Monday, June 30, 2008

Let Iraq Decide on Iraq

The war in Iraq has become lose-lose. If we stay, we continue to fight for something that only 32% of Americans support. If we leave, we may become responsible for the deaths of thousands of people we promised to protect. So how can America decide what’s best? It can't, but Iraq can. Allowing the people of Iraq to hold a referendum on whether they would like Coalition Forces to continue to stay in their country or leave could be the best answer. As much as this war affects American taxpayers and soldiers, it has a much greater impact on the people of Iraq. Here is a guy who supports the idea as a way to stay and here is a guy who supports the idea so we can leave.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Remaking the Old

I recently rented the remake of the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. For a movie that flew under the radar, I thought it had great suspense, without all that cheap jumpy stuff you see in most horror films today. The underlying message, on the other hand, I had some dispute with. Here is some dialogue:

Yorish: I say that civilization is an illusion, a game of pretend. What is real is the fact that we are still animals, driven by primal instincts. As a psychiatrist, you must know this to be true.
Carol: To be honest, ambassador, when someone starts talking to me about the truth, what I hear is what they're telling me about themselves more than what they're saying about the world.
Dr. Henryk Belicec: Quite right, well done, doctor.
Yorish: Perhaps this is true, perhaps being a Russian in this country is a kind of pathology. So what do you think, can you help me? Can you give me a pill? To make me see the world the way you Americans see the world. Can a pill help me understand Iraq, or Dafur, or even New Orleans?
Dr. Henryk Belicec: Don't be drawn in by his madness, doctor. He is Russian, he needs to argue like he needs to breathe.
Yorish: All I am saying is that civilization crumbles whenever we need it most. In the right situation, we are all capable of the most terrible crimes. To imagine a world where this was not so, where every crisis did not result in new atrocities, where every newspaper is not full of war and violence. Well, this is to imagine a world where human beings cease to be human.

Is it our selfishness, our intolerance, our malice what make us human? I surely hope not. Instead I would say it is these things that keep us from being fully human. Sin is not our default, it’s our fault. What separates human’s from other life are our abilities to reason, to imagine, and to sacrifice for others. I think now that the purpose of religion is not seek to restrict our human nature, but instead restore it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Connecting Good Intentions with Sound Economics

This is an example of the great things the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty has produced.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I used to have a gnat problem

Now I don't. Click the picture to enlarge, that is if you want to. A bowl of vinegar and a little dishsoap did the trick.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What My Brain Looks Like as a Word Cloud

Generated from all the text on this blog thanks to The bigger the word, the more frequently I used it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My Bucket List

I recently watched the movie The Bucket List, a fairly sappy story about two dying men who bond by doing all the things they always wanted to do before they "kick the bucket." It wasn't the movie, but instead the special features that inspired me to make my own list. Apparently, writer Justin Zackham made his own list several years ago, with making a major motion picture at the top. He then decided to make a movie about that very idea. Here are mine:

1.) Drive a motorcycle on the open road
2.) Play a song on the piano for Traci
3.) Have one thing published (article, cartoon, book, etc) -- Kind of
4.) Become a father of multiple children
5.) Shoot a real handgun 12-26-08
6.) Visibly see someone become a Christian
7.) Smoke and finish a good Cuban cigar
8.) Visit a country outside of North America
9.) Get into a just fist fight
10.) Earn the title of professional improviser

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where to Spend Political Resources

The Copenhagen Consensus Center has come up with a list of the top 30 ways to help the global poor. The most interesting point to me is #2: The Doha Trade Round, whose goal is to lower trade barriers around the world to allow for free and open trade. Not only is little political capital used to complete this goal, but it is regularly opposed by members of both major political parties. Whether in the name of energy independence, food independence, protection of American business, or global working standards, hindering free trade unambiguously hurts the impoverished of the world. In fact, more than 80% of this global benefit would go to the world's poorest countries (this is of course not to say that all countries would not have a net benefit from free trade).

Another thing to notice is that none of these encourage foreign aid to improve governments. I've talked before about the problems with governments giving money to other governments. Many of these can, and should, be done through the private sector.

For the full priority list go here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Interesting, but not for individual posts

I'm off to the beach for vacation, so I figured I'd leave you with enough content to cover my absence. Now don't read it all in one place.

Worlds Most Expensive Home: This soon to be 27 story skyscraper in downtown Mumbai will cost $2 billion (more than three times as expensive as any other home ever built). Maybe most surprising, is that by demand, no two floors will be alike, in either design or materials used. Do you have any seemingly irrational quirks about you? Well your not alone. Here are some humorous examples submitted to the site:
-I would stand in front of a digital clock and make an equation out of the time. For example 11:34 could be 1 x 1 + 3 = 4. If I couldn’t make an equation, I would wait for the numbers to change to a time that would work out in an equation.
-I try to step over the same number of cracks with each leg. I will change my route (slightly) to make the number come out right.
-I have to eat snack food, like chips or pretzels, in increments of two, one for each side of my mouth. Personalize and create your own search engine with your own logo. Just type in any name you want. Born in 1936, there are quite a few things younger than John McCain: Nylon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Velcro, Superman, the current nation of Israel, Polio Vaccine, Scientology, FM radio, AARP, both of Barack Obama's parents and 274,485,639 (or 91%) of Americans.

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is an organization comprised of over 30,000 members, mostly students, who support the right of concealed handgun license holders to carry concealed handguns on college campuses. I especially like that SCCC supports states' rights, by pushiong for change at the state level, rather than at the federal level. I would probably agree with most of their positions. It cannot be coincidence that most shootings happen in places where guns are banned, like high schools, colleges, banks, etc. (shooters know there will be little immediate opposition).

Thursday, June 05, 2008

High Hopes for High Gas Prices

“Painful though it is, this oil shock will eventually spur huge change. Beware the hunt for scapegoats”The Economist

This quote pretty much sums up what I think about high gas prices. With gas prices most likely reaching a $4.00 national average by June 30th and the general election getting underway the politicization of gasoline prices is only going to increase.

The only reason I can confidently say why prices are increasing is because extra people want the gas, but no extra people are producing it. The low prices of the 90’s are partially responsible for very little future investment in oil production. The other reason why we are lacking oil supplies is that governments, like our own, restrict who, where, and when companies can drill. So what are the solutions?

As a blanket statement, I can assure you that the gas tax holiday is not a good idea. There is a reason that Hillary could not find an Economist to support her idea. Even though Hillary is out of the race, McCain has also supported the idea. So I think it's worth explaining why removing the gas tax is a bad idea:

1.) By removing the gas tax, you will only encourage more driving, putting more pressure on the already limited supply, thereby increasing the real price of gas.
2.) This increase in oil purchasing will send the tax reduction money to the oil companies, not individuals.
3.) Gas prices are a fairly efficient tax to pay for road construction and maintenance. It semi-accurately charges customers based on their use. The more you drive, the more wear and tear you inflict on the roads.
4.) As usual, this is a tax reduction without a spending reduction. The money that once went to pay for the roads will be gone. Clinton’s proposal to make up for the missing money was to tax windfall profits of oil companies. I cannot think of anything worse to keep the industry from innovating.
5.) The United States already has one of the lowest gas taxes in the world.In fact, the only reason I can see to support this idea is that it may be the better of two evils. Bryan Caplan suggests that in the grand scheme of bad political policy, costing the tax payers 18 cents may not be a bad trade off. With talks of nationalizing the industry, which sounds scarily like something from Cesar Chavez's playbook, I’d be willing to pay 18 cents to keep the industry out of the hands of politicians. Hopefully it will never come to that.

There is even evidence in the private sector that the gas price crisis may not actually be. Chrysler is offering gas at $2.99 with all qualifying 2008 and 2009 models. It seems they are banking that people are blowing the costs of increased gas prices out of proportion.

So are we just supposed to take these prices lying down? Well, maybe. As for the short run, there aren’t any quick fixes. Asking Congress to fix the price at a certain level is like asking them to disconnect your thermostat. It is still going to be expensive. If you hold the price at lower than market, you will simply pay for it in less efficient ways, like waiting in line (or worse through political favors).

But there is good news. As prices change, people respond to them. Whether it ditching your tractor for a mule, switching to smart cars, or having American’s drive 11 billion miles less this March as compared to last March, the price system is working and people are responding. It’s even helping the environment. In fact, my hope is that this will lead to earth friendly innovation in how we produce our energy.

This is by no means and exhaustive review, as always, comments and critiques are always welcome. To end on a light note, here is Stephen Colbert’s solution:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Blogging About Blogs on my Blog

Hearing what I think not enough? Well here is your chance to hear what I think, about what other people think. I've recently added an RSS feed of interesting posts from other blogs, with my short comments. You can get them on the right sidebar under Bookmarks or read them on their own site (this address can be added as a feed). You can also read the archives by clicking read more.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Helpful Political Orientation Quiz has a great political quiz that gives you a good understanding of where you lie on the political spectrum and which candidates most match your views. This is probably the best online political quiz I’ve ever taken. It gives you detailed descriptions on each issue and is clearly less biased than the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, or as I like to call it the World’s Smallest Government Political Quiz because of its bias towards the Libertarian Party.

With very little surprise, my answers resulted in the label of "Hard-Core Libertarian." This means that my personal score was 70% (Liberals and libertarians agree in choosing the less-government for personal issues). My economic score was 84% (Conservatives and libertarians agree in choosing the less-government on economic issues).

The candidates I was closest to were Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party and former Republican Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party. John McCain is 12% closer to my views than Barack Obama. Interestingly, Ralph Nader and the Socialist Party candidate were closer than Obama as well.

As of now I’m not sure what this means for my vote in November. Clearly McCain is the closer of the two main stream candidates, but as I have mentioned before, I’m not too worried about wasting my vote. Also, when voting for the President, it is also important to put more focus on foreign policy, not the economy, since that is where the majority of their power lies.