Thursday, December 29, 2011

Alan Greenspan's "Age of Turbulence"

I just finished reading Alan Greenspan's book "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World".  The first part of the book was more of a biography, which I found very interesting.  He played the saxophone in Big Bands before becoming a financial guru.  Then he had the amazing opportunity to either interact or work with Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr.  It was nice to have his rather non-political insights into these men.

Following the biographical section was his take on various countries, then various economic issues: from Oil to global warming.  At times he gets a little too technical.

My impression is that Alan Greenspan is incredibly intelligent with a vast understanding of many economic issues, yet he is still a man with limitations.  He was probably the most trustworthy person to have the responsibility that he held, yet I question whether too much power was given to a single individual. 

The greatest argument for my opinion is that while the book was written in late 2007, he is forecasting where the economy might be in the year 2030, but was blind to the pending financial collapse.  He did mention the risk of credit default swaps, but claimed that the New York Federal Reserve Bank was taking care of it and he didn't expect it to be a problem.

Sometimes a person can be so brilliant, that by comparison to other mere mortals their judgement is clouded into thinking they have supreme, flawless judgement.  There is no way to know whether the U.S. economy is better or worse off having had Mr. Greenspan at the helm.  Either way, after reading this book I find that I respect him and agree with many of his views.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

iPad Helps Autistic Kids

Sometimes technology can do amazing things



Thursday, September 8, 2011

San Diego Boycotts Arizona Power

In a move of solidarity against Arizona's immigration policies, Southern Californians from the city of San Clemente down south of the border in Mexico boycotted imported electrical power from Arizona.  This boycott comes more than a year after the boycotts by Oakland and West Hollywood proved to be insignificant [1].  Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom praised the boycott saying that it achieved more than he dreamed of as mayor of San Francisco when he banned travel to Arizona by city employees.  Unfortunately, the boycott will prove to be short lived as Southern Californians realize that it is very difficult to function without electricity.
 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Benjamin Franklin on Beer

Benjamin Franklin worked at a printers shop in London. This excerpt is from his autobiography:
I drank only water; the other workmen, near fifty in number, were great drinkers of beer. On occasion I carried up and down stairs a large form of type in each hand, when others carried but one in both hands. They wondered to see, from this and several instances, that the Water-American, as they called me, was stronger than themselves, who drank strong beer! We had an ale-house boy, who attended always in the house to supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint in the afternoon about six o'clock, and another pint when he had done his day's work. I thought it a detestable custom; but it was necessary, he supposed, to drink strong beer that he might be strong to labor. I endeavored to convince him that the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the water of which it was made ; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of bread ; and therefore if he could eat that with a pint of water it would give him more strength than a quart of beer. He drank on, however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every Saturday night for that vile liquor, an expense I was free from. And thus these poor devils keep themselves always under.


Monday, August 29, 2011

A Southern Christian View on Slavery

I just finished reading "The Life of Abraham Lincoln" by Henry Ketcham and have renewed admiration for Lincoln for his integrity and strong moral character.  I was surprised to discover that he never joined a specific church even though he was very literate in the Bible.  One of the problems that Lincoln had with religion was that prominent religious leaders of the time were preaching that slavery was a divine institution.

The church with which he was naturally affiliated was the Presbyterian.  The most eloquent preacher of that denomination was the Reverend Dr. Palmer of New Orleans, who was an aggressive champion of slavery as a divine institution.  His teachings were feebly echoed in thousands of other pulpits.  Now Lincoln abhorred slavery.  He incorporated human freedom into his religion...It may therefore be seen that the church did not give him a cordial invitation.  If this needs any proof, that proof is found in the fact that the pastors in Springfield voted almost unanimously against him...
...this did not embitter him against the church...all his life long he kept up such bonds of sympathy with the church as were possible.  He bore with the faults of the church and of ministers with that patience which made his whole character so remarkably genuine.  He was a constant attendant at the services, he was favorable to all the legitimate work of the church.
Here is a sermon from Dr. Palmer, along with an address from another prominent clergyman:

Thanksgiving Sermon, Benjamin Morgan Palmer, November 29, 1860
A Southern Christian View on Slavery , James Henry Thornwell, 1861

Of course, those views are in the past.  Here are a couple of apologies for past positions:

The Southern Baptist church apologized for their stance on slavery in 1995.
A New Orleans Archbishop apologizes for slavery Feb 1, 2011



Thursday, August 18, 2011

John Stewart on Ron Paul


This video is pretty funny until you ask why is the media doing this?  I don't know if Ron Paul would make a good U.S. President, but he does have a history of being right on some important issues.  Did you know that Ron Paul was trying to avoid the housing bubble 9 years ago? [link] Enjoy the video.








Monday, August 15, 2011

Level 5 Leadership

In the book "Good to Great", great organizations are lead by Level 5 leaders.  Author Jim Collins describes a Level 5 leader as someone who passes the window/mirror test, which involves two questions:
  1. Why were you successful?
  2. What went wrong?
A leader's answers can either:
  • "Look out the window" and give credit or blame to external factors
  • "Look in the Mirror" and take credit or blame upon themselves.
A Level 5 Leader answers the "Why were you successful?" question by looking out the window: "I had good people, I was lucky, The timing was in our favor, etc." and answers the "What went wrong?" question with by looking in the mirror "I made a mistake, a bad judgement call, etc.".

What prompted this posting?  This article: I reversed the recession until bad luck hit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fear of Flying

I was flying home Sunday night when my wife told me she was nervous about me flying.  Then she asked me if I still had life insurance.  Oops!  I remembered that my Term Life had just expired and I'm embarrassed to say that I hadn't renewed it yet.  This planted the seed of fear.

At the airport, the monitors indicated my flight was on time.  As we waited for the previous passengers to disembark, the first off was a women in a wheel chair pushed by two paramedics.  She was obviously distressed and had some sort of medical emergency. 

A little bit later, a man in silky white "pajamas" and a big white Afro wig (it looked like a large football helmet) got off the airplane.

Then there was the announcement:  Our flight was being delayed due to engine troubles. 

That was it - three omens feeding the seed of fear.  I sent a text message to my family "I love you" and reminded myself about all of the statistics I read about how safe flying is.

We finally boarded and the captain told us that an indicator light went off for the actuator on the thrust reversers.  That didn't sound too bad.  It would only matter during landing and the chances of surviving a crash during landing seemed much better than falling out of the sky.  The captain said he would try to make up the lost time, but he would have to fly around bad weather.

We hit the bad weather later and it was probably the worst turbulence I've ever experienced.  I stopped reading my book as it was impossible to hold it still.  I reached to turn off the light but couldn't hold my finger steady enough.  I had to hold both hands up, push against the console, and then inch towards the off button.  I figured if this was the end, it would probably be nice and quick.

We got out of the bad weather and the flight was smooth again.  I reminded myself that I had been correct in trusting in the safety statistics.  The captain then announced that "we were out of the bad weather, for now, but to remain seated as the next patch of weather would probably be worse".  Thankfully it wasn't worse.

I finished my book and we had a safe landing.

When I got off the airplane, my legs and butt were very sore from sitting so long.  I was reminded of a news article I read recently that said "sitting can kill you".  So maybe all of the sitting during air travel is what can kill you. 

P.S.  If you're really afraid of flying and don't find the statistics comforting enough, you might consider this course http://www.fearofflyinghelp.com/

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is it the Guns?

I finally got around to reading "Culture of Fear" by Barry Glassner and I'm inspired to have less fear in my life.  According to the author, some of the fears that our culture exaggerates include: plane crashes, road rage, Gulf War Syndrome, breast implants, poisoned Halloween candy, child abduction and teen pregnancy.

The author, however, fell victim to the same fear mongering he complains about when he repeatedly decries gun violence and argues for more gun control.  This seemed inconsistent with most of his book, so I decided to look into it a little more.

Below are charts comparing gun ownership to gun related homicides.  The first chart shows no clear correlation (each blue diamond is a country).  The point in the top right shows the strongest relationship (39% ownership and 7 homicides per 100,000 people).  That's the U.S.
Instead of jumping to the conclusion: "gun owners in the U.S. are violent", I decided to look at the data for all 50 states, as well as New York City and Los Angeles.  Not as much of a correlation, especially for New York City which has probably the strictest gun control laws (1.7% ownership, 6.5 homicides/100K) .
So I thought about it and was reminded of the Gini coefficient, a measure of economic inequality (0 being equal and 1 or 100% is unequal).  I decided to compare Gini to Gun Homicides.
For both countries and U.S. states, it seems that greater economic disparity results in more gun violence (Someday I'll actually calculate the statistics).  For example, New York City has a Gini of .5, which may explain why gun violence is still high there.

The Solution?

I'm worried that the politicians and activists will lazily jump to another poorly thought out solution like the need to increase welfare payments (another conclusion in Barry Glassner's book).

Reducing gun related violence is much more complicated than getting rid of guns or even reducing poverty (reducing the Gini).  For example, countries with the highest gun ownership (Switzerland, Norway and Finland) may benefit from better trained gun owners (due to compulsory military service in Switzerland and more gun training in Norway and Finland).

My Solution: Provide gun safety training for poor school children.  Sounds crazy, but it could possibly do more to help than taking guns away from responsible citizens.

Full Disclosure: I own a Red-Rider BB Gun and have many friends who are gun owners.

References:
A more critical review of The Culture of Fear
Would Banning Firearms Result in Lower Murder and Suicide? Harvard Law
Wikipedia, etc. for the statistics.

Added June 17, 2012  Here's an interesting talk on TED


Monday, June 20, 2011

A Bigger Box

It all started with a lucky nickle.  Then a fancy strand of string.  You put your treasures in a small box tucked in the corner of your bottom dresser drawer.  Then you got an award at school, a shiny rock, a trophy and a bigger box.  The box moved to a corner in your closet and got bigger.  Then it became a stack of boxes.  They moved to a corner in the garage and eventually took up a whole wall in the garage.  The car now sat in the driveway and you were stuffing boxes in the rafters.  You rented a small storage unit easing the pressure.  You got a second unit, then a third.  You found an abandoned warehouse and felt relieved by all the empty space.  The space filled up so slowly that you never worried about it; until if filled up.  You acquired a lease on the building next door and filled it up. You found more buildings and started looking at empty aircraft hangars in the desert.

My questions.  Does it make sense to store that much stuff? At what point do you decide to get rid of some of your old stuff?  Where do you get started?

Compare this to computers.  How many hard drives do you have?  How full is your gmail account or other online storage areas?

Last year, 24 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute.  Now it is 48 hours of video every minute

Google gmail gives 193 million users 2 GB of memory.  That's about 1/2 million 1 TB hard drives.  Recently gmail servers crashed.

I try to clean house as I go but I'm still trying to figure out my strategy for making sure that my most valuable digital possessions are saved when it comes time to foreclose on the warehouses.   I wonder when we'll start hearing about a"data storage" crisis.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Plain English

Years ago I read an article about the Plain English (or more generally "Plain Language") movement.  This is the idea that writing in a concise manner provides the most value.  For example a business that sends correspondences will receive more responses if they use Plain English.  If it is too painful to read, people will just throw it away.

I am tempted to write more, but that would be in violation of the inspiration for this post.

You can read more about it on wikipedia.

There are some interesting examples at plainlanguage.gov (Oxymoronic?)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Walmart Gene

I have no political opinion about whether Walmart is good or evil, or if it's exploitive to it's employees or not.  I know that I can buy some products at lower prices at Walmart and I'm a big Free Market proponent.

The other day my son and I went to Walmart.  On our way into the store, I was noticing some of the characters unique to the Walmart shopping experience.  So I asked "Is there a Walmart gene?".  It seemed obvious that there must be some genetic connection that described these unique characters.  As we walked around Walmart, our shopping experience was more joyous as we tried to identify which of the other shoppers might have the special Walmart chromosome.

If you can't wait till your next visit to play this game (or you refuse to shop at Walmart), try this site: http://www.peopleofwalmart.com

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Which one's the Shampoo?

Imagine it's early morning, your eyes are still sleepy, and you step into the shower.  You wet your hair and the water is dripping in your eyes.  You look down at the two white bottles: one shampoo and the other conditioner.  Which one do you grab?  


I have to admit that the packaging looks great for a shelf in the market, but I can't figure which bottle is which.

The "MATRIX"? Hmmm, no, they both are "MATRIX"

The "BIOLAGE"?  Whatever that means, and they both are "BIOLAGE".

The, um, er,  I can't quite make it out.  Water still dripping in my eyes.  Let me hold it closer, I wish I had my glasses.

I know, I'll just squirt equal amounts of both into my hand and shampoo and condition at the same time!

Hey marketing/packaging people!  Try putting this on your bottles:

SHAMPOO   CONDITIONER


or is it "CONDITIONER, then SHAMPOO".  Still can't read the label.



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Atlas Shrugged

I saw the movie Atlas Shrugged this weekend.

Four years ago I was sharing my frustrations at work with a coworker and she said I had to read "Atlas Shrugged".  The fictional world of Atlas Shrugged resembled my work environment a little too much.  I slogged through, then got hooked and ended up enjoying the book.  The book also had a big impact on my life: I quit my frustrating job.  I now owe Atlas Shrugged a favor.

The 1950's story is surprisingly relevant today and the movie manages to tell the story as occurring in 2016.  I thought the casting was very true to the original characters.  I thought the movie's quality was slightly better than "made for TV", but I still recommend everyone see the movie Atlas Shrugged (remember, I owe it a favor).

Seeing the movie will:
  1. Save you the effort of reading the 1000+ pages (or if you already read it, you probably don't need to be told to see the movie).
  2. Provide economic support to complete the Trilogy, and I want to see the rest of the story told (apparently you can't fit 1000+ pages of material into one 1.5 hour movie).
  3. Help spread the idea that excessive meddling by bureaucrats can potentially result in catastrophe.
  4. Help show how many people support the previous point.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Orthorexia

Have you ever had someone bring a veggie burger to your barbeque?  Have you ever had an "intervention" by a concerned friend or family member who preached about the "correctness" of their "healthy" diet?  Did they get defensive when you provided counter evidence to their dogma?  Or, maybe that person is you (If you feel defensive, it's okay.  That's a normal response).

These behaviors relate to the condition "orthorexia", which refers to an extreme obsession with only eating "healthy" (derives from the Greek "Ortho" for "correct or right" and "orexis" meaning "appetite").  When I was a kid, it was called "health nut". 

Not that eating healthy is a disorder.  There is plenty of evidence that a healthy diet can reduce the incidence of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  This is how the term "Western Diseases" was coined.  However with all of the conflicting information on health, its not surprising that such a "disorder" could exist (it's not officially a disorder yet).

Here's a little self-test to determine if you or a loved one are orthorexic: Self-test from MetroActive

Here's a confessional from a recovering orthorexic (and the person who coined the term): Health Food Junkie

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tsunami Inundation Maps for California

The Tsunami in Japan was larger than prepared for, which raises the question: "Are you vulnerable to a Tsunami?".  I found this analysis of "Tsunami Inundation" for California:

http://www.conservation.ca.gov/cgs/geologic_hazards/Tsunami/Inundation_Maps/Pages/Statewide_Maps.aspx

Keep clicking to drill down to detailed maps.

Monday, March 14, 2011

An Unexpected Love Affair

I am a bit surprised at how the liberal democrats have taken to protecting Muslims.  Here's a short list of how they show their support:
  • Objecting to the Congressional Hearings on "The Radicalization of Muslims"[1]
  • Firing of Juan Williams from NPR for "offensive" comments towards Muslims.[2]
  • Support the "religious right" to build a Mosque near Ground-Zero of 9/11.[3]
  • Walk off of their own show (The View) in defense of Muslims [4]
  • Call to not jump to conclusions on Fort Hood shootings [5] 
 The reason I am surprised at these positions is because of the contrast in their beliefs.  Let's compare side by side:

Liberal DemocratsMuslims and Sharia Law
Believe in separation of church and state Believe religious law should BE state law (Sharia Law)
Believe that religion should not be forced on anyone Becoming non-religious, is strictly forbidden and punishable by death
Believe in equal rights for women The rights of women are arguably fewer. Polygamy is legal.
Believe in criminal rights and reform Penalty for theft is cutting off one or both hands
Believe in sexual freedom The punishment for adultery is stoning
Believe in equal rights for homosexuals Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death
Against death penalty Death penalty for adultery, homosexuality, apostasy, etc.
Believe in legalization of controlled substances such as alcohol and marijuana Liquor and drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, opium, etc are all unlawful

In all fairness, these are extreme examples and the beliefs are not necessarily shared by all Muslims. Also, this list excludes any similarities(for example, Muslims allow for abortion up to 4 months of pregnancy). Still, the differences are significant.

The best explanation that I can come up with for the love affair is "The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend" or in other words, liberal democrats think "Muslims are the enemy of Christians, who are typically conservative Republicans, therefore we like them". It's a little like teaming up with Stalin to beat the Nazis - after you get rid of the Nazis, how do you get rid of Stalin?

Update March 15, 2011 - Another possible explanation is that liberal democrats always look out for the underdog; even if they are ideological polar opposites.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Islamic Radicalization Hearings

The media calls these Congressional hearings a "witch-hunt" similar to the days of the "red scare" when McCarthyism lead to Hollywood Blacklisting.

Luckily I was able to watch a portion of the hearings on my favorite reality show (C-SPAN).  As a result I feel less frightened and more sympathetic towards American Muslims.  I think we've come a long way as a country in the last 60-70 years in how we can discuss sensitive issues like this.

The Democrats were united in objecting every chance they got, saying that these hearings would only result in Islamophobia.  They wanted the hearings to be fair and include all of the Christian terrorists groups as well.  In fairness to them, I think they helped keep it civil by reminding everyone of the dangers in discussing such a sensitive subject.

The Republicans made the point that is was about time this hearing happened as there was no Congressional hearing on the Fort Hood shootings (which killed 13 people and injured 29) 2 years ago, though a hearing was held on Toxic FEMA Trailers which apparently had killed no one.


A Muslim witness also pointed out that the government report on the Fort Hood shootings made no mention of the radical Islamic motivation of the shooter[1].  He made the analogy that if you are trying to get rid of cancer, but are not allowed to mention it in any way, then you will have a hard time removing it. He said it is time to talk about the cancer. 


I only watched a portion, but what I heard seemed fair minded and from what I could tell the millions of peace loving American Muslims outnumber the extremist American-hating Muslims.

There were many good sound bites, but my favorite was the Los Angeles County Sheriff talking about reading the Koran and sharing the true message of Islam :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Winners!!

The best reality show on TV today is C-SPAN.  It temporarily took second place last week to the "winner", the Charlie Sheen Show.

If you haven't watched C-SPAN, let me elaborate the storyline.
 The United States is falling apart.  People are losing their jobs.  Everyday, families are evicted from their homes adding to the growing homeless population.  Food prices are rising and children go to bed hungry.  Gas and fuel prices are skyrocketing.  At the same time, the world is losing confidence in the U.S. with soaring debts.  Anti-U.S. sentiment and terrorism are growing.  Little-by-little, China is buying U.S. debt and will soon have enormous power over us.  Our heros, the representatives of the people, the Democrats (D) and Republicans (R) stand tall and firm.  They are the only ones who are willing to step up and claim the power to save us from all of our woes.

Scene 1 (The Debate floor):

The (D) tags the (R) and says "it's all your fault, your it".  Then the (R) tags the (D) back and says "no, it's all your fault, your it".  The (D) tags the (R) and says "your it, no tag backs".  The (R) tags the (D) and says "undo no tag backs, your it, double no tag backs".

Winners!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

BYU Honor Code

Here are some answers to questions I've seen about the recent dismissal of Brandon Davies, the starting center for the BYU Men's Basketball.

Q. Who turned Brandon in?
 
A. Brandon turned himself in.  Tom Holmoe (BYU Athletic Director) said, Davies came to him and coach Dave Rose seeking "direction and counsel ... There was a serious violation of which we were made aware. He used us as a resource."[1]

Q. What about forgiveness? Wouldn't the REAL Christian thing be to forgive Brandon Davies?

A. Added Holmoe: "The first thing we did was put our arms around (Davies). Our No. 1 thing then, now and in the future is going to be to look out for his best interests, to be able to make sure we can help him along the process of getting him back with the team and getting back on track to achieving all of his dreams." [1]

Q. Who would want to go to BYU with such strict standards?

A. According to US News, BYU (Provo) is the #1 most popular university, above Harvard and Stanford. [2]  What this means is that for students accepted to BYU, more go on to enroll than any other college.  The number of students that accept these standards is 46,383 students (if you count all BYU campuses: Provo-29,780, Idaho-14,100, Hawaii-2,500, since they all have the same honor code).  Last year over 4,000 students (38% of applicants) were denied admission (it's getting a lot harder to get into BYU).


Q. Why couldn't they just let him finish the season?  The basketball team was doing so good.

A. It's easy to get distracted from high standards by short term temptations.  Over the long term,  consistency pays off.  For example, BYU ranks #11 in schools "whose graduates were the top-rated by recruiters". [3]

Saturday, February 26, 2011

GDP and the Price of Crude Oil

I read that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) lags the price of crude oil.  When the price goes up, then GDP goes down.  I decided to look into this and produced the chart below of actual and predicted GDP as a function of time. Since the lag is about 6 months, the predictions extend 6 months into the future. Note that the prediction shows a significant drop in GDP by September 2011 (Which agrees with many analysts).

This is a Google Document, so I'll try and update as new data is available.



I scaled the Oil Prices to 2010 dollars using the CPI data. Then, I used the following simple formula:

GDP_Predicted(date) = a * OilPrice(date - lag) + b

I know that there are many other factors driving GDP, but there seems to be an apparent correlation here. Time will tell whether the predictions show any validity. I probably should have learned my lesson on trying to predict financial futures, since my Stock Predictions failed about 7 months ago (most likely due to Bernanke's QE2).

Data Sources
GDP www.bea.gov
Oil prices www.eia.doe.gov
CPI www.bls.gov

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dieting and Cutting the Deficit

Pres. Obama announced that he plans on cutting the deficit in half. [1]  Sounds like a step in the right direction, but consider this:

You had the perfect physique in High School, but every year you've put on a few pounds and the last two years you gained 20 pounds each year.  You now weigh an extra 200 lbs and your doctor and loved ones are pleading for you to lose weight.  You promise to cut your weight gain in half!  Notice the subtle insertion of the word "gain".  What this really means is that you will still gain 10 lbs next year.  Not exactly losing weight.

The deficit is like your annual weight gain and debt is like the total weight you need to lose.  For example, the Federal deficit for fiscal year 2009 was $1.4 trillion (million million) [2] while the debt is ten times that (about $14 trillion) [3. The Debt Clock].  Cutting the deficit in half still means the debt is growing.

I wonder how fat we'll get before we go on a real diet.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Super Bowl Interview

On Super Bowl Sunday, Bill O'Reilly (Fox News) interviewed President Obama, though I didn't find out about it till Monday.  Ironically, of the several random books downloaded onto my iPod, I finished listening to "Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama and started "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity" by Bill O'Reilly.  So what do I think about these guys?

Barack Obama
I agree with many of the ideas that Pres. Obama preaches about values, politics, faith and family.  However, I can't get over the fact that some of his actions don't match his words.  For example, his action of increasing the Federal debt by more ($3.7 trillion) in 2 years than our country accumulated in its first 225 years [1] is in direct conflict what he said in 2006:
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.” [2]
To be fair, the first 225 years don't include the last 10 years with the previous four presidents (Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan) increasing the debt from $1 trillion to over $10 trillion.  They really should have created surpluses during these decades of relative prosperity.  With a surplus, Pres. Obama would have been better equipped to handle the financial crisis (Pharaoh's dream of  7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine keeps coming to mind [3]).


Bill O'Reilly
I watch the O'Reilly factor on occasion so it was interesting to learn more about him.  I also find an inconsistency in what he says and what he does.  He made a very convincing case that he's a simple guy and the driving force behind him is righting wrongs and sticking up for the underdog.  His actions on his television show are not consistent with this.  It seems to me that it is VERY important to him to be right, and if a guest ever starts to win an argument, he talks over them and cuts them off.  He may look out for the underdog, but to Bill O'Reilly the number one underdog to stick up for is Bill O'Reilly.

While his behavior can be annoying, I can choose not to watch him.  Unfortunately I don't have a choice when it comes to the extra $3.7 trillion in federal debt.

The Interview
I think Bill and Barack did very well with the interview.  You have to respect the President while trying to hold him accountable, and Mr. O'Reilly did that as well as could be expected.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'd Rather Live in America

I've been following a story that has made the recent tragedy of a shooting spree in Arizona seem tolerable.  I would like to compare these two stories side-by-side
Gabrielle Giffords Salman Taseer
PositionA member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The governor of province of Punjab in Pakistan.
PoliticsA moderate/left-leaning politician A left-leaning politician
ControversyNone, really. She supported Obamacare but she is actually quite moderate: supports gun rights and stronger immigration laws.Defended a poor Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was condemned to death for blasphemy.  He also was outspoken against the anti-blasphemy law
AttackWas shot by Jared Loughner, a mentally disturbed young manWas shot and killed by Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who was part of Salman's security detail 
ReasonNo reason was given, but apparently Jared was unhappy with a letter Gabby wrote to him in 2007 regarding questions he had asked her at a public meetingMalik was more forthcoming with his reason: he didn't like Salman's opposition to the blasphemy law in Pakistan
ResponseJared was immediately arrested and is being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Additionally, his civil rights are being respected by being assigned a high profile defense attorney, Judy ClarkeMalik was arrested but his supporters blocked the attempts by the police to bring him before a judge.  They also threw rose petals on him [1].  He has been called a hero by religious groups [2].
Why I'd rather live in AmericaEven though there was some unwarranted finger pointing of blame for the attack, there was still universal condemnation of the attack. There was wide spread acceptance of the attack on Mr. Taseer.  The blasphemy laws are so oppressive that even questioning them is blasphemy.  There is little legal recourse since hearsay is sufficient to convict since the stated blasphemy cannot be presented in the charges or in court since doing so would be blasphemous.  

References

"Staring into the abyss: Pakistan's increasing radicalisation", The Economist, January 8th-14th, 2011
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrielle_Giffords

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union

A couple thoughts on President Obama's State of the Union Address tonight:

  • I liked the idea of having the Democrat and Republican members of Congress sit together.  I had heard some partisan comments before about "why didn't Democrats didn't suggest doing it when the Republicans were in the minority?", but I think it was a great gesture no matter who suggested it or how long it took them to think of it.  It was much better than watching half the room sit during a standing ovation.
  • I think that the election in November helped remind Congress and the President who they work for.  I sensed a much more civil tone from the President and Paul Ryan.  They must have read my post on civility
  • I was pleased to see more attention being focused on the economy.  Obama and Ryan must have seen the Economic Headlines that I posted.
  • I was impressed that in his Republican rebuttal, Paul Ryan acknowledged that both parties are responsible for our enormous federal deficit.  He must have read my post Civility, Debt and Partisanship.
  • I'm VERY glad that I'm just a blogger and I don't have the actual burden of trying to fix the problems we have.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Inciting Violence

Here's some content in the media that could be used to incite violence.

Palin's "Hit List"


The Global Warming/Climate Change "10/10" project


Update 1/21/2011
Bears/Packers Playoffs (Parody Video)


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Asian Envy

It all started in High School with the smart Asian kids.  My envy had a nasty flavor since I was in the top of my class and the Asian kids were competition.  Later my envy became healthier as I matured and enjoyed exchanging culture with my Asian friends in grad school: learning a little Chinese at lunch time and comparing our different worlds.  I still remember being told that the English words "Soup" and "Soap" sound identical (as well as "Shirts" and "Shorts").  Try saying them with an Asian accent - you'll see why.

My best friend at my first job was genetically 100% Asian, but really 33% Asian, 33% Hawaiian and 33% Californian.  He invited me to play in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament at his Asian Christian church.  It was the most civil basketball experience I have ever had.

Now my group at work is about one third Asian: my boss is Filipino and a new hire that I'm mentoring is Vietnamese. Even my Caucasian coworker's wife is Chinese. Two years ago our group climbed Mt. Whitney and I partnered with a Chinese coworker (hiking is a good bonding experience).  At the summit, we video taped ourselves talking to friends and family.  Mine was lame.  My friends was very heartfelt.

To top off the Asian influence in our lives, we currently have a Japanese student living with us.

What do I think of Asians?  They are disciplined, hard working, cohesive, fun and friendly.

So is there anything wrong with Asians?  Here's a couple of observations:

  • Our house guest has dual citizenship (U.S. and Japan) since his parents were living here when he was born.  Japan makes him decide when he is 21 which he will be.  I was asking him about naturalized citizens in Japan and basically there are none:  no Blacks,  no Latinos, no Europeans, no Russians, no Indians, and no other Asians (not even Central Asians).  Senator Jim Webb, in his book "A Time to Fight" talks about how wonderful the Japanese prison system is compared to the U.S., but if you have no immigration and no cultural conflicts, it's not surprising.
  • Recently there was a WSJ article explaining "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior".  It has received much attention (which I am also envious of).  If Amy Chua's thesis that Chinese Mothers are superior, then explain this:  Due to China's One Child Policy (limits couples to having one child), the ratio of male births to female births has increased drastically.   The result is that there will be millions of men with no prospects for marriage.  So what is happening to the girls?  Since the Chinese culture values sons more than daughters, many girls are eliminated by selective abortion, infanticide and abandonment (Our neighbors adopted one of these neglected Chinese girls).  Chinese mothers may be superior; if your not a girl or you can survive their murderous ways.
  • China owns all of our debt.  What this means is that the government has lots of wealth due to a trade surplus with the rest of the world, and instead of raising the living standard of their people (the average annual salary is about $7400) they keep the money, throw lavish parties and buy foreign debt.
I know that it would be wrong to call Asian cultures anti-immigration, greedy dictatorships full of baby-killing mothers.  That narrative doesn't fit with my personal experience.

New Look

I just finished creating a new look for my blog.  I've resisted doing this on the premise that simple is best, however I asked my son-in-law for constructive criticism.  He, of course, pointed out things to change, which happened to be things that I liked most.  I planned on ignoring his suggestions but I have since softened my stance.  It's funny how we don't like criticism (and consequently I think that we aren't vocal enough with our criticism; we're too afraid to offend even though we secretly may have strong opinions about how things are).

Wouldn't it be nice if we could get honest feedback from others and learn how to not be offended?

Here are the changes:
  1. Warmer colors to reflect my attempts to be less polarizing and more civil  (Also the previous black and white colors do not reflect reality - there seems to always be an exception to black and white rules).
  2. A picture of myself (I tried to cartoonize it to hide the bags under my eyes).
  3. A border of words around the title to reflect some of the themes of my postings.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tucson Shooting and the X-ocrats

What's an X-ocrat?  It's anyone person or organization whose utmost concern is obtaining or retaining power (being the ruler).  An X-ocrat is the person that turns a terrible tragedy (such as the shooting in Tucson that killed several people and injured Congresswoman Gifford) into an opportunity to play the blame game in hopes of grabbing more power for yourself [1][2][3].  This X-ocrat power struggle becomes a greater reality than any other real issues.  Americans long for the days after 9/11, when people were engaged emotionally and united in working to solve real problems.
The current X-ocrat's disconnect from reality is what keeps getting them voted out of power (Republicans lost the House in 2006 and the Senate and Presidency in 2008; the Democrats lost the House in 2010).    Note that X-ocrats are Democrats, Republicans, the Main Stream Media, unions, Wall Street.

Links Added Jan 13,2011:
WSJ, Postings of a Troubled Mind

Here is some interesting commentary from two comedians.  I guess poking fun at the X-ocrats helps them not to become blinded by the power struggle.  


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona Shootings Reaction
www.thedailyshow.com

Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Pundits Lay Blame for Senseless Arizona Attack
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>Video Archive