

As much as I find it healthy that the United States Congress begins its sessions with prayer, I find it equally a sign of American religious health that a Hindu chaplain has been asked to give the invocation to the July session of the United States Senate.

Rajan Zed, a Hindu chaplain from Nevada, on will become the first Hindu to deliver the morning prayer. In a statement announcing his scheduled appearance, Zed called the occasion "an illustrious day for all Americans and a memorable day for us."

Zed has previously offered prayers to open sessions of the Nevada State Assembly and Nevada State Senate in March and May of this year respectively. According to reports, he was the first Hindu to deliver opening prayers in any state legislature in the U.S.

"I believe that despite our philosophical differences, we should work together for the common objectives of human improvement, love, and respect for others," Zed said...

Religious wars have comprised a great portion of the violence that has plagued the earth over the last six millennia. But the religious wars that have plagued other areas of the globe have never been a problem in the United States. It is so because of the religious freedom vouchsafed by our Constitution. We have not, unfortunately though, been immune to the deleterious effects religious hatred and controversy. Encouraging the public display of religions other than our own will help to end such ironic behavior.

In the same way that I feel that children would benefit socially by having prayer in school, I think that a diversity of prayer in the political arena will tend toward positive social benefits as well. Regardless of our own personal religious views, including possibly that ours is the only true one, all religions are respected by God, and no one religion is better than any other, because all of us are His children.

In particularly a religious sense, it's time that we started treating each other that way.

Rocky Anderson, Integrity and Honor, and "The Weightier Matters"

People may agree with Rocky Anderson, or people may disagree with him, but to question his honor and integrity because he is a "secularist" is as insensitive as it is insensible. And it is extremely insensible.

A recent letter to the editor of the Deseret News was written thusly:

I had to chuckle at Tom Barberi's characterization (Forum, June 20) of Rocky Anderson as a "man of integrity and honor." Divisive and slippery seems like a more accurate description. But then I've probably been drinking the Kool-Aid for way too long. Incidentally, do secularists even recognize a need for integrity and honor? (Emphasis added).

I will make an assumption: the writer of that ill-thought paragraph is a Christian. I'll make another assumption: the writer is a Mormon (because a lot of Mormons act this way when it comes to politics). If he's not a Mormon, I apologize. If he is, I am embarrassed. Such statements are what give other Utahns a bad impression of Mormons. This silly, sophomoric, and provincial attitude contributes to the fact that Americans and people the world over have negative views of the LDS Church.

Very few people who chastize Mayor Anderson have any idea what the man is like. They fly off to tangents on the wings of the grandest assumptions. It's easy to do, but it's juvenile and stupid.

I've paid attention to Mayor Anderson and his statements and activities over the years he has been mayor. I disagree with a lot of them, but the one thing that can't be said of him is that he is lacking in integrity and honor. What is completely uncalled for is for someone to elevate themselves on their self-made pedestal by claiming that someone who is not religious cannot possibly have honor and integrity.

During the years of watching Rocky Anderson, I have also paid some attention to radio talk show host Sean Hannity. I recently compared and contrasted them during the debate that was held at the University of Utah. It is my opinion that Anderson has more integrity than Hannity.

It all distills down to these two concepts: (1) Anderson most often shows respect to those who disagree with him, while Hannity nearly always belittles them and won't let them speak, and (2) Anderson sincerely believes in what he speaks about, while Hannity uses his soapbox primarily for the making of money, regardless of whether the truth be told. It has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with motivation.

Christ chastized the Pharisees for neglecting "the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith" (New Testament-Matthew 23:23). Judgment, mercy, and faith are kind to those who do not share one's world view. They don't throw the venomous darts of vitriol. It is hypocritical and unbecoming of members of any religion to belittle others by holding themselves up as a prototype to emulate for those who do not share their religion. Actually, it's dishonorable and completely lacking in integrity.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dick Cheney's 4th Branch of Government

In accordance with a Presidential Executive Order, vice President Dick Cheney initially provided a list of documents that it had classified and declassified to the president. But since the year the US invaded Iraq, he has not done so. When questioned recently, his spokesperson said it is because the vice presidency is not part of the executive branch. What?

The Information Security Oversight Office, by way of executive order, has the responsibility to oversee which documents have been classified and declassified in any particular year. Vice President Cheney's office provided this information up until 2002. When questioned recently, an administration official said the rule didn't apply to Cheney's office.

Administration officials say Cheney's office is exempt from the executive order, since it has both executive branch and legislative functions. Per the US Constitution, the vice president serves as president of the Senate, and may vote to break ties in that chamber.

On June 22, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said the executive order didn't intend Cheney's office to be treated as an administration agency.

"He's not exempt from following the laws of the United States," said Ms. Perino. "He's exempt just from this reporting requirement in this particular executive order."

So what branch does he belong to, the execulegislative?

Interestingly, the executive order was amended on March 28, 2003, as the US forces marched toward Baghdad. It now indeed refers to "agencies" of the executive department. This document shows the concerns of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The document indicates, among other things, that President Bush in 2001 issued an executive order allowing vice presidents to keep their records secret.

Cheney is creating a lot of his own problems. How can he claim that he's essentially not part of the executive branch? When a court witness "takes the fifth" (fifth amendment to the Constitution), it's usually because he's as guilty as the day is long. Cheney's actions are very similar. I wonder what Cheney has to hide?

The most incriminating part of this is that for the first two years of the Bush administration, Cheney's office dutifully submitted the required documentation. Then the Iraq war happened.

I personally would like to have the vice president indicate what has been classified and declassified in that time. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn't be a very difficult task.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

After Further Review, I Support an Increased Gas Tax

As painful as it will be, I think the best thing for America's long-term energy future is an increase in the gasoline tax.

My wife and I have a big Mormon family, so we have a big Mormon wagon--an SUV. We calculated the cost to drive the thing a couple months back, and it shocked us. At least 25 cents per mile. And that's just for gas. So it is with some trepidation that I agree with Jay Evensen of the Deseret News that we need to raise taxes on gasoline.

...increasing [the gasoline tax], with the extra money going to encourage alternative fuels, would be a good way to begin weaning the nation off its dependence on foreign oil and to take power away from oil-rich despots.

As I discussed the article with my wife, she made an interesting observation. If it meant producing our own fuel rather than relying on the unpredictability of world markets, she would be completely in favor of paying four dollars for the alternative fuel equivalent of a gallon of gas instead of three dollars for a gallon of gas from a foreign country.

I've said some disparaging things about ethanol in this space recently, but the one thing that it does have going for it is that it can be produced locally. That probably offsets the fact that it doesn't pack as much punch as gasoline. With research, I'm sure its power can be harnessed more effectively.

I'm not sure if it was true, but I heard recently that as international market oil prices went up, several research and development firms began researching alternative fuels--but then they stopped researching when OPEC glutted the market and the price went down. At any rate, the economics of such an anecdote is clear: as the price of a product increases, the desirability of a substitute for that product also increases.

This is one of the reasons why I support a gasoline tax increase (the other is because those who use the roads should pay for them). Not because it will be easy in the short run, but because it makes sense for America to be energy independent. The way we become energy independent (besides drilling in ANWAR--which I support as well, by the way) is to make it feasible to expend the effort to find alternative sources of fuel. Increasing the cost of gasoline will do just that.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Flying Imams: Most Muslims aren't Radical

It's important to understand that there are Muslims in the United States who think that the Flying Imams were at fault for drawing attention to themselves by their suspicious behavior on a recent US Airways flight. Updated 8/4/2007 - Passengers who in good faith report suspicious activity cannot not be sued.

Radical Muslims are now suing a passenger of a US Airways flight who reported their suspicious behavior. What wasn't suspicious about it? He had every right to report it. Zuhdir Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy calls the six spades just what they are--spades. A current lawsuit will create further division between Arabs and other ethnicities, as well us Muslims and adherents of other religions.

In a way, it's like the boy who cried wolf. If the Council on American Islamic relations and radical Muslims complain when they are rightfully accused of suspicious behavior, the eventual result might be the reduction of civil rights for all of us.

Update 8/4/2007

A recent law passed by congress had an interesting effect. Lawyers for the flying imams immediately thereafter removed from the lawsuit passengers on the flight who had reported the suspicious activity. (Was the whole act by the Muslim men on the flight perhaps a "weather balloon" to see if America was ripe for another flight hijacking?)

Then suddenly on Tuesday, lawyers for the six imams removed from the flight filed a motion in federal court to drop passengers from their discrimination complaint. (US Airways crew and police are still named in the suit).

Lawyers maintained the surprise move had nothing to do with the action in Congress.

Sure it didn't. The new measure will assess fees and costs against parties suing John Does who report suspicious terror activity in good faith. Regardless of their motivation, it's a major victory for homeland security.

Is the Housing Market Tanking?

In the last several years, the prices of homes have far surpassed their value. What has caused it? Is it about to change more toward market equilibrium? I think it's changing now.

Fifteen years ago, my wife and I hit the housing market just right. We found a house that had been on the market for quite some time. The asking price was reduced from about $100k to about $80k. Based on the asking price for a couple of 'cracker boxes' in our neighborhood, I suspect that now we could sell it for 3 times the original asking price. Part of that cost is that you just can't buy a loaf of bread for what you usetacould. But most of it isn't. How long can the part that "isn't" sustain itself? It's starting to look like not much longer.

There seem to be houses for sale everywhere. Interestingly, though, a lot of homes sell almost the instant that they're advertised (most often they're the less-than-300k variety). But there are ominous signs on the horizon. The California housing market is taking a dive. In many areas, the pool of unsold homes is getting very large.

Nationally, homes appreciated at a 4.25 percent annual rate in the first quarter, a dramatic decline from the 12.6 percent pace of a year earlier.

Home values in many parts of the country plummeted after speculators drove prices sky-high, leaving markets glutted with overpriced homes when demand didn't measure up.

For now, things are looking pretty good in Utah. At 12th lowest, Utah's mortgage delinquency rate is relatively healthy, but that's in large part because the economy is unusually healthy. It's 14th best in foreclosures, and the foreclosure rate is down from last year. But

Foreclosures plague some regions that just a couple of years ago enjoyed high demand for homes and huge run-ups in prices, but today face a soft market and declining prices.

A state's home-sale market and its foreclosure rate are closely linked. In a market like Utah, where homes sell quickly and values are increasing, homeowners with financial troubles often can sell properties quickly and for a price that will cover their mortgages.

But the era of the perpetually increasing home price can't last forever.

If you're in a position where you can refinance or sell, but house prices have fallen below your outstanding loan balance, you're in trouble," said MBA chief economist Doug Duncan

That is happening now in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona.

Foreclosures there have been pushed higher by people who bought homes on speculation that rising home prices ultimately would yield a profit...

The one left holding the bag when the market returns to a state of equilibrium (or when the pendulum fluctuates even farther) is the loser. A mortgage is a pretty big bag to hold, especially when you're standing on your head.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fairness Doctrine: What "Fairness" are We Talking About?

When it comes to the Fairness Doctrine, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Are we talking about who owns the radio and television stations, or who gets to talk on them? The first is a valid point. The second is just liberals whining that nobody likes to hear what they have to say.

I once listened to a talk by Bill Moyers about the Fairness Doctrine. He pointed out that ClearChannel and a handful of other companies are buying up a lot of the radio and TV stations in the United States, and that we should put a stop to it. I think what he meant, though, was that most of these stations run conservative talk shows, and that we should put a stop to that.

I disagree. I'm of the opinion that most TV and radio news sources make up for the conservative dominance in radio talk, which partially answers the question why there aren't left-wing radio shows galore.

But the main reason? The American people just don't like what the liberals have to say. They're always negative. They always blame someone else for their problems. And they always exclude themselves when they would otherwise fall into the population that they have targeted for blame.

Bill Moyers assumption about few station owners is invalid...

More to come...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

China Makes Crappy Stuff

We need to be more discriminating when we buy things from China. At least there is a high chance that the product is of low quality. Or it could be a fake. But it could even kill you.

I can remember when I was a kid that it was common to look on the bottom of a toy or a souvenir and see the label "Made in China". It's becoming even more common, and we continue to take their shoddy workmanship. It belies the fact that a communist oligarchy can actually manage productive quality. If China were to have consumer product safety guidelines like in the United States, the Chinese economy would temporarily go in the tank, until it began turning out quality products. Instead, China manages people's family sizes, freedom of speech, thought, press, and religion while the economy turns out garbage and forgeries.

Things are definitely cheaper when they come from China. But I remember a bike we bought that we couldn't even put together, let alone ride. I remember opening toys for my kids that were broken out of the box. Chinese hammers don't last too long.

Chinese products are the subject of every toy recall
in the United States this year.

As it turns out, China made all of the 24 types of toys recalled this year for safety problems. Part of that is because of the country's dominance of the toy market. But it also is attributable, no doubt, to businesses taking advantage of the country's lax health and safety standards to cut corners and maximize profits.

Add to the toy problems the pet-food poisonings that originated in tainted gluten from China and toothpaste contaminated with a toxic engine coolant, and you have a crisis in the making.

Cribs and baby seats are unsafe, toothpaste has killed people, and pet food has killed hundreds of dogs and cats and disabled thousands more.

We are a thrifty society, and we want to save money. So we buy disposable products, thinking only in the short term. China is the king of producing disposable products. If we were to look into the long term, we would demand higher quality products. But not many of those higher quality products come from China.

Since the Chinese government won't oversee product safety, we need a different solution. So look on the label. If it says China, beware.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

China: The Enabler of Darfur Genocide

How does Sudan get the wherewithal to resettle, torment, and kill its own citizens? A great deal of help is coming from China. Does anybody care?

Clear back in 2004 it became clear that China was enabling the Darfur genocide.

Although most Western oil companies have withdrawn from Sudan under pressure from human rights organizations, Chinese companies have turned a blind eye to the brutal way in which Sudan forced 200,000 to 300,000 of its citizens from oil-rich lands without compensation. Nor have these companies shown concern that Sudan uses oil revenue to purchase arms for its wars against its black African population.

Oil provides revenue. Revenue can be used to purchase weapons. Weapons can be used by a government to kill its own people.

But who would sell weapons to Sudan, knowing full well what they'll try to do with them? You've got three seconds to answer.

China? Very good! Go to the head of the class! (If you said Russia, you're correct as well.)

In a 24-page report obtained by AFP, Amnesty provided photographs of Russian and Chinese warplanes it said were stationed at Nyala airport in the Darfur region in the last few months.

In early March, a large bomb and some green ammunition boxes were seen next to Chinese Fantam jet bombers, it said.

It added that, on March 22, a plane described by witnesses as a Sudanese Russian-built Antonov "bombed areas north and south of the north-eastern Chadian town of Bahait."

Amnesty said Sudan imported from China 24 million dollars (18 million euros) worth of arms and ammunition, nearly 57 million dollars worth of parts and aircraft equipment and two million dollars worth of parts of helicopters and airplanes.

It cited data from Sudan for 2005, the last available trade figures.

It said the Chinese company AviChina Industry and Technology "recently delivered six K-8 military training/attack aircraft to the Sudanese Air Force and a further six will follow soon," citing an unnamed military magazine.

Why is it that so many Americans can criticize their own government, but they give other governments a pass? As America tries to help the people of Iraq restore order, we complain if an insurgent causes American troops to cause civilian collateral damage. Isn't it just as bad (I think worse) for a country to sell weapons to another government which it knows full well will be used to kill that government's citizens?

The two countries involved in sale of war materiel to Sudan have themselves a long history of genocide. It's not surprising, then, that they are aiding and abetting Sudan in similar endeavors. But that's no reason for us not to voice our concerns about it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ethanol: The Real High-Price Bogeyman?

Oil refineries are often looked at as the villains in the high cost of gasoline. But it appears that Congress and the Bush Administration are more complicit than we give them credit for.

The EPA recently changed the rules governing ethanol production so that it is regulated more like a liquor distillery than an oil refinery. This has the effect of allowing ethanol producers to pollute up to 2.5 times more than they could before.

The rules were changed after a request by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who cited the need for increased fuel production in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and called the old rules "discriminatory."


In other news, oil refineries are scaling back plans to increase refining capacity due a huge Congressional interest in incentivizing higher levels of ethanol production.

With President Bush calling for a 20 percent drop in gasoline use and the Senate now debating legislation for huge increases in ethanol production, oil companies see growing uncertainty about future gasoline demand and little need to expand refineries or build new ones.

Oil industry executives no longer believe there will be the demand for gasoline over the next decade to warrant the billions of dollars in refinery expansions — as much as 10 percent increase in new refining capacity — they anticipated as recently as a year ago.

Biofuels such as ethanol and efforts to get automakers to build more fuel-efficient cars and SUVs have been portrayed as key to countering high gasoline prices, but it is likely to do little to curb costs at the pump today, or in the years ahead as refiners reduce gasoline production.

And for good reason. So who's the real bogeyman? I never did think Exxon/Mobil has had near as much to do with man-made Global Warming disinformation as a fair number of debate-silencing elitists would have us think. Now, besides the fact that European and Chinese demand is the main thing that drove up prices this summer, I'm beginning to think that the American oil companies are even less to blame than I originally suspected.

Ethanol, besides not having near the octane of gasoline, has caused the price of tortillas to skyrocket. Sure, corn supply will increase and bring the price back down, but what happens when American consumers spit at ethanol as a replacement fuel? Will pigs eat all the extra corn?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

That We Could All Be "Freedom Writers"

Occasionally a profound film emerges that reminds us of just how much too thick are the walls of our comfort zones. I came away from the movie Freedom Writers with just such a personal realization. It is because we don't step out of our 'boxes' that there is so much less success in the world.

Erin Gruwell began teaching at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, in the early 1990's. She thought that her desire to help underprivileged youth of various races would be all she'd need to succeed as a teacher--until the first day of class. Several class periods later, not much progress had been made. It wasn't until the day she had class members play the "Line Game" that she finally began to break through. When she asked them to step up to the line if they had a friend or family member who had died by gang violence, she finally understood where they were coming from. She encouraged each of them to say the name(s) of their family and friends who had been killed as a form of tribute to their memories. In the movie and in real life this was the beginning of catharsis for the Freedom Writers.

As is common in some social circles, minorities are seeded with much less expectation for their personal successes. Struggling against this mentality in her school district, Ms. Gruwell purchased with her own money copies of The Diary of Anne Frank for them to read. Students took to the story, immediately identifying with her situation in their own lives. For many of them, who had never been outside the confines of the city in which they lived, Anne Frank was the beginning of a profound change in their lives.

In another life-changing activity, Ms. Gruwell gave each of them a journal and assigned them to write in it regularly. She kept a locked cupboard where, during class, they could place their journals inside if they wanted the teacher to read them. Their journal writing and the reading of Anne Frank became for most of them the impetus wherein they realized that they could accomplish much more than their limited lives had ever led them previously to believe.

The young teens in Ms. Gruwell's class had never heard of The Holocaust. After watching the movie Schindler's list (see the deleted scences on the DVD) and attending the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, they understood that 'it' can happen to anyone, and that it actually had--although on a much larger scale--to the Jews.

A liberating activity in the story was the Toast for Change. As preparation for the moment, wherein each student who so desired would toast to a new self, Ms. Gruwell said:

From this moment on, every voice that told you, "You can't", is silenced.

That statement had a remarkable effect not only on the Freedom Writers, but the actors who portrayed them as well.

With the exception perhaps of my year in Iraq, I've never lived in a society where I've had to live in fear. For the Freedom Writers and many like them, fear was a regular and palpable ingredient of their lives. Seeing each of them overcome their personal limitations made me realize that (1) deep down everyone is the same, with the same human needs, the greatest of which is family and a sense of belonging, and (2) that if they can overcome the obstacles that they did, my trials are nothing.

Ultimately Ms. Gruwell and her students became as a family. Racial divides melted away. Everlasting bonds were created. Honesty and integrity returned and began to prevail.

Freedom Writers is a wake-up call and a reminder to us all of what we can achieve if we first value the contributions of all, no matter how they might be different from us. It takes a bit of wandering outside our comfort zones to see such successes, but that's a good thing.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Okay, I'm A Racist. Fine. Now, Will You Build the Stinking Fence?

That's okay if people call those of us racists who would like to build a fence along the entire 1,951 miles of the US-Mexican border. That's just because they can't think of any logical points to argue.

There are 1,951 miles of border between Mexico and the US. Hordes of people are crossing that border for 'greener pastures'. Pretty much all of them are heading north. Something is wrong in Mexican Denmark. The problem is NOT solved by having all their people come to the United States. The comparative per-capita income gives a hint as to the severity of the problem.

In an effort to solve the problem, we should build a fence along the entire 1,951 miles minus the little bit (11 miles) that has already been done near San Diego. It has been estimated at the upper bounds that it will cost $8 billion to build the entire fence. Most people (51-37%) in the US want it. And that's saying something considering that probably about 10% of people old enough to answer the poll question are here illegally. So let's do it.

Glenn Beck made an interesting comment the other day about this issue. In essence he said, it makes no sense unless you realize that the people in power, apparently including the two Senators and at least 2 of the 3 Congressmen from Utah, don't want the problem solved. Almost a year ago, Congress passed a law to build 700 miles of that fence. They allocated $1.2 billion. That comes out to $1,714,285 per mile. Surely you could find even 10 contractors to build 70 miles each. Is it done yet?

According to this point of view, Bush is subverting the fence project. That's become obvious. The most recent bill that crashed and burned in Congress would have been more palatable, but amendments to require more from immigrant sponsors and to actually build the fence they already
promised to build failed.

It is not racist to want order. It is not racist to want to manage a problem before it becomes a catastrophe. It is not racist to oppose a clearly ineffective immigration bill that will not work unless we first build a fence. It can't possibly cost more than the money it would save from not having to give services to people who do not contribute to our society, whether they're white, brown, black, or yellow.

It's just logical.

So go ahead, call me a racist all you want. Whatever. I still want a fence.

Yes, I'd Like to Keep My Tax Cuts

Do you suppose that 40 states have "booming local economies" and higher than expected tax revenues because of federal tax cuts? I do so suppose. When we get to keep more of our money we get to stimulate the economy. Government just pays more bureaucrat salaries and buys more '$5,000 toilet seats'.

Liberals have a penchant for complaining about a lot of things. One of them is that the rich keep getting richer at the expense of the poor. I've never seen them site a comprehensive study, so that's why I call it complaining. I suppose it could be because I haven't been paying attention to the subject well enough, but I think the fruits of liberal complaining--increased government control of every-freakin-thing--belies the fact that they do not have a good plan.

There are help wanted signs, it seems, in the windows or the little grassy plots out front of nearly every business in Utah. Alas, I exaggerate, but not by much. Anybody can get a job right now. Why then are there still so many people on welfare, by the way?

Cybercast News Service is reporting that Republicans are attempting to remove sunsetting (they would expire in 2010 as it now stands) from tax cut provisions that were enacted in 2001 and 2003. I say, excellent!

More money means more ability to save and spend. More money in the hands of the people means more efficient saving and spending. It also means that money will change hands more often, creating a multiplier effect resulting in such things as higher stock market averages and more jobs available to people.

Ooh! Deja vu!

CNS reports:

"The idea of tax cuts influencing the economy, producing revenue that not only comes in for government but comes in for taxpayers ... works and it produced good things," Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said in a news conference introducing the legislation.

The bill would eliminate the "sunset" provisions of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which are set to expire in 2010 unless Congress acts to renew them.

Walberg cited a recent report showing increased revenues in more than 40 states as evidence that the tax cuts have stimulated economic growth resulting in Americans having more money to spend.

He was referring to a June 11 New York Times article that attributed state budget surpluses to "higher than expected tax collections ... and booming local economies" but did not attribute this to the federal tax cuts. Walberg said the root cause of those booming local economies has been the federal tax cuts.

I agree. I guess if I had only two political party choices I'd still be a Republican instead of a Democrat.

PS--Cato has an interesting analysis of the tax cuts during the Reagan years. After the tax cuts, the richest people actually paid a higher percentage of total US taxes. Sounds pretty good to me; how bout you? Or are you jealous of them for being richer than you?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"What if You Met a Guy with a Whole Bunch of Tattoos?"

Sometimes we teach our children some unintended things. Or perhaps subtly they are intended, although they shouldn't be. This came to light last evening as my son and I talked about people who have tattoos.

Are we naturally afraid or averse to people and things that are different than us? I know my kids are. Is it because I am? I think so. It's something I need to work on.

In a book we have, my son noticed a picture of a guy getting tattooed, and he said something like 'Ewwwwwwww'! I suggested to him that that's probably not something we would do, but that it's not necessarily a bad thing if someone else chooses to do so. It's definitely not something we should use as a measure of our own better worth. "What would you do if you met a guy with a whole bunch of tattoos?" I asked.

"I would try not to stare," was his answer.

I explained to him that likely his attempt not to stare would be picked up by the person with tattoos as a sense of unease on the part of my son. I suggested a couple of better responses: (1) "Hey, those tattoos are pretty cool! What do they mean?" or simply (2) "Hi, how's it going?"

This article was actually provoked by something former US President Jimmy Carter wrote in his book Our Endangered Values, which I'm currently reading:

It is a natural human inclination to encapsulate ourselves in a superior fashion with people who are just like us--and to assume that we are fulfilling the mandate of our lives if we just confine our love to our own family or to people who are similar and compatible. Breaking through this barrier and reaching out to others is what personifies a Christian and what emulates the perfect example that Christ set for us.

I've got some work to do, but maybe I'm not so different after all. The bad thing about humans is that we have the analytical ability that can be used to convince ourselves that we're better than others. The good thing about humans is that we have the analytical ability that can be used to convince ourselves that we're really not better than anyone else.

What troubles me is this additional statement by President Carter, which seems to be growing truer by the day:

There is a remarkable trend toward fundamentalism in all religions...Increasingly, true believers are inclined to begin a process of deciding: 'Since I am aligned with God, I am superior and my beliefs should prevail, and anyone who disagrees with me is inherently wrong,' and the next step [in the process] is [not that they are just wrong, but that they are] 'inherently inferior'. The ultimate step [in this process] is [to label such people as] 'subhuman', and then their lives [can easily be deemed] not significant.

pages 30-31

It is easy to see this tendency toward exclusivity and self-superiority in fundamentalist Islam, but it exists to some degree in Christianity, too. This is likely the cause of the increase in vitriol in our public places--especially in our political public places. Red states remain red, and blue remain blue, and at the current pace of things, never the twain shall meet.

But they--literally--must meet if we are to survive as a country.

So if you see a person who is 'covered in tattoos', whether literally, politically, or otherwise figuratively, if all you can say is "Hi, how's it going?" and mean it, that's a good start.

Why Would You Want to Screen for Down Syndrome?

Most parents probably would use a Down Syndrome test to prepare to care for their child. But the test is being offered more and more. It seems that a lot of parents will use the diagnosis to change their mind about being parents. This means a multitude of missed opportunities.

Some studies indicate that as many as 90 percent of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. How unfortunate. How fortunate, however, that the rate in Utah is significantly less:

A 1999 study showed that nationally, 90 percent of women terminate their pregnancies after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. But Utah's rate is much lower: 8.5 percent of fetuses with Down syndrome were aborted from 1995 to 2005, according to the Utah Birth Defect Network.

We don't have a Downs child in our family. So I can't say personally how it would affect our lives. But I have known several people who have. A handful of them have been close friends. In every case, the families of Downs children that I know or have known have been supremely grateful for the blessing and opportunity to have such a child in their family. From a religious perspective, they look forward to the day when their family member will be whole.

A Cedar Hills, Utah family was recently in the news for having chosen to bring their child into the world despite a diagnosis of Downs. Good for them. Life is tough, sometimes, but I hope and suspect that they regularly are glad that they chose to give life. It's too bad that more people across the country don't make that choice.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Utah: The Most Beautiful Place on Earth

As we camped in the mountains and hiked in the red rock this past weekend, I occurred to me that Utah is the most beautiful place on earth. I need to stop taking it for granted.

As I was taking in the unsurpassed beauty of Delicate Arch at Arches National Park last Thursday (I have never seen a picture that does justice to the grandeur of actually being there), I heard a man speaking German. Having served an LDS Mission in Austria several years ago, I decided to try out my German on him. During the course of our conversation, my new friend stated that Utah was perhaps the most beautiful place on earth.

I've taken it for granted for the greater part of five decades, but I'm finally coming to the realization that he's right.

Thursday and Friday nights our church group camped high in the La Sal Mountains, while just a half hour to an hour away during the daytime hours we hiked, climbed and four-wheeled Arches, Dead Horse Point, and Canyonlands National Parks.

Just to sit and ponder how these geologic marvels could have come into existence is an exercise in awe. It actually surprises me that some fundamentalists think that even God could have swept a magic stroke of his paintbrush and created even just this much in six 24-hour periods. I have no trouble thinking that the God who created this earth would yet be pleased to allow as much as 300 million years of erosion for His creation to beautify itself.

We've taken our kids to Arches and Mesa Verde earlier this year, we've visited Zion National Park more than once, and we've been to Yellowstone. Next on our list of places is Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, and Bryce.

We are successful if we can pass on to our posterity a healthy respect for the beauties of life.

As my family and I were returning from our family trip there in April, I asked them whether they would like to come back to Arches next year or go to Disneyland.

"Arches!!!" they exclaimed in unison.

I must be doing something right.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Whenever the private arena can provide a service, it is better that public entities try not to compete with them. Provo is finding this out the hard way with its ill-conceived iProvo project. Yet it refuses to give up, only destined to make the problem worse.

It sounded really cool. Most projects usually do sound that way. For their compensation, everyone told Provo that it would be a home run. iProvo would be a slam dunk. A soft ball that they could hit out of the park.


About the time I got interested in running for Santaquin City Council several years ago, the extant city council voted to go into the natural gas business, thus directly competing with Questar, who was already a gas provider in town. By the time I got on the City Council, our city manager and our contract engineering firm painted a rosy picture, giving us a break-even point of 110 homes. Every amount of revenue generated by the 111th gas customer and so on was just money in our pockets. When Questar found out that we promised to sell gas to our customers for 10% less than Questar rates, they laughed and asked us to promise them that come heck or high water we would stick to that rate. Heck and high water hit pretty fast. It turns out that the engineers had just assumed that Operation and Maintenance costs could be charged to the water and sewer departments. To make a long story short, a few years later, we sold our operations back to Questar for a substantial loss. We got a new city manager and a new engineer during the process, and they were the ones that pointed out the problems.

Government will invariably waste money when compared with a private entity. Failures are much more likely when the project undergone is large rather than incremental. With failure #1 compounded by failure #2, iProvo is destined for failure.

iProvo has already encumbered about $70 million dollars in the project. Their break even points have changed significantly over several iterations, but the new ones are still presented with as rosy a picture as the first ones were. They are borrowing from enterprise funds like mad, and are not even able to pay some of those debts back. iProvo Manager Kevin Garlick should be fired for essentially lying to the Provo City Council.

Sometimes, it's important to just cut bait. Provo will never break even with its ill-conceived behemoth project. The problems are many in a case like this. First of all, governmental entities cannot declare bankruptcy when their projects fail. So there is the perverse incentive to get a bigger hammer in hopes that the same square peg can be finally pounded into the same round hole. Secondly, the investors didn't get to choose to invest. Every Provo taxpayer will be on the hook for his or her share of the iProvo debacle. This looming specter is a huge disincentive for people (and probably businesses) to move to Provo in the future out of fear that they might instantaneously inherit a higher tax burden to pay for Lewis Billings' and Kevin Garlick's albatross.

Private entities can do for much less what iProvo is trying to provide to Provo residents. Come to think of it, they already are. What was Provo thinking?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Paris Hilton is Not News

It is interesting what tries to pass as "news" these days. Unfortunately, the USA Radio Network this morning included a story about Paris Hilton. Here's what I told them.

I had a respectable and amicable discussion with a producer of the USA Radio Network news this morning. He agreed with me that he personally didn't find a story about Paris Hilton newsworthy, but felt that several of URN's listeners would, so they decided to include it. Suggesting that he was not the best person to be talking to about the subject, he gave me the e-mail address of the executive news director. This is the e-mail that I sent to the director.


I would have expected it from CBS, from CNN, and even (especially) from Fox. But I was rather surprised this morning that your hourly broadcast included a story of 20-30 seconds about Paris Hilton going to jail or something or other. I say something or other, because I turned off my radio when the story began and counted to 15 before I turned it back on, and the story was still not complete, so I turned it off again.

The news that you normally present is very enlightening, educational, and important. Paris Hilton—and any stories about her—are none of these.

You have, I think, about 5 minutes of news time at the top of each hour. Even if anything about Paris Hilton could be construed as newsworthy, there are far more important stories to consume 10% of your broadcast with than to let everyone know that she went to jail.

The real problem, though, is that anything about Paris Hilton is NOT newsworthy. At best, it could be considered entertainment, although she is a poor and embarrassing excuse for what passes as entertainment in American society. Some of your listeners may demand information about Paris Hilton, but demand does not make an issue a news item. Ironically, I suspect that the caliber of your listenership would NOT demand stories about her; instead they are probably also a bit confused as to why you would pollute your news reporting with such stories.

It is the responsibility of a respectable news organization to report the news, even if the failure to include titillating non-news stories causes a decline in listenership (based on your news market, I suggest that it won’t). From my past experience, I expected better from USA Radio Network. I will continue to listen, but I hope I don’t have to hear about Paris Hilton anymore.


Frank Staheli

I'll let you know if and how the director responds.

I feel sorry for Paris Hilton, as much as I feel sorry for any other person who has come across misfortune--whether self-inflicted or not--in their lives. But there are many such people in the world, and they are never in the news. The only "contribution" that Paris Hilton has made to society is to become a celebrity who encourages the degradation of societal morals. People who want to know about her in her current state can watch one of the mindless Hollywood magazine programs.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Proper Advocacy of Human Sexuality

Two recent polls can find little to agree on when it comes to the way we should educate our children about human sexuality. There should be one thing on which we all can agree on, however.

The Deseret News today reports that

Two dueling polls say they have the definitive word on how parents want schools to teach their children about sex.

"Parents prefer abstinence education 2 to 1," boasts the headline on the National Abstinence Education Association Web site. A recently released survey of California parents, however, finds that even self-identified "very conservative" parents are overwhelmingly in favor of "comprehensive sex education," which the study defines as abstinence plus contraceptive information for students who decide to have sex.

The abstinence only crowd and the comprehensive crowd could learn from each other if they would only listen. One thing is for sure, however.

No one should ever advocate for children and youth to engage in sexual activity. A child should never have to contemplate an abortion. A child should never have to engage in the poignant thoughts that accompany having tampered with the monumentally important power of procreation. A child should never have to raise a child or face the agony of putting one's progeny up for adoption because he or she is an immature and unfit parent. Children are resilient--they can recover from such mistakes--but to encourage any of them to play this sexual Russian Roulette is a form of abuse.

I agree that some abstinence-based programs are not practical, and that they should be more comprehensive. Besides teaching children that they are ultimately free to choose how to exercise their sexuality, we should also have them know that they are not always able to choose the consequences of their behavior. We should teach our children about sexuality from the perspective of the intimacy of and emotions that accompany the act and the problems that occur when such a profound power is misused. They should be taught the statistical evidence that heterosexual couples who remain faithful to each other gain the greatest satisfaction out of life, to include their sexual union.

It is only partially true that "they're going to do it anyway," as some people claim. To this claim I repeat one of my most important statements. No one should ever advocate for children and youth to engage in sexual activity. Much as children engage in far less drug use when we warn them of the dangers of drug use, so would they engage in far less sexual activity if we warned them of those dangers as well.

Saying that we can't teach them abstinence because they're going to do it anyway is tantamount to advocacy of child sexuality. It is as handing them a lighted match while they are standing in a vat of gasoline.

The Assault on Reason: Praise for Al Gore

I know you think it ironic that I am praising Al Gore in an article that appears just after one that chastised him. It just goes to show that I am an equal opportunity praiser/chastiser. In all seriousness, I have been so far very impressed by Al Gore's latest book, entitled The Assault on Reason.

I had an interesting discussion with our city librarian at the book fair yesterday. When I told her I would donate The Assault on Reason to the library when I'm done reading it, she said "I guess it's important to have both sides of the issue available to the public." I told her that although I don't agree with very much Al Gore says, I think it's still important to read the works of him, a very important and knowledgeable person. Imagine my surprise when I can find nearly nothing in his new book with which I can disagree!

I have as of yet only read the introduction and part of the first chapter of the book, but so far I think he makes an excellent analysis of the state of today's American politics. (I am reserving judgment, however, until I reach the end of the book, being flummoxed as I am by his lack of reasoning--while instead favoring emotional pleas--when it comes to our environment. My current impression is that Mr. Gore is an excellent political scientist while not a very good environmental scientist.)

As the book begins, the former US vice president reminds us of the political climate in the run-up to the Iraq war. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia stood in an essentially empty legislative chamber (which should have been full) and asked "Why do reason, logic, and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?" This is a question on whose import Senator Gore, Senator Byrd, and I agree. Politics should be about reasonably accentuating our differences rather than using vitriol to divide ourselves.

A great problem with today's American society is that, according to the book, we have come to depend on the sound bites of television rather than the extensive reasoning of the printed media, such as newspapers. I agree. I know a lot of people who only read when they have to and probably exceed the 4.5 hours of daily television watching that Al Gore reports is the US national average per capita.

Why has America's public discourse become less focused and less clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason--the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power--was and remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.

I agree. It is critical, from the City Council chambers to the hallowed halls of Congress, that we reign in our interest in anger as a successful political weapon. Because ultimately, anger nearly always signals failure.

News "stories", such as the OJ Simpson case, the Jon Benet Ramsey case, Michael Jackson, and the Runaway Bride, have been all too much the norm. When there is only a finite amount of time for television viewing, why do we pollute it by producing and consuming filth and tripe instead of using one of the greatest inventions in history to expand our minds?

...while American television viewers were collectively devoting a hundred million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories, our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness.

How can we expect a society that lives on a cesspool for its breakfast of information to notice the issues that are really important? How can we expect them to use reason if all they ever know is faux emotions generated in and for them by the "boob tube"?

Reasonable people can disagree. But they do so with much more respect and candor than people who are mere creatures of emotion. I disagree with Al Gore on certain things, but on this one I do not. If America is to survive, America must re-learn how to be reasonable.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Surefire Way to Cure One Effect of Global Warming

In his scientific magnum opus, An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore opined that he was rather sure that man-made global warming would cause a rise of 20 feet in the earth's oceans in fairly short order. Alas, we have found a way to solve that problem.

While using radio waves to treat his leukemia, John Kanzius discovered that at the right frequency, salt water will combust.

The possibility of powering cars with radio waves and salt water is as of yet far fetched, but imagine the ramifications. Salt water is much more plentiful than oil. And the combustion of salt water would counteract the effects that Ambassador Gore says are sure to come. Excellent!

Eat, drink, and be merry, for we have conquered global warming!!!