Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Or maybe it lies with the voters, who contacted their representatives and said "Don't do it, or you're fired."
In any case, I do not think the bailout was the correct action. The banks are buying each other up in bids to become "too big to fail." I think, with Washington Mutual's failure, we're seeing that that just isn't possible, that megabanks fail, too.
What ought to be done is exactly the opposite: the banks should downsize. Smaller banks take fewer accounts down with them when, not if, they fail. And with the FDIC beginning to go broke from the insured deposits at smaller banks, heaven help us when the big boys start to fail.
Honestly, the government shouldn't be trying to bail out mortgages, the stock market, auto makers, or anything else like that--if anything, they need to be pumping that money into the FDIC. The market will, after all, self correct, as long as individual bank accounts don't disappear, taking the middle class with them again.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Brad Thor’s new novel, The Last Patriot, is a definite page turner. The plot moves along quickly and well, dragging the reader from
Let’s start with the plot: frankly, I’d be surprised if it hadn’t gotten Thor a lot of death threats from the Islamofacists. The main point of the plot is that, just before he died (was murdered), Mohammed had a startling last revelation that completely negated the previous revelation that militant Islam was based upon. This last revelation was why Mohammed was murdered by his closest followers: they were trying to suppress it. They failed. This book’s plot traces the footprints of the revelation through time, through scholars, and through previous presidents’ run-ins with militant Islam. Though the secret is never revealed to the reader, the reader is alerted that it would give the peaceful moderate Muslims a very large broom with which to clean house of the rabid radicals.
Thor’s plot, as I said, was terrific. I couldn’t put the book down easily. Thank goodness the chapters were short.
That said, his characterization and scene setting left a little to be desired. Granted, this is not the first book in that particular series. He may have done his character set up in earlier books. However. Most of the writers I read do keep in mind that not all of their books’ readers come in at the beginning of the series, and they do enough character work to compensate. If Thor develops his characters at all, he doesn’t do much with character development in this book. It wasn’t the characters that kept me turning pages, but the desire to see the rabid, radical, militant Islamofacists get theirs.
Thor’s scene setting wasn’t much better. I’ve never been to
Correction: he minimally described the main character’s home, in that it’s a very old church, converted first to a military installation, and then to a paranoid survivalist’s dream home, with subterranean rooms and passages hidden behind and beneath the church’s altar.
He does, however, describe weapons. His descriptions of the guns and their capabilities had me drooling.
All in all, I’d have to say Thor’s The Last Patriot is definitely worth a read. Despite its weaknesses, it’s a fun romp through a dangerous world. It certainly gives the reader their money’s worth on the violence, and on the social, moral, political, and religious themes. It will really appeal to anyone who truly realizes what a clear and present danger militant Islam is to the rest of the world.
Although Congress has not authorized a thorough inventory of offshore resources for over 30 years, the American Petroleum Institute estimates recoverable U.S. oil resources at about 86 billion barrels offshore and 32 billion barrels onshore. This estimate doesn't take into consideration technological advancements, unconventional sources and recent discoveries.
Environmental arguments about risks to wildlife and pristine forests have kept ANWR off limits to energy development, even though such risks are unfounded. Drilling in the region would cover a mere tenth of one percent of its 19 million acres. Plus, ANWR is a flat, treeless plain with temperatures inhospitable for most animal species. The area is already home to a village of Native Americans, who support its development. It currently contains an airstrip, power lines, an oil well and a military radar site. Two decades of drilling in the North Slope area has had no negative effects on the ecology of the area and, during that time, the caribou population actually increased sevenfold.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
What is freedom? To the average American, it’s almost indefinable: it just is. Really, though, there are two distinct freedoms that Americans hold dear: freedom to and freedom from.
Americans are aware that we have the freedom to own property, own and use firearms, and to speak our minds on many topics. Better yet, we have the freedom to choose our own government representatives. We have the freedom to do anything not forbidden by our federal, state, and local laws. Many are also aware that we have freedom from government repression of speech, religion, press, intrusion into our daily lives, imprisonment without reason, and seizure of private property without due recompense. Those freedoms are, after all, so important that they were written into our first and foremost legal document: the Constitution of the
We do not, however, have the freedom from being offended.
Nowhere in the Constitution is anyone, of any race, sex, creed, or sexual preference guaranteed the right to never be offended by the speech of another. They’re guaranteed the right to equality, to having the expectation that the government cannot discriminate against them because of their race, sex, creed, or sexual preference by the Constitution of the United States; however, the right to freedom from offense is nowhere except in the fevered minds of those who see repression even in the personal opinions of private individuals.
I do not have the right to never be offended. I have never claimed to have that right. I will never claim to have that right. I believe, very strongly, that whosoever has an opinion on an issue that offends me, either morally or intellectually, has the right to voice that opinion, despite my discomfort or anger. I will fight to the death to protect their rights to voice their opinions, no matter how much I disagree, or how offended I get.
I don’t seem to have that same right. Many don’t.
Granted, each American has—on paper, at least—exactly the same rights. Unfortunately, there are some groups that believe that, since they have been so repressed in the past, they have more rights than the other groups do. I will not identify groups, since we all know who they are. We have all faced pressure, either official or unofficial, at the workplace to silence opinions that are contrary to what is “politically correct.”
We have all faced threats being called racist, sexist, or homophobic, simply because we may have said something (perhaps meant as a compliment, or perhaps a joke) that someone overheard and misinterpreted. Some of us have faced more than threats: Larry Summers was forced to resign over statement summarizing paper topics at a conference, and Donald Hindley harassment over a criticism of the term “wetback.” Each, a white, upper-class, highly educated man, was persecuted and prosecuted by those for and with whom he worked simply because he offended someone with something he said. Neither man’s freedom of expression, a constitutionally guaranteed right, was protected by those in charge, simply because someone else claimed an unsupported freedom from being offended.
I do wonder, though, if the groups who are the most vocal about trampling others’ freedoms are not simply so sensitive to the repression they faced, and fear the return of that repression so deeply, that they see even opinions held by private individuals that will never really have any power over any member of these groups as a threat to their freedom from official, governmental, repression.
If this is the case, they have my deepest sympathies. But I will not let them take my freedom to believe what I want, or my freedom to express those beliefs. Nor will I allow theirs to be trampled.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
"that despite the response of the faculty Senate and the committee on faculty rights," which has been uniformly scathing and critical of Brandeis' administration, "individual tenured members of his department, though outraged, would not stand up publicly on his behalf. One of them explained to him, 'I'm about to retire.' He and others fear retaliation."
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Four reform steps will have capital flowing with no government bureaucracy and no taxpayer burden.
First, suspend the mark-to-market rule which is insanely driving companies to unnecessary bankruptcy. If short selling can be suspended on 799 stocks (an arbitrary number and a warning of the rule by bureaucrats which is coming under the Paulson plan), the mark-to-market rule can be suspended for six months and then replaced with a more accurate three year rolling average mark-to-market.
Second, repeal Sarbanes-Oxley. It failed with Freddy Mac. It failed with Fannie Mae. It failed with Bear Stearns. It failed with Lehman Brothers. It failed with AIG. It is crippling our entrepreneurial economy. I spent three days this week in Silicon Valley. Everyone agreed Sarbanes-Oxley was crippling the economy. One firm told me they would bring more than 20 companies public in the next year if the law was repealed. Its Sarbanes-Oxley’s $3 million per startup annual accounting fee that is keeping these companies private.
Third, match our competitors in China and Singapore by going to a zero capital gains tax. Private capital will flood into Wall Street with zero capital gains and it will come at no cost to the taxpayer. Even if you believe in a static analytical model in which lower capital gains taxes mean lower revenues for the Treasury, a zero capital gains tax costs much less than the Paulson plan. And if you believe in a historic model (as I do), a zero capital gains tax would lead to a dramatic increase in federal revenue through a larger, more competitive and more prosperous economy.
Fourth, immediately pass an “all of the above” energy plan designed to bring home $500 billion of the $700 billion a year we are sending overseas. With that much energy income the American economy would boom and government revenues would grow.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
I’m sure that, in the course of polite conversation, everyone has been taught that they’re supposed to avoid two subjects: politics and religion. That’s been hammered into people because nobody really likes to have their beliefs questioned. Or challenged. They’re far more comfortable believing than they are thinking about those beliefs.
Do you believe in God? Which God? The God of Christians, Jews, Muslims (arguably one and the same), or of some other religion? What do you believe in if you don’t believe in the concept of God, either with a big g or little g? Environmentalism? Political liberalism? Secular humanism? Everyone believes in something.
Secular humanism is the prevailing belief of those in the United States that don’t believe in a higher power. Those who believe in secular humanist ideals are, typically, wonderful people with beautiful ideas. They typically believe that, since human beings are inherently good, crime, violence, and all of the other ugliness of the world is a product of misunderstanding. They believe that violent individuals are those who have been disadvantaged by society, and have no other way of expressing their unhappiness. Many believe that their concepts of right and wrong are equal to anyone else’s concepts of right and wrong, and that there are no absolutes in Good and Evil. It is a lovely belief, and one that shapes many ideologies. And yes, it is as much a religious belief as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.
Many of those who do believe in an omnipotent higher power, i.e. God, believe that humanity is inherently flawed and evil, and that there are rules set out to guide us into Good. The dominant religions in the world that believe this are Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Indeed, the three often have the very same beliefs about what those absolutes are, and where the lines between Good and Evil lie. Unfortunately, we’ve been to busy fighting each other about them to stand up for them in the face of the ongoing culture wars.
The two (arguably) most contentious religions in the world are Islam and Christianity, both of which truly have their roots in Judaism. Christians believe that we serve the same God as the Jews and Muslims, but we also serve his Son, Jesus Christ, through whom God revealed his will and saved all believers. Islam believes that there is no God but God, and that Mohammad was the last, most important prophet, through whom God revealed His Word. They also believe Christ existed, and that he was one of the divine prophets (second only to Mohammad), but that there is no salvation but through total submission to the Will of Allah (as the Jews believe that there is no salvation but through the Messiah who will come, and total submission to the Will of God).
With so much in common, why do Christians and Muslims fight each other so viciously? Why do the Muslims seem so determined to wipe the Jewish homeland from the face of the earth?
I think it’s partially that there are no fights so bitter as those among family (Mohammad himself referred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike as “children of the book,” and exhorted his followers to treat the other children of the book as brothers), partially because of a lack of understanding between we modern Western Christians and the Muslims that are, in a very real sense, still stuck culturally in the dark ages. Dinesh D'Souza put it well in his Townhall essay earlier this week.
Honestly, I completely understand their rejection of what many Americans idolize as modernity, or “living in the 21st century.” Look around. What do we have over here in the
We have the movie Juno, and the recent teen celeb pregnancy of Brittany Spears’ baby sister. We have what appears to be a pregnancy pact amongst a whole bunch of underage teens in the Northwest. Many conservative Christians wonder if the situation in the small, blue-collar town in the secular liberal state was influenced by the glorification in
On the flipside, we have modern radical feminism’s insistence that women leave their homes, husbands, and children and pursue their own personal fulfillment, often at the expense of the fulfillment of the desire for a family. The media, and our own government, pushes with foreign aid packages contraceptives and abortions, both geared toward taking women from the home and putting them in what conservative Muslims, men and women alike, think of as a man’s role. They’re told that, to reject the sexual revolution, birth control, and abortion is to reject all Western values. Their own radical religious leaders, who really do want to reject all Western values, do not tell them otherwise. They’re under the impression that this is part of the American mainstream, and want nothing to do with either the sexual revolution or its consequences.
We have the movie
The Muslim world was once the seat of scientific and mathematical enquiry, the rule of law over barbarism, and cultural equality amongst the children of the book. Somehow, sometime, during the Dark Ages, that changed. It’s swinging back.
Modern Muslims embrace, once again, the idea of independence, the rule of law rather than that of dictators secular or religious, and scientific advancement. What they reject—often violently—is the image of modernity that
Maybe we, as Americans, need to re-think the images of us that our entertainment industry and media pushes out to the rest of the world. It's certainly got a hand in current problems between two religions that have more in common than they don't.