Monday, June 29, 2009

Three articles of interest

Which to talk about? All of them: Obama brings about watered-down change, unnecessary copyright protections, and our staggering national debt.

Is diluted change really change?
Clive Crook writes in the Financial Times:
Mr Obama aims to keep his promises, which is admirable. Unfortunately, there is a problem. This is not, as many Republicans argue, that neither issue requires forthright action. Both do. The problem is that the bills emerging from Congress are bad and Mr Obama does not seem to mind.

I've noticed that. It's like he's still in the Illinois legislature and still trying to pad his resume. "Lets see, I promised to deal with Global Warming, revise our health care system, and get us out of Iraq. Okay, let's get Congress to pass some bills about those topics so I can check these off my to-do list." It doesn't matter if the bills are bad legislation. It doesn't matter if they actually accomplish what he promised. They just need to have the write terms attached to them.

I've seen very few who really like the Cap-and-Trade bill on either side of the issue. The Right feels it will have a terrible impact on business. The Left feel is won't actually accomplish anything. Does ANYONE like this bill besides Pelosi and Obama?

Should copyright law be used to protect certain business models?
Jeff Jarvis over at Buzz Machine calls out certain lawyers-cum-lobbyists for advocating bad copyright law:
Following the frighteningly dangerous thinking of Judge Richard Posner – proposing rewriting copyright law to outlaw linking to and summarizing (aka talking about) news stories – now we have two more lemming lawyers following him off the cliff in a column written by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Connie Schultz.


Schultz says that David Marburger, an alleged First Amendment attorney for her paper, and his economics-professor brother, Daniel, have concocted their own dangerous thinking, proposing the copyright law be changed to insist that a newspaper’s story should appear only on its own web site for the first 24 hours before it can be aggregated or retold.

Incredible. So if the Plain Dealer reported exclusively that, say, the governor had just returned from a tryst with a Argentine lady, no one else could so much as talk about that for 24 hours. A First Amendment lawyer said this.

So this post would not be possible if Posner and company get their way. I have to wonder how many news organizations actually support this bad idea. If there is a problem on the internet, it's from bloggers, et al, not attributing/linking their sources. Do they realize that if the law is changed the way they want people will just start summarizing and not link to their sites? As long as they paraphrase carefully it will be difficult to prove they lifted it from their site.

And yes, Jarvis raises a good point. Would this inadvertently impact other news sources who develop the story independently? Would it impact the AP News Service in that the first newspaper that prints an AP story is the only one allowed to do so for 24 hours?

That these people appear to have thought this through so little frightens me.

Congressional Budget Office issues warning
The Washington Post has coverage on the CBO's latest warning to the administration:
Now comes the CBO with yet more news of the sort that neither Capitol Hill nor the White House is likely to welcome: its freshly released report on the federal government's long-term financial situation. To put it bluntly, the fiscal policy of the United States is unsustainable. Debt is growing faster than gross domestic product. Under the CBO's most realistic scenario, the publicly held debt of the U.S. government will reach 82 percent of GDP by 2019 -- roughly double what it was in 2008. By 2026, spiraling interest payments would push the debt above its all-time peak (set just after World War II) of 113 percent of GDP. It would reach 200 percent of GDP in 2038.

This huge mass of debt, which would stifle economic growth and reduce the American standard of living, can be avoided only through spending cuts, tax increases or some combination of the two. And the longer government waits to get its financial house in order, the more it will cost to do so, the CBO says.

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Walt Minnick opposes Waxman-Markey

I tell you, if this keeps up I'll be voting for the guy next time he's up for re-election:
This bill raises many concerns. Idaho farmers are worried about increased fertilizer and power costs. Idaho energy companies believe it lacks proper consideration for hydro power and nuclear technology. Idaho businesses are frustrated with giveaways that rig the system in favor of pollution-heavy industry in the Midwest and California. Idaho investors are concerned that the price of carbon credits – which virtually all businesses would be required to buy – will be controlled by Wall Street speculators. And Idaho citizens struggling to meet expenses are worried that gasoline and electric bills will go up during this time of economic recession and high unemployment.

“For all of those reasons, I must vote ‘no.’

I just hope he's one of many who will shoot this thing down.

Read my article on the bill here.

UPDATE: This is incredible. With only three hours of debate scheduled today, they've now added 300 more pages to the bill as of last night. So here we have yet another case where lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill before anyone can be sure what's in it. This is disgusting. Nancy Pelosi is out of control and is determined to throw democracy under the bus. California, PLEASE curb your dog!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Presidential ice cream trips

I am not one of those questioning how President Obama could make a run for ice cream with his daughters while the people of Iran are fighting for their freedom. Not that the events in Iran aren't important, but there is only so much the president can do. You can argue all you want that he hasn't done enough, and I'd probably agree with you.

But leave the guy alone when he decides to spend time with his kids. Being President of the United States does not mean he can ignore his kids every time there is something important happening in the world--he'd never get to see them. Those of us with kids know that sometimes you have to squeeze in time with them when you can. And if they want to go out and do something instead of stay home just so you can protect your image what are you going to do? I think it's okay for even the President to say "Sasha, Malia... YOU are more important to me than the world. If you want ice cream, let's get ice cream."

He made the right choice. Iran is important, but nothing was likely to change significantly in an hour. Except his relationship with his daughters. In a few weeks we'll have forgotten all of this. There's a good chance his daughters won't. I may disagree with the man's politics, but I won't begrudge him time with his daughters.

I have no doubt that had something suddenly come up and his attention was absolutely needed right then and there he would have cut it short and hurried back.

The man has one of the most difficult jobs in the world--and he's President of the United States, to boot! Let's cut him some slack. Letting your children know that the world can wait a few minutes while you spend time together may not be popular with the world, but he'll be their father a lot longer than he'll be President. It's the right message to send.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Obama's regulatory overhaul - summary

I've been reading up on Obama's proposed regulatory changes lately and decided perhaps I should try reading the actual draft. Let me tell you, I'm so glad there are trained professionals with acute insomnia who are able to do these things for us. But here's the gist of what he wants to do:

Create a Financial Services Oversight Council
Purpose: Information sharing, coordination, risk identification, resolve jurisdiction disputes, advise Federal Reserve on "at-risk" companies.

Membership: Secretary of Treasury (chair), Chair of the Federal Reserve, Director of National Bank Supervisor, Director of Consumer Financial Protection Agency, Chair of SEC, Chair of CFTC, Chair of FDIC, Director of FHFA.

My take: Sounds like a Financial Dept. of Homeland Security. Not to be a pessimist, but how well did that work? Is there a need for better communication? Yes. Will this help? No. Information that goes up an organization to the top before going across to another a) takes too long, b) is subject to too much filter, c) is subject to politics, d) relies too much on an analyst in one group to recognize something important to another group, and e) does little to improve the actual act of regulation.

Implement higher level of regulation on large, interconnected financial firms (ie. the Too-Big-To-Fail).
Purpose: Set greater restrictions and add higher level of oversight on companies big enough to rattle our economy if they fail, including parent companies and subsidiaries, US-owned or otherwise.

Responsibility: Federal Reserve

My take: This seems like a decent idea. If they're that big they should be watched more closely, since they obviously don't want to watch themselves. This could discourage companies from getting into this category, though, which may have negative, unintended consequences. It may also make some companies find creative ways around this, as well.

Strengthen regulatory requirements
Purpose: Increase capital requirements, regulate executive compensation and incentives, review the accounting rules, strengthen separation between banks and their affiliates.

Responsibility: Various focus groups.

My take: This may not be a bad idea, either. They claim they want to change executive incentives to help them look after the company's long-term interests better, which I could support. However, this seems like veiled language for doing away with high pay for executives. I may disagree with the pay some of these people get, but it shouldn't be up to me--or the government. If the stockholders want it, then so be it. Our companies have to stay competitive. Also, capping pay in just one industry is not fair. Is anyone talking about capping pay in Hollywood? I don't agree with that either, but if you do it for one you have to do it for all.

Close loopholes in bank regulation
Purpose: Create a National Bank Supervisor to regulate all financial institutions. Close loopholes in regulations. Require further separation between companies and any bank affiliates.

Responsibility: National Bank Supervisor

My take: I'm not in favor or creating new government entities, but if there are loopholes to be closed, then close them.

Eliminate the SEC programs for consolidated supervision
Purpose: Move supervision in these cases under the Federal Reserve Board

Responsibility: Federal Reserve

My take: I can take this one on faith, though I'm not sure how this improves things.

Require hedge funds and private investment pools to register with SEC
Purpose: Provide some oversight into a group that has previously been immune--and may have helped bring about our financial collapse.

Responsibility: SEC

My take: I'm not sure what "registration" means and what that alone will do to make this group behave. But if it works, fine with me.

Reduce susceptibility of Money Market Mutual Funds to runs
Purpose: Provide some additional measures to keep the system from falling apart so easily.

Responsibility: SEC

My take: Probably not a bad idea, so long as it goes just far enough and no further. Can you tell I'm not a fan of government intervention?

Enhance oversight of insurance sector
Purpose: Set up Office of National Insurance to gather information, develop expertise, negotiate international agreements, and coordinate policy.

Responsibility: Treasury Dept.

My take: This is too vague. I know why it's in here, but what this will do to keep AIG messes from happening again is not clear.

Determine the future role of Government Sponsored Enterprises
Purpose: Maintain, stabilize, strengthen and propose recommendations on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Bank system.

Responsibility: Treasury and HUD

My take: May I make a recommendation or two right now? Clean all of these up and cut off their campaign contributions to Congress. Remove from oversight positions anyone who has taken money from these entities.

Strengthen supervision and regulation of securitization markets
Purpose: Keep companies from passing the risk off to others, make performance of loans a consideration in any compensation. Increase transparency and standardization of these markets. Increase regulation and integrity of credit ratings. Reduce government regulator dependency on credit ratings in regulatory efforts.

Responsibility: Federal banking agencies, SEC

My take: This one may be getting a little too paranoid. These companies should have known better. And if we increase the integrity of credit ratings, why shouldn't the regulators be able to rely on them more?

Create regulations around OTC derivatives
Purpose: Prevent markets in derivatives from creating systemic risk, promote transparency, prevent market manipulation and fraud, and make sure derivatives are not marketed improperly to inexperienced traders.

Responsibility: Unknown

My take: This does seem to be at the heart of the matter. And while it's probably a good idea to close the barn door after the horse has come home, the real problem is spotting new dangers from new financial instruments that the government is unfamiliar with, just like Credit Default Swaps were prior to the recession.

Harmonize futures and securities regulation
Purpose: Bring regulation of these two areas closer together.

Responsibility: CFTC, SEC

My take: I don't see how this could be a bad thing.

Strengthen oversight of systematically important payment, clearing, and settlement systems and related activities
Purpose: To bring oversight of these systems under government regulation.

Responsibility: Federal Reserve

My take: I don't know why this is necessary. I'm not aware of these systems breaking down or somehow adding to the financial problems we experienced. As one would expect, if it's not needed, I don't see a reason to change.

Strengthen settlement capabilities and liquidity resources of systematically important payment, clearing, and settlement systems
Purpose: Provide the above systems with access to Reserve Bank accounts, financial services, and the discount window.

Responsibility: Federal Reserve

My take: This seems like a move to make the Federal Reserve able to react more quickly to emergencies in the financial system. It may very well be that increased speed may have made a difference in the past financial crisis, but I've found that most computer systems are still hampered by the speed of the human decision makers. Is this component necessary?

Create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency
Purpose: Supervise and protect consumers of credit, savings, payment, and other consumer financial products and services, and to regulate providers of these products and services.

Responsibility: CFPA

My take: Do we need a new government agency for this? Isn't this just attacking the same problem from the other end? If the other regulators do their jobs properly no one will be selling fraudulent or misrepresented financial products to consumers. Why not just expand the mission of the Federal Trade Commission? We don't need more bureaucracy. We just need consumers who use their heads.

Reforms of Consumer Protection
Purpose: To promote transparency, simplicity, fairness, and access in financial products and services.

Responsibility: CFPA

My take: Any time the government gets involved you can forget about transparency or simplicity. And "fairness and access" is part of the reason why we're in this mess. Remember, the government is one of the main reasons why any mortgage requires you sign half a ream of paper. That was to make things simpler and more clear, remember? I also don't trust this administration to judge "fairness", as so far it seems rather one-sided and arbitrary in such decisions.

Strengthen investor protection
Purpose: Provide greater transparency in investor disclosures, increase fairness for investors, and increase accountability. Establish a Financial Consumer Coordinating Council. Create a permanent role for the SEC's Investor Advisory Committee. Strengthen employment-based and private retirement plans. Encourage saving.

Responsibility: SEC, FSOC

My take: Thank you, Bernie Madoff. This is all your doing, isn't it. Unfortunately a few bad apples have ruined for everyone. Lots of people got hurt, and whenever that happens they start looking to the government to save them from themselves. Look folks, the stock market is risky. People who promise you phenomenal returns at low risk are LYING! Avoid them! Report them! We don't need the government to do this!

Create a resolution regime for failing companies
Purpose: Provide for a resolution regime modeled on current Federal Deposit Insurance Act regimes to avoid messy failures of companies.

responsibility: Not known

My take: Uniformity could be good, unless the result is uniformly bad.

Amend the Federal Reserve's emergency lending authority
Purpose: Require written permission from the Treasury Secretary for extending credit to distressed companies.

Responsibility: Federal Reserve, Treasury Secretary

My take: Sounds like a good idea to me. It might not hurt to give Congress some say, as well.

Strengthen the international capital framework
Purpose: Review, modify and strengthen existing international frameworks.

Responsibility: Basel Committee on Banking Supervision

My take: Probably a good idea, but this is rather vague. Do you have something specific in mind?

Improve the oversight of global financial markets
Purpose: Promote standardization and improved oversight over derivative markets.

Responsibility: Other nations

My take: Again, sounds good.

Enhance supervision of internationally active financial firms
Purpose: Establish and support international supervisory colleges to supervise global financial firms.

Responsibility: Other nations

My take: Sounds good. Just don't let the UN do it.

Reform crisis prevention and management authorities and procedures
Purpose: Improve resolution of global financial firms. Improve information sharing and implement FSB principles for cross-border crisis management.

Responsibility: BCBS

My take: Seems logical. I would hope that the international community do some sort of "lessons learned" from this mess.

Strengthen the FSB
Purpose: Further establish international standards.

Responsibility: FSB

My take: If this would have helped avert the crisis, then go for it.

Strengthen and expand regulations
Purpose: Improve liquidity risk management, improve oversight abilities, determine international requirements for large financial firms, and encourage other countries to monitor hedge funds.

Responsibility: BCBS, FSB, other nations

My take: Good idea.

Introduce better compensation practices
Purpose: Encourage other nations to regulate executive compensation and incentives to discourage risk-taking and look after long-term shareholder value.

Responsibility: Other nations

My take: If we can get everyone to do this, great. Otherwise we should not adopt this unilaterally and create a "brain drain". I don't see any other country agreeing to this, frankly.

Promote stronger standards in regulation, money laundering/terrorist financing, and tax information exchange
Purpose: Improve the ability to track financial crime internationally.

Responsibility: All nations, FSB

My take: It lack specific, but that it's in here at all suggests the administration is taking the War on Terror seriously.

Improve accounting standards
Purpose: Promote global accounting standards.

Responsibility: International standards groups

My take: I find it interesting that this is in here. This implies that accounting standards are...well, not standardized. I was not aware of this.

Tighten oversight of credit rating agencies
Purpose: Improve oversight in this area

Responsibility: Other nations

My take: Again, I didn't know this was a problem, but if we're doing it, so should everyone else.

My opinion on the entire draft: Individually most of these points make sense. Taken together I start to worry. My first question is "who pays for all of this?" We're creating several government agencies, placing more power in the hands of the government, and even expecting the government to police financial infrastructure. This won't come cheap. Is this coming out of taxes, or will businesses be expected to shoulder the burden?

Sarbanes-Oxley already placed a significant amount of extra overhead on companies for arguably little return. Heaping more regulations on business during a recession will make recovery all that much more difficult. The damage is already done, and most companies have already cleaned house on their own.

I am also concerned about the scope of the changes. Rather than focus in on a few key trouble spots, the administration is attempting to shotgun every economic component that may have played a part in our current financial woes. Everyone, that is, except the government itself. Even though the government arguably played a part in causing the crash, they show no interest in examining or regulating themselves.

The majority leadership, in spite of promises, refuses to investigate accusations of corruption among their own membership. The people who supposedly were supposed to see all of this coming failed to do so, yet retain their positions of oversight. Some of them even benefited from cozy relations with the very entities they were supposed to be policing. Yet the answer is more of the same government that failed to catch it last time. "You all screwed up," they seem to be saying, "but we get a do-over. You caught us off guard, but give us a bunch more people and regulations to enforce and we'll get it right next time."

I'm also worried about the amount of power being formalized and centralized by this proposal. The government has taken unprecedented steps in attempting to get control of the economy and steer us back on track. But rather than trying to put the genie back in the bottle, they trying to make those step the default position going forward. They also are trying to take some power away from the states. The states, most of which are cash-strapped at the moment, are likely to welcome temporary relief from some of these burdens. However, it will be difficult to get that control back down the road.

Are some of the proposed changes necessary? I think so. Is all of it necessary? No. Either this is an overkill strategy in hopes they at least get some of the things they wish for, or they want to put in place the mechanisms to micromanage the economy from here on. It's too much.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Media and politics

Remember the good old days when the role of the press was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable? Boy, I miss those days...

(courtesy of "Day by Day" by Chris Muir)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Alfonzo Rachel on Letterman and liberals

Daaaaaang! The gloves come off in this video short. 'Zo takes on hypocrisy from the left that they are the compassionate party.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bigotry and prejudice in the gay movement

The Obama Justice Department filed a brief favoring the Defense of Marriage Act, and for now Obama seems to be backing away from his campaign promise of overturning it. So whose fault is it? The Mormons, of course. Why? Because one of the three attorneys who prepared the brief is evidently a Mormon.

In short, they are judging this guy based on his religion. They assume that because he is Mormon that he is full of hate and fear, and doing everything in his power to destroy the gay rights movement. He must have an awful lot of power if he can override two other attorneys!

I can speak from experience that not all Mormons believe alike. As much as the rest of the world would like to think so (it makes it easier to hate us), we do not all get our political beliefs surgically implanted by Salt Lake City HQ at baptism. If so, then how do you explain Harry Reid? It is not inconceivable that Scott Simpson, the lawyer in question, could have been in favor of overturning DOMA. The critics don't seem to be offering any evidence to the contrary other than "He's Mormon!"

But ultimately the gays are shooting themselves in the foot. For one, they are going after a religious group with hateful and vengeful attacks, showing just how nasty they can be. For another, they keep giving Obama a pass when he has repeatedly hung them out to dry since taking office.

They attack Carrie Prejean for her views while ignoring that Obama shares the exact save views. And when the Obama administration decides not to fight DOMA it's not because Obama is a traitor to their cause, it's because a single Mormon somehow cowed the entire administration into accepting his religious point of view.

Uh huh.

Pardon me, but your irrational hatred is showing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bumper sticker police

Andrew Klavan expressed a notion I've had for some time now: Those who say "War is not the answer" lack imagination in their question.

Video here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Decency, society, and religion: a long, bilious rant

I’ve been getting a full head of steam built up lately, and it’s time to let loose. If you don’t like me ranting you may want to skip today and come back another time.

First of all, David Letterman’s pathetic joke at the expense of Sarah Palin’s daughter (not to mention Alex Rodriguez, who should take great exception to being labeled a pedophile rapist) was inexcusable. Don’t bother with the pathetic “but she’s a public figure” excuses. No one’s daughter deserves to be treated like that. The comedians who made cracks about Chelsea Clinton’s appearance were just as much in the wrong.

I really couldn’t care less who started it, who escalated it, or who was the last one to push the boundaries. It has to stop. We can have public debate and still maintain decency. We can make fun of our public figures without verbally molesting their children. Let’s stop this headlong race into the gutter now. This is not a race anyone should be interested in winning. This is not progress. There is nothing liberating about stooping to our lowest common denominator.

This might be understandable if Letterman abused everyone equally, but he does not. The man who is afraid to make jokes about President Obama—I can’t imagine any comedian turning down a chance to roast our top politicians—does not draw the line at children. It seems we can expect him to verbally abuse Sasha and Malia before we can expect him to poke fun at their father. Is this what passes for manhood these days? Man up, Dave. If you’re the paragon of liberal virtues, count me out.

Next topic. An acquaintance of mine on Facebook has recently frequently been posting his views on gay marriage lately. No problem with that. It’s his right. It’s his page. But something he said lately stuck out, as he’s not the only one I’ve heard bring up this defense. He asked, in essence, what right does society have to tell people what they can and can’t do?

I have to respond with a counter question: If society doesn’t have that right, who does? Who should? As a society we’ve pretty much eliminated God as the moral authority on what is right and wrong. What’s left, if not society? It is society that makes laws, not the other way around. The original colonies didn’t just pass a constitution and some laws and create a society along with a nation from the grip of anarchy. If we don’t acknowledge a higher being as our moral anchor, then that role falls to society.

It’s society that protects us. The majority of society believes it to be wrong for me to kill my neighbor if his sprinklers get hard water spots on my car. The majority of society believes it to be wrong even for me to punch him in the nose. I might even suffer adverse consequences for cussing him out if I happen to do it standing in his yard. These are good rules, and we don’t have minorities lining up to tear them down because “society is telling me what I can and can’t do.”

So why does gay marriage get a pass? Why is this issue somehow immune from majority rule? Why does the minority voice matter more than the majority voice? Why is it unconscionable that society dare tell people “no” in this instance? It’s the way things work. It’s how societies function. It’s the same rule that keeps idiots from solving the problem by killing all the gays—which, people seem to forget, is still the preferred solution in many countries in the world today.

To give minorities—any minorities—the right to override society just because they don’t like being told they are the minority is not just wrong, it is suicidal. Do you really think that allowing one minority that ability is not going to throw the door open wide for any minority who feels unfairly limited to force their will upon society in the future?

Suppose someday the majority finally supports gay marriage. Guess what folks, you’ll have created a new minority. Does that minority suddenly get preferred status? Do they suddenly get to invoke the “What right does society have to tell me what’s a marriage” argument?

Don’t pull out the example of racial rights in America. The majority became convinced it was time for a change, and the majority changed society. Should it have happened sooner? Absolutely. But society being what it is, it had to wait for enough people to change their minds to where the majority had enough mass to force the change. It may not have been fair for blacks to wait that long, but in the absence of any other moral anchor to go by, we should just be glad it happened at all.

Remember, we did this to ourselves. We overthrew every other moral authority we might have turned to, so all that is left is the “wisdom of crowds”. There is no "right" or "wrong" anymore, just the majority opinion. If a minority in that crowd feel they’re smarter than the rest of the crowd, too bad. They can’t—even though they try to—claim the moral high ground, because they flattened that hill long ago. In their wisdom they handed the moral imperative to society as a whole, and then complain when the crowd takes it and runs a different direction. The ungrateful wretches didn’t recognize what we did for them and immediately hand the moral authority to us as an expression of gratitude!

Now, frankly I have no doubt that one day the majority will support gay marriage. And I have no illusion that the new majority will suddenly want to show the same respect and consideration for the new minority that they insisted we show them. No, suddenly they’ll find new wisdom in the crowd and use their new societal authority to get revenge for their perceived wrongs.

When that time comes I reserve the right to fight hard to limit the damage that will be done to my right to worship as I please and for the government to not infringe on religious beliefs and practices. I don’t expect much tolerance and respect for diversity from the new social order. I don’t expect many of the current crop of “live and let live” proponents to come riding to my defense; “What right does society have to tell those Mormons they have to accept and perform gay marriages?” That particular argument will have served its purpose and be put into a cozy retirement, I’m sure.

And last, but not least—and certainly related—I’m tired of the anti-religious sentiment going around. From an even closer friend I recently heard “I believe in God, but I don’t like his fan clubs”. I doubt she really feels that way at heart, but rather thought it a cute or clever way of saying “I don’t follow any organized religion”. And that’s fine.

But far too many people do fully believe the notion that the only good religion is a dead religion. You know, the people with the “God, protect me from your followers” bumper stickers, or who hire billboards to warn people to beware of dogma. These are the people who are intellectually dishonest enough to actually believe that the majority of the world’s problems are caused by religion.

Yes, there have been a lot of atrocities committed throughout history in the name of one god or another. There have also been great atrocities committed in the name of no god, or in the name of socialism, or genetic purity, or division of resources. You name it, people will kill over it. Religion is just one of the many excuses. Most of the people who use that excuse are not actually religious, or at least not truly following their faith. They are perverting it in the name of a different cause—namely themselves.

To blame all ills on religion is dishonest also because it fails to acknowledge the vast amounts of good that religion does in the world and in history. For every David Koresh you have a Mother Teresa. For every Osama Bin Laden you have hundreds of humble religious believers who live out their lives in peace without bothering anyone. Why is it fair only to acknowledge the bad and not the good? And yet that’s what these people do.

The reality is they care nothing for history, if indeed they’ve ever taken the time to study it. It’s merely an excuse for, as I ranted about above, the minority view to rail against the majority. Because the majority is somehow infringing on their right to do whatever it is they want, and because the majority claim to be religious, then organized religion must be bad. End of discussion, lest reality enter into it.

But for all those haters of organized religion out there, I throw down the gauntlet. Here’s a challenge for you. You make the accusation, so the burden of proof is on you. Prove to me:

1- That there is no God. If many of you are telling the truth about your belief system you concede this one already.

2- That God does not have a specific set of rules for us to follow.

3- That God does not believe it will be easier for people to follow those rules as part of an organized religion.

4- That God does not believe in order, and therefore does not care how his followers worship him, organize themselves, or perform rites and ordinances.

Don’t bother with the lame stuff like “Well, if there was a God, how could he let X or Y or Z happen? Why doesn’t he stop it?” That doesn’t prove there is no God. It just proves that God does not see things the same way you do—something you should expect from an all-knowing, all-powerful being. All it proves is that whatever God has in store for us, He feels it’s worth allowing us to endure short term suffering in order to get it.

No, don’t give me platitudes or decrees on how you believe God should act. Give me proof. Ultimately you can’t offer any more hard evidence against those four points than I can offer hard evidence in favor of them—at least that you’re likely to accept. If the myriad of religions and religious texts out there aren’t proof enough already then you’re not likely to accept anything else short of a visit from God himself. And since that doesn’t happen very often, it’s obviously not important to his plan that you be given incontrovertible proof.

So since you can’t prove that organized religion is wrong, knock it off with the hate, the smug mockery, and the continual bigotry and prejudice. Or, if you must, be egalitarian about it. Don’t just picket the Baptists or Mormons when they vote against your favorite cause. Go picket the Muslims and the black protestant churches, too. Don’t just pick on the churches that are in the majority in America, pick on them all. Otherwise you’re little more than a hypocrite at best, or lying to yourself at worst.

Because it’s not about religion in the end, is it. It’s about getting your way and finding easy targets when you don’t. Never mind that you’re laying the foundation for the destruction of society by imposing minority rule. Never mind you are paying lip service to the role of society while ultimately exploiting it for your own anti-social ends. Never mind that while you are tearing down a moral anchor that hasn’t been a threat to you in decades you are also tearing down the only anchor left.

It’s all about you.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Obama is Spock, and that's not good

Bill Whittle over at Pajamas TV takes on Maureen Dowd's premise that Obama is Spock. He doesn't disagree with her, but instead makes a strong case for having the intellectuals in charge is not a good idea. He also presents an interesting analysis of who "James T. Kirk" is and why that's important.

See the video here.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Congratulations, Class of 2009

I went to my nephew's high school graduation last night. It's been quite awhile since I've been to one--it was probably my own, come to think of it.

The school district superintendent informed us that 75% of the graduating class was either going on to some sort of schooling or into the military. I suppose that could be an impressive figure, but I also have to wonder how much the recession has to do with it. If given the choice between trying to find a job now or being able to wait for a couple of years I know which one I'd pick.

In some ways, this class may be timing things just right. I suspect our economy is going to undergo some changes over the next few years, and they will be well-positioned to adapt mid-way through their post-secondary training if need be. But they will have to stay informed. I doubt they'll be able to rely on the jobs that were hot a few years ago still being hot when they graduate.

Still, I do think that by the time they graduate the economy will be in much better shape. With any luck they'll be emerging from the halls of higher learning just as the employment wave gets firmly headed upward again.

This is an exciting time to be young. It's not without its challenges, of course, but this generation of kids will bring a whole new vibrancy to the world that will make itself felt.

They still need to use sunscreen, though.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What happened to North Korea?

Did I miss something? A week ago they were testing bombs and missiles, and making threats. Then the problem just...went away. Or at least fell off the front page. Today there's a story about the UN cutting off Kim's luxury goods, which experts agree probably won't make a difference.

So what happened? Did Obama somehow make some behind-the-scenes deal to make Kim Jong Il back off? Or has the media just conveniently forgotten to cover anything that would embarrass their president? I really hope it's the former and not the latter, because I'd hate to see N. Korea suddenly back in the news in the form of a nuke on Juneau.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Making sense of the GM bankruptcy

Keith Hennessey has an excellent post on the GM bankruptcy and the government's role in it (hat tip Instapundit). He points out something I missed this time around, and in all fairness, I should bring it up:

The objecting creditors will now defend their rights in court. If the Chrysler precedent is an example, you should bet against them. It is interesting that the President did not attack them as “speculators” this time, so at least the rhetorical leverage against them is weakened.

It does seem that Obama has toned down his anti-investor, anti-business rhetoric lately. Could it be he's been listening to advisors who have been telling him "ix-nay on the ame-calling-nay, sir. We're going to need these people some day."

I hope it's because he realized he was doing more damage than good with such talk. I'm afraid it's just because that particular line of attack is currently needed. But even with the media in his pocket, you can only send the message of "we need to stimulate the economy so those greedy, filthy capitalists can put people back to work" so long before people catch on to the contradiction.