Friday, October 31, 2008

Will security trump freedom?

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!”

Samuel Adams (172-1803) American Patriot, Speech, State House of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia—August 1, 1776

Over the past few weeks, I have been very concerned by the blatant intrusions the government has made into our market. What started as an extra-constitutional "bail-out" of a flailing economy through extreme financial measures has mutated into nationalizing our banking system as well as several privately held companies. What I considered to be good men, have taken upon themselves powers that weren't granted through the constitution. My feelings about the leaders of this country have been tried.

What we are seeing happening right before our eyes is another example of how the American public can be manipulated into giving up certain rights as they seek security. Seven years ago, we suffered from an attack unlike anything our countrymen had ever witnessed. In the aftermath, many willingly argued to support the actions of our leaders as our freedoms were severely suppressed in the name of security. The likelihood that we will see a restoration of those freedoms diminishes with every passing year. My concerns addressed to my congressman and senators were dismissed with little or no consideration. At that time, most of the citizenry were on board with the changes to our world. Fear led them to believe it was necessary.

Benjamin Franklin wisely stated, "“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” (Respectfully Quoted, p. 201)

As we began our fight against an ambiguous enemy, these words echoed in my mind repeatedly. I worried then as I do now that we would not realize the truthfulness in this statement until it is too late.

As the markets began to collapse under the enormous pressures of the falling sub-prime catastrophe, our leaders acted again. I suggest they acted on a certain level of panic that they fostered through the media. I was heartened that I like many of my fellow countrymen were not accepting the fear mongering at face value. The initial "bailout" package was rejected summarily by the citizens of this great country. Mobilized by the significant burden this was going to place on our children and many generations to yet unborn, Americans rallied to protest this action. Whether some motivation might have emanated from the implications of nationalizing certain market sectors or businesses, I could not say. However, I was gratified that so many were moved to action in any case.

Much to my dismay, a second round of politicking was not thwarted. Both presidential candidates as well as the rest of the senate mostly signed on to the even more exorbitant bail-out package deemed a rescue plan. Those who would shy away from government interference in the financial markets embraced this 850 billion dollar monstrosity. Free-market gave way to the safe security of government intervention.

“If America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades... but Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free— Americans who have been lulled away into a false security.”

- Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) Quorum of Twelve Apostles, General Conference—April 1968

I'm starting to sound rather a bit like those conspiracy theorists and the paranoid militant living in the backwoods of rural America. The concern, however, is real. I am not driven by extreme motivations unless you consider embracing the constitution and freedom as radical.

About the time that George Washington gave his farewell to the Republic, a British professor, Alexander Fraser Tyler, wrote: "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist only until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse (defined as a liberal gift) out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship."

Addressing the Salt Lake Rotary Club on June 8, 1976, President Spencer W. Kimball declared, “The only way to keep our freedom is to work at it. Not some of us. All of us. Not some of the time, but all of the time.”

It is time to rally to a greater cause. We need to fight for our freedoms. Let others concern themselves with security. Security at the cost of freedom is not the kind of "safety" I seek.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Whoa! Who Was Pearl Hart?

Pearl Hart was the only woman known to have robbed a stagecoach. On May 29, 1899, Pearl and a man known as Joe Boot stopped the Globe, Arizona stagecoach, relieving its passengers of something like $400. Pearl, not wanting to leave her quarries penniless, decided to give each a dollar, just "enough to eat on". This robbery is said to be the last stagecoach robbery of the Wild West.

It was the get-away that failed. Joe Boot was convicted and sentenced to 35 years at the territorial prison in Yuma. Pearl was given a 5 year sentence. The newspapers named her the "Bandit Queen". After serving 2 years of her sentence, Pearl was paroled under heavy speculation she was pregnant when released.

What drove Pearl to such resorts? She was no model citizen but she was not living a life outside of the law either. She made a decision to step out of her normal bounds.

How many people mingle with society today that are only one or two steps away from breaking down to the stresses that surround them? How can our day-by-day decisions move us toward or away from some very bad choices? You don't just decide one day to go rob a bank, vandalize public property or cheat on a spouse. On the other hand, most people cannot just decide to go pay cash for a brand new car, house or other major purchase. We cannot just decide to practice medicine one day either. These things do not happen in a vacuum.

The little things we do or do not do establish the foundation for choices we are going to make in the future. Making the right decision on a small, seemingly insignificant problem today might be the foundation for great actions tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pericles - revisited

Last May, I touched briefly on Pericles in one of my posts. This Athenian leader played a significant role in Greek history. Indeed, so significant was his role the period during which he led Athens, roughly from 461 to 429 BC, is sometimes known as the "Age of Pericles", though the period thus denoted can include times as early as the Persian Wars, or as late as the next century.
"Remember, too, that if your country has the greatest name in all the world, it is because she never bent before disaster; because she has expended more life and effort in war than any other city, and has won for herself a power greater than any hitherto known, the memory of which will descend to the latest posterity." Pericles' Third Oration according to Thucydides
Pericles was ambitious if nothing else. In fact, I think his ambition was ultimately his undoing. We try to teach our children to have enough ambition as to provide a foundation for success. What is too much ambition? When have we gone too far in our efforts to push for success? Will our success be measured beyond our lifetime? The lifetimes of our children's children?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Into Teh World!

I'm a geek by many widely held standards. I enjoy using the computer almost as much as I enjoy getting outside and playing with the dogs or kids. Speaking of getting outside, I think I need to get some of the bicycles fixed. It's time for a family bike ride, me thinks. That was not, however, the point of this message.

I'm one of the members of a growing club - 11 million subscribers according to one of the latest reports. I play the game developed by Blizzard called the World of Warcraft. I'm not going to disclose how much time I've devoted to this pixel based, internet phenomenon of an alter-life. I've watched lives totally altered by this alternate reality. No, no altered for the better. Some of the players play so many hours a day they are left with nothing more than sleep and food require. They even eat only out of necessity. Baths seem to be optional. Even at my height of playing this game, I was never one to pass up good food and my need for a shower at least once every 24 hours.

I realize the pull to play this game can be rather intense. If your real life (that is what people in the game call the life outside the game), if your real life is not as fascinating or exciting as you think it should be you can live a fantasy in the game that is complete with accomplishments. Even minor accomplishments are met with an instant reward.

I do very little interaction with players in the game that I don't know outside the game. I prefer to maintain relationships with people I know, people with whom I've actually shaken hands. However, the game provides an alternate reality where a community has thrived. Groups of players combine themselves into guilds and the guilds work toward common in-game goals. The goals of most guilds take priority over any personal goals the members might have. These goals exceed the importance of even those goals the members might have in their real life. Nothing is more important to the guild than the advancement of the guild. The most exclusive content in the game can only be attained when you have 25 players working in concert for hours of uninterrupted gaming. Technology provides for voice communication, which improves a guild's ability to work together. These guys are serious about the game.

If you think the draw to this game will end, you're wrong. Just at the point a couple guilds might "beat" the hardest and newest element of the game, Blizzard adds more content. Like a drug dealer, Blizzard parses new content out fast enough to keep the most fanatical players content but slow enough to keep the content flowing at a standard pace. As long as Blizzard can keep the millions of subscribers paying a monthly subscription, this cycle will continue.

Now, I've admitted I enjoy the game. At one point, I was playing a while just about every day. I've cut way back and play once a week - sometimes as infrequent as once every other week. I don't get nearly as much accomplished in the game but it provides for a more balanced life. Anyway, last week Blizzard released an update in their preparation for the next big expansion, which is going to be released in November. As part of this expansion, new pets have come to be available to the Hunter. I've one Hunter and was able to tame two of these new pets.

Although one of these guys took little effort beyond going to the cave where he resides, the other took a lot of planning and the help of a friend. Taming the Lava Core Hound found in Molten Core was made easier by having a pretty well geared Druid healer, the rocket boots xtreme and a parachute cloak. The Druid stealthed to the location of the Core Hound and waited for me to rocket/parachute cloak past the first group of monsters, where I feigned death until it was safe to move into position. I sent my temporary pet in after the Core Hound with a misdirect and healed the pet for as long as I could before he died. Upon the pet's death, I dismissed him which allowed me to start taming the Core Hound without worrying about the healing I was getting pulling the Core Hound's attention to the druid. We accomplished the taming with just the two of us.

I have had more than a few people in-game ask me about the Lava Core Hound as it is truly a rare sight due to the difficulty of taming this beast. Yeah, I'm a geek.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights?

By Orson Scott Card

Editor's note: Orson Scott Card is a Democrat and a newspaper columnist, and in this opinion piece he takes on both while lamenting the current state of journalism.

An open letter to the local daily paper — almost every local daily paper in America:

I remember reading All the President's Men and thinking: That's journalism. You do what it takes to get the truth and you lay it before the public, because the public has a right to know.

This housing crisis didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.

It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were authorized to approve risky loans.

What is a risky loan? It's a loan that the recipient is likely not to be able to repay.

The goal of this rule change was to help the poor — which especially would help members of minority groups. But how does it help these people to give them a loan that they can't repay? They get into a house, yes, but when they can't make the payments, they lose the house — along with their credit rating.

They end up worse off than before.

This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.

Furthermore, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were making political contributions to the very members of Congress who were allowing them to make irresponsible loans. (Though why quasi-federal agencies were allowed to do so baffles me. It's as if the Pentagon were allowed to contribute to the political campaigns of Congressmen who support increasing their budget.)

Isn't there a story here? Doesn't journalism require that you who produce our daily paper tell the truth about who brought us to a position where the only way to keep confidence in our economy was a $700 billion bailout? Aren't you supposed to follow the money and see which politicians were benefiting personally from the deregulation of mortgage lending?

I have no doubt that if these facts had pointed to the Republican Party or to John McCain as the guilty parties, you would be treating it as a vast scandal. "Housing-gate," no doubt. Or "Fannie-gate."

Instead, it was Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, both Democrats, who denied that there were any problems, who refused Bush administration requests to set up a regulatory agency to watch over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and who were still pushing for these agencies to go even further in promoting sub-prime mortgage loans almost up to the minute they failed.

As Thomas Sowell points out in a essay entitled "Do Facts Matter?" (] ): "Alan Greenspan warned them four years ago. So did the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President. So did Bush's Secretary of the Treasury."

These are facts. This financial crisis was completely preventable. The party that blocked any attempt to prevent it was ... the Democratic Party. The party that tried to prevent it was ... the Republican Party.

Yet when Nancy Pelosi accused the Bush administration and Republican deregulation of causing the crisis, you in the press did not hold her to account for her lie. Instead, you criticized Republicans who took offense at this lie and refused to vote for the bailout!

What? It's not the liar, but the victims of the lie who are to blame?

Now let's follow the money ... right to the presidential candidate who is the number-two recipient of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae.

And after Freddie Raines, the CEO of Fannie Mae who made $90 million while running it into the ground, was fired for his incompetence, one presidential candidate's campaign actually consulted him for advice on housing.

If that presidential candidate had been John McCain, you would have called it a major scandal and we would be getting stories in your paper every day about how incompetent and corrupt he was.

But instead, that candidate was Barack Obama, and so you have buried this story, and when the McCain campaign dared to call Raines an "adviser" to the Obama campaign — because that campaign had sought his advice — you actually let Obama's people get away with accusing McCain of lying, merely because Raines wasn't listed as an official adviser to the Obama campaign.

You would never tolerate such weasely nit-picking from a Republican.

If you who produce our local daily paper actually had any principles, you would be pounding this story, because the prosperity of all Americans was put at risk by the foolish, short-sighted, politically selfish, and possibly corrupt actions of leading Democrats, including Obama.

If you who produce our local daily paper had any personal honor, you would find it unbearable to let the American people believe that somehow Republicans were to blame for this crisis.

There are precedents. Even though President Bush and his administration never said that Iraq sponsored or was linked to 9/11, you could not stand the fact that Americans had that misapprehension — so you pounded us with the fact that there was no such link. (Along the way, you created the false impression that Bush had lied to them and said that there was a connection.)

If you had any principles, then surely right now, when the American people are set to blame President Bush and John McCain for a crisis they tried to prevent, and are actually shifting to approve of Barack Obama because of a crisis he helped cause, you would be laboring at least as hard to correct that false impression.

Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth. That's what you claim you do, when you accept people's money to buy or subscribe to your paper.

But right now, you are consenting to or actively promoting a big fat lie — that the housing crisis should somehow be blamed on Bush, McCain, and the Republicans. You have trained the American people to blame everything bad — even bad weather — on Bush, and they are responding as you have taught them to.

If you had any personal honor, each reporter and editor would be insisting on telling the truth — even if it hurts the election chances of your favorite candidate.

Because that's what honorable people do. Honest people tell the truth even when they don't like the probable consequences. That's what honesty means . That's how trust is earned.

Barack Obama is just another politician, and not a very wise one. He has revealed his ignorance and naivete time after time — and you have swept it under the rug, treated it as nothing.

Meanwhile, you have participated in the borking of Sarah Palin, reporting savage attacks on her for the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter — while you ignored the story of John Edwards's own adultery for many months.

So I ask you now: Do you have any standards at all? Do you even know what honesty means?

Is getting people to vote for Barack Obama so important that you will throw away everything that journalism is supposed to stand for?

You might want to remember the way the National Organization of Women threw away their integrity by supporting Bill Clinton despite his well-known pattern of sexual exploitation of powerless women. Who listens to NOW anymore? We know they stand for nothing; they have no principles.

That's where you are right now.

It's not too late. You know that if the situation were reversed, and the truth would damage McCain and help Obama, you would be moving heaven and earth to get the true story out there.

If you want to redeem your honor, you will swallow hard and make a list of all the stories you would print if it were McCain who had been getting money from Fannie Mae, McCain whose campaign had consulted with its discredited former CEO, McCain who had voted against tightening its lending practices.

Then you will print them, even though every one of those true stories will point the finger of blame at the reckless Democratic Party, which put our nation's prosperity at risk so they could feel good about helping the poor, and lay a fair share of the blame at Obama's door.

You will also tell the truth about John McCain: that he tried, as a Senator, to do what it took to prevent this crisis. You will tell the truth about President Bush: that his administration tried more than once to get Congress to regulate lending in a responsible way.

This was a Congress-caused crisis, beginning during the Clinton administration, with Democrats leading the way into the crisis and blocking every effort to get out of it in a timely fashion.

If you at our local daily newspaper continue to let Americans believe — and vote as if — President Bush and the Republicans caused the crisis, then you are joining in that lie.

If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats — including Barack Obama — and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans — then you are not journalists by any standard.

You're just the public relations machine of the Democratic Party, and it's time you were all fired and real journalists brought in, so that we can actually have a news paper in our city.

This article first appeared in The Rhinoceros Times of Greensboro, North Carolina

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obedience in Spite of Our Trials

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “We will [not] always be rescued from proximate problems, but we will be rescued from everlasting death! Meanwhile, ultimate hope makes it possible to say the same three words used centuries ago by three valiant men. They knew God could rescue them from the fiery furnace if He chose. ‘But if not,’ they said, nevertheless, they would still serve Him!” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 45; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 35).

What can the response of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego teach us about obeying the Lord’s commandments? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to obey the Lord whether he protected them or not. Our obedience should not be conditioned on whether or not the Lord gives us an expected blessing at an expected time in return. This aspect of the gospel is not one many will relate often. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true if you're alert during any testimony meeting. Almost everyone has a story, an experience from their life that supports their testimony of one or another principle.

My oldest daughter refused to bare her testimony because she "does not have a story to tell." Some how she felt that a testimony was made up of a story. Yes, our testimony is built on experiences but these are not always those that can easily be put into a story of blessings through obedience to certain gospel principles.

We can learn something else from the ovenproof trio. It was in the depths of their trials that they met their Savior. When the guards seized them, intervention did not come. As they approached the fiery furnace, the flames were not inexplicably put out. It was not until they were cast into the furnace that the Lord interceded on their behalf. We should not expect anything more in our lives.

As we're living our lives, trying our best to obey, how can we keep strong even when evidence of any benefit is vague? Obedience in spite of our trials. How can we maintain strength in the gospel when all seems to be combining against us?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Support the Troops - A Challenge

I've wondered at what I see as I drive to work every day. I see the yellow ribbons proclaiming support for the troops. I wonder if the support is more than the do-nothing-more-than-purchase-a-magnet-and-display-it effort. This is better than actively denouncing their actions in the two wars we are currently fighting. How much better, though? A bumper sticker or Tee-Shirt may not be enough. There is so much we could be doing to actually support these forces who are putting so much on the line for us.

Really, we have options available to us if we just seek out the opportunities.

The following Military Hospitals are known to have been treating wounded Troops from various battle zones. They are in need of: phone cards, disposable cameras, magazines, music and video CD's, tapes and DVD's, individually wrapped snacks, candy, microwave popcorn, bottled water, writing instruments, xBox games (new or used) paper and envelopes, etc. Lansstuhl expecially needs basic clothing since they are the initial staging point for wounded out of Iraq. Send items to:

Naval Medical Center, San Diego
ATTN: Marine Liaison Office
34800 Bob Wilson Drive
San Diego, CA 92134-5000

Walter Reed Medical Family Assistance Center (MEDFAC)
6900 Georgia Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001
(202) 782-2071 or toll free 1-866-546-1310,
BLDG. 2, Third Floor, Room 3E01.

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center
Attn: MCEUL-CH/Chaplains Office
CMR 402
APO AE 09180

Brooks Army Medical Center
ATTN: Judeth Markelz, Army Community Services
2010 Stanley Road, STE 95,
Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234-5095

National Naval Medical Center
ATTN: SSGT Jeremiah M. Holland, USMC
Marine Liaison
8901 Wisconsin Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20889

Tripler Army Medical Center PAO
1 Jarrett White Road
Honolulu, HI 96859

Friday, October 24, 2008

Honor and Remember

December 29, 2005, George A. Lutz II was serving his country as part of a patrol inside Fallujah, Iraq. Corporal Lutz fell victim to a sniper’s bullet. In the months that followed Corporal Lutz’s funeral, his father visited with other families who had lost loved ones in the Iraq war. He realized two things. These families were only the most recent additions to a group that originated with the American Revolution, when the first soldiers died for our freedoms. The families of the fallen soldiers want this supreme sacrifice to be remembered and to know it was not made in vain.

On Monday, May 26, 2008, Representative Thelma Drake attended the unveiling ceremony for the Honor and Remember Flag as a special guest. George Lutz, the flag’s originator was also present. This flag combines the stars used by the military to designate service, an eternal flame and a folded American flag in its design. This flag is intended to fill a long absent universally recognized symbol that acknowledges the American servicemen and servicewomen who never made it home.

I am interested in supporting the cause established by Honor and Remember, Inc. The mission of Honor and Remember, Inc. is to create, establish and promote a nationally recognized flag that would fly continuously as a visible reminder to all Americans of the lives lost in defense of our national freedoms. All Military lives lost not only in action but also in service, from our nation's inception. For over 200 years there has never been an official national symbol that recognizes in gratitude and respect the ultimate sacrifice made by members of the United States military in service to our nation. The Honor and Remember Flag was created for that purpose.

I would encourage everyone to sign the petition at, which is a petition to establish a National Remembrance Flag. Additionally, take a moment to contact your Representative in Congress and express your support for the current Congressional Bill H.R. 7111. The congressional website provides a very nice form to help you contact your representative (

Although I tend to consider the American flag as an all purpose patriotic device, I also feel strongly that this is a good cause. This would not diminish the strength of our flag but to the contrary it would complement it very nicely. Please help me support the families of those who have fallen serving and protecting our freedoms.

Stagflation, n. stag·fla·tion (stāg-flā'shən)

Blend of stagnation and inflation.
  1. Sluggish economic growth coupled with a high rate of inflation and unemployment.
  2. 1965, apparently coined by U.K. Conservative party finance minister Iain Macleod, from stag(nation) + (in)flation.
  3. An economic phenomenon of the late 1960s and 1970s characterized by sluggish economic growth and high inflation.
The causes of stagflation in the 1970s seem to be based on the severe increase in fuel prices compounded by the excessively stimulative monetary policies of central banks.

Does this sound familiar? Letting past experiences provide insight for future events is a smart move. If we do not draw from history's lessons, we're doomed to repeat past failures.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

UFOs? Extra-Terrestrials Visiting the Earth?

Alitalia pilot Achille Zaghetti thought it was a missile. Mr Zaghetti was at the helm of a jet from Milan to London's Heathrow Airport on the evening of April 21, 1991, when a flying object streaked across his field of vision.

"At once I said, 'look out, look out,' to my co-pilot, who looked out and saw what I had seen," Zaghetti wrote in his report. "As soon as the object crossed us I asked to the ACC (area control center) operator if he saw something on his screen and he answered 'I see an unknown target 10 nautical miles behind you.' "

(USA Today reports "U.K. releases UFO files, dispels some mysteries")
Does the unexplained existence of unidentified flying objects support arguments many have made about intelligent, extra-terrestrial beings visiting our planet?

Dr. Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut who traveled to the moon on Apollo 14 and who became the sixth man to walk on the moon, suggested during a radio interview NASA personnel who had contact with extra-terrestrial aliens described them as "little people who look strange to us." He contends that real life extra-terrestrials are similar to the traditional image of a small frame, large eyes and head. Dr. Mitchell is a strong proponent for the existence of extra-terrestrial life.

Dr. Mitchell explained, "It's been well covered up by all our governments for the last 60 years or so, but slowly it's leaked out and some of us have been privileged to have been briefed on some of it."

In a statement, a spokesman said: "NASA does not track UFOs. NASA is not involved in any sort of cover up about alien life on this planet or anywhere in the universe.

"Dr Mitchell is a great American, but we do not share his opinions on this issue"

I'd thought the UFO craze had passed but it seems to be lurking in the shadows ready to come fully alive. UFO enthusiasts are jumping on this like ravaging dogs. Is my skepticism blinding me of very exciting news?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Truth Rears Its Ugly Head

Barrack Obama told Joe the Plumber that he feels "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Rep. Frank exclaimed on national television, "I think at this point, there needs to be an immediate increase in spending, and I think this is a time when deficit fear has to take a second, uh, a second seat. I do think this is the time for a very important kind of dose of [unintelligible]. Yes, I think later on, there should be tax increases. Speaking personally, I think there are a lot of rich people out there who we can tax at a point down the road to recover some of this money." (CNBC's "Closing Bell," 10/20/08)

Spread the wealth, immediate increase in spending, increase taxes. What?

President Clinton campaigned on lowering the taxes for the middle class but when it came time to make good on the promises, there weren't any tax cuts. At least the legislature and White House worked together in the mid-90s to provide a path that led out of the deficit spending model. Those days are long gone, aren't they.

Based on polling data, it seems we're well on our way to provide the perfect tri-fecta. President Barack Obama, Senators Harry Reid and Chris Dodd and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank have our backs! Congressman Frank has let their plan leak out to us. These guys have our backs alright. At knife point.

Am I going down a wrong path here?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Speaking of Bailouts

The French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote the Little Prince, which was published as Le Petit Prince in 1943. In the story, the king claims he is powerful enough to order the sun to rise and set. He could, however, only exercise this power at certain times of the day.

Obsession with control may only be the illusion of control.

You can “plan” things to happen. No matter how grand you scheme, no matter how intricate your plans, you may still not accomplish anything beyond what would have happened in any case. Believe it or not, I am still obsessing over the bailout legislation.

Congress worked hard to pass this bailout legislation, a large-scale bailout of Wall Street and a few lucky bankers. Congress, the President and the Commerce Secretary justified this legislation, which was obviously rammed down Main Street’s collective throat. They justified this action because the credit system was seizing up. The banks were not trusting each other. Inter-bank lending was grinding to a halt.

Certain parties wanted to control the market, shape the economy, and if possible avoid the Darwinian consequences that would normally befall those who made the bad decisions. I have to wonder if this is going to work. Instead of favoring production and savings, our economy moved toward a consumption model. We watched as housing prices climbed higher and higher, politicians and financial wizards called this wealth creation. Without reason to climb, the foundation has dropped out and prices have fallen.

Gravity works in the financial markets just like it works in our lives. What goes up must come down unless a greater force continues to make it do otherwise. Can the bailout overcome this gravity? Will the inertia of the bailout overcome the gravitational pull of the financial markets, maintaining an orbit outside that force?

I don’t know nearly as much as many in the financial world but I am having a hard time believing the government can control these forces without making significant changes in the system. Is control worth these changes?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weaknesses: Turning unhealthy desires to good

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
~ Ether 12:27


All my actions are ultimately driven by something far more base, elementary. Even my grandest and most altruistic efforts come from some basic desire. Our proclivities, our desires are all blessings. Right? Even the destructive appetites?

We are told our weaknesses will make us strong. It is not through our own efforts, however, that we gain this strength. It is only through our petitions to our Savior and through our faith that our weaknesses become our strengths.

When I consider some of the more damaging passions that embroil my soul, I am left wondering what good could come of this!! What am I left to consider when my passions are so strongly contrary to the things of God?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Insatiable Hunger

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."
~ Charles M. Schulz

I sit looking at this picture of scrumptious and decadent treats and I realize something about appetite, desires, needs and wants. The past few days, I have been hungry. I've eaten though I haven't indulged in the frivolous
except maybe for that bowl of ice cream before climbing into bed last night. I'm hungry. I have not satiated the hunger nor have I found a way to put this behind me.

I wonder how unusual this is. How many others are there that experience this kind of thing?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Svithing, n.

blend of seven and tithe
  1. A Sunday blog post of a religious nature.
  2. Any post on a religious (usu. [Latter-Day Saint]) theme appearing on a personal blog whose subject matter is generally secular.

svithe, v.

  1. To write or post a svithe.

-svithe, suffix

  1. Combines with a proper name. Indicates a svithe by that person.

I have come across terminology for something I hadn't consciously put into practice but that has been a pattern for how I have gone about my blogging. I happened across this new expression as I followed Th.'s link to his blogs. One of these blogs is The Weekly Svithe. I was impressed.

My original intent when I created this blog was just to have a place to share my thoughts and express my feelings. I hoped as well that others would read my posts and respond and maybe even have conversations. I did not intend to have any central theme beyond that. It is obvious at the random nature of the posts that I have continued along those lines off and on over the past few years.

As it turns out, I have a tendency to post on gospel as well as other topics that are meaningful to me at the time I post. I am not totally certain what the ratio is; however, the concept of svithing impressed me. Traditionally, my blogging efforts have not been carried out on the Sabbath since those days are generally focused on other things. I may start posting on Sundays in a sort of homage to the Svithe.

In any case, I like the idea. There will be a few more Necrosvithes down the road. This I am certain. Do you think the Svithe is a good idea? Let me know, please.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Something for Nothing – the Give-me Syndrome

The easy life. People rarely perform to their true potential when they subscribe to any form of the principle that purports an entitlement that exceeds effort: Something for Nothing.

Simply: whenever people accept the “something for nothing” concept as their guiding principle, their performance will suffer – they will not meet their potential.

Frankly, parents are to blame. The something-for-nothing mindset gains a foothold at infancy. Crying babies expect and generally receive attention. When people mature, this is a principle that must be abandoned – it sometimes takes the rest of mortality to let go of this strong sense of entitlement. Instead of moving away from it, many embrace their sense of entitlement with greater and greater dedication. Eventually, the infant is an old man living on social security and medicare. It is the politician responding to his incessant and earsplitting cries.

The greatest enabler of the something-for-nothing mindset is the government. Politicians replace complacent parents. The entitled realize the louder they call for handouts, the more readily the politician will give them out. The entitled do not ever realize that something-for-nothing does not really exist. Someone always has to pay. The responsibility is forced upon someone else. Someone always picks up the tab.

Just as the infant must grow up and become free to act, eventually the adult should learn acting independently requires taking on responsibility for self.


If you could put the word “responsibility” into four letters – four letters everyone understands more fully – it would read “work”. Most people are predisposed to avoid work. Most people find responsibility debilitating and try to avoid it.

In order to remain the receiver of something for nothing, the entitled will learn to beg. They will learn to work the system. They will learn to manipulate others in anyway they can to avoid responsibility.


I listened to the stump speeches yesterday with a sincere sadness. Promises from both candidates suppose a certain amount of pandering to the something-for-nothing crowd. Appealing to the basest of human traits, neither candidate has trumpeted a need for personal responsibility as the way to help the economy emerge from its sad and fallen state. Corporations and their purveyors hold their hands out for more while the taxpayers, too, seek “relief” in the form of a something-for-nothing gift.

The candidates make promises on the backs of generations yet unborn. People who earn wages in the lower 40% of the nation do not pay income taxes. Certain proposed policies will grant these people a something-for-nothing handout. Although they will not pay taxes, they will be the recipients of a “tax refund”. How can you be refunded that which was never paid in the first place?


Government policies, though made with the best of intentions, can be the subjugators of the people. If you make things too easy for the people, the people will not learn to do it alone, on their own. The policies of government should be about making people stronger and able to live independently and responsibly.

Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac were established in a good faith effort to provide housing to those who could not afford housing otherwise. The unintended consequences of these good intentions have come to fruition. Wall Street took this concept another step forward by seeking large profits from a shaky foundation of mortgage securities that were founded on the insecure loans, established a scheme hidden by smoke and mirrors creating many short term fortunes.

The mindset of something-for-nothing fueled the concept that the value of the home people inhabited and the loan used to purchase it were somehow tied together. Since home values dropped, a certain number of the loan recipients found it difficult to continue paying their payments. The dominoes began to fall.


Now, since the people feel entitled and the government supports that entitlement, blame is being thrown about, fingers are pointing and the financial markets are feeling the crunch. Some suggest we’re on the verge of another great depression. Serious questions about how solid the foundation of our economic system really is have surfaced.

When John McCain proclaimed the fundamentals of our economy are sound, the media and the more liberal politicians had a field day. Isn’t “the fundamentals” of our economy capitalism? Isn’t “the fundamentals” of our economy still as valid today as they were 200 years ago? Seriously, it isn’t the fundamentals of our economy that are leaving us wanting. It isn’t the fundamentals of our economy that are leading us to the brink of financial disaster.

The financial disaster can be traced to a lack of personal responsibility. The homeowner who stops paying his mortgage, the mortgage broker generating “creative mortgages”, the Wall Street executive establishing securities that aren’t secure. These are the foundation of the problems Wall Street faces. These are the foundation – the fissure ridden foundation of our current financial crisis.


Yep, once people realize there is no such thing as something for nothing – once a majority understands this principle, things will improve.

So, here is a list of rules that will help protect you from something for nothing.
• There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
• There is no tooth fairy.
• There is no Santa Claus.
• There is no cheap secret formula that works.
• The government is not here to help you.

Essentially, we all need to grow up and realize that anything worth having is worth the work. Responsibility breeds happiness. The pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in the constitution but happiness is not. Happiness cannot be endowed or gifted but is only going to be available to those who are willing to work and accept responsibility.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Can we afford this tax policy?

Senator John McCain has proposed significant changes to the tax systems that seem to give breaks to just about all classes, including individuals and corporations. His tax plan seems to leave one problem looming – we just added $700 billion to the deficit. How can we continue to mortgage the future of our children and refuse to pay the price?

I am not arguing that we raise taxes. I think it is important that we keep the government out of our collective pocket book. However, there are programs and entitlements to which the government has sealed our fate. These programs cost money, lots of money. Most of the budget is decided long before the President has anything to add. Most of the budget was decided by men and women who are no longer part of the process many years ago. The bill for this part of the budget is there facing us square and challenging us to do more without the funding to do it. The only way to avoid these entitlements, programs and other policies set by previous administrations and congresses is to repeal them. It seems that even those policies that were passed under extreme scrutiny are even harder to repeal.

Anyway, I digress. Senator McCain and Governor Palin have suggested a few tax cuts through some very specific programs. Keeping the Bush tax cuts seems to be central to John McCain’s plans. I don’t remember those tax cuts helping me directly. I have a short memory of these things.

John McCain wants to cut corporate taxes. The United States currently taxes its corporations at a higher rate than just about every other government in the world. Doing business elsewhere is cheaper than it is here. I am aware of a few jobs we’ve lost here due to outsourcing to off shore companies. I have to wonder if the corporate taxes were lowered if these jobs could be saved. Conversely, the effect to the government’s revenue by reducing this tax is significant. Is enough made up in the creation of jobs to overcome this cut?

John McCain has a few proposals that would reduce or eliminate taxes on new equipment and on research and development. Capital expenditures help companies stay competitive. By keeping the technology and best practices up-to-date, organizations will be more profitable. Additionally, other companies who sell this technology will generate more income. Would the additional income at a lower tax rate improve actual revenue?

I don’t know if this policy is the right policy. Many people consider trickle down economics a failed policy. It seems, however, that when companies make more money they hire more people. When more people are working in higher paying jobs, the whole country benefits. Maybe the government needs to make it easier to keep the savings in the country and a better benefit to the citizens living here rather than just benefiting the stock market and foreigners.

Tax for Purposes of Fairness?

What is the real purpose of taxes? Revenue. The government works on this revenue. The sole purpose of taxation is to provide the means by which the government can operate.

The moderator at the 2008 Democratic primary debate in Philadelphia on April 16, 2008 addressed Barack Obama with the following statement:
"You favor an increase in the capital gains tax, saying, "I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28%." It's now 15%. That's almost a doubling if you went to 28%. Bill Clinton dropped the capital gains tax to 20%, then George Bush has taken it down to 15%. And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28%, the revenues went down."
Senator Barack Obama's response was rather surprising to me. Honestly, I didn't realize that a politician could be so brazen when it came to tax policy.
"What I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness."
Senator Barack Obama explained the foundation of his tax plan in a single sentance. Fairness. It isn't about revenue but about fairness. I thought the government taxed its citizens for the purpose of funding itself.

Fairness. Charity. Patriot. Helping others. Fairness.

I've always fancied the idea of becoming a philanthropist. It would be great to be living a life where my biggest concerns were how I could more fully meet the needs of those who could not get there on their own. I could spend my days researching and my evenings helping reach out to others of like mind. The collective good. There have always been people who have needed a little helping hand and others who have the means to help. I had thought it would be a blessing to be able to help those two groups get together. I have not acted on this impulse since my main concern has been focused on my family's need. What does this have to do with the Obama/Biden ticket? Well, it seems they too have a vision of helping the downtrodden, the needy.
Joe Biden suggested that they "want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people," (ABC's "Good Morning America.")
I worry because Senator Biden seems to be suggesting it is his right - or the government's right - to take money from one group of citizens and give it to another group of citizens. I think this is where my opinion diverges from the Obama/Biden ticket. My money does not belong to the government. Looking at the constitution, it is not the government's right to take the money and dispurse it to the needy (or any other special interest).

I think this point of view - tax for fairness - is particularly dangerous at a time when, according to the media and both the democratic and republican tickets, the economy is pretty shaky. How can taxing the people who generate jobs help them do that? How can raising the taxes on everyone who works - payroll taxes are a tax everyone pays - help the economy? Economic policy aside, does the government have the right to distribute taxes to special interest groups?

In all fairness, Senator Obama has claimed his increases will not affect the middle class - people making less than $75k/year. I'm not nearly as schooled in this as many, including Senator Obama. I don't see how the proposed increases will not affect everyone.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Faithful Intellectualism

Last week, Bill Maher’s Religulous hit limited release to 502 theaters in Los Angeles and New York. The Canadian Press said the movie "delivers a laugh-out loud attack on the most sacred of cows.” As I was driving home from work the other evening, I listened for a little while to Bill Maher as he spoke with Allen Combs about this movie. The common thread of their discussion was that people of faith were unenlightened, non-critical thinkers who were unable to reason with reality. Specific attacks on religion were distilled down to a focus on certain beliefs people hold that may or may not be true. Bill Maher was able to work into a the conversation the LDS belief in “protective underwear”.

I do not desire to indict the movie. I consider free speech to be sacred. This movie is full of Bill Maher’s opinion and he is free to express it. There are certainly many who align with the stance to which Mr. Maher holds. I do not begrudge them their beliefs or lack thereof.

I’ve to ask one thing. Is it possible to espouse certain religious beliefs while also holding to the tenets of real critical thinking? Does reason completely eliminate faith? Does intellectualism depose adherence to a confidence or reliance on deity?

Intellectualism at its strictest is a doctrine of the possibility of deriving knowledge from reason alone. It can stand for a general approach that emphasizes the importance of learning and logical thinking. Intellectualism emphasizes or places significant faith in the mind rather than the subjective experience, religious faith, emotion, and instinct.

Does this place faith at odds with intellectualism? Can one come to know or understand the truthfulness of the gospel through reason?
“And for this cause, that men might be made partakers of the glories which were to be revealed, the Lord sent forth the fullness of his gospel, his everlasting covenant, reasoning in plainness and simplicity” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:57)
It seems there is room for reason given that our Savior has expressed that we should “[reason] in plainness and simplicity.” Can your experience and faith benefit mine? To a point, I think it can but only in a limited sense. Reasoning with things spiritual must be addressed individually not as a group. My findings aren’t going to provide another critically thinking individual much basis on which he will grow. Since such growth requires faith and not necessarily reason.

Reasoning in faith. Alma suggested an experiment that suggests reason or a scientific path to understanding the spirituality. Deriving personal knowledge from reason based on work, study and speculation – critical thinking – can be attained in the realm of spirituality but it is very personal in nature and cannot be the foundation of another’s studies.

Alma counseled, “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:27-28)

Personal experiences, work, study and speculation are the basis for the intellectual to find the truth. Once the intellectual has grasped the truth further speculation can be founded on that truth. In the world of the spiritual, that speculation is called faith. No intellectual can suppose his faith is transferable. Indeed, faith is not transferable even among those who are more willing to accept such.

So, I ask again: Does reason decry faith?

Understatement of the Decade! Millinium?

President Bush addressed the nation this morning. He had a lot to say about what they've done to stabilize the market. He listed actions taken, policies changed and, of course, the bail out. You know what he said about the bail out?

President Bush said, "$700,000,000,000 is a significant amount of money."

I don't think most people truly understand what $700 billion dollars is. They have significant challenges understanding what a million dollars is, which is significantly less than a billion. How high can you count? I can count as high as I think I want to. When I get tired of counting, I stop. You know what. I've never counted to a million. I don't think many people have. You know why? It is a very high number. A billion is one thousand times greater than a million. The bail out is seven hundred thousand times a million. Would you consider saying that seven hundred thousand times a million is a significant amount to be an understatement?

Although he never actually said it on his PBS television show, the term "Billions and Billions of stars" was attributed to Carl Sagan. Estimates put the number of stars to be around one hundred billion. Yep, estimated number of stars: 10^11. Only one hundred billion. A number so outrageous people could not imagine what it meant.

A couple weeks ago Astronomical numbers were eclipsed by Economical numbers by a significant amount.

Monday, October 06, 2008

$2300 per person

Do you wish to make it a one time payment or would you prefer to spread it out over the course of a couple generations? Look, I am not arguing that the markets don't need help. Wall Street has put their hand out and the government is giving it all it wants. The one thing that life has proven to me over the past 20 years comes to this: the best interest of Wall Street does not always coincide with the best interests of Main Street. The prime example: A publicly traded firm lays off 12,000 employees. The stock prices jump. How is Main Street' best interest served in the loss of 12,000 jobs?

If this bailout did not spell out the first couple lines of Capitalism's obituary, I'm not certain it could have been much of anything else. There is already talk of a second bailout. Why? Because there is nothing to suggest this will work, we have to consider what our options are for a plan B.

I'm calling on congress to hold meetings, investigate, debate, hold hearings, instigate more investigations. This problem has not been resolved. We have a lot riding on this and we cannot wait to act.

$700,000,000,000. $2300 per capita. That is $2300 for every man, woman and child in this country.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Note To Congress

To the honorable Congressman Gary Miller,

Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill that would impose a significant burden on our great-grandchildren. I implore you to take action to block this bill in the House. The argument that this bill is better than not acting at all is spurious at best. I'm not asking that congress avoid the problems facing our nation today. I'm only suggesting that there are options which are better for the nation that do not carry with them a price tag of such enormous proportions. Look at the alternatives! Look at the alternatives! Please, look at the alternatives.

Why are we going through with this plan that many financial gurus suggest won't fix the problem? Why are we just going along with a bill that leads to a fundamental change in our financial system?

Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested an alternative to this $700 billion bailout plan. (1) suspending immediately mark to market provisions (the accounting practice of valuing a financial position in an investment at its current market price) in the hopes of stopping the downward spiral in asset values and eventually replacing it with a three year rolling average; (2) repealing immediately Sarbanes-Oxley, the 2002 accounting law Gingrich described as "an enormous drag on small business"; (3) setting the capital gains tax rate at zero "matching the Chinese and Singapore" (to encourage private capital to flood into the market picking up properties without the taxpayers being at risk); and (4) passing an "extraordinarily powerful" energy bill ("to return $500 billion a year to the American economy that are currently going overseas")

I beseech you to consider that there are alternatives that are a lot more than "doing nothing". These alternatives will not pose an extraordinary burden on generations yet unborn. Some of these alternatives will place the United States in a better strategic position with the rest of the world.

Kindest Regards,

Michael Gibson

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Financial Woes

Look, there are a lot of fingers being pointed about. Each side is blaming the others and trying to yell louder to make their arguments sound more convincing. I think there is a little truth to be found in what both sides are saying. I wonder if the basis for our current situation could be placed into a summary that is no more than a medium length paragraph.

Credit Crunch - Reuters reported today [source] that auto sales have plummeted due to the credit crunch. If this is truly due to the lack of available credit, then this would be the beginning of a problem as described by President Bush and others. Is the loss of easy credit a bad thing, though. Easy credit seems to have been part of what caused the problems the country faces today.
“U.S. industry sales leader General Motors Corp, which was more aggressive in discounting its vehicles, managed to keep its September sales decline to a relatively small 16 percent to take a larger share of a rapidly declining market.”
The drop in auto sales might be based more on other factors and still aggravated by problems with credit as well.

Inflation or deflation - I've heard comments about inflation problems and deflation problems. You cannot have both at the same time. It will certainly be one or the other. The problem with deflation is that so very little is known about how to deal with this problem. Inflation is bad enough but a lot has been documented on strategies for dealing with the financial markets and inflation. Inflation has been the main fiscal concern since the end of WWII. Deflation hasn't. If we're heading into problematic deflation will the Fed know what the best options are? Will the Fed do something that will make things worse? How about the legislature?

The Senate looks to be working on a very large bill that will provide the Treasury with the authority to purchase bad paper. It is a rescue package that will burden our Children's grandchildren. They've decided it is the only way to avoid a larger problem. Governments do not generally solve problems. We'll have to wait and see.

The cause of our current circumstance is described differently depending on to whom you listen. The common consensus among liberals is the under-regulation as advocated by the conservatives over the course of the last eight years. However, if you listen to the conservatives speak you'd understand that banks were regulated into offering higher risk loans by the policies of the liberals. Everyone saw it coming, yet nothing was accomplished to eliminate the peril we face today. Some commentators suggest there is enough blame to go around.

Why doesn't the people who feel so strongly that something must be done listen to people who have been successfully making money in the real estate market for advice. We've been lectured by Bernanke and Paulson on this single option. Where are the second opinions? Why are we being forced into this one way?

I just hope we are going to be facing another bailout in six months.

Foster's Law

“The only people who find what they are looking for in life are the fault finders.”

Fault ridden ourselves, we seek to find faults in others. When we are successful we are comforted for a short season. I have to wonder, though, if we redirected our fault finding efforts toward fixing our own problems how much better we'd be.