Saturday, September 26, 2009


She's a witch from ancient Egypt. She watched Moses kill a man and hid that knowledge. She had a spiritual experience that led her to believe that because she had chosen right, she would never die. She exalted in the knowledge.

A few thousand years later, she wants to die. She sees a raider kill a federal agent in wartime. She knows that this is her karmic chance--that if she turns in the raider she will be allowed to die.

But is she falling in love with the raider? And if she lets him live, she will keep on living, and he will die and leave her alone for thousands of years.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Original Joke?

What do you call the fear of being enclosed in a chimney?


Friday, September 18, 2009

Fed's Parable and Joke of the Day


Ben's children were carrying their eggs to market in their egg baskets.  Ben cautioned, "You children might trip and fall into one another.  So all your eggs might break."

So Ben took each child's eggs and put them in his super basket.  That way . . .



O. K., get this--the federal government is worried that the actions of individual banks can create risks for the entire banking system--systemic risk.  So (this is too funny) the Fed will regulate the entire system of executive compensation to eliminate risks that affect the entire system!

Get it!?

They're worried that banks who put all their eggs in one basket may upset the baskets of other banks.  So . . . the fed is putting all of everybody's eggs into their big basket!  That way, if the Fed drops that big basket . . .


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just Love

We finished talking about unemployment today.  One topic was how the official unemployment rate could systematically err. (Yes, this post is really about love.)

A student asked about how illegal aliens would affect the unemployment rate.  As usual, I asked questions and had them answer. 

If you're an illegal and you get the call from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, do you tell them that (1) you have a job (2) you don't have a job (3) you are looking for a job?

I got the answer that I consider to be most likely.  If you are that illegal worker, you hang up the phone.

So the first conclusion is that the unemployment rate likely does not reflect the presence of illegals at all.

My next statement and question was this.  If illegals are not included in the official statistics, because they do not participate in the survey, will that increase or decrease the unemployment rate?  The answer depends on whether illegals are more or less likely to be employed.

I got the right answer again.  Illegals do not have unemployment insurance. And they would often find it more difficult to get any other welfare benefits.  That means they probably are more likely to be employed than non-illegals.  So illegals really lower the unemployment rate, though we never pick that up in the data.  The official rate is likely overstated.

The students' unprejudiced analytical view was too much for me.  At that moment, I just loved my students.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Letter to a Friend


On the way home I pondered your question about whether it was moral to set up the sneaker factory in Vietnam and employ 6 year olds--or maybe it's 12 year olds, since I'm not sure how much 6 year olds can contribute.

I think that those who choose to work in a new factory only do so because they think their lives would be improved by it. Perhaps they are choosing to live in the factory or die in the jungle. Unless I could be convinced that Nike is using force or the threat of force to acquire workers, I think that Nike would be immoral to forego setting up up the factory for the sake of political correctness.

Similarly, were those kids we discussed who lived in the coal mines choosing between living in the mines or dying on the city streets? As I said, the choice between living in 1600's Jamestown or living in 1800's Philadelphia is an easy one to make.

Maybe it is immoral for dad to tell the kid to work in the factory, rather than play in the jungle (and maybe die in the jungle). A middle-eastern friend of mine once said, on this topic, "That is why you have the damned kid. He is supposed to help the family. He helps support the family, he supports you in your old age, and his kids support him in his old age."

Maybe we would rather have a lot of government aid to bring those kids into Y2K America. It never seems to work, though. Self improvement through freedom is the path up. (Then once a country is up, they seem to decide that this path is distasteful and try to short-cut advancement through a welfare state that ends upward progress).

If government concentrates on eliminating coercion, individuals improve themselves. And as they improve themselves, they cannot help but improve others. Donald Trump does not want to make a lot of people better off, but his gaudy empire employs a lot of people. If we squash him because we disapprove of whatever it is that he produces, then what happens to those people who had jobs in Trump empire?

I probably did not say much that was new. My point in writing was just that I consider it immoral to bow to the utopian protesters at WTO meetings who demand that we refuse a hand up to the third world, since we can't offer them the Garden of Eden.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Capitalism Fails!

Michael Moore is right! Capitalism has failed.

The cord on yet another set of my earphones has a short. I only get sound in one ear unless I hold the cord juuuuuust right, at the plug.

Yes, I have a heavy duty set of earphones with a cord as thick as a suspension cable on the Golden Gate Bridge. The sound quality of those earphones is great, but they uncomfortably clamp onto my head.

I also have a headset that works fine, but I cannot always walk around with a mic at my mouth--and I sleep with my headphones on.

In the same way that a doctor would rather cut a diabetic's foot off, rather than treat the diabetes*, electronics companies would rather make a headset wire with the consistency of a pretzel, than than use a thicker, woven wire.


*Barack Obama, Town Hall Meeting, August 15, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Heart and the Head on 9-11

My heart takes a back seat to my head in almost all decisions. That does not mean that I never make mistakes because I think everything through correctly. By extension, my analysis of situations that I have no direct control over is primarily mental. This shapes my opinions.

I know plenty of people for whom this is not the case. Their initial reaction is emotional. I probably cannot appreciate the benefits of the emotionally centered person. But in reflecting on 9-11, I may have uncovered a difference between the two types.

My analysis of 9-11 was the following. Islamic terrorists wish to target our unarmed, untrained civilians; we must send armed, trained troops to kill them. We must discover their plots in every way possible and prevent further slaughter. Even though we supplied weapons to Afgani fighters, so that they could kick the Russians out, the Afganis still considered us the enemy. I view that as evidence that Islamic terrorists cannot be appeased. Bin Laden clearly said that he was inspired by our weakness in withdrawing from Lebanon--he was not enraged by our strength.

This reason does not fade with time. I do not see that any of these assumptions have been challenged over time.

Emotions fade with time. We burn with love for a high school crush. Later our emotions are wholly different.

We cry on 9-11 for the slaughter of thousands. But we cannot cry every day like that, for every person who was slaughtered. Our heart does not have the capacity.

I view the current political retreat in the face of terrorism to result from a fading of the emotions of those who are prone to act primarily on emotion. When the emotion fades, it is hard to find the reason to continue onward. Those who react emotionally construct an elaborate rationalization which is consistent with their changing emotions.

Some may have said on 9-12, "We must kill this enemy. If we must invade countries, then we will. If we must torture these men who slaughtered thousands, then we will.* But we cannot allow this to happen again next week or next month or next year."

But, with a year of no further attacks . . . and two years . . . and eight years, this person's emotions have subsided.

Now this person says, "We must change our behavior so that the enemy will soften their approach. We must respect the sovereignty of countries who would plot our destruction, up until the day they take hostile action. We must treat the inhuman beast in a humane fashion, even if this means losing lives. Nothing has happened in the past years and that is a sign that nothing will happen."

After eight years, what I view as my reasoned response remains.

It happened. It can happen again. They hate us. Our attempts at concession show the weakness that inspires them. Our security was lax before 9-11. We needed new rules. We still need new rules.

My emotions have faded since 9-11. The images and the testimony of those who lost sons and daughters and mothers and fathers bring some of that emotion back. Fading emotions cannot sustain the resolve of a people--even to protect themselves--only enduring reason can.

*Note that even high-level decision makers in Congress did not object when they were privately briefed on torture. They understood that protecting our sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers was worth harming the killers.

Monday, September 7, 2009


As a guy, I am deficient in writing about romance. But other than the writing, I have displayed some decent romance chops.

I have thrown multiple surprise parties for my wife. I have surprised her with romantic gifts. On one Valentine's day, I called her to the door as she was getting ready to go out. She was met by a barbershop quartet that serenaded her (I got to take their fee off my taxes, since they were a gift that I got from donating $60 to the local NPR affiliate--yeah, that part is not romantic).

Finally, on another Valentine's day, we dropped the kids at some friends' house and went out to eat. Over dinner she said, "This is so nice. I wish we did not have to go home."

I said, "We don't. I rented the honeymoon suite at the hotel across the street and dropped the kids' clothes and toothbrushes at the babysitter's earlier." And I really had.

But when my characters find love, it is usually a practical thing. Abe's family had died and so had these two women's husband. Jake Fox was forced to marry Aline Elliott by her father, Wiley. Wiley thought Jake was probably going to die and was hoping that Aline could inherit Jake's property. Bryton fell head over heels for Tonjan (literally), but she ended up rationally choosing the High Priest--but Tonjan is a Priestess of Aatar, and they are like that.

And on the horror side, one happily married couple is destroyed by her unfaithfulness--she chooses her past over her husband. And one husband has clearly invoked a power that has possessed him and will soon result in his killing his wife and child.

It is time I try to do a seriously romantic story.


James attended his church since he was young. He was surprised when the minister asked him to give a little over $5,000 to repair the homes of poor folks who were members. He usually gave around 10% of his income in donations and the $5,000 would double his typical yearly donation. He said he would have to think about it.

A month later, James's minister called him in and admonished him to contribute. James told the minister that he cared about the poor, but that the contribution would take all of his emergency savings. James was not sure that he could afford to sacrifice his family's security. The minister said that God wanted James to give and that he would be rewarded. James said he would put a check in the plate next Sunday.

James could not bring himself to donate that much money next Sunday. He had heard rumors at work that his job would be transferred to another state. He might have to move. He might be out of work. Even so, he felt ashamed not to have contributed.

The next day, two deacons visited James at his home. They asked for the check. James was alarmed--he was outraged. They left without a check.

That evening, the minister and five deacons showed up, packing guns. James wrote out the check. The minister warned him not to stop payment, or bad things might happen to the family. The minister reiterated that the money was for the poor in the church and that James was being charitable--doing the Lord's work.

The church is the government. The donation is a new tax, meant to help someone. The church in the story is only as unethical as the government is in real life.

Why do people who contribute a pittance voluntarily, from their own generosity, feel that it is right to force others to contribute? How can forced contributions be charitable?

If you have, borne with this screed, thank you. It has been building for a while.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Goodbye, St. Simon

St. Simon's Island has been wonderous. Today we leave. Alas.

I cannot afford such vacations. A part of my job involves working with a non-profit organization that lures its leaders to two days of meetings per year by holding them in a nice place.

The executive director told us of the particular donation that funds these perennial retreats. I guess that is why he seemed to have problems acknowledging my earlier thanks--maybe he sees his role as only supporting philanthropy. To me, however, he seems like a gardener who grows philanthropy.

The aim of the organization is not to hold retreats. The aim of the organization is to benefit students for the rest of their lives by teaching them how to make good decisions. The organization works through the students' teachers--helping them teach. In my state, business and individuals see this as such an important mission that they voluntarily sacrifice to see it carried out.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Capitalism is Evil

Michael Moore's new film tells us that capitalism is evil. Capitalism is economic freedom. It is laissez faire (leave it alone).

Moore says that we should substitute democracy for capitalism. It is not hard to understand how the guy who seriously told us that Cuba's health care system is better than ours could mistake a political system (democracy) for an economic system (capitalism).

If I must compare the two dissimilar things (is purple wavier than 6.5?) I favor capitalism. Here is why.

A democratically controlled economy* would tell me what I should or should not buy, whom I should or should not trade with, and which profession I should choose. The majority defines what is permissible and necessary in a democratic economic system.

Would the majority keep their hands off of me? This question is out of order; if the economy were to actually run on democratic decisions, hands-off would be a cop out--it would, in fact, be capitalism.

Given this, the question is as follows. Would I prefer that a majority of my fellow citizens coerce me, or would I prefer freedom? Alas, I have begged the question.

The inevitable conclusion is that Michael Moore is an idiot of a magnitude that one can only achieve if one is bolstered by a peverse intelligentsia who does not attempt to practice what they preach. They accept capitalism's paychecks and live well, while decrying the freedom that feeds them.



*See how I try to make the two things similar. In any case, I feel obligated to repeat the oft-observed caveat: The U. S. is, more correctly, a republic than a democracy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gang of Three on Cemetary Ridge

The Gang of Three liked Cemetary Ridge. They did a great job of helping me adjust the wording to maintain the reader's trance. The little flash story is now more clear and harmonious.

I had to leave a day early for my meeting on a coastal island. The last straw was when one of the organizers warned me about massive construction on the last 60 miles of highway, which would cause me to be late to the first session. So no Stonepile this month.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Miss David Letterman

I was in college when David Letterman got his first late night talk show. He was the new thing. He was funny. His sense of humor was fresh back then.

He was a skeptic about the glam of show business while he was working in that same medium. He was a skeptic about government and of other centers of power. In short, he was a comedian, and comedians are best when they're working as an "out" and not as an "in."

Tonight David interviewed a guest who once modestly proposed that a world wide government (goodbye, U. S. A.) might be necessary to impose forced sterilization and abortion to control population. In such a regime, you would be a criminal if you had too many children. If a woman was found to be pregnant without permission she would be hunted down and her baby would be aborted--that's what forced abortion is.


Since I am an old guy, I associate such advocacy with Chairman Mao. A person who calls for such measures is crying for Big Brother to take control of the most intimate aspects of our lives. If you have read my writing before, you know I am an advocate of freedom--of people freely working out solutions to their problems.

David got along well with his guest. No, he was not discussing just how great forced sterilization and abortion would be with the guest. He was discussing one of the latest advocacy fads, which, if enacted, would result in shorter, less fulfilling lives.

But I can never take a person who, as a sober, well-trained scientist, seriously advocated Big Brother. David Letterman can now take such a person seriously.

Of course this guest is now in a position of power. David's interview was, essentially, speaking power to truth.

I'll miss David Letterman. I'm just glad the old David did not live to see the new one.