the Long of it ........

unintended consequences and other musings

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Violence in Mexico – where?

The media is doing a bang-up job telling us how dangerous Mexico is by publishing awful stories of the seemingly daily violence.  I am intrigued by it because I take frequent trips to Mexico (Sonoyta and Puerto Penasco) and do not experience it – what gives?  Most of the issues with the data is that it represents single data points with no comparison to what we are familiar with.
The stories often mention Mexican violence (which States?, Mexico is a large country), when most of it occurs in Chihuahua and Sinaloa – only two states out of 32.  So, is US violence high or is it just New York and Illinois?
Also, in usual fashion (because journalists never take math classes), we seldom see relative numbers.  Some analysts have said that violence in Chihuahua (highest level of violence in Mexico) is twice what Chicago is – bad but not as crazy as what the stories have portrayed….and, where are the stories on Chicago (or New Orleans) murder rate?
WSJ has a great interactive graphic that depicts the relative violence in Mexico by state (by drug family).  Note that this is drug violence only – this is what most of the media is reporting on.
Mexico has issues with drug violence and they are serious – but examine the facts to know where and relative safety by location within this beautiful country.

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History of the World before Man, Six Pages of Riviting Reading

Steven Hawking has co-wrote another book repeating his tired dogma that there is/was no God.  WSJ has a quick article on it  – written by Hawking.  Not sure who he is still trying to convince since we all know the science is irrefutable?  His great contribution is the following, “the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing.”  I have often observed that for all of the science’ we have been given on the evolution of Man, the History of the World before Man is extremely lacking.  Give me a tome that spends chapters discussing the Big Bang, the primordial soup, the DNA and where it came from and who programmed it and include numerous pictures of all of the fossils of the evolutionary rejects.  Belloc’s review of Wells’ epic ‘Outline of History’ noted that it was a powerful and well-written volume, “up until the appearance of Man, that is, somewhere around page seven.”
A universe appeared from nothing and we have six pages?

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Half Broke Horses…one more

Devoured the book ‘Half Broke Horses‘ (Jeannette Walls, Simon and Schuster) in one day.  Incredible story of a Woman that let nothing get in her way in the early west.  She traveled by horseback 500 miles to her first teaching job  – and slept on the the floor of the school at night.  Should be required reading for all young girls.
One of the few books I have read recently that has these little sentences that cause you pause when you finish them.  For example, a flood destroyed their dugout house on the prairie – it also washed away the foundation of a nearby house, after which the owner gave up and returned back east.  They quickly carted away all of the timber from the house and built them a new house to replace the washed out dugout one.  After finishing it, her Mom asked the question, “Now, wasn’t that God’s will?”.   The next sentence said what I have always felt but can’t say in church; “I didn’t have an answer.  Mom could say that in hindsight, but it seemed to me that when you were in the middle of something, it was awful hard to figure out what part of it was God’s will and what wasn’t.”   I also enjoyed her housekeeping on the ranch;  fixed steak and beans every night, never washed the work Levi’s (wore them out) and cleaned house once a quarter.   Negatives?  15$ Paperbook!

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Am I in Poverty?

The Federal Government just released updated poverty statistics that showed a large increase – now 14% of Americans (43 million) live in poverty!  In reading the various news reports, none seemed to tell me what the metric was?  How little income does it take to be in poverty?  After a bit of research, turns out an annual income of 21,756$ per year (1813$/month) for a family of four will put you in the poverty statistics.

Unfortunately, this income does not measure the non-cash income that this family might receive:
Income:                    1813$/month  or 21,756$/yr
Food Stamps:             668/month     (max)
Housing Assistance:    600/month
Medicaid:                    ???
Tax Credits:                 ???
Total Income             $36,972 before Medicaid and any tax credits
I am not suggesting that these families are not struggling in making a living, but as usual, the news orgs are not telling you the full truth.  In addition, it lumps many older people in this category even though they may have a car and house completely paid off and are drawing on a savings account.   While we will have a new metric that will address some of these issues, this is a metric that has lost all meaning/worthiness.  Some have suggested using consumption as a metric – truly poor people almost always spend less on consumption – I support this.
I have also seen the same reporting in churches who post salaries of their pastors; these numbers often leave out tax benefits, housing allowances (which are very generous), car allowances, book allowances, etc.
When you tell me that 43 million American people live in poverty, tell me what this really means? – I suspect that many don’t want to hear that people living in poverty can make 36K$/year.  On my next trip to the barrios in Mexico, I will try and explain that to be poor in the US means you only have 36K$/year to spend – suspect I may not be able to get this across…..

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The Federal Gov’t Takeover of the West

While many are concerned about the federal takeover of the banks, health care, auto industry, college loans, and mortgage loans, you might want to add dirt….land to that list.  The federal government owns over 26% of all of the land in America or 1 million square miles.   That probably does not affect you much if you don’t live in the west where the federal government really likes to acquire land; no state in the west is under 30% owned.  Nevada is 84% owned and California is 45% owned!  Why aren’t they purchasing land in NY where they only own less than 1%?  Is it bad land?  1.3$ Trillion in debt and yet we keep acquiring land that the government is woefully inadequate in managing.  And….They usually do the worst possible thing after acquiring the land; they immediately block all access and use of it.  Time to get out of the land business and even sell some of it to worthy groups who will make it productive.  Watch for more of the land grab, each president and congress loves to leave as its legacy a huge land ‘set aside’ – what exactly is it being set aside for?  Is Detroit for sale yet?

Remember, that many states acquire as much land as the federal government (someone once told me that Arizona has only 10% of its land privately held).  If you want to really see a complete picture, look at the Arizona map below; the white area represents the only part that is private ownership!

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Joe Sobran, May his words live forever

Ever read someone who just had a great gift of putting things into words that really cause you pause …and admire?

Joe Sobran was one – National Review Writer – passed away Sept 30, 2010
you can find archives of some of his own newsletter articles here
…..for once, I will let the Joe (the writer) express it in his own words:

“But most prejudices aren’t created by official doctrines; they result from popular experience and the slow spreading of a group’s reputation. The first gypsy I ever met — on a street in Rome — grabbed a wad of money out of my hand. I’d been too naive to be wary of her, though my companions had warned me against her.”

“Despite all the rhetoric of bigotry that assails us these days, it just isn’t that easy to hate indiscriminately. In fact such hatred seems unnatural — or, if you prefer, idiosyncratic.  But some people find a strange moral satisfaction in positing a ubiquitous “hate,” usually against “minorities” of one sort or another. And of course this “hate” requires the state to take various actions to protect the alleged victims, to make reparations, to reeducate the bigoted public, and finally to “eradicate” the proscribed attitudes.”

New York Times headline: “New York Destroyed by Earthquake; Women and Minorities Hit Hardest.”

“your enemies can never hurt you, only your friends can.”

 “Freedom has ceased to be a birthright; it has come to mean whatever we are still permitted to do.”

“Christ never preached anything as mushy and undefined as tolerance, let alone Kinsey-style tolerance. He taught mercy, patience, charity — which cover a lot of ground, but are a long way from Kinseyland. He also condemned divorce, adultery, and even looking at women with lust. Pretty intolerant, according to the Latest Thinking.”

“Of all the apocryphal sayings ascribed to our Founding Fathers, my favorite is one attributed to George Washington: “Government is not reason. It is not persuasion. It is force.” If he never said it, he should have.
Everyone who believes in a moral order should ponder those eleven words. Government is indeed force, force claiming justification, and its exercise at least requires some serious reason.
In Michael Oakeshott’s famous observation, to some people government appears as “a vast reservoir of power” which inspires them to dream of the uses that might be made of it, often in the service of what they take to be benign purposes, for the good of “mankind.” Yet such people typically gloss over the element of power, which, after all, is not a mere property of government but its very essence.”

“Your chances of meeting an IRS agent are far greater than your chances of meeting anyone you voted for.”

“If you want to know how wise and honest a man is, observe how much he is willing to credit to his opponents.”

“If our furry and scaly friends were still evolving, none of them appeared to be gaining on us.”

“A silly old adage has it that you should never argue about politics and religion. But as G.K. Chesterton retorted, politics and religion are the only subjects worth arguing about.”

and Joe on his own words….
“I note that my enemies have written a great deal about me, yet they rarely quote me directly. Why not? If I am so disreputable myself, I must at least occasionally say disreputable things. Is it possible that what I say is more cogent than they like to admit?”

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WIKIpedia meets the Scientists

Wikipedia has addressed an issue around its Global Warming Articles by removing an editor that had a decidedly biased view in favor of climate change.  While Wikipedia is the seventh most popular website in use, you must be careful in using it for reference (note; most colleges will not allow Wiki references).  I am particularly careful when an issue is one that still has people on extreme sides arguing the merits of their views – obviously climate change is one.  The good news is that Wiki has acted (after many people complaining); the bad news is that this took two years – not the model of speedy changes/updates that everyone touts as an example of why Wiki is better than the Encyclopedia Britannica.  Also, remember that Wiki levels the playing field with true experts and dummies gaining the same editing rights – again, the community should clean this up over time unless there is a group with a biased view and a religious ferver – read, Global Warming Believers….

Meanwhile, I will continue using Wiki for quick checks in non-controversial areas and do further study in the other areas.  This is a Readers Digest for people who can’t read!!

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It is Settled Science but I still need to convince you

Visited airport bookstore and thought I would look in the Science/evolution area to see if anything new was available.  I counted 9 books (in a small bookstore), all of which supported the view of evolution/non-creationism.  Why, if evolution is a fact that ALL scientists believe in, are they still churning out books supporting it?  Do you still see books supporting a round earth theory?
Because it is a religion……. and they must convert the few of us that just don’t know better.  An earth that has purpose and design behind it is a world that many do not want to believe in – it upsets their worldview dramatically.   Actually, it reminds me of religious writers writing to the believers – too much of it in my opinion.

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The Observant Traveller

  • Why do Stewardesses get better seat belts than passengers?  Are they more important?  You may also believe that cop killers should get a harsher judgement because officers of the law are higher value?
  • Why do wheelchairs keep getting bigger and bigger…..?
  • When arriving late at night, why do airplanes park at the end of the terminal when all of the closer ones are empty?
  • Why is WIFI OK now when it used to be so dangerous?  Was it a big technology advance or the new $ charge?
  • Lee’s Unwritten Flying rule #1:  He who sits in the middle seat owns both armrests.
  • Southwest Airlines; where every passenger is equal unless of course you pay extra for Business select and get to board first.
  • Do you really trust those in the exit row to assist you in getting off the plane in an emergency?  The two minute training should adequately prepare them, right?
  • I don’t carry on luggage, laptop bag only.  Why don’t I get rewarded?
  • Lee’s Unwritten Flying rule #2:  If you can’t stow your own luggage overhead, check it.
  • Why do people in wheelchairs have a suitcase on their lap as they are helped through the concourse?  If anyone should check luggage….
  • Where did de-plane come from? – we don’t de-car,,,,de-boat…..
  • FAA just pulled all oxygen masks out of plane toilets…always wanted to die with my pants around my ankles, btw, what was the security risk?
  • Not allowed to line up in front of the loo anymore on planes…how do you queue now?  A new ‘NEXT’ button next to the attendant button?
  • Why do seatmates tell everything to a perfect stranger?  What about an airplane cabin forces this unusual behaviour?
  • Ever think that all US security changes have been reactive?  I always argue when someone in the security line tells me that they don’t like it but it is necessary and worth it.  All of the current procedures started AFTER the breach…. like the shoe bomb.  What happens if someone stows something up their rectum?
  • Stay Observant……it passes the time

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The State of White America

…………….yes I watch C-Span and you are missing some interesting in-depth dialogue if you don’t.  Network news (yes, including Fox) is a constant stream of how the other party/group/etc is a ba*tard and to be feared.  Open dialogue is sorely missing in American Politics these days.

American Enterprise Institute sponsored a speech by Charles Murray on ‘the State of White America’ where you can watch here.  I think it was a brilliant move to remove the minorities – it eliminated much of the claims of discrimination that his highly controversial book, the Bell Curve received.
He really does a good job of describing how the white classes are (or not) changing:the following list was stolen from Steve Sailers Blog:
To avoid apples to oranges comparisons, Murray is focusing his analysis of increasing class divides on non-Hispanic whites ages 30-49, contrasting the upper 20% (the upper middle class) to the bottom 30% (the working class)….

– For example, the being-married rate among upper middle class whites has fallen only trivially from 88% in 1960 to 83% in 2010. Among the bottom 30%, however, the being-married rate has dropped from 83% to 48%.
– Among the bottom 30% of whites, the illegitimacy rate was 6% in 1960 and approaching 50% in 2010.
– Among white men in their 30s and 40s, in 1960 1.5% of the top 20% were out of the workforce (i.e., working or looking for work) and 2% now. For white men in the bottom 30%, looking at the economic peaks in 1968 and 2008, the non-working rate went from 5% to 12%. The out-of-the-labor rate is even worse now during the recession, of course.
– Among working class men with jobs, the percent working less than 40 hours per week went from 13% to 21%.
– Crime victimizes the bottom ranks of society. One of the dirty little secrets of the last 50 years is that upper middle class suburbs weren’t dangerous in 1960 and they aren’t dangerous now.
– A substantial majority of the upper middle class retains effective religious involvement, while a substantial majority of the white working class does not. It’s another case of data not matching popular impressions. … Among those with a religion, fundamentalism is increasing. But, actual religious involvement in the working class is plummeting.

He points to the 1960’s as major inflection point in America and it’s effects are still being written today – makes me want to review Libertarian viewpoints as a potential place for my own beliefs.