Wednesday, January 30, 2008


A thought on prayer

I've had the privilege of interacting with my sister-in-law recently about a talk she's going to give soon on the topic of prayer. She asked my wife & I if we'd take a look, and I realized two things. First, she'd done a pretty good job of looking into the matter. Second, I think that her sources--among the best and most prestigious in evangelicalism--seem to actually obscure what prayer is about by going into a lot of nitty gritty details and examples--more or less making a talk with one's father into a doctoral dissertation.

And of course, nobody, including some committee members, actually bothers to read such documents. To use that genre completely obscures what prayer is all about.

So here's my challenge to the "multitude" of my readers; meditate upon the first line of the Lord's Prayer; "Our Father, which art in Heaven." Contemplate what a privilege it is to have the Creator of the Universe in your family, and have a word with Him today.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lock box?

A consistent fiction indulged by politicians of many stripes is that if FICA taxes had somehow been put into a "lock box," that we then would face no problems funding Social Security. Let's take a look at that idea. Assume we place those FICA dollars in a box in West Virginia--the "Robert Byrd Social Security Lockbox"--and let's see what happens in 40 years.

Each bill would have lost most of its purchasing power due to inflation, right? Using FICA surpluses to fund current expenditures, and allowing those surpluses to earn interest, doesn't gut the program, but rather preserves it. Putting FICA surpluses in a lock box makes about as much sense as putting fresh fish in one.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The tax rebates explained

If you're like many people, the confusing nature of the recently passed tax rebates probably requires some explanation. Thankfully, I'm here to help.

What it does is take, say, $600 from the pockets of high income taxpayers and investors, and puts it into the hands of people who aren't paying a whole lot in taxes.

Why is this so important? Well, it should be obvious to you that the economy benefits far more when my family goes to, say, "Famous Dave's", than it does when a rich person takes his family to "Manny's" and the economy benefits far more when I get my 1997 pickup repaired than when a rich person buys his new Caddy in a year or two. It also goes without saying that the economy benefits immeasurably more when I fill out my family's Roth IRAs, than when some person more prosperous than I does the exact same thing with the exact same amount of money.

Make sense? If it does, you're either breaking the law, or you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal. Just make sure you're buying the domestic stuff, so the economy gets its boost.

Friday Hilarity!

Apparently, an English woman has been fined approximately 65,000 pounds for the crime of selling vegetables by the pound. The irony of charging "pounds sterling" (actually "pounds worthless fiat" today) for this crime apparently escaped the barristers and judges.

I'm looking forward to a new British currency called the "kilogram sterling", worth approximately (at current prices for silver) about 130 quid.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why light rail cannot work

I posted before on the reality that light rail doesn't work because, more or less, it has high profile and extremely high weight, and also is pretty much guaranteed to be empty 75% of the time. Now, here's why the darned things are "light" if they weigh a "mere" 50 tons, as do the Hiawatha Line carriages.

It all comes down to keeping the force vector between the wheels. More or less, if the center of mass, combined with lateral forces, don't point between the wheels, the carriage topples off the tracks. The designer therefore must cope with towing strains, centripetal acceleration, and the possibility that all the passengers go to one side of the carriage to see a pretty girl or a cow.

When the rail gauge is 4'8.5", and the width of the carriage is 12' or so, there is only one way to do this; make it far heavier than the likely load--generally 10x heavier. Of course, in doing so, you eliminate any efficiency advantages conferred by the low rolling resistance of steel on steel--it's lost in the energy needed to accelerate.

How to fix this? Use a wider gauge, and lower the center of mass, of course. When you do this, though, you more or less are required to build a road for your train.

And in that case, why not build a real road and use existing technologies like "buses" and "cars" on it? Vehicles that can climb, say, more than a 3% grade, don't need switches to change lanes, and don't need a roundhouse to be turned around?

Passenger rail was a great idea when the only efficient engine was the large steam engine. However, since guys like Benz, Diesel, Edison, Westinghouse, Tesla, and Ford came around, they've lost the market for a very good reason.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Music in the church

Although I am not an absolutist on any type of music in the church, I am struck by something that I've seen more or less whenever I see church music discussed.

Those who claim Christ are generally OK with modern praise choruses, and even defend their use quite vehemently. Those who are sporadic in their attendance tend to actually prefer the old hymns.

Of course, "tend to," not an absolute rule, but it's telling to me. If you want to reach those who are lost, you need to come to them with a message and a medium that they see as eternal and timeless--one conveyed by the grand old music of the church.

And it probably doesn't hurt, either, that history has winnowed out the less important hymns, and that people at most churches simply understand the older genre better than the new. Even so, I'd have to guess that "conveys a sense of permanence and awe" ranks highly as a reason that people may be reached more effectively with a traditional service, than with a contemporary one.

Need help with your resolutions?

You know; the ones to lose weight and exercise that you (and I) probably make every year, but fail to keep. Well, here's some additional incentive; doctors are finding, apparently, that type 2 (adult onset) diabetics who drop 10% or more of their weight are often cured of their diabetes. The study was about gastric banding, but others who managed to do this with diet were also cured.

Annoyed with the cost of medical care? Looks like a walk and a salad are your prescription.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Taking antidepressants?

Or any drug, for that matter? It turns out, according to the Wall Street Journal, that the FDA does not require the publication of inconclusive or negative clinical trials of prescription drugs.

Pardon me, but aren't we paying for the FDA's expenses, and aren't we the ones who suffer when ineffective drugs are approved because adverse statistical results are removed from the analysis?

As I'm told Benjamin Disraeli once said, "Lies, damned lies, and statistics." Shame on the FDA for proving this once again.

A final note; one drug maker that DOES release (at least in meta-analysis form) its negative and inconclusive results is Eli Lilly. You don't always have the choice of their products vs. others, but when you do, you have another reason to consider them.

Friday, January 18, 2008

If you doubt

....that sanity will be brought back to our country by the private sector, take a look at reports that President Bush, the Fed, and Congress are working on a $145 billion package to "stimulate" the economy.

Yes, our political critters are telling us that the best way to get out of a recession brought on by poor financial decisions is to keep spending--to make another poor financial decision.

Thankfully, the WSJ reveals that 2/3 of the previous "insanity pill" recipients used their "prebate" to pay off debts or invest, and that 2/3 of people today plan to as well. Why is it that people who have at least a bit of financial sense keep sending the same old "vote-buying" crowd to Washington.

Once again, liberty starts at home.

Also, today marks the birthday of a great man who is said to have integrated his church in a day when that was not popular. His name; Robert E. Lee. Again, can we be as loving as a Confederate General when it comes to race?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's about time

It appears that the Japanese whaling industry has finally figured out a way to deal with the "Sea Shepherd" fanatics. More or less, an "environmental" group called "Sea Shepherd" has been harassing them for years, throwing acid on decks, trying to disable and even sink ships, and so on to disrupt legal whaling.

Think what you may of whaling, but "Sea Shepherd" apparently thinks that whales' lives are more important than human lives, and thankfully they've started to defend themselves by taking two of the terrorists captive. They're howling in protest, of course, but hey--shouldn't they be grateful that the whalers didn't put a harpoon into their boat?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dislike gross economic inequality?

Blame the Fed, according to the Mises Institute. More or less, the path the Fed uses to "stimulate" the economy is to artificially inflate the value of securities held by the rich, and the inflation of the currency simultaneously makes the earnings of the middle class and poor worth less.

All too often, the "solution" is the problem.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Global Warming Update!

Snow in Baghdad, the first in decades.

I'm reminded of something my high school math teacher would say; "every teacher should be required to learn how to say three words: ' I don't know.'" I dare suggest that this ought to be a requirement for some other professions, most notably climatologists--especially those affiliated with the IPCC.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A tax plan only a New York lawyer could love

Appropriately, it comes from a New York lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and it's in some ways actually worse than what the Democrats are proposing in terms of tax hikes.

How so? Well, Giuliani would establish a two-tier tax system consisting of the old system in parallel with a new, ostensibly simplified system. The end result, of course, would be that you'd end up filling out both sets of tax forms in order to make sure you'd get the best deal, risking mixing up forms and getting an automatic tax audit and a delay in your refund.

In short, Giuliani would greatly complicate our tax system, perhaps costing taxpayers even more money in compliance costs than the Democrats want to collect in extra taxes.

I guess I should have expected as much from a guy who thinks disarming the law-abiding will reduce crime, but I'm still a bit stunned.

Michigan update

Well, the University of Michigan didn't take my "sage" advice on who to hire as their new football coach, but Mike Adams reports that they're doing a great job of making their English department into a laughingstock.

My glee at this has nothing to do with the fact that I was born a Buckeye and graduated from Michigan State. Nothing at all. Really. :^)

On a serious note, this is your tax dollars at work, especially if you live between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Sad.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The new hybrid Tahoe....

is, sad to say, a dog apart from its mileage. According to the Detnews review, going to the hybrid system costs you the top-end interior materials, a full ton in towing capacity, and you get to pay extra for it as well. All in all, I really don't see a huge advantage that this has over my 1997 Sierra pickup--unless you really like large car payments, of course.

Hint to the Big/Detroit 3; diesel. What about a 230hp six for pickups and (hint, hint) large station wagons that could get the pickup to 25mpg and the wagons to 30-35mpg? With a proper (six speed manual) transmission, it's eminently achievable.

Monday, January 07, 2008

My Endorsements for President

Perhaps you thought that this would be a well-thought out bit about the issues. Well, if that's it, you are going to be disappointed. Sorry.

For now, since there is precious little serious talk about issues and implementing policy among the candidates, I'm going to have to go back to a fallback position; which candidates are absorbing the most unfair abuse?

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama wins easily due to the "revelation" that he'd said or written something in kindergarten about wanting to be President. I'm sure that as time goes on, lewd jokes made in junior high school will take top billing in political ads.

On the GOP side, it's a close call between Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee. Paul gets attention for his positions on the Federal Reserve and gold standard, as well as his foreign policy and general unwillingness to get along in Washington. However, I think that the firestorm of abuse given to Mike Huckabee for his passing of a tax increase under court order puts "the Huckster" over the top in terms of unfair criticism.

Congratulations, Barack and Mike. You're serving your nation well as lightning rods for ill-informed abuse taken out of context. Honorable mention as well to Dr. Paul; it's not everyone who gets to live life as a living tackling dummy in the WWE.

Friday, January 04, 2008

What's at stake in the culture war

Lee Duigon points out that "sexual liberation" movements aren't just about what happens between the sheets, and with whom it might be, but rather often entail an attempt to weaken the state's main rivals in matters of worship and authority; the church and the family.

If you wonder why Ben and Faith (and Nightwriter & Reverend Mother, and I'd guess Ben's folks, too) are so dead serious about why it's so important that they court, and do not date. Courting necessarily brings friends, family, and even the church into the equation; dating not necessarily so. Courting also has the nice side effect of promoting personal and political liberty; dating...well, not so much.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hearty Congratulations

....are in order for the MOB's own Mall Diva and Ben "Hammerswing", who are now engaged to be married. In honor of this, here is a recipe for cooking beef the way Ben likes it.

Correction: Not yet engaged, but they are heartily courting. My mistake, and thanks Ben.

Remove from fridge, and add salt.

Wave over hot skillet. (don't do this twice, or it'll be overcooked)


I reckon that all the money they save on cooking costs will really help the family budget. And where did I get this recipe? Let's just say Ben's not the only one who appreciates meat in the French style in the MOB.

What hath Gutenberg Wrought?

Having just received my annual "gift" from the IRS, it occurred to me that had Gutenberg never invented the printing press, it would have been impossible to implement the tens of thousands of pages of the Internal Revenue Code. Can you imagine trying to hire enough scribes to even make the copies needed for Congress to vote on it?

(or the suicides among the scribes tasked with copying such horrific drivel?)

By the way, the candidates that are advocating a repeal of the Internal Revenue Code are Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and Fred Thompson, I believe.