Sunday, May 31, 2009

Liberals, Housing, and Hypocrisy

Thomas Sowell, in his book Economic Facts and Fallacies, says that the biggest economic fallacy about housing is that "affordable housing" requires government intervention in the housing market. He asserts that "It is precisely government intervention in housing markets which has made previously affordable housing unaffordable." The decades of the 1970s marked the beginning of severe government restrictions on the building of houses and apartments. Where those policies were most severe, the price of housing increased most severely. Sowell is all about studying historic patterns, then scrutinizing alternative explanations for the patterns.

Sowell explains that "neither supply nor demand by itself can explain prices, which are determined by the combined effects of the two." In fact, housing prices are often more affected by building restrictions than by increased demand. Fallacy: government intervention is the key to creating "affordable housing." Fact: "Such intervention has often been a key factor in making housing "unaffordable."

Sowell documents the "judicial erosion of property rights" that has taken place in America since the 1970s. The landmark case was the Petaluma case in 1975. In places like Boulder, Colorado and Monterrey, California existing residents were able to keep large blocks of land off limits to development. "The "open space" of some entails the overcrowding of others." I love this summary by Sowell, because I have seen that it is so true of Boulder, where we lived in a small condo when we were first married: "Such restrictions have been especially prevalant in overwhelmingly liberal upscale communities, where concerns are often expressed for the poor, for minorites, and for children - all of whom are among those most often forced out of such communities by high housing prices."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Out and about with camera in hand

Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg?

Thomas Sowell warns in his book Economic Facts and Fallacies that another urban fallacy is getting sequences wrong. After the 1960s, jobs formerly located in the inner cities moved to the suburbs. Did that cause social pathologies like high crime and violence and welfare dependency? No, Sowell shows how a scrutinization of facts reveals that those pathologies were already well developed in the 60s. Deficiencies in education, in attitudes, plus the riots of the 60s sealed the fate of inner city workers.

Then, when jobs moved to the suburbs, wage rates were set higher than the productivity employers could find in inner city workers. Sowell points out that "in an earlier era that was by no means free of racial discrimination, inner city ghettoes had lower rates of crime and violence, lower unemployment rates, and most children grew up in two parent households."

"If government is so good at solving all our problems, why do we have public sector unions?"

from a column by Mike Rosen in the May 29 Denver Post

Friday, May 29, 2009

Facts and Fallacies

Being a man who loves facts, Thomas Sowell demolishes many fallacies in his book Economic Facts and Fallacies. Writing in his plainspoken, clear style, he notes, "Voluntary economic transactions take place because both parties believe they are better off making these transactions than not making them. Then, government gets involved, in the interest of helping one side, causing fewer transactions and causing both original parties to become worse off in some respect."

The "chess-pieces fallacy" comes into play when social experimenters think they can arrange different human beings around just like a hand arranges different pieces on a chess board. Of course, the fallacy here is that, as Sowell writes, "human beings have their own individual preferences, plans, values and wills, all of which can conflict with and even thwart the goals of social experimenters."

The "open-ended fallacy" disregards the fundamental fact that "resources are inherently limited and have alternative uses." Obama wants healthcare reform now. What resources will be affected? If more money is spent on healthcare, will less money be spent on defense? More importantly, who is going to be asking these questions?

Sowell writes about many urban fallacies. One is that highly crowded cities are a sign of "overpopulation." In the United States, "less than five percent of the land area is developed, and forests alone cover six times as much land as all the cities and towns in the country put together." Now, though, because of the introduction and spread of subways, commuter trains, buses and automobiles, ordinary people can live much farther from an urban center today than the elite could in the past.

Our farm is one hour away from anything, or so it seems. But my Chevy Metro still gets over 50 miles per gallon, I can listen to talk radio while driving one hour to work, and the Colorado scenery aint too shabby, so why not live on a farm, where my wife can happily pursue her life-long dreams of raising children and animals?

Yellow and Blue Today

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Admit When You Are Wrong!

In his book Economic Facts and Fallacies Thomas Sowell makes the point that "it pays to look deeper into things that look good on the surface at the moment." He also notes that "undefined words have a special power in politics." "Fair" is one of those words. Sowell asks, "Who, after all, is in favor of unfairness?" Elected officials, leaders of movements and causes,intellectuals and academics cannot readily admit that some policy or program they advocated has turned out badly, because to make such an admission would risk their whole careers. However, the costs of not admitting to be wrong may be too high to ignore.

I left Iowa, the state where I lived for the first seventeen years of my life, to go to college in Texas. It was culture shock, just as it would have been if I had been raised in Texas and then gone off to college in Iowa. The most notable shock was racial discrimination. The "Colored Only" signs at drinking fountains, segregation in so many areas of life, and the beaten down servility I observed in people with dark brown skin, was something I had never seen.

My second job after graduating from college was in child welfare. During coffee breaks I would talk about racial injustices I was seeing firsthand or watching reported on the Huntley/Brinkley Report on television. My supervisors told me not to watch the "Frontly (for communist front)/Pinkley" Report. Then, JFK was assassinated in Dallas, and some Texans were actually proud that he was killed there. Of course, people like that were a tiny, but loud minority, but by 1964, when I went north to go to graduate school at the University of Kansas, I wanted to be a change agent.

I wanted people who had been downtrodden to hold their heads up high, not bow down to masters. Like Obama, I was influenced by the writings of Saul Alinsky, who was serious about changing power imbalances. I got involved as an organizer for the National Welfare Rights Organization. The idea for NWRO seemed like a good one: getting the poorest of the poor, without regard to race or gender, to stand up for themselves with dignity and self respect. The fallacy, though, was that in order to achieve dignity, they needed less welfare, not more. They needed to pursue a lifetime of accomplishment. They needed faith that one day they could actually be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Dr. Martin Luther King was the man who showed the way, not me.

Nominating a Racist

Is it now okay for a racist to be nominated to the United States Supreme Court? In a 2001 speech to the Berkeley school of law, the Obama nominee said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Meanwhile, the media credits Obama with a brilliant political move, which of course, it is. Obama is undoubtably an astute political strategist, as are his advisors. Some Republicans are afraid to oppose the racist Sotomayor for fear of further alienating Hispanic voters. So Obama smiles ear to ear, realizing that he has once again pulled off a brilliant political manuever. Unfortunately, what we need is a President of the United States who will do the right thing for our country; not a superb political strategist who knows how to defeat the other party, but has no qualms about appointing an out-and-out racist to the United States Supreme Court.

Out and about with camera in hand

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Seeking escape and recuperation in an absence of discipline"

Hayek's The Road to Serfdom meditates on the relation between individual liberty and government authority. Hayek believed that empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to utopia, but to fascism. Written in 1944, with updated prefaces in 1956, 1976, and a 50th anniversary edition which carried an introduction by Milton Friedman, it actually began as a memo to the London School of Economics written by Hayek in the early 1930s, disputing the then-popular claim that fascism represented the dying gasp of a failed capitalist system.

Hayek explained in the foreword to the 1956 American paperback edition that he wrote the book originally as a warning to the "socialist intelligencia of England." But in 1934 America under FDR established the National Planning Board, which "devoted a good deal of attention to the example of planning provided by these four countries: Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan." Ten years later we had of course learned to refer to these same countries as "totalitarian," had fought a long war with three of them, and were soon to start a "cold war" with the fourth.

Hayek showed how "fascism and communism are merely variants of the same totalitarianism which central control of all economic activity tends to produce." He thought "the century of socialism probably came to an end around 1948." Wrong! Still, he warned against complacency: "There is some danger that our impatience for quick results may lead us to choose instruments which, though perhaps more efficient for achieving the particular ends, are not compatible with the preservation of a free society."

Hayek also warned that "a conservative movement, by its very nature, is bound to be a defender of established privilege and to lean on the power of government for the protection of privilege." The essence of the classical liberal position, however, "is the denial of all privilege, if privilege is understood in its proper and original meaning of the state granting and protecting rights to some which are not available on equal terms to others."

Hayek writes that "the most important change which extensive government control produces is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people." He quotes from the results of a sociological survey conducted in 1945 in England: "The young people are obliged to stomach so much external and, as it seems to them, meaningless control, that they seek escape and recuperation in an absence of disciplne as complete as they can make it."

Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America with great foresight about the psychological effects we are now experiencing in our modern welfare state: "The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided. Such a power does not destroy, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people."

Do the people of America today have a "naive trust in the good intentions of the holders of totalitarian power?" If so, how can the grave dangers of totalitarianism be prevented?

The "Force Left" and the "Freedom Left"

Don't you hate it when the library notifies you that three books you really want to read are all available for pick-up on the same day? Which one do I read first? The books are A Conservative History of the American Left by Daniel Flynn, The Road To Serfdom by F.A. Hayek, and Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell. Which one would you read first? I couldn't decide, so I am just reading all three of them and sharing what is meaningful to me here on this blog. I hope you enjoy.

Flynn points out that "Rather than the bearers of a cutting edge philosophy, American leftists are the inheritors of a long tradition. Bold schemes sound much more innovative when you refuse to acknowledge that they have been tried -
and have failed - many times before." He also points out that although much of the roots of socialism can be found in European history, "much of the American left is firmly rooted in American tradition."

Today it sounds strange to talk about the "religious left." But Flynn points out that "Christianity once served as the primary influence on American leftists." Eventually, "they lost faith in God, but not faith. They kept the forms without the function." Ever listen to Al Gore give a speech? You think you are listening to Elmer Gantry himself! Flynn writes, "Heaven on earth is always imminent, yet never experienced."

One of the panaceas practiced by leftists was LSD. I was a graduate student at the University of Kansas in the 1960s. Part of my education was to work at the V.A. Hospital in Topeka. In 1965 doctors came from all over the world to associate themselves with famous psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger, who conducted a seminar I attended every Saturday. At the hospital I was assigned to work with families of veterans who were being treated for alcoholism. The doctors decided to administer LSD to the vets, and sit with them during their "trips." Needless to say, I thought the idea was incredibly stupid, as it encouraged vets to substitute one addictive experience for another.

One of the interesting observations Flynn makes is that there is a "Force Left" and a "Freedom Left." He notes that the "Force Left forever mouths the language of the Freedom Left, and the Freedom Left, dejected at the failure of the private choice to produce desired ends, forever defects to the Force Left." This is what I fear may be coming from the current administration.

Another conflict leftists have is whether to stay doctrinally pure or concentrate on trying to communicate effectively to the American people. Obama is already being criticized from the left for straying from doctrinal purity, while attempting to speak convincingly to the American people's life experiences. Flynn says that is one of the consequences of being "preoccupied with the triumphal future" and not "pausing to learn from the mistakes of the past."

Lowered Expectations

Greg Dobbs is a journalist who lived this past winter in Russia shooting a documentary for HDNet Television about the Russia space agency. He notes that one of the main differences between their space program and ours is the emphasis our program places on cooperating with private enterprise and utilizing that ingenuity. After helping NASA, our private companies turn around and sell their inventions to enrich the lives of the American consumer (and help the companies make a profit). It doesn't work that way in Russia. While the American companies were selling us fire retardant materials, home insulation materials, polarized sunglasses, acoustic guitars, GPS systems, microchips, Dust Buster and Tang, the Russians don't even bother to shovel their snow, even though their space program is just as sophisticated as ours, if not more so.

Dobbs writes in the May 24 Denver Post that he believes the difference is that "Americans are idealists who challenge adversity and aspire to overcome it." The Russians just believe "adversity is an unavoidable inheritance. From political tyrants to economic hardship to harsh weather, they have lived with adversity. In other words they have low expectations." I hope that we do not become that way, too.

On talk radio, resisting despotism, and sustaining a free society

John Andrews writes in the May 24 Denver Post about the attitudes that sustain a free society. He quotes Thomas Krannawitter of the Claremont Institute, who cites four indispensable attitudes: "Self-assertion to resist despotism, self-restraint for civil order, self-reliance to prevent dependency, and civic knowledge to unlock participation."

Andrews points out that "Memorial Day, which honors America's war dead, originated in 1868. Half a million whites lost their lives so that 4 million blacks might have liberty." In the process the old stereotypes, and laws to back them up, were found to be wrong. Unfortunately, Andrews writes, "there are always those who prefer censorship to debate." He is referring to efforts by the current administration to squelch talk radio, which promotes all of the above-mentioned attitudes that sustain a free society. Now, as I have written about several times, Andrews points out that "the Federal Communications Commission has talk radio in its sights."

Establishing Routines

This morning Rosie and Lucy are out on the land. Colleen noticed that mother Rosie communicated to calf Lucy to lie down behind some bushes, while Rosie grazes on some fresh grass. This is a not-very-good-photo I took yesterday right after Lucy was born. I don't want to disturb mother and calf this morning, while they get their routines established.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rock Star

This weird looking chicken is named Rock Star. The company that sells us our chicks always includes one unusual bird in each batch. I guess it is for diversity.

I Love Lucy

Lucy was born this morning at 5:30. Colleen is very happy!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Making All My Wonders Disappear"

First, a story about five-year-old Sara. Yesterday, all of the children were told they could buy one thing at the local market. Sara put a wad of monopoly money in her purse. She marched right in to the cashier and dumped out all of her monopoly money, plus a few small toys, and told the cashier what she wanted. When the dumbfounded cashier finally managed to close his mouth, it was his no small task to explain to Sara that she must use the same kind of money her brothers were using.

Nine-year-old Jon brought home from school his writing book. Below are a few of his entries.

If I could be invisible for a day, I could make a living at age nine. I would be able to get out of time outs. I could play so many tricks on my brother. With invisibility I could be the first person to climb a hill without being seen! But, where is the joy in that? I could ride my bike without being seen! There is some joy in that, you have to admit.

My favorite thing I've done this year in third grade is to learn how to write. I chose this because I set a big goal, and I accomplished it! I used to not even know how to write a paragraph, and now I feel like a writer. I also chose it because I can make a blog and be in the newspaper just like my dad. I feel like I can write a thousand papers, let alone one paragraph. I feel special inside every time I get rewarded. Learning to write makes me so happy.

Growing Up
The only reason that I can't wait to grow up is to be in the Air Force. I don't really want to grow up, but I want to be in the Air Force, because I want to help this country. I also want to travel a lot and get an aerial look at everything under me. I would be able to go above clouds and slice back through there with a bomb exploding underneath me. Being in the Air Force would be the one and only reason I can't wait to grow up.

Qualities of a Friend
Do things for your friends when they are blue, and play with them. I am a good friend, because I make them laugh when they are sad. I am also a good friend because I don't cheat in games. Plus, I don't rub it in when I have more things. The biggest quality of a good friend is being someone who can be counted on.

Seeing Through the Eyes of an Animal
If I could see through any animal's eyes, it would be my horse. I would see how cold she is in a storm. If I could look through my horse's eyes I would see how happy she is when she is frolicking through the green, swaying grass. I would see why she bucks when it rains. I will finally know what it is like to sleep in a stable. I would finally know why she likes grain so much. Looking through my horse's eyes would make all my wonders disappear.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Feelin It!

I saw this over at Jeffro's Poor Farm blog (in the side bar). The gentleman is 90, and his wife is almost 84. They were at the Mayo Clinic getting his annual check-up. They walked by the piano, which had a sign on it inviting people to play the piano. So, they did!

They Must Be Very Proud

Have you been hearing or seeing Liz Cheney eating the lunches of liberal media interviewers? Knowing the kind of people Dick and Lynne Cheney are, should we be surprised to learn that they have a daughter who gets it? I don't think so.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Out and about with camera in hand

Okay, so the spelling isn't great; but the unexpected expression of love is always appreciated!
What a pleasant surprise to find this tree in bloom. We are forever indebted to the person who lived here years ago and planted such a wonderful variety of trees.
Three cowboys hangin out in the loft of the barn. The cowboy on the left is one of my grandsons, who, with his mom, spent some time with us on the farm this week from his home in Texas.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Prisoner of the State"

June 4 marks the 20th anniversary of China's Tiananmen Square massacre of its own people. The man who was the Chinese Communist Party chief at that time, Zhao Ziyang, was the person within the party who tried hardest to avoid bloodshed by pleading with the tens of thousands of protesters to back off. Hard-liners, led by Deng Xiaping, imposed martial law and moved troops in to crack down. Zhao refused to sign on. He spent the last 16 years of his life virtually imprisoned in his own home, which was closely monitored.

Zhao, the man who daringly introduced capitalism to China, amazingly snuck his memoirs out of the country by distributing to selected friends tapes he had made, mostly on casettes he had lying around the house, such as Peking opera and kids tapes. He methodically noted their order by numbering them with faint pencil marks. After he died four years ago, his trusted friends who had also been high-level party officials, gathered the materials in one place and had them transcribed.

One of the editors of the book, which is titled Prisoner of the State, is Adi Ignatius, who is also editor of the Harvard Business Review. Ignatius writes in the May 25 Time Magazine that at the end of his journal, Zhao concludes that China must become a parliamentary democracy if it is to meet the challenges of the modern world.

China's current team of leaders continue to promote economic freedom, but intimidates or arrests anyone who dares call for political change. I am guessing Zhao's book will be the subject of much interest on the internet.

Internal Threats

Aryn Baker writes in the May 25 issue of Time that Pakistan, with its obsession with a perceived threat from India, failed to recognize the seriousness of the threat within Pakistan from the Taliban. The "people throwing acid in girls' faces are Pakistani," Baker quotes Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid.

Has America failed to recognize threats from within? The Republican party had no answer for ACORN, the dedicated radical group funded by the Democratic Congress that organized huge Obama turnouts in inner cities across America. While Republicans were campaigning as moderately and traditionally as possible, ACORN was going door-to-door, in the streets, on the sidewalks, in front of supermarkets, loading people onto buses to go to the polls or to vote absentee.

So, Pakistan blames India. Whom do the Republicans blame? Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh (my dream ticket in 2012)!

Baker asserts that the rapid withdrawal of U.S. Troops at the end of the Soviet war in Aghanistan left Pakistan in chaos (just as our rapid withdrawal did to the people of South Vietnam?) Of course our media, led by Walter Cronkite, played a huge role in that rapid pullout. Is the media today focussing on the Taliban's floggings, beheadings, and burning of girls' schools, like it did with our soldiers in Vietnam? No! The cameras brought the Vietnam war into our living rooms every night,

Pakistan's 170 million people need to recognize the internal threats to its existence. so do the 300 million people of the United States.

Out and about with camera in hand

Rosie is due any day to give birth to a calf.
Jon picked this bouquet of wildflowers for his mom. The orange flowers are Indian Paintbrush.
Four views of last night's sunset:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance

On the one hand, President Obama says we cannot sustain long-term deficit spending, and we cannot just keep on borrowing from China. On the other hand, he pushes forward with all of his spending plans.

The Obama "Enigma"

I am amused that even far-left columnists like David Sirota are describing Obama as an "enigma" who "struggles to muster consistent positions." Sirota, in his latest Creators Syndicate column, accuses Obama of "insurance industry-coddling inconsistency" on healthcare. Sirota wonders if it is "a pol's payback for campaign cash," or, is Obama "appeasing powerful interests?"

Here is a multiple choice answer for you, Mr. Sirota, to help you understand Mr. Obama's behavior. Take your pick.
A. There is a difference between being a candidate and being president.
B. He will do whatever he deems necessary to maintain his power.
C. Ask the Clintons.
D. All of the above.

"What crime have these young people committed?"

Denver Post columnist Mike Rosen writes on May 15 that last July candidate Barack Obama told an audience in Colorado Springs: "We've got to have a civilian national security force that is just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded" as the U.S. military! The Department of Defense, according to Rosen's piece, includes about 3 million men and women, and will spend an estimated $675 billion in 2009.

So, surely Obama was joking, right? Wrong! HR 1388, "The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, has already been passed, tripling Americorps from 75,000 to 250,000. The next step will be to pass HR 1444, which would establish a Congressional Commission on Civic Service. Its task is to set up rules enabling a mandatory service requirement for all young people.

Rosen notes that the Thirteenth Amendment to our Constitution "prohibits involuntary servitude except as a punishment for a crime." Rosen asks, "What crime have these young people committed?

Red Flags

Denver Post reporter jeremy P. Meyer reports that John Hopkins University has just completed a study of the 3,657 students who dropped out of Denver schools in the 2006-07 school year. What were the red flags? Getting Fs (77%) and chronic absence from school (60%) in the ninth grade. 61% missed more than than 20 days of school in the year before they dropped out.

Meyer does not say how much money taxpayers shelled out for the study. It seems like someone could have figured out those red flags before the study. And, what is wrong with Colorado's universities? The Denver Public Schools had to go all the way to Baltimore, Maryland to find a university who could do the study?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Nancy Pelosi vs. the CIA

At first blush, you might think, Pelosi vs. the CIA: a no-brainer, right? However, the CIA under Obama is not the CIA under Bush. For instance, although CIA Chief Leon Panetta issued a stern denial that the CIA ever misled Congress, as Pelosi claims, at the same time, the CIA rejected a request by former Vice President Dick Cheney to declassify memos that Cheney has said show that the interrogations helped disrupt terror plots.

Abortion and Free Speech

How about a word of congratulations to the Notre Dame students who are prayerfully protesting the university's decision to give Barack Obama an honorary degree while he gives the commencement speech this weekend. Although they are a tiny minority of the graduating class of over 1800 students, they are taking seriously the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church about the sanctity of human life.

Unfortunately, professional protesters like Randall Terry have muscled their way into the festivities, and vow to stop Obama from speaking. That is fascistic. It is okay for Mr. Terry to speak, but not Mr. Obama? I don't think so.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"The Praise Craze," and "Free Range Kids"

The April 24 WSJ has reviews on two parenting books. Harvard professor Richard Weissbourd has written The Parents We Mean To Be. His research found that nowadays "well-intentioned adults are undermining children's moral and emotional development." Parents have abandoned the "moral task" of raising children, and are "more concerned about fostering happiness than goodness," writes reviewer Dana Mack. "Intimacy is maintained at the cost of authority." Author Weissbourd laments the "praise craze," which is his term for the fixation many parents have for building "self esteem." Our prisons are full of people who esteem themselves, yet have no empathy for others.

Another related phenomenon is the "achievement obsession." "It seems that the more successful parents are, the more likely they are to worry about their children's possible failure to live up to that success." (As I was writing this, a woman walked by with a yellow lab, who had flunked out of guide dog school and was now having a "career change" visiting sick people in the hospital).

One of Weissbourd's findings is that children of immigrants "fare better than their American-born counterparts in almost every measure of mental and moral health." Immigrant parents are more comfortable with imposing authority and discipline, and they are optimistic about their children's future. After all, they made it to America, didn't they?

The reviewer asks a question: Who is ultimately more responsible for the self esteem craze - parents, or the psychologists and educators whose books parents read for advice?

The other book reviewed by Dana Mack is Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. Skenazy laments the demise of those arenas of childhood that were once inviolably the province of children: unsupervised play, where children "first exercized their moral imaginations and were forced to cope independently with their own shortcomings." The author advises avoiding "experts" and boycotting baby knee-pads. Her contention is that, in a world where the rights of chickens to roam freely are championed, it's time to liberate the kids.

I am not persuaded, Mr. Brooks!

David Brooks writes in the New York Times that Republicans need to stop emphasizing individualism and freedom, and instead become the party of "community and order." Brooks mocks the fact that Republicans "like the way Westerns (movies) seem to celebrate freedom, individuality, opportunity and moral clarity."

Brooks admits that Republicans, with their emphasis on the above values, did well in the more sparsely populated states, where those values are still prominent. However, Republicans did not do well in the cities and the suburbs, where people "are used to worrying about the health of the communal order." Really? Or are they increasingly dependent on government programs?

Brooks says we need to be "devoted to the bonds that built the nation." You mean, Mr. Brooks, like going to church? Like preserving the institutions of the family and heterosexual marriage? Like teaching our children abstinence and personal responsibility, initiative and good manners, hard work and competitve drive? Like neighbors helping neighbors? I think Republicans are already devoted to those bonds, Mr. Brooks. Or, do you mean the bonds of group identity, or the bonds of gay marriage, or the bonds of government dependency?

I am leary of anyone who pooh poohs the esential American values of "freedom, individuality, opportunity and moral clarity." I'll read your columns, Mr. Brooks, but so far I find your advice unpersuasive.

Misinformation About Heart Disease

On May 14 Dennis Prager had a guest named Dr. Richman on his radio program, who is one of the few cardiologists who is able to communicate clearly about cardiovascular disease. Dr. Richman explains that it is the number of lipoproteins in your arteries, NOT your cholesterol, that causes cardiovascular disease. He gives this analogy: You are on a freeway. The lipoproteins are the vehicles on the freeway. Cholesterol, both good and bad, are the passengers in the vehicles. If the freeway has too many vehicles, it becomes clogged. There might be few vehicles carrying lots of cholesterol, and the freeway will not become clogged.

Dr. Richman urges people at risk to take a blood test that costs 99 dollars to test for lipoproteins. You can have lots of "good" cholesterol and still die of heart disease. Dr. Richman is Prager's personal doctor on these matters, and he appears quarterly on the program.

In a related story, Cheerios is in the news. Whether Cheerios is "clinically proven to lower cholesterol," or not, is completely irrelevant to the issue of cardiovascular disease. It is not the cholesterol; it is the number of lipoproteins! How could all the health professions have allowed the public to be so infected with such a convulted mess of misinformation about cholesterol? It amazes me.

"Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU"

A former board member of the ACLU, Wendy Kaminer, has written a book alleging what has been obvious to many of us for a long time: the ACLU has become "just another liberal human-rights, social justice advocate that reliably defends the rights of liberal speakers." the reviewer of the book in the WSJ, John Leo, points out that the ACLU joins a long list of other organizations who have devolved along the same lines: the Sierra Club, the ford and MacArthur Foundations, the Modern Language Association, and Amnesty International.

The name of Kaminer's book is "Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU." In 2006 the ACLU descended into self-satire by imposing a gag order on its own board members - no public criticism of ACLU policies or personnel! Only six of the 53 ACLU affiliates protested the no-dissent policy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bacteria on Cellphones

Think twice before you loan your cell phone to your teen. No, I'm not talking about texting-while driving. A recent study in Britain found that cellphones were germier than toilets or shoe soles. KTLA-TV in Los Angeles had a consultant study the cellphones in its newsroom. 10 of 11 phones were swarming with bacteria: staphlococcus, micrococcus, and bacillus.

Cowtowing to the Teachers Union

Have you been reading about the Washington D.C. program that provides vouchers for 1700 inner city students to attend excellent private schools? The Democrat-controlled Congress has effectively killed the program, but Barack Obama, because of public outcry, has stepped in to say those 1700 students may continue on the vouchers until they graduate from high school, but no new students need apply. Vincent Carroll writes in the May 13 Denver Post that "had Obama not acted, he would have had a PR nightmare of 1700 stories of inner city heartbreak." Carroll also points out that "for every voucher recipient in D.C. there were three other students who entered a lottery for the money."

What's more iomportant to you Democrats, providing opportunities for underprivileged children, or cowtowing to one of your key political constituents, the teachers union? The answer appears to be obvious.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Literature Trivia

Which novel is studied the most in American high schools and colleges? (The Great Gadsby). Did you know that Dante Gabriel Rosseti exhumed his wife seven years after her death to retrieve an unfinished manuscript of his poems that he had nestled "in her famous red tresses, alongside the Bible?" Mickey Spillane wrote his first Mike Hammer novel in nine days, and "it went on to sell 7 million copies in three years."

These are three items of trivia found in a book called "Curiosities of Literature" reviewed (unfavorably) in the WSJ by Charles Harrington Elster.

A Salute To Dick Cheney

The main reason I voted for the Bush/Cheney ticket twice was the Cheney half of the ticket. Dick Cheney is just so solid. Then, when you compare him with the shallow John Edwards on the other ticket, it was a no-brainer. Of course, the obnoxious bully Al Gore and the haughty John Kerry made George W. Bush seem like the obvious choice, too.

I knew we could sleep soundly knowing Dick Cheney was helping to man the fort. He also understood that government needs to "get out of the way" of private entrepreneurs who are the heart of our economy. I love how Cheney recently stood up for Rush Limbaugh when Colin Powell, who voted for Barack Obama, tried to attack Rush's credibility with Republican voters.

"Nature is more complex than mathematical models."

Did you know that in this latest flu scare "China rounded up all the Mexican nationals they could find, put them in isolation, and then shipped them by plane back to Mexico?" The May 11 WSJ article by Gordon Crovitz added, "In Hong Kong quarantined foreign guests held a sign: "We will exchange information for beer and food and cigarettes."

Crovitz writes, "The uncertainty about the longer term effects of the current swine flu is a reminder that nature is more complex than mathematical models." No one ever seems to ask the "experts" to declare publicly the odds they assign to an epidemic. That is because, according to Crovitz, "epidemics are not predictable." He further states, "We also know that if health experts fully understood the causes of epidemics, they would know with certainty when to mandate vaccinations." And, what about the side effects of vaccinations versus the consequences of actually getting the flu?

On a related note, guess how many pigs there are in the world? Give up? One billion! Vietnam alone has 27 million. Those numbers are from another May 11 WSJ article by Nguyen Anh Thu and Scott Kilman.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


It's Spring!

The small tree in the center of this photo kept its brown leaves until the very end, when the green leaves replaced them.

Happy Mothers Day!

This is the butterfly Greg made for his mother. It is done by using markers painted on a coffee filter, and it took him four days to finish.
This is the "button heart" Sara made for her mother.
This is the hotplate Jon made for his mother.

"There might be a pony in there!"

The following has been lifted from the Mothers Day card written by my nine-year-old son Jon. "Roses are red. Violets are blue. I love you a lot, and you know it is true. I'm always, always loving you, even when I'm feeling blue. I will always love helping you, even when there's extra poo."

The last line is a reference to Jon helping his mother rake up manure, which he does, whenever asked. As Ronald Reagan said, "You never know; if the manure pile is high enough, there might be a pony in there!"

The Mothers Day card also featured several hundred smiley faces and hearts.

Jon also painted a hotplate for his mother. It features a tree laden with bright fruit, and a caterpillar eating an apple from the tree.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The unchecked power of huge agribusinesses

I don't usually agree with columns written by David Sirota. His latest Creators Syndicate column, though, made me think. Scientists (and Mexicans who live near the huge pig farm) suspect swine flu originated in the pig farm.

Sirota quotes a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2008 that concluded that industrial agriculture means high concentration of waste, overuse of antibiotics and "continual cycling of viruses and other animal pathogens in large herds" - all factors that increase the possiblitiy of diseases like swine flu.

Sirota concludes that "because of Congress's inaction on issues such as stopping agribusiness consolidation, halting the subsidies that underwrite the consolidation, and mandating vigorous health inspections," "these companies are now so huge and unchecked that they can pose a worldwide threat when livestock-borne disease strikes."

I guess we'll never return to the days of voluntary self-inspections by small farms who take pride and responsibility in the operation of their farms.

Oh, did you happen to see the report on Hannity about the thousands of farms suffering from drought in California, because environmentalists want to save a minnow that gets caught up in the irrigation systems, so now they are dumping the water into the Pacific Ocean? Eighty thousand people have lost their agricultural jobs in California, and our produce is going to continue to be brought in from Central and South America.

Fit vs. Obese

Coloradans are proud of ranking year-after-year as the state with the fittest population. However, the obesity rate here has doubled since 1995, according to a non-profit called "Live Well Colorado." Live Well says nearly 25% of those making less than $25,000 a year are obese, while only 16% of those making above $75,000 a year are obese.

Candy and chips anyone? How about ice cream and donuts?

The Mission: "To Gag Conservative Talk Radio"

Mike Rosen writes in the May 8 Denver Post, "It's beyond dispute that leftist thought and spin dominate news and political coverage on the major televison networks, National Public Radio, and the Public Broadcasting System (to say nothing of K-12 education, academia, and the entertainment industry). But apparently that is not enough for the left, which finds it intolerable that conservatives continue to enjoy prominence on talk radio."

Obama and the Democrats in Congress have come up with a new scheme designed to threaten local radio stations' broadcast licenses. Many of these stations carry one nationally syndicated show after another. I believe the top five most popular are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and Laura Ingraham. But there are many others: Bill Bennett, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Mike Gallagher, Fred Thompson, Billy Cunningham, and Tammy Bruce come to mind.

The scheme involves forcing the stations to program "locally" with "diversity." The Federal Communications Commission has already created a "Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age." Rosen alleges that the "unstated mission is to gag conservative talk radio." To get involved in fighting against this attack on our right to listen freely to whomever we want, Rosen suggests we go to

We did not fight hard enough last fall, because we knew McCain. It was hard to envision the nightmare we ended up getting. Now, after 100 days, we know what to expect. Let's not allow ourselves to lose again.

Whose Tent is Bigger?

Let's talk about "big tents," which Arlen Spector says are lacking in the Republican party. Cal Thomas asks in his most recent Tribune Media Services column, "How many pro-life Democrats exercise any influence in that party?" He goes on to ask the same question about opponents to same sex marriage, advocates of smaller government, and people who want lower taxes. Really now, whose tent is smaller?

Friday, May 08, 2009

No Regrets

Cheryl Prehelm of 9 NEWS in Denver writes in the May 7 Denver Post about a bus driver who was working the late shift on a snowy night in February. Two elderly women got off the bus. The driver and another passenger got off the bus to help the women cross the street. Just before a truck plowed into the bus driver, he and the other man pushed the women out of the way of the truck. Not only did he get injuries to his head and legs, causing him to spend five weeks in the hospital, but a cop also gave him a ticket for jaywalking! The driver, who may never be able to drive a bus again, had this to say: "When you've got little old ladies in a snowstorm with carts, one of them has already fallen and you aren't sure she is going to be able to make it, you are going to get out and help her."

Although he has no regrets, I hope the cop who gave him the ticket for jaywalking does.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

No Teleprompter Needed

David McCullough writes in his book Truman about President Truman making the decision to develop atomic weapons. There was no televised press conference, no teleprompter, just a mimeographed sheet he gave to a staff person to hand out to reporters (then Truman walked over to Blair House for lunch). Here is what it said: "It is part of my responsibility as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to see to it that our country is able to defend itself against any possible aggressor. Accordingly, I have directed the Atomic Energy Commission to continue its work on all forms of atomic weapons, including the so-called hydrogen or superbomb."

Times sure have changed.

Politicians "Listening?"

A new WSJ/NBC News poll reveals that 35% of those surveyed called themselves conservative, while only 24% called themselves liberal. Still, of those calling themselves conservative, only six in ten identified themselves as Republicans. Democrats now outnumber Republicans in every age group and in every region of the country.

The Republicans are putting together a "listening tour." Glenn Beck is skeptical. He believes the politicians will use the information they get from the tour to further their own political futures. Beck did the funniest satire I have heard in years, talking about a fictitious woman they meet who had a third arm emanating from her forehead. The politicians come back to Washington urging the government to develop a program for her and also for another woman they meet who has 1800 kids. For each woman Beck developed intricate details of their daily lives. He was not going by a script. He was completely winging it, allowing his fertile imagination to go wild. I laughed loudly for what seemed like fifteen or twenty minutes.

Glenn Beck is fast becoming the Will Rogers of this decade in terms of delivering political humor that hits the mark. Like Rush Limbaugh, he is an advocate of limited government and individual entrepreneurship, based on individual liberty as outlined in our Constitution. Maybe he is one person the politicians need to be listening to. Just sayin.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Thought for Today

Socialism rewards failure, sloth. Capitalism rewards excellence.

"Pain is weakness leaving the body" (a saying in the U.S. Marines?)

How do you not root for this guy? Rulon Davis completed a tour of duty with the U.S. Marines, including six months in Iraq. Upon returning to the U.S., Rulon endured a near-death experience while riding his motorcycle. Reporter Mike Kils writes in the May 4 Denver Post that Rulon "was exiting off one busy L.A. highway onto another when the car behind him tapped his bike. The collision sped him uncontrollably forward into the rear of a midsized truck in front of him. The bike flipped, and Davis flew. Airborne, Davis landed beneath an adjacent semi. "I knew I was about to die if I didn't move," Davis said. He tried to crawl out of the way, but the semi continued to roll, right over his calves."

Fast forward to today. Now healed from his injuries, Rulon is competing to be one of 53 men on the new roster of the Denver Broncos NFL football team. Piece of cake!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Cover-Up, Or Irresponsible Inflammatory Allegations?

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo alleges that 60,000 Mexicans illegally cross into the United States each month. Tancredo urges President Obama to go "lock the barn door" (Obama had remarked last week that closing the borders would be akin to locking the barn door after the horse is stolen). Tancredo reminds Obama that he took an oath of office to defend the United States "against all enemies, foreign and domestic." He points out that over 400 cases of an "atypical pneumonia" were noticed in the Vera Cruz region of Mexico in mid-March, but there was a delay in the official recognition of the epidemic until the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta could verify the cases as swine flu. Tancredo wonders if the delay in recognizing the epidemic had anything to do with President Obama's planned visit to Mexico City on April 16. Is that a scurrilous allegation by Tancredo? I had previously read that Mexico had sent the samples to Canada's national lab, and that is where they were diagnosed as swine flu. Our side should not make allegations, if we do not have facts to back up our claims.

Sleeping "Safe in Our Beds"

I was pleasantly surprised to read Garrison Keillor's Tribune Media column this week. Garrison, of "Lake Wobegon" fame, is a lefty, and has written many columns critical of George W. Bush. However, he is not joining "the sour righteousness of the victorious lording it over the vanquished," when it comes to the idea of launching criminal prosecutions of those who wrote the memos guiding the CIA interrogators. Keillor is correct when he writes that "retribution is not smart politics." He quotes Orwell: "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." The American people knew that was exactly what we were getting in George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Around the Farm on a Spring Morning

The snow has melted, and I think we are actually going to have Spring now!

Remember these chicks?
And this is Rosie! Rosie is a sweet little Jersey/Guernsey milking cow, who is pregnant. She came to live with us yesterday. Colleen's dream come true!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

"We're in the early stages of something catastrophic"

A rabbi is standing up to the dangerous thug Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. The May 1 WSJ reports that a Washington D.C. rabbi named Shmuel Herzfeld has asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to hold a hearing on anti-Semitism in Venezuela. A brief filed with the commission documents the "escalating violence and hostility" against Jews, "designed to isolate, terrify, and ostracize that community." One more example of leftist fascism.

Of course, we have all read blogger Jungle Mom's accounts, and we know that Christians are also at risk from Chavez and his fascist thugs. Rabbi Herzfeld says, "I think we're in the early stages of something catastrophic."

Friday, May 01, 2009

Home Affairs

The April 30 WSJ points out that South Africa has a problem. Jacob Zuma, who is about to take office as president, has two wives and a fiancee. Here's the problem: who will be the first lady?

One of his two ex-wives is the foreign affairs minister now, and is expected to be in the new cabinet as head of Home Affairs. His other ex-wife committed suicide. She left behind a suicide note, describing her time with Zuma as "24 years of hell."

Mr. Zuma paid to wed his first wife, to whom he is still married. The price? Eleven cows! He has fathered nineteen children, says his first wife, but none by her.

Regrets? He'll Have a Few

Karl Rove writes in the April 30 WSJ that although candidate Obama denounced the $2.3trillion added to the national debt during President Bush's watch, Obama's budget adds $9.3 trillion to the debt over the next ten years. During the campaign he attacked "government-run health care;" now he proposes a "universal health care like the European countries." He has outsourced to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi formulation of legislation. Rove believes he may come to regret that decision as unemployment continues to rise.

Obama's "Gift"

Daniel Henninger writes in the April 30 WSJ about Obama's "gift" of being able to make people on all sides of an issue think he is agreeing with them. It is a gift all right, but is it a gift that we need in the person leading our country? Henninger suggests that what our country needs is different: more along the lines of the plain speaking of a Harry Truman.