Monday, July 27, 2009

Are you a "Birther"?

I think it's funny that they came up with a name for conspiracy theorists who believe that Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Don't these Birthers realize that:

1. Barack Obama was undeniably born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961.
2. Even if there is no birth certificate to prove it, there is a "2007 certified abstract copy of his Certification of Live Birth".
3. Even if his father was a British Citizen, making Barack a dual citizen and not qualified for U.S. Citizenship, an 1898 U.S. Supreme Court case says anyone born in the U.S. is a natural born citizen.
4. Even if Barack was born in Kenya and that foreign born children can obtain a Certification of Live Birth in Hawaii, his mother was a citizen of the U.S.
5. Even if the then-applicable law would have required Obama's mother to have been in the U.S. at least "five years after the age of 14", but Ann Dunham was three months shy of her 19th birthday when Obama was born, um, ahh, um. Gibbs? Can you help me here? Oh yeah, he's a natural born citizen because I say so!!!
6. Even if he did relinquish his citizenship when he lived in Indonesia as a youth (6-10 years old) after his mother married Lolo Soetoro and moved the family to Jakarta, remember what I told you: he's a citizen.
7. Even if Barack is still not a citizen, what do you want to do about it? Put in Joe Biden?

Other Links:
NRO Article
Hawaiian Birth Certificate


Glenn Beck and the Trashman

Last week I decided to stop recording Glenn Beck. After his show moved to an earlier time on Fox News, the only way I could watch it was to record it.

I find Glenn entertaining. I agree with most of his viewpoints. I enjoy listening to most of his guests. The problem I have with Glenn is a complete focus on negative news. I call it the "Trashman effect".

Most trashmen (or waste management engineers ;-) probably have the perspective that the average citizen is very wasteful. Tons of new evidence is provided everyday.

I experienced a similar effect during one of my jobs as a college student. I delivered summons for an attorney service in Los Angeles. There were tenets suing landlords, landlords suing tenets. Businesses suing customers, customers suing businesses. Even neighbors suing neighbors. My perspective was that everyone in LA was suing everyone else, or at least trying to use the law to get something from someone else. I had my life threatened 3 times. LA seemed very ugly during this period. Five years earlier, I was a volunteer for the 1984 Olympics and LA was a beautiful place. The difference wasn't the five years, but instead what I was focusing on.

Back to Glenn Beck. I feel like his presentation of the news has a similar effect.
The trigger for me was a story on CIT, a major lender to small and medium size businesses. CIT announced that they would be filing for bankruptcy. Glenn posed the question as to why the Federal government wasn't offering to bail out CIT, since small businesses provide about 70% of all jobs in the US. Of course he didn't really want a bailout for CIT, since he's opposed to bailouts.

The next day, CIT bondholders agreed to provide a $3 billion dollar emergency loan. Glenn never mentioned this follow up story. I thought it was a perfect example of how failure should be dealt with. If a company is worth saving, the stake holders should try to save it. A perfect opportunity for Glenn to say "this is how it should be done". Instead of providing some good news, he went on to more bad news that day. The "trashman effect".

I'll miss you Glenn.

Now if I can only find news online that isn't trash...


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cowboy Chili & More FDR

I updated my status on Facebook indicating my wife was out of town. Facebook proved valuable since my status got me and "the boys" an invite for Cowboy Chili from John. John is an 80+ year old "Cowboy" who my oldest son calls the "coolest old dude he's ever known".

My favorite John story is from the D-Day invasion. The landing craft he was on hit an obstruction made of railroad ties and started to sink. He had to abandon ship and ended up on Omaha Beach. Someone handed him a gun and said "You're in the army now!". He stormed the beach and the only way home was through France.

Before dinner, I added material for my Unofficial FDR Poll asking John what he thought of FDR. He said "In my day, you supported your President, whoever they were." He then told us how his dad, a Democrat, liked FDR, and his mom, a republican, didn't like FDR. Neither of them liked FDR's WPA, since they believed that everyone should work hard and shouldn't get handouts.

We got a couple of new stories from John at dinner.

My son asked him if he still had his license to carry a gun and asked how he got it. John told us about working in a bank when robbers came in and took the bank over. They pistol whipped several employees. The robber came to John and told him to get on the ground. He said the "military man in him kicked in" and he looked the robber "square in the eyes". Later, when reviewing the security tapes, someone asked "who's that guy in the black cowboy hat? He's the only one not on the ground!" It was John. He got his gun license because he testified against the bank robbers and the judge gave it to him. John also told us it was stupid for him to challenge someone with a gun.

John then started telling us how he learned poker. We all started laughing when he said the man who taught him "was the ugliest man I've ever seen in my life." "He was so ugly and his eyes were so black, that you couldn't stand to look at his poker face".

Thanks for some good Chili, John.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Predictably Irrational - My Top 10

Just finished a good book, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economists.

The main premise is that most economists make predictions based on how people are expected to behave, instead of how they actually behave and very often people bahave irrationally.

A couple of things I picked up (in order of what I liked best):

  1. Market vs. Social Norms
  2. Most of us live by two sets of norms: one having to do with tough business choices related to money and the other by generous, sharing with those in our social circles. I'm doing a poor job of summarizing here, but this point has helped me understand a lot of the past conflict I've experienced in my life.

  3. Moral Standards
  4. Simply recalling The Ten Commandments makes someone less likely to cheat, even if they can only recall one of the Commandments. This also worked when telling students a test was being administered according to the MIT Honor Code, which doesn't even exist.

  5. The power of money
  6. We rationalize our dishonesty more when it is less associated with money. For example, which makes you feel more guilty: accidentally taking the store clerks pen or taking the equivalent value of the pen in coins out of the tip jar. The theft is equal, yet the guilt isn't. The main point here is the enormous cost to our economy in the cumulative cost of all these little crimes (there are many other examples in the book).

  7. The Influence of Arousal
  8. I know I shouldn't shop when I'm hungry, but the book pushes this idea further. Dan makes the point that the debate over teenage sex shouldn't be whether to teach abstinence or provide condoms. We should teach teenagers to avoid putting themselves in aroused situations, where they are guaranteed to make irrational or compromised choices.

  9. Decoys
  10. Given multiple choices, we find two things that are alike and pick the better one. The irrational part is that we ignore a potentially much better choice or we allow marketers to provide "decoys" making us think our choice is a good one.

  11. Anchors
  12. We get used to paying a certain price, such as $3 for a gallon of gasoline, however a suggestion of a higher or lower price for a new product can "anchor" our minds to what is a reasonable price. The example was how a black pearl, basically worthless was turned into a priceless item.

  13. The High Price of Ownership
  14. We place an unrealistic value on things we own. Another book I read (Logic Of Life) points out that good businessmen, traders, etc. have overcome this weakness.

  15. The Cost of Zero
  16. We are suckers for the word "Free!" and make compromised decisions when faced with "free stuff". (I actually sent the author an email on this point because I think some of his assumptions were faulty).

  17. Closed Doors
  18. We will compromise in our decisions for fear of closing doors of opportunity (you need to read the book to better understand this one)

  19. Procrastination
  20. I'll put more detail here, just not right now ;-)


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Still on track for a Depression

I'm not an economist and I don't really know the exact definition of a depression, but looking at my comparison of the current stock market to the 1929-1930s crash (here) it appears we are still on track for a depression. Today, the Dow fell back below the 1930 level. Only time will tell where things are really headed.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th Tea Party

I attended the July 4th Tea Party at Mission Bay Park in San Diego. It's interesting the thoughts that went through my head each time that I traveled to a Tea Party. On my way I was wondering if any like-minded people would show up and if people still are concerned about an-out-of-control government. Here are some photos and a video from the Tea Party:

It's hard to read this little boy's sign, but it says "Obama needs a time out"