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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is wrong with America?

Gregory Rodriguez editorializes about racism in an article at the LA Times. In a survey by Michael I. Norton, of Harvard Business School, 209 whites and 208 blacks were asked about racism.
Black respondents saw anti-black bias decline steadily, from 9.7 on the scale in the 1950s to 6.1 in the 2000s. During that same period, they thought anti-white bias increased marginally, from 1.4 to 1.8.

White respondents also saw anti-black bias decline through the decades, but even more dramatically than blacks did, from 9.1 in the 1950s to 3.6 in the 2000s. More significantly, whites also saw anti-white bias shoot up from 1.8 to 4.7 in the same period. As the researchers concluded, over the decades there was a "complete reversal" in whites' perception of racism. By the 2000s, whites considered anti-white bias to be a greater social problem than anti-black bias.

Norton and Sommers don't waste time pondering the veracity of that conclusion. By any metric, they write, "from employment to police treatment, loan rates to education — statistics continue to indicate drastically poorer outcomes for black than white Americans." Instead, they figure this historic flip-flop is not about objective conditions but about how whites conceptualize bias. Norton and Sommers conclude that whites, unlike blacks, view racism as a zero-sum game, a situation in which one side's gain automatically results only from the other's loss.
This editorial was wrong. I read it and then I read it again and I knew it was wrong on so many levels but it took me a minute or two before I could pin it down. Not only was Gregory Rodriguez wrong, but so was Michael Norton the study's author. It's completely believable that black people feel as though there is still this seething undercurrent of racism that flows throughout the white community. Countless movies and television shows as well as popular music constantly reinforce this belief.

Where my opinion diverges from Norton, Sommers and Rodriguez is at the point where they begin to draw erroneous conclusions from that study. Few would argue that blacks in America are faring poorly. In every study, whether they look at economic outcome, educational achievement, family stability, or incarceration, blacks are faring worse than any other race. No one with half an IQ point would argue this. However the underlying cause of these facts is certainly up for debate.

The traditional liberal perspective and also the perspectives of Rodriguez, Norton, and Sommers is that it must be racism and discrimination that accounts for this disparity in economic and educational achievement. It must be racism and discrimination in our justice system that causes blacks to be jailed at six times the rate of whites.

It is precisely this intersection of our differing cultures that perfectly exemplifies exactly what is wrong with America. Without working, why should you be provided a living? Without studying, why should you be provided with a diploma? When you rob, murder, rape, and deal drugs, why should you be granted freedom?

How can we ever come together and agree to solve our problems when there is this insane denial of the facts. You didn't pass because you failed. You didn't get the job because there was someone else applying whose resume was impeccable, while your own application might as well have been filled out with a crayon. It wasn't racism that put you in prison, it was that trigger you pulled.

The other point brought up in the study and the editorial is that whites feel as though discrimination against them is on the rise. The Author of the study Michael Norton and also Gregory Rodriguez the LA Times writer both immediately dismiss the possibility that whites actually do face increased discrimination. Instead, they come up with some asinine zero-sum argument that presupposes that it is the reverse that is actually true. If you think that affirmative action isn't tangible evidence of nationwide systemic racial discrimination, then I'd like to know how you define discrimination, because I don't think we're speaking the same language at all.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Powering Tomorrow

Germany plans to shut down its nuclear power program. It will shut down eight reactors immediately and phase out the remaining plants by 2022. Nuclear power accounts for 23% of all Germany's power usage.
The decision, to close all Germany's nuclear plants by 2022, is effectively a return to an agreement made in 2002 by a center-left Social Democrat-Green coalition. It also marks a drastic u-turn by Chancellor Angela Merkel, after her government late last year agreed to extend nuclear plants' operating lives, stretching the era of nuclear power in Germany into the 2030s.
Everyone who understands how nuclear power is created, is likely to have an understandable concern and some unavoidable distrust. In light of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, this distrust has grown into outright fear.

Distrust and fear are rational human reactions to danger. However, allowing these emotions to induce a state of blind panic is never going to end well. This disaster in Japan is an opportunity. Yes, lives were lost and it's possible that more lives will be lost later due to damaging exposure to radioactive contamination, but even so this disaster is an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, because as usual the root cause of this disaster was human error.

It was a tragedy that never should have happened. Many people believe that this natural disaster was impossible to predict or to prepare for, but the evidence now shows that this is not the case. While it was an unusually violent earthquake, the kind seen perhaps once in a century, we now know that―just as at Chernoble―it was a lack of foresight and poor planning that made this nuclear disaster possible.

Fukushima was caused by laziness and frugality and arrogant disregard for the power of nature. Germany is responding to this event with a kneejerk wholesale elimination of 23 percent of its total power capability. Germany will probably discover that this decision was a colossal mistake, and they will discover it too late.

The power needs of tomorrow will be greater, not less. You don't shut down your nuclear power plant unless you plan to replace it with a better one. Fossil fuels are being used up at an ever more rapid pace and alternative energy sources such as solar wind and hydroelectric are as yet still inefficient and highly limited. My fear is that other countries including America will follow Germany in this destructive stampede to nowhere.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Is Genetic Engineering Man's Next "Forbidden Fruit?"

If you haven't read David Brin's Uplift series, and if you enjoy science fiction, you might want to give them a try. In these novels, humans create two new sentient species by experimenting with the DNA of dolphins and chimpanzees. This involves an entire universe of ethical dilemma. While Brin's novels are science fiction, I believe that as the science of genetics advances, experimentation of the sort depicted in these fictional stories is inevitable.

We've already been doing basically the same thing for thousands of years. Man's best Friend is also his best science experiment.
In the course of engineering dogs to look, feel, and act as we wanted, we ruined millions of them. We gave them legs so short they couldn't run, noses so flat they couldn't breathe, tempers so hostile they couldn't function in society. Even our best intentions backfired. Nature invented sexual reproduction to diversify gene pools and dilute bad variants. By forcing dogs into incest (which we ban among humans, in part for biological reasons), we defied nature. We concentrated each bad gene in a breed, magnifying its damage: epilepsy for springer spaniels, diabetes for Samoyeds, bone cancer for Rottweilers.
While we've certainly had many setbacks and failed experiments, we've also achieved some amazing successes as well. The seeing eye dog―or guide dog―for the blind is an incredible success story, and a notable benchmark of our progress. Our companions are getting smarter, there's just no question about it:
A border collie called Chaser has been taught the names of 1022 items - more than any other animal. She can also categorise them according to function and shape, something children learn to do around the age of 3.
If you feel a bit uneasy about all these people fiddling around with God's creation―the wolf―if you feel a cold chill of apprehension when you imagine a dog as smart as a person, perhaps there's a pretty good reason for that. After all, killer bees were a failed scientific experiment. Even if the experiment is a success, to what sinister use might intelligent dogs be put? I just have a bad feeling about mucking around with things we don't really understand. We're children playing with fire and the consequences could very well be tragic. Can you imagine an intelligent canine serial killer―Hannibal Lecter the Bone Collector...?
Pride goeth before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Unemployment Benefits and Budgets

NC GOP Lawmakers try another jobs benefits bill. This dispute concerns providing unemployment benefits for 42,000 people who've already been out of work for more than a year. Both the Dems and the GOP seem to desire this endless gravy-train to continue endlessly down the tracks but mean old GOP lawmakers also desire concomitant budget cuts to accompany it.

It's so ironic. My employer shells out substantial cash every week to keep his own want-ads in various newspapers around the country. I look in these papers and the want-ad section is full of other employers also looking for employees. I'm not saying they're all great jobs, I'm not even saying that every person in American can get a job. What I am saying is that in a supposedly capitalist economy, a free-market country, the citizens of that country should not be forced to provide a living for millions and millions of people who can't seem to find a job after more than a year.

The argument I hear most often is that these unemployed are looking for work. They're living at the poverty level on their unemployment benefits...for more than a year. So, our plan is to continue paying these unemployment benefits so that they can continue living at the poverty level? Seriously, hasn't anyone ever heard of tough love?
With the state and national jobless rate remaining stubbornly above 9 percent for more than two years, most states, including Arizona, have long since drained their unemployment benefits funds, which pay for the first 26 weeks of jobless benefits. The cap on payments, set by state lawmakers, is $240 a week (only Mississippi pays less), so no one is getting rich.

But after 26 weeks, the federal government offers another 53 weeks of benefits because the jobless has remained so high. Rather than raise taxes sharply on employers to pay for the federal benefits, Arizona has essentially taken the money on credit. Employers pay taxes on wages that are then used to pay for both the state and federal benefits, and eventually their taxes will go up considerably to make up the shortfall.
Notice the part about taxes going up to pay for the shortfall? That in a nutshell is what everyone seems to have forgotten in all this political clamor. Right now, there are 7.74 million people receiving unemployment benefits, and 4.05 million people receiving extended benefits. All that debt at the state and federal level will have to be paid for at some point. The Republicans at least seem to be trying to cut other budget expenses to help provide for these millions who just can't seem to find a job after being out of work for more than a year, while the Democrats protest shrilly if even one thin dime is pinched from a progressive affirmative action program, or a performing arts grant, or a climate change study.

So at both the state and federal level, budgets are not being passed into law. And further exacerbating this congressional gridlock are biased journalists who use their forum as a soapbox to try to influence the populace towards their own biased point of view. This always results in a blizzard of angry letters and phone calls further jamming everything up until...until we have this economic fiasco we are all now so hopelessly embroiled in, and a backbreaking debt that taxpayers will have to pay for sooner or later.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thoughts on Josef Federman's "Fact Check" editorial

I made the mistake of reading Google's headline story, of 05/25/2011, by Josef Federman. If you haven't read it, you haven't missed anything. However, if you have a strong stomach you might be able to hold your nose long enough to wade through: FACT CHECK: Netanyahu speech ignores rival claims

These so-called facts sound like nothing but spin to me. In fact they spin so much they make the catagory four tornado in Joplin, Missouri look like a tempest in a teacup.

[Fact 1, Israel gets financial aid from the U.S.] So what? They are our front line defense, our canary in the coalmine, of course we help them financially. Does that make Netanyahu's comment that we don't have to send soldiers to Israel untrue? Of course not, and further I have to ask whose agenda is being served by this highly suspicious recitation of an irrelevancy?

[Fact 2 The international community considers the west bank occupied territory.] Yes, but the international community is for the most part nothing but a gaggle of interlopers and outsiders. At best they're uneducated interferers in what has already been a thousand-year struggle for survival by Jews from the Muslim goal of worldwide genocide. These areas: Jerusalem, The West Bank, Gaza strip, etc., have been invaded and reinvaded and re-reinvaded ... etc. To take the latest re-re-re-re-reinvasion and say..."Hey! They can't do that!" is asinine. It's misguided, racist, and unfair. Which is just typical United Nations standard operating procedure...but I repeat myself.

[Fact 3 Muslims can vote, however there is widespread racism and discrimination in hiring and lending etc.] So effing what? So geedee, who-cares what? Honestly the "fact" that Josef Federman even brought this up simply highlights his incredibly obvious partisan leftwing politics. Is there a country that doesn't have racial and ethnic discrimination. I bet you can't name even one!

[Fact 4 Some guy at "The World Bank" thinks that the situation in Palestine is unstable.] So, it doesn't matter that they're doing really well right now, because all that could change! So, this "fact" is really just nonsense. Everyone is on the verge of death or bankruptcy at every moment. You see, because everything is so unstable! Everything is seemingly spinning out of control! You drive down the street and you are just a few feet from death at the hands of oncoming traffic every moment! Quick! Let's cede some traffic lanes to the oncoming side before everything explodes in pandemonium!

The final so-called "fact" is so asinine and utterly disingenuous that I can barely keep from puking long enough to address it. Josef, says that Hamas and al-Qaida are unrelated and have absolutely no connection. He says that Hamas is basically nice and loves America but that they just hate the Jews. Josef wants us to believe that Netanyahu used a faulty comparison when he brought up the relationship America has with al-Qaida. You see, because while al-Qaida are mean and nasty, Hamas is just a bunch of really nice people with an unfortunate reputation...There are really no appropriate worlds to express the infinitely amazing contempt I feel for: "Fact Check."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another Nanny State Hoop Employers Must Jump Through

Legislators in West Virginia saw a possible loophole those stinking deadbeat dads might wriggle through, and by damn they are going to squeeze that loophole shut!

I'm almost positive that this new "Law" is unconstitutional. How can any state in this supposedly free country require a two-week waiting period before an employer may issue a bonus check to an employee?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The government can do most anything.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The United States of Dystopia

As the end of the world came and went and nobody got raptured, it occurred to me that the most likely end of the world scenario begins with a whimper instead of a bang. Sure, we could all burn to a crisp in some nuclear holocaust. Yeah, it's possible that an asteroid could come crashing the party. The climate change crowd is still betting on the ice caps melting, causing the sea to rise. We could all wind up like Kevin Costner in Waterworld, floating on some rickety lashup of a boat and pouring our own urine into some sort of recycling contraption.

While all those things could happen, they are all just a few of the many unlikely end of the world possibilities that probably won't happen. At this point, with the looming monstrosity of a national debt at 14.5 trillion and no real plan to start the painful and economy straining struggle to begin paying it down, I think the end happens with bankruptcy.

If our country goes bankrupt, what are the consequences? What's that? You say we can't go bankrupt because we can just print out a bunch of money and pay the bills? If that happened―if we just started printing a bunch of money―the dollar would become worthless. The results of printing money to avoid bankruptcy would be just as damaging to the economy as bankruptcy itself. That is not just idle speculation, that is not just some kneejerk fortune telling by a shadetree economist. Look at what happened to Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Between October 1, 1993 and January 24, 1995 prices increased by 5 quadrillion percent. That’s a 5 with 15 zeroes after it.
Despite the government's desperate printing of money it still did not have the funds to keep the infrastructure in operation.
So again, what happens when the USA goes bankrupt? A worldwide stockmarket crash the likes of which has never been seen before in the history of civilization will result. All financial institutions including banks, credit unions, and insurance companies will fail. All services that are paid with taxes dollars will shut down. This will include police firefighters and paramedics as well as armed services. Businesses will close and jobs will be lost. Finally, there will be an uprising. The angry populace will riot in the streets; they will set fires and break into businesses and loot whatever is there to be looted. Since there won't be any police to stop them or firefighters to put out the fires, all the major cities will erupt in gunfire and flames.

Obviously the government can't allow these things to happen, so in all likelihood we will go begging with hat in hand to the other countries of the world. We will sell land, military bases, and military technology. We will be a jailhouse punk looking for a protector. The problem with this contingency is that it assumes that the other countries of the world are doing just fine and have the wherewithal to bail us out. This ignores the fact that the world's economy has a central motor that turns the whole shebang and that motor is the USA.

The survivalist has already filled his nuclear bomb shelter with guns and M.R.E.s, and barrels of water. Well good for him, but he will not be a popular person in the United States of Dystopia. After the fires burn down and we take stock of what's left, there will be little acceptance of hoarding. You might have fifty guns and thousands of rounds of ammo, but you have to sleep sometime, and those M.R.E.s will run out sooner or later. Stockpiling rations and weapons will only be useful on a short term basis, so we'd all better have a deeper plan than that.

Can you hunt and fish? Do you have not only the equipment but also the knowledge? Lacking either one will put you behind the eightball when it really matters. Do you know how to purify stagnant water found in puddles, streams, and lakes? Did you know you can also create a solar still which will capture water from grass, leaves, and dirt? Are you familiar with the varieties of edible plants that grow wild in your local forests? This is called foraging and it's what we did for thousands of years before farming. You farmers think you're in good shape, but you're going to find out that deer, crows, and bugs are the least of the pests that will be nibbling at your crops. There won't be fields of wheat and corn when the dystopians rise up in their hundreds of millions. There won't be any chickens, cows, or pigs either, not once the shortsighted and hungry dystopians gobble them up like there's no tomorrow.

Finally, what kind of relationships do you have? In a bankrupt nonfunctioning world, a rotten tooth can put you six feet under. A minor wound can become infected, but with no antibiotics that minor wound could become a mortal one. When money becomes worthless, leaders will need to step up and lead their communities. We won't be able to rely on Uncle Sam anymore, and that's going to be the hardest thing for people to get their heads around. Survival will be possible, but not by hiding in some underground bunker with a bunch of crates of M.R.E.s and an assault rifle.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Benjamin Netanyahu Endorses 1845 borders for U.S.A.

Not really, just kidding, but wouldn't that be something if he did? Can you imagine if the Prime Minister of Israel decided to tell the world that Texas, New Mexico, and parts of California actually belonged to Mexico? What unbelievable gall that would take. I imagine it would outrage and enrage every American in the country.

Obama has done that! He has gone way beyond the pale, while simultaneously jumping the shark in a new low for his presidential career as he endorses 1967 borders for Israel. Of course, in reality, there are no 1967 borders. The following article explains this fact in detail.
Alan Baker―The Fallacy of the “1967 Borders”

In contrast to the highly debatable Palestine-Israel border, our unlawful seizure of Mexico's territory is absolutely incontrovertible.
The Mexican American War (or Mexican War) was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 in the wake of the 1845 U.S. annexation of Texas, which Mexico considered part of its territory despite the 1836 Texas Revolution.

American forces invaded and conquered New Mexico, California, and parts of what is currently northern Mexico; meanwhile, the American Navy conducted a blockade, and took several garrisons on the Pacific coast of Mexico largely what is now California, but also farther south. Another American army captured Mexico City, which forced Mexico to agree to the sale of its northern territories to the U.S.

American territorial expansion to the Pacific coast was the goal of President James K. Polk, the leader of the Democratic Party.

This Ohio Union Poll skips a few questions

Quinnipiac University May 18, 2011
Most Ohio voters would repeal the new union law.
This and similar headlines are splashed across webpages and newspapers around the country. As usual however, the blatantly liberal national media simply cherry-picked the narrative that most closely aligns with their own political bias. Furthermore, a close look at the questions asked―or rather not asked―in the survey reveals a suspicious trend in the questioning.

1379 voters were surveyed:
“Do you think this new law which limits collective bargaining for public employees should be kept or repealed?
36% should be kept
54% should be repealed
10% don’t know/no opinion

Digging further into the numbers I discovered a few statistics that almost no one will see who just reads the headline articles presented to them as news.

59% support vs. 34% oppose requiring public employees to pay at least 15% of their health insurance premiums. Strangely, the researchers at this Independent University didn’t bother to ask those surveyed if they thought the law requiring public employees to pay at least 15% of their health insurance premiums should be kept or repealed.

58% support vs. 34% oppose requiring public employees to pay at least 10% of their wages for their pensions. Oddly enough, these researchers neglected to inquire whether they thought the law requiring public employees to pay at least 10% of their wages for their pensions should be kept or repealed.

57% support vs. 35% oppose replacing automatic pay increases with merit based increases. And, can you believe that they forgot to ask respondants whether the law which would replace pay raises based on longevity with pay raises based on performance should be kept or repealed?

Finally, I have to wonder how the people who oppose limits on collective bargaining, can also support government workers having to pay for their health insurance and pensions, not to mention how these supporters of union rights can also oppose automatic pay increases based on length of service. Don’t they understand that it was collective bargaining that got these union members all these lavish and completely free benefits in the first place?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Fourth Amendment Overturned by Supreme Court!

You might wonder how the Supreme Court could overturn a Constitutional Amendment. They did it with the now typical method that we've all come to expect: a mealy mouthed and longwinded re-interpretation of the plain words of the Constitution of the United States of America.

You might wonder how a fairly conservative person such as myself, could disagree with the conservative majority and agree with the most liberal Justice on that court―Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I agree with Ginsburg because I don't care what you call yourself or what kind of political stance you take, right is right and wrong is wrong.

Police in Lexington Kentucky were presented with a Monty Hall situation when a suspect in a drug sting fled into an apartment complex. They knew he'd gone through one of two doors on the right or the left. They claimed that they smelled the odor of Marijuana coming from one door and they claimed to hear the sounds of evidence being destroyed. It turns out that the suspect had gone through the other door, so it turns out that they did not in fact hear evidence being destroyed. They yelled "Police! Open the door!" then they kicked the door in. Drugs were found in the apartment, though the suspect they'd been chasing was not found there.

After reading about this story―where drug users perhaps dealers were caught and convicted―you might think: good for the police. Good for America. Well, maybe you'd better think again.

This is the most likely scenario that I foresee: You're in your bed with your wife. It's 2:00 am in the morning. Both of you are naked and your kids are asleep in their rooms. You might have thought that you had a constitutional right to be secure in your person and in your house. That's all changed! Someone claiming to be a police officer pounds on your door loudly and demands that you open it now! You don't know who it is, so you're quickly trying to get dressed, when―with an earth shattering kaboom!―The front door explodes inward and a crowd of police officers comes stormtrooping into your home. They hold your kids at gunpoint while slamming you down on the floor and handcuffing you in front of them. Then they pull your naked wife out of her bed and―with big grins on their leering faces―they handcuff her too. Finally they turn your house upside down, tearing everything apart looking for something to justify their invasion. Maybe they find something. Maybe they plant something. Who's to know?

Somewhere along the lines in the war against drugs, and terrorism, and whatever other social ill, we've finished by declaring war on ourselves. The Fourth Amendment has been overturned. Our founding fathers were wise and smart far beyond their time. Apparently wise and smart far beyond our own time too. They knew what could happen if too much power was concentrated in the hands of the police. They'd lived through British tyranny and wanted freedom from that kind of police state brutality, now and forever more.

What were those ancient words that our wise founding fathers―wiser by far than our own Supreme Court Justices―thought would serve to limit the rise of the modern fascist police state now in its final ascendency?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fake Reviews

I hope that no one would ever characterize me as some kind of goody-two-shoes or holier-than-thou type, but with that said, I discovered something that shocked and seriously disturbed me about the company I work for. Some people would say that this is no big deal, but I see it as unethical and after additional research I discovered that it is also unlawful. I’m not certain that my boss is aware of these facts but I will definitely be seeing to it that these dishonest practices are both discontinued as well as redressed.

What I discovered, was a bunch of obviously fake reviews when I looked up my company on Google. The names of the reviewers were suspiciously similar to the names of some of my colleagues at work, and furthermore, the only reviews by these suspiciously favorable reviewers were all written about the group of businesses which are all managed by my employer.

Those who read this blog may be aware that I claim to be a cynic, and so you might be surprised to discover that I was shocked and dismayed by what seemed to be fraudulent reviews and testimonials praising with a glowing recommendation the company that I work for. It certainly didn't take more than two seconds to broaden my condemnation of these fake reviews into the entire review process itself. I discovered that an entire industry exists to serve the needs of clients who desire favorable reviews of their products. This may seem like an easy way to get customers. However, you'd better think twice, because the FTC is really starting to crackdown on these fake internet product reviews:

When you read a product or service review, you have to ask, who is it that is taking the trouble to go online and write this review. If it's a good review are they in any way related to the management or owners of the product or service in question? If it’s a bad review, are they in any way related to its competitors?

An embarrassing story about Facebook recently surfaced in which they got caught trying to discredit and harm the reputation of Google. Facebook hired a P.R. firm―Burson-Marsteller―to plant anti-Google stories in the U.S. media. Meanwhile in a similar story, Legacy Learning Systems Inc, was fined $250,000 for hiring an internet marketing company to publish fake reviews of their product.

It's called truth in advertizing and the FTC takes it very seriously. Nevertheless, millions of fake reviews exist and more will be written every day. While reading a product review is not a bad idea, you should be aware that many of them are bogus, and you should also be knowledgeable in detecting them. The Consumerist has an an interesting article that explains in detail 30 ways to spot fake online reviews. It's worth reading, especially if you're the kind of person—like my wife for instance—who has a history of buying products which turn out to be worthless, even though all those audience members in that 30 minute infomercial gushed non-stop about how wonderful they were.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Flooding and Free Lunches

My father always said that there's no such thing as a free lunch. One day I argued that point with him. I'd been eating school lunches for several years and I'd noticed that many of the kids had a card that the lunch-lady would clip with a hole-puncher, using up that day's free lunch. “There are lots of kids that get free lunches at my school, what about them,” I asked. He explained that he pays for those lunches―him and the rest of the people who pay taxes throughout the country.

I live in Memphis Tennessee, and the Mississippi River on the west side of our city is overflowing to historic levels. Many parts of the city have already been inundated with floodwater and the river hasn't even crested as high as it's going to. Already some of the people who've been affected by these flood waters are starting to behave in similar fashion to the Hurricane Katrina victims. If you recall, many thousands of poor refugees from New Orleans behaved in the most outrageous and self-serving way possible. Widespread looting, selfish misuse of relief debit cards, and non-stop complaining are a few of the things that I remember most about the Katrina victims. Now the same thing is starting to happen here in Memphis Tennessee.

For Cedric Blue, the flooding in his south Memphis neighborhood near the overflowing Nonconnah Creek is a source of frustration and anger.

Blue, 39, has watched as the water engulfed three homes on his street, including that of an older woman who had to be rescued in a boat because she had refused to leave. Blue fears the rising water will ruin his house and his belongings while washing away a lifetime of memories that were created there.

Sunday afternoon, a garbage can floated in the high water near his house. Some feet away, the water had reached more than halfway up a yellow “No Outlet” street sign.

He became emotional talking about how he has about 7 feet of water in his backyard and less than a foot inside the house, which his mother owns. They were in the middle of a remodeling project when the flood hit.

Blue said he wants the city, county or the federal government to give him a hotel voucher so he does not have to go to a shelter.

“I just want a new life and relocation,” Blue said. “I would like the elected officials to come down here to see this with their own eyes and see what we're going through.”

What stands out strikingly to me is that these people expect the government to not only help save their lives from these natural disasters, but to actually give them a new life in the bargain. Well, of course! They grew up eating free lunches.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Uncle Sam compared with Average Joe

The National Debt is more than 14.3 trillion. While this incredibly huge number seems scary, let me try to put this in perspective. Just for fun let’s pretend that the U.S. Government, with all its finances, is just one guy. Let’s call this guy “Uncle Sam,” then let’s compare Uncle Sam to Average Joe.

Uncle Sam’s debt right now stands at 14.3 trillion. The American People are the employers of Uncle Sam and they pay Uncle Sam 2.3 trillion per year. This ratio of debt to income is 6.1. In other words Uncle Sam’s debt is more than six times his yearly income. In comparison, Average Joe earns $50,000.00 per year. With a similar ratio of debt to earnings Average Joe would be $305,000.00 in debt. It’s really a good thing that Uncle Sam has such an excellent credit rating. It’s also very fortunate that Uncle Sam can reduce his own interest rates on much of his debt. Right now on average, he’s only paying a 2.9 percent interest rate which is really a phenomenal rate. But of course he can’t keep the interest rate that low. Inflation is growing rapidly and soon he’ll be forced to raise the interest rate to slow inflationary pressure. If Uncle Sam raises interest rates to a more reasonable inflation fighting level―the level that it was in 2008 of 4.5% for instance―at his current debt limit, interest on the debt is going to cost him $643,559,098,192.00. At this interest rate level, Uncle Sam’s paycheck will be reduced by 27% to pay for the interest on his debt.

Even though Uncle Sam is dangerously overextended, he plans on borrowing another two trillion this year...another two trillion next year...and the year after that...and so on. If Average Joe were in the same boat as Uncle Sam he would have a $50,000 per year income and next year his debt would be $355,000.00. The year after that Average Joe would owe $405,000.00. By the time year 2015 rolled around, Average Joe would be underwater to the tune of half a million―and with only $50,000.00 in yearly income. Average Joe, even with his excellent credit rating and his low interest rate of 4.5%, will be paying $22,725.00 of his $50,000.00 income just for the interest on his debt. By 1015 it will be almost impossible for Average Joe to make ends meet no matter how drastically he scrimps and coupon clips. I wonder how Uncle Sam is going to be able to make ends meet?

A common practice of the national media—and other outlets of deceitful spin—is to compare the gross domestic product with the national debt. When this is done, people are given the impression that, hey! the debt is equal to the gross domestic product, so we owe about what we make and that’s not so bad. But of course, that’s like contrasting your own debt with the income that the business you work for generates in a year. (Average Joe owes $305,000.00 but the department store he works for makes $305,000.00 per year in profits, so he’s actually in pretty good shape―Not really. The two numbers are completely unrelated.)

It’s asinine and dishonest in the extreme to compare the gross national product to the national debt. The only figure that needs mentioning is how much Uncle Sam makes per year, and that number is 2.3 trillion. Wake up, smell the coffee, and face facts: having a debt of more than six times yearly earnings is a crushing burden that will take incredibly austere measures to pay for, much less pay down. But the liberals in Washington, not content with the enormous debt already on the books, want to load even more debt on that poor camel’s back―on our backs.